Flynn's Focus

January 3 – While Tampa Bay won't know who its first playoff opponent will be until this weekend, the Buccaneers match-up better against some NFC playoff teams than others. Find out which team Tampa Bay would stand the best chance of beating in Raymond James Stadium next weekend in this installment of Flynn's Focus.

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Tampa Bay will not know who it will play in the second round of the playoffs until this weekend. While the team said it doesn't matter who they play, the Buccaneers definitely match-up better against some teams than others.

Let's take a close look at how the Bucs match-up against three of the NFC playoff participants in order from best to worst possible match-ups.

*It is impossible for Tampa Bay to play against Atlanta or Philadelphia in the second round of the post-season due to playoff seeding.

This is the best possible match-up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs downed the Packers earlier this season in Raymond James Stadium, 21-7. Tampa Bay is also 5-0 against Green Bay over the last five seasons in Ray-Jay. The Bucs are very familiar with the Packers from playing them twice a season as members of the NFC Central Division. The Bucs' coaching staff said it was preparing for three teams, but they probably spent a little more time studying the Packers due to the strong possibility of Green Bay downing Atlanta on Saturday night.

Teams, including Tampa Bay, can run the ball outside the tackles on Green Bay's defense, which is surrendering 124.9 yards rushing per contest this season. And the Bucs' defense has already proven it can stop the Packers' potent offensive attack by stuffing RB Ahman Green (1,240 yards, 4.3 avg., 7 TDs) and creating turnovers, which Packers quarterback Brett Favre (3,658 yards, 27 TDs, 16 INTs) has been giving plenty of over the last half of the season. The story leading up to this contest would, of course, be the Warren Sapp-Chad Clifton/Mike Sherman incidents, but the story afterwards would be about the Buccaneers advancing to the NFC Championship Game with a convincing win over the Packers.

Talk about a team that is backpedaling into the playoffs, the 49ers don't scare anyone right now, which is why they probably won't make it out of the first-round of the playoffs.

San Francisco went 3-4 in the last seven games of the season and they're facing a New York Giants team that won its last four games of the regular season. The Giants lost to the 49ers in Week 1 of the regular season, 16-13, but New York is one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. The 49ers are 5-3 at home and on the road this season.

While both running backs Garrison Hearst (972 yards, 4.5 avg. 8 TDs) and Kevin Barlow (675 yards, 4.7 avg., 4 TDs) and WR Terrell Owens (100 receptions, 1,300 yards, 13 TDs) are all lethal weapons on offense, San Francisco 49ers QB Jeff Garcia (3,344 yards, 21 TDs and 17 INTs) has been inconsistent and erratic with his throws, which is why this once potent offense sputtered toward the end of the season. Garcia is a mobile quarterback (353 yards, 4.9 avg., 3 TDs), but the Bucs' defense has fared well against those types of quarterbacks this season. The 49ers' defense will be what ultimately does the team in. This unit is allowing teams to produce 322 yards of offense and 21.9 points per game. The 49ers' secondary is suspect, allowing offenses to pass for an average of 219 yards per game.

If the Bucs dont' face the Packers, the 49ers would definitely be the next best match-up.

I feel bad for the 49ers. They're facing one of the hottest teams in football this weekend and if New York downs San Francisco and Atlanta somehow defeats Green Bay, the Giants will play Tampa Bay next, which wouldn't bode well for the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay needs Green Bay to win against Atlanta on Saturday night and then have New York defeat San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. Why? Well, the Bucs match-up very well against the Packers and the Giants might be the only team in the NFC that stands a realistic chance of going into Philadelphia and knocking off the Eagles. Remember – the Bucs have lost four straight games to the Eagles, including two playoff contests and one regular season game in Veterans Stadium. The Giants defeated the Eagles in Week 17, 10-7 and although they lost 17-3 in Philly earlier this season, the game was much closer than the score suggested.

Giants QB Kerry Collins (4,073 yards, 19 touchdowns), running back Tiki Barber (1,387 yards, 4.6 avg., 11 touchdowns) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (74 receptions for 894 yards and 2 TDs) have ignited New York's offense, which should scare teams since this team has one of the best defenses in the NFL. New York has a big and physical offensive and defensive line, which is the type of match-up Tampa Bay's offensive and defensive lines have never fared well against.

If the Bucs were to host the Giants in the NFC Championship Game, it certainly wouldn't guarantee Tampa Bay a trip to play in the Super Bowl. After all, New York, who is 5-3 on the road this season, downed Tampa Bay, 17-13, at Ray-Jay back in 1999. But I'd like Tampa Bay's chances at home against New York with a trip to San Diego at stake vs. a trip to Philadelphia for the NFC Championship Game, where the weather would be likely horrible and the odds would be stacked high against Tampa Bay.

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