Breakdown: Can an appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks’’ really be far behind? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers suddenly seem to be the NFL’s new darling.
Aside from the London game against Chicago on Oct. 23, the Bucs will get plenty more big-time exposure. They’ll play two prime-time games after owning the 1 p.m. ET time slot on Sundays last season. What’s more surprising than that is that the two prime-time games are at home.
Considering the fact Raymond James Stadium didn’t sell out a single time last season, it would have been easy for the league to make sure the Bucs were on the road for any prime-time games. But the NFL might be looking to help the Bucs boost attendance.
Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are going to help fill up any stadium. Although their reputation as “America’s Team’’ may have taken a hit over the last season, the Dallas Cowboys still draw people wherever they go. By the way, this is the first time the Bucs have had two prime-time home games in a season since 2003, the season after they won their only Super Bowl.
Complaint department: The Bucs get their bye week after the London game, which is nice. It’s also standard procedure. But they get their sendoff and welcome-back games both against the Saints. That’s not so nice.
Grudge match: When you think of heated rivalries and attempts to sell out Raymond James Stadium, you don’t exactly think about the Bucs and Lions. But the Lions are who the league has given the Bucs for their home opener and this game has a little more significance than you’d think if you just looked at it on the surface. Tampa Bay went 10-6 last season and just missed the playoffs. The game that everyone points to as the one that got away was a 23-20 overtime loss to Detroit in Week 15. If the Bucs won that, they would have been in the playoffs. The matchup might not be all that exciting for fans, but it should provide plenty of motivation for the Bucs.
Buccaneers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Minnesota, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Atlanta, 4:15 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 3, Indianapolis, 8:30 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at San Francisco, 4:05 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, New Orleans, 4:15 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Tennessee, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Saturday, Dec. 17, Dallas, 8:20 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM