TAMPA — Sooner or later, the Bucs were going to have to answer for Jameis Winston.If it wasn’t 2020, it would have been 2021. If it wasn’t in New Orleans, it would have been somewhere else. But eventually, the Bucs would have to reckon with the fact that they intentionally cut ties with the quarterback who led the NFL in passing yards last season.This morning, fate is knocking on the locker room door. Are you worried about answering?In one sense, the Bucs already have gotten what they were looking for. With Tom Brady in the huddle, Tampa Bay is having its finest season in more than a decade and has legitimate hopes of reaching the Super Bowl.Case closed, right? Nothing trumps winning today.Except for winning today and tomorrow and the next day, too.Whether you admit it or not, that’s the fear with Winston. That he somehow becomes the quarterback you always hoped he could be. That he becomes more precise, more disciplined, more cognizant of what it takes to consistently win games in the NFL.And, by the way, that he is 17 years younger than Brady. Seven-freaking-teen.At 43, Brady was always a short-term solution here, and there still is no answer for who comes next. That was the tradeoff with the Winston decision. You give up a potential future to grab the present with both hands. And general manager Jason Licht, coach Bruce Arians and the Glazer family were willing to do that.But now Winston also may have a chance to mess with Tampa Bay in the here-and-now.The word from ESPN is that Saints quarterback Drew Brees fractured three ribs on his left side against Tampa Bay on Nov. 8, then two more on his right side against San Francisco on Sunday, and now has a partially collapsed lung.Saints coach Sean Payton hasn’t announced a replacement, but it certainly looks like New Orleans will need another quarterback for the next two or three games, and potentially longer.And that means Winston could stand between the Bucs and the NFC South championship.Who says God has no sense of humor?Right now, the Bucs are a half-game behind the Saints in the division standings, although realistically they are 1.5 games behind due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. To put it another way, the Bucs and Saints have 13 games remaining between them, and Tampa Bay needs eight of those games to go their way. That could mean the Bucs go 6-0 and the Saints go 5-2. Or the Bucs go 5-1 and the Saints go 4-3.A few days ago, those odds didn’t look too good. New Orleans had swept the season series with Tampa Bay, had the easy part of its schedule coming up in November and seemed destined to win the South crown for the fourth year in a row.But the Brees injury changes the equation. And that could change Tampa Bay’s entire postseason outlook. Along with being a half-game behind the Saints in the South, the Bucs also are a half-game behind the Packers for the best record in the NFC. Except they have the head-to-head tiebreaker in their favor with Green Bay.So finishing ahead of New Orleans in the South could mean the difference between the No. 1 and No. 5 seed in the conference. And that’s the difference between getting a first-round bye with all playoff games at home, or playing on the road the entire month of January. It could be the difference in whether the Bucs have a playoff game at home for the first time in 13 years.And it all could be in Winston’s control.He replaced Brees in the second half of Sunday’s game against the 49ers and turned in a workmanlike effort. The Saints went from a 17-10 halftime lead to a 27-13 victory. Winston was 6-of-10 passing for 63 yards, but took a couple of sacks in the red zone and had at least one throw that flirted with an interception. Still, it wasn’t a bad effort considering it was his first real action in 11 months with a new offense.The question is where does Winston go from here?Can Payton do what Arians was unable to do for Winston? That is, to keep his reckless tendencies at bay without suppressing his considerable talents? Has the humiliation of being tossed aside by the Bucs and failing to find a starting job with 29 other teams made Winston more combustible or more introspective as a quarterback?I don’t know if the 2020 season was destined to come down to this scenario but if it wasn’t, it should have been. This is too dramatic. Too perfect. This is the past coming to call. This is Facebook sending you reminders of your ex.Potentially, this is the parting shot Winston must have longed for, and the Bucs had to have feared. John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow @romano_tbtimes.