It took 16 weeks, but someone finally put some distance between themselves and the rest of the field in the AFC North division. By virtue of Sunday’s 41-21 win over the Ravens, the Bengals now have a hold on first place in the NFL’s tightest division with two weeks left in the regular season. But Cincinnati still has work to do if they are going to complete the task of winning the North for the first time since 2015.
The Bengals are the front-runner, but each of the division’s four teams still has a path toward a division title. Cincinnati controls its own destiny, while the Ravens, Steelers and Browns will have to win and rely on outside help if they are going to capture the North. Each team is also still in position to capture a playoff berth, but given where the Colts, Patriots, Chargers, Raiders and Dolphins currently are in the standings, a division will be the clearest path to the playoffs for the AFC North’s four teams.
Let’s take a look at how each AFC North team can capture the division during the regular season’s final two weeks, along with the scenario that we most expect will play out.
Record: 9-6 (4-1 in the AFC North)
Current seed in AFC standings: 3rd
Remaining games: vs. Kansas City, at Cleveland
AFC North division scenarios:
Defeat Kansas City on Sunday, or
Defeat Cleveland in Week 18, or
One loss each by Ravens, Steelers, and Browns (Week 17 vs. Steelers)
Most likely scenario:
The Bengals are certainly capable of upsetting the Chiefs, but the likelier bet is that Cincinnati will need to beat the Browns in Week 18 in order to clinch the North. The Bengals may not even have to win another game if the Browns lose to the Steelers on Monday, the Ravens lose at home to the Rams on Sunday and the Steelers fall in Baltimore in Week 18. Regardless, if appears that a win in Cleveland will be the Bengals’ best chance at winning the franchise’s first…