Bengals have breathing room in AFC North

CINCINNATI — The Bengals head into their bye week in first place in the AFC North Division.

Their lead seems a mile long.

The Bengals 41-20 win over the Browns Sunday snapped a two-game losing streak and sent the banged-up Bengals into their bye week at 7-4. The Browns dropped to 4-6, and so, too, did the Ravens when they lost a 23-20, weather-delayed game in Chicago.

The Steelers 37-27 win over the Lions made the Steelers 4-6, too. After an 0-4 start, the Steelers are feeling pretty good about themselves.

They remain a long way behind the Bengals.

While the Bengals heal up for a stretch run that includes three of five games at home in December, the Steelers play at the Browns next week and the Ravens, temporarily rescucitated by last week’s overtime win over the Bengals, play the Jets.

The Browns, Steelers and Ravens are all very much in the race for the AFC’s second wildcard spot, which says a lot about either the parity or the mediocrity in the AFC right now. Not much has come easy to the Bengals, but they have some breathing room after Sunday’s win.

Next week’s Steelers-Browns game in Cleveland could be for second place and wildcard positioning, depending on the Ravens’ result, but it’s now certainly for last place.

The Bengals still play at Pittsburgh on Dec. 15 and host the Ravens in the season finale.