The Cincinnati Bengals are back in the playoffs for a fifth-straight season.
After a 12-4 regular season, the Bengals will look to keep their season going with a deep postseason run that begins in the Wild Card round when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town.
The Steelers, they were victorious in Week 17 while the New York Jets fell in Buffalo and have allowed Pittsburgh to win the AFC's No. 6 seed and final Wild Card spot. Going into the final week of the regular season, the Steelers trailed the Jets by one game in the playoff standings, but everything fell Pitt's way as they beat the Cleveland Browns while New York lost.
That means the Steelers will come to Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night in a similar scenario these two AFC North rivals faced in January 2006. That game featured a surging Bengals team playing at home after winning the division, whereas the Steelers barely squeaked into the postseason as the final Wild Card team.
But when the two teams faced off, the Bengals would end up playing essentially the whole game without star quarterback Carson Palmer, who suffered a knee injury on his first pass attempt. The Steelers would go on to win 31-17, and to this day, has left the Bengals wondering what if.
This time around, the Bengals enter the game already knowing they won't have their starting quarterback. Andy Dalton is still recovering from a broken thumb that will likely keep him from starting this game, paving the way for second-year passer AJ McCarron to start.
In his past four games, McCarron has completed 76 of 115 (66.1%) passes for 832 yards with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 97.4 rating. That included a 2-1 starting record, but he did essentially play the entire game in Week 14 when he came off the bench following Dalton's thumb injury in the first quarter.
That happened to come against Pittsburgh, during a game in which McCarron passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but, during which he also had two critical interceptions, which allowed the Steelers to pull off a 33-20 win at Paul Brown Stadium. This time around, McCarron will be ready for the Steelers in a game that should come down to the wire.
In addition to beating their hated rival and advancing to the Divisional Round, the Bengals are looking to secure their first postseason win since Jan. 6, 1991 when they beat the Houston Oilers in the Wild Card round.
Here is everything you'll need for this AFC North postseason clash.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
When: Jan. 9, 2016 at 8:15 p.m.
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
TV Broadcast: CBS with Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson (field reporter).
Referee: John Perry (same referee from the Week 14 Bengals vs Steelers game)
Bengals Uniform: Black jerseys, white pants
Radio Broadcast: Coverage on the Bengals Radio Network, led by a "triple cast" on Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts, Laura Okmin (field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 83 (Pit), 82 (Cin). XM: 88 (WW1), 226 (Pit), 82 (Cin).
Weather: 43 degrees with a 70-75% chance of rain, per Weather Underground.
Odds: The Steelers opened the game as a 1-point favorite, but the line has since grown to 2.5 points and was as high as 3 points, per Odds Shark. It's worth noting that every home team in the Wild Card round is an underdog.
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