The Cincinnati Bengals have won the 2015 AFC North crown.
They did so after the Baltimore Ravens pulled off one of the biggest upsets of this NFL season. The Ravens hosted the Steelers in a Week 16 clash with the AFC North and a playoff berth at stake for Pittsburgh. A win here would have kept the Steelers' playoff hopes alive while also keeping them in the running for the division title if Cincinnati loses Monday night in Denver.
As we've become accustomed to, this was a slugfest that saw both teams fight to the bitter end and have chances to win the game, but it was Baltimore that pulled off the shocking win as they sent the Steelers packing and may have knocked them out of the playoffs in the process.
But more importantly, it gave Cincinnati the division. That should lead to some celebrating in the Queen City as the Bengals are now division champions for just the fifth time since 1990. While the team clearly has bigger goals in their sites, this is a great accomplishment that fans should absolutely celebrate and relish in.
After all, the Bengals needed to win at least one of their next two games to clinch the division without the Steelers' help. Winning in Denver on Monday night will be far from an easy task, and as Baltimore just showed they're not about to go quietly when Cincinnati hosts them in Week 17.
In other words, nothing is assured in the NFL, unless you're talking about the Bengals being division champs. That's assured, and it feels great.
Another thing the Bengals are assured of is remaining in contention for not only a first-round bye, but also the AFC's No. 1 overall seed. That's thanks to the New England Patriots losing to the New York Jets in an overtime thriller at the Meadowlands.
That loss puts New England at 12-3 with Cincinnati being 11-3 and still having to play the 10-4 Broncos on Monday night. A win would put the Bengals in a tie with the Patriots for the AFC's top seed and home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs. With Andy Dalton still on the mend, the Bengals need at least a first-round bye in the playoffs to ensure he's given the maximum amount of time to recover and heal before he possibly returns to the starting lineup.
We'll have more on that later, but for now, celebrate the Bengals being AFC North 2015 champs!