Two weeks ago, the Bengals were sitting in great position to get the No. 2 seed and grab a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.
Two losses later, Cincinnati faces a game against Cleveland this Sunday with everything on the line.
If the Bengals win, they could still ascend to the second seed in the conference, but if they lose we could be witnessing a team spiraling out of control.
THE TWO SEED – In order to get week one of the playoffs as a rest week, the Bengals likely need to win the rest of their six games, or at the very least win five of those games.
Cincinnati will also need help from New England’s opponents on the way, as the Patriots have a 1 1/2-game lead in the standings.
That being said, the Bengals have the head-to-head tiebreaker on New England, so as long as the two teams finished tied Cincinnati will have the higher seed.
The Patriots have a tough game at Carolina this week and another tough one at Gillette next week vs. Denver; the Bengals will need the Pats to lose one if not both of these games for Cincinnati to catch up.
New England also has Cleveland at home and a week 16 trip to Baltimore as well. In order for the two seed to fall to the Bengals, they may rely on division rivals to help them out down the stretch.
If the Patriots falter, the Bengals still need to surpass Indianapolis, which has a half-game lead in the standings.
The Colts’ schedule isn’t exactly easy either, as they travel to Arizona in Week 12 and Kansas City in Week 16.
Of course the biggest matchup left to determine the higher seed between the two is the Week 14 match up between the two at Paul Brown Stadium.
If the Bengals can win that game, they will have the head-to-head tiebreaker against both the Pats and the Colts.
Even if the two seed is out of reach by then, the three seed is much preferred to the four and that game should still be huge for both.
OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS – Obviously the Bengals could fall flat on their faces and only win one or two more games, but they could actually only lose one more game and still miss the postseason.
If both the Browns and Bengals finished at 11-5, then Cleveland will have won this coming week’s matchup and will win the division as they will own the tiebreaker.
It’s unlikely that the Browns will win out, given their tough games at New England and at the New York Jets, but in the NFL all outcomes are possible.
Once the division is out of play for Cincinnati, it comes down to the second wild card at the six seed as either Denver or Kansas City. Whichever doesn’t win the AFC West will get the first wild card.
The Bengals have already lost the tiebreaker to Miami, which could win out and take the playoff’s final playoff spot, regardless of final record Cincinnati must be a game up on Miami.
The Jets can also oust the Bengals from the postseason, but the Jets would have to finish a game ahead of Cincinnati due to the beating they received at Paul Brown Stadium.
That said, New York’s remaining schedule isn’t too rough other than a trip to Carolina in Week 15, and Cincinnati needs only to be tied with the Jets if they are the final two teams fighting for the six seed.
Baltimore, Tennessee, and San Diego are the other five-loss teams fighting for the final AFC wild card.
While Cincinnati doesn’t play the Titans this year, it still have the Chargers in Week 15 and the Ravens again in Week 17. With a loss to either team, the Bengals lose another tiebreaker, and we all know that west coast trips haven’t been great for Cincinnati, and the Ravens just knocked off the Bengals last week.
Here’s hoping that week 17 is for a Bengals playoff bye, and not a play-in game for the orange and black.