The last time the Cleveland Browns visited Raymond James Stadium, in 2002, they left as the fifth straight victim of a streaking Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that was on its way to Super Bowl glory.
The 2010 Buccaneers have their sights set on a return trip to the playoffs, and the first step in that journey will be another visit from the Browns.
The National Football League released its much-anticipated schedule for the 2010 season on Tuesday, and the Buccaneers learned that they will open at home for the second year in a row. The Browns visit on Sunday, September 12, for a 1:00 p.m. ET game to kick off the campaign.
Tampa Bay will begin its intra-division slate the very next week with a trip to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers, before returning home for an intriguing Week Three matchup against Mike Tomlin's Pittsburgh Steelers. The Buccaneers will have the following Sunday off, as their bye week falls earlier than it has in any season since 2003.
The regular season concludes with a trip to New Orleans to face the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday, January 2. Prior to that, the Buccaneers will enjoy three home games in four December outings, leaving Florida only to play the Redskins in Washington in Week 14.
The toughest stretch of the schedule could begin for the Bucs on Halloween afternoon. Beginning with an October 31 game at Arizona, the Bucs will play four road games in a stretch of five weeks. That includes the team's two longest trips, to Phoenix and San Francisco, plus stops in Atlanta and Baltimore.
All eight of Tampa Bay's regular-season home games will start at 1:00 p.m. ET. Additional highlights of the Bucs' 2010 home schedule include visits from New Orleans on October 17, Carolina on November 14 and Seattle on December 26. Season tickets remain available purchase for all games in all sections of the stadium, beginning as low as $35 per game. Youth tickets are also available at $25 per game. Please visit the interactive ticket section here on Buccaneers.com for more details.
Here is the Buccaneers' complete 2010 schedule:
| 2009 Buccaneers Season Schedule|
| Day || Date ||Opponent ||Time ||Network |
| -- Preseason --|
|Sat.||Aug. 14||at Miami||7:00 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|Sat.||Aug. 21||KANSAS CITY||7:30 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|Sat.||Aug. 28||JACKSONVILLE||7:30 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
|Thurs.||Sept. 2||at Houston||8:00 p.m.||WFLA-TV (NBC)|
| -- Regular Season --|
|Sun.||Sept. 12||CLEVELAND||1:00 p.m.||CBS|
|Sun.||Sept. 19||at Carolina||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Sept. 26||PITTSBURGH||1:00 p.m.||CBS|
|Sun.||Oct. 3||-- bye week --|
|Sun.||Oct. 10||at Cincinnati||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 17||NEW ORLEANS||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 24||ST. LOUIS||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Oct. 31||at Arizona||4:15 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 7||at Atlanta||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 14||CAROLINA||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 21||at San Francisco||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Nov. 28||at Baltimore||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 5||ATLANTA||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 12||at Washington||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 19||DETROIT||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Dec. 26||SEATTLE||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|Sun.||Jan. 2||at New Orleans||1:00 p.m.*||FOX|
* 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.
The Buccaneers' 2010 schedule includes five games against teams that made the playoffs in 2009, two less than a year before. Two of those contests, including the season-capper, are against the defending Super Bowl champs. The Bucs also play 2009 playoff participants in Weeks Five (Cincinnati), Six (New Orleans), Eight (Arizona) and 12 (Baltimore).
Of course, each season's schedule proves challenging in its own right, and often in unexpected ways. For instance, the Buccaneers' last six games of the 2009 season featured four matchups with teams that had made the 2008 playoffs and two against teams that had not. As it turned out, the tougher challenges were almost reversed by the time the '09 stretch run actually arrived - '08 playoff teams Atlanta (twice) and Carolina did not make the '09 postseason while New Orleans (twice) and the New York Jets did after missing out the year before.
The Bucs' finale in New Orleans, where they pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in recent years last December, is part of the NFL's new plan to play only intra-division games in Week 17. All 32 teams have been paired with other teams from their own divisions for their respective finales in an effort to increase the chances that these late games are meaningful. Overall, there are 28 intra-division matchups scheduled for the last three weeks of the season, as opposed to 15 last year.
Here are some other notes of interest regarding the Buccaneers' 2010 schedule:
- The Bucs have just one of those 28 intra-division games, however, as their NFC South schedule is far more spread out than last year, in which five of their last seven games were against Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. This year, the Bucs play one division game in September, one in October, two in November, one in December and one in January.
- Tampa Bay opens at home for the second year in a row but only the fourth time in the last 11 years. The Bucs, who opened at home against Dallas last year, last won a Week One game at home in 1997, when they beat San Francisco, 13-6.
- One strong similarity between this year's schedule and the one from 2009 is how quickly Tampa Bay gets one of its inter-divisional series out of the way. Last year, with the NFC South matched up against the NFC East, the Bucs played Dallas, the New York Giants, Washington and Philadelphia all within the first five weeks. This year, the AFC North is loaded up at the front of the schedule, with contests against Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all falling within the Bucs' first five outings. Baltimore finishes that AFC North run by playing host to Tampa Bay in Week 12.
- This marks the second straight year that the Bucs have faced a stretch of four road games in one five-week span. That had previously not occurred to Tampa Bay since 2006.
- Strangely, the Bucs will play their 1976 expansion twin, Seattle, for the fifth year in a row and the sixth time in seven seasons. The Buccaneers won last year in Seattle in Week 15, 24-7, breaking the Seahawks' run of four straight wins. Seattle still leads the overall series, 8-2. The Buccaneers welcome the Seahawks to town in Week 16. The six Bucs-Seahawks games since 2004 exceed by one the total number of times the two teams played each other in their first 28 shared years of NFL existence.
- Atlanta's visit to Tampa in Week 13 continues a long-running pattern that has only been interrupted once since the NFC South was formed in 2002. In every season except 2008, the Falcons' road game in Tampa was held after the calendar flipped to December. In contrast, Carolina's visits to Raymond James Stadium have commonly been at midseason, and this year is no different. The Panthers will face the Bucs in Tampa on November 14, in Week 10.
- The Buccaneers will be on the road for the final game of the season for the first time since 2004, when they finished in Arizona. The Bucs' last five season finales, beginning in 2005, were at home against New Orleans, Seattle, Carolina, Oakland and Atlanta, respectively.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers will visit Raymond James Stadium during the regular season for the first time since 2002, and the first time since former Buccaneer assistant coach Mike Tomlin took over as the Steelers' head coach in 2007. Tomlin was Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach from 2001-05 and was a member of the team's Super Bowl-winning staff in 2002. He guided the Steelers to the title in 2008, with their victory in Super Bowl XLIII taking place at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay's one win in eight tries against Pittsburgh came in a game played at Raymond James Stadium in its inaugural year of 1998.
- The Buccaneers don't appear to be in danger of playing too many cold-weather games in 2010. Their four road games in the second half of the season will take place in San Francisco (Week 11), Baltimore (Week 12), Washington (Week 14) and New Orleans (Week 17). With that finale being played inside the Superdome, it appears that only Baltimore and Washington will be serious wintry threats.