The Buccaneers and Cowboys will start the 2009 season with a head-on collision at Raymond James Stadium on September 13
How strong will the NFC East be in 2009? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a very good feel for that answer early this fall.
As for the Buccaneers' own division, the always hyper-competitive NFC South, the battle won't really heat up until late in the season.
The National Football League released its full 2009 game schedule on Tuesday evening, and the Bucs' own fall slate contained some surprising twists. Amazingly, Tampa Bay will have taken an entire survey of the NFC East by the time the season is five weeks old.
However, the Buccaneers won't play a single NFC South opponent until Week Six and will wait to finish off the last five intra-division games until the season's final seven weeks.
(Scroll down to see the Buccaneers' entire 2009 schedule.)
The Buccaneers' 2009 schedule begins with a home game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, September 13, which actually marks the second time in the last nine years the Cowboys have been Tampa Bay's opening-day foe. The two also met in Dallas to kick off the 2001 campaign, with the Bucs winning, 10-6.
Coincidentally, Tampa Bay had a season-opening game against each of the four current NFC East teams between 1999-2004 (vs. the N.Y. Giants in 1999; at Dallas, 2001; at Philadelphia, 2003; at Washington, 2004). That's nothing compared to 2009, however; after opening with Dallas, the Bucs will play host to theGiants in Week Three and then make back-to-back trips to Washington and Philadelphia in Weeks Four and Five.
The Buccaneers' first division game will be a home match with the Carolina Panthers in Week Six, on October 18. They won't resume intra-division play until Week 11, with a visit from the New Orleans Saints. Road games at Atlanta (Week 12), Carolina (Week 13) and New Orleans (Week 16) follow in quick succession before the Falcons come to Tampa for the season finale on January 3.
The Bucs are not currently scheduled to appear on the Monday Night Football series, nor in any other prime time appointment in 2009, though the NFL's late-season flex scheduling plan could eventually change that. All seven of the regular-season games scheduled for Raymond James Stadium are currently set to kick off at 1:00 p.m.
Of course, each NFL team gets eight home games a year, but one of the Bucs' eight will be played in London on October 25. As was revealed last December, Tampa Bay and New England have been chosen to participate in this year's installment of the NFL's International Series, which last year pitted New Orleans and San Diego at London's Wembley Stadium. The Bucs will play in the same venue, with the game due to start at 5:00 p.m. on location, 1:00 p.m. in Tampa.
Tampa Bay's bye week will fall immediately after that trip across the Atlantic, as is customary with the International Series. This marks the third straight year that the Bucs' bye has been scheduled for Week Eight or later.
Tampa Bay will play consecutive road games three times in 2009, the first time that has happened for the Buccaneers since 2001. The Bucs do technically have a stretch of three straight home games in the middle of the season, but that includes the London contest and is also interrupted by the bye week. There are no two consecutive Sundays on which the Buccaneers will play at home during the 2009 regular season.
Tampa Bay's entire 2009 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.
|**2009 Buccaneers Season Schedule**|
|**-- Preseason --**|
|Sat.||Aug. 15||at Tennessee||8:00 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|Sat.||Aug. 22||at Jacksonville||7:30 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|Thurs.||Aug. 27||MIAMI*||8:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Fri.||Sept. 4||HOUSTON||7:00 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|**-- Regular Season --**|
|Sun.||Sept. 13||DALLAS||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 20||at Buffalo||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 27||N.Y. GIANTS||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 4||at Washington||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 11||at Philadelphia||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 18||CAROLINA||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 25||NEW ENGLAND (London)**||1:00 p.m.||CBS|
|Sun.||Nov. 1||-- bye week --|
|Sun.||Nov. 8||GREEN BAY||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 15||at Miami||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 22||NEW ORLEANS||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 29||at Atlanta||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 6||at Carolina||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 13||N.Y. JETS||1:00 p.m.^||CBS|
|Sun.||Dec. 20||at Seattle||4:15 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 27||at New Orleans||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
|Sun.||Jan. 3||ATLANTA||1:00 p.m.^||FOX|
Nationally-televised game. The Week Seven game against New England in London is considered a home game for Tampa Bay. ^ 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 U.S. Eastern.*
Click here to open a printable version of the Buccaneers' 2009 schedule.
The Bucs' 2009 schedule includes seven games against teams that made the playoffs last season, up from four in 2008. Fellow NFC South squads Atlanta and Carolina account for four of those seven games, but the Bucs also face the Giants in Week Three, the Eagles in Week Five and the Dolphins in Week 10. Miami, New York and Carolina were all division winners.
Of course, each season's schedule proves challenging in its own right, and often in unexpected ways. For instance, a Week 15 trip to Atlanta might have looked like a lesser challenge for the defending division champions when the 2008 schedule came out a year ago, considering the Falcons' 4-12 finish in 2007 and their apparent rebuilding status. Instead, the Falcons thrived behind a new coach and a rookie quarterback and were very much in playoff contention in mid-December. An equivalent game in 2009 might be the Week 15 trip to Seattle, which was 4-12 last year but had won the previous four NFC West titles.
As such, any conjecture about the 2009 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: