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All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-28-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 28.


• To celebrate Madden 25, here's a photo shoot of scantily clad models recreating Madden moments.


College football is so perfect, we even love its ridiculousness.


Sporting News picked the brains of some college football greats in anticipation of Week 1 action. A sneak peek: Jake Plummer would take Johnny Football over AJ McCarron or Aaron Murray.


Here's a list of five top celebrity college football fans. I think they missed a few. Will Ferrell, anyone?


If you don't know the George Raveling "I Have a Dream" story, you need to.


• Play of the night: Didi Gregorius Willie Mays'd a shallow pop-up.


• Not the play of the night: C.J. Wilson faceplanted on his way to the pitcher's mound.


• Videobombing is played, so you have to get creative with it, which the Rockies mascot managed to do.


The SEC's top dynamic duos, starting with Georgia's Gurshall two-headed monster.


The LolJets added to their quarterback tire fire: the guy who lost his backup gig to Vince Young. It just keeps getting better.


Kate Upton took a golf lesson from The King. That's what I call a win-win.


• This'll whet your appetite for football: Watch Michigan recruit Jabrill Peppers break about nine tackles on a touchdown run.




-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:42
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-conference-and-national-title-predictions

With kickoff for the 2013 college football season just around the corner, there’s just enough time for one more set of predictions.

Athlon’s editors met before the preseason magazine was released to iron out the predictions after spring practice was completed. But there wasn’t a consensus on every conference title race or the top 25 rankings.

Louisville, Ohio State and Tulsa were the only unanimous conference title predictions, and there was plenty of disagreement in the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten and even the SEC.

Alabama is widely considered the favorite to claim the 2013 BCS title, but the Crimson Tide wasn’t selected by all four editors to play for the national championship. Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford also drew mentions in the BCS title predictions. 

Will the SEC's title run continue in 2013? Or will Ohio State, Oregon or Stanford end the SEC's dominance? 

College Football's 2013 Conference and National Title Predictions

 Steven LassanMark RossBraden GallDavid Fox
ACC Coastal:
ACC Atlantic:
ACC Champion:
American Athletic: 
Big 12: 
Big Ten Leaders:
Big Ten Legends:
Big Ten Champion:
C-USA East: 
C-USA West:
C-USA Champion:
MAC East:
MAC West:
MAC Champion:
MW Mountain:
MW West:
MW Champion:
Pac-12 North:
Pac-12 South:
Pac-12 Champion:
SEC East:
SEC West:
SEC Champion:
Sun Belt:
National Title: Alabama over Ohio StateOregon over Ohio StateAlabama over StanfordAlabama over Stanford

Related College Football Content

College Football Bowl Projections for 2013
10 Players That Will Decide the National Title in 2013
College Football's Top 35 Breakout Players for 2013
Top 10 Darkhorses to Win the National Title
The Top 100 Players of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Wide Receiver Corps for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Lines for 2013
College Football's All-Name Team for 2013

College Football 2013 Conference and National Title Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-2013-nfl-team-preview

General manager Kevin Colbert chafes at the notion that the Steelers are rebuilding after the kind of roster turnover that qualified as astounding given his organization’s reputation as one of the most stable in the NFL. Coach Mike Tomlin insists that the Steelers are simply in transition after an 8–8 season. Whether transition is merely a euphemism for rebuilding will be determined by how the Steelers respond after missing the playoffs for just the second time since Tomlin took over in 2007.

For the second consecutive year, the Steelers cut ties with a handful of key veterans, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, strong safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Ike Taylor and tight end Heath Miller are the remaining core players from the team that played in three Super Bowls and won two of them during a six-year period. Miller, the Steelers’ 2012 MVP, likely won’t be 100 percent at the start of the season after sustaining a torn ACL at the end of last season. That puts even more pressure on Roethlisberger, Polamalu and Taylor to stay healthy if the Steelers are to challenge Baltimore and Cincinnati for supremacy in the AFC North.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 4th

Related: 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule Analysis

The fragile union between Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley enters its second season. For all of the psychoanalysis that is devoted to the relationship, Roethlisberger was having a Pro Bowl-caliber season before sustaining a rib injury in November. He struggled after returning to the starting lineup, and it may not get any easier this season, even if Roethlisberger stays healthy. The Steelers lost one of the NFL’s top deep threats when wide receiver Mike Wallace bolted to Miami in free agency. Miller, who has long been Roethlisberger’s security blanket and one of the top all-around tight ends in the league, may take some time to get back to full speed. The Steelers will depend on veteran Matt Spaeth, second-year man David Paulson and another tight end coming off a torn ACL, David Johnson, until Miller returns.

Wallace’s departure means the Steelers will rely heavily on Antonio Brown in the passing game. Brown, the Steelers’ MVP in 2011, took a step backward last season. The fourth-year man won’t have the luxury of having a burner opposite him on the field. Emmanuel Sanders replaces Wallace, and the fourth-year veteran has shown flashes but has also been injury-prone and inconsistent. Plaxico Burress won't be able to help the passing attack, as the long-time Steeler sustained a season-ending shoulder injury during training camp. The passing game will be helped immensely if third-round draft pick Markus Wheaton makes an impact as a rookie.

There are also questions about the skill players who will line up behind Roethlisberger. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are not every-down backs, and the Steelers drafted Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell with the hope that he will develop into their feature back. Bell's NFL debut, however, will be delayed as he injured his foot in his first preseason game. The good news is that Bell did not need surgery and the injury is not deemed serious. The bad news is that he will more than likely miss at least the first month of the regular season. With Bell sidelined, the Steelers will turn to Redman and Dwyer to carry the load, as well as LaRod Stephens-Howling, who was signed to provide depth and serve as a receiving threat out of the backfield.

The Steelers did not draft an offensive lineman in 2013 because they invested so heavily in that area in previous drafts. Four of the projected five starters are either first- or second-round picks. All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey anchors the line, with the Steelers also expecting big things out of right guard David DeCastro. Tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams both have to stay healthy and become more consistent. The Steelers are dangerously thin up front.

The Steelers finished first in the NFL in total defense last season, but that proved to be fool’s gold. They did not put enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks and did not force enough turnovers. Gone are five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton and outside linebacker James Harrison, who was cut after the two sides couldn’t agree on the amount of a pay cut for the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Steelers also lost starting cornerback Keenan Lewis to the New Orleans Saints in free agency.

The Steelers are high on former undrafted free agent Steve McLendon, who replaces Hampton and can also play defensive end. They must get more out of former first-round picks Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward at defensive end. Hood is going into his third season as a starter but has been, in Tomlin parlance, just another guy. Heyward has shown very little in two seasons, and that is a concern since Brett Keisel, 34, whom he backs up, isn’t getting any younger.

Lawrence Timmons, who should have made the Pro Bowl last season, and veteran Larry Foote return at inside linebacker. One of the biggest questions on the team is whether the outside linebackers will provide the necessary pass rush, which is critical to the defense’s success. Former Pro Bowler LaMarr Woodley had only four sacks last season. Jason Worilds gets the first crack at replacing Harrison, and the former second-round pick has played well in spots. First-round pick Jarvis Jones should provide help at outside linebacker even if he is only a situational pass-rusher.

The loss of Lewis thrusts Cortez Allen into the starting lineup, and Allen looked like a viable long-term starter after filling in for the injured Taylor last season. Taylor is still one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, and the Steelers signed William Gay, who spent the 2012 season in Arizona, to play nickel back.

Polamalu is the wild card. The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year gives coordinator Dick LeBeau a piece to move all over the field, and Polamalu is a game-changer when he is healthy. The problem is that Polamalu has missed 22 games since 2009, and his age (32) and aggressive style of play don’t bode well for getting an entire season out of the seven-time Pro Bowler. Free safety Ryan Clark is 33 but seems to get better with age. Perhaps the biggest issue the Steelers have at the back end of their defense is the lack of proven depth.

Shaun Suisham is entrenched as the kicker, and the ninth-year veteran was close to automatic last season. Drew Butler returns as the punter after a decent rookie season. Stephens-Howling has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns during his career, and Brown is a dangerous punt returner. Tomlin would love for a younger player to emerge there so he can minimize Brown’s exposure to big hits.

Final Analysis: 1st in AFC North
A franchise quarterback like Roethlisberger is always going to give his team a chance to contend for the Super Bowl, which is the only goal in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger must have a capable supporting cast, and it would help if the investment the Steelers have made in the offensive line started paying off. A healthy Polamalu and a return to form by Woodley would make the defense more opportunistic. There are a lot of ifs, however, and if Pittsburgh’s marquee players do not lead the way — or are not able to because of injuries — the Steelers are looking at another third-place finish in the AFC North and another long offseason.

Order your 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle


Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-2013-nfl-team-preview

Without being asked, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll informed beat writers on a conference call that then-rookie Russell Wilson would be his starting quarterback to open the 2012 season.

Dead silence.

Because of Wilson’s 5'11" stature, plus his first-year status, no one had pressed Carroll about this possibility. No one realistically envisioned this happening. A year later, Wilson at the offensive controls makes perfect sense. The diminutive quarterback was the ignition point for an explosive zone-read offense, tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record for touchdown passes (26), and was as responsible as anyone for the Seahawks getting into the playoffs and coming up with their first postseason road victory since 1983.

Wilson’s presence has created so much momentum for the franchise — making it the preferred destination for high-impact free agent Cliff Avril and newly acquired (and well paid) Percy Harvin in the offseason — the Seahawks have people convinced that anything is possible this season.

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 4th

Related: 2013 Seattle Seahawks Schedule Analysis

All Seattle had to do was find a steady quarterback to get this team over the hump. Free agent signee Matt Flynn was supposed to be the guy. Wilson relegated him to three mop-up appearances, and Flynn now plays for Oakland. With his strong right arm, Fran Tarkenton-like scrambling ability (489 yards rushing) and high-level efficiency (a club-record 100.0 passer rating), Wilson created nonstop problems for opposing teams. His challenge will be to counter the defensive adjustments that will come his way a second time around the league.

Yet the Seahawks took a proactive step to ease the pressure on Wilson and further frustrate opposing defensive coordinators by acquiring the triple-threat Harvin. He was the one thing the Seattle offense sorely lacked — a legitimate breakaway threat. He was expected to upgrade the team’s weakest offensive position area and allow the Seahawks to be more creative than ever. That was, however, until Harvin decided to undergo surgery in early August to repair his injured hip. Harvin will miss a significant chunk of the regular season, if not all of it, which changes the entire outlook of the receiving corps. Now Wilson will need to lean on wide receivers Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, who led the Seahawks with 50 and 45 receptions after battling chronic injury and inconsistency, respectively, even more than originally expected. Rice's surgically repaired knee remains a concern and it would help Wilson and the offense if tight end Zach Miller could become a little more reliable and productive. Harvin's absence also presents an opportunity for third-year wideout Doug Baldwin or rookies Chris Harper and Jermaine Kearse to emerge and provide more depth.

The slashing and durable Marshawn Lynch remains one of the NFL’s most productive running backs, regardless of who’s at quarterback. He was better than ever when on the receiving end of Wilson handoffs, coming up with a career-high 1,590 yards rushing (third in the league). He relishes his role as a violent runner.

When Carroll took over the franchise, he made rebuilding a sorry offensive line his first order of business. It took a while, but the coach finally got the desired results. Left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger stayed healthy for the first time in the same season and became Pro Bowl starters. Big and mobile, Okung is the closest thing to a dominant Seahawks lineman since Walter Jones retired. Okung has the ability to get out and run and mow people down. That said, he still needs to address a lingering issue: He and right tackle Breno Giacomini were two of the most penalized offensive linemen in the league, flagged for 13 and 12 infractions, respectively, making them drive-killers at times. Unger is deceptively strong and quick. Left guard James Carpenter boasts star quality but has been injury-prone. Converted defender J.R. Sweezy finished his rookie season as a starter and is the top candidate at right guard. Paul McQuistan started all 16 games last season and will serve as the first guy off the bench if he doesn't retain his starting job.

The back seven boasts as much speed and big-play ability as any in the league, but the line has been merely adequate. The lack of a pass rush was responsible for multiple fourth quarter defeats last season. Deeming this position a priority, the Seahawks added veteran tackle Tony McDaniel and ends Michael Bennett and Avril, the latter strong enough to bring added pressure and agile enough to play linebacker. They also drafted three more D-linemen. Avril (29 sacks over the past three seasons) is a ready replacement for Chris Clemons, whose timetable for a return from a playoff knee injury is unclear. Run-stuffing Red Bryant and speed-rusher Bruce Irvin are productive as situational ends.

The linebacking corps might have been the Seahawks’ most questionable group entering last season. Bobby Wagner made it one of the most secure. Another ready-to-play rookie, Wagner was surprisingly savvy and speedy while stepping in from the outset and leading the team in tackles (140). K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith, who moves up from a reserve role to new starter, man the outside spots, and few linebacking corps cover as much ground as these guys. There’s a big falloff in talent, however, with the backups.

The secondary is easily Seattle’s biggest stockpile of talent. They’re game-changers in every sense, with three of the four starters scoring twice each on interceptions or blocked kicks in their brief careers. Three of them have been Pro Bowlers. Cornerback Richard Sherman, the only one in his backfield who hasn’t gone to Hawaii yet, had a team-high eight picks, 24 passes defensed and plenty of swagger. He also returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for a score. Fellow corner Brandon Browner has nine interceptions in two seasons, two for scores. Free safety Earl Thomas is a productive center fielder and a two-time Pro Bowler, and strong safety Kam Chancellor is a ferocious hitter. Seattle also signed three-time Pro Bowl selection Antoine Winfield as its nickel back.

Dependable placekicker Steven Hauschka and punter Jon Ryan are accuracy guys rather than boomers. Hauschka connected on 24-of-27 field goal attempts, with each of his misses coming from 50 yards or more. Ryan dropped 30 punts inside the 20-yard line. Harvin's acquistion initially made Pro Bowler Leon Washington expendable. Now someone else will need to step up in that department with Harvin sidelined for much of the regular season. Tate will more than likely handle the punt return duties.

Final Analysis: 2nd in NFC West
Wilson is one of 20 starters returning, and one of six Seahawks players who went to the Pro Bowl. Offensive firepower abounds. All the pieces are in place for the Seahawks to make a deep playoff run, if not a second Super Bowl appearance in eight seasons. Wilson and Wagner, the precocious team leaders on each side of the ball, need to avoid sophomore slumps. The newcomers, minus Harvin, also need to contribute. There hasn’t been this much hype surrounding a Seattle team entering a season since 1985, and that one couldn’t handle it, finishing 8–8. Can these Seahawks measure up? Certainly the element of surprise with Wilson behind center is long gone. But don’t rule out anything with this team.

Order your 2013 Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle


Seattle Seahawks 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /thompkins-dobson-and-sudfeld-where-should-patriots-rookies-go-fantasy-drafts

Pay attention fantasy football fans because it's a new world for the New England Patriots and their receivers this season. A whirlwind offseason for the Patriots has seen the departure of trusted regulars Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, and a likely start on the PUP list for tight end Rob Gronkowski.

In fact, Tom Brady returns with just one wide receiver (Julian Edelman with 21 receptions) from the 2012 season. While Patriots fans and fantasy owners alike were quick to panic at the depletion in talent, it is important to remember that change brings opportunity.

Ever active in the draft and when it comes to identifying potential hidden gems, New England has brought in a handful of rookies that, with Brady at the helm, could be poised for surprise seasons and are worth a look in fantasy football leagues.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR: The undrafted rookie free agent has emerged as an early favorite target of Tom Brady as he enjoyed a breakout performance last Thursday against Detroit in the Patriots' third preseason game in which he was targeted 11 times. He finished the game with eight receptions for 116 yards. Thompkins has an excellent shot at securing a starting spot come Week 1 against Buffalo.

Ranking on Athlon Sports' final Preseason Fantasy Football 2013 Big Board (Top 250): No. 147 (No. 53 WR)

Aaron Dobson, WR: The second-round pick was expected to nab the No. 2 receiver spot; but a rather underwhelming preseason has caused him to slip down the depth chart. Brady appears growing more comfortable with the Marshall product each week and the durability concerns surrounding Danny Amendola, along with Dobson’s upside and play-making ability, could make him a factor earlier than expected.

Ranking on final Preseason Big Board: No. 231 (No. 74 WR)

Zach Sudfeld, TE: Another undrafted rookie, Sudfeld finished among the top 10 tight ends in the nation in receptions during his final season at Nevada and looks to be Tom Brady’s newest weapon at the position. His 6-7, 230-pound frame will make him a major red zone threat and he should see plenty of passes thrown his way while Gronkowski is out.

Ranking on final Preseason Big Board: No. 184 (No. 22 TE)

Thompkins, Dobson and Sudfeld: Where should the Patriots' rookies go in fantasy drafts?
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: San Francisco Giants, videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/hunter-pence-hits-longest-home-run-2013

The Giants' Hunter Pence crushed a ball during the first inning of yesterday's game against the Rockies. The ball was estimated to have traveled 476 feet, making it the longest home run in MLB this season. 


The Giants' Hunter Pence crushed a ball during the first inning of last night's game against the Rockies. The ball was estimated to have traveled 476 feet, making it the longest home run in MLB this season.
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 09:02
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Braves, Funny, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/braves-elliot-johnson-does-postgame-interview-pretending-be-nascar-driver

The Atlanta Braves' Elliot Johnson was interviewed about hitting a triple following yesterday's game against Cleveland. Johnson's response seems have come straight out of a NASCAR PR manual as he thanked numerous sponsors, his car, and his crew chief. 


The Atlanta Braves' Elliot Johnson was interviewed about hitting a triple following yesterday's game against Cleveland. Johnson's response seems have come straight out of a NASCAR PR manual as he thanked numerous sponsors, his car, and his crew chief.
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 08:32
Path: /college-football/top-10-games-first-weekend-college-football

By Monday evening, a good portion of an offseason’s worth of predictions and debates may be out of date.

That’s part of the anticipation for the first weekend of the season, which will stretch from Thursday through Monday night. Plenty of games with plenty to learn, pretty much.

Here’s a quick guide to the games we watching closely and what lessons he hope to gain for each team.

1. Georgia at Clemson
Need to know: Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
What we will learn about Georgia: A great deal about Todd Grantham’s defense. The results didn’t match the talent last season. The Bulldogs allowed 4.1 yards per carry last season, ranking 11th in the SEC. And that was with first-round draft picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree (granted, Ogletree was suspended the first four games). Missing oversized safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who is serving a one-game suspension, and returning only three starters will put stress on the Georgia defense against one country’s best quarterbacks.
What we will learn about Clemson: If the secondary is good enough for a top-10 team. The Tigers’ secondary is the weak link on the defense. Safety Travis Blanks is the only returning starter here, and he needs to have a breakout season as a sophomore. The lingering pass defense problem from 2012 can’t extend into the 2013 opener against Georgia’s Aaron Murray.

2. LSU vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas
Need to know: Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about LSU: Who is ready to take charge. Will the young defense be ready to play at normal LSU levels? Will Zach Mettenberger be able to take the next step under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron? TCU's Casey Pachall and Waymon James have proven they can put stress on a defense when healthy and available. And Mettenberger will be tested against a Gary Patterson defense that proved it could translate success from the Mountain West to the Big 12.
What we will learn about TCU: What’s up Patterson’s sleeve. Patterson’s not offering many clues for his plans against LSU. He hasn’t announced a starting quarterback between Pachall and Trevone Boykin, though Pachall appears to be the favorite. Patterson also snuck defensive end Devonte Fields, who was supposed to be suspended, onto the depth chart. TCU has been hit by player departures (projected starting linebacker Joel Hasley) and injuries on the offensive line, so perhaps Patterson is grabbing any advantage he can get.

3. North Carolina at South Carolina
Need to know: Thursday, 6 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about North Carolina: The line is a major question mark for North Carolina’s offense, which was one of the most consistent in the ACC last season. If the offensive line can anchor an ACC contender. Three starters are gone, including first-round draft pick, Jonathan Cooper. Left tackle James Hurst will have his hands full with Jadeveon Clowney, but the good news is he won’t face anyone better for the rest of the season.
What we will learn about South Carolina: Are the defensive players not named Jadeveon ready to win the SEC? South Carolina has some holes at linebacker and to a lesser extent in the secondary. South Carolina needs to prove it can handle North Carolina and quarterback Bryn Renner before facing Georgia and Aaron Murray in the second week of the season.

4. Boise State at Washington
Need to know: Saturday, 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1
What we will learn about Boise State: If Joe Southwick is ready to carry Boise State. The quarterback was much improved in the final games of last season, throwing nine touchdowns and no interceptions in the final four games last season. He was 26 of 38 for 264 yards with two TDs in the bowl game against Washington, but Southwick will need to be a road performer. Besides Washington, the Broncos face Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State on the road this season.
What we will learn about Washington: If more experience will turn the offense around. The Huskies repaired one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12 during the 2012 offseason. They’ll need to upgrade the offense this season if they’re going to get over the seven-win hump. A banged-up offensive line didn’t help Keith Price at all last season. Now, Washington has a healthy line, skill position talent (especially if Mackey Award contender Austin Seferian-Jenkins plays) and up-tempo tweaks in the scheme.

5. Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Need to know: Thursday, 9:15 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Ole Miss: A bit about how this brutal start will go. Ole Miss has a ton of momentum after closing last season with a win over Mississippi State, a bowl victory and a star-studded signing class. But the Rebels have to play games, and the early part of the schedule includes four of the first five on the road. If the Rebels can’t defeat Vanderbilt, how confident will they be against Texas (Sept. 14) and Alabama (Sept. 28)?
What we will learn about Vanderbilt: Who is Austyn Carta-Samuels? Vanderbilt won nine games under Jordan Rodgers last season, and now the job is being handed to a Wyoming transfer. Carta-Samuels had a nice freshman season in Laramie, but that’s a long way from reaching a bowl out of the SEC. Carta-Samuels will be without his No. 2 receiver in Chris Boyd, who was indicted in connection to the campus rape case. Police accuse Boyd of advising another defendant in covering up the crime.

6. Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State in Houston
Need to know: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC
What we will learn about Mississippi State: If the Bulldogs are ready for the big-time. Mississippi State folded against the top competition in the SEC last season. Oklahoma State is in the crowd atop the Big 12, but Mississippi State can still make a statement in Houston. The Bulldogs have a standout defensive line that will go up against an OSU unit that’s missing starting left tackle Devin Davis, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
What we will learn about Oklahoma State: An intro to a new offense. On one hand, Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh have had the entire offseason to prepare for starting this season — a year ago, freshman Wes Lunt, who has since transferred, was named the starter in spring. That’s good news, but those veterans are working under new coordinator Mike Yurcich.

7. Virginia Tech vs. Alabama in Atlanta
Need to know: Saturday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Virginia Tech: Not much, really. The Crimson Tide embarrassed Michigan 41-14 to open last season. That’s a mark Virginia Tech may strain to avoid.
What we will learn about Alabama: How dominant this team could be. Frank Beamer has said Alabama is the best team Virginia Tech has faced during his tenure. If there’s a breakout offensive star — T.J. Yeldon or Amari Cooper — doing something big against Virginia Tech may be enough to put one or the other in the Heisman conversation along with AJ McCarron.

8. Florida State at Pittsburgh
Need to know: Monday, 8 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Florida State: What role Jameis Winston may play. The redshirt freshman quarterback could be one of the breakout stars for 2013, but there may be little reason for coach Jimbo Fisher to play that hand, at least not yet. The Seminoles should have one of the best defenses in the ACC plus plenty of running back depth so Winston doesn’t need to be a star in his first start.
What we will learn about Pittsburgh: The direction of the running back position. Pittsburgh has had a number of deficiencies in its final seasons in the Big East, but running back hasn’t been one of them from LeSean McCoy to Dion Lewis to Ray Graham. The baton could have been passed to decorated recruit Rushel Shell, but he elected to transfer. When he wanted to return, coach Paul Chryst didn’t take him back. Pitt also had injuries to the top two running backs, junior Isaac Bennett and freshman James Conner, during fall practice.

9. Ohio at Louisville
Need to know: Sunday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Ohio: The Bobcats’ status as a MAC team to watch. Consistency has been the biggest trademark for Ohio in recent years. The Bobcats have won between eight and 10 games in each of the last four seasons. Frank Solich has been here since 2005. But a MAC title has been elusive as flashier teams with transient coaches have won the league. Ohio may have what it takes to win the league this season.
What we will learn about Louisville: If the defense is ready to go undefeated. Teddy Bridgewater and the offense will be fine, but Charlie Strong’s D had its lapses last season. The Cardinals allowed 524 total yards in a loss to Syracuse and struggled to find a pass rush at times last season. Ohio returns the backfield duo of Tyler Tettleton and Beau Blankenship, who combined for 480 total yards against Penn State in the opener last season.

10. Rutgers at Fresno State
Need to know: Thursday, 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
What we will learn about Rutgers: How the defense will replace its stars. The Scarlet Knights lost Big East defensive player of the year Khaseem Greene, lockdown corner Logan Ryan and veterans Scott Vallone and Steve Beauharnais. That’s a lot for Rutgers to lose in one offseason, especially when the first game of 2013 is on the road against Fresno quarterback Derek Carr.
What we will learn about Fresno State: A bit about Fresno State’s Mountain West prospects. The Bulldogs hasn’t won an outright conference title since it’s been the same league with Boise State. The Bulldogs are expected to go toe-to-toe with the Broncos this season, possibly meeting in the first Mountain West title game. Defeating Rutgers at home in the opener would be a signal that Fresno is ready to take on Boise State and San Diego State.

Our picks of the top 10 games this weekend and what we may learn
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-all-125-college-football-coaches-hot-seat-2013

Coaches are always a hot topic during any college football season. And once the calendar turns to late October, replacements and potential firings will dominate the headlines even more.

There’s a difference between a coach on the hot seat and the overall pressure surrounding a coach. And it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two categories. But Athlon Sports has tried to come up with a ranking of all 125 coaches with hot seat and overall pressure on the program in mind.

UNLV’s Bobby Hauck and USC’s Lane Kiffin are clearly on the hot seat entering 2013. Hauck has won just two games in each of his three seasons with the Rebels, while Kiffin – even though he received a vote of confidence from athletic director Pat Haden – can’t afford to have another 7-6 season. Connecticut’s Paul Pasqualoni and Eastern Michigan’s Ron English are also two coaches that need to show progress in order to stick around for 2013.

When it comes to pressure on a head coach from on a down year, look no further than Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. Both coaches rank inside of the top 50 of the preseason 125 hot seat rankings, but neither coach is in any danger of losing their job. The ranking for those two coaches is more about the pressure on surrounding the program after a down year.

Ranking all 125 coaches when it comes to hot seat/pressure surrounding the program is an impossible task. Keep in mind, just because a coach ranks high on the list doesn’t mean we think he will be fired at the end of the year. Also, there’s really no separation from No. 28-100 on this list. So don’t get too caught up in the No. 55 or No. 76 ranked coach.

Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013

1Bobby Hauck6-32 (3 years)Hauck has won just two games in each of UNLV's three seasons.
2Lane Kiffin25-13 (3 years)Kiffin got the vote of confidence from AD Pat Haden.
3Paul Pasqualoni10-14 (2 years)Defense has been good, but offense has struggled mightily.
4Ron English10-38 (4 years)EMU is one of the toughest jobs in college football.
5Mack Brown150-43 (15 years)Pieces are in place for Texas to make a Big 12 title run.
6Tim Beckman2-10 (1 year)Could he survive another 2-10 or 3-9 record?
7Dan Enos13-24 (3 years)Easy late season schedule helped CMU get bowl eligible last year.
8Don Treadwell8-16 (2 years)RedHawks haven't made much progress under Treadwell.
9Tony Levine6-7 (1+ year)With new stadium opening in 2014, Levine needs to show progress.
10Gary Pinkel90-61 (12 years)Good coach, but is Missouri falling too far behind rest of SEC?
11Jeff Quinn9-27 (3 years)Bulls won 3 out of last 4 games last year.
12Doc Holliday17-20 (3 years)Thundering Herd has talent to win C-USA in 2013.
13Steve Sarkisian26-25 (4 years)Huskies have three consecutive 7-6 seasons.
14Mike London16-21 (3 years)Recruiting well but has two losing seasons in three years.
15Kirk Ferentz100-74 (14 years)Huge buyout - in no danger of getting fired. 
16Randy Edsall6-18 (2 years)Terps need to show more progress for upcoming move to the Big Ten.
17Rich Ellerson17-32 (4 years)Went 12-13 in first two years. 5-19 in next two.
18Dave Christensen22-28 (4 years)Has two bowl appearances in four years.
19Norm Chow3-9 (1 year)Warriors have a ways to go under Chow.
20Charlie Weis1-11 (1 year)Talent improving thanks to addition of transfers.
21Charley Molnar1-11 (1 year)Tough job. Minutemen should show progress in 2013.
22Jim Grobe73-74 (12 years)No danger of getting fired but just 1 bowl game in last 4 years.
23Ron Turner1st yearQuestionable hire.
24Joey Jones25-15 (4 years)Will take some time for USA to compete for Sun Belt titles.
25Carl Pelini3-9 (1 year) 
26Skip Holtz1st yearWhich Holtz is Louisiana Tech getting? East Carolina or USF?
27Rick Stockstill43-44 (7 years)Rebounded last year after rough 2011.
28Kyle Whittingham71-32 (8 years)No danger of getting fired. But pressure to rebound after 5-7 record. 
29Bo Pelini49-20 (5 years)Nebraska is always a high pressure job. 
30Dan McCarney9-15 (2 years)McCarney should get UNT competitive in C-USA.
31Mike Leach3-9 (1 year)Cougars should be better in Leach's second year. 
32Dana Holgorsen17-9 (2 years) 
33David Bailiff30-44 (6 years)Rewarded with contract extension after 2012.
34Dan Mullen29-22 (4 years)Not an easy job. But needs to close gap with top teams in West.
35Kevin Wilson5-19 (2 years) 
36Larry Blakeney169-98-1 (22 years)Back-to-back losing records for first time at Troy.
37Mark Helfrich1st yearIs he the right choice to succeed Chip Kelly?
38June Jones31-34 (5 years)No danger of being fired. Four straight bowl games.
39George O'Leary60-55 (9 years) 
40Rod Carey0-1 (1st year)Can Carey build off what Dave Doeren leaves behind?
41Dave Clawson22-28 (4 years)Falcons will be in hunt for MAC East title this year.
42Kyle Flood9-4 (1 year) 
43Ruffin McNeill19-19 (3 years) 
44Garrick McGee3-9 (1 year) 
45Tommy Tuberville1st year 
46Paul Chryst6-7 (1 year)Up and down 2012. Should get better in next few years.
47Frank Beamer216-104-2 (26 years)Pressure to rebound after 7-6 mark in2 012.
48Bobby Petrino1st year 
49Terry Bowden1-11 (1 year)Struggled last year, but Zips should be improved in '13.
50Jim McElwain4-8 (1 year) 
51Dennis Franchoine23-24 (4 years)Has Texas State on the right track.
52Bryan Harsin1st yearA solid hire for the Red Wolves.
53Brian Polian1st yearReplacing a legend like Chris Ault won't be easy.
54Ron Caragher1st year 
55Matt Wells1st year 
56Paul Haynes1st year 
57Scott Shafer1st yearHas to guide Syracuse through ACC transition. 
58Sean Kugler1st year 
59Curtis Johnson2-10 (1 year)Green Wave on the right track.
60Bronco Mendenhall74-29 (8 years)Cougars play a challenging schedule this year. 
61Bob Davie4-9 (1 year) 
62Matt Rhule1st year 
63Rocky Long17-9 (2 years) 
64Al Golden13-11 (2 years)Will Miami finally win the Coastal this year?
65Todd Monken1st yearShould make USM fans forget Ellis Johnson. 
66Brady Hoke19-7 (2 years)Always pressure to win big at Michigan. 
67Ken Niumatalolo40-26 (5 years) 
68Mark Richt118-40 (12 years) 
69Dabo Swinney40-21 (4+ years) 
70Jimbo Fisher31-10 (3 years)Seminoles back on the rise under Fisher. 
71Bob Stoops149-37 (14 years)Has won at least 10 games in 6 out of last 7 years.
72Mark Dantonio51-28 (6 years) 
73Paul Johnson41-26 (5 years) 
74Frank Solich59-44 (8 years) 
75Jerry Kill9-16 (2 years) 
76Tim DeRuyter9-4 (1 year)Bulldogs should push Boise State for MW title. 
77P.J. Fleck1st yearMaking a splash on the recruiting trail. 
78Butch Jones1st yearCan Jones return Tennessee to SEC title contender status?
79Bret Bielema1st year 
80Mark Stoops1st yearStoops is doing a great job on the recruiting trail. 
81Gus Malzahn1st yearGreat fit at Auburn. 
82Mike MacIntyre1st yearNeeds time to rebuild roster.
83Matt Campbell10-4 (1+ year)One of the rising stars in the coaching ranks.
84Jim Mora9-5 (1 year) 
85Darrell Hazell1st yearCan he work a quick turnaround?
86Steve Addazio1st yearOff to a good start on the recruiting trail. 
87Larry Fedora8-4 (1 year) 
88Dave Doeren1st year 
89Sonny Dykes1st year 
90Rich Rodriguez8-5 (1 year) 
91Todd Graham8-5 (1 year) 
92Mike Riley81-67 (12 years) 
93Larry Coker12-10 (2 years) 
94Bill Blankenship19-8 (2 years) 
95Les Miles85-21 (8 years) 
96Pete Lembo15-10 (2 years)Another rising star to watch in 2013. 
97Todd Berry17-20 (3 years) 
98Justin Fuente4-8 (1 year)Tigers won three in a row to finish 2012.
99Brian Kelly28-11 (3 years) 
100Trent Miles1st yearGeorgia State made a great hire in Miles. 
101Gary Andersen1st year 
102David Cutcliffe21-40 (5 years)Will the Blue Devils become an annual bowl team?
103Will Muschamp18-8 (2 years) 
104Hugh Freeze7-6 (1 year) 
105Troy Calhoun47-31 (6 years) 
106Willie Taggart1st yearBest hire of the offseason. 
107Kliff Kingsbury1st yearFormer Texas Tech QB has returned to Lubbock.
108Paul Rhoads24-27 (4 years) 
109Doug Martin1st yearNo pressure as a FBS Independent this year. 
110Paul Petrino1st yearNo pressure as a FBS Independent this year. 
111Mark Hudspeth18-8 (2 years) 
112Kevin Sumlin11-2 (1 year) 
113James Franklin15-11 (2 years) 
114Charlie Strong25-14 (3 years) 
115Mike Gundy67-35 (8 years) 
116Gary Patterson116-36 (12 years) 
117Art Briles33-30 (5 years) 
118Bill O'Brien8-4 (1 year) 
119Steve Spurrier66-37 (8 years) 
120David Shaw23-4 (2 years) 
121Pat Fitzgerald50-39 (7 years) 
122Bill Snyder170-85-1 (21 years) 
123Chris Petersen84-8 (7 years) 
124Urban Meyer12-0 (1 year) 
125Nick Saban68-13 (6 years)Three championships (and counting) at Alabama

