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As Jameis Winston starts his suspension, no guarantees for when he returns

The Saints are the clear favorite in the NFC South, but Mike and Chris are anticipating strong playoff pushes from the Falcons and Panthers.

With the preseason over for the Buccaneers (and everyone else), the three-game suspension for quarterback Jameis Winston officially has begun. And when he officially returns, he officially has no guarantee that he’ll start the team’s Week Four game at Chicago.

Via, G.M. Jason Licht declined to declare during the TV broadcast of the preseason finale that Winston immediately will be re-installed as the starting quarterback when he returns on the Tuesday morning after the team’s Week Three Monday night game against the Steelers.

“I don’t think it would be fair to anybody right now to just lay out that plan and to say definitively what it’s going to be,” Licht said regarding whether Winston will start. “I think, you know, the circumstances at hand at that point in the season, where we’re at, how Ryan [Fitzpatrick is] playing, you know, it’s a short week. There’s a lot of factors at play there. So, you know, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin, whoever it is is playing lights out, I don’t think it’s fair right now just to say, ‘Yes, automatically, [Jameis] is going to be the guy.’ Now, he may be. Dirk [Koetter] and I, Dirk in particular, he’s got some time to think about that.”

The fact that the Bucs have a short week when Winston returns from more than three weeks away from the team will make it harder for him to be immediately ready to go. The fact that the Bucs play on Monday night at home and then Sunday on the road will make it even harder. Which could make the Bucs inclined to ride out their last game before a Week Five bye without Winston, ultimately giving him nearly three weeks to get ready for a Week Six showdown against the Falcons.