Game: Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Time & Location: Sunday 1:00 PM EST; Lambeau Field; Green Bay, Wisconsin
Previous Meeting: 2014 Week 16, Packers Won 20-3
The Green Bay Packers got their offense back into a groove last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they scored 28 points, but their defense was unable to stop the Steelers offense, who won on a last-second field goal. The Packers lost Ty Montgomery to injured reserve, and Aaron Jones is still listed as questionable. The workload will, once again, fall to fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams who played very well last week. The team will also be without top cornerback Kevin King, while they also have four players questionable on defense. The Buccaneers will be excited to get third-year quarterback Jameis Winston back in action, after he has been absent, since essentially week eight. Both teams have a laundry list of injuries, so it’s possible that this game could turn into a battle of attrition, by the time it’s over.
Both of these teams tend to hang their hats on offense, as they both rank in the bottom 10 of total defense. The Packers need to hope that Hundley and the offense are able to keep their mojo rolling after last week’s strong performance. The key will be Green Bay’s defense stepping up. Winston has had struggles to take care of the ball in his young career, and their defense has been opportunistic against mistake-prone quarterbacks this season. The team needs to show up on both sides of the ball if they’re going to be successful. With Aaron Rodgers out, the offense, just doesn’t have the same firepower and is unable to bail out the defense, when they struggle to get stops. Davante Adams has been Brett Hundley’s favorite weapon, since Rodgers’ injury. Since week six, Adams has more catches than all other pass-catchers combined.
The Packers defense needs to generate a good pass-rush to take advantage of a miserable Buccaneers offensive line. Their best starting offensive lineman, per Pro Football Focus, is left tackle Donovan Smith, who ranks as the 58th best tackle. The team sorely misses starting right tackle Demar Dotson, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this season. Head coach Dirk Koetter would prefer to ease Winston back into the offense, but, with a run game that ranks 29th in yards per carry and 28th in total rushing yards, that should prove rather difficult. Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, who has been nearly invisible since Winston’s injury, should be in for an increased workload against a struggling and battered Packers secondary.
The Packers love playing at home and this week should be no different. Rodgers returned to the practice field this week, which could give the team an emotional boost, as they look to save their season. Winston was expected to make the third-year leap this season and lead the team to the playoffs, but he struggled prior to his injury and should struggle in a hostile environment.
Final Score Prediction: Green Bay Packers 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17