It’s the Green Bay Packers vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3, but for many, it will be Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady – an elite quarterback battle between two future Hall of Famers.
Of course, all eyes will be on these two quarterbacks, but the outcome of the game could very well be determined by the running plays rather than the play of Rodgers and Brady.
Last week against Chicago, it looked like the Packers found their offensive identity — or at least what their identity should be — with a heavy dose of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, a balance between the run and pass, along with ball to be distributed among the Packers pass catchers.
As Rodgers said after that game, it’s not going to be the same offense from years past, with one player dominating many of the targets. It will be different, but different doesn’t have to be bad.
Aaron Jones is averaging 9.1 yards per carry through two games on 20 attempts, while leaving a trail of missed tackles along the way. AJ Dillon’s numbers aren’t that flashy, at 3.8 yards per rush on 28 attempts, but those are some hard-earned yards.
At the end of the day, all teams want the ball in the hands of their top playmaker and for Green Bay, that is Jones. This offense is at its best when it runs through him, and no matter who the opponent is, he needs plenty of opportunities.
October 18, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) hard arms Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Devin White (45) during the first quarter of an NFL game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In addition to the success the Packers have had on the ground, they currently have several unknowns at the receiver position, and not just because they are without Davante Adams.
In Wednesday’s practice, Green Bay was without Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb and Christian Watson. Additionally, this is a Bucs defense that ranks eighth in passing yards per game allowed, first in pass defense DVOA, and a team that was very aggressive in getting the quarterback back.
Now, that doesn’t mean running the ball will be easy. In fact, it won’t be against this seven-year forward in Tampa Bay. However, we’ve seen in the past – especially against the Buccaneers – how quickly things can go south for the Packers’ offense when they become one-dimensional.
Success on the ground can lead to more flexibility for Matt LaFleur, more time in the pocket for Aaron Rodgers and can create opportunities in the passing game.
Like the Packers, the Buccaneers face question marks of their own at the receiver position. Mike Evans’ suspension was upheld on Tuesday, while neither Julio Jones nor Chris Godwin practiced on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay does have Leonard Fournette, however, and they face a Packers defense that has had its problems early. This season, Fournette is averaging 4.3 yards per rush and ranks fifth in total yards. Meanwhile, Green Bay has PFF’s second-lowest tackle grade and is allowing a combined 5.6 yards per rush against Minnesota and Chicago — not to mention that with the light boxes that Joe Barry often plays with, the Packers invite teams to run the ball.
While Brady and Rodgers will lead their respective teams and still garner much of the attention, this game looks to be far from a shootout. Rather it may come down to which team can find the most success on the ground.
This story originally appeared on Packers Wire