NFL fan Joshua Jones (@JoshuapsJones) oversees Sunday night's action from the NFC Championship game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers | Sunday 24th January 2021, 20:05 | Sky Sports
Tom Brady and the #5 seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers head north to ‘The Badger State’ to take on Aaron Rodgers and his #1 Green Bay Packers in the NFC’s Championship game.
It’s a matchup between two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to have played the game and, though both are edging towards the end of their respective careers, they’ve been as incredible as ever to watch this season.
Somehow this is the first postseason meeting between these two QBs, and only the fourth in the 16 years they’ve spent in the league together, so we’re in for a real treat.
At 37 years old, Aaron Rodgers is the frontrunner for the NFL’s MVP. He led this Packers side to a 13-3 regular season record; passing for 4,299 yards, throwing for a league-leading 48 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions.
On the other side is 43 year-old serial winner Tom Brady. This will be the first NFC Championship game of his career, having spent the last 20 years dominating the AFC with the New England Patriots. He’s dragged this Bucs team to their first championship game for 19 years on the back of 5,213 yards (incl. postseason), 44 TDs and 12 INTs.
Green Bay looked imperious in dispatching the NFL’s top-ranked defence (per weighted DVOA) last week and it’s hard to see how any side will stop them. They’ve got the best QB/WR duo in the league and Davante Adams looks literally uncover-able.
Tampa Bay seems to have proved a lot of their critics wrong with their postseason run, dispatching two elite defences in Washington and New Orleans. They’re supposed to be one of the better defensive units in the league themselves but were lit up by the Football Teams 4th choice QB, then trailed the Saints for the majority of their game before Drew Brees started gifting the ball to their defensive backs.
These two actually met in a strange game earlier in the year down in Florida. The Bucs won that one 38-10, picking Rodgers off twice and becoming one of only two sides to keep Davante Adams out of the end zone this year.
It’s hard to gauge how much to take from that game, it was the epitome of ‘everything that could go wrong, did go wrong’ for Aaron Rodgers – whose 2nd quarter pick-six while leading 10-0 began a slurry of scoring for his opponents that his side never recovered from.
Since then A-Rod has faced the same blitzes that Bucs DC Todd Bowles threw his way on a multitude of occasions and has barely flinched, so it’s fairly safe to assume he’s figured out how to play them.
Along those same lines, I don’t know how much what happened during that game is worth. There were so many freak incidents and, as the Bucs proved last week, head-to-heads don’t usually mean too much – especially in the postseason.
The Packers come into this one as 3.5 point favourites and, at Lambeau Field, are probably one of the only sides in the NFL getting a genuine home field advantage. It’s bitterly cold up there, and looks set to be -1 degrees celsius at kick-off.
This could be a factor because, even though Tom Brady spent 19 years in New England and will be used to the cold, a lot of this Buccaneers team won’t be. Devin White for example; was born in Louisiana, went to college at LSU and played in the SEC before being drafted by the Bucs to play down in Florida. Wisconsin is a different beast, and that factors into the spread here in my opinion.
As far as my bets are concerned, I’ll be targeting the player props – the first of which is Cameron Brate Over 27.5 Receiving Yards at 17/20 with Betway. He was a little hit and miss in the regular season, beating this line in just 5 of the 13 games in which he received a target, but has been their go-to-guy in the play-offs.
In their two postseason wins, Brate has been targeted 11 times, catching eight of them for 130 yards. With Rob Gronkowski being utilised primarily in pass protection, it allowed Brate the opportunity to prove himself a reliable receiver for Brady and now he gets a really nice situation in Green Bay.
With Jaire Alexander likely to be stalking Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown officially ruled out, I think Brady is going to be reliant on his RBs and TEs on dump-offs and plays over the middle of the field.
I also considered Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones for props too, but with the split-backfield it’s hard to know who Arians’ guy is. I think Lenny is the guy in the passing game, and has quietly put up really nice numbers in the postseason, while RoJo is the better runner with an appealing line (35.5) and I’d lean towards him beating it. What puts me off is the Bucs could fall behind early and completely abandon their ground game.
I mentioned above that I think Jaire Alexander is likely to stalk Mike Evans in this game and, if he does, I can see the receiver having a really rough evening of it.
Alexander has been the #1 ranked corner in the NFL (per PFF) this season, and has been shutting down elite pass catchers all year.
In fact, he’s been so good in coverage that QBs have just stopped throwing the ball in his direction. In 32 coverage snaps against the Rams last week, he allowed one target on two receptions for -3 YARDS.
With that in mind, I’m taking Mike Evans Under 67.5 Receiving Yards at 17/20 with betway. He has only hit this total in 6 of his 18 games this season, and was restricted to 1 reception for 3 yards on 3 targets by Marshon Lattimore last Sunday night. Jaire has been better this year.
For this match, Paddypower are offering a completely risk free ‘Same Game Multi’ up to £5 (if it loses you are refunded cash) so I’m going to combine the two plays above with a couple of other selections.
Take Cameron Brate Over 28.5 Receiving Yards, Mike Evans Under 64.5 Receiving Yards, Davante Adams 1st Green Bay TD Scorer, Over 15.5 Second Quarter Points and Green Bay Packers -3.5 at 35/1.
Adams has had the Packers’ first score in 8 of their last 12 games, while Green Bay and Tampa Bay are two of the best 2nd quarter teams in the league. Packers games average 19.44 second quarter points (1st in NFL), while Bucs games see an average of 17.13 (7th in NFL) and scoring in the 2nd quarter at this stage has been significantly higher than the regular season average over the last several years.
Don’t Miss This
Had to include this at the end. One of my favourite plays of the entire weekend is a bet I’ve requested at SkyBet. It’s Davante Adams and Travis Kelce 7+ Receptions Each and Both To Score A TD at 7/2.
Adams has had 7+ receptions in 10 of his last 12 games (both where he didn’t were against Chicago, he had 6) and has caught a TD pass in 11 of those 12 games.
Kelce has had 7+ receptions in nine straight games, adding a score in seven of them. He also has a really favourable match-up against the Bills, who have allowed more receptions to tight ends than any team in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers – Cameron Brate Over 27.5 Receiving Yards (17/20 Betway)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers – Mike Evans Under 67.5 Receiving Yards (17/20 Betway)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers – Cameron Brate Over 28.5 Receiving Yards, Mike Evans Under 64.5 Receiving Yards, Davante Adams 1st Green Bay TD Scorer, Over 15.5 Second Quarter Points and Green Bay Packers -3.5 (35/1 Paddy Power)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers – Davante Adams and Travis Kelce 7+ Receptions Each and Both To Score a TD (7/2 SkyBet)