Has Jameis Winston already made the leap? If so, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a compelling football pick this Sunday against the enigmatic New York Giants.
Jason's 2015 record as of Nov. 4: 26-21-2 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 18-27 Total
When does a rookie stop being a rookie? Halfway through his first season, according to some NFL analyst I heard on TV sometime ago. If that's the case, Jameis Winston is ready for the big time. He was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league through four games, almost as bad as Peyton Manning (chuckle). But Winston has improved steadily since then, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a pair of wins at 3-0 ATS. Intriguing.
We've gotten a little bit of everything from the New York Giants during that span. They've delivered a win, a loss and a push against the NFL odds, dropping a pair of road games to fall to 4-4 SU and 4-3-1 ATS on the season. The Giants take their act to Raymond James Stadium this Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX) as 2.5-point road faves; our consensus reports show two-thirds of bettors on Big Blue, providing over 78 percent of the action for this contest.
Something about those two paragraphs doesn't match up right. Don't the Buccaneers look like the sharp NFL pick on the surface of things? They're the rising commodity at this point. Winston is still raw in many respects, but he hasn't thrown an interception in three games. Is there something else going on we should know about?
Ah, there it is: Third down. According to ESPN's Matt Bowen, Winston has a 76-percent completion rate on third down over the past three games. The Buccaneers (3-4 SU, 4-3 ATS) converted 18 of their 36 attempts to keep the chains moving, which works out to... let's see, carry the one... 50 percent. That's probably unsustainable. The New Orleans Saints lead the league in third-down efficiency at 47.50 percent on the season.
Winston also did his recent damage against three teams who sit on the bottom half of the Week 9 defensive efficiency charts at Football Outsiders: No. 18 Jacksonville, No. 19 Atlanta and No. 22 Washington. But the Giants have been even worse this year at No. 25 overall (No. 26 pass, No. 11 rush). All this focus on QB Eli Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin and their awful clock management has made people forget about New York's defensive issues.
Here comes the cavalry. DE Jason Pierre-Paul is finally expected to make his season debut on Sunday after losing his right index finger in a fireworks accident. Kids, don't play with fireworks. CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral) could also return this week after getting good results from Monday's MRI. We're a bit skeptical about how Pierre-Paul will perform with nine fingers, though. Give us a small bet on Tampa Bay as a “buy low” opportunity, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Buccaneers +3 (-125) at Bovada