When you’re 1-3, any win is a good one. So I don’t want to be too analytical here. The Bucs are now 2-3 heading into the bye week, and are actually mathematically in the playoff race. A game below .500 looks a lot better than three games below, and there are plenty of teams who’d loved to have notched a win of any kind yesterday.
And yet here I am feeling somewhat conflicted. Yes, it was great to see Doug Martin look like an actual NFL running back again, especially behind a somewhat cobbled together offensive line. Yes, it was great to see Jameis Winston not throw any interceptions. But no, giving up 31 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars — who’d been averaging half that coming in — wasn’t so great. Nor was Winston basically being a game manager, going 13 for 19 for 209 yards and a touchdown. Sure, sometimes all a quarterback needs to do is stay out of the way and not make any mistakes, but do you really draft a guy at #1 to be a wallflower? Still, the offense scored 31, the defense chipped in another 7, and we apparently no longer have to sacrifice small animals whenever we attempt a field goal. That our current kicker was on the roster back in August, cut to make room for our previous kicker, then brought back to replace him doesn’t exactly say great things about our talent evaluation. But at least kicks were actually going between the goal posts for a change.
So we’ve already won as many games just past the quarter mark of this season as we did all of last season. Which, again, is a mixed blessing. We won’t be worse than last year, but I realistically only see maybe three more wins this year, and none until December: Saints and Bears at home, Rams on the road. Still, 5-11 is a step up from 2-14, and probably enough to save Lovie Smith’s job. Provided the team’s performance continues to improve, especially Winston’s. If he doesn’t seem to be getting it, ownership might not feel compelled to keep things stable around him.
In any case, this feels like a good time for the bye. The offensive line can heal up, Austin Seferian-Jenkins can hopefully get back in the lineup, and the extra practice can only do Winston some good. Let’s just hope this team doesn’t get too full of itself for finally winning a home game. You have to play who the schedule puts in front of you, but you also have to keep things in perspective. And any way you look at it, beating the Jaguars right now is something you’re supposed to do.