Why the Bengals’ Prime-Time Schedule Is One of the NFL’s Most Lopsided

The Cincinnati Bengals have been forced to play 83% of their prime-time games against AFC North opponents on the road in Zac Taylor era.

CINCINNATI – The NFL gave the Cincinnati Bengals five prime-time games in 2024, but one in particular is notable as a trend breaker.

When the Bengals play host to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night in Week 16, it will be just the second time they’ve played a home prime-time game against a division opponent in the Zac Taylor era.

Bengals Forced To Travel for Most Prime-Time Division Games

The team’s home-road disparity in divisional prime-time games is one of the worst in the league since 2019, although one team has a bigger beef.

The last time a division opponent came to Cincinnati for a prime-time game was Week 15 in 2020, when safety Vonn Bell obliterated Pittsburgh wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and backup quarterback Ryan Finley led the Bengals (who were 14.5-point underdogs) to a 27-17 upset.

Cincinnati has played six prime-time games against division opponents since 2019, and 83% of them have been on the road.

  • Week 4, 2019 – at Pittsburgh, 27-3 loss
  • Week 2, 2020 – at Cleveland, 35-30 loss
  • Week 5, 2022 – at Baltimore, 19-17 loss
  • Week 8, 2022 – at Cleveland, 32-13 loss
  • Week 11, 2023 – at Baltimore, 34-20 loss

Cincinnati was also scheduled to play at Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football in Week 11, 2022, but the Steelers were so bad that year that the league flexed that game out of prime time.

Last season, in Week 16, the Bengals had the equivalent of a prime-time game, when they went to Pittsburgh for a standalone Saturday game with a 4:35 p.m. ET kickoff, putting it under the lights from the middle of the first quarter on.

Filtering for all divisional prime-time games — which doesn’t include games flexed out of prime time or standalone games that kicked off before 7 p.m. — the Bengals have the second-worst disparity of road vs. home contests among 22 teams with at least five appearances.

The New Orleans Saints have zero home games and five road games against division opponents.

The Bengals and Denver Broncos have one home game and five road games.

The Los Angeles Rams have two home and seven road contests.

The list of teams with the most preferential treatment includes another AFC North squad.

  • Baltimore Ravens: Four home, one road (80%)
  • Arizona Cardinals: Four home, one road (80%)
  • Las Vegas Raiders: Seven home, two road (78%)
  • Green Bay Packers: Eight home, three road (73%)
  • Philadelphia Eagles: Eight home, three road (73%)

If there are no changes to the 2024 schedule, the Ravens will increase to five and one (83%), and the Eagles will increase to nine and three (75%), while the Packers will dip to eight and four (67%).

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Here is the full list of splits from 2019-2023, sorted by percentage of home games:

  • Panthers 4-0 (100%)
  • Jets 3-0 (100%)
  • Jaguars 2-0 (100%)
  • Ravens 4-1 (80%)
  • Cardinals 4-1 (80%)
  • Raiders 7-2 (78%)
  • Buccaneers 3-1 (75%)
  • Packers 8-3 (73%)
  • Eagles 8-3 (73%)
  • Browns 5-3 (63%)
  • Seahawks 6-4 (60%)
  • Chargers 5-5 (50%)
  • 49ers 5-5 (50%)
  • Vikings 3-3 (50%)
  • Patriots 3-3 (50%)
  • Texans 1-1 (50%)
  • Chiefs 5-6 (46%)
  • Steelers 3-4 (43%)
  • Bears 3-4 (43%)
  • Giants 3-4 (43%)
  • Cowboys 4-6 (40%)
  • Commanders 2-4 (33%)
  • Bills 2-4 (33%)
  • Titans 1-2 (33%)
  • Falcons 1-2 (33%)
  • Colts 1-2 (33%)
  • Dolphins 1-2 (33%)
  • Rams 2-7 (22%)
  • Bengals 1-5 (17%)
  • Broncos 1-5 (17%)
  • Lions 0-4 (0%)
  • Saints 0-5 (0%)

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