Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports is previewing all 32 teams while making predictions for each team's outlook, and he had the Bengals making the playoffs as a Wild Card team. The team he had winning the AFC North was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the Steelers play the Jets and Chiefs, the Bengals get the Patriots and Broncos. They both play the Colts: The Steelers host Andrew Luck and Co. while the Bengals have to go to Indianapolis. The Steelers get the dome-loving Saints in Pittsburgh on Nov. 30; the Bengals have to go to the Superdome.
I like the Bengals just a little more than the Steelers, but like the Steelers' schedule way, way more. I don't think the Bengals will win the division, but they will get a wild-card spot. Big deal, the Bengals have been there before. Can they get a win? There's no reason to believe they can't, as long as this isn't a major mental block for the players and staff. But even if they can finally advance, I don't see them beating the Broncos or Patriots after that.
Schwab does make a great point on the schedule, and how it could be what causes a superior Bengals team to lose the division crown to the Steelers. Seemingly every hard opponent comes to Pittsburgh, while the Bengals hit the road to face most of their biggest foes.
There was actually a similar scenario in 2013. The Bengals hosted the Colts, Patriots, Packers (with Aaron Rodgers), their three toughest opponents last year, and all three were wins. Because teams in the same division play 14 similar opponents every year, it sometimes comes down to who has more home games against tougher foes.
That falls into Pitt's favor this year.