Cincinnati Bengals schedule analysis

Breakdown: Fact: Taking 2013 win-loss records into consideration, the Cincinnati Bengals will be playing one of the NFL’s weaker schedules in 2014. What’s another fact? The league did the Bengals few favors when it assembled their schedule. Cincinnati’s upcoming season contains an early bye week, a potentially flexed road game in Week 5 and a bizarrely coordinated late-season stretch of three straight home contests followed by three-straight on the road.

After opening at Baltimore and then welcoming the Falcons to Paul Brown Stadium in Week 2, the Bengals host Tennessee a week later before taking off for the bye. Last season, their bye came in Week 12, giving the Bengals a chance to recuperate from nagging injuries before playing the last five games. They posted a 4-1 record following that late-season break.

The bye does come just ahead of arguably the toughest game on the schedule. On Oct. 5, Cincinnati travels to New England for a game that currently is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on NBC. It falls within the NFL’s flex window, though, and could be changed ahead of the bye to an afternoon game.

Two division games against the Steelers pop up across the last four weeks of the schedule, possibly providing intrigue to what should be a tight AFC North race.

Complaint department: Aside from the early bye, the biggest gripe the Bengals ought to have pertains to the strange six-game stretch they have across Weeks 8-13. Instead of mixing up their home and road contests, the league has the Bengals hosting three straight games at home in Weeks 8-10 before traveling on the road for Weeks 11-13.

While team beat reporters might enjoy the warmth of New Orleans, Houston and Tampa in late November, the Bengals probably would have preferred those three teams make the trek to Cincinnati at that time of year. Coach Marvin Lewis believes cold-weather games are as much a part of the Bengals’ identity as anything. He probably would have rather played those latter three straight games at home if he could have.

Prime time times three: For the third consecutive year, the Bengals will be playing three games in primetime. Two of them -- versus Cleveland on Thursday, Nov. 6 and Denver on Monday, Dec. 22 -- will come inside their home stadium that’s nicknamed “The Jungle.” The other is the potentially flexed Oct. 5 Sunday night game at New England. The Bengals were undefeated at home last season. Having those two primetime games in Cincinnati could be big if only because of the team’s recent track record in Sunday, Monday and Thursday night games. Since 2009, the Bengals are 2-7 in primetime. They’re 1-5 in those games when played on the road.

Strength of schedule: 23rd, .469 | Vegas over/under: 9.5

Bengals Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, Atlanta, 1 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Tennessee, 1 p.m.

Week 4: Bye week

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, at New England, 8:30 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, Carolina, 1 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 6, Cleveland, 8:25 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at Houston, 1 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

Week 16: Monday, Dec. 22, Denver, 8:30 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.