Midseason AFC North QB report card

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
10:21
AM ET
A look at how the AFC North quarterbacks have fared in the first half of the season:

Andy Dalton, Bengals The good: The 35th overall pick in this year's draft has exceeded expectations. Dalton has 12 touchdown passes, the most by rookie in team’s first eight games of the season since the 1970 merger. He needs 159 passing yards to surpass Greg Cook for most passing yards by a rookie in franchise history. What really stands out is his poise. In coming back from a 14-point halftime deficit to the Bills, Dalton threw a touchdown pass, ran for another score and led a 56-yard drive for the winning field goal as time expired.

The bad: Even though Dalton showed good zip in throwing three touchdowns at Tennessee, he doesn't have elite arm strength. His four completions over 40 yards ranks in the middle of the NFL. In losses to Denver and San Francisco, Dalton struggled on third downs as the Bengals failed to convert on 19 of 21 opportunities.

The grade: B-plus. This probably could be bumped up to an A-plus if you take the Carson Palmer trade into account. It's still too early to say Dalton is the franchise quarterback, but he certainly is headed in the right direction. He needs four wins to join Ben Roethlisberger (13 in 2004), Joe Flacco (11 in 2008), Matt Ryan (11 in 2008) and Kyle Orton (10 in 2005) as the only rookie quarterbacks to have at least 10 wins in a season in the Super Bowl era.

Colt McCoy, Browns The good: Despite no running game and the lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver, McCoy looks like he has a natural feel for the position at times. He has great mobility and has been at his best when rolling outside the pocket. McCoy has shown great faith in putting the ball up so his receivers can out-leap defenders to make the play. Teammates rave about his toughness and leadership.

The bad: Problems with accuracy and the lack of a strong arm have led to questions whether he's a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. He's completed less than half of his passes in three games this season. His 5.7 yards per attempt ranks 33rd in the NFL and underscores his inability to throw the ball deep downfield. That's a losing combination in this league.

The grade: D. Head coach Pat Shurmur is as much to blame as McCoy because he has put too much responsibility on the 2010 third-round pick. Only four quarterbacks have averaged more attempts than McCoy (38.5) this season.

Joe Flacco, Ravens The good: In six wins, he has averaged 286.1 yards passing, throwing seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Flacco threw three touchdowns in the season-opening win against Pittsburgh and three touchdowns in the first quarter to win at St. Louis. He's starting to hit his groove with three 300-yard games in four weeks since the bye. His defining moment came when he drove the Ravens 92 yards to deliver the winning touchdown pass with eight seconds remaining at Pittsburgh.

The bad: Inconsistency has been the problem this year and has been the problem for most of Flacco's career. He didn't complete a pass for two quarters against the Jets and didn't record a first down for the first 40 minutes at Jacksonville. Flacco also had a career-worst streak of four games with an interception.

The grade: B. Say what you want about his stats, Flacco has proven to be a winner. He is on course to become the first quarterback ever to start a postseason game in each of his first four seasons in the Super Bowl era.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers The good: Over his past five games -- a span in which the Steelers have won four times -- Roethlisberger has thrown 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. He's on a three-game streak of throwing at least 330 yards passing. He out-dueled Tom Brady with 365 yards passing two weeks ago and he would have had another fourth-quarter comeback to add to his resume if the defense didn't allow Flacco to go 92 yards in the final two minutes of last Sunday's game.

The bad: His season began with a nightmare. He turned the ball over a career-high five times (three interceptions and two fumbles lost) at Baltimore, the most turnovers by a player in a game this season. Roethlisberger took a beating early behind a patchwork offensive line and injured his foot at Houston. In the Steelers' first two losses, Roethlisberger barely completed half of his passes, throwing one touchdown and four interceptions.

The grade: A. This could go down as his most impressive season. He is on track to break his franchise single-season record of 4,328 passing yards in 2009. Without much help from the running game or the offensive line, Roethlisberger is playing better than any other quarterback in the AFC.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD