It’s no secret: America needs more Cincinnati Bengals primetime exposure.
This year, the Bengals are going to be playing in the brightest of lights at least four times. That’s down one from 2022. Technically, they only played three as the Week 11 bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers was flexed out and the Week 17 game with the Buffalo Bills was canceled and declared a no-contest.
After winning the AFC North in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history, the draw has never been greater. Not to mention the back-to-back AFC Championship appearances. Joe Burrow is a top-three quarterback at the very least. Ja’Marr Chase is also one of the best at his position alongside Tee Higgins. They’ve been able to succeed despite neglecting the offensive line which has allowed 99 sacks in 33 regular season games and nine sacks in seven postseason games.
With the addition of Orlando Brown and another year in the system for the three other starters, this offensive line should be better. The league and the nation may be ready to see this Bengals offense firing on all cylinders. Rewarding the team with four primetime games is the first step.
The Bengals Primetime Games Are Must-Watch
Week 3 vs the Los Angeles Rams
The last time the Bengals and Rams met up was in primetime because it was literally the Super Bowl. The Rams got the better of the Bengals after selling their
soul entire draft future for a ring. And it worked, so, technically, it was worth it.
Suffice it to say that the Rams are not quite the team that they were on February 13, 2022.
Matthew Stafford took a step back last year due to injury as he only played in nine games and threw for just 2,087 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was by far his worst season statistically. That is, aside from his second season in the league in Detroit where he only suited up for three games.
It’ll be early in the season, but CB1 Chidobe Awuzie should be ready and healed from his ACL tear. This is good news because while guys like DJ Turner and Cam Taylor-Britt look to be up to the challenge, dealing with Cooper Kupp is a whole different animal. The sixth-year receiver also had a rough 2022 after playing just nine games.
Defensively, there is still Aaron Donald. Donald is still a monster despite the rumblings that he may hang it up. He also had the worst year of his career as he failed to earn All-Pro honors for just the second time in his nine-year career (he missed in his rookie year…but was Defensive Rookie of the Year). At corner, there is no more Jalen Ramsey to be torched by Higgins and Chase to the tune of 160 yards and a touchdown off of five receptions.
At home on Monday Night, Cincinnati should be able to dispatch LA for their first win over the franchise since 2015 (when they were the St. Louis Rams).
Week 9 vs the Buffalo Bills
Last year, the Bills came to town and it looked like we were about to be treated to a classic. Unfortunately, the Damar Hamlin situation occurred and the game was canceled. Then, the two faced off in the AFC Divisional round in Buffalo. The Bengals dominated in the snow en route to another AFC Championship and sent the Bills to the offseason with a whole lot of questions.
The Bengals being 3-0 in the playoffs against Buffalo has nothing to do with this Sunday Night matchup. Josh Allen is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Remember how Lamar Jackson revolutionized how NFL teams scouted college quarterbacks and opted to go for more mobile prospects? That’s what Allen has done.
If it weren’t for him, there’s reason to believe that a guy like Anthony Richardson would be a backup, mid-round selection. Now, the NFL is looking for a guy with a nuclear cannon for an arm and athleticism and is willing to take a risk on a player who did not produce in college.
Stefon Diggs is going to go into this game as motivated as any. Imagine your last game in a season resulted in a meager four-catch, 34-yard performance against Eli Apple, you’d be frustrated as well.
Defensively, the Bills should be better. Their secondary was suspect as the year went on, evidenced by Burrow going 23-36 for 242 and two touchdowns…and that doesn’t include the touchdown to Ja’Marr Chase that was called back due to review. If Von Miller is fully healthy and back to his old ways, he will be another difficult defender to handle.
Ultimately, this is going to be a show and well worth an SNF slot. Forget about the AFC, these could be two of the NFL’s best. Paycor Stadium was absolutely electric leading up to last year’s MNF battle between these two. It’s going to be even more as the Bengals primetime campaign continues.
Week 11 at the Baltimore Ravens
Divisional battles are always fun. Round one between these hated AFC North franchises is Week 2. In Week 11, the Bengals travel to Baltimore for Thursday Night Football trying to win their third straight and fifth of their last six. After dropping five in a row which included some ugly one-sided affairs, this recent Burrow-led stretch of dominance is refreshing.
Over the last few seasons, the Bengals have been giving Lou Anarumo a ton of defenders who excel at stopping the run. If there’s one thing the Ravens are adept at, it’s running the ball. Lamar Jackson is still Lamar Jackson, he’s just significantly richer now. The question will be how they use him, will Jackson be healthy at this point in the season? In his five years, he never appeared in every game in a season. Over the past two seasons, he’s only played in 12 games each.
J.K. Dobbins is another guy who has had some injury concerns of late. He missed all of 2021 and half of last year. Even then, in the games he appeared in, it was obvious he was never truly 100%. Odell Beckham, Jr. is going to be in the same boat. Both players have high ceilings but it all depends on how Beckham’s body heals a second ACL tear.
Realistically, this defense is going to give the Bengals everything they can handle. After allowing 41 points in back-to-back meetings in 2021, the Bengals scored 17, 27, and 24 points in three games last year. It’s going to be another AFC North classic.
Week 13 at the Jacksonville Jaguars
The final primetime bout on the Bengals 2023 schedule pits Burrow against Trevor Lawrence. It’ll be the second time in their NFL careers. Last year, it was early in the year, on Thursday Night, and in Cincinnati. This year, it’s later in the season, on Monday Night, and in Jacksonville.
The last we saw the Jaguars, they were coming off of a monster comeback in the AFC Wild Card and were just out-matched against the eventual Super Bowl champs. Jacksonville looks like a team on the up-swing. It helps that they are in an incredibly winnable division with a young quarterback who looks the part.
In addition to having Travis Etienne, who is a legit weapon in his own right, the league is going to get reacclimated to Calvin Ridley after his suspension. In his last full season — with a 35-year-old Matt Ryan throwing to him en route to a 4-12 season, no less — Ridley garnered 143 targets and hauled in 90 of them for a team-leading 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns.
This battle of the big cats will likely generate more hype than the last.
This is the final game on the Bengals primetime schedule. However, with the Week 17 battle against the Chiefs on New Year’s Eve, there is always that possibility they get rewarded with a flexing. All in all, the nation needs more Joe Burrow. With four primetime (and four afternoon slot) games, the general public will get it. It has seemed like national pundits only ever watched Cincinnati when they played one of the “better” teams.
It’s going to be hard to remain ignorant of what Zac Taylor and company are building after this year.
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