5 toughest remaining games on Bengals 2023 schedule

  • Two AFC North foes
  • Two other AFC squads
  • A terrifying NFC team
Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals
Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals / Norm Hall/GettyImages
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Cautious optimism is felt throughout the Cincinnati Bengals fanbase after their 34-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals, a win in which it felt like both sides showed up to play. There were lulls and mistakes on both sides, sure, but this is the most complete game we've seen from Cincinnati so far this season.

The defense made some big-time plays, especially in the second half, and the offense was not only staying on the field for more than three plays, but they were actually churning out long, successful drives that ended in points.

The best part? Joe Burrow looked much more comfortable and confident, more like what we're used to seeing from him. Not only did he deliver a perfectly thrown, 63-yard dime to Ja'Marr Chase to kick off the second half, but he was moving around in the backfield, avoiding pressure, and even had a couple of promising scrambles.

That being said, this team is still 2-3 and it's a long road to playoff football, with plenty of good teams standing in the way. Even with this victory, there are still concerns about both sides of the ball. The offensive line is not winning the battle of the trenches, the run defense continues to struggle, and there are notable injuries to watch out for. Tee Higgins (ribs) and Chidobe Awuzie (back) did not play in the win on Sunday, and Germaine Pratt appeared to get dinged up on his interception late in the fourth, which hopefully isn't anything too serious.

Fortunately, the depth pieces stepped up. Rookie DJ Turner II had had a few tackles and played solid in coverage, while Trenton Irwin had a career-high reception total with eight alongside one of the best Ja'Marr Chase performances we've ever seen. Still, you don't want to see your stars on the bench battling injuries.

While they are on the right track, the tough tests they have on the horizon will prove whether or not they are truly back. Let's take a look at the toughest of those tests, tackling each team in the order that the Bengals are scheduled to play them.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Week 8 vs. San Francisco 49ers

After throttling the Cowboys on Sunday night in a 42-10 win, the 49ers are looking like the team to beat right now. They have very few weaknesses and one of, if not the, strongest rosters in the league. The Niners boast a good, young quarterback, one of the best running backs in the league, a great receiving core that includes a top-three tight end, and an outstanding defense that is second-best in points against and fourth in yards allowed.

The point is they might just be the best in the league. They're just one of the two remaining undefeated teams-- and they've won much more convincingly than the Eagles have, sporting the highest point differential in the league through five weeks.

In just three weeks, the Bengals march into Levi's Stadium to face this juggernaut. The 49ers are arguably the hardest opponent they have on their schedule.

With how the run defense has struggled, Kyle Shannahan will no doubt take full advantage of this and unleash Christian McCaffrey and their strong rush attack on a Lou Anarumo unit that hasn't been as effective as we've seen the last couple of years. The Niners defense is full of playmakers, especially in the secondary, which is why they're tied with Buffalo for the most interceptions so far this season.

There's no doubt in my mind that an away game against this Niners squad will be their toughest matchup for the rest of the season. If the Bengals come away with a win, it'll prove that they truly are still contenders.