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Bengals Bytes (10/7): Make them earn it

The Bengals are looking to correct their big play problem on defense. Antonio Brown is too sexy for the NFL, apparently. The secret to Carson Wentz’s early success.

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

'Sound FX': Reshad Jones and Brandon LaFell

Listen as Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell are mic'd up in Week 4 of the 2016 NFL season.

Bengals Walkthru: The Eifert extension conundrum

For years the Bengals' long-term plan accounted for signing Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert to a lucrative extension. Financial decisions with personnel have often been motivated by keeping in mind what a player of Eifert's caliber will cost when his time arrives. Eifert will soon be making a huge contract. Players with his ability and skill at his premium position get paid by the truckload.

Earning His Stripes

Vontaze Burfict stretched his legs across the sofa in his basement while scanning the channels on his flat-screen television. His eyelids still drooped a bit -- the result of just waking from an afternoon nap -- and he could still feel the tenderness in his left knee after undergoing microfracture surgery a few months earlier. The Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl-caliber outside linebacker knew he probably shouldn't have skipped that morning rehabilitation session, but the monotony of the process had worn on his nerves. He didn't think one missed day was that big a deal, until he peered out his window and saw Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis strolling up his driveway.

Safety Jeff Heath ready to step in as Cowboys kicker if need be

The Cowboys are hoping kicker Dan Bailey is going to be fine, after some concerns about a back problem last week. But if he's not ready, it's not their punter, but one of their safeties that would fill in.

Cincinnati Bengals TE Tyler Eifert misses second straight practice

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert was absent from his second straight practice Thursday with back and ankle injuries. One source told ESPN’s Bob Holtzman that Eifert was considered day-to-day with the new back injury, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Thursday morning that Eifert still had the potential to play Sunday despite a sore back.

Bengals: Cowboys' offense looks the same with or without Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant or no Dez Bryant? That’s one of the main questions facing the Bengals as they prepare for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Bryant is looking less and less likely to play after missing his second straight practice with a fracture in his right knee. The Bengals seemed to shrug off the possibility either way.

Adam Jones: Dallas line opening holes my daughter could run through

The Cincinnati Bengals have heard the accolades about the Cowboys' offensive line more than once. The Cowboys have the reputation of boasting the best offensive line in the league, and the Bengals aren't denying what they have seen on film. There's a reason rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL in rushing yards.

Matchup of the Game: Bengals run defense in marquee showdown

Maualuga plays his first road game Sunday (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) without his long flowing hair that once symbolized strength to him. But note that two days after he cut his hair to the short, crisp fashion his late father demanded, Maualuga was strong enough last Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium to do what he’s done since they put him in the middle of the Bengals defense in 2011.

Notes: special teams trying to kick through transition; Eifert not on field again

How tough has this season of transition been for special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons? Since 2011 the Bengals have been in the top ten three times of Rick “Goose,” Gosselin’s NFL special teams rankings, but heading into Sunday’s game in Dallas (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12), has rated them 15th.

Fantasy Forecast: Week 5

The NFL has had no shortage of headlines through the first 4 weeks of the season with injuries. This week there will be headlines for a different reason; the return of Tom Brady from suspension. The Patriots managed to go 3-1 in his absence, with a mess of QB injuries in the process, making his return needed more than ever before.

Bengals' defense works to stop big plays

Members of the Bengals' defense aren’t used to answering questions about allowing multiple passes completed over their heads. So, excuse them if they seem a bit squirmy when the topic arises.

Trio boosts Bengals' special teams; century streak at stake for ‘D’

When Rex Burkhead tweaked a hamstring on the opening kickoff of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Thursday night victory over Miami, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons went into scramble mode. Burkhead was punter Kevin Huber’s personal protector for the game, with Pro Bowler Cedric Peerman on injured reserve and backup “PP” Derron Smith out with a chest injury.

BBP2: At Dallas, Kevin Huber, Jordan Palmer

The BBP2 features Paul Dehner Jr. and Jim Owczarski reacting to the news of Tyler Eifert's new injury and what it means for the team going forward.

Zack Martin's wife won't be conflicted on whom to root for Sunday

Zack Martin, who is married to Tyler Eifert's sister, knows where his wife's loyalty will lie when the Cowboys play the Bengals on Sunday. Cowboys All-Pro right guard Zack Martin married Eifert's sister, Morgan, in July.

AFC North Bytes

Best Offenses Week 5: Baltimore Ravens

Matt Camp of the Bleacher Report breaks down the offense of the Baltimore Ravens and makes the case why they posses a lot of fantasy options against the Redskins.

As Browns running back Isaiah Crowell atones for misdeed off field, he’s in midst of breakout season on it

Many fans wanted the Browns to cut Isaiah Crowell amid controversy this past summer. Some still do. Reporters questioned whether the stress created by the situation would suffocate Crowell and render him ineffective on the field.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown gets second fine for touchdown celebration dances

Antonio Brown is still too sexy for the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers' star receiver has been fined $24,309 for his TD celebration dance during Sunday's 43-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Thursday.

Random Bytes

Over 400 NFL players have signed up to wear alt-cleats Week 13

The NFL is loosening up its stringent rules on footwear for one occasion this season. During Week 13, for the first time ever, the NFL will permit its players to wear alternate cleats that represent a charitable cause. The decision was made last month.

The secret to the early success of Eagles rookie Carson Wentz

Wentz's ability to make full-field reads was questioned by scouts. So far, they were wrong. At North Dakota State, Wentz tended to lock onto his first receiver because, on many plays, that player would break open. But in the pros, things are different. A quarterback needs to not only work through his progressions, but also use his field of vision to move defenders, looking receivers open. And through three games, Wentz has looked the part of an NFL quarterback.

First-quarter grades for all 32 NFL teams

The first quarter of the NFL season is officially in the books after a wild four weeks. Super Bowl contenders have been anything but that, and teams that were expected to win four games all season have won three already.

Giants coaches are ready to bench Odell Beckham Jr. if he has another outburst

The Giants recognize that they need to get Beckham the ball more than they have so far this season. First, they need the third-year superstar receiver to cool it with the antics and focus on the next play.

Maria Sharapova Claims Victory and Goes on the Offensive

Happy with a 15-month doping ban, she attacked the leaders of tennis for their handling of her case.

Cardinals Find Recipe for Turning Season Around in Gut-Check Win Over 49ers

The Arizona Cardinals entered Week 5 with a simple mandate. Defeat the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, or watch any realistic hopes of the deep playoff run the team envisioned when the season began disappear.