After entertaining the Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium in 2000, the Bucs will make their first trip to Dallas since 1990 next season
Though they didn't nail down the NFC Central title that was in the offing on Sunday in Green Bay, the Bucs' 2000 season is still very much alive. Next Sunday, Tampa Bay will travel to Philadelphia for an NFC Wild Card game.
But that doesn't mean it's too early to look ahead to 2001.
The NFL's scheduling format is printed and available to anyone with a copy of the 2000 NFL Record and Fact Book. We have such a book.
That means we can plug the final standings into the formula and discover where the Bucs will be headed in the fall of 2001 and which teams will be headed to Tampa Bay. Since Tampa Bay finished second in the NFC Central, they will play the second-place schedule.
In 2001, that means home games against the first-place team in the NFC West, the second-place team in the NFC East and the second and third-place teams in the AFC Central. On the road, the formula spits out games at the NFC West's second-place squad and the NFC East's fourth-place team, as well as the first and fifth-place groups in the AFC Central.
In addition, the Bucs will get their usual eight-game slate of intra-division battles with Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota.
Enough already…what does that mean specifically? Take a look:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2001 Opponents
Baltimore Chicago Detroit Green Bay Minnesota New Orleans Philadelphia Pittsburgh
Chicago Cincinnati Dallas Detroit Green Bay Minnesota St. Louis Tennessee
The actual scheduling of the games will not be finished until some time in the spring, usually in mid-March. The opponents, however, will not change, so you can begin thinking about the most attractive road trips now.
Just don't forget Philadelphia next Sunday.