WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
SPREAD: Bucs by 3
WHERE THE PACKERS STAND:: 3-0 Record. Green Bay is in sole possession of first place in the NFC Central Division with a record of 3-0.
HEAD COACH: Mike Sherman (1-1 record vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Tom Rossley
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Ed Donatell
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Frank Novak
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers DT Warren Sapp vs. Packers QB Brett Favre. Sapp and Favre have developed one of the best player rivalries in the NFL and both players will need to show up big in order for their team to win. While Sapp had a tremendous offseason by slimming down to 290 pounds, he has been quiet in the Bucs first two regular season games. Sapp, who recorded 16.5 sacks last season, has yet to record his first sack of the 2001 season. Sapp will need to pressure Favre early and often on Sunday in order for Tampa Bay to have a chance of containing Green Bay's dangerous quarterback. Favre is off to an explosive start so far this season. He has completed 67-of-98 passes for 804 yards, 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Favre has been hampered by nagging injuries the last two seasons, but for the first time since then, he is completely healthy. Sapp, who has sacked Farve eight times in his career, knocked Favre out of last season's game in Raymond James Stadium with a sack. Sapp will have to pressure Favre, but this will be a tough task since Favre's offensive line is much improved and has only allowed four sacks in three games.
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 17th RUSHING: 25th PASSING: 15th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 8th RUSHING: 12th PASSING: 8th
HOW THE PACKERS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 3rd RUSHING: 3rd PASSING: 4th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 1st RUSHING: 1st PASSING: 3rd(tied)
TOUCHDOWNLESS AS A BUCCANEER: Bucs QB Brad Johnson had completed 46-of-69 passes (66 percent) for 419 yards in two games this season. He has even rushed for one of the Bucs only two touchdowns this year, but he has yet to throw his first touchdown pass as a Buccaneer.
HOME SWEET HOME: After starting the season on the road for the first two games, the Buccaneers will finally make their have a home game at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay was originally scheduled to open at home in Week 2 at Raymond James Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles, but that game was postponed until Jan. 5-6. Tampa Bay has not played at home since Aug. 25, when they defeated the New England Patriots in preseason. The Buccaneers are 3-0 at Raymond James Stadium at home.
PACKERS BRIGADE: The Green Bay Packers have dismantled their three opponents this season. The Packers outscored Detroit, Washington and Carolina by a score of 93 to 13. All three of Green Bay's opponents have a combined record of 1-7 this season. The Buccaneers have scored and allowed a total of 26 points in their two games this season.
PACKERS' SACK BRIGAGE: Green Bay has recorded a whopping 15 sacks in three games this season. Leading the way is Kabeer Kbaja-Biamila, who has recorded six sacks. Vonnie Holliday is second on the team in sacks with three. In Week 1, Green Bay's defense sacked Detroit QB Charlie Batch seven times. The Packers have the No.1 defense in the NFL.
GREEN MAKES PACKERS GO: Packers RB Ahman Green is leading Green Bay's rushing attack with 326 yards on 61 carries (5.3 avg.). Green has scored two touchdowns on the ground as well, but he has also played a huge role in the Packers passing attack. Green is second in the team in receiving with 15 catches for 125 yards. Thanks to Green, the Packers are ranked 3rd in the NFL in rushing offense.
MISSING IN ACTION: BUCS TIGHT ENDS: Tight end Dave Moore's hands used to be considered the best on the team. But in Clyde Christensen's revamped offense, the tight ends have been nonexistent. Moore and TE Todd Yoder have been primarily used as rush and pass blockers and neither have caught a pass this season.
BEWARE OF BUBBA: Second-year Packers TE Bubba Franks has become one of Favre's favorite targets, especially in the red zone. Franks has hauled in nine receptions for 99 yards and three touchdowns this season. The Buccaneers surrendered 89 yards to Vikings TE Byron Chamberlain last Sunday and cannot afford to allow Franks to find his way into open spots of the field under the Bucs 4-3, Cover 2 defense.
BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
DE Simeon Rice on Packers QB Brett Favre and RB Ahman Green: "The focus starts with Brett Favre but Ahman Green is looking live right now," said Rice. "He's doing his thing right now. He's running all over the field and making the big play. Right now, he's anchoring that team. We have to go in this week and stop the dimensions they have. I think it starts right now for us defensively."
