Packers vs. Buccaneers preview


When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida TV: Fox

For five straight weeks, the Green Bay Packers looked like they might have been the best team in football.

They seemed to be in cruise control for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Then the Packers went to Buffalo, and a strange thing happened. Playing what might have been their worst game of the season, the Packers lost to the Bills.

Consider that proof that anything is possible in the NFL. Consider that proof that it’s not out of the question that the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance against the Packers on Sunday. That may seem like a long shot, but last week showed nothing is guaranteed.

ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas and ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down Sunday's game:

Yasinskas: Rob, what the heck happened to the Packers in Buffalo? I didn't see that one coming.

Demovsky: I don't think anyone did, Pat. But in hindsight, the Bills have just the kind of defense that could give -- and has given -- Aaron Rodgers and Co. trouble. They have a great front four that allows them to drop the maximum number of defenders into coverage. It's the same reason the Seahawks and Lions had been successful against the Packers. But if Rodgers and his receivers had even played an average game, that wouldn't have happened. Sometimes the stats lie, but in this case, they didn't. It was indeed one of the worst games I've ever seen Rodgers play, and I've seen all of them. He was out of sync from the get-go. He would read a play one way and his receivers would read it another. That's a bad recipe for an offense that relies on timing and reading the defense.

With that in mind, Pat, Lovie Smith's defenses gave Rodgers some trouble back in Chicago. Is there any reason to think the Buccaneers can come close to replicating what the Bills did?

Yasinskas: Probably not, especially with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy now out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. But if Tampa Bay does have a bright spot, it's the defense, which has been respectable since the bye week. The pass rush has been decent and the linebackers have played well. The secondary hasn't been great, but it has been better than it was in the first half of the season. This defense is improving steadily, but it still isn't as good as what Smith had in Chicago. The Bucs would have to play a perfect game to stop the Packers, and this defense is far from perfect. I don't think the Bucs have what it takes to pull off what Buffalo did.

Did that one bad game cost Rodgers the MVP award?

Demovsky: It shouldn't, but he probably needs to bounce back with one more of those three-plus-touchdown/no-interception games. It's human nature for the voters to remember what they've seen most recently, and of all the MVP candidates, Rodgers is probably the one whose bad game has come the latest in the season. Nevertheless, his efficiency this season has been off the charts. If 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions isn't an MVP pace, I don't know what is.

I know the Bucs have tried Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at various times this season at quarterback. Have they seen enough to know whether they can count on or rule out either one or both as their starter next season?

Yasinskas: I think the only thing that has been settled is that Glennon is not viewed as the long-term answer by the coaching staff. Although he was referred to as the quarterback of the future, he has been benched in favor of McCown twice -- once upon McCown's arrival and again when McCown returned from a thumb injury. That tells me Glennon has no future here. And McCown is no long-term answer. He's 35 and he hasn't played like the savvy veteran the Bucs expected. He has turned the ball over too much and been inconsistent. Whether it's through the draft or free agency, the Bucs need to make a move at quarterback this offseason.

I read where Packers coach Mike McCarthy was quoted as saying there would be some change on special teams this week. What's that all about?

Demovsky: When you've had six kicks blocked (two punts, two field goals and two extra points), you know you have a problem. And then the Bills returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. McCarthy said this week that "the personnel is not right." Fifteen weeks into the season, it was shocking to hear, but it's a sure sign that there will be some new players or old players in different roles on those units this week.

I'm sure plenty of Packers fans are already chalking this one up in the win column, but what's the most likely way the Bucs could pull off an upset Sunday?

Yasinskas: It's a long shot any way you look at it. But the best chance for Tampa Bay would be if the defense plays a great game. That's going to be tough without McCoy, but there still is enough individual talent on this defense to have a good outing. To win, though, the defense has to be more than good. It has to be outstanding, and it would have to produce points, because Tampa Bay's offense isn't explosive enough to stay with the Packers. Like I said, it's a long shot, but you never know what you're going to get with the Bucs.