The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have known the identities of their opponents for all 17 games in the 2023 season since the end of the 2022 campaign. They just didn't know how those games would be ordered and the specific dates and kickoff times. Now they do.
The NFL dropped its full 272-game schedule for the 2023 regular season on Thursday, including of course the Buccaneers' own fall itinerary. It starts in Minneapolis and ends in Charlotte and will be broadcast on four different networks. It features a lot of quarterbacks who are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, when they tuck it in and run. It could also feature up to five games against rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first three rounds. There will be five games in domes, and six games away from home in an eight-week span. The Bears will feel the Florida heat in Week Two; the Bucs will experience a Wisconsin winter in Week 15.
In other words, there's a lot going on with this schedule, and some parts of it we like more than others. And by we I mean me and Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix, who have taken a little while to study this 18-week journey the Buccaneers will go on this fall, beginning on September 10. We have some thoughts. And since we're genuinely pleased to finally know what the schedule is, we're going to start with some happy thoughts.
Specifically, what Brianna and I are going to debate today is what we like best about the Buccaneers' 2023 schedule. We know that putting together a 272-game layout that has to take a myriad of factors into account is no easy thing. Computers are involved. Probably AI at some point. It's a tough job, and thus we are going to start with a round of thank yous.
This is the first in our week-long series of schedule-related debates. Here's the run-down for the whole series:
Friday, May 12: What one thing would you most like to thank the NFL schedule makers for this year?
Monday, May 15 What is the toughest stretch of games on this year's schedule?
Tuesday, May 16 What is your most anticipated game on the Bucs' 2023 schedule?
Wednesday, May 17: Who is the top rookie the Buccaneers will face on their 2022 schedule?
Thursday, May 18: What is one thing you would change about the Bucs' schedule if you had the power?
Brianna and I are not going to duplicate answers, so the order of our debate is important. Today, my colleague will go first. So, Brianna, what kind of shout out do you want to send to the NFL schedule-makers?
Brianna Dix: The Bucs play the Bills in October
This message of gratitude for the NFL schedule-makers is based on the Buccaneers' Week Eight contest. Scott, you mentioned above that Tampa Bay will travel to the Frozen Tundra in Week 15, so my choice involves the favorable forecast of Buffalo. Every football enthusiast has witnessed a blizzard on the TV broadcast where the grass field is covered in inches upon inches of snow and the camera lens fogs over. As fun as that is from the couch with a scalding cup of hot cocoa, the conditions are not exactly optimal for athletic endeavors on the gridiron. Many of the aforementioned games – you know, the ones where plows are useless in clearing the field - have occurred in Buffalo in December at Highmark Stadium.
The outdoor venue would take some serious acclimation for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveling from the Sunshine State. For Bucs' players and personnel, their bodies have grown accustomed to the warm climate and entering frigid Buffalo during December, or later in the 2023 slate, would be a challenging adjustment. Instead of having to play the Bills towards the conclusion of the schedule, Tampa Bay will face Josh Allen and the Bills on Thursday Night Football at 8:15 p.m. ET on October 26.
The Bucs will make the first trip to Orchard Park since 2017 and the schedule worked out in their favor on this matchup. The 2022 AFC East champs were 7-1 at home last season and had the Bucs been forced to play the Bills in the dead of winter in icy/wet conditions, they would have been put in a disadvantageous position. For context, the average temperature range in Buffalo during October ranges from a high of 61 degrees Fahrenheit to a low of 46 degrees. Conversely in December, the temperatures plummet, averaging between the range of 35 degrees Fahrenheit (high) to 25 degrees (low). Sure, the Bucs will travel to western New York for the Week Eight marquee matchup with unpredictable weather, but the calendar date could have made the Floridian team's fate worse. At this point, I am counting my blessings on this game in the itinerary. Scott, what choice are you happy with?
Scott Smith: The Chicago Bears as the home opener
I almost made this a true point-counterpoint by going with the exact opposite of your take and thanking the NFL for sending the Bucs to Green Bay in mid-December. There's something romantic about visiting Lambeau Field in the middle of winter; I can't deny that I'm looking forward to it. However, I have to admit that I'm viewing that through my own personal lens (perhaps fogged up). I'm not the one who actually has to be down on the field playing in potentially frigid conditions. In other words, I'm not sure the players would be thanking the schedule-makers for that one, and they are the ones that matter.
So instead I'll point to Week Two, when the Buccaneers will probably have a pretty significant weather advantage. After a full training camp and two preseason games in the muggy West Florida heat, I would imagine that Tampa Bay players will be more prepared for the conditions in the middle of the afternoon on September 17.
That said, the real reason I'm sending thanks for this bit of scheduling is that the Bears seem like a classic needs-to-figure-things-out-as-they-go team. Obviously, given that they had the first pick in this year's draft before trading it, the Bears were not particularly good last year. They were in the first year of the Ryan Poles-Matt Eberflus era and they were clearly beginning a full rebuild, as evidenced by the midseason trade of stud linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens. They finished 28th on offense and 29th on defense and had the league's second-worst points differential.
They did have Justin Fields, and he did remarkable things as a runner. He showed enough for the new management to commit to building around him, which is why they traded out of the top spot in the draft and focused on other positions. That trade with Carolina gave them one thing in particular they really needed: a number-one receiver in D.J. Moore. The Bears also drafted a wide receiver, Tyler Scott, and used their first-round pick for some much-needed help up front in the person of Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright. They replaced Smith with a pair of free agent linebackers, Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards. After drafting cornerbacks in the second round last year they took another one, Miami's Tyrique Stevenson in the second round this year.
That's a lot of new parts. One by one, I'm pretty bullish on all of those moves. The Bears should be better this year than they were last year, especially if better protection and better weapons helps Fields take his passing to another level. But I think it's going to take a little while for this team to figure things out on both sides of the ball, for all these new parts to jell. That's why I'm glad the Buccaneers are getting the Bears in Week Two and not in November or December.