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The NFC Championship Game features two Hall of Fame quarterbacks at different stages of their career, as Aaron Rodgers looks to add to his legacy with another Super Bowl win, while Tom Brady is looking to prove the haters and naysayers wrong by leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a title in his first year with his new team. There are several playmakers to focus on, but this game starts with Rodgers, the presumptive MVP favourite, squaring off against Brady, who looks reinvigorated.
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Will this be the final time Rodgers and Brady square off in the postseason? Rodgers is still at the top of his game and isn’t going anywhere and though Brady has stated his intention to continue playing, eventually he’s due for some age-based regression. Let’s cherish this rivalry while it’s still here.
The NFL's decision to expand its playoff format for the 2020 season is already paying dividends for the league, and now we’re down to the final four in what’s been a thrilling postseason to date. During an exciting divisional round, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs fended off a valiant comeback attempt from the Cleveland Browns to advance to the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo advanced to the AFC title game after its defense shut down Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat to disrupt the playoffs, each of the four remaining teams survived the divisional round with the Super Bowl now in clear view.
Division Round Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers
Date: Sunday January 24 at 3:05 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on DAZN Canada
In a matchup pitting the Packers’ top-ranked scoring offense against the Rams’ top-ranked scoring defense, Rodgers and his teammates won decisively, a 32-18 scoreline that was flattering to their opponent. Rodgers has rarely been better — only his 2011 MVP season compares, and All-Pro Davante Adams is impossible to stop in single coverage. What’s scary for the Buccaneers is that the rest of the Packers’ weapons showed out against the Rams, as Allen Lazard was constantly open to the tune of four catches, 96 yards and a touchdown, while Robert Tonyan and Marquez Valdes-Scantling took full advantage against single coverage. Green Bay’s passing game looks as well-rounded as ever, and it’s a frightening proposition to allow Rodgers to get into rhythm.
More surprising, however, is that the Packers were able to unleash a three-headed monster in the running game against the Rams. Aaron Jones earned Pro Bowl honours for good reason and led the attack with 99 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon took full advantage of the space created by the Packers’ elite offensive line. Green Bay is missing All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari due to a torn ACL, but it hasn’t missed a beat, as sophomore Elgton Jenkins is arguably the most versatile lineman in the game. It’s going to be a challenge for the Buccaneers, but they might be the toughest matchup for the Packers.
Tampa Bay’s defense annihilated what was left of Drew Brees, forcing him into three costly interceptions in a 30-20 victory in the divisional round. Linebacker Devin White essentially sealed the game with his fourth-quarter pick, and he’s quietly turned into one of the NFL’s promising talents. Both White and fellow linebacker Lavonte David earned second-team All-Pro honours, they boast outstanding sideline-to-sideline range and can drop into coverage on a whim. Tampa Bay can disguise its defensive looks up front almost better than anyone, and though Rodgers has seen it all, there’ll be some long nights in the film room this week. This defense is itching with decorated pros, who will give Rodgers everything he can handle.
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Brady, meanwhile, has surpassed any reasonable expectations for his first year with the Buccaneers, and was solid, if unspectacular against the Saints, going 18-of-33 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The six-time Super Bowl champion didn’t have to be perfect, and what he showed is that his target distribution is unrivalled, finding eight different receivers against New Orleans. None of the Buccaneers’ top three receivers - Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, or Antonio Brown — played particularly well, but this unit is full of top-tier talent capable of far more than they showed in the divisional round. Jaire Alexander, Green Bay’s superstar cornerback, will have his hands full, and he’ll likely have to rotate against Evans or Godwin, depending on the package Tampa Bay elects to run.
Packers vs. Buccaneers: Tale of the Tape
0-1 (10-38, Oct. 18)
1-0 (38-10, Oct. 18)
Points For (per game)
Points Against (per game)
Packers will win because
Rodgers will almost certainly win NFL MVP and he’s in top form, while the offense doesn’t have to rely solely on Adams exploiting single coverage to rack up points. Green Bay’s running game came alive in the divisional round and the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense has nothing to fear. Rodgers has been on a one-man vengeance tour since the Packers selected quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft and though he’s one of the greatest players of all-time, he knows his legacy will be enhanced with a triumph over Brady.
Buccaneers will win because
Brady is the greatest playoff performer in NFL history and though he’s not quite at his best, he’s simply unflappable. There isn’t a single thing the Packers can throw at him that he would be intimidated by and armed with his best receiving corps, perhaps of his entire career, Brady will look to dice up the non-Alexander options in the Packers’ secondary. Although both teams are drastically different than they were in October, the Buccaneers routed the Packers in their lone head-to-head matchup. Will Brady get a chance to win an unprecedented seventh ring?
What’s the NFL Playoffs schedule in 2021?
Wild Card games: January 9-10
Divisional games: January 16-17
Conference championships: January 24
Super Bowl: February 7
NFL AFC/NFC Conference Championship Schedule
Sunday January 24
NFL Super Bowl 55 Schedule
Sunday February 7
Stream in Canada
AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion