The Cincinnati Bengals franchise has made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons just once in the modern era and that was 30 years ago. Entering Week 15 of this season, Cincinnati controls its own destiny in returning to the postseason for the second year in a row and a shot at the franchise’s third Super Bowl trip.

The Bengals reached their first Super Bowl in the 1981 season, SB XVI at the Pontiac Silverdome outside of Detroit against the San Francisco 49ers. It was the first Super Bowl held in a “cold-weather” city in the North. The 49ers, behind Joe Montana, jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and never trailed in winning 26-21. The Bengals actually outgained San Francisco 356-275, becoming the first team in Super Bowl history to lose when gaining more yards. Montana was named the MVP, rushing and passing for a score in winning his first title. The young 49ers were one-point favorites – the smallest spread in Super Bowl history – and the total was 48.

Seven years later in Super Bowl XXIII at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, the 49ers and Bengals squared off again. This time, Montana had one of the signature moments of his Hall of Fame career. With the score tied at 13-13, Cincinnati took a 16-13 lead on Jim Breech’s 40-yard field goal with 3:20 remaining. However Montana marched the 49ers down the field, starting from their eight-yard line. The 11-play drive was capped by Montana’s 10-yard scoring pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining. Fellow Niners receiver Jerry Rice was named the game’s MVP, catching 11 balls for a Super Bowl-record 215 yards and a touchdown. San Francisco was a seven-point favorite with the total at 47.5

The Bengals haven’t reached the AFC Championship Game since that season. They were beaten in the divisional round in the 1990 playoffs at the Los Angeles Raiders, as well as in the wild-card round in 2005 (at home versus Pittsburgh) and 2009 (at home against the New York Jets).

Under second-round rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, not much was expected of the 2011 Bengals with starting QB Carson Palmer refusing to play for the team – he would be traded to the Oakland Raiders during the year. With that being said, Dalton had a Rookie of the Year-caliber season and the Bengals shocked many by going 9-7 and winning the AFC’s final wild-card spot. However, Cincinnati was a four-point underdog in the playoffs at Houston and beaten 31-10.

At 7-6 (6-6-1 ATS) entering Week 15 of this season, the Bengals will clinch the final AFC wild-card spot with wins in their final three games: at Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh and home against Baltimore. A loss to the Steelers would all but eliminate Cincinnati. Pittsburgh already holds the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a 24-17 win over the visiting Bengals on October 21. The Bengals are now 0-6 against the AFC North-rival Steelers and Ravens over the last two seasons. It’s possible, however, that Baltimore will have nothing to play for in the teams’ Week 17 matchup.

Cincinnati is 75/1 to win Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans and 33/1 to win the AFC Championship Game.