When the New York Jets travel to Tampa Bay, Florida this weekend, they’ll be preparing to face off against a familiar foe. In the days leading up to Sunday’s game, Buccaneers Head Coach, Dirk Koetter, announced that franchise quarterback, Jameis Winston, would miss the next two weeks due to an arm injury. The Buccaneers will now turn to their back quarterback, and one who Jets fans know all to well, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In a game full of players making their returns to former teams, and one key suspension, the New York Jets have a chance to get to 5-5 on the season with a victory. For a team that many expected to have only one or two victories on the year, to be .500 at this point in the regular season is very impressive. To do so however, the Jets defense will have to stop Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In two years with Gang Green, Fitzpatrick finished 13-14 with over 6,000 yards passing and 43 touchdowns to only 32 interceptions. In 2015, his first year with New York, the Jets went 10-6 and just missed out on the postseason. Fitzpatrick had a resurgent season throwing over 30 touchdowns to only 15 interceptions. In 2016, however, with heightened expectations, Fitz’ and the Jets struggled out of the gate and finished 5-11.
In a new offensive system with Tampa Bay now, Fitzpatrick replaces an injured Jameis Winston. With the Bucs at 2-6, Tampa Bay needs the former Harvard-grad to save their season. Even in a new system, Head Coach Todd Bowles doesn’t think there will be a major change with a new signal-caller.
“I don’t think it changes much. Fitz is bright, he can learn anything. Jameis (Winston) was bright, he can learn anything as well, but I think they’re going to run their offense.”
The Jets do get off easy heading into their match-up against the Bucs. Tampa Bay’s top target, Mike Evans, was suspended for the game against New York after a late hit on a New Orleans Saints defender this past weekend. Evans is one of the top receivers in the NFL, but Bowles still understands the plethora of weapons that Tampa Bay has.
“Well, he’s (Evans) an all-pro receiver obviously, but they still have an all-pro on the other side. They have good tight ends and they have good runners, so you’ll miss him from the size and threat standpoint, but (Chris) Godwin is a good receiver, as well. They have the kid from Clemson (Adam Humphries) who is a good receiver. I’m sure they’ll spread the ball around.”
With Fitzpatrick playing against his former team in New York without his top target, the Jets defense will have many opportunities to create turnovers. Fitzpatrick isn’t the only one playing against his former team however. Jets Tight-end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be making his return to the team that not only drafted him, but released him late last year due to a DUI arrest. Seferian-Jenkins has flourished in New York and Bowles doesn’t believe his big pass-catcher will be overwhelmed with the return to Florida.
“I think he’ll be fine. Austin is a pro. The way he has come around and changed his life. The way he has been playing, I think he’ll look at it as another game. Obviously, it is against his former team, but he’ll treat it like another game. I think his emotions will be fine.”
The key to a Jets victory is simple: force Ryan Fitzpatrick to make his usual mistakes and take advantage. The question will be which Ryan Fitzpatrick will show up on Sunday.
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