When a 9-0 team like the Green Bay Packers welcomes a 4-5 club like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are going to be a number of factors that favor the undefeated team at home. And really, Packers fans probably don’t need much for comfort as they head into Sunday. I’ve haven’t witnessed much nail-biting in the lead up to Week 11. However, if you are one of those fans who is sweating the Packers upcoming game against the Bucs, maybe the following five factors will calm your mind.
1. The Bucs really struggle on D
The Packers offense is playing well enough right now that matchups become more or less a moot point. But when scanning the Buccaneers’ defensive numbers in 2011, it’s hard to ignore the kind of mismatch we could see on Sunday. Through nine games, the Bucs currently rank No. 31 in total defense (401.2 yards/game), No. 28 in pass defense (263/game), No. 29 in rush defense (138.2/game) and No. 27 in points allowed (25.9/game). According to Pro Football Focus, the Bucs are the third-worst rated defense in the NFL. It’s bad across the board. Aaron Rodgers and Co. is always a threat to put a big number on the board, but it looks like a near certainty on Sunday against this Bucs defense.
2. End of a tough stretch
Bucs coach Raheem Morris talked this week about how much harder the schedule has been in 2011, which is theoretically a true statement but also one that completely undermines their 10-win season from a year ago. They’ll finally get a break after Week 11. Sunday’s game with the Packers ends a horrific stretch of games for the Bucs which included the 49ers (8-1), Saints x 2 (7-3), Bears (6-3) and Texans (7-3). Including the 9-0 Packers, that’s a 34-13 record of teams that has faced the Bucs since Week 5. They’ve went just 1-5 during that stretch. If the Packers get up early at home on Sunday, the Bucs might be inclined to pack it in. Also, don’t forget that Sunday will be the first game that the Bucs have played in the cold in 2011. They’ve been either indoors or in warm weather in all nine games of 2011.
3. No pass rush
Complaints about the Packers pass rush don’t seem as severe when you look at the struggles of the Bucs at getting pressure in 2011. Tampa Bay has just 13 sacks this season, which ranks them 31st in the NFL. Only two players on the Bucs’ defense—Michael Bennett and Gerald McCoy—have over 10 quarterback pressures, and McCoy is gone for the season with a biceps tear. Things have gotten so dire along the defensive line that Tampa Bay actually claimed Albert Haynesworth off waivers before last week’s game with Houston. He provided a small spark against the Texans, but this is still a defense that struggles getting after the passer. Rodgers has been hit a little more than most would like in recent weeks, so there should be hope that the Packers offensive line can provide a clean game on Sunday.
4. Freeman can be sloppy
Many considered Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman one of the game’s up-and-coming signal callers after his first two seasons, and there was plenty of reasons why. In 2010, Freeman threw for 25 scores with just six interceptions in leading the Bucs to 10 wins. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, he’s taken a big step backwards in 2011. Through nine games, Freeman has more than doubled his interceptions (13) while watching his passer rating drop 23.3 points (95.9 to 72.6). The Packers know exactly how good he can be, however. In a 2009 upset, Freeman completed 14 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers. If Green Bay’s turnover happy defense can continue Freeman’s sloppy start to 2011, the Packers should cruise.
5. Struggles on the offensive line
While the Bucs offensive line has allowed the fifth-least sacks (15) in the NFL this season, this isn’t a unit that is playing well. Jeremy Trueblood, the Bucs right tackle, has allowed the second most quarterback pressures among tackles with 30. Trueblood is rated as the fifth-worst tackle overall this season by PFF and should be a guy the Packers can relentlessly attack. Ted Larson (LG) and Davin Joseph (RG) have also been liabilities at times in the passing game. Center Jeff Faine has been pushed around when the Bucs try to rush the football, so Week 11 could be a potential breakout game for some of the Packers interior linemen. Only left tackle Donald Penn has been consistently good for the Bucs in 2011. There’s reason to believe that the Packers can repeat some of the success of their pressure packages this Sunday.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2