The door is wide open now for the Bengals to make a push for the playoffs, something that seemed almost inconceivable a week ago. Beating the Giants obviously is what enabled the Bengals to even think postseason, but a confluence of events throughout the rest of the NFL have made Cincinnati’s postseason chances exponentially more likely in the last week.
Start with the Bengals’ upcoming schedule. As Alex Peterman discussed here on Wednesday, the combined record of Cincinnati’s next five opponents is 15-30. Prior to the season this section of the schedule looked much tougher. In particular, the three game stretch facing San Diego, Dallas, and Philadelphia figured to be matchups against three teams in the thick of the playoff race.
That is not exactly how this season has played out. San Diego is at 4-5 and faces what is essentially a must-win game this week against Denver. If the Chargers lose that Norv Turner may not survive the season, and San Diego won’t have anything to play for by the time Cincinnati rolls into town in Week 13.
Dallas saved its season by beating Philadelphia last week, but does anyone out there want to predict what the Cowboys will do week to week? I sure don’t. Dallas is a three ring circus, which serves to disguise what they really are—a mediocre team with an inconsistent quarterback and a head coach in over his head. That leaves the Eagles, who really should thank the New York Jets for distracting the national media from noticing what a dumpster fire they have become.
But even with the schedule opening up, the Bengals still face a two game deficit for the final playoff spot with seven to play, and do not look to have many edges in tiebreakers. Why then am I feeling more confident? It has everything to do with the teams in front of them in the AFC wild card race.
Yes, the Colts are a great story at 6-3. However, they still have tough road games against New England, Detroit and Houston, as well as a visit from the Texans to close out the season. Additionally, the Bengals have a (very slight) edge in point differential over the Colts, which along with schedule is a better predictor of upcoming performance than past record.