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The Miami and Ohio State programs were both rocked earlier this year with major cheating scandals. The Buckeyes lost ultra-successful coach Jim Tressel and talented quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the process and still have key players suspended. The Hurricanes are still being investigated after the report surfaced of former booster Nevin Shapiro’s funding of many impermissible activities regarding players and recruits. From tattoos to meals to parties to memorabilia sales to lots of other activities that don’t need to be repeated, OSU and Miami have had offseasons to forget. As we look towards the actual college football game in Miami, Ohio State will be without their top runner (Dan Herron), receiver (DeVier Posey) and blocker (Mike Adams), all still serving suspensions. The Buckeyes will return running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Corey Brown and Travis Howard, who were serving separate suspensions. Miami gets quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence and defensive tackle Marcus Forston, among others, back from their suspensions served during the Maryland game.
Who wins in South Beach this weekend: Miami or Ohio State?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I like Miami to win Saturday night’s matchup with Ohio State. The Hurricanes lost 36-24 in Columbus last year, but the scene shifts to South Beach this year. Also, Ohio State won’t have quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Daniel Herron or receiver DeVier Posey. The Buckeyes have been solid on defense so far, but Toledo moved the ball well last Saturday. The Hurricanes need a clean game from quarterback Jacory Harris, who is making his first start of 2011. Harris was suspended for Week 1, but his return could spark the offense, provided he eliminates the turnovers that plagued him last year. Running back Lamar Miller is a rising star in college football and should see 25-30 carries in this one. New Miami coach Al Golden is the right man to navigate the program for what could be difficult times ahead. Golden had a solid debut, even with a loss to Maryland. If Ohio State can win, it would be a huge boost to Luke Fickell’s profile and chance to keep the full-time job. I expect this to be a close game, but Miami is out for revenge. Toledo is one of the best teams in the MAC, but the Buckeyes did not have a great game on offense. Considering the new faces still working their way into the game on both sides of the ball, I think that gives the Hurricanes a slight edge on Saturday.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’ll think Ohio State will beat Miami in this battle of embattled teams who have had more suspensions than an Olympic track meet and the Tour de France combined. Even though Toledo gave the Buckeyes a scare last week, the Rockets only rushed for 46 yards on 30 carries. I believe Miami’s strength is running the ball with Lamar Miller, and that the OSU defense will have an answer for him. The Hurricanes get turnover-prone quarterback Jacory Harris back in this one, but he threw four interceptions in last year’s loss to the Buckeyes. Miami went down 36-24 in that game (even though it is now ‘vacated’ by OSU), but two of the Hurricanes’ scores were on special teams. I think Luke Fickell’s crew will look to prevent the big play this season and make the inconsistent Hurricanes drive the ball down the field. Additionally, the ‘U’ has lost eleven home games in the last five years. I just don’t see Miami having the same home advantage as in years past, so take the gritty Buckeyes in a tight game.
Ohio State and Miami were once known for a delayed pass-interference penalty in the BCS national title game. Oh, those were the days of innocence. Maurice Clarett was stripping the ball from Sean Taylor after an INT in the end zone; Jim Tressel was out-coaching Larry Coker; or was it vice-versa? Either way, these are different, darker days for two of America’s proudest football programs. Last year, The OSU drubbed The U, 36-24, in Columbus. This year, it’s payback — not against TP2 or the Sweater Vest, but against the Scarlet-and-Gray in general. First-year coach Al Golden won’t be wearing a Pat Riley suit, but he will be wearing a shirt-and-tie when the Hurricanes overwhelm the Buckeyes. Expect Lamar Miller to run wild and the Canes defense to play until the echo of the whistle. This will be a Big Ten, Buckeye bowl-game-style blowout and a South Beach celebration. Hopefully, no one will Tweet about it after the game.
By Josh Kipnis
Two years after a 1-15 record, the St. Louis Rams were hoping to make 2011 a memorable year with their first playoff berth since 2004. They probably aren’t saying the same thing after the NFL’s opening weekend.
The Rams enter Week 2 of the season with question marks at five different starting positions.
Running back Steven Jackson had a promising start to the season when he busted through the Eagles defense for a 47-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, the great play had a bitter ending as Jackson limped back to the sidelines favoring his right leg. He would carry the ball one more time before leaving the game early with a strained right quad. Jackson is already listed as “out” for next week’s matchup against the New York Giants.
Another player unable to finish the game was quarterback Sam Bradford. The NFL’s 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year left in the fourth quarter after his throwing hand collided with an opponent’s helmet. Team doctors suspected the worst – nerve damage to his right index finger. Fans, however, can finally take a sigh of relief as reports have indicated the finger is simply bruised.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about cornerback Ron Bartell. Bartell was one of the few Rams to play the entire game, but the news that followed afterwards was devastating. A MRI indicated Bartell suffered two fractures in his neck and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Cornerback could be the biggest problem for the Rams with fellow starter Bradley Fletcher listed as day-to-day with a sprained toe.
The last player to suffer an injury was wide receiver Danny Amendola. The Rams’ 2010 leader in receiving yards and touchdowns, dislocated his elbow in Sunday’s game. It is still up in the air whether or not he will need surgery, in which case Amendola’s season would likely come to an end.
Plagued by injuries in Week 1, the Rams, who play Monday night against the Giants, could not be happier with the extra day of rest their players will receive.
With the injuries piling up after Week 1, it seems that the Rams’ hope of making it back to the playoffs may have to wait yet another year.
Everyone loves a viral video. Even marketing departments of giant corporations. Which is why it's no secret that many of the viral vids your co-workers send you are not actually "real." They're real in that they are a video that's going viral. But they're not real in the fact that the people and stunts in the video are paid actors and the actions taking place are CGI'd more often than you want to believe.
But just because they're fake doesn't mean they're not entertaining. Here are some of our favorite from over the years. Some because they're actually interesting, and some because, well, they're embarrassingly terrible.
1. The Bunt Home Run
Commercial For: Didibao Shoes (maybe)
Some fake viral videos involve expensive CGI and complex camera shots. But this one is genius in its simplicity. Just cut together video of a bunt with video of a home run video using some grainy, foreign Japanese baseball game and voila. (One of the Ten Commandments of making fake viral videos is: Something is much more believable if it's foreign.)
2. Hot Girl Pulls off Insane Golf Trick
Commercial For: Bud Light
We can tell this viral video is fake because no man in his right mind would stand in front of a girl taking a full swing with a driver (and I don't care that he covers his crotch right before she takes a swing). If she could really do this, she'd be on Letterman, not a shaky-shot camera phone in some random backyard. Oh, it also helps that the money shot at the end is a Bug Light bottle. (Full disclosure: I also know this was fake because I created it for Budweiser.)
3. Ball Girl Makes Crazy Catch
Commercial For: Gatorade
While this video was clearly a fake, the Internet went mental for it and it spread like wildfire not long after it's release. Gatorade admitted they were behind it, but only after they said they weren't going to release it. Which seems even fishier than the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-catch this girl supposedly pulled off.
4. Guy Catches Laptop With His Butt
Commercial For: MSI
This may be my faovrite fake viral ever. It doesn't even try to be real, it just tries to be ridiculously over the top and funny. This is the Internet version of the Old Spice guy.
5. Running On Water
Commercial For: Hi-Tec
Even Jesus was like "Faaaaaake" the first time he saw this.
6. Evan Longoria Makes A Bare-Handed Catch
Commercial For: Gillette
It's a dead giveaway when the description of the video refers to Evan Longoria as a "Gillette Young Gun". I'm not totally clear on how this video makes me want to buy more Gillette razors, but at 5 million views and counting, it clearly did it's job of going viral.
7. Girl Kicks A Soccer Ball Through A Big Donut
Commercial For: Nike
Marketers have clearly figured out that the formula of girl + doing something x Internet video = page views. We really like how she just happens to place the ball down so the Nike Swoosh is facing the camera. That's in the subtley-branded Hall of Fame.
8. Bike Hero
Commercial For: Guitar Hero World Tour
When it came out that this one was fake, everyone went "Who cares, let's watch it again."
9. The Craziest Slip and Slide Ever
Commercial For: Microsoft
I'm not sure how a dude riding a home made slip n' slide jump into a hilariously tiny pool is going to get me to buy more computers, but I'm glad they made this.
10. Rob Dyrdek's Floating Skateboard
Commercial For: SweeTarts
I know this piece is called "Best Fake Viral Videos" but this is clearly on this list ironically. This is by far the lamest one we've ever seen. They should've put some more of their CGI budget into getting actors who can say "Whoa!" a little more believably.
11. David Beckham Has Three Balls
Commercial For: Pepsi
Hi, my name is David Beckham and I drink Pepsi all the time. Oh, and I also hang out with complete morons who like to yell stuff in clown voices while I make CGI'd videos of me kicking soccer balls into trash cans on the beach.
12. Michael Vick Throws a Football Out Of A Stadium
Commercial For: Powerade
Michael Vick is a superhuman specimen, but no athlete is strong enough to overcome crappy CGI.
13. Lebron Hits Some Full Court Shots
Commercial For: Powerade
If they really wanted to pull this off, they should've cut the dopey newscaster (who is clearly not going to win any Academy Awards) and had LeBron not shoot 80 footers like they're a free throw.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Each week Athlon's fantasy staff will dive into the NFL Fantasy world of Individual Defensive Players, or more affectionately known as IDPs. Weekly top performers, advice and waiver wire adds highlight the Athlon IDP Weekly Potpourri.
Week 1’s Top DBs:
1. Aqib Talib, CB, Tampa Bay: 16.0 TFP
3 solo tackles, 1 ast, INT, TD, 2 PD
2. Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore: 15.43 TFP
9 solo tackles, 2 ast, 1.0 sack, 2 PD, 37 return yards
3. Ed Reed, S, Baltimore: 15.0 TFP
6 solo tackles, 2 INT, 4 PD
As a general rule of thumb for defensive backs, safeties are better plays than corners. The great corners rarely get thrown at and one interception every three games would be considered good. If your league awards point for passes deflected/defensed, this does add some value to the coverman as they generally rack up the most PDs.
Additionally, the big play – e.g., the defensive TD – cannot be taken into consideration when trying evaluate IDPs. If a player scores two defensive touchdowns in a single season, he has done something special. So ignore Talib’s touchdown. Is it an indicator that the player has big-play potential? Absolutely. And Talib has 16 interceptions since 2008 (good for sixth in the NFL, Yahoo!), so keep an eye on him. He certainly should be motivated as he basically got out of prison to play football this year, but I am not running to the wire for the former Kansas standout.
And finally, on a somber note, the projected No. 1 IDP defensive back in the league, Kansas City's Eric Berry, will miss the entire season after he suffered a torn ACL at the hands of a Stevie Johnson block in the first quarter of 2011. As a fellow Tennessee alum - and EB29 fantasy owner - it was a rough day in the secondary. This injury not only screwed up my fantasy line-up in Week 1, but may hurt the rest of the Cheifs IDPs (Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey) as the star sophomore had quickly solidified the backend of the KC defense.
Top DB Adds:
Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota: 14.5 TFP
Winfield is one of the NFL’s all-time most underrated cornerbacks. He is an excellent tackler (as his 10 total stops in Week 1 indicate) and excellent off the blitz (5.0 sacks over the last three seasons).
Morgan Burnett, S, Green Bay: 10.5 TFP
Burnett was in for big things last year before it was ended with an injury four games into his rookie season. In his sophomore debut, he posted 14 total tackles. In this defense, he and fellow play-maker Nick Collins are excellent plays.
Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle: 10.0 TFP
Not many IDPs score in double-figures on tackles alone but that is what Chancellor did in Week 1, posting 10 solo stops. He is comfortable around the line of scrimmage and should rack up tackles all season behind the Seahawks questionable front seven.
Week 1’s Top LBs:
1. Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago: 22.0 TFP
6 solo tackles, 4 ast, INT, FR, TD, PD
2. Terrell Suggs, LB, Baltimore: 19.5 TFP
5 solo tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 FF
3. D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Cleveland: 19.5 TFP
10 solo tackles, ast, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF
Linebackers are the easiest IDP position to find. Ten NFL linebackers posted at least eight solo tackles in the first week of action, so do not panic if your draft picks didn’t pan out in one week. Drop about 10 names on your watch list (Pat Angerer, Thomas Davis, Bart Scott, Jamar Chaney, Mason Foster) and feel free to shuffle players all season long.
Top LB Adds:
Sean Lee, LB, Dallas: 15.0 TFP
Lee looked the part on Sunday night against the Jets. He flew around the defense and was rarely off the field as it appears that Bradie James and Keith Brooking will be the ones rotating. Lee was a tackle machine at Penn State and should find himself with double-digit tackles on a consistent basis.
Daryl Washginton, LB, Arizona: 14.0 TFP
The only thing keeping Washington from the top add spot is his mild calf strain. He is questionable for this week’s game, so monitor the injury. However, when healthy, the second-year backer is a star in the making. The defense is designed around the former TCU star and he will make big plays all year long – he had a sack and interception against Carolina.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta: 10.0 TFP
Even with Curtis Lofton on the same field, Weatherspoon has the ability to be a star in this league. The former first-round pick was slowed due to injury last fall and came out swinging this fall. He posted nine solo stops against Chicago.
Week 1’s Top DLs:
1. Kory Biermann, DE, Atlanta: 18.0 TFP
2 solo tackles, ast, 1.0 sack, INT, TF, PD
2. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants: 14.5 TFP
5 solo tackles, ast, 2.0 sack, FF
3. Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago: 13.5 TFP
2 solo tackles, ast, 2.0 sack, FF, FR
Much like safeties and corners, the defensive end is normally the position to own on the fantasy IDP gridiron. Few defensive tackles are worth owning (Haloti Ngata is a monster by the way) so keep an eye on the edge of the defensive line.
The defensive line also appears like the most predictable preseason IDP position as Peppers, Jared Allen, John Abraham, Justin Smith, Mario Williams and Jason Babin all finished Week 1 in the top 10 of DL fantasy performers – as predicted.
