Star Power: Brady-Rodgers headline Packers-Bucs game

Packers
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FOXBOROUGH, MA – NOVEMBER 04: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers after the Patriots defeated the Packers 31-17 at Gillette Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(WFRV) – Mike Ditka doesn’t get too excited about NFL games anymore.

The golf course and card games beckon in retirement, but the former Chicago Bears legend and ESPN analyst is looking forward to the Green Bay-Tampa Bay match-up Sunday afternoon.

“With Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, you have two of the best ever to play the game,” Ditka said while enjoying a post-round game of Gin Rummy with friends in the clubhouse Friday in steamy Florida. “Both are great leaders and make the players around them better. And that may decide which team wins Sunday: which players around the quarterback step up on Sunday.”

It’s a showdown of stars that Brady and Rodgers will, of course, downplay when 4-0 Green Bay faces 3-2 Tampa Bay in the Florida heat at 3:25 p.m. Sunday.  

“I’m not playing against Tom, I’m playing against the Buccaneers’ defense,” Rodgers said. “That’s how it should be viewed.

“He’s obviously done it at the highest of levels for so long. He’s been an icon at the position. He’s been somebody that we’ve all looked up to for so many years as the standard of excellence.”

Brady returned the compliment.

“When you play against another great quarterback, you always know those are the tough teams to beat because they’re prepared, they’re going to play well on offense, they’ve got a very talented defense. It just means you can’t make a lot of mistakes.”

Even future hall of famers make mistakes—and forget the downs—as Tampa Bay rebounds from an ugly 20-19 loss to the Bears last week. The 43-year-old Brady and the Bucs will no doubt be highly motivated Sunday in a contest expected to feature a game-time temperature near 90 — a distinct advantage for the home team.

This game marks just the third time Brady and Rodgers have gone head-to-head as starting quarterbacks. As a New England Patriot, Brady lost their first meeting in Green Bay, 26-21, in 2014. Four years later in New England, the Patriots prevailed 31-17.

This game is a key NFC division match-up early in the season. The 3-2 Bucs are in a three-way tie for first place with Carolina and New Orleans in the NFC South, while the Packers hold a one-game lead over the surprising Chicago Bears in the NFC North.

Green Bay comes off its bye week, and is expected to be bolstered by the return of Davante Adams and Kenny Clark.

The Packers are the first team in NFL history to score at least 150 points and commit no turnovers through the first four games of the season. The main reasons for their success are the stellar play of Rodgers (13 TDs, zero INTS), Aaron Jones’ effective running, the multiple contributions by wide receivers and tight ends, and superior blocking/protection by the offensive line.

The Buccaneers top-ranked run defense (second overall) will provide a stern test for Green Bay, and Tampa Bay has registered 17 sacks and employs a variety of blitz to pressure the quarterback. Offensively, Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin should return to a talented receiving corps, while running back Leonard Fournette is listed as questionable.

“Tampa Bay and Green Bay are solid teams all-around and both have plenty of weapons,” Ditka said. “I expect to see a physical game and some points put on the board.”

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Compelling match-up: Brady-Rodgers, Green Bay’s #2 ranked offense (445 yards per game) vs Tampa’s #4 rated defense (298 yards per game). Return of Adams and Clark bolsters Packers as Rodgers’ hot hand continues.

Packers 33, Buccaneers 27

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