This showdown may end up determining homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs since the former division rivals are tied for the best record in the NFL.
The Packers had a chance to clinch the NFC North last week, but Favre was intercepted three times in a 31-21 loss at Minnesota, snapping a seven-game winning streak. Both of Green Bay’s losses this season have come in domed stadiums - the Superdome in Week Two against the New Orleans Saints and the Metrodome.
The good news for Favre and the Packers is that they get to play outdoors for their remaining six games. But the Packers prefer a colder climate than Tampa Bay, where they have lost their last four visits, three by five points or less.
In last season’s game here, linebacker Shelton Quarles scored on a 98-yard interception return and Mike Alstott had a 39-yard touchdown run to lead the Bucs to a 14-10 victory. Tampa Bay intercepted Favre three times and Keyshawn Johnson caught nine passes for 82 yards.
Tampa Bay is off to the best start in franchise history and has a one-game lead over New Orleans in the NFC South. The Buccaneers play at New Orleans next week.
But this Sunday the focus will be on Favre and the Packers. The Bucs have allowed an NFL-low 11.9 points per game and lead the league with 21 interceptions. The defense also has five touchdowns, four by linebacker Derrick Brooks, and surrendered 10 touchdowns.
The Packers and Bucs were division rivals for 25 years from 1977-2001. The enduring image of the rivalry is Bucs defensive tackle Sapp chasing Favre and the two relishing the battle. Sapp has sacked Favre eight times, tying for his most against any quarterback.
“I don’t miss playing against him (Sapp) twice a year,” Favre said. “As long as all those guys - Sapp, John Lynch and Derrick Brooks - are there, they’re going to be tough to deal with.”
The Bucs lead the NFL in consecutive games with a sack at 54. The next closest team (St. Louis) is 15 games away.
“We’ve got to keep pushing now, because we’ve put ourselves into a position to win this division,” said Sapp, who leads all defensive tackles with 7 1/2 sacks.
Sapp has always called Favre his “favorite quarterback.” But that didn’t stop him from criticizing Favre for allowing Michael Strahan to set the single-season record by falling in front of the New York Giants defensive end in the final game of the 2001 season.
“That one hurt me because Brett’s my boy,” Sapp said. “I didn’t expect the toughest quarterback in the history of the NFL to fall down like that.”
Tampa Bay’s defense forced four turnovers, including three interceptions of Rodney Peete, in last week’s 23-10 win over Carolina. The Bucs held the Panthers to 14 first downs and recorded four sacks.
Brad Johnson threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Keyshawn Johnson, who had seven receptions for 74 yards.
However, Tampa Bay was unable to establish a running game. Michael Pittman had 57 yards on 21 carries and Alstott carried just two times for eight yards.
Green Bay yielded 218 rushing yards in last week’s loss at Minnesota.
Green Bay leads the series, 28-17-1.