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Packers get second shot at Bucs with Super Bowl at stake

Mon Jan 18 5:58pm ET
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer

Green Bay Packers' Allen Lazard celebrates after a 58-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)


Green Bay Packers' Allen Lazard (13) celebrates after scoring a 58-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)


GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) All that stands between Green Bay and its first Super Bowl berth in a decade is the one team that managed to shut down the Packers' high-powered offense this season.

Green Bay is the NFL's highest-scoring team but had its lowest point total of the season in a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay back on Oct. 18. The Packers (14-3) have a chance to avenge that defeat Sunday when they host the Buccaneers (13-5) in the NFC championship game.

''I think our team has come a long way from that day, but everything's just words at this point,'' Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. ''You've got to go out there and you've got to have a great week of preparation and you've got to go earn it on the field. So that'll be our mindset and that's how we'll approach it.

Aside from some second-half struggles in a loss to Indianapolis and a win over Carolina, the Packers' offense has been pretty much unstoppable since the Tampa Bay game. That didn't change Saturday in a 32-18 divisional playoff victory over the Los Angeles Rams, who entered the night leading the NFL in most defensive categories.

''We're not too worried on who's on the other side of the ball,'' Packers receiver Allen Lazard said after the Rams game. ''We know who we have on our side of the ball.''

The Packers earned their seventh straight victory and followed their usual winning formula: They build big leads by scoring at will early on.

They scored touchdowns on their first two possessions at Detroit. They reached the end zone on each of their first three series against Carolina and Tennessee, and in both their victories over Chicago. They collected three touchdowns and two field goals on their first five drives against the Rams.

After throwing 48 touchdown passes with only five interceptions during the regular season, Aaron Rodgers had two more touchdown passes and ran for a score against the Rams.

''I think it's one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to lead this team,'' Rodgers said after the game. ''To be counted on by my teammates to bring, not just my physical play, but my presence, my emotions, my words, and I strongly believe in speaking things to life. We've been talking a lot about how a positive wave can be so powerful. I feel like we have that wave building and building and building and it's kind of been backboned by so many great people.''

The Packers also started out well in their first meeting with Tampa Bay, as they built a 10-0 lead before Rodgers threw consecutive interceptions. One was a pick-6 The other was returned to the 2-yard line to set up a touchdown.

Rodgers was 16 of 35 for 160 yards as the Packers gave up 38 straight points after taking that 10-0 lead. Now they get another shot at the Bucs with a Super Bowl appearance at stake.

''What's happened in the past at this point, it really doesn't matter,'' LaFleur said. ''It's about what we do moving forward.''

WHAT'S WORKING

The offensive line continues to thrive even after losing All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari to a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 31. The Packers didn't allow a single sack to the Rams, who had 53 sacks during the regular season and five more in a playoff victory at Seattle. . The Packers rushed for 188 yards, the most the Rams had allowed all season. . Green Bay's pass rush produced four sacks. . The Packers didn't commit any turnovers Saturday and have just two turnovers during their seven-game winning streak.

WHAT NEEDS WORK

The Packers still seem to have at least one special-teams breakdown in just about every game.

STOCK UP

DT Kenny Clark and OLB Rashan Gary each had 1 + sacks. . Aaron Jones ran for 99 yards and had one 60-yard burst against a Rams defense that hadn't allowed a run from scrimmage of longer than 27 yards.

STOCK DOWN

There wasn't much to complain about, though Hunter Bradley had a bad snap on an extra-point attempt in the second quarter. JK Scott leaned to his right to catch the snap, but he then decided to flip the ball to kicker Mason Crosby rather than allowing Crosby to kick it.

INJURED

LB Krys Barnes injured his thumb early in the game but returned and finished with a team-high 10 tackles. RB A.J. Dillon hurt his quadriceps late in the game.

NUMBERS

1,487 -The Packers have scored 1,487 postseason points in NFL history. They have overtaken the Pittsburgh Steelers (1,478) for the lead in that category.

NEXT STEPS

A home victory over Tampa Bay would enable the Packers to head to Tampa for the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

Player Notes
Matt LaFleur Jan 18 5:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said that the team will be careful with rookie running back A.J. Dillon (undisclosed), but he is hopeful that Dillon can play on Sunday against the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. Dillon left the fourth quarter of the win over the Rams in the Divisional Round on Saturday with an undisclosed injury. The 22-year-old ran the ball six times for 27 yards in the win over the Rams. Keep a close eye on his practice status throughout the week. If he's inactive against Tampa Bay, Jamaal Williams would be a much more attractive DFS sleeper behind Aaron Jones. Dillon dealt with injury and was on the COVID-19 list in his rookie season, but he could have a substantial role in Green Bay's backfield in 2021 if Jones leaves in free agency.

From RotoBaller

Ron Rivera Jan 18 5:10pm ET

Former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is meeting with members of the Washington Football Team brass on Monday, including head coach Ron Rivera, according to sources. Hurney has become the top candidate to be Washington's next general manager, a hire that could become official this week. Hurney spent several years working with Rivera in Carolina, so they have plenty of familiarity. The 65-year-old was the Panthers general manager from 2002 to 2012 and again from 2017 to 2020. Rivera was the head coach of Carolina from 2011 to 2019. Martin Mayhew and Ryan Cowden have also been linked to the GM opening in Washington.

