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Cincinnati Bengals Inching Closer To The 2012 Postseason Picture

Cincinnati's win over the Oakland Raiders set the stage for big-picture scenarios, provided the Bengals keep the playoffs are now mentality.

John Grieshop

Yes pounding Carson Palmer deep into Geno Atkins lair (not unlike the Predator's trophy room), defeating him and the Oakland Raiders 34-10 has a certain emotional lift. What really stands out after Cincinnati's win over the Raiders is that the Bengals are above .500 again, winning their sixth game of the year, sitting pretty at 6-5.

Let's call it the "keeping pace" kind of win.

The Indianapolis Colts' 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills advances their postseason standing as the fifth seed, following Pittsburgh's 20-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Same teams, different positions with Pittsburgh now the Sixth Seed. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are now sporting identical 6-5 records, however the Steelers hold the current tiebreaker following their win over Cincinnati earlier this year; that tiebreaker could become irrelevant if the Bengals beat Pittsburgh in Week 16. The Miami Dolphins squeezed into the eighth seed behind the Bengals at 5-6. This could pose a problem for the Bengals if these two teams finish with identical records; Miami has the tiebreaker after the Dolphins Week Five win over the Bengals.

As for the division, the Baltimore Ravens have essentially a four-game lead over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati due to the head-to-head tiebreakers; again this could become neutralized if the Bengals and/or Steelers win their respective second meetings against the Ravens.

Now. Let's examine possible scenarios against the Steelers, assuming Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh in Week 16 and both teams finish the season with identical records. The second tiebreaker to claim a wild card spot after head-to-head is winning percentage in games played within the conference. Cincinnati is currently 4-5 in the conference whereas the Steelers are just 3-5.

The next tiebreaker is winning percentage against common opponents. Those common opponents right now are Ravens, Browns, Broncos, Raiders, Eagles, Redskins, Giants, Kansas City, San Diego and Dallas. This is a case where every game becomes critical. Here's how that stands right now.

OPPONENT Bengals Steelers
RAVENS 0-1 (Week 17) 0-1 (Week 13)
BROWNS 1-1 0-1 (Week 17)
REDSKINS 1-0 1-0
GIANTS 1-0 1-0
CHIEFS 1-0 1-0
RAIDERS 1-0 0-1
BRONCOS 0-1 0-1
CHARGERS Week 13 Week 14
COWBOYS Week 14 Week 15
EAGLES Week 15 1-0
5-3 4-4

Notice that Bengals and Steelers are each missing a Week 16 opponent? That's because they're playing each other. Put it this way in very obvious context, if the Bengals win out they're guaranteed a postseason berth, but each game now becomes a hypothetical elimination game -- or in less dramatic terms, not their own destiny.

Here's the seeding as of this posting.

1 Houston Texans (10-1)
2 Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
3 New England Patriots (8-3)
4 Denver Broncos (8-3)
5 Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
6 Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
7 Cincinnati Bengals (6-5)
8 Miami Dolphins (5-6)
Tennessee Titans (4-7)
Buffalo Bills (4-7)
San Diego Chargers (4-7)
New York Jets (4-7)