How the Bengals could be the AFC's 2-seed

CINCINNATI -- There's something else on the line when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Denver Broncos on ESPN's "Monday Night football" that's barely been mentioned this week.

The AFC's 2-seed.

It's quite possible that if the heaviest of dominoes fall not only Monday night but also next week, the Bengals could end up having the opening round of the playoffs off.

What has to happen in order for that to take place?

Primarily, three things: for the Bengals (currently the AFC's No. 3 postseason seed) to beat the Broncos (currently the No. 2 seed), for the Bengals to beat the Steelers next week at Pittsburgh, and for the Broncos to lose next week to Oakland. Even if the Bengals win Monday but have a second tie of the season next week, there are ways for them to get the No. 2 seeding. They are detailed below.

It's improbable that 11-3 Denver would fall to the three-win Raiders next week, let alone that it would drop two straight games entering the postseason. But it's still possible. It's also very possible that Cincinnati could end up winning these last two games, even if they both are in prime time. Next Sunday's game at Pittsburgh was just flexed into an 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff.

As you well know, the Bengals enter Monday's game having gone 2-6 in nighttime regular-season games since 2011, the year quarterback Andy Dalton became the starter.

Before the Bengals can truly entertain thoughts about playoff seeding, they have to first make the postseason. After a little confusion from information passed along from the NFL earlier in the day, we have updated scenarios for what must take place in order for the Bengals to clinch a playoff spot, even if they go winless in their last two games.

Here they are from the NFL and ESPN Stats & Information:


Bengals clinch AFC North title with:

1) CIN win

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CIN tie OR

2) BAL loss or tie OR

3) SD loss


Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot

Cincinnati clinches AFC North title with:

1) CIN win or tie

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye (and No. 2 seeding) with:

1) CIN win + DEN loss (vs. OAK) or tie OR

2) CIN tie + DEN loss + IND loss or tie