With the release of the schedule for the 2014 NFL season last night, fans are now able to look ahead and officially analyze it and try to predict wins and losses for their favorite team. Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals are no different, as they examine the coming games, trying to determine just how many wins await them this season, and if they’ll be making a fourth straight trip to the playoffs. There are some key games on the schedule. Here are the most interesting non-divisional matchups this year.
Week 5: at New England: The Bengals got a big lift last season by hanging on to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots. This season they get them on national television at Gillette Stadium. Cincinnati will be coming off of their bye week, so they have time to prepare. This one also starts a run of games against playoff teams. A win could have them right in the thick of the playoff race and give a young team confidence.
Week 7: at Indianapolis: Andrew Luck and the Colts figure to just keep getting better, and are going to be tough for the Bengals on the road. Luck and company will test a defense that is missing a key pass rusher in Michael Johnson, and an aging secondary. This one could also have playoff implications down the road if the Bengals and Colts both wind up fighting for the same spot.
Week 13: at Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers have been a team struggling to find its identity of late, but they have plenty of talent. They also have a couple of familiar faces to Bengals fans. Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins now call Tampa their home, and will look to say hello to their old teammates.
Week 16: vs Denver: Peyton Manning comes to town and brings a tough bunch of Broncos with him. Cincinnati has never beaten Manning, with neither the Colts nor the Broncos. Denver is a high-powered team and the Bengals will have to be flawless to get the elusive win. They’ll also need to be healthy at the end of the season, something that didn’t happen last year.