How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
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FALLING

1. Pat Sims, Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman: With the New Orleans Saints down three points late in the fourth quarter, no one in Paul Brown Stadium believed they would go for it on fourth down with the exception of one person: Sims. Cincinnati's defensive lineman jumped offside and gave the Saints a new set of downs to eventually score the game-winning touchdown. Kudos to Sims for owning up to his mistake after the game. But the play still joins a long list of mental errors the Bengals have made this season.

2. Bengals' defense: What happened to this group? Cincinnati's defense was ranked No. 4 in the NFL during last year's playoff run but dropped to No. 22 this season. The Bengals are allowing 26.8 points per game and gave up another 34 points in the loss to New Orleans. Lack of a pass-rush is a huge issue, but overall everyone on Cincinnati's defense is struggling this year.

3. Baltimore Ravens' offense: It's Week 14, and I'm still waiting for this offense to develop more consistency. Some weeks the Ravens are scoring 37 points, while other weeks they could barely muster 10 points. On paper this group should be closer to the team that's capable of scoring 30 points a game. The talent is there at wide receiver, running back and tight end, which is part of the reason frustration is mounting in Baltimore. Veteran receiver Derrick Mason believes the offense should be more productive this late in the season, and we agree.

[+] EnlargeBaltimore's Terrell Suggs
AP Photo/Rob CarrBaltimore's Terrell Suggs has nine sacks this season after recording just 4.5 last year.
RISING

1. Terrell Suggs, Ravens defensive end/linebacker: It's been a great bounce-back season for Suggs, who already doubled his sack total (nine) from a year ago. But Suggs had his best game of the season in a big spot during Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had five tackles, 1.5 sacks and five additional hits on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Suggs has 5.5 sacks in his past five games.

2. Troy Polamalu, Steelers safety: When a big play needs to be made, Polamalu is always ready for the key moment. Polamalu saved the Steelers for the second consecutive week with a game-changing sack and fumble of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco that led to Pittsburgh's go-ahead touchdown. Polamalu also had a crucial interception two weeks ago that helped force overtime in a win over the Buffalo Bills. Plenty of players can make plays, but few can close games defensively like Polamalu.

3. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns cornerback: Cleveland's first-round pick is coming into his own late in the season. Haden recorded an interception in his fourth consecutive game in the Browns' win over the Miami Dolphins. Haden also had six tackles and four pass defensed. He leads the Browns this year with five interceptions and recently worked his way into the starting lineup.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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