When looking past this Monday's game against the Baltimore Ravens (hopefully the Bengals themselves aren't), one would look at Cincinnati's schedule and call it favorable. Many of the teams who were predicted to be "doormats" in 2012 comprise the team's first portion of the schedule and fans are optimistic that the orange and black will shoot out to a quick start.
Not so fast. Three teams that played in the early part of the day on opening weekend have raised some eyebrows and could give some cause to temper the optimism. In case you missed it, here are how some of the teams fared and some highlights on each game.
Jacksonville Jaguars: This team wasn't very good last year and it didn't look too promising again this year. They started their season on the road against the Vikings (who were predicted to be mediocre at best as well) and it's always tough to play in an opposing team's dome stadium with the noise. Blaine Gabbert wasn't impressive as a rookie in 2011, but played well in the opener with over 200 yards passing and two touchdowns without any interceptions. He did make a questionable throw in what became the final play in overtime, but he looks improved. The Bengals travel to Jacksonville in week four.
Cleveland Browns: Touted as being arguably the worst team in the NFL going into the first week, the Browns put up quite a fight against the Eagles in Cleveland. They nearly pulled off a victory despite a poor performance from rookie Brandon Weeden who threw multiple interceptions. But the Browns defense looked very good against a high-flying Philadelphia offense and made a number of impressive plays. Former Bengal Frostee Rucker had a quality first game with the Browns and the rest of the unit was swarming to the ball. WIth the Bengals playing them twice in the first six weeks, this could be a tougher matchup than originally expected.
Washington Redskins: This team was the most impressive of the three, particularly rookie sensation, Robert Griffin III. The quarterback was pinpoint accurate and deadly with his running ability, making trouble for the Saints all day. They put up 40 points on the road, most of which coming as impressive responses to Saints scores. The Bengals have traditionally struggled with running quarterbacks, so Griffin could be a major issue for the team in week three. Couple that with the fact that the Bengals start the season with two tough divisional games and this could become messy.
Obviously, the Bengals have a solid roster themselves with a lot of players returning from injury. But, these "cake walk" games that seem destined to be placed in the "W" column for the Bengals suddenly look a bit tougher. Cincinnati faces these three teams four times from weeks two to six. Keep an eye on these squads.