The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2018 schedule has a little bit of everything. In fact, there's a season's worth of storylines packed into September alone.
Tampa Bay's first month of action includes a road game against a heated division foe (at New Orleans, Sept. 9), a visit from the NFL's reigning champs (vs. Philadelphia, Sept. 16), a Monday Night Football spotlight at Raymond James Stadium (vs. Pittsburgh, Sept. 24) and a trip to the Windy City to rekindle one of the club's most historic rivalries (at Chicago, Sept. 30).
The NFL released its full, 256-game regular-season schedule for 2018 on Thursday, and the highlights for the Buccaneers include that Week Three prime-time showcase against the Steelers as well as an early chance to prove themselves against the Eagles, who beat New England in Super Bowl LII. Tampa Bay also plays all three of its intra-division road games first, meaning a potential playoff stretch drive would include critical home games against Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta during the last five weeks of the campaign.
This marks the third straight season that the Buccaneers have drawn a Monday night game. That's the longest stretch of MNF inclusion for the team since it made an appearance every year from 1998 through 2004. This year's prime-time game at Raymond James Stadium game could be a true crowd-pleaser, as it features two of the top four passing attacks from 2017, led by such established stars and rising talents as Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, DeSean Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell.
Tickets for that Monday night game, which are likely to be highly coveted, went on sale on Thursday evening immediately after the release of the schedule, as did all single-game tickets for the Bucs' 2018 home contests. Click here for more information on purchasing Buccaneers tickets.
Below is the Buccaneers’ 2018 game schedule, including the previously-announced preseason slate, followed by more notes (all times Eastern):
All times Eastern and subject to change
All Sunday afternoon games in Weeks 5-17 are subject to time changes as part of NFL’s flex scheduling format. Flex scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. From Weeks 5-10 games can only be moved in a total of two of those weeks.
A select number of games may also be "cross-flexed" between CBS and FOX, and indeed that has already been done to the Bucs' Week Seven home against Cleveland. Games featuring AFC road teams are usually aired on CBS but that contest will be carried by FOX.
Here are some additional notes regarding the Buccaneers' 2018 schedule:
- This marks the third year in a row that the Buccaneers will play host to the reigning Super Bowl champions within the first five weeks of the season. In 2016, Denver came to Raymond James Stadium in Week Four after beating Carolina in Super Bowl 50 the previous February. Last year's schedule included a nationally-broadcast game on Thursday night in Week Five against New England, which had downed Atlanta in Super Bowl LI earlier in that calendar year.
- The Bucs' Week One trip to New Orleans continues a recent trend in even-numbered years. The Buccaneers also opened their 2012, 2014 and 2016 games against NFC South opponents, Carolina in the former two and Atlanta two years ago.
- The Buccaneers' bye week comes after they have played the first quarter of their schedule. That's one of the earliest possible weeks to draw a bye; last year, all of the byes fell between Weeks Five and 11, though in previous seasons they have started as early as Week Four and run as late as Week 13. Tampa Bay hasn't enjoyed a bye week later than Week Eight since 2008, though that note only remained true in 2017 on a technicality. The Bucs were supposed to take their bye in Week 11 last year but Hurricane Irma forced their Week One game at Miami to be re-assigned to that later weekend. The Bucs ended up with a sudden, unplanned and mostly useless Week One bye.
- The Buccaneers' home-game schedule is somewhat backloaded on the schedule. Tampa Bay plays at Raymond James Stadium just three times in the first half of the season, which means the second half includes five home affairs. That includes a three-game stretch from Weeks 12-14 when they welcome visits from San Francisco, Carolina and New Orleans, in that order. The last time the Buccaneers had a run of three straight home games was in 2016, when the middle of the schedule featured consecutive visits from Oakland, Atlanta and Chicago. The middle game of that stretch, however, was on a Thursday night. Similar runs of three straight home games in 2012, 2009, 2002 and 1996 were all interrupted by bye weeks. Tampa Bay ended up with three straight outings at home in 2001, but only after an early game against Philadelphia was rescheduled for the end of the season due to the 9/11 terrorists attacks, and even in that case the middle game was on a Saturday. Amazingly, there has never before been a stretch of Buccaneer football on three straight regular-season Sundays at Raymond James Stadium. The last time the Bucs had a run like that was in 1995, when they were still playing at Tampa Stadium. Raymond James Stadium opened in 1998.
- As noted above, the Buccaneers will play the Saints (Week One), the Falcons (Week Six) and the Panthers (Week Nine) before getting any intra-division games at home. The last time the Bucs played all of their NFC South road games before any of their home games in the division was in 2004.
- The Buccaneers' run defense will be tested early. Week One brings a matchup against the Saints' two-headed backfield beast of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, each of whom topped 1,500 yards from scrimmage and a dozen touchdowns last year. The Eagles, Tampa Bay's first home opponent, possessed the league's third-best rushing attack last year with 2,115 yards on the ground. Weeks Three and Four will bring battles against 1,000-yard rushers Le'Veon Bell of the Steelers and Jordan Howard of the Bears.
- Tampa Bay used free agency and the trade market to make five key additions to their offensive and defensive lines, and all five of those new Buccaneers will get a chance to take on their former teams this fall. Three of the five will make homecomings of a sort during the season: former Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul returns to New York with the Buccaneers in Week 11, former Bears defensive tackle Mitch Unrein gets a trip back to Chicago in Week Four and former Ravens center Ryan Jensen will revisit Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium in Week 15. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Beau Allen and defensive end Vinny Curry, both of whom won a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles in February, will see their old teammates when Philadelphia comes to Tampa in Week Two.
- The Buccaneers will technically play two straight regular-season games against the same team, because their 2017 scheduled ended with a Week 17 win over the Saints at Raymond James Stadium. The last time Tampa Bay started one season against the last team they played in the previous campaign was 2007, against Seattle.
- The Buccaneers will head to New Jersey in Week 11 in hopes of earning just their second win ever in the Meadowlands, and their first since a 20-8 road win over the Giants in 1997. The Bucs are a combined 1-14 in road games against the Giants and Jets.
- Cleveland and Pittsburgh will be visiting Raymond James Stadium for the first time since 2010, which is the result of the rotating-division scheduling format the league has employed since its 2002 expansion and realignment. Cleveland has only played at Raymond James Stadium twice, both victories for the Buccaneers (2002 and 2010). Pittsburgh won in Tampa in those same two years but the Buccaneers captured the first-ever Bucs-Steelers game at Raymond James Stadium in 1998.
- Similarly, Tampa Bay will be going back to Baltimore and Cincinnati for the first time in eight years. The Buccaneers will be putting a streak of four straight wins in Cincinnati on the line; Tampa Bay is 5-2 all-time against the Bengals on the road. The Bucs have only played twice in Baltimore, winning in 2002 and losing in 2010.
Source: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Scott Smith | April 24, 2018