The 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still trying to find their first win at home this season and that could prove to be difficult against playoff-bound Green Bay. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers
Where: Raymond James Stadium
When: 1:00 p.m. ET – FOX
Last meeting: 35-26 loss at Green Bay
Series notes: Packers have a 30-21-1 advantage over the Bucs all-time
1. GRIND IT OUT AGAINST GREEN BAY
In order for Tampa Bay to prevail against an explosive offense like Green Bay’s that has scored 31 points or more seven times this season the Bucs will have to grind it out with a strong running game that controls the clock and limits the Packers’ possessions and scoring opportunities. The good news for Tampa Bay is that it is coming off its second-best rushing day of the year in which the team rushed for 151 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry led by Doug Martin’s 96 yards and 34 yards from Charles Sims.
The loss of nose tackle B.J. Raji has really hurt Green Bay’s efforts to stop the run. The Packers have the NFL’s 27th-ranked run defense, allowing an average of 128 yards per game. The problem is that even though Green Bay has struggled to stop the run this year, the Bucs have struggled to consistently run the ball, evidenced by the fact that they have the 29th-ranked rushing attack, averaging 84 yards per game. Was last week’s ground assault by Tampa Bay in Carolina a fluke or the start of some momentum to the end the 2014 campaign?
2. USE PLAY-ACTION TO GET EVANS AND JACKSON THE RECORD
Provided the Buccaneers can establish enough of a running game to keep Green Bay’s defense honest and force it to stack the box on occasion, quarterback Josh McCown must identify one-on-one matchups with Vincent Jackson or Mike Evans and make big plays in the passing game off play action. The Packers defensive backfield is talented with safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett and cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, but the secondary lacks the size to match up with Tampa Bay’s 6-foot-5 twin towers.
Evans and Jackson are the two best players on the Bucs offense and need to be heavily involved in the game in order for Tampa Bay to have a chance at upsetting Green Bay at home. Evans is 52 yards away from hitting the 1,000-yard receiving mark during his rookie season, while Jackson is 69 yards from that mark himself. If/when Evans and Jackson eclipse the 1,000-yard mark together it will be the first time that feat has been accomplished in Tampa Bay history. If the Bucs have any hope of beating the Packers that needs to happen on Sunday.
3. PEPPERS STILL HAS PLENTY OF SPICE
Julius Peppers used to be a pass-rushing defensive end that terrorized the Bucs for years with the Carolina Panthers. After a stint in Chicago in that capacity, the 6-foot-7, 287-pound athlete moved to outside linebacker in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense this year and has flourished. While he has only three sacks as a part-time pass rusher off the edge, Peppers has made more plays on the ball in space, evidenced by nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two pick-sixes while dropping back in coverage.
Peppers’ versatility and ability to blitz puts stress on opposing offenses. For Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown, he will have to recognize whether Peppers is rushing him or dropping back in coverage on every play and adjust accordingly. Even at age 34, Peppers is a dangerous pass rusher that new left tackle Demar Dotson will have to contend with, and McCown must avoid throwing the ball his way in short, underneath routes for fear that Peppers will take another errant pass to the house.
4. BUCCANEERS PASS RUSH NEEDS TO RATTLE RODGERS
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is coming off his worst game in recent memory in last week’s 21-13 loss at Buffalo. While Rodgers was only sacked once, that sack resulted in a fumble that turned into a fourth quarter safety for the Bills. The stingy Buffalo defense pressured Rodgers throughout the game and forced him to complete just 17-of-42 passes for 185 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Left tackle Bryan Bulaga is questionable after suffering a concussion last week after a blind side hit by Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes. His loss would help the Bucs’ pass rush, which may struggle without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is lost for the season with a knee injury. Linebackers Danny Lansanah and Lavonte David combined for 2.5 sacks last week at Carolina and the Bucs may have to do some blitzing on Sunday to get to Rodgers. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier cannot rush four and drop seven in coverage and allow Rodgers all day to pick apart Tampa Bay’s zone defense.
5. LAY IT ON LACY WITHOUT USING AN EXTRA DEFENDER IN THE BOX
The Packers are very tough to defend because they have a prolific passing game led by 1,000-yard receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but also have a stout running game featuring the hard-charging style of Eddie Lacy. Without Gerald McCoy in the middle and possibly Clinton McDonald, too, the Bucs may have to bring a safety into the box to help stop the tackle-breaking Lacy, who has 940 yards and eight touchdowns in his second season in the NFL. The problem with using Dashon Goldson or Bradley McDougald in the box is that it creates one-on-one matchups for either Nelson, Cobb or rookie receiver Davante Adams in the passing game.
The Bucs will need the linebacking corps to securely tackle Lacy and rely on defensive linemen Akeem Spence, George Uko and Da’Quan Bowers to stop Lacy before he gets into the secondary. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Lacy has breakaway speed after he gets past the second level of the defense. Stopping Lacy with the front seven without safety help will be a key to victory for the Buccaneers.
6. QUIET THE CROWD AT RAY-JAY
Don’t be surprised to here “Go Pack, Go” several times on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium as tens of thousands of Green Bay fans are set to invade Tampa Bay for the Bucs vs. Packers game on Sunday. There is a chance that it could be like old times back in the early to mid-1990s when both teams were in the NFC Central division and the number of Packers fans outnumber the Bucs fans in Tampa Bay’s home games.
The best way to quiet the visiting cheeseheads and rev up the long-suffering Buccaneers fans is to use takeaways on defense and turnover-free play on offense to get an early lead over the Packers. The Buccaneers fans and season ticket holders haven’t seen their team win a game at Raymond James Stadium all season. The Bucs desperately need to win a game at Ray-Jay or risk becoming the first Tampa Bay team since the inaugural 1976 season to go winless at home.
SR’s Prediction: Packers 38, Buccaneers 16
MC’s Prediction: Packers 40, Buccaneers 10
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the record, I have no further interest in the NFL race to the bottom for the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Que sera sera! Whatever will be, will be! I’m not going to sit here with pencil and paper and try to calculate who wins or who loses to plug numbers into some complicated SOS formula to see if the Bucs will retain the first pick.
Shame on me! I sat up Thursday night and watched two gawd-awful football teams for the sole purpose of trying to find out if the Bucs would have smooth sailing to the bottom. Never again! I want that first pick like everybody else, but I’m going to let the players decide that. We’re going to pick somewhere and that’s good enough for me. More important is when we do pick, we get someone that helps us avoid this race to the bottom in the future!
Not trying to rain on anybody else’s parade. Hope you get your wish. I always want the Bucs to win and they probably will lose – just not going to lose any sleep one way or another!
Packers win by 11 after the Bucs make it a game because the Packers pulled all their starters after the third quarter.
Good for you Mac, How anyone could wish their team “lose” a game is well, not a fan by MY definition. Only real losers think in terms like that. On another note, Telford is now a head coach and has been feeling great for 2 months. WOW! I wonder why it is so hard to tell us what “really” happened. None of it makes sense and why I am most curious is because of our head coach and players..oh well…Jon G, If you read this post try and elevate your comprehension of my post in terms of its “entirety” you really need to take it down a notch with Mariota. You cannot predict future performance any better than any of us. Go Winston!!Nah, just kidding!
As usual I agree with macbaee, Horse and even DBuc63 on this issue. Those fans who want the Bucs to lose out so we can be “on the clock” as soon as this season ends likely won’t be sitting in the stands with me this afternoon surrounded by Cheeseheads. I can assure you that if you’re there in what is supposed to be “our house” when the Packer Backers roll up thinking they’re going to come in here and punk us like some bully taking our lunch money, that you’ll quickly forget all about “Suck for the Duck” and Marcus Mariota. Any NFL team can beat another as they say on “any given Sunday”. I realize our chances are not great and in all likelihood we lose by 11 as Horse predicted. But it sure would be a nice Christmas present for Scubog for the mighty Bucs to send Green Bay packing and their fans hurrying back to Busch Gardens hoping to salvage their ruined vacation by taking a ride on the Mamba. Oh, that might make them sick too. Pity. Shouldn’t have eaten those brats.
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The lead up to the 2015 draft is going to be interesting. The Bears are going to unload Cutler – even offering a high draft pick to take him. Cutler played at Vandy and the Titans who play in Nashville are already doing due diligence.
If the Titans get first pick and they are interested in Cutler, they will certainly trade the first pick – get a pick for Cutler, then get a ration of picks for Mariota.
Chip Kelley now knows that Sanchez is just a back-up and Foles can’t run his total offense. He is going to the mat to get Mariota. If this occurs, what would the Bucs do?
What if the Bucs got the first pick? Would they consider the same strategy? Would they take the chance on Trestman at OC, Cutler at QB, and McCown at back-up QB plus a ration of draft picks to re-do the offensive line?
I wish I had some idea what is in the mind of Lovie Smith, a coach that took Rex Grossman to the Super Bowl and has never picked a QB before the 4th round. I wish I knew!
Too early yet macabee. Lets wait to the season is over and after the College championship games. right now it’s QB and OL, as the priority.
I should be tailgating at Raymond James right now with a caravan consisting of a mix of Buccaneer and Packer fans from NJ. Instead we’re meeting to watch on TV. Thanks Lovie
Lets see as a fan do I want 4-12 or 2-14 and get to take the top qb in the draft hmmm, ah ok I have thought this through and I’ll take 2-14 and the top qb in the draft so call me a non fan or whatever you like But I have seen the Bucs win meaningless games at the end of the yr to end up missing Deion Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Derrick Thomas and settle for the lesser players in Broderick Thomas and Kieth McCants and Gaines Adams. Just like the Colts through away there season for Luck who is now the best young qb in the league I will take my chances with Mariota and to me gives us the best recipe for success in the future
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