The Buccaneers are 2-0 with Ryan Fitzpatrick
at quarterback with wins over the Jets and Dolphins. But those teams have combined to lose their last five games and Fitzpatrick will see a step up in class
when he goes against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But this isn't a case of just riding the guy who has the cool head and hot hand.
Doctors would not clear starter Jameis Winston
to begin throwing after an evaluation of his shoulder injury Monday and he will miss at least one or two more games.
The 34-year-old Fitzpatrick, who struggled in his debut as the starter two weeks ago in the Bucs' 15-10 win over the New York Jets, played better against Miami Sunday. He completed 22-of-37 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 30-20 win over the Dolphins.
"My confidence is the same but I'm sure other people's (confidence) has grown," head coach Dirk Koetter said. "Ryan has done exactly what I thought he would do, but I can understand why other people who haven't seen him practice would not necessarily expect that. He's playing how I thought he would play."
Since taking over the job, Fitzpatrick has done a good job of distributing the football to all his targets. But the key is for the Bucs not to fall behind by more than one score. The running game hasn't done anything all season. But in the games the Bucs have won the last two weeks, they still were able to stay committed to it and set up play-action.
Of interest to fantasy owners, receiver Mike Evans
, who is having another strong season, will be going up against Falcons CB Desmond Trufant, who had an interception last week.
Evans leads the Bucs in receptions (45) and yards receiving (624) and has four touchdowns. He caught five passes for 92 yards last week against Miami after serving his one-game suspension for shoving Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore
. Trufant returned a Russell Wilson
interception 43 yards against the Seahawks.
The Falcons are playing more man-to-man defense, but the Bucs are not expecting Trufant to match up with Evans.
Meanwhile, tight end O.J. Howard
is becoming more of a focus of the passing game. He had three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in a win at Miami and had another 25-yard touchdown on a screen called back against the Dolphins.
Howard is tied with Evans and fellow tight end Cameron Brate
with four touchdown receptions this season. That could go up as Koetter is doing more to get the rookie involved in the passing game.
In addition, Brate is tailing off.
According to ESPN.com's Jenna Laine, it's really not that Brate's role has decreased so much as what teams are doing to stop him.
Two weeks ago, the Jets doubled up on him in the red zone, the first time New York had done that all year. The Jets were able to devote resources to that because of Evans' absence. Brate is also a bit of a victim of his own success there. Teams know he's the guy in the red zone.
Things should even out a bit now that Howard and DeSean Jackson
are having some success, and the pendulum should swing back in Brate's direction.
Whatever the case, Brate's still very active. In the past two weeks, he ran 43 routes. By comparison, Howard ran 29.