The Toughest Stretch

June 10th, 2023

Early season challenges.

So looking at the schedule, if one is to believe the Bucs are going to have a dicey season, what is the toughest stretch?

Matt Verderame of thinks the Bucs will get tripped up in the middle of the season by playing four road games in five weeks.

The NFC gets only eight home games compared to nine away dates, and that catches up to the Buccaneers in Weeks 8 to 12.

Tampa Bay will be on the road four times in that span, including contests with the 49ers and Bills. They also have to make a pair of trips to Houston and Indianapolis, facing two highly touted rookie quarterbacks in C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson. Even the home game will be tough, taking on the Mike Vrabel–led Titans that promise to play a physical brand of ball.

Tampa Bay’s schedule isn’t too difficult with 10 games against the AFC and NFC South divisions, and that midseason stretch could determine its fate.

While Verderame has a point about all the road games in the middle of the season, let’s be honest. Before Tom Brady showed up, this century the Bucs have been an atrocious home team. There was a reason The Licht House had its previous nickname. It was earned.

In the post-Chucky era prior to Brady, no NFC team had a worse home record.

So the Bucs have to start taking care of business at home and demonstrate that it wasn’t just Brady winning Bucs home games.

Joe is of the mind the toughest five-game stretch of the season is the first five games, at Minnesota, Chicago, Philadelphia, at New Orleans and Detroit.

If the Bucs are 1-4 coming out of that five-game stretch in mid-October, we’re likely staring at a coaching change come January. And the most talked about athlete in the Tampa Bay area if the Bucs are 1-4 in mid-October won’t be Wander Franco or Steven Stamkos. It’ll be Caleb Williams.

26 Responses to “The Toughest Stretch”

  1. Trask To The Future Says:

    The toughest stretch will be the first 5 games when the Bucs go 0-5 starting Mayfield.

  2. BillyBucco Says:

    I’m pretty sure we win 2 of these easily
    If we make a game out of Philly and they overlook us a win could jumpstart a whole season.

  3. Hodad Says:

    Joe, Bowles fate won’t be decided after week 5, it’ll be decided after week 17. Detroit started out 1- 6, and finished 9-7. So let’s stop the talk of firing anyone before October. It’s a long season, let it play out.

  4. ModHairKen Says:

    Caleb Williams is a fraud.

  5. ATLBuc Says:

    If the qb doesn’t turn the ball over We will be 4-1 after that stretch

  6. Voice of Truth Says:

    When Toad took over the NYJ, he won 10 games his first year before he put “his people” in place

    They then proceeded to win 5 games for 3 seasons in a row with a new OC every year

    Toad peaked at 8 wins with not his guys last year

    This looks like a 6 win roster with no real qb and rookies and UDFA all over the place being counted on for key roles – new OC ( what a surprise!) – patchwork DLine – top picks last 2 years way under performing

    How in the world can anyone see anything different than a losing team that is going to get embarrassed with Toad at the helm


  7. TampaBayBucsFanSince1976 Says:

    gotta play em all. Just win baby.

  8. JD Still Says:

    How do you eat an elephant ? One bite at a time, it doesn’t matter where.

  9. HC Grover Says:

    If we only win 2 Ames hope it is The Stainks.

  10. SufferingSince76 Says:

    You doom and gloomers have become tiresome.

  11. shankasorous Says:

    JOE: “And the most talked about athlete in the Tampa Bay area [will be] Caleb Williams.”

    That’s because Bucs fans are smart and know that of the 69 quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2000, all of 5 have won Super Bowls! Oh … wait … 😛

  12. Duane Says:

    You can’t judge a team on the basis of a stretch of games unless it is the home stretch in December.

    It was but a couple of years ago that the Rams had a bad stretch, losing 4 of 5 games in October and November. All the self appointed media experts wrote them off as having a lost season. Then the Rams caught fire in the home stretch, and went on to win a Super Bowl.

    Geez, you’d think that JBF would be at least a little bit literate when it comes to recent sports history, enough to get that “It’s not that important how you start in any contest … what’s important is how you finish.”

  13. TOMMY MORDUE Says:


  14. Stormy Says:

    You Trask (err Gator) fans are delusional. How you can say that this team will be better with Trask is just as dumb as the folks who think he’s a bust. No one’s seen him – including you Gator faithful. And no, what he did 3 years ago in Gainesville doesn’t mean anything. By that measure, what Mayfield did at Oklahoma matters, too.

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    Matt Verderame … ‘They also have to make a pair of trips to Houston and Indianapolis, facing two highly touted rookie quarterbacks in C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson’.

    Did he miss the part about Stroud & Richardson being ROOKIE QBS? Did he also miss the part about them playing for Houston (3-13-1 last year) and Indy (4-12-1)? I know every year is different, and yes, we’re playing them in their house, BUT … rookie QBs don’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of grown men. Gut feel is that we should be more concerned about the games BEFORE each of those (Bills & 49ers).

    As I look at our schedule, there are certainly a bunch of question marks (such as how much will our Bucs improve over last year AND how much will our opponents improve?), but virtually all the games are ‘winnable’. Take the first 4 for example. We COULD beat the Vikings in Game 1, and also beat the Bears in Game 2. Game 3 against the Eagles will be tough, but they are beatable. Toughest game IMO will be Game 4 against the Saints in New Orleans.

    After that though we come back home to face the Lions then the Falcons. Both games are winnable. That’s when we hit that 5-game stretch against the Bills, Texans, Titans, 49ers & Colts. Doomsdayers would probably have us at 0-11 after that stretch, but mid-pack is probably more in the ballpark (someplace between 4-7 to 7-4).

