At first glance, it is easy to brush off the Cincinnati Bengals 2014 schedule, especially considering the strong year the team had in 2013.
But when one takes into account offseason moves made by teams, the schedule is suddenly not the easiest thing to digest. Here’s a look at how things stand right now, via the team’s website:
2014 Bengals home opponents: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Carolina, Denver
2014 Bengals road opponents: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, New England
Let’s look at the home opponents. Fans know the deal with the AFC North rivals. Baltimore and Pittsburgh, despite somewhat lackluster offseasons so far, will always put up a strong fight. Cleveland is interesting because the offseason to date has been outstanding and they always play their in-state rivals tough. No gimmies there.
Jacksonville can be chalked up as a win. A major talent is headed the team’s way, but the roster overall doesn’t stack up all that well. Tennessee is underrated, but quarterback is a mess. The final three on the home list should cause some major concern — Denver and Carolina will remain title contenders. Peyton Manning isn’t going anywhere. Neither is an elite Carolina defense. Atlanta is a wild card that will be healthy and have a top-10 rookie on board. The pass offense is legit, and the team has made major moves to fix the defense.
The same thing applies to the road schedule in terms of divisional opponents. Then there is Houston, which will have the top rookie and has–as fans surely remember–taken care of Cincinnati the past few years. Indianapolis may still have a leaky defense, but the team will be in any game thanks to Andrew Luck.
Fans know about New Orleans. Elite offense now has a matching elite defense thanks to Rob Ryan. Rarely any team goes to the dome and wins. A trip to Tampa Bay looks promising, but the Buccaneers may have a great defense next year under Lovie Smith. Luke McCown makes the offense competent at the very least. Does New England in Foxborough need any explanation?
Before the draft, the schedule at a basic glance does not look that simple next season. There is a lot of offseason left before a full breakdown can be had, but as it stands now, the 2014 slate is nothing to sniff at.