Call it new-found respect, perhaps. The Bengals go under the lights for three “prime time” matchups as their 2012 schedule was released on Tuesday.
It’s awesome. It’s intense. It’s belligerent.
It’s equal parts exciting and intimidating.
It’s either Armageddon or Nirvana.
It’s the Cincinnati Bengals 2012 regular-season schedule — released on Tuesday, April 17, by the National Football League.
Fasten your seatbelts; tighten the straps on your helmets; and get ready to stand on the gas, Cincinnati fans, because the Bengals are going prime time.
Game One this “fab-you-lous” fall features the Bengals at Baltimore on Monday Night Football — the first of three telecasts under the lights with the world watching. That baby will be delivered at 7 p.m. on Sept. 10 on ESPN.
The Bengals host Pittsburgh in a Sunday night game (Oct. 21) on NBC before wrapping up the prime-time portion of their schedule with a visit to Philadelphia for a Thursday night game (Dec. 13) on NFL Network.
If you don’t have ESPN or the NFL Network, don’t worry. Broadcasts of the Bengals’ two games on cable will be simulcast in Cincinnati by a local non-cable station to be determined.
Clearly, the NFL and TV execs like this young team coming off a 9-7 playoff season.
And the league couldn’t have picked a better home opener than Cleveland on Sept. 16 — the 78th meeting in the “Battle of Ohio” series, which Cincinnati leads, 41-36.
The Bengals open the season with two division games for the first time since 2007, and close the season with two division games for the first time since 2001, visiting Pittsburgh and hosting Baltimore.
“We start the season with a great opportunity, playing our division champion and AFC semifinalist (Baltimore) at their place,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “You never know at this point where the biggest challenges on a schedule are going to be, but obviously it looks like we also will have two very crucial division games to close the schedule.”
The Bengals’ home schedule also features games against several marquee non-division opponents, all currently scheduled on Sundays at 1 p.m.
Denver and quarterback Peyton Manning — remember him? — enter Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 4 and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants will follow them the next week.
Former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer leads the Oakland Raiders into PBS on Nov. 25, and the always high-profile Dallas Cowboys make their fifth all-time Cincinnati visit on Dec. 9.
The last year with more regular-season prime-time games was 2007 when Cincinnati had four. This year’s total could rise to four or more because of “flex scheduling” that could change kickoff times during Weeks 11-17.
The Bengals open on Monday night for only the second time in franchise history. In 2007, they hosted Baltimore in a Monday night season opener, winning 27-20.
The 2012 preseason schedule also was released in its completed form on Tuesday. It features a home opener against the New York Jets on Friday, Aug. 10, and a nationally-televised game (FOX) at Atlanta on Aug. 16.
Season tickets are on sale with reduced pricing in many sections. Call the Bengals Ticket Hotline at 513-621-TDTD (8383) or visit Bengals.com to order tickets. Information on mini-packs and single-game tickets will be released at a later date.
(Follow Chick Ludwig on Twitter @ChickLudwig)
CINCINNATI BENGALS 2012 SCHEDULE
All times are Eastern.
An asterisk (*) denotes a game subject to flexible scheduling.
PRESEASON (day, date, opponent, time)
Fri., Aug. 10, N.Y. JETS, 7:30 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 16, at Atlanta (FOX), 8 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 23, GREEN BAY, 7 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 30, at Indianapolis, 7 p.m.
REGULAR SEASON (day, date, opponent, time)
Mon., Sept. 10, at Baltimore (ESPN), 7 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 16, CLEVELAND, 1 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 23, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 30, at Jacksonville, 4:05 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 7, MIAMI, 1 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 14, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 21, PITTSBURGH (NBC), 8:20 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 28, — BYE —
Sun., Nov. 4, DENVER, 1 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 11, N.Y. GIANTS, 1 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 18, at Kansas City*, 1 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 25, OAKLAND*, 1 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 2, at San Diego*, 4:15 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 9, DALLAS*, 1 p.m.
Thurs., Dec. 13, at Philadelphia (NFL Network), 8:20 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 23, at Pittsburgh*, 1 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 30, BALTIMORE*, 1 p.m.