Editor's Note: This is the first of four installments breaking down the Bengals 2011 regular-season schedule based on their past performances. The rest of the posts will go up on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
According to ESPN, the Cincinnati Bengals are ranked at No. 27 based on their strength of schedule, which is judged by their opponents 2010 records. Their strength of schedule is tied with the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers. That is a long way from the No. 4 ranking that they were giving before the 2009 season.
But after hours of research (not joking), I've made some discoveries that have me a little worried. I know that the Bengals will be playing in 2011 with a rookie quarterback, a less than stellar offensive line, extremely young receivers and a defense that underachieved in 2010, but even if none of those things were true, the things I discovered about the teams the Bengals play in 2011, based on past meetings, scare me.
For example, out of the 16 games the Bengals play, they have a winning track record against four teams (I went back 10 meetings for AFC North teams and five for the others): the Cleveland Browns at home, the Houston Texans at home, the Arizona Cardinals at home and the Ravens at home. The Bengals have a losing record when visiting every AFC North team over the last 10 meetings, except for Cleveland with whom they're tied 5-5.
However, there are some things that give me hope. For example, the Bengals have a pretty solid rushing yards per game average against almost everybody they play against in 2011, with the exceptions of Pittsburgh and Baltimore. And by pretty solid, I mean you'll be shocked.
Anyway, before I give too much away, let's look at the first four games the Bengals play in the 2011 season, starting with the opening day game in Cleveland on Sept. 11. The rest of the games are broken up into groups of four and will be published on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Sunday Sept. 11 (1 p.m.): Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
The Bengals have won five games and lost five games the last 10 times they've gone to Cleveland to play the Browns. I went back to the Nov. 25, 2001, game in Cleveland and averaged the points scored by both teams, the Bengals rushing, passing and total yards and the turnovers by each team. Here's what I found.
In the last 10 times the Bengals went to Cleveland, they have averaged 20.4 points per game while the Browns averaged 19.3. The Bengals averaged 338.7 total yards per game in their last 10 games in Cleveland. They also averaged 116.3 rushing yards and 228.1 passing yards per game. In those last 10 games, the Bengals have average 2.2 turnovers per game, while the Browns have averaged 2.4.
This will be an important game for the Bengals. I don't fully expect Andy Dalton to take down the Steelers and Ravens in his rookie season, but it would be nice to set the tone early against the Browns to stay out of the AFC North basement.
Sunday Sept. 18 (4:15 p.m.): Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos
The Bengals have unfortunately gone 0-5 the last five times they've taken the trip to Denver to face the Broncos. In fact, the last time the Bengals beat the Broncos in Denver was in 1975 when Ed Williams and Bobbie Clark combined for 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Dave Green added a 45-yard field goal to give the Bengals a narrow 17-16 victory.
In the last five games the Bengals have played in Denver, they've averaged 19.6 points to the Broncos 31.4 points. The Bengals also averaged 346.4 total yards per game, 130.2 rushing and 231.8 passing. It seems as though turnovers is what killed the Bengals in Denver. The Bengals averaged 3.8 per game compared to Denver's 0.6. That's a theme that you'll notice repeats itself.
Sunday Sept. 25 (1 p.m.): San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have only actually played the 49ers in Cincinnati five times ever, so I had to go all the way back to 1981, when the Bengals were defeated by the Joe Montana led 49ers by a score of 21-3. The Bengals have actually played in San Francisco more times than they have in Cincinnati, and we can't forget the two Super Bowl games played on neutral sites (I didn't count those).
In the last five games played at home against the 49ers, the Bengals have gone 2-3. They have averaged 26.2 points per game compared to San Francisco's 27.2 points per game. In those last five games, the Bengals have averaged 344.2 total yards per game, 154.4 rushing yards per game and 204.8 passing yards per game. The Bengals have averaged 1.6 turnovers per game in their last five home meetings against the 49ers, compared to San Francisco's 1.8. The 49ers are one of the few teams to have averaged more turnovers than the Bengals.
Sunday Oct. 2 (1 p.m.): Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals
The last few times the Bengals have faced the Bills, most Bengals fans believed it would be an easy win, but that never seems to be the case. The Bengals actually haven't defeated the Bills since 1989 and they've played each other 10 times since then, six times in Buffalo and four times in Cincinnati.
In the last five home games that the Bengals have played against the Bills, they have averaged 23.2 points per game while the Bills averaged 32.4. The Bengals have also averaged 298.4 total yards per game, 123.8 rushing yards per game and 198 passing yards per game. The Bengals also averaged 2.4 turnovers per game compared to Buffalo's 2.