Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com AFC East 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 Walker Monday at noon ET!
James Walker (12:00 PM)
No need for AFC East therapy this week. The division went 3-1 this weekend. Let's chat about it.
i see luck holding the ball much to long against new england which i think will be a disaster for him against the bills
James Walker (12:01 PM)
Yes, Ken. I think the Bills can learn a lot with how the Patriots pressured and defended Andrew Luck. The Dolphins couldn't get to him and he torched Miami for 400 yards. The Patriots did get to him and forced three INTs. The key will be Buffalo's pass rush, which has been inconsistent. The Bills only bring four defenders a lot, probably too much. They may have to change that with Luck this week.
Would it be unreasonable to throw a cast on Gronks arm and throw him in for pass protection? I have seen Lineman play with a cast on their arm in the past effectively.
James Walker (12:04 PM)
Interesting question, Charles. The NFL has rules on the type and size of cast players can wear. Because if it's too big or too thick, it can be used as a weapon or benefit to the player instead of just protection. A cast is certainly an option for Gronkowski if he wants to come back sooner. But I think the Patriots have enough weapons not to rush him back. There is always the chance of re-injury in this scenario.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Jim, When do the Jets replace Mark Sanchez or how far behind before we start seeing either Tebow or McElroy?
James Walker (12:06 PM)
I thought Sanchez played one of his better games Sunday against the Rams. He didn't do anything spectacular, but he made the open throws he needed to make. That's pretty much what Sanchez is. He's can win when everything else is working around him. But he can't take over a game by himself like elite quarterbacks. If the Jets play efficient and Sanchez doesn't turn over the football on Thanksgiving, I think the Jets have a chance to upset the Patriots.
Tim (Richmond, VA)
The Bills got some playoff help this week. If they win in Indy, they would be one game out of that wildcard spot. Are you still so sure that it's a definite no-go-postseason for them?
James Walker (12:08 PM)
Here is the thing, Tim. Buffalo hasn't shown me anything to think it can win seven straight games, or six of seven, to end the season. That's what it will take to get to 10-6 or 9-7. I'm not thinking individual games. I'm think longer than that. The Bills will slip up somewhere because they always do. They are an inconsistent team that won't make the playoffs.
James Walker (12:09 PM)
With that said, Sunday's game at Indianapolis is huge. If Buffalo can win that game, it puts the Bills back in the chase. They would still have to essentially run the table, though. I don't see Buffalo pulling that off the rest of the season.
Tim (Long Island)
Will turnover free football be enough for the Jets to have a chance Thursday night? The special teams is still suspect.
James Walker (12:11 PM)
That will definitely be key, Tim. New England leads the NFL in turnover margin. The Patriots don't give away the football and they take it away on defense. If the Jets stay away from that, they have a shot.
What free agent WRs do you see the Dolphins actually making a play for this offseason?
James Walker (12:12 PM)
It's too early to really think about free agency, Chris. But I think Miami will spend the end of the season deciding who to re-sign on its own roster. The Dolphins have some huge decisions to make with Jake Long, Sean Smith, Reggie Bush, Randy Starks, Brain Hartline, etc. Who do you keep and who do you let go?
Rocky (Sacramento, CA)
I know it is early to start thinking about the draft, but I think this would be a solid draft for the bills in the first 3 rounds: 1st Justin Hunter, 2nd Chase Thomas, 3rd Landry Jones.
James Walker (12:13 PM)
Landry Jones is not going in the third round. That's a pipe dream.
DJ MIRZA (NYC)
What players that currently play for the Dolphins that are heading into free agency do you see the Dolphins re-signing?
James Walker (12:15 PM)
The only no-brainers, in my opinion, are Randy Starks and Brian Hartline. They are solid players who are affordable. Others like Jake Long, Sean Smith and Reggie Bush will be looking to cash in, and I'm not sure their price tags will be worth the investment. The market for those players will play a factor.
