The Pittsburgh Steelers' 20-17 loss to Baltimore last Sunday officially placed the Cincinnati Bengals in first place in the AFC North and helped finalize their 2016 home and away opponents. Wins by Houston and Denver on Sunday also helped finalize the Bengals' 2016 home and away opponents. The dates of each game will be determined in April when the full regular-season schedule is released.
My take: The road to a sixth straight playoff berth will be a bumpy one for the Bengals. It could mirror the path they had to take to get to the postseason this year. After playing four teams this season that made it to the 2014 playoffs, the Bengals in 2016 will have games against five teams that are in this year's playoff field. They'll play one of them, the Steelers, twice. Games against the scuffling NFC East ought to be a good trade-off, though. It will be interesting to find out the dates for these games, particularly the ones against the Patriots and Broncos. In their last trip to New England, a Week 5 visit that came just after a bye last year, the Bengals lost. Trips to AT&T Stadium and two to MetLife Stadium won't be the easiest, either, if all three teams are in the playoff hunt when they see the Bengals. The Bengals shouldn't be as road weary in 2016. That's because, after hitting Denver, Arizona, San Francisco and Oakland this season, the furthest west they go in 2016 is Dallas. Cincinnati will travel 5,211 miles to road games after notching a whopping 9,272 in 2015. It does bear noting they will have a game in London next year. The game against Washington will count toward the Bengals' home games, but will be played overseas. Other than that week, the rest of the travel schedule looks favorable.