Ray Rice ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns and the Baltimore Ravens clinched the AFC North and a first-round bye with a 24-16 victory over the host Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Baltimore (12-4) wrapped up its first division title since 2006 and will host a playoff game for the first time in four years. The No. 2-seeded Ravens won all eight of its home games for the first time in franchise history.
Cincinnati (9-7) fell to 1-7 against teams above .500 this season, but still clinched its second playoff berth in three years by virtue of Denver's loss to Kansas City.
The Bengals, who secured the sixth seed, will visit AFC South champion Houston on Saturday.
Cincinnati nearly clinched its third playoff berth since 1990 by rallying from a 17-3 halftime deficit.
Mike Nugent’s 23-yard field goal cut the lead to 24-16 with 2:39 left and the Bengals drove to the Baltimore 33-yard line after forcing a three-and-out. But Lardarius Webb knocked away a Hail Mary pass intended for rookie A.J. Green with two seconds left.
As it turned out, the Cincinnati didn’t need to win to reach the postseason. The crowd erupted during its final drive when it was announced that Denver lost.
Baltimore, meanwhile, has struggled on the road this season and it appeared the Ravens let another one slip away. Trailing 17-13, Cincinnati drove to the Baltimore 43 yard-line with just over seven minutes left, but Terrell Suggs stripped tight end Jermaine Gresham and Bernard Pollard recovered at the 40-yard line.
One play later, Rice’s 51-yard touchdown run gave Baltimore a 24-13 lead with 5:41 left.
The Bengals were playing in front of a rare sellout crowd thanks to a "buy one, get one free" promotion. The air was taken out of the building almost immediately, though, when Rice broke free off tackle for a 70-yard touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage.