AFC North 2012: How the Cincinnati Bengals Can Clinch the AFC North Division

Alex PetermanCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:   Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals hands the ball off to  BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2012 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have been fighting for their playoff lives since their win against the New York Giants that sparked a four-game winning streak in Week 10. 

At the time of the Bengals’ reemergence into the playoff picture, the Baltimore Ravens were establishing themselves as one of the premier teams in the NFL, repeatedly putting up big numbers on the scoreboard and adding to their win column.

However, the tides have turned as the season reaches the final two weeks. The Bengals are still winning games, having posted a 5-1 record since their loss against Denver. However, the Ravens have hit a proverbial wall, also known as the famous end-of-the-season slump.

After barely coming back against the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore has now lost three straight games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, and now the Denver Broncos this week.

The last of which was a 34-17 embarrassment at home.

The Bengals have had their eyes on the second Wild Card playoff spot for some weeks. However, Baltimore’s recent slump has Cincinnati’s mouth watering just a bit, as they could be tasting the possibility of an AFC North crown now essentially up for grabs.

Or at least the most it has been since the start of the season.

The game next week between the Bengals and Steelers at Heinz Field will ultimately determine the winner of the No. 6 spot in the AFC Wild Card picture. That much is true, depending on tiebreakers that come into account at the end of the season.

Now the Wild Card may be being pushed aside for favor of the division.

The Bengals sit at 8-6 after their win over the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night. The Ravens have a 9-5 record after today’s loss. The problem with the tiebreakers in the division for Cincinnati is that the Ravens own all of them. The only way that the Bengals can actually win the division is for them to win their next two games.

The last being a game against their Baltimore rival.

They would also need the Ravens to lose their game next week against the New York Giants.

The Giants have lost two straight games against the Redskins and Falcons now, which doesn’t say much for the momentum they’ll be carrying into next weeks’ game against Baltimore. Both teams will be playing to keep their division titles alive, and it will likely come downs to mistakes.

That being said, both teams haven’t really been able to stay away from the slip-ups that have haunted their respective losing streaks. That will make for quite the game next week.

Cincinnati will certainly be rooting for the away team next week. If the Giants win, and the Bengals take care of business in Pittsburgh, then the match-up between the Bengals and Ravens in week 17 will have more implications to the playoffs than many thought possible just three weeks ago.

As in, AFC North division implications.