5 most difficult defenses Joe Burrow and Bengals will face in 2023

December 19, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97)
December 19, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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The Cincinnati Bengals are in for a challenging ride with their first-place schedule. Yes, they will go against a few defenses they should fare well against, however, they also have a murderer’s row of formidable defensive foes in 2023.

Here are the five most difficult defenses Joe Burrow and the Bengals will face in 2023. Unfortunately, the Bengals will play eight games versus these five teams. 

All Stats Provided by ESPN and Pro Football Reference.

5. Cleveland Browns

It’s the grand opening and grand closing this year for the “Battle of Ohio.” The Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns face off in Weeks 1 and 18 of the season and the team from southwest Ohio will have their hands full with Cleveland’s defense. 

Last season, Cleveland allowed the fifth-fewest pass yards in the NFL and gave up the fifth-fewest touchdown passes. Their stingy defense ranked fifth in yards allowed per game. 

The Browns held Burrow to a season-low 54.6 completion percentage in their December matchup last season. 

Cleveland has a young defender in Martin Emerson who was PFF’s 15th-best cornerback despite being a third-round rookie. He is part of an impressive secondary with Denzel Ward on the outside and Greg Newsome II in the slot. 

And then there’s Myles Garrett who has been a nightmare for the Bengals since he entered the league. He continues to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Pro Football Focus graded him as the best pass rusher from last season. 

Garrett finished with the second-most sacks in 2022 with 16. Hopefully, the Bengals have an answer for him in Orlando Brown Jr. Nevertheless, we can only hope that Jonah Williams has more success versus the pass rusher from the right side of the offensive line than he did on the left. 

Speaking of PFF’s top pass rushers, the Browns added Za’Darius Smith to their roster via trade with the Minnesota Vikings. He should be an excellent compliment to what Garrett brings. Garrett and Smith finished eighth and ninth in pressures, respectively. 

As things stand right now, expect Burrow and the Bengals' offense to have success on the ground when they face Cleveland. The passing game is always a battle when these two teams play. Or as Ja’Marr Chase so eloquently put it, “on-sight.”