From RotoBaller

Jared Goff Jan 18 5:00pm ET

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that quarterback Jared Goff is "the quarterback right now" after their Divisional Round loss to the Packers on Saturday, but he didn't sound as convincing when asked about it the following day. "The people I've spoken to said basically at this moment the relationship with Goff and McVay: not great. They need marriage counseling is what one person said to me," NFL.com's Steve Wyche said. Goff battled through a surgically repaired broken thumb in the postseason and posted 3,952 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions a 67 completion percentage and a 90 passer rating, but he was way too inconsistent on a regular basis. McVay plans to meet with Goff to get on the same page moving into the 2021 season, but don't be surprised if LA brings in another veteran QB to push Goff moving forward. He'll be a midrange QB2 if he has the starting gig next season.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 18 4:50pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol after leaving the Divisional Round win over the Browns on Sunday in the third quarter. "He's in the protocol, and we'll just follow that and see how he does here in the next couple days," Reid said. Mahomes must clear the NFL's protocol before he's eligible to play in the AFC Championship against the Bills this Sunday. More will be known on Mahomes' status throughout the week, so keep a close eye on his progress. He was also bothered by a toe injury on Sunday, but Reid thinks he'll "be alright." If Mahomes doesn't get cleared from the league's protocol in time to play against Buffalo, veteran Chad Henne would get the nod. It would be a big downgrade for the rest of KC's offensive skill position players in fantasy against a strong defense.

From RotoBaller

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 18 4:50pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are designating defensive tackle Vita Vea (ankle) for return from Injured Reserve on Monday. He will begin practicing with the team on Wednesday and could be activated in time for the NFC Championship on Sunday against the Packers. Vea fractured his ankle against the Bears in Week 5 back in October. Tampa has a 21-day window to return Vea to their active roster, but he could be available this weekend if he shows enough in practice this week. If the Bucs decide that the 25-year-old is not ready to return this weekend, Rakeem Nunez-Roches will continue to handle nose-tackle duties for the Buccaneers Defense. Vea's return, though, would make Tampa even more dangerous at Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.

From RotoBaller

Deshaun Watson Jan 18 1:40pm ET

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is not happy with the team after they did not include him in the search for new general manager Nick Caserio. As a result, teams have started calling the Texans to find out if Watson is available in a trade. Owner Cal McNair and the front office haven't said that they are looking to trade Watson, and Watson himself has not asked for a trade. There is plenty of speculation out there as to where Watson might land if he is traded, with the Jaguars, Jets and Dolphins as potential landing spots. The Panthers could also be another team in the mix if Watson actually becomes available. Right now it's all speculation, but it's interesting to imagine the 25-year-old dual-threat QB playing elsewhere. If Watson really wants to leave, he also has a no-trade clause, so he could dictate where he goes next. A trade could increase Watson's outlook heading into the 2021 season, but he'll likely remain a top-five fantasy QB regardless.

From RotoBaller

Kyle Shanahan Jan 18 1:40pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers are officially promoting run-game coordinator Mike McDaniel to offensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator, according to a source. McDaniel will replace Mike LaFleur, while Ryans will be replacing Robert Saleh, who has become the New York Jets head coach. Saleh took LaFleur and offensive line coach John Benton with him to New York. The 37-year-old McDaniel has been part of head coach Kyle Shanahan's staff at every stop since he joined Washington in 2011. Ryans was a former NFL linebacker and has risen through the ranks since joining Shanahan's staff in 2017 as a quality control coach. Chris Foerster will replace Benton as offensive line coach, while former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello will return as quarterbacks coach.

From RotoBaller

Michael Brockers Jan 18 1:20pm ET

The Los Angeles Chargers hired Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their next head coach on Sunday, according to sources. The 38-year-old spent just one year with the Rams after leading the league's No. 1 defense in scoring, total defense and pass defense in the 2020 regular season. Rams defenders had career-best seasons in sacks under Staley, including Leonard Floyd (10.5), Morgan Cox (six) and Troy Reeder (three), with Michael Brockers recording the second-most sacks in his career. Staley spent three seasons as the linebackers coach in Denver and Chicago before joining the Rams as their defensive coordinator. Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell could follow Staley to the Bolts in the same role, but Rams head coach Sean McVay would have to let O'Connell out of his contract.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Jan 18 12:50pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) is undergoing an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of a knee injury he suffered during Sunday's playoff victory. Brown suffered the ailment sometime in the first half and was seen on the sidelines, though he was never officially ruled out of the game. Provided there is no structural damage to the knee, Brown's activity levels in this week's practice will be worth watching ahead of an NFC Championship clash with the Packers. If he's unable to play, fellow wideouts Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller would be in line to see more work in the passing game.

