Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fascinating Journey Ahead

The Buccaneers’ 2011 schedule, just released Tuesday by the NFL, is loaded with intriguing dates, including the team’s first home Monday Night Football game in eight years

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In one year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone from homogenous to hot property.

You can thank Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Gerald McCoy and a team of rising young stars for that.  You can also thank the Buccaneers' breakout 10-6 campaign last fall.

When the NFL's 2010 regular-season schedule was released a year ago, the Buccaneers' 16 games all had one thing in common: Every one was scheduled to kick off on or around 1:00 p.m. ET on a Sunday.

On Tuesday, the league released its 2011 schedule and the contrast could not be more stark.  The NFL obviously plans to introduce the Buccaneers to a much wider audience this coming fall.  (Scroll down to see the entire schedule.)

The Buccaneers' upcoming regular-season schedule is endlessly intriguing.  Among the highlights:

  • The first Monday Night Football game at Raymond James Stadium since 2003 – against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on October 3;
  • The first prime-time game for the Buccaneers of any kind since 2008 – against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, December 17;
  • Just the fifth NFL regular-season game ever played outside of North America – against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears in London on October 23;
  • An early-season showdown with heated NFC South rival Atlanta (Sept. 25) as the late game of a Fox Doubleheader in front of a large national audience;
  • A late-November trip to Lambeau Field to take on the defending-champion Green Bay Packers;
  • A season-ending double-dip road trip to Carolina and Atlanta that could decide yet another contentious division title race.

Tampa Bay's season kicks off with a game that avid NFL fans will love – Detroit at Tampa Bay on Sunday, September 11 – as it pits two of the most promising teams from 2010.  The Buccaneers will be looking to avenge a late-season loss to the Lions at Raymond James Stadium that was part of an eye-opening four-game winning streak for Detroit to cap the year.

Tampa Bay's first road trip will be to the home of another former NFC Central rival, the Minnesota Vikings.  The Bucs play just two road games in the first two months of the season, though their Week Seven game against Chicago, while technically a home game, will be conducted at London's Wembley Stadium.

Here is the Buccaneers' 2011 regular-season game schedule, followed by more notes:

Day

Date

Opponent

Time

Network

Sun.

Sept. 11

DETROIT

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Sept. 18

at Minnesota

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Sept. 25

ATLANTA

4:15 PM

FOX

Mon.

Oct. 3

INDIANAPOLIS

8:30 PM

ESPN

Sun.

Oct. 9

at San Francisco

4:05 PM

FOX

Sun.

Oct. 16

NEW ORLEANS

4:15 PM

FOX

Sun.

Oct. 23

CHICAGO (LONDON)

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Oct. 30

Bye Week

Sun.

Nov. 6

at New Orleans

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Nov. 13

HOUSTON

1:00 PM

CBS

Sun.

Nov. 20

at Green Bay

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Nov. 27

at Tennessee

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Dec. 4

CAROLINA

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Dec. 11

at Jacksonville

1:00 PM

FOX

Sat.

Dec. 17

DALLAS

8:20 PM

NFLN

Sat.

Dec. 24

at Carolina

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Jan. 1

at Atlanta

1:00 PM

FOX

  • All times Eastern and subject to change
  • All Sunday afternoon games in Weeks 10-15 and Week 17 are subject to time changes as part of NFL's flex scheduling format

The Buccaneers' 2011 schedule includes seven games against teams that made the playoffs in 2010, two more than a year before.  That includes a date with the Super Bowl champs for the second year in a row when the Buccaneers visit Green Bay for the first time since 2005.  The Bucs also play the NFC runners-up (Chicago in London, Week Seven) and additional 2010 playoff participants in Weeks Three (Atlanta), Four (Indianapolis), Six (New Orleans), Nine (New Orleans) and 17 (Atlanta).  From September 25 through November 20, the Bucs will face an eight-game stretch in which six of their opponents are coming off playoff seasons.

Of course, each NFL season seems to defy expectations and present unexpected challenges, such as the red-hot Lions for the Buccaneers last December.  For instance, the Buccaneers headed into 2010 eyeing games against Cincinnati and Arizona as two of their bigger challenges, given the playoff seasons the Bengals and Cardinals had enjoyed in 2009.  Instead, Arizona and Cincinnati combined for nine wins in 2010 while Pittsburgh, the Bucs' Week Three opponent, rebounded from a postseason-free 2009 to reach the Super Bowl last February.

