When we saw the team's opponents for the 2009 season, we were relieved. Think about it. In 2008, the Bengals had just finished their season with a 4-11-1 record, having played teams like the Giants, Cowboys, Colts, Titans and four games against two teams that played in the 2008 AFC Championship game. Fully aware that the team's personnel had grown over the offseason, the team's 2009 schedule included teams like the Bears, Raiders, Lions, Chiefs and yes, the Jets. Green Bay went 6-10 in 2008. So 2009's schedule seemed much, much easier to follow a path of rebuilding, or, god forbid, entry into the playoffs.
The thing about being good one year is that you're tasked with playing better competition the next year. How much tougher? The Bengals will face three teams next year that won 13 games or more in 2009. We will play three teams that earned either a one or two seed in this year's playoffs. Furthermore, Cincinnati will only play five games against four teams with a losing record.
Yes, this schedule will be tougher. But I'm an optimist. With key defensive players returning from injury, plus the typical personnel changes during the offseason -- which hopefully includes keeping our linebackers and adding some depth and speed at wide receiver to start -- I believe that the Bengals will be a better team in 2010.