During July, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be analyzing the schedules of every team in the NFL and ranking each game in order of difficulty (with one being the most difficult). This series will be split up into the eight most difficult games (ranked 1-8) and the eight easiest games (ranked 9-16) for each team. In this article, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers easiest games are the focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Easiest Games in 2016
9. Week 1 at Atlanta Falcons
The Bucs beat the Falcons in both of last year’s matchups. Tampa Bay’s defense is considerably better, and the addition of Brent Grimes will help the secondary contain Julio Jones. Jones had 20 catches, 255 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers last season. This game particularly sets up for a superb season opener where both teams will be looking to start the year strong. Atlanta and Tampa Bay always play in highly competitive, intense environments and this one should be a shootout.
10. Week 8 vs Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay should have a slight edge at home against the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Matt Ryan hasn’t thrown for multiple touchdowns in Tampa since 2013, a streak the Buccaneers intend to keep alive into 2017. Just like their week one matchup, these two rivals will feel the hyper-intensive atmosphere of Raymond James Stadium.
11. Week 13 at San Diego Chargers
The Buccaneers have not traveled to San Diego since December of 2004, registering a 31-24 loss to the Chargers. That year, Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson lead the Chargers to a 12-4 record. This year’s version of the Chargers should be quite a bit different from that team, and the Bucs should go on to win a relatively easy game against a rebuilding San Diego team.
12. Week 16 at New Orleans Saints
Last season, the Buccaneers beat the Saints 26-19 in a wild game in New Orleans. This go around, these two teams will be playing their second game against each other in just a couple weeks’ time. Playing the Saints on their own turf is always difficult. However, Tampa Bay proved that they can do it last season, and that confidence will go a long way with the young core of the Buccaneers.
13. Week 14 vs New Orleans Saints
This matchup will be the first of the season between these two division rivals. Tampa Bay gets the first shot at home field advantage this year. The Saints haven’t lost to the Bucs in Tampa Bay since 2011. A streak that Jameis Winston and company will be looking to end.
14. Week 8 vs Oakland Raiders
There’s a chance this game could be one of the tougher matchups on the season. Oakland has been on the upswing since drafting quarterback Derek Carr. However, their offensive and defensive lines are lacking talent tremendously. Everyone knows that games are won in the trenches in the NFL, so look for Tampa Bay to play smash mouth football to win one at home.
15. Week 10 vs Chicago Bears
Coming off a divisional matchup with the Falcons in week nine, the Bucs will face the Bears at home the following week. Chicago ranked in the middle of the pack in both offense and defense last season. Losing a talented player like Matt Forte could have some ramifications on the Bears’ offensive game plan. Nonetheless Tampa Bay will look to prove themselves against a rebuilding NFC North opponent.
16. Week 7 at San Francisco 49ers
The Buccaneers’ easiest game this season will come right after their bye week against the San Francisco 49ers. Technically, the Bucs will get their toughest game (a road game against Carolina), then a bye week, and then their easiest matchup on paper in the Bay area. Tampa Bay will learn a lot about themselves during this part of the season. The 49ers have no capable quarterback to speak of, a vastly diminished defense, and no playmakers to threaten Tampa’s defense. The Buccaneers should win by double digits.