Tampa Bay at Green Bay
Kickoff: Sunday, noon, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis. TV: FOX; DirecTV: 711. Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
Keys to the game: Starting slow isn't an option for the Bucs if they want to hang around long. The Packers have smoked their opponents in the first quarter all season to the tune of 87-41. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay, which has been outscored 108-50 in the first and third quarters combined this season, seems to thrive when urgency hits overload stages late in the second half. Quarterback Josh Freeman has been loose with the ball, with 13 interceptions this season compared to six all of last year. Takeaway-happy Packers are most vulnerable against power running, though they handled Adrian Peterson on Monday. With LeGarrette Blount only modest as a blocker, Tampa Bay's approach must remain conservative unless the score requires a shift to a more-aggressive approach. The Packers might want to dial up RBs James Starks and Ryan Grant to zing the Bucs' weak defensive front — Tampa Bay yields 138.2 rushing yards per game — but won't force it considering big plays have been easy to come by against Tampa (the Bucs allowed touchdown plays of 80 and 78 yards last week).
Matchup to watch: Packers OGs T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton vs. Bucs DT Albert Haynesworth: Haynesworth, who was claimed off waivers from New England last week, started four days later and tied for third on the team with five tackles. Lang has had an up-and-down first year as a starter and Sitton, slowed by leg injuries for much of the year, hasn't been as dominant as 2010.
Player spotlight: Bucs RB Kregg Lumpkin: Lumpkin, who made the Packers' roster as an undrafted free agent in 2008, is working to get up to speed with Freeman in the way Earnest Graham was, but Lumpkin has missed opportunities and had communication hiccups as a third-down back, a role that becomes profoundly important in a game where the score likely will require the Bucs to punch the throttle and never let up.
Fast facts: The Bucs don't have a first-quarter touchdown this season. ... The Packers have lost three straight in the series. ... Rodgers has been miserable in two games against Tampa Bay, with career numbers of 50.0 percent, a 54.6 rating and four touchdowns and six interceptions. He's been sacked a total of nine times. ... Green Bay has scored at least 24 points in a franchise-record nine consecutive games and tallied at least 42 in four of nine games.
Who will win and why: The sliding Bucs won't gain traction in Wisconsin, where dropping their fifth in six games would make their 3-1 start feel like ages ago. The Packers should have their way with a team yet to score 27 points in a game this season.
TSX pick: Packers 34-23.
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