The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.
This week’s topic: Bucs’ Easiest, Toughest Games In 2020
Scott Reynolds: NY Giants MNF Game Easiest, Kansas City Game Toughest
The Bucs’ 2020 schedule has been released and there is plenty of good news to be found. Aside from a total of five prime time games due to the arrival of former Patriots stars Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs open the season at New Orleans, which will be a challenge – and there is no trip to London on Tampa Bay’s docket this year. Nor is there a trip to Seattle or Los Angeles. In fact, the furthest the Bucs have to travel is to Las Vegas to play former head coach Jon Gruden and the Raiders in Week 7. That game, coupled with a trip to the Rocky Mountains to play Denver in Week 3, are the only games that will require more than three hours on a plane in 2020, which is a welcome sight after last year’s nightmarish travel schedule.
Yet somehow the Bucs finished 5-3 on the road last year, and just 2-6 at home (the loss against the Panthers in London counted as a home game in 2019). Tampa Bay definitely needs to regain home-field advantage – something it hasn’t had since 2008 when Gruden’s Buccaneers went 6-2 before falling to 9-7 and missing the playoffs. The best the Bucs could do at home over the last 11 years was a 4-4 record in all three years (2016-18) under Dirk Koetter. It’s odd that Tampa Bay’s bye week is Week 13, which is the latest I can remember.
While the Panthers games should be easy because Carolina has a talent-poor roster, the easiest game will be at the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The Bucs will be out for revenge for last year’s loss to Daniel Jones and the Giants, and Tom Brady doesn’t like the G-Men, either. New York doesn’t have a lot of talent, and the Bucs are chock full of it. Tom Brady typically shines in prime time and the Bucs take care of business.
As for the toughest game, Week 1 at New Orleans gets some strong consideration, but hosting Kansas City will be the biggest challenge. The Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions and will be the most formidable foe. The timing of this game concerns me because it comes in Week 12 right before the bye week. The legs of Tampa Bay’s young secondary might be dead by then, especially on a short week after facing the Los Angeles Rams’ vertical passing attack on Monday Night Football. The Chiefs have an even faster, more explosive vertical offense with the likes of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Travis Kelce.
Mark Cook: Carolina Home Opener Easiest, Opening At New Orleans Toughest
Tampa Bay’s schedule is finally out and things are starting to feel real. Excited even more now Bucs fans? Compared to last season, the NFL did the Bucs much better, although the league has them facing a division foe on the road with the distinct possibility of an extremely shortened offseason that could even see some preseason games eliminated.
But even if there is a full training camp and full preseason, going to New Orleans to open the season as the Buccaneers try and find their footing with a new quarterback and a few other new pieces will be the toughest game the Bucs face all season. But that’s okay. The Bucs aren’t going 16-0, and if they are going to lose, get one out of the way early. Of course we said the same thing two years ago, and all Tampa Bay did was going into the Superdome and stun the Saints and the NFL, 48-40, behind the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
As I mentioned in my The Hook column on Thursday, I don’t think there is any question the Saints are the Bucs biggest rivals. Now when you add the Drew Brees and Tom Brady dynamic, it makes it even more intriguing. And, imagine if Brees gets banged up in the preseason and Jameis Winston ends up starting Week 1. Holy cow! The hype would be insane.
As far as the easiest game, I hate to even call any game easy. But for the sake of this article, I will go with the first game against the Panthers in Week 2. I am guessing the Bucs don’t win in New Orleans in Week 1, so coming home to debut the Brady era needing a win, combined with a Panthers team that will be starting a new QB in Teddy Bridgewater along with several new defensive pieces doesn’t bode well for Carolina.
Taylor Jenkins: Carolina Home Opener Easiest, Hosting Kansas City Toughest
I have to agree with Cook about the Bucs’ easiest game being their home-opener against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers enter 2020 with a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, a new head coach in Matt Rhule and a projected win total of just 5.5 wins. With just one game under their belt to that point, Tampa Bay would hopefully head into Week 2 with a healthy roster and a jam-packed Raymond James Stadium as Tom Brady looks to start his first home game with the Bucs. It’ll be an electric environment and it’s a game that Tampa Bay should absolutely win if it wants to live up to its lofty expectations early.
