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The Baltimore Ravens return to the scene of one of their greatest triumphs to take on a New Orleans Saints team that’s hoping for some much-needed home cooking as Week 12 wraps up on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Ravens (6-4) won the last time they played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Super Bowl XLVII in Feb. 2013), while the Saints (4-6) have lost their past two homes games.
New Orleans hasn’t lost three straight home games since 2005, the season before Sean Payton and Drew Brees came to the Saints. This season, New Orleans is two games below .500 but still very much alive for a playoff spot thanks to a mediocre NFC South. Baltimore currently trails AFC North leader Cincinnati and needs a win to tie Pittsburgh and Cleveland or John Harbaugh's team will find itself at the bottom of the NFL’s most competitive division. A loss won’t eliminate either team from the playoff picture, but it won’t make their respective postseason paths any easier either.
Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: New Orleans -3
|Baltimore 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||@ PIT||L 23 - 43||Recap|
|11/9||vs TEN||W 21 - 7||Recap|
|11/24||@ NO||W 34 - 27||Recap|
|11/30||vs SD||L 33 - 34||Recap|
|12/7||@ MIA||W 28 - 13||Recap|
|12/14||vs JAC||W 20 - 12||Recap|
|12/21||@ HOU||L 13 - 25||Recap|
|12/28||vs CLE||W 20 - 10||Recap|
Baltimore’s Key to Victory: Grind it Out
The Ravens are 12th in the NFL in total offense (364.8 ypg) thanks to a productive ground game that averages 124.1 yards rushing per game. They have done this with zero production from Ray Rice, the team’s leading rusher each of the past five seasons, as Justin Forsett has come in and more than done the job. Forsett, a seven-year veteran who had never rushed for more than 619 yards prior to this season, is among the top 10 in the league with 721 yards in 10 games. His 5.4 yards per carry average is tops among all running backs. When Baltimore has committed to the run, it has worked out quite well. In the Ravens’ six wins they have averaged 147.8 yards rushing per game. In the four losses that number plummets to just 88.5. It’s eerily similar to what has happened defensively with New Orleans. The Saints have allowed 137.3 yards rushing per game in its six losses, and held opponents to 80.8 in their wins. Besides moving the ball, a productive ground game against New Orleans can be effective in that it limits the number of opportunities Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense gets. Even though New Orleans has struggled at home recently, it’s still a good idea to keep Sean Payton’s offense off of the field as much as possible.
|New Orleans 2014 Schedule|
|10/30||@ CAR||W 28 - 10||Recap|
|11/9||vs SF||L 24 - 27||Recap|
|11/16||vs CIN||L 10 - 27||Recap|
|11/24||vs BAL||L 27 - 34||Recap|
|11/30||@ PIT||W 35 - 32||Recap|
|12/7||vs CAR||L 10 - 41||Recap|
|12/15||@ CHI||W 31 - 15||Recap|
|12/21||vs ATL||L 14 - 30||Recap|
New Orleans’ Key to Victory: Reclaim the Superdome
Going back to last season, the Saints had won 11 games in a row at home before dropping their past two. An offense that had scored 101 points in its first three games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has managed a total of 34 points the past two weeks in losses to San Francisco and Cincinnati. Under Sean Payton, the Saints have played extremely well at home (going 8-0 in both 2011 and ’13) and they need to find a way to rediscover their magic touch in the Superdome. A good start would be taking better care of the football. Payton’s team was even in turnover differential over the first three home games, but is minus-three (4 giveaways, 1 takeaway) the past two. New Orleans entered Week 12 tied for 27th in turnover differential (minus-9), as Rex Ryan’s defense has only produced 10 takeaways. This makes ball security a must for Drew Brees and company. The Saints also would like to get back to running the ball like they were a couple of weeks ago when Mark Ingram returned from a broken hand. After averaging 144.7 yards per game rushing in a three-game stretch, San Francisco held Ingram and the other ball carriers to just 75 yards on the ground last week. Baltimore’s defense has been pretty solid against the run (84.5 ypg, 5th) all season, but New Orleans needs to stay grounded in hopes of making things easier for Brees and the passing game. After tonight, the Saints’ two remaining home dates are against NFC South foes Carolina and Atlanta. A win over the Ravens and New Orleans would move into first place and present the Saints with an opportunity to win another division title on home turf. So it’s imperative that that Peyton’s team starts cooking at home again, as their season may depend on it.
New Orleans is two games below .500 and somewhat reeling after back-to-back home losses. However, the Saints have yet to lose three in a row in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era and I don’t think it will happen tonight. Baltimore has a strong running game and a stout defensive line that could cause problems for the Saints’ passing game, but the Ravens also haven’t played that well on the road and the defense is somewhat vulnerable on the back end. Look for Payton to try and re-establish his ground game with Mark Ingram, which opens up things down field for the likes of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. Baltimore won the last time it played in the Big Easy, but the Superdome is the Saints’ domain.
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Baltimore 23
The Buffalo Bills will attempt to stay in the playoff discussion when they take on the New York Jets tonight in their adopted “home” of Ford Field in Detroit. This game was originally scheduled to be played Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but a massive snowstorm that dumped around eight feet in just a few days prompted not only the re-scheduling of this game, but the relocation to the Motor City.
The Bills (5-5) are aiming for a season sweep of the Jets (2-8) and a third straight win overall against their AFC East rivals. Buffalo trounced New York 43-23 at MetLife Stadium back in Week 8, thanks to four touchdown passes from Kyle Orton and six turnovers committed by Jets quarterbacks. That game also was the last time Geno Smith has been under center. He was replaced by Michael Vick after completing just two passes and throwing three interceptions in the first quarter in front of a thoroughly dissatisfied home crowd.
New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS (locally), NFL Sunday Ticket (DirecTV)
Spread: Buffalo -2
|New York (AFC) 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||@ KC||L 10 - 24||Recap|
|11/9||vs PIT||W 20 - 13||Recap|
|11/24||@ BUF||L 3 - 38||Recap|
|12/1||vs MIA||L 13 - 16||Recap|
|12/7||@ MIN||L 24 - 30||Recap|
|12/14||@ TEN||W 16 - 11||Recap|
|12/21||vs NE||L 16 - 17||Recap|
|12/28||@ MIA||W 37 - 24||Recap|
New York’s Key to Victory: Stay Grounded
The Jets have 18 giveaways on the season. A third of those (six) came in their Week 8 43-23 loss to the Bills. All six were committed by New York quarterbacks and while Geno Smith grabbed most of the headlines due to his nightmarish first quarter (2 completions, 3 INTs), it should be pointed out that Michael Vick threw a pick and lost two fumbles (out of four total). In fact, Smith and Vick have combined for 15 of the team’s 18 turnovers this season. Even though Smith (10 INTs, 2 fumbles) has been responsible for the vast majority of these, the argument can be made that the Jets are better off when the ball isn’t in their quarterbacks’ hands. New York is fourth in the NFL in rushing at 140.9 yards per game and dead last in passing (178.5 ypg). Buffalo’s defense has done a pretty good job against the run (99.0 ypg, 9th), but gave up a season-worst 175 yards (on 33 carries) and three touchdowns to the Jets back in Week 8. Even though the Bills won the first game by 20, they were outgained (280 to 312), especially on the ground (67 to 175), by the Jets. In fact, the final margin of victory was the exact number of points Buffalo scored on all of those New York miscues. If the Jets stay committed to the running game tonight, it could prove fruitful against a Bills defense that’s had to deal with a lot of extenuating circumstances in its preparations for this game. Besides, we’ve already seen what happens when this offense funnels primarily through the quarterback.
|Buffalo 2014 Schedule|
|11/9||vs KC||L 13 - 17||Recap|
|11/13||@ MIA||L 9 - 22||Recap|
|11/24||vs NYJ||W 38 - 3||Recap|
|11/30||vs CLE||W 26 - 10||Recap|
|12/7||@ DEN||L 17 - 24||Recap|
|12/14||vs GB||W 21 - 13||Recap|
|12/21||@ OAK||L 24 - 26||Recap|
|12/28||@ NE||W 17 - 9||Recap|
Buffalo’s Key to Victory: Maintain Edge in Turnover Margin
Statistically, the Bills’ offense has been just a hair more productive than the Jets’. Buffalo is 25th in the NFL in total offense (321.6 ypg), a little more than two yards ahead of New York. The defenses are also equally close in yards allowed, but the Bills have a near-touchdown advantage in terms of scoring defense (20.4 ppg compared to 26.5). The difference has been with turnovers. Buffalo is tied for seventh in the league with a plus-seven differential while New York is tied for 29th at minus-11. The Bills are near the top of the league in takeaways with 21 (12 INTs, 9 fumbles) while the Jets are last with just seven (3 INTs, 4 fumbles). To put it simply, Buffalo is plus-nine in its six wins and minus-two in its wins. New York is plus-two in its wins and minus-13 in its losses. One of the reasons the Bills are sitting at .500 and the Jets have won just two games is the vast discrepancy when it comes to ball security. This part of the game was huge in the first meeting and Buffalo would be well served to capitalize on its apparent advantage in this area tonight as well. The Bills may not be playing a true home game, but that doesn’t mean they can’t stick to the formula that has worked so well for them this season.
