Head coach Raheem Morris is gone and Greg Schiano has replaced him. Tampa Bay also opened free agency with a bang, signing wide receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks, and cornerback Eric Wright to massive contracts. The Bucs also own the fifth pick in the 2012 NFL draft, which will undoubtedly help them in their hopes for a bounce-back season.
Considering the Bucs' offseason moves and their upcoming schedule, they could be a team to reckon with in 2012.
Week 3 9/23: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 4 9/30: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington Redskins 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 5: BYE
Week 6 10/14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Kansas City Chiefs 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 7 10/21: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 8 10/25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings 820 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 9 11/4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Oakland Raiders 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 10 11/11: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Diego Chargers 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Week 11 11/18: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 12 11/25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 13 12/2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Denver Broncos 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 14 12/9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 15 12/16: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 16 12/23: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. St. Louis Rams 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Week 17 12/30: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons 1 p.m. ET, FOX
The key to avoiding another 4-12 season will be the play of quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman regressed in his development in 2011, throwing just 16 touchdown passes while racking up 22 interceptions. In 2010, he threw for 25 touchdowns and just six picks. In addition to that, Freeman's passer rating last year was a dismal 74.6, which was more than a 21-point drop off his 95.9 rating in 2010.
Luckily for Freeman and the Bucs, they face the sixth-easiest schedule in the league.
Having four divisional games against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints won't be easy, but the Bucs also get the St. Louis Rams and Washington Redskins at home. Meanwhile, Jackson is sure to get a rude awakening when the wideout's new team hosts his old squad, the San Diego Chargers, in Week 10.
Which Game on the Schedule Poses Biggest Challenge?
Most Pivotal Matchups:
The team's biggest matchups will be those four contests against the Falcons in Week 12 and 17, and the Saints in Week 7 and 15. If they can come away winning at least two of those games, Schiano and Co. should be firmly in the mix for an NFC South title. If not, it could be another long season in Tampa.