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Bengal Bytes (12/24): Running into trouble

Could the lack of a consistent running game spell trouble for the Bengals as the postseason nears? Broncos' David Bruton is done for the season. Take a look at who made the Pro Bowl, and who got snubbed.

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Three plays that suggest AJ McCarron could one day be a quality QB
AJ McCarron's first career start went about as well as the Cincinnati Bengals could have hoped. The backup quarterback was 15-for-21 with 192 passing yards and a touchdown strike in a 24-14 win on the West Coast that sent his team to the playoffs for a fifth straight year. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way, like his preponderance for taking sacks (four) and an exchange that played a role in a lost fumble, but for the most part, he played well. A case could be made that his offensive linemen and running backs, in particular, didn't always put him in the most advantageous positions.

Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Tyler Eifert to Pro Bowl
A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Tyler Eifert were among five Bengals selected to the Pro Bowl. See who else made it, and who was ultimately snubbed by the voters.

Bengals notes: Dalton in good spirits, kickers ready for Mile High
Starting quarterback Andy Dalton has been in as good of spirits as one could be after suffering a fracture to his right thumb, prematurely ending a Most Valuable Player campaign and sidelining him for the foreseeable future.

First look: Bengals vs. Broncos
The Cincinnati Bengals clinched their fifth consecutive berth in the postseason with a 24-14 victory on the road in San Francisco. Backup quarterback AJ McCarron was effective but not spectacular, and the defense forced three turnovers to set the Bengals up to earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a win in Denver.

Bengals TE Eifert remains in concussion protocol
Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted Tuesday. The Bengals have an extra day of preparation this week ahead of their game in Denver next Monday night, so Eifert still has time to get healthy, get cleared and play in that game. He left in the first half of the Bengals’ Dec. 13 loss to the Steelers after taking a hit from Steelers safety Mike Mitchell.

12-21 Marvin Lewis press conference transcript
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis held a press conference on Monday to look back at Sunday's 24-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers and look ahead to this week's opponent - the Denver Broncos - and here is a transcript

As CTE questions mount, Eric Winston pledges brain to research
As research accelerates towards answering the many questions about a neurodegenerative disease found in some former football players and others exposed to repetitive head impact, one prominent NFL player is lending support in a personal way. Eric Winston, veteran tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals and president of the NFL Players Association, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday he is pledging his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for postmortem examination.

Is the Cincinnati Bengals Running Game a Concern as of Late?
The Cincinnati Bengals have struggled the last two games with both Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill having less than solid weeks. They have combined for 64 yards in San Francisco and only 55 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Could this article just an over reaction to a couple of bad games or could this be a trend to watch late in the season?

Behind Enemy Lines

Penalties an issue for Denver Broncos' offense in loss to Steelers
After a fairly disciplined run when the Denver Broncos had limited their penalty yardage to 46, 18 and 27 yards in the previous three games, things unraveled a bit in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Broncos were penalized for a season-high 127 yards, a total that doesn’t include 30 yards worth of Broncos penalties that were declined by the Steelers.

Four Broncos selected for 2016 Pro Bowl
In a testament to how dominant the Broncos defense has been in 2015, four Denver defenders have received 2016 Pro Bowl nods   Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (second selection), outside linebacker Von Miller (fourth), cornerback Aqib Talib (third) and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (ninth) all earned invitations to play in the league’s annual all-star game.

David Bruton Injury: Updates on Broncos Safety's Leg and Return
Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak announced on Monday that safety David Bruton will miss the remainder of the regular season with a fractured fibula.

Random Bytes

NFL Playoff Picture Breakdown and Analysis for Week 16
After a crazy Week 15 filled with exciting games, there are just two more weeks remaining in the regular season. The schedule is winding down and the matchups left on the docket will directly affect the playoff picture. We’re going to break down and analyze the current playoff landscape.

Updated NFL draft order projection after Week 15
Here's a scary thought: The NFL's list of teams competing for a top-10 pick in next year's draft is longer than the list of those who deserve to make the playoffs. That is, of course, if you consider a winning record a fair prerequisite for a postseason berth. As of Tuesday morning, there were only 11 teams above .500 in a league that takes 12 to the postseason. Three more are at .500, and the other 18 have losing records. (Perspective: In 2014, the NFL finished with 16 winning teams, 14 losing teams and two at .500.)

Free-Agent WR Joe Anderson Is Waiting Outside Stadium for Shot with Texans
Although Anderson's determination (and crafty sign) didn't pay off with the Houston Texans, it apparently struck a cord elsewhere. The wide receiver and his agent Damarius Bilbo, a retired NFL player, confirmed Tuesday that the New York Jets signed Anderson to their practice squad

2016 NFL Pro Bowl roster: Who's in? Who was snubbed?
The initial rosters for the 2016 Pro Bowl, which will feature a selection draft for a third year in a row, were announced on Tuesday. Who made the cut, and who deserved to but didn't?