The NFC Championship game (NFCCG) heads to Lambeau as the #1 seed Packers welcome Tom Brady and the Bucs who’re playing their first NFCCG since 2002 whilst the Packers fell at this hurdle last year to San Francisco. Can the Packers make home advantage count and reach their first Super Bowl since the 2010 season or will Brady lead the Bucs to history as they become the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium?
Green Bay booked their home NFCCG with a win over the LA Rams last week with a great team performance, the Offense hung 32 points on the NFL’s #1 defense with First Team All-Pro Quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing for nearly 300 yards and 2 TD’s and zero INT’s whilst Aaron Jones picked up 99 yards and a score on the ground against the Rams #3 ranked Run Defense, but he’ll be hard pushed to replicate that stat line against Tampa and their #1 ranked Run Defense who welcome back Vita Vea from injury, the run stuffing Defensive Tackle will make that unit even better. The big challenge for this Tampa Defense will be stopping Davante Adams, the WR led the league in receiving TD’s in the regular season with 18 in only 14 games as well as finding himself in the End Zone once again last week, in fact, in the 15 games Adams has played this season he only failed to post a TD score in three of them, and one of those games was the week 2 matchup with the Detroit Lions in which he had to leave the game injured and wouldn’t be seen again until week 6, against the Bucs in Tampa, and not only was that game the second of his three scoreless outings, but both of Aaron Rodgers INT’s in that game were on targets to Adams, the Bucs defense nullified Green Bay’s biggest receiving threat as they romped to a 28 point win and it’ll be interesting to see how or if the Packers adjust their game plan when it comes to getting the ball to Adams and how the Bucs counter to stop him.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made it third time lucky against the Saints, after being swept by their division rivals in the regular season they took advantage of a poor performance from Drew Brees to get the win at the third attempt and take them one step closer to a home Super Bowl. Tampa’s Defense picked off Drew Brees three times in what is likely to be his final game as a professional, and proved what I’ve been saying for weeks in that whilst they’re not an elite pass stopping defense, they are a playmaking one and have the ability to take the ball away at any time. The Bucs Defense sacked Aaron Rodgers four times in the first meeting between these two sides and lived in the backfield, hitting the soon to be MVP 13 times and being the only defense to stop Rodgers throwing a single TD pass in a game this season. Tom Brady was more game manager than game winner last Sunday, posting under 200 yards passing as Tampa flipped the script and relied on their run game with both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones going over 60 yards on the ground with the former having over 100 total yards and a TD in the game, and whilst this is typically pass first and pass often Offense I expect to again see the run game utilised to take advantage of a Packers Defense which has been a little suspect against the run on more than one occasion this season. The Bucs passing attack will be without one of their biggest weapons over the last few weeks as Antonio Brown has been ruled out after picking up an injury against the Saints last week, and even though I expect the Bucs to run the ball a little more It’ll be up to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to make the plays downfield when targeted.
This is a matchup between the #1 and #3 highest points per game scorers in the NFL, and whilst Tampa dominated that game, that was in Tampa in favourable conditions whilst this game will be played in likely below freezing conditions. The Bucs will be so motivated to be the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl hosted at their home stadium but I can’t see past Green Bay here, Aaron Rodgers has been in fantastic form all season and after the frustrating loss at this stage last season I think they get over the hump and book their place in the Super Bowl.
As for our best bet we’re again looking at the Tackles & Assists market and Jaire Alexander, Green Bay’s number one Corner has made under four T&A’s in six games straight and had only two in the previous meeting between these two sides so his U/O 3.5 line is a tempting play here especially with Tampa likely to test Green Bay on the ground more than expected, and when teams do throw against Green Bay they tend to avoid Alexander who is head and shoulders the best Secondary player on the team.
PREDICTION: PACKERS 30 – 24 BUCS
BEST BET: Jaire Alexander UNDER 3.5 Tackles & Assists – 4/6 with SkyBet. 1 point bet.