The Cincinnati Bengals play in the Northern Division of the American Football Conference (AFC). There are no easy games in this grouping of teams. The squad from Western Ohio has to play home games against the improving Cleveland Browns on November 5th, against the always dangerous and competitive Pittsburgh Steelers on December 13th and finally, against the rugged Baltimore Ravens on January 3rd, the last day of the regular season.
The Bengals surprised some analysts by winning the divisional title last year. But, as a result of finishing first, they are facing the second toughest regular season schedule in the entire league.
In truth, the teams on their schedule finished last season with a won-loss record that put their winning percentage, collectively, at .561. That means there may be lots of “land mines” hidden on the road to the playoffs this year.
Graphic via profootballspot
In addition to the home games scheduled to be played against dangerous division rivals, the Bengals will also have to compete against the Seattle Seahawks, the San Diego Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs and, in a nationally-televised Monday night game on November 16th, the Houston Texans.
Of course, last year’s divisional leader will also have to travel to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore to complete home-and-home series against each of the other three teams that are part of the Northern Division.
And if that were not enough, the road well-traveled will also lead them to away-from-home contests with the Denver Broncos, a team with Super Bowl aspirations, the Arizona Cardinals and the Rex Ryan-coached Buffalo Bills.
There are no easy games on this year’s sixteen game schedule, nor should there be any for last year’s first place team. As the squad from Cincinnati knows all too well, when you finish high in the standings, you have to prove in the next season that your accomplishment was not an aberration.
The Bengals will definitely have every opportunity to prove their worth beginning next month, in September. It won’t be easy, but the Ohio ballclub has weapons. Andy Dalton has proven himself to be an effective quarterback that can lead and win.
And AJ Green is already looked upon as one of the game’s best wide receivers. A stingy defense hopes to keep opposing teams from scoring too much while the Cincinnati offense marches up and down the field.
When you look at what is facing the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015, one thought comes quickly to mind. It’s a tall order, a true challenge. Time will tell if this squad with “tiger helmets” will have to raise the level of its play in order to finish in first place again or, at the very least, gain a berth in postseason play.
The belief here is that they can get it done.
Graphic via stripehype