The Bengals have a lot to celebrate these days.
Cincinnati won its third AFC North Division championship via the combination of Sunday’s 42-14 blasting of Minnesota and New England’s 41-7 decision over Baltimore. The Bengals are headed to the playoffs for a third consecutive season for the first time in franchise history.
“It’s amazing,” defensive tackle Domata Peko observed. “We’re making history.”
That they are, but the Bengals have bigger goals in mind.
“You do this to win the Super Bowl, but you can’t earn a trip if you can’t punch a ticket,” defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry pointed out. “Our ticket has been punched. And we’ve got a group of guys who deserve to be there.”
The Bengals (10-5) can still catch the Patriots for the No. 2 seed in the AFC if the Bengals beat the Ravens this Sunday and the Patriots lose to Buffalo in a 4:25 p.m. kickoff at New England.
QB Andy Dalton completed 71 percent of his passes and threw for 366 yards against the Vikings, the fifth time Dalton has completed more then 70 percent of his throws and the fifth time he’s thrown for more than 300 yards this season.
The defense held Minnesota to 0-for-9 on third-down conversions. And the Bengals scored more than 40 points for the fourth consecutive home game while improving to 7-0 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati was without LB James Harrison (concussion) and CB Terence Newman (knee) against Minnesota.
The Ravens are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in QB Joe Flacco’s six seasons after losing to the Patriots 41-7 at home.
Baltimore (8-7) can get into the postseason with a loss this Sunday at Cincinnati provided the Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers all lose their final regular-season games. The Ravens also can get in with a win against the Bengals and either a Dolphins or Chargers loss.
Things went poorly enough for the Ravens against the Patriots that even placekicker Justin Tucker wasn’t good enough. Tucker’s miss on a 37-yard field goal attempt snapped his streak of 33 consecutive field goals, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.
Baltimore permitted three New England touchdowns on three red zone possessions and has surrendered touchdowns on its opponents’ last six trips inside the 20-yard line.
The 34-point margin of defeat was the largest for the Ravens at home and the ninth loss at M&T Bank Stadium for Baltimore in six years under Coach John Harbaugh.
The Browns lost their sixth straight game and fell for the ninth time in 10 games when they were beaten by the Jets, 24-13. At 4-11 now, the Browns have been reduced to trying to match the five wins achieved in 2012, Pat Shurmur’s final season at the helm.
“I bear all the responsibility,” Coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I’m the head coach of this team, so ultimately this is on me and I’m committed to getting it right.”
The Jets converted 66.7 percent of their third downs against the Browns (12-for-18). New York had been converting at a 36.4-percent clip prior to kickoff. Prior to taking on the Jets the Browns had allowed the Bears to convert 64.3 percent of their third downs.
Jets running back Chris Ivory became the second straight guys to surpass 100 yards rushing against the Browns (Matt Forte), part of a 208-yard Jets’ rushing effort against Cleveland.
The Browns finish on Sunday at Heinz Field, the fifth time in the last six seasons they’ve ended the regular season against the Steelers. Cleveland is 0-5 in such affairs, including losses of 31-0 in 2008 in Pittsburgh, 41-9 in 2010 in Cleveland, 13-9 in 2011 in Cleveland, and 24-10 last season in Pittsburgh.