Breakdown: It won't take the 2016 Cincinnati Bengals long to find out how good they are. After a season-opening road trip to New York on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, they travel to Pittsburgh for the first of two games against the Steelers. Pittsburgh beat the Bengals in the wild-card round of January's AFC playoffs, adding another year to Cincinnati's NFL-long 25-year playoff wins drought. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict had a big interception and then an even bigger penalty late in that game. Because of the penalty and other recent infractions, the league suspended Burfict the first three games of the season. So he won't be on the field for this Week 2 division showdown. He will be back in time for all four of Cincinnati's prime time games, though, including his Week 4 return in a Thursday night game against Miami, and the Week 15 Steelers-Bengals game in Cincinnati.
Deja vu: The Bengals have a couple of repeat trends on this schedule. One of them is highlighted by a prime-time appearance against the Houston Texans. This will be the second time in as many years the two teams have played under the lights, following Houston's 10-6 win in a Monday night game at Cincinnati last season. It also will be the third straight season the Texans and Bengals have met. The Bengals won the 2014 afternoon game in Houston. Additionally, this will be the fifth time in six seasons that the Bengals have ended a year with a home game against Baltimore. The Bengals have won three of the previous five home finales with the Ravens, including last year's.
Kings of prime time? Every year the narrative about Andy Dalton and the Bengals struggling on the nationally televised stage surfaces. Although the quarterback played better in the three night games he was part of in 2015, the Bengals still lost nearly all of them. Including the Saturday night playoff game, the Bengals were 1-4 in prime time last season. That runs their prime-time record since 2011 to 4-11. Under head coach Marvin Lewis, they are an abysmal 8-20 in regular-season and postseason night games. They'll have four chances to fix those numbers in 2016. In addition to the Dolphins (Week 4), Steelers (Week 15) and Texans (Week 16), they also visit the New York Giants for a Monday night game in Week 10.
Strength of schedule: T-27th, .465
Bengals Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11, at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25, Denver, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 29, Miami, 8:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Dallas, 4:25 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at New England, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, Washington, 9:30 AM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 14, at N.Y. Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m.
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Houston, 8:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Baltimore, 1 p.m.