Tuesday, November 10, 2009
How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
1. Ravens secondary
Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco sent the Ravens defensive backs a basket of deodorant last week, signifying that their play stinks this year. Then Baltimore’s secondary couldn’t do anything about it in Sunday’s 17-7 loss to Cincinnati.
Six Bengals receivers caught passes against Baltimore’s secondary. Cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Domonique Foxworth have not played well all year, and the backups haven’t provided much relief in sub packages.
Pass defense is a problem the Ravens have struggled to solve through eight games. Barring an unforeseen turnaround, it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
2. Joe Flacco, Ravens quarterback
People often forget that Flacco is just a second-year quarterback. But Sunday was another reminder that he’s still prone to growing pains in NFL.
Flacco threw for 195 yards, two interceptions and had a 48.3 passer rating against the Bengals. He forced a lot of his throws as Baltimore fell behind 17-0 at halftime.
Flacco is having a great season, but the Bengals have had Flacco’s number this year. He’s thrown four of his seven interceptions in two games against Cincinnati.
3. Chris Henry, Bengals receiver
Henry made a 20-yard reception Sunday and thought he saw daylight. But instead Washington tackled him from behind and forced Henry to land awkwardly on his arm.
A broken forearm ended Henry’s season and landed him on injured reserve. This hurts his stock in a variety of ways, but perhaps the biggest is that he’s a free agent after this season. Henry also was Cincinnati’s best deep threat.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Despite losing Henry for the season, the Bengals did pick up a huge win over the Ravens in a game that puts Cincinnati right where it wants to be halfway through the season. The Bengals are 6-2 and own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pittsburgh Steelers for first place in the AFC North.
The Bengals have outscored their last two opponents 62-17. Cincinnati appears to be hitting its stride at the right time, and the team will need to play its best with a huge game on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
2. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers tailback
Mendenhall rushed for 155 yards in Monday’s impressive 28-10 win over the Denver Broncos. The 2008 first-round draft pick got stronger as the game wore on and punished Denver’s defense in the second half.
Thanks to Mendenhall, Pittsburgh’s running game is more consistent than it was last season when the team won the Super Bowl. Mendenhall is averaging more than 5 yards per carry in four of his last five starts. He has a good combination of size and explosiveness that fits well in Pittsburgh’s offense.
3. Tyrone Carter, Steelers safety
Carter had his best game of the season Monday night, recording two interceptions in a win over Denver. It turned out Carter was a lot more comfortable replacing Ryan Clark than he was filling in for Troy Polamalu earlier this season.
Carter also returned one of his interceptions for a touchdown to get the Steelers on the board in the first half. It was a dominant performance defensively by Pittsburgh, and Carter played a major role.