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Playoffs: Who will Bengals play in Saturday showdown?

Making sense of the tight AFC playoff race
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Posted at 2:36 AM, Jan 09, 2022

CINCINNATI — With one day left in the National Football League's regular season, there's still plenty to figure out in the AFC.

One of the few things already determined is the most important of all for Cincinnati fans: The Bengals are a lock for the playoffs. Who they will play in the Saturday game at Paul Brown Stadium remains to be seen.

Three of the four divisions in the AFC have already been locked-up, with the AFC East still up for grabs.

There are two wild card spots still open in the AFC. Five teams are still in the race for those positions.

DIVISION CHAMPS: (Automatic playoff bid)
AFC West: Chiefs (12-5)
AFC South: Titans (11-5)
AFC North: Bengals (10-6)
AFC East: Bills (10-6) or Patriots (10-6)

All five of the teams listed above have clinched playoff spots.

TEAMS STILL IN WILD CARD CONTENTION:
Colts (9-7)
Chargers (9-7)
Raiders (9-7)
Steelers (8-7-1)
Ravens (8-8)

Seven teams will make the playoffs in the AFC.

BENGALS WILL NOT GET 1-SEED...
The Bengals were knocked out of contention for the top seed, thanks to the Chiefs' win on Saturday night. This also means the Bengals will not get a first-round bye.

BENGALS WILL NOT BE LOWER THAN 4-SEED...
Since the Bengals are conference champions, they will not be seeded lower than fourth. That guarantees a home game in the first round.
Based on tiebreaker scenarios and potential outcomes for Sunday's games, the Bengals could end up seeded second, third, or fourth in the AFC.
If the Bengals beat the Browns on Sunday, that certainly helps their case... Realistically though, it will still depend on what happens in other games across the league.

Below are potential scenarios for each possible seed (All scenarios include a Bengals win)—
Bengals get the 2-Seed if: Bengals win, Bills win, Titans lose
Bengals get the 3-Seed if: Bengals win, Bills win, Titans win
Bengals get the 4-Seed if: Bengals win, Titans win, Patriots win, Bills lose

There are other possible scenarios. The above exercise simply proves that the Bengals could end up in any of the three spots, even with a win.

The Bengals will play a wild card team in the first round.

FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS, BY SEED:
2-seed vs. 7-seed
3-seed vs. 6-seed
4-seed vs. 5-seed

POTENTIAL FIRST-ROUND OPPONENTS FOR THE BENGALS:
Bills (10-6)
Patriots (10-6)
Colts (9-7)
Chargers (9-7)
Raiders (9-7)
Steelers (8-7-1)
Ravens (8-8)

If all of Sunday's games follow the Vegas betting lines, here's how the playoffs would be seeded in the AFC:
(1) Titans
(2) Chiefs
(3) Bills
(4) Bengals
(5) Patriots
(6) Colts
(7) Chargers