Bengals schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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The Cincinnati Bengals finished last in the AFC North for the third straight season in 2020, and that's going to put the pressure on third-year coach Zac Taylor. 

Of course, No. 1 pick Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury last year. Burrow should be back, and the Bengals have a young supporting cast on offense that added first-round pick Ja'Marr Chase. Cincinnati ranked 22nd in the NFL in scoring defense last season, and they are up against a tough schedule that includes the NFC North and AFC West. 

How does that schedule look now? Here is a complete breakdown of the Cincinnati Bengals' 2021 schedule, including dates and start times for all 17 games and our early prediction.

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Cincinnati Bengals schedule 2021

The Bengals open with a game on the road against the Vikings on Sunday, Sept. 12, at 1 p.m. ET, on Fox. Here's first a glance at all their opponents:

  • Home: Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, Vikings, Jaguars, 49ers
  • Away: Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Broncos, Raiders, Bears, Lions, Jets 
Week Date Opponent Kickoff time TV
1 Sept. 12 vs. Vikings 1 p.m. ET Fox
2 Sept. 19 at Bears 1 p.m. ET Fox
3 Sept. 26 at Steelers 1 p.m. ET CBS
4 Sept. 30 vs. Jaguars 8:20 p.m. ET Fox, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
5 Oct. 10 vs. Packers 1 p.m. ET Fox
6 Oct. 17 at Lions 1 p.m. ET Fox
7 Oct. 24 at Ravens 1 p.m. ET CBS
8 Oct. 31 at Jets 1 p.m. ET CBS
9 Nov. 7 vs. Browns 1 p.m. ET CBS
10 Nov. 14 BYE ———— ———
11 Nov. 21 at Raiders 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
12 Nov. 28 vs. Steelers 1 p.m. ET CBS
13 Dec. 5 vs. Chargers 1 p.m. ET Fox
14 Dec. 12 vs. 49ers 1 p.m. ET CBS
15 Dec. 19 at Broncos 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
16 Dec. 26 vs. Ravens 1 p.m. ET CBS
17 Jan. 2 vs. Chiefs 1 p.m. ET CBS
18 Jan. 9 at Browns 1 p.m. ET CBS

The Bengals face six playoff teams from last season, and that includes all three AFC North rivals in Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Chiefs and Packers both visit Paul Brown Stadium, and the Bears are the only non-divisional playoff team from last year that the Bengals face on the road. 

Burrow also will have some fun quarterback matchups on the schedule, including a rematch with the Chargers from last year's Week 1 game and a battle of No. 1 picks with Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence. 

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Bengals strength of schedule 

Cincinnati's opponents had a .529 winning percentage last season, which gives the Bengals the sixth-most difficult schedule by record. All four teams in the AFC North have schedules that rank in the top 10 for most-difficult schedules. 

Cincinnati needs to take advantage of that road schedule outside the division. The Bears, Broncos, Lions, Jets and Raiders had a combined record of 9-31 at home last season. That last-place schedule turned up the Jaguars, too, and that could help Cincinnati make a push toward a .500 record.

Toughest tests: The Bengals do have a ninth home game, but it's a tough test against San Francisco. The 49ers will be healthier this season, and that is not an easy game. 

The AFC West means a matchup against two-time defending conference champion Kansas City. The Raiders, Chargers and Broncos also will be improved. Cincinnati lost to the Raiders and Chargers the last two seasons. 

Biggest breaks: The Bengals have a good track record against the NFC North. Cincinnati is 11-5 against that division in their last four rotations through the NFC North since 2005. The Packers and Vikings come to Paul Brown Stadium. Aaron Rodgers is 1-2 in three starts against the Bengals. 

There also is the possibility that Cincinnati could face four rookie quarterbacks in San Francisco's Trey Lance, New York's Zach Wilson, Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence and Chicago's Justin Fields. If Fields does not start, then former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton might start against Cincinnati for the second straight year.

Bottom line: Cincinnati's schedule is friendly enough that it could have a winning record outside the AFC North opponents.

What about inside the division?

The Ravens have beat the Bengals by an average of 25.2 points per game in their last four meetings. That included two blowouts last year. Cincinnati is 2-6 against the Browns and Steelers under Taylor. Burrow could create a rivalry with Baker Mayfield and Cleveland, and those teams played two one-score games last year. Cincinnati did beat Pittsburgh 27-17 on Monday Night Football last year, but that was a rare victory in a one-sided series.

Cincinnati will be an improved team in 2021, but they are stuck in arguably the toughest division in the NFL. A close-to .500 record would be a success, and enough to keep Taylor around for another season.

Record prediction: 8-9

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