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Green Bay Packers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Key Players

I’ve switched it up a little and instead of key matchups, I’m going to be focusing on key players for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game this week. Which really isn’t all that different, but hey, why not.

Earnest Graham, RB, Tampa Bay

The Green Bay Packers has the fourteenth ranked rushing defense in the NFC. Yes kids, that’s out of 16 teams. They’re coming off a week in which Marion Barber put up 142 yards against them. That’s what the Bucs need from their starting running back.

Graham is coming off a game in which he only produced 16 yards on 12 carries. But that was kind of expected against the Chicago Bears’ defense. Now he’s going up against a team that allows 151 yards per game on the ground and he has a chance to define the flow of the game. If Graham can get going early and often, it could be a long day for the Packers. The Bucs need to play clock control because we all know Brian Griese isn’t going to put the ball in the air 67 times again anytime soon.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Tampa Bay

10 catches?!? 138 yards?!?

Bucs fans are still in shock over Bryant’s performance against the Bears. A career underachiever who was out of football in 2007, Bryant caught a career high 10 catches against the Bears and suddenly Bucs fans had dreams of a big wide receiver that holds onto the ball.

Here’s the problem. In the previous two games, Bryant had 3 total catches. The Bucs also threw the ball only 41 and 31 times n those games – or 26 and 36 less times than they did against the Bears. The issue for Bryant is those attempt numbers from the first two games are much more likely to happen consistently than the 67 against the Bears. So expect his production to dip. However, the most important thing for Bryant to do is CATCH THE BALL! Against the Bears he looked like an All-Pro. Against everyone else, he’s looked no better than a 4th or even 5th option based on his drops.

Bryant probably won’t get 10 catches again, but if he can hold onto the ball, 6-8 is realistic and he definitely can be a game changer.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay

Repeat after me. Aaron Rodgers is not Brett Favre. Go ahead. It’s okay. Aaron Rodgers is not Brett Favre. One more time. Aaron Rodgers is not Brett Favre. Okay good. So the Bucs have absolutely nothing to worry about. They are facing the Rodgers-led Pack. Not the Favre-led Pack.

Wait. What? Rodgers is playing better than Favre so far this year? No way. You’re kidding. Rodgers has a higher rating and hasn’t thrown an interception this year? Seriously? Yes seriously. Rodgers has shown in three games that he isn’t a bad quarterback. Far from it. But like I’ve said about other players, he can’t keep this up every game. Even league MVPs have off games from time to time and the Bucs main goal is to make sure this is an off game for Rodgers. He has the receivers to stretch the field, the running game to help him move the ball, and the patience and intelligence to not make bad throws. Since Rodgers isn’t going to make plays for them, it’s up to the Bucs to force him too.

Gaines Adams & Greg White, DEs, Tampa Bay

I’m going to the mall today and purchasing a white Adams jersey and a red White jersey! Okay that’s probably not a good idea considering the poor jersey choices I’ve already made during my lifetime. But I am in love with these two.

Along with the venerable Kevin Carter, Tampa Bay has put together one of the league’s top defensive line rotations. Don’t believe me? White is fifth in the league in sacks and Adams is one of only two defensive lineman to return an interception for a touchdown. Oh and for good measure, Carter leads Bucs’ defensive ends with 9 tackles.

Anyway, Adams and White are crucial in this game. Rodgers has looked very good in three starts, but here’s the key stat: Rodgers was sacked only once in the two wins, but five times in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Anyone can put two and two together. GET TO RODGERS! Statistically speaking Rodgers had his worst game against Dallas and it’s no coincidence that the Packers lost. Adams, White, and even Carter must come at him over and over and over and over and…