It has been anything but business as usual for Buffalo this past week. Not only did the snowstorm disrupt the Bills’ schedule, it forced the relocation of this game to Detroit. New York had to change up its routine too, but from a readiness standpoint, the Jets have a distinct advantage. However, there are plenty of reasons why one team is at .500 and one team is 2-8, and it starts at the quarterback position. Both teams have gone through quarterback changes, but Buffalo’s switch has been more successful than New York’s. Kyle Orton’s best game this season came back in Week 8 when the Bills trounced the Jets. I’m not expecting a repeat, but I do think Buffalo will take care of business at “home” tonight.
Prediction: Buffalo 24, New York 20
Going into the start of the 2014 college football season, it seemed UCLA was the trendy pick to make a run to the first College Football Playoff and maybe even win the whole thing. Back-to-back losses in the middle of the season against Utah and Oregon may have derailed those ideas, but the Bruins have become one of the hottest teams in college football at perhaps the best possible time. But what is it that has changed with the Bruins that all of a sudden have them living up to the preseason hype?
For starters, protecting the football has improved over the last four weeks. Through the first seven games of the season, UCLA had a turnover margin of -2, with just two games seeing a positive turnover margin. Though the Bruins have lost the football a handful of times over the last month, the defense has come through with forced turnovers to make up for it. UCLA has forced six turnovers in the last four games.
Before that, the Bruins defense had forced eight turnovers all season, with three coming in the opener against Virginia and four coming in a road blowout win against Arizona State. Turnovers forced often felt to be few and far between those games for the Bruins. Now they can be counted on for at least one turnover per game it seems.
The Bruins are also starting to turn up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. UCLA is coming off its best performance of the season with six sacks of USC quarterback Cody Kessler. UCLA recorded three sacks in each of the two previous games before the USC game. UCLA had 10 sacks combined in its first eight games of the year.
UCLA has played its way into controlling the outcome of the Pac-12 South with just one week to play. The offense has been there for the Bruins throughout the season, but the defense is back to upholding its end of the bargain. All that stands in the way of UCLA and a trip back to the Pac-12 Championship Game for a third time in four seasons is Stanford. It is fitting the Bruins have a chance to wrap up the division against the two-time defending Pac-12 champions.
The Bruins also have a chance to wiggle into the College Football Playoff picture after all, with a convincing victory against Stanford and a victory over Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. UCLA may need a good amount of help elsewhere to see the preseason expectations met by UCLA, but crazy things can happen in the sport of college football. And the college football gods have rewarded teams getting hot at the right time. For UCLA, now could be the perfect time to be putting all of the pieces together.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
The Big Ten is full of great rivalry games and trophies. One of them is Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which goes to the winner of the Wisconsin-Minnesota game each season. This year, the iconic axe will take a back seat to the ultimate prize to the winner of this week’s rivalry game between the Badgers and Gophers. The Big Ten West Division championship will be decided in this year’s game, with the winner advancing to the Big Ten Championship Game to take on Ohio State, the champions of the East Division.
Wisconsin was always expected to be in this position, as the Badgers have played in two Big Ten championship games and feature a Heisman Trophy caliber running back in Melvin Gordon and a solid defense. The Badgers were preseason favorites to battle for the Big Ten’s West Division. After demolishing Nebraska two weeks ago the Badgers looked to be a clear favorite in the division. That remains true, but now there is a formidable opponent in Minnesota.
The Gophers have been one of the pleasant surprises in the Big Ten and around the nation this season. There may still be some work to be done before the Gophers are a real threat in the Big Ten on a regular basis, but the ingredients appear to be there this season to give any team a run for their money in Big Ten play. This Minnesota team dominated Michigan to win the Little Brown Jug and won close calls against Northwestern and Purdue. Minnesota was upset at Illinois, letting one get away from them on the road, but the Gophers stormed back in a big way with a blowout of Iowa the following week. The question was whether or not Minnesota had run into a wall at the end of the season, ready to burst the bubble on a fun ride.
The Gophers were unable to pull the upset on Ohio State on the snow, as J.T. Barrett went off in a big way against the Minnesota defense, but Minnesota rose to the occasion on the road against Nebraska to set-up one of the biggest battles for Paul Bunyan’s Axe the rivalry series has seen in a long time.
Wisconsin has won 10 in a row against Minnesota. The Badgers appear to be the team better prepared for this situation. Wisconsin will be playing at home. Everything about this game looks to suggest Wisconsin will have the edge on Minnesota, and maybe they will. But if there is anything to be learned about Jerry Kill’s Gophers, it is they do not back down to a challenge.
After winning on the road against Nebraska and blowing away Iowa, there should be no doubt this Minnesota team will be ready to challenge Wisconsin for the Big Ten West crown on Saturday. This should be fun.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Virginia and Virginia Tech entered 2014 with different expectations. Thanks to a favorable schedule and a talented defense, the Hokies were pegged by some as the frontrunner in an unpredictable Coastal Division. The Cavaliers had low expectations and were pegged by most preseason prognosticators for the cellar in the Coastal after a 2-10 mark in 2013.
Despite the different preseason expectations, Virginia Tech and Virginia find their seasons intersecting on Friday night in Blacksburg.
After 13 weeks in the 2014 college football season, the two programs have the same record (5-6). The winner of the annual rivalry will go to a bowl. But the loser of Saturday night’s game will have plenty of questions to answer until spring practice starts.
Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer is the longest-tenured coach in the FBS ranks, but the program has sputtered in recent years. The Hokies won at least 10 games in eight consecutive years but is just 20-17 over the last three seasons.
If Virginia Tech loses on Friday, the Hokies will miss out on a bowl for the first time since 1992.
There are plenty of reasons to doubt the direction of Beamer’s team, but this squad has been hit hard by injuries on defense and is dealing with youth on offense. There’s promise in 2015 – but also plenty of reasons to believe this team will struggle to reach the ACC title game. Can the offense find consistency on the offensive line and at quarterback? Is Scot Loeffler the answer as the team’s play-caller? Those are just a few of the questions Beamer will have to sort out at the end of the year.
Considering the preseason expectations, Virginia has overachieved (to a degree) with a chance to go to a bowl with a victory over Virginia Tech. But is that enough to save coach Mike London’s job? The Cavaliers started 4-2 but lost four in a row before defeating Miami on Saturday night. London is just 23-37 in five years with one bowl appearance.
Recruiting talent hasn’t been a problem for London, but Virginia won less than three ACC games in three out of four seasons from 2010-13.
If the Cavaliers get to a bowl, the conventional wisdom suggestions that would be enough for London to get another year. But what happens if Virginia falls short? Regardless of who coaches the Cavaliers in 2015, this team has plenty of talent and will be a factor in another wide-open Coastal race.
The Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry has been one-sided on the gridiron in recent series. The Hokies have won 10 in a row over the Cavaliers, and Virginia has not won in Blacksburg since 1998.
While the rivalry has been dominated by Virginia Tech, there’s plenty of optimism on the Virginia sideline this year. The Cavaliers opened as just a point or two underdog in Friday’s matchup.
As the good folks in Vegas believe, Friday night’s game is a tossup. And considering what’s at stake for both programs, it’s a tossup on what the future lies for the Hokies and Cavaliers following Friday night’s game.
Even if these two teams have a combined 12 losses, there’s still plenty at stake on Friday night: Bowl bids, coaching and direction of a program.
Which team will answer some of the questions we mentioned throughout this article and end the season on a positive note? And which team will be forced to answer questions about its long-term outlook until spring practice starts?
Virginia-Virginia Tech won’t move the needle like Auburn-Alabama, but the outcome of this rivalry matchup could have some interesting implications in the ACC and in Virginia.
Winning in the Maui Invitational is generally a sign of good things to come.
The Maui Invitational was a kingmaker three times between 2005-11 as the eventual national champion also won in Maui. Last year’s winner, Syracuse, won Maui on the way to 25 consecutive wins to start the season.
National championship contender Arizona may be poised to make a similar run, using Maui as a springboard. At the very least, a team could emerge from Maui as arguably the top team in the West this season with the Pac-12 favorite (Arizona), Mountain West favorite (San Diego State) and No. 2 team in the West Coast Conference (BYU) all making appearances.
Monday’s First Round Games
All Times Eastern
Purdue vs. Kansas State (2:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Missouri vs. Arizona (5 p.m., ESPN2)
Pittsburgh vs. Chaminade (9 p.m., ESPNU)
BYU vs. San Diego State (11:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Championship Game: Wednesday, 10 p.m., ESPN
Best potential game: Arizona vs. San Diego State in the final
Arguably the top two teams out West could meet in the Maui Invitational championship game. San Diego State continues to rebuild year after year under Steve Fisher with Dwayne Polee, J.J. O’Brien and Winston Shepard growing into lead roles this season. Arizona has plenty of veterans, too, and a team that should contend for the Final Four.
Player to watch: Tyler Haws, BYU
Haws is the second-leading scorer returning in 2014-15 after averaging 23.2 points per game last season. He had his chances on the big stage early last season, scoring 31 points against Stanford, 20 against Iowa State, 25 against Texas and 17 against Wichita State.
Freshman to watch: Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Another season and another star freshman at Arizona. The 6-foot-7 shooting guard Johnson steps into Aaron Gordon’s shoes with the Wildcats, but where Gordon was a defensive presence, Johnson is a diverse scoring threat. Arizona lacked an offensive lynchpin last season. That may change with Johnson.
Breakout player: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
Here’s an easy way to get noticed on a star-studded team: The sophomore Hollis-Jefferson dunked on UC Irvine’s Mamsdou N’Diaye, who is college basketball’s tallest player this season at 7-foot-6. Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 16 points per game this season after averaging 9.1 a year ago.
Storylines to watch:
We’ve seen what teams like Duke, Kentucky and Wisconsin can do against solid competition so far this season. This field won’t give Arizona a top-10 win — Wisconsin and North Carolina, for example, are playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis — but Arizona can start racking up wins against NCAA contenders Kansas State, San Diego State or Pittsburgh.
San Diego State’s defense vs. BYU’s Tyler Haws
The competition hasn’t been great, but San Diego State has been stifling on the defensive end this season so far. The Aztecs have allowed 44.7 points per game and 17.6 percent shooting from 3-point range. Steve Fisher has had a top-10 defensive team in two of the last three seasons, but BYU and Haws will be San Diego State’s first true test this season.
Signs of life for Pittsburgh and Kansas State
The long trip to Hawaii is not off to a great start for Pittsburgh. The Panthers lost 74-70 to Hawaii on Friday, only a week after announcing forward Durand Johnson would be suspended for the season. Johnson suffered a torn ACL last season but averaged 8.8 points in 19.8 minutes per game through the first 16 games. Kansas State is faring better but not by much. The Wildcats lost 69-60 at Long Beach State on Friday before heading to Maui. These are teams with NCAA Tournament potential that have already picked up bad losses before Thanksgiving.
Athlon Staff Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Mitch Light|
|Prediction||Arizona over San Diego State||Arizona over San Diego State||Arizona over San Diego State|
|Player to Watch||Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona||Stanley Johnson, Arizona||Stanley Johnson, Arizona|
When tasked with deciding the best rivalries in college football there will be no avoiding offending someone.
So in an effort to avoid any hurt feelings, I need to say something to everyone out there who believes that their beloved rivalry is underrated, getting no respect or ranked way too low.
College football is built on a foundation of tradition, history, community and lifelong-shared experiences that can turn two complete strangers into best friends in a matter of seconds. Every rivalry from Ohio State-Michigan to a game actually called "The Rivalry" means more to those involved than any outsider could possibly understand.
I appreciate and respect Lafayette-Lehigh as much as I do Oklahoma-Texas. It's what makes college football the greatest sport on the planet. It's what makes ranking the top 25 virtually impossible. Does the annual bout between the Mountain Hawks and Leopards have any impact on the big boy's national championship picture? Of course not. But it doesn't mean any less to those fans 17 miles apart in Pennsylvania than Alabama-Auburn does to those in the Yellowhammer State?
So with this in mind, here are the top 25 rivalries in college football.
College Football's Top 25 Rivalries
1. Army-Navy (Navy, 58-49-7)
Go ahead and try to attend this game without experiencing a surge of patriotism. If the Super Hornets’ flyover doesn’t get you, the Army paratroopers will. If you miss the parades of Cadets and Midshipmen, then the non-stop spirit videos on the big board will stir your senses. By game’s end, no matter what the score, America wins. That may seem hokey to some, but they haven’t been there. Trust us, Army-Navy is college football in its purest state. Today, that’s something worth celebrating. Fans of the teams thirst for victory, and so do the players, who are truly playing for their fellow students. Afterward, they rejoin their classmates in preparation for military service, not an NFL career. For 364 days of the year, Army and Navy are on the same team. For three hours on a chilled December afternoon, they represent every soldier or sailor who has ever donned a uniform, walked a post or sailed into the dark of night. The football has been pretty good over the years, too. Five Heisman winners have participated in the rivalry, and dozens of Hall of Famers have taken the field representing the academies. Though Navy has dominated the scoreboard over the past decade, the game remains a huge draw and a still thrills fans across the country. Most important, it pits future military and government leaders against each other as they fight for their Academies and provide the country with an afternoon of prideful competition.
2. Alabama-Auburn (Alabama, 42-35-1)
When Bill Curry was coaching at Alabama, he went to a Birmingham elementary school one day to speak with children about football and life. Upon entering the classroom, he saw a boy standing in the corner, sobbing. Curry wondered what was going on, and a student told him, “Jason is an Auburn fan, and we took care of him.” Curry brought Jason out of the corner and told him it was all right to root for the Tigers, no doubt angering the young Crimson Tide supporters in the room. Truth be told, it isn’t all right to be an Auburn fan — if you follow the Tide. Tiger fans feel the same way about Bama. If you live in the state of Alabama, you have to choose; you either yell “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle.” You’re either a fan of the big-brother Crimson Tide, or Auburn, which has its roots in agricultural education and resents the perceived arrogance of its rival. In a state with no major professional sports team, Auburn-Alabama football is a religion. Curry’s minister once told him it was more important. It has been that way from the game’s earliest days, which proved to be so contentious that the schools stopped playing each other for 41 years. Once they resumed hostilities, they did so at a geographically neutral site, in Birmingham, but Auburn fans groused for decades because Legion Field was the Tide’s home away from home. That changed when the game moved to campus, but the vitriol has not abated. Fans of both teams crave victory, and a loss means a full year of misery from friends, co-workers and even family members. It’s enough to make someone want to stand in a corner and cry. And for the first time in Iron Bowl history, an SEC West and trip to the BCS national championship hung in the balance last year when the Tigers won with the most improbable play in college football history.
3. Michigan-Ohio St (Michigan, 58-46-6)
Some think the story is a tall tale, but others swear it’s true. After his Ohio State team scored its final touchdown late in a 50–14 rout of Michigan at the end of the 1968 season, Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes elected to go for two points, instead of kicking the PAT. When asked afterward why he did that, Hayes reportedly said, “Because they wouldn’t let me go for three.” Hayes’ hatred for “that team up north,” as he referred to Michigan, was legendary. Rest assured that Wolverine fans harbor no affection for the Buckeyes, either. The schools have met every year but five (1913-17) since 1900 — the teams’ first game was in 1897 — and their contests have become appointment viewing for much of the country, late in November, usually under gun-metal gray skies with a hint of winter in the air. More important, Big Ten supremacy is usually at stake, especially since Bo Schembechler took over in Ann Arbor in 1969 to turn the U-M fortunes around and provide an irascible counterbalance to the cantankerous Hayes. Since that point, Michigan-Ohio State has been the nation’s most consistently competitive and heated rivalry. Because the games have so much significance and occur at season’s end, a loss can be doubly haunting. Not only does the vanquished team lose to a hated foe, but its season can be destroyed also. There may be games that match these schools’ animosity for each other, and there may be contests that are as consistently important. But none combines the two into such a volatile package.
4. Oklahoma-Texas (Texas, 60-44-5)
One of the most unique characteristics about Dallas’ Cotton Bowl is that the teams’ locker rooms empty into a common corridor, so that players take the field through the same tunnel. On more than one occasion, as Texas and Oklahoma have prepared to charge onto the hallowed stadium’s turf, they have encountered each other in a highly charged, emotional moment that could have ignited an inferno. Instead, they decided to enjoin the fight on the gridiron, in front of 95,000-plus fans divided evenly into crimson and burnt orange enclaves. Rarely has the flame from the ensuing collision failed to heat the passions of all in attendance. While the Texas State Fair rollicks on around them, and vendors offer to fry anything that doesn’t move — and some things that do — the Longhorns and Sooners offer a mid-season football feast that dates back to 1900, when Oklahoma wasn’t even a state and Texas was just beginning to tap into the huge oil reserves deep below its surface. The neighbors harbor a significant dislike for each other, and tempers have boiled over many times on nights before the game. It doesn’t help that many OU grads now live in Texas, lured south by jobs in the petroleum industry. And plenty of Lone Star football talent has headed north to Norman, especially when Barry Switzer was pillaging the state’s top programs for all-stars. The action on the field rarely disappoints. Although there have been several blowouts over the years, including 2011’s 55–17 Sooner wipeout, the action is usually taut and has national implications. Though the game is played in October, several championship runs have been spawned by a victory in Dallas, and several high hopes have been dashed.
Listen to the Week 13 recap and analysis podcast:
5. USC-Notre Dame (Notre Dame, 45-35-5)
The nation’s top intersectional rivalry owes a debt of gratitude to some unfriendly residents of Lincoln, Neb., and Bonnie Rockne’s love of warm California weather. At a time when traditional gridiron matchups are being torn asunder by the whirling conference kaleidoscope, Notre Dame and USC continue their annual hostilities, treating the nation to a classic matchup of iconic programs. The schools almost didn’t get together. But in 1925, after ND dropped a 17–0 decision at Nebraska, before an inhospitable crowd of Cornhusker fans, coach Knute Rockne and his wife were joined on the train back to Chicago by USC athletic director Gwynn Wilson and his wife, Marion. While Wilson tried to convince Rockne to ditch the burgeoning rivalry with Nebraska for an annual trip west, Marion Wilson and Bonnie Rockne became fast friends in another train compartment. Rockne resisted Wilson’s entreaties, but his wife was enthralled with the idea of Los Angeles in the late fall. She later convinced her husband to play the Trojans. The resulting rivalry has lasted 85 years and has filled the college football history books with dozens of classic tales. More Heisman winners have played in the Notre Dame-USC game than in any other rivalry, and many a national championship hope has been validated with a victory in the game. Though the teams alternate between their home sites, playing in late November in L.A. and mid-October in South Bend, the game retains a glamour that defines it and is a product of two of college football’s most storied programs.
6. Georgia-Florida (Georgia, 49-41-2*)
The festivities begin at “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” around Tuesday, when the big boats start cruising up the St. John’s River in Jacksonville. By game time, everybody is in a festive mood – except the players. The Bulldogs and Gators have engaged in some classics over the years, from Georgia’s thrilling comeback in 1980 to Florida’s soggy 1993 triumph. Cheers! What's more special about this rivalry? These two programs can't even agree on how many times they've actually played. Florida claims the two have met 90 times while the Bulldogs have 91* outcomes in the record books. The Gators claim the 52-0 loss in 1904 doesn't count because they had not yet technically started playing football yet.
7. Miami-Florida State (Miami, 31-28)
For a while there during the 1990s, there was more talent on the field when the ‘Canes and ‘Noles met up than in some NFL stadiums. And everybody wanted to put on a show. This matchup lacks the tradition and history of other rivalries, but the hostility is just as high. And there have been some classics. FSU fans still wince when they hear the words “Wide Right,” while Miami backers still cringe at the 34-3 beating their heroes absorbed in ’84.
8. Harvard-Yale (Yale, 66-57-8)
The Crimson and Bulldogs may not have played the first-ever college football game, but both schools had hands in how the game developed into what we have today. The late-November meeting between the schools is a history lesson wrapped in a high-class tailgate party. Harvard and Yale no longer compete at college football’s highest level, but they remain forever linked to the sport’s earliest days.
9. Florida-Florida St (Florida, 34-22-2)
For years, this was a big brother/little brother battle, with the establishment Gators looking down on the upstart Seminoles. Then, FSU started to win games – a lot of games – and things changed. This may lack the in-state hate of Auburn-Alabama, but don’t worry; the two sides harbor plenty of dislike for each other. During the past three decades, as both have competed for national laurels, their games have become more than just neighborhood brawls.
10. Cal-Stanford (Stanford, 60-46-11)
To some, The Big Game is the province of the wine-and-cheese crowd, and the schools’ NoCal addresses reinforce that. But there can be no denying that these schools thirst to defeat each other. It’s a classic battle of private (Stanford) against public (Cal), and bragging rights go well beyond which side brings the best pinot to the pre-game party. Plus, what other rivalry can boast a game with a crazy ending as the 1982 contest: “The band is on the field!”
11. Pittsburgh-West Virginia (Pitt, 61-40-3)
Only 75 miles separates the two combatants in the Backyard Brawl. Unfortunately conference realignment (Pitt to the ACC, West Virginia to the Big 12) meant that last season this game didn't take place for the first time since 1942.
12. Texas-Texas A&M (Texas, 76-37-5)
This Thanksgiving weekend tradition has been suspended, at least temporarily, with Texas A&M's move to the SEC. A Texas state legislator has introduced a bill that would require the two in-state teams to play each other.
13. Oregon-Oregon State (Oregon, 61-46-10)
The Civil War has come a long way since the Ducks and Beavers played to a 0–0 tie in 1983.
14. BYU-Utah (Utah, 57-34-4)
The Holy War might be the best name for any rivalry in the nation.
15. UCLA-USC (USC, 46-31-7)
The Southern California showdown was dominated by UCLA from 1991-98, but the Bruins have just two victores (2006, '12) since.
16. Alabama-Tennessee (Alabama, 52-38-8)
The Third Saturday in October means only one thing to people in the South: Alabama vs. Tennessee.
17. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State (Oklahoma, 84-17-7)
T. Boone Pickens’ interest in the Oklahoma State program was piqued after the Pokes, 3–7 at the time, knocked OU out of the 2001 national title game with a 16–13 win.
18. Clemson-South Carolina (Clemson, 65-42-4)
These two schools were bitter rivals well before they started playing football in the 1890s. South Carolina has won four straight, but Clemson holds a 65–41–4 advantage in the all-time series.
19. Mississippi State-Ole Miss (Ole Miss, 61-43-6)
The Egg Bowl is often the only way to salvage a season for these two programs that have struggled to win consistently in the SEC.
20. Auburn-Georgia (Tied, 55-55-8)
It’s the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and it dates back to 1892. Auburn holds the slimmest of margins, with a 54–52–8 edge in the series. The Prayer on the Plains only added to this historic battle's legacy.
21. Michigan-Michigan State (Michigan, 68-34-5)
It pains MSU fans that Michigan’s biggest rival is Ohio State, but the “Little Brothers” from East Lansing have won the five of the last six in the series, including this year's most lop-sided Spartans win since the 1960s.
22. Minnesota-Wisconsin (Minnesota, 59-56-8)
The winner of the Gophers vs. Badgers showdown takes home the prized Paul Bunyan Axe. It’s the most played rivalry in FBS football, dating back to 1890. None will be bigger than the 124th meeting when the Big Ten West championship will be decided by these two.
23. Michigan-Notre Dame (Michigan, 24-17-1)
These two traditional powers have only played regularly for the past three decades, but they produced a ton of memorable moments. Strike a pose, Desmond!
23. Georgia-Georgia Tech (Georgia, 64-40-5)
You know it’s a good rivalry when the book about the series is called Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
25. Lafayette-Lehigh (Lafayette, 78-67-5)
The Rivalry, as it’s called, pits two small private schools located 17 miles apart in Eastern Pennsylvania. Lafayette and Lehigh have met 146 times, including every year since 1897.
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had the catch of a lifetime with a one-handed, diving backward, through pass interference touchdown catch.
Sit back and watch. Over and over again.
Tremendous photo via USA Today Sports of Odell Beckham Jr.'s catch. pic.twitter.com/qHWb7FExR3— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) November 24, 2014
Not bad, ODB pic.twitter.com/iQG330m5E9— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) November 24, 2014
That's the best catch I've ever seen— Victor Cruz (@TeamVic) November 24, 2014
OK, I saw it. Best New York Giants catch since Willie Mays at the Polo Grounds.— Steve Greenberg (@SLGreenberg) November 24, 2014
Here's a picture of a professional photographer not getting a picture of a once in a lifetime play. pic.twitter.com/mUOQ2qnO2p— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) November 24, 2014
And it wasn't the first time...
The Big Ten is setting up for a wild finish in the Big Ten West with Wisconsin and Minnesota doing battle for the division championship. The winning school will lay claim to Paul Bunyan’s Axe and represent the division in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis against Big Ten East champion Ohio State. The division will also feature a game with plenty of stakes on the line. Northwestern and Illinois will play for a chance to go to a bowl game.
After losing four straight games in Big Ten play, including blowout losses to Nebraska and Iowa and a nail-biter against Michigan, it seemed Northwestern was staring right down a year without a bowl game. But then a funny thing happened. A road game at Notre Dame stirred up the echoes of a previous upset in South Bend. Northwestern’s overtime win against the Irish kept the dream of a bowl game within reach, and a win against Purdue showed the Wildcats are on a mission to get back to the postseason.
Consider how Northwestern played into this position. The Wildcats have been riddled with injuries and lost Venric Mark before the start of the season. Northwestern was nearly left for dead after an 0-2 start to the season with home losses to California and Northern Illinois. But Northwestern went on the road and scored 29 points against a Penn State defense that has allowed 20 points in regulation just two other times this season. Northwestern took out Wisconsin at home, and the Badgers are on the verge of making a potential Big Ten Championship Game appearance. With their postseason fate back against a wall, Northwestern stunned Notre Dame with a late rally and overtime victory in South Bend. This is the story of a thrilling ride, if Pat Fitzgerald and get Northwestern one more win at home.
Illinois has also played itself into a winner-goes-bowling match-up. The Illini have done it in much less impressive fashion. Illinois is coming off a close win at home against Penn State to get to five wins. After a pair of blowout losses to Ohio State and Iowa, Illinois slipped by Penn State at home this past weekend.
For Illinois head coach Tim Beckman, a win against Northwestern could be crucial. Though things still look like a massive work in progress at Illinois, getting Illinois to a bowl game could be enough to guarantee Tim Beckman’s job is safe for at least one more season. The pressure has been on Beckman to show some improvement with the program this season. The Big Ten results could still use some work, but getting to a postseason bowl game would be a clear step in the right direction or Beckman and Illinois. The Illini have already improved on the season win total each of the past two seasons under Beckman, and getting to a bowl game would be the next step in the process.
Sometimes you have to take them any way you can get them.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
Times have been rough for Oklahoma State’s offense over the course of the last month. After scoring no more than 14 points in each of the last four games, the Cowboys were in some serious trouble heading to Waco to take on Baylor. The debut of talented freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph may not have been enough to go blow for blow with Baylor’s offense, but it at least gave some reason to be optimistic about the future of the Oklahoma State offense.
Rudolph was to be redshirted this season, but head coach Mike Gundy made the call to take that off this year and throw the early-enrollee on the field to see what could happen. Aside from some typical freshman mistakes that are to be expected, Rudolph handled himself well. Rudolph completed 13 of 25 pass attempts for 281 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His first career touchdown pass came just before the half with an eight-yard pass to David Glidden to cut the Baylor lead to 14.
Baylor had control of this game form start to finish, but Rudolph helped to keep things interesting. A 68-yard touchdown pass to James Washington managed to keep the Cowboys within reach of the defending Big 12 champions, and four minutes later Rudolph tossed a 37-yard pass to Washington to set-up another touchdown to bring Oklahoma State within two scores of Baylor. On Oklahoma State's next possession, Rudolph completed a couple of passes for first downs but was intercepted just inside the 20-yard line to snap another scoring opportunity. Baylor would turn that interception into a touchdown with Bryce Petty running 21 yards for a score on the ensuing possession.
The entire Oklahoma State offense has struggled to live up to the expectations placed on it over the last few years. The Cowboys rank 60th in passing offense and 100th in rushing. Now the pressure is on just to win one more game in order to become bowl eligible. That test will come against in-state rival Oklahoma in two weeks. If Rudolph is going to be the starting quarterback for one more game to get this done, the bye week over Thanksgiving could not come at a better time. Oklahoma State quarterbacks have thrown 15 touchdowns and been intercepted 15 times. Improving on that ratio should be the primary focus.
Now that Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have seen what Rudolph can do on the field, they can take some time to address a couple of areas to work on heading into Bedlam. Rudolph may be a candidate capable of giving Daxx Garman and J.W. Walsh a run for the starting job in 2015.
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)
The selection committee made clear at least one point Tuesday: Winning a game isn’t always enough.
How a team wins or — in the words committee chair Jeff Long — how a team controls the game is just as important.
However the committee wants to explain its weekly rankings, Ohio State should be concerned with one word: Doubt.
Ohio State defeated Indiana 42-27 and led by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but the game wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the final score indicates.
Only a week after a 31-24 win over Minnesota, Ohio State spent three quarters tussling with a team that hadn’t won a Big Ten game. Perhaps the best news of the day for Ohio State occurred in Lincoln as Minnesota remaind in the Big Ten title hunt with a win over Nebraska. A road victory over Minnesota remains the second-best win of the season for Ohio State.
Back in Columbus, though, Indiana had scored 20 consecutive points for a six-point lead before freshman Jalin Marshall returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
Ohio State regrouped to overwhelm Indiana in the fourth quarter, but not until after giving the selection committee reason to second guess the Buckeyes. And even though Ohio State moved up to No. 6 last week, the Buckeyes surely don’t want to make the selection committee think too much.
In some ways, perhaps these two weeks should be a zero sum game. Ohio State did the same thing TCU did a week ago when the Horned Frogs let Kansas lead before claiming a 34-30 win. Ohio State’s sputtering performance against Indiana, a team that defeated a ranked Missouri team on the road this season, ended in a more lopsided victory.
But TCU, Baylor and any other one-loss team doesn’t have the albatross of a home loss to 5-6 Virginia Tech. The Hokies, by the way, lost 6-3 in double overtime to Wake Forest, a team that started Saturday ranked 149th in the Sagarin ratings.
While Ohio State has won five Big Ten games by at least 12 points, the Buckeyes aren’t making things easy. If the selection committee starts to see Ohio State’s first three quarters against Indiana as part of a trend, the Buckeyes may be in trouble.
And for that, there’s a fair amount of data: Ohio State has been on the negative side of the turnover margin in three consecutive games thanks to three giveaways against Indiana.
The run defense that gave up 178 yards to Michigan State and 218 to Minnesota gave up 281 to the Hoosiers.
Ohio State couldn’t control Tevin Coleman. The Buckeyes didn’t control the game. And, now, they may lose control of their momentum toward the playoff.
It is difficult to comprehend just how impressive Arkansas has been over the past two weeks.
We knew this team was getting better. We knew their 17-game SEC losing streak would end at some point in the very near future. But no one — not even the most optimistic Razorback fan — could have envisioned a break through of this magnitude.
In the past two weeks, Arkansas has defeated LSU and Ole Miss by a combined score of 47–0.
“I mean, we won two games, but everybody forgets, one was ranked 17 and the other was ranked 8,” second-year coach Bret Bielema said. “These are good teams we're beating. We're not just beating people.”
There’s been nothing flashy about the two wins; in fact, the Hogs’ offense has been quite ordinary of late, averaging 4.1 yards per play against LSU and 4.7 against Ole Miss. It’s been the defense that has spearheaded the recent success. The same unit that gave up 595 yards to Auburn, 523 to Texas A&M and 459 to Mississippi State allowed an average of 219.5 — including 49.5 on the ground — against LSU and Ole Miss.
Turnovers were the difference in Saturday’s win vs. Ole Miss. Arkansas intercepted Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace three times and recovered three fumbles. As a result, the Razorbacks won the all-important battle for field position — their longest scoring drive of the game went for only 52 yards — and they won the game despite being outgained 316 to 311.
Arkansas is now bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011, the final season of the Bobby Petrino era.
“It feels great,” safety Rohan Gaines said. “I’ve here through tough times. It’s tough not making a bowl game. I think the seniors deserve all of this. We have great senior leadership. I feel like they deserve it all.”
A year ago, Missouri shocked the college football world by winning the SEC East title — and doing so in dominant fashion. The Tigers won their seven league games by an average of 21.0 points, with only one game decided by less than 10 points. And their only loss came in double-overtime to South Carolina in a game in which they led 17–0 entering the fourth quarter.
Clearly, the 2013 Missouri Tigers were an elite team.
The 2014 Tigers? That’s a difficult question. The standings tell us they are one win away from winning the East yet again, but there is no denying this team is not nearly as formidable.
The Tigers’ wins have come by an average of 10.8 points, a number skewed by a 42–13 victory over Florida in which they gained only 119 yards of offense and averaged an astoundingly low 2.4 yards per play. The other five wins have been by 10 points or less — and none has come against a team with a winning record in SEC play.
But the goal in football is to win the game, and the Tigers — despite some offensive limitations — have done that six times in seven conference games and are one win away from a second straight trip to the SEC Championship Game.
The key to Missouri’s success has been a defense that is allowing a league-low 4.19 yards per play against SEC opponents. The Tigers have 25 sacks in seven conference games and have forced 11 turnovers in their last five games.
In Saturday’s win at Tennessee, Missouri limited Tennessee to 279 total yards, including only 53 on the ground. In the Vols’ previous two games — wins over South Carolina and Kentucky — they averaged 578 total yards.
Missouri’s schedule has been kind — the Tigers won’t play any of the four SEC West teams with a winning league record — but this program deserves credit for finding ways to win, especially on the road. The Tigers have won eight straight SEC games away from home, including four this season in very difficult environments — South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee.
The Tigers now return home to face one of the hottest teams in the nation, Arkansas. The Razorbacks have won two straight games, beating LSU and Ole Miss by a combined score of 47–0. A victory will send Mizzou back to Atlanta. The red-hot Hogs will be a popular pick, but Missouri has made a habit of defying the odds.
Whether this ends up being a preview of Super Bowl XLIX remains to be seen, but this afternoon’s matchup between the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots on FOX will certainly have a say in how the postseason plays out. The Lions (7-3) enter this week second in the NFC behind Arizona thanks to tiebreakers over both Philadelphia (conference win percentage) and Green Bay (head-to-head victory). The Patriots (8-2) are in first place in the AFC, a game ahead of Denver with a victory over the Broncos already in their back pocket.
Detroit Lions at New England Patriots
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: New England -7
This afternoon’s game is strength on strength, as Detroit’s No. 1-ranked defense will try and slow down a New England offense that’s averaged 45 points and 462 yards per game over the last three contests. In particular, the battle up front will be interesting to watch. The Lions are limiting opponents to an NFL-best 68.8 yards rushing per game thanks to one of the most disruptive defensive lines in the league.
Jonas Gray, a third-year journeyman who wasn’t even on the radar entering this season, ran roughshod over the Colts for 201 yards and a Patriots single-game record four touchdowns last week. Detroit has allowed just four rushing touchdowns in 10 games. If the Lions’ front four can control the line of scrimmage, it will allow the back seven to focus on limiting the damage done by Tom Brady and the passing game.
Detroit’s offense hasn’t been near as productive as New England’s, but the Lions are capable of putting points on the board, especially with Calvin Johnson back from an ankle injury. The key will be getting more from a ground game that ranks near the bottom of the league against a rushing defense that at times has had trouble stopping the run. The more Detroit can accomplish on the ground, the more opportunities Matthew Stafford should have to find Johnson and Golden Tate down field.
Prediction: New England 27, Detroit 20
NFC East rivals headed in opposite directions will put a bow on Sunday’s slate when the Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants tonight on NBC. The Cowboys (7-3) come out of their bye rested and probably with one eye on Thursday’s showdown with the Eagles. The Giants (3-7) are reeling, losers of five in a row and looking like a team that already has one eye on next season.
Dallas beat New York 31-21 back in Week 7 and has won three in a row against its longtime divisional rivals. One big difference between then and now is that the Giants were without leading rusher Rashad Jennings, who was out because of a knee sprain.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Dallas -3.5
|Dallas 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs ARI||L 17 - 28||Recap|
|11/9||@ JAC||W 31 - 17||Recap|
|11/23||@ NYG||W 31 - 28||Recap|
|11/27||vs PHI||L 10 - 33||Recap|
|12/4||@ CHI||W 41 - 28||Recap|
|12/14||@ PHI||W 38 - 27||Recap|
|12/21||vs IND||W 42 - 7||Recap|
|12/28||@ WAS||W 44 - 17||Recap|
Dallas' Key to Victory: Stick to the Game Plan
The Cowboys’ bye last week couldn’t have come at a better time. Even though Tony Romo threw for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 31-17 win over Jacksonville in London, it was pretty apparent that he wasn’t completely healthy. Romo missed the previous game with a back injury and given how stiff he looked moving around the pocket against the Jaguars and the extra time he took to get up off of the turf, Dallas is very fortunate he was able to finish the game relatively unscathed. The bye gave Romo an extra week to recover, so he should be in pretty good shape for tonight’s game. That doesn’t mean, however, that the game plan should call for him to throw it all over the field, even though the Giants’ secondary has been decimated by injuries. A big reason the Cowboys are 7-3 is because they have let DeMarco Murray and one of the NFL’s best offensive lines do the heavy lifting. Murray is leading the league in rushing by nearly 300 yards, as Dallas is averaging 153.2 yards per game on the ground. New York entered this week dead last in rushing defense (145.0 ypg) and has yielded nearly 500 yards in the last two games alone. In all three of the Cowboys’ losses, the offense had more pass attempts than rushes. A heavy dose of Murray has worked well for Dallas so far, so there’s no reason to change up things now.
