An AFC North showdown that includes Bengals? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

An AFC North showdown that includes Bengals?

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FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2009, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson runs against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File) FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2009, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson runs against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers are accustomed to playing for first place in the AFC North division. They just aren't used to vying for it with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Yet if the Bengals win at Heinz Field on Sunday and sweep the Super Bowl champions for the first time in 11 years, they will take a stranglehold on the division.

"I think Baltimore and Pittsburgh have set the tone for the AFC North and were the ones to come up with the formula, which is good solid defense, run the football and control the field position game," Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said. "I think that is something we have turned into."

The Bengals also have specialized in late-game comebacks, including the 23-20 victory over Pittsburgh in September, Cincinnati's first at home against the Steelers in nine tries.

That was Pittsburgh's second straight loss. Guess what: The Steelers have won five in a row since. They've been particularly impressive against the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos, two of the elite teams of the first half of the NFL season.

Two others meet at Indianapolis, where the unbeaten Colts host the New England Patriots.

If it seems these two square off every year, it's true. They have met each season since 2003 and clashed in three of the last four playoffs. The tally since 2003: New England 5, Indy 4.

Even if the Colts weren't unbeaten and the Patriots weren't revving it up since a mediocre first month, this would be great entertainment.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has the look of an MVP. How to tell? He's already won three of them and he's performing at that level.

Patriots counterpart Tom Brady is starting to resemble the quarterback by whom all winners are measured.

Both are surrounded by supreme talent, and both have defenses that are more than complementing the offenses.

The one added element: Tony Dungy retired as Colts coach and successor Jim Caldwell has the best record for a rookie NFL coach since 1931. Now he gets to match wits with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The New Orleans Saints, the NFL's only other unbeaten team, have looked beatable in the last three weeks, yet remain spotless at 8-0. Their St. Louis Rams opponents aren't expected to deliver the first defeat, even if the Rams won for the first time two weeks ago, then got a bye.

The Philadelphia Eagles visit the San Diego Chargers, and both teams are still trying to settle.

The Eagles can look like world-beaters one week, such as against the New York Giants in a 40-17 romp to begin the month. Or they can get beaten up physically, as in last week's loss to Dallas.

The Chargers struggled to take down woeful Oakland two weeks ago and were about to fall at the Meadowlands until the Giants got conservative in the final minutes last weekend. Now, San Diego has won three straight, yet still doesn't have the aura of a championship contender.

A win this weekend could change that perception.

Also on Sunday, it's Dallas at Green Bay; Denver at Washington; Seattle at Arizona; Detroit at Minnesota; Atlanta at Carolina; Jacksonville at the New York Jets; Buffalo at Tennessee; Tampa Bay at Miami; and Kansas City at Oakland.

Baltimore visits Cleveland on Monday.

The round began with Chicago at San Francisco late Thursday.

Off this week are Houston and the New York Giants, the final byes for the season.

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