CINCINNATI — The Bengals will have the bright lights shining on them often in 2023.
The Bengals will host two primetime games at Paycor Stadium, beginning with a rematch of Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 25 on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. on ESPN). Cincinnati then will welcome the Buffalo Bills for a Nov. 5 Sunday Night Football contest (8:20 p.m. on NBC).
The Bengals also will play two primetime games on the road — Thursday Night Football on Nov. 16 at Baltimore (8:15 p.m. on Prime Video) and Monday Night Football on Dec. 4 at Jacksonville (8:15 p.m. on ESPN). It will mark the ninth time in team history the Bengals are featured on Monday Night Football multiple times in a single season.
“That comes with the territory,” Zac Taylor said Friday morning at rookie minicamp. “We take great pride in being a team that people want to watch. And so we’ve got expectations to them up to play that way. We’ve got to put our best foot forward but we expected to be in some good situations there where we enjoy playing in those types of games. You never know where they’re gonna fall in the schedule that kind of all over.
“But it’s exciting for us and for our fan base. I think any competitor whether you’re in college or pros, you like those primetime games and be the only standalone game on TV. And our guys take a lot of pride in that and I think that they’ve performed well over the years in those situations.”
The Bengals opened with Pittsburgh at home in 2022 and lost that game in heartbreaking fashion in overtime. They then lost to the Cowboys on the road before beating the Jets on the road and Miami at home.
They didn’t play their second AFC North game until Week 5 in Baltimore. It’ll be different this year with the Bengals getting the Browns and the Ravens back-to-back to open the season.
“You find out real quick (if) you’re putting yourself in a great position to start the season, putting yourself in a hole to start the season or putting yourself in a medium level start the season,” Taylor told me Friday. “But our focus is really just gonna be on Cleveland Week 1 and putting our best foot forward.”
"We take great pride in a team people want to watch" Zac Taylor on 4 primetime games for Bengals in 2023. pic.twitter.com/tuN9ub5wfQ
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) May 12, 2023
The biggest takeaways:
Last year, they opened 0-3 in the AFC North before rebounding to win their final three games in the division as part of their 8-0 run to end the regular season. Losing three in a row this year could be a lot harder to overcome. In 2019, the Bengals opened with losses to the Seahawks and 49ers in the first two weeks. In 2020, the Bengals lost to the Chargers at home and the Browns on a short week to open the season. In 2021, the beat the Vikings at home before losing in Chicago in Week 2.
Starting with the Oct. 29 game in San Francisco, the Bengals will play a string of games that will likely define their season and determine whether they’re playing for a No. 1 seed, an AFC North title or just fighting for a wild card. After the 49ers on the road, they return home to face the Bills and – after playing the Texans at home – hit the road to play the Ravens in Baltimore on a short week. The second half of the season also includes games at Jacksonville on Monday night, Dec. 4, home against Minnesota in Week 15 (possibly Saturday) and the much-anticipated rematch against the Chiefs in KC on New Year’s Eve.
The Bengals return home the next Sunday to play the Bills in the rematch of the AFC Divisional game and what could be an emotionally charged game. It will be the first between the two in Cincinnati since the Damar Hamlin episode at Paycor last Jan. 2.
Watch Weeks 3 and 4. This has been the stretch over the last two years where the Bengals played a Thursday night game in Week 4 and then enjoyed a mini-bye. That won’t be the case this year. They play the Rams at home on a Monday night on Sept. 25 and then travel to Nashville to take on Mike Vrabel’s Titans, a team that may or may not be in a mini-rebuild.
The Week 17 game against the Chiefs could be monumental in table-setting for the AFC playoffs or it could be window dressing if one team knows its likely playoff seeding. But if the season goes according to most expectations, this could be a late-season dress rehearsal for a possibly trilogy in the AFC playoffs and an absolute ratings bonanza on New Year’s Eve, which is precisely what the NFL is looking for.
In addition to the four primetime games set for kickoff between 8:15 and 8:20 pm ET, Cincinnati will play two games in the 4:25 p.m. time slot on CBS — Oct. 29 at San Francisco and Dec. 31 at Kansas City. The Week 17 contest against the Chiefs will mark the fourth time in team history the Bengals play on New Year’s Eve. The Bengals also will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers on Dec. 23 (4:30 p.m. on NBC) in a standalone national window.
Two “Battle of Ohio” matchups against the Cleveland Browns will bookend the Bengals’ schedule, beginning with the regular season opener at Cleveland on Sept. 10. It will be the first time since 2019 the Bengals open the season on the road, and the ninth time in team history they face their in-state divisional rival in their season opener. Cincinnati then will meet the Browns in the regular-season finale at Paycor Stadium.
Preseason opponents have also been finalized. Cincinnati will open the preseason at home against Green Bay, then hit the road for games at Atlanta and at Washington. Dates and times for the preseason games will be announced soon.
The game against the Packers will mark the first game of any kind for Green Bay without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, traded to the Jets before the draft. The Jets will play the Browns on Thursday Aug. 3 in Canton in the annual Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Stadium.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 2023 SCHEDULE
(All times are Eastern. Home games are in CAPS. An asterisk [*] denotes a game subject to possible flexible scheduling.)
PRESEASON (day, date, opponent, time, TV network)
(day and date TBD), GREEN BAY, (time TBD), Bengals Preseason TV Network
(day and date TBD), at Atlanta, (time TBD), Bengals Preseason TV Network
(day and date TBD), at Washington, (time TBD), Bengals Preseason TV Network
REGULAR SEASON (day, date, opponent, time, TV network)
Sun., Sept. 10, at Cleveland, 1 p.m., CBS
Sun., Sept. 17, BALTIMORE, 1 p.m., CBS
Mon., Sept. 25, L.A. RAMS, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Sun., Oct. 1, at Tennessee, 1 p.m., FOX
Sun., Oct. 8, at Arizona*, 4:05 p.m., FOX
Sun., Oct. 15, SEATTLE*, 1 p.m. CBS
Sun., Oct. 22, — BYE —
Sun., Oct. 29, at San Francisco*, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Sun., Nov. 5, BUFFALO*, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Sun., Nov. 12, HOUSTON*, 1 p.m., CBS
Thurs., Nov. 16, at Baltimore, 8:15 p.m., Prime Video
Sun., Nov. 26, PITTSBURGH*, 1 p.m., CBS
Mon., Dec. 4, at Jacksonville*, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Sun., Dec. 10, INDIANAPOLIS*, 1 p.m., CBS
(day and date TBD), MINNESOTA*, (time TBD), (TV network TBD)
Sat., Dec. 23, at Pittsburgh, 4:30 p.m., NBC
Sun., Dec. 31, at Kansas City*, 4:25 p.m., CBS
(day and date TBD), CLEVELAND*, (time TBD), (TV network TBD)