It's here and it's a doozy. The Buccaneers revealed their 2020 season schedule on Thursday night and their 16-game slate will give Tampa Bay the most nationwide exposure the franchise has ever had. Call it the Tom Brady effect. Call it the Bruce Arians Effect. Call it whatever you like, but the whole country is about to see a lot of these flashy, splashy Buccaneers this fall.
Here are few things to note about the 2020 schedule.
1. Tampa Bay's five prime-time matchups are the most ever in franchise history.
The Buccaneers will play one Thursday Night Football matchup in the Windy City against the Chicago Bears, two Sunday Night Football games against the newly minted Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints and then will be under the lights of Monday Night against both the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants.
How's that for a slate? The five night-time matchups are the maximum amount of allotted prime-time games a team is allowed. And there are some fun storylines to go along with those opponents - like Sunday Night's game in Las Vegas against the Raiders. Jon Gruden will meet the franchise he took to a Super Bowl as an opponent during the Raiders' inaugural season in Las Vegas. Their new Death-Star-like stadium is sure to glimmer in the night. The second Sunday Night game will feature a rematch of the league's all-time passing leaders in Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The two teams will have played in the Super Dome to open the season already, but Week Nine, the Saints will visit Raymond James Stadium under the lights.
The Bucs' infamous pirate ship will also play host to Monday Night Football again. The last time Tampa Bay hosted the iconic series was in 2017 when the Pittsburgh Steelers came to town. This time, it'll be the Los Angeles Rams in what is sure to be another offensive shootout if last year's contest is anything to go by.
Four of the five prime-time matchups will take place within five weeks of each other. The Bucs will play three straight night games from Week Seven through Week Nine, in fact. That's when they play at Las Vegas against the Raiders on Sunday night, followed by Monday Night Football in New York (New Jersey) against the Giants and then host Sunday Night Football against New Orleans.
2. The Bucs open on the road against the Saints for the second time in three years.
Speaking of the division-rival Saints, 2020 will mark the second time in three years that the Buccaneers will open their season in the Super Dome. In 2018, Tampa Bay took New Orleans by surprise, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the team to a convincing 48-40 victory. It propelled him into FitzMagic stardom after he threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns against the Saints' defense.
This time, it'll be Brady, facing off against the only other player in league history that has more career passing yards and touchdowns than he does. You can bet with Brady's competitive nature, he'll want to waste no time making up ground in a head-to-head battle with Brees. After 20 years in the league, Brady has 74,571 career passing yards and 541 career touchdowns. Brees has 77,416 and 547, respectively. It's one of a few very interesting quarterback matchups the Buccaneers will see this season.
3. Tampa Bay will host the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12.
Like this one. Though Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the new kid on the block, he and Brady already have a history. In Mahomes' first year as a starter, he won the league MVP but was denied a trip to the Super Bowl because of Brady and the New England Patriots, who beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. The two teams met again in the regular season in 2019, and Mahomes got his revenge, taking down the Patriots in Foxborough during Week 13. The two teams wouldn't meet again in the postseason, with the Tennessee Titans shocking the Pats to advance to the AFC championship to face the Chiefs instead. Kansas went on to win their first Super Bowl in over 50 years and will now come to Tampa Bay as the reigning champs.
This will mark the fourth time in the last five seasons that the team defending the Lombardi Trophy will visit Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers beat the defending-champion Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 but lost to the New England Patriots in 2017 and the Denver Broncos in 2016.
4. No frigid cold weather games look to be in the forecast.
The Buccaneers are of course used to playing in warm weather in the Sunshine State but what about on the road? This year, Tampa Bay won't really have to worry about any of their late-in-the-year opponents. The biggest threat seems to be going up to play the New York Giants at MetLife on Monday Night Football the first weekend in November. The Week Eight contest will be the Bucs' third in prime-time and second consecutive night game, with the Las Vegas Raiders on the schedule for the prior week on Sunday Night Football.
Other than the Giants, the road trips that follow are either indoors or in warmer climates. They play at Carolina in Week 10, and then don't stray from Raymond James Stadium again until Week 15 in Atlanta, which is of course, a dome. Tampa Bay will play Detroit on December 26 or 27, but Ford Field is indoors, so even if it's snowing outside, it'll be a balmy game inside, just like it was in 2019. The Bucs then finish their season at home against the Falcons on January 3
All bets will be off should Tampa Bay continue to play further into January, of course.
5. The Week 13 Bye is the latest the Bucs have ever had.
Part of the reason the Bucs have such a big gap in road games toward the end of the year is because of a Week 13 bye. It's the latest Tampa Bay has ever had a bye week and Week 13 is the last week teams are scheduled on bye weeks, period. It's a direct contrast to what has seemed to happen for the Bucs in recent years. Last season, the Bucs had a comfortable bye in Week Seven (though it still seemed a little early), but only after going overseas Week Six to play the Panthers in London. In 2018, the Bucs were stuck with a Week Five bye and in 2017, due to Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay essentially didn't have a Bye week. The hurricane postponed the first game of the season so the Bucs had a 'Week One bye' and instead played the Miami Dolphins in Week 11, when they were supposed to get a break.
Whether or not the team will benefit from a late bye or not will be interesting to see this season.