NFC North: Green Bay Packers

CHICAGO -- The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers will play Sunday for the NFC North title and a likely bye in the NFC playoffs.

The teams just won't be doing it on "Sunday Night Football."

Kickoff time for the Lions-Packers game was moved to 4:25 p.m. next Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Both teams are 11-4. If Green Bay wins, the Packers win the division. The Packers have won the NFC North the last three seasons.

If Detroit wins or the game ends in a tie, the Lions would win their first division title since 1993.

In their one matchup this season, Detroit beat Green Bay 19-7 at Ford Field in Detroit. However, the Lions haven't won in the state of Wisconsin since 1991.

The game will be televised on Fox.
videoTAMPA, Fla. -- If Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson allowed himself a minute or two to daydream back in March after he signed pass-rusher Julius Peppers, he surely envisioned the kind of thing he saw play out for real on Sunday.

From one side of the defensive formation, Peppers registered two sacks.

From the other, Clay Matthews got 2.5.

It was part of a season-high, seven-sack performance by the Packers in Sunday's 20-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have not had more sacks in a game since Week 17 of the 2004 season, when they recorded nine against the Chicago Bears.

To cornerback Tramon Williams, it felt like even more.

"I thought they had about 15, actually," Williams said. "That's the type of pressure that I felt they were getting. That's a good sign when feel that defensively. It was big and it was fun."

It was a performance ranks among the most complete in Dom Capers' tenure as defensive coordinator, which dates to 2009, unless you're willing to discount it because it came against a Buccaneers offense that has not totaled more than 263 yards since Nov. 23.

Either way, the Packers held the Bucs to just 109 yards of total offense, the fewest a Green Bay defense has yielded since Dec. 21, 2006, when the Vikings managed just 104. The Packers haven't allowed in a defensive touchdown in eight-plus quarters, dating to the Dec. 8 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

For Matthews, who ran his season sack total to 10, he reached double digits in sacks for fourth time in his six NFL season.

For Peppers, who now has seven sacks, it ended a five-game sackless streak that made some wonder whether the 34-year-old had run out of gas.

"It's more than just me and Clay," Peppers said. "We have other guys who are capable pass rushers. As long as we have everybody ready to go healthy and performing well, I think we could be taking this thing far."

Six different players shared in the sack party. In addition to Matthews and Peppers, Mike Neal had one, while Morgan Burnett, Mike Daniels and Datone Jones each shared in a sack. Outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott also had a pressure that led to Jones' fourth-quarter interception.

The Bucs went three-and-out on their first five drives and at that point, the Packers held a yardage advantage of 185 to zero.

Burnett, fresh off being named one of the defensive captains last week, played most of the game near the line of scrimmage and was a run-stopping machine. He was credited with a team-high 10 tackles, including nine solo stops. The Bucs managed just 16 yards rushing on 14 attempts.

"Really, it started and ended with defense today, just the constant pressure, the seven sacks," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Really, they controlled the game for us today."
videoTAMPA, Fla. -- Receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson each totaled more than 100 yards. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 318. And running back Eddie Lacy came up a single yard short of 100.

Yet why does it seem like the Green Bay Packers are limping to the finish after a second straight run-of-the-mill performance on offense?

This wasn't the seven-drop debacle from Buffalo a week earlier -- although rookie receiver Davante Adams likely will be charged with two more this week -- but the Packers were in full grind-it-out mode in the Sunday afternoon heat of South Florida until Rodgers threw his first (and only) touchdown pass in the past seven-plus quarters when he hit Nelson for a 1-yarder with 2:45 remaining in Sunday's 20-3 victory against the punchless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We've won six of seven games," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Sunday's game. "I'd have to classify that as playing a lot of good football, that's for sure. We'll clean this game up tomorrow. We'll be on it. We'll also start on Detroit tomorrow. I like where we're at, and I really like this football team."

That should come with the caveat of Rodgers' health. The way he limped around Raymond James Stadium after he popped his left calf muscle in the first quarter was limiting but not debilitating. As primarily a pocket passer, he managed to complete 31 of 40 passes without an interception and recorded a 108.1 rating. But where were the big plays? His longest completions were a 30-yarder to Cobb and a 28-yarder to Nelson.

