The stage is set and only 4 teams still stand for a chance at a Super Bowl title. Win and you are in, lose and a long offseason begins. For the Packers, it’s the Battle of The Bays as the Buccaneers will travel to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field this Sunday. Last week the Green Bay offense destroyed the number one ranked Rams defense to earn a 32-18 victory. Tom Brady and company used some late-game heroics to get by the New Orleans Saints 30-20. In order for the Packers to end the Bucs’ season, they will need to succeed in several important areas. These are the 4 Keys to NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
1. No Turnovers
It seems simple but the most important key to victory this week is to play clean and have no turnovers. If Green Bay can manage this they stand a great chance a winning the game. Tampa Bay forced 4 turnovers last week against Drew Brees and the Saints. Even with Brees’s three interceptions, the Jared Cook fumble got the Bucs back into the game and shifted all the momentum. These mistakes can not happen in the playoffs. This Buccaneers defense flies around and is good at creating these problems. They get pressure and rattle QBs into making these key mistakes.
Fortunately, the Packers are good in the ball control department and they have Aaron Rodgers pushing the ball downfield. Rodgers is the all-time great at ball security and outside of the off game against Tampa Bay earlier this season, he has been a surgeon. If the offensive line can keep him clean I don’t see Rodgers having a problem with turnovers.
Furthermore, Green Bay has also been good at protecting the ball in the run game. However, A.J. Dillon put one on the turf last week but luckily it went right back to Rodgers. There was the rare fumble after the catch by receivers this season, but most of the time the Packers’ pass-catchers protected the rock. Look for coach Matt LaFleur to put extra emphasis on ball security and control this week.
2. Slow Down the Linebackers
Green Bay has seen some really good linebackers this season. Nevertheless, this is the best duo they have faced, especially with the way that Lavonte David and Devin White are playing of late. Both are fast, tone-setting tackling machines. David has been a stud for a long time but white is taking his game to another level. After missing the Wild Card round, the second-year White beat the Saints into submission. Along with 10 tackles, he had a huge pick and a fumble recovery.
In Rodgers’ Hall of Fame career, he has struggled with teams that have elite linebackers and can get pressure with four rushers. If he gets rattled, these types of players seem to make him hesitate and go into tunnel vision.
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To slow down these guys, the Packers can use the inside running game and different looks with motion. The last few weeks Green Bay has been deploying multiple running backs and using motion to get the defense thinking. That split-second delay is just enough for the Pack to get ground yards. This in turn can get the play-action working and shot play opportunities. Look for both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams on the field on early downs. If Dillon is good to go it will stress White and David even further.
3. Make Brady Uncomfortable
In Tom Brady‘s decorated career, many teams have tried schemes to beat him and most have failed. His one Kryptonite has always been getting pressure with less and forcing him to have to move or get the ball out quicker than he wants. With his age, Brady’s mobility is a thing of the past and he would rather take a sack than create a potential turnover.
The Packers will need to continue their relentless pressure. This last month, Green Bay has been storming quarterbacks with rushers both inside and out. Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary and Za’Darius Smith are running red hot and need to be in Brady’s face early and often. While he may have taken a back seat to that power trio, Preston Smith can still contribute to defensive success. If these guys can rattle Brady, the secondary scheme should be able to choke out his wide receivers.
4. Challenge the Wide Receivers
The Bucs have some real weapons that can hurt any defense. They have the size and physicality in Mike Evans and the fast route runner in Chris Godwin. Add to that is the explosive Antonio Brown (if healthy). Furthermore, Scotty Miller and rookie Tyler Johnson can also make key plays.
Ordinarily, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine likes to play off man and zone. However, after seeing how the Saints played Tampa Bay, he may want to challenge these guys. New Orleans employed tight man coverage in order to limit all these players. Green Bay needs to get up on these receivers and smother them. Brady has no problem dinking and dunking teams to death. The combo of pressure and tight coverage takes that away. Forcing Brady downfield plays right into Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos making plays.
This matchup will be a real challenge but if Green Bay can execute these keys they will move on to the Super Bowl.
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