Articles By All
Teams that were on the opposite sides of comebacks last week will put the finishing touches on Week 3 when the Chicago Bears take on the New York Jets on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Chicago trailed by 17 points in San Francisco last week before Jay Cutler rallied his troops to an improbable 28-20 win in the first-ever game at Levi’s Stadium. New York built an 18-point lead on Green Bay at Lambeau Field only to watch Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson bring the Packers all the way back and win 31-24.
The Bears have beaten the Jets the last three times these two teams have played, the most recent a 38-34 victory in Chicago in 2010.
Chicago Bears at New York Jets
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: New York -2.5
Three Things to Watch
|Chicago 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs BUF||L 20 - 23||Recap|
|9/14||@ SF||W 28 - 20||Recap|
|9/22||@ NYJ||W 27 - 19||Recap|
|9/28||vs GB||L 17 - 38||Recap|
1. A Funny Thing Happened in the Second Quarter…
The second quarter last week proved to be the turning point for both Chicago and New York in their respective matchups. The Bears trailed San Francisco 17-0 with a little more than two minutes until halftime in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd in the 49ers’ first-ever game at Levi’s Stadium. The Jets raced out to a 21-3 lead on Green Bay less than five minutes into the second quarter in front of a stunned Packer fan base at Lambeau Field. After that, however, the momentum dramatically shifted, taking the direction of each game with it. In San Francisco, Jay Cutler and the Bears took full advantage of counterpart Colin Kaepernick’s four turnovers, as the visitors scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to shock the 49ers 28-20. In Green Bay, the Packers turned things around quickly, scoring 21 unanswered points before putting the Jets away thanks to an Aaron Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson 80-yard touchdown. The comeback victory wasn’t secure, however, until a potential game-tying touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Jeremy Kerley was negated due to an inopportune timeout called from the Jets’ sideline. The chaos of that fateful series only added to the sting the Jets felt afterwards knowing they let a golden opportunity to get a huge road win slip away. The Bears meanwhile enter this game riding high with the confidence gained from coming back last week on the road against a playoff team, especially since it followed a lackluster performance in their season-opening overtime loss to the Bills at home. NFL players are taught to have short memories, but one can’t help but wonder if what transpired last week will carry over into tonight, whether that be in a negative or positive way.
|New York (AFC) 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs OAK||W 19 - 14||Recap|
|9/14||@ GB||L 24 - 31||Recap|
|9/22||vs CHI||L 19 - 27||Recap|
|9/28||vs DET||L 17 - 24||Recap|
2. Monday Night is Geno’s Night?
Now in his second pro season, Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith is 9-9 in 18 career starts with an unimpressive 14:23 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The good news for Smith, and hopefully his team and Jets fans, is that the young signal-caller is 1-0 on Monday nights. Last season, Smith and the Jets traveled to Atlanta to face the Falcons in Week 5. Taking the “Monday Night Football” national stage for the first time, Smith put together by far the best game of his short career. Even though he finished with just 199 passing yards, Smith completed 80 percent of his passes (16 of 20) and tossed a career-best three touchdowns with no interceptions. To put this into perspective, consider that in his 17 other starts, Smith has thrown twice as many picks (23) as touchdowns (11). New York would beat Atlanta 30-28 on a 43-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired, and the win still stands as Smith’s high-water mark thus far. Case in point: over the next seven games after the win in Atlanta, Smith completed less than half of his passes and posted an ugly 1:11 TD:INT ratio, along with two rushing scores and two lost fumbles. Not surprisingly, the Jets went 2-5 during this stretch. With consistent play clearly being an issue for Smith, the question becomes can he rediscover the form he flashed on this same stage nearly a year ago and run his Monday night record to 2-0?
3. Chicago’s Offensive Forté
Last week was all about Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, as the Bears’ quarterback-wide receiver tandem produced three of the four touchdowns scored against the 49ers. Marshall isn’t the only weapon at Cutler’s disposal, however, as fellow wideout Alshon Jeffery (1,421 yards, 7 TDs in 2013) and tight end Martellus Bennett (2 TDs this season) are equally capable targets. That said, the primary engine to Chicago’s offense is running back Matt Forté. A 1,000-yard rusher who also is one of the NFL’s most dangerous receivers out of the backfield, Forté amassed 1,933 yards from scrimmage, caught 74 passes and scored 12 total touchdowns last season. The two-time Pro Bowler has gotten off to a slow start thus far, with just 205 total yards and no touchdowns after two games. San Francisco did a really good job of bottling Forté up last week (29 total yards on 17 carries) and that will be New York’s challenge tonight. To their credit, the Jets have been very good in both facets of the running game, leading the NFL in both rushing offense (179.0 ypg) and defense (52.5 ypg). Chicago has proven it can win without a significant contribution from its do-everything back, but when the Bears get Forté going early, it only makes this fast-paced, attacking offense that much more dangerous.
Chicago enters this one with plenty of momentum following last week’s comeback win in San Francisco. New York is still picking up the pieces of the golden opportunity it let slip by after coughing up a big lead at Green Bay and then getting in its own way late in the game. The Bears’ offense clicked late against the 49ers and that’s without any significant contribution from Matt Forté. The Jets have a good defense, have been running the ball extremely well, and are generally a tough out at home, but I think the Bears have too much size and too much firepower on offense for Rex Ryan’s team to contend with. Geno Smith and the Jets hang tough, but Jay Cutler connects on some big plays in the second half, as Chicago carries over its road success from one coast to the other.
Prediction: Chicago 27, New York 20
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 3 of the NFL season:
After falling 26-20 to Seattle Sunday, Denver is 0-3 in overtime games, including playoffs, since Peyton Manning joined the team in 2012. The Seahawks are 4-0 in overtime the last three seasons, the most OT wins in the NFL over that span. Sunday was the first overtime in NFL history featuring the participants from the previous season's Super Bowl. There has still been no Super Bowl OT. Tim Tebow was 4-0 in OT games as the Broncos' QB in 2011 alone.
A week after throwing a 50-yard pass, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu threw a scoring TD pass. His 18-yard touchdown to quarterback Andy Dalton made Sanu the only player in NFL history with no incompletions, 2+ touchdown passes, and 150+ passing yards. He is 4-for-4, having completed one pass in each of his first two years, including a 73-yard TD as a rookie, and is 2-for-2 this year for 68 yards and a score. Sanu has thrown for 166 yards for his career.
Green Bay only managed to move across midfield three times in a 19-7 loss to Detroit, tying the fewest times the Packers have driven into opposing territory in any of the 97 games quarterback Aaron Rodgers has started.
With four catches against the Giants, Texans receiver Andre Johnson moved ahead of Art Monk and tied Derrick Mason for 12th on the all-time catch list (943). Passing Andre Reed (951) is the next rung in the all-time ladder for Johnson.
Philadelphia became the seventh team in league history to trail after the first quarter of its first three games and win all three. The last team to do this was the 1999 New England Patriots. Philadelphia has trailed by 14, 4, and 7 after each of the first quarters this season. The Eagles are also the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 after trailing by 10+ points in all three games.
In leading Seattle to the game's first touchdown in a 26-20 overtime win over Denver, quarterback Russell Wilson snapped a streak of 10 straight incompletions on throws of 30+ yards with his 39-yard scoring pass to Ricardo Lockett. The late second-quarter TD proved to be the game-winner.
When Dallas erased a 21-0 deficit to knock off St. Louis 34-31 in Week 3, it marked the fourth time this season a team has overcome a deficit of at least 17 points to win. Philadelphia, Chicago, and Green Bay have also come back from 17+ down. That is tied with 2011 for the most through the first three weeks of the season since the 1970 merger. Dallas also tied its largest comeback in franchise history.
Devin Hester of the Falcons set an NFL record with the 20th touchdown return of his career during his team's win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night. The previous record was held by Deoin Sanders.
With a 101-yard receiving game at Cleveland Sunday, Steve Smith now has 25 career 100-yard receiving games on the road. Only Jerry Rice (39) and Marvin Harrison (26) have more since 1960. Smith passed Randy Moss, Isaac Bruce, Michael Irvin and Terrell Owens. The five catches for 101 yards pushed Smith to 290 yards for the season, the most by a player in the first three games with the franchise since Anquan Boldin's 287.
Arizona moved to 3-0 with a 23-14 victory against San Francisco in Week 3, and for the third straight week, the Cardinals had a shutout in the fourth quarter. Arizona has now outscored its opponents 30-0 in the final 15 minutes. San Francisco, which has outscored its opponents 55-37 in the first three quarters of the first three games, has been outscored 31-0 in the fourth quarter.
With his 81-yard touchdown catch against Philadelphia in Week 3, Washington's DeSean Jackson is only the third player in NFL history with an 80-yard TD catch both for and against his team. Jackson had an 88-yard TD catch for the Eagles against the Redskins on Nov. 15, 2010. He joins Charlie Joiner and Art Powell in pulling off the rare feat.
Tom Brady has an 85 percent completion rate when throwing to receiver Julian Edelman. The longtime Patriots quarterback is completing just 51 percent of his passes when throwing to anyone else.
Speaking of Brady, he nabbed his 150th career victory with Sunday’s win over Oakland. Brady joins Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning (169) as the only quarterbacks to accomplish the feat.
With a 370-yard, four-touchdown day through the air against Jacksonville, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck (31-39-0) became the first Colts quarterback with 350+ yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 75+ completion percentage in a game since Johnny Unitas did so in 1967.
By Corby A. Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing CFB Stats from Week 4
6: Consecutive Games Where Virginia Tech Loses At Least 2 Turnovers
After Virginia Tech’s 35-21 win at Ohio State in Week 2, most expected the Hokies would emerge as the clear frontrunner in the Coastal Division. Two weeks later, it’s probably time to re-evaluate the Hokies. Virginia Tech has lost back-to-back games, largely due to the turnover battle. The Hokies have lost at least two turnovers in six consecutive games, including two contests in 2014 by giving away three turnovers. In Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech lost three and only forced one. Dating back to 2008, the Hokies have only streak longer than three games of losing at least two turnovers in a single contest.
