Friendly sked finalized

1-8-02, 4:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The road looks to be in a friendlier place for the Bengals in the first schedule of the re-aligned NFL.

In fact, Cincinnati's entire 2002 schedule is friendlier than it has been in the recent past. With Tuesday's addition of a home game against San Diego and a game in Buffalo rounding out next year's slate, the Bengals play only three teams with winning records and their '02 foes were a combined 18 games under .500 this past season.

In an odd twist, the Bengals play all four of their pre-season foes during the regular season.

Dates and kickoff times for the 2002 regular-season schedule will be announced later this year. Coming to PBS this year are Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. The road games include Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Atlanta, and Carolina.

All but one team on the schedule either lost to the Bengals in 2001 or finished this past season with a losing record. Two of the teams the Bengals beat, Pittsburgh at 13-3 and Baltimore at 10-6, play the Bengals twice as members of the new four-team AFC North Division. The Bengals also split with the other team in the division, the 7-9 Browns.

The Bengals are 10-38 on the road after their last 4-4 away record in 1995. But this year they play expansion Houston on the road as

well as Carolina (1-15), Buffalo (3-13), Indianapolis (6-10) and Atlanta (7-9).

Along with Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Paul Brown Stadium schedule is highlighted by two old AFC Central rivals in Jacksonville and Tennessee and a playoff-bound Tampa Bay club that beat the Bengals in overtime at PBS last month, 16-13.

Cincinnati plays at Buffalo in Preseason Week 1 (Aug. 8-12), at Indianapolis in Preseason Week 2 (Aug. 15-19), at home against New Orleans in Preseason Week 3 (Aug. 22-26) and at home against Atlanta in Preseason Week 4 (Aug. 29-31).

The regular season's two intraconference games are based on the prior year's standings. Based on a team's finish in its division, it plays the teams that finished in the same spot in two other divisions within the conference. These two divisions will be the divisions against which the team it is not scheduled in the three-year rotation cycle.

In Cincinnati's case, the Bengals' record would have made them the fourth-place team in the AFC North. So Cincinnati plays Buffalo and San Diego, the fourth-place teams in the AFC East and AFC West.

Under the new four-team, eight-division format, teams play one game against each team from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle. The Bengals and the other AFC North teams are matched in 2002 against the AFC South, of Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee. Teams also play against each team from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle. The Bengals and the other AFC North teams play the NFC South of Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.

In roster moves Tuesday, the Bengals signed wide receiver Khori Ivy of West Virginia and guard Ray Redziniak of Illinois to the off-season roster. Each player signed a three-year contract. Redziniak was on the Cincinnati practice squad for the last seven games of the 2001 season. Ivy was on the Bengals practice squad for the last three games.

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