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NFL Power Rankings: AFC North Leading Cincinnati Bengals Are Starting to Climb

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COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Bengals shut the door on the San Diego Chargers on the road in Week 13 with a 17-10 win that improved the likelihood that the Bengals will claim the AFC North.

The Bengals' defense under coordinator Mike Zimmer continues to display a tenacity and purpose that could brand it as the kind of defense that wins championships.

If the offense under coordinator Jay Gruden and quarterback Andy Dalton develop a consistency and effectiveness comparable to that of the defense, the Bengals will have the time to fulfill many of the preseason expectations that had the Bengals as an AFC title contender.

A win over a losing team like the Charges won't propel the Bengals up national power rankings, but it does serve as a pivot for the final quarter of the regular season that starts with a Week 14 showdown against the leaders of the AFC South -- Indianapolis Colts.


Sagarin Ratings

The Bengals nudged up a spot in the Sagarin Ratings from 10th to ninth. The ratings system that factors strength of win has the Bengals trailing the New England Patriots (who the Bengals beat this year) by one spot. The Bengals trail the Kansas City Chiefs by three spots, and the Denver Broncos remain atop the AFC heap in the Sagarin Ratings.

The Bengals are 4.5-point favorites over the Colts in Week 14 according to Sagarin, which gives the home team three points above the points difference between teams in factoring a spread.

Yahoo Sports

Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports nudged the Bengals ahead of the Chiefs in his power rankings to seventh. now trailing only the Broncos and the Patriots in the AFC. Schwab likens Dalton to Dallas Cowboys' QB Tony Romo for the reason that fans and pundits alike are ready to rip Dalton whenever he struggles. He also acknowledges that Dalton hasn't played well in recent weeks, which will make the Dalton drama all the more interesting down the regular season stretch and into January.

CBS Sports

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports already had the Bengals seventh in his power rankings and the team remains there heading into Week14. Prisco sums up the Bengals concisely with his remark that the defense is "playoff good" but the offense has to play better.

Prisco still has the Chiefs ahead of the Bengals by one spot, but a Week 14 win over the Colts should catapult the Bengals ahead of the Chiefs next week.

ProFootballTalk

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk quips that the best way for the Bengals to win a playoff game would be to not have to play one -- meaning that the Bengals are in a position to claim the number two seed in the AFC and earn a playoff bye. The Bengals win over the Patriots could determine that, but the Bengals have to take care of business with another division leader in the Colts first.

Florio bumped the Bengals up a spot in his power rankings from seventh to sixth, just two spots behind the Patriots.

ESPN

ESPN kept the Bengals ranked eighth in the latest release of their power rankings, which sets the table for an eighth versus ninth-ranked team for Sunday when the Colts make their way to Paul Brown Stadium to face the Bengals.

While all but ESPN and Prisco bumped up the Bengals in their power rankings, it's clear the stage is set for an exciting and meaningful game between the Bengals and Colts that will not only impact power rankings, but more importantly, the AFC playoff picture.

Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com.

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