The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a brutal loss on Sunday Night Football in Week 15, for two huge reasons. First, they lost to the Saints for the third time in the last two seasons. This allowed their bitter rivals to not only stay in the NFC Wild-Card race but also stay alive for the NFC South divisional crown. Second, they lost star receiver Mike Evans for the game and possibly Week 16, they lost running back Leonard Fournette for a week or two, and to cap the terrible night off, they also lost leading receiver Chris Godwin for the season due to a torn ACL.

For Godwin, the injury comes at an absolutely brutal time as he is currently playing on the franchise tag and is set for unrestricted free agency in three months. He will undoubtedly have to settle for a below-market deal or a one-year deal, something he would never have even considered before the injury.

For the Buccaneers, they must work to replace Godwin in an offense that passes the ball as much as any team in the league. The Buccaneers are lucky in a sense because Antonio Brown is due to return this week after a lengthy absence due to a hamstring injury and a league suspension due to him using a fake COVID-19 vaccine card. That will only be a part of the battle, however, as Godwin will need to be replaced by multiple players to make up for his impact on the game. Here are the three players, Brown included, that will have to step up in Tampa Bay’s last three games if the Buccaneers plan to repeat as champions.

Three Buccaneers who must step up without Chris Godwin


3. Rob Gronkowski 

Godwin will be hard to replace because he is just as efficient out of the slot and out wide. According to Next Gen Stats, since 2019, Godwin has gained at least 150 yards on nine different types of routes: post, out, screen, hitch, cross, go, slant, in, and corner. When it comes to the inside routes, those will fall mainly into the waiting hands of Gronkowski. Gronk is the Buccaneers’ most reliable target over the middle and has been Tom Brady’s safety blanket for years. They will need to rely on that chemistry with Godwin out and if they can, they can at least make up a portion of what Chris brings to the table from the slot. Godwin is also an extremely good blocker, so expect Gronkowski to be asked to make a majority of those blocks going forward.