It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay is off to a hot, 2-0 start thanks to a 27-21 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the Bucs’ home opener.

2 BIG STATEMENTS

STATEMENT 1: This Is Fitzmagic’s Buccaneers Team
For the second straight week we’ve seen Fitzmagic.

For the second straight week we’ve seen Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns.

For the second straight week we’ve seen Fitzpatrick go deep and connect with DeSean Jackson on a touchdown bomb – this time for a 75-yard touchdown en route to his second 100-yard receiving game this year.

For the second straight week we’ve seen Fitzpatrick take good care of the football and not make questionable throws while completing over 75 percent of his passes.

For the second straight week we’ve seen the Bucs offense rack up over 400 yards with Fitzpatrick leading the charge.

More importantly, we’ve seen Tampa Bay start the season 2-0, which is something I didn’t think was impossible even back in June when I wrote that the Bucs could win with Fitzmagic in a previous SR’s Fab 5.

The question isn’t whether or not Jameis Winston will start in Week 4 at Chicago when he returns from his three-game suspension. We know the answer to that. The question is whether or not Winston will start at all this year if Fitzpatrick’s magical season continues. The answer is that Winston shouldn’t start until Fitzpatrick loses his magic touch and cools off.

Ask yourself this question: Could Winston do this? Could Winston throw for eight touchdowns and 800 yards in the first two games of the season and get Tampa Bay off to a 2-0 start? Is it the play-calling and the offensive weaponry, or is it the quarterback that is fueling the Bucs’ offensive onslaught? Honestly, I don’t know.

It’s certainly hard not to give credit to Fitzpatrick, and keep in mind that the veteran QB has done a great job of protecting the football. His lone turnover in the first two games was a pass against Philadelphia on Sunday that should been caught by O.J. Howard that was intercepted off a deflection instead.

Fitzpatrick is now 4-1 as a starting quarterback dating back to last year, and this is his team right now. He’s the captain of the Bucs’ ship right now.

This is Winston’s team for the future, and I believe Winston himself has a bright future. He’s only 24 years old and he’s coming off a great preseason and training camp. So all the talk and conjecture about possibly trading Winston – because of the play of a 35-year old quarterback – is nonsense. Winston isn’t going anywhere – even if he ends up riding the pine for a year if Fitzpatrick continues to play well.

STATEMENT 2: Jackson Off To A Record Start For Bucs
While Mike Evans is off to a hot start this year with a team-high 17 catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns, DeSean Jackson is leading Tampa Bay in receiving yards with 275 on nine catches, in addition to a team-high three touchdowns. Jackson has a ridiculous 30.6-yard average right now, which barely edges O.J. Howard’s 30-yard receiving average (five catches for 150 yards and one TD).

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson - Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Getty Images

Jackson’s 75-yard touchdown against Philadelphia on the first play of the game was the longest opening play from scrimmage in franchise history. Jackson now has 23 career touchdowns of 60 or more yards, which ties him with Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for the most such touchdowns in NFL history. Jackson also now has 28 receiving touchdowns of 50 or more yards, passing Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Terrell Owens for the third-most in NFL history. Rice has the most with 36.

Jackson ended up with four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. It marks his 35th career 100-yard receiving game. He has recorded 120 receiving yards in each of the first two games, joining Mark Carrier, Mike Evans (twice) and Keyshawn Johnson as the only players in team history with back-to-back games of at least 120 receiving yards.

It’s crazy to think that Jackson is nearly half way to reaching last year’s receiving total in his first year in Tampa Bay when he caught 50 passes for 668 yards (13.4 avg.) and three touchdowns. Right now, Jackson is on pace to record 72 catches for 2,200 yards and 24 touchdowns, which would set NFL records for yards and TDs. That’s not going to happen, but the Bucs would love for Jackson to have even half of that production, which would be 36 catches for 1,100 yards and 12 scores.

Jackson’s most productive season came in Philadelphia in 2013 when he posted 82 catches for 1,332 yards (16.2 avg.) and nine touchdowns – all career highs. If Jackson could average over 20 yards per catch and put up 1,000 yards and a dozen touchdowns this season, Tampa Bay would be thrilled and the Bucs would be assured of winning a lot more football games.

2 PROBING QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Where The Heck Is Brate?
It’s stunning to think that through the first two games of the 2018 season that tight end Cameron Brate has yet to catch a pass. Brate was targeted just twice in the 48-40 win over the Saints in Week 1 but didn’t have a catch. On Sunday against the Eagles, Brate wasn’t targeted at all. Last week, Howard played on 43 offensive snaps while Brate only saw action on 24 snaps. The Bucs just signed Brate to a six-year, contract extension worth $40.8 million, so what gives?

