NFL Playoff Picture: Scenarios for the Cincinnati Bengals to clinch

Andy Lyons

Taking an early look at scenarios for the Cincinnati Bengals to clinch in week 15.

How fitting would it be that the Cincinnati Bengals clinch the 2013 AFC North championship in Pittsburgh during next week's Sunday Night Football after clinching a wild card seed last year against the same team at the same location (during an afternoon game in week 16)?

Well, technically that can't happen... at least for 24 hours after the Bengals game concludes.

If the Bengals beat the Steelers next week and the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Detroit Lions (in Detroit), then the Bengals will claim the AFC North Championship by virtue of the overall record. In other words, if that scenario plays out, the worst that Cincinnati could do is finish 10-6 whereas the Ravens can't do any better than 9-7. Suddenly makes for a significantly intriguing Monday Night Football game for Bengals fans.

That's not all.

If the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins (in Miami) and the Bengals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (in Pittsburgh), the Bengals will clinch a postseason berth. The resulting scenario puts Miami three games behind the Bengals with two remaining, meaning that even if the Ravens win the final three games and the Bengals win next week, but lose the final two, Cincinnati will still secure the No. 6 seed (I know, not ideal). However, you still want the Patriots to lose with greater focus on the No. 2 seed -- though it wouldn't have the immediate impact of clinching a postseason berth after beating the Steelers, presuming that the Patriots beat the Dolphins.

Basically it all depends on the Bengals taking care of business, the Dolphins and Patriots in Miami, then Baltimore during Monday Night Football in Detroit.

Here's a cheat sheet for next week (double-check our work... it's very preliminary).

WINNER
Bengals/
Steelers
WINNER
Ravens/
Lions
WINNER
Patriots/
Dolphins
BENGALS IN AFC BENGALS IN AFCN
No. 3 Seed, Postseason Berth 2-Game Lead
No. 2 Seed 2-Game Lead
No. 3 Seed CHAMPIONSHIP!
No. 2 Seed CHAMPIONSHIP!
No. 3 Seed 1-Game Lead
No. 3 Seed 1-Game Lead
No. 3 Seed 2-Game Lead
No. 3 Seed 2-Game Lead
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