Week 1: L.A. Chargers (Home)
Prediction: Win 24-17 (1-0)
The Bengals’ week one matchup is an interesting one. How will Joe Burrow fare in his NFL debut? Who will be the Charger’s starting quarterback? While it should be expected that Justin Herbert will be the starter by the end of the season, it’s safe to assume Tyrod Taylor will run the offense in week one.
The last time Taylor had a starting NFL job was with the Browns in 2018, where he had an abysmal 49.4% completion percentage before Baker Mayfield took the starting job. Because of this, the new-look Bengals’ defense should be able to keep the Chargers from doing much on offense. If Burrow can be serviceable in his first game, the Bengals should surprise everyone and take this one.
Week 2: Cleveland Browns (Away)
Prediction: Loss 17-23 (1-1)
In Week 2, the Bengals get a short week of preparation before heading to Cleveland for Thursday night football. This should be a close matchup that will be the start of a hopefully longterm quarterback rivalry between Joe Burrow and Baker Mayfield. Given that the game is in Cleveland, the Browns should have the edge in this one. The Browns should be able to put their pieces together this season better than they did under Freddie Kitchens and will pose as Burrow’s first big challenge of the season in primetime.
Week 3: Philadelphia Eagles (Away)
Prediction: Loss 10-27 (1-2)
The start of the Bengals’ schedule is going to be a real challenge for a team that just underwent a major transformation. In Week 3, they have to travel to Philadelphia and play the reigning NFC East Champions. This game will probably be Burrow’s first taste of being embarrassed in the NFL.
The matchup is almost unfair. The Bengals’ unreliable offensive line will have the tall task of keeping what is potentially the best defensive line in the entire NFL from getting to their young quarterback. It could be a losing battle for the Bengals’ line.
Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars (Home)
Prediction: Win 20-10 (2-2)
After getting embarrassed in Philadelphia, the Bengals should bounce back at home against the Jaguars. Jacksonville finds themselves as the team most analysts expect to have the first pick in the 2021 draft, putting them in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. The Bengals, on the other hand, hope to be as far away from the first overall pick as they can be after finding themselves with it in 2020.
The Jaguars have an inexperienced quarterback in Gardner Minshew with an underwhelming group of weapons around him. Cincinnati’s defense should be able to shut him down and get the Jaguars one game closer to the top pick in the draft.