Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Titanic Start: Bucs to Open vs. Tennessee

The two teams picking first in this year's NFL Draft will also kick their 2015 campaigns off together, as the Bucs play host to the Titans on Sept. 13…The full NFL schedule was released Tuesday.

Take a look at photos of the regular season opponents that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face, starting with week 1 (AP Images).

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Though it's far from guaranteed, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2015 season opener could become an instant piece of National Football League history.

The NFL announced its full 2015 game schedule on Tuesday, and the Buccaneers learned that their campaign would begin with a home game against the Tennessee Titans. Tampa Bay and Tennessee just happen to own the first two picks in the upcoming NFL Draft and some analysts believe they could use those picks on quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, in some order.

If that happened, and if both rookie passers made their way into the starting lineup by opening day, it would create a unique matchup at Raymond James Stadium. Quarterbacks have been drafted first and second just five other times since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and never have their respective new teams met in Week One. It's an attractive enough of a possibility for the game to be scheduled for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff, thus set up for a potentially larger national audience as part of the CBS Week One doubleheader.

Again, that scenario is a long way from being complete, but at least the Buccaneers no longer have to wait to find out who their first target of 2015 is. Tampa Bay hasn't played the Titans on opening day since their inaugural season of 1976, when their opponent was still based in Houston and called themselves the Oilers.

This year, the NFL schedule was revealed the day after the Buccaneers began their offseason training program. Much of the attention paid to the Bucs over the previous three months was centered around their plans for the first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, but Head Coach Lovie Smith found just as much to look forward to in the week before the draft.

"I'm excited about the schedule," said Smith on Monday.  "I can't wait for the schedule to come out to see exactly who we'll end up with, when we play, how our division opponents [stack up], when we play them. There's a lot of excitement with this week."

Indeed, there is plenty of excitement to be drawn from the Bucs' schedule, which opens at home for the sixth time in the last seven years. In this case, Tampa Bay will get much of its interconference play out of the way early, as they also travel to Houston in Week Three and play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week Five. The final game against the AFC South falls on Thanksgiving weekend, when they face another team that recently hit big with a quarterback at pick #1, the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck.

The Buccaneers drew just one prime-time nationally-televised game after their 2-14 finish in 2014, and that one falls on December 17 when they play at St. Louis on Thursday night. That contest will be broadcast by the NFL Network. Of course, the possibility of flex scheduling as the year progresses means one can't rule out additional prime-time appearances for the team if it can remain in playoff contention.

After the Tennessee opener, the Buccaneers play a pair of road games, including their first division contest at New Orleans in Week Two. Tampa Bay's 2015 schedule includes quite a few back-to-back road or home pairings; they'll play consecutive games at home three times and consecutive games on the road three times. However, they do not encounter any three-game road swings like the one that confronted them early in last year's schedule.

The dates and times of Tampa Bay's four preseason games were revealed previously and are included in the listing below. The August 24 game against Cincinnati at Raymond James Stadium will be televised nationally by ESPN as part of the Monday Night Football series; the other three preseason contests will be broadcast locally by WFLA-TV.

Below is the Buccaneers' 2015 game schedule, followed by more notes (all times Eastern):

Day

Date

Opponent

Time

Network

-- Preseason --

Sat.

Aug. 15

at Minnesota

8:00 PM

WFLA

Mon.

Aug. 24

CINCINNATI

8:00 PM

ESPN

Sat.

Aug. 29

CLEVELAND

7:00 PM

WFLA

Thurs.

Sept. 3

at Miami

7:00 PM

WFLA

-- Regular Season --

Sun.

Sept. 13

TENNESSEE

4:25 PM

CBS

Sun.

Sept. 20

at New Orleans

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Sept. 27

at Houston

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Oct. 4

CAROLINA

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Oct. 11

JACKSONVILLE

1:00 PM

CBS

Bye Week

Sun.

Oct. 25

at Washington

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Nov. 1

at Atlanta

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Nov. 8

N.Y. GIANTS

4:05 PM

FOX

Sun.

Nov. 15

DALLAS

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Nov. 22

at Philadelphia

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Nov. 29

at Indianapolis

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Dec. 6

ATLANTA

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Dec. 13

NEW ORLEANS

1:00 PM

FOX

Thurs.

Dec. 17

at St. Louis

8:25 PM

NFLN

Sun.

Dec. 27

CHICAGO

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun.

Jan. 3

at Carolina

1:00 PM

FOX

  • All times Eastern and subject to change
  • All Sunday afternoon games in Weeks 5-17 are subject to time changes as part of NFL's flex scheduling format. Flex scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.  From Weeks 5-10 games can only be moved in a total of two of those weeks.

Here are some additional notes regarding the Buccaneers' 2014 schedule:

It appears as if the Buccaneers will largely escape cold-weather games. Their season finale at Carolina could obviously feature inclement weather, and Philadelphia might already be feeling wintry on November 22, but those should be the only danger spots. Five of Tampa Bay's eight road games this year will be played in domes, including later-season contests at Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Since 2010, the NFL has made a point of scheduling only intra-divisional games for Week 17 in an effort to increase the chances that those games have playoff implications. However, this is the first time since 2007 that the Buccaneers and Panthers have been paired for the season finale, and the first time, period, that that matchup has taken place in Charlotte.

That Week 17 game against Carolina could be the Buccaneers' opportunity to knock off the reigning division champs. However, that is just one of four games Tampa Bay will play in 2015 (including both Panther contests) against teams that were in the 2014 playoff field. The others include a Week 10 game against Dallas at Raymond James Stadium and a Week 12 meeting with the Colts in Indy in Week 12.

Tampa Bay's bye falls in Week Six, one year earlier than the year before but still more favorable than an opening-month bye. Before 2014, the Buccaneers had been given a bye during the first five weeks in three of the previous four campaigns.

Three of Tampa Bay's final five games will be played at home, including two games against division foes Atlanta and New Orleans. With a visit from the Chicago Bears in Week 16 before the final trip to Charlotte, the Buccaneers will finish with alternating home and road games for the first time since 2012. Last year, Tampa Bay's slate ended with a pair of home games, and in 2013 it was capped by consecutive road trips.

Jacksonville and Tennessee will be making their first regular-season trips to Tampa since 2007. The Buccaneers are 1-1 all-time against the Jaguars and 2-1 all-time against the Titans in games played in Tampa. Conversely, the Bucs will make their first regular-season visits to Houston and Indy since that same 2007 campaign. Tampa Bay has played just one other regular-season game at the Texans' home and will be looking for their first win.

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