Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will look to make it to the Super Bowl for just the second time ever on Sunday.
All that stands in their way is the Green Bay Packers. The teams will meet at Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship.
Tampa Bay earned the spot with road wins over the Washington Football Team and more recently, the New Orleans Saints. The Buccaneers are led by the ageless wonder in 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady. Brady had a spectacular year for Tampa Bay with 40 touchdown passes.
The talent around Brady is well documented with names such as Ronald Jones, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. The story in last week’s 30-20 win over New Orleans in the NFC Divisional playoff however, was the defense.
Tampa Bay forced four turnovers, leading to 21 points. Devin White, who finished fifth in the NFL in tackles this season, recorded 11 stops and an interception. Sean Murphy-Bunting also returned an interception 36 yards to set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown.
Turnovers were the story when the Bucs and Packers met earlier this season at Raymond James Stadium. The Packers finished 13-3 and clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but it was Tampa Bay that handed them their first loss.
The Buccaneers blasted Green Bay 38-10 when the teams met on Oct. 18. Jamel Dean’s interception return for a touchdown sparked a streak of 38 unanswered points for the Buccaneers. Mike Edwards also returned a pick 37 yards to set up a Tampa Bay touchdown. Jones rushed for 113 yards and two scores in that victory.
Those two interceptions against Tampa Bay would account for 40% of the picks that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers would throw all season. The presumptive league MVP, Rodgers finished the season with nearly 4,300 yards passing while leading the NFL with 48 touchdown passes, a completion rate of 70.7% and a passer rating of 121.5.
The Packers are in the NFC Championship for the second straight year. Green Bay lost at San Francisco last year, but will be at Lambeau Field on Sunday, thanks to a 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams last week.
Rodgers’ two biggest weapons on offense are running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams. Aaron Jones rushed for more than 1,100 yards this season while Adams ranked fifth in the NFL with 1,374 receiving yards and first with 18 touchdown receptions.
Defensively, Green Bay ranked ninth in total defense in 2020. Headlining that side of the ball was linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 12.5 sacks.
The Packers have lost in each of their last three trips to the NFC Championship. This will be the first NFC Championship played at Lambeau Field since 2007 when Green Bay lost to the eventual world champion New York Giants in overtime, 23-20.
Tampa Bay is in the NFC Championship for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in 2002. This will be Brady’s 14th start in a conference championship game. He’s 9-4 in his previous 13 starts as a member of the New England Patriots.
Sunday’s NFC Championship will be just the fourth head-to-head meeting between Brady and Rodgers. Brady holds a 2-1 edge in the previous three games. Sunday’s contest begins at 3:05 p.m. ET and airs on FOX.
Prediction: Green Bay 33, Tampa Bay 28