Game snapshot

The Green Bay Packers visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at noon today in a battle of 2-1 teams.

Kickoff: Noon.

TV: Fox (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa).

Series: 51st meeting. Packers lead 30-19-1. Tampa Bay has won five of the last eight games against its former division rival, dating to 1999, including a 17-16 victory at Green Bay in 2005 in their most recent meeting. The Packers have won only once in six games against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium since its opening in 1998. Green Bay, though, was victorious in its last trip to Tampa, 20-13 in 2003.

Keys to the game: The Bucs' Cover-2 scheme figures to be a good test for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Tampa Bay talked this week about limiting "explosive" plays. Green Bay's offense should continue to become more balanced with running back Ryan Grant finally not listed on the injury report. With recent opponents dialing up the pass rush, a more consistent ground presence will keep defenses from coming all-out after Rodgers. ... For the first time in 84 games, the Packers won't have cornerback Al Harris in the starting lineup. And you can bet Bucs QB Brian Griese, who threw 67 passes last weekend, will target backup Tramon Williams and the rest of the Packers' banged up secondary. But the Bucs won't get too far away from running back Earnest Graham after the Packers gave up 217 rushing yards to Dallas — especially with temperatures expected to be in the mid to high 80s.

Key injuries: Packers — strong safety Atari Bigby (hamstring) is likely to miss his second straight game; Harris (spleen) will miss at least one game and possibly the remainder of the season; free safety Nick Collins (bruised back) is expected to play. Bucs — outside linebacker Derrick Brooks (hamstring) continues to be limited; guard Davin Joseph (foot) could get his first snaps of the season.

Fast facts: Rodgers has joined Warren Moon and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to throw for at least 500 yards with no interception over their first three career starts. Rodgers has 796 passing yards.

Inside the Bucs: Bryant mourns

The only person deciding whether Matt Bryant will kick Sunday is Matt Bryant.

Coach Jon Gruden said the team has not signed another placekicker but is prepared for either scenario after the son of Matt and Melissa Bryant, 3-month-old Matthew Tryson, died Wednesday.

"We will have a contingency plan if Matt can't kick," Gruden said. "But right now, I don't feel like talking about it because we're still in support of our guy. If we have to deal with signing a kicker, we will. Right now, it's not part of our plan."

Punter Josh Bidwell, who holds on placekicks, said he would not be surprised if Bryant kicked Sunday.

"It's hard to say. He's got the free reign obviously by the team to do what he needs to do to heal," Bidwell said. "I'll be honest with you, I wouldn't be surprised to see him try to get out there but I wouldn't fault him in any way if he just couldn't be out there. Something like this would take time for a lot of people. I'm proud of him either way.

"He's doing a great job, responding well and embracing the love and support we're giving him and we'll certainly do that in this decision that he'll eventually make here with the game."

On Wednesday, the baby's mother discovered Matthew Tryson was not breathing as she made the rounds to wake up the other children — Daniel, Jacob, Joshua, Madison and Tre — for school.

The Bucs have not discussed their contingency plans at kicker. One possibility could be Jay Taylor, who kicks for the Arena League's Orlando Predators, coached by Jay Gruden. Taylor kicked briefly for the Bucs in 2005.

But the only job Bidwell and his teammates are focused on regarding Bryant is helping the family through the tragedy.

"We do have a job to do and we're going to be ready to do that," Bidwell said. "But we do know what's important in life and in this situation that's taking care of Matt and his family and making sure they get through this." Game plan

The heat literally will be on the Packers as they attempt to rebound from their first loss, imposed by the mighty hands of Dallas.

The game-time temperature Sunday at Tampa Bay is projected to be in the upper 80s. Green Bay has been able to withstand the figurative heat when adversity crops up — it hasn't lost two straight games since late in the 2006 season. Getting a win isn't a must this early in the season, but dropping to .500 against a conference foe that also is 2-1 could have ramifications for the postseason.

Bucs quarterback Brian Griese probably won't need to throw half as much as the club-record 67 passes he made in their previous game at Chicago if Green Bay doesn't iron out its run deficiencies on defense. The Packers surrendered 217 yards on the ground to the Cowboys on Sunday night. Earnest Graham could get a lot of carries in a ball-control effort by Tampa Bay to keep the time spent by the Packers offense on the field to a minimum.

Still, the Packers' short-handed secondary, which will be without cornerback Al Harris (spleen) and likely safety Atari Bigby (hamstring), too, will have to account for Bucs receivers Antonio Bryant and Ike Hilliard. Griese amazingly wasn't sacked in the pass-happy last outing, but he was picked off three times. Figure the Packers to rely on the defensive front four to generate pressure with few blitzes called, which they were successful doing against Dallas, to protect the patchwork secondary.

The Bucs' defense isn't as formidable as when the onetime division rivals met regularly earlier in the decade. This still will be a good test for quarterback Aaron Rodgers against Monte Kiffin's staple Cover-2 scheme, which gave Brett Favre fits on numerous occasions. Tampa Bay has been opportunistic in the early going with forcing turnovers. Rodgers has no interceptions after three games, so getting back to a controlled passing game that bogged down against Dallas because of pass-blocking breakdowns (five sacks) will be necessary.

Bucs defensive end Greg White, who has a team-high four sacks, says the key is getting pressure on Rodgers the way the Cowboys did.

"The previous teams, Dallas and Detroit, have got some good rush on these guys," White said. "They haven't rapped up on Aaron Rodgers. He is eusive. He's going to find the hole and he is going to run with the ball. I think he has something like 74 yards rushing right now. When we have opportunities to sack this guy we have to take him down. If not, he finds a second or third option and all of a sudden it's first down in our territory."

More emphasis on the run could be in the offing for the Packers with Ryan Grant's getting healthier. The Bucs are susceptible up front, allowing an average of 121.3 rushing yards per game.


Packer Report Top Stories