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The rest of the 2016 season won’t be easier for the Buccaneers

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a fairly tough schedule so far. They faced a 4-1 team in the Atlanta Falcons, played both the Super Bowl winner and the Super Bowl loser, lost to the NFC Championship losing Arizona Cardinals. Oh, and they also faced the Los Angeles Rams, I guess.

That’s why many fans thought a 2-3 record going into the bye would be pretty good, and 3-2 would have been outstanding.

A few weeks into the season, though, and we can see that the team’s schedule wasn’t quite as tough as it seemed. The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos made it to the Super Bowl, but the Panthers are 1-4 this year and the Broncos just lost two straight games after a 4-0 start. And then there are the Arizona Cardinals, who crushed the Bucs but have won just one other game so far this season.

In other words: the Bucs haven’t had an easy schedule, but it’s not quite as hard as we thought before the season. According to Football Outsiders, the Bucs have had just the 11th-toughest schedule in the NFL, and they face a nearly identical schedule the rest of the way.

In fact, there are few truly easy opponents left on the schedule. Next week’s 1-4 San Francisco 49ers and week ten’s 1-4 Chicago Bears, perhaps. Two games against the 1-3 New Orleans Saints and another one against the Panthers should be winnable — but Cam Newton and Drew Brees never make it easy for the Bucs.

The Bucs face three more teams that are now 4-1: the Falcons, the Oakland Raiders, and the Dallas Cowboys. There’s also the 3-1 Seattle Seahawks, and the 2-2 Kansas City Chiefs and 2-3 San Diego Chargers aren’t easy outs, either.

In other words: the Bucs can’t say they’ve had the difficult portion of their schedule. There are plenty of tough games in the future — and that means they simply need to start playing better football.