NFL Nation: AFC Stock Watch 2010 Week 3

How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
1:04
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. San Diego Chargers special teams: The Chargers could easily be 3-0, but their special-teams coverage units are killing them. San Diego has given up three return touchdowns in three games -- two touchdown returns for scores in a seven-point loss to Seattle in Week 3 and a punt-return score for a touchdown in a seven-point loss to the Chiefs in Week 1. The Chargers dearly miss special teams ace Kassim Osgood, who is now in Jacksonville.

2. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders kicker: This offseason, Janikowski signed a contract that made him the richest kicker in NFL history. He had only three misses last season before Oakland gave him gold. This season, Oakland has to be wondering what is going on. Janikowski has missed five of 13 field goal attempts. Most important, he missed a 32-yard chip shot at the end of Sunday’s 24-23 loss at Arizona. Janikowski has been streaky in his career. He is definitely trending the wrong way.

3. Denver Broncos’ red zone offense: The Broncos took themselves out of contention in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to Indianapolis with porous play in the red zone. Denver had a first-and-goal situation at the Colts’ 1 and couldn’t punch the ball in. In the fourth quarter, Denver failed on fourth down and three from the Colts’ 12. This team needs to find some weapons in the red zone or it will not make strides.

RISING

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesMatt Cassel has quarterbacked the Chiefs to a 3-0 start.
1. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback: Many Chiefs’ fans were calling for Cassel’s head despite a 2-0 start. Cassel was struggling and many in Kansas City wanted the Chiefs to trade for Kevin Kolb. Perhaps a strong effort by Cassel in a rout of San Francisco in Week 3 will quiet the critics. Cassel threw the ball very well and ended up with thee touchdown passes. The Chiefs are hot and now, so is their quarterback.

2. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker: The knock against the Chiefs in the past two seasons since Jared Allen was traded was that they had no pass rush. And there was evidence of that. In 2008, Kansas City set an NFL record for the fewest sacks in a season with 10. However, the Chiefs are playing inspired defense. Hali is leading the way. He had three sacks against the 49ers. Hali has long hurried the quarterback well. Now, he’s getting to the quarterback and bringing him down.

3. Marcus McNeill, San Diego Chargers left tackle: McNeill ended his holdout and reported to the team Saturday. He will start playing in Week 6 at St. Louis. McNeill made a poor decision by staying away and it cost him nearly $3 million. But now that he is back where he belongs, don’t be surprised if the Chargers ultimately give McNeill the long-term deal he desires.

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
12:25
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. David Garrard: A bad game and maybe he gets skipped a week. A game as bad as his against Philadelphia and he’s really sinking. Granted, his protection wasn’t good. But he can probably do more against the pressure that resulted in six sacks. He simply has to throw for more than 105 yards. Will Trent Edwards ultimately put pressure on Garrard?

2. Eugene Wilson: In the loss to the Cowboys, he dropped a pick-6 in a game where the Texans desperately needed a big play from the defense. Wilson also didn’t seem to be of great help to the young corners. He might not have had responsibility to help Kareem Jackson on the short Roy E. Williams catch that went for a 63-yard touchdown. Still, if he’s so gimpy he can’t pursue better than he did, he should sit and they should have a look at Troy Nolan.

3. Titans' interior offensive line: Against the Giants, center Eugene Amano and right guard Jake Scott didn’t seem to recover well from the line’s poor game against Pittsburgh. The Titans don’t need Kevin Mawae back, but jelling and communicating might still be taking some time for this gang. Scott got called for three penalties worth 20 yards.

RISING

Austin Collie
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesAustin Collie leads the NFL in receiving yards and receptions.
1. Austin Collie: The guy had a superstar game in Denver with 12 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns, showing a psychic connection with Peyton Manning. Some evaluators thought coming into the season that Collie had approached his ceiling last season based on his age (26 in November) and role. But he’s proven he can be a top option for Manning and the offense.

2. Will Witherspoon: Keith Bulluck played for the Giants against the Titans. But given a choice between Bulluck and the player the Titans signed to replace him, Witherspoon seems the clear choice to me right now. He’s a defensive spark for Tennessee at the linebacker level, and he’s the guy who tipped Eli Manning’s left-handed pass into the end zone to set Jason McCourty’s interception in motion.

3. Jeff Linkenbach: An undrafted Colts' rookie offensive tackle, he made his first start in Denver and did about as well as could be expected given the circumstances. Does he fill in for Charlie Johnson beyond that game? We’ll get our first hint on Wednesday when we find out if Johnson (foot) can return to practice. Perhaps Linkenbach did well enough that the Colts try to allow Johnson to recuperate?

How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
12:12
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Eric Wright, Cleveland Browns cornerback: Wright had the worst game of his career in last week's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Given the responsibility of shutting down former Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin, Wright was not up to the task. All three of Boldin's touchdowns were scored on Wright, who usually is Cleveland's best cover corner. Browns coach Eric Mangini said Wright would not lose his starting job -- and he shouldn't. Every player has a bad game, and Wright has been solid in coverage throughout his career in Cleveland.

2. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback: What is going on with Cincinnati's passing game? Is it the quarterback, the receivers or the offensive line? Although everyone shares a portion of the blame, the quarterback naturally gets most of the glory and criticism. Palmer has not been accurate and his numbers are trending downward with every game. Against the winless Carolina Panthers, Palmer completed 19 of 37 passes for 195 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His passer rating in three games this season has gone from to 92.5 to 60.1 to 53.3.

3. Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns receiver: Cleveland's No. 1 receiver has only three catches in three games, including last week when he was shut out against Baltimore. Massaquoi, a former second-round pick, said this offseason that he wants to prove he can lead Cleveland's passing game. But he hasn't lived up to that billing so far. Quarterback changes certainly have something to do with Massaquoi's slow start, but other receivers, such as Josh Cribbs, have found ways to be productive.

RISING

[+] EnlargeAnquan Boldin
AP Photo/Gail BurtonAnquan Boldin has been outstanding for the Ravens this season.
1. Anquan Boldin, Ravens receiver: Last week's performance is the reason Baltimore gave up two draft picks for Boldin. He lit up the Browns with eight catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Boldin has been far and away Baltimore's best receiver this season, and he has a knack for making the big plays. Boldin also helped quarterback Joe Flacco get back on track after a slow start.

2. Peyton Hillis, Browns tailback: The Browns needed someone to jumpstart their offense, and Hillis added a nice boost. He rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown against a quality defense in Baltimore. With Jerome Harrison not producing early, Hillis has now earned the starting tailback role in Cleveland. He will try to run over another good defense this week against Cincinnati.

3. Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback: Batch found the fountain of youth and threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The highlight of his day was two 40-plus yard bombs to receiver Mike Wallace for touchdowns. Batch could have padded his numbers even more, but the Steelers played conservatively in the second half in order to run out the clock. Pittsburgh threw only three times after intermission. Batch will get his second consecutive start Sunday against Baltimore.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
8:48
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Donte Whitner, Bills safety: A few days before playing the Patriots, he grumbled about being tired of hearing opponents laugh at the Bills during games. Then, in a game when the Bills offense and special teams put up a fight, Whitner had one of his worst games in a defensive collapse. Whitner, the eight overall draft pick in 2006, twice was flummoxed on Randy Moss touchdowns and had trouble with rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski.

[+] EnlargeJason Allen
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyBraylon Edwards and the New York Jets took advantage of Jason Allen.
2. Jason Allen, Dolphins cornerback: With the emergence of young cornerback Vontae Davis on the left side and Allen's track record, quarterbacks are going to be throwing Allen's direction as long as the Dolphins keep him out there. Allen thrived against Brett Favre in Week 2, but Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't have much problem. Allen whiffed on Braylon Edwards' 67-yard catch and run and committed pass interference on third-and-goal from the 3 in the fourth quarter. The extra set of downs allowed the Jets to score a touchdown and take an eight-point lead.

3. Jets' pass defense without Darrelle Revis: They looked far from formidable Sunday night. Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets couldn't contain Brandon Marshall. All told, the Dolphins amassed 436 yards, the most the Rex Ryan-coached Jets have surrendered in a victory by nearly a full football field.

RISING

1. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: I generally don't include a player as "rising" or "falling" two Stock Watches in a row. If you're up, then you're up, etc. But Sanchez has put together his best two games as a pro back-to-back. Headed into Week 2, he'd never thrown three touchdowns or recorded higher than a 107.0 passer rating. Sanchez notched three TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of at least 120.5 each of the past two games.

2. Dustin Keller, Jets tight end: After a clunker of a performance on opening night -- really, how many Jets didn't have that kind of game? -- Keller has regained his footing as a game-changer. He had six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday night's victory over the Dolphins. Keller already has matched his season-high with three touchdown catches and, counting last year's playoffs, has scored at least one in five of his past six games.

3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots running back: With trusted veteran Kevin Faulk done for the year, the Patriots will need to rely upon their backfield committee approach even more. On any given week, we could see anybody step up, but Green-Ellis got to be the chairman Sunday against the Bills. He pounded out 16 carries for 98 yards and a late touchdown.

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