The Joe Burrow era for the Cincinnati Bengals officially is set to begin at Paul Brown Stadium.
With the top overall draft pick expected to start at quarterback in Week 1, Cincinnati will open the 2020 season Sept. 13 against the Los Angeles Chargers in a home game slated to kick off at 4:05 p.m. and airing on CBS. The NFL is planning to start on time the second week of September despite delays to the offseason workout program because of COVID-19, and the full schedule was released Thursday evening. It’s unclear whether or not fans will be in the stands for games this season.
Seeking to bounce back from a 2-14 finish in coach Zac Taylor’s first season, the Bengals are opening at home for just the second time since 2009, though its been just three years since the last time they did so. Their AFC North schedule begins with a short turnaround the following Thursday at Cleveland – one of two prime-time games the Bengals will play.
Cincinnati also gets a Monday Night Football game on ESPN when it hosts AFC North rival Pittsburgh on Dec. 21. The regular season ends at home Other non-division home games are against Jacksonville, Tennessee, the New York Giants and Dallas.
»ANALYSIS: Grading Bengals’ draft picks
Here is a look at five storylines that stand out with the 2020 schedule:
1. First big test
The Sept. 17 game at Cleveland is an important one and an early test in AFC North play that could set the tone for the Bengals in the division.
Cincinnati split games with the Browns last year, winning the finale at home 33-23 but losing on the road a few weeks earlier, 27-19. The Bengals lost both meetings in 2018 for the first losses in the series since 2014 (following seven straight wins for Cincinnati against Cleveland).
This one could be especially key if the Bengals lose to the Chargers in the opener. Going on the road for the first win could be a big confidence boost for Burrow and Company.
2. Battle of the top two draft picks
The Bengals play at Washington on Nov. 22, which could potentially be an interesting battle between the top two picks in this year’s draft. The Bengals will be tasked with keeping former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young off Burrow in that matchup, as Young was drafted second overall by the Redskins.
Young was considered by some the top prospect in the draft, but Cincinnati was in need of a franchise-shifting quarterback, which the Bengals are hoping to find in Burrow.
3. Battle at Miami
Last year’s overtime loss at Miami was full of drama, as the Bengals made an incredible fourth-quarter comeback only to fall short. The loss assured the Bengals the No. 1 overall draft pick and paved the path for Burrow to arrive in Cincinnati.
Now they meet for a second straight year in Miami, on Dec. 6.
The Dolphins drafted former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who came highly rated but with some questions because of injury. He will battle Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting role, but if he plays in this game, that will be another interesting matchup between two rookie quarterbacks.
4. Hosting the old quarterback
Cincinnati is set to host former quarterback Andy Dalton and the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 13. Dalton was granted his release April 30 and he quickly signed with Dallas, where he back up Dak Prescott.
»RELATED: Dalton weighs in on new team
Dalton was the Bengals’ second-round draft pick in 2011, and he came into the league with A.J. Green and spent nine seasons as their starting quarterback. He finished 70-61-2. The game likely will be emotional for the returning players on the team who all had great respect for Dalton. Many, like running back Joe Mixon, expressed their gratitude toward him on social media after news of his departure.
5. Pittsburgh in prime time
The Steelers have been a particularly tough opponent for the Bengals over the last two decades, but the matchup Dec. 21 on prime time should be especially difficult as Cincinnati hasn’t been great in nationally-televised night games.
Pittsburgh is 64-35 against Cincinnati all-time and has won the last 10 matchups, including the unforgettable wild card game in January 2016 in which the Bengals lost 18-16 after a late fumble and pair of personal fouls led to a game-winning field goal for the visitors at Paul Brown Stadium.
The teams played on Monday Night Football last year in the first matchup of the teams, a 27-3 loss for the Bengals, who were 22-49 in primetime games going in and 6-14 in those games during the Dalton era.
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