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Numbers and statistics are a huge part of measuring performance and marking milestones in the NFL. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 5 of the season.
Dallas' DeMarco Murray became the third player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards in each of his team's first five games to start a season. He had 136 in the team's 20-17 overtime win against Houston, and ties O.J. Simpson (five games in 1973 and 1975) and is one game shy of tying Jim Brown (six games in 1958).
Philadelphia now has seven total return touchdowns, the most of any NFL team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Eagles added two return TDs in their 34-28 win against St. Louis in Week 5.
Denver's Julius Thomas added two touchdown receptions in the Broncos' 41-20 win over Arizona Sunday. His seven touchdowns not only leads all NFL players this season but is also the most by a tight end in his team's first four games to begin a season in league history.
Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne caught for 77 yards in the Colts' 20-13 win against Baltimore and moved up to ninth on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list. His 13,950 surpassed Cris Carter's 13,899 for ninth.
Chicago fell to Carolina 31-24 in Week 6, marking the Bears' 16th game decided by one score since the start of last season. That is the most in the NFL.
Cleveland posted the largest road comeback in NFL history by erasing a 25-point deficit in a 29-28 win against Tennessee. The Browns trailed 28-3 at one point. Only two other teams have posted larger regular-season comebacks (San Francisco came back from 28 down against New Orleans in 1980 and Buffalo rallied from 26 down against Indianapolis in 1997). Each of Cleveland's first four games this season have been decided by three points or less, the most of any NFL team since Washington did so in 2005.
San Diego's Antonio Gates caught two touchdowns in the Chargers' 31-0 win against the Jets, and surpassed Isaac Bruce (91) for No. 10 on the NFL's all-time career TD receptions list.
Peyton Manning joined Brett Favre (508) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with 500 career passing touchdowns in Denver's win Sunday. He enters Week 6 with 503 career TD passes. In the win, Manning threw for a career-high 479 yards and four scores. It was his 13th 400-yard game, topping Dan Marino for most in NFL history.
Denver receiver Wes Welker had seven catches in Week 5 and now has 854 in his career, surpassing former Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith (849) for the most catches by an undrafted player in NFL history.
Dallas' Jason Witten became the third tight end in NFL history with 10,000 career receiving yards as his 59 yards in Week 5 gives him 10,014. He joins Tony Gonazlez (15,127) and Shannon Sharpe (10,060). Witten is the second-fastest tight end to reach the milestone (180 games). Gonzalez reached 10,000 yards in his 177th game, while Sharpe did so in his 203rd game.
New Orleans' Drew Brees became the fastest quarterback to reach 40,000 passing yards with one team when he hit the mark this week. Brees threw for 371 yards in a 37-31 overtime win against Tampa Bay, and is now at 40,307 for his career. He is the seventh QB in league history with 40,000 yards with one team, and did so in 132 games to surpass Dan Marino, reaching the mark in 153.
New England's Tom Brady became the sixth quarterback in NFL history to reach 50,000 yards in his career after throwing for 292 yards in a 43-17 win over Cincinnati. Brady joined Brett Favre (71,838), Peyton Manning (65,779), Dan Marino (61,361), Drew Brees (52,284) and John Elway (51,475).
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 6:
• Breaking news: Anna Kournikova's still got it.
• Trent Dilfer: "You cannot lose games and still win." That kind of analysis is why he makes the big bucks.
• While his team was getting drubbed, Texas A&M backup QB Kyle Allen was chatting up a young coed on the sideline.
• Lorenzo Cain: Where Angels fly balls go to die.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The defending Super Bowl champions’ title defense tour makes a stop in our nation’s capital, as Seattle will take on Washington on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Seahawks (2-1) are coming off of their bye still riding high following their overtime victory over Denver two weeks ago. The Redskins (1-3) meanwhile are back in the primetime spotlight a little more than a week after an embarrassing 45-14 home loss to the Giants.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams since the NFC Wild Card game following the 2012 season. In that game, NFC East champion Washington jumped out to a 14-0 lead before Seattle scored the final 24 points to advance. Robert Griffin III injured his knee in the disappointing loss and he hasn’t been the same player since. The Redskins tumbled to 3-13 last season, resulting in a head-coaching change. On the other side, this comeback win was Russell Wilson’s first playoff victory, a total he added to during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run last season.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Seattle -7.5
Three Things to Watch
|Seattle 2014 Schedule|
|9/4||vs GB||W 36 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||@ SD||L 21 - 30||Recap|
|9/21||vs DEN||W 26 - 20||Recap|
|10/6||@ WAS||W 27 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||vs DAL||L 23 - 30||Recap|
|10/19||@ STL||L 26 - 28||Recap|
1. Kirk Cousins’ Learning Curve
Following an impressive first start against Philadelphia two weeks ago, Kirk Cousins came crashing back to earth against the Giants. Filling in for an injured Robert Griffin III, Cousins nearly led his team to a road victory in Week 3 against the defending NFC East champions, throwing for 427 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. His next start didn’t go near as well, however, as the Giants’ defense harassed Cousins all night long, picking him off four times and limiting him to just 257 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-33 passing. A lost fumble put the finishing touches on a horrendous all-around performance, as Cousins and the Redskins lost by 31 points at home. Cousins will get the opportunity to demonstrate his toughness and show that’s he learned from last week’s debacle with a solid showing against Seattle’s vaunted defense. It’s still early, but the Seahawks have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete nearly 70 percent of their passes with six touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. Then again, the quarterbacks this unit has faced so far are pretty good – Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning. No one’s mistaking Cousins for the second coming of any from this trio, but first-year head coach Jay Gruden (not to mention Redskins fans) is certainly hoping for better results from his young signal-caller tonight compared to last week’s stat line.
|Washington 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ HOU||L 6 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||vs JAC||W 41 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||@ PHI||L 34 - 37||Recap|
|9/25||vs NYG||L 14 - 45||Recap|
|10/6||vs SEA||L 17 - 27||Recap|
|10/12||@ ARI||L 20 - 30||Recap|
2. Seattle’s Road Woes
“Woes” may not be the right word considering Pete Carroll’s team is the defending Super Bowl champion and all. However, it’s perfectly accurate to describe the Seahawks as near unbeatable at home and closer to average on the road. Two of their three losses last season came away from CenturyLink Field, and Seattle didn’t play a true road game in the playoffs either. And beyond the win-loss column, the difference on the scoreboard is pretty clear too. Last season, the Seahawks averaged nearly 30 points per game at home, outscoring opponents by 15.8 points per contest. On the road, they scored about a touchdown less per game (23 ppg) while outscoring the opposition by a similar margin (7.9 ppg). This trend stayed true three weeks ago in San Diego where Carroll’s team fell behind 20-7 before eventually losing 30-21. The Chargers dominated time of possession (42:15 to 17:45) and outgained the Seahawks handily (377-288), as the visitors wilted in the Southern California heat. The temperature shouldn’t be much of a factor tonight, not for an early fall evening in our nation’s capital, but Seattle needs to find a way to produce better results on the road. Especially against a team it should have little trouble beating. Sorry, Washington fans.
3. Backfield Battle Royal?
Last season, Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the NFL in rushing. Both ran for more than 1,250 yards and the duo combined for 19 rushing touchdowns. This season, Morris enters Week 5 fifth in the league with 316 yards on the ground while Lynch is matching his 4.5 yards per carry (with one less game played). Both backs are critical to their respective offense’s success, and containing each will be one of the focal points of the defenses tonight. Seattle is doing its customary job against the run, holding opponents to just 72.3 yards rushing per game, while Washington also has been a pleasant surprise in this department (87 ypg) early on. Not only have yards been hard to come by (2.8 ypc allowed by Seattle, 3.3 by Washington) against these defenses, they also have combined to yield just three rushing touchdowns in a total of seven games. So will we see Beast Mode unleashed tonight or a big game from the Redskins’ top ball-carrier? Or will both defenses continue to hold their ground against the run?
Seattle’s the defending Super Bowl champion, coming off a bye, while Washington is still smarting from a sloppy, 31-point drubbing at home last week. Even though the Seahawks are not as fearsome on the road (see Week 2 in San Diego), as they are at home, Pete Carroll’s team is too talented and too proud to overlook any opponent. The Redskins bounce back by keeping this one closer than last week’s debacle against the Giants, but their losing streak stretches to three with another setback at FedEx Field.
Prediction: Seattle 30, Washington 20
The NBA season tips off Oct. 28, which means it’s time for fantasy basketball. Only one team will win your league, but everyone can be a winner with a funny fantasy basketball team name. All you need to do is troll Donald Sterling or LeBron James, make a hipster or hip-hop pop culture reference and/or go meta with your NBA insight in a way that Metta World Peace might not follow. Here’s our list of suggestions for 2014-15:
Blow Me (in the Ear)
Donald Sterling Scumbags
Adam Silver’s My Homeboy
Bill Walton Smells Colors
Black Mamba > Black Widow
Kobe Wan Kenobi
Space Jam 2
Steve Ballmer’s iPhone
Westbrook Geek Chic
Pippen Ain’t Easy
Metta World War 3
Metta World Peace Pipe
Derrick Rose Jersey
Mile High Manimal
Joakim Noah’s Arc
Rose Before Hoes
Sprichst Du Dirk?
Brittney Griner Tight
Shawn Kemp’s Kids
Pass the Rock to Lamar
Lala’s Honey Nut Cheerios
Rodman & Madman
Love Outlet Passes
Tim Shootin’, Tim Duncan
Ibaka Flocka Flame
Sorry to break it to fans outside of Lexington and Gainesville, but SEC basketball is a little stale.
Kentucky and Florida have established a two-team power structure at the top of the league so close that the two teams have the same league record (64-20) since 2010.
If one coach can spice this league up, it’s the new guy at Auburn.
Bruce Pearl has one of the toughest jobs in the league at Auburn, but he’s back where he was when he was fired from Tennessee — with Calipari and Donovan as one of the top coaches in the league.
The rest of the coaches in the SEC need to deliver. Some are under pressure to replicate greater success they’ve had earlier in their careers (Mike Anderson, Kevin Stallings, Frank Martin) and some need to translate mid-major success to SEC wins (Mark Fox, Johnny Jones, Billy Kennedy).
As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.
1. John Calipari, Kentucky
Record at Kentucky: 152-37 (.804)
NCAA Tournament: 43-14, five Final Fours, one national championship
Number to note: Despite missing the 2013 Tournament, Calipari has 15 NCAA wins since 2010, most in the country during that span.
Why he’s ranked here: The disappointing 2013-14 regular season may not have been one of Cal’s shining moments, especially on the heels of an NIT exit a year earlier. The disappointment subsided with a run to the Final Four for the third time in four seasons.
2. Billy Donovan, Florida
Record at Florida: 451-169 (.727)
NCAA Tournament: 35-12, four Final Fours, two national championships
Number to note: Donovan has the second-most NCAA wins (13) since 2010 behind Calipari. The figure that doesn’t include two championships in 2006 and 2007.
Why he’s ranked here: Donovan will reach the 500-win mark next season and will be one of the top 25 fastest coaches to do so. His name will land somewhere around Lute Olson and Nolan Richardson in the record books in that category.
3. Bruce Pearl, Auburn
Record at Auburn: First season
NCAA Tournament: 10-8
Number to note: Pearl has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice as a Division I head coach, both in his first three seasons at Milwaukee.
Why he’s ranked here: Pearl already pulled three four-star recruits (one junior college) for the 2015 class. Auburn will be competitive soon enough.
4. Mike Anderson, Arkansas
Record at Arkansas: 59-39 (.602)
NCAA Tournament: 7-6
Number to note: Mike Anderson is 4-1 against Calipari-coached Kentucky teams. While at UAB, Anderson went 1-1 against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
Why he’s ranked here: Once considered a home run hire when the Razorbacks hired Nolan Richardson’s right-hand man, Anderson will need to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time at Arkansas to truly shift the momentum of his program.
5. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
Record at Vanderbilt: 292-192 (.603)
NCAA Tournament: 6-8
Number to note: During the last two years, Vanderbilt endured back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 13 seasons under Stallings.
Why he’s ranked here: Vanderbilt is still searching for answers since the John Jenkins/Festus Ezeli/Jeff Taylor class left school two years ago.
6. Frank Martin, South Carolina
Record at South Carolina: 28-38 (.424)
NCAA Tournament: 6-4
Number to note: The standings show a one-game improvement from 4-14 in the SEC to 5-12, but the Gamecocks improved from No. 210 to No. 114 in KenPom’s rankings in Martin’s second season.
Why he’s ranked here: Martin may never get South Carolina to the 29-win/Elite Eight mark as Kansas State did in 2010, but progress is being made incrementally.
7. Mark Fox, Georgia
Record at Georgia: 85-77 (.525)
NCAA Tournament: 2-4
Number to note: Georgia had a non-losing season in the SEC in three of Fox’s five seasons, including 12-6 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: The Bulldogs have been tough to play during the conference season, but the non-conference resume hasn’t been up to NCAA standards.
8. Johnny Jones, LSU
Record at LSU: 39-26 (.600)
NCAA Tournament: 0-2
Number to note: LSU went 9-9 in the SEC in each of Jones’ two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: The former Dale Brown assistant and player is a good fit, but last season’s NIT bid was a disappointment.
Record at Ole Miss: 171-101 (.629)
NCAA Tournament: 1-1
Number to note: Kennedy is Ole Miss’ all-time wins leader and carries the best win percentage of any Rebels coach since 1938.
Why he’s ranked here: The 2013-14 season lends more credence to the supporting cast, not Marshall Henderson, being the key to 27 wins and an NCAA appearance in 2013.
10. Anthony Grant, Alabama
Record at Alabama: 99-71 (.582)
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Number to note: Alabama last season was winless on the road for the first time since 1999-2000.
Why he’s ranked here: Alabama has recruited too well in five seasons under Grant to have as many losing seasons as NCAA appearances (one each).
11. Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee
Record at Tennessee: First season
NCAA Tournament: 2-2
Number to note: Not many coaches leave the Ohio Valley Conference with two NCAA wins in such a short period of time. One of Tyndall’s wins came in a play-in game, the other was an upset of No. 4 seed Louisville.
Why he’s ranked here: Southern Miss kept the momentum going under Tyndall with 56 wins in two seasons.
12. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M
Record at Texas A&M: 50-49 (.505)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
Number to note: Texas A&M’s conference win total has increased in each of the last three seasons under Kennedy from 4-14 in the Big 12 to 7-11 in the SEC to 8-10 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Kennedy’s resume at Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State suggests he needs time to build a program, but Texas A&M had made six consecutive NCAA appearances before his arrival.
13. Rick Ray, Mississippi State
Record at Mississippi State: 24-41 (.369)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: A total of 11 players have left Mississippi State, not all of them by choice, in Ray’s two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Ray has been building from the ground up in Starkville. This needs to be a season for him to show some progress.
14. Kim Anderson, Missouri
Record at Missouri: First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Anderson led Central Missouri to a Division II national title last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Though he’s a former assistant at Missouri and Baylor, Anderson hasn’t spent any time at the Division I level since 1999. Now he he has one of the better jobs in the SEC.
No. 10 Texas is a contender in the Big 12 and on the national stage again. Both prospects were far off the radar in recent years under Rick Barnes, but the arrival of Isaiah Taylor and the development of a core group of veterans has put the Longhorns back into the spotlight.
The Texas edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere now.
The emergence of a standout freshman point guard last season combined with the addition of a five-star big man this season has the outlook at Texas much brighter.
Before last season, the thought was Rick Barnes could be looking at his final year as coach of the Longhorns, coming off three player defections and his first losing season in 15 years at UT.
But lightly recruited point guard Isaiah Taylor ended up leading the team in assists (4.0 apg) and nearly leading the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) as Texas returned to the NCAA Tournament, losing to Michigan in the Round of 32.
This season, Texas adds five-star big man Myles Turner to a veteran team that could finally get out of the first weekend of the NCAAs for the first time since 2008.
“The turnaround happened with those guys last year,” Barnes says. “And then when Myles came to visit, I think he sensed the chemistry going on. And our guys knew Myles could come and help, and they said they’d help him every way they could. You have to have a team — not individuals — and we have that again.”
No. 10 Texas Longhorns Facts & Figures
Last season: 24-11 overall, 11-7 Big 12
Postseason: Round of 32
Consecutive NCAAs: 1
Coach: Rick Barnes (382-166 at Texas, 166-76 Big 12)
Big 12 Projection: Second
Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Turner arrives at Texas fresh off of a record-setting performance for blocked shots on the gold-medal winning Under-18 U.S. National team coached by Billy Donovan. Turner also arrives with the same kind of fanfare reserved for the likes of former Texas big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Tristan Thompson. Turner may be a more accomplished shot-blocker than those two as an incoming freshman. And Barnes says Turner will have to be defended from the 3-point line, because his range extends beyond 20 feet. But there won’t be pressure for Turner to be a one-man show, because he enters a frontcourt loaded with experience, scoring and shot-blocking.
Jonathan Holmes, last year’s leading scorer (12.8 ppg), is the only senior on the team. At 6-8, Holmes and can play inside (7.2 rpg) and force defenders to follow him out to the arc, where he hit 28 3-pointers last season (second-most on the team).
Center Cam Ridley comes off an All-Big 12 third-team season in which he averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Ridley also recorded at least four blocks in seven games while averaging 2.2 blocks per game.
Junior forwards Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh play important roles in different ways. At 6-9, Lammert can work inside (5.2 rpg) and outside (18 made 3-pointers last season), while Ibeh protects the rim; he had at least three blocked shots in six games last season.
Taylor emerged as the main man at the point last season, replacing Javan Felix as the one running things in the final four minutes of a close game. Taylor proved capable of breaking down the defense of most any team, whether against man-to-man (23 points vs Kansas) or zone (27 points vs Baylor). He should only get better in his second season of college basketball.
Felix continues to play an important role as one of the team’s best decision-makers and leaders. He is also the team’s biggest threat from 3-point range (61 made 3s at a .343 clip last season).
Demarcus Holland, who held Big 12 scorers Juwan Staten of West Virginia and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas well below their averages, will defend the opposing team’s best perimeter player. And backup guards Martez Walker, Demarcus Croaker and Kendal Yancy should all be able to contribute and provide quality depth.
Texas has a nice combination of size and speed, experience and depth, and the addition of Turner could make this a special season for the Longhorns. Holmes is the only senior, but Texas could have three others leave school early (Taylor, Ridley and Turner), depending on how the season goes.
Barnes loves the chemistry of this group and says his team’s expectations “will be higher than what anybody else says.”
“We had gotten the program to the point where we were always talked about going into a season as a top-10 team,” the coach says. “And when that went away, you don’t like it. But these players have a lot of pride and seem determined to make sure Texas is back where it belongs.”
Five-star freshman Myles Turner comes as a proven shot-blocker who has back-to-the-basket moves over both shoulders as well as 3-point range. Small forward Jordan Barnett will have to prove he can play defense for Rick Barnes before he can show off his ability to score.
Northwestern gave up 259 rushing yards to Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, and as a result, the Wildcats will face Minnesota next week in a game to lead the Big Ten West division.
As much as Northwestern’s struggles during the second half of last season defied explanation, so does the Wildcats’ return to the top half of the Big Ten.
In a checkered season for the Big Ten, Northwestern's turnaround has become one of the bright spots.
Few teams endured a more trying year than Northwestern. The Wildcats lost seven of their last eight last season, starting with a loss to Ohio State with ESPN College GameDay in town. Northwestern continued the misery with losses to Cal and Northern Illinois to open 2014.
The tally as of Sept. 6: Nine losses in 10 games, six by one score, two in overtime. Meanwhile, Northwestern became the focal point player compensation issues when players held a union vote during the summer. Then, Northwestern lost its top offensive player in Venric Mark and leader in receiving yards in Christian Jones.
If any team deserved some breaks, it was Northwestern.
The Wildcats have won three in a row, including victories over Big Ten powers Penn State and Wisconsin. That sets up an unlikely matchup of Big Ten West contenders when the Wildcats visit Minnesota.
“We are definitely playing with a lot more passion and a lot more physicality than we did earlier in the year,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told the media. “I don't have any issues with what we did earlier in the year, except what we were doing on Saturdays.”
So how did Northwestern turn this around?
There’s certainly an element of Northwestern not being nearly as bad as its record would indicate over the last calendar year.
And it helps that Penn State and Wisconsin are hardly the complete teams Northwestern is used to seeing. Penn State’s offensive line was in shambles when the Wildcats won 29-6.
On Saturday, Wisconsin showed it is little more than its star tailback. Despite 259 yards from Gordon, Northwestern never trailed on the way to a 20-14 win.
Northwestern's personnel is also starting to settle in after the roster has been in flux for more than a year.
After early struggles, Trevor Siemian is playing like a solid Big Ten quarterback, completing 36-of-66 passes for 440 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a pair of Big Ten wins.
On Saturday, freshman Justin Jackson had a rare workhorse game for a Northwestern running back. He ran for 162 yards on 33 carries against the Badgers.
At the same time, Northwestern is starting to make its own breaks. Earlier this season, the secondary was dealt a major blow when veteran safety Ibraheim Campbell was injured.
Redshirt freshman Godwin Igwebuike stepped in to intercept three passes against Wisconsin.
“Nobody saw it coming,” Igwebuike told the media. “I mean, I didn't even see it coming.”
The same could be said of Northwestern’s spot at the top of the Big Ten.
Preseason predictions are never an exact science, but the Coastal Division was perhaps the Power 5 league with the most uncertainty and overall difficulty when trying to sort out the projections.
Six weeks into the season, the Coastal Division might have clarity in the form of Georgia Tech and Virginia.
Yes, that’s right. Georgia Tech and Virginia.
In most preseason predictions, the Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers were projected to finish near the bottom of the Coastal. Six weeks into 2014, Georgia Tech and Virginia are two of the three unbeaten (Florida State is the other) teams in the ACC.
There’s a long way to go, so who knows if either team can maintain its start or remain at the top of the Coastal.
However, with the overall unpredictability of the division, should we really be surprised?
The Cavaliers went 2-10 last year but still had one of the ACC’s most-talented rosters. Coach Mike London has signed four consecutive top 35 recruiting classes, and two five-star prospects in tackle Andrew Brown and safety Quin Blanding headlined the haul for 2014.
Quarterback play has been a primary culprit in Virginia’s offensive struggles, but the Cavaliers have nine touchdown passes through six games, which ties the mark this team posted in 2013.
There’s also progress on defense, as Virginia is allowing just 4.8 yards per play. That’s an improvement from the 5.7 mark the Cavaliers gave up in 2013.
For Georgia Tech, coach Paul Johnson ended 2013 on the hot seat after a 1-3 finish and a 7-6 record.
But Johnson has guided the Yellow Jackets back on track, and with wins over Miami and Virginia Tech, this team could be the favorite in the Coastal.
Quarterback Justin Thomas is a perfect fit for Georgia Tech’s option attack, and the turnover margin has been in this team’s favor (+5) after a negative mark (-4) last year.
In a division full of teams with flaws, it’s important to note both Georgia Tech and Virginia lead the ACC in turnover margin.
And with both teams getting better play from the quarterback position, it’s easy to see why Georgia Tech and Virginia have emerged as Coastal Division title contenders.
That’s right: Georgia Tech and Virginia. Coastal Division contenders. That’s not something most expected in the preseason, but the Coastal Division is up for grabs, and there’s not a dominant among the seven programs this year.
Miami and North Carolina are struggling on defense. Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled with turnovers. Pittsburgh needs to develop playmakers other than Tyler Boyd and James Conner. Does Duke have the necessary pieces on defense to repeat as Coastal champs?
Again, Georgia Tech and Virginia are far from perfect. But when you win the turnover margin and get better play from your quarterbacks, you start to see why the Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers are poised to easily exceed preseason expectations.
Oklahoma has long since put all its hopes into Trevor Knight at quarterback, and now the sophomore has to deliver.
Lucky for the Sooners, the national picture is as muddy as ever. A road loss to TCU may not eliminate Oklahoma from playoff contention, but the Horned Frogs proved that Knight will need to rise to the occasion before the Sooners face Baylor in November.
Against TCU, Knight passed for 309 yards and rushed for 61. He was able to strike at the Horned Frogs’ secondary with deep passes, including a 75-yard TD to Sterling Shepard.
But with the game in his hands, Knight struggled.
At a critical juncture in the second half, Oklahoma drifted away from the run game and put the game into Knight’s hands. Freshman Samaje Perine had scored three touchdowns on the day, but he averaged only 3.5 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, Knight at one point was averaging better than 10 yards per pass attempt.
The numbers and explosiveness indicated Knight was OU’s best bet to complete the comeback against the Frogs.
At the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, Oklahoma called 10 passes in 11 plays, including eight pass plays in a row. Knight went 2-of-9 during that stretch with a sack. Knight also had a pass intercepted near the line of scrimmage by linebacker Paul Dawson. The 41-yard return for a touchdown became the game-winning score for TCU.
“The quarterback had been throwing slants and balls on a rope the whole game,” Dawson told the media. “As soon as he looked to my side I just felt it coming. I stepped out, caught the ball and sprinted. It was supposed to be a blitz.”
Knight and Oklahoma can dissect this game, but they can’t look too far ahead to Baylor on Nov. 8.
The Sooners face rival Texas this week, and the Longhorns quietly rank second in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense (TCU is ranked first).
“I know for sure that if you keep losing you're not going to have much chance of anything,” Stoops told the media. “To play, you don't look at the end of the season. All we care about is next week. Period."
As recently as Nov. 2 last season, the newest star quarterback in the Big 12 was catching 11 passes in a game against West Virginia. A loss to West Virginia no less.
