Two of the best quarterbacks of all time lead their teams into battle on Sunday afternoon, as Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to the frozen tundra of Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
This is Rodgers fifth NFC championship game, but first at home, as he tries to make a second Super Bowl appearance. On the other side, Brady is in his first NFC title game, but this will be his 14th time playing on championship weekend, as he attempts to reach his 10th Super Bowl.
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The Packers opened at -4 in this matchup, and while they have taken a majority of the money, 57% of the ticket count and 54% of the bets, the line has dropped to -3.5 as of Friday afternoon.
Since the total opened at 51.5 there has been one way action on the over. 74% of the tickets and 78% of the handle are on the over at BetMGM, but the number has held steady at 51.5.
-- A team playing its third straight road game in the postseason is 3-7 ATS since 2006.
-- Aaron Rodgers is 13-6 to the over in the playoffs.
-- Since 2010, Tom Brady is 16-9-1 to the over in the playoffs.
-- Road underdogs of inside of a touchdown are 5-13 outright since 2004 in championship weekend
The Bucs were able to handle Green Bay 38-10 when the two met in week 6 behind one of the best defensive efforts across the league this season. Tampa Bay forced Rodgers to throw a pair of interceptions in Green Bay territory, one of which went for a touchdown.
While Tampa Bay has been keen at forcing turnovers this season, top five in the league with 25, it is not something to count on, especially in the postseason.
However, what Todd Bowels’ defense can replicate is the pressure generated on the quarterback. Tampa Bay sacked Rodgers four times and backup Tim Boyle once. Defensive tackle Vita Vea was designated for return off injured reserve this week and he will only add firepower to the Tampa pass rush who was sixth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate.
Factor in that All Pro defensive tackle David Bakhtiari is out for the Packers, and Tampa Bay should find similar success again.
The counter to that is that the Packers have been the best offense in football for much of the year and Rodgers is playing the best ball of his career. The loss in Tampa was by far the offense's worst effort of the season.
This Green Bay offense is going to be looking down field more so than the Bucs two prior playoff opponents in New Orleans and Washington, which is going to put pressure on the back end. While Tampa Bay has the best rush defense in the league on a per carry basis, the secondary is more forgiving to the opposition. The Bucs are 25th in the league in opponent completion percentage.
With that in mind, I’m going to bet the Bucs. Brady will be able to keep this close and have a chance to win it in the end.
The Packers' defense has been given a ton of slack with the great play of the offense, but the lack of pressure from Green Bay can be pivotal. Brady is completing more than 70% of his passes with no pressure this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Against a Packers team that generates a bottom third pressure rate, Brady will have time to throw and settle into a rhythm.
Lastly, this is a Green Bay defense that is 23rd in opponent rushing success rate, per SharpFootballStats. If Tampa Bay can establish the run similar to how Los Angeles did in the Divisional Round, this game can become a “who has the ball last” type of contest, especially with two of the best to ever do it under center.
I’ll take the points in what should be a classic.
Pick: Tampa Bay +3.5.