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NFL playoff picture: Who to root for in Week 15 if you are a Cincinnati Bengals fan

Week 15 is here and the Cincinnati Bengals are hanging around in a six-way tie for the final two wild card berths in the AFC playoff picture. Who should Bengals fans root for to help their chances?

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor celebrates a touchdown with Jake Browning #6 during the second half of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Stadium on December 04, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have found some life in spite of losing quarterback Joe Burrow to a season-ending injury. Jake Browning replaced him in the starting lineup and has played strong football over the past two weeks. The Bengals have beaten the Jaguars and Colts to improve to 7-6 and climb back into the playoff race.

Cincinnati enters Week 15 in tenth place overall. They’re tied with five other teams, but only the Bills are behind them in the tiebreaker column. They trail the Steelers due to Pittsburgh winning the first of two games against them, and the Colts, Texans, and Broncos because of conference record.

This weekend, the Bengals host the Vikings on Saturday and are field-goal favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook. The game likely won’t impact necessary tiebreakers, but Cincinnati has to keep on winning if they want to improve their playoff chances. But regardless of the result, they’ll need help to make the playoffs. Here’s a look at key games this weekend and who Bengals fans should be rooting for on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday update: The Bengals won a wild one over the Vikings in overtime. Minnesota led by two touchdowns in the third quarter, but managed to blow it. Tee Higgins hauled in two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including one of the best of the year with 39 seconds left to force overtime. Cincinnati won in OT and improved to 8-6. They climbed into sixth place with the win but will slip to seventh at best depending on the Colts-Steelers outcome as both teams have the tiebreaker edge on Cincinnati for now (PIT H2H, IND conference record).

Ravens vs. Jaguars

Result: The Ravens beat the Jaguars 23-7. The Bengals have been eliminated from the AFC North title race.

The Bengals are long shots in the AFC North. They are three games back with four games remaining and Baltimore swept the season series. If the Ravens win or the Bengals lose, Cincinnati is eliminated from division title contention.

Baltimore is a 3.5-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Broncos vs. Lions

Result: The Lions crushed the Broncos 42-17 to drop Denver to 7-7 in the playoff race. Denver drop a full game back of the Bengals.

Cincinnati will not face Denver this season, so if they remain tied, it will come down to other tiebreakers. Detroit would only influence the strength of schedule-type tiebreakers, so Bengals fans will want to root for the Lions.

Detroit is a 4.5-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Steelers vs. Colts

Result: The Colts beat the Steelers 30-13. With the loss, Pittsburgh drops a game back of the Bengals in the AFC North and wild card standings. The Bengals hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts, so they slot ahead of them in the playoff standings.

This Saturday's matchup has significant rooting interests for Cincinnati. If the Bengals beat the Vikings, they’ll move a game ahead of the loser of this game. The Bengals thumped the Colts last week, so they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. They lost to the Steelers the week before, which gives Pittsburgh a temporary hold on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

For any divisional ties, the division record is the tiebreaker following head-to-head. Pittsburgh is 3-1 in divisional play while Cincinnati is 0-4. Since the Bengals can’t even that one up, they’ll trail Pittsburgh in the tiebreaker if they beat the Steelers next week but finish in a tie at the end of the season. If the Colts and Bengals both win in Week 15, the Steelers drop a game back of the Bengals, which moves the Bengals above the Colts in the tiebreaker.

Indianapolis is a 1.5-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Texans vs. Titans

Result: The Texans and Titans went down to the wire and Houston escaped with an overtime win. Houston moves back into a tie with the Bengals and Colts, but remains back because Indianapolis has the divisional tiebreaker.

The Texans will be without QB C.J. Stroud in Week 15 vs. the Titans with a concussion. So Case Keenum will start at QB for the Texans, who will also be without WR Nico Collins. The Titans are in a good spot to pull off the “upset” with Stroud and Collins sidelined. But this game is also very big for the Texans in the playoff picture. Either way, a Houston loss is what Cincy fans need to be rooting for on Sunday.

Tennessee is a 3-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook

Cowboys vs. Bills

Result: The Bills won 31-10 over the Cowboys to go 8-6. The Bengals win over the Vikings to go 8-6 also, keeps them ahead of the Bills due to their head-to-head tiebreaker.

Cincinnati has beat Buffalo in Week 9, so they’ve locked down the tiebreaker. The Bengals have some tough games remaining, including Week 17 on the road in Kansas City, so removing other potential competitors for a wild card berth means rooting for Dallas on Sunday.

Buffalo is a two-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Bears vs. Browns

Result: The Browns escaped with a last second win over the Bears. Cleveland improves to 9-5 and remains a game up on Cincinnati.

Cleveland is a game up on Cincinnati and the rest of the 7-6 teams. The Browns beat the Bengals in Week 1 and the two teams meet again in Week 18. Similar to the Steelers, the Browns would have the division record tiebreaker edge, so Cincy fans should root for the Browns to lose as much as possible.

Cleveland is a field goal favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.