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Early win-loss prediction for Bengals after 2018 schedule release

The 2018 NFL schedule is out and there are some surprises in how it plays out for the Cincinnati Bengals. What will their end result be this year?

Cincinnati Bengals v New Orleans Saints Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Before Thursday night, we knew the opponents the Bengals were facing this year, just not the order in which they would come. There are relative twists and turns this in the 2018 schedule, with certain aspects seeming favorable to Cincinnati team looking to get back to winning ways.

The Bengals were a bit more active in free agency this year, aiding in the mini-rebuild of the roster, but they have yet to see the fruits of their labor in the bread and butter that is the NFL Draft. With their 11 picks next week, they could easily continue to improve what they did in the month of March, so the early outlook on their win-loss record could change in just the course of a week.

Even so, there are still a number of questions surrounding the club following two straight losing seasons. Will John Ross step up and be a big contributor in 2018? Who will the starters be at center, right guard and right tackle? Can the run defense rebound from a disastrous 2017 campaign?

Here is an early prediction of the Bengals’ 2018 win-loss record, based on those unanswered questions and how the schedule appears for the team.

Week 1, Bengals at Colts: If this were a game later in the season, I might be inclined to say that the Colts could run away with this one. Cincinnati has had a terrible streak against Indianapolis in recent years, though most of those losses came at the hands of Peyton Manning.

Andrew Luck is one of the best in the game when healthy, but his status is still at bit of an enigma right now. With his health up in the air and a new head coach, the Colts will probably be attempting to figure things out early in the season.

Result: Win

Week 2, Ravens at Bengals (Thursday Night): Even in the past two seasons where the Bengals have struggled, Cincinnati has put up some good fights against Baltimore. One of the biggest wins last year came in the 2017 finale when Cincinnati dashed the Ravens’ playoff hopes on their home turf with a last-minute, game-winning touchdown.

For the decent amount of success Marvin Lewis has had against his former employer (18-12), primetime games have been a different story. Baltimore is flirting with Dez Bryant to aid their offense, which is a little bit scary, but I think the Bengals pull one out in a field goal-fest to get off to a nice start.

Result: Win

Week 3, Bengals at Panthers: Hear that? It’s the sound of screeching brakes from a 2-0 start by the Bengals. Carolina was a stout 11-5 last season and there aren’t too many signs of them hitting a major regression.

Cincinnati’s defense has traditionally struggled against multi-dimensional quarterbacks and Cam Newton is one of the best in the business from that standpoint. These struggles could dissipate under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, but caution should be heeded.

Result: Loss

Week 4, Bengals at Falcons: Two straight road games down south against two formidable foes. Atlanta is coming off of two great seasons, despite a historical meltdown in Super Bowl LI.

This one could be a fun shoot-out, or be totally one-sided, but common sense says that the Bengals will come up short. Cincinnati’s best shot will likely be in the possibility of forcing a lot of turnovers from the explosive Falcons offense.

Result: Loss

Week 5, Dolphins at Bengals: In his 15-year tenure as Bengals head coach, Lewis has had some patterns of successes and major issues against certain teams. And, while Miami seems to be a team who has stuck in the Bengals’ craw over the past few years, Lewis is actually 3-3 against the Dolphins.

Cincinnati will look to play well at home after two consecutive road games that seem difficult and the rebuilding Dolphins are a good team to potentially right the ship. Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry have been given their walking papers, so Miami will need to prove they’re immediate contenders to convince many that they’ll win this one.

Result: Win

Week 6, Steelers at Bengals: For the record, this cynical guy who has followed the Bengals for a long time was wrong—the NFL didn’t schedule a game against Pittsburgh during Vontaze Burfict’s four-game suspension. And, you better believe No. 55 will be frothing at the mouth for a variety of reasons as he takes the field for his second game of the season.

If this were the Ravens, I wouldn’t hesitate picking the Bengals, but the immense lack of success against Pittsburgh has me reticent on this one. I guess I’d like to believe the Bengals do enough in the draft to split the series in 2018, but ask me again in a couple of weeks and I might have a different answer.

Result: Win

Week 7, Bengals at Chiefs: Cincinnati has fared relatively well against Kansas City recently, but the Chiefs have been one of the better teams over the past couple of seasons. Alex Smith is now in Washington though, so the reins go to second-year quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.

He has an incredible arm, but was viewed as a major boom-or-bust prospect last season. In essence, he’s everything Smith, AKA “Mr. Play-it-safe” wasn’t, so it will be interesting to see how Mahomes’ career trajectory goes. Tough game for the Bengals here, though.

Result: Loss

Week 8, Buccaneers at Bengals: Tampa Bay was an en vogue team for many pundits to have some success last year after going 9-7 in 2016. However, a major backslide occurred, as the Buccaneers went 5-11 and are in the midst of an overhaul.

