AFC North MVP watch

October, 8, 2011
10/08/11
12:00
PM ET
If you're a fan of the hard work that fellow blogger Mike Sando puts into his weekly MVP Watch, you'll notice that there is no one from the AFC North on that list. Of course, it's hard to complain when the top 10 candidates are players from the offensive side of the ball. As everyone knows here, defense rules this division.

So, here's a look at the team MVPs a quarter of the way into the season:
  • BENGALS: CB Nate Clements. While a popular pick would be rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, it's hard to ignore the top-ranked defense in the NFL. Rey Maualuga has been solid in making the move to middle linebacker, and nose tackle Domata Peko is very underrated. But the call goes to Clements because of what coach Marvin Lewis said this week. "He’s a guy who has led this defensive unit to where they are," Lewis said. "He’s come in here and told them to get on his back. He’s helped make those other guys in that room better players." Hard to argue against that.
  • BROWNS: CB Joe Haden. There was thought put into whether defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin deserved this, but Haden is clearly the best player on the team. The seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft, Haden has also established himself as the best cornerback in the division. He proved that when he lined up against A.J. Green, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Marshall. Haden set the tone in the opener when he broke up five passes, all of which came on third downs.
  • RAVENS: LB Terrell Suggs. Many would probably choose defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and that is a legitimate choice. But no one has made more impact plays than Suggs. In four games, he has four sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception and two passes defensed. The impressive part is Suggs has changed games even though offenses are focused on blocking him. The Ravens didn't add a pass-rusher on the other edge, so teams put all their energy towards Suggs' side.
  • STEELERS: WR Mike Wallace. This is the obvious and right choice because Wallace has been the only consistent playmaker on the Steelers. He began the season with three straight 100-yard games. His worst performance came last Sunday when he only had 77 yards receiving. There's no other receiver in this division who is feared more than Wallace, who is more than a "one-trick pony." He is averaging 113.5 yards receiving per game, which is almost 40 percent of the entire passing attack.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD