No Monday Night Football for Bengals!
Bengals open quest on road
4/13/2005 - 4-13-05, 2 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON The bad news for a Bengals’ team looking to get off to a quick start is that four of their first six games of the season are on the road.
The good news is that none of those opponents had winning record at home last season and only the 9-7 Jaguars had a winning record overall in 2004.
That Oct. 9 game in Jacksonville is the only prime-time game for the Bengals on a schedule the NFL released Wednesday featuring a Sept. 11 road opener in Cleveland against new Browns head coach Romeo Crennel and a Saturday Christmas Eve game against Buffalo that is part of a stretch in which Cincinnati plays two of its last three AFC North games at Paul Brown Stadium.
The PBS opener is Sept. 18 against Minnesota with all home games Sundays at 1 p.m. this season.
From a national exposure standpoint, the schedule is a surprise because the Bengals have no prime-time games at home and no Monday night games at all after a season they supplied the country with two entertaining wins. In their first prime-time appearance in five years, they sprung a last-play Sunday night win over the Dolphins. Then the Bengals rolled up 321 yards against the NFL’s top defense in a 23-10 win over Denver that marked the team’s return to Monday night after a 12-year absence. “Your schedule always presents its own set of challenges, and we’ll have to be ready to meet them early on the road,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “The good news is that by meeting that challenge, we gain an edge down the stretch with home field advantage. “I’m disappointed for our fans that we don’t have a national television game at home,” Lewis said. “We had two great nights at home last year, winning on Sunday and Monday night. But this schedule provides us our opportunities to earn those spots again next year.”
But from a football standpoint, it could help the Bengals to their first play-off berth since 1990.
Their toughest stretch starts Oct. 23, when they play six straight winning teams that include two each against the teams they need to beat to win the AFC North in the defending champion 15-1 Steelers and the 9-7 Ravens. But four of the games are at PBS, where the Bengals are 10-6 under Lewis.
Plus, before back-to-back home games against Colts record-setting quarterback Peyton Manning Nov. 20 and Baltimore’s semi-annual grudge match with Lewis Nov. 27, the Bengals have their latest bye week in five years on Nov. 13.
That comes one game after the half-way point of a season in which the Bengals play nine foes that went an even .500 in 2004. They don’t play a team with a winning record until they take on the Steelers at home Oct. 23. With Lewis emphasizing a fast start (he’s 5-9 in September and October games), they play teams that went a combined 63-65 last year in the first two months of the season.
The Bengals open the preseason Friday, Aug. 12 at home game against two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England. It’s the first time the Bengals open with a home game since 1996. They close the pre-season on Friday Sept. 2 against the Colts at home, and ravel to Washington and Philadelphia on back-to-back Fridays, Aug. 19 and 26.