Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' 2016 Schedule Among NFL's Toughest

The Buccaneers have one of the most difficult schedules in the league this season, but history suggests that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

A look at the Bucs' complete schedule for the upcoming season.

On Thursday night, the Buccaneers officially announced their schedule for the 2016 season. The team will open the season on the road against the Falcons and host their home opener at Raymond James Stadium in Week 3 against the Rams. The Bucs' schedule includes two Primetime games, including a Monday Night game against the Panthers in Carolina.

Prior to the announcement, the Bucs' opponents had been set. On Wednesday, NFL.com calculated the strength of schedule for each team, with the Buccaneers' slate graded as the fifth-toughest in the league. Tampa Bay is set to play both Super Bowl teams from a year ago, the Panthers and Broncos, in back-to-back games in Weeks 4 and 5. The Bucs will also face the defending NFC West Champion Cardinals and a Seahawks team which reached the second round of the playoffs.

While this may look daunting from the outside looking in, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic.

Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers had the hardest schedule of any team in the league. They finished 10-6 and made the playoffs before losing, 23-16, to the eventual Super Bowl champions in the Divisional round.

In fact, four of five teams with the hardest schedules in 2015 made the playoffs. In addition to Pittsburgh, the Bengals had the second-toughest, the Seahawks had the fourth-toughest and the Cardinals had the fifth-toughest. Only the 49ers, whose schedule was rated as the third-toughest, missed out on the postseason.

Of the teams with the five easiest schedules a year ago, just one made the playoffs. The teams with the five most difficult schedules this year, in descending order, are the Falcons, 49ers and Rams, with the Bucs and Seahawks tied for No. 5. The Packers have the easiest schedule, followed by the Giants, Bears, Cowboys and Lions.

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