The NFL won't match the teams with dates until mid-May and it may be way too early to look at the Bengals’ 2024 schedule.
PAYCOR STADIUM GAMES
RAVENS: A meeting between teams who have won five of the last six AFC North titles. In the six quarters this past season that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow dueled Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the odds-on favorite for 2023 NFL MVP, the Bengals and Ravens were knotted at 34. In the last three seasons, Burrow is 4-2 against Baltimore in six full games, with the losses by a combined five points.
BROWNS: Elite matchup alert. Bengals three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase vs. the Browns' glittering secondary that finished first in the NFL this season while allowing the lowest completion percentage, and fewest yards per attempt while finishing .1 behind the lowest passer rating.
STEELERS: The NFL's two top sackers from 2023, the Bengals' Trey Hendrickson and the Steelers' T.J. Watt, have at it. Watt knows who he's going after in Burrow, a guy he's nabbed 3.5 times in his career. Hendrickson isn't so sure. Mason Rudolph? Kenny Pickett? What we do know is that six of Hendrickson's career sacks have come against the Steelers, his most against any team.
BRONCOS: One of five teams the Bengals play at home who go into the offseason or playoffs with an uncertain quarterback situation (and seven overall if you count Pittsburgh but not the Browns.) Sean Payton, the old Miami University offensive coordinator, makes his first Paycor appearance with the Broncos. At last check, he won't have Drew Brees with him. In his two previous appearances here as head coach of the Saints, Payton won both with Brees completing 85% of 54 passes. But this time Payton has to play Burrow, the NFL all-time completion percentage leader at 68%, ahead of the No. 2 Brees at 67.7.
RAIDERS: The Raiders make their first Cincinnati call since the euphoric 2021 Wild Card Game when linebacker Germaine Pratt picked off quarterback Derek Carr at the Bengals 2 with 12 seconds left as Paycor historically erupted. For the Raiders, that was a couple of coaches and quarterbacks ago. They may not have a signal-caller, but they appear to have a head coach in Marvin Lewis disciple Antonio Pierce. Depending how it shakes out in Vegas, if Lewis is on staff it's going to be the first time he's at Paycor on the other sideline since his 16 seasons as the Bengals' winningest coach.
EAGLES: First career matchup of 2020 Draft quarterbacks. Burrow vs. Jalen Hurts. They met as rookies in week three in Philadelphia, but while Burrow threw for 312 yards in a 23-23 game for Bengals head coach Zac Taylor's only tie, Hurts was backing up Carson Wentz. Hurts did get a package of plays and ran twice for five yards. It could be Eagles center Jason Kelce's second NFL appearance in the city where he played his college football at the University of Cincinnati. That 2016 game, where Andy Dalton (130 passer rating) outpitched Wentz (58.2), is one of Kelce's 193 NFL starts.
COMMANDERS: One of five teams on the Bengals' schedule ticketed for a new coach. It's the first time Washington comes to Cincy as the Commanders. It's been a while. They've played at FedEx Field twice and Wembley once since a 2008 game at Paycor. The Bengals won that one, 20-13, as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick beat Jason Campbell running for a touchdown and throwing another to wide receiver Chris Henry.
PATRIOTS: It's the first time New England comes to Paycor without Tom Brady as their starting quarterback since the 2001 opener, when the Bengals' Jon Kitna edged the Pats' Drew Bledsoe in a 23-17 win. No word yet on the status of Patriots Hall of Fame head coach Bill Belichick, but Burrow won't be fazed. In a span of six days in 2022, he led the Bengals to wins over Brady in Tampa Bay and Belichick in Foxboro.
BALTIMORE: In the last three years, Burrow has given the Ravens fits on their home field. In 2021 he torched them for 416 yards in a calling-card game. In 2022 he appeared to engineer a fourth-quarter comeback when he scored with 1:58 left, but Lamar Jackson got the Ravens a walk-off field goal. Then two months ago Burrow left with a season-ending wrist injury late in the first half, but not before his last play was a touchdown pass that put the Bengals ahead, 10-7.
CLEVELAND: The Bengals figure to get Deshaun Watson at quarterback, but who knows? In the four seasons of the 2020s, the Bengals have started against five different Browns quarterbacks.
PITTSBURGH: At some point, this thing is going to come down to two terrific kickers who have been great in this rivalry. McPherson is 10-for-11 against the Steelers and long-time Steeler Chris Boswell is 95% in 16 games against Cincinnati on 41 of 43. Both missed in the 2022 opener with McPherson's misfire from 29 yards in overtime setting up Boswell's winner. But neither has missed since going against each other. It will be recalled that an emergency long-snapper had to be used in that game the Bengals were forced to re-shuffle the offensive line of their field-goal unit.
DALLAS: Burrow's first shot at Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Asked Monday about standout quarterback play across the NFL this season, Burrow pointed to Prescott and Texans rookie C.J. Stroud. But Jerry's World lives on the defense of Micah Parsons. An intriguing matchup because the Bengals and Cowboys both finished tied for fifth in turnover differential at plus-10 with the exact same stats: 26 takeaways and 16 giveaways.
KANSAS CITY: For the fourth straight year the Bengals are playing in Arrowhead Stadium and what are the odds it's an elimination game like the previous three? The script always seems the same out there: Taut, comeback slugfests decided by late field goals. In the 2021 AFC title game, the Bengals erased an 18-point lead and went to the Super Bowl on McPherson's overtime field goal. In the following AFC title game, the Bengals wiped out a 10-point lead, but Harrison Butker's field goal at the regulation gun put the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Then two weeks ago, Kansas City erased a 10-point lead and it was six Butker field goals that knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs in a 25-17 game.
CHARGERS: Back to the scene of the Burrow Super Bowl, but against the other Los Angeles team. Two of the first three quarterbacks taken in the 2020 draft meet again. The Chargers' Justin Herbert, the sixth pick, had the final say in their meeting at Paycor in 2021. But he's going to have his third head coach and offensive system while Burow continues to work with the scheme and play-caller he's had his entire career. If offensive coordinator Brian Callahan gets a head coaching job, the system stays because Zac Taylor oversees it all and is the play caller.
GIANTS: Nothing rarer than a Bengals road game against the Giants. They've only played four of them. They play another team that's not quite sure what they're doing at quarterback, but whoever it is has to worry about Hendrickson. The Giants were dead last in allowing sacks per pass.
CAROLINA: For the ninth time in his career, Burrow faces another overall No. 1 quarterback in Bryce Young and for the first time since Sept. 25 when he beat the Rams' Matthew Stafford at Paycor. Stafford did beat him in the Super Bowl, but Burrow also has wins over Jared Goff and Trevor Lawerence. Burrow is still looking for that elusive win over Baker Mayfield, who has him 3-0.
TENNESEE: The Titans started their offseason in rather stunning fashion when they let go head coach Mike Vrabel. Vrabel, born in Northeast Ohio and an Ohio State product, is a popular guy in these parts for the obvious demographics and is considered an estimable foe at Paycor even though the Bengals dominated the series. Vrabel was 0-3 against Taylor until Oct. 1, when the Titans won at home in what proved to be the last game Burrow was restricted by his sore calf.