Packers face Bucs in must win match-up

GREEN BAY, Wis. - December football.  It’s when playoff spots are earned and lost in the National Football League.
 
For the Green Bay Packers, it could be said playoff football starts Sunday at Lambeau Field against the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
 
Every season, head coach Mike McCarthy will not discuss postseason possibilities until his team hits the 10-victory plateau.  To accomplish that, the 5-6 Packers must claim victory in their final five games.
 
In 2016, Green Bay reeled off six straight wins to make the playoffs and advance to the NFC Championship in Atlanta.  In 2017, a season with Super Bowl aspirations has been derailed by the loss of franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Green Bay was 4-1 on October 8th, and 4-2 after Rodgers broke his collarbone in a loss to the Vikings a week later.  The team has gone 1-4 since.
 
“Six losses, it is what it is,” McCarthy said earlier this week.  “At the end of the day, if you don’t get to 10 wins, to me there’s nothing else to talk about.  We are at five.  We need to get to six.”
 
Tampa Bay, 4-7 after a 34-20 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta, is desperate for a victory too.
 
“Well, it’s not going to be easy,” said former Chicago head coach and ESPN analyst.  “It’s one thing to run the table last year with Aaron Rodgers.  It’s another thing this season.
 
”Brett Hundley is the next man up and he’s done some good things, but he’s gaining experience and all the dynamics change—from the offense to the leadership aspect.  A player like Aaron Rodgers only comes along once in 50 years and he doesn’t come back (this season) if they’re out of contention.
 
“If Hundley can play like he did against the Steelers, they have a chance.  Circle the wagons and rally around him.  The season is on the line.  But it will take everybody on offense, defense, and special teams.  They need to pressure the quarterback, they need to create turnovers, they need to limit their own mistakes, they need to run the ball effectively and use all their weapons (receivers).  Mike (McCarthy) knows what he has—they have to go out and earn it a week at a time.”
 
Green Bay may be bolstered by the return of linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle Kenny Clark, but cornerback Kevin King (shoulder) has not practiced all week.  On Friday afternoon, the team announced running back Ty Montgomery (ribs) was placed on injured reserve and signed rookie receiver Michael Clark (6-6, 217 pounds) from the practice squad.
 
For Tampa Bay, quarterback Jameis Winston is questionable with a right shoulder injury and the team may again have Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for a team decimated with injuries.  The Buccaneers have already matched their loss total from 2016 and must win out to have a winning record.
 
“It’s December,” Ditka said.  “Next man up.  For both teams, it’s do or die.”
 
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To keep alive postseason hopes, Green Bay must find a pass rush and contain the dangerous Mike Evans—and continue to create turnovers.  Hundley elevated his play in Pittsburgh and now has to do it at Lambeau Field.
Packers 27, Bucs 24


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