AFC North Stock Watch

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. State of Ohio's run defenses: The Browns and Bengals gave up season highs in rushing yards on Sunday. Cleveland allowed 290 yards on the ground to Baltimore, a low point for the NFL's worst run defense. The Bengals' effort -- surrendering 146 yards rushing at Pittsburgh -- showed another crack in a once-stout run defense. Over the past four games, teams have averaged 120 yards rushing against Cincinnati.

2. Field goal accuracy: This division features a returning Pro Bowl performer (the Ravens' Billy Cundiff), a kicker who is hitting 50-yarders at a record pace (the Browns' Phil Dawson) and another who had one miss in his first 11 games (the Bengals' Mike Nugent). But Sunday was an awful day for the division's kickers, and there was no long snapper to blame this time. AFC North kickers (Cundiff, Dawson, Nugent and the Steelers' Shaun Suisham) were a dismal 2 of 6 (33.3 percent). One was blocked (33 yards) and three veered wide right (34, 41 and 50 yards). The only one who was perfect was Dawson.

3. Andy Dalton's Rookie of the Year campaign: The debate over whether Dalton or Carolina's Cam Newton should win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award appears to be over. Newton's three rushing touchdowns Sunday gave him 13 for the season, which sets an NFL single-season record for quarterbacks. Dalton struggled at Pittsburgh, completing 45.8 percent of his passes for 135 yards -- both of which were his season lows for a full game. Newton should make room on his trophy case now.

RISING

[+] EnlargeSmith
AP Photo/Tom GannamRookie Torrey Smith leads the Ravens with five touchdown catches through Week 13.
1. Ravens and Steelers' AFC North dominance: Baltimore and Pittsburgh are once again the power players in the AFC North after routing their Ohio division rivals last Sunday. The combined score was 59-17. In 2010 and 2011, the Ravens and the Steelers have an 11-1 record against the Bengals and Browns. Since 2008, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have played in a total of 13 playoff games while Cincinnati has appeared in one (and Cleveland has none).

2. Rashard Mendenhall's touchdowns: The Pittsburgh running back is on pace to fall well short of 1,000 yards, but he is still delivering around the goal line. Including playoff games, Mendenhall has scored 16 touchdowns in his past 17 games, including two in the demolition of Cincinnati. His 28 regular-season rushing touchdowns rank fifth on the franchise's all-time list.

3. Ravens' 2011 draft class: While the Bengals' rookies have received most of the attention this season (and rightfully so), Baltimore's first-year players have been making a big impact in the team's pursuit of the AFC North title. First-round pick Jimmy Smith has two interceptions in his past three games. Second-rounder Torrey Smith leads the team with five touchdown catches and a 20.2-yard per catch average. And late fifth-round selection Pernell McPhee has been the overachiever of this class with six sacks.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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