The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are preparing for the 2016 season, and we’re all hopeful that this will finally be the year the team gets back to the playoffs. There’s a sense that the real breakout season will come in 2017, though, when the team will have stockpiled a little more talent, and Jameis Winston will have developed just a little bit more. So let’s take a look at that year.
We know all but two of the Bucs’ 2017 opponents now, which means we can get a vague sense of how difficult that season will be.
Home: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, New England, NY Jets, NFC East opponent
Away: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota, Buffalo, Miami, NFC West opponent.
The NFC East and NFC West opponents will be the teams that finished in the same place in their division as the Bucs will in the NFC South.
Trying to project how difficult a schedule will be this far in advance is a bit of an exercise in futility, but a few things stand out. For one, the Bucs will face two of the league’s best quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers — though the former should be really close to retirement by then. Other than that and the in-division matchups, though, there aren’t a ton of intimidating offenses on the schedule. The Minnesota Vikings might be, but that’ll depend on Adrian Peterson’s quality and Teddy Bridgewater’s development.
This year’s schedule looks fairly difficult, and most third-party assessments seem to agree with that assessments, with many projecting the Bucs to finish with six or seven wins. That would be disappointing, but could set the team up for a real turn-around season the year after given what looks like a much easier schedule. That’s when the Bucs should finally reap the rewards of years of building a quality roster.