NFC Conference Championship: Packers/Buccaneers Preview

by Alec McMordie

The NFC Conference Championship Game features a rare clash between future Hall of Famers in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. The two quarterbacks have only faced off against each other three other times as starters, although one of those encounters was earlier this year. Tampa Bay upset Green Bay at home in Week 6 on October 18th, 38-10, as a 2.5-point underdog.

The Buccaneers earned the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl last Sunday with their 30-20 upset win at New Orleans as a 2.5-point underdog. The Tampa Bay defense held the Saints to 294 yards while forcing four turnovers. The Bucs only gained 316 yards on offense but did not turn the ball over. Brady completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards with two touchdown passes.

Brady completed 65.7% of his passes in his first season in the Buccaneers offense for 4633 yards with 40 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in the regular season. In his two playoff games, Brady completed 40 of 73 passes for a 54.8% completion percentage. He has thrown for 580 yards in those two games with four touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Green Bay reached the NFC Conference Championship Game on Saturday with their 32-18 win against the Los Angeles Rams as a 9.5-point favorite. The Packers held the Rams to only 244 yards while gaining 484 yards of offense themselves. Rodgers completed 23 of 36 passes of 296 yards with two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown. Rodgers completed 70.7% of his passes during the regular season for 4299 yards with 48 touchdown passes and five interceptions.

Both of these quarterbacks were underwhelming in their October meeting. Rodgers experienced his lowest passer rating of the season with a 35.4 mark after completing only 16 of 35 passes for 160 yards. Two of his five interceptions this season were in that game. Brady completed 17 of 27 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Buccaneers added safety Antoine Winfield to their injury list on Thursday with an ankle, although he was a full participant in practice. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter and guard Ali Marpet were full participants in practice, with their respective calf and pectoral issues. Wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, running back Ronald Jones, and defensive backs Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jordan Whitehead were limited participants in practice on Thursday. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul did not participate in practice with a knee and a non-injury related issues. Wide receiver Antonio Brown did not practice either with his knee injury and will be a game-time decision.

The Packers had ten players participate in only limited practice on Thursday, including wide receiver Allen Lazard and linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Tight end Marcedes Lewis did not participate in Thursday’s practice with a knee injury.

Tampa Bay and Green Bay are on six and seven-game winning streaks. BookMaker lists the Packers as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 51.5. Kickoff is set on Sunday at 3:05 PM ET on Fox.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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