NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 NFL Schedule Prediction

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed some marked improvement last year under rookie head coach Greg Schiano. After going 4-12 in 2011, the Bucs improved to 7-9. With the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints dominating the NFC South for the past several seasons, wins have been hard to come by for the Bucs.

Even though Tampa Bay sported a losing record in 2012, there are some bright spots on the roster. Doug Martin rushed for 1,454 yards as a rookie, Vincent Jackson is a legitimate No. 1 receiver, and linebacker Lavonte David is a tackling machine. To help bolster their defense, the Bucs signed All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson in March.

But if the Bucs want to take the next step forward, quarterback Josh Freeman needs to step up. Entering his fifth season, the Kansas State product is on the proverbial hot seat due to his up-and-down play. Getting off to a fast start would do wonders for him and the team’s confidence.

Rumors are also swirling that the Bucs are in position to acquire cornerback Darrelle Revis. Whether they obtain him or not, Tampa still has a lot to prove.

Having eight picks in this year’s draft, general manager Mark Dominik should be able to address some of their immediate needs to help them get past their sub-.500 record.

The playoffs have eluded the Bucs for the past six seasons. Will this finally be the year that they end that unwanted streak? Even though they have the 16th-ranked schedule based on difficulty, anything can happen, which is what makes the NFL special.

With the recent release of the 2013 schedule, let’s take a look at how the Bucs will fare against their upcoming opponents.

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Week 1, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) at New York Jets

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The Bucs will kick the 2013 season off in New Jersey, where they’ll take on the struggling New York Jets. Even though the Jets feature a top-flight defense, their offense still holds them back.

Tampa has just enough firepower to squeak out a 21-14 win.

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Week 2, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) vs New Orleans Saints

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This NFC South showdown has the makings of a shootout. With the return of head coach Sean Payton, the Saints should resemble more of their 2011 selves. On the other hand, their defense is still a work in progress, so Freeman and Martin should rack up the yardage.

In the end though, look for Drew Brees to exploit the Bucs’ leaky secondary using his diverse arsenal of receiving talent. The Saints win 30-24.

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Week 3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at New England Patriots

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After facing a high-octane offense in the Saints, the Bucs will have another steep challenge ahead of them in the New England Patriots.

Playing on the road against one of the most balanced offenses in the league, Tampa is in for a rough outing, as they fall short, 32-20.

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Week 4, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) vs Arizona Cardinals

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Schiano’s ball club finally gets a breather when they take on the Arizona Cardinals at home. Arizona may have an elite receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, but Carson Palmer is prone to throwing interceptions and the offensive line has problems blocking.

Tampa’s defense keeps the Bucs in this one, so they’ll come out with a 14-10 victory.

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Week 5 Bye

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs have one of the earliest byes in the league after four weeks of action. While it comes a bit soon, they can use this time to improve on their 2-2 record while gaining an extra week to plan for the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Week 6, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) vs Philadelphia Eagles

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Players on the Eagles have been raving about Chip Kelly’s new up-tempo offense. The Bucs get to see what it’s all about in person after their bye.

Unfortunately for Tampa, the speed of LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson is too much for Bill Sheridan’s defense to handle.

The Eagles leave Central Florida with a 28-24 win.

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Week 7, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at Atlanta Falcons

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Martin rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown last year in the Georgia Dome. Look for the Bucs to lean on him once more, as they play keep-away from Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and his group of dynamic receivers.

The Bucs steal this one in a nail-biting, 23-20 finish.

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Week 8, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) vs Carolina Panthers

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Bucs swept the Carolina Panthers, winning both games by six points. But on this Thursday night battle, Cam Newton and Co. get the best of their division rival, winning 20-14.

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Week 9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Seattle Seahawks

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Tampa is in for a steep challenge as they travel cross country to take on the Seattle Seahawks. Given the high decibel levels of CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks arguably have the best home-field advantage in the NFL.

The noise and play of Russell Wilson prove to be enough to defeat the Bucs, as they leave empty-handed with a 27-14 loss.

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Week 10, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) vs Miami Dolphins

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This Monday night matchup features a contest between two intrastate rivals in the Bucs and Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins may have won in free agency, adding the likes of Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Brent Grimes, but Tampa gets the victory here.

Schiano and his Bucs top Miami, 23-17.

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Week 11, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) vs Atlanta Falcons

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Tampa won back in Week 7, but the Falcons get revenge at Raymond James Stadium, 27-20.

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Week 12, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) at Detroit Lions

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The Detroit Lions feature one of the best quarterback-receiver combinations in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Adding running back Reggie Bush to the mix will only make this offense more explosive.

Freeman and Jackson connect on a few deep bombs, but ultimately lose in a 34-30 back-and-forth battle.

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Week 13, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at Carolina Panthers

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Last time the Bucs played in Carolina, Freeman rallied his group to a 27-21 overtime victory. But on this day, Tampa wins in a less-thrilling fashion, 24-14.

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Week 14, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7) vs Buffalo Bills

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With the season nearing an end, the Bucs need to win out to even have a shot at the playoffs. Luckily for them, the rebuilding Buffalo Bills come to town. Aside from running back C.J. Spiller, Buffalo does not have many threats on offense.

Tampa takes advantage of the matchup and brings home a 21-10 win.

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Week 15, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) vs San Francisco 49ers

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Flying nearly 3,000 miles east, the defending NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers will take on Tampa. Bucs safety Dashon Goldson is also slated to face his former team for the first time, and will want to put on a show.

But when the clock reads triple zero, the 49ers pull out a 23-17 win.

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Week 16, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) at St. Louis Rams

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams are improving under head coach Jeff Fisher, but Gerald McCoy and his defense stifle Sam Bradford’s aerial attack.

The Bucs take this one, 20-13.

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Week 17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8) at New Orleans Saints

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In the final game of the season, the Bucs head to the Big Easy where they’ll get another shot at Brees and the Saints.

Despite fighting hard, the Bucs fall to New Orleans, 28-27.

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2013 Season Summary

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In Schiano’s second year as head coach, he leads Tampa to an identical 7-9 record. While the Bucs have young talent on both sides of the ball, they’re not quite ready to take the next leap forward. Also, sharing a division with New Orleans and Atlanta does not do them any favor.

In addition to their NFC South rivals, having to face the Patriots, 49ers, Seahawks and a bounce-back Lions' team is a tough task to overcome. Perhaps 2014 brings greater fortune for the growing Bucs.