Perhaps the first thing that stands out about the Bengals’ 2022 schedule (after all the primetime games) is the ruthless series of games after the bye week.
Week 11, Cincinnati goes to Pittsburgh for Sunday Night Football. While the Bengals have a QB advantage, the Steelers have a strong pass rush and a rowdy fanbase that will be looking for blood (not for any particular reason other than they’re a bit cuckoo). Also, it does seem that referees tend to favor the Steelers in such situations.
Week 12, the Bengals then head back to Tennessee for an AFC Divisional Round rematch. But this time, Derrick Henry should be fully healthy. And it’s unlikely Ryan Tannehill will be as sloppy protecting the ball. While Cincinnati won that playoff game, quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked nine times. Yes, they’ve improved the o-line, but this should still be a tough matchup against a team that’s been a contender in the AFC the past three years.
Week 13, the Kansas City Chiefs come to town. The Bengals’ two January victories over the Chiefs were perhaps the most significant of last season. But they didn’t come easy. In the Bengals’ favor is the departure of Tyreek Hill. Plus, Cincinnati did a fine job of slowing down Travis Kelce, and they should only be better on account of the talented defensive backs they added through the Draft. Still,in the Patrick Mahomes era, the Chiefs were nearly unbeatable for a while. So beating them three times in a row will be quite the accomplishment.
Week 14 is a home game against the Cleveland Browns, who swept the Bengals last year with a lackluster quarterback. Now they figure to have an elite signal caller in Deshaun Watson to go along with a strong offensive line and top-notch running game.
Week 15, the Bengals go to Tampa Bay to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Brady is the player Burrow is often compared to, but we know the Bengals quarterback doesn’t tend to let such pressure get to him. The Bucs had a disappointing playoff run (by Brady’s standards) in the 2021-22 season but have been a pretty balanced team since the Hall of Fame QB joined in 2020, winning a Super Bowl his first year with the team. This should be a fun, back-and-forth game.
Week 16, Burrow, head coach Zac Taylor, and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan will try to outsmart the great Bill Belichick at Foxborough. The New England Patriots head coach knows a thing or two about confusing young quarterbacks, but Burrow is, of course, built differently. Still, even Brady, who spent two decades picking Belichick’s brain, didn’t exactly light it up when he went back last year.
Week 17, the Bengals will face a stacked Buffalo Bills roster at home on Monday Night Football. The Bills are in win-now mode and have the defense and elite quarterback to go all the way. Josh Allen has improved dramatically each season, and he nearly out-dueled Mahomes in the AFC Divisional Round last year. After adding a pass rusher with championship pedigree (Von Miller) and one of the top corners in the Draft (Kaiir Elam) this team is very serious about winning the Super Bowl. Of course, so are the Bengals, who were just minutes away from a championship last year. Expect this to be a bloodbath between perhaps the two most talented rosters in the NFL.
Week 18, the Bengals face the Baltimore Ravens for a second time. The Ravens are not at all happy about how last season played out, especially their two blowout losses to the Bengals. They were ravaged by injuries, but they also got toasted by Cincinnati’s receivers. Baltimore, though, loaded up through the Draft, adding a generational center (Tyler Linderbaum), a huge, athletic safety (Kyle Hamilton), and several other high-value picks. They are, like the Bills, loaded. It is doubtful the Bengals will cruise to victory in either of their games against the Ravens this year.
The good news: Unlike Bengals teams of years past, this squad is built for high-pressure situations. In 2021-22, Cincinnati stepped it up every time they needed to, especially in the postseason. I expect this year to be no different. Yes, they probably won’t win all of their tough matchups, but they should be in every single one of these games and walk away with a winning record.
For more on the Draft additions of the Bengals’ AFC North opponents, watch the video below:
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