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The Baltimore Ravens (12-4) secured the AFC North title and ensured a first bye week in the playoffs with a confident 24-16 victory over divisional rivals the Cincinnati Bengals (9-7).
The Ravens got off to the perfect start, with Ray Rice breaking into the secondary and racing to the end zone for a 70-yard rushing touchdown. Both Billy Cundiff and Mike Nugent then proceeded to exchange field goals and left the Ravens leading by seven points at the end of the first quarter.
Baltimore then made it a two possession game in the second quarter, with Joe Flacco finding tight end Dennis Pitta for a 9-yard touchdown pass, part of a great performance for Pitta who finished with 62 yards on six receptions.
The Bengals cut the deficit back to seven points late in the third quarter however, with running back Bernard Scott going over for a 25-yard rushing touchdown, giving heart to the Cincinnati offense which had been fairly ineffective up to that point.
Despite pulling to within four points of the Ravens with another Nugent field goal, the game wrapped up midway through the fourth quarter when Rice broke off his second big run of the game, registering a 51-yard rushing touchdown, and giving the running back 191 rushing yards on just 24 carries.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs kept up the form which has many tipping him to become Defensive Player of the Year, sacking Andy Dalton as well as forcing a key fumble late in the game, with possession returning to the Ravens.
The Ravens will now enjoy a home match in the second round of the playoffs, and condemn archrivals the Pittsburgh Steelers to have to face the Denver Broncos next weekend. The Bengals will also appear in the playoffs despite their loss to the Ravens today, and will have to travel to Houston to take on the Texans next week, illustrating the strength of the AFC North as arguably the most competitive division in the N.F.L.