|New York (NFC) 2014 Schedule|
|11/3||vs IND||L 24 - 40||Recap|
|11/9||@ SEA||L 17 - 38||Recap|
|11/16||vs SF||L 10 - 16||Recap|
|11/23||vs DAL||L 28 - 31||Recap|
|11/30||@ JAC||L 24 - 25||Recap|
|12/7||@ TEN||W 36 - 7||Recap|
|12/14||vs WAS||W 24 - 13||Recap|
|12/21||@ STL||W 37 - 27||Recap|
New York's Key to Victory: Get Rashad Jennings Back on Track
The Giants are 3-7 and have lost five games in a row. While the defense has been a huge issue during this losing streak, allowing 431.4 yards and 30.4 points per game, the offense has offered little support. In particular, the running game has really struggled, gaining less than 80 yards per game. This of course puts more pressure on Eli Manning and the passing game, which hasn’t been able to carry the load. Manning has seven touchdowns and six interceptions in the last five games, with five of those picks coming last week against San Francisco. New York won three in a row from Weeks 3-5 and it was due in part to a ground game that averaged 157 yards per contest. Jennings, their No. 1 running back, was responsible for 286 of those yards, before leaving the Week 5 win over Atlanta early with a knee injury. Jennings missed the next four games, all Giant (no pun intended) losses, as Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis were unable to replace his production. Jennings returned last week and picked up 59 yards on 18 carries, but it should be pointed out that New York only lost by six points despite Manning’s five interceptions. This Giants’ offense is clearly a different animal when Jennings is in the backfield, so it’s critical that coordinator Bob McAdoo and Manning get the ball in his hands early and often. Besides, it’s not like the pass-heavy approach has worked that well these past five games right?
Dallas has lost two of its past three games, but coming off of a bye that seems like a long time ago. New York has lost five in a row and it has been a long time since it beat Atlanta back in Week 5. The Cowboys should be rested and pretty healthy as they gear up for a stretch run that includes two games in a span of 17 days against Philadelphia and a date with Indianapolis. The Giants won’t roll over, since this is a divisional rivalry, but this defense is too banged up and has offered little to no opposition recently. Dallas should be able to control the clock with its running game, which will open up big-play opportunities down the field for a healthier Tony Romo. Cowboys tune up for Thursday night’s showdown against the Eagles by beating the Giants for the fourth time in a row.
Prediction: Dallas 31, New York 23
The Arizona Cardinals will try and add to their NFC West lead when they take on the Seattle Seahawks this afternoon on FOX. Drew Stanton has done an admirable job for the Cardinals (9-1) while subbing for the injured Carson Palmer (knee). Over the past two weeks, Stanton has completed 24-of-37 passes for 391 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while closing out a 31–14 win over St. Louis and holding on to a 14–6 victory against Detroit.
The Cards will have their work cut out for them on the road against what should be a hungry Seahawks (6-4) squad. The reigning Super Bowl champs are currently on the outside of the playoff picture and are desperate for a division win after losing at St. Louis earlier this season. All eyes (and ears) will be on Marshawn Lynch, who has been at the center of a contrived media controversy despite his 1,060 yards from scrimmage and 12 scores.
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Seattle -6.5
|Arizona 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||@ DAL||W 28 - 17||Recap|
|11/9||vs STL||W 31 - 14||Recap|
|11/16||vs DET||W 14 - 6||Recap|
|11/23||@ SEA||L 3 - 19||Recap|
|11/30||@ ATL||L 18 - 29||Recap|
|12/7||vs KC||W 17 - 14||Recap|
|12/11||@ STL||W 12 - 6||Recap|
|12/21||vs SEA||L 6 - 35||Recap|
Arizona’s Key to Victory: Clamping Down
The Cardinals’ quarterback situation — starter Carson Palmer has been lost for the season with a knee injury, but Drew Stanton has gone 3–1 this year in relief — has earned most of the headlines, but Arizona is winning with defense. The Cardinals are third in the NFL in points allowed, surrendering a stingy 17.6 per game. Against Calvin Johnson and the Lions in Week 11, the Cards threw up a brick wall, holding Detroit to 262 total yards and a pair of field goals. The Cardinals are also fifth in takeaways with 20 and would love to force some mistakes by a Seahawks offense that is adept at protecting the ball. “We're definitely one of the best in the game,” says Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. “I believe we have caught our stride. The last two games, we didn't give up over 200 yards passing with three or four interceptions. That's something we're hoping for the rest of the season.”
|Seattle 2014 Schedule|
|11/2||vs OAK||W 30 - 24||Recap|
|11/9||vs NYG||W 38 - 17||Recap|
|11/16||@ KC||L 20 - 24||Recap|
|11/23||vs ARI||W 19 - 3||Recap|
|11/27||@ SF||W 19 - 3||Recap|
|12/7||@ PHI||W 24 - 14||Recap|
|12/14||vs SF||W 17 - 7||Recap|
|12/21||@ ARI||W 35 - 6||Recap|
Seattle’s Key to Victory: Restoring Order
The defending Super Bowl champions have seen their script get flipped this season, putting them in the position of hunter rather than hunted. While Seattle has scuffled to four losses, Arizona has quietly gone about their business in building the league’s best resume through 10 games. The Seahawks would love nothing more than to remind the upstarts who the reigning kings really are. Pete Carroll and his players aren’t ready to concede a division title just yet. “These guys (the Cardinals) are flying high, and we have to see if we can find a way to stop them and score on these guys and then we’ll take it to the next one,” Carroll said. “I’m really excited about the way this thing sets up and I think most people should be with all of the drama still out there about the division.”
Arizona sowed the seeds for this year’s ascendancy with a 17–10 win in Seattle in Week 16 last season. It wasn’t enough to propel the Cardinals to the playoffs, but it did prove that they could compete with anyone, including on the road. A team that is 3–1 away from home this season will find a way yet again, while putting a chokehold on the NFC West.
Prediction: Arizona 21, Seattle 20
The Denver Broncos will try to regroup at home when they face the Miami Dolphins this afternoon on CBS. The Broncos (7-3) have lost two of their last three games after managing just seven points in a disappointing showing in St. Louis. The Dolphins (6-4) right now are on the outside of the AFC playoff picture looking in, but have won four of their past five contests.
Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Denver -7.5
Denver’s offense is once again among the league leaders to the surprise of no one, but the running game has been up-and-down lately. The Broncos rushed for just 28 yards last week and had 43 yards three weeks ago in the blowout loss to the Patriots. In three losses this season, Peyton Manning’s ground support has averaged a meager 35.7 yards rushing per game. Ronnie Hillman (foot sprain) and Montee Ball (groin strain) are dealing with injuries, so it’s up to C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson to do some damage against a Miami defense that entered this game eighth against the run (94.5 ypg).
The Broncos need to establish some sort of run game or else the Dolphins’ pass rush could cause problems for Manning. Statistically speaking, Denver’s offensive line has done a fine job in pass protection, giving up an NFL-low 11 sacks. However, as the Rams and other teams have shown already, a successful pass rush against Manning doesn’t have to result in sacks.
Manning is nowhere near as dangerous a passer if he’s consistently forced to move around in the pocket or when his timing is thrown off. Case in point, even though St. Louis only recorded two sacks of Manning last week, he completed 34 of 54 (63 percent) attempts. The only game this season in which Manning had more attempts and a lower completion rate was three weeks ago in the 43-21 loss to New England, where he went 34 of 57 (59.6 percent) with two interceptions.
Miami is second in the league in passing defense (208.0 ypg) and tied for third in sacks (30). The Dolphins figure to have their hands full against Manning and company at home, but the combination of a disruptive pass rush as well as Emmanuel Sanders’ (concussion) and Julius Thomas’ (ankle) uncertain statuses could prove troublesome for the Broncos’ offense.
Miami’s offense isn’t as explosive as Denver’s, but the Dolphins have done a better job running the ball (127.3 ypg compared to 89.9) and aren’t too far behind the Broncos in scoring (24.9 ppg to 29.3) either. Denver’s defense did give up 131 yards on the ground last week to the Rams, but still ranks second in the league in rush defense (73.4 ypg). Ryan Tannehill and his playmakers are going to have to make the most of their opportunities and can’t afford self-inflicted mistakes like penalties or turnovers.
Denver may be reeling somewhat, but the Broncos are back at home where they always seem to play well. Don’t forget that Arizona’s lone loss this season was a 41-20 dismantling at Sports Authority Field at Mile High back in Week 5. That offensive outburst by Peyton Manning and company was preceded by an overtime loss in Seattle. The Broncos may not put 40-some points on the board in this one, but I expect a similar script to play out this afternoon against the Dolphins.
Prediction: Denver 28, Miami 20
Melvin Gordon’s single-game FBS rushing record lasted only a week. After the Wisconsin running back gashed Nebraska for 408 yards to pass former TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson’s record (406) set in 1999, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine added his name to the top of the record books with a huge performance against Kansas. Perine earned Athlon Sports Week 13 Player of the Week honors by setting a new FBS single-game record with 427 rushing yards in a 44-7 rout over Kansas.
