The day ticket holders and diehard fans have been waiting for is here: The NFL released the regular-season schedule on Thursday evening. Several highly anticipated matchups appear on the list: Tom Brady and company beginning their season against 'America's Team' on Sunday night in Dallas in what will surely be a 9-11 tribute game; a rematch against the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams in Week Nine at Raymond James Stadium; and the first NFL game ever in Germany, with the Bucs and Seahawks meeting in Week 10. The Buccaneers have eight games against 2021 playoff teams, including four on the road.
The stage is set.
Calendars are marked and anticipation builds for the fresh slate. Now that the schedule has been released, incessant speculation and analysis will commence as top matchups are evaluated. Grab the popcorn. Here are a few pros and cons regarding the Buccaneers' 2022 schedule:
Pro: Mini-Bye Following Week 8
Thursday night games are challenging because they come at the end of a very short week of preparation. The payoff on the other side is something of a 'mini-bye' before the following game, and in this case it is coming at a very opportune time for the Buccaneers.. After the Thursday night game against the Ravens on Oct. 27, Tampa Bay does not have to face the Rams until the following Sunday, Nov. 6. The Bucs will have a full, nine-day stretch to gear up for Sean McVay and cast. The Bucs promising 2021 season ended abruptly at the hand of the Rams, who went on to win Super Bowl LVI. This year, Tampa Bay will seek revenge on the gridiron and will have a little extra time to get ready.
Con: Two Straight Road Games to Start the Season
The Buccaneers open the regular season against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, then face divisional-foe Saints in Week Two at Caesars Superdome. The Cowboys prioritized the trenches in the first two rounds of the draft, taking offensive tackle Tyler Smith and defensive end Sam Williams. Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn transformed the club's defense in 2021 but the offense, which led the league in scoring last year, is more of a question mark after several significant offseason losses. The Saints used their early draft selections on offense, striving to revitalize the passing game with Chris Olave and added a left tackle to protect Jameis Winston in Trevor Penning. Along with Michael Thomas, Winston has another deep threat who can stretch the field vertically in Olave. The team is hopeful both can become offensive catalysts and reinvigorate the squad. Every team is attempting to make their mark at the beginning of the year. For Tampa Bay, both road games are crucial.
Pro: Five Prime-Time Games
The Buccaneers are no longer an afterthought. They are one of the premier teams in the NFL, evidenced by the repeated notoriety of prime-time assignments in recent seasons. Tampa Bay will have five prime-time games on the schedule, including a Monday night (vs. Saints) and Thursday night matchup (vs. Ravens) that will be played on their home turf – another bonus. The three Sunday night games include the Cowboys in Week One on the road, the Chiefs in Week Four at home and the Cardinals on the road in Week 16. In the 10 years prior to Tom Brady's highly publicized arrival in Florida, the Bucs had a total of one Sunday night prime-time game. They've had six since, and the three they will play this season will be a franchise record.
Con: Three of Last Five Games Are Away
The Buccaneers have a challenging stretch in December and January. Three of their last five contests are on the road: at San Francisco in Week 14, at Arizona in Week 16 and at Atlanta in Week 18. Two are on or near the West Coast including the matchups against the 49ers and Cardinals, which are the longest trips for the Bucs, besides the obvious international game in Germany. The game against Arizona falls on Christmas Day…with an 8:20 PM kickoff. Sure, the game will be great for ratings with the spotlight placed on Todd Bowles' crew; however, players and coaches will not have the privilege of spending the holiday with their families. An accepted and always potential reality, but nonetheless a lost opportunity for some, especially those with small children.
Pro: The Bye Falls in Week 11
Where the bye week falls is pivotal. The later the better, usually, as injuries tend pile up down the stretch of a season. If it falls too early, it hits before the traditional 'wear and tear.' For the Buccaneers, the bye falls at a perfect place in the latter half of the 2022 season. After a Sunday morning game in Germany on Nov. 13 and a long flight back to Florida, the team has a two-week period to rest, re-set and heal from injuries sustained. Then, their next game occurs on Sunday, Nov. 27 against the Browns on the road.
Con: Tough Stretch from Week Six-Eight
Arguably the toughest part of the Buccaneers' schedule falls from Week Six-Eight, at least from a scheduling standpoint. The club has back-to-back road games against the Steelers (Oct. 16) and Panthers (Oct. 23), followed up by a quick turnaround. The Bucs play in Carolina, then fly home for a Thursday night game against the Ravens on Oct. 27. After the Week Seven contest against the Panthers, the Bucs have three days to prepare for Baltimore. A routine week's work of preparation, meetings, film study and practice are squeezed into half the time. The same work is completed but accelerated to fit into the allotted timespan. This group of games in the middle of the season will likely have implications later on as the team strives for another Lombardi Trophy.
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