How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

December, 1, 2010
12/01/10
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FALLING

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
AP Photo/Bill KostrounIt's mostly been a season to forget for Bengals QB Carson Palmer.
1. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback: We may be watching the last days of Palmer in a Bengals' uniform. After eight seasons with the team, Palmer has become very inconsistent and put up his fifth multi-interception game of the year in a loss to the New York Jets. Both picks against New York were awful throws into heavy coverage. He also recorded 135 yards and one touchdown. Not everything this year falls on Palmer. But his play has contributed to the team's many issues, which isn't good when you're considered the franchise building block.

2. Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns quarterback: Browns coach Eric Mangini made a risky decision to go back to Delhomme last week, despite little proof that he's the right person for the job. The thinking was his familiarity would help against the Carolina Panthers, but it nearly backfired as Delhomme threw two interceptions -- including a pick-six -- in a 24-23 victory. Delhomme has one touchdown and six interceptions this season, while both Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy have played more efficiently. McCoy is currently nursing an ankle injury.

3. Fabian Washington, Baltimore Ravens cornerback: It's been a pretty dramatic fall this season for Washington. He began as the team's starting cornerback, struggled and was benched, then was inactive for the first time this season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Corners Lardarius Webb, Josh Wilson and Chris Carr have played well the past couple of weeks, making it even tougher for Washington to earn his way back in the rotation.

RISING

1. Ravens/Steelers rivalry: This is our favorite time of year when the Ravens and Steelers collide. In our view, this is the way football was meant to be played. It's no secret these two teams don't like one another and, as usual, there is a lot at stake. The winner will have the inside track to capturing the AFC North title and at least one home playoff game. The fact that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't play in the first meeting and Baltimore won in Heinz Field only adds to this matchup.

2. Peyton Hillis, Browns tailback: Hillis is clearly Cleveland's MVP this season. For the first time in his career, he's been the feature back for most of the year and he's proving his worth by leading the Browns in rushing (905 yards) and receptions (46). Hillis rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers last week. He is the one constant threat on offense opponents have to account for every week.

3. Shaun Suisham, Steelers kicker: There were a lot of questions surrounding the next kicker to replace Jeff Reed. But Suisham has done well with his opportunity in Pittsburgh. Suisham further endeared himself in the Steelers' locker room by nailing four important field goals, including the game-winner in overtime, against the Buffalo Bills. Pittsburgh will be playing in big games down the stretch and relying on the journeyman kicker.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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