AFC North: Homer of the Week

AFC North Homers of the Week

August, 31, 2011
We have a pair of Cleveland Browns fans who are our latest "Homers of the Week" in the AFC North blog.


Mike from Ashtabula, Ohio, writes: You don't know football or you got your head too far up Baltimore or Pittsburgh's rear end. Cleveland is the best team in the division this year by far. One reason is neither Pittsburgh nor Baltimore can stop the West Coast offense.

Sean McKenzie from Van Wert, Ohio, writes: When you look at the Browns schedule, I can see the Browns going 10-6 if Peyton Manning plays or 11-5 if Manning doesn't play. We will sweep the NFC West and sweep the Bengals. That's six wins. We beat the Dolphins, Jaguars, Titans and Raiders. The Browns will lose to both the Steelers and Ravens twice (4 losses). Anything can happen on any given Sunday.

Walker: Mike and Sean, I've never seen so much excitement about a Browns team that's 1-2 in the preseason. Cleveland is showing some good things in exhibition games, but let's not go overboard. The Browns still have a long way to go before they are AFC North champs and an 11-win team. Also, Sean, why are Browns fans (and Bengals fans) talking about sweeping the NFC West like Cleveland and Cincinnati are powerhouses. Every team in the NFC West except Arizona won more games than the Bengals and Browns last year. There are no such things as easy games for four- and five-win teams. Congrats on being our AFC North "Homers of the Week."

AFC North Homer of the Week

August, 24, 2011
Various preseason games and traveling to training camps prevented me from putting together a recent mailbag. Therefore, we never posted our latest "Homer of the Week."

This week's award goes to a Cleveland Browns fan.
  • Cory Hart from Shelby, Ohio, writes: After watching the first two preseason games I'm going to make a prediction: The Browns will go 10-6 this season and be the sixth seed in the playoffs. They will then beat the New England Patriots in the first round but will ultimately lose to the Houston Texans, who will go to the Super Bowl but will lose to the Atlanta Falcons. Colt McCoy will throw for 3,800 yards and 28 TDs with 9 INTs and Peyton Hillis will rush for 1,500 yards with 13 TDs and catch for 700 yards with 7 TDs. That is how I see this year for my team.
Walker: Wow, Cory. I don't know if I'm more shocked you think the Browns will beat the Patriots in the playoffs or the Houston Texans are going to the Super Bowl. And McCoy and Hillis should be first-round picks in fantasy drafts with these projections. Be careful not to overrate the preseason, Cory. Congrats on being our "Homer of the Week."

Walker's weekend mailbag

June, 4, 2011
Let's see what in our AFC North inbox this week.

Steven Velte from Baltimore writes: JW, why does Joe Flacco get so little respect around the league and Matt Ryan gets much more praise?

Walker: Steven, I don't have a clear answer. But I do have a "face of the franchise" theory involving these two quarterbacks. Both players are very close at this stage of their careers, but the difference is Flacco is not the face of the Ravens. Ray Lewis is. After that there's Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, etc. For the Falcons, Ryan is the face of the franchise. So I think he gets much more publicity and credit for his team's success, despite their statistics being almost identical the past three seasons.

Will from Sykesville, MD, wants to know what the chances are of Flacco beating Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers this year.

Walker: We opened that question up to our community this week, Will, and most believe it's not going to happen in 2011. I'm not ready to make any firm predictions, but I was a little surprised by the results. Flacco has been close in the past, Super Bowl runners-up usually struggle the following year and Baltimore's roster is stacked even before free agency. Injuries aside, I expect the Ravens and Steelers to compete for the AFC North title again. Flacco and the Ravens have their best shot to catch Pittsburgh at home in Week 1.

Rye Dalton from Encinitas, CA, wants to know if the Cleveland Browns would have any interest in the supplemental draft for Ohio State players.

Walker: Good question, Rye. The Browns have additional draft picks to spare in 2012 and need all the help they can get this year. So I would list the Browns as a potential candidate for the supplemental draft. The two players of interest for the Browns could be offensive tackle Mike Adams and tailback Dan Herron, because they both play positions where Cleveland lacks depth.

JMo from Bed Stuy wants to know if safety Darren Sharper could be a target for the Browns.

Walker: I don't see this as a good match, JMo. If Sharper plays next season, he's in the twilight of his career and probably wants to play for a contender. The Browns, in my opinion, are at least. ... OK I'm not going to say it this week. I don't want to upset those Browns fans who think their team will be Super Bowl contenders this year.

Michael Ricke from Kristiansand, Norway, wants to know why Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer would want out now.

Walker: Until Palmer speaks publicly, we won't have the full details. But reading the signs, Palmer is tired of the losing and has lost confidence in the Bengals' ability to field a championship-caliber team. Palmer, 31, gave Cincinnati his prime years and only has a few good seasons left. Palmer believes he has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl elsewhere. And after watching Cincinnati for the past 20 years, I don't think anyone can argue with Palmer's line of reasoning.

Christian from Phoenix wants to know what kind of offseason activities have Bengals players organized.

Walker: The Bengals have held a few gatherings, Christian, and the team will have organized practices for the next two weeks. The Bengals are a young, rebuilding team and need to get the work in.

Derrick from Rochester, NY, wants to know where Steelers safety Troy Polamalu ranks with some of the all-time great defenders.

Walker: Polamalu is definitely unique, and I think when his career is over, he will be a Hall of Famer. But it's hard to compare him with other all-time great defensive players like Lawrence Taylor, for example, until Polamalu's career is over.

Complaint department

Here are recent comments and complaints from our community.

Dustin from Pittsburgh writes: It's hard not to agree with Brett Kostoff's response. If you were in an abusive relationship for 20 years, would you stick around for another 20? Probably not. At some point you have to say enough is enough, cut your losses and move on. And we all know the Bengals have a lot of losses to cut.

Brandon Crawford from Sykesville, Md, writes: Sounds like Kostoff is making a lot of excuses. If you are a true fan you stick with your team through black and blue. Bottom line. This guy is a disgrace to all TRUE fans of the game.

Nick Diligente from Cleveland writes: I've been a fan for 30 years. After reading Brett Kostoff's response and listening to him compare it to the cable bill, I am starting to doubt my loyalty to the Browns. He really put it into a perspective the Browns fans should look at. Do you think the Ravens fans would let me move to Baltimore as Art Modell did?

Walker: Whether you agree or disagree with Kostoff auctioning his fandom, I think he makes a compelling case. Being a fan is an individual thing. One person's tolerance may be higher or lower than the next person. In Kostoff's case, he put a lot of time, money and energy into the Bengals and 20 years without a playoff win was enough. He didn't believe he was getting enough from his team in return. For other fans, the tolerance may be higher.

Andy from Clarion, PA, writes: James, it's obvious that the Steelers would love to have Ike Taylor back and Ike would love to come back. The only problem is that the Steelers seem unlikely to pay top dollar for him. If we would have another uncapped year, why would the Steelers not just pay him what he wants for that year and try to work out a longer deal later on or work on developing younger players in the meantime.

Walker: Andy, there are some holes in your reasoning. First, the Steelers don't know if there will be another uncapped year, and even so, Pittsburgh approached 2010 as if there was a cap. Second, Taylor is 31 and wants a long-term deal. This is probably Taylor's last chance to cash in big for his career and he won't sign a one-year contract. I would assume Taylor wants at least three years.

Jordan M. from Belle Vernon, Pa., writes: I'll occasionally read the comments on some of your posts, and the Nnamdi Asomugha to the Steelers posts are as aggravating as they are ridiculous. I can just imagine how frustrated you are by it, because I'm sure you get deluged daily w/that nonsense.. So I think you should start every post with "Nnamdi to Steelers-Never" until FA starts. It might deter the endless questions you receive.

Walker: It was frustrating at first, Jordan. But I have a way of finding humor in things, so eventually it became a running joke in the AFC North blog. He might be the most popular football player in Pittsburgh never play for the Steelers.

Kovacs from Santa Monica, CA, writes: Not AFCN related, but I can't take it anymore. Tony Romo is not good. He's not a winner. He has decent stats because he has arguably the best offensive arsenal in the game: Witten, Austin, Dez, Jones/Barber/Choice. Tony Romo is good at two things: looking good and playing golf. Rant over.

Walker: I've never been big on Romo, either, Kovacs. He's a good quarterback. But Romo is not a proven winner and gets too much hype due to the team he plays for.

Mike from Ashtabula, Ohio writes: Hey, glad you got a good laugh from my comments the other day. Well, it’s the truth. The Browns will win the division this year, Mr. Walker, and I hope you cover the team like you did with the Steelers and Ravens last year. The Browns will win 12 games this year and [Colt] McCoy will throw for 3,500 yards. TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

Walker: I will remember you said that, Mike. By the way, are you sure McCoy will throw for 3,500 yards with those receivers?

AFC North "Homer of the Week"

Here is the biggest homer in the AFC North this week. Enjoy.

