Bengals looking at strong schedule

By Jason Turner

In looking to climb to the top of the AFC Central Division in 2000, the Bengals know their schedule will not provide any breaks.

After finishing fifth in 1999, one spot ahead of intrastate rival Cleveland, the Bengals face a 2000 schedule that ranks tied for the second-toughest of any AFC Central team, based on the aggregate record of 1999 opponents.

Cleveland faces the toughest schedule in the AFC Central. The Browns will play teams who in 1999 had a winning percentage of .508 (combined record of 130-126). The Bengals will play teams who finished at break-even with an aggregate 128-128 record, and while that .500 opponents' percentage ranks in the middle leaguewide (tied for 15th toughest), the other four AFC Central teams have schedules with opponents' records of .500 or below.

Pittsburgh's schedule is tied with the Bengals at .500 (128-128). Baltimore's foes for this season finished last year at .496 (127-129), and the division's top two finishers, Jacksonville and Tennessee, have decidedly easier schedules based on 1999 records. Jacksonville's foes posted a 1999 winning percentage of .465 (119-137), while defending AFC champ Tennessee will face teams that posted a .461 aggregate win percentage last season (118-138).

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"We're not looking for any favors," said Bengals head coach Bruce Coslet. "You get your schedule, and you play it to the best of your ability. I don't think there's a great difference in the difficulty of schedules between teams, but it does look like Jacksonville and Tennessee could have a small edge. "You never know for sure, though, because some teams improve and others fall back. Last year we had the Rams on our schedule, and that looked like an easy game because they had a bad record in 1998. Everyone knows that didn't turn out to be true."

The Bengals will play six games against teams that made the playoffs in 1999. Baltimore will face seven playoff teams. Jacksonville will face six, Tennessee and Pittsburgh will each play five, and Cleveland will play four.

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