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Senior NFL Columnist

NFL Power Rankings: Bengals control destiny, but can they beat Broncos?

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Everybody hates ties in the NFL, right?

The Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers both might come to love their tie from earlier this season.

It could be what gets them in the playoffs.

The Bengals, at 9-4-1, could win their last two and win the AFC North. But if they lose both, and the Chiefs, Chargers and Bills all lose one, they would still be in the playoffs because of that tie.

Carolina, which is second in the NFC South with a 5-8-1 record, can win its last two games and win the division if the Saints, who are in first with a 6-8 record, lose one. That tie would be the difference.

The Bengals, coming off an impressive 30-0 shutout victory over the Browns, are up to the No. 9 spot in my Power Rankings. They close the season with a home game Monday night against the Broncos and a road game at Pittsburgh, a brutal closing stretch.

Carolina, way down the rankings in the No. 24 spot, closes with games at home vs. Cleveland and at Atlanta. If things work out for them, the tie will get them a home playoff game.

We hate ties. But don't tell that to people in Cincinnati and Carolina. It sure beats the heck out of a loss.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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