The 2011 NFL schedule came out today and the Buccaneers have an interesting slew of games and dates. They play primetime games in Tampa against the Colts and Cowboys (October 3rd and December 17th respectively). They also travel to Green Bay to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Packers and to London to take on the Chicago Bears. There are a number of very high profile games this season for the Buccaneers.
Diving right in, the Buccaneers host the Detroit Lions to kick off the 2011 season. Not that they should need it, but the Bucs will have the added incentive that the Lions were the team that ultimately kept them out of the playoffs last year. It will also be a great showcase of two of the QB’s from the class of ’09, Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman.
After that the Bucs will have a winnable game in Minnesota before hosting the Atlanta Falcons on September 25th. The following week the Bucs get the first of their two prime-time dates, on Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. This is a tough stretch, especially when you consider the Bucs will be forced to travel cross-country to play San Francisco on a short week. The Colts have been slow starters lately though and the 49ers are beatable, so if the Bucs play up to to snuff they should be alright.
The team doesn’t get its bye until after home dates with New Orleans and Chicago (the latter of which is actually in London). I like a mid-season bye, the Bucs will have seven games under their belts at that point and will face a more forgiving second half schedule. The bye comes at a great time this season.
The Bucs will play the Saints for the second time in four weeks on November 6th in New Orleans before hosting the Texans in Tampa. They should be in for a cold day up in Green Bay on the 20th when they face the defending Super Bowl champion Packers. Then the Bucs will face a stretch that sees them travelling to Tennessee, hosting the Panthers, facing the Jaguars in Jacksonville, hosting the Cowboys and visiting the Panthers. An extremely winnable stretch that should really put the Bucs in a strong position down the stretch as the playoff race heats up.
The Buccaneers will finish with the Falcons in Atlanta in a game that I can see being flexed to a better time slot. It was a little strange how the Panthers don’t show up on the schedule until December when the Bucs play then twice in 20 days.
-The stretch where the Bucs play the Titans, Panthers, Jaguars, Cowboys and Panthers really looks favorable. The team could easily go 5-0 or 4-1 in that period.
-The Bucs have two Saturday games back-to-back at the tail end of the season and will have eight days to prepare for the Atlanta Falcons in the season finale.