Thanks to the Schedule Makers

On Monday we aired our complaints. Now we will express our gratitude.

Let’s acknowledge this first: arranging 272 NFL regular-season games over 18 weeks in a way that pleases seven broadcast partners, getting the right amount of attention to the league’s top draws, avoiding concerts and other event conflicts, the appeal of the game globally, creates excitement in the playoff race, and generally comes out as fair as possible… well, that’s one hell of a task. When Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of scheduling, called the 14-week process “an exercise in pain management,” I think he meant trying to keep each team as happy as possible, but there was probably a certain Advil im planning space, too.

Contributor/reporter Brianna Dix, digital contributor Amy Schwartz, and I were perhaps a little lighthearted on Monday as we each detailed one thing we’d like to change about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2022 schedule. It really is an exciting list of games with no egregious planning flaws to add difficulty. Additionally, we were selfish in our requests and tried to improve the Buccaneers’ lot without worrying about how these changes might affect other teams.

To balance that selfishness, Brianna, Amy and I will take this opportunity to thank Mr. North and his partners in creating the timeline as we continue our week of roundtable discussions on the 2022 timeline. And not with a generic “Great Job Scheduling!” greeting card, but with some specific examples of how good this schedule is for our privateers.

This is the third of our five roundtables so far. Here’s the schedule for the entire series:

Friday May 13: What is your most anticipated game on the Bucs schedule for 2022?

Monday, May 16: what is You would change one thing About the Bucs schedule if you had the power?

Tuesday, May 17: What one thing would you most like to thank NFL planners for this year?

Wednesday May 18: What is the toughest game in this year’s schedule?

Thursday, May 19: Who is the top rookie the Buccaneers will face in their 2022 schedule?

In order to get a greater variety of answers, we made the rule that picks cannot be duplicated among the three of us. This may make the order of the answers important, so we’ll rotate that order in each post. Now it’s my turn first, Brianna second and Amy third.

So allow me to be the first to send the NFL schedule makers a bouquet of flowers for something we really appreciate about Tampa Bay’s 2022 schedule.

Scott Smith: No Monday or Thursday road games

As Mike North also said in the video linked above, he and his crew had to go back to the drawing board in early March, well into their 14-week process, when Tom Brady announced he would not be retiring after all. This was incredibly good news for the Buccaneers and truly for the NFL as a whole, but it was also a call to action for planners. It’s no secret that while the Buccaneers are clearly a very good team overall at the moment, with Brady in the mix, the Buccaneers are a bigger hit at prime time.

The proof is in the 2020 schedule. This one came out about two months after Brady signed with the Buccaneers, but well before he played a single game in tin and red, and certainly before he carried the team to victory in the Super Bowl this season LV led. The Bucs 2020 still have the maximum of five prime-time games in May on the original schedule. Of course, it came as 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 if Brady is still around. And that’s good! Prime time games are exciting for the fans and a great exposure for the franchise. But they create challenges, especially in terms of creating short weeks and more strenuous travel plans.

That being said, I don’t think I could have asked for a better arrangement of these five prime-time competitions, largely because they don’t feature street games on Monday or Thursday nights. The Bucs have one each at home and a team-record three Sunday Night Football showcases, one at home and two on the road.

Monday night games result in a short week of preparation for the next opponent, but it’s worse for the traveling team, who lose extra hours on the way home and often have to fly through the night. Thursday night’s games present the opposite challenge and shorten the week In front the game. The team that has to travel will have to work even harder to make all their preparations. Of the three types of prime-time competitions, Sunday nights are the easiest to manage from a travel standpoint.

So thank you NFL scheduler! I appreciate all of the Bucs’ national presence without the hassles of Monday or Thursday night travel.

Brianna Dix: A mini bye week after Thursday night’s lonely game against Baltimore.

As Scott noted above, the difficulty of playing Thursday night is the quick departure from the previous week’s game on Sunday. In that 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 an Oct. 23 away game in Carolina. That’s the hard part, for both the Bucs and the Ravens (who play Cleveland at home in week seven). The reward for the buccaneers is coming according to this game at Raymond James Stadium.

The Bucs are essentially being granted a “mini-goodbye,” a nine-day period to prepare for the defending Super Bowl champion’s arrival in town. In week nine, the Buccaneers host the Los Angeles Rams at Raymond James Stadium, a team that has had their number one pick for the past two years. The Rams not only beat Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the 2020 and 2021 regular seasons, but also eliminated Tampa Bay from the playoffs last January. The chess game between Todd Bowles and Sean McVay is scheduled to begin Nov. 6 at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS, giving the Bucs extra time to prepare for their newfound nemesis. The Rams, it should be noted, are doing it not a bye or mini-bye before their trip to Tampa. If there was an opponent on the schedule that required more preparation, this team would be the one that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy four months ago.

Amy Schwartz: Week 11 Bye

First things first: I love the Buccaneers’ 2022 schedule. Would it be better if the Bucs started the season with easier opponents? Of course, but every single game seems to be a must. All eyes will be on Tampa as Tom Brady returns for his 23rd season, and five of those games will be played in prime time against some of football’s top names.

I want to thank the schedulers for giving the Bucs a midseason farewell week. The timing is incredibly ideal to give the team time to heal from injuries that may have occurred in the first half of the season, refocus and prepare for the final leg of the season. After all, the Bucs want to play their best football of the season in December. The NFL planners are really giving the Buccaneers two gifts before the holiday season: an opportunity to attend a unique game and a bye week that follows. Farewell week timing is critical as the Bucs will return from Munich, Germany for their International Series Game with the Seattle Seahawks. With a long return trip from Munich and battling jet lag that can come from time zone hopping, the Bucs will need some downtime before preparing for their Week 12 matchup with the Browns in Cleveland.

So, thank you to the planners for looking out for the Buccaneers’ best interest in another playoff run. The timing of bye week could prove extremely beneficial for the Bucs at the track.

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