The Buccaneers have seen a lot of struggles in their 40-year history, some of which have come in season openers. With Tampa Bay’s trip to Atlanta in week one of the 2016 season just under two months away, we look at the team’s history of struggles in season openers.
A 42-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans in last year’s season opener was embarrassing for the Buccaneers. The team looked unprepared against a team that, the year before, was just as bad as Tampa Bay was. But, as disappointing as it was at the time, the Bucs recovered fairly well from it, finishing the season with a record of 6-10. Even though last year’s season-opening blowout wasn’t expected, it wasn’t necessarily new, as the franchise has a long history of losing season openers.
In 40 years, the Bucs have gone 15-25 in season openers. Of the 15 wins, only seven started the track to a winning season. Of the 25 losses, 19 eventually led to losing seasons. With Tampa Bay having more losing seasons than winning ones in its history, no real pattern exists as far as wins and losses in openers go.
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Although there have been some heavy struggles, Tampa Bay has put up some season-opening wins that led to big seasons. The franchise’s first win in an opener came in 1979. The 31-16 win over Detroit started a five-game winning streak for the Bucs. That year, the team made the playoffs for the first time.
In 1997, Tampa Bay opened up with a 13-6 win over San Francisco that was part of another 5-0 start. After the hot start, the Bucs finished 10-6 and made another playoff appearance. Eight years later, an 11-5 season that resulted in another postseason berth started with a 24-13 win over Minnesota. Of Tampa Bay’s 10 playoff appearances, six of the seasons started with a win.
The Bucs have four seasons in which they made the playoffs despite a season-opening loss. The most memorable of the four, of course, was in 2002. That season started with a 26-20 loss at home to New Orleans. But, Tampa Bay finished the year 12-4 and eventually won its only Super Bowl. The team’s last playoff appearance came in 2007, another season that started with a loss. A 20-6 loss in Seattle set a bad tone for Jon Gruden and company, but they bounced back to finish 9-7.
Over the organization’s 40 years, it has had 20 openers at home and 20 on the road. The Bucs have fared worse in season openers at home, going 7-13. In openers on the road, Tampa Bay is 8-12. When the Bucs hit the road in week one of the 2016 season, it will be the fifth time that they have opened against an opponent from the NFC South. In the previous four, Tampa Bay is 1-3.
When toe hits leather at the Georgia Dome on September 11, the Bucs’ record books and bad history with season openers will be out the window. Tampa Bay will be looking to start the season on the right foot by beating the rival Falcons in what will be homecoming of sorts for head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith. The Bucs should match up well with the Falcons, especially considering the fact that they swept their division foes a year ago with what was a worse roster than the one they will field this year.
While their history won’t favor them in week one, the Bucs have a chance to turn their trend of season-opening struggles around. What do you think, Bucs’ fans? Will Tampa Bay pull off a week one win in 2016?