It has been billed as a measuring stick between two NFC contenders and will at the very least be a battle of two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
This Sunday afternoon’s meeting between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take place in the much warmer confines of Florida and should be a marquee Week 6 matchup that helps propel the winning team forward to the halfway mark of the regular season. Even more, this matchup jumpstarts a former rivalry that has not been played in a few years. Today’s musings take a look into some of the two teams’ more memorable games and records, while also examining past Tom Brady-Green Bay showdowns.
But first, a look at some budding receivers with both direct and indirect ties to the Packers.
Week 5 featured two breakout receiving performances, providing “what-could-have-beens”
Green Bay has proved many critics wrong with the capability of its receiving corps so far this season, but injuries still have left the Packers vulnerable at the position. While Davante Adams figures to return this week, Allen Lazard’s indefinite absence leaves a hole entering the post-bye stretch of the season.
Around the NFL, a couple of wide receivers who theoretically could have been Packers had ultra-productive, breakout performances last week. In fact, Travis Fulgham was a Packer for a brief week just this past August before being waived. Since then, Fulgham joined the Philadelphia Eagles and posted a 10-catch game last week with 152 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool hauled in seven catches for 110 yards and three scores — his best game thus far as a rookie. Claypool was a potential Packers target in the 2020 NFL Draft and was taken midway through the second round between Green Bay’s first two picks. While it would have seemed like a reach at the time for the Packers to take Claypool in the first round and he would not have been available in the second, the Notre Dame product has certainly looked the part of a budding NFL receiver.
The Packers very well could still find breakout performances of their own from the likes of Equanimeous St. Brown and Malik Taylor as this season goes on. But the stat lines of Fulgham and Claypool last week provided some level of “what-if.”
An old NFC Central rivalry renews in 2020
It has been three years since the Packers last faced the Buccaneers, a 26-20 Green Bay victory. But not too long ago, this game was a rather fierce rivalry between the two Bays.
The Buccaneers were once a part of the NFC Central division along with the Packers from 1977 to 2001. While the Packers lead the all-time series at a record of 33-21-1, they owned the 1990s with a 16-5 in that stretch with Brett Favre primarily at the helm. Particularly at home, the Packers were formidable, winning every home game against Tampa Bay from 1990 to 2005. Still, memories remain for this writer, who was merely a child during the final matchups, as well as for plenty of older Packers fans.
From the hit on Chad Clifton in the video below that led to injury, to the constant chit-chatting between him and Favre, Warren Sapp played a big role in the late-90s rivalry between two teams competing for playoff seeding. But the rivalry also produced Favre’s first completion of his NFL career - the one to himself - in 1992 and even further back in time, a memorable 1985 “Snow Bowl” contest.
Since the Buccaneers moved to the NFC South, the two Bays have met just eight times and only three times the past decade. But with Tom Brady under center, as will be discussed below, the 2020 version of the rivalry presents an interesting storyline of its own.
Matchups against Tom Brady, while few, have had unique circumstances
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat me to the punch on taking a deeper dive into the historical records of Green Bay against Tom Brady earlier this week. But some unique sets of circumstances and results have followed those games in which the Packers hold a 2-3 record.
How about the first matchup? Brady threw three interceptions in that 2002 game in Foxboro, one year after New England’s first Super Bowl with their star quarterback. Although the Packers had gotten off to a strong start that season, winning at New England was far from expected. Then there is an embarrassing 35-0 loss at Lambeau Field in 2006 in which the Packers lost both Favre and Aaron Rodgers at various points of the contest. Perhaps one of the most memorable games was the 2010 matchup in which Matt Flynn filled in admirably for an injured Aaron Rodgers. While the short-handed Packers ultimately lost the game, they held on until the final minutes as serious underdogs, providing confidence for the team’s ensuing undefeated run to the Super Bowl. Even that game involved a rather unforeseen 71-yard kickoff return by a Patriot offensive lineman.
While the Packers’ last two games against Tom Brady have been a bit more normal, the most recent matchup was still a crucial Green Bay loss in the midst of Mike McCarthy’s final season as head coach. This weekend’s matchup continues a trend of unique circumstances, coming at a time when both opposing teams have become contenders once again and Brady is in his first season on a new team.