The NFC Championship Game is the first game of the weekend between the fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the top-seed Green Bay Packers. Kickoff is at 3:05 P.M. Eastern on FOX.
The Packers are currently 3.5-point favorites, with the over/under set at 51.5 points. Let’s take a look at three keys to determining who will advance to the Super Bowl from the NFC.
NFC Championship Game: Green Bay’s Pass Rush
Tom Brady is one of, if not the best, playoff quarterback of all time. The one constant to his Super Bowl defeats has been a disruptive defensive line getting him off his rhythm. The two Giants Super Bowl wins used this recipe, and you’ll remember Brandon Graham stripping Brady in Super Bowl LII to win the game for Philadelphia.
Green Bay’s pass rush, led by Za’Darius Smith (13.5 sacks), has the advantage against a middling Tampa Bay pass-blocking unit (15th in the NFL, according to PFF).
If Smith and the Packers' other edge rushers, Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, can get to Brady, the entire gameflow will change for the Buccaneers.
NFC Championship Game: Tampa Bay’s Rushing Attack
The most significant offensive advantage in this game belongs to Tampa Bay’s running game. A fine rushing team this year, the Bucs are one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL (fifth-highest pass/run ratio).
Green Bay’s run defense is their biggest weakness. With a strong secondary anchored by Jaire Alexander and Adrian Amos, Tampa may turn to Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones to carry the load, move the ball, and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense off the field.
The Buccaneers have been running well this postseason, with 142 yards against Washington and 127 yards against New Orleans. What makes those yardage outputs more impressive is that Washington and the Saints are two of the strongest run defenses in the league. If Fournette can continue his playoff success and Jones can stay healthy and effective, this is the advantage to keep an eye on.
NFC Championship Game: Davante Adams
When the Packers have the ball, they’re going to throw to Davante Adams. Adams had 149 targets this season, with the next closest player Marques Valdez-Scantling, with 63.
Last week, Adams turned ten targets into nine catches for 66 yards and a touchdown against one of the top corners in the league, Jalen Ramsey. While Rodgers is the likely MVP, Adams is a massive reason why.
The Bucs have a strong pass defense but lack a true shutdown corner. Carlton Davis will likely be tasked with slowing down Adams, and while he shut down a hobbled Michael Thomas last week, Adams is in a class of his own.
Remember the Week 12 game when Tyreek Hill caught 13 balls for 269 yards against Davis and the Bucs? So do the Packers. Adams is poised for a big game and may very well be the reason the Packers win this game.