In week 3 the 1-1 Green Bay Packers travel down to Florida to play the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Green Bay is coming off a mediocre week 2 win against the Bears while Tampa has closed out both the Cowboys and the Saints in less than impressive fashion. Nonetheless, both teams will be primed and ready for what’s sure to be a great game.
A small, but notable, storyline here is that Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the two starting quarterbacks for this game. Oddly enough, the game will rest on a few other crucial key points outside of the two future gold jacket owners. With both teams fattening up their injury reports, it’ll be interesting to see who’s a go and who’s wearing street clothes on the sidelines. Barring anything else popping up, I’ll cover what the Packers will need to do come Sunday to ensure a 2-1 start to the year.
1. Neutralize the Pass-Rush.
In 2021 the Packers and Bucs matched up twice with the Bucs taking home the win in both games. While the second game was far more competitive, the Packers struggled in both contests to mitigate Todd Bowles creative and aggressive pass-rush schemes. Bowles and his defense got home 5 times on Rodgers in both games creating Rodgers to force the ball and in turn, throw some ugly interceptions.
Along with the pressure the Bucs are able to generate, they also do a great job of throwing false looks for the coverage they’re running. Pair that with the ability to get home with a 4 man pressure and it makes for a very hard day for any quarterback. Motion will be used to help uncover what they’re running but look for a run heavy script paired with quick hitters off play action out of Green Bay to counter everything Bowles is throwing their way.
If the Packers are to find success on Sunday, they’ll need to scheme up some counters to what the Buccaneers bring on a consistent basis. Akiem Hicks will be out but Vita Vea will give the Pack issues running the ball, so giving Rodgers as much time as possible to find an open receiver will be imperative to their success.
Generate Pressure Early and Often
The Bucs have notably been weak up the middle through the first two weeks of the season due to their mass exodus of starters to both free agency and injury. The Packers have been up and down in terms of generating pressure but have also been reluctant to send any form of a blitz package at their opponent, relying on their front 4 to get home.
If the Packers want to maximize their chances of disrupting Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offensive flow, they need to create pressure early and often. By not allowing Brady to get comfortable, they’ll be able to continuously throw new looks at the vet and, hopefully, get home on the old man. Being without Mike Evans (suspension), Chris Godwin (hamstring) and possibly Julio Jones, Brashad Perriman and Russell Gage, I fully expect Joe Barry to be aggressive with the packages and look to get Quay Walker moving downfield with speed, potentially unblocked. I’ll be taking the over 0.5 sack line for him.
Keep the Offense Balanced
Last week against Chicago, the Packers offense was as balanced as could be. Rodgers saw 30 dropbacks and the backfield saw 33 attempts. Both backs saw consistent action and were involved in the passing game. 8 receivers caught passes with no player having more than 3. The ball was going everywhere on the field and kept the defense on their heels and guessing the majority of the game. It’s the type of game the Packers would like to play every week if possible.
Look for the Packers to start early with a healthy mix of runs between the tackles and play action for whichever of the receivers end up playing. Dillon matches up much better for the Tampa defense, but that’s not to say that Aaron Jones will have an easy day on the ground. The speed of the Bucs linebacker core is impressive and they get sideline to sideline as well as any pair in the league so the burst that Jones has is somewhat nullified. The offensive line will buy Rodgers as much time as possible and the backfield will need to take advantage of every opportunity possible (both very doable) in order to keep the offense balanced.
When the Packers play free and don’t need to rely on one phase over the other, they look like an efficient offense that doesn’t miss the best receiver in the league. When they panic and abandon the run, it looks a lot like what we saw Week 1 in Minnesota. Let’s hope they can all keep their heads on straight come Sunday.