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.