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Tony Tribble, Associated Press
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, left, fumbles the ball as he is hit by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Cincinnati. Baltimore recovered the fumble and went on to win 24-16.

CINCINNATI — The Bengals had seven chances to beat a top-tier team during the season, and lost all seven games. Their eighth opportunity will come in the playoffs.

Cincinnati's enchanted year has stretched into the postseason. Even though the Bengals (9-7) lost to Baltimore on Sunday, they got the help they needed to clinch the final AFC wild card. They'll play at Houston on Saturday.

The Bengals made the playoffs even though they went 0-7 against other teams in the playoffs — AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh, as well as Denver, San Francisco and Houston. Their nine wins came against teams that had a combined 43-85 record, and only one of them finished above .500.

Five of the nine wins came against teams that finished in last place.