The Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) control their own 2012 playoff destiny after knocking off the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday Night Football, 34-13, but they could use some help to get comfortable in the playoff picture.
Cincinnati is currently on the short end of the tiebreaker with Pittsburgh, having lost to the Steelers in Week 7. If the Bengals can defeat Pittsburgh in Week 16, however, they would gain the seeding advantage by way of a better record than the Steelers.
Of course, they would have a better post-Week 15 record than Pittsburgh if the Dallas Cowboys beat the Steelers at home.
The AFC North-leading Ravens have not locked up the division crown. With a Week 17 date remaining against the Bengals, Baltimore has to win one more game to clinch the AFC North. It split games with the Steelers and punished the Bengals in Week 1, meaning that it could do no worse than a season-series split with Cincinnati.
Baltimore already has four division wins, which would keep the Bengals from benefiting from finishing with an identical record as the Ravens. Because Cincinnati already has six losses, Baltimore would have to finish 9-7 for the Bengals to have a chance to take the division.
In order for that to happen, Baltimore must lose to the Denver Broncos at home.
The only two divisional opponents in the NFL that have not yet met this season are the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts of the AFC South. That’s important to Cincinnati because Indianapolis is currently 1.5 games ahead of the Bengals in the standings.
Tiebreaking procedures for a wild-card spot would have to go pretty deep between the Colts and Bengals if Indianapolis drops both remaining games against the Texans and the Bengals win out. Cincinnati and Indianapolis didn’t play head-to-head, so they would own the same 7-5 conference record (assuming the Colts beat the Kansas City Chiefs at home in Week 16) and they have not played four common opponents.
The procedures go into strength of victory after that, where the Bengals hold the advantage at a glance.
If both teams finish 10-6, Indianapolis will have beaten only one team in the current playoff picture while Cincinnati will have beaten four.
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