Late last week, the NFL released the 2019 schedules for all 32 teams. For fans, this is usually the first sign of “football life” since the Super Bowl marked the end of the previous season in February. Each team’s schedule consists of eight home games and eight away games.
This year, however, one team got hideously robbed. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Right off the bat, the Buccaneers won’t have eight true home games this season. Tampa Bay travels to London this upcoming season for one of their home games, a sacrifice made in part of the deal when the city was selected to host Super Bowl 55. In these situations, most fans are and would be excited for their team to travel abroad, even at the cost of a home game. This home game, however, is against a divisional opponent in the Carolina Panthers. Divisional opponent home games are those that are the most anticipated and attended due to positioning for the divisional title, hence why it is hardly considered a “home” game, especially at a neutral site.
To add insult to injury, the Buccaneers will not have a game inside Raymond James stadium for 49 straight days, from Week 4 through Week 9. The Bucs will start their road journey against the Rams in Los Angeles, with a “home” game against the Panthers in London week six, and will finish their 30,000-plus-mile journey in Seattle against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Through the five-game home stretch, the Bucs will play three 2018 playoff teams in the Rams, Saints, and Seahawks, including the Saints and Rams back to back. To any team, five straight road games would put an overcast on the upcoming season, but things may not be as bad as they seem for the Bucs and new head coach Bruce Arians.
The Buccaneers will get a “mini bye week” after their Week 2 matchup against the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday Night Football. The Buccaneers will then venture home to a faceoff against the New York Giants before heading off on their road trip. This mini bye week will be crucial for the Buccaneers prior to the road stretch. Although early in the season, the extra three days helps give any injured players an increased chance of playing the next week as well as prepare the team mentally before being away from Tampa for nearly two months. A win at home against the Giants who squeaked by last season would also give the Bucs some much-needed momentum on the road. Avenging that loss last season could spark a fire to start a winning streak (or continue one).
Luckily for the Buccaneers, their bye week also comes during this five-game road trip, in Week 7 following their trip to London to round out the series against the Panthers at “home.” At this point, the Bucs will be more than halfway finished with their treacherous road journey with only two more to go against the Titans and Seahawks.
Tampa couldn’t have hoped for a better bye week, as it gives the team a chance to rest and, hopefully, finish their road trip strong. Being rested for the rematch of the 2015 first and second overall picks as well as an NFL wild card team last year will be essential.
Marcus Mariota has led his Titans to the playoffs already in his short career, but Jameis Winston and Co. will be looking for revenge. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson will be looking for his own revenge after being held to less than 10 points in Raymond James in 2016. Having the extra week of rest could mean the difference of a role player who could be banged up, playing instead of not playing.
The Buccaneers will be back in Tampa Bay to play the Arizona Cardinals on November 10th for new head coach Bruce Arians to square off against his former team for the first time, and for the fans to see the Bucs at home for the first time in 49 days. This home game will be one of five over the last eight at home. November 10th is set to be electric in Tampa Bay and the Bucs have a chance to make “home field advantage” a thing again.
Five of your last eight games at home is a dream come true, and although the Bucs only won five games for the second straight season in 2018, four of the five came at home. This could prove as a competitive edge to make a playoff push and clinch a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2007 and begin a new era in Tampa Bay that fans alike have been waiting for since their lone winning season in 2016 when they missed out on the playoffs due to a tie-breaking strength of schedule to the Green Bay Packers.
At first glance, Tampa Bay seemed doomed for another offseason of mishaps. In 2017, they had a Week 1 bye; in 2018, their starting quarterback didn’t start for three games; now in 2019, they have five straight road games.
But if there’s one thing that the Bucs know and know well, it’s adversity. Under a new regime captained by Bruce Arians, they’ll have to do what seems impossible: Find the silver linings.