Sunday, December 17, 2023

2023 NFL Week 15: Packers vs. Buccaneers Preview & Prediction

The Packers had it...then didn't.

How many times have we said this over the course of the 2023 season? More than we'd like.

And it was the case yet again last Monday night against the Giants. Snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. In a game where the opposing offense was starting a third-string quarterback and with a line that had given up 69 (?!) sacks going into the game, the Packers defense didn't get one sack. Not one. And it allowed a QB that still lives at home with his parents to beat them with his legs throughout the game and hit a few throws down the stretch that allowed for a winning field goal. C'mon, say it with me: "Thank you, Joe Barry. Once again." SMH

Of course, the offense and special teams performances left much to be desired, as well. QB Jordan Love was off his game, turning the ball over twice with one fumble on an ill-advised run and one interception...his throws were off most of the night because, as he admitted after the game, his footwork and mechanics were not the same as they had been during his hot streak. And head coach Matt LaFleur's play-calling was not the best. How many times do you run a wide receiver (i.e. Jayden Reed) end-around before the defense knows exactly what you are doing? Oh, and Keisean Nixon, you're great. But when you muff a punt, get on it and stay down. A horrible decision to try to advance the ball after the muff. And you knew it immediately. But by then...well, only a few plays later...the damage was done in the form of 7 points going to the Giants. An early Christmas gift. Oy.

Anyway...time to turn the page. The Packers are back home at Lambeau Field for a noon  (CT) game Sunday vs. Tampa Bay. Is it yet again the Battle of the Bay of Pigs? No. At least, we don't think so. But let's have a look, shall we?

This is a look from QB Jordan Love that we hope not to see
after the game vs. the Buccaneers.
(Photo by Seth Wenig, Associated Press)

The Preview

This comes across as a pick-em game. The Packers are sitting at 6-7, as are the Buccaneers. The catch is that in the train wreck that is the NFC South, Tampa is basically in a 3-way tie for first while the Pack — with the same record — is in 3rd place in the NFC North.

Bottom line, though, is both are playing for playoff spots. Tampa currently sits in 4th place while the Packers are in the 7th and final spot for a wildcard. According to the latest projections, if the Packers beat the Bucs Sunday, they have a 71% chance (in some models) to make the playoffs; lose and that goes below 30%. With the Vikings loss Saturday to the Bengals in an epic 4th quarter collapse, they are sitting at 7-7. The Packers need to win this game to keep apace.

Both teams come into Sunday's game without key personnel. The Pack will likely be without one if not both of their starting running backs. Aaron Jones may be back — or not. A.J. Dillon, we learned after the Giants game, has a broken thumb on the hand with which he carries the football. Not ideal. In a game where the rushing attack is key to helping take the pressure off QB Jordan Love and open up the passing game, the Packers may be down to their back-up backs. So it goes. WR Christian Watson will also likely not be available. Again. On the flips side, the Buccaneers will be without some of their top defenders which should help a short-handed Packers offense.

That only matters if the Packers offensive line does a better job protecting Love than they did in the Meadowlands. And if the Packers defensive front can get to Tampa QB Baker Mayfield, who has been known to toss a few INTs in his 2 prior visits to Lambeau. Oh, and Packers special teams need to be special.

The Prediction

The Packers are favored in this game by 3-1/2 points at the time of this writing. If they play the way did in their wins against the Lions and the Chiefs, they can beat anybody. If they play the way they did vs. the Giants (and others) they can keep things close but still wind up losing.

We're putting the green-n-gold colored glasses back on and hoping the Pack have worked out at least some of the issues — in all 3 phases of the game — that led to their defeat on Monday.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Buccaneers 20.

Go Pack Go!!!