AFC Playoff Scenarios: How The Bengals Can Make The Playoffs Even With A Loss

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 24: Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after making an 11-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Cardinals 23-16. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

This weekend against the Baltimore Ravens has one purpose in mind: If the Cincinnati Bengals win, they claim the sixth seed in the playoffs. It's the easiest path to the playoffs and the Bengals, who have won five of the last six against the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium, have a reasonable chance of making that happen. But god forbid, if they fail to secure a win, the Bengals can still make the playoffs with some help.

The NFL released possible scenarios for this weekend, including two scenarios that exist for the Bengals to make the playoffs if Cincinnati loses to Baltimore on Sunday. If the Bengals lose, Cincinnati can still clinch a playoff spot with:

  • A New York Jets loss or tie plus an Oakland Raiders loss or tie
  • A New York Jets loss or tie plus a Denver Broncos loss or tie

The Miami Dolphins will host the Jets with a 1 p.m. kickoff, giving the Bengals an idea of how scenarios could develop throughout the afternoon. If the Jets win, it's a must-win situation for the Bengals. If the Jets lose, Cincinnati only needs a Raiders or Broncos loss. However both teams kickoff at 4:15 p.m. with the Raiders playing the Chargers and the Broncos playing the Chiefs.

For the Baltimore Ravens and asking what will they have to play for, the Patriots will host the Bills with an early afternoon game, giving the Ravens an idea if they'll have an opportunity to secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Patriots win, then the most Baltimore can do is the second seed. Since the Steelers kickoff at 4:15 p.m on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens won't know if they'll have something to play for. With a bye week and homefield advantage against everyone, save for the Patriots, you have to figure that Baltimore will play to win on Sunday.

Here are other AFC playoff scenarios for week 17:

New England Patriots
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) NE win or tie
2) BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore clinches AFC North Division and a first-round bye:
1) BAL win
2) BAL tie + PIT loss or tie
3) PIT loss
Baltimore clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) BAL win + NE loss

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh clinches AFC North Division and a first-round bye:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie
2) PIT tie + BAL loss
Pittsburgh clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs:
1) PIT win + BAL loss or tie + NE loss

Denver Broncos
Denver clinches AFC West Division:
1) DEN win
2) DEN tie + OAK loss or tie
3) OAK loss

Oakland Raiders
Oakland clinches AFC West Division:
1) OAK win + DEN loss or tie
2) OAK tie + DEN loss
Oakland clinches a wild card spot:
1) OAK win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie
2) OAK win + CIN loss + NYJ win

New York Jets
NY Jets clinch a wild card spot:
1) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + OAK loss or tie
2) NYJ win + CIN loss + TEN loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee clinches a wild card spot:
1) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + OAK loss or tie
2) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ win + DEN loss or tie
3) TEN win + CIN loss + NYJ loss or tie + OAK win + DEN win

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