Remember that Howard was the team’s first-round pick in 2017 and his talent is undeniable. I seriously doubt that Brate could have raced 75 yards for a touchdown the way Howard did on Sunday against the Eagles. And also remember that Jameis Winston is the quarterback that has developed a special rapport with Brate and he’s not the one under center and throwing passes right now.

Bucs TE Cameron Brate - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

“We have good skill guys, we do,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Chris Godwin is an emerging star. O.J. Howard is an emerging star. DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans – proven guys. Proven big-time players. If you really think about it, we’ve still got Cam Brate and Adam Humphries who just aren’t getting very many chances right now – two guys that are good football players, too. They’re just not getting chances. Hey, it’s a long year. We’re going to need them all.”

Koetter is right. Look for Brate to have his first catch of the year against Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football.

QUESTION 2: Why Was Spence Inactive?
It might have seemed like a shock to see former second-round pick Noah Spence on the inactive list today as a healthy scratch, but the fact is that the Bucs felt like reserve defensive ends Carl Nassib and Will Clarke would be better match-ups against Philadelphia’s big offensive tackles because of their size. The team is high on Nassib and was encouraged by his game last week at New Orleans.

Nassib had 26 snaps last week, while Spence only had four against the Saints. I’m not necessarily suggesting that Spence’s career in Tampa Bay is doomed, but you have to wonder if he isn’t the No. 52 or No. 53 guy on the roster right now. Bucs general manager Jason Licht’s 2016 draft class is looking worse by the minute, but if Nassib can come in and be the pass rusher that Spence isn’t, that would help.

While the 2016 draft class hasn’t panned out, Licht’s 2017 draft class looks spectacular with O.J. Howard, Justin Evans and Chris Godwin leading the way. Howard had a 75-yard touchdown against the Eagles, while Godwin had an 8-yard score The Bucs are now 3-0 in games where Godwin has a touchdown catch.

2 BOLD PREDICTIONS

PREDICTION 1: Fitzpatrick Wins The NFC Offensive Player Of The Week Award
I called it last week and I’m calling it again. The only other possibilities are Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who completed 23-of-28 passes for 272 yards with two touchdown passes and two TD runs along with one interception in the Falcons’ 31-24 victory, and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, who completed 35-of-48 passes for 425 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. But the Vikings-Packers game ended in a tie – not a win for Cousins.

Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - Photo by: Andrew Scavelli/PR

Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Andrew Scavelli/PR

Fitzpatrick deserves the honor for completing 81.8 percent of his passes for 400 yards with four touchdowns and – most importantly – the win over the defending Super Bowl champions. The Bucs have never had a player win back-to-back NFC weekly honors, but Fitzpatrick should be the first.

PREDICTION 2: Tampa Bay Beats Pittsburgh On MNF
I accurately picked the Bucs to win the first two games of the season, but I originally had them losing in Week 3 on Monday Night Football. But I’ve reconsidered my preseason predictions given the evidence that Pittsburgh is 0-1-1 in its first two games while Tampa Bay is 2-0. How are the Bucs winning games? They are winning with their passing game. What is the biggest weakness right now with the Steelers? It’s their secondary, which gave up six touchdown passes to Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Sunday.

It’s hard to imagine Fitzpatrick continuing to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns on a weekly basis, but I didn’t think he would do it in back-to-back games, yet he did. I feel confident in predicting 300 yards and three touchdowns for Fitzpatrick against Pittsburgh’s porous secondary – maybe more.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Pete Wood
Pete Wood
3 years ago

Bucs start out four and zero.
And, we’ll see plenty of Brate.

Wausa
Wausa
3 years ago

Great article.
The Bucs have the best receivers and best QB situation in the league.

Bucsfan1983
Bucsfan1983
3 years ago

Yes Jameis could have done just as good. His shoulder is healthy, he had his best camp and preseason of his career. He’s the better talent. I believe the true difference maker is Monken now calling plays, better OL and WR play as well.

I can see Fitz starting week 4 with a short week. But Winston is still the franchise QB and this is still his team.

tpeluso
tpeluso
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
3 years ago

100% agreed. Monken is the MVP of this team right now.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  tpeluso
3 years ago

Monken doesn’t read the defenses, pass the ball, or catch the ball, last time I checked.

