Behind Enemy Lines: Five Matchups To Watch

We tell you the five matchups that will decide the outcome of the Green Bay Packers' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, leading with Desmond Bishop's key roles against running backs LaGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin.

Packers ILB Desmond Bishop vs. Buccaneers RBs LaGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin

Bishop, who ranks fifth in the league in tackles and leads all inside linebackers — regardless of scheme — with five sacks, will be a central figure. Blount, a 241-pound second-year back out of Oregon who's perhaps most famous for punching a Boise State player during his senior season, is a punishing force. An undrafted rookie last season, he finished with 1,007 rushing yards even though he didn't play in the first two games. With his power and surprising elusiveness, he led the NFL by causing defenders to miss 50 tackles, according to ProFootballFocus.com. That was nine more than runner-up Fred Jackson, even while getting 42 fewer touches. This season, however, he's been nowhere close to as dangerous, with 14 missed tackles – with half of those coming against Atlanta several weeks ago.

"He's a big, physical, downhill guy," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He reminds you of a Brandon Jacobs-type of runner. They're both big. You have to hit and wrap up; you have to hit him with good leverage. You see him run through a lot of tackles, and he jumps over some people with guys who try to go low and cut him. You have to get the second and third guys there."

Meanwhile, third down has been a problem of late for the Bucs after the season-ending Achilles injury to Earnest Graham. Lumpkin, the former Packer, has really struggled as Graham's replacement. According to data kept by ProFootballFocus.com, Lumpkin has allowed no sacks, one quarterback hit and five pressures on 51 snaps in which his primary role was pass protection. Bishop will see plenty of Blount on running plays and be used to test Lumpkin as a blitzer in the passing game.

Packers OLB Clay Matthews vs. Buccaneers RT Jeremy Trueblood

The resurgence of Green Bay's sacks master could be afoot after Matthews registered a season-high two against rookie quarterback Christian Ponder in Green Bay's rout of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. Matthews is back atop the team leader board with five sacks, tied with Bishop. If Capers makes it two straight games of being blitz-happy, Matthews stands to have another impactful performance going against Trueblood, who at 6-foot-8 is giving up considerable leverage on speed rushes low to the ground. Trueblood is one of the worst pass-blocking tackles in the game, according to data kept by ProFootballFocus.com. While he's allowed just two sacks, his 36 total pressures are the third-most in the NFL.

Packers WR Greg Jennings vs. Bucs CB Aqib Talib

Jennings leads the Packers with 51 catches for 755 yards, and he has one touchdown in seven of the team's nine games. He's caught 71.8 percent of the passes thrown in his direction, a figure that ranks second in the NFL among players with more than 45 receptions.

The Bucs like to give the premier matchup to Talib, who was chastised by coach Raheem Morris for his lack of effort on a 78-yard touchdown pass last week to the Texans' Arian Foster. Even with a reputation as the Bucs' best cover man, Talib has been victimized. Opposing quarterbacks have a 126.2 passer rating while targeting Talib. That's the third-worst figure of any cornerback who has played 50 percent of his team's snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He's allowed a league-worst 299 yards after the catch and only Kansas City's Brandon Flowers has allowed more than Talib's five touchdowns.

Packers receivers vs. Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber

Like the Packers do with Charles Woodson, the Buccaneers use Barber in the slot when they're in their nickel and dime defensive packages. That means Barber will see plenty of Donald Driver and Randall Cobb, but some of Jennings, as well. The 36-year-old Barber has allowed 66.7 completions. He has missed 12 tackles, most among NFL cornerbacks, and 252 yards after the catch, third-most among corners.

"Ronde Barber, a very instinctive player," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Jumps routes, has great recognition, anticipation, so you have to be aware of where Ronde's at, especially in the protection part of it. He's always been a very crafty blitzer, even going back to his earlier years. He's one of the better players of the last 10, 15 years coming off the slot and being active. He's a good player. It's amazing he's still playing at the level that he's played at this long. It's a real credit to him."

Packers RT Bryan Bulaga vs. Buccaneers DE Michael Bennett

While the signing of Albert Haynesworth has given the Bucs' defense a big name up front, Bennett is one of the NFL's most underrated players. Bennett entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2009 but was released about a month into the season by Seattle after not getting into a single game. The Bucs claimed him off waivers, and he's enjoying a breakout season in his first year as a starter — staying ahead of touted rookie Da'Quan Bowers on the depth chart. Among the 4-3 defensive ends who have played 50 percent of the snaps, Bennett ranks behind only Minnesota's Jared Allen and Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, according to Pro Football Focus. He's not much of a pass rusher with two sacks and a combined 23 hits/pressures but he's as good as there is against the run.

That presents a challenge to Bulaga, who is on top of his game after missing some time with a sprained knee. In his second season in the league, he's emerged as one of the best right tackles in the game. He's the only Packers lineman to have not allowed a sack this season. The Packers like running right — James Starks has 239 yards running to the right and 168 to the left.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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