The Cincinnati Bengals hope they have a lot of football left to be played in the 2015 NFL season, but they will soon know what their 2016 schedule will look like.
Because the Bengals won the AFC North, they'll automatically play the division winners of the AFC South and AFC West in addition to playing every team from the AFC East. That means the Bengals will host either Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs next year, depending on which of those two teams win the West.
As for the South, it looks like the Houston Texans will edge out the Indianapolis Colts for that division. Indy is still technically alive in the race, but would need a lot to happen in Week 17 for them to win it, including the Texans losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That means Cincinnati will likely be playing in Houston next season.
The only two dates set in stone for next season are the Bengals' London trip to Wembley Stadium in Week 8 to face Washington before getting a bye week in Week 9. We can also expect Cincinnati to face an AFC North foe in Week 17, as the NFL has every team playing in a divisional game during the final weekend of the regular season.
The Bengals' 2016 schedule will also feature a trip to New England for a clash with the Patriots, who currently are slightly favored to win the AFC and make a second-consecutive Super Bowl trip. The Bengals will have something to say about that, but either way, a game in Foxborough is automatically one of, if not the most difficult game Cincinnati will play next year.
Road trips to the New York Jets and Giants will be no easy task either. The G-Men have been tough at home, even in the midst of a 6-9 season (four home losses by a combined 11 points). The Jets are poised to make the playoffs as they enter Week 17 with a 10-5 record, and as of now, appear as though they'll return most of their current roster next season.
The home schedule is much more favorable for the Bengals. The only teams with winning records that will come to Paul Brown Stadium are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the AFC West winner. For now, I'd rank at the Patriots, at the Steelers, at the Jets, home vs the AFC West winner and at the AFC South winner as the five most difficult games.
That really isn't too intimidating when you think about it, at least compared to what this season's schedule looked like coming into 2015. That should serve as a good reminder that, even the most dominant teams can change dramatically between now and when the Bengals actually play them in 9-12 months.
Here are the Bengals' 2016 opponents:
|Baltimore Ravens||Baltimore Ravens|
|Cleveland Browns||Cleveland Browns|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Buffalo Bills||New England Patriots|
|Miami Dolphins||New York Jets|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys|
|Washington (in London - Week 8)||New York Giants|
|AFC West winner (Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs)||AFC South winner (Indianapolis Colts or Houston Texans)|
Which game(s) are you most looking forward to?