AFC North Mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com James Walker

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Reader from Simpsonville, SC writes: With 5 games left is it REALLY conceivable that we could make the playoffs? Could we squeak in with 9-7? How are the Ravens chances of winning 4 of the last 5 games? If they sweep, they've gotta be considered the scariest team to face in the playoffs!

James Walker: With nine AFC teams with six or more wins, Baltimore needs 10 wins to be safe. There may be a nine-win team or two that doesn't get in. No doubt, Baltimore has a tough schedule down the stretch, but its most important game right now is Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals (1-9-1). The Ravens should win, but you never know in a road division game because of the rivalry and familiarity. Baltimore probably needs to go 3-2 the rest of the way, and if it doesn't get this win against the Bengals, its postseason hopes would take a huge hit.

Mark from Daytona Beach writes: Where does this years Steelers Defense rank all time out of past Steeler Defenses or even all time Defenses

James Walker: I'm not ready to go there, Mark. You have to see a full body of work before you start grading against other finished products. What I want to see is how far this defense carries the Steelers in the playoffs, because the greatest units of all-time often won Super Bowls and conference championships. What I am ready to say is Pittsburgh's defense is the most consistent I've seen this year, and I've seen some impressive ones like the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants.

Reader from Strasburg writes: At this point in the season knowing my Browns are going to do some serious front office and personnel changes after the season, Derek Anderson is probably going to be out of Cleveland. How much trade value is he worth from a draft pick standpoint, and how many teams need him?

James Walker: I don't see the Browns getting anything more than a mid-round pick for Anderson at this point. They had a golden opportunity to sell high for a first- and third-round pick last year, but that time has come and gone. But with the amount of poor quarterbacking we've seen year in and year out in the NFL, there will be some interest in Anderson. It's early, but two teams I've heard right away are the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.

Michael from Baghdad, Iraq writes: James--Thanks for all of the info this year. It really helps when you are so far away from the action. Where do you rate Mike Tomlin in the head coaching echelon after his 1+ seasons and all of the injuries he has had to deal with both seasons, besides the fact that he replaced a living legend in Pittsburgh-native Bill Cowher? Thanks.

James Walker: Hey Michael, I hope you're holding up well. Tomlin likely will make the playoffs in back-to-back years, which shows he can obviously coach. It's way too early to start comparing him with some of the top coaches in the NFL. Tomlin will have to at least win a playoff game. But what I like about Tomlin most is his demeanor. Something the great Steelers coaches have had over the years is a great presence, and Tomlin has shown early signs of that. He's a straight shooter, never makes excuses, and requires respect and the most from his players.

Pete from Springfield, VA writes: Hey james. What is wrong with Willis Mcgahee this season?2 weeks ago he seemed like he was starting to regain his form but he the past 2 games he hasn't done anything.Whats going on with him?

James Walker: Pete, McGahee has been banged up all season and is in an offense that uses three running backs. With that combination, you're going to see up-and-down performances. Sometimes McGahee is not in Baltimore's plan to get 20-plus carries, and sometimes he is. Some games he is healthier than others. But usually when his number is called and he's healthy, he can have productive games.