The Cincinnati Bengals sit at 8-7 and are two spots out of the playoffs with two games to go in the regular season. For the Bengals to make the playoffs, they need to win their final two games and hope a few other things go their way.
For the most part, winning out should hopefully be enough to get Cincinnati to the playoffs for a third straight year. They currently hold a 17% chance of making the playoffs but can increase those odds to 54% with a win against the Chiefs and to 93% if they win their final two games.
Here are four teams who could play a part in the Bengals not getting to the playoffs.
Bengals fans need to be rooting heavily for the Titans and Colts in Weeks 17 and 18 respectively because the Houston Texans will be facing those teams in those weeks. With the Texans holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cincinnati, the Bengals cannot finish the season with the same record as Houston or the Texans will get the spot over them.
Right now, both Houston and Cincinnati sit with 8-7 records. The Texans were cruising for a few weeks until rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud suffered a concussion that kept him sidelined the past two games. Houston went 1-1 without Stroud and he returned to practice this week, indicating a sign that he might play on Sunday.
At this point, it feels like a safe bet that the Browns and Bills land the other two Wild Card spots so that leaves one remaining Wild Card up for grabs. The only way the Texans winning out could be good news for the Bengals is that if the Jaguars continue to lose, the Texans could win the AFC South and that won't impact the Bengals' playoff chances nearly as much. They own the tiebreakers over Indy and Jacksonville.
While the Steelers are below the Bengals in the AFC playoff picture, all it takes for them to keep the Bengals out of the playoffs is to win out. They own the season-sweep over Cincinnati and have the same record as them right now.
Fortunately, the Steelers play the Seahawks on the road and the Ravens on the road to close out the season. Baltimore could be playing backups by that point, which could give the Steelers an easier chance to win that game.
While I don't see the Steelers winning out, if they do, it'll be a huge blow to the Bengals' playoff chances.
The Bengals have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo but right now that doesn't factor in because the Bills have a better record than Cincinnati. At 9-5, the Bills can still win their division as well if the Dolphins slip up against the Ravens this weekend and Buffalo takes care of business against the Patriots.
If the Bills continue to win out, however, that takes away an open playoff spot for the Bengals and could mean there's only one spot left up for grabs.
Simliar to the Bills, the Bengals own the tiebreaker over Indianapolis so if they finish with the same records, Cincinnati would hold the advantage. That being said, if multiple teams finish with the same record along with Cincy and Indy, that's when things could go south for the Bengals.
For instance, as of this writing, the Colts would land the final playoff spot despite the Bengals having beaten them a few weeks ago. That's because conference wins matter in those situations and Cincinnati only has three of those.
We all knew the poor division record and lack of conference wins would eventually come back to bite the Bengals in the butt and this is when that happens. The Colts play the Raiders and the Texans in the final two games of the season.
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