It’s time for the Packers to panic and the Bucs to worry –

Through the first six games of the season, it feels like we’ve learned a few major things:

And, Father Time might finally be getting his get back on Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers were both thought of as the primary contenders in the NFC. Caesars had the Bucs and Packers at the fourth and eighth-best odds in the preseason, according to Action Network.

Six games later, they’re both .500 and the sky is falling. TikTok witches are predicting Brady’s downfall and Rodgers might not have enough ayahuasca to get through the season in one piece. Brady looks more gaunt than gallant, and Rodgers is rocking a haircut that can only be described as ‘eccentric’:

Everyone surprised that Aaron Rodgers was heavily cheered. When you have a haircut like this, obviously the blokes across the pond are gonna love him

— Will Tondo (@wtondo)

From ‘Con Air’ to Condor in a third of the season, a shame really.

However, it’s important we take a step back from the micro and look at the macro when it comes to these two teams. What’s gone wrong for them this season, and is there any way to fix it?

Let Brady Cook?

Before the season, the general consensus for the Buccaneers was “if they stay healthy, the Bucs will be the team to beat” in the NFC.

For the most part, that’s been correct. The Bucs offense is still really good when healthy—they’re just never healthy. The turnover on the offensive line through departures and injuries has left the Buccaneers with three new starters, all on the interior. While Shaq Mason has continued his high level of play, center Robert Hainsey and rookie left guard Luke Goedeke have been the clear weak links.

These issues were on clear display in their 20-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their EPA/rush was -0.148, good for 19th in the entire league. They simply couldn’t get much push in the run game, and the Steelers second level defenders were able to fill lanes with ease.

According to Football Outsiders, the Bucs run behind their guards at 57 percent of the time, tied for seventh highest frequency in the entire league. Their Adjusted Line Yards when they do run it there? 3.52 yards per attempt, 31st in the entire league. A critical part of the Bucs offense is the ability to run inside zone, duo and split zone, which calls for the running back to run at the center instead of following an outside zone path.

Which brings us to the next issue the Bucs face: they’re not good at running the ball, yet they insist on doing it a lot. The gameplan for the Buccaneers was simple to see coming into the season. Because Tom Brady is now 45 years old, they would run the ball more often on early downs to ease the load on Brady as he ages. From 2020-2021, the Buccaneers were third in the NFL in early down passing frequency, meaning they’re throwing the ball more often on first and second down. It helped the Bucs become one of the best offenses in the league, an offense that was varied and dynamic.

This year, it hasn’t been the same case.

The Bucs can’t get out of their own way on early downs

Year Early Down Passing Frequency(NFL rank) EPA/Pass on Early Downs (NFL rank) EPA/Rush on Early Downs (NFL rank)
Year Early Down Passing Frequency(NFL rank) EPA/Pass on Early Downs (NFL rank) EPA/Rush on Early Downs (NFL rank)
2020 58% (6th) 0.185 (11th) -0.081 (16th)
2021 61.3% (3rd) 0.189 (5th) -0.040 (11th)
2022 53.9% (14th) 0.174 (10th) -0.178 (28th)

The Buccaneers continue to be one of the ten best teams throwing the ball on early downs, but their early down EPA/rush has plummeted to 28th, while the usage on early downs has gone up. That’s not conducive to success on that side of the ball.

Panic Meter: 4/10

Despite these problems offensively, I’m not sure if I’m super worried about the Bucs just yet. The defense won’t give up seven out of 15 third downs, all on third and long, consistently. That’s a real high variance thing that doesn’t translate week in and week out. Eventually the Bucs will be fully healthy and the young guys along the offensive line will learn.


The Packers have an identity crisis on both sides of the ball

So … uhh … the Packers stink now?

Green Bay lost to the New York Jets 26-10 in uninspiring fashion on Sunday. Green Bay only managed four yards per play and a -0.275 EPA/play, which would’ve been the worst in the NFL if the Panthers didn’t exist.

The defense didn’t fare much better, giving up a 0.211 EPA/rush to the Jets despite QB Zach Wilson not playing very well (99 passing yards).

Let’s start with the Packers offense. Through six games, to call it underwhelming would be an understatement. The Packers are 23rd in EPA/play and 24th in points per game. It feels like the Packers offense is just, well, hard.

It feels difficult for them to generate explosive plays that aren’t coming from RPOs or designed looks out of their 2 back personnel. In a way, they kind of remind me of the 2021 Miami Dolphins, in terms of being able to generate offense using RPOs but struggling in the dropback aspects. Through six games this season the Packers only have 13 completions of over 15 air yards according to Sports Info Solutions, and on those targets, only 51 percent of those are catchable. Losing Davante Adams was always going to hurt this team, but the failure in being able to find that easy button for the offense has been part of what’s plagued them this season.

Part of this easy button not being around anymore is from not having a receiver who can separate downfield or consistently win. Randall Cobb leads the Packers in Yards per Route Run, and he was carted off the field Sunday with an ankle injury.

Allen Lazard is the next guy up in Yards per Route Run, and he leads the team in average depth of target at 10.8 yards. The problem with this is according to Next Gen Stats, Lazard only averages 2.3 yards of separation from his defender, among the lowest in the league. That results in a 0.23 EPA/target on routes 15 air yards or more downfield, which leads the Packers among receivers with ten or more targets, but it’s 19th in the NFL in the same metric.

Despite this, Rodgers also has to shoulder some blame here. He’s attempted 39 passes of over 15 air yards this season, and is only generating a 1.93 EPA, which is worse than Jimmy Garoppolo and Baker Mayfield. Every once in a while he’ll connect (he had two against the Jets Sunday), it’s been a struggle just to move the chains. They only have a -0.25 EPA/play on third downs this year, compared to 0.16 EPA/play last year.

Panic Meter: 11/10

This is 2319 levels of panic now for the Packers. The entire gameplan for this team was supposed to be for the defense to carry them through games, yet the defense hasn’t been able to do that at all. Every game, someone is out of position, missing tackles or something absolutely haywire is happening.

The defense has way too much talent to be making these mistakes; SEVEN of the Packers starters on defense are first round draft picks and a lot of money went into that side of the ball. They can’t continue to play this poor and expect different results. The Packers should be worried, because Aaron Rodgers might not be enough to save this team.

This content was originally published here.

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