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5 things to know about Packers-Buccaneers playoff matchup

NFC Championship Game set for Sunday at 2:05 p.m. CT at Lambeau Field

QB Aaron Rodgers (left) and Buccaneers LB Devin White (right)
QB Aaron Rodgers (left) and Buccaneers LB Devin White (right)

GREEN BAY – The NFC Championship Game is set.

This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field, the first time the iconic stadium has played host to an NFC title game in 13 years.

Here are five things to know about the matchup:

1. Tom Brady has the Buccaneers' offense humming.

Tampa Bay is back in the NFC title game for the first time in 18 years thanks in large part to the future Hall of Fame quarterback's heroics over the past two months.

Since the Buccaneers' 27-24 loss to Kansas City in Week 12, Brady has completed 134-of-209 passes for 1,913 yards, 16 touchdowns and one interception during Tampa Bay's six-game winning streak (117.2 rating).

The Buccaneers are plush with offensive weapons, but the league's third highest-scoring offense has largely gone as Brady has gone this season.

In Tampa Bay's 11 regular-season wins, Brady completed 278-of-397 (70.0%) for 3,371 yards, 32 touchdowns and three interceptions for a 119.5 passer rating. Conversely, the 43-year-old quarterback completed 123-of-204 passes (60.3%) for 1,262 yards, eight TDs and nine INTs for a 72.8 passer rating in the Bucs' five losses. 

Brady also was sacked more times in those five games (11) than he was in the 11 regular-season games Tampa Bay won (10).

2. The Packers are ready for another top-ranked defensive unit.

One week after facing the NFL's No. 1-ranked pass defense, the Packers are now pitted against the league's top run defense.

Tampa Bay allowed just 80.6 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses this year – besting second-place Indianapolis by more than 10 yards per game.

It's the second consecutive year coordinator Todd Bowles' unit has led the NFL in run defense, after the Buccaneers allowed just 73.8 rushing yards per game in 2019.

The Packers actually beat that average in the team's Week 6 matchup, with Jamaal Williams, AJ Dillon, Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers combining for 94 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

What's more, the Buccaneers' defense finished the regular season sixth in total yards (327.1 yards per game), eighth in scoring (22.2 points per game) and seventh in sacks (48).

3. Lavonte David and Devin White are as good as it gets.

There may be no linebacker duo in the NFL more underrated than David and White. Neither was selected to the Pro Bowl but both were named second-team All-Pro after combining for 258 tackles, 10½ sacks and four forced fumbles in 2020.

David, the ninth-year veteran, generals the Buccaneers' defense, while White has emerged as one of the top young playmakers in the NFL. Bowles has integrated the 2019 fifth-overall pick into Tampa Bay's pass rush, resulting in White finishing just a half sack behind three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul for the team lead.

The sideline-to-sideline speed of David and White has played into the Buccaneers' success against the run this year. Tampa Bay could also be getting back 350-pound defensive tackle Vita Vea, who was designated to return off injured reserve this week from the broken ankle that's sidelined him since Week 5.

4. The Packers must contain Tampa Bay's offensive weaponry.

The Buccaneers already had plenty of offensive firepower prior to the start of free agency last year, with 1,000-yard receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and former second-round pick Ronald Jones leading the way for the ground game.

The Buccaneers then traded for Rob Gronkowski after the All-Pro tight end chose to resume his NFL career, and signed Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette.

Fournette, starting in place of an injured Jones, carried the ball 19 times for 93 yards and a touchdown in the Buccaneers' 31-23 win over Washington in the NFC Wild Card round.

Jones, who came 22 yards short of a 1,000-yard season, returned against the Saints, as the two running backs combined for 125 yards on 30 carries.

5. With snow in the forecast, this one could come down to turnovers.

The current forecast for Sunday calls for temperatures to be in the mid-to-high 20s and a 40% chance of snow in the afternoon. If that comes to fruition, it could place a premium on ball security.

No team in the NFL protected the ball as well as Green Bay this past season, with the Packers surrendering just 11 giveaways in 16 regular-season games.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay tied for fifth most in takeaways (25) to finish one spot ahead of Green Bay in turnover differential (plus-eight), good for sixth.

The Buccaneers have no shortage of ballhawks, with nine different players recording an interception this season. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who had only one in the regular season, picked off New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees twice in the NFC Divisional playoff game on Sunday.