The NFC Championship Game is slated to be an old school veteran battle between two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. The Green Bay Packers are set to play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3:05 pm eastern time on Sunday and it will be a fun game to watch.
Brady overcame a slow start to the season and was able to lead his team to the NFC Championship in his first season with the Buccaneers, which is an accomplishment that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Rodgers has been good for years and proved his own franchise wrong when they selected Jordan Love in the first round and then went on to have what is likely going to be an MVP season.
The Buccaneers have a phenomenal defense, but Rodgers just always finds a way to win. I’m going to pick Green Bay in this one 34-29 simply because of the Packers’ ability to win big games. The Bucs have proven they aren’t the same team that struggled at the start of the season, which could be a scary thought for Packers fans.
The Bucs beat the Packers earlier this season 38-10 in what became a huge eye opener for the Packers. Rodgers and his crew will look to get some revenge against the feisty Bucs and play in the Super Bowl two weeks later.
Let’s take a look at four major factors that could determine the outcome of the NFC Championship Game.
4. Antonio Brown’s Injury
Antonio Brown was sidelined with an injury on Sunday during the divisional round of the playoffs and is a major storyline to keep an eye on as the week progresses.
The most recent update on Brown saw his MRI results come back with no substantial damage to his knee and he is listed as day to day. Brown’s emergence with Tampa Bay has been one of the reasons for Tom Brady’s success this season and losing him would hurt the team in a major way.
The Bucs’ offense failed to get a smooth rhythm against the Saints without Brown’s presence and they will certainly want him back as soon as possible. Brown has revitalized his career this season and proved he can focus on football and stay out of drama. Losing him for the NFC Championship would be tough for Tampa Bay.
3. Buccaneers’ Defensive Play
If Tampa Bay wants to come out victorious in this game, they will need their defense to continue their dominance against another future Hall of Fame signal caller.
The Bucs dominated Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints last week and made Brees look like a high school quarterback. Brees struggled to move the ball against the Bucs and Tampa Bay will hope that Aaron Rodgers struggles this weekend too.
Should the Bucs have another strong outing against a great quarterback, they have a good chance at knocking off the number one seed Packers and playing for a Lombardi Trophy.
2. Packers Offensive Versatility
Love them or hate them, you have to recognize the versatility of the Green Bay Packers’ offense. The Packers, who are the top seed in the NFC, have a ton of versatility on their offense, which is what makes them so deadly.
Rodgers himself is as versatile as they come. He has the ability to scramble outside the pocket, get up from a huge hit, or heave the ball 45 yards down the field effortlessly. Rodgers, although the Bucs played him earlier this season, is unlike any other quarterback the team has played and he will certainly make adjustments to avoid the same result as last time.
The Packers have a lot of weapons on their roster who can torch the Bucs’ secondary and Rodgers has the arm to get them the ball. If the Buccaneers want to beat Green Bay, they will have to adjust to the Packers’ versatility and try to limit the shots Rodgers can take.
This coaching matchup features a youngster and a veteran head coach. The youngster is Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, who is in his second season as the Packers’ head coach and has helped the team reach insane levels of success through his first two years.
The veteran head coach is Bruce Arians and he resides in Tampa Bay. Arians has deployed his advanced offensive scheme to Tampa Bay and has helped them reach a level they wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. The matchup between these two coaches could prove to be the difference in the game as their coaching styles are completely different.
LaFleur takes more of a player friendly approach to his coaching and basically relies on Aaron Rodgers to make all the big plays. Arians has used his no-nonsense coaching style to his advantage and has brought in some excellent talent to build around Tom Brady.
The team that is better coached will have the best chance at winning this football game.