The 2020 NFL schedule was released Thursday night, and Buccaneers fans everywhere are breathing a huge sigh of relief. After having one of the tougher schedules in football and spending six straight weeks away from home last year, the Bucs 2020 schedule is much more favorable. And that’s music to Buc Nation’s ears.
2019 vs 2020
In case you forgot, the Bucs had a brutal schedule last year. They were tied for the 12th toughest schedule in the NFL, which included a six-week stretch away from home. Bucs fans went from watching that missed, chip shot, a game-winning field goal by Matt Gay against the Giants on September 22 all the way until November 10 against the Cardinals before seeing football inside Raymond James Stadium. Not that it’s mattered much lately anyway. The Bucs haven’t had a winning record at home since 2008 when they finished 9-7, 6-2 at home. Since then, they’ve had four 4-4 seasons and four 3-5 seasons. In 2009, they finished 3-13 with a 1-7 record in home games, including a loss “at home” against the Patriots in London. In 2014, the Bucs finished 2-14 with an 0-8 record at home. Last season, they were 2-6 at home, including a “home loss” to the Panthers in London. As you can see, Raymond James hasn’t necessarily been friendly confines for Tampa Bay.
This year, the Bucs are tied for the 16th most difficult schedule in the league with their opponents 2019 winning percentage being .502 while facing four playoff teams from last year in five games (Saints twice, Packers, Chiefs, Vikings). In comparison, the Patriots have the toughest schedule of 2020, with their opponents having a .537 winning percentage from last year.
Last year, the Bucs traveled a whopping 27,670 miles with two west coast trips to Seattle and Los Angeles AND a trip across the pond to London. This year isn’t nearly as bad. The Bucs will only be traveling 15,676 miles with no games out of the country, and the furthest that they will be going west is to Las Vegas and Denver.
In 2019, the Bucs only had one primetime game, which was a Thursday night game at the Panthers, and had nine games at the 1 pm time slot. This year, thanks to Tom Brady, the Bucs have the league maximum five primetime games and only six games at the 1 pm time slot.
BUCS GOING PRIMETIME!
In 2018, the Bucs played 15 of their 16 games at 1 pm with the other game being on Monday Night Football. With the signing of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs have been thrust into the spotlight for the 2020 season. They are tied with the Chiefs, Ravens, Patriots, 49ers, Rams, Cowboys, and Packers for the most primetime games this season. They have one Thursday night game at the Bears, two Sunday night games at the Raiders and against the Saints, and two Monday night games at the Giants and against the Rams. Those five primetime games are the most the Bucs have played in a season in franchise history. It’s also more SNF and MNF games than they’ve played in the last five years combined.
BYE, BYE, BYES!
The Bucs bye in Week 13 is in the second half of the season for the first time since 2008, and it’s their latest bye since the 1990 season. The Bucs and Panthers are the ONLY teams with byes after Week 11 this season, and they are both in Week 13. Last year, their bye was in Week 7, right in the middle of that long road trip. This year it’s much later, which I feel is a good thing. Week 13 is about the time some rookies are “hitting the wall” physically and mentally. It’s the time of year where players’ bodies are getting tired or breaking down, and some injuries start happening. It’s also the time of the season where some teams are starting that playoff push, trying to build up momentum for the postseason. Having a bye this late can only help those things IF the team can push through those first 12 weeks of the season.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY!
The biggest negative for the Bucs with this 2020 schedule is that they have the most weeks (6) where they are getting less rest than their opponents in the entire league. The Packers and Raiders are both coming off of bye weeks, when they face the Bucs and the Giants are coming off of a Thursday night game. The others are just a matter of a few hours here or there, but it adds up over the course of the season.
BUCS 2020 OPPONENTS
In 2020, the Bucs are facing five former Super Bowl MVPs in six games with Drew Brees twice, Aaron Rodgers, Von Miller, Nick Foles, And Patrick Mahomes. They also face three former league MVP’s in four games with Matt Ryan twice, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. And they are playing four playoff teams from last season in five games with the Saints twice, Packers, Chiefs, and Vikings. The good news is that their new quarterback Tom Brady has a pretty darn good record versus most of their opponents. He’s a combined 15-1 against the Vikings, Lions, and Falcons in the regular season. Those three teams account for the Bucs final four games of the regular season. He’s also 5-0 against the Bears and 2-0 against the Giants in New York. Yes, I know that all of those games were when he was with the Patriots; but you can’t tell me that it doesn’t have a positive effect on his current team, knowing that he’s had success against these teams in the past. Also, Bruce Arians has 9 wins in 13 games against rookie head coaches. He plays three games against two new head coaches in Matt Rhule with the Panthers twice and Joe Judge with the Giants.
THE TOUGH STRETCH
The toughest stretch of the Buccaneers 2020 schedule might be in Weeks 9-12, or the third quarter of the season as most coaches call it. They’ll be facing the Saints at home on Sunday Night Football, the Panthers on the road, and then come back home to play the Rams on Monday Night Football and then the Chiefs. Pretty rough. However, that third quarter of the season is when the Bucs typically play their best football. Over the last five seasons, they are 8-12 in Weeks 1-4, 5-15 in Weeks 5-8, and 5-15 in Weeks 13-17. They are 14-6 in Weeks 9-12. That bodes well for them during this stretch of games. Now, if they could only learn how to win in the other three-quarters of the season, they’d be just fine.
BUCS HAVE NO CHILL!
Cold weather won’t be an issue this season for Tampa Bay. Even though they play in Denver, Chicago, and New York, all those games are before mid-November. Denver is in Week 3. Chicago is in Week 5. And the Giants game is November 2. They do have a game in Detroit in Week 16, but that’s in a dome so weather won’t matter there. So for the Bucs this season, it’s a no go on any snow!
WEEK 1: @ SAINTS
Is there a better way to kick off the season?
Brady vs Brees. Bucs vs Winston’s new team. An NFC South division game, on the road, in the Superdome. The Big Easy. Bourbon Street. Bucs vs Saints. It’s not a “primetime” game, but it is a 4:25 pm kickoff meaning it’ll be nationally televised. These are the two frontrunners to win the division, so even though it’s only the first game of the season, it could have major implications later on. The Bucs o-line will get tested right out of the gate with a stout Saints d-line that includes Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, and Malcolm Brown. The Bucs defense will also get an early wake-up call. Not only do they have to deal with Drew Brees, but they have Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray in the backfield, and they added tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to go along with stud wideout Michael Thomas. Unfortunately, I think the lack of off-season training time with his new teammates will be an issue early on for Brady and his receivers. Sean Payton and the Saints will take advantage of that and pull out a win in their home opener.
PREDICTION: BUCS LOSE 26-20 (0-1)
WEEK 2: PANTHERS
The Bucs come home after a loss in New Orleans pissed off and ready to rumble, which is not good for a rebuilding Carolina team. A rookie head coach. A new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, no Luke Kuechly, no Gerald McCoy, no Greg Olsen, and no Cam Newton; they’re not the same Panthers that the Bucs have faced in the past. This could get ugly quick. Sure they still need to be concerned with running back Christian McCaffrey, but they held him in check last season, and they should do the same this year.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 34-13 (1-1)
WEEK 3: @ BRONCOS
The Bucs head back out on the road and travel to Denver, where the Broncos could be 0-2 after the first two weeks. They face the Titans at home to start the season and then go to Pittsburgh in Week 2, so they could be winless when Tampa gets to town. They have a babyfaced QB in Drew Lock and a bunch of young, inexperienced wide receivers. But the Bucs run defense will have to step it up facing both Phillip Lindsey AND Melvin Gordon III in this game. Another tough match up will be Donovan Smith and rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs against Von Miller AND Bradley Chubb. As long as they can keep those two from getting in Brady’s face all day, the offense should produce enough points to steal a win here on the road.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 24-16 (2-1)
WEEK 4: CHARGERS
The Bucs return home to face a Chargers team that could be in the middle of a QB controversy between free-agent signee Tyrod Taylor and rookie draft pick Justin Herbert by this time. They start the season at the Bengals before coming home to play the Chiefs and Panthers. They could easily be 1-2 coming into Tampa Bay. The Bucs young offensive tackles will be tested again here with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III on the ends. And the defense will have their hands full with running backs Austin Ekeler and rookie Joshua Kelley in the backfield and their big receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on the outside. I think the Bucs are still too much to overcome for this Charger team, especially after traveling across the country for the second time in a month.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 27-17 (3-1)
WEEK 5: @ BEARS (TNF)
The Bucs first of five primetime games for the year comes with a trip to the Windy City to face a Chicago team searching for an identity. Will it be Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky at quarterback for this game? That remains to be seen. This Bears team doesn’t have anyone on the offensive side that scares or impresses me, so this seems like one of the easier games of this season. Chicago’s defense might be okay, but they won’t be near enough to stop the Bucs offense at this point. This should be a blowout on the road for Tampa on Thursday Night Football.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 38-16 (4-1)
WEEK 6: PACKERS
Brady vs Rodgers: Another marquis QB matchup.
