The Buccaneers and Saints will be scrambling for an early lead in the NFC South when the season starts for both teams in New Orleans this fall
Division foes account for three notable games in Tampa Bay's NFC South title defense: New Orleans (season opener), Atlanta (home opener) and Carolina (return to Monday Night Football)…Plus much more on the '08 sked
The last two champions of the NFC South will find out early who has a leg up on the chase for the 2008 division crown.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open their defense of the South title with a road game at New Orleans, the 2006 champs, on Sunday, September 7. The Buccaneers' home opener comes a week later against another division foe, the Atlanta Falcons, who visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, September 14.
The National Football League released its 2008 game schedule on Tuesday afternoon, and the Buccaneers learned that their quest for the Super Bowl begins with a pair of division games. After those opening salvos against the Saints and Falcons, Tampa Bay will square off with two old friends from the former NFC Central division: at Chicago on Sunday, September 21 and at home against Green Bay on Sunday, September 28.
(Scroll down to see the Buccaneers' entire 2008 schedule.)
The 2008 schedule will also mark Tampa Bay's return to the venerable Monday Night Football program. Just as they did in their last MNF appearance in 2006, the Buccaneers will play under the prime-time lights at Carolina on Monday, December 8. Six days later, Tampa Bay will conclude its six-game NFC South skein with a visit to Atlanta on Sunday, December 14.
After playing all afternoon games in 2007, the Buccaneers could be showcased frequently at night in 2008. In addition to the Monday-nighter at Carolina, the Bucs will also play a Sunday night game on NBC in Week Seven, at home against Seattle. In addition, Tampa Bay's Week 16 home game against San Diego is currently scheduled as a Sunday night game on NBC, though that is subject to change through the NFL's flex scheduling option.
The aforementioned Panthers-Falcons doubleheader marks one of two times the Buccaneers will play consecutive road games in 2008. Tampa Bay also will visit Dallas and Kansas City on back-to-back weekends on Sunday, October 26 and Sunday, November 2.
The Buccaneers' bye week follows those two trips during the weekend of November 9. For the second straight season, Tampa Bay will enjoy its bye during Week 10, the latest it can possibly be on the schedule. Though the optimum time for a bye week for any given team is generally a matter of chance, later byes are usually considered preferable when the schedule is released.
The Bucs' 2008 season concludes with a pair of home games, just as it did in 2005. The Bucs follow their Week 16 game against San Diego with another visit from an AFC West opponent, as Oakland arrives for the regular-season finale on Sunday, December 28. This will mark just the second meeting between the Buccaneers and Raiders since Tampa Bay defeated Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season.
Tampa Bay's entire 2008 schedule is below. The team also released the specific dates and times of its four preseason games, which were revealed in general terms two weeks ago.
|**2008 Buccaneers Season Schedule**|
|**-- Preseason --**|
|Sat.||Aug. 9||at Miami||7:30 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|Sun.||Aug. 17||NEW ENGLAND||8:00 p.m.||NFL Network|
|Sat.||Aug. 23||JACKSONVILLE||7:30 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|Thurs.||Aug. 28||at Houston||8:00 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|**-- Regular Season --**|
|Sun.||Sept. 7||at New Orleans||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 14||ATLANTA||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 21||at Chicago||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 28||GREEN BAY||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 5||at Denver||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 12||CAROLINA||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 19||SEATTLE *||8:15 p.m.||NBC|
|Sun.||Oct. 26||at Dallas||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 2||at Kansas City||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 9||-- bye week --|
|Sun.||Nov. 16||MINNESOTA||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 23||at Detroit||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 30||NEW ORLEANS||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Mon.||Dec. 8||at Carolina *||8:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sun.||Dec. 14||at Atlanta||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 21||SAN DIEGO *||8:15 p.m.^||NBC|
|Sun.||Dec. 28||OAKLAND||1:00 p.m.^||CBS|
* Nationally-televised game. ^ All Sunday games in Weeks 11-17 are subject to a time change as part of NFL's flex scheduling. Home Games in ALL CAPS. All Times Eastern.
Click here to open a printable version of the Buccaneers' 2008 schedule.
