With the Cincinnati Bengals 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs this past weekend, they have clinched their first division title and playoff berth since 2015. The Bengals are still in the running for the number one seed in the AFC but more likely will find themselves ranked anywhere between the number two and number four seed. They would need to beat the Cleveland Browns this coming weekend and have some help from other teams in order for that scenario to be considered a possibility. If they were to lose to the Browns this weekend, the Bengals would only be in the running for either the number three or four seed. At this current moment, there are a lot of possible matchups for the Bengals in the wild card round, each bringing their own challenges and advantages. Here are the possible wild card round matchups for the Bengals and how they matchup with the different teams:
According to the FiveThirtyEight model, the Ravens currently have a 3 percent chance to make the NFL playoffs as a wildcard. In this scenario, four games results would need to happen in the final week of games for Baltimore to clinch a playoff berth:
-Baltimore must beat the Pittsburgh Steelers
-The Jacksonville Jaguars must beat the Indianapolis Colts
-The Las Vegas Raiders must beat the Los Angeles Chargers
-The New England Patriots must beat the Miami Dolphins
Of course, the chances of making the playoffs are very slim for the Ravens, but it is also unlikely scenario for the Bengals to reach the number two seed. If this were to happen, we would see the Ravens and Bengals square off for a third time this season. In the previous two matchups, the Bengals have outscored Baltimore 82-38 this year, going 2-0 against them. The Ravens averaged 139.4 rushing yards per game this year, which is good for fifth in the NFL. The Bengals rank fifth on the year in average rushing yards allowed per game at 96.1, but have allowed 109.0 rushing yards per game in their last three. Rushing defense has been a strength of Cincinnati and it has fared well in the matchups against the Ravens. Cincinnati gave up only 77 yards rushing on average to Baltimore this season. If this matchup happens, the advantage should be in the Bengals favor after beating them twice already and the fact that the game would be at home for the Bengals.
The FiveThirtyEight model gives the Steelers a current 5 percent chance to make the NFL playoffs as a wildcard. Similarly to Baltimore, the Steelers can only clinch playoff berth in this scenario:
-Pittsburgh must beat the Baltimore Ravens
-The Jacksonville Jaguars must beat the Indianapolis Colts
Again the likihood of this matchup is very slim, much like a potential Ravens matchup but never say never. The Bengals outscored the Steelers 65-20 this season, good for a clean sweep against the division rivals. Cincinnati has won three straight games against Pittsburgh so again, the advantage should be with the Bengals with the game being at home.
Another possible matchup for the Bengals are the Buffalo Bills but for this to happen, they would need to lose their final game while the Pariots won. They have a 95 percent chance of winning their division so the odds aren’t in the favor of this potential wild card matchup. Buffalo has averaged 127.4 rushing yards a game this season, good for sixth overall in the league. Buffalso also boats a strong pass defense which would make this potential matchup very interesting for the Bengals array of offensive weapons.
The Indianapolis Colts currently hold a win and you are in the playoffs scenario and have a 89 percent chance to clinch a playoff spot. They will be a wild card team and could be seeded anywhere between the fifth and seventh seed in the AFC if they make it. The Colts strength comes from their running attack where Jonathan Taylor has put the league on notice and forced himself into the MVP conversation. Taylor has put up astounding numbers and showcased himself as one of the best running back in the league with his numbers. The Bengals though have fared well against the run this season, making this potential matchup very intriguing.
The Colts defense this year has been stout, ranking in the top half of the league in both pass and rush defensive DVOA. However they are below average in defending the pass, allowing 235.2 passing yards a game. The Bengals rank in the top ten in passing yards while the Colts rank in the bottom ten. This could be a fun matchup for both teams and one that pits strengths against strengths.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders are also in a win and you are in situation, as they face off with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football in Week 18. The winner of the game will make the playoffs as a wild card, while the loser will be on the outside looking in. The Bengals beat the Raiders 32-13 in Vegas earlier this season, winning the turnover margin in the process. The Raiders leading reciever in the game was tight end Darren Waller, a common theme for the Cincinnati defense this season. The Bengals only had ten more yards than Vegas on the day, but took advantage of opportunity and dominated time of possession. The FiveThirtyEight model gives Vegas a 54 percent chance to make the playoffs. If the Raiders can clinch a wild card spot, this seems like an ideal match up for Cincinnati to take in the first round, especially at home.
Los Angeles Chargers
Like Vegas, the Chargers are also facing a win and in situation. With a loss, the Chargers would be eliminated from playoff contention. Earlier this season the Chargers beat the Bengals 41-22 in Cincinnati after a sloppy game from the Bengals, giving up four turnovers and six sacks. The Chargers average two sacks a game on the year, and despite their star Joey Bosa going out in the first quarter, they were able to be relentless when getting to the quarterback. In a game with so many silly mistakes, and points handed over by the offense for Cincinnati, it is hard to know exactly how they would fare in a rematch.
The Bengals defense was able to get to Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert for four sacks, and held them to just 79 yards rushing. The Bengals and Chargers combined for seven turnovers in this game, making for a potential wild, wild card game if the matchup were to happen.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have already clinched a playoff berth, but still have a shot at winning their division with some help. They would need the Buffalo Bills to lose in Week 18 to the Jets, and with a win of their own against Miami, they would win their division. The FiveThirtyEight model only gives New England a 5 percent chance to win their division, however. If New England is a wild card, it is likely they will play the Bengals in the wild card round of the playoffs. ESPN’s FPI views this as the most likely wild card matchup for both the Patriots and Bengals, at a 41 percent chance of happening.
The Patriots this year have had an underrated running game to back up rookie quarterback Mac Jones as Damien Harris is pro football focuses number one rated running back on the season going into this week. The Bengals currently sit at 20th in the league in total defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders, while New England ranks 2nd. This metric gives the Bengals an above average passing game, and a below average rushing attack. Football Outsiders DVOA actually gives the Patriots the upper hand in both categories. On the year New England averages 126.1 rushing yards per game, which is above average, and allows 119.3 rushing yards per game which is in the bottom half of the league.
The Bengals stout run defense is top ten, only allowing 96.1 yards per game on the ground. This matchup would pit the Bengals up against one of the best coaches in NFL history in Bill Belichick. He has an amazing trackrecord in the playoffs, albeit with Tom Brady leading the helm. Belichick is known for being able to confuse young quarterbacks with his defensive schemes but if this potential matchup were to happen, something tells me Burrow would be up for the challenge.