NFL Nation: Stock Watch 2010 Week 13

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
1:16
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins head coach: The Redskins were so dreadful against the New York Giants on Sunday, it's hard to single out a player. So let's just go with the head coach this week. Shanahan made the decision to suspend Albert Haynesworth for the final four games for conduct detrimental to the team. But Haynesworth's conduct last week really wasn't anything new. The Redskins coach let this thing go too far in the first place. This guy had no business still being on the roster.

2. Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins defensive tackle: When you get suspended for the final four games because you apparently refused to participate in certain defensive packages, I think you've earned a spot on the "falling" list. But hey, at least Haynesworth gave the Skins those 6.5 sacks in his 20 games.

3. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins quarterback: OK, I better single someone else out. McNabb was victimized by several drops and the lack of any semblance of a running game. But he still makes too many mistakes in the pocket. The Giants forced six turnovers in this game. When the Skins had a chance to trim the lead to 28-14, McNabb fired an awful pass into the end zone that was easily intercepted by Terrell Thomas. You can't pin this mess solely on McNabb, but the quarterback deserves some of the blame.

[+] EnlargePat Lee
AP Photo/James D. SmithSean Lee returned one of his two interceptions Sunday for a touchdown.
RISING

1. Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys linebacker: You're starting to see why the Cowboys were so thrilled to land him in the second round of the draft. The former Penn State star was named the NFC defensive player of the week after grabbing two interceptions against Peyton Manning and the Colts. He'll probably take over as the full-time starter next season.

2. Mat McBriar, Dallas Cowboys punter: The Australian punting phenom has quietly put together a Pro Bowl season. He leads the league in net punting at 41.9 yards per kick and he's also at the top in gross at 48.2. Normally I don't put much stock in gross average, but it's pretty remarkable that McBriar's sitting there at 48.2 when he has so many of those purposefully short end-over-end punts from close to midfield that cause opponents to field the ball near their 10-yard line. He's the best punter in the game by a long shot this season. Keep that in mind when you're filling out your Pro Bowl ballots this holiday season.

3. Devin Thomas, New York Giants wide receiver: Thomas was brilliant against his former team Sunday. He downed a punt at the 5-yard line, made a nice tackle on speedster Brandon Banks and then partially blocked a punt that traveled 8 yards. And I'd also like to give a nod to Brandon Jacobs for his powerful performance against the Skins. He rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. I'd say that's pretty efficient.

How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Josh McDaniels, former Denver coach: Fourteen months ago, McDaniels was considered one of the brightest coaching stars the NFL had ever seen. The then-33-year-old McDaniels won his first six games as an NFL head coach. Now it is questionable if McDaniels will ever get another opportunity to be a head coach. He has gone 5-17 since his hot start, made several questionable personnel decisions and he was the coach of a team involved in a videotape scandal. It all led to McDaniels’ firing in Denver on Monday.

2. San Diego’s holiday cheer: December used to mean automatic victory for the Chargers. Not anymore. San Diego was beaten by Oakland 28-13 on Sunday. It was the Chargers’ first loss in the month of December since 2005 and was a crushing blow to the 6-6 Chargers’ playoff hopes.

3. Ryan Mathews, San Diego running back: The rookie didn’t have a carry against Oakland despite being healthy for the first time in a month. The Chargers don’t seem to trust Mathews, who was the No. 12 overall draft pick in April, much these days. He has trouble holding onto the ball and he is an unproven blocker. Mathews’ future is still bright, but right now, he’s a second option behind Mike Tolbert as a lead back.

[+] EnlargeTodd Haley
John Rieger/US PresswireTodd Haley and the Chiefs have their sights set on the postseason.
RISING

1. Kansas City’s playoff chances: The Chiefs were expecting a must-win game at San Diego in Week 14. But that changed when the Raiders whipped the Chargers. Now, Kansas City -- which won a total of 10 games in the past three seasons combined -- is 8-4 and has a two-game lead over both Oakland and San Diego. The Chiefs can eliminate San Diego from contention in the division chase with a win Sunday.

2. Oakland’s run offense: The Raiders, once again, showed how important their run game is to their success in the win-loss column. After running for a combined 77 yards in two blowout losses, the Raiders ran for 251 yards on 52 carries against the Chargers. Oakland dictated this game on the ground. When that happens, the Raiders usually win.

3. Oakland’s toughness: The Raiders manhandled San Diego at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Oakland’s offensive and defensive line set the tone. San Diego couldn’t stop the run on defense and couldn’t establish the run on offense. After being handled by Pittsburgh and Miami, Oakland’s lines made strides Sunday.