Neither does Winston.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  tpeluso
3 years ago

+1

matador
matador
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
3 years ago

I would respectfully suggest you aren’t paying enough attention to Fitz’s superior decision making. The number of times he quickly reads a situation, scrambles and gains 3-4-5 yards instead of trying to be Super Man every play like Winston (which has resulted in JW throwing an INT or fumbling as many times as he throws a TD). No one questions JW’s arm it’s his maturity and decision making that has been a life long problem. We’ve been hearing for four years how he’s going to figure it out, but he has never ever proven that and with the Bucs has… Read more »

Don
Don
Reply to  matador
3 years ago

Agree/disagree. Fitz is doing 3 things right now that Bucs fans haven’t seen consistently from Winston: 1.) He’s throwing the deep ball better than Winston has ever hoped to. This is the primary reason Winston was unable to demonstrate a rapport with DJ last season. 2.) He’s avoiding an over-reliance on Evans. (see point 1.) 3.) He’s almost never going to make that bone headed decision that Winston should have had out of his system by Year 3. However, Fitz is not a long term solution for the Bucs. He’s a 2018 solution. The Bucs owe Winston nothing this season.… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Don
3 years ago

Actually, it is NOT clear that Winston is the “long term solution” at quarterback.

What IS clear is that Winston is NOT the short term solution at quarterback for the Bucs.

Everything else is just conjecture.

cmt15g
cmt15g
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

Your statement is conjecture itself.

Don
Don
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

Fair enough. We don’t know if he’s the “long term solution”, but we do know that’s how the Bucs view him. Several months back, when the details of the incident with the Uber driver came to light and Winston received his suspension, the Bucs had every opportunity to wash their hands of Winston and move on. They chose not to. That was a declaration of their feelings about Winston and their investment in him.

Horse
Horse
3 years ago

I’m on the bus and the entertainment is the Fitz Magic Show! Go Bucs! I’m a believer!

tpeluso
tpeluso
3 years ago

Winston needs to be back under center after the bye no matter what happens. Fitz has earned the right to start against Chicago given that it’s a short week and to give Jameis the time he needs to get back in sync with the team once he returns. But 4-0, 3-1, 2-2, doesn’t matter… Fitz is NOT the future and we need to find out for sure if Jameis is. And the only way we’re going to figure it out is if it’s Jameis out there, taking direction from the guy (Todd Monken) who’s more responsible than anyone for our… Read more »

gcolerick
gcolerick
Reply to  tpeluso
3 years ago

Winston can sit this year and still be our future. Fitz may not be the future but he is the present….and right now the present is looking pretty damn good!

tpeluso
tpeluso
Reply to  gcolerick
3 years ago

Jameis’s option next year is $20 million. If you sit him this year with the aim of playing him next season, you’re making a choice between handing him a $100 million extension without knowing if he’s finally putting it all together, or banking on him balling out on his walk year and dramatically increasing the cost of that extension (or franchising him for $24 million or letting him walk away for essentially nothing). Either of those approaches is not smart, and not worth it unless Fitz guarantees us a Super Bowl, which he of course does not.

buddah
buddah
Reply to  tpeluso
3 years ago

I don’t agree. If Fitz wins again this week, the Buccaneers are 3-0. You don’t bencj a 3-0 Quarterback. Moreover, it would put immense pressure on Jameis, who will not have practiced for 4 weeks. You just let this play out. Don’t second-guess the coaches. Jameis will get his chance and meanwhile we are enjoying the run.

BucWild02
BucWild02
Reply to  tpeluso
3 years ago

tpeluso – I agree that Winston will be starting this year. I think he starts after the bye week. They are on a short week after the Pittsburgh game when Winston is coming off his suspension. That gives Winston a few weeks to get back into the swing of things and I think the entire team embraces the guy when he returns.

Humble pie will serve Winston well. Watching Fitz lead this team on the field should be a wake up call to be more decisive, more accurate, show better leadership, and stop staring down receivers.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  BucWild02
3 years ago

Jameis needs to be more accurate, and a better decision maker? Let’s ignore the fact that Jameis has a better career TD%, INT%, TD/INT ratio, completion percentage, YPA, and QB Rating. Which is essentially every single stat humanly possible. If you seriously think that Fitzpatrick is better than Jameis, you should never watch football again. Fitz is a career backup, and his stats back that up. Is it awesome that he’s having a great fluke start to the season, yes. But anyone suggesting that Fitz is the better QB, is a complete moron. End of story. This is almost 100%… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  tpeluso
3 years ago

Our team is not the Jameis Winston Buccaneers.

BucWild02
BucWild02
3 years ago

These guys are having fun, playing loose, and executing at a high level. Fitz is making the right decisions with the ball and all 11 guys on the field are working together really well. It’s been exciting to watch and I really hope they keep their focus.

Madman
Madman
3 years ago

Heard all the analysts say there’s no way Fitz throws for 400 yards against the Eagles. Ride the wave. FitzMagic baby!

