Here's what’s at stake this week: The Bengals cannot affect their No. 6 AFC playoff seeding with the result of the Baltimore game. As the No. 6 seed, Cincinnati will play Jan. 5 or 6 on the road against the No. 3 seed. Though Cincinnati could tie Indianapolis at 10-6 for the AFC’s best record among non-division champs, the Colts would win a tiebreaker based on record in common games (4-1 to Cincinnati’s 3-2).
But four teams -- including Baltimore -- are possible holders of the No. 3 seed:
» Baltimore (10-5) will create a playoff rematch against the Bengals with a win at Paul Brown Stadium this week and a home loss by New England (11-4) against Miami. The Ravens and Patriots would share the AFC’s third-best record at 11-5, and a head-to-head victory on Sept. 23 puts the tiebreaker in Baltimore’s favor. If the Ravens lose or tie, or New England wins or ties, Baltimore is the No. 4 seed and will host locked-in fifth seed Indianapolis in the Wild Card round.
» New England (11-4) is in the No. 3 spot through Week 16. To keep the No. 3 spot over Baltimore, the Patriots need a win or tie vs. Miami, or a Ravens loss or tie against the Bengals. But if the Patriots beat Miami, and if Houston (12-3) and/or Denver (12-3) loses, the Patriots will have a tiebreaker shot at the No. 2 or even No. 1 seed. The Bengals and Patriots have never met in postseason. In the last Bengals visit to New England, in the 2010 season opener, the Patriots won 38-24.
» Houston will be the No. 3 seed -- and host Cincinnati in postseason for the second straight year -- with a loss at Indianapolis, combined with a win or tie by Denver (vs. Kansas City) and a New England win. The Texans would cede the best AFC record to Denver, and they would lose a tiebreaker for the No. 2 spot to New England, which defeated the Texans head-to-head on Dec. 10.
» Denver will be the No. 3 seed with a loss at Kansas City combined with a New England win vs. Miami. The Broncos and Patriots would both be 12-4, and New England would win a two-team tiebreaker on better AFC record (11-1 to 9-3). If Houston joined Denver and New England in a three-way tie at 12-4, Denver would still finish as No. 3, with New England at No. 1 and Houston at No. 2.