The Bengals 2013 schedule contains teams that had a .508 winning percentage last season, but with the NFL scouting combine 10 days away, free agency a month away, and the draft more than two months away, it could be a lot harder or a lot easier on May 1.
But here's a thumbnail look at the sked before the rosters get reworked. The dates of the games won't be released until mid-April, which can have as much impact as anything else.
RAVENS (10-6 in 2012)
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals MLB
It is always Rice the guy defenses have to stop and with all indications that Burfict is being groomed to be the starting Mike backer, he and Rice can continue their war of words that began in last year's regular-season finale at PBS. Now that the Ravens are rebuilding a defense that looked old and out of gas in the second half of the Super Bowl, slowing down the Ravens offense has to be the priority.
Although NFL.com bandied the belief that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is a fit for the Bengals with the 21st pick, don't buy it.
It's hard to see them taking an inside backer that high, they've already got Burfict, and they've shown more of an aversion to challenging off-field cases in the last few years and not less.
BIG STAT: Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has always shown up pretty well against Flacco. Not counting last season's regular-season finale in which he played just two series, Flacco has thrown more picks (10) than TDs (nine) against the Bengals with a passer rating of 78.3.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals QB
BIG STAT: In four games against LeBeau's defense, Green has 18 catches for 247 yards for a 13.7-yard average and three TDs. In 13 regular-season games against LeBeau, Chad Johnson had two touchdowns as well as 56 catches for 704 yards for a 12.6-yard average.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals C
BIG STAT: It's the fourth time the Browns have changed coaches in Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis's 11 seasons in Cincinnati. In those three previous seasons (2005, 2009, 2011), the Bengals are 6-0 against Cleveland while rushing for an average of 161 yards in those games. Horton's defenses were a lot stingier than that in Arizona, so the Bengals would no doubt like to catch Cleveland early as the Browns go through the 3-4 transition.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals TE
Gresham has gone to the last two Pro Bowls, but judging by his tweets he was clearly frustrated by his outing in the Wild Card playoff in Houston when he dropped more balls than he caught. The Bengals are looking for Gresham to overcome the inconsistencies that have plagued him his first three seasons, which they feel would put him in the elite class. What better stage than against his two draft mates?
BIG STAT: Brady has pretty much had his way against of all three of Lewis's defensive coordinators in compiling a 4-0 record against the Bengals since the first time he played them in 2004, 2-0 at PBS and 2-0 in Foxboro. His numbers vs. the Bengals: 83 completions on 119 throws for 70 percent passing to go with 10 TDs and two interceptions while throwing for 937 yards at 7.9 yards per throw in stringing together a 114 passer rating.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals CB
His interception returns for the only Bengals touchdowns in Cincinnati's two elimination games last season capped off an NFL Comeback of the Year-type season off of a torn Achilles. Revis can only hope he comes back like that from his torn ACL.
BIG STAT: This is one of two PBS games where the Bengals play two head coaches that worked for Lewis. Rex Ryan of the Jets served as Lewis's defensive line coach in Baltimore and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier became Lewis's first defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Ryan has a 34-30 record with the Jets while Lewis is 33-31 in the same four-year stretch.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals DC Mike Zimmer vs. Packers DC Dom Capers. Two of the top defensive guys around with Capers bringing in the No. 11 defense from last season and Zimmer off his third top 10 finish (No. 7) in his five seasons with the Bengals.
Green Bay is a tough town. After San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick dusted the Pack in the playoffs with the most rushing yards ever by a quarterback, the fans wanted Capers gone even though he brought up the defense from dead last the year before.
BIG STAT: This is where Zimmer comes in. The Packers gave up the second-most sacks in the league with 51 last season. The Bengals finished with the third-most in the NFL with a franchise-record 51.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Dalton vs. Vikings QB Christian Ponder. It's just the third time Dalton has gone against one of the quarterbacks taken ahead of him in the 2011 draft. Dalton, who went 35th, is 2-0 against Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert, taken No. 10. Ponder, taken No. 12, has a 12-14 career record, but like Dalton led his team to a Wild Card berth in his second season with a 10-6 record. Dalton has the edge on Ponder with six more starts, seven more victories, 16 more touchdown passes, a better career passer rating (83.9 to 77.1) and one more playoff appearance.
BIG STAT: The reigning NFL MVP comes to town in the form of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. He's coming off a season he missed breaking Eric Dickerson's 28-year-old single-season rushing by nine yards with a monster year of 2,097.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals CBs vs. Colts QB Andrew Luck. Two of the top three Bengals cornerbacks,
BIG STAT: The Bengals never beat Luck's successor, Peyton Manning, in his seven starts against them as a Colt. But the Bengals went 2-1 at PBS last season against quarterbacks picked No. 1 overall, beating Eli Manning of the Giants and Oakland's Carson Palmer, and losing to Denver's Peyton Manning.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals LG
BIG STAT: Remember when the Bills were 3-0 when they came into PBS on Oct. 2, 2011 and the Bengals beat them on the strength of Dalton's first fourth-quarter comeback? Buffalo is 9-20 since. But the Bengals haven't won in Orchard Park since Boomer Esiason outdueled Vince Ferragamo on Nov. 3, 1985 for a 23-17 victory during the season before Jim Kelly arrived to quarterback the Bills.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Bengals WR
Another one to watch. Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Bears CB Tim Jennings. Jennings led the NFL with nine picks last season, but Green beat him twice for TDs in the Pro Bowl.
BIG STAT: Lewis is 19-12 against first-year head coaches.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Green vs. Dolphins CB Sean Smith. Long-time Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle came back to torture Cincinnati at PBS last season as Miami's first-year defensive coordinator in a 17-13 Dolphins victory. Smith had a career year under Coyle and he played Green tough, holding him to 65 yards on nine catches after Green had been named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for September.
But Smith had help with a zone made possible by Miami's top-ranked defense throttling the run. In the game the Bengals lost speed back
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: Green vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson. Green gets on the field for the first time against his offseason workout partner in Atlanta and the guy coming off the greatest receiving season in history with 1,964 yards. A comparison after their first two seasons in the NFL: Green has 162 catches for 18 TDs and a 14.9-yard average. In 2007 and 2008, Johnson combined for 126 catches and 16 TDs and a 16.6 average.
BIG STAT: Lewis is 7-1 vs. the NFC North, 3-1 on the road.
PROJECTED BIG MATCHUP: The Chargers couldn't block Bengals left end
BIG STAT: After going 4-9 in San Diego, the Bengals are 2-1 under Lewis out there on what has been historically one of their toughest junkets. Dalton is 4-1 against the NFC and AFC West on the road.