The Buccaneers (+3.5) are facing off against the Packers (-3.5) in a showdown between two 6-7 teams. Both teams need to rack up as many wins down the stretch as they possibly can. For the Bucs, they are still fighting for the NFC South crown while the Packers are still in a battler for a wild card spot. A big matchup awaits both teams.
To preview this huge game, we sat down with Kris Burke of Acme Packing Company to take a close look at the Packers heading into the contest.
1. Jordan Love was thrust into the starting role this season. After a seemingly rocky start, he has been much better as of late. How would you evaluate Love’s first year as the starter so far?
It’s gone as expected. There have been some great highs but also some infuriating lows. Such is life with a young quarterback.
His accuracy was a major concern early on, as it was when he came out of Utah State.
However, he actually improved on that as the season went on and a lot of concerns have been brushed aside.
I wouldn’t put too much stock in the loss to the Giants but Love’s performance there looked eerily similar to his early season struggles. There are going to be ups and downs but let’s hope Love and Matt LaFleur get this corrected so bad habits don’t re-develop.
2. The NFL world was shocked a few years ago when the Packers dealt Davante Adams to Vegas. How has Green Bay been able to replace Adams and who should Tampa Bay be looking out for on Sunday?
They went young, as is a franchise tradition. Unable to replace Adams with an established star due to cap restraints, the Packers drafted a ton of wide receivers the past two years, leaving Love without a veteran pass catcher this year which I think has hindered his development a a bit.
In terms of who to watch for, it depends who can play! Christian Watson is doubtful and he’s a speedster. Dontayvion Wicks has become a reliable target and arguably WR1 but he’s questionable.
That leaves Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed playing and Reed has an ankle
Injury. Reed is also very quick and LaFleur hammered the end-around with him against the Giants until it became routine. However, he’s made a case he can be WR1 so he’s the one the Bucs should key on, even if he’s hurt.
3. On defense, what are the Packers biggest strengths and weaknesses as a unit?
Fans renewed their calls for defensive coordinator Joe Barry to be fired this week but the group does some things well….when Barry makes the correct play call.
They blitz very well and succeed when Barry sends consistent pressure. Rashan Gary has bounced back strongly from a torn ACL a year ago.
Their weaknesses are at stopping the run and frankly, adapting to in-game challenges. Teams have repeatedly all but telegraphed what they’re going and Barry has been slow to adapt if he even does. The struggles against the run are clear examples of this.
4. Playing in Lambeau is tough enough, but playing in Lambeau in December is a very difficult task. What does each team need to do to ensure success this week?
The Packers need to start fast. They play better when they open stronger. There was a stretch over several games where Green Bay struggled to score in the first half, and that’s when they were losing. If they get a touchdown on the opening drive, their odds of winning are pretty good.
Tampa Bay needs to confound Jordan Love with blitz packages and stick with what works offensively. Chances are Barry won’t be able to stop it until it’s too late.
5. According to DraftKings, the Packers are a slight home favorite at -3.5. How do you see this game shaking out and what is your score prediction?
A week ago, I would have had this chalked up to a win for the Packers but now I’m not so sure. The loss to the Giants saw a lot of issues everyone thought were solved rear their ugly heads again. Did a young team just a get a high off their own press and play down to their opponent’s level by taking them for granted? Or is this a very flawed team that just got hot for a little bit?
I’d bank on the former, for now. Tampa Bay is still better than the Giants but Mayfield has struggled in recent years against the Packers and judging how angry LaFleur was after Monday’s loss I think Green Bay puts forward a much stronger effort
Give me the Packers, 21-17.
Thanks so much to Kris for doing this!