Creeping Towards Sunday
Sunday will mark the first time the Buccaneers face off against their former first overall pick, Jameis Winston as the starter of another franchise. As the Bucs make the travel to New Orleans to face off against Winston and the Saints a lot is in question. Who exactly are the Saints? They stomped on the Packers in week 1 and just last week struggled to outscore A Geno Smith led Seahawks team that is 2-5. Winston is completing 58.9% of his passes on 1,114 passing yards for 13 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He’s not throwing the ball nearly as much as he was while he was in Tampa. Many can offer a reason for this; Winston is often playing with a lead now with Saints though it also seems Sean Payton doesn’t trust Winston as far as he can throw him. The answer likely lays somewhere in the middle.
For Tampa, the question remains, who is healthy? As of Friday, Antonio Brown has been ruled out for Sunday. Lavonte David, Rob Gronkowski, Richard Sherman, Dee Delaney, and Jason Pierre-Paul are all officially listed as questionable for Sunday. The arrow has continued to point up each day for David. Although, I would like to see him sit out through the bye week to ensure he doesn’t suffer a setback the staff knows a win this week would be big. For that reason, I think we could see Gronk this week as well.
Gronkowski has had a huge impact on the Buccaneers’ offense not just because of his elite receiving traits but his ability to block. After all, he is a blocking tight end, right? The Bucs aren’t in a great spot right now with injuries, they haven’t been all year, but there looks to be a possibility that the situation could improve come Sunday.
The players are getting up for this division matchup, not only because it’s the Saints but also because the team is excited to go up against their former teammate not only because of the relationships formed between Winston and his teammates over the years but also because Winston presents a talented opponent. Throughout all the team media availability all players and coaches have spoken highly of Winston both as a player, teammate, friend, and brother. Since his days at FSU Winston has shown that he has a live arm and can make plays few other players are capable of making. This ability to show flashes of rare levels of talent adds to the depth of this matchup.
What’s at Stake?
In the unfortunate result Sunday, where the Bucs lose the Saints, would sit at 5-2 and 1-1 in the division. With the Bucs on bye next week this presents the opportunity for the Saints to take the lead in the division against the Falcons while the Bucs rest. If the Bucs win, they move to 8-1 going into the bye for a much-needed week of rest. The Bucs would also sit at 2-0 in the division and 5-1 in the conference, tied with the Packers. This is exactly where the Bucs want to be sitting going into their bye week. It will be important to keep pace with the Packers for playoff positioning. The Bucs have a stronger strength of schedule, so even if the Bucs were to finish with the same record as the Packers, they would be higher in the playoff seating.
Sunday will be a mix of emotions for all Bucs fans. Winston gave this franchise hope at one time. And even when the outlook wasn’t great Winston Continuously gave this franchise, and this city everything he had. Winston had a tangible impact on the community, and you would often see him at charity events. He wasn’t perfect, none of us are, not even Tom Brady. But Winston cared deeply about the mark he left on this city both on and off the field. I will always root for him because of this; except when he’s facing off against the Buccaneers of course.
After watching Winston for years, we all know Sunday would net a wide range of outcomes. Hopefully, the Buccaneers let this matchup against their former quarterback be the back-story to a victory. One that would extend the Bucs record for its best start in franchise history.