The Buccaneers will head into 2010 on a two-game winning streak, having defeated Seattle at home and New Orleans on the road to stay in last year's playoff hunt right up until the final hours of the season.   That trip to the Superdome in Week 17 was part of the NFL's new plan to emphasize intra-division matchups in the season's final weekend in the hopes of staging as many meaningful games as possible.  That certainly worked in the NFC South, where the division title wasn't decided until Week 17, three of the four teams were on the cusp of the playoffs, and all four clubs had a say in the outcome.

That initiative continues in 2011 as the Buccaneers will actually play two games within the division to finish the season, at Carolina and at Atlanta.  That marks the first time that the Buccaneers have finished the season with two straight road games since 1998, and just the third time ever (also 1992).  Tampa Bay has never before ended its season with two road games within the division.

Here are some additional notes of interest regarding the Buccaneers' 2011 schedule:

  • The Bucs will have to be road warriors in the season's second half if they are to take the next step in to the playoffs in 2011…and they certainly proved that's possible with a 6-2 mark away from home in 2010.  Six of Tampa Bay's last nine games are on the road, a schedule set-up the franchise has faced on only one other occasion, in 1987.  Three of the last four games are on the road, a challenge last faced in 1986.
  • For the second straight year, the Buccaneers' six-game NFC South schedule is spread out relatively evenly throughout the fall, rather than bunched at the beginning or the end.  The Buccaneers have one division game in the first quarter of the season, two in the second quarter, one in the third quarter and two in the fourth quarter.
  • The Buccaneers' bye falls in Week Eight, which is relatively late in the realm of bye week possibilities (all teams get their byes between Weeks Four and 10).  That is due, of course, to the team's trip to London in Week Seven.  Following the custom of the last four years, the two teams that are participating in the International Series game are being given the following week off.  For more information on the Bucs' trip to London, click here.
  • The Buccaneers will play most of their AFC opponents in the season's second half.  The NFC South is paired up with the AFC South this year, which means contests against Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee.  After the early Monday-nighter with the Colts, the Bucs will play Houston in Week 10, Tennessee in Week 12 and Jacksonville in Week 14.  Last year, three of the Buccaneers' first four games were against their AFC opponents in the NFC North.
  • Tampa Bay will start the season at home for the third straight season, following Week One games against Dallas in 2009 and Cleveland in 2010.  This is just the second time in the Buccaneers' 36-season history that they have had a string of three straight Week One games at home.  The first stretch covered 1986-88: vs. San Francisco, Atlanta and Philadelphia, in that order.  Overall, the Buccaneers have now been scheduled at home to start the season 17 times and on the road 19 times.
  • The Buccaneers don't appear to be in danger of playing too many cold-weather games in 2011, which is similar to last season.  Their six road games in November, December and January are at the following locations: New Orleans (Nov. 6), Green Bay (Nov. 20), Tennessee (Nov. 27), Jacksonville (Dec. 11), Carolina (Dec. 24) and Atlanta (Jan. 1).  The New Orleans and Atlanta games will be played inside domes, and the Green Bay game would certainly be worse in December than November.  There will likely be varying degrees of chill in Nashville, Jacksonville and Charlotte, but nothing too foreboding.
  • The Buccaneers will be playing in two home prime-time games for the first time since 2003, when the defending Super Bowl champs had a trio of Monday-nighters: at Philadelphia and at home against Indianapolis and the New York Giants.
  • Strangely, Tampa Bay will be playing a road game at San Francisco for the fourth time in the last seven years.  Last year, the Buccaneers defeated the 49ers on their home field, 21-0, marking the first time San Francisco had been shut out at home since 1977.
  • Though the Buccaneers and Texans played each other in the preseason each year from 2002 through 2008, the two teams will be meeting in the regular season for just the third time.  The series is tied at 1-1, and Houston's only other trip to Raymond James Stadium in the regular season resulted in a 16-3 Tampa Bay win in 2003.
  • Of all the teams on the Buccaneers' 2011 schedule, the opponent that Tampa Bay has gone the longest without beating is the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Buccaneers defeated their in-state rivals in the Jaguars' inaugural 1995 season, 17-16, but Jacksonville has captured the only three meetings since.  The two teams last met in 2007 in Tampa Bay, with Jacksonville taking a 24-23 decision.
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