TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to get a win at home against the New York Giants this weekend, not just because they're at home, or because they're facing rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. The biggest reason the Bucs need to come out of Week 3 with a 2-1 record is because of what's lurking around the corner -- arguably the NFL's most daunting road stretch this season.
After the Giants game, the Bucs will travel more than 18,000 miles to play their next five contests. They won't play at home again until Week 10 against the Cardinals -- that's 49 days between home games.
The Bucs visit the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4 and the New Orleans Saints in Week 5. Then they take on the Carolina Panthers in London (the Bucs are considered the home team) in Week 6, followed by a bye week. They’re at the Tennessee Titans in Week 8 and then at the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9. Those five opponents were a combined 52-28 during the regular season last year.
Even with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton struggling with the deep ball and Saints quarterback Drew Brees undergoing thumb surgery, those teams can’t be taken lightly, especially with the Bucs still finding a rhythm on offense themselves. Coach Bruce Arians said he doesn’t want them looking ahead or getting caught up with what’s happening in the division.
"If there is, I'm gonna put a match to it, because it's this week," Arians said. "You can't think about all that stuff. Because Teddy Bridgewater is a hell of a player. There's other really good players in this league. You take care of today's business."
The Bucs aren't the first team to deal with such a daunting road trip. The last team to have five games scheduled in a row on the road was the 1990 Bengals. They went 2-3 over that stretch.
The Bucs will have to find ways to win on the road if they want to stay in the playoff hunt. Since 1990, 4.5% of teams that were below .500 midway through the season have reached the playoffs -- 16 teams total, including the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts last year, according to ESPN Stats & Information. None of those teams was worse than 3-5 at the halfway point.
"It's gonna be real important, especially for our shot to make the playoffs," outside linebacker Shaq Barrett said. "It's still really early on but we've gotta start putting wins together back-to-back -- that's what good teams do and we want to be a good team, a great team. So we've gotta get another one, take it a game at a time, don't try to think too much ahead, just play within yourself and we'll get another one."
The Bucs aren’t the only team dealing with such an extended time away from home this season. Starting this week, the Oakland Raiders will also play five consecutive games on the road, including a game against the Chicago Bears in London on Oct. 6. The Bucs’ and Raiders’ 49-day road stretches are the longest scheduled road stretches since the 1970 merger, according to Elias.
How important are road wins? According to ESPN Stats & Information, over the past 10 seasons (2009-18), teams that reached the playoffs averaged 4.9 road wins and 3.1 road losses.
Receiver Mike Evans doesn’t see these road games as a major issue considering Arians has already shown some flexibility with their practices to accommodate a Thursday night game last week, giving them a four-day weekend, for example and still a managing to squeeze in an extra practice this week on Tuesday.
“B.A. does a great job of getting us rest time and things like that and working with us on the schedule,” Evans said. “I actually don’t mind the road game. I want to go to London and play -- that’s a historic moment -- but the flight is gonna kinda get me. Other than that, I don’t mind traveling throughout America to play games.”
The good news is, the Bucs' road schedule lightens up considerably after, with five of their final eight games at home.