CINCINNATI - The Bengals of 2014 will get an early breather. Then it's a three month grind to the end.
The NFL announced the regular season schedule Wednesday night and it will feature the Bengals in three primetime games. They play a Sunday night game in New England Patriots on October 5, a Thursday night game against the Browns in Cincinnati November 6 and a Monday night game against the Denver Broncos in Cincinnati December 22.
The Bengals begin the season at Baltimore and then get to play their next two games, against Atlanta and Tennessee at Paul Brown Stadium.
Then they take a break.
Their bye comes in the fourth week. Only twice has the bye week occurred earlier for the Bengals. One was 1997 when it was scheduled in the third week of the season. The earliest bye came in 2000 when it was scheduled in the Bengals' very first week. That was idiotic. They took a break before the season ever started. And we wish it had never started. The Bengals went 4-12.
There are few softballs in this Bengals schedule. Once the bye occurs, the schedule-makers have the Bengals playing consecutive games against the Patriots, the Panthers and the Colts, all playoff teams in 2013.
In November, they play three straight games on the road, at New Orleans, at Houston and at Tampa Bay.
Then comes the big finish in deep-freeze December. Pittsburgh is at PBS on December 7. The Bengals go to the Cleveland lakefront on December 14. Denver comes here for a Monday night game on December 22. The big frozen finish is in Pittsburgh on December 28. Wear your woolies.
If there's a soft spot, it comes smack dab in the middle. In weeks eight through 10, the Bengals host three straight games against the Ravens, the Jaguars and the Browns. None of the three were playoff teams a year ago.
For what it's worth, SBnation.com says the Bengals schedule is only the 23rd strongest. In other words, it's the 10th weakest. That's based on last year's results. And starting in September as we all know, last year means absolutely nothing.