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Path: /college-football/maryland-terrapins-vs-penn-state-nittany-lions-preview-and-prediction-2016

The budding rivalry between Penn State and Maryland continues this weekend as the Nittany Lions host the Terrapins in Big Ten East play. This will be the third meeting between the old rivals since Maryland joined the Big Ten, and Maryland will head into the game with its third different coach in the renewed series, as DJ Durkin looks to continue his good start in his debut season at the helm.


The importance of this game is not to be overlooked as both Durkin and Maryland and James Franklin and Penn State look to establish the upper hand in regional recruiting battles on the field. The road team has won each of the past two seasons and the rivalry between the two programs continues to grow. What will this season’s matchup in Happy Valley have in store?


Maryland at Penn State


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Maryland -2


Three Things to Watch


1. Maryland is nearly automatic inside the red zone
A year ago, Maryland was next to last in the 14-team Big Ten in terms of red zone scoring percentage. The Terps converted just 26 of their 32 red zone trips for any kind of score, be it a touchdown or a field goal, in 2015. Only Illinois struggled to score points inside the red zone more than Maryland, among Big Ten teams (Oddly enough, Ohio State was 12th in the conference inside the red zone). If there is one thing that has been drastically different through the first four games of Maryland’s season, it is the red zone success rate. Maryland leads the Big Ten in red zone scoring percentage, converting 94.74 percent of their red zone opportunities for scores (tied with Minnesota). The Terps also are fourth in the Big Ten in red zone touchdown percentage, with 73.68 percent of their trips inside their opponents’ 20-yard line resulting in a touchdown.


2. Jesse Aniebonam could be a real problem for Penn State’s offensive line
Penn State’s offensive line continues to be a pretty valid question mark any time the Nittany Lions take the field, although there has been a sign of some improvement this season. This weekend, they could have their work cut out for them as Maryland’s Jesse Aniebonam has been off to a pretty solid start wreaking havoc on opposing offenses this season. Aniebonam already has recorded four sacks, good for third in the Big Ten. He should be a handful for Penn State’s O-line.


3. Can Penn State finally avoid a slow start?
Through the first four games of the season, Penn State has been outscored in the first half by a combined score of 79-51. That includes a 28-0 shutout in the first half at Michigan two weeks ago and last week’s 13-3 deficit at home against Minnesota. Penn State has developed a bit of a knack for starting slowly and then coming on in the second half, which is a credit for being able to make adjustments and hanging in there, but it is an area that can cost Penn State in a big way. If Maryland can establish some drives on the ground, the Terrapins can wear down Penn State’s defense. Teams that can spread the ball around can lead to a sloppy start all-around by the Nittany Lions. Getting an early touchdown drive should be essential for Penn State.


Final Analysis


Maryland has all sorts of momentum on its side as the Terrapins head north of the Mason-Dixon line this week, and there should be no reason to be intimidated coming in, especially with a playmaker like defensive back/return specialist Will Likely. That said, Penn State is still going to make some plays that can swing a game in its favor in the second half, as has typically been the case this season. Penn State picking up a win last weekend at home gave this team a little bit of a confidence boost, and Maryland will have to find a way to keep running back Saquon Barkley from tearing its defense up. Barkley rushed 20 times for 65 yards against the Terps last year, but he has improved since then and should be a bigger factor this time around.


Prediction: Penn State 33, Maryland 31


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook

Maryland Terrapins vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction-2016

Editor’s note: Around 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, the SEC announced that Saturday’s scheduled game between LSU and Florida had been “postponed indefinitely” due to the projected impact of Hurricane Matthew. This preview was posted before that decision was made.


In their first game without Les Miles as their head coach, the LSU Tigers led by interim head coach Ed Orgeron stomped the Missouri Tigers 42-7 last Saturday. With starting running back Leonard Fournette sidelined because of an ankle injury, backup running back Derrius Guice rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns in the home rout.


Orgeron will go for his second win this weekend as the Tigers will travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators in The Swamp.


Florida is coming off of a 13-7 win over Vanderbilt in a game that didn’t feature much offense. Gators running back Jordan Scarlett ran for a four-yard touchdown and Eddy Pineiro added a pair of field goals to hold off the Commodores.


Saturday will be the 63rd meeting between LSU and Florida. The Gators lead the all-time series 31-28-3. However, the Tigers have won the past three games between the cross-divisional foes.


LSU at Florida


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Luke Del Rio
After missing the last two games because of injury, Florida starting quarterback Luke Del Rio is expected to play against LSU on Saturday. Del Rio suffered a knee sprain against North Texas, but it appears he is ready to be back under center for the Gators.


Under Del Rio, the Gators went 3-0 as he threw for 762 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Florida's offense also was more productive with Del Rio at the helm, as the Gators averaged 33.6 points per game.


With backup quarterback Austin Appleby, the Gators averaged just 20.5 points over their last two games. Last weekend against Vanderbilt, Florida managed just 236 yards of offense, so the team is hoping for better results with Del Rio back under center.


2. Danny Etling
Since taking over for Brandon Harris, Etling has performed better under center for LSU. The problem is the Tigers' offense just lacks consistency as the team is still relying too much on its rushing attack.


Etling will be severely tested this weekend as he will face a Florida defense that is one of the best in the nation. The Gators are second in the country in total defense at 229.8 yards per game. They also are tied for fourth in sacks with a total of 19 or 3.8 per game.


3. Gators' Defense
Florida will enter this week’s game against LSU with a number of key injuries on defense. The team is already without defensive tackle Joey Ivie (thumb) and defensive end Jordan Sherit is now sidelined because of a knee injury. Florida also might be without defensive ends Bryan Cox Jr. and Caleb Brantley (hand).


With all of those injuries, the Gators could have a tough time containing the Tigers’ running game. Even with star running back Leonard Fournette limited by an ankle injury, LSU is averaging 237 yards on the ground per game, which ranks 21st in the nation.


The past two weeks against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, the Gators have given up 323 yards rushing on nearly four yards per carry. Against Missouri last week, LSU ran for 418 yards and six touchdowns.


Final Analysis


If you are a fan of high-powered offenses then you will probably be disappointed in this game. Both LSU and Florida are offensively challenged even though the Tigers appeared to open up their offense a bit more a week ago following the coaching changes.


The matchup that this game will come down to is the Florida defense versus LSU’s ground attack. If the Tigers can have success running the football against Florida’s injury-depleted defensive line, it could end up being a long day in The Swamp for the Gators.


Florida will need to contain the LSU on the ground just enough to force Danny Etling to throw the ball more. If the Gators can do that, they will have a chance to cause some turnovers and mistakes that could be the difference in a close game. Even without All-SEC running back Leonard Fournette, who may not play because of a lingering ankle injury, to carry this could prove to be a big challenge.


Prediction: LSU 27, Florida 20


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

LSU Tigers vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-nc-state-wolfpack-preview-and-prediction-2016

After a 33-16 victory over previously unbeaten Wake Forest last Saturday, NC State is now 3-1. The Week 2 loss to East Carolina is in the past and the Wolfpack have built some momentum.


That’s a good thing because the Wolfpack open a very difficult three-game stretch by hosting Notre Dame this Saturday. Road trips to Clemson and Louisville will follow in the succeeding weeks, so having some confidence heading into this part of the schedule is a good thing.


First things first: Notre Dame enters after winning a 50-33 shootout with Syracuse. The Irish did seem to play with more passion, though it’s always easier to have fun when you control the action.


These two teams have met up once before, with the Philip Rivers-led Wolfpack coming away with a 28-6 win in the 2003 Gator Bowl.


Notre Dame at NC State


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: NC State -1


Three Things to Watch

1. Turnovers
Thankfully, it appears that Raleigh will not be affected by Hurricane Matthew. However, rain is in the forecast for Friday into Saturday, making wet conditions a real possibility. Ball security is always important, and on a soggy field game-changing turnovers often occur. NC State has given the ball away just three times this season — two fumbles and one interception — and is plus-one in turnover margin. On the other hand, Notre Dame is 109th in turnover margin at minus-four and is one of just two teams that have not forced a fumble this season. Going in, the Wolfpack is the team that is better at limiting mistakes.


2. Ryan Finley

NC State lost one of the best quarterbacks in program history when Jacoby Brissett finished his career last fall. Sophomore Jalan McClendon was expected to be the starter, but Boise State graduate transfer Ryan Finley has taken hold of the position. On the season, Finley has completed better than 72 percent of his passes and has improved each week. Against a very good Wake Forest defense, he had his first 300-yard passing game for the Pack to go along with three touchdowns and no picks. If running back Matt Dayes, who is averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game, is able to soften Notre Dame on the ground, more success could be waiting for Finley this week as he faces the country’s 106th-ranked pass defense.


3. Notre Dame Passing Game

Similarly, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer also has put up big numbers this year. Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown has developed into a true big-play threat, averaging 21.6 yards per catch and hauling in six touchdown passes in five games. NC State has a middle-of-the-road pass defense, but last week the Wolfpack gave up 283 yards to a Wake Forest team that was averaging fewer than 150 passing yards per game. With a running game that has been sluggish so far this season, look for the Irish to put the ball up early and often.


Final Analysis


The weather could be a major factor in the game and the team that wins may be the one whose quarterback can handle the elements better. DeShone Kizer experienced extremely wet conditions last year in the game at Clemson. In that game, Irish turnovers led to a loss. That has been an issue for Notre Dame so far this season too, even in good weather. Though they had two sacks against Syracuse, the Irish have struggled putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, haven’t stopped the pass, and are 89th against the run even after holding the Orange to just 126 on the ground. The tough Wolfpack rushing defense will make Notre Dame one-dimensional, their offense will find an acceptable balance with QB Ryan Finley and RB Matt Dayes, and they will win the turnover battle to come away with a big victory.


Prediction: NC State 38, Notre Dame 31


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. NC State Wolfpack Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/boise-state-broncos-vs-new-mexico-lobos-preview-and-prediction-2016

It’s beginning to look more and more like Boise State will have a shot to crash the New Year’s Six Bowl festivities – so long as the Broncos can successfully navigate an underrated Mountain West schedule from here on out. On paper, Boise State won’t face a single team with more talent than what it has, but as they say, that’s why they play the game.


