WHERE: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin
SPREAD: Packers by 5
WHERE THE PACKERS STAND:: 4-2 Record. The Packers are in sole possession of second place in the NFC Central Division.
HEAD COACH: Mike Sherman (1-2 vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Tom Rossley
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Ed Donatell
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Frank Novak
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers LT Kenyatta Walker vs. Packers DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Walker has had his fair share of growing pains in the NFL, but Gbaja-Biamila gave Walker a rude awakening when the Bucs and Packers clashed in Week 4. Gbaja-Biamila has nine sacks this season, three of which were recorded against Walker and RT Jerry Wunsch. Green Bay likes to rotate Gbaja-Biamila on both the right and left ends of the defensive line, which makes him very dangerous and hard to defend. Walker had a solid game against Minnesota last week, which should boost his confidence, but he will need to have another solid outing against a Green Bay defense that has recorded 22 sacks in six games this season.
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 17th RUSHING: 28th PASSING: 10th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 8th RUSHING: 18th PASSING: 6th
HOW THE PACKERS RANK IN THE NFL:
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 5th RUSHING: 21st PASSING: 3rd
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 3rd RUSHING: 15th PASSING: 3rd
RUNNING BACK DILEMNA: Bucs head coach Tony Dungy has an interesting dilemma on his hands. It's been no secret the Bucs have a hard time splitting up the carries between RB Warrick Dunn and FB Mike Alstott. But Dunn has struggled behind an inconsistent offensive line and because of injuries he has been battling since Week 3. The A-Train has done a phenomenal job in place of Dunn. The A-Train has averaged 4.4 yards per carry this season and scored four touchdowns. One of the two games Dunn was out of due to injury was the Bucs-Packers game at Ray-Jay in Week 4. Alstott rushed 15 times for 77 yards, including his 39-yard game-winning touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay's offense is obviously more effective when Tampa Bay settles on one back. The question is, who's it going to be?
PACKERS SACK BRIGADE: Green Bay has recorded a whopping 22 sacks in six games this season. Tampa Bay's offensive line has allowed 20 sacks in six games. Put these two statistics together and you have a recipe for disaster. But Tampa Bay's offensive line looked much improved against Minnesota last week. The Bucs O-line put in extra practice last week and will certainly need to do the same in the preparation Green Bay this week. Tampa Bay's offensive line allowed QB Brad Johnson to get knocked down all day and be sacked five times against Green Bay in Week 4. The Bucs offensive line must protect Johnson and give him more time to throw in order to make plays. Look for TE Dave Moore to stay in and help block on the offensive line.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Packers have defeated the Buccaneers 12 games in a row at Lambeau field. The last time the Pewter Pirates defeated the Packers in Green Bay was in 1989. Green Bay is 3-0 at home this season.
BUCS DEFENSE MUST CONTAIN GREEN: Tampa Bay's defense has had mixed results against opposing teams' rushing attacks this season. But when the Bucs faced the Packers in Week 4, Tampa Bay's defense held RB Ahman Green to 59 yards rushing. Green is averaging 4.8 yard per carry this season and has scored three touchdowns in Green Bay's West Coast offense. Not only is Green a dangerous runner, he is just as dangerous as a receiver. Green leads the team in receptions with 29 this season. If Tampa Bay's defense can contain Green on the ground and through the air, they will stand a great chance of winning on Sunday.
BEWARE OF BUBBA: Packers QB Brett Favre does a terrific job of spreading the ball around in Green Bay's West Coast offense, but uses different receivers in different places. Favre has completed 14 passes to TE Bubba Franks, but six of those have gone for touchdowns in the red zone. LOLB Shelton Quarles was in charge of containing Franks in Week 4 and did a good job of it. Quarles made a nice play on a ball thrown to Franks in Tampa Bay's red zone. Quarles intercepted Favre's pass and returned it 98-yards for a touchdown.
BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
QB Brad Johnson on how the momentum the Bucs built last week must carry over to Sunday's game against the Packers: "Last week was one of the simplest game plans that we've had," said Johnson. "And we were able to make third down conversions and stop people on third down. That was the difference in last week's game and hopefully it will carry on to this week's game."
LT Kenyatta Walker on the importance of winning the game against the Packers: "I don't feel it's really urgency," said Walker. " But we have to play. We've got to start using our talent."
Walker on the benefit of having faced Green Bay in Week 4 : "Once you play a team for a second time and watch enough film on them, they become a creature of habit," said Walker. "You know what they do and must be on details and go out there and play."
Walker on the offensive line's performance last Sunday against Minnesota: "I think we've seen some of the potential we can have," said Walker. "But that was not as high as I think we can reach. We showed we can play together and it was good for us."
DE Steve White on how the Bucs have come together as a team since Week 1 : "We're coming together," said White. "I think that's what it is more than anything. All of our units are starting to play well together."
