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NFL playoff odds 2017: Bengals on the rise

The Bengals are sitting at 2-3, but what record do they need to finish the season with to have a realistic chance at the playoffs?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Recently the New York Times put out an interactive calculator to see how each team can make the playoffs by choosing which of their remaining games they will win or lose. Naturally we had to give it a go for the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals sit at 2-3 after starting out 0-3. It is remarkable that they are still even in the hunt for playoffs. They are only one game back behind the division leading Ravens and Steelers. The Bengals remaining schedule looks like this:

Bengals Schedule

Bengals at Steelers
Bengals at Steelers
Bengals vs Colts
Bengals at Jaguars
Bengals at Titans
Bengals at Broncos
Bengals vs Browns
Bengals vs Steelers
Bengals vs Bears
Bengals at Vikings
Bengals vs Lions
Bengals at Ravens

The Bengals’ final 11 games are far from favorable. They have six road games left on their schedule including three road games in a row against the Jaguars, Titans and Broncos. The game against the Broncos is a huge game as they are 3-1 behind the Chiefs who are currently 5-0. If the Bengals get back in contention they will be competing with the Broncos over a Wild Card spot.

Since the Bengals are 2-3 they obviously need to win a majority of their remaining games. The Bengals also only play four teams who are under .500. There have only been five games played, but it still gives us a decent idea of their strength of schedule.

The five most important games are the four remaining games against the division and the Broncos, so I will note their record against these teams in the Following scenarios. Still that isn’t to say they all carry the same weight. Obviously beating the Ravens or Steelers is more important to the calculator than beating the Browns.

Also wins against the Titans, Jaguars and Colts are weighted more heavily than wins against the NFC teams since they are in the same conference, and they are all technically in the Wild Card race as of now.

Here are the scenarios that the Bengals can make the playoffs.

The Bengals go 8-8

If the Bengals go 5-0 in the very important games along with winning one other game they have roughly a 50 percent chance at the playoffs. The most likely way they make the playoffs would be as the division winner.

Winning all their division games but losing to the Broncos drops the Bengals chances at the playoffs to a 45 percent chance.

If the Bengals go 3-2 in their important games their chances drop to 20 percent, and any worse than 3-2 results in less than ten percent.

This shows that the Bengals are going to have to squeak out a few of these other games against non divisional foes and the Broncos. in order to really have a shot. At 8-8 you’re really hoping the Ravens and Steelers both fall off a cliff, and that is getting pretty optimistic.

The Bengals go 9-7

Messing around with the calculator a little you find the Bengals need to somehow reach 9-7. If the Bengals go 5-0 in those important games and win two others they end up with about a 90 percent chance at the playoffs. That is the ceiling of course. The assumption is they won’t win all five of those games.

If the Bengals drop one game against either the Ravens or Steelers the odds drop to 74 percent. Dropping one game against both the Ravens and Steelers drops them to 45 percent.

If the Bengals reach 9-7 while beating the Browns, Ravens and Broncos they end up with roughly a 65 percent chance at the playoffs. That is also assuming they lose twice to the Steelers. If they lose against the Broncos it drops to around 60 percent.

If the Bengals only win two of the five important games they end up with around a 32 percent shot at the playoffs.

The Bengals winning their games against the Colts, Jaguars and Titans also has a huge help with the odds if they defeat all of them. If the Bengals go 1-4 with the one win being against the Steelers or Ravens, they would have to defeat the other six teams not considered as important as the top five. They end up with a 34 to 40 percent chance at the playoffs then. Again that that is really being optimistic assuming they don’t drop any of those games.

The Bengals go 10-6

Once the Bengals reach 10-6 they end up with a 90 percent or higher depending how many of the top five they beat, but they’d have to beat at least two in order to reach 10-6. That also means the Bengals would only lose three games total the rest of the season.


It will obviously take a huge winning streak to get the Bengals into the playoffs, but we have seen them do it before. The most realistic scenario of the Bengals reaching the playoffs is finishing 9-7 squeaking into the sixth seed. It would still be quite the achievement considering the last team to reach the playoffs starting 0-3 happened in 1991.