The Green Bay Packers return home to face the Tampa Bay Bucs at Lambeau Field in Week 15. The Packers enter the game with a 6-7 record while the Bucs are also 6-7. The Packers are coming off a disappointing 24-22 loss to the Giants last Monday night while the Bucs are coming off a crucial 29-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Here are six key matchups that will determine who will win Sunday’s Packers-Bucs game.

The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 33-22-1 in the regular season. These two clubs first met in the regular season in 1977. The Packers won the last meeting between these teams 14-12 last year in Tampa. The teams split their two postseason games.

Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game at Lambeau:

Packers Key Matchups: Number One, Contain Rachaad White

The Packers run defense has been a problem all season and last week was no exception. They allowed more than 200 yards on the ground for the fourth time this season and they are 0-4 in those games.

The Bucs running game has struggled this season but has played better in recent weeks. Rachaad White has been the main weapon, going over 100 yards in two of the last three games.

Joe Barry prioritizes stopping big plays in the passing game, but he cannot allow other teams to run so effectively against the Pack.

T.J. Slaton, Kenny Clark, De’Vondre Campbell, and Quay Walker (if he returns to the lineup) are keys to stopping the running game.

The Packers defense needs to hold up better at the line of scrimmage and has to be more consistent at tackling to hold off the running attack.

Key Matchups: Number Two, Scheme Receivers Open in the Passing Game

The Packers are dealing with a banged up receiving corps heading into this game. Christian Watson has not practiced Wednesday or Thursday due to his hamstring injury and is unlikely to play.

Dontayvion Wicks and Jayden Reed are both dealing with ankle injuries, and both were listed as limited participants at practice on Thursday.

If Reed and Wicks can’t play or are on a play count, expect Malik Heath and Samori Toure to have larger roles.

The downfield passing may be hampered by the injuries so it will be up to Matt LaFleur to call plays that can scheme players open receivers. Look for tight end Tucker Kraft to receive more targets. The team’s running backs may also be more active in the passing game as well.

The Bucs pass defense is ranked 30th in the league and is allowing 264.1 yards per game. Jordan Love should be able to exploit the Tampa Bay secondary if receivers can get open.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Three, Run the Football Enough

The Packers need to run the football to keep the defense honest. But who will be available to run the football? Aaron Jones has missed the last few games with a knee injury and was only a limited participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday. Jones gives the Packers more of a big play threat.

A.J. Dillon has been the Packers go-to back in Jones’ absence. Dillon suffered a broken thumb against the Giants and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. His availability for Sunday is uncertain. If he does play, he may have trouble holding on the football, especially if it’s cold in Green Bay.

Patrick Taylor and Kenyan Drake are next on the depth chart and may see a much larger role than they usually do depending on the availability of Jones a Dillon.

Tampa Bay has a strong run defense, ranked 10th in the league. However, neither Vita Vea nor Will Gholston practiced Wednesday or Thursday due to injuries. Linebacker Devin White returned to practice Thursday and could play despite a foot injury.

Key Matchups: Number Four, Protect Jordan Love

The Bucs are 10th in the league with 37 sacks. They pressure the quarterback by committee with Vea leading the team with 5.5 sacks. Rookie Yaya Diaby is next with five sacks.

The Packers offensive line gave up too many pressures against the Giants although Love was sacked only twice.

Tackles Rasheed Walker, Yosh Nijman, and Zach Tom will have the primary responsibility of slowing down Diaby. The interior linemen would matchup with Vea if he plays. That would be Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers and Jon Runyan, Jr.

With the receiving corps slowed by injuries, giving Love time to throw will be more important than ever.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Five, Get Pressure on Baker Mayfield

Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield has played well overall, but he is not always consistent. The Bucs have allowed only 28 sacks in 13 games. If the Packers can put pressure on Mayfield, he can be forced into mistakes.

The Packers failed to record a sack last week against the Giants and rarely got pressure on the quarterback. When they did, Tommy DeVito escaped and ran for 71 yards on 10 carries.

Rashan Gary, Preston Smith and Clark are the three best pass rushers on the Packers roster. Even if the Packers don’t get sacks, making Mayfield feel the pressure and getting him uncomfortable in the pocket can be a game changer.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Six, Contain Mike Evans

The Bucs best receiver remains Mike Evans. The veteran has 62 catches for 1,020 yards and 10 touchdowns through 13 games. He leads the team in all three categories.

The Packers hope to have Jaire Alexander back in the lineup. When healthy, Alexander is the team’s best cover corner, but he has been limited by injuries almost all season. He was a limited participant on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Packers could activate former first round pick Eric Stokes off IR for this game. The former Georgia star played only four snaps on special teams this season due to injuries. His speed would be a welcome addition to the secondary.

Carrington Valentine and Corey Ballentine started in place of Alexander and Stokes. Valentine would face a big challenge with the 6’5” Evans. Valentine is a physical corner, and the matchup could get intense.

Slot corner Keisean Nixon has struggled in coverage for most of the season. Evans would be a mismatch for him. Nixon would need safety help in the middle of the field if Evans lined up in the slot.

Containing Evans and preventing big plays should be a priority for the Packers defense.


How will the Packers respond to their poor performance on Monday night? If they want to remain in the playoff race, they don’t have much margin for error. This game could have major tie-breaking implications for the wild card.

The Pack has been inconsistent this year, which is not surprising given the inexperienced players in major roles on offense.

The Bucs also need this game in the wide-open NFC South. Can the warm-weather Bucs succeed in the cold of Green Bay in December? Can the Packers slow down the Tampa Bay running game?

In the end, the experience of the Bucs will be the difference in a close game.


Buccaneers 23, Packers 20



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