• Steelers.comWashington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has a thing for dopey socks. He is likely to be very jealous of the opposing Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, because they will be sporting the dopiest socks in NFL history.

    The rest of the uniform only gets dopier as you work up from the black and gold striped socks. You can see them on various players behind Charlie Batch in the photo to the right — here's a better look at them — if you can take your eyes off of Charlie for a minute. Only on Project Runway will you find someone so proud of such ridiculous clothing.

    And they are ridiculous. They're disturbingly ugly, and Batch looks like the Hamburglar, if the Hamburglar had been homeless for 15 years. I'm starting to like it, though. If you're going to go ugly, I say go big. It's easy to rock a throwback jersey if you've got cool throwback jerseys. The Chargers in their old AFC joints? No problem. The Lions in their customary Thanksgiving gear? Why not?

    The Steelers looking like wayward rugby players who accidentally stumbled into a marathon where someone taped numbers on their chest? That takes some fortitude.

    Read More »from The Steelers will look, um, interesting on Sunday
  • APWere you upset this past Monday night when you had to choose between watching the presidential debate live and watching "Monday Night Football" live? Worry no more. ESPN's going to mash your sports and politics together for you.

    At halftime of the Week 9 "Monday Night Football" game, according to the Sports Business Journal, ESPN's Chris Berman will likely be interviewing President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. It's not set in stone, but the SBJ says both campaigns have asked ESPN about it, and that ESPN president Vince Doria is "strongly considering" it.

    It happened four years ago, when then-Senator Obama was running against Senator John McCain. Berman gave them separate three-minute interviews. It took place on the eve of the election and was, literally, the last chance for each candidate to reach such a broad audience before the polls opened. This year, if it happens as proposed, it would also take place the night before the election.

    The questions from Berman would be softballs and/or have some relation to sports, which is fine, because it's ESPN and Chris Berman may not be the guy you want directing a foreign policy debate. Four years ago, Berman asked both candidates what they'd change about sports if they could, and if they could choose one sporting event to attend each year, what it would be. You can read the transcript here. Obama said he'd like to see a college football playoff and McCain said he'd fight against performance-enhancing drugs.

    Read More »from Obama and Romney want to be on ‘Monday Night Football’
  • The absurdly premature playoff picture presents one man's projection for the NFL playoffs, at each given week in the season -- even if that week is unreasonably early.

    Top AFC seeds: Houston Texans, New England Patriots
    Other AFC division champs: Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos
    AFC Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins

    Top NFC seeds: Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears
    Other NFC division champs: New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers
    NFC Wild Cards: Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks

    • Week 7 brings our biggest shakeup of the season thus far. We've got new first-round-bye teams in both conferences. It's real. Close your mouth and stop blinking at your computer screen, waiting for it to change. This is what happens here at the Absurdly Premature Playoff Picture. Minds get blown.

    • As far as the Bears go, I hope I'm not falling into the trap of over-valuing a team's performance because it happened to be seen by a national audience in prime time. I see the Giants and 49ers as the other two teams that can stake a claim to that spot, but the Bears have the lightest remaining schedule of the three. That's the biggest factor.

    [Related: Jay Cutler toughs it out after a brutal (but legal) sack]

    • I know I took my sweet time in getting around to taking the Bears seriously, but I think it's time to admit my folly. I can't deny them anymore. My reasoning for holding back on the Bears was Jay Cutler, and no, I haven't come around on Cutler, but it's becoming increasingly clear that the Bears don't need Jay's A game to succeed. I still consider him a good candidate to blow a playoff game, but as far as the regular season goes, Jay can relax, light one up, and let the defense do the heavy lifting.

    Read More »from Absurdly premature 2012 playoff picture: Week 7
  • AP

    There is, as we speak, a better than 40 percent chance that your favorite NFL team has exactly three wins. If that team is in the AFC, that chance goes up to 56 percent. Right now in the NFL, there's a few really good teams, a few really bad teams, and in the middle, one of those giant cartoon cloud of humanity with random arms and legs sticking out. Differentiating one from the other is near impossible.

    And yet, we still try. There are no ties in the Power Rankings. We dig into that giant cartoon pile, pull everyone out, and organize them into a handy chart. The biggest movers this week on the positive side are the Saints, Cowboys and Titans. Nose-diving are the Cardinals (again), Browns, Ravens and especially, the Bills.

    1. Atlanta Falcons (6-0)
    Last week: 1

    Off this week. As the only undefeated team remaining, they deserve our No. 1 spot.

    2. Houston Texans (6-1)
    Last week: 3
    Blown out one week, then they blow someone out the next. Man, this league makes no sense. I guess that's what an NFL season is — every team plays a bunch of games, and then it's your job to figure out which results mean something, and which are a fluke or the result of some other reality-bending circumstance. In the case of the Texans, I'm going with the blowout at the hands of Green Bay as a fluke. There's more evidence supporting the Texans as an elite team, capable of stomping the life out of the limping Ravens.

    3. New York Giants (5-2)
    Last week: 2

    I feel like most teams would've been beaten by that effort from the Washington RGIIIs, so credit to the Giants for sticking around and pulling out a W. That said, let's not go overboard in kneeling at the feet of Eli Manning for being clutch. It was a good read and a good throw, but more than anything else, that was a bust by the Redskins. Safety Madieu Williams guessed wrong on a route and paved Cruz a yellow-brick road to the end zone.

    Read More »from NFL power rankings: This is what parity looks like
  • Week 7′s five least valuable players

    5. Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars. I guess you could view Henne as an MVP if you're concerned much about Blaine Gabbert's feelings. Because after watching a half of Henne, the people of Jacksonville may better appreciate Gabbert's special brand of mediocrity, or at least prefer it to Henne's brand of awful. When Gabbert left the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter, he left Henne a 17-3 lead. Two and a half quarters later, the Jags had only managed two first downs and the Oakland Raiders went on a little 23-6 run to win 26-23. Henne went 9 of 20 for 71 yards and was sacked three times.

    4. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton's postgame press conferences are about as uplifting as watching "Old Yeller" in a Malaysian prison cell. Newton's Panthers had every chance to beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, and probably would have, had Newton had a better game. Being hit as he chucked the ball, Newton threw a first-half interception in the end zone. The Cowboys won 19-14 and Newton had a QB rating under 80 for the third time in the last four games.

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    Read More »from Week 7′s five least valuable players
  • Week 7′s five most valuable players

    US Presswire

    5. Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers. He's a round-ish running back in a Steelers uniform, so it's easy to compare him to Jerome Bettis, but I don't know that it can be avoided. It wasn't just that he looked like Bettis, either. The Steelers got to hand the ball to a mauler with nifty feet and let him salt away a game, while the opposition stood there helpless. If that doesn't evoke Bettis, nothing will.

    4. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants. The opposing secondary was awfully accommodating on the play, but someone still had to run the route, catch the ball and take it to the painted grass. It seems like Victor Cruz comes up with at least one game-changer a week, and this one gave the Giants a 27-23 win over the Washington Redskins.

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    Not only that, it put the Giants in first place in the NFC East and had to wound the Redskins emotionally. The underdogs played well, and Robert Griffin III was brilliant, and just before the buzzer, Eli Manning and Victor Cruz did what they do and snatched a crucial win out of the Redskins' hungry mouths.

    Read More »from Week 7′s five most valuable players
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    The Jets continue to try to find new ways to use backup quarterback Tim Tebow, either despite or because everything else they've tried with him has failed.

    Tebow's only real success so far this season came on the gorgeously thrown textbook pass he made to Nick Bellore on a fake punt this past Sunday (see video above). Aside from that, the Tebow in New York experiment has been pretty much a bust. He's only attempted three passes, and on 18 rushing attempts is averaging just 3.6 yards a carry, despite one of those attempts going for 22 yards.

    But he can always expand his horizons. Up next: Running back. And why not? The young man still doesn't have a handle on the position he practiced for four years in college, so why not assume he can play a different position at an NFL level immediately?

    Head coach Rex Ryan talked about Tebow the running back on Thursday.

    "That's a possibility," Ryan said. "The thing about Tim, with him being a football player like we've always talked about, by playing quarterback he knows all the positions and so, can you plug him in at running back? Can you plug him in at tight end, whatever? I think the answer is yes."

    Well sure, they can. If they want to, they can sign Kerri Strug and start her at middle linebacker, but that doesn't make it a good idea.

    Read More »from Tim Tebow at running back is something Rex Ryan would consider
  • APThe New England Patriots are accustomed to accusations of illegal behavior. This one, though, they won't lose any sleep over.

    Calvin Pace, linebacker for the rival New York Jets, complained about the tempo at which the Patriots run their offense, calling it "borderline illegal." I believe he meant it as flattery more than an accusation, but you can decide how to interpret it. Here's the quote, via ESPN's Rich Cimini:

    "It's borderline illegal because sometimes the guys aren't always set when they snap the ball," Pace said Wednesday. "But it's smart. Why not hurry a team up? I wish we would do it. For a defense, it just puts pressure on you."

