The Cincinnati Bengals have a lot of potentially big games on their schedule in 2014. They get several teams, like the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, that made the playoffs a year ago, and also games against teams that are expected to be more competitive than they were a year ago, like the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These will be highly anticipated and mean a lot this season. However, it’s the divisional games against their biggest rivals that are always the most important. This season, like every other, will be defined by how well, or poorly, they play against AFC North foes.
Week One: at Baltimore – The Ravens didn’t make the playoffs in 2013, but they have one of the best front offices in all of football and there’s no reason to think they won’t compete for a spot this year. The Bengals open the season in Baltimore and it could set the tone early in the schedule. It’s only game one, but means a lot.
Week Eight: vs Baltimore – The Bengals get the Ravens at home at the midway point. By then, teams will have a good idea of how the season is going to go, and whether or not they are contenders. These two teams always play each other tough, and this one could very well be for first place in the division.
Week Ten: vs Cleveland – This will be Cincinnati’s only Thursday Night football game this season, and though the Browns have recently been a bottom-feeding team, it doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy game. Cleveland seems to always bring their best in the battle of Ohio, and the Bengals have been vulnerable in nationally televised games.
Week Fourteen: vs Pittsburgh – There isn’t a more physical game for the Bengals all season than when the Steelers come to town. If the division is still tight as the season comes to a close, Cincinnati will not only need a win, but they’ll need to escape this one at full health, something that doesn’t always happen in games with Pittsburgh.
Week Fifteen: at Cleveland – This could be a classic “looking ahead” game. The Bengals have the Broncos in week sixteen, so they will have to be focused to avoid falling victim to the Browns here. Fans know that the Bengals have played down to teams in the past, and in a year with a tough schedule, they can’t afford to do that.
Week Seventeen: at Pittsburgh – The Bengals open the season in Baltimore, and close it in Pittsburgh. It’s very possible that this game is for the division, or a playoff trip. This one could test the team’s mental toughness, in a high-stress situation, with possibly everything on the line. It could be the biggest game of the year.