After upsetting their NFC South foe in the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday, the Buccaneers have moved one step closer to the Super Bowl, as only the Green Bay Packers stand in the way of the organization's second Super Bowl appearance.
The Buccaneers came out with a vengeance to take down the Saints in their third meeting of the year, after being embarrassed by them in week nine and dropping the first game of the 2020 season in the Superdome.
The thing is, once playoff football rolls around, the regular season doesn't mean a thing. Exhibit A being the week six matchup between the Bucs and the Packers in sunny Tampa Bay when the Bucs quickly went down by 10 but quickly stormed back to take down Green Bay 38-10.
Still, Vegas has the matchup this Sunday at a four-point spread in favor of Green Bay, as they beat the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 to advance to the NFC Championship.
Getting into the preview of this week's matchup, the No. 1 thing to watch is how Tampa's defense can stop the high powered offense of Green Bay, which has some of the best playmakers in the league, with guys such as Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams.
Limit Davante Adams
Similar to the gameplan from last week, Todd Bowles should implement a gameplan based around star cornerback Carlton Davis III shadowing wide receiver Davante Adams.
Davis, despite dealing with a lingering groin injury, played the best game of his NFL career last Sunday as he held Saints WR Michael Thomas to zero catches.
Coming off of such a performance, Davis will have to line up against the best WR in the NFL today in Adams, who has torched just about anyone he has been matched up against this season - except Davis.
In the first matchup of the season, Davis was manned up on Adams for a majority of the afternoon, allowing three catches for 33 yards coming from five targets (PFF). As a whole, Adams posted six catches for 61 yards but failed to reach the end zone in the first go-round.
Considering Adams has gone for 100+ at least seven times this year, it was a very respectable outing from Davis who only gave up 33 yards on the day, despite Adams coming off injury and Rodgers not playing like himself.
There is almost no stopping the beast that Adams is, which is why Green Bay is so dangerous on offense. Limiting him and taking him out of the game is all you can ask for, and Davis should be able to carry that job out as he did in the first game.
Do Not Let Rodgers Get Hot
Going hand-in-hand with my first point, Tampa's defense must stop Rodgers from being the top NFL QB that he is by any means necessary.
The very last thing you want to do if you're the Buccaneers is allowing Rodgers, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, to get in his zone. Rodgers has been throwing heat all year, throwing for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns, and only five interceptions throughout the regular season.
Two of those interceptions came against Tampa the first time around, so defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and the defense know what they must do to replicate such success once again in the NFC Championship.
Many people, including myself, believe Rodgers has the MVP award locked up, as no one came close to his production throughout the season especially considering the talent in his wide receiver room, which is mediocre outside of Adams. Tight end Robert Tonyan was second in receptions throughout the regular season, as the drop from Adams 115 receptions to Tonyan's 52 was immaculate.
If anything this stat proves just how important Adams is to the offense, and why it is so vital to eliminate him from the gameplan as much as humanly possible.
Getting back on how to stop Rodgers, the key is to establish a pass rush that actually gets home. Despite growing older, Rodgers has still been one of the best at evading pressure and making throws with defenders in his face. Due to his quick release, Rodgers makes it very hard for pass rushers to get to him and take him down.
Although, this did not stop the Bucs from wreaking havoc on Rodgers back in October. Tampa Bay created pressure on A-Rod throughout the first matchup, marking down four sacks on a team that allowed only 20 sacks all year.
With rushers like Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Devin White, and plenty others, Bowles will have a field day creating elaborate pressure schemes to get Rodgers to make haste decisions which could cause turnovers, as long as the Bucs can continue to capitalize on them as they did last week against the Saints.
It doesn't hurt your case that Suh and Rodgers have a rivalry going on from Suh's time with the Lions, allowing for some friendly banter between the two as the game goes on, which could also cause some extra motivation for both sides.
Compared to the Saints, the matchup with Green Bay will prove much different in terms of how the Packers can beat you, as Rodgers is much better at throwing the deep ball compared to Brees, who simply had no arm strength left, allowing the Bucs to play underneath will no threat to get beat deep.
This makes the pass rush that much more important, as they must find ways to get to Rodgers so those deep balls can be affected or even stopped before they get out of No. 12's hands.
With a pesky pass rush and the secondary of the Buccaneers playing out of their minds, Tampa Bay's defense could cause issues for such a prestigious quarterback.
Keep Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams In Check
Finally, the Buccaneers must continue their reign as the best rushing defense in the NFL against the three-headed attack that is Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and rookie A.J Dillon.
No matter which running back the Bucs have faced, they have significantly limited them in some way due to the front seven that they have, causing all sorts of issues due to defensive discipline and contain.
Possibly adding nose tackle Vita Vea back into the mix would take the front to the next level.
The way the Tampa defense fills gaps is a thing of beauty, as everyone is familiar with their role and carries it out to perfection. With that level of having gap control, the Bucs cause the run to be stifled and shut down any sort of big plays that could come.
In week six, the Packers only rushed for a team total of 94 yards on 21 attempts, mainly due to the large deficit that Green Bay was faced with for much of the game. Still, the Bucs eliminating Jones from having any sort of production, limiting him to 15 yards on 10 carries and a one-yard touchdown, which was the only Packers touchdown in the game.
Both Dillon and Williams faired better, posting 34 yards and 28 yards, respectively.
Time and time again, Tampa has proved to be effective at stopping the run, and I expect it to be no different this Sunday, even if the weather may affect the gameplan of both teams.
As long as the run game success can be kept up, Tampa Bay has a reasonable shot to once again cause an upset, this time taking them to the Super Bowl if they could pull it off.