The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no longer the losers some old folks may remember them as. They have established themselves in the last 10 years as a contender in the NFL winning one Super Bowl. However looking their upcoming schedule in advanced things look downright scary, especially when you see their out-of-division opponents.
Take into consideration the fact that their division may arguably the toughest division in the NFL with Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints in it, and you can see the Bucs have their work cut out for them. And it may not stop there, as the young Carolina Panthers-armed with number one overall choice Cam Newton-certainly have the potential to turn around what was a miserable season last year.
Playing all the teams in your division twice may be an advantage in some divisions (AFC and NFC West) but having to face to great experience quarterbacks Matt Ryan with the Falcons and Drew Brees with the Saints makes the Bucs' task one no team would be jealous of.
While playing these teams seems tough enough, the difficulties don't stop there. Looking deep in to the Buccaneers' schedule outside of their division things won't get any easier at all. This year the NFL's schedule rotation has the Bucs facing the NFC North, a division stacked with their own set of talent, between last year's Super bowl champions; the Packers, the up and coming Lions, and the talented Bears and Vikings teams.
These are all opponents that could spell disaster for Tampa Bay on their run to winning their own division. Outside of that, they play a few playoff contending teams including two big time quarterbacks in the Colts' Peyton Manning and the Cowboys' Tony Romo. Both teams know how to win, have been "there", and have the experience to bring down the youthful Bucs.
Here and there they do play some teams going through changes like the Panthers-in their own division-or the Jaguars and Vikings, but all in all its going to be really tough to see them be in front of their division in this upcoming season.
Divisional games for them will become a must-win in every game. While the numbers would have you think their schedule isn't that tough (18th overall in terms of 2010 win-loss records), it's sure to be a lot more difficult than that. Sure they only play five teams with a double-digit win record last season but hey-that list still includes the last two Super Bowl winners, and one of them they have to play twice.
The Buccaneers know that they have a talented staff and group of players themselves and therefore are ready to take on the challenges the NFL scheduling gods have laid before them. Now in his second season, Josh Freeman quarterback is now well established himself and should be able to guide his team to the playoffs.
As all NFL fans should know, the NFC South was the conference’s most competitive division, featuring three 10-win teams and two playoff teams. Couple that with the fact that the same team almost never wins the NFC South twice in a row, and there's no reason to think that the Bucs couldn't win it next year. Last year they fielded the second-youngest team in football, were coming off of a 3-win season and still managed to surprise everybody last year by falling just short of making the playoffs.
Head coach Rahim Morris has his team set on the prize but first they must accomplish winning their division. To control the opposing pass and running game the Bucs improve their defense, and they started to do so in the draft by selecting Adrian Clayborn in the first round, DaQuann Bowers in the second and Mason Foster in third-round three guys that may fit right into starting positions on defense for the Buccaneers. They'll also have their two top picks from last year's draft-defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price-returning from injuries suffered early last year.
The Buccaneers could be on the verge of becoming the division winner once again, and the talent is certainly there to do it. The only question now is whether or not the schedule set for them is to difficult for them to contend, an answer which as of right now remains a mystery.