Pictures of the Buccaneers opponents for the 2017 season.
In case you missed it (which seems implausible given that it was still being called "Breaking News" about three hours after it broke), the Raiders are going to move to Las Vegas.
NFL team owners approved the move by a 31-1 vote on Monday at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that the Raiders would continue to play in Oakland during the next two seasons while a stadium is built in their new home city.
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All of which means, if you've ever wanted to combine a weekend jaunt to Las Vegas with a chance to see your Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road, your first chance will come in 2020. That's actually relatively good news for those with such a desire; if the Bucs had a scheduled road game against the Raiders in 2017 or 2018, then it's likely their first game in Las Vegas would have fallen in 2025 or 2026. There is even a possibility that the Raiders will play the 2019 season in Oakland, as well.
Since the expansion and realignment of 2002, the NFL has used a scheduling process that pits divisions against each other on a rotating basis. It's a three-year rotation for divisions in the same conference and a four-year rotation for divisions in the opposite conference. For instance, the Buccaneers and their NFC South brethren played all the teams in the NFC West last year, in the NFC East in 2015 and in the NFC North in 2014. The Bucs saw all the AFC West clubs last year, too, after matching up with the AFC South in 2015, the AFC North in 2014 and the AFC East in 2013.
Each time the rotation comes back around, all the matchups switch locations. So when the Buccaneers play the NFC North teams again this coming fall, they'll be on their way to Green Bay and Minnesota because they had home games against the Packers and Vikings the last time around, in 2014.
The NFC South matched up with the AFC West in 2012 and the Bucs played road games at Oakland and Denver. You may remember that Raider game – Oakland native Doug Martin ran for approximately a billion yards. That divisional matchup came back around in 2016 and the Raiders and Broncos came to Tampa. So you know what that means – the next NFC South-AFC West go-around will be in 2020 and the Bucs will be on the road against the Raiders and the Broncos. By 2020, the Raiders should be moved into their new Las Vegas Stadium.
Obviously, that will be a first for the Buccaneers, and for every team that has a road game against the Raiders. Through their first 41 seasons, the Bucs have played in 49 different host cities (including Tampa) and in 68 different stadiums. That includes nine stadiums in which the Buccaneers have only played a preseason game. Tampa Bay has played games in Tokyo, Japan and the teeming metropolis of Norman, Oklahoma (I can make fun of the town; I was born there), but they've obviously never played in Vegas.
Tampa Bay's list of game sites will be a little longer by the time they head to Las Vegas. Next fall, the Buccaneers will play in two new stadiums: U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Vikings, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons. It's also possible that over the next three years the Bucs will be chosen for another game in London (and at a different site than Wembley Stadium), or perhaps even Mexico City or some other international location.
Still, first-time visits to game venues are relatively rare occurrences for the Buccaneers. They'll get an interesting new one in 2020, thanks to a scheduling rotation that will fall just right for any Tampa Bay fans hoping for a Vegas weekend.