Which Fitz­patrick will show up against Carolina?

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY MAR­CEL LOUIS-JAC­QUES Mar­cel Louis-Jac­ques, 704-358-5015:

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?

THE THE­ORY

Ryan Fitz­patrick is known for his ran­dom spurts of great­ness, but he’ll regress to his norm against Carolina on Sun­day.

NAILED IT

Over the course of his A 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,

A

Fitz­patrick’s teams have only won five games — three of which came against his for­mer teams (Ten­nessee, Buf­falo, New York Jets).

The Pan­thers’ sec­ondary A has found its stride lately, on aver­age keep­ing their past three op­po­nents to 37 yards un­der their re­spec­tive sea­son av­er­ages.

In Fitz­patrick’s two

A 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

A

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

A only has four ca­reer 400yard 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

A

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 pass­rush­ing teams, rank­ing 21st in the league in sacks.

Fitz­patrick has won 5 A 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.

FI­NAL THOUGHT

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.

MON­ICA HERNDON TNS

The sta­tis­tics for Ryan Fitz­patrick’s 14-year NFL ca­reer pro­vide hints, but not nec­es­sar­ily an an­swer, as to how the quar­ter­back will play on Sun­day.

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