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Bengal Bytes (12/28): Thanks Baltimore

Baltimore's upset of the Steelers has given the Bengals the AFC North Crown. Peyton Manning isn't pleased by the HGH rumors coming out about him. The Panthers are no longer perfect.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers fall to Ravens, drop one game behind Jets, Chiefs
During a season in which the Baltimore Ravens have had little reason to celebrate, they can at least take solace in sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ryan Mallett threw for a career-high 274 yards in his first start with Baltimore, and the Ravens pulled off a 20-17 victory — one of the biggest upsets of this contentious rivalry.

Cincinnati Bengals win AFC North with Steelers loss to Ravens
The Cincinnati Bengals are AFC North champions once again. After a dominant 2015 season, capped by a strange turn of events on Sunday, Cincinnati was finally rewarded a home playoff game a day before the Bengals will face the Denver Broncos.

Big losses mean AFC's No. 1 seed is still in Cincinnati Bengals' reach
The final Sunday of 2015 couldn't have gone any better for the Cincinnati Bengals. In a matter of minutes, scenarios that once seemed to be long shots worked out exactly the way the Bengals wished they would. First, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost, giving Cincinnati its fourth AFC North championship in 11 seasons. Then, about five minutes later, the New England Patriots lost, too, falling in overtime to the New York Jets. The Patriots' loss leaves open the possibility that the Bengals could claim the AFC's No. 1 seeding before the playoffs begin.

Bengals clinch AFC North, No. 1 seed back in play
The Cincinnati Bengals came to Denver with two goals in mind: Win the AFC North, and clinch a first-round playoff bye with the No. 2 seed. Both could have been met with a victory Monday night against the Broncos – but the first was taken care of for them by the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals clinched their third division title in seven years from the comfort of their hotel rooms, as the Ravens stunned the Steelers Sunday afternoon, 20-17, at M&T Bank Stadium in Maryland.

It'll be No. 1 vs. No. 9 when Broncos', Bengals' defenses meet
When Paul Guenther turns his players loose Monday night at Sports Authority Stadium, the defensive coordinator's group will be squaring off most directly against banged-up backup quarterback Brock Osweiler and the Denver Broncos' 22nd-ranked offense.

Sky's the limit a Mile High
The 11-3 Bengals and the 10-4 Broncos enter that iconic NFL venue of  cold weather big games a Mile High Monday night (8:30-Cincinnati’s Channel 5 and ESPN) when they both seek play-off gold riding a horse with no name. With a win in his second NFL start, Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron can do what Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton haven’t done and win a game to secure a play-off bye. In his sixth NFL start, Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler can finish off what Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning started with a 7-2 run and take Cincinnati’s bye.

Insider Buzz: Bengals Coaches, Players Impressed with AJ McCarron's Confidence
AJ McCarron leads the Cincinnati Bengals into Denver on Monday night as he tries to help secure a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs against the Denver Broncos. How have McCarron's coaches and teammates responded to him at the team's starting QB?  What did McCarron take from his past to help with his new role in Cincinnati? Watch as Bleacher Report NFL Insider Jason Cole discusses McCarron's past, present and future in the video above.

Behind Enemy Lines

Denver Broncos can now clinch playoff spot with win over Bengals
The Denver Broncos went to work Sunday with the knowledge that if they won their final two games of the regular season, they would guarantee themselves a playoff spot. But in Sunday’s early games, the Broncos got a little help from their opening-day opponent -- the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens, with a 20-17 upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, gave the Broncos a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Peyton Manning of Denver Broncos 'furious' and 'disgusted' at Al Jazeera report, again denies using HGH
Peyton Manning said he is "furious" and "disgusted" at an Al Jazeera report that identified the Denver Broncos quarterback as one of several high-profile athletes who were supplied performance-enhancing drugs from an anti-aging clinic. The Al Jazeera undercover probe, which was posted online early Sunday morning, reported that Manning was given human growth hormone in 2011 while he was recovering from neck surgery. The report cited a man named Charlie Sly, who allegedly spoke to an undercover reporter working for Al Jazeera.

Brock Osweiler Injury: Updates on Broncos QB's Shoulder and Recovery
Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler is dealing with a separation of his non-throwing shoulder, but he is not expected to miss time.

Random Bytes

New Engalnd Patriots, Carolina Panthers have not locked up home-field
With one week left to play, the NFL playoff picture is starting to take shape. If the season ended today, here's how it would look (before Sunday and Monday night games).

Carolina Panthers' run at a perfect regular season ends at Atlanta
The Carolina Panthers’ run at a perfect regular season ended with a far-from-perfect effort. They gave up too many big plays, the biggest being a 70-yard touchdown to Julio Jones in the second half. They didn’t make enough plays, dropping first-down passes like the one to tight end Greg Olsen with just under seven minutes to go.

Winners and Losers of NFL Week 16
In an all-important NFL Week 16, some players stood out, while others may not want to show their face in public for a while. Which players may have cost their team a playoff berth? Who came through and potentially saved the season? Watch as Adam Lefkoe and Bleacher Report NFL analyst Chris Simms break down the winners and losers of this weekend in the video above.

Cardinals clinch playoff bye with rout of Packes
The Arizona Cardinals have played like the best team in the NFL all season long. On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers learned it the hard way in a 38-8 loss. The Cardinals clinched a playoff bye with the win. Here's what we learned