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2015 NFL Playoff Picture: Bengals rooting interests for Week 13

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Can the Bengals knock Tom Brady and the Patriots out of the top spot in the AFC?

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

With five games left in the NFL regular season, the Bengals are poised to do something they've not done since 1988.

That would be earning a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The last time that happened with during the team's memorable 1988 campaign that ended in the Super Bowl. Getting one of the top two seeds in a conference is what it takes to get a week off between the regular-season finale and the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

But for the time being, just clinching a playoff berth and winning the AFC North are the only things Cincinnati has in mind. In order to see how all of this may play out, we're doing a rooting interests piece looking at which teams Bengals fans should be rooting for and against in Week 13.

Here is a look at the biggest matchups this week based on how they may affect the Bengals.

Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. EST on Sunday

Root For: The Bills

Reason: The Bengals have played both the Texans and Bills, but only managed to beat Buffalo. That could end up being significant in the NFL's tie-breaking procedures if they come into play for seeding in the playoffs.

Part of the NFL's tiebreaking procedure is strength of victory, which is figured by calculating the combined winning percentage of the opponents a team has beaten. Again, the Bengals beat the Bills, so the better they are, the higher Cincinnati's Strength of Victory (SOV) will be.

Also, if the Bengals end up winning the division but have to play in the Wild Card round, I'd rather see Buffalo come to town than Houston, how about you? The Bills and Texans are two prime contenders for one of those final spots, so there's a decent chance one of them would be coming to Cincinnati if the Bengals don't get a first-round bye.

New York Jets at New York Giants, 1 p.m. EST on Sunday

Root For: The Giants

Reason: Going back to the SOV explanation, the Jets play in the AFC East and face the Patriots twice this season. New England already has one win over New York, so anytime the Jets win, that boosts the Patriots' SOV.

Again, SOV could be something that breaks a tie between the Bengals and Patriots if they finish with equal records when the regular season ends. That means Bengals fans should root against most teams that the Patriots have beaten in order to lower their SOV, as well as their strength of schedule (SOS), which is also used by the NFL in tie-breaking procedures based on the combined record of an opponents' entire schedule.

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. EST on Sunday

Root For: The Bears

Reason: It's the 49ers. Part of being a Bengals fan requires rooting against the 49ers. In all seriousness, the more the 49ers lose, the more likely the Week 15 matchup between the Bengals and 49ers on Sunday Night Football gets flexed into the day time.

Then again, you could argue for the 49ers since it would boost the Bengals' SOS and their SOV if Cincinnati does win in San Francisco.

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. EST on Sunday

Root For: The Bengals

Reason: Really?

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. EST on Sunday

Root For: The Ravens

Reason: At 4-7, the Ravens are still in decent position to land a top-five draft pick in 2016, but have no real shot of doing anything this season. I'd rather seem them win a few more games down the stretch and miss out on getting someone like Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Florida State's Jalen Ramsey or Ole Miss' Laremy Tunsil, game-changing players who could help the Ravens narrow the gap between them and Cincinnati in the division.

Also, going back to SOV and SOS, the more Baltimore wins, the higher the Bengals' SOV and SOS are.

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers, 4 p.m. ET on Sunday

Root For: The Chargers

Reason: The Bengals and Broncos are tied at 9-2 heading into the final five games, so Cincinnati needs Denver to lose in order to win one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye. Other than the Bengals' matchup with the Browns, this is easily the second-most important game for Cincinnati this week, and pretty much any game Denver and New England are in will be important going forward.

Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday

Root For: The Eagles

Reason: If Philly can pull off a miracle and win in New England while Cincinnati takes care in business in Cleveland, the Bengals could find themselves in a tie for the top-overall seed as Week 13 ends. At this point, New England is going to need to lose at least two games in my opinion in order for the Bengals to have a shot at that No. 1 seed. The more games New England loses, the better.

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday

Root For: The Colts

Reason: If the Steelers win this game, there's a good shot they'll be making the playoffs as a Wild Card team. If the Bengals win the North but not a first-round bye, that means Pittsburgh could be coming to Cincinnati in a do-or-die playoff game. Considering how many times Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have won in those scenarios opposed to how much the Bengals have struggled in them, I'd rather not see the Bengals play the Steelers in the playoffs.