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 (4:00 PM)
There is plenty to talk about in Week 16. So let's get right into it.
Hey James, Do you think if the Bengals would have stuck with their run first mentality from last season things would be different this year?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Good question, Corey. I think the Bengals would have more than three wins, but it probably would not have saved their season. Cincinnati guessed wrong by becoming a pass-heavy team after making big acquisitions in the passing game. But the defense and coaching wasn't nearly as good last year, either.
John (West Virginia)
As a lifelong Steelers fan, I'm looking forward to a Pittsburgh @ New England AFC Championship game. What do you believe to be the odds of that happening, and if it doesn't, who is going to derail the Steelers and/or the Patriots?
James Walker (4:03 PM)
John, we are getting way ahead of ourselves. I'm not going that far. I still need to see if Pittsburgh can clinch the division and get a first-round bye.
what do you know as far as scenarios for the steelers to clinch a first round bye this week assuming they beat the panthers?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
It's pretty simple this week. Pittsburgh has to beat the Panthers and Baltimore has to lose to Cleveland. If both teams win, it will come down to Week 17.
any chance the browns beat ravens?
James Walker (4:05 PM)
Yes, James. This is the NFL. There's always a chance. Cleveland plays tougher at home, but I was not encouraged by what I'm seeing the past two weeks against Buffalo and Cincinnati.
Nathan (Coralville, IA)
Any idea what the Bengals are gonna do with Andre Smith?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
The Bengals have to decide this offseason if they want to extend Smith's contract to six years or keep it at four. It's a no-brainer that Cincinnati will keep the deal short-term since Smith is coming off two major foot injuries and underperformed.
Do you think Peyton Hills has done enough to be in the Pro Bowl this year?
James Walker (4:08 PM)
It's going to be tough if he tries to go in as a RB. There's always stiff competition at that position. Since the Browns are 5-9, he could be left on the outside. But it doesn't take away from a great year.
How come the Steelers own the tie-breaker over the Ravens?
James Walker (4:10 PM)
Steelers have the better division record at 4-1. Baltimore's division record is 2-2. The loss to Cincinnati in Week 2 is coming back to haunt the Ravens.
James, with T.O. out next year will they finally let Jerome Simpson fill that void, or will he be Inactive every game yet again?
James Walker (4:11 PM)
Simpson will play the final two games to see what he has. He did decent last week, I thought. Whether he's a starter next year? That may be pushing it. The Bengals may need to find a starting WR, especially if Chad and T.O. are gone.
keefe (georgetown(originally pittsburgh))
what up, james. i really like the steelers three young receivers(wallace,brown and sanders). what's your take on these guys?
James Walker (4:14 PM)
The Steelers have a good eye for picking mid-round WRs. All three WRs are turning out to be good players. The thing I like most about this trio is that they are very, very competitive. I saw that back in training camp when Sanders and Brown were not backing down against Pittsburgh's No. 1 D. Wallace was the same way last year. Those kind of things carry over into the game.
Any chance the Ravens get some help from the Panthers on Thursday? That 5-7 mark over the last 2 seasons without Polamalu sticks out like a sore thumb.
James Walker (4:15 PM)
The Panthers are pretty bad, Jake, probably the worst team in the league this year. I think the Steelers improve to 6-7 without Troy Polamalu.
Would you call a draw on your own endzone?Is it true that everyteam has a designed play for that situation?It can't be a draw,c'mon.Thanks.
James Walker (4:17 PM)
It was a really bad call, no debating that. Even if it didn't result in a safety, I didn't understand the goal in that situation.
What's the latest on Sergio Kindle? I think a return to health of him and Foxworth next year, plus Lardarius Webb 2 years removed from an ACL, would really give the Raven defense a boost.
James Walker (4:19 PM)
Kindle is optimistic that he will return next season. But the Ravens are being cautious, as they should. Head injuries are very serious, especially for a physical player who wants to make a career out of hitting people.
Do you believe Colt McCoy is the answer for the Browns yet this season to be there QB of the future?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
Too early to tell. I need to see more, but I like what I'm seeing from him so far. Keep in mind, he's not working with much at WR. That should be a priority for the Browns in the offseason.
Eric (uniontown pa.)
Is there some kind of controversy in the BROWNS house, how can a good team who beats the SAINTS & THE PATRIOTS. It just makes a browns fan wonder why??? GO BROWNS!!!
James Walker (4:22 PM)
The Browns have played up and down to their competition all year, Eric. It's an ugly trend, and you have to blame both the coaches and players for not getting up for the easier games.
Last year it was a 4-game winning streak to keep Mangini's job. This year do you think they will have a 4 game losing streak that will make his lose his job?
James Walker (4:24 PM)
If Eric Mangini loses these next two games and finishes 5-11 for the second year in a row, I don't see how Mike Holmgren can bring him back. Mangini needs to win the next two games to improve his stance.
Spoiler alert Bengals will end the Chargers hopes of a Playoff birth. You agree James?
James Walker (4:25 PM)
Hmm. The Chargers are pretty good and need this win. I will make my prediction on Thursday.
