How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
11:45
AM ET
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FALLING

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesThe Bengals threw Joe Flacco off his game, collecting four INTs off the Ravens' quarterback.
1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens quarterback: Flacco had the worst game of his career and it came at a bad time during a 15-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It's inexcusable for any quarterback to throw four interceptions, especially in a close game when every possession counts. Several Bengals defenders told me afterward that Flacco was frustrated and pressing, which is not the norm for "Joe Cool." But every quarterback has bad games. It will be key for Flacco to bounce back this week in another AFC North matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

2. Brian Daboll, Browns offensive coordinator: Browns president Mike Holmgren -- an offensive guru -- has to be getting headaches watching Cleveland's offense this season. In a 16-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Browns couldn't get anything going consistently and were shut out in the second half for the second consecutive week. Daboll fails to make the proper halftime adjustments, and the play calling often is predictable and poorly executed. Daboll's struggles are not limited to just the past two weeks. The Browns were ranked last in total offense in 2009.

3. Jerome Harrison, Browns running back: This is a big year for Cleveland tailback Jerome Harrison to prove he can be a full-time starter in the NFL. But he's off to a slow start. Harrison rushed for just 33 yards on 16 carries (2.1 yard average) against Kansas City. He also lost a fumble, which has been an issue for Harrison dating to the preseason. Browns coach Eric Mangini said this week that he will not tolerate bad football and players will be subject to the bench for continued mistakes. Mangini didn't mention players by name, but Harrison could be a candidate if he keeps putting the ball on the ground.

RISING

1. Bengals' defense: It's amazing the difference one week can make. Cincinnati's defense looked tentative and confused in Week 1 against the New England Patriots. But last week the Bengals reverted back to their 2009 form against the Ravens. Cincinnati left no big plays on the field and picked off Flacco four times. The team also kept defenders in Flacco's face the entire time, impacting his decision-making and accuracy. Now the Bengals need to keep up that defensive momentum Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

2. James Harrison, Steelers linebacker: There were at least a half-dozen Pittsburgh defenders with great performances last week against the Tennessee Titans. But Harrison made the most big plays. He recorded 11 tackles, two sacks and recovered a fumble. Harrison also did a solid job of setting the edge of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense to contain Pro Bowl tailback Chris Johnson, who rushed for just 34 yards on 16 carries.

3. Mike Nugent, Bengals kicker: Cincinnati could not score an offensive touchdown, but its kicker went 5-for-5 in field goals to preserve a big division win over Baltimore. Nugent, who beat out Dave Rayner in the preseason to win Cincinnati's kicking job, made field goals of 36, 30, 46, 38 and 25 yards. He was awarded AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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