Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 NFC Championship Game

We made it, Packers fans. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head to the Frozen Tundra on Sunday for the NFC Championship Game. I said last week had all the makings of an instant classic, but this one has even more storylines to make it an unforgettable game. Here are six things to look for on Championship Sunday: 

1. Two Goats, Ya Herd?

And we now have a new entry for the worst section title of all time. Two goats does not a herd make, but two goats do make for a fantastic football matchup on Sunday. 

It’s absolutely crazy to think that this will be Tom Brady’s 14th appearance in a Conference Championship Game. After 13 appearances in the AFC and nine victories, Brady is taking his talents to the NFC. For Aaron Rodgers, this marks his 5th appearance in the NFC Championship, and of course his first at Lambeau Field. After his first win during the 2010 season on the way to Super Bowl XLV against the Bears, Rodgers has since lost his other three appearances on the road (Seattle, Atlanta, and San Francisco). 

We might be seeing a battle between two three-time MVPs on Sunday, as Brady already has three titles and Rodgers has two, but likely wins his third this year. In his last six games, Brady has thrown for 1,913 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only one interception. In Rodgers’ last six games, he’s thrown for 1,495 yards, 17 touchdowns, and also only one pick.

Interestingly, this is only the second time in Brady’s illustrious career that he’s thrown 40-plus touchdowns, and he’s doing it with a new team. He finished this season with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, second only to his 2007 season when he threw 50 touchdowns.

As we know, Rodgers set a career-high and franchise record throwing 48 touchdowns in the regular season with only five interceptions. His 121.5 quarterback rating is second in NFL history behind only his own 2011 rating of 122.5. 

All of this to say “get your popcorn ready.” This will be only the fourth time we’ve ever seen these two quarterbacks line up across from one another, with Brady currently holding the edge 2-1. It’s a small sample size, but of note, the home quarterback has always won. 

2. The Regular Season is History

My dad was a history major in college, so I hope he doesn’t read this part where I say “history doesn’t matter” but when we’re talking about an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field, it’s hard to factor in a Week 6 loss in Tampa. These two teams have evolved dramatically since that initial matchup, and we’ve certainly seen the Buccaneers bounce back from their 38-3 loss at home to the Saints in Week 9. 

In fact, it’s hard to not look at that Week 6 game as an anomaly for the Packers. The 38-10 score was the only time this season the Packers were held under 22 points. Green Bay’s offense is ranked number one in the NFL for a reason in points for, averaging 31.8 yards per game, and against the league’s number one defense last Saturday, we still saw the Packers put up 32 points. 

In Week 6, Rodgers was sacked four times and threw two interceptions, including only the third pick-six of his career. On the season, Rodgers threw only five total interceptions and was sacked only 20 times, the lowest total in his career as a starter. What’s more, the Packers were penalized six times for 76 yards, and the Bucs didn’t have one penalty on the day. 

While it’s easy to look at the 2019 season as a recent, negative example of Green Bay losing in the regular season and in the postseason to the same opponent, we’ve learned in 2020 that this is an entirely different Packers team. Since the blowout loss to the Bucs, Green Bay has only lost twice more (Vikings and Colts) and those losses were by six and three points in close, hard-fought games.  

Finally, perhaps the biggest difference is that this matchup will be at Lambeau Field, with fans, in the snow (but more on that in No. 4).

3. Something’s Gotta Give

Both teams remaining in the NFC are on hot streaks, with the Buccaneers on a six-game winning streak and the Packers on a seven-game winning streak. (Over in the AFC, the Bills are on an eight-game winning streak, and the Chiefs would likely be on a 12-game streak had Mahomes not rested in Week 17.)

While we’ll spend much of the week talking about two high-powered offenses led by two of the best to ever play football, with Brady’s Bucs also averaging over 30 points per game, we also need to look at how much the Packers defense has improved. Through the last six games, Green Bay’s defense has allowed an average of only 17.3 points to opposing teams. Tampa is allowing 19.7 points per game through its most recent six matchups. 

This is a Buccaneers defense that aggressively gets after the football. For context, the Packers forced 18 turnovers this season. The Buccaneers have forced 30 turnovers this season, with four coming last week against the Saints. In the Bucs’ five losses this season, Tampa turned the ball over 11 times. In Green Bay’s three losses, the Packers turned the ball over seven times. 

It’s simple, but protecting the football is likely the biggest key to success on Sunday. The Packers are 11-0 this season when they don’t turn the ball over. 

4. The Frozen Tundra Effect 

A major goal of this season for the Packers was to finally host an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field, and on Sunday this team will get its wish. Not since 2007 has Green Bay hosted a Championship, and that was before Rodgers became the starter. 