It's looking pretty clear that Marvin Lewis won't be back in Cincinnati. Who do you think is the most likely candidate to replace him? Who do you think would be the BEST person to right the ship?
James Walker (4:27 PM)
It's very early, Jeff. But the two names I'm hearing this early is Mike Zimmer and Hue Jackson. As far as the best coaching candidate to right the ship, you know all the big names but those people won't come to Cincinnati.
Rupert (London, UK)
If the Ravens do end up with the #5 seed, how far do you see them going regardless of who there opponent is?Interesting fact: The Ravens held the Saints to there fewest Total Yards that they've had all season last Sunday.
James Walker (4:29 PM)
This year's playoffs is about matchups. If the Ravens have to go to Indy, it could be really tough. If they face Kansas City or Jacksonville, I think Baltimore could make a run.
Kovacs (Santa Monica)
Seems like teams are more willing to stack the box against the run without Cribbs in the line-up. Do you think Cribbs is a legit deep threat going forward?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
Josh Cribbs hasn't complained all year, but I think he's really more hurt than he's letting on. He dislocated his toes, which doesn't sound major but he's lost all his push and explosiveness off his foot. Credit Cribbs for toughing it out, but he's not able to give his usual things to the offense right now.
Assuming the Ravens end up a wild card, what would be the best and worst first round playoff matchups out of the potential 3/4 seeds?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Best for Ravens=Jacksonville. Worst=Indianapolis. In between=Kansas City. All games would be on the road.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Marvin Lewis...what's your take on his future employment?
James Walker (4:35 PM)
The Bengals are always unpredictable. But I would be really surprised if Lewis returns. There hasn't been any recent negotiations to my knowledge.
should the ravens try to avoid the steelers?
James Walker (4:37 PM)
Not at all. I think it's a great matchup for both teams and these games are always close. It could go either way. IMO, Steelers need to avoid the Patriots and Ravens need to avoid the Colts.
Hey James...what do you think the chances are of the Steelers losing either of the last 2 games?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
I don't see the Steelers losing to Carolina Thursday at home. The Cleveland game could be a trap. But I will wait until next week to pick those games.
Are you in favor of a team purposely losing to gain a better matchup in a playoff game (like the Ravens throwing their last game to get the 6 seed and KC instead of the 5 seed and Indy)???
James Walker (4:41 PM)
I don't see it happening, Ray. Teams are prideful and I doubt the Ravens would admit they want to avoid the Colts or any team for that matter.
Nathan (Coralville, IA)
Biggest need for the Browns with their first round pick?
James Walker (4:43 PM)
I feel their biggest need right now is an elite WR. But if Cleveland is choosing in the top 10, I usually don't teams drafting that position that high. Outside the top 10, that would be a good spot for a WR.
What do you think about Trai replacing Scott at left tackle?
James Walker (4:46 PM)
Very risky. Pittsburgh lacks depth on the O-line and I'm not sure LT is Essex's best position. I will say the Steelers' O-line had one of its better games against the Jets.
James, I know the Colts have had the Ravens' number in the past, but this is not the same old Colts. They have been exposed often this year. Ask yourself this - Are the better than the Saints? No way.
James Walker (4:48 PM)
Sometimes it's about matchups, Greg. The Saints are a better team. But Peyton Manning has seen the Ravens' D in a lot more games than Drew Brees. He knows how to pick that group apart. Baltimore's obviously had the better season. But I would not bet against Manning in any one-game scenario against the Ravens, especially at home in a dome.
Will the Browns replace John St Clair this off season?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
Cleveland definitely needs an upgrade at RT. St. Clair is not the answer moving forward.
Irwin (Jersey City)
Any hope for removing kickoffs from football to prevent injuries? Sure would help out the Steelers.
James Walker (4:50 PM)
Nice try. No chance.
Cut it short and simple. WHo do u think is going to win the AFC North.
James Walker (4:51 PM)
I picked the Ravens at the beginning of the season. But I don't see the Steelers blowing these two games against Carolina and Cleveland.
As a Browns fan I am happy with what Mangini has done this season. Is the reason for his job being in jeopardy only because he's not Holmgrein's style of coach or because the Browns haven't taken a big enough step this year?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
It's a combination of both, Jake. Mike Holmgren gave Eric Mangini a chance this year to see if their two philosophies, which are very different, can mesh. So far it's equaled 5-9 and potentially another 5-11 season if the Browns can't pull off back-to-back upsets against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Mangini really needs these next two games or it's going to be a tough sell.
Josh (Owings Mills, MD)
Will Jared Gaither be a Raven in 2011?
James Walker (4:54 PM)
I don't see it, Josh. Baltimore could have used him this year at RT. But I think he no longer fits in with the Ravens for various reasons. Plus, before the injury he wanted a big contract extension.
Why Haven't the Bengals used J. Gresham to stretch the field?They seem to only make him run 5 yard routes and screens? Do they know what there doing?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
It's something I think the Bengals could work better at doing. Keep in mind, Bob Bratkowski has never had a true "receiving TE" in Cincinnati. So I think this has been a learning experience for him in terms of how to incorporate Jermaine Gresham into the offense. But he's a good player.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for your time. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter page for constant updates on the division. Enjoy this week's games.