47: Missouri’s Streak of Forcing Turnovers in Consecutive Games Ends
Missouri’s 31-27 loss to Indiana was one of the most surprising results of Week 4. The Hoosiers were coming off a loss to Bowling Green, while the Tigers looked impressive in three consecutive victories to open the season. But Missouri couldn’t stop Indiana’s ground attack (241) yards and failed to force a turnover for the first time in 47 games. Coming into Week 4, the Tigers created at least two turnovers in five consecutive contests. However, Missouri’s defense struggled without end Markus Golden and did not force a turnover for the first time since Oct. 16, 2010 when the Tigers won 30-9 at Texas A&M.
374: ECU QB Shane Carden’s Average Passing Yards Against Last 4 ACC Opponents
The Pirates have emerged as the top team from the Group of Five this year. East Carolina has defeated Virginia Tech and North Carolina to key a solid 3-1 start to 2014. Quarterback Shane Carden headlines an offense averaging 43.3 points per game and 7.5 yards per play. In Carden’s last four games against ACC opponents (all victories), he’s thrown for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Carden also threw for 300 yards in a 33-23 loss to South Carolina in Week 2.
3: Wisconsin Rushers With At Least 100 Yards Against Bowling Green
Question marks remain about Wisconsin’s passing attack, but the rushing game is in midseason form. The Badgers gashed Bowling Green for 644 yards in Saturday’s 68-17 victory, averaging a monstrous 10.7 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s 644 yards were a school record, and three players – Melvin Gordon (RB), Tanner McEvoy (QB) and Corey Clement (RB) all finished with more than 100 yards. After Saturday’s game, the Badgers lead the nation by averaging 7.8 yards per rush attempt in 2014.
570: Most Total Yards Allowed by LSU Since 2001
The final score was misleading (34-29), as Mississippi State dominated LSU in Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs recorded 570 total yards against the Tigers (most in Les Miles era), the most allowed by the Tigers defense since giving up 632 to Florida in 2001. The 570 yards were also only the fourth time LSU has allowed at least 500 yards in a game over the last four years. Total yardage totals are often misleading, but a deeper look shows just how dominant the Bulldogs were. Mississippi State averaged 7.8 yards per play and 6.2 yards per rush and had two scoring plays of at least 50 yards. LSU’s defense is young and will improve over the course of the season. However, the Bulldogs dominated in the trenches – a place where the Tigers are usually strong.
0: Florida Points Not Scored Off Alabama Turnovers
Similar to the Mississippi State-LSU game, the Alabama-Florida final score was deceiving. Sure, 42-21 is a one-sided affair, but the Gators struggled mightily on offense outside of three Alabama turnovers that were converted into scores. None of Florida’s drives lasted longer than seven plays or 31 yards. The Gators also had five three-and-outs, completed just nine passes and went 2 of 13 on third-down attempts. Offense was a hot topic in Gainesville this offseason, and new coordinator Kurt Roper was brought in to utilize the talents of quarterback Jeff Driskel. Alabama’s defense is one of the best in the nation, but the Gators still have major question marks to address on offense as the heart of SEC play approaches.
432.5: Rushing Yards Averaged by Boston College in Last 2 Games
Total yardage can be deceiving. But don’t be fooled when looking at the box scores for Boston College over the last two weeks. The Eagles returned only three new starters on offense but have already established their identity as a power running team once again. Boston College recorded 452 yards against USC in Week 3 and 413 yards on the ground against Maine last Saturday, giving the Eagles a 432.5 average over the last two weeks. Steve Addazio’s team has rushed for at least 338 yards in three games this year and has 13 of the 16 offensive touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Murphy leads the team with 500 yards, but there’s a host of talented young rushers contributing, including Jon Hilliman (241 yards) and Myles Willis (208 yards).
0: Michigan Drives Against Power 5 Teams to Reach Redzone in 2014
Brady Hoke’s future in Ann Arbor hinges on how far new coordinator Doug Nussmeier can develop the offense this year. So far, the results aren’t encouraging. Michigan is averaging just 24 points per game and recorded just 4.3 yards per play against Notre Dame and 4.1 against Utah. The Wolverines are a -10 in turnover margin, with six interceptions coming from quarterback Devin Gardner. The rushing attack has struggled against Power 5 opponents (218 yards on 71 attempts), but an even bigger concern is Michigan’s inability to get into the redzone. Against the Utes and Fighting Irish, the Wolverines did not advance into the redzone and scored a combined 10 points in those two contests.
36: Points Scored by Arizona in Fourth Quarter Against Cal
Plenty of points were expected in Saturday’s California-Arizona game, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the Golden Bears only led the Wildcats 31-13 at the end of the third quarter. So much for offense, right? One quarter later, the shootout everyone expected finally started. The Wildcats and Golden Bears combined for 50 points in the fourth quarter, with Arizona recording 36 in a crazy 49-45 victory. Quarterback Anu Solomon connected with receiver Austin Hill on a 47-yard pass on the final play to win.
2: Alabama QBs to Throw for 400 Yards in a Game
In Saturday’s 42-21 victory over Florida, Blake Sims became just the second quarterback in Alabama history to record 400 passing yards in a game. Sims completed 23 of 33 passes for 445 yards and four scores and averaged 19.3 yards per completion. The strong performance by the senior should end any question marks about who should be the starting quarterback in Tuscaloosa. Scott Hunter (1969) is the only other quarterback in Crimson Tide history to throw for 400 yards in a game.
Other Stats to Know
* Auburn recorded 359 total yards in Thursday night’s win over Kansas State. That’s the lowest mark in Gus Malzahn’s two seasons as the Tigers’ head coach.
* Oklahoma freshman running back Samaje Perine rushed for 242 yards in Saturday’s 45-33 win over West Virginia. He’s the first Sooner to rush for 200 yards in a game since DeMarco Murray in 2010.
* Florida’s struggles weren’t limited just to its offense against Alabama. The Gators allowed 645 yards to the Crimson Tide – the most in school history.
* Tulane attempted six fourth-down conversions in Saturday’s loss to Duke. That’s more than Florida State had all of last season (four).
* Georgia averaged nine yards per play in Saturday’s 66-0 win over Troy.
* 226 of LSU’s 430 yards came in the fourth quarter in Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State. The Tigers also averaged 2.5 yards per carry. That’s the second time this year that LSU has averaged less than 2.8 yards per carry in a game.
* Penn State rushed for 228 yards in Saturday’s win over UMass. The one-game total against the Minutemen topped Penn State’s season total prior to Week 4 – 227 yards.
* North Carolina’s defense allowed a school-record 789 yards in Saturday’s 70-41 loss to East Carolina.
* After a slow start, Washington’s defense stepped up in the second half of Saturday’s win against Georgia State. The Huskies allowed 219 yards through the first two quarters but held the Panthers to just 44 in the second half.
* Receiver Tyler Boyd has accounted for 21 of Pittsburgh’s 51 receptions in 2014.
* Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has passed for 300 yards in back-to-back games.
* Syracuse outgained Maryland 569 to 369 but lost 34-20. Why? The Orange lost two turnovers, missed field goal, had a punt blocked, and the Terrapins returned an interception for a score.
* Cincinnati recorded eight sacks in Saturday’s 31-24 win over Miami (Ohio).
* Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is averaging 16.3 yards per touch (15) this year.
* Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce set a school record with 13 catches in Saturday’s win over Hawaii.
* Virginia Tech has lost back-to-back home games for the first time since 1995.
* Eastern Michigan had more turnovers (6) than first downs (5) in Satudray’s 73-14 loss to Michigan State.
* Virginia recorded 35 first downs in Saturday’s loss to BYU. That’s the most the Cavaliers have posted in a single game under coach Mike London.
* Cal averaged 8.0 yards per play against Arizona – yet still lost 49-45 to the Wildcats.
* Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon fumbled for the first time in 322 attempts in Saturday’s win over Bowling Green.
* Marshall scored on five of its first six possessions against Akron.
* Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 275 yards in Saturday’s 28-7 win over San Diego State. Mannion now has 11,339 career passing yards, ranking No. 1 in school history.
* Indiana converted only one third-down attempt in Saturday’s win over Missouri (1 of 14).
* Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas accounted for 290 of the 375 yards by the Yellow Jackets in the 27-24 win over Virginia Tech.
* Temple set a school record with a 59-point margin of victory in Saturday’s win against Delaware State.
* Vanderbilt averaged 6.9 yards per play in Saturday’s 48-34 loss to South Carolina. That’s the highest per play average for the Commodores in SEC play since averaging 9.3 yards per play against Kentucky in 2006.
* West Virginia receiver Kevin White has at least nine catches in every game this year.
* Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida has averaged at least eight yards per carry in four straight games. Breida has 454 yards (ranks No. 1 in Sun Belt) and seven scores for the Eagles in 2014.
* Minnesota quarterback Chris Streveler completed just one pass in Saturday’s win over San Jose State. Streveler also completed one pass to the other team (1 INT).
* Thanks to a 47-13 win over Tulane, Duke is 4-0 for the first time since 1994.
* UConn’s offense struggled mightily in Friday night’s loss to South Florida. The Huskies went 0-9 on third-down conversions, finished with 145 total yards and had eight drives that lasted just three plays. 75 of UConn’s yards occurred on the final drive of the game.
* Alabama tight end O.J. Howard finally caught his first pass of the 2014 season against Florida. The sophomore finished with two catches for 22 yards in the 42-21 win.
* Northwestern defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo forced three fumbles in Saturday’s win over Western Illinois.
* 242 of Wyoming’s 334 yards came on its three scoring drives. The Cowboys used a 91-yard drive with less than two minutes remaining to defeat FAU.
* 121 of Northwestern’s 166 rushing yards came via true freshmen Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault.
* ODU won its C-USA debut by hitting a last-second field goal to defeat Rice. The Monarchs averaged 8.3 yards per play on just 64 plays.
* Texas A&M averaged 9.8 yards per play in Saturday’s easy 58-6 win over SMU.
* Western Michigan true freshman running back Jarvion Franklin has at least 163 rushing yards in all three games this year.
* Washington quarterback Cyler Miles has not thrown an interception in 71 attempts this season.
No. 20 Ohio State enters 2014-15 without trusty point guard Aaron Craft. Thad Matta, as usual, has a plan with players like Shannon Scott and transfer Anthony Lee ready to take the next step for a Big Ten contender.
The Ohio State edition is one of dozens available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere this week.
To say that Thad Matta has given Ohio State 10 good years is to give short shrift to a Hall of Famer in waiting. He never gets labeled as the premier coach in the business, but the solid work and successful seasons roll on. Matta has racked up five Big Ten titles and a sparkling postseason record that includes four league tournament championships and a pair of appearances in the Final Four.
Still, OSU’s latest effort showed that even the elite programs are not immune to a subpar season.
The Buckeyes fell out of league contention and were dumped in their NCAA Tournament opener for just the third time in program history. Adding insult was the fact that the season-ending loss came at the hands of in-state foe Dayton.
Regaining some mojo won’t be easy with catalyst and defensive pest Aaron Craft among OSU’s three departed starters. Still, Matta knows how to reload and find lofty results.
“When I came here, our goal was to try to build a top-10 college basketball program — not that you’re going to win the thing every year but be in the hunt,” the coach says.
No. 20 Ohio State Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10, 10-8 Big Ten
Postseason: NCAA round of 64
Consecutive NCAAs: 6
Coach: Thad Matta (275-83 at Ohio State, 121-53 Big Ten)
Big Ten Projection: Fourth
Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32
Amir Williams and Trey McDonald are seniors, but Matta has bolstered the interior both in the short term and for the future. Along with landing in-state prospect David Bell and accepting a transfer from former Virginia Tech center Trevor Thompson, the Buckeyes have welcomed senior Anthony Lee, a sturdy 6’9’’ graduate transfer from Temple who figures to be an immediate top option in the post.
Williams and McDonald were largely ineffective last season, combining for less than 10 points and eight rebounds per game. Lee should approach that productivity by himself. He averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds at Temple last season; the latter figure led the American Athletic Conference.
The 6’11” Thompson will have to sit out this season but the coaches are excited to have an athletic big man who showed flashes last season — like when he scored 15 points at Duke. He will have three years of eligibility.
Newcomer Keita Bates-Diop is a skilled combo forward who should help OSU on both ends of the court. The similarly built Marc Loving also shows promise, but he hit the freshman wall last season with eight scoreless games in February and March combined.
Despite his 6’4” frame, freshman Jae’Sean Tate is a junkyard dog capable of fitting in at forward. He’s a willing defender who has a knack for tracking down rebounds and loose balls.
The senior sendoff for Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. was both a joyous occasion and sad reminder that the program would have to move on without two proven warriors. They set the defensive tone and won at a high rate, even for the Matta era.
Fortunately, Shannon Scott will be comfortable taking over full-time duties at point guard, Sam Thompson could be ready for an all-league senior season on the wing, and the Buckeyes are blessed with two dynamic young talents at shooting guard in freshmen D’Angelo Russell and Kam Williams.
Scott’s numbers from last season, projected over 40 minutes, basically mirror Craft’s. Plus, he is a two-time member of the Big Ten All-Defensive Team. OSU’s leading returning scorer (7.9 ppg last season), Thompson also is a topflight defender and premier athlete. He isn’t likely to double his point production and replace LaQuinton Ross’ output, but he is capable of becoming a consistent double-figure scorer.
Williams was slowed by mononucleosis in preseason camp and ended up sitting out last season. Still, those who observed practice believe he could be an instant factor. Russell, meanwhile, may be the key to the entire campaign. The Louisville native won a national title at the prep level last spring and appears to be just the type of alpha male this team needs.
The Buckeyes are an interesting collection of talent. Matta’s roster is devoid of superstars — at least at the moment — but is deeper and more dangerous-looking than a year ago. Plus, Ohio State should be hungrier after a rare flameout in the NCAA Tournament. Thompson and Scott must embrace leadership, Lee needs to be a board-eater, and someone else, most likely Russell, has to show he can make winning plays. If it all falls in place, watch out.
Anthony Lee is a pest on the boards who often gets to the foul line because of his activity. He’s already slotted in at power forward. A smooth lefty, D’Angelo Russell just needs to show his skills translate. Keita Bates-Diop can shoot and pass effectively for his size and should fit OSU’s system. Jae’Sean Tate is a scrapper worthy of a role, while David Bell is a project who is likely to redshirt.
If this season is going to be different for Nebraska, how the Cornhuskers defeated Miami will be a good example why.
A Nebraska team the last few years that found it way to four losses or found itself combusting on the sideline on Saturday found itself settling into an identity and a 41-31 win.
At the same time, Miami gave Nebraska every excuse to lose its cool. Chippy play and personal foul penalties kept the game teetering on the very of a brawl.
“I thought it got a little out of control,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told the media. “I thought it could have been managed better. At the end of the day, there's going to be some of that. Two teams playing hard going after each other. But it got a little out of control there for a while."
Instead, Nebraska was in full control of its faculties.
In a key sequence in the fourth quarter, Miami, trailing by 10, was intercepted in Nebraska territory, picked up two personal fouls at the end of the play. With Nebraska on offense, Miami was called for a face mask penalty on a vicious takedown of running back Ameer Abdullah by the neck.
Abdullah finished the drive with 24 yards to set up the field goal to put it away.
Perhaps the only strange part of the game-sealing drives in the fourth quarter for Nebraska was their brevity.
The Cornhuskers looked like an old Nebraska team on the ground, at least as far as production.
By feeding Abdullah, Nebraska put together consecutive scoring drives of 14 plays for a touchdown, 11 plays for a field goal and another 11 for a touchdown.
Along the way Nebraska racked up 343 rushing yards, including 229 from the Heisman contender Abdullah.
The methodical and cool-headed approach means Nebraska will do something it hasn’t the last two seasons: Enter Big Ten play without a loss.
The last two seasons, Nebraska lost in September for UCLA, helping to set the tone for rocky years that both ended with four losses.
This season is starting to look like it might be different.
“I thought our guys handled themselves well in those times,” Pelini said. “There were a couple times where we had a chance. We didn't retaliate. We were basically pulling guys off. There was a chance it could have gotten out of control.”
Florida State’s 23-17 victory over Clemson without quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t pretty. In fact, one could make a compelling argument that the Tigers outplayed the Seminoles on Saturday night.
Florida State was outgained 407 to 318, averaged only 4.8 yards per play, lost the turnover battle (2 to 1), allowed five sacks and finished with just 13 yards on the ground.
Even if Clemson outplayed Florida State, the Seminoles picked up the only thing that mattered: The Victory.
College football’s new playoff format has created plenty of uncertainty in how the final four teams will be selected, but it’s safe to say – just like previous years – teams just need to survive and advance in order to be in a position to have a shot at a championship.
Florida State accomplished that goal on Saturday night, but coach Jimbo Fisher has plenty of work to do in the coming weeks.
An offensive line with five senior starters was expected to be the best in the nation. But through three games, Florida State is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and has allowed seven sacks. The Seminoles played two solid defensive fronts (Oklahoma State and Clemson), but the offensive line has underachieved.
Along with fixing the offensive line, Florida State needs more from its rushing attack. Karlos Williams was projected to be a breakout player in the preseason and has just 177 yards through three weeks. Williams, Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook are a capable trio, but the offensive line has to clear the way for the rushers.
Seniors Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary have dominated the stat sheet, catching 38 of the team’s 71 passes. In order for Florida State’s offense to reach last year’s levels, it needs more help from the No. 2 and No. 3 options at receiver. Will Jesus Wilson or Christian Green emerge? Or could talented freshmen like Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph work their way into more time as the season progresses?
Florida State’s defense stepped up late in Saturday’s game against Clemson, but this unit has clearly regressed since 2013.
New coordinator Charles Kelly had holes to fill at each level this preseason, and so far, the defense is a work in progress. The Seminoles are allowing 5.1 yards per play – a full yard increase from 2013.
The defense has recorded just two sacks and 15 tackles for loss, while opponents are converting 48.9 percent of their third downs.
Of course, getting Winston back immediately solves some of the offensive issues that popped up against Clemson.
But is the defense going to improve with time? What’s wrong with the offensive line?
The Seminoles aren’t the same team they were in 2013, and this squad looks more vulnerable. Over the course of the next nine games, Florida State should improve, and it’s unlikely the offensive line will continue to struggle.
Fisher and his staff already navigated a huge speed bump to a repeat by winning without the Heisman Trophy winner under center. Can Fisher find the right fixes on the line and on defense to keep the Seminoles in the hunt to repeat?
The sample size is limited, but home losses to Utah is not a good omen for Michigan coaches.
The only other coach to lose to the Utes at the Big House was Rich Rodriguez in his debut. He was fired three years later.
Brady Hoke added is name to that list with a 26-10 loss to Utah, but he’ll have far less leeway to atone for this loss than Rodriguez did in 2008.
The question now is what Michigan and Hoke will have to do undo the damage of the last three weeks, which included a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame.
On Saturday, the fans in Ann Arbor booed until they gave up and left before and after a lengthy weather delay.
Through four games, Michigan has shown little that could make the boos stop.
In the postgame news conference, Hoke referenced Michigan’s 1998 team. He was an assistant that year when the Wolverines opened the season with losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse but won a share of the Big Ten title (despite a 31-16 loss to Ohio State).
Hope, though, would seem to be thin for the Michigan team that’s shown up this season.
The offense has regressed under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, failing to even reach the red zone against Notre Dame and Utah. Michigan outgained Utah 308 yards to 286, spoiling a defensive effort that included an interception returned for a touchdown for Michigan’s only trip to the end zone against a Power 5 team.
The Wolverines are last in the nation in turnover margin at minus-10, and a quarterback change made things worse. Devin Gardner threw two interceptions for six this season. Shane Morris, a four-star quarterback in 2013, threw an interception, lost a fumble and finished 4-of-13 passing.
Hoke was cagey about what that change means for Michigan’s future, starting next week.
“We will have a starting quarterback against Minnesota,” Hoke said.
While factual, that’s not an encouraging statement for a coach who may be fighting for his job during the final months of the season.
The fourth-year coach is 4-8 since a 5-0 start in 2013. Keep in mind, that undefeated start last year included close calls with Akron and Connecticut.
That kind of sustained struggles is enough for a chorus of boos, which Hoke says he hopes aren’t for his players.
“If they’re all for me, good,” Hoke said. “I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
Good news: They probably are.
Three games into the 2014 season and it’s apparent North Carolina’s defense is still a major question mark. And in the Coastal Division where all seven teams exist with little separation, the Tar Heels’ struggles on this side of the ball is enough to prevent this team from making a trip to Charlotte in early December.
In Saturday’s loss to East Carolina, North Carolina’s flaws on this side of the ball were exposed.
The Pirates scored at least 14 points in every quarter, averaged 8.1 yards per play, recorded 39 first downs and 789 overall yards.
The defensive struggles aren’t just limited to Saturday’s loss to East Carolina. The Tar Heels gave up 29 points to Liberty and 27 to San Diego State. The pass rush has been largely invisible (four sacks in three games), which exposes a secondary that is filled with youth.
The numbers posted by East Carolina’s offense should be no surprise, but this effort by North Carolina’s defense was worse than last year’s effort in the 55-31 loss to the Pirates in Chapel Hill.
Several issues are at the core of the Tar Heels’ defensive issues, including youth in the starting lineup. North Carolina has just five seniors on the defensive two-deep, and the line features one freshman starter (Dajuan Drennon), while two sophomores (Brian Walker) and Des Lawrence) anchor the cornerback spots.
Youth is a huge issue that will only be solved with time and snaps.
But North Carolina doesn’t have time for its defense to grow. Take a look at the upcoming schedule: at Clemson, Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, at Virginia, at Miami, Pittsburgh, at Duke and NC State.
Is there a guaranteed victory in that stretch?
By the Numbers on North Carolina's Defense
|Rush Defense||222.7 (5.5 ypc)||14|
With any team running an up-tempo offense, it's tough to ask the defense to be a shutdown unit. However, North Carolina's defense simply has to be better for this team to take the next step.
While the numbers have been awful for the Tar Heels’ defense so far, this team has yet to play an ACC game.
North Carolina’s offense is explosive enough for this team to remain in contention for the Coastal crown. But when will the defense turn a corner in Chapel Hill?
Every unit has to improve, and some of the issues will require patience as some of the younger players get acclimated to a full season of FBS play. There’s plenty of hope for the future, but North Carolina’s Coastal Division title hopes could rest on how far this defense improves over the last nine games of the season.
For a coach who got a sorely needed spark on offense, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz doesn’t seem excited.
After a 24-20 win over Pittsburgh, Ferentz will head back to Iowa where fans likely will expect him to make a permanent quarterback change after C.J. Beathard led three scoring drives in the comeback win.
Ferentz, it seems, is greeting such expectations with an eye roll.
Iowa showed a more aggressive offensive approach in the first half against Pitt, but starter Jake Rudock was able to capitalize on the scoreboard just once. An injury at the end of the first half gave Beathard to lead the best version of the Iowa offense so far this season.
Ferentz just confirmed that Rudock was injured. Also said "We'll probably have a huge controversy in Iowa now. A good thing to deal with."— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) September 20, 2014
Ferentz on the radio on Beathard's performance: "I'm glad he played better today than he practiced Thursday. I'll just leave it at that."— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) September 20, 2014
Rudock, who sustained an injury to what was termed the hip area, may be able to practice, putting Iowa in position for a rare in-season quarterback competition.
The last time Iowa made a quarterback change midseason was in 2008 when Ricky Stanzi beat out Jake Christensen.
Given the way Iowa moved the ball under Beathard in a game that re-energized Iowa’s season, the sophomore from Franklin, Tenn., will be the people’s favorite after he was able to take advantage of a more aggressive approach by coordinator Greg Davis.
Under Rudock, Iowa took shots down the field but converted on just one long pass play. And on fourth-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 13, the Hawkeyes shed their trademark conservatism and went for the first down. They got a touchdown.
But the offense truly flourished in the second half under Beathard. A 62-yard one-handed over-the-shoulder catch by Damond Powell for the rare explosive passing play for the Hawkeyes this season.
Iowa entered the game with two plays from scrimmage for 40 or more yards. The Hawkeyes doubled it in this game with the Powell catch and a Rudock pass for 44 yards in the first quarter.
That one long play, though, wasn’t enough. Rudock finished 5-of-10 for 80 yards with an interception. Beathard came in to finish 7-of-8 for 98 yards, not overwhelming numbers, but plenty efficient for the win.
The question is if it’s enough for Ferentz to continue with the hot hand.
|First Half (Jake Rudock)||Second Half (C.J. Beathard)|
Dan Mullen has done some great work in Starkville, but there was no denying his résumé was lacking a signature win. That, clearly, is no longer the case. Led by a Louisiana native who might be the best dual-threat quarterback east of Eugene, Ore., Mississippi State exorcised a ton of demons Saturday night in Baton Rouge, holding on for a 34–29 win against LSU in Tiger Stadium.
Dak Prescott, a Haughton, La., native who only got a look from LSU late in the recruiting process, threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns (without an INT) and ran for 105 yards and a score to lead the Bulldogs to their first win over the Tigers since 1999 and their first in Baton Rouge since 1991. Prescott has had 200-plus yards passing and 100-plus yards rushing in three straight games, and the Bulldogs have had at least 500 yards in five straight games, a school record.
State got the job done with some explosive plays — 10 that went for at least 20 yards — against an LSU defense that had not allowed a point since the third quarter of a Week 1 win over Wisconsin. For the game, the Bulldogs averaged 7.8 yards per snap, becoming only the second team since the beginning of the 2008 season to top the 7.0 mark against LSU.
Life in the SEC West will be treacherous this season, but Mississippi State has the talent — and makeup — to be factor in the division race. A team that is capable of winning in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night is a team that can win in any venue in the league.
Even when it was winning national championships and doing so with elite offensive players, Alabama was not thought of as the type of team that won games by decisive margins. Programs like Oregon and Oklahoma ran teams off the field, winning by gaudy scores that impressed pollsters. Alabama, meanwhile, won games with defense, a running game and a quarterback who “managed” the game — or at least that was the perception, even if it wasn’t always accurate.
Well, this Alabama team could be on the verge of following a different script, thanks to the emergence of Blake Sims as an unlikely star. The senior quarterback was brilliant in the Tide’s 42–21 win over Florida on Saturday afternoon, throwing for 445 yards — the second-most in school history — and four touchdowns. Sims averaged 13.5 yards on his 33 passing attempts, a number that has been surpassed only once by a Nick Saban quarterback at Alabama against an SEC opponent. AJ McCarron averaged 13.9 yards per attempt in a 2012 win over Tennessee, against a defense that ranked last in the league by the end of the season.
This was different.
Sims did his work against a Florida defense that is expected to be one of the best in the SEC. Despite their struggles last season, the Gators still ranked second in the league in total defense and first in passing defense in 2013. Sims, however, had little difficulty making big plays, completing passes of 87 yards to Kenyan Drake, 70 yards to Amari Cooper, 37 to T.J. Yeldon and 29 to Derrick Henry.
For the season, he is completing 73.2 percent of his passes and has thrown eight touchdowns and only two interceptions, and his 11.2 yards-per-attempt average leads the SEC.
“People have to respect his passing,” Alabama coach Saban said after the game. “He has made too many plays for people not to respect him as a passer.”
The Utes used a narrow upset over a Michigan team that would eventually lose nine games to catapult itself to an unblemished 13-0 season to start 2008.
Kyle Whittingham is hoping that a similar outcome in the Ann Arbor could do something similar for his Utah squad again six years later. And after navigating an extended (try 2 hours and 24 minutes) lightning delay, Utah put an end to Michigan's sobering evening in front of a bizarrely empty Michigan Stadium.
The most encouraging aspect of the Utes impressive win in Ann Arbor is how complete this roster appears to be.
Travis Wilson, who has navigated numerous concussion issues during his time in Salt Lake City, again dealt with some minor problems after his helmet popped off and he landed awkwardly on his neck. But, under the tutelage of first year coordinator Dave Christensen, Wilson led his offense to three second-half scoring drives — which was plenty for Whittingham's defense.
The Utes were relentless on defense, forcing four Michigan turnovers, allowing just three offensive points and holding the Wolverines to a season-low 4.1 yards per play.
While the defense was dominant and the offense was just good enough, what makes Utah's thorough victory the Big House so impressive was the third aspect of the game.
Listen to the Week 4 recap podcast:
Kicker Andy Phillips drilled four field goals and two extra points for a perfect evening and has made 23 of his 24 total kicks this fall. Kick and punt return dynamo Kaelin Clay proved once again to be a mighty weapon. The electric senior from Long Beach, Calif., returned a punt 66 yards for his third return score of the season (the two others were on kickoffs).
This was a relatively easy and utterly complete road victory over a Big Ten blueblood. The importance of this workmanlike win for a team that has failed to reach the postseason since joining the Pac-12 in 2012 cannot be overstated. The Utes will be a factor in some capacity in the South Division race.
For Michigan, the glaringly empty and eerie 105,000-seat stadium following the weather delay told the entire story.
This is wild pic.twitter.com/uT1EI7p9Ry— angelique (@chengelis) September 21, 2014
If you are going to win the Big 12, you are going to have to beat Oklahoma.
This may have been an idea that most agreed with or believed to be true. But after a dominating second half performance against West Virginia along the offensive and defensive lines, it's likely a fact now.
Trevor Knight wasn't perfect (16-of-29, 205 yards, 0 TD, INT), Keith Ford didn't play and Bob Stoops was just 6-7 in last 13 road night games.
So on a night where the Sooners had a lot working against them — not the least of which was a surging Mountaineers offense — the big uglies in the trenches took over in the second half and showed the Mountaineers what a complete team looks like.
The Sooners front seven got pressure throughout the second half, finishing with three turnovers, three sacks and countless knockdowns of WVU's Clint Trickett. Eric Striker (8 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack) and company did what you have to do against Dan Holgorsen's offense if you want to win — make it one dimensional. Oklahoma now leads the nation in interceptions (8) and is 16th in sacks (12.0).
Listen to the Week 4 recap podcast:
On offense, Knight turned to a true freshman to carry the load in an effort to slow things down, keep the ball away from Trickett and allow the offensive line to impose it's will. Samaje Perine was the Sooners' No. 3 tailback entering the season but the 240-pound running back was the star of the show on Saturday night, carrying 34 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns in the win. It was the first 200-yard night for a Sooners runner since Adrian Peterson did it in 2004.
In a hostile environment, it was the physical domination of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball that was most impressive for Oklahoma. Once the game settled down in the second half — the Sooners outscored the Mountaineers 21-3 in the second half until a late score — Stoops' squad turned the game into a slugfest brawl in the trenches.
Which is exactly where opposing coaches don't want to find themselves against the Sooners. Entering this game, West Virginia had a chance to make a big statement and announce to the Big 12 it was going to be in the title mix. That didn't happen.
What happened was Oklahoma put a firm stake in the ground atop the Big 12 standings at 1-0 and if your favorite Big 12 team wants to be mentioned in contention for a conference title, the odds are they will have to beat Oklahoma head-to-head.
Good luck, with that.
Hear my interview with Oklahoma's Trevor Knight last night after the game. He credits the O-Line and the running backs for the big win over West Virginia:
In just four career games, Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon has established himself as a future star of college football.
Rich Rodriguez has always gotten dynamic and productive quarterback play ever since breaking into big time college football West Virginia. Pat White, Denard Robinson and Matt Scott are the legacy Solomon is now trying to surpass.
And in just four career games, it appears like he might succeed.
Solomon's final pass in a game in which he threw the ball 73 times will be one of the most memorable in Arizona football history and is arguably the greatest play of the young 2014 season.
The improbable game-winning, 47-yard Hail Mary as time expired completed one of the most remarkable comebacks the Pac-12 has ever seen. Solomon led the Cats offense to a school-record 36 fourth-quarter points to beat an obviously improved Cal Golden Bears team at home. (Which, unfortunately for Sonny Dykes, will get lost amid the wild finish.)
He finished the game with 520 yards and five touchdowns on 47-of-73 passing while also leading the team in rushing as well with 46 yards on 16 carries. Of the Pac-12 record 106 plays from scrimmage, Solomon either threw it or carried it 89 times.
Listen to the Week 4 recap podcast:
The young star quarterback for Arizona is second in the nation in total offense with 1,621 yards (1,454 pass, 167 rush) of total offense, trailing only Washington State's Connor Halliday (1,845) . Solomon is also third in the nation in passing touchdowns with 13, behind only Halliday (16) and Missouri's Maty Mauk (13).
Most importantly, Arizona got a win in the conference opener in what is shaping out to be a much deeper and more unpredictable Pac-12 South race.
Week 4 provided its share of last-minute finishes, including the Florida State-Clemson showdown in Tallahassee. And if you went to bed early, you certainly missed the ending of Arizona-California.
The Golden Bears appeared to be in control of this game, leading at halftime 28-6 and held a 45-30 lead with five minutes to go in the fourth.
However, Arizona rallied behind redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, scoring three touchdowns in the final five minutes.
Solomon’s best play occurred with no time remaining, as he connected with Austin Hill on a 47-yard touchdown toss to win.
Showing up in a highlight package is usually a good thing for Heisman contenders. Not necessarily when that contender is out of pads on the sideline for poor decision-making.
That’s where Jameis Winston found himself as backup Sean Maguire led Florida State to a come-from-behind 23-17 win in overtime over Clemson. Winston found his way to the highlight package as an onlooker, reinforcing his difficulty in becoming the second two-time Heisman winner.
Other contenders found ways to fill the void as we take a weekly look at who is moving up and down in the Heisman race.
Mariota wins the winning-under-duress award this week. With an offensive line beset by injuries, Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes for 329 yards with five touchdowns in a 38-31 win at Washington State. Mariota managed to finish with 58 rushing yards on 13 carries despite seven sacks.
Even for a receiver who hadn’t caught fewer than eight passes in a game this season, Cooper put on a show against Florida. Cooper caught 10 passes for a career-high 201 yards with three touchdowns against the Gators. If a receiver is going to make a bid for the Heisman, Cooper may be it. He’s on pace for 2,620 yards during the regular season.
A big-time quarterback at Mississippi State? Believe it. Prescott led the best offense against a Les Miles-coached LSU team with 570 yards. Prescott himself finished with 268 passing yards and 105 rushing with three total touchdowns.
Miami’s defense tried to rattle Nebraska with physical play — some of it drawing personal foul flags — but Abdullah kept his composure. The senior rushed for 229 yards with three total touchdowns agains the Hurricanes, giving him seven TDs in two games.
Winston already had history against him as only one Heisman winner has returned to win the award again. As his suspension doubled from a half to a full game in perhaps the most important division game of the season, Winston probably won’t be a viable candidate no matter what happens the rest of the way.
Pittsburgh lost 24-20 to Iowa, but Conner was the story early with 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the first half. With 544 yards in four games, Conner is on pace to eclipse Heisman winner Tony Dorsett’s school record (2,150 in 1976) in 12 games.
Mauk didn’t have an awful game with 28-of-47 passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns, but home losses to Indiana don’t yield many Heisman candidacies. Mauk has four total interceptions against Toledo, UCF and Indiana.
Gordon’s hip is doing just fine, thank you. Gordon rushed for 253 yards and five touchdowns on 13 carries in a 68-17 rout of Bowling Green. Keep in mind, all of his yardage and TD came after he fumbled on his first carry, the only time he’s coughed up the ball in 334 career attempts.
Can an East Carolina player win the Heisman, probably not? And even a QB as good as UCF’s Blake Bortles wasn’t a Heisman finalist. Still, Carden is a mighty fine ACC quarterback without playing in the ACC. After a 70-point effort against North Carolina, Carden is 53-of-85 for 856 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception in wins over UNC and Virginia Tech.
Week 4 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football's Most Viral Moments in Week 4
Four Plays You Need to See
Arizona Connects on Hail Mary to Beat California
Utah WR Kaelin Clay Strikes Heisman Pose After Punt Return
EMU Fails Horribly on Snap Attempt
Iowa WR Damond Powell Makes a Nifty One-Handed Catch Against Pitt
that's good punting https://t.co/8x2E39XiXy— martin rickman (@martinrickman) September 18, 2014
USF crowd at kickoff. They should give them lifetime season tickets for showing up in this pic.twitter.com/DmpyT9BuLl— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 20, 2014
#B1GCats Football (@NUFBFamily) September 20, 2014
If you're wondering how it's going for Eastern Michigan OH GOD. pic.twitter.com/rqiNxyx76F— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) September 20, 2014
For those curious, that was Melvin Gordon's first fumble on a rushing play in his entire career. 322 carries. Wow. #Badgers— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) September 20, 2014
pretty one-handed catch by bowling green https://t.co/gZpUQX2hNH— martin rickman (@martinrickman) September 20, 2014
Mark Dantonio, you’re up 56-0, at least look somewhat pleased: pic.twitter.com/wJhdv8rvzE— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 20, 2014
Melvin Gordon (WIS):13 carries,career-high 253 Rush yds & ties school record w/ 5 Rush TD. Fewest carries in a game to reach 250 since 2000.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 20, 2014
fumble scoop and touchdown for michael brewer https://t.co/6Q3Ty6aJNH— martin rickman (@martinrickman) September 20, 2014
Keith Marshall on crutches with right leg injury. pic.twitter.com/dprx4m3rR2— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) September 20, 2014
Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon now tied for NCAA career record 8.26 yards/carry w/Army’s Glenn Davis (8.26 yds/carry, 1943-46)— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 20, 2014
fumble scoop and touchdown for michael brewer https://t.co/6Q3Ty6aJNH— martin rickman (@martinrickman) September 20, 2014
Travis Wilson OUCH https://t.co/59q3bRRH6C— Matt Smith (@MattSmithCFB) September 20, 2014
Paul James is leaving the field with a brace on his right knee, walking on crutches. Not good.— Steve Politi (@StevePoliti) September 20, 2014
YAKETY https://t.co/wFUlSt5XMZ— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 20, 2014
Jameis Winston with the team coming off the FSU bus pic.twitter.com/BRTYczQBta— Jared Shanker (@JShankerESPN) September 20, 2014
Michigan's end zone starts to flood as lightning continues to strike. pic.twitter.com/RUzpP0BAIS— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) September 20, 2014
RT @rustindodd: Charlie Weis says he went into a bunker after the Duke loss: "I barely know what’s going on with ISIS."— David Ubben (@davidubben) September 20, 2014
Meanwhile 50 miles outside of Pullman, this kid is waving a flag on the side of the road... Four hours before kick. pic.twitter.com/OxxpzQlsl7— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) September 20, 2014
And so it begins ... RT @EmmittSmith22: Put Jeff Driskel on the bench please, I have seen enough.— Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) September 20, 2014
Stay on your feet... pic.twitter.com/3h0Jgt5EtF— UteDaddy (@utedaddy) September 21, 2014
May be the first time ever Nebraska fans have booed an opposing team as it exits the field.— Brian Rosenthal (@HuskerExtraBR) September 21, 2014
"Oh my god we got the ball back." The reaction from Sean Maguire after the fumble recovery was priceless. https://t.co/miaBI2jcBv— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 21, 2014
Hoke: "Get off the f*cking field!" Mattison: "Grab some burritos and get the heck outta town!!!" https://t.co/DHjK1PXTlM— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) September 20, 2014
Early control of the NFC West is on the line when San Francisco and Arizona get together this afternoon on FOX. The 49ers (1-1) will try and rebound after last week’s discouraging loss to the Bears in the first-ever game at their new stadium. The Cardinals (2-0) have gotten off to a hot start, as they have been able to succeed despite dealing with a rash of injuries on both sides of the ball.