The Packers know defenses coached by Lovie Smith can do that. The first-year Bucs coach and his Cover-2 scheme often kept the Packers in check during his days with the Chicago Bears. It requires a dink-and-dunk mentality that Rodgers accepted. But not since the first half of the Dec. 8 "Monday Night Football" game against the Atlanta Falcons have the Packers looked explosive on offense.

"We hit a little bit of a slump today, as you could tell," center Corey Linsley said. "We've put 50 points on teams this year and didn't necessarily do it today. I think that we're in a little slump. I think this speed bump is going to propel us right to where we want to be. I think we're right where we want to be."

Of course, Linsley, a rookie, admitted he's not necessarily experienced in such matters.

"Obviously, I've been here for 15 games," he said. "That' it."

The Packers (11-4) can't afford to limp through next Sunday's NFC North title game against the Detroit Lions, a team that already showed it could stop Rodgers and the offense once this season in their 19-7 Week 3 win at Ford Field. But Rodgers and McCarthy have taken this path time and again. The win Sunday clinched their sixth straight playoff appearance, and McCarthy-led teams have now made the postseason in seven of the last nine years. They won an elimination game last year in Week 17, when they beat the Chicago Bears to grab the NFC North.

"We've been here before; we know what this looks like," McCarthy said.

And neither he nor Rodgers seemed concerned that the offense has slowed down from its torrid midseason pace. If anything, it may have been a product of how McCarthy changed his play-calling after Rodgers' injury.

"I was probably more affected by it than anybody with some of the play calls," McCarthy said. "Really, really a gritty performance by Aaron."

Rodgers likes what he has in his running game, which gave the Packers their longest play of the game -- a 44-yard touchdown run by Lacy in the first quarter on a play that Rodgers adjusted at the line of scrimmage.

"I think we have good balance," Rodgers said. "We've been working on that the last six or eight weeks, making sure we get Eddie a number of touches in the game and also finding ways to get Randall involved."

Cobb caught 14 passes for his 131 yards, while Nelson added nine to get to 113.

Lacy carried 17 times before cramps ended his day early in the fourth quarter.

And Rodgers didn't come out until Matt Flynn replaced him to take a knee on the final three snaps.

"We found a way to win," Cobb said. "At the end of the day, that's all that matters. Our defense played well. They got a bunch of sacks and got us the ball back. We were able to move the ball well, we just didn't get into the end zone like we should. We understand that moving forward we have to continue to find a way to put the points up and put our defense in a better situation and give them a little bit more cushion.

"But we won. We're in the playoffs, and that's the most important thing right now."
TAMPA, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 20-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

Lang
Looking forward to the Lions: It didn't take long for the Packers to start talking about next Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. It's the second straight year the Packers are in a Week 17 game for the NFC North title. Last year, it was a winner-take-all game that they won in Chicago. This year, both the Packers and Lions already have clinched playoff spots. A Packers victory would give them no worse than the No. 2 seed in the NFC, a first-round playoff bye and a home game in the divisional round. The loser will play a wild-card game on the road. "That's definitely going to be a playoff game," Packers guard T.J. Lang said. "You've got a home game on the line, who doesn't want to play at home, especially the way we're playing at home? And I know they would love to have a playoff game at their field, too. So it's going to be a big game."

Captains speak up: Several players credited a players-only meeting on Saturday night at the team hotel as a spark for Sunday's victory. It came just days after the Packers elected playoff captains. Apparently most, if not all of, those captains spoke in the meeting. "We sat down and had a heart-to-heart; guys were fired up and ready," said safety Morgan Burnett, one of the defensive captains. "We treat these next two games like the playoffs. For us, the playoffs have already started. We have to bring that intensity every day." Said rookie center Corey Linsley of the meeting: "It was awesome. We get a chance to hear Aaron [Rodgers], and Jordy [Nelson] is kind of quiet, but we hear Aaron. Aaron is obviously the leader of the offense. We hear Jordy every once in a while. He's a quiet guy, but to hear the guys on the defense who you normally don't hear, you just get a little bit of that motivation there, a little bit into their psyche. It was awesome. Anytime I get a chance to hear Julius Peppers, Morgan Burnett or [Jarrett Bush] to speak, my ears are definitely listening."

Hail to the defense: There was praise all around for the Packers' defense, which recorded a season-high seven sacks and held the Bucs to just 109 total net yards. "Defense was unbelievable," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It started up front with stopping the run, making them one-dimensional, the sacks, the constant pressure. Probably one of our best defensive performances."

