Bucs caught a break from schedule-makers
If the Bucs aren't doing cartwheels after viewing their schedule today, dignified somersaults are in order.
No question the NFL schedule-makers threw the Bucs a bone or two. They don't have to sweat cold-weather road dates. They're back on national TV. The bye week is as late as possible.
What more could you ask for? Playing in Super Bowl XLIII in Raymond James Stadium? Even that's a possibility this year.
Below are some of the highlights of the Bucs' 2008 schedule.
--Three of the Bucs' first five games are on the road, beginning with the regular-season opener at New Orleans. It's the fifth time in the past six years the Bucs have opened the season away from RJS. The last regular-season opener in Tampa Bay came against the Baltimore Ravens in 2006.
If you're looking for good omens, consider this: the last time the Bucs opened the season against New Orleans was 2002 when the Saints won in overtime on an interception of an aborted punt. The Bucs went on to win the division, the NFC title and defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
--The Bucs got a break from the weatherman. Tampa Bay had potentially icy road dates at Chicago, Denver and Kansas City. But the Bucs visit the Windy City on Sept. 21 for a 1 p.m. game against the Bears.
There should be no snow on the ground in Denver when the Bucs travel there Oct. 5 for a 1p.m. game. The first game at Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs since 1986 will be played Nov. 2 at 1 p.m.
Speaking of breaks, Bucs fans will note the Sept. 14 home opener against Atlanta is at 4:05 p.m., a bit of a reprieve from the sweltering summer heat. It's something the Bucs have requested for years but is generally ignored by schedule-makers.
--The price of winning the NFC South is three prime-time games. After playing all afternoon contests a year ago, the Bucs play on Monday Night Football at Carolina Dec. 8. The Bucs also have two Sunday night games at Raymond James Stadium on NBC -- Oct. 19 vs. Seattle and Dec. 21 vs. San Diego.
The game against the Chargers could be subject to change by NBC due to flex scheduling, but don't bet on it.
NBC is televising Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa and they undoubtedly would like a couple of dry runs from RJS. It's also a good promotional tool for the city.
The three nationally televised games represents a welcome return to prominence. From 1998-2006, the Bucs were involved in 13 MNF telecasts.
You can bet Jon Gruden hates an interruption in routine, so prime-time games can be disruptive to the practice schedule. But hey, they'll deal with it.
--For the second straight year, the Bucs will enjoy its bye Week 10, the latest it can have an open date on the schedule. This can be particularly useful to allow injuries to heal before the stretch run.
--The Bucs finish the season with two games at home against AFC west teams San Diego and Oakland. Assuming they're in a playoff hunt or haven't already clinched their seeding, it's certainly an advantage to play those games at RJS.