Head coach Tony Dungy on the 3-0 Green Bay Packers: "They're playing outstanding football," said Dungy. "They've went out and dominated the three people they've played and that's hard to do in the NFL. They're playing with a lot of confidence and they're probably the hottest team going right now."
QB Brad Johnson on the play of the undefeated Packers: "They have a tremendous defense," said Johnson. "They look like the Green Bay team of four or five years ago that went to the Super Bowl."
QB Brad Johnson on the Bucs struggles to score a touchdown in the red zone: "A lot of teams go through that phase," said Johnson. "Unfortunately, it cost us one ballgame and in one game we got a win. In this league, you have to score points at crucial times and in the game we played in the other day, we felt like we played a pretty good ballgame. We scored on four out of eight possessions and you can't complain about that."
Dungy on the importance of his defense returning to form against Green Bay on Sunday: "We need to get back to playing well," said Dungy. "We need to get back to feeling like leads are secure when we get leads. Hopefully we'll do that."
Dungy on the benefit of finally playing a game at home: "It easier to play at home," said Dungy. "The noise becomes your allies instead of your enemy and that's always good. Being at home doesn't make everything work out. We have to play well at home and away. We've got to be ready to play up to the home crowd."
SS John Lynch on last week's game against Minnesota and the importance of regaining their killer instinct: "I think one thing that was fairly apparent was our D-line," said Lynch. Some people ask where they were, but they were all over them. But Daunte played a spectacular game and we were giving them the check downs and they took them and drove the field on us. We need to get back in our attack mode. Our plan was to not let them beat us deep and they did on a couple of occasions and we let them check it down all day. I think this week we're looking forward to getting in someone's face and challenging them."
LB Derrick Brooks on facing a completely healthy Brett Favre for the first time in two seasons: "We always have respect for Brett," said Brooks. "Whether he's hurt or not hurt, he's still a good quarterback."
RT Jerry Wunsch on playing their first home game of the regular season against Green Bay: "It has been a while," said Wunsch. "It's going to be great out there again and actually be able to hear what the center is saying and what the guard and Brad (Johnson) are saying. It's going to be nice and we're looking forward to it."
Wunsch on the benefit of having FB Mike Alstott getting more carries while RB Warrick Dunn is out nursing a foot sprain: "With Mike (Alstott), you like to give him the ball and let him pound them," said Wunsch. "The is a guy that the more he gets the ball, the more effective he becomes."
FLYNN'S FINAL: This game may be more important than most people realize. After dropping a winnable game against the Vikings last week, the Buccaneers find themselves in a must win situation this Sunday against the visiting Packers. Tampa Bay had a chance to all but knock the Vikings out of playoff contention with a win, but they could not take advantage of their opportunities.
Tampa Bay is going up against what appears to be one of the best defenses in the NFL. Green Bay has held three teams to a total of 13 points and even held the explosive Carolina Panthers' offense to just 169 yards total offense. So, how is the Buccaneers offense going to move the ball and score on such a sound defense?
Tampa Bay will have to create turnovers and avoid their own. In order for this to happen, the Bucs front four must get pressure on Favre. Tampa Bay's defense has only recorded two sacks in two games this season. They can't afford to not wrap up Favre like they failed to do against Culpepper last week.
The Bucs cannot settle for field goals instead of getting touchdowns. Tampa Bay only scored one touchdown against a wounded and vulnerable Vikings' secondary. One has to wonder how they will manage to even drive down the field on the Packers defense.
Although the Bucs run-stop defense has been solid this season, they still remain a bit untested. Green will surely be a true test and the Bucs defense must pass it in order for Tampa Bay to win. At the same time, some have argued Green Bay is still untested as far as competition is concerned. This Battle of the Bays showdown is as big as any in recent years. But it is much more important for Tampa Bay to come away with a win than it is for Green Bay. If the Bucs can pressure and actually sack Favre, create turnovers and score touchdowns instead of field goals, then they will stand a good chance of winning this game. But after watching the Pewter Pirates play in their first two games of the season, all three of those necessities seem like too much to ask of Tampa Bay when going into a tough matchup like the one they will have against Green Bay. Coach Dungy expects his players to play a near perfect game and they are going to have to in order to defeat the Packers on Sunday.
FLYNN'S PICK: Packers 19 Buccaneers 13
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