The Cincinnati Bengals failed to achieve something that's eluded them for some time. An impressive prime time showing before a national audience to make a statement, not only within the division, but the entire conference. As we witnessed Sunday night, that didn't happen and as a result, it allowed the Baltimore Ravens an opportunity to control their own destiny.
As we shift away from the horrors of Sunday Night and regain lost confidence for the remaining two games on Cincinnati's schedule, we shift our focus on the Baltimore Ravens, who head to Detroit to play the Lions on Monday Night Football.
One could say, with an understated Ben Stein voice, it's important.
IF THE RAVENS LOSE... the Bengals just need to beat the Vikings
If the Lions avoiding becoming the sixth division leader this weekend to lose by beating Baltimore on Monday Night Football, the Ravens will remain two games behind Cincinnati in the AFC North with two games remaining. It would be the proverbial big sigh of relief.
That means all that Cincinnati needs to accomplish is to win one of the next two games to claim the AFC North Championship. In other words, if the Bengals beat the Vikings next week at Paul Brown Stadium, they win the division -- no matter what the Ravens do -- because Baltimore can't make up ground when the two teams meet in week 17.
IF THE RAVENS WIN...
Several scenarios play out if the Ravens beat the Lions in Detroit.
If the Ravens are defeated by the New England Patriots in week 16 and the Bengals beat the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati wins the division -- week 17 won't matter -- because the lead returns to two games with one remaining.
If the Bengals and Ravens both win (or they both lose) to their respective opponents, the winner of week 17 between the Bengals and Ravens will determine the AFC North.
THE SCARY SCENARIO... the Bengals miss the playoffs entirely
If the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets (which is entirely possible) to finish their season with ten wins, then there's no possibility for the Bengals to secure the second Wild Card if the Ravens win the division.
How? If the Bengals win out, they'll win the division and finish the regular season at 11-5. If the Dolphins win out, they'll finish with ten wins. Considering that the Dolphins hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Bengals can't finish with an identical record with Miami.
That, of course, depends on the Dolphins winning out. If they lose one of their next two games, then the No. 6 seed opens back up.
WHAT YOU WANT TO HAPPEN... the Ravens to lose
Seriously? You were wondering about that?
CAN THE BENGALS STILL CAPTURE THE NO. 2 SEED?
Yes. However, the "control their own destiny" scenario that they had, after Miami's win over the Patriots Sunday afternoon, is now gone. The perfect scenario is that the Bengals beat the Vikings and the Ravens beat the Patriots in week 16, then the Bengals beat the Ravens in week 17. That gives Cincinnati the No. 2 seed. That is if you're willing to bet on the Bengals winning a big game.