Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 4/17/12
Strictly guesswork here, but you have to think just about everybody in the Cincinnati Bengals' offices was pleased when the 2012 NFL regular-season schedule was announced on Tuesday. The Bengals earned a little national attention with their surprising 2011 season, and they'll get it this fall. They also got a schedule that's manageable and back-loaded. Considering they play in one of the NFL's toughest divisions every year and this year face cross-division play against the NFC East, having a chance to create some early momentum is a good thing. The Bengals play the first of three national TV, prime-time games right away, playing at Baltimore on a Monday night in Week One. That's going to be a difficult environment, to say the least, but the Bengals then don't play another team that had a winning record last year until Oct. 21, when they host the Steelers in another national TV game. Following that is a bye week, then two more home games. They're not easy games (Broncos and Giants) but a year after the Bengals played the front half of their schedule in front of a half-full home stadium, they'll play this year as a team lots of people are watching. The Bengals have a legitimate chance to be a buzz team. The chance to prove they're legitimate contenders, both in their division and in a loaded AFC, comes over the course of 16 games. There are no easy ones, and surprises certainly loom. No one -- not last April, and not when it happened-- would have guessed last year's September snoozer between the Bengals and 49ers would have been a matchup between eventual playoff teams. No one -- especially Marvin Lewis -- inside the Bengals will circle a stretch that includes the Browns, Redskins, Jaguars and Dolphins as very winnable, but right now it is. The Bengals play on Monday night (at Baltimore), Sunday night (Steelers) and a Thursday night, Dec. 13 at Philadelphia. That game is the second of what looks to be a brutal finish: Dallas at home, at Philly, then at Pittsburgh and home to Baltimore in the season finale. "We start the season with a great opportunity playing our division champion and AFC semifinalist (Baltimore) at their place," Lewis said in the team's official schedule release. "You never know at this point where the biggest challenges on a schedule are going to be, but obviously it looks like we also will have two very crucial division games to close the schedule." Having fresh legs and healthy bodies will be key to the stretch run, and this schedule allows the Bengals to have the fresh-legs part. They only have back-to-back road games twice, in September and December, and after their Sept. 30 game at Jacksonville they won't leave the state of Ohio again until Nov. 18 at Kansas City. The Bengals have a Week Seven bye and just one game on the West Coast, Dec. 2 at San Diego. That's the third of a three-game stretch against the AFC West that includes Carson Palmer's Thanksgiving weekend homecoming visit. If the Bengals can start November by beating Peyton Manning and the Broncos and the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, just about every game down the stretch could become a candidate for Sunday night flex scheduling. Around the AFC North, a glance at the Browns' schedule makes wondering if Cleveland can win four games a legitimate question. The Steelers and Ravens are both proven but aging and will be getting everybody's best shot. The league's schedule makers obviously think the Bengals have a chance to keep their window of success open and be a team that forces people to take notice. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, welcome to the big time. The nation will be watching.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Cult of Sport: Before there was Ezekiel Elliott, there was Eric Dickerson
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

David Ortiz thinking about comeback after Chris Sale trade?

Jeff Fisher hilariously explains why he couldn’t find challenge flag

Dodgers have reportedly been in touch with Jose Bautista

D’Qwell Jackson suspended four games for PED use

Coaches irked by late-season Thursday night division games?

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Donatas Motiejunas refuses to report to Rockets after they match RFA offer sheet

Green-Beckham touted fake charity for #MyCauseMyCleats

Rashaan Salaam dead at 42

Claire Smith becomes first woman to win BBWAA’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award

Report: Gregory eligible to practice, could play in Week 16

49ers say Colin Kaepernick will start against Jets

The best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

The five must-have sports games of 2016

MLB Winter Meetings report, Day 1: News, notes and rumors

The five 2016 Heisman finalists: How do they measure up?

Box Score 12/6: Klay Thompson and the ball of fire

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Sporting life: Gifts for real fans (that aren't ugly NFL sweaters)

This Jaguars regime needs to be put out of its misery

The good, bad, and ugly from NFL Week 13

Championship Week as explained by Diana Ross

Cult of Sport: Before there was Ezekiel Elliott, there was Eric Dickerson

MLB Winter Meetings primer: Every team's trade temperature on the hot stove

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The five best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

The five must-have sports games of 2016

Winter Meetings report, Day 1: News, notes and rumors

The five 2016 Heisman finalists: How do they measure up?

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Sporting life: Gifts for real fans (that aren't ugly NFL Christmas sweaters)

The good, bad, and ugly from NFL Week 13

Championship Week as explained by Diana Ross

Cult of Sport: Before there was Ezekiel Elliott, there was Eric Dickerson

Winter Meetings primer: Every team's trade temperature on the hot stove

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker