On Wednesday, the NFL released the 2015 Record And Fact Book that's published every year right around the time training camps open.
While the book focuses primarily on the upcoming season, it also confirms every team's 2016 opponents with the exception of two games. The book provides a look at the scheduling formula for the current season and the following season, and now we can confirm Cincinnati's 2016 opponent list:
The two games that have yet to be determined will be based on where Cincinnati finishes in the AFC North compared to where teams in the AFC West and South finish. If the Bengals win the AFC North, that actually shouldn't be too hard to figure out, with the Denver Broncos (West) and Indianapolis Colts (South) being the heavy favorites to win their respective divisions.
However, even just a second-place finish in the AFC North will greatly cloud who the other two teams will be. The Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers will likely have a tightly-contested battle for second-place in the West. As for the South, it likely will be the Houston Texans finishing second behind the Colts in that division's standings. Though, the season hasn't started yet, and anything can happen!
In case you need a refresher, here's how the NFL's scheduling formula works to determine opponents for all 32 teams each year:
- Home and away games vs. three division opponents (six games).
- Four teams from another division within the same conference on a rotating three-year cycle (four games).
- Four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (four games).
- Two intra-conference games based on the prior year's standings (two games). These games will match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched up in the same way.