After winning the AFC North for a second consecutive year for the first time in franchise history, the Cincinnati Bengals 2023 schedule has a handful of difficult matchups. As first-place schedules go, the Bengals are middle of the pack with the fourth-easiest route of the 2022 division champions and 17th overall.
Getting back to the AFC Championship will be difficult in 2023 because they’ll have to face just about every contending AFC team aiming for the same goal. At the same time, there are a few leaner portions of the schedule where Cincinnati can rack up wins over teams just trying to get by. In the NFL, no week is a given. As apparent by last year’s lethargic start and losses to lesser teams off of last-second field goals, anything can happen. So, while it says the “easiest,” take it as the “least difficult.”
The Eight Easiest Games on the Bengals 2023 Schedule
Week 10 vs Houston Texans
It is of no real surprise that the team so bad that it couldn’t effectively secure the first-overall pick in this year’s draft has to be the easiest on the slate. Despite picking its quarterback of the future in CJ Stroud, the Texans are a popular pick to be toward the top of the NFL Draft once again. Even if Stroud can play to the level a second-overall pick should, this team is devoid of talent and the Bengals should win off of that alone. Even then, Stroud and Will Anderson will be looking to be the second consecutive instance of Rookie of the Year awards going to teammates.
Week 5 at Arizona Cardinals
The current favorite to pick first overall and win the Connor Williams sweepstakes is the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray may be a dynamic and exciting quarterback but he’s coming off of a serious injury. The team recently released DeAndre Hopkins, so the receiving corps is loaded with Short Kings™. No, seriously, their three starting receivers (Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, and Greg Dortch) are 5’9″, 5’7″, and 5’7″, respectively.
Considering the Cardinals own the Texans first-round pick next year, they’ll likely be looking to embrace the tank and hope for the worst in Houston. They may be rough now but imagine a team led by Williams and, perhaps, Marvin Harrison, Jr…
Week 14 vs Indianapolis Colts
Another team looking to get back to form with a rookie quarterback, the Indianapolis Colts are an interesting case on the Bengals 2023 schedule. They boast one of the better running backs in the game with Jonathan Taylor and a decent defense. They opted to go with the high-upside, athletic quarterback in the draft by selecting Anthony Richardson. Personal opinions on Richardson aside, he has the tools to succeed in the NFL, though it may not be immediate.
Week 3 vs Los Angeles Rams (MNF)
Beating Joe Burrow once is one thing but beating him twice is difficult. And, of course, doing so without much talent on a roster is near-impossible. Matthew Stafford is not quite what he once was but he’s still a solid quarterback. If he takes a step back, the team can know they can just pass the reigns to the other 35-year-old quarterback on the roster, rookie Stetson Bennett.
All jokes aside, Aaron Donald still plays football and Cooper Kupp, once fully healthy, will be headed for another 140+ catch season and threaten for the receiving crown. As one of the primetime matchups on the Bengals 2023 schedule, all eyes will be on the Super Bowl LIV rematch. While it may not have the same appeal, revenge, even if it’s not as cathartic, will be on the Bengals minds.
Week 4 at Tennessee Titans
What seems like the 10th year in a row that the old AFC Central rivals are to face off, the Bengals get to go back to Nashville to take on a Titans team that is just looking for itself. Gone are the days of Tennessee’s top-seeded potential. Derrick Henry, when healthy, is still set to get his, but will he be on this roster? The Titans have seemingly already given up on Malik Willis, just a year after selecting him in the third round of the 2022 draft. 2023 seems like the final year of contention for the Titans before they have to commit to rebuilding and selling off pieces for draft capital.
Week 18 vs Cleveland Browns
Realistically, no bout with an AFC North team will be easy. Even if it’s a team like the Browns. However, “the Browns is the Browns.” They have a talented roster and have seemingly had Burrow’s number in his career. Considering the Bengals as a whole have only beaten their friends up I-71 once since drafting Burrow, it makes sense. Deshawn Watson gets a full offseason of training and Cleveland has a new defensive coordinator. They’ll likely be very different in 2023.
This matchup may not have much weight, however. If all goes as expected for the Bengals, Week 18 will only be necessary for seeding. If they were to get wins over the other top AFC teams, this game could be an off-week for the stars.
Week 12 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
To say any matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers would be easy is myopic foolishness. However, there are a few games a bit more difficult on the Bengals 2023 schedule. Week 12 is the first matchup of the two this year and it’s the latest we’ve had to wait for a first matchup since the two had to wait until Week 14 of 2014. By this time, the Steelers will likely be hobbling their way to Wild Card contention because that’s just how it goes. Kenny Pickett’s second year in the system has Steelers fans hopeful that he will be worth that first-round pick. TJ Watt always seems to play well against the Bengals, so no matter who the tackles are, they’ll have their work cut out for them.
Week 1 at Cleveland Browns
Having to play a divisional game in Week 1 is not ideal, as we saw last year. The Bengals managed to play their actual worst game of football in a long time and lost off of a last-second field goal. “Week 1 weirdness”, as Locked on Bengals host Jake Liscow puts it, could be how the Bengals get off to another slow start. Even then, the matchup of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd against the Browns secondary is must-see. It’s “on sight” with Chase and Denzel Ward.
Oh, and Myles Garrett is one of, if not the best pass-rusher in the league, so Orlando Brown, Jr. will have a difficult first game for the Bengals.
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