Those other few fortunate turns also favor Cincinnati if they can capitalize. Only two other teams are currently in the hunt for Wild Card spots: Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. The Colts have three tough match-ups remaining in their schedule as they still have to face the Texans twice and the Lions next week on Ford Field. Nonetheless, it’s still very likely that they could finish 10-6 or even 11-5 as they carry the “Chuck Strong” anthem forward into a probable post-season run. That leaves the bitter match up of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh being the principal rivals for that sixth and single remaining play-off spot.
Is it any wonder why Ben Roethlisberger is fighting to come back this week against Baltimore? A loss next week would be devastating for the Steelers, and even with Big Ben active, they are remain the underdog. Further, the Ravens know that a win next Sunday puts Pittsburgh at a major disadvantage, and for what its worth, it’s likely that John Harbaugh would rather face Chris Crocker than a rejuvenated Troy Palamalu, so expect the Ravens to be playing to keep from seeing their division rival again until 2013. With a Steelers loss and a Bengals win on Sunday, the post-season swings extremely favorably towards Cincinnati.
After San Diego, the Bengals return home to play a depleted Dallas Cowboys and then travel toPhiladelphiafor a demoralized Eagles team; both should be easier wins than this weekend. Meanwhile, the Steelers will face the same Chargers and Dallas teams in opposing venues before paring up with Cincinnati in a game that would either a must win for Pittsburgh or crush their season altogether, in essence solidifying back-to-back play-off trips for the Bengals for the first time in more than 20 years.