2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterApril 24, 2014

2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

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    Bill Feig

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not have a good 2013 season. It was so bad, in fact, head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik were shown the door quickly after.

    What made matters worse, even more than their putrid 4-12 record, was the fact that there was far more talent from top to bottom on this roster than the Bucs’ record showed.

    Enter new head coach Lovie Smith. Welcome new general manager Jason Licht. And hope for a huge turn of events in regard to wins and losses. The Bucs haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2010 and have a combined three-year record of 15-33 since then.

    After a glowing free-agent class, this franchise seems to be headed in the right direction. But what happens in the offseason only leads up to playing the games.

    Here’s a look at the complete 2014 Buccaneers schedule with game-by-game analysis and predictions.

Week 1: Panthers at Buccaneers

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    Bob Leverone

    Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 7, 4:25 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    It has been hit or miss for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in each of the last five seasons when they have faced the Carolina Panthers.

    Either the Bucs get swept in the season series, as was the case last season, and in 2011 and 2009, or they sweep the Panthers, as was true in 2012 and 2010. There is no in-between, and there’s rarely a close game played.

    Last season’s average margin of victory was 19.5 points on the two blowout losses. In 2012, Tampa Bay won each game by six points, and that’s the closest this series has been since 2008, when the two teams split.

    The Bucs scored just 20 total points last season against Carolina’s second-ranked defense in the NFL. Tampa Bay brought in a new quarterback in Josh McCown and beefed up its offensive line in hopes of scoring more than 10 points per game in 2014.

    With this game being at the friendly confines of Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs will squeak out a low-scoring affair. 

    SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 16, Carolina 14


    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 8: Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 13 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Week 13: Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 6 (Bank of America Stadium)

Week 2: Rams at Buccaneers

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    Michael Thomas/Getty Images

    Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 14, 4:05 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    In each of the last two seasons, both in late December, the St. Louis Rams have held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to just 13 points and won each game by at least 10 points.

    The 2014 version of this matchup isn’t in December and should go in a different direction.

    Last season the Rams confused Mike Glennon by going into attack mode. Robert Quinn sacked Glennon three times and four other Rams added four more sacks. Glennon, likely bruised, only threw for 158 yards and had zero touchdowns.

    New Bucs quarterback Josh McCown might handle the pressure better (because we know the Rams can still bring it), and the Bucs made some offseason moves in free agency to help the cause.

    Tampa Bay should break into the win column this season against the Rams. The passing game will be better, and if the running back corps stays healthy, it will manage more than the 59 rushing yards it mustered last season.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 24, St. Louis 20



    Dec. 23, 2012: St. Louis 28, Tampa Bay 13 (Raymond James)

    Dec. 22, 2013: St. Louis 23, Tampa Bay 13 (Edward Jones Dome)

Week 3: Buccaneers at Falcons

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    Reinhold Matay

    Date/Time: Thursday, Sept. 18, 8:25 p.m. ET

    Network: CBS/NFL Network

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons both finished with 4-12 records in 2013, and each won a game at home against the other. In 2012, the two teams split as well, with each team winning the road contest.

    While history makes it difficult to predict who will win in this divisional rivalry and where they’ll win, we can guess the game will be close. In the last four games, the largest margin of victory was 13, and the average margin was 6.75.

    In addition to recent history, we can look to roster makeovers to get an idea of 2014 success. Because let’s face it, both teams needed a lot of work in the offseason and still do.

    The Bucs had the much better free-agency period, adding a bunch of talent and spending a truckload of money. The Falcons added some talent too, but the offseason nod, this far, goes to Tampa Bay.

    Now the Bucs have to translate that offseason success into regular-season wins. And that's not going to happen just yet on the road in Atlanta.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 26


    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 7: Atlanta 31, Tampa Bay 23 (Georgia Dome)

    Week 11: Tampa Bay 41, Atlanta 28 (Raymond James Stadium)

Week 4: Buccaneers at Steelers

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    Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 28, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    There isn’t a whole lot of history between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the little bit that’s available to look at is bad for the Bucs.

    Throughout history, Tampa Bay has played Pittsburgh nine times and only won once. The Bucs have only traveled to Pittsburgh three times and have been outscored 79-15 while never winning.

    Maybe this trip to Heinz Field isn’t a great idea.

    The Bucs can’t get out of going to play the Steelers on the road, but they can adopt an AFC North playing style while they’re there. Tampa Bay has three running backs in Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey who can all be explosive. A healthy dose of smashmouth football could make this game interesting, but Pittsburgh’s been doing that for years and has the advantage.

