2018 Cincinnati Bengals game-by-game predictions

The Cincinnati Bengals won't have any time to waste this season. They'll need a quick start more than ever after an 0-3 beginning doomed them to a 7-9 finish last season.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t taken a snap since the 2016 season, and there’s no guarantee he will be back by Week 1. So much uncertainty doesn’t bode well for the Colts, who had the second-worst offense in the league last season, just ahead of the Bengals. It also doesn’t bode well for Indy's chances to get off to a quick start after a 4-12 season in 2017. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 13, vs. Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m. ET

The Bengals' offense was blindsided by the Ravens’ defense in Week 1 last year, but a fresh start under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor should give Cincinnati a new look. The Bengals fared much better in their second matchup against the Ravens last season, with Lazor at the helm after offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired. Record: 2-0

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET

The Panthers' only losses at home last season were to the playoff-bound Saints and the eventual Super Bowl-winning Eagles. Although it's doubtful the NFC South will be as good as it was in 2017, the Panthers should still be a good enough team to make it difficult for the Bengals to steal a road victory. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

The Falcons might have let the NFC divisional playoff game slip out of their hands against the Eagles, but they have been a very good team the past two seasons. Back-to-back road trips against teams with double-digit wins in 2017 won’t be easy for Cincinnati. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, vs. Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

The Bengals easily handled a 10-6 Dolphins team in 2016, and Miami has gone the wrong way since then, winning only six games in 2017 and shipping Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry to the Browns this offseason. Record: 3-2

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET

The Bengals haven’t beaten the Steelers since Nov. 1, 2015, and Pittsburgh hasn’t had a drop-off since that point. Until the Bengals can prove they can get the Steelers monkey off their shoulders, it’s hard to predict a victory with any confidence. Record: 3-3

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET

The second matchup against the Steelers took so much out of the Bengals last season that a depleted defense allowed 33 points in a loss to the hapless Bears. It’s fair to expect there could be another post-Steelers letdown on the road against a playoff-caliber team like the Chiefs. Record: 3-4

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET

The Buccaneers are going to have a tough time improving in 2018, with three playoff-caliber teams in their division. They had the worst defense in the league last season, and even the trade for Jason Pierre-Paul might not measurably improve their struggling pass rush. The Bengals can take advantage of this spot at home. Record: 4-4

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, vs. New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET

The Saints were one play away from going to the NFC Championship Game last season. With quarterback Drew Brees back and a good crop of young players, they could have the best offense the Bengals face all of 2018. Record: 4-5

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

The Bengals had a nice run against the Ravens, with five consecutive wins from 2013 to 2015, but the two teams split the series the past two seasons. Both organizations have been middle of the pack the past two years, and if 2018 turns out anything like that, they’re likely headed for a split again. Record: 4-6

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, vs. Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET

The Browns have made a number of moves in the offseason that have generated buzz and have gotten people talking about their potential as contenders. But with one win in two years, it seems doubtful they’ll be ready to turn things around quite yet. Record: 5-6

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Denver Broncos, 1 p.m. ET

The Broncos have tried to fix their quarterback situation by signing Case Keenum after finishing 20th in passing offense last season. But will that be enough to turn their fortunes around? The Broncos have had late collapses the past two seasons, and the Bengals get them at home late this year, which could work in Cincinnati’s favor. Record: 6-6

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Bengals haven’t had to make a trip to the West Coast since 2015, but they’ve fared surprisingly well there lately, winning their past five games in the Pacific time zone. The Chargers' offensive line has been inconsistent for the past few years, and if the Bengals' defense can stay healthy, that could be a spot for their pass rush to attack. The Chargers ended last season on a hot streak, and this one could really go either way. Record: 7-6

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, vs. Oakland Raiders 1 p.m. ET

It will be a chess match when the Raiders and former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther come to town. Guenther spent more than a decade in the Bengals' organization and knows them as well as anybody. While it's hard to predict what the team will be like now that Jon Gruden is back, the Raiders certainly could be better than their 6-10 record last season. Record: 7-7

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET

Eventually, the Bengals' winning streak against the Browns, which dates to the 2014 season, will be snapped, but it won’t be this season. While the Browns might close the margin, they still won’t improve enough to win either matchup against the Bengals in 2018. Record: 8-7

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET

This is a difficult opponent to close out the regular season for the Bengals, especially on the road. The Steelers have lost only two of 12 games at home in December since the 2013 season. With both teams likely to be beaten up at this point, the Steelers should still have the edge. Record: 8-8