The Bengals clinched a second consecutive appearance in the playoffs Sunday with a win at Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati will be the six seed in the playoffs no matter the outcome of the regular season finale at Paul Brown Stadium against Baltimore, but the Bengals won't know their opponent until after the game.
The Bengals cannot affect their number 6 AFC playoff seeding with the result of the Baltimore game. As the No. 6 seed, Cincinnati will play Jan. 5 or 6 on the road against the number 3 seed. Though Cincinnati could tie Indianapolis at 10-6 for the AFC's best record among non-division champs, the Colts would win a tiebreaker based on record in common games (4-1 to Cincinnati's 3-2).
But four teams, including Baltimore, are possible holders of the number 3 seed (the Bengals first round opponent):
* Baltimore (10-5) will create a playoff rematch against the Bengals with a win at Paul Brown Stadium this week and a home loss by New England (11-4) against Miami. The Ravens and Patriots would share the AFC's third-best record at 11-5, and a head-to-head victory on Sept. 23 puts the tiebreaker in Baltimore's favor. If the Ravens lose or tie, or New England wins or ties, Baltimore is the No. 4 seed and will host locked-in fifth seed Indianapolis in the Wild Card round.
* New England (11-4) is in the No. 3 spot through Week 16. To keep the No. 3 spot over Baltimore, the Patriots need a win or tie vs. Miami, or a Ravens loss or tie against the Bengals. But if the Patriots beat Miami, and if Houston (12-3) and/or Denver (12-3) loses, the Patriots will have a tiebreaker shot at the No. 2 or even No. 1 seed. The Bengals and Patriots have never met in postseason. In the last Bengals visit to New England, in the 2010 season opener, the Patriots won 38-24.
*Houston will be the No. 3 seed -- and host Cincinnati in postseason for the second straight year -- with a loss at Indianapolis, combined with a win or tie by Denver (vs. Kansas City) and a New England win. The Texans would cede the best AFC record to Denver, and they would lose a tiebreaker for the No. 2 spot to New England, which defeated the Texans head-to-head on Dec. 10.
* Denver will be the No. 3 seed with a loss at Kansas City combined with a New England win vs. Miami. The Broncos and Patriots would both be 12-4, and New England would win a two-team tiebreaker on better AFC record (11-1 to 9-3). If Houston joined Denver and New England in a three-way tie at 12-4, Denver would still finish as No. 3, with New England at No. 1 and Houston at No. 2.
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