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
3:47
PM ET
video TAMPA, Fla. – A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' 20-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: The Packers (11-4) are playoff-bound, but they still have work to do on their seeding. They could take care of that next Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Both teams have clinched playoff spots, but the winner of that finale will win the NFC North. A victory over the Lions would give the Packers at least the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round playoff bye. It will be the Packers' sixth straight playoff appearance. If they win the division, it would be their fourth straight title.

Stock watch: Rising -- The Packers' pass rush showed up against the Bucs. They recorded seven sacks -- including 2.5 by Clay Matthews and two by Julius Peppers. Falling -- Aaron Rodgers has not exactly made a late-season push to wrap up the MVP award. After playing perhaps the worst game of his career in last week's loss at Buffalo, Rodgers appeared to be limited both because of an illness and after he had an issue with his lower left leg in the first quarter. Rodgers rarely moved out of the pocket and was limited mostly to short, quick throws. Rodgers didn't throw a touchdown pass until late in the fourth quarter, when he finally connected with Jordy Nelson. His numbers were good (31-of-40 for 318 yards with one touchdown and one fumble), but the offense was far from explosive.

One thousand times two: Eddie Lacy needed 60 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the second straight season. He got that -- and more -- in the first quarter thanks to a 44-yard touchdown run on a toss play. Lacy became the first Packers running back to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons since John Brockington in 1971 and 1972. Lacy missed most of the fourth quarter because of cramps and finished with 99 yards on 17 carries.

Goal-line gamble: Mike McCarthy apparently doesn't subscribe to the theory that you take the points on the road. After the Packers failed with runs on second-and-goal and third-and-goal from the 1, he went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in a 10-3 game, and Rodgers couldn't connect with Randall Cobb.

Game ball: This one goes to the Packers' fans that filled Raymond James Stadium. There was nearly as much green and gold in the crowd, and when the Packers put fullback John Kuhn into the game on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, it sounded like they were at Lambeau Field with the chants of "Kuuuuuuhn." A message on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter said "Get Loud," and chants of "Go Pack go" rang out.

What's next: The Packers will find out Sunday night or Monday morning what the time the game against the Lions on Dec. 28 will be played. It's currently scheduled for 1 p.m. ET, but could be flexed to 4:25 ET or into the Sunday night time slot.
TAMPA, Fla. -- For the 14th time in 15 games this season, the Green Bay Packers will have their preferred starting offensive line intact to begin a game.

That was assured when right tackle Bryan Bulaga was cleared to return from the concussion he sustained last Sunday at the Buffalo Bills. Bulaga, who was upgraded from questionable to probable on Saturday, will start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bulaga is the only starter on the offensive line to miss a game this season. The Packers played without him in Week 2 against the New York Jets because of the knee injury he sustained in the season opener. Since he returned in Week 3 against the Detroit Lions, the Packers have started the same five offensive linemen in every game.

"This is the best offensive line we've had in my time here," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. "We felt that coming out in the spring. All the good teams, all the good offensive, defensive, special-team units and particular positions are the ones that practice together and play together each and every week are always the best ones. This is a very cohesive offensive line, both on and off the field. They get along. It's a smart bunch. They help each other."

There was only one injured player, cornerback Davon House (shoulder), among the Packers' inactives. Here's the full list:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Bryan Bulaga never said the hit that concussed him on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills was a dirty play.

He never said it wasn’t, either.

Bulaga
The Green Bay Packers right tackle, who was listed as questionable for this Sunday's game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, preferred to let the film tell the story.

What it showed was a block by Bills' linebacker Jerry Hughes that Bulaga never saw coming during a fourth-quarter interception return.

"I re-watched it a couple of times and from what I saw, it could've gone either way," Bulaga said Friday. "It's just one of those things where you either take the shot or you don't take the shot, and he did. And well, that's the way it goes. It's hard for me to comment on something, especially if the league doesn't [fine him]."

And the NFL did not.

"Well, the league has spoken then," Bulaga said.

The play was similar to one in a Packers game at Tampa Bay in 2002, when Warren Sapp drilled then-Packers tackle Chad Clifton on an interception return. Clifton missed the rest of that season because of the pelvis injury he sustained on that play.

"Normally on an interception, I'm always keeping my head on a swivel," Bulaga said. "I always do, and I felt like I took a couple of steps and looked left [before the hit]."

After the game, Packers guard T.J. Lang, who said he did not see what happened, asked reporters about the play.

