Wednesday, October 6, 2010
How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch
By James Walker
1. Cincinnati Bengals' offensive line: It may not matter what Cincinnati's offensive identity is if the offensive line cannot block. The Bengals were beat up in the trenches during a loss to the previously winless Cleveland Browns (1-3). Cincinnati allowed four sacks, seven additional quarterback hits and ran for 3.7 yards per carry. Last year it was very good in the run game, but even that's been lagging early in the season.
2. Browns' secondary: Cleveland's front seven has played well, but its secondary is leaving much to be desired. The Browns were torched via the pass for the second straight game. In Week 3 Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin caught three touchdowns. Last weekend Terrell Owens, who is on our "rising" list, got over 200 yards receiving. The Browns have a lot of young players in their secondary and teams will continue attacking them through the air until they patch up these holes.
3. Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh Steelers kicker: We have become accustomed to Reed making tough field goals in Heinz Field. But Reed had a rare off day in his home stadium, missing his two field goal attempts -- of 49 and 45 yards -- in a 17-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Heinz Field is one of the toughest stadiums to kick in, and Reed usually makes it look routine. But last week he looked as confused as most visiting kickers.
Ben Roethisberger is practicing with the Steelers this week after serving a four-game suspension.
1. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers quarterback: Coming off a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, Roethlisberger's stock went from non-existent to soaring as he takes over one of the league's top teams. During Monday's news conference, Roethlisberger was genuinely happy to be back. He says he learned how much he misses football and can't wait to play again. Roethlisberger will have to shake the rust, but with the bye he has until Oct. 17 until he takes the field against Cleveland.
2. Terrell Owens, Bengals receiver: As we mentioned earlier, Owens exploded against the Browns for 10 catches, 222 yards and a touchdown. The Browns made a concerted effort to double Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco, which allowed T.O. to exploit one-on-one coverage against Cleveland's cornerbacks. Owens, 36, proved he still has it. His longest catch was a 78-yard touchdown over Cleveland defensive back Sheldon Brown.
3. Haloti Ngata, Ravens defensive tackle: Despite making his first Pro Bowl last year, Ngata is still under the radar when you mention the NFL's best defensive players. But Ngata had the type of game against the Steelers that should get him more publicity. Ngata was very disruptive, recording 11 tackles, a sack and two tackles for losses. His presence helped keep to Steelers to 3.1 yards per rush.