Q: Reports are already coming out that we should fear the Ravens with McNair. I'm not sure the present day McNair is worthy of that much fear. What do you think?
** --Brian, Erie, PA
BRIAN:** All I know is that the McMan is 9-4 against the Bengals with 20 touchdowns, five interceptions, and four rushing touchdowns. It seems as if every week before they play, he's in a boot and he's questionable, so any Bengalphile has to fear him. Some argue he won't help the Ravens, but he helps make this a 9-7 division.
Yes, McNair is 33 and he was 24 when he threw three TDs to beat the Bengals back in '97, 26 when he manufactured 10 points in the final eight minutes to beat them in '99, and 29 in '02 when he threw three more touchdowns to beat them with a 97.7 rating.
And he's only a year removed from his worst game ever against the Bengals, last season's 31-23 loss in which he threw two interceptions (one for a TD) and no touchdowns.
But he's a savvy, tough former MVP who went into last season with the fifth best winning percentage of QBs with more than 60 starts who already has 29 TD passes to Derrick Mason. So at the very least, he tightens the division.
You don't think with their defense and running back Jamal Lewis that McNair can take them to more than two wins in the division, which they won last year? Lewis won't be as hobbled as last season a year removed from surgery.
Cleveland might not be a playoff contender just yet, but didn't they improve their defense enough to win more than one division game, which they did last season?
The Super Bowl champion Steelers don't look very different, but don't they come back to the pack a little with the loss of Jerome Bettis and Antwaan Randle El?
If the AFC North beats itself up a little bit, maybe the winner goes 9-7 instead of 11-5.
The nay-McNair-sayers say that he's going to need more help from the offensive line than the aging Ravens can give, that a team that has a simmering chemistry problem won't react well to a quarterback that doesn't practice, that the woeful Xs and Os would strangle the best of QBs, that he's just not the nimble athlete he once was.
(And there are those in Bengaldom not unhappy that the Ravens have strapped themselves to another thirtysomething salary cap anchor.)
But you're a Bengalphile and the numbers don't go away.
4 Rushing TDs.
Oh yeah. Now put McNair next to Palmer's knee, Chris Henry's head, and A.J. Nicholson's rent as just another thing to worry about.
Hey, what's a week in the offseason without another crisis?