Cincinnati entered Sunday's game with two path towards the playoffs. Let's recap:
1) Beat the Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers felt like a disaster, didn't it? Was it similar to the Wild Card loss against Pittsburgh in 2005 or the Geno Atkins injury against Miami? Let's collectively shrug our shoulders with indifference for now. Who knows how these things play out.
Yet, Sunday sucked.
In addition to losing by 13 points in a game played at trusty Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati may have lost their starting quarterback Andy Dalton for the regular season. Dalton wasn't the only loss either; tight end Tyler Eifert and safety George Iloka suffered their own injuries and left during the first half.
Regardless, Cincinnati's division title ambitions are on hold for another week. However, they won't do it with a simple win -- they need the Steelers to lose, too. For instance, if the Bengals beat San Francisco next week, Cincinnati improves to 11-3 while the Steelers, if they lose to Denver, fall to 8-6. That's a two game difference with three remaining.
If both teams win, the Bengals can clinch the division-- Pittsburgh will be down by two games with two to play. The tiebreaker scenarios after head-to-head (the Bengals and Steelers have split the season) is division record. Cincinnati is 4-1 with one division game remaining (Ravens in Week 17). Pittsburgh is 2-2 in the division.
Cincinnati still had a path to the playoffs if the Kansas City Chiefs or New York Jets lost. Granted, in those scenarios, it would have been for just a postseason berth (for now), meaning for a Wild Card spot. However, this scenario didn't play out as the New York Jets easily dumped Tennessee 30-8 and the Chiefs discarded the Chargers 10-3.
The Jets and Chiefs are each 8-5 and keeping the Steelers out of a current spot on Wild Card weekend.