Bengals: Week 14 Playoff Scenarios


Dec 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; A Cincinnati Bengals fan cheers during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals are in a good place after a dominant Week 13 win. Here are scenarios for the Bengals making the playoffs, winning the AFC North, earning a first-round bye and earning the AFC’s top seed.

The Cincinnati Bengals manhandled the Browns on Sunday. With a Patriots loss, Cincinnati is now the top team in the AFC. But with a lower strength of victory than the Patriots, the Bengals will likely have to win more games than New England in order to earn the AFC’s top seed.

Here are the Bengals’ Week 14 playoff scenarios.

To make the playoffs

  1. Win or tie vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Kansas City Chiefs lose to San Diego Chargers
  3. New York Jets lose to Tennessee Titans

Making the playoffs is pretty much a lock for the Bengals. Even if Cincinnati were to lose out, the Bengals would be 10-6. It’s hard to see the Bengals losing out, and it’s even harder to see the Jets, Chiefs and Steelers winning out, which would be required for Cincinnati to miss the playoffs.

To win the AFC North

  • Win or tie vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

If the Bengals lose against the Steelers:

  • Win vs. Baltimore Ravens
  • Win vs. Denver Broncos

– OR –

  • Win or tie two games

– OR –

  1. Steelers lose one game
  2. Steelers tie two games

The easiest way for the Bengals to win the AFC North is to either win or tie against the Steelers or Ravens. However, if Cincinnati can’t get the job done within the division, a win or tie against both the Broncos and 49ers would secure an AFC North crown. The Bengals could also win the division with a Steelers loss or two Steelers ties.

To earn a first-round bye

  • Win out

The Bengals control their own destiny for a first-round bye. Winning out would secure a first-round bye for Cincinnati.


  • Finish with record same as or better than Denver Broncos

Beating or tying Denver would give the Bengals head-to-head advantage in a tie, so winning or tying in Denver could do wonders for the Bengals in terms of earning a first-round bye. In winning at Denver, the Bengals would already hold the tiebreaker over every AFC team outside of the Patriots in a playoff scenario, even if Cincinnati went 1-3 with just the win in Denver.

  • Win two games (in addition to the win or tie in Denver)
  • Broncos lose two games (in addition to the loss or tie vs. Cincinnati)

If the Bengals win three of their four remaining games, including the game in Denver, they will have the guarantee of a first-round bye.

If the Bengals win in Denver and lose out, they would need Denver to lose three of its four remaining games in order to clinch a first-round bye.


  • Finish with a better record than the Broncos

With a loss in Denver, the Bengals would have to finish with a better record down the stretch than Denver. This means that Denver would have go 2-2 or worse for Cincinnati to have a chance at a playoff bye, assuming the Bengals won against Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Baltimore.

To earn the AFC’s top seed

For the sake of my convenience, we’re going to assume that Cincinnati beats Denver. It would be hard for the Bengals to earn a first-round bye without a win in Denver, although it could still be possible.


If Cincinnati and New England both win out, the Patriots will likely own the tiebreaker between the two teams (strength of victory). Cincinnati would need to pray for a miracle in order to earn the top seed. Particularly, teams in the AFC North, AFC West and NFC West would need to win a lot of games and teams in the AFC East (Bills excluded), AFC South and NFC East would need to do very poorly.

Bottom line: Cincinnati will likely need to finish with a better record than New England in order to earn a first-round bye.

The good news?

It could be possible.

With a brutal home loss against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots have proven to be vulnerable without Rob Gronkowski. Whether Gronk will be healthy throughout the rest of the season remains to be seen, and whether New England can sweep the floor with its remaining competition–even with Gronk–is still in question. The Pats have lost two straight, so they’ll need to prove that they can win if they’re going to earn the AFC’s top seed.

Next: Bengals top team in AFC after Patriots loss

There’s a lot of football left to be played, so anything can happen. But right now, the Bengals are looking good. It’s a great year to be a Bengals fan.