Although the Cincinnati Bengals have the same record at the bye week as they did last year, their path to the Super Bowl looks drastically different. The biggest reason why is the Baltimore Ravens are 6-3 and hold every tie-breaker edge imaginable over the Bengals.

Cincinnati has a 2-3 losing record within the conference and is 0-3 within the division. Simply put, their losses have come in the worst spots possible. The best they aspire to is a .500 mark in the AFC North.

That means even if the Bengals get revenge over the Ravens when they meet again for the regular season finale in Week 18, chances are it won’t be to defend their divisional title. The oddsmakers know this, too. Consider the odds to win the division:

  1. Ravens, -600
  2. Bengals, +550

Maybe it’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s important to contextualize where Cincinnati stands at the break.

Their most likely way to get into the playoffs will be via a Wild Card berth. And even then, make no mistake about it. It’s FAR from a given that they’ll be playing in January. Some people consider it an absolute fact that Joe Burrow will be throwing passes in the postseason and inspiring thoughts of putting together a surprising run once more.

However, the Bengals have no room for error.

While the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills remain the Goliaths (assuming he could average over 6 yards per play) of the AFC, it’s a competitive race for those Wild Card spots.

In the tweet below, Joe Goodberry perfectly illustrates that by comparing the Bengals’ win total projection to other non-division-leading playoff contenders.

Each of those four teams listed above has a winning record in the conference.

All of that being said, the Bengals could have the inside track here. According to Football Outsiderstheir future schedule is the easiest in the NFL based on each team’s efficiency (DVOA).

Plus, while the Jets and Patriots have legit defenses capable of stopping anybody, they lack the balance Cincinnati has. Their offenses rank 19th and 25th in DVOA respectively. That should cost them later in the season against tougher opponents.

The Bengals should be able to lock down one of those final playoff berths but the margin for error is as small as Al Pacino described it on Any Given Sunday. From here on to the end of the season, every single game is a must-win showdown.

Featured image via Sam Greene / USA TODAY NETWORK

Joe Mixon is a top ___ RB in the NFL