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October 3, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Jamison Hensley

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:02 PM)

Thanks for coming to our weekly AFC North chat. Every game is at 1 p.m. Sunday, so we will know if there are any significant changes in the division by late afternoon. Now, let's kick off the chat.

Andy (West Virginia)

Jamison what do you expect out of mendenhall this week and the rest of the season? Can he hold up for all of 2012?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:04 PM)

Mendenhall averaged a little over 15 carries a game last season. So, that's probably what you can expect from him this season. As to whether he holds up, no one can predict that. I know the Steelers have an outstanding training staff that is respected throughout the league. Mendenhall is suiting up Sunday because he's ready to suit up.

eric buffalo,ny [via mobile]

Hey jamison. Would it be to early to lable cameron heyward a bust? This guy hasn't shown me nothing, Steelers d-line is atrocious .

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:06 PM)

I hate to put the bust label on someone who is 20 games into his NFL career. Heyward has been a disappointment so far. Let's leave it at that for right now.

Joe (Fort Wayne, IN)

FIrst timer here Jamison (although I read you daily)! So, if/when the Browns fire Shurmur do you think they have any reasonable interest in Cowhrer? Any reasonable chance to land him? That would change the tone of everything in Berea. Tks!

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:07 PM)

Thanks for joining us Joe. The Browns have made runs at Cowher twice and he's turned them down both times. Not sure if a change in owner would change things. I'm sure you'll hear Cowher's name out there if the Browns decided to make a change. I would be surprised if Cowher changed his mind.

Matt D (Toledo, Ohio)

If Joe Haden never gets suspended are the Browns a 3-1 team going into week 5?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:08 PM)

Joe Haden is an awfully good player, but he's not Deion Sanders. He can take away the opposition's best defender but he didn't make any game-changing plays last year. So, no, Haden wouldn't have caused a three-game swing.

Kyle Combs [via mobile]

Who do you give more credit for Bengals offense, Lewis or Gruden?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:10 PM)

Lewis sets the tone for the entire team and has input on how he wants to the offense to look. But Gruden is making the calls. He's done an outstanding job of maintaining balance and keeping the Bengals unpredictable. Cincinnati has been awfully creative on offense this season.

Ryan (West Chester, OH)

My question is: What happened to the AFC since last season? Has the entire division fallen apart, and if so, what has caused it?The AFC North has long been a powerhouse division, but this year the Browns are clearly the worst team in the NFL, The Steelers are losing to low-end teams and not competing well against others, The Bengals are playing as a fairly solid middle-of-the-road team, falling in the middle of the pack beating the poor teams but losing to the good ones, and then ravens are playing head to head with the better teams but are not quite elite.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:11 PM)

Having two 3-1 teams isn't too shabby in my book. And the Steelers' two losses have come on road trips out west. I would be more concerned if the Steelers had lost two games at Heinz. The sky is not falling in the AFC North.

Jeff (VA)

Your predictions on the final score of the Browns v. Giants on Sunday?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:11 PM)

That will come in the Friday Forecast, which surprisingly comes out on Friday.

Justen (ohio)

With the injuries at reciever and greg little having hands of stone, will we see Gordon and Josh cooper this week?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:13 PM)

With Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin not practicing Wednesday, that will increase the playing time of Gordon and increases the chances that Cooper will be promoted from the practice squad. We'll know more about this by the end of the week.

Seth (College Station)

Any chance the Steelers D looks like the Steelers D again when Troy and James get back in? They need pass rush desperately - but does James have the juice left?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:14 PM)

If the Steelers defense struggles with Harrison and Polamalu back, Pittsburgh will have major concerns. But the Steelers defense has played well at home, with or without those two former NFL Defensive Players of the Year.

C-Town (AL)

Why aren't the Browns looking at Chad, Plaxico or TO ?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:15 PM)

If any of those three receivers could contribute anything, don't you think one team would have signed them already? There's a reason why they are still without a team.

Going Part of the way. (Clinton, MD)

JH when will we see Jimmy Smith take over for Cary Williams? Cary bought himself some time with the pick 6, but that still doesn't redeem himself.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:16 PM)

This move would have been made sooner if Jimmy Smith had played better himself. He had a great AFC championship game, but he hasn't stepped up this season. Smith hasn't come close to reaching the expectations of being a top corner in this league. He certainly has the physical tools.

bradblackandgold (Berkeley, CA)

Hey JH. I don't want to get all doom and gloom, but if the Steelers lose this week, it could be possible for us to reach the halfway point of the season with 4-5 losses. I'm pretty sure we don't make the playoffs if that happens. I'm hoping that Mendenhall, Harrison, and Troy make enough of a difference and we don't get any more injuries.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:19 PM)

If the Steelers fall to 1-3, it would prompt many to push the panic button. I want to see how the Steelers look with Harrison, Polamalu and Mendenhall back for a game against a tough Eagles team. I still think 10 wins could win the division this year. That could allow the Steelers to bounce back from a 1-3 start. But if the Steelers struggle mightily on Sunday, it will be time to start worrying.

Vortex Inferno (Winchestertonfieldville)

I think the Bengals have been playing lights out recently, but part of me still thinks they still can't compete with the big dogs in the AFC, Pittsburg, NE, Houston, Bal. I think the Steelers are the most questionable out of those, but will prove too much for Cinci yet again this year, what is your take?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:20 PM)

I consider the Bengals a playoff team. But they still have to beat a legitimate team to make others believe that. That game against PIttsburgh in a few weeks will go far in shaping the perception of the Bengals.

chris (Cincinnati)

Hey Jamison, I am going to the Cleveland/Cincy game October 14th and do you think the Browns could win that game with Joe Haden being back?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:21 PM)

The Browns played the Bengals tough earlier this year. So, I wouldn't rule out the Browns winning that game. But that's looking a little far ahead. The Browns have the Giants this week.

Frank the Tank (Boston)

Overall, I think Dean Pees has done an...ok job thus far. The problem with the defense is probably less his fault than the personnel - young players (Cary Williams, Mt. Cody, Paul Kruger, Upshaw though he's getting better) are not stepping up where they were expected to. But in general, a lot of his blitz packages just haven't worked - he tends to send Webb in a bit too much for my liking. I know Webb's a great tackler, but he's also the only reliable cover guy we have. I think he throws out the Greg Mattison (shudder) style 3 man rush on every 3rd and long and we get picked apart. Anyway, those are my thoughts on Pees. What are yours?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:23 PM)

Pees is a good coordinator who has been put in a tough spot. He doesn't have last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He lost two starters in his front seven in free agency. And Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith have regressed since last season. Pees has remained aggressive, sending Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard and Lardarius Webb on blitzes. But Pees can only do so much. The players have to step up their level of execution.

JamalWilkins (Cincy)

What is the Status of Dre Kirkpatrick.....at least other teams can talk about their rookies (both good and Bad)

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:25 PM)

He has been cleared to practice and he's out on the field as I type. But Kirkpatrick has been hurt more days than he's been healthy since he was drafted in the first round. So, I'll believe that he's ready to contribute when he's actually active for a game.

Blake (Atlantic Beach, fl)

will the browns new owner keep the same people in front office? I believe this is most important questions since the browns need some kind of stablity in the front office so the players can count and relay on them.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:26 PM)

If the losses continue to mount, the owner will feel forced to make changes. That being said, I think the Browns have more talent than in recent years and are on the right path.

Back2Jungle (Atlanta, Ga)

Do you see Jay Gruden leaving and taking a head coaching position after this season?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:27 PM)

He drew interest last season and that will only increase if the Bengals continue to do well on offense. The Gruden name also carries weight in this league.

donald (dayton)

Does A.j. Green & Andy Dalton both go to the Pro Bowl again this season?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:27 PM)

A.J. Green is a lock, barring injury. Dalton has been good, but he hasn't been Pro Bowl good yet.

Vortex Inferno (Winchestertonfieldville)

I predicted the Browns win a max of 4 games this year. Now I am starting to think they will only win a max of 2 games with a possibility of going winless. The schedule is too hard, they lack playmakers, and the playmakers they do have are very young. From what you have seen so far how many games do the Browns win?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:29 PM)

I still think three to four wins is a realistic goal.

Matt (Charlotte, NC)

Impressed with Trent Richardson so far?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:31 PM)

He runs hard and can make people miss in the open field. Richardson, though, can't do it alone. He needs his offensive line to open up some holes up front.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:32 PM)

Not sure what's going to give, but I'm going to get out of your way just to be safe.

Alex (OH)

I think this Bengals team is better than last year.. but with a tougher schedule. If they can get to 5-1 and split the last 10 games that would be 10-6. Seem likely?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:33 PM)

My preseason prediction for the Bengals was 9-7. So, yes, 10 wins isn't out of the realm of possibility.

Ryan (Kent, Ohio)

I am as harmless as a kitten, Jamison. No need to worry. Just needed to vent.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:33 PM)

Hope you feel better. I know it's tough to be a loyal Browns fan with all of the losing. I respect those who can remain passionate.

Adam (DC)

As much as it feels like a must win game, the Steelers can afoord to lose. As an NFC opponent, this game won't go towards any tie breakers. Also the Steelers have yet to play any division games. If they can go 6-0, they will win the division (though that is a big if) Your take on this game?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:34 PM)

I understand the thinking. But 1-3 does remove a lot of margin for error. Yes, the Steelers can make a strong run and make the playoffs. But a 1-3 start puts them in a hole.

Hoss (Cincy)

What is your take on the law firms fumbling problems?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:36 PM)

Well, he certainly was due for one. Joking aside, holding onto the ball is a matter of focus. I think BJGE is trying to hard at times, which leads to him coughing it up.

John (NY)

Whos worse the Browns or Jets

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:37 PM)

The Jets have won two games. The Browns ... zero.

cp (reno)

I have to think Cowher would never coach in AFC North so as not to ruin his Statue in Pittsburgh...Agree?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:38 PM)

I'm getting the feeling that we'll never see Cowher coach again, period.

Joe (Austin)

Hey Jamison, can you explain to me why you have the Falcons over the Texans at #1 in power rankings? Seems like you are the only one I can find...

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:39 PM)

Yes, I am the only one who has the Falcons at No. 1. I put them there after beating the Chiefs, who were predicted by many to win the AFC West, and handing Peyton Manning his first loss in Denver. The Falcons then came back after a Monday night game to beat the then-undefeated Chargers on a short week after a cross-country trip. That was my reasoning.

browns1658 (ohio)

is it just me or has TJ ward been extremely overrated? he doesnt show much big play ability. Do you think safety is a position of need next year?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:40 PM)

T.J. Ward is going to be fine once the Browns get some stability in the secondary. Hagg and Young aren't the answers at free safety. Browns need to address this next season.

Going somewhat of the way. (Clinton, MD)

Joe Flacco has improved a lot, do you think Jim Caldwell had the most to do with this, or do you think Cam Cameron handing more of the offense over to Joe caused this?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:42 PM)

The no-huddle seems to have Caldwell's fingerprints all over it. That's what the Colts ran during his time in Indy. Flacco is a big fan of Caldwell. He's a coach who has an even keel and stresses fundamentals. It was a good move for the Ravens to bring him in to help Flacco.

Michael (Cleveland/Philly)

Jamison, do you think santa will fill my wish list. I would love to see the browns and bengals beat the steelers one game each and the reavens beat the steelers twice this year. I have been really good this year. Do you think my wish will come true???

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:42 PM)

I would come up with a Plan B list. Sorry.

Wayne (Florida)

It seems that Trent's touches should have been slowly increasing as the year goes on but they are actually decreasing over the first part of the season. This makes no sense, any insight on this?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:43 PM)

Best way to beat the Ravens is throwing the ball. I don't fault the Browns for doing that on Thursday night. You'll see plenty of Richardson going forward, but it has to be within the game plan.

John (Wyoming)

Ravens-Falcons Super Bowl What do you think?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:43 PM)

It would once and for all settle the Flacco-Ryan debate.

Alex (OH)

Speaking of safeties, who do you see playing next to Reggie Nelson the rest of the year?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:44 PM)

If he was healthy, I would go with Nate Clements.

D-Bo (st pete, fl)

Is it McLendon time in Pittsburgh.. especially this week against Vick. McLend is much faster than Hampton and has shown great strength, your thoughts?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:45 PM)

We'll have to see on that. I have been very surprised by his lack of snaps this season. He had a great preseason.

Kevin (San Jose)

When JMJ comes back, do you think we will see less Fujita and more Craig Robertson/JMJ at OLB?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:45 PM)

I'm still not sure why Fujita is even on this team honestly.

ben (Franklin, PA)

Should the Steelers be concerned with their inability to finish out games? Is Roethlisberger really as elite as he has shown or is this just an early year spell that will die off?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:46 PM)

Failing to finish off teams has been a disturbing trend. It happened last year against the Ravens, but Pittsburgh was able to bounce back. Let's see what happens Sunday against Vick, who is putting together late comebacks every week.

cp (reno)

Is there really a debate between Ryan and Flacco?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:47 PM)

Is this really a question? You could argue Flacco and Ryan are two MVP candidates right now.

Michael (Cleveland/Philly)

Plan B... How about three AFC north Losses. I dont care what teams get it done. how's that for Plan B???

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:47 PM)

I would put over-under at two AFC North losses.

Justin (Uniontown, PA)

At 100% health, which 1 defense in this division would you want as a coach heading into a playoff run?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:49 PM)

Good question. I would've said the Bengals before the season. I'm not sure if I would take any defense in this division right now. And, yes, it did feel strange to type that.

Justin (parma)

The browns seem to have found a nice player in Billy Winn, any chance he moves to DE when big phil comes back or will we see some sort of rotation?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:50 PM)

I don't care where they play Winn, but they have to get him on the field. He was a beast against Baltimore on Thursday night. I remember when people laughed when I said he would be the guy to replace Phil Taylor. Funny, I don't get any mail saying I was right about that.

Basballguy (Arlington, TX)

Did I miss the chat?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:51 PM)

Most of it.

Eric (Chicago)

Is Geno Atkins the most underrated defensive tackle in football? His production on a team with with great rushing ends is unreal. Seems like an All-Pro and the man needs more recognition.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:51 PM)

Geno Atkins may not be well known around the country. But every offensive coordinator is well aware of the impact he makes.

Justin (parma)

lol i do remember when you said that. Slow clap for JH

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:52 PM)

Well, thank you. (Takes a bow).

Kevin (San Jose)

Will Phil Dawson finally make a pro bowl this year?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:53 PM)

If he keeps hitting the ball like this all year, it would be hard to keep him out. On a side note, I've been very critical of Shaun Suisham for Pittsburgh. But he has been perfect this season. Slow clap for Suisham!

Going somewhat of the way. (Clinton, MD)

Greg Little is looking strong in the running for DPOY wouldn't you say?

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:54 PM)

I would be afraid that he would drop any award given to him.

Jamison Hensley (ESPN)
  (2:55 PM)

Thanks everyone for participating in the chat. I appreciate you spending some time in the afternoon with me. Hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week. Take care.