Buccaneers preseason slate just the start

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released their 2008 preseason schedule on Thursday, but that's only a prelude to the regular season schedule, which should be released this month. The Bucs know who they're going to play, but when will they play? With the announcement coming soon, I have some theories about their schedule.

Matthew Postins of Bucsblitz.com has released his third Buccaneers Mock Draft of 2008, the only Bucs-only mock draft on the Internet. How did he shake things up this time around? Find out by clicking here.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 9-7 and won a division title with a preseason schedule that is nearly identical to their 2008 schedule. The only difference? The order, and they'll play Houston on the road this year at Reliant Stadium. And the Bucs' meeting with New England will be a national TV game on the NFL Network.

The Bucs don't vary their preseason schedule much, and they'll kick it off in Miami on Saturday, Aug. 9, at 7:30 p.m. (that start time and date comes courtesy of the Dolphins). The Bucs then follow with a home game against the Patriots on Sunday, Aug. 17 at 8 p.m. on NFL Network, followed by another home game against Jacksonville Aug. 21-25. Then, the Bucs travel to Houston Aug. 28-29 for the finale. The rest of the dates and times will be released soon.

But what about the regular season? That announcement could come as early as next week (it's usually done in the first part of the month). The Buccaneers already know who they're going to play, but if you need a refresher:

HOME: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego, Seattle.

ROAD: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Kansas City, Dallas.

The order, game times and dates are up in the air. Now, I can't help with the order. But I have a few theories about game times and dates.

1. The Bucs will have at least one Monday Night game.

This one came courtesy of a casual conversation at the Super Bowl with an ESPN staffer who works pro football. When he found out I was from Tampa, he said, "We're looking forward to coming down to Tampa this year." Good enough for me.

Actually, this isn't much of a stretch, as the Bucs had a MNF game against Carolina in 2006, the year after winning the division. Division titles and winning records are currency when it comes to prime time games. My guess is that the Bucs will host a division game on MNF, likely the New Orleans Saints.

2. The Bucs will have at least one Thursday night or Saturday night game.

It won't be on Thanksgiving like two years ago, but they'll get one of the late-season Thursday games. Why? The NFL Network and Time Warner/Comcast are still slugging it out over whether the NFL Network will be a basic channel or sports tier channel on those cable families. Much of Tampa Bay still doesn't get the NFL Network. The NFL could put the Bucs on the NFLN to help promote its network in those areas that aren't getting the channel. How? Even though the game would be on NFLN, the league would be required to provide an over-the-air broadcast of the game in the Tampa market, making it basically a four-hour NFL Network commercial. Smart.

3. The Bucs will host more late afternoon games on Sundays.

The Bucs hosted just one 4 p.m. game last season on its original schedule. I think that will change as well as the league will want to showcase the Bucs at least twice through the nationally-telecast game on Sunday afternoons (this is usually the late game). The Bucs have the schedule on their side. They'll host three division champions (Green Bay, Seattle, San Diego), plus Oakland. All of those teams have national followings, which bring increased ratings for the networks and making them more attractive broadcasts. I don't believe any of these late games will be divisional games, unless they're changed during the season.

4. The Bucs will play at least one Sunday night game on NBC.

This might end up being a flex game, but as I pointed out the Bucs have a schedule filled with teams with national followings, plus a coach in Jon Gruden that has a national following. Something tells me that NBC would love to broadcast a Dallas-Tampa Bay contest that would pit perhaps the NFC's best team against Team Chucky.

I could be completely wrong about all of this, but something tells me at least three of these points will come to pass. What could work against the Bucs? Their offense. They're not the most exciting team in the world and they don't put up a lot of points. That's what I believe cost them a shot at going overseas this year (New Orleans and San Diego, two teams that can put up points in bushels, will go instead). But I think it has less of a shot at costing them more national exposure in the U.S. this season.

The Buccaneers are beginning to host players at their Tampa-based training facility. In fact, the team hosted a potential second-round pick on Monday. Who was it. Click here to get the scoop.

Bucsblitz.com has already confirmed several player visits to One Buc Place next month, along with private workouts conducted by the Buccaneers. Want to know who is on the list? You can find out in our exclusive premium message board, "2008 Bucs NFL Draft Insider Updates," which chronicles all of the player visits and private workouts we've confirmed. Click here to find out all the confirmed meetings so far.

Do you know how much the Buccaneers have spent in free agency so far? Do you know how far they are under the salary cap? Bucsblitz.com does and you can find out what the Bucs have spend and what's left By clicking right here.

It's the most important time of the year for NFL teams that want to improve their roster for 2008. Are you getting all the analysis you need as the NFL Draft approaches? If you're not, click here to find out how you can become a Bucsblitz.com insider and become the expert at your NFL Draft party. We're the only Tampa-based media site providing daily draft and scouting coverage with a Buccaneers slant.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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