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Bengals have most front-loaded schedule in NFL

This serves as a reminder to not be discouraged if the Bengals have multiple losses when September ends. It's what happens as the season wears on that will really matter.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

By now, you've probably heard the start of the Bengals' schedule is pretty brutal.

The first three games of the season feature three teams who had winning records in 2016, which includes the Super Bowl champion Broncos in Week 3. Right out of the gate, the Bengals get two road games against the Jets and Steelers, two teams with a combined 20-12 record last year, and are poised to have winning records again in 2016. There's also Week 5 against a Cowboys team that's looking to bounce-back, Week 6 at New England (Tom Brady's first home game of the season) and Week 8 vs Washington in London, which makes for a tough eight-week stretch to open 2016.

A recent study by FiveThirtyEight only reinforces that belief. Their ranking of all 32 team schedules based on how front-loaded/back-loaded they are projects the Bengals coming in dead last, which means they have the most front-loaded schedule of any NFL team in 2016.

Here is an explanation of how this ranking was constructed:

I determined this using early point spreads released by the Las Vegas bookmaker CG Technology. The spreads can be turned into power ratings for each team, which can themselves be used to reflect back on every team's strength of schedule.1 (This is a better way of forecasting schedule strength than the traditional NFL method, which simply uses opponent records from the previous year.) To judge the "back-loadedness" of a team's schedule, then, I simply weighted each opponent's strength by its proximity to the end of the season,2 and looked at which teams saw the biggest difference in schedule difficulty when compared with their basic, unweighted strengths of schedule.

Opening the season at New York will easily be one of the most challenging road game any team faces in Week 1. The Jets return a lot of last year's 10-6 squad that gave several close games away, and while they don't know who their quarterback will be, they've added some key pieces this offseason like Matt Forte, to help assist on offense. So if nothing else, expect this game to be a dogfight.

Following that up with a trip to AFC North rival Pittsburgh will be one of the toughest games this year, even if Le'Veon Bell's four-game suspension holds up. While it's very possible the Bengals win their first two contests, it's not crazy to think the Bengals open the year with an 0-2 mark and will still be capable of winning Super Bowl 51.

The schedule won't get any easier in Week 3 when the defending champs come to town. Fresh off their Super Bowl 50 win, the Broncos return a lot of the group that won it all last season, but lost enough that the Bengals should be able to beat them. As tough as all three of these games are, this Bengals team is too good to open the season 0-3, and we don't expect that to happen.

The good news for the Bengals is, as that study indicates, the final month of the season features four very winnable games, a stretch which Cincinnati should go no worse than 2-2 in, and probably win three or even all four of the matchups. The season finale will also be the fourth time Cincinnati faces an AFC North team in the final six games of the season. At Baltimore kicks off the action in Week 12. The Bengals then head to Cleveland in Week 14 before hosting Pittsburgh in Week 15. The season ends with Baltimore again in Week 17.

With home games vs the Ravens and Eagles and road games vs the Browns and Texans, you've got a very manageable stretch of games in the second half of the year. The Browns and Ravens combined to go 8-24 last year, while the Eagles were a mediocre 7-9.

Unfortunately, the Bengals would be better suited having the brutal part of their schedule on the backend. With Tyler Eifert possibly missing games early, while Vontaze Burfict sits out for three games due to suspension, September is primed to be the Bengal's most challenging month of this season.

If the Bengals don't start the year strong, they'll have a chance at making a comebacker later on in the season, while, if the team does start the year strong, they should finish even stronger. Either way, if this team is good enough to make a playoff run like many believe, one month will not define their season.