James Walker (12:16 PM)
Jake Long is the toughest call. Because he's going to want a boatload of money, and his play has dropped from two years ago.
matt (Glens falls)
Do you still think only 1 AFC east team will make playoffs?
James Walker (12:17 PM)
Yes. I've seen a lot of AFC East football this year, and it's a mediocre and inconsistent division.
Mark (Binghamton, New York)
The Patriots (justifiably) didn't run much against the Colts, but the Bills are not the Patriots through the air. Do you think the Bills O is better suited to run or pass against the Colts?
James Walker (12:23 PM)
The Bills have to stick with what they do best, and that's run the football. Buffalo is a tricky team. The Bills run the spread, but their rushing numbers are significantly better than their passing numbers. I don't think Ryan Fitzpatrick can beat Andrew Luck in a shootout on the road. Buffalo is 2-0 this season when C.J. Spiller gets at least 15 carries. I think the Bills should hand the ball off to Spiller at least 20 times and see where that gets them.
If the Bills beat the Colts, they'll be one game back of a Wild Card spot with five games left. I don't think they're done (mainly because of their easy schedule) and I don't think they necessarily have to run the table, but they definitely don't have any room for more than one more loss (and that loss probably can't be to the Colts). While the standings show they're still in it, I agree they haven't shown anything this season that would indicate they're a playoff team. Although on paper they're capable of turning it around.
James Walker (12:24 PM)
When was the last time Buffalo won seven games in a row, Jack, or even six of seven. Get back to me on that one and then we can talk about the Bills making the playoffs.
RE. Gronk injury...I thought superstars played their way off special teams to preserve them. Why is Gronk even on the FG unit to begin with, even if an injury is highly unlikely.
James Walker (12:27 PM)
No one cared about Gronkowski on the FG team until he got injured yesterday. Gronkowski is one of the best blocking TEs in the league. I understand why he protects on FGs. What I don't understand is why the starting offense is playing and still trying to score when New England is up at least 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Wes (Williamsport, PA)
What do you expect the fate of the Jets' Front Office/Coaching Staff to be? Do you foresee Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan being fired?
James Walker (12:29 PM)
I think both will get one more year. The Jets showed this week that they won't lay down. They won't make the playoffs. But a respectable finish is enough.
With the contact extension, no way Sanchez is not the starter next year. No way he's gets paid that to be a backup and who'd take that in a trade. Will the Jets finally get someone in the front office who realizes theres an offensive side of the ball that needs weapons too ? ( Happy Thanksgiving )
James Walker (12:31 PM)
I agree. The Jets are stuck with Mark Sanchez for at least another year. I was surprised like many by the contract extension. The Jets needed cap relief and got it by guaranteeing Sanchez more money and essentially making him the starter for two more seasons. The Jets made that decision and now have to live with it. The only other option is to have all that money sitting on the bench.
James Walker (12:31 PM)
Happy Thanksgiving to you, as well.
juston (Knoxville, TN)
Do you believe that after last week that Buffalo will now start CJ Spiller over Jackson finally?
James Walker (12:35 PM)
I don't put anything past the Bills when it comes to this subject. I've been saying all year that Spiller needs to be the guy. Even if he's not starter, he should get more carries. Spiller's play clearly dictates that. But Buffalo has been stubborn to get Jackson a bigger workload. He's a veteran and a leader for the Bills, but you have to do what wins ballgames. It would be embarrassing if Buffalo keeps Jackson the starter when he returns.
do you think the patriots are the worst team in the nfl in how they treat there veterans and how they use them..
James Walker (12:38 PM)
I assume you're talking about the multiple releases of Deion Branch. It's just the Patriot way. All the team cares about is winning. New England doesn't get into feelings, or emotion or sentiment. The Patriots are winning more games than anyone doing it this way. So you can't fault them. I'm not sure Patriots fans care how players are treated as long as they are going to Super Bowls.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
How do you think that the Jets will do against New England on Thanksgiving Night?
