GREEN BAY—This isn't a tune up for the big game. This is the big game.
That's the message that's no doubt being delivered to Packers players this week, as they prepare to face a 2-12 Bucs team one week before a season finale against the Lions that's expected to decide the NFC North title and all-important playoff seeding.
So, with that on the horizon, how do the Packers focus on an opponent that poses little in the way of a threat, other than a home field that'll likely be dominated by Packers fans? Here's how: Lose this one and the Lions could clinch the NFC North without even needing to win in Green Bay.
There's your big-game feeling. If you need a must-win feeling to get your game face on, there it is: Win or else.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Bucs.
1. Run the ball – That's how you beat cover two, and Bucs Coach Lovie Smith loves to play the double-high safety defense.
2. Mix run and pass – That's when the Packers offense is at its best.
3. Win on the outside – The Packers didn't do that last week against the league's No. 5 pass defense. The Bucs are No. 24 against the pass.
4. Peak – It's time to play at the highest level of performance.
5. Continue improvement on defense – Slowly, surely the Packers defense has improved its rankings.
6. Win special teams – That certainly wasn't the case last week. The kicking game becomes even more important in the postseason, when the margin for error is reduced. The errors must stop.
7. Start fast – Don't let a 2-12 team hang around and begin believing in itself.
8. Play to your identity – Or, better yet, the Packers need to play to what they believe their postseason identity needs to be. It's time to know exactly what you are and what you need to be.
9. Take what you want – Whether it's rush four and drop seven, six-in-the-box, double-high or single-high safety, run the plays you want to run and make them work.
10. Feel the energy – Packernation will be out in force, to enjoy the warm weather and the warmth of what could be a playoff-clinching win.