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Bengals Bytes (2/19): Back to the dance

What the Bengals can do to get back into the playoffs. The Ravens want play makers, and they don’t care how big they are. The Dolphins reward one of the NFL’s best pass rushers.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals' Playoff Excuses Won't Be Tolerated This Season

Hopefully, a new beginning and a new set of weapons will make a difference. As fans watched the Cincinnati Bengals flounder along to a 6-9-1 record, they looked nothing like the 2015 version. The promises that kept diehard believers glued to televisions and full of hope ended with a meaningless win over the Baltimore Ravens. Well, at least the victory kept the Bengals from double-digit losses. But, the romantic phase has ended. The excuses won’t play this year. It’s put up or move on.

Bengals Offseason Primer: Get Back To The Playoffs

At first, the Cincinnati Bengals’ slump in 2016 could come as a bit of a surprise. They were, after all, coming off five straight playoff seasons. But there were warning signs. Cincinnati’s five straight Wild Card exits had to be an emotional drain on a team hoping to contend for much more than the playoffs. Losing wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Mohamed Sanu in free agency left the Bengals depth-starved at a critical position.

AFC North Bytes

How can the Pittsburgh Steelers fix their offensive red-zone issues?

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense set the bar high for themselves in 2016. A goal of 30 points per game is no easy feat, yet they aspired to prove Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and company would be more than capable of accomplishing such a daunting task.

When should the Browns address the quarterback position: Hey, Mary Kay!

Somehow, some way the Browns are expected to address their quarterback position this offseason. It could be via trade, free agency, the draft -- there are plenty of options for them. Cleveland.com readers have their usual batch of questions for Mary Kay Cabot and her Hey, Mary Kay! column, so we picked three of them for a video edition of her Q&A.

Ravens Want Playmakers, No Matter What Size They Come In

The Ravens know what a playmaker looks like. One knocked them out of playoff contention this year. When Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown fought off two tacklers to reach out and spoil the Ravens’ Christmas, Baltimore got a reminder. “We need playmakers in Baltimore,” Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said at the Senior Bowl.

Random Bytes

Uncertainty over Vikings stadium leadership after dustup

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale resigned months after revelations that suite tickets were going to family and friends of top commissioners. But the saga isn't over. Republican lawmakers in Minnesota are pushing to shake up the stadium board — a move that could drastically change oversight of the $1.1 billion stadium as the state gears up to host the 2018 Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins reward top pass rusher Cameron Wake with a contract extension

Cameron Wake bounced back from a torn Achilles to lead the Miami Dolphins with 11.5 sacks last season, and on Saturday the team rewarded the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end with a two-year contract extension.

Cardinals may have a hard time keeping Tony Jefferson

The Cardinals have plenty of cap space already devoted to the secondary, with big contracts previously given to cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu. They need to smooth out the cap burden among all positions, and they can’t afford to get top heavy on the last line of defense.

Reuter 4-round mock draft: Top talent drops with early QB run

Producing a four-round mock draft two weeks before the NFL Scouting Combine is done for one of two reasons: 1) You're certifiably insane. 2) You want a snapshot of how players are viewed going into an event many refer to as the "Underwear Olympics." I'll claim it was done for the latter reason, though most who know me will choose the former. Either way, I hope you enjoy viewing one potential scenario of how things could play out in the draft.