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Saturday, December 3, 2011
AFC North mailbag (Part two)

By Jamison Hensley

If you have a question about the AFC North, send it to my mailbag. This is the second part of our mailbag today, so let's continue to open up some mail ...

Devin from Ontario, Canada, writes: With the success of A.J. Green (in the end zone, with a touchdown), does this cause a re-think in the axiom that you don't use a top 10 pick on a wide receiver? Is this guy just that special or is this a function of the new NFL rules punishing defenses?

Hensley responds: Green is really special. You just have to look at how his rookie numbers stack up against the best wide receivers of this past decade (here's the link). If you can get an elite receiver, you have to get them in the top 10. I'm really not in favor of grabbing a wide receiver later in the first round. For the most part (and I know there are exceptions), it seems like teams reach for wide receivers when they take them in the bottom third of the first round. In this division, where defenses don't allow too many double-digit play drives, you need a playmaker who can stretch the field. It's essential.


David from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., writes: As of right now who do you honestly think is a front runner to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl?

Hensley responds: I know this makes me sound like an AFC North homer, but the two best teams I've seen in person this year are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Wait, make that the Ravens when they're playing at home or playing the Steelers. I know the Patriots are looking good right now, but at this point in the season, the Steelers or the Ravens look like the teams who will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. I would be shocked if it didn't work out that way.


Jeff S. from Toledo, Ohio, writes: It looks like Michael Oher will be going to the Pro Bowl. Do you believe that he is the best tackle in the division? If not, who do you think is the best tackle in the AFC North?

Hensley responds: Oher is leading the voting because of the popularity of the movie "The Blind Side." It's kind of funny that he doesn't even protect the blind side anymore. But don't expect Oher to make the Pro Bowl. The voting from the players and coaches will get Cleveland's Joe Thomas in there. He is the best left tackle in the AFC. Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworth gets overshadowed by Thomas because they play in the same division, but he's better than Oher as well.


Jonnyplesko from Pittsburgh writes: As you may have noticed on the blog following the first Steelers-Bengals matchup, a lot of Cincy fans seemed to think injuries cost them the game against Pittsburgh. In response, a lot of Pittsburgh fans reminded them that Pittsburgh came into the game without LaMarr Woodley and Emmanuel Sanders (both pretty important players for Pittsburgh). So, my question is, who has a bigger impact on this game, A.J. Green, or LaMarr Woodley? My money is on Woodley. I think [Andy] Dalton played admirably in the first game, but with James Harrison and Woodley coming off the edges, he will have even less time and be forced into some mistakes. Your thoughts?

Hensley responds: I agree with you on this and this isn't a knock on Green. I expect the Steelers to do everything in their power to shut down Green. Pittsburgh doesn't fear Jerome Simpson or Andre Caldwell. Both those receivers didn't make an impact when Green left the previous Pittsburgh game with a hyperextended knee. Woodley, though, could show some rust having missed three games. He'll also have the challenge of going against Andre Smith. But if Woodley plays Sunday like he did before the injury, he is unstoppable at times.