The Cincinnati Bengals are possibly the hottest team in the NFL, and it is happening at the right time. It is hard to imagine a better scenario then riding six straight wins into late December and that’s exactly what Cincinnati is doing. While the Bengals look like a lock for the playoffs, they have not clinched a postseason berth just yet.
That, however, can change this week as Week 15 of the NFL season is set to kick off Thursday. There are two situations where Zac Taylor’s team can clinch their second-straight trip to the tournament.
How the Bengals Clinch a Playoff Berth:
Win Saturday against the New England Patriots: This, is the preferred method. A win in Foxborough would guarantee the Bengals a spot in the playoffs, leaving the final two games of their season for them to fight for the AFC North crown and highest seed possible in the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars beat New York Jets Thursday night: There is a good chance the Bengals take the field Sunday with their playoff berth already in the bag. The Jets have been struggling, while the Jaguars are riding high off of a big win in Week 15. Trevor Lawrence and the Jags knocking off the Zach Wilson-led Jets would secure the Bengals a spot in the postseason.
While it is possible the Bengals end this week with a playoff spot in hand, there are still games around the league to watch. With the AFC North crown still up for grabs and a potential path to the top seed in the conference still there, Bengals fans will have plenty of rooting interest throughout the Christmas weekend.
Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST
Root for: The Seahawks
Reason: Cincinnati’s path to the top seed in the AFC includes them winning their final three games, plus Kansas City losing at least one game. If Seattle is able to go in to Kansas City and come away with a win and the Bengals take care of the Patriots, Cincinnati would have the same record as Kansas City, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker. The top seed, of course, is the ideal situation for any team. Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye sounds awfully nice for the men in stripes.
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST
Root for: The Bears
Reason: Buffalo is currently seeded first in the conference, two spots ahead of the Bengals. With a Monday Night Football showdown with Buffalo coming January 2nd, Buffalo dropping a game before Cincinnati having a chance to gain a head-to-head win against them could propel the Bengals to the top seed. If they are unable to take the top seed from Kansas City, the two seed would stop them from having to travel to Arrowhead Stadium until a potential AFC Championship rematch.
Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST
Root for: The Falcons
Reason: As mentioned before, a repeat as AFC North champions is a very real possibility for the Bengals. A big step in the right direction would start with the Ravens taking a loss to Atlanta, with Cincinnati taking care of New England. Baltimore has been struggling without Lamar Jackson, whose status is still up in the air after as he deals knee injury. The Week 18 matchup between Baltimore and Cincinnati could very well decide the division, but picking up another game or two on Baltimore in the weeks leading up to the showdown could go a long way.
A big holiday weekend for the NFL and specifically the Bengals. Do you think all of the games play out in their favor? Let us know in the comments!