Ranking The Bengals 2014 Regular Season Schedule

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the 2014 schedule is out, we rank all 16 games.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 9, Nov. 2)
It's a dangerous proposition to call a game an easy-win, especially in the NFL. Bad bounces happen. Jeff Triplette could be officiating. Or a team suddenly plays down to an inferior opponent, and thus losing the mentality needed to win the game -- because that never happens. With some of us older fans, it's something that's easily recalled because it's happened before... and then again, again, again.

15. Tennessee Titans (Week 3, Sept. 21)
(See above)

14. Cleveland Browns (Week 15, Dec. 14)
A few former Bengals will suit up in Cleveland, starting with wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and fullback Chris Pressley. In the storyline of our age, former Cincinnati sports players leave and find successes elsewhere. Despite evidence hinting towards the contrary, many of us still cite Paul O'Neil. Then again, just because more players have left Cincinnati and become nothing elsewhere could point to the players not being that good to begin with. Oh, those delicate 90s. Where so many of us have been tainted by the evil nature of cynicism and pessimism.

13. Atlanta Falcons (Week 2, Sept. 14)
An interesting collision against teams featuring quality receivers. The Bengals have A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, who combined for 21 touchdowns, while the Falcons feature Pro Bowlers Roddy White and Julio Jones... and a battle of quarterbacks with bad nicknames.

12. Cleveland Browns (Week 10, Nov. 6, TNF)
We mean no disrespect and the truth is, Cleveland plays the Cincinnati Bengals tough every year. However, losing the Browns is like when the Reds lose to the Cubs or the Buckeyes lose to the Wolverines. Pitchforks are lifted and torches are lit. Simply put, a loss cannot happen. Yet, all things will be made equal as the game will be played on Thursday Night Football.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 13, Nov. 30)
Face it. This is circled. Why? Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson left Cincinnati for greener pastures. Who can resist an opportunity to tease old teammates about a horrible decision that they've made? Of course, if the Bengals lay an egg, I can hear Nelson Muntz's familiar laugh.

10. Carolina Panthers (Week 6, Oct. 12)
Possibly billed as the match-up of the '11 quarterback class, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will duel against Cam Newton, who was selected first overall that year (Dalton was drafted in the second round). Of the quarterbacks taken, these two were named starters the day that they were drafted and have remained so heading into their respective fourth seasons.

9. Baltimore Ravens (Week 8, Oct. 26)
Since '11, the Bengals lost three straight to the Baltimore Ravens before pulling in their first victory in the final game of the 2012 season (where no one really cared). Cincinnati also won the regular season finale in 2013. Otherwise, Cincinnati hasn't beaten the Ravens in a non-regular season finale game since 2010. If Andy Dalton wants to be taken more seriously and shoo away the critics, these are the games that he has to win (whether it's fair or not).

8. New Orleans Saints (Week 11, Nov. 16)
Drew Brees has played the Cincinnati Bengals three times in his career, amassing a 2-1 record (only 1-1 with the New Orleans Saints. In those three games combined, Brees has completed 76 percent of his passes, averaged 328 yards passing and a 107.9 passer rating. Talk about the ultimate test for the Bengals defense.

7. Houston Texans (Week 12, Nov. 23)
No matter how you spin it, this is a game of vengeance. Perhaps the stage won't be as big or the lights as bright, but a win will help all the same, no matter how minor -- however, there's really no comparison to the desolation felt from consecutive postseason losses to the Houston Texans in '11 and '12.

6. Indianapolis Colts (Week 7, Oct. 19)
Here's a nugget. The last time that the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning at quarterback, was Nov. 20, 1994. That's five straight wins, including last year's 42-28 win in Cincinnati. This time the Bengals will head down I-74. Regardless, this is a potential battle of AFC division leaders.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 14, Dec. 7)
It's interesting that the first meeting against the Steelers is 14 weeks into the 2014 season. The Steelers are one of three AFC North games that the Bengals will play to close out the regular season.

4. New England Patriots (Week 5, Oct 5)
Maybe it took a fourth quarter rainstorm and an Adam Jones interception at the end, but Cincinnati secured their first win over Bill Belichick's Patriots since Sept. 9, 2001. Now the Bengals head east to Foxboro for a re-match, where Cincinnati hasn't won an NFL game since Dec. 7, 1986. If you're 26 years old or younger, you weren't born yet.

3. Denver Broncos (Week 16, Dec. 22)
Can the Bengals break the Peyton Manning curse -- which is really nothing more than a superior player constantly getting into the heads of our precious defense since '98. Cincinnati has lost eight straight regular season games to Manning (seven with the Colts, one with the Broncos).

2. Baltimore Ravens (Week 1, Sept. 7)
Nice start to the season -- but the greater concern is how the Bengals always seem to start slowly. They struggled against the Browns in the regular season opener in 2011, needing an uncovered A.J. Green to win the game. They were blown out against the Ravens in 2012 (though on Monday Night Football, so it's an excuse) and then lost a close one in Chicago last year. The game will be in Baltimore where Andy Dalton has a 3-7 touchdown to interception ratio. At least the Falcons and Titans are scheduled to play in Cincinnati in the following weeks.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 17, Dec. 28)
Always one of the more significant games of the year when these two meet toward the end of a regular season. In 2012, it was week 16. The Bengals offense orchestrated a last-second drive, capped by a beautifully thrown Andy Dalton pass to A.J. Green down the sidelines that put Josh Brown in position to convert the game-winning field goal. Last year, it was week 15. The Bengals, on Sunday Night Football, were losing 27-7 by half-time only to secure a more modest 10-point loss with 13 points scored during garbage time. It kept Cincinnati from securing a postseason berth that week, and kept Pittsburgh in the conversation (who needed about a million scenarios to break their way).

This year, it's the regular season finale. Which means it will carry significance due to the postseason implication. It's usually a little tense (aka, death by anxiety) but we wouldn't have it any other way.

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