You know what they say about NFL schedules: They were made to be leaked.
Before the NFL officially released its 2012 schedule on Tuesday, WNST Baltimore tweeted:
Baltimore Ravens will open at home in 2012 on Monday, Sept. 10 vs. Cincinnati Bengals...viva Monday Night Football in the Charm City!!!!— WNST (@WNST) April 17, 2012
Not a bad way to start off the 2012 Monday Night Football schedule, if you ask me.
The Baltimore Ravens have been a contender in the AFC North for years, but the young Cincinnati Bengals are starting to come around, aided by 2011 rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. And with two first-round picks this year, the Bengals could score big again on draft day.
The Ravens won the division with a 12-4 record last season, while the Bengals grabbed a wild-card spot after finishing 9-7. They play each other twice in 2012, and the Ravens have a young receiver of their own in Torrey Smith who made great strides as a rookie in 2011.
During free agency this year, the Bengals made two notable signings in former New England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Manny Lawson.
The Ravens, on the other hand, franchised Ray Rice and re-signed center Matt Birk for three more years.
With the Bengals apparently rising and the Ravens remaining a solid football team, the AFC North should be fun to watch this season. Of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the mix for the division title.
And, who knows, the first MNF game of 2012 may be a preview of the two front-runners in the AFC North this season. Don't count out the young Bengals. Dalton and Green now have a year of experience in the pros, and the draft could produce another future star for Cincinnati.