New Mexico comes into the matchup with a 2-2 record, having lost to Rutgers and in-state rival New Mexico State. If nothing else, the Lobos have proved that they can score in 2016, hanging more than 38 points per game on the scoreboard. That could become a factor, as Boise State has not been able to pull away from any of its opponents since the first weekend of the season.


Boise State at New Mexico


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBSSN

Spread: Boise State -17


Three Things to Watch


1. Can New Mexico figure out how to slow down Jeremy McNichols?

Boise State’s do-everything back has piled up 720 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season. He is without a doubt the key cog in the Bronco offensive attack. Look for New Mexico head coach Bob Davie to try to take him away as an option as often as possible – much like teams are doing with Christian McCaffrey this year – and force Boise State’s other weapons to beat his Lobos. If New Mexico can have any sort of success in doing that, they absolutely have the ability to compete to the end in a shootout.


2. Can Boise State keep the Lobo quarterbacks in the pocket?

Both Austin Apodaca and Lamar Jordan are mobile quarterbacks who do their best work on the run – largely outside the pocket. Davie’s pistol offense can be tricky to defend at times, but the Broncos really need to find a way to set the edge and force both Lobo quarterbacks to improvise and try to win with their arms. The last thing Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin wants is for his defense to have to deal with New Mexico running back Teriyon Gipson getting his hands on a pitch downfield. If New Mexico can get the option going, things could get interesting.


3. Can New Mexico pressure Rypien?

Even if the Lobos can take McNichols out of the equation, they’ll still need to get pressure on the Boise State signal-caller. That’s easier said than done. The Broncos are among the best in the nation in terms of keeping their quarterback clean. If Brett Rypien is given any time to make reads, he will find a target – McNichols or not. Expect Davie to have some exotic blitzes up his sleeve in an effort to test the Boise front five early on.


Final Analysis


For New Mexico to have any chance of winning this game, all three of the previous questions need to be answered in the Lobos' favor. That’s highly unlikely, simply given the level of talent Boise State brings to the table. The Broncos have too many weapons on offense for New Mexico to account for, and any attempt to key on one particular player is likely going to open up the opportunity for big plays elsewhere. On the other side of the ball, it’s tough to call the Lobos anything but one-dimensional. There’s no reason Boise State can’t snuff out New Mexico’s pistol-option with fundamental assignment football executed by superior athletes. The Broncos have shown a tendency to play to the level of their opponent this season, but it’s hard to imagine this game ending in anything but a blowout.


Prediction: Boise State 45, New Mexico 17


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on,, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.


(Photos courtesy of Boise State media relations)

Boise State Broncos vs. New Mexico Lobos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/smu-mustangs-vs-tulsa-golden-hurricane-preview-and-prediction-2016

American Athletic Conference rivals SMU and Tulsa are set to square off for a national television audience Friday night and play in front of a black out at H.A. Chapman Stadium. The Mustangs have already matched their win total from 2015 after beating North Texas and Liberty, and are battle tested, having lost to Big 12 title contenders Baylor and TCU. SMU kicked off league play with a 45-20 loss to Temple last Saturday.


Tulsa comes in hot following one of the largest comeback victories in NCAA Division I history. Running back D’Angelo Brewer racked up a career-high 224 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Golden Hurricane moved to 3-1 with a 48-41 win over Fresno State two weeks ago. Tulsa trailed 31-0 in the first half but stormed back to cut the deficit to 31-21 by halftime and took a 35-34 lead in the fourth quarter before winning in double overtime. It was the largest come-from-behind win in school history and tied for the second-largest ever at the FBS level.


SMU at Tulsa


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Tulsa -17


Three Things to Watch


1. Offensive Pedigrees
SMU head coach Chad Morris and Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery earned their respective positions following impressive stints as offensive play-callers. Morris was an ultra-successful high school coach in Texas before moving on to become the offensive coordinator at Tulsa and then Clemson.


Even without dual-threat senior quarterback Matt Davis, who was injured in the season opener and hasn’t played since, the Mustangs have shown improvement offensively in 2016. SMU has averaged 416.0 total yards of offense per game and 5.49 yards per play this season, an improvement of 33.2 yards per game and 0.2 yards per play compared to 2015. SMU also is averaging 4.56 yards per rushing attempt this season compared to 3.92 a year ago.


However, there is much room for improvement. SMU ranks 125th in the country in red zone offense (61.9 percent), No. 121 in turnovers (13), No. 120 in completion percentage (49.5 percent), 119th in passing efficiency (103.85), and No. 117 in scoring offense (19.8 points per game). Redshirt freshman QB Ben Hicks has completed 50.6 percent of his passes for 1,026 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions in place of Davis and will start again this week.


Montgomery, who acts as his own offensive coordinator with the Golden Hurricane, was an assistant at Baylor and helped the Bears lead the nation in both scoring offense and total offense twice in three seasons as OC and quarterbacks coach. Last season, Montgomery’s first at the helm, Tulsa amassed more than 500 yards of total offense in eight different games and scored more than 40 points six times.


Under Montgomery’s tutelage, Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans threw for 4,332 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2015. Through four games this season, Evans has added 888 yards and eight touchdown passes, which pushed his career totals to 9,200 and 60. The QB has climbed high on Tulsa’s career leaderboards and has a legitimate shot to finish his career with the school record in both categories.


Tulsa has surpassed 40 points in three of four games thus far, but the Golden Hurricane have yet to surpass 500 yards this season. Also, the Tulsa offensive line has allowed an average of 3.25 sacks per game, which ranks 113th in the country.


2. High Risk, High Reward Defenses
The Mustangs also have made improvement on defense under Morris. Though the unit ranks next to last in the conference in total defense (433.4 ypg), SMU leads the nation with 12 interceptions and ranks second with 14 takeaways. Defensive backs Jordan Wyatt and Horace Richardson share the national lead with four picks apiece, including two Wyatt returned for touchdowns. The Mustangs have picked off at least one pass in each of their five games this season and have recorded multiple interceptions four times.


The Golden Hurricane also have made big plays on the defensive side of the ball. Tulsa has forced eight turnovers this season (four fumbles, four INTs), two of which were returned for touchdowns. Safety McKinley Whitfield has an interception, recovered a fumble for a touchdown on special teams and has blocked two punts. Tulsa also came up huge defensively in overtime against Fresno State, forcing a turnover in the first extra period and stopping the Bulldogs on four plays in the second to seal the comeback victory.


3. Big-Play Wide Receivers
Two of the best wide receivers in the league will be on display Friday night. Tulsa’s Keevan Lucas tallied 101 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 TDs as a sophomore in 2014 but missed the majority of last season due to injury. Lucas has re-emerged as Evans’ favorite target this season with a team-best 24 catches for 395 yards (16.5 ypr) and five touchdowns. He has surpassed 100 yards in three of four games.


SMU sophomore Courtland Sutton has an NFL frame (6-4, 224) and has used it to haul in 22 receptions for 492 yards — a gaudy 22.4 yards per catch — and four scores. Like Lucas, Sutton also has surpassed the century mark three times this season.


Final Analysis


Tulsa and SMU share many similarities and are relatively evenly matched. However, the Golden Hurricane are well rested following a bye while the Mustangs must travel across state lines for the second straight game, this time for a Friday night matchup on a short week. SMU also will be forced to start backup QB Ben Hicks for the fifth time this season while Tulsa’s Dane Evans is set to make his 35th career start. Expect the veteran QB to make fewer mistakes and to lead his team to victory.


Prediction: Tulsa 38, SMU 24


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.


(Photos courtesy of The University of Tulsa)

SMU Mustangs vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-boston-college-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2016

Maybe playing at home under the lights on a Friday night against a national power will ignite the type of spark Boston College desperately needs at the moment.


As Clemson comes to Chestnut Hill on the heels of a thrilling win over Louisville last Saturday night that — at this early stage — appears to have major implications for the ACC Atlantic Division title and a College Football Playoff berth; the Tigers have to feel pretty good about where they stand compared to the beginning of the season, when their offense struggled a bit and a couple of their wins were too close for comfort.


Meanwhile, the Eagles may have gotten a bit of a confidence boost over the last two weeks, but the level of competition, with wins over Wagner and Buffalo, may not count for all that much in that department. For a program that hasn't won an ACC game since 2014, beating an FCS opponent and a struggling MAC team aren't going to calm a fan base that is restless for some actual progress.


Alumni Stadium's official attendance listed for the Buffalo game was 24,203, but the photos of the stands reveal it was probably a much smaller crowd than that.


Expect a bigger one when the Tigers come rolling in. The Eagles will be honoring 9/11 hero Welles Crowther, and the last two times they did, in a 2014 win over USC and loss to Florida State last year, the atmoshperes were electric. It could provide a boost for the hosts even if the prospects of an upset remain dim.


Clemson at Boston College


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Clemson -17


Three Things to Watch


1. Hangover effect

The Louisville game was the premier matchup nationally last week and lived up to its billing. A 42-36 win over the Cardinals and Heisman Trophy front-runner Lamar Jackson made for great drama and put Clemson in the driver's seat for every goal set out at the beginning of the season. However, it is inevitable that the emotional high from that showdown will result in a bit of a comedown against a Boston College team that is struggling and desperate to secure both its first ACC win in two years and some job security for head coach Steve Addazio. To avoid the shocker, Clemson has to approach this considerably weaker opponent with the same focus as it did a week ago.


2. Attack point

Say what you want about Boston College's overall state, but its front seven remains one of the best in the ACC. From defensive end Harold Landry to tackle Ray Smith to linebackers Matt Milano and Connor Strachan, that group is as capable of disrupting Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson's timing and closing running lanes for running back Wayne Gallman as anyone on the Tigers' schedule. On the flipside, Clemson's front seven is even more talented with better depth, so the challenges for both offensive lines in this game to help keep their quarterbacks clean and sustain drives are significant.


