After losing their franchise quarterback in the middle of the 2020 season, the Cincinnati Bengals will be looking to make an impact against their 2021 NFL opponents. Let’s look at who the Bengals will play next season, and how their strength of schedule shapes up compared to their rivals.
Who do the Bengals play in 2021?
The Bengals’ 2021 opponents are already set in stone heading into the offseason. As always, they will face the other three teams in the AFC North division: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers. Likewise, as is customary, the Bengals will play them each twice, both at home and on the road.
The 2021 season will also see the AFC North matching with the AFC West and NFC North for a further eight games. The final two games of the traditional schedule will see the Bengals face the two teams that finished in last place of the AFC East (New York Jets) and AFC South (Jacksonville Jaguars).
What about the Bengals’ 17th game in 2021?
The 2021 season is expected to introduce a 17th regular season game for all NFL teams. While no announcement has officially been made, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on NFL.com that plans are in place to expand the regular season. With that in mind, who would be the opponent for the Bengals’ 17th game in the 2021 season?
Reports suggest that a decision has been made on how the 17th game opponent will be decided. The matchup will be an interconference matchup based on standings on a rotational basis.
Albert Breer reported that the divisional alignments for the 2021 season had already been set. According to Breer, the AFC North will match up with the NFC West for the 17th game. Therefore, the Bengals’ opponent for their 17th game in 2020 would be the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ 2021 opponents
Here are the teams that the Cincinnati Bengals will play against in the 2021 NFL season:
Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Jacksonville Jaguars
Road: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, New York Jets
17th game (location TBD): San Francisco 49ers
Cincinnati Bengals’ strength of schedule for 2021
With the 2020 NFL season in the books, we can look at the Cincinnati Bengals’ ranking regarding their strength of schedule. The strength of schedule rankings here is based on the 2020 records of the Bengals’ 2021 opponents.
The Bengals have one of the toughest schedules in 2021
The 2021 season could be a tough one for the Bengals based on how their opponents performed in 2020. The Bengals’ schedule ranks as the seventh hardest in the entire league. Their schedule ranks as the fourth hardest in the AFC but the easiest within the AFC North.
A big part of the reason why the Bengals’ schedule appears to be tough is their division rivals’ success. The Steelers, Ravens, and Browns won a combined 34 games out of a total of 48 last season.
However, they also have to face the Packers and Chiefs, who won a combined 27 games from a possible 32. The Bengals’ schedule would be even tougher on paper if it weren’t for their games with the Jets and Jaguars.
Unlike the Packers and Chiefs from this past season, the Jets and Jaguars were the worst teams in the NFL. They combined to win just three games all year out of a possible 32 in the 2020 season.
How does their schedule at home compare to their schedule on the road?
The Bengals’ schedule at home in Paul Brown Stadium is particularly tough. Five of their eight opponents at home won more than 10 games in 2020. In contrast, the Bengals’ 2021 opponents in road games contain just three teams that won over eight games last season.
The game against the San Francisco 49ers is somewhat of a wild card. Part of the reason is that, after making it to the Super Bowl in 2019, the 49ers struggled for consistency in the 2020 season. Injuries indeed were a factor, but we’ll have to wait and see how the 49ers bounce back. In addition, we’re not quite sure yet whether this will be a home or road game for the Bengals.
If the teams coming into Paul Brown Stadium are playing at a similar level or better than they were last year, the Bengals could find themselves struggling yet again. However, if those teams are playing at a slightly lower level than in 2020, the Bengals could have a chance to escape with a victory.
Hopefully, the Bengals can come out with a few victories on the road as well. That’s assuming their 2021 road opponents play at a similar level they did from a year ago.
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