The 2018 schedule is finally out, and while we knew who the Bengals would be playing this year, timing is everything.
In the NFL, teams with fast starts traditionally have a better chance at making the playoffs over teams who start out, say, 0-3. That was the exact hole the Bengals dug themselves last season, and one they will have to work very hard to avoid in 2018.
Five of the Bengals first eight games are against teams who had a winning record last season in the Steelers, Falcons, Panther, Ravens and Chiefs.
Four of those teams made the playoffs last year. Two more had a winning record in 2016 with the Bucs and Dolphins, not to mention the only one of those teams to not have a winning record in either of those seasons was the Colts, and they look like they will finally be getting Andrew Luck back.
If you remember, the Bengals narrowly beat the Colts last season due to a miracle interception from Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals have failed to beat the Colts with Luck out of the last two times they have met.
They also haven’t beaten the Colts in Indianapolis since 1997 when they were still playing in the RCA Dome. It isn’t a great way to start off the season, but I guess the best time to play a guy who missed an entire season would be at the start of the year.
This also seems like a good time to point out the Bengals will be without their star linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the team’s games against the Colts, Ravens, Panthers and Falcons due to his four game suspension.
Burfict will return in Week 5 to face the Dolphins. He will get his chance for revenge in Week 6, but more importantly, that will be a huge test for the team. Last year, the Bengals lost twice to the Steelers in embarrassing fashion. Both games were at a point where if the Bengals won they would have reached .500, but each time, the Steelers stomped out what little hope there was.
The Bengals will also be on the road for three of their first four games. Their only home game in that stretch is their Week 2 Thursday Night Football matchup with the Ravens.
They then follow that up with three of the next four at home before their bye week. Of course, if the Bengals win quite a bit in their first four games, that will set them up pretty for their home stretch, not to mention both of their games against Cleveland will be after their bye week.
These teams have undergone tons of changes from last year, and they will change before the season starts. Plus, injuries are always a concern. The draft hasn’t even happened yet, but the road as it stands now is a bumpy one.
Overall, it isn’t ideal. The Bengals will have a tough go of it early. This is the NFL though and no team gets to waltz to the Super Bowl without some games against tough teams.
The Bengals have been preaching change all season long, and there would be no better way to show how far they have come from the past two years than by beating up on some of the best teams from the AFC and NFC early in the year.