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Bengals must avoid Vikings upset to stay on track

By The Sports Xchange

The AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals look to clinch a playoff berth when they host the Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1) on Sunday. Cincinnati, which owns a one-game lead over Bal-timore, can clinch the divi-sion with a victory and a loss or tie by the Ravens against New England. The Bengals would lock up at least a wild-card spot with a win and a loss or tie by Miami, which visits Buffalo.

Cincinnati (9-5) wasted an opportunity to secure a third straight playoff appearance when it dropped a 30-20 deci-sion at Pittsburgh last week. Minnesota is coming off a 48-30 triumph over Philadelphia that prevented the Eagles from taking a two-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East. The Vikings, who are 0-6-1 away from home, hope to avoid going winless on the road for the third time in club history.

About the Vikings

Matt Asiata didn't provide much yardage-wise while filling in for Adrian Peterson last week, but the third-stringer helped put up points. Asiata gained only 51 yards on 30 carries against Philadelphia but scored the first three touchdowns of his NFL career. Peterson (foot) and primary backup Toby Gerhart (hamstring) both are expected to be available Sunday.

About the Bengals

Cincinnati is a perfect 6-0 at home, where it meets Baltimore for a potential showdown for the division title next week. The Bengals are averaging 33.2 points in their own building and have scored more than 40 in each of their last three home contests. Andy Dalton has thrown 27 touchdown passes, matching his career high, and needs 351 passing yards to join Carson Palmer as the only quarterbacks in team history to reach the 4,000-yard plateau in a season.

Extra points

  • Cincinnati hasn't gone undefeated at home since 1988, while Minnesota hasn't gone winless on the road since 2001.
  • The Vikings visit Cincin-nati for the first time since 2005, when they suffered a 37-8 loss.
  • The home team has won four straight meetings and six of the last seven in the all-time series.

Prediction: Bengals 31, Vikings 17