Even though the Cincinnati Bengals are out of the playoffs this season, it doesn't mean that we have to isolate ourselves from the NFL community as teams push for a playoff spot and improve their seeding. In case you couldn't tell based on the site, I love the Cincinnati Bengals. But I also love NFL football and NFL playoffs, even if the Bengals are imitating all of us, resting on the couch and watching the best against the best -- though when one defines a division champion without a winning record, that hardly seems like the "best".
Closer to home, the AFC North title has yet to be decided through 15 games. If the season were to end, the Pittsburgh Steelers would edge out the Baltimore Ravens based on a Strength of Victory tie-breaker. However, someone just wiped perspiration from their brow thinking they woke up in a future where apes ruled the planet and the NFL only played 15 games.
If the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh clinches the AFC North and a first-round bye no matter what the Ravens do. If the Steelers lose to the Browns, then the Ravens have an opportunity to clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye. That's where the Bengals come in during this week's Wreck Your Team Campaign. If the Bengals beat the Ravens, after the Steelers already lost, then Pittsburgh goes back to clinching the AFC North and a first-round bye.
You might say, "I'd rather the Ravens be the division champions over the Steelers." And I might say, there's no circumstance in this world in which I want the Ravens, Steelers or Browns to beat the Bengals. Well, in reality, there's no circumstance in this world in which I want the Bengals to lose. Period. Not even for a draft pick.
The Patriots (first seed), Steelers, Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West Champions) and New York Jets (Wild Card #2) already have a playoff spot clinched. That leaves the AFC South. With a win over the Tennessee Titans, the Indianapolis Colts head back to the postseason, no matter what the Jacksonville Jaguars do. Now, if the Jaguars beat the Houston Texans and the Titans beat the Colts, then the Jaguars are in the playoffs and the Colts miss the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
In terms of seeding, New England has clinched home-field advantage and the first seed. Either Pittsburgh or Baltimore will clinch the other first-round bye and the second seed -- the other team will clinch the fifth seed as the best Wild Card team. If the Chiefs and Colts win this weekend, Kansas City will be the third seed and the Colts will be the fourth seed. However, if the Chiefs lose and the Colts win, the seeds are swapped and the Colts become the third seed. If the Colts lose and the Jaguars win, then the Chiefs lock the third seed no matter what they do against Oakland.