Bengals Need A Hot Start in 2015
Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson (left) and quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
When the Bengals take the field in Week One of the coming season they had better be ready to go. Their 2015 schedule doesn’t present many breaks nor “easy” stretches, so the team can ill-afford to allow their focus to wane (see the NFL’s complete schedule here). But a deeper look at the schedule reveals a hot start is necessary if the team hopes to make its fifth straight playoff appearance.
The Bengals’ final five will prove incredibly difficult as Cincinnati will face the Browns in Cleveland, then the Steelers at home. Then the Bengals have two prime time games in a row: a Sunday Night matchup against the San Francisco 49ers and a Monday Night matchup against the Denver Broncos. Cincinnati then finishes the season at home against Baltimore; it’s a game that could prove to be the difference between a playoff appearance or not. With over a quarter of the season finishing in such difficult fashion, the Bengals will need to find other areas of the season to take advantage of and string together several wins.
Prior to these five games, the Bengals won’t face the toughest part of their schedule based on last year’s win percentage, yet the schedule is far from easy. Following the team’s bye in Week Seven, Cincinnati faces the Steelers in Pittsburgh, then the Browns and Texans at home, the Cardinals in Arizona, and the Rams at home.
This initially seems like a string of games where the Bengals could win three to four of them. But consider this, the two games at home against the Browns and Texans are in prime time. Considering the Bengals struggles to play well “under the lights,” suddenly this stretch of games becomes much more difficult.
This leaves Cincinnati’s first six games prior to their Week Seven bye. The Bengals face the Raiders in Oakland to kick off the season, then face the Chargers in their home opener. They then travel to Baltimore, face the Chiefs and Seahawks at home, and travel to Buffalo before getting a week off.
The Chargers, Chiefs, and Seahawks are certainly no pushovers, but playing all three at home means the Bengals must win a least two. Cincinnati simply must open the season with a win in Oakland, and would do well to beat the Bills on the road. This would give the Bengals four wins and the opportunity for a fifth if they can steal one in Baltimore.
Going 4-2 or 5-1 prior to their bye week puts them in a much more auspicious situation heading into the hell that is their final 10 games. If the Bengals leave this stretch of games at 3-3 or worse, its hard to see them winning another seven or so, which is likely what they’ll need to qualify for the playoffs, especially when considering four of those games are played in prime time and five on the road.
The Bengals face the NFL’s second most difficult schedule in 2015, at least based on opponent win percentage in 2014 (.563). This means they’ll face numerous playoff teams and in several games (five in seven games, they face the Steelers and Ravens twice). They’ll also be facing several borderline playoff teams in the Texans, Chargers, and Chiefs. If the Bengals want to give themselves an opportunity to make the playoffs yet again in 2015, taking advantage of the early part of their schedule is a must.
Next: The Battle of Ohio Will Take Place on TNF Again in 2015
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