The Zac Taylor era officially begins on the road, as the Cincinnati Bengals are set to open the 2019 season at Seattle on Sept. 8.
The NFL released schedules Wednesday night and finalized times for previously announced preseason matchups.
Cincinnati will play its home opener Sept. 15 against San Francisco and has one prime-time game scheduled for Sept. 30 at Pittsburgh, an AFC North rivalry game that will air on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
Here are five things to know about the Bengals’ 2019 schedule:
1. Developing road warriors
The Bengals will play three of their first four games on the road, but Seattle especially could be a tough trip. The Seahawks have won their last six season-openers at CenturyLink Field, last losing a Week 1 game at home in 1999, and their 10 consecutive wins in home-openers is the longest streak in the NFL.
Cincinnati hasn’t played at Seattle since 2011 but is 2-1 in openers against the Seahawks (home or away). In 1981, backup quarterback Turk Schonert led a stunning comeback for a 27-21 win at home to kickstart the Bengals’ Super Bowl XVI run. Dave Shula made his Bengals coaching debut at Seattle in 1992 and came away with a 21-3 win. Sam Wyche lost the 1985 opener at home against the Seahawks, 28-24.
For fans considering a road trip, this one should be at the top of the list. The game also coincides with a Reds at Mariners series Sept. 10-12.
2. Lucky break
Four of the first seven games are against teams that had losing records last year and five of the first eight games are against teams that missed the playoffs last year. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything about this year’s competition, but at least for now those games appear winnable on paper.
The four early opponents who experienced losing records in 2018 are: San Francisco (Sept. 15 at home), Buffalo (Sept. 22 on the road), Arizona (Oct. 6 at home) and Jacksonville (Oct. 20 at home). Aside from two division games against Cleveland coming off a 7-8-1 finish, the Bengals also play two teams that went 4-12 (at Oakland Nov. 17 and home against the New York Jets on Dec. 1), and they face a Dolphins team that went 7-9 when they travel to Miami on Dec. 22.
3. Top opponents
Three of the Bengals’ non-divisional opponents made the playoffs and two of them were in the Super Bowl – the Rams, who they meet in London on Oct. 27, and New England, who Cincinnati hosts Dec. 15.
The Super Bowl champion Patriots lead the all-time series 16-9 and have won the last two since the Bengals beat them 13-6 in Cincinnati in 2013. They averaged 476.3 yards of offense per game in the postseason last year.
The Rams went 13-3 during the regular season, making a second straight playoff appearance after losing in the wild card round in 2017.
Seattle is the other team on the schedule, outside the AFC North champion Ravens, that made the postseason. The Seahawks haven’t had a losing season since the Bengals last played at their place in 2011, and they are coming of a 10-7 season, which ended with a wild card loss at Dallas.
4. Heading overseas
The Bengals head to London for the second time after playing the Washington Redskins to a 27-27 tie at Wembley Stadium in 2016.
This time they play the Rams, as Taylor faces his former squad for the first time. He was an offensive assistant for the Rams from 2017 to 2018 before replacing Marvin Lewis in February. Cincinnati has won the last three matchups with the Rams and hold an 8-5 lead in the teams’ all-time series.
Los Angeles will be playing the Falcons on the road the week prior, and in order to shorten the amount of travel during those two weeks, the team will stay in Atlanta and practice there a few days before making the flight to London.
5. Division rivalries
The Bengals dive right into the AFC North slate with the Sept. 30 prime-time game at Pittsburgh. The Steelers lead the all-time series 64-35, including wins in the last eight meetings, but Taylor looks to begin a new trend. Cincinnati’s last win in the series was a road game in 2015. The Bengals host the Steelers on Nov. 24.
The regular-season finale Dec. 29 against Cleveland at home marks the 10th straight time the Bengals will finish up against a divisional opponent, though previously those games were always against the Ravens or Steelers. Cincinnati plays the Browns on the road Dec. 8.
Baltimore, which went 10-6 to win the division last year, will host the Bengals on Oct. 13 and then comes to Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 10.
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