Bengals' season schedule release primer

CINCINNATI -- The countdown clock is ticking.

Exactly nine hours from the time this post went live, the Cincinnati Bengals and the other 31 teams will know where and when they will be playing their already announced opponents. At 8 p.m. ET, the league will release its 2014 schedule, complete with kickoff times and pertinent television information for certain games.

Based on their recent scheduling history and the general success they have had in the past three years in particular, it stands to reason the Bengals will be on "Monday Night Football" at least once this year, and will appear -- like the rest of the league -- on Thursday night football. A Sunday night game also is a strong possibility. The Bengals have played seven of those since 2002, including two in the past two seasons. Both of those games came against the Steelers.

While on the subject of nationally-televised, primetime games, it's worth mentioning the Bengals have played in nine Sunday, Monday or Thursday night games since 2009.

They are 2-7 in those contests.

Among the wins was a Thursday night victory over the Eagles in 2012. The other came in the home-opening Monday night win against Pittsburgh last year. Like they did in 2012, the Bengals played games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights last season.

Why are such games pertinent for the Bengals? Because part of the knock on the team overall -- but quarterback Andy Dalton in particular -- is that it doesn't play well under the glare of the league's brightest nationally-televised lights. Just look at the night-game record since 2009 for evidence. The fact the Bengals have gone 0-4 in playoff games since 2009 also is an indication they don't perform well on the big stage.

To get you ready for the big schedule release, here is a primer of things to expect when the season begins:

Weak schedule. The Bengals, like the rest of the AFC North, will end up having one of the league's weakest schedules when it gets released. Games against the AFC South -- a division that featured only one team with a winning 2013 record, and two with four or fewer wins -- dot the schedule. The Bengals' overall strength of schedule ranks 23rd, tied with the Saints and Steelers. They enter the year playing teams that had a combined winning percentage of .469 last year. Below the Steelers and Bengals, the Browns rank 26th and the Ravens 28th.

Weak schedules 2. The teams with the league's easiest schedules have advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of the past two seasons. The Patriots made it there in 2012 before losing to the Ravens. The Broncos made it there last year, beating the Patriots and advancing to the Super Bowl. This year, the Colts have the league's weakest schedule.

Other crossover. In addition to playing the AFC South in this year's intra-conference crossover, the Bengals also will be playing the NFC South in the inter-conference crossover.

More opponets. Along with the standard six home-and-away games with AFC North foes, the Bengals will play four against the AFC South, four against the NFC South and two against the remaining 2013 AFC division champions. Since the Bengals won the AFC North, they are slated to take on AFC West champ Denver and the AFC East-winning Patriots. Cincinnati hosts Denver and travels to New England.

An anniversary? If the Bengals are given a Thursday night game on Oct. 2, they would be playing on the same night as a unique anniversary. Twenty years ago that same day, Don Shula's Miami Dolphins and Dave Shula's Bengals met in a Sunday night game at the old Riverfront Stadium. It marked the first meeting between father and son coaches in major North American sports. In front of more than 55,000, Don's Dolphins beat Dave's Bengals, 23-7. The Bengals ended the 1994 season going 3-13 for a second straight year under the younger Shula.

Bengals' 2014 home schedule: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Denver, Atlanta, Carolina

Bengals' 2014 away schedule: Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Indianapolis, New England, New Orleans, Tampa Bay

Information from ESPN Stats & Information used in this report.