TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 13: Wide receiver Jacoby Jones #12 of the Houston Texans outruns the defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and scores on a touchdown pass on the first play of the game November 13, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Here are my three key matchups when the Bucs are on defense.
At left tackle the Green Bay Packers will start Marshall Newhouse instead of the injured Chad Clifton. That provides an opportunity for Adrian Clayborn to get going again, after being very quiet the past two games. Clayborn seems to have hit a bit of a rookie wall, but facing the Packers' backup left tackle may be just what the doctor ordered for the rookie defensive end.
If Clayborn can get by Newhouse consistently the Bucs have a shot at stopping Aaron Rodgers, but they'll need more than just that. They will need coverage to hold up for a few seconds, which has been frustratingly difficult so far this season. They will also need the rest of the defensive line to help out Clayborn and themselves by playing like a unit for once. The Bucs have struggled with keeping quarterbacks in the pocket, too often offering them easy scrambling or rushing lanes. Rodgers is one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL too and can throw lasers while scrambling, so the Bucs need to make sure he has nowhere to go when a defensive lineman gets in his face.
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley presents one ridiculous matchup problem for every defense he plays against. He's too big for cornerbacks to handle and too fast for linebackers, and most safeties can't hold up in man coverage either. The Bucs will likely try to stop him with Ronde Barber, as that's how they've tried to stop Jimmy Graham in their two games against New Orleans.
The Bucs didn't really manage to stop Graham, however, and I have my doubts about Barber covering Finley. The big tight end has a size advantage over the small cornerback, and stopping tight ends hasn't really worked all that well anyway. Barber will have to play a very good game for the Bucs to have a chance on Sunday.
In the past couple of games, safety play has been a problem for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Against the Houston Texans they seemed incapable of making a tackle, but the Bucs' safeties have been largely incapable of stopping anyone through the air either. That's a real problem against Aaron Rodgers, who excels at moving safeties with his eyes and punishing them with the deep ball.
If Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson can play disciplined football and stick to their assignments, the Bucs should have a shot. But if they can't close on deep passes or if they are fooled by Aaron Rodgers, the Bucs are toast.