As the kids like to say, Mike Hilton wants all the smoke. And he’s not alone. The Cincinnati Bengals share plenty of animosity with the Kansas City Chiefs after the last 17 months of football.
Each team has represented the AFC in the last two Super Bowls and have beaten the other to reach the biggest game of the season.
Now that the Chiefs are back on top of the NFL, they’ll have the honor of hosting the league’s first regular season game on the night of September 7. The league has always wanted their season-opener to be as interesting as possible, with the defending Super Bowl champions facing off against another contender.
No one in the NFL has shown to be a bigger contender for KC’s crown than Cincinnati. Hilton knows it, along with every other player in the Bengals locker room.
When he was asked if he wanted to play the Chiefs to kick the season off, his answer wasn’t at all shocking. “Absolutely,” Hilton said with a smile.
“I’m pretty sure that’s the game everyone wants to see on opening night. So hopefully, to the schedule release guys, y’all make sure that happens.” As the AFC North champions, the Bengals will play all other divisional winners in the AFC this season, including the Chiefs.
They’ve exclusively faced off in December or later over the past two seasons, so scheduling their next matchup for Week 1 would be quite the change of pace.
There’s also the ceremonial aspect to consider here. Would the NFL want to have the Chiefs’ latest Super Bowl ring and banner presentation with the Bengals on the field with them?
That would give the Bengals even more motivation for revenge in the stadium where their season ended in January, and potentially lead to some ugliness after the game begins. The NFL made a mistake last year by having the Bengals scrimmage against the Los Angeles Rams just months following both teams facing each other in the Super Bowl.
Both teams engaged in a scrum during practice that had All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald swinging a helmet at a Bengals player and making contact.
Clearly, teams with recent history have feelings against one another. The ratings for such a game would be astronomical, but will the quality also suffer because of the implications?
The NFL’s first regular season game is always broadcasted on NBC, which is another aspect to consider. CBS would likely have the rights to a Sunday showing between Bengals and Chiefs. Getting the network to give up their best conference matchup would be a tough sell, considering it’s given them so much success in the last year-and-a-half.
In short, don’t expect Hilton or the Bengals to get their wish here. But do expect the next Bengals-Chiefs game to have its isolated time slot on a Sunday afternoon this fall.