With the 2011 NFL schedule being released today, it is only right that we take a good hard look at the Bengals' opponents for the upcoming season, and try and gain an idea of what the outcome of each matchup might be. With no games on Monday or Sunday nights, the networks have already shown how little faith they have in Cincinnati football. We'll have a look at whether they got it right.
Not only will we look at week-by-week cases, but how certain games and their results could likely affect one another.
Also, I'm operating under the impression that Carson Palmer will NOT return in 2011. Another thing to keep in mind is that with so little known about how the Bengals offense will look in 2011, it is really hard to give solid predictions, and I'm sure as we go through the draft, free agency (hopefully!), training camp and the preseason, certain revisions can and will be made.
For now, enjoy my speculative predictions for the Bengals 2011 campaign...
When?: Week 4, 2010
Result: 23-20 Loss
As far as opening games go, this is a great one to start the season on for both teams involved. The Battle of Ohio continues, with both teams looking to improve on lackluster 2010 campaigns. Can the Bengals pull off the win on opening day? I'd like to think so, but with a new scheme to learn and a likely new QB under center, this could be an early bump in the road for Cincinnati.
As much as it pains me to say it...
Result: Loss (0-1)
When?: Week 1, 2009
Result: 12-7 Loss
Week 2 is where things might start to fit together, let's not forget the Bengals have had some preseason time to develop Jay Gruden's scheme, so some facets of the Bengals' game will be beginning to click. Brandon Stokley's last-minute robbery when these two teams met is still fresh in Bengal players' minds.
Coupled with this, if the Bengals lose in Cleveland in Week 1, they will be looking to bounce back in Week 2. A Broncos team of a similar standard will provide them with a compelling matchup, one which the Bengals need to win to establish a sense of belief in the locker room and get away from the criticisms of 2010.
Result: Win (1-1)
When?: Week 15, 2007
Result: 20-13 Loss
This match will be crucial for the Bengals, as winning it could allow them to build momentum that could carry them through two weak teams in the following weeks. If San Francisco solves its QB situation in the draft, it will be in a similar situation to Cincy, which could provide for an interesting game.
With the possibility of two young QB's competing in this one, both teams will be desperate for the win to establish themselves and build locker-room confidence. Let's not forget that Jim Harbaugh will be looking to show himself as an NFL-caliber head coach, and with a roster already packing talent, the 49ers will be no walkthrough.
Despite this, the Bengals will be at home against a far-travelling 49ers, and I have to believe that the Bengals will take this one. Especially if they're coming off of a victory in Denver, it's early enough in the season for the Bengals locker room to be oozing confidence whether it is misplaced or not...
Result: Win (2-1)
When?: Week 11, 2010
Result: 49-31 Loss
This marks the Bengals' first game against a head coach not making his debut. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the Buffalo Bills put the boot into them in their last meeting, and to add more salt to the wound, it was former Bengals backup, the "Amish Rifle" Ryan Fitzpatrick, who did it.
Similarly with the 49ers, the Bills could have a new QB at the helm when these two teams collide, which could make for an intense matchup. Regardless of this however, the Bengals will be looking for revenge following last season's thumping, and if momentum is on their side heading into this one, it shouldn't provide too much of a challenge.
Both team's have the potential to make some noise in their respective divisions, and a win here will give either a welcome boost. Expect both teams to come in expecting the W.
Result: Win (3-1)
When?: Week 9, 2008
Result: 21-19 Win
As I mentioned previously, with all going well, the Bengals' momentum will carry them into this one and ultimately through it. Cincinnati will be aware of the fact that it faces Indianapolis next week and could potentially drop a game, so it will want to capitalize on recent success and get the job done here too.
The last time these two met in 2008, it was a close game, and I expect it to be a competitive one this year too. Jacksonville will have the home-field advantage, which could favor the Jags significantly considering Cincinnati will be comfortable at home after two games at PBS.
The Bengals should be able to chalk this one up as a comfortable win, if they can stop MJD...
Result: Win (4-1)
When?: Week 10, 2010
Result: 23-17 Loss
This game (and the following bye week) could be very important for Cincinnati as it will likely be the catalyst for how the rest of the season turns out. While I have given our rookie QB a great start to his first season, this it where it comes to a stop.
I fully expect Indy to take this one, with its team hopefully staying healthy this year, it will be looking to make a statement. With Peyton Manning approaching the twilight of his career, he could likely have a great year.
