An Early Look at the Bengals 2015 Schedule

Jeremy Hill

and the Bengals will try to retake the AFC North crown from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals 2015 schedule looks to be the most difficult one they’ve faced in recent years.  It means 2015 will tell fans exactly what this team is made of.  The Bengals have struggled to perform in “big” games.  This means the team may find 2015 difficult, as they’ll face arguably the three best divisions in football and additional two very solid opponents.

In the coming season, the Bengals will face both the AFC and NFC West.  These two divisions are some of the best in football and boast two Super Bowl participants in the last two years.

The NFC West is an incredibly competitive division.  Little needs to be said regarding the merits of the Seattle Seahawks.  They came within yard of being two-time defending champions and possess the NFL’s best defense.  Russell Wilson is a rising star while most of the defense will remain in tact.  They do have some players who’ll need to overcome injuries over the off-season, but with ample cap space to work with, their depth should remain in tact.  This team will be as dangerous as ever in 2015 and will present a difficult home matchup for the Bengals.

The Arizona Cardinals were Super Bowl contenders for much of 2014 despite absorbing a rash of injuries.  Heading into 2015, the team has some salary cap issues to deal with–they’re currently about $10 million over the cap–but if they are able to restructure Larry Fitzgerald‘s contract, they should be able to account for the cap situation pretty easily.  As long as Bruce Arians is leading the charge, the Cardinals are a team to be reckoned with.  The Bengals will face them in Arizona, so they will be facing an uphill battle in this matchup.

The 49ers and St. Louis Rams wrap up the NFC West.  The 49ers are in a state of flux, but still won’t be an easy game.  With such an effective defense, this team can always stay in games.  If their offense is able to simply perform in an acceptable fashion, they can win any game.  Winning this game on the road would give the Bengals a big boost.

The Rams are a similar team with an incredibly talented defensive line.  It is the anchor of their defense and is helping the unit improve by the year.  The team will likely draft some offensive linemen to boost their offense this year.  Like the 49ers, the Rams aren’t an easy win by any means.  With wins against both the Seahawks and Broncos last year, this team can win on any given Sunday.  The NFC West will present a formidable challenge for the Bengals in 2015.

As for the AFC West, the challenge for the Bengals will be much the same.  The Bengals were able to earn a victory at home against the Broncos in 2014, but going to Denver this coming season will present a much different game.

Both the Chargers and Chiefs were borderline playoff participants.  They both present tough passing defense, but struggle against the run.  This will be to the advantage of the Bengals, as their rushing attack will only improve in 2015.  If the Bengals are to find success next year, taking advantage of these two home games will be vital.

To wrap up the AFC West, the Bengals will face the Raiders on the road.  The Raiders aren’t exactly amongst the elite, but they’re young and nearly pulled out a victory against the Patriots.  As this team matures, they should get better if they are coached properly.  Regardless of whether the Raiders improve or not, the Bengals need to win this game in Oakland.

Of course the Bengals will face their fellow AFC North opponents.  As the league’s best and most competitive division, the Bengals will be in for a serious fight for the division crown.  The Steelers are the defending AFC North champions and are young.  They should only improve going forward.

Meanwhile, the Ravens may have finished third in the division per the standings, but they enjoyed the most success in 2014.  The beat the Steelers in the playoffs and lost a very tough game to the Patriots.  With a few key additions in the draft, this team could certainly take the division’s crown in the coming season.

Despite the Browns being a “mess” according to CBS’ Jason La Canfora, the team has given the Bengals trouble in recent years.  Yes, the Bengals did shutout the Browns in Week 15, but the teams have split their matchups every year since 2012.  The Bengals should win both of these games, but they have yet to prove they can, so until they do, these games should be considered difficult.

The Bengals wrap up the season with a home game against the Houston Texans and a road game against the Buffalo Bills; the Bengals face these two teams because they finished second place in their respective divisions like the Bengals did in their own.  The Bengals did beat the Texans on the road in 2014, but it’s worth noting that Arian Foster did not play in the game.  The trend of teams who aren’t easy victories continues here.  With a strong running game and capable defense, the Texans can win any game.  The Bengals will need to bring their best against the team that eliminated them from the 2011 and 2012 playoffs.

The Buffalo Bills are on the rise in the AFC East and now boast a capable head coach in Rex Ryan.  It’s true, Ryan did have his worst year with the Jets this past season, but the organization has to own that reality as much as, if not more, than Ryan.  The Bills own one of the league’s best pass rushes and aren’t slouches against the run.  They’ll also get back former defensive Rookie of the Year Kiko Alonso.  The Bills also possess an up-and-coming offensive line after investing heavily in it last year.  Winning in the trenches often gives teams a significant advantage in games.  This is what the Bengals will need to overcome when facing the Bills on the road.

When 2015 is all said and done, the Bengals will have faced the toughest schedule they’ve faced in recent years.  The Bengals will need to find some mental fortitude as they’ll likely be faced with innumerable difficult situations.  If they can, there’s no reason this team can’t qualify for the playoffs for a fifth straight season and win when it matters.  If they can’t find this fortitude, then the Bengals will likely struggle in 2015.

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