2014 NFL Season: Don't Rely on Cincinnati Bengals' Low Strength of Schedule

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Bengals' 2014 schedule looks easy based on the 2013 results, but don't be deceived.

The Cincinnati Bengals will be amidst a rejuvenated AFC North during a 2014 regular season. The Ravens had one of the better pre-draft offseasons, if not the best. And, if Pittsburgh can stay healthy, they've done a solid job in filling gaps on an aging defense. Cleveland will look to give Cincinnati trouble in the battle of Ohio, as the two adversaries meet in a rare primetime game. The Bengals also play the Steelers twice in the final four weeks of the season.

The bottom line is that there will be a lot of opportunities to dethrone the Cincinnati Bengals from their 2013 AFC North crown.

In looking at which team has the largest chance of winning the division next year, it is important to note the strength of schedule next year, as determined by how each team performed in 2013.

Not surprisingly, since the Bengals clinched the AFC North division, they have a slightly higher ranking of schedule than the Ravens and Browns, and one that is tied with the Steelers' schedule.

Their exact strength of schedule is a .469 rating, meaning, of course, that their average opponent that they will face will have a slightly lower than even .500 winning percentage. The .469 rating compares very closely with Baltimore's .461 and Cleveland's .465, while Pittsburgh also carries a .469 winning percentage. The .469 is also the 23rd strongest schedule. Or better put, the 10th weakest.

However, that is not to say that the Bengals will have an easy time in 2014. The strength of schedule is a very difficult measurement to base anything on, as it is largely skewed by opponents on both sides of the difficulty spectrum.

Outside of their ever-tough division games, let's take a look at Cincinnati's easiest and toughest opponents next season.

Unfortunately, the only discernibly easy games in 2014 will be the Jaguars and Buccaneers, the two Florida games on their schedule, although games against the Falcons, Texans, and Titans are debatable.

The difficult games ahead are far more glaring. Cincinnati will face the Patriots, Panthers, Colts, Saints, and Broncos – all playoff contenders from 2013.

It's still early for season predictions, but two things are clear. One, don't rely too much on strength of schedule. Two, if they wish to make a fourth straight playoff appearance, the Cincinnati Bengals will have their work cut out for them.

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