The young Cincinnati Bengals are now ready for prime time players, thanks to their playoff appearance in 2011. The release of schedules for 2012 shows the Bengals featured in network prime time games three times this coming season.
The prime time treatment begins week one when the Bengals travel to meet the Baltimore Ravens on Monday, Sept. 10. The Bengals-Ravens tilt will be the first of two Monday night games on the season's opening weekend.
The Bengals will also be featured on Sunday Night Football when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 21. The Bengals and Eagles will hook up from Philadelphia on Thursday, Dec. 13 for the team's final prime time date.
The Bengals' opponents have been known since the end of the 2011 season, but now we know the dates. With the AFC North being paired with the NFC East and AFC West in non-divisional games, the Bengals will have some rather attractive matchups, especially at Paul Brown Stadium.
After opening the season in Baltimore, Cincinnati returns home to open their home slate with another division rival, the Cleveland Browns. Then it's two straight weeks on the road, at Washington and at Jacksonville before the Miami Dolphins come calling in week five.
The Bengals return the trip to Cleveland in week six before the prime time game against Pittsburgh in week seven. For the second straight year, the Bengals will have a mid-season bye week, this time after week seven.
After starting with four of seven on the road, the month of November will be spent almost entirely at home following the bye week. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos come to Cincinnati on Nov. 4 and a week later brother Eli and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants visit PBS.
After a road trip to Kansas City, Carson Palmer makes his return to Paul Brown Stadium as the Oakland Raiders visit to close out month of November. It's rather surprising that this game wasn't one of those featured in prime time.
The final five games take place in December, beginning with a West Coast trip to San Diego. The Dallas Cowboys come to PBS on Dec. 9 and then the Bengals hit the road for two tough contests in Pennsylvania, first at Philadelphia then Pittsburgh.
Like last season, the Bengals finish at home against the Baltimore Ravens. The Dec. 30 showdown provides a bookend to the season as both teams open against each other as well.
That's the slate of opponents for the Bengals in 2012 as they attempt to put together their first back-to-back playoff appearances since 1981 and 1982.
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