AFC North: Al Harris
Small man, big game
Cleveland Browns tailback Jerome Harrison rushed for 286 yards -- the third most all time -- in a 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Entering the game, the 5-foot-9 Harrison had just 301 yards rushing. He found his groove after halftime, rushing for three touchdowns.
"People forget this guy led the NCAA in rushing not too long ago," Williamson said of Harrison, who attended Washington State. "He knows how to accumulate yards, and he’s a very good runner who doesn’t get enough credit. Part of the problem is the Browns don’t trust him in pass protection."
Harrison's 34 carries Sunday were a career high. With tailback Jamal Lewis (concussion) on injured reserve, Harrison will continue to get more opportunities.
Cribbs takes it to the house
The price tag continues to rise for Browns kick returner Joshua Cribbs. He scored touchdowns on kickoff returns of 100 yards and 103 yards Sunday, giving Cribbs an NFL-record eight for his career.
Cribbs has 2,336 all-purpose yards this year and needs 323 more yards to break the NFL season mark held by receiver Derrick Mason (2,659 yards) in 2000.
Cribbs has a special mix of skills. He has the field vision of a quarterback, the speed of a receiver and the strength of a running back to break through tackles. The combination makes Cribbs arguably the NFL's most dangerous returner.
"I think he’s clearly the best right now," Williamson said. "Part of it is because Devin Hester has taken a back seat. He’s trying to be a full-time receiver, so Chicago doesn’t use him as a returner like they used to. But that’s not to take anything away from Cribbs. Cribbs is terrific, and I think he’s clearly the best all-around special-teams player in the league."
The Browns and Cribbs have been in a contract dispute for two seasons, but it appears he will have his contract redone after another great year.
Big day for Big Ben
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 503 yards, the 10th-best performance in NFL history, in a 37-36 win over the Green Bay Packers. Pittsburgh needed every yard as Roethlisberger’s 19-yard touchdown throw to receiver Mike Wallace won the game with no time remaining.
Roethlisberger has had big games before, but none more explosive than this one. His first throw was a 60-yard touchdown pass to Wallace.
"I thought they had a really great game plan against Green Bay," Williamson said. "It was the first time that I can really say [Packers cornerback] Al Harris has been missed. Charles Woodson is great, but the other corners can be exposed, and Pittsburgh exposed them."
Roethlisberger has another chance for a big game Sunday against the depleted secondary of the Baltimore Ravens (8-6). Ravens cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington are out for the season with knee injuries, and safety Ed Reed has missed the past three games with groin and foot ailments.
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Anderson has the lowest passer rating (40.6) of any NFL starting quarterback. JaMarcus Russell (47.2) of the Oakland Raiders is second, and he was pulled over the weekend.
Yet, the Browns stuck with Anderson throughout their 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He played every snap and completed 12 of 29 passes for 99 yards and an interception. Anderson also will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears. The good news is the Bears allowed 45 points last week to the Cincinnati Bengals.
It hasn't been a good start to the season for rookie Brian Robiskie. It took Robiskie weeks to work his way off the inactive list, and now that he’s playing he hasn’t made any impact.
Last weekend, Green Bay Packers cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris schooled the second-round pick. Robiskie struggled to get open and was shut out for zero catches, despite being targeted five times.
It was a good learning experience for Robiskie, who has to keep working at his craft to help get the Browns out of their offensive struggles.
It was a tough day for the Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary in general against the Minnesota Vikings. But Gay had the toughest day in a 27-17 victory for Pittsburgh.
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre (334 passing yards) tested Gay, who had nine tackles and one pass defensed. But the toughest play for Gay was Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson trucking him to the ground in what will surely be a season highlight. It was the football equivalent of being "posterized" in basketball.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
The defending Super Bowl champions made a huge statement by being the first team to knock off the Minnesota Vikings (6-1). The Steelers (5-2) did it in unconventional fashion by scoring two defensive touchdowns.
But the game marked the biggest victory of the season for Pittsburgh and its fourth win in a row. After a slow start, the Steelers appear to be rounding into form. Pittsburgh now has a bye week to get healthy and prepare for its next game against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 9.
Palmer had the most efficient game of his career in Cincinnati’s 45-10 thrashing of the Chicago Bears. He completed 20 of 24 passes for 233 yards and five touchdowns. Palmer's passer rating of 146.7 was a career high.
It’s scary to think of the numbers Palmer could’ve put up if he hadn't been pulled early in the fourth quarter. He was in the zone in terms of reading coverages and getting the ball to his receivers with pinpoint accuracy. It will be interesting to see if Palmer maintains this momentum following Cincinnati's bye week.
Benson was equally as good running the football for the Bengals. He was motivated to have a big game against his former team and set a career high with 189 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries.
The Bengals had no problem giving Benson every opportunity to stick it to his former team. It will probably be a game Benson will never forget. With Palmer airing it out and Benson running the ball, Cincinnati’s offensive performance against Chicago was as close to a perfect game as you will find in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
CINCINNATI - Bengals star receiver Chad Ochocinco said Wednesday that he's looking forward to making Pittsburgh Steelers cornerbacks William Gay and Ike Taylor "kiss the baby."
|ESPN’s James Walker|
|Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco is ready to make the Steelers "kiss the baby."|
Cincinnati (1-1) hosts the reigning champion Steelers (1-1) Sunday in a big AFC North showdown at Paul Brown Stadium. Ochocinco is off to a good start this year with nine catches for 180 yards and a touchdown in two games. He’s averaging 20 yards per catch.
Ochocinco also has his infamous checklist back in full swing. I took a picture of it at his locker on Wednesday. It’s titled "Dulce Venganza," which is Spanish for "Sweet Revenge."
"Basically everybody is going to have to [pay] for everything that happened last year," Ochocinco explained. "It’s going to be interesting. We all know how the list goes up to this point. There’s no need to discuss who gets checked off. We all know everyone has been checked off so far. Ike Taylor and William Gay will be the next two to get checked off."
Ochocinco took the time to mark opposing cornerbacks off his list for the first time Wednesday. Ochocinco checked cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers after Cincinnati’s 31-24 win, as well as Andre Goodman of the Denver Broncos.
One player that wasn't marked was Champ Bailey of Denver. Ochocinco said he is showing his respect for the veteran corner. Denver won its season opener over Cincinnati, 12-7.
Looking ahead, will Ochocinco get the best of Taylor and Gay this weekend and therefore mark them off his list? Or will Ochocinco and the Bengals’ offense be stymied by Pittsburgh’s defense?
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The Cincinnati Bengals will open their 2008 preseason against the Green Bay Packers Monday night on ESPN at 8 p.m.
While most eyes will be on Packers staring quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Bengals also have several major questions.
Here are some things to look for:
- First and foremost, take a close look at Cincinnati's new-look defense under assistant coach Mike Zimmer. The unit is very young and in the process of trying to learn a new scheme. The good news is Rodgers, considering the circumstances, likely will play more than one series. So the Bengals should get a decent look from Green Bay's first-team offense.
- Speaking of Cincinnati's defense, rookie linebacker Keith Rivers will make his debut tonight. The No. 9 overall pick was a late arrival to training camp and is trying to catch up to speed. He has a reputation as one of this year's most NFL-ready rookies, and he will get a chance to show that before a national audience.
- Ben Utecht is expected to add another dimension to Cincinnati's offense as a pass-catching tight end. Utecht spent three years as a backup with the Indianapolis Colts but will be a full-time starter with the Bengals. It will be interesting to watch how his role begins to develop.
- Starting receiver Chad Johnson would be higher on this list of what to watch, but reports out of Cincinnati indicate that he will be a game-time decision. Johnson recently returned to practice following June ankle surgery. Johnson would face a good test with Green Bay cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson if he decides to play.
- Also watch the race for the No. 3 receiver spot. A plethora of players, which include Marcus Maxwell, Antonio Chatman and rookies Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson, will get an extended look to see who will step up. This will be one reason to watch closely in the second half while all of the starters are on the sidelines.