Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio
1. Infamy is calling: Well, this is exciting. It’s not often a Tampa Bay athlete is on the cusp of groundbreaking territory, but Jameis Winston could make history this week. He could be the charter member of the NFL’s 30-30 club. No quarterback in league history has thrown for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season. Green Bay’s Lynn Dickey came the closest with 32 TDs and 29 picks in 1983. Winston is averaging 1.87 interceptions a game and is only two away from reaching 30, so the odds look pretty good. Alas, the Falcons may not cooperate. This week’s opponent has one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
2. Yin and Yack: It’s an obvious point, but Winston is unlike any other quarterback in the league. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. And when he’s bad? Well, don’t let the kids watch. Going into Sunday’s action, Winston had eight games with a passer rating above 100 this season. That was tied for third in the league. He also had three games with a rating below 50. That was tied for first. So, 11 of his 15 games have been one extreme or another.
3. Can the Bucs trade for Ryne Stanek? Winston has thrown for an interception on the first drive of six games. Maybe the Bucs should use an opener.
4. A tentative thumbs-up: The turnaround by the Bucs defense has been impressive. Tampa Bay gave up an average of 377 yards per game through the first nine weeks. That total has dropped to 290 yards the past five weeks. Of course, it helps when you’ve faced quarterbacks named Gardner Minshew, Jacoby Brissett and David Blough during that stretch.
5. Reassessing the salary cap: A few months ago, the Bucs looked loaded at tight end. Now? Not so much. Both O.J. Howard and Cam Brate had critical drops on Saturday. Both are also on the way to huge drop-offs in touchdowns and yards per reception. Brate has four years and $26.8 million remaining on his contract, which seems awfully high for diminishing returns. He’s due to make $6 million next season, with $4 million becoming guaranteed in March.
A list of five
Bruce Arians’ top five annoyances
5. Replay official watching Netflix in the booth.
4. Barnes & Noble now referring to his Quarterback Whisperer book as ironic.
3. Drunk texts from Tony Dungy pointing out his career record in Tampa Bay.
2. NFL won’t accept AARP discount when he gets fined.
1. After a few drinks, all the Glazers start to look alike.
Five possible outcomes on drives
Jameis Winston said the only thing stopping the Bucs offense this season is turnovers. He was exaggerating, but his overall point was accurate. The Bucs lead the NFL in the percentage of drives ending in turnovers, according to pro-football-reference.com.
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1. Touchdowns: The Bucs score a touchdown on 25.6 percent of their drives. The rest of the league averages a TD on 22.6 percent of drives. Going into Sunday, the Bucs were 11th in the NFL in TD percentage and every team ahead of them was still in playoff contention.
2. Punts: Almost 40 percent of all NFL drives end in a punt. The Bucs have punted only 30 percent of the time. Only the Ravens. Chargers and Cowboys punt less.
3. Field goals: Tampa Bay is right on league average for the number of attempts (17.8 percent of drives) but the Bucs are slightly better in terms of converting those field goals.
4. Three-and-out: True to Winston’s word, the Bucs are rarely stopped. Tampa Bay goes three-and-out on roughly one out of seven drives. That’s the sixth-best mark in the NFL.
5. Turnovers: And here’s the killer. The Bucs turn the ball over on 20.6 percent of their drives. The rest of the NFL is around 12.5. That’s an absurd discrepancy, and it’s basically the difference between the playoffs and another lonely January.
Get out the checkbook, free agency is around the corner
The entire football-watching universe seems to have an opinion about whether the Bucs should re-sign Jameis Winston, but he’s not Tampa Bay’s only potential free agent after next week. Here are five other key players the Bucs must decide whether to offer deals.
1. Shaquil Barrett: Clearly, the Bucs want him back. The question is whether they put a franchise tag on him (which would be around $16 million for 2020) or a transition tag ($14 million but with the potential of a competing offer).
2. Jason Pierre-Paul: This is a tough call. He had his best game of the season on Saturday, which might be a clue that he’s finally getting back to full health after missing much of the off-season with a neck injury. But he’ll also turn 31 next week. Is he still a $12-$13 million a year player?
3. Ndamukong Suh: This falls under the don’t-mess-with-a-good-thing category. Suh and Vita Vea have anchored the NFL’s best run-stopping unit. Suh may not be the disruptor he once was, but there’s still a lot to like.
4. Peyton Barber: He was Tampa Bay’s leading rusher in 2017-18 but he’s never been a dynamic runner nor a prolific receiver.
5. Breshad Perriman: Looked a lot better in the second half of the season, but there could be cheaper alternatives for a deep passing threat.
Final five words
Is mediocre a bad word?
John Romano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.