The bye week has mercifully come and gone, and we can once again get back to looking forward to Green Bay Packers football every weekend.
There are a lot of storylines heading into this weekend’s matchup against the Buccaneers. You have just the third meeting between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers as starting quarterbacks (a series tied 1-1), Rodgers’ past struggles in Tampa, the return of Davante Adams and Kenny Clark, the Packers looking to continue their historic offensive momentum, the Bucs posing the Packers’ toughest challenge yet… there’s a lot to be interested in.
Something I haven’t seen discussed a whole lot is the performance of the Packers post-bye.
The team only has one year under Matt LaFleur to reference, so there’s not a whole lot of precedent to take into consideration here. But it is worth noting that in 2019, the Green Bay Packers came back after the bye week to travel to the west coast and face their toughest test of the season to date at that point in the 49ers.
It was a disaster. They looked completely flat and unprepared, and got steamrolled by a 49ers team that was clearly leaps and bounds ahead.
Now, there are some differences to consider for this year. The trip to Tampa is a bit shorter, the time change isn’t as difficult to manage, and the Bucs are certainly not on the same level as last year’s 49ers. But this is still the best team the Packers have played so far, with easily the best defense. They’re going to be challenged.
I don’t know whether or not LaFleur will have even mentioned the circumstances after last year’s bye to the team this year; what happened happened, and has no bearing on what will happen this year.
But I would be willing to bet a whole lot that there has been a focus this week on energy and preparedness, because the team is going to have to put together a much better effort coming out of the bye than it did in 2019 if it’s to maintain its momentum and take down a good Bucs team on the road.
This means coming out of the gates hot, protecting the football (no first drive fumbles, please?), and staying aggressive all the way down the field.
I have much more confidence in this year’s offense to come back after a break and perform to its full capacity. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say 2020’s post-bye Packers will look nothing like the 2019 edition.
Aaron Rodgers on the Pat McAfee Show is a dream
So I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of Pat McAfee.
I’m probably not the target audience, and I get that. It seems like there’s a lot of overlap with the Barstool types here, though Pat’s content is certainly a lot less problematic.
When he’s been in the booth, I’ve found him to be an annoying tryhard.
But Aaron Rodgers’s weekly spots on his show have been fantastic, and I have to admit that it’s started to warm me up to McAfee as well, at least in that setting.
It feels like every week, Rodgers is turning out gold during his appearances. This week it was a not-so-subtle dig at the quality of ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcasts. Last week it was ripping sports media for taking him out of context, and the all-time classic line, “Down years for me a lot of times are career years for other quarterbacks.” We’ve heard him ruminate on his current outlook on football and life in general.
It’s so refreshing to see Rodgers (mostly) unfiltered, and feeling confident and comfortable enough with himself that he can have fun with a gig like this. It’s just another step in what’s been a fascinating progression of him as a man in his time in Green Bay.
Obviously, we’re all going to miss watching Rodgers play football when his time in Green Bay is over. But I’m also really going to miss his thoughtfulness and personality. So I’m definitely cherishing these weekly interviews while I can.
One guy to watch this week
I’m going to be excited to watch Davante Adams and Kenny Clark retake the field, but what I’m really looking forward to is seeing how the Packers use Robert Tonyan and build on his success from week four against the Falcons.
Entering week five, Tonyan led the league in receiving touchdowns with 5 (he has since been surpassed with 6 by two players who have had an extra game). The emergence of Tonyan over the last couple games could prove crucial to the Packers, who have needed a versatile threat at the tight end position for years now.
Tonyan has been used on crossing routes, in the flat, split out wide and on deep routes, and he’s proven effective all over the field. That’s not even mentioning his blocking acumen.
How will the Bucs deal with Tonyan, especially with the return of Adams? I’m excited to see what Matt LaFleur does with him this week, and if he’s able to maintain the strong level of production he’s been building.
Two Minutes’ Hate: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With the Packers coming out of the bye, it’s time to bring back your weekly dose of concentrated football rage!
This week’s opponent is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers have played a spate of professional losers so far this season, but nobody has perfected the artform of losing quite like Tampa Bay. In the entire history of the NFL, the Buccaneers have the league’s worst winning percentage (.387), and it’s not even close (next is Arizona with .425).
This is a team that took the better part of two complete seasons before it finally won a single game, one that’s only been an actual contender for about four total years of its 45-season NFL existence.
To no one’s surprise, the Bucs have been hot garbage for the better part of the last decade and a half. To rectify this problem, they decided to make a BIG SPLASH this offseason by signing a 43 year old quarterback with a shot arm and a wackadoodle diet and health regimen.
That’s right, Tom Brady is a Buccaneer! It wasn’t enough for Tom and the Bucs to readily embrace stereotype by bringing the league’s oldest player from New England to Florida (God’s waiting room). Brady immediately proved himself a true Florida Man by completely disregarding league and public health protocols surrounding COVID-19 and working out with teammates.
Look, it’s fully in character for Brady to shrug off science as something that doesn’t apply to him. The dude has built an entire wellness brand on snake oil and pseudoscience. But this is crossing the line; we’re in the midst of a pandemic. I know, Tom, you’re coming from New England, so you’ve grown accustomed to a belief that rules only exist to inconvenience you and that you are entitled to shirking them as you please, but you have other people to think about. When you go home and make out with your son, do you really want to risk transmitting the virus?
Somehow the arrival of Brady immediately turned the Bucs into a championship contender in the eyes of national pundits. If the sight of Brady withering away against the Titans hadn’t convinced people that this man was well and truly done as a high-caliber starter in this league, perhaps the sight of him trying to shotput footballs toward the sideline on deep out routes in a Bucs uniform will do the trick?
As for the rest of the team… who honestly cares? For the last five years or so, the only thing the average fan could have told you about the Bucs was that their quarterback was that crab leg guy, and that Mike Evans is supposedly a really good receiver but nobody’s ever actually seen enough to confirm because nobody has ever had any interest in watching this team play.
The crazy thing is this is actually a team that could have made the playoffs last year and could do so this year, and there are plenty of talented players on both sides of the ball, but the only ones they’re marketing are Brady and the shambling corpse of Rob Gronkowski. If I wanted to see physically spent old people dressed like pirates and ignoring COVID protocols I’d have gone to this year’s Sturgis rally.
The Bucs are being pushed as this big obstacle for the Packers, because Tom Brady I guess, but if the first month of the season has taught us anything, it’s the Packers who are the obstacle for every other team in the NFC.
Packers by two scores.