NFL Nation: AFC Stock Watch 2010 Week 4

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
2:41
PM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

Chad Henne, Dolphins quarterback: He mostly was quiet when the Miami Dolphins opened their season 2-0 on the road. Since the Dolphins opened up their passing attack, they're 0-2, with both losses at home. Henne has rolled up big aerial yardage. He passed for a career-high 363 yards two weeks ago against the New York Jets and 302 yards in Monday night's loss to the Patriots. But he also telegraphed some passes and threw four interceptions. Another game like that after the Dolphins return from their bye, and the calls for Chad Pennington will get louder.

Lee Evans, Bills receiver: A catch with about 20 seconds left in Sunday's loss to the Jets prevented Evans from going without a reception for the second time in three games. Evans has 10 catches for 94 yards and no touchdowns. An unheralded group of Steve Johnson, David Nelson and Roscoe Parrish each have more catches and/or yards than Evans, who is one of the league's highest-paid receivers.

Dolphins' Wildcat offense: The Dolphins have stood by the Wildcat, but it might be time to see the vet. They averaged 6 yards a play and scored 16 touchdowns the past two seasons, but they've gotten stuffed time and again this year. Their 17 Wildcat plays have gained an average of 1.6 yards with zero touchdowns. The Dolphins called one Wildcat play Monday night against the Patriots, who stopped Ronnie Brown for a 2-yard loss.

RISING

[+] EnlargeBrandon Tate
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyPatriots receiver Brandon Tate's playing time should increase now that Randy Moss is gone.
Brandon Tate, Patriots receiver: His profile on the Patriots' offense should soar now that Randy Moss has been traded to the Vikings. Tate, a second-year pro with zero touchdown catches, becomes the most likely deep threat for Tom Brady. Tate has shown how explosive he can be in the return game. He ran back a kickoff 103 yards in Monday night's victory over the Dolphins, becoming just the third player in franchise history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season.

Jets offense with Santonio Holmes: In their three-game win streak -- all over AFC East opponents -- the Jets averaged 32.3 points. They scored more than 28 points only twice last year. The offense is clicking. Mark Sanchez hasn't thrown an interception. LaDainian Tomlinson looks fantastic and is on pace for more than 1,300 yards. Dustin Keller has been devastating at tight end. Braylon Edwards has been a game-breaker. And look who comes back from a suspension this week. It's Holmes, the MVP from Super Bowl XLIII.

Fred Jackson, Bills running back: The Bills reduced their crowded backfield Tuesday, when they traded Marshawn Lynch to the Seahawks. A league source informed me Jackson has been named the starter ahead of rookie C.J. Spiller. Jackson finished last season as Buffalo's featured back and had a season so prolific -- fourth-highest all-purpose yardage total in NFL history -- the Pro Football Hall of Fame asked for his jersey to display before the season opener. In four games, Jackson has 20 carries and two receptions.
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

Denver Broncos running game: A season-long issue is getting worse. The Broncos had 19 yards on 20 carries at Tennessee. They are ranked No. 32 in the NFL in rushing. Denver is averaging 2.2 yards per carry and 55 yards on the ground per game. Denver is literally getting nothing from its ground game.

Oakland Raiders run defense: The Raiders spent a lot of time and resources on improving one of the worst run defenses in the league. Oakland has had its moments, but overall it is still an issue. After being benched to start the game, Houston’s Arian Foster ripped apart Oakland. He had 131 yards on 16 carries, adding a 74-yard touchdown run. Oakland is just not closing gaps well enough on a consistent basis.

Steve Gregory, San Diego Chargers, safety: The Chargers’ starting strong safety is suspended by the NFL for the next four games for using a performance-enhancing substance. Gregory said he did not knowingly take the substance. Paul Oliver will take the place of the play-making Gregory.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Don McPeak/US PresswireThrough four games Kyle Orton has completed 118 of 175 passes for 1,419 yards.
RISING

Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos, quarterback: Orton is playing out of his mind. He is making up for Denver’s bad running game with stellar performances. He has thrown for 1,419 yards. It is the second highest yardage total after four games in the history of the NFL.

San Diego Chargers defense: The Chargers have allowed four touchdowns in four games. San Diego had nine sacks, including four by linebacker Shaun Phillips, in a win over Arizona. Like San Diego’s offense, its defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL.

Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders, tight end: Miller is one of the best young offensive players in the league. He had 11 catches for 122 yards in a loss to Houston. Miller is a favorite target of Oakland quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and he is a great safety net for an offense that has an unreliable receiving crew.

How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
12:46
PM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Cincinnati Bengals' offensive line: It may not matter what Cincinnati's offensive identity is if the offensive line cannot block. The Bengals were beat up in the trenches during a loss to the previously winless Cleveland Browns (1-3). Cincinnati allowed four sacks, seven additional quarterback hits and ran for 3.7 yards per carry. Last year it was very good in the run game, but even that's been lagging early in the season.