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Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-pre-week-1-heisman-voting

Each week of the college football season, Athlon Sports will poll some of the nation's best college football people from every region of the country. Each voter offers up a top five and each first-place vote is worth five points. A second-place vote is worth four points, so on and so forth. With 13 voters, a perfect ballot — i.e., 13 first-place votes — would give a player 65 total points.

Johnny Manziel is the defending Heisman winner but the odds are stacked against him. Tim Tebow, Matt Leinart, Sam Bradford and Mark Ingram all returned to try to defend their stiff-armed trophies and failed. Only 1-in-77 players has ever won the award a second time, that being, of course, the legendary Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin. Manziel will have to repeat arguably the greatest season in history in the toughest division in football with a giant bulls-eye on his back, from both opposing defenses and the NCAA. And while there appears to be a Heisman revolution developing, the majority of the initial vote-getters were, in fact, quarterbacks.

So without further ado, here is our 13-member Heisman Trophy panel and how the votes look heading into the first week of the regular season:

Pre-Week 1 Results:

 PlayerPos.TeamTot. Pts1st2nd3rd4th5th
1.Braxton MillerQBOhio St42/6552211
2.Johnny ManzielQBTexas A&M385211-
3.Marcus MariotaQBOregon3323221
4.Jadeveon ClowneyDESouth Carolina2812411
5.AJ McCarronQBAlabama22-2224
6.Tajh BoydQBClemson11--14-
7.Teddy BridgewaterQBLouisville7-1--3
8.Marqise LeeWRUSC6-1-1-
9.Aaron MurrayQBGeorgia5--1-2
10.Kevin HoganQBStanford2---1-
11.Taylor MartinezQBNebraska1----1


The Voting Panel (click name for twitter accounts):

Tom DienhartBig Ten
Bryan FischerPac-12
David FoxAthlon
Braden GallAthlon
Steven GodfreySB
Chris HustonHeisman
Steven LassanAthlon
Chris LevelRed Raider
Mitch LightAthlon
Dan RubensteinSB Nation/Solid
Josh WardMr. SEC/
Jim YoungACC Sports


College Football: Pre-Week 1 Heisman Voting
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/will-johnny-manziel-repeat-heisman-winner-2013

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been in the spotlight this offseason for his various off-the-field activities. While the sophomore has garnered some bad publicity since the Cotton Bowl, the season opener is just a few days away, and he is one of the frontrunners to claim the Heisman Trophy.

Although it’s uncertain if Manziel will be forced to miss any games due to the recent autograph scandal, he will have his hands full repeating as the Heisman Trophy winner. This is one of the deepest groups of contenders for the award in recent memory, and Manziel will have a difficult task repeating last year’s numbers.

Athlon’s editors debate Manziel's Heisman chances, along with the frontrunner for the ward in 2013. 

Will Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel Repeat as the Heisman Winner in 2013?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even before the ongoing investigation into the autograph scandal, I thought it was going to be very difficult for Johnny Manziel to repeat as the Heisman winner. Manziel simply set the bar too high as a true freshman, throwing for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns, while adding 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Repeating those numbers without receiver Ryan Swope and left tackle Luke Joeckel wasn’t going to be easy. And after entering 2012 with low expectations, Texas A&M was going into 2013 with a bullseye on its back. Also, plenty of SEC coaches spent the offseason trying to figure out a way to stop Manziel, and the rest of the SEC will be more prepared for the Aggies in 2013. Even if Manziel doesn’t repeat as the Heisman winner, he should still have an outstanding year and will be in the mix for first-team All-SEC honors once again.

As for my frontrunner, I have to go with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. In the first season under coach Urban Meyer last year, Miller threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,271 yards and 13 scores. With a better supporting cast in place, look for the junior to see a significant increase in his passing yards. Miller should benefit from another offseason to grasp Meyer’s offense, and his Heisman campaign will certainly be helped by the Buckeyes’ run at a national title. But let’s not forget about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The junior is college football’s best player, but will he get enough support as a defensive player to win the Heisman? 

Mark Ross
Even if Manziel had not been the subject of so many headlines, scrutiny and criticism during the spring and summer, I would not pick him to win the Heisman again. The not-so positive media coverage aside, the odds are pretty much stacked against Manziel to repeat. For starters, only one man has ever done so, and Archie Griffin accomplished this feat nearly 40 years ago. More recently, Tim Tebow had a shot at the rare repeat in 2008, and while he didn't have a horrible season by any means (42 total touchdowns), he still finished third in the Heisman voting.

Just like Tebow in 2008, this season Manziel not only has to, in essence, beat every other FBS player to win another Heisman, he also has to beat himself. Regardless of how gaudy the Texas A&M quarterback's statistics are this fall, if he doesn't top last year's record-breaking numbers (5,116 total yards of offense, responsible for 47 touchdowns), then it's hard for me to see him generating the same level of support from the Heisman voters. And unlike last year when be burst on the scene as a redshirt freshman, every one knows who Johnny Football is, which makes his job as a starting quarterback in the SEC — also known as the nation's toughest conference — that much harder.

Just because we won't see Manziel win back-to-back Heismans, that doesn't mean a dual-threat sophomore quarterback won't claim the famous stiff-armed trophy in 2013. Come December, I am picking Oregon's Marcus Mariota to finish ahead of Alabama's AJ McCarron and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Manziel doesn't even finish in the top five.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The odds are stacked heavily against Johnathan Manziel's favor. Sam Bradford, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Mark Ingram couldn't repeat, leaving just one winner in nearly 80 years as a two-timer. There is a reason Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner and that is because it is virtually and literally impossible. Defenses have more film to study and are focused more on stopping No. 2 and his supporting cast isn't nearly as experienced and capable. Johnny Football is wired to handle distractions and will be a pleasure to watch once again in 2013, but his off-the-field issues have to impact the rest of team somehow. The bottom line is Manziel produced one of, if not the, greatest statistical season in college football history. By definition, he won't be able to replicate that this fall. He will have a big season and maybe get back to New York. Give me Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to win the stiff-armed trophy in 2013.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
If Tim Tebow couldn’t become the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin, I doubt many players could. Reigning Heisman winners not only have to be better than the field in a give season, they have to be demonstrably better than they were a season earlier. Johnny Manziel’s season was historic in 2012, nearly 90 yards of total offense better than Cam Newton’s 2010 season. And even if Manziel approaches his 400 yards of total offense per game and 47 total touchdowns, his offseason behavior and so-what demeanor will cause some voters to look for plausible alternatives — I don’t agree with this, but it’s a sentiment that’s out there. And plausible alternatives will be out there, unlike they were last season. Imagine if the Heisman vote were taken after the bowl games last season: How many would be voting for Manti Te’o and Collin Klein then? So that brings me to this season’s Heisman pick. The field is simply too crowded to feel strongly about anyone, especially how the last few Heisman winners were far from the preseason favorites. Braxton Miller is an easy preseason pick, though. Like recent Heisman winners, Miller is the clear focal point of his offense in the air and on the ground. He’ll play for a title contender and a name team, and he’ll have a chance for a late-season push against Michigan and probably a Big Ten title game.

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Will Johnny Manziel Repeat as the Heisman Winner?
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 07:13
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-6-amazing-stats-atlanta

Sports, especially auto racing and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series genre, has a way of handing success to those who make news for other reasons. Or at least that is the perception.

Kurt Busch has been in the Cup Series spotlight since late November 2011. In that span, he has been fired, hired, suspended, hired again, contended for Chase contention and hired once more. He has not won a race, the traditional way of landing your name in a newspaper or a snarky stats-oriented column such as this; however, the headline-making recent hire of Stewart-Haas Racing might fuel the aforementioned perception this Sunday.

Though he has now entered lame-duck territory — in sports, something almost unique to auto racing — with his Furniture Row Racing team, he is still contending for a spot in this year’s Chase. This Labor Day weekend, he is visiting a track that just to happens to be, arguably, his best.

5.313  Busch’s 5.313 Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) at Atlanta through the last eight races there is the best in the series.  Kurt Busch

Busch was the only two-time winner at Atlanta during the CoT era and after a 31st-place finish last week at Bristol, he is on the outside, looking in (currently 12th) to this year’s Chase. A high finish in general, statistically, is in the cards. A victory would be beneficial to both his chances of qualifying in via the top 10 in points and his wild card chances. The chance at the “W,” for him, begins with qualifying.

3.4  Busch and the No. 78 team have averaged a qualifying position of 3.4 in the last five oval-track races.

Some teams put more emphasis on qualifying setups than others. It’s clear that Furniture Row is one placing a premium on Busch’s time trial, getting high starting spots and getting to the front early. In three races — New Hampshire, Michigan and Bristol — in which he started on the front row, he led 102, 43 and 54 laps, respectively. Only one of those races resulted in a good finish (the third-place score at Michigan).

If Busch and team can make it to the end of the race, their 77.27 percent base retainment percentage in the final 10 percent of races indicates that they’re likely to hold, or gain on, the position they are running at the 90 percent mark.