Green Bay could be 2-2 and coming off of their bye week when they get to Tampa. They start the season at the Vikings, then play the Lions in Lambeau, then go to the Saints before coming home to host the Falcons. Unfortunately for Aaron Rodgers, the Packers organization did absolutely nothing to help him out on offense this off-season. Even though they get the extra week to prepare, I don’t think it will matter much. The Green Bay defense isn’t good enough to slow down Brady and the boys here.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 34-20 (5-1)
WEEK 7: @ RAIDERS (SNF)
The second primetime game of the year is a big one.
The Bucs face their former Super Bowl-winning coach in Jon Gruden on Sunday Night Football in Las Vegas. For the second straight week, the Bucs opponent is coming off of their bye, but the Raiders could be in some trouble at this point. Their first five weeks of the season are brutal. They start at the Panthers in Week 1. Then host the Saints. Then travel to the Patriots before coming home to host the Bills. Then go back on the road to play the Chiefs. If they can make it through this stretch with two wins, I’d be impressed. As long as the Bucs can contain running back Josh Jacobs and not let the Raiders speedy receivers get behind their secondary, the Bucs should be fine in this game.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 27-17 (6-1)
WEEK 8: @ GIANTS (MNF)
Speaking of tough schedules: The Giants’ first seven games are a bitch.
Week 1 against the Steelers. Week 2 at the Bears. Week 3 against the 49ers. Week 4 at the Rams. Week 5 at the Cowboys. Week 6 against the Redskins. And Week 7 at the Eagles. Like the Raiders, if the Giants have more than two wins at this point, I’d be surprised. They might even be coming off of four or five straight losses when the Bucs get to New York. Nobody on this Giants offense scares me, except running back Saquon Barkley, and the Bucs run defense handled him just fine last year. They have a rookie head coach. It’s Monday Night Football. It’s Tom Brady vs. Daniel Jones. And this Bucs team will be looking for some payback after that gut-wrenching loss in Raymond James last year. This one won’t even be close.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 42-17 (7-1)
WEEK 9: SAINTS (SNF)
Brady vs Brees; Part 2: But this time it’s in Tampa and that Bucs offense is rolling.
