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AFC North: Baltimore and Cincinnati Clinch, Pittsburgh Out

The AFC North will have two representatives in the playoffs this season as the Baltimore Ravens wrapped up the division title with a convincing 33-14 victory over the NFC New York Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals secured a wildcard spot with a 13-10 victory Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cincinnati started their season in a horrible way, but has won six of their past seven games to lift their record to 9-6 and clinch a second consecutive playoff berth. The win was Cincinnati’s first over the Steelers since 2009. Pittsburgh, now 7-8 on the season, has been eliminated from a chance at the playoffs. The last and only time the Bengals reached the postseason in back to back seasons was in 1981 and 1982.

Josh Brown made a 43-yard field goal to win the game following Reggie Nelson’s interception of a Ben Roethlisberger pass with only 14 seconds left in the game. One pass play later and Brown came on to boot the winning field goal to send his team into the playoffs and end any hope for Pittsburgh.

Andy Dalton continued his steady play at quarterback for the Bengals as he completed 24 of this 41 passes for 278 yards, but threw two picks. A.J. Green had 10 receptions on the day for 116 yards.

Roethlisberger could only connect on 14 of this 28 passes on the day for just 220 yards. He had one touchdown pass but was intercepted twice . One of Roethlisberger’s interceptions was returned for six points during the game’s first quarter of play by Leon Hall.

Pittsburgh had to win both of its last two games in order to reach the playoffs. However, the team, which had a 6-3 record at the start of November, will now spend this postseason at home after going 1-5 in their last six games with just a meaningless game to be played next week in Cleveland.

Roethlisberger blamed himself for the loss and said the team should have made the playoffs after he threw an interception for the second time in the past eight days that decided a game.

Cincinnati has returned from early season obscurity. The Bengals lost four consecutive games before rattling off six wins in seven games. Now they will play against the no. 3 seed in the AFC during wildcard weekend.

The entire field for the playoffs is now set in the AFC with Houston, New England, Baltimore and Denver winning their respective divisions and Indianapolis and the Bengals locking up wildcard spots.

If Cincinnati hopes to win in the playoffs, they must turn around their dismal running game. The Bengals had just 14 yards on the ground in the game, which was the second lowest in their 44-year franchise history.

Brown is filling in for starting kicker Michael Nugent who has been out three weeks with an injury and is 8 of 9 during that period.

Of Pittsburgh’s eight losses thus far in the season, five of them have been by three points.

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