At the beginning of the season, only two heartbreaking losses into the new campaign, many Bengals fans (including myself) were questioning if this team could even make the playoffs after what was seen on the field in Weeks 1 and 2.
Since that early season, two-game skid, the Bengals have had an amazing bounce back to recover, going 10-2 in the games since, including a winning streak they are currently riding that has added up to six so far. Burrow said this team was going to be alright after their second loss, and it looks like he was correct.
Just last month, people were wondering if this team was better than last year's (again, including me). Now? Not only are Cincy fans anticipating a playoff berth, but some are even considering: could they get the number one seed in the AFC and clinch that illustrious first-round BYE? Shockingly, even after their stumbles to kick off the 2022 campaign, the Bengals have a chance at doing so.
If you told someone at the BYE that a 5-4 Bengals squad that had been frustratingly inconsistent had a chance at clinching the number one seed in the conference just seven weeks later, you'd likely be laughed at. At that point, the Bengals weren't even in the playoffs, still in the hunt behind some other wild-card teams. However, little did we know, that dominating win over the Panthers would kick off an almost two-month streak of top-notch football, Burrow and Co. making statement win after statement win.
So, that begs the question, just how can the Bengals clinch the number one seed and a first-round BYE?
The first one is simple, win out. Technically, they could lose their next game and still have a shot, but their best chance at getting that top spot in the AFC is continuing their streak to finish off the season. It won't be easy, as they have the Patriots on Saturday, who are still vying for a playoff berth, another AFC juggernaut in the Bills the next week on primetime, and a rematch with the Ravens, which likely will also decide who wins the division assuming Baltimore also wins their next two.
However, the second is more tricky. In this case, to get this number one spot, the Bengals do not control their own destiny and will have to be counting on two teams losing for them to clinch it: the Bills and Chiefs.
In the case of the Bills, if the Bengals win out, including that game against Buffalo, then they'll automatically leapfrog them since they'll have the same record and Head-to-Head is always the first tiebreaker when two teams have the same record. However, for the Chiefs, that's a little more tricky.
The Bengals do have the head-to-head, however, the Chiefs still have to do their part and lose. Not something you'll see often with Kansas City, although they got really close to doing it against the Texans this past weekend. However, that's the thing about the Chiefs. Like the Bengals, they find ways to win no matter what holes they dig themselves into.
Thankfully that doesn't translate to when they play the Bengals, but the point still stands. I don't see this game against the Texans as a sign of things to come for them, but rather a wake-up call. It's December, it's time to get serious, and I think they are understanding that now that they got both the Bills and Bengals nipping at their heels since the Bills also have the head-to-head over them.
To make matters worse, they aren't exactly playing any teams that should give them trouble to round out the season. Their last three matchups are the Seahawks, Broncos, and Raiders-- in that order. The only team with a non-losing record of those three is the Seahawks, and they've had a rough second half of the season, so I wouldn't count on any upsets but crazier things have happened.
Still, the Bengals have a chance to get that number one seed, so don't only cheer for Cincy, but whoever Kansas City and the Bills are playing every week.