By Saturday, though, the question had to be asked of TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin:
How did this guy have to fight for the starting job in a competition that wasn't settled until days before the opener? And, more than that, how did Boykin have to fight simply to remain listed as a quarterback on the roster.
In a 37-33 upset of Oklahoma, Boykin established himself as a bona fide star quarterback in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs already matched last year’s win total and enter a game with Baylor next week as surprising Big 12 contenders.
None of this would be possible if TCU didn’t find a way to put Boykin front and center at quarterback.
Against Oklahoma, Boykin completed 20-of-38 passes for 318 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 77 yards giving him a career-high 395 yards of total offense in a breakout win for TCU.
Hard to believe this was the same quarterback who was all but written off when Matt Joeckel arrived as a transfer from Texas A&M.
Instead of a pair of new coordinators opting for Joeckel, Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meachem had what they needed in Boykin. Keep in mind, Joeckel seemed like an ideal fit for the spread Cumbie, a former Texas Tech assistant, and Meachem, a former Houston aide, wanted to install.
TCU is running the spread just fine under Boykin. The Horned Frogs moved up and down the field against Samford, Minnesota and SMU, but a top-five Oklahoma would be a new challenge.
In the first half, TCU was just as effective against the Sooners as any team on the schedule. Boykin made plays on the move and squeezed passes into tight spaces as TCU built a 14-0 lead.
"Boykin scrambled around to make a play even when we had the right pressure on him, he made the plays,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told the media. “He made quite a few of those in the first half in a similar way and not as many in the second half.”
Perhaps it was a streaky game, but it was clear Boykin has helped TCU look more and more like a Big 12 program. Sporadic absences from former starting quarterback Casey Pachall didn’t help, but TCU was ill-prepared for the new league on the offensive side of the ball.
TCU ranked eighth in the league in the Big 12 in yards per play in each of its first two seasons in the conference. The Horned Frogs rank fifth now, but they are one of seven teams averaging better than six yards per snap.
TCU is also excelling in the hurry-up, averaging 82 plays per game. The Horned Frogs averaged 68.5 a year ago.
And more than that, TCU is playing with plenty of confidence heading into a game with another league frontrunner in Baylor.
“It’s off the charts right now,” Boykin said. “Especially after this game and even going into this game we knew we could win. Nobody mattered expect the 53 guys in the locker room that believed.”
Miami took a step back in its quest to finally win the Coastal Division title, losing 28-17 to Georgia Tech on Saturday night. The loss to the Yellow Jackets dropped coach Al Golden’s team to just 1-2 in ACC play and put a serious dent in the Hurricanes’ hopes of playing in Charlotte in early December.
In Miami’s last 27 ACC games, the Hurricanes are a pedestrian 14-13 and only one season since 2010 has resulted in more than seven victories (2013). Golden doesn’t appear to be in any danger of losing his job this year, but it’s fair to wonder just how far Miami has progressed under his watch over the last three years.
The overall inconsistency and defensive struggles are the biggest problem for Golden moving forward. Quarterback Brad Kaaya is promising, and Duke Johnson is still one of the top running backs in the nation. The talent on defense seemed to be better this year, and there was some progress on that side of the ball through the first couple of games.
A win over Duke last Saturday breathed life into Miami’s division hopes and suggested this team addressed some of its defensive woes by limiting the Blue Devils to just 10 points and 3.5 yards per play. Holding Duke to just 3.5 yards per play was the fewest per-play average allowed by Miami since 2011.
Georgia Tech is not an easy team to prepare for, and new quarterback Justin Thomas has provided a spark for the offense. But Miami’s defense struggled to find answers for the Yellow Jackets, as Thomas guided an offense that never had a drive fewer than eight (until the last two plays – kneel downs). The Yellow Jackets gashed Miami – a team that annually recruits better talent than Georgia Tech – for 4.9 yards per carry and 318 overall yards.
In the last three seasons, the Hurricanes have allowed five games of at least 300 rushing yards. Again, for a team like Miami that recruits as well as it does, those numbers are hard to fathom.
Coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has been feeling the pressure from the fanbase, and the play-calling and overall schemes were a source of criticism on Saturday night.
It’s only Week 6, but there’s a glaring problem for Miami. Take a look at the schedule. Is it going to get any easier? Road trips to Virginia Tech and Virginia aren’t going to be easy, and the Hurricanes still have to play Florida State – arguably the No. 1 team in the nation – in November.
As Golden navigates through his fourth season in Coral Gables, the program is still trying to piece everything together and reclaim a spot among the ACC’s elite.
The Coastal Division certainly isn’t filled with elite teams, which is why Miami’s inability to breakthrough is puzzling.
With road trips to Virginia Tech, Virginia and a home date against Florida State remaining, the Hurricanes could be looking at a 7-5 final record.
Golden inherited a tough situation and is starting a true freshman quarterback (Kaaya), so some growing pains are expected.
But in a wide-open division, and with the talent on the roster, more should be expected of Miami.
The Hurricanes are 1-2 in league play, and with a likely loss to Florida State ahead, Golden’s team needs to sweep the rest of their ACC games to have a shot at the division title.
It’s not impossible, but it looks unlikely.
And while Golden inherited a tough situation due to a NCAA investigation, Miami is still trying to breakthrough in the Coastal. The next six games are critical for Golden, as he needs to show this program is on the right track, the defense is capable of moving forward, and Kaaya can develop under his coaching staff.
If future opponents thought Virginia Tech provided the blueprints to beat Ohio State, the Big Ten can scrap those plans.
The Buckeyes offense that looked hapless against the Hokies now looks like it can win the Big Ten behind redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.
With a 52-24 win at Maryland, Ohio State picked up a third consecutive lopsided win since the stunning loss at home to Virginia Tech, the latest victory the most impressive of them all.
Against the Hokies, Barrett struggled against a pass rush, completing 9-of-29 passes with three interceptions. The run game provided little relief for the quarterback who was pressed into duty only because Braxton Miller was lost for the season.
Now, Barrett is starting to look like a legitimate All-Big Ten QB. Since Virginia Tech, he’s completed better than 72 percent of his passes in every game to go with 15 total touchdowns and one interception. Barrett’s 17 touchdown passes this season is already the ninth-best single-season total in Ohio State history.
And this is from a guy who expected to be a backup all year.
Credit adjustments. Credit maturity. Credit an improved offensive line and run game. All are valid.
“I'm just trying to get better during the week and not wait until game day to just react to everything I learn the defense on Tuesday and Wednesday so come Saturday I can have that confidence and go out and play," Barrett told the media after the win.
Not to be overlooked is the emergence of Ezekiel Elliott. Ohio State tailbacks were ineffective in the first three games. Against Cincinnati and Maryland, the sophomore Elliott rushed for 321 yards and a touchdown on 52 carries.
Much of this may be due to Ohio State’s ability to adjust to the zero coverage every opponent has played against the Buckeyes since the Virginia Tech loss, coach Urban Meyer said.
Elliott has been able to run the ball, enabling Barrett to take shots down the field. Barrett completed five passes of at least 25 yards against Maryland, giving him 11 yards per attempt in the game.
"You start to see the quarterbacks, receivers and coaching staff get really excited and start making more aggressive calls,” Meyer said. “That's a sign that our run game is really solid and our o-line is growing up. The bare zero coverage takes away the other team's run game. It forces the other team to take some other shots. We've worked hard at it because we know what's coming.”
Now that Big Ten play has started, Ohio State is able to take advantage of those shots.
Not protecting the quarterback finally caught up with UCLA.
Just one week after looking like a national title contender on the road against Arizona State, Brett Hundley was sacked a staggering 10 times by Utah on Saturday night in the disappointing 30-28 home loss.
The UCLA quarterback entered this season as the most sacked QB in the nation over the last two years with 87 sacks under Jim Mora. After giving up 10 sacks to the Utes, those issues are still painfully obvious as the Bruins now rank 124th in sacks allowed for the year — 22.0 for 131 lost yards.
The home loss capped a month of wondering when UCLA's offensive line woes would cost the Bruins a victory and Utah took advantage.
One week after coughing up a big second half league to Washington State at home, Utah's defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Nate Orchard tied a school record with 4.0 sacks while setting a personal best with 11 tackles. In all, six different Utes registered a sack against the Bruins Heisman Trophy candidate.
It wasn't just the defense that stepped up, however, as backup quarterback Kendal Thompson replaced Travis Wilson just two series into the game. His quickness caused UCLA issues on defense as he led the Utes on the game-winning drive over the final four minutes of play. Thompson finished 10-of-13 passing for 95 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 83 yards on 19 carries.
Clearly, Kyle Whittingham is still looking for consistency but road wins over UCLA and Michigan (stop laughing) prove his bunch can play with anyone. Mora, meanwhile, still has major offensive line and playmaker issues surrounding Hundley on offense. Both teams have glaring warts but both teams are capable of beating anyone in the league at anytime.
And they are both right in the thick of what should be an entertaining Pac-12 South race over the final two months. A week ago, this battle looked like a two horse race with UCLA and USC poised to collide near the season's end.
Seven days later and it looks like a completely different division.
Arizona toppled Oregon in impressive fashion and is the lone remaining unbeaten team both in conference (2-0) and overall (5-0) but has yet to play a division game. Arizona State staved off elimination with a final play Hail Mary against USC but still faces a nasty slate of North Division opponents. USC is also in desperate need of consistency but has the easiest schedule of any team in the South. Lastly, Utah, whose special teams and defensive line give it as good a shot as any in the South, now owns the tiebreaker over UCLA.
The Bruins are still the frontrunner to get to Levi's Stadium but could easily fall to 1-2 in the league with an angry Oregon team visiting the Rose Bowl this weekend. A three- or four-game hole might be too much to overcome.
Especially, if this unit cannot keep Brett Hundley off the turf.
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday is slowly but surely rewriting the college football record book.
The Cougars signal caller threw for an FBS single-game passing record 734 yards against the Cal Golden Bears late on Saturday night, breaking David Klingler's longtime record of 716. Halliday was 49-of-70 passing with six touchdowns and nary an interception. For good measure, he also ran for 17 yards on three carries. He was just two yards shy of the NCAA all-division record of 736 set by Eureka College's Sam Durley against Knox in 2012.
This from the same guy who set the NCAA single-game record for pass attempts with 89 against Oregon last season. Halliday has thrown for 3,052 yards and 26 touchdowns in six games this year. He's averaging 508.7 yards per game. (pause to reread that.)
Mississippi State has never had a player throw for 3,000 yards in a entire season and Halliday has accomplished it in six games. He is on pace to break B.J. Symons' NCAA single-season record of 5,833 yards set back in 2003. The Wazzu quarterback has improved across the board, too, by limiting his interceptions — he has seven in 369 attempts (52.7 attempts/INT) this fall after 22 in 714 attempts last year (32.5).
Symons was, of course, also coached my Mike Leach. For what it's worth, Leach also owns No. 2 on the single-season passing list as he coached Graham Harrell's 5,705-yard 2007 campaign as well.
There is one big issue, however. Washington State lost the game. All of the numbers and headlines block the view of the 60-59 home defeat. Cal scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to comeback to win, moving to 2-1 and into sole possession of first place in the North. Quarterback Jared Goff was brilliant opposite Halliday.
Only in the Pac-12 can you throw for 527 yards and five touchdowns on 70 percent passing, not turn the ball over once, score 60 points in a win and still get overshadowed. The duo set an NCAA record with 1,261 combined passing yards. Goff also set the combined single game TD record by teaming with Colorado's Sefo Liufau to throw 14 combined TD passes last week.
Washington State appeared to have some momentum after the impressive come from behind win in Salt Lake City last weekend, but this crushing defeat halts any bowl game talk in its tracks.
Leach's bunch plays at Stanford, Arizona, USC, at Oregon State, at Arizona State and Washington the rest of the way, needing to win four of those to go bowling. A losing season seems like a foregone conclusion in Pullman after the disappointment at home.
The records are prolific but doing it on a losing team certainly takes the shine off the plaque.
The Sun Devils were literally on their last gasp when a backup quarterback changed the entire complexion of the season for Todd Graham with two throws.
Trailing for most of the game, Arizona State's back-up quarterback Mike Bercovici flipped the Pac-12 South on its head with two long touchdown passes, the last of which came on the final play of the game from 46 yards out.
USC scored with just over three minutes to go, giving the Trojans a nine-point lead with 3:02 left in the game. Berocvici then led a one-play drive by connecting with Cameron Smith from 73 yards out to answer immediately.
Following a USC three and out, the Sun Devils got the ball back with 23 seconds left and their season hanging in the balance. A loss to USC would have all but knocked Arizona State out of the Pac-12 South race after getting thumped by UCLA last weekend.
Bercovici moved his team to the USC 46 yard line in three plays, facing an obvious Hail Mary situation.
For the second time in a few weeks, a school from Arizona was just under 50 yards away from victory trailing a school from California with one play remaining in the game. And exactly like Arizona's 47-yard Hail Mary against Cal, Arizona State's prayer was answered when all-everything wideout Jaelen Strong snatched Bercovici's heave out of mid-air for the game-winning touchdown.
The affable and well-spoken Sun Devils back-up signal caller finished with 510 yards and five touchdowns in just his second start after throwing for 488 a week ago against the Bruins.
Yes, it was a miracle completion. Yes, it was a historic comeback. Yes, it was an amazing way to cap what turned out to be a wild day in college football. Yes, Arizona State — which threw for 510 yards and ran for 31 — needs to find more balance on offense. But most importantly, it salvaged the Sun Devils season and gave Graham's bunch hope in the Pac-12 race.
Arizona State is now 2-1 in the Pac-12 while USC falls to 1-1, essentially a game behind ASU due to the all important tie-breaker. With UCLA also losing in Week 6, the improbable comeback creates a logjam in the South Division. Only Arizona, who has yet to play a division game, is left unbeaten in the conference (2-0) and only Colorado has more than one league loss (0-3).
After last weekend, it appeared to be a two-horse race in the South. Seven days later, everyone but Colorado is still very much in the hunt. And the season is just starting to heat up.
Hear my interview with Sun Devils star Mike Bercovici:
Giving up 28 unanswered points to a healthy Oregon team on the road temporarily knocked Michigan State out of the national conversation a month ago.
The Spartans defense made sure it didn’t happen again.
Though Michigan State’s 27-22 win over Nebraska was closer than it needed to be, the Spartans defense proved again it is the cornerstone for a team with lofty postseason aspirations.
Nebraska ended the game on a 19-0 run and had the ball in Michigan State territory with a chance to take a lead in the final 1:07, but the Spartans held thanks to a Trae Waynes interception to seal the game.
Despite a fourth quarter outburst, this was the signature defensive performance of the season for Michigan State so far.
Michigan State dared Nebraska to win with the pass and the result was two interceptions and five sacks. Of Nebraska’s first 12 possessions, eight ended in punts. Three ended in turnovers.
Ameer Abdullah, who entered the game with back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, was held to a season-low 45 yards on 24 carries. The run game that steamrolled Miami and Illinois managed just 1.3 yards per carry.
“Coming in, we knew Abdullah was a great back,” Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough told the media. “He's quick, he was going to try to cut back on us, so we preached all week that we all got to swarm to the ball. We all know schematically what we want to do, and I think for the most part we achieved it. The big thing was we wanted to get heads to the ball, and I think we did that.”
After the win, though, Michigan State may still have questions.
The Spartans let off the gas in the fourth quarter, allowing Nebraska to claw its way back on two touchdown drives and a punt return for a touchdown. The game was needlessly dramatic, and combined with Oregon’s come-from-behind win, Michigan State may wonder if it can hold up for a full four quarters against a quality opponent.
The dominance of the defense early also masked some issues on offense. Quarterback Connor Cook was a mere 11-of-29. The Spartans turned the ball over three times, but Nebraska converted none of its takeaways to points.
That brings up the next question: Who on Michigan State’s remaining schedule will truly challenge the Spartans if they slip up again? There’s a Nov. 8 home date against Ohio State and then, what? Michigan? Maryland? Penn State?
“It is good that you have a close game,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio told the media. “I don't like them, but it's good to have a close game and win it in the end.”
You can call it Magnolia State Magic. You can call it the best sports day in the history of the state.
But don’t call it a fluke.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss, historically two of the least-successful programs in the SEC, both enjoyed program-changing wins that will vault them into the top-five in many national polls.
Mississippi State’s victory was less surprising but far more dominant. The Bulldogs, playing without their starting center (Dillon Day) and top wide receiver (Jameon Lewis), rolled up 559 yards of total offense on its way to a 48–31 win over Texas A&M. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott has emerged as arguably the top dual-threat quarterback in the country (and yes, that includes Marcus Mariota). The junior has been remarkably consistent, throwing for at least 200 yards in every game and rushing for more than 75 in each of the last four games. He has averaged at least 8.4 yards per passing attempt in every game this season, including 11.2 against LSU and 10.4 against Texas A&M.
The other quarterback in the state also enjoyed a banner day. Bo Wallace threw for 251 yard with three touchdowns and — most important — zero interceptions in Ole Miss’ stunning 23–17 win over Alabama. With the eyes of the college football world focused on Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Wallace threw two touchdown passes in the final six minutes to lead his team to the improbable victory.
