With the help of a New England Patriots loss earlier, the Cincinnati Bengals had a golden chance to jump into the no. 2 seed for the AFC Playoffs. The Bengals were on the road against a divisional opponent, in prime time, and in a true playoff-like test. The Bengals, who trailed the Pittsburgh Steelers the entire way Sunday night, failed that test.
Pittsburgh jumped out to a 21-point lead in the opening quarter and never looked back. Special teams were the key as the Bengals faltered on several plays that set up the Steelers. The outcome was a missed opportunity for the Bengals. Cincinnati will now turn their attention to Monday night to see if they can maintain their two-game lead within the division.
With a Baltimore Ravens win on Monday night, the Ravens will pull to within one game of the Bengals with a head-to-head matchup still remaining.
The Bengals also have to keep an eye out on the Indianapolis Colts to also hold onto the no. 3 seed in the playoff picture, should they end up winning the AFC North. The Bengals were one victory away from really controlling their own destiny, but they are now left to doing a bit more scoreboard watching.
If Cincinnati does miss out on a first-round bye, the no. 3 seed will be essential to secure. That slot will avoid the 11-win Kansas City Chiefs and also a possible trip out to west to face the Denver Broncos. Who-Dey Bengals? They are a team with a first-round bye not quite in hand.
Nick Schaeflein is a sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.