Justin Isett from Baltimore writes: I hate to say this, because this has homer written all over it, but the Ravens or the Steelers going undefeated isn't entirely impossible. Apart from each other they only have maybe three tough matches in which they would probably be favored. Pittsburgh has a Week 11 bye then Kansas city and a lot of rebuilding teams. So I don't think a 16-0 or 15-1 record for Baltimore or Pittsburg is unrealistic.

Walker: Justin, you knew you were going to be our "Homer of the Week" for this one. Neither Pittsburgh nor Baltimore will go 16-0 or 15-1 next season. As Mike from Ashtabula said, TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

If you have any future questions, complaints, or homerific comments, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.

Taking a break

May, 26, 2011
Since "Dancing with the Stars" is officially over, it's time for me to take an extended vacation. (OK, that was a joke.)

But I am taking a brief hiatus for Memorial Day weekend and will be out until Tuesday, May 31. This time there will be no Cam Newton-to-Bengals threats. It's almost summer and everyone received good grades during the school year. So go crazy if you want at the expense of my buddy " staff."

Before I leave, I do want to present our latest "Homer of the Week" in the AFC North. Enjoy.
Mike from Ashtabula, Ohio, writes: James, I read your post weekly and I'm sure you are wrong on the Browns. Here's how I see the AFC North if there is free agency and football this year. The Steelers always have a bad year after Super Bowls. So I see them finishing 8-8 or worse. The Ravens are getting old and Joe Flacco is going to have head problems after last year's playoff performances. So I see them at 7-9. The Bengals are another story, 5-11 or maybe 6-10. They have a rookie QB and a rookie receiver. It takes time to grow together. So I see the Browns winning the division with Colt McCoy, Peyton Hillis and some new, key additions. Just looking at this realistically and not being bias like you.

See you next week.
Let's take a look at our weekend mailbag. We also have another edition of the always popular "Homer of the Week" segment.

Brennan Coffman from Tiffin, Ohio, writes: Do you think the Cincinnati Bengals and Andy Dalton can do what the St. Louis Rams did with Sam Bradford and go 7-9 or even 8-8?

James Walker: Don't put too much pressure on Dalton right away, Brennan. Keep in mind, Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick and considered much more of a "sure thing" at quarterback than Dalton as a second-round pick. I think all of this year's rookie quarterbacks have some big questions, including Dalton. But he is the player who best fits what the Bengals are trying to run. Cincinnati will be in rebuilding mode this season. So I think it's way too premature to put Dalton in Bradford's class before Dalton throws his first pass.

Quinton from Dacula, Ga., writes: I was just wondering if it might be a good idea for the Bengals to still go after Matt Hasselbeck?

Walker: I doubt it, Quinton. As long as Palmer is on the roster and the team is potentially on the hook for $11.5 million this season, it's dangerous to sign a big-name veteran. I think Cincinnati had to make a choice whether to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback or sign/trade for a high-price veteran, and the team made its choice with Dalton. No one knows how Palmer will feel several months from now. Maybe he will get the itch, have a change of heart and want his job back. Maybe not. But all he has to do is show up and says he wants to play again. If the Bengals add a veteran, look for it to be an inexpensive, non-threatening alternative.

Tim from Erie, Pa., writes: How much do you think these "players only" minicamps will help the Cleveland Browns while they're still locked out?

Walker: It certainly doesn't hurt, Tim. I think it's a great idea for teams like Cleveland and Cincinnati within the division to get some kind of head start. Those teams need to hit the ground running in training camp, trying to learn new West Coast offenses. The Browns also have to learn a 4-3 defense. Timing and precision are very important in a West Coast system, and Browns quarterback Colt McCoy is trying to get it down.

David from New York writes: Why did the Browns go for so much defense in the draft?

Walker: David, the Browns have a lot of holes, but they needed several starters on defense, especially on the line. I thought filling the defensive end and defensive tackle positions was wise for the Browns, who are switching to a 4-3 this season. After that, the Browns looked to get quarterback Colt McCoy some help with receiver Greg Little, tight end Jordan Cameron and fullback Owen Marecic.

Sydney Swinton from Florence, Ariz., wants to know my thoughts about the Pittsburgh Steelers not taking a cornerback until the third round.

Walker: With their situation, I thought Pittsburgh should have drafted one higher. But I don't know what their draft board looks like, so it's likely no one was rated high enough when the first two picks were made. The Steelers are not a team that reaches too often, need or no need. So I'm not surprised they took who they believed were the best available players. But this puts pressure on the team to re-sign veteran cornerback Ike Taylor. If he doesn't return, one of these young corners may have to step up big next season, and Bryant McFadden would assume the responsibility as the team's No. 1 corner.

Andrew E from San Antonio, Texas, writes: Do you think either Ziggy Hood or Cameron Heyward have any potential at DT? They still have yet to address that issue.

Walker: Hood and Heyward were drafted to play defensive end. Casey Hampton is still playing at a high level and remains the starter at nose tackle. Backup Chris Hoke is a free agent the Steelers may opt to bring back on a short-term contract since they didn't find another defensive tackle in the draft.

Thomas from Virginia writes: Do you think the Baltimore Ravens will re-sign Josh Wilson?

Walker: Chances are a lot slimmer, Thomas. I thought Wilson did a solid job after taking over for Fabian Washington. But Baltimore really likes what rookie Jimmy Smith brings to the table and believe he can be the next great corner. That position costs a lot of money in free agency. And with Smith in the fold, Domonique Foxworth returning and Lardarius Webb on the roster, Baltimore doesn't need to overspend for another corner.

Luke from Portland, Ore., writes: Do you think my team the Ravens can finally push through and beat out the Steelers for the AFC North after a solid draft?

Walker: I'm not ready to answer that question just yet before free agency and training camps, Luke. I always like to see all the teams in person. But I like what Baltimore did in the draft as long as the wild card -- Smith -- is productive and stays out of trouble. With the Steelers, they have a lot of history against them as Super Bowl runners-up. That might also help Baltimore get over the hump.

Comment and complaint department

Here are comments and complaints this week from our AFC North community:

Dan Deegan from Frederick, Md., writes: Hey James, I was wondering how successful you'd think Troy Polamalu would be in a different defensive scheme? I feel like what makes him so successful is how he can be anywhere on the field at any moment, which plays perfectly into Dick LeBeau's plans. I’m a big Steelers fan, but I don’t think he would be nearly as dynamic a player in a more "normal" defense. Your thoughts?

Walker: Former Dallas Cowboys safety and ESPN analyst Darren Woodson first brought up this point to me earlier this year, and it's an interesting theory. It's probably a question we will never answer, because it appears Polamalu will be a lifetime Steeler. Even if LeBeau retires in the next year or two, the Steelers would be wise to keep many of the same principles in place. But I believe Polamalu is talented enough to thrive in any defense. His athleticism, instincts and acceleration (when healthy) are a rare combination that any team could use. There is no player like him, and if you ask 32 coaches if they want Polamalu for their defense, they would take him in a heartbeat.

Andy from Canada writes: Here's one for your complaint department, James. Not only is it too early to label Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie busts, it's not even justified to say they've "struggled" the past two seasons like you and several others have. In two seasons these guys have had five quarterbacks throwing to them (rarely) in an Eric Mangini run-first and pass-to-the-tight-end-second offense.

Walker: That's a fair point, Andy, and something that Browns president Mike Holmgren is banking on. Holmgren admits last year's offense was archaic. In a pass-heavy NFL, it's hard to win games when you're running the ball and throwing to the same running back 70 percent of the time. I do not write off any player after one season, but two or three years gives you a pretty good idea how good a player is. So this is a big season for Massaquoi and Robiskie.

Ted from Hoboken, N.J., writes: Where does Scouts Inc. get their record projections for the mock 2012 draft? I challenge the notion that the Browns are worst for a number of reasons. But frankly, the main reason I challenge it is that the AFC North plays the AFC West and the NFC West this year. You couldn't ask for an easier draw than that. Those are the weakest divisions in both conferences.

Walker: I was surprised the Browns were projected to have the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, as well. But it's early, Ted. Free agency may change the perception. The Browns have holes, but I don't view them as the worst team in the NFL.

Milan from H-Ville, Ohio, writes: You responded to a question about why you think the Browns are two years away to contending, which is fine. It's your opinion. You told us Browns fans to fire away our predictions, but every time we do we end up on "Homer of the Week." Steelers and Baltimore haven't had an OTA or played a game yet either! I am finding your "Homer of the Week" is reserved for the Browns and Bengals. Some teams surprise each year, whether a letdown or a new contender. Even if BAL and PITT are better and contenders, they still have not done anything this year. So let's get some Steeler or Baltimore homers!

Walker: "Homer of the Week" is open to anyone, Milan. But the Ravens and Steelers are coming off playoff runs and a Super Bowl appearance, respectively, and both teams are deep and very talented. Therefore, unless a Baltimore or Pittsburgh fan says their team will go 19-0 and crush everyone 50-0, it's hard to label them homers. I don't consider a Ravens or Steelers fan saying their team can make a playoff run this year a homer statement. I think that's a realistic goal for both teams. So the bar is really high for those two teams. Speaking of which…

AFC North Homer of the Week

Coming off last week's classic homer entry by John Finley, we have another Browns fan willing to defend Finley's Super Bowl prediction.

BobTheDude83 via Twitter writes: That "Homer of the Week" isn't crazy. People just don't give the Browns any credit at all. [Evan] Moore and [Ben] Watson are a sure-handed TE duo unlike any other. Robo and Mo-Mass are budding receivers. Colt McCoy is accurate, tough, and a true leader. His baptism by fire last season will only make him better. The law firm of Hillis and Hardesty will decimate defenses. Can't be stopped, 13-3 season for the Brownies.

Walker: Thirteen wins, BobTheDude? I give you and John Finley a lot of credit. You gentlemen are bold with your Browns predictions. The last time the Browns won 13 or more games in the regular season was in 1948. You really think that streak will be broken this year? But that's what makes you our "Homer of the Week."

But wait! There's more. We also received a special message from last week's winner: John Finley!

John Finley from Easley, S.C., writes: Good afternoon Mr. James Walker. I must say that I really enjoy reading your articles covering the AFC North division. You keep us well informed about our division at all times. The AFC North has to be a very hard division to write about because of the huge fan base and rivalries stirring at all times. You have to keep everyone somewhat happy yet satisfied at the same time. That is very tough to do. I am giving you an A+ grade for your great work of taming down the AFC North fans. I see the respect everyone has for you by keeping themselves under control. Some blogs get out of control but in your case its under control because of the great RESPECT your readers have for you. Anyhow, keep up the great work and thank you for putting me in your "HOMER OF THE WEEK". You should go ahead a reserve your airline tickets to Indy now, since you will be reporting about the Cleveland Browns’ win against the Detroit Lions in Super Bowl XLVI. By the way, email me some pictures of Mr. Randy Lerner and Co. holding the Lombardi Trophy. Keep up the awesome work and have a great day.

Walker: Thank you, Mr. John Finley, for the kind words and taking your "Homer of the Week" award in stride. Plane tickets to the Super Bowl are really cheap right now, but I'm not sure I can trust your crystal ball. If the Browns do win the Super Bowl in February, I will make sure to take a picture of Lerner hoisting the Lombardi and e-mail it to you. You have my word. That's the least I can do if you nail this zany prediction.

Walker's weekend mailbag

December, 18, 2010
Let's dig into the weekend mailbag.

Bengals fan from Sardinia, Ohio, writes: With Brett Favre retiring and Tarvaris Jackson in his last year, do you think the Minnesota Vikings would be willing to trade for Carson Palmer? If so what kind of compensation do you think they would get?

Walker: The trade market for Palmer is going to be interesting because he makes $11.5 million next year. Any team willing to trade for Palmer has to pay him like an elite quarterback when that's no longer the case. The AFC North blog reported Saturday that Palmer would not accept a pay cut this offseason to stay with the rebuilding Bengals (2-11). That could increase Palmer's chances of a trade or release from Cincinnati. But the Bengals also have to be careful. If word gets out that Cincinnati is willing to release Palmer to avoid paying that high salary, teams could simply wait for the quarterback to become available and negotiate a lower salary as a free agent. That way teams won't give the Bengals any compensation.

Hank from Westbrook, ME, writes: Do you see the Bengals giving Bernard Scott more playing time in the last three games?

Walker: Scott only got four carries last week, so it's hard to say. But I agree the Bengals should use Scott more down the stretch. In all likelihood, starting running back Cedric Benson will not return to Cincinnati. I'm not sure Scott can be a feature back, but the Bengals need to find out what his strengths are. Scott is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season.

Jon Teams from Barboursville, W.Va., writes: What is the deal with Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians? Why has he not tried to utilize the run more?

Walker: It's a combination of having various injuries on the offensive line and having quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back under center. Pittsburgh ran the ball best when it had to. For the first month of the season, tailback Rashard Mendenhall was the only consistent offensive threat the team had. The Steelers were also healthy up front. Now the entire playbook is available with Roethlisberger and they pass a lot more, and the offensive line isn't healthy and blocking as well.

Peter from Virginia writes: Which offense is in more disarray at this point: Steelers or New York Jets?

Walker: The Steelers are having offensive line issues and the Jets are having quarterback issues. Both can really stall an offense. But it's harder to overcome poor quarterback play. So I would say the Jets have bigger issues at the moment.

Will from Alexandria, Va., writes: What do you think about the Steelers' chances in the playoffs? Do you think they can beat the New England Patriots?

Walker: I think the Steelers' chances are much better if they don't play the Patriots. Otherwise, the Steelers have as good a chance as anyone if they can get healthy.

Adam Gardner from Bel Air, Md., writes: Do you think Joe Flacco will ever become the Ravens' team leader, call audibles, and be up there with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady?

Walker: I never understood the expectations for Flacco to become Manning or Brady, who are two future Hall of Famers. I think Flacco is doing fine at this stage of his career. He has three playoff wins and is having a solid third season statistically. Ray Lewis is the leader of the Ravens, and that won't change until he retires. Flacco, for now, can just play well down the stretch and lead by example.

Brandon Crawford from Sykesville, Md., writes: With the Ravens really struggling on the offensive line, how much of this can you contribute to the loss of offensive tackle Jared Gaither?

Walker: That's a good question, Brandon. I almost forgot about Gaither, because he hasn't been available to the team all season. Gaither can be solid when he wants to be and could've helped Baltimore this year. But too often the Ravens had to stay on top of Gaither, and that gets tiring for an organization. He lost too much weight in the offseason and subsequently got hurt, and I think that was the final straw. Gaither is no longer a good fit with Baltimore, and I don't expect him to return next year.

B. Susi from Orlando, Fla., writes: I know you like the Troy Reed and now the Heath Heap mash-up. But what about the terror that would be James Lewis? Now THAT would be a terrifying linebacker.

Walker: Wow, B. Susi. That's an automatic Hall of Famer. The only weakness I can think of would be...long snapping???

Troy Reed from Walkerville, AFCN, writes: Okay, I will admit it: Troy Polamalu is better than both me and Ed Reed.

Walker: What?!? No way. Please read this tweet explaining your greatness. Neither Polamalu nor Reed could do that alone. Only you can, Troy Reed. You're the best safety in NFL history!

Matt writes: Can you please comment on Brian Daboll and his status as the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator?

Walker: Sure, Matt. Daboll is in major trouble. A lot has been written about Eric Mangini's future because he's the head coach. But I think the verdict is pretty much in on Daboll. The offense hasn't made any progress in two years, and it has to be driving offensive guru and Browns president Mike Holmgren crazy. I think Cleveland's failure to develop second-round picks Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie also reflects poorly on Daboll.

Becky from Galloway, Ohio, writes: I was wondering why in December the "Battle for Ohio" between the Bengals vs. Browns couldn’t be played in The Shoe [at Ohio State]. It would be a sellout. Even if OSU got a million both teams would still make a tidy sum. I work with a number of Bengals and Browns fans. and we would all go no matter cost of tickets.

Walker: Interesting idea, Becky. But there are a couple of issues I see with this from the NFL's perspective. For starters, one team would be losing a home game every year. Would it be fair for the Browns or Bengals to play just seven annual home games and one at a neutral site, while other teams get eight? Also, home teams make a lot of money off concessions, parking and other things during the game-day experience. That's not something the Browns or Bengals would want to give up to Ohio State.

Comment and complaint department

Ken from Long Beach, Calif., writes: As terrible as the Oakland Raiders have been the past few seasons I would gladly trade ownership with them. Living in L.A. I have seen the freak show that is Al Davis, but one thing remains certain about him; he wants to win. I am not sure I can say that about Mike Brown. I love my Bengals but I can't wait for L.A. to get a team so I can file my fan free agency and get the heck out of Mike Brown's land of despair.

Jacob from Cincy writes: I watched DeSean Jackson take a 10-yard pass 91 yards to the house, I thought back to how we passed him up in the draft and how the guy we passed him up for has been inactive all season. Where would the Bengals be if they drafted Jackson over Jerome Simpson?

Walker: Jacob, Simpson would probably play like Jackson in Philly and Jackson would be a bust in Cincy. Just kidding. It would have made a big difference in Cincinnati's offense. Ken, so many Bengals fans are at the end of their rope. I've held firm in saying it's good fandom to stick with your team. The Bengals haven't had back-to-back winning seasons in 28 years. Why leave now?

Joe from Cincinnati writes: "Cleveland Browns (5-8) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-11), Sunday at 1 p.m. Blasik's comment: The Bengals have better personnel than the Browns, and Colt McCoy will be a little rusty coming back. As much as I love to see the Bungles lose, this streak has to end sometime, right? Walker's score: Bengals, 17-16" -- I feel all Bengals fans knew, or at least had a sneaking suspicion, that you hate the Bengals and were extremely biased against them. But your stating how much you love to see them lose makes it woefully apparent.

