Raise your hand if you are confused by NFL’s new playoff format.
Instead of the usual six teams that make the playoffs from each conference each year, that number is now seven. That means that only the No. 1 seed from each conference will get an automatic bye in the first round.
If the Chiefs lose their final two games of the season, and a team like, say, the Cincinnati Bengals, win their final two games, the latter could end up with the No. 1 seed.
As things stand in Week 17, the Tennessee Titans are currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC, followed by the Bengals at No. 3, the Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, in that order.
The Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos are all technically still in the hunt. Only three teams — the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and New York Jets — have been eliminated from playoff contention in the AFC.
No one knows what will happen in the next two weeks. But we do know where teams stand at the moment. And, if this is how things end up, what would the playoffs look like in the AFC?
Cincinnati currently owns the No. 3 seed, and would be matched up with the New England Patriots in the bottom half of the bracket. Also in the bottom half are Buffalo and Indianapolis.
In the top half of the bracket, Kansas City would have the bye, and Tennessee would take on the Dolphins.
Assuming Kansas City is able to defeat the winner of the Titans-Miami matchup, the Bengals would have to get through the Patriots and the winner of the Bills-Colts game to make it to the AFC championship game.
It’s not an easy road, however you look at it, but it sure beats where Cincinnati has been every year since 2015. Is this the year it all changes?
“Everything is right there in front of us going into January,” head coach Zac Taylor said after the victory over the Ravens last Sunday. “We’re happy about that, but we’re not content yet.”
So, what say you? Do the Bengals make the playoffs? And if so, how far will they go?
Will Cincinnati make the playoffs in 2021?
This poll is closed
If so, how far will the Bengals go?
This poll is closed
AFC Championship game