"Was it dirty?" Lang asked at the time.

No penalty was called on Hughes.

"As an offensive lineman, we have chances to take those type of shots at every play, and we don't," Bulaga said. "That’s just kind of the way I look at it. As an offensive player, you get those type of angles on pretty much every play."

Bulaga has not practiced all week but appears to be in the final stages of the concussion protocol. He would not have been allowed to talk to reporters if he weren't close to being cleared.

"I think we're on a good track right now, so we'll see what comes about tomorrow and go from there," Bulaga said. "I think I still need to go through a few more steps in testing and seeing the independent neurologist check that we have to do. I think I have a couple more steps."

While Hughes was not fined, Packers linebacker Sam Barrington docked $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on Bills running back Boobie Dixon. Barrington, however, was not fined for his other personal foul, a hit on Bills running back Fred Jackson.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They're the plays you've become accustomed to seeing from Jordy Nelson this season. The 80-yarder for a touchdown against the New York Jets. The 73-yarder for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. The 66-yarder for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. The 64-yarder, even though he came up short of the end zone, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Except you have only seen them in one place: Lambeau Field.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson
AP Photo/Mike RoemerAll nine of Jordy Nelson's receptions of 30 or more yards this season have come at Lambeau Field.
It may not completely explain the difference between the Green Bay Packers at home, where they are undefeated in seven games this season, and on the road, where they need a win Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just to finish 4-4. But an inability to connect on – or even attempt – many big plays with their top receiver on the road has to be considered at least a contributing factor in the Packers' differing results by locale.

Nelson, however, had no explanation for the Packers' struggles on the road this season.

"I think if we knew the simple answer, we wouldn't have any issues," Nelson said earlier this week after the Packers lost at the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.

"But I think it's tough to go on the road and win in this league. Across the league you've seen it. There's not much difference between the top and middle of this league. Teams play better at home. We've just got to, I don't know what it is, but just amp it up I guess a little bit more, or whatever it is. We've just got to make sure we execute at a higher level."

Nelson ranks eighth in the NFL in receptions (83), fifth in receiving yards (1,320) and tied for second in touchdown catches. When he signed his four-year, $39 million contract extension in July, it looked like it could be a bargain. And it has been. He looks like a lock to make his first Pro Bowl, which will be announced next week.

He leads the league in catches of 60 yards or more with five (no one else has more than three), and he leads the league with touchdown catches of 50-plus yards with five (no one else has more than three).

And, of course, all have come at Lambeau Field.

"Anything on offense is easier at home," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You know, the crowd is not loud, you're not really dealing with cadence and crowd noise issues and things like that."

But does that fully explain the difference in Nelson's numbers (see accompanying chart) at home and on the road this season?

Receivers coach Edgar Bennett says no.

"I don't think so," Bennett said. "You factor in what we're doing, who we are and what the opponent is giving us. All of that factors into it probably more than the location."

Still, it's at the very least unusual that Nelson and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have not been able to hook up on deep balls away from home.

Nelson has more receptions on the road this season, but he has no plays over 23 yards away from home, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Nelson's 11 longest receptions this season all have come at home.

Fellow Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who has a 70-yard touchdown catch on the road this season at New Orleans, doesn't believe it's anything other than coincidence that none of Nelson's biggest plays have happened on the road.

"I don't think there’s any certain reason," Cobb said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – No offense to Eric Dickerson, but Eddie Lacy would rather not wear goggles on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Green Bay Packers running back has an irritated left eye that he said was from his contact lens. He's had to go with just one contact this week but hopes to be able to wear both for Sunday's game. He said Thursday that there's no way he's wearing goggles.

"I refuse," Lacy said before backtracking slightly. "I don't want to say I refuse because I might, because I think it will be better than wearing contacts, but that's kind of old school."

And when Lacy thinks of goggles …

"That's what I get, Eric Dickerson," he said.

Lacy needs something to help his vision. As he leaned against a table in the middle of the Packers' locker room, he closed his right eye and tried to make out quarterback Scott Tolzien's nameplate across the way.

"Let's just say I'm very blind," Lacy said. "I can't see Scott's name over there."

Lacy needs just 60 yards to top the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. He's coming off a 15-carry, 97-yard game in Sunday's loss at the Buffalo Bills, a game in which he touched the ball only five times in the second half.