Top DL Adds:
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants: 14.5 TFP
From a physical standpoint, JPP skills match that of most elite NFL pass rushers. He just needed the opportunity and a year of seasoning. With Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora struggling with injuries (JPP is a must add if you own either of those two), Pierre-Paul could be in for a big year in the Big Apple.
Ray McDonald, DE, San Francisco: 9.5 TFP
Finally getting his chance to play regularly, McDonald made the most of it in Week 1 with six solo stops and a sack. High tackle totals are a rare thing for most defensive lineman, so do not underestimate a player who looks poised for decent tackle totals.
JJ Watt, DE, Houston: 7.0 TFP
This guy never quits working. He is an absolute monster on the edge and it appears he will be a huge part of the dramatically improved Texans’ defense. He collected five solo stops and recovered a fumble in his first career game.
More NFL Fantasy Content
Athlon Sports Week 2 Waiver Wire Report
Ask Athlon Week 2 Fantasy Advice
NFL Fantasy: Week 1 By the Numbers
Article originally published in 2004 Athlon Sports Racing annual
Opinions are like … well, you know the rest of that saying. Opinions are a little more valuable, though, when they belong to seven of Nextel Cup racing’s top guns. We think you’ll enjoy what they have to say on everything from rules changes to Cup contenders to the best toys — all of it refreshingly candid and unsanitized.
Would you change the point system? Does the winner deserve more points? Do pole winners deserve points?
Jimmie Johnson: I think that it would be beneficial if the winner of the race received more points. The way the points system works now, if you finish second and lead the most laps, you can finish with the same number of points as the winner, so I think there should be some reward for winning the actual race. The pole winner deserving points is a mixed bag. I could go either way. Track position is so important these days that if you win the pole it is a reward to have the track position. In addition, if you win the pole you have the best opportunity to lead the first lap and get five bonus points, so in some ways I can see how people want to reward the pole with points, but in a way, we already do.
Ryan Newman: I don’t really feel like the point system needs changing, but yes, I feel that points should be awarded for poles.
Elliott Sadler: I think the points system is just fine as it is. In all the years the points system has been in place this was the biggest year for controversy. The team with the most consistency earns the most points.
Mark Martin: They can do whatever they want to do with it. It doesn't matter to me. I don't think anything is wrong with the system. It’s the same system that we’ve always had and it has worked really well for us. Just because someone won by a lot of points this year, doesn’t mean we need to change anything. Last year (2002) Matt Kenseth won five races and finished eighth and there was no reason to change it then.
Ricky Rudd: No. I look at it like, why fix something that’s not broken. It’s been that way for many years. There are some arguments for pole position points and so on. But I think the system is pretty good as it is.
Ricky Craven: No, I think the points system is fine the way it is, with the exception of the pole winner. I think the pole winners do deserve some points. I mean, we spend an entire day each week focusing on nothing but qualifying. If we’re going to do that, I feel like the pole winner deserves some kind of reward or bonus for being the best on that day.
Sterling Marlin: I wouldn’t necessarily change the points system, but if they did then the winner and the pole winner definitely deserve more points.
Who besides yourself and your teammate do you consider the front-runner for the 2004 Nextel Cup?
Craven: Jimmie Johnson. His team just seems to have all the right ingredients in place to possibly claim the title. They have the equipment, but more importantly, Jimmie and Chad (Knaus) and the rest of the crew seem to have the chemistry and communication necessary to win it all.
Marlin: I’d say you’d have to look at Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson. They were real strong toward the end of the season. The 8 was really good there at the end of the season as well.
Martin: It’s hard to tell. There are a lot of factors that play into that and there is no way of predicting that now.
Newman: Jimmie Johnson is a good candidate and so is Junior or Jeff Gordon. It really depends on who has the best, most consistent season.
Johnson: I would say that there are about five to 10 teams that could win the championship next year. Just look at how close the points were this season. The No. 8, 12, 29, 24 and 48 were all battling it out for second through sixth and it came down to the last race. The No. 17 was so consistent this season they just didn’t have that many bad things happen to them. You also have to take into consideration the 18 and 20, who had bad luck this year, but they had new bodies this year and you could tell they were trying things that I’m sure will pay dividends for them next year. The team that will win next season is the team that has the fewest what-ifs at the end of the year.
Rudd: I think Ryan Newman is the guy. They have been very strong all year. They’ve had some mechanical problems, but they’ve been very fast on the race track and he’s got them beat I think.
Sadler: Ryan Newman — those boys are geniuses.
If you were building a new track, which current track would you use as a template?
Marlin: Homestead would be a good template to use. They have really fixed that track up nice.
Rudd: If I were building a race track I’d use Richmond as my template.
Craven: Dover International Speedway. I just think we need more pure, one-mile ovals on the circuit. I love the place. The fact that I usually run well there probably has a lot to do with that, but I love it.
Johnson: I would pick something like Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Dover and New Hampshire — tracks that I’ve had success on so I would have a better chance at winning some more races. In a perfect world I’d have them build an off-road track. I miss competing in those races and don’t really have an opportunity to with the schedule the way it is right now.
Sadler: For the fans I’d have to say Bristol. For the drivers, I love Atlanta, Vegas, Texas and Darlington.
Newman: If I could build a brand new Darlington, that’s what I’d build because it’s my favorite track we race at.
Martin: Lowe’s Motor Speedway. A lot of the other tracks have tried to copy it, but it’s my favorite track to race at. I just like the style of racing there. It’s a driver’s kind of track. Handling, especially in the corners, is key, and that suits my style of racing.
If you could eliminate a track, which would it be?
Rudd: Nothing jumps out in my mind right now. I enjoy all the tracks.
Newman: Daytona or Talladega because restrictor-plate racing isn’t fun for any of us out there.
Sadler: I would have to go with Martinsville, I’ve struggled there my whole career.
Johnson: I’m not sure I’d eliminate any of the tracks we race on. Each track is different, and they all offer their own challenges, so I really like most of the tracks we race on.
If you had to start an ill-handling car and the only hope you had at a win was dependent on your talent and driving skill, at which track would you be able to make up the most? At which track would you not have a shot at all?
Newman: I’d be at a disadvantage at restrictor-plate tracks, but all the rest, I’d say I’d have a shot at. Especially, if the car isn’t handling well, you’d want a track you can win on fuel. The ALLTEL team is good at calculating fuel, so I’d have a good shot at Chicago, Pocono, Michigan.
Rudd: At this day and time, I don’t care who you are, you can’t overcome a car that is not driving correctly. There are just too many good cars out there to be able to do that. If you go back four or five years ago the track would probably be Bristol. There were different lines around the race track and some things that you could change that might make up a little bit for an ill-handling car, but today you aren’t going to win with an ill-handling car.
Craven: I think Rockingham is probably the track where I could make up the most. I’ve had a lot of success there, and I seem to be able to get up on that high line and make up a lot of positions when I need to. I don’t seem to have a lot of luck at Homestead Speedway, but I do like the way they reconfigured the place, so maybe my luck will change there in the next couple of years.
Sadler: Well, if you can’t fix a car at certain tracks everyone is wasting each other’s time. Crew chiefs are experienced enough to where if the driver is complaining about something it is up to the driver and crew chief to come up with something that will fix the car. You can’t ever just give up.
Johnson: Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the win. For some reason I can really get around that track.
At which track does the X-Factor come into play for you? The X-Factor being a combination of luck and being at the right place at the right time.
Rudd: That statement applies to any given race on the (Nextel) Cup circuit today. And that is what really determined the winner in many cases — the pit strategy on fuel and tires. That’s really what has won quite a few races this year.
Johnson: I think all the tracks require the X-factor. Just look at Bill Elliott in Miami last season. Look at the fuel mileage races we’ve had this year. With the new ‘Lucky Dog’ policy, the X-factor is at every race. For you to have a strong finish these days, I think the X-factor plays a part in about 90 percent of the races. Anything can happen out there and a lot of it is out of your control.
Sadler: Every track. Anything can happen at any time, man. You can be running first and be taken out by a lapped car or a blown tire. That has happened to me and it sucks, but sometimes it works in the other direction.
Newman: It could be at any track really. I’ve had days I came from two laps to win. That was at Dover last year, and then Chicago I went on and won on fuel.
Darlington losing its Labor Day race, rock music instead of country music on the pre-race shows, millions and millions of dollars to run a full-time team. All this has sparked debate over how to balance the growth of NASCAR with the tradition of NASCAR. In your eyes, how does this sport continue to grow while staying pure to its roots?
Craven: I think that more prime time, Saturday night races is one way to continue the growth. I also think that we should follow the NFL’s lead and have a special weeknight race, maybe on Wednesday nights. I mean, NASCAR used to race three or four times a week back in the early days, so if the goal is to stay true to the roots of the sport while also growing the sport, that would be an ideal way to do that. I think the ratings would be tremendous for something like that.
Johnson: That’s the billion dollar question right now. NASCAR is doing a good job of trying to balance the old and the new. There is no way that you can please everyone in this situation. But just like other major league sports, in order for NASCAR to continue to grow and gain new fans and please our committed fans, we need to continue to evolve as a sport. We can’t stay the same, so NASCAR is working hard to make the right moves and not make drastic changes.
Sadler: As long as it stays a family sport and the most accessible sport in the world then we will always be staying close to our roots. We need to make sure we get new fans — they might be kids who listen to rock groups or whatever. We can remain close to the roots but escape stereotypes that racing is redneck or Southern. It’s much more than that.
Newman: Let’s face it, NASCAR is a business and if a business is going to survive, it needs to cater to the people that are buying into it. I feel like the sport itself is the tradition, but what drives it now is the sponsors and the demographics of the fans.
Martin: I’m just a race car driver. I show up each week and race; all of that other stuff is really out of my hands. All I can do is my part to help put on the best show possible for the fans.
Is 36 too many races? Would 30 be better? Theoretically, that’s a 16 percent decrease in revenue. Would you be willing to accept a 16 percent cut for fewer races?
Johnson: Yes. 36 or actually 38 races are too much. The drivers have it easy; it’s the crew guys that have it really tough. These guys work seven days a week, 13 to 15 hours a day and aren’t at home with there families. We have them going coast to coast and really take a lot away from them and take the balance away in their lives. I think that we should trim the schedule down and allow for more time at home for everyone. NASCAR has the longest professional sports season out there and I think that needs to change.
Rudd: I started my Winston Cup career when there were 28 races. I liked 28 races a lot better than I like 36. I’m not saying that we can’t handle more. It’s just that you would have a little more time for your personal life.
Sadler: No, 36 is cool. Actually it’s 38 if you count the Budweiser Shootout and the Nextel Cup All-Star Challenge. We are racers, and I’d race every day if you’d let me.
Newman: The number of races isn’t so bad, it’s the days away from home. If we could have the same amount of races, but make it a two-day show, that would be great.
What safety features does NASCAR need to implement?
Newman: I’m not going to make any decisions for NASCAR. They’ve been doing a great job listening to what the drivers have to say and work on those issues. We’ve come a long way in the last few years on safety, and it will get better.
Sadler: I’m a big guy — 6'2". Me, Dale Jarrett and Michael Waltrip are the biggest drivers on the circuit. I think that escape hatch will be good when it gets cleared. Hopefully I will never need to use it, but I think an alternative to getting out of the car besides the window would be helpful.
Johnson: I would like to see a traveling safety crew. I know that NASCAR is looking into this and I understand its reasoning as to why they have the current system. But for me and my family to know that the safety crew that might need to help me one day knows everything about me each week and I personally know them, that’s very important.
Rudd: I think NASCAR is looking at pretty much everything they need to look at right now. The one thing I would like to see them do is look at maybe getting the driver away from the left side door cage a little bit. Maybe locate the driver so many inches off the centerline of the driveshaft to get him out of the left side window. Maybe that will help prevent some of the injuries when the driver’s side smacks the wall.
Is the racing back to the yellow rule being handled correctly?
Newman: The first race NASCAR put the new rule into effect, I won. I got lucky, but I also had to gain one more lap before winning. I think the rule is good and NASCAR will work on it more and more.
Sadler: I think 13 seconds after the car stopped tumbling there was a safety worker talking to me through the window (at Talladega). That was also a good effort on the 42 other drivers on the track for slowing down to allow the safety crews to get to me.
Johnson: I think NASCAR is doing a good job with it. Things had to change because it was just a matter of time before someone got injured from racing back to the yellow. I’m not sure about the ‘Lucky Dog’ rule. It’s hard for the racer in us to see someone get a free pass, but as time goes on we’ll get everything worked out.
Rudd: I like the rule. I think it needs some adjusting on the shorter tracks a little bit where you have so many caution flags. At the end of the race virtually everyone is on the lead lap.
Should there be a traveling safety crew?
Martin: I wish there was.
Sadler: I think there needs to be a traveling medical crew. If I end up in the infield care center, it’s good that I know the person looking over me and they know me.
Rudd: I would say that before the new rules that NASCAR has on racing back to the flag, that we definitely needed a crew every week that was familiar with the rules. Today, it would still be nice knowing that you had people coming to your car that knew how to deal with your particular needs or knew about your previous injuries. That would be nice. But with not racing back to the flag, it has freed up how quickly they can move the safety crews. I think that all any driver wants to see is, when they have an accident, that you are going to have somebody there pretty quickly.
Newman: Most definitely. NASCAR has a traveling chef, why not a safety crew?
Should there be a yellow and/or red light on the dash board?
Rudd: I think some other series use that situation. I haven’t really seen a big need for that. Currently in Winston Cup with the rule change we don’t race back to the flag. If there is a problem and the caution flag comes out people slow down. It’s working real smooth right now. I really haven’t seen a need for a light on the dashboard.
Sadler: No, not necessarily. It might be too much of a distraction — I’d have to try it. My spotter Brett is 100 percent on his game. As long as he is paying attention, and I am paying attention I think we can avoid accidents with accidents.
Martin: That would be a nice addition.
Newman: I don’t think so.
What are some things (away from racing) you have been given the opportunity to do because of your position as a NASCAR driver?
Newman: Last year’s trip to NASA was about one of the coolest things I’ve done.
Martin: To be able to do all the charity things we have done over the years — it’s always a good feeling to give something back. We have the greatest fans in the world in this sport and it’s not always easy, but it’s always great to be able to help out charities and people in need of assistance.
Sadler: Gosh, too many to count. I’ve been to The Final Four, NBA games, MLB games, met celebrities like Carmen Electra, Serena and Venus Williams, the band Three Doors Down, WWE Wrestlers, and been in my buddy Blake Shelton’s country music video, Ol’ Red. I also get to travel in planes and cool cars. I’m real, real fortunate.
Johnson: I’ve thrown out the first pitch at a Phillies vs. Braves game, stood on the sidelines at a Georgia Tech (football) game, been able to get dinner reservations, meet actors and other celebrities. Just do things that you would never have guessed in a thousand years. I have the best job in the world that offers me a lot of benefits.
Rudd: A good example for me, I’ve always been an aviation sort of nut. I’m a pilot myself and having the U.S. Air Force associated with our car has given us a lot of opportunities to visit a lot of bases, to see a lot of the state of the art sort of equipment, visit with the Thunderbirds, things like that that I would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise.
Craven: The biggest thing that the notoriety of being a NASCAR driver has done for me is to allow me to put on my annual Snowmobile Charity Ride up in Maine. We’ve been fortunate to be able to raise a lot of money and help a lot of people. I can’t ask for anything better than that. I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of stars and go a lot of places during my time in the sport, but giving something back is the coolest thing being a NASCAR driver has allowed me to do.
Who was your favorite driver growing up? How has he influenced your driving style or how you conduct yourself at the track?
Rudd: I didn’t really have a favorite driver. I was always busy racing myself since I was about eight years old running go-karts and motorcycles. But I guess I did watch the Indy 500 and I remember watching A.J. Foyt. I remember Dan Gurney from road racing being a kid watching some of the races that came on ABC. I remember those guys, Gurney and Foyt, from when I was young. But I didn’t really follow the races that heavily because I was busy racing myself.
Sadler: My uncle Bud Elliott, my brother Hermie Sadler and Dale Earnhardt. They showed me how to be successful but stay real.
Craven: I really idolized Richard Petty when I was growing up. He served as a great example of how to handle yourself in the heat of the moment. He always had a smile for the camera, even after he might have just gotten wrecked on the track. Whenever I’m in a similar situation, I always try to remember how well he handled himself. I don’t always succeed in living up to the precedent he set, but I do try.
Johnson: I started out in motocross and Rick Johnson was a guy I looked up to. I also followed Rick Mears, since he was from California, thinking I’d take the same path from off-road to Indy cars. In stock cars, I was a Cale Yarborough fan. I also followed the Allisons and Dale Earnhardt. I had always wanted to race against Dale Earnhardt, and I’m sorry I missed the opportunity. As far as what I’ve taken from them, I would say that I’ve taken from them the desire to win and the work ethic. These guys wanted to win every time they got on the track and so do I.
Martin: Richard Petty. He is and always will be the greatest ambassador of our sport.
Newman: I always admired Dale Earnhardt for his way of mentally beating people before the race even started.
If you had to choose one driver to be NASCAR’s spokesman to America, who would it be?
Sadler: I think Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett are excellent spokesmen for the sport.
Martin: Jeff Gordon.
Newman: I don’t know if there is just one. Jeff Gordon’s made a good name for himself, but there’s a lot of guys out there.
Craven: I think Jeff Gordon has done a great job of being a spokesperson for NASCAR. He handles himself extremely well in interviews, and he’s a very intelligent, well-spoken guy. I think he helps to dispel a lot of the stereotypes that some of the country might have about our sport. He’s a hard guy to dislike, I think. I mean, he’s young, he’s a good-looking guy, and he’s very articulate.
Marlin: Rusty (Wallace) would be entertaining as a spokesperson. He’d be honest.
When you came into the sport, who took you under their wing?
Martin: Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.
Johnson: This isn’t going to surprise anyone, but when I got into Winston Cup Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick really took me under their wings. Jeff has taught me a lot about racing both on and off the track. Both Rick and Jeff have taught me a lot about the business side of the sport and how to deal with the pressures and what it takes to be a winner. I’ve been fortunate to get in with a tremendous organization and have a very supportive sponsor in Lowe’s.
Newman: Buddy Baker.
Marlin: No one really took me under their wing; I had been around racing so much already because of my dad that I knew everybody. It wasn’t like I was first starting.
Sadler: Dale Jarrett as a matter of fact. He and I were testing at Darlington — he in a Cup car and me in a Busch car. I went to him for advice on how to get around the ‘Lady In Black’ and he pretty much dropped everything, put me in a rental car and drove me around the track for 30 minutes. It’s cool because I won my first pole there in 2003. DJ and I have been tight ever since. I’ll never forget that.
Craven: Jeff Gordon really took me under his wing, even though I’m older than he is. He had already had a couple of years in Winston Cup before I moved up in 1995. When I joined Hendrick Motorsports, he really taught me the right way to do a lot of things. I really treasure his friendship, and the way he’s always been willing to help me. Among the drivers, he’s probably the one I’m closest to.
What other drivers or crew chiefs would you want to play poker against? Which would you not?
SadIer: I wouldn’t want to play with my own crew chief, Todd Parrott. He has too good of a poker face. Also, Matt Borland and Ryan Newman — forget it man.
Newman: I don’t know, but I can tell you, you don’t want to play against my crew chief Matt Borland. He’s a good poker player who actually competes in tournaments when we’re not racing.
Craven: Well, let me think. First, Mike Helton. I know he’s not a driver or a crew chief, but I think he’d make one heck of a poker player. Jimmy Spencer, just because he’d make for an entertaining game. Matt Borland and Ryan Newman would make for a good game, because of how analytical and intelligent they are.
It’s said that the difference between a man and a boy is the size of his toys. What are some of your favorite toys?
Sadler: I am not allowed to ride on motorcycles. My mom won’t let me. I have a pontoon boat and in my motorcoach I have two Xbox’s and a karaoke machine.
Craven: I love my snowmobiles and my Sea Ray boat. I love getting out on Moosehead Lake in Maine first thing in the morning on the Sea Ray. There’s nothing better than that. With the Snowmobiles, we have a lot of trails around Moosehead that we ride on, and we’ll just go for hours and hours on those things. It really clears my mind and recharges my batteries.
Rudd: I guess most of my toys are something I can share with my son, Landon. He is nine years old now and we enjoy doing a lot of different things, but one of the things he really enjoys is riding four-wheelers, running through the woods chasing each other. We enjoy doing that. And a little bit of go-karts; nothing real serious there. The other thing is airplanes. I enjoy aviation and because flying is a necessary part of our sport I enjoy the airplane and I enjoy the flying part of our sport.
Marlin: Some of my favorite toys are bulldozers and other farming equipment.
Newman: I’ve got a Ranger 520 Bass Boat, wave runners. I’ve got a 1928 Ford Roadster with a 1953 Ford engine that has dual 94 Stromsburg carburetors, Offenhauser heads, and a 1957 Ford 3-speed transmission. I have a 1953 Plymouth with the original flathead six cylinder and a 1957 Ford Thunderbird (one of Krissie’s favorites) with a numbers matching 312 engine and automatic transmission.
Johnson: I have a 36-foot Fountain boat, a couple of motorized bar stools that will go about 40 mph and a Harley-Davidson fatboy. We’re so busy I hardly have time to use them, but they’re great when I can.
Martin: Well, they’re not toys but my Citation Jet and my Vantari motor home. I’m very proud of both.
Do you play NASCAR video games? Do they ever help you prepare for a track?
Newman: I used to play them more, but definitely. I feel I’ve learned a lot about Darlington and Bristol by playing the NASCAR game.
Sadler: Yes, tons. I play EA Sports NASCAR Thunder 2004 all the time. It helped me get used to the new Homestead-Miami Speedway configuration before we got on the track.
Johnson: Yes, I play a lot of the games. The 2004 EA Sports NASCAR Thunder is pretty realistic. When I first came into the series, I played a lot of the games to experience the track and see what they were like. It helps a little in giving you the feel for what it will look like.
Martin: No. I leave all the video games to my son Matt.
What would be more entertaining: 43 NASCAR drivers playing Augusta National or 43 PGA golfers shooting it out at Bristol?
Craven: The 43 PGA Golfers at Bristol would be more entertaining to watch, but it would be a very short race. You could probably make a lot of money off the scrap metal that would be left over, though.
Johnson: I would say the golfers in Bristol. There is no way people would want to see me golf. I can play about seven or eight holes and then it’s off to the clubhouse.
Sadler: As much of a golf fan I am, I have to go with Bristol. Its heaven on earth. Those PGA Golfers need to try it out sometime.
Martin: 43 PGA golfers shooting it out at Bristol.
What is your favorite sport other than racing?
Marlin: My favorite sport other than racing is football. I love watching the Tennessee Vols play every week.
Newman: I watch hockey only because my wife Krissie is a Devils fan, but I really don’t like or watch other sports. I like watching fishing shows mostly.
Craven: Hockey is a lot of fun for me to watch. Growing up in New England, Hockey was one of the biggest things around. I was never very good at it, but the game has a lot of speed and excitement, which appeals to me for obvious reasons.
Sadler: Golf and deer hunting.
Who is your favorite athlete outside racing?
Craven: Carlton Fisk, the Boston Red Sox catcher. Being from Maine, the BoSox were everything to me as a kid as far as baseball was concerned, and Fisk was just such a strong player.
Sadler: Too many to name. I am a sports nut so I have favorites in every sport.
Martin: Michael Jordan. We shot a Gatorade Commercial with him a while back and he is great.
Do you have any crazy rituals or superstitions for race day?
Craven: I always try to carry something in my car that my kids (Riley, age 11 and Everett, age 7) have given me. My daughter even knows how much luck each good luck charm has in it. One time, I was in a wreck, and I told Riley that the good luck charm must have run out of luck. She said, “No daddy, that one still has at least two more races worth in it.”
Sadler: I don’t really, but I just do the same thing every week. Get lots of rest, drink a ton of water and Powerade, and breathe pure oxygen. A lot of resting and relaxing.
Newman: Not a one.
Johnson: No. I used to be superstitious, but now I just try to stay focused.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done on the track?
Sadler: Probably that little helmet toss in the Winston a few years back. I was mad at Ryan Newman because he wrecked me. It cost me a little bit of money when I got fined by NASCAR, and I also felt bad for all my sponsors at the time for acting like that.
Marlin: I can’t remember the exact year, it was 1976 or 1977 at Nashville. I had won the pole and we started the pace lap and I ran out of gas. I thought the crew guys had put the fuel in it and they thought I had put the fuel in it. I coasted right into the fuel pump and put about five gallons in and went back out there.
What track, NASCAR sanctioned or not, do you consider your home track?
Sadler: South Boston. That is where I grew up. I won a track championship, and they have a grandstand named after me. Richmond is my home track on the NASCAR circuit.
Newman: IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park) — maybe since I’m from South Bend. I raced there a lot in open-wheel.
Martin: Daytona, because that’s where we live now.
If not for racing, what would you be doing now?
Sadler: I’d be working in the family business or playing ball somewhere.
Martin: I'm just not sure.
Johnson: I’d be a fireman. Growing up I use to live next door to a fireman and have always wanted to be one. I’m not really sure what draws me to it. It might be the sense of being on the edge and trying to control something that isn’t controllable, but who knows.
Newman: Fishing, of course.
Like it or not, Peyton Manning and the high-octane Indy 500 offense has been replaced by Kerry Collins and the horseshoes.
The question now becomes: When will Manning return to the Colts? Late in the 2011 season? Week 1 of 2012? Or, God forbid, never again?
Will Peyton Manning’s nagging neck injury end a career that was largely taken for granted due to its metronome consistency of video game statistics and playoff berths?
The Colts suffered a humiliating 34–7 defeat on the road against the Texans days after Manning underwent his third neck operation in 19 months. The single level anterior fusion surgery is “performed regularly throughout the country on persons from all walks of life” but “there will be no estimation of a return date at this time,” according to the team’s official press release.
As a result of Sept. 8 surgery, the 35-year-old four-time league MVP and Super Bowl XLI MVP missed the first start of his 13-year career — snapping a streak of 227 straight starts (208 regular season, 19 postseason) dating back to Sept. 6, 1998, Manning’s rookie debut after being the No. 1 overall pick out of Tennessee.
When it became clear that rumors of No. 18’s demise were anything but exaggerated, Indianapolis signed the 38-year-old Collins — effectively replacing the NFL’s third all-time leading passer (54,828 yards) with the 11th-ranked yardage man (40,441).
Since Collins had recent success against the Texans — going 3–2, with the losses coming by a combined four points, as the off-and-on starter of the Titans since 2006 — many felt he was a capable stop-gap solution for a crucial Week 1 AFC South showdown.
But after watching Collins struggle — completing 16-of-31 passes for 197 yards, one TD and zero INTs, along with two lost fumbles on botched center exchanges — in the 27-point season-opening loss in Houston, most fans and pundits have written off this year’s Colts, whose run of nine consecutive playoff appearances is in serious jeopardy.
Still, the stoic Collins doesn’t seem fazed by one loss to a familiar division foe.
“You’ve got to be undaunted by anything that happened in the game and that’s win or lose, good game or bad game,” said Collins, a 17-year veteran with two trips to the NFC title game and a Super Bowl XXXV loss to the Ravens on his resume.
“You’ve got to be able to compartmentalize it, learn from it, deal with it and move on.”
This is Collins’ third week in town, after all. There should be some learning curve expected. Even Tom Brady would have trouble replacing Manning, who (as the running joke goes) will earn his fifth MVP award this season by proving just how valuable he is, and has been, to the Colts.
