GREEN BAY — The Buccaneers are on the decline here as we reach the end of 2011 and that stings to recognize. But the season is far from over for the Bucs, even if things look horribly grim at the moment.
The Buccaneers sit now firmly in third place in the NFC South and are not catching up to the Falcons and Saints with a 4-5 record. But Tampa can salvage what they can of this tough, season defining three game stretch by shocking the world and beating the Green bay Packers. And this team is so bi-polar that it just might be possible.
The Bucs may not even need to play their best football to beat the Packers either and hand the Super Bowl favorites (and defending champs) their first loss of 2011. The Packer’s defense is one of the more mediocre units in the league but where they stumble, a little guy you may have heard of who happens to be their quarterback tends to bails them out time and time again.
No one has been able to find a way to stifle Aaron Rodgers who is not only running away with the NFL MVP, but is doing so by staying on pace to shatter just about every single season record in the books. That’s what it will come down to but where the Packers are able to close teams out is forcing mistakes and it seems as of late with Josh Freeman and Co. that the mistakes don’t need to be forced.
The Buccaneers have been less then mediocre on offense. In fact their offense is pretty much offensive to all football senses. The most offensive part of this offense is the fact it’s so potentially talented yet it stalls at every opportunity now. The unit has suffered backwards progression. They were slow out of the gates to begin with this year and now they don’t even seem to ever be in games rather they seem to always be behind.
This is a lot of Josh Freeman’s fault but it’s his fault in a way that really isn’t. We all put too much stock in Freeman at the beginning of the year. He’s going through his sophomore slump that all rookies eventually go through, at least most of them. Freeman is having growing pains right now but that doesn’t mean that A) he should be written off or that B) he gets a free pass.
Growing pains or not, Freeman is the quarterback of this team and it’s leader. We wouldn’t have so much stock in him if we didn’t have some pretty solid evidence that it was a good investment. His comeback wins and his swagger led us to believe it would all be good times.
But being a Bulls writer I can vouch for amazing play leading to false prophecy. Derrick Rose ran away with the MVP last season and led Chicago to it’s best record since a guy they called Jordan was in the starting lineup. This all gave Bulls fans the false pretense that Chicago would sweep it’s way into the NBA Finals. They recorded no sweeps in the playoffs, lost to the Pacers in one game and eventually got bounced by the Heat.
All this after being virtually unstoppable at home in the United Center. Chicgo couldn’t loose there yet, when they lost their first playoff game there to the Heat, the hand slap of reality was upon all involved with the Bulls.
That’s what’s happening with Josh Freeman and the Bucs this year. The expectations were so high that now that the Bucs are under-performing it’s beyond frustrating and highly embarrassing to see. But it’s not a total shock either. We were all drunk on the 2010 Kool-Aid and never saw this coming with sensible eyes. This team’s season isn’t over but it’s not going to end the way we all wanted it to. The offense is hurting and it’s a growing problem, not a personnel problem.
They can get it together and beat this Packer defense but they need to get back to the blueprint that works, not this randomly copied and pasted one that has sent them on a three game skid.
The defense has never had an easy go of things and this week may be their toughest most brutal week yet. But that’s expected when you’re going up against Aaron Rodgers and a Packers defense that has not been put in check all season long.
Tampa’s going to get shredded in the secondary — book it.
The Bucs will easily beat the Packers running game which is basically non-existent. Ryan Grant and James Starks are guys that scare no one, but attach Rodgers to anyone and they’re scary.
The Bucs will need to focus strictly on stopping the pass. Aqib Talib better get his act together otherwise the rest of Bucs Nation will share the sentiment a lot of people feel in that he’s not really that good. Greg Jennings will meet the most bi-polar Buccaneer and his day will see one of these things:
1. A shoddy covering Talib that allows him to have one of his best days yet
2. A solid Talib that has one of his best games of the seaosn
3. Talib’s fist/fingers in his face/facemask
It comes down to the secondary because all Aaron Rodgers does is shred them. If Tampa can find the way all other teams haven’t in terms of stopping Rodgers, then the Bucs will win this game –book it. Take Rodgers passing game away from him and he’s a totally different quarterback. His running game isn’t solid enough to carry the offense but that’s why Rodgers is so good, he’s got no safety net and he loves that danger.
If Adrian Clayborn and the line can put pressure on Rodgers then that’s a start, but the pressure needs to be constant. Rodgers has been sacked before this season and not even that rattles him. The pressure needs to be constant and it will eventually wear Rodgers down.
After all, what else is there left to try when it comes to slowing the guy?
Tampa has won a game this season via putting constant pressure on an elite quarterback. Matt Ryan was harrassed non-stop and he had a run game to rely on; Tampa squashed that too.
Not Green Bay’s front line is an incredible unit, but they aren’t invincible no matter how much they look it.
Pressure, discipline and pressure. That will win this game for the Bucs.
This is a winnable game for the Bucs but just barely so. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers aren’t undefeated because they won the lottery, they’ve done it by doing what the Bucs haven’t: they’ve played tight, disciplined football.
Tampa needs to play disciplined if they want any hope of winning. Any stupid penalty will be instantly exploited by Rodgers and/or Don Capers and the defense. Clay Matthews wants to wear Josh Freeman as a fur coat and needs to be watched. The running game must pound the ball to create rhythm and Josh Freeman needs to stay away from interceptions completely.
When I say any mistake cripples the Bucs chances of winning i mean ANY mistake at all. One pic or one drive that doesn’t end in points is bad news for the Bucs. The Packers are undeafeted because they’re the best team in football and if the Bucs thought they had their hands full with the Saints, Bears and 49ers, then they have another thing coming at Lambeau Field this Sunday.
Bring the pressure, play tight coverage and play mistake free (and i mean MISTAKE FREE) football. Then and only then do the Buccaneers have the slimmest of slim chances of winning.
That and you can always bust out the creamsicles like last time these two teams met.
Prediction: Packers 34, Buccaneers 17