When asked whether he thought coach Mike McCarthy should have stuck with the running game more, Lacy said: "That ain't none of my business, bro. I do what's called."

Here's the full injury report from Thursday:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Randall Cobb talked more about his contract situation at his locker on Thursday than he has with the Green Bay Packers, apparently.

Cobb
Three months away from hitting free agency, the fourth-year receiver said he's no closer to getting a long-term deal done with the Packers than he was back in July, when he said he had not done enough to warrant an extension -- or at least not the kind of extension he wanted.

Here he is now, just four days after he surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in a season, and little has changed for Cobb.

"There's no contract talks that have been going on right now, so I guess not," Cobb said during a lengthy session with reporters on Thursday. "I guess there's still more to do. So, just continue to put my nose down every day and focus on getting the team into the playoffs and doing everything I can to bring back the Super Bowl."

The Packers are expected to keep the Cobb-Jordy Nelson duo together, so perhaps general manager Ted Thompson is following a similar approach to the negotiations last season with cornerback Sam Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours after the negotiating window opened for free agents. Nelson, meanwhile, signed a similar contract extension in July.

Cobb admitted early in the season that the contract weighed on his mind as he got off to a slow start. Since Week 7, when Cobb caught six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers, he ranks eighth in the NFL in receiving yards and 13th in catches among all receivers. For the season, his 10 touchdowns ranks tied for eighth overall.

Yet he still thinks about his contract.

"I can't say I don't,” Cobb said.

But it doesn't bother him like it did early in the year.

"No, I'm still going to play football," he said.

Cobb has a strong support in his quarterback. On his ESPN Milwaukee radio show this week, Aaron Rodgers lobbied for Cobb's return.

"There's a lot of guys that embody what it means to be a Packer," Rodgers said on the show. "Over the years, there's been a number of guys who really just kind of bought into the Packer way of making it about the team and being a great locker room guy, being a guy you can count on every day to be a great teammate and a great practice player, and great in the community and take ownership of the responsibility to conduct yourself the right way. It's been fun to see a lot of those guys get paid and get second contracts and stick around, and Randall is one of those guys who's exactly what I was just talking about."

It's a sentiment that Cobb said he appreciated.

"You definitely hear from your teammate and friend, your quarterback," Cobb said. "It's a great feeling to hear that. He has that trust in me, and I'm just continuing to work for him and do the best I can for him."

And for himself and his contract.

"I am my biggest critic, I've always been my biggest critic [and] I'll always be my biggest critic," Cobb said. "So I still don't think I've earned what I'm trying to be. I've still got a lot of work to do. So I'm just taking it day by day and doing the best that I can to be the best that I can be for this team."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The question came up on our MVP roundtable debate, which can be found here: Will the timing of Aaron Rodgers' bad game -- one he called a "stinker" -- last Sunday in the road loss against the Buffalo Bills hurt his MVP chances?

Rodgers
Apparently not much, at least according to one oddsmaker.

The online sportsbook Bovada.LV still has Rodgers as the favorite. Two weeks ago, the same sportsbook listed Rodgers as a 1-to-2 favorite to win the MVP. This week, Rodgers was listed at 1-to-3. Tom Brady (5/1) was listed second with J.J Watt (7/1) third.

Here are the full odds for MVP this week (with the odds two weeks ago in parenthesis)
When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida TV: Fox

For five straight weeks, the Green Bay Packers looked like they might have been the best team in football.

They seemed to be in cruise control for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Then the Packers went to Buffalo, and a strange thing happened. Playing what might have been their worst game of the season, the Packers lost to the Bills.

Consider that proof that anything is possible in the NFL. Consider that proof that it’s not out of the question that the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance against the Packers on Sunday. That may seem like a long shot, but last week showed nothing is guaranteed.

ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas and ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down Sunday's game:

Yasinskas: Rob, what the heck happened to the Packers in Buffalo? I didn't see that one coming.

Demovsky: I don't think anyone did, Pat. But in hindsight, the Bills have just the kind of defense that could give -- and has given -- Aaron Rodgers and Co. trouble. They have a great front four that allows them to drop the maximum number of defenders into coverage. It's the same reason the Seahawks and Lions had been successful against the Packers. But if Rodgers and his receivers had even played an average game, that wouldn't have happened. Sometimes the stats lie, but in this case, they didn't. It was indeed one of the worst games I've ever seen Rodgers play, and I've seen all of them. He was out of sync from the get-go. He would read a play one way and his receivers would read it another. That's a bad recipe for an offense that relies on timing and reading the defense.

With that in mind, Pat, Lovie Smith's defenses gave Rodgers some trouble back in Chicago. Is there any reason to think the Buccaneers can come close to replicating what the Bills did?

Yasinskas: Probably not, especially with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy now out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. But if Tampa Bay does have a bright spot, it's the defense, which has been respectable since the bye week. The pass rush has been decent and the linebackers have played well. The secondary hasn't been great, but it has been better than it was in the first half of the season. This defense is improving steadily, but it still isn't as good as what Smith had in Chicago. The Bucs would have to play a perfect game to stop the Packers, and this defense is far from perfect. I don't think the Bucs have what it takes to pull off what Buffalo did.

Did that one bad game cost Rodgers the MVP award?

Demovsky: It shouldn't, but he probably needs to bounce back with one more of those three-plus-touchdown/no-interception games. It's human nature for the voters to remember what they've seen most recently, and of all the MVP candidates, Rodgers is probably the one whose bad game has come the latest in the season. Nevertheless, his efficiency this season has been off the charts. If 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions isn't an MVP pace, I don't know what is.

I know the Bucs have tried Josh McCown and Mike Glennon at various times this season at quarterback. Have they seen enough to know whether they can count on or rule out either one or both as their starter next season?

Yasinskas: I think the only thing that has been settled is that Glennon is not viewed as the long-term answer by the coaching staff. Although he was referred to as the quarterback of the future, he has been benched in favor of McCown twice -- once upon McCown's arrival and again when McCown returned from a thumb injury. That tells me Glennon has no future here. And McCown is no long-term answer. He's 35 and he hasn't played like the savvy veteran the Bucs expected. He has turned the ball over too much and been inconsistent. Whether it's through the draft or free agency, the Bucs need to make a move at quarterback this offseason.

I read where Packers coach Mike McCarthy was quoted as saying there would be some change on special teams this week. What's that all about?

Demovsky: When you've had six kicks blocked (two punts, two field goals and two extra points), you know you have a problem. And then the Bills returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. McCarthy said this week that "the personnel is not right." Fifteen weeks into the season, it was shocking to hear, but it's a sure sign that there will be some new players or old players in different roles on those units this week.

I'm sure plenty of Packers fans are already chalking this one up in the win column, but what's the most likely way the Bucs could pull off an upset Sunday?

Yasinskas: It's a long shot any way you look at it. But the best chance for Tampa Bay would be if the defense plays a great game. That's going to be tough without McCoy, but there still is enough individual talent on this defense to have a good outing. To win, though, the defense has to be more than good. It has to be outstanding, and it would have to produce points, because Tampa Bay's offense isn't explosive enough to stay with the Packers. Like I said, it's a long shot, but you never know what you're going to get with the Bucs.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – There were plenty of names – including some big-name players – on the Green Bay Packers injury report, but the concern level remained low about a majority of the eight players on Wednesday's list.

Even right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who remains in the concussion protocol after he dropped out of Sunday's loss at the Buffalo Bills, appears to have a good chance to play this Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Although Bulaga did not practice Wednesday, he was able to work out and attend meetings, which is a sign he has passed through the early stages of the concussion program.

"Looks great," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday of Bulaga. "Saw him in the weight room, in the meetings this morning. Making progress."

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews was added to the injury report with a biceps injury and running back Eddie Lacy, who last week had a hip injury, was listed this week with an eye issue.

"Eddie's just a situation he has going on with his eye that's not game-related," McCarthy said. "I think we'll be fine there. I don't think Clay's is of serious nature. I think we'll be OK there."

Both Lacy and Matthews finished Sunday's game against the Bills. Lacy rushed for 97 yards and Matthews had one of his best games of the season with two sacks.

Here's the full injury report:
  • T Bryan Bulaga (concussion, did not practice)
  • CB Davon House (shoulder, did not practice)
  • RB Eddie Lacy (eye, limited participant)
  • G T.J. Lang (ankle, limited participant)
  • LB Clay Matthews (biceps, limited participant)
  • OLB Mike Neal (abdomen, limited participant)
  • OLB Nick Perry (shoulder, limited participant)
  • G Josh Sitton (toe, did not practice)
Every now and then, rivals back one another, and that’s precisely what took place Tuesday when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ripped Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer for criticizing Jay Cutler as an anonymous source in an NFL Network report.

