The autumn wind is a pirate and/or a Buccaneer. Following a sad start in September, the Bucs, like the fall leaves, don't look so green anymore. At .500, Tampa Bay has developed into a bona fide playoff contender, thanks to consistently impressive performances from two offensive studs. One is putting up absurd, record-breaking rookie numbers weekly; the other is having a resurgent season after a prolonged sophomore slump.
Greatness on the Road winners
Jameis Winston and Doug Martin
It's rare that a duo takes home this highly-sought prize, but it's just as rare for a duo to account for 92.3% of its team's 521 yards in a 28-point win. You throw the rulebook out when you see those numbers.
Winston made his case for Offensive Rookie of the Year with a five-touchdown showing against a previously-heralded Eagles defense. The first-year quarterback spread the ball around too, tossing his TDs to five different receivers, from Mike Evans to a rookie tight end from Harvard named Cameron Brate, and they came in all forms -- fades, slants, short goes, near-interceptions. Winston's five scores were the most touchdowns thrown by a rookie quarterback since 1937, and his 15 TDs on the season lead all rookie quarterbacks.
It's unlikely that Winston could have played so well without the support of his lead back. Martin had his best game of the season, rushing for 235 yards on 27 attempts and ripping off separate runs of 84 and 58 yards through the Eagles' secondary. It was Martin's second 200-plus-yard rushing performance as a Buccaneer -- his first (251 yards) came in his rookie year against the Raiders. The Dougernaut's day at the races validates the theory that Martin has returned to the upper echelon of running backs. Averaging five yards per carry, Martin ranks second in rushing behind the great Adrian Peterson.
Silencing the rowdy crowd at the Linc, and turning the Eagles fans on their own team in a dominant 45-17 win, Winston, Martin and the Buccaneers look primed to handle adversity, if it comes their way in January. Sitting at 5-5 in a mediocre conference, anything is possible for these young Bucs, just as long as their young backfield keeps rolling over defenses.
James Jones (and his hood)
Before the season, Jones was struggling to find work in the league. Then, his former team came calling and the veteran wideout found salvation in a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, a balanced offense and a green sweatshirt.
After some mid-season struggles -- Jones had just three catches in the previous three games after a hot start -- the Packers wide receiver broke out against the rival Vikings in Minnesota. In Green Bay's most important game of the season, Jones, wearing a green hoodie that peaked out the back of his jersey, found space in the Vikings' secondary, toe-tapped in the end zone and led the Pack to a crucial NFC North win with six catches, 109 yards and a touchdown.
All the hubbub coming into Dallas' road bout in rainy Miami was about the return of Tony Romo, the savior of the Cowboys' fading playoff hopes. But it was McFadden who stole the show and paced the team to victory. The Cowboys' starting back provided a consistent force on the ground against the Dolphins, averaging 4.4 yards per rush en route to a 129-yard day in a 24-14 win. With Joseph Randle and Christine Michael out of the picture, McFadden has taken hold of the starting position. Dallas hasn't had a healthy, balanced offense in consecutive weeks this season, and McFadden's play going forward should pave the way to any success the Cowboys' passing game achieves under Romo. We'll see if McFadden and the 'Boys can keep up the pace on Thanksgiving.