Another huge milestone on the NFL calendar hit on Wednesday night, as the 2021 NFL Schedule was officially unveiled. The schedule has odd ebbs and flows for the Cincinnati Bengals, with the first month potentially providing hope and the last one seeming to be a murderer’s row of contests.
From the addition to another game on the schedule, to the strength of opponents and way-too-early predictions on wins and losses, we’ve got you covered on The Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast!
We went over all 17 games on the Bengals’ schedule this episode, with a preliminary look at the potential outcome of the season for the team. This season is all about growth with Cincinnati, and if it’s in incremental baby steps or in leaps and bounds.
Week 1 vs Minnesota Vikings: There is a number of a connections in the form of former players and coaches being swapped between these two clubs. Mike Zimmer makes his return to Cincinnati, while two Vikings players he coached—Riley Reiff and Trae Waynes—get their very first starts as Bengals against their former team.
This is a coin flip call, but Week 1 can be unpredictable. If the Bengals are healthy and Joe Burrow has had at least some training camp and preseason reps, Cincinnati should take their home opener in a close one. Result: Win, 1-0
Week 2 at Chicago Bears: Andy Dalton is the Bears’ starter for now, but an impressive summer from Justin Fields could push the former Bengals’ signal-caller out of the gig. Nevertheless, Chicago’s roster is strong enough to keep them in games, regardless of who is throwing passes for them.
Even though this one is on the road and Chicago was an 8-8 team last season, it feels winnable if things are clicking for the Bengals early. We’ll give the boys the benefit of the doubt in another close win here. Result: Win, 2-0
Week 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers: Our bud Malik Wright from The Wright Way Sports Network stopped by the live chat and proclaimed a sweep of the Steelers at the hands of the Bengals in 2021. While we loved the optimism and tend to believe Pittsburgh won’t be its usual juggernaut self this year, it’s hard for us to jump to that conclusion at the present time.
Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season as the Steelers’ head coach and while they are experiencing age and roster turnover, Pittsburgh is still, well, Pittsburgh. We have the Bengals splitting with the Steelers this year, so we’ll give them the one on their home field. Result: Loss, 2-1
Week 4 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Thursday Night Football): This game has to be one of the more entertaining ones on the team’s schedule. Namely because its Cincinnati’s lone primetime game and it pits the past two No. 1 overall picks against each other in Burrow and Trevor Lawrence.
The Jags are building something that could be exciting on offense with Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Laviska Shenault and maybe even Tim Tebow as a tight end, but the team is ripe with inexperience—even at the coaching level. This should be a fun one to watch, but Cincinnati will prevail at home with Jacksonville facing the tough task of traveling on a short week. Result: Win, 3-1
Week 5 vs Green Bay Packers: This one is dependent upon Aaron Rodgers. If the Packers work things out with him and he’s their quarterback when this one comes up, Green Bay will probably cruise to a relatively-easy win.
However, if it’s left up to Jordan Love, that’s a different story. Reports have Love being behind on terminology and verbiage within Matt LaFleur’s system, so if he’s got just a few games under his belt by Week 5, Cincinnati could pounce. Still, it’s A-Rod’s show at this point in time and that’s a tough Bengals matchup. Result: Loss, 3-2
Week 6 at Detroit Lions: The Lions lost quite a bit of talent on offense this offseason. Jared Goff won’t have Marvin Jones nor Kenny Golladay to throw, as Dan Campbell should be keeping tabs on the 2022 incoming class of quarterbacks and receivers.
The big point of interest in this one is Penei Sewell protecting Goff and Ja’Marr Chase’s performance against Jeff Okudah, making one of the Bengals’ draft preference camps happy. Result: Win, 4-2
Week 7 at Baltimore Ravens: While we have the Bengals splitting with the Browns and Steelers this year (spoiler alert!), they just don’t seem to have an answer for Lamar Jackson and Co. Cincinnati has grabbed a couple of wins against Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the Zac Taylor era, while also having a couple of other competitive contests against them, the clashes against the Ravens have been lopsided.