With a game under Collins’ belt and the Browns coming to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Colts’ home opener, things should get a little easier for the new-look offense. After an 0–1 start, Indy has to make sure there is no Houston hangover.
“This is the first ball game,” said Colts coach Jim Caldwell. “We’ve got 15 more to go.”
Caldwell is right; the Texans loss was the first ball game without Manning under center. But are there only 15 more to go? Or is this the beginning of a new era altogether in Indy?
Those people who just shrug and say, “Of course Peyton will play again,” are the same people who said, “Of course Peyton will start Week 1.”
In the NFL, there is no sure thing — not even Peyton Manning.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Each week, the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports will vote for their top ten Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.
Note: The scoring system is as follows: A first place vote earns a player 10 points. A second place votes earns nine points - so on and so forth until the 10th place player receives one point.
Two weeks do hardly a season make, but we have already seen plenty of Heisman moments from a number of potential finalists. Week Two featured Denard Robinson accounting for 98.7-percent of Michigan's total offense (446 of 452 yards) in the breathtaking come-from-behind win over Notre Dame. We also saw Marcus Lattimore carry the ball 13 times for 94 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Cocks' win over Georgia.
There is one name noticeably missing: Oregon running back LaMichael James. Despite 123 yards from scrimmage and two scores in a blowout win, James fell completely off the list. He did not receive a top ten vote by any of the nine editors after finishing ninth last week.
And so, with Robert Griffin III, Kellen Moore, Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles all on bye in Week Two, the spotlight still belongs to the best player in the nation:
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (83/90 total points, 7/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 38/54, 461 yards, 6 TD, INT, 5 att., 11 yards, TD
The Cardinal have won their two games by a combined 101-17, so Luck has not been needed at all in the fourth quarter of either contest. The Palo Alto prodigy completed 20 of his 28 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns against Duke —which, for what it is worth, is technically a road win over an ACC team. Over his last five games dating back to last season, Luck has tossed 16 touchdowns against only two interceptions, and Stanford has won eight games in a row. Next Week: at Arizona
|2.||Kellen Moore||QB||Boise St||72||-||3||3||3||-||9|
|3.||Robert Griffin III||QB||Baylor||71||-||6||-||1||-||9|
|4.||Marcus Lattimore||RB||South Carolina||66||1||-||3||4||-||9|
|7.||Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma St||25||-||-||-||-||2||8|
|11.||Michael Floyd||WR||Notre Dame||6||-||-||-||-||1||1|
|14.||David Wilson||RB||Virginia Tech||5||-||-||-||-||-||2|
|19.||Brandon Weeden||QB||Oklahoma St||2||-||-||-||-||-||1|
2. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (72 pts)
Boise State was on bye in week two, but will travel to take on an interesting opponent this weekend. Toledo, considered by many to be the favorite in the MAC West, took Ohio State to the wire before losing 27-22 in the Horseshoe. The Rockets will be ready for Moore and Company Friday night. Next Game: at Toledo
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (71 pts)
Griffin and the Bears have had to wait a long time to get back on the field. In fact, 15 days will have passed since fans saw the most dynamic force in college football take the field. Statistically speaking, Griffin might be limited this week as Baylor hosts a fledgling FCS in-state program. Next Game: Stephen F. Austin
4. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (66 pts, 1 first place vote)
The fourth quarter belonged to Lattimore last Saturday in Athens. His 13 rushing attempts on three final-quarter drives led to a touchdown, a field goal and ultimately iced the game on the final drive. He finished with 176 yards on 27 carries and the all-important fourth-quarter touchdown in what could turn out to be the most important win of the season for the Gamecocks. Next Game: Navy
5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (45 pts, 1 first place vote)
If out of sight out of mind was an issue for Jones in the Week Two voting, it certainly won't be the case after this weekend. Jones leads the Sooners into Tallahassee in what could be a BCS championship game elimination game. The Noles (2-0) have looked outstanding — against UL-Monroe and Charleston Southern. The Heisman could also be on the line for Jones should he struggle against what has been a dominant front line for FSU. However, the question remains: Has Florida State closed the 30-point gap from last season's 47-17 beating in Norman? Next Game: at Florida State
6. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (35 pts)
The list of superlatives is long for Shoelace after the performance he put on in Ann Arbor Saturday night. He racked up 948 yards of total offense in the last two wins over the Irish, accounting for an absurd 98.7-percent of the offense last weekend. Robinson threw for 338 yards on only 11 completions and rushed 16 times for 108 yards. He struggled in the first three quarters, throwing three interceptions, but transformed into the electrifying talent Maize and Blue fans have come to love in the final period. Which, of course, included the three-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the final 28 seconds. Next Game: Eastern Michigan
7. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (25 pts)
The next tier of vote-getters begins with the talented Pokes wideout. After a quiet eight-catch, 144-yard first weekend, Blackmon showcased his skills on national television in the Thursday night blowout win over Arizona. The junior caught 12 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. It doesn't appear that the Cowboys offense is missing Dana Holgorsen at all thus far. Next Game: at Tulsa
8. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (24 pts)
If a three-touchdown performance can be called a fluke, Richardson first showing of 2011 might be it. He carried only 13 times for 37 yards against Kent State in week one but bounced back in hostile territory to prove he belongs on this list. Against Penn State in Beaver Stadium, T-Rich touched the ball 30 times for 130 yards from scrimmage and a pair of key touchdowns to beat PSU 27-11. Next Game: North Texas
9. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (22 pts)
The most important recruit in the class of 2011 was not Jadeveon Clowney or Malcolm Brown or Isaiah Crowell. It was Russell Wilson. Wilson is leading the Big Ten in passer rating and is No. 2 in the nation in QB efficiency with an astonishing 237.64 rating. He has completed 27 of 34 passes for 444 yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers. He has added 73 yards rushing on only six carries and another score on the ground. Wilson alone makes this Badger team the Leaders of the pack in their division. However, voters won't truly learn about Wilson until Nebraska comes calling on October 1. Next Game: Northern Illinois, Chicago
10. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (13 pts)
The talented, talkative wideout still leads the nation in receptions after his 14-catch opening weekend performance. After resting for the week, Broyles and company will have a chance to put on a show when the Sooners travel to Tallahassee this weekend to battle Florida State. The BCS national title and Heisman trophy could be on the line in the weekend's highest-profile contest. Next Game: at Florida State
Athlon Sports 120: Week 3
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1
Here's a scoring recap of how Week 1's Start or Sit worked out. Needless to say, I fell flat on my face, much like the Steelers' defense, with the call to sit Ray Rice. However, I take some solace in the fact my sneaky start of the week, Kenny Britt, did outscore Ray Rice. It's very little solace of course.
Anyways, I'd like to see more accountability in fantasy football, and I am happy to take the bad with the good. So a 50-percent success rate in Week 1 only seems fitting.
This is how I work out fantasy football scoring in my mind: I want to average 16 points from my QBs, RBs, WRs and Flex and average 10 points from my TEs, Ks and DSTs. It rarely works that way, but if you could get the skill spots to average 16 and the other three to average 10, that's 132 points in a 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 FLX, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DST setup; it's a score that should win you most weeks.
Week 1 Accuracy
(according to the 16 & 10 average theory)
Starts called correctly: 8 of 19
Sits called correctly: 11 of 19
Total correct: 19 of 38 (50 percent)
Sneaky Start of the Week
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN at Jacksonville - 5 catches, 136 yards, 2 TDs (29.10)
Unexpected Sit of the Week
Ray Rice, RB, BAL vs. Pittsburgh - 107 yards rushing, 4 catches, 42 yards, 2 TDs (28.90)
Kyle Orton (DEN) vs. Oakland - 304 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 FL (16.46)
Matthew Stafford (DET) at Tampa Bay - 305 yards passing, 3 TDs, 1 INT (28.20)
Mark Sanchez (NYJ) vs. Dallas - 335 yards passing, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 FL (22.70)
Tony Romo (DAL) at New York Jets - 342 yards passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 FL (23.58)
Sam Bradford (STL) vs. Philadelphia - 188 yards passing, 1 FL (5.02)
Kerry Collins (IND) at Houston - 197 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 FL (11.88)
Peyton Hillis (CLE) vs. Cincinnati - 57 yards rushing, 6 catches, 30 yards (11.70)
Cedric Benson (CIN) at Cleveland - 121 yards rushing, 1 TD, 1 catch (18.80)
DeAngelo Williams (CAR) at Arizona - 30 yards rushing, 1 catch, 6 yards (4.10)
Michael Turner (ATL) at Chicago - 100 yards rushing, 3 catches, 40 yards, 1 FL (14.50)
Felix Jones (DAL) at New York Jets - 44 yards rushing, 1 TD, 3 catches, 22 yards, 1 FL (14.10)
Marshawn Lynch (SEA) at San Francisco - 33 yards rushing, 2 catches, 14 yards (6.70)
Santonio Holmes (NYJ) vs. Dallas - 6 catches, 70 yards (10.00)
Mario Manningham (NYG) at Washington - 4 catches, 49 yards (6.90)
Lee Evans (BAL) vs. Pittsburgh - 0 catches (0.0)
Reggie Wayne (IND) at Houston - 7 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD (20.10)
Jeremy Maclin (PHI) at St. Louis - 1 catch, 20 yards (2.50)
Miles Austin (DAL) at New York Jets - 5 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD (17.50)
Brandon Pettigrew (DET) at Tampa Bay - 4 catches, 57 yards (7.70)
Marcedes Lewis (JAC) vs. Tennessee - 2 catches, 28 yards (3.80)
Jared Cook (TEN) at Jacksonville - 1 catch, 7 yards (2.20)
Tony Gonzalez (ATL) at Chicago - 5 catches, 72 yards (10.70)
Dustin Keller (NYJ) vs. Dallas - 5 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD (14.60)
Greg Olsen (CAR) at Arizona - 4 catches, 78 yards (9.80)
Defense/Special Teams Starts
Houston vs. Indianapolis - 19 fantasy points (Ranked 4th)
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati - 5 fantasy points (Ranked 24th)
San Francisco vs. Seattle - 26 fantasy points (Ranked 1st)
Defense/Special Teams Sits
New York Giants at Washington - 7 fantasy points (Ranked 21st)
Dallas at New York Jets - 9 fantasy points (Ranked 14th)
Atlanta at Chicago - 14 fantasy points (Ranked 9th)
Neil Rackers (HOU) vs. Indianapolis - 10 fantasy points (Ranked 6th)
Alex Henery (PHI) at St. Louis - 7 fantasy points (Ranked 14th)
Nick Folk (NYJ) vs. Dallas - 11 fantasy points (Ranked 5th)
David Akers (SF) vs. Seattle - 15 fantasy points (Ranked 1st)
David Buehler (DAL) at New York Jets - 0 fantasy points
Billy Cundiff (BAL) vs. Pittsburgh - 9 fantasy points (Ranked 9th)
Athlon Sports Default Scoring System
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points.
1 point for 40 return yards
Defense/Special Teams Scoring
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
We told you in the preseason that the tight end class was as deep as it's ever been, so there was no reason to reach for the position in your fantasy football draft.
So are we surprised to see Buffalo's Scott Chandler leading all tight ends after Week 1 with 20.8 points and Arizona's Jeff King ninth with 13.10 points? Of course we are.
Depth at the position is one thing, but those are certainly two outliers after one week of action.
In between Chandler and King are names we expected to see as part of the depth of this year's class — Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Gresham, Dustin Keller, Ed Dickson, Jason Witten and Jimmy Graham rank Nos. 2-8.
But back to Chandler. He was left off my Week 2 Waiver Wire story for a number of reasons. For one, he has been in and out of the league since 2007 and it took him until Sunday to register his second career catch, which came as part of a five-catch, 63-yard, two-TD performance against the Chiefs. Secondly, his coach, Chan Gailey, does not have a productive history with the TE position.
So pardon me if I am quite shocked considering Gailey's TEs combined for 187 yards and one score ALL of last season. Not counting Tony Gonzalez's 10-score, 1,058-yard season in 1998, a player Gailey inherited during his prime, the tight end position has combined for 1,884 yards and 21 TDs over eight seasons and five different teams under his tutelage. That averages out to three scores and 269 yards per season.
Chandler is not worth an add to your roster, but I will say he is worth keeping an eye on if the target trend continues. Someone has to replace the targets that Lee Evans left behind.
Another TE that surprised me was Daniel Fells in Denver. He is also in a system, coached by John Fox, that has not historically had little regard for the position.
Fells had six targets Monday night against Oakland, catching three of them for 32 yards. It's not a stellar night, but worth noting considering Fox's history with the position. Fox had three tight ends at his disposal last season in Carolina, and only once was one of them targeted six times or more last season (Dante Rosario in Week 2). In his nine seasons in Carolina, Fox saw the position eclipse 700 yards only once, and it never went caught more than six TDs in a season.
Again, monitor how Fox targets the position, and if Kyle Orton is tossing it around the yard 46 times a game like he did Monday (doubtful), then Fells may be worth an add if he can do more with the targets.
And in full-circle fashion, one of those three TEs Fox had at his disposal last year was Jeff King. He was never targeted more than six times last season in Carolina, catching 19 balls for 121 yards and two scores. However, after Week 1 of the 2011 season, King, now in Arizona, is the ninth-best TE thanks to two catches for 61 yards and a wide open, uncovered, 48-yard TD against his former team Sunday afternoon. He was considered option No. 3 at the postion for the Cards this season, behind veteran Todd Heap and rookie Rob Housler.
On to Ask Athlon for Week 2...
Now that Kevin Walter is out, is Jacoby Jones worth playing over Mike Thomas or Malcolm Floyd? Thanks
— Mike Crowther from Athlon Sports on Facebook
For this week, yes. For the season, no.
Jones is still going to be the third passing option for the Texans behind Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels and maybe even fourth when Arian Foster returns. However, it is an inviting play this week considering the Texans face a Dolphins team that just gave up 517 yards through the air to New England and on Tuesday let go of veteran defensive back Benny Sapp.
