The Bucs are off to a 3-1 start and riding the momentum of their first three-game win streak since November 2008.
But as the second quarter of the season kicks off today at San Francisco, how Raheem Morris' team ultimately fares this season is still in the air.
That's because over a span of four games in five weeks, the Bucs will travel 14,570 miles. The jet-setting already has begun with today's game (2,398 miles each way). Next week, Tampa Bay hosts New Orleans before traveling to London (4,406 miles each way) to play the Bears. After a bye, the Bucs have a rematch with the Saints in New Orleans (481 miles each way).
"I don't know who does the schedule," Morris said. "It's like the BCS. Who really does that? Let's see the computer system and how you make the schedule.
"We really don't care. We love the challenge. Let's go to the West Coast after Monday night, when we play the Indianapolis Colts. We got a gift there a little bit not having to play against (Peyton Manning). It is what it is."
Don't expect the third quarter to get any easier. The Bucs host Houston on Nov. 13 before games at Green Bay and Tennessee.
If Tampa Bay can go at least 2-2 over the next four games, it likely still will be in the thick of a playoff race.
SAN FRANCISCO TREAT: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh finally can have contact with Bucs backup QB Josh Johnson today, at least with a handshake.
Johnson, who played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, can become a free agent at the end of this season. It was widely speculated Harbaugh would have had an interest in trading for Johnson last offseason, but the lockout ended those hopes.
Harbaugh regards Johnson as almost like a son. But he readily admits that won't matter today.
"We'll shake hands, and he'll try to gouge my eyes out," Harbaugh said. "And he knows I'll try to do the same."
Johnson, who is from nearby Oakland, grew up a 49ers fan and will have plenty of friends and family in attendance today. But he said he doesn't allow himself a chance to daydream about reuniting with Harbaugh in San Francisco.
"That wouldn't be fair to me or to my teammates or this organization," Johnson said. "I just kind of keep myself in the moment and what's going on right now. I'm a Buccaneer. I keep up with (Harbaugh) just because I have a lot of old coaches over there.
"And hopefully, he has success because it's a personal relationship. But as far as myself, no, that's unfair."
Even so, Johnson said he owes a lot to Harbaugh.
"Just in life, in general, he's always said, 'Attack each day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind,' " Johnson said. "When you're younger, you just think I'll just go out and be high-energy, high-spirited.
"Now I look at it as going out and taking advantage of every opportunity and never letting a minute slip in regards to your preparation. He taught me a lot, personally, about being a quarterback and about football."
WHERE'S T-JACK? The Bucs are frustrated about the slow pace of S Tanard Jackson's ability to apply for reinstatement to the league.
Jackson, who was suspended indefinitely in September 2010 for a third positive test for marijuana, is believed to be eligible to ask the league for his job back. But the lockout, which prevented the league and its teams from contacting players, might have set Jackson's timetable back.
Good bar bet: If Jackson is reinstated this season, the Bucs will not only take him back, they'll play him in the next game, especially with the season-ending injury to S Cody Grimm.