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Bengal Bytes (12/19): Short handed

The Bengals will be without quite a few key starters Sunday. Torrey Smith is questionable for Sunday's game. Take a look at Week 15 predictions and analysis of the injury report around the league.

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Bengals Walkthru: Steelers or Broncos on Sunday?
Looking at the best result between Steelers-Broncos for Bengals fans, plus, fines from Sunday, Big BTS on Tuesday, Crocker critiques McCarron, Pacman's good deed, degenerate corner and Journey.

McCarron, Bengals look to author NFL's greatest story
The Enquirer takes a deep dive into NFL history and finds that the Bengals are looking to do something very rare - continue their Super Bowl dream with a backup quarterback.

Three Bengals starters out for 49ers game; Burfict, Hall, Jones, Johnson probable l WKRC
Tight end Tyler Eifert and safety George Iloka join quarterback Andy Dalton as being declared out of Sunday's game in San Francisco. The Bengals (10-3) face the 49ers (4-9) at 4:25 p.m. ET in Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and the game can be seen on Local12.

NFL delivers $138,902 in fines from Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals game
The NFL this week handed out almost $140,000 in fines to seven players from Sunday's Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals game, a league source confirmed Friday. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was the big fine earner, drawing $69,454 for three separate plays: roughing the passer, a face mask pull and unnecessary roughness. One of the plays he drew a fine for came in the first half of the Steelers' 33-20 win when he dove low into Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's feet. Burfict contended he was pushed and ended up down there.

A.J. Green could be AJ McCarron's biggest weapon in first career start
From the top down at Paul Brown Stadium this week, the message has been simple: Raise your level of play. Coach Marvin Lewis and his most-valued veterans have been trickling that message throughout the facility in an attempt to get every player on the Cincinnati Bengals' roster to realize that beating the San Francisco 49ers to earn a fifth straight playoff berth won't hinge only on the right arm of AJ McCarron, the team's new quarterback. With a second-year signal-caller thrust into the starting role, it's important for others to elevate their performance too.

AJ McCarron Has the Toughest Job in Football, Just Ask These Guys Who Lived It
In an instant last Sunday, we went from wondering how Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton would avoid his annual January meltdown to discussing how his team will avert playoff disaster without him. Optimism has risen from those ashes during the days since Dalton's thumb didn't survive a lunging tackle attempt following an interception. Initial fears that a 10-3 team starved for playoff success would lose its starting quarterback were quickly quieted.

AJ McCarron suddenly finds himself in the NFL pressure cooker
A.J. McCarron and Tom Brady share at least two things in common. They are quarterbacks with smoking-hot wives. That's where the obvious similarities end.

Behind Enemy Lines

Torrey Smith returns to practice, questionable vs. Bengals
San Francisco 49ers starters Alex Boone (left guard) and Michael Wilhoite (inside linebacker) were both ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Boone (right knee) and Wilhoite (left ankle) are the lone two Niners players officially ruled out. Neither practiced Friday.

Last place, next year's final two opponents on line for San Francisco
If the San Francisco 49ers lose to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Niners will "clinch" last place in the NFC West for the first time since 2005.

Bengals vs. 49ers: What's the Game Plan for San Francisco?
The San Francisco 49ers' Week 13 overtime win over the Chicago Bears was a bit of an abomination as was revealed by the team's subsequent effort in Cleveland against the Browns—a game that saw San Francisco fall 24-10.  And now, the 4-9 Niners will try to stage an upset against the 10-3 Cincinnati Bengals at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.

Random Bytes

2016 NFL Draft Scouting Notebook for Week 15
USC linebacker Su'a Cravens announced on Twitter this week he plans to enter the 2016 NFL draft. I laid out some potential landing spots for him in this video. And for the many people asking on Twitter, Cravens should play weak-side linebacker in the NFL.

Why are fewer NFL players being arrested?
Just a year after one of its biggest public-relations disasters ever, the NFL has reason to believe that its players have gotten the message. NFL players have been arrested or charged with crimes 35 times this year — the lowest annual number on record since 2000 and less than half of what the league had nine years ago, according to a database of player arrests and citations kept by USA TODAY Sports.

NFL Week 15 predictions: Panthers to 14-0, Steelers over Broncos
NFL Nation reporters predict the Cardinals will handle the Eagles, and Houston will finally win one in Indianapolis.

Seventeen things to know from Week 15 injury report
With Sunday's crucial contest with the Falcons looming, the Jaguars got some bad news about T.J. Yeldon on Friday. Can Jacksonville ride Denard Robinson into playoff contention?