AFC North Mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com James Walker

As always, send all of your questions and comments here.

Amr from Manchester writes: Hi James. Love your work. I know its a little early to talk draft, but what position do you expect each AFC North team to address in the first round of the '09 draft?

James Walker: It is too early to talk NFL draft, Amr. But it is a great question. Free agency in March always change draft needs in April. But right now I expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to look for the best offensive linemen (guard or tackle) in the first round, and the Cincinnati Bengals to search for a top tailback (Chris "Beanie" Wells? Knowshon Moreno?). The Baltimore Ravens could use a game-breaking receiver and the Cleveland Browns could look for help at linebacker or safety, depending on their decision to keep or let go pending free agent Sean Jones.

Tom from Frisco writes: Hi James - love your weekly in-depth analyses of the AFC North; it's obvious you do your homework. The Ravens have a stout defense and a growing young QB getting better with each game - do they have enough pieces to make a legitmate shot at a wild card? As a Steeler fan,, they scare me.

James Walker: Thanks Tom. I felt the Ravens had a shot at the beginning of the season. That defense gives Baltimore a chance to be in nearly every game and I considered the Ravens as a sleeper candidate for 7-9 wins. But there are a lot of teams that are candidates to win 7-9 games -- that is what the NFL's parity system is built around. The biggest question for Baltimore will be winning the close games, because with its style, there will be many that come down to the fourth quarter.

Matt from Cleveland writes: Do you think there is any reason why the Browns shouldn't start Brady Quinn this week? Isn't it clear it's time for him to get a chance given Anderson's inconsistency?

James Walker: Matt, the real reason is the Browns coaching staff, led by head coach Romeo Crennel, feel Derek Anderson gives them the best chance to win. Many disagree, but the only opinions that matter are the coaches who determine playing time. Anderson does have a short leash, though.

Steeler51 writes: Love your stuff. I was just reading about Chad Johnsons comments. How do you think his attitude and comments will affect his ability to be traded? I compared it to the Adam Jones situation in Dallas. I know they are two different players and situations BUT owners learn from others mistakes.

James Walker: Wow. I'm feeling a lot of love this week, Steeler51. Ocho Cinco's comments last week won't have any more effect on his trade value than his lack of production. Teams already know what they will get with Ocho Cinco. The only clubs that will take a flier on him will be teams that feel they have a winning environment that can keep him happy, which is the primary problem in Cincinnati right now. The biggest question will be if the Bengals want too much for a player who likely won't have great numbers by the end of the season.

Derick Young Casper, WY writes: Hey Mr. Walker, I am curious why the Titans recieved so much attention from the media this past week. They only beat the chiefs, as we all no are not a sub par team at all. Worse then the Bengals I would say, even with their one win. Looks as though the Steelers O LINE is improving since the Eagles game and our backups are playing like starters. You believe the coaching is that good or the players are just that determined? I think it is both. O and thanks for the #1 vote as the best team. You know its true.

James Walker: Please, Derick, no thanks. I'm just writing what I'm seeing. The Titans get a lot of attention because they are still undefeated. They deserve it. I'm just not convinced they are multi-dimensional enough on offense and have a good enough quarterback to win the AFC. That's where I give Pittsburgh the edge and why I've voted the Steelers ahead of Tennessee the past two weeks. It's easy to vote the team with one more victory at the top, but I believe it's my responsibility to look deeper than that as an NFL analyst. To answer the second part of your question, the Steelers offensive line is playing better. I'm not sure coaching has much to do with it, because Pittsburgh isn't changing many things schematically. The hogs up front are just executing and that bye week helped clean up some issues.

DJ from Silver Spring writes: What do you think about Troy Smith's chances of starting if Joe Flacco continue's to struggle, And if he does start how much of a immediate impact do you think he will have?

James Walker: Not very likely, DJ. Troy Smith still has a long way to go and no one knows how strong he will come back. If Smith is the same player this year that he was before he lost weight with his illness, then maybe the Ravens have an alternative if Flacco gets hurt. But if the rookie is healthy, Baltimore likely will stick with Flacco, who is its present and future at the position.