THE 2022 SCHEDULE HAS BEEN RELEASED!
It’s one of those days that NFL fans mark on their calendars, along with the start of free agency and Day 1 of the draft. The day the NFL schedule is released. Even though we knew back in February WHO the Buccaneers were playing in 2022, we didn’t know WHEN they were playing them.
And now, fans can start booking flights and hotel rooms for whichever away games they will be attending. Fans can start planning their tailgates for home games. And fans can fill in their calendars and let their friends and family know that they won’t be available for ANYTHING on those days.
Or is that just me?
Anyway, the schedule is out and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a very challenging season ahead of them. In fact, they have the fourth toughest schedule in the NFL this season just behind the Rams, Cardinals and Bengals.
What makes it so tough?
Well, they face five teams that won their division last season. They face seven teams that had at least 10 wins last season. They face eight of the other thirteen teams who made the playoffs last season. They play nine teams who had winning records last season. They play both teams that appeared in the Super Bowl last season. And they have a “home” game in Germany.
That’s what makes it tough.
It is rough, but it could also be Tom Brady’s last season. And I seriously doubt that he wants to go out on a losing one. I mean, that’s why he’s back in the first place. He’s got “unfinished business“, as he puts it, after that heartbreaking loss to the Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs. As long as “da GOAT” is on this team, they have a legit chance at winning it all.
The Bucs are slated for five primetime games, the most allowed for any team by the NFL. They have another five games that will be nationally televised, including four that kickoff at 4:25p on CBS and their game in Germany which kicks off at 9:30a on NFL Network. The great news, for us fans at least, is that they only have two games at home with 1pm kickoffs and one of those isn’t until January. This schedules not as bad as it seemed, so let’s break it down and see what the Bucs are up against this season.
WEEK 1 : 09/11 (Sun)
BUCS @ COWBOYS (NBC) 8:20p
The Bucs kick off 2022 the same way they kicked off 2021, opening up against the Cowboys. Except this time, it’s on the road in Dallas instead of at home in Tampa. The Cowboys will be looking to avenge their opening week loss to the Bucs in Tampa last year, while the Bucs will be jumpstart their next Super Bowl run. However, these aren’t the same two teams that met last September. The Cowboys traded away star wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Browns. They lost defensive end Randy Gregory to the Broncos and right tackle La’el Collins to the Bengals in free agency. And their former linebacker Keanu Neal is now playing safety for the Bucs. Dallas didn’t really do much over the offseason to better themselves. Their most notable signing in free agency might have been former Falcon defensive end Dante Fowler and they didn’t help themselves much in the draft. Meanwhile, the Bucs have spent the last few months re-signing players and reloading on talent making them an even better team than the one that beat the Cowboys last season.
PREDICTION: It’ll be a competitive close game, but the Bucs beat the Cowboys on primetime Sunday NightFootball.
Bucs 27 Cowboys 20
WEEK 2 : 09/18 (Sun)
BUCS @ SAINTS (FOX) 1:00p
The Bucs open up this season with two straight road games for the first time since 2016 and only the second time in the last 20 years. It’s only the fifth time in the team’s 46 year history. They never went 2-0 in those other four times. They will this time. The Saints will still be struggling to find their identity on offense in the post-Brees/Payton era with Jameis Winston at quarterback. And the Buccaneers offense will be looking for some revenge from that embarrassing shutout loss to this Saints defense at home in Raymond James Stadium last season. Even though they added safety Tyrann Mathieu and wide receiver Jarvis Landry in free agency, it doesn’t do much to help the onslaught.
PREDICTION: This one gets real ugly real quick and the Bucs run away with a big division road win.
Bucs 38 Saints 16
WEEK 3 : 09/25 (Sun)
BUCS vs. PACKERS (CBS) 4:25p
The home opener brings Aaron Rodgers and his Packers to Tampa for a “Battle of the Bays” on a nationally televised afternoon game. Green Bay decided to trade away its best offensive weapon Davante Adams to the Raiders and didn’t really add anyone to take his place over the offseason. They also released one of their best defensive players in linebacker Zadarius Smith. The NFL shows and analyst can push the Packers narrative all they want, but Green Bay did not get better this offseason. In fact, they’re worse than last year’s team. But at least A-Rod finally got paid, right?
PREDICTION: It’s going to be difficult for the Packers to keep up with the Buccaneers offensive firepower.
Bucs 34 Packers 23
WEEK 4 : 10/02 (Sun)
BUCS vs. CHIEFS (NBC) 8:20p
Another primetime game on Sunday Night Football, a second straight home game and a rematch of Super Bowl LV where it originally took place in Raymond James Stadium. However, this time it’s a little different. No Tyrann. No Tyreek. And Ronald Jones is now a Chief. The Chiefs lost wide receivers Tyreek Hill (Dolphins) and Byron Pringle (Bears) in free agency and tried to “replace” them by signing former Steeler JuJu Smith-Schuster and former Packer Marquez Valdes-Scantling. They lost cornerback Charvarius Ward (Niners) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (Saints) in free agency and tried to replace them by signing former Texan Justin Reid. The Chiefs will still be a solid team and probably contend in the AFC, but Tampa Bay is just the better team this season.
PREDICTION: A steady offensive assault by the Bucs takes this game from close and competitive in the first half to out of reach for the Chiefs in the second half.
Bucs 38 Chiefs 24
WEEK 5 : 10/09 (Sun)
BUCS vs. FALCONS (FOX) 1:00p
I mean, this is almost an early bye week at this point. I know it’s the NFL and anything can happen with that “any given Sunday” nonsense, but this Atlanta team just isn’t on the same level as the Bucs right now. Instead of Matt Ryan, it’s now Marcus Mariota. Instead of Julio Jones and Russell Gage, it’s now Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. They have two 30+ year old running backs in Cordarrelle Patterson and Damien Williams. And don’t even get me started on the defense, or lack thereof I should say. The Bucs are clearly the better team here and they show it by dominating their division opponent on the road.
PREDICTION: This has the potential to get out of hand real quick and it does.
Bucs 45 Falcons 17
WEEK 6 : 10/16 (Sun)
BUCS @ STEELERS (FOX) 1:00p
With “Big Ben” Roethlisberger out in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are now have a stable of quarterbacks to choose from in 2022, including Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and the rookie Kenny Pickett. After losing wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to the Chiefs in free agency, they are down to Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin as their best pass catching options and Najee Harris as their primary running back. Even if that tough Steelers defense is there as usual, they just don’t have enough offensive weapons to keep up with the Buccaneers arsenal.
PREDICTION: The Bucs just have too many weapons and the Steelers can’t keep pace.
Bucs 34 Steelers 16
WEEK 7 : 10/23 (Sun)
BUCS @ PANTHERS (FOX) 1:00p
The Panthers have been heavily rumored to be involved in trade talks for Baker Mayfield, but nothing has come of it yet. That means they still have Sam Darnold at quarterback, with Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore being his only viable offensive weapons. Their defense is usually somewhat sound, but it won’t be near enough to make a game out of this.
PREDICTION: The Buccaneers win their seventh straight and third straight divisional road game of the season.
Bucs 41 Panthers 16
WEEK 8 : 10/27 (Thu)
BUCS vs. RAVENS (PRIME) 8:15p
This could be the Bucs first real test of the season, even at home. The Ravens have gone all in this season signing old talent on defense like Calais Campbell, Justin Houston and re-signing old talent on offense like Mike Davis and Latavius Murray. Mobile QB’s like Lamar Jackson always seem to give this Bucs defense problems, even if he doesn’t have any big time receiving weapons. It shouldn’t happen at this level, especially with a Tom Brady led team, but this could be a “trap game” with the Rams coming to town next week.
PREDICTION: Bucs get caught looking forward to their revenge game against the Rams next week and forget to take care of business this week. Justin Tucker makes them pay for it late in the game.
Ravens 27 Bucs 24
WEEK 9 : 11/06 (Sun)
BUCS vs. RAMS (CBS) 4:25p
This is the game the Bucs have been waiting for since that 27-point comeback and last second field goal loss to the Rams in the playoffs last season. This game has been circled on their calendar since this schedule came out. This game made them lose their focus last week and cost them a win. The Rams lost Odell Beckham Jr. (UFA), Von Miller (Bills) and Sony Michel (Dolphins) in free agency and tried to replace them with receiver Allen Robinson and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Despite those losses, the Rams are still a very talented, well coached team and they will give the Bucs all they can handle at home.
PREDICTION: It’s once again a close game, but Tom Brady makes sure that he is the last one on the field this time instead of leaving it up to the defense.
Bucs 27 Rams 24
WEEK 10 : 11/13 (Sun)
BUCS vs. SEAHAWKS (NFL) 9:30a
Greetings from Germany! The Bucs are traveling across the pond to take on a Seahawks team trying to find their identity after Russell Wilson’s departure to Denver. It looks as though the young gun Drew Lock will be the starter in Seattle. He has some nice targets in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and a solid backfield with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. The question is can his o-line protect him?
PREDICTION: It wouldn’t have mattered where this game was played. The Bucs are just the far superior team here.
Bucs 34 Seahawks 16
WEEK 11 : BYE
The bye week comes at the perfect time for the Buccaneers. They are coming off of a really long European road trip and will probably have some guys banged up at this point in the season. The week off gives them a chance to heal up and get ready for a strong late season playoff push.
WEEK 12 : 11/27 (Sun)
BUCS @ BROWNS (FOX) 1:00p
The Browns have had quite the 2022 offseason. They traded away not one, not two, but three first round picks, a third round pick AND two fourth round picks to the Texans for Deshaun Watson. As you can imagine, that offended Baker Mayfield’s delicate ego, so he demanded a trade which hasn’t happened yet. Then they sent a fifth and sixth rounder to the Cowboys for Amari Cooper, who they needed since they ended up losing Jarvis Landry to the Saints in free agency. Their defense should be pretty solid, but I’m not too sure their offense can hang with the Bucs.
PREDICTION: The Browns keep it close in the first half, but the Bucs start to pull away and close out a big road win.
Bucs 30 Browns 20
WEEK 13 : 12/05 (Mon)
BUCS vs. SAINTS (ESPN) 8:15p
A Monday Night Football matchup with the Saints at Raymond James Stadium in December. What could be better? The Saints will be looking for some payback after losing to the Bucs in New Orleans in Week 2. It’s not happening. This is a new NFC South and the Bucs are running things now.
PREDICTION: It’s a much closer game than they had in Week 2, but the Bucs still pull out the win and sweep the Saints for the first time since the 2007 season.
Bucs 31 Saints 24
WEEK 14 : 12/11 (Sun)
BUCS @ NINERS (FOX) 4:25p
Former Buccaneer great John Lynch has been quietly building a very solid team in San Francisco as their general manager over the last few years. They have a bit of a quarterback controversy right now, but that should all be ironed out by the time these two teams meet in December. Their defense is good enough to keep them in games and their offense is capable of doing enough to win games.
PREDICTION: The west coast trip is a little much for the Bucs who are suffering from some apparent jetlag and can’t quite recover.
Niners 23 Bucs 20
WEEK 15 : 12/18 (Sun)
BUCS vs. BENGALS (CBS) 4:25p
The Super Bowl losers come to Tampa, but they aren’t that same team with that same swag that got them to the big game last season. They are still a decent team, but the Bucs are on a different level. Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase are one of the most exciting offensive trios in the NFL, but even they aren’t enough to overcome Brady and the boys.
PREDICTION: It’s a competitive game, but the Bucs are the better team and they show it in the fourth quarter.
Bucs 30 Bengals 23
WEEK 16 : 12/25 (Sun)
BUCS @ CARDINALS (NBC) 8:20p
Yo, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas! The Bucs travel to Bruce Arians old stomping grounds in Arizona to take on the surging Cardinals on Christmas night. Their offense is humming with Kyler Murray, James Conner, DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, Rondale Moore and Zach Ertz. And their defense is pretty solid. This should be a possible playoff preview with two of the NFC’s best teams.
PREDICTION: Kyler Murray’s mobility and ability to make plays out of the pocket is too much for the Bucs defense and it cost them the win and ruins their Christmas holiday.
Cardinals 27 Bucs 23
WEEK 17 : 01/01 (Sun)
BUCS vs. PANTHERS (FOX) 1:00p
The Bucs return home from their trip out west and they’re not happy after suffering their third loss of the season. They take their frustrations out on a terrible Panther team that is just trying to get through this season. This one, like their first matchup this season, gets out of hand real quick. Unfortunately for Carolina, there are no “mercy rules” in the NFL.
PREDICTION: The Bucs beat the Panthers 41-16 in Carolina earlier this season and the outcome here is quite similar.
Bucs 45 Panthers 17
WEEK 18 : 01/07-08 (Sat/Sun)
BUCS @ FALCONS (TBD)
The Bucs travel to Atlanta to finish out the regular season. At this point, the Bucs have clinched the division and secured a playoff spot with a first round bye so Todd Bowles might be tempted to pull his starters early in this one. Even if he does, it won’t effect the outcome.
PREDICTION: The Bucs sweep the Falcons this season and the NFC South for the first time ever.
Bucs 34 Falcons 20
Looking at this schedule when it first came out, I didn’t think it was very favorable for the Buccaneers. However, once I broke it down, it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. After those first four games where they go to Dallas and to New Orleans before coming home to play the Packers and Chiefs, the combined winning percentage of their remaining opponents is just .412. They are also scheduled to play their toughest opponents at home, where they went 7-1 last season setting a new franchise record. If the Bucs can get through those first four games at 3-1 or better, then they should be able to cruise through the rest of this schedule.
I tried to look at this season as an unbiased “media member“, but I still see the Buccaneers finishing this season with one of the NFL’s best records and a top playoff seed despite their tough schedule. They finished 11-5 in 2020 and won the Super Bowl. They finished 13-4 in 2021, won the NFC South and had it not been for a blown coverage by Antoine Winfield Jr. against the Rams, probably would’ve won another one. This season, I have them finishing 14-3, winning the NFC South for a second straight season for the first time in franchise history and securing a first round bye in the playoffs. Is that too optimistic? Maybe. But it’s not out of the question. This team is built to win now. Barring another freak string of injuries that decimates specific position groups, they will. And with this probably being Brady’s last run for a title before retiring to the broadcast booth, they need to win while they still can. This won’t last much longer Bucs fans, so enjoy it while it lasts. These are exciting times in Tampa Bay folks. And that “Chase for #8” starts soon!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!