By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
Tampa Bay’s season might have just taken a turn for the worst.
Winston left Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints due to the issue, which he aggravated after suffering the initial injury nearly a month ago. Veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced him, completing 8 of 15 passes for 68 yards and one touchdown in the 30-10 loss to the Saints.
Winston first suffered an AC joint sprain to his throwing shoulder against Arizona in Week 6. Fitzpatrick, who came on in relief, led a furious comeback attempt — completing 22 of 32 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns — that fell short in a 38-33 loss.
Even with this performance considered, Winston’s injury-driven replacement is a downgrade, and the starter’s legitimate departure is an even bigger blow to Tampa Bay’s chances.
Coinciding with the injury are four straight losses for the Buccaneers (as part of a five-game skid), who have quickly plummeted from playoff contender to a team with the slimmest of marginal hopes remaining (we’re talking win out, or else). Tampa Bay has disappointed in all three areas of the game, and what was supposed to be an dynamic offense has produced just one receiver with more than 500 receiving yards (Mike Evans: 40 catches, 532 yards, four touchdowns) through eight games.
With their talented but risk-taking franchise quarterback sidelined, it seems as though things are only going to get gloomier for the Bucs.
Fitzpatrick will lead Tampa Bay into a home battle against his former team, the New York Jets, in Week 10 before hitting the road for an in-state matchup against the Miami Dolphins, a team that will likely be as desperate, if not more than the Buccaneers at that point in the season. Should Winston miss additional time, Fitzpatrick will be tasked with trying to lead the Bucs to wins over Atlanta, Green Bay and Detroit in the following weeks.
Later Monday, it was announced receiver Mike Evans will also miss this week’s upcoming game due to a one-game suspension levied against the receiver for violations of unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness in the loss to New Orleans.
What began with a documentation of the optimism oozing from One Buc Place might see its hopes vanquished far sooner than expected.