Breakdown: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the NFC South’s easiest schedule based on the combined winning percentage (.500) of opponents in 2012, but this is no easy slate. The Bucs are going to be tested early with a trip to New England in Week 3, and other nondivision games include San Francisco and Seattle, who went to the playoffs last season. In a bit of a surprise, the Bucs will get two home games in prime time. They’ll host Carolina on Oct. 24 (a Thursday night game) and Miami on Nov. 11 (a Monday night game). That might be the NFL’s way of working with the Buccaneers to try to help get enough attendance at Raymond James Stadium to avoid local television blackouts. The Bucs also will find out how they stand compared to the rest of the NFC South early on. They'll play four of their six division games before December. The best news of all might be that the Bucs, who traditionally have struggled in cold weather, might not have to play in it this season. The only outdoor games with the potential for cold weather are at Seattle and at Carolina.
Complaint department: The Bucs caught a huge break by drawing the lengthy trip to Seattle in the week between their home Thursday and Monday games. But the league didn’t do the Bucs any favors in a few other ways. Their bye comes in Week 5. That’s much earlier than coaches and players like. The Bucs also have to play four of their last six games, including the final two, on the road. That could be a big challenge if the Bucs are in the playoff hunt.
Revis Bowl: The Bucs open their season on the road against the New York Jets. That could end up being much bigger than just a season opener. There has been speculation for weeks about a possible trade by the Bucs to get cornerback Darrelle Revis from the Jets. No deal has happened yet, but it could happen as the NFL draft gets closer. The stage is at least set for Revis to open the season playing against what could end up being his former team. This is also proof that the NFL has an eye for potential drama.
Buccaneers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, New Orleans, 4:05 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, at New England, 1:00 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Arizona, 1 p.m.
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, Carolina, 8:25 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, at Seattle, 4:05 p.m.
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 11, Miami, 8:40 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, San Francisco, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.