How the Bengals Make the Playoffs: The Scenarios


Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; The Cincinnati Bengals players run onto the field prior to their game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals will head into Week 16 with a half game lead over the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. They have two games remaining: at home against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and at Pittsburgh to end the season with the Steelers. So with two games remaining, what do the Bengals have to do and need to happen to make their fourth straight playoff appearance?

Obviously the best case scenario is the Bengals go 2-0 and they win the division by at least a half game over the Ravens. Since they face the toughest schedule in the division, it will be incredibly difficult to do that facing the Denver Broncos, who are tied with the Patriots for the best record in the AFC, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who only a week ago beat the Bengals in Cincinnati convincingly.

So here are the Scenarios:

If the Bengals go 2-0
They win the AFC North

If the Steelers win out
The Bengals must beat Denver to guarantee a Wild Card berth.

If the Bengals lose to Denver and beat the Steelers
The Bengals will need the Ravens to go 1-1 in order to win the division, but guarantee themselves a Wild spot.

If the Bengals beat Denver and lose to Steelers.
The Steelers would have to lose to Kansas City and Ravens would have to go 1-1 for the Bengals to win the Division. Otherwise, Raven could by going 2-0 or Steelers would win by winning out (Steelers would have 4-2 divisiin record).

If the Bengals go 0-2
To earn a Wild Card spot, they will need Buffalo, Kansas City, and San Diego to go 1-1. The Chiefs and Chargers play each other in Week 17, so one is guaranteed to go 1-1 at best in the final two weeks barring a tie (in the event of a tie between the two, the Bengals would qualify for the playoffs based on the NFL tie-breaking procedures).
They need two of the three listed above to go 1-1 and Baltimore to go 0-2

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The Bengals still control their own destiny, but will need to limit mistakes, while the defense must find last year’s form, and Andy Dalton must be sharp to ensure that they see the playoffs for their fourth year in a row.