2013 Cincinnati Bengals Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info & Analysis

Andrea HangstFeatured Columnist IVApril 18, 2013

2013 Cincinnati Bengals Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info & Analysis

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    While most of us aren't looking further ahead to this NFL season beyond the upcoming draft, Thursday's schedule release provides a useful opportunity to examine the Cincinnati Bengals' 2013 home and away opponents and make a few early predictions. 

    In 2012, the Bengals went 10-6 and reached the playoffs for the second consecutive season. So how may they fare this year? Here's a look at every game on the Bengals' schedule this year and how they'll handle each opponent. 

Week 1: Bengals at Chicago Bears

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears are remarkably similar teams, with the same vision and slightly different ways of executing it. As such, when these two teams meet in 2013, it should be a most interesting game. 

    The Bears' goal for 2013 is to keep their quarterback, Jay Cutler, better protected. With time in the pocket, he's one of the strongest-armed and most accurate passers in the league. However, even if they do have a better offensive line, they'll still need to keep the Bengals' defensive front at bay.

    No team seems to have found a consistently effective answer to keeping Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson both from getting pressure after pressure, and if the Bengals can wear down Chicago's pass protection, they should be able to earn themselves a close road win.


    Prediction: Bengals, 31-27

Week 2: Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kickoff Time: 8:40 PM Eastern (Monday Night Football, ESPN)


    For season after season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the team to beat in the AFC North if you wanted to prove you're a team on the rise. But now, after this offseason, the Steelers appear to be in bad shape.

    They lost wide receiver Mike Wallace in free agency, released linebacker James Harrison and tight end Heath Miller is questionable to start the season after tearing his ACL in 2012. In terms of all-around talent, the Bengals have appeared to pass the Steelers by in the AFC North—draft results pending, of course.

    If Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is lacking for targets, however, and they don't address their running back situation properly, then it should be no trouble for Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson to get pressure on him effectively. And with a hole-filled and aging defense, the Steelers won't be able to contain both A.J. Green and the two-headed monster of the Bengals' run game after they draft someone speedy to pair with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.


    Prediction: Bengals, 24-17

Week 3: Bengals vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Green Bay Packers have been one of the league's strongest teams for seasons now and whether they're at home or on the road, they are one of the most formidable opponents the Bengals could face. While the Packers aren't perfect—their run game still needs work, as does their secondary—what quarterback Aaron Rodgers brings to the table makes those deficiencies almost seem nonexistent at times.

    The key for a Bengals victory is to successfully and repeatedly pressure Rodgers, therefore, in order to keep the Packers' point total down and the game manageable for the Bengals. With such a fierce front seven, the Bengals could certainly accomplish this task. However, there are few defensive tricks Rodgers has not yet seen and he'll ultimately prove too much for Cincinnati to handle.


    Prediction: Green Bay, 31-21

Week 4: Bengals at Cleveland Browns

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Cleveland Browns don't project to be the doormat team they've been in the past, considering how many improvements they've already made on offense, defense and in the coaching staff and front office. However, they still have a way to go to match wits with an AFC North rising star like the Cincinnati Bengals.

    This game, played in Cleveland, should be fairly close—it's not an easy place to play. But the Bengals' two-year streak of continuous improvement and success gives them the experience edge over the young Browns. Pressure on Brandon Weeden and accurate passing from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green should be enough to pull out the victory.


    Prediction: Bengals, 20-17

Week 5: Bengals vs. New England Patriots

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    It's been since 2001 that the Cincinnati Bengals have defeated the New England Patriots—and that was prior to Tom Brady taking over the Patriots' quarterback duties. Since that win, the two teams have met four times, twice in Foxboro and twice at Paul Brown Stadium, and each time the Patriots have won and put up more than 30 points. 

    Whatever home field advantage the Bengals have practically evaporates when the Patriots come to town this year. Ultimately, the key to defeating the Patriots is to either: 1) Prevent Brady from scoring or, 2) Outscore him yourself. The Bengals seem well-equipped to do the former, but the latter is still a work-in-progress. However, the Bengals did put up 30 or more points in five games last year, proving their offense is certainly on the right track.

    It would do much for the Bengals' standing in the AFC as a whole to take down the conference's most-celebrated squad. At a relatively early point in the season, it does become a little bit easier. Though I think they can keep this a fairly close game, the Brady factor still outweighs all of the positives dotting the Bengals' roster.


    Prediction: Patriots, 34-31

Week 6: Bengals at Buffalo Bills

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    Oh, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are still trying to figure out who they are—they don't even know who their quarterback is at present—and have a brand new head coach leading the way. This is a team unprepared to face a squad as dangerous on both offense and defense as the Bengals and when they meet, it's going to be a blowout.

    The Bills don't lack talented players, mind you—they just don't have as many as the Bengals. Buffalo is going to be overwhelmed by what the Bengals do when the two team face each other this season. It's not going to be pretty.


    Prediction: Bengals, 34-10

Week 7: Bengals at Detroit Lions

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Detroit Lions do perform better at home than on the road, however their 2012 season was a bit odd. They became unpredictable, prone to spans of undisciplined play and failed to take over near the end of close games. However, when they are on, they are nearly unstoppable. How the Bengals' meeting with them goes this year is highly dependent on which Lions team they'll be seeing.

    The Lions, when they can get things going well, will be tough for the Bengals to beat. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is the best in the league at his position and manages to get open and pull down passes even when in triple coverage. Though his Bengals counterpart, A.J. Green, is quickly closing the talent gap between them, Johnson is still his superior.

    The key is to cut off Matthew Stafford from throwing to Johnson while not letting the Lions defense do the same to Andy Dalton and Green. The Lions don't handle chaos well, so if the Bengals can create it, they should manage the win.


    Prediction: Bengals, 23-20

Week 8: Bengals vs. New York Jets

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    Kickoff Time: 4:05 PM Eastern


    Simply put, it would take a lot for the New York Jets to use this offseason to become a better overall team than the Cincinnati Bengals—or equally as much for the Bengals to take a dip that turns them into underdogs when the Jets come to town in Week 8. While upsets happen every week in the NFL, if we're just talking about early predictions based on this year's schedule, it's hard to imagine the Jets defeating the Bengals at any point this season.

    Position-by-position, the Bengals are better than the Jets. As long as they play that way, they'll get a decisive win.


    Prediction: Bengals, 27-10

Week 9: Bengals at Miami Dolphins

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    Kickoff Time: 8:25 PM Eastern (Thursday Night Football, NFL Network)


    Last year, the Bengals were caught off guard by the Miami Dolphins in Week 5, falling 17-13 thanks to a disastrous performance by Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton. This season, they'll be facing a retooled Dolphins roster on the national stage and hoping for a different result.

    The Dolphins loss in 2012 helped lay bare Dalton's issues with pressure. This is an area he'll likely spend the entire offseason improving. If he can do so and manage to get the ball out of his hands without making many mistakes, they should be able to exact their revenge on a team that should be greatly outmatched, regardless of their free agency and draft additions.


    Prediction: Bengals, 23-13

Week 10: Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Baltimore Ravens, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, did a lot of retooling of their roster this offseason. Unlike the Steelers, however, the Ravens actually appear to have made theirs stronger in the short term. The defending Super Bowl champions aren't going to idle at 8-8 in 2013 simply because Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are no longer there, and the Cincinnati Bengals cannot look at them as any less dangerous because of the many changes.

    The Ravens are a stellar team at home and nearly impossible to beat on their own turf—especially in an important late-season game with the division potentially on the line. Though the Bengals may be the overall better team this year, it won't be enough to pull off the road win against the Ravens. 


    Prediction: Ravens, 17-10

Week 11: Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Cincinnati Bengals have a lot in common with the Cleveland Browns—both have quarterbacks who still have something to prove and they both have many young players on their respective rosters. However, the Browns' path to a winning season has been long and meandering while the Bengals have managed to turn things around much more quickly.

    The Bengals also have wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive tackle Geno Atkins—two of the best offensive and defensive weapons in the league—which helps give them an advantage over the Browns, especially at home.

    Though the Browns aren't a team to count out this year—they have a lot of talent, a great new coaching staff and a number of new faces who will help them immeasurably—the Bengals may very well be the AFC North's best team. Cleveland will keep this game fairly close, but ultimately the Bengals pick up the win.


    Prediction: Bengals, 30-20

Week 13: Bengals at San Diego Chargers

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    Kickoff Time: 4:25 PM Eastern


    Things aren't going according to plan right now for the San Diego Chargers. After being one of the league's strongest teams for years on both offense and defense, those aspects of their game took a major hit in 2012. They couldn't keep quarterback Philip Rivers protected enough to throw the ball effectively and injuries stymied their running game. On defense, they lacked the vicious pass rush of seasons past and the result was a disappointing 7-9 season.

    The Chargers will obviously be trying hard to rectify all of these weaknesses during the offseason and they'll likely have modest success in doing so. But the Chargers are the old guard; now, they are giving way to younger, more dynamic teams like the Cincinnati Bengals. As such, the Bengals should pull out a convincing win, especially after their bye week.


    Prediction: Bengals, 27-13 

Week 14: Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Indianapolis Colts were surprise entrants into the NFL playoffs last year, just months after embarking on a nearly wholesale rebuild that included swapping out longtime quarterback Peyton Manning for rookie Andrew Luck.

    Despite that successful season, one must be reminded that the Colts remain a work-in-progress. The late meeting between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Colts favors the slightly more experienced home team. Yes, Luck is a dynamic quarterback, but he was also hit an incredibly large amount last season. All the Bengals need to do is bring their signature pressure to the second-year passer and play solidly on offense and they'll get this win.


    Prediction: Bengals, 31-23

Week 15: Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kickoff Time: 8:30 PM Eastern (Sunday Night Football, NBC)


    The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in trouble—or in transition, depending on how you'd like to look at it. While the draft may solve some of their issues, it doesn't appear that the team the Steelers will field in 2013 will be akin to the hard-hitting defenses and big-play offenses they've been known for in years past. 

    What the Steelers once were, the Bengals are now becoming. This year, they should be able to walk into Heinz Field and get themselves a win—the Bengals are more complete, while the Steelers have found themselves in the rare position of trying to build a new identity.


    Prediction: Bengals, 21-16

Week 16: Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    The Minnesota Vikings were one of 2012's surprises, reaching the playoffs despite having a number of issues on both offense and defense. The question is whether this is sustainable—whether the Vikings can continue on their upward trend or whether it was just a one-time fluke.

    The biggest concern for the Bengals in this contest is stopping Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and keeping the pass rush out of Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton's face. Both things are absolutely possible for the Bengals; as such, I have them pulling out the close win.


    Prediction: Bengals, 17-14

Week 17: Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM Eastern


    While the Cincinnati Bengals did beat eventual Super Bowl champions the Baltimore Ravens last year, it was in Week 17 when the Ravens, who had already clinched the AFC North title and with it a playoff berth, chose to rest the majority of their starters after a series or two. When the two teams met in the 2012 season opener, however, the Bengals were blown out to the tune of 44-13.

    The Ravens have undergone a great many roster changes since that Super Bowl win, but the end result might actually be a stronger team in 2013 than in 2012. At the same time, however, the Bengals have continued to improve since that blowout loss in Week 1 of last season and as long as they handle the draft correctly, should be one of the more balanced teams in the NFL when they finally take the field in September.

    The Bengals have a chance to make a statement this season—that there's a changing of the guard underway in the AFC North, and there's no better time to do it than in Week 17 with the AFC North potentially on the line. And how do they do this? Bring pressure to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, run the ball better than their Ravens counterparts and complete the big passes while preventing Baltimore from connecting on theirs. This should be easier at home for the Bengals this year than on the Ravens' home turf, even in what could be a very high-stakes situation.


    Prediction: Bengals, 17-14