7.2  In the last eight Atlanta races, Jeff Gordon’s 7.2-place average finish is the best among all Cup Series drivers.

Currently 13th in the standings, projects Gordon to qualify into the Chase via a top-10 points position and his history at Atlanta is a big reason for that. His 7.2-place average is a consistent mark, per his 5.99 finish deviation, over the last eight races, so a good run isn’t just needed; it’s expected. Despite his high season-long PEER (2.146), he is at risk, like last year, of being the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to miss the Chase. A typical Gordon run at AMS on Sunday will go a long way to alleviating some stress next week at Richmond.

66.7%  Kevin Harvick drove from the 24th-place starting spot to a fifth-place finish in last year’s race at Atlanta, thanks to 66.7 percent pass efficiency on 66 encounters.  Kevin Harvick

The guy is a primo passer, presently the best overtake artist in the Cup Series with 54.56 percent efficiency through 24 races this season. Additionally, he’s a juggernaut at the Bruton Smith-owned quad-oval tracks. Atlanta is far from an outlier; though he scored his first career Cup win there, he didn’t win during the CoT era. He did score seven finishes of 13th place or better, with a DNF-omitted finishing average of 6.7.

304  A CoT era winner at Atlanta in 2008, Kyle Busch has led the second-most laps (304 or 11.6 percent of the total laps) there across the last eight races.

Surprise! Kyle Busch does Kyle Busch things at Atlanta. He’ll be a closely watched man again this weekend, if his performance earlier this season at Texas was any indication. On a quad-oval track similar to Atlanta, Busch was victorious in the Lone Star State after ranking first in speed early in a run, fastest laps run, fastest on restarts and laps led (66 or 73.3 percent).

6.03  With a finish deviation of 6.03, Joey Logano has been a consistent runner at Atlanta; unfortunately, he is consistently unspectacular with an average finish of 26th.

Though Logano and the No. 22 team have been one of the most consistent high-finishing teams in the series since the beginning of summer, the young driver attempting to clinch his first Chase berth in the next two weeks has his work cut out for him. A high finish at Atlanta will buck his history at the track; a lead-lap finish on Sunday night will be his first.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

David Smith crunches the numbers to reveal some revealing NASCAR stats for the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 18:42
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/kate-upton-has-really-good-golf-instructor

Kate Upton tweeted out a photo of herself and golfing legend Arnold Palmer on Tuesday.

Kate Upton and Arnold Palmer meet up on the golf course.
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 17:53
Path: /can-arian-foster-be-trusted-fantasy-owners-2013

A major question for fantasy football owners is what to expect from Houston Texans running back Arian Foster in 2013. Dogged by injuries to his back and calf this offseason, Foster was taken off the PUP last week, yet opinions differ on where he should be drafted.

Why you can trust him?

Foster has battled early season injuries before and gone on to have terrific seasons. Remember his hamstring injury in the beginning of the 2011 season? It seems like a distant memory after his 1,224 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. While Foster may not rush for as many yards this season, he remains a premier back at the goal line. His 41 touchdowns since 2010 are the most in the NFL. The Texans schedule also lines up nicely for Foster as 10 of the 16 defenses he faces finished in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed per game in 2012. Foster will be running behind a strong offensive line and should get plenty of opportunities as Gary Kubiak remains committed to running the football utilizing the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.

Fantasy Ceiling: 2nd overall pick

Why you can’t trust him?

Foster has more carries on his legs (956) than any player in the NFL over the past three years. Several running backs have struggled after seasons with large amounts of carries. Could he be in store for a decline previously seen in players with significant mileage like Larry Johnson, Jamaal Anderson or Ricky Williams? A clue to pointing to a downward trend could be that Foster's yards per carry have declined each of the past three seasons, from 4.9 to 4.4 to 4.1.

Fantasy Floor: 6th overall pick (behind Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles)

Final Verdict: 2nd overall

Foster should be well rested after sitting out the entire 2013 preseason and will benefit from the strong offensive attack in Houston. Expect big numbers once again from the former undrafted free agent and the No. 2 player on Athlon Sports' final Preseason Fantasy Football Big Board, as he will continue to look more like LaDainian Tomlinson than Larry Johnson.

Can Arian Foster be trusted by fantasy owners in 2013?
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 17:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-big-board-top-250-preseason

The 2013 NFL regular season is set to kick off in just over a week! With most teams expected to rest their starters in their final preseason game, this is a perfect time to unveil Athlon Sports' final Fantasy Football Big Board before the games count.

As was the case early on, injuries continue to dominate the majority of the preseason headlines. Football is a physical, violent sport, even in the preseason, as evidenced by the number of players who have been added to the injury report each week. Injuries have shuffled up many a depth chart, and also has made its presence known at the top of our Big Board.

Running backs dominate the top 10, taking the first nine spots, but that doens't mean none of these guys don't have question marks either. For example, Adrian Peterson is our clear-cut No. 1, but the reigning NFL MVP received some bad news this week with the announcement of All-Pro fullback Jerome Felton's four-game suspension. Peterson will still get his yards and touchdowns, but he also will feel the loss of his lead blocker during the first month of the season, to some degree.

Following Peterson is Arian Foster, whose recent return to practice is the only reason he remains at No. 2. Foster has been fairly durable during his career, but he's had a ton of carries in recent seasons and starting this season off first with a calf injury and then a back issue is not what anyone, but especially a Foster owner, wanted to see. In Foster's defense, several of the backs behind him, such as Doug Martin (shot to head during preseason game) and Jamaal Charles (foot sprain earlier in training camp), have had their own health-related issues as well.

This just reinforces that not only do injuries go hand-in-hand with action on the field, they also can have a significant impact during a fantasy season, especially if they become a factor before Week 1 is even played.

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Big Board (Top 250)
Last updated Aug. 27

