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NFL Playoffs 2014: AFC North Championship Game Features Bengals and Steelers

The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers will play for the AFC North Championship game next Sunday. Plus, we highlight a handful of scenarios for the Bengals to make the playoffs.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals couldn't clinch a postseason berth on Sunday.

There was a hope that Cincinnati could clinch a spot for the 2014 NFL playoffs before kicking off against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. They needed the San Francisco 49ers to not-collapse on Saturday night and beat the San Diego Chargers, in addition to losses by the Kansas City Chiefs (to the Pittsburgh Steelers) and Buffalo Bills (who is in Oakland).

Instead the Chargers converted an overtime field goal to claim a 38-35 victory over the 49ers, eliminating that scenario entirely. Boo. You suck. Then again, some of you are Nervous Nancy's in that you have no confidence that the Bengals will beat Denver or Pittsburgh, yet think somehow that lack of ability won't translate in the postseason?

Here's how the AFC North looks after the early afternoon games:

RAVENS ELIMINATED FROM DIVISION: The Ravens submitted a mind-numbing collapse in Houston, losing 25-13 to the Texans. The loss eliminates Baltimore from the AFC North title. Quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Case Keenum combined for 51 incomplete passes while Houston held Baltimore to 211 yards and only 33 yards rushing.

STEELERS CLINCHED A PLAYOFF BERTH: It was the slow exhale toward an eventuality. Pittsburgh slowly built an eventual 20-9 lead with 4:04 remaining in the game and claimed an inevitable victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, thus a postseason berth on Sunday.

They've also position themselves into the "AFC North Championship" game next week.

WEEK 17 WILL BE THE AFC NORTH CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Next week is the closest thing to a division championship game as you can get. No, it won't matter what the Bengals do on Monday Night Football. The winner between the Bengals and Steelers wins the title.

The Bengals can still clinch a postseason berth if they lose the next two games with some help. They'll need the Cleveland Browns to beat the Baltimore Ravens OR the Kansas City Chiefs to beat San Diego.

...then the Bengals clinch a postseason berth and a more interesting scenario is brewing.