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
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
“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
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.