The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick off their 2015 season in a venue they've never before visited. And when they return home the following week, they'll bring the national spotlight back with them.
The National Football League released its full 2015 preseason schedule on Thursday, and the Buccaneers' four-game slate is highlighted by an appearance on ESPN's Monday Night Football in Week Two. After opening the preseason at Minnesota in Week One, Tampa Bay will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Raymond James Stadium on Monday, August 24 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
The second half of the Bucs' warm-up schedule includes a Week Three home game against the Cleveland Browns and a familiar trip downstate to take on the Miami Dolphins in Week Four. Only the Monday-nighter in Week Two currently has a specific date and kickoff time; the specifics of the other three games will be determined at a later date.
|Week 1||at Minnesota||Date/Time TBD|
|Week 2||vs. Cincinnati||Aug. 24, 8:00 p.m.|
|Week 3||vs. Cleveland||Date/Time TBD|
|Week 4||at Miami||Date/Time TBD|
The preseason opener in Minnesota will be played at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, marking the Bucs' first game at that location. The Vikings, who played their home games at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome from 1982-2013, are conducting the 2014-15 seasons on the Gopher's home turf before moving into a new stadium in 2016.
Regardless of location, this will also be the first time that the Buccaneers and Vikings have met in the preseason. This is the second time in the last three years that Tampa Bay has opened its preseason against an opponent it had never before faced in that sort of game, as the 2013 campaign opened with a visit from the Baltimore Ravens. With Minnesota soon to be off the list, there will be only six remaining teams the Bucs have never battled in the preseason: Carolina, Dallas, Detroit, the New York Giants, San Diego and San Francisco.
Check out photos of some of the players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face during the 2015 preseason (AP Images).
The Bucs have played the Bengals in the preseason on 12 previous occasions, winning eight of them. However, the two teams last met in August in 2004, when Tampa Bay opened its preseason slate with a 20-6 win over Cincinnati at Raymond James Stadium. The Bengals are one of only two teams, along with the Kansas City Chiefs, against which the Buccaneers have a winning record in both preseason and regular-season play. Tampa Bay leads the regular-season series, 7-4.
The Bucs have played the Browns seven times in the preseason prior to 2015, compiling a 4-3 record. It has been even longer since Tampa Bay has met up with this Ohio squad, however, as the most recent matchup was in Week Two of the 2001 preseason. The Browns won that contest, 7-6, in Cleveland. The Bucs last played host to the Browns in the preseason in Week One of 1999, taking a 30-3 decision at Raymond James Stadium.
READ: BUCS' 2015 REGULAR SEASON OPPONENTS SET
This will mark the sixth time in the last seven seasons that the Buccaneers will play their third preseason game at home. Most teams, including Tampa Bay, follow a preseason substitution plan that leads to the prospective starters seeing the largest percentage of playing time in Week Three. Most of the action in the preseason finale falls to reserves and younger players battling for a roster spot before the final round of cuts. This year, the Bucs' Week Four game will be a road contest against the Dolphins.
Miami is the Buccaneers' most common preseason foe. This year's matchup will stand as the 30th summer game between the two teams, with Miami holding a 17-12 advantage. The Bucs and Dolphins met in Tampa in Week Two of the preseason last year, with the visitors prevailing, 20-14. The Buccaneers won their last preseason game in Miami, coming back for a 17-16 victory in August of 2013. This year will mark the 16th straight season that the Bucs and Dolphins have gotten together for a game before the start of the regular season.