- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com’s James Walker
Even with half the division on a bye, we received a lot of questions this week in our AFC North inbox.
Here is the latest weekend mailbag:
J. Jizal from Pittsburgh, PA wants to know why the Cincinnati Bengals are still ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in ESPN.com’s power rankings, despite Pittsburgh’s big win over the previously undefeated Minnesota Vikings.
Walker: I’m not on the power rankings’ panel this year, J. Jizal. But I will defend this week’s rankings by saying Pittsburgh lost to Cincinnati head-to-head and was beat by the Chicago Bears. I think our panel got it right.
Larry B from Denver, CO writes: Why do teams such as the Steelers use their star players on special teams?
Walker: Good question, Larry B. Special teams involves a lot of plays in the open field. So some coaches prefer to have the best athletes on those units. Oftentimes the best pure athletes are also starters. In Pittsburgh's case, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison were the team’s best special teams players before they became starters. So the team didn’t want to lose that edge even when they played regularly on defense.
Mike from Chicago, IL is curious if the Steelers will re-sign kicker Jeff Reed after the season.
Walker: That’s a tough one, Mike. The Steelers haven’t made their decision one way or another with Reed in a contract year, so it’s hard for me to say. Reed is one of the few kickers who thrives on the tough surface at Heinz Field. Yet Reed had a few struggles early this year on the field and definitely some issues off it. I would say this question is still to be determined.
Sean McMann from Pittsburgh wants to know if Carson Palmer has a chance to win Comeback Player of the Year.
Walker: Sean, I think it’s going to be tough for Palmer to win this award, because most people knew he was a great quarterback already. He was just injured in 2008. The best candidate on the Bengals and probably the favorite is tailback Cedric Benson, who out of nowhere is leading the NFL in rushing and having a career year.
Patrick from San Antonio, Texas wants to know why Joe Flacco and Ray Rice aren't on NFC West blogger Mike Sando’s MVP Watch.
Walker: Although I can’t speak for Sando, Flacco was on the list earlier in the season when the Ravens got off to a fast start, Patrick. But three losses in a row have dropped him out of the MVP conversation. Both Rice and Flacco are having great statistical years, but a lot of other players are, too. Therefore wins often serve as a way to separate players.
Ben Jackman from New York, NY wants to know if Willis McGahee will get more opportunities Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Walker: Baltimore hasn’t run the football a lot in general, Ben. But when the Ravens have it went to Ray Rice. Eventually, as they get back to pounding the football, McGahee will get more touches. I think that will start Sunday. The Broncos don’t give up a lot of points, have a solid secondary and a great pass rush. Those factors are screaming for Baltimore to run the football. I think you will see more of last year’s style of offense from the Ravens -- at least for this week.
John from Sylvania, Ohio and Jack from Kent, Ohio wants to know when Brady Quinn will get another chance with the Cleveland Browns.
Walker: John, Derek Anderson has the lowest passer rating of any NFL starting quarterback. So if that doesn’t change, Quinn will get another shot sometime after the bye week. Browns coach Eric Mangini is telling Quinn to stay ready, which means a quarterback switch could be forthcoming soon.
RJ from Virginia Beach, VA writes: In the process of making your picks, do you ever look at other people's picks or perhaps the Madden simulation?
Walker: I only study the Tecmo Bowl simulations, RJ. Just kidding. I don’t follow other's picks, but I check the injury reports regularly.
Caleb from Morgantown, WV wants to know if and when Josh Cribbs will get a new deal with the Browns.
Walker: Caleb, although there has been some progress, it doesn’t look like anything will be complete until closer to the end of the season. The Browns understand Cribbs’ value to the team. He might be Cleveland’s best player this year and someone who represents the team well. I would be surprise if nothing gets done at least in the offseason.