Tampa Bay Buccaneers The full 2021 schedule has finally been released and here are a few thoughts of note now that we know what the Bucs will be facing this year. Carmen Vitali
1. The Bucs will open the 2021 season as a whole at home against Dallas on Thursday, September 9.
The much-anticipated start of the 2021 season will begin in Tampa as the Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys inside Raymond James Stadium at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC. Since the year 2000, the defending Super Bowl Champions are 18-3 in Week 1, although the Bucs only hold a 4-13 record against Dallas overall.
It kicks off a now-273-game season, with teams playing 17 games each for the first time. The added game for the Bucs means an interconference matchup against the Colts in Indianapolis, which will take place in Week 12.
2. Tampa Bay is again slated for five primetime games this season.
For second year in a row, the Bucs are scheduled for five primetime contests in a single season, starting with the aforementioned home game against Dallas with the Sunday Night Football crew (though the game will be played on Thursday). Tampa Bay will then play the Patriots in New England in the Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski homecoming game during Week Four on Sunday Night Football in Foxborough.
The Bucs will have a second Thursday night game two weeks later in Philadelphia before waiting until Week 11 for the Monday Night spotlight at home against the New York Giants. They'll conclude their primetime affairs with New Orleans at home in their second meeting of the season on Sunday Night Football in Week 15.
This is all after the Bucs had four primetime games on the original schedule in the three seasons before 2020 combined. Tampa Bay's two-year total of 10 will equal the number of primetime games they were scheduled for in the prior seven years combined.
3. The Bucs' bye week falls smack dab in the middle of the season.
Unlike last season, where Tampa Bay had the latest possible bye week after playing 12 straight games, the Bucs will have more of a balanced breather this year. In fact, save for last season, the Bucs haven't had a bye week past Week 8 since 2008, their schedules always favoring earlier weeks, and in the case of 2017, a Week 1 bye thanks to a hurricane. This year's bye week falls in Week 9, which is directly in the middle of a now 18-week season, with eight games coming before the break and nine games coming after.
Though the late bye in 2020 wasn't ideal, it did provide a turning point to the Bucs' Super Bowl winning season. Tampa Bay hasn't lost a game since before that Week 13 bye, actually, playing their best football down the stretch of the regular season and then of course, into the playoffs, where they beat four consecutive division winners on their way to capturing the Lombardi trophy. Though they won't have the same sort of cutoff this year, the Bucs do conclude the regular season with two games against the division-rival Panthers, along with a trip to New York to face the Jets - all in the 1 p.m. time slot.
4. The Bucs will face off against seven quarterbacks age 25 or younger.
You thought you had enough of the kid vs. the GOAT conversations in Super Bowl LV? Get ready for a whole lot more this season. The Buccaneers will take on teams that have players 25 years of age or younger under center seven or eight times in 2021. Their first game could come as early as Week Four in New England, should newly drafted Mac Jones earn the starting spot over Cam Newton. From there though, they'll take on Miami's Tua Tagovailoa, Philly's Jalen Hurts, potentially Justin Fields with Chicago, New York's Daniel Jones, Buffalo's Josh Allen, Carolina's Sam Darnold and New York's Zach Wilson.
Two of those quarterbacks are rookies from this year's draft class in Fields and Wilson, while Hurts will be entering his first season as a starter. The matchups will pit experience against youth in a storyline that's as old as the pigskin itself.
5. Tampa Bay ranks 29th in strength of schedule.
Based on last season's opponent records, the Bucs have the third-easiest schedule. Opponents' combined record from 2020 is 126-145-1 for a .465 win percentage, a.k.a. below .500. That, of course, has no bearing on how the season will actually turn out. There will inevitably be some sleeper teams that do better than expected and perhaps teams that fare worse.
For instance, the Patriots had their first losing season in 2020 since the year 2000, before quarterback Tom Brady took the starting reins, but they could bounce back after spending an uncharacteristic amount of capital in this offseason's free agency. The Miami Dolphins look poised to have a better year after shoring up their roster with seven total picks, including four in the first two rounds. There are also question marks in Chicago, Philly and even division-rival Carolina with new faces under center that could heavily impact the team's overall success.
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