Buccaneers: Predicting the 2017 Schedule

Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; A view of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers flag flown outside at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers won 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; A view of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers flag flown outside at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers won 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

What will the Buccaneers’ schedule look like? Here, we’ll take a look at the set opponents for Tampa Bay and try to guess the day and time slot that each game fits into.

When it comes to what the NFL is thinking as it puts together its season schedule, no one really seems to know. Even still, we’ll try to look here at how the Buccaneers‘ 2017 schedule will unfold. To guess which opponent will fall into each week would be complete chaos, so we’ll look at each opponent and decide whether that game will be played on Sunday, Monday or Thursday. For the Sunday games, we’ll also look at which time slot the game could fall into (1:00, 4:00/4:05/4:15/4:25 or Sunday night).

Predicting who the Bucs will draw in their season opener never seems to be an easy task. Over the last ten season openers, Tampa Bay has played six at home, seven against NFC opponents and four against NFC South opponents.

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Tampa Bay had the privilege of playing four straight season openers at Raymond James Stadium from 2009-2012. In recent years, the schedule has worked out a little more evenly. And, the Bucs have opened two of the last three seasons with divisional games (the lone exception was the infamous showdown between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota). So following the recent trend, I’ll go with the 2017 season opener being a divisional matchup. That gives me six options, but seeing as how the team opened on the road last year, I’ll make another guess and say it narrows the options to three.

Pick: Home vs Saints (1:00)

The Saints feel like a fairly good pick here, since the Bucs haven’t opened against them since 2008. That game was a 24-20 loss in New Orleans. A matchup between Winston and Drew Brees should be good, making for a fun start to the new season. The lack of a really big storyline between the two teams is what makes for the prediction of a 1:00 start time.

Now, for the rest of the schedule.

Home games:

Chicago Bears: The Bears have been a bit of a mess recently and the upcoming season likely won’t be much better. However, a familiar face will likely (maybe?) be lining up at quarterback for Chicago. Of course, that’s former Buc Mike Glennon, who signed a three-year, $43.5 million deal in the offseason. I’d assume he will be the starter, but who knows? The Bears also brought in Mark Sanchez and could maybe draft another quarterback. Either way, this doesn’t feel like a big game.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

Detroit Lions: The Lions went from 7-9 in 2015 to 9-7 with a wild card spot in 2016. Matthew Stafford is a solid quarterback, making for a pretty fun quarterback matchup. Heading into the season, both of these teams will likely be playoff picks for a lot of people. This should be a good game and might even have some playoff implications if it’s played later in the season.

Pick: Sunday (4:25)

New England Patriots: What is there to say about the opportunity that Tampa Bay has here? Bill Belichick will bring his defending Super Bowl champion Patriots into Raymond James Stadium this year to square off with the upstart Buccaneers. This is a huge game for the Bucs, but may not feel as crucial for the Pats. Either way, I think the NFL may see some intrigue in this game, similar to what they saw in last year’s Bucs/Cowboys matchup.

Pick: Sunday (4:25)

New York Jets: I say this with sincere apologies to one of our experts, Alan Schechter: The Jets do not feel important. Their quarterback situation is a constant question mark and whoever lines up behind the center is going to be without six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The bottom line is, this game doesn’t inspire much feeling at all.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are fresh off a Super Bowl victory, so this… What? Yeah, I turned the game off in the third quarter. You mean… Really? Well, then. Atlanta lost to New England in the Super Bowl after holding a 28-3 lead, which will lead Matt Ryan and Co. in one of two directions. Either the Falcons come out inspired and ride the redemption train to the playoffs, or they fall flat and can’t recover. This is always a big divisional game, but with the NFL’s general unwillingness to give Tampa Bay more than one home primetime game, there aren’t too many options for this one.

Pick: Sunday (4:25)

Carolina Panthers- Carolina fell apart last year. Cam Newton wasn’t himself and the team as a whole just never found its footing. The Bucs beat the Panthers in both meetings, albeit in narrow fashion. This year, this doesn’t feel like the big money matchup in the division. That designation goes to Bucs/Falcons.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

New York Giants- This should be good. The Giants played well last year, then fell apart in the first round of the playoffs. Boat parties aside, New York should be pretty solid in 2017. It added ex-Jet Brandon Marshall to a receiving corps that already includes Odell Beckham Jr. This should be a really good game, one that the NFL may think deserves a lot of attention.

Pick: Thursday Night Football

Away games

Green Bay Packers- Green Bay is solid year in and year out, mostly because Aaron Rodgers is unbelievably talented. He leads a team that knows how to win, especially at Lambeau Field. This is another big opportunity for the Bucs to prove themselves. They should get that chance on a pretty big stage.

Pick: Sunday Night Football

Minnesota Vikings- It was pretty impressive for the Vikings to go 8-8 last year after losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the whole season. This is going to be a matchup of two good young quarterbacks. However, neither team is really getting too much attention outside of their respective fan bases.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

Buffalo Bills- In 2013, the Bucs won four games. One of those was at home against the Bills. Both teams have undergone some major changes since then, though Buffalo is breaking in a new head coach this season. There isn’t a whole lot of intrigue here.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

Miami Dolphins- It’s always fun when the Bucs meet up with one of the other Florida teams. Last time Tampa Bay saw Miami in the regular season was in 2013 on Monday Night Football. The Bucs picked up a win in that game, improving to 1-8 on the year. Despite the transformation of both of these teams into legitimate playoff contenders, I don’t think the league will see a lot of value in this matchup.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

Atlanta Falcons- The Bucs’ home meeting with the Falcons may not get a primetime slot, but I think the visit to Atlanta will. These two could be fighting for the NFC South title this season. How fun would that be?

Pick: Monday Night Football

Carolina Panthers- When Tampa Bay hosts Carolina, I expect a standard Sunday afternoon game. I’d expect the same when the Bucs make the trip a few states north.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

New Orleans Saints- The second matchup between Tampa Bay and New Orleans could have divisional or maybe wild card implications, but likely won’t start out as a big game. It could be flexed if it’s later in the season, but I don’t see it getting much attention as of now.

Pick: Sunday (1:00)

Arizona Cardinals- Things sure went downhill for the Cardinals after they beat the Bucs 40-7 in week two last year. They went 7-8-1 a year ago, though they could realistically bounce back this year. With this game being in Arizona, the 1:00 start is ruled out. That makes the prediction pretty straightforward.

Pick: Sunday (4:05)

With these predictions, Tampa Bay has 13 Sunday games (nine at 1:00, one at 4:05 and three at 4:25). That leaves the other three games for primetime. The three predictions for primetime games may be wishful thinking, but I really think the Bucs are at the point where they deserve some exposure.

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That’s roughly how I see the schedule playing out, Bucs fans. What about you? Hit us with your predictions before the schedule drops later this week.