AFC North stock watch

September, 8, 2008
9/08/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Now that the first regular-season games are in the books in the AFC North, let's take a look at who's hot and who's not within the division.

Who's hot?

Parker

1. Willie Parker, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Why: Parker saw the end zone three times during his 138-yard rushing performance in a win against the Houston Texans. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and put to rest any concerns over his leg injury from last December. Parker also surpassed last season's touchdown total (two) in one game. That would qualify as pretty hot.

2. Baltimore Ravens defense

Why: Baltimore allowed just eight first downs to a Cincinnati Bengals offense led by quarterback Carson Palmer and receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco. The Ravens also extended their streak to 20 consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher. Bengals tailback Chris Perry (18 carries, 37 yards) wasn't even close.

Harrison

3. James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Why: How does Harrison follow-up a breakout year in 2007? He comes out and gets a trio of sacks in a win over Houston on Sunday, which makes him tied for the early league lead. Harrison had 8.5 sacks last year and already is well on his way to eclipsing that total. He will get plenty of opportunities if Pittsburgh's offense continues to jump out to big leads like it did on Sunday.

Who's not?

Edwards

1. Braylon Edwards, WR, Cleveland Browns

Why: Although Edwards always had an occasional case of the "dropsies," his performance Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys could be the worst of his three-year career. Edwards claims he only had two drops. Most onlookers counted four. Either way, Edwards (two catches, 14 yards) came up way short in a game his offense needed him.

2. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

Palmer

Why: Palmer never looked comfortable in the pocket against Baltimore. After getting beaten, battered and even bloodied (broken nose) in the preseason, it's apparent he doesn't trust his protection as much as he did in the past. Palmer completed just 10 of 25 passes for 99 yards and an interception. He even was outplayed Sunday by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco of Baltimore, which can't happen if the Bengals want to be successful this season.

3. Chris Perry, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Perry

Why: Part of Palmer's struggles can be attributed to Cincinnati's lack of a running game. As mentioned earlier, the Bengals tried sticking with Perry and the run, but he did not produce. Cincinnati showed a lot of faith in Perry by letting go of Rudi Johnson. So far, his 2.1 yards-per-carry average is not going to cut it. Perry also was stuffed on a key fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter that sealed the game.

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