TAMPA — If the Bucs aren't doing cartwheels after viewing their 2008 schedule that was released Tuesday, dignified somersaults may be in order.
The NFL schedulemakers threw the Bucs a bone or two. They don't have to sweat cold-weather road dates. They're back on national TV with three prime-time games. And the bye week is as late as possible.
What more could you ask? Playing in Super Bowl XLIII at Raymond James Stadium? Even that's a possibility.
Here are some of the highlights of the Bucs' 2008 schedule.
• Three of their first five games are on the road, beginning with the regular-season opener Sept. 7 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 Ravens in 2006.
• They won't have to watch the Weather Channel. 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 4 p.m. game. Their first game at Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs since 1986 will be played Nov. 2 at 1 p.m.
Speaking of breaks, fans will note the Sept. 14 home opener against Atlanta is at 4 p.m., a reprieve from the sweltering summer heat.
• 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 Dec. 8 at Carolina. They 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 undoubtedly would like a couple of dry runs from RJS. It's also a good promotional tool for the city.
• For the second straight year, the Bucs will enjoy a bye Week 10, the latest they can have an open date. This is useful to allow injuries to heal before the stretch run.
• The Bucs finish the season with home games against AFC West teams San Diego and Oakland. Assuming they are playing for a playoff berth or seeding, it's an advantage to play at RJS.
• The biggest negative is a pair of back-to-back road games: Cowboys followed by Chiefs and Panthers followed by Falcons.