Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5, 3-6 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (9-0, 7-2 ATS), NFL Week 11, November 20, 1pm ET, Lambeau Field, FOX
by Evergreen, Sports Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB +14.5/GB -14.5
The week 11 schedule in the NFL includes a battle of the bays as the TB Buccaneers travel north to Lambeau Field to take on the GB Packers. This matchup was one of the best in the late nineties as Warren Sapp chased Brett Favre around twice a year when these teams were division mates but this week has the Bucs fighting for their season as the Pack is cruising to another Playoff berth. Tampa did upset Green Bay in a 2009 meeting as Aaron Rodgers was picked off three times but that was probably the last time A-Rod played a below average game and the Buccaneers are looking overmatched in this one. The game kicks during the first wave on FOX.
Point spread information is trickling in with Green Bay playing on Monday Night Football in week 10 but early lines have the Packers as 14 to 16 point favorites and the betting sites have the over/under total at 49. Money line info is available here and there with 5Dimes posting Tampa Bay at +650 with Green Bay at -1000.
The Buccaneers did well with preseason expectations and got off to a 4-2 start including a win against the Saints but the losses have piled up since with Houston handing Tampa a 37-9 beating in Week 10. The Bucs got behind early and never mounted a charge against the Texans, failing to get any real offense going while giving up scoring plays of 80 and 78 yards. Playoff hopes are on life support with Atlanta and New Orleans ahead in the division and another loss would make a wildcard very unlikely.
The Pack put on a clinic in dispatching the Vikings on Monday Night by a 45-7 margin. Green Bay is on cruise control and now have a three game lead in the NFC North but still have plenty to play for as the Niners are right there for the best record in the NFC and two meetings do lie ahead with the Lions. Rodgers and Co. have passed the tests of the season so far, winning at Chicago, Atlanta and San Diego with many wondering if anyone can stop their run minus the coaching staff pulling the starters in the later weeks.
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The Bucs just haven’t matched their production from last year, especially on the scoreboard as they enter the week 25th in scoring at 17.3 points per game. They can move the ball but have committed too many turnovers and the run game has averaged less than 100 yards per contest. The defense is struggling and ranks in the bottom-5 in rush and pass yards allowed and comes in 28th in points, giving up 25.9 per game. The defense now draws the toughest matchup in the NFL and while you would never question the heart of guys like Ronde Barber, it seems there is little any defense is going to do against the Green Bay pass attack.
The Packers offense is reminscent of the Rams and Patriots of the early and mid 2000’s and Rodgers is busy re-writing the quarterback record books. As a unit, Green Bay ranks in the top-4 in pass and total yards and leads the NFL with 35.6 points on average. The only weakness is in the 21st best ground game but that is seemingly by choice and the backs have been active in the pass game as well, further stretching out opposing defenses. The Packers D has been criticized for giving up too many yards, especially on big plays, but they are always looking for big plays themselves with sacks and INT’s and have done a good job in limiting points, ranking 13th at just over 20 per game.
Josh Freeman does have that 2009 win at Lambeau under his belt but he has seemed to take a step back this year and will need to avoid mistakes to get a chance at another win. Freeman has thrown for 2,174 yards and 9 touchdowns but has 13 interceptions. He does possess the ability to scramble to make a big throw or get a first down and the Packers have had issues with coverage, especially as the play is extended. LeGarrette Blount leads the team in rushing with 434 yards and more will be needed from him with Earnest Graham on IR. Freeman has a good relationship with his receivers but they draw tough DB assignments, leaving TE Kellen Winslow as the potential best option for this game. Interestingly, Albert Haynesworth had a pretty good debut againt the Texans last week and could be a boost to a Bucs line that will look to get pressure on Rodgers up the middle.
Rodgers already has 28 touchdown passes, as many as he did in 2010, and is on pace to break several efficiency and accuracy records in what seems to be an MVP campaign. James Starks has taken over as the lead back and runs hard but the team still has just six rushing scores in nine games. The Pack likely sports the best wide receiver corps in the league and only gets better when you include stud TE Jermichael Finley. Greg Jennings leads the team with 51 receptions, 755 yards and shares the TD lead with Jordy Nelson. Clay Matthews recorded two sacks in the Minnesota game and is a great complement when lining up on the same side as Charles Woodson. Randall Cobb is still raw, but provides a special teams threat for Green Bay, as if they needed another scoring option.
Both teams are looking pretty good on the injury from with just a couple of questionables for both with some depth players but Green Bay’s Mike Neal may see his first action of the year as the DE battles a knee injury.
Tampa has fared well as the road dog of late, going 10-2 against the spread in such games but has managed just a 1-5 ATS mark in the last six games overall. Green Bay likes the home cooking with a 6-1 run ATS in the last 7 at Lambeau and have handled the conference with an 8-2 ATS mark in the last 10 against the NFC. The over/under trend is split with the under hitting in four of the last five when the Buccaneers play an NFC foe but eight of the last ten have gone for the over when Green Bay is at home. The home team is 4-1 against the spread in the last five between the teams.
Evergreen’s pick to cover the point spread:
14 or 15 is a lot to lay in the NFL but it just doesn’t look like anyone can slow the offensive output of the Packers right now. If Green Bay sputters on offense and is average on defense, the game is still looking like a 28-14 outcome, putting the margin right on the spread. I wouldn’t expect a slip-up with what is forecasted as a clear day in Green Bay and Rodgers does what he does on a way to a 35-13 win.
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