Jameis Winston makes a number of big plays, but he still turns the ball over with great frequency. Tampa Bay will probably be a bit better this year, but this should be a game the Bengals pull out at home.

Result: Win

Week 10, Saints at Bengals: Drew Brees is the ageless wonder. He still puts up gigantic stats and after three straight seven-win seasons from 2014-2016, New Orleans made it to the divisional round of the playoffs, only to lose to the Vikings in the most fluky of ways.

The Saints added cornerback Patrick Robinson and linebacker Demario Davis in free agency, but the question remains about if 2017 was the exception to the rule, or if the previous three seasons were the fluke with the Hall of Fame quarterback. We’ll see, but if we’re going Brees versus Andy Dalton, I’ll go with Brees.

Result: Loss

Week 11, Bengals at Ravens: If we were talking about the Bengals being in the middle of their 2011-2015 stretch in which the team went 6-4 against Baltimore, including four straight victories, I’d be inclined pick a sweep for Cincinnati. However, the Bengals are coming off of two subpar seasons and I’m not totally sure they have what it takes to be an AFC playoff team in 2018.

I thought Baltimore would be awful last year, but they seemed to be all but headed to the playoffs entering Week 17. John Harbaugh is still one of the better coaches in the NFL, so we shouldn’t have reason to believe Baltimore can’t sneak out a win at home against the Bengals in 2018.

Result: Loss

Week 12, Browns at Bengals: Unfortunately for Cleveland, most teams can pencil in at least one win against them when they appear on the schedule. When it comes to recent matchups in “The Battle of Ohio”, the Bengals have had their fair share of wins to help their sporadic playoff runs under Lewis.

At a minimum, the Bengals will get one win against the Browns in 2018. The one matchup at home should provide one of those wins.

Result: Win

Week 13 Broncos at Bengals: Recent battles between these two franchises have been interesting—particularly the ones on national television in 2014 and 2015. The last time these two battled it out at Paul Brown Stadium back in Week 3 of 2016, the Broncos torched the Bengals behind a four-touchdown performance by Trevor Siemian. Yikes.

Who knows who will be under center for Denver in 2018, though? Will it be 2016 first-rounder Paxton Lynch? Or, will it be one of the “big five” quarterbacks expected to go in the first round this year? Regardless, this seems like a Bengals win as they push towards the postseason.

Result: Win

Week 14, Bengals at Chargers: Flip a coin and call this one. I guess I’m going with emotion over gut-feeling on this critical AFC matchup, as I’ll be attending this one in person.

San Diego is a hard team to figure out this year. After an awful 0-4 start, Los Angeles made another one of their trademark late-season pushes to finish at 9-7 and barely missed out on the postseason in 2017. Their lone big signing this offseason was Mike Pouncey, who should help their offensive line. Their pass rush is formidable, providing problems for Cincinnati, but not enough to squeak out a victory.

Result: Win

Week 15, Raiders at Bengals: Which Oakland team are you getting? Is it the one from 2016 that was one of the best in the league before Derek Carr went down with a thumb injury, or is it the massively disappointing squad that went 6-10 last year?

My sense is that Jon Gruden will turn the Raiders around quickly and have them competitive for the first handful of years under his watch, but his old-school ways may fizzle out in the middle seasons of his 10-year contract. Another coin-flip game here, but I see Carr having a rebound season under Gruden and the Raiders getting back on track, even if for the short-term.

Result: Loss

Week 16, Bengals at Browns: For the past couple of seasons, I’ve predicted the Bengals and Browns to split the annual series because of a variety of reasons. The teams did split the series for three straight years in 2012-2014, but the Bengals have brought out the brooms over the past three years.

When I’ve picked the series to be split, I’ve rightfully been roasted by Bengals fans when the proclamation was made. However, with the addition of Landry, T.J. Carrie, Carlos Hyde, Chris Hubbard and Chris Smith in free agency, coupled with their quest to find a top quarterback this year with two picks within the top-five, they could finally be on to something.

I’ll play it safe and say it’s another Bengals’ sweep, but I’m nowhere near sniffing total confidence on this one and it could be a contest that determines whether or not the Bengals are mediocre once again. Do not be surprised if the Browns get a win against Cincinnati in the series this year.

Result: Win

Week 17 Bengals at Steelers: Let’s see: a crunch-time game with potential postseason implications on the line where the Bengals travel to Heinz Field? Gee, I wonder who has the upper hand?

I’d love to pick Cincinnati here, but realism has to be kicking in, right? Unless something totally funky happens and/or injuries are piling up in The Steel City, I don’t see this one falling the Bengals’ way.

Result: Loss

End result: 9-7; either just missing Wild Card or sneaking into postseason.

What do you make of the Bengals’ 2018 schedule and how do you think they’ll fare?