Malcom Floyd is also normally the third or fourth option behind Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and a pass catcher out of the backfield for the Chargers. Floyd was targeted eight times, catching just three for 45 yards in the opener. However, he also faces a New England team that allowed Chad Henne to throw for 416 yards Monday night while trying to play catch up, and I think the Chargers might be doing much of the same Sunday afternoon.
I would go with Jones for this week, just because of the absence of Walter and the inviting match up.
Normally Thomas would be the play in a PPR league because he is the main target in Jacksonville — registering 11 in the opener (tied for fifth most in the league) and catching eight of them for 55 yards. However, he will likely draw Darrelle Revis this week as the Jags travel to play the Jets. Revis should have no trouble shutting him down.
What established player is Julio Jones worth as equivalent in trade?
— Brent Allen from Athlon Sports on Facebook
We had Jones ranked 66th overall and our highest rookie WR — between fellow WRs Mario Manningham, Jeremy Maclin, Marques Colston on one side and Steve Johnson and Percy Harvin on the other side — in our final preseason Athlon Top 280. Also around his ranking were QBs Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Sam Bradford as well as RB Beanie Wells.
If you are looking to trade him for one of the aforementioned, I would not. He did receive six targets in his NFL debut against Chicago, catching five of them for 71 yards. If you can give up one of the aforementioned to get Jones, I would.
What's St. Louis' game plan with an injured QB and RB?
— @marshall_68901 on Twitter
I expect the Rams and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to continue to pass the football.
I expect Sam Bradford (finger injury) to play against the Giants on Monday Night Football next week. Cadillac Williams proved capable as a both a pass catcher out of the backfield (nine targets, five catches, 43 yards) and a runner after 19 carries for 93 yards in Steven Jackson's absence (quad). With Jackson probably out for Week 2, as well as WR Danny Amendola (shoulder), rookie Greg Salas may slide into Amendola's role and be a worthy successor. Plus we just saw Redskins QB Rex Grossman throw for 305 yards, two scores and no interceptions against a depleted Giants secondary.
Rams right tackle Jason Smith does not have a high ankle sprain as first feared, and could still go Monday night. If he does, while I am not as excited about the prospects of the Rams as I was just a few days ago, I think Bradford, Williams, rookie TE Lance Kendricks and WRs Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker and Salas are capable of keeping the Rams offense going in Week 2.
Should I claim Cam Newton off the waiver wire. Can he keep up the pace?
— @bamaboy9501 on Twitter
I address Newton in the Week 2 Waiver Wire story, and I think the Carolina QB is a terrible play against Green Bay in Week 2. However, he should have success again in Week 3 against Jacksonville. Go ahead and pick him up if you have the space, stash and wait.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
by Matt Taliaferro
1. Jeff Gordon The four-time champ has averaged a 3.25-place finish over the last month. Gordon is looking like the “Wonderboy” of old at just the right time.
2. Jimmie Johnson It looks as if his biggest threat in the Chase may come from within — as in within Hendrick Motorsports in the form of the aforementioned Gordon. Haven’t we seen this movie before?
3. Kyle Busch The best part of the Kurt vs. Jenna press conference? Watching Kyle, sitting next to brother Kurt, smirk. You can almost hear him thinking, “Thank God ‘Old Kurt’ is back!”
4. Brad Keselowski The top-10 streak is over, but Keselowski still looks solid after a 12th at Richmond. They say water finds its level, and that could be the case here but he gets the benefit of the doubt for now.
5. Carl Edwards Consecutive runs of ninth, fifth and second prove the testing has been over for about three weeks for the No. 99 team. We’ll see how the notes transfer into the Chase.
6. Kevin Harvick Another team that is rounding into form, Harvick’s group brings the momentum of a Richmond win into the Chase. And — OMG! — he got to meet Snooki in Victory Lane!
7. Matt Kenseth Kenseth was sponsored by “Ollie’s Bargain Outlet” at Richmond. And the way he ran, you’d think they bought the car there.
Michelle Williams is going to play Marilyn Monroe in an upcoming movie. We're not exactly sure why. Yes, she's a pretty good actress, but can she pull off the sultry, steamy sexiness that Marilyn exuded? We have yet to see it.
Michelle discusses her new role in the new issue of Vogue.
The movie, titled My Week With Marilyn, is set to hit theaters in November of 2011, also stars the ultra sexy Emma Watson. We know she's British, but we think Emma Watson exudes more of Marilyn's iconic sexiness than Michelle Williams. We wonder who Joe DiMaggio would have chosen to play the love of his life if he were still alive. The Yankee Clipper probably would have asked if Jayne Mansfield was available. And that would be an awkward conversation. (This is the last time we try to imagine how dead celebrities would answer questions 10 years after their death.)
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
The Super Bowl XLV MVP picked up right where he left off last postseason, completing 27-of-35 passes for 312 yards, three TDs — a 7-yard strike to Greg Jennings, a 32-yarder to rookie Randall Cobb (who also had a 108-yard kickoff return TD) and a 3-yard fade to Jordy Nelson — and zero INTs during a 42–34 shootout victory over the Saints on the season’s opening Thursday night.
Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens
Baltimore’s black-and-purple defense bruised AFC North rival Pittsburgh in a 35–7 statement victory. The Ravens forced seven turnovers — including an INT and forced fumble by Lewis, two forced fumbles (and three sacks) by edge-rushing linebacker Terrell Suggs, two INTs by ball-hawking safety Ed Reed and one forced fumble by 330-pound anchor Haloti Ngata, who was also responsible for the tipped Ben Roethlisberger pass that was intercepted by Lewis.
Brian Urlacher, LB, Bears
The Monsters of the Midway took out an offseason’s worth of frustration on the preseason media darling Falcons in a 30–12 shocker at Soldier Field. As usual, Urlacher led the way with 10 tackles, one INT and a fumble recovery — forced by end Julius Peppers on a strip-sack of Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan — which he returned 12 yards for a TD. Peppers also added a second sack and a fumble recovery of his own.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
Philly’s offense scorched the turf at St. Louis, converting 8-of-11 on third down and reeling off 16 plays of 10 or more yards while cruising to a 31–13 road win. McCoy had 15 carries for 122 yards and a 49-yard TD, while hauling in two catches for 15 yards and another trip to the end zone. Michael Vick passed for 187 yards and two TDs, and rushed for 97 yards.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Norm Van Brocklin’s 60-year-old single-game passing record of 554 yards was in jeopardy on Monday night, as Brady completed 32-of-48 passes for 517 yards, four scores — including a fantasy football field day on a 99-yarder to Wes Welker — and one pick in a 38–24 victory at AFC East rival Miami.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
The Heisman Trophy-winning No. 1 overall pick returned to the site of his BCS national title win and dazzled in his NFL debut. The controversial dual-threat quarterback out of Auburn completed 24-of-37 passes for 422 yards, two TDs and one INT, for a 110.4 passer rating, while scrambling for another TD on the ground during a disappointing 28–21 loss to the Cardinals. Both scoring strikes went to Steve Smith, who had eight catches for 178 yards (22.3 ypc).
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
It seems college football is preparing for a major shift in conference realignment very soon. Although the 2011 season is just getting underway, the race is on to get conference affiliation finalized in time for 2012. The first domino is ready to fall, which could spur several teams to change conferences.
However, Baylor has threatened to explore legal options if the Aggies left the conference, which has slowed the realignment talk for now.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive indicated on Monday Texas A&M was accepted as the conference’s 13th member. The conference has indicated they have also studied schedules for 13 teams for 2012.
The legal issues need to be sorted out, but all signs point to the Aggies playing in the SEC for the 2012 season.
The departure of Texas A&M has added further instability to the Big 12. The conference believed it could continue with 10 members after losing Nebraska and Colorado last season.
However, the Aggies’ desire to get away from Texas and join a conference with more stability has raised a lot of doubts about whether the Big 12 can continue to exist.
The SEC’s 14th team?
Although Slive has indicated the conference isn’t actively pursuing a 14th member, don’t expect the SEC to stick with 13 teams too long.
West Virginia, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State and Louisville have all been rumored to be in the mix to be the SEC’s 14th team.
The SEC will likely play 2012 with 13 teams, but 2013 should see the conference back to even divisions and 14 teams.
Texas and Oklahoma Hold the Cards
Reports out of Oklahoma continue to indicate the Sooners are seriously considering a move to the Pac-12. If the Sooners go west, then in-state rival Oklahoma State is coming too.
If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State depart, Texas and Texas Tech will likely join them in the Pac-12, creating college football’s first 16-team super conference. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was close to securing 16 teams last summer, but the Big 12 managed to hold together.
Although Texas is strongly considering a move to the Pac-12, the Big Ten, ACC and going Independent have been rumored as possible options.
If the Longhorns want to join the Big Ten or Pac-12, it’s very unlikely they would be allowed to keep the Longhorn Network. If Texas joins the ACC, keeping the network is a realistic possibility.
Whether or not Texas and Oklahoma can work out its differences and save the Big 12 remains to be seen.
If the Sooners and Oklahoma State depart for the Pac-12, then it’s very unlikely the Big 12 would be able to continue – even if Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor remain.
If Oklahoma leaves, Texas won’t be far behind.
What happens to the remaining Big 12 teams?
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas, Missouri and Kansas will have no trouble finding new conference homes. However, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor have to be sweating out the uncertainty surrounding the Big 12.
Kansas and Missouri are both targets for any potential Big East expansion. And the Tigers could be a target to be the SEC’s 14th team.
Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor could be pursued by the Big East or Mountain West if the Big 12 breaks apart. However, if Missouri joins the SEC and Kansas is the Big East’s 10th team, could the Big East jump to 13 and keep Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor together? Or would the conference want to stick at 12?
Going from the Big 12 – a conference with an automatic BCS bid and significant television dollars – to one that doesn’t (Mountain West) will be a blow to any of the three schools athletic budget.
If the Big 12 survives…expansion?
If the reports out of Oklahoma are true, then we could be witnessing the final days of the Big 12.
The conference was pursuing expansion before Oklahoma’s unhappiness surfaced.
If the Big 12 manages to survive, adding at least one team seems very likely. And don’t count out going back to 12 teams and a conference championship game.
BYU was mentioned as a strong candidate, but the Cougars are likely content with their Independence with all of the uncertainty surrounding the conference – unless they can get a guarantee that Oklahoma is sticking around.
If BYU does not work out, possible targets could be Houston or SMU from Conference USA. Louisville and Pittsburgh have been mentioned as Big 12 expansion targets, but seem unlikely to leave the Big East.
What happens next?
There’s a lot of scenarios and possibilities on the table, but there could be some major shifts in conferences over the next couple of weeks.
Little doubt exists with Texas A&M: The Aggies will be in the SEC in 2012. However, it’s what happens after that is uncertain.
Oklahoma currently holds the cards to the future of the Big 12. Should the Sooners decide to leave the conference, the Big 12 will be history.
If Texas and Oklahoma can work out a solution to save the Big 12, then the realignment and expansion talk will likely cool until the SEC looks to add No. 14.
Get ready college football fans, whether we like it or not, the next few weeks are going to be filled with realignment chatter.
Athlon's look at College Football's Super Conferences
By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Take a quick look at Pittsburgh’s stats and you will notice that running back Ray Graham leads the nation in rushing with a 161.0-yard average. That, however, is one of the few bright spots.
Yes, the Panthers are 2–0, but it is a very soft 2–0, with a 35–16 win over Buffalo and a 35–29 win over FCS opponent Maine. Todd Graham’s teams at Tulsa were among the most explosive in college football, but that has yet to translate at Pittsburgh — despite the inferior competition. The Panthers rank 62nd in the nation in total offense (395.5 ypg) and are tied for 45th in scoring (35.0 ppg). Those numbers aren’t bad, but we expected to see much more production from Pitt after home games against a team that went 1–7 in the MAC last year (Buffalo) and team that went 4–6 against FCS opponents in 2010 (Maine).
Graham is remaining upbeat, but he admits the offense has been a disappointment.
“Offensively it’s just decision-making,” he says. “We’re really close. We sit there and watch the film but we’re not executing the system. Somebody asked me, ‘Are you where you thought you would be?’ No, I thought we would be doing better than how we are executing what we’re doing. In this offense you can’t ad-lib. You’ve got to be extremely disciplined every play to read your key and distribute the ball and this offense is a timing offense.”
Graham has placed some of the blame on the offensive line — “We’ve got two new guys playing up front on the offensive line that have made some errors which are not surprising,” he says — but Pittsburgh must get better play from quarterback Tino Sunseri. The junior has completed 58 percent of his attempts but only has one touchdown pass in 63 attempts. This offense simply needs gaudier numbers from the quarterback position. And Graham believes Sunseri can deliver — even though he temporarily pulled his quarterback in favor of Trey Anderson against Maine.
“Tino Sunseri is our quarterback,” he said earlier this week. “We’ve got confidence that he’s going to get it done. Has he played well? No, he hasn’t played well. He’s made some good plays, but he’s got to play better and execute our system, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I’ve seen him do it in practice, I’ve seen him do it in games, and in this system there’s no question I think he can be successful and he’s a guy that has come a long way in his work ethic and all those things.”
Sunseri and the Panthers now dive into a very difficult part of the schedule. This weekend, they head to Iowa and then return home for dates with Notre Dame and South Florida. Despite the early season struggles, this is still a quality football team, one that should be in the hunt for the Big East title.
AROUND THE BIG EAST
• Connecticut has struggled offensively, but the Huskies appear to have found their next big-time running back. With expected starter D.J. Shoemate out with an injury, redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs, a lightly recruited 2-star prospect, has rushed for 259 yards on 51 carries through two games. Against Vanderbilt, McCombs accounted for 123 of the Huskies’ 193 total yards of offense.
• Louisville has scored a total of seven points in the second half of its games against Murray State (a win) and FIU (a loss).
• Rutgers’ four running backs netted 18 yards on 20 carries in a 24–22 loss to North Carolina. Through two games, prized freshman Savon Huggins has 32 yards on 17 carries.
