Schedules seem to ebb and flow every year; a more relaxed season typically follows a harsh one and visa versa. However, if your part of the AFC North, you might not notice the difference when you have to face off with Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice a year regardless. Last year, the Bengals swam into the AFC South and NFC West, neither of which were powerhouse divisions throughout 2011. Nonetheless, the Bengals went 9-7 in the regular season, losing only to teams who earned post-season births.
If that logic happens to become applied to the next season, the Bengals should go at least 10-6, even if the AFC West, AFC North and NFC East each send wild card teams to the play-offs, provided Cincinnati is included in that hunt. The NFC East is certainly poised to be very hungry next season with Philadelphia, Dallas and New York all needing to make statements of own. Likewise, the AFC West is shaping up to be very close competition between those four teams as any has a legitimate shot to the Divisional Champion. There are always inherit difficulties beating a play-off caliber team during the regular season, but not losing to non-play-off teams is going to be a much greater challenge to Cincinnati this year. In short, it won’t be that easy to repeat 9-7. However, a closer examination of the schedule shows that phasing and timing favors the Bengals returning to the post season.