Walker: Joe, when did I change my name to Amanda Blasik? We had a guest predict games this week. Please read the blog again. Also, for those who think I'm too harsh on the Bengals, read last year's coverage. For those who think I'm a Bengals homer, read this year's coverage.

David from Fontainebleau, France, writes: I think it is incredibly unlikely that the Panthers take Stanford QB Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick of the draft as you suggested they would. They just picked Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike this year. Three picks on the QB position in two drafts? I don't see it happening.

Walker: David, it's probably too early to predict the top of the draft board, but keep in mind that Clausen was a second-rounder and Pike was a sixth-rounder. Clausen hasn't showed anything for the 1-12 Panthers to get a vote of confidence for next year. Carolina also will have a new coaching staff in 2011 that's not tied to these draft picks, and a new coach always has the tendency to bring in his own players. I wouldn't rule it out.

Barry Veet from Hazleton, Pa., writes: Just wanted to tell you in my fantasy football playoffs this week I was down 61 points with only Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson left. I came back and was up 1.6 points until Schaub threw that INT in OT. Talk about an unbelievable heartbreak, losing by .4 after an improbable comeback.

Walker: Tough way to end your season, Barry. I assume Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson probably isn't your favorite player.

Will from Nashville, Tenn., writes: Hey, James. Thanks for not posting that comment comparing the Bengals and the Heat until after the Heat went on a seven-game winning streak and making me look like a fool for the question. At 9-8 when I did post the comment, the Heat were a little more disappointing and it maybe would have drawn a little better comparison to the Bengals. Way to show some respect to a loyal reader.

Walker: You are correct, Will, and my apologies. We get a lot of questions in our inbox and sometimes we can't always get to them immediately. By the time I got to yours, it was outdated.

AFC North Homer of the Week

We didn't have a strong batch of homer comments this week (good job, everyone). So we had to dig deep and find one of the runners-up from last week.


Andy from Canada writes: Hey, James. Longtime reader and much respect. I am driving down to Buffalo regardless of weather for the game this weekend and Peyton Hillis will break 200 yards rushing. Post me if I'm right, and post me if I'm wrong. I have faith. Thanks.

Walker: Andy, Hillis did get 108 rushing yards. But I'm sure you didn't anticipate his three fumbles. Nonetheless, Hillis is having a great year.

If you have any additional questions, comments or complaints, please send them to our AFC North inbox.

Walker's weekend mailbag

November, 27, 2010
I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend.

Now let's dig into the mailbag.

Theo from Raleigh, N.C., writes: I hate to beat the proverbial "Steelers being targeted" dead horse here. But do you think Ben Roethlisberger's public opinion of him had anything to do with Richard Seymour only getting a fine?

James Walker: Theo, I've seen the argument that if Tom Brady or Peyton Manning were hit in the face, it would have been a bigger deal. Although I agree the penalty could have been stiffer, I don't believe Roethlisberger's reputation had anything to do with the ruling.

Peter from St Andrews, Scotland, writes: I was wondering what you think was supposed to happen on the Antwaan Randle-El/Roethlisberger flea-flicker last week.

Walker: Interesting question, Peter. The play never had time to develop and wasn't well-executed so I can't say for sure. But I think Roethlisberger ran out as one option. Maybe the Steelers will come back to that play this season.

Patrick Charles from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Who is the fastest player in the AFC North?

Walker: Steelers receiver Mike Wallace is the fastest player I've seen, Patrick. Wallace is probably top five in the league. But we will never know for certain unless the NFL decides to hold a competition like it did back in the day.

Matthew Falkler from Daytona Beach, Florida, writes: What is your take on the argument between Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Derrick Mason?

Walker: Sideline blowups happen, Matthew. I'm actually surprised it took this long for the Ravens, because there are a lot of vocal players on offense this year who want the football. I think winning helps a ton and is part of the reason nothing boiled over until Week 11. But if the Ravens ever have a significant losing streak this season, you would probably hear more bickering from players who feel they could do more to help the team.

Marcus from Baltimore writes: Do you think the Ravens and Steelers will make the playoffs?

Walker: Yes, Marcus, I believe this division gets two playoff teams. One wild card likely will be the loser of Dec. 5 matchup between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The winner of that game obviously has the inside track to win the AFC North.

Patrick Ryan from San Antonio, Texas, writes: This year pretty much solidifies that Ed Reed is better than Troy Polamalu.

Walker: You didn't get the memo, Patrick? The correct answer is "Troy Reed" on all matters relating to Ed Reed vs. Troy Polamalu.

E.J. from Pomona, CA, writes: Who has the better commercials: Ray Lewis or Troy Polamalu?

