TAMPA - Press release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2014 regular season schedule, released Wednesday by the National Football League, includes games versus familiar historical foes in the current NFC North lineup as well as less common opponents of the AFC North.
The Buccaneers kick off the regular season on their own turf on Sept. 7, welcoming the Carolina Panthers to Raymond James Stadium in a late afternoon game in its regular-season debut under Head Coach Lovie Smith. Carolina took both matchups last season on its way to claiming the NFC South crown.
The St. Louis Rams travel to Tampa the following week on Sept. 14 for a Week 2 late-afternoon kickoff. The Buccaneers hold a 7-5 advantage when facing the Rams at home.
Tampa Bay hits the road for the first of three consecutive away games starting with an appearance on Thursday Night Football at the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 18.
In Week 4, the Buccaneers travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 28. A win would make franchise history, as Tampa Bay currently holds a 0-3 record when playing the Steelers on the road.
The Buccaneers head to the Big Easy on Oct. 5 to take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in Week 5. The game marks the Bucs’ third NFC South divisional matchup in the first five games of the season.
Following their stint on the road, the Buccaneers return home to “think pink” on Oct. 12 in a Week 6 battle against the Baltimore Ravens, where pink accents will be worn to show support for breast cancer awareness during the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” Campaign.
The meeting marks only the fifth time that the two teams have ever met in the regular season, with the series tied, 2-2. Game day morning will include the second annual Treasure Chests 5K, a breast cancer awareness 5k run/walk that begins and finishes in the shadow of Raymond James Stadium.
Following a Week 7 bye, Tampa Bay returns to action on Oct. 26, hosting former NFC Central rival Minnesota. The Buccaneers currently hold a six-game winning streak against the Vikings, with the most recent victory coming in 2012, on the back of a strong performance by then-rookie running back Doug Martin.
Tampa Bay enters the second half of its schedule on Nov. 2 with a road trip to face the Cleveland Browns, marking the first time the team has played in Cleveland since 2006. The Buccaneers have won their past three meetings with the Browns.
Week 10 sees Tampa Bay battling the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 9, closing out the teams’ annual series. The game is scheduled as the Buccaneers’ “Salute to Service” game, where various activities will take place to honor the nation’s veterans and active duty servicemen and service women.
The Buccaneers then travel to face the Washington Redskins on Nov. 16 in a Week 11 matchup. The victor will take the lead in the all-time series, currently tied at nine games apiece.
The following week, Tampa Bay travels to Chicago on Nov. 23 to take on the Bears. The game will serve as a homecoming of sorts for Smith, who spent nine seasons as head coach of the Bears, and led the franchise to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI.
The contest marks the Buccaneers’ first trip to Soldier Field since winning an overtime contest in 2008.
In Week 13, newly-acquired defensive end Michael Johnson and left tackle Anthony Collins will square off against their former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, at Raymond James Stadium on Nov. 30. Tampa Bay has won its past two matchups with Cincinnati.
The Buccaneers open the final month of the season with their second appearance at Detroit in as many seasons. The contest on Dec. 7 will also mark the fourth time in five years the two former NFC Central rivals meet.
In Week 15, the Buccaneers close out their regular season road slate with a short trip to Carolina on Dec. 14.
The Green Bay Packers head to Tampa on Dec. 21 for a Week 16 contest. The two teams meet with the Buccaneers having won three of their past four contests against the Packers, including each of the last two games held at Raymond James Stadium.
For the second straight year, the Buccaneers will close their regular season campaign against the Saints, this time at home on Dec. 28. The division tilt will be the Buccaneers’ first regular season finale played at Raymond James Stadium since 2009.
Flexible scheduling will be used in Weeks 11-17 as in previous years and it will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights.
A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the affected game. For Week 17, the change may be announced six days before the game. Flexible scheduling is intended to ensure quality matchups on Sunday night in those weeks where it is applied.