Now that the preseason schedules have been released, it’s time to focus on the schedule that everyone actually cares about: the regular season.
The exact dates and times for each of the games have yet to be released and we will have to wait until tonight for that, but The Pewter Plank has learned who will appear on the schedule and which games are home and away which is more then enough to tide everyone over until then. So without further ado, let’s run through an early breakdown of how the Bucs might fare this season.
The Bucs get the Rams in St. Louis this year and this could be an interesting game. Last year we were calling the Lions game a game that could be a rivalry for a while given how good the two teams will be. Well the Lions held up their end but the Bucs fizzled. This game against St. Louis is a reset to that matchup. The Rams are growing and they’re built like the Bucs. They have Sam Bradford — a young, stout quarterback who is capable of winning. They may also have Trent Richardson as well and it will be a meeting between Cortland Finnegan and Vincent Jackson, two guys we thought would be in Tampa this year. It will be a test for the Bucs but it’s a proper test and we will gauge how good of a team booths teams are after this game.
The Raiders are the Cubs of the NFL only meaner. They are always looking forward to next year it seems and this year is no different. So when they welcome in Tampa, whenever they do, it may be a game the Bucs can flex their muscles. Oakland has a defense but not much more past that so they style of offense will be a good test for this young defense. Carson Palmer has something to prove in Oakland as his grace period is over. If the Bucs can get a win here, and they very much can, they may be able to gain some much needed confidence. This is the first of many teams in 2012 that Josh Freeman has never faced.
The Buccaneers get the Vikings on the road for a second straight year. But this will be an interesting matchup. Not only are the Vikings struggling behind Christian Ponder and injury woes, but they have no home. The Metrodome lease is up and there is no new deal in place. This will be played at a site not familiar to the VIkings unless the Dome lease is extended but if they build the stadium on that lot, the game will be played in TCF Stadium where the Minnesota Gophers play. The Bucs won in a comeback last year and they may be able to handle a woeful Vikings team again. But don’t count Ponder out, he has has much to prove as the Bucs and this could be a trap game. An interesting footnote: the Buccaneers get the Vikings for the next three years making it the first time since their days in the NFC Central that they get the Vikings in consecutive years. They play the NFC North again next season and then the Vikings are on the home docket for 2014.
Robert Griffin III has a lot to prove and he’ll have a tough go of things in Washington. The Bucs get to see RGIII twice, once in the Preseason and the other in the regular season. Whenever the Bucs get to play against a rookie quarterback or a quarterback on the rise it can go one of two ways. On the one hand they can give a ‘welcome to the NFL rookie’ performance and dominate. But they could also get a ‘you guys aren’t nothing’ response like Cam Newton gave them twice last season. Griffin III is built like Newton and he’s mobile. The Bucs will need to be on their toes or this may be a game that gets notched onto Griffin III’s rookie belt.
The Panthers are an easy target — to everyone they didn’t dominate last year which is in this case the Bucs. Cam Newton’s highlight reels are filled with plays against the Bucs which is embarrassing only because he’s a divisional opponent. Josh Freeman went from the third best quarterback in the NFC South to the last with Newton’s arrival last year and the Bucs aren’t letting that slide. Freeman has Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and a new offensive message. He’s also got a new goal: winning. If the Bucs want to begin to make their mark again they need to sweep the series against the Panthers who got their shots in hard last year when they could.
The Chiefs are borderline; they have the potential to be a solid team this year as it seemed games slipped away from them last in games last year. But they could also take a step back with a new head coach and a new scheme, unrest at the quarterback position and so forth. The Bucs need to watch their backs int his one but it’s not an un-winnable game. Josh Freeman has never faced the Chiefs in his career.
New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Falcons – HOME
This one is spit into two. The Bucs seem to be able to win against divisional foes at home. They went 3-1 at home against the NFC South inside Raymond James losing only to the Panthers. This is momentum that Greg Schiano will want to feed off of and it’s very possible. The bright spots for a lot of these guys last year was beating the Saints and Falcons at home and if that can be hyped up in these guys, it could be trouble for the Saints who won’t have a coach and the Falcons who are reeling from back-to-back disastrous playoff performances.
**POTENTIAL NATIONAL TV GAME**
The Bucs get two repeat games from last year, the first being the Vikings and the other being the Cowboys, only this time the Bucs travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. This is a game that could really go either way, and that’s not underselling to or overstating it. Dallas isn’t really coming into their own and they’ve been notable failures the last decade. Every year seems to be their year to break out but something always goes wrong. Last year Tony Romo’s injuries derailed everything and who knows what it will be next year. The one thing the Cowboys did do right was they pounded the Bucs. It’s revenge time but don’t expect miracles. The Cowboys may not be the best team in the NFC East but they’re still better then Tampa Bay.
This was almost filed under impossible but the Chargers are a beatable team. If you thought the Cowboys had issues having next year be their year, the Chargers coined that whole fad by– well by being the Chargers. Phillip Rivers is the only elite NFL quarterback who isn’t elite. He constantly loses games by throwing interceptions but he makes miraculous throws in the same breath. Their defense also isn’t anything to write home about but they are still always one of the better teams against NFC opponents and should be hungry to get revenge on the Buccaneers for stealing Vincent Jackson away from them. Josh Freeman has never faced the Chargers in his career.
New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Falcons – AWAY
When the Bucs play the Saints and Falcons at home they get swagger. But when their on the road it’s a whole different story. Last year ruined a lot of progress for the Bucs who were actually 2-0 against the Saints in the Superdome and nearly beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. But after two devastating losses last year on the road, they have had the vigor sucked out of their game. With a new head coach and a new attitude, the Bucs will need to build from the ground up and in road environments like the Superdome and Georgia Dome it won’t be an easy task.
This is a rivalry that isn’t what its used to be. It’s been years since the Eagles or Buccaneers have been contenders the way they used to be and now they have completely different images. Michael Vick is in charge and Josh Freeman is leading the ship in Tampa. So this will be the first time they meet with their new captains in place. Freeman has never faced the Eagles and Philly will be on the mend. The Dream Team crashed and burned last year but with OTA’s and Training Camp, that secondary will gel together and will be a force once they know how to play together. This will cause massive problems for the Bucs and if they can’t score and the run defense isn’t up to snuff, both Vick and LeSean McCoy will eat the Bucs defense alive.
**POTENTIAL NATIONAL TV GAME**
There are no real factors in this game. A month ago, with a Tim Tebow led Broncos squad, this game was filed under the medium category, but that all changed when a gunslinger named Peyton Manning came to town. Last year the Monday Night Football game the Bucs were featured in was suppose to feature Manning vs. Freeman. We were robbed of that last year but we get a second chance at that this year with Manning in a new uniform. But it’s going to be a Tebow-like miracle for the Buccaneers to beat the Broncos. The fact it could be a November/December game in cold weather doesn’t help things at all either. Manning has a good track record against the Bucs and that won’t change just because his uniform does.
New York Giants – AWAY
They’re the reigning Super Bowl champions and the Bucs get them in the Medowlands — or whatever it’s called now, The Met? The name of the venue doesn’t matter because the Buccaneers will have their hands full to the max with the Giants. This game will be even tougher if Tampa has to travel to New York in cold weather. Josh Freeman has also never faced the New York Giants, and besides that the Buccaneers have never had to face Eli Manning who is quickly becoming one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the NFL. The cornerbacks were an issue for the Bucs last year and with Eric Wright and probably Morris Claiborne in town next year, Victor Cruz and his impact may be harsh on the Bucs.