Typically, primetime is not a good slot for the Cincinnati Bengals. In the Marvin Lewis era, the Bengals are 8-29 (5-17 during the Dalton-Green era) in regular-season games played after 7:00 p.m. and playoff games, otherwise known as ‘primetime.'
Needless to say, that is not a good mark. It is the kind of mark that makes fans and analysts alike think the Bengals have some sort of mental blockade to playing in the national spotlight.
Therefore, most will agree it is a very good thing the Bengals won't be facing much of that in 2017. Hopefully, the Bengals will add to their total with a few playoff victories in 2017, but for now, they only have two scheduled primetime games to worry about.
Week 2 vs. Houston Texans: Thursday, September 14, 8:25 p.m.
In recent years, the Bengals have performed very well in September at Paul Brown Stadium, so there is a chance their good luck in this month cancels out their bad luck in primetime. Then again, if there was one team the Bengals don't want to see in primetime, it's the Texans. The Bengals have won just one of their last eight meetings with the Texans, which was a 22-13 victory in Houston at 1:00 p.m during the 2014 season.
Otherwise, the Texans have had the Bengals number in two recent playoff victories, and their two most recent regular-season games (both primetime slots). Heading into 2017, the hope is the Bengals will finally be able to shed their bad luck against the Texans, especially with the uncertain status of J.J. Watt and their quarterback situation. But, uncertainties on both fronts haven't stopped the Texans from embarrassing the Bengals in the past with a national audience watching.
Week 12 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Monday, December 4, 8:30 p.m.
The other team you would guess the NFL would virtually require the Bengals to play against in primetime is the arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the standing of the rivalry in relation to other rivalries is sometimes debated, there is no debate on how heated these games can get. The Bengals and Steelers have both traded blows that are called ‘dirty' by opposing fans, raising tensions each time the two teams meet. Given they are guaranteed to meet twice a year, the tensions between the two teams are almost always high and make for a great spectacle for the NFL to showcase, assuming their referees can keep the game relatively under control.
In 2017, the Bengals get to host the Steelers in primetime. The last time that happened, the Bengals looked like they were going to record their first playoff victory since the presidency of George H.W. Bush. However, a late meltdown, including a costly fumble by Jeremy Hill, supplemented by over-the-top hits from Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict, caused the Bengals to lose the game within the final few minutes.
The last time the two teams met in Cincinnati, in primetime, in the regular season (2013), the Bengals managed to keep their heads cool and completed an early-season 20-10 victory over the Steelers, led by Giovani Bernard in the very first breakout game of his NFL career.
Hopefully, the Bengals fortunes against the Steelers will be similar to their primetime fortunes in 2013, rather than their playoff fortunes in 2015. Against the Texans, the Bengals will simply be hoping to buck their traditional struggles for a hard-fought victory that helps the season jump-off to a good start.
It is hard to say exactly what will happen when the Bengals play their primetime games in 2017. But given recent history, the Bengals and their fans have to be happy to only see two of those games on the schedule this year.