Cincinnati Bengals Playoff Scenarios: Team Back on Outside Looking In

The Cincinnati Bengals could be in possession of the AFC's No. 7 playoff seed by the end of the day, and it won't take much for it to happen.

With today’s 34-14 victory against the Indianapolis Colts, the Cincinnati Bengals moved into possession of the No. 7 playoff seed in the AFC.

Before some of them finished dinner, they were back in the No. 10 spot. And the team they beat to knock out of the No. 7 spot, Indianapolis, is back where it started the day.

That’s how crazy and convoluted the AFC playoff race is, with six teams, including the Bengals, tied at 7-6 for two playoff spots.

1 p.m. ET Games Update:

  • Bengals (7-6) defeated Colts (7-6)
  • Jets (5-8) defeated Texans (7-6)
  • Ravens (10-3) defeated Rams (6-7)
  • Browns (8-5) defeated Jaguars (8-5)

4 p.m. ET Games Update:

  • Bills (7-6) defeated Chiefs (8-5)
  • Broncos (7-6) defeated Chargers (5-8)

Why Are the Bengals Currently the No. 10 Seed?

In multi-team ties, divisional tiebreakers are used to whittle the group down to one team per division.

The six teams tied at 7-6 are the Bengals, Steelers, Texans, Colts, Broncos and Bills. The Steelers have the tie-break edge on the Bengals and the Colts on the Texans, making it a four-team race for the No. 6 seed, with the Steelers prevailing.

MORE: Cincinnati Bengals Depth Chart

Everything starts over with a five-way tie for the No. 7 seed. The only division conflict is Texans and Colts, with the Colts owning the head-to-head edge.

The four-way tie between the Bengals, Colts, Broncos, and Bills can’t be broken by head-to-head (one team has to have beaten all the others or lost to all the others to reduce the pool). So the next step is conference record, and the Colts are 5-4, the Texans 4-4, the Broncos 4-5 and the Bengals 3-6.

With the Colts removed, the Bengals, Texans, Bills and Broncos battle for No. 8. Again, head to head doesn’t apply, so the Texans take it at 4-4.

The same goes for No. 9. With no head to head in play, it goes to the Broncos due to their 4-5 conference record.

MORE: Free NFL Playoff Predictor

That leaves the Bengals and Bills, and head to head does apply there, which is why the Bengals are 10th despite Buffalo having a better conference record.

The Bengals can’t improve their AFC record next week because they play the Vikings. But moving to 8-6 would put them closer to the magic number of 10 wins. No team that has gone 10-7 has ever missed the playoffs.

Only one team since the league went to seven playoff spots per conference has won 10 and been left out – the 2020 Dolphins, who were 10-6.

On the flip side of that, there have been five nine-win teams who have earned Wild Card berths, so even a 3-2 finish wouldn’t guarantee elimination.

Can the Bengals Still Win the AFC North?

ESPN’s FPI gives the Bengals a 0.2% chance, but it’s not zero.

Baltimore leads Cincinnati by three games with four to go and has the tiebreaker edge via the season sweep. That means the Bengals have to win out to go 11-6 and the Ravens will have to lose their remaining four to finish 10-7, plus the Browns (8-5) and Steelers (7-6) can’t finish with more than 10 wins.

MORE: AFC No. 1 Seed Playoff Scenarios

What Are the Rooting Interests for the Bengals?

While the Bengals will play an NFC team next week, there will be some key AFC battles in Week 15. Here are the rooting interests for Bengals fans.

Either result in the Texans-Titans game could help the Bengals. While a Texans loss obviously would put a dent in the record of a contender, the Bengals are better off if Houston wins the division instead of Jacksonville.

  • Steelers at Colts: Colts
  • Broncos at Lions: Lions
  • Bears at Browns: Bears
  • Texans at Titans: Texans
  • Cowboys at Bills: Cowboys
  • Ravens at Jaguars: Jaguars

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more!

Listen to the PFN Bengals Podcast

Listen to the PFN Bengals Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Bengals Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Bengals Podcast on our NFL YouTube channel.

Join the Conversation!

Related Articles