The Bengals got their ninth win on Sunday with their 30-0 dismantling of the Browns, and it may be enough to get them into the playoffs. Cincinnati effectively eliminated Cleveland from playoff contention, meaning there's one less team Cincy has to worry about if it comes down to one of the wild-card spots being how they get into the playoffs.
At 9-4-1, the worst Cincinnati could finish now would be 9-6-1. With games against Denver and at Pittsburgh left, the Bengals could play well and still lose both of those games to no one's surprise. With Peyton Manning sporting an 8-0 all-time record vs. the Bengals, who also have gone 3-13 in primetime games since 2007, it's easy to see Cincy coming up short this week on Monday Night Football.
And then there's Pittsburgh, where the Bengals play at in Week 17 against the same team that won by 21 in Paul Brown Stadium. While winning the division should be the goal, getting a wild-card spot if they can't win the North is a good consolation prize.
It just so happens the Bengals may have hit their magic number for getting a wild-card spot if it comes down to that.
The 8-6 Chargers face the 49ers in San Fran this week, followed by the Chiefs at KC. San Diego could easily lose one of those two games, meaning the Bengals would finish ahead of them (9-6-1 > 9-7).
The same scenario could play out with those 8-6 Chiefs, who are at Pittsburgh this week before hosting the Chargers in Week 17. Lose one of them, and KC can't finish ahead of Cincy.
Then there's the 8-6 Buffalo Bills. They pulled off a huge upset over the Packers to put them within striking distance of a playoff spot. They get a gimme game against the Raiders this week, but then play at New England in Week 17. Those same Patriots won at Buffalo 37-22 earlier in the year.
Assuming the 9-5 Baltimore Ravens are able to win either at Houston or vs. Cleveland in their final two games, it's safe to expect them to take one of the two wild-card spots. If Pittsburgh is able to beat Cincinnati for the AFC North, it looks like the Bengals still have a good chance of still getting to the NFL playoffs.