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Week 17 AFC North Playoff Picture

For the AFC North, Week 17 games will solidify playoff scenarios for three of four teams. Sorry Cleveland Browns (4-11), once again you’re not invited to the postseason party.

The Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) will breathe the “easiest” of the three teams on Sunday as they have clinched the division title but they’ll still be fighting for a high playoff seed. For now, they sit as the third AFC seed but a second seed is not impossible. To achieve this, they’ll need a win against the Baltimore Ravens (8-7) and a loss from the New England Patriots (11-4).

But they have some competition seeking the No. 2 seed: the Indianapolis Colts (10-5). They’ll need to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) and hope both the Patriots and the Bengals lose.

Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton

Fortunately for the Bengals, they’ll host the Ravens this weekend and history says it could be a high-scoring game for them. In their last four home games, they have scored 40-plus points, according to National Football Post. This has included romps against the Cleveland Browns, the Indianapolis Colts, the Minnesota Vikings (4-10) and the New York Jets (7-8).

In only only game this season did the Bengals score under 27 points on the home field.

This week, they could be without two key players thanks to injuries: linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and tight end Tyler Eifert (stinger). Burfict leads the league in tackles (157) and will be missed on Sunday if he doesn’t return to the lineup.

But the Bengals will persevere and get the home win (-5.5, 44.5 o/u). For the 2014 Super Bowl, they sit at 15/1 to win it.

In other AFC North news…

For this week’s game, the Ravens will need to put behind last week’s 41-7 loss to the Patriots behind them. It represented the team’s worst loss since 1997 and the greatest one ever on their home field. Their eyes are still on the prize (a sixth consecutive playoff trip) and for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, he’s only known playing in January since joining the Ravens in 2008.

Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco

He said of the team’s previous playoff runs via SI.com, “I don’t think we’ve ever needed some help and a win. We’ve always kind of controlled our own destiny. We’ve had to win in the last game of the season against the Bengals to get ourselves into the playoffs. We’ve had to win to win the division, I think, once. But we’ve never had to rely on anything else.”

But this year will be different as the Ravens have to win on Sunday. Unfortunately playing on the road hasn’t been a strength for them this season with their 2-5 record. They’ve also lost their last three of four games in Cincinnati.

In addition, they’ll also need either the Miami Dolphins (8-7) or the San Diego Chargers (8-7) to lose. The Dolphins will host the Jets and get the win (-7, 41 o/u). For the Jets, who won last week against the Cleveland Browns, are yet to win two consecutive games this season.

As for the Chargers, also playing on their home field, they will go up against the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) and also get a win (-11.5, 45 o/u) as the Chiefs don’t really have anything to play for; their starters may also take a much-needed rest.

Another scenario for the Ravens includes winning the team tiebreaker from Miami (1-0 against them this season) or San Diego (thanks to a better record in the AFC). But if it goes to a three-way tiebreaker, that’s a dealbreaker as Miami has the better conference record.

And for the final AFC North team in the hunt, the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8), they will play the Browns and must win. Vegas sees that as a done deal at -7.5, 43.5 o/u.

But they’ll also need Jets, Bengals and Chiefs wins. Without this scenario, the Steelers will be done for the season on Sunday.





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