Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Around the NFL


Vikings QB Josh Freeman has been accused of many things over the past few months — before and after his messy exit from the Bucs. • Whether it was missing a team photo and meetings — as well as many receivers — his reputation has taken quite a hit. • But NBC's Rodney Harrison saying Freeman faked a concussion to avoid playing tonight against the Packers? Come on. That's just ridiculous. • There's no doubt Freeman was horrific in his Vikings debut on Monday, going 20-for-53 (37.7 percent) against the Giants with 16 overthrows and an interception. Signed Oct. 7, Freeman looked like a player who needed more time to be ready. • But a day after Freeman was named the starter for this week, he was ruled out due to concussion-like symptoms. Harrison, a former Patriots safety, wasn't sold on Freeman's story, saying it "seems like a convenient excuse to get out of a situation."

"Maybe's he's looking around and saying, 'You know, maybe Greg Jennings isn't as good as I thought. Adrian Peterson is struggling, Heck, I just want out of this situation. I can't wait for the end of the season,' " Harrison said. "I played safety at a high level for a long time, and I was banging. And I never missed a game because of a concussion, so it just seems like an excuse to me."

First of all, making light of concussions isn't smart considering the $765 million settlement between the NFL and 4,000 former players dealing with the aftermath of head injuries. Then there's good old logic. Freeman wanted out of Tampa Bay, got a fresh start — and starting job — with the Vikings as well as a one-year, $2 million contract. He wanted a chance to prove his value and ability to be a franchise quarterback.

Freeman can't do that by standing on the sideline, making Harrison's comments head-scratching. Or as columnist Gregg Doyel put it, "I believe Harrison said literally one of the dumbest things an intelligent, highly paid NFL analyst has ever said."

National Football Conference
New Orleans510.833161103Dallas430.571200155Green Bay420.667168127Seattle610.857191116
Carolina430.57117096Philadelphia340.429169196Detroit430.571186167San Francisco520.714176135
Atlanta240.333153157Washington240.333152184Chicago430.571213206St. Louis340.429156184
Tampa Bay070.000100163N.Y. Giants160.143126216Minnesota150.167132181Arizona340.429133161

American Football Conference
Indianapolis520.714187131New England520.714152127Cincinnati520.714148135Kansas City7001.00016981
Tennessee340.429145146N.Y. Jets430.571134162Baltimore340.429150148Denver610.857298197
Houston250.286122194Miami330.500135140Cleveland340.429131156San Diego430.571168144

Power rankings

1. Broncos (6-1)

2. Seahawks (6-1)

3. Chiefs (7-0)

4. Saints (5-1)

5. Colts (5-2)

6. Patriots (5-2)

Upset special

Vikings over Packers

QB Christian Ponder gets his starting job back and makes a case to keep it in lifting the Vikings to a big win — with help from RB Adrian Peterson returning to form.

Who's hot?

Andy Dalton: Over the past two weeks, the maligned QB has thrown for more than 700 yards with six touchdowns in road wins over the Bills and Lions to put the Bengals in control of the AFC North.

Who's not?

Dolphins: After a surprising 3-0 start, the Dolphins have come back to earth, losing three straight, including 23-21 to Buffalo and former practice squad QB Thad Lewis last week. They've gone from first to last in the East, which is probably closer to where they should be.

High praise

The NFL is filled with big, athletic tight ends who are matchup nightmares from Tony Gonzalez to Antonio Gates to Jimmy Graham to Rob Gronkowski. Redskins rookie Jordan Reed might just be a rising star, if you ask ESPN's Ron Jaworski, who compared the former Gator to another one, Aaron Hernandez. Reed, a 6-foot-2, 243-pound third-round pick, had nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown against Chicago last week. "The guy will be sensational," Jaworski said. "He's one of the guys that jumps off the tape at you. I like to use the word 'flash.' We saw a little bit of it earlier this season. But clearly against Chicago, I saw a lot more of it. This guy is going to scare the hell out of defenses."

Biggest hit

Rarely do you see punters on highlight reels. But the Colts' Pat McAfee found instant fame after drilling Broncos PR Trindon Holliday near the sideline last week. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah called it his "favorite hit of the season," and Lions DT Ndamukong Suh gave him props. Unlike Suh, McAfee didn't get fined — just fame. "I don't think I've ever seen a kicker with this kind of hit!" NBC's Cris Collinsworth said on the broadcast. "Pat McAfee is going to be a legend among kickers everywhere." Monday, McAfee tweeted he was a "random" selection for a steroid test. "Don't know how anybody, at any level of football, tackles folks all the time," he tweeted. "I feel like I should ice my whole bod."

