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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

By James Walker
ESPN.com

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Falling

1. Steelers defense: Ignore the ranking, because Pittsburgh is not playing like a top-5 defense. The Steelers are fine for a half or three quarters, but blowing fourth-quarter leads has been the story of their 2009 season.

Pittsburgh did it again -- not once or twice, but three times -- in a 27-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Steelers gave up three touchdowns in the final quarter as the offense did all it could to keep the team ahead.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin promised changes will be made, and it’s safe to assume most will come on the defense.

2. Joe Flacco, Ravens quarterback: There weren’t many Ravens who played well in Monday’s 27-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. But, as usual, much of the blame falls on the shoulders of the quarterback.

In an important game, Flacco had one of his worst performances of the season. He threw for 137 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. His passer rating was 27.2.

The Ravens may want to take some pressure off Flacco and remember that he’s still a growing, second-year quarterback. He looked lost in his first game at Lambeau Field, forcing throws that often resulted in turnovers.

3. Ravens secondary: Trouble was brewing early when Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed (hip) was declared inactive before game time. To no one's surprise, Baltimore’s secondary struggled against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Rodgers threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns, but it was the hidden yards that really hurt Baltimore. The Ravens had a season-high four pass interference calls that kept drives alive. Holding receivers has been an issue all year for Baltimore’s secondary.

Ochocinco
Chad Ochocinco torched the Detroit defense for nine receptions and 137 yards on Sunday.
Rising

1. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals receiver: Ochocinco has been solid this year. But he hasn't had many huge games.

That changed in Week 13 as Ochocinco recorded nine catches for a season-high 137 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati's 23-13 win over the Detroit Lions. It was his third 100-yard game of the season.

Ochocinco receives a lot of attention from opposing defenses. It will be interesting to see how many big games Ochocinco will have down the stretch and in the playoffs. Either way, his presence helps all areas of the offense.

2. Brady Quinn, Browns quarterback: Quinn is becoming one of the few bright spots for the Browns (1-11). He had his second solid performance in three weeks during a 30-23 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Quinn threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns and had a 95.7 passer rating. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in the past three weeks. Quinn also has a rushing touchdown in that span, improving his stock.

3. Cedric Benson, Bengals tailback: In his first game since suffering a hip injury, Benson shook off the rust to the tune of 110 rushing yards on 36 carries. Benson’s yards per carry average (3.1) wasn't great, but his ability to get the tough yards and move the chains helped lead to 10 rushing first downs against Detroit.

Despite missing two games, Benson is on pace to easily surpass 300 carries this season. He looked fresh Sunday, and the Bengals will need him this week against the Minnesota Vikings (10-2).