The Cincinnati Bengals have a sour taste in their mouth after a disappointing 2023 season. They have made several moves to improve their roster and give themselves a chance at making a deep playoff push in 2024. But it won't be easy.

The Bengals play in arguably the hardest division in football right now, slugging it out with the Ravens, Browns, and Steelers twice a season.

The Ravens are the undisputed favorite in the AFC North. Lamar Jackson, John Harbaugh, and their always-solid roster are a hard out every single week in the regular season. Cleveland can never be overlooked. The Browns went on an impressive run last year winning X games despite starting more QBs than most other teams have on their rosters. If Deshaun Watson can finally stay healthy, and provide a fraction of the talent that he had in Houston, then the Browns could take over the division. Pittsburgh cannot be ignored either, as they seem destined to have a winning record every single year under Mike Tomlin.

Cincinnati needs to bring their A-game in 2024 if they want a shot at the Super Bowl, let alone making the playoffs in a stacked AFC conference.

Cincinnati has one of the hardest schedules in the NFL

This feels like a cop out answer, but the entire schedule is difficult.

According to Sharp Football Analysis, the Bengals have the 6th hardest schedule in 2024. Sharp calculated NFL strength of schedule using projected win totals from Vegas oddsmakers.

In addition to playing in a hard division, Cincinnati also has to play tough teams like Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Dallas. There are very few “gimme's” on the Bengals schedule.

With that out of the way, let's move on to a couple more scary pitfalls.

Getting home-field advantage is crucial in the AFC. Can Bengals get it done?

This is a big part of why having a tough schedule in the first place is a problem for the Bengals.

The AFC is by far the more stacked conference in the NFL. Powerhouse teams like the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, Ravens, and Texans are all competing with a host of strong middle-of-the-road teams for seven playoff spots. You don't have to be too good at math to realize that one of those five teams listed mathematically must play on the road within the first two rounds of the playoffs. Even if they are the top five seeds, the fifth seed (or whoever is lowest after Super Wildcard Weekend) must go on the road in the divisional round to face the one seed.

All of that to say, home-field advantage is obviously important and is hard to come by in the AFC.

The Bengals are perfectly capable of winning a slew of games on the road, but they will set themselves up better for success if they can get the one seed and retain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Cincinnati needs to get out to a strong start and aim at getting homefield advantage in the AFC, otherwise they are in for a tough season come the playoffs

The Bengals face a brutal stretch before their Week 12 bye

Let's face it, Cincinnati's bye week is okay but definitely not ideal.

A Week 12 bye is certainly better than say Week 5 or Week 6 and could provide some relief before a late playoff push. However, it's the games leading up to that Week 12 bye that could be troublesome for the Bengals.

In the six weeks leading up to their bye, the Bengals will play the Ravens twice. They also travel to play the Giants. Browns, and Chargers and host the Eagles and Raiders.

Playing the Ravens twice before their bye could be a problem for Cincinnati. If they suffer any kind of mid-season injury, or stumble out of the starting line, then they could get swept by the Ravens before Thanksgiving. If that were to happen, they would face an uphill battle against the presumed division leader and would have fight for a wild card berth.

On a positive note, the Bengals have three divisional games (vs. Browns and both Steelers games) after their bye week, which should give them a chance to clean up their divisional record if they can stay alive that late into the season.