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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2024 Schedule Point-Counterpoint: Toughest Stretch of Bucs' Season

The Bucs' 2024 schedule is littered with potential Super Bowl contenders, and some sections of that 17-game list look more challenging than others…Brianna Dix and Scott Smith argue which stretch seems most daunting right now

tough stretch

According to the notes from the NFL that came along with the 2024 schedule drop last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are tied for fifth easiest schedule in 2023, which certainly sounds encouraging. The thing is, "strength of schedule" is based solely on the standings from the previous season, and we all know that situations can change fast in the NFL. Just look at the Houston Texans, who went from 3-13-1 in 2022 to 10-7 and the AFC South division champs in 2023. Or the New York Giants, who were a playoff team in 2022 before dipping to the league's sixth-worst record last fall.

The Buccaneers' "easy" strength of schedule figure (.478) is mostly the product of playing in a division that had just one team over .500 plus another one that finished with just two wins. In fact, all four teams in the NFC South are listed among the six easiest schedules in 2024. On the flip side, the fact that Tampa Bay finished first in the division last year means it drew such extra matchups as Detroit, Baltimore and San Francisco. That doesn't sound particularly easy.

The point is, you can never be sure what part of a team's schedule is going to prove to be the most challenging. The Buccaneers lost to that upstart Texans team right in the middle of the season, but they played perhaps their best game of the year in a rousing win in Green Bay in December. Who could predict all of that?

Well, Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and I are going to try. As we continue our week of Point-Counterpoint discussions, today we're looking at what appear to be the tougher spots on their new 2024 schedule. We'll try to keep the focus fairly narrow here; for instance, saying the eight-week stretch from November 4 through December 22 is the toughest part because it includes five road games, is too broad. We'll keep it to stretches of no more than four games.

This is the second in our series of five schedule-related debates. Here's the run-down for the whole week:

Tuesday, May 21 What is the toughest stretch of games on this year's schedule?

Wednesday, May 22: What is one thing you would change about the Bucs' schedule if you had the power?

Thursday, May 23 What is your most anticipated game on the Bucs' 2024 schedule?

Friday, May 17: Who is the most interesting rookie the Buccaneers will face on their 2024 schedule?

Brianna and I are not going to duplicate answers (though in this particular case there is a very slight overlap), so the order of our debate is important. It's my turn to go first.

View the pictures & people of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2024 schedule release.

Scott Smith: Weeks Seven-10

The good news, this gauntlet of daunting opponents bleeds right into the Buccaneers' bye week, so if things don't go well at least the team will have time to regroup before the stretch drive. Maybe it will resemble the 2020 season, in which the Buccaneers were scuffling heading into their Week 13 bye but never lost again after the break.

Still, this is an eye-opening four-game stretch. It starts with a Monday night game against a Baltimore Ravens team that made it to the AFC Championship last year and boasts the NFL's reigning MVP. Not only do the Ravens have Lamar Jackson, who is capable of making electric plays with his legs, but they have now complemented that rushing attack with the human tractor, Derrick Henry. (Seriously, his nickname is "Tractorcito.")

Next is a home game against the Atlanta Falcons, which have been installed by all the oddsmakers as the favorites to win the NFC South after the acquisition of quarterback Kirk Cousins. If Cousins does lift the Falcons into contender status, this could potentially be the most significant game in the NFC South race all season…and the Bucs will be playing it on one fewer day of rest than Atlanta.

After that, it's back-to-back contests against, oh, just the two teams that played in the Super Bowl last year. First it's another Monday night game in Kansas City against Patrick Mahomes and company. Then, once again on short rest, the Bucs will face the San Francisco 49ers, who have really had their number the last two seasons. These are two of the scariest offenses in the NFL, but they aren't anything like each other. This will be quite the back-to-back challenge for Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers' defense.

Brianna Dix: Weeks 4-7

It is hard to disagree with Scott on this one but for the purposes of debate, Weeks Four-Seven on the Bucs' 2024 slate will be grueling. In Week Four, the Buccaneers will host the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have become a powerhouse in the NFC in recent years with dual-threat Jalen Hurts at the helm and a robust rushing attack. The Eagles fell short of the 'Super Bowl encore' goal in 2023 with late-season adversity. For the second-straight year in 2023, the Eagles had two 1,000-yard receivers with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and a 1,000-yard rusher in D'Andre Swift. Philadelphia cruised to a 10-1 start in last year's campaign and the club will strive for contention in 2024.

In Weeks 5-6, the Bucs will face two divisional foes in consecutive weeks on the road: at Atlanta for a Thursday Night Football showdown on October 3 and at New Orleans on Sunday, October 13. In terms of NFC South standings and potential tiebreaker scenarios, both of those intradivision contests will be crucial for Tampa Bay with potential playoff implications. Division games are always chippy with higher stakes, and this two-game stretch will undoubtedly follow that trend. Atlanta enters a new regime with Kirk Cousins under center and the Saints will seek improvement from last year's 9-8 finish.

The Bucs return home and take on the Ravens in Week Seven via Monday Night Football. In prime-time, Tampa Bay will face elusive quarterback Lamar Jackson and a defense that became the first in NFL history to finish first in points allowed (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31) last season. In 2023, the Ravens finished with a 13-4 record, posting 10 victories over teams with winning records. This will be a hellacious four-week stretch for the Buccaneers as they vie for a fourth-straight NFC South crown.

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