It’s schedule release week! A time in the NFL where the draft is too far in the past to keep talking about, the regular season is too far away to be discussing, and the free agency signings have pretty much died off.
That means some really stretched out content about a schedule release by all 32 NFL teams (including some gems from the Titans and Chargers that got a few chuckles out of Mr. Pessimist Blog Writer).
This isn’t going to be an article filled with predictions or anything, just a preview of what the opponent brings to the table.
Without any more jokes though (well, no promises), here’s a breakdown of each opponent the Bucs have to face in the 2023 season.
Week 1: @ Minnesota Vikings
(No, we’re not doing a breakdown of any of the preseason games)
The Vikings are coming off a very successful regular season and a very unsuccessful playoff run where they were bounced by the New York Football Giants in an upset that almost everyone saw coming (because, you know, it’s Kirk Cousins and the Vikings). While their playoff struggles are evident, the Vikings are going to be a very tough opponent to matchup against right out of the gate.
Week 2: Chicago Bears
A much more realistic opponent, the Bears held the number 1 pick in the draft for a reason. They were putrid last season. But with a solid draft class, a crap ton of free agency moves, and another year under Justin Fields’ belt, don’t count them as an easy W.
Week 3: Philadelphia Eagles
Not very many teams make it to the Super Bowl and draft arguably the most talented player in the draft, but the Eagles did just that with Jalen Carter. If Carter can manage to put his off the field troubles behind him, the Eagles could have a ridiculous interior line for the next 5-10 years.
Week 4: @ New Orleans Saints
Ah, finally a division matchup. These games can always go either way, and the Saints have a roster filled with aging vets and a QB that just got released by the Raiders so that they could sign Jimmy G. Not super thrilled about either the Bucs or the Saints, but it should make for some fun (to be generous) football!
Week 5: Bye
Week 6: Detroit Lions
Barf. The Lions were such a cool story heading into this year’s draft, and I’d argue they fumbled harder than any other team in the league. A running back and an interior linebacker with your 2 firsts is absolutely abhorrent. Just horrible stuff. They have a solid team that could’ve gotten really good with a secondary guy and a defensive or offensive lineman, but instead they drafted 2 guys that could’ve been there in the second round. Regardless, they still have a very good team led by a head coach that seems to have everyone bought in.
Week 7: Atlanta Falcons
Back to back teams who spent their first round picks on running backs. The best thing about the Falcons’ offseason though? They spent a boatload of money, and they’ve got too many good players to be totally inept. A lot hinges on starting quarterback Desmond Ridder though, and for better or for worse, their success will depend on how he’s able to develop in his second season.
Week 8: @ Buffalo Bills
There’s much to say about the Bills; they still have one of the most talented rosters in the league, Josh Allen is really good, and they have a really solid coaching staff. They should be near the top of the league in wins barring injury, and by Week 8 they should be grooving with a roster that didn’t experience much turnover going into this season.
Week 9: @ Houston Texans
One of the biggest wildcards of the NFL is the Houston Texans. They’re on their fourth coach in as many years, they had 2 top-3 picks in the draft, both being very talented players at important positions, and they seem to finally be moving in the right direction after years of turmoil following Deshaun Watson’s exit. Still, there’s work to be done, and the Texans have a long way to go before being a solid team, much less a good one.
Week 10: Tennessee Titans
The Titans are in a weird spot; Ryan Tannehill is still their QB, they drafted Will Levis in the second round (after picking Malik Wills in the third in last year’s draft), and Derrick Henry’s name has been floated in trade rumors all offseason. But, they still have one of the best coaches in football in Mike Vrable, and they’ll have another decent season. We’ll see just how decent by Week 10.
Week 11: @ San Fransisco 49ers
San Fran has 3 potential starting QBs right now, with HC Kyle Shanahan claiming he expects Brock Purdy to be good to go by training camp (we’ll see). I do not expect that to be the case by Week 11; expect them to try and flip Trey Lance for some future picks or maybe even dealt in a rare player-for-player swap as the 49ers are expected to be Super Bowl contenders (again) this season. This will be a really tough road game for the Bucs, as they will have to contend with an explosive offense and a stout defense in San Fran.
Week 12: @ Indianapolis Colts
While the Bucs don’t have the easiest schedule in the NFL, it’s pretty darn close. The Colts, Texans, and Bears had 3 of the 5 worst records in the NFL this past season for good reason; they are not good football teams. The Colts drafted QB Anthony Richardson with their first rounder in the draft, and while the Bucs are a candidate to see AR make an appearance (I don’t see the Colts lasting too long keeping their first rounder on the bench), it’s not a sure thing. AR has a lot to learn at the QB position, so he could very easily be holding a clipboard all year while Garner Minshew takes snaps for Indy. We’ll see.
Week 13: Carolina Panthers
Carolina, like the Colts, Texans, Packers, and Saints, will have a new QB1 in first overall pick Bryce Young. The good news for the Bucs is that they had to give up a LOT to get him, including a solid WR1 in DJ Moore, who is now on the Chicago Bears. While Young will have a good o-line protecting him, he’s going to have a hell of a time trying to find some people to throw to, which is excellent for the Bucs.
Week 14: @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons again! Already covered them, but by this point they should be pretty well decided on if Ridder is the answer at the QB position; if not, we could be seeing some Taylor Heinicke action!
Week 15: @ Green Bay Packers
Jordan Love time! Aaron Rodgers is now a Jet, and the Packers are entering a new era of Green Bay football. Similarly to the Falcons, by Week 15 the Packers should know what they have in Love moving forward, but this situation is far less likely to produce a different starting QB, as they’re paying him a pretty hefty amount and don’t really have a backup. Love’s offense around him is very young, but the defense should still be pretty solid, as they didn’t lose too many guys in the offseason and were able to come away with a pretty good EDGE guy in the draft out of Iowa in Lukas Van Ness, and spent their two seconds on some playmakers for Love.
Week 16: Jacksonville Jaguars
The defending AFC South champions nave receiver Calvin Ridley coming off a suspension to join a really talented offense that’s spearheaded by a budding star QB in Trevor Lawrence. Their defense could still use some work, especially in the secondary, but they still have an interesting pass rush with Josh Allen and first overall pick Trayvon Walker.
Week 17: New Orleans Saints
Saints pt. 2, and there shouldn’t be any major changes to the roster by this point, but there might be a pretty extensive list of injuries by this Week 17 matchup, as they have one of the older rosters in the NFL.
Week 18: @ Carolina Panthers
This could be a really important game, or it could be one of the more meaningless games we’ve seen in a while, as the Panthers and Bucs could easily be contending for the division, or contending for a top-5 pick in the draft next year. Either way, should make for some interesting football down the stretch.
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