With a loss on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys, the Bengals ended their four-game winning streak. Although their chances of making the playoffs diminished with Dan Bailey’s 40-yard field goal as time expired, this loss couldn’t have come at a better time for Cincinnati.
However, chances are the Jets won’t seriously contend for that spot; especially because the last three years, two AFC North teams have been represented in the postseason. Two of those three years, the AFC North had three.
The Bengals had a Bye Week 8 and most of their transformation happened thereafter, so let’s start at Week 9.
Of those teams, the Bengals should have, should, or did beat the Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers and Eagles.
The Broncos, Giants, Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens are all teams with playoff potential. That being said, it wasn’t realistic that the Bengals win all of those games ending the season 12-4 with an eight-game win streak.
It was realistic, however, that the Bengals win three straight versus the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers. That means that the game on Thursday versus the Eagles is the last game that the Bengals have on their schedule that they should win.
Next, they were able to beat the Giants. This was a win against a stout opponent that has evaded the Bengals the last few years.
And yesterday they lost to the Cowboys.
That means that the Bengals have to beat the Eagles on Thursday, then they have to beat the Steelers Week 16 in Pittsburgh to have a shot. Currently, Pittsburgh holds the tie-breaker after leaving Cincinnati with a 24-17 win Week 7.
Going into Week 9, the Steelers had the Giants, Chiefs, Ravens, Browns, Ravens again, Chargers, Cowboys, Bengals and Browns again Week 17.
The Steelers also beat the Giants and the Chiefs before losing to the Ravens at home. After that, they lost to the Browns in a surprising upset in Cleveland before beating the Ravens in Baltimore by three behind the leadership of Charlie Batch.
The Steelers followed up their stunning victory over the Ravens with an equally as stunning loss to the Chargers on Sunday. Yes, the same Chargers that lost to the Bengals last week and gave up a 4th-and-29 to the Ravens the week before that.
So in the last six games, the Bengals are 4-2 and the Steelers are 3-3. The Bengals have losses to the Cowboys and Broncos, and the Steelers have losses to the Browns, Ravens and Chargers: all AFC teams.
Remaining on the Bengals schedule are the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens. The Steelers have the Cowboys, Bengals and Browns.
In order for the Bengals to have any chance, they need to beat the Steelers head-to-head Week 16 in Pittsburgh. The Bengals will be well rested as they play on Thursday Week 15 against the Eagles, earning three extra days of rest.
Beyond that, the Bengals need to win against the Ravens in Week 17. If they don’t, they need the Steelers to lose to the Browns. If anything else happens, there is a plethora of options and outcomes that could happen.
The bottom line is, the Bengals need to suck up this loss to the Cowboys. As Bengals QB Andy Dalton said following the loss, “I think it can be good for us to go out and play our best game on Thursday to get this taste out of our mouth.”