Tampa Bay’s 2021 schedule has officially been released and while we’ve known who the opponents are for some time, there’s a lot to be said about when the Bucs play their opponents. So, of course, that means we get to break down the Bucs’ best matchups in 2021.
These games will be ranked in ascending order and the criteria is the status of the opposition, what time of the year they’re played, the history between them and the Bucs, and location of the matchup.
5. Week 8 at New Orleans Saints, 4:25PM EST
I think it’s safe to say that this rivalry has heated up quite a bit over the recent months, no?
The Saints are going to be ready for this one. The Bucs ended their hopes for a final Super Bowl run with Drew Brees and they also sent Brees into retirement. But even though Tampa Bay currently has all the momentum, it still needs to show that it can beat the Saints during the regular season. Even if winning in the playoffs is more important. Plus, just one win over the Saints in 2020 would’ve given the Bucs at least one home playoff game, so regular season wins do matter in the grand scheme of things.
This game also represents the fourth road game since Week 3 for the Bucs. That’s right: The Bucs will be on the road four out of six weeks from Week 3 – Week 8. Talk about a tough stretch.
And the final piece of this puzzle is that there is a possibility Jameis Winston could be the starting quarterback for the Saints by this point. Just imagine how that will much that ratchet up the intensity for Bucs Nation.
4. Week 3 at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25PM EST
The Bucs have lost just one game since they last played the Rams and that was against the Chiefs. Tampa Bay obviously extracted its revenge against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Will it able to get back at the Rams?
There’s a good chance it will and surprise, surprise: The key lies with Todd Bowles and the Bucs defense. Matthew Stafford is 0-3 when playing Bowles-coached defenses or teams and has thrown just three touchdowns to five interceptions in those games. He averages 5.39 AY/A, which is obviously much lower than his career average of 7.1 AY/A. He’s also been sacked five times and his offenses have averaged just 14.7 points per game.
This matchup also represents the Rams’ second game in SoFi Stadium, which will be one of the premier places to play in the NFL. They play the Bears in Week 1, so there’s a decent chance they could be 0-1 in their new home when this game kicks off.
How sweet would it possibly be to make them 0-2?
3. Week 1 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 8:20PM EST (TNF/SNF)
Dallas, despite having just four winning seasons over the last decade, still hold the league’s 11th-best winning percentage over that span. With a healthy Dak Prescott and a revamped defense, they will pose a pretty big challenge to the Bucs. Even if Tampa Bay is currently a 6.5-point favorite.
Tampa Bay stumbled out of the gate last year against the Saints, but it’s hard to envision that happening this year. This team will dialed in and amped up as they watch their championship banners go up. Raymond James Stadium will be absolutely electric, as well.
This game not only represents the start of the NFL season, but the start of Tampa Bay’s season. Everyone will be watching, which automatically jumps it into the Bucs’ top-3 matchups of 2021.
2. Week 14 vs. Buffalo Bills, 4:25PM EST
Many, including yours truly, thought this should be the opening game of the season. I mean, who doesn’t want to see one of the NFL’s hottest teams in the Bills go up against the defending champs?
However, the best things in life don’t come easy, so the wait for this December matchup should easily help with the building anticipation. There is most definitely a chance that this game could get flexed to Sunday Night Football, which would heighten things even more.
The Bills currently have the third-best odds to win it all, so they’re ready to pounce. We will know the official make-up of these two teams when this game kicks off, as well. So, if things go to plan for both teams, then we are talking about a potential Super Bowl LVI preview.
1. Week 4 at New England Patriots, 8:20PM EST (SNF)
I mean, this shouldn’t be any surprise. This may be the current highlight of the 2021 NFL season. And for good reason.
Brady’s return to Foxborough. Against his boys Bill and Josh. In the stadium that he will forever call home (sorry, Bucs fans). On Sunday Night Football.
It doesn’t get much better than this.
The chess match between Belichick and Brady -and McDaniels, to an extent- should be one for the ages. The guys literally worked together for 20 years. They know each other inside and out. And then seeing Brady play against the Patriots in Gillette Stadium just puts the icing on the cake.
The logistics of this matchup are brutal for the Bucs. This game comes after the matchup in LA, which means the Bucs will fly from Tampa to LA, back to Tampa, then up to New England.
Whew. To cue my inner Jennifer Gardner/Sam Jackson: That’s a lot of miles.
The storylines will write themselves for this one and they already are. It’s the game of the year and it’s easily the Bucs’ best matchup heading into 2021.
Which teams do you think represents the Bucs’ best matchups for the 2021 season? Let us know in the comment section below!