On Monday, we expressed our grievances. We will now express our gratitude.
Let’s recognize this first: staging 272 NFL regular season games over 18 weeks in a way that appeals to seven broadcast partners, gets the right exposure to the league’s top draws, avoids concerts and other venue disputes, expands the game’s appeal globally, builds the excitement of the playoff race, and is generally played out in the fairest way possible… well, it’s a mission from hell. When Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcast planning, called the 14-week process “an exercise in pain management,” I think he was referring to each team’s satisfaction as much as possible, but there was probably a bit of Advil in the planning room, too.
So editor/reporter Brianna Dix, digital contributor Amy Schwartz, and I may have been a little cavalier on Monday when we each outlined one thing we’d like to change about the 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers schedule. It really is an exciting list of games without any glaring planning quirks to increase the level of difficulty. Additionally, we were selfish in our demands, seeking to improve the lot of the Buccaneers without caring how those changes might affect other teams.
So to make up for that selfishness, as we continue our week of roundtable discussions regarding the 2022 calendar, Brianna, Amy and I are going to take this opportunity to thank Mr. North and his partners in building the calendar. And not with a generic ‘Great Job Scheduling!’ greeting card, but with some specific examples of how good this calendar is for our Buccaneers.
This is the third of our five roundtables to date. Here is the program for the whole series:
Friday May 13: What is your most anticipated game on the Bucs’ 2022 schedule?
Monday, May 16: What is one thing you would change on the Bucs schedule if you had the power?
Tuesday, May 17: What is the thing you would most like to thank NFL schedulers for this year?
Wednesday May 18: What’s the toughest streak on this year’s calendar?
Thursday, May 19: Who is the best rookie the Buccaneers will face in their 2022 schedule.
In order to get a greater variety of answers, we have established the rule that the choices cannot be duplicated between the three of us. This potentially makes the order of replies important, so we’ll rotate that order in each post. Now it’s my turn to go first, with Brianna second and Amy third.
So let me be the first to send a bouquet to NFL schedule officials for something we really appreciate about Tampa Bay’s 2022 schedule.
Scott Smith: No road games on Monday or Thursday
As Mike North also said in that video linked above, he and his team had to go back to the drawing board in early March, well after their 14-week process, when Tom Brady announced he wouldn’t be taking his retirement after all. It was really good news for the Buccaneers, and really for the NFL as a whole, but it was also a call to action for schedule managers. It’s no secret that the Buccaneers, while clearly a pretty good team overall at the moment, are a bigger primetime draw with Brady in the mix.
The proof with the 2020 calendar. This one came out about two months after Brady signed with the Buccaneers, but long before he had played a single game in tin and red, and certainly before he led. the team to victory in Super Bowl LV that season. The 2020 Bucs still had the maximum five prime-time games on the original schedule in May. It was obviously no surprise when they got five more in 2021 as defending champions.
So it was pretty obvious to all of us that there would be five more prime-time contests on the Bucs’ 2022 schedule with Brady still around. And it’s good ! Prime time games are exciting for fans and great visibility for the franchise. But they create challenges, mainly in terms of creating short weeks and more grueling travel plans.
That said, I don’t think I could have asked for a better arrangement of these five prime-time contests, mainly because they don’t contain road matches on Monday or Thursday nights. The Bucs had one each at home and a team-record three Sunday Night Football showcases, one at home and two on the road.
Monday night games mean a short week of preparation for the next opponent, but it’s worse for the traveling team, who lose overtime to get home and often have to fly all night. Thursday night games present the opposite challenge, shortening the week before the game. The team that has to travel has to work even harder to get all their preparations. Of the three types of primetime contests, Sunday nights are the most manageable from a travel perspective.
So thank you, NFL Schedulers! I enjoy all of the Bucs national exposure without the hassle of Monday or Thursday night travel.
Brianna Dix: A mini week off after Thursday night’s only game against Baltimore.
As Scott noted above, the difficulty of playing Thursday night is the quick turnaround from the previous week’s game on Sunday. In this case, the Buccaneers have a Thursday night home game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8, which falls on Oct. 27, just four days after a road game at Carolina on Oct. 23. This is the tough part for both the Bucs and the Ravens (who play Cleveland at home in Week 7). The payoff for the Buccaneers comes after this game at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs are essentially enjoying a “mini-bye,” a nine-day period to prepare for the defending Super Bowl champions’ arrival in town. In Week 9, the Buccaneers will host the Los Angeles Rams at Raymond James Stadium, a team that has had its number for the past two years. Not only did the Rams beat Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the regular season in 2020 and 2021, they knocked Tampa Bay out of the playoffs last January. The chess match between Todd Bowles and Sean McVay is scheduled to kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS on Nov. 6, giving the Bucs more time to prepare for their new foe. The Rams, it should be noted, do do not have a bye or a mini-bye before their trip to Tampa. If there was an opponent on the schedule to gain extended preparation for, that team would be the one that lifted the Lombardi Trophy four months ago.
Amy Schwartz: Goodbye week 11
First off, I love the 2022 Buccaneers schedule. Would it be better if the Bucs started the season with easier opponents? Sure, but every game seems like a game to watch. All eyes will be on Tampa when Tom Brady returns to play his 23rd season, and five of those games will be prime time against some of the biggest names in football.
I want to thank the schedule managers for giving the Bucs a week off mid-season. The timing is incredibly ideal to give the team time to heal any injuries that may have arisen in the first half of the season, refocus and prepare for the latter part of the season. After all, the Bucs will be looking to play their best football of the season in December. NFL schedulers are really giving the Buccaneers two gifts heading into the holiday season: the chance to play in a one-of-a-kind game and a bye week to follow. The timing of the bye week is crucial as the Bucs return from Munich, Germany for their International Series game with the Seattle Seahawks. With a long journey home from Munich as well as the battle with jet lag that can arise from skipping time zones, the Bucs will need time off before preparing for their Week 12 game with the Browns in Cleveland. .
So thank you to the schedulers for looking out for the Buccaneers’ best interests in another playoff run. The timing of the bye week could prove extremely beneficial for the Bucs over time.