We know what you're thinking... if the Bengals continue looking like they did against the Cleveland Browns, then there's no point in talking about standings, postseason picture, etc. Why talk about a team that essentially proved on Thursday that they don't have the components (and thus the ability), nor the intestinal fortitude to qualify for the playoffs?
Fact is, we've seen stranger things happen. Remember in '08 when the Bengals lost their first eight games? They went 4-3-1 in the final half of the season -- a run that projected their successes in '09. The '12 Bengals started the season at 3-5, but went 7-1 in the second half, qualifying for the postseason. Even last season, the 6-4 Bengals won five of the last six to finish the season with 11 wins -- and most of us didn't even see that coming.
Play chicken little all you want... there is always hope. However, not this weekend. No matter how the division games play out, the Cincinnati Bengals are buried underneath the Cleveland Browns by way of winning percentage -- NOTE: Even if the Bengals beat the Carolina Panthers to prevent the tie, Cincinnati would have been playing second-fiddle to the Browns, who would own the early series tiebreaker (head-to-head record).
WHAT IF THE RAVENS AND STEELERS WIN THIS WEEKEND
The Pittsburgh Steelers head to New York to play the Jets while Baltimore plays hosts to the Tennessee Titans. If both teams win this Sunday, and in truth, we're expecting them to, here's how the standings will look at the end of the day.
WHAT IF THE STEELERS LOSE AND THE RAVENS WIN?
Pittsburgh falls to 6-4 (.600) and third place -- they avoid last place because the Ravens, even if they win, have the worse division record -- the second tiebreaker after head-to-head (both teams won a game). Either way, Browns are in first place and... holy sh*t the Browns are in first place.
WHAT IF THE STEELERS WIN AND THE RAVENS LOSE
Nothing changes. The Steelers remain in first place and the Ravens, with no way out of cellar this weekend, stay in the Death Star's trash compactor (except no one is crying this time, Threepio). Cincinnati holds station in third place.
I think that covers it.