2. Browns' secondary: Cleveland's front seven has played well, but its secondary is leaving much to be desired. The Browns were torched via the pass for the second straight game. In Week 3 Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin caught three touchdowns. Last weekend Terrell Owens, who is on our "rising" list, got over 200 yards receiving. The Browns have a lot of young players in their secondary and teams will continue attacking them through the air until they patch up these holes.

3. Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh Steelers kicker: We have become accustomed to Reed making tough field goals in Heinz Field. But Reed had a rare off day in his home stadium, missing his two field goal attempts -- of 49 and 45 yards -- in a 17-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Heinz Field is one of the toughest stadiums to kick in, and Reed usually makes it look routine. But last week he looked as confused as most visiting kickers.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicBen Roethisberger is practicing with the Steelers this week after serving a four-game suspension.
RISING

1. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers quarterback: Coming off a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, Roethlisberger's stock went from non-existent to soaring as he takes over one of the league's top teams. During Monday's news conference, Roethlisberger was genuinely happy to be back. He says he learned how much he misses football and can't wait to play again. Roethlisberger will have to shake the rust, but with the bye he has until Oct. 17 until he takes the field against Cleveland.

2. Terrell Owens, Bengals receiver: As we mentioned earlier, Owens exploded against the Browns for 10 catches, 222 yards and a touchdown. The Browns made a concerted effort to double Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco, which allowed T.O. to exploit one-on-one coverage against Cleveland's cornerbacks. Owens, 36, proved he still has it. His longest catch was a 78-yard touchdown over Cleveland defensive back Sheldon Brown.

3. Haloti Ngata, Ravens defensive tackle: Despite making his first Pro Bowl last year, Ngata is still under the radar when you mention the NFL's best defensive players. But Ngata had the type of game against the Steelers that should get him more publicity. Ngata was very disruptive, recording 11 tackles, a sack and two tackles for losses. His presence helped keep to Steelers to 3.1 yards per rush.

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
9:49
AM ET
» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

Chris Johnson and the Titans’ run blocking: All sort of explanations are rolling in, and some in Nashville are even asking for more Javon Ringer carries. That’s craziness. But Fisher had said the run game isn’t operating as it should be and with that being the case the Titans really have issues. The line needs to block better and Johnson needs to be decisive. He tweeted a pledge for a big October.

  1. Chris Johnson

    ChrisJohnson28 I wnt 2 let all my fantasy ppl & myfans kno not 2 worry ima have a gr8 oct its tkng a little time 2 adjust 2 the 8 n 9 inthe box #NOPRESSURE
Colts safeties: Antoine Bethea is an excellent player. But he’s like to be stretched thin with the team’s three best options aside from him -- Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt and Jamie Silva -- all out now. The Colts are hoping for a late-season return from Sanders. In the meantime, their options on the roster are inexperienced DaJuan Morgan and rookie Brandon King, a converted corner who’s had a hamstring issue. Matt Cassel may not be able to take advantage of that, but I suspect Donovan McNabb and Matt Schaub will.

Jamie Winborn, Titans linebacker: He’s been workmanlike and serviceable as a fill-in, but the dynamic Gerald McRath returns from his four-game suspension this week. The Titans should plug him directly back into the lineup and hash out what they will do when they decide to use nickel personnel. But Jeff Fisher’s already spoken of the expectation of rust on McRath, which might mean Winborn retains a part time role for a bit.

RISING

[+] EnlargeMike Thomas
Justin Cooper/Icon SMIJaguars receiver Mike Thomas is averaging 12.2 yards per catch this season.
Mike Thomas, Jaguars receiver: As I mentioned in Tuesday’s High Energy Player of the Week post on Tiquan Underwood, I think the Colts’ game was indicative of where the Jaguars are heading -- to a shorter passing game that won’t ask David Garrard to make the sort of throws that failed him in the losses to San Diego and Philadelphia. Thomas had a solid game against Indianapolis and will be a big beneficiary of this alteration.

Troy Nolan, Texans safety: The second-year safety had two picks in Oakland in his first action on defense, which prompted Gary Kubiak to pledge more playing time for him. I think Eugene Wilson qualifies as a weak spot for the defense and even if healthy, the team should stick with Nolan and give him a chance to be part of this young defensive backfield that’s trying to grow up quickly together.

Josh Scobee, Jaguars kicker: He doesn’t rank high on the scoring list, but he’s extended a great preseason into the regular season and four games in he hasn’t even attempted a FG from under 44 yards. He’s connected from 45, 44, 48, 51 and 59 for the Jaguars so far this season.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider