Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-june-11

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for June 11, 2012.

 1. Dodgers—Won last six games in which they have at least one hit.

 2. Rangers—Won only three of last 10 vs. AL West.

 3. Rays—Convincing sweep over the Marlins.

 4. Nationals—Waltzed out of Fenway with a sweep.

 5. Yankees—May be old, but still team to beat in AL East.

 6. Orioles—Lost 12 of last 19 with three wins in extra innings.

 7. Braves—Followed eight-game losing streak by winning eight of nine.

 8. Reds—Chapman finally appears human in loss to Tigers.

 9. Marlins—Streaky Fish back on the skids.

10. Angels—Only one loss since May 18 by more than two runs.

11. Giants—What’s wrong with Tim Lincecum?

12. White Sox—Paul Konerko making case for MVP.

13. Mets—Lost six of seven since Cardinals left town.

14. Blue Jays—Jose Bautista beginning to heat up a bit.

15. Pirates—Ended the week tied for first place.

16. Diamondbacks—Making a charge to defend their title.

17. Indians—Brash Chris Perez keeps saving games.

18. Cardinals—Redbirds need starting pitching and bullpen help.

19. Red Sox—Lost six of seven.

20. Phillies—Dropped two nail-biters at Baltimore over the weekend.

21. Tigers—Ended the weekend at Cincinnati on high note.

22. Brewers—Road trip to Kansas City and Minnesota this week.

23. Mariners—No-hit the best team in the National League.

24. Royals—Still bullish on future, but present not too bright.

25. Twins—Won nine of 12, won 15 of 17 in June 2011.

26. Astros—Won four of Lucas Harrell’s last five starts.

27. Rockies—Outscored by 27 over last five games — all losses.

28. A’s—Lost 14 of 18, now facing NL West.

29. Padres—One positive: Closer Huston Street is back and healthy.

30. Cubs—On pace to lose 108.

By Charlie Miller  @AthlonCharlie

<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 13:04
All taxonomy terms: College World Series, News
Path: /news/stony-brook-beats-lsu-advance-college-world-series

The little school — only playing Division I baseball since 2000 — from Long Island traveling to meet the six-time national champion program from the SEC. An easy prediction, right? Not this time, as the slipper fit perfectly for the Stony Brook Seawolves in topping powerhouse LSU. Matt Senk’s club took out the heavily-favored Tigers in the super regionals and will now advance to the College World Series in Omaha. Stony Brook’s attendance was 5,800 for the year, while LSU averages over 10,000 per game. However, the Seawolves were unaffected by the massive crowd in Baton Rouge and took two of three from the Tigers.

The signs have been there all season that Stony Brook had a special team, but no one was expecting the America East champions to flourish against SEC and ACC foes. The Seawolves finished the regular season at 52-13, with all nine regulars batting above .296. The team average for the year was a staggering .335, while the pitching staff’s ERA was an impressive 2.99. Leadoff hitter Travis Jankowski was the 44th overall pick by the Padres in the MLB Draft after hitting .422 with 36 steals. Third baseman Willie Carmona, a Phillies draftee, supplied the power with 12 home runs and 72 RBIS. Ace Tyler Johnson, an Oakland A’s pick, led the squad with a 12-1 record and a 1.94 ERA.

After winning three straight elimination games in the Miami regional, Stony Brook lost a painful Game 1 to LSU after repeatedly giving up late leads. But the Seawolves pitching would stifle the Tigers bats in Games 2 and 3, and now Senk’s club will be the talk of the town in Omaha. Stony Brook may have the goods to win the College World Series in what would be one of the better underdog stories that collegiate sports has ever seen.

<p> Stony Brook Beats LSU to Advance to the College World Series</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 12:37
All taxonomy terms: Jack Nicklaus, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/us-open-past-champions-0

U.S. Open champions
1895 Horace Rawlins (173), Newport Country Club, Newport, Rhode Island
1896 James Foulis (152, +12), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
1897 Joe Lloyd (162, +10), Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois
1898 Fred Herd (328), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts 
1899 Willie Smith (315), Baltimore Country Club, Lutherville, Maryland
1900 Harry Vardon (313, +9), Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois 
1901 Willie Anderson (331), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
1902 Laurie Auchterlonie (307), Garden City Golf Club Garden City, New York
1903 Willie Anderson (307), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1904 Willie Anderson (303), Glen View Club, Golf, Illinois
1905 Willie Anderson (314), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
1906 Alex Smith (295), Onwentsia Club, Lake Forest, Illinois
1907 Alec Ross (302, +10), Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1908 Fred McLeod (322), Myopia Hunt Club, South Hamilton, Massachusetts
1909 George Sargent (290, +2), Englewood Golf Club, Englewood, New Jersey
1910 Alex Smith (298, +6), Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1911 John McDermott (307, +3), Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois
1912 John McDermott (294, -2), Country Club of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
1913 Francis Ouimet (304, +8), The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts 
1914 Walter Hagen (290, +2), Midlothian Country Club, Midlothian, Illinois 
1915 Jerome Travers (297, +1), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1916 Chick Evans (286, +2), The Minikahda Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota
1917 No tournament 
1918 No tournament
1919 Walter Hagen (301, +17), Brae Burn Country Club, West Newton, Massachusetts
1920 Ted Ray (295, +7), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1921 Jim Barnes (289, +9), Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase, Maryland
1922 Gene Sarazen (288, +8), Skokie Country Club, Glencoe, Illinois
1923 Bobby Jones (296, +8), Inwood Country Club, Inwood, New York
1924 Cyril Walker (297, +9), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1925 Willie Macfarlane (291, +7), Worcester Country Club, Worcester, Massachusetts
1926 Bobby Jones (293, +5), Scioto Country Club, Columbus, Ohio
1927 Tommy Armour (301, +13), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1928 Johnny Farrell (294, +10), Olympia Fields, Olympia Fields, Illinois
1929 Bobby Jones (294, +6), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
1930 Bobby Jones (287, +6), Interlachen Country Club, Edina, Minnesota
1931 Billy Burke (292, +8), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1932 Gene Sarazen (286, +6), Fresh Meadow Country Club, Great Neck, New York
1933 Johnny Goodman (287, -1), North Shore Country Club, Glenview, Illinois
1934 Olin Dutra (293, +13), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1935 Sam Parks, Jr. (299, +11), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1936 Tony Manero (282, -6), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1937 Ralph Guldahl (281, -7), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1938 Ralph Guldahl (284, E), Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
1939 Byron Nelson (284, +8), Philadelphia Country Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1940 Lawson Little (287, -1), Canterbury Golf Club, Beachwood, Ohio
1941 Craig Wood (284, +4), Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas
1942 No tournament
1943 No tournament
1944 No tournament
1945 No tournament
1946 Lloyd Mangrum (284, -4), Canterbury Golf Club, Beachwood, Ohio
1947 Lew Worsham (282, -2), St Louis Country Club, Saint Louis, Missouri
1948 Ben Hogan (276, -8), Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California
1949 Cary Middlecoff (286, +2), Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois
1950 Ben Hogan (287, +7), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1951 Ben Hogan (287, +7), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1952 Julius Boros (281, +1), Northwood Club, Dallas, Texas
1953 Ben Hogan (283, -5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1954 Ed Furgol (284, +4), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1955 Jack Fleck (287, +7), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California
1956 Cary Middlecoff (281, +1), Oak Hill Country, Club Rochester, New York
1957 Dick Mayer (282, +5), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1958 Tommy Bolt (283, +3), Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma
1959 Billy Casper (282, +2), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York 
1960 Arnold Palmer (280, -4), Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
1961 Gene Littler (281, +1), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1962 Jack Nicklaus (283, -1), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1963 Julius Boros (293, +9), The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts
1964 Ken Venturi (278, -2), Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
1965 Gary Player (282, +2), Bellerive Country Club, Saint Louis, Missouri 
1966 Billy Casper (278, -2), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California 
1967 Jack Nicklaus (275, -5), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1968 Lee Trevino (275, -5), Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York
1969 Orville Moody (281, +1), Champions Golf Club, Houston, Texas
1970 Tony Jacklin (281, -7), Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota
1971 Lee Trevino (280, E), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1972 Jack Nicklaus (290, +2), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
1973 Johnny Miller (279, -5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1974 Hale Irwin (287, +7), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
1975 Lou Graham (287, +3), Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois
1976 Jerry Pate (277, -3), Atlanta Athletic Club, Duluth, Georgia
1977 Hubert Green (278, -2), Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma 
1978 Andy North (285, +1), Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
1979 Hale Irwin (284, E), Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
1980 Jack Nicklaus (272, -8), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1981 David Graham (273, -7), Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
1982 Tom Watson (282, -6), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
1983 Larry Nelson (280, -4), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1984 Fuzzy Zoeller (276, -4), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
1985 Andy North (279, -1), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 
1986 Raymond Floyd (279, -1), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
1987 Scott Simpson (277, -3), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California
1988 Curtis Strange (278, -6), The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts
1989 Curtis Strange (278, -2), Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York
1990 Hale Irwin (280, -8), Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois
1991 Payne Stewart (282, -6), Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota
1992 Tom Kite (285, -3), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
1993 Lee Janzen (272, -8), Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield, New Jersey
1994 Ernie Els (279, -5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
1995 Corey Pavin (280, E), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
1996 Steve Jones (278, -2), Oakland Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
1997 Ernie Els (276, -4), Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
1998 Lee Janzen (280, E), Olympic Club, San Francisco, California
1999 Payne Stewart (279, -1), Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina
2000 Tiger Woods (272, -12), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
2001 Retief Goosen (276, -4), Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma
2002 Tiger Woods (277, -3), Bethpage State Park. Farmingdale, New York
2003 Jim Furyk (272, -8), Olympia Fields, Olympia Fields, Illinois
2004 Retief Goosen (276, -4), Shinnecock Hills, Shinnecock Hills, New York
2005 Michael Campbell (280, E), Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina
2006 Geoff Ogilvy (285, +5), Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
2007 Ángel Cabrera (285, +5), Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
2008 Tiger Woods (283, -1), Torrey Pines, San Diego, California
2009 Lucas Glover (276, -4), Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale, New York
2010 Graeme McDowell (284, E), Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
2011 Rory McIlroy (268, -16), Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland

Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Bill Murray, MLB, Overtime
Path: /mlb/bill-murray-entertains-fans-during-minor-league-rain-delay-video

Comedian Bill Murray was spotted at a minor league game in Charleston, S.C., on Sunday. During a long rain delay Murray took to the field of the Charleston RiverDogs (he's part-owner of the team) and had some fun entertaining the crowd. Fans of the RiverDogs, a Class-A affiliate of the Yankees, seem to approve.

Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 11:06
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-11

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/4-6/10):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Torii Hunter* LAA OF 10 4 10 1 .500 1.605
2. Mike Trout LAA OF 10 0 4 4 .520 1.167
3. Alfonso Soriano* CHC OF 7 4 9 0 .357 1.257
4. Norichika Aoki* MIL OF 9 2 2 3 .375 1.214
5. Jason Kubel* ARI OF 6 2 12 0 .409 1.253
6. Mark Trumbo LAA 1/3/OF 5 4 12 0 .292 1.203
7. Dan Uggla ATL 2B 8 3 9 0 .316 1.342
8. Ben Revere* MIN OF 6 0 3 4 .458 1.022
9. Russell Martin* NYY C 4 4 8 0 .368 1.453
10. Neil Walker* PIT 2B 5 1 6 3 .360 .905
11. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 7 2 7 0 .379 1.055
12. Allen Craig STL 1/2/OF 7 2 7 0 .357 .990
13. Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 6 2 6 1 .348 1.053
14. Ryan Theriot* SF 2B/SS 3 0 6 4 .367 .839
15. Michael Bourn ATL OF 5 1 4 1 .500 1.305
16. Albert Pujols LAA 1B 7 1 7 0 .400 1.174
17. Tyler Colvin* COL OF 4 3 5 0 .600 2.236
18. Scott Hairston* NYM OF 5 2 3 2 .400 1.338
19. Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 4 2 5 1 .421 1.395
20. Robinson Cano NYY 2B 4 3 5 0 .409 1.299
21. Seth Smith* OAK OF 3 1 5 1 .550 1.491
22. Jose Altuve HOU 2B 6 1 4 1 .407 1.096
23. Jason Heyward ATL OF 6 2 4 1 .333 1.078
24. Trevor Plouffe* MIN 2/3/SS/OF 5 3 6 0 .304 1.143
25. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 5 1 5 2 .320 .913

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Summer Farm Waiver Wire Adds

Trevor Bauer's name is widely known as the former UCLA Bruin who will be in Arizona sometime very soon. But there are plenty of other names who could be contributing to your fantasy club in a matter of weeks — or days. Kansas City catcher-turned-outfielder Wil Myers has been crushing the ball —try 20 HRs in 225 at-bats at two levels to go along with a .342/.404/.724 line. He will help with your power numbers instantly and has "C" eligibility even though he will play in the outfield. Anthony Rizzo is back dominating the box score again. He now has 20 bombs with a .363 average in 215 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa. With Alfonso Soriano elevating his stock at the moment, the Cubs would be smart to move the inconsistent outfielder in order to get Rizzo to the Northside. Reds future shortstop Billy Hamilton is hitting .320 with 71 stolen bases in 60 games. No, that isn't a typo. If you need speed, keep a very sharpe eye on the Bakersfield prospect. Career .300 hitter Nolan Arenado could help Colorado today at third base and could help a shallow fantasy position once he is called up. Toronto catcher Travis D'Arnaud might be the hottest prospect in all of baseball — currently hitting .332 with 13 homers at Triple-A Las Vegas. He is also better defensively than J.P. Arencibia. Seattle parted with Michael Pineda so easily because of their pitching depth on the farm. Last year's first rounder, Danny Hultzen, has made 12 professional starts and already has little to prove at Doube-A Jackson. In 70.1 innings, he has a nasty 1.28 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 75 strikeouts. The Padres' two-sacker Jedd Gyorko is close to making it to the show as well, as he is hitting .366 since being elevated to Triple-A. And the Fathers could use any offensive help they can get.

DL Watch

- The Braves have had weird issues with Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann of late, but Tim Hudson and Dan Uggla are the two to watch now. Both are dealing with an ankle issue. Hudson was scratched from his start on Sunday because of it and is now scheduled to take the mound on Wednesday against the Yankees. Uggla is questionable for tonight's series opener.

- BREAKING: Brian Roberts might be playing baseball this week! He is on Triple-A rehab assignment and could be back with the Orioles as early as Tuesday.

- Drew Stubbs is out until at least Tuesday with an oblique strain. Keep an eye on this one.

- Dayan Viciedo and Yoenis Cespedes both were swinging a hot stick until balky hamstrings brought them both to a screeching halt. Both have responded to treatment but they might not be ready to return just yet. Melky Cabrera is also dealing with his own hammy problem as he is questionable for Tuesday's game against Houston.

- Carlos Zambrano got rocked by the Rays his last time out and is now listed as questionable for his start on Friday — against the Rays.

- Nelson Cruz (Achilles) and Alexi Ogando (groin) are both questionable for their next starts — Tuesday against Arizona for Nellie and Saturday against Houston for Ogando.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CHW 24.1 3 30 1.11 0.66
2. R.A. Dickey NYM 16.1 2 17 0.00 0.80
3. Matt Harrison* TEX 23.2 3 12 1.90 0.80
4. Brandon Morrow TOR 15.1 2 13 0.59 0.65
5. Stephen Strasburg WAS 13.0 2 22 1.38 0.77
6. Clay Buchholz* BOS 17.0 2 13 1.06 0.76
7. Ian Kennedy ARI 13.2 2 19 0.66 0.95
8. Shaun Marcum MIL 19.2 3 23 2.29 1.12
9. Matt Cain SF 15.0 2 16 0.60 1.00
10. A.J. Burnett* PIT 19.1 3 17 2.33 1.03
11. Zack Greinke MIL 13.0 2 19 0.69 1.08
12. Drew Hutchison* TOR 20.1 2 21 2.66 0.98
13. David Price TB 12.1 2 13 0.73 1.05
14. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 21.2 2 14 1.66 1.06
15. James McDonald PIT 18.0 2 15 2.00 1.00
16. Chad Billingsly* LAD 20.0 2 19 2.70 1.00
17. Hiroki Kuroda* NYY 14.0 1 11 1.29 0.71
18. Francisco Liriano* MIN 17.2 1 23 2.55 0.96
19. C.J. Wilson LAA 14.0 1 14 0.64 1.00
20. Ubaldo Jimanez* CLE 13.2 1 11 1.32 0.80

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):

1. Ryan Vogelsong, SF: at Seattle (Fri.)
Has been on a nasty tear the last two weeks: 2 W, 14 K, 1.66, 1.06

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK: San Diego (Fri.)
If you can handle a few walks, Parker should contribute nicely against the Fathers.

3. Andy Pettitte, NYY: at Washington (Sat.)
Has been AP of old: Nearly a K/IP and 4+ K/BB ratio. Will get wins if healthy.

4. Alex Cobb, TB: New York Mets (Tues.)
Held his own against steller offenses in four starts: NYY, BOS, CHW and ATL.

5. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY: at Atlanta (Wed.)
Posted tasty 14.0 IP, 2 W, 11 K, 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP over last two weeks.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

1. Joel Hanrahan PIT 13.1 2 11 14 0 1.35 0.90
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 15.1 1 6 28 3 1.76 0.78
3. Tyler Clippard* WAS 13.1 0 8 16 3 0.68 0.60
4. Craig Kimbrel ATL 10.0 0 7 14 0 0.00 0.30
5. Kenley Jansen LAD 11.0 2 7 15 0 1.64 0.82
6. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 13.2 0 4 27 3 0.00 0.73
7. Fernando Rodney TB 13.0 0 9 12 0 1.38 0.77
8. Jim Johnson BAL 13.1 1 8 4 0 2.02 0.60
9. Chris Perez CLE 10.2 0 9 12 0 0.84 0.84
10. Santiago Casilla SF 13.0 1 10 11 1 1.38 1.31
11. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 5 15 0 0.75 0.58
12. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 12.1 0 7 15 0 1.46 0.89
13. Sergio Romo* SF 9.0 1 3 15 5 1.00 0.44
14. Brayan Villarreal* DET 14.2 3 0 23 0 1.84 1.09
15. Tim Collins* KC 12.1 1 0 20 2 0.00 0.81
16. J.J. Putz ARI 10.0 1 7 10 0 1.80 1.10
17. Matt Capps* MIN 11.1 1 8 8 0 2.38 1.15
18. Charlie Furbush* SEA 12.0 0 0 14 1 0.75 0.25
19. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.0 0 8 16 0 3.71 0.94
20. Jose Valverde DET 10.2 1 6 6 0 2.53 0.75

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues


<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 11</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 09:54
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football mock draft, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/athlon-sports-2012-fantasy-football-may-mock-draft

Yes, the start of the NFL season is still about three months away, so what? It's never too early to do a fantasy football mock draft even if training camps don't open for another month and a half.

That said, my colleagues at Athlon Sports and our friend and fantasy contributor Matt Schauf of, got together in May for our first fantasy football mock draft. Plenty has happened off the field since this exercise was conducted, so please keep that in mind when perusing and grading our choices.

Below is a complete breakdown of the 10-team, 16-round mock we conducted, along with some thoughts of my own interspersed.

For those who are interested in a different style of mock draft, you can pick up a copy of this year's Fantasy Football Magazine, for which we did a 12-team, 20-round mock draft, which includes IDPs. Besides the mock draft, this year's fantasy magazine features 500 players ranked, a 280-player Big Board, 3,200 projected stats, position-by-position breakdowns, team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers, and additional features and content.

10-team, 16-round serpentine-style mock draft based on Athlon Sports standard scoring:

10 yards rushing = 1 pt
10 yards receiving = 1 pt
25 yards passing = 1 pt
6 pts for all TDs
0.5 pts per reception

FGs 39 yds and under = 3 pts
FGs 40-49 yds = 4 pts
FGs 50-59 yds = 5 pts
60+ yds = 6 pts
PATs = 1 pt

0 pts allowed = 12 pts
1-6 PA = 10 pts
7-13 PA = 8 pts
14-20 PA = 6 pts
21-27 PA = 2 pts
28+ PA = 0 pts
Safeties = 2 pts
Fumbles recovered = 2 pts
Interceptions = 2 pts
Sacks = 1 pt
DEF/ST TDs = 6 pts

Starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR), 1 K, 1 DEF/ST, 6 bench spots

Click here to see each team's complete roster

Round 1
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 1 Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 2 Arian Foster, RB, HOU Matt Schauf
3 3 Chris Johnson, RB, TEN Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 4 LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 5 Ray Rice, RB, BAL Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 6 Calvin Johnson, WR, DET Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 7 Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAC Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 8 Tom Brady, QB, NE Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 9 Drew Brees, QB, NO Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 10 Ryan Mathews, RB, SD Rob Doster Athlon Sports

Round 1 Analysis: Surprise! The reigning NFL MVP and top scorer in fantasy football (per Athlon's scoring) goes No. 1 overall. The days of the running back-centric fantasy teams seem to be over, as evidenced by the fact that three quarterbacks and one wide receiver go in the first round. Chris Johnson (no. 3) going before LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice may also seem like a bit of a surprise, but remember this is a guy who rushed for more than 2,000 yards just three seasons ago.

Round 2
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 11 Darren McFadden, RB, OAK Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 12 Matt Forte, RB, CHI Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 13 Frank Gore, RB, SF Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 14 Matthew Stafford, QB, DET Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 15 Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 16 Andre Johnson, WR, HOU Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 17 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 18 Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 19 Jimmy Graham, TE, NO Matt Schauf
10 20 Michael Turner, RB, ATL Braden Gall Athlon Sports

Round 2 Analysis: Rob and Nathan are the only two to go running back-running back with their first two selections as another quarterback, two more wide receivers and the first tight end go off of the board in the second round. The four owners who didn't take a running back with their first pick do so this time around. Adrian Peterson will be an interesting name to watch as the summer plays out and the season gets closer. The Vikings' star is said to be progressing nicely in his rehab from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 16 last season. Whether or not he's ready to go come Week 1 and what to expect from AP from a fantasy standpoint are two entirely different questions, but one thing seems clear — if there's any year to get the All-Pro at reduced value, this is probably it.

Round 3
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 21 Jamaal Charles, RB, KC Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 22 Wes Welker, WR, NE Matt Schauf
3 23 Cam Newton, QB, CAR Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 24 Steven Jackson, RB, STL Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 25 Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 26 Trent Richardson, RB, CLE Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 27 DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 28 A.J. Green, WR, CIN Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 29 Roddy White, WR, ATL Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 30 Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG Rob Doster Athlon Sports

Round 3 Analysis: Four other teams take a second running back in this round, incuding Corby going with Cleveland rookie Trent Richardson to pair with Seattle's Marshawn Lynch. While Richardson will more than likely be the first rookie to be taken in most fantasy drafts, one caveat in regards to taking him to soon in a non-keeper league: in the last 10 seasons only 12 rookies have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in their first season and only three have scored more than 10 touchdowns on the ground. If you take Richardson in the early rounds, you better hope you get something similar to that of Adrian Peterson's 2007 rookie campaign (1,341 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs) rather than Darren McFadden's in 2008 (499, 4).

Round 4
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 31 Antonio Gates, TE, SD Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 32 Fred Jackson, RB, BUF Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 33 Mike Wallace, WR, PIT Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 34 Victor Cruz, WR, NYG Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 35 Greg Jennings, WR, GB Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 36 Marques Colston, WR, NO Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 37 Jordy Nelson, WR, GB Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 38 Brandon Marshall, WR, CHI Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 39 Julio Jones, WR, ATL Matt Schauf
10 40 Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI Braden Gall Athlon Sports

Round 4 Analysis: Wide receivers were taken wth all but two picks in the fourth round, leaving three teams with just one running back by the end of this round. Green Bay teammates Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson go in a span of three picks, with Jennings going first even though Nelson out-scored him by nearly 70 fantasy points last season.

Round 5
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 41 Dez Bryant, WR, DAL Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 42 Roy Helu, RB, WAS Matt Schauf
3 43 Steve Smith, WR, CAR Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 44 Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 45 Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 46 Darren Sproles, RB, NO Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 47 Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 48 Willis McGahee, RB, DEN Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 49 Miles Austin, WR, DAL Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 50 Eli Manning, QB, NYG Rob Doster Athlon Sports

Round 5 Analysis: Dallas' duo of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin go in Round 5 with Bryant taken with the first pick and Austin following eight picks later. At the end of Round 5 every team has at least two running backs on their roster, while Steven and Corby each have three.

Round 6
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 51 Percy Harvin, WR, MIN Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 52 Vincent Jackson, WR, TB Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 53 DeSean Jackson, WR, PHI Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 54 Reggie Bush, RB, MIA Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 55 Kenny Britt, WR, TEN Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 56 Brandon Lloyd, WR, NE Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 57 Antonio Brown, WR, PIT Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 58 Reggie Wayne, WR, IND Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 59 Stevie Johnson, WR, BUF Matt Schauf
10 60 Mark Ingram, RB, NO Braden Gall Athlon Sports

Round 6 Analysis: More wide receivers fly off the board as eight are taken in the sixth round. Corby took Kenny Britt at no. 55 overall before the Titans' wide receiver underwent a second procedure on his surgically repaired knee. It also will be interesting to see how Vincent Jackson does in Tampa Bay, especially now that he got the big contract he's longed (and sat out) for, and how Brandon Lloyd fares in a New England passing attack that doesn't lack for weapons.

Round 7
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 61 Doug Martin, RB, TB Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 62 Michael Vick, QB, PHI Matt Schauf
3 63 Beanie Wells, RB, ARI Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 64 Tony Romo, QB, DAL Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 65 Phillip Rivers, QB, SD Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 66 Peyton Manning, QB, DEN Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 67 Eric Decker, WR, DEN Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 68 Matt Ryan, QB, ATL Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 69 BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, CIN Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 70 Michael Crabtree, WR, SF Rob Doster Athlon Sports

Round 7 Analysis: Braden begins the seventh round by taking Tampa Bay rookie running back Doug Martin over the likes of Arizona's Beanie Wells, Cincinnati's BenJarvus Green-Ellis and either Carolina's Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Martin is more versatile than Buccanneers' teammate LeGarrette Blount, but it remains to be seen how the first-year back will be utilized. Four quarterbacks go in this round, including Peyton Manning, who is the 10th QB off the board, to Corby. Somewhat surprising, Charlie decides to use his seventh-rounder on Matt Ryan, taking his second quarterback (Tom Brady was his first-round pick), before a tight end or third running back.

Round 8
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 71 Ben Tate, RB, HOU Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 72 Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 73 Vernon Davis, TE, SF Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 74 Isaac Redman, RB, PIT Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 75 Aaron Hernandez, TE, NE Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 76 Jahvid Best, RB, DET Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 77 C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 78 Jason Witten, TE, DAL Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 79 Robert Meachem, WR, SD Matt Schauf
10 80 Torrey Smith, WR, BAL Braden Gall Athlon Sports

Round 8 Analysis: The first tight ends come off the board for the first time since Round 4. Also Ben Tate, Arian Foster's backup in Houston, is taken before presumed starters Jahvid Best (Detroit) and Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh) or either of the Carolina Panthers' duo of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Tate was solid as a fill-in starter for Foster and second option for the Texans last season, but his primary value appears to be as Foster's handcuff.

Round 9
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 81 Jermichael Finley, TE, GB Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 82 James Starks, RB, GB Matt Schauf
3 83 Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 84 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 85 DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 86 Stevan Ridley, RB, NE Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 87 Matt Schaub, QB, HOU Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 88 David Wilson, RB, NYG Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 89 Anquan Boldin, WR, BAL Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 90 Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT Rob Doster Athlon Sports

Round 9 Analysis: Several intriguing picks including Demaryius Thomas, who could emerge as Peyton Manning's favorite target, especially on the long ball, in Denver. There's also Stevan Ridley, who could become the closest thing New England has to a No. 1 running back, especially with BenJarvus Green-Ellis now in Cincinnati. Then there's Rashard Mendenhall, who is expected at the very least to miss a signifcant amount of this season after suffering a torn ACL in the last week of the 2011 regular season. Mendenhall could prove to be a sneaky pick, but I would hedge my bets and not even consider taking a flier on him until the end of your draft. If anything, he's probably a name you would want to keep an eye on as the season progresses and possibly add him via the waiver wire/free agent route should it appear he's close to returning to the field.

Round 10
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 91 Nate Washington, WR, TEN Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 92 Michael Bush, RB, CHI Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 93 Justin Blackmon, WR, JAC Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 94 Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, OAK Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 95 Denarius Moore, WR, OAK Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 96 Sidney Rice, WR, SEA Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 97 Brandon Pettigrew, TE, DET Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 98 Toby Gerhart, RB, MIN Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 99 Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS Matt Schauf
10 100 Donald Brown, RB, IND Braden Gall Athlon Sports

Round 10 Analysis: Nathan and I decied to protect our early-round running back investments in Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte by taking their backups in this round. Charlie decides to pull the trigger on Jacksonville rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon, but his status is something that definitely bears watching in light of his recent DUI arrest. Fellow rookie Robert Griffin III also goes in the tenth to Matt, who already has Michael Vick on his roster. Nothing wrong with taking a potential high-upside option to backup your starter who has a history of missing some games. I also liked Braden taking Indianapolis running back Donald Brown with the last pick of this round. Even though it's the Colts, he's still the presumed No. 1 at running back and it's always nice to get a starter, especially at running back, in the 10th round.

Round 11
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 101 San Francisco DEF/ST Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 102 Peyton Hillis, RB, KC Matt Schauf
3 103 Jay Cutler, QB, CHI Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 104 Mario Manningham, WR, SF Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 105 Joe Flacco, QB, BAL Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 106 Pierre Garcon, WR, WAS Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 107 Brent Celek, TE, PHI Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 108 LaMichael James, RB, SF Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 109 Josh Freeman, QB, TB Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 110 Andy Dalton, QB, CIN Rob Doster Athlon Sports

Round 11 Analysis: Braden followed up his Brown selection by taking San Francisco as the first DEF/ST off the board. No one decided to follow in his footsteps as the next DEF/STs didn't go until a round later. Matt decided to take a flier on former Brown and one-time 1,000-yard rusher Peyton Hillis, whose role in Kansas City will depend largely on how Jamaal Charles' performs in his return from a torn ACL in Week 1 of last season. Mario Manningham and Pierre Garcon will both be catching passes from different quarterbacks this season, and for what it's worth, I like Garcon's situation in Washington better than Manningham's in San Francisco. LaMichael James was also an interesting choice as the rookie has not only starter Frank Gore ahead of him, but also Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs. James' role this season may be primarily as a kick returner and not as a running back.

Round 12
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 111 Baltimore DEF/ST Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 112 Santonio Holmes, WR, NYJ Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 113 Chicago DEF/ST Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 114 Cincinnati DEF/ST Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 115 LeGarrette Blount, RB, TB Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 116 Mikel Leshoure, RB, DET Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 117 Pittsburgh DEF/ST Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 118 New England DEF/ST Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 119 Shane Vereen, RB, NE Matt Schauf
10 120 Michael Floyd, WR, ARI Braden Gall Athlon Sports


Round 13
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 121 Andrew Luck, QB, IND Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 122 Lance Moore, WR, NO Matt Schauf
3 123 Felix Jones, RB, DAL Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 124 Malcom Floyd, WR, SD Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 125 New York Jets DEF/ST Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 126 Vincent Brown, WR, SD Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 127 Laurent Robinson, WR, JAC Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 128 Neil Rackers, K, WAS Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 129 Owen Daniels, TE, HOU Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 130 Kendall Wright, WR, TEN Rob Doster Athlon Sports

Rounds 12 and 13 Analysis: Six DEF/STs go in these two rounds as owners started rounding out their starting line ups. Corby decided to take a chance on the seemingly forgotten LeGarrette Blount, who if anything could have value as a goal-line back for Tampa Bay. Mitch covered Detroit's backfield by pairing 12th-rounder Mikel Leshoure with eighth-round selection Jahvid Best. Three more rookies also go with Braden doubling down on Michael Floyd and Andrew Luck, while Rob took his second Titans' wideout in Kendall Wright in the 13th. Given Britt's status, which is uncertain at best right now, investing picks in Nate Washington and Wright is not the worst strategy.

Round 14
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 131 Ryan Williams, RB, ARI Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 132 Houston DEF/ST Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 133 Earl Bennett, WR, CHI Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 134 Daniel Thomas, RB, MIA Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 135 Joe Adams, WR, CAR Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 136 Santana Moss, WR, WAS Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 137 Isaiah Pead, RB, STL Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 138 New York Giants DEF/ST Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 139 Brian Quick, WR, STL Matt Schauf
10 140 Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, ATL Braden Gall Athlon Sports


Round 15
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 141 Mason Crosby, K, GB Braden Gall Athlon Sports
2 142 Philadelphia DEF/ST Matt Schauf
3 143 Tony Gonzalez, TE, ATL Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
4 144 Danny Amendola, WR, STL Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
5 145 Mike Tolbert, RB, CAR Mitch Light Athlon Sports
6 146 David Akers, K, SF Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
7 147 Dan Bailey, K ,DAL Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
8 148 Randy Moss, WR, SF Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
9 149 Fred Davis, TE, WAS Mark Ross Athlon Sports
10 150 Tim Tebow, QB, NYJ Rob Doster Athlon Sports


Round 16
Pick Overall Player, Position, Team Drafter Affiliation
1 151 Sebastian Janikowski, K, OAK Rob Doster Athlon Sports
2 152 Alex Henery, K, PHI Mark Ross Athlon Sports
3 153 Devin Hester, WR, CHI Charlie Miller Athlon Sports
4 154 Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN Patrick Snow Athlon Sports
5 155 Seattle DEF/ST Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports
6 156 Stephen Gostkowski, K, NE Mitch Light Athlon Sports
7 157 Nate Kaeding, K, SD Steven Lassan Athlon Sports
8 158 Rob Bironas, K, TEN Nathan Rush Athlon Sports
9 159 Matt Bryant, K, ATL Matt Schauf
10 160 Randall Cobb, WR, GB Braden Gall Athlon Sports

Rounds 14-16 Analysis: Kickers, DEF/STs and upside picks dominated the final three rounds. I really liked Rob taking Ryan Williams with the first pick in the 14th round. The Arizona running back has yet to play in a NFL game, missing all of last season after tearing his patella tendon in a preseason game. If healthy, he should get plenty of opportunities in the Cardinals' backfield, especially considering Beanie Wells' own injury history. I also liked Patrick taking Miami's Daniel Thomas, Braden going with Atlanta's Jacquizz Rodgers and Mitch snagging Carolina's Mike Tolbert. Thomas should be the backup to Reggie Bush, who had his first 1,000-yard season in 2011 but under a different coaching staff than is there now, while Rodgers is expected to get more touches as the Falcons try to reduce Michael Turner's workload. Tolbert joins a crowded backfield in Carolina, but he also could emerge as the Panthers' primary goal-line back as the team would like to see quarterback Cam Newton run the ball in those situations less than he did last season. Randy Moss' attempt at a career revival in San Francisco will be interesting to watch, but his value seems somewhat limited due to fact that Alex Smith, as opposed to Tom Brady when Moss was with the Patriots, is his quarterback and the 49ers are a run-oriented team. Still, nothing wrong with taking a flier on him in second-to-last round, which is what Charlie did.

Click here to order your copy of the Athlon Sports 2012 Fantasy Football Magazine today.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 11, 2012

Additional Fantasy Football Content:

2012 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Big Board
Positional Ranks: Quarterbacks
Positional Ranks: Running Backs
Positional Ranks: Wide Receivers
Positional Ranks: Tight Ends
Fantasy Football 2012 NFL Bye Week Cheat Sheet

<p> Athlon Sports 2012 Fantasy Football May Mock Draft</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 09:05
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football mock draft, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/athlon-sports-2012-fantasy-football-may-mock-draft-rosters

Athlon Sports 2012 Fantasy Football May Mock Draft: Complete Rosters

10-team, 16-round serpentine draft

Click here for the complete round-by-round breakdown with analysis

10 yards rushing = 1 pt
10 yards receiving = 1 pt
25 yards passing = 1 pt
6 pts for all TDs
0.5 pts per reception

FGs 39 yds and under = 3 pts
FGs 40-49 yds = 4 pts
FGs 50-59 yds = 5 pts
60+ yds = 6 pts
PATs = 1 pt

0 pts allowed = 12 pts
1-6 PA = 10 pts
7-13 PA = 8 pts
14-20 PA = 6 pts
21-27 PA = 2 pts
28+ PA = 0 pts
Safeties = 2 pts
Fumbles recovered = 2 pts
Interceptions = 2 pts
Sacks = 1 pt
DEF/ST TDs = 6 pts

Starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR), 1 K, 1 DEF/ST, 6 bench spots

  1. Braden Gall       2. Matt Schauf       3. Nathan Rush    
RD Name POS Team   Name POS Team   Name POS Team
1. Aaron Rodgers QB GB   Arian Foster RB HOU   Chris Johnson RB TEN
2. Michael Turner RB ATL   Jimmy Graham TE NO   Adrian Peterson RB MIN
3. Jamaal Charles RB KC   Wes Welker WR NE   Cam Newton QB CAR
4. Jeremy Maclin WR PHI   Julio Jones WR ATL   Brandon Marshall WR CHI
5. Dez Bryant WR DAL   Roy Helu RB WAS   Steve Smith WR CAR
6. Mark Ingram RB NO   Stevie Johnson WR BUF   Reggie Wayne WR IND
7. Doug Martin RB TB   Michael Vick QB PHI   Beanie Wells RB ARI
8. Torrey Smith WR BAL   Robert Meachem WR SD   Jason Witten TE DAL
9. Jermichael Finley TE GB   James Starks RB GB   Demaryius Thomas WR DEN
10. Donald Brown RB IND   Robert Griffin III QB WAS   Toby Gerhart RB MIN
11. San Francisco DST SF   Peyton Hillis RB KC   Jay Cutler QB CHI
12. Michael Floyd WR ARI   Shane Vereen RB NE   New England DST NE
13. Andrew Luck QB IND   Lance Moore WR NO   Felix Jones RB DAL
14. Jacquizz Rodgers RB ATL   Brian Quick WR STL   New York Giants DST NYG
15. Mason Crosby K GB   Philadelphia DST PHI   Tony Gonzalez TE ATL
16. Randall Cobb WR GB   Matt Bryant K ATL   Rob Bironas K TEN
  4. Steven Lassan       5. Mitch Light       6. Corby Yarbrough    
RD Name POS Team   Name POS Team   Name POS Team
1. LeSean McCoy RB PHI   Ray Rice RB BAL   Calvin Johnson WR DET
2. Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI   Andre Johnson WR HOU   Marshawn Lynch RB SEA
3. Steven Jackson RB STL   Rob Gronkowski TE NE   Trent Richardson RB CLE
4. Jordy Nelson WR GB   Marques Colston WR NO   Greg Jennings WR GB
5. Ahmad Bradshaw RB NYG   Shonn Greene RB NYJ   Darren Sproles RB NO
6. Antonio Brown WR PIT   Brandon Lloyd WR NE   Kenny Britt WR TEN
7. Tony Romo QB DAL   Phillip Rivers QB SD   Peyton Manning QB DEN
8. C.J. Spiller RB BUF   Jahvid Best RB DET   Aaron Hernandez TE NE
9. Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT   DeAngelo Williams RB CAR   Stevan Ridley RB NE
10. Brandon Pettigrew TE DET   Sidney Rice WR SEA   Denarius Moore WR OAK
11. Mario Manningham WR SF   Joe Flacco QB BAL   Pierre Garcon WR WAS
12. Pittsburgh DST PIT   Mikel Leshoure RB DET   LeGarrette Blount RB TB
13. Malcom Floyd WR SD   New York Jets DST NYJ   Vincent Brown WR SD
14. Isaiah Pead RB STL   Santana Moss WR WAS   Joe Adams WR CAR
15. Danny Amendola WR STL   Mike Tolbert RB CAR   David Akers K SF
16. Nate Kaeding K SD   Stephen Gostkowski K NE   Seattle DST SEA
  7. Patrick Snow       8. Charlie Miller       9. Mark Ross    
RD Name POS Team   Name POS Team   Name POS Team
1. Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAC   Tom Brady QB NE   Drew Brees QB NO
2. Matthew Stafford QB DET   Frank Gore RB SF   Matt Forte RB CHI
3. DeMarco Murray RB DAL   A.J. Green WR CIN   Roddy White WR ATL
4. Victor Cruz WR NYG   Mike Wallace WR PIT   Fred Jackson RB BUF
5. Dwayne Bowe WR KC   Willis McGahee RB DEN   Miles Austin WR DAL
6. Reggie Bush RB MIA   DeSean Jackson WR PHI   Vincent Jackson WR TB
7. Eric Decker WR DEN   Matt Ryan QB ATL   BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB CIN
8. Isaac Redman RB PIT   Vernon Davis TE SF   Jonathan Stewart RB CAR
9. Matt Schaub QB HOU   David Wilson RB NYG   Anquan Boldin WR BAL
10. Darrius Heyward-Bey WR OAK   Justin Blackmon WR JAC   Michael Bush RB CHI
11. Brent Celek TE PHI   LaMichael James RB SF   Josh Freeman QB TB
12. Cincinnati DST CIN   Chicago DST CHI   Santonio Holmes WR NYJ
13. Laurent Robinson WR JAC   Neil Rackers K WAS   Owen Daniels TE HOU
14. Daniel Thomas RB MIA   Earl Bennett WR CHI   Houston DST HOU
15. Dan Bailey K DAL   Randy Moss WR SF   Fred Davis TE WAS
16. Ronnie Hillman RB DEN   Devin Hester WR CHI   Alex Henery K PHI
  10. Rob Doster                    
RD Name POS Team                
1. Ryan Mathews RB SD                
2. Darren McFadden RB OAK                
3. Hakeem Nicks WR NYG
4. Antonio Gates TE SD
5. Eli Manning QB NYG
6. Percy Harvin WR MIN
7. Michael Crabtree WR SF
8. Ben Tate RB HOU
9. Rashard Mendenhall RB PIT
10. Nate Washington WR TEN
11. Andy Dalton QB CIN
12. Baltimore DST BAL
13. Kendall Wright WR TEN
14. Ryan Williams RB ARI
15. Tim Tebow QB NYJ
16. Sebastian Janikowski K OAK

Click here to order your copy of the Athlon Sports 2012 Fantasy Football Magazine today.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 11, 2012

Additional Fantasy Football Content:

2012 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Big Board
Positional Ranks: Quarterbacks
Positional Ranks: Running Backs
Positional Ranks: Wide Receivers
Positional Ranks: Tight Ends
Fantasy Football 2012 NFL Bye Week Cheat Sheet

<p> Athlon Sports 2012 Fantasy Football May Mock Draft Rosters</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

New England Patriots 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Tennessee
Week 2: Arizona
Week 3: at Baltimore
Week 4: at Buffalo
Week 5: Denver
Week 6: at Seattle
Week 7: New York Jets
Week 8: at St. Louis
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Buffalo
Week 11: Indianapolis
Week 12: at New York Jets
Week 13: at Miami
Week 14: Houston
Week 15: San Francisco
Week 16: at Jacksonville
Week 17: Miami

Order your 2012 New England Patriots Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The first thing that stands out about the Patriots 2012 schedule are the road trips early on. The season begins with three of the first four — and four of the first six — games taking place away from Foxborough. Even tougher are the opponents as the Titans, Bills and Ravens (the first three road games) should all be around or above .500 on the season. Additionally, the fourth road trip in six weeks will happen over 3,000 miles away in Seattle. Sprinkle-in a developing Broncos and Cardinals defense and the first month and a half will provide plenty of speed bumps for Tom Brady and company.

- Three of the final four games of the year will come at home for Bill Belichick. Which is good news considering Houston, San Francisco and Miami are coming to town. The Texans game could be a preview of the AFC championship game and the winner of that contest will likely claim home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

- The Pats got one big break in the scheduling department by facing the NFC West in crossover play this fall. A home game against San Francisco could be a Super Bowl preview in Week 15 but should have little impact on the final standings or seedings in either league. Road games to Seattle and St. Louis, while long, shouldn’t be arduous while a home game against Arizona won’t press the Pats either. A 4-0 record is easily within reach while anything worse than 3-1 would be disappointing.

- Despite tough games against Houston and Tennessee on the road, playing the AFC South is a nice break. Jacksonville and Indianapolis are as near-locks for victory as it gets in the NFL and the Titans game happens in Week 1. The Titans could be a quality team in 2012 but will be a much better squad come the second half of the year. The implications of the Houston game have been well covered.

- The Patriots have the easiest schedule in the AFC East since they don’t have to face the, uh, Patriots. Road trips to Buffalo and New York certainly won’t be gimmies, but there is no doubt that the division is New England’s to lose. It finishes with three division games in the final six weeks — including back-to-back road games in Week 12 (NY Jets) and Week 13 (Miami).

- The two floating games are not going to be easy for the Pats as both could be playoff previews. A trip to Baltimore in Week 3 provides a rematch of the AFC Championship game from a year ago while Denver at home in Week 5 will be another chapter in the historic Manning-Brady rivalry. These two will be must-see TV.

- By Braden Gall


2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> New England Patriots 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 07:02
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/st-louis-rams-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

St. Louis Rams 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Detroit
Week 2: Washington
Week 3: at Chicago
Week 4: Seattle
Week 5: Arizona (Thurs.)
Week 6: at Miami
Week 7: Green Bay
Week 8: New England
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: at San Francisco
Week 11: New York Jets
Week 12: at Arizona
Week 13: San Francisco
Week 14: at Buffalo
Week 15: Minnesota
Week 16: at Tampa Bay
Week 17: at Seattle

Order your 2012 St. Louis Rams Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- New St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher will get to reacquaint himself with some familiar faces in his first three games leading his new team. The Rams open their season in Detroit where Fisher will face off against Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz. Schwartz was Fisher's defensive coordinator for eight seasons (2001-08) when both were with the Tennessee Titans. In Week 3, the Rams head to Chicago to take on the Bears. Fisher played five seasons, his entire playing career, for the Bears, and he was a member of the 1985 team that won Super Bowl XX.

- The Rams get the NFC North and AFC East as their cross-divisional opponents in 2012 and will play five of these eight games in the first half of their schedule. In the first eight weeks besides going to Detroit and Chicago, St. Louis will make a trip to Miami and also host Green Bay and New England in consecutive weeks.

- The back-to-back games with the Packers and Patriots are also the final two games before the Rams go on bye in Week 9. This means their season is split exactly in half with eight games on both sides. The other good news for the Rams is that their bye also splits up their toughest four-game stretch of the season. Following the bye, St. Louis goes out to San Francisco to face the defending divisional champion 49ers and then comes back home to play the Jets.

- The Rams play the majority of their divisional slate after the Week 9 bye. St. Louis gets San Francisco twice in a span of less than a month and has road games against both Arizona and Seattle among their final six games of the season.

- St. Louis' floating games have the Rams playing Washington at home and going on the road to Tampa Bay in Week 16. The game against the Redskins offers a match up between fellow starting quarterbacks and Heisman Trophy winners as the Rams' Sam Bradford (2008) and 'Skins' Robert Griffin III will try to lead their teams to victory. The game against the Buccaneers should be a good barometer to see which of the teams have made the most progress in its first season under a new coaching staff.

- The schedule softens somewhat for the Rams in their final four games. They do have to go on the road to Buffalo in December, but after that it's home to Minnesota, at Tampa Bay, and then they close out the season with a divisional game in Seattle. The Rams aren't expected to make the playoffs this season, so these final four games should present them with a chance to build some positive momentum headed into the offseason.

Fantasy Focus: Last season, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson became just the seventh player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in seven consecutive seasons. Only five — Emmitt Smith (11), Barry Sanders (10), Curtis Martin (10), Thurman Thomas (8), LaDainian Tomlinson (8) — have done this in eight or more straight seasons. Jackson no doubt has his sights set on registering his eighth straight 1,000-yard campaign in 2012, but it won't be easy. Eight of St. Louis' opponents this season finished among the top 16 in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2011. San Francisco, who St. Louis plays twice since they are both in the NFC West, gave up the fewest fantasy points to running backs last season. The Rams other divisional foes the Cardinals (11th-fewest) and Seahawks (15th), also ranked among the top half in fantasy points allowed to running backs, as did the Dolphins (5th), Bears (7th), Jets (12th), Lions (13th), and Redskins (14th).

— by Mark Ross, published on June 11, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> St. Louis Rams 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2012-predictions

The media and others may have jumped the gun by anointing Florida State as the class of the ACC’s Atlantic Division in 2011, but the rest of the division will be hard-pressed to keep the Seminoles out of the conference title game again this fall. FSU brings back nine starters from a defense that ranked among the top five in the country in several categories. The offense is led by a senior quarterback, a senior tailback and an abundance of talented skill-position players. And special teams again will be a plus, with an All-America candidate at kicker and a dangerous return specialist in Greg Reid. If the Seminoles’ offensive line is just adequate, they could be the team to beat.

Of course, at this point, it’s hard to call any team other than Virginia Tech the favorite to win the conference. The Hokies have been to five of the seven ACC title games — including four of the last five — and they should be very good again in 2012. Scoring points will be a concern in what will be a rebuilding year for the Virginia Tech offense, but Bud Foster’s defense returns nearly intact.

Clemson deserves respect for being the surprise winner of the ACC last season, but it’s difficult to imagine the Tigers pulling off a repeat. As much as everyone loves the chemistry between quarterback Tajh Boyd and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, there are major questions about who is going to block up front. And the Tigers’ defense was pretty poor all season — even before West Virginia hung 70 points on them in the Orange Bowl. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who was lured away from Oklahoma, will have to undo a lot of problems to make Clemson’s defense respectable in one year.

NC State and Wake Forest could make things interesting in the Atlantic — the Wolfpack won six of their last eight games last season, and the Demon Deacons should be very good on defense — but neither is much of a threat to win the division.

The biggest challenges to Virginia Tech in the Coastal likely will come from North Carolina and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets should be very difficult to stop on offense and solid on defense, and the Tar Heels could follow that model as well. New head coach Larry Fedora has a track record of building explosive offenses, and he has some quality material to work with in Chapel Hill.

Athlon's 2012 ACC Team Previews

Atlantic Coastal
Boston College Duke
Clemson Miami
Florida State Georgia Tech
Maryland North Carolina
NC State Virginia
Wake Forest Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech goes deep

On the average game day at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech will throw the ball a little more than a dozen times. Trying to recruit wide receivers could be a challenge, but Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson can brag about a couple of receivers who have thrived despite the option offense.

In Johnson’s four seasons at Georgia Tech, Yellow Jackets receivers have been among the ACC leaders in yards per catch. First, Demariyus Thomas averaged 20.9 yards per reception in two years playing for Johnson. Although Stephen Hill never caught as many passes as Thomas in a season, he set a new standard for punishing teams crowding the line of scrimmage to stop Georgia Tech’s run game. Hill led all NCAA receivers last year — that’s NCAA, not just FBS — with 29.3 yards per catch, nearly eight yards per catch more than the next best receiver. Among receivers with enough catches to qualify, Hill’s 29.3 yards per catch was the best average since 2007.

The NFL doesn’t seem to mind the small sample size for the two Georgia Tech receivers, either. The Denver Broncos drafted Thomas with the 22nd pick in the first round in 2010. In the 2012 draft, Hill was the only Georgia Tech player selected. The New York Jets drafted him with the 11th pick in the second round.

Draft not shining on Sunshine State

Draft day used to be cause for celebration in the Sunshine State, but Florida State and Miami aren’t the powerhouses they once were in this area. Miami once set a record with a first-round selection in 14 consecutive drafts, but the Hurricanes in 2012 went without a first-rounder for the fourth consecutive year. The Miami Dolphins selected running back Lamar Miller with the fourth pick of the second round, leaving safety Kenny Phillips (31st pick in 2008) as the last Hurricane taken in the first round.

Florida State had to wait even longer to see one of its former players drafted. Linebacker Nigel Bradham wasn’t drafted until the fourth round, the first time Florida State had been shut out of the first three rounds since 1987. If there’s any consolation, rival Florida had the worst draft of the state’s Big Three with the fewest picks (two). By the time the first Gator was selected — defensive tackle Jaye Howard with the 19th pick in the fourth round — four Hurricanes and one Seminole had already been drafted.

League of linebackers

When former Boston College star Luke Kuechly (right) was selected with the ninth pick of April’s NFL Draft, he joined a long and growing list of ACC linebackers playing at the next level. In 2011, there were 45 linebackers from the conference on NFL rosters — that was the most of any college conference.

The Big Ten ranked just behind the ACC with 44, and the SEC surprisingly had only 38. It marked the third consecutive year that more NFL linebackers came from the ACC than any other conference.

Tweet beef

While some college coaches already have banned their players from social media outlets such as Twitter, the dust-up between Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt and 2012 signee Chad Kelly raises a new question: What about the players who aren’t even on campus yet?

Kelly, the nephew of former Buffalo Bills star Jim Kelly, took a thinly veiled shot at Stoudt just before National Signing Day on Twitter, saying the sophomore was, “on the bench for a reason,” and that Kelly was “coming soon.”

Stoudt, who is the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, responded almost immediately, tweeting that he didn’t like players who talk big, “when they haven’t done anything yet.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney didn’t take any public action regarding the beef, but the players did apparently patch things up the next time Kelly visited campus.

Spicing things up

Larry Fedora was born in Texas and went to college in the state, but it ­didn’t take him long to make himself part of the North Carolina-NC State rivalry.

While speaking to UNC boosters this spring, the first-year head coach was asked several times about the Tar Heels’ recent struggles against the Wolfpack — NC State has won five consecutive games in the series. Fedora, who was hired away from Southern Miss, explained that he understood the significance of the rivalry, but he added that he didn’t want to talk too much about it because he didn’t want to “legitimize their program.”

Related ACC Content

ACC Expansion: No Buyer's Remorse
Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012

2012 College Football Rankings: No. 26-35

2012 College Football Rankings: No. 36-45

2012 College Football Rankings: No. 46-60

<p> ACC Football 2012 Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 06:09
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-61-80

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, continuing with No. 61-80. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2012 season.

61. Oregon State
Riley’s 12th season in Corvallis isn’t make or break, but his seat definitely gets warm if Oregon State follows disappointing 5–7 and 3–9 campaigns with another clunker. If the Beavers finish above .500 and get back to a bowl game, much will be forgiven. Riley says that if the young players thrown to the wolves last season have grown up and become bigger and stronger (he raved about OSU’s offseason work ethic), “then we’re going to have a good team.” How good? It depends on the offense being balanced, the offensive line blocking somebody, and the defense stopping the run. That’s a lot of what-ifs, but given the athletes on the roster and Riley’s body of work in Corvallis, no one will be surprised if the Beavers surprise.

Read the full 2012 Oregon State Beavers Team Preview

62. Minnesota
The enduring image of Jerry Kill’s first season at Minnesota is of him rolling on the ground during a game, in the throes of an epileptic seizure. It was a frightening episode, but Kill is tough and adaptable. “We’ve put that in the past,” Kill says. “I’m doing what I have to do to get healthy.” Not a bad way to describe his program. The Gophers aren’t healthy yet, not even close. Kill spent his first season installing his system and changing the culture, but boosting the talent level takes far longer. The Gophers have barely a dozen scholarship seniors, and virtually no meaningful experience at playmaking positions. This is a team built for 2015, so the benchmarks this fall are modest: Win their “guarantee” games for a change, shock an occasional Big Ten opponent and perhaps sneak into a bowl game.

Read the full 2012 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Preview

63. Louisiana Tech
After years of coming close, the Bulldogs broke through and won the WAC championship — their first since 2001 — with a 6–1 mark in league play. Anything less than a repeat, in a watered-down league that no longer includes Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, would be a major disappointment. There are also some opportunities early in the season for the Bulldogs to make a splash nationally with a schedule that includes a game vs. Texas A&M in Shreveport and road trips to Houston, Illinois and Virginia.

Read the full 2012 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Team Preview

64. Arkansas State
Hugh Freeze moved on to Ole Miss after leading the Red Wolves to their best season in a quarter-century. ASU moved on with Gus Malzahn, a former Broyles Award winner who stunned observers when he returned to his home state to take over in Jonesboro. Malzahn, who signed what most consider the Sun Belt’s top recruiting class, has built on the enthusiasm generated by last year’s 10–3 record. The former Auburn offensive coordinator has talked about building the “Boise State of the South” and encouraged ASU fans to make plans for another bowl trip this year. With Ryan Aplin running Malzahn’s offense, the Red Wolves shouldn’t have trouble scoring. They may give up plenty of points, too, especially in September games at Oregon and Nebraska, but their firepower makes them a threat to repeat in the Sun Belt.

Read the full 2012 Arkansas State Red Wolves Team Preview

65. Navy
Navy established a program record of appearing in eight straight bowl games by not beating itself and doing all the little things right. Last season, the Midshipmen hurt themselves with costly mistakes, untimely turnovers and poor special teams. There is always a small margin of error for a service academy program, and the Mids, who routinely find themselves in close games, need to get back to playing mistake-free football.

Read the full 2012 Navy Midshipmen Team Preview

66. UCF
The Knights firmly believe they underachieved last season and should have earned a bowl invitation. UCF wants to make sure it ends its final season in Conference USA on the right note before jumping to the Big East. “We didn’t finish last year like how we wanted to,” says Jordan Rae, who will be in his third season as the Knights’ starting center. “Leaving the conference this year, we want to leave with a bang. We want to make a statement. We’re definitely going for a conference title.” If the defense and offensive line improve, UCF has the potential to make some noise in Conference USA. 

Read the full 2012 UCF Knights Team Preview

67. Syracuse
The momentum gained from winning eight games and winning a bowl in 2010 didn’t carry over to last season. Now, Doug Marrone, entering his fourth season, is faced with a difficult nonconference schedule that includes games against national title contender USC, Missouri, Minnesota and Northwestern. The coach says he’d rather face a tough lineup, even though his team has issues on both sides of the ball. “The challenge is getting the talent level up to the schedule,” Marrone says. “When you look at our history, we’ve done this before. It almost forces you to become better — right out of the gate.” More offensive production would be a good first step.

Read the full 2012 Syracuse Orange Team Preview

68. FIU
Some were surprised that Mario Cristobal stuck around. They shouldn’t have been. The fiery coach, who was born and raised in Miami before starting for the University of Miami, has built something special and seemingly stable in his backyard. Expectations soared after FIU started 3–0 in 2011, with wins against Louisville on the road and UCF at home. And while FIU couldn’t sustain its play, especially after T.Y. Hilton’s injuries, it enters 2012 poised to exceed the past two seasons’ accomplishments. The schedule is forgiving, the speedy Florida-based talent keeps coming, and the defense has a chance to be dominating.

Read the full 2012 FIU Golden Panthers Team Preview

69. Connecticut
Connecticut’s enthusiasm from the Fiesta Bowl appearance following the 2010 season quickly tapered off after the blowout loss to Oklahoma, the unexpected departure of coach Randy Edsall to Maryland and, finally, the 5–7 season in 2011. With all that behind him, coach Paul Pasqualoni will try to prove the Huskies are moving back in the right direction. With an injection of transfers to the offense to go with a strong running game and a solid defense, Pasqualoni may have the pieces to return to the postseason. 

Read the full 2012 Connecticut Huskies Team Preview

70. Houston
Expecting Houston to repeat — or even approach — its 2011 win total (a school-record 13) is asking a lot considering all the talent and leadership that graduated. The Cougars can still be a good team, however, and it is easy to draw comparisons to the 2008 team, which won eight games. Like that team, the 2012 Cougars will have a new head coach (Tony Levine), a mostly new coaching staff, a sophomore quarterback (David Piland) and a batch of unproven receivers. The advantage this year’s team has is an experienced defense and special teams unit. Regardless of the new parts, the goals remain the same. “Our goal will continue to be to win the championship,” Levine says. “Win our side of Conference USA and not only play in, but win, the Conference USA Championship Game.” 

Read the full 2012 Houston Cougars Team Preview

71. Ole Miss
Talent is thin, depth is a concern, and academic issues leave a number of unknowns heading into the fall. Hugh Freeze has taken a strong disciplinary stance and has praised his players for their attitude and effort. With a nonconference schedule that includes Texas and an SEC slate that includes, well, the SEC, this is not the season to expect a return to a bowl game. The Rebels need to find a way to win nonconference games against Central Arkansas, Tulane and UTEP, then focus on being competitive in the league and picking off a game, perhaps two, to end a 14-game SEC losing streak. Those are realistic goals.

Read the full 2012 Ole Miss Rebels Team Preview

72. Maryland
Randy Edsall spent the offseason trying to wash away memories of one of the worst first seasons of any college coach in recent memory. His decision to replace both coordinators was met with applause from a frustrated fan base. He brought a familiar face back to College Park in offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who installed a pro-style offense and helped Edsall haul in a sterling recruiting class. And Maryland attempted to recast Edsall’s image amid the steady stream of negative media. Now comes the hardest part: winning. Edsall likely will need to lean on promising freshman playmakers to navigate a daunting schedule and win back the fan base during a critical second season.

Read the full 2012 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview

73. Temple
Temple never got over the hump in the MAC. But the conference provided a lifeline, allowing the Owls to become relevant. And now they’re back in the Big East after a seven-year absence. So, how much better could life on North Broad Street really be? “These kids, they all want to play at the BCS level,” Steve Addazio says. “They understand the challenges. They came here hoping this would happen one day, and it has. Things are coming together.” Given that they never made it to a MAC Championship Game, it might not happen right away. Yet there’s no reason to believe the Owls can’t at least be competitive almost from the start.

Read the full 2012 Temple Owls Team Preview

74. Tulsa
Tulsa finished with eight wins in Bill Blankenship’s first season, and expectations will remain high for a program that has advanced to bowl games in seven of the past nine seasons. Success will depend on Cody Green’s ability to manage the offense behind a line that is seasoned but a bit unproven. The running backs will provide Green the ability to get comfortable, but the wide receivers must make an impact. Defensively, the Golden Hurricane should be even better than last year, when they were a pleasant surprise. 

Read the full 2012 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Team Preview

75. Kentucky
Kentucky saw its streak of five consecutive bowl games snapped last season with a 5–7 record. Even if the Cats are better this fall, a tougher schedule that includes road games at Louisville, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee means that any improvement might not show up in the record. Season-ticket sales and attendance dipped last season, and only 4,500 fans showed up for the Spring Game. Joker Phillips’ message: “Just wait and see. Don’t give up on this football team. We’ll battle. We’ll fight. We’ll scratch. We’ll claw. Just don’t give up on this football team.” 

Read the full 2012 Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview

76. Louisiana-Lafayette
Cajun football has never been in better shape or attracted more support, but Mark Hudspeth knows how close the storybook 2011 season came to being another break-even proposition. Six of the Cajuns’ games were decided on the final minutes, and UL Lafayette pulled out wins in five of those six. Three of those five came on the road, though, and a perfect 5–0 home record last year bodes well in a season in which three major players in the Sun Belt title race — Arkansas State, FIU and Western Kentucky — all come to Cajun Field. Replacing tight end Ladarius Green’s talents won’t be easy, but the Cajuns are loaded offensively and on special teams, and that might be enough to cover for a revamped and inexperienced defense.

Read the full 2012 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Team Preview

77. Western Michigan
There was perhaps no team in college football that produced such statistical extremes in 2011. It was all very entertaining but only modestly effective. The Broncos returned to the postseason with a Little Caesars Pizza Bowl loss to Purdue but came up well short again of a league title. It’s been written before in the Bill Cubit era, but this season WMU has a strong chance to change that. The Broncos have a quarterback who’s done everything but win big, experience in the trenches and six home games (rare for this program), including visits from West Division rivals Northern Illinois and Toledo. 

Read the full 2012 Western Michigan Broncos Team Preview

78. East Carolina
Here’s a twist to put a smile on the Jolly Roger — it’s the defense that will decide how far East Carolina goes. Most of the big stat defenders are back, and they’re in the second year of a system that obviously suits them. The offense, rather than out-gunning opponents and dominating C-USA, will try not to muck it up this time around. The first step is coach Ruffin McNeill settling on a quarterback who can keep turnovers at a minimum and maximize a pretty good receiving corps. Improved special teams play will augment the emphasis on defense, and limiting penalties is another key. East Carolina’s passionate fan base is counting on a return to the bowl circuit after missing out last year despite a fast finish. Bowl-bound the previous five seasons, the proud Pirates may see someone walking the plank if they fail again.

Read the full 2012 East Carolina Pirates Team Preview

79. Toledo
The 32-year-old Matt Campbell, the youngest head coach in the FBS, inherits a talented and experienced team from his boss Tim Beckman, who moved on to Illinois. Campbell was the players’ choice to direct the program, and he led the Rockets to a 42–41 win over Air Force in the Military Bowl. Campbell, previously the Rockets’ offensive coordinator, knows his team is capable of scoring points. After all, Toledo averaged more than 50 points over the final six games of the ’11 season. He would like to see the defense improve so the offense doesn’t have to carry the load. “Offensively, defensively, and special teams — we are one,” he says. “I think when you get to that point, you’ve got a chance to be pretty good.” The coach is right — Toledo should be good. Good enough to challenge Western Michigan and Northern Illinois for the MAC West title. 

Read the full 2012 Toledo Rockets Team Preview

80. Duke
Despite its 3–9 record in 2011, Duke was actually very close to earning its first bowl berth since 1994. Time and again, the Blue Devils failed to seize opportunities in close games. A missed chip-shot field goal, a blown coverage, a botched fourth-down conversion … a play here and a play there, and who knows? “We’re that close,” David Cutcliffe said in the spring. “We’ve come to the edge over and over and over again.” But getting to the edge is one thing. Getting past it — and on to bowl eligibility —  is something else entirely. Even though Cutcliffe is an optimist, he knows that the next step for his football program is, in reality, a giant leap.

Read the full 2012 Duke Blue Devils Team Preview

Related College Football Content

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60

<p> College football 2012 preseason rankings: No. 61-80.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-quarterback-rankings

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving touchdowns = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Running Back Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Ranking Player Team
1 Ryan Aplin Arkansas State
2 Tyler Tettleton Ohio
3 Geno Smith West Virginia
4 Matt Barkley USC
5 Collin Klein Kansas State
6 Denard Robinson Michigan
7 Tajh Boyd Clemson
8 Jeff Tuel Washington State
9 Cody Fajardo Nevada
10 David Piland Houston
11 Alex Carder Western Michigan
12 Seth Doege Texas Tech
13 James Franklin Missouri
14 Brett Smith Wyoming
15 Keith Price Washington
16 Logan Thomas Virginia Tech
17 Landry Jones Oklahoma
18 Braxton Miller Ohio State
19 Marcus Mariota Oregon
20 Blaine Gautier UL Lafayette
21 Aaron Murray Georgia
22 Tyler Wilson Arkansas
23 Riley Nelson BYU
24 Kain Colter Northwestern
25 Derek Carr Fresno State
26 Zac Dysert Miami, Ohio
27 Jordan Lynch Northern Illinois
28 Taylor Martinez Nebraska
29 Casey Pachall TCU
30 Colby Cameron Louisiana Tech
31 Nick Florence Baylor
32 Matt Scott Arizona
33 Tyler Bray Tennessee
34 Mike Glennon NC State
35 Tevin Washington Georgia Tech
36 Wes Lunt Oklahoma State
37 Rio Johnson East Carolina
38 Matt Schilz Bowling Green
39 Joe Southwick Boise State
40 Cody Green Tulsa
41 Bryn Renner North Carolina
42 B.J. Daniels South Florida
43 EJ Manuel Florida State
44 Jonathan Perry UAB
45 Corey Robinson Troy
46 Connor Shaw South Carolina
47 Terrance Owens Toledo
48 Kolton Browning UL Monroe
49 MarQueis Gray Minnesota
50 Keith Wenning Ball State
51 Jameill Showers Texas A&M
52 Chuckie Keeton Utah State
53 James Vandenberg Iowa
54 Zach Maynard California
55 Nathan Scheelhaase Illinois
56 Jordan Rodgers Vanderbilt
57 Ryan Radcliff Central Michigan
58 Dayne Crist Kansas
59 Sean Mannion Oregon State
60 Alex Gillett Eastern Michigan
61 Trey Miller Navy
62 Zach Mettenberger LSU
63 Teddy Bridgewater Louisville
64 C.J. Brown Maryland
65 Everett Golson Notre Dame
66 Kiehl Frazier Auburn
67 Ryan Nassib Syracuse
68 Munchie Legaux Cincinnati
69 AJ McCarron Alabama
70 Taylor McHargue Rice
71 Eric Soza UTSA
72 Connor Dietz Air Force
73 Garrett Gilbert SMU
74 Tanner Price Wake Forest
75 Tre Roberson Indiana
76 Trent Steelman Army
77 Danny O'Brien Wisconsin
78 Chris Coyer Temple
79 Ryan Katz San Diego State
80 Michael Eubank Arizona State

<p> College Fantasy Football 2012 Quarterback Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 04:27
All taxonomy terms: I'll Have Another, News
Path: /news/i%E2%80%99ll-have-another-scratched-belmont-stakes

There is shocking news in the horse racing world, as I’ll Have Another has been scratched from the Belmont Stakes. The three-year old horse won in dramatic fashion at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and many fans were hoping to see a Triple Crown winner for the first time since Affirmed in 1978. However, I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O'Neill told the "The Dan Patrick Show" this morning that his horse was “officially out of the Belmont.” There will be a press conference on Friday afternoon at Belmont Park to discuss the details.

There was a six-year stretch in the 1970s that saw an amazing three Triple Crown winners — Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978). However, no horse has accomplished the feat since. There have been some dramatic second-place finishes — Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and Smarty Jones (2004) — as well as some memorable thirds (Charismatic – 1999, Funny Cide – 2003) and the heartbreaking injury to Big Brown in 2008.

Sadly, I’ll Have Another will also join the non-Triple Crown list with its surprising scratch for the Belmont Stakes.

<p> I’ll Have Another Scratched from the Belmont Stakes</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 12:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-3

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for June 8.

I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O'Neill told the "The Dan Patrick Show" this morning that his horse was “officially out of the Belmont.” Many fans were hoping to see a Triple Crown winner for the first time since Affirmed in 1978.

• Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has cashed in after his stellar 2011 season.

• Fox’s Ken Rosenthal details the success of Mets skipper Terry Collins in his third managerial stint.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee has the SEC Tweets of the Week.

• OUCH! Mix in some sunscreen, SPF 1000.

• SI’s Ian Thomsen breaks down LeBron James' epic 45-point performance in the Heat’s Game 6 win in Boston.

• Get ready for some slow baseball, as Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to the Red Sox rotation on Saturday.

• A huge influence on college sports is resigning, as University of Florida President Bernie Machen plans to step down next year.

• ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich looks at the Virginia quarterback competition.

• Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham received a nice raise after his Bulldogs’ unit finished fifth in the country in total defense.

• You’ve seen the Harvard baseball players do their rendition of the pop song, “Call Me Maybe.” Now, it’s the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders’ turn. This version has been very popular in our office, even if you watch it in mute. Have a great weekend.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 7

• Are we witnessing a potential dynasty with the Oklahoma City Thunder?

• Many relatives of MLB superlatives were taken in this year’s draft, including the sons of Cal Ripken, Orel Hershiser, Steve Garvey and the grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski. Current managers Mike Matheny, Kirk Gibson and Dale Sveum all had sons drafted by their current organizations.

• ESPN Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell looks at the league’s potential 1,000-yard rushers.

• Ever wondered what it’s like to ride along with five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson? Check out this video from his iPhone inside the car.

• Russ Mitchell looks at the uneven playing field of college football.

• Highly-respected Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner has been reassigned with the organization.

• Shaq Thompson, a Washington football signee who may be the best freshman in the country this season, may also play for the Boston Red Sox in the summer.

• What does the future hold for receiver Mike Wallace and the Steelers?

• Former Wisconsin basketball player Jarrod Uthoff has decided to transfer to Iowa.

• is frustrated by some elements of “the new NBA.”

• (a Phillies-centric blog) has provided us with a new superstar reporter, Awesome Emma. Check out her interview with Phillies star Cole Hamels in our Video of the Day. “Coffee’s so good!”

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 6

• Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick calls out star right fielder Justin Upton on Phoenix radio, and he destroys the credibility of injured shortstop Stephen Drew regarding an extremely slow rehab process.

• It looks like none of the top Miami hotels want to deal with the filming of Chad Ochocinco and fiancé Evelyn Lozada's wedding/television show. Hate to see 85 get 86ed.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger has the rare story of a recruit decommiting from Texas, especially unusual since it’s a Lone Star State kid.

• Check out the video of the Red Hot Chili Peppers taking batting practice and hanging out with Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo in Cincinnati.

• The Rolling Stones classic “Satisfaction” was released today in 1965. The incomparable Keith Richards says he wrote the famous intro in his sleep. Just Keith being Keith.

• The home-schooled Hud Mellencamp, son of famous singer John Mellencamp, will walk on to play football at Duke despite never playing high-school ball. “Hud’s gonna be a football star…” Sorry, had to go there.

• Would Cubs manager Dale Sveum really bench his best player?

• Can the Heat rebound after three consecutive losses to the Celtics?

• Phil Mickelson reportedly sent PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a text message from the course complaining of fans with phones. 

• CBS’ Jon Heyman says there will be no signability issues for the Astros with No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa.

• It’s not quite "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, but current Rams and former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has the perfect ‘70s cop mustache in this video by Nashville band, Goodbye June.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 5

• Titans speedster Chris Johnson tells Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean that he is “still the best back in the league.”

• Here is just your average story where a Super Bowl ring of Green Bay Packers executive turns up with heroin, weapons, etc. on a raid of a drug trafficking organization.

• ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich and Big East blogger Andrea Adelson debate the futures of those two leagues.

• Apparently agent Drew Rosenhaus thinks Terrell Owens’ days in the NFL may be done, so the formerly great receiver fired him. No more sit-ups in the driveway?

• SportsGrid sees James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder turning into Mr. T.

• Deadspin has an interesting piece on former Rangers pitcher David Clyde, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 MLB Draft, who was pulled up to the Majors immediately and seemingly ruined by the organization.

• Green Bay’s Donald Driver takes care of 12-year-old Packers fan Stephen Wagner, who had the receiver’s cleats ripped away from him at a celebrity softball game.

• SB Nation’s Rob Neyer looks at the television coverage of the 2012 MLB Draft.

• Will Jaguars first-round pick Justin Blackmon begin his NFL career suspended?

• Gizmodo believes airport security could be worse than usual this summer. How much more naked can we all get?

• I’m sure most Mets fans celebrated the franchise’s first no-hitter in a responsible way. That was not the case, however, for Long Island fanatic Rafael Diaz. He runs on the field to celebrate with Johan Santana and the boys, only to be pummeled by security in our Video of the Day. And the worst part is that Diaz spent two nights in jail, missing his son's first birthday party.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

June 4

• Even Mets fans hate that the first no-hitter in franchise history was marred by an egregious blown call that would have taken away Johan Santana’s no-no.

• Chadd Scott of questions whether Clemson and Florida State fans would benefit by moving from the ACC to the Big 12.

• While we wait for Anchorman 2, here are some interesting facts from the classic original. Can you imagine Maggie Gyllenhaal as Veronica Corningstone?

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg details the league’s postseason stance, including strongly favoring a selection committee to determine the participants in a four-team playoff.

• Are the referees ruining a classic series between the Celtics and Heat?

• Tiger Woods tied Jack Nicklaus for second on the all-time wins (73) list at the Golden Bear’s tournament, the Memorial. Could the majors record be next?

• I’m not sure many of you watched the MTV Music Awards, but they did have some exclusive new footage from Dark Knight Rises.

• An arbitrator upholds NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to suspend players involved in the bounty scandal with the Saints.

• Did the SEC mess up its entire league schedule to preserve two historical rivalries? Russ Mitchell believes so.

• Will Roddy White of the Falcons have a diminished role in 2012?

Florida coach Will Muschamp made fun of the city of College Station recently when talking to boosters about the Gators trip to Texas A&M this season. Mayor Nancy Berry has a witty response in our Video of the Day…

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 11:58
All taxonomy terms: Chad Ochocinco, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/chad-ochocinco-updates-twitter-bio-after-patriots-release

Chad Ochocinco was released by the New England Patriots yesterday, but it seems he has a pretty good sense of humor about the whole experience. On his Twitter bio Ochocinco, who has nearly 3.5 million followers, says he's now an "Unemployed Black Guy…." In addition to the new bio, he also posted a new photo of himself sitting on a suitcase with his thumb out looking for a ride.

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Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 08:58
Path: /college-football/tennessee-football-how-many-wins-does-derek-dooley-need-return-2013

With Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012 released, it's time to take a look at some of the hot topics around the nation. Tennessee is coming off a disappointing 5-7 season, and coach Derek Dooley is on the hot seat. The Volunteers have the talent to return to the postseason, but aren't ready to challenge for the SEC title.

How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return at Tennessee in 2013?

Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID),
Derek Dooley has to win at least eight regular season games to be back as Tennessee coach in 2012. The reason is simple, he's sucked so far and the 2012 Vols schedule is just about as easy as an SEC schedule can get.

How easy?

UT could win nine games without beating a ranked opponent.

So eight's the bare minimum and I believe that Dooley's fate will be determined by the middle four games of the Vol season. UT will probably be 3-1 at worst after the first four games.

But then comes the deciding four game stretch. The Vols go on the road at Georgia, at Mississippi State, home against Alabama, and on the road at South Carolina.

UT will probably be an underdog in all four of those games.

If Dooley loses all four of these games, I think he'll end up fired. If he wins just one of the four then he'll have a very good chance of getting to eight wins. If he loses all four, he has to win the other eight on the schedule. I don't see that happening.

So eight wins is a must.

But even if Dooley wins eight, 2013 looks awfully scary.

Road games at Alabama, Florida, and Oregon?

Good luck with that.   

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
As usual, so much of the perception of the win total depends on the teams the Volunteers beat. If one of those happens to be Alabama, Derek Dooley’s probably in good shape. That’s probably not going to happen, but Tennessee probably needs to defeat Florida in week three just to keep the Derek Dooley-hot-seaters at bay. That said, early losses didn’t seem to harm Mark Richt and Georgia early last season. Probably more important than the wins for Dooley are the losses. If the Vols lose to Kentucky again, he’s going to have a hard time sticking around. If the Vols are getting too excited for an overtime win over Vanderbilt again, that’s probably not a good sign, either. I’d probably set the arbitrary bar at eight wins -- three of those are a given with Georgia State, Akron and Troy. Avoiding a second consecutive loss to Kentucky would bring Tennessee halfway to eight wins, a three-game improvement from last year and a threshold the Vols haven’t hit since 2007. Can Tennessee get those other four wins? It’s going to be close. Not much wiggle room in games against N.C. State in Atlanta, Florida and Missouri in Knoxville and Mississippi State and Vanderbilt on the road. Tennessee can get there, but not if potential NFL quarterback Tyler Bray is hurt again. If he’s healthy and he has Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers catching passes, Tennessee has a great shot to get to eight or nine wins. If that happens, Dooley is back for 2013.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Eight is the magic number for me, with or without a bowl win. An 8-4 regular season would keep his job totally secure this fall. That would mean at least a 4-4 conference record which would undoubtedly feature road wins over bowl teams Mississippi State and Vanderbilt with home wins over bowl team Mizzou and, of course, a revenge victory over Kentucky (I would not want to be Joker Phillips in that season finale). It would also mean a win over NC State, a very good football team that Tennessee fans will likely overlook and undervalue.

Anything more would be a tremendous coup for the program. If his team finishes 7-5 in the regular season, it might take a bowl win for Dooley to feel secure at the Neyland-Thompson Center.

Dooley has stated that "significant improvement" is what he has to accomplish in order to keep his job in Knoxville. Keeping his team healthy, eliminating any dissension within the locker room and playing more competitive football against upper-tier competition would all constitute "significant improvement" — whether that translates into wins or not. The bottom line is fans should have a clear picture of who and what Dooley is as a head coach by the end of the year. It will be blatantly obvious if the Vols are a more competitive football team in 2012. One key upsets — e.g., Florida — would go a long way to entrenching the current regime. But if this team cannot run the football (again), continues to fail at making halftime adjustments and loses a game it shouldn't, Dooley's tenure as the head coach of the Tennessee Vols will be short lived.

It's not all doom and gloom, however, the program is in dramatically better shape today than it was two years ago when Dooley was hired.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s not easy determining how many wins Derek Dooley needs to return for 2013, but I think seven seems to be the magic number. The key word surrounding the Volunteers in 2012 will be progress. Close the gap on Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama and Dooley is probably safe for another season. Fail to show much progress against some of the SEC's top teams and a coaching change could be in order on Rocky Top.

There’s no question there’s a lot of unrest in Knoxville and rightfully so after losing 10-7 to Kentucky in last year’s regular season finale. The Volunteers were hit hard by the injury bug last season, as Tyler Bray suffered a thumb injury and missed five games. Standout receiver Justin Hunter tore his ACL against Florida and did not play in the final nine contests of 2011. With Bray and Hunter back in the mix, Tennessee could have one of the SEC’s top offenses in 2012. However, coordinator Jim Chaney has to find a way to jumpstart a lifeless rushing attack, while the offensive line also has to perform better. The defense returns seven starters, but will miss tackle Malik Jackson and is under the guidance of new coordinator Sal Sunseri.

The opener in Atlanta against NC State could set the tone for the year. If the Volunteers can defeat the Wolfpack, this team can build some momentum for a key early stretch, which features matchups against Florida and Georgia. If Tennessee stumbles, the questions about Dooley’s job will only get louder. Outside of the matchup against NC State, the non-conference slate is manageable, as Georgia State, Troy and Akron visit Knoxville. Catching Mississippi State from the West Division is favorable for the Volunteers, while new conference foe Missouri visits Knoxville in mid-November.

With a favorable schedule and Bray and Hunter back in the mix, anything less than seven wins would be a disappointment for Tennessee fans. There are high expectations in Knoxville, and this is a huge year for Dooley to show the program is back on track. He didn’t inherit a great situation, but it’s time for Dooley and the Volunteers to make some progress and become a factor in the SEC East race once again.

Mark Ross
I think Dooley needs to find a way to get to at least seven or eight wins, and certainly to a bowl game, if he wants to return as Tennessee's head coach in 2013. Very little has gone right for Dooley in his first two seasons, but that doesn't change the expectations of Big Orange Nation. To make matters worse, Dave Hart, Tennessee's current athletics director, isn't the guy who hired Dooley in the first place. So besides winning over the fan base this season, Dooley probably needs to convince his boss that he's the right man for the job as well.

Unfortunately for Dooley and his Volunteers, seven or eight wins is anything but a guarantee looking at this season's schedule. For one, the season opener against NC State in the Georgia Dome won't be a cakewalk. Tennessee should win its other three non-conference games, at home against Georgia State, Akron and Troy, but besides its SEC East slate, the Vols also have conference games against defending national champion Alabama and Mississippi State.

Speaking of the SEC East, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida figure to be tough opponents and then there's newcomer Missouri, whose offense will be a difficult test for Tennessee's defense to try and slow down. And at this point, even UT's match ups against Kentucky and Vanderbilt, which were pretty much foregone conclusions until last season, can't be taken for granted.

So assuming Tennessee wins three out of its four non-conference games, the Vols would still need to do no worse than .500 in SEC play to get to that magic number of seven or eight wins. Again, considering who's on UT's conference schedule in 2012, .500 in league play would definitely be an improvement over last season's 1-7 mark. If anything, it certainly wouldn't hurt Dooley's chances of getting another year in Knoxville.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not think there is an automatic number like many media members or fans try to portray, but obviously Dooley’s Vols must show significant progress in his third season at the helm. Eight wins against a challenging Tennessee schedule would seem to ensure a 2013 return for the likeable head coach, and a seven-win campaign would cause heavy debate on Rocky Top. If the anemic running game (116th in the nation at 90 yards per game) improves and Sal Sunseri’s defense shows promise in his first season as coordinator, then the Big Orange fan base might have to deal with some close and competitive losses to SEC heavyweights for another year. However, there can be no more inexplicable defeats like last year’s Kentucky head-scratcher.

Dooley was left a bare-bones program from the (lack of recruiting) end of the Phil Fulmer era and one season of Lane Kiffin, who signed way too many questionable-character kids trying for a quick fix. Tennessee’s recruiting has been solid under Dooley, but that just means you’re treading water when competing in America’s toughest conference. The offense has a ton of potential this season but cannot afford any key injuries like the ones last year to quarterback Tyler Bray and top receiver Justin Hunter. The defense has some talent, and it will be interesting to see how the players develop in Sunseri’s hybrid look.

When new athletic director Dave Hart took over in Knoxville, many speculated that Dooley’s seat got much warmer. However, the veteran AD knows how down the program was when Dooley was hired. If the ’12 Vols show progress and compete like a top-tier SEC team, I believe there will be no change. But a 7-5 regular season with an unexpected loss may force Hart’s hand as Tennessee football tries to return to national relevance.

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012
College Football Rankings: No. 26-35
ollege Football Rankings: No. 36-45

<p> Tennessee Football: How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 07:06
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-46-60

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, continuing with No. 46-60. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2012 season.

46. Rutgers
On paper, Rutgers has the look of a contender, though the uncertainty over all the newness (new coach, eight new assistants) casts some uncertainty over the Knights’ hopes. This was a team pointed for a big season in 2012 by former coach Greg Schiano. He’s gone, but the expectations are not. How ironic would be it be if Flood won the league in his first year after Schiano failed to do so in 11 seasons? 
47. Mississippi State
Dan Mullen has the best depth and most overall talent he’s had during his tenure in Starkville. The offense, with a true pocket passer under center and more playmakers at wide receiver, should be more balanced, and the defense figures to be stout once again. But life in the SEC West can be very difficult. The Bulldogs are 0–12 vs. division rivals not named Ole Miss during Mullen’s three seasons. There’s a chance that MSU might be much improved without seeing much progress — if any — in the win column.
48. Miami
With huge personnel losses to overcome and a very youthful roster, the Hurricanes appear to be in rebuilding mode. There’s good young talent and more coming in from a top-10 recruiting class, but it’s going to take time to develop. The schedule includes nonconference games with Notre Dame, Kansas State and South Florida. The Hurricanes will likely also have to deal with the distraction of imminent NCAA sanctions. Matching last season’s 6–6 record won’t be easy.
49. Northwestern
Northwestern has reached a team-record four consecutive bowl games but also has seen its win total drop in each of the past three seasons. Has the team lost momentum? Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t believe so, but he’ll need a young and potentially more talented roster to grow up in a hurry this fall. The offense has had a nice run of success and a potential superstar in Kain Colter at quarterback. But Northwestern must rectify its issues at running back and see its strong recruiting at offensive line start paying off. The defense has been a major liability for the past year-and-a-half, and if young players don’t make strides and start making plays, it could be a rough season. 
50. Iowa
There is without question a new attitude with all the coaching changes and with Iowa coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons. But what hasn’t changed much is the personnel, and that’s why Iowa could be headed for another season like a year ago. James Vandenberg might be the best pocket passer in the Big Ten, but he struggled on the road last season. The schedule is favorable, but that was also the case last season, and Iowa still failed to contend in the Legends Division.
51. Washington State
With Mike Leach, the Cougars could return to their first bowl game since 2003 when they beat Vince Young and Texas in the Holiday Bowl. Given an abundance of talent at the skill positions, WSU should be in a number of shootouts. The success of the season hinges on the protection that Tuel gets from his offensive line, which was hit by injuries in the spring. The switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense will be key as well, particularly at linebacker, where the Cougs need several players to step up after Leach dismissed two projected starting linebackers — C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi — for off-field transgressions. Based on Leach’s record at Texas Tech, an eight-win season is not out of the question, though a six-win season would be acceptable for the bowl-deprived Cougs.
52. Illinois
Early in his tenure, Tim Beckman handed out orange bracelets to the players and staff. “One” was written in large letters along with “12-01-12.” That’s the date of the Big Ten title game at Indianapolis. “If you don’t have that goal, why do you play?” Beckman says. If Illinois is ever going to break through in the Leaders Division, this would be the year. Ohio State is ineligible for the title. Wisconsin lost starting quarterback Russell Wilson and three-fifths of its powerhouse offensive line. And Penn State continues to try to recover from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. 
53. Purdue
Danny Hope never needs a reason to be optimistic. Purdue’s fourth-year coach always has a positive spin on the state of Boilermaker football. But heading into 2012, there seems to be some basis for such an attitude. The Boilermakers are brimming with confidence after reaching their first bowl game since 2007. With proven experience at quarterback for the first time in Hope’s tenure and a defense littered with potential all-league talent, a second straight winning season is a realistic goal. 
54. Nevada
Nevada is taking a step up in competition by joining the Mountain West Conference. But before the Wolf Pack even get to conference play, they will have to navigate a non-conference schedule that includes a road game against California and a home game against South Florida. On the plus side, the Mountain West no longer has TCU, and two of the league’s better teams, Wyoming and Boise State, travel to Reno. If Nevada can jell, it has a chance to compete for a league title and should be in line for an eighth consecutive bowl appearance.
55. Arizona State
This is clearly a transitional year for Todd Graham and the Sun Devils. ASU lost a ton of talent on both sides of the ball; it has to break in a new, inexperienced quarterback, and there will be an adjustment period as the players get used to the new coaching staff and its schemes. The schedule isn’t as favorable as it was last year, either. ASU ends the year with three road games in four weeks. A .500 record would be a successful first season for Graham.
56. Cincinnati
Cincinnati is riddled with question marks, especially on offense. If the Bearcats are going to continue their recent success in the Big East, a lot of things will have to break right, beginning with the development of Munchie Legaux at quarterback. With no star players, Cincinnati will look to distribute the ball more equally on offense. Defensively, ends Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano must have productive years. The best thing the Bearcats have going for them is a less-than-demanding schedule that includes two home games against FCS opponents (Delaware State and Fordham). With West Virginia gone to the Big 12 and replaced by Temple, the league’s toughest foe year-in and year-out is no longer around. This soft slate will give Cincinnati’s newcomers ample opportunity to grow into their new roles. “The expectations and standards for us never change,” says Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. “Do we have a lot of new faces? Yes. But that adds to the level of excitement.”
57. Wake Forest
Jim Grobe stopped a two-year slide with a bowl bid last year, and he’s brought in four new assistants over two years to rejuvenate the program. His emphasis on recruiting speed shows across the field, but the Deacons’ season will likely be decided by whether they can control the line of scrimmage. Across both lines, Grobe might start at least five players with no game experience. On defense, a lockdown secondary could free up blitzing options. On offense, Tanner Price’s savvy will have to make up for what could be some chaotic situations up front. The good news is that the Deacons will field their most talented team in recent years, boasting several players on each side of the ball with All-ACC potential. Grobe has to figure out how to overcome the team’s inexperience and lack of depth.
58. Texas Tech
Texas Tech missed a bowl game in 2011 for the first time in 12 seasons, which is putting some pressure on third-year coach Tommy Tuberville. Tech must make a bowl game in 2012 to meet Red Raider fans’ minimum standards. Fortunately, there are several weapons in the offensive cupboard, and the coaches did their best to revamp the defense with a new coordinator, a new scheme and some new players from the junior college ranks. The Raiders might cut it close, but they should make it to a bowl game this year. 
59. Ohio
Ohio won a bowl game for the first time in school history last season, beating Utah State 24–23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It also produced 10 wins for the first time in 43 years. But the Bobcats failed to bring home their first MAC title since 1968 as they squandered a 20–0 halftime lead to Northern Illinois. That gives this experienced and talented Ohio squad plenty of motivation to bring home its third MAC East title in four seasons. 
60. Iowa State
Much of the focus this season will be on the quarterback position, as it should be — after all, at this point it appears that the starting spot could be decided by the flip of a coin. It’s always come down to trust with coach Paul Rhoads, and who can protect the ball while still being able to produce enough points to stay competitive in the loaded Big 12. The offense has potential, and the defense over the years has made up for its limited number of difference-makers with great schemes and timely stops in the red zone. As usual, expectations outside the program won’t be high. But as usual, Rhoads’ team will find a way to overachieve and knock off one (or more) of the league’s powers.
<p> College football 2012 preseason rankings: No. 46-60.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 07:02
All taxonomy terms: Belmont Stakes, Triple Crown, News
Path: /news/belmont-stakes-ill-have-another-goes-triple-crown

Editor's Note: I'll Have Another has been scratched from the Belmont.

I’ll Have Another thrilled horse racing fans with similar come-from-behind wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and the Doug O’Neill-trained horse has the oppotunity to win the elusive Triple Crown on Saturday. In the pages of Athlon Sports Monthly, Nathan Rush chronicled the difficulty in achieving horse racing immortality.

The Belmont Stakes is the oldest, longest and most demanding race for those chasing the Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing. And as with any goal worthy of tireless pursuit, attaining the ultimate crown jewel in the sport of kings is not easy.

In order to contend for the Triple Crown, horse and human alike must survive an endurance challenge whose finish line is in Elmont, N.Y., just outside New York City.
The 1 1⁄2-mile at Belmont Park tests the stamina of the three-year-old thoroughbred racehorses. The run is a quarter-mile longer than the 1 1⁄4-mile at Churchill Downs in Louisville and significantly longer than the 1 3⁄16-mile at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

The Triple Crown’s grueling schedule also tests the mental toughness and intestinal fortitude of the trainers, who are tasked with making sure their multi-million-dollar athletes are rested yet ready to run, during an intense five-week stretch — at the Kentucky Derby (May 5), Preakness Stakes (May 19) and Belmont Stakes (June 9).

“There are two weeks between the Derby and Preakness; and three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont,” explains Todd Pletcher, a four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer who won the Belmont in 2007 with Rags to Riches, the first filly to win the race in 102 years.

“You have to make sure that your horse is going to be ready to perform on all three of those days.”

Twenty-nine horses have entered the Belmont Stakes having won the Derby and Preakness; only 11 of those achieved Triple Crown immortality with a win at Belmont Park, the most recent being Affirmed in 1978.

Pletcher’s mentor D. Wayne Lukas, however, did capture the “trainer’s Triple Crown” in 1995, by winning all three races with two different horses — Thunder Gulch (Derby, Belmont) and Timber Country (Preakness). With the growing trend of fewer horsemen — such as Pletcher, Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen — taking the reins to train more horses in the elite field of Triple Crown races, the “next Lukas” may be more likely than the “next Affirmed.”

“I learned a great deal from Wayne as well as his son, Jeff. They provided a great foundation for training horses and operating a large stable,” says Pletcher, whose 2012 stable of contenders includes El Padrino and Gemologist.

“It is always very difficult, but I feel we have colts who are well-suited to go the classic distance. They have been training very well.”

The Kentucky Derby may claim to be the “most exciting two minutes in sports” but throughout the 138-year history of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes has been the scene of the most exhilarating few seconds in thoroughbred racing — period. There is no greater moment in the sport than the crowning of a Triple Crown champion, which always takes place in New York.

The question is, after 34 years, will there ever be another thoroughbred capable of capturing the elusive Triple Crown?

“Yes. I think it can be done. Some have come very close since then,” says Pletcher. “I think it’s only a matter of time before it is accomplished again.”

There have been 11 Triple Crown winners in history, broken up by three significant dry spells — with an 11-year gap between the original champion, Sir Barton (1919), and his successor, Gallant Fox (1930); a 25-year break between Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973); and the current 34-year drought since Affirmed (1978).

1919 – Sir Barton
1930 – Gallant Fox
1935 – Omaha
1937 – War Admiral
1941 – Whirlaway
1943 – Count Fleet
1946 – Assault
1948 – Citation
1973 – Secretariat
1977 – Seattle Slew
1978 – Affirmed

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, there have been 11 horses who won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before falling short at the Belmont Stakes.

