AFC North Stock Market: Week 5

Quarterback Andy Dalton is a 'buy' after leading the Bengals to a 4-0 start. Michael Vick? Not so much. 

The NFL regular season is more volatile on a week-to-week basis than the Stock Market. One team that lost by several touchdowns the week before can follow up with a blowout victory. Players who are responsible for the blame one week could be responsible for a game-winning play the next.

With Week 4 of the regular season in the books, let’s take a look at three AFC North players who saw their stock rise, and three others from the division who saw it fall. 

THREE UP

Andy Dalton, quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton was an efficient 17-of-24 for 321 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City. He has completed 67.2 percent of his passes and has nine touchdowns against one interception. Bad Andy has barely showed his face through the first quarter of the season, leading many to wonder if Dalton has gotten over the proverbial hump. So far, he’s led the Bengals to their first 4-0 record in 10 years and he’s playing like a quarterback primed get his first playoff win.

Duke Johnson, running back, Cleveland Browns

Duke Johnson had the best game of his young career Sunday in San Diego, thanks in part to his role in the passing game. Johnson had nine receptions for 85 yards, including a sparkling over-the-shoulder grab in the end zone from 34 yards out. The big wild card for Johnson is his health, as he missed the bulk of training camp with a hamstring injury and also exited briefly Sunday in the thrid quarter. As long as he can stay on the field, it won’t be long before he becomes one of Josh McCown’s most reliable weapons.

Cameron Heyward, defensive end, Pittsburgh Steelers

Cameron Heyward played the best game of his career in a losing effort last Thursday night against the Ravens, receiving a +7.8 from Pro Football Focus. Heyward was a disruptive force up front in both the run and passing game. He had seven tackles and a great chase down of Joe Flacco for a sack-fumble that set up a Pittsburgh touchdown early in the third quarter.

THREE DOWN

Dre Kirkpatrick, cornerback, Cincinnati Bengals

Dre Kirkpatrick continues to struggle after making the leap to the starting lineup. He’s earned negative grades from Pro Football Focus in all four games and ranks as the second-worst cornerback (-9.8) in the entire league among 104 qualifiers. Kirkpatrick was victimized by Alex Smith and the Chiefs to the tune of seven receptions and 122 yards, 104 of which came from Jeremy Maclin. 

Michael Vick, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers

Michael Vick struggled with accuracy on short passes in his first Pittsburgh start last Thursday, including his final throw of the night. Vick’s footwork looked out of sorts when he missed Antonio Brown on 4th-and-1 in overtime. If he sticks the throw, he extends the drive and the Steelers have a good shot at a victory, assuming their kicker could make a field goal. Making matters worse, Vick’s best asset, his legs, seem to be showing some tread on their tires. The Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger back in a hurry to have a chance at competing in the AFC North.

Markus Wheaton, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

Wheaton failed to impress during Martavis Bryant’s four-game suspension, registering just eight catches for 156 yards. Wheaton will likely take a backseat to Bryant, especially with Vick now at quarterback. Vick and Bryant were quick to establish chemistry during the preseason, and that should continue, considering the deep ball plays to both players’ strengths. 

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