The Cincinnati Bengals have become such a dangerous team in the NFL that they have a shot at the No. 1 seed even after starting the season 0-2.
Ending the season as the #1 team in the AFC is a hard scenario to envision since both the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs have an inside track to it with only two weeks to go.
But provided the Bengals beat the Bills on one of the biggest Monday Night Football games in NFL history, it’s a real possibility. The Bengals would need significant help, though. But first, let’s look at their own playoff scenarios for this week.
In Week 17, they could even finish as kings of the AFC North with one week to spare.
Playoff scenarios for Week 17
The Bengals clinch the AFC North division title with:
1. Bengals WIN + Ravens LOSS or TIE OR
2. Bengals TIE + Ravens LOSS
Especially since Lamar Jackson has been ruled out for Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a very real opportunity of beating the Ravens. They’re 4-1 in their last five games and are looking good on both sides of the football.
Getting the No. 1 seed in the AFC
Okay, this is a tough one. But everything is possible in the NFL. Here’s what the Bengals need to finish the season with a first-round bye week.
Win out (vs BUF, @ BAL)
Chiefs lose one game (vs DEN, @ LV)
The Chiefs have won 14 consecutive games against the Broncos. The last time the Broncos beat them was in 2015. To bank on Russell Wilson’s offense outscoring Patrick Mahomes is… well, let’s keep it friendly and say optimistic.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have benched Derek Carr and I guarantee you that didn’t happen because Jarrett Stidham is better. The prospects of Stidham outscoring the Chiefs is also a bet tough to make.
First things first, however. The Bengals must worry about winning out, in which case they’d guarantee themselves the #2 seed in the playoffs.
That would obviously be massive since they’d play in Paycor Stadium in the Divisional Round and could even host the AFC Championship Game if the Chiefs are upset in their first playoff game.