Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7 SU, 3-7-1 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (5-6 SU, 5-6 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday, December 3 at 1PM EST
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TB -2/GB +2
Over/Under Total: 44
The playoffs are still a month away but every week is now a playoff game for the fringe contenders. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Lambeau this weekend to take on the Green Bay Packers with both teams essentially needing to win out to have any chance at the postseason. The Bucs have gotten a little good news as Jameis Winston appears on track to return from a shoulder injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick was serviceable as a backup over the last three games but Tampa will need Winston at his best if they are going to somehow salvage this season. Green Bay is desperately trying to keep their heads above water with the hopes that Aaron Rodgers can return in week 15 and save the day. Rodgers hasnt received an updated medical opinion yet but excitement is racing among the Packer faithful after video surfaced of #12 chucking it 50 yards from a standstill during a rehab session. Neither of these teams is likely going to mount a relevant charge through the last month but there is still plenty to play for.
This is the first meeting for these teams since Green Bay notched a 20-3 win in 2014. These teams are historically familiar foes having shared the NFC Central division prior to the 2002 realignment. With the uncertainty surrounding Winstons status this game was listed as a pick em by the few online betting sites that had it on their early week boards. The Bucs have moved to a two-point favorite now that Winston is slated to start and the over/under total has been set at 44 points. Tampa enters as the 20th ranked team by the Sagarin metrics with Green Bay at #15. The offense-defense modeling done by those same computers is calling for a 24-21 Packer win.
Despite missing Winston for the last three weeks, the Bucs have won two of the last three, matching their two wins in eight games prior. Tampa brings a bottom-five rush offense to Sunday but their passing game has been top-five all year no matter who has been under center. They should be able to use that 3rd ranked passing game to press the 25th ranked passing defense of Green Bay. The Packers are in desperate need of a #1 corner but have not found it with any of their defensive backs and opponents have been able to work to the outside quite easily. Damarious Randall, Kevin King and Davon House all rank outside the top-80 at DB according to Pro Football Focus and they will have their hands full with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Getting pressure on the QB has been another weak spot for Green Bay with just 22 sacks in eleven games. The Bucs have allowed just 20 sacks and should be able to keep Winston upright, especially if Clay Matthews sits again due to a groin injury. Bottom line, the Tampa offense has the edge against the Green Bay defense.
Green Bay does have a similar edge, even though Brett Hundley has not been a consistent producer with Rodgers out. Tampa is dead last in passing yards and total yards allowed while surrendering 23.8 points per game. Hundley has thrown for five touchdowns against seven interceptions in relief but played his best game by far last week, finding the endzone three times against a good Steeler defense in Pittsburgh. The Bucs do not have the quality of defense that the Steelers possess and Green Bay looks to have a dual threat running back in the form of Jamaal Williams. Against Pittsburgh, Williams accounted for 66 rushing yards, 69 receiving yards and scored twice. That kind of effectiveness in the run game will take pressure off Hundley and Tampa is no better than league average at stopping the rush. The Bucs are also dead last in sacks generated this season so Hundley should have time to scan and find Davante Adams (7 TD) and Jordy Nelson (6 TD).
Watch the injury report regarding the status of Bucs running back Doug Martin. He left last week with a concussion and will have the clear the NFL protocol if he is to factor in on Sunday. Green Bay is 11th in rushing yards allowed but have been burned in the passing game by backs, giving up at least ten running back receptions in consecutive weeks. Jacquizz Rodgers would fill if Martin is shelved. Rodgers filled in nicely in that lead back role last season but did not have the same success in the first four games this season while Martin served his suspension. Charles Sims is the passing down back and he may wind up being the most useful if Martin sits. TE Cameron Brate is happy to see Winston back as he was a top-five tight end with Jameis in there but has caught only one pass in each of the last four weeks with Fitzpatrick under center. There are plenty of offensive options in Tampa and they should have no real issues reaching the 21-24 point range if they stay turnover-free.
I think Hundley took a legitimate step forward last week. Now, he may not reach that level this week as he is far from a finished product but he should be able to put together a positive effort against one of the worst defenses in the league. Tampa has multiple sacks in just two games this season and that lack of pass-rush does huge favors for Hundley. He will have time to pass and has quality options to use despite not being able to regularly find Jordy Nelson since taking over. Hundley also has shown solid scrambling skills so he can convert a third down with his legs or pose a threat in a goal-to-go situation. The Green Bay offense has found a few items to build on, they just cant bottom out the way they did against Baltimore a few weeks ago during a 23-0 shutout loss at home.
Mike McCarthy has slowly added a wrinkle or two since losing Rodgers. That, coupled with Hundleys performance last week, gives me confidence Green Bay can move the ball regularly. The Bucs have allowed 30 points or more on five occasions this year and while they do lead the NFL in takeaways since the start of 2016, that has not led to a string of victories. The Packers should be able to get right in that 21-24 point range as well and I think this game is appropriately a pick em as it was first published. Getting a few points for the home team makes this a relatively easy call in my mind and Green Bay is not a bad moneyline bet as well. I do think the Pack keep their slim playoff hopes alive with a 24-23 win.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay
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