TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2022 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate Thursday.
The season will kick off Thursday, Sept. 8, with the Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium. ESPN opens its schedule with Monday Night Football on Sept. 12 featuring the Denver Broncos at the Seattle Seahawks.
The NFL expanded to 17 regular-season games last season, and the final regular-season games will be played Jan. 8, 2023. The playoffs begin Jan. 14 and continue through Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
Here's what's in store for the Bucs in what may be Tom Brady's final season:
Sept. 11: at Dallas (SNF)
Sept. 18: at New Orleans
Sept. 25: vs. Green Bay
Oct. 2: vs Kansas City (SNF)
Oct. 9: vs Atlanta
Oct. 16: at Pittsburgh
Oct. 23: at Carolina
Oct. 27: vs Baltimore (Prime Video)
Nov. 6: vs LA Rams
Nov. 13: vs. Seattle (Munich, Germany)
Nov. 20 BYE
Nov. 27: at Cleveland
Dec. 5: vs New Orleans (MNF)
Dec. 11: at San Francisco
Dec. 18: vs Cincinnati
Dec. 25: at Arizona (SNF)
Jan. 1: vs Carolina
Jan. 8: at Atlanta
Strength of schedule: 4th, .535
There's no other way to put it: The Bucs' schedule is beyond brutal, featuring 7-of-11 non-divisional opponents who reached the postseason last year, including both Super Bowl teams in the Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. What's particularly daunting is the way they open the season: at the Dallas Cowboys, then at the New Orleans Saints, before hosting the Green Bay Packers and then the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. The Bucs could be looking at an 0-4 start if things don't go well. They'll also be playing on Christmas Day for the first time in franchise history and in Germany for the first time in NFL history.
After being down 27-3 in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Rams, Brady furiously orchestrated a second-half comeback, scoring 21 unanswered points, tying the game at 27-all, only for Rams (and former Bucs) kicker Matt Gay to kick a 30-yard field goal as time expired, ending the Bucs' hopes of a repeat as the Rams would go on to become the NFL's second-ever team to win a hometown Super Bowl. The Bucs have had no answers for wide receiver Cooper Kupp over the last three games, surrendering 424 receiving yards to him, the most of any player Tampa Bay has faced over the last two years.
What Vegas thinks
The oddsmakers have the Bucs' win total at 11.5. They managed to go 13-4 last season despite their receiving corps being decimated by injuries in the last quarter of the season. But that was against a 29th-ranked schedule, according to FPI, with opponents finishing a combined 126-145 the year before. This season, the Bucs' opponents finished a combined 154-134-1 in 2021.
Brady's never started the first four games of the regular season below .500 (he's started out 2-2 seven times in his career). Could that change in 2022 in what may be his farewell tour? If there is a silver lining to be had in that brutal opening stretch, it's that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has historically struggled in the state of Florida, and he won't have star wideout Davante Adams after he was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason.