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Bengals hold firm in playoff race, keep pressure on Ravens

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The AFC playoff picture is about as tight as tight can be with just six weeks left in the season. And after completely blasting the Pittsburgh Steelers out of Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals are well-positioned to crash the postseason party.

Cincinnati’s 41-10 win moved them to 7-4 and kept them in the first wild card position.

Not only that, but they kept the pressure on the Baltimore Ravens, who overcame four Lamar Jackson interceptions to knock off the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football, 16-10. The Ravens stayed atop the AFC North, but the Bengals remain one game back and with the tiebreaker. The second meeting will be in Cincinnati the day after Christmas.

The Browns fell to 6-6 and the Steelers are now winless in their last three and sit at 5-5-1, which means there’s technically a tie between the Steelers and Browns.

AFC North Standings

  1. Baltimore Ravens 8-3

  2. Cincinnati Bengals 7-4

  3. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-5-1

  4. Cleveland Browns 6-6

Entering Week 12, it was the Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills all sitting at 6-4 in the three wild card spots. The Bengals and Bills both won convincingly, while the Chargers were dropped in Denver.

That gives the Bengals a little bit of breathing room, but not much. There are three teams now tied for the third wild card, all from the AFC West, in fact. Behind them are the three teams sitting at .500, the Steelers, Browns and Indianapolis Colts.

And don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins are red-hot, winners of four straight after a 1-7 start.

As for the top of playoff standings, the Ravens are the top seed thanks to the New England Patriots pulling away from the Tennessee Titans in the second half to put both teams at 8-4. The Kansas City Chiefs remain atop the AFC West and in the No. 4 seed at 7-4.

So for those keeping track, nine teams in the AFC are within two games of each other and 12 teams are within 2.5 games. The Bengals play five of those teams in their final six games. The sixth game is against the San Francisco 49ers, who are also back over .500 at 6-5 and currently the No. 6 seed in the NFC. Plenty of drama to be had, indeed.

AFC Playoff Standings

  1. Baltimore Ravens 8-3

  2. New England Patriots 8-4

  3. Tennessee Titans 8-4

  4. Kansas City Chiefs 7-4

  5. Cincinnati Bengals 7-4

  6. Buffalo Bills 7-4

  7. Los Angeles Chargers 6-5

  8. Las Vegas Raiders 6-5

  9. Denver Broncos 6-5

  10. Indianapolis Colts 6-6

  11. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-5-1

  12. Cleveland Browns 6-6

  13. Miami Dolphins 5-7

  14. New York Jets 3-8

  15. Houston Texans 2-9

  16. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-9

List

Stars, studs and duds from Bengals' dismantling of Steelers in Week 12