Maybe the next time Hine Ward is in Baltimore, they’ll wave at him with more than one finger.
Ward’s former team, the Steelers, upended the Bengals on Sunday night. The Cincinnati loss opens the door for the Ravens to swipe the AFC North.
The path is simple. If the 7-6 Ravens win out (at Lions, vs. Patriots, at Bengals), they’ll be 10-6. A Baltimore victory in Week 17 would put the 9-5 Bengals at 10-6 at best, giving the Ravens the division crown via the head-to-head sweep by Baltimore.
The Ravens can actually lose one of the next two games, if the Bengals lose to the Vikings in Cincinnati on Sunday.
The Bengals haven’t lost at home this season, so a loss to the Vikings could be a long shot. Then again, the Vikings in recent weeks have tied the 7-6-1 Packers, beaten the 8-6 Bears, gave the Ravens all they could handle in Baltimore, and ended the five-game winning streak of the 8-6 Eagles.
If the Bengals squander the AFC North title, the Bengals also would have to worry about missing the playoffs entirely. If they finish with the same record as the 8-6 Dolphins, Miami’s overtime win over the Bengals from Halloween night would give the Dolphins the No. 6 seed.
The Dolphins, who have won five of their last seven games, finish against the Bills in Buffalo and the Jets at home.
So on a day that started with the Patriots having a shot at the No. 1 seed and ended with the Bengals having a chance to leapfrog the Pats into the No. 2 seed, the Bengals now have to worry about not making it to the postseason at all.