After the Cincinnati Bengals secured a postseason berth beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-10 at Heinz Field, the world that encompasses the franchise (fans, media, coaches, players, staff) watched in limbo. A Baltimore Ravens loss to the New York Giants set the stage for an AFC North showdown between Baltimore and Cincinnati with the victor claiming the championship and No. 4 seed.
It didn't take long for that thought to get explosified out of the airlock following Baltimore's destruction of the New York Giants.
Now the Ravens are the AFC North champions and the Cincinnati Bengals are locked in as the No. 6 seed. The next step at this point is figuring out Cincinnati's opponent. As the No. 6 seed, the Bengals will play on the road against the No. 3 seed, but that team has yet to be decided. Let's go through the possibilities.
There's a chance that 2009 could repeat itself, in that the Bengals would play the same week 17 opponent the following week during the Wild Card round. If Baltimore beats the Bengals and Miami beats the New England Patriots, the Ravens and Patriots finish at 11-5 with the Ravens, who beat the Patriots earlier this season, securing the No. 3 seed.
A rematch from the 2011 Wild Card round, the Bengals could return to Houston if the Broncos beat the Chiefs, the Patriots beat the Dolphins and the Texans lose to the Indianapolis Colts. Of the scenarios we examined, this seems like the most likely and even the most benefitial to Cincinnati, considering how poorly the Texans are playing right now.
Another rematch from earlier during the season, the Denver Broncos could host the Bengals if Denver loses to the Chiefs and the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins. This scenario presents a three-way tie between the Broncos, Patriots and Texans. The Patriots and Broncos knock the Texans out of the first-round bye due to tiebreakers.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
If the Broncos and Texans win, it won't matter what the Patriots do because of New England's one-game disadvantage against both teams.