Breakdown: It could be a rough start for new coach Dirk Koetter in 2016. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play at Atlanta and at Arizona, play host to Denver, and play a Monday night game at Carolina in the first five weeks. That’s three playoff teams, including both teams that played in Super Bowl 50. The Bucs also play two other playoff teams (Kansas City and Seattle) and the result is they’ll be playing the fifth-toughest schedule. The Bucs have two long road trips, too, playing at San Francisco and San Diego. The Bucs are a combined 3-15 in those cities and have beaten the 49ers on the West Coast just once since 1980. The Bucs do get a three-game home stand midway through the season before back-to-back games against Kansas City and Seattle.
Homecoming: When the Bucs play at the Falcons in the season opener, it will mark the first time that Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith will return to Atlanta since he was fired as the Falcons’ head coach after the 2014 season. Koetter was on Smith’s staff as offensive coordinator from 2012-14. Smith had a 10-4 record against Tampa while he was in Atlanta, mainly because Matt Ryan threw 19 touchdown passes in those games.
Home sweet home: The Bucs have a tough start to the season but the schedule makes up for that from late October through early December. The Bucs play five home games in that seven-week stretch, including two division games (Atlanta on Thursday, Nov. 3, and New Orleans on Dec. 11). That allows the Bucs to avoid any cold-weather games in 2016. After playing at Kansas City on Nov. 20, the Bucs have road games at San Diego, Dallas (dome) and New Orleans (dome).
Strength of schedule: T-5th, .543
Buccaneers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25, Los Angeles, 4:05 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Denver, 4:05 p.m.
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 10, at Carolina, 8:30 p.m.
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Oakland, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 3, Atlanta, 8:25 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Seattle, 4:05 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at Dallas, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Carolina, 1 p.m.