Four prime time games highlight the 2023 schedule for the Cincinnati Bengals.
And for the first time in the Joe Burrow era, the Bengals will open — and close out — the season against Cleveland.
Cincinnati will travel to play the Browns in Week 1, and will conclude the regular season against Cleveland in the Jungle in January 2024.
The Bengals will host Baltimore in Week 2, putting them to the test early in the season with back-to-back AFC North games.
Last season, Cincinnati dropped the first two games and started the season 0-2, before making a memorable run to the AFC Championship game.
Week 3 will feature a rematch of Super Bowl LVI — when the Rams come to Cincinnati in a long-awaited rematch which will be featured on Monday Night Football.
The odds will favor the Bengals since Los Angeles depleted its championship roster from two years ago — and players such as Vonn Miller, Jalen Ramsey and Odell Beckham Jr. are no longer on the team from Cali.
After that contest, the Bengals go on the road for back-to-back games in Tennessee and Arizona.
In week 6, the Seahawks come to town, followed by the midseason bye week.
Seattle will be the most-traveled NFL team with more than 31,000 miles on the road and in the air, while the Bengals will travel the least this season at 14,792 miles — according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
That will allow for more time to rest, especially toward the end of the season and another playoff run.
They come off the bye week and head to San Francisco, and then come home to host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football on Nov. 5.
In Week 10, Cincinnati will host Houston, and then head off to Baltimore for Thursday Night Football in the team’s third prime time performance.
They then host Pittsburgh before going to Jacksonville on Week 13 — and the season’s second appearance on Monday Night Football.
Weeks 14 and 15 feature home stands against Indianapolis and Minnesota, followed by a road trip to the Steel City to take on Pittsburgh.
The big showdown will be on New Year’s Eve — when the Bengals travel to Kansas City for a late-afternoon game on CBS.
This game caught my eye right out of the gate, and I have already booked my hotel room in Kansas City for a couple of reasons.
The main reason is that GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium might be my favorite place to cover the Bengals.
I love the press box, the view, the hospitality, and that yummy brisket they serve us.
The other reason is that the hotel I booked is a 10-minute walk to Jack Stack BBQ.
Four prime time games and a fruitful NFL Draft put the Bengals as legitimate contenders to win the AFC North again.
Last year, the Bengals had one of the toughest NFL schedules — and was one bad call/missed call away from going to their second straight Super Bowl.
This season, the schedule is not quite as grueling.
No team is a gimme win in the NFL, but the strength of schedule this season does not compare to last year’s gauntlet.
In 2022, Cincinnati finished 12-4 and won the AFC North.
A canceled game against Buffalo when Damar Hamlin went down on Monday Night Football in Cincinnati really screwed things up — and put the kibosh on what may have been home-field advantage for the Bengals.
I’m so glad that Hamlin is cleared to play.
I was there when he needed resuscitated on the field, and it was scary.
There was no right or wrong decision there to cancel the game.
It was just unfortunate.
Even with the 0-2 start, Cincinnati went 12-2 to finish out the season in one of the toughest schedules ever.
This season, the slate of teams they must play is tough, but not as challenging as 2022.
I predicted the Bengals would go 12-5 and return to the Super Bowl last year.
Boy was I almost right.
I was one game off (canceled, and the Bengals looked good in the first quarter), and one call away from hitting my prediction.
This season, with the combination of the schedule, the NFL Draft picks, offseason moves and the fact that Burrow has more offensive weapons now, I believe Cincinnati will go 13-4, win the AFC North, and be on the field in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 10, 2024.
I’m looking forward to going back to the Strip.