3. Two-headed Eagle

It's no secret that even though the Eagles have become more balanced with new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and quarterback Patrick Towles, this program still butters its bread by running the ball between the tackles. And while, yes, Wagner and Buffalo are not the best teams to gauge success in that respect, Addazio said the offensive line has made progress over that span. Junior Jonathan Hilliman remains the team's most talented running back and best breakaway threat, but the emergence of Davon Jones is something to keep an eye on. The redshirt freshman played defensive back and wide receiver in high school, but his 5-foot-10, 214-pound frame is better suited as a ball carrier. Although his 53 yards on 14 carries against the Bulls aren't eye-popping numbers, if the local product from Worcester, Mass., can provide an adequate complement to Hilliman, the Eagles will be in better position to establish the type of identity they're accustomed to.


Final Analysis


There may be a bit of an emotional letdown for the Tigers, but the level of confidence gained from last week's win should override that sentiment. Both defenses are strong, but Clemson's offense is light-years better than anything Boston College has fielded in a long time, and having faced the likes of Auburn and Louisville already, the Tigers have seen talented units just as daunting. The closest barometer to Clemson the Eagles have faced to this point is Virginia Tech, and the Hokies rolled to a 42-0 drubbing in that meeting. It's possible that the Eagles make the Tigers work for it a little harder than expected, but Clemson's talent and depth advantage should eventually lead to a decisive victory.


Prediction: Clemson 38, Boston College 7


— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.

Clemson Tigers vs. Boston College Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-6-start-or-sit-2016

We are entering Week 6 of the college fantasy football season and monitoring the weather reports will be paramount as Hurricane Matthew will make its way up the Florida, Georgia and Carolina coast this weekend and will likely impact inland areas in that region and beyond. A few games have already been moved and chances are there could be more changes to the schedule to come. So be sure set your lineups early and track all weather situations leading up to game time.


Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Deshaun Watson or Leonard Fournette as those players are typically starters regardless of the matchup.


Also below are the top 10 rankings for each position for the given week.




Start ’Em


Ryan Finley, NC State vs. Notre Dame

The Boise State transfer quarterback has come on strong in recent weeks with six passing touchdowns in his last two games. The sophomore now has 10 TDs on the year with zero interceptions and an overall QB rating of more than 183. That spells bad news for a Notre Dame defense that has given up at least 240 passing yards in four out of its first five games this season. The Irish currently rank 106th in pass defense and opposing quarterbacks have a combined QB rating of 147.5 against them. About 200 passing yards and two touchdowns is probably the floor for Finley this week.


Greg Windham, Ohio vs. Bowling Green

Windham caught our eye as a potential fantasy option right off the bat in Week 1 with his performance against Texas State, throwing for 393 yards and four touchdowns in the overtime loss. The senior quarterback followed that up with more than 300 total yards of offense and two touchdowns against Kansas, leading many to pick Windham up off of waivers. His numbers have been merely average the last three weeks, but there could not be a better team to have a rebound performance against than Bowling Green these days. The Falcons have given up the most TD passes in the country (20) and currently rank second to last in the FBS in total defense, allowing more than 540 yards per game. Windham’s dual-threat ability makes him an appealing choice at quarterback against a D that cannot stop the run or pass.


Sit ’Em


Deondre Francois, Florida State vs. Miami

Regardless of the weather, Francois would still likely be a potential sit option due to the matchup. Miami currently ranks third in the country in pass defense, allowing just 137 yards per game and a total of two TD passes. That said, much of this decision has to do with the all but certain inclement weather that is expected to hit South Florida. As of now, it is looking like 50 percent chance of rain during the game, which never helps when trying to throw the football. And again, this is just one of many games that could be affected by the elements, so make sure you are selecting your lineups with this in mind.


Tyler Jones, Texas State vs. Georgia State

It has been a roller-coaster of a season just four games in for the senior. After putting up 418 passing yards and five total touchdowns in the season opener against Ohio, Jones went scoreless the next two weeks against Arkansas and Houston, combining for fewer than 200 yards total in the process. He rebounded last week against Incarnate Word with 475 yards and five touchdowns, showing me that his success rate is really dependent on the opponent. While on paper, you may look at a 0-4 Georgia State team as a good matchup for Jones, dig a little deeper and you will see that the Panthers are fourth in the country in pass defense and have not allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 143 yards against them.


Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 6:

Davis Webb, California vs. Oregon State

Kenny Hill, TCU vs. Kansas

Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech vs. Western Kentucky

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State vs. Indiana

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame vs. NC State

Luke Falk, Washington State vs. Stanford

Logan Woodside, Toledo vs. Eastern Michigan

Greg Ward Jr., Houston vs. Navy

Josh Rosen, UCLA vs. Arizona State

Eric Dungey, Syracuse vs. Wake Forest


Running Backs


Start ’Em


D’Onta Foreman, Texas vs. Oklahoma

News came out earlier in the week that Foreman’s running mate Chris Warren is expected to be out 6-8 weeks after suffering a knee injury against Oklahoma State. With Warren out for the foreseeable future, Foreman is expected to get the bulk of the carries with freshman Kyle Porter now sliding into the team’s No. 2 role. Foreman also left last week’s game early with an abdominal injury but has said he expects to start against Oklahoma. When in the lineup, Foreman has been the team’s best back, topping 100 yards and accounting for at least one touchdown in each of the three games. He should see 20-plus carries against the Sooners this weekend, a team against which he ran for more than 100 yards against on just nine carries a season ago.


Aaron Duckworth, Idaho vs. Louisiana-Monroe

We haven’t heard much from Duckworth since Week 1 where he ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns against Montana State, but that is likely to change this weekend. His opponent on Saturday, Louisiana-Monroe, currently ranks dead last in the nation against the run, allowing 320 yards per game. Against Auburn last week, ULM gave up 410 rushing yards and five touchdowns, with five different Tigers gaining at least 40 yards. With Duckworth, though, you won’t have to worry about carry distribution as he has 48 more than the next closest back on the team. A busy day (20-plus carries) and at least 100 yards is the expectation this week. 


Sit ’Em


Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. Air Force

Taking a top-10 running back like Hill out of your lineup is nerve-racking as he already has three 100-yard rushing performances and at least one touchdown in every game this season. But the matchup against Air Force will force you to consider sitting him as the Falcons currently rank second in the country in run defense, allowing just 1.84 yards per carry and 53 yards per game. In Air Force’s four games, the most yards allowed to an opposing back has been 42, and that came in the season opener. Last week against Navy, a team that ranked near the top 10 nationally in rushing coming into the game, Air Force held the Midshipmen to just 57 rushing yards on 38 carries.


Teriyon Gipson, New Mexico vs. Boise State

Gipson has had to make the most of his limited opportunities the first month of the season as he has not topped 12 carries in a game yet has two 100-yard performances and five rushing TDs already. That seems to be a trend with the New Mexico rushing attack, as the Lobos have six players with 20 carries on the season, which limits Gipson’s value despite averaging a gaudy 12.9 yards per carry. His toughest test to date comes Saturday against a Boise State defense that is allowing just 2.4 yards per carry and has not allowed an opposing rusher to top 66 yards this season.


Top 10 Running Backs for Week 6:

Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State vs. UNLV

D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa vs. SMU

Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. New Mexico

Aaron Jones, UTEP vs. FIU

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford vs. Washington State

Dalvin Cook, Florida State vs. Miami

James Butler, Nevada vs. Fresno State

Royce Freeman, Oregon vs. Washington

Kyle Hicks, TCU vs. Kansas

Ito Smith, Southern Miss vs. UTSA


Wide Receivers


Start ’Em


Darren Andrews, UCLA vs. Arizona State

I think the secret is out, just based upon this column alone, as to how poorly Arizona State has defended the pass this season. In just his second career start last week, USC quarterback Sam Darnold had a huge game against the Sun Devils with 352 passing yards and three touchdowns. That makes four out of the five games this season in which they have given up three or more touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. Arizona State also leads the country in passing plays of 20 or more yards allowed (27). Andrews is the Bruins’ leading receiver and is coming off of his best performance of the year with nine receptions for 108 yards against Arizona. He’s likely licking his chops during film review prepping for the Sun Devils’ secondary.


James Gardner, Miami (Ohio) vs. Akron

We are going back to the well once more with Gardner this week due to his matchup against the 125th-ranked pass defense in Akron. Gardner posted his first game without a touchdown last week against Ohio, but nothing went right for the RedHawks’ offense, which managed just seven points. Meanwhile, Akron gave up 285 passing yards and two touchdowns last week to Kent State quarterback Nick Holley. Yes, the same Nick Holley that has played running back the past three seasons and has not started a game at quarterback since his senior year of high school. It’s Safe to say Gardner is likely to start another touchdown streak on Saturday against this woeful secondary.


Sit 'Em


Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech vs. Kansas State

Kansas tried and failed miserably last week at double-covering Giles, as he torched the Jayhawks for 12 receptions, 219 yards and two touchdowns. Giles is now the clear-cut No. 1 target for the Red Raiders with 31 receptions and seven touchdowns in just four games. However, there are a couple things working against Giles this week. For one, he won’t have his starting quarterback throwing him the ball as it looks like Nic Shimonek will be starting in place of the injured Patrick Mahomes. Kansas State’s pass defense also has been excellent to start the season, as the Wildcats are tied for fewest touchdown passes allowed in the country with two. There’s also hard-hitting safety Dante Barnett, who will shade towards Giles on passing downs. This will be one of the few weeks this year where Giles is not a sure-fire top-10 play at wide receiver.


Ryan Switzer, North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech

There hasn’t been a better receiver in college football over the last three weeks than Switzer. The first two games of the year were par for the course with the type of performances we have seen from Switzer throughout his career, but the senior has scorched the earth in the last three weeks with 35 catches and 467 receiving yards. Already through five weeks, Switzer is just 100 yards away from matching his 2015 season total. I don’t see him getting there this week though, not against a Hokies pass defense that has allowed fewer than 100 passing yards in three out of four games this season. Switzer also has struggled against Virginia Tech in his career with just 10 catches and zero touchdowns in three games.


Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 6:

Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. Western Kentucky

Chad Hansen, California vs. Oregon State

Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse vs. Wake Forest

Corey Davis, Western Michigan vs. Northern Illinois

Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois vs. Western Michigan

Zay Jones, East Carolina vs. South Florida

Taj Williams, TCU vs. Kansas

Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame vs. NC State

James Washington, Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State

Nicholas Norris, Western Kentucky vs. Louisiana Tech


— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

College Fantasy Football Week 6 Start or Sit
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/fcs-football-best-games-and-predictions-week-6-2016

The conference season is in full bloom, making it the best time of the year.


Until, of course, we say that about another time of the year. Honestly, just three more times.


But the best games in college football are usually within the conferences, when a good backyard brawl has more bite than a presidential debate.


The FCS powers are building playoff resumes in October, with the best still ahead.


Related: FCS Rankings: Power Poll for Week 6


Here are the FCS games of the week:


Note: All times ET


Saturday, Oct. 8


Cornell (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) at No. 25 Harvard (3-0, 1-0), 1 p.m.

Cornell has already matched the winningest campaign of head coach David Archer’s first three seasons, highlighted by a rally past Colgate last Saturday. But during the fall in the Ivy League, Crimson is the color over (Big) Red.

Pick: Harvard


Colgate (1-3, 0-0 Patriot) at Lehigh (3-2, 0-0), 12:30 p.m.

An at-large playoff bid is out of the question for Colgate, which is going to have to repeat as Patriot League champion to get back to the postseason. The Raiders are reeling, while Lehigh’s offense (51.3 points per game the last three weeks) is soaring no matter if the quarterback is Nick Shafnisky or Brad Mayes. Shafnisky is due back this week.

Pick: Colgate


Tennessee Tech (2-3, 2-1 OVC) at No. 3 Jacksonville State (3-1, 0-0), 2 p.m.

The visiting Golden Eagles have given up the most sacks in the Ohio Valley Conference and Jacksonville State junior Darius Jackson needs only a half sack to match the school’s all-time record. Hmmm...

Pick: Jacksonville State


No. 16 Youngstown State (3-1, 1-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 21 Illinois State (2-3, 0-2), 3 p.m.

This may be the crossroads game of the season in the Missouri Valley Conference, with Youngstown State pointing toward a playoff bid under head coach Bo Pelini and Illinois State trying to avoid the sky falling on Hancock Stadium.

Pick: Youngstown State


No. 12 Northern Iowa (2-2, 1-0 Missouri Valley) at South Dakota (1-3, 0-1), 3 p.m.

A big game? Well, USD has played better than its record indicates and the Coyotes always play better at their DakotaDome. But if UNI quarterback Aaron Bailey and running back Tyvis Smith are going to have 100-yard games together, this is the one.

Pick: Northern Iowa


No. 7 Richmond (4-1, 1-1 CAA) at No. 20 Albany (4-0, 1-0), 3:30 p.m.

Albany, behind star running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, has had time to rest up for the biggest game since the Great Danes entered CAA Football. The Spiders, who have the pedigree, will want to force Albany to pass the ball. It worked last year when safety David Jones had four interceptions.

Pick: Albany


William & Mary (2-3, 0-2 CAA) at No. 6 James Madison (4-1, 2-0), 3:30 p.m.

It’s a last gasp for the visiting Tribe, who aren’t the same team that shared the CAA title with JMU and Richmond last season. It’s one thing that the Dukes have the best 1-2 rushing duo in the FCS in Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson, but when quarterback Bryan Schor is superb, that’s a lethal offense.

Pick: James Madison


Mercer (2-2, 1-1 Southern) at No. 5 Chattanooga (5-0, 3-0), 4 p.m.

Chattanooga has lost one time in its last 17 Southern Conference games: 17-14 at Mercer last November. The Mocs, who are No. 1 in the FCS in scoring defense (8.4 ppg) and total defense (202.8 ypg), surely haven’t forgotten.

Pick: Chattanooga


Northern Colorado (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at No. 2 Eastern Washington (4-1, 2-0), 4:05 p.m.

At the rate they’re going, the Eagles will go down as being one of the greatest passing offenses in FCS history. But they’re more focused on getting the Big Sky title back after their three-year run ended last season.

Pick: Eastern Washington


Tennessee State (4-0, 1-0 OVC) at No. 23 Eastern Illinois (3-2, 1-1), 7 p.m.

The visiting Tigers are one of only eight unbeaten teams in the FCS. Both teams have had injuries to their season-opening quarterbacks, with TSU going from O’Shay Ackerman-Carter to Ronald Butler and EIU switching from Mitch Kimble to Austin Green.

Pick: Eastern Illinois


No. 18 McNeese (3-2, 2-1 Southland) at Southeastern Louisiana (1-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.

With its DWA (Defense With Attitude) roaring back last weekend, head coach Lance Guidry’s Cowboys looked more like the defending Southland champions.

Pick: McNeese


Portland State (2-3, 1-1 Big Sky) at Weber State (2-2, 1-0), 8 p.m.

It’s basically a must-have game for both teams if the playoffs are in the future. The Vikings’ run game (quarterback Alex Kuresa and running backs Nate Tago and Paris Penn) may be too deep for the Wildcats.

Pick: Portland State


— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.


(Top photo by University of Albany Athletics)

FCS Football: Best Games and Predictions for Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-week-5-picks-and-odds-lines-2016

Injuries are starting to become a factor in the NFL as several quarterbacks are dealing with concussion-like symptoms entering Week 5. Carson Palmer has already been ruled out for Arizona’s Thursday night game against San Francisco, while Cam Newton has a little longer to clear the concussion protocol and return to practice before Carolina hosts Tampa Bay on Monday night. Rob Gronkowski also doesn’t seem to be 100 percent recovered from his hamstring injury.

Injuries like these others are important factors when handicapping the NFL especially since the injury report designations have changed and coaches become more and more tight-lipped.


Record: 5-7 (0-3 last week)


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle


Note: All games on Sunday and times ET


Houston Texans (3-1) at Minnesota Vikings (4-0), 1 p.m.

Minnesota continues to be one of the biggest surprises in the league after shutting down the Giants this past Monday night. The Vikings have allowed just 50 points so far in four games with just one team gaining more than 100 rushing yards and two throwing for more than 250. Their offense has been good enough to win with not much of a running game to speak of. That part of the offense should continue to struggle against Houston, which has done well limiting teams on the ground.  The Texans’ offense has been hit-or-miss with Brock Osweiler showing flashes of good play mixed with awfulness. The good thing for each struggling offense is that the defense has kept their respective team in games. Minnesota has gone under in 25 of its last 37 games including 12 of its last 19 at home. SELECTION: Under 40.5


Atlanta Falcons (3-1) at Denver Broncos (4-0), 4:05 p.m.

The Falcons are flying high as they head to Denver to complete their back-to-back of Super Bowl 50 participants. Atlanta has beaten Oakland and New Orleans on the road as well as Carolina at home. Sunday will represent the Falcons’ third road contest in the last four weeks. Atlanta's defense has allowed 419.2 passing yards per game and could struggle against the Broncos, who have been able to run and pass the ball. Denver's defense won't have the same issues with Julio Jones that Carolina did as there is no comparing the talent and depth of the each team’s secondary. The Broncos have held opponents to 169.5 passing yards per game and should force Matt Ryan into some tough situations. Denver has covered in 21 of its last 40 games including all four this season. Atlanta has failed to cover in 10 of its last 18 road games. The Falcons also have failed to cover in six of their last nine non-conference games. SELECTION: Denver -5.5


San Diego Chargers (1-3) at Oakland Raiders (3-1), 4:25 p.m.

Another week and another devastating injury for San Diego, as top cornerback Jason Verrett is likely lost for the season after tearing his ACL. The Chargers’ defense was putting up good numbers, but he is a huge loss to a unit that allows nearly 300 passing yards per game. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree should have a field day in this one for the Raiders, who have defensive issues of their own. The question is whether the Chargers can take advantage when they have the ball. They have lost a few tough, close battles while the Raiders are coming off back-to-back road wins at Tennessee and Baltimore. San Diego has covered in just two of its last nine October games. I think the injuries eventually catch up to the Chargers. SELECTION: Oakland -3.5




— The Rams are 3-1 entering their home tilt with the Bills. Their offense hasn't been great, but the defense has kept them in games. Los Angeles is coming off a huge road win at Arizona while Buffalo knocked off the archrival Patriots in Foxboro. Both teams would be ripe for the picking if playing other teams.


— Tom Brady's returning for the Patriots, who must be fuming coming off a loss. They travel to Cleveland to play the Browns as a double-digit favorite. You won't see me ever laying double digits on the road especially in the NFL. Cleveland is actually 4-2-1 ATS in its last seven at home in this series since 1992. I'm not advocating the Browns either though.


— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Betting Against the Spread: NFL Week 5 Picks and Odds
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-flex-rankings-week-5

When it comes to the ranking fantasy flex players for Week 5, it’s important to analyze how factors at positions other than running back and wide receiver could impact certain teams.


For example, Week 5 could end up being the Tom Brady show, as the Patriots welcome back their quarterback and have Cleveland squarely in their sights after getting shut out at home against Buffalo last week. Excitement also builds for the potential return of Tyler Eifert, and perhaps Rob Gronkowski’s return to form with Brady back under center. However both tight ends had a setback, which should concern owners. In particular, there’s a strong change that Eifert will end up missing a fifth straight game.


Five weeks in, this represents a chance for many owners to get on the right side of .500, pick up their first win or remain undefeated. With four teams on bye this week and still plenty more remaining, roster management is going to be critical moving forward as owners try to win without some of their best players.


With so many things to consider and information to digest, filling that final spot or spots in your starting lineup may be tougher than ever when it comes weighing a less-heralded or established player that is producing against a struggling superstar or early-round draft pick.


Flex rankings like these can help you determine who you should take your chances with and who needs to stay on the bench this week.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Flex Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-wide-receiver-rankings-week-5

It’s Week 5 of the fantasy football season, that time of year when bye weeks coupled with injuries matchups and recent results all factor in to which wide receivers you start and which ones you bench.


Along those lines, what to do with guys like DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans should be pretty self-explanatory. You are starting your studs every week, but what about Hopkins’ tough matchup Sunday against Minnesota’s stout defense? The present reality is that while Hopkins remains one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, he is not performing accordingly right now and most importantly is getting ready to face a defense that has already shut down Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin and, for the most part, the duo of Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson.


So where does Hopkins rank? Are you obligated to start him? Well that depends on your bench and other factors. Most owners are forced to start their struggling superstars and just cross their fingers hoping for a bounce-back week. Otherwise you may have a bench player worth plugging in if you are a bold soul.


No matter what you decide these wide receiver rankings are here to help offer some perspective as you make those tough lineup decisions in Week 5.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-tight-end-rankings-week-5

It’s Week 5 and fantasy owners are still waiting on Rob Gronkowski to show why he’s not only the No. 1 tight end, but also why they used a first-round draft pick on him. The reality is that Gronk still isn’t 100 percent and there are whispers that this hamstring injury is taking longer to heal than the Patriots initially thought.


This is bad news for Gronk owners and also could be horrendous timing with Tom Brady set to return from his four-game suspension and the hapless Cleveland Browns sitting there on a tee. But until Gronkowski flashes his old form on the field, he’s not going to be the top-ranked TE. That distinction goes to Jordan Reed, who has gotten off to solid start, followed by Greg Olsen, currently leading his peers in fantasy points (depending on league scoring). Zach Ertz also looks like he will be back on the field for the first time since hurting his ribs in Week 1.


Four teams on bye in Week 5 means the Jimmy Graham renaissance will take a one-week hiatus, as will Travis Kelce. And maybe the break is what Coby Fleener needs to clear his head, learn his playbook and turn things around. Julius Thomas just needs to get healthy.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle


Rk Player Team Opp
1 Jordan Reed WAS at BAL
2 Greg Olsen CAR vs. TB (Mon.)
3 Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. HOU
4 Rob Gronkowski NE at CLE
5 Delanie Walker TEN at MIA
6 Zach Ertz PHI at DET
7 Zach Miller CHI at IND
8 Dennis Pitta BAL vs. WAS
9 Hunter Henry SD at OAK
10 Eric Ebron DET vs. PHI
11 Jason Witten DAL vs. CIN
12 Gary Barnidge CLE vs. NE
13 Cameron Brate TB at CAR (Mon.)
14 Jacob Tamme ATL at DEN
15 Martellus Bennett NE at CLE
16 Dwayne Allen IND vs. CHI
17 Richard Rodgers GB vs. NYG
18 Tyler Eifert CIN at DAL
19 Clive Walford OAK vs. SD
20 Jack Doyle IND vs. CHI
21 Charles Clay BUF at LA
22 Jesse James PIT vs. NYJ
23 Garrett Celek SF vs. ARI (Thurs.)
24 Will Tye NYG at GB
25 Ryan Griffin HOU at MIN
26 Lance Kendricks LA vs. BUF
27 Dion Sims MIA vs. TEN
28 Antonio Gates SD at OAK
29 Vance MacDonald SF vs. ARI (Thurs.)
30 C.J. Uzomah CIN at DAL


— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football 2016 Tight End Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-running-back-rankings-week-5

It sure didn’t take Le’Veon Bell long to show why he’s one of the best running backs in the league and will find his name at or near the top of our fantasy rankings from here out. In fact, if Bell continues to line up as a wide receiver, like he did last week against Kansas City, he may be matchup-proof.


But Bell is not the No. 1 option for Week 5 at his position, as that distinction goes to David Johnson. The Cardinals may be struggling, but Johnson gets his shot at San Francisco and the NFL’s worst rushing defense on Thursday night. Bell actually checks in at No. 6 because guys like DeMarco Murray, Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson mainly because of matchups. Can Bell prove his mettle against the Jets’ vaunted front seven?


And don’t forget that four teams on bye means no Mark Ingram, Spencer Ware, Jamaal Charles, Christine Michael, T.J. Yeldon, Chris Ivory or any other Chiefs, Jaguars, Saints or Seahawks running back in Week 5.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle


Rk Player Team Opp
1 David Johnson ARI at SF (Thurs.)
2 DeMarco Murray TEN at MIA
3 Melvin Gordon SD at OAK
4 Todd Gurley LA vs. BUF
5 C.J. Anderson DEN vs. ATL
6 Le'Veon Bell PIT at NYJ
7 Ezekiel Elliot DAL vs. CIN
8 Jordan Howard CHI at IND
9 LeSean McCoy BUF at LA
10 Lamar Miller HOU at MIN
11 Devonta Freeman ATL at DEN
12 Frank Gore IND vs. CHI
12 Jerick McKinnon MIN vs. HOU
14 Matt Forte NYJ at PIT
15 Isaiah Crowell CLE vs. NE
16 LeGarrette Blount NE at CLE
17 Eddie Lacy GB vs. NYG
18 Theo Riddick DET vs. PHI
19 Carlos Hyde SF vs. ARI (Thurs.)
20 Latavius Murray OAK vs. SD
21 Terrance West BAL vs. WAS
22 Jeremy Hill CIN at DAL
23 Matt Jones WAS at BAL
24 Charles Sims TB at CAR (Mon.)
25 Giovani Bernard CIN at DAL
26 Ryan Matthews PHI at DET
27 James White NE at CLE
28 Jay Ajayi MIA vs. TEN
29 Duke Johnson CLE vs. NE
30 Bilal Powell NYJ at PIT
31 Fozzy Whitaker CAR vs. TB (Mon.)
32 Darren Sproles PHI at DET
33 Matt Asiata MIN vs. HOU
34 Orleans Darkwa NYG at GB
35 DeAndre Washington OAK vs. SD
36 Chris Thompson WAS at BAL
37 Cameron Artis-Payne CAR vs. TB (Mon.)
38 Tevin Coleman ATL at DEN
39 Wendell Smallwood PHI at DET
40 Josh Ferguson IND vs. CHI
41 Zach Zenner DET vs. PHI
42 Kenyan Drake MIA vs. TEN
43 Devontae Booker DEN vs. ATL
44 Kenneth Dixon BAL vs. WAS
45 James Starks GB vs. NYG
46 Jalen Richard OAK vs. SD
47 DeAngelo Williams PIT vs. NYJ
48 Mike Gillislee BUG at LA
49 Dexter McCluster SD at OAK
50 Bobby Rainey NYG at GB


— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football 2016 Running Back Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-quarterback-rankings-week-5

After missing the first four games of the season due to suspension, Tom Brady is not only back, he's also at the top of the fantasy quarterback rankings for Week 5. And you know that he is going to come out with a chip on his shoulder, which means the poor Cleveland Browns are going to be the victim of his wrath. Brady is the top-ranked quarterback this week because he's going to come out throwing and not stop until the final whistle blows. The Browns have allowed at least two touchdowns to each quarterback they've faced this year. Brady will continue that trend Sunday.


As has been documented, Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers are significantly better at home compared to on the road. Even though the matchup against the Jets is tough, he is at home. New York’s defense just allowed more than 300 passing yards and three touchdowns to a hobbled Russell Wilson last week. Tyrod Taylor and Andy Dalton also had solid fantasy days against the Jets earlier this season. Roethlisberger is No. 2 in our rankings this week.


And don’t forget that there’s no Wilson, Drew Brees, Blake Bortles or Alex Smith this week because of byes.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle




— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Quarterback Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-defense-special-teams-rankings-week-5

Depending on league scoring, the Minnesota Vikings have the most fantasy points out of all defense/special teams (DST). They have three defensive touchdowns, six interceptions, five fumble recoveries, a safety and 15 sacks. Those 15 sacks are second in the league, behind Denver, our No. 3 DST for Week 5.


The Broncos are set to host the Falcons, who just picked apart Carolina's defense behind Matt Ryan (503 yards) and Julio Jones (300 yards, 3 TDs). While Denver’s defense appears stronger than Carolina’s to this point, Atlanta’s offensive success in the early going is the reason the Broncos aren't No. 1 this week. Minnesota takes on Houston and Brock Osweiler, who already has six interceptions this season. Expect a few more in Week 5.


And while byes may not factor as much for DSTs as other positions, this is the week that Seattle is off, as well as Kansas City, so you will need to find a replacement for those two teams. Let’s face it, Jacksonville and New Orleans also being on bye really doesn’t matter, at least from the DST standpoint.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle





— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-kicker-rankings-week-5

Despite posting zero fantasy points last week, Stephen Gostkowski leads the fantasy kicker rankings for Week 5. The matchup between New England and Cleveland is too good to pass up, especially with the Patriots hungry for a win after getting shut out at home against the Bills. And Tom Brady returns from suspension, so New England will more than likely put up points and a lot of them, as Bell Belichick has been known to run up the score before. Points for the Patriots also mean scoring chances for Gostkowski.


Justin Tucker is tied (with Washington’s Dustin Hopkins) as the kicker that has scored the most fantasy points this season (depending on scoring system). Tucker is the second-ranked kicker for Week 5 and Hopkins is No. 4. He may be available in fantasy leagues (38 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues), so you can consider him if you need a bye-week fill-in for Steven Hauschka, Cairo Santos, Jason Myers or Wil Lutz, or are just looking to change things up.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle




— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Kicker Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /nfl/arizona-cardinals-vs-san-francisco-49ers-preview-and-prediction-2016

It’s a “win or loser leaves town” type of matchup this week on “Thursday Night Football” as the Arizona Cardinals travel to Levi’s Stadium to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona is coming off of a disappointing 17-13 loss at home to NFC West rival Los Angeles to 1-3 on the season. Turnovers were the difference as the Cardinals gave the ball away five times despite outgaining the Rams in total yards 420-288. The short week will be a challenge for Arizona and head coach Bruce Arians as it will be interesting to see if the head coach can get his team ready to play without starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who will not even travel with the team because of a concussion he suffered last week.


San Francisco comes into this game with a 1-3 record as well after losing 24-17 at home to Dallas after blowing a 14-0 lead. The 49ers are at a crossroads on both sides of the ball after losing All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman to another season-ending injury, this time a torn Achilles. Offensively, Blaine Gabbert started off well last Sunday against the Cowboys, but was unable to finish the job, going 16-for-23 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown and an interception. These numbers are just too pedestrian, and you have to wonder if Chip Kelly would go to Colin Kaepernick in the event that the offensive struggles continue early in this game.


Arizona at San Francisco


Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 6 at 8:25 p.m. ET

Broadcast Channels: CBS, NFL Network, Twitter

Spread: Cardinals -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Arizona’s Quarterback Play

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians announced Wednesday afternoon that Carson Palmer would not travel with the team to San Francisco because of the lingering effects of the concussion he suffered last week. Drew Stanton will get the start and it is going to be imperative for him to take care of the football if he wants to take advantage of a suspect San Francisco defense. Arizona has thrown for 281.2 yards per game on the season, but between Palmer and Stanton the Cardinals have seven interceptions in comparison to six touchdown passes. That number alone is a big reason why Arizona is sitting at 1-3 and already two games behind the Rams and Seahawks in the NFC West standings. The 49ers do have a susceptible secondary that has allowed 250 yards per game through the air so it will be important for the Cardinals to not play conservative and be aggressive on offense from the opening snap.


2. How will Blaine Gabbert respond in the clutch?
This game in all likelihood is going to go down to the wire, especially if Stanton is in at quarterback for Arizona on Thursday night. Which begs the question, can Gabbert finally carry over his strong play in the first quarter into the second half and push San Francisco over the finish line in games? In the first quarter of games this season, Gabbert has a 70.4 percent completion percentage, averaged 7.6 yards per attempt and posted a quarterback rating of 104.7. So there is a tangible evidence that Gabbert can move the 49ers down the field offensively early in games. But, if Gabbert is going to even be a serviceable quarterback, let alone clutch, he is going to have to become more consistent over the course of the entire game.


3. David Johnson against the 49ers’ rush defense

Johnson is seventh in the NFL this season in rushing yards with 300 and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. San Francisco enters this game ranked last in the league against the run (140.5 ypg), so it would behoove Arizona to feed Johnson as much as possible early on to set up the passing game. In addition, the injury to defensive lineman DeForest Buckner along with the loss of linebacker NaVorro Bowman to a torn Achilles should only make the 49ers even more vulnerable on the ground. Now, it will be up to Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to take advantage of the situation early and often.


Final Analysis


If you are a casual fan of the NFL and looking for a game that will provide plenty of offensive fireworks and high quality football, you are probably going to be disappointed on Thursday night. With both teams as beat up as they are injury- wise, this game has the feel of which team is able to do whatever it needs to survive and move to 2-3 in order to save its season. Even with backup quarterback Drew Stanton starting in place of Carson Palmer, the Cardinals have better personnel than the 49ers across the board, but it will come down to turnovers once again for both teams. Look for Stanton to take care of the football while David Johnson does the heavy lifting on the ground to allow Arizona to escape Levi’s Stadium with a hard-fought, but much-needed win.


Prediction: Cardinals 20, 49ers 17


— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.

Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 6, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /mlb/nl-wild-card-game-preview-and-prediction-san-francisco-giants-vs-new-york-mets-2016

The bright lights of New York City tend to be the most glaring when one of the Big Apple’s two baseball teams is in the postseason. Since the Mets survived to see the wild card, all eyes in the baseball-crazed city will be on the mound of Citi Field tonight as two of the best arms in baseball today square off for the right to face the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs, in the National League Division Series starting Friday night.


Both New York and San Francisco come into tonight’s matchup limping, in some form. The Mets are physically ailing, and have been all season, as they have been without starting infielders David Wright and Neil Walker, and starting pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz for varying degress of times. The Giants backed into the wild card after a terrible second half (30-42), thanks in large part to a bad, bad bullpen.


2016 NL Wild Card Game — San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets


First Pitch: Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Matchup: Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) vs. Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA)


Three Things to Watch


1. Aces Wild
Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner are two of the very best pitchers in baseball. They both pitch with great intensity and both have the ability to dominate any lineup in the majors on any given start. But where they differ is their stuff. Syndergaard is a two-pitch fireballer, throwing the hardest fastball and slider in terms of velocity in all of baseball — a pure flamethrower. Bumgarner is a Rembrandt, a left-handed strike thrower, who uses a tantalizing slider (or cutter) to fool hitters and paint the black.


Bumgarner has been here before. Two Octobers ago, he toed the rubber on the road in front of a rowdy PNC Park crowd as the Giants and Pirates faced off in the 2014 NL Wild Card game. Bumgarner went the distance, tossing a complete game shutout and striking out 10 Pirates. That would be the beginning of what would become the greatest postseason run in baseball history for a pitcher, culminating in a five- inning save in Game 7 of the World Series against Kansas City, after previously winning two games against the Royals.


Bumgarner’s numbers against the Mets historically are outstanding (5-0, 1.80 ERA, 40 IP, 46 K), but in his two starts (both Giants wins) against New York this season the Mets have the second-best batting average (.279) of any team that faced the southpaw in 2016.


It feels as if we’ve been watching Syndergaard hurl lighting for years now, but the truth is, 2016 is his first full season in The Show — one in which he lead the Mets in wins and strikeouts, and is at least in the NL Cy Young conversation, although he’s considered a longshot to win it.


The rangy (6-6) 24-year-old dazzled last October, hitting triple digits in a Game 5 relief appearance in the NLDS against the Dodgers and shutting down the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS (5.2 IP, 9 K).


Syndergaard is the last remaining ace of what was arguably the best starting rotation since the Braves of the 1990s. Injuries have decimated the Mets’ staff, leaving them battered and bruised entering October, forcing manager Terry Collins to likely use Syndergaard as Bruce Bochy employed Bumgarner two postseasons ago.


2. Giant Bullpen Woes
It kind of goes without saying but, if the Giants get a typical postseason performance from Bumgarner tonight, they’ll likely win — duh. But as we saw last night in the AL Wild Card game, bullpen matchups in the postseason are of the utmost importance, and when it comes to comparing bullpens, the Mets have a clear advantage over the Giants.


San Francisco’s bullpen has been nothing short of a disaster this season, especially in the second half, as Giants relievers blew 30 saves and looked out of sync , to put it lightly, throughout September. If Bumgarner can’t go the distance tonight, Bochy has to be worried about his relievers that are prone to collapse against a Mets offense that was fifth in baseball in home runs this year.


Could we see back-to-back, dramatic, walk-off wins in consecutive nights? I wouldn't be too surprised.


3. Two Different Types of Offense
As mentioned above, the Mets’ offense has pop. Even without David Wright and Neil Walker in the lineup, Collins still has weapons that can put up runs against most any pitching staff. Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes, last-season’s trade deadline shot of adrenaline, is still the centerpiece of Collins’ lineup, but he has help in the form of short stop Asdrubal Cabrera (.309 batting average after the All-Star break) and outfielder Curtis Granderson (30 HR,.799 OPS).


On the other hand, the Giants are all about making contact and moving runners over, not so much about power. In fact, the Giants are the only team in baseball that do not have a single hitter with at least 20 home runs (Brandon Belt leads the team with 17). But just because they aren’t going yard as much doesn't mean the Giants can’t put up some runs, especially with a healthy Hunter Pence and the always dangerous former MVP, Buster Posey.


Final Analysis


Settle in for a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel tonight, folks. The two heavyweights going toe-to-toe on the mound, Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard, are must-watch television, especially in what figures to be a raucous Citi Field. With these two aces on the mound, the amount of runs scored by both teams tonight could be counted on one hand, or using a few fingers. With the two starters essentially being a wash, I’ve got to lean towards the team with a more reliable bullpen, should it come down to it. Give me the Mets and lights-out closer Jeurys Familia in a nail-biter.


Prediction: Mets 3, Giants 2


— Written by Jake Rose, an avid baseball fan who also is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.


(Noah Syndergaard photo courtesy of Getty Images)

NL Wild Card Game Preview and Prediction: San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/western-kentucky-hilltoppers-vs-louisiana-tech-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2016

Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech will meet under the lights of Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, La., Thursday night as both schools continue their quests for the Conference USA crown.


Louisiana Tech, a West C-USA affiliate, enters Thursday’s contest 2-3 on the season, and 1-1 in conference play, having recently defeated UTEP 28-7 last Saturday. The Bulldogs’ lone C-USA blemish came at the hands of Middle Tennessee in a 38-34 Sept. 24 defeat.


Western Kentucky, of the East, is sporting a 3-2 season record. The Hilltoppers’ two losses were to SEC members Alabama and Vanderbilt. While the Crimson Tide defeated Western Kentucky by 28 points, the Hilltoppers took Vanderbilt the distance, dropping a 31-30 overtime contest two weeks ago. WKU, the reigning C-USA champion, rebounded last week with a 50-3 win over Houston Baptist.


Former WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty, now with the Miami Dolphins, sparkled in last year’s meeting between the two schools, as he shredded Louisiana Tech for 441 yards and a touchdown en route to a 41-28 victory. Thursday’s contest is the sixth head-to-head meeting between the two schools and the third in as many seasons. The Bulldogs have a 3-2 edge over the Hilltoppers.


Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech


Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Western Kentucky -3


Three things to Watch


1. Western Kentucky wide receivers Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris
A better 1-2 combo at the position in C-USA would be hard to find.


Taylor recorded 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns in his junior campaign last season to help lead Western Kentucky to a 12-2 record, including a 45-35 win over South Florida in the second-ever Miami Beach Bowl. With 146 receiving yards in last week’s 50-3 win over Houston Baptist, Taylor brought his 2016 total to 602 to go along with six touchdowns. Taylor has gone over 100 yards in four of five games thus far, including a season-high 165 yards Week 1 against Rice.


Norris already has 452 receiving yards and five touchdowns this season. Last year, he posted 971 yards and six receiving scores. He torched Miami (Ohio) for 187 yards and a touchdown and rattled off seven receptions for 147 yards and two scores against Rice. Last week against Houston Baptist, Norris netted 53 yards and two touchdowns.


2. Louisiana Tech’s offensive efficiency
Head coach Skip Holtz’s offense this season has functioned like a well-oiled machine as it boasts some of the best numbers in the nation in a number of categories. The Bulldogs are 13th in the FBS in passing offense (347.2 ypg) and 14th in total offense (519.8). Also, the Bulldogs are tied for No. 10 in first downs per game (26.2). Louisiana Tech enters this game averaging 36 points per contest. The Bulldogs have the offensive personnel to run with a host of Power Five teams as evidenced by their one-point road loss (21-20) to Arkansas in Week 1, and 14-point setback (49-35) at Texas Tech on Sept. 17.