San Francisco has won the last four meetings between these division rivals and holds a 28-17 lead in the series.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: San Francisco -3
Three Things to Watch
|San Francisco 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ DAL||W 28 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||vs CHI||L 20 - 28||Recap|
|9/21||@ ARI||L 14 - 23||Recap|
|9/28||vs PHI||W 26 - 21||Recap|
1. Kaepernick’s Mulligan?
At 26 years old, Colin Kaepernick is in just his second season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback yet he’s already accomplished quite a bit. He’s played in one Super Bowl and consecutive NFC title games. He holds the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game when he ran for 181 (on 16 carries) against Green Bay in a 2012 playoff game. He also signed a six-year, $126 million contract extension in June, cementing his status as one of the top young quarterbacks in the league and a franchise player for the 49ers. But like any other signal-caller still learning his craft, Kaepernick has experienced his share of struggles. One of his lowest points of his career came last week when he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in a 28-20 loss to Chicago. To make matters worse, the 49ers led 17-0 at one point and it was the first game played in brand-new Levi’s Stadium. Turnovers fueled the Bears’ fourth-quarter comeback and to his credit, Kaepernick claimed full responsibility for his mistakes, describing his play as “terrible.” But that was last week and fortunately for Kaepernick, he has been successful in his previous starts against Arizona, going 3-0. In those games he has completed 58.2 percent of his passes with six touchdowns, one interception and one lost fumble. As poorly as he played last week, Kaepernick’s in no danger of losing his job. However, now’s the chance for Kaepernick to show both his team and his critics his toughness and resolve by bouncing back and not letting one poor game carry over to the next, especially since this is a divisional contest.
|Arizona 2014 Schedule|
|9/8||vs SD||W 18 - 17||Recap|
|9/14||@ NYG||W 25 - 14||Recap|
|9/21||vs SF||W 23 - 14||Recap|
|10/5||@ DEN||L 20 - 41||Recap|
2. Playing D Out in the Desert
Even though they missed the playoffs last season, the Cardinals won 10 games despite playing in the tough NFC West. Part of the reason for their success was a defense that finished seventh or better in the NFL in five major categories, including leading the league in rushing defense (84.4 ypg). The hope was that this defense would be a team strength yet again and that has been the case through two games, although not under “normal” circumstances. Before the season even started, the Cardinals experienced three major losses. Linebacker and leading tackler Karlos Dansby departed via free agency, fellow linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the entire year for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and Pro Bowl defensive end Darnell Dockett tore his ACL during training camp. Despite these key personnel losses, Arizona’s defense has stood strong, ranking third in rush defense (66.5 ypg) and yielding a total of 31 points in wins over San Diego and the New York Giants. San Francisco will present a new challenge with a strong running game and a potentially potent passing attack, but thus far the Cardinals’ defense has been up to the task, despite being shorthanded.
3. Cardinals’ Offense Ready to Take Flight?
Arizona has relied heavily on its defense through the first two games, as the offense has had to deal with some injury issues of its own. While the Cardinals have allowed 15.5 points per game, the offense has managed just 21.5. Running back Andre Ellington, a popular breakout candidate entering his second season, has been playing with a partially torn tendon in his foot, while quarterback Carson Palmer missed last week with a nerve issue in his shoulder. Ellington has still been effective, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, but the injury has limited his touches (34 total in two games). Meanwhile backup Drew Stanton did his job filling in for Palmer against the Giants, but he finished with just 167 yards passing and no touchdowns (albeit no turnovers either). Stanton will get the start again this afternoon, as Palmer has been relegated to backup duty (if he plays at all) because of what is being described as a bruised nerve in his throwing shoulder. Stanton did what was necessary to help his team win the the game last week, but San Francisco figures to be a tougher opponent. Arizona's shorthanded defense has been able to get the job done thus far, can the offense follow in its footsteps this afternoon?
Arizona is undefeated and San Francisco is licking its wounds after a tough opening loss in its new stadium. Neither team is at full strength, as the Cardinals have weathered injuries to key players on both sides of the ball and the 49ers are without two All-Pros on defense. Arizona’s shorthanded defense has gotten the job done to this point, but with Carson Palmer unable to start a second straight game because of a nerve issue in his shoulder and Andre Ellington’s lingering foot issue, I’m worried the Cardinals are just outmanned against the 49ers. San Francisco’s defense has held up well thus far too and the offense has not yet found its rhythm. This will be a typical NFC West tilt in that it will be hard-fought, physical and most likely go down to the wire. But in the end, I like Colin Kaepernick to bounce back from last week’s turnover-marred performance and help lead his team to an important divisional win on the road.
Prediction: San Francisco 23, Arizona 20
It’s the rare Super Bowl rematch everyone’s been waiting for when Denver and Seattle face off this afternoon on CBS. The Broncos (2-0) enter this game plenty motivated after two less-than-stellar efforts and memories of their 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII drubbing still fresh. The Seahawks (1-1) return home to the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field with the intent of not only showing Denver they are still the best team in the NFL, but also putting last week’s discouraging road loss to the Chargers behind them.
For historical perspective, this will be just the sixth time teams that played in the Super Bowl will face each other the next season. The last time it happened was during the 1997 season when Green Bay matched up against New England. The Packers beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI and also claimed victory the following season. Can Seattle “sweep” Denver in the same fashion?
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Seattle -4.5
Three Things to Watch
|Denver 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs IND||W 31 - 24||Recap|
|9/14||vs KC||W 24 - 17||Recap|
|9/21||@ SEA||L 20 - 26||Recap|
|10/5||vs ARI||W 41 - 20||Recap|
1. Denver Takes A Page from San Diego’s Playbook?
The Chargers did what the Broncos couldn’t — beat the Seahawks — and don’t be surprised if Denver takes a page or two from its AFC West rival’s playbook. San Diego dominated time of possession against Seattle, holding the ball for 42:15. Besides keeping Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the rest of the offense on the sideline, this ball control display also helped wear down the Seahawks’ defense, especially on a 90-plus-degree afternoon in San Diego. Denver’s offense is certainly capable of making the quick strike, but Peyton Manning and company may be better served by putting together extended drives. The Chargers also nearly doubled up the Seahawks in terms of first downs (26 to 14), a statistic that was helped by converting 10 of 17 third down opportunities. Ball security of course is important, and Phillip Rivers and his teammates didn’t commit a single turnover. And while Rivers did a good job of spreading the ball around to six different receivers, he and tight end Antonio Gates did most of the damage. The longstanding duo hooked up seven times, three of those connections resulting in touchdowns. Manning has his own dangerous tight end in Julius Thomas, who is tied for the NFL lead with four touchdown catches through two games. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; so don’t be shocked if Denver’s game plan looks a lot like San Diego’s this afternoon.
|Seattle 2014 Schedule|
|9/4||vs GB||W 36 - 16||Recap|
|9/14||@ SD||L 21 - 30||Recap|
|9/21||vs DEN||W 26 - 20||Recap|
|10/6||@ WAS||W 27 - 17||Recap|
2. Seahawks’ D vs. Broncos’ O Take Two
Back in February, Seattle’s vaunted defense got the better of Denver’s record-setting offense, holding the Broncos to a single touchdown and 306 total yards. While some of the faces on each respective unit have changed, the main cast of characters remain. Will there be any sort of Super Bowl carryover that allows the Seahawks to continue their dominance or are the Broncos ready to flip the script, and the results, on the reigning world champions on their own turf? Seattle figures to stick to the game plan that worked for them the first time – dominate Denver physically, run the ball effectively to set up the pass, and apply consistent pressure to disrupt the Broncos’ passing game and their offensive tempo. Denver meanwhile hopes its restocked offensive line (All-Pro left tackle Chris Clady did not play in the Super Bowl because of injury) and a more balanced attack will have more success moving the ball and scoring points. This also will be the first game that Peyton Manning will have his full complement of weapons with wide receiver Wes Welker returning from suspension. How quickly Welker finds his rhythm in the offense, remains to be seen, but Manning won’t lack for options to try and get the better of the “Legion of Boom” this time around. Can the Broncos do what the Chargers did and “expose” Richard Sherman and his cohorts?
3. Litmus Test for Denver’s Revamped D
In many ways this is the game that Broncos general manager John Elway went on his offseason free-agent spending spree for. Even though Seattle’s defense got most of the credit for beating Denver so handily in the Super Bowl, the Broncos’ defense had its share of issues in that game. Elway knew he needed to beef up his defense if he wanted to take some of the pressure off of Peyton Manning and the offense and put a more balanced team on the field. That’s why Elway added pass-rush specialist DeMarcus Ware, lockdown cornerback Aqib Talib and physical safety T.J. Ward to his roster. Those three along with linebacker Von Miller didn’t face this Seahawks offense in February, and Elway and head coach John Fox are hoping they can be difference-makers this afternoon. This revamped unit is still finding its way, however, as evidenced by its struggles in getting off of the field and committing penalties last week. Denver’s defense allowed Kansas City to convert on third down on five different occasions when the yards to go were eight or longer, including a third and 20. The Broncos also were called for eight defensive penalties against the Chiefs, four of which resulted in first downs. Denver’s defense clearly needs to continue to gel and clean up its mistakes, but the question everyone is asking is has Elway’s defensive moves leveled the playing field against the defending Super Bowl champs or is the gap still as big as it was back in February?