Rodgers told the NFL Network he was “baffled” by the situation, and criticized Kromer’s behavior while expressing empathy for what Cutler endured in the week leading up to Chicago’s loss to the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football."

“I would have a major problem if somebody said something like that,” Rodgers said. “I think anybody that plays the position, you can’t help but empathize with Jay for that situation. You talk all the time about being connected, being a unit, believing in each other. But if you have unnamed sources, people out there cutting you down, and then you find out it’s the person calling the plays… that would be really hard to deal with, to look at him the same way.”

[+] EnlargeCutler
Matt Marton/USA TODAY SportsBears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked seven times against New Orleans and threw three interceptions.
Kromer admitted to the team during a meeting he’d been the anonymous source in an NFL Network report in which he criticized Cutler’s game-management skills, specifically his refusal to check out of bad run plays.

During that meeting, Kromer apologized to Cutler, who said he “wasn’t angry” with the offensive coordinator.

But the entire situation resonated profoundly throughout the organization, with Bears general manager Phil Emery chiming in Monday night during the WBBM pregame show to vent his feelings.

"I’ve had to step back this week and let the emotions of those events quell down a little bit so that I was in position to listen and work through the processes and the structure we have to arrive at a conclusion that was in the best interest of the team,” Emery said. “I was very angry, to be honest with you, with what happened. Disappointed, upset, like many of our fans and like many of our players, which was obvious because that’s how the information got out, in terms of Aaron’s apology to the team.”

Rodgers told the NFL Network he “felt for Jay that he was having to deal with that.” Cutler, meanwhile, told WBBM after Monday’s game the entire situation “didn’t affect me preparing for the game” in which he threw three interceptions, was sacked seven times and produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8.

“I was surprised that the coach came out and admitted that it was him. I think, in general, unnamed sources are pretty gutless,” Rodgers said. “But then he comes out and admits it was him. I don't think he deserves any credit for that, but it was interesting that he did."

Rodgers pointed out the differences in work environments in Green Bay and Chicago, and credited coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson for creating an atmosphere in which communication rules and minimizes the prospects for such situations as what took place with the Bears from occurring.

"I would have a major problem with that, if [Green Bay offensive coordinator] Tom Clements was saying stuff like that about me -- which he never would, because Tom and I are so close, and I think we have good communication," Rodgers said. "I think there's a way of doing things when you have issues, and it's keeping it in-house.”

Cutler felt the same way, saying he learned early on in his career that it was better to operate that way.

“When I first got in the NFL [with the Denver Broncos], Mike Shanahan made a huge emphasis that things get kept in house. Throughout my nine years I’ve tried to abide by that policy and keep things in-house,” Cutler said. “Some years I’m better than other years. When [Bears coach Marc Trestman] got here, he was of the same method: Let’s try to keep things in house. And I think we’ve done a heck of a job throughout almost two years, haven’t had a lot of leaks, haven’t had a lot of things happen inside the building that have gotten out. Obviously we had something this time get out. It’s not a bad thing. It’s going to happen, and we’re not the first team it’s going to happen to and we won’t be the last team.”

QB snapshot: Aaron Rodgers

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and how he played in the Packers' 21-13 loss Sunday at the Buffalo Bills:

Rodgers
The most surprising thing about Rodgers' uncharacteristically ineffective performance against the Bills might have been his inability to connect with receivers down the field.

It wasn't for a lack of trying.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers attempted a season-high 14 passes that flew at least 15 yards downfield but completed just two of them. Before Sunday, Rodgers had the fifth best completion percentage (51.3) in the league on such passes. He was averaging 17.7 yards per attempt and had 11 touchdowns without an interception on such throws.

Against the Bills, he completed just 14.3 percent of his passes that went at least 15 yards for an average of just 2.3 yards per attempt and also had one of his two interceptions on such throws.

Before Sunday, Rodgers had faced a defense ranked in the top three in Total QBR in Week 6 or later eight times in his career, and he was near dominant, with an 80.6 QBR, 23 touchdowns and only one interception, per ESPN Stats & Information. But against the Bills, who were second in the NFL in QBR entering the game, Rodgers finished with a season-low QBR of 17.2 and two interceptions.

The task should be much easier this week, when the Packers face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team ranked 27th in opponent QBR, at 68.3.

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