3. WKU quarterback Mike White
White had the unenviable task of replacing all-everything quarterback Brandon Doughty, who graduated last season as Western Kentucky’s record holder in completions, yards and touchdowns, to name a few. White silenced the critics in Week 1 when he shelled Rice for 517 yards and three touchdowns. The following week, Alabama’s vaunted defense held him to 135 passing yards, but he bounced back against Miami (Ohio) to the tune of 268 yards and two scores. Last week against Houston Baptist, White went 11-for-13 for 225 yards and three touchdowns. 


White has passed for 1,367 yards and nine touchdowns against three interceptions on the season.  If WKU is to contend for back-to-back C-USA titles, White will have to continue his solid play. Louisiana Tech, which is 10th in the conference in passing defense, will get a good test from the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native Thursday.


Final Analysis


By the time this one ended last year, both teams combined to produce more than 1,100 yards of offense. And with Louisiana Tech entering this matchup averaging 36 points per game, coupled with Western Kentucky’s 33.4, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two teams combine for that many yards  (and plenty of points) once again. But in the end, the trio of quarterback Mike White and wide receivers Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris will be too much for Louisiana Tech’s defensive backs, and should set the tone for a WKU victory.


Prediction: Western Kentucky 35, Louisiana Tech 31


— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/temple-owls-vs-memphis-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The American Athletic Conference sends two of its best teams not located in Houston to the field Thursday night when Memphis hosts Temple in a primetime conference battle. The Owls upended the Tigers in Philadelphia last season en route to making an appearance in the first AAC Championship Game. If Temple is going to set their sights on a return trip to the conference championship, a win against Memphis on the road would serve them well.


Temple at Memphis


Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 6, at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Memphis -10.0


Three Things to Watch


1. Memphis comes off a loss, but hasn’t really lost a tick on offense
If you wanted to write Memphis off this season after losing its head coach to Virginia Tech (Justin Fuente) and star quarterback to the NFL (Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos), few would have argued with you there. However, Memphis has come out of the gates blasting opponents on its schedule, with the notable exception of last weekend’s game at Ole Miss. Before getting to the Ole Miss game, Memphis put up 77 points on Bowling Green and tanked Kansas by a score of 43-7. Maybe we shouldn’t get too carried away with winning those games, but it is how they were won. Ole Miss was too much to handle in a revenge situation for the Rebels in Oxford, but Memphis returns home for this one and will give Temple’s defense plenty to worry about. Memphis has averaged 45.8 points and 6.36 yards per play.


2. Temple back on track after rough start?
Temple lost a stunner in Week 1 against Army, and then lost on the road at Penn State two weeks later, but the Owls appear to have bounced back pretty well from their opening shocker. Even in the loss at Penn State, Temple played tough and nearly found way to tie the game late in State College. Since then, Temple has outscored opponents (Charlotte and SMU) by a score of 93-40, and jumping out on opponents early has been the key. If Temple can get off to a good start against Memphis, the Owls still have the defense to hold on to a lead.


3. AAC’s No. 1 pass defense counters No. 2 passing offense
Something has to give, right? Temple leads the AAC in passing defense with an average of just 99.24 yards per game allowed through the air. To be fair, having Army on the schedule helps bring that average down and only two other schools in the conference have allowed fewer pass attempts per game thus far. But Temple also has six interceptions and just four passing touchdowns allowed. Passing has been key for Memphis. The Tigers average 308.5 passing yards per game with Riley Ferguson leading the aerial attack with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Can Temple force a few errant passes?


Final Analysis


One thing Memphis seems to have in its favor over the Owls is the ability to rely on the offense to make some plays. While Temple’s offense has poured on the points the last couple of weeks, Temple still comes into Thursday night’s matchup with the ninth-ranked rushing offense and ninth-ranked passing offense in the AAC. Through five games, Temple quarterback P.J. Walker has six touchdown passes and seven interceptions. The Owls have to find a way to be more efficient and careful if they are to come out of Memphis with a win.


Prediction: Memphis 29, Temple 26


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook


(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Temple Owls vs. Memphis Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfl-divisions-after-first-quarter-2016-season

College football fans frequently argue about the superiority or inferiority of conferences. As much as those in the NFL like to maintain that parity exists across its divisions, fans believe differently. How can fans settle the debate? By applying an objective system that uses the same criteria to rank the eight divisions.


So here is my contribution to this debate. Divisions are judged on how their members fare in non-divisional games. The NFL’s eight divisions are ranked below from strongest to weakest. The accompanying scores are based on the first four weeks of the season. Wins on the road are worth more than those at home. For those wondering about the scale, a perfect score would be 2.068.


AFC West (1.15)

Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego are 9-5 versus the rest of the league, as only one divisional game has been played (Chiefs beat Chargers in Week 1). The Broncos are 4-0, including wins over Carolina, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Denver and Oakland also have combined to go 5-0 on the road in the early going. As a group, the AFC West is 3-2 against the NFC South and the AFC South thus far.


NFC East (.778)

Thanks to the surprising Eagles (3-0), this division is the only one in which all four teams are .500 or better through four weeks. Philadelphia and Washington have gone 3-1 against Cleveland and Pittsburgh, while a pair of victories over Chicago (Eagles, Cowboys) help pad the NFC East’s overall record against teams outside of the division. It’s those two wins over the Bears that break the tie between the NFC East and North for these rankings.


NFC North (.778)

The undefeated Vikings are pulling most of the weight, with wins over the Panthers, Giants and Titans. Overall, the division is just 5-4 versus the rest of the NFL, as the Eagles, Texans and Cowboys have already feasted on the Bears and the Titans’ lone win thus far came against the Lions.


AFC North (.625)

Cleveland, the sole winless team remaining in the NFL, drags down this division's score. Take out the Browns’ losses to Philadelphia, Miami and Washington and the AFC North is 6-3 against the rest of the league. The division is 3-1 against the AFC East in the early going, but none of those games have been against New England. The larger number of non-divisional games (12 vs. 8) is the tiebreaker used to place the AFC North ahead of the NFC West.


NFC West (.625)

This division has played the fewest non-divisional games (8). Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are 4-4 against the rest of the league thus far. The Seahawks have gone 2-0 against half of the AFC East (Dolphins, Jets) while the Cardinals are 0-2 against the other half (Patriots, Bills). Tampa Bay is responsible for half of the NFC West’s non-divisional wins and the Buccaneers are the only team Arizona has beaten thus far.


AFC East (.450)

New England went 3-1 without Tom Brady with two of those victories coming outside of the division. But overall, the AFC East is just 4-6 against everyone else. The Jets’ lone win came against winless Cleveland, but the division can claim a pair of wins against Arizona (Patriots, Bills).


NFC South (.400)

This group has the fewest non-divisional wins (three). The only team with a winning record, Atlanta, has played just one game outside of the division (Week 2 road win at Oakland) to this point. Tampa Bay is 0-3 (Arizona, Los Angeles, Denver) following a Week 1 victory in Atlanta. Is this bunch going to end up as it did two seasons ago when no member finished with a winning record? 


AFC South (.375)

This group has reinforced its reputation as the weakest division in the NFL. Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee have won just four of 12 non-divisional games. Those four victories have come against Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and Diego, which are a combined 5-11 thus far.


— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at and at

Ranking the NFL Divisions After the First Quarter of the 2016 Season
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/week-5-2016-nfl-picks-challenge-athlon-sports-experts

The NFL is in full swing, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.


The Athlon Sports Pro Football Experts Club presented by New Era gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.


Think you’re up for taking on our experts every week? Think you can beat the writers and editors each week? Join our weekly pick ‘em game and compete for tons of cool prizes.


Here are this week’s picks from Athlon Sports senior editor John Gworek:


Thursday's Game


Arizona at San Francisco

Other than a stunning rout of the Rams on opening night, the 49ers have been about as bad as expected. The Cardinals, on the other hand, are better than their 1–3 record.

Gworek's Pick: Arizona, 26–14


Sunday’s Games


New England at Cleveland

Tom Brady returns, but he could be rusty. And Cleveland has actually played New England tougher than expected over the last few seasons, winning in 2010 and losing by only one in 2013. And — oh, who are we kidding?

Gworek's Pick: New England, 30–13



Philadelphia at Detroit

It’s hard to believe that the Eagles are as good as their undefeated record, and Carson Wentz is bound to look like a rookie eventually. But it probably won’t be this week.

Gworek's Pick: Philadelphia, 23–17



Chicago at Indianapolis

Times are getting desperate for the Colts. Andrew Luck can’t do it alone, and management has not surrounded him with much. Still, asking the Bears and Brian Hoyer to beat No. 1 overall picks back-to-back is too much.

Gworek's Pick: Indianapolis, 27–20



Tennessee at Miami

The Titans haven’t scored more than 20 points in any game this season. Miami’s only win was over Cleveland — and the Dolphins needed overtime to get it. Go with the home team.

Gworek's Pick: Miami, 21–18



Washington at Baltimore

Washington has won two in a row to get back to even, forcing three turnovers in each of their wins. No team has given up fewer yards than the Ravens this season.

Gworek's Pick: Baltimore, 20–17



Houston at Minnesota

The Vikings keep rolling along undefeated despite not scoring more than 25 points in any game and ranking 31st in total offense. That trend should continue against a Texans team that turns it over too much to beat a good team on the road.

Gworek's Pick: Minnesota, 20–10



N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh

Comparing scores is a dangerous game; still, the Jets lost to Kansas City 24–3 one week before the Steelers beat those same Chiefs 43–14. Le’Veon Bell was as productive as ever in his return from suspension for Pittsburgh.

Gworek's Pick: Pittsburgh, 24–13



Atlanta at Denver

Atlanta has allowed at least 28 points in every game this season. Denver hasn’t allowed 28 points at home since November 2014. It won’t happen this week, either.

Gworek's Pick: Denver, 23–16



Cincinnati at Dallas

Eventually someone is going to shut down the Cowboys running game and force Dak Prescott to beat them with his arm. If this is the week, Dallas won’t be able to keep up with the Bengals’ passing game.

