How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns quarterback: It was just a matter of time before McCoy had a "rookie" game, and it came in Week 16 against the Baltimore Ravens. This was the first time this season that McCoy, Cleveland's 2010 third-round pick, looked confused in seven starts. McCoy threw for just 149 yards and three interceptions. There are a lot of questions about whether McCoy can play in bad weather in Cleveland, and he will get another opportunity to do it Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

2. Peyton Hillis, Browns running back: It appears the heavy workload has finally caught up to Hillis, who is averaging just 47 yards rushing in the past two games. The Ravens stuffed Hillis by holding him to 35 rushing yards and hurt his ribs in the process. Hillis, Cleveland's leading rusher and second-leading receiver, sat out of practice Wednesday for the second straight week. Cleveland's offense has struggled in recent weeks, and Hillis' injuries and declining production are a major reason.

3. Sergio Kindle, Ravens linebacker: Kindle's focus should be on rehabbing after fracturing his skull in July and missing the 2010 season. But Kindle took another step backward by getting arrested this week on drunken-driving charges. Ravens coach John Harbaugh admits Kindle has a history of making bad choices, and that's the quickest way into the doghouse in Baltimore. The rookie has a lot to prove in order to earn his way on the team once he's healthy.

RISING

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer has arguably his best game of the season against the Chargers, throwing for four TDs.
1. Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati Bengals receiver: Where was Simpson all these years? After being inactive or sitting on the bench for nearly three seasons, Simpson exploded last week with six catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the San Diego Chargers. Injuries to Chad Ochocinco (ankle) and Terrell Owens (knee) have allowed Simpson to get extensive playing time. Simpson has to prove that last week wasn't a fluke and play well again in Cincinnati's final game against Baltimore.

2. Carson Palmer, Bengals quarterback: Although it was just one game, it is ironic that Palmer had his best performance of the season without Owens and Ochocinco on the field. Palmer was nearly flawless, throwing for 269 yards and four touchdowns against San Diego's No. 1-rated defense. Young receivers Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and tight end Jermaine Gresham were in the right spots, and Palmer had no trouble getting the ball there. Is this a preview of the Bengals' offense in 2011?

3. Ed Reed, Ravens safety: Reed easily won the mental chess game against McCoy in Baltimore's 20-10 win over the Browns. Reed picked off two passes and read McCoy's eyes successfully the entire game. At some point you would think quarterbacks would stop throwing in Reed's direction. This was the future Hall of Famer's 10th multi-interception game of his career, which makes him the NFL's active leader in that category.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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