The Cincinnati Bengals were on the verge of losing their spot in the playoffs had they lost their Week 15 battle with the Denver Broncos.
They end the season with the Ravens, Chiefs, and Browns, all three of which are also playoff contenders, so it wasn’t going to get any easier down the road. With that in mind, they had to win.
Thankfully, they did, showing resentment as the game was a grind-it-out battle with the Broncos taking a 10-9 lead and eventually losing 15-10. That win pushed the Bengals record to 8-6, claiming the top spot in the AFC North.
That said, let’s dive into where they moved up to in most of the national media’s power rankings.
CBS Sports — No. 11 - Up from No. 12
That was a big-time victory on the road against Denver, thanks to the defense. Now they face a key division game against the Ravens.
NFL.com — No. 12 - Up from No. 13
Predicting where this winding Bengals season goes is a fool’s errand, but it’s at least possible Joe Burrow’s 56-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Boyd on Sunday is remembered as a turning point. Cincinnati’s offense was in a deep slumber before that third-quarter strike, and it allowed the Bengals to escape with a 15-10 win over the Broncos that kept their playoff hopes from slipping into dream territory. Of course, one big play doesn’t cover up for the sins of an attack that was mostly limp against Denver’s quality defense. A Week 16 matchup against the Ravens should tell us a lot about both teams. It’s clarity that we seek in the AFC North.
Yahoo! Sports — No. 13 - Up from No. 15
The Bengals have a huge game against the Ravens on Sunday, and all eyes will be on running back Joe Mixon and his injured ankle. Zac Taylor sounded optimistic that Mixon could play.
ESPN — No. 14 - Stayed at No. 14
What’s the option between lukewarm and warm? Like a cup of coffee you poured roughly 20 minutes ago? Because that’s what Taylor’s situation feels like. Cincinnati got a much-needed win against Denver to stay in the playoff chase. And the Bengals’ hopes of being a postseason contender are still very much alive, as Cincinnati holds a share of the AFC North lead heading into Week 16. This team has already exceeded preseason expectations, and Taylor deserves ample credit for that. But there’s still some work to be done as the team closes out Taylor’s third season. — Ben Baby
NY Post — No. 13 - Up from No. 14
The Ringer — No. 12
Sports Illustrated — No. 9
Zac Taylor is asking Joe Burrow to operate a 10-year veteran kind of offense, and do it behind a leaky interior offensive line. Burrow is responding with an MVP-caliber performance to this point. It is a rough schedule down the stretch, but this team is absolutely good enough to make a run in January.
Sporting News— No. 13 - Up from No. 14
The Bengals took big hits at home against the Chargers and 49ers but grinding through a much-needed road victory with their defense setting the tone in Denver. There weren’t a lot of style points for the offense, but Joe Burrow still made sure he enough plays to win. The reward was a return to first place.