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Ladies and gentlemen, the 2021 NFL schedule is officially here. With the draft in the books and most rosters all but locked and loaded for the fall, we can finally turn our eyes toward the season. The AFC North, in particular, promises plenty of intrigue this year, with three teams coming off of playoff seasons. And while they finished last in the division last year, the Bengals have hope in the form of Joe Burrow, who played extremely well before an injury prematurely ended his rookie campaign. Here's a full rundown of their 17-game schedule, including key matchups and a season prediction:

2021 Bengals schedule

Week 1Sep. 12Minnesota Vikings1:00 PMFOX
Week 2Sep. 19at Chicago Bears1:00 PMFOX
Week 3Sep. 26at Pittsburgh Steelers1:00 PMCBS
Week 4Sep. 30Jacksonville Jaguars (Thu)8:20 PMNFLN
Week 5Oct. 10Green Bay Packers1:00 PMFOX
Week 6Oct. 17at Detroit Lions1:00 PMFOX
Week 7Oct. 24at Baltimore Ravens1:00 PMCBS
Week 8Oct. 31at New York Jets1:00 PMCBS
Week 9Nov. 7Cleveland Browns1:00 PMCBS
Week 10

Week 11Nov. 21at Las Vegas Raiders4:05 PMCBS
Week 12Nov. 28Pittsburgh Steelers1:00 PMCBS
Week 13Dec. 5Los Angeles Chargers1:00 PMFOX
Week 14Dec. 12San Francisco 49ers1:00 PMCBS
Week 15Dec. 19at Denver Broncos4:05 PMCBS
Week 16Dec. 26Baltimore Ravens1:00 PMCBS
Week 17Jan. 2Kansas City Chiefs1:00 PMCBS
Week 18Jan. 9at Cleveland Browns1:00 PMCBS

Bengals key games

  • Week 9 vs. Browns: The Bengals fought gamely in both matchups with the Browns in 2020, but they fell short in both games, a narrative the Bengals will try to reverse this season.  
  • Week 3 at Steelers: Cincinnati ended its 10-game losing streak against the Steelers the last time these two teams met. But Cincinnati still hasn't won in Pittsburgh since 2015 and have just two wins in the Steel City since 2010. 
  • Week 13 vs. Chargers: Joe Burrow gets his first matchup against Justin Herbert, who cruised to Offensive Rookie of the Year after Burrow went down with an injury last season. 

Bengals toughest matchup

Week: 16 | Date: Jan. 9 | Time: 1 p.m.
Opponent: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City is the ultimate measuring-stick game. It's also a chance for Burrow to go head to head with Patrick Mahomes, the only player in league history to win league and Super Bowl MVPs before his 25th birthday. 

Bengals projected win total

2021 record prediction: 6-10-1

The Bengals' measure for this success this season is not as much about wins and losses. They need to keep Burrow upright for an entire season. If they do that, Cincinnati may very well win more games than most of the prognosticators expect.