At first glance most would look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ schedule and say they have to run a gauntlet to get themselves to nine or ten wins. But when one is to look at the schedule from the perspective of opponent win/loss record from a year ago, it doesn’t look as bad as what many would think.
Buccaneers’ opponents finished last season with a .500 record at 127-127-2. The tough games tend to jump off the page when skimming over the Bucs schedule, but as would be expected with an even SOS mark, for every tough game, there’s an easy one on the list.
Tampa Bay has to play Atlanta and New Orleans twice, San Francisco, Seattle, and New England. But have easier games like Buffalo, the Jets, two against Carolina, Arizona, Philadelphia, and Detroit.
Now we all know that the schedule doesn’t look the same in July as it will come late October. CBS Sports illustrates this fact in an excellent graphical format. So I thought we could try to break this down a little more.
We will start with home vs. road. In the Buccaneers home games, their opponents recorded a 60-67-1 (.469) making road opponents come in opposite at 67-60-1 (.523). I for one like to see easier games at home than on the road. Teams that win home games and lots of them tend to make the postseason. All but one division champion won at least six of their eight home games, while two division champs were a paltry 4-4 on the road.
The Buccaneers have a lot of winnable home games, and a few of the toughest games do fall as road games. If the Buccaneers can get 6 of the home games, they will need to be just .500 to get to 10 wins. That would mean wins against Carolina, New York, St. Louis, and Detroit which doesn’t seem that unlikely.
Next is games that involve heavy travel. This awesome article from ColdHardFootballFacts shows that when teams travel more than one time zone, there’s a significant drop in performance.
The Buccaneers play in three such games. Arizona and San Francisco come to Tampa, and the Buccaneers travel to Seattle. When Pacific Time Zone teams come to the east coast, the eastern team wins roughly 75% of those games. Vice versa, east travels west, the Pacific team wins only 55% of the time. What this means for our Bucs is that the 49er game, which most believe is nearly un-winnable, is not that at all. And the game against the Cardinals, which should be a win on a neutral field, gives the Buccaneers a huge advantage.
And finally we look at games in which the Bucs, or their opponent are on long weeks or short. A long or short week is anything other than the standard 6 days in between games. The Buccaneers have three long weeks (Eagles, @Seahawks, Dolphins) and two short weeks (Panthers and Falcons). Only one of the five comes as a road game. Buccaneers’ opponents coming in off long weeks are Patriots (road), Falcons (road), Dolphins (home), while the two teams coming in on a short week are the Seahawks (road) and the Panthers (home).
Depending on which statistical analysis you read there are varying amounts of significance to such games. Logic says teams on longer weeks have a better chance than teams on shorter weeks. Really what it says to me about the Buccaneers is that the Seahawks game has everything going the Bucs way and the Patriots game seems nearly impossible.
The good news in all of this is that there isn’t a single game we expect the Bucs to win but have the odds of the schedule are stacked against Tampa Bay. So while the overall strength of schedule says the Bucs face an even slate, when broken down, things tend to fall the Buccaneers way. Let’s hope it all stays that way and we end up starting double digits wins in the face.