Rodgers has a home playoff record of 5-2, and he averages 28.3 points per game in the playoffs. While Brady rarely has had to travel in the playoffs, he’s 6-4 in road games, with two of those victories coming this season against Washington and New Orleans. He also averages 27.14 points per playoff game. 

What’s more, no team has won three straight road games to get to the Super Bowl since the Packers did it as the sixth seed in 2010. Raymond James Stadium is also the site of Super Bowl LV, and so far no team has ever made the Super Bowl the year its stadium hosted. 

There will once again be roughly 9,000 fans in the stands on Sunday, and players made sure to talk about how significant that noise was last Saturday against the Rams. Right now, there’s also a 50% chance of snow in the forecast and temperature at kickoff should be below 30 degrees. While Brady has plenty of experience playing in the cold given his time with New England, there will also be just as many Bucs players who aren’t used to the cold and snow. Davante Adams discussed at length this season how different it is to be comfortable and familiar practicing in the cold Green Bay weather. 

5. Rest in Peace, Ted Thompson

Heartbreaking news broke this week that former Packers General Manager Ted Thompson passed away at age 68. Thompson, of course, was an integral part of not only drafting and signing much of the talent on the Super Bowl XLV roster, but also drafting so many of the players poised for another Super Bowl berth 10 years later. 

Notable names include Thompson’s first ever draft pick, Aaron Rodgers, All-Pro left tackle and center David Bakhtiari and Corey Linsley, Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones, and so many more. Additionally, new practice squad acquisition and familiar face Tramon Williams is also arguably one of the best undrafted free agents to ever sign with the Packers, thanks in large part to Thompson’s keen eye for finding talent. 

Current General Manager Brian Gutekunst has said many times how much Thompson impacted his own career and the way he makes decisions for the Packers franchise, calling Thompson “one of the best evaluators that has ever done this,” shortly after his hire in 2018. If this Packers team goes all the way this year, it will be largely in part due to the foundation Thompson helped to lay in Green Bay. 

6. Go Pack Go

I just want to use this last section to talk about how special this season has been. We went from not knowing if we’d be able to have an NFL season to now only having three games left until the 2020 season is in the rearview mirror. The Green Bay Packers are one of four teams left standing, and regardless of what happens Sunday, that’s special. 

I can’t speak for any of you, but I appreciated this season so much, despite the uniqueness of it all. It’s easy to say that because this team is a game away from the Super Bowl, but I genuinely have not enjoyed a Packers team quite like this in a long time. Even last season getting to the NFC Championship Game, it felt more like a Cinderella story in Matt LaFleur’s first year as head coach. This feels, different. 

The camaraderie and close-knit nature of this group of men has been such a joy to watch each week. This season has felt special from the beginning, even without fans in the stands. Of course, I can’t wait to be back in a packed stadium with 80,000 of my closest friends in Green and Gold, but I’ve also enjoyed being able to kick back with my dad over a few beers and remind myself how I fell in love with the game in the first place. 

I absolutely refuse to bet against this Packers team, because I think it’s that special (especially at Lambeau Field), but if the season does come to an end on Sunday, I’m forever grateful for the memories this team has given us. We got to witness another MVP season from Rodgers and watch Adams have perhaps the greatest season by a wide receiver in Packers history (and there’s a lot of history). 

But, you don’t read this each week because you want me to be sentimental. I can’t help it. I’m an eternal optimist. And even so, I still feel good about this matchup. This Packers team is ready. And you can expect more of this if we're talking about the Packers in the Super Bowl in two weeks. As the late, great Kevin Greene would say: It. Is. Time. 

Go Pack Go. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (19)

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

January 22, 2021 at 07:20 am

Maggie, I totally agree with you regarding how special this season is. As with you and your Dad, I have felt privileged to able to watch every game except one with my 23 year son, and share texts with my 29 year old daughter after the games. Having Packers fans in the family is truly special.

I also agree that, should the worst happen with a loss, that will not detract from how magical this season has been. Your description of this year's team and the fan experience is absolutely perfect. Thank you.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 22, 2021 at 08:45 am

Superb

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

January 23, 2021 at 06:20 am

Thanks Tundra.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 23, 2021 at 08:49 pm

Got your back!

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Guam's picture

January 22, 2021 at 08:01 am

Great read Maggie. Thank you!

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murf7777's picture

January 22, 2021 at 08:10 am

Good write up Maggie....."Finally, perhaps the biggest difference is that this matchup will be at Lambeau Field, with fans, in the snow"

I really think home field is a big factor in this game. Not only will the 9000 fans bring energy to our players, the cold will affect players who aren't use to playing in such conditions. Their bodies will react differently and some will adjust while others may have a tough time. The possibilities of turnovers increase in the cold, especially if there is a wind chill. That said, the turnovers could come from either team, nobody is immune to the increased risk. The one big benefit is Rodgers is use to throwing in the cold and Brady will have to go into his memory banks to remember. The ball won't travel as far in the cold so you have to throw just a bit farther to get to the same distance. Brady knows this, but time lapse might affect him. Win the turnover battle and you probably win the game.

I'm soo fired up for this game.....Can't Wait! GPG

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stockholder's picture

January 22, 2021 at 08:12 am

Forget the magical. Forget that TT deserved better. The players are in the prime of their Life. And Lambeau is the place where the fight must be won. There is No second place here. It's special, and they are part of it. The hard work will show up. It's time to back up the talk. And in all seriousness," win this game." This is Rodgers neighborhood. Where the heart is on the sleeve. FUN is mandatory, and execution is rewarded.

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Dragon5's picture

January 22, 2021 at 08:41 am

Here's an inside story that 99.99% will be unaware of going into Sunday's NFC Championship showdown...

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are both 8 life paths, often associated with money, power, and karma. However, Rodgers is born in a PIG year, Brady a SNAKE year. PIG & SNAKE are mortal enemies. While each may respect the other's HoF resume, deep down they likely despise one another, much like the eternal hostility us Packer fans have been bred to exude towards the Bears or Vikings franchises in any random year. While I can appreciate doling out a merciless beatdown every now and then, I hope this game turns out to be a classic that we'll speak of years from now.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 22, 2021 at 09:01 am

The next few days will be great to enjoy, especially here at CHTV, but it’s also almost too much to bear having to wait even another day!
It’s time, I’m ready, and hopefully they’ll be ready,and the entire team plays just like we know they can , and perhaps a nearly flawless game. I hope they do. Hell I want this so badly, I can’t stand it. GPG.

Excellent Article by the way Maggie.

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Since'61's picture

January 22, 2021 at 09:39 am

It is time to Carry the G all the way to the Super Bowl.

As Lombardi told his team; “Run so that you may win.”

Go Pack Go. Thanks, Since ‘61

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tonys247's picture

January 22, 2021 at 10:37 am

Watch Packers vs. Buccaneers Game Live Online :2021 NFL Conference Championship

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LIVE NOW:> https://tinyurl.com/y4dsfcee

The opponent? Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who won six Super Bowls with New England and has a chance to win a seventh for his new team.

One day after the Packers mostly dominated the Los Angeles Rams in a 32-18 victory, the Buccaneers punished the New Orleans Saints 30-20 at the Superdome. The same swarming defense that made life miserable for Rodgers and Co. in October produced four takeaways and made Drew Brees look like an old man.

That set up a made-for-TV showdown between two living legends. Rodgers and Brady will meet for only the fourth time in their illustrious careers. It will be by far the most important, with Green Bays infamous loss at Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game robbing the world of a Rodgers vs. Brady matchup in the Super Bowl. Rodgers desperately wants to win a second Super Bowl. Brady desperately wants to win a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick.

We ve got to go beat a great football team. Aarons playing incredible. Were going to have to play great to beat them,” Brady told Foxs Erin Andrews after the game.

The early forecast for Sunday is a high of 23 with a chance of snow.

While they never would have admitted it, the Packers probably would have preferred a matchup against Brees and the Saints. Never mind that Green Bay won at New Orleans 37-30 in Week 3 but lost at Tampa Bay 38-10 in Week 6. Brees, who has spent all 20 seasons playing in the warmth of San Diego or the dome in New Orleans, played in only one game with a kickoff temperature of 25 or colder. Brady, meanwhile, is a resounding 15-3.

Almost exactly three months ago, the Packers were outclassed by the Bucs. Coming off its bye, Green Bay raced to a 10-0 lead but Rodgers threw a pick-six and an interception on back-to-back possessions. The Packers never crossed midfield over the final three quarters. They had nine first downs on their first two possessions and four in their final 10.

Might need to add an extra finger to the scotch, but I do feel good about the team,” Rodgers said after a miserable afternoon. Ive played for so long, youre going to have a couple stinkers. I think about the game at New York many years ago [2012] where I hit Jordy (Nelson) on an out-and-up to start the game, and we lost 38-10. Tonight kind of felt like that, unfortunately, where you kind of got off to a nice start and then just nothing. So, I feel really good about our squad. Weve had four really, really good weeks, being efficient, winning, offensively being very explosive, defensively coming up with timely stops.

This is, I believe, an anomaly, not the beginning of a trend. And weve got a chance to prove me right next week.”

Rodgers was proven right again and again. The Packers will enter Sundays championship game with seven consecutive wins.

In a heavyweight showdown on Saturday, Green Bays top-ranked scoring offense overwhelmed the Rams top-ranked scoring defense. It will be a similar challenge on Sunday.

Brees was 19-of-34 passing for just 134 yards. Premier receiver Michael Thomas was shut out on four targets.

Rodgers, of course, is a far better player than Brees at this point in his career. Hes the likely MVP after throwing 48 touchdown passes in the regular season and two more in the playoffs. He led the NFL in passer rating, touchdown passes, completion percentage, touchdown percentage and interception percentage.

Tampa Bays defense is legit. The Bucs finished eighth in points allowed and first against the run with 80.6 yards per game and 3.60 yards per carry. Linebacker Devin White, who had 11 tackles and one interception against the Saints, had 10 tackles, one sack and three tackles for losses against Green Bay. The Bucs had five sacks in the first meeting.

While the reality is it will be Rodgers facing that dominant defense and Green Bays defense contending with the legendary Brady and his deep list of weapons, the hype will be centered on Rodgers vs. Brady – arguably the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

When it comes to big picture and you guys writing your stories and telling that whole story, which I know is a part of it, its two older guys,” Rodgers said before the Week 6 game. Hes a little bit older than I am – hes got me by about six-and-a-half or seven years – but we havent played a lot because hes been in the AFC the majority of his career and Ive been over here.

Hes obviously done it at the highest of levels for so long. Hes been an icon at the position. Hes been somebody that weve all looked up to for so many years as the standard of excellence. I think theres a ton of admiration and respect for the way that hes played the game from so many of us, especially us guys whove been in the same era for so many years with him and gotten to compete with him every now and then being an NFC guy. I think its good that we just enjoy it for what it is, have respect and admiration for the way that we have played over this time, and enjoy where were at in our careers now.”

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mnbadger's picture

January 22, 2021 at 10:57 am

Great summary Maggie, thank you. And you don't have to apologize for your sentimentality, ever. It makes us human. All of us cheeseheads have at least as much, though we don't have your platform to share it. Pack 23-19. GPG

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Leatherhead's picture

January 22, 2021 at 11:06 am

Maggie, Regarding point six,I think that you have to enjoy the trip and not focus on the destination. However this season ends, I’ve enjoyed the ride.

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splitpea1's picture

January 22, 2021 at 11:36 am

We need to win this game, period. It's important for the fans, the organization, the players (some of whom may not be with this team next season), and Rodgers' legacy. I don't think any of the aforementioned groups are interested in another "special season" that doesn't end in a Super Bowl berth. The opportunities don't come much better than this. I expect the players to come out with a chip on their shoulder and put forth their best effort of the season through four quarters to get the job done.

While no team has played a Super Bowl in their home stadium, the Rams came pretty darn close in 1979, as the Rose Bowl is only about 10 miles away from the Coliseum. They almost pulled off the big upset until the Steelers broke away in the fourth quarter.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 22, 2021 at 02:35 pm

I did not expect the Packers to get this far. I also worried that the NFL season would be in jeopardy. Yet it has come to fruition. Yay! The journey has been great. This will be our toughest foe at the most critical time. IF we win (and I really have my doubts) then I worry less about the AFC opponents.

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Cubbygold's picture

January 22, 2021 at 03:10 pm

Couple of things:

I would love to know the Packers record in games where the heat index is above 90 or something like that. I don't think GB has historically played very well when they go on the road and play in warm weather games. If I remember correctly, the heat index was pretty high in that last Tampa game this year.

This game isn't Rodgers legacy, but it would be a big piece of it should they win. If they play this game 10 times, GB wins 5 or 6 of them, I suspect. Too bad Rodgers has so much on the line and only one chance to prove it. I hope for his sake (and packer fans everywhere) that they make a statement in a big win.

Tampa has big names, and a lot of hype, and they beat the crap out of GB last time. But if they play anything like they did last week, they're toast. This packers team is ready for a fight.

Win it for Ted.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 23, 2021 at 08:54 pm

Didn’t help wearing our dark “ home” jerseys in Fla.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 22, 2021 at 07:14 pm

#WinIt4Teddy

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ErneErne's picture

January 24, 2021 at 06:35 pm

Rodgers had receivers covers mostly and not free to run. Called a good pass coverage team.
Brady knew by the tapes, that Sullivan and King couldn't cover thier ears in a dynamite attack. He made fools of the packer pass d and they knew the could. No respect, easy peasy, nothing changed from the previous game.

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