"We believe that a full 16-game regular-season schedule is vital to our fans and the integrity of our season," said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. "Each team needs to be guaranteed the same number of home and away games plus an equal number of divisional games. The NFL Competition Committee was unanimous on that point."
The NFL was juggling the possibility of either playing a 15-game regular season and keeping the playoff format intact or playing a 16-game regular season and reducing the amount of playoff teams from 12 to 8. Although the NFL ensured a 16-game season on Tuesday, they are not giving up on finding a way to make 12 playoff spots available after the regular season.
"We continue to work on keeping six division winners, six Wild Cards and our entire postseason format intact," said Tagliabue. "Several options have been presented to us in recent days that would help us accomplish that. We will review them and make a decision shortly. If we cannot resolve our entire postseason lineup in a satisfactory fashion, we then will go to a system of six division winners and two Wild Card teams for this one season only.
"Meanwhile, we wanted to confirm the 16-game schedule at this point so that our fans and teams could count on a full regular season."
With the rescheduling of all of Week 2's games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will still have a chance to avenge last year's playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But instead of Tampa Bay hosting Philadelphia in their home opener, the Bucs and Eagles will meet in the last game of regular season.
Tampa Bay will not play their next game until Sept. 30 when they travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. When the Buccaneers take the field to play the Vikings, 20 days will have passed since they last played a game.
Besides the long layoff between games, Tampa Bay will not play their first home game at Raymond James Stadium until Oct. 7 when they host the Green Bay Packers.
But let's look at the bright side. Not only can Tampa Bay look forward to the Bucs-Eagles game again, but the rescheduling of Week 2's games will allow the Pewter Pirates to finish the regular season with three straight home games against the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens (Sat. night) and Philadelphia Eagles.
Tampa Bay has traditionally been a tough team to beat in the later part of the season under head Coach Tony Dungy, which means the Bucs should benefit from having four of their last five regular season games are at home.
"We've always finished strong," said Dungy. "We've liked the December games, and having December home games has been good for us. It puts a premium on us winning our road games early in the year and not digging ourselves too big a hole, but I like our chances if we're within striking distance in December."
Although the NFL has rescheduled the Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers game for the weekend of Jan 5-6, they have not decided if the two teams will clash on Saturday or Sunday.
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