How I See It: AFC North Stock Watch

Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker

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1. Cincinnati Bengals' offense

Seven points, at home, with a healthy Carson Palmer at quarterback is not acceptable for Cincinnati’s offense. It’s unfortunate that its defense will be remembered most for giving up a late touchdown, because that side of the football played great in a 12-7 loss to the Denver Broncos.

A rusty Palmer is not all to blame. Receivers dropped balls, the offensive line allowed three sacks and Cincinnati couldn’t run the football consistently. But if you told head coach Marvin Lewis before the game that the Bengals would hold their opponent to 12 points, he would take it every time with the type of firepower he has on offense. That side of the football just needs to play better.


2. Willie Parker, Steelers RB

Is it the running backs or the offensive line? Maybe it’s both. But it’s hard not to put Parker on this list when he rushes for 19 yards on 13 carries. None of Pittsburgh’s running backs ran well in last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans, which shows the offensive line isn’t opening many holes.

But Parker does tend to freelance and unsuccessfully bounce runs outside too often. He needs to go north and south more and have a better Week 2 against another good defense in the Chicago Bears. The wrist injury to linebacker Brian Urlacher in the middle may help Pittsburgh get more yards on the ground.


3. Braylon Edwards, Browns WR

If the Browns want to win more games this season, Edwards will need more than one catch for 12 yards in a game. He is Cleveland’s most dynamic talent on offense and made the Pro Bowl just two years ago with 16 touchdowns.

On Sunday, Edwards was never on the same page with Browns starting quarterback Brady Quinn. Edwards admittedly ran the wrong route that led to one interception. Cleveland’s offense probably doesn’t go vertical enough for Edwards to put up huge numbers this season. But Edwards needs to make the most of every opportunity for the team to be successful.



1. Joe Flacco, Ravens QB

The Ravens are tied for the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL? Believe it. Flacco led Baltimore to 38 points by setting career highs in yards (307), touchdowns (3) and attempts (43) against the Kansas City Chiefs.

It was a drastic change from Flacco’s first game last year as a rookie, when the coaching staff protected him by handing off the football a majority of the game. It’s unknown how high Flacco’s ceiling is but the Ravens are not having any preconceived notions about it in his second season by letting him air it out.


2. Santonio Holmes, Steelers WR

How did Holmes respond to his Super Bowl MVP performance? He put up the same numbers that won him the prestigious award in Week 1 during a 13-10 victory over the Titans.

Holmes caught nine receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. He has 18 receptions for 262 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games, dating back to February’s performance. Holmes is really coming into his own as Pittsburgh’s most dynamic downfield threat. He’s making the spectacular plays as well as the routine.


3. Joshua Cribbs, Browns KR/WR

After a relatively down year in 2008, Cribbs is quickly solidifying his place again as one of the NFL’s elite kick returners. Cribbs scored Cleveland’s first touchdown of the 2009 season with a 67-yard punt return in a 34-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Cribbs had 223 total yards on offense and special teams Sunday. He is Cleveland’s most dependable player. But he’s going to need more help from his teammates for the Browns to be successful.