Breaking Down the Red-Hot AFC Playoff Race

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But what if the Bengals win in Pittsburgh but somehow finish the season tied with the Steelers for the same record? Pittsburgh hosts the Cleveland Brown in Week 17, while the Bengals play host to the division leading Baltimore Ravens. There’s a realistic chance that Bengals and Steelers finish with the same record, despite Cincinnati winning the Week 16 matchup. The final wild card spot would then be determined by the following procedures:


  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in common games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss


Assuming Pittsburgh takes care of the Browns at home in Week 17, the Bengals will have to beat the Steelers and Ravens in back-to-back weeks to ensure they’re at least tied with Pitt in the first two tie-breaking scenarios. As for the common games outside the division:

  • The Bengals and Steelers have defeated the Redskins, Giants, and Chiefs.
  • Both clubs have lost to the Denver Broncos.
  • The Bengals defeated the Oakland Raiders, who has beaten Pittsburgh.

As for now, that gives Cincinnati a one-game lead in that category. And in terms of conference record, the Bengals own a 5-5 mark compared to Pittsburgh’s 4-5 mark.

Rarely do tie-breaking scenarios go beyond those first four factors. None of this takes away from the fact that Cincinnati has to win the Week 16 matchup just to have a chance and making a repeat trip to the postseason for the first time in over two decades.



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