Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker will stop by to chat about the NFL and what to expect from your team.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch.
Send your questions now and join James Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (3:59 PM)
How is everyone doing today? Let's have some fun and talk about the AFC North.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the Best Quarterback in the AFC North?
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Without a doubt, the best QB in the division is still Ben Roethlisberger. I know he's suspended, but nothing has been done to change my mind on that. Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco are both off to slow starts.
dan (lynchburg va)
As a Ravens fan I wonder when the Ravens will stop crying about the refs and win a game on their own. Bad calls happen to everyone.
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Although I do think the refs definitely missed the call on Terrell Suggs, you bring up a good point, Dan. Bad calls happen to every team and that's why I try not to write about it much in the AFC North blog. If I did, I would be focusing on officiating every other week, and I don't want to turn my blog into a complaint-fest.
Rob (San Antonio)
Hey James, as a long time Steeler fan I got to wonder how long they can survive with NO offense. Are they just that bad without BB or are they being ultra-conservative to protect their fragile Qb's?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
It's coaching, defense and special teams, Rob. And the Steelers have a lot of all three. They didn't score an offensive touchdown last week and have just one in two games. But the D is so dominant and the kicking and returning has been great. It's proof that great coaching still prevails in the NFL.
Baltimore seems to be passing the ball much more than running it, and when they do run the ball they are mostly ineffective. Does this spell trouble for the Ravens?
James Walker (4:07 PM)
I'm not pushing the panic button in Baltimore. I knew coming in the Ravens would have two top 5 defenses in NYJ and Cincy. The Ravens need to get the ball in Ray Rice's hands more, and I expect that to happen Sunday against Cleveland.
I think that like most Bengal fans we have been fairly underwhelmed by #9's efforts so far this young season. With Carolina, Tampa, and Cleveland in the queue - is that just what the doctor ordered to get him on track? Or do you think we're drafting a QB in the first couple of rounds next Spring?
James Walker (4:09 PM)
It's unfair to think Carson Palmer was going to revert back to 2005 form. That was a long time ago when Palmer was in his prime and healthy. I still think you can win with Palmer and that he's a good enough QB. But he's not the top 5 QB he used to be a half-decade ago.
Speaking of panic buttons, am I wrong to be panicked that the Browns could go 0fer this year?
James Walker (4:10 PM)
The Browns will not go 0-16. They're not that bad. I think they will surprise someone on their upcoming schedule before that. But I picked Cleveland to go 5-11 this year, and I'm having my doubts now that the Browns can win that many games.
do you sere the Bengals having any trouble this week against the Panthers? And is this Cedric Benson's game to break out?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
The Panthers are pretty bad, and they are starting a rookie quarterback in Jimmy Clausen. This is by far Cincinnati's easy game so far this season. The Bengals will have to show some growth to stay hungry after an emotional win over a divisional rival in Baltimore.
Mike (folsom, ca)
Rankings, so when do your start ranking the steelers as if Ben R is part of the team? After the week 4 game against the ravens, or after his 1st game 2 weeks later, or maybe the bye week in between? What gives?
James Walker (4:14 PM)
As soon as "Big Ben" is eligible to play against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 17, I will rank the Steelers at full strength. Until then, I'm voting on how strong the team is without him.
jimmy clausen will dominate
James Walker (4:15 PM)
I disagree. The Bengals made a pretty good QB in Joe Flacco look bad. I think they will have good success against Clausen in his first NFL start.
rough physical game vs Titans, Ravens showdown looming next week..... any chance the Steelers overlook Tampa??
James Walker (4:17 PM)
Good question, Rich. There is a chance this could be a trap game. But Pittsburgh needs to be focused anyway because Ben Roethlisberger is out. Everyone needs to step up their game a little more, and that's how they're playing. So I don't see Pittsburgh relaxing this week. Maybe that will happen when "Big Ben" returns.
corey huth (pleasantville, PA)
do you think when the Steelers get Big Ben back that they will be the team to beat?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
I'm taking my predictions week to week. It's hard enough to do that. Did you see my record for Week 2?
James who are your Super Bowl Picks?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
My Super Bowl picks entering the season were Indianapolis vs. Green Bay. That's looking good so far.
Matt (Los Angeles)
Do the Ravens have an issue at RT; Yanda is a natural guard, Coisins isn't ready; and Jared Gaither disposition is a mystery... Will Ozzie do something?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
The Ravens need to get healthy there. Although Cincy only got one sack, I thought Baltimore's pass protection was average at best. QB Joe Flacco had someone in his face pretty often. He just scrambled to get out of trouble or got rid of the football.
josh (youngstown oh)
Do you think Lefty will be a better start against TB or Batch?
James Walker (4:23 PM)
My vote would go to Byron Leftwich, but only if he's healthy. Leftwich is trying to come back from a MCL he suffered in the preseason. If the knee is still bothering Leftwich, he shouldn't rush back.
john, portland [via mobile]
If steelers finish over 500 will they win the division?
James Walker (4:25 PM)
I think it's going to take about 11 wins this year to take the AFC North.
Indy looking good so far? If they play a team that can stop the run in the playoffs...like Steelers, Ravens or Jets they are in a world of hurt.
James Walker (4:26 PM)
Have you seen Indy against Baltimore? That's a great matchup for the Colts. Colts also beat the Jets in the playoffs last year. Steelers probably have the best mix and style to matchup with Indy if they would meet in the playoffs, IMO.
Barry (Carmel, IN)
Are the Bengals ready to compete in the division again? Will their passing game eventually ignite and produce better than last year?
James Walker (4:29 PM)
Cincinnati has won eight straight division games, and as long as the Bengals do that they will be in the hunt for a division crown. The win over Baltimore was huge to get the Bengals going in the right direction.
matty Nice (The Burg PA)
James, if the Browns keep losing, will the world see the start of the Colt McCoy losing era in Cleveland?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
I was just discussing this with someone yesterday. I thought there would be no chance McCoy plays this year. But he's already one play away with Jake Delhomme hurt. Seneca Wallace didn't light it up, either, and the Browns look to be on their way to a lot of losses. If by the end of the season the Browns have very few wins, why not play the rookie and see what he can do.
How long is Mike Zimmer in Cincy before someone offers him a head gig? This will be a dark day in southwest OH.
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Zimmer signed a three-year extension this offseason. Head coach Marvin Lewis is still not under contract beyond this year. If Lewis is not re-signed, I would anticipate Zimmer being one of the favorites to replace Lewis.
Most valuable player in AFC North?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Way too early for that, Clint.
Is the game vs Tampa an upset special this week?
James Walker (4:35 PM)
I haven't made my picks yet. But I know Steeler fans want me to keep picking against Pittsburgh so the team can win.
Patrick (San Francisco)
Is it safe to say three of the top five defenses in the league reside in the AFC North? I'm sold on Balt/Pitt but is Cincy a top five?
James Walker (4:37 PM)
Statistically last year that was the case. I think Baltimore and Pittsburgh are definitely up there. Those two teams proved it year after year. The Bengals still have to be more consistent. They looked the part last week but not against the Patriots.
JW What's good? - so being that the Browns are in for another long season - would you think that Mangini gets another year? or if he doesn't win say 6 games he's gone? Hard to fault him for the complete lack of talent.
James Walker (4:39 PM)
I think Eric Mangini needs to start winning soon, or his seat will get very hot. The Browns went 5-11 last year. So Mangini needs to win at least 7-8 games to show good progress. They have a really tough schedule the next several weeks.
Barry (Carmel, IN)
What kind of division record do you think the Bengals will live with this season?
James Walker (4:40 PM)
A 4-2 record or better in the AFC North is always solid. The Bengals are off to a good start by beating Baltimore.
Is the way that the Steelers are playing right now proof that Big Ben is very overated?
James Walker (4:42 PM)
I don't know about that, Adam. The Steelers didn't score an offensive touchdown last week and they only scored one offensive TD in two games. Do you think that would've been the case with Ben Roethlisberger?
so far polamalu has an interception a week. it seems like no one remembers how crazy he plays. can he keep it up, or will someone finally figure out how to contain him?
James Walker (4:44 PM)
No one has figured it out yet, Kristen. I think he's just one of those special players you cannot gameplan for. Very smart, very good, and there's no one else like him in the NFL.
If their has to be blame for the loss against the saints yesterday, who would be at fault for San Fran's close loss??
James Walker (4:46 PM)
I thought SF played well enough to win last night against the defending SB champs. The 49ers just didn't finish. They're still in the running to win the NFC West, though. SF is just one game behind Seattle and Arizona. It's a long season.
Craig G. (Newcastle, Washington)
Hey James, if you put Big Ben with the current Steelers squad, where would you rank them in the AFC?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
I'm trying to take it one week at a time, Craig. Ask me on Oct. 17 and I will have an answer for you. I like the way they're playing. But right now, I think they're overrated at No. 5 without Big Ben.
With the Bengals only having 2 winning seasons in the last decade, why did most experts pick them to win the division again. Instead of the always consistent Ravens and Steelers?
James Walker (4:52 PM)
I don't know a lot of experts who picked the Bengals. Most, like myself, picked the Ravens to win the AFC North in the preseason. But that's doesn't mean Cincinnati isn't a good team.
Matty Nice (The Burg, PA)
James, can the Ravens def hold up till the secondary is healthy?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
They haven't allowed a TD in two games. Baltimore's defense is not the issue here. It's the other side of the football.
Matt (Los Angeles)
Ray Lewis is playing in his 15th season -- will he make it to 20 ?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
I'm not sure Ray Lewis wants to play that long. But he's still playing very well this season. If he does play 20 at LB, that would be an amazing accomplishment at such a demanding and physical position.
Now that Dennis Dixon is out, who is the backup for Charlie Batch if Byron isn't healthy enough to play?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
I think there's a solid chance Byron Leftwich could dress this week, even if he's not the starter. If he's healthy enough to start, I think he will. But it's too early to say at this point.
Why do you think the Steelers are over rated at 5. Their D is playing at or above the level of their last SB appearance. Their head and shoulders above evryone else right now
James Walker (4:58 PM)
The offense has score one TD in two games. I like the way the defense is playing, but the Steelers need Big Ben under center to fully reach their potential this year.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for your time. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates.