Playing in the AFC North means the Cincinnati Bengals already have a tough schedule. Having won the North last year means it will be even harder, as they'll play division winners from the AFC East (Patriots) and AFC West (Broncos).
They also get the NFC South, which features two 11-win teams (Panthers and Saints), as well as the Falcons, who won 13 games in 2012 when guys like Julio Jones were healthy.
Despite all of this, Cincinnati's schedule only ranks 23rd via last year's winning percentages. However, the NFL and it's teams change from year-to-year, and it's impossible to truly gauge how difficult a specific team's schedule really is.
That said, Kenneth Arthur of Football Outsiders examined the history of SOS. His research points out that teams that end up facing the NFL's toughest schedule usually don't have successful seasons.
The teams that have had the misfortune of facing the hardest schedule every season since 1989 have averaged 5.84 wins per year and a 20.84 seasonal ranking in DVOA. Only one team, the 1997 Steelers squad that went 11-5, has managed double-digit wins with the league's hardest schedule.
The difference in facing the league's easiest schedule is slightly less than double the same total of wins; the 25 teams that had the league's easiest schedule have averaged 10.68 wins.
As Kenny points out, it's really pretty pointless to try and predict S.O.S. based on last year's teams.
However, that only matters if you use 2013 DVOA data for 2014 teams, and that would be a waste of time. If you just look at last year's rankings, you'll see that the Chiefs jumped from 32 to 6, the Eagles from 28 to 8, the Cardinals from 26 to 10, and the Chargers from 22 to 12. Meanwhile, the Texans dropped from 11 to 30, the Redskins from 9 to 29, the Giants from 7 to 27, and the Falcons from 10 to 25.
Take the Carolina Panthers for example. That's a team that, in theory, would boost Cincinnati's SOS, because they went 12-4 last year and won the NFC South. They also ranked 3rd in Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings.
But what their record doesn't take into account is that Carolina was gutted this offseason on offense, and lost a couple of starters on defense as well.
It's highly unlikely Carolina wins double-digit games this year, and they could turn out to be one of the easier teams (not named Cleveland) the Bengals play. They'll probably have a lower DVOA once the guys at FO put out their 2014 preseason ratings, and thus, not be the No. 3 team in the NFL.
In theory, Cincinnati should have an easy schedule based on FO's ratings. The Bengals play eight teams that ranked 21st or worst in DVOA. They also play just four teams with a top-12 DVOA.