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Bengals try to inch closer to AFC North title, visit Steelers

(SportsNetwork.com) - Once is chance and twice is a coincidence but a third time? Well, that's a trend.

The Cincinnati Bengals will be chasing history in Western Pennsylvania on "Sunday Night Football."

The Bengals enter Week 15 with a two-game lead in the AFC North over Baltimore. A victory on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers coupled with a loss or tie by either the Ravens or Miami in Week 15, and Cincinnati will be en route to the postseason for the third straight year, something that has never happened before in the 46-year history of the franchise.

"We've just got to take care of our business and we'll be all right," Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said. "If we just win out we'll be OK. That's all we've got to do: win out and let everything else take care of itself."

A triumph by Cincy and a loss by Baltimore on Monday night in Detroit means the AFC North is the Bengals'.

"We know what we're capable of and we've got some momentum now," said Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, whose ascension to the starting position with the Bengals has coincided with their current run. "But we've got to keep it going."

Dalton accounted for four touchdowns -- three passing and one rushing -- to lead the Bengals to a 42-28 win over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday in a battle of division leaders.

Dalton threw for 275 yards on 24-of-35 passing and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 48 yards and two touchdowns as Cincinnati won its third game in a row and remained unbeaten at home.

A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Jermaine Gresham all had touchdown catches for the North frontrunners and Giovani Bernard led all rushers in the game with 99 yards on 12 carries.

"We had some long drives, some big plays and kept scoring points," said Dalton. "We needed to keep it going and the offense did a really good job today being balanced. We had some big runs and some big catches."

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has lost two straight and finds itself two games out of the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Steelers will need to win out from here and get plenty of help to make a run at the postseason.

"A lot has to happen, but you never know," said Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood. "You don't want to look back and say we didn't take care of what we had to do. We have to keep looking up and do what we know we can do."

Last week the Steelers nearly pulled off a miracle, but Antonio Brown barely stepped out of bounds on his way to the end zone on a final play that featured five laterals, as the Miami Dolphins escaped snowy Heinz Field with a 34-28 victory.

Charles Clay's gritty 12-yard touchdown catch with 2:53 remaining put the Dolphins in front and Caleb Sturgis added a 27-yard field goal for a six-point margin before the Steelers got one final chance.

They almost engineered a sequel to the famous Cal-Stanford band play from 1982.

Facing 4th-and-9 from his own 21 with just a few seconds remaining, Ben Roethlisberger's pass was caught up the right sideline and the laterals began. Roethlisberger wound up with the ball again and flung it toward Brown along the left sideline near the Pittsburgh 40. Brown eluded a couple of Miami defenders and took it all the way to the end zone for what would have been a stunning finish, but officials ruled he stepped on the sideline at the 13-yard line to end the game.

"I tried to make a play," said Brown. "I thought I had it clean."

"Not enough playmaking by us," added Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who had his own high-profile sideline problems on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore. "Obviously enough playmaking by them."

Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes for the Steelers, who have lost the two straight after a three-game winning streak.

The Steelers lead the all-time series with a dominating 52-34 edge but the Bengals won the first matchup this season, 20-10, when Bernard scored on a 7- yard TD run and a 27-yard TD catch from Dalton while the Bengals defense allowed just 44 rushing yards.

"We didn't win the first game against these guys," said Pittsburgh receiver Jerricho Cotchery. "We are going to be up for the challenge. Guys are going to be ready to play."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Bengals haven't been spectacular this season but they have been rock solid on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, despite some midseason hiccups, Dalton is on pace to have his best season to date with an 87.7 passer rating, while the backfield duo of Green-Ellis and Bernard has provided a bit of thunder and lightning, with Green-Ellis serving as the move-the-chains-type and Bernard the field stretcher.

Outside the numbers Green remains one off the two or three best receivers in the game while Jones has developed into a nice complement with eight TD receptions.

Overall, Cincinnati is averaging 25.7 points per game, good enough for a top 10 spot in the league.

On defense the Bengals sport one of NFL's best pass rushes despite missing All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Replacing Atkins' production has been accomplished by a committee approach with 12 different Cincinnati defenders other than Atkins having at least one sack on the season.

That's an imposing thought for Pittsburgh and its banged-up offensive line, which has allowed Roethlisberger to be sacked 38 times in 2013, good for third-worst in all of football.

When Roethlisberger is protected he is still extremely effective and has picked things up recently, throwing 11 TDs with no interceptions in his last four outings.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Roethlisberger is 14-6 in his career versus the Bengals and Pittsburgh has dominated this rivalry historically but this is a different Cincinnati team with a different mindset.

A third straight postseason appearance is almost a fait accompli for the Bengals and that process starts Sunday night in the Steel City.

"We're on a roll," linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "At the beginning of the year, we had three goals. We wanted to be undefeated at home, win the AFC North and eventually be world champions."

