The Cincinnati Bengals started the year off on a slower note, which has become a trend for this franchise in the last few years. Joe Burrow was recovering from a preseason injury, and the Bengals opened at 1-3.
Things turned around quickly, though, as they notched wins over the 49ers on the road and the Bills and Seahawks at home. They haven’t fared particularly well in divisional play this season. It looked like the year was all but over when Joe Burrow sustained a season-ending injury, but backup Jake Browning has been holding things together and is now 2-1 as a starter with a Wild Card bid in his sights.
We break down the Bengals’ chances to make the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals current odds
The Bengals are on a roll after winning two games in a row, and they meet the Vikings and Steelers at the right time. Both of these games are winnable, even in the absence of Joe Burrow, as both are currently starting backups (the Vikings even moved to their third string last week). Cincinnati wins at home over the Vikings and ekes out a close on in Pittsburgh.
However, things will probably take a turn from there. Beating the Chiefs will be a challenge without Burrow, especially on the road, and the Chiefs win in Week 17. The Browns will also likely have their quarterback issues somewhat more sorted by the time Week 18 rolls around, and their defense should do the rest for them. The Bengals go 2-2 in the final stretch.
Final record prediction: 9-8
Current AFC playoff standings
- Baltimore Ravens 10-3
- Miami Dolphins 9-4
- Kansas City Chiefs 8-5
- Jacksonville Jaguars 8-5
- Cleveland Browns 8-5
- Pittsburgh Steelers 7-6
- Indianapolis Colts 7-6
- Houston Texans 7-6
- Denver Broncos 7-6
- Cincinnati Bengals 7-6
- Buffalo Bills 7-6
Using ESPN’s playoff predictor, if the Bengals beat the Vikings and the Steelers lose to the Colts in Week 15, the Bengals are projected to get a No. 6 seed. However, if the Steelers win, the Bengals are projected to get a No. 7 seed in the AFC. If either Denver or Houston wins, the Bengals are not projected to earn a Wild Card bid. The six-game 7-6 tiebreaker will likely begin to work itself out in the coming weeks.
It will be close, but I think the Bengals sneak in at No. 7 in the AFC. They have a head-to-head win over a fairly mediocre Colts team and a solid Bills team, and many of their competitors are dealing with quarterback issues and other injuries. If Jake Browning can keep his cool and continue to get through these games, Cincinnati will get into the playoffs by a hair.