    New head coach Lovie Smith will need to find some extra wrinkles in order to pull the upset.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 20, Tampa Bay 10



    Dec. 3, 2006: Pittsburgh 20, Tampa Bay 3 (Heinz Field)

    Sept. 26, 2010: Pittsburgh 38, Tampa Bay 13 (Raymond James Stadium)

Week 5: Buccaneers at Saints

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    Bill Haber

    Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 5, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The last three times the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played at the Superdome, against the New Orleans Saints, the home team has scored an average of 36.7 points and put up at least 41 twice. Quarterback Drew Brees has flourished in those three meetings as well, throwing a combined 10 touchdown passes and airing out 946 yards.

    So, the Bucs don’t travel well to New Orleans. That’s a fair statement of late. But it hasn’t always been like that.

    Of the Bucs’ 17 wins over the Saints all time, 10 have come on the road.

    But recent history is more important to us for predicting what’s going to happen in 2014. The Bucs got better in the offseason during free agency and hired a fantastic new head coach in Smith.

    But it’s going to be a little while before Tampa Bay goes into New Orleans and steals wins from Sean Payton and Brees.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 33, Tampa Bay 20


    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 2: New Orleans 16, Tampa Bay 14 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Week 17: New Orleans 42, Tampa Bay 17 (Superdome)

Week 6: Ravens at Buccaneers

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack

    Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 12, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: CBS

    When you think of the Baltimore Ravens, you think of Ray Lewis, a recent Super Bowl win, maybe Joe Flacco and a ton of success.

    Other than Flacco, none of that other stuff is relevant any longer. Lewis retired, the Super Bowl win was in 2012 and the Ravens missed the playoffs last season for the first time in six seasons.

    Baltimore won’t bring a terrifying defense to Tampa Bay this season. And if the 2014 season is anything like 2013, the Ravens will have trouble moving the football, and Flacco just won’t have the weaponry to make magic happen.

    The Ravens landed former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, who has plenty of experience against the Bucs, including seven 100-yard-or-better games against them. But he’s nearing the end of his career and should only play an ancillary piece in this game.

    Tampa Bay should win this football game by shutting down Baltimore’s ability to move the chains. The Bucs should be improved on the defensive side of the football, and the Ravens likely haven’t kick-started the offense enough in the offseason.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 23, Baltimore 21



    Sept. 10, 2006: Baltimore 28, Tampa Bay 0 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Nov. 28, 2010: Baltimore 17, Tampa Bay 10 (M&T Bank Stadium)

Week 7: Bye

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play six games before enjoying a Week 7 bye.

Week 8: Vikings at Buccaneers

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    Jim Mone

    Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 26, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    Four times last season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back rushed for over 100 yards in a game. Bobby Rainey did it twice, while Doug Martin and Mike James each did it once.

    Adrian Peterson notched five 100-yard rushing games or better last season and finished fifth in the league with 1,266 yards on the ground.

    But that comparison wasn’t made to suggest that Minnesota will have the advantage running the football. Sure, Peterson might be one of the greatest rushers we’ve seen play in the NFL, and he can do damage from anywhere. But the trio of rushers Tampa Bay has proved they can be explosive as well.

    Who knows how the running back triumvirate will be used in 2014? Will Martin be the feature back with the other two used as seldom backups? Or will this be close to a running-back-by-committee situation? Only time (and injuries or lack thereof) will tell.

    After looking at the running backs, examine the quarterback and defensive units. Tampa Bay has the advantage there and should win this game.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 27, Minnesota 17



    Sept. 18, 2011: Tampa Bay 24, Minnesota 20 (Mall of America Field)

    Oct. 25, 2012: Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17 (Mall of America Field)

Week 9: Buccaneers at Browns

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    Chris O'Meara

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 2, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    What did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns have in common last season?

    The easy answer is they both only won four games. A more in-depth look reveals that neither team could score points in 2013.

    The Browns finished 27th in the NFL and averaged 19.3 points per game last season. The Bucs were worse at just 18 points per game (30th in the NFL). Which team got better on offense in the offseason?

    Tampa Bay is much better off right now than it was last year under the guidance of Schiano. The Bucs added a new quarterback and some help on the offensive line to keep him safe.

    Cleveland added running back Ben Tate and hopes wide receiver Nate Burleson can help make a difference.

    The Bucs should be able to go on the road and pull off this win. This franchise is headed in the right direction, and there was more talent on this roster, even last season, but more so now, than its 4-12 record showed.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 26, Cleveland 17



    Dec. 24, 2006: Tampa Bay 22, Cleveland 7 (Cleveland Browns Stadium)

    Sept. 24, 2010: Tampa Bay 17, Cleveland 14 (Raymond James Stadium)

Week 10: Falcons at Buccaneers

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    Reinhold Matay

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 9, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    Listen to some of the names the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added in the offseason during free agency: Cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive end Michael Johnson, quarterback Josh McCown, offensive tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith.

    Those are all guys who can come in and make an immediate impact.

    The Atlanta Falcons didn’t make quite the splash in free agency, but they’ll get a different crop of “new” players in 2014. At least they’ll be somewhat new because they didn’t play much in 2013.

    Wide receiver Julio Jones should be ready for the regular season, according to what head coach Mike Smith told the media Tuesday as the team started a voluntary workout session. The Falcons should have a healthy Kroy Biermann back too and a slew of other starters who missed a lot of time during an injury-plagued 2013 season.

    While both teams are trying to crawl out from a misery-filled 4-12 campaign, the Falcons have just a bit more building to do to win this one. But the gap is closing fast between these two franchises.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, Atlanta 23


    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 7: Atlanta 31, Tampa Bay 23 (Georgia Dome)

    Week 11: Tampa Bay 41, Atlanta 28 (Raymond James Stadium)

Week 11: Buccaneers at Redskins

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    Chris O'Meara

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 16, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins have played some captivating games of late.

    Take, as an example, the 2012 Week 4 barnburner where the Bucs kicked a field goal with 1:42 to play to take a 22-21 lead, then watched Robert Griffin III drive the Redskins down the field so Billy Cundiff could win the game with nine seconds left with a field goal of his own.

    Since 2004, the Bucs and Redskins have played eight times, and the largest margin of victory was seven points. Each team has won four of those most recent eight meetings.

    These guys play tight games that anyone can win at the end.

    Look for another back-and-forth, four-quarter battle in 2014, with the Bucs winning this one in the end.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 21, Washington 20



    Dec. 12, 2010: Tampa Bay 17, Washington 16 (FedEx Field)

    Sept. 30, 2012: Washington 24, Tampa Bay 22 (Raymond James Stadium)

Week 12: Buccaneers at Bears

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    David J. Phillip

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 23, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    There is somewhat of an intense history between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears.

    To begin, the Bucs played against the Bears twice a season from 1977 to 2001 in the NFC Central Division. That didn’t go so well for Tampa Bay, as the Bears compiled a 33-15 record over the Bucs in that 24-year span.

    Now, take into account Tampa Bay’s new head coach, Smith, was the head coach of the Bears from 2004 to 2012 and led the team to three playoff appearances and a Super Bowl (Chicago lost to the Indianapolis Colts in 2006). There’s also the fact that new Bucs quarterback Josh McCown threw 13 touchdown passes last season for the Bears.

    What’s going to determine how close this new rivalry will be in 2014 is how much Smith’s Tampa 2 defense can slow down Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Last season Cutler and McCown combined to help the Bears finish fifth in the league in passing.

    Tampa Bay could keep this game close by running the football well, which shouldn’t be an issue considering the Bears gave up 161.4 yards per game on the ground in 2013.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Chicago 28, Tampa Bay 20



    Sept. 21, 2008: Tampa Bay 27, Chicago 24 (Soldier Field)

    Sept. 23, 2013: Chicago 24, Tampa Bay 18 (Raymond James Stadium)

Week 13: Bengals at Buccaneers

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Date/Time: Sunday, Nov. 30, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: CBS

    There are two teams that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dominated throughout their history in the NFL: The Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals; both of which the Bucs have a .700 lifetime win percentage against.

    It’s been almost four years since the Bucs faced the Bengals, so there’s no real recent history to use as a guide. But looking at last season tells us points and yardage will be hard to come by for the Bucs this season.

    Only two NFL teams gave up fewer yards than the 4,888 Cincinnati allowed opponents. Only four teams kept more points off the board, as the Bengals ranked fifth by only allowing teams 19 points per game in 2013.

    In addition to a staunch defense, the Bengals can destroy teams through the air. Andy Dalton at quarterback throwing to A.J. Green will make any defensive coordinator nervous, and if the running back duo of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard get going, it could be a long day for the Bucs defense.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Cincinnati 26, Tampa Bay 21



    Oct. 15, 2006: Tampa Bay 14, Cincinnati 13 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Oct. 10, 2010: Tampa Bay 24, Cincinnati 21 (Paul Brown Stadium)

Week 14: Buccaneers at Lions

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    Rick Osentoski

    Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 7, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The Detroit Lions offer a tough matchup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford is going to lead last year’s third-ranked passing attack, and the best wide receiver on the planet in Calvin Johnson is going to try and expose Smith’s Tampa 2 as much as possible. But Stafford faced off against Smith six times while the two were in the same division, and the Lions were 1-5 in those weeks.

    Another area of concern for the Bucs will be their running game.

    With Martin, James and Rainey all showing they could get things done in 2013 (when healthy), expect Tampa Bay to focus on pounding the football. The problem is, last year, Detroit last ranked sixth in the NFL against the run.

    There’s every possibility that this game will be a close one. If the score is high, the Lions will win. The only chance for Tampa Bay is to try and keep points off the board, and that’s not going to be easy.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Detroit 31, Tampa Bay 30



    Sept. 11, 2011: Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Nov. 24, 2013: Tampa Bay 24, Detroit 21 (Ford Field)

Week 15: Buccaneers at Panthers

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    Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 14, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The Carolina Panthers didn’t have the most glowing of free-agency periods. In fact, it was quite the opposite and in stark contrast to how well new general manager Jason Licht did in adding talent to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster.

    The Panthers are going to enter the 2014 NFL draft without a wide receiver on their roster who caught a pass from quarterback Cam Newton last season. They’re also going to be without the backbone of their offensive line in left tackle Jordan Gross, who retired.

    The Panthers also lost Geoff Hangartner and Jeff Byers to retirement, and guard Travelle Wharton is also leaning toward retirement.

    #Panthers FA guard Travelle Wharton, attending South Carolina pro day, says he is leaning toward retirement. But no final decision yet.

    — Joe Person (@josephperson) April 2, 2014

    That means two of the Panthers’ top four offensive linemen from 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), could be gone when the 2014 season begins.

    The Carolina offense is going to struggle, but that Panthers defense is still going to be fantastic, thanks to one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Defense is why the Panthers can still win at home.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Carolina 26, Tampa Bay 16


    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 8: Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 13 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Week 13: Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 6 (Bank of America Stadium)

Week 16: Packers at Buccaneers

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    Mike Roemer

    Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 21, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    The last time the Green Bay Packers came to Raymond James Stadium to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bucs defense wasn’t kind to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    Rodgers threw three picks and only completed 48.6 percent of his passes. It was Rodgers’ fourth-worst game as a starter over his nine-year career in terms of completion percentage, and it tied for the most picks he’s every thrown (he threw three against the New Orleans Saints in 2008 and three twice against the Bucs, once in 2008 and once in 2009).

    It’s a little iffy to consider that Rodgers has trouble playing against the Bucs, especially since no one who picked off a pass during those two games is still with the team. But he’s just 1-2 against Tampa Bay with seven touchdowns and seven picks.

    It’s going to take more than just Rodgers having trouble (although that would be a good start) for Tampa Bay to stave off defeat in this game. The Bucs should be able to put up some numbers, but this Packers squad may be too much for this up-and-coming Bucs franchise.

    SCORE PREDICTION: Green Bay 31, Tampa Bay 20



    Nov. 8, 2009: Tampa Bay 38, Green Bay 28 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Nov. 20, 2011: Green Bay 35, Tampa Bay 26 (Lambeau Field)

Week 17: Saints at Buccaneers

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    Bill Haber

    Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 28, 1 p.m. ET

    Network: Fox

    If you’ll remember the 2013 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a close game to the New Orleans Saints at home and were crushed on the road. The 2014 series could look a lot like that.

    The last time the Bucs beat the Saints was in Week 6 of the 2011 season, when quarterback Josh Freeman threw for 303 yards and running back Earnest Graham crushed on the ground for 109. Since then, Tampa Bay has dropped five straight games.

    The Bucs got better in the offseason, possibly having the best free-agency period of any team in the NFL. But there’s a long way to go from the 4-12 we saw last year to the perennial playoff team that is the Saints.

    Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defensive scheme should still be too much for the Bucs, even new quarterback Josh McCown. And tight end Jimmy Graham could have a field day against Smith’s Tampa 2.

    SCORE PREDICTION: New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 20


    LAST MEETINGS (2013)

    Week 2: New Orleans 16, Tampa Bay 14 (Raymond James Stadium)

    Week 17: New Orleans 42, Tampa Bay 17 (Superdome)