The Cincinnati Bengals have been essentially playing playoff games each of the last three weeks. After an 0-2 start and not picking up their first AFC win until November, the Bengals are essentially fighting for their playoff lives every week.
Obviously, Cincinnati beating the Pittsburgh Steelers is priority No. 1 this weekend, but let’s take a look at how other teams can help their case.
Root for: The Chargers
Reason: While the Bengals are ahead of Buffalo in the seeding right now, the Bills are looking to be getting hot at the right time. With Buffalo and Cincinnati both at 8-6, the Bengals head-to-head tiebreaker still has them ahead of the Bills. A Buffalo loss helps the Bengals in the event that they lose one of their final three games. Against a reeling Chargers team, that may not happen, but that’s why they play the games.
Root For: The Falcons
Reason: Similar to the Bills situation, the Bengals and Colts are both 8-6, with Cincinnati owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. Indianapolis does have more conference wins and more wins in their division, so picking up losses down the stretch would help distance the Bengals from them, provided they keep winning themselves.
Root for: The Browns (gross)
Reason: There’s a way to work the numbers that show Bengals fans would want Houston to win, but that is only if they go on to win the AFC South. For that to happen, Houston would need to win out (with CJ Stroud likely out again this week) and have the Jacksonville Jaguars lose two of their last three to Tampa, Carolina, and Tennessee. While it could happen, it isn’t likely.
The Texans and Bengals both sit at 8-6, with Houston holding the head-to-head tiebreaker and better records within the conference and their division. Cleveland is a full game ahead of the Bengals, and the Texans are tied. There is a better chance of the Bengals staying ahead of Houston than there is of them passing the Browns, who will win any head-to-head tiebreaker with Cincinnati due to a better divisional and conference record.
Root for: The Patriots
The Broncos are very much in the playoff race still at 7-7 and just a game behind the Bengals. And because the Broncos currently have a better conference and divisional record than the Bengals, the former would likely win any tiebreakers. That’s why the Bengals will need the Broncos to lose one more game if the former fails to win out.
And here is a look at the AFC Playoff Picture entering Week 16.
AFC Playoff Standings
- Baltimore Ravens (11-3, AFC North leader)
- Miami Dolphins (10-4, AFC East leader)
- Kansas City Chiefs (9-5, AFC West leader)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6, AFC South leader)
- Cleveland Browns (9-5, Wild Card 1 position)
- Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, Wild Card 2 position)
- Indianapolis Colts (8-6, Wild Card 3 position)