The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have consistently been on lists for teams to watch out for, and they've consistently fallen short of their expectations. Quarterback Josh Freeman has struggled with his accuracy at times, while the defense hasn't quite come together in any recent iteration.
But the team continues to make moves to try and add talent on both sides of the ball. They traded for Darrelle Revis and are hoping to compete in the competitive NFC South. They seem to be trending upward better than, say, the rival Carolina Panthers, but the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints will be tough to overcome.
The Buccaneers have a .500 strength of schedule this season. Let's take a look at it below:
|1||Sept. 8||@ New York Jets||1 p.m.||FOX|
|2||Sept. 15||vs. New Orleans||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|3||Sept. 22||@ New England||1 p.m.||FOX|
|4||Sept. 29||vs. Arizona||1 p.m.||FOX|
|6||Oct. 13||vs. Philadelphia||1 p.m.||FOX|
|7||Oct. 20||@ Atlanta||1 p.m.||FOX|
|8||Oct. 24||vs. Carolina||8:25 p.m.||NFLN|
|9||Nov. 3||@ Seattle||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|10||Nov. 11||vs. Miami||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|11||Nov. 17||vs. Atlanta||1 p.m.||FOX|
|12||Nov. 24||@ Detroit||1 p.m.||FOX|
|13||Dec. 1||@ Carolina||1 p.m.||FOX|
|14||Dec. 8||vs. Buffalo||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 15||vs. San Francisco||1 p.m.||FOX|
|16||Dec. 22||@ St. Louis||1 p.m.||FOX|
|17||Dec. 29||@ New Orleans||1 p.m.||FOX|
Toughest out: Seattle Seahawks
The Bucs will have some tough games early, with a road game against the New England Patriots and a road game against the Falcons, but Week 9 is their toughest test, for sure. The Buccaneers will travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, who have a ton of hype and will be shooting for the Super Bowl this season. Seattle's stadium is frequently cited as the toughest place to play in the NFL and it would be surprising if the Bucs escaped with a win in this one.
Must win: St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay will be taking on the whole NFC West this year, and while winning against the San Francisco 49ers and the aforementioned Seahawks will be tough, it might be able to get a win over the Arizona Cardinals. That just leaves a game against the Rams in Week 16, prior to their finale against the Saints. It would be big for the Bucs to go 2-2 against what might be the toughest division in football this year, especially if it brings some momentum with them into the game against New Orleans.
Don't overlook: Detroit Lions
The Lions were bad last season. They were bad for a number of reasons, but it's important to note that they were expected to be much, much better than they were. That's due to the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and the huge talent on their defensive line. If that talent lives up to expectations, then the Lions will be right back in there as contenders and they can't be overlooked by the Buccaneers.