By now, everyone knows Tampa Bay shocked and humiliated New Orleans in the season opener. They didn’t do it with their young running backs. They didn’t do it with their rebuilt defensive line or youthful secondary. They did it with a backup quarterback and a lot of help from his offensive line.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a clean day in more ways than one. Not only did he complete 75-percent of his passes without an interception, Fitzpatrick was almost untouched by the New Orleans' pass rush. Only two quarterback hits and no sacks were credited to the Saints.
Tacking on a 12-yard scamper for the clinching first-down was the final insult from Fitzpatrick.
Of course, that made Fitzpatrick a popular waiver addition. His new owners likely include many who earlier predicted doom and gloom for a Tampa team facing three Super Bowl contenders without their starting quarterback.
But can Fitzpatrick bring his “Fitz-magic” out for a second week? Philadelphia lies in wait.
Working with his seventh team in his 13th season (14 if you include a 2006 lost to injury), Ryan Fitzpatrick offers a savvy and calm presence behind center for the Buccaneers. As you would expect from a Harvard graduate, he has a cerebral approach to games.
The 156.3 QBR in Week 1 is roughly double his career mark of 80.6. He has been remarkably consistent in his overall ratings, even though some seasons were considered far more successful, based on wins and losses, than others.
Last year, he started five games for Tampa Bay and won a few of them. For that, some of the most optimistic Buccaneers fans held out hope he would salvage a game or two from the team’s brutal opening schedule.
The 35-year-old stopgap has had some huge games in his career and just as many forgettable performances. His career touchdown-to-interception ratio is roughly 18:14. It reflects his overall quarterback rating and status as too good to be out of work, but not likely to lead a team to the Super Bowl, either.
Some famous quarterback once said that anybody can have a career like he had if they have a good offensive line in front of them. It’s hard to decide if Tampa’s front-five are that much better than expected or if New Orleans's defensive front mailed it in.
The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Fitzpatrick’s intelligence and preparation likely helped him recognize and respond to potential problem areas, but it might be too much to expect a performance from the offensive line like this every week.
Of course, with the plethora of pass receivers at Fitzpatrick’s disposal, he can probably take the snap and toss it in the air in one motion and expect it to be caught by a Buccaneer more times than not.
Mike Evans is looking for his fifth consecutive 1000-yard season. DeSean Jackson showed he still has some skills. Chris Godwin has many folks saying he is the best of the three.
Then there is not one, but two, above-average pass-catching tight ends to utilize in Cameron Brate and OJ Howard. Peyton Barber looked better than anticipated in camp and won the battle for a starting job, but he still represents the weakest link in the Buccaneers offense.
We’ve seen this before, although not to this extreme. Ryan Fitzpatrick has some great games and big wins one week, only to fall flat the following week.
Most recently, he stepped up with a 20.6 NFL Fantasy point performance in Week 6 last year. When Jameis Winston went down in Week 9, fantasy owners expected to see the same. Instead, Fitzpatrick came up with 9.72 and 10.38 NFL Fantasy points.
When he followed that with a solid showing (and 19.9 NFL fantasy points) against Miami, some streaming owners were burned by his 13.38-point follow-up in Atlanta.
Not to take anything away from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s masterful season debut, but it is hard not to suspect part of his success was a total disrespect of the Buccaneers from the New Orleans Saints. They never knew what hit them, and that is usually the result of looking past an opponent.
Tampa Bay gives Fitzpatrick lots of weapons and they were breaking free all over the field last week. Philadelphia is a different animal. Their defense is faster and more deceptive than the Saints. Their pass rushers will stunt and blitz and get to Fitzpatrick by hook or by crook.
Fantasy owners looking for a boost might be attracted to Fitzpatrick’s ceiling, but we expect the Eagles to keep him pinned to the floor in Week 2 and thus, do not consider him a must-start this week.
BUT… In Week 3, Fitzpatrick faces a slower and more predictable Steeler defense. Fitzpatrick could find himself in a delightful shoot-out with Ben Roethlisberger. If you picked up Fitzpatrick, hold on to him for what could be a more fruitful start in Week 3.