AFC North Stock Watch

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Cleveland Browns: The Browns finished the preseason with optimism and were favorites to beat the rebuilding Bengals at home. But Cleveland continued its longstanding trend of playing poorly in regular-season openers. The Browns fell to 1-12 in Week 1 since returning to the NFL in 1999. Cleveland had too many penalties (11) and some odd, unexplainable mental errors. The Browns have another winnable game Sunday against the Manning-less Colts. If Cleveland blows this one and falls to 0-2, it's going to be a rough season.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers' defense: Pittsburgh's defense has been too good for too long to write off. But the Steelers did look old and two steps slow on that side of the football in Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Pittsburgh's defense has eight starters over 30. The unit had a poor game against the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl and struggled again in Week 1. That is a concern. Baltimore had surprising success running and passing against the Steelers. We will see in Week 2 how Pittsburgh's proud unit bounces back against Seattle.

3. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers quarterback: Roethlisberger had a great preseason but accounted for five turnovers in Week 1. He threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles. The Steelers can't win when Roethlisberger is this careless with the football. The offensive line certainly didn't help. Pittsburgh allowed four sacks.

RISING

[+] EnlargeTerrell Suggs
Larry French/Getty ImagesTerrell Suggs had a big day for the Ravens, recording five tackles and three sacks.
1. Ravens' defense: Baltimore tied a team record with seven turnovers against Pittsburgh. I thought about breaking down the accolades individually in this "Stock Watch," but there were too many good performances. Defensive end Terrell Suggs had three sacks and became Baltimore's all-time sack leader with 70.5. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had four tackles, caused a fumble and tipped the ball at the line for a Ray Lewis interception. And Ed Reed had two picks off Roethlisberger for another multi-interception game.

2. Joe Flacco, Ravens quarterback: Flacco finally got over the hump of beating Pittsburgh with Roethlisberger under center. Now, he can move on with the rest of his season. Few quarterbacks have faced more offseason scrutiny that Flacco. He responded with 224 yards and three touchdowns against Pittsburgh. The pass protection was good and Flacco took advantage. He looks ready to make a jump in Year 4.

3. Cincinnati Bengals: The inexperienced Bengals showed some moxie with a come-from-behind road win over the Browns. Cincinnati scored 14 unanswered in the fourth quarter and did it without their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, who was out with a forearm injury. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has said numerous times that he likes this young group.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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