Heading into last Sunday, the Bengals were estimated to have about a 60-65% chance to win at least one of their final two regular season games, and thus a 60-65% chance to make the playoffs when not including fallback scenarios.
Due to losses by the Chiefs, Ravens, and Bills that day, the Bengals did acquire potential fallback scenarios (to make it as a 5 or 6 seed) in case they lost out, and thus their overall playoff chances pre-Monday increased to about 90-95%. (This included about a 70-75% chance of the Bengals still getting in the playoffs had they lost out, which would have been 0% had those teams won.) Of course, had the 49ers not suffered a meltdown, then the Bengals' odds would have been 100% before Monday.
Thankfully, by flipping the script against the Broncos, the Bengals did not have to put their fallback plan to the test. Now that their playoff chances are exactly 100%, let's look at the odds for the possible seeds and matchups for the Bengals.
The sources here include the New York Times The Upshot NFL Playoff Simulator, the Football Outsiders DVOA Playoff Odds Report, the Sports Club Stats playoff scenarios, and the Vegas betting point spreads in combination with their historical win-loss percentages. These sources all provide information for the Bengals' seeding probabilities, while Sports Club Stats provides extra numbers about the odds of specific matchups. I don't necessarily agree with any of them; I'm merely presenting their information.
The Bengals have no chance to be the 6-seed.
|Source||Odds of being the 5-seed|
|New York Times||50%|
|Sports Club Stats||61.1%|
|Vegas betting odds||64.3%|
If the Bengals lose at the Steelers on Sunday, then they will be the 5-seed. The Times views the matchup essentially as a tossup, while the other sources have the Steelers as fairly handy (but not overwhelming) favorites to win.
|If a 5-seed, the Bengals could face the...||Odds of facing them|
If the Bengals do get the 5-seed, then they will be headed to Lucas Oil Stadium to play at the 4-seed Colts.
As AFC North Champions
The Bengals have virtually a 0% chance of being the 4-seed, because it would require a tie with the Steelers. If that were to happen, then the Bengals' record would be 10-4 with two ties.
|Source||Odds of being the 3-seed|
|New York Times||25%|
|Sports Club Stats||34.4%|
|Vegas betting odds||33.9%|
If the Bengals beat the Steelers on Sunday, then they will be the 3-seed at minimum. Each of these odds factor in the probability that the Broncos will beat the Raiders.
|If a 3-seed, the Bengals could face the...||Odds of facing them|
If the Bengals get the 3-seed, then there is no chance they will face the Steelers in the first round. Instead, there are four possible teams that could travel to Paul Brown Stadium as the 6-seed, with the Ravens being the most likely. The Ravens need to win over the Browns, in addition to the Chargers losing.
The Chargers are also a very real possibility, but they are consensus underdogs against the Chiefs in Week 17 and must win to get in. The Chiefs themselves have little chance (must win, plus Ravens loss to Browns, plus Texans loss to Jaguars), and the Texans don't have much of a chance either (must win, plus Ravens loss and Chargers loss). Certainly, all four of these teams will play to win as long as their playoff hopes are still alive. These odds are individually rounded and do not exactly add up to 100%.
|Source||Odds of being the 2-seed|
|New York Times||25%|
|Sports Club Stats||4.4%|
|Vegas betting odds||1.7%|
If the Bengals beat the Steelers on Sunday and the Raiders beat the Broncos, then they will have the 2-seed and a first-round bye. The New York Times gives the Bengals a real chance to get it (apparently only because of its rather simplistic formula, given that it says the Bengals have equal odds to get the 3-seed and 2-seed), while the other sources give the Bengals little chance to get the 2-seed.
The Patriots have already locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, so the Bengals have no chance to be the 1-seed.
Go Raiders, and go Bengals.