Cincinnati Bengals schedule and predictions takeaways:
- The Bengals face the Minnesota Vikings at home in Week 1 of the NFL season.
- Their Week 10 bye is set between games against the Cleveland Browns and Las Vegas Raiders (Nov. 7 and Nov. 21).
- Sportsnaut predicts the Bengals will end the season in last place in the AFC North with a 4-13 record.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ schedule for the 2021 NFL season is officially out, and they have their work cut out to dig out of the AFC North cellar, much less contend for the playoffs.
Drafting wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to reunite with quarterback Joe Burrow is a feel-good story, but this Cincinnati roster still has lots of holes. Burrow is coming off a major knee injury that cut his rookie year short, too.
Here’s a look at the Bengals’ complete 2021 schedule, and game-by-game predictions as to how they’re likely to fare in the regular season.
Cincinnati Bengals schedule predictions, roster outlook
Let’s take a look at the team’s complete 2021 schedule and make predictions for each game.
Bengals roster outlook
All our predictions are based on the Bengals keeping and starting these key players:
- QB – Joe Burrow
- RB – Joe Mixon
- WR – Ja’Marr Chase (rookie), Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate
- TE – CJ Ozomah, Drew Sample
- Defense – Bengals not ranked in top 20 this week
The offensive line in front of Burrow is improved from last season, but that’s an extremely low bar to clear. Burrow has a great trio of receivers to throw to, but given the dire state of Cincinnati’s defense, he’ll need to win a lot of shootouts for the Bengals to even sniff playoff contention.
Cincinnati Bengals 2021 preseason schedule
|Saturday, Aug. 14||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7:30 PM||Bengals TV Network|
|Friday, Aug. 20||@ Washington Football Team||8:00 PM||Bengals TV Network|
|Sunday, Aug. 29||vs. Miami Dolphins||4:30 PM||CBS|
This season the NFL is lowering the amount of preseason games to three per team, and instead expanding the regular season to 17 games, rather than the traditional 16 games.
Week 1 – vs. Minnesota Vikings
|Sunday, Sept. 12||1:00 PM||FOX|
- Spread: Vikings -3.5 (via DraftKings)
- Moneyline: Vikings -180; Bengals +145
- Over/Under: 48
It should be a close one here. However, Dalvin Cook is just too good of a runner not to go for at least 100 yards in Cincinnati. There’s a good chance garbage time would account for this final score being as tight as it is.
- Week 1 prediction: Vikings 35, Bengals 31
Week 2 – @ Chicago Bears
|Sunday, Sept. 19||1:00 PM||FOX|
There’s no question the Bengals have the better quarterback situation with Burrow, but the Bears have such a stout defense and could well have an X-factor at QB in Justin Fields, unless Burrow’s predecessor, Andy Dalton, starts. Chicago is one of Cincinnati’s better matchups personnel-wise, though, so let’s go with the upset.
- Week 2 prediction: Bengals 27, Bears 24
Week 3 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers
|Sunday, Sept. 26||1:00 PM||CBS|
It’s going to be a down season for Pittsburgh, but its T.J. Watt-led defense can do enough to slow Burrow and Cincinnati’s passing attack down. This may be the one matchup where the Steelers’ offensive line has an advantage over its opponent, which means rookie tailback Najee Harris is in for a big outing.
- Week 3 prediction: Steelers 24, Bengals 20
Week 4 – vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (TNF)
|Thursday, Sept. 30||8:20 PM||NFLN|
The past two No. 1 overall picks in Burrow and Trevor Lawrence squaring off! What a fun time. Thing is, these teams weren’t far apart even last season, and it seems pretty obvious that Jacksonville got the far superior upgrades since the 2020 campaign ended. That should show in what happens on the field when these maligned franchises meet.
- Week 4 prediction: Jaguars 31, Bengals 28
Week 5 – vs. Green Bay Packers
|Sunday, Oct. 10||1:00 PM||FOX|
You’d be hard-pressed not to pick the Bengals for the sheer value they could get as an underdog. That is, as long as Aaron Rodgers isn’t under center in Green Bay. If the reigning league MVP returns to the Packers, and this is the assumption we’re operating under here, Cincinnati has zero chance to win.
- Week 5 prediction: Packers 42, Bengals 24
Week 6 – @ Detroit Lions
|Sunday, Oct. 17||1:00 PM||FOX|
Despite how much of a rebuild Detroit is in right now, this is a very winnable game for the Lions. They drafted Penei Sewell to shore up their offensive line, and got two interior defenders in Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill capable of manhandling the front protecting Burrow. That should at least keep things close.
