Bengals Playoff Picture: Cincinnati leapfrogs Ravens for first place in AFC North

Leigh Oleszczak
Cincinnati Bengals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cincinnati Bengals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Douglas P. DeFelice/GettyImages
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If the season ended today, the Cincinnati Bengals would host a playoff game in the Wild Card round. That was made possible by the Ravens losing to the Browns on Saturday and then the Bengals taking care of business against the Buccaneers on Sunday.

With the Bills and Chiefs continuing to win, they're still ahead of Cincinnati but as soon as either of them falter, especially the Chiefs, that'll be when the Bengals can really threaten for that No. 1 seed.

Here's the Bengals playoff picture after Week 15.

1. Buffalo Bills (11-3)x
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)y
3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4)
4. Tennessee Titans (7-7)
5. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)
7. Miami Dolphins (8-6)
In the Hunt: New England Patriots (7-7), New York Jets (7-7)
x = clinched playoff berth, y = clinched division

The Bills and the Chiefs are both for sure headed to the playoffs after Buffalo knocked off Miami this past weekend to clinch a berth and the Chiefs won their division after barely scraping by the one-win Texans. Remember when the AFC West was supposed to be the toughest division the NFL has ever seen?

This week, the Bengals head to New England to face the 7-7 Patriots who are still vying for a playoff spot. They'll be motivated this weekend, especially after the embarrassing way they lost to the Raiders this past Sunday. Let's hope the "We're onto Cincinnati" storyline doesn't resurface. The Bengals don't need an extra-motivated Patriots team.

There are some clinching scenarios for the Bengals this week. They can't clinch the division yet but they'll be able to secure a playoff berth with either a Jets loss to the Jaguars on Thursday night or a win against the Patriots on Saturday.

The most important thing that happened for Cincinnati this weekend was Baltimore losing because it allowed the Bengals to move up from a Wild Card spot to a division-leading spot. They'd host the Chargers in the Wild Card round if the season ended right now while the Chiefs would host the Dolphins and the Titans would host the Ravens.

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The No. 1 seed is still in play but it won't be easy. The Bengals have to win out and hope that the Bills and Chiefs slip up down the stretch.

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