Packers vs Buccaneers: Gameday Preview - 2023 Week 15

Baker Mayfield comes back to Lambeau, leading a banged-up Buccaneers bunch. The Packers aren't exactly a model of health, either. Two 6-7 teams in control of their own playoff destiny - this should be fun.

The last time the Packers played the Buccaneers was last season, when no one rushed for more than 3 yards per carry, Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdowns, and the game was saved when the defense stymied a Tom Brady 2 point conversion attempt in the waning seconds to preserve a 14-12 win.

Jordan Love and Baker Mayfield have taken over for Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, but today looks like it will be another close battle.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

The Packers offense, that had been getting hot, made a lot of mistakes last week that looked an awfully lot like the mistakes they made earlier in the year.

Turnovers, missed blocks, and off-target passes ruined a lot of drives, leading to a disappointing loss. There were signs of improvement, though. The missed blocks weren't as frequent, the off-target passes weren't as far off, and the drops that plaugued games earlier in the year were almost non-existent.

In short, this is what you should expect from the youngest offense the NFL has seen in nearly a decade.

The good news is, the overall trend on this offense is still up.

Last week, they struggled against the interior pressure of Dexter Lawrence. This week, they're up against a defense that features a stud just as disruptive in Vita Vea. Vea is a one-man wrecking crew in the middle and the start of their scheme, which ranks 13th in points allowed.

However, the Packers may have got lucky, since Vea, who leads the team with 5.5 sacks, missed practice all week with a toe injury and is listed as doubtful for today's game. If he doesn't play, Tampa will be missing their most dominant player.

Devin White and Lavonte David, who line up behind where Vea usually is, are one of the best inside linebacker duos in the league. They're a big reason why the Bucs are a top 10 rushing defense, and could limit the Green Bay ground game.

The Packers, with AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones both banged up and listed as questionable to play, might have a hard time getting the run game ready today. Even with Vea out, Green Bay might have to give a lot of carries to their fringe-roster backups. They may have to lean on the short passing game to supplement their ground attack (and hopefully not run an end around to Jayden Reed 7 or 8 times).

The Buccaneers defense has proven vulnerable through the air this year, and ranks 30 in passing yards given up.

The Packers wide receivers are dealing with their own injuries, but have proven to be deep on young talent. Guys like Tucker Kraft and Malik Heath really stepped up last week and will probably be counted on again today. The Buccaneers will be missing starting cornerback Carlton Davis, who is tied for the team lead in interceptions with 2, making things a little easier.

The burden today is on Jordan Love, as it should be. The young quarterback has to get through his reads quick, as Tamps brings pressure up the middle. Facing a banged up secondary will help, as will a deep receiving corps that, missing Christian Watson (and possibly Dontayvion Wicks, who is listed is questionable), makes it hard for opposing defenses to know where the throws will go.

If the Packers want to win this game, Love will have to find his young receivers and give them chances to make plays.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS ARE ON DEFENSE

Baker Mayfield gets a bad rap for what he did in his last two games against the Packers. He has enough talent to get drafted #1 overall and has found some success in this league.

Oh, and he has his team tied for the division lead in the middle of December. This team is not ready to roll over.

Mike Evans, who already has 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, is the focal point of the Bus offense. This is his 10th year in the league, and he's gone over 1,000 yards in every one of them, making him one of the most consistently productive receivers in league history. He's a big body at 6'5, 230 and a consistent threat that can wear down a secondary. On the other side, Chris Godwin is 6'1, 210. The Packers cannot afford to play 10 yards off these two big receivers. It's tough to jam them, but it's even tougher to bring them down when they have a full head of steam.

The secondary needs to play close and gang tackle - rallying to the ball will be critical today. Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Darnell Savage, are all listed as questionable to play.

Injuries and matchups will probably lead Green Bay to play a lot of nickel today to cover the big receivers. This could work well because Tampa's run game has struggled this year.

Tampa ranks 29th in total rushing yards, and Rachaad White leads all their running backs with a 3.7 yard average per carry. However, White ranks 3rd on the team in both receptions and receiving yards and will need to covered out of the backfield. 

The Packers may be able to match up well with nickel and dime formations, but they need to play tighter than they did last week.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Packers control their own destiny to the playoffs.

So do the Bucs.

Both of these teams will be battling.

As beat up as the Packers have been, they've proven to have great depth. With Carlton Davis out, the Packers have good matchups in the passing game.

Vita Vea can be a game-wrecker if he plays, but the Packers match up well with their effective short-passing game, either way.

They may not be able to get a lot of running going if Vea plays, but Matt LaFleur should be able to plan around that against a team with exploitable weaknesses.

