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Tampa Bay will be tested early and often in 2018

The first three weeks can determine the season for the Bucs

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew who their opponents were going to be in 2018, but they didn’t know when they would play them. Tampa Bay has eight games against teams who made it to the playoffs last season which is tied for most in the NFL. Whenever the schedule comes out, fans always tend to look at the hardest part of the schedule instead of stretches that may favor the team.

The NFL didn’t do the Buccaneers any favors early on in the season. The teams first three games are against teams who made the playoffs last year, including the Super Bowl Champion Eagles.

The Buccaneers will open their season on Sunday September 9th, in New Orleans, against the Saints. The Bucs are 1-6 in their last seven visits to the Superdome and are 20-32 in the season series against their division rivals. Tampa will certainly have an opportunity to prove themselves early on and build off last year’s Week 17 win.

In Week 2, Tampa Bay will have its home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are arguably the most complete team in the NFL. They beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Superbowl with Nick Foles, the team’s backup quarterback. The good thing for Tampa Bay is that this game is in Week 2, and Carson Wentz may not be fully recovered from a torn ACL by then. This game is another opportunity for Tampa Bay to prove themselves early on in the season against a team that will be the focus of the national media all season long.

In Week 3, Tampa will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. I’m surprised the NFL gave Tampa Bay an early season night home game. The Steelers are coming off a disappointing playoff run last season, but they are still a favorite to compete for the Super Bowl in 2018.

To put the first three games into perspective, the Pittsburgh Steelers went 13-3, the Philadelphia Eagles also went 13-3, and the New Orleans Saints went 11-5. Folks, no matter what way you look at it, it’s hard to imagine a team in the NFL with a tougher three game stretch in the NFL this season.

Tampa Bay has the talent on both sides of the ball to compete with any team when they are playing at their best. The early season schedule certainly gives Tampa Bay an opportunity to make a statement early. If the team continues its slow start to every regular season and doesn’t come out of the gates playing their best football, they will start the season 0-3. I am very optimistic that they turn it around this season because the talent is without a question there, but they better start fast or it’s going to be the same ole’ Bucs.

The full schedule for Tampa Bay is: @ Saints (Sept. 9), Vs. Eagles (Sept 16), Vs. Steelers (Sept 24 MNF), @Bears (Sept. 30), bye week (Oct. 7), @ Falcons (Oct. 14), vs. Browns (Oct. 21), @ Bengals (Oct. 28), @ Panthers (Nov. 4), vs. Redskins (Nov. 11), @ Giants (Nov. 18), vs. 49ers (Nov. 25), vs. Panthers (Dec. 2), vs. Saints (Dec. 9), @ Ravens (Dec. 16), @ Cowboys (Dec. 23), vs. Falcons (Dec. 30).