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Wednesday, October 20, 2010
How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

By James Walker

» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Eric Wright, Cleveland Browns cornerback: Wright entered the season as Cleveland's best cover cornerback. But through six games it is not looking that way, as Wright allowed two more touchdown passes, to Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, in Sunday's loss to the Steelers. In two games against division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh, Wright has allowed five passing touchdowns. That's not going to win many games for Cleveland.

2. Baltimore Ravens' late-game execution: Whether it was conservative play calling or not making enough plays, Baltimore floundered late on both sides of the football Sunday in a loss to the New England Patriots. The Ravens blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose in overtime 23-20. After playing well for three quarters, the Ravens stopped taking chances offensively, gave up possessions and couldn't make a big play on defense to stop New England's momentum. Games like this happen in the course of a 16-game season, and the Ravens have to take this as a learning experience for the next time they have a lead late against a quality opponent.

3. Browns' pass rush: Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is trying to bring the heat, but lately the Browns' pass rush has been lukewarm. Cleveland's pressure packages are getting to the quarterback either too late or not at all, which has resulted in big plays for opponents. After being sacked eight times in their previous meeting, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn't sacked in his first game back from a four-game suspension. He was hit several times during big plays. But if Cleveland had been able to get there sooner, those plays could have been prevented.

RISING

Lawrence Thomas
Lawrence Timmons had 11 tackles and two sacks against the Browns.
1. Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker: Timmons was our High Energy Player of the Week in the AFC North, but he has really played great football all season. Timmons leads the Steelers with 42 tackles and is vastly improved in pass coverage. It took a while for Timmons, who was drafted to play outside linebacker, to learn the responsibilities of an inside linebacker. But he's coming into his own and having a breakout year. Against Cleveland, Timmons had 11 tackles, two sacks and an interception.

2. Haloti Ngata, Ravens defensive lineman: If I had to pick an MVP for Baltimore through the first six games it would be Ngata. The Pro Bowl defensive lineman has been dominant and unblockable in several games. Against New England, Ngata had seven tackles and two sacks. He is very hard to move and athletic enough to finish plays and get to the quarterback. Health permitting, Ngata is a lock for his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.

3. Colt McCoy, Browns quarterback: McCoy exceeded everyone's expectations and now many in Cleveland are calling for him to be the permanent starting quarterback. After throwing for 281 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against Pittsburgh, McCoy is expected to start this week against the New Orleans Saints with veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace nursing ankle injuries. The rookie put up the highest yardage total of any Browns quarterback this season. Sunday's performance offered hope that Cleveland might have its quarterback of the future.