Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio
1. C’mon admit it. You’re enjoying this: They won’t be going to the playoffs. And they may not have a winning record. But you must admit this Bucs team is one of the most entertaining in Tampa Bay history. Heck, in NFL history for that matter. The Bucs are averaging 29.1 points per game. They’re giving up 29.3 points per game. In league history, only three teams (the 2000 Rams and the 2012 and ’16 Saints) have topped 29 points a game on both offense and defense. Add in all the turnovers and sacks, and every game feels like a three-hour highlight reel.
2. An Evans-less world: The final three quarters on Sunday might have been a preview for life without Mike Evans. While Justin Watson and Breshad Perriman became a larger part of the offense, Jameis Winston threw more to running backs and tight ends than usual. Coming into the game, Winston had thrown to receivers 64.7 percent of the time. On Sunday, that dropped to 53.3. It was only the third game of 2019 that receivers were targeted at less than 55 percent. The other two were losses to New Orleans and San Francisco.
3. A gift that keeps on giving: Shaquil Barrett has 15 sacks. Remember to thank Denver general manager John Elway this holiday season.
4. A little love for the D: This is starting to become a weekly reminder, but Tampa Bay’s defense is playing better than scores would indicate. Through the season’s first nine games, the Bucs gave up 376.6 yards per game. In the last four weeks, that average has dropped to 304 yards. Too many turnovers by the offense is skewing the scoreboard.
5. No cause for alarm: The Bucs and Cowboys have the same record. Yet the Bucs are already eliminated from the playoffs while the Cowboys may win a division. Doesn’t seem fair, right? Well, don’t be too cranky. While the NFC East is clearly the NFL’s worst division (10-28 vs non-division opponents) the NFC South has the second-worst record (15-17) in non-division games.
A list of five
Five mistakes made by the Colts
5. Linebackers and defensive backs fighting over whose turn it was for the next interception.
4. Defense built game plan around stopping fullback Vita Vea.
3. Confused the Bucs with the Jaguars.
2. Distracted by Bruce Arians’ still-youthful glow.
1. Trusted Andrew $%#!*@ Luck.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Winston
1. Dr. Jekyll: In case you missed it, Winston set the Tampa Bay single-season passing record on Sunday. He’s got 4,115 yards, breaking his own record of 4,090 in 2016, and he still has three games to go.
2. Mr. Winston: He threw three interceptions or more for the 10th time in his career. No one else in the NFL has more than seven of those games during the same time period.
3. Dr. Jekyll: At his current pace, Winston will finish with 5,065 passing yards. Do you know how rare that is? Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes and Dan Marino are the only quarterbacks to have thrown for more.
4. Mr. Winston: The worst part of all these turnovers is how many are unforced. He’s thrown seven interceptions in the first quarter of games. Eleven have been in the first half. That’s not indicative of quarterback trying to rally his team. That’s a quarterback putting his team in a hole.
5. Dr. Jekyll: In his defense, this is not a dink-and-dunk passing attack. Winston is throwing downfield more than most. His average completion rate of 13.1 yards is tops in the NFL among quarterbacks with 10 starts or more.
Should have drafted Griffin
Lost in all the other storylines Sunday was Ryan Griffin throwing his first NFL passes in a regular-season game after seven years as a backup. At age 30, he is one of the few quarterbacks remaining from the 2013 rookie class, which may be the worst in history. Eleven quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Griffin, who signed with New Orleans as a free agent out of Tulane.
1. EJ Manuel: Chosen No. 16 overall out of FSU, Manuel spent four years in Buffalo with a 6-12 record. His final season was as a backup in Oakland in 2017.
2. Geno Smith: A second-round pick of the Jets, he went 12-18 as a starter in New York. Now backs up Russell Wilson in Seattle.
3. Mike Glennon: Believe it or not, the Bucs third-round pick is probably the most accomplished quarterback of the class. After giving way to Winston in Tampa Bay, he signed a fat contract with the Bears but lasted only one season. Now a backup in Oakland.
4. Matt Barkley: A fourth-round pick of the Eagles, he’s worn six different uniforms. Now a backup in Buffalo.
5. Ryan Griffin: Yup, along with Smith, Glennon and Barkley, he is the last of the 2013 QBs still playing in the NFL.
Final five words
Are nine wins a possibility?
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.