Bengals’ tough challenge: Open season with 2 road wins


By Joe Kay - AP Sports Writer



FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2016, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis points in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. The Bengals are right up there among the NFL’s elite when it comes to reaching the playoffs. Once there, they’re as bad as anybody in league history. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)


FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2015 file photo, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton throws in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton had his breakout season, leading the AFC in passer rating before he broke his right thumb during a loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 13. The thumb fully healed and he looked sharp in training camp and limited preseason appearances. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)


CINCINNATI — It’s one thing to start the season on the road. The Bengals have the daunting challenge of leaving home for the second week, too, which is usually too much travel for an NFL team.

Cincinnati has never won back-to-back road games to open a season, and it’s in good company on that one.

Over the past two seasons, nine teams opened with back-to-back road games. None of them went 2-0. The previous team to open with two road wins was Miami in 2013, when the Dolphins won at Cleveland and at Indianapolis.

The Bengals are accustomed to opening on the road — it’ll be their seventh straight season with an away game when they play at the Jets on Sunday — but they’ve got a tall order.

They’ve never won at the Meadowlands. The following week, they play at Pittsburgh, renewing their raw AFC North rivalry.

They’d like to think that they’ve gotten the hang of winning the first game on the road, beating Oakland and Baltimore each of the past two years. This will be something else, however.

“It’s crazy,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “We were talking about that the other day. We’ve had great results with that. We just have to continue to start this trek off right. Go out there and make those plays and shut (Jets fans) up quick and early. Send them to the concession stands. Go get a drink because the team is struggling. Something like that.”

The Bengals have kept the core of their team together for the past few years, even though it has lost in the first round of the playoffs for an NFL-record five straight seasons.

Beginning a season with the roster virtually intact lends an advantage over teams that are working in new players.

Plus, having experienced so many road openers makes it feel more like a routine.

“No question it does,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “We’re not going to be a deer in the headlights. I can remember back in the day, going to Baltimore and telling the rookies: ‘Make sure you have a good seat to watch Ray Lewis’ dance.’ We go through that. It’s good stuff. That why when it happens, they’re at ease with it. They expect it.”

Winning that first game also carries over some of the confidence from the last playoff season.

“Absolutely,” Andy Dalton said. “It’s big. You want to start fast. You want to get ahead as much as you can.”

Winning these first two will be a huge challenge. The Bengals have never done well in New York. They’re 0-3 against the Giants and 2-12 against the Jets, dropping their past nine. Cincinnati’s last win over the Jets in New York was a 31-30 victory at Shea Stadium in 1981, the first season that the Bengals reached the Super Bowl.

It’s the fourth time in franchise history that they’ve opened with a pair of road games. They started 0-2 in both 1979 and 1996. In 2011, they won at Cleveland in Dalton’s rookie debut and lost at Denver a week later.

“It is never an easy assignment to go on the road, let alone a home opener with all the pageantry and everything that goes on in the stadiums during home openers,” Lewis said. “I guess we get to do it two weeks in a row.”

Notes: The Jets have won five consecutive home openers, the longest active streak in the AFC. … The Bengals beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh last season, then lost to them twice at Paul Brown Stadium, including the 18-16 playoff defeat.

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Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

FILE – In this Aug. 18, 2016, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis points in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. The Bengals are right up there among the NFL’s elite when it comes to reaching the playoffs. Once there, they’re as bad as anybody in league history. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_112355188-5bf4e17a32394ac49d169d1cdb704ce4.jpgFILE – In this Aug. 18, 2016, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis points in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. The Bengals are right up there among the NFL’s elite when it comes to reaching the playoffs. Once there, they’re as bad as anybody in league history. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 13, 2015 file photo, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton throws in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton had his breakout season, leading the AFC in passer rating before he broke his right thumb during a loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 13. The thumb fully healed and he looked sharp in training camp and limited preseason appearances. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_112355188-07b3f2121fcf49de90be669d950f7b8c.jpgFILE – In this Dec. 13, 2015 file photo, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton throws in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton had his breakout season, leading the AFC in passer rating before he broke his right thumb during a loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 13. The thumb fully healed and he looked sharp in training camp and limited preseason appearances. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)

By Joe Kay

AP Sports Writer

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