Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2014 NFL schedule: Opponents present 19th hardest slate

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The 2014 NFL schedule will be released later today, but we already know the opponents and the team's strength of schedule.

The NFL will release its 2014 schedule tonight at 8PM EST. Unless they change their mind at the last minute, again, but that seems unlikely. We already know what that schedule will look like in general terms, though, as the team's opponents are determined by a fairly simply formula.

BUCCANEERS 2014 OPPONENTS

Home: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Rams.

Away: New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins.

That slate of games represents the 19th-hardest schedule in the NFL, if we go by last year's winning percentages. That's not a very accurate indication of the real strength of schedule, of course, but it's better than nothing. If we go by Las Vegas odds, though, we end up with the 10th-hardest schedule in the NFL. Lovie Smith doesn't have a particularly tough or easy road to success in his first season as the Bucs head coach.

Some intriguing games on that list include the home matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, as the Bucs signed Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins off that team's roster. The games against the NFC North (and especially the Chicago Bears) should provide plenty of good storylines as well, given Lovie Smith's long history with and against those teams.

We also know the schedules for 2015 and 2016, assuming the formula for determining opponents doesn't change. The Bucs will face the NFC East and the AFC South in 2015, while they'll have to beat the NFC West and AFC West in 2016, in addition to their division opponents and two more NFC opponents, who will be decided based on where in the divisions the teams finish.

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