Analysis: Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2014 schedule

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Inside the Schedule

Facing the Panthers and Rams to start the season could push the Lovie Smith offseason optimism into overdrive. However, Tampa will have to show growth with three consecutive tough road games, including at Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Closing out against the Packers and Saints will be daunting if the playoffs are on the line.

Key Games

Week 1, vs. Panthers: The two teams had diametrically opposite offseasons. The Bucs must come out of the gate and prove this offseason was more than hype.

Week 3, at Falcons: The first road test could be the pivotal point of the season that propels the Bucs into the division race or relegates them once again to the basement.

Week 5, at Saints: It's all about division games for the Bucs. Playoff teams steal games on the road, but the Saints are phenomenal at home. We will see if Smith's revamped defense can slow down Drew Brees.