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Bengals Bytes (1/8): Big impact

Shawn Williams has shown that he can make the impact plays necessary come playoff time. Ben Roethlisberger's inconsistent play could be the Steelers' downfall Saturday. Which teams are contenders and which are just happy to be in the playoffs?

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Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals notes: Williams 'going to be great,' injury update
Shawn Williams' has made an impact this season, the agent for A.J. Green and Andre Smith was decertified by the NFLPA and another rookie is called up. Williams’ tight-rope walking, diving interception of Ben Roethlisberger along the sidelines on Nov. 1 at Heinz Field remains one of the plays of the year in the eyes of many in the Cincinnati Bengals’ locker room, a turnover that eventually led to the game-winning touchdown for the Bengals over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bengals and Steelers Preview with Tony Pike
Cincinnati is all set for Bengals and Steelers on Saturday night. Unfortunately, most fans believe the Bengals will lose again. I talk with Tony Pike about their chances, A.J. McCarron's development and more.

Vontaze Burfict: I hate Pittsburgh
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and the Steelers have gotten under one another's skin this season. Burfict's celebration of a hit that injured Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell in the first meeting of the year between the teams drew the ire of the Steelers.

Controversial Bengals outside LB Burfict: 'I hate Pittsburgh'
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict made it abundantly clear how he feels about the Steelers heading into Saturday night's AFC wild-card game at Paul Brown Stadium. "I hate Pittsburgh," Burfict said after practice Wednesday. "It's not personal. That's just the way it is."

Steelers, Bengals go into playoff game with Andy Dalton on the brain
That's the only question most Cincinnati fans care about having answered this week. In Pittsburgh, it's a query that doesn't take on quite the same significance, but it is still one the Steel City faithful are curious to hear a reply about. Will Andy Dalton (right thumb) play in some capacity for the Cincinnati Bengals during Saturday night's wild-card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers?

How Andy Dalton-less Bengals can beat Steelers
Andy Dalton is out, but that doesn't mean the Bengals' playoff outlook is hopeless. Andrew Healy outlines how Cincinnati can produce enough offense to oust Pittsburgh in the wild-card round.

Behind Enemy Lines

Ben Roethlisberger's Jekyll-and-Hyde Act May Spell Playoff Trouble for Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is an NFL superstar. An elite player at football's most important position. A two-time Super Bowl champion who has already done exactly what the Steelers are trying to do in 2015—win football's biggest game as a No. 6 seed in the playoffs. However, this season Roethlisberger has also been a quarterback prone to turning over the ball—to making the sorts of ill-advised throws that make coaches and fans alike cringe.

NFL playoffs: Scouting the referees for wild-card weekend
The glare of NFL postseason has arrived, a time when the league takes extra caution to prevent embarrassing officiating gaffes and hopes -- perhaps against all hope -- that the games are remembered for the plays and not the calls that decided them. To that end, a pair of significant changes took place this week. Crews were shuffled to ensure that the highest-graded officials at each position work the playoffs.

It's pronounced Mar-TAY-Vis: Bryant can stamp name on playoffs
When people talk about Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant, even teammates, sometimes he's called Mar-TAY-vee-is. It's an innocent thing. Martavius is fun to say. That's not his name, though. With a big performance Saturday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, NFL fans will be saying Bryant's name, and saying it right.\

Random Bytes

Sports Illustrated Wants To Redeem Adrian Peterson, Even If Adrian Peterson Doesn't
Adrian Peterson doesn’t want redemption for whipping his child with a tree branch, but Sports Illustrated is delivering it to him anyway. Greg Bishop’s profile of the running back, published Tuesday, doesn’t hand out the redemption directly—it can’t, because Peterson is fine with what he did to his child— so instead it doles it out by implication. Here’s A.P. visiting a child dying of cancer; here’s A.P. being nice to his own son; here’s A.P. giving a motivational pep talk to one of his teammates. Tough guy to not like, right?

In the NFL there is a huge disparity in the number of concussions reported by each team
Prior to the 2013 season, the NFL instituted a new concussion protocol designed to better identify and treat players who may have suffered a head injury during a game. After three seasons, the number of reported concussions is up, but there is a disturbing disparity in how many are reported by individual teams.

Top NFL Playoff Contenders and Pretenders
My preseason pick to capture the NFC West. The Arizona Cardinals were hitting on all cylinders until their (somewhat embarrassing) loss to the Seattle Seahawks 36-6 on Sunday. Green Bay was my preseason pick to win the weak NFL North, but the Packers have regressed. I know I'm supposed to love the Pack because they fit the formula: great quarterback + great coach = playoff success, but Green Bay has been dreadful late in the season.

Brett Favre, Terrell Owens, Alan Faneca among Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists
Brett Favre is one step away from entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Favre, who left the NFL after the 2010 season as the leader in most career passing categories, is among three players in their first year of eligibility to make the list of 15 finalists. The others are receiver Terrell Owens and guard Alan Faneca.