As far as their toughest game, I’m going to have to go with the Bucs’ Week 12 match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite a home field advantage in the contest, Tampa Bay’s young defense will be tested by the defending Super Bowl Champions and what looks to be a historically high-powered offense led by Andy Reid, Pat Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
In what’s sure to be a high-scoring battle, Tampa Bay’s late-season game against the Chiefs will be their toughest test and a true proving ground as the playoffs creep closer.
Matt Matera: Home Against Chargers Easiest, Opener Against Saints Toughest
There’s no such thing as an “easy game” in the NFL, but if there’s a game that the Bucs should be expected to win the most would be Week 4 against the Chargers. The Bucs don’t have the easiest home schedule this year, but playing at home always gives you more of an advantage with your fans there than being on the road. And their best matchup is early on in the season. The calendar turns to October when this game takes place, so by then the offense should have their legs under them and start gelling together as Tom Brady gets better chemistry with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and company.
Tampa Bay has a competitive start to the season with games at New Orleans, against Carolina and at Denver, so they should be well tested by the time Los Angeles comes to town. That’s when the Bucs will start turning into the team we expected. The Chargers on the other hand have some question marks about them coming off a 5-11 season. In a changing of the guard, Los Angeles parted ways with long time quarterback Philip Rivers and drafted Justin Herbert in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Chargers also have Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, so it’s unknown who will be the starter by then. But going against either a rookie quarterback still learning the game or a veteran that’s played on three different teams in four seasons seems like a match-up that the Bucs should be successful in.
The Bucs have some difficult match-ups in the 2020 season but they get their toughest game of the year right away in the first week of the season at the Saints. We’ve all had visions of how the Bucs will look with Tom Brady throwing passees to all the weapons he has around him, but it’s going to take some time for this offense to come together. The offense in Week 1 will not be the same by Week 17, it will be better by then. There’s a lot that the entire Bucs team will have to learn about themselves, and that takes time.
The Saints are essentially bringing back the same team as last year, plus Jameis Winston as their backup quarterback. There’s a heightened intensity in the Bucs-Saints rivalry since Winston came to New Orleans and the Bucs emerged as the biggest threat to dethrone the Saints from the top of the NFC South, and because of that, the Superdome should be more of a mad house than it normally is for the season opener. This is really one of the toughest match-ups that the Bucs could have to start the season as Brady gets acclimated to his new team.
Jon Ledyard: Home Against Carolina Easiest, Kansas City Game Toughest
For long-suffering Bucs fans who have stood by a struggling franchise for years and years, Week 2 against Carolina at Raymond James Stadium is going to be a night to remember. Provided the NFL allows fans into stadiums, the Bucs house is going to be packed for their home opener, and energy will be as sky-high as the expectations for Tampa Bay’s performance.
The Bucs won’t disappoint. Carolina’s secondary is a hapless mess right now, and their lack of an elite pass rush won’t help the young defensive backfield. On offense the Panthers won’t be able to protect Teddy Bridgewater, as Shaq Barrett, Vita Vea and Jason Pierre-Paul tee off all game and bottle up the Panthers offense. Tampa Bay has been waiting for a team like this for a long time, and now it’s finally here. The beatdown could be epic.
There are a couple games to pick from for toughest game on the Bucs 2020 schedule, but the Chiefs in Week 12 feels fitting. The defending Super Bowl champs are among the 2-3 best teams in the NFL, but what makes the matchup even more troubling are the match-up issues the Bucs could face.
No team will challenge a secondary like Kansas City’s weapons, and no coach will give a young defense more to think about than Andy Reid. Pat Mahomes mind and feet are able to beat pressure better than any quarterback in the league, which could render the Bucs’ front four ineffective, if they even find a way past Kansas City’s underrated offensive line.
The Bucs offense could put up points, but if this one becomes a shootout, I’m not betting against Mahomes. It should be a really compelling watch, but this is probably the only game on the schedule that I’ll actually be a little bit surprised if the Bucs emerge victorious.