In each of the last four offseasons, the NFL has released its full schedule for the upcoming season between the dates of April 12-20. Traditionally, the much-anticipated schedule release has occurred anywhere from late March to mid-April, and it has always preceded the NFL Draft in late April.
Thus, fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can expect to know quite soon when and where their team will be playing next fall. There is a good chance that "where" will include London.
The NFL played a single regular-season game at Wembley Stadium in London each season since 2007. The release of the participants in each game has generally come months before the full-schedule announcement; each of the previous four games has been announced by the first week of February. In 2011, the NFL has kept that information under wraps well into the spring but is likely to reveal the London matchup a day or two before the full-schedule release.
There is significant speculation that the Buccaneers will be one of the two teams headed to London next fall. That would make Tampa Bay the first team to get a second overseas assignment in the regular season; the Buccaneers played the New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium in 2009, the third game in the NFL's relatively young "International Series."
The Miami Dolphins and New York Giants played the first London game in 2007, followed by a San Diego Chargers-New Orleans Saints matchup in 2008. The most recent London contest pitted the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos last October. The only other NFL regular-season game ever played outside of the United States was a game between the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City in 2005.
Each of the four previous London games has featured one team each from the AFC and the NFC. However, the speculation regarding the 2011 game indicates a meeting between Tampa Bay and their former NFC South foes, the Chicago Bears. The Buccaneers would be the home team in such a matchup, making them the first NFL team to play host to two international regular-season games.
The Buccaneers also played a preseason game in Tokyo, Japan in 2003.