Commentary: Why the Weak Schedule Argument Doesn't Quite Work in the NFL

SEATTLE - OCTOBER 30: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass against the Seattle Seahawks on October 30, 2011 at Century Link Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

We've discussed this quite a big recently because, as Bengals fans, we seem to constantly have to defend our favorite team's 5-2 record through the first eight weeks of the 2011 season because people say the Bengals' schedule is too easy. It's true that the opponents that the Bengals have played, except for two, haven't been burning up the NFL standings by winning games. Four of the five teams that the Bengals have defeated have losing records and not one of them has won more than three games. The Buffalo Bills, who have a 5-2 record, are the only team that the Bengals have beaten that has won more games than they've lost.

So, to anybody who is looking to bash the Bengals, the go-to argument is that they have a weak schedule and they're not a legit team because they don't play legit teams. "Just wait," they say, "just wait until the Bengals play the Steelers and the Ravens and then you'll see what kind of team they are."

I say we already know what kind of team they are.

The Bengals are the kind of team that packs their bags, flies to Seattle, which is 1,969 miles away, and beats the Seahawks on their own turf. Even though the Seahawks had a 2-4 record coming into last Sunday's game, that is so incredibly hard to do, not because it's Seattle, but because this is the NFL and winning on the road is something that good teams do. 

To get an idea how hard it is to win on the road, all you have to do is watch the replay of the Saints Week 8 game against the then-winless Rams.

The Saints came into the game with one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL and they were, and still are, considered a contender to win the Super Bowl. They traveled to St. Louis to play the Rams, who at that point were 0-6 and their starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, would not be playing.

There's no chance that the Rams win this one, right?


The Rams not only beat the Saints but they beat them pretty badly. Drew Brees and the Saints offense couldn't get anything going against the Rams defense and Steven Jackson would not be stopped. Now, I don't mean to use this example to say that the Saints aren't a good team, because they are. I just want to point it out how hard it is to go on the road in the NFL and win a football game. The term "any given Sunday" wasn't just made up for a movie, it means that on any given Sunday in the NFL, any team can beat any other team. That's one of the reasons the NFL is so great.

If the Saints played the Rams at home, there is no question in my mind that they win that game.

Back to the Bengals.

When the Bengals beat the Seahawks, it got me excited for two reasons. One, because we were 5-2, and two because we went out to the West Coast and we beat a team in front of their home crowd. In 2009, the Bengals went 10-6. Their record on the road though, was 4-4. They lost in San Diego, they lost in Oakland, they lost Minnesota and they lost in New York. And lo and behold, they get beat in the first round of the playoffs by the Jets in a game that was never really close. The 2009 Bengals were an alright team. They were good at times but I don't think they were ever really great.

The 2011 Bengals' youth and inexperience will probably stop them from being labeled as a "great" team, but they are good and winning in Seattle was all the evidence you should need to agree with that. This is a whole new team and even team leader Andrew Whitworth said that the 2009 Bengals wouldn't have won in Seattle the way the 2011 Bengals did.

This weekend the Bengals have another road game. They play in Tennessee against the Titans, who are favored to win. For the first time this season, I'm not biting my nails because I'm nervous about a game. Watching the Bengals win in Seattle gave me confidence in this team. Hopefully it did the same for them.

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