Bengals Playoff Scenarios: Week 17


The Cincinnati Bengals have already clinched the AFC North, but they can still earn a first-round bye. Here are the Bengals’ Week 17 playoff scenarios.

Week 17 is a very interesting week for Cincinnati. Since the Bengals couldn’t take care of business in Denver, they’ll need to play to win this week. The Bengals have beaten the Ravens in four straight games and will be looking to sweep Baltimore for the second straight season. If the Bengals win on Sunday, they’ll even the all-time series to 20-20.

However, the Bengals don’t actually need a win to clinch a first-round bye. In fact, there are only two scenarios in which a Week 17 win would change anything for the Bengals.

Without further ado, here are the Bengals’ Week 17 scenarios.


  1. DEN loss + CIN win or tie
  2. DEN tie + CIN win
  3. DEN loss + KC win

The first two aforementioned scenario are the only one in which a Bengals win would matter, but it’s a big one. If the Broncos lose and the Bengals avoid a loss to the Ravens, Cincinnati will clinch a first-round bye. That would be huge for this team, as the Bengals haven’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 1990.

Since there are only two bye-clinching scenarios, let’s take a look at who the Bengals will play in the first round if they can’t clinch the bye.

Disclaimer: These don’t include games where several teams are tying, etc.–that’s just too complicated.


  1. DEN win + NYJ win or tie + KC loss
  2. DEN loss or tie + NYJ win or tie + KC loss + CIN loss

It’s unlikely that the Bengals will play the Chiefs in the first round, but it’s possible. While the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, Kansas City has actually lost more consecutive playoff games (8) than Cincinnati (7). The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1993.


  1. DEN win + NYJ win + KC win
  2. DEN win + NYJ tie + KC tie

A matchup with New York seems scary at first glance, but every playoff matchup is scary. The Jets haven’t won a playoff game since before Andy Dalton was an NFL quarterback. In fact, New York hasn’t even made the playoffs since the 2009 season.

In my opinion, this would be the best possible first-round matchup for the Bengals, who have stomped on the Jets in recent years. While New York may have beaten Cincinnati in the playoffs seven years ago, those two teams were completely different this year’s squads.


  1. DEN win + NYJ loss + PIT win
  2. DEN tie + NYJ loss + PIT win + KC loss or tie + CIN loss or tie
  3. DEN loss + NYJ loss + PIT win + KC loss + CIN loss

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These scenarios leading to matchups with the Steelers are far and away the least likely matchups of the bunch, yet Bengal fans seem to be more concerned with the Steelers than any other potential playoff team.

Let’s dissect why this scenario isn’t very likely:

First of all, the Steelers have to beat the Browns. Pittsburgh has a worse winning percentage in games against losing teams than it does against winning teams, so its Week 17 matchup won’t be a cakewalk.

Second, the Jets have to lose to Buffalo. New York would be glad to shove a playoff berth right in Rex Ryan’s face, and I just don’t see New York losing that game.

Third, the Bengals could still clinch a first-round bye, even if the Steelers make the playoffs. That being said, if Pittsburgh makes the playoffs and Cincinnati doesn’t clinch a bye, the Bengals will face the Steelers.

Even if these two teams match up, fear not, Bengal fans.

Next: Carlos Dunlap sets Bengals franchise sack record

This week should be an exciting week of football, so be sure not to miss it!