The Teams: The Green Bay Packers (4-5) travel to Raymond James Stadium to meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) with a 3:15 p.m. (Central) kickoff.
The Storyline: Apply the sports cliché "must win" to this one, but for a different reason than either team expected. After losing key conference games last week, both the Packers and Bucs need to rebound to salvage their hopes to repeat as champions of their respective conferences or at least remain a legitimate contender for the NFC Wildcard. Both are desperate for playoff positioning, but the plot may be a bit more dramatic for the Buccaneers who are trying to avoid becoming an NFL rarity – a Super Bowl champion that fails to make the playoff the following year.
The Players: Packers' QB Brett Favre will again test his ability to throw with a broken right thumb, encased in a wrap. While he struggled for ball control at key times in last week's loss to the Eagles, the wet conditions shared the blame… Ahman Green ran his way into the record books last week with a franchise-best 192 yards rushing. That pushed his season total past the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth consecutive season… Former Saint DT Grady Jackson joined Green Bay last week and enjoyed immediate, if moderate, impact with a sack in his Packer debut … Rookie LB Nick Barnett continues his impressive first pro campaign, leading the Packers with 90 tackles (66 solo). He has four sacks, two interceptions and has broken up six passes.
Bucs' WR Joe Jurevicius returned to practice this week for the first time since tearing a ligament in his right knee in Week 2. He is listed as questionable on the injury report and his status will be a game-time decision, according to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. If he plays, he could be part of a "reunion" for the Bucs' receiving corps. Keenan McCardle is expected to pay despite hamstring problems, the team is optimistic that TE Ken Dilger will play despite suffering an elbow injury last week, and TE Rickey Dudley was re-signed by Tampa Bay this week…While DE Warren Sapp, with just 3 sacks this season, gets most of the ink when facing long-time rival Green Bay, it's Simeon Rice that the Packers are going to have to keep at bay. Rice leads the NFC with 11 sacks … WRs Keyshawn Johnson and McCardell have produced a nice 1-2 punch for the Bucs. McCardell has 44 catches for 693 yards and 6 TDs while Johnson has 42 catches for 563 yards and 3 TDs…RB Michael Pitmann leads the Bucs with 563 yads on 135 carries, but not TDs, and also leads receiving with 46 catches for 365 yards and two touchdowns
The Series: Thanks to the Buccaneers' futile early years after joining the NFL as an expansion team in 1976, the Packers have a healthy 28-18-1 edge in the all-time series. After ending a six-game Packer win streak in the series, forged during the Super Bowl years in the ‘90s, the Buccaneers have won 5-of-7 including the last meeting on Nov. 24, 2002 which was the first meeting after the former Central rivals no longer played a divisional home-and-home. Series notes: The Packers are 0-5 at Raymond James Stadium, and may feel a little nostalgic for their winning ways at the Bucs' former home, Tampa Stadium where they won four of the last five.
Last week/Next week: Green Bay suffered (another) heart-breaker at Lambeau, this time a rain-soaked 17-14 loss to Philadelphia on Monday night. Carolina completed its season sweep of Tampa, 27-24. Next week it's Tampa's turn on MNF as they host the New York Giants. Green Bay is also at home, welcoming San Francisco for their only traditional Sunday noon game in the month of November.