This is not the final Winners/Losers article of the year, because after defeating the Chicago Bears in the last game of the regular season, THE GREEN BAY PACKERS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS, BUBBA. The youngest team in the league stood strong against the third-youngest team in the league, and the Packers came out on top with a score of 17-9. Let’s take a look at who stood out in the most important game of the Packers’ season.
Winner: Pass Rush
The Packers’ pass rushers took advantage of a weak Bears O-line today, and absolutely feasted during the most clutch points of the game. Bears QB Justin Fields was sacked five times today, with credit going to Quay Walker, Karl Brooks, Lukas Van Ness, Kenny Clark, and Devonte Wyatt (Rashan Gary got in there for a few of them; I’m positive). Justin Fields has 630 rushing yards this season. When you’re facing a team with a QB who can run like this, it’s important to catch him before he even has the chance. The Packers did just that today, limiting Fields to just 27 total rushing yards. The rest of the defense will also get some credit here: every single point the Bears scored today came from a field goal. Stops were needed, and they were made.
Winner: Dontayvion Wicks
What a day for WR Dontayvion Wicks. Wicks caught six of seven targets for 61 yards and brought in the Packers’ only two touchdowns today. His first catch of the game was his longest of the day, at 19 yards, and his hands have never looked stronger. Overall, Wicks looked like he can be a true #1 or #2 receiver for this young team. His footwork today was impressive, almost Davante-esque; there were moments when he was breaking the ankles of some Bears’ defenders and extending plays, and it was beautiful. After missing the game last week, it was good to have Wicks back. Have a day, Dontayvion.
Winner: Aaron Jones
The Packers have a problem. They need RB Aaron Jones, and they’ve got a ton of math to work through in order to keep him on the roster without a painful cap hit of almost $18 million. Jones had 141 all-purpose yards today, 111 of those coming on the ground with a 5.0 average rush. Jones is one of the smallest players on the team, but was not going down without a fight today. There were plays where it looked like 3 or 4 defenders were needed to bring him down, and you just cannot find this trait in every running back. Jones made sure that if today was his last game, it would be a good one (but it’s not his last game, because I’m not sure if you’ve heard: the Green Bay Packers are in the playoffs).
Winner: Tucker Kraft
I’ll get it out of the way: TE Tucker Kraft needed to get out of bounds several times tonight, and was not able to, and this was not ideal. Had the Packers come out on the losing end of today’s game, Kraft may very well have been named a loser tonight. However, he isn’t a loser, because I’m not sure if you’ve heard: the Green Bay Packers are in the playoffs. Kraft came up big in the run game tonight, making important blocks to let Aaron Jones get that much more yardage. Kraft also had the catch that essentially secured the Packers’ playoff berth. With fellow-TE Luke Musgrave back after missing several weeks due to a lacerated kidney, we’ll get to see this duo continue to develop, and hopefully make some magic in the playoffs (because the Green Bay Packers made it).
Winner: Bo Melton
Miles Bokeem Melton, where did you come from? The Packers’ newest darling WR hauled in five of seven targets for 62 yards, and was wide open for pretty much every single one of them. He had a TD catch today which was called back, as the officials ruled he used the ground to gain control of the ball. Tough day for the “Green Bay gets all the calls” crowd. While it stung to see, it ended up not mattering, because folks: the Green Bay Packers are going to the playoffs!! With Christian Watson nursing a hamstring injury, Melton has certainly started to take advantage of his extended playing time, and in his last three games has 211 receiving yards. Will his Cinderella story continue next week against Dallas?
Winner: Jayden Reed
One of the biggest weaknesses of the Bears secondary is their slot coverage, and the Packers took advantage of this today. It resulted in WR Jayden Reed leading the team with 112 yards, catching each of his four targets for a 28.0 average. Reed came up big against his hometown team with his first 100-yard game of his career, and his chemistry with QB Jordan Love is undeniable. This connection is going to be special in the coming years (and hopefully the playoffs, which the Packers made).
Winner: Jordan Love
I mean...what can you say? Everything the Packers needed from their young QB, they got. Jordan Love had a career day today, completing 27 of 32 passes (84% completion!) for 316 yards, 2 TDs, and no interceptions (there was, however, a very yucky and unfortunate fumble). He was sacked just one time. Today was the biggest game of Love’s career, and he was absolutely stunning. His throws were on the money today, and without a couple drops by receivers, his already-incredible numbers would’ve looked even better. He looked calm, collected, and in control the entire time, and when it was all said and done, he did what his predecessors were unable to do: lead his football team to the playoffs in his very first year as the starting quarterback.
The playoffs have officially become a reality for the 2023 Green Bay Packers, and they are the youngest team to ever get this far. Next week, the Packers will travel to Dallas as HC Matt LaFleur faces off against his predecessor Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys. QB Dak Prescott was an MVP frontrunner for much of this season; will the Packers’ inconsistent defense have what it takes to shut him down?