PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04: A.J. Green #18 celebrates with teammate Colin Cochart #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals after Green scored a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 4, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
If the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets go undefeated to finish the season, both teams will have identical records in the conference and against common opponents, ensuring that the tie-breaker to break the logjam between the two teams comes at Strength of Victory. As of this posting the Bengals will have a Strength of Victory of .364 against the New York Jets’ .407.
Essentially the Bengals would need a six-game swing somewhere, with teams that Cincinnati has already beaten going on winning streaks whereas teams that the Jets have beaten start losing in mass. You actually want the Tennessee Titans to win out, helping Cincinnati’s strength of victory. You also want wins by the Browns, Jaguars, Colts, Seahawks and Rams. Additionally you need to offer a little prayer and hope that teams like the Cowboys, Redskins, Chargers and the Chiefs absolutely depress their respective hometown folk. Based on a six-game swing with opponents that the Bengals have beaten, and opponents that the Jets have beaten, it’s entirely possible that the Bengals and Jets win out the rest of the season and Cincinnati takes the Strength of Victory tie-breaker, but they need a seven-game swing – and you need a football god or two to listen to your prayer.
If the Bengals have a six-game swing negating the Strength of Victory tie-breaker, it will force both teams to use the Strength of Schedule tie-breaker. Assuming that the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the San Francisco during Monday Night Football, the Bengals will own the strength of schedule by one game, or .004464 points.
One more thing.
The Black Stripes (one of our commenters) argues that the Bengals actually do not need to win out:
. . . as long as one of the Bengals’ wins is against the Ravens, and the Jets lose to the Dolphins in week 17 (even if Jets beat the Giants Next week), then both the Bengals and Jets would be 9-7.
True. In the end the Jets are Cincinnati’s biggest problem and if both teams are the only franchises competing for that sixth seed, then the Bengals focus is largely self-contained. Yet as the Jets are Cincinnati’s biggest roadblock to the playoffs, as our reader pointed out, a loss by the Bengals and Jets in either of the next two weeks gives teams like the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the Tennessee Titans an opportunity for their own postseason discussions.
If the Bengals lose to the Arizona Cardinals but beat the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati will have a 7-5 conference record, and if everyone, save for the Jets, win out, competing wild card teams will be sporting a 7-5 conference record. By entertaining the notion that the Bengals and Jets lose of the next two games, and entertaining the notion that the Titans, Chargers and Raiders finish their respective schedules without a defeat, you’re talking about five teams facing a bunch of tie-breaking scenarios.
Our point remains the same, the Cincinnati Bengals need to win out to avoid all of that in the first place, forcing the Chargers and Raiders to win the AFC West and sending the Tennessee Titans home packing after a massively disappointing loss to the league’s only winless team.