NFL Nation: schedule 09 AFC North

Bengals schedule analysis

April, 14, 2009
4/14/09
9:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Breakdown: Following a 4-11-1 campaign, the Cincinnati Bengals need all the help they can get in 2009. Cincinnati's strength of schedule is ranked No. 22 as the team enters the year with renewed optimism.

The return of starting quarterback Carson Palmer will help the Bengals. Last year Cincinnati couldn't move the football or score points with Palmer out with an elbow injury. But the team should have more success in those areas with Palmer back and an easier slate of games.

Cincinnati will get the first glimpse of the new-look Denver Broncos without Jay Cutler in Week 1. Veteran quarterback Kyle Orton could be starting in his first game for Denver at Paul Brown Stadium, which could provide a good opportunity for the Bengals to get off to a fast start at home.

Complaint department: Three consecutive division games are always tough. The Bengals must face the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sept. 27), then play at the Cleveland Browns (Oct. 4) and at the Baltimore Ravens (Oct. 11) in consecutive weeks. This stretch will determine where Cincinnati stands within the AFC North early.

Thanks, but no thanks: The NFL was not intrigued by the Bengals. Cincinnati has zero games in prime time this year. Only two games -- at the Oakland Raiders Nov. 22 and at San Diego Dec. 20 -- have 4:15 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. starts, respectively. The other 14 games begin at 1 p.m. Here's the complete NFL schedule.

Bengals Regular-season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1:
Sunday, Sept. 13, DENVER, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, PITTSBURGH, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, HOUSTON, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, CHICAGO, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, Bye
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, BALTIMORE, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Oakland, 4:15 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, CLEVELAND, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, DETROIT, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, KANSAS CITY, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Breakdown: After surviving the NFL's toughest strength of schedule in 2008, this year's slate of games should come as a welcome relief to the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the 29th easiest schedule this year. Only five opponents made the playoffs a year ago, although the Steelers play the rival Baltimore Ravens twice. But those two AFC North slugfests won't take place until Nov. 29 and Dec. 27 this season.

  Tomlin on 2009 season
  NFL.com Video
  Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin discusses his expectations for the 2009 season.

Here is another interesting note: The San Diego Chargers will come to Heinz Field for the third time in less than a year. San Diego lost in Pittsburgh during the 2008 regular season and the playoffs. The Chargers return to Heinz Field again on Oct. 4 this season

Complaint department: The Steelers will have two tough games early. Pittsburgh will play host to the Tennessee Titans in the season opener and then travel to play the Chicago Bears in Week 2. The Titans-Steelers game should be a battle of two playoff contenders in the AFC. And the Bears should be drastically improved with the addition of Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler.

Continued dominance: The Steelers pulled off a rare feat by going 7-0, including playoffs, against the AFC North last season on their way to the Super Bowl. The division will be extremely hungry this year as Baltimore is looking to unseat Pittsburgh, and the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns aim to close the gap after a pair of abysmal four-win seasons.

Steelers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1:
Thursday, Sept. 10, TENNESSEE, 8:30 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Chicago, 4:15 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, SAN DIEGO, 8:20 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, CLEVELAND, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, MINNESOTA, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, Bye
Week 9: Monday, Nov. 9, at Denver, 8:30 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, CINCINNATI, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, at Baltimore, 8:20 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, OAKLAND, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 10, at Cleveland, 8:20 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, GREEN BAY, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, BALTIMORE, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at Miami, 1 p.m.
 

Browns schedule analysis

April, 14, 2009
4/14/09
7:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Breakdown: The Cleveland Browns have been granted an astonishing 11 straight Week 1 home openers, the longest streak in the NFL.

Cleveland has blown most of these opportunities as the team is 1-9 in home openers since 1999. This year's Week 1 opponent wasn't an easy draw, either. The Browns will play host to the Minnesota Vikings to open the season.

It will be important for new coach Eric Mangini to get off to a fast start. Many fans in Cleveland are already disgruntled from the past and skeptical of new leadership.

Complaint department: Speaking of fast starts, it doesn't look promising for Cleveland. The Browns open against the Vikings, then travel to play the Denver Broncos in Week 2 and at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3. That is a brutal stretch to open the season. If the Browns do not win their home opener against Minnesota, an 0-3 start could be on the horizon.

Losing streak: Is this the year the Browns finally beat the rival Pittsburgh Steelers? With Cleveland coming off a 4-12 season and Pittsburgh winning its sixth Super Bowl, it doesn't appear likely. The Steelers have beaten the Browns 13 straight times.

Browns Regular-season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, MINNESOTA VIKINGS, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Denver Broncos, 4:15 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, CINCINNATI BENGALS, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, GREEN BAY PACKERS, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, at  Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, BYE
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 16, BALTIMORE RAVENS, 8:30 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, 4:05 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 10, PITTSBURGH STEELERS, 8:20 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at  Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, OAKLAND RAIDERS, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS, 1 p.m.

Ravens schedule analysis

April, 14, 2009
4/14/09
7:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Breakdown: Coming off a surprising run to the AFC title game, the Baltimore Ravens will have an easier schedule in 2009, opening with a home game against quarterback Matt Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens' strength of schedule is a meager 28th in the NFL. Three opponents in the first five weeks are teams from 2008 with double-digit losses -- Kansas City, the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. So there is a good opportunity for a fast start.

The longest stretch on the road for Baltimore is two games. The Ravens will play at Cleveland and at Cincinnati, Nov. 8 and 16, and also on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, Dec. 27 and Jan. 3.

  John Harbaugh on 2009 season
  NFL.com Video
  John Harbaugh lets Baltimore fans know what they can expect from the Ravens in 2009.

Complaint department: The Ravens are usually snubbed on scheduling issues, but there is not much to complain about this year. Baltimore got its bye at a good time this year -- in Week 7 -- so the Ravens came out of this relatively unscathed.

Wish granted: The Ravens will have a 1 p.m. game against the Steelers at Heinz Field on Dec. 27. Last month, Baltimore caused a stir by asking the league not to play the Steelers in Week 1 in prime time. The Ravens also will play host to the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium during a Sunday night game Nov. 29. So the Ravens got just what they wanted this year.

Ravens Regular-season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday,  Sept. 20,  at San Diego Chargers, 4:15 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, CLEVELAND BROWNS, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday,  Oct. 4, at New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, CINCINNATI BENGALS, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday,  Oct. 18,  at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday,  Oct. 25,  BYE
Week 8: Sunday,  Nov. 1, DENVER BRONCOS, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 16, at Cleveland Browns, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Week 11: Sunday,  Nov. 22, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday,  Nov. 29, PITTSBURGH STEELERS, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Week 13: Monday,  Dec. 7, at Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Week 14: Sunday,  Dec. 13, DETROIT LIONS, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, CHICAGO BEARS, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday,  Dec. 27, at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday,  Jan. 3, at Oakland Raiders, 4:15 p.m.

SPONSORED HEADLINES