Bengals now lead AFC North and look to climb AFC standings

Dec 18, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9)
Dec 18, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and it shook up the AFC playoff picture in a big way. The day before, the Baltimore Ravens fell to the Cleveland Browns meaning that a win on Sunday -- which happened- would give Cincinnati the lead in the AFC North.

The squad struggled in the first half against the Bucs but dominated every moment after the break. Joe Burrow controlled the game with 200 yards and four touchdown passes which marks the fifth 30-point game this season for him. The defense had a monstrous second half as well. Logan Wilson dominated with 15 total tackles and the unit forced four turnovers in enemy territory. It was an all-around effort that proved Cincinnati is the real deal. Their winning streak dates back to October.

This win had huge playoff implication for Cincinnati. The team leaped the Ravens in the battle for the AFC North but are set to play them in the final game of the season. Meanwhile, the Bengals are gaining steam and now have a real shot to challenge for the top seed in the AFC.

The Chiefs and the Bills are currently one game ahead of the Bengals in the playoff race so losing will not be an option anymore. Burrow and company will visit the Patriots next weekend and then host the Bills on January 2nd. If Kansas City loses one game and Cincinnati wins out, then Cincinnati will secure a first-round bye. Head-to-head matchups would favor the Bengals if these teams ended the season in a three-way tie.

Homefield advantage is extremely important to a playoff run so let's hope this streak does not end any time soon. Joe Burrow has been playing the best football of his life and the defense looks to be a sturdy group despite their injuries. The Ravens still control their own destiny in the division but might struggle to keep up given injuries of their own. Lamar Jackson is expected to return before the season finale so expect that that to be a thriller.

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Do you think the Bengals can win the AFC North in consecutive seasons?