FB Mike Alstott when asked if he will be the feature back on Sunday: "Nope," said Alstott. "Warrick is back and he is going to be the starting tailback and I will be the fullback again."
FB Mike Alstott on the need for the Bucs to be consistent: "The motivation of last week has to be in everybody's mind," said Alstott. "We've just got to get consistent and do it each week. We lost one at home, so we have to go pick one up on the road and this will be a good opportunity to win a division game on Lambeau Field."
The A-Train on wanting the ball on every down: "I'm a competitive athlete," said Alstott. "If there's 70 snaps, you want the ball 70 snaps. You want the ball in your hands every play. If you don't, then you're going to be a liar. But we have to spread the ball out to be successful. That's why we were successful last week. If we spread the ball around, we will be find and we'll be able to do the things we did against Minnesota."
Alstott on Buc football and the need for players to be reminded of what it's all about: "We know what Buc football feels like and you have to remind yourself of that sometimes," said Alstott. "Coach Dungy reminded us, but players have to remind themselves by going out there and proving it to yourself."
Alstott on the mystique of Lambeau Field: "It's an exciting place to play," said Alstott. "We should be honored to go play at Lambeau Field every year, and hopefully we'll come out of there with a victory."
Alstott on sensing the players' focus at practice last week and in their preparation for Green Bay this week: "We're upbeat," said Alstott. "We're focused. I don't know how to describe it, but you sense it. We always prepare well, but last week was very intense and very focused. With the leaders we have on this team, it'll be like that again."
DT James Cannida on his opportunity to start for DT Anthony McFarland against Green Bay: "Coaches always say you're one play away from getting to play in this league," said Cannida. "That's something I've always kept in mind."
P Mark Royals on how his MCL injury is healing: It's something that needs rest," said Royals. "And at this point, I can't get that. But it feels better."
SS John Lynch on how tough it is to play in Green Bay: "It's a tough place to play regardless of when you go there," said Lynch. "We've obviously had our struggles up there. We've come close, but that doesn't count for much. We're going to have to play some good football and we feel like we can do that."
Head coach Tony Dungy on Tampa Bay's last chance to win in Green Bay as a member of the NFC Central Division: "It could be," said Dungy. "And for that reason, we want to go up there and get a win and get us back in the race in the Central Division. This will give us a chance to string two games back to back and that's probably what we need more than anything."
FLYNN'S FINAL: Want to know who will win this game? Just ask a meteorologist. The temperature in Green Bay on Sunday is supposed to be 48 degrees and partly cloudy, and as long as it doesn't dip below 40 degrees at kickoff, Tampa Bay should be just fine, right? Wrong.
Although Tampa Bay is 0-20 when the temperature at kickoff is below 40 degrees, it should be the least of their worries. The Buccaneers will be facing an angry bunch of Packers who will have revenge on their mind when the Pewter Pirates invade Lambeau Field. The Packers could have easily beaten the Bucs in Tampa in Week 4, but QB Brett Favre threw three costly interceptions that inevitably doomed Green Bay.
The Packers have a dangerous running attack fueled by RB Ahman Green. Tampa Bay held him to just 59 yards rushing in Tampa, but he is very capable of breaking a long run at any given time. Green is, however, known to drop the football from time to time, so Tampa Bay's defense should be swatting away at it come Sunday.
In order to win this game, the Bucs defense must rattle Favre. They cannot allow him to sit in the pocket and pick his spots. In Week 4, the Bucs defensive front four was successful in putting pressure on Favre, but could only bring him down for a sack one time.
Don't forget about Green Bay's defensive line. They sacked Bucs QB Brad Johnson five times and relentlessly pressured him throughout the game in Tampa. Johnson will need more time to throw for Tampa Bay's offense to be more productive. Bucs FB Mike Alstott rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries, including his 39-yard game-winning touchdown run in the fourth quarter in Tampa. But this time around, RB Warrick Dunn should be healthy enough to play vs. Green Bay. Head coach Tony Dungy is faced with a serious dilemma in this situation. Tampa Bay's offense would be better off using the A-Train as the feature back against Green Bay while mixing in Dunn here and there, but with the way offensive coordinator revamped this offense in the offseason, this will not likely happen.
Both Tampa Bay and Green Bay need this win in order to keep pace with the 5-1 Chicago Bears, who are atop of the NFC Central Division. One thing bolding well for the Bucs is the thrashing they gave the Minnesota Vikings at Ray-Jay last Sunday, 41-14. Green Bay has had two weeks to think about their loss to the Vikings in Minnesota, 35-13. But the Packers should benefit from the time off and the time to game plan for the Bucs. There are reasons why Tampa Bay has not won in Lambeau since 1989 and it will take a near-perfect game to end that streak. It's hard to play near-perfect football two weeks in a row.
FLYNN'S PICK: Packers 20 Bucs 14
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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