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Morning Bites (12/26): Bengals links and notes

Taking a look at the stories over the past few days concerning the Cincinnati Bengals and the NFL.

Patrick Smith

First look: Bengals vs. Ravens
John Harbaugh is trying to join Bill Cowher as the only coaches in NFL history to lead their teams to the playoffs in their first six years. The Ravens' backs are against the wall, though, as they prepare to face the Bengals on Sunday.

Bengals rookie report: A late-season check
It appears at first glance that Cincinnati's 2013 draft class has had a solid first year. As you take a brief holiday break, take a look at our check-up on the Bengals' rookies in this breakdown (in draft order):

Bengals know they have good shot in playoffs
A Bengals team which has won four of the last five can’t help but look around and realize a run at the Super Bowl clears through an attainable path.

Cincinnati Bengals defense is at its best without its best players
Tackle Geno Atkins hasn't played the last six games. Cornerback Leon Hall has missed the last eight. Cornerback Terence Newman has been gone for the last two. One of the NFL's top defenses has missed its biggest playmakers for most of the second half of the season and somehow managed to stay among the league's best heading into the playoffs. The Bengals (10-5) are AFC North champions in large part because of a defense that's adept at doing without.

Matchup of the Game: Elvis in A.C.-powered building
The last time we saw Dumervil, he was curled up on top of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton for his third sack of the game with 10 seconds left in that final desperate drive in Baltimore back on Nov. 10, apparently sealing a 17-10 victory. Until Dalton had enough presence of mind to spike the ball and find A.J. Green for The Hail Mary that brought no salvation in what would become a 20-17 overtime loss.

Bengals defense on cusp of top 5 despite injuries
Many thought at the beginning of the season that the Bengals had the potential to be a top-five defense. They are on the verge of realizing it, but not in the style that many would expect.

Ngata starting to display signs of old, disruptive form
Five games ago, Ravens veteran nose tackle Haloti Ngata was dealing with a sprained right knee troublesome enough that it forced him to miss a game. Since being sidelined for that Nov. 17 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears, the four-time Pro Bowl selection has gradually gotten healthier and begun to recapture his old, disruptive form.

Ravens' estimated injury report has Gino Gradkowski, Arthur Jones and Asa Jackson sidelined
The Ravens didn't practice on Christmas, but issued an estimated injury report based on trainers' evaluation of players' statuses.

Ravens turn attention to critical final game
A day after his team’s 41-7 loss to the New England Patriots, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was matter of fact about where Baltimore stands heading into the final week of the regular season.

Unassuming Dalton defying critics with late-season play
Andy Dalton is unassuming. The Bengals third-year quarterback is rather stoic in his nature, truly living up to the clichés about never getting too high or too low after a certain play or game. You'll get a fist pump from Dalton every now and then but for the most part he just goes about his business of running offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's scheme.

Overrated, underrated players: Times sports columnists compile roster
The once-highly touted Burfict was a bust (with a lousy attitude) at the 2012 scouting combine and went undrafted. He had to plead for a chance in the NFL, and Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis finally gave him an opportunity. He leads the league with 157 tackles.

Leslie Frazier: Vikings 'distracted' by hot-seat talk
The Minnesota Vikings were blown out by the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday to fall to 3-11-1. Coach Leslie Frazier believes reports about his coaching future served as a distraction for his players.

Browns quarterback Jason Campbell’s father tells him to stop feeling sorry for himself
Distraught after falling to 1-6 as a starter this season, Browns quarterback Jason Campbell was hanging his head Monday until his father, Larry, told him to stop feeling sorry for himself and spread some holiday cheer.

Quarterback Index: Year-end rankings
The great quarterbacks of tomorrow are coming, but the old guard isn't done just yet. Get ready for some familiar names atop Gregg Rosenthal's year-end QB rankings.

Dallas Cowboys reach deal with Jon Kitna
With Tony Romo ailing, the Dallas Cowboys have reached into their recent past by agreeing to a deal with veteran Jon Kitna.

Dennis Allen of Oakland Raiders blasts claims by Terrelle Pryor's agent
Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen angrily denied the claims of Terrelle Pryor's agent, who said Allen was setting the quarterback up to fail by starting him in the season finale against the Denver Broncos.