Cincinnati Bengals fans can now turn their full attention to the 2012 season with the Super Bowl out of the way. The New York Giants victory only serves to strengthen what is an incredibly strong slate of games to be played at Paul Brown Stadium next year.
The Giants and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will be one of two NFC East teams to visit Cincinnati. The other will be the Dallas Cowboys, who lost to the Giants on the season's last day which allowed New York to qualify. Of course the Cowboys bring the mantle of "America's Team" and the star power of Tony Romo.
The AFC opponents the Bengals will face are also strong both in drawing power and based on their 2011 performances. Of course the Bengals will see their familiar divisional foes from the AFC North where every game is a war. The Ravens and Steelers are both coming off playoff appearances themselves while the Browns are in a position to be markedly improved, having multiple first round draft picks. The AFC North competition promises to be the fiercest in the NFL once again.
The Bengals are matched up next year against teams from the AFC West as well. Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will visit PBS where the Bengals will try to gain revenge for this season's loss in Denver. Perhaps the most tantalizing matchup though, and one that's sure to draw national attention, will be the return of Carson Palmer to Cincinnati when the Oakland Raiders come to town.
The final home game will be against the Miami Dolphins, another team that will be much improved due to draft position and a new coaching staff that will include former Bengals secondary coach, Kevin Coyle. Could Peyton Manning be under center when the Dolphins come calling? That remains to be seen.
On the road next season the Bengals will face Washington, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, San Diego and Kansas City in addition to their divisional opponents. No dates or times have been set yet for 2012.
The Bengals have hosted the previous season's Super Bowl champion 15 times in franchise history winning six of those games and losing nine. Of course six of those games have been against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Giants will become the only team besides Pittsburgh that the Bengals will have met more than once following a championship season. The Bengals played the Giants at Riverfront Stadium in 1991 following the Giants victory over the Buffalo Bills. Cincinnati won that matchup, one of only three they would win that season, Sam Wyche's last in Cincinnati.
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