Walker: "Ray Polamalu." Just kidding, E.J. I like Polamalu's commercials better.

Josh from Cleveland writes: The Browns are obviously a lot better than the record shows. So will we see a playoff or even a Super Bowl Browns team next season?

Walker: Sloooow down on the Super Bowl talk with Cleveland, Josh. Browns fans tend to get overexcited when they see signs of progress. I take things one year at a time, and this year the Browns aren't going to the playoffs. Their best-case scenario is to try to get seven or eight wins and build in the offseason.

Joe Marzano from West Middlesex, Pa., writes: Do you think Browns coach Eric Mangini is safe this year, no matter the record?

Walker: Browns president Mike Holmgren hasn't made his decision, Joe. So it's still to be determined. The record won't be everything, but it will be a factor. Mangini can't lose the rest of his games, go 3-13, and keep his post. The Browns have to finish strong and show improvement over last year's 5-11 record.

Bryan Roberts from Philadelphia writes: With the recent firing of Brad Childress in Minnesota and Wade Phillips in Dallas, when will Mike Brown fire Bengals coach Marvin Lewis?

Walker: Don't look for it, Bryan. Lewis is in his last year and only has five games remaining on his contract. The Bengals are expected to let him coach out the season and probably won't renew his deal.

Dave from Cincinnati writes: The Bengals have so many needs to be addressed in the upcoming draft. What position should their first pick be on?

Walker: This really depends on what direction the team takes in the offseason, Dave. Do the Bengals keep quarterback Carson Palmer, for instance? If so, then quarterback is not the biggest need, although Cincinnati may want to draft one in the second or third round to mold for the future. If the Bengals release Palmer, it would make sense to use their first-round pick on a quarterback. But one need that's going to be there regardless is an elite pass-rusher. This could come at outside linebacker (move Rey Maualuga inside) or a defensive end. Cincinnati needs to improve that part of the defense in the early rounds.

Comments and complaints department

Here are some comments and complaints this week from our AFC North community.

Rick from Pittsburgh writes: Every time you put up a "look back" blog such as the Cincinnati fans comments about them being awesome, it's probably my favorite reading material ever now that they are terrible this season.

Cupp from Hebron, Ohio, writes: It's been 21 years as a Bengals fan and only three winning seasons. Mike Brown has no idea what he is doing. If they expand the season to 18 games, I will most likely not be a fan of the NFL anymore and just stick to the Buckeyes. Why would I want to see the BUNGALS lose more games next season.

Walker: Rick, everyone liked that post except Bengals fans, who voiced their displeasure in our division inbox. But when we did the same blogs last year when everyone was ripping the Bengals and they won the division, Cincy fans loved it. You can't have it both ways. Cupp, stay strong in your fandom and support your team. Two more games also would be a chance to collect two more wins.

Noelle from Los Angeles writes: What needs to be clearly defined is what is "roughing" the passer? These football players are not unnecessarily hitting or using violence against the quarterbacks. They are simply doing their jobs as football players and tackling the passer. NFL speak your ground: Let's hear how you define these terms.

Walker: I agree, Noelle. In talking to players throughout the division, I'm not sure there is universal clarity on the subject. Some hits are harder than others, but many of them are being flagged. It's clear the NFL wants to protect its quarterbacks. But how far they're going is what's being questioned.

Pconti from Colorado (by way of Akron, OH) writes: What do you think about starting the Cleveland Clowns movement? Fans can wear clown outfits to the games until they are over .500.

Walker: Pconti, you would be wearing that suit for the rest of the year, because the Browns probably won't finish 8-8 this season.

AFC North Homer of the Week

We saved this special comment for a while and now it's time to unveil it. Keep in mind, this was written last month by one of our favorite bloggers in our AFC North community.

Zach aka Sportsfan2305 from Columbus, OH, writes: CHALLLENGE FOR JW. I feel special that I was one of your posters on "Remember the offseason" Bengals edition. However, you gotta admit, with the weak first-half schedule there was no reason why the Bengals SHOULDN'T have started off hot and then sputtered against the tougher second-half opponents. Therefore, I have a wager to make you my friend: If the Bengals finish 10-6 or better I would like a retraction that, while I was a bit outspoken with my comment, it wasn't necessarily a homer comment. If they do not then I will never challenge your ruling again and will change my user name to "JW is a Sports Genius" for the entire offseason. What do you think?

Walker: Zach, not only was your offseason comment a homer statement, but you're officially our "Homer of the Week." Wear it proud.

If you have any questions, comments or complaints, feel free to send them to our division inbox or AFC North Twitter.