A rare Super Bowl rematch could also end up as a Super Bowl preview. Regardless of how this season turns out, this game has been circled on everyone’s calendars ever since the schedule was announced. For Seattle, this is an opportunity for the Seahawks to demonstrate their dominance once again, this time in front of their beloved and boisterous “12th Man.” Denver meanwhile is tasked with trying to defeat a team that not only soundly whipped it earlier this year, but also one that’s playing at home with the support of the loudest fan base in the NFL.
The Broncos have made some changes on both sides of the ball, gets a big weapon back in Wes Welker, and still has Peyton Manning at quarterback and a wealth of talent throughout their roster. The Seahawks are coming off of a loss, but motivation won’t be an issue for this game, and this team has basically been unbeatable at home dating back to last season. Don’t expect another blowout, but Russell Wilson shows why he belongs in the elite quarterback conversation by leading his team to another victory over Manning and the Broncos.
Prediction: Seattle 30, Denver 28
Teams that follow similar blueprints will face off against each other when Pittsburgh takes on Carolina tonight on NBC. The Steelers (1-1) and Panthers (2-0) are somewhat carbon copies in that they are defensive-oriented teams who have big quarterbacks calling the shots on offense. Pittsburgh is coming off of a lopsided road loss to AFC North rival Baltimore, while Carolina stifled Detroit’s offense last week to seize control of the NFC South.
This is just the sixth meeting all-time between these two teams. After losing the first matchup, Pittsburgh has won the past four by an average margin of 21 points. The last meeting was back in 2010 when Ben Roethlisberger threw for 320 yards and a touchdown in the easy 27-3 home victory. This will be Cam Newton’s first time facing the Steelers.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Carolina -3.5
Three Things to Watch
|Pittsburgh 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs CLE||W 30 - 27||Recap|
|9/11||@ BAL||L 6 - 26||Recap|
|9/21||@ CAR||W 37 - 19||Recap|
|9/28||vs TB||L 24 - 27||Recap|
1. Getting Defensive
Pittsburgh’s reputation as a defensive team is well known, going all the way back to the days of the original Steel Curtain. However, the Steelers’ defense has slipped somewhat in recent seasons and is off to another slow start in 2014. Carolina meanwhile broke through defensively in a big way in 2013, finishing second in the NFL in both yards and points allowed. The Panthers have built on this success, holding their first two opponents (Buccaneers and Lions) to less than 294 yards and 10.5 points per game. While Pittsburgh has undergone a youth movement on defense, Carolina has a front seven that matches up with any in the league, led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Luke Kuechly. With the Panthers’ defense playing as well as it has and given Carolina’s issues on offense, this figures to be a low-scoring game. The defenses will likely dictate the outcome and while it may be too much to expect Pittsburgh to out-perform Carolina’s defense on its own turf; the Steelers still need to make enough plays on that side of the ball to give their offense a fighting chance.
|Carolina 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ TB||W 20 - 14||Recap|
|9/14||vs DET||W 24 - 7||Recap|
|9/21||vs PIT||L 19 - 37||Recap|
|9/28||@ BAL||L 10 - 38||Recap|
2. Cam Can’t Do It All Alone
Carolina has a championship-caliber defense, there’s no disputing that, but in order for this team to be considered a legitimate contender in the NFC, the offense will have do its part. And with apologies to Derek Anderson, the success of the offense falls on the shoulders of one player – Cam Newton. After missing the season opener with bruised ribs, Newton returned and helped lead his team to a convincing 24-7 victory over Detroit. Working behind a retooled offensive line and throwing to a practically brand-new receiving corps, Newton completed 22 of 34 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. The bigger concern with Newton right now is making sure his bruised ribs don’t get any worse. One way to do this is to not ask him to not make as many plays with his legs. Against the Lions, Newton ran the ball just four time for 19 yards. Unfortunately, that was good enough for second on the team and he also was sacked five times. Starting running back DeAngelo Williams didn’t play last week because of a thigh injury and Jonathan Stewart managed just 37 yards rushing on 15 carries in his absence. Through two games, Panther running backs have combined for 135 yards rushing on 49 carries. That’s an average of less than three yards (2.8 ypc to be exact) per attempt. That’s not going to get the job done, even against a team like Pittsburgh, who gave up 157 yards on the ground to Baltimore last week. Carolina’s offensive line is a work in progress and the receiving corps also needs more time to gel and develop chemistry. That means it is critical that the Panthers’ running game picks up some of the slack. And without asking an already banged-up quarterback to do the heavy lifting.
3. Molding the Steelers’ Offense
In the season opener, Pittsburgh piled up 503 yards of offense and 30 points behind its superstar trio of Ben Roethlisberger (365 yards passing), Le’Veon Bell (197 total yards, including 109 rushing), and Antonio Brown (five receptions for 116 yards and a TD). Compare that to last week’s offensive output against Baltimore (301 yards, two field goals), as the Ravens pushed the Steelers around up front on both sides of the ball. The 26-6 score could have been much worse considering Baltimore had to settle for field goals on four separate trips into the red zone. Comparatively speaking, Pittsburgh’s collection of offensive weapons is better than Carolina’s. The problem is the Steelers have a much tougher task ahead of them in trying to solve and move the ball against the Panthers’ stout defense. Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown will lead the charge, but supporting players like wide receiver Markus Wheaton, tight end Heath Miller, running back LeGarrette Blount and of course the offensive line, will have to do their part as well. Pittsburgh could receive an additional boost with the expected debut of veteran wideout Lance Moore and the possible return of all-purpose back Dri Archer. The bottom line is that points figure to be hard to come by tonight, so Big Ben and company need to make the most of their limited opportunities if they want any chance of leaving Bank of America Stadium with a win.
Pittsburgh and Carolina are mirror images of each other in many ways, so this should be an entertaining cross-conference matchup. The Panthers have become one of the toughest teams to beat at home, thanks in large part to a stingy defense. The Steelers are coming off of a tough divisional loss on the road, and even though the extra rest gained from playing a Thursday night game will benefit them, I don’t believe this is the best timing for them to play the Panthers. Pittsburgh will continue to get better as the season progresses, as a young defense continues to gel and the offense finds its rhythm. But as far as tonight goes, Carolina’s defense is just too tough and Cam Newton and the offense make just enough plays to stay perfect on the season.
Prediction: Carolina 24, Pittsburgh 20
The possibility of Dak Prescott was interesting enough: A dynamic run-pass threat who could become the top quarterback in Mississippi State’s limited history at the position.
On Saturday, he made that — and more — a reality.
Prescott redefined Mississippi State’s recent history with a 34-29 win over LSU, ending a 15-game losing streak to ranked teams and 11-game losing streak in Baton Rouge.
Prescott completed 15-of-24 passes for 268 yards with two touchdowns against LSU to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors. The Louisiana native also rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Behind Prescott, Mississippi State put up 570 yards on LSU, the most of the Les Miles era for the Tigers.
National Defensive Player of the Week: Gionni Paul, Utah
Patience paid off in a few of ways for Utah linebacker Gionni Paul. First, Paul sat out all of 2013 after his transfer after two seasons for Miami. Then, he missed Utah’s first two games with a broken foot sustained in spring. By the end of the day Saturday, he needed a lengthy rain delay to make his return official. Paul finished with 14 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in a 26-10 win over Michigan.
National Freshman and Big 12 Player of the Week: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
Before Saturday, Oklahoma’s running back position the subject of questions. Not anymore. Five-star freshman Joe Mixon is suspended for the entire season. Keith Ford is out with a hairline fracture in his right fibula. With Oklahoma low on numbers, Perine only put up one of the best rushing performances for Oklahoma in several years.
Perine rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries in a 45-33 win over West Virginia. Perine had the first 200-yard rushing game for the Sooners since DeMarco Murray in 2010 and the fourth-best rushing total for a freshman in OU history. Perine was a fringe top-250 prospect and the No. 30 recruit in Texas out of Pflugerville Hendrickson in the class of 2014.
National Coordinator of the Week: Lane Kiffin, Alabama
Kiffin’s impact on the Alabama offense came to full fruition in the second half of a 42-21 win over Florida. Despite early turnover woes, Alabama finished with 645 total yards against one of the SEC’s best defenses. Quarterback Blake Sims had the second-best passing day in school history with 445 yards, and for the first time in school history, Alabama had a 400-yard passer, 200-yard receiver (Amari Cooper) and 100-yard rusher (Derrick Henry). Alabama has eclipsed 500 total yards in every game of Kiffin’s tenure.
Conference Players of the Week
ACC: Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas completed 7-of-18 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown in a 27-24 win over Virginia Tech. Thomas also rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Big Ten: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries and caught a touchdown pass in a 41-31 win over Miami.
Pac-12: Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon was 47-of-73 for 520 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in a 49-45 win over Cal. Solomon completed a 47-yard Hail Mary to cap a 36-point fourth quarter to beat the Bears.
American: East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden was 30-of-48 for 438 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in a 70-31 win over North Carolina.
Conference USA: Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 27-of-43 passes for 430 yards with five touchdowns in a 45-42 win over defending C-USA champion Rice.
MAC: Toledo running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in a 34-23 win over Ball State.
Mountain West: Boise State running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries in a 34-9 win over UL Lafayette.
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in a 28-6 win over South Alabama.
Independents: BYU quarterback Taysom Hill completed 13-of-23 passes for 187 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-33 win over Virginia. He also rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Back, shoulder, thigh and ankle are the injuries that several high-profile quarterbacks are dealing with entering Week 3. Are any of these injuries severe enough to threaten their playing status?
