Ryan Fitzpatrick has been unbelievable in 2018. There's no denying that. And so the times of FitzMagic -- also seen in spurts with the 2015 New York Jets -- are again upon us. Unfortunately, one might tend to view his spectacular play with some skepticism, because we've seen this song and dance before.
One of the league's greatest mysteries, the Buccaneers' 35-year-old quarterback has been average at best during his 14 years in the NFL (he has a 50-70-1 record as a starter, a 60.0 percent completion rate and a 181:137 touchdown-to-interception ratio). Yet, by the power of the Ryan Fitzpatrick cycle, he always lands a starting quarterback gig. This season, it was Jameis Winston's three-game suspension that put Fitzpatrick back under center.
In two games, I think he's made us all FitzMagic believers again, producing video-game numbers: a 78.7 percent completion rate, 819 yards, an 8:1 TD-to-INT ratio and a 151.5 passer rating, while also rushing for a touchdown. The wins haven't been over slouch teams, either, as the Bucs beat the Saints on the road and then the Super Bowl LII champion Eagles at home. Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers on "Monday Night Football" in Week 3, the Bucs have a chance to do what no one thought possible when the regular-season schedule was released in April: get through the most difficult three-game opening stretch in the Super Bowl era with a 3-0 record. Remarkably, if Fitzpatrick keeps this pace, we're looking at a 78.7 percent completion rate, 6,552 passing yards, 13.4 yards per attempt, 64 TDs, eight INTs and a 151.5 passer rating. I mean, come on!
I know what you're thinking: This can't happen. It won't happen. When will Fitzpatrick lose his magic?
OK, yeah, he's obviously not gonna throw for 6,500 yards and 60 touchdowns. But what about the general question at hand: When will the FitzMagic disappear? Well, honestly, I don't think he will lose it. Not with this team.
Sure, in the past, Fitzpatrick has been a turnover machine and has folded in big moments. Some of that could be blamed on the fact that he felt he had to do too much and make up for a lack of talent around him. The Harvard man knows he doesn't have to do that in Tampa. He's taking advantage of his opportunity by getting the ball to the talented pass catchers the Bucs have accumulated, including tight end O.J. Howard and receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin. Head coach Dirk Koetter's play-calling is giving a physically healthy Fitzpatrick the opportunity to hit his weapons downfield, and it's working, most notably with Jackson. Big plays have put the Bucs on another level heading into Week 3, as their four TD passes of at least 50 yards this season are tied for most in a two-game stretch in NFL history.
It's not just the football part he's excelling at -- he's approaching a high-stress position with a lot of energy and smiles. He's like a kid enjoying every minute (see Sunday's postgame presser), and all of this is liberating for his teammates. From a locker-room standpoint, this is Fitzpatrick's team, by the looks of it.
Time will tell how long the Bucs stick with the veteran, considering Winston is scheduled to return from his suspension in Week 4, but if it's my shot to call, I'm rolling with FitzMagic.
Each week in the 2018 NFL season, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. For the first quarter of the season, the rankings are based on a combination of:
1) Player accomplishments prior to the 2018 season.
2) Weekly performances, while considering strength of opponent.
Following Week 4, rankings will solely be judged on this season's efforts. With Week 2 already in the books, Carr's list is below.
The Rams didn't have to use Gurley much against a struggling Cardinals team, but he really made the most of his 22 touches. Gurley became the first player in NFL history with three touchdowns and two converted two-point attempts. He has now scored 23 scrimmage touchdowns since 2017, the most in the NFL over that span. The guy's a beast.
Brown hasn't put up his usual gaudy numbers yet this season, but that doesn't mean he's a product of Big Ben. That's ridiculous. Brown, who had nine catches for 67 yards against the Chiefs, is one of the reasons the Steelers (0-1-1) have even been competitive without Le'Veon Bell. Expect Brown to have a huge game against the Bucs in prime time after those comments.
Hill was quiet in the first half against the Steelers, but he was instrumental in the Chiefs keeping their lead in the second half, when he posted five receptions for 90 yards and a score. Always finding a way to be effective with the ball in his hands, Hill's value to Andy Reid's squad is incomparable. In the span since Hill entered the NFL in 2016, only Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell (3,834) has amassed more all-purpose yards than Hill (3,646).
To start, Mahomes has the most passing touchdowns (10) in a player's first three career games in NFL history. The kid has been unstoppable. He can do so many things above the Xs and Os, like heaving the ball for a 30-yard pass while three unblocked pass rushers are running straight at him. Mahomes throws with great anticipation and has no fear. I can't keep him off this list, even when accounting for the fact that we're looking at a small sample size.
Surprise, surprise: Against the Titans on Sunday, Hopkins put up another 100-yard receiving game, the 19th of his career. Finishing with six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown, Hopkins leads the league in TD receptions since 2017 with 14.
The Giants' offense is riding the struggle bus behind a poor offensive line. OBJ hardly has time to run a route before Eli Manning is on the ground. That said, Beckham's career production has dropped since 2017 despite getting the same amount of targets, per NFL Research. In his first three seasons, Beckham was targeted 10.6 times per game and produced 95.9 receiving yards per contest. In his last two seasons, he has been targeted slightly more (10.8 per game) but has produced just 77.3 receiving yards per tilt. There are a million things I could point out in terms of what the Giants have endured the last two seasons, but the offense as a whole hasn't been in sync since 2016, when the team made its last trip to the playoffs.
I should've expected Diggs to have a big performance against the Packers, as he'd hauled in a touchdown in three straight games vs. Green Bay entering Sunday. Producing two touchdowns and a two-point conversion (which sent the game into overtime), Diggs authored the kind of performance that separates good players from great players. Diggs is making his mark in Minny.
Thomas has 28 receptions through two weeks, the most in the first two games of a season since 1950. That's crazy. He racks up catches due to his physicality and ability to have success in the slot or out wide.
I think we're all surprised at how much the Saints have struggled so far at home. One thing that's not surprising, though, is the play of their veteran quarterback. Against an improved Browns squad, Brees orchestrated the 29th fourth-quarter comeback of his career (tied for second-most among active players, behind only Tom Brady).
Rivers is doing a great job spreading the ball around to his playmakers. As a result, he's off to one of the best starts of his career with 57 completions, 680 passing yards, six TDs and a 119.6 passer rating in two games.
JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 15
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks:Oof! The Seahawks' offense couldn't get it going against Khalil Mack and the Bears. Even though Wilson didn't have a great game (226 yards, two TDs, one pick, six sacks and a passer rating of 86.1), he is the one to credit for everything the offense accomplishes this season.
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers: Allen moved out of the top 15 for the simple reason that others have been better. He's had a great start to the 2018 campaign and added six catches for 67 yards against the Bills. With those receptions, the receiver has tied his own franchise record for most consecutive games with five-plus catches.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He's legitimately setting league records. Fitzpatrick became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400 yards and four TDs in consecutive games and win both games.