Matchups that Might Impact the NFC Championship Game

As we prepare for two great games this weekend, I thought we’d take a look at a few stats and matchups that might not come to top of mind when betting on a game. First up: the NFC Championship Game.

There are endless factors in an NFL game. I’m drawn to the quality of the offensive and defensive lines, matchups between receivers and corners, and a few playoff trends.

Rankings will mainly be pulled from Pro Football Focus, and we’ll credit other sources as they arise.

Stay tuned on Twitter, @griffybets, for my AFC matchups.

NFC Championship Game: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers (-3.5)

Let’s take a look at a few of the crucial matchups that could determine the result of the NFC Championship Game.

Trench Talk

How do these team’s lines compare to each other? It’s often said the game starts in the trenches, and as an Eagles fan who watched our lone Super Bowl come off the back of an elite offensive and defensive line, I can anecdotally attest to the legitimacy of this claim.

Tampa Bay Pass Blocking

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TB Pass Blocking (15th) vs. GB Pass Rush (11th)

Advantage: Green Bay

Everyone knows Tom Brady thrives in a clean pocket and his flow is disrupted by an elite pass-rush, see: two losses to Giants and Brandon Graham strip-sack.

While this isn’t a stark difference between the units, anyone who watches Green Bay knows that right behind Jaire Alexander and the secondary, the pass rushers are a cornerstone of their defensive success.

During the regular season, the Packers racked up 41 sacks (10th in NFL), with 4 more last week. The unit is led by edge rushers Za’Darius Smith (13.5 sacks), Rashan Gary (6.5), and Preston Smith (4).

These three will be key to getting Brady off his rhythm.

Green Bay Pass Blocking

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GB Pass Blocking (2nd) vs. TB Pass Rush (8th)

Advantage: Green Bay

Another slight advantage for Green Bay here, though this Bucs defensive line was fourth in the NFL in sacks with 48. It should be noted that tackle David Bakhtiari was a huge part of this line’s success, and he is out for the year. All indications suggest Billy Turner has filled in admirably. Elsewhere, Corey Linsley is PFF’s top-ranked center.

You don’t need me to tell you that Rodgers is a different quarterback than Brady, but look, I did it anyway. The elusiveness Rodgers brings to the table only makes this more of an advantage for the Packers.

Tampa Bay Run Blocking

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TB Run Blocking (9th) & TB Rushing (11th) vs. GB Run Defense (18th)

Advantage: Tampa Bay

The weakness of this Packers defense is their run defense. Taking a step back for a second, I find this advantage for Tampa Bay to actually benefit Green Bay. The Bucs strength is their passing game, and with a strong secondary and a strong pass rush, the Packers are well-equipped to slow down this offense.

Back to this specific matchup, it certainly bodes well for ‘Playoff Lenny’ and Ronald Jones. The Bucs have shown a willingness to establish the run, with the two combining for 30 carries last week against the Saints, and Fournette taking 19 carries in the Wild Card round.

Green Bay Run Blocking

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GB Run Blocking (6th) & GB Rushing (3rd) vs. TB Run Defense (11th)

Advantage: Green Bay

I should note, while PFF has Tampa ranked 11th best as a run defense, DVOA rankings put them at best in the league. 

Take that information as you will, this Packers offense can still run the ball. Aaron Jones has averaged 5.5 yards per rush this year behind this great offensive line.

Receivers vs. Corners

The marquee matchups will come in the passing game, with stars on both sides of the ball. A quick look at how they stack up.

Tampa Bay Passing Game

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TB Receiving (7th) vs. GB Coverage (3rd)

Advantage: Green Bay

Jaire Alexander has solidified himself in the conversation of one of the best lockdown corners in the NFL. He’s the top-ranked corner on PFF and a driving force for this strong coverage grade. 

Packers safety Adrian Amos is the second-best safety in the league on PFF and another huge piece of this puzzle.

The rest of the group is a significant drop off, which offers some opportunity for the bevy of Tampa receivers.

I would assume Alexander lines up on Mike Evans for much of the game, while Amos roams. 

Green Bay Passing Game

Will Packers' Davante Adams receive some WR help?

GB Receiving (9th) vs. TB Coverage (4th)

Advantage: Tampa Bay

This receiving corps runs through Davante Adams, the top-ranked WR on PFF this year. Someone between Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, Marques Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown is going to need to step up.

No corners or safeties for Tampa Bay match the PFF grades of Alexander and Amos. Their high coverage grade is a testament to their consistency as a unit. Adams was able to haul in nine catches and a touchdown matched up on Jalen Ramsey last week, and while Carlton Davis shut down a hobbled Michael Thomas last week, Adams is the best offensive player in the NFL this year.

Bye Week vs. Wild Card

Since 2000, only four Wild Card teams have made it to the Super Bowl, though all four ended up winning.

Of the 40 Super Bowl participants in this same time span, a team played on Wild Card weekend just 23% of the time.

The odds are stacked in Green Bay’s favor to advance to the Super Bowl.

As a home favorite in the playoffs, the Packers with Aaron Rodgers are 5-2 straight up and 4-3 ATS.

Tough to give any sort of historical date of relevance for the Bucs and Tom Brady, so, we will not. You know how accomplished of a playoff quarterback Brady is.

Make sure you’re following on Twitter, @griffybets, for my AFC matchups, game previews, prop picks and more. Thanks for reading, let’s have ourselves a weekend!