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Probable – Back
Kaepernick first appeared on the injury report Thursday, but he was a full practice participant then and also on Friday. He’s listed as Probable so there doesn’t appear to be much to his back issue. What’s of more concern, however, is how does Kaepernick bounce back following last week’s home loss to Chicago in which his four turnovers helped the Bears overcome a 17-0 deficit? Arizona’s defense has been pretty stout early on, so it may be wishful thinking to expect Kaepernick to perform like a QB1 this week too.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys at St. Louis Rams
Probable – Back
Romo underwent back surgery this offseason, so anytime that part of his body shows up on the injury report, it’s going to draw some attention. However, there doesn’t appear to be any reason for concern. After sitting out Wednesday’s practice due to tightness in his back, he was a full participant on Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as Probable and it would be a mild surprise if he doesn’t suit up against the Rams. The Cowboys have been effective running the ball thus far, which has limited Romo’s numbers. But unless you have a better option, you should start this Cowboy.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers
Questionable - Shoulder
Palmer was somewhat of a surprise late scratch last week because of a shoulder injury. What has since been described as a bruised nerve in his right shoulder continues to be a hindrance, as not only is Palmer listed as Questionable for the second straight game, head coach Bruce Arians has already said that Drew Stanton will get the start this afternoon against San Francisco. So even if Palmer does play, it will be as Stanton’s backup. My advice is simple: ignore Cardinal QBs this week.
Shaun Hill, QB, St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys
Questionable – Thigh
Hill didn’t play last week and he’s Questionable again with the same thigh injury. He did make some progress in that he was able to do some things in practice, but he will most likely be a “game-time decision” once more. For now, count on Austin Davis to make his second consecutive start and continue to stay away from any and all Ram QBs.
QBs Already Ruled Out:
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins – RGIII dislocated his ankle last week and while there was no fracture, it’s not known when he will be able to return to the field. Kirk Cousins will take over and, depending on whom you ask, is considered to be a better fit for Jay Gruden’s system. Cousins impressed (250-2-0) last week after RGIII went down and it’s possible he could provide borderline QB1 production. This week’s start against Philadelphia, in what could be a high-scoring contest, is a good barometer game to gauge Cousins’ fantasy potential moving forward.
Another popular running back will play in Week 3 despite a foot injury, while another attempts to give it a go just a week after suffering a high ankle sprain. Those are just some of the running back injuries covered below.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers
Probable – Foot
The torn tendon in his foot is still an issue, but Ellington has yet to miss a game and was even able to practice on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. After being Questionable last week, Ellington is listed as Probable, so he’s definitely a RB2/flex candidate. The only real question comes down to how many touches will Ellington get? Last week he totaled 101 yards on 16 touches (15 rush, 1 catch), but it was Jonathan Dwyer who got into the end zone. Dwyer has been placed on the reserve/non-football injury list stemming from his recent arrest on assault charges, so he won’t be a factor anytime soon. Hopefully this will be the week that Arians trusts Ellington with a bigger workload.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins
Questionable – Ankle
From “out indefinitely” to practicing to Questionable. It’s already been quite the whirlwind for Charles and his owners, who watched their stud leave last week’s game against Denver in the Chiefs’ first series. Diagnosed with the dreaded high ankle sprain, Charles made a surprise return to practice on Thursday and was back at it on Friday. He’s listed as Questionable for this afternoon’s game, but no one really expected his shot of playing this week to be 50-50 in the first place after the initial prognosis. Still with the late kickoff and, more importantly, the presence of one Knile Davis, I would err on the side of caution when it comes to Charles this week and try and make do without him in your lineup.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
Probable – Knee
Whatever Bell’s knee injury is, it was serious enough to limit him in practice the entire week. However, he did practice enough to earn the Proabable designation, so there should be no real trepidation in rolling Bell out today as your RB2/RB3/flex. After two games, Bell is seeing more touches than backfield mate Reggie Bush and today’s matchup with Green Bay could develop into a high-scoring affair.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
Probable – Foot
Gerhart increased his practice participation each day this week, so he should be good to go today. He’s listed as Probable and maybe a matchup with the Colts will help Gerhart finally get on track. After two games, Gerhart has rushed for 50 yards on 25 carries (2.0 ypc). He’s no more than a “safe” flex option until he shows a little more consistent production.
RBs Already Ruled Out:
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints – Off to a terrific start (143 yards, 3 TDs), Ingram broke his hand last week and underwent surgery to repair the damage. He’s expected to miss at least a month. In the meantime, while Pierre Thomas’ role as the primary pass-catching back doesn’t figure to change, Khiry Robinson should see an increase in his workload. Thomas is already flex-worthy, especially in PPR leagues, but Robinson could enter that territory himself, if not higher, if he can step in and replace Ingram’s production.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers – Mathews is expected to miss at least a month after spraining his MCL last week. Danny Woodhead will maintain his role as a receiving threat out of the backfield while Donald Brown should get most of Mathews’ carries. If Brown is able to produce, he could develop into a reliable RB2/flex option.
Knowshon Moreno, Miami Dolphins – Moreno is out at least a few weeks after dislocating his elbow early last week against Buffalo. He is hoping to return following the team’s Week 5 bye. For now, the starting job will go to Lamar Miller, who hurt his ankle against the Bills, but does not appear on the injury report. Miller’s stock dropped after Moreno exploded in Week 1, but he’ll get a second chance to show he’s capable of providing similar production.
Ben Tate, Cleveland Browns – Tate sprained his knee in Week 1 and hopes to return following the team’s Week 4 bye. In the meantime, rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell will handle the backfield duties. Both are averaging at least 4.8 yards per carry, but West is seeing the bulk of the carries, making him the more appealing fantasy option. Crowell is capable of flex production, but he’s also risky because of the uncertainty related to his workload.
One workhorse running back out West is ready for Week 3 while another playing on the East Coast is dealing with a hamstring injury. Here are the running back injuries you need to know before setting your lineup.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos
Probable – Back
Lynch is on the injury report with a back issue, but he’s listed as Probable and was a full participant in practice both Thursday and Friday. There’s no way he’s missing this Super Bowl rematch and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in your starting lineup.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans at New York Giants
Questionable – Hamstring
After being limited in practice all week, the Texans have listed Foster Questionable with a hamstring injury. Head coach Bill O’Brien talked about limiting Foster’s practice reps after registering 55 carries in the first two games, but this appears to be something more than just giving his workhorse some rest. Foster already has 241 rushing yards, so his status leading up to kickoff is something that should be watched carefully. Remember, a Questionable designation puts the player’s chances of playing at 50-50.
Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Questionable – Thigh
Pierce was added to the injury report on Thursday when he was limited in practice due to a thigh injury. He practiced in full on Friday, but be careful and don't take his Questionable designation too lightly. One thing Pierce could have in his favor is while he has dealt with his share of injuries in two-plus seasons, he’s yet to miss a game. If Pierce does play he’s in the RB2/flex discussion against a Browns team that’s allowing 150.5 rushing yards per game. If Pierce doesn’t go, Justin Forsett would see the bulk of the carries, putting him in flex territory.
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders
Questionable – Shoulder
Vereen was only a limited participant this week at practice and is listed as Questionable for today’s game with Oakland. While his shoulder injury doesn’t appear to be serious, it’s worth noting that after getting 12 touches in the opener, he saw just six last week, as Stevan Ridley carried the load (25 att.). Not saying that Bill Belichick has committed to Ridley as his workhorse, but the fact that the Patriots were successful running the ball last week coupled with Vereen’s shoulder injury is enough to at least downgrade Vereen to flex consideration this week with slightly more upside in PPR leagues.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Questionable – Thigh
Williams was made inactive prior to last week’s game because of a thigh injury, but he clarified his situation earlier this week and said it’s a hamstring issue he’s dealing with. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s enough of an issue that it continues to limit him in practice and has him listed as Questionable for the second straight week. But after taking reps with the first team on Friday, the Panthers are hopeful they will have their starting running back for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh. Even if Williams does suit up, he’s a risky play given the late kickoff and his health concerns, even if the Steelers have struggled to defend the run thus far.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots
Questionable – Hand
Jones-Drew missed last week’s game, but he returned to practice this week. He is wearing extra protection on his surgically repaired right hand, but was able to get some work in on Thursday and Friday, which increases his chances of playing. Even with the Questionable tag, I wouldn’t rush to get MJD back into your lineup. There’s no telling how his injured hand will respond should he even play, and don’t forget he had just 11 yards rushing in Week 1. Darren McFadden may not have put up huge numbers, but the Raiders seem perfectly content to let him handle the workload. That said, I’m not ready to trust any Raider offensive player in my starting lineup, with the exception of wide receiver James Jones.
A Cowboy wide receiver with a bum shoulder and a Bengal wideout with a bad toe are both planning on being on the field in Week 3. Here’s the latest on those wide receiver injury situations and more.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys at St. Louis Rams
Questionable – Shoulder
Bryant injured his shoulder last week against Tennessee yet finished the game with 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. He missed one day of practice, was limited the other two and is listed as Questionable, but Bryant said he’ll be “ready to roll” on Sunday and who am I to not believe him? Unless something changes before kickoff (1 p.m. ET), leave Bryant in your starting lineup and hope he can pick up where he left things off last week.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Tennessee Titans
Probable – Toe
After missing practice time last week because of a foot issue, Green didn’t even make it through the first quarter against Atlanta after suffering what has been called a turf toe injury. Initially his chances of playing this week did not look good, but Green was a full practice participant on both Thursday and Friday. His Probable designation is a good indicator he will play and other than doing a courtesy check before kickoff to make sure he’s active, I think you need to have one of the NFL’s best wide receivers in your lineup.
Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys
Questionable – Knee
Austin left last week’s game early with a knee injury and missed all of practice this week. He’s listed as Questionable, but I would be surprised if he plays and even more surprised if anyone was willing to trust the second-year pro at this point. All he’s done in the first two games is catch three passes for 34 yards, and all of that came in Week 1. A disappointment as a rookie last season, it’s probably past time to quit waiting on Austin and take a chance on someone else instead.
Already Ruled Out:
Odell Beckham, New York Giants – Beckham’s NFL debut will have to wait at least one more week, as a lingering hamstring issue will sideline him for a third straight game. Jerrel Jernigan (foot) was placed on injured reserve earlier this week, leaving Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle as the primary wide receivers. Cruz and Randle should be rostered, but given the Giants’ offensive struggles it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in either right now.
Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals’ No. 2 wide receiver is still recovering from foot surgery. The hope is he will be back following the Week 4 bye. With A.J. Green also dealing with an injury, Mohamed Sanu could be a sneaky pickup.