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NFL Playoff Picture: Bengals inch closer towards AFC North Title

Taking a look at the 2013 NFL playoff picture in the AFC.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Heading into Sunday's game, there was a little nervousness. Maybe not from everyone, but the old bones writing these words feel just below 100 percent certainty. Being as that I need to exude confidence and calm as a site manager and senior writer, I didn't show it but those feelings of concern were there. Despite beating San Diego last year, the west coast has historically been an issue for the Bengals.

No. That's the old Bengals.

Cincinnati has actually won three straight in games played in California and Seattle with their last loss coming in San Diego on Dec. 20, 2009. Maybe it was the post bye week blues, with the Bengals going 3-6-1 after a bye. Or having struggled so much on offense.

Either way, the nervousness wasn't warranted as Cincinnati left San Diego with a 17-10 win during a game in which they impressively controlled the second half.

The win keeps two games of separation from the hard-charging Baltimore Ravens, who exit week 13 as the No. 6 seed, while leaning heavily against the other division leaders for a better postseason seed. Cincinnati remains the No. 4 seed but due to Indianapolis' conference record, they claim the tiebreaker for third position. However, none of that matters as the Colts and Bengals tangle this weekend.

  1. Denver Broncos (10-2)
  2. New England Patriots (9-3)
  3. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
  5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
  6. Baltimore Ravens (6-6)

Cincinnati actually has an opportunity to move into the second seed with a win over the Colts this weekend. The Bengals will have a better record than Indianapolis (and the first tiebreaker if both teams finish with identical records). And if the Cleveland Browns can travel to New England and take out the Patriots, the Bengals will claim the head-to-head tiebreaker against New England and slide into second position. OK, wishful thinking on the Browns, who lost the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Week 14 Titans Browns @ Bengals Colts Vikings
Week 15 Chargers @ Dolphins Texans @ Steelers @ Lions
Week 16 @ Texans @ Ravens @ Chiefs Vikings Patriots
Week 17 @ Raiders Bills Jaguars Ravens @ Bengals
Strength of Sched. .333 .417 .458 .469 .573