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NFL playoff picture: Who to root for in Week 16 if you are a Cincinnati Bengals fan

Week 16 is here and the Cincinnati Bengals are firmly in the thick of the wild card race for the 2024 NFL Playoffs. Who should Bengals fans root for to help their chances?

Jake Browning #6 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after beating the Minnesota Vikings 27-24 in overtime at Paycor Stadium on December 16, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals came back to beat the Vikings in Week 15 and with the Steelers loss to the Colts, have climbed into sixth place in the AFC standings. The Bengals cannot win the AFC North, but they can control their fate the rest of the way for a wild card berth.

Cincinnati is 8-6 and heads into Week 16 and is tied with the Colts, Texans, and Bills in the wild card race. The Jaguars are also 8-6, but hold the AFC South lead over the Colts. Cincinnati has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Buffalo and Indianapolis, and also have it over Jacksonville if the Jaguars slip further. The Bengals did lose to the Texans, but remain ahead of them because Houston drops due to their divisional tiebreaker deficit to Indianapolis.

The Bengals travel to face the 7-7 Steelers on Saturday in Week 16. This is must-win for both teams. If the Bengals lose, they drop behind Pittsburgh due to being swept in the season series. If the Steelers lose, they drop two games back of Cincinnati, and likely the final wild card team (Colts, Texans, Bills) if any one of them wins.

Cincinnati cannot clinch a playoff berth yet, but they could use some help to move them a step closer to punching their ticket for the 2024 NFL Playoffs. If you’re a Bengals fan, you’ll have a few games you’ll be paying attention to.

Result: Steelers beat the Bengals 34-11 to go 8-7, while the Bengals also go to 8-7. This was a tough blow to the Bengals chances, as the Steelers leapfrog them in the playoff race and they’ll need the Colts, Texans and Bills to lose to keep some hope alive.

Browns vs. Texans

Result: The Texans lost to the Browns 36-22. The Colts, Texans, Steelers and Bengals all are 8-7 now, with the Colts taking the last playoff spot due to tiebreakers. The Broncos could also end up 8-7 if they beat the Patriots Sunday night. This is a mess, but the Bengals will need to win and have all these teams lose the next couple weeks.

This game is a massive one for the playoff picture. The Browns have the top wild card berth and a one game lead over the next two. The Texans are sitting just outside looking in due to various tiebreakers, but they also are tied in the AFC South. If Cleveland wins, Houston could drop a game back of Cincinnati. If the Texans win, the Bengals would have a chance to pull even with the Browns two weeks away from their second head-to-head matchup in Week 18.

If I’m a Bengals fan, I’m probably more rooting for teams like the Texans behind me to lose. If I’m a confidence Bengals fan, I’m rooting for the Browns to lose to open the door toward avoiding the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs. Either way it’s a win-win if the Bengals win on Saturday.

Houston is a 2.5-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Colts vs. Falcons

Result: The Colts were beaten 29-10 by the Falcons to fall to 8-7. Indianapolis owns the tiebreaker over the 8-7 Bengals, but this is the result they needed.

The Bengals have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts, but any additional breathing room would be welcome. This is a simple one in rooting for the Falcons.

Indianapolis is a two-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Bills vs. Chargers

Similar to the Colts, the Bengals have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills, but additional breathing room would be helpful for Cincinnati. Go Chargers.

Result: Buffalo beat the Chargers 24-22 on Saturday night.

Jaguars vs. Buccaneers

Result: The Buccaneers beat the Jaguars 30-12. The Jaguars still hold the tiebreaker for the AFC South lead and the Bengals slipped down to 10th in the playoff standings this week. This Jaguars loss likely won’t matter much, but it’s still a net positive since the Bengals hold the tiebreaker over them.

Cincinnati holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Jacksonville. The Jaguars remain in first place in the AFC South for now due to tiebreakers, but if they slip, it helps the Bengals get some additional breathing room.

The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, but that will move pending Trevor Lawrence’s game-day status.