It has been announced that the NFL regular-season schedule will be released on Thursday afternoon. It may not be football, but it is something that makes the regular fan even more excited for the September kickoff and get their ticket plans ready.
For the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s just another day. After all, their 16 opponents for next season have been determined for weeks now, but the schedule release offers a confirmation of who, what, when and where next season will go down.
The most important aspect of those previous four W’s?
The “when” factor is a rather important one for the defending division-champion Bengals. For most fans, the possibilities of primetime games are an exciting ordeal. A chance to have the entire nation watching your team, as well as the out-of-state fans that get a rare chance to see their favorite NFL squad.
But for some Bengals’ fanatics, primetime games are not something to look forward to, rather something that makes their collective hearts race and gives them the urge to immediately begin nibbling at their fingernails.
Last season, Cincinnati finished 1-4 (playoffs including) in primetime affairs, compared to a 10-1 record in their afternoon contests.
After starting their slate of primetime games with a 31-10 victory over the Browns, the Bengals dropped their final four, all of them to playoff teams (Houston, Arizona, Denver and Pittsburgh).
With the Bengals tying their franchise record in wins last season (12) and making the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year, there is no doubt they will find themselves back on national television next season (played at least three the last 3 seasons).
The Bengals will play six games next season against playoff clubs from a year ago, as well as four other contests versus teams from big-market cities like New York (twice), Dallas and Philadelphia.
So, here is an explanation of why each Bengals’ opponent next season could be a prime time matchup.
Cleveland Browns (Last season: 4-12, 4th in AFC North)
As mentioned, Cincinnati dominated the Browns by 21 points on a Thursday Night football matchup in early November last season, the only nationally-televised game the Bengals won all year long. In the two team’s second meeting, Cincinnati won, 37-3, the largest margin of victory in the rivalry since Cleveland shutout the Bengals at Riverfront Stadium in the strike-shortened 1987 season, 34-0.
When you look at it, there is little to no chance these two teams meet on primetime for a third consecutive year. The Johnny Manziel-factor is not in play anymore with the Browns releasing the troubling quarterback, and Cleveland is in full rebuild mode after yet another last-place finish in the AFC North.
The one show time impact this matchup contains is the return of Hue Jackson, who spent the last two seasons in the Queen City as the offensive coordinator but moved north to take the head coach position with the Browns. Cleveland did get two primetime games last season (losing both), but that can be attributed to their seven-win season in 2014 where they were actually in first place through the first eight games.
Expect a pair of 1 o’clock contests with hopefully more dominating wins by the Bengals. In their last three games, Cincinnati has outscored Cleveland by 85 points.
Baltimore Ravens (Last season: 5-11, 3rd in AFC North)
The Ravens simply had one of those years in 2015 where nothing could go right. Starting in week one, they lost Terrell Suggs for the season and eventually lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos by one point despite not allowing a touchdown on defense.
From then on, they would lose nearly 20 players to the season-ending IR, including quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Justin Forsett, who was in the top-five in rushing yards the year prior.
The Bengals have not played Baltimore on primetime since the 2012 season opener (a 44-13 Ravens’ win), and that shouldn’t change with Baltimore dropping double-digit games last season.
Once again, expect these two games to be played in the afternoon. Which is a good thing for the Bengals, they’ve won their last five games against the Purple & White, dating back to the regular-season finale of the 2013 season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (Last season: 10-6, 2nd in AFC North, Lost in Div-Round postseason)
Everyone can agree that if the schedule comes out tomorrow and the Steelers and Bengals do not play on primetime, they would be colored shocked.
Just last season alone, the rivalry was taken to new heights. In the first meeting, the Bengals moved to 7-0 by defeating Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, 16-10. In that game, Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell was tackled by Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict and tore his ACL, ending his season. This was the second straight year Bell was taken out for the year by the Bengals, Reggie Nelson’s low hit on Bell’s knee in the season-finale of the 2014 season caused him to miss their playoff loss to Baltimore.
The comments heated up (Burfict even received a death threat from a Steelers’ defensive lineman) and got worse when the two teams met in Cincinnati a month later. A fight broke out at midfield prior to the game and the jawing continued for all four quarters. Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton was the next victim, breaking the thumb on his throwing hand while attempting to make a tackle in the first quarter. His year was done, too. Pittsburgh went on to win by 13 points.
Then, the postseason:
In a back-and-forth, rain-drenched war between division rivals, the ending left the two teams hating each other even more. You know how it went down:
-Steelers’ assistant coach Mike Munchak pulling Nelson’s hair (did not get fined)
–Ryan Shazier’s hit on Giovani Bernard
-Burfict injuring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown
-Burfict and Adam Jones flagged on the play that injured Brown, setting up game-winning field goal for Pittsburgh
-Steelers’ assistant Joey Porter being on the field while training staff worked on Brown, possibly instigating with the Bengals’ defense (was later fined, but not rightfully penalized)
-Jones’s post-game rant on Instagram about hating Pittsburgh
-Jones accusing Brown of faking a concussion
-Burfict later suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season
-Twitter feud between Burfict and Steelers’ running back DeAngelo Williams
The Steelers won by two and the Bengals’ playoff drought grew by another 365 days. Not just the fans of these two team’s want to see this matchup. NFL pundits alike want to see these two hated franchises clash, most likely on primetime.
They’ve played on national television four times in the last three seasons, so 2016 should be no different. We just hope that it will be after week three, so Burfict will be on the field.
New England Patriots (Last season: 12-4, 1st in AFC East, Lost in Conf. Championship)
The Bengals last played the Patriots in 2014, losing in primetime by 26 in Foxboro. With these two teams combining for 113 regular-season victories in the last five seasons combined, there’s good reason to believe they can meet on primetime next season.
Bad news for the Bengals, however, they are winless in their last six trips to Foxboro, dating back to 1986.
New York Jets (Last season: 10-6, 2nd in AFC East)
The Jets were a great story last season, finishing with 10 wins with NFL-journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick tossing for 33 touchdowns along the way under first-year head coach Todd Bowles.
Though it will make a good matchup when it happens, it most likely won’t be on primetime.
The Jets are expected to compete strongly with New England for the division title, so they will likely get a primetime game. On top of that, the idea of Rex Ryan going against his former team is very attractive to the makers of the schedule.
The Bengals have not won a road game against the Jets since 1981, a season which gave the club their first conference championship and Super Bowl appearance.
Buffalo Bills (Last season: 8-8, 3rd in AFC East)
Cincinnati has beaten the Bills in Buffalo in two straight years, and will finally host them at Paul Brown Stadium for the first time since 2010.
With the emergence of Tyrod Taylor and the Bills’ coaching staff (that now includes with both Ryan brothers), I can see a primetime game in the forecast.
The Bengals have been stable, the Bills are up-and-coming, it’s an inter-conference matchup that has not happened in recent years, it makes sense.
Miami Dolphins (Last season: 6-10, 4TH IN AFC East)
The Dolphins 10-loss campaign a season ago landed them in the cellar of the AFC East, and most likely will not be seeing the Bengals on primetime, a matchup that was a Thursday Night football contest in 2013.
On Halloween Night in 2013, these two teams battled to overtime before Miami won the game on a safety, adding to the argument these two teams won’t meet again on national television.
The Dolphins are the lone AFC team that Dalton has yet to beat, but that still doesn’t not quality as productive sales pitch to put this under the country’s spotlight.
Houston Texans (Last season: 9-7, 1st in AFC South, Lost in WC Round)
Are the Bengals just sick of seeing the Texans yet? Cincinnati lost back-to-back playoff games in Houston in 2011 & ’12, then last season fell to them on Monday Night Football, 10-6, to end their undefeated run which stood at 8-0.
I don’t think you will see these two on primetime, just because it was already done last year and was a snooze-fest for most of the game until J.J Watt and Dalton’s post-game quote controversy, which really wasn’t a controversy at all.
Houston did land Brock Osweiler in the offseason, one of the biggest free-agent signings by any team. That combined with winning the division a year ago will land Houston on primetime, just probably not against Cincinnati.
Denver Broncos (Last season: 12-4, 1st in AFC West, Won Super Bowl)
The defending champs will be coming to Cincinnati, and the NFL would be smart to make it a primetime game for the third consecutive year.
Back-to-back seasons, the Broncos and Bengals have met on Monday Night football in week 16, with venues switching from Cincinnati to Denver, respectively.
Once again, it’s time to put in on primetime. Both games were exciting games, with Cincinnati pulling out a back-and-forth 37-28 win in 2013 and Denver pulling out an overtime victory, 20-17, last December.
Being the champ has many perks, which includes multiple primetime games the next season; one of them should be against the Bengals.
Washington Redskins (Last season: 9-7, 1st in NFC East, Lost in WC Round)
The Redskins had a great run to win the poor NFC East division despite a 9-7 record. This is the only game to already be decided next season with the two teams meeting in London. So really, it’s a nationally-televised game, but will be played in the morning rather than under the lights.
Philadelphia Eagles (Last season: 7-9, 2nd in NFC East)
The Eagles had a disappointing season a year ago, finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs for the second straight year. Being in the NFC East, the Eagles will find themselves on primetime, likely against fellow division teams.
Plus, the Bengals and Eagles met on primetime in 2012 (a Cincinnati win), so it makes a flipped-venue rematch on national television highly unlikely.
New York Giants (Last season: 6-10, 3rd in NFC East)
The Bengals have had a scheduled primetime game in against the NFC in two of the last four seasons, but haven’t played one since the aforementioned win over Philadelphia in 2012 (last season’s primetime games against the 49ers was flexed to the afternoon).
So I can see the Bengals playing an out-of-conference primetime game against either the Giants or the Dallas Cowboys (Last season: 4-12, 4th in NFC East), who will get games on national television because of their history as ‘America’s Team’ and the fact they have perhaps the nicest stadium in all of football.
For the fifth straight season, the Bengals will have multiple primetime games. Here’s my prediction:
@Pittsburgh (Thursday Night Football): Put it on a Thursday so it’s the only game of the day and the NFL week begins with it. Switch the venue from the Cincinnati in the playoffs to Pittsburgh during the regular season. The Steel City faithful can now add their voice after the final two meetings between these two teams were in Cincinnati last season. Also, the NFL’s color rush is between two division teams. Third straight season with Paul Brown hosts a Thursday Night game.
Vs. Denver (Monday Night Football): Third straight year the two teams would meet on Monday Night. Two division winners, it just makes sense.
@New England (Sunday Night Football): Same thing as Denver; two division winners clashing makes for a good matchup.
@ Dallas: (Sunday Night Football): “Jerry World” is a very fantastic place to put on national television.
Vs. Buffalo (Monday Night Football): Buffalo has the Rex Ryan effect, and Tyrod Taylor electrifying the quarterback position. Buffalo can be a team in the playoff hunt, especially if Taylor stays healthy. Good game (that isn’t between division rivals) to put on primetime.
Photo By: AP