- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback: After a three-interception performance in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Palmer is almost on pace to match his career high of 20 interceptions. The Bengals have a great supporting cast of skill players, but the quarterback has been just as inconsistent as the team, which is 2-3 heading into the bye. The Bengals have two weeks to correct their issues and the passing game should be at the forefront.
2. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals receiver: Teammate Terrell Owens (Batman) is lighting it up for the Bengals, but Ochocinco (Robin) hasn't been nearly as productive. Ochocinco recorded just three catches for a season-low 20 yards last week against Tampa Bay. He's averaging just 3.5 receptions in his last four games. Ochocinco cites lack of offensive chemistry and continuity as a reason for the offense's struggles. The Pro Bowl receiver needs to be at his best for the Bengals to have consistent success.
3. Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns tailback: Hillis got off to a great start this season, but a nagging quad injury hampered him in last week’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Hillis recorded just 28 yards on 10 carries, which ended his two-game streak of 100-yard games. Hillis’ status is up in the air again this week. He believes he will play, but if he does it likely will not be at 100 percent.
1. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens tailback: No one thought it would take five games for Rice to explode. But the Pro Bowl running back finally got his first 100-yard game of the season against the Denver Broncos. Rice rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He nearly broke off two big runs that could have increased his total. Rice's production will be very important Sunday against the New England Patriots.
2. Cedric Benson, Bengals tailback: Benson also recorded his first 100-yard game of the season against the Bucs. He rushed for 144 yards on 22 carries. Benson was hot in the second half but the Bengals went away from him late in the fourth quarter, which ended up being the wrong move. Expect the Bengals to go back to their running back after the bye.
3. Colt McCoy, Browns quarterback: McCoy has quickly gone from a third-string quarterback to a likely starter after both Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace suffered ankle injuries. McCoy's first assignment is not ideal. He will get the toughest test imaginable against the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense on the road. The expectations are low for McCoy in this game. But if he shows flashes of promise, that should give the Browns good vibes about their rookie third-round pick.
FALLING1. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback: After a three-interception performance in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Palmer is almost on pace to match his career high of 20 interceptions.