How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Troy Smith, 49ers QB. The 49ers have lost two of their past three games after winning Smith's first two starts. Smith's play has fallen off quite a bit. Tight end Vernon Davis could have helped Smith by holding onto the deep pass he dropped against Green Bay, but the overall offensive consistency hasn't been there. The 49ers have converted only 29.5 percent of their third-down chances in five games with Smith at quarterback.

2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cardinals CB. The Cardinals expected more from their young Pro Bowl cornerback. Rodgers-Cromartie expected more as well. He has been critical of his own play. His stock fell further Sunday when officials flagged Rodgers-Cromartie for a procedural penalty. Rodgers-Cromartie had drawn an interference penalty deep down the field while working as a wide receiver. The penalties offset, depriving the Cardinals of a long gain.

3. Leon Washington, Seahawks returner. An 84-yard punt return would generally pump up a player's stock value, but not in Washington's case. Carolina punter Jason Baker tripped up Washington short of the goal line after Washington began celebrating prematurely. Washington also muffed the kickoff to open the second half, forcing Seattle to take over at its 4. The Panthers even sacked Washington when the team attempted to execute a halfback pass. Washington's stock value remains high overall, but it took a hit Sunday.

RISING

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireMarshawn Lynch rushed for three touchdowns in Sunday's win over Carolina.
1. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks RB. Three rushing touchdowns gave Lynch a boost just when it appeared as though the Seattle running game would never get out of neutral. Lynch finished the game with 83 yards, his second-highest total of the season. His 22-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter put away Carolina.

2. Alex Smith, 49ers QB. The 49ers are giving Alex Smith one final chance to make a positive impression heading into the offseason. Nine touchdowns and three interceptions over the final four games would give Smith the same totals he amassed last season: 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games. Smith went 5-5 as a starter last season. He's 1-6 this season.

3. Josh Brown, Rams K. There were other candidates worthy of consideration in this spot, including Brown's former teammate in Seattle, Lofa Tatupu. Brown was the choice after making all four field goal tries during a 19-6 victory over the Cardinals. Brown's consistency had wavered this season. He had missed from inside 30 yards for the first time in his career. He had missed twice from 30 to 39 yards, a first for Brown in one season. Making all four against Arizona, including one from 52 yards, should give Brown a boost heading into the final four games.

How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
12:03
PM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. John Abraham, Falcons defensive end. Overall, he has bounced back nicely from a rough 2009 season. Abraham has nine sacks and should get back to double digits after having only 5.5 last year. But Abraham wasn’t a factor at all in Sunday’s victory against Tampa Bay. He didn’t even get near quarterback Josh Freeman. When a quote sheet was distributed in the press box after the game with words attributed to Abraham, a sports writer cracked, “Oh, so John Abraham actually was here today?’’ If the Falcons really are going to go deep in the postseason, they need Abraham to show up consistently.

2. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers tight end. There’s an old saying in the NFL that big players step up in big games. Well, Sunday’s game with Atlanta was the biggest game Tampa Bay has had in several years. Winslow’s probably the biggest individual name on Tampa Bay’s roster. But he produced only three catches for 26 yards.

3. The grass at Raymond James Stadium. The NFL Players Association does an annual survey about the best playing fields in the NFL. Raymond James Stadium has won most years and never has been ranked worse than second. However, you wouldn’t have guessed any of that by looking at the field Sunday. With the University of South Florida playing a game there Saturday night, the field took a beating. When the Bucs and Falcons got going, there was as much dirt and mud showing as grass and some players were having trouble cutting. Might be time to put a little more space between college and NFL games in the stadium.

[+] EnlargeDonald Penn
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaBucs tackle Donald Penn kept Falcons pass-rusher John Abraham at bay Sunday.
RISING

1. Donald Penn, Buccaneers offensive tackle. He was the player largely responsible for Abraham never getting near Freeman. When Penn signed a huge contract in the offseason, a lot of people thought the Bucs had overpaid for a very ordinary left tackle. The reality now is that Penn’s having a season that makes him a legitimate candidate for the Pro Bowl. He easily has been the NFC South’s best tackle this season.

2. Tyson Clabo, Falcons offensive tackle. He plays right tackle, which isn’t the glamour position. But in a contract year, Clabo has been steadily excellent. He’s another player who deserves Pro Bowl consideration.

3. Robert Meachem, Saints wide receiver. In Sunday’s victory against Cincinnati, he caught only three passes, but they went for 106 yards. That’s 35.3 yards per reception. Meachem’s day was highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown. He has become a true deep threat for the Saints and probably should start getting a few more passes thrown his way.

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
11:54
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Peyton Manning, Colts quarterback: Virtually everyone’s expecting a bounce-back Thursday night. But his three-game stretch with 11 interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns, has been horrid. Despite what he’s saying, he’s clearly pressing with no run game and so many inexperienced targets. He and the Colts should be a little more willing to just punt.

2. The Titans’ run game: Tennessee’s not pushing anyone around anymore and while Chris Johnson hasn’t gotten sufficient carries, he looks tentative. Success usually comes before swagger develops -- and the Titans have lost both in a department in which they were dominant a year ago. Interior line play by Leroy Harris, Eugene Amano and Jake Scott has been a particular concern.

3. Houston’s chances to improve on last year: They aren’t just falling, they’re gone. It’ll take a four-game winning streak just to match last season’s disappointing 9-7 and that would have to include wins over Baltimore and Jacksonville. Changes are ahead. The next month will probably determine just how big they are.

RISING

[+] EnlargeRashad Jennings
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesRashad Jennings has emerged as a potent complement to Maurice Jones-Drew for the Jaguars.
1. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars running back: Maurice Jones-Drew is on fire, but the supplementary work from Jennings has been quite good as well. He’s got 17 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns in Jacksonville’s last two games. He qualifies as a player who's helped turn the Jaguars into a first-place team.

2. Amobi Okoye, Texans defensive tackle: In his last two games, a guy who’s often gone too long without making noise has emerged. Against the Titans and Eagles, Okoye has been more disruptive, barging into the backfield and influencing quarterbacks. He also has 26 tackles this season, the most for a Houston defensive lineman.

3. Greg Jones, Jaguars fullback: Not to harp on the Jaguars’ run game, but as lead blocker for Jones-Drew and Jennings he’s been helping set the physical tone that’s given Jacksonville the most substantial identity of any team in the AFC South. He also took a short pass against Tennessee 11 yards up the right sideline, bowling over and embarrassing multiple defenders.

How I See It: NFC North Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
10:06
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Rigidity in Minnesota: Joe Webb was originally drafted as a receiver and, even after being moved to quarterback, opened some eyes during the preseason as an open-field runner. But the Minnesota Vikings buried him as their No. 3 quarterback after trading Sage Rosenfels and apparently never considered using him as a playmaking specialist until last week against the Buffalo Bills. Webb returned the opening kickoff 30 yards and was expected to get some work on offense as well before he was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Still, credit goes to the Vikings for trying to utilize a bottom-of-the-roster asset.

2. Faith in the Chicago Bears: I'll admit I wasn't sold on the Bears early in the season, but when a team wins nine of its first 12 games, it's hard to find much to criticize. It's true the Bears have an unenviable final-quarter schedule that includes home dates against the New England Patriots and New York Jets, along with road games against the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. But so do the Packers, with whom they're competing for the NFC North title. I don't know if the Bears will win the division or not, but the national consensus that they're due for a fall seems based more on emotional projections than facts. End rant.

3. Brad Childress, former Minnesota Vikings coach: It's not necessarily fair to kick a man when he's down, but watching the Vikings play their first two games under interim coach Leslie Frazier has been illuminating. The energy level and elevated performance, especially on defense, has confirmed players gave up on Childress this season. While part of the responsibility lies with the players, it's still striking to see the attitude adjustment that seemed immediate upon his departure.

[+] EnlargeDonald Driver
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireDonald Driver refused to go down en route to this touchdown Sunday against San Francisco.
RISING

1. Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers receiver: I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Driver's injured quadriceps is feeling better. His 61-yard scoring play in Sunday's victory over the San Francisco 49ers was the highlight of the weekend in the NFL. It was Driver's first touchdown since Week 4 and suggested that he is ready to begin stretching the field again as the Packers launch into their final playoff push. Before Sunday, Driver had gone almost two months without a reception longer than 17 yards.

2. Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions defensive end: With teammate Kyle Vanden Bosch (neck) sidelined, Avril picked up the slack by recording three sacks against the Bears. He now has six sacks in the past four games he has played and a career-high seven for the season. Many of us wondered to what extent Avril would benefit with three new teammates next to him in Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams. I think we've found out the answer.

3. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings defensive end: A sack against the Bills brought Allen's total to 8.5 on the year. He has had at least one sack in each of the Vikings' past five games, due in part to a one-on-one session he had with Frazier. During the meeting, Frazier showed Allen video evidence of the difference between his approach this season and last season. According to Frazier, Allen was surprised at how different he looked. Consider it an effective appeal to personal pride.

How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
10:00
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Pat Sims, Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman: With the New Orleans Saints down three points late in the fourth quarter, no one in Paul Brown Stadium believed they would go for it on fourth down with the exception of one person: Sims. Cincinnati's defensive lineman jumped offside and gave the Saints a new set of downs to eventually score the game-winning touchdown. Kudos to Sims for owning up to his mistake after the game. But the play still joins a long list of mental errors the Bengals have made this season.

2. Bengals' defense: What happened to this group? Cincinnati's defense was ranked No. 4 in the NFL during last year's playoff run but dropped to No. 22 this season. The Bengals are allowing 26.8 points per game and gave up another 34 points in the loss to New Orleans. Lack of a pass-rush is a huge issue, but overall everyone on Cincinnati's defense is struggling this year.

3. Baltimore Ravens' offense: It's Week 14, and I'm still waiting for this offense to develop more consistency. Some weeks the Ravens are scoring 37 points, while other weeks they could barely muster 10 points. On paper this group should be closer to the team that's capable of scoring 30 points a game. The talent is there at wide receiver, running back and tight end, which is part of the reason frustration is mounting in Baltimore. Veteran receiver Derrick Mason believes the offense should be more productive this late in the season, and we agree.

[+] EnlargeBaltimore's Terrell Suggs
AP Photo/Rob CarrBaltimore's Terrell Suggs has nine sacks this season after recording just 4.5 last year.
RISING

1. Terrell Suggs, Ravens defensive end/linebacker: It's been a great bounce-back season for Suggs, who already doubled his sack total (nine) from a year ago. But Suggs had his best game of the season in a big spot during Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had five tackles, 1.5 sacks and five additional hits on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Suggs has 5.5 sacks in his past five games.

2. Troy Polamalu, Steelers safety: When a big play needs to be made, Polamalu is always ready for the key moment. Polamalu saved the Steelers for the second consecutive week with a game-changing sack and fumble of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco that led to Pittsburgh's go-ahead touchdown. Polamalu also had a crucial interception two weeks ago that helped force overtime in a win over the Buffalo Bills. Plenty of players can make plays, but few can close games defensively like Polamalu.

3. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns cornerback: Cleveland's first-round pick is coming into his own late in the season. Haden recorded an interception in his fourth consecutive game in the Browns' win over the Miami Dolphins. Haden also had six tackles and four pass defensed. He leads the Browns this year with five interceptions and recently worked his way into the starting lineup.

How I See It: AFC East Stock Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
9:23
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. Jets secondary: Tom Brady had a rougher go against the Jets in Week 2 with Randy Moss on his team and star cornerback Darrelle Revis out of the game. Brady didn't throw Revis' way Monday night, but the Patriots quarterback found plenty of holes to exploit. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie had a bad game covering and tackling. Safety Jim Leonhard already was done for the season, and safety James Ihedigbo was hurt Monday night.

2. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: He went into Monday night 3-0 against the AFC East with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. So Sanchez had his worst game of the season, completing barely half of his passes and throwing a season-high three interceptions. His 27.8 passer rating was the measliest since throwing five interceptions against the Bills in Week 6 last year.

3. Jets kicking game: Nick Folk has missed at least one field-goal attempt in four straight games and five of his past six games. Steve Weatherford must've been punting cinder blocks Monday. He averaged 30.7 yards, matching the worst game of his career.

[+] EnlargeNew England's James Sanders
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesNew England safety James Sanders collected one of the Patriots' three interceptions on Monday against the Jets.
RISING

1. Patriots pass defense: Their numbers are deplorable when it comes to yards and points through the air, but they were awesome Monday and keep coming up with interceptions at big times. They've collected eight interceptions the past three games. They picked off Sanchez three times, two weeks after doing the same to Peyton Manning. The Patriots are tied for second in the NFL with 18 interceptions. Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty has all six of his interceptions in the past seven games.

2. Cameron Wake, Dolphins outside linebacker: Wake padded his sack total with 1.5 against the Browns, putting him in the NFL lead with a dozen. He dropped Jake Delhomme on a second-and-2 play just inside the two-minute warning to help force a punt the Dolphins couldn't capitalize on.

3. Brandon Spikes, Patriots inside linebacker: The rookie snared his first NFL interception at a critical time. The Jets were marching on the opening second-half possession and about to cut into the Patriots' 24-3 lead. On second-and-8 from the Patriots' 9-yard line, Spikes didn't bite on a play-action pass and picked it off at the Patriots' 2-yard line.

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