Bengals lobbied NFL to host Black Friday game on annual basis

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals angled for one of the marquee spots on football's calendar.

In a call with reporters Friday, NFL executive Mike North said the AFC North franchise lobbied to host a Black Friday game as an annual fixture.

"The Cincinnati Bengals actually raised their hand and volunteered and said, 'We'd be happy to host the first Black Friday game,'" said North, the league's vice president for broadcast planning. "'In fact, we'd be happy to make this a tradition. How about Black Friday in Cincinnati every year?' I'm sure that will be something we explore moving forward."

The Miami Dolphins will face the New York Jets in the league's first fixture on the day after Thanksgiving. North said that Amazon, which will distribute the game on Prime Video, reached out to the league about having one of the NFL's New York teams involved in the inaugural Black Friday game. Amazon suggested that its positioning as a giant retailer and having a game in the top retail market in the country could be a "fun way" to introduce the concept. North said the league also looked at a potential matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants before settling on Dolphins-Jets.

The Bengals received four primetime games in the initial schedule that was released Thursday. Cincinnati, which lost in Super Bowl LVI at the end of the 2021 season, is coming off a repeat trip to the AFC Championship Game. The Bengals lost a rematch to Kansas City.

This year marked the first instance that games were not beholden to specific networks. North said that the Cincinnati-Kansas City matchup on Week 17 was one CBS wanted to continue to carry. The high-profile game featuring two of the game's best quarterbacks, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, was placed in an afternoon window for a national audience.

"That was a really important game that they wanted to see on their schedule," North said.

While the Bengals didn't ultimately get their Black Friday game this year, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said the amount of primetime fixtures is a testament to the country's demand to watch the two-time defending AFC North champs.

"That comes with the territory," Taylor said Friday following the team's one-day rookie minicamp. "We take great pride in being a team that people want to watch. We've got expectations to live up to that way."