The Bucs open with games at the Saints, at home against the Eagles, and at home against the Steelers, on a Monday night. Even with Winston, the Bucs may be staring at an 0-3 start. Without him, an outcome of no wins in three weeks becomes even more likely.
The fact that the Week Three game falls on a Monday will give him one less day to get ready for Week Four, at Chicago. That could make it much harder to avoid a Week Four loss, and it could make the team more tempted to give him a fourth game off, especially if Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing well — and especially since the bye comes in Week Five.
So the start of the season could end up being an awkward and futile one for the Bucs. And if they lose the first three games, their margin for error will shrink considerably, especially in a division that sent three teams to the playoffs in 2017.
It also will increase the pressure on coach Dirk Koetter and G.M. Jason Licht, either or both of whom could be entering make-or-break seasons. If the first three games break against them, the end may be coming sooner than later.