As predicted, last weekend was a portent into the finality of the AFC Wild Card race, and while the Bengals did what was required of them, the stars aren’t exactly aligning. With a late-game come back, the Pittsburgh Steelers not only dropped the Baltimore Ravens down a peg in the AFC North, but they have also kept themselves to a neck-and-neck record with Cincinnati. Currently, as a tied team the Steelers come out ahead of the Bengals because of their win in the Queen City back in Week 7, but with one more meeting scheduled for late December in Three Rivers that’s not necessarily written in stone.
Not necessarily, but pretty close.
While Cincinnati waits patiently for that game, two more loom on the horizon first; next week’s match up with the (6-6) Dallas Cowboys and then on the road for the first half of the Pennsylvania Penance with the (3-9) Philadelphia Eagles. Conversely, the Steelers are set to kick-off against the (4-8) San Diego Chargers, and then travel to The Billion Dollar Play-Pen to work on Jerry Jones’ boys. While Dallas is holding on to a scrap of play-off hope, a loss toCincinnatiwould crush that aspiration, much like San Diego’s loss last week. In a way, with a Bengals win on Sunday, it will create two weekends’ worth of opponents for the Steelers who’ve each had the wind freshly taken out of their sails.
Digressions aside, both Cincinnatiand Pittsburgh are favored to win out until they meet up, despite a Dallas team who will likely play both very close. That being said, outside of the Colts losing the majority of their next four, there are only three legitimate scenarios that, if brought to fruition, would take the Bengals to the play-offs. The first would be if the Steelers were to lose to the Bengals and someone else. A single slip would giveCincinnati a one game edge that if capitalized upon in Week 16, would lock the Bengals in regardless of how their match-up with Baltimore would fair. A Steelers loss not withstanding, we are brought to scenario two: the Bengals win out the rest of the season. If Cincinnati beats both Baltimore and Pittsburgh to cap the season, they’re in the play-offs, no questions asked.