Jameis Winston leads the league in the category that no one wants to – and by a large margin. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback threw four interceptions in the 23-20 loss to Houston on Saturday, taking his season’s total to 28.
Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and Philip Rivers of the Chargers are tied for second on 18.
Tampa Bay were pretty much out of contention before they hosted the Texans, so the loss shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The real issue was those interceptions.
Winston is having the worst year of his career for being picked off by defenses. Saturday was the third game this season when he has thrown four or more interceptions so it is little surprise people are wondering if he will be back next year.
The former winner of the Heisman Trophy for the top college player is in the last year of his rookie contract, and, after five years in the league, there is a genuine question about his ability to play in the NFL. In those five years with Tampa, Winston has thrown 86 interceptions – the most by any player, again by a large margin.
In the last five games, he has thrown an interception on the opening possession – putting his team in trouble straightaway.
With a salary of more than $20 million this season, what should the Buccaneers do? The answer is simple. They have to keep him.
The former Florida State University QB is actually having his best season by almost all measures other than interceptions.
He leads the league in yards and, barring injury, should pass the 5,000-yard mark next week. He is also first in passing attempts and completions and is second in touchdowns – all career.
This gives the Bucs’ front office and head coach Bruce Arians a problem when it comes to negotiating a new contract.
The interception problem may mean they offer a more limited deal than a starting QB would expect for his second NFL contract.
If Arians can work with Winston on a little smarter distribution, Tampa Bay could well be a threat next season – especially if the organisation can pick up a solid running back.
That would mean Arians could gameplan for fewer throws by his giveaway-prone QB.
So, the Buccaneers need to be smart, and that means offering Winston a chance to play for a larger contract, by giving him a bridge deal.
By re-signing Winston for $12m they would be getting a real game-winner, something that really is a commodity in the NFL.
The Texans’ win in Florida clinched the AFC South title for Bill O’Brien’s men.
The other Saturday night games saw the New England Patriots hang on to the AFC East title as they beat the Buffalo Bills 24-17. The Bills will be disappointed with the loss but know they could exact revenge in the play-offs.
In the NFC West, two long plays late in the game set the San Francisco 49ers up for a game-winning field goal against the Rams.
The loss means the LA Rams will not be in the postseason and it also set up a winner-takes-all battle for the NFC West title next week between Seattle and San Francisco.
The Seahawks can still secure the second seed in the NFC with a win over the Niners but their loss to the Cardinals on Sunday means they can no longer secure home-field advantage the play-offs.
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns to confirm home-field advantage in the AFC play-offs.
In a battle for pride in the NFC East, the New York Giants travelled to Washington where they picked up their fourth win of the season. Despite leading 35-21 in the fourth quarter, the Giants needed overtime to sneak a 41-35 victory over the Redskins.
The Cowboys and Eagles met in Philadelphia knowing a win would put either team in the driving seat in the same division. The Cowboys lost 17-9, which handed the advantage to the Eagles. A win next week will guarantee Philadelphia play-off football.
The Miami Dolphins hosted the Cincinnati Bengals and, despite leading 28-6 in the third quarter, the Dolphins needed overtime to win 38-35 after a thrilling Bengals comeback.
The result meant that Cincinnati are now 1-14 for the season and are guaranteed the worst record in the NFL and the first pick in next years’ draft.