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In the first game on Championship Sunday, it won't just be the Green Bay Packers hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It will be Tom Brady, in his first season with the Bucs, playing in his 14th conference championship on a quest for title number seven.
He'll be going head-to-head with Aaron Rodgers, this year's MVP favorite, who is playing in his fifth NFC title game but first at Lambeau Field.
Here is a look at this highly-anticipated matchup between the Bucs and Packers, along with a free pick. The latest odds have Green Bay as 3.5-point favorites at home.
How They Got Here
The 11-5 Buccaneers carried some momentum into the NFL playoffs, winning their last four regular-season games. In the Wild Card round, Brady threw for 381 yards with touchdowns to Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin, as the Bucs held on for a 31-23 road win against the Washington Football Team.
Tampa Bay then exacted its revenge on the Saints, who beat them twice during the season, forcing four turnovers and winning the game 30-20.
As for the 13-3 Packers, they entered the postseason on a six-game win streak, earning their first No. 1 seed since the 2011 season. After a first-round bye, they were able to easily handle the Rams in the divisional round, 32-18.
Rodgers threw for nearly 300 yards with touchdowns to Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, while running back Aaron Jones had 99 yards rushing on just 14 carries, scoring as well.
If Sunday's matchup is anything like the Week 6 matchup between these teams, the Bucs will roll. Tampa Bay dominated the Packers 38-10 at home, scoring all 38 of their points unanswered after Green Bay jumped out ahead.
Ronald Jones II was magnificent, running for 113 yards with a pair of touchdowns, while Rob Gronkowski also led all Bucs receivers with 78 yards.
More impressively, it was Tampa Bay's defense that was great, holding Rodgers to 160 yards with two picks and four sacks, Jones to just 15 yards rushing, and Adams to 61 yards receiving.
Tampa Bay's biggest missing piece will come from its receiving corps, as Antonio Brown will miss the game with a knee injury. Rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. also didn't practice on Friday and is listed as questionable.
But everyone else previously listed on the report does not carry an injury designation, including Jones, Evans and Godwin.
Green Bay is in a similar position, with backup defensive lineman Kingsley Keke being the lone player ruled out. However, starting cornerback Kevin King is now dealing with a back injury that held him out of Friday's practice, officially listing him as "questionable."
The good news is that everyone else, including star linebacker Za'Darius Smith, as well as running backs Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillion, should be good to go.
Key Betting Trends
If you include the postseason, Tampa Bay is 10-8 ATS overall and 5-5 ATS on the road. The Buccaneers have won their last seven road games and have actually covered against Green Bay in four of their last six meetings. But they have won just one of their last 16 games played at Lambeau Field.
Meanwhile, Green Bay is 11-6 ATS overall and 6-3 ATS at home. The Packers have won their last six home games and their last seven games total, while also covering in five of their last seven conference matchups.
Final Thoughts and Pick
Both teams are much different than they were back in Week 6 for their first meeting. While the Bucs have improved since then and are playing good football, the Packers have become the clear favorites in the NFC.
To me, the idea of Rodgers playing in his first NFC Championship Game at home is special, and he will meet and exceed all expectations as a result. Look for Green Bay's offense to put up points against a good Tampa Bay defense that hasn't been tested all too much the last couple weeks.
Meanwhile, the Packers defense will force the 43-year old Brady to out-score the potent Green Bay offense. I like the Packers to win this game comfortably and advance to Super Bowl LV.
Pick: Packers -3.5