James Walker (12:39 PM)
I will be making my prediction later in the week. I went 2-1 this weekend and I'm 25-8 overall picking AFC East games. So I've been on target all year.
Al (Wausau, WI)
James, as part of the Jets' effort to build the team for the future, do you think a playmaking running back (e.g. Montee Ball of Wisconsin) could be an effective weapon to help take some pressure off Sanchez?
James Walker (12:41 PM)
The Jets need a lot of things on offense, Al. They need a RB, a WR, a RT, maybe a G or two. Also keep in mind that TE Dustin Keller is a free agent. If he wants too much money, the Jets could let him walk. Then, tight end would be another need.
Best case scenario for Bills at QB next year? Waste a high draft pick on Barkley/ Smith/ Glennon? FA? Trade?
James Walker (12:44 PM)
I'm not Buddy Nix. But I would draft a QB in the first two rounds. I don't see the Bills landing Matt Barkley or Geno Smith unless they are in the top five. So Buffalo has to do some quality scouting to land a good QB it can groom for a year or two.
Would the Jets somehow making a run to the playoffs be the worst possible thing for this team? It would give the coaching staff the false sense that what they are doing will work and not make the overhaul that is needed for this team?
James Walker (12:45 PM)
Making a playoff run is always good. I can't see any scenario where making the postseason is bad. But the Jets don't have the horses to do it this year.
Do you like how Ireland stayed pat this season by not making any moves pre trade deadline, like a WR or CB. We were in the hunt 2 and 3 weeks ago.
James Walker (12:46 PM)
It looks like a wise move now, Jake. The price for someone like Dwayne Bowe was probably too high. The Dolphins can go after Bowe in a few months during free agency if they like and still keep their draft picks.
Is Shonn Greene a feature back? Or should he be benched in favor of McKnight or Powell. Do the Jets have any running backs that you could see becoming a dual threat out of the backfield and in short yardage, YAC-heavy passing routes?
James Walker (12:48 PM)
Shonn Greene is not a feature back. He was best as a No. 2 when can pound the rock and wear down the defense. However, Greene should not be on the bench. Maybe McKnight and Powell should get a few more carries, but those are backup options, as well.
If the Bills miss the playoffs, what do you think they'll regret the most 1)The 2nd half hemorrhage against the Patriots or 2)the flop against the Titans? I would say the Titans. If that game is a W instead of a L, the Bills would be right in the thick of things.
James Walker (12:50 PM)
"When" the Bills miss the playoffs, Charles, they will regret that loss to the Titans at home. Buffalo blew that one. That's probably the one loss the Bills wish they could have back.
JR (Tampa Bay)
Do you think coaching is a big reason for Miami's lack of offensive line play?
James Walker (12:52 PM)
No, I don't blame coaching as much as the players on the field. The offensive line, in the trenches, is the one area where scheme is not as important. You beat the man in front of you, either running or in pass protection. It's fairly simple. And Miami's offensive line is not beating the defenders in front of them in the second half of the season. Did you see Jonathan Martin get pushed back by Mario Williams like he was an eighth grader? That's on Martin, not the coaches.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
I'm not ready to anoint Mohammed Wilkerson as an All-Pro but is he a player the Jets can rejuvenate their D with?
James Walker (12:55 PM)
Wilkerson is playing some of the best football of his career the past few weeks. This is a good sign, because the Jets' defense is getting older. They need some of their young guns to step up and take primary roles.
Now that the Phins have fallen from the playoff picture do you see them doing things any different,such as looking at some different players or trying some things on offense to see what may work in te future?
James Walker (12:58 PM)
The Dolphins are not mathematically out of the playoff race, Awayne. So until that point, Miami won't make any dramatic moves. The Dolphins are still fighting to get in the postseason. However, Miami most likely will be done in 2-3 weeks after it finishes this brutal part of the schedule. At that point, the season will be only about developing Ryan Tannehill and perhaps getting some young players time.
James Walker (1:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks for the great questions. Enjoy the holiday and remember to read the AFC East blog for all the latest on the division.