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Bucs bench Fitzpatrick for Winston in loss to Giants

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The quarterback carousel in Tampa Bay has only two horses, and it keeps on spinning.

After throwing his third interception of an ugly afternoon, Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched in favor of Jameis Winston in the middle of the third quarter of the Buccaneers' loss to the Giants on Sunday. New York led 24-7 at the time of his benching, a score that included seven points off a pick-six of Fitzpatrick.

Winston nearly rallied Tampa Bay to a comeback victory, leading the Bucs on four touchdown drives in the second half. But Tampa Bay couldn't keep up with the Giants and lost, 38-35. Winston finished with 199 yards, two touchdowns and a game-sealing interception.

The Buccaneers benched Winston for a similar issue in a Week 8 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which he threw four interceptions and Fitzpatrick entered to nearly lead the Bucs to a comeback win. Fitzpatrick has taken all of the quarterback snaps since. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 167 yards and three interceptions, with the last being the worst of the trio.

Winston entered and led a nine-play, 74-yard drive with the majority of those yards gained on the ground. Winston completed 2 of 2 passes for 27 yards, and fumbled into the end zone when attempting to run toward the goal line. Bucs receiver Mike Evans recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.

The insertion of Winston is the latest chapter in what has become an intriguing set of circumstances for the Buccaneers for both their immediate fate and long-term future. Winston, in the fourth year of his deal, has done enough to warrant a parting of ways in the offseason. The combination of his off-field issues and his inconsistent play -- offensively explosive at times, and maddeningly erratic at others -- has made an offseason release seem plausible, especially with the Buccaneers set to owe Winston close to $21 million next season.

But that contract is only fully guaranteed for injury, with an out available if the Buccaneers release Winston before the start of the new league year. This makes playing Winston, if the Bucs intend to release him, a major risk.

But at 3-7, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is also fighting for his job. He can't spend time worrying about Tampa Bay's finances when he needs wins. Interceptions, obviously, won't help that cause.

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