Bucco-Bruce
Bucco-Bruce
3 years ago

You have to go with the hot hand right now and that is Fitzpatrick. Winston is and will be our future…don’t mess with the chemistry right now and with our defense starting to work better together, lets keep this Ship sailing straight to the playoffs and beyond!!

owlykat
owlykat
3 years ago

I agree completely Scott. I wonder how all those football pundits that picked us last in our Division are feeling right now. Ha! I hope the bookies are in trouble if they were picking against us. We should be favored against Pittsburg!

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe
3 years ago

Two in a row for Jiggyjoe. I have called both games and the scores too. Now as for who plays: Winston was not hurt and he has no rite to start again unless he is the best chance to win…and so far Winston is a lot of hype and little results. He needs to ride the bench. His win/loss record is below average and he has shown to be a screw up when he feels like it. I think he would have found ways to loose these games. One thing I like about the NFL is that the best play… Read more »

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
3 years ago

Unless Fitz falls off a cliff he has earned the #1 QB spot. As for Jameis maybe he need’ s to sit and think more about how he COULD have sabotaged this team with his actions.

plopes808
plopes808
3 years ago

This has been a GREAT 2 games! The craziest part is that FitzMAGIC isn’t really doing anything mind-blowing. He is simply doing his job, making the right reads, and letting the rest of the offense do their jobs. The results of the team effort have been a welcome sight to say the least. Now, how much of this is Fitz and how much is Monken? That’s yet to be determined, but when Winston was under center during the preseason, there were similar results. I am of the belief that when Jameis returns, most likely after the bye week, we will… Read more »

BadgerW4
BadgerW4
Reply to  plopes808
3 years ago

And I believe, much like Winston learned from what Fitz did last year, he’ll learn from what Fitz has done this year. I believe he’ll realize he doesn’t have to do too much–just play point guard and distribute.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  plopes808
3 years ago

It is pretty hard to have a higher ceiling than best in the NFL, which ceiling has never been produced by Winston.

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  Naplesfan
3 years ago

true, Fitz has definitely raised his ceiling the past 2 weeks. My biggest concern is his history of streaky performance. He definitely has never had this kind of supporting cast before though, so I’m hoping it continues. Not to mention I picked him up in fantasy after week 1 along with DJax while everyone was still thinking week 1 was a fluke.

Charlie
Charlie
3 years ago

Why is it that nobody is considering Fitzmagik to play beyond this year? This is the best group of players he’s ever played with. Yeah he played with the greatest show on turf, FOR ONE SEASON AS A ROOKIE WHO DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY, but now he’s a 15 yr vet with the best group of receiving weapons in the league and a surprisingly good offensive line. What if this dude leads us deep into the playoffs and it’s CAUSE OF FITZMAGIK, he would keep playing I’m sure! GO BUCS!

BucWild02
BucWild02
Reply to  Charlie
3 years ago

The real reason no one is considering him playing beyond this year is because he was going to retire after last year. He said the Bucs sweet talked him into one last year.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Charlie
3 years ago

Hey, guys years older than Fitz are playing well … like Drew Brees.

76Buc
76Buc
3 years ago

Monk for President; Fritz for Emperor. We need to get a grip folks. However:
..Pinch me – the Bucs have the league’s most explosive offense?!
..Huh?
..Please don’t wake me up yet!

martinii
martinii
3 years ago

Everybody goes to work happy on Monday. Great day in Tampa Bay. “WINING,” erases hate and settles all complaints. Take each game as a season. Brate is well and will be a big contributor. Don’t give up on ROJO, he a rookie and will eventually be a huge Contributor. Vea and (Don’t forget) Beckwith will contribute. Grimes is healing and so far only Loss is VH3. Go Buc’s, Beat Steelers in Prime Time.

PS For all those who wanted Gruden Back ????????????????

BadgerW4
BadgerW4
Reply to  martinii
3 years ago

I agree… wining… drinking lots of wine erases lots of hate and settles all complaints. ;) Winning does it, too. :D

surferdudes
3 years ago

All three of our Q.B.’s looked good in preseason, Fitz had the least production. None of them turned the ball over. It’s year four in Dirk Koetter’s offense, and we’re reaping the fruits of being in the same system. We also have top talent at receiver, and tight end. After the Pitt game we’ll also have the best back up Q.B. in football Jameis Winston. You don’t mess with success.

scubog
scubog
3 years ago

I couldn’t be happier with the results of these first two games regardless of who is under center. Fitz has had a few similar games in his long career and he has also had games in which he had no business starting for any of his seven teams. Like I mentioned once before…..Steve DeBerg 2.0. What has given him the chance to make what may be his last act his best, is an offensive line that is giving him a much cleaner pocket than we’ve seen in recent years, a dynamic receiving corps, at least a semblance of a running… Read more »

Mark
Mark
3 years ago

Agreed, Scubog…you NEVER !#$ with winning chemistry! Winston’s day will come again, but ride the wave(or the Beard- in this case) as long as you can. We’ve kept penalties to a minimum, our O-line is playing well, Fitz’s long ball, decision making, and turnover rate is BETTER than Winston’s, and Monken’s playcalling is legit. Hopefully our injured Bucs who are getting healthy will only strengthen the team. Our future looks bright.

