The Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1) will not be playing their third nationally-televised game of the season.
The Bengals-Steelers (7-5) matchup on December 18th at Paul Brown Stadium was flexed to a 1:00 p.m start time. It was replaced by a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) and Dallas Cowboys (11-1) at Jerry World.
It was a change many saw coming. The Buccaneers have won four straight and sit tied with Atlanta for the top spot in the NFC South. Meanwhile, Dallas — led by rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot — are the hottest team in football and became the first club to clinch a postseason spot after the New York Giants lost in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
At 4-7-1, the Bengals are barely alive in the AFC North race. Despite a win over the Eagles yesterday and a winnable game against the Browns on tap for this Sunday, their matchup with rival Pittsburgh will be a regular 1 p.m start.
After a 10-point win over the Giants, the Steelers are tied atop the North with the Baltimore Ravens, a team that will visit Cincinnati on New Year’s Day for a one o’clock affair.
Last year, the Bengals-49ers matchup at Levi Stadium was flexed out of prime time because of San Fran’s poor record. This year, it’s Cincinnati’s down season that spoils a nationally-televised contest.
The Steelers edged the Bengals, 24-16, in the two team’s earlier matchup this season at Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh is 13-2 at PBS since 2003, including a pair of playoff victories.
Despite the flex, the Bengals are still guaranteed one more prime time game this season. Their Christmas Eve matchup against the Houston Texans (6-6) is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at NRG Stadium. That game is not eligible for a kickoff time change.