Cincinnati Bengals: Who will they play? Breaking down the playoff possibilities

Ravens, Steelers still in the mix

CINCINNATI – As a Bengals fan, do you want them to play the Chiefs, Dolphins, Ravens, Chargers or Steelers in the first round of the playoffs?

Or none of the above?

Even though the Bengals have clinched the division title, there is a lot at stake when they host the Baltimore Ravens in the last regular-season game at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The playoff possibilities are complicated. The Bengals know they have clinched a home game (and they are 7-0 at PBS this season), but they may not know who they play until Sunday's 4:30 p.m. games are over. So let's break it down:

Best-case scenario: Bengals, currently the No. 3 seed, beat the Ravens and get the No. 2 seed and first-round bye. But for that to happen, the Patriots, the No. 2 now, have to lose to the 6-9 Bills at home, and that’s unlikely.

Worst-case scenario: Bengals lose or tie and fall to the No. 4 seed if the Colts beat the 4-11 Jaguars at home. The Bengals would host the 11-4 Chiefs in the first round Jan. 4-5. That might not be as daunting as it sounds, though, since the Chiefs are 2-4 since their 9-0 start.

Craziest scenarios: Bengals could host the Ravens or Chargers or – yes, even the Steelers in the most unlikeliest scenario of all – if they keep the No. 3 seed.

Likeliest scenario: Bengals, as No. 3 seed, host the Dolphins in the first round. That would happen if the Bengals, Dolphins and Patriots win. All three teams are playing at home (the Dolphins play the Jets) and all three will be favored.

The Bengals clinch the No. 3 seed with a win Sunday or a Colts loss or tie.

The Dolphins must have brought their Brrrr game to Buffalo Sunday because they lost 19-0. They should bring their Ahhhh game at home this week in sunny South Florida.

None of the teams vying for the No. 6 seed - the last AFC playoff spot - controls its own destiny. All need help from other teams.

The Ravens, the defending Super Bowl champs, are the only team that can lose Sunday and still make the playoffs, as improbable as that would be.

The Steelers have the hardest road, but they get in if they beat the Browns at home and the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers (home against the Chiefs) all lose.

When you think about it, that's not so crazy after all.

Here are all of the first-round playoff possibilities for possible Bengals' opponents if they keep the No. 3 seed, according to NFL.com:

Dolphins at Bengals: Dolphins get No. 6 seed if:
1) MIA win + BAL loss or tie
2) MIA win + SD win
3) MIA tie + BAL loss + SD loss or tie
4) MIA tie + BAL tie + SD tie

Ravens at Bengals: Ravens get No. 6 seed if
1) BAL win + SD loss or tie
2) BAL win + MIA loss or tie
3) BAL tie + MIA loss + SD loss or tie
4) BAL tie + MIA tie + SD loss
5) MIA loss + SD loss + PIT loss or tie

Chargers at Bengals: Chargers get No. 6 seed if:
1) SD win + MIA loss or tie + BAL loss or tie
2) SD tie + MIA loss + BAL loss

Steelers at Bengals: Steelers get No. 6 seed if:
1) PIT win + MIA loss + BAL loss + SD loss

RELATED: See all of the NFL playoff scenarios at NFL.com

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