Gworek's Pick: Cincinnati, 27–21



Buffalo at Los Angeles

Both teams love to run the ball and win with defense. but the Rams aren’t getting it done on offense, as they are averaging just 3.0 yards per carry, 31st in the NFL. The Bills have been better, ranking fifth at 4.6 per carry.

Gworek's Pick: Buffalo, 20–13



San Diego at Oakland

The Chargers keep finding fun new ways to lose games. Neither team can stop anyone, so there ill be plenty of offense. But at least the Raiders take care of the ball.

Gworek's Pick: Oakland, 33–30



N.Y. Giants at Green Bay

The Packers had last week off to figure out what is wrong with their 29th-ranked offense. The Giants move the ball just fine (sixth in total offense), but you’re not going to win much at minus-8 in turnover differential through four games.

Gworek's Pick: Packers, 30–20



Monday’s Game


Tampa Bay at Carolina

Cam Newton has been knocked around this season, and the Panthers have turned it over nine times in the last three games. But Tampa Bay has turned it over even more (10 in the last three games) and has only two takeaways all season.

Gworek's Pick: Carolina, 24–14


Week 4 Record: 9–6

Overall Record: 33–30

Week 4 2016 NFL Picks: Challenge Athlon Sports Experts!
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 10:09
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/nfl-best-daily-fantasy-football-lineups-fanduel-and-draftkings-week-5-2016

To say Week 4 was a disappointing week for me in daily fantasy football on both DraftKings and FanDuel would be an understatement. Cam Newton looked human once again, and ended up leaving the game hurt. If you didn’t roster Julio Jones, Matt Ryan or Jordan Reed you likely lost plenty of contests.


At least the top plays all panned out very well with Ben Roethlisberger, Melvin Gordon, Antonio Brown and Reed all hitting. The issue of course was the remaining roster spots!


The DraftKings lineup featuring Roethlisberger, Reed and Gordon should have fared well if you plugged in the right pieces. Doug Baldwin wasn’t fantastic as our value play but still managed to scrape up nine points. This was the only lineup of mine that cashed in Week 4.


The FanDuel lineups weren’t nearly the same and fell short. With some solid plays along with some weaker picks. Many of the picks worked well, so if you went a different direction than I likely did, you may have fared well.


This week we have the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks on bye. This will thin the player pool somewhat but not terribly and as always the right mix of value with chalk will win the day. Let’s just hope we find a Julio Jones this week.


What I will be doing in this space is sharing my top plays for the week, a value play, and most importantly a lineup or two. I will likely be focusing on cash games (50/50 and Double Up) and not GPP (tournaments, multi-player) contests. My Week 5 lineups should work in both formats.


So let’s get into my top plays, value play and lineups for Week 5 shall we? As always any questions, arguments, or glowing praise can be sent to me via Twitter @fantsychillpony.


Week 5 Top Plays


These will be my top plays of the week. These are players who I will try to have in as many lineups of mine as possible. If I can, I will use all three in one lineup. A reminder for cash games: going with an elite quarterback is typically recommended. If you opt for a value quarterback he MUST meet value for your loaded lineup to be worth it.


QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. New York Jets ($8,600 FanDuel/$7,200 DraftKings)

Roethlisberger had a beyond solid Week 4, and will certainly be looking to keep the positive momentum going. This week the Steelers host the Jets, whose secondary has been anything but a “no fly zone.” Not that it matters for Antonio Brown either way. Le’Veon Bell seemed to get into a groove in his first week back too, which could lead to some cheap passing yards for Big Ben. New York has allowed 228 passing yards per game so far in 2016.


Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will likely be the quarterbacks of choice for most this week, but I am sticking with Roethlisberger in Week 5. Plus he is cheaper.


RB: DeMarco Murray, Tennessee at Miami ($8,400 FanDuel/$7,200 DraftKings)

Murray has silenced critics saying he was washed up, or worn down from so many carries. He has been spectacular so far, and in what has largely been a horrific offense. This week he gets a defense that allows 108 rushing and nearly 60 passing yards to RBs this season. Murray will be eating, and will serve as a key cog to this shaky offense once again. Pairing him with my Value Play of the Week should equate to good things.


WR: A.J. Green, Cincinnati at Dallas ($8,700 FanDuel/$8,900 DraftKings)

I took a peek at Green’s matchup and the Cowboys’ secondary prepping for this. Let’s just say it was like an early Halloween horror movie. I am most definitely going to be playing Green anywhere I can this week.


TE: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota at Houston ($5,500 FanDuel/$3,600 DraftKings)

Rudolph has been as reliable as they come with both receptions and the surprising knack for touchdowns this season. Bradford trusts him, and has been playing very well. Toss in Rudolph costing far less than other top options this is a great deal


Value Play of the Week


Theo Riddick, Detroit vs. Philadelphia ($6,200 FanDuel/$4,900 DraftKings)

Riddick has become the primary back in Detroit with Ameer Abdullah’s injury. Riddick does one thing very well and that is catching the ball and making plays. Now he is being force-fed the ball (20 rec. on 26 targets, both are tops among RBs) even more than normal so even on a rough day he will likely get his fair share of PPR points, and meet his value. This is important as you know in DFS that being able to save money in a valuable position like this is a great thing. Oh and the Eagles are allowing nearly 145 rushing yards a game this year. 


The Lineup(s)


This week the GPP FanDuel lineup was built with a little help from my friends over at This week in particular I will be looking at some Targets and Touches which look at positional targets, and touches. Finding players who have a high volume of targets such as Theo Riddick (above) only help you in finding value. Try it yourself and find some running backs with increased value due to their abilities to catch the ball out of the backfield!


FanDuel Cash Lineup (I will play this some in GPP as well)


FanDuel GPP Lineup


DraftKings Cash Lineup (GPP too)


GPP Lineup (I will use this in some Cash games too)



Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 10.15.09 AM.png


— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

NFL Best Daily Fantasy Football Lineups for FanDuel and DraftKings (Week 5)
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 10:00
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Path: /college-football/predictions-every-college-football-game-week-6-2016

College football’s Week 6 slate kicks off on Wednesday night, as Georgia Southern and Arkansas State meet for a midweek showdown between two of the Sun Belt’s top programs. Thursday night’s action features two Group of 5 conference matchups, with Memphis hosting Temple and Louisiana Tech taking on WKU. Clemson-Boston College and Boise State at New Mexico highlight the slate on Friday night. Saturday’s action doesn’t feature three top-10 matchups like Week 5, but there are several intriguing games. Virginia Tech-North Carolina and Florida State-Miami highlight key ACC contests, while Arkansas-Alabama and Texas A&M-Tennessee meet in crucial SEC showdowns. The Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma is the top game to watch in the Big 12, while five conference matchups dot the Big Ten slate this Saturday.


Which teams will come out on top in every FBS game for Week 6? Bryan Fischer and Jim Weber join Athlon Sports' Steven Lassan and Mitch Light to provide weekly predictions for every contest:


College Football Week 6 Predictions









Ga. Southern at

Arkansas State

Temple at 


WKU at

La. Tech

Clemson at

Boston College

Tulane at


SMU at


Boise State at

New Mexico

Cincinnati at


Army at


LSU at


Vanderbilt at


BYU at

Michigan State

Virginia Tech at

North Carolina

Notre Dame at

NC State

Indiana at

Ohio State

UMass at

Old Dominion

Maryland at

Penn State

Georgia Tech at


Michigan at


Georgia at

South Carolina

Syracuse at

Wake Forest

Southern Miss at


East Carolina at


Texas State at

Georgia State

Purdue at


TCU at


Texas Tech at

Kansas State

Iowa at


Auburn at 
Miss. State

Iowa State at

Oklahoma State

Oklahoma vs. 


Arizona at


Bowling Green at



Arizona State

Washington at 


California at

Oregon State

Washington State at


Colorado at


Houston at


Miami, Ohio at


Ball State at

Central Michigan

Toledo at 

Eastern Michigan

Fresno State at



San Diego State

Charlotte at


Kent State at 


Air Force at


Hawaii at


Northern Illinois at

W. Michigan

Marshall at 

North Texas

Idaho at


FIU at


Utah State at

Colorado State

Tennessee at

Texas A&M

Alabama at


Florida State at



Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 6
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/predictions-every-nfl-game-week-5-2016

Four weeks into the NFL season and only three undefeated teams remain, and while that trio does not include New England, the Patriots do get quarterback Tom Brady back from suspension. And the timing could not be any better considering Bill Belichick’s team is coming off of a rare 16-0 home loss to the Bills. You almost have to pity Cleveland, the only winless team in the league, as Brady and the rest of the team will no doubt look to take out their frustrations on the Browns.


The teams that remain perfect at this point are defending Super Bowl champion Denver, Minnesota and Philadelphia. The Broncos host the Falcons, who are looking for a sweep of the two Super Bowl participants after beating the Panthers 48-33 at home last week. The Vikings handled the Giants 24-10 on Monday night and will welcome AFC South-leading Houston (3-1) to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. The Eagles look to continue their impressive early showing as they return from their bye week to face the Lions in Detroit.


Elsewhere, Arizona and Carolina, a pair of defending division champions, find themselves in a must-win situation after losses last week left each at 1-3. The Cardinals take on NFC West foe San Francisco on Thursday night, while the Panthers host NFC South rival Tampa Bay on Monday night. These two struggling teams also share one other thing in common – their starting quarterbacks are in the concussion protocol and will need to be cleared before they can play.


So which teams will come out on top in every NFL game in Week 5? Athlon's own Rob Doster (AthlonDoster), John Gworek (JohnGworek), Steven Lassan (AthlonSteven), and Mark Ross (AthlonMarkR), along with contributor Bryan Fischer (BryanDFischer), predict the winners for every game this week:


NFL Week 5 Predictions


Bye: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle












Arizona at

San Francisco (Thurs.)

New England at

Philadelphia at


Chicago at


Tennessee at


Washington at


Houston at


NY Jets at


Atlanta at


Cincinnati at


Buffalo at

Los Angeles

San Diego at


NY Giants

at Green Bay

Tampa Bay at
Carolina (Mon.)

Predictions for Every NFL Game in Week 5
Post date: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 09:00