FB Mike Alstott and the Buccaneers will begin the 2005 season with a visit to one of their former NFC Central haunts
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the road back to the playoffs begins in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
The Buccaneers will open on the road for the third season in a row and the fifth time in the last six years, heading to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 11.
(Scroll down to see the Buccaneers' entire 2005 schedule.)
The Bucs' travels as they seek their first playoff berth since 2002, when they won Super Bowl XXXVII, will also take them through Lambeau Field (at Green Bay, Sept. 25), the Georgia Dome (at Atlanta, Nov. 20) and Gillette Stadium (at New England, Dec. 17).
That mid-December game against the two-time defending NFL Champion New England Patriots is likely to be one of only two cold-weather games the Bucs will play. One week before heading to New England, Tampa Bay will play at Carolina on Dec. 11. That comes during what could be the toughest stretch of the season for the team, a three-game road swing that begins at New Orleans on Dec. 4.
The Buccaneers home opener is Sunday, Sept. 18 against the Buffalo Bills. The Bucs and Bills haven't met since 2000 and have played either other just seven times. Strangely, all eight matchups have been held or will be held in Tampa.
The Bucs will finish at home for the first time since 2001, as the season ends with a visit from the New Orleans Saints on New Year's Day. It is only the second home season finale for Tampa Bay since 1998.
The Bucs, in fact, will play their final two regular season games at Raymond James Stadium after that three-game road trip, as the Atlanta Falcons visit for a Saturday game on Christmas Eve day. It will mark only the fifth time the Buccaneers have finished the season with a pair of home contests, and the first since 2001, when they ended with three at home thanks to the rescheduling of a Week Two game against Philadelphia due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Tampa Bay's bye week falls in Week Seven, ending on Sunday, Dec. 23. Last year, the Bucs had their bye in Week Eight.
The Bucs are scheduled to play only one nationally-televised game – the Saturday afternoon game at New England on Dec. 17 – and will not play in prime time for the first time since 1989. They are off the Monday Night Football slate for the first time since 1997 and are scheduled to play only one game that does not begin at 1:00 or 1:30 (at San Francisco, 4:15 p.m. ET).
The NFL's 2005 schedule was announced by the NFL on Wednesday. Other notable games for the Buccaneers this fall include
- Miami, Oct. 16…The Dolphins will make their first regular-season trip to Raymond James Stadium. * At San Francisco, Oct. 30…Tampa Bay's only 2005 trip to the West Coast will match the Bucs and 49ers up for the fourth straight season. Tampa Bay won at home in 2002 and 2004 but the 49ers won in San Francisco in 2003. * Washington, Nov. 13…The Redskins will come to Tampa for the first time since the 1999 playoffs, when the Buccaneers beat Washington, 14-13, en route to the NFC Championship Game. The 'Skins last regular-season visit to Tampa came in 1996, as the Bucs beat Washington 24-10 on Dec. 8. The Bucs have also released their preseason dates, beginning at Tennessee on Friday, Aug. 12 (see below). The team will open training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on Thursday, July 28, with the first practices scheduled for Friday, July 29. The Bucs are tentatively scheduled to break camp following a morning practice on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
|**2005 Buccaneers Regular Season Schedule**|
|**-- Preseason --**|
|Fri.||Aug. 12||at Tennessee||8:00 p.m.||WFLA|
|Sat.||Aug. 20||JACKSONVILLE||7:30 p.m.||WFLA|
|Sat.||Aug. 27||at Miami||7:30 p.m.||WFLA|
|Thurs.||Sept. 1||HOUSTON||7:30 p.m.||WFLA|
|**-- Regular Season --**|
|Sun.||Sept. 11||at Minnesota||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 18||BUFFALO||1:00 p.m.||CBS|
|Sun.||Sept. 25||at Green Bay||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 2||DETROIT||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 9||at N.Y. Jets||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 16||MIAMI||1:00 p.m.||CBS|
|Sun.||Oct. 23||-- Bye Week --|
|Sun.||Oct. 30||at San Francisco||4:15 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 6||CAROLINA||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 13||WASHINGTON||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 20||at Atlanta||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 27||CHICAGO||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 4||at New Orleans||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 11||at Carolina||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sat.||Dec. 17||at New England||1:30 p.m.||FOX*|
|Sat.||Dec. 24||ATLANTA||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Jan. 1||NEW ORLEANS||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
* Nationally-televised game Home Games in ALL CAPS All Times Eastern
The NFC South race could come down to a series of head-to-head matchups in the final weeks. Of the Bucs' six intra-division games in 2005, five will be held over the last seven weeks of the season. The Bucs open December with road games against the Saints and Panthers, then close the season with home contests against the Falcons and Saints.
