Cole Beasley gives Tom Brady another target as Bucs meet Packers’ Aaron Rodgers

Three days after signing veteran receiver Cole Beasley to their practice squad, the Tampa Bay Bucs have announced they’re elevating him for tonight’s home opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Beasley, 33, was moved up with veteran guard John Molchon, who has spent the majority of the past two seasons on Tampa Bay’s practice squad. Realistically, Beasley could provide a handful of quality reps for a unit that will be without Mike Evans (one-game suspension) and Chris Godwin (hamstring), and could be missing Julio Jones (knee).

Jones will be a game-time decision, coach Todd Bowles said Friday.

“[Beasley’s] quick, catches up to speed [really] fast, he understands the system,” Bowles added. “He’s played and he’s got a lot of reps under him, so if we needed him I think he’ll be ready.”

Green Bay (1-1) at Tampa Bay (2-0)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, WOFL-35

Betting line: Buccaneers by 1½, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

Against the spread: Packers 1-1, Buccaneers 2-0.

Series record: Packers lead 33-23-1.

Last meeting: Bucs beat Packers 31-26, NFC championship game, Jan. 24, 2021, at Green Bay.

Last week: Packers beat Bears 27-10; Buccaneers defeated Saints 20-10.

Packers offense: Overall (11), rush (6), pass (20), scoring (23).

Packers defense: : Overall (10), rush (27), pass (4), scoring (7).

Bucs offense: : Overall (24), rush (13), pass (23), scoring (18).

Bucs offense: : Overall (5), rush (T9), pass (8), scoring (1).

Turnover differential: Packers minus 2; Bucs plus-4.

Packers player to watch: RB Aaron Jones. He’s coming off a huge performance in which he rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and caught 3 passes for 38 yards and another score. Jones struggled in the Packers’ two losses to Tampa Bay back in 2020. He rushed for 15 yards on 10 carries in the regular-season matchup and had a critical fumble in the NFC championship game while taking a hit that knocked him out for the rest of the day.

Bucs players to watch: QB Tom Brady. He hasn’t needed to be at his best the past two weeks in beating Dallas and New Orleans on the road, mainly because the Bucs defense has been so dominant. Through two games, he’s thrown for 402 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception after leading the NFL in completions, attempts, yards and TDs passing last season. The challenge this week is to get the Bucs offense rolling despite leading receiver Mike Evans serving a one-game suspension and the status of two other primary playmakers, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones, up in the air. Brady is 5-2 and has thrown for 15 TDs in 7 career starts against Green Bay, including playoffs.

Key matchup: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Bucs defense, which has a league-leading 10 sacks and allowed just 1 touchdown in two games. Tampa Bay forced 5 turnovers against the Saints last week and lead the league in fewest points allowed (13) and are tied for second in opponent first downs per game (15) and opponent third-down conversion rate (25%).

Key injuries: Packers OT David Bakhtiari hasn’t played yet this season and has appeared in only one game since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020. Godwin (hamstring) and Jones (knee), as well as Bucs LT Donovan Smith (elbow) didn’t play against the Saints. Their status for this week is uncertain.

Series notes: The Packers have won three of the past four regular-season matchups between the one-time NFC Central rivals.

Stats and stuff: The Packers and Bucs have the NFC’s two best regular-season records since 2020. The Packers have a 27-8 regular-season record, while the Bucs are 26-9. … This is only the fifth time that Brady and Rodgers have faced off as starting quarterbacks. Brady’s teams have won three of the four previous matchups, most notably Tampa Bay’s 31-26 NFC championship game victory at Green Bay during the Bucs’ 2020 Super Bowl-winning season. Rodgers’ lone victory over a Brady-led team was Green Bay’s 26-21 home triumph over New England in 2014. … The Packers allowed just one third-down conversion and 7 pass completions last week against the Bears. The 7 completions were the fewest they’d allowed in a game since 2005. … Rodgers threw 2 touchdown passes last week to increase his career total to 451, becoming the fifth NFL player to have at least 450. Brady leads the way with 626. … The Packers have committed only 5 penalties, the lowest total of any NFL team. … Green Bay’s Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are the Packers’ first running-back tandem to each have 20-plus carries and 100-plus yards rushing in the first two games of a season since John Brockington and MacArthur Lane in 1973. … Packers OLB Preston Smith had 2 sacks and a team-high 7 tackles against the Bears. … This game will represent a homecoming for Packers rookie WR Christian Watson, a second-round pick from North Dakota State who went to Plant High School in Tampa.

Fantasy tip: Bucs RB Leonard Fournette. He’s fifth in the NFL in rushing with 192 yards, including 127 against the Cowboys. With Evans out, Brady figures to try to utilize him in the passing game more, too. … The Packers allowed Chicago’s David Montgomery to rush for 122 yards on only 15 carries. Dalvin Cook ran for 90 against them a week earlier.

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