Bucs open with Saints, have five prime-time games slated

The NFL schedules two night matchups between the preseason favorites in the NFC South.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2020 football schedule.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2020 football schedule. [ Times ]
Published May 7, 2020|Updated May 8, 2020

To put in perspective how rare the Brady-Brees matchup is, consider that it will be 25 regular-season weeks since the last time a pair of Super Bowl MVPs faced off in a regular-season game.

The Bucs will host the Saints on Nov. 8 at Raymond James Stadium in a Sunday Night Football game. It’s just one of five prime-time games for the Bucs, breaking the the club record of four in 2002-03. In fact, Brady and the Bucs are the media darlings of the NFL, with three national telecasts in a row.


The Bucs begin their national exposure by traveling to Chicago on Oct. 8 for a Thursday night game on Fox/NFL Network. Then after hosting Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at 4:25 on Oct. 18 on Fox, America gets a steady diet of Brady’s team.

Tampa Bay travels to Las Vegas on Oct. 25 to play Jon Gruden’s Raiders at 8:20 on Sunday Night Football on NBC. Eight days later, the Bucs travel to play the New York Giants for a Monday Night Football game on ESPN. On a short week, the Bucs then host the Saints on Nov. 8 at 8:20 on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

Related: Inside the numbers: Bucs’ new prime-time spotlight is uncharted territory

The Bucs host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football Nov. 23 on ESPN, and then six days later, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs visit for a 4:25 game on CBS.

Following a bye week, Tampa Bay hosts the Minnesota Vikings at 1 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium before spending the next two weeks on the road: at Atlanta (Dec. 20) and at Detroit (Dec. 26 or 27).

The season concludes as it did in 2019 with a 1 p.m. game against the Atlanta Falcons at home. That may come into play if the league has to cut the schedule down from 16 games.

The Saints have won the NFC South three consecutive seasons and are considered the biggest hurdle for the Bucs to win a division title.

But Arians said his team embraces all the prime-time games with Brady under center.

"I think that’s our goal every year, to put a ring on your finger,'' coach Bruce Arians said. "There’s no other reason not to play and you have to get in the playoffs first. And for us, let’s get into the playoffs and see what happens.''

Brees, 41, could be playing his last season. One of his backups is former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Saints.

But the Bucs are hopeful that the addition of Brady, the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, will give them an edge.

Related: Expect plenty of prime-time games for Tom Brady and the Bucs

The Saints could garner a big advantage over the Bucs with the Week 1 game in New Orleans. Brady will be playing his first game with a new team after 20 seasons in New England. He has plenty of weapons in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard.

The Bucs, however, were swept by the Saints last season, losing 31-24 at New Orleans and 34-17 at Raymond James Stadium.

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Five of the Bucs first eight games are on the road, but the schedule flips and they finish with four of their last eight at home.

"I’ve always liked the toughest part early and hopefully you come out of training camp healthy if there’s a preseason and ready to go,'' Arians said.

On the other hand, with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL season could be delayed. Or, at the very least, the Week 1 game at the usually loud Mercedes-Benz Superdome may be played without fans.

It is clear the league built in some flexibility within the schedule released Thursday. The Bucs and other teams have at least one home and one away game in Weeks 1-2 and Weeks 3-4. That allows for those games to be postponed if the league has to go from 16 to 14 or even to 12 games due to COVID-19.

Related: Saints’ Cameron Jordan: Bucs have a shot — to finish second