Numbers of the week

19 Career kick/punt returns for touchdowns by the Bears' Devin Hester; last week's against the Redskins tied the NFL record for non-offensive touchdowns set by Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders

11 Teams that have switched quarterbacks this season due to ineffectiveness or injuries

Quick reads

• Who would have thought the better team in New York would be the Jets? Coach Rex Ryan entered the season on the hot seat. But his team is 4-3, fresh off a win over the Patriots with a shot at winning the AFC East.

• As much as the NFL wants to expand its brand in London — announcing it will play three games there next season — it doesn't really sell the sport when you send over the 0-7 Jaguars. That's more like the old NFL Europe.

• Colts QB Andrew Luck outdueling predecessor Peyton Manning on a night the former Colts legend was honored made for great TV. It also will make for one heck of a rematch in the playoffs.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Follow Joe Smith at @TBTimes_JSmith.

Bucs journal: DB Vernon Hargreaves will miss Sunday’s game with hamstring injury

Bucs journal: DB Vernon Hargreaves will miss Sunday’s game with hamstring injury

TAMPA — The Bucs will play Sunday against the Dolphins without Vernon Hargreaves, who has been their nickel defensive back the past two games.Hargreaves, the 2016 first-round pick out of Florida and a former Wharton High standout, has been ruled out ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fennelly: If this is true, Jameis Winston is done in this town

Fennelly: If this is true, Jameis Winston is done in this town

TAMPA — Why should we believe this man?Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is being investigated by the NFL concerning an allegation of him groping a female Uber driver in Scottsdale, Ariz., in March 2016.Winston denied the allegations Friday in a statem...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Jameis Winston accused of groping Uber driver

Jameis Winston accused of groping Uber driver

TAMPA — The NFL is investigating an allegation that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in March 2016.Winston called the allegations "false" and contested the unnamed female driver’s assertion that he was her only p...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Uber called Jameis Winston about ‘you or someone in the vehicle with you’

Uber called Jameis Winston about ‘you or someone in the vehicle with you’

Tampa Bay Times has listened to a voicemail Jameis Winston received from Uber relating to the March 2016 incident in Arizona.The NFL is investigating the allegations that Winston grabbed a female Uber driver's crotch in 2016.In the call, someone...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Jameis Winston says groping allegations are ‘false’

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston denied allegations by an Arizona Uber driver that he groped her in 2016. The NFL confirmed it is investigating the incident.Winston released a statement on his Twitter account saying the driver was 'confused,' by the n...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Bucs’ linemen ready for challenge of containing Dolphins’ Suh

Bucs’ linemen ready for challenge of containing Dolphins’ Suh

Asked if Miami's Ndamukong Suh is the toughest defensive tackle he's gone against, Bucs center Ali Marpet stops short of an answer."I'll let you know after the game," said Marpet, preparing for Sunday's game against the Dolphins as the Bucs seek thei...
Published: 11/17/17
Bucs-Dolphins: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Bucs-Dolphins: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Here’s the Times’ Bucs coverage team’s predictions for Tampa Bay’s 1 p.m. game Sunday at Miami:LET’S GO STREAKINGRick Stroud, @NFLStroud: It’s been 11 months since the Bucs had a winning streak. That was when they posted five W’s in a row with a win ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Will the Bucs make it two wins in a row?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will the Bucs make it two wins in a row?

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones actually agree on their prediction for the Bucs-Dolphins game that will see Ryan Fitzpatrick make his second straight start in place of the injured Jameis Winston. They’ll give you the keys to the ga...
Published: 11/17/17
NFL Week 11: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

NFL Week 11: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

Below are the Times staff picks for week 11 of the NFL season:GameTime/DayErnest Hooper, @hoop4youTom Jones, @tomwjonesMartin Fennelly, @mjfennellyThomas Bassinger, @tometricsGreg Auman, @gregaumanRick Stroud, @NFLStroudAgainst the spread (last week)...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lavonte David is the Bucs’ quiet force

Lavonte David is the Bucs’ quiet force

TAMPA — Lavonte David is a private, almost shy man whose goal each week until game day is apparently to remain invisible by NFL standards.Off the field, the Bucs linebacker doesn’t often raise his voice. But when he was called to do so by coach Dirk ...
Published: 11/16/17