Justin Tucker's winning 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds left and Jacoby Jones's 35-yard kick return that set it up Monday night show just how formidable the defending Super Bowl-champion Ravens are going to be if there is a winner-take-all season finale at Paul Brown Stadium and then a Wild Card game against them the next week in the same spot.
At 8-6, Baltimore took a major step in that direction with the excruciating 18-16 victory in Detroit that cut the 9-5 Bengals lead in the AFC North to a game with two to play. Which means the only way the Bengals can win the AFC North before the Dec. 29 finale is to beat Minnesota in Sunday's 1 p.m. game at PBS while the Ravens to lose at home to New England.
If both teams win Sunday, that puts the Bengals at 10-5 and the Ravens at 9-6 and the Bengals have to win the finale because if they finish tied with Baltimore with a loss, the Ravens win the division with a series sweep of Cincinnati.
If both teams lose Sunday, the Bengals would be 9-6 and the Ravens 8-7, again making the final game a must because of the tiebreaker.
A Bengals loss and Ravens win on Sunday ties them atop the division and again sets up a 1 p.m. title game.
If the Bengals are looking for a Wild Card spot, they can't finish tied with Miami because the 8-6 Dolphins beat them head-to-head. But if the Bengals stave off the Ravens, at the moment they would host them the next week in the opening round of the playoffs because Cincinnati is the third seed and Baltimore has the sixth seed because of its head-to-head win over Miami.
If it comes down to the last wild card, the Bengals hope it is the 7-7 Chargers in the mix because they beat them head-to-head.
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- Dec. 22: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings - **BUY NOW**
- Dec. 29: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens - **BUY NOW**