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Cheese Curds, 12/15: Packers need to sort out running backs ahead of Bucs clash

When one comes back, another goes out?

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NFL: AUG 26 Preseason - Seahawks at Packers Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s no question that Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon has gotten more effective as the 2023 season has gone on. It is a trend he has displayed throughout his career, and it is continuing on this season. But the Packers have barely had any opportunity to get both an improved Dillon and a healthy Aaron Jones on the field at the same time this season, thanks in large part to Jones’ injuries.

This weekend looked like it might be the time, with Jones apparently aiming for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as his return. But an untimely — and unlucky — injury to Dillon has put his status in doubt due to injury for the first time as an NFL player, right when the Packers were looking forward to having their dynamic duo back together again.

It’s a frustrating situation, but one that the Packers must simply find a way to deal with. But it comes at an unfortunate time, with Green Bay needing a win over one of the other teams right in the thick of the jumbled NFC playoff picture to get back to .500 and stake their claim to a playoff spot.

Let’s run down the news about the running backs as it stands and how that might impact Green Bay’s performance in one key area against the Bucs.

Packers' AJ Dillon has broken thumb from Giants game - ESPN
Now in his fourth NFL season, Dillon has never missed a game with an injury in his career (he did miss one due to a positive COVID test). Sunday may well be the first, as it's surely difficult to hold on to a football with a broken thumb.

Packers running back room in flux ahead of pivotal matchup with Buccaneers - The Athletic ($)
There is some potentially good news, however -- Aaron Jones feels like he will be ready to return from a sprained MCL this weekend after practicing most of the last two weeks.

Packers must find answers for Bucs’ stingy red zone defense | Packers Wire
The Packers would surely feel better about their offense with at least one of the two backs available, and it would help them find a way into the end zone when they get close. Touchdowns will be at a premium against a Bucs defense that ranks fourth in red zone touchdown rate.

‘Keep calm and move on’ mindset serving Jordan Love well |
Meanwhile, one of Love's biggest tests of the season will be seeing how he responds after the adversity of last week's rough game. He pulled some good things together in the fourth quarter, however, and luckily it appears he'll have a couple of his favorite rookie receivers still available.

Models Update Packers’ Playoff Prospects - Sports Illustrated
All of the models show the Packers with roughly a 50/50 chance of making the playoffs, with Sunday's game looming large for their chances. A loss would drop them to more like 25%, but a win bumps them up into the 60s.

Kentucky family doesn't notice baby owl nesting in their Christmas tree for 4 days | WKRC
Cutest unexpected Christmas surprise ever!