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AFC North stock watch

9/30/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Four weeks into the 2008 regular season, let's take a look at who's hot and who's not in the AFC North division:


Who's hot?


1. James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers


At some point, we may start calling Harrison "Mr. Monday Night." The Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker showed up with yet another huge performance on "Monday Night Football." Harrison had 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and his game-changing forced fumble against Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco led to a defensive touchdown and helped breathe new life into the Steelers in the second half of last night's 23-20 overtime win.


2. Derrick Mason, WR, Baltimore Ravens


Many observers were impressed with Flacco's performance in his first road game, but Mason was a major reason for the rookie's success. Mason served as Baltimore's most reliable weapon and Flacco's safety valve against the Steelers. He had eight catches for 137 yards and seemed to navigate around the Steelers' secondary with ease.


3. Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns

Lewis felt he could help the Browns with more carries, and Cleveland's coaching staff honored his wishes. The Browns improved to 5-0 when Lewis gets at least 25 carries in a game. He registered 79 yards rushing on 25 carries and a touchdown in a 20-12 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He also had two catches for 15 yards. Lewis didn't put together many explosive plays but was consistent in helping the Browns get first downs.
Who's not?


1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Cincinnati Bengals


With starting quarterback Carson Palmer out with an elbow injury, the Cincinnati Bengals' offense committed five turnovers. Four of those can be attributed to backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. His three interceptions and a fumble prevented the Bengals from winning. Some fans in Cincinnati wanted to see Fitzpatrick play earlier in the year when Carson Palmer was struggling. Sunday's performance should put that idea to bed.


2. Chris Perry, RB, Cincinnati Bengals


In his first year as a full-time starter, Perry is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry. He could only muster 28 yards on 12 carries against the previously winless Browns. Plus Perry lost a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter that prevented any hopes of a comeback against the Browns.


3. Steelers offensive line


The victory masked another poor performance from Pittsburgh's hogs up front. The Steelers allowed three sacks -- 12 in the last two games -- and couldn't open many holes in the running game. A season-ending Achilles injury to starting guard Kendall Simmons will not help. But Pittsburgh's line did play better when the offense opened it up in the second half and went no huddle. Perhaps that's part of the solution.