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. It’s a new era in Cincinnati where the Bengals are no longer that team fans circle as easy wins. They are now the “we have to win this if we want a shot” team on every schedule. There are a number of games on the Cincinnati Bengals 2023 schedule that are must-watch.
The Nine Hardest Games on the Cincinnati Bengals 2023 Schedule
Week 17 at Kansas City Chiefs
Round one went to Joe Burrow at home. Round two went to Burrow at Arrowhead. The third round went to Burrow at home. Round four went to Patrick Mahomes at Arrowhead. Usually, a team that is 3-1 against another would seem to be a dominating presence. In this budding rivalry, however, these four games could have easily been 4-0 one way as it could be 0-4.
This matchup on New Year’s Eve is sure to provide some fireworks as we welcome in 2024. Cincinnati will have to take this game or else Mahomes and company will get to go on another playoff run without having to travel. Seriously, Mahomes has played in 11 playoff games and three Super Bowls. He’s never not played at home. With all of the stakes riding on this game, the hype will be outrageous.
Week 8 at San Francisco 49ers
Last year, the 49ers were able to ride Mr. Irrelevent to the NFC Championship Game but the wheels came off. Heading into 2023, the roster is just as stacked with even more questions at quarterback. Is Brock Purdy the hot hand? Or is he even good enough to stave off Trey Lance? Lance may not even be on this roster at this point, so who knows?
The offense still has Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel. The defense is led by two of the best at their respective positions, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. The last time these two met, the 49ers were able to take the win late thanks to what felt like a fumble on every other possession or punt. Burrow was fantastic and he likely will have to be again if he wants to take down what could be the best in the NFC.
Week 9 vs Buffalo Bills (SNF)
Of the teams expected to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, only the Bills have yet to make an appearance lately. Even then, the Bills are a force to be reckoned with. Josh Allen, whose development and third-year jump were unprecedented, is a multifaceted unit that can absolutely pick apart a defense. You have to respect the cannon of an arm as well as his scrambling abilities.
The Bengals were able to pick apart this Bills team in Buffalo in the AFC Divisional Round last year. Before the tragic injury to Damar Hamlin, it looked like Week 17 was going to go the same. This game is one of the few on the Cincinnati Bengals 2023 schedule that is susceptible to end up a loss. This Bills team needs no extra motivation to win but they’re looking for revenge.
Week 11 at Baltimore Ravens (TNF)
Every game against the AFC North is difficult but away games in primetime used to be a legitimate death knell. While this matchup may not be an instance of “oh, it’s the Bengals under the lights, better bet against them,” as it once was, facing off against Lamar Jackson and a modernized Todd Monken offense will be a challenge, to say the least. Jackson has shiny toys to play with, so we shall see what can be done.
Defensively, Mike Macdonald has been able to gameplan against this Bengals offense. Even last year in the playoffs, the Ravens were a miracle 99-yard fumble return away from knocking out this Bengals team. And that was without Jackson at quarterback.
Week 2 vs Baltimore Ravens
There are a number of factors as to why the first matchup with the Ravens is “easier” on the Cincinnati Bengals 2023 schedule. Sure, the Bengals play at home but playing so early almost guarantees that the Ravens will be as close to 100% as possible. Considering how injury-prone Baltimore has been the past few years, health matters.
This will be the first matchup for the Bengals against a potential playoff foe. The Ravens hype may have cooled off but Jackson is still a ridiculously talented quarterback and this Ravens team has the ability to challenge the Bengals, Bills, and Chiefs to represent the AFC.
Week 13 at Jacksonville Jaguars (MNF)
Is there a team in the NFL (who didn’t make a Championship Game) riding more momentum into 2023 than this Jaguars team? In the Wild Card round, they postponed the coronation of Justin Herbert by coming back from 27 down. This off-season, they only bolstered their strengths and will be getting Calvin Ridley back from suspension.
People have forgotten how good Ridley is. In his last full season in 2020, Ridley went off for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns with Matt Ryan as his quarterback. Trevor Lawrence has developed into the franchise quarterback everyone expected of him so if any quarterback is going to get the best of Ridley, it’ll be Lawrence. Drawing the Jaguars in primetime again is going to be fun.
Week 15 vs Minnesota Vikings
Obviously, the Vikings turned out to be frauds in 2022 despite a phenomenal W-L record. Even then, Minnesota has some serious talent to make Kirk Cousins look really good. Justin Jefferson is widely considered the top receiver in the NFL and they only added former Biletnikoff Award winner, Jordan Addison out of USC. The confusing drama surrounding Dalvin Cook notwithstanding, this is a good offense.
In 2021, these teams faced off to begin the year and it was when we were all greeted to the electric Burrow-to-Ja’Marr Chase connection. Expect more of the same as these teams face off again.
Week 16 at Pittsburgh Steelers
Any bout with the Steelers is going to be difficult. No matter what, even if the Bengals are better on paper, this rivalry brings out the best (and worst) in each. This matchup actually takes place on the Saturday before Christmas on December 23rd. As awesome as it would be to leave Pittsburgh with their presents like the Grinch, it’s going to take a lot to make sure they’re not leaving with coal instead.
Week 6 vs Seattle Seahawks
Finally, the “easiest” difficult game on the Cincinnati Bengals 2023 schedule features a team on the rise who took the league by storm. Geno Smith is back and better than ever. By this point, we should know whether or not he was a flash in the pan in 2022 or if he has finally developed into a respectable starting quarterback long-term.
This Seahawks receiving corps could rival that of the Bengals with D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Additionally, Kenneth Walker and rookie Zach Charbonnet could be a serious one-two punch in the backfield. And defensively, it may not be the Legion of Boom, but guys like Tariq Woolen and rookie Devon Witherspoon holding down the corner spots with Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs at safety are legit.
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