Week 13 Preview: Playoffs Start Sunday for Packers

As we’ve pointed out on a nearly weekly basis since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Minnesota, the Packers are still technically alive for the playoffs. They’d need to reel off five wins in a row and get some help from other teams to even get to the postseason, but they could still technically make it.

The obvious goal of making the playoffs is a shot at a Super Bowl. The Packers would be making the Super Bowl this year as a wild card team, which would mean they’d need four victories in the playoffs to lock up another title.

Between the run to get to the postseason and a postseason run on its own, the Packers need nine wins in a row. It’s not impossible, but bear this in mind: since 1990, the Packers have only won nine or more games in a row twice.

We bring this up not to be discouraging about the Packers’ postseason prospects, but just to be realistic. Success is in large part about managing expectations, and expectations need to be adjusted accordingly when circumstances change.

The Packers have been dealing with a major change in circumstances for most of this season. It’s still no shame to accept that the end is still very much at hand, however much a win over the Buccaneers or Browns might forestall the inevitable.

Five Things to Think About During Sunday’s Game

1 - The Buccaneers have struggled against the Packers when the weather is below 48 degrees. Green Bay is 10-1 against Tampa Bay when the temperature at kickoff is below 48, and 6-8 when it’s above 49. The projected high for Sunday in Green Bay is 47 degrees.

2 - Since 2014, only the Pittsburgh Steelers have won more games in the month of December than the Packers. Green Bay is 10-2 over that stretch, while the Steelers are 11-1. During head coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure, the Packers are 33-13 in December.

3 - Brett Hundley is just the third quarterback in Packers history to finish two of his first five starts with a passer rating over 110, joining Aaron Rodgers and Anthony Dilweg.

4 - While maneuvering around injuries to both Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones, the Packers running game continues to experience a rebirth this season. Green Bay ranks third in the league in rushing attempts that gain four-plus yards, behind New England and Dallas.

5 - Tampa Bay lives by the passing game on offense and dies by the passing game on defense. The Buccaneers rank third in the league in average passing yards per game and dead last in passing yards allowed.

Who Could Be An X-Factor on Sunday?

Jon says Damarious Randall

After his meltdown against the Chicago Bears, Damarious Randall has put together a pretty decent stretch of football, but no matter who he ends up covering this week, he’s going to have his work cut out for him. Whether it’s the super-sized Mike Evans or the speedy Desean Jackson, the Buccaneers have plenty of weapons in the passing game. A solid performance from Randall could put a big dent in Tampa Bay’s offensive efforts.

Gary says Justin Vogel

Punters are people, too! Vogel, a rookie out of Miami, ranks sixth in the NFL in net punting average this season. If Sunday’s game happens to be a battle of field possession, the Packers have a good weapon in Vogel. It’s also of note that Ron Zook’s punt coverage team has allowed the fewest average yards per return, 5.6, in the NFL.

What Happened the Last Time the Packers and Buccaneers Played?

The last time the Packers and Buccaneers played, it turned into more or less a working vacation for the guys from Green Bay.

Following a defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, the Packers traveled to Tampa four days before Christmas in 2014 for a warm, muggy game.

Though the final score was just 20-3, the Packers were dominant throughout, particularly on defense. Led by 2.5 sacks from Clay Matthews, two more from Julius Peppers, and an interception by (of all people) Datone Jones, the Packers completely shut down the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay crossed its own 35 yard line just one time in the entire afternoon.

On offense, the Packers put together the sort of ho hum brilliance that was common during during Aaron Rodgers’ second MVP campaign, rolling up 431 total yards, including 100 yard receiving days from both Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Eddie Lacy also chipped in a big play of his own, sprinting 44 yards for a touchdown as a part of a 99 yard day. It was the only rushing touchdown of Lacy’s career that was longer than 14 yards.

Who’s Going to Win on Sunday?

Jon says the Packers in an ugly one

For what feels like a month now, I’ve been declaring the Packers’ season over. It’s not officially a done deal yet, but unless Aaron Rodgers makes a miraculous recovery and the NFL changes its injured reserve rules, this year is all but finished. Facing an inept Tampa Bay squad, though, the Packers should be able to forestall the inevitable for at least another week. Barring a big day by Tampa’s offense, I think the Packers squeak out an ugly one.

Gary says the Buccaneers comfortably

Last week’s performance from Brett Hundley was very encouraging to watch. While the end result wasn’t a victory, Hundley did just about everything in his power to help his team win the game. The Packers’ offense has been unpredictable since Rodgers’ injury, so it’s no sure thing they’ll come up Sunday and play at the same level they did against Pittsburgh. On the flip side, the Buccaneers rank 32nd in the league in passing defense. Coming off an emotional loss, I think Green Bay stumbles against an inferior opponent.

For Further Listening

This week on Blue 58, we made the case that the time for accepting the end of the Packers season has arrived, and that’s just fine! Moving on can give us all hope. Give the full show a listen below.