In contrast, the Bucs will play most of their games against their former NFC Central mates early in the campaign. With the NFC South and NFC North paired up this year, the Bucs will play road games at Minnesota and Green Bay during the first two three weeks and welcome Detroit to Raymond James Stadium in Week Four. Only Chicago, visiting Tampa on Nov. 27, comes in the second half of the season.
The Bucs won't have to wait long for their much-anticipated return to Lambeau Field. Before leaving for the NFC South during the league's realignment in 2002, Tampa Bay played a serious of thrilling games in Green Bay, including three straight (1999-2001) decided by a field goal or less. However, the Bucs have not won in Lambeau Field since 1989.
Other notes regarding the Buccaneers' 2005 schedule:
- The Buccaneers will try to run their winning streak against defending NFL Champions to four games. In 1999, the Bucs beat Denver after the Broncos' XXXIII victory; in 2000, Tampa Bay topped St. Louis after the Rams' XXXIV win; and in 2001, the Bucs downed Baltimore after the Ravens' XXXV victory. The Bucs will play the defending champion Patriots on Dec. 17. One difference: Those first three games were at home while the Bucs will play at New England this year. * The Bucs' Week Five game against the Jets will be the team's first visit to the Meadowlands since 1997, when Tampa Bay played road games against both the Giants and the Jets during the last four weeks of the season. The Bucs beat the Giants, 20-8, on Nov. 30, 1997 but lost to the Jets, 31-0, two weeks later on Dec. 14. * The Bucs and Vikings have kicked off the season together on three previous occasions, including twice in Minnesota. The home team won each of those three games, with Tampa Bay taking a 21-13 decision in 1981 and the Vikings winning by a 17-10 margin in 1982 and following with a 31-7 victory in 1998. * The Bucs also finished the season with a home game against the Saints on one other occasion. The final game of 1978 was a 17-10 loss to New Orleans in Tampa Stadium. * There are two teams with new head coaches on the schedule this year, and the Bucs will play them in back-to-back games (separated by the bye week). Nick Saban and the Miami Dolphins visit on Oct. 16 before the Bucs head to San Francisco to play Mike Nolan's San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 30. * The Bucs' three-game road swing in December marks the first such stretch of away games for Tampa Bay since 1996. From Oct. 20 to Nov. 3 of that season, the Buccaneers played at Arizona, Green Bay and Chicago, losing all three games by six points or less. * Tampa Bay's winning streak in Atlanta was snapped last season when the Falcons won a Nov. 14 matchup by a 24-14 score. However, the Bucs have fared very well in the Georgia Dome in recent years, winning four straight from 1997-2003. Overall, Tampa Bay has won seven of its last nine against the Falcons, including four of six since the two teams joined the NFC South in 2002. * The Bucs have only played at New England twice before in regular season games. The Bucs lost a 10-7 overtime game to the Patriots in 1988 but took a 21-16 decision at New England in 2000. The Bucs are also 1-2 against New England in games played in Tampa, most recently winning a 27-7 contest in 1997. Of the 12 different teams on the Bucs' 2005 schedule, the team has the shortest history against the Patriots, playing them only five times previously. * The Bucs' home game against Atlanta will fall in December for the fourth straight season. The Bucs beat Atlanta, 34-10, on Dec. 8, 2002; lost to the Falcons, 30-28, on Dec. 20, 2003; and whitewashed their Georgia rivals, 27-0, last Dec. 5. The two teams meet again in Tampa on Dec. 24 of this season. * The Bucs have never played a regular season game on New Year's Day before. They have played three times on Jan. 2 and once on Jan. 6, winning half of those four games. Tampa Bay has played on Christmas Eve day on three prior occasions, losing all three games. The opener falls on a good date, however, as Tampa Bay is 3-1 all-time on Sept. 11, most recently beating Indianapolis, 24-10, in 1994.