With quarterback Trevor Knight sidelined due to injury and awful weather conditions in Norman, Okla., the Sooners turned to their ground attack to defeat the Jayhawks. Perine was the offensive workhorse for coach Bob Stoops, recording 34 carries and catching one pass for 19 yards. Perine touched the ball on 35 of Oklahoma’s 68 plays on Saturday afternoon and averaged 12.6 yards per rush.
The true freshman scored on a 49-yard run to open Oklahoma’s scoring and continued his assault on the record books with two more touchdowns (33 and 34 yards in the first half). Perine added a 66-yard score in the third, which was the Sooners' fourth play of 60 yards or more in 2014.
In addition to his single-game total record, Perine is the first player in FBS history to record at least 200 yards in both halves of a game. The true freshman’s five rushing scores pushed his season total to 19, which surpassed Adrian Peterson for the school record for most touchdowns by a true freshman.
With his 427 yards against Kansas, Perine’s season total stands at 1,428 with two games left in 2014.
Defensive Player of the Week: Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Kendricks and the UCLA defense helped the Bruins continue their recent dominance over rival USC with a 38-20 victory on Saturday night. Kendricks led the defense with 14 tackles (one for a loss) and recorded a critical interception in the first half. The Trojans were driving in UCLA territory hoping to retake the lead before halftime, but Kendricks made a one-handed interception near the sideline. The Bruins would score on the next possession, giving coach Jim Mora’s team a 24-14 lead at halftime and the momentum going into the second half. UCLA’s defense held USC’s offense to just 276 total yards (4.1 yards per play) and did not allow a score in the second half until the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Coordinator of the Week: Robb Smith, Arkansas
The Razorbacks continued their turnaround under second-year coach Bret Bielema by pitching a 30-0 shutout over Ole Miss. The win over the Rebels clinched a bowl bid for Arkansas, and Bielema’s offseason hire of Smith has paid major dividends for the defense. The Razorbacks have recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2002 and have not allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points in four consecutive games. Smith’s defense held Ole Miss to 316 total yards (4.5 yards per play), forced six turnovers, generated two sacks and five tackles for a loss. The shutout against the Rebels took place one week after Arkansas snapped a 17-game SEC losing streak with a 17-0 victory over LSU. The Razorbacks have earned back-to-back shutouts in SEC play for the first time in school history.
Freshman of the Week: Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona
Since Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine earned national player of the week honors from Saturday’s action, let’s spread the wealth and highlight Wilson’s performance against Utah. The Utes entered Week 13 as one of the stingiest defenses in the Pac-12 by holding opponents to 3.9 yards per rush. And prior to Week 13, Utah allowed just four scores on the ground in conference play. But the Utes were unable to find an answer for Wilson on Saturday, as the true freshman gashed the defense for 218 yards and three scores. Wilson averaged 10.9 yards per rush and scored on a 75-yard run early in the fourth quarter. The freshman’s performance was noteworthy considering quarterback Anu Solomon missed time due to an injury, and the Wildcats needed a win to stay alive in the Pac-12 South title picture. Wilson’s 218 rushing yards were the most in Arizona history by a freshman.
Cincinnati’s backfield is expected to be back at full strength for Week 12, but Houston’s situation is a little more uncertain. Detroit and Tampa Bay also are situations worth paying attention to before setting your lineup.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Probable – Hip/Clavicle
Bernard’s been nursing several injuries, which have caused him to miss the past three games, but after getting in full practices on Thursday and Friday it looks like the Bengals’ backfield will be back to full strength today. Bernard is Probable and expected to play, but don’t be surprised if Jeremy Hill winds up with more touches. The coaching staff may choose to ease Bernard back into action and Hill has rushed for more than 150 yards in two of the past three games. I would classify both as RB2 options this week with Hill higher up the ladder than Bernard.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Questionable – Groin
After being held out of last week’s game, Foster was able to practice some on Wednesday. But that was his only appearance, as he didn’t participate at all on Thursday or Friday. Foster is listed as Questionable and will be a game-time decision, according to head coach Bill O’Brien. It’s an early game, so that will help with timing, but I wouldn’t bank on Foster being available. That would mean another heavy dose of Alfred Blue, who rushed for 156 yards on 36 carries last week against Cleveland. If Foster misses a second straight game, Blue is most definitely in the RB2 conversation.
Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, RBs, Detroit Lions at New England Patriots
Probable – Ankle; Questionable – Ankle
Bell missed Wednesday’s practice because of an ankle injury, but ratcheted up his participation from there and was a full go on Friday. He’s listed as Probable and will try and take advantage of a New England run defense that’s struggled at times. Meanwhile, Bush was not activated for last week’s game because of his lingering ankle injury and it’s not looking that promising for today either. He was a limited practice participant this week and is considered Questionable. It’s entirely possible the coaching staff decides to sit him again and let Theo Riddick fill his role. Bell should be started if he’s on your roster, but I can’t say the same for Bush. Even if he plays, I wouldn’t count on much production from a guy who’s averaging 3.6 yards per carry and has scored double-digit fantasy points once all season.
Doug Martin and Charles Sims, RBs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears
Questionable – Ankle; Questionable – Ankle
Martin was able to practice some every day this week, earning him an upgrade to Questionable. Meanwhile Sims didn’t practice at all on Wednesday because of an ankle injury, but was back at it on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. He also is Questionable. Sims missed the first half of the season because of an ankle injury that required surgery. So while this may not seem like a good sign, Sims is still the Buccaneer back you want to own. I think the team has moved on from the ineffective and oft-injured Martin, who doesn’t have much fantasy relevance at this point, while Sims figures to get more touches than Bobby Rainey. The matchup with the Bears is certainly appealing, but Sims still needs to be viewed as a low-end RB2/flex, at least until he starts putting some decent numbers together.
Minnesota’s backfield is a little bit up in the air entering Week 12 while there’s no doubt who will see plenty of carries in this afternoon’s NFC West showdown between Arizona and Seattle. Elsewhere, Philip Rivers is battered and bruised, but he will be on the field when his Chargers host the Rams.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Probable – Foot/Hip
The only new development regarding Ellington is that he’s now listed with foot and hip injuries. He’s still Probable and will get his usual number of touches this afternoon against Seattle. Ellington is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, but the volume of targets he gets and his big-play potential continue to fuel his fantasy value. Expectations for Ellington should probably be lowered somewhat today, as he’s facing a Seahawks defense that usually is pretty tough at home. But if you have Ellington you are starting him regardless of the matchup.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals
Probable – Back
The injuries have been different, but the routine has been the same. Lynch hasn’t practiced on Wednesday or Thursday each of the past three weeks, but he’s yet to miss a game and has been pretty productive (309 yds. rushing, 6 TDs) during this stretch too. This week Lynch is listed with a back injury, but he was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable. There’s absolutely no reason to not expect Lynch to get the call this afternoon, but don’t be surprised if yards are a little harder to come by against Arizona’s third-ranked rushing defense. Lynch remains a must-start RB1, but the big numbers just may not be there this week.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers vs. St. Louis Rams
Probable – Chest
Rivers suffered a minor chest injury late last week against Oakland, which was enough of an issue to show up on the injury report. However, he was a full go in practice every day and is listed as Probable. Rivers has taken his share of hits lately, but there’s no concern that he won’t be out there today. What is more concerning, however, is the fact that he has thrown for just 321 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in his last two games. Rivers still sports a respectable 21:8 TD-to-INT ratio, but this dip in his production is enough to make him more QB2 material rather than QB1. Especially against a St. Louis defense that likes to get after the quarterback and held Peyton Manning and the Broncos to just seven points last week.
Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, RBs, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Out – Concussion; Probable – Back
Asiata has already been ruled out due to a concussion and McKinnon was limited in practice because of a lower back injury. However, McKinnon’s listed as Probable and fully expected to play today. Just keep in mind that he’s yet to score a touchdown and has a total of 92 yards rushing in his last two games. The Vikings also claimed Ben Tate off of waivers following his release by the Browns. Although Tate’s role figures to be pretty minimal in his first game with his new team, his addition could mean fewer touches for McKinnon down the road. For this week, McKinnon is the better fantasy option, albeit as a low-end RB2, slightly safer flex candidate.
Buffalo’s Week 12 game got moved to Monday night, and the Bills may or may not have their leading rusher back in the fold. Elsewhere, the Saints should get one of their RBs back on Monday night, while the Dolphins’ QB-RB combination is a little banged up and Tony Romo should be feeling pretty good coming off of the bye.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Probable – Back
Even though the Cowboys were coming off of a bye, Romo still didn’t practice on Wednesday. Don’t worry, there’s no reason for concern here, as that’s been the normal routine this season. The important thing is that Romo got an extra week to let his back recover, something that Jerry Jones has already been quoted as saying couldn’t have come at a better time. Romo is Probable and is safe to employ this week. The Giants’ secondary is pretty beat up, so it’s possible that Romo is able to make some plays down field, but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys continue to lean heavily on the ground game.
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets (Detroit, Mon.)
Questionable – Groin
Jackson returned from a groin injury two weeks ago, but may have jumped the gun too soon. Not only did he get just three carries, he also wasn’t able to make the quick turnaround and ended up being inactive for the Bills’ Thursday night game last week. A massive snow storm in Buffalo earlier this week disrupted the Bills’ preparation for what was supposed to be a home game against the Jets. Instead, the game was moved to Monday night in Detroit. The good news is that Jackson was able to practice some, but he’s officially listed as Questionable. Even if he does play, he will share carries with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon. The Jets are fourth in the league in rushing defense, so between the unusual circumstances leading up to this game and the matchup, this is a backfield-by-committee full of possible flex options and nothing more.
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos
Questionable – Shoulder/Knee
Miller has been battling a shoulder injury for the past few weeks, but he’s added a knee issue to his woes. He went from a full practice participant on Wednesday to limited on Thursday. He’s officially listed as Questionable, but reports are that Miller will play this afternoon. He went from just 10 yards rushing two weeks ago to 86 last Thursday, but Denver’s run defense is third in the league. Miller’s still safe to use, but he should be viewed more as a RB2/flex this week.
Travaris Cadet, Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, RBs, New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens (Mon.)
Probable – Hamstring; Probable – Shoulder; Out – Forearm; Probable – Rib/Shoulder
Every Saint running back appears on the injury report, but for the most part it’s good news. Robinson has already been ruled out, but the other three are Probable. Ingram is the workhorse and a top-10 RB1 this week. Thomas hasn’t played since Week 7, but after practicing on a limited basis, he’s expected to be out there Monday night. Thomas could still be limited, but his return could mean fewer touches for Cadet. As far as this trio goes, Ingram is the only must-start back in the bunch. Both Thomas and Cadet are risky plays, even as flex options.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins vs. Denver Broncos
Probable – Shoulder
Tannehill was limited some in practice because of a left shoulder issue, but he’s listed as Probable and will be out there this afternoon. He’s been sacked 15 times in the past five games, so the wear and tear is starting to add up. Tannehill could be an intriguing option this week given his matchup against Denver, but he has been inconsistent over the past several weeks. Proceed with caution unless you are in a 2-QB league.
Already Ruled Out:
Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, RBs, Denver Broncos – Ball returned last week after missing five games with a groin injury, only to re-aggravate it before he even touched the ball. He and Hillman, who is nursing a foot sprain, didn’t practice at all this week and both have been ruled out for this afternoon’s game. That leaves C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson to carry the load. Anderson has been the Broncos’ most productive back the past two games and he remains the more appealing fantasy option. Miami’s among the league leaders in rushing defense, but Anderson should see enough targets to maintain RB2 status with upside. Thompson’s primary role is that of short-yardage and goal-line back, which makes him a little riskier to rely on.
Plenty of wide receivers and tight ends appear on the Week 12 injury report. From Foxboro to Green Bay and even Jacksonville, Athlon Sports has the injury situations on the top fantasy targets covered like a shutdown cornerback.
Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, WRs, Detroit Lions at New England Patriots
Probable – Ankle; Probable – Hip
Johnson didn’t practice on Wednesday and was listed as being limited on Thursday and Friday. However, this has pretty much been his normal routine this season, so all you should worry about is his Probable designation. The same pretty much goes for Tate (right), who wasn’t listed on the injury report the first two days before being a limited practice participant on Friday. He too is Probable, as it looks like this is mostly a case of giving your top guys some extra rest. Johnson is back among the elite starting WRs while Tate remains a solid WR2 option.
Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, WRs, Chicago Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Probable – Hamstring; Probable – Ankle
Neither Jeffery nor Marshall practiced on Wednesday, but both were out there on Thursday and Jeffery was a full go on Friday. The bottom line is both are Probable and as long as neither suffers some sort of setback during warmups they will play today. Jeffery and Marshall are both WR1 material with the latter slightly ahead in fantasy points due to twice as many (8 to 4) touchdown catches. Jeffery may actually be the slightly safer bet this week than Marshall considering he was able to do more in practice. Regardless, both tall, rangy targets should be started.
Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles
Probable – Concussion
Walker did not pass the league-mandated tests following his concussion two weeks ago, so he was not able to play on Monday night. He has since cleared the last hurdle, as he was a full participant in practice this week. Walker is Probable and will be back out there today. The Titans’ top pass-catcher and a top-10 fantasy TE, Walker needs to be back in your starting lineup.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots vs. Detroit Lions
Probable – Thigh
Edelman injured his thigh last week against the Colts, resulting in him playing a season-low 35 snaps. He was limited in practice all week, but is listed as Probable and pronounced himself ready to play on Thursday. Edelman will be out there today, but the combination of Rob Gronkowksi’s re-emergence and more support from the running game has resulted in fewer opportunities for Edelman. He is still one of Tom Brady’s most trusted targets, but Edelman is more of a WR2/3/flex at this point.
Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Questionable – Rib
Jennings missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a rib injury that clearly affected him last week. He was back on the field on Friday and is listed as Questionable. The expectation is that Jennings will play, but I’m not sure I would want to trust any Viking offensive player in my lineup right now, especially a wide receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson has been a huge disappointment this season while Jennings has barely been a top-60 fantasy WR. With Jennings already iffy, there’s no reason to even consider using him this week.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Probable – Abdomen/Groin
Rudolph was in action last week for the first time September, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at the box score. Rudolph wasn’t even targeted in his first game since Week 3, but the big takeaway is that he made it through no worse for the wear. Rudolph was a full go every day at practice this week, so this time his Probable tag is a mere formality. However, Rudolph is still probably too risky to put back into your starting lineup since it appears the Vikings are slowly working him back into their game plan.
Already Ruled Out:
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns – The good news is that Cameron was finally cleared by a neurosurgeon and returned to practice on Friday. The bad news is that’s not enough to get him back on the field, as Cameron’s already been ruled out for a fourth straight game. Cameron could be back next week though, so you may as well hold onto him for little longer.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts – Allen suffered an ankle injury last week and wasn’t able to practice at all. It’s no surprise he’s been ruled out, especially since the Colts promoted Weslye Saunders from the practice squad earlier in the week. With Allen sidelined, Coby Fleener vaults into top-10 territory, coming off of a huge (7 rec., 144 yds.) game last week.
Denver and Arizona both could be without one of their top targets for Week 12. Here is the rundown on the WR and TE injuries you need to be aware of in the late afternoon games.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins
Probable – Concussion
Sanders left last week’s loss in St. Louis because of a concussion, but not before he caught five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. After not practicing at all Wednesday or Thursday, Sanders was not only cleared to return to practice on Friday, he also was cleared to play. He’s listed as Probable, so it appears that the No. 5 fantasy WR will be available for duty today. In fact, with tight end Julius Thomas considered Questionable (ankle), it’s possible that Sanders will see more than the nine targets he’s been averaging.
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos vs. Miami Dolphins
Questionable – Ankle
Thomas injured his ankle last week against the Rams, joining teammate Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) on the injury report following the game. Unlike Sanders, Thomas wasn’t able to practice, although he did take part in some individual drills. Thomas is officially listed as Questionable, which means he has a 50-50 shot at playing. He could wind up being a game-time decision, so at minimum make sure you have a viable backup plan (game kickoffs at 4:25 p.m. ET) in case Thomas is unable to play. Jacob Tamme could be that guy, as he would be next man up, but his track record and upside aren’t on the same level compared to Thomas.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Questionable – Knee
Fitzgerald injured his knee on a big hit last week and he was later diagnosed with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. Not surprising, he didn’t practice this week. If anything, his Questionable designation could end up being more wishful thinking, but head coach Bruce Arians said Fitzgerald would be a game-time decision. Fitzgerald has played in 110 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest active streak among WRs, and he said earlier this week that’s he’s optimistic he will be able to play. Fitzgerald’s positive outlook aside, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Also Fitzgerald’s numbers are down (two 100-yard games, 2 TDs), so it’s not like he’s a legitimate, must-start WR1 anymore. At best, Fitzgerald is a WR3 with quite a bit of upside, but I’m not sure his track record is enough to consider starting him this week against the defending Super Bowl champions at home.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos
Probable – Calf
Wallace was limited in practice by a calf injury, but he’s listed as Probable so he looks like a safe bet to play. Wallace has been the Dolphins’ most productive target this season and he could be called upon even more with tight end Charles Clay (hamstring) considered doubtful. Wallace is a legitimate WR2 starting option.
Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams at San Diego Chargers
Questionable – Back
Cook didn’t practice on Wednesday and was only able to participate some both Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as Questionable for today’s game and there’s always the chance that the cross-country flight only made his back issue worse. There’s also the fact that Cook is part of the NFL’s 27th-ranked passing offense, has eclipsed 19 yards receiving just once in his past four games and is facing a San Diego defense that’s giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to TEs. Does that sound like a TE you want to rely on this week?
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos
Doubtful – Hamstring/Knee
Clay has been dealing with a knee injury all season, but this time it’s a hamstring issue that could wind up sidelining him. Clay apparently suffered the injury during practice and was unable to get back out there. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s really no reason to wait that long to make a decision. Bench Clay and take your chances with someone else.
Already Ruled Out:
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins – This time it’s the right hamstring that’s going to cause Reed to miss at least one game. A left hamstring injury earlier this season cost Reed four games, which unfortunately has been the story of his young career. With Reed out, Niles Paul will get the call once again. He was productive earlier in the season, but given Washington’s offensive issues and all of the controversy surrounding Robert Griffin III, it may be best to steer clear of this situation.
Virginia receiver Canaan Severin may have grabbed the catch of the year in the ACC during Saturday’s game against Miami.
Severin made a one-handed catch for a score in the second quarter, which gave the Cavaliers a 10-7 lead.
Check out Severin’s catch, which came just as a Miami defender was poised to make a play on the ball for an interception:
Oregon cruised to an easy win over Colorado in what could be the final home game for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Ducks didn’t need much help to beat the overmatched Buffaloes, but receiver Darren Carrington made one of the catches of the year in the Pac-12 with this reception off a deflection.
Check out Carrington’s reception: