The Bucs and Packers will resume their heated rivalry in Tampa Bay's first visit to Lambeau Field since 2001
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers know they'll get a taste of tundra next season. They won't know until March if it will be frozen.
With the current NFL scheduling formula, a team can easily figure out its list of opponents for the next season as soon as the current one has come to an end. In fact, 14 of the 16 games have been determined well in advance.
So the Bucs have known for some time that they will be matched up against the NFC North, which is comprised of the four teams that, along with Tampa Bay, used to make up the 'Black and Blue' NFC Central Division. The Bucs will play Chicago and Detroit at home and make road trips to Minnesota and the potentially frozen tundra of Green Bay's Lambeau Field.
For their four interconference games, the Buccaneers will run the AFC East gauntlet. That includes home contests against Buffalo and Miami and road games versus New England and the New York Jets.
Other highlights of Tampa Bay's 2004 schedule include a cross-country trip to San Francisco and a visit from the Washington Redskins, who last played in Raymond James Stadium during the 1999 playoffs. The Buccaneers rallied for a 14-13 victory in that contest and went on to play in the NFC Championship Game.
When the Buccaneers take on each of these opponents will not be known until the spring, when the NFC unveils its 2005 schedule, complete with dates and times. That announcement usually arrives in late March or early April.
Perhaps the most intriguing game on the list, particularly if it is scheduled for late in the season, will be the visit to Lambeau Field, where the Buccaneers have not won since 1989. The team did beat Green Bay five times in a row at Raymond James Stadium, from 1998-2002 but failed in a series of close games in Wisconsin. Most notable was the 2000 season finale, in which a missed field goal near the end of regulation denied the Bucs a win, the division title and a first-round playoff bye.
The 49ers and Redskins were the two opponents on the schedule that weren't finalized until the 2004 season ended. The Bucs were scheduled to play the NFC East and NFC West teams that finished in the corresponding spot in their division standings to Tampa Bay's place in the South. The Bucs finished fourth in their division, and thus will play fourth-place San Francisco and Washington.
The 49er game will mark the Bucs' fourth trip to California in three seasons. Tampa Bay played at San Diego and Oakland this year and at San Francisco in 2003. The Bucs last win in San Francisco was a 24-23 decision in 1980.
Six of the Bucs' 16 games, of course, will be against division opponents Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. Tampa Bay finished 2-4 in division games in 2004 and has lost four straight games to the Panthers.
The NFL has already devised a rotation of opponents for each team through the 2009 season. Click here to find links to the Bucs' list of foes for each of the next five campaigns.
The National Football League revised its scheduling format before the 2002 season, when the league expanded to 32 teams and realigned into eight four-team divisions. Most of the 'strength-of-schedule' influence that went into the old format – that is, teams pitted against teams that finished with similar records the year before – was scrapped in favor of a rotation that ensures a game against each team every few years.
Here are the Bucs' 16 opponents for 2005:
2005 Home Opponents * Atlanta * Buffalo * Carolina * Chicago * Detroit * Miami * New Orleans * Washington2005 Road Opponents * Atlanta * Carolina * Green Bay * Minnesota * New England * New Orleans * N.Y. Jets * San Francisco
The Bucs' 2005 schedule will feature six games against teams in this year's playoff field: Atlanta (twice), Green Bay, Minnesota, New England and the N.Y. Jets.