1979 – Spectacular Bid (3rd in Belmont Stakes)
After waiting 25 years between Citation’s Triple Crown in 1948 and Secretariat’s remarkable run in 1973, the sport nearly witnessed a three-year streak of three-year-olds winning the big three races. But a fluke accident likely prevented a shot at the Triple Crown. Spectacular Bid stepped on a safety pin on the morning of the Belmont Stakes and — despite taking an aggressive approach and an early lead — faded late in the race, showing behind Golden Act and Coastal.

1981 – Pleasant Colony (3rd)
1987 – Alysheba (4th)
1989 – Sunday Silence (2nd)
1997 – Silver Charm (2nd)
1998 – Real Quiet (2nd)

Bob Baffert’s bay colt Real Quiet — nicknamed “The Fish” due to his slender, sleek, almost aquatic-like build — lost by a nose to the appropriately named Victory Gallop, a Canadian-born stallion who placed second to Real Quiet in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Despite going down to the wire and falling painfully short at Belmont Park, Real Quiet came closer to ending the Triple Crown drought than any thoroughbred to date.

1999 – Charismatic (3rd)
2002 – War Emblem (8th)
2003 – Funny Cide (3rd)
2004 – Smarty Jones (2nd)
2008 – Big Brown (9th, DNF)

Although cocky trainer Rick Dutrow called the Triple Crown a “foregone conclusion,” a hoof injury leading up to the race and a loose shoe on race day resulted in Big Brown finishing last among the nine horses who ran in the Belmont Stakes. Big Brown suffered his first career loss — as 38-to-1 longshot Da’ Tara led wire-to-wire, while the 3-to-10 overwhelming favorite failed to finish after jockey Kent Desormeaux pulled up because he “had no horse.”

<p> Belmont Stakes: I'll Have Another goes for the Triple Crown</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Chad Ochocinco, New England Patriots, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/ochocinco-released-patriots

The short stay of Chad Ochocinco in New England ended on Thursday with the Patriots releasing the receiver. Bill Belichick reportedly tried to trade No. 85, but then cut the underperforming wideout in a move that was not surprising. Over the past few years, Ochocinco seemed much more interested in being a celebrity than a top NFL player. From name changes to television appearances to dating reality stars, the once-great baller faded on the field as he made more news in the entertainment industry. In the six seasons from 2002-07, No. 85 averaged 88 catches for 1,339 yards and eight touchdowns per year. But over the last four seasons Ochocinco only had 207 receptions in 58 games, including a career-low 15 catches in 15 games for the Patriots in 2011.

The celebrity receiver, who has almost 3.5 million followers on twitter, sent out the following message on his release: “Thoroughly enjoyed the oppurtunity to play for the "Patriot" organization... fans were (expletive) wicked awesome, I wish all of you the best...”

Who knows what’s next for Ochocinco? His commitment to football will obviously be in question after his struggle with the Patriots. He never seemed to buy into the New England system on offense and did not receive many opportunities because of that. Some NFL will probably take a chance on the flawed but likeable receiver, who turned 34 earlier this season. Another franchise may believe that they can find one more productive season in Ochocinco, or he may just concentrate on reality TV.

For now, No. 85 has been 86ed.

<p> Ochocinco Released by the Patriots</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 06:19
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bears, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Chicago Bears 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Indianapolis
Week 2: at Green Bay (Thurs.)
Week 3: St. Louis
Week 4: at Dallas (Mon.)
Week 5: at Jacksonville
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Detroit (Mon.)
Week 8: Carolina
Week 9: at Tennessee
Week 10: Houston
Week 11: at San Francisco (Mon.)
Week 12: Minnesota
Week 13: Seattle
Week 14: at Minnesota
Week 15: Green Bay
Week 16: at Arizona
Week 17: at Detroit

Order your 2012 Chicago Bears Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Chicago will open its 2012 season by helping break in Indianapolis rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, gets the privilege of making his NFL debut against Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and co. on their home turf. Good (ahem) luck.

- After going against Luck, it's the Bears' defense that may need some of its own as Week 2 has them in Green Bay trying to slow down the rival Packers and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is 6-2 in his career against the Bears as the Packers have won the last three meetings between these two long-time foes.

- Chicago gets the AFC South and NFC West as its cross-divisional opponents in 2012. While Houston and San Francisco, who won their respective divisions in 2011, are bona fide contenders once again this season, the rest of the teams are either on the rise or rebuilding. The Bears should be able to capitalize on this part of their schedule.

- The Bears' two floating games — at Dallas and versus Carolina — offer two intriguing match ups. Both the Cowboys and Panthers feature quarterback-driven offenses, though the teams' respective signal-callers — Tony Romo and Cam Newton — attack defenses differently.  The Monsters of the Midway will likely employ different strategies to try and slow down each offense, but regardless, the defense will need to be at the top of its game if it wishes to be successful in doing so.

- Chicago plays the first of its three Monday night games in Week 4 as it travels to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. The Bears also host the Lions in Week 7 and are on the road against the 49ers in Week 11 for their other Monday night dates.

- The Bears go on bye in Week 6, meaning they will play 11 straight games following it. Although early, the bye comes at a good time as it gives the Bears a week to prepare for what appears to be the toughest stretch of their schedule. Following the bye, Chicago faces off with Detroit on Monday night in what will probably be a pivotal NFC North game then host Carolina. A road trip to Tennessee to take on the Titans in Week 9 precedes a difficult back-to-back offering of Houston (home) and a trip out west to San Francisco. This five-week span will go a long ways to determining how the Bears' 2012 season turns out.

- After playing just two NFC North games in its first six, Chicago will see plenty of its division rivals in the final six weeks of the season. The Bears play Minnesota twice in a span of three weeks starting in Week 12 and then end their regular season home against Green Bay and at Detroit, with a road game versus Arizona sandwiched in between. The final six weeks of the regular season will go a long ways in determining who wins the North and how many teams go on to the playoffs.

Fantasy Focus: Chicago wide receivers finished No. 22 in fantasy points scored in 2011, one reason why the Bears traded with Miami for Brandon Marshall and took South Carolina wideout Alshon Jeffery in the second round of this year's draft. Besides reuniting former Broncos' teammates Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears are hoping they have added some dependable and dangerous weapons to their passing attack. Cutler, who missed six games last season due to a thumb injury, averaged 16.5 fantasy points per game in 2011, which ranked him No. 16 among quarterbacks. If Cutler can re-establish the chemistry that he and Marshall had in Denver and Jeffery can assimilate himself to the pro game quickly, both, and possibly even Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, could become reliable fantasy producers. This season, the Bears will play seven teams that ranked in the top half in terms of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2011. More specifically, all three NFC North foes, who the Bears will play twice, finished in the top seven of this category, led by Minnesota (2nd), followed by Green Bay (3rd) and Detroit (7th). Additionally, Arizona (8th), St. Louis (11th), San Francisco (13th) and Indianapolis (16th) also were ranked in the top 16.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 8, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Chicago Bears 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, San Diego Chargers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

San Diego Chargers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Oakland (Mon.)
Week 2: Tennessee
Week 3: Atlanta
Week 4: at Kansas City
Week 5: at New Orleans
Week 6: Denver (Mon.)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: at Cleveland
Week 9: Kansas City (Thur.)
Week 10: at Tampa Bay
Week 11: at Denver
Week 12: Baltimore
Week 13: Cincinnati
Week 14: at Pittsburgh
Week 15: Carolina
Week 16: at New York Jets
Week 17: Oakland

Order your 2012 San Diego Chargers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Fans have to go back to 2007 to find the last time that Week 1 of the NFL season didn’t end with an AFC West Monday night divisional showdown. The Chargers will begin the season on primetime TV as the second Monday night game by visiting the Raiders. As a fan without a dog in the hunt, I am a huge proponent of the late night West Coast divisional battles to wrap-up the season’s first weekend. The last three have been decided by one touchdown or less with a grand total of 14 points separating victory from defeat.

- The off week is located in Week 7 and should provide a nice respite from the relatively tough first six weeks of the season — that will feature Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Carson Palmer. However, after resting up, the Chargers should make a big playoff push over the next three weeks. Cleveland, Kansas City — which will feature short rest on a Thursday — and Tampa Bay provide the easiest three-game stretch of the year.

- The divisional slate will be fun to watch this year, and not simply because the AFC West could be wide open. San Diego will play five of its first 11 games within the division — three of which won’t be played on a Sunday. The Chargers will wrap-up the year with a home division game with the Raiders.

- The AFC North will be the AFC round-robin for the Bolts this season. Not an easy draw. A road trip to Cleveland isn’t daunting following the bye week, but three straight games against AFC North playoff teams will be. From Week 12 to Week 14, the Super Chargers will play three Super Bowl contenders in Baltimore, Cincinnati and at Pittsburgh — an odd scheduling twist. Having to visit fellow AFC foes Pittsburgh and New York in the final four weeks of the year won’t be easy.

- There are much worse divisions to face from the NFC than the South (like the North or the East). And the Chargers will get the two tough tests — Atlanta and at New Orleans — out of the way within the first five weeks of the season. This give the Bolts Tampa Bay and Carolina for the second half of the season.

- The home-road schedule doesn’t offer any unique scheduling twists for the Bolts. There are only four truly lengthy trips across the country — at Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York. Road games at Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and New Orleans are not as long as the others. And the final playoff push could provide some home-cooking for Norv Turner and Company. Four of the final six games will come at home, including potential wild card showdowns against Baltimore, Cincinnati and Oakland.

- The two floating games for San Diego fit their level of expectation perfectly. While a team like Baltimore must face New England and Houston and a team like the Colts must face Kansas City and Cleveland. Getting the Titans and Jets, two teams that missed the playoffs but were in contention late in 2011, provides appropriate wild card competition for a team like San Diego.

Fantasy Focus: Philip Rivers turned the ball over entirely too much a year ago and fans can bet he won't play nearly as poorly in 2012. And the start to his schedule helps. While there are some potentially "okay" fantasy defenses on the schedule (Tennessee, Denver), the first nine games of the year provide plenty of "must-start" situations for Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates, etc. All Chargers might be moving up my draft board.

- By Braden Gall


2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> San Diego Chargers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-june-7

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Will they ever play?

It can seem like forever waiting on an injured star, especially when other players on your roster start filling up the disabled list. You may have stashed some big names that have not played in 2012 on your DL, but what can be expected upon their return?

Ryan Howard – Philadelphia Phillies
The Phils slugger is finally on the field in Clearwater, facing some minor leaguers in extended spring training games. Howard has yet to play in the field or run the bases. While the prospect of a late power edition to your club is enticing, it’s difficult to see the former MVP doing much damage this season. Lower-body injuries and 250+ athletes do not mix.

Chase Utley – Philadelphia Phillies
The former All-Star is also playing in Clearwater and seems further along than his partner on the right side of the Philadelphia infield. Utley is swinging well and running the bases, and he hopes to have no setbacks with his chronic knees. He could provide a boost in the second half but only batted .259 with a .769 OPS in 103 games last season.

Carl Crawford – Boston Red Sox
A disappointing 2011 season on the field in Beantown has turned into an exhaustive 2012 rehab campaign. Wrist surgery and an elbow injury have Crawford’s frustrations at an all-time high. He can swing the bat but has not been cleared to throw. Unless you’re an extreme optimist, there’s not much here for the ’12 season. Remember, Crawford only had a .289 OBP last year.

Stephen Drew – Arizona Diamondbacks
The shortstop is scheduled for a Triple-A rehab assignment this week, but he may be dealing with other issues from the club. Arizona managing partner Ken Kendrick recently said on radio that he thought Drew was more concerned with his 2013 team than playing for the franchise that is paying his salary. Ouch. The reality here seems to be that Drew’s stellar 2008 season looks much more of an outlier than a sign of consistent potential.

Drew Storen – Washington Nationals
The young closer burst on the scene last year with 43 saves, and he should give you the best chance for a second-half boost of the players on this list. Storen had been long-tossing every other day during his rehab from elbow surgery, but earlier this week he threw on consecutive days. The Nats stopper should be back after the All-Star break.

DL Watch and Other Injury News

• Texas placed left-hander Derek Holland on the 15-day DL today with shoulder fatigue. Holland (5-4, 5.10 ERA) has been battling a stomach ailment of some sort that’s caused him to lose 15 pounds over the last few weeks and resulted in diminishing stamina and velocity on the mound. On May 30, Seattle touched up Holland for eight runs on eight hits in just 1 2/3 innings. He pitched much better in his last outing on Tuesday in Oakland, getting the win as he gave up just three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, but he was clearly not the same pitcher late in that start as the Mariners hit him pretty hard in the fifth and sixth innings. Alexi Ogando, who went 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA as a starter last season, will move from the bullpen to take Holland’s spot in the rotation.

• Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila was placed on the DL on Wednesday due to a right hamstring strain. The team called up Bryan Holaday from AAA to take Avila’s place on the roster. Holaday went 1-for-4 with a run scored in his major league debut last night against Cleveland.

• Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman left Wednesday’s game against the Marlins with a bruised left index finger. Freeman, who had a RBI single in the fourth inning, injured his finger trying to break up a double play as he was hit with the relay throw. His finger was put in a splint and he was scheduled for x-rays and additional tests today. At the very least, expect him to miss a few games this weekend. It could be worse for Atlanta, who’s still missing Chipper Jones, but the Braves upcoming interleague series are at home, so they don’t need to worry about a DH. Eric Hinske will more than likely take over for Freeman at first.

• Speaking of Jones, the Braves’ long-time third baseman should be back soon, possibly the end of next week. Jones, who went on the DL on May 24 with a calf injury, appears to be getting to the point where he will be ready to go on a brief rehab assignment before rejoining the team.

Jason Bay, who’s been on the DL since fracturing a rib in late April, should make his return to the Mets’ line up this weekend. Bay was in the starting lineup for today’s matinee against Washington, but was scratched before the game due to the flu. Bay is expected to see a lot of time at DH during the Mets’ upcoming interleague series against the Yankees and Tampa Bay. After those two series, manager Terry Collins has said he will probably employ some sort of outfield rotation with Bay, Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Andres Torres.

Weekend Interleague Notes

Interleague play resumes on Friday, which means some National League teams will be employing a DH. Besides not having to watch pitchers swing the bat, this extra hitter in the NL team’s line up also could present a short-term opportunity to give your fantasy line up a boost. Here are some names worth considering during interleague play:

Jason Bay – As was mentioned earlier, Bay should return to the Mets’ line up as early this weekend. With the Mets in New York for the Subway Series against the Yankees and then on to Tampa Bay, he will probably get the bulk of the DH at-bats when he’s in the lineup. Bay (.240-3-5) is off to a slow start at the plate, but he’s had pretty good success in his career against both the Yankees (.333-6-28 in 40 G) and Rays (.283-8-25 in 27 G).

Kirk Nieuwenhuis – The Mets’ rookie outfielder has made the most of his opportunities in Bay’s absence. Entering Thursday, he was hitting .295 with three home runs and 20 RBIs, along with three stolen bases. Not surprisingly, the left-handed hitting Nieuwenheis fares better (.326) against righties than southpaws, so you may want to be wary of using him against the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte or Rays’ David Price, should he be in the lineup for those games.

Jim Thome – The Phillies’ first baseman was activated from the DL on Wednesday, just in time for interleague play. Thome is no stranger to DH, having played 18 of his 22 seasons in the American League, or interleague play. For his career, Thome is a .270 career hitter with 59 home runs and 150 RBIs in interleague series. The Phillies open a series in Baltimore on Friday before going on to Minnesota to face the Twins starting next Tuesday. Thome’s teammate Ty Wigginton (.269-6-26) could be another option in deeper leagues.

National League teams aren’t the only ones who have to adjust their usual strategy during interleague play. American League teams don’t get to use the DH when they play in NL parks, which means some managers have to get creative to make sure their best hitters stay in the lineup.

For example, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has already said that Albert Pujols will move over to third base for their interleague series in Colorado against the Dodgers, with Kendrys Morales taking over at first base. In some leagues those six games may be enough for Pujols to gain third-base eligibility. Just something to watch.

Also, don’t be surprised to see Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez roaming in right field next week when the Red Sox play the Marlins in Miami. It’s something manager Bobby Valentine is said to be considering to get either rookie Will Middlebrooks or veteran David Ortiz in the lineup.

Kevin Youkilis can move over to first to make room for Middlebrooks at third or Ortiz can play first with the Youker or Middlebrooks staying at the hot corner. Middlebrooks also has been practicing at shortstop, although that situation was more the result of second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s thumb injury rather than the upcoming interleague play. The bottom line is this with Valentine calling the shots, there’s no telling how the Red Sox’ lineup and defensive alignment will look when their series against the Marlins opens up on Tuesday.

Another AL first baseman who could find himself in the outfield this weekend is Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. It’s probably a long shot, but Royals manager Ned Yost has tossed out the idea of moving Hosmer to the outfield so normal DH Billy Butler can go to first.

Hosmer owners could care less about whether he gains outfield eligibility or not, they are just glad the young left-handed hitter has finally started to hit the ball more consistently. Sitting at a pitiful .172 through May 20, Hosmer has been raking as of late. Since May 21, he is batting .352 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. Even better, he’s hit .368 with as many stolen bases (two) as strikeouts (two) in his first six games in June.

--By Mark Ross and Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on Twitter)

<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 16:49
Path: /nascar/kurt-buschs-downward-spiral-0

The last five days have become the most memorable of Kurt Busch’s 12-year tenure in NASCAR. The next five may ultimately determine the rest of his career.

Following a terse exchange with long-time NASCAR reporter Bob Pockrass following Saturday’s Nationwide race at Dover, Busch was suspended by NASCAR until June 13 for showing disrespect towards a media member. Since, Busch’s car owner, James Finch, has been less than supportive of his driver, making cryptic comments regarding his future with the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team. Absent is the fatherly concern and support that Joe Gibbs showed brother Kyle following his dust-up at Texas Motor Speedway last fall with Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck Series race. Instead, Tuesday’s comments on Sirius XM NASCAR were those of an old-school racer, legitimate tough guy, and an owner who finds himself at the same Busch-induced crossroads as Jack Roush and Roger Penske before him.

“It’s going to be race-by-race. It’s not going to be probation with us,” Finch said. “Here’s the deal: Quit wrecking the cars, get a good finish, be nice to people. That’s not real hard to do.”

Finch also says that if further tirades ensue, he will permit a member of the crew to, “go upside (Busch’s) head with a crescent wrench.”

So how have things gone so wrong so quick for Busch? Two weeks ago I wrote a column declaring that he was the right driver to take over the reins of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Home Depot machine. Following Saturday’s incident, JGR president J.D. Gibbs said that Busch is, “no longer on our radar.”

The stage for the Axl Rose of auto racing’s downward spiral into obscurity has been built over the course of a number of run-ins throughout the years.

Busch made his first career Cup start at Dover (coincidentally) in Sept. 2000, closing out the year by replacing Chad Little in the No. 97 Roush Ford. In just his fourth race at Rockingham, Busch raised the ire of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who harassed Busch for a few laps to where NASCAR issued a warning to Junior, instructing him to back off. The incident was Busch’s first interaction with the media, and even then in his young career, he gave a typically articulate, well-reasoned response about trading paint with a name of racing royalty.

It also set a long-standing precedent that Busch would not back down to anyone in the sport — be it another driver, opposing crew, or even his own team owner.

In 2001, Busch began his first full season in Cup, and in October at Phoenix his now-legendary tiff with Jimmy Spencer began. Feelings between the two escalated through the ’02 season —particularly after a bump ‘n’ run at Bristol — and at the Brickyard 400, Busch found himself in the wall early in the event – and then slapping his backside and pointing to the rear of the field as Spencer drove by. What followed was Busch’s now-epic line, referring to Spencer as a “decrepit old has-been”. The feud culminated in the Aug. 2003 Michigan race when Busch was popped in the nose by Mr. Excitement following a tirade that was picked up by Busch’s in-car audio and camera.

Spencer isn’t the only driver to have taken a swing at Busch. Tony Stewart allegedly punched him following a practice incident at Daytona in 2008. He would be docked 100 points later that year when, at Dover (naturally), he drove his car alongside Stewart’s on pit road in disgust, nearly hitting a crewman in the process.

In ’04, Busch won the inaugural Chase for the Sprint Cup, which until last year’s tie, was the narrowest championship margin in history (eight points). In late ’05, Busch jumped ship at Roush Racing to take over the iconic Blue Deuce for the retiring Rusty Wallace at Penske Racing. With just two races remaining in the season, Busch was pulled over during race weekend in Phoenix, and was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Busch was less than cordial with the officers, accusing one of being a Jeff Gordon fan while asking the one question anyone who is anyone should not: “Don’t you know who I am?”

Busch was suspended by Roush for the final two races of the season, the team issuing a release that stated they were, “done being Kurt Busch’s apologists.”

Since then it’s been a steady diet of water bottle chucking, press release ripping, going after reporters, and team radio rants that sounds more like excerpts from Full Metal Jacket than Days of Thunder. His radio tirades, in particular, have become the thing of legend, abusing his crew, crew chiefs, the sanctioning body, and team owner. From wishing he could drive his ill-handling car head-on into the wall to knock himself out, to addressing team owner Roger Penske as “dude,” Busch has been able to maintain rides based on his talent and ability, not through timely charm or faux sincerity.

Things reached a crescendo in 2011 when at New Hampshire (strangely, not Dover) his car failed pre-race inspection in the second Chase race. He had a bit of a meltdown during driver introductions, and snapped at ESPN’s Jamie Little en route to the grid. After falling out of the race at Homestead eight weeks later he was less-than-enthused about waiting for a TV interview with ESPN reporter and longtime NASCAR personality Dr. Jerry Punch. The ensuing tirade was caught on a fans’ smartphone, uploaded to YouTube, and led to his ouster from Penske Racing — making him a driver without a job just two months before the season was to begin.

That aside, the reason for Busch’s Pocono suspension is a bit muddy. Busch was asked by Pockrass, a reporter well-respected among his peers and a long-time member of the media corps that covers the sport weekly, if he was forced to race Justin Allgaier differently, since he was on probation. Allgaier was making aggressive moves toward Busch during the race after some incidental contact on the first lap. His reply was classic Kurt, but as things have turned out, not in a good way:

“It refrains me from not beating the s*** out of you right now, because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation that’s probably improper to say as well.”

Mind you, Busch essentially confirmed the same question when interviewed by Punch just a few moments earlier. Perhaps more telling was Busch’s follow-up comment of, “you’re in this just to start stuff, it’s all you’re out here for.”

In my mind, the comment to a member of the media did not warrant the suspension. Had there not been a camera present to record Busch’s comments, I doubt we’d even be having this discussion. The totality of his history the past two years of being less-than-polite with media members factored into the decision — particularly during a time when the sport is working hard to rebuild it popularity following a decline in viewership and attendance. This appears to be one guy having a lingering beef with another, which now stands to jeopardize his career.

Not to get all paternal and go the “this hurts me more than it hurts you” route, but perhaps this is what Busch requires to, as Finch says, “get his head right.” The cracks have begun to show the last few weeks, from a palatably tense exchange with reporters outside of his team hauler at Charlotte, to discussing a controversial pit road incident with Ryan Newman at Darlington which saw the 13th of 14 damaged Phoenix Racing machines in 2012. Busch is auditioning for a ride this year and has been working harder to get more out of the equipment than it’s capable of providing.

Busch was knocking on the door of a top-5 run at Darlington when he got into the wall causing a flat tire. He was in contention for a win at Talladega until he was inadvertently turned by former teammate Brad Keselowski late in the going. During qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 he lost it in qualifying and nosed the car into the backstretch wall. Combine those with his short fuse, a will to win and get back into a top-tier ride, and you’re mixing nitro and glycerin in a 9,000 rpm tumbler.

Also working against Busch in his dealings with Finch, in that he leads the Sprint Cup Series in wrecks this year with five – both uncharacteristic for the driver and unsustainable for a small, independent team. The tiny Phoenix Racing group of 18 is short on resources and sponsorship. Typically, when you paint your car like Ricky Bobby’s “ME” car from Talladega Nights, things can’t be on solid financial footing. No word yet if Clyde Torkle’s “Chicken Pit Special” will on the car for Atlanta in September.

Before everybody goes piling on and kicking a man when he’s down (which is America’s second national pastime), not all of the wrecked cars have been Busch’s fault. As well, despite the owner’s frustration with the situation, Busch maintains the support and admiration of his current crew chief, Nick Harrison.

“The whole deal has been blown out of proportion,” Harrison said on Tuesday. “Kurt’s under the microscope right now and I just wish people would leave him alone and let him do his job. Yes, Kurt has a strong personality, but when he’s out of the car, he’s just one of the guys. He’s one of us. That’s hard to find in the garage these days.”

Even Finch relented that not all of Busch’s undoing has been of his own doing:

“I think the media needs to back off a little bit. They need to stop agitating him. I mean, what can I do? Put a muzzle on him when he gets out of the car? Hide him in a box? He’s got the most talent out there right now. But he’s been over-driving the car and he needs to settle down, win a race or two and let things settle down.”

What has resulted is the worst of both worlds: a championship-winning driver working hard to rebuild his reputation, driving a largely unsponsored car for a small team in an economy that cannot support a massive sponsorship campaign. Combine that with a hot-tempered driver who is frustrated with his current situation and a fickle audience who demands to see real, live, raw emotion (but then acts offended when a driver doesn’t rattle off the canned 30-second sponsor-laden drivel) and you have the crossroads that Kurt Busch finds himself at today.

If Busch does not say exactly what Finch is demanding to hear on Tuesday, then he is essentially out of Cup racing for 2012 — and potentially beyond. His only fall back at this time is the part-time Nationwide Series arrangement with brother Kyle’s No. 54 Monster Energy team. It would be a further set back professionally, but might be required for him to heal personally.

While the radio outbursts and snarky comments are entertaining and admittedly funny — calling Jimmie Johnson “five-time chump” in mid-spin is pretty witty — it has led to his demise and marketability in a sport that now demands drivers to be minivan-mom friendly. Busch would have landed at Richard Petty Motorsports last offseason, but sponsors refused to back him, despite comments from then-CEO Robbie Loomis that “I’d mortgage my own house if it meant hiring Kurt Busch.”

It is the same situation that Finch now finds himself in following the suspension of his driver.

“If I can't get a sponsor, I can't keep running without a sponsor,” Finch says. “That's a slow death. I don't want to do that.”

Personally, I sincerely hope that Busch manages to turn things around and can find a way to contain the inner green rage monster. In an era where one year drivers are told to, “have at it boys” and the next to “don’t says s***,” it’s both bad timing and bad form to shut down a championship-caliber driver for being short with a media member upon exiting a racecar.

While it does not excuse the pattern of behavior and decade of disrespect, the majority of those in the sport feel the same way. Typically, these type of situations are reserved for athletes in other sports that have substance abuse problems. In this case, it’s one driver who’s high on shooting his mouth off.

Sadly, simply expressing his frustration with a question may end up silencing his career.

by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter:

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese examines Kurt Busch's star-crossed NASCAR career — and how, if he cannot control his temper, it may be coming to a premature ending.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 13:43
All taxonomy terms: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA, News
Path: /nba/kevin-durant-leads-okc-nba-finals

It has been an amazing playoff run so far for the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the team to the NBA Finals. OKC has gone through a who’s who of Western Conference opponents, defeating the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs on the way to the Finals. Those franchises have won 10 of the last 13 NBA Championships, but Scott Brooks’ team has forced an out with the old, in with the new dynamic in the Western Conference. The Thunder are 12-3 in the postseason, and they are undefeated at the rockin’ Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Boston Celtics have a chance to close out the Miami Heat tonight, as OKC awaits its next foe. It’s easy to see why the Thunder have become so successful — nailing their draft picks when selecting in the top 10. While the franchise was in turmoil during the last couple of years in Seattle, the players acquired during that time have been elite. OKC’s first picks in 2007 (Durant), 2008 (Westbrook) and 2009 (James Harden) have produced the team’s three leading scorers. The franchise also got center Serge Ibaka with the second of two first-round selections in 2008, and he has been a force in the middle defensively. With valuable contributions from role players like postseason veteran Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, it’s easy to see why the Oklahoma City Thunder will be a tough out for either the Celtics or Heat.

<p> Kevin Durant leads OKC to the NBA Finals</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 12:23
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-pocono

This week has certainly been an interesting one in the world of NASCAR.

Jimmie Johnson scored his seventh career Dover win on Sunday, tying him with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for the most all-time wins at the Monster Mile. Kurt Busch was suspended for this weekend's race at Pocono after threatening Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass following Saturday's Nationwide Series race, also at Dover. Testing got underway on the freshly repaved Pocono Raceway, with Mark Martin leading the way on Wednesday. Kyle Busch won Wednesday night's Prelude to the Dream charity race at Eldora Speedway.

While much of the focus this week has centered around off-track news, it is time to put that aside and look ahead to this weekend's race a the Tricky Triangle.

With testing taking place Wednesday and Thursday, fantasy NASCAR players get a rare early glimpse of what teams are getting a handle on the freshly re-paved track.

To no one’s surprise, speeds have been much higher with the new pavement and tire combination provided by Goodyear. Martin’s top speed on Wednesday was 175.380 mph, while AJ Allmendinger was quickest in Thursday morning's session. Allmendinger's speed of 177.190 mph was nearly five miles per hour faster than the track record of 172.533 set in 2004 by Kasey Kahne.

“You never know what to expect when a race track gets paved,” Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton said on Wednesday. “This pavement is unbelievably nice, smooth. The quality of racing is going to be improved a great deal. [But] it’s still Pocono. It still has the same characteristics and the personality of Pocono, but just has more grip.”

AJ Allmendinger, Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kahne, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top 10 speeds on Wednesday.

Keep an eye on the speed charts from Thursday's two test sessions, and even more so on Friday, when the Cup teams will enjoy nearly three hours worth of track time in both qualifying and race trim.

As Burton mentioned, the new pavement might have added more grip, but it is the same old Pocono. One of the trickiest tracks on the schedule, drivers and teams will have to setup their cars so they work through each of the track's three unique corners.

The same old Pocono also means Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon are three drivers to keep atop your list of fantasy favorites.

Coming off his second win of the season, Johnson and his No. 48 team are the hottest thing on the NASCAR circuit. While the championship battle is still many months ahead, the five-time champ seems to be preparing for a sixth title run.

Johnson also holds the best average finish at Pocono (9.0) with two wins, eight top 5s and 14 top 10s in 20 starts. The No. 48 car was third fastest in Wednesday's test session, so expect him to be among the front-runners come Sunday afternoon.

Whenever the series rolls into Pocono, Hamlin is also one of the drivers to beat. After sweeping the races in his rookie year, Hamlin has gone on to record a total of four wins on the 2.5-mile triangle. He has the second-best average finish (9.7) with seven top 5s and eight top 10s in 12 starts.

Like Johnson, Hamlin also has two wins this season, putting him fourth in the standings. With some security in his spot in the Chase, Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb are focused on scoring bonus points for wins and there is perhaps no better place for them to accomplish that than at Pocono.

If Hamlin wants to score his third win of the season, he'll have to best veteran Jeff Gordon, among others. Gordon has the third-best average finish (10.2) among active drivers at Pocono, with five wins, 17 top 5s and 27 top 10s in 38 starts.

Currently mired in a season plagued by bad luck, Gordon heads to Pocono on a mission to turn his season around and knock the monkey off his back. The No. 24 car was strong last Sunday in Dover, but a loose lug nut and a poorly-timed caution ruined any chance at a solid finish. If Gordon can avoid the poor luck that has been chasing him all season, expect the four-time champion to have a solid day on Sunday.

Also keep an eye on the ageless Martin and last August's Pocono winner Brad Keselowski.

As previously stated, Martin led the way in Wednesday's test session and has the fourth-best average finish (11.2) at Pocono, but the veteran has never been to Victory Lane.

Keselowski already has two wins this season, but is currently 11th in the standings. Look for him to try and work his way into the top 10 in points for the first time this season. Keselowski won here last August.

Five Favorites: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Pocono 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 11:59