The Green Bay Packers do not have a very stellar record at Raymond James Stadium when playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, they are just 1-7 at the stadium since the Bucs first started playing there in 1998.
The last time the Packers played at the "Ray Jay" was midway through the 2009 season. The Packers were 4-3 at the time and were facing the then-winless Bucs. The Bucs were wearing their old creamsicle jerseys and were giving rookie quarterback Josh Freeman his first-ever start.
It looked to be a pretty easy game for the Packers, but it turned out to be a struggle. Even with the Bucs playing toe-to-toe with them, the Packers had a 28-17 lead early in the fourth quarter after quarterback Aaron Rodgers scored on a 12-yard scamper.
The Packers imploded after that. The Bucs scored the last 21 points of the game, and Tampa Bay had their first victory of the season with a 38-28 win.
The game in Tampa that year wasn't the first disappointment Rodgers had playing at the "Ray Jay." In 2008—the first year Rodgers was the starting quarterback after Brett Favre had left—Rodgers led the Packers into Raymond James Stadium with a 2-1 record versus the 2-1 Bucs.
No. 12 had a rough day. He only threw for 165 yards to go along with three interceptions and two touchdown passes. In addition to that, Rodgers had to leave the game for awhile after injuring his shoulder.
The Bucs won that day 30-21.
Things didn't go much better for Favre at the "Ray Jay" either—the Mississippi gunslinger was just 1-5 there from 1998-2003. Favre was also going up against the Bucs in an era where they had reached their highest pinnacle in the NFL.
Things were different for the Packers when the Bucs played at Tampa Stadium, which was affectionately know as the "Old Sombrero."
The Packers had an 11-7-1 record at that venue, and a lot of the games played there resembled Lambeau Field South, as half (or more) of the stadium was filled with people wearing green and gold. That was in an era when the Bucs had 14 straight losing seasons, including 13 in which the team had double-digit losses.
The 2014 Bucs are in that same type of downward spiral, as the team is 2-12 so far this season and just 17-45 since the 2011 season.
The result? There have been a lot of empty seats at Raymond James Stadium over the past couple of years. But the game this upcoming Sunday is a sellout, and I expect to see a lot of green and gold inside of the stadium once again.
I expect the 10-4 Packers to win on Sunday and bounce back from their 21-13 defeat to the Bills in Buffalo last Sunday.
Rodgers normally plays lights out following a bad game, which is rare in itself. But Rodgers certainly played poorly against the Bills, as he was just 17-of-42 for 185 yards and two interceptions.
That being said, his receivers didn't give him a lot of help, as I counted seven drops among them. The key one was by Jordy Nelson on what would have been a 94-yard touchdown.
Still, Rodgers comes into the game with the highest passer rating in the NFL with a 111.2 mark. For the season, Rodgers has thrown for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns versus just five picks.
The Bucs come into the game on Sunday with the 24th-ranked passing defense in the NFL. That does not bode well when you have to play a quarterback like Rodgers—especially one who is slightly ticked off because of last week's performance.
The Buccaneers have allowed opposing quarterbacks a 99.1 passer rating to go along with 26 touchdown passes compared to 11 interceptions.
Rodgers will also be helped by the fact that the Bucs' best defensive player, Gerald McCoy, is now on injured reserve due to a knee injury. McCoy was having an outstanding season in 2014 and led the team with 8.5 sacks.
The Bucs are ranked 19th in stopping the run and have allowed opposing backs to average over 116 yards per game. Packers running back Eddie Lacy should be able to find some running room, as he comes into the game with 940 yards rushing (4.6 average) and eight touchdowns. Lacy has also been a threat in the passing game, as he has 38 receptions for 396 yards and four more scores.
On defense, the Packers should be able to exploit the issues the Bucs have had on their offensive line all season long. The Bucs are currently just 30th in the league in total offense.
The Bucs have given up 42 sacks, which is tied for sixth-most in the NFL. When the line has allowed quarterbacks Josh McCown or Mike Glennon some time to throw, they have some big weapons to utilize at wide receiver with Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, who has caught 59 passes for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Bucs have struggled running the ball all season long, as they are just 29th in the league in that category. A lot of it has to do with run blocking. Former Packer Evan Dietrich-Smith is the Bucs' center, and he has had a tough season, much like everyone else on the offensive line.
The Packers have big edges versus the Bucs on offense and defense, but their play on special teams as of late has been abysmal. The Packers cannot allow another big play on special teams to turn the game around like it did last week, when the punt coverage unit allowed a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by former Buccaneer Marcus Thigpen.
Bottom line, the Packers should have their way against the Bucs on Sunday, but nothing is a given at the "Ray Jay," as the Packers certainly know.