5 predictions for the Bengals 2018 schedule

The Cincinnati Bengals will find out who they open the 2018 season against — and where — at 8 p.m. Thursday when the NFL announces its regular-season schedule.

The Bengals already know who their 16 opponents will be. They will face Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, Oakland, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Miami at home, and Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Carolina, Atlanta, Indianapolis and the Los Angeles Chargers on the road.

But Thursday night they’ll find out the dates and start times for each game, along with the preseason dates and times after the opponents were announced last week.

Here are five predictions for what the Bengals 2018 schedule will look like:

Road opener

The Bengals made a request to open at home for their 50th season last year after seven consecutive road openers, and the league acquiesced, but they’ll be traveling in Week 1 again this year.

The Reds play at home on kickoff Sunday, Sept. 8, and only once since Great American Ball Park opened have both of Cincinnati’s pro teams played at home the same day because of the close proximity of the stadiums and their shared parking areas.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Like our Cincinnati Bengals News Now Facebook page

The only time it happened was in 2010 when the Reds were in playoffs, something the NFL schedule makers could not have foreseen.

The Reds also are home Monday, Sept. 8, although that is probably moot as it’s doubtful the league would stick a Bengals team coming off a 7-9 campaign on Monday Night Football to start the season.

Opener opponent

With the Bengals opening on the road, it automatically reduces the list of possible Week 1 opponents to eight.

But we can pare the list farther based on a couple of other factors. First, there are other cities on the schedule that make every attempt to avoid MLB and NFL home games the same day, although Pittsburgh is the only one affected with the Pirates playing at home Sept. 8. Plus, never in franchise history have the Bengals played the Steelers in Week 1.

›› Alter grad Malik Zaire joins other area players at Bengals local workout

Another team you can scratch off is Indianapolis because the Bengals play the Colts in the preseason finale, making it unlikely the league would pit them against each other on back-to-back weeks.

That leaves six options – Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina and Atlanta.

The Bengals have opened against an NFC opponent just once since 1997 (Chicago, 2013). You can’t completely rule out the Panthers and Falcons because of that, but odds are the Week 1 opponent will be the Ravens, Browns, Chiefs or Chargers.

The Bengals have opened against Baltimore three times in the last six years. Don’t be surprised if it becomes four out of seven.

›› See who Jay Morrison thinks the Bengals will take in his latest mock draft

Primetime presence

There will be 51 primetime games scheduled – three each in Weeks 2-14, four in Weeks 1, 15 and 16 and none in Week 17 (the final Sunday night game opponents will not be announced until seven days before).

Follow Jay Morrison on Twitter

That means there are 102 primetime spots for 32 teams, which averages out to about three appearances per franchise.

Obviously some teams – Eagles, Patriots, Packers and Steelers to name a few – will play more than three while others will play less, but the Bengals, as an average, 7-9 team last year, should fall on the average of three.

Every team plays on Thursday night once, so that’s one appearance.

A late-season Sunday night game also is likely, because it would give the NFL the ability to flex out of it should the Bengals season go south.

And given the Bengals have appeared on Monday Night Football every year since 2012, you can probably expect another appearance in 2018.

Front or back?

The NFL tends to either front load or back load each team’s schedule with division opponents.

For the Bengals, it’s usually the back end, although they only played one of their four December games against the AFC North last year (Baltimore, Week 17).

›› STAY RIGHT THERE PODCAST: Jay Morrison and Mike Hartsock talk NFL Draft

Here is a look at the divisional games down the stretch for the five previous years:

2016 (three of final four)

2015 (three of final five)

2014 (three of final four)

2013 (two of final three)

2012 (final two)

›› Ohio State’s J.T Barrett works out for Bengals, says he’s not a finished product yet

And here are the divisional games to start a season.

2017 (two of first four; three of first six)

2016 (one of first six)

2015 (one of first six)

2014 (one of first six)

2013 (two of first eight)

2012 (first two, four of first seven)

Burfict factor

Even with computer assistance, the task of building the entire NFL schedule has to be a complicated, time-consuming process with dozens of moving parts.

So who knows if the league would try to further punish Vontaze Burfict, who is suspended for the first four games, and the Bengals by front loading the schedule with division games.

›› RELATED: Running tally of Burfict suspensions, fines

What we do know is the NFL loves TV ratings, and the league has known since December Burfict would miss the first four games. So if there is a Bengals-Steelers game – in primetime, perhaps – scheduled for Burfict’s Week 5 return, it shouldn’t be considered a coincidence.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Report: Browns could interview Condoleezza Rice for head coach job
Report: Browns could interview Condoleezza Rice for head coach job

The Cleveland Browns would like to interview former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to fill the team’s head-coaching job, ESPN reported Sunday citing an anonymous source. John Dorsey, the Browns general manager, said last week the team was open to hiring a woman as head coach, ESPN reported. Rice, who grew up in Alabama, is a longtime...
High School Football: State playoffs scoreboard

Region 13 — Girard 43, Hubbard 18 Region 14 — St. Marys Memorial 38, Bellville Clear Fork 7 Region 15 — Newark Licking Valley 30, St. Clairsville 0 Region 16 — Cin. Wyoming 28, London 0 Region 17 — Orrville 43, Akron Manchester 19 Region 18 — Genoa Area vs. Liberty Center Region 19 — Johnstown-Monroe 45, Byesville...
Cincinnati Bengals: 5 storylines to watch Sunday vs. Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals: 5 storylines to watch Sunday vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Cincinnati Bengals are calling Sunday’s game at Baltimore a potential “make or break” situation. Coming off one of their worst losses in franchise history, the Bengals (5-4) are looking to turn things around before they fall out of AFC playoff contention. They currently remain in position to earn the sixth seed, while the Ravens...
Ohio State beats Maryland in OT thriller; showdown with Michigan up next
Ohio State beats Maryland in OT thriller; showdown with Michigan up next

Ohio State kept its Big Ten football championship hopes alive by the slimmest of margins Saturday. The Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Maryland 52-51, setting up a game for the Big Ten East title and a berth in the Big Ten championship game when Michigan visits next Saturday. Coach Urban Meyer’s team has a lot to fix before it will be ready...
Wright State rolls to easy win over North Florida
Wright State rolls to easy win over North Florida

North Florida knew the scouting report said it had to do everything possible to stop Loudon Love, but the Ospreys had no one who could match up with the 6-foot-8, 270-pound center. Their frontcourt players were all 6-8 or shorter and weighed 223 pounds or less, and they were moved around inside like chess pieces. Love scored 13 of his season-high 20...
More Stories