ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 18: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals hands there ball off to Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 18, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bengals beat the Rams 20-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Entering Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati preceded the weekend with playoff scenarios that depressingly dwindled following an upsetting and disastrous loss to the Houston Texans last weekend. Though the Bengals needed to rally to beat the Rams 20-13, with a little help in the form of three St. Louis personal foul penalties, the Bengals have re-entered playoff discussions with a little more strength then they had before Sunday’s conclusion. And that’s thanks to a little help around the league.
The Indianapolis Colts won their first game of the season, beating the Tennessee Titans 27-13. The loss drops the Titans to 7-7 with an incredibly steep uphill battle to reclaim postseason discussions. If not for Matthew Stafford driving the Lions 98 yards on seven plays, capped by a game-winning six-yard Calvin Johnson touchdown with 39 seconds remaining, the loss by the Denver Broncos to the New England Patriots would have a greater impact for the all-coveted sixth seed.
But more impressively, and importantly, the Bengals (and any other team fighting for that sixth spot in the playoffs) desperately needed the New York Jets to lose on Sunday, which is exactly what happened with the Philadelphia Eagles obliterating the Jets 45-13.
What does this all mean?
The Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets are currently tied for the sixth spot in the playoffs, the second wild card seed with two games remaining. Since the Jets and Bengals won’t face each other this year and since both the Jets and Bengals have an identical 6-5 conference record, the third scenario to break the tie will be each team’s respective record against common opponents. Since both teams beat the Jaguars and Bills, and since both teams lost to the Broncos and Ravens, the Jets break the tie because of two wins against the Bills. In other words the Jets are 3-2 and the Bengals are 2-2.
Now if both teams win out, then both teams’ record against common opponents would be negated because the Bengals would go 3-2 with a win over the Ravens. And both teams improve their conference record to 7-5, making the final tie-breaker the strength of victory, which favors the New York Jets.
Again, what does all of that mean right now?
There’s two games remaining and if the Bengals fail to win out then it’s virtually pointless. Now there’s always a possibility more scenarios surface that require more teams being considered, injecting the discussion with three-way ties, but only if the Bengals and Jets both lose games in the next two weeks. But it becomes convoluted and for our purposes, if the Bengals lose then most likely they’re out of the playoffs.
Actually this does mean something. It means that after last week’s punch in the gut, the postseason discussions can reignite after this weekend went exactly how Cincinnati needed it.