For a team predicted to finish the season in last place, the Cincinnati Bengals are playing awfully well. In fact, they currently sit in first place in the AFC North.
I'll admit it, I was one of these people who had the Bengals winning three or four games.
The Bengals were coming into this season with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and a dark shadow cast by disgruntled former quarterback Carson Palmer. Running back Cedric Benson had been in and out of trouble as well, I thought for sure he would be long gone before the season ended.
Surprisingly enough, everything has gone right for a team that has gotten used to everything going wrong.
Andy Dalton has been solid, and Cedric Benson has been playing well too. Carson Palmer was finally traded to the Oakland Raiders at the trade deadline. Had it not been for an injury to Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell a deal probably would have never been done.
As it stands, the Bengals will get at least one first round draft pick from the Raiders, possibly two depending on how they finish the season with Palmer. Either way, the Bengals got the better of this deal.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the thick of things, a game back in the AFC North behind both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. This game is a must-win for the Steelers, who can't afford another loss in the AFC North after dropping another game to the Ravens.
This isn't unfamiliar territory for the Steelers, who are used to having to fight their way into the playoffs. The last time the Steelers lost two games to the Baltimore Ravens, they won the Super Bowl.
The focus for both teams will be to make the playoffs regardless of seed. It will be interesting to see how this talented, young Bengals team performs when a game means something.
Read on to see 10 keys to watch for in this AFC North showdown.