With the conclusion of the 2019 season, the Bucs' 2020 opponents were finally finalized. Their third-place finish in the NFC South secured them a matchup with the New York Giants at their place, the last of the scheduling puzzle piece to be put in place. It's the Bucs' turn to travel north to play their NFC counterparts, getting a little black and blue against all four former NFC Central rivals. They'll also match up with the AFC West, making trips to Denver and Las Vegas, to take on the Raiders in their new home.
You can read up on the full schedule here, but for now, here's a quick synopsis of each opponent, along with their 2019 record and a little of what the Bucs can expect come 2020.
Green Bay Packers (13-3)
-The Buccaneers will play the entirety of the NFC North in 2020, getting Green Bay and Minnesota at home. Currently, Green Bay leads that pack, nabbing the second seed in the playoffs behind the San Francisco 49ers. Veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still at the helm, this time under Head Coach Matt LaFleur. Despite the coaching change and swirling rumors, the Packers went 3-0 before suffering their first loss of the year to the now playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles in primetime. After conceding just two more losses, Green Bay then rode a five-game win streak into the postseason, helping them clinch a first-round bye. As previous members of the Black-and-Blue division, the Bucs' meeting with the Packers in 2020 will be the 55th time the two teams will play each other, with Green Bay holding a 32-21-1 edge in the all-time series.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
-Lizzo's man is going to the playoffs as the Vikings snuck into the Wildcard round after putting together 10 wins this past year. At least the Bucs get both playoff teams from the NFC North at home. Next season, quarterback Kirk Cousins will be in the final year of his three-year, fully guaranteed deal signed in 2018. The 31-year old quarterback had arguably his best year this past season, securing a career-high passer rating of 107.4 after throwing for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns against just six interceptions. The Bucs and Vikings have played 55 times and Minnesota has a 33-22 edge over their former NFC Central rivals.
Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
-The Chiefs started their 2019 campaign red-hot again, going 4-0 to begin the year. They cooled off a bit in the ensuing six games, dropping four in that span of time. They got back on track in a big way though, winning their final six games of the season to clinch their division and the second seed in the AFC. It also gives them a first-round bye. Kansas City has young phenom Patrick Mahomes under center, who despite having what some would call a 'down' year still threw for over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, despite missing two games due to injury. The Bucs and Chiefs have played each other 12 times and Tampa Bay owns the all-time series 7-5.
Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
-A disappointing season for the Chargers leaves veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, set to be a free agent this offseason, somewhat in question. It means by the time the Chargers come to Tampa, they could look quite a bit different. This will be just the 12th meeting between the two teams and the first since the Chargers moved back to Los Angeles. The last matchup came in 2016 when the Bucs went to San Diego and beat the Chargers 28-21. In fact, the Bucs have won the last two meetings between the teams dating back to 2012. But Los Angeles still leads the all-time series, 8-3.
Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
-Perhaps the best team to miss the playoffs this year, the Rams are on the outside looking in thanks to a division that also boasts the number-one-seeded San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, who were only relegated to the Wildcard round because of their Week 17 loss to said 49ers. One of those seven losses in 2019 for the Rams came at the hands of the Bucs, in a wild Week Four contest that set the Bucs' franchise record for single-game points. Tampa Bay walked out of the L.A. Coliseum with 55 points, a win and the memory of Ndamukong Suh scooping and scoring on his former team. Oh, also wide receiver Mike Evans 'LeBronned' in front of Kawhi Leonard after scoring a long touchdown. In 2020, it'll be the Rams turn to come back to Tampa Bay for the first time since 2016. The Rams own the all-time series of 25 games with a 16-9 record, including going 2-0 in the postseason.
New Orleans Saints
-You know by now that the Saints lead the NFC South, snatching up the only 2019 playoff berth from the division thanks to their first-place finish. Though they were without quarterback Drew Brees for a significant portion of the season, because of backup Teddy Bridgewater and an improved defense, New Orleans powered through the regular season with ease. They also have the league's best receiver (statistically, anyway) in Michael Thomas. Brees is a free agent as of this offseason, but that doesn't likely mean much. Odds are the Bucs will see Brees yet again as the Saints come to town for either the 57th or 58th meeting between the two teams. New Orleans leads the all-time series 35-21.
