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Moment(s) of truth for Bengals, plus a TV note

By Zac

The Bengals would like a sold out crowd and local TV coverage for their Dec. 30 season finale vs. the Ravens, and the team put the word out Monday that it’s “optimistic we can have a full house.”

What will be at stake in that game? That depends mostly on the Bengals.

At 9-5 with two games left, the Bengals trail the Ravens by a game in the AFC North Division and are one game up on the Steelers in the race for the AFC’s second wild card spot. The Bengals are at Pittsburgh this weekend in a game they need very badly.

There are still scenarios to sort through and important games to be played, none more important than the Bengals trying to win in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2009. If the Bengals lose to the Steelers and the Colts — who, at 10-4, currently hold the first wild card — win one of their last two, the Bengals would need to beat the Ravens and have the Browns win in Pittsburgh in the season finale to make the playoffs.

Baltimore at Cincinnati shapes up as a candidate to be flexed to Sunday Night Football given the potential of it being a division championship game, though it’s unlikely it would be chosen over a meaningful Cowboys-Redskins game. That’s just how things work in TV.

Week 17 games don’t have to be flexed until next Monday, the only exception to the NFL’s usual 12-day rule for such announcements and moves.

The Bengals have sold out five of seven home games this year. The team also announced Monday it’s sending invoices to season-ticket holders in advance of a possible home playoff game if the Bengals win out and the Ravens lose to the Giants next Sunday, the only scenario in which the Bengals can win the AFC North.

They can clinch a playoff spot if the Jets lose tonight in Tennessee, the Ravens lose to the Giants and the Bengals win in Pittsburgh.

The moments of truth are here, and the Bengals can play their way in by finally beating the divison rivals they’ve been chasing.

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