Breakdown: If the top of the draft goes as many expect, the season opener could be a matchup of the first two picks. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Tennessee Titans. Jameis Winston is the presumptive first pick for the Bucs. Marcus Mariota could go second overall to the Titans. If that happens, the rookie quarterbacks likely will be starting against one another. If Winston is the first pick, things won’t get any easier for him right away. The Tennessee game is followed by road games at New Orleans and Houston. The Bucs don’t have to make another road trip for nearly a month with home games against Carolina and Jacksonville, followed by the bye week. But the schedule gets difficult after that with four of the next six games on the road. The Bucs, who have been notoriously bad in cold weather throughout their history, have only one potential cold-weather game. That comes Nov. 22 at Philadelphia. A Dec. 17 game at St. Louis on NFL Network will mark the only prime-time game for the Bucs.
Complaint department: The toughest part of the schedule comes in the middle, with the Bucs on the road for four out of six weeks. Following their bye, they’ll play on the road in back-to-back weeks at Washington and Atlanta. They’ll follow that with two straight home games against the Giants and the Cowboys. But they have to follow that up with consecutive trips to Philadelphia and Indianapolis. Also, the league doesn’t view the Bucs as a big television draw. Aside from the prime-time game with St. Louis, 13 games will start at 1 p.m. ET. The other two exceptions are the opener (a 4:25 p.m. start) and a 4:05 p.m. start against the Giants.
Reunion games: There are three games that will carry some extra meaning for members of the coaching staff. Lovie Smith coached the Chicago Bears before joining the Bucs. Smith has admitted that games against the Bears are special. He’ll get to play against the Bears on Dec. 27 at home. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter spent the past three seasons in the same position in Atlanta. The Bucs play at Atlanta on Nov. 1 and host the Falcons on Dec. 6.
Strength of schedule: 29th, .426
Buccaneers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, Tennessee, 4:25 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, N.Y. Giants, 4:05 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, Dallas, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 17, at St. Louis, 8:25 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, Chicago, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at Carolina, 1 p.m.