“He made some big-time plays,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said of his senior quarterback. “He just played so solid. On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us.”
You can debate which team from the Magnolia State deserves to be ranked higher — Mississippi State has more quality wins (LSU, A&M) while Ole Miss as the best win (Alabama) — but there is no denying that both the Bulldogs and Rebels have earned their spot (for now) near the top of the college football food chain.
With the spotlight of the college football world on the state of Mississippi, the epic struggles of the LSU defense went largely unnoticed this past weekend.
But the folks in Baton Rouge, who are used to seeing the Tigers field a dominating defense, are ready to hit the panic button. LSU was torched by Auburn for 566 yards (298 on the ground, 268 in the air) en route to a 41–7 loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn averaged 7.7 yards per snap and converted 6-of-12 on third down. It was total domination.
LSU, which has ranked in the top five in the SEC in each of the past four years, has given up an average of 568 yards in its two SEC games — losses at home to Mississippi State and at Auburn. The Tigers had allowed 500 yards to an SEC opponent only twice in the previous six seasons.
This team’s overall defensive stats in 2014 are still respectable — LSU ranks fifth in the league at this point — but the numbers are skewed by a extremely soft non-conference schedule. The Tigers allowed an average of 231.0 yards in wins over Sam Houston State, ULM and New Mexico State. Against quality competition, the results have been quite different. They gave up 268 rushing yards in the opener against Wisconsin and 550-plus total yards to both Mississippi State and Auburn.
Les Miles attempted to rationalize his team’s defensive struggles after the Auburn loss, putting some of the blame on the Tigers’ inept offense.
“I’m disappointed (in the defense), but I am realistic too,” he said. “When you put your defense back on the field repeatedly, the offense needs to do its job. And the defense needs to get off the field.”
The numbers, however, don’t back up Miles’ claim. The LSU defense was only the field for 74 plays on Saturday night — not a huge amount against a Gus Malzahn offense. Auburn averaged 7.7 yards on those 74 plays, including an alarming 6.1 per rush. As a team, LSU ranks last in the SEC in rushing defense.
“We have to be more physical at the point of attack,” linebacker Kendall Beckwith said. “That’s all there is — just be more physical and be more aggressive.”
Teams seemingly at a crossroads will intersect when Cincinnati and New England face off tonight at Gillette Stadium on NBC. The Bengals (3-0) come off of their bye refreshed and close to full strength, while the Patriots (2-2) are still picking up the pieces from the 41-14 shellacking they got from the Chiefs on Monday night.
A matchup of defending division champions, Cincinnati topped New England 13-6 in Week 5 last season. In that game, not only did the Bengals’ defense hold the Patriots to just 248 total yards and two field goals, it also put an end to Tom Brady’s streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Cincinnati -1
Three Things to Watch
|Cincinnati 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ BAL||W 23 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||vs ATL||W 24 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||vs TEN||W 33 - 7||Recap|
|10/5||@ NE||L 17 - 43||Recap|
|10/12||vs CAR||37 - 37||Recap|
|10/19||@ IND||L 0 - 27||Recap|
1. Monday Night Hangover for New England?
No matter how you slice it, Monday night in Arrowhead Stadium represented one of the lowest points in the 14 seasons Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been paired together as head coach and starting quarterback. And it’s not just in the 41-14 score, which is the second-largest margin of defeat in the 221 games (including playoffs) Brady has started, it’s how the Patriots lost. In the first half alone Kansas City outgained New England 303-98, as a defense that ranked among the best in the NFL entering this contest looked helpless to stop the Chiefs’ running or passing games. The futility and frustration carried over to the second half, as the home team kept pouring it on and Brady and the offense struggled to get anything going. Brady didn’t even finish the game, as he was pulled in the fourth quarter after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Patriots were thoroughly dominated in every facet of the game, something that has happened rarely during Belichick’s tenure, but the reality is this is a team with plenty of question marks, most of them coming on offense. This Brady-led unit is 29th in the league in yards gained (298.5 ypg) and 30th in passing (201.0 ypg), something that seems unfathomable considering the future Hall of Famer’s track record. The offensive line clearly has issues and lacks cohesion, the running game has struggled to find any consistency (97.5 ypg) and no one other than Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have consistently made plays in the passing game. The mood was somber, to say the least, within and outside of the team following the Monday night meltdown. And a bad situation could only get worse depending on how the Patriots respond in a short week against an undefeated Cincinnati team that’s coming off of a bye.
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ MIA||L 20 - 33||Recap|
|9/14||@ MIN||W 30 - 7||Recap|
|9/21||vs OAK||W 16 - 9||Recap|
|9/29||@ KC||L 14 - 41||Recap|
|10/5||vs CIN||W 43 - 17||Recap|
|10/12||@ BUF||W 37 - 22||Recap|
2. Cincinnati at Full Strength?
The Bengals are not only undefeated entering this game, they also are a slight favorite on the road in the house that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady built. This duo is 96-17 at home, including playoffs, in their 14 seasons together. Cincinnati also gets to face a dejected and discouraged Patriots team that’s still smarting from their last loss, while the Bengals are coming off of a bye. Besides giving them a chance to rest and an extra week to prepare, the bye allowed some key players to return to practice. Head coach Marvin Lewis hopes to have Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict back after he suffered concussions in back-to-back games and not playing at all in Week 3. Burfict is the heart and soul of this defense and led the NFL in tackles last season. His return would make a stingy defense (league-leading 11 ppg allowed) even better. On offense, the passing game could get a boost if wide receiver Marvin Jones gets back on the field. Second on the team last season in receiving yards (712) and touchdowns (10), Jones has been out since breaking a bone in his foot early in the preseason. His presence would not only provide quarterback Andy Dalton with another receiving threat, it also would give the Bengals a reliable red-zone target to take some of the pressure off of A.J. Green and help fill the absence of injured tight end Tyler Eifert. Some other injured starters and key reserves could be returning as well, a potentially scary proposition for the rest of the league considering the Bengals went 3-0 without the likes of Burfict, Jones, etc. on the field.
3. Which Team Gains the Most Ground?
New England’s struggles running the ball have already been documented. The Patriots are 23rd in the NFL in that category right now, but the Bengals haven’t fared that much better. Even with the dynamic duo of explosive Giovani Bernard and bruising Jeremy Hill leading the way, Cincinnati is just 15th in the league in rushing (121.7 ypg) and is actually averaging fewer yards per carry (3.6) than New England (3.7). The difference, however, lies in the contributions of the respective passing games. The former is 11th with 262.3 yards per game, while the latter is languishing in 30th (201.0 ypg). This is a big reason why the Bengals are seventh in the league in total offense and scoring nearly 27 points per game while the Patriots are 29th and managing just 20 points per contest. Regardless, both teams would like to establish the run tonight, especially considering the respective defenses have struggled some in this department. Cincinnati is allowing 113.3 yards per game, including 149 in Week 3 to Tennessee. New England meanwhile coughed up 207 to Kansas City in the Monday night meltdown. The team that does the best job of staying “grounded” tonight more than likely leaves Gillette Stadium as the victors.
When looking at both teams’ current circumstances, Cincinnati appears to be getting New England at an opportune time. The Patriots are wounded, especially when it comes to their pride and team morale, and there seem to be more questions than available answers. On top of this, Bill Belichick’s team is dealing with a short turnaround after playing a Monday night game and has had to deal with a hungry media crush that’s more concerned about reporting on the Patriots’ pending demise. On the other side are the Bengals, undefeated, coming off of their bye well rested and as close to full strength as they’ve been this season. While I don’t think New England is headed for the basement of the AFC East, I do believe that Cincinnati is a better team at this point in their seasons. Marvin Lewis’ team adds to the misery of Patriots fans, as the Bengals capitalize on being an extremely rare road favorite in Gillette Stadium.
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, New England 20
Dak Prescott did it again.
Mississippi State entered the season with a 15-game losing streak to ranked teams and reputation of futility against the powers of the SEC.
Now, the Bulldogs seem invincible against ranked teams.
Prescott completed 19-of-25 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns in a 48-31 win over No. 6 Texas A&M. Prescott also rushed for 77 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.
Mississippi State has defeated a pair of top 10 teams this season in LSU and Texas A&M, and despite closer final scores, the Bulldogs had both games well in hand by the third quarter thanks to Prescott.
“He’s going to get more attention now with his performance, but that’s what we expect from him. In order to keep winning, he’s going to have to keep playing at a very, very high level,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “I think he handles it well.”
