Basing strength of schedule off of the records of last year’s opponents only changes things a little for Tampa Bay, moving them to the 4th most favorable outlook. None of this means much in May, but on paper the Bucs appear to be poised for another strong regular season, largely due to the lack of top-tier quarterbacks on their schedule.
The Buccaneers face just two of Pro Football Focus’ top ten-graded quarterbacks from last season in Josh Allen and Dak Prescott. A few of PFF’s top 20 graded passers exist on the Bucs schedule, but after No. 11 Matt Ryan (2x) and No. 13 Matt Stafford, Daniel Jones (No. 17) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (No. 19) hardly represent the same caliber quarterback. It is worth noting that Tampa Bay will begin the 2021 season facing PFF’s No. 8, No. 11 and No. 13 QBs three weeks in a row.
Even if you don’t ascribe to PFF’s exact QB rankings from a year ago, the general sentiment remains the same. The Bucs do not face many premier quarterbacks during the 2021 season, a fact which bodes very well for the regular season fortunes of the defending Super Bowl champs.
Only five quarterback matchups stand out when surveying the Bucs schedule: Week 1 against Prescott, Week 2 and Week 13 against Ryan, Week 3 against Stafford and Week 14 against Allen. Tampa Bay has four matchups against teams that haven’t made a decision on their starting quarterback yet, including the Saints twice, New England and Chicago. All three of these teams boast impressive rosters, but have questions at the game’s most important position.
Young QB Matchups Highlight Bucs Schedule
Ohio State QB Justin Fields – Photo by: USA Today
It’s not out of the question that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles could be preparing for an incredible amount of rookies or first-time full-time starters at the quarterback position this year. Depending on how early several rookies are ushered into starting roles, the Bucs could be looking at Mac Jones in Week 4, Justin Fields in Week 7 and Zach Wilson in Week 17. Add to that trio Tua Tagovailoa in Week 5 and Jalen Hurts in Week 6, and that’s five potential first-time starters on the Bucs 2021 slate.
The Bucs defense didn’t always play to potential last season, but ironically played their best football of the year against Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. In their quest to return to the Super Bowl, they’ll face very few quarterbacks in the same tier as Rodgers or Mahomes. On one hand this should raise expectations for a 14-win (or better) season, but will it prepare Tampa Bay well enough for the level of quarterback play they’ll face in the postseason?
Issuing a response would be pointless right now, as only time will tell how challenging the Bucs’ quarterback matchups end up looking by the end of the season. But in a weakened NFC that could be on the brink of losing Aaron Rodgers, a rebuilding division with plenty of question marks and a schedule that features many unproven or underwhelming opposing quarterbacks, the Bucs have no excuses in their mission to capture the No. 1 seed in the 2021 NFL season.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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