AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals game predictions
September 2, 2014 8:00:15 AM PDT
By Coley Harvey



ESPN.com Cincinnati Bengals reporter Coley Harvey makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at Baltimore Ravens

Opening weekend hasn't been kind to the Bengals in recent years. Five of Cincinnati's past six Week 1 games have ended in losses, including their past two road openers at Baltimore. Along with those ominous first-game figures, the date Sept. 7 has been relevant throughout the franchise's history, too. The Bengals have never won on the date, going 0-4 all time. Combine all of that with the fact the Bengals are playing at a venue they've struggled at recently -- four straight losses at M&T Bank Stadium -- and a close Week 1 loss appears likely. Prediction: Loss

Week 2: Atlanta Falcons

Disappointed by their play at Baltimore, the Bengals will rally at home against a Falcons defense that's still finding some of its identity at all levels. Expect quarterback Andy Dalton to respond with a performance reminiscent of his 8-for-8 outing in the preseason home opener against the Jets. If he does and the offense can limit turnovers, the Bengals should come away with a big win. Prediction: Win

Week 3: Tennessee Titans

The Titans aren't as polished at quarterback as the Bengals and they enter the season still searching for help in certain special-teams areas. With Cincinnati back home and playing a franchise it has beaten three of the past four times, another pre-bye week victory should come. Prediction: Win

Week 5: at New England Patriots

The Bengals eked out a one-touchdown win over the Patriots in last year's close, defense-inspired contest in Cincinnati. This time around, expect New England, buoyed by the bright lights of a national stage and a raucous home crowd, to come away with a close win. In his regular-season debut, receiver Marvin Jones should make a difference for the Bengals' offense, but Tom Brady will prove just unbeatable enough. Since the Bengals were one of the few defenses that flat-out embarrassed Brady last year, snapping his 52-game touchdown streak in the 13-6 win, look for Brady to try hard to exact some revenge. Prediction: Loss

Week 6: Carolina Panthers

Back home against the Panthers, the Bengals will try to move beyond their .500 start and generate some post-bye momentum. If the Bengals are going to position themselves for a midseason run, this would be the week to do it. Carolina's numerous losses on offense this offseason won't make it quite as competitive as it was last season. Prediction: Win

Week 7: at Indianapolis Colts

Cincinnati has won the past two meetings with the Colts, and should take this one, too. Last December, the Bengals routed Indianapolis in a 42-28 game that was much more lopsided than the final score. Andrew Luck struggled with a fast, constantly blitzing defense. More of the same should come this year. With Dalton & Co. finally hitting an offensive stride in the middle of the season, don't be surprised if Cincinnati cracks 40 once again. Prediction: Win

Week 8: Baltimore Ravens

With the playoff race just starting to heat up by this time of year, the Bengals know that a win could put them somewhere in the upper reaches of the AFC North. This is only the second division game, but all division games matter. Prediction: Win

Week 9: Jacksonville Jaguars

Although the Jags made noted improvements in the offseason and Blake Bortles could make them a contender in the AFC South, this trip to Cincinnati won't go well for the upstarts. The Bengals should be rolling at this point in the year. Prediction: Win

Week 10: Cleveland Browns

Johnny Manziel could very well be the Browns' starter by this point, making this Thursday night game even more of a media spectacle than it already will be. The important midseason division game is one the Bengals have to win, and one that could seal Dalton's claim on being a more improved quarterback in big-game, pressure-packed scenarios. Entering this season, Dalton is 10-17 with a 24.2 QBR in division games, playoff games and Sunday, Monday and Thursday night games. He's 2-4 in prime time, specifically. Against a good Cleveland defense and the Browns' rookie quarterback, Dalton will shine. Prediction: Win

Week 11: at New Orleans Saints

This game begins a string of three straight road games for a Bengals team that could be banged-up by now. It will have been eight weeks since the off week, and the arduous nature of the schedule will begin catching up to Cincinnati against a good opponent that has an even better home-field advantage. Prediction: Loss

Week 12: at Houston Texans

With their five-game winning streak snapped the week before, the Bengals will be looking to rebound against a team that could still be looking for solid quarterback play. All Cincinnati has to hope for this week is the defense plays a good game and the offensive line keeps Dalton upright against an aggressive defensive line. That should happen. Prediction: Win

Week 13: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With Carolina expected to be down and the Falcons going through their own potential struggles, Tampa Bay could make waves in one of the more wide-open divisions in the league. The additions of former Bengals Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins this offseason gives this game another intriguing storyline. Expect the home team to win a close game. Prediction: Loss

Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers

In a later-than-usual home game against the division rivals, the Bengals hope to kick off a series of division wins. Three of their last four games are against AFC North foes, two against Pittsburgh. Being at home will make a difference. Prediction: Win

Week 15: at Cleveland Browns

Regardless of which quarterback is under center for the Browns, the Bengals could struggle this particular week. They've lost two of their past three games at Cleveland and are playing this one later than any of the other three. Mid-December in Northeast Ohio typically means snow and brutal cold. This could be one of those typical AFC North slugfests the Bengals have been good at in recent years. Still ... Prediction: Loss

Week 16: Denver Broncos

The biggest nondivision game of the season, a win in this Monday night game would put the Bengals at the forefront of the playoff-race conversation. But Peyton Manning's offense is too good and it has played too well on the big stage in recent seasons to walk away with a loss here. Dalton's mission will be to avoid forcing turnovers, but even that might not be enough. Prediction: Loss

Week 17: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Five of Cincinnati's past seven games in the Steel City have resulted in losses. There are few reasons to believe this contest won't go similarly. If the Bengals have clinched the division and the Steelers are still trying to get in the playoffs, Pittsburgh could win this one. If the teams are both trying to either close out playoff berths or a division championship, you'll see top-notch play on both sides. Banking on that being the case, Cincinnati wins to get to 10-6. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 10-6

Tags: Cincinnati Bengals, 2014 NFL Nation season predictions, 2014 NFL Nation season predictions AFC

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