Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers – NFL, NFC Championship Game, January 24, 2021

By Dean McHugh in NFL
| January 21, 2021 8:39 am PDT

The NFL Conference Championship game weekend kicks off with the number one seeded team in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers, taking on the fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Packers are one of the most decorated NFC teams, having won the Championship on three occasions. However, it’s been a decade since they last got their hands on the trophy when they beat the Bears back in 2010. Since then, they have been to three NFC Championships but lost them against the Seahawks in 2014, the Falcons in 2016, and then against the 49ers last season.

The Buccaneers have only won the Championship once, which was almost 20 years ago, back in 2002, where they defeated the Eagles. Since then, they haven’t even reached the NFC Championship, so this has been a long time coming for them.

The recent head to head record between these two is right, with them splitting the last six matchups, three apiece. They met in week six of the regular season, this campaign where the Buccaneers thrashed the Packers 38-10. In that game, the Packers led 10-0 after the first quarter. Still, the Buccaneers struck back in the second quarter scoring 28 unanswered points as they cruised to victory.

If the Buccaneers are to win this one, they will have to do something that they have only done once in their history, and that is win in Green Bay! The two teams have met there on 13 occasions, and only once have Tampa Bay come away with the win. This was back in 2005 when they edged an extremely tight game 16-17.

Let’s look at the betting and dissect the game so that I can conclude the outcome and select my Buccaneers vs. Packers betting pick.

Buccaneers vs. Packers Odds

Buccaneers +3-110
Packers -3-110
Buccaneers To Win+155
Packers To Win-175
Over 51-110
Under 51-110

The spread has been shaved half a point since the betting opened, presumably so that the bookmakers don’t leave themselves open to a field goal win. The games between the two teams have been historically low. Although they are both outstanding attacking teams, my initial thoughts are that 51 points look high.

Buccaneers Form

The Buccaneers finished the regular season well, winning their last four games and finishing second in their NFC South Division behind the Saints. This, however, has meant that they have had to do things the hard way on route to the NFC Championship game playing all of their games on the road. However, this hasn’t been a problem for a team that finished the regular season with the best away record in the Conference. They have won their last seven games on the road by an average of 16 points.

They beat Washington in the first round of the playoffs comfortably 31-23. They then came up against the team that pipped them for the NFC South Division title, the New Orleans Saints. They trailed the first quarter 6-0 after concerning a couple of field goals. However, they soon rallied to go in at half time level at 13-13. It was nip and tuck in the third quarter as both teams exchanged touchdowns, making it 20-20 heading into the final quarter of the game. They took the lead in the fifth minute of the fourth quarter through a Succop field goal and then sealed the victory when Tom Brady (who else) ran in for a touchdown in the tenth minute. The final score of the game was 20-30.

Here are the latest betting trends for Tampa Bay:

Against The Spread

  • They have won five of their last seven games.
  • Tampa Bay has only lost two of the last six games against the Packers.
  • They are 3-7 in their last ten games played in January.

Points Total

  • Against NFC opponents, 14 of their last 20 games have gone over the betting total.
  • The total has gone under in all but one of their last five games against teams based in the NFC’s North Division.

These are the number one and two best offenses in the NFL this season, so we could be in for a classic. The Bucs have only one way of playing, and that is to go to their star quarterback Tom Brady and let him slice through the opposition like a warm knife through butter with his deadly arm. However, their predictable offense became unpredictable against the Saints when Brady himself ran in to score the game’s winning touchdown. This will surely give the Packers food for thought.

With two good offenses on display, the key to winning this game could well be who’s defense holds up better. Neither side have the best defense in the league, but you would have to say the Bucs has been slightly better.

One area they will certainly need to be better in is stopping passing plays. Their opponents have completed 69% of their passes against them so far this season, which won’t be good enough against the Packers. If they are to win this one, they need to bring that right down closer to the 60% mark. Perhaps if they pressed their opponents better, they could make more sacks and cut off the supply. Either way, they will need to improve in one or even both of these areas.

As you can imagine, much of the talk heading into this one has been about Tom Brady, and rightfully so in my eyes. The legendary quarterback breaks yet another record by being the first-ever quarterback to play in three Championship finals, spanning over three decades.

However, if they are to win, they are going to need more than just Tom Brady. If the likes of Leonard Fournette can repeat their performances against the Saints, then they will have a shot.

Perhaps what will be more critical will be the performance of their defensive players. Here is linebacker Lavonte David discussing his plans on taking on Aaron Rodgers.

The Bucs have a long list of injuries, which is what you would expect at this stage of a season. They are hopeful that linebacker Minter could return following his absence through illness. However, Brown, Ledbetter, and Vea all face late fitness tests.

Packers Form

The Packers finished the season as the number one team in the NFC, finishing with a record 13-3. At home, Lambeau Field has been somewhat of a fortress for them as they have only been beaten there once all season long. This was surprisingly against the Vikings, who failed to make the playoffs this season, back in week eight.

Therefore, the Packers entered the playoffs well-rested, and boy did it show! They dismantled the Rams in a comfortable 32-18 win to reach this stage of the competition. It was an edgy start to the game as both teams took a cautious approach, trading field goals in the first quarter. However, the Packers came out for the second quarter all guns blazing and took a 19-10 lead into the half time break. The Packers put the game to bed early in the third quarter with a Jones touchdown inside the first three minutes. One thing that impressed me about the performance and, in particular, their offense was that they mixed things up nicely and kept the Rams guessing.

Here are the latest betting trends for Green Bay:

Against The Spread

  • Like the Bucs, they, too, have won five of their last seven games.
  • They also have the same record against teams from the NFC.
  • The Packers have only lost one of their last five games played on a Sunday.

Points Total

  • Four of their last six games against Tamp Bay have gone over the betting total.
  • The total has gone under in all but one of their previous five games against NFC South Divisional opponents.
  • Their last eight games played in January have all gone over their points total.

The one thing that the Packer’s offense has over the Bucs offense is versatility. They showed that against the Rams last time out, they ran in two touchdowns and completed two passing touchdowns.

They control the game by slowing it down and ensuring that they don’t force the issue. This also leads to unpredictability as you don’t know when they are going to strike. And with a 70% passing success rate, they can hurt you from anywhere on the field.

As previously mentioned, they don’t have the best defense in the league. Still, controlling the offense means that their opponents don’t tend to get much time with the ball, which is a defensive mechanism.

Much like the Bucs, the Packers also don’t make many sacks, and it will be interesting to see if both teams stick to the same defensive game plans. However, Za’Darius Smith appears to be their specialist and go-to guy in this area is the finished the regular season with the fifth-highest number of sacks. Perhaps if one or two others can chip in to add the total, their defensive numbers will improve.

Aaron Jones will be a crucial figure for the Packers as he has been throughout the season. Jones finished the regular season with over 1000 rushing yards, and he also scored against the Rams last week.

They also have Davante Adams, who finished the regular season with the fifth-highest number of rushing yards. These two men (Jones and Adams) again highlight the Packer’s versatile game. Adams has only once failed to score a touchdown in his last 12 games, which came against the Panthers. However, the Bucs did stop him earlier on in the season when the two teams met.

The Packers also have a long list of injuries, but they could have Keke and Dillon back for this game?

Buccaneers vs. Packers Betting Pick

Pick
  • Packers To Win
    -175

This could and should be a classic. With both teams having such great offenses, it could all come down to their defenses. This would point you in the direction of the Bucs, as you would have to say they have a marginally better defense. However, I’m not sure they will be prepared for the Packers all-round game. I think the Packers could slow their offense down to try and take Brady out of the game.

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