The announcement of a no-contest has confirmed the Bengals have won the AFC North for the 2022 season. This marks the Bengals’ second-straight division crown.
However, they may not get a home playoff game. The division is in hand, but if the Baltimore Ravens were to beat Cincinnati on Sunday and then match up with them in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the site of that game would be determined by a coin flip, due to the Bengals having less games played than Baltimore. Essentially, Baltimore has the chance to get the benefit of winning the AFC North without actually doing it.
With the decision, any chance of the Bengals claiming the top seed in the AFC is now gone. The path was there before the unfortunate scene at Paycor Stadium on January 2nd but with the game not being resumed or counted on their record, that is off the table.
However, Cincinnati does have a path to the second seed in the conference. A win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, paired with a Buffalo loss to the New England Patriots would net the Bengals the No. 2 seed.
The final option is the Bengals locking in the third seed. Even with a win over Baltimore, a Buffalo win this weekend would lock the Bengals in at No. 3. Unless they match up with Baltimore in the first round, they are guaranteed to host a playoff game. Should they advance, where they would play in the second round would be determined by which seeds remain after Wild Card weekend.
The NFL was in a very tough situation, with no outcome working out perfectly for all teams. The decision sets up an unprecedented Week 18 and playoffs, with a neutral site AFC Championship game being a real possibility.
While the Bengals lose chances at the top seed, this team has proven they can win on the road in January.