It’s here Bucs fans. Football season has finally arrived after months of uncertainly, and the NFL kicks off with the Houston Texans traveling to Kansas City to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in a prime time match-up on Thursday night.
The question now is – will the NFL be able to complete a full 16-game schedule without interruption? For the sake of this article – and my sanity – we are going to assume that’s the case.
Here is my game-by-game breakdown for the Bucs’ 2020 season.
Table of Contents
Week 1 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints – WIN
Everyone has this chalked up as a loss. Even Scott Reynolds who did his season prediction in his SR’s Fab 5 last Friday thinks the Bucs fall to the Saints on the road this weekend. It won’t be an easy game to win by any stretch. Conventional wisdom says the Saints have every advantage – a more veteran team, more chemistry, playing at home, defending NFC South champs and so on – but didn’t they have all of this two year ago when the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bucs came away with a season-opening, 48-40 win? Weren’t the Saints the better team last January when the Vikings came to the Superdome and left with a 26-20 playoff win? This a dangerous Bucs team right now for opponents as no one really has any idea what they will look like with Tom Brady at the helm. Tampa Bay goes to New Orleans and stuns the Saints and the NFL with a resounding win. Buccaneers 34, Saints 23 Tampa Bay’s Record: 1-0
Week 2 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers – WIN
The Panthers under new head coach Matt Rhule will one day probably be pretty good. But it won’t be Week 2 at Raymond James Stadium. The Panthers are slated to start four rookies on defense and have a completely revamped team and a brand new system. This will be one of easiest wins on the schedule for the Bucs as Tampa Bay will lead from start to finish and never really be challenged by Carolina in this one. Buccaneers 37, Panthers 10 Tampa Bay’s Record: 2-0
Week 3 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos – WIN
The Buccaneers head west to take on Drew Lock and the Broncos, who after a rough start last season came on late and have high expectations in 2020. Losing pass rusher Von Miller hurts the Denver defense and Tom Brady and the passing game thrive once again and put up a ton of points for the third straight week. Shaq Barrett has two sacks in the game as a welcome home present and the Tampa Bay defense is on fire. Buccaneers 33, Broncos 13 Tampa Bay’s Record: 3-0
Week 4 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Chargers – WIN
After showing off their offense in the first three games, things are considerably tougher facing a menacing and harassing Chargers defense led by Joey Bosa. Tampa Bay will trail the Chargers at halftime but Los Angeles will wilt in the second half under the Tampa heat and the ground game will keep grinding and grinding and be the key to a 4-0 start for the Bucs. Buccaneers 20, Chargers 13 Tampa Bay’s Record: 4-0
Week 5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears – WIN
In a game that sees the Bucs offense as a little sluggish after a trip out west to take on Denver, a hot home game against the Chargers and then a road trip to Chicago, the defense comes through picking off Mitch Trubisky late to seal the win. Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette are bottled up by a tough Bears defense, but Brady and Co. do just enough to escape the Windy City and come back home 5-0 and full of confidence. Buccaneers 21, Bears 20 Tampa Bay’s Record: 5-0
Week 6 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers – LOSS
Well they weren’t going to win them all, and the Packers and Aaron Rodgers best the Bucs at home coming off a short week. The secondary has some inexplicable busts in coverage and Rodgers is too good not to exploit them. The Packers get up early but Brady and the offense rally late only to see their comeback come up just short. Packers 28, Buccaneers 24 Tampa Bay’s Record: 5-1
Week 7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders – LOSS
Are the Bucs slumping? Following their first loss of the season, the hangover and disappointment carries over to their next game at Las Vegas. Jon Gruden wants to beat the Bucs badly and has his Raiders ready. Derek Carr is efficient and running back Josh Jones becomes the first 100-yard rusher against the Bucs in a long time as Las Vegas plays ball control offense and dunks and dunks their way down the field, keeping the Bucs offense on the sideline for the most part. Raiders 23, Buccaneers 20 Tampa Bay’s record: 5-2
Week 8 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants – WIN
While no one wants to say it, this is a revenge game. After the Bucs gave up an 18-point lead and lost to rookie QB Daniel Jones in his first NFL start last season, Tampa Bay comes out on a mission and dominates New York on the road. Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette combine for over 200 yards rushing and Tom Brady throws for just over 300 as the Bucs roll the Giants and avenge an embarrassing 2019 loss. Buccaneers 40, Giants 19 Tampa Bay’s Record: 6-2
Week 9 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints – LOSS
The Saints and Bucs will battle it out all season for NFC South supremacy and New Orleans comes to Tampa with revenge on their minds after losing at home in Week 1. It is a back-and-forth affair with both teams seizing momentum only to give it back up. The Saints have a couple tricks up their sleeve late in the game with Taysom Hill and are able to march down the field to kick the winning field goal as time expires to split the regular season series at one win each. Saints 31, Buccaneers 28 Tampa Bay’s Record: 6-3
Week 10 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers – WIN
The Panthers are a better team in Week 10 than they were in Week 2, but are still no match for the experienced high-powered Buccaneers offense that is among the best in the NFL. Tom Brady has another huge day against an inexperienced Carolina secondary and the defense keeps Christian McCaffery in check for the most part to win their seventh game of the season. Buccaneers 33, Panthers 14 Tampa Bay’s Record: 7-3
