AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals Beat Ravens 23-17, May Face Houston in Wild Card

Alex Peterman@Alex_PetermanCorrespondent IIIDecember 30, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 30:  Chris Crocker #33 of the Cincinnati Bengals takes the field before the start of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals now have back-to-back wins over their two most bitter rivals. That has to do wonders for the momentum of a young team heading into the postseason next week. Especially since the Bengals hadn’t beaten either team with Andy Dalton at the helm the last two years.

Today’s 23-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens also means that the Bengals ended their 2012 regular season with seven wins in eight contests over the second half of their tough schedule.

The starters on both sides were taken out of the game at halftime with the scored tied at 7-7. Both coaching staffs undoubtedly valued their players’ safety over anything else in a game that meant little for playoff seeding.

Cincinnati’s fill-in kicker, Josh Brown, hit three field goals during the game, including a 47-yarder in the third quarter. Going 3-for-3 on the day only gives the Bengals more confidence in their special team heading into the playoffs, as Brown is now 10-for-11 since Mike Nugent injured his right calf.

Bruce Gradkowski hit Brandon Tate on a long pass play in the fourth quarter to set up the field goal that gave the Bengals the lead.

Carlos Dunlap then sealed the Ravens’ fate when he intercepted Tyrod Taylor for a touchdown late in the game. It put the game just out of reach as the Ravens ran out of time with a failed onside kick recovered by Ryan Whalen.

On the scoreboard watch, the Indianapolis Colts took care of the Houston Texans at home, which has large implications for the Bengals’ first opponent in the wild-card round.

Denver will likely defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, and the New England Patriots will be largely favored over the Miami Dolphins. If those two games end as predicted by most, Cincinnati will face Houston in a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff contest.