NFL Picks — Battle of the Bays: For Packers, It’s All Green

When young Matt LaFleur came to work for the Green Bay Packers, there was a lot of speculation about how he might mesh with Aaron Rodgers, who was much more established as a quarterback than he was a coach.

Well, there is very little question as to what the chemistry is like, at least as it is projected on the field. The Packers are flying at the moment, and they get their top receiver back as they engage with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are trying to move into genuine contention with Tom Brady as these teams meet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa at 4:25 PM ET on Sunday.


BetAnySports NFL Line: Packers -1, Total 55

Okay, the Packers are the highest-scoring team in the NFL at 38 points per game, and they are second only to the Dallas Cowboys in terms of per-game yardage. Some of this has been done without the services of wide receiver Davante Adams, which should give you an idea of how well-designed this offense is, not to mention how well Rodgers improvises. And now Adams is ready to get back into the lineup. Not a moment too soon, as Green Bay has lost Allen Lazard to injury.

But part of the Packers’ story involves balancing things as well. They’re in the top five in rushing league-wide, running the ball almost 46% of the time, so Aaron Jones is always going to be a big factor. At 5.8 yards an attempt, he helps this team secure decent position on first downs. And some of that is reflected in the third down conversions, where they are near the top of the league at 51%. This is a HUGE improvement over last season, when they were just 37.6% successful.

There is a lot of that “hard” ball faking here, and they work a lot in practice on making different plays look the same, but interestingly enough, that is not reflected in huge success in the play action game, which was a staple of what LaFleur participated in when he was with the Rams. Rodgers is averaging just seven yards an attempt in these situations; that’s a lot less than the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Rams’ Jared Goff give their teams. Brady doesn’t do it much at all; out of 196 pass attempts, only 33 of them have come out of play action.

Well, as far as running it from scrimmage is concerned, Jones and the Pack may find more resistance than usual. The Buccaneers are the NFL’s best team against the run, at least by one metric, as they are allowing just 2.7 yards an attempt. That’s not a big surprise, as they were the best last year too. So maybe they have the capability to slow down Jones.

Green Bay is going to run it anyway, just to show Tampa Bay that they can and will do it, and therefore have to defend it.

It would seem to be clear that the Bucs’ offense differs from the one Brady played with in New England. In 2019 he threw for 7.6 Intended Air Yards per attempt. This year that figure has jumped to 8.4. He’s actually throwing it with a little more accuracy; his “Bad Pass %” is down and his “On Target” rate is slightly up from last season.

The Bucs have gotten off to good starts; they lead the NFL in first quarter points with 9.6 per game. And they are allowing just 2.9; that difference is kind of phenomenal, albeit not part of a large sampling. It’s something Green Bay has to look out for.

But BetAnySports patrons should know that the Bucs have a lot to contend with nonetheless. The Packers have averaged 51 yards per drive. That’s a margin of seven over everybody else. They have averaged 3.97 points per drive, which is almost a point more than anyone else. They have not turned the ball over. They have the lowest percentage of punts on drives and three-and-outs. They are around the middle of the pack when it comes to red zone conversions, but you can’t have everything.

There’s just an incredible amount of offensive efficiency there. They’re more consistent than Brady’s offense. And you see from some of the numbers we’ve shown you that they don’t have to be dependent on play action. So even if the Bucs made the Pack more one-dimensional, it wouldn’t make all the difference.

The total is worth a look; Bruce Arians has gone “over” in 30 of his last 44 games. But the public has bet this up several points. We’d rather move with the more efficient offense. So it’s GREEN BAY for us.

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