|-3 GB (-115) @ Betamerica|
My 10* "Best of the Best" Championship Game is on the GB Packers at 3:05 ET.
Tom Brady and the Bucs' offense turned three of four Saints turnovers into TDs and Tampa Bay beat the Saints 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday night at New Orleans. The Saints had beaten the Bucs in BOTH regular season meetings, 34-24 at home in Week 1 and then 38-3 at Tampa in Week 9. Two of those TDs came on short passes to WR Mike Evans and RB Leonard Fournette. Then, after an interception by LB Devin White, Brady drove the Bucs to the one-yard-line, from where he scored himself with 4:57 left to virtually ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game but his first in the NFC. Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards with two TD passes and that TD run. The 30-20 Tampa Bay win resembled more of a defensive struggle, as the Bucs had a modest 316 total yards and the Saints had just 294. However, unlike in his previous two meetings with the Saints (five INTs and six sacks), Brady was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.
The Packers scored on each of their first five series and led the Rams 25-10 early in the third quarter. When all was said and done, the Rams' top-rated defense (had allowed 18.5 PPG on just 281.9 YPG) was shredded for 32 points on 484 yards, allowing 28 FDs (GB was 8 of 12 on 3rd downs). Rodgers threw for 296 yards with two TDs and no INTs (108.1 QB rating) plus had a one-yard TD run. The Green Bay defense held the Rams to just 244 yards, allowing LA to convert just 2 of 8 third downs (0-1 on 4th down). Green Bay has now won SEVEN in a row, holding its opponents to 18.4 PPG during that stretch. The Packers have reached the NFC championship game for the fourth time in seven seasons, as they chase their first Super Bowl berth in a decade (2010 season). It will be their first NFC title contest at Lambeau Field since hosting for the 2007 season, when they fell to the New York Giants 23-20 in overtime. Rodgers was on Green Bay's roster during that 2007 season backing up Brett Favre.
These teams met back in Week 6 in Tampa, with Buccaneers spotting the Packers an early 10-0 lead. However, Tampa Bay spent the remainder of the game dismantling Green Bay in a 38-10 beatdown! Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions (one was returned for a TD) and was sacked four times. He completed just 16 of 35 passes while passing for just 160 yards and no TDs. His accuracy rate was 45.7% and his QB rating was 35. Both figures were season-lows and it is the ONLY time this season he didn't have a TD pass in a game. Rodgers ended the regular season completing 70.7% with 48 TDs (a franchise record) and just five INTs. His QB rating of 121,5 was the second-best of his career and the highest of any QB this season. The Green Bay offense led the NFL in scoring at 31.8 PPG and also committed the fewest TOs (11). WR Davante Adams is the first player in NFL history to have at least 100 receptions with 18 receiving TDs in a season, as he finished with 115 receptions and 18 TDs in just 14 games. TE Tonyan had 52 catches (11 TDs), while RB Jones added 47 catches and two TDs. Like Adams, Jones missed two games but ran for 1,104 yards (5.5 YPC) and scored 11 rushing TDs.
Brady didn't dominate that Week 6 win over Green Bay, passing for a season-low 166 yards (2 TDs and zero INTs). Brady was also far from great vs New Orleans (see above). However, the 43-year-old has been performing like someone younger all season, passing for 4,633 yards while setting a franchise record with 40 TD passes in the regular season. He transformed a losing franchise (Tampa's last playoff appearance came back in 2007) in leading the Bucs to their first NFC championship contest since the 2002 season. The Buccaneers posted a 27-10 win over the host Philadelphia Eagles and went on to rout the then-Oakland Raiders 48-21 in the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay's only other NFC championship game appearance came in the 1979 season. RB Ronald Jones ran for 978 yards in the regular season (5.1 YPC / 7 TDs) and WR Evans had 70 catches for 1,006 yards (13 TDs). However, both Jones and Evans are questionable, as is WR Godwin (65 catches / 7 TDs in the regular season).
Brady's career speaks for itself. He's a six-time Super Bowl champ and will be playing in his 14th career league championship final (9-4 in the AFC with the Pats). However, I believe Rodgers will be the best QB on the field and has ALL his 'weapons,' while more than a few key Tampa Bay offensive players will be far less than 100% if they can even play. The Buccaneers have won SEVEN straight road games as they enter hallowed Lambeau Field and while Brady's familiar with cold-weather playoff games with New England. Weather reports forecast a 50-percent chance of snow. That's Green Bay weather, NOT Tampa Bay weather. Throw in a HUGE revenge motive and this three-point line seems 'cheap.'