Wednesday, November 24, 2010
How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch
By James Walker
1. The Cincinnati Bengals' defense: I'm still shaking my head at how Cincinnati gave up 35 unanswered points in a loss at home to the lowly Buffalo Bills (2-8). This is a new low for the Bengals (2-8). Cincinnati suffered multiple injuries on defense, but that's no excuse to allow journeyman career backup Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw four touchdowns. With virtually no pass rush and an ailing secondary, it could be a long six games for this group.
2. Brian Daboll, Browns offensive coordinator: Cleveland's coaching staff has had problems making in-game adjustments all season, and it's a primary reason this team is 3-7. In a 24-20 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the running game clearly wasn't working but Daboll continued to kill drives and scoring opportunities by running up the middle for very little gain. Cleveland's defense forced six turnovers, but the Browns were only able to score one offensive touchdown. With offensive guru Mike Holmgren serving as team president, Daboll is certainly on the hot seat down the stretch.
3. Browns offensive line: The Browns also sputtered because their offensive line had its worst game of the season against Jacksonville. Both the run and pass blocking were subpar, as Cleveland allowed six quarterback sacks and couldn't get tailback Peyton Hillis (21 carries, 48 yards) jump-started. Defenses are now gearing up to stuff Hillis on the ground and bringing pressure to rookie quarterback Colt McCoy in the passing game. Cleveland has to be more prepared for this.
James Harrison made several impact plays against the Raiders.
1. James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker: Harrison was all over the field in last week's 35-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders. He recorded five tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble on Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell. Harrison continues to play hard as he tries to tailor his game to fit what the league wants out of defensive players. Harrison also was this week's High Energy Player for posting his best all-around game of the season.
2. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens linebacker: After a shaky performance two weeks ago against the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore's defense got its swagger back against the Carolina Panthers with a big assist from Lewis. The defensive leader had a team-high 10 tackles and a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped put the game away in the fourth quarter. Baltimore is at its best when the defense is active and creating havoc. Both Lewis and safety Dawan Landry scored touchdowns against the Panthers.
3. Abram Elam, Browns safety: Elam had, by far, his best game as a member of the Browns. He tied for the team lead with six tackles and also had an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown. Elam's score was a heads-up play, where he stripped Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew in the pile and took it to the house for a touchdown. It was the second defensive touchdown of Elam's career. The Browns could use more big games like this from their veteran safety.