The 2019 regular season is getting closer and closer. With that in mind, it’s a good time to analyze the schedules of all 32 NFL teams which is what the Last Word on Sports NFL department is currently doing. Articles will be broken down into the eight hardest and eight easiest games on each team’s schedule. Here, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers easiest games are under the microscope.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Easiest Games of 2019
9. Week Eight: at Tennessee Titans
This game might have made its way into the back end of the Bucs’ hardest games in 2019, especially since it’s on the road. However, Tampa will be coming off a bye and so might be able to benefit from the associated rest. It’s a matchup with a sprinkling of irony given the top two picks of the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, meet up at crucial points in their pro careers. The two quarterbacks are under immense scrutiny and it can safely be said that 2019 is a make-or-break year for both.
Suffice it to say that this series has been dominated by the Titans franchise going back to their days as the Houston Oilers. They sport a 9-2 record all-time against the Bucs that included a 42-14 blowout win during their last meeting in 2015. Both Winston and Mariota were rookies back then with the latter looking the more impressive. He threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions in the game and finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Winston did manage two touchdown tosses himself but he also threw two picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown. What transpires in Nashville this year will go a long way towards defining the NFL futures of these two signal-callers.
10. Week Six: vs Carolina Panthers (London)
The Bucs are one of eight NFL teams making the trip across the pond in 2019. They’ll take on their NFC South rival Panthers in the gleaming new stadium for famed English soccer club Tottenham Hotspur. The matchup is part of a brutal stretch of the schedule that includes road games against the Rams and Saints prior to their trip to London, followed by two more against the Titans and Seahawks afterward. That’s essentially five straight road games even though Tampa is technically the home team for this one. But the one consolation is that they can travel home back to the States knowing that their bye week is upcoming.
11. Week 17: vs Atlanta Falcons
At this point in the year, Week 17 matchups are always difficult to gauge. If they involve a team who’s already locked up a playoff berth and one who has no chance at the postseason, they essentially become glorified preseason games with many of the starters resting. It will be a pleasant surprise if Bruce Arians can work his magic and have this team in position for its first playoff appearance since 2007. And if this game somehow has playoff implications for both sides, you can expect a heated affair between bitter NFC South rivals.
12. Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
The month of December for the Bucs opens with a short trip to north Florida. The Jags made one of the bigger free agency signings involving a quarterback in the off-season, bringing in Nick Foles on a four-year, $88 million deal. Fans are certainly hoping he’s part of an effort that can return the club to the postseason after last year’s forgettable campaign. Among the challenges Winston will face in this late-season matchup is how to contend with Pro Bowl corner Jalen Ramsey. And in addition to Foles featuring as an upgrade to the mediocre play of Blake Bortles, Jacksonville must get production in the run game out of Leonard Fournette that mirrors the lofty expectations placed on him when they took him in the NFL Draft.
13. Week 15: at Detroit Lions
The Bucs’ final road game of 2019 sees them travel to the Motor City to face the Lions. It’s Matt Patricia‘s second year in charge after a hugely successful stint as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. Not surprisingly, Detroit’s defense was fairly formidable as it ranked top-10 among NFL teams in both passing and rushing yardage allowed in 2018. So Winston and company figure to have their hands full trying to move the ball.
The Lions made some interesting free agency acquisitions in the off-season, most notably Danny Amendola and C.J. Anderson. Anderson was a big reason the Los Angeles Rams made it to the Super Bowl as he provided an electric presence in their run game late in the year in relief of Todd Gurley who was dealing with knee issues. But the big question with this team surrounds whether Matthew Stafford is capable of leading them to the postseason. He’s done so just three times during his 10 years in the league, losing in the wild-card round each year. All in all, this appears to be the most winnable road game on the 2019 slate for the Bucs.
14. Week Three: vs New York Giants
Few teams had as tumultuous an off-season as the Giants. First, there was the trade heard ’round the world when they dealt Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. Then came the NFL Draft which caused many eyebrows to be raised when general manager Dave Gettleman took Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick, a move which seemed to be a huge reach. That said, Jones has made some nice throws when he’s seen action during the preseason.
Overall, the Giants are clearly a team in transition. Eli Manning is in decline and it’s possible he could call it a career after this season. Whether it’s him or Jones who starts during this early season meeting in Tampa, the defense should be able to feast. Add in the fact that off-season signing Golden Tate won’t play in this game due to a four-game PED suspension and this game certainly is ripe for the taking. So is the next game up for discussion.
15. Week One: vs San Francisco 49ers
The schedule makers were mighty kind to the Bucs with their season opener. They take on a 49ers team forced to travel cross-country and play in the early September Florida heat. And based on his debut performance this preseason, it looks like it might take some time for Jimmy Garoppolo to return to top form after suffering a season-ending torn ACL last year. On Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos, Garoppolo went 1/6 for 0 yards, threw an interception and finished with a 0.0 passer rating.
That seems to indicate that the Bucs have a massive opportunity to get their first season under Bruce Arians off to an ideal start. One can only hope that given all the pressure that’s on Winston to perform this year that he’s extra motivated to chalk up a W in Week One. Both this contest and the game against the Giants two weeks later certainly look winnable. And if they can pull off an upset of the Panthers on Thursday Night Football in Week Two, they could go into their road matchup against the Los Angeles Rams with a 3-0 record.
16. Week 10: vs Arizona Cardinals
It’s not much of a surprise to see the Cardinals at number 16 on this list. Most are pegging them to potentially be on the clock once again at the end of the 2019 season. There’s definitely a lot of excitement surrounding first overall pick Kyler Murray, but his rookie year will likely see quite a bit of growing pains. Though he looked impressive during his preseason debut, he took a significant step back last week in his second outing. One of the glaring weaknesses of this Cardinals team is the offensive line. The unit struggled mightily in Steve Wilks‘ lone season as head coach and the front office did little to address it in the off-season. His replacement, Kliff Kingsbury, is likely in for a rough first year as an NFL head coach. And this is, without question, the biggest must-win contest on the schedule if the Bucs want to have any chances at playoff contention.