Thought I’d take a few minutes and think about who I’d most and least like to see the Packers host in the divisional round next weekend. There are four possibilities: the Bears, Rams, Buccaneers and WFT. I’m ranking them in order of preference.
1. Da Bears: Conventional wisdom says you don’t want to play a team that you’ve swept in the regular season. It makes sense and usually I’d abide by it. But of the four contenders, give me Mitch and company for a third time. The Packers hold a spell over their neighbors to the South, and though they are the team that would be most comfortable with the weather conditions, they have no answer defensively for Aaron Rodgers. The Pack’s D would flood the box and dare Trubisky to try his luck downfield. At least a couple would find their way into Packer defensive backs’ hands.
2. WFT: This is actually the team I think the Packers will face. That’s right, I’m calling for an upset of Tom Brady and the Bucs. That’s only if Alex Smith plays, which remains in doubt as I write this. This is a team on the rise and Chase Young will be in consideration for defensive player of the year every season he plays. The defensive line is loaded with first rounders and can make things difficult for mortal offensive lines and QBs. Of course, those are the strengths in Green Bay and I don’t think they can keep the Pack down all game long. Flip side, their offense is pedestrian and relies on a lot of underneath stuff. Their one true downfield weapon, Terry McLaurin would be left alone on Jaire Island.
3. LA Rams: This would be a matchup of strength on strength, with the Rams’ tough defense matched up against the Pack’s high flying offense. How would the Pack’s interior handle Aaron Donald? Would shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey follow Davante Adams around and force Rodgers to find other guys? Would Jared Goff be back from injury and would it matter? They have some nice receiving options and rookie Cam Akers is coming on, though dealing with a high ankle sprain. This warm weather crew might hang with the Pack for a while, but not for 60 minutes.
4. Tampa Bay: By no means am I terrified of a rematch of the Bucs. My guess is that this will be the most popular upset prediction next weekend by the national media by virtue of what happened in the regular season meeting. Brady has gotten better and better as the season’s gone on and he’s not used to losing on wildcard weekend. Hell, he’s not used to playing on wildcard weekend. The key will be the pass rush, for both teams and whether the Bucs can run the ball. Tampa has playmakers on all three levels of the defense, and the stable of pass catchers is as good as any team in the playoffs. But over the course of the season the only team with a winning record that they beat was the Pack. The weather will favor the home team and having around ten thousand fans on hand won’t hurt either.
I don’t see any of these four teams ending this magical Packers season next weekend. But if you consider the Pack will face either Tom Brady or the likes of Alex Smith, Jared Goff or Mitch Trubisky, I think it’s safe to say we’d like to see some team spring the upset this weekend.