• Cincinnati has given up at least 27 points in 13 straight games against BCS conference opponents.
• The West Virginia defense has yet to allow a touchdown this season.
• South Florida’s B.J. Daniels threw for a career-high 359 yards in the Bulls’ 37–7 win over Ball State. Daniels’ previous best was 286 yards in a win over Cincinnati last season.
By Mark Ross
On Aug. 11, 1994, major league baseball players walked off the field and started what ended up being a seven-month work stoppage that resulted in the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years. Games resumed the following April, but the fans didn't return. Attendance dropped 20 percent during the 1995 season and it took nearly a decade for average attendance to approach it's pre-strike level. Fast forward to the present and with a reported $7.1 billion in gross revenue in 2010, a 400% increase compared to 1995, it's fair to say that America's favorite pastime has since rebounded. However, the point is this: it took some time and there were certainly some "growing pains" along the way.
So let's contrast that to the NFL, or what is affectionately known as America's game. With estimated revenue of $9 billion in 2010, the NFL is clearly king among the four major sports when it comes to TV viewership, game attendance and corporate involvement. But the NFL is coming off of a work stoppage of its own that just ended in early August with the official ratification of a new CBA by both the owners and players. Only one preseason game was lost to the work stoppage, but there was plenty of frustration, disbelief and anger expressed by football fans across the country as the labor negotiations dragged on through the summer and were covered ad nauseam by every medium that exists. The question then becomes would a summer's worth of discontent translate to any sort of fan-led lockout once the games started?
The answer — not so much. Compared to Week 1 of last season, opening week attendance numbers were pretty much equal. Last year, more than 1.09 million fans attended games in the opening week. This past Thursday, Sunday and last night, about 1.08 million fans were in attendance in stadiums across the country, according to numbers found on ESPN.com. The total difference between the past two opening weeks is less than 11,000.
Eight teams — Chicago, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, New York Jets, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Washington — hosted Week 1 games each of the past two seasons. Of those eight, only three of them (Jacksonville, Kansas City and Washington) drew fewer fans this season compared to last. Tampa Bay was the only team that didn't sell enough tickets to prevent a local TV blackout for its opening game, although it did draw more than 4,000 fans this season compared to last.
And speaking of TV, the NFL and ESPN announced a new agreement last week that keeps "Monday Night Football" on ESPN for the next decade and also will increase the number of NFL-related shows on the network. The agreement, which officially begins in 2014, has ESPN reportedly paying the NFL $1.9 billion per year, up from the current $1.1 billion. Further, NBC's opening "Sunday Night Football" broadcast of the Dallas Cowboys-New York Jets game two nights ago set a record as the series' highest-rated game ever and earned the best ratings for a Week 1 game broadcast on a Sunday or Monday night in 15 years.
Overall, the NFL is estimating that it will take in $9.5 billion in revenue during the regular season, including a 15 percent increase in sponsorship revenue. So it appears that fans, TV viewers and corporate America all have put the lockout behind them and returned to the game they love. In fact, according to this Associated Press article, the return of the NFL acts as its own stimulus program for the national economy in and of itself. Clearly, it is good to be the king.
Notre Dame and Georgia have received the most attention around the college football world for their 0-2 starts, but both squads have played quality teams and had chances to win. The Irish dominated the line of scrimmage against South Florida but killed themselves with turnovers in the red zone, and then there was the epic defensive meltdown in the fourth quarter at Michigan. The Bulldogs have played two Top 15 opponents, so their losses are fairly understandable. Boston College, Indiana, Oregon State and Colorado are other BCS clubs with 0-2 records.
Most disappointing team so far in the 2011 season?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I’d say at this point of the season, Boston College, with losses to Northwestern at home and at UCF, is the most disappointing team in the nation. It’s not a huge surprise that the Eagles are 0–2, but they have been alarmingly bad in some key areas en route to that winless start. The foundation of this program has been its ability to play solid on the defense end with a focus on stopping the run. Last season, BC ranked No. 1 in the nation in run defense, allowing only 82.8 yards per game. This year, however, the Eagles rank 110th in the nation, having given up 227 yards to Northwestern (a team that struggled to run the ball last year) and 235 yards to UCF. The Eagles have been bad on offense, as well, with a total of two touchdowns in eight quarters. In their 30–3 loss at UCF last weekend, they managed an anemic 141 yards of total offense. It must be noted that running back Montel Harris, BC’s best offensive player, has been out with an injury, but Andre Williams proved to be a more-than-capable backup at the end of last season. Harris will be back soon, but the return of one player might not be enough to right the ship in Chestnut Hill.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I'd have to go with Notre Dame as my most disappointing team so far. I thought the Irish would make it through the first two games with a 2-0 record and set up a run to a BCS bowl. Although Notre Dame has arguably outplayed its first two opponents, turnovers and penalties have been costly. Brian Kelly is definitely the right coach for the job, and the Irish will get back into the BCS under his watch. Athlon Sports' 2011 preview picked Notre Dame to finish 10-2 and even with USC, Stanford and Michigan State remaining on the schedule, that isn't out of the question. However, the Irish have to end the silly mistakes that have cost them two games so far. The season is far from over for Notre Dame, but after the high expectations entering the year, the Irish have been a disappointment.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
It’s a race of frustration between Boston College, Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia. While Notre Dame has turned the ball over and struggled in the red zone, it has produced big offensive numbers and was the better team in both losses. The Dawgs have played the toughest schedule in the nation and were, in my opinion, the better team on Saturday. So I will go with Boston College. A home loss to Northwestern without its starting quarterback is unacceptable and a 30-3 loss to a mid-major program - albeit a good non-AQ in UCF - is not a way to keep one of the nation's longest bowl streaks alive in Chestnut Hill (12 years).
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Notre Dame and Georgia are easy targets right now, but both teams have played good opponents and lost games they could have won. I’ll head to the west coast for my disappointment, Oregon State, whose season started with a 29-28 overtime loss to Sacramento State. The FBS Hornets stood toe-to-toe with the Beavers, leading 21-6 in the fourth quarter before OSU tied it to force overtime. I thought Mike Riley’s club would take it in the extra frame, but the defense could not stop Sacramento State. No one thought Oregon State would win at Wisconsin, but to get shut out (35-0) was pretty uninspiring. The Beavers have struggled in all phases of the game, and there is already a quarterback controversy with junior Ryan Katz and redshirt freshman Sean Mannion. Riley may have found the heir apparent to Jacquizz Rodgers in Malcolm Agnew, but he missed the Wisconsin game with a hamstring injury. Mannion and Agnew may rally OSU against UCLA after the bye week, but things in Corvallis could get ugly if the Beavers miss the postseason for a second straight season.
By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
We knew what Oregon State was missing. We were aware that the Beavers would be without arguably the most exciting offensive player in school history (Jacquizz Rodgers) and without a player considered by many to be the top defensive lineman in the Pac-10 in 2010 (Stephen Paea). And we understood that James Rodgers, one of the most versatile playmakers in college football over the past few years, would be out indefinitely while recovering from a knee injury.
Still, we expected Oregon State to be good. Not great. But pretty good — as in fourth in the very tough Pac-12 North, with a predicted conference record of 4–5 and an overall mark of 6–6.
Why the optimism? Mike Riley. The Beavers’ veteran head coach always seems to do more with less, somehow getting his team to remain a factor in the league race.
So when it was time to make our predictions, we simply gave Riley and the Beavers the benefit of the doubt, assuming they would find a way to thrive despite the loss of some great players.
Well, look who’s 0–2. It’s still early, but the signs aren’t good for Oregon State, which opened the season with a stunning loss to FCS foe Sacramento State (which lost the following week to Southern Utah) and a 35–0 defeat at Wisconsin.
It might not be time to panic in Corvallis — after all, the 2008 Beavers recovered from an 0–2 start to finish 9–4 — but it’s hard to find many expected wins when you take a look at the final 10 games on the Beavers’ slate.
So what’s the problem? Well, the offense has struggled to get going, even with the emergence of true freshman Malcolm Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards against Sacramento State before missing the Wisconsin game with a hamstring injury. And the quarterback situation is a mess. Strong-armed Ryan Katz, the 2010 starter, was pulled in favor of Sean Mannion during the Wisconsin game. On Tuesday afternoon, Riley announced that Mannion will start against UCLA, but both quarterbacks will likely play.
The numbers aren’t horrible defensively, but the Badgers did give up 29 points to an FCS school and have really struggled against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks are 40-of-57 for 485 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Those numbers have resulted in a national ranking of 116th in passing efficiency defense. It hasn’t helped that senior cornerback Brandon Hardin, one of only three returning starters on defense, has yet to play due to a shoulder injury.
Riley, to his credit, isn’t panicking. He, better than most, understands that there is plenty of time to get his team turned in the right direction. Oregon State has had a winning record in six of eight seasons since Riley returned to Corvallis despite having a combined record of 15–17 in the month of September. Clearly, his teams have a knack for improving as the season progresses.
“I really have hopes for this team,” the coach said after his team was shut out by Wisconsin. “I think there was a lot of stuff today, particularly defensively that was better. So we can build on that. Offensively, I know we can do better.”
They better do better, or Oregon State could be headed for back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the late 1990s.
AROUND THE PAC-12
• Washington State is 2–0 for the first time since 2005 after rolling to wins of 64–21 over Idaho State and 59–7 over UNLV. The level of competition has been very poor, but it’s clear that Paul Wulff’s program is making some progress. The Cougars went 2–10 last season, but ended the year with a shocking 31–14 win at Oregon State and a competitive 35–28 loss to rival Washington in the Apple Cup. The win over UNLV was especially noteworthy because Washington State had to play without quarterback Jeff Tuel, who is out 4-6 weeks with a broken collarbone. Senior Marshall Lobbestael, who had three starts as a redshirt freshman and three as a sophomore, stepped in and completed 24-of-32 for 361 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
• Colorado has already given up 13 plays of 20-plus yards, the most in the Pac-12.
• Washington’s Keith Price has attempted 25 passes in each of his first two games. He completed 17 for 102 yards against Eastern Washington and 18 for 315 yards against Hawaii. His yards per attempt jumped from 4.1 to 12.6 in one week.
• Not much went well for Arizona in last Thursday’s trip to Oklahoma State, but the Wildcats, who played without Juron Criner, did get some production from junior Dan Buckner. A transfer from Texas and former big-time recruit, Buckner caught 10 passes for 142 yards and scored a touchdown.
• Stanford has given up one offensive touchdown in two games, and it came in the final minute of a 44–14 win at Duke. The Cardinal’s opponents have converted only 6-of-30 third down attempts.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 2 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Nebraska (2-0) – Saturday’s win over Fresno State wasn’t pretty. The Cornhuskers allowed 444 yards to the Bulldogs, including 169 on the ground by running back Robbie Rouse. Quarterback Taylor Martinez posted 385 total yards and three touchdowns in the victory. The Cornhuskers have a lot of work to do, but could get some help on defense this Saturday if cornerback Alfonzo Dennard returns from a leg injury. Nebraska takes on Washington this week, which is the third matchup between these teams over the last year.
2. Wisconsin (2-0) – The Badgers have been one of the most impressive teams in college football through the first two weeks of the season. Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by a score of 86 to 17 and is closing in on Nebraska for the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten power rankings. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been near-perfect through two weeks, completing 27 of 34 passes for 444 yards and five touchdowns.
3. Ohio State (2-0) – The Buckeyes needed a late defensive stand to hold off upset-minded Toledo. While it wasn’t pretty, Ohio State is 2-0 under new coach Luke Fickell. The Buckeyes will get a bigger test in Week 3, as they travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes. Ohio State defeated Miami 36-24 last season, but a lot has changed since then. Although Saturday’s matchup isn’t a Big Ten game, it’s a good chance for Fickell to stake his claim for the full-time job.
4. Michigan State (2-0) – The Spartans are coming off a sharp performance in Week 2. The Michigan State defense held the Owls to only one first down and 48 yards of total offense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins also turned in an efficient performance on Saturday, completing 16 of 20 throws for 183 yards and two scores. The Spartans have been quiet on the national scene so far, but will have a chance to make some noise with a visit to South Bend to take on Notre Dame.
5. Michigan (2-0) – The ending of the Michigan-Notre Dame game won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Although the comeback was crucial, it’s important to note Michigan is still trying to find its rhythm under new coach Brady Hoke. Quarterback Denard Robinson struggled with his accuracy on Saturday, but made big plays when it counted. The defense made some solid adjustments against Notre Dame, but still lacks enough talent to contend for the Big Ten title. Hoke has Michigan headed in the right direction and with a schedule of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Minnesota over the next couple of weeks, the Wolverines should be 5-0 before their first road game of the year at Northwestern.
6. Penn State (1-1) – As expected, the offensive issues for the Nittany Lions didn’t get any better in Week 2. The quarterback battle between Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden will also continue into Week 3 – with no clear frontrunner. In addition to the quarterback question marks, Penn State’s struggles in the trenches remain a cause for concern. The Nittany Lions should be on upset alert this Saturday, as they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple.
7. Illinois (2-0) – The competition has been light, but the Fighting Illini has posted two solid performances. However, Illinois will get a better gauge of where its team stands this week, as they host Arizona State. Both teams have been rolling on offense so far, so the scoreboard operator could be busy on Saturday. If the Fighting Ilini can knock off the Sun Devils, they will make a case for themselves this season and should make a bit of a jump in the power rankings.
8. Northwestern (2-0) – Dan Persa was out of the lineup for the second week in a row, but once again, it was no issue for Northwestern. The Wildcats easily handled Eastern Illinois and will get another shot to rest Persa this week against Army. With Kain Colter playing well and the Wildcats playing another winnable non-conference game, coach Pat Fitzgerald can afford to rest his No. 1 quarterback another week. Persa is still day-to-day with an achilles injury, but it is still unclear when he will be back.
