The wait is over and Bucs fans can begin picking apart Tampa Bay’s 2019 schedule and chalking up the wins and the losses as the times and dates of those games are now known. The NFL schedule makers did the the Bucs no favors this year, with six-week stretch away from Raymond James Stadium, putting the team on the road – or in London for a home game against Carolina – from September 29 until playing Arizona at home on November 10. The Bucs do have a favorable end to the season with three homes games in December and five of their last eight games at Ray-Jay.
PewterReport.com takes an early look at the schedule, and despite the fact that the team has yet to add more talent through the NFL Draft, and no way to know what the final 53-man roster will look like, here is a preview of the five toughest and the five most winnable on the slate for 2019.
Bucs’ 5 Toughest Games
Tampa Bay at L.A. Rams – Week 5 – 9/29
The Rams proved last season they have one of the best teams in the NFL with one of the league’s youngest and brightest minds in head coach Sean McVay. Heading out west 2,526 miles to face a team with an explosive offense led by quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley, with a new defense and only three games under Tampa Bay’s belt, doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. In order to win this game, the Bucs will most likely have to do it in a shootout-style game, much like last season’s opening day win over the Saints.
Tampa Bay at Carolina – Week 2 – 9/12
The Week 1 home game against San Francisco will undoubtedly be an emotional Sunday, one that the Bucs likely will be favored in. It will be the debut of Bruce Arians as head coach and the return of former middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (if he is cleared to play), and a team Tampa Bay beat soundly last season. But now, a team still in the process of learning a new offense and defense will have a short week, and will travel to Carolina on a Thursday night, something the Bucs haven’t been very successful in over the years. Expect a heavy dose of Christian McCaffery and a loud Bank of America field crowd, combined with the short week and a potential emotional win over the 49ers, to be too much for Tampa Bay to overcome.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans – Week 5 – 10/6
This is the last stand of Drew Brees and Sean Payton – maybe. But all the Saints’ eggs are in one Cajun basket, and it is Super Bowl or bust for New Orleans. The Saints were one bad call away from the Super Bowl last year and their anger hasn’t subsided. Combined with the embarrassment of giving up 48 points in their 2018 season opener to the Bucs last year, it could give the Saints all the motivation that need to take this one fairly easily.
Tampa Bay at Seattle Seahawks – Week 9 – 11/3
By the time the Buccaneers travel to the Pacific Northwest (this trip being 3,163 miles from Tampa), they will not have been home in six weeks and the wear and tear of the thousands of miles they have traveled will be a tough pill to swallow. Add in the fact the Seahawks are expected to contend with the Rams for the NFC West title, plus Seattle being one of the toughest venues in the NFL for road teams to win in, coming back home with a win seems like a extremely difficult task.
Tampa Bay vs. Indianapolis Colts – Week 14 – 12/8
Wining home games is a must for teams wanting to make the playoffs. And one of the toughest home game this year – on paper at this point at least – will be when Andrew Luck and the Colts come to Raymond James in early December. The Colts were a playoff team in 2018 under first-year head coach Frank Reich. Indy rebounded from a 4-12 2017 to win 10 games and make the playoffs last season and will look to be even better in 2019. With playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Bucs will be in for a fight when Indianapolis invades Raymond James in Week 14.
Bucs’ 5 Most Winnable Games
Tampa Bay vs. San Francisco 49ers – Week 1 – 9/8
The Bucs played one of their best games in 2018 against the 49ers, winning easily, 27-9, at home last season. Of course the 49ers were down to their third-string quarterback by the time the two teams met, still it was a thorough whipping of the Niners. San Francisco will be better in 2019, but so will the Buccaneers. At least that is the hope of the organization and the fans. Raymond James Stadium should be rocking with the debut the Bruce Arians era. Despite a new offense and defense, the crowd and excitement of opening day should propel the Bucs to a 1-0 start to the 2019 campaign.
Tampa Bay vs. New York Giants – Week 3 – 9/22
The Giants are a team in transition, who struggled in 2018, but still they were able to beat the Buccaneers, 38-35, last November. New York has lost a number of talented players like Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. and Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins – and quarterback Eli Manning isn’t getting any younger. The Bucs will have a couple extra days off and to prepare as they will be coming off a Thursday night game the week before. Tampa Bay should be able to capitalize off the home crowd and before they begin their six-week zig-zag trips around the country and across the Atlantic to start the season 2-1.
Tampa Bay vs. Arizona Cardinals – Week 10 – 11/10
Bruce Arians wasn’t fired by the Cardinals, so this isn’t necessarily a grudge match. But make no mistake, former coaches always want to beat their former team. If nothing more than to justify to themselves the they made the right decision to leave. There are still a lot of players on that Cardinals’ squad that Arians and some of his assistants coached so he should also know the best way to attack and succeed. Chances are the Cardinals will be playing their rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray, and that should be advantage for veteran defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who loves to blitz.
Tampa Bay at Jacksonville Jaguars – Week 13 – 12/1
The Jaguars are teetered on the edge. Two years removed from a AFC Championship game appearance in which only a fourth quarter Tom Brady-led Patriots comeback kept them from a Super Bowl, the Jaguars were a complete disaster in 2018. Part of the problem, quarterback Blake Bortles is now gone, and the team has a new signal caller in Nick Foles. Will Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin’s old school approach to coaching and running a football team work in Year 3? The first year was great, but the next one wasn’t. If the Jags are imploding late in the season like they did last season, this should be a fairly easy win for Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta Falcons – Week 17 – 12/29
The Buccaneers could have easily swept the series against the Falcons last year, but two turnovers in the red zone in the first match-up at Atlanta, along with a porous defense in both games allowed the Falcons to claim victory in in the two team’s match-ups in 2018. The Falcons suffered a ton of injuries last season and should be healthier this season, but these two teams are pretty evenly matched. This will mark the return of Dirk Koetter back to Raymond James Stadium as he is now calling plays for the Falcons, but despite the fact some of the same defensive personnel will still on the Bucs’ roster, it will be a completely different scheme. So there really shouldn’t be an advantage for Atlanta. This is a home game to close the season, and if things go as planned, it could be a game the Buccaneers need to win to secure a wild card berth.