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    Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals Playoff Scenarios: The Bengals’ many paths to the postseason

    The Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals clash has massive playoff implications -- we break down clinching scenarios for each club.

    The Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) are the hottest team in football. The Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) have arguably the NFL’s hottest quarterback. It would surprise no one if these teams met in the Divisional Round or the AFC Championship Game. But first, the Chiefs and Bengals meet in Week 17, with playoff implications and clinching scenarios galore.

    Update: The Bengals have defeated the Chiefs, 34-31. Playoff scenarios are listed below. For a complete up-to-date picture, visit our NFL Playoff Scenarios.

    Playoff-clinching scenarios for Chiefs vs. Bengals

    The Chiefs, winners of eight straight, have already locked down the AFC West. But Andy Reid and Co. want more. They again want the easiest path to a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance — the No. 1 seed and the bye that comes with it.

    The Bengals, meanwhile, still have a little bit of work to do to reach the postseason for the first time since 2015.

    How the Chiefs can clinch home-field advantage

    The Chiefs are 74% to clinch a first-round bye per FiveThirtyEight — and those odds jump to 100% Sunday with a win and a Titans loss or tie. Kansas City would also lock down home-field advantage with a tie and a Tennessee Titans (10-5) loss.

    Wins in the last two weeks would also get it done for the Chiefs, no matter what the Titans do.

    How the Bengals can clinch a playoff spot

    Joe Burrow and the Bengals have been on a weird win-two, lose-two cycle since Week 6. If the pattern holds, they’re due to lose their last two games. That would be bad for their playoff hopes. What would be good? Beating the Chiefs Sunday. That alone would clinch the AFC North and at least a No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff field. The Bengals could also lock down the division with:

    • A tie and a Ravens loss or tie or
    • A Ravens loss and a Browns-Steelers tie

    There are several unlikely scenarios in which the Bengals could clinch a playoff berth but not the division this weekend. They all include a Bengals-Chiefs tie. Additionally, here’s what would need to happen:

    • A Chargers loss, a Raiders loss, and a Dolphins loss or tie or
    • A Chargers loss, a Raiders loss, and a Patriots loss or
    • A Chargers loss, a Raiders tie, a Dolphins loss or tie, and a Patriots win or
    • A Chargers loss, a Raiders tie, a Patriots tie, a Dolphins tie, and a Bills win or tie or
    • A Chargers loss, a Raiders tie, a Patriots loss, a Dolphins win, and a Bills win or tie

    Other Week 17 playoff implications for Chiefs, Bengals

    A loss would be damaging for the Chiefs’ Super Bowl hopes, largely because it would greatly increase the likelihood that they would have to play three playoff games to get there.

    A Kansas City loss and a Titans win over the Dolphins (8-7) would mean Tennessee would simply need to beat the Houston Texans (4-11) in Week 18 to secure the No. 1 seed. It would also give Kansas City a fifth conference loss, which means the Chiefs would lose basically the tiebreaker to every other projected division champion except a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bills (9-6). Not only does the No. 2 seed become a real possibility, but potentially even the No. 3 — the Chiefs would need to lose to the Bengals and Broncos to fall that far.

    The Bengals, meanwhile, would reopen the AFC North race with a loss. The Ravens (8-7), Browns (7-8), and Steelers (7-7-1) would all have realistic, albeit challenging, paths to the postseason. An L would potentially set up an AFC North title game in Cleveland in Week 18. Plus, it’s probably a division championship or bust for Cincinnati. There’s a handful of unlikely scenarios in which the Bengals could make the Wild Card by losing out, but any of those scenarios involve a ton of help.

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