ANALYSIS: 5 things to know about Bengals schedule

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals’ mantra the past few seasons has been the need to “start faster.”

This year’s schedule, released Wednesday night, could force that issue with an early revenge game against the Kansas City Chiefs surrounded by three other September matchups against teams that had four wins or fewer in 2023.

The Bengals are not only seeking a return to the playoffs this season but also hoping to give themselves the best chance at home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Taking advantage of early opportunities would help in that cause.

Here are five things to know about the 2024 schedule:

1. Getting off on the right foot

The Bengals went 1-3 in their first four games last year and just missed the playoffs after back-to-back AFC North titles. One more win and they would have been in. It was the second straight season Cincinnati opened 0-2.

This year, the Bengals must take advantage of those early opportunities with games against New England, Washington and Carolina, who won a combined 10 games in 2023. All three of those teams have first-year head coaches and possible two rookie quarterbacks starting.

Cincinnati kicks off the season at home against New England on Sept. 8, the fourth time the team faces the Patriots in an opener. The Patriots are looking to bounce back from a 4-13 finish in 2023, and the Bengals could use a confidence-building performance before traveling to Kansas City the following week.

The two-time defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs will have nine days between their Thursday Night opener against Baltimore and hosting the Bengals, whom they beat in Week 17 last year and in the AFC title game in 2022.

Next up is Washington at home on Sept. 23, and Carolina on the road Sept. 29. The Commanders were 4-13 last year, while Carolina won just two games.

2. Taking the spotlight

The Chiefs game at 4:25 p.m. on Sept. 15 is just one of several times the Bengals will draw a national audience.

Cincinnati plays five primetime games, and the maximum is six. The game against Washington is on Monday Night Football, and the Bengals also have night games at the New York Giants (Sunday, Oct. 13), at Baltimore (Thursday, Nov. 7), at Dallas (Monday, Dec. 9) and at home against Cleveland (Thursday, Dec. 19).

Joe Burrow is 6-0 in primetime games at Paycor Stadium, but the Bengals have struggled in road primetime games the past decade. Their lone win in those situations since 2013 came at Jacksonville last December with backup Jake Browning leading the charge.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

3. Time off in November

The Bengals bye comes in Week 12, following a Nov. 17 game on the road against the L.A. Chargers, and they should be plenty rested that month.

With the Thursday Night game at Baltimore on Nov. 7, that Chargers’ game will be their lone contest in 23 games before hosting Pittsburgh on Dec. 1. The Bengals host Las Vegas on Nov. 3 and then won’t play a home game again until that meeting with the Steelers.

The bye is the Bengals’ latest since 2013. Byes start as early as Week 5, but every Super Bowl winning team in the last decade had a bye between Week 7 and 13. Half of them had a bye in Weeks 10 or 11.

Although that bodes well for the Bengals, they probably wish the breaks in the schedule came before the Ravens’ game, their third straight primetime matchup at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium and arguably one of their toughest games.

4. Toughest stretch

The Bengals go from playing one game in 23 days in November to a crammed slate in December.

Starting with a tough Monday Night Football matchup at Dallas on Dec. 9, they play three games in 10 days thanks to the Thursday matchup against Cleveland on Dec. 19, wrapped around the Dec. 15 game at Tennessee. For what it’s worth, the Chiefs and Ravens also have a similar stretch of games in December.

The Bengals have lost five straight in Dallas and have never played a primetime game there. Add to that they will be playing the Steelers the week prior, and that second half of the schedule is not looking favorable. Four of the last six games come against playoff teams, including a rare season finale at Pittsburgh, and those opponents had a combined record of 46-39 last year

Cincinnati has grown comfortable playing in Nashville these days, but the Titans have made some big moves since former Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan arrived as their new head coach this offseason. The Bengals will also be facing their former teammate in wide receiver Tyler Boyd.

5. How the schedule compares

Based on team records in 2023, the Bengals’ schedule ranks tied for 16th most difficult in the NFL. Their opponents had a combined record of 145-144 last year for a .502 win percentage.

Cleveland, Baltimore and Pittsburgh face the toughest schedules by those measures. The Browns’ opponents were 158-131 (.547) combined last year, the Ravens’ opponents were 155-134 (.536) and the Steelers’ opponents went 154-135 (.533).

Atlanta and New Orleans face the “easiest” schedule with each their 17 opponents going a combined 131-158 last year.

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