Week 11 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Rams – WIN
The Bucs trip to L.A. last year to face the Rams was one of the most exciting game of the 2019 season with the Bucs winning 55-40 at the Coliseum. The Bucs won’t drop 55 points again on the Rams defense which is improved this year, but still take home the victory with a balanced offensive attack. Jared Goff and the Rams offense will have a good day themselves, but can’t keep up with the firepower of Tampa Bay’s offense. Buccaneers 27, Rams 24 Tampa Bay’s Record: 8-3
Week 12 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Kansas City Chiefs – LOSS
In what some have billed as a Super Bowl preview, the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes come to Raymond James Stadium with both teams playing as well as anyone in the NFL. It is a marquee match-up that NFL TV executives are kicking themselves for not making a prime-time game. The game lives up to the hype, but the Chiefs offense is a little better than the Bucs defense and Mahomes leads a late fourth quarter drive to take the lead and their defense makes a last-minute goal line stand to preserve the Chiefs’ victory. Chiefs 32, Buccaneers 27 Tampa Bay’s Record: 8-4
Week 13 – BYE WEEK
Week 14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings – WIN
The Buccaneers much-needed bye week comes at the right time as Tampa Bay can get some much needed rest and recovery as they enter the final push of the regular season. Tampa Bay struggles containing the Vikings’ pass rush and balanced offense at times but won’t lose two in a row at home and win a fairly low-scoring affair with Tampa Bay’s ground game being the catalyst for the close win. Buccaneers 21, Vikings 16 Tampa Bay’s Record: 9-4
Week 15 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons – WIN
The Falcons will be a better team than many think in 2020 but the Buccaneers are superior. Atlanta’s offense will be one of tops in the NFL but its defense will be average and that is enough for the Bucs to go on the road and take home a hard-fought victory. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both have outstanding days against the Falcons secondary and Leonard Fournette has his best game of the year so far, notching over 100 yards rushing to lead the Bucs’ ground game. Buccaneers 27, Falcons 23 Tampa Bay’s Record: 10-4
Week 16 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions – WIN
The Matt Patricia era might be over by the time the Bucs fly to Detroit late in December to face a Lions team that again in 2020 is beset with injuries. The Buccaneers jump out early and never look back as the Lions players are already thinking about the offseason and plans for New Years. The Bucs get up enough that by the fourth quarter Blaine Gabbert finishes things up as Tampa Bay tries to keep Tom Brady healthy for what they hope is a deep playoff run. Buccaneers 41, Lions 13 Tampa Bay’s Record: 11-4
Week 17 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons – WIN
Beating a team twice in a season isn’t easy and having to do it twice in three weeks isn’t ideal but Tampa Bay needs one more win to stay in a tight race with the Saints for the NFC South title. Tampa Bay and the Falcons battle down to the wire but Ryan Succop ends up with a last-minute field goal to give the Bucs a win and a 12-4 record on the season. Tampa Bay ends up in second place as the Saints win their season finale to put them at 13-3 on the year, but the Bucs will be in the postseason for the first time since 2007. Buccaneers 31, Falcons 30 Tampa Bay’s Record: 12-4
What do you think, Hook readers? Is my 12-4 prediction for the Bucs off the mark or on target? Which games do you have Tampa Bay winning and losing? Let me know what you think in the article comments below.
• Warren Sapp was a quote machine in the Buccaneers locker room. I was fortunate to have covered him for most of his career in Tampa, working for different radio stations and for Pewter Report which was known as Buccaneer Magazine back then. Yes, Scott Reynolds and I go back to 1995 together. He was a fresh-faced new college grad from Kansas State and I was a handsome, 25-year old, who was taking any job I could and working for free most of the time just to gain experience and make connections.
Sapp was intimidating, unpredictable, fun and scary to cover – all in one. I’ve seen him embarrass seasoned veteran NFL writers one minute, then flash that big grin of his the next. And don’t stand too close to his locker after games or your shoes could get covered in tobacco spit.
I don’t remember where we, the media, were at the time, or who asked the question, but someone asked Sapp what he thought the Bucs record would be for the upcoming season.
Sapp gave the reporter the death stare and didn’t say anything.
Sapp finally said, “16-0.”
We all kind of stood around not sure what to say.
“16-0? You think you guys will go undefeated?” the reporter finally said.
“16-0,” Sapp again said.
There was bit of uncomfortableness for a few seconds as the reporters gathered around Sapp still not knowing quite what to say. Sapp of course loved it.
“Hey I play for the damn team, you think I am going to predict we are going to lose any damn games? C’mon man, how the hell you want me to answer that? I play for the damn team!”
Classic Sapp. And in 25 years I’ve never asked a player to predict the record for his team.
Sapp was right. They do “play for the damn team.” What do we expect them to say?
• I have the Buccaneers going 12-4 in 2020 and just coming up short in the NFC South but making the playoffs with the Saints once again winning the division. Here are my NFL divisional winners along with my Super Bowl pick.
Buffalo Bills 10-6
Baltimore Ravens 12-4
Tennessee Titans 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs 13-3
Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
Green Bay Packers 10-6* (divisional winners)
Minnesota Vikings 10-6
New Orleans Saints 13-3
Seattle Seahawks 11-5
Super Bowl LV
Saints defeat the Chiefs
This is an old NFL interview clip, but one that never fails to make me laugh.