TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at a crossroads with quarterback Jameis Winston. He might be healthy enough to play. But he hasn't been healthy enough to practice much during the week and that might finally be affecting him in games.
As a result, the Bucs are considering sitting Winston for Sunday's game at New Orleans, unless he is able to practice more this week, although no determination has been reached.
Winston has missed two practices in each of the last two weeks recovering from soreness in his shoulder. He sustained an AC joint sprain in his right throwing shoulder in a 38-33 loss at Arizona Oct. 15.
While Winston had one of his best performances in the second half at Buffalo a week ago, finishing with 384 yards and three touchdowns, he struggled on a windy day in a 17-3 loss to Carolina on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Winston has made 39 consecutive starts and no decision would be made before Wednesday. He said he felt fine after Sunday's game.
Winston completed 21-of-38 passes for 210 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble. The Bucs believe Winston's timing and precision has suffered a bit with his lack of practice reps, especially against the Panthers.
"Yeah, it was not Jameis' best game," head coach Dirk Koetter said. "He played much better the week before against Buffalo and you know, Jameis missed some throws that he normally makes."
In preparing for Buffalo and Carolina, he did not throw a football prior to Friday's practice.
"As I mentioned earlier in the week, that's not ideal," Koetter said after the game. "That's when you have to rely on all the work Jameis put in in the offseason, puts in after practice. I still don't think this will be an every-week, all-season thing. That's just my opinion. I'm not a medical guy. I don't know what happened. If he was hurt (Sunday), I don't know that yet."
Winston's pain tolerance is pretty high, but like all players, the Bucs believe he could benefit from practicing more.
Bucs backup Ryan Fitzpatrick looked good in his only appearance this season. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a loss at Arizona.
"I can't explain why he would play so well at Buffalo and miss some throws (Sunday)," Koetter said. "The one thing that was different was it was much windier. That was about as windy of a game that I've been in in a long time in the NFL. I'm not sure how much that affected him."
So, is there any scenario where if Winston is cleared to play, the Bucs would consider not starting him?
"There's three factors in that," Koetter said. "First and foremost is what the medical staff says. That's for every player. Jameis is at the front of the list. Second is the player. The player knows if he can go or not. And then third, when we're watching practice, if it doesn't look like they can go or it looks like they can't go at a success rate good enough for us to win, we would always hold them out. But we haven't had any of those things."
--History certainly says the Bucs have long odds to turn things around from a 2-5 start, but defensive tackle Chris Baker has come pretty close to pulling it off.
Baker's first full season in the NFL was in 2012 with the Redskins, who opened the season 3-6 but rallied to win their last seven games, winning their division and hosting a playoff game.
"It can turn fast," Baker said. "I was just talking about it in our d-line room. A couple of years ago, RG3's (Robert Griffin III) rookie year, I was with the Redskins and we rolled off 7-8 games in a row and made it to the playoffs. We've only played one division game and we still have a lot at stake. We've got to take it one week at a time and keep getting better. We have so much season left."
--The Bucs' four-game losing streak is making an impact on the team's attendance, as Sunday's home game against the Panthers was the third-lowest in the 20 home games since Jameis Winston took over as starting quarterback in 2015.
The announced attendance was 58,545, but the actual attendance, per the Tampa Sports Authority, was 48,744, the team's lowest since last year's home opener against the Rams, which drew an actual crowd of 44,711. The percentage of actual attendance vs. announced was 83.3 percent, down sharply from 94.6 percent from the last home game, a Thursday night game against the Patriots three weeks earlier. The dropoff in actual attendance between the two games was more than 20 percent.
NOTES: CB Brent Grimes has a shoulder injury and did not play against Carolina. Head coach Dirk Koetter said he might miss Sunday's game at New Orleans. ... S Chris Conte had his first interception of the season when he picked off Cam Newton Sunday. He had two last season. ... CB Robert McClain still is in the concussion protocol and did not play Sunday against Carolina. ... LB Kendell Beckwith had an MRI exam on his knee that was negative after suffering an injury Sunday night. Beckwith had ACL surgery a year ago.
REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: D - QB Jameis Winston was affected by the wind, but in general was off target. He passed for only 210 yards with no touchdowns. He was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. The Bucs had several drops and the offensive line did not protect him well.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: D - The Bucs had trouble getting the running game going in the first half as Carolina loaded the tackle box and dared them to throw the football. In the second half, they spread the field with four and five receivers and Doug Martin had some running lanes. He finished with 71 yards on 18 carries.
--PASS DEFENSE: C-minus - Newton was not at his best. He completed only 18-of-32 passes for 154 yards, but he had a long touchdown completion. The Bucs didn't sack Newton, giving them only seven sacks on the season in seven games. S Chris Conte had an interception.
--RUSH DEFENSE: C - The Bucs did a decent job against the run Sunday. Cam Newton led the Panthers with 44 yards on 11 carries. LB Kwon Alexander played better in his second game back from injury. Overall, it was a solid effort.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C - Say this for the Bucs. They may have solved their kicking problems. Patrick Murray made another field goal and has not missed since joining the Bucs. P Bryan Anger did a good job against the wind in pinning the Panthers deep.
--COACHING: D-minus - It feels like the wheels are falling off for the Bucs, who have now lost four in a row. They hurt themselves with penalties, they start too slow on offense. Even when the defense plays well, they can't score touchdowns.