In the end, all that matters is that Cincinnati wins their next game. That's it. Nothing else matters. Cincinnati hasn't secured anything at this stage, forced to stay on point to finish the season and earn their way back into the postseason. Whether it's the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings or Baltimore Ravens, just focus on the games remaining on the schedule and the greatness of postseason probabilities will work themselves out. However, ignoring scenarios to someone like us is impossible.
Here's the simple version:
AFC NORTH CHAMPIONSHIP
The Bengals can secure their first AFC North title since '09, but they won't know until late Monday night if they'll win the division title no matter what happens on Sunday. This is what has to happen: The Bengals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football and then the Lions beat the Baltimore Ravens in Detroit on Monday Night Football. This gives Cincinnati a three-game lead with two games remaining and the division title. Simple as that.
If the Bengals and Ravens win, a Bengals win next week secures the division (no matter what the Ravens do). On the other hand, if the Bengals lose and the Ravens win, then week 17 could be a game where the winner between Cincinnati and Baltimore wins the division. But let's see how this weekend plays out before going down that road.
Now the Bengals do not need the Ravens to secure a postseason berth. A Bengals win over the Steelers and a New England Patriots win over the Miami Dolphins (kickoff at 1 p.m) earns Cincinnati a playoff berth. In other words, no matter how things change, Cincinnati will be assured the No. 6 seed at the very least.
NO. 2 SEED
On the other hand, if the Bengals win and the Dolphins beat the Patriots, Cincinnati will slide into the No. 2 seed. They'll also be one game off Denver's lead for the first seed. However, with this scenario, Cincinnati can not clinch anything on Sunday -- they'll need the Lions to beat the Ravens on Monday Night Football to get in at the end of week 15.
Here's a look at the clinching scenarios in the NFL.
CLINCHED: Denver Broncos (postseason berth), Indianapolis Colts (AFC South).
NOTE: Denver could have won the AFC West with a win and a Chiefs loss, plus a first-round bye if the Bengals also lost. However, the Broncos suffered an upset against the Chargers.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with
- KC win or tie OR
- MIA loss or tie OR
- BAL loss or tie
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England clinches the AFC East with
- NE win or tie
New England clinches a playoff spot with:
- BAL loss or tie
Cincinnati clinches the AFC North with
- CIN win + BAL loss or tie OR
- CIN tie + BAL loss
Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:
- CIN win + MIA loss or tie OR
- CIN tie + MIA loss
CLINCHED: Seattle - Playoff spot
Seattle clinches the NFC West and a first-round bye:
- SEA win + SF loss or tie OR
- SEA tie + SF loss
Seattle clinches home-field advantage thought NFC playoffs
- SEA win + SF loss or tie + NO loss
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with:
- NO win OR
- NO tie + ARI loss or tie OR
- NO tie + SF loss or tie OR
- ARI loss + DAL loss or tie OR
- ARI loss + PHI loss or tie OR
- SF loss + DAL loss or tie + ARI tie OR
- SF loss + PHI loss or tie + ARI tie
Carolina clinches a playoff spot with:
- CAR win + ARI loss + SF loss + DAL loss or tie OR
- CAR win + ARI loss + SF loss + PHI loss or tie
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
San Francisco clinches a playoff spot with:
- SF win + ARI loss + DAL loss or tie OR
- SF win + ARI loss + PHI loss or tie