Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Wake-up call: Special schedule edition

By Jamison Hensley

This is a special edition of your AFC North wake-up call. You can read my reaction and analysis when the schedules were released Tuesday night for the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers.

Here are some of my other thoughts regarding the schedules:

REUNIONS AND REMATCHES

Sept. 9 -- Pittsburgh at Denver. The Steelers will only be eight months removed from losing an overtime playoff game there. Instead of playing Tim Tebow this time, Pittsburgh gets Peyton Manning in his Broncos' debut.

Sept. 23 -- New England at Baltimore. This is a rematch of last season's dramatic AFC championship game, when Lee Evans failed to hold onto a potential winning touchdown catch and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would've sent the game into overtime.

Nov. 25 -- Oakland at Cincinnati. Carson Palmer makes his return to Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. Palmer was 27-22 in Cincinnati during his eight years as the Bengals' starting quarterback.

Dec. 9 -- Kansas City at Cleveland. Peyton Hillis comes back to Cleveland Browns Stadium after a tumultuous 2011 season with the Browns. Of course, this is assuming that there hasn't been a new curse.

Dec. 16 -- Washington at Cleveland. The Browns' final regular-season home game should give them an up-close look at what might have been. Robert Griffin III is expected to be starting for the Redskins after the Browns failed to trade up to draft him.

STRANGE SCHEDULING

The Steelers and the Ravens play each other twice in a span of 14 days. This has never occurred before in this rivalry.

The Bengals and Ravens open the season and close it out. There will be 110 days that separate their meetings.

The Browns begin their season against the Eagles after playing the third preseason game, which is when the starters typically play the longest, against Philadelphia.

BY THE NUMBERS

0 -- Number of times the Bengals ended the season with two games against AFC North opponents before 2012.

2 -- Steelers' home games before Oct. 28. Pittsburgh has trips to Denver, Oakland, Tennessee and Cincinnati before that date.

3 -- Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning) that the Ravens will face in December.

13 -- Season openers at home for the Browns in the past 14 years. Cleveland is 1-11 in those openers at home during that span.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Browns coach Pat Shumur: "I think that opening the year at home against the Eagles will be great for our players and our fans. It will be exciting to play a team, an organization and a coach for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. It will be a good test for our team. Ending the year in two of the tougher venues in the NFL [at Denver and Pittsburgh] also will present a challenge."

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis: "We start the season with a great opportunity, playing our division champion and AFC semifinalist [Baltimore Ravens] at their place. You never know at this point where the biggest challenges on a schedule are going to be, but obviously it looks like we also will have two very crucial division games [at the Steelers and home against the Ravens] to close the schedule.”