Dman
Dman
3 years ago

Have to say I didn’t think we could score this way vs. Philly. Great work by Monk, Fitz, O-line, all the WR’s and TE’s. Rhonde said it best, we’re a pass first offense now and with the talent we have it makes sense. Fitz is making great decisions and his accuracy has been outstanding. Impressive.

Andy Ely
Andy Ely
3 years ago

I honestly think we could have used Noah Spence yesterday, just because it was so hot. You could see our defensive line was pretty tired by the end of the game. So an extra body for the rotation could have definitely helped us be fresher.

thewbacca
thewbacca
3 years ago

I was wondering the same thing yesterday about Brate’s involvement. I expect Tomlin to game plan to neutralize DJax and keep a safety up top for help. This will create opportunities in the mid-range where Brate thrives. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tampa uses more 2 TE sets to max protect, optimize the run, and expose the mismatches between TE and LB’s.

But SR is spot on – Brate is Jameis’ check-down guy and right now Tampa doesn’t need to check down. They are having success with one foot on the gas and the other foot on the opponent’s throat.

Pick6
Pick6
3 years ago

koetter’s best year before this one was when he was up in the booth calling plays for lovie. that is that change that has made everything else possible. I love Fitz for making these throws but given how well protected he is and how open some of these guys are, he’s being set up tremendously for success and this is the formula for any QB to play the best football of his career.

Buc-Up
Buc-Up
3 years ago

If Fitz is still playing lights out and I’m Koetter & Monken, I have private one-on-one meetings with the players when it’s time. Go with who the locker room believes in. I’m hopeful that Jameis has put his past behavior behind him as he’s been incident free for 2.5yrs now. I believe he’s going to play lights out when he returns, but he may have to wait to demonstrate that. He did this to himself and I don’t feel sorry for him one bit! I personally believe that alcohol played a huge part in his atrocious behavior and he’s stated… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Buc-Up
3 years ago

No – NFL head coaches are paid to make these decisions, not players. The NFL is not a democracy … it is a business.

Justin
Justin
3 years ago

Scott, if Nick Foles started out 2-0 with the same exact stats as Fitzpatrick would Wentz ride the bench until Foles cooled off? I love Fitzpatrick and what he has done but Jameis is our franchise QB. His career hasn’t been as successful as Wentz but I don’t want him on the bench getting rusty. Or worse yet losing a whole year of development.

Dude
Dude
3 years ago

A quarterback controversy in Tampa? You gotta love it! Go Bucs!

buddah
buddah
3 years ago

I said before the season started that we are not as bad as the touts say we are and now I have to say we need to have some perspective. I am crazy happy about the way we’ve won these two games. But I think we have about a 70 per cent chance of losing on Monday night. This is a huge game for Pittsburgh. They have home games against Baltimore and Atlanta following their game against us. They desperately need this game. They will throw everything they’ve got at us and they have the best wide receivers by far… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  buddah
3 years ago

The Steelers, like every other NFL team, need to be taken seriously, but not feared. Their quarterback is putting up passing numbers, with their receivers that you think are better than NO and PHI – on which I disagree with you, given that Drew Brees’passing puts him no. 2 in the league, just behind our Ryan Fitzpatrick, and you cant produce such fantastic passing numbers without great receivers – that is about one third of what Fitz is producing. Could the Steelers D shutdown the Bucs O? Yes, of course. But to say the Steelers have a 70% win probability… Read more »

StPeteB
StPeteB
3 years ago

I could care less… Just win the division and get us to the playoffs!!! 2 good games…week 4 starter… whatever…let me know when we are SuperBowl contenders… GO BUXX!!

bEubanks11
bEubanks11
3 years ago

Winston doesn’t hit those deep balls in stride IMO. DeSean was open just like this last year but Jamies couldn’t hit him. Djax is the catalyst. Those completions open it all up. Our offense is finally running the way it’s designed to run. No way Fitz comes out unless he falls apart. Figuratively or literally.