Between the Saints being the league’s hottest teams and A.J. Green being out this week, this may be turn out to be the hardest game for Cincinnati to win this season, and that’s saying something after the Week 7 debacle in Kansas City.
Still, even if the Bengals lose this week, they could remain in great shape for a playoff berth if they get some help from other teams.
Here is a look at the biggest games taking place this weekend and who Bengals fans should be rooting for.
The Bengals suddenly have a real competitor for one of the final Wild Card spots if that’s how they’re ultimately going to make the playoffs. Miami is now 5-4 and can be tied with Cincinnati in the playoff standings with a win at Green Bay this week and a Cincinnati loss to New Orleans. Thankfully, the Bengals have a head-to-head win over the Dolphins, which may actually turn out to be what earns the former a playoff berth.
Root for the Packers
As much as it stings to ever root for the Patriots, the Titans have become a sneaky playoff contender after their win at Dallas put them at 4-4. A win here would make them a major threat to steal one of those final Wild Card spots, but a loss would make it hard to catch the Bengals.
Saying this, the Titans have a very favorable schedule after Week 10, including games vs. the Colts (twice), Giants, Jets, Jaguars and suddenly-depleted Washington. If the Bengals and Titans are tied for a playoff spot after Week 10, the latter has a much more favorable path to the postseason.
Root for the Patriots
The Chargers are still a game ahead of Cincinnati in the playoff standings, so a loss here and a Bengals win could put the two in a tie going into Week 11. The two will face off later this season in a game that could decide who is the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Why is that important? Because the No. 3 seed is almost certainly going to be the Patriots or Steelers, so if the Bengals get the 6 seed, that’s who they could play in the Wild Card round.
But if the Bengals get the 5 seed, they’ll likely play the Texans. While Cincinnati has had their struggles there, there’s really no question you’d rather see Houston than Pittsburgh or New England in the Wild Card round.
Root for the Raiders...as hopeless as it seems
UPDATE: The Steelers easily beat the Panthers on Thursday Night Football.
You don’t need Captain Obvious to figure out why this game mattered to the Bengals, who are still within reach of the division lead. Pittsburgh won, so it will become much harder for the good guys to win the AFC North if Cincinnati doesn’t get a win against New Orleans. That’s especially true with the teams’ Week 17 clash being at Pittsburgh.