The old adage of “wait until next year” has come full circle. At this very moment, hope and excitement abounds as 32 NFL teams are 0-0 and the road to Super Bowl 50 has been revealed with the unveiling of the 2015 NFL schedule on Tuesday night. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the schedule has a nice rhythm to it as they will open at home against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday September 13th and finish just days after ringing in 2016 in Charlotte against the Panthers. For the Buccaneers, who are expected to draft either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, the first part of the schedule could be favorable in breaking in a rookie signal caller as three of the first five games are at home with Carolina and Jacksonville visiting Raymond James Stadium after visiting New Orleans and Houston in weeks two and three respectively. It is conceivable that with some solid defensive play and an average offensive gameplan that the Buccaneers could be 3-2 going into the week 6 bye. After road games in Washington and Atlanta, the schedule weaves its way through the most difficult stretch with home games against the Giants and Cowboys and then back on the road with Philadelphia and Indianapolis in what should dictate exactly how the season will play out for the Buccaneers. If the team can manage to win a couple of those games against perennial playoff teams then the fourth quarter of the season could have meaning and find the Buccaneers playing for something other than pride or a high draft pick in December. December begins with back to back home NFC South battles with the Falcons and Saints before a Thursday night contest with the St. Louis Rams and the home finale against Lovie Smith’s former team, the Chicago Bears.
The Buccaneers have the 27th toughest schedule based on the 2014 final standings of the clubs they face. Typically, these numbers mean squat by week 6 or so and it will be feast of famine for these Buccaneers. If the team is looking to showcase their rookie quarterback, the early part of the schedule could be just what the doctor ordered, but the playoffs are all going to be based on how the team comes out of November. I believe there is a decent chance that the Buccaneers can win 6 games this year and with a little luck they could be in contention for the division title as New Orleans seems in rebuild mode, the Falcons lack depth and are searching for a running game and an offensive line, and the Panthers seem to underachieve. On the flipside, the banner in the picture above could be flying in the stands again if injuries or an inept offense plague the team and make life miserable for Winston or Mariota and the fans become restless and begin calling for a coaching change. Here’s hoping that this year will be different!