9. Iowa (1-1) – The Hawkeyes had a three-game winning streak over rival Iowa State snapped in Week 2. Running back Marcus Coker posted a huge performance, rushing for 137 yards and two scores on 35 attempts. However, the Iowa defense didn’t have an answer for Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz, who threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns. The Hawkeyes host Pittsburgh this Saturday in a big match-up for the Hawkeyes to get back on track.
10. Purdue (1-1) – The Boilermakers survived a close call against MTSU, but couldn’t deliver in the final moments in Week 2. Purdue had a game-winning field goal against Rice blocked in the final seconds, which dropped the Boilermakers to 1-1 on the year. Although coach Danny Hope is entering his third year at Purdue, his seat will get hotter if the Boilermakers can’t pull off a couple of wins in Big Ten play.
11. Indiana (0-2) – After a disappointing showing in the opener against Ball State, the Hoosiers bounced back with a better performance in Week 2. However, it wasn’t enough to earn the victory. Indiana had three turnovers, including a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that gave Virginia the opportunity to kick the winning field goal. New coach Kevin Wilson should get his first win at Indiana in Week 3, as the Hoosiers host South Carolina State.
12. Minnesota (0-2) – One week after nearly beating USC in Los Angeles, Minnesota failed to capitalize off that momentum. The Golden Gophers dropped a disappointing 28-21 game to New Mexico State, moving to 0-2 for the first time since 1992. Coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, but is expected to make a full recovery. Minnesota hosts Miami (Ohio) – one of the preseason favorites in the MAC East – this Saturday.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 2 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Florida State (2-0) – The Seminoles easily passed their first two tests, now it’s time for the big one. After an embarrassing showing against Oklahoma last year, Florida State is focused on getting revenge and staking its place in the national title race. The Seminoles made it through their first two contests relatively healthy, so there are no injuries to be concerned about. Coach Jimbo Fisher has done an excellent job in a short amount of time, but this will be a good test of how far the team has improved after last year’s game with the Sooners.
2. Virginia Tech (2-0) – The Hokies didn’t have an impressive performance against East Carolina, but no team is in position to threaten the No. 2 spot in the power rankings. As expected, quarterback Logan Thomas is a work in progress. The sophomore is completing only 43.6 percent of his throws and threw for only 91 yards in Week 2. Arkansas State has a solid offense, but Virginia Tech should easily move to 3-0 on Saturday.
3. Maryland (1-0) – After beating Miami on Monday night in Week 1, the Terrapins did not play on Saturday. Maryland has another chance to build momentum in coach Randy Edsall's first season, with Big East predicted champ West Virginia visiting College Park. The Mountaineers have won the last five matchups in this series.
4. Miami (0-1) – Just like Maryland, Miami was off in Week 2. The Hurricanes will get some lineup reinforcements for Saturday’s game against Ohio State, as linebacker Sean Spence, quarterback Jacory Harris, receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and defensive end Adewale Ojomo will rejoin the lineup after sitting out Week 1 due to a suspension.
5. North Carolina (2-0) – Interim coach Everett Withers is off to a good start. The Tar Heels are 2-0, and sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner looks like a future star in the ACC. The Tar Heels are coming off a victory against Rutgers and open up conference play with a home date against Virginia this Saturday.
6. Georgia Tech (2-0) – Wake Forest appears to be the ACC’s most-improved team, but Georgia Tech can’t be too far behind. The Yellow Jackets haven’t played the toughest schedule, but it looks like offseason work with the passing game paid off. Quarterback Tevin Washington is averaging 36.4 yards per completion, while throwing for five scores through two games. Georgia Tech has a good chance to move to 3-0 with Kansas visiting Atlanta this Saturday.
7. Clemson (2-0) – The Tigers are 2-0, but it has not been all that impressive. Consider this: Clemson trailed at halftime against Troy and was tied with Wofford this week. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has made strides in his first year as the starter, but the Tigers need better play from the offensive line. The defense has its own issues, as Clemson is allowing 411 yards per game. The schedule is going to get a lot tougher for the Tigers, as they host Auburn and Florida State the next two weeks.
8. Wake Forest (1-1) – It’s only Week 3, but the Demon Deacons look like the ACC’s most-improved team. Had quarterback Tanner Price avoided an injury in the opener to Syracuse, it’s likely Wake Forest would be 2-0. After winning only one conference game last year, the Demon Deacons have already equaled that mark through two weeks. With Gardner-Webb and Boston College up next, Wake Forest could be 3-1 going into a key ACC Atlantic game against Florida State.
9. NC State (1-1) – Tom O’Brien has not been pleased with his team so far. The Wolfpack did not play well in the first half of Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest, but responded with a better performance over the last two quarters. However, NC State lost 34-27 and won’t play another conference game until Oct. 1. Expect the Wolfpack to win this Saturday against FCS foe South Alabama.
10. Virginia (2-0) – The Cavaliers needed some last-minute heroics to beat Indiana on Saturday, but enter ACC play with a 2-0 record. The Cavaliers are making progress under coach Mike London and there’s enough winnable games on the schedule to contend for a bowl appearance. Just how good is Virginia? We’ll found out this Saturday against North Carolina.
11. Boston College (0-2) – The Eagles are off to a disappointing 0-2 start, and the bad news didn’t stop early this week. Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers is taking a leave of absence due to health reasons and will be away from the team indefinitely. Running back Montel Harris remains uncertain to play in Week 3 with a knee injury, but sophomore Andre Williams is more than capable of carrying the rushing attack. Boston College should crack the win column this Saturday against Duke.
12. Duke (0-2) – The Blue Devils remain at the bottom of the power rankings for the second week in a row. Quarterback Sean Renfree is off to a quiet start this season, throwing for only 380 yards and no touchdowns through two games. Duke’s defense and rushing attack were a concern going into this year and neither has shown much improvement. The bottom line? It looks like another season without a bowl appearance for the Blue Devils.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 2 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oregon (1-1) - The Ducks took out their anger from the Week 1 loss to LSU on Nevada. Quarterback Darron Thomas had a huge performance with six passing scores, while true freshman running back De’Anthony Thomas continues to impress. Oregon gets another tune-up this Saturday with Missouri State visiting Eugene.
2. Stanford (2-0) – The first two teams in the Pac-12 power rankings are pretty clear. The Cardinal hold a significant edge over the rest of the teams in the conference for the No. 2 spot. Quarterback Andrew Luck is one of the early frontrunners for the Heisman, throwing 461 yards and six touchdowns in two games. A rebuilt offensive line is still a work in progress for coach David Shaw.
3. USC (2-0) – Talent isn’t a question for USC, but finding a way to close out games has been a problem. The Trojans dominated early against Minnesota and Utah, but allowed both teams to rally in the second half. The offense got a boost against the Utes with the return of running back Marc Tyler, who rushed for 113 yards and one score in Week 2. USC hosts Syracuse this Saturday, before traveling to Tempe for a key Pac-12 South game against Arizona State in Week 4.
4. Arizona State (2-0) – The Sun Devils scored a huge non-conference win against Missouri on Friday night and have one more game before opening up Pac-12 play. Arizona State travels to Champaign to take on Illinois this Saturday, which is an intriguing matchup between two teams considered sleepers in their conference race. Quarterback Brock Osweiler has been stellar so far, throwing for 615 yards and five touchdowns in two starts.
5. Washington (2-0) – The Huskies are 2-0 for the first time since 2007. However, it hasn’t been the most impressive start. Washington’s pass defense has been under fire and currently ranks as the worst in college football. New quarterback Keith Price has been solid so far, throwing seven touchdowns on 50 attempts. Washington has a difficult test in Week 3, traveling to Lincoln to take on Nebraska – the third game between these two teams over the last year.
6. California (2-0) – Quarterback Zach Maynard has provided a spark to California’s offense, throwing for 509 yards and six scores over the first two weeks. Although his accuracy needs work, Maynard’s emergence could give California a chance to push for third place in the Pac-12 North. The Golden Bears should have no trouble moving to 3-0 with Presbyterian traveling to AT&T Park this Saturday.
7. Utah (1-1) – The Utes came up just short in their first Pac-12 game. The Trojans appeared to be in control most of the way, but Utah capitalized on three USC turnovers to cut the deficit to three midway through the third quarter. However, the Utes inability to establish a consistent offense has to be a concern going forward. Quarterback Jordan Wynn needs to test opposing defenses downfield more often, but could use more help from the rushing attack. The Utes step out of conference this week, as they take on rival BYU.
8. Arizona (1-1) – The Wildcats are coming off a 37-14 defeat to Oklahoma State, but have to quickly regroup with the Pac-12 opener against Stanford this Saturday. The status of Juron Criner remains uncertain for this game, but the Wildcats are deep at receiver if the senior can’t go. Arizona has struggled with a new offensive line and the secondary and both will be a concern against the Cardinal in Week 3.
9. UCLA (1-1) – Although the Bruins got into the win column on Saturday, it wasn’t a particularly impressive performance. UCLA struggled to beat San Jose State, which does not help coach Rick Neuheisel move off the hot seat. The Bruins host Texas this Saturday, and quarterback Kevin Prince is expected to be available to play. Unless UCLA shows significant improvement over the next couple of weeks, it could be another year without a winning record.
10. Washington State (2-0) – The competition hasn’t been great, but it looks like the Cougars are making more progress under coach Paul Wulff. Despite quarterback Jeff Tuel missing most of the first two games with a clavicle injury, the Cougars rank first nationally in scoring offense. If Washington State can beat San Diego State on the road this Saturday, it might be time to start looking at the Cougars as a potential bowl team.
11. Colorado (0-2) – New coach Jon Embree is still looking for his first win on the Colorado sidelines, but this team has shown a lot of fight over the last two weeks. The Buffaloes trailed at halftime of both of their games, but have rallied in the second half. Receiver Paul Richardson is emerging as one of the top big-play threats in the Pac-12, catching 11 passes for 284 yards and two scores against California. Colorado takes on rival Colorado State in Denver this Saturday.
12. Oregon State (0-2) – After a performance like the one Oregon State posted on Saturday against Wisconsin, there’s not many positives to build upon for coach Mike Riley. The quarterback situation is a mess, while the defense ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12 in points allowed per game. The good news? The Beavers have a bye week this Saturday. The bad news? The schedule doesn’t lighten up any when they hit Pac-12 play on Sept. 24 against UCLA.
Some of the players listed in Athlon Sports' NFL Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 2 may be one week adds, some may be season-long adds and some are listed just for you to keep an eye on or even stash on your roster if you have the space.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
Also, if you have any fantasy football questions for Week 2's Ask Athlon, send them my way @AthlonCorby on Twitter or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo
The yardage left a bit to be desired (208), but he did throw four touchdowns and did not turn the ball over against what was supposed to be a good Chiefs defense. The Bills play host to Oakland this Sunday, which just surrendered 304 passing yards in the rain to the "run-oriented" Broncos last night.
Rex Grossman, Washington
Cam Newton. Arizona Cardinals. At home. Enough said. Grossman is coming off a game in which he threw for 305 yards, two scores, no interceptions and a fumble against the New York Giants. Now he gets a Arizona defense reeling from the 422 yards and two scores rookie Cam Newton racked up against them in his first NFL start.
Cam Newton, Carolina
He will be a popular waiver add this week after what he did against the Cardinals. If you have the room or patience, you might want to add him and sit him. Newton will come off the Arizona high by likely getting brought back to Earth in the most extreme way against the Green Bay Packers. However, in Week 3, Newton and the Panthers get the terrible pass defense that is Jacksonville. So add him now, wait and then use.
Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay
If he's going to be the third down back, and the Bucs had 14 of those opportunities Sunday, then he might be a worthy PPR-flex add. Graham had nine targets in the passing game, catching eight of them for 58 yards and six carries for 13 yards. That was good for 12.10 points in the Athlon scoring format. Tampa Bay faces a Minnesota team that just forced San Diego into 13 third-down opportunities.
Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
Offense is going to have to come from somewhere after that lackluster performance Sunday against the Bills. McCluster had four carries for 42 yards, caught all five of his targets for 25 yards and added 92 return yards. The Chiefs may get more opportunities on offense as Eric Berry is lost for the year, and they could look for last year's other high draft pick in McCluster to provide a spark. He scored 10.5 in the Athlon format Sunday, and if he could add a TD every now and then, I'd be happy to take 16.5 from the flex.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans
Maybe it's because they were down, but Sproles certainly was the receiving threat out of the Saints' backfield. He was targeted nine times in the passing game, catching seven of them for 75 yards. He also had three red zone targets, catching two of them. If you are in leagues that award return yardage, he added 168 yards and a touchdown for a 21.9-point night in the Athlon format.
Ben Tate, Houston
Until Foster comes back, and even after that, Tate needs to be on a roster. If he's still available in your league, which he should not be, go get him. He had 24 carries for 116 yards Sunday vs. the Colts - tied for third most in the league in carries Sunday behind Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson's 25. Houston travels to Miami, which possesses a solid secondary, and the Texans may lean on the run game even more.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets
The old man is done. Yeah, right. Until the Jets prove they are committed to Shonn Greene (10 carries for 26 yards vs. Dallas), then LT needs to be on a roster. He had seven targets, six catches for 73 yards and 16 yards on five carries. He scored 12.9 points in our format, certainly worthy of a flex spot.
Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson (quad) is unlikely to play and the Rams travel to play the Giants on Monday night. Also lost was WR Danny Amendola (elbow). Williams will be a great PPR play. He had nine targets in the passing game, catching five for 49 yards to go along with 19 carries for 93 yards.
Ricky Williams, Baltimore
Williams wasn't the vulture just yet, but he did get 12 carries for 63 yards (5.3 YPC) against Pittsburgh Sunday, the No. 1 run defense in the league. He also received two targets in the passing game, catching one for four yards. If he's getting 13 touches a game, and producing, he's maybe more than just a handcuff if he can start scoring.
Anthony Armstrong, Washington
He has a good rapport with Rex Grossman. He was targeted two times in the red zone, catching both, including one for a score. The Redskins draw the Cardinals terrible pass defense this week.
Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay
Forgotten by many after his ACL injury and the emergence of Dez Briscoe in the preseason, but Benn is the No. 2 WR on this team. He was targets seven times, catching four for 27 yards Sunday. These are not great numbers at all, but it's worth noting that he was looked at seven times; that's more targets than any game last season.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego
He may be the fourth option in the passing game as he sits behind Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson and maybe even Mike Tolbert at the rate he was going Sunday. But Floyd did receive the second-most targets (8) against the Vikings against Jackson's three. If you have the room, save a space for Floyd or at least monitor his use vs. that of Tolbert and Jackson's.
Jabar Gaffney, Washington
He is on this list for two reasons: Rex Grossman and Arizona's pass defense. Gaffney and Grossman were teammates at the University of Florida and the Cardinals' defense, or lack thereof, has already been well documented. Gaffney received seven targets from Grossman Sunday, catching three of them for 54 yards and a red zone score.
Brandon Gibson, St. Louis
He was already a starter, but perhaps a draft casualty due to all of us waiting to see just how the Rams' WR corps shook out. Well, the favorite son of the WR corps, Danny Amendola (elbow) is now gone for an what should be an extended period of time. Gibson received five targets, catching three for 50 yards Sunday vs. Philadelphia. Expect his workload to increase.
Devery Henderson, New Orleans
Marques Colston is out for at least a month (shoulder) and Lance Moore is nursing a groin injury. Drew Brees needs pass catchers, and Henderson certainly proved capable with a nine target night Thursday against the Packers, converting them into six catches for 100 yards and a TD. Chicago has the LBs to handle the Saints run game, so New Orleans will need to go to the air for offense.
Jacoby Jones, Houston
Kevin Walter may or may not be out for some time (collarbone) and the Texans face a Dolphins team that just gave up 517 passing yards to the Patriots on Monday night. Jones has never really been a consistent fantasy option, partly because of his play and partly because of the presence of Walter. He is certainly worth an add now, and if he continues his special teams performance (91 return yards, including a 79-yard punt return for a score Sunday vs. the Colts) then consider that icing on the cake. He caught all three targets on Sunday for 43 yards.
David Nelson and Donald Jones, Buffalo
The Bills have to go somewhere else besides Steve Johnson, right? And Chan Gailey's strange Week 1 infatuation with the TE (Scott Chandler catching all five targets for 63 yards and a score) can't be real, right? Maybe Buffalo can go with just these two, considering Fitzpatrick threw for just 208 yards Sunday and won big. Nelson caught four of six targets for 66 yards. Jones caught just two of five targets for a measly three yards but a TD as well. Also to note: Jones had one less target than both Johnson and Nelson, and played more snaps than both — Jones 63, Johnson 59, Nelson 36, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Plus, Marcus Easley (undisclosed illness) was placed on IR Tuesday.
Greg Salas, St. Louis
Danny Amendola was supposed to be the "new Wes Welker" for 2011. Now he's out and someone has to slide into that slot role. Amendola receivied six targets for five catches and 43 yards before the injury Sunday. Salas, a rookie from Hawaii, is taller and bigger than Amendola — 6-1, 210 compared to 5-10, 186 — and he was a scorer in college, registering 22 TDs his final two seasons.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh
Antonio Who? Brown, the darling of the preseason, had two catches for 14 yards and 110 return yards for 5.1 fantasy points. Sanders, who was out for a majority of the preseason (foot), resumed his role as the No. 3 WR and garnered just three targets, but more importantly, two of them were in the red zone. He converted one of the two into a touchdown and finished with two catches for 20 yards, the score and nine fantasy points. Consider the Ravens game an anomaly regarding the Steelers' offense; Sanders will play a vital role for the rest of the season.
Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati
Remember him? The stud from the end of last season in Cincinnati? Well, he sort of returned Sunday vs. Cleveland. He was the most targeted player for the Bengals (9). He did little with them (4-44) but keep an eye on him as Cincy heads to play a Denver team that allowed Oakland to rush for 190 yards and might try to shore that up and see if rookie QB Andy Dalton or Bruce Gradkowski can beat it.
Fred Davis, Washington
Even with Chris Cooley in the lineup, Davis had six targets, five catches and 105 yards. And we can't stress it enough: the Cardinals are coming to town,
Ed Dickson, Baltimore
He caught all five of his targets for a total of 59 yards and a score. Two of the five targets and catches came in the red zone.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta
Gonzalez did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
He was the second-most targeted Bengal against the Browns as the second-year player caught six of eight targets for 58 yards and a score. Only one target came in the red zone, which he scored off of, but he was being utilized outside the 20 as well.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets
It took a while for Mark Sanchez to target Keller (1:51 left in the first half), but he wound up with eight targets, three in the red zone and caught five balls for 61 yards and a score. Sanchez spreads it around, targeting at least four players seven times on Sunday, but Keller should be a red zone favorite. Plus, Jacksonville comes to town Sunday. Yum.
Evan Moore and Benjamin Watson, Cleveland
A sleeper in the preseason, Moore caught three of his targets, but two of those targets came in the red zone, which he converted one of into a score. Watson was targeted seven times, catching three for 45 yards, including a 34-yard TD. The Browns get the Colts this week, and if they try to focus on shutting down RB Peyton Hillis, Moore and Watson could feast on a Indy defense that was 11th-worst against the TE last year at 9.6 fantasy points per game.
Greg Olsen, Carolina
Olsen kept his solid preseason going into Week 1, catching four of six targets for 78 yards. Carolina gets Green Bay this week, and the Packers have more than enough players to cover WR Steve Smith. Also, assuming the Panthers get blown out, Olsen may find some seams down the middle late in the game to get some late trash points (a la Jimmy Graham for New Orleans vs. the Packers last week).
Leonard Pope, Kansas City
Like McCluster, Pope may benefit from the Chiefs needing to find offense from somewhere. Pope stepped in for Tony Moeaki (lost for the year after an ACL injury) and caught three of six targets for 24 yards and had a 19-yard TD catch called back.
- Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Here are some numbers that stood out to me from the Week 1 action that's already happened.
-2 How many owners were screaming at the final play of Sunday night's Cowboys-Jets game when Felix Jones was the last to touch the ball? He was the last of many to lateral the ball as the Cowboys tried to score on the final play from their own 34. And Jones' last touch ended up in the hands of Jets DL Jamaal Westerman. The result will be minus-2 points in many fantasy leagues for the fumble lost by Jones, and perhaps the difference in a win or loss come Tuesday morning.
1 - Targets Green Bay Packers WR James Jones received Thursday night in 20 snaps of action. He turned it into one catch for one yard. Why did he re-sign with the Packers again? Was it just to jumble this receiving corps up even more for fantasy owners?
4 & 1 - Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams and Houston's Andre Johnson were each targeted a league-high four times in the red zone. Johnson caught two of his, including one for a score. Williams caught one of his for a score.
5 - We're down on Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez this year because his numbers have declined. However, he did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
9.75 - Yards per attempt for Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He was still sacked five times, which puts him on pace for 80 this season — well above his league-leading 56 last year.
12 - DeSean Jackson, more known for what he is able to do with limited targets, was the go-to guy for Mike Vick Sunday against St. Louis. Jackson was targeted 96 times over 14 games last season for a 6.9 per game average. Sunday, he was targeted 12 times, one behind league leader Roddy White (ATL). Jackson caught six of the targets for 102 yards and a score. He was targeted double-digit times in just three games last season, including the 2010 opener (11), but keep an eye on this trend as it pertains to how Vick sees the field. TE Brent Celek and WR Jeremy Maclin received just three targets apiece.
13 - The Titans ran the ball just 13 times against Jacksonville, and fell to 0-12 all-time when they have rushed 13 times or fewer. Only three times in Jeff Fisher's tenure did the team run 13 times or less.
21.9 - Wes Welker enters Week 2 with his yards per catch nearly double his career average of 10.9 after an eight-catch, 160-yard performance Monday night against Miami. He was at 9.2 before a 99-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He also has his average targets per game well above last year's average of 8.2 after Tom Brady went his way 12 times. That's a good sign for Welker owners as he is still a favorite option despite so many mouths to feed.
21.9 - Fantasy points New Orleans Saints RB/return man Darren Sproles had Thursday night. He tied for the team lead in targets (9) and turned it into seven catches for 75 yards to go with two carries for seven yards. On special teams, he had two punt returns for 92 yards, including a 72-yard TD return, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards.
25 - Matthew Stafford was 18-of-25 for 265 yards, two TDs and an interception by halftime. He went 6-of-8 in the second half with 40 more yards and a score. He had already targeted WR Calvin Johnson seven times, TE Brandon Pettigrew six times and Nate Burleson four times in the first half.
25 - Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson led the league with 25 carries apiece on Sunday. Hightower went for 72 yards and a score with his; Benson scored as well, on a 39-yard run, rushing for 121 yards. Hightower added three catches for 25 yards; Benson had one catch for 2 yards. 18.8 fantasy points for Benson, 18.2 for Higtower.
39 - Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards. ... Has that sunk in yet? He threw for 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception and added 32 yards rushing for a fantasy day of 9.76 points. It's going to be hard for Adrian Peterson, who miraculously had 98 yards on 16 carries, to consistently find any running room with McNabb stretching the field to the tune of 39 yards.
46 - Denver QB Kyle Orton attempted 46 passes in Monday night's loss to Oakland. And it was not all in the second half as the Broncos attempted to come back. The Broncos ran 33 first-half plays, traling by no more than 10 points, yet 23 of those 33 plays were pass attempts by Orton. He attempted 46 or more passes just twice last season under Josh McDaniels. So just because John Fox came to town, and many worried that the forward pass would cease to exist, Orton should still be slinging the ball.
71 - Dallas WR Dez Bryant had three catches for 71 yards and a score in the first quarter. The first two catches and the score came against New York Jets DB Antonio Cromartie, the final catch, a 26-yard play down the sidelines came against Darrelle Revis. It was the last catch of the night for Bryant, despite five more targets.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
What was sorely missing from the Colts shellacking at the hands of the Texans on Sunday was the camera cutting to a dejected, neck halo-wearing Peyton Manning. This game would have been much, much more entertaining if the camera kept showing Peyton Manning in the owner's booth, trying to stay as calm as possible and not rip the bolts out of his head. Since we don't have that shot, here are a few images of what Peyton Manning probably looks like right now.
An artist's rendition of Peyton Manning in his neck halo:
Ron Jaworski accidentally said the word "shit" during the live broadcast of the Patriots at Dolphins Monday Night Football game last night. Chad Henne missed a pass down the right sideline and as Ron was breaking down the mistake that Henne made, he let the s-word slip out. The transcript of what Jaws said was:
"That was one Chad would love to have back. He knew he had the one-on-one matchup going down the right sideline. Shit, you have to get rid of this ball just a split second quicker. You'll see it here."
Ron has apologized, but does anyone really care? In fact, if I'd like to see more swearing during broadcasts instead of less. In this day and age of reality TV, I'd like to hear what these commentators really think, in the language they would use if they were sitting in a locker room. I think it would probably sound something like this:
"Chad Henne is a piece of $&%# quarterback who will never lead the @&%#$% Dolphins anywhere. Can you believe this %&#@ is actually a %!*%$* NFL Quarterback? What %*%#@(% gave him a job? That %&@$* should be %&^#(@ fired right &^$(%&@ now. Back to you Mike."
Multiple stories about the San Francisco 49ers' 33-17 Week 1 victory over the Seattle Seahawks mention kick returner Ted Ginn Jr.'s returning a kickoff and punt for touchdowns in the same game.
Ginn became the 12th player in pro football history to accomplish that feat with his 102-yard kickoff and 55-yard punt return in a 59-second span of Sunday's season opener.
A much less publicized achievement is that the game was Ginn's second with multiple kick return touchdowns. Ginn took two kickoffs to the house against the New York Jets on November 1, 2009.
With his miraculous minute against the Seahawks, Ginn became only the sixth player in league history to have two different games of multiple kick-return touchdowns.
Devin Hester was the last to join that club when he returned a punt and kickoff against Denver on November 25, 2007.
Ginn is only the second player to have his two different double-TD games as a member of different teams.
The six repeat scorers:
DB Jack Christiansen, Detroit
October 14, 1951 vs. Los Angeles Rams
November 22, 1951 vs. Green Bay
RB Travis Williams, Green Bay
November 12, 1967 vs. Cleveland
November 2, 1969 vs. Pittsburgh
RB/WR Eric Metcalf
October 24, 1993 vs. Pittsburgh (with Cleveland Browns)
November 2, 1997 vs. Cincinnati (with San Diego Chargers)
WR Jermaine Lewis, Baltimore
December 7, 1997 vs. Seattle
December 24, 2000 vs. New York Jets
WR Devin Hester, Chicago
December 11, 2006 vs. St. Louis Rams
November 25, 2007 vs. Denver
WR Ted Ginn, Jr.
November 1, 2009 vs. New York Jets (with Miami Dolphins)
September 11, 2011 vs. Seattle (with San Francisco 49ers)
The 12 players to score punt and kickoff touchdowns in the same game:
Jimmy Patton (NY Giants) October 30, 1955 vs. Washington
Bobby Mitchell (Cleveland) November 23, 1958 vs. Philadelphia
Al Frazier (Denver) December 3, 1961 vs. Boston Patriots
Gale Sayers (Chicago) December 3, 1967 vs. San Francisco
Travis Williams (Green Bay) November 2, 1969 vs. Pittsburgh
Eddie Payton (Detroit) December 17, 1977 vs. Minnesota
Michael Lewis (New Orleans) October 13, 2002 vs. Washington
Dante Hall (Kansas City) December 8, 2002 vs. St. Louis Rams
Darren Sproles (San Diego) November 11, 2007 vs. Indianapolis
Devin Hester (Chicago) November 25, 2007 vs. Denver
Eddie Royal (Denver) October 19, 2009 vs. San Diego
Ted Ginn Jr. (San Francisco) September 11, 2011 vs. Seattle
--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)