NFL Wire News

Week 16 Preview: Packers at Bucs

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Green Bay Packers (10-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale

*Keys to the game: Can the Packers handle the heat? Aaron Rodgers’ only two previous starts against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium resulted in losses. Just because the Bucs are a team ready to call it a season in less than two weeks doesn’t mean Rodgers is assured of reversing history. He is coming off of a career-worst outing, at least statistically, in Green Bay’s upset loss at the Buffalo Bills last Sunday and is likely to respond in a big way.

Green Bay figures to take advantage of a depleted Tampa Bay defense, which lost DT Gerald McCoy to a season-ending knee injury. Running the football efficiently will be a must. Rodgers has also had bouts of inconsistency against Lovie Smith-led defenses.

Green Bay’s defense will get reacquainted with another former Chicago Bear, QB Josh McCown, who beat Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field last season. McCown is nimble and when he has the time he needs to target the alluring 6-5 duo of veteran Vincent Jackson and flourishing rookie Mike Evans, who can make defenses forget McCown has a weak running game.

*Matchup to watch – Packers offensive line vs. Bucs defensive front: Losing McCoy, who leads the Bucs with 8.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits in 13 games, should mean Rodgers has all the time in the world to survey the field. The talk in Tampa Bay this week is the Bucs are zeroing in on forcing Rodgers to beat them through the air. “Try to make Aaron Rodgers throw the ball 40 or 50 times,” DT Akeem Spence said. “And just try to beat us with his arm, which he can do, but at the same time, that’s when the front hast to take over.”

*Player spotlight – Packers WR Jordy Nelson: Nelson leads the Packers with 83 catches for 1,320 yards. He had a big drop last week vs. Buffalo and multiple Packers have discussed it publicly this week.

*Fast facts: Nelson, WR Randall Cobb and RB Eddie Lacy are the first Packers trio with 10-plus TDs in a season. … The Bucs have committed 31 turnovers this season. Only the Eagles have more.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

A loss by the Bucs keeps the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft in play, and while the Tampa-2 defense can be effective slowing down Rodgers, the Packers are superior on both sides of the ball and are motivated to answer after last week’s loss.

*Our pick: Packers 35-16


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