Chat with Jamison Hensley
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley stops by to chat.
Hensley joined ESPN.com in 2011 after covering the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun for 11 years. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he lives in the Baltimore area with his wife.
Send your questions now and join Hensley Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (1:59 PM)
Welcome all to the chat. I'm out at Owings Mills, Md., where the Ravens have just begun practice. I'm chatting with everyone here, so I hope to get a report on who is and isn't out there on the field. This should be a fun couple of days leading up to Sunday night's game between the Ravens and Steelers. The Bengals have a big game at Tennessee, and the Browns have a tough one against Houston.Let's begin ...
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the worst team in the AFC North this season?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:01 PM)
The worst team is the Cleveland Browns, but you have to put that in perspective. The Browns are far from being the worst team in the NFL or AFC. They've beaten the Colts and Dolphins, which puts them in a tier above. The problem with Cleveland is that only its defense has been consistent this season. The offense and special teams have let down the Browns.
whats the status on grubbs and evans for sunday night?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:04 PM)
Vince ... Grubbs was out at practice but Evans wasn't. So as of right now, it looks like Grubbs has a better shot to go this week.
Kevin (Gaithersburg, MD)
Is it possible the Steelers put Polamalu in as LB due to all the injuries?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:05 PM)
Kevin ... I think they could use him like a linebacker in some dime packages. Of course, the only player that the Steelers have to worry about going deep is Torrey Smith. That should allow Pittsburgh to stack the box.
Darren (Englewood Ohio)
Which AFCN offensive line has performed the best in the 2011 season so far?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:08 PM)
This is a tough one. I feel the Ravens had the best one early with Grubbs. But they could have the worst one right now. The Steelers looked awful early and have been better as of late. It's tough to evaluate the Browns because they've been banged up all season. The Bengals have been the most consistent. You have to be impressed with how they completely shut down the Colts ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.
Donnie Iris (Pittsburgh)
How would you assess Marcus Gilbert's play at right tackle thus far and how do you think the Steelers line line with fair against the ravens with a lot of their two tight end packages?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:10 PM)
Donnie ... Gilbert has steadily progressed throughout the season. He has been playing at a high level lately. Gilbert has solidified himself as the long-term starter at RT.
Kelly B (Pittsburgh, PA)
Who do you think Ike Taylor will be matched up against this weekend? He did a great job against Lee Evans in the first matchup and his man coverage against Welker was extremely impressive.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:12 PM)
Kelly B ... Ike should be lined up against Torrey Smith. Yes, Boldin is the more productive receiver, but Smith is the more dangerous one because he can score if he gets behind the defense (of course, that's assuming Flacco hits him and Smith catches it).
Mike newyork [via mobile]
With the steelers injuries at linebacker is that an advantage for the ravens offense for sunday?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:14 PM)
Mike ... It is clearly an advantage for the Ravens. Not having to block Harrison and Woodley would be the perfect scenario for the Ravens. If Baltimore could pick five Steelers that wouldn't play, it would be Harrison, Woodley, Polamalu, Wallace and Roethlisberger. So, two out of five wouldn't be bad for the Ravens.
Jamison, with all the injuries to Browns runnng backs, do you see Cribbs lining up in the backfield anytime soon, as a RB, not in the wildcat
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:17 PM)
Michael ... I don't see Cribbs as a running back, but I like the idea of wildcat. Most teams that have stayed away from the wildcat are the ones who don't want to take the ball out of the hands out their quarterback. But the Browns need to take pressure off Colt McCoy. And it wouldn't be a bad thing to put the ball in the hands of Cribbs.
Nick (Dayton OH)
As a Bengal fan i know we stil lhave 2 with Pitt and Balt, but what should record should i be happy with at the end of the year
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:19 PM)
Nick ... If the Bengals finish with a winning record, they should be very proud of themselves. Cincinnati is 5-2, but four games against the Steelers and Ravens lie ahead. Going 9-7 -- actually, even 8-8 -- would be a major achievement.
What is your opinion on Andre Smith? Is he playing up to his draft pick status, or just good enough?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:21 PM)
Anthony .. Wait, a Bengals question coming from Cleveland? Very, very interesting. As far as your question, Smith has developed into a very good right tackle. I'm not saying that he's lived up to expectations of being a first-round pick, but he's on the right path. You couldn't say that last year.
How do you see the Bengals defense performing this weekend?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:22 PM)
I like the Bengals defense's matchup with the Titans, especially with Chris Johnson in a funk and Kenny Britt out for the season. This is another game in which the Bengals could hold the offense to under 20 points.
Mike D. (Sioux Falls)
Have you heard anything regarding Jason Worilds if Woodley and Harrison are both out?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:23 PM)
Mike ... We'll have to see the injury report from today. Have no info out of Pittsburgh right now. My understanding is that Worilds has a chance to return, but Tomlin is skeptical until he sees a full practice out of him.
John B (Baltimore)
Which do you like better right now? Steeler Defense or Offense? Which side will win us the game this weekend?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:25 PM)
John B ... Both sides are playing at such a high level right now that it's hard to pick. Since flopping in that second half against Jax, the offense has stepped up its game at critical times. The defense has been so consistent. When it comes to Sunday, this rivalry has always been about defense and that should decide it again.
Will the Bengals move on from Benson next season?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:28 PM)
Brian ... My feeling is that the Bengals have to look to go younger at that position. Benson has been steady but he is averaging less than four yards per carry in too many games. Cincinnati has a playmaking wide receiver and a developing quarterback. It needs to hit the trifecta with a young running back.
Jeff (Cincinnati, OH)
Two Questions: 1. Is the AFC North the toughest division in the NFL? 2. What are the chances three teams from the North make the playoffs?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:31 PM)
Jeff ... The AFC North is certainly the best division in the AFC. But the NFC North or South might be better overall. The records in the AFC North get bloated by playing the NFC West and AFC South, which have to be the two worst divisions.
Holmgren and Schumer are two great offensive minds. How long is it going to take for them to put some spark in the Browns offense and get some playmakers on the field? Hillis is nice when healthy, but that's hardly any firepower.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:33 PM)
Greg ... There's a lot of work to do on that offense. The Browns have a left tackle, center and a good prospect at wide receiver in Greg Little. But I'm not sure if Little is a legitimate No. 1. The other positions are in need of an upgrade. I know people love to bash Colt McCoy. The biggest question is whether he can make all the throws while in the pocket.
Kevin (Gaithersburg, MD)
Has Flacco finally realized that he needs to lean on Boldin in the passing game? He's looked lost since Mason left.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:35 PM)
Kevin .. The chemistry between Boldin and Flacco has been long overdue. The best thing the Ravens did to speed that up was releasing Derrick Mason. After the injury to Lee Evans, Flacco was essentially forced into throwing to Boldin. The problem is Boldin doesn't get great separation, so the quarterback has to have faith that Boldin will fight and get the ball.
What are the odds of the bengals making it to the playoffs and do you think they can pull it off?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:37 PM)
Sean ... Honestly, I think the odds are against the Bengals from making the playoffs. Of course, I will change my tune if they can split with the Ravens and Steelers. That will increase the odds. How the Bengals handle their division games will decide if they make the playoffs.
What is wrong with Joe Flacco? He doesn't look like the same guy the last few weeks. Is it simply a matter of confidence, or is he hurt in some way?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:39 PM)
Bernie ... The thing with Flacco will always be the amount of pressure applied by the defense. If he has time to throw, he can dissect a defense. If the pocket collapses, Flacco can escape the pressure better than he did previously but he struggles at finishing the play (which Roethlisberger has down to a science).
chris (lexington, ky)
is everyone is steeler nation ok with the fact that pitt is a passing team now?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:40 PM)
Chris ... They had better be. It's not going to change anytime soon. This offense will go as far as Roethlisberger takes it.
keith (uniontown, pa)
whats the chances of a superbowl rematch of the steelers and packers?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:41 PM)
Keith ... A very good chance. Green Bay is the best team in the NFL, and Pittsburgh has proven to be the best team in the AFC. Of course, this is the first week of November. Lots of football to be played.
Mike newyork [via mobile]
What will the ravens do with ray rice after the season i heard in the blogs about possibly franchising him ?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:42 PM)
Mike ... I think the Ravens use the franchise tag on him. I would be surprised if they didn't.
Do the Ravens have a valid shot at the AFC North Division title?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:44 PM)
Perry ... Ask me after Sunday night. That will go a long way in determining that.
What are the chances Three AFC North teams make the playoffs, especially if the Bengals can keep their momentum?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:45 PM)
Logan ... Steelers and Ravens will make the playoffs. So, whether a third AFC North team makes the playoffs is up to the Bengals.
Balt. vs. Pitts. going to be a defensive game again or do you see more offense this time around?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:46 PM)
David ... It will be a low-scoring game if there are not a lot of turnovers. If the defenses take the ball away, it will create easy scoring chances. This rivalry has always been about the defense.
Darren (Englewood. Ohio.)
I see you fall into the catagory of non believer when it come's to the Bengals going to the playoffs ( like everyone else) but when the Ravens go to Seattle and lose next week you will see the light.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:47 PM)
Darren ... I've watched two full games involving Seattle and the Seahawks are the worst team I've seen this season. I wouldn't hold my breath on the Ravens losing at Seattle. (Of course, I didn't see them losing at Jacksonville, either).
Has losing older, more experienced, players on defense actually helped the Steelers or were they improving regardless?
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:48 PM)
Anderson ... They were improving regardless. This has and will be a top-five defense for many years. The Steelers defense has redeemed itself.
Jamison Hensley (ESPN) (2:49 PM)
Thanks for all the good questions. Hope everyone enjoys the games this week. See you here next Wednesday.