AFC North Stock Watch


1. Browns scoring: Here are the points scored by Cleveland in its past three games: 6, 10 and 12. So, technically, the scoring is rising but the results are still embarrassing. The Browns have dealt with injuries along the offensive line and at running back, but that's no excuse for ranking 29th overall in average points scored this season (14.9). Take away Phil Dawson's five field goals of 50 yards or longer in the past three games and the Browns have scored 13 points since Oct. 23.

2. Rashard Mendenhall's carries: The Pittsburgh Steelers running back broke out for a season-high 146 yards against Jacksonville on Oct. 16. That didn't earn him an increased role in the offense. Mendenhall has received 13 carries in each of the past three games as the Steelers have relied heavily on the passing attack. He's on pace for a career-low 213 carries this season.

3. Browns run defense: In a division that takes pride in stopping the run -- Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh rank in the top 6 -- the Browns are the exception. Cleveland has allowed six 100-yard rushers in eight games, which explains the drop to the 30th-ranked run defense. Sunday, the Browns gave up three rushing touchdowns and watched two running backs reach 100 yards in the same game. These are not the results you want to see after investing two top picks in the front seven just seven months ago.


1. Belief in the Bengals: In a span of a year, the Bengals have gone from having the second-fewest wins in the league (four) to having the most in the AFC (six, tied with Baltimore, Houston and Pittsburgh). The Bengals' five-game winning streak is their longest since 1988, the year the franchise advanced to the Super Bowl. Some remain skeptical because of Cincinnati's soft first-half schedule. The Bengals can prove themselves over the next two weeks against the Steelers and Ravens.

2. Joe Flacco in the second half: The Ravens quarterback is stepping up his game after halftime lately. In comeback wins over Arizona and Pittsburgh, Flacco has completed 65 percent of his passes for 394 yards and a passer rating of 92.5 in the second half. Flacco seemed to thrive in pressure situations in Pittsburgh, where he set a franchise record with 14 third-down conversions which included the 26-yard winning touchdown pass.

3. Steelers pass-rushers: When James Harrison was sidelined for four games with an eye injury, LaMarr Woodley carried the Steelers' pass rush, recording 7.5 sacks in Harrison's absence. When Woodley missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, Harrison did the same, sacking Flacco three times. Imagine the pressure the Steelers will be able to apply on quarterbacks when both are on the field at the same time. Whom do you double team?