The NFL released its full 256-game 2020 regular-season schedule last Thursday, and we here at Buccaneers.com have some thoughts.
Those thoughts go beyond, "Man, I sure hope these games actually get played," though that's an obvious starting point. For the purposes of this week's series of Roundtable discussions, let's assume that the Buccaneers are going to play all 16 games revealed last week, from a Tom Brady-Drew Brees matchup in Week One to a home game against Atlanta in the season finale, with five prime-time affairs in between.
Team Reporter Casey Phillips, Staff Writer Carmen Vitali and I are putting our heads together this week to discuss five different topics regarding the schedule, beginning with the game that each of us is anticipating the most. Here's the Roundtable schedule for the week:
View pictures of all the Buccaneers' 2020 opponents.
Thursday, May 14: What is the most significant challenge for Tampa Bay's offense?
Friday, May 15: What is the toughest stretch of games on this year's schedule?
So let's get right to it. To make things more interesting, we're going to establish a rule of no duplicating of picks, so order will matter in these Roundtables and we'll rotate that order from day to day. Let's start that order alphabetically, but to be fair to Ms. Vitali, who is probably used to being near the end in such situations, we'll do so by first names. So today, it's Carmen first, Casey second and me third.
So, what game on the Bucs' 2020 schedule is everyone looking forward to the most?
Carmen Vitali: Week One, at New Orleans
The collective amount of time I've spent waiting for my name to be called alphabetically has all led up to this moment. Nine-year-old me thanks you very much, Scott.
There are so many games I want to go with here. Perfect fall weather for Thursday Night Football in Chicago… seeing the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium… hosting the defending Super Bowl champs!? Those all rank up there but ultimately, I think I'm most looking forward to the first game of the season: matching up with the Saints in New Orleans.
It will be Tom Brady's first regular season game in something other than a Patriots uniform ever. Seeing him in those new/familiar Bucs uniforms is going to be awesome. It comes against the one guy in league history that has more career passing yards and touchdowns (though Brady has way more championships). It's an opportunity to take down the 2019 NFC South champs in their house. Quieting the Superdome isn't easily done. The Bucs with Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett, Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, etc. have the opportunity to do that. It will also signal that the season itself is starting – something that's a little bit uncertain "in these uncertain times" (trademarked by Scott Smith, 2020). The truth is, we don't know what this season is going to look like so I have to imagine that first game we will all breathe a collective sigh of relief that it's really happening.
Casey Phillips: Week Seven, at Las Vegas Raiders
Carmen picked exactly what I would have picked if I were in her position. I even thought about this pick going to the second matchup against the Saints just to emphasize how amped I am for that matchup. But since that would have been repetitive and even probably cheating a bit, I went with the Raiders game.
How can you not be hyped about facing former Buccaneers Head Coach Frank "John Gruden" Caliendo? Oh and now he's coaching the team the Bucs beat in that Super Bowl. And it's in a brand new stadium in Las Vegas. AND it's on Sunday Night Football?! Knock if you're with me! (If you didn't get that reference you should definitely go back and watch the Raiders appearance on Hard Knocks last year to get even more excited for this matchup.)
Also, I'm going to be hoping Henry Ruggs shows up to every game in a bathrobe. But even if not, I'll still be excited to watch the first wide receiver selected from this prolific WR draft class take the field. Not counting Thursday Night Football, which each team receives, this is the first prime-time game of the Bucs' 2020 schedule. It also kicks off a stretch of four out of five games being prime-time. This will be a good chance to see how the team handles the national spotlight that has been shining brightly ever since the Brady signing.
Scott Smith: Week Six, vs. Green Bay Packers
I can't believe none of us picked the visit from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 12, but that's how crazily loaded the Bucs' 2020 schedule is. I mean, Mahomes might be the single most fun player to watch play in today's NFL. Maybe we should have done two rounds for this particular Roundtable.
Anyway, the first Brady-Brees matchup is already off the board as is the first Sunday or Monday-night game. And honestly, I'm having trouble ranking those four evening games so I'll go with the one game in the five-week stretch mentioned by Casey that isn't in prime-time. Nestled between a Thursday night trip to Chicago and Casey's choice in Vegas is a visit from none other than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who were NFC runners-up a year ago.
For all that we're trumpeting the Brady-Brees matchup, Brady-Rodgers is pretty dang entertaining, as well. I mean, Brady and Rodgers did let other players win six of the 10 NFL MVP awards of the last decade, which was nice of them. After the Packers' draft, there has been plenty of speculation that Matt LaFleur will go to more of a power-running attack in 2020, but I'll believe that when I see it. I fully expect Rodgers to be slinging it around Raymond James Stadium on the late afternoon of October 18.
I also chose this game because the Tampa Bay-Green Bay series still seems special to me. There were many memorable games in the 1997-2005 range, and even a couple more since, and now that Brady has joined the fray I think we might be in line for another one.