    The Patriots like to snap the ball as quickly as they can ‒ when the official spots the ball and the next play can begin. The idea is that the defense has less time to get substitutions on the field and get themselves into the alignment they want. It's nothing new or revolutionary ‒ it's a fairly common practice in college football and is becoming more widely used in the NFL, too.

    Pace even said he wishes the Jets would do it, which is a nice thought, but maybe the Jets should first get to a point where they can successfully execute plays at a normal pace. There's no reason to rush all those three-and-outs.

    Read More »from Jets linebacker complains that Patriots offense is ‘borderline illegal’
  • Top AFC seeds: Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens
    Other AFC division champs: New England Patriots, Denver Broncos
    AFC Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins

    Top NFC seeds: Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants
    Other NFC division champs: San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers
    NFC Wild Cards: Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles

    • Your eyes do not deceive you, and no one mixed LSD into your cereal this morning. That is indeed the Miami Dolphins in the Absurdly Premature Playoff Picture. I'll do my best to explain.

    • It pretty much boils down to the AFC being an indistinguishable jumble of teams that will finish between 7-9 and 9-7. There are precisely two teams with winning records, and they occupy the top two spots ‒ the Ravens and Texans. After that, if you eliminate the Browns, Titans, Jaguars, Raiders and Chiefs on the ground of being at two games or more under .500 already, you're left with the Chargers, Steelers, Bengals, and the scrap heap that is the AFC East. It's not an attractive list of options. I'll take you through how I landed on Miami.

    • Of the eligible teams listed above, the Chargers have the best point differential on the season at +11 (only Pittsburgh at +1 and Miami at +3 are also on the positive side of the ledger). That works in their favor, as does the number of "should win" games left on their schedule: @Cleveland, KC, @Tampa Bay, Cincy, Carolina, @NYJ and Oakland.

    • But with a great big Stephen A. Smith However … the unspeakable evens of Monday night happened. That was real. It was not some devastating football night terror. The Chargers are about as emotionally healthy right now as Ellen Burstyn character in "Requiem for a Dream." Losses like that are how people end up with the demeanor and mannerisms for Norv Turner. I don't know if they can recover emotionally, and even if they do, I don't know if Philip Rivers can right that thing. I'm going to need to see the Chargers come back after the bye week and do something against Cleveland other than ball themselves up in the fetal position and suck their thumbs. It'll be two weeks before I will even consider considering them again.

    Read More »from Absurdly premature 2012 playoff picture: Week 6
  • AP

    It's going to be a rough week for the "We just beat them, so now we should be ranked ahead of them" crowd. Just about everyone in the league refused to comply with their spot in the power rankings, as the teams slotted 19th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 27th, 28th, 30th and 31st won, while the teams ranked 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th all lost.

    What's a power ranker supposed to do with that? Give up on the concept of power rankings as fruitless and indicative of nothing? I refuse. I will revise, adjust and adapt to the ever-shifting climate of the league. Just probably not as quickly as you would like.

    We've got a lot of big movers this week. All told, nine teams move five or more spots, but the most significant movement came from one game ‒ the Jets leapt up by a staggering 10 spots, and the Colts dropped by nine. Read on to see where your team ranks, and be sure to complain about it in the comments below.

    1. Atlanta Falcons (6-0)
    Last week: 1

    There are those who point to the Falcons' record of 6-0 and believe they're the best team in football. There are also those who think they're overrated and point to their struggles against Carolina and Washington, and now this week's slopfest against Oakland. Which group is right? The former. Power rankings do not lie.

    2. New York Giants (4-2)
    Last week: 4

    It seems like it took that big win against the 49ers to remind everyone that the Giants are pretty good. Noted ‒ the Giants are pretty good. And they didn't even call on the aerial assault of Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. They basically won without them. Manning was under 200 yards passing and Cruz and Nicks combined for 104. When that pass rush is on, they really don't need much else.

    3. Houston Texans (5-1)
    Last week: 2

    So they got clobbered on Sunday night against the Packers ‒ what's the takeaway? That Aaron Rodgers might still be a really good quarterback, and that the Texans are not a perfect football team? Neither of these items need be accompanied by a "Breaking News" graphic. They hacked up a furball against a desperate team that played their best football of the season. It happens.

    Read More »from NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks and Packers rising, Steelers and Bengals falling

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