Breakdown: The Cincinnati Bengals, 4-12 last season, couldn't handle a first-place schedule in 2010. But this season's slate is more manageable.
Cincinnati has the NFL's 27th-ranked strength of schedule, but it must overcome turmoil this offseason. The Bengals have had several changes on the coaching staff, a franchise quarterback who has threatened to retire and are rebuilding.
The Bengals are at least a couple years away from competing in the AFC North again, especially with quarterback Carson Palmer's future uncertain. But a relatively easy schedule compared to last season should help. The Bengals have a chance to get off to a good start in Week 1 against another rebuilding team in the Cleveland Browns. One of the Ohio teams will be 1-0 after the first week.
Complaint department: It's odd that Cincinnati will play five division games in the second half of the season. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing for the Bengals. The only AFC North matchup in the first eight weeks for Cincinnati will be at Cleveland on Sept. 11.
The what-if game: Bengals owner Mike Brown said he will not trade Palmer, and based on Brown's history, there is a good chance he won't budge. But let's imagine for a second that the Bengals do have a change of heart and decide to trade Palmer. There are several potential trade partners, including teams on the Bengals' 2011 schedule (San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans).
Bengals Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, at Denver, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, San Francisco, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Seattle, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6, at Tennessee, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, at St. Louis, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, Arizona, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Baltimore, 1:00 PM