The NFL schedule was released on Wednesday night, and the Buccaneers now know their path in the quest to get back into the playoffs. Guess what?
It isn’t that easy.
While Tampa Bay will open and close their 2014 season with two home games a piece, the in between leaves a lot to be desired in terms of ease. The Bucs will spend weeks three, four, and five, on the road and play four games out of five on the road beginning in November.
With the seas looking choppy on the surface, let’s take a look at what the Buccaneers can expect as the attempt to sail their ship to victory this season.
WEEK 1 – SEP 7 – vs CAROLINA PANTHERS – 4:25PM
A new coach, a new look, and a new season begins at home against the division-rival Panthers. Week one isn’t the most important game to every team, but it should be damn important to the Buccaneers. With all of the hype over the new-look team both in a football and fashion sense, it would be vital for the Bucs to win this game. Not only would it mean starting the year off with a division win, but it would also help Tampa Bay put away at least one win before a three game road trip beginning in week three.
WEEK 2 – SEP 14 – vs ST. LOUIS RAMS – 4:05PM
The Rams game is almost as, if not more important, than week one against Carolina. If Tampa Bay wants begin their three game road trip with some confidence, it would help to beat a team like St. Louis. The Rams are young, well coached, and have a great pass rush. Winning will not be easy, but the Buccaneers will have to hope that the September heat can swing things their way against a team that plays in a dome.
WEEK 3 – SEP 18 – @ ATLANTA FALCONS – 8:25PM
Speaking of domes, the Georgia Dome will play host the the Bucs’ only primetime game this year, against the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Both of these teams were disappointing last year, and Tampa’s rival always plays them tough. This is the first game of three on the road, with two of those games being NFC South match ups.
WEEK 4 – SEP 28 – @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS – 1:00PM
The Bucs will play their first 1:00PM game of the year against the Steelers at Heinz Field. It’s the second game of their three-game road trip, and it comes against their first AFC North opponent of the year. The out-of-conference games on a team’s schedule are generally the least important, and while the goal is to win every game, this is the one game of the road trip that wouldn’t have implications within the division.
WEEK 5 – OCT 5 – @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – 1:00PM
By this game, the Buccaneers will have either won at least one game on the road, or they will have lost two in a row and would still be searching for their first road win. The Bucs will likely be hungry for a win either way, against the division-rival Saints. This will be Lovie Smith’s defense’s first true test.
WEEK 6 – OCT 12 – vs BALTIMORE RAVENS – 1:00PM
With the first home 1:00PM kickoff of the year, this game is sure to be sweltering hot. The best case scenario is that the Ravens decide to wear their alternate black uniforms for this one. If not, the Buccaneers should still have a chance, although they will have to contend with a familiar foe in Steve Smith, and the rest of the Ravens’ offense. Tampa Bay will want to get a win heading into their bye week.
WEEK 7 – BYE
WEEK 8 – OCT 26 – vs MINNESOTA VIKINGS – 1:00PM
The Bucs come off of their bye week with a home game against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. For the past couple of seasons, the Buccaneers have had a pretty stout run defense, and that will have to continue if they want to keep Minnesota in check. We don’t know how their passing game will look yet though, as they will likely select one early in this year’s draft.
WEEK 9 – NOV 2 – @ CLEVELAND BROWNS – 1:00PM
Like the Vikings, the Browns’ starting quarterback probably isn’t on their roster yet, so it is hard to imagine what their offense will look like. However, we already know that they will have Josh Gordon, who emerged as one of the league’s best wide receivers last year. He did so despite Cleveland’s ineptitude at quarterback, which is incredibly impressive. He will be the guy the Buccaneers will have to focus on stopping if they want to win.
WEEK 10 – NOV 9 – vs ATLANTA FALCONS – 1:00PM
This game will go a long way in determining what happens with the rest of the Bucs’ season. It’s their last game before playing four out of five on the road, and it comes against the division-rival Falcons. The Buccaneers need to take care of home field this season, especially because these extended road trips could end up taking their toll by season’s end.
WEEK 11 – NOV 16 – @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS – 1:00PM
The Bucs are going to pay a little visit to Gruden and Allen’s house…..that’s Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen. There’s no telling what to expect to see out of the Redskins just yet, but one thing I can guarantee we will experience is a lot of deep throws towards new receiver DeSean Jackson. We don’t know how healthy Robert Griffin III will be, but the last time the Bucs saw him, he broke their hearts on the final drive of a nail-biter. Depending on Washington’s defense, this could be a tough game to win on the road.
WEEK 12 – NOV 23 – @ CHICAGO BEARS – 1:00PM
Can I guarantee a victory before May? Because this is a game I guarantee the Bucs will win. Lovie Smith is going back to Chicago to face his old team, and while he may never say it outright, he wants some revenge on the team that fired him after years of consistent playoff appearances. His defense will be ready, although the likes of Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Marc Trestman’s offense will be tough to contain. Still, Lovie just has to have a successful return to Chicago.
WEEK 13 – NOV 30 – vs CINCINNATI BENGALS – 1:00PM
Tampa Bay returns home to face Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Like a lot of other home games this year, it precedes multiple games on the road, thus making it important to defend home field.
WEEK 14 – DEC 7 – @ DETROIT LIONS – 1:00PM
Last year’s Detroit game was an amazing shootout which saw the Buccaneers come up clutch when it mattered the most. Both teams have new head coaches, but the players remember the game all too well, and the matchup could turn out to be another entertaining bout between two differently built squads.
WEEK 15 – DEC 14 – @ CAROLINA PANTHERS – 1:00PM
With the Panthers struggling to find weapons for Cam Newton, I don’t find it likely that the Panthers will be in the playoff mix at this point in the season. However, the Panthers would love to play spoiler if the Buccaneers are close to a playoff birth. They’re a good, young team with a lot of great players on defense, and a playmaker at quarterback.
WEEK 16 – DEC 21 – vs GREEN BAY PACKERS – 1:00PM
The battle of the bays is back! This old NFC Central rivalry helped define the division in the mid-to-late 90′s when the Buccaneers entered into NFL relevancy again under Tony Dungy, and if the Bucs are allowed to wear the creamsicles this year, this would be my favorite to become the throwback game. Also, this is the first of two home games that the Buccaneers will end their season with. It is important that they finish strong.
WEEK 17 – DEC 28 – vs NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – 1:00PM
Regardless of whether or not the Bucs are in the playoff hunt, it is always fun to end the season against the New Orleans Saints. Why? Because if we’re a good team, we’ll be taking it to the Saints and keeping things competitive (last year’s home opener vs NO, which Tampa shouldn’t have lost). If not, its fun to play spoiler against New Orleans, who is usually vastly overrated by ESPN and other media outlets on a yearly basis.
What do you think of the Bucs’ new schedule? Let us know in the comments, and on Twitter (@ThePewterPlank). Also, don’t forget to participate in our poll question below!