Is it worth looking at how the Packers and Buccaneers got here? Typically, I’d spend some time reviewing, however, let’s do just a quick review.
Review~ Green Bay was the far superior team (v LA), it showed, and there was never a reason to be nervous. Even when the Rams cut it to 7, the stats and flow of the game was all on Green Bay’s side. As for Tampa Bay, they benefitted from a weak arm from Drew Brees, and forced 4 turnovers, converting the first 3 for touchdowns, and the fourth and final one to run out the clock with a 10-point lead.
So here we are.
#5 (13-5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #1 (14-3) Green Bay Packers
It’s not difficult to scare Packer nation as we’re used to our team choking in January. No team has lost on the last play of the game in the NFL postseason than the Green Bay Packers. Some may say, “Well, that’s because we’re always in the postseason! So of course, you’re going to have heartbreak!” While true, how much easier was it to stomach the beating from the 49ers last year vs. the giveaway to Seattle in the 2014 (Jan. ’15) title game? The main component, and those that talk with me about the NFL know I put essentially everything on the QB and Rodgers had played awfully in his previous 4 NFC title game bouts. To paint a more accurate picture, I’ve taken out the garbage time stats he accrued in the blowout losses to Atlanta (2016) and San Francisco (2019).
|Rodgers in NFC Championship Games|
A 78.0 rating is terrible, even for average QBs. Now let’s take a look after removing the 2016 and 2019 garbage time stats. Keep in mind, in 2016 @ Atlanta, it was 24-0 at halftime, Green Bay got the ball after half, went 3-and-out, and got it back down 31-0 before Rodgers started putting some stats up.
As for last year, it was 27-0 at half, so he began after halftime.
|True Stats: Rodgers in NFC Championship Games|
That’s how you go 1-3 in NFC Championship games; a 59.2 rating. However, while he may not be able to completely erase his ineptitude in the previous 4 games, there’s a serious opportunity to rewrite his legacy, and it can take a fairly big step in the proper direction, come Sunday. Outduel Tom and you win. Obviously, I’ll “settle” for winning even if he plays awfully, but the likelihood of playing well results in a W is quite high. Play well, and you move on to play in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV.
Speaking of Tom Brady, it’s truly remarkable a 43-year-old QB has led his team into a Conference Championship, and even though I didn’t think they’d get here (I picked Tampa Bay to go 9-7, get the 7th seed and lose in the divisional round, not too shabby) is anyone really surprised? Obviously, everyone’s eyes will be glued to see the matchup of each QB vs the opposing defense, which is how it should be. The Bucs seems to have the more-balanced, consistent, team, but the difference is minuscule. Tampa’s D surrendered 30 or more points 3x this season, whereas Green Bay’s wasn’t far behind with 4 occasions.
There are a couple of wrinkles that are throwing me for a loop, and I’m chucking it up to each of these teams are far different from their early season forms…for instance, in week 5, Tampa lost to Chicago…the Bears, remember were 5-1 at one point this season, ended 8-8, and really were never a good team – which was easy to see for many fans. The Bucs’ dismantling of the Packers is well-known; again, I chalk that up to Rodgers seemingly giving up after his 2nd consecutive drive resulting in essentially a 2nd pick-6. I’m willing to bet the farm he doesn’t throw back-to-back INTs on consecutive drives again, in his career, let alone this NFC title game. Speaking of NFC Championship game performances, how do these guys fare in such games?
|Brady in AFC Championship Games|
The fact this graph is this long is far past impressive. However, as you can see, he’s very up-and-down, and has thrown his share of interceptions. Also, I’d argue this Packers team is far superior to all of the opponents Brady faced in each of his previous FOURTEEN conference title games, except maybe outside of the 2013 Broncos…but even then, that team got destroyed by Seattle in the Super Bowl. What I pull from this chart is Tom isn’t unbeatable in these games, yet the man has found a way to win 69% of them, more than impressive.
What does this all mean as for today? Probably nothing. However, I do think it’s important to understand the value and impact a QB’s play influences the team’s outcome.
Two more points before the Matchup (if you haven’t blown over this already).
- The week 6 beating is hard to overlook (and shouldn’t be), whether it was Rodgers not caring, Josh Jackson starting and has essentially been a “healthy scratch”, or it was Kenny Clark’s 1st game back from a groin, which hampered him until last week (and it showed)—this Packers team is different. In essence, if King plays, instead of Josh Jackson at CB2, or even recently signed Tramon Williams… and instead of 10% Clark, we’ll have 90+% Clark. Lastly, Ty Summers started at ILB that game and since the group of Barnes, Kirksey, and Martin have been close to “Very Good.”
- Since 2011, the Packers have only won the rematch in the postseason from a team that defeated them in the regular season, twice. Once in 2012 when they beat Joe Webb and the Vikings in the Wild Card from having lost in week 17 to Christian Ponder, in what was a meaningless game for Green Bay. The other came in 2016 after Green Bay got pounded by Dallas, in Lambeau and we all remember Rodgers going down to Arlington and put on a show (that throw to Cook) and upset the #1 seeded Cowboys. It’s been ugly otherwise.
Matchup~ the chart has incorporated each teams’ postseason game(s) and where they ultimately would’ve ranked had those been their final regular season statistics:
|Champ.||TB D v GB O||TB O v GB D|
|TB||245.8 (21st)||82.2 (1st)||327.9 (6th)||22.1 (T-7th)||287.8 (4th)||99.3 (25th)||387.1 (6th)||30.8 (3rd)|
|GB||258.9 (9th)||135.7 (8th)||394.6 (4th)||31.8 (1st)||216.9 (5th)||111.8 (12th)||328.7 (7th)||22.8 (12th)|
Typically, the points are the rankings of where to keep an eye on, however, here it’s too close to pass up…the TB D vs GB O, in yardage (6th vs 4th, respectively) is awfully tight, and even more constricted the TB O vs GB D (6th vs 7th, respectively) is as tight as can be. Since both the Bucs’ and Packers’ special teams’ units suck, the eye will be on each offense’s ability to move the ball down the field and thus bringing us to Red Zone execution. The Bucs are very good, meanwhile the Packers are exceptional (best in the NFL). As always, turnovers will be the difference-maker.
Prediction~ think I covered everything? Prob not.