The NFL is entering the final week of the regular season. After a rollercoaster year, there are still three teams alive in the AFC playoff hunt from the AFC North. With the NFL electing to cancel Week 17’s Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game, the Bengals clinched the AFC North and a top-four seed heading into the playoffs.
AFC North Standings
- Cincinnati Bengals 11-4
- Baltimore Ravens 10-6
- Pittsburgh Steelers 8-8
- Cleveland Browns 7-9 (Eliminated)
Update — If the Ravens and Bengals are to play in the Wild Card round, the NFL has approved a coin toss to decide where the game will be played. The NFL also mentioned a neutral site AFC Championship game depending on how the playoffs go.
While Cincinnati has locked down the division, the canceled game did take the team out of the running for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They can still earn the No. 2 seed, but it would come down to a strength of victory tiebreaker between the Bengals and the Bills, provided Cincinnati wins in Week 18 and Buffalo loses.
The Ravens will face the Bengals in Week 18. With a win, they can move up to the No. 5 seed if the Los Angeles Chargers lose. With a loss, or a Chargers win, Baltimore will remain the No. 6 seed and face the eventual No. 3 seed.
While Baltimore can’t win the division, the NFL has acknowledged something that could happen in Week 18. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, they will have beaten them twice but not have a chance to win the division because Cincinnati played one less game. The league has announced that on Friday it will vote on criteria for the AFC Playoffs to reflect that. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, and if those two teams would play in the Wild Card round, the site of the game would be determined by a coin toss. If the Bengals win the game or if the two teams are not scheduled to play one another in the Wild Card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.
The Steelers still have a path to the playoffs, but they do not control their own destiny. There is just one Wild Card spot remaining, and there are four possible teams that could earn it. Pittsburgh must win or tie against the Browns to have a chance. They would then also need a Miami Dolphins loss to the New York Jets and a New England Patriots loss to the Bills.