GREEN BAY – The Packers are 5-6 and in must-win mode from here on out.
Here’s a rundown of what to watch for on Sunday vs. Tampa Bay.
The Packers have lost three straight home games for the first time since Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s first three home games in 2006. Green Bay needs to defend its hallowed Lambeau Field again. Even back in 2013, the first time QB Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, the worst stretch at home was going 0-2-1, avoiding three straight losses with a comeback to tie Minnesota, and then winning the next home game vs. Atlanta. The last time the Packers lost four straight home games? 1991. 1. Defend home field:
2. QB showdown: While the Buccaneers will be getting Jameis Winston back after missing three weeks from a shoulder injury, the Packers will look for Brett Hundley to build on his best performance as a pro. When Hundley was coming off a good game at Chicago, the next week did not go well, but then he bounced back from the Baltimore shutout with a strong outing at Pittsburgh. Hundley needs to get in a rhythm early and often against Tampa Bay’s 32nd-ranked pass defense.
The Buccaneers have three pass catchers 6-5 or bigger in Mike Evans plus tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, and they’re complemented by speedster DeSean Jackson. This group would be a tough matchup at full strength, but the Packers are without rookie CB Kevin King (shoulder), and CB Damarious Randall (knee) was on the injury report briefly this week before being removed. 3. Tough matchups:
4. Rush the passer: The Packers didn’t blitz the Steelers much last week, preferring to focus on coverage, and as a result they couldn’t hurry Ben Roethlisberger. They also only sacked him once, and that was a coverage sack. Winston isn’t an easy QB to corral with his escapability and athleticism, but the Packers need to find a way to hurry him, and if they can get Clay Matthews (groin, questionable) back this week, that would help.
5. Look for assistance: Green Bay’s playoff hopes essentially hinge on winning the last five games, but the Packers will need some help, too. In that vein, losses by Atlanta (vs. Minnesota), Carolina (vs. New Orleans) and Seattle (vs. Philadelphia) would be a good start toward the Packers getting the assistance they need.