Green Bay’s defense will have one fewer receiving threat to deal with on Sunday.
Last week in the Divisional round of the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers faced a Los Angeles Rams offense that was missing one of its most important receiving threats. Cooper Kupp had suffered a knee injury in the Rams’ Wild Card win over the Seattle Seahawks, and after taking up until game time to decide on his status, the Rams left him inactive for the game.
The Packers won 32-18, setting up an NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But on Friday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians confirmed that Tampa will not have one of its own top wide receivers. Arians announced that Antonio Brown will be out for Sunday’s game after his own knee injury in the Bucs’ win over the Saints last Sunday.
After his midseason addition to the Buccaneers’ roster, Brown took some time to get acclimated to Tampa’s offense and to carve out a role as a receiver. However, he has been an important piece in the second half of the season, particularly in the last month of the season. Brown scored five touchdowns in a four-game span from week 15 through the Wild Card round, and he averaged 60 receiving yards per game in his eight regular season appearances.
With Brown out, the Bucs will keep their passing game focused on Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, who are excellent receivers in their own rights. With Brown yet to make his team debut, the two combined for just six catches, 58 yards, and no touchdowns in the Bucs’ first meeting against the Packers in week six, as Rob Gronkowski proved to be a major factor. Gronk led the Bucs with 78 yards and a score in that game.
When the Buccaneers do go to a three-wide personnel grouping, look for Scotty Miller or rookie Tyler Johnson to be the next options up in Brown’s place.