National Defensive Player of the Week: Cole Luke, Notre Dame
To beat Stanford, Notre Dame would have to find a way to upstage arguably the top defensive team in the country. Cornerback Cole Luke led the way in that effort with two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble in the 17-14 win over the Cardinal.
National Freshman of the Week: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Reports of the demise of Ohio State’s Big Ten season were premature. Ohio State might not be in the national title hunt without Braxton Miller, but the Big Ten is a feasible goal. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett completed 18-of-23 passes for 267 yards with four touchdowns in a 52-24 win over Maryland, a team that entered the game in the top 20 of pass efficiency defense. Barrett also rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
National Coordinator of the Week: Dave Wommack, Ole Miss
How does a team beat Alabama with merely 323 yards of offense? A stout defensive effort will do it. Ole Miss shut down Alabama where it works best — in the run game and in the passing game to Amari Cooper — for 23-17 win. Wommack’s defense held Alabama to 3.8 yards per carry and held Cooper to 10.1 yards per catch and no touchdowns in the win.
Conference Players of the Week
ACC: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 17-of-29 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-0 win over NC State. Watson also rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Big 12: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin completed of 20-of-39 passes for 318 yards in a 37-33 win over Oklahoma. Boykin also rushed for 77 yards on 22 carries.
Big Ten: Michigan State wide receiver Tony Lippett caught three passes for 104 yards with a touchdown. He also rushed for a 32-yard touchdown on a reverse.
Pac-12: Utah defensive end Nate Orchard had four sacks and 11 tackles in a 30-28 win over UCLA.
American: Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch was 18-of-24 for 311 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-14 win over Cincinnati. Lynch also rushed for 45 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Conference USA: UAB running back Jordan Howard rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries in a 42-39 win over Western Kentucky.
MAC: Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix completed 32-of-58 passes for 437 yards with four touchdowns in a 42-41 win over UMass. Hendrix also rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to end Miami’s 21-game losing streak.
Mountain West: Utah State quarterback Darell Garretson completed 19-of-25 passes for 321 yards with three touchdowns and a rushing TD in a 35-20 win over BYU.
Sun Belt: Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten completed 21-of-36 passes for 284 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 28-14 win over ULM. Knighten rushed for 71 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
A wild week for college football reshaped the playoff race and naturally the Heisman race followed.
Despite a gallant effort, frontrunner Marcus Mariota was on the losing end Thursday against Arizona, meaning the race is wide open again.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott filled the void for the week, but a handful of players who were off the radar — Arizona’s Anu Solomon, TCU’s Trevone Boykin among them — can’t be ignored.
The Heisman race is an end-of-season award, but the race is part of the fun. Here are the contenders who added momentum or lost it in the last week.
Prescott has gone from dark horse to potential frontrunner with another standout performance in a convincing win over a top 10 team. Against LSU and the Texas A&M, he’s 34-of-49 for 524 yards with four touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers and Aggies.
Hill didn’t have a great game against Arkansas — his 51.2 percent completion rate was the lowest of the season — but he found a way to win. The bottom fell out against Mississippi State as Hill threw three interceptions, giving him five picks in the last three games. He still passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns, but his candidacy has cooled.
Ole Miss’ standout secondary kept Cooper in check, at least by his standards. Cooper still got his nine catches, but he was held to a season-low 91 yards. He was kept out of the end zone for the first time since the opener and didn’t have a catch longer than 30 yards.
Auburn wanted to prove Marshall could thrive as a passer. Check that box. Marshall completed 14-of-22 passes for 207 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-7 rout of LSU. He remained a threat in the run game with 119 yards and two scores. Next up: A showdown with Mississippi State and Dak Prescott.
The Heisman is the least of BYU’s concerns as Hill was lost for the season after sustaining a broken leg in a 35-20 loss to Utah State. Hill was off to his best season as a passer, completing two-thirds of his passes for 975 yards and seven touchdowns in five games.
Redshirt freshmen have won the last two Heisman trophies, and Solomon may be the best contender to continue the trend. He out-dueled clubhouse leader Marcus Mariota late into the night Thursday by completing 20-of-31 passes for 287 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Solomon led a game-winning drive against the No. 2 team with 2:58 to go.
Mariota didn’t play poorly against Arizona, but the makeshift offensive line isn’t doing him any favors. Mariota no longer plays for an undefeated team, though his 276 yards and two touchdowns could have been enough to win Thursday. With Oregon’s struggles, this might not be the Ducks’ only Pac-12 loss this year.
Another great quarterback. Another bad offensive line. Mariota has some company in the Pac-12 in Hundley. The UCLA quarterback completed 16-of-21 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked 10 times in a 30-28 loss to Utah.
How’s this for an out-of-nowhere contender? Boykin proved his early numbers were legitimate with a masterful performance against Oklahoma. The junior accounted for a career-high 395 yards of total offense (318 passing, 77 rushing) and two passing touchdowns to upset the Sooners.
Knight was able to pick on the TCU defense for big pass plays early. Oklahoma put more emphasis on the pass late in the game, and Knight couldn’t keep up. He completed 14-of-35 passes for 309 yards with two interceptions, including the decisive pick six early the fourth quarter.
In the grand scheme of things, Petty will be judged on how he plays against Oklahoma (and now TCU, perhaps). A 7-of-22 performance for 111 yards and two touchdowns was a shockingly low total for the prolific Baylor quarterback.
Abdullah has had plenty of success against the Michigan State defense the last two seasons. That changed Saturday. After back-to-back 200-yard games, Abdullah rushed for a season-low 45 yards on 24 carries in a 27-22 loss to Michigan State. Abdullah rushed for two touchdowns but didn’t account for a run longer than nine yards.
In a huge weekend, Gurley made sure he wasn’t overlooked. The 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in a rout of Vanderbilt is pretty standard for Gurley, but now he has the longest pass of the year for the Bulldogs with a 50-yard completion, 11 yards longer than any QB on the roster.
Gordon may be the nation’s most important player — it’s scary to think where Wisconsin would be without him. Gordon rushed for 259 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries against Northwestern giving him 693 yards in three weeks. The Badgers still lost 20-14 to the Wildcats.
Week 6 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football's Most Viral Moments from Week 6
LOOK AT THAT MULLET pic.twitter.com/yTZ93Fz29A— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) October 3, 2014
Um. Houston's sideline cards are interesting. pic.twitter.com/SY8Y4acb79— Ross Dellenger (@DellengerAdv) October 3, 2014
Week 6, you sweet bastard. Scooby Wright's sack-fumble + Arizona's W has set the tone. https://t.co/pFj0bSUuWX— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) October 3, 2014
Syracuse drop so bad they still played the celebration horn: https://t.co/Lx5WYc0wjT— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 4, 2014
Is that really the Little Caesars mascot talking trash? "Pizza, pizza!" pic.twitter.com/Ic4HcOw5ix— Matt Murschel (@osmattmurschel) October 4, 2014
Kickoff at Indiana. pic.twitter.com/WjJElSBgu9— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) October 4, 2014
Meanwhile at UNC RT @HokiesJournal Larry Fedora: "There's not one single person out there who's done what they were coached to do this week"— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) October 4, 2014
Ole Miss FIRED UP. http://t.co/cewhCWhwB1— VICE Sports (@VICESports) October 4, 2014
In case you didn't see Marques Gayot's bodyslam tackle on the fake punt: https://t.co/39o0Je5Pv7— Matt Porter (@mattyports) October 5, 2014
Excited Rutgers bro wanted to get to the camera and puzzled Kyle Flood as he was shoved away by an officer http://t.co/199NHfBN3N— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 5, 2014
The Week 5 Lone Star State Showdown should feature both workhorse running backs, while the Browns also hope to have their No. 1 ball-carrier in the lineup. Here are some of the key running back and quarterback injuries to keep an eye on.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans
Probable – Back
Romo didn’t practice on Wednesday, but that’s becoming the normal routine for the veteran. He was a full go on both Thursday and Friday and is Probable for today’s Lone Star State showdown with the Texans. The Cowboys are aiming for their fourth straight win and Romo hasn’t shown any reason during this streak to not start him.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys
Probable – Hamstring
Foster was a game-time decision last week for the second straight game, but unlike Week 3 against the Giants, he ended up playing vs. the Bills. He wasn’t every effective as a rusher, however, finishing with just six yards on eight carries although he did catch seven passes for 55 yards. The Probable designation for this week is certainly encouraging, but don’t mistake that to mean he’s back to 100 percent. Foster was limited in practice this week, which is nothing new, but neither is him being a late scratch prior to kickoff. Unless something happens between now and 1 p.m. ET, Foster should be in your starting lineup. But it wouldn’t hurt to have Plan B ready, just in case.
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans
Probable – Knee
The Browns are coming off of their bye and should get their No. 1 RB back. Tate sprained his knee in Week 1 and has been out since, but he was a full go at practice on Friday and is listed as Probable. If Tate does play, he will reclaim his starting role, which will likely decrease the number of touches rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell get. If you have Tate, you can employ him as a RB2 while West and Crowell are back to flex options. Two things to keep in mind, however, are 1) Tate’s leash may not be that long considering how productive West and Crowell were during his absence (Crowell in particular seems to be generating the most buzz from Browns camp) and 2) Tate himself didn’t sound that optimistic that he would be ready to go on Sunday, apparently worried that his knee could swell up prior to game time. If the player is worried about his knee, shouldn’t his fantasy owners be a little wary as well?
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns
Probable – Wrist
Locker missed last week’s game due to a sore wrist, but it was business as usual this week. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has already announced that Locker will be his starter today with Charlie Whitehurst serving as the backup. The Titans have lost three games in a row by an average of 22 points and not surprisingly, Locker has struggled (TD, 4 turnovers in past two games) during this stretch. It’s not a bad bye week with only Miami and Oakland off, so you’re probably better off using someone other than Locker, even if you’re in a 2-QB league.
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Questionable – Thumb
McCown hasn’t had surgery yet to repair his injured thumb, which has prevented him from even throwing the football. So even though he’s listed as Questionable there’s no reason to expect him to play. He hasn’t practiced all week and Mike Glennon led the team to a thrilling, come-from-behind road win in Pittsburgh last week. Even more so than last week, I think Glennon merits serious QB2 consideration.
Already Ruled Out:
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions – Bell got his bell rung last week against the Jets and he wasn’t even cleared for contact until Friday. After missing an entire week of practice, the team decided to err on the side of caution and hold him out. Reggie Bush figures to be a very busy man today against the Bills, especially since fellow running back Theo Riddick has also been ruled Out (hamstring) and All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson is listed as Questionable. George Winn and fullback Jed Collins will be the only other backs active for the Lions today, barring a late signing, for those in deeper leagues that may have an interest.
Carolina’s backfield is a mess entering Week 5 while Arizona got some good and bad news on the injury front coming out of its bye. Here’s the latest on those situations and the playing status of some other key running backs.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos
Probable – Foot
He’s still being limited in practice, but the hope is that the bye week allowed for Ellington’s foot to heal some. Either way, he’s listed as Probable and will be out there against the Broncos. Ellington’s owners are also hoping that the time off will benefit his production too, especially in what could end up being a relatively high-scoring affair with the Broncos. Ellington is a safe RB2 with the upside for much more.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers
Probable – Ankle
Talk about your triumphant returns. Just two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain, Charles was back on the field Monday night, scoring three touchdowns to fuel the Chiefs’ rout of the Patriots. He did tweak his leg or get a cramp at one point, but was able to return and apparently made it through OK. He was limited earlier this week in practice, but was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable for this afternoon’s game. Charles is a must-start RB1, and if Monday night showed anything, it appears there are enough touches available for Knile Davis to remain a safe flex option too.
Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
Probable – Thigh
Even though he was declared “ready,” Pierce did not see a single snap in last week’s win over Carolina. Whatever the reason for that decision, it did allow Pierce another week to recover, which seems to have paid off. Pierce was a full participant this week in practice and is listed as Probable. However, Pierce’s expected return only complicates the Ravens’ backfield picture since Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro have each been productive when given an opportunity. If I were to handicap this situation, I would categorize Pierce as a risky RB2, Forsett as a relatively safe flex option and Taliaferro as the odd man out for this week but still someone worth keeping an eye on. I told you it was complicated.
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers vs. Chicago Bears
Doubtful – Knee; Out – Ankle
The Panthers are digging deep to fill out their backfield, as injuries have clearly taken their toll. Mike Tolbert (leg fracture) is on IR while Williams, who missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a hamstring injury is now dealing with a high ankle sprain and has already been ruled Out. Stewart sprained his knee two weeks ago, but was back at practice on Wednesday. It was just a brief appearance, however, and he wound up just watching practice the next two days. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s no reason to count on having Stewart today. Carolina’s starting running back instead will be Darrin Reaves, an undrafted free agent from UAB who was elevated from the practice squad a few weeks ago. Backing up Reaves will be journeyman Fozzy Whittaker and recent free-agent acquisition Chris Ogbonnaya. Reaves should see the bulk of the carries, but even as porous as Chicago’s run defense has been early on, I’m not sure I would want to take a chance on an unproven guy who was doing scout team work just two weeks ago.
Already Ruled Out:
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals – The bruised nerve in his throwing shoulder will sideline Palmer for a third straight game, as Bruce Arians announced on Friday that Drew Stanton would start against Denver. After showing some signs of progress during the team’s bye week, Palmer experienced a setback earlier this week, which caused him to go seek a second medical opinion. While Palmer has said he doesn’t need surgery and this isn’t considered a season-ending injury, there’s not much else he can do other than hope his shoulder responds to treatment. In the meantime, Stanton has been steady in leading the Cardinals to back-to-back wins. He’s not likely to put up huge numbers on a weekly basis, but today’s matchup in Denver could be profitable, especially if the game develops into some short of shootout. Depending on your options, Stanton could merit QB2 consideration this week.
Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers – Mathews is expected to miss at least a month after spraining his MCL in Week 2 while Woodhead was placed on injured reserve after breaking his leg in Week 3. Donald Brown will carry the load for the time being with undrafted rookie Branden Oliver listed next on the depth chart.
An ankle injury continues to bother one NFC North top target, while another should be at full speed for Week 5. And these aren’t the only key wide receiver injuries you need to pay attention to.
A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, WRs, Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Probable – Toe; Doubtful – Ankle
The fact that Green is even on the injury report after his bye week is a little disconcerting, but he is listed as Probable and was able to practice in at least a limited fashion every day. He should be safe to trot out as a WR1. Meanwhile it looks like Jones’ season debut will have to wait at least one more week. Jones has yet to play since breaking a bone in his foot early in the preseason, and now apparently he’s dealing with some sort of ankle issue. The bottom line is Jones did not practice at all this week so there’s little reason to expect him to play for the first time since early August. Mohamed Sanu should retain some possible WR3/flex value as the Bengals’ No. 2 WR.
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, WRs, Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills
Questionable – Ankle; Probable – Hamstring
Despite being Questionable a week ago, Johnson suited up against the Jets. He ended up being an extremely talented decoy (2 targets, 2 rec., 12 yds.), as it became apparent Megatron was nowhere near 100 percent. He’s still not there yet either, as Johnson missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday before returning on Friday. He’s officially listed as Questionable, but head coach Jim Caldwell did hint at the possibility of Johnson missing a game at some point if it would help him heal. For now, Johnson should remain in your lineup, but keep an eye out for any updates related to his status prior to kickoff (1 p.m. ET). Tate meanwhile did not practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday due to a hamstring injury. Caldwell said he didn’t think the issue would prevent Tate from playing and his presence is even more important with Johnson ailing. Tate should be a relatively safe WR2 with upside today at home against the Bills.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers
Probable – Ankle
After being Questionable for three straight weeks, Marshall is listed as Probable for today’s game in Carolina. He practiced fully all three days and considering he’s still yet to miss a game, there should be absolutely no hesitation when it comes to plugging him into your lineup.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
Questionable – Hamstring
Decker’s hamstring continues to give him and his owners fits. Two weeks ago he left early after re-aggravating it, but was back on the field last week and caught a touchdown pass in the home loss to Detroit. However, after practicing on Wednesday, he was not able to participate either Thursday or Friday and head coach Rex Ryan has already announced Decker will be a game-time decision. The apparent regression is not a good sign and the Jets are on the West Coast for a 4:25 pm. ET kickoff, so caution is certainly warranted here. If you can, wait until kickoff before making your final decision. If not, I would strongly consider benching Decker this week, especially given the Jets’ struggles with their passing game.
Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles
Questionable – Knee
Coming out of the bye, Austin was still limited in practice this week by his knee injury. He’s listed as Questionable, but even if he plays, I see no reason to take a chance on starting Austin. Before the injury, he wasn’t doing much of anything (3 rec., 34 yds.) and it’s pretty clear a guy who needs his speed and elusiveness to make plays isn’t close to being 100 percent healthy.
Already Ruled Out:
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers’ first-round pick is expected to miss two to four weeks after injuring his groin last week. Louis Murphy will replace Evans in the starting lineup and the veteran made a few plays (6-99) to help the Bucs come back and beat the Steelers. Murphy is nothing more than a wait-and-see option for now with Vincent Jackson the Tampa Bay WR you want to own and rookie TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins increasing his stock.