Here's a recap of the AFC North weekly chat from today ...
Andy (West Virginia): What do you expect out of Rashard Mendenhall this week and the rest of the season? Can he hold up for all of 2012?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Mendenhall averaged a little over 15 carries a game last season. So, that's probably what you can expect from him this season. As to whether he holds up, no one can predict that. I know the Steelers have an outstanding training staff that is respected throughout the league. Mendenhall is suiting up Sunday because he's ready to suit up.
Joe (Fort Wayne, IN): FIrst timer here Jamison (although I read you daily)! So, if/when the Browns fire Pat Shurmur, do you think they have any reasonable interest in Bill Cowher? Any reasonable chance to land him? That would change the tone of everything in Berea.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Thanks for joining us Joe. The Browns have made runs at Cowher twice and he's turned them down both times. Not sure if a change in owner would change things. I'm sure you'll hear Cowher's name out there if the Browns decided to make a change. I would be surprised if Cowher changed his mind.
Matt D (Toledo, Ohio): If Joe Haden never gets suspended, are the Browns a 3-1 team going into Week 5?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Joe Haden is an awfully good player, but he's not Deion Sanders. He can take away the opposition's best defender but he didn't make any game-changing plays last year. So, no, Haden wouldn't have caused a three-game swing.
Ryan (West Chester, OH): My question is: What happened to the AFC North since last season? Has the entire division fallen apart, and if so, what has caused it?The AFC North has long been a powerhouse division, but this year the Browns are clearly the worst team in the NFL, the Steelers are losing to low-end teams and not competing well against others, the Bengals are playing as a fairly solid middle-of-the-road team, falling in the middle of the pack beating the poor teams but losing to the good ones, and then Ravens are playing head to head with the better teams but are not quite elite.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Having two 3-1 teams isn't too shabby in my book. And the Steelers' two losses have come on road trips out west. I would be more concerned if the Steelers had lost two games at Heinz. The sky is not falling in the AFC North.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): This move would have been made sooner if Jimmy Smith had played better himself. He had a great AFC championship game, but he hasn't stepped up this season. Smith hasn't come close to reaching the expectations of being a top corner in this league. He certainly has the physical tools.
JamalWilkins (Cincy): What is the status of Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick? At least other teams can talk about their rookies (both good and bad).
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): He has been cleared to practice and he's out on the field as I type. But Kirkpatrick has been hurt more days than he's been healthy since he was drafted in the first round. So, I'll believe that he's ready to contribute when he's actually active for a game.
cp (reno): I have to think Cowher would never coach in AFC North so as not to ruin his statue in Pittsburgh...Agree?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): I'm getting the feeling that we'll never see Cowher coach again, period.
Joe (Austin): Hey Jamison, can you explain to me why you have the Falcons over the Texans at No. 1 in the power rankings? Seems like you are the only one I can find.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): Yes, I am the only one who has the Falcons at No. 1. I put them there after beating the Chiefs, who were predicted by many to win the AFC West, and handing Peyton Manning his first loss in Denver. The Falcons then came back after a Monday night game to beat the then-undefeated Chargers on a short week after a cross-country trip. That was my reasoning.
Justin (parma): The browns seem to have found a nice player in defensive lineman Billy Winn, any chance he moves to defensive end when big Phil comes back or will we see some sort of rotation?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): I don't care where they play Winn, but they have to get him on the field. He was a beast against Baltimore on Thursday night. I remember when people laughed when I said he would be the guy to replace Phil Taylor. Funny, I don't get any mail saying I was right about that.
Going somewhat of the way. (Clinton, MD): Wide receiver Greg Little is looking strong in the running for Defensive Player of the Year wouldn't you say?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN): I would be afraid that he would drop any award given to him.