Bengals schedule analysis

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Breakdown: Following a 4-11-1 campaign, the Cincinnati Bengals need all the help they can get in 2009.Cincinnati's strength of schedule is ranked No. 22 as the team enters the year with renewed optimism.

The return of starting quarterback Carson Palmer will help the Bengals. Last year Cincinnati couldn't move the football or score points with Palmer out with an elbow injury. But the team should have more success in those areas with Palmer back and an easier slate of games.

Cincinnati will get the first glimpse of the new-look Denver Broncos without Jay Cutler in Week 1. Veteran quarterback Kyle Orton could be starting in his first game for Denver at Paul Brown Stadium, which could provide a good opportunity for the Bengals to get off to a fast start at home.

Complaint department: Three consecutive division games are always tough. The Bengals must face the Pittsburgh Steelers (Sept. 27), then play at the Cleveland Browns (Oct. 4) and at the Baltimore Ravens (Oct. 11) in consecutive weeks. This stretch will determine where Cincinnati stands within the AFC North early.

Thanks, but no thanks: The NFL was not intrigued by the Bengals. Cincinnati has zero games in prime time this year. Only two games -- at the Oakland Raiders Nov. 22 and at San Diego Dec. 20 -- have 4:15 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. starts, respectively. The other 14 games begin at 1 p.m. Here's the complete NFL schedule.

Bengals Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1:
Sunday, Sept. 13, DENVER, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, PITTSBURGH, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, HOUSTON, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, CHICAGO, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, Bye
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, BALTIMORE, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Oakland, 4:15 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, CLEVELAND, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, DETROIT, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, KANSAS CITY, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.