    The last 6 games (3 home; 3 away) all look like they’re winnable to me (Packers, Falcons, Packers, Jaguars, Saints, Panthers), although injuries will surely play a huge part (our early BYE doesn’t help). So if I had to guess, I’d say we could be looking at anywhere from a 7-10 season to a 10-7 season. Purely a guess admittedly, but on the top end it MIGHT be good enough to win the division & thus make the playoffs. Largely depends how well we do in our own division me thinks.

  16. Jmarkbuc Says:


    “Rookie QBs don’t strike fear, in the hearts of grown men”

    I know you’ve been a Buc fan for a while. You might want to rethink that statement.

    The list is long.. but just start with Brock Purdy.

  17. Just Leave Trask Alone Says:

    The three top passing seasons in Bucs history were:

    Tom Brady
    Tom Brady
    Tom Brady

    The idea that the offense is going to be better without him and somehow last season the red zone struggles were on his shoulders is laughable.

    Tom Brady is the greatest QB in NFL history. Any arguments to the counter are a cope.

    Brady’s quick release his a lot of warts last season and the fact that he still threw for 4600 yards is remarkable.

    The offensive line underperformed bigly all season. Bucs couldn’t convert any short yardage run plays. It was so bad they just went away from it and gave up on the attempt.

    So Bucs had zero run threat in the Red Zone and that really tightened the coverage on the short field. Evans got doubled and defenses played underneath zone to jam up passing lanes or flat out just played press man. Bucs couldn’t score.

    So the Bucs fired 3 guys on the online, moved Wirfs to LT, got Jensen back, drafted Mauch, signed Feiler and moved Goedeke to RT. Hainsey who everybody talked about and loved got sent to the bench.

    Tampa completely revamped the O-line. Contrary to what Joe thinks, Wirfs moving to LT was the right move. The switch made him effectively the alpha, the tone setter. I think that’s a big gain. Donovan Smith never really embraced that leadership role and that had to be filled by Jensen. Jensen is a fantastic player – and has leadership qualities, but Wirfs time is now.

  18. Just Leave Trask Alone Says:

    Hit Submit prematurely there so I’ll continue.

    Wirfs is already calling guys out. We’re team first here, cadillacking will not be tolerated was the underlying message. It needed to be said. Bucs got bullied up front and our lord and savior Tom Brady is now playing golf and NFL owner. Can’t just show up now and expect to win because Tom Brady is going to light everyone up in god mode.

    If there is hope the Bucs will be a better offense this year it will be because the O-line is now doing their job better.

    Whoever the QB is going to be (Trask) won’t be an upgrade over TB12. Everyone dumps on Leftwich too – with some of that criticism deserved because Byron didn’t adjust, but then again what can you do when the line can’t get you a yard or two when you need it? Not much.

    I think we’ll know the direction of this football team after the first 4 games. If the O-line struggles again we’re in for a looong season. No TB12 to bail us out. Mayfield and his 170 YPG sure isn’t going to work miracles. Trask is an unknown. Bucs still have issues in the RB room as far as I’m concerned. Nobody physical or explosive – just some utility players who are good but not great. I think the Bucs need to monitor late TC cuts. The guy who emerges as the starter might not be on the team right now. There is no bell cow on the roster. RB seems to be a position where it’s easier to find talent. We’ll see I suppose.

  19. Just Leave Trask Alone Says:

    Defense rules. I see Bucs winning 2 out of the first 10-11 games. At some point Half Baked will get benched and then Trask will come in and try to salvage a lost season. But by then it will be too late. The team will have given up by then and although QB will improve it won’t matter much.

    This is a 5-6 win team. Take the under at 6.5.

  20. Jack Burton Mercer Says:


  21. Glass Half Full Guy Says:

    I think I read this article by Matt Verderame and I think he picks the Bucs to be dead last in the division. I disagree.

    I agree with Joe about the first 4 games possibly being the toughest since the new offense may take some time to gel. Those middle games on the road are no cake walk, even with 2 rookie QBs because our D has made rookie QBs look like world beaters in recent years for some reason. I think our DBs this year (and improved pass rush) might change that and the team should be relatively solid (and hopefully healthy) after the early bye.

    Home vs Road? Probably about even except for the kicker having to boot FGs in the heavy, thick, humid air at home. The new guy has a strong leg but how good is he outdoors? McLaughlin is coming from a dome after all. Fingers crossed.

  22. The Beer Whisperer Says:

    I think the home field advantage thing, is over-rated.

    The best teams, usually win.

  23. R0n@Tampa Says:

    I have said it before and I will say it again. You got to focus on the focus if you want to win in this league. And say it with me fellow Bucs fans! NO ONE FOCUSES ON THE FOCUS BETTER THAN THE BUCS!!!!


  24. Just Leave Trask Alone Says:

    I’ll have whatever ROn is having. Make it a double.

  25. Glass Half Full Guy Says:

    I’m not as optimistic as ROn but I can see 10-7. A lot of teams have big question marks coming into this season (especially our division rivals). Look what happened to not just us but the Rams and others last season.

    10-7 might seem like a lot. 10 wins!!! Yay!. But 7 losses? Not many “great” teams lose 7 games in a season. If we win most of the games that we “should win” based on rosters/skill personnel and sneak in one or two upsets, we could be ok.

    My biggest fear is tight games. How will Bowles handle them? How will a rookie OC handle them?

    I can’t wait to see it all unfold!

  26. FrontFour Says:

    So Joe has anointed an under performing journeyman Baker Mayfield our starter. We’ve got a low talent, cap and cash strapped roster with lots of young guys top to bottom. But if we struggle – which we absolutely should – it’s on Bowles and he’s out. How about just acknowledging we are in year 1 of a 2-3 year rebuild and it’s gonna be tough sledding for a while.