1Adrian PetersonMINRB5Felton suspension big loss for AP.
2Arian FosterHOURB8His hold on this spot is tenuous.
3Marshawn LynchSEARB12 
4Ray RiceBALRB8 
5Doug MartinTBRB5 
6Jamaal CharlesKCRB10Looks to be over early foot sprain.
7C.J. SpillerBUFRB12 
8Trent RichardsonCLERB10 
9LeSean McCoyPHIRB12 
10Aaron RodgersGBQB4 
11Calvin JohnsonDETWR9 
12Drew BreesNOQB7 
13Peyton ManningDENQB9 
14Dez BryantDALWR11 
15A.J. GreenCINWR12Appears to 100 percent for Week 1.
16Matt ForteCHIRB8Has looked good so far.
17Brandon MarshallCHIWR8 
18Julio JonesATLWR6 
19Demaryius ThomasDENWR9 
20Tom BradyNEQB10Needs young options to produce.
21Alfred MorrisWASRB5 
22Steven JacksonATLRB6 
23Vincent JacksonTBWR5 
24Andre JohnsonHOUWR8 
25Randall CobbGBWR4 
26Jimmy GrahamNOTE7 
27Cam NewtonCARQB4 
28Stevan RidleyNERB10Has had strong preseason.
29Chris JohnsonTENRB8Has broken off some big plays.
30Roddy WhiteATLWR6Ankle injury shouldn't be an issue.
31Larry FitzgeraldARIWR9 
32Wes WelkerDENWR9Ankle injury has limited game reps.
33Maurice Jones-DrewJACRB9Looks to be healthy once again.
34Matt RyanATLQB6 
35Victor CruzNYGWR9Will his heel issue linger?
36Marques ColstonNOWR7 
37Reggie WayneINDWR8 
38Frank GoreSFRB9 
39David WilsonNYGRB9Oozes big-play ability.
40Jason WittenDALTE11 
41Colin KaepernickSFQB9 
42Tony GonzalezATLTE6 
43Darren SprolesNORB7Top-10 RB in PPR leagues.
44Mike WallaceMIAWR6 
45Danny AmendolaNEWR10Can he stay on the field?
46Hakeem NicksNYGWR9 
47Dwayne BoweKCWR10Could be primed for huge season.
48DeMarco MurrayDALRB11 
49Eddie LacyGBRB4Playing with a chip in shoulder.
50Reggie BushDETRB9Value goes up in PPR leagues.
51Steve SmithCARWR4 
52Eric DeckerDENWR9 
53Antonio BrownPITWR5 
54Pierre GarconWASWR5 
55Matthew StaffordDETQB9 
56Tony RomoDALQB11Early signs are encouraging.
57Darren McFaddenOAKRB7OAK offense struggling already.
58Montee BallDENRB9Workload remains to be seen.
59Ryan MathewsSDRB8 
60Jordy NelsonGBWR4Back at practice following knee surgery.
61DeSean JacksonPHIWR12 
62Torrey SmithBALWR8 
63Andrew LuckINDQB8 
64Russell WilsonSEAQB12 
65Robert Griffin IIIWASQB5Seems to be on track for Week 1 start.
66Vernon DavisSFTE9 
67Rob GronkowskiNETE10PUP list definite possibility.
68Chris IvoryNYJRB10 
69Lamar MillerMIARB6He feels he should be the starter.
70Anquan BoldinSFWR9 
71James JonesGBWR4 
72Cecil ShortsJACWR9 
73Ahmad BradshawINDRB8 
74DeAngelo WilliamsCARRB4Opportunity is there, can he seize it?
75Eli ManningNYGQB9 
76Ben RoethlisbergerPITQB5 
77Greg JenningsMINWR5 
78Tavon AustinSTLWR11 
79Mark IngramNORB7All depends on Saints' game plan.
80Giovani BernardCINRB12Rookie already making noise.
81BenJarvus Green-EllisCINRB12 
82Stevie JohnsonBUFWR12Bills' QB issues complicate matters.
83Sidney RiceSEAWR12 
84T.Y. HiltonINDWR8 
85Miles AustinDALWR11If healthy, capable of No. 1 WR stats.
86Mike WilliamsTBWR5 
87Lance MooreNOWR7 
88Rashard MendenhallARIRB9Health, O-line are main issues.
89Daryl RichardsonSTLRB11Can he carry the load?
90Owen DanielsHOUTE8 
91Kyle RudolphMINTE5 
92Greg OlsenCARTE4 
93Brandon MyersNYGTE9 
94Michael VickPHIQB12It's his job, now what?
95Sam BradfordSTLQB11Rams' offense could be sneaky.
96Jared CookSTLTE11Strong start, will it carry over?
97Jermichael FinleyGBTE4Seems to be in prove-it mode.
98Shane VereenNERB10Versatility is a huge plus.
99Andre BrownNYGRB9Could score double-digit TDs.
100Ronnie HillmanDENRB9He, not Ball, could be starter.
101Ben TateHOURB8Must-have handcuff for Foster owners.
102Joe FlaccoBALQB8 
103Andy DaltonCINQB12 
104Kenny BrittTENWR8 
105Emmanuel SandersPITWR5 
106Chris GivensSTLWR11Big-play threat to keep an eye on.
107Josh GordonCLEWR10If Weeden develops, he could rise.
109Michael FloydARIWR9 
110Golden TateSEAWR12Harvin's injury offers opportunity.
111Vick BallardINDRB8 
112Le'Veon BellPITRB5Will miss at least a month.
113Isaac RedmanPITRB5Can he seize the job in PIT?
114Jay CutlerCHIQB8Bears' new-look offense worth watching.
115Carson PalmerARIQB9O-line issues already arising.
116Matt SchaubHOUQB8 
118Bryce BrownPHIRB12 
119Bernard PierceBALRB8 
120Denarius MooreOAKWR7 
121Vincent BrownSDWR8Someone needs to step up in SD.
122Rueben RandleNYGWR9An injury away from starting.
123Ryan BroylesDETWR9Just needs to stay on the field.
124Antonio GatesSDTE8 
125Martellus BennettCHITE8 
126Isaiah PeadSTLRB11 
127Mikel LeshoureDETRB9 
128Jacquizz RodgersATLRB6 
130Josh FreemanTBQB5Squarely on hot seat in TB.
131Brandon PettigrewDETTE9 
132Fred DavisWASTE5Don't forget about him.
133Jordan CameronCLETE10Another TE who could emerge.
134Coby FleenerINDTE8Will he benefit from Stanford ties?
135Shonn GreeneTENRB8 
136Bilal PowellNYJRB10 
137Michael BushCHIRB8 
138Malcom FloydSDWR8Should be ready for Week 1.
139Kendall WrightTENWR8Knee sprain a step back.
140DeAndre HopkinsHOUWR8 
141Alshon JefferyCHIWR8He and Marshall could be deadly duo.
143Alex SmithKCQB10 
144Brian HartlineMIAWR6 
147Kenbrell ThompkinsNEWR10Brady showing trust in rookie already.
148Andre RobertsARIWR9 
149Justin BlackmonJACWR9Can you wait four games?
150Greg LittleCLEWR10 
151Philip RiversSDQB8Has not been a good preseason.
152Ryan TannehillMIAQB6 
153Jake LockerTENQB8Has he turned the corner?
154Brandon WeedenCLEQB10Make or break season?
155BroncosDENDST9Von Miller suspension hurts.
157Jonathan DwyerPITRB5 
158Johnathan FranklinGBRB4 
159Roy HeluWASRB5More of a receiving threat than Morris.
160Danny WoodheadSDRB8 
161Pierre ThomasNORB7 
162Joseph RandleDALRB11Dunbar's injury should lead to more touches.
163Ed DicksonBALTE8Hamstring injury holding him back.
164Dwayne AllenINDTE8Is there room for 2 TEs in IND?
165Jermaine GreshamCINTE12 
166Rob HouslerARITE9Palmer loves his TEs.
168Christian PonderMINQB5 
169EJ ManuelBUFQB12Should start, if healthy.
170Geno SmithNYJQB10Knee issue only adds to Jets' QB drama.
171Stephen GostkowskiNEK10 
172Blair WalshMINK5 
173Matt BryantATLK6 
177Santana MossWASWR5 
178Jacoby JonesBALWR8 
179Darrius Heyward-BeyINDWR8 
180Santonio HolmesNYJWR10Finally back on practice field.
181Jeremy KerleyNYJWR10 
182Justin ForsettJACRB9 
183Ryan WilliamsARIRB9Back on field, but for how long?
184Zach SudfeldNETE10Appears to be Gronk's replacement.
185Tyler EifertCINTE12 
186Phil DawsonSFK9 
187Justin TuckerBALK8 
188Matt PraterDENK9 
189Randy BullockHOUK8 
190Fred JacksonBUFRB12 
191Jonathan StewartCARRB4Will start season on PUP list.
192Nate BurlesonDETWR9 
193Robert WoodsBUFWR12Rookie battling for No. 2 WR spot.
194T.J. GrahamBUFWR12Can he hold off Woods?
195Robert TurbinSEARB12 
196Christine MichaelSEARB12Rookie has looked good in preseason.
197Lance DunbarDALRB11Sprained foot could cause him to miss Week 1.
198Julius ThomasDENTE9Has he separated himself from pack?
199Zach MillerSEATE12 
200Brent CelekPHITE12 
202Blaine GabbertJACQB9He's the starter, but does it matter?
203Matt FlynnOAKQB7Feeling the heat from Pryor.
204Chad HenneJACQB9 
205Mohamed SanuCINWR12 
206Julian EdelmanNEWR10If Amendola gets hurt, he's next up.
207Austin CollieSFWR949ers need more WRs.
208Scott ChandlerBUFTE12 
209Marcedes LewisJACTE9 
210Mike TolbertCARRB4 
211Rashad JenningsOAKRB7 
212Brandon LaFellCARWR4 
215Andrew HawkinsCINWR12 
216Daniel ThomasMIARB6 
217Zac StacySTLRB11 
218Zach ErtzPHITE12 
219Heath MillerPITTE5Week 1 return still a possibility.
220Josh BrownNYGK9 
221Dan BaileyDALK11 
225Greg ZuerleinSTLK11 
226Sebastian JanikowskiOAKK7 
227Brian QuickSTLWR11 
228Cordarrelle PattersonMINWR5 
229Keenan AllenSDWR8 
230Justin HunterTENWR8 
231Aaron DobsonNEWR10Appears to have been passed by fellow rookie.
232Rod StreaterOAKWR7 
233Mark SanchezNYJQB10Coaching staff not helping Sanchez.
234Nick FolesPHIQB12Ready if needed.
235Dallas ClarkBALTE8Does he have anything left in the tank?
236David AkersDETK9 
237Garrett HartleyNOK7 
238Steven HauschkaSEAK12 
239Delanie WalkerTENTE8Late arrival to training camp.
240Brandon LloydFAWR Plenty of teams with WR issues.
241Jarius WrightMINWR5 
242Eddie RoyalSDWR8 
243Nate WashingtonTENWR8 
244Anthony FasanoKCTE10No. 1 TE in KC, for now.
245Travis KelceKCTE10Lot to learn, but lots of potential.
246Luke StockerTBTE5 
247Davone BessCLEWR10 
248Austin PettisSTLWR11 
249Riley CooperPHIWR12 
250Jason AvantPHIWR12 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-preseason

Entering the regular season, quarterback appears to be fairly deep, as evidenced by Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings. For example, take Michael Vick, who currently checks in at No. 15. Vick beat out Nick Foles for the Eagles' starting job and it's not out of the question that the veteran could bounce back in a huge way running Chip Kelly's offense. While there are certainly safer options than Vick, he also could pay off in a huge way for the owner willing to take a chance.

Another potentially risky pick that could reap big rewards is Robert Griffin III. While the reigning NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year has yet to play in a preseason game, he appears to be right on schedule with his recovery from knee surgery with his sights set squarely on starting the Redskins' "Monday Night Football" opener against Vick's Eagles. RGIII's potential, in terms of both risk and reward, is why he sits just outside the top 10 at No. 12.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Quarterback Rankings
Updated Aug. 27


1Aaron RodgersGB4
2Drew BreesNO7
3Peyton ManningDEN9
4Tom BradyNE10
5Cam NewtonCAR4
6Matt RyanATL6
7Colin KaepernickSF9
8Matthew StaffordDET9
9Tony RomoDAL11
10Andrew LuckIND8
11Russell WilsonSEA12
12Robert Griffin IIIWAS5
13Eli ManningNYG9
14Ben RoethlisbergerPIT5
15Michael VickPHI12
16Sam BradfordSTL11
17Joe FlaccoBAL8
18Andy DaltonCIN12
19Jay CutlerCHI8
20Carson PalmerARI9
21Matt SchaubHOU8
22Josh FreemanTB5
23Alex SmithKC10
24Philip RiversSD8
25Ryan TannehillMIA6
26Jake LockerTEN8
27Brandon WeedenCLE10
28Christian PonderMIN5
29EJ ManuelBUF12
30Geno SmithNYJ10
31Blaine GabbertJAC9
32Matt FlynnOAK7
33Chad HenneJAC9
34Mark SanchezNYJ10
35Nick FolesPHI12
36Terrelle PryorOAK7
37Kevin KolbBUF12
38Kirk CousinsWAS5
39Matt CasselMIN5
40Jason CampbellCLE10
41Bruce GradkowskiPIT5
42Ryan FitzpatrickTEN8
43Ryan MallettNE10
44Shaun HillDET9
45Vince YoungGB4
46Brock OsweilerDEN9
47Matt MooreMIA6
48Drew StantonARI9
49Kyle OrtonDAL11
50Luke McCownNO7
51T.J. YatesHOU8
52Mike GlennonTB5
53Matt HasselbeckIND8
54Tyrod TaylorBAL8
55Derek AndersonCAR4
56Josh JohnsonCIN12
57Kellen ClemensSTL11
58Chase DanielKC10
59Tyler WilsonOAK7
60Matt BarkleyPHI12

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013: Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-preseason

NFL training camps are in full swing, although injuries have prevented several running backs from taking part in practice. While the top spots on Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings remain largely unchanged, there is certainly one injury situation worth watching.

Houston's Arian Foster has yet to make his training camp debut, as he was first sidelined by a calf injury he sustained during OTAs in March and then a back issue. The team doens't think either issue is that serious or will be factor come Week 1, but considering Foster is behind only Adrian Peterson on our rankings, it goes without saying the sooner he shows up on the practice field the better.

LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden are just a few of the others who are coming back from significant injuries. Each are capable of putting up huge numbers, but only if they are fully healthy. Getting through training camp unscathed would be a huge step and will only help each player's draft position.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Running Back Rankings
Updated Aug. 27


1Adrian PetersonMIN5
2Arian FosterHOU8
3Marshawn LynchSEA12
4Ray RiceBAL8
5Doug MartinTB5
6Jamaal CharlesKC10
7C.J. SpillerBUF12
8Trent RichardsonCLE10
9LeSean McCoyPHI12
10Matt ForteCHI8
11Alfred MorrisWAS5
12Steven JacksonATL6
13Stevan RidleyNE10
14Chris JohnsonTEN8
15Maurice Jones-DrewJAC9
16Frank GoreSF9
17David WilsonNYG9
18Darren SprolesNO7
19DeMarco MurrayDAL11
20Eddie LacyGB4
21Reggie BushDET9
22Darren McFaddenOAK7
23Montee BallDEN9
24Ryan MathewsSD8
25Chris IvoryNYJ10
26Lamar MillerMIA6
27Ahmad BradshawIND8
28DeAngelo WilliamsCAR4
29Mark IngramNO7
30Giovani BernardCIN12
31BenJarvus Green-EllisCIN12
32Rashard MendenhallARI9
33Daryl RichardsonSTL11
34Shane VereenNE10
35Andre BrownNYG9
36Ronnie HillmanDEN9
37Ben TateHOU8
38Vick BallardIND8
39Le'Veon BellPIT5
40Isaac RedmanPIT5
41Bryce BrownPHI12
42Bernard PierceBAL8
43Isaiah PeadSTL11
44Mikel LeshoureDET9
45Jacquizz RodgersATL6
46Shonn GreeneTEN8
47Bilal PowellNYJ10
48Michael BushCHI8
49Jonathan DwyerPIT5
50Johnathan FranklinGB4
51Roy HeluWAS5
52Danny WoodheadSD8
53Pierre ThomasNO7
54Joseph RandleDAL11
55Justin ForsettJAC9
56Ryan WilliamsARI9
57Fred JacksonBUF12
58Jonathan StewartCAR4
59Robert TurbinSEA12
60Christine MichaelSEA12
61Lance DunbarDAL11
62Mike TolbertCAR4
63Rashad JenningsOAK7
64Daniel ThomasMIA6
65Zac StacySTL11
66Marcel ReeceOAK7
67DuJuan HarrisGB4
68Knowshon MorenoDEN9
69Michael TurnerFA 
70Mike GillisleeMIA6
71LaMichael JamesSF9
72Kendall HunterSF9
73LaRod Stephens-HowlingPIT5
74Toby GerhartMIN5
75Knile DavisKC10
76Joique BellDET9
77Felix JonesPIT5
78LeGarrette BlountNE10
79Stepfan TaylorARI9
80Ronnie BrownSD8
81Shaun DraughnKC10
82Donald BrownIND8
83Latavius MurrayOAK7
84Montario HardestyCLE10
85Andre EllingtonARI9
86Brian LeonardTB5
87Mike JamesTB5
88Kerwynn WilliamsIND8
89Willis McGaheeFA 
90Cedric BensonFA 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013: Running Back Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-preseason

There is no change atop Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings as the preseason wraps up, but that doesn't mean some of the top options haven't had trouble-free training camps either. Roddy White sustained a sprained ankle that put an end to his preseason snaps, while Victor Cruz was sidelined by a heel injury. Both are expected to be ready to go and be in the starting lineup in Week 1.

