Green Bay Packers (10-4 SU, 7-6-1 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12 SU, 6-8 ATS)
NFL Football Week 16
Date and Time: December 21 1pm ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -10.5/TB -10.5
Over/Under Total: 48.5
The NFC is producing one on the most interesting races to the finish line in recent memory with several very good teams fighting for the chance at a playoff berth. There isnt room for all of them and one team that doesnt want to sit home is the Green Bay Packers. The Pack head to Tampa Bay this weekend to take on the Buccaneers and look to get well after a stunning loss at Buffalo last week. Green Bay is tied with Detroit for the NFC North lead but needs to keep pace as the Lions own the tiebreaker at this point. Those teams will settle it all in the season finale but first things first for Green Bay and that is to beat the Bucs.
This game features one of the most lopsided lines of the week as the Packers are a robust 10.5 point favorite. It is sometimes easy to fire up a double digit home dog without even looking into it but remember that Tampa has failed to win a game at home this year and have just 15 ATS wins in their last 51 games at Raymond James. These teams havent played much since the Favre/Sapp glory day but Green Bay did grab a 35-26 win when these squads tangled in 2011. Green Bay is looking to reverse a trend that has seen them go 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games against sub-.500 teams.
Buffalo proved to be one of the best defenses in all of the land while stone-walling Aaron Rodgers last week. I guess we all should have seen that coming after they held Peyton Manning down the week before. Green Bay is still one of the best offenses in the league, averaging nearly 400 yards of total offense per week and averaging 31.1 points per game. All four of their losses have come on the road and all five of Rodgers interceptions have come away from Lambeau so there is some nervousness that the Pack will remain a merely average away team.
There hasnt been much to like about 2014 for the Bucs and their fans. Josh McCown has failed to duplicate the success he had a year ago in Chicago and there have been a lot of injuries to overcome. To make matters worse, Tampa just put Gerald McCoy on the IR. McCoy had led the Bucs in sacks and was one of the best interior defensive linemen in all of football. Tampa has fallen to 25th in points allowed amid all the injuries and the offense has managed just 18.1 points per game, good for just 27th in the league.
There is a little intrigue in this matchup given the familiarity that Lovie Smith has with the Packers from all his years in Chicago but that goes both ways. Smith might be able to add a wrinkle here or there in hopes of disrupting A-Rod but how much can you really affect a guy that has 35 touchdown passes and has two elite wide receivers to throw to. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have combined to catch 22 touchdown passes and both men are over 1,000 yards receiving. Only a few teams have been able to limit the effectiveness of Rodgers and his receivers and it doesnt look like Tampa and its 24th ranked pass defense will be able to accomplish the feat.
Running the ball against the Packers and controlling the clock is really the best way to approach this game. Bobby Rainey and Doug Martin get to run against the 26th ranked run defense but neither back has really had much sustained success this year without a dynamic passing presence. McCown has a capable arm and two big receiver in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson but the QB has turned the ball over too many times with 10 interceptions in just nine starts and three fumbles added in. The Packers give up yards but live to turn the opposition over and give the ball back to the offense. They only need a couple of splash plays a half and routinely get them out of Clay Matthews or Julius Peppers. Peppers has five sacks, two interception and two defensive touchdowns in his first year with Green Bay.
Green Bay hasnt been 10 points better than anyone over the last four weeks with three single digit wins and the loss last week. They rolled in Weeks 10 and 11, scoring 50+ in each of those two games and I see them finding a better rhythm this week. Tampa has wins against a lowly Washington team and clipped the Steelers in the early going before Pittsburgh found its groove. There isnt enough on either side of the ball for Tampa and Green Bay is ultra-motivated to win given the playoff stakes that are on the line. This line is massive and usually the Packers are one of the squarest bets on the board but the Bucs arent where you want your money given all of the injuries and the fact that they are already looking to next year.
Evergeens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay