Here are the latest playoff scenarios as confirmed by the Elias Sports Bureau:
To gain the No. 2 seed, the 10-5 Bengals need a win over 8-7 Baltimore in their 1.p.m. game at Paul Brown Stadium afternoon and a win by 6-9 Buffalo in the 4:25 game at 11-4 New England. The Bengals would prevail in a two-way tiebreaker with New England because they defeated the Patriots, 13-6, at PBS on Oct. 6. The No. 2 seed sits out the Jan. 4-5 wild card round and hosts the higher seed to emerge from that round on either Jan. 11 or 12.
The Bengals tentatively hold the No. 3 seed over 10-5 Indianapolis, the AFC South champion, because they own the two-team tiebreaker, having defeated the Colts on Dec. 8 at PBS, 42-28. Indianapolis closes the season at home against 4-11 Jacksonville, and though the Colts could join the Bengals and New England in a three-way tie for second-best AFC record (at 11-5), the Bengals would prevail in that three-way tie because they have defeated both of the other teams.
If the Bengals stay at No. 3, they host the second wild card team and sixth seed Jan 4 or 5. Baltimore can clinch the sixth seed with a win over the Bengals plus a loss by 8-7 Miami (hosting the 7-8 Jets) and/or 8-7 San Diego (hosting 11-4 Kansas City). But if the Ravens lose to the Bengals, their only playoff route would be through a trifecta of losses by Miami, San Diego and 7-8 Pittsburgh. The Steelers, who began the season 0-4, could still cop the second wild card if they win vs. 4-11 Cleveland while Baltimore, Miami and San Diego all lose.
Should the Bengals fall to the No. 4 seed by losing ground to Indianapolis, they would host Kansas City in the wild card round Jan. 4 or 5. The Chiefs, though tied at 11-4 for the AFC’s second-best record, cannot beat out 12-3 Denver for the West Division title and thus can do no better than the first wild card.