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The Bengals’ playoff hopes may be over, but they can still take a bitter rival out with them

In Week 17, the Bengals may be in control of the AFC North, but not in the way we’d hoped.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ playoff hopes are essentially gone,

Instead of cleaning up their mistakes and shortcomings in the middle of the season, they compounded them. Now with both Andy Dalton and A.J. Green out, any hope of a late playoff push has been lost.

It is not, however, time to start thinking about the draft. The Bengals may be in position to play spoiler to their most hated rival: The Pittsburgh Steelers.

After losing two games in a row, the Steelers are currently leading the AFC North by only a half a game. The Ravens, whose season has been reinvigorated by Lamar Jackson, has quickly cut down the distance between them.

The Steelers’ remaining schedule includes matchups against the Raiders, Patriots, Saints, and Bengals. Removing all bias, it is likely that the Steelers go 2-2 in that stretch, losing to the Patriots and Saints. If this is the case, they would finish 9-6-1.

The Ravens will play the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Chargers, and Browns. Once again, they are likely to go 2-2 and finish 9-7. This would put them at second in the division and a potential Wild Card team.

It seems unlikely that the Ravens would be able to knock off the Chiefs or even the Chargers. That means they would have to hope the Steelers drop the games they are expected to and lose one additional game. The Raiders are not the team to do it, so that only leaves one option.

Given the unraveling of the Bengals over the last several weeks, it is easy to forget that the first time they played the Steelers, it went down to the wire. Since then. the two teams have gone in opposite directions. With where the Bengals are as a team and their insane number of key injuries, beating the Steelers seems admittedly far-fetched.

It is, however, something to hope for. Crazy things happen in rivalry games, and the Steelers are pretty unreliable.

The team that doesn’t win the AFC North could get the final playoff spot, but the Broncos, Colts, Titans, and Dolphins (all of whom are currently .500) could overtake them by winning 3-4 games.

The irony of all of this is that after knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs with a meaningless win in 2017, the Bengals may have the opportunity to give the Ravens the division title with a meaningless win in 2018.