2022 brought a new reality for the Cincinnati Bengals. The franchise that historically shied away from the bright lights of primetime were graced with not one, not two, but FIVE nighttime games when the schedule was initially released.
These Bengals didn’t just accept the big stage, they sought after it. Big names on a successful team will naturally attract the spotlight. Combine that with playoff success, and you’ve got a recipe for plenty more primetime matchups in the coming schedule.
But the NFL needs to remedy a miscalculation it made last year. Three of the five scheduled primetime games for the Bengals were on the road against divisional opponents. Not a single one was in Cincinnati. What gives?
When the schedule drops tonight at 8pm ET, expect the Bengals to get the maximum five primetime games, including at least one against a divisional opponent. That’s expected and welcomed. AFC North matchups are almost always tightly competitive, and all three of Cincinnati’s rivals are expecting to make a jump this season.
Playing a team twice in one season is tough enough, it’s even harder when your road matchup is in front of a nighttime hostile crowd every single time. The pendulum has to swing back eventually.
As it happens, nearly three years have gone by since the Bengals have hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, or Cleveland Browns at home under the lights.
The Steelers were the last to enter The Jungle in such circumstances, when they were defeated by Ryan Finley’s legs and Vonn Bell’s hit-stick on JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“You’ve got to go out there between the lines, go out there and hit him.” – Vonn Bell when asked earlier about JuJu dancing on the logo
JuJu just got rocked by Bell on the field ????
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 22, 2020
One could say that moment is what ultimately turned the Bengals around from bottom-feeder to contender.
Paycor Stadium has never been livelier, not even when it was referred to as Paul Brown Stadium just a year ago. Every next colossal matchup in Cincinnati will break the attendance record.
We saw it happen last year in the team’s lone two regular season night games in the venue. Atmosphere will absolutely not be a problem.
It’s also statistically probable that the Bengals are scheduled with more primetime games at home rather than away.
It’s been confirmed that their matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs is in the afternoon, which leaves seven other road matchups of less magnitude compared to nine home games, including three against division rivals.
The time to bring primetime AFC North football back to Cincinnati is now. We’ll see if the schedule makers agree come tonight.