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Bengals 2023 Schedule Is Set

QB Joe Burrow warms up before the 2022 season week 16 game against the New England Patriots.
QB Joe Burrow warms up before the 2022 season week 16 game against the New England Patriots.

A Monday night Super Bowl rematch between Zac Taylor's Bengals and Sean McVay's Rams. 

A Sunday night AFC Divisional resumption between Bengals' maestro Joe Burrow and Bills' flamethrower Josh Allen. 

The second Battle of Ohio regular-season finale in the last 20 seasons as the Bengals bid to beat the Browns and become the first AFC North team to win three straight division titles in a year where Paul Brown's two teams open and close the season against each other for the first time ever.  

Such are some of the juicy morsels waiting for Bengals fans at Paycor Stadium this season after the NFL revealed the 2023 schedule Thursday night. 

The NFL also revealed its recognition of the popularity of the Burrow Bengals by putting them in four-night games as well as three more national windows of top announcing teams and 80-percent viewership. There is a pair of 4:25 p.m. Sunday games on CBS (Oct. 29 in San Francisco and Dec. 31 in Kansas City) as well as a 4:30 p.m. Saturday game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23 on NBC that, in essence, is that week's Sunday Night Football instead of on Christmas Eve. 

"This is what happens when you make late January playoff runs. This is a continuation of the reward for the Bengals' performance," says Mike North, the NFL's vice president for broadcasting, planning, and scheduling. "They are at the top of the list when the network partners come in and make their requests. The Bengals are in the top tier, no question.

"Call it primetime. Call it national television appearances. Call it whatever you want. We're not doing our job if we're not putting on Bengals games for the fans to see." 

NBC got the highly anticipated Bills game, set for Sunday night Nov. 5, after last year's Monday nighter between the two at Paycor was canceled when Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin was revived on the field. With Hamlin vowing to return this season, his teammates are out to avenge this January's 27-10 Burrow clinic in Buffalo during the playoffs. 

"Every game is a free agent now with the new media deals. That's a game that, literally, could have gone anywhere," North says. "As the computer is searching, trying to find all the different places you can put a game like that, there aren't many games like it. It's almost like a blank scrabble tile. It's going to be good no matter where." 

This year's ESPN Monday nighter at Paycor in the third game on Sept. 25 spells out the Super Bowl LVI rematch that takes place 19 months after the Rams came from behind to take the lead with the Bengals 85 seconds from the championship. 

And, for the ninth time in its history, Paycor hosts a joust of overall No. 1 drafted quarterbacks when Burrow meets Matthew Stafford. Stafford, then with the Lions, lost a 2009 game to the Bengals' Carson Palmer in his rookie season. In 2021, Burrow split with Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence and Cleveland's Baker Mayfield after Mayfield beat him in 2020. 

Lawrence, who was a rookie, now is quarterbacking the AFC South defending champions and gets another shot at Burrow on his home turf when Duval County hosts a Monday nighter on Dec. 4.   

Juicy is the Bengals' lone Thursday night appearance on Amazon Prime in Baltimore on Nov. 16 that could be one of the biggest markers of the season because it caps an intriguing seven-game stretch beginning after the Rams game. Following the Week 3 MNF game, the Bengals head to Tennessee on a short week to begin a run of three October road games that includes two West Coasters, Oct. 8 in Arizona and the Oct. 29 game against the Super Bowl-contending 49ers. They come home to play another contender in the Bills before Burrow hosts fellow former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud's Texans Nov. 12. 

Then they have four days to prep for a trip to AFC North-heavy Baltimore, where the Ravens are always nasty and good and should be more ornery than usual after the Bengals beat them in last year's Wild Card. The odds of the visiting Thursday night teams are always long, but Burrow nearly pulled it off in his second NFL start in 2020 when he gunned three touchdown passes bobbing and weaving and keeping the Bengals in a 35-30 loss in Cleveland.

The Bengals haven't done much Thursday traveling since the walk-off loss in Miami on Halloween 2013. Since then, they've played seven Thursdays and the only one on the road was that loss to the Browns. And that's been their only road Thursday night AFC North game since 2008 in Pittsburgh. 

That's prehistoric stuff compared to now, where the NFL is in its second year of trying to build a brand using a non-traditional package with the streaming service Amazon on Thursday night. Division games are always compelling, making them quite attractive in the land of uncertainty, and Bengals-Ravens is always guaranteed to be one of the more compelling. 

"You'll often see division games on Thursday night football," North says. "We've got a bunch of them this year. Green Bay-Detroit is in there. Kansas City-Denver is in there. 

"I've been told by football people that a short week is a tough turnaround. Playing an opponent that you're familiar with tends to help with preparation. Help ease the burden." 

That seven-game stretch from Oct. 1-Nov. 16 is softened by the fact three of the teams didn't make the playoffs last season (Titans, Cardinals, Texans), they beat three of the teams last season (Titans, Bills, Ravens) and the Oct. 22 bye comes in Week 7 between a Paycor game against Seattle and the San Francisco trip. Week 7 is the earliest bye in Taylor's five seasons, but the Thursday nighter allows 10 days before they host the Steelers Nov. 26.    

Searching for good vibes finds Burrow drawing his first Opening Day road start in Cleveland Sept. 10 at 1 p.m. The last two times the Bengals opened on The Lake, Palmer, in 2005, and Andy Dalton, in 2011, quarterbacked wins that began playoff seasons. The day and time of the finale against the Browns at Paycor on the weekend of Jan. 6-7 is to be determined.  

More good vibes? The Bengals, who have the 17th toughest strength of schedule, are set to log the fewest miles of any NFL team while hosting four of the seven teams that travel the most. They also play six of the top eight jet-setters.


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