AFC North fantasy football update

September, 24, 2010
The AFC North blog is doing extremely well in ESPN's blogger Gridiron Challenge. I'm in the 99.2 percentile and No. 37 overall in our league, which contains more than 3,300 members.

But we're moving ahead to Week 3. So here is some fantasy advice for AFC North players in our community:

  • Baltimore Ravens tailback Ray Rice, who is off to a slow start, has a chance to produce a breakout game against the Cleveland Browns. The coaching staff is aware that Rice has been underused in the first two weeks and the offense has suffered. So I expect him to get the ball in both the running and passing game.
  • I would stay away from anyone on the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense. The Steelers didn't score an offensive touchdown in last week's win over the Tennessee Titans. Fourth-string quarterback Charlie Batch is running the show, which means the team will play very conservative. Hold onto Rashard Mendenhall, Heath Miller, Mike Wallace and Hines Ward if you have them. But it’s probably best to keep them on the bench until Ben Roethlisberger returns.
  • I do like Pittsburgh's and Baltimore's defenses this week. The Steelers are collecting a lot of points with their ability to create turnovers (seven last week). The Ravens still haven't allowed a defensive touchdown, and that streak may continue against Cleveland.
  • Keep an eye on AFC North kickers. Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent was fantasy gold last week, converting on five field goals. The Bengals' offense will only get better, and Nugent is likely still available in most leagues. Jeff Reed also has been solid during Pittsburgh's struggles to score touchdowns. He could be a good play this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC North: Morning take: It's a shameless plug, but make sure you check out Baltimore on ESPN Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. I know I will (wink, wink).
Morning take: The initial diagnoses was a mid-foot sprain, but further testing in Cincinnati this week could reveal more. If out for an extended period, this will hurt the Bengals' depth at running back.

  • After spending the weekend being inducted to the Hall of Fame, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Morning take: It was a memorable and well-deserved honor for LeBeau. But rest assured he's eager to get back to coaching.
Morning take: Every several weeks it seems Edwards takes another shot at Cleveland or the Browns in the media. At least it will make the Jets-Browns game interesting later this season.
Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs is making the media rounds in Bristol, Conn., Monday. On ESPN's "First Take," he discussed his unhappiness with his contract.

Cribbs was paid a base salary of $900,000 this past season after making his second Pro Bowl. The Browns offered to raised his annual salary to $1.4 million over the final three years of his deal, which disappointed Cribbs and his representatives.

Cribbs said he wished the dispute could've been settled privately. But he feels he's not getting offered fair-market value.

"To this point, I have not gone public with how I felt," Cribbs said. "But I went two times trying to get a different contract, and two times [I was] turned down and told to wait and be patient, and I have. I feel like I’ve played and did what I had to do on the field to show them why I deserve it."

According to a recent report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, other returners such as Devin Hester, Roscoe Parrish and Andre Davis are making a minimum of $3.2 million per season. At this point both Cribbs and the Browns appear far apart.

Cribbs visits Bristol

January, 8, 2010
Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl kick returner Josh Cribbs will be a guest Monday at ESPN's campus in Bristol, CT.

Cribbs will break down the playoffs throughout the day and discuss his contract situation as a panelist on various shows such as Outside the Lines, NFL Live and SportsCenter.

Cribbs and his representation are very upset and feel the Browns are low-balling him with contract offers. Cleveland offered a raise to $1.4 million per season over the next three years. Cribbs made a base salary of $900,000 this past season.

The Browns finished 5-11 during the 2009 season.

Programming note

December, 24, 2009
I have a quick programming note to pass along.

Tune into ESPN Thursday at 3 p.m. for Outside the Lines, which will focus on several NFL teams in transition. I will be on the program to discuss the future of the Cleveland Browns (3-11), which recently hired Mike Holmgren as the team's president.

So check it out.

AFC North update

October, 20, 2009
Posted by’s James Walker

Here are a few odds and ends from the AFC North Tuesday afternoon:

What is turf toe?

October, 9, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

Pittsburgh Steelers tailback Willie Parker is expected to miss his second straight game Sunday because of turf toe.

The AFC North blog checked in with ESPN medical expert Stephania Bell for a description of the injury to get an idea of what Parker is going through.
Bell: "Turf toe usually results from hyperextension of the big toe and is an injury to the tissue surrounding the joint where the base of the big toe meets the ball of the foot. Ligaments around the joint can become overstretched or torn and that is what causes the pain and swelling. The more damage to the ligaments and joint capsule, the more severe the injury. It can be excruciatingly painful. Players often describe it like driving a nail through the toe when they try to push off and that is the problem. You need to extend your big toe in order to push off your foot properly when running, meaning all of your body weight is over that joint just before the foot leaves the ground. For a running back who has to cut, the toe has to pivot, adding stress to the joint. It's important to try to get it under control because chronic turf toe can become very disabling and in some cases has prematurely ended an athlete's career."

Take your pick: Mason vs. Johnson

September, 17, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

During their verbal jousting this week, Baltimore Ravens receiver Derrick Mason provided an open challenge to new adversary and ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson.

“If he wants to hash this out man to man or talk about it, you want to stack up numbers man to man and talk about it, we can do that,” Mason said. “Remember, Keyshawn, you were a No. 1 pick in the draft and I was a fourth-rounder, and our numbers still pretty much stack up, OK? But let’s go.”

So in this week’s version of “Take your pick” in the AFC North, we open the forum to Mason’s challenge.

Which NFL receiver was better: Derrick Mason or Keyshawn Johnson?

Keep in mind Mason, 35, is still playing while Johnson, 37, is retired. Therefore, the situation is somewhat fluid.

But here are the career numbers as they currently stand:

Mase vs. Key
Player Rec. Yards TD Seasons
Keyshawn Johnson 814 10,571 64 11
Derrick Mason 794 10,108 52 13*
*Mason is currently one game into his 13th season.

Right now the numbers are nearly identical. So throughout their solid careers, which receiver would you have wanted on your team?

Take your pick.

Mase vs. Key continues

September, 16, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

It’s the verbal jousting that just won’t end.
Baltimore Ravens receiver Derrick Mason and former receiver and current ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson continue to go at each other through the media.

Johnson’s “bum” comment recently caused a stir in the Ravens’ locker room, although it was unclear exactly who Johnson was referring to, if anyone at all. Mason, a leader in Baltimore, took it personal as comments aimed toward his offensive teammates and fired back after the Ravens scored 38 points in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Wednesday Mason said Johnson had more to say, so he does as well.

"Keyshawn knows where I’m at, he knows where the Ravens’ facility is," Mason said to Baltimore reporters. "So if he wants to hash this out man to man or talk about it, you want to stack up numbers man to man and talk about it, we can do that.

"Remember, Keyshawn, you were a No. 1 pick in the draft and I was a fourth-rounder, and our numbers still pretty much stack up, OK? But let’s go."


Although this makes for great headlines, this could be getting a little too personal. Both have strong personalities and obviously have struck a chord with one another. But it may be time to pull the plug and find a way to make peace.

Programming notes

May, 22, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

Your resident AFC North blogger will be on two programs this afternoon talking about the NFL's Ohio teams.

At 4 p.m. on ESPN's "NFL Live," I will be doing a segment on the relationship between Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals. Also, around 5:25 p.m., I will be talking Bengals and Cleveland Browns on "The Big Show" in Columbus, Ohio, with Chris Spielman and Bruce Hooley.

For those who do not live in central Ohio and want to listen live online, here is the link.