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Bengals better team _ especially on defense _ heading into playoffs for 2nd straight season

  • f51de8fb06f08e24240f6a7067001a21.jpg

    Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton acknowledges Bengals fans as he walks of the field after the Bengals' 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (The Associated Press)

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    Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is tackled after a 4-yard scramble, by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, left, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec 23, 2012. The Bengals won 13-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (The Associated Press)

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    Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis reacts to a penalty called on his team in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Pittsburgh. The Bengals defeated the Steelers 13-10. (AP Photo/Don Wright) (The Associated Press)

The Bengals think they're a better team — especially on defense — heading into the playoffs for the second season in a row.

They finished 9-7 last season, earned a wild card and got beat at Houston 31-10 in the first round. A 13-10 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday clinched another wild-card berth, only the second time in franchise history that they've gone to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

They're locked into the No. 6 seed regardless of what they do on Sunday against Baltimore (10-5) at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals (9-6) think their playoff appearance last season — when quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green were rookies — taught them a lot. They're also encouraged by the way their defense has dominated teams down the stretch.

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