Bengals flexed to Sunday night

Updated: 10:20 p.m.

The Bengals finally get their prime-time shot next week in the NFL's last regular-season game of the year. The NFL has moved next Sunday's game against the Jets at The Meadowlands from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

It is the Bengals' last chance to win in East Rutherford N.J., a black hole in their history where they have lost all 10 of their games. The building is getting replaced after this season, but the Jets are trying to keep it open for the postseason because it looks like the Giants won't have any use for it.

It is the Bengals' first appearance on NBC's Sunday night card since the Dec. 2, 2007 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It's their first prime-time appearance since a Thursday night NFL Network game last year, a Nov. 20 loss in Pittsburgh.   

If the season ended at this moment, the Bengals, according to NFL.com, would get the AFC's fourth seed and that long-awaited rematch with Denver in the first round of the playoffs at Paul Brown Stadium the weekend of Jan. 9-10.

But the season doesn't end until next week and the NFL said Sunday night if the Jets beat the Bengals and the Ravens win at Oakland, New York and Baltimore are both in and Denver is out.

What the Bengals do know is they're going to be the third or fourth seed and that they are likely looking at a rematch from earlier this season because they could play the 8-7 Broncos, Jets, Ravens, Steelers or Texans. The 7-8 Dolphins and Jaguars are also in the hunt, but are longshots.

The 10-5 Bengals are tied with New England and if they remain tied the Pats would currently get the No. 3 seed because of strength of victory and host the No. 6 Jets and the Bengals hosting No. 5 Denver with the fourth seed.

It was the Broncos that got the Bengals going on this crazy-quilted path of a season in the opener at PBS on Sept. 13. The Bengals had taken a 7-6 lead with 38 seconds left on a 91-yard drive. But a tipped pass on a bizarre 87-yard play with 11 seconds left gave Denver the win.

Both the Bengals and Pats are on the road next week as Cincinnati tries to break its winless skein in The Meadowlands in that building's last game and the Pats try to win their second road game of the season in Houston. Palmer, for one, thinks the Bengals have to play it for real and not take a rest.

"Not at all," Palmer said of resting Sunday in New Jersey. "We'd like to be the third seed. You want to go into the playoffs with as good a position as you can ... we're playing to win. That's the way Marvin is, that's the way our team is. We'd like to hang an 11-5 record and we'd like to go out and play good football against a good team. Especially a good defense. We hit a little bit of a skid (in '05). There's nothing like winning the previous week. The Saturday night before a game watching the highlight video from a win that you don't get to watch from a loss. There's so many nice things about that week of preparation coming off a win that we want that going into the first playoff game."

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