From RotoBaller

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 17 11:40pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense put together a strong performance in a 30-20 playoff win over the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay allowed 20 points and failed to register a sack, though they generated four turnovers. The secondary delivered a strong performance on tape, surrendering just 190 passing yards and picking off Drew Brees three times. Linebacker Devin White, a rising star, was arguably the player of the game, as he was all over the field with 11 tackles and an interception, which he returned for 28 yards. Tampa Bay will travel to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC title game. They hammered Rodgers and the Green Bay offense for four sacks and two interceptions in a 38-10 regular season drubbing.

From RotoBaller

Rob Gronkowski Jan 17 11:30pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught one of five targets for 14 receiving yards in a 30-20 win over New Orleans. Gronkowski had yet another quiet outing as a pass-catcher, though he was far more involved in the gameplan this time. Tom Brady looked his way in the red zone, so the usage was pretty promising for fantasy purposes. The problem is, Gronkowski has been out-produced by fellow tight end Cameron Brate, who has 130 yards over the last two games. Still, Gronkowski should remain a part of the offense next week against the Packers, who surrendered a 5-78-1 line to him in their regular-season meeting.

From RotoBaller

Cameron Brate Jan 17 11:20pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate led the team in receiving yards in a playoff win over the Saints. Brate hauled in four of five targets for 50 receiving yards, as he once again showed some good chemistry with Tom Brady down the field. The veteran tight end has produced eight catches for 130 yards in two playoff games, while fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski has just one reception. Clearly, Brady will continue to look Gronkowski's way in the red zone, though Brate has carved out a role for himself as a pass-catcher between the 20s. He'll get ready to take on the Packers at Lambeau Field next week with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Jan 17 11:10pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught just one pass for 10 receiving yards in Sunday's 30-20 divisional-round win over New Orleans. Brown was held in check for much of the game, though it should be noted that he was tending to a knee issue. It occurred sometime in the first half, with Brown requiring some attention from the team trainer- though the team didn't offer much more information on his status. This game snapped a streak of four straight contests with a touchdown reception for Brown, whose practice reps will be worth monitoring ahead of a huge title game clash with Green Bay.

From RotoBaller

Chris Godwin Jan 17 11:00pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin hauled in four of seven targets for 34 receiving yards in Sunday's victory over New Orleans. Godwin did lead the team in targets, though it could have been a far more productive day had he hauled in a long pass from Tom Brady in the end zone. The drops have certainly been an issue for the fourth-year pro- he has six in two playoff games- though he remains one of Brady's favorite pass-catchers on the roster. Godwin has seen at least six targets in 12 of 14 games, a role that makes him enticing to turn to for fantasy purposes. He'll look to be more productive with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line next week against Green Bay.

From RotoBaller

Mike Evans Jan 17 10:50pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught one of three targets for a three-yard touchdown in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Evans was held in check for most of the day by Saints' corner Marshon Lattimore- though he was able to beat him in the end zone for a score. That's his 14th touchdown of the year, including the regular season and playoffs, as he continues to be one of Tom Brady's favorite red-zone targets. Evans will look to be more of a factor between the 20s in an NFC Championship game matchup against the Packers.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Jan 17 10:50pm ET

New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook finished with five receptions for 28 yards on seven targets in Sunday's loss to Tampa. The tight end also lost a crucial fumble which swayed the outcome of the game. Cook finishes 2020 with 37 receptions for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. The tight end will be a free agent this offseason and will turn 34 in a few months. His fantasy value remains low heading into 2021 considering his age and the uncertainty about the size of his role on a potentially new team next season.

From RotoBaller

Tre'Quan Smith Jan 17 10:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith grabbed three receptions for 85 yards and two scores on three targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to Tampa. Smith paced the team in yards and had a fantastic showing in the team's last game of the season. The WR finished 2020 with 34 receptions for 448 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Because of his inconsistency and smaller role on this offense, Smith should be considered a deeper-league flex at best heading into 2021.

From RotoBaller

Ronald Jones II Jan 17 10:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II carried the ball 13 times for 62 rushing yards in a playoff victory over New Orleans. Jones averaged 4.8 yards per carry and showed some good burst in his first game back from a quad injury. He ripped off a long run that was called back due to a holding penalty and appeared to grimace after the play, though he was never taken out. Jones was out-touched by Fournette 22-13, though he may eat into those carries a bit if he can put in a full practice ahead of next week's NFC title game against Green Bay.

From RotoBaller

Michael Thomas Jan 17 10:30pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas finished with zero yards on four targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to the Buccaneers. After a terrific wild-card showing last week with five receptions for 73 yards and a score on seven targets, Thomas fell flat this week. Despite an injury-ridden season, the WR is clearly the top receiving option on the team heading into 2021 and remains a WR1 despite the potential change at QB.

From RotoBaller

Leonard Fournette Jan 17 10:30pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette was the engine of his team's offense in a 30-20 divisional-round win over the Saints. Fournette turned 22 touches into 107 scrimmage yards, adding a touchdown to yet another solid outing. With Tom Brady struggling a bit, the 25-year-old came up with some timely runs and receptions, none bigger than a six-yard touchdown catch that tied the game late in the third quarter. Fournette has topped 20 touches and 100 yards in each of his last two games- he should remain a focal point of the offense when the Buccaneers travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers next week.

From RotoBaller