-Too soon to talk about the Falcons? Perhaps. The Bucs split the season series with Atlanta after an overtime loss to the division rivals to end the season. Tampa Bay had won the first meeting in convincing fashion at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Week 12. That was the game in which defensive tackle Vita Vea scored an offensive touchdown and rookie inside linebacker Devin White recorded his first and second full sack of his career. Not to be outdone in the last game of the year, there was trickery involved in the last meeting at Raymond James Stadium, too. The Falcons' only offensive touchdown came on a pass to offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo. Talk about a back and forth between division rivals. That will continue next season as the Bucs look to improve the all-time series record, which currently stands at 28-25 in the Falcons' favor.
-The last of the division opponents. They'll look a lot different the next time the Bucs play them though, thanks to a head coaching change in Carolina. Head Coach Ron Rivera was relieved of his duties during the 2019 season and a replacement has yet to be named. They could also be without quarterback Cam Newton, who only carries a $2 million cap hit next season should the Panthers want to move on from the injury-ridden signal caller in the last year of his contract. This matchup by far has the most question marks as of now. The two teams have met 39 times, with Carolina holding a 24-15 edge.
Chicago Bears (8-8)
-More former division rivals. The Bucs will visit the Bears for the second time in three seasons up in Chicago. The teams have met 59 times and the Bears hold a 39-20 edge over the Bucs. This year didn't quite go as planned for the Bears, who made the playoffs in 2018 and were fully expected to make a postseason return for 2019. Instead, they end up an even 8-8 to end the season. There don't seem to be major changes afoot in the City of Broad Shoulders, though. Tampa Bay can reasonably expect to see a similar Bears team as they make the trip north – hopefully earlier in the season to avoid an outdoor game during a Chicago winter.
Detroit Lions (3-12-1)
-Two visits to Detroit in two seasons, oh boy! The last of the NFC North opponents is a familiar one, given the Bucs had perhaps their most convincing win of the season over the Lions in Week 15 of this past season. It was the game that saw wide receiver Breshad Perriman score three touchdowns. Perriman will have a chance for a repeat performance, provided the team brings him back. The Bucs have played the Lions 58 times and despite the recent success, Detroit still holds a 31-27 advantage in the all-time series.
Denver Broncos (7-9)
-The Bucs haven't played the Broncos since 2016 and haven't been to Denver since 2012. The Broncos lead the all-time series of nine games with a 7-2 edge. Tampa Bay has actually only won once in the mile-high city and that was back in 1993. Denver had a tumultuous 2019, eking out seven wins but losing their new quarterback halfway through the season after Joe Flacco went down with injury after Week Eight. Though it did give us the national treasure and Jeezy fan that is Drew Lock. This was after a head coaching change that pulled Vic Fangio away from the Bears and their previously top-ranked defense to man the Broncos. Denver is likely in a very similar position to the Bucs, looking to make a leap in 2020, so I wouldn't sleep on this matchup and think the Bucs could be faced with a pretty tough challenge that has nothing to do with the altitude.
Las Vegas Raiders (7-9)
-The Buccaneers will be among the first to enter the Death Star, I mean, the Raiders' new stadium in Las Vegas during its inaugural season. To be fair, the thing looks sweet. It will also be the first time Jon Gruden will face his former team since returning to coaching following his Monday Night Football gig. The Bucs and Raiders have also played nine times, last in 2016 when the Raiders came to Tampa Bay. The Raiders lead the all-time series 7-3 but the Bucs are 1-0 against them in the postseason. I think you all remember that game.
New York Giants (4-12)
-The 2019 season saw a visit from the Giants in Week Three and now the Bucs will get to return the favor with a trip up to New York, or rather, New Jersey. These Giants will look a little different as well after news broke Monday that Head Coach Pat Shurmur had gotten the axe. Obviously, a replacement is not yet in place, but the Bucs will have to contend with running back Saquon Barkley either way. Tampa Bay's top-ranked rushing defense was successful this last meeting, limiting the star tailback to just 10 yards before he exited the game early due to injury. Doing that again will be key to getting the victory up at MetLife in 2020, no matter who is the head coach or who is under center. The two teams have met 22 times and the Giants hold a 15-7 edge.
New Orleans Saints