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NFL playoff picture: Bengals making a run in wide-open AFC

The AFC playoff picture is so crazy that an 8-8 team may actually make the postseason.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t just score a win in Denver on Sunday. They also saved their season and put themselves in position to make the playoffs with a strong finish.

With all of the Week 11 AFC games having concluded, here is a look at the updated AFC playoff picture going into Week 12:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-2
  2. New England Patriots 8-2
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-3
  4. Kansas City Chiefs 6-4
  5. Tennessee Titans 6-4
  6. Baltimore Ravens 5-5
  7. Buffalo Bills 5-5
  8. Miami Dolphins 4-6
  9. New York Jets 4-6
  10. Cincinnati Bengals 4-6
  11. Houston Texans 4-6
  12. Los Angeles Chargers 4-6
  13. Oakland Raiders 4-6
  14. Indianapolis Colts 3-7
  15. Denver Broncos 3-7
  16. Cleveland Browns 0-10

The Bengals’ weak strength of schedule and lack of head-to-head wins over other four-win teams is why they’re so low on this list, despite being tied with the two teams ahead of them in win-loss record.

The bad news is that the Bengals won’t get a chance to play the New york Jets, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers or Oakland Raiders if it comes down to tiebreakers for those final AFC Wild Card spots.

It also hurts that the Bengals have losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Though both of those teams are clearly flawed, they also are good enough to both finish with winning records, and the Bengals need to finish with a better record to pass either of them in the playoff standings.

The good news is the Bengals already have a win over the Buffalo Bills, who Cincinnati should move past in playoff positioning if they finish with the same win-loss record.

The Bengals also get to play the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, so it’s possible Cincinnati can move past them as well. At this point, that sixth and final playoff spot is the only real hope the Bengals have of making the playoffs. They probably need to win nine games to secure that spot, one of those being a victory in Baltimore in the regular-season finale.

Part of that is due to the Ravens having a host of winnable games down the stretch, including matchups with the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. They also get the Detroit Lions at home, so they should finish with at least an 8-8 record.

It won’t be easy, but the Bengals are still very much in the playoff hunt.