A game-by-game glance at the Bengals' 2023 schedule as new key matchups come into focus:
SEPT. 10 _ at Cleveland, 1 p.m. CBS: The Bengals return to the scene of their last regular-season loss in 2022 on Halloween night. Joe Burrow has won everywhere in Ohio but Cleveland, where he's 0-2. It's his first road Opening Day start as the Bengals try to win three straight openers. It's a rarity. For the fourth time the Bengals open a season at their in-state rival. The last two times they won (2005 and 2011) and went to the playoffs.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals LT Orlando Brown Jr. vs. Browns Edge Myles Garrett. Against his late dad's team, Brown gets his first major test in his first Bengals game. Garrett was a monster back on Halloween. His tipped pass on the game's first series stopped the Bengals near the red zone for an interception and he was off to 1.5 sacks and four hits on Burrow. His 11 career sacks against the Bengals are his most against any team.
SEPT. 17 _ Baltimore, 1 p.m. CBS: It's a series that has fluctuated wildly during the reign of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. From the 2014 opener through a 2018 Thursday night game, the Bengals were 7-2. Then the Ravens won five straight. Burrow is 4-2 against Baltimore with wins over four different quarterbacks: Lamar Jackson, Josh Johnson, Anthony Brown, and Tyler Huntley.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals S Dax Hill vs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: Jackson, who missed last season's finale and Wild Card losses to the Bengals in that wild week back in January, returns to the building where he won his first NFL start and how big is this early-season matchup? Jackson is 6-1 against Cincinnati and 2-1 against Burrow. Jackson's intoxicating talents are big reasons why Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo uses an interchangeable scheme emphasizing speedy versatility and that's exactly what Hill brings to the table in his first home start as a regular starter. There's also a nice sidebar with Hill's brother, running back Justice Hill, lining up for Baltimore.
WEEK 2 · Sun 09/17 · 1:00 PM EDT
SEPT. 25 _ L.A. RAMS, 8:15 p.m. ESPN: Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, who worked for Rams head coach Sean McVay, has played his old boss in the preseason, London, and the Super Bowl and now he finally gets him in the regular season 19 months after McVay escaped with the Lombardi in the last minute of Super Bowl LVI. The Rams aren't the Rams of that night, but they still have quarterback Matthew Stafford and this game marks the ninth time in Paycor Stadium history that overall No. 1 QBs in their draft class have faced each other. Stafford does it 14 years after he was a rookie and Carson Palmer beat him in a 2009 game. In the big one, Burrow was better (a 100.9 rating to 89.9), but Stafford's three touchdowns overcame two picks.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals C Ted Karras vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald: Nineteen months in the NFL might as well be a decade. Gone from that Rams defense that stalked Burrow that night are, just to name a few, Von Miller, Jalen Ramsey, Greg Gaines, Leonard Floyd, David Long, Eric Weddle. Another of their Super Bowl starters, safety Nick Scott, is starting for the Bengals. But the Hall-of-Famer Donald remains. His Super Bowl effort spawned the overhaul of the Bengals offensive line. When the game starts, he'll see an entirely different front.
WEEK 3 · Mon 09/25 · 8:15 PM EDT
Los Angeles Rams
OCT. 1 _ at Tennessee, 1 p.m. FOX: The Bengals return to where they hatched two of their biggest wins in the last two seasons. They picked Ryan Tannehill three times to heist an AFC Divisional in 2021. Last season, locked with the Ravens atop the AFC North on the last Sunday of November and in a 13-13 game heading into the fourth quarter, the Bengals gutted out an everybody-gets-a-game-ball 20-16 victory as Burrow went to 3-0 against Titans head coach Mike Vrabel.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals Edge Trey Hendrickson vs. Titans LT Peter Skoronski: As good as Burrow has been against Tennessee, the series has been defined by the physicality of the Bengals defensive line. Nose tackle DJ Reader owns a share of the Titans with his dominating play, like last year's outing when the Bengals stuffed NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry on 2.2 yards per his 17 carries. The Titans took Skoronski in the first round in an effort to beef up an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks last season. Welcome to the league. Hendrickson is one of the NFL's leading sackers of this decade.
OCT. 8 _ at Arizona, 4:05 p.m. FOX: The Bengals are set to travel the fewest miles of any NFL team in 2023 and this is their longest trip since they played in the Super Bowl. But their intact coaching staff gets the Cardinals early in their latest coaching change. Since the Cards beat the Bengals nearly four years to the day at Paycor, 26-23, they are 27-34.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals QB Joe Burrow vs. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray: Two back-to-back overall No. 1 picks (Murray in '19 and Burrow '20), but at the opposite poles. Murray, with a sub .500 career record and one playoff start is looking to rebuild his career after his ACL injury amid relentless questions about his leadership. Burrow, the unquestioned captain of a ship trying to reach it's third straight conference championship game, has back-to-back division titles and an NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. This is his seventh game against a fellow overall No. 1 quarterback with wins over Jared Goff and Trevor Lawrence and losses to Stafford and Baker Mayfield. Burrow has more road wins (11) than Murray has home wins (10).
OCT. 15 _ Seattle, 1 p.m. CBS: It's four days shy of the eighth anniversary of Pete Carroll's last trip in here when he brought his two-time NFC champion Seahawks into one of the most stirring wins in Bengals history. Before a roaring crowd of 65,004 in the city of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson's birth, the Bengals came back from a 24-7 deficit with 20 fourth-quarter points to win at the gun on Mike Nugent's 42-yard-hurry-up-field goal. Now Carroll, 1-2 against Cincy with the win in Zac Taylor's 2019 debut, faces Taylor's team that has made it to the last two AFC title games. Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith didn't score a touchdown in his only Paycor start, but that was ten years ago in the Jets' 49-9 loss.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase vs. Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon: Witherspoon, this year's No. 5 pick, goes against Chase, the fifth pick from 2021. With 2,501 yards, Chase comes into the season with the fifth most yards by a receiver in his first two seasons.
WEEK 6 · Sun 10/15 · 1:00 PM EDT
OCT. 22 _ Bye.
OCT 29 _ at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m. CBS: When the Jimmy G. 49ers beat the Bengals in overtime at Paycor on Dec. 12, 2021, that's still the last time the Bengals lost in December. Even though both franchises have been since, Bengals-49ers is always a magical matchup because of the two tight Super Bowls they played in the '80s. And it has been a measuring stick for this team. The 49ers spoiled Zac Taylor's home debut in 2019 in an impressive 41-17 outing, but they were even two years later and since 2021, the 49ers have the third most wins (23) in the NFL while the Bengals are right there at 22.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals S Nick Scott vs. 49ers QB Brock Purdy: Jimmy G is long gone and Purdy went from the last pick in the 2022 draft (No. 262) to playoff hero and would seem to have the edge for the job. Scott, who went to a Super Bowl start from the seventh round, went 243 in 2019.
NOV. 5 _ Buffalo, 8:20 p.m. NBC: One of the more long-awaited games on the NFL calendar after the Monday night game in Week 17 last year was canceled when Bills safety Damar Hamlin was revived on the field and three weeks later the Bengals won a berth in the AFC title game with a decisive 27-10 win in Buffalo. In the first meeting between Burrow and Josh Allen, the Bengals rolled up 412 yards, but the Bills came out and drafted two defensive players, one in the seventh round.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals Edge Myles Murphy vs. Bills QB Josh Allen: Another draft pick responding to the AFC arms race. Murphy, the first-rounder, is 6-5, 270 pounds and can fly, which is good because Allen is almost the same size and is as lethal on the ground as he is in the air. Murphy projects to be one of the first pass rushers off the bench and now that November is here and a bye underneath him, he'll be settled. A hidden stat from the playoff game is the Bengals held Allen, with a career rush average of nearly six, to 3.3 on eight tries.
WEEK 9 · Sun 11/05 · 8:20 PM EST
NOV. 12 _ Houston, 1 p.m. CBS: Texans new head coach DeMeco Ryans played 140 NFL games at linebacker, none wilder than his last game at Paycor when the Texans beat the Bengals with a last-play touchdown in 2011. His teammate that day, Bengals tight ends coach James Casey, is part of a coaching staff that has largely stayed together for five years contrasting with Ryans' new staff.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals CB DJ Turner vs. Texans QB C.J. Stroud: An initial matchup of vets from two The Game, Michigan's Turner and Ohio State's Stroud.
WEEK 10 · Sun 11/12 · 1:00 PM EST
NOV. 16 _ at Baltimore, 8:15 p.m. Prime Video: The last time the Bengals were here, Jackson caught them at the gun for a win on Sunday Night Football despite being held to 19 points. Now they're back in prime time for their first Thursday night division road game since Ryan Fitzpatrick took them into a 2008 game in Pittsburgh.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie vs. Ravens WR Odell Beckham Jr.: Two standouts from the Bengals-Rams Super Bowl meet again. Both are coming off ACL injuries. Awuzie went down last Halloween in Cleveland and OBJ hasn't played since that night in L.A. he helped the Rams jump to an early lead over the Bengals with two catches for 54 yards and a touchdown before injuring the knee. Awuzie also had a big night with an interception. The CW is OBJ leads the best corps of wide receivers Jackson has had in his six seasons.
