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With Tom Brady, the Bucs’ schedule suddenly becomes one for the ages

This year’s slate now includes some stellar quarterback matchups, especially at home.
Patrick Mahomes, left, and Tom Brady will meet again this season, but this time in Tampa Bay.
Patrick Mahomes, left, and Tom Brady will meet again this season, but this time in Tampa Bay. [ STEVEN SENNE | AP ]
Published Mar. 20, 2020
Updated Mar. 22, 2020

TAMPA — The addition of Tom Brady makes the Bucs a contender and thrusts them into the national spotlight. And their 2020 season schedule? It’s now loaded with marquee matchups.

The Bucs know their opponents, but game dates aren’t typically announced until April, just before the draft. And the schedule makers usually wait for the free agent market to settle. With a draw like Brady, and the matchups his addition creates, the Bucs likely can say good-bye to a schedule full of 1 p.m. starts. They will surely have more 4:25 p.m. Fox showcase games as well as their share of prime-time games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

The league loves to promote its premier quarterback matchups, and the Bucs’ 2020 schedule has some of the most intriguing.

Here’s a look at the Bucs’ best games of 2020:

Bucs vs. Saints (home and away)

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees tends to play his best when facing Tom Brady and owns the 3-2 edge over him.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees tends to play his best when facing Tom Brady and owns the 3-2 edge over him. [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]

For football history enthusiasts, the two games the Bucs will play against the Saints stand apart from the rest. New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Brady are the Nos. 1-2 quarterbacks in NFL history, respectively, in career passing yardage and touchdown passes. The opportunity to see two legends and future Hall of Famers play each other twice in a season is rare. Consider: They’ve played each other only five times despite sharing the NFL stage for two decades. Brees owns a 3-2 edge, but Brady has won the past two meetings, most recently in 2017. Both great big-game quarterbacks, Brady has brought out the best in Brees, who has 12 touchdown passes and just one interception when facing him. Add that the Bucs-Saints meetings are even more meaningful because they are division games and could help decide the NFC South, both are can’t miss.

Related: Expect Tom Brady to get Chris Godwin’s No. 12 with the Bucs. It might cost him.

Bucs vs. Chiefs (home)

Fans were anticipating an AFC Championship Game rematch last season between two one-time league MVPs in Brady and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But the Patriots were upset in the division round by the Titans. The Chiefs went on to win the Super Bowl. Two seasons ago, Brady beat the Chiefs in the conference title game. This game is one of different eras: the greatest quarterback of the past two decades facing a quarterback who could take the mantle as the best of the next generation. At 24, Mahomes already has a NFL MVP award and a Super Bowl title. When the Patriots and Chiefs met, the stakes were huge — one team or the other has represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in each of the past four seasons. So an out-of-conference regular-season game won’t have the same luster, but Brady versus Mahomes is still one of the best quarterback matchups you’ll see this season. This time, Brady will have offensive weapons he hasn’t had the past few years in New England.

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Related: Tom Brady gear already on the market

Bucs vs. Packers (home)

For all of his regular-season success, Aaron Rodgers can't top Tom Brady's postseason prowess.
For all of his regular-season success, Aaron Rodgers can't top Tom Brady's postseason prowess.

This is another matchup between MVP-winning quarterbacks. Though both have been among the league’s best for the past 14 years playing in different conferences, Brady and Aaron Rodgers have played only twice before. Brady won both times. This matchup might be more meaningful to Rodgers. Despite his success, his career has paled in comparison to Brady’s in terms of postseason superiority. Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and has consistently led the Packers to the playoffs, but he is 10-8 in the postseason, while Brady has a 30-11 playoff record and six rings.

Related: With Tom Brady in the fold, will Bucs fill up Raymond James?

Bucs vs. Falcons (home and away)

It might still be too soon to remind Falcons fans of this, but three seasons ago Brady led New England to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history against Atlanta. The Falcons has a 28-3 lead with 8:31 left in the third quarter before Brady rallied the Patriots to a 31-28 overtime win on the back of 28 unanswered points. Brady threw for 466 yards, a Super Bowl record; he won his fourth Super Bowl MVP award, also a record, and fifth championship, the most by any quarterback. That game was one of Brady’s four career meetings against the Falcons, and Brady has won them all. He will have to continue that success for the Bucs to win the NFC South. Brady has a career-best 116.7 quarterback rating against the Falcons.

Other notable matchups

•The Chargers, who come to Tampa, were the other team chasing hard after Brady in free agency. They still don’t have a quarterback set to succeed departed Philip Rivers.

•The Bucs’ road game against the Raiders in Las Vegas already has an interesting backdrop with Jon Gruden hosting his former team in his new home city. That the Raiders were one of the teams in the hunt for Brady for a while adds to that.

•Brady has a career losing record against just two teams, and one of them is the Panthers. He’s 2-3 against his now-division rival.

Related: Why Tom Brady's jersey hangs in this former Rays pitcher's home

•A road game against the Lions will be a sort of reunion for Brady. Lions coach Matt Patricia was a Patriots assistant for 14 years, including six as defensive coordinator. Detroit has a number of former Patriot players as well: safety Duron Harmon, receiver Danny Amendola, linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive end Trey Flowers and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

•The Bucs travel to the Meadowlands to play the Giants, the team that dealt Brady two of his three Super Bowl losses. And new Bears quarterback Nick Foles, coming off a horrendous season with the Jaguars, handed Brady his other Super Bowl defeat while with the Eagles.

•It’s also not too soon to look forward to what might be the biggest matchup for Brady. In 2021, the Bucs are scheduled to travel to Foxborough to play the Patriots, which would be Brady’s first game against his old team — barring a Super Bowl matchup this season.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.