With three games remaining in the season for the Cincinnati Bengals, the division race in the AFC North is in complete form and is one of the tightest four-team races in recent memory.
Each team in the division currently sits within the 1.5 of first place or last place. All four teams in the division are .500 or better, and if they all finished this way, it would be the first time in the Super Bowl era all four teams in a division did this.
Current AFC North standings
1. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) (3-1 in division)
2. Baltimore Ravens (8-6) (1-3 in division)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1) (2-2 in division)
4. Cleveland Browns (7-7) (2-2 in division)
The Bengals hold the number four spot in the AFC playoffs, but with a division matchup this week against the Ravens, that could all change with a loss. It could also put Cincinnati in a spot to grab the division by the throat and have them in sole position to win it.
If the Bengals escape this week with a win and the Steelers suffer a loss to the Chiefs, the Bengals would have a significant boost with only two games remaining. This was aided by Cleveland losing to Green Bay on Christmas Day.
The Bengals can’t clinch the division due to how tight the standings are and they end the season against the Browns. Since the Browns beat them the first time around, that gives Cleveland the tiebreaker against Cincinnati if their record somehow ends up the same, making that first-ever Week 18 matchup that much more important. But hopefully it doesn’t come down to the season finale.
However, all the Bengals would have to win one of their final two games to clinch the AFC North with a win and losses around the board. Plus, the Browns, Steelers, and Ravens would need to win out to have a shot at competing with them.
It’s essential to note that Baltimore ends the season with a matchup with the Steelers. The Browns end with two-division matchups in the final two games against the Bengals, as I mentioned earlier, and a matchup with the Steelers week before.
A win this week doesn’t make the Bengals a sure thing, but it would put them in a much more comfortable position and a position where they control their destiny. On the other hand, things get very interesting if the Bengals lose to Baltimore this week.
It puts the Bengals in a spot where they genuinely need to beat the Kansas City Chiefs next week, which will be an adamant game considering how well the Chiefs have been playing as of late. Plus, it puts the Ravens again in a position to control their destiny, and they have the upper edge in the final two weeks.
No team in this division has an easy game down the stretch of the year, which makes each win vital. This division most likely will be decided in the final week of the season, considering how tight it is.
With the Ravens down to their third-string quarterback, everything the Bengals want is right in front of them. Let’s hope this isn’t a repeat of the Jets game or the Browns game from the halfway mark of the season.
It’s hard to think of a division in the past where every single game is .500 or above heading into the final three weeks of the season, and that speaks volumes to how competitive and talented the AFC North is as a whole.