The 2023 playoffs started early for the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the outcome of today’s Week 15 matchup had massive playoff implications for both teams. The Packers ultimately fell short of their goal, dropping out of the final Wild Card spot after today’s 34-20 loss. Earlier this week, I predicted this game might be a doozy on the ground for the Packers’ defense. I was wrong. It was a doozy, through the air. Let’s dive into this week’s winners and losers.
Winner: Tucker Kraft
The Packers’ rookie TE continued to shine today, and was the absolute star of the first half. He blocked his behind off during the team’s first drive, and though the Packers couldn’t get the job done, he did everything he was supposed to do. When the Packers got the ball back after a Bucs turnover, Kraft scored almost immediately, making a dive into the endzone. A TE getting YAC! Imagine! The YAC-attack continued after this score, with Kraft giving the team a huge gain of 36 yards on the Packers’ next drive. Kraft is turning into everything we wanted at the TE position, and it’ll be exciting to see him paired with a healthy Luke Musgrave for seasons to come. Kraft finished the day catching 4 of 6 targets for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Loser: Joe Barry and the Entire Defense
The first half of this game was about as bad it gets for Joe Barry and the Packers defense. From the Bucs’ first drive, it was just a disaster. DBs were playing 7-8 yards off on third-down, and of course the Buccaneers capitalized. After the Packers scored thanks to a strip sack by JJ Enagbare, the Bucs got the ball back and promptly took the lead. Through three drives, Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield had zero incompletions. By halftime, he was 12/14 for 187 passing yards, and WR Chris Godwin had 108 receiving yards. The Bucs probably could’ve beaten the Packers on the ground, but they knew they could beat them through the air, so they did. During the Buccaneers’ final drive before the half, they just kept going down the field. Despite offensive penalties, despite a big sack by Lukas Van Ness, the Packers defense just let them keep going, and the Bucs took the lead to close out the first half.
After halftime, Tampa Bay picked up right where they left off, and marched right down the field, ending the drive with a TD catch from RB Rachaad White. The Bucs’ second drive of the second half? Exactly the same thing. Despite a huge sack by Kenny Clark the play before, the Packers gave up a first down on 2nd and 18, because of course, De’Vondre Campbell was matched up with Chris Godwin. We ended this drive by giving up a TD to some guy named Ko Kieft. I’m...tired of giving up scores to guys who have AI-generated names. The Buccaneers’ next drive ended with a 52-yard TD catch by WR David Moore, which was his first score since 2020. That’s right. The Packers couldn’t make a tackle to save their life, and they let a guy score his first touchdown in three years. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into today’s game averaging 304.4 yards per game on offense. Baker Mayfield alone put up 381 yards. In total, the Packers defense allowed a less-than-stellar Tampa Bay offense to put up 480 yards, and 34 points.
Winner: Aaron Jones
The Packers missed RB Aaron Jones on offense. Prior to the game, HC Matt LaFleur told us not to expect a full workload. He immediately had 44 rushing yards to close out the team’s first drive of the game. And then...that was it. Jones finished the day with 53 rushing yards, and 69 total yards. He looked to be at full-strength on the field; then again, that’s easy to say while you’re watching on the couch. I will never, for the life of me, understand why LaFleur refuses to do what works. Jones had the team marching down the field to open the game, and that was the most production we saw today. He’s a winner today for the sole reason that we see how much the offense suffers when he’s not utilized properly. Hopefully, he is indeed fully healthy, and his workload increases next week versus a Carolina defense who is allowing 123 rushing yards per game.
Loser: Josh Myers
During the Packers’ final drive before halftime, Josh Myers just...refused to snap the ball. This led to a delay of game penalty. A couple plays later, it was fourth down, and the Packers ended up punting after trying to get the Buccaneers to jump. They desperately needed points, and Josh Myers was responsible for a costly penalty. In the second half, Myers was also flagged for holding, though this time the drive ended in Packers points. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: these little penalties add up. For someone who is playing the best football of his career, he needs to tighten up.
Winner: Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love didn’t have a particularly great game today. In fact, there was a lot that needs to be cleaned up moving forward, like the multiple misses to wide open receivers, including one to WR Jayden Reed which would’ve been a score. The good that I saw from Love today, however, was really good. He made some absolutely beautiful throws today, including a couple to WR Dontayvion Wicks, which were complete despite being thrown in some of the tiniest windows you’ll see. Love had a great drive during the second half, which ended with perhaps the best TD pass he’s thrown thus far. This drive alone, he was 9/10 for 95 yards. Love finished the day 29/39 for 284 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a lost fumble.
The Packers’ next game comes on Christmas Eve, as they travel to face off against the 2-12 Carolina Panthers, who are riding high after defeating the Atlanta Falcons with a score of 9-7. Buckle up, folks, it might be a bumpy end to the 2023 season.