Cincinnati Bengals: Four Home Games Worth Seeing in Person in 2012
Going to an NFL game can be a hassle. Tickets are expensive, parking spots can be difficult to find and waiting in a beer line can eat up an entire quarter. Most fans find the game-day experience unappealing compared to the convenience of watching the game from the comfort of their living rooms.
But sometimes the fun outweighs the frustration.
The Cincinnati Bengals home opponents for the 2012 NFL season have been released, and several games are worth the price of admission. Although the dates are not yet set, these games are must-sees at any point in the season.
Here are four games you cannot afford to miss seeing from Paul Brown Stadium.
4. The Dallas Cowboys: One of the Most Celebrated Franchises in Sports
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Some franchises carry so much cache that every sports fan should see them in person, just once.
The Dallas Cowboys are one such franchise.
The star on the Dallas helmet is to the NFL what the Yankee pinstripes are to the MLB.
From Tom Landry to Jimmy Johnson, Roger Staubach to Troy Aikman, the Cowboys' tradition of excellence belies their recent postseason woes.
If sports sentimentality is not enough to compel you to buy a ticket, there is plenty to watch on the field. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will challenge the Bengals revamped secondary, and the Bengals offensive line can make a statement by keeping DeMarcus Ware out of the backfield.
Throw in the national attention each Dallas game garners, and you have plenty of reasons to see the game up close.
3. The Pittsburgh Steelers: The Arch-Rivals
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A Steelers/Bengals black-and-blue slug-fest is always worth attending.
The contempt that each side feels for the other is as visceral as any rivalry in the NFL.
The bad blood will be at full boil—it always is with these two teams.
Pittsburgh is often the class of the AFC North, and like most seasons, this will be a measuring-stick game for the Bengals.
A Cincinnati victory over the Steelers will show the home crowd that the team is ready to put the division in a choke-hold and would signify a changing of the guard, if only for a year. In 2011, Cincinnati failed to score a victory over the Steelers, and they surely have not forgotten being trounced 35-7 in Week 13.
While this will be a defense-first game, A.J. Green, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are a trio of young receivers who promise to deliver some offensive fireworks.
The yearly home game against the Steelers is the best game-day atmosphere PBS has to offer. Pittsburgh fans travel well, and Bengals fans are always jacked for their team to go toe-to-toe with the bully on the AFC North block.
Hopefully, this game will be scheduled for late in the year and each team will be eyeing the playoffs.
2. The Denver Broncos: Mr. Manning Comes to Town
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The Bengals and the Broncos played a competitive game in Week 2 of the 2011 NFL season, back when Kyle Orton was the Denver quarterback.
Andy Dalton showed his first glimpses of the leader he would become, throwing for more than 300 yards with two touchdowns as he engineered a comeback after the Bengals fell into a first-half hole.
Dalton and the Bengals came up short and lost 24-22.
But now, Cincinnati fans have a whole new reason to pack Paul Brown Stadium when the Broncos come to town: Peyton Manning.
The visual novelty of Manning in a jersey other than the blue and white of the Indianapolis Colts is worth the price of admission. Seldom do we have the opportunity to see an icon of Manning's status sign with a new team after becoming singularly identifiable with one franchise.
More importantly, this is a chance to see a first-ballot Hall of Fame player, the unique sports experience you can tell your grandchildren about.
Now in his mid-thirties, Manning won't be around for much longer. Watch him work his magic while you can.
1. The Oakland Raiders: The Grudge Match
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Don't be surprised if the Bengals home game against the Oakland Raiders is the toughest ticket in town next season.
This is not just another game against an AFC West opponent.
This is personal.
This game has the plot line of a WWE feud, and whenever it is played, the Cincinnati crowd will treat it like a WrestleMania main event.
You know the story. The Bengals drafted Palmer first overall in 2003. He was supposed to be the team's savior, and for a while, he looked like he might be.
Palmer made two Pro Bowls and projected to be an elite quarterback. He made big throws in big spots and Cincinnati, with Palmer under center, was on an upward trajectory.
Palmer even led the Bengals to two AFC North crowns in 2005 and 2009, but his credit quickly ran out around the Queen City. Palmer was not the same quarterback after suffering an injury against the Steelers in the 2005 playoffs.
Bengals fans looked to Palmer to take leadership of the team, to be a more vocal presence, but he remained quiet and deferential.
After an abysmal 2010 season that saw the team finish 4-12, Palmer vowed to retire unless Mike Brown traded him. And retire he did.
Last October, Mike Brown traded his disgruntled signal-caller to Oakland for a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft and a conditional second-rounder in 2013. The acrimony aimed at Palmer was so strong that, for the first time ever, Bengals fans praised Brown. In a related story, the devil shivered.
In under a decade, Palmer went from savior to goat. Bengals fans feel disrespected after Palmer decided to call it quits instead of playing for a fanbase that had once embraced him. Time has yet to heal this grudge.
Who Dey nation would love nothing more than to show Palmer that the team and the city is better off without him. Expect downtown Cincinnati to roar when the Raiders visit the Bengals.
You won't want to miss it.