The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost five straight games late last season to end their playoff chances and finish 7-9 in Greg Schiano’s first year as head coach. But that was still a solid step in the right direction, after a 4-12 campaign in 2011 that saw them lose their last 10 games.
The Buccaneers made some moves during the offseason in an effort to take a significant step forward in 2013, most notably adding cornerback Darrelle Revis in a trade with the New York Jets and signing safety Dashon Goldson in free agency to bolster a pass defense that was the worst in the league last year (297.4 yards per game).
Here’s my look at Tampa Bay’s schedule for the coming season, with a prediction for each game.
Week 1- @ New York Jets
Revis looks on track to play in this game as he works his way back from a torn ACL, but the Buccaneers don’t necessarily need him at 100 percent to shut down a talent-deficient Jets’ offense.
Prediction: Buccaneers 20, Jets 10
Week 2- vs. New Orleans Saints
The Buccaneers were swept by the Saints last season for the first time since 2006. A 2-0 start would boost their chances to make the playoffs in 2013.
Prediction: Saints 31, Buccaneers 24
Week 3- @ New England Patriots
Playing the Patriots on the road will be a big early challenge for Tampa Bay, and they’ll need quarterback Josh Freeman to play very well to have a chance to win.
Prediction: Patriots 28, Buccaneers 17
Week 4- vs. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona should be improved this year, but the Buccaneers have better talent in some key areas.
Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Cardinals 17
Week 5- Bye
Week 6- vs. Philadelphia Eagles
This has a good chance to be a high-scoring, competitive affair. Bet on the Bucs?
Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 24
Week 7- @ Atlanta Falcons
Facing one of the best teams in the NFC on the road will not be easy, and this is another game where Freeman has to play well for Tampa Bay to have any chance.
Prediction: Falcons 24, Buccaneers 13
Week 8- vs. Carolina Panthers (Thursday Night)
Tampa Bay swept Carolina in 2012, winning by six points in both games. Things could easily go the other direction this year.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 16
Week 9- @ Seattle Seahawks
Tampa Bay will travel cross country to play a superior team, in one of the toughest road environments in the league. Looks like one for the loss column.
Prediction: Seahawks 28, Buccaneers 10
Week 10- vs. Miami Dolphins (Monday Night)
The two best NFL teams in Florida will battle on national television. Let’s see Jon Gruden make this game sound exciting.
Prediction: Buccaneers 17, Dolphins 13
Week 11- vs. Atlanta
Playing the Falcons at home is an advantage for Tampa Bay, but at some point the more talented team rises.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 20
Week 12- @ Detroit Lions
This is a winnable road game for Tampa Bay, and a contest that could be a factor in the NFC Wild Card race as the season winds down.
Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Lions 21
Week 13- @ Carolina
For Tampa Bay to have a chance to make the playoffs, I think they have to win this game.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 21
Week 14- vs. Buffalo Bills
Simply put, the Buccaneers are much better than the Bills and should have no trouble here.
Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Bills 17
Week 15- vs. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL, and barring significant injuries for them by the time this games comes Tampa Bay is not on that level.
Prediction: 49ers 24, Buccaneers 13
Week 16- @ St. Louis Rams
The Buccaneers and Rams are closely matched talent-wise, so this one could go either way with a couple of key plays determining the winner.
Prediction: Rams 21, Buccaneers 14
Week 17- @ New Orleans
Tampa Bay may be trying to ward off a late-season swoon for the third straight year, and both teams may simply be playing for pride in the regular season finale.
Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Saints 28
Tampa Bay should be an improved team overall in 2013, but with a tough schedule it’s unlikely to show in their record.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.