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AFC North stock watch

12/22/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Let's see who's hot and who's not in the AFC North division:

Who's hot?

1. John Harbaugh, head coach, Baltimore Ravens

It was an eventful six days for the rookie head coach, but Harbaugh handled it masterfully. First, he had his team move on from last week's controversial touchdown in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, the Ravens were prepared as Harbaugh picked up the biggest win of his brief coaching career in Saturday's 33-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps the biggest call of the game was Harbaugh's gutsy fake field goal that set up a fourth-quarter touchdown, which displayed a lot of moxie for a first-year coach.

2. Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain, RBs, Baltimore Ravens

We're pairing two of Baltimore's "three-headed monster," because we didn't want to exclude either player. McGahee and McClain combined for 247 rushing yards and two huge fourth-quarter plays in the win. First, McGahee ran nearly untouched for 77 yards in the longest play of his career. Then McClain topped that with an 82-yard touchdown to close out the game. Both tailbacks had 100 yards against a tough defense and it couldn't have come at a better time for Baltimore, which is now one win away from a playoff berth.
3. Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

The offense of the Cleveland Browns had a favorite target Sunday. But unfortunately for the Browns, that target wore the opposing jersey. Bengals cornerback Leon Hall had a trio of interceptions in Sunday's 14-0 victory over the Browns, and one of those interceptions was returned for a 50-yard touchdown. With that score, Hall outscored the Browns by himself. He would have been rated higher on this list had the performance come under more important circumstances.

Who's not?

1. Ken Dorsey, QB, Cleveland Browns

Hall's big day was due to Dorsey's awful performance. He threw for 68 yards and three interceptions in Cleveland's loss. Dorsey has thrown zero touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season, and the Browns are 0-3 in his starts. Backup Bruce Gradkowski relieved Dorsey in the second half against the Bengals and also threw a pick. The quarterback position is a big reason why the Browns' season cannot end soon enough.

2. Willie Parker, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

With Tennessee defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch out for the game, the Steelers tried to establish Parker on the ground early and couldn't. Parker, who recently called for more rushing opportunities, finished with 29 yards on 18 carries for a 1.6 yard average. Pittsburgh had more success against the Titans passing and may be a sign of where this offense is headed in the playoffs.

3. Rob Chudzinski, off. coordinator, Cleveland Browns

To be fair, Chudzinski is working without his two quarterbacks (Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn) and top two tight ends (Kellen Winslow Jr., Steve Heiden).Still, it is very difficult to go five straight games in the NFL without scoring an offensive touchdown. Chudzinski was praised last year for bringing excitement back to the Browns offense. Now his units struggle to execute basic plays. Chudzinski and Cleveland's offense has one more game to end the streak in 2008 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.