The Pewter Report staff breaks down the Bucs trip to Green Bay and share our thoughts on how the games goes and what the final score will be.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-7) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (5-6)
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1:00 P.M. ET
LAMBEAU FIELD (81,435)
NETWORK TELEVISION: FOX
PLAY-BY-PLAY: TIM BRANDO ANALYST: GREG JENNINGS SIDELINE: JENNIFER HALE BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF ANALYST: DAVE MOORE SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
LAST GAME: TAMPA BAY LOST AT ATLANTA, 34-20; GREEN BAY LOST AT PITTSBURGH, 31-28
PewterReport.com Publisher and Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
The Bucs are dodging a bullet weather-wise in their trip to Green Bay this week. Game time temperatures are expected to be near 50 degrees, whereas on Wednesday after a cold front comes in, the high in Green Bay will be 27. But Tampa Bay has more to worry about than colder weather and yet-to-be frozen tundra at Lambeau Field. The 5-6 Packers are a win away from getting back to .500 after back-to-back losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and with the slim chance that Aaron Rodgers could be back for the playoffs, the Packers have everything to play for.
The Bucs are merely playing for pride at 4-7. They would have to win all five remaining games to match last year’s 9-7 record and have shown no indication of that happening. Tampa Bay’s offense could be buoyed by the return of quarterback Jameis Winston to the lineup after a three-week hiatus due to his injured throwing shoulder. Winston will have a new starting center in Joe Hawley and right tackle in Kevin Pamphile after the team placed Ali Marpet and Demar Dotson on injured reserve. That could affect the Bucs’ ability to run the ball and pass protect, but perhaps for the better. We’ll see. Led by linebackers Nick Perry (seven sacks) and Clay Matthews (3.5 sacks), the Packers like to send five defenders at the quarterback out of their 3-4 scheme on nearly every play to put the Bucs’ offensive line in five one-on-one situations.
It would be foolish to expect Winston to come out and be sharp in his first outing back from an injury. The Packers’ secondary has some playmakers in cornerback Demarious Randall and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, so Winston can’t force balls to Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson or risk getting picked off. A sensible game plan would be to pound Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers with Doug Martin out, and throw the ball underneath to Evans, Jackson and tight end O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, who is dealing with a hip injury. But after taking two deep shots on second-and-2, including one on fourth down, in the Atlanta red zone last week in the fourth quarter, does head coach Dirk Koetter even know what a sensible game plan is anymore?
Defensively, Robert Ayers is out with a concussion, so we’ll see Will Gholston, Will Clarke, Ryan Russell and newcomer Pat O’Connor trying to contain mobile quarterback Brett Hundley, who has 110 rushing yards and a touchdown. Hundley doesn’t have great pocket presence and has just five touchdowns and seven interceptions since replacing Rodgers in the starting lineup over a month ago. With starting running back Ty Montgomery out due to injury, the Bucs should see a heavy does of rookies Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones to provide balance to an offense that features a trio of dangerous receivers in Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb that should pose serious problems for Tampa Bay’s shaky secondary.
After last week’s defensive debacle in Atlanta where the Bucs refused to double cover Julio Jones, I have zero faith in the game-planning ability of defensive coordinator Mike Smith until I see a more competent performance. The Bucs have zero pass rush outside of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and struggle in coverage. Expect more of the same this week in another loss.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Packers 30, Buccaneers 19
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: TE O.J. Howard
PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Five games to go. Five games to save jobs and five games to try and run the table on and pray for a miracle for the postseason.
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Well no, not really. But they do have a chance on Sunday. Any time Aaron Rodgers is watching from the sidelines the opposing team has an opportunity to win. The problem is the Bucs are playing on the road, a place they have had little success so far this year. Add in a long road trip to historic Lambeau Field where Packers fans are nuts, it is a tough environment to go win one on the road from. Especially with the 5-6 Packers still in the hunt for a wild card spot, knowing they will most likely get Rodgers back later this season.
The Packers, led by backup QB Brett Hundley have been a bit of a schizophrenic team, getting shut out at home to the Ravens one week, then going on the road and almost taking down the Steelers last week. Which Packers team shows up?
And another question is, which Buccaneers team will show up? The one that sacked Josh McCown six times a few weeks ago and harassed Jay Cutler into three interceptions, or the one that looked like they were playing a back yard Thanksgiving family reunion football game with a five-Mississippi count before rushing Matt Ryan?
And while we have been hammering the Bucs defense all season long, this offense deserves as much of the blame themselves. I mean if you know your defense is going to struggle guess what? You better score a bunch of points. Hopefully head coach Dirk Koetter has figured that part out. He needs to call an aggressive game and take some chances on the offense. What do you have to lose?
I see a close game, and one where it goes back and forth for the most part. I think Jameis Winston has a good game and the quarterback who makes the fewest mistakes wins this one late in the fourth. Give me a late Winston to DeSean Jackson touchdown to take the lead, and yes a defensive stand in the red zone with a Lavonte David forced fumble to cap off a big win.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Packers 27
Cook’s Pick to Click: QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema
What do you get when you mix a team without their starting quarterback trying to hang on to their playoff life with a team just getting their starting quarterback back, playoff chances all but dead, and place them both in the most historic football venue of all time?
You get Tampa Bay vs. Green Bay this Sunday.
When it comes to the playoffs, the Buccaneers don’t realistically have that to play for. At 4-7, the Bucs are playing for improvement and pride. Earlier this week tight end Cameron Brate said that the players know they only get 16 of these games every year, and to act like any of these next five games aren’t worth playing for is foolish.
Their first of the five is in historic Lambeau Field. For the Bucs, they get their leader Jameis Winston back at quarterback. This will be the first time in three weeks that the Bucs will have their starter back, and if they want a chance to get a win in a hostile environment, they’ll need him to be much better than he was to start the season.
The storyline here for me is how well Winston can play with some “eye opening” (his words) lessons from having to sit the bench these last few weeks. It may not mean much for the playoffs this year, but how he plays this week and these next five weeks as a whole could be key in how the Buccaneers go into the offseason with certain plans.
How the coaches, head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith, game plan and adjust as a team for this last month of the season will also be key in how the Bucs organization goes into the offseason. These coaches need to show they deserve to still be in Tampa Bay, and not just because they have contracts. They have underperformed in getting their guys ready and getting wins, and this last month truly is an audition for them for 2018.
The Bucs will be without many starters like Robert Ayers, Vernon Hargreaves, T.J. Ward, Ali Marpet and Demar Dotson. I think the Bucs injuries ultimately hold them back from getting a winter-time win in Green Bay.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Packers win 24-17
Sikkema’s pick to click: QB Jameis Winston