The 2012 season officially here and it couldn't have come any sooner for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are trying to erase the bad memories of a disastrous 2011 campaign.
But will they?
Buccaneers101.com is here to give our season prediction for the Bucs in 2012 in this two-part series. Here we will cover games 1-8:
Week 1: Carolina vs. Tampa Bay
The Bucs start the season off at home against a division rival that physically dominated them last season. The Panthers pummeled the Bucs by 19 points in their first contest and then by 32 points in the second game. The key for the Tampa Bay in this Week One matchup will be slowing down Carolina's impressive running game. The Panthers have three talented running backs and Cam Newton, who set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback last year. Look for the Panthers to grind out a tough road win behind their powerful ground game, and spoil Ronde Barber's 200th consecutive start celebration in the process.
Week 2: Tampa Bay at New York Giants
The Bucs first road game will be a tough one against the defending Super Bowl Champs. Can Tampa Bay's offensive keep quarterback Josh Freeman upright against New York's menacing pass rush? If the O-line does its job and Freeman can keep up with Eli Manning, who is now considered one of the league's best signal callers, then the Bucs have a shot at the upset. But that is a perfect scenario and one that is not likely to happen. The Bucs will play hard, but will ultimately fall short against a better Giants team.
Week 3: Tampa Bay at Dallas
The Bucs travel to "Big D" without a win and will be tested against a Cowboys team that has given them problems in recent years. Quarterback Tony Romo always seems to light up Tampa Bay's secondary and he still has a ton of weapons at his disposal. The Bucs will try to keep Romo off the field by controlling the clock with their running game. If Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount play big then the Bucs could earn their first victory in the Greg Schiano era. However, expect the Cowboys offense to be too much to handle as Dallas wins at home.
Week 4: Washington vs. Tampa Bay
After a less than desirable 0-3 start to the season, the Bucs return home to play Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. RG3's speed and elusiveness could give the Bucs defense problems, but he doesn't have a lot of talent around him. Look for Tampa Bay to blitz often to make Griffin uncomfortable and force turnovers. If that happens, the Bucs will no doubt handle business at home and secure their first win of the 2012 season.
Week 6: Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay
Coming off their bye week and first victory of the season, the Bucs play their first AFC opponent of the year at Raymond James Stadium. The Chiefs have a lot of playmakers in Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, and Peyton Hillis, but Matt Cassel is a sub-par QB and will struggle against Tampa Bay's secondary on the road. Josh Freeman and wide out Vincent Jackson have big games as the Bucs earn their second straight victory.
Week 7: New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay
The schedule makers gave the Bucs three straight home games early in the season and they finish off the homestand against the Saints. It's no secret how the Saints offense operates; everything goes through quarterback Drew Brees, who broke the NFL record for passing yards in a season last year. The Bucs need their running attack to be successful so they can keep Brees on the sidelines. If that doesn't happen, Tampa Bay will be in trouble as it becomes one dimensional trying to keep up with the Saints potent offense. The Bucs will keep it close, but will fail to win their third consecutive game at the hands of the Saints.
Week 8: Tampa Bay at. Minnesota
In their only primetime game of the season, the Bucs travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings on Thursday Night Football. All Pro running back Adrian Peterson should be completely healed by this point and he will look to gash Tampa Bay's run defense. Shut Peterson down or the Bucs defense will be in for a long night. On offense, left tackle Donald Penn will have his hands full against sack master Jared Allen. Allen will try to make life hell for Freeman. But Penn always seems to rise to the occasion against elite pass rushers and he will protect Freeman well enough so that he can lead the Bucs to their first road win of the year.
Week 9: Tampa Bay at Oakland
The Bucs head out West after a longer week than usual and square off against the Raiders. The extra rest should help the Bucs prepare for quarterback Carson Palmer and running back Darren McFadden. And even though the Raiders defense should be much improved this season, the Bucs will be able to put enough points on the board to squeak out a close win in Oakland.
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