The Saints might make a game of it, but they won’t beat the Bucs twice this year. It’s another primetime game on Sunday Night Football, and Bruce Arians isn’t going to allow Jameis Winston’s new team to come into Tampa and steal a win. At this point, the Bucs are coming off of seven straight wins and are seeking revenge for their only loss of the season in Week 1. It might stay close for a while, but the Buccaneers put their cleat on the Saints’ throat and pull away in the end.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 30-17 (8-1)
WEEK 10: @ PANTHERS
Tampa Bay went into Carolina and pulled off a win last year, and they’ll easily do it again this year. Once again, the key here is to contain Christian McCaffrey. Last year, a stout Bucs run defense held him to 43 carries for just 68 yards, 6 catches for 32 yards and 2 total touchdowns in the two games they played against him. If they can do it again, they’ll pull out a division win on the road here and continue their win streak.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 34-16 (9-1)
WEEK 11: RAMS (MNF)
The Bucs fifth and final primetime game of the year could end up being the best one. A dangerous Rams team comes to Tampa and will make this a nail biter. LA’s offense has some serious speed, and their defense is loaded with guys like Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Michael Brockers. This could be a back and forth game where kicker Matt Gay gets a chance to redeem himself with a game-winning field goal in the end.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 28-25 (10-1)
WEEK 12: CHIEFS
In what could be a potential Super Bowl preview, the Chiefs come to Tampa for a game that I’m shocked didn’t make the primetime lineup. I have Kansas City at 9-1 by the time they play the Bucs, so this will truly be a clash of the titans type of game. It’ll be a good game. It’ll be a close game. It’ll be a hard-fought game. But in the end, the defending Super Bowl champs are just a little better on this day.
PREDICTION: BUCS LOSE 24-20 (10-2)
WEEK 14: VIKINGS
The Bucs are coming off their late-season bye week and are ready to go.
They are able to contain running back Dalvin Cook and make quarterback Kirk Cousins try to beat them with his arm. The problem is that his arm isn’t good enough to do that this season. The Vikings defense puts up a decent fight, but in the end, the Bucs just have too many offensive weapons.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 27-17 (11-2)
WEEK 15: @ FALCONS
Atlanta did their best to try and bolster their roster in an attempt to keep up with the Saints and Bucs this off-season. They brought in free-agent running back Todd Gurley, they traded for tight end, Hayden Hurst, they brought in defensive ends Dante’ Fowler Jr. and Charles Harris; combine that with Matt Ryan and one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Laquon Treadwell, and it’s a pretty strong roster on paper. Unfortunately, they’re just good enough today to pull out a win at home and send the Bucs back to Tampa with their third loss of the season.
PREDICTION: BUCS LOSE 27-24 (11-3)
WEEK 16: @ LIONS
The Bucs are in a division race with the Saints with the Falcons close behind, so they go into this game with some added incentive. The strength of this Detroit team is their running game, but the Bucs defense stops that in its tracks. Matthew Stafford isn’t quite what he used to be, plus he has no real receiving weapons. After losing in Atlanta, an angry Bucs team goes to the Motor City and steam plows a not-so-good Lions team.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 34-16 (12-3)
WEEK 17: FALCONS
With revenge on their mind and the NFC South division within grasp, the Bucs leave no doubt who the better team is today. There’s no way this Atlanta team is beating them twice, and Bruce Arians lets it fly. Tampa closes out the regular season with a convincing blowout win against their division rivals and claims an NFC South Division title.
PREDICTION: BUCS WIN 41-17 (13-3)
The year they won the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers finished with a 12-4 regular-season record. I have them finishing 13-3 here. Is it a bit optimistic? Maybe. Is it unrealistic? I don’t think so. Jason Licht has had one of the most successful offseasons in franchise history. He was able to re-sign most of their key defensive players, he was able to lure Tom Brady to Tampa; Brady was able to lure Gronk to Tampa. The Bucs had a very good draft, resulting in a new starting right tackle, a new starting free safety, a new third-down back, AND a new #3 receiver.
This team is stacked.
Brady isn’t just “the GOAT“. He brings a different attitude to this team. A winning attitude. That’s something that’s been sorely missing in Tampa Bay for almost 20 years. The Bucs haven’t won more than 10 games in a season since 2005. They haven’t played postseason football since 2007 and they haven’t made it past the wildcard round since their 2002 Super Bowl run. Brady has never finished a season with less than nine wins in a season and only missed the playoffs twice since his 2001 rookie season.
He’s a winner.
Hopefully, it’s contagious and spreads through this team like the Coronavirus. If it does and if this team will rise to the level of perfection that Brady will certainly demand, then a 13-3 record, an NFC South title and a deep postseason run aren’t out of the question. The talent is there. We’ll have to wait and see if the heart and desire will be there too.
Until then, as always, GO BUCS!!!