Bucs to face three of NFL's final four teams in 2017
For the second straight year, the Bucs in 2017 will go up against three of the last four teams standing in the NFL playoffs, with games ahead this fall against the Falcons (twice), at the Packers and at home against the Patriots.
It's a potentially daunting part of Tampa Bay's 2017 schedule, though the Bucs were in the same position entering the 2016 season and went 2-2 in such games, sweeping the Panthers and losing to the Broncos and Cardinals. Of course, going 2-2 isn't the norm for the Bucs against teams that reached their conference championship the previous season -- from 2009-15, the Bucs went 2-9 in such games.
Tampa Bay had lucked out and avoided NFL powerhouses for a bit -- in Lovie Smith's two seasons from 2014-15, they had only one game against a conference championship game participant from the year before, losing to the Colts in 2015. They'll have eight games against such teams in Dirk Koetter's first two seasons as head coach.
And if the Falcons can win a Super Bowl next month in Houston, it would mark the first time the Bucs beat a Super Bowl winner in their championship season since 2009, when they split two meetings with the Saints before they won the Super Bowl. The Bucs faced only one Super Bowl winner from 2010-15, losing to Seattle in 2013. In franchise history, the Bucs are 1-11 in the regular season against Super Bowl teams during their championship seasons, with losses to the 1996 Packers (twice), 1994 49ers, 1989 49ers, 1985 Bears, 1984 49ers, 1982 Redskins, 1977 Cowboys and 1976 Raiders. That's to say they've faced Super Bowl winners in the regular season of their championship years only twice in the last 19 seasons, after doing so nine times in their first 21 years in the NFL.