New England's Danny Amendola is another wideout who has already gotten nicked up, which is nothing new for the former Ram. Amendola has a golden opportunity with the Patriots to produce legitimate No. 1 wide receiver numbers, but it all comes down to him staying healthy. The good news for Tom Brady is that undrafted rookie Kenbrel Thompkins has made the most of an unsettled receiving corps and appears to have emerged as a legitimate option in the Patriots' passing game. Thompkins checks in at No. 53 in our final preseason rankings, while Amendola is just outside of the top 15 at No. 17 overall.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Wide Receiver Rankings
Updated Aug. 27


1Calvin JohnsonDET9
2Dez BryantDAL11
3A.J. GreenCIN12
4Brandon MarshallCHI8
5Julio JonesATL6
6Demaryius ThomasDEN9
7Vincent JacksonTB5
8Andre JohnsonHOU8
9Randall CobbGB4
10Roddy WhiteATL6
11Larry FitzgeraldARI9
12Wes WelkerDEN9
13Victor CruzNYG9
14Marques ColstonNO7
15Reggie WayneIND8
16Mike WallaceMIA6
17Danny AmendolaNE10
18Hakeem NicksNYG9
19Dwayne BoweKC10
20Steve SmithCAR4
21Eric DeckerDEN9
22Antonio BrownPIT5
23Pierre GarconWAS5
24Jordy NelsonGB4
25DeSean JacksonPHI12
26Torrey SmithBAL8
27Anquan BoldinSF9
28James JonesGB4
29Cecil ShortsJAC9
30Greg JenningsMIN5
31Tavon AustinSTL11
32Stevie JohnsonBUF12
33Sidney RiceSEA12
34T.Y. HiltonIND8
35Miles AustinDAL11
36Mike WilliamsTB5
37Lance MooreNO7
38Kenny BrittTEN8
39Emmanuel SandersPIT5
40Chris GivensSTL11
41Josh GordonCLE10
42Michael FloydARI9
43Golden TateSEA12
44Denarius MooreOAK7
45Vincent BrownSD8
46Rueben RandleNYG9
47Ryan BroylesDET9
48Malcom FloydSD8
49Kendall WrightTEN8
50DeAndre HopkinsHOU8
51Alshon JefferyCHI8
52Brian HartlineMIA6
53Kenbrel ThompkinsNE10
54Andre RobertsARI9
55Justin BlackmonJAC9
56Greg LittleCLE10
57Santana MossWAS5
58Jacoby JonesBAL8
59Darrius Heyward-BeyIND8
60Santonio HolmesNYJ10
61Jeremy KerleyNYJ10
62Nate BurlesonDET9
63Robert WoodsBUF12
64T.J. GrahamBUF12
65Mohamed SanuCIN12
66Julian EdelmanNE10
67Austin CollieSF9
68Brandon LaFellCAR4
69Andrew HawkinsCIN12
70Brian QuickSTL11
71Cordarrelle PattersonMIN5
72Keenan AllenSD8
73Justin HunterTEN8
74Aaron DobsonNE10
75Rod StreaterOAK7
76Brandon LloydFA 
77Jarius WrightMIN5
78Eddie RoyalSD8
79Nate WashingtonTEN8
80Davone BessCLE10
81Austin PettisSTL11
82Riley CooperPHI12
83Jason AvantPHI12
84Josh MorganWAS5
85Terrance WilliamsDAL11
86Donnie AveryKC10
87Jon BaldwinSF9
88Domenik HixonCAR4
89Percy HarvinSEA12
90Michael CrabtreeSF9

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013: Wide Receiver Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-preseason

The most intriguing name in Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings entering the regular season remains Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots need to decide whether to keep Gronk on the active roster or place him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which means he would be guaranteed to miss the first six games. For now, Gronk maintains his top-five status, but that doesn't mean he should be treated as such come draft time.

In fact, the emergence of undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld during the preseason, may make the decision to shelve Gronkowski for the first six weeks easier. Sudfeld has opened many an eye already, which is why he comes in at No. 22 on our rankings. If Gronk does end up on the PUP and Sudfeld makes an early impact on the Patriots' passing game, then it's entirely possible that Sudfeld takes over the Aaron Hernandez role in New England this season.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Tight End Rankings
Updated Aug. 27


1Jimmy GrahamNO7
2Jason WittenDAL11
3Tony GonzalezATL6
4Vernon DavisSF9
5Rob GronkowskiNE10
6Owen DanielsHOU8
7Kyle RudolphMIN5
8Greg OlsenCAR4
9Brandon MyersNYG9
10Jared CookSTL11
11Jermichael FinleyGB4
12Antonio GatesSD8
13Martellus BennettCHI8
14Brandon PettigrewDET9
15Fred DavisWAS5
16Jordan CameronCLE10
17Coby FleenerIND8
18Ed DicksonBAL8
19Dwayne AllenIND8
20Jermaine GreshamCIN12
21Rob HouslerARI9
22Zach SudfeldNE10
23Tyler EifertCIN12
24Julius ThomasDEN9
25Zach MillerSEA12
26Brent CelekPHI12
27Scott ChandlerBUF12
28Marcedes LewisJAC9
29Zach ErtzPHI12
30Heath MillerPIT5
31Dallas ClarkBAL8
32Delanie WalkerTEN8
33Anthony FasanoKC10
34Travis KelceKC10
35Luke StockerTB5
36Charles ClayMIA6
37Kellen WinslowNYJ10
38Tony SchefflerDET9
39David PaulsonPIT5
40Jacob TammeDEN9
41Gavin EscobarDAL11
42James CaseyPHI12
43Tom CrabtreeTB5
44Garrett GrahamHOU8
45Ladarius GreenSD8
46Taylor ThompsonTEN8
47Joel DreessenDEN9
48Tony MoeakiKC10
49David AusberryOAK7
50Ben WatsonNO7

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013: Tight End Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defensespecial-teams-rankings-preseason

Von Miller's pending four-game suspension turned out to be of the six-game variety, which is why Denver's DST continues its tumble down Athlon Sports' 2013 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Team rankings. Even though he's just one player, the Broncos will sorely miss Miller's presence to put pressure on the quarterback and propensity to make big plays. The Broncos' D will be just fine once Miller gets back, but his 2013 season debut won't happen until Oct. 13. His absence alone is enough reason to move the Broncos down a couple of more spots, as the Bengals, Bears and Patriots units seem safer at this point.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Defense/Special Teams Rankings
Updated Aug. 27


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Fantasy Football 2013: Defense/Special Teams Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-preseason

Kickers may be the least liked position in fantasy football, but unless your league doesn't use one, you need one to fill out your starting lineup. New England's Stephen Gostkowski tops Athlon Sports' final preseason kicker rankings, but there's always a kicker or two who comes out of nowhere each season, like Minnesota's Blair Walsh did in 2012.

Could that breakout kicker in 2013 be another rookie? Caleb Sturgis and Dustin Hopkins beat out established veterans to seize the kicking jobs in Miami and Buffalo, respectively, but there's a reason they start out near the bottom of our rankings. A better breakout candidate for this season could be Houston's Randy Bullock. He was expected to be the Texans' kicker after being a fifth-round pick in 2012, but he suffered a groin injury early in training camp, which caused him to miss the entire season. He's healthy now and should get plenty of opportunities to finish off scoring drives and kick field goals for a team that is expected to contend for the AFC title.

Order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine today!

Fantasy Football 2013: Final Preseason Kicker Rankings
Updated Aug. 27


1Stephen GostkowskiNE10
2Blair WalshMIN5
3Matt BryantATL6
4Phil DawsonSF9
5Justin TuckerBAL8
6Matt PraterDEN9
7Randy BullockHOU8
8Josh BrownNYG9
9Dan BaileyDAL11
10Greg ZuerleinSTL11
11Sebastian JanikowskiOAK7
12David AkersDET9
13Garrett HartleyNO7
14Steven HauschkaSEA12
15Robbie GouldCHI8
16Mike NugentCIN12
17Mason CrosbyGB4
18Adam VinatieriIND8
19Alex HeneryPHI12
20Shaun SuishamPIT5
21Rob BironasTEN8
22Rian LindellTB5
23Ryan SuccopKC10
24Kai ForbathWAS5
25Shayne GrahamCLE10
26Graham GanoCAR4
27Nick NovakSD8
28Jay FeelyARI9
29Caleb SturgisMIA6
30Dustin HopkinsBUF12
31Josh ScobeeJAC9
32Nick FolkNYJ10

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Additional Fantasy Football Rankings:

2013 Big Board (Top 250)
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013: Kicker Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 16:30
Path: /mlb/18-amazing-stats-week-august-19-25

The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.

.167    Opponents batting average vs. Boston last week
The Boston pitchers were especially stingy last week, and it wasn’t like they were facing struggling offenses. Well, maybe half of the time they were. Boston squared off with the Dodgers and Giants on the West Coast last week and quieted the bats for both teams.

6.1    Runs per game the Rangers have averaged since losing Nelson Cruz
It was reasonable to assume that the Rangers’ production would suffer when their top run producer was suspended. But, perhaps, this incident has galvanized the clubhouse and inspired players to step up. In the 112 games prior to the right fielder’s suspension, the Rangers averaged 4.3 runs per game and batted .261. In the 18 games since the suspension, Texas is scoring 6.1 runs a game and batting .270.

.341    Tigers batting average over last eight games
Much like the Rangers with Nelson Cruz, the Detroit Tigers haven’t missed a beat offensively with the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. And with Jose Iglesias now patrolling shortstop, the Tigers are much better defensively. Over the past eight games, Detroit is batting .341 as a team with 11 home runs and 48 runs.

7    Runs scored by San Diego in Tyson Ross’s last six starts
The Padres’ young starter has been pitching well, but hasn’t received very much support. Since joining the rotation July 23, Ross has made seven starts going 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA. Opponents are batting just .189, yet to figure out his devastating slider. However, the Padres’ batters aren’t exactly doing much better. After scoring six runs in Ross’s start on July 23, the team has scored a total of seven runs in his last six outings.

0.32    Koji Uehara’s ERA since becoming Boston’s closer
The hard-throwing Uehara became the team’s full-time closer in late June, and since then, Uehara is 3-0 with 12 saves in 14 chances with an 0.32 ERA. He has 37 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.

29    Runs allowed by the White Sox over their last nine games
Fortunately for the White Sox the Astros joined the American League this season, because that’s the only team keeping Chicago from being the worst club in the league. But over the past nine games, the pitching staff has been stellar, giving up a total of only 29 runs. Consequently, the team won eight of nine.

.529    Batting average for Houston catcher Jason Castro last week
The All-Star catcher swung a torrid bat last week, hitting .529 with a 1.913 OPS. He reached base safely in all six games, including a walk on Sunday in his only appearance. He was 3-for-3 on Saturday and had six extra-base hits for the week.

0.69    ERA for Miami’s Jose Fernandez last week
While the Marlins continue to scuffle through a rough season, Fernandez remains one of the few bright spots on the team. The young righthander won both of his starts last week. In 13 innings, he gave up eight hits, three walks and struck out 16 to finish the week with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.69 ERA.

1    Career postseason start combined for the Atlanta pitching staff
Kris Medlen started for Atlanta in last year’s wild card game with St. Louis. That is the lone postseason start that any of the current Braves’ starters can claim. Injured veteran Tim Hudson is no stranger to the playoffs, but he is out for the season with a broken ankle.

17-5    Rays record when Wil Myers drives in a run
In games the young outfielder starts, the Rays fare much better when the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidate has at least one RBI. When he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he starts and doesn’t drive home a run, the Rays are 17-16.

9    Walks for Joe Nathan in his last 11 innings
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The Texas closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 37 saves in 39 chances. But he’s walked nine in his last 11 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.

85    Total bases for Will Venable since the All-Star break
The San Diego outfielder is leading the majors with 85 total bases since the break. Last season, Venable’s teammate Chase Headley won the National League RBI crown with a torrid second half for the Padres.

13    Wins for the Cubs in interleague play
Chicago leads the NL with 13 wins against American Leaguers, and is done with interleague play with just seven losses. With a record of 12-5, the Pirates are second and have three interleague games remaining at Texas.

11    Extra-base hits for the Braves in their last seven games
After a hot August, the Braves’ bats are beginning to cool down a bit, especially in the power department. The lack of production is putting more pressure on the pitching staff, which has up until this point, pretty much delivered.

40    Stolen bases for Rajai Davis of Toronto
He doesn’t lead the majors, but with only 256 at-bats, Davis could become just the eighth player in history to finish a season with 40 or more stolen bases in fewer than 300 at-bats. Otis Nixon and Alex Cole were the last men to do it, both in 1990.
.186    Dan Uggla’s batting average this season
The Braves’ second baseman recently underwent Lasik surgery to improve his vision. Apparently, the Braves suggested the procedure back in spring training, but Uggla refused. Both the player and the team believe his batting average should improve along with his vision. He’s the only player with enough qualifying at-bats hitting below .210.

13    Consecutive games the Cardinals play the Pirates and Reds
This is certainly a critical stretch for the Redbirds. St. Louis entered the 13-game slate tied with Pittsburgh and 2.5 games ahead of the Reds. All three NL Central contenders have an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack over the next two weeks.

20    Magic number for the Atlanta Braves
The Braves’ magic number continues to creep down, and we’re guessing they’ll clinch the NL East on Sept. 14 at home against San Diego.

The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 13:05
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-27-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 27.


• Let's face it: Women's tennis is replete with comely ladies. Here's a rundown of the 32 hottest contestants at the U.S. Open, including Flavia Pennetta (pictured).


• It's a big year for the Mack Brown regime in Austin. So can Texas actually win a national title? We'll say this: There's talent there.


So apparently Alabama fans are bored by all the winning. We feel so sorry for you.


A guy in Albuquerque made a million-dollar hole in one. So Albuquerque is not all desert, car washes and meth labs?


Rex Ryan's feud with the media has reached the New Jersey governor's office and the front page of the Daily News. Over to you, President Obama.


So that thing that crawls out of the TV in "The Ring" can really bring the heat.


Johnny Manziel spent six hours with NCAA investigators. Let's end this dance and either sit him or not.


50 burning questions as we enter another college football season. Spoiler alert: No. 50 is, will Alabama start murdering trees again?


GQ delves into the psyche of one Nick Saban and decides that it's a scary place to visit.


• Wanna see a screen grab of Michael Strahan in drag, presumably dressed as Oprah? Of course you do.


Watch as Dan Patrick continues to feed the "John Clayton has a ponytail" rumor, which unbeknownst to me, he actually started.


• I don't know much about tennis, but I know enough to know that this shot by Rafael Nadal is absolutely sick.




-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:26
Path: /college-football/justin-worley-named-tennessees-starting-qb

The Butch Jones era at Tennessee will kickoff this Saturday against FCS opponent Austin Peay. And Jones ended the offseason speculation by picking junior Justin Worley as his starting quarterback against the Governors.

With the departure of quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter to the NFL, Tennessee’s offense is expected to lean heavily on its ground attack and offensive line to win games in 2013.

Worley started three games in 2011 and has thrown for 738 yards and one touchdown during his nine career appearances. The junior has good size at 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, but Jones prefers to have some mobility from his quarterbacks, and Worley has -22 rushing yards in his career.

With a cast of new receivers stepping into playing time, it will take Tennessee’s offense some time to jell.

If Worley stumbles, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman is expected to be the backup, while true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson are No. 3 and No. 4 on the depth chart.

Tennessee Picks Justin Worley as its Starting QB
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/atlanta-falcons-2013-nfl-team-preview

Say this about the Atlanta Falcons: They don’t rest on their laurels. Coming up just 10 yards short of the Super Bowl and winning an NFC-best 13 games apparently wasn’t good enough for GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith. They overhauled the roster despitea recording the No. 1 overall playoff seed for only the second time in franchise history. Eight new starters will line up for the Falcons this season, including prize free-agent additions Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson.

The Falcons enter the season as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. After steadily fortifying the roster in recent years, they appear ready to take the next step in the hyper-competitive NFC. “I think this team really believes now this team truly can strap it up against any team in this league,” Dimitroff says. “There is not the intimidation factor that there once was. And I love that feeling.”

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 5th

Related: 2013 Atlanta Falcons Schedule Analysis

The Falcons feature a premier quarterback in Matt Ryan and boast an arsenal of playmakers as deep and talented as any in the NFL. Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are big, physical playmakers on the perimeter who can score from any down-and-distance scenario. Both are good enough to be No. 1 receivers on most NFL teams. White sprained his ankle during the Falcons' second preseason game, but it should not prevent him from being out on the field for the season opener in New Orleans. Mercurial Harry Douglas is established as the third receiver, but the team believes he has big-play potential that hasn’t been fully utilized in the past. The big-play opportunities should be there for him with defenses concentrating on White and Jones. He needs to capitalize on them.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez is Ryan’s favorite target, especially in the red zone and on third down. He was targeted 124 times and produced 93 receptions and eight TDs last season. He keeps himself in great shape, so another big year is possible for the perennial Pro Bowler.

Jackson has a lot of wear on his tires but remains remarkably productive. The classic workhorse back, he will try to notch his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. That the NFL record is 11 by Emmitt Smith says a lot about Jackson’s dependability and durability. He’s the perfect complement to the Falcons’ high-powered passing attack and will be a significant upgrade over Michael Turner, who had clearly lost explosiveness last season. Scat back Jacquizz Rodgers is the check-down option. He needs more touches, and like Douglas, could have a breakout year with defenses focused outside the hash marks on White and Jones.

Ryan set career highs in passing yards (4,719), completion percentage (68.6) and TD passes (32) last season. He’s the consummate field general who can make every throw. He’s become a more vocal leader in recent years and has earned the trust and respect of his teammates.

The Falcons’ failure to score from the 1-yard line on three downs in their heartbreaking loss to the Saints was the impetus to overhaul the offensive line, which will feature three new starters. The goal is to get more physical and athletic up front. Tackle Lamar Holmes and guard Garrett Reynolds form the new right side. Both are bigger and more physical than their predecessors. Peter Konz replaces longtime veteran Todd McClure at center and is much stronger and more powerful at this stage of his career. Left tackle Sam Baker enjoyed a strong rebound season in 2012. He’s not spectacular at anything but does everything well.

Coordinator Mike Nolan plays multiple schemes but prefers to operate out of a 4-3 base. The Falcons are unfailingly consistent on defense. They annually rank among the league leaders in interceptions and near the bottom in sacks. Rushing the passer continues to be their most pressing concern. To that end, the Falcons replaced the aging John Abraham with Umenyiora, who is three years younger. Umenyiora’s production has declined precipitously the past two years. The Falcons are hoping a change of scenery and the Georgia Dome fast track will turn things around for him. Kroy Biermann makes plays with his hustle and non-stop motor, but he can be overpowered at the point of attack and is a liability against the run. The underrated Jonathan Babineaux is the Falcons’ best lineman. He’s undersized but is one of the league’s best interior penetrators.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is the leader of this defense. He’s an elite athlete who makes plays all over the field from his weak-side spot. Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas are solid if unspectacular in the middle and strong side, respectively. Depth is a big concern.

The Falcons wanted to upgrade their play at cornerback despite allowing an NFL-low five touchdowns on passes outside the painted numbers last season. Asante Samuel is a boom-or-bust proposition at left corner. He intercepted five passes but also can be burned for big plays because of his penchant for gambling. Rookie Desmond Trufant plays with a similar swagger to Samuel. He has the athleticism and ball skills to start right away. The nickel back position has been a major problem spot for the Falcons. It’s basically a starting spot with so many high-profile passing attacks in the NFC. Rookie Robert Alford should be an immediate upgrade over the undersized Robert McClain. Safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore form one of the best tandems in the league. Both are aggressive hitters with range and improving ball skills.

The Falcons’ special teams are solid. Matt Bryant is one of the best clutch kickers in the NFL, as evidenced by his game-winner against Seattle in the playoffs. He has a range of just over 50 yards and is very accurate and dependable from inside the 50. He has enough leg to consistently send his kickoffs into the end zone.

Punter Matt Bosher needs to improve his directional punting and get-off time. He had two punts blocked last season. Still, he boasts a solid combination of distance and hang time.

Rodgers and Dominique Franks are average return men. The coverage units are solid and should improve with the influx of fresh legs in the draft.

Final Analysis: 1st in NFC South
For all of their recent success, there’s been something missing from the Falcons. For whatever reason, they’ve lacked the aggressiveness and competence of their NFC rivals in Green Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco. They’ve been good, but not good enough.

The Falcons are and should be the favorites to repeat as NFC South champs. They are the most complete team in the division and have several young players emerging into stars. Their window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl in the Ryan era is still wide open. If Jackson and Umenyiora can produce at their former levels and the defense can improve just a little, Atlanta should cruise to its fourth consecutive playoff appearance and challenge San Francisco and Green Bay for superiority in the NFC.

Order your 2013 Atlanta Falcons Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)TennesseeSan Diego
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New OrleansSan Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle (8/28)


Atlanta Falcons 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:00