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Friday, Jul 20, 2018
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  • Rick Stroud and Greg Auman

Bucs to face NFL-high eight playoff teams in 2018

With the completion of the 2017 season, the Bucs now know all of their opponents for 2018 — the specific dates of the schedule won't be released until April.

What the Bucs do know — for the second year in a row, they'll have an unusually difficult schedule to go up against. Tampa Bay will face eight 2017 playoff teams next year, matching the Saints for the most any NFL team will face.

Those eight teams don't include the 9-7 Cowboys or the 9-7 Ravens, which they face on the road. The Bucs will play in a division with three returning playoff teams, and manage to face two of the league's four 13-win teams this year in the Eagles and Steelers, with both coming to Tampa.

An NFL schedule only has two games that are dependent on a team's finish, and even those last-place opponents aren't easy — at home against the 49ers, whose 6-10 record is the best of any last-place team and includes a 5-1 finish; on the road against the Bears, who went 5-11 and have another young QB in Mitch Trubisky.

The Bucs' 2017 opponents finished with a 142-114 record — only the Bears' opponents were tougher — and the combined 2017 record of their 2018 opponents is a comparably mild 136-120. Still daunting for a last-place team.

You can't book travel without dates, but here's how the schedule works out for fans looking forward to certain opponents. The Bucs face the NFC East and AFC North this year, so in addition to the NFC South slate, the Bucs have the Eagles, Redskins, Steelers, Browns and 49ers at home, with road games at the Cowboys, Giants, Ravens, Bengals and Bears.

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