The Green Bay Packers beat the Buccaneers, 20-3, in Tampa Bay this past Sunday in a game that was kind of, well, ho-hum. Tampa Bay (2-13) has had an awful season, of course, but Green Bay, which many people view as a legitimate Super Bowl threat, led just 10-3 entering the fourth quarter.
So, this begs the question: do the Packers need to have home-field advantage to win the NFC?
“Aaron Rodgers (was) kind of beat up (yesterday); he was sick,” Fox Sports NFL analyst Ronde Barber said on Tiki and Tierney. “But yeah, I think they need to be at home. Not that they can’t win on the road – because they’ve done it. They’re .500 on the road this year. But it’s pretty amazing, the 20-point point differential between home and away for them. It’s hard to figure.
“But I know this,” Barber continued. “When Aaron Rodgers is playing, I don’t discount them. He is easily the best quarterback in football to me, in my opinion. Just the way he handles his offense, how he delivers the football and the rapport he has with the guys he works with, they’re impressive.”
Rodgers finished 31-of-40 for 318 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay. His top two receivers, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, combined for 20 catches for 244 yards, with Nelson scoring a 1-yard touchdown with less than three minutes to go to ice the game.
Eddie Lacy, meanwhile, finished with 17 carries for 99 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
“They need to put the ball in Eddie Lacy’s hands,” Barber said. “This team could easily be the best running football team in the NFL if they needed to be. But of course they don’t need to be. I don’t see anything that could or should stop them regardless of where they play.”
But let’s get back to Nelson for a second. He’s seventh in the league in receptions (92), fourth in receiving yards (1,433) and second in touchdowns (13). Is Nelson elite because of Rodgers, or is Nelson elite because he’s elite?
“I think he’s that level,” Barber said. “If you stand next to him, he’s 6-3 and lean. It’s not like he’s unathletic. The guy is about as talented a receiver – physically – as there is in football. People just don’t give him that credit because his quarterback is so good.”
And also because he’s white.
“You could absolutely make that assertion,” Barber said. “But I played against him. I played against him a couple times. It’s not like you get out there and say, ‘This guy is lighter-skinned, so I’m going to take him for granted.’ Because if you do, he runs right by you. He’s good. He’s just good. And he has great, great understanding of his quarterback, so obviously that enhances his physical talent because his quarterback is so good and they’re on the same page almost all the time.”
They’ll need to be on the same page this Sunday, as the Packers (11-4) host the Lions (11-4) in a game that will decide the NFC North. Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. ET.