We knew who the Cincinnati Bengals were playing this year and where, but the when was a mystery—up until now, that is. On Thursday night, the league unveiled the 2022 schedule and it provided quite a bit of eyebrow-raisers for Who Dey Nation.
Cincinnati has five primetime games, three of which being on the road, along with a really tough stretch of post-bye games. With it all coming into focus, it’s time to be irresponsible and make a way-too-early win-loss prediction.
Week 1: Steelers at Bengals
Cincinnati starts off its season with a doozy against their heated rivals. It’s going to look a bit different this year without the Steelers trotting out Ben Roethlisberger nor JuJu Smith-Schuster, but this will be a very big game within the AFC North.
Pittsburgh is never an easy task and they’ll be hungry to avenge themselves from getting swept last season by the Bengals. However, questions at quarterback linger and their likelihood of still working through the growing pains of transitioning from Big Ben is pretty high.
Steelers 17, Bengals 30; Cincinnati 1-0
Week 2: Bengals at Cowboys
This one is tricky. Cincinnati hasn’t fared well against Dallas, traditionally speaking (just a .308 win percentage in head-to-head history), but this seems like an opportune time to face a team fringing on charlatan status. Dallas lost a heartbreaker in the postseason to the 49ers and have since shed talent from their roster.
Amari Cooper was traded to Cleveland, La’El Collins was released (and subsequently signed to the Bengals), Randy Gregory went off to Denver after a little bit of a renaissance, while murmurs are being heard about the long-term futures of both Ezekiel Elliott and head coach Mike McCarthy.
It won’t be easy, nor probably pretty, but I think Cincinnati takes this one, too.
Bengals 24, Cowboys, 20; Cincinnati 2-0
Week 3: Bengals at NY Jets
This matchup last year nearly derailed the Bengals’ season. Thankfully, they used it as a learning lesson and stormed into and through the postseason the rest of the way.
The Jets are improved this year, but how far they’ll go rests on Zach Wilson’s arm and health. I can actually see a scenario wherein the Jets pull this one out again, but I think Cincinnati’s weaknesses from 2021 have been remedied enough to not let these types of games slip through their grasp.
Bengals 26, Jets 21; Cincinnati 3-0
Week 4: Dolphins at Bengals (TNF)
If you listened or watched my sit-down with Trey Wingo at the Ceasars Sportsbook in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, you would have heard him say that the Dolphins are a dark horse in the jam-packed AFC. The additions of Terron Armstead, Sony Michel and Tyreek Hill make this a potentially-lethal offense with Mike Gesicki and Jaylen Waddle already in tow.
Still, the question with this team is all about Tua Tagovailoa. Can he step up and make them explosive, or will he wither under the pressure? I still don’t know how I feel about this dolphins team because we’ve seen teams assemble seemingly all-star casts just to fall short of expectations.
Dolphins 34, Bengals 38; Cincinnati 4-0
Week 5: Bengals at Ravens (SNF)
The third road game in four weeks on primetime against an opponent frothing at the mouth to strike back at the Bengals after being swept by them last year? Yeah, the outlook here isn’t great, with the second divisional game coming in just over a month into the season.
Baltimore has shed some veterans, added others and did some quality work a couple of weeks ago in the draft. There’s pretty much no way they’ll be as unhealthy as they were last year, so this one could get ugly towards the end of the contest.
Ravens 34, Bengals 23; Cincinnati 4-1
Week 6: Bengals at Saints
It’s a reunion in the Bayou, with Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Shelvin, Thaddeus Moss and La’el Collins arriving for a homecoming. The former four will especially be the toasts of the town after bringing home that epic 2019 NCAA Championship.
This would be quite the matchup if Drew Brees was still under center, but it’s Jameis Winston and this seems to just be a favorable contest for the Bengals on paper. One thing adding to the potential intrigue here is Andy Dalton potentially...never mind.
Bengals 24, Saints 16; Cincinnati 6-1
Week 7: Falcons at Bengals
Atlanta is rebuilding and doing so with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder as quarterback options. Kyle Pitts and Drake London present a challenge for Lou Anarumo, but this one looks to be a game the Bengals should take pretty easily.
Falcons 16, Bengals 41; Cincinnati 5-1
Week 8: Bengals at Browns (MNF; Halloween Night)
Simply put, the Bengals have not matched up well with the Browns over the past few years. Marvin Lewis owned the Browns in his 16-year tenure as head coach, but Zac Taylor is just 1-5 in his first three seasons in the team’s driver’s seat.
This game is a complete wild card, of sorts. We have no idea how long, if at all Deshaun Watson will be suspended, nor do we truly know just how well he will integrate in Cleveland’s offense—especially after being out of football last year.
While we’re pretty sure he’s talented enough to get up to speed quickly and that he’ll be active for this game, it still makes it tough to predict. Unfortunately, I see the Bengals dropping the first go-round in the 2022 “Battle of Ohio” here.
Bengals 20, Browns 28; Cincinnati 6-2
Week 9: Panthers at Bengals
Just who are the Carolina Panthers, exactly? They’re pretty tough with a healthy Christian McCaffrey, but that’s an inconsistent bet at this point.
Like the Falcons, Carolina has veteran high pick Sam Darnold pegged as the starter with rookie third-round pick, Matt Corral waiting in the wings. We’re not sure who the Bengals will see in this contest, but this doesn’t seem like a game Cincinnati will drop—particularly at home.
Panthers 17, Bengals 30; Cincinnati 7-2
Week 11: Bengals at Steelers (SNF)
It’s such a rarity when the Bengals sweep the season series against the Steelers like they did last year. Yet, given the respective trajectories of both teams right now, this seems like as good of a time as any for Cincinnati to repeat the broom break-outs.
Who knows which quarterback the Bengals will see in this one? Regardless, it’s very possible Pittsburgh fields two different signal-callers in each of the matchups with Cincinnati.
Bengals 23, Steelers 21; Cincinnati 8-2
Week 12: Bengals at Titans
Tennessee had the No. 1 seed in the AFC last year, only to see if evaporate with a heartbreaking home loss to the Bengals in the Divisional round. A lot of pundits and fans of other squads are predicting a fall-off for Cincinnati this year, but I feel that that prospect is far more realistic for the Titans.
Tennessee traded A.J. Brown away a couple of weeks ago and did not re-sign Julio Jones, while letting go of guard Roger Saffold. Throw in questions at quarterback and this Titans team could be kind of a mess by the time the home stretch of the season rolls around.
Bengals 26, Titans 23; Cincinnati 9-2
Week 13: Chiefs at Bengals
In an odd twist by the schedule-makers, the games against Tennessee and Kansas City, respectively, follow the Bengals’ 2021 postseason chronology. Like the Steelers and Ravens, the Chiefs are absolutely livid at Cincinnati’s sweep last year—particularly in the dramatic comeback fashion.
If both teams follow the path of success that many predict this coming season, this game will be hyped up in a big way. Unfortunately, I think Kansas City gets the better of the clash this time around.
Chiefs 38, Bengals 30; Cincinnati 9-3
Week 14: Browns at Bengals
While Cincinnati could very well lose the road primetime game against Cleveland earlier in the year, it’s hard to foresee yet another Browns sweep this year. It won’t be easy, but the Bengals balance back out the scales in the rematch.
Browns 20, Bengals 24; Cincinnati 10-3
Week 15: Bengals at Buccaneers
There are so many great head-to-head clashes in Cincinnati’s 2022 schedule. Few have the star power of Burrow versus Brady, though.
Cincinnati travels south to take on the Bucs and it comes after a murderers’ row of games coming out of the bye. This is a barometer game for the Bengals, but they may just be temporarily low on gas at an inopportune time.
Bengals 21, Buccaneers 30; Cincinnati 10-4
Week 16: Bengals at Patriots (Christmas Eve)
After facing Tom Brady, the Bengals go back to his old stomping grounds and face his former Hall of Fame coach in Bill Belichick. We know the Patriots’ grizzled head coach excels at taking away a team’s biggest strength(s), so the chess match between Belichick, Zac Taylor and Burrow should be a fun one.
While Belichick versus Taylor may be an imbalance, then so is Burrow against Mac Jones. I see the Bengals pulling out a signature win here.
Bengals 31, Patriots 21; Cincinnati 11-4
Week 17: Bills at Bengals (MNF)
One of the biggest questions of the 2021 season was in the “what if...?” surrounding Buffalo and their near-win over Kansas City. How would the AFC Championship game have played out if it was the Bills and Bengals?
That hypothetical scenario plays out towards the end of the season with a whopper of a matchup, called by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on their new station.
Bills 35, Bengals 27; Cincinnati 11-5
Week 18: Ravens at Bengals
Predictably, this one could come down to the AFC North crown and/or a Wild Card spot. Baltimore gets a win in the games this year, but not here. Cincinnati reminds them of the non-fluke wins last year and leapfrogs the Ravens for postseason positioning.
Ravens 23, Bengals 34; Cincinnati 12-5
So, in the division, I see another 4-2 record for the Bengals this year, but with wins against each of the three teams. While sweeps against either the Ravens and Browns are also attainable, I just see the AFC North as too competitive this year.
In the primetime games, I have the Bengals going just 2-3 in those contests. Getting one against the Steelers would be huge, but the others provide very stout matchups.
Some may feel that the three new starters on the offensive lone and an influx of athleticism in the secondary should lead to more than a two-win improvement from last year. Possible, yes, but I find that prospect a bit of a reach right now.
Still, 12 wins is nothing to sneeze at and the Bengals should be one of the top teams in the conference, if the pieces all fall into place once again.