The Bucs' 2008 schedule includes four games against teams that made the playoffs last season – Green Bay in Week Four, Seattle in Week Seven, at Dallas in Week Eight and San Diego in Week 16. Of course, each season's schedule proves challenging in its own right, and often in unexpected ways. For instance, observers prior to the beginning of the 2007 season probably expected the Bucs' two second-half matchups with Atlanta to be challenging, and might have pegged a game at Houston as a lesser challenge. Instead, the Bucs contributed to the Falcons' difficult season with a pair of lopsided victories but were unable to overcome the surging Texans in December.
As such, any conjecture about the 2008 schedule should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, there are quite a few notes of interest regarding the Bucs' just-released slate of games. For instance:
- The schedule's layout may spare the Buccaneers from any severely cold games. There was the potential for some wintry trips when Tampa Bay's list of '08 opponents was determined, as it included away games in Chicago, Denver and Kansas City. However, the Bears game should be downright pleasant on September 21, and the Week Five trip to Denver will probably beat the snow. Kansas City could be chilly on November 2, but Arrowhead Stadium will almost surely be much colder in December. * Speaking of those Denver and Kansas City trips, they will be new experiences for most of the current Buccaneers. Tampa Bay hasn't played in Denver since 1996, when the Broncos secured a 27-23 victory. The Bucs haven't tried their luck at Arrowhead since 1986,, a visit that resulted in a 27-20 K.C. win. The NFL's new scheduling format, instituted in 2002, uses a rotation system that guarantees such extended droughts will no longer occur. On the flip side, San Diego plays in Tampa for the first time since 1993. * The Kansas City game will also mark the first time that Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards has led his current team against the Buccaneers, his former employer. Edwards was Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach from 1996-2000 before leaving to take over the head coaching job with the New York Jets in 2001. The Bucs and Edwards' Jets played in 2005, with New York taking a 14-12 decision. Edwards moved from the Jets to the Chiefs in 2006. The Bucs will play another former assistant-turned-head-coach in Week 12 when they visit Detroit. Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli is in his third year in Detroit after spending 10 years on Tampa Bay's staff, first as the defensive line coach and later as the assistant head coach/defensive line coach. Marinelli's defensive coordinator is Joe Barry, who was also a Buccaneers assistant from 2001-06. * The NFL has made something of a habit of sending the Bucs on the road for their season opener. This year's trip to New Orleans will mark the second straight season, the fifth time in six years and the seventh time in nine years that Tampa Bay's season begins with an away game. On the flip side, the Bucs will finish their season at home for the fourth season in a row. * The Buccaneers have opened only one other season with a game against New Orleans. In 2002, Tampa Bay's season began with a home game against the visiting Saints. New Orleans won the game in overtime on an aborted punt, but Tampa Bay went on to capture the division title with a 12-4 record and eventually capture the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXVII. * The Bucs will play their 1976 expansion twin, Seattle, for the third year in a row and the fourth time in five seasons. The Seahawks have won the past three meetings, and seven of eight overall against Tampa Bay. Seattle comes to Tampa in Week Seven for a prime-time matchup on NBC. * The scheduling of the Falcons in Tampa in Week Two finally breaks a rather unusual trend. The NFC South was formed in 2002, and in each of the division's first six years, the Bucs-Falcons game in Tampa was placed in December. This year, it's the Bucs who will travel to Atlanta in the season's final month, visiting their division foe in Week 15. * Barring any additional staff changes around the league, the Bucs will face only one new head coach in 2008 – Atlanta's Mike Smith. * The Bucs-Panthers rivalry has emerged as one of the most intense in the NFL, and it will get another boost this year with the Monday night game in December. The Bucs lost their 2006 Monday night game in Charlotte but beat the Panthers on the road in 2005 and 2007. Tampa Bay posted a 5-1 record in the NFC South in 2007, with its only loss coming in Week 17 against the Panthers in Tampa as the Buccaneers rested a majority of their starters. * Green Bay's Week Four game at Raymond James Stadium will be the Packers' 26th game in Tampa but the first since 1993 that does not feature Brett Favre under center. Favre's recent retirement appears to make fourth-year man Aaron Rodgers the Packers' new starting quarterback. Coincidentally, the last Green Bay game that Favre did not start was in Tampa, in Week Two of the 1992 season. The winner of this year's game will break a 12-12-1 tie between the Bucs and Packers in games played in Tampa.