Welcome back to our four-part preview of the Buccaneers’ 2013 season schedule. Today we take a look at the next four opponents the Bucs will face in the upcoming season, and provide in-depth look at the teams the Buccaneers will face next year, and see how well the team from Tampa Bay matches up.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers get to enjoy a fairly early bye week once again, meaning that week five will signify a chance to regroup after a four-pack of season opening games. Then starting on week six, the Buccaneers start a stretch of mostly games against teams with bird names, and a couple of key road matchups.
Week Six: versus the Philadelphia Eagles
No matter where the Buccaneers stand after four games, this matchup will hold a ton of importance for the Buccaneers from a mental perspective. The Bucs saw their playoff hopes grounded by the Eagles last season, in a loss that can only be described as disappointing. The Buccaneers will likely face a more healthy Eagles team in 2013, and will have to deal with more athletes on offense, which they are luckily more prepared to deal with after this productive offseason.
The Eagles should be improved on defense, but there are still plenty of question marks. The offense has athletes who haven’t always delivered on their promise, combined with a quarterback situation featuring an oft-injured Michael Vick and a ton of young signal callers sitting behind him.
The Buccaneers will need to execute well on offense to put up some points, because the speed on offense for the Eagles may result in some points, even with the improved Bucs’ D. This will be much tougher than the late season game last year, so it will be a great test for a rested Buccaneers’ squad.
Week Seven: at the Atlanta Falcons
For this game, the Buccaneers will hop on a plane to take on yet another team named after a bird, and this one is even more important. The Buccaneers’ first game against the Falcons will be the first key road game en route to a playoff run, if the team has set itself up well in the first six weeks.
There’s not a ton of surprises on the Atlanta roster heading into the upcoming season. Michael Turner has been replaced with Steven Jackson, and Osi Umenyiora replaces John Abraham, but otherwise the Falcons will be the same team the Bucs faced last year. That means a pass-first offense with three strong options to catch the ball from Matt Ryan, and a pair of running backs who bring something different to the table. It also means a defense that is decent, but not incredible, and able to be broken down.
The Bucs will have to show a lot of guts to go on the road against the Dirty Birds and come home with a win. But to make a statement about their intentions in the division and in the NFC, a win against Atlanta would go a long way.
Week Eight: versus the Carolina Panthers
Raymond James will host a primetime game against the Panthers on Thursday Night as they finish the first half of the NFC South schedule under the lights, and it’s a must win. If the Buccaneers are going to be successful in 2013, it has to include a home win against a Panthers’ team who are capable of making noise in the division as well. There’s not a ton of talent on the team, but there’s some dynamic athletes on offense who can certainly shock the Bucs.
There is not a lot on defense to scare the Buccaneers in the back seven, but the front four does feature a pair of solid pass rushers and some promising rookies on the inside. Charles Johnson has to be contained to keep the Bucs on track to win.
This must-win game can only be won by limiting mistakes and taking advantage of a lackluster defensive backfield for the Panthers.
Week Nine: at the Seattle Seahawks
The Buccaneers will hop on a plane again to finish the first half of the season, and it’s a very tough opponent they’re flying out to meet. The team will head to Seattle, a notoriously tough road trip for the Florida-based Bucs, to take on the Seahawks, who emerged last year as a very formidable opponent under rookie QB Russell Wilson.
The defense is impressive, and they’re made more dangerous under the deafening roar of the 12th Man in the stands in Seattle, and the Bucs will struggle to score against this incredible defense. The offense features multiple running threats, and is bolstered by the addition of Percy Harvin as an all-around offensive weapon.
The Bucs will have to dominate field position, eliminate mistakes, and probably get a bit lucky to win this matchup. But nine weeks into an NFL season, anything can happen, and we could be looking at this game in a totally different light heading into this tilt.