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Are the Cincinnati Bengals emerging as the biggest threat to Denver in the AFC?

The Cincinnati Bengals came into the season as a trendy Super Bowl pick. Then they had a couple of early losses and fell off the radar.

Most people probably haven't noticed they might be emerging as the biggest threat to keep Denver from winning an AFC championship.

The Bengals had a nice win on Sunday, going on the road to beat a Detroit team that was 4-2. Cincinnati won on the game's final play, a 54-yard field goal by Mike Nugent. The Bengals are 5-2, and are starting to show the balance of a true contender.

Cincinnati is a good defensive team. The Lions moved the ball well on Sunday, but this is also the same Bengals team that kept Tom Brady and the Patriots out of the end zone this season. Cincinnati's defense is not a problem.

The reason the Bengals are surging is because of the improved play of quarterback Andy Dalton.

Dalton was 24-of-34 for 372 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday. Late in the game, Dalton had two key completions for 15 yards to set up Nugent's field goal. Last week, in another last-second 27-24 win, Dalton threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns at Buffalo.

Dalton isn't Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning, but if he can play at a relatively high level, he can do exactly for the Bengals what Joe Flacco did for the Ravens last season.

The Patriots have lost two of their best defensive players for the rest of the season. The Colts don't have a great defense and the Chiefs don't have a great quarterback. If the Bengals can use this three-game winning streak to gain some momentum, they might just be the biggest threat to the Broncos come January.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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