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NFL Playoff Scenarios: Bengals have a shot at the first seed

The Bengals need some help, but they have a path to the first seed in the 2013 NFL playoffs.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos unexpectedly losing to the San Diego Chargers Thursday Night, changed things. No longer were the Broncos the invincible AFC force expected to coast through the playoffs with a No. 1 seed as the eventual Super Bowl champions. Sure their offense can outscore anyone, but their defense isn't holding their end and, well, defense is still kind of important.

And I know what you're thinking. If the Bengals beat the Chargers and the Chargers beat the Broncos, then by using our complicated artistic formula that's unsolvable by even Will Hunting, the Bengals should beat the Broncos. However, if you don't believe that the Bengals can't beat anyone, then your lack of faith is disturbing. Right?

Now, the Denver Broncos can't lose their position as the AFC West leaders this weekend. Even if the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders, all they'll manage to do is tie Denver's overall record. With the Broncos sweeping the Chiefs, Denver holds the tiebreaker in the AFC West.

However, if the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins this Sunday, the Patriots will slide in as the first seed due to their 34-31 win over the Broncos in late November. Of course the Bengals could benefit with a Dolphins win over the Patriots, pushing them into the second slot and a clearer path to the first seed.

The first seed?

Yes. Denver's loss also gave Cincinnati a path for the No. 1 seed, provided that Cincinnati wins out while Denver, New England and Kansas City each losing another game. Just one. If that happens, Cincinnati will have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Patriots and a better conference record against the Broncos and Chiefs.

However, the scenarios for this weekend remain the same. If the Bengals win, a loss by Baltimore clinches the AFC North or a loss by Miami earns a postseason berth.

The key here is that the Bengals have to win this weekend for any of this to be a reality.