The NFL released the schedules for all 32 teams on Thursday night. On paper, the schedule is freaking out many Bucs fans as they are talking about how tough the games are. But these opponents have been known for quite some time so is it the teams or the dates and times the games fall on that are worrying the masses?
Regardless of what it could be, there is no reason to fret. Last season’s good team can be bad, the bad could be good. Or they can stay the same. However, no matter how you spin it, this is a new year and anything can happen. So with that said, let’s go ahead and predict how the season’s win/loss record will end up. We’ll use some tidbits from the Buccaneers press release for each week.
Week 1: The team faces the Atlanta Falcons. The game marks the first time that Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith will return to the Georgia Dome sidelines, where he served as the Falcons’ head coach from 2008-14. The Buccaneers swept last season’s two meetings. Result: Bucs win, 1-0.
Week 2: The Buccaneers make their first of three separate West Coast trips this season, taking on the Arizona Cardinals on September 18. The Buccaneers and Cardinals have a 9-9 record against each other and Tampa Bay can even its road record in the series to 4-4 with a win. Result: Bucs lose, 1-1.
Week 3: The regular-season home opener will take place on September 25, with the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams coming to Tampa for a 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff. This year marks the fifth consecutive year that the Rams and Buccaneers have played one another (2012-16). Result: Bucs win, 2-1.
Week 4: On October 2, also at 4:05 p.m. ET, the reigning world champions come to town, as the Buccaneers host the Denver Broncos. The game marks only the fourth time overall, and first time since 2004, that Denver has visited Tampa Bay. Result: Bucs lose, 2-2.
Week 5: The Buccaneers then travel to face the Carolina Panthers in Week 5 on Monday Night Football, marking the second consecutive week that Tampa Bay plays a Super Bowl 50 participant. The team has won its two most recent Monday Night Football appearances – against Indianapolis in 2011 and against Miami in 2013. Result: Bucs win, 3-2 (Yes, print the upset headlines now).
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: The Buccaneers go back to action in Week 7 with a road game against the San Francisco 49ers. The visit marks the first time Tampa Bay will play in Levi’s Stadium. Result: Bucs win, 4-2.
Week 8: Tampa Bay then returns to Raymond James Stadium for a three-game home stand, beginning with the Oakland Raiders on October 30. The Buccaneers are 1-1 all-time against the Raiders at home. Result: Bucs win, 5-2.
Week 9: The Buccaneers play their second primetime game of the season as they host the Atlanta Falcons for Thursday Night Football. When playing the Falcons at home, the Buccaneers hold a 14-10 advantage. Result: Bucs win, 6-2.
Week 10: Tampa Bay takes on the Chicago Bears, meeting their old NFC Central rival for the third consecutive year and looking to avenge last year’s 26-21 home loss. Bucs lose, 6-3.
Week 11: The Buccaneers travel to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11, in a series where Tampa Bay has a 6-5 overall advantage while owning a four-game win streak (1999, 2004, 2008, 2012). Result: Bucs lose, 6-4.
Week 12: On November 27, the Buccaneers welcome the Seattle Seahawks. Tampa Bay has won three of its past four meetings against Seattle, with the loss coming in an overtime contest against the Seahawks in 2013. Result: Bucs lose, 6-5.
Week 13: Tampa Bay will face off against the San Diego Chargers, an opponent the Buccaneers haven’t visited since 2004. Result: Bucs win, 7-5.
Week 14: Tampa Bay squares off against the New Orleans Saints for the first time on December 11, as the Buccaneers host the NFC South rival and hunt for their first home win against the Saints since 2011. Result: Bucs win, 8-5.
Week 15: The Buccaneers visit the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, December 18 at the house that Jerry built. Result: Bucs win, 9-5.
Week 16: Tampa Bay travels to play their final road game of the season against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, December 24. Result: Bucs lose, 9-6.
Week 17: The regular-season campaign ends at home on January 1 against the Carolina Panthers, a game where the Panthers may already be looking ahead to the playoffs. Result: Bucs win, 10-6.
I do feel the Bucs can hit a streak early on in the season with momentum carrying them into their Thursday night matchup in Atlanta which includes a stunning victory on Monday Night Football just a few weeks prior. Tampa Bay played decent offensive football against the NFC South in 2015 despite the debacle in last season’s finale in Carolina. Factor in a competent defensive coaching staff with no conflict of interest due to family members on the staff, this year’s defense will see improvement on the field.
Tampa Bay’s 5-1 record against their division opponents will be a huge factor in 2016. They’ll hit a rough patch in the middle of the season but finish strong, winning four of their last five to get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2007.