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bengals 21, Steelers 20

12/13 09:39:32 ET

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Schedule

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Standings

 2013 American Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-New England 12 4 0 .750 444 338 8-0 4-4 4-2 9-3
NY Jets 8 8 0 .500 290 387 6-2 2-6 3-3 5-7
Miami 8 8 0 .500 317 335 4-4 4-4 2-4 7-5
Buffalo 6 10 0 .375 339 388 4-4 2-6 3-3 5-7
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Cincinnati 11 5 0 .688 430 305 8-0 3-5 3-3 8-4
Pittsburgh 8 8 0 .500 379 370 5-3 3-5 4-2 6-6
Baltimore 8 8 0 .500 320 352 6-2 2-6 3-3 6-6
Cleveland 4 12 0 .250 308 406 3-5 1-7 2-4 3-9
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Indianapolis 11 5 0 .688 391 336 6-2 5-3 6-0 9-3
Tennessee 7 9 0 .438 362 381 3-5 4-4 2-4 6-6
Jacksonville 4 12 0 .250 247 449 1-7 3-5 3-3 4-8
Houston 2 14 0 .125 276 428 1-7 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Denver 13 3 0 .813 606 399 7-1 6-2 5-1 9-3
x-Kansas City 11 5 0 .688 430 305 5-3 6-2 2-4 7-5
x-San Diego 9 7 0 .563 396 348 5-3 4-4 4-2 6-6
Oakland 4 12 0 .250 322 453 3-5 1-7 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
 2013 National Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Philadelphia 10 6 0 .625 442 382 4-4 6-2 4-2 9-3
Dallas 8 8 0 .500 439 432 5-3 3-5 5-1 7-5
NY Giants 7 9 0 .438 294 383 4-4 3-5 3-3 6-6
Washington 3 13 0 .188 334 478 2-6 1-7 0-6 1-11
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Green Bay 8 7 1 .531 417 428 4-3-1 4-4 3-2-1 6-5-1
Chicago 8 8 0 .500 445 478 5-3 3-5 2-4 4-8
Detroit 7 9 0 .438 395 376 4-4 3-5 4-2 6-6
Minnesota 5 10 1 .344 391 480 5-3 0-7-1 2-3-1 4-7-1
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Carolina 12 4 0 .750 366 241 7-1 5-3 5-1 9-3
x-New Orleans 11 5 0 .688 414 304 8-0 3-5 5-1 9-3
Atlanta 4 12 0 .250 353 443 3-5 1-7 1-5 3-9
Tampa Bay 4 12 0 .250 288 389 3-5 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Seattle 13 3 0 .813 417 231 7-1 6-2 4-2 10-2
x-San Francisco 12 4 0 .750 406 272 6-2 6-2 5-1 9-3
Arizona 10 6 0 .625 379 324 6-2 4-4 2-4 6-6
St. Louis 7 9 0 .438 348 364 5-3 2-6 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 1
DUR 2
 
1:05pm Today
NOR
DUR
 
3:30pm Today
MIA
CHA
Final
WAS 3
STL 4
Final
CLE 0
TOR 5
Final
DET 5
ANA 2
Final
BOS 4
BAL 2
Final
KAN 5
MIN 4
Final
CHC 8
CIN 4
Final
OAK 4
HOU 3
Final
PIT 7
MIL 8
Final
NYM 5
ATL 7
Final
TAM 16
NYY 1
Final
MIA 7
SEA 0
Final
TEX 6
CWS 3
Final
LOS 8
ARI 6
Final
COL 3
PHI 1
Final
SDP 3
SFG 1
1:05pm Today
CLE
TOR
 
1:08pm Today
DET
ANA
 
1:10pm Today
NYM
ATL
 
1:10pm Today
MIA
SEA
 
1:35pm Today
PIT
MIL
 
1:35pm Today
WAS
STL
 
1:40pm Today
TAM
NYY
 
2:10pm Today
KAN
MIN
 
2:20pm Today
CHC
CIN
 
3:05pm Today
TEX
CWS
 
4:05pm Today
OAK
HOU
 
4:10pm Today
LOS
ARI
 
4:10pm Today
COL
PHI
 
4:10pm Today
SDP
SFG
 
7:05pm Tonight
BOS
BAL
 
Final
TOR 87
BRK 94
Final
LAC 105
GSW 109
Final
IND 93
ATL 101
Final
OKC 100
MEM 86
1:00pm Today
SAN
DAL
3:30pm Today
MIA
CHA
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
WAS
9:30pm Tonight
HOU
POR
Final
STL 4
CHI 3
Final
PIT 3
CLB 4
Final
COL 4
MIN 2
12:00pm Today
NYR
PHI
3:00pm Today
BOS
DET
7:00pm Tonight
MON
TAM
10:00pm Tonight
SJS
LOS
Final
NOR 1
DUR 2
 
1:05pm Today
NOR
DUR