|Head coach Forrest Gregg|
Owner Paul Brown
|General manager Paul Brown|
Home field Riverfront Stadium
Division place 1st AFC Central
The 1981 Cincinnati Bengals season was the team's 14th year in professional football and its 12th with the National Football League (NFL). The team won their first AFC Championship, but lost Super Bowl XVI to San Francisco.
- AFC Divisional Playoff
- AFC Championship Game
- Super Bowl
- Awards and records
Cincinnati had at least a share of the AFC Central lead the entire season. On December 13, quarterback Ken Anderson threw two touchdown passes as the Bengals clinched the division with a 17–10 win over the Steelers.
Ken Anderson led the NFL in passing in 1981 with a 98.5 rating.
On January 3, 1982, the Bengals beat Buffalo, 28–21, in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. A week later, playing in their first AFC Championship Game, the Bengals defeated San Diego, 27–7, at Riverfront Stadium in a temperature of nine degrees below zero with a wind-chill factor of minus-59. This game is referred to as the Freezer Bowl.
In Super Bowl XVI on January 24, 1982, in Pontiac, Michigan, the Bengals trailed 20–0 at halftime and lost to San Francisco, 26–21.
Before the season, the Bengals unveiled new uniforms with tiger-striped helmets, jerseys and pants.