The hope is that the multitude of defensive line help the Bengals have enlisted will allow Cincinnati to clamp down on the Ravens’ unique offensive attack. We’ll see. Result: Loss, 4-3
Week 8 at New York Jets: This game has the scent of a trap one: on the road for the third straight game and going up against an athletic quarterback wherein Cincinnati would have limited film to review. Still, it feels like the Jets are where the Bengals were in 2019 or 2020, in terms of rebuilding the roster under a new coach. Cincinnati should take advantage of a team under construction to remain in the midseason playoff hunt. Result: Win, 5-3
Week 9 vs Cleveland Browns: Joe Burrow was available for both games against the Browns last year, but Cincinnati was still 0-2. Still, Burrow mounted a comeback in Week 2 that resulted in one of those patented Bengals one-score losses, and nearly cemented it the second time around before an epic defensive collapse in the final seconds.
Cleveland will be one of the better teams in the AFC, but Cincinnati should also be improved. We’ll say the Bengals get a win at home in a shootout, thanks to the receiving weapons at Burrow’s disposal. Result: Win, 6-3
Week 11 at Las Vegas Raiders: This team under the watch of Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden is a complete enigma. Just when you think they have things figured out, the Raiders trip over their own feet.
This offseason, Las Vegas shed some quality veterans from their offensive line, only to reach a bit for Alex Leatherwood in the first round. This one could go either way, but a win in Sin City seems to be attainable for the Bengals. Result, Win, 7-3
Week 12 vs Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bengals will be finding their way early in the season, but they’ll start figuring some things out as this young roster matures. It’s conceivable to believe that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will be trending in different directions by the time the season starts to close. Cincinnati takes this one at home from the Steelers for the second consecutive year. Result, Win, 8-3
Week 13 vs Los Angeles Chargers: This is very well where a massive skid could begin for the Bengals. Along with the Jaguars game, Burrow versus Justin Herbert has a lot of mystique and this should be another high-scoring affair.
Pro Football Focus ranked both the Bengals and Chargers as two of the most improved teams throughout their spring efforts, but Herbert’s athleticism could bring a lot of problems for Cincinnati’s revamped defense. Result: Loss, 8-4
Week 14 vs San Francisco 49ers: As with the Bears, San Francisco has a stacked roster to support any quarterback. Trey Lance needs development, but many think he could be starting over Jimmy Garoppolo by this point in the season.
Regardless of their signal-caller, that well-rounded roster with a lot of defenders who can generate a pass rush will be troublesome. One could make an argument that the Bengals take this one, but it’s not feeling likely at this early point. Result: Loss, 8-5
Week 15 at Denver Broncos: Denver is in the unenviable position of being in quarterback limbo. As is the case with San Francisco, Chicago and even Las Vegas on the Bengals’ schedule, the Broncos have a loaded roster and host Cincinnati in a hostile environment.
Unless Rodgers makes his way to John Elway’s loving arms, it still doesn’t seem like Denver will be world-beaters with Drew Lock under center. Result, Win, 9-5
Week 16 vs Baltimore Ravens: We’re still waiting for Cincinnati to have an answer for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ RPO offense. Until they prove us otherwise capable, we’re giving the Ravens the sweep this year. Result: Loss, 9-6
Week 17 vs Kansas City Chiefs: The kings of the conference mountain come to town, sporting a blueprint for Zac Taylor to follow, in terms of roster construction and offensive game-planning. After they were manhandled up front by Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl, Kansas City traded for Orlando Brown and signed Joe Thuney in free agency.
The Bengals don’t have enough elite pass-rushers to make Patrick Mahomes as uncomfortable as he was a handful of months ago, nor do they have other defensive personnel to contain Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Co.—especially without said pass-rush. Result: Loss, 9-7
Week 18 at Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield has had some of his best professional performances against the Bengals. In fact, it seems that just when the doubt chatter rises about his abilities, the Bengals are right around the corner for him to get right.
While Cincinnati needs to find a way to stop Lamar Jackson’s RPO style, the team also needs to stifle the Browns’ rushing attack. Not only to stop its effectiveness on its own, but also as a tool to set up lethal play-action passes for Mayfield. Result: Loss, 9-8
It’s actually pretty rare to call a winning record for a team on a schedule where we predict a losing record for them within the division, but such is the case here. We’re not sure if 9-8 would be good enough for a Wild Card spot, but it would definitely be a signal that things are headed in the right direction under Taylor.
If the Bengals had this record, the heat under Taylor’s seat would lessen and the team would have a positive foundation for the coming years. How do you feel things will play out at this early point now that the schedule is out?
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