Packers 24, Bucs 20

 

 

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Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

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Comments (15)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
fireball's picture

December 17, 2023 at 06:50 am

If the Tampa Bay receivers are as good as the writer says, and Mayfield is able to hook up with them, our passing defense is toast, and the Packers lose the game.

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ricky's picture

December 17, 2023 at 08:06 am

A very good and reasonable analysis of today's game. The idea that there are "easy" games for the Packers needs to be retired. Every game from now on will be a struggle. Even the Bears (as much as I hate to admit it) are showing signs of life. Time to tighten that chin strap and get ready to fight for every inch the rest of the way. If they do make the playoffs, fine. If not, and they end up with either a winning season or just under .500, also fine. All that was expected was for Love to show growth, the WR's to take a step forward, and Joe Barry to be himself, so he could be summarily fired at the end of the season. So far, for the most part, this is happening. Time to enjoy what is left of the Packers seasons, and let the chips fall where they may.

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NickPerry's picture

December 17, 2023 at 11:12 am

I'm not overly concerned about making the playoffs this season either Ricky, and I think you hit it on the head about this season sort of unfolding like we thought or even hoped.

Jordan Love is getting better and better each week. Even when he wasn't very good last week, he took the Packers INTO the endzone with less than 2 minutes to play to take the lead. He didn't do that earlier in the season.

The WRs and TEs have all gotten GOOD experience. They've grown ALONG with their QB. Gute was both smart and fortunate with that roll of the dice. But I think it's worked out as well as can be expected. Everybody's growing TOGETHER.

The Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers, over $40 million in dead cap money, the youngest offense with the youngest skill position players in the SB era are STILL in the playoff race. I really didn't think that was going to be possible at the start of the season.

The rest of the season? I'm just going to enjoy it and be HAPPY with whatever unfolds.

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coolhand's picture

December 17, 2023 at 11:37 am

ricky, I am so torn over barry. On one hand I want the defense to be a disaster so MLF has no option but fire him. But on the other hand I always want the Packers to win no matter what.

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mrtundra's picture

December 17, 2023 at 08:16 am

Packers 21 Bucs 17

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mrtundra's picture

December 17, 2023 at 08:20 am

Packers 21 Bucs 17. Will Jaire play? Wicks? Watson? Savage? Dillon? Drake being activated tells me that Dillon will sit. Stokes being activated doesn't tell me much. Go with what we have and GO PACK, GO!!!

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pantz_bURp's picture

December 17, 2023 at 08:57 am

MrTundra,

I think Dillon will play (broken thumb and the phallanges) while #33 sits out this one. Just my guess.

Pantz-icus Nostradamis

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

December 17, 2023 at 12:15 pm

I bet you're glad to be wrong! Of course we'd rather have both, but #33 over 28 any day.

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coolhand's picture

December 17, 2023 at 11:45 am

Here's a list of inactives for today:

Here's the full list of inactives for both teams:

Green Bay Packers

9 WR Christian Watson
23 CB Jaire Alexander
26 S Darnell Savage
28 RB AJ Dillon
57 LB Brenton Cox Jr.
72 T Caleb Jones
83 WR Samori Toure
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24 CB Carlton Davis
92 DL Will Gholston
32 CB Josh Hayes
23 S Ryan Neal
73 T Brandon Walton
45 LB Devin White
11 QB John Wolford

Packers could catch a break today with both Davis and White out for the Bucs" defense and Vea has a bad toe. Aaron Jones is active so let's see how much action he sees.

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pantz_bURp's picture

December 17, 2023 at 08:52 am

Hey Waylon Jennings, what say you about the Packers' game today?

"Maybe it's time we got back to the basics of Love" in that toe-tapping, sawdust flying gem called Luckenbach, Texas.

Yessss. Take care of the basics and the basics will take care of you TEAM PACKERs. All we need is a chip and a chair, and that dairy aire...

Are you ready for some football?

Hatz off Pantz off,

*I like to feel the breezes on my kneezes.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 17, 2023 at 09:14 am

The Packers, in order to win this game, cannot have more than one turnover, and the defense has to hold Tampa to 22 or less.

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jvole's picture

December 17, 2023 at 09:48 am

Let's hope the pass rush gets home a few times today. If yes, Pack win, if no....who knows?

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TarynsEyes's picture

December 17, 2023 at 11:27 am

The closer the score as the game gets closer to the end, the Joe Barry effect worries me.

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cheesehead1's picture

December 17, 2023 at 11:37 am

Tough to predict. Which GB team shows up, last weeks or the one who beat DET and KC. Hope Love is on today. I have very little faith in our D. Win or lose GPG!

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Lphill's picture

December 17, 2023 at 11:42 am

If the Packers lose today I think they don’t win another game this season.

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