The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North in 2013, which means that they will face a difficult schedule in 2014. Because of their 2013 success, the Bengals will have to play the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots in 2014. In addition, the Bengals will play the AFC South and NFC South.
The Bengals start out the 2014 season with a short trip to Baltimore, where they haven’t won a game since 2009. However, after gaining momentum throughout the preseason, the Bengals will beat the Ray Rice-less Baltimore Ravens to start off the year. Following this game, the Bengals will play the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans; both of these games will be held in Paul Brown stadium, where the Bengals did not lose a regular season game in 2013. The Bengals will need to win these two crucial games in order to gain momentum heading into their unfavorable bye in only the fourth week of the season.
Fresh off of their bye, the Bengals will travel to New England well rested and ready for an upset on Sunday Night Football. However, the Bengals were just handed a bad matchup; the Patriots were undefeated at home in 2013 as well, and although they may not be undefeated in 2014, they will come out of this game victorious, avenging last year’s surprising loss to Cincinnati. In Week 6, Cincinnati will host the Carolina Panthers, a team that overachieved in 2013. Andy Dalton and the revamped Bengals offense will tear apart a questionable Panthers secondary, winning their third-straight home game of 2014.
In Week 7, the Bengals will travel to Indianapolis in hopes of beating the AFC South division champion Indianapolis Colts. Although Andrew Luck is 0-2 against Cincinnati, the Colts will surprise analysts and pull off a victory.
After losing to the Colts, the Bengals will enter a three-game home stretch against the Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. Since the Bengals perform their best at home and because of these teams’ lack of depth, the Bengals will be able to win three-straight games, putting themselves into a good position with a 7-2 record.
Cincinnati will then play the New Orleans Saints to start off a difficult three-week road trip, losing to a Super Bowl-caliber team in the Superdome, where the Saints were undefeated in 2013 as well. If the Bengals win this game, they will likely receive a first-round bye in the playoffs and could even earn home-field advantage if they don’t lose the easy games on their schedule. After a likely loss in New Orleans, however, the Bengals will continue their road trip, playing away games against the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bengals could likely split these games, losing to the Buccaneers, despite the fact that these two teams will likely be seven-win teams at best in 2014. However, if the Bengals play well and/or come off of a win in New Orleans, they could easily win both of these two games.
Cincinnati will then play their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time of 2014, winning a close matchup in Paul Brown Stadium (this matchup will be very close and could go either way). Following their home win against the Steelers, the Bengals will travel to Cleveland and lose to the Browns on the road. (Again, if the Bengals play to their potential, they could easily win this game.) The Bengals will then play a Monday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos at home, losing their first regular season home game since 2012.
To finish off the season, the Bengals will play in Pittsburgh after a short week, beating the Steelers in a bold statement victory and winning their second-consecutive AFC North championship. (However, the Bengals and Steelers could both be in playoff contention, and if that is the case, this game could be flexed and the matchup could have playoff implications for the division championship. If this is the case, the game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati could be a toss-up. In another scenario, the Bengals, if they play to their potential, could lose this game when resting their starters to prevent injury before the playoffs after securing a first round bye.)
Overall, the Bengals will finish around 10-6 and will likely win the AFC North for the second-consecutive year. The Bengals could finish as high as 13-3 or as low as 7-9, provided that they don’t sustain numerous injuries to their starters.