The Green Bay Packers (9-0) host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon. The last time these two teams met in 2009 the Buccaneers pulled off a 38-28 upset at Raymond James Stadium midway through the season. Green Bay holds a nine game lead all-time against Tampa Bay (30-21-1), heading into their 53rd game. The Packers are 0-2 against the Buccaneers, since Aaron Rodgers became the starting quarterback.
Tampa Bay is coming off a 37-9 thumping by the Houston Texans last week. Quarterback Josh Freeman completed 15-of-33 passes and threw for 170 yards with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions against the Texans.
Freeman has thrown 9 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and has a 72.6 passer rating this season. Compared to Freeman, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 28 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and has a league-leading 130.7 passer rating after nine games. Freeman has 2,174 total passing yards to Rodgers’ 2,869 passing yards this season.
Green Bay comes off a 45-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football. The Packers are 9-0 for the first time since Vince Lombardi was the head coach, and Rodgers is the clear front-runner as the NFL’s most valuable player. He also has some funny television commercials airing that can be viewed here, here and here.
Green Bay again will be healthy on Sunday with only offensive tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) and linebacker Frank Zombo (hamstring) out due to injury. Zombo was injured two weeks ago against the Chargers. Defensive end Mike Neal is healthy, but probably won’t see any playing time this week. Look for him to debut against the Lions on Thanksgiving.
The Green Bay Packers can secure a victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, if they address four key issues during the game.
1. Protect Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers has taken too many hits this season and has been sacked 23 times, which has been a cause for concern for head coach Mike McCarthy. Tampa Bay may use aging cornerback Ronde Barber to blitz from the slot position when in their nickel defense, using him much the same way as the Packers use Charles Woodson. As long as Rodgers has time to throw, he should be able to take advantage of the Buccaneers’ weak secondary.
2. Blitz the quarterback
Josh Freeman has thrown more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (9) so far this season and his receiving corps has not been much help with dropping passes. Putting pressure on Freeman will force him into making poor choices, which will play into the favor of the Packers’ defense.
3. Use the cold weather to their advantage
The weather forecast for Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field is a brisk 37 degrees. Tampa Bay has enjoyed the warm weather of Florida and several dome games this season. The cold weather will give Green Bay an advantage. The Packers need to play physical in order to send the Buccaneers to the sidelines and the warm comfort of the bench heaters.
4. Don’t drop the ball
The Packers’ receivers can have a big day against Tampa Bay’s secondary as long as they don’t drop any passes in the cold weather.
Green Bay has a plus-11 turnover ratio compared to Tampa Bay’s minus-2 turnover ratio. The only way the Packers can lose is to turn the ball over.
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