Week 16 NFL playoff picture: Bengals rise to the top of the AFC North

NFL: DEC 19 Bengals at Broncos
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The Bengals moved to the top of the AFC North by beating the Broncos on Sunday, but their stay at the top of the division was almost a short one.

If the Browns had won against the Raiders on Monday, they would have swapped spots with the Bengals and that would have meant Cincinnati was on the outside looking in with three games left to play. After a Nick Mullens touchdown pass and a Derek Carr interception late in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Browns would pull out a win but the Raiders were able to drive for a game-winning field goal.

That helps Las Vegas stay in the playoff hunt and it means the Bengals will remain in first place for at least a little while longer. They face the Ravens in Week 16 and a loss will put Baltimore back in the driver’s seat.

Here’s how the whole AFC playoff picture shapes up with Week 15 in the books:

1. Chiefs (10-4) Last Thursday’s win over the Chargers provided them with breathing room in the AFC West and Sunday’s results have them on a path to the top seed.

2. Patriots (9-5) Saturday’s stumble against the Colts leaves them without much of a cushion heading into this week’s matchup with the Bills.

3. Titans (9-5) Given the way things are trending, they’ve got to be happy to have two wins against the Colts in the bank.

4. Bengals (8-6) They’ve already swept the Steelers and sweeping the Ravens will put them on the edge of winning the division.

5. Colts (8-6) After watching the Lions roll over the Cardinals on Sunday, the Colts should like their chances of staying hot when they get to Arizona on Christmas weekend.

6. Chargers (8-6) They are dealing with some COVID issues to start the week, so having Houston on the schedule eases some anxiety.

7. Bills (8-6) The final two games of the season look winnable, but a loss to the Patriots would leave them needing help from others.

8. Ravens (8-6) Three straight losses by a combined four points have dropped them out of the mix and four in a row would leave them fighting an uphill battle.

9. Steelers (7-6-1) Beating the Titans keeps the lights on and beating the Chiefs this weekend would throw another wrench into the conference.

10. Raiders (7-7) Monday’s win leaves them in the race and this week’s game against the Broncos will likely be a playoff eliminator for the loser.

11. Dolphins (7-7) The winning streak is now at six games and they can’t afford to stop now.

12. Browns (7-7) Winning with a depleted roster on Monday would have been quite a feat and there won’t be much hope if they can’t get the job done at Lambeau Field on Christmas.

13. Broncos (7-7) Teddy Bridgewater is considered highly unlikely to play this week and Denver’s playoff chances don’t look much better with AFC West games the next three weeks.


14. Jets (3-10) The two teams at the top of the 2020 draft will play for positioning at the top of the 2021 draft when the Jaguars visit this weekend.

15. Texans (3-10) If only they could play Jacksonville every week.

16. Jaguars (2-12) Urban Meyer’s departure didn’t inspire a win in Week 15.

8 responses to “Week 16 NFL playoff picture: Bengals rise to the top of the AFC North

  1. Yeah the Browns would be in first in the north but How would the Bengals have “swapped” spots with the Browns when they still would be 8-6 and ahead of the Steelers and Ravens?

  2. Fun fact: you could have taken out and paid an entire 30 year mortgage since the last time the Bengals won a playoff game hahahahaha

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