Here we are. The year is 2021 and for the first time since 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-5) are finally back in the NFC Conference championship game. The last time they were at this point, the Buccaneers were heading to the city of brotherly love to take on the Philadelphia Eagles, a team Tampa Bay had to overcome past demons. Fast forward quite a bit to present day and Tampa Bay has exorcised another demon, the New Orleans Saints, in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Behind a mistake-free Tom Brady performance and an opportunistic defense, the Buccaneers pulled off a remarkable 30-20 win over the Saints, likely ending the storied career of 42-year old quarterback Drew Brees in the process. Now Tampa Bay heads north once again for an NFC title game and there they will face a hot Green Bay Packers team led by MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers. This is not your Week 5 Packers that got shellacked 38-10. Green Bay has been peaking at the right time and now the offense is humming and defense is playing solid. We take a closer look at Sunday’s conference championship game.
It starts and ends with Rodgers
There’s no illusion here. Green Bay’s offense starts and ends with the likely MVP of the league Aaron Rodgers. But don’t think that the Packers will just put everything on his right arm and end it right there. Green Bay also needs its backfield to produce so Matt LaFleur can utilize the full complement of his playbook in order for the Packers to be successful. That’s the real difference maker here and Aaron Jones, Jamal Williams had a real tough time against the Buccaneers the last time around. Jones was held to just 15 yards rushing and Williams around 30, if Green Bay is going to be on point offensively, the run game has to get going.
14th conference championship for Brady
Who has truly done it better than the proverbial GOAT (Greatest of All Time)? Honestly, no one. Tom Brady has done it once again proving a lot of naysayers wrong on the point of moving on from New England Patriots and signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the off-season. Not many would have pictured Brady reaching his 14th conference championship game in Tampa, but here we are in January 2021 and the Buccaneers will be playing for a chance to host their own Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Who would have thought?
The defense will once again have to be the difference
Like the story was written nearly two decades ago with names like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, it’s starting to unfold again in a different fashion. The Buccaneers’ defense is becoming an opportunistic force this postseason and Todd Bowles’ group hasTampa Bay at plus four in the plus/minus of the turnover department. Guys like Devin White, LaVonte David, Antione Winfield, Carlton Davis are all starting to believe a championship is within grasp.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.