Green Bay Packers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: Green Bay -3
Where: Lambeau Field
When: Sunday, 1/24, at 3:05 p.m. ET
Tom Brady beat a fellow legendary quarterback last week to advance to the NFC Championship.
Brady will now try to knock off another one when the fifth-seeded Buccaneers travel to top-seeded Green Bay on Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The Packers opened as 4-point favorites, but the line has dipped to -3 as of Thursday evening.
They have been favored by at least four points in 17 of their last 18 home playoff games. Green Bay has beaten Tampa Bay in 15 of its last 16 games at Lambeau Field, going 8-0 when the temperature was below freezing (32 degrees).
Tampa Bay was one of the best road teams in the NFL this season, though, winning its last seven road games by an average margin of 16 points. The Buccaneers used some key turnovers, including an interception and a fumble recovery by linebacker Devin White, to pull away from New Orleans in a 30-20 victory last week.
They blew out Green Bay in a 38-10 final at home earlier this season, scoring 38 unanswered points after the Packers jumped out to a 10-0 lead. This will be a different task, as Sunday’s forecast is calling for a high of 29 degrees and a chance of snowfall.
Brady has played 12 of his 13 career championship games in New England, though, so he will be accustomed to the frigid weather. He is also playing top-notch football right now, throwing for more than 340 yards in four of his last five games. Brady led the Patriots to a 9-4 record in 13 AFC Championship Games.
New Orleans held the veteran to 199 passing yards last week, but the Saints turned it over three times in their own territory. Leonard Fournette has averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 36 attempts in this year’s playoffs.
Tight end Cameron Brate has been Brady’s top target over the last two games, catching eight passes for 130 yards. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both gone over 100 yards as well. Antonio Brown is going to be a game-time decision on Sunday afternoon due to a knee injury he suffered against the Saints.
“Antonio, he’ll be a game-time decision,” Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said Thursday. “But no, he would not have to practice. He’s veteran enough. He knows what he’s doing. We’ll just see what happens.”
Brown was the top target in the passing game over the final five games of the regular season. He also caught a 36-yard touchdown pass in the wild-card win over Washington.
The Buccaneers offensive weapons will be facing a Green Bay defense that allowed just 244 yards against the Rams last weekend. The Packers finished in the top 10 in total defense and passing defense during the regular season.
There’s no doubting who they will be turning to on Sunday afternoon, though. Veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the favorite to win the MVP and had another great game last week, even against the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
Rodgers has thrown 21 touchdown passes and just one interception in his last seven games. He has a 50/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, throwing 25 TD passes compared to only two picks in nine home contests.
Green Bay is starting to become more balanced offensively, rushing for 188 yards against the Rams.
The Packers went 11-0 this season when they did not commit a turnover. They will be hoping to avoid mistakes this week against a Tampa Bay defense that feasted on takeaways from Drew Brees last week.
Wide receiver Davante Adams led the NFL in touchdown receptions this season, but he was held to 60 yards on six catches against Tampa Bay earlier this year. The Buccaneers held New Orleans star Michael Thomas to zero catches last Sunday.
Green Bay has covered the spread in seven of its last nine playoff games. Tampa Bay is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games this season and it is 4-2 ATS in its last six games against the Packers. The total has gone ‘over’ in four of the last six head-to-head meetings between these teams.
The pick: Green Bay -3
Betting against Tom Brady is one of the toughest things to do, but I think that is where the value is at in this game. Green Bay is clearly the better team in this matchup and the weather situation is favorable to the home team that is used to playing in these conditions. The Packers have become a very balanced offensive team, which makes Rodgers even scarier to play against. Their ATS numbers in home playoff games speaks volumes about how good they have been at Lambeau Field. The Packers will get revenge for their early-season loss and they will advance to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay.