AFC North mailbag

Our division inbox is flooding with questions now that all four teams were on the short end in Week 11.

So let's provide some answers.

Brock from Springfield, MO wants to know why Baltimore Ravens starting tailback Ray Rice wasn’t in the game at the goal line.

James Walker: That was a coach’s decision, Brock, and I don’t necessarily think it was a bad one. Baltimore had first down with one yard to score a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts early in the fourth quarter, and they ran its bigger backs (Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain) on second and third down after failing a quarterback sneak. I don’t have a problem with the play calls or not having the smaller Rice in the game. If anything I blame the players for not executing and getting one yard.

Chris from Cleveland writes: I know it was just one game. But do you think Brady Quinn's stunning performance was a result of bad Detroit Lions defense, or him making nice throws?

Walker: Good question, Chris. I think both factors were in play for Quinn and the Cleveland Browns’ offense. The Lions were giving up more than 29 points per game entering last week, and you can see why after that game. Quinn looked much more comfortable because Detroit's defense is so putrid on the back end and the front seven. Confidence means a lot, and it helped Quinn make some throws that I haven’t seen from him all season. It's a great building block, but everyone needs to see more of it in these final six games against better competition. I'm curious to see if Quinn can light up the Bengals’ defense this week.

Collin from IL wants to know why Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor’s near interception in overtime didn’t count in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Walker: Taylor had the interception until the very end, when the ball came out. And the NFL in the past few years has really made it a point of emphasis for players to finish those kinds of plays (remember Troy Polamalu’s "football move"). Taylor has had problems catching the football his entire career, and that was another example. It’s a major reason he hasn't been able to make the jump from a very good corner to an elite corner.

Robert from Seymour, CT writes: You ever think that maybe all the AFC North teams lost because they all beat the snot out of each other last week?

Walker: Perhaps, Robert. But they're going to beat each other up again this week, too. So Week 13 may be another not-so-banner week for the AFC North.

Alan MacQuarrie from Milwaukee, Wisc. wants to know what happened to the Cincinnati Bengals' pass rush in the loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Walker: Oakland quarterback Bruce Gradkowski really made it a point to get the ball out quickly. The Raiders knew Cincinnati would come after them with a backup quarterback, so they game planned for a quick-hitting offense that gave the Bengals trouble. It was a smart move by Oakland. Cincinnati didn’t get any sacks but forced Gradkowski to throw the ball away on several occasions.