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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
AFC North Stock Watch

By Jamison Hensley

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

FALLING

1. Complaining running backs: Over the past week, the Browns' Peyton Hillis has questioned his future because he hasn't received a new contract, and the Bengals' Cedric Benson is voicing his frustration over a lack of carries. Isn't the AFC North supposed to be the rough and tough division and not the sensitive one? It's time to put the egos aside and focus on improving their games. Benson ranks 34th in yards per carry (4.0), and Hillis is 36th (3.6).

2. Browns' slow starts: Maybe Cleveland found a way over the bye week to jump-start its team from the opening kickoff. The Browns have scored three points -- a 48-yard field goal, to be exact -- in the first quarter this season. Part of the problem has been quarterback Colt McCoy, who is averaging 32.5 yards passing in the opening period. The Browns can't keep getting in early holes, especially against the better teams in the league.

3. Ravens' special teams: The Ravens surrendered a 107-yard kick return for a touchdown in their last game before the bye and they haven't gotten the same punch out of their kickoff returners since David Reed went down with a shoulder injury. LaQuan Williams was given the chance to take over the job but he's fumbled twice in as many games. Baltimore could turn to recently signed Bryan McCann for a spark.

RISING

Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger tied a team record by throwing five touchdowns against the Titans.
1. Bengals' fourth-quarter comebacks: The fact that the Bengals have won three of their first five games has been a surprise. The impressive part is how they've won these games. All three victories have come with a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati has won the past two weeks in the final two minutes of the game. These young Bengals are playing with confidence.

2. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: Sunday's performance will long be remembered by the number of touchdowns he threw while playing in pain. He tied a team record by throwing five touchdowns against a Titans defense that had given up four passing touchdowns all season. His sprained left foot might actually help Roethlisberger in the long run. Adjusting to a West Coast-style of three-step drops and quick passes, Roethlisberger was still effective as a passer and didn't have to take the hits.

3. Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb: Few envisioned Webb as a starter this year after he gave up the big pass to the Steelers late in the divisional playoff loss. But Webb is playing with more confidence and aggressiveness this season, which is what the Ravens want out of their corners in this new blitzing style of defense. Webb has responded with interceptions in his past two games, including a 73-yard return for a touchdown against the Jets.