(WLAX/WEUX) – Tom Brady versus Aaron Rodgers is an elite matchup of future hall of fame quarterbacks that rightfully garners the lion’s share of the headlines and attention before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
Brady is the undisputed GOAT—greatest of all time—with seven Super Bowl rings who has defied Father Time and continued to play at a high level at age 45. Rodgers, a four-time league MVP, has won the honor in back-to-back seasons and enters his 18th season in Green Bay with one Super Bowl title on his resume.
The quarterbacks have met four times head-to-head, with Brady’s teams prevailing three times: once as a Patriot and twice as a Buccaneer, including a 31-26 victory at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship game in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl season in 2020. Rodgers’ lone triumph over Brady came in 2014 when the Packers edged New England, 26-21, at Lambeau Field.
“Two of the greatest to ever play the game,” said former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka. “That will be a fun one to watch.”
Despite a solid performance in Week 2’s 27-10 victory over the Chicago Bears, Rodgers was quick to point out Sunday evening that the Green Bay offense will need to continue to elevate their level of play.
“I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this one tonight, but we’ve got a big one next week, a tough road trip, and it’s got to be better,” Rodgers said. “This was better than Week 1, but we’ve got to be better than this if we want to compete with Tampa.”
The Tampa Bay defense is formidable and physical. While Brady has been mundane by his standards in victories over Dallas and New Orleans, the Buccaneers defense has been dominant. Tampa Bay has yielded just 13 points and leads the National Football League with 10 sacks and six forced turnovers.
“They definitely like to pressure quite a bit and then they do a great job of getting the ball out,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. “They’re one of the best in the business.”
The Packers offensive line was bolstered by the return of tackle Elgton Jenkins last week, but left tackle David Bakhtiari still has not appeared in a game this season. He did practice on a limited basis Thursday, but his status for Sunday is unclear at this time.
Running back Aaron Jones, coming off a 170-yard total yards (132 rushing, 38 receiving) with two touchdowns performance against Chicago, and teammate AJ Dillon will again be featured as Rodgers continues to chemistry with a revamped receiving corps of Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, Robert Tonyan, and rookies Christian Watkins and Romeo Doubs.
Watkins emerged as Green Bay’s top receiver last week with three receptions for 93 yards, and Watkins and Doubs should start receiving more targets as they settle into the offense. For Doubs, it’s a homecoming as he played at Plant High School in Tampa and he’ll have plenty of family and friends pulling for a break-out performance Sunday.
Playing physical is a trademark of the entire Buccaneers team, and Green Bay will have to match that intensity. “Big boy football” is how Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark put it.
Without his three top receivers—Mike Evans (suspension), Chris Godwin (hamstring), and Julio Jones (knee)—Brady will attack the Packers’ Achilles Heel with 230-pound running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette will again get a heavy workload against a Green Bay defense that allowed 122 yards on just 15 carries Sunday night to David Montgomery—a 8.1 yard per carry average.
Green Bay will also have to deal with the heat and humidity of Florida on Sunday, with temperatures around 90 degrees with plenty of sun. The Packers played poorly in Florida heat in last year’s season-opening blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints.
It will be tough sledding against Tampa Bay defense in the run game, but Jones and Dillon give offense enough balance for Rodgers to spread ball to 7-8 receivers off play-action. Brady missing his top receivers and Green Bay defense makes enough plays as Packers pull out the victory. Another hot one in Florida.