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NFL AFC Playoffs 2015: Bengals can clinch No. 2 Seed and AFC North with win in Denver

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The Bengals have an opportunity to secure the No. 2 seed against the Denver Broncos next week on Monday Night Football.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals, who wiped out the hapless San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, clinched a postseason berth for a fifth consecutive season and for the sixth time in the last seven years. For those of you who watched Cincinnati between 1991 through 2002, allow this point to momentarily settle. It's beautiful, isn't it? If you joined our family after Marvin Lewis was hired on Jan. 14, 2003, you might not appreciate this point -- you should give older fans who are enthusiastically appreciative with what we have today a little space.

Regardless, these trends extend an active streak that Cincinnati has never experienced since their inaugural season in 1968. Paul Brown, Forrest Gregg, and Sam Wyche, the franchise's best head coaches, have never strung together the type of long-sustained success that the Bengals are enjoying today.

Yet, these successes have spoiled us. Postseason berths are small, if not meaningless, compared to division titles, postseason wins, first-round byes and homefield advantage in the playoffs.

However, the Bengals have opportunities to earn something greater as they aim to secure a division title, a first-round bye and homefield advantage. In addition to clinching the AFC North with a win over the Denver Broncos next Monday, Cincinnati can secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

What does this mean?

Cincinnati will avoid their historic curse during the wild card round, hosting a winner from the wild card round during the ensuing divisional round, which has eluded them for over 25 years.

Here is the AFC playoff picture after the Bengals' Week 15 win over the 49ers and factoring in the Steelers' win over the Broncos.

Division Leaders W L T Division Conference
Patriots [z] 12 2 0 4-0 9-1
Bengals [x] 11 3 0 4-1 8-2
Broncos 10 4 0 3-2 6-4
Texans 7 7 0 3-1 5-5
Wild Card W L T Division Conference
Chiefs 9 5 0 4-1 8-2
Steelers 9 5 0 2-2 6-4
In the Hunt W L T Division Conference
Jets 9 5 0 2-2 6-4
Colts 6 8 0 3-2 4-6
Jaguars 5 9 0 2-3 5-6

[z] Clinched First-Round Bye
[x] Clinched Playoff Berth