After breaking down the Green Bay Packers’ history with each of their three NFC North rivals earlier this week, there is one other former divisional rival whose history is worthy of analysis. In the days before the Houston Texans’ existence, the NFC North did not exist. Instead, the NFC Central featured five teams: the four that would form the North and a fifth, not-at-all-central team: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
More often than not, the Packers have had Tampa’s number, with the first meeting between the two franchises coming in 1977, the Bucs’ second season in the NFL and first in the division. For two and a half decades, these teams faced one another twice annually (aside from one shortened season). Aside from a few stretches of decent competition, however, the Packers have largely held the upper hand.
All-Time Series History
Regular season: Packers lead 32-21-1
Postseason: Packers lead 1-0 (1997 Divisional Round)
Longest streak: Packers W6 (1992-95 and 1996-98)
The Early Days
The Bucs entered the NFL in 1976, inexplicably as a member of the AFC’s West Division. After an 0-14 campaign, they moved to the NFC Central in 1977, where they would remain for the next 25 seasons. In 1979, second-year quarterback Doug Williams helped lead the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game in the franchise’s fourth year, and Tampa Bay would make the playoffs in three out of four seasons between then and 1982.
In this span, the Buccaneers had decent success against the Packers. Through the 1981 season (they did not play in the strike-shortened ‘82 campaign), the Bucs held a 5-3-1 lead.
However, starting in 1983, the wheels fell off. Tampa Bay would lose at least ten games in 12 consecutive seasons under five different head coaches. Even though the Packers were mostly mediocre until the arrival of Ron Wolf and company for the 1992 season, Green Bay largely had its way with the Bucs. From 1983 to 1995, Green Bay went 17-8 against Tampa Bay, with five of the eight losses coming in a six-game span from 1987 to 1990.
The Tony Dungy Era
Not until Tony Dungy’s arrival in the mid 1990s would the Buccaneers begin to taste a semblance of success again. The Bucs went 6-10 in his rookie year of 1996, but would return to contention and the postseason in 1997. Green Bay swept the first five games against Dungy’s Buccaneers, including a ‘97 Divisional Playoff game. In the four years following that game, however, the two teams would split each season series until the NFL realigned prior to the 2002 season and moved the Bucs into the NFC South.
As Non-Divisional Rivals
The Packers and Buccaneers are hardly rivals nowadays, splitting their eight meetings over the past 18 years. Each team has a three-game winning streak in that span, with the Packers victorious in each of the three meetings over the last decade.
The two franchises are scheduled to meet in 2020, with Tampa featuring a pair of snowbirds from New England in Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. This may be the final opportunity for an Aaron Rodgers vs. Brady matchup; Rodgers missed the Packers-Patriots game in 2010 with a concussion, and the two teams split the 2014 and 2018 contests.