Cincinnati Bengals release 2021 schedule

17-game regular season highlight by prime time against against Urban Meyer’s Jaguars

For a second straight season the Cincinnati Bengals will open at home, kicking off a schedule that also includes matchups against the last three league MVPs.

The Bengals announced their full schedule, plus preseason opponents, Wednesday night as they prepare for the league’s first 17-game slate in 2021.

Cincinnati hosts the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 12 to open the season, as former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer (2008-13) will return in a regular-season game for the first time since he became the Vikings head coach. He brings with him another former Bengals defensive coordinator in assistant Paul Guenther, in a matchup that also will feature Joe Burrow’s top two targets from the 2019 national championship team at LSU -- newly drafted Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Vikings second-year receiver Justin Jefferson.

Among the other eight home games, the Bengals will face the last three NFL MVPs, with the first of those matchups coming on Oct. 10 against the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes will visit on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2, respectively.

After road games against Chicago (Sept. 19) and division-rival Pittsburgh (Sept. 26), the Bengals return home for a nationally televised matchup with Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football. That Sept. 30 game will feature the NFL’s last two No. 1 overall draft picks -- Burrow and Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence -- and former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.

Cincinnati will finish out the first half of the schedule with three consecutive road games against Detroit (Oct. 17), Baltimore (Oct. 24) and the N.Y. Jets (Oct. 31), before hosting division rival Cleveland Browns (Nov. 7). That stretch, in addition to the Jacksonville contest, showcases five of the last six No. 1 overall draft picks — Burrow (2020), Lawrence (‘21), Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (’18), Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (‘17) and new Lions quarterback Jared Goff (’16).

After a Week 10 bye, Cincinnati is scheduled to play five of its remaining eight games at home. The second half of the season kicks off with a Nov. 21 road matchup against the Raiders, in what will be the franchise’s first-ever trip to Las Vegas. That will be followed by five home contests in six weeks — Pittsburgh (Nov. 28), the L.A. Chargers (Dec. 5), San Francisco (Dec. 12), Baltimore (Dec. 26) and Kansas City (Jan. 2). The lone road matchup in that stretch comes on Dec. 19 at Denver.

The regular season will wrap up on Jan. 9 with a trip to Cleveland.

This is the first change to the season structure since the 1978 campaign ushered in an era of 16 regular-season and four preseason games. With the league moving to a 17-game schedule, there will now only be three preseason games – a year after none were played because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specific dates and times for two of the three preseason matchups are not yet set, but Cincinnati will kick off the exhibition games on the road against defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, before hitting the road again the following week to take on Washington. The Bengals then return home for a nationally televised preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 29.

The Bengals are set to begin their offseason workout program Friday with rookie minicamp. They will then hold a total of 10 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) over three weeks from May 25-27, June 1-3 and June 7-10. The team’s mandatory minicamp will take place June 15-17.

Below is the complete schedule:

PRESEASON (day, date, opponent, time, TV network)

(day and date TBD), at Tampa Bay, (time TBD), Bengals Preseason TV Network

(day and date TBD), at Washington, (time TBD), Bengals Preseason TV Network

Sun., Aug. 29, MIAMI, 4 p.m., CBS

REGULAR SEASON (day, date, opponent, time, TV network)

Sun., Sept. 12, MINNESOTA, 1 p.m., FOX

Sun., Sept. 19, at Chicago, 1 p.m., FOX

Sun., Sept. 26, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m., CBS

Thurs., Sept. 30, JACKSONVILLE, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network

Sun., Oct. 10, GREEN BAY, *1 p.m., FOX

Sun., Oct. 17, at Detroit, *1 p.m., FOX

Sun., Oct. 24, at Baltimore, *1 p.m., CBS

Sun., Oct. 31, at N.Y. Jets, *1 p.m., CBS

Sun., Nov. 7, CLEVELAND, *1 p.m., CBS

Sun., Nov. 14, — BYE —

Sun., Nov. 21, at Las Vegas, *4:05 p.m., CBS

Sun., Nov. 28, PITTSBURGH, *1 p.m., CBS

Sun., Dec. 5, L.A. CHARGERS, *1 p.m., FOX

Sun., Dec. 12, SAN FRANCISCO, *1 p.m., CBS

Sun., Dec. 19, at Denver, *4:05 p.m., CBS

Sun., Dec. 26, BALTIMORE, *1 p.m., CBS

Sun., Jan. 2, KANSAS CITY, *1 p.m., CBS

Sun., Jan. 9, at Cleveland, *1 p.m., CBS

About the Author