A look ahead at the Bucs’ upcoming schedule

by Gary Shelton on April 20, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

McCoy hopes to lead a newly-built defensive line./CARMEN MANDATO

McCoy hopes to lead a newly-built defensive line./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

They hope to be different. They hope to be better. They hope to have a little bit of hope.

But if this team of the Tampa Bay Bucs is going to be improved, it will have to do so with an imposing early-season schedule.

The Bucs -- who have the fourth-toughest schedule in the league -- open their season at New Orleans, at home against the Super Bowl champion Eagles and home in a Monday night game against Pittsburgh. In all, the Bucs play eight games against teams that were in the playoffs a. year ago.

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Can Winston measure up against the opposing quarterbacks?./CARMEN MANDATO

Can Winston measure up against the opposing quarterbacks?./CARMEN MANDATO

On that schedule are two games against Drew Brees, two against Cam Newton and two against Matt Ryan. The Bucs also play against Mitch Trubisky, Jimmy Garoppolo, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Dac Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton and whoever the Cleveland Browns draft with the overall first pick in next-week's draft.

How will they do?

A super-early look ahead:

Sept. 9, Bucs at Saints: The Bucs finished their 2017 season with an upset win over the Saints, but that doesn't make the opener any easier. The Saints are tough to beat in New Orleans, where the Saints were 7-1 (losing only in last year's home opener against New England). The Saints have Drew Brees, who has vexed the team for years, plus Mark Ingram (who gained 1,124 yards) and receiver Michael Thomas (104 catches for 1,245 yards). Prediction: New Orleans 30, Tampa Bay 20.

Sept. 16, Eagles at Bucs: Can things get any better for the Eagles than the way last. year ended, with a win in the Super Bowl over powerhouse New England? Well, maybe. Starting quarterback Carson Wentz should return. The Bucs will have to hope the Eagles sputter at the start of the season. Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Tampa Bay 20.

Sept. 24, Steelers at Bucs: The Steelers have been a much more solid franchise than the Bucs as of late, especially with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and  Le'Veon Bell. Tampa Bay will hope the juice of a Monday night game will pull them through. The Bucs can't afford to get off to a difficult start, but with three teams like these waiting for them, how can they help it? Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Tampa Bay 20.

Sept. 30, Bucs at Bears: The Bears should be better than the team that lost to Tampa Bay last year, 29-7. Second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky (4-8 as a rookie) should start, and he has enough arm to hurt you. But if Tampa Bay is truly better, they win this one. Prediction: Tampa Bay 20, Chicago 14.

Oct. 7, bye week:

Oct. 14,  Bucs at Falcons: Coming off an open week, the Bucs hope their new defensive ends can put pressure on Matt Ryan. The Bucs lost by 14 in Atlanta last year (and by three at home). But the remnants of a former Super Bowl team is still with Atlanta. Prediction: Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 23.

Oct. 21, Browns at  Bucs: Yes, the Browns will be better. After winning one game in the last two years, how can they not be? Still, the Browns are still the Browns. You win this, or the playoff word is banned. Prediction: Tampa Bay 24,  Cleveland 21.

Oct. 28, Bucs at Bengals: The Bengals have  two straight losing seasons (after four with double digit wins). Cincinnati can stretch a secondary, but if you give them a chance, they lose. How about an upset on the road? Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, Cincinnati 24.

Nov. 4, Bucs at Panthers: The Panthers defense gives the Bucs fits. That shouldn't change in this one. Carolina beat the Bucs only 22-19 last year. This one should be close, too. Prediction: Carolina 28, Tampa Bay 27.

Nov. 11, Redskins at Bucs: The new-look Redskins can be had. Prediction: Tampa Bay 30, Washington 24.

Nov. 18, Bucs at Giants: Yes, the Bucs were better than the Giants last year. But Eli Manning will be tough in the Meadowlands. Still, the Giants have a lot of holes. Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, New York 14.

Nov. 25, 49ers at Bucs: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has the 49ers thinking they're world-beaters again. But most of the Bucs' players are equal to the 49ers. Prediction: Tampa Bay 27, San Francisco 24.

Dec. 2, Panthers at Bucs: The Bucs could enter this game on a three-game winning streak. It's tough to lose at home in December. Still... Prediction: Carolina 22, Tampa Bay 21.

Dec. 9, Saints at Bucs: The Bucs overcame the Saints at home on the final day of the season when Jameis Winston found Chris Godwin for a winning score. If it happens again, if the Bucs can win three or four games in their own division, they can contend. Prediction: Tampa Bay 20, New Orleans 17.

Dec. 16, Bucs at Ravens: What will Joe Flacco's health be? Certainly, the Ravens don't figure to compete with Robert Griffin III, do they? A healthy Ravens team is probably better, but trouble at quarterback could be the equalizer. Prediction: Baltimore 17, Tampa Bay 13.

Dec. 23, Bucs at Cowboys: Dallas is tough to beat at home with Dac Prescott and Zeke Elliott and that massive offensive line. Prediction: Dallas 28, Tampa Bay 17.

Dec. 30:  Falcons at Bucs:  The Bucs have played the Falcons well at home over the years. Can they get over the hump? We will see. Prediction: Tampa Bay 20, Atlanta 17. 

Predicted season record: 8-8.

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