While I expect this to be a contest, I think of all the teams thus far, Indy is the most likely to bring Cincy its second loss, regardless of Cincy's momentum heading into this one. Indy is the first of teams to have made the playoffs last year that Cincinnati will meet this season. The Bengals will have to up their game to compete in this one.
A week removed from a successful trip to Jacksonville and a nice cushion of victories on which to sit, Cincy might come into this one a little bit soft, which could cost the Bengals a win here.
Result: Loss (4-2)
This is the week where Cincinnati define the rest of its season. I have predicted that when the Bengals reach this bye, they will be sitting on a 4-2 record, with plenty of time to progress or blow up.
The Bengals will likely have a lot of issues to iron out in this bye week, as can be expected from a new system and new players. It is up to them to remain diligent and not become complacent.
Jay Gruden's system on offense will hopefully have taken some sort of cohesive shape by this point, but if not, will Jay have the ability to develop this system further if it isn't going well, or will we have to wait until the following year? There is a lot of faith in him within the organization, and I have to believe that this guy has all the tools, and more importantly the desire, to be a great OC.
As I have predicted, Cincinnati will be going into this bye week with a positive mind set and a positive record, and it is definitely going to need it! Weeks 8-13 provide a fairly brutal stretch for Cincy, as four of the six games following the bye week are on the road, including a long trip to Seattle and then on to Tennessee. Despite this, the competition at home in the AFC North will be just as fierce with many of the Bengals' in-division clashes happening post-bye week.
It's going to be a bumpy road...
When?: Week 3, 2007
Result: 24-21 Loss
Coming out of what will hopefully be a productive bye week, Cincinnati should have no problem in beating Seattle in Seattle. Despite being a playoff team and knocking off the Saints, Seattle remains a team that provokes little fear from opposing sides. Because the Seahawks have a significant amount of issues to iron out this year, many "experts" have suggested they will miss the playoffs.
All going well, the Bengals will have a good idea of what their new identity is on offense and should be able to put it together against a team as weak as Seattle. With their schedule beginning to toughen following this match, the Bengals will know that a win at Qwest Field is crucial.
Result: Win (5-2)
When?: Week 2, 2009
Result: 24-7 Loss
Yet another team with quarterback issues could make for an interesting matchup. Both teams have struggled this past year, and both will be looking for a big win. The last time they met, the Titans handed the Bengals a defeat in a year that had them win the AFC North.
What I predict here, then, is that a road-weary Bengals team loses in Tennessee. After a win in Seattle, I expect the Bengals to be tired and not firing on all cylinders when they roll in to Music City, allowing the Titans to capitalize on that. If you know the Bengals, then you know that they can easily become complacent, and it often takes a kick in the teeth to get the best out of them.
Expect a loss in Tennessee to be that kick in the teeth.
Result: Loss (5-3)
When?: Week 9, 2010
Result: 27-21 Loss
As much as I would love to say that the Bengals take this one, I feel like it will be a stretch for a rookie QB. This rivalry evokes a certain intensity of play that it will take more than one game to get used to. Both teams always try and bring their best to this competition, and Pittsburgh should have no trouble getting the W here.
Although the Bengals have an offensive handicap coming into this one, their defense is well aware of what they need to get done here. Mike Zimmer is desperate to get his D back to the 2009 standard, and this match will be a good assessment of how they are doing. I expect both defenses to be pretty solid in this one, with Big Ben doing a little more on offense to pull out a win.
Result: Loss (5-4)
When?: Week 17, 2010
Result: 13-7 Loss
After an intense division game at PBS in Week 10, this road trip to Baltimore could be a tough one. While I'm hoping the Bengals come in tough and battle ready after facing the Steelers, it could easily be the other way around, and the Bengals could come in beaten up and low on morale.
Baltimore is by no means an easy team to beat, but the Bengals defense has done well to hold it to low-scoring contests in recent meetings. Similarly with Pittsburgh, this will be a low-scoring affair contested mainly by the defenses.
If the Bengals can get to Joe Flacco, they could grind out a win here, but for me I don't see it happening. Flacco is looking better every year and should be able to do more than a rookie QB can for Cincy; let's just hope 52 doesn't put our guy on the floor all day...
Result: Loss (5-5)
When?: Week 15, 2010
Result: 19-17 Win
Well now, considering I went with the Browns in their first meeting, Cincinnati will be looking to right some wrongs here. While I expect the Bengals to play well, they may well get a similar result to the one above. After two grueling losses in Weeks 11 and 12, the Bengals will be desperate for a win here, which could cause them to make a lot of mistakes as the Bengals do oh so very well.
