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Bengal Bytes (12/14): What now?

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Meet the quarterback who might be leading the Bengals for the rest of the season. The Steelers won but are still on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. The Raiders did the Bengals a solid, and an updated look at the playoff seeding.

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Dalton’s timetable won’t be known until Monday | ProFootballTalk
There are a few "Andy Dalton is out for the rest of the season unless he isn't"-style reports making the rounds in the aftermath of Sunday's Steelers-Bengals game. But anything being generated tonight is speculative. Here's the truth: The Bengals and Dalton won't know anything more until Monday.

Andy Dalton's Injury Doesn't Sink Cincinnati Bengals' Playoff Aspirations | Bleacher Report
The fact the Cincinnati Bengals, now 10-3, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 33-20 fashion doesn't matter much in the wake of losing quarterback Andy Dalton to injury. In fact, let conventional wisdom tell it, and the tectonic plates of the league and AFC playoffs have shifted in dramatic fashion.

Hits: Dalton may be out year pending exam; Whit blames NFL; McCarron in fire; Dre belted; 3rd downer
And suddenly, the Bengals’ best season in the 16-game era went from a coronation to a wake in a matter of seconds Sunday with quarterback Andy Dalton maybe out for the rest of the year pending Monday’s examination by a hand specialist. At this point there's nothing solid until Dalton meets with the doctor.

Analysis: Why the Steelers beat the Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals won't say this, but I will: The Pittsburgh Steelers won when Andy Dalton ran to the locker room and then emerged in a T-shirt and a cast on his right thumb. Backup quarterback AJ McCarron did as well in emergency relief as one would expect, and Ben Roethlisberger managed to get points on four of his five first-half possessions, but when a Most Valuable Player-candidate and director of the league's fourth-ranked scoring offense goes down … it's really hard to expect a victory.

Meet Bengals backup AJ McCarron, a survivor with a winning pedigree
When Andy Dalton left Sunday afternoon's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a first-quarter thumb injury, it ushered in a new era -- who knows for how long right now -- in the Cincinnati Bengals' quarterbacking lineage. After replacing Dalton in garbage time the past two games, AJ McCarron stepped on the field for the first meaningful snaps of his two-year career.

Andy Dalton's injury in loss a blow to suddenly battered Bengals
Andy Dalton has started 80 consecutive games -- playoffs included -- since his career began in 2011. But will he add to the streak with start No. 81? The answer to that question was uncertain in the moments immediately after the Cincinnati Bengals' 33-20 home loss on Sunday to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game that underwent a decided change after Dalton's first-quarter thumb injury ran him from the contest.

Behind Enemy Lines

William Gay up, Ross Cockrell down in Pittsburgh Steelers' win
A look at players who were "up," and those were were "down" in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 33-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Pittsburgh Steelers slowly tilting power in AFC North with win
These teams could see each other again soon. Sunday's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals felt incomplete because of the first-quarter injury to Andy Dalton. His absence, if lengthy, could shift the power hierarchy in the AFC North after the Steelers' 33-20 win over the Bengals.

Pittsburgh Steelers Take Care of Much-Needed Business Against Bengals
The seven-win Pittsburgh Steelers needed a win on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Heading into Week 14, the AFC's seventh seed wanted to not only keep hold of their conference standing but spoil the opportunity for the Bengals to clinch the AFC North and a playoff berth.

Random Bytes

Mack has 5 sacks; Raiders rally to beat Broncos
After an awful first half during which the Raiders actually finished with negative yardage, Derek Carr and the Raiders offense started the second half with a touchdown drive. That got Khalil Mack started, too.

Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson earn game balls in Week 14
Each week, NFL Nation team reporters award a game ball to a player, coach or unit. Here are the game balls for Week 14

Seahawks Soaring to Playoffs with Russell Wilson Playing Best Ball of His Career
Not too long ago, more than a few pundits (including this one) were throwing dirt on the Seattle Seahawks. There wasn't going to be any third straight Super Bowl trip. Not with the defense faltering. Not with that offensive line. Someone apparently forgot to tell the Seahawks, who are in the midst of yet another late-season surge. And the cause of that surge can be explained in three words: Legion of Boom.

Losses by Bengals, Broncos open door for Patriots
Losses by the Bengals and Broncos open the door for the Patriots to reclaim AFC top seed. Who is winning the wildcard race?