AFC North: Pitsburgh Steelers
Our divisional bloggers discuss one thing they'd change as commissioner for a day:
James Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers would not have disparaging remarks for me as NFL commissioner. In fact, Harrison would be happier and have a lot more money in his pocket if I were running the league.
The first thing I would do as NFL commissioner is veto the league's increased fines and penalties on big hits. Football has always been a very physical game, and that's a major reason why it's the most popular sport in America. Injuries are an occupational hazard and players know what they're getting into.
No football player is in favor of a softer, less physical league, which is where things are going. I think it's very important to preserve the physical essence of the game.
Similarly, I would push for several rule changes to help the defense. Many rules in recent years have been made by the competition committee to help the offense -- particularly the passing game -- and increase scoring. This is not the Arena Football League. Fans do not need to see scores in the 50s and 60s.
Next, it's getting increasingly difficult to stop the pass. So I would push to loosen the rules on pass interference and covering receivers.
If I were commissioner, defensive players could keep their hands on receivers for 10 yards, instead of five, to slow receivers' routes. Also, I'd change the pass-interference rule to 15 yards and an automatic first down, instead of spotting the ball at the point of the foul. The 15-yard college rule makes more sense.
Let's give more help to the defense.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The game of the year in the AFC will take place in Nashville Sunday when the streaking Pittsburgh Steelers travel to face the Tennessee Titans. The winner of this game will take possession of the No. 1 seed in the conference with one week remaining.
Pittsburgh has won five straight with high-quality victories over the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers during that span. Tennessee has sputtered, losing two of its last four, which included last week's defeat to the Houston Texans.
The Titans will be without their two best defensive linemen, Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, due to injury, which could favor Pittsburgh. The Steelers' offensive line has been inconsistent this season but should have more success Sunday than originally projected.
The Battle of Ohio will add another chapter Sunday when the Cleveland Browns host the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams are simply playing out their seasons as playoff hopes faded a long time ago.
This game is trickier to predict than it looks. The Browns have twice the victories this season and are at home. But they have been awful during their four-game losing streak and have failed to score an offensive touchdown over that span.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are coming off their most impressive win of the season over the Washington Redskins. With remaining games against the Browns and Kansas City Chiefs (2-12), Cincinnati has a chance to end the year on a positive note.
But first the Bengals must get their act together on the road, where they are 0-7. The Browns also have struggled at home with a 1-6 mark.
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