Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, Noon CT GAME DATE: Sept. 25, 2005 SURFACE: Grass TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver SERIES: 49th meeting. Packers lead the series 29-18-1. The Bucs have won four of the past seven meetings, but haven't won in Wisconsin since 1989. 2005 RANKINGS: Bucs: offense 15th (2nd rush, 25th pass); defense 1st (1st rush, 4th pass). Packers: offense 11th (24th rush, 8th pass); defense 22nd (7th rush, 23rd pass) PREDICTION: Packers 23-17 KEYS TO THE GAME: A Packers offense averaging just 81.0 rushing yards per game must find a way to move the ball on the ground against a Bucs defense that has allowed a total of 80 rushing yards in two games. If not, Tampa Bay's Cover-2 defense will be able to hang back and take away QB Brett Favre's downfield passing lanes. The Bucs' offense has exactly what Green Bay's lacks -- balance. The biggest question mark is the status of rookie RB Carnell Williams' sore toe. As long as he's healthy, he will be the workhorse (51 carries through two games). If the Packers' safeties are forced to creep forward in run defense, Bucs coach Jon Gruden will use the play-action pass to test the secondary. If Green Bay's defense can produce a few turnovers, it would be a huge bonus for its struggling offense. FAST FACTS Bucs: Williams joined Alan Ameche and Billy Sims as the only players in league history to rush for at least 125 yards in each of his first two games. Packers: Have not four straight games during Favre's 227 consecutive games started streak. ... Favre's 181 touchdown passes at Lambeau Field is an NFL record for a quarterback in one stadium. PERSONNEL NEWS: Bucs: --RB Cadillac Williams, who is recovering from a sprained muscle in his left foot, took more repetitions in practice Thursday but still was limited. He is expected to start against the Packers. "He did a little bit more today,'' coach Jon Gruden said. "He's making improvement. We expect him to be ready to go Sunday.'' --CB Torrie Cox could play Sunday against the Packers. Cox, who was inactive last week against the Bills following his second arrest for driving under the influence in nine months, took reps with the Bucs' first punt return unit Thursday. "I have not made a decision yet. We will sometime before the game,'' coach Jon Gruden said. "He will be definitely an option in this game.'' --WR/PR Mark Jones will return kickoffs against the Packers if Torrie Cox is inactive. --DE Greg Spires tore his right biceps muscle but has not missed any practice and will start against the Packers. --S Will Allen will replace Dexter Jackson as the free safety in nickel passing situations. Packers: --OLB Na'il Diggs is set on playing his first game of the season Sunday. The sixth-year starter was sidelined the first two games to allow for more recovery time for a torn MCL in his left knee, an injury he suffered Aug. 8 during training camp. Diggs has taken the majority of the reps with the No. 1 defense at the strongside spot the past two days. He said Thursday the knee is 100 percent and added he's comfortable in first-year defensive coordinator Jim Bates' scheme despite not having played a game yet, preseason or regular season. "I'm ready to play my (butt) off. That's the bottom line," Diggs said. "I've been waiting. I can't wait until Sunday." --DT Cullen Jenkins practiced for the second straight day and remains probable to play Sunday. Jenkins, who incurred a sore knee in the last game, is slated to make his third straight start alongside NT Grady Jackson. INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Much has been made about the improvement of the Bucs offensive line. Plenty of attention has gone to two new starters - left tackle Anthony Davis and rookie Dan Buenning. Even right guard Sean Mahan, a converted center, has been credited for the turnaround. But one factor that should not go unnoticed is the play of center John Wade, who missed eight games last season after dislocating his knee. "You've got to have a good center to play in this league," coach Jon Gruden said. "When you see (Packers defensive lineman) Grady Jackson, and you saw the guy he blocked last week (Bills tackle Sam Adams), you've got to have a guy with some size, certainly some aptitude and a guy who understands the game. Wade is that guy." Wade, an eighth-year pro from Marshall, is the veteran anchor to a very inexperienced offensive line. He also is responsible for making calls on protections and blocking schemes. But Wade credits the work ethic of his young teammates. "They treat it like work. I like that," Wade said. "Sometimes maybe a young player doesn't respect it. This isn't just playing in your backyard. This is a game and it's fun to play on Sunday, but you're responsible for knowing your stuff and I think they've done a good job doing that." Packers:
The teams' divergent win-loss records notwithstanding, the numbers don't favor the 0-2 Packers in their home matchup with 2-0 Tampa Bay on Sunday. One need only point to the Buccaneers' signature Cover-2 defense. In the last six meetings between the former division rivals going back to 2000, Tampa Bay's two-deep coverage scheme has done quite the number on Packers quarterback Brett Favre. He's thrown for at least 200 yards in only one of those games and has a three-to-one ratio of interceptions (12) to touchdowns (four). Sunday's matchup has all the makings of being another tough outing for Favre against the Bucs, especially if he's put in a position of having to try to make something happen because of further woes with the run game. "The only way you beat two-deep consistently is you have to run the football," Favre said this week. "We have to run the football. It's no secret." Subpar performances by Ahman Green and the formerly formidable rushing attack as a whole during the first two games allowed the defenses of Detroit and Cleveland to sit back and play the pass. The Browns, in particular, occasionally dropped eight defenders into coverage and rushed only three once it was apparent to them that the Packers weren't going to be a threat running the football. Consequently, long pass plays weren't available to Favre, who still tried to force things into the blanket coverage and paid for it with two costly interceptions. Matters have been exacerbated with the loss of Javon Walker, the team's best vertical-route receiver, to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. Without an effective run game to draw the attention of the defense, the Packers can expect to see a lot more two-deep alignments in the coming weeks and will have to dink-and-dunk their way down the field. Hardly Favre's preference. "It starts with the run game," Favre said. "Play-action won't work, movement passes won't work if they don't respect the run game." Ironically, one of Favre's most inefficient games in 13-plus years as the Packers quarterback is regarded as one of the offense's most assertive performances from a run standpoint in the last few years. The Bucs held Favre to 92 passing yards in the teams' last meeting two years ago in Tampa. Yet the Packers prevailed 20-13 by rushing for 190 yards, a sizable chunk coming in a game-winning 17-play, 98-yard touchdown drive that consumed almost 10 minutes of game clock. A thorough effort by Green and backup Najeh Davenport forced the Bucs out of their Cover-2 look, leaving just one safety back in coverage. "We saw very little of it because we ran the football well," Favre said. Asking for a reprise might be a pipe dream, considering the Bucs' top-rated run defense is allowing only half (40 yards) of the output (81 yards) generated on average by the Packers' 24th-ranked run offense through two weeks.
Packers-Bucs: Pre-game snapshot
Packer Report Top Stories
Podcast: Starring Favre Biographer PearlmanJeff Pearlman, the author of the acclaimed Brett Favre biography "Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre," debuts today. Pearlman joins the podcast for…
Packer Report7:39 AM
Gunter Emerges as Secondary SaviorWith the Packers' top three corners having missed nine of a possible 18 games — and counting — LaDarius Gunter has filled the void and generally delivered.
Packer ReportYesterday at 7:56 PM
Backfield in Perpetual MotionIn a nutshell: The Packers' projected top three backs didn't play on Thursday but a wide receiver put up more than 120 total yards.
Packer ReportYesterday at 6:37 PM
Podcast: Starring Wayne LarriveeWayne Larrivee talks about some of the highlights from his new book in Monday's edition of the podcast.
Packer ReportYesterday at 12:59 PM