Which Chant Will Carry the Day in Tampa?Posted:Dec 19th, 2014 3:55 pm
Will it be "Go Pack Go" or "Suck for the Duck?"
The crowd at Raymond James will likely be evenly split between Bucs fans and Packer fans. So by the time the second half rolls around, I envision a fun back and forth chant-a-thon between the two factions. Hopefully the game will no longer be in doubt at that point.
We hope to see an angry, determined Packer team take the field, one that no longer controls its home playoff fate, and one that knows there is no margin for error in the top heavy NFC. Win out and you get a bye, lose even one and you may be out of the playoffs.
So the Pack takes on 2-12 Tampa Bay, a team that does control its own destiny. Lose its last two at home to the Pack and Saints and they will own the #1 pick and get to be the talk of talk radio/TV for four months: Mariota or Winston? The suits in the suite will be secretly rooting for the green and gold as will most of the Bucs fans in the stands. Only the players (and probably most of the coaches) will be trying to send the Pack home with a loss.
By now you know Rodgers and McCarthy are 0-2 in Tampa and Green Bay hasn't won there since 2003. But you also know the Pack is 3-0 coming off a loss this season, have been excellent historically in the month of December and are ultimately the much more talented team.
I think we'll all be disappointed if the Packers don't demolish this team. They're winless at home and winless in the wretched NFC South. Like the Bears, they have QB buyer's remorse (though a much less costly one). Josh McCown has been lousy, with 10 TDs and 12 picks and a passer rating in the low 70s. He does have a fantastic, shiny new weapon: rookie receiver Mike Evans is the real deal and will be a handful for the Pack--we'll see if the defense has learned anything from the Julio Jones fiasco.
The Bucs would like to rely heavily on the Muscle Hamster on Sunday. Doug Martin averaged 6.6 yards per carry in a 19-17 loss in Carolina last week and has shown glimpses of the guy we saw his rookie year. The strength of the offensive line is up the middle, with former Packer "stompee" Evan Dietrich-Smith under center and former Patriot Logan Mankins at left guard. They made a change at tackle, benching left tackle Anthony Collins and moving Demar Dotson over from the right side. Look for the Packers to attack McCown all day--getting him in unfavorable down and distance will be key. That means slowing the Hamster.
Defensively, Lovie Smith has a pretty decent unit, but one missing its best player, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Unlike the Bills, Tampa Bay is strongest from the back of the defense in. Corners Alterraun Verner and Jonathan Banks are excellent and former Niner Dashon Goldson is tough at safety. They also have one of the best 'backers in the league in Lavonte David. But they don't apply much of a pass rush and the Packers should be able to run all day (provided Eddie Lacy has figured out his contact lens issues) and Rodgers should have time to find open receivers.
This is not the same Buccaneers team that beat the Steelers in week 4. This is a team that is 2-12 because they are very weak on offense and lacking playmakers on the defensive front. A lot of wise guys are predicting the Packers are in for a dogfight. If they make this a fourth quarter game, it will be hard to take them seriously as Super Bowl contenders, unless they can be assured of playing only at home.
McCarthy went the unusual route of naming six playoff captains this week, even though the team has not earned a playoff berth (though they have a 94% chance of securing one). That tells me he and his coaches have told the team the playoff run starts on Sunday. I expect the team will get the hint.
Packers 34 Bucs 17