The NFL regular-season scheduled was released at 8 p.m (et) on Thursday, and by 8:01, all 32 teams’ 16-game slate was simultaneously posted on every social-media outlet except Myspace (I’m assuming).
For the reigning AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals, it was what you would expect. All 16 opponents and locations were already determined, it was just a matter of when.
I’m sure you have seen it by now, but here is the full 2016 regular-season schedule for the Bengals:
Week 1: Sep 11, 1:00 p.m @New York Jets
Week 2: Sep 18, 1:00 p.m @Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 3: Sep 25, 1:00 p.m vs. Denver Broncos
Week 4: Sep 29, 8:25 p.m vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 5: Oct 9, 4:25 p.m @Dallas Cowboys
Week 6: Oct 16, 1:00 p.m @New England Patriots
Week 7: Oct 23, 1:00 p.m vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 8: Oct 30, 9:30 a.m vs. Washington Redskins (London)
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Nov 14, 8:30 p.m @ New York Giants
Week 11: Nov 20, 1:00 p.m vs. Buffalo Bills
Week 12: Nov 27, 1:00 p.m @Baltimore Ravens
Week 13: Dec 4, 1:00 p.m vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 14: Dec 11, 1:00 p.m @Cleveland Browns
Week 15: Dec 18, 8:30 p.m vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 16: Dec 24, 8:25 p.m @ Houston Texans
Week 17: Jan 1, 1:00 p.m vs. Baltimore Ravens
Whew, what a tough 3-game set to begin the season. Cincinnati faces off against three teams in the first three weeks that all won 10 or more games last season. Not to mention, the first two are on the road, including Pittsburgh, and when you finally go back home for the first time, it’s to host the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos.
Each of these three games will be without WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
It’s one of the NFL’s hidden secrets that the Bengals have to start each season with an away game. This season will be the seventh straight. Not since the infamous “tip-game” where Brandon Stokley’s 87-yard touchdown catch in the final seconds helped Denver pull off a miraculous 12-7 victory over Cincinnati have the Bengals started out week one at home.
Although week three’s home opener will be a matchup with Denver, a team the Bengals split a pair of Monday Night Football matchups with in the previous two years.
Four under the lights
With great success comes national recognition. Over the past five years, Cincinnati has racked up five playoff berths and the fifth best record in the NFL with 52 wins, 27 losses and one tie.
Despite five consecutive winning seasons ( and four consecutive 10-win seasons), it has not translated into playoff success with the Bengals going one and done in each of the last five Wild Card rounds.
Nevertheless, the Bengals still won their division for the second time in three years, were the last team in the AFC to be beat, set a franchise record for best start (8-0) and tied a club record at 12-4.
That dominating regular-season performance was enough to land the Bengals four games on primetime, two at home and two away, same as last year (1-3).
After the aforementioned difficult start to the season with the Jets, Steelers and Broncos, the Bengals stay at home for a Thursday Night primetime game against the Miami Dolphins. It’s the only time all season the Bengals play back-to-back games at Paul Brown Stadium. That week four matchup will be extra incentive for Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton; Miami is the lone team in the AFC Dalton has yet to beat, losing both tries. These two team’s last meeting was also a Thursday Night affair on Halloween night 2013. Dalton threw three interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) and was sacked in the end zone in overtime for a game-ending safety—final score: Dolphins 22, Bengals 20.
It seems to be the Bengals’ most-winnable of their four nationally-televised games. Miami finished 6-10 last season and in the cellar of the AFC East.
Six weeks later, the Bengals will play another team on primetime that finished 6-10 a season ago, the New York Giants. Returning to Metlife Stadium for the second time this year, the weather should be a little colder than their week one clash with the Jets, and the lights will be shining brighter. Monday Night Football, a stage the Bengals were 0-2 on last season, losing to the Texans and Broncos by one possession. Cincinnati has never beaten the Giants on the road, going 0-3 with losses in 1994, ’97 and 2008.
Week 15 offers the matchup everyone can’t wait for. On primetime, in Cincinnati, against the Steelers, a team who pulled out a crushing 18-16 defeat of the Bengals in the 2015 postseason at the same venue. Bad news for the Bengals, however, they are just 1-6 against the Steelers on primetime since 2008. Sunday Night football may be a curse for the Bengals, too, they have not won on that stage since 2004 against the Dolphins, which was also the first career win by now-Cardinals’ quarterback Carson Palmer.
No doubt PBS will be extra loud, packed and crazy for that one.
Finally, Santa is coming one day early and bringing you Bengals’ football on Christmas Eve with Cincinnati traveling south to take on the Houston Texans. Houston was the team to spoil the Bengals’ bid for an undefeated campaign one year ago, holding the high-flying Cincinnati offense to just six points in a 10-6 victory, led by backup quarterback TJ Yates. Since 2011, Houston is 4-1 against the Bengals including two playoff wins. Cincinnati will hope to get revenge on the Texans and their new 73 million dollar man, Brock Osweiler. With Denver last season, Osweiler rallied from a 14-point deficit to later beat the Bengals in overtime, 20-17.
Spotlight stays on
Outside of the Bengals’ four primetime affairs, they will still likely see themselves on national television often. On top of their week(s) two & three games being seen by many, the Bengals go on the road back-to-back weeks in early October to take on the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys in weeks 5 and 6, respectively. The Dallas game will be hosted by “Jerry World,” the most extravagant complex that any NFL team is lucky to call a home and will be a 4:25 p.m. (ET) kickoff, meaning the majority of the country will be able to tune in because it’s part of the later-afternoon games.
In the NFL’s annual overseas-slate of games, the Bengals were fortunate enough to be included this year. In week eight, they will kick off from Wembley Stadium in London, England against the Washington Redskins. The game starts at 9:30 a.m., but will still be seen by NFL fans both in England and in the United States.
Make no mistake about it, the 2016 Bengals will frequently be on the map.
Sound smart in front of your friends
- The Bengals have never beaten the Giants on the road and haven’t defeated the Jets on the road since 1981, the team’s first Super Bowl season.
- The Bengals’ last game on Christmas Eve was a 23-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Better known as the “Jerome Simpson flip game”.
- Cincinnati’s last road game on Christmas Eve was a 24-23 loss to Denver in snowy conditions at Mile High. After scoring a late touchdown to seemingly tie the game at 24, the snap on the ensuing PAT by Brad St. Louis was wide of holder Kyle Larson and the Bengals lost by a point. They would lose their final game of the season (in overtime, to Pittsburgh) the following week to miss the playoffs despite starting 8-5.
- 7TH straight season the Bengals start with a road game, going 3-3 in the previous six. The last time they opened the year against the Jets was the NFL-debut of Carson Palmer in the 2004 season. Palmer threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns but Cincinnati lost, 31-24. Jets’ running back Curtis Martin ran for 196 yards on 29 carries.
- Quarterback Andy Dalton has compiled a 14-5 record against the NFC in his five-year career. The last time Cincinnati faced the NFC East (2012), Dalton tallied a combined passer rating of 100.2, an average of 215 yards per game, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions in route to three victories. Dallas was the lone loss for the Bengals from out of conference.
- AJ Green comes into 2016 with four touchdowns in the last five games against Pittsburgh and nine scores in the last 11 division games.
- The last time Cincinnati played the AFC East (2013), they scored 109 points in four games, going 3-1 with wins over New England, Buffalo and New York and an overtime loss to Miami.
- Since 2011, Dalton is 24-14 on the road, third best in the NFL trailing only Alex Smith (23-12) and Tom Brady (26-14).