I recently posed the question, “Which 2021 Bucs opponent would draw the largest ratings in the NFL Kickoff Game?”. With the schedule release Wednesday night, Bucs fans will find out soon enough, which team will come into Raymond James Stadium on Thursday, September 9.
But let’s not forget that the Buccaneers are appearing in the NFL Kickoff game as Super Bowl Champions about 19 years too late.
It has to be a Bucs home game, right?
Being wildcard road warriors in 2020 just to win the Super Bowl at home was historic. Even choosing to wear the away jerseys in the big game was bold. But there is no doubt that the first Bucs regular season game this season is at home, right? It’s not like there is precedent for it not to be.
The NFL started the Thursday Night Kickoff game back in 2003. The game is hosted by the defending Super Bowl Champions. It is preceded by a concert, festivities, and all the pomp and circumstance deserving of a season opener. Only in 2003, it wasn’t the Super Bowl Champion Bucs hosting that party. It was the Washington Football Team. Who got their backsides kicked by the New York Jets, 16-13. The Buccaneers would play four nights later, on Monday Night Football. But that’s not the worst of it.
The Bucs had shut down Veterans Stadium by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles to advance to Super Bowl XXXVII. They would face the Eagles again in week one of the 2003 season. Not only that, but it would be a road game for the defending champs. As the Eagles were opening the new Lincoln Financial Field. With Sylvester Stallone ringing the bell, and the Philadelphia faithful glowing in the light of their new stadium. It truly felt like the Bucs fans had been hosed. That the Buccaneers would end that party pretty quickly. Defeating the Eagles 17-0. Softened the slight just a little.
Not this time around
The Kickoff Game will be in Tampa Bay this time around. The opponent could be the Buffalo Bills, as predicted by the Bucs Report’s own Evan Winter. It could be the Dallas Cowboys, or the New York Giants. Even a rematch of last season’s Chicago Bears game could make an interesting Week 1 matchup.
My personal favorite? Bring those fish from South Florida in for an old school Florida Death Match. Kick it up a notch and wear those throwbacks. It should be a party befitting a champion. Let them eat cake.
It could also be a divisional game. A Jameis Winston-led Saints team. Matt Ryan pitching biscuits to Kyle Pitts. A healthy Christian McCafferey showing Sam Darnold the NFC South ropes. The opponent that Thursday night in September will not matter much to the Buccaneers faithful. They will turn this town out. Tailgates, watch parties, bonfires on the beach.
Bucs fans will celebrate the start of the 2021 season, just like they celebrated the end of the 2020 season: as NFL Champions.