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How close Bengals are to winning AFC North, and who they’re projected to face in playoffs

The Bengals have a big game against the Ravens. What does the ripple effect of that game look like with the AFC North? Who could they play Round 1?

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens have one of the more important matchups this week for deciding playoff race in the AFC. The Bengals hold the top of the division right now, but the Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Browns are not far off from that top spot.

ESPN writer Kevin Seifert has updated the clinching scenarios and odds for teams to make the playoffs. Here is what he had to say for the Bengals:

Well, look what we have here. The Bengals snapped their two-game losing streak by grinding out a win in Denver, and then a few minutes later, they ascended to the top of the AFC North following the Ravens’ loss to the Packers. The Bengals have the temporary head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ravens, but as luck would have it, the teams will meet in Week 16. Neither would clinch the division title with a win, but it will obviously be a huge leverage game for both teams. If the Bengals win, their one-game lead in the win/loss column would really be a two-game lead with three left to play because of the permanent head-to-head tiebreaker. So they’ll win the AFC North if they win their remaining games.

Winning games obviously improves a team’s odds of making the playoffs dramatically. Securing a tiebreaker over the Ravens and Steelers on the season is nothing to scoff at either. Right now ESPN has the Bengal’s odds of making the playoffs at 50 percent and their chance of winning the division at 38 percent.

The AFC North is really the most compelling storyline in the AFC according to ESPN’s odds. Even the team’s in the current Wild Card spots all have better than a 70 percent chance of making the playoffs, and two of them are over 80 percent.

Cincinnati doesn’t have to win all of their remaining three games in order to make the postseason. That is a good thing because they face the Kansas City Chiefs after the Ravens. In fact, the only scenario I could find messing around with ESPN’s Playoff Machine that doesn’t have Cincinnati winning the division by defeating Baltimore and Cleveland is if Pittsburgh wins out against Kansas City and the other two AFC North teams. There also exist some pretty unlikely paths where the Bengals only win one of their final three and make the playoffs as well as having to defeat the Chiefs if they lose this week.

Winning this week really boosts the odds for Cincinnati, especially if it comes with a Cleveland loss to the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh loss to Kansas City. If the Bengals do make the playoffs, their projected opponent is the Indianapolis Colts. That would be quite the matchup as running back Jonathan Taylor has been making a serious case to be the league’s MVP. Cincinnati has fared well against some of the top running backs in the NFL, but Logan Wilson’s absence could be felt in a big way that game if he is still unable to go. Joe Burrow having the edge against Carson Wentz at quarterback would be a great thing for Cincinnati as quarterback play gets magnified in playoff games.

Right now the Bengals are a coin flip to make the post season in Burrow’s second season. If they take care of business against the Ravens those chances go up dramatically. It would just be so nice to have Cincinnati hosting a playoff game again.