Week 17 @ Chiefs
It's unfortunate that the NFL scheduled this game so late in the regular season because now it's lost nearly all of its shine. Yes, there will be a ton of storylines going into this game but it's nowhere near the same match-up now that Burrow won't be there to take the snaps. We won't have Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes for the fifth time in a little over two years and that's such a bummer.
The Bengals probably aren't going to have much to play for by the time this game rolls around. Even with my prediction of them being 7-8 at this point in time, they're going to be desperate for a win against a team that wants nothing more than to embarrass them.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, have the number one seed to play for. They'll be motivated to kick the Bengals while they're down and I predict they'll do exactly that.
Prediction: Bengals lose 34-24
Week 18 vs. Browns
This game could have been a potential playoff decider but it likely won't be now that Burrow is out for the year. The Browns would be in the postseason if it started right this very moment but they've had injuries to their quarterbacks. Fortunately, their defense has stepped up and that's why they're in the position they're in.
The Browns embarrassed the Bengals in Week 1 of the regular season and 17 weeks will pass before these two teams will have played again. Cincinnati has always struggled against the Browns and it's safe to say that Cleveland will have a lot more to play for in this game than the Bengals will.
Prediction: Bengals lose 21-13
If the games play out this way, the Cincinnati Bengals would finish the season at 7-10. That'd likely be good enough to earn them a top-10 pick and land an absolute stud for their 2024 roster. That's one of the few benefits of the team not playing well this year, as they don't get top-tier talent in the draft when they finish as one of the best teams in the league.
Still, it's hard to accept the moral victories when this team was capable of so much more this year. They were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders, not vying for a top-10 pick in the draft.
Such is life.