With the Cincinnati Bengals facing a bye week this week, while the other AFC North teams are squaring off, we figured it would be a good time to point this out. If the season were to end today, then something disastrous happened in the United States or the NFL that forced the season to close after only six games. Also the Cincinnati Bengals would be the fifth seed in the current NFL playoff picture as the conference's first wild card team, ahead of the Buffalo Bills while knocking the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs. Is there anything more satisfying?
One could argue that Cincinnati's biggest test will be against the team's division opponents with four games remaining against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams are facing one-win teams this weekend (Baltimore is hosting the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars while the Pittsburgh Steelers face the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals). Though it seems unlikely, if either team loses this weekend, it could have major playoff implications for a tie-breaker (conference record, record against common opponents) if the division were to end in some sort of tie and teams are split on their head-to-head records.
However even if they do poorly against their own division, the Bengals have critical games against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans that can only solidify their position in the wild card standings with head-to-head wins.
Obviously as fans we need to take a similar one-game-at-a-time approach that the players and coaching staff are emphasizing. Yet it's still hard to believe that through six weeks this season, the Bengals are playoff contenders after an offseason where many speculated if the team would even match last year's four wins; which they did -- in mid-October.