On March 12th, this game would have been an afterthought. On the 13th, the Green Bay Packer's showdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became must-watch television. Tom Brady announced he was not retiring and would be coming back for his record-setting 23rd season. Expect the "talent vs. success" conversations to be in full force come September.
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will be turning in their golf clubs for shoulder pads in this rematch of the 2021 NFC Championship game. One of the worst sporting moments of my life was watching Scotty Miller waltz past Kevin King for a touchdown to end the half. The Kevin King experience took decades off my life; I don't know where he is now, but I bet he's still celebrating quarterback overthrows like he just cured world hunger. Nobody celebrated small victories harder than King. But I digress, we're not here to talk about the pain Kevin King caused me, we're here to talk about the pain the Buccaneers hope to inflict on the Packers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season Preview
The Buc's season ended in a playoff nail-biter against the Los Angeles Rams. It looked like Brady would do the impossible again; down 27-3 with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Tampa Toms started mounting their comeback. Three Rams fumbles, a missed Matt Gay field goal, and some clutch 4th quarter play by Brady (including this dime to Mike Evans over Jalen Ramsey), and suddenly we're tied at 27 with 42 seconds remaining.
It was all for naught; Matt Stafford proved he was worth the price of admissions as he and Cooper Kupp marched down the field, setting Matt Gay up for the game-winning field goal as time expired. Tom Brady retired, and the Buccaneers were destined to end up back on the wheel of mediocracy.
Then Touchdown Tom said, "lol just kidding." And the Boogeyman is back to torment us all.
With Brady back in the fold, the Bucs are championship contenders. Even at 44, he continued to be the Terminator, throwing for 43 touchdowns and over 5000 yards. I expect more of the same at 45, Tom hasn't succumbed to Father Time yet.
The rest of Tampa Bay's roster remains excellent as well. They didn't get to run it back for a third time, losing guards Alex Cappa, Ali Marpet, safety Jordan Whitehead, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Although, bringing in Shaq Mason and Akiem Hicks as replacements are probably upgrades. The Whitehead loss in the defensive backfield will be felt, as free agent replacement Logan Ryan is nowhere near the safety in coverage that Whitehead is.
The Buccaneer's offense will remain a fire-breathing dragon. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette all return, they added versatile wideout Russel Gage from the Atlanta Falcons, and Rob Gronkowski is likely to return. That's all before mentioning their draft.
The Buccaneers didn't have a first-round pick but made the most of what they had, adding adaptable defensive end Logan Hall to shore up their aging d-line, "glass eating" guard Luke Goedeke, and shifty running back Rachaad White. White could be a real game-changer; he showed off elite vision and patience at Arizona State.
How do the Buccaneers Matchup with the Packers?
The Buccaneers are legitimate championship contenders, unlike the Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings. This week three matchup of titans will be used as a measuring stick for where each team stands early in the season. The Buc's weakest unit is their defensive backfield, but as of now, I'm not sure the Packers have the horses out wide to take advantage of that. Tampa's linebackers have the speed to neuter any teams running game. And, until we see proof of his demise, Tom Brady will continue to be the Grim Reaper.
There have been enough words said about Tom throughout his career, but what he does for a team can't be understated. Whether you're down 7 with a minute left or down 27-3 with a quarter left, the game isn't over with Brady under center. Tom Brady sitting on the sideline will cause the opponent's offense to play worse. Your defense will have to play better than perfect, or else one impeccably placed throw will undo any success you did have. At 43 years old, he could have won the MVP instead of Aaron Rodgers, and it would've been hard to argue against.
There will be bragging rights at stake in this week three matchup, but even if the Packers do beat Brady here, he'll just be downloading information about our defense for the playoffs. I won't feel safe until Tom Brady is gone for good.