NFL playoff picture 2014: Bengals have a lot on the line Monday night
Cincinnati’s game against Denver will have major ramifications on the AFC postseason race.
Historically, late-season Monday Night Football matchups have been uninteresting. The league sets the schedule before the season, which means they’re trying to pick what the best games will be in December while it’s still April. That’s why Week 16′s particular matchup — the 11-3 Denver Broncos at the 9-4-1 Cincinnati Bengals — is so damn refreshing.
Massive AFC postseason implications hang over Cincinnati on Monday night. The Bengals, whose path is still wildly uncertain with two games remaining, have the most on the line — in two weeks, they could either be sitting at home because they have a first-round bye or sitting at home because they missed the playoffs. The Broncos have already clinched their spot in the playoffs, but are still trying to lock down a first-round bye and maybe even steal the No. 1 seed.
Let’s take a look at the scenarios:
If the Bengals win
A Denver loss gives the Patriots the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It also leaves the door cracked for Cincinnati to steal a first-round bye from the Broncos — a Broncos loss or tie in Week 17 coupled with another Bengals win would make Cincy the No. 2 seed.
Either way, a win on Monday night clinches a playoff spot for the Bengals.
If the Broncos win
Denver clinches a first-round bye with a Monday night victory. It also keeps them in the running for the AFC’s No. 1 seed — assuming the Broncos beat the Raiders in Week 17, a New England loss or tie would give Denver home field advantage.
A Bengals loss opens up a scenario in which they could potentially miss the playoffs. If the Steelers beat them in Week 17, the AFC North goes to Pittsburgh. If that happens and either the Chargers or Ravens win, the Bengals would drop out of the wild card.
The AFC North race won’t be affected
Since the Bengals and Steelers play each other in Week 17, Monday night actually plays almost no role in the division race. Even if Cincinnati loses, they’ll still clinch the division with a win next week. Likewise, even if Cincinnati wins on Monday, the Steelers still take the division with a win next week.
Who you should root for
Let’s make this easier:
Broncos fans, root for yourselves. (Duh.)
Bengals fans, root for yourselves. (Duh.)
Patriots fans, root for Cincinnati.
Ravens fans, root for Denver.
Chargers fans, root for Denver.
Steelers fans, it doesn’t really matter, but root against Cincinnati because you hate them.