- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Jameis Winston, once again, started a game on the worst possible note. For the fifth time this season – and the 10th time in his career – he threw an interception on the game’s opening drive, this one to the Detroit Lions’ Jahlani Tavai. It looked like it was going to be one of those Jameis Winston Games, but it ended up being the other kind: he bounced back to throw four touchdowns in a 38-17 victory for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was yet another chapter in the up-and-down career of a quarterback who continues to show tantalizing flashes of being an elite signal-caller while also showing a frightening predisposition for ugly turnovers.
In Sunday’s win, Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 450 yards in consecutive games. He’s also thrown for over 4,573 yards on the season, which currently puts him ahead of the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott for the league lead, to go alongside his 30 touchdowns. Sounds great, right? Here’s the problem: the interception increased Winston’s season total for picks to 24, with many of those giveaways avoidable. He’s also incredibly sack-prone – he’s been sacked 43 times on the year – and has shown a frustrating inability to learn when he needs to throw the ball away. At no point during his pro career, has he shown any sign of improving all-important ball security.
Ultimately, as much as the Bucs must love games such as the one Winston gave them on Sunday, those strong performances may be making it more difficult for them to figure out what to do when his contract runs out at the end of the season. Do the Buccaneers hand an extension to a young quarterback capable of putting up monster numbers? Do they place the one-year franchise tag on him and hope that he becomes more consistent in his sixth year as an NFL starter? Or do they let another team take up his services and find a replacement quarterback in free agency? It’s not like they have had a tremendous amount of success with Winston – he has yet to lead them to the playoffs.
Winston’s troubled history may make that third option more attractive. The Buccaneers drafted Winston out of Florida State University, where he was the subject of a high-profile sexual assault allegation, one that eventually ended with him coming to a settlement with the victim (he was not charged over the allegations). There were also several other less serious incidents that occurred during his college career: a citation for shoplifting and a suspension for shouting vulgarities in the campus cafeteria. Tampa Bay took a risk with Winston but hoped that he would keep out of trouble once in the NFL.
He didn’t. In 2018, the NFL suspended him three games after he was accused of groping an Uber driver (Winston was never charged over the incident but did apologize to the driver). The NFL report was particularly damning: “As a result, the investigation had concluded that Winston violated the Personal Conduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.”
The Buccaneers clearly have a conundrum. Winston can win games for the team, he can lose games for the team and there’s a chance that legal or personal issues could prevent him from taking the field altogether.
In a league where starting quarterback options are plentiful, it would be an easy decision for Tampa Bay to move on and let another team take on the risks. That doesn’t describe the modern NFL, however, where teams seem to be constantly installing and discarding proven mediocrities. Because of this, there must be an temptation within the organization to stick with the Devil They Know and hope that he keeps coming up with games like the one had had on Sunday.
Stat of the week
31. After Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown at least one interception against 31 NFL teams. In other words, every single team besides the Giants. In fact, in what was likely his last game at MetLife Stadium, he ended up throwing three to various Dolphins defenders. Manning also, however, threw two touchdowns and led his team to a 36-20 victory, which was well appreciated by the hometown fans who rewarded him with a standing ovation.
MVP of the week
Kenyan Drake, running back, Arizona Cardinals. Congratulations to every fantasy football player who had Drake on their roster: he managed to score four touchdowns in a 38-24 Cardinals win over the Cleveland Browns. As you can imagine, Drake also accumulated plenty of carries (22) and a ton of yardage (137) in an Arizona victory that essentially sealed Cleveland’s playoff fate.
Quote of the week
“Walking in here with Stretch (assistant to the head coach, John Streicher) I said one idiot was going to ask me that question” - Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel, after being asked about LeShaun Sims’ punt return at the end of the Titans’ 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans.
You can’t blame Vrabel for coming into the press conference a little bit heated. His team’s record, after all, fell to 8-6 thus putting the Titans in second place in the AFC South behind the 9-5 Texans. To be fair to the reporter in question, it wasn’t an entirely ridiculous question, as the Titans would have had better field possession, and slightly more time on the clock, had Sims not returned the punt during their final drive of the game. Vrabel, however, had a point by emphasizing that was hardly the key play in what ended up being a frustratingly close loss, one that puts their postseason hopes in jeopardy.
Video of the week
The Cincinnati Bengals’ execution – or lack thereof – on this onside kick was emblematic of their 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots. The Patriots improved to 11-3 thanks to the general ineptitude of the 1-13 Bengals, who are still successfully pursuing the No1 pick in next year’s draft. Given how poorly the Bengals have been playing all season, it feels baffling that the Patriots would decide that they would need to resort to underhand methods to defeat them.
Or, it would be baffling if this were any other football franchise we were talking about. Before the game, Fox Sports broadcast footage of a Patriots employee videotaping last week’s game between the Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. The videographer, who is heard sheepishly offering to delete the potentially-illicit footage, has been suspended. The NFL is currently investigating the incident and past history suggests that this story is not going away any time soon.
Elsewhere around the league
-- The Oakland Raiders played their final game at Oakland Coliseum before the franchise relocates to Las Vegas next season. It was not the storybook ending that the hometown fans were hoping for. The Jacksonville Jaguars snapped a five-game losing streak with a 20-16 comeback win. Who knows, however, maybe there was something fitting about the Coliseum hosting one final heartbreaker.
-- The Baltimore Ravens clinched the AFC North on Thursday on the back of a ridiculous performance by MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson, who broke Michael Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Jackson now has put together 1,103 yards on the ground to go along with his 2,889 passing yards and, frighteningly enough, he’s only in his second year in the NFL.
-- Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears ended up doing the exact opposite of clinching on Sunday. With their 21-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers, combined with the Minnesota Vikings’ 39-10 win over the increasingly hapless Los Angeles Chargers, the Bears were officially eliminated from postseason contention.
-- The Philadelphia Eagles beat Washington 37-27. They now have a 7-7 record, which keeps alive hopes that whoever wins the NFC East – and gets home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs – could end up having a winning record at the end of the regular season. Their divisional rivals, the Cowboys, are also 7-7 after they beat the Rams on Sunday.
-- Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner made this athletic grab to intercept Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen. It was among three interceptions that Allen gifted Seattle in the 30-24 Seahawks victory. It was a dazzling reminder of just how great a defensive player Wagner is, which made it even rougher when he later left the game with a sprained ankle. There was better news for the Seahawks later in the afternoon, as the Atlanta Falcons’ 29-22 upset road win over the San Francisco 49ers meant that Seattle ended the day as the top seed in the NFC.