The last thing the offensively challenged Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to see is a Green Bay Packers defense that is coming off a much-needed dominating effort. Hoping for another shut-down performance, the Packers look to move to 10-0 and continue their best start since 1962 while trying to hand the reeling Buccaneers a fourth consecutive loss Sunday at Lambeau Field. While Green Bay's offense continues to play at an extremely high level behind Aaron Rodgers, the Packers finally put forth the stifling defensive game they had been looking for in Monday's 45-7 home rout of Minnesota.
The Packers (9-0) yielded at least 424 yards in each of their previous three games before keeping the lowly Vikings to 266. They held Adrian Peterson to 51 yards with a touchdown on 14 carries and sacked rookie Christian Ponder three times. Green Bay defenders have taken their generous play prior to Monday personally at times. That unit has felt it has not held up its end of the bargain while the Rodgers-led offense continues to roll over the competition, with the Packers averaging an NFL-high 35.6 points per game. Woodson and his defensive peers have a chance for another stingy showing against Tampa Bay (4-5), which has been outscored 88-43 during a three-game skid. The Buccaneers' 156 total points this season are 12 fewer than the Packers have scored in the first half alone in 2011.
Tampa Bay and Cleveland are the only teams in the league not to have scored an offensive touchdown in the first quarter all season. Trying to improve offensively is only half the battle for Tampa Bay. Stopping Rodgers is perhaps an even more daunting issue for a Buccaneers defense that allowed scoring plays of 80 and 78 yards in last Sunday's 37-9 home loss to Houston. Rodgers, meanwhile, was an efficient 23 of 30 for 250 yards Monday, throwing four touchdowns for the second straight game. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has completed an astonishing 72.9 percent of his passes in 2011 and has thrown 11 of his 28 TDs - and no interceptions - over the last three contests. His passer rating of 130.7 is on pace to easily break Peyton Manning's NFL record of 121.1 in 2004.
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman was picked off three times against the Texans last weekend. Freeman, who has been bothered by a sprained thumb, has thrown nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in nine games, compared to 25 TDs and just six picks in 2010. Trailing almost throughout their losing streak, the Buccaneers haven't run the ball much lately. They're averaging just 16.3 carries for 68.0 yards during their skid, with LeGarrette Blount totaling 106 yards on 23 carries in two games since returning from a knee injury.
The Bucs will experience a big-time temperature drop when they leave Tampa, where it was in the balmy 70s for their loss to the Texans last Sunday, and show up at Lambeau when it's expected to be in the high 30s. Green Bay's potent offense should continue to put up some big numbers as it goes against a Tampa Bay defense that is struggling in all areas. Look for Rodgers to attack the middle of the field and exploit Tampa's ineffective safeties. The Packers' inconsistent run game could get well facing the 29th-ranked run defense, which gave up 185 yards to the Texans. Freeman stands a good chance of getting a heavy diet of defenders flying at him in much the same manner Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers rattled Vikings rookie Christian Ponder with a liberal use of pressure packages Monday. Meet you at the window by the close of three quarters as this one gets ugly without wasting time.