It’s pretty amazing that through 12 weeks, you could argue that only two teams (Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots) have comfortable leads in their division, while a team like the Cincinnati Bengals could conceivably win the division and earn a first-round bye, but could also miss the playoffs completely if they lose this weekend.
With games at the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers looking like they’ll be difficult to win, they can ill-afford slip-ups at home against the Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens.They probably need to go 4-1 to win the AFC North and a first-round bye, but just two or three wins should be enough to win the division. And a loss to San Diego would likely mean that if Cincinnati were to lose the division to Baltimore or Pitt, they would also likely lose-out on the No. 6 seed if the Chargers have a similar record and a head-to-head win over Cincinnati.
Minnesota and Baltimore figure to be the two most-likely wins, and the Colts aren’t looking too good either, but that game could also help determine who gets a first-round bye if New England falters down the stretch. The Bengals just need to finish with a tie with the Patriots to be seeded ahead of them, as they own a head-to-head win over them.