They say all games count the same in the NFL. That is mostly true since you can only get one win or one loss in any given game. However, we all know that some games are simply more important than others.
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers there are many key games on the schedule. Sure, their division six games are critical for a team looking to win the NFC South for the third year in a row, but there are other games that are even more valuable.
I looked up and down the schedule to find the biggest games for the Bucs this season. Here are my five games that will mean the most in determining how this season goes, one way or another.
against new orleans
We all know that the battles between the Buccaneers and the Saints are very tough. This rivalry has become one of the best and most intense battles in recent years and 2023 should be no exception. This is just one of the reasons why this is going to be a pivotal game for the Bucs.
These two teams will also meet in New Orleans in week four. This will also be a big game for the Bucs, as all division games are. However, this early in the year of learning a new offense combined with going on the road would make this game feel more like an advantage if the Buccaneers won it.
In week seventeen, two teams hoping to be in the middle of a divisional race will be key. And while one or both teams may be sidelined right now, in a division where there isn’t a heavy favorite, this game seems likely to carry a lot of weight. It might seem hyperbolic to say that this game will decide the winner of the NFC South, but that just might be the case.
in the green bay
We’re not exactly sure what to expect from the Packers this season. The Aaron Rodgers era is over and rookie starter Jordan Love will take over the offense. This was always the plan in Green Bay after taking Love in the first round a few years ago.
Neither the Buccaneers nor the Packers are projected to win their divisions this year due to questions surrounding the quarterback position. However, both rosters are still packed with talent from top to bottom. Both of these teams may be on the hunt for a wild card spot.
What excites me about this game is that it will be on the road. A game on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field late in the season in the middle of a playoff hunt is the kind of game legends are made of. This is a game two evenly matched teams will have to win if they are to find a path to the postseason this year.
These two teams were very similar last year, but they were going in opposite directions. The Bucs tossed off the previous two years, but still managed to win their division with an 8-9 record. The Jaguars rose from the ashes after holding the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft and won their division with a 9-8 record.
Now both teams are ready to build on last year and take the next step toward a deep playoff run. These two teams are comparable in overall talent and both are likely looking to win their division at this point in the season. This week sixteen’s clash should have major playoff implications.
The NFL took the old euchre strategy and led with its might. The Buccaneers and Vikings not only put together an epic clash at sea, but it’s also going to be one of the most compelling matchups on the schedule.
The Vikings won their division with a 13-4 record last year before being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. This record was a bit misleading due to the number of one-touchdown games they won and the fact that they had one of the worst defenses in the NFL. They’re actually much closer to the Bucs despite last year’s difference in win totals.
This will be an excellent test for this new Buccaneers offense in week one against a poor defensive unit that didn’t add much talent to that side of the ball in the offseason. This game could be an indicator of what the Bucs’ season will be like. If Dave Canales and the offense can’t figure things out quickly this year, then the entire 2023 season could be going down the drain.
It’s always important to get a win after the bye week. Particularly when playing against one of the best teams in the NFC that will lose one of its talented young players to suspension. This is an early bye the Bucs can’t waste.
Granted, a week of early dismissal isn’t ideal. However, this is an opportunity to refine the offense after a month of football in the new scheme. This will be the Bucs’ best chance to fix any early problems they have.
This will also make a great yardstick game. The Lions finished last year on a hot streak and are the favorites to win the NFC North this year. If the Buccaneers can beat a fellow playoff contender, and realistically a team that should be better than them, then I would advance their playoff hopes.