- Week 6 prediction: Bengals 31, Lions 27
Week 7 – @ Baltimore Ravens
|Sunday, Oct. 24||1:00 PM||CBS|
The Ravens’ pass rush is going to be thinner because of their free-agent losses, but Lamar Jackson and Co. will still be able to run all over this porous Cincinnati front seven. Burrow is going to be under duress against Baltimore’s exotic, aggressive defense and can only do so much.
- Week 7 prediction: Ravens 33, Bengals 24
Week 8 – @ New York Jets
|Sunday, Oct. 31||1:00 PM||CBS|
Zach Wilson squaring off with Burrow will make for a fun quarterback duel. Jets pass-rusher Carl Lawson left Cincinnati as a free agent this offseason, so he’ll be eager to wreak havoc. This should be a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair that the hosts ultimately prevail in.
- Week 8 prediction: Jets 41, Bengals 38
Week 9 – vs. Cleveland Browns
|Sunday, Nov. 7||1:00 PM||CBS|
Unless the Bengals catch these star-studded Browns completely napping, they’ll have little hope of beating them in either meeting this season. Cincinnati’s defensive backfield actually matches up quite well with Cleveland’s pass-catchers, but the Browns can run the ball at will, which will help them get the win.
- Week 9 prediction: Browns 38, Bengals 20
WEEK 10 BYE
Week 11 – @ Las Vegas Raiders
|Sunday, Nov. 21||4:05 PM||CBS|
The winning formula for Cincinnati in 2021 will involve scoring a lot of points and hoping a healthy Burrow has the ball in his hands last against non-playoff opponents. This is very much in play when the Bengals travel to Las Vegas. Because the Bengals’ secondary is better than the Silver and Black’s, they get the edge here.
- Week 11 prediction: Bengals 41, Raiders 34
Week 12 – vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
|Sunday, Nov. 28||1:00 PM||CBS|
Drafting yet another nose tackle in Tyler Shelvin to pair with DJ Reader made little sense, but against the Steelers, it’d all but guarantee the Bengals could stop the run. A one-dimensional Ben Roethlisberger is not something Pittsburgh wants to see. This has shades of what happened in Week 16, 2020, when Cincy bolted to a 17-0 lead and won 27-17.
- Week 12 prediction: Bengals 20, Steelers 16
Week 13 – vs. Los Angeles Chargers
|Sunday, Dec. 5||1:00 PM||FOX|
New Chargers coach Brandon Staley is one of the game’s premier defensive minds. in what could’ve otherwise been a great showdown between 2020 draft QBs Burrow and Justin Herbert instead turns into a blowout in the visitors’ favor.
- Week 13 prediction: Chargers 38, Bengals 13
Week 14 – vs. San Francisco 49ers
|Sunday, Dec. 12||1:00 PM||CBS|
Stopping the run was a nightmare for the Bengals in 2020, and they did little to improve in that area. Imagine what a creative schematic genius in 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is going to throw at Cincinnati here. It’s not going to be pretty for the home team, that’s for sure.
- Week 14 prediction: 49ers 27, Bengals 17
Week 15 – @ Denver Broncos
|Sunday, Dec. 19||4:05 PM||CBS|
Playing in the altitude is usually a tall task for opponents unfamiliar with the unique elements in the Mile High City. Since Cincinnati’s defense is already lacking playmakers, and the Broncos have the personnel at cornerback to hold up against the Bengals’ loaded receiving corps, Denver should take care of business.
- Week 15 prediction: Broncos 31, Bengals 17
Week 16 – vs. Baltimore Ravens
|Sunday, Dec. 26||1:00 PM||CBS|
As long as they’re not playing from behind, this Ravens offense travels as well as any in football, because it doesn’t require a high volume of pass attempts to get the job done. Cincinnati is outmatched at the point of attack and has no answers for Baltimore’s elite rushing attack, so playing on home turf won’t really matter.
- Week 16 prediction: Ravens 31, Bengals 23
Week 17 – vs. Kansas City Chiefs
|Sunday, Jan. 2||1:00 PM||CBS|
Rough. The Chiefs just completely overhauled their offensive line that got overwhelmed in the Super Bowl. That’s bad news for the Bengals’ defensive front. They have no hope of stopping Patrick Mahomes and Co.
- Week 17 prediction: Chiefs 48, Bengals 26
Week 18 – @ Cleveland Browns
|Sunday, Jan. 9||1:00 PM||CBS|
Burrow lit up the Browns in both meetings last season, but that was before Cleveland massively upgraded its secondary in the offseason and added Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. It’s hard to fathom any scenario in which the Bengals emerge from FirstEnergy Stadium victorious.
- Week 18 prediction: Browns 45, Bengals 21