However, with the knowledge that they travel to Heinz Field next week, the Bengals will know that this game is a must win, and is altogether an easier victory than in Pittsburgh. Add the "revenge" factor to this one, and it could produce a victory. If the Bengals learn anything from losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, expect that to manifest itself here in a victory against Cleveland.
Result: Win (6-5)
When?: Week 14, 2010
Result: 23-7 Loss
A win at home at Cleveland will provide little relief for Cincinnati as things go south at Heinz Field. The Steelers will be thinking playoffs and another win against Cincinnati could leave them sitting pretty at the top of the division.
It will have been a rough few weeks for the Bengals offense, and you can expect the defense to carry the brunt of the weight in Pittsburgh. While I'm sure the Bengals D will have a better game than their last trip here, I can't see the Bengals winning this one.
Result: Loss (6-6)
When?: Week 6, 2009
Result: 28-17 Loss
The Texans came away with a victory in a good game in 2009, and I like them to come away with the victory again here. They travel to Cincy and then host Carolina, so they will be looking for wins in both in order to gain momentum if a playoff run is on the cards. The Texans will be coming off hosting the Falcons, so the Bengals might come as somewhat of a breather.
Can Cincy take advantage of that fact? Possibly. Do I think it will? Probably not. The Texans have more firepower on offense and will look to capitalize on a beat-up Bengals unlikely of making the playoffs. Matt Schaub can make all the throws and certainly had no problem scoring in Paul Brown Stadium last time these two met, and I see that continuing.
Result: Loss (6-7)
When?: Week 14, 2007
Result: 19-10 Win
I'm excited for this one. I really like where the Rams are headed, and it'll be great to see our Bengals take them on, especially since we may be a similar team to what they were last year. With both teams having new-look offenses and exciting young OC's, this could make for some seriously exciting football.
The edge comes in Sam Bradford's extra year of experience as well as a home-field advantage. The Rams will likely be contending for the NFC West, and a win at home against Cincinnati is more likely than a win in Pittsburgh the following week. Steve Spagnuolo and the Rams will be very aware of this, so expect them to come all guns-blazing.
Result: Loss (6-8)
When?: Week 11, 2007
Result: 35-27 Loss
The last time these two teams met was 2007. A lot has changed since then. Both of these teams are in search of their next franchise QB, and one, if not both, will hope to be making some progress with whomever they go with under center this year.
The result will likely be determined by whomever has that QB position locked down, but I feel as though Cincinnati will make good here and come out with the victory. With their playoff hopes over, the Bengals will be focusing on establishing a sense of direction going forward. With the new system in place and a QB just trying to get used to the NFL, I expect the Bengals to perform well here.
If there is no other incentive than to finish strong, the Bengals will definitely try and make good on that, especially in front of the home fans.
Result: Win (7-8)
When?: Week 2, 2010
Result: 15-10 Win
The importance of this game for the Baltimore Ravens is likely to be high. The Ravens never have it easy at PBS, and that will continue here. The Bengals will be looking to play spoiler and with it being the last game of the year, you can expect them to play good, hard football.
That being said, if the win here means Baltimore tops the division, then it could pull out all the stops. With Cincinnati out of contention, the drive to please the fans might not be enough. Again, expect a low-scoring defensive affair.
Result: Loss (7-9)
Well from what I have predicted, the Bengals will be looking at a 7-9 season, and I have to admit, even that is optimistic. A rebuilding team is never likely to make huge waves during their first year of that process, and most wouldn't expect Cincinnati to change that.
It's been incredibly difficult trying to predict the Bengals' wins and losses with no real idea of whom will be the team's quarterback, so I'm sure it will make for intense debate over the coming weeks. Perhaps I have been generous in the allocating of wins in the early weeks, but in those first five games the Bengals face just one defense that finished higher than 22nd last season (49ers), so there is reason to believe our wins will come early.
It is hard to be able to properly predict the Bengals' productivity with so little known about how the offense will look in 2011, as I'm sure I have made aware in the difficulty I found in handing out the wins and losses.
As a Bengals fan, it's depressing to think that this is what awaits our team in 2011, but it is realistic to think that we are unlikely to make the playoffs this year, as we are after all, rebuilding.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, I'm sure as time passes, and we get a fuller idea of how the Bengals will look in 2011, certain revisions might be able to be made to this prediction, but based on what we know as of today, this is my speculative prediction for how the season will pan out.
Let's hope I'm wrong...