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Bengals have most difficult strength of schedule among AFC teams in 2022

The path back to the Super Bowl won’t be an easy one for the defending AFC Champions.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t having any favors done for them in 2022 after their most successful season of this millennium. While the schedule has yet to be fully released, we already know that the teams the Bengals will be playing is one of the toughest in the NFL.

However, according to CBS Sports’ John Breech, Cincinnati will face the toughest strength of schedule among AFC teams.

The Bengals strength of schedule sits at .536 in 2022. That ranks as the third-highest behind the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals. Of course, we had an inkling this would be the case after the Bengals won the AFC North as their way into the playoffs last season. That means that they will face five teams that finished at the top of their division in 2022 (due to the 17th game being added).

The only other AFC teams in the top 10 include the Kansas City Chiefs (.533), the Las Vegas Raiders (.528) and the Los Angeles Chargers (.519). Those three teams being in the same division certainly increases their strength of schedule right off the bat while teams like the Buffalo Bills (.512) and Tennessee Titans (.471) have the easiest among division champions due to the quality of the AFC South and AFC East.

While there was a time where all of this would seem like a huge mountain to get over, the Bengals showed us last season that they are capable of keeping up with the best of the best. They never looked particularly out matched in any game last season. All of that was while quarterback Joe Burrow was taking 70 sacks.

However, with their playoff run being capped off by their second win against the Chiefs on the season, there is little doubt that this team is capable of playing well in these tougher games.

It also wouldn’t be a strength of schedule post without recognizing that this is all based on last season’s wins and losses, and that every NFL team is almost drastically different from last season. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the AFC got much tougher with Russell Wilson getting traded to the Denver Broncos, the Cleveland Browns acquiring Deshaun Watson (who will likely miss some time with the 22 sexual assault allegations from a year ago) and the Baltimore Ravens drastically upgraded a defense that the Bengals shredded twice in 2021.

What is fortunate is that Cincinnati faced the AFC West last season, so they will only face the Chiefs this year. They also get to face an AFC East that is trying to get something brewing with the New York Jets (who have taken a very Cincinnati approach to their offseason) and a Miami Dolphins team who shocked the world by trading for Tyreek Hill this offseason. The big question mark will be the respective quarterbacks on those teams who will need to take huge steps in 2022.

The main takeaway from this post is to try and instill some confidence in this Bengals team to keep taking steps forward in 2022 after what they did last season. Their path will be tough regardless, but as long as this team has Burrow we should feel pretty confident.