Bucs get two primetime games at RJS: host Colts on MNF Oct. 3; Cowboys on NFLN Dec. 17
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman says he wants to measure himself against the best passers in the NFL. This year, he will get his chance.
Tampa Bay will host Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts at Raymond James Stadium on ESPN's Monday Night Football in Week 4 on Monday, Oct. 3 at 8:30 p.m. It's the first MNF game in Tampa since 2003.
That won't be the only national exposure for Freeman and Bucs, who are coming off a 10-6 record in 2010. Tampa Bay will host the Dallas Cowboys on NFL Network on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8:20 p.m.
It's only the second time the Colts have played in Tampa. The last time, the Colts rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat the Bucs 38-35 in Tony Dungy's return to RJS, a game that also was televised on Monday Night Football.
The Bucs will be making their first primetime nationally televised appearance in nearly three years. The Bucs played on Monday Night Football Dec. 8, 2008 at Carolina when they lost 38-23 to the Panthers.
Among the highlights of the Bucs' 2011 schedule released Tuesday night include:
-- An early showdown with NFC South rival Atlanta Sept. 25 at 4:15 p.m. that is the second game of the FOX national double-header.
--Following their MNF game against the Colts, the Bucs travel to San Francisco on a short week to play the 49ers Oct. 9 at 4:05 p.m.
--The Bucs travel to Lambeau Field to play the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers Nov. 20.
--Consecutive games on the road against division rivals, at Carolina and Atlanta, to end the season and likely decide the NFC South.
The primetime telecasts could be a boost to the Bucs' sagging attendance. Last year, Tampa Bay was the only team to have all 10 home games subject to local television blackouts.
Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer has said new season ticket sales in Jan-March were the best in years and renewals have been 'extremely strong.' But he has stopped short of predicting whether there would be blackouts in 2011.
"I think if we do our job, on the field and off of it, blackouts will take care of themselves,'' Glazer said. "And we won't even be talking about if it's right or if it's wrong."
The Bucs also are scheduled to play the Chicago Bears at London's Wembley Stadium Oct. 23. But the game will remain in at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa if the NFL labor situation isn't resolved by Aug. 1. Season ticket holders who have already paid in full will receive a refund for the lost home game and won't have to wait for the resolution of the NFL lockout.
Ticket holders who paid by cash or check will receive a check refund. Those paying by credit card will be credited the pro-rated amount for the single game. Payment plans will be adjusted to reflect the balance minus the Bears game.
The Bucs will have to get off to a good start in 2011 because five of their final seven games and six of their last nine are on the road.
Tampa Bay opens the season on Sunday, Sept. 11 when they host the Detroit Lions, a team that essentially knocked the Bucs out of the playoffs with a 23-20 OT win at RJS last Dec. 20. It's the third straight season the Bucs have kicked off the regular season at home.
The Bucs first road game will be Sept. 18 at Minnesota. In fact, the Bucs play just two road games the first two months of the season, since technically, their game at Wembley Stadium Oct. 23 is a game that will be moved from RJS.