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NFL Power Rankings: Defense and Special Teams Boost Cincinnati Bengals

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY| The Cincinnati Bengals needed a win in Week 11 to maintain a comfortable lead in the AFC North. The 41-20 defeat of the Cleveland Browns did just that, thanks to a remarkable defensive and special teams effort that helped the Bengals notch 31 points in the second quarter.

The win also snapped a two-game losing skid that consisted of back-to-back overtime road losses. With a bye week ahead, the Bengals can enjoy their well earned rest and restore their collective health before the final stretch of the regular season.

Here's how the Bengals fared in power rankings after claiming the Battle of Ohio:

Sagarin Ratings

The Bengals maintained the eighth spot in the Sagarin Ratings after beating the Browns. The Bengals are still looking up at the best of the AFC in the Denver Broncos (1st), the New England Patriots (5th) and the Kansas City Chiefs (7th).

After the bye week, the Bengals next play the San Diego Chargers on the road. The Chargers are currently rated 16th, but a win over the Chiefs in Week 12 would improve the Chargers' lot. Based on the Sagarin Ratings right now, the Bengals would be a slim 1.5-point favorite over the Chargers.

Yahoo Sports

The Bengals win over the Browns wasn't enough to convince Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports to raise the Bengals in his power rankings. The Bengals remain ranked ninth, but as Schwab notes the Bengals are almost a lock to win the AFC North and are still in the mix for a first-round bye.

CBS Sports

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports gave the Bengals a two-spot boost for mainly not losing, unlike the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, both of whom lost in Week 11 and dropped past the Bengals in Prisco's rankings. The Bengals rank eighth for Prisco, but his comments about concerns with the passing game and inconsistent play of quarterback Andy Dalton don't sound like Prisco has too much faith in the Bengals rising much farther in the ranks until the evidence on the field suggests otherwise.

ProFootballTalk

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk also upgraded the Bengals to eighth in his power rankings after entering Week 11 ranked 10th. Florio points out that the Bengals are on the verge of an unprecedented third straight trip to the playoffs, but also remarks that the Bengals have not won a playoff game since 1991.

Until the Bengals prove capable of winning in the postseason with Dalton at the helm, there will be no shortage of disbelievers in the Bengals authenticity as a conference title contender.

ESPN

ESPN joined the ranks of Prisco and Florio in moving the Bengals up their power rankings two spots from 10th to eighth. The ESPN comments point out that the Bengals offense is still less than convincing and that the team managed to score 41 points despite a performance by Dalton that accounted for just 93 passing yards against the Browns.

In the ESPN rankings, the Bengals are looking up not only at the Broncos, Chiefs and Patriots but also the Indianapolis Colts. Until the offense and Dalton can prove that their as good and consistent as the Bengals' defense, the Bengals probably won't rise much farther in the power rankings than they are now, unless other teams ahead of them start to collapse.

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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