The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have quietly had an elite defense for some time now, and likely was a supporting reason for Tom Brady’s decision to head south. To get a little perspective on the defense and how it could affect Sunday’s game, Bucs Nation’s Gil Arcia joins us for the second part of our conversation.
Acme Packing Company: Tampa Bay’s defense is ranked among the best in the league by both traditional and advanced metrics, but they’ve not exactly faced a murderer’s row of opposing offenses. Does the performance match the stats?
Gil Arcia: Absolutely. Tampa Bay’s defensive unit has picked up right from where they left off last season. The loss of Vita Vea will hurt, but the Bucs have good depth on defense. Their ability to stop the run is legit one of the best in the league due to the push they get up front and linebackers like Lavonte David and Devin White. The corners play well, especially in press coverage as they are very physical. The concern on defense is how the Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears were able to exploit vulnerabilities deep in Tampa Bay’s defensive backfield. If they were able to do so, I have no doubts Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will easily do the same.
APC: Aaron Rodgers made a funny reference to Antoine Winfield, Jr. in his press availability this week, saying this is the first time he’s played against the son of a guy he played against previously. Winfield’s dad gave the Packers trouble with the Vikings. Can we expect the same from version 2.0?
GA: Winfield, Jr. has actually not disappointed one bit. I raved about the draft selection and was expecting him to come right in and play. But even with those expectations I had for him, he has exceeded those. The rookie has been all over the field and is not afraid of getting into the offensive backfield to make a play when lined up in the box. He actually has incredible closing speed, great tackling ability, and shows amazing awareness. In short, he doesn’t play nor look like a rookie at all.
APC: Who’s a player on defense that Packers fans may not know about who could make a difference this weekend?
GA: Defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches, or “Nacho” as Arians loves to call him, will be a name to follow this week. He takes over for Vea in the middle and has decent speed. He comes in during certain situations and plays well. Now with more reps, there’s a chance the broadcast says his name often.
APC: What’s your prediction for Sunday?
GA: I see Rodgers going deep and often. As I stated previously, the Chargers and Bears exposed a weakness previous teams didn’t in Weeks 1 through 3 — including Drew Brees and the Saints. Now with that on film, I feel Rodgers will take that route, and the Packers win 30-26.