'We wanted prime time, now we've got it'

Updated: 6:40 p.m.

There is always good news and bad news on any schedule.

So, of course, first the good news on the Bengals schedule:

At least the NFL office thinks they have a shot at the playoffs with two home Monday night games for the first time in history, one "Flex" game in Pittsburgh and another national TV division shot in a 4:05 p.m. game in Baltimore.

And the Bengals' biggest showman has noticed.

"We've always said we wanted more prime time and now we've got it," said Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson, who plans to make the opener another shoe in. "Now we've got to go show them that we deserve it."

Paul Brown Stadium hits ESPN twice in the first month with an Oct. 1 rematch with AFC finalist New England as well as the Sept. 10 season opener against AFC North champion Baltimore.

The Bengals also have a Saturday night game on NFL Network Dec. 15 in San Francisco, a short week sandwiched by home games, and wide receiver Chris Henry's suspension allows him to play against division foes once including a Sunday night game on NBC in Pittsburgh Dec. 2.

Johnson, who wore orange-striped shoes with pictures of his celebrations in the last Bengals Monday night game back in December in Indianapolis, plans to unveil another size 11 specialty.

"What better way to start the season than in front of the whole country?" Johnson asked. "I can't wait to come up with something for Baltimore. As long as I'm trash talking I don't care (when the game is), but, of course, it's cool playing at night. It's fun."

Fellow receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, noting the Bengals have three more national showcases than last season including 4 p.m. games, thinks the NFL sees something.

"They must think we're good," he said. "Let's go show them we deserve it. We wanted more prime-time games last year and now we've got them so it's on us to play well."

More good news?

The last seven games are against teams that didn't have winning records last season and four are at PBS. The Bengals have an extra day to recover from their longest trip when the Sept. 23 game in Seattle is followed by the Pats.

Now the bad news:

Three of the first four games are against division winners, the bye week comes after only the fourth week, two of the three longest trips (San Francisco and Miami) come in the team's tough month of December, and Henry misses four playoff teams and three division games.

The Steelers are on the "Flex" against the Bengals, meaning the Dec. 2 game could be moved to Sunday afternoon on CBS if it's not an attractive game for playoff runs. Another road division matchup, in Baltimore Nov. 11, will definitely get national play at 4:05 p.m. Sunday on CBS. As will a 4:05 p.m. game at PBS on Oct. 21 against a Jets team coming off a playoff run, and the Sept. 23 game against the perennial playoff-bound Seahawks in Seattle at 4:05 p.m. Cincinnati time.

The flex scheduling period runs for the season's final seven weeks and kickoff times could be changed. Five other Bengals games in November or December currently are set for 1 p.m. kickoffs and eligible for time changes. The only game not eligible to change is the NFL Network game in San Francisco, the Bengals announced.

"We look forward to playing a schedule that will give our team a higher national profile," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in a press release. "It's a great schedule for our fans and for our city, with the first two home games on Monday Night Football. The challenge is exciting, and we welcome it."

Broadcasts of the games on ESPN and NFL Network will also be simulcast in Cincinnati by a local non-cable station and are yet to be determined, the team said Wednesday.

It's nice to have an exciting offense. Despite last year's 8-8 finish, the Bengals get one more Monday night game than last season with two, as well as the same number of games on NFL Network (one), Sunday night (one), and one more late Sunday afternoon game (three).

For the fourth time in the five seasons of the Marvin Lewis era, the Bengals have a bye in the first half of the season and it matches the Week 5 bye of last year. In fact, the Bengals play the Patriots a year to the day New England throttled them at PBS, 38-13, in a Week 4 game that marked Cincinnati's first loss of the season.

But this bye comes after the Bengals' toughest stretch of the season when they open with a Baltimore team that went 13-3 last season, followed by playing in Cleveland Sept. 16 after a short week, and then a sojourn to Seattle against the 9-7 NFC West champion before meeting Messrs. Belichick and Brady and the 12-4 Patriotic champs of the AFC East.

That opening quartet is going to test the Bengals' fast starts of the past two seasons, when they are 6-0 in September.

That Monday night game against New England marks the first time in 40 seasons that the Bengals have had two home Monday night games. The only time they've had two prime-time home games is three years ago, when they beat the Dolphins on a Sunday night and the Broncos on a Monday night.

The New England matchup also showcases two of the NFL's best quarterbacks in fellow Californian Pro Bowlers Carson Palmer and Tom Brady. Palmer is 0-2 against Brady.

It also finishes a life in the fast lane stretch. A team that was on prime time four times last season makes it three times in 35 days on Monday night with the Bengals' Aug. 27 preseason game in Atlanta.

If the Bengals have started fast, they've also finished slowly. They've lost their last three games in each of the past two seasons and are 8-11 in December and January games (including postseason) under Lewis.

But with Dec. 9 and 23 home games against the Rams and Browns, respectively, and away games Dec. 15 and 30 at San Francisco and Miami, the Bengals finish with only one team that broke even like themselves in that home game against St. Louis.

The Bengals also finalized their preseason schedule Wednesday with the opener in Detroit Aug. 9 followed by the Saints at PBS Aug. 18. After the game in Atlanta, the Bengals close it out at home against the Super Bowl champion Colts on Aug. 31.

<tr valign="center" class="trtitle" height="20">
  <td colspan="6" align="left" class="tdtitle2">**September**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#EEEEEE">
  <td align="left" class="tdsubheading2">**DAY**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**DATE**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**OPPONENT**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TIME (EST)**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**RADIO**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TV/RECAP**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Mon.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">10</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">RAVENS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">7:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">ESPN HD</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">16</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ Browns</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">23</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ Seahawks</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">4:05 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="center" class="trtitle" height="20">
  <td colspan="6" align="left" class="tdtitle2">**October**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#EEEEEE">
  <td align="left" class="tdsubheading2">**DAY**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**DATE**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**OPPONENT**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TIME (EST)**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**RADIO**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TV/RECAP**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Mon.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">PATRIOTS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">8:30 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">ESPN HD</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">14</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ Chiefs</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">21</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">JETS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">4:05 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">28</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">STEELERS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="center" class="trtitle" height="20">
  <td colspan="6" align="left" class="tdtitle2">**November**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#EEEEEE">
  <td align="left" class="tdsubheading2">**DAY**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**DATE**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**OPPONENT**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TIME (EST)**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**RADIO**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TV/RECAP**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">4</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ Bills</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">11</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ Ravens</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">4:05 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">18</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">CARDINALS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">FOX</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">25</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">TITANS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="center" class="trtitle" height="20">
  <td colspan="6" align="left" class="tdtitle2">**December**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#EEEEEE">
  <td align="left" class="tdsubheading2">**DAY**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**DATE**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**OPPONENT**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TIME (EST)**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**RADIO**</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdsubheading2">**TV/RECAP**</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">2</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ Steelers</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">8:15 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">NBC HD</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">9</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">RAMS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">FOX</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sat.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">15</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ 49ers</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">8:15 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">NFL Network</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#E60101">
  <td align="left" class="tdorange">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">23</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">BROWNS</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdorange">CBS</td>
</tr>
<tr valign="top" bgcolor="#000000">
  <td align="left" class="tdblack">Sun.</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">30</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">@ Dolphins</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">1:00 PM</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">700 WLW; 1530 Homer; 92.5 The Fox</td>
  <td align="center" class="tdblack">CBS</td>
</tr>

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