Have you ever seen so much excitement over a 6-6 team?
It's the Jameis effect.
You believe because Jameis Winston leaves no other choice.
The Buccaneers' rookie quarterback is immersed in optimism. It goes back to his boyhood days in Alabama.
It's contagious; Jameis-ology is so strong it actually generates emotion from Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, who has taken stoicism to a level few humans reach.
This is the time of the year when football matters most. We know this because Jameis told us.
When Jameis talks, everyone in Pewter listens. So says Bucs offensive lineman Logan Mankins, who toiled behind Tom Brady for nine years.
Jameis knows what others don't. He's like Brady, Mankins says.
Jameis has told us in so many words that he is an optimist because it doesn't make sense to be anything else.
Joe Montana had his play. Bernie Kosar had his. Now this could be Winston's.
Everyone thought he was down Sunday in the Bucs' final drive of the game when he ran for 20 yards on a third-and-19. Jameis looked tackled after 10 yards. Raymond James Stadium went silent, guys
dropped their heads.
You could hear murmuring: OK, we made a nice run this season, but we'll have to wait for next year.
But Jameis remembered what Lovie told him: Until the whistle blows, the play is not over. Anyway, Jameis didn't believe he was down. It's not in his nature.
So he rose from a pile of human rubble, believing his knee never touched the turf and was off and running. First down, and then touchdown pass, and these Pewter Pirates ransacked Matt Ryan's heart.
Before Jameis put the final nail in the Falcons' coffin on Sunday, he stood in the Bucs huddle and asked who wanted to catch the game-winning touchdown pass. Mike Evans volunteered -- having been victimized by multiple drops, including a likely touchdown -- though you might think Jameis would politely say that it's time to give someone else a chance.
But Jameis cheers everyone, even Evans, despite the tendency for his hands to turn into stone at the most inopportune times. He believes in Evans just like he believes the Bucs are going to win all of their remaining four games -- he told us so.
Jameis didn't get mad at all those drops knowing for every minute of anger you lose 60 seconds of happiness.
This kid is always smiling. So you gotta believe.
The final quarter of the season starts with New Orleans at home this Sunday and then St. Louis, Chicago and Carolina, which by game 16 should have everything wrapped up and be playing backups.
The Bucs are now one game behind Seattle (7-5) in the race for the final wildcard spot.
Naysayers believe recent experiences, no matter how bad, will continue and Seattle is playing like Seattle. Winston, though, reminds us nothing is ever as bad as it seems.
During the early part of the season, when a lot of Winston's passes were going to the guys in the wrong uniforms, he kept telling us he never doubted himself. We thought the naivety of his youth was generating this narrative.
But he has made everyone at One Buc Place into believers.
Bucs GM Jason Licht finally unpacked his suitcases after Sunday's game. His nightmares of all the money he threw at the departed Anthony Collins, Michael Johnson and Josh McCown, which cost the Bucs nearly $44 million, are fading.
The Glazers, who own the team, took down the dart board in their rec room and cleaned up the blood that was dripping from Lovie Smith's caricature. They are willing to forgive Lovie for his errors. Thank you, Jameis.
Everyone is believing. Raymond James has transformed from a temporary morgue into a palace of dreams.
Since 6-6 has never felt so good, it makes you wonder what 7-6 would feel like. Jameis told us it would be nice, but 8-6 would be better.
He makes you want to find out.