NOV. 26 _ Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. CBS: Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin arrives for his 34th game against the Bengals in his 17th season, breaking former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' record for the longest tenure by an African-American head coach or manager in pro sports. He and Zac Taylor are locked up at 4-4.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals WR Tee Higgins vs. Steelers CB Joey Porter Jr.: The Steelers felt like the Bengals after the draft when they didn't think they could fill two major needs in the first two rounds but did. After trading up in the first round to get Georgia tackle Broderick Jones, at the top of the second they were still able to get Porter, the son of Bengals villain Joey Porter and a guy they had targeted as a legacy who also is a top prospect at a position of need. They may not move the rookie around, but the Bengals vet receivers can and he'll have to deal with the height of the 6-4 Higgins.
WEEK 12 · Sun 11/26 · 1:00 PM EST
DEC 4 _ at Jacksonville, 8:15 p.m. ESPN: Two of the NFL's darling teams coming off division titles meet on a big stage led by their overall No. 1 quarterbacks. Another meeting of consecutive No. 1s in the '20 Burrow and '21 Lawrence with Burrow having a 1-0 edge.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals Edge Sam Hubbard vs. Jaguars RT Anton Harrison: Harrison, the Oklahoma left tackle, was taken right before they picked at No. 28. The Bengals got the guy they wanted in Murphy and the Jags got their guy because they made a trade with Buffalo to get into the slot to pick Harrison. The thinking is he'll eventually be the Jags left tackle even though he may start on the other side. He'll have to deal with savvy vets like Hubbard while making the transition.
DEC. 10 _ Indianapolis, 1 p.m. CBS: The Bengals have won seven straight at home in December and January. The last time they played the Colts at home was 2017, when Chuck Pagano was their head coach and Andy Dalton staved off Jacoby Brissett in a 24-23 win. That was two coaches and Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Carson Wentz ago.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals MLB Logan Wilson vs. Colts QB Anthony Richardson: Richardson, the fourth pick in the draft, figures to be playing by now. His dangerous athleticism is challenged by the seasoned Wilson's Pro Bowlish play in the middle.
WEEK 14 · Sun 12/10 · 1:00 PM EST
DEC 16-17 _ Vikings, TBD: The last time the Vikes were in, the Bengals set the tone for their 2021 Super Bowl season when they beat Minnesota in an overtime opener that went to the last. The Vikes made an industry out of winning those tight ones last season under rookie head coach Kevin O'Connell on their way to winning the NFC North. Irv Smith, the tight end on that team, now plays for the Bengals.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase vs. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson: What else? The two greatest rookie receivers in NFL history. Jefferson has the most yards by a player in his first three seasons. Chase, who missed a month last season because of a hip injury, has the fifth most by a player in his first two seasons.
WEEK 15 · TBD
DEC. 23 _ at Pittsburgh, 4:30 p.m. NBC: If you like karma, the game is 11 years to the day of the Geno Game, when Bengals Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins dominated a game in Pittsburgh that put the Bengals in the playoffs and knocked out the Steelers in the next-to-last game of the season.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals Edge Trey Hendrickson vs. Steelers LT Broderick Jones: The Pittsburgh rookie faces one of the NFL's best crunch-time players. Ten of Hendrickson's 42 career sacks have come in December and January and he's never missed the playoffs in the pros.
Dec. 31 _ at Kansas City, 4:25 p.m. CBS: What is there left to be said? They've split the last two AFC title games. Three of the four games they've played in the last two years have come down to the final play and the other one was decided in the last two minutes. Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, the reigning NFL and Super Bowl MVP, are two of the league's flagship players. Anything else?
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals RG Alex Cappa vs. Chiefs DT Chris Jones: With three Bengals starting offensive linemen out, Jones carried the day in the AFC championship game. When they were healthy back in the Bengals' regular-season win, he didn't. No doubt they'll move Jones around to find a matchup. But he won't have the same ones he had on Jan. 29.
JAN. 6-7 _ Cleveland, TBD: Paul Brown's two teams open and close a season for the first time in history and it's only the third time in this century the Browns have ended a season in Cincinnati.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Bengals QB Joe Burrow vs. Browns CB Denzel Ward: These two Ohio guys have a history. In eight games vs. the Bengals, Ward has three interceptions, two of them pick-sixes. Burrow is 1-4 against the Browns, but he beat them as part of his December-January winning skein. Until last year's AFC title game, Burrow had won 11 straight.
WEEK 18 · TBD