AFC North weekend mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com James Walker

As we are just one day away from the big games, let's dig into some questions.

Todd from Baltimore writes: James, I was just wondering why Ray Rice has not been used the past couple of weeks I thought that he was healthy enough to go against Miami. Is he really that injured or were they just saving him until they really need him.

James Walker: Good question, Todd. This has been somewhat of a mystery that I do not have a clear answer for. An educated guess would be it's a combination of not fully trusting a rookie coming off injury, not fitting in either of the two game plans, and saving his health for when he's really needed. The team has reeled off wins late with just a two-tailback system, and this may not be a good time to mess with that chemistry.

Matt from DC writes: Any news on the Bengals re-signing Benson? Are they going to make much of an effort? What will it cost them at this point?

James Walker: This is the evaluation phase for most teams, Matt. So that's why there is no news to report on potential free agents. But I expect the Bengals to make a pitch. The biggest question will be if it's a longterm commitment. That's what Benson's reps will demand, but the Bengals may still have questions. Was Benson simply playing hard to earn a new contract? Once he gets his money, will he revert back to the old Benson, who was cut by the Chicago Bears? That's all going to factor into the negotiations.

Kevin from DC writes: James, I love your blog. I read it religiously. What do you think the Ravens need to do in the offseason? In the Draft I am thinking of a corner or middle linebacker in the first round. And maybe sign a wide receiver, not necessarily a big name, but a consistent one at that. Thanks.

James Walker: Thanks, Kevin. It's an absolute "yes" to drafting a cornerback. An absolute "no" to middle linebacker. I think the Ravens are good enough right now to go into 2009 as a strong Super Bowl contender. They are two games away from winning it all right now. What they need to do is keep their own free agents, such as Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott, Jason Brown, and Jim Leonhard. Of course, Baltimore can't keep everyone, but it can try to keep most of them. Then the Ravens can spend what's left in free agency on cornerback and wide-receiver depth and also address those needs in the draft.

Drew from Twinsburg, OH writes: James, love the blog. I've seen a lot of comments about how tired the Ravens might be after playing 16 games without a week off. How much of an impact (if any) do you see this having on them in the AFC Championship? They seemed sluggish at times against the Titans. Has it caught up to them?

James Walker: I would say banged up more than sluggish, Drew. People are really underestimating how good of a team the Tennessee Titans were. They were the best team in the NFL during the regular season and the Ravens went into their house and beat them in a must-win game. That's no easy task. In the process they suffered injuries to linebacker Terrell Suggs, cornerback Samari Rolle and tailback Le'Ron McClain, with Suggs' shoulder being the biggest concern.