Plenty of optimism in Bucs 2013 schedule

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ schedule is set for the 2013 season, and it’s a pretty nice one. In fact, there are plenty of reasons for fans to be optimistic about improving last year’s 7-9 record.

It includes what should be a dramatic season opener against the Jets, given we still don’t know which of those teams Darrelle Revis will play for.

It also features two national prime time games – an October Thursday night game at home against the Carolina Panthers and a Monday Night Football game two weeks later at home against the Dolphins.

Here it is in its entirety, ready to be analyzed by every arm-chair quarterback in need of fresh material after exhausting all draft day scenarios one week out:

Regular Season

09/08 – Buccaneers at Jets 1:00 p.m.
09/15 – Saints at Buccaneers 4:00 p.m.
09/22 – Buccaneers at Patriots 1:00 p.m.
09/29 – Cardinals at Buccaneers 1:00 p.m.
10/06 – Bye
10/13 – Eagles at Buccaneers 1:00 p.m.
10/20 – Buccaneers at Falcons 1:00 p.m.
10/24 – Panthers at Buccaneers 8:25 p.m. (Thursday Night Football)
11/03 – Buccaneers at Seahawks 4:05 p.m.
11/11 – Dolphins at Buccaneers 8:40 p.m (Monday Night Football)
11/17 – Falcons at Buccaneers 1:00 p.m.
11/24 – Buccaneers at Lions 1:00 p.m.
12/01 – Buccaneers at Panthers 1:00 p.m.
12/08 – Bills at Buccaneers 1:00 p.m.
12/15 – 49ers at Buccaneers 1:00 p.m.
12/22 – Buccaneers at Rams 1:00 p.m.
12/29 – Buccaneers at Saints 1:00 p.m.

The team’s opponents for 2013 were announced some time ago, but not the dates, which can have an impact on a team’s record given the number of Thursday night games and when the Bye Week falls.

My first thought, of course, is that the NFL is adopting the TNT ‘We Know Drama’ model by pitting the Bucs against the Jets in Week 1. It also ups the ante for next week’s NFL Draft.

No one wants to take a trip up to Foxborough to play the Patriots, but a chilly September afternoon against Tom Brady instead of a frigid December night? Also the Pats may still have a ton of weapons in Wes Welker’s absence, but it doesn’t mean that offense will be a fine-tuned and well-oiled machine. I’ll take it.

With Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football both coming to Raymond James Stadium this year, Bucs fans are promised at least two non-blacked out home games and are on the hook for selling out (or at least meeting the 85% ticket threshold) six home games instead of eight. That’s a positive.

Because of the Thursday night game against the Panthers, the Bucs have three extra days to prepare for the Seattle Seahawks and the dreaded ’12th Man.’

And they will need it, between preparing for the read-option and rehearsing non-verbal signals and defensive substitution.
If you have any doubts about the noise factor at CenturyLink Field, re-watch the 49ers game there from this year, particularly Michelle Tafoya’s standup.

Once again, the Bucs have a bye week in Week 5. This typically isn’t as beneficial for teams as having a later bye as it means an extensive stretch of football later on and no real chance to rest injuries that accumulate.

Several Bucs players told me that the early bye week was a pivotal point in their season, in which things really “started to click.” The team was 1-4 and on a three-game skid entering it and emerged winning five out of the next six.

Getting the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles, who both have new coaching staffs, early on in the season should prove pretty advantageous given that neither has a firm grasp on a starting quarterback at this point, and implementation of new players and schemes takes time.

The Bucs do have a short turnaround between the Monday night game against the Dolphins and a Sunday afternoon home game against the Falcons, but both of those are home games so there’s no travel time.