The Bucs have given the company line about how they're not overlooking the Bengals, but let's be realistic about this situation. It's going to be hard for the Bucs players to get up for Sunday's game after playing the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football six days earlier. Last season, the Bucs overlooked the Bengals and nearly lost to them in overtime, 16-13. That said, the Pewter Pirates can't afford to overlook Cincinnati, but they can't afford to not take a look ahead at their upcoming schedule, either. A sneak peek at their schedule in October might give the Bucs the motivation they need to win in Cincinnati on Sunday.
Tampa Bay will play three of its four games in October on the road, which wasn't very kind of the NFL schedule makers, was it? Let's assume the Bucs win on Sunday. Gosh, it is safe to assume that, right? Well, if that happens, Tampa Bay would finish the first quarter of the 2002 season with a 3-1 record, which is fine considering the Bucs have started the last three seasons off with a 3-4 record.
But let's take a closer look at Tampa Bay's first four opponents. They have a combined record of 3-8 and the Bucs' three victories will have come against teams that have yet to record one. Again, this is assuming the Buccaneers defeat the Bengals on Sunday.
Tampa Bay's four opponents in October have a combined record of 8-4, which certainly doesn't bode well for the Bucs considering they'll face three of those teams on the road. Take a look at Tampa Bay's schedule in October:
BUCS' SCHEDULE IN OCTOBER:
at Atlanta (1-2) Oct. 6th
Cleveland (2-1) Oct. 13th
at Philadelphia (2-1) Oct. 20th
at Carolina (3-0) Oct. 27th
Atlanta could easily be 3-0 at this point in the season. They lost two games by a total of four points. The last time Tampa Bay visited Atlanta during the regular season (2000), 25,000 Bucs fans attended. But with the hype surrounding QB Michael Vick and the Falcons, there certainly won't be as many red and pewter colors in the stands this time around.
Cleveland is a hard team to figure out, but they've proven they can play some good football. The Browns were a helmet toss away from being 3-0 thus far. The fact that Tampa Bay will play this one at home will bode well for the Bucs.
Ah, and then there is Philadelphia. The Bucs have lost three consecutive games to the Eagles. Do temperatures in Philadelphia go below 40 degrees in mid-to-late October? Just wondering.
Carolina is not as good as their record suggests, but they're in first place of the NFC South Division. They have a lot of confidence and this game will be huge for both teams.
Tampa Bay has to take advantage of its game at Cincinnati this Sunday. The Bucs are already one game behind the New Orleans Saints and Panthers in the NFC South Division and their schedule isn't an easy one in October. A win on Sunday will improve their record to 3-1, but it will also give the team some confidence and momentum heading into their toughest month of the season.
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