Men Lie, women lie, numbers stay the same. With Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick set to make his fifth start of the season Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, what do the numbers say about the odds of “Fitzmagic” returning to the field?
Ryan Fitzpatrick is known for his random spurts of greatness, but he’ll regress to his norm against Carolina on Sunday.
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▪ Over the course of his career, Ryan Fitzpatrick has made 11 starts in place of an injured or suspended starter, completing 62 percent of his passes for an average of 239 yards per game with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. However, 10 of those touchdown passes came in two games — a six-score performance against Tennessee in 2014 and a four-score game against New Orleans this season.
▪ In those 11 starts, Fitzpatrick’s teams have only won five games — three of which came against his former teams (Tennessee, Buffalo, New York Jets).
▪ The Panthers’ secondary has found its stride lately, on average keeping their past three opponents to 37 yards under their respective season averages.
▪ In Fitzpatrick’s two worst games of the season — against Pittsburgh and Chicago — Tampa Bay ran for 63 and 60 yards, respectively, giving its offense no semblance of balance. Pittsburgh and Chicago are each top-10 defenses against the run, as is Carolina, which ranks eighth in the NFL.
This ain’t it, chief
▪ He might be in his 14th season and seventh different team, but Fitzpatrick is statistically playing the best football of his career. He’s on pace to shatter his previous career-highs in touchdown percentage, quarterback rating, yards per game and completion percentage.
▪ Although Fitzpatrick only has four career 400-yard passing games, three of them came in consecutive games this season. His torrid start to 2018 gave him the second-most passing yards through three games in NFL history.
▪ Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the key difference between Fitzpatrick’s best and worst games is the amount of pressure he dealt with from an opposing pass rush. Right now, the Panthers aren’t one of the NFL’s premier pass-rushing teams, ranking 21st in the league in sacks.
▪ Fitzpatrick has won 5 of his 11 starts in place of an injured or suspended starter but he’s won each of his past four. Go figure, the Harvard guy gets smarter with age.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a deceptively good quarterback — sometimes. You don’t stick around the league for 14 seasons if you don’t bring something to the table but his ability to effortlessly toe the line between “NFL starter” and “career backup” is almost too inexplicable to put into statistics.
I’m not so egotistical to stick to my guns when I know I’m wrong; the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” type of league and Fitzpatrick’s recent production suggests we’re more likely to see “FitzMagic” than “FitzTragic” on Sunday.
That’s not a kiss of death for Carolina, however. Tampa Bay is 2-2 with Fitzpatrick under center for a reason — it’s one of the worst defensive teams in the league and hasn’t been able to run the ball effectively.
Fitzpatrick might get his but it’s still very likely Carolina earns the win.