Breakdown: The Bucs will make only one appearance in a nationally televised prime-time game (Oct. 25 at Minnesota) -- to be expected for a team coming off a 4-12 season. But that might be good news for new coach Greg Schiano and his squad because the Bucs won’t get a lot of attention and could sneak up on some opponents.
Tampa Bay catches an early break, opening at home for the fourth consecutive year. That game comes Sept. 9, against Carolina. The contest should give us an early indication of which NFC South team coming off a losing season could be on the rise.
The Bucs have a chance to get off to a fast start. Three of their first four games come against teams that didn’t have winning records and didn’t make the playoffs last season. The big exception is the Sept. 16 game -- on the road against the defending-champion New York Giants. The Bucs have a Week 5 bye, followed by a home game with Kansas City before the schedule starts looking difficult. By then, the Bucs might be getting used to their new coaching staff and offensive and defensive schemes.
Complaint department: Unlike Atlanta, which doesn’t have to travel in back-to-back weeks all season, the Bucs face consecutive road games in two different instances. One comes in September, at the Giants and at Dallas. There also are back-to-back road games at Minnesota and Oakland in the middle of the season. The first time shouldn’t be all that difficult, but the second round of trips involve much longer flights. But on the bright side, the Bucs aren’t likely to face many cold-weather games, and we all know Tampa Bay’s history when playing in the cold isn’t that pretty. Indeed, there are only two potential cold-weather games on the schedule. The first is Nov. 18 at Carolina; the weather in Charlotte can go either way at that time of year. The Dec. 2 game in Denver isn’t likely to be played in balmy weather and the thought of defending Peyton Manning doesn’t bring warm thoughts to anyone.
Raheem’s return: The Sept. 30 game with the Washington Redskins will be a homecoming for Raheem Morris. He spent three seasons coaching the Buccaneers but was fired after losing his final 10 games last season. Morris is now Washington’s defensive backs coach. That’s appropriate because Morris is at his best when he’s coaching just the secondary. He’s a nice guy, but the Bucs made him their head coach long before he was ready and it didn’t work. Morris needs to coach defensive backs for a year or two and move up to a defensive coordinator job for a bit. A few years from now, he might be seasoned enough to become a good head coach.
Buccaneers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, Carolina, 4:15 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Dallas, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, Washington, 4:15 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 25, at Minnesota, 8:20 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, San Diego, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Denver, 4:05 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM