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Path: /college-football/iowa-hawkeyes-vs-purdue-boilermakers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Iowa Hawkeyes will put their school-record eight-game road winning streak on the line this weekend in West Lafayette, Indiana, against a Purdue squad looking to build on the impressive offensive performance generated in a 34-31 overtime win at Illinois last Saturday.


While the Boilermakers’ offense found its footing last week, the Hawkeyes remain very much a team in disarray on that side of the ball. Iowa struggled to convert on trips inside the red zone against Minnesota despite the defense doing its part. The Golden Gophers were forced to punt on all but two possessions. Still the Hawkeyes made enough plays to escape TCF Bank Stadium with a 14-7 win.


This is the 87th meeting between these Big Ten teams, with Purdue leading all-time series 46-37-3. The Boilermakers’ last victory over Iowa came back in 2012.


Iowa at Purdue


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Iowa -12.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Iowa’s offensive line
Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard was the talk of the Big Ten during last season’s 12-0 run in the regular season. But much of his success in 2015, in true Iowa form, can be attributed to the talent and performance of his offensive line. That consistent, rock-solid play up front has not carried over to this season, and as a result Beathard has paid a heavy price. He has found himself constantly under duress and has ended up on his backside by the time the play is over far too often. Not surprisingly, the Hawkeyes’ offensive production has suffered as a result, as Iowa currently sits 10th in the Big Ten in total offense at 319.7 yards per game. Purdue, certainly not known for being an offensive juggernaut, is actually one spot ahead of the Hawkeyes right now in that category at 332 yards per game. If Iowa wants to get back to where it was last season from an offensive standpoint, the O-line must find its way, and quickly.


2. Purdue rush defense
Iowa’s struggles up front have also carried over to its usually reliable running game. A top-50 rushing offense in the FBS in 2015, the Hawkeyes are languishing at No. 94 in that same category this season. Both returning running backs, Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr., have had their flashy moments, including the game-winning, 54-yard scamper by Wadley which put Iowa ahead of Minnesota for good last week. Purdue enters this game struggling mightily against the run. The Boilermakers are second to last in the Big Ten and 118th nationally in rushing defense at 244.2 yards per game allowed. This could be the matchup that the Hawkeyes need to regain their ground game swagger.


3. Head coaches
Even if they are willing to admit it out loud, you couldn’t tell from last week that either Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell or Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz believes his team is anything other than a national title contender this season. Purdue had one of its most impressive offensive outputs of the season against what had been one of the nation’s better defenses, from a statistical standpoint. On the other side, the Hawkeyes’ coaching staff did the nearly unthinkable in years past, choosing to for it on fourth-and-inches repeatedly in the hard-fought win at Minnesota. Clearly these are two coaches not all that fazed by the current negative chatter around their team’s performance to this point.


Final Analysis


Both the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers are within striking distance of that all-important sixth win, which means bowl eligibility. Given the preseason talk which put Iowa back in the Big Ten Championship Game after winning the Big Ten West Division again, there’s no question the heat is once again on Kirk Ferentz to deliver a win and extend the Hawkeyes’ school-record road winning streak by beating Purdue. Look for his team to finally get that message and respond, although in yet another underwhelming performance.


Prediction: Iowa 27, Purdue 17


— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently calling Southern California home. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, is a former Contributing Writer for the Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye and Big Ten alum. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-georgia-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Vanderbilt Commodores travel to Athens on Saturday to take on Kirby Smart's Georgia Bulldogs in what should be a closely-decided SEC East battle. Vandy is looking for its first SEC win and is still on the outside looking in at a bowl game, while Georgia is looking to continue building on momentum. The Bulldogs could still be a long shot for an SEC Championship Game berth.  


Derek Mason's squad comes into this one reeling off back-to-back close division losses. In fact, against every SEC East opponent Vanderbilt has faced this season — South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky — it has lost by seven points or fewer. Vanderbilt is on the cusp of breaking through but it hasn't been able to win the close games yet.


Georgia heads into Saturday's game off a refreshing 28-14 win against South Carolina. After consecutive losses to Ole Miss and Tennessee, the Bulldogs needed some momentum and they found it in Columbia. With Georgia having corrected its course a bit, it will be interesting to see if this team can keep it up with several key division games looming in the coming weeks. 


Saturday will mark the 77th all-time meeting between Vanderbilt and Georgia. The Commodores don't win this matchup very often, as Georgia leads the series 55-19-2. Vanderbilt has only two wins in this millennium  — in 2006 and '13 — against the 'Dawgs. The last one before that came in 1994. Georgia has won back-to-back games in this series by an average of 22 points.


Vanderbilt at Georgia


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Georgia -14.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The Red Zone

It couldn't be drawn up any better for the Commodores to score when they get inside the 20-yard line. Vanderbilt is surprisingly efficient, leading the SEC in red zone scoring. The Commodores have scored 18 times (12 touchdowns, six field goals) on 19 trips to the red zone this season. That's a vast improvement from last year. Georgia is last in the SEC in allowing opponent red zone conversions. Interestingly enough, the Bulldogs have allowed 18 scores on their opponents' 19 trips to the red zone — and 14 of those have been touchdowns. Vanderbilt's offense hasn't been stellar in gaining yards for the most part but when it gets close to scoring territory, it usually gets points.


2. Nick Chubb Revival 

He had been hobbling around since a season-opening performance that saw him run for 222 yards against North Carolina. Since then, Chubb's rushing yards had decreased every week; from 80 against Nicholls State, to 63 vs. Missouri, then 57 vs. Ole Miss and just three yards against Tennessee. But last week against South Carolina, Chubb looked a lot more like his usual, healthy. He ran for 121 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per carry against the Gamecocks — and also scored two of the Bulldogs' touchdowns. If Chubb can get back as the reliable No. 1 running back, it will help the Georgia offense tremendously, especially with the talented Sony Michel and Brian Herrien coming off the bench.  


3. Vandy Through The Air?

Something has to give here. Vanderbilt is ranked last in the SEC in passing, having thrown for only 914 yards this season. Also, the Commodores have only three touchdown passes compared to four interceptions. But Georgia is 13th in the conference in pass defense and has surrendered an SEC-high 11 touchdowns through the air. The 'Dawgs secondary has been shredded on multiple occasions, especially by Missouri's Drew Lock and Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, who each threw for more than 300 yards. The Commodores don't have anybody on the roster who is going to tear Georgia up, but Kyle Shurmur has had his bright spots. This could be an opportunity for Vandy to put together a little bit of a passing game.


Final Analysis


Georgia has had little trouble with Vanderbilt the past two seasons. But I think this year, the 14.5-point spread is a little much. Derek Mason's team still has a capable defense and its SEC losses have all been close. Georgia's wins over SEC East teams Missouri and South Carolina also were very close (the Bulldogs scored late on an onside kick return vs. the Gamecocks). If Vanderbilt's defense can put the Commodores in good field position on a few occasions, that red zone scoring stat could play a key role. Georgia's defense isn't great. Still, I like the team with the better running backs at home. The 'Dawgs will wear 'em out eventually.


Prediction: Georgia 21, Vanderbilt 13


— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Georgia Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 13:15
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-state-wolfpack-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2016

It’s safe to say that Clemson has found its groove again. The defending ACC champs got off to a bit of a slow start this season, winning games though not dominating like many thought the Tigers would. But the big win over Louisville was followed by a romp of Boston College and anyone that wasn't all in is now back on board.


This week the Tigers host 4-1 NC State, who is probably just drying off after their 10-3 water-logged victory over Notre Dame. The Wolfpack are 1-0 in the conference but they now begin the meat of what is a very difficult ACC slate.


In a series they call the Textile Bowl, Clemson holds a 55-28-1 edge.


NC State at Clemson


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Clemson -17


Three Things to Watch


1. NC State Offensive Line vs. Clemson Defensive Line

The Wolfpack front has allowed just five sacks in five games this season and has done a very good job of opening up running lanes for Matt Dayes but this will be far and away this group's biggest challenge of the season. The Clemson front seven is nasty. Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, and freshman Dexter Lawrence may be the best known of the defensive linemen, but they have plenty of help. The linebacker trio of Ben Boulware, Kendall Joseph and Dorian O’Daniel are playmakers as well. To win, NC State needs at least a stalemate in this battle.


2. Wayne Gallman

After rushing for 123 yards in the season opener at Auburn, the Clemson running back averaged just 44 yards a game over the next three contests. But against Louisville and Boston College, the junior from Loganville, Ga., totaled 219 rushing yards on just 25 carries. NC State has one of the nation’s best run defenses and Gallman’s tenacity will be valuable as the Wolfpack try to contend with Deshaun Watson and the passing game.


3. Third Down Conversions

With all of the talent on the Clemson offense, you would think these Tigers would be a big-play machine. But they are currently 80th in the FBS in number of plays of 30 or more 30 yards. Their offensive success this year has come from converting on third down, something NC State has been efficient at as well. Likewise, both defenses are in the top 12 in opponents' third down conversions. In particular, the Wolfpack offense will need to maintain its possessions and make sure third down is a manageable distance and therefore more convertible.


Final Analysis


It was hard to take much from NC State’s win over Notre Dame last week. The Fighting Irish are not very good right now and the conditions due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew made the game a mess. But you can glean a lot from Clemson’s last two performances. Coming off the emotional win against Louisville, a letdown against Boston College would not have been surprising. But after a few miscues early on, the Tigers once again flexed their muscles and destroyed the Eagles. The Wolfpack look like a good football team. But right now, good is not good enough against Clemson.


Prediction: Clemson 35, NC State 14


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

NC State Wolfpack vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/minnesota-golden-gophers-vs-maryland-terrapins-preview-and-prediction-2016

The last time Minnesota played Maryland was in The Hall Of Fame Classic, played on Dec. 22, 1977, in Birmingham, Alabama. It is against this backdrop that these two programs will meet up again, this time as Big Ten Conference opponents.


Minnesota is coming off two consecutive close conference losses that have hampered the program's quest for a West Division title. A three-point loss in overtime at Penn State (29-26) on Oct. 1, followed up with a home loss to division foe Iowa (14-7) last Saturday that resulted in Iowa claiming the coveted Floyd Of Rosedale trophy, have blunted the positive 3-0 start by the Golden Gophers. Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys stated after the Iowa loss, "You can always come up with excuses, but you have to find a way to get it done." And it looks like the Gophers will have to get it done on the road without senior quarterback Mitch Leidner, who is expected to miss this game because of a concussion he suffered last week.


Maryland also is coming off a loss, albeit in a much more dispiriting manner. Maryland raced out to a 4-0 start under first-year head coach DJ Durkin, only to be dominated on the road at Penn State 38-14. A defense that had allowed just 119 yards rushing in its first four games was gashed for 372 (on 62 carries for 6.0 yards per carry) and three scores by Saquon Barkley (202 yards, TD) and the other Nittany Lion ball carriers. Maryland is still in contention for the East title, but the Terrapins are just beginning to face the teeth of their B1G conference schedule.


After Minnesota, Maryland faces this daunting five-game stretch: vs. Michigan State, at Indiana, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Nebraska. The Wolverines, Buckeyes and Cornhuskers are all undefeated and ranked in the top 10 of both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls. The Terrapins will close out their regular season against Rutgers, so a win on Saturday will get them one step closer to bowl eligibility while a second straight loss will make that task much more difficult.


Minnesota at Maryland


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Maryland -5


Three Things to Watch


1. Minnesota’s QB Situation
On Tuesday, Golden Gophers head coach Tracy Claeys said Mitch Leidner would not play because of a concussion he suffered in last week’s loss to Iowa. So barring a last-minute change, Minnesota will be without its senior quarterback. Even though Leidner has struggled as a passer (11th in Big Ten in passer rating, five TDs, four INTs), he has started 34 games in his career so his absence leaves a rather sizeable void at the quarterback position. Junior Conor Rhoda is expected to get the start and he’s played in three games in his three seasons and has attempted a grand total of one pass. Sophomore Demry Croft would back up Rhoda, but it may not matter against a Terrapins defense that is ranked eighth in the Big Ten in pass defense (195.4 ypg) and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a little more than half (51.2 percent) of their attempts. Given the inexperience at quarterback, Maryland’s defensive game plan may have just gotten a lot simpler.


2. Maryland's Rushing Offense vs. Minnesota's Rush Defense
The Gophers have done a solid job stopping the run thus far, ranking fourth in the Big Ten at 134.2 yards per game. The Terrapins have employed a committee approach on the ground with seven different players already with 15 or more carries. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison leads the way with 362 yards and is averaging 8.2 per carry. Senior quarterback Perry Hills is tied with Harrison for the most carries (44 each), but he re-aggravated a shoulder injury last week against Penn State. Head coach DJ Durkin said he expects the fifth-year senior to be ready to go for this game. Whoever is under center for Maryland, expect to see plenty of hand offs. The Terrapins are second in the Big Ten and ninth in the FBS in rushing at 274 yards per game. Minnesota’s defense will its work cut out for it against this ground-oriented attack.


3. William Likely Making a Big Play On Special Teams or Defense for Maryland
Listed at just 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, Likely is a starting defensive back for the Terrapins, but the senior also has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the most dangerous return specialists in the nation. He’s second in the Big Ten (11th nationally) at 30 yards per kickoff return and has returned four for touchdowns in his career. He also has returned two punts and two interceptions for scores in his career as well. So whether it’s taking a kick all the way or coming up with a big return to give the offense great field position or making a big play on the defense, look for Likely to leave his mark and potentially be one of the difference-makers in this game.


Final Analysis


Maryland is coming in off a disappointing road loss, while Minnesota has to travel to an unfamiliar stadium after two close losses and will be without its senior quarterback. The Terrapins looked impressive to start the season and will try to get back to the formula that helped them jump out to a 4-0 start. Expect to see Maryland lean heavily on the run in an effort to dictate tempo and game flow and also get back to being the more physical team on both sides of the ball. The Golden Gophers’ issues at quarterback will be too much to overcome, as the Terrapins wear down their visitors, regain their swagger and get one step closer to bowl eligibility.


Prediction: Maryland 28, Minnesota 13


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:45
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Path: /college-football/10-college-football-picks-against-spread-week-7-odds-lines-2016

The Week 7 edition of college football’s picks against the spread features predictions for some of Saturday’s biggest games, including Alabama-Tennessee, Ohio State-Wisconsin and Notre Dame-Stanford. Additionally, conference matchups such as Clemson-NC State, USC-Arizona, Oklahoma-Kansas State and Northwestern-Michigan State feature lines or odds that caught our attention for Week 7. Here are 10 predictions or picks against the spread for this weekend's action:


10 CFB Picks Against the Spread for Week 7


NC State (+17.5) over Clemson

The Wolfpack have gained over 500 yards in three of their five games (and three of their four not played in a Hurricane). This team has enough offensive weapons to make Clemson sweat … for a while.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 7


Kansas State (+10.5) over Oklahoma

Kansas State leads the Big 12 in total defense (310.2 ypg) and ranks last in the league in total offense (344.2 ypg). Oklahoma’s two wins over Power 5 opponents have come by six points and five points. K-State keeps it close.


Northwestern (+4.5) over Michigan State

Northwestern has played better of late after a disastrous 0–2 start, most notably in last week’s 38–31 win at Iowa. There’s been nothing fluky about Michigan State’s recent three-game slide; the Spartans have not played well since their Week 2 win at Notre Dame.


North Carolina (+7.5) at Miami

This line seems to be a bit high considering that North Carolina has not lost an ACC regular-season game not played in a Hurricane since the end of the 2014 season.


Alabama (-13) over Tennessee

Alabama is coming off an incredibly efficient offensive performance against Arkansas; the Crimson Tide averaged 10.1 yards per play, and quarterback Jalen Hurts averaged 14.9 yards on his 17 passing attempts.


Missouri (+13.5) over Florida

Even with Luke Del Rio back at quarterback, the Gators still have issues on offense. The guess here is that Missouri won’t get manhandled like it did two weeks ago at LSU.


Ole Miss (-7.5) at Arkansas

Here’s a scary thought for SEC defenses: Ole Miss has found a running game. The Rebels rushed for 180 vs. Georgia and 263 vs. Memphis.


Notre Dame (-3) over Stanford

Both teams are struggling. Notre Dame has some playmakers on offense. Notre Dame is at home. Take Notre Dame.


Ohio State (-10) at Wisconsin

The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing, but Ohio State is the only team in the nation in the top five in total offense and total defense. Wisconsin doesn’t have the firepower on offense to keep this in single digits.


USC (-8) at Arizona

It’s always dangerous to jump on the USC bandwagon, but the Trojans have seemingly turned a corner in recent weeks.


Last week: 5-4-1

Season: 13-16-1

10 College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 7 Odds Lines 2016
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/san-diego-state-aztecs-vs-fresno-state-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2016

Mountain West Conference play is in full swing as San Diego State travels to Fresno State Friday night in the Battle for the Old Oil Can Trophy. The Aztecs, who haven’t won in Fresno since 1997, are 4-1 overall and 1-0 in league play following last week’s 26-7 victory over UNLV. The win helped San Diego State move forward from a disastrous fourth quarter that led to a 42-24 upset loss against South Alabama, which knocked the Aztecs out of the AP Top 25 and potentially ended their hopes of securing a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.


With a 27-22 loss to Nevada last week, Fresno State dropped its fourth consecutive game and now sits with a 1-5 overall record and a 0-2 mark in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs have now lost 14 of their past 18 games, giving head coach Tim DeRuyter one of the hottest seats in the conference. DeRuyter and the Bulldogs must stage a major second-half turnaround to avoid a third straight losing season and a second consecutive season without a bowl game.


San Diego State at Fresno State


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 10 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: San Diego State -17


Three Things to Watch


1. San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey
Simply put, Pumphrey is one of the best running backs in the country. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior leads the nation with 891 rushing yards and an average of 178.2 rushing yards per game, as well as an average of 204.4 all-purpose yards per contest. He also is the FBS’ active leader with 5,163 career rushing yards, 54 rushing touchdowns, and 6,167 all-purpose yards. He needs 1,235 more rushing yards this season to break Ron Dayne’s all-time FBS record, which he set back in 1999.


Given how poorly Fresno State has fared against the run, Pumphrey could be in for another career night against the Bulldogs. While the Bulldogs have limited Pumphrey to 4.6 yards per carry in two previous meetings, Fresno State has allowed 272.0 rushing yards per game this season, which ranks last in the Mountain West and 126th (out of 128 FBS teams) nationally. Overall, opponents have gained an average of 5.3 yards per carry against the Bulldogs this season. FBS opponents have done a little at 5.6 yards per rushing attempt.


2. An Improving Fresno State Offense
Through six games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged just 5.05 yards per play, which ranks last in the Mountain West and No. 111 in the nation. Fresno State has scored just 23.5 points per game and averages 377.8 total yards per contest, which ranks No. 10 and No. 11 in the league, respectively. But, despite those unfortunate figures, the Fresno State offense has shown improvement: the unit averaged 22.3 points per game, 315.2 total yards per contest and 4.58 yards per play in 2015.


Fresno State currently ranks second in the Mountain West in passing (248.2 yards per game), and redshirt freshman quarterback Chason Virgil is second in the league (227.7 ypg) in that category. Though Virgil has struggled with his accuracy (completing just 48.6 percent of his passes), he has teamed up with arguably the best wide receiver trio in the conference for some big plays. He has three touchdown passes that have gone for at least 65 yards.


Aaron Peck (28 receptions, 479 yards, 3 TD), Jamire Jordan (24, 405, 2) and KeeSean Johnson (36, 402, 3 TD) all rank among the top seven in the conference in receiving. Peck, who has averaged 17.1 yards per catch, and Jordan (16.9 ypr), have been particularly explosive.


Also, running back Dontel James rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown last week, which pushed his season totals to 468 yards and three scores. James and the Bulldogs put together their best rushing performance of the season – 255 yards on 48 attempts for an average of 5.31 yards per carry, so perhaps there is more to come from this aspect of Fresno State’s offense.


3. The Best Defense in the Mountain West
San Diego State currently leads the Mountain West in total defense (313.2 yards per game), and yards allowed per play (4.76). The Aztecs have been at their best against the run, having surrendered just 102.0 rushing yards per game and 3.04 yards per carry. No opponent has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry against San Diego State this season, and the Aztecs have held three teams to fewer than 100 rushing yards.


Those numbers are great on their own, but become more impressive given the outlying performance against a top-notch Cal offense in Week 2. The Aztecs surrendered 604 total yards in the 45-40 victory over the Golden Bears, but did force three interceptions including a pick-six by Ronley Lakalaka.


San Diego State’s defense has recorded eight interceptions in just five games. The Aztecs also have at least one sack in each game for a total of 12. Opposing quarterbacks have managed a 119.26 passer rating against this defense, which leads the conference.


And, to make matters worse for Fresno State, San Diego State put together its most complete defensive performance last week against UNLV. The Aztecs surrendered just 122 total yards and held the Rebels to a miniscule 2.49 yards per play. UNLV quarterbacks were just 2-for-13 for nine yards and an interception.


Final Analysis


If the Bulldogs are somehow able to control Donnel Pumphrey and the San Diego State running game, they can keep it close or potentially score an important upset. However, the Fresno State defense has yet to show any meaningful improvement against the run recently. Nevada ran for 226 (4.6 ypc) last week, the fewest the Bulldogs have surrendered to an FBS team this season. Only two other teams in the FBS are giving up more rushing yards per game than Fresno State ( 272.0 ypg).


The Bulldogs have shown promise at times this season, particularly in the passing game, but the Aztecs are the toughest defense, statistically speaking, Fresno State has faced yet. Even if the Bulldogs can put together one or two big plays in the passing game, it’s unlikely to be enough to help pull off the win..


Prediction: San Diego State 38, Fresno State 17


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

San Diego State Aztecs vs. Fresno State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-vs-tulane-green-wave-preview-and-prediction-2016

After having its Oct. 8 game against UCF rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew, Tulane enters this week’s matchup against Memphis with an extra week of rest. The 3-2 Green Wave have won their last two games beating UMass on Oct. 1 and Louisiana-Lafayette in overtime on Sept. 24.


Memphis continues to roll along under first-year head coach Mike Norvell. The Tigers are 4-1 on the season, with their lone blemish coming at hands of Ole Miss in a 48-28 loss. Memphis’ passing offense, led by junior quarterback Riley Ferguson, ranks 31st nationally at 281.6 yards per game. Behind it, the Tigers are averaging 43.4 points per game.


The Tulane-Memphis series dates back to 1954. The Tigers own a 20-11-1 series advantage, and won the past nine meetings. Tulane’s last win came at home back in 2000 when Chris Scelfo was the head coach.


Memphis at Tulane


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Tulane +10.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Tulane’s defense vs. Memphis’ high-powered offense
When it comes to adjectives to describe Tulane’s defense, opportunistic quickly comes to mind. The Green Wave lead the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and rank fourth in the FBS in turnover margin (+8 or 1.6 per game). The defense has registered 12 takeaways, seven of those being fumble recoveries.


Opposing defenses have found Memphis’ offense difficult to corral this year. The Tigers are averaging 446.2 yards and 41.3 points per game. They are 11th nationally in scoring offense. While Memphis has leaned a little more on its passing attack, the ground game is gaining 164.6 yards per game as well.


Tulane’s defense has gotten the job done thus far, but will it face its toughest test yet on Friday night.


2. Memphis’ Riley Ferguson
Following the departure of record-setting quarterback Paxton Lynch, there were plenty of questions about how productive Memphis’ offense would be in 2016. Thanks to the emergence of Ferguson, those questions don’t really exist, as the Tigers are 31st nationally and third in the AAC in passing offense. Ferguson has thrown for 1,360 yards with 11 touchdowns and completion rate of 66.3. He got off to a great start in the opener against Southeast Missouri (295 yards, 3 TDs), and then had a field day three weeks later against Bowling Green, throwing for 359 yards and accounting for seven touchdowns (6 passing, 1 rushing) in just two quarters of work.


Tulane’s passing defense has been solid thus far, allowing 171.4 yards per game. The Green Wave have nearly as many interceptions (five) as touchdown passes allowed (six).


3. Tigers’ WR Anthony Miller
The Ferguson-Miller tandem has proved successful in Memphis’ hot start. Miller’s 408 receiving yards lead the Tigers, as does his 81.2 yards per game. Miller’s also a running threat, as he’s tallied 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Miller lit up the Ole Miss defense for 132 yards on 10 receptions, and he tallied another 100-yard effort against Southeast Missouri in the opener.


Miller has accounted for five of Memphis’ nine longest plays from scrimmage this season. His big-play ability is something Tulane’s defense will need to pay attention to and try to prevent.


Final Analysis


With three wins at this juncture of the season, optimism for long-term success under first-year head coach Willie Fritz is high in New Orleans as Tulane has won a total of three games each of its last two seasons. Memphis also is clicking on all cylinders under rookie head coach Mike Norvell thanks to solid play in all three phases. But the Tigers appear to have a little more offensive firepower, which will help them win this key AAC West divisional game.


Final Score: Memphis 37, Tulane 21


— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Memphis Tigers vs. Tulane Green Wave Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-louisville-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2016

Louisville will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season on Friday night as the No. 7 Cardinals return to action at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to take on Duke.


The Blue Devils will be looking for their first ACC win and will come in 3-3 overall. The first half of the season for David Cutcliffe’s team was highlighted by a thrilling victory at Notre Dame and lowlighted by a home loss to a Virginia team that was 1-3 coming in. Duke defeated Army last week, 13-6.


Louisville’s ACC title hopes hit a road block two weeks ago with a gut-wrenching 42-36 loss at Clemson, but the Cardinals remain in the hunt for a potential berth in the College Football Playoff. Louisville also will be in front of its home crowd for the first time since a 63-20 drubbing of Florida State on Sept. 17. The Cardinals beat Duke 40-3 in 2002 in the only other meeting between the schools.


Duke at Louisville


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Louisville –35


Three Things to Watch


1. Lamar Jackson
The only thing keeping the Louisville quarterback from winning the Heisman Trophy at this point might be an act of God. Through five games this season, Jackson has accounted for more than 2,300 total yards and an ungodly 28 total touchdowns. Stopping Jackson might be impossible, but Clemson showed two weeks ago that he can be contained.


The Blue Devils have been pretty good defensively this season, ranking in the top 40 nationally when it comes to fewest yards and points allowed. Senior defensive tackle A.J. Wolf leads the team with five sacks. Duke however, struggled mightily in its only contest against an elite quarterback as Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer put up 441 total yards and three touchdowns. Duke also has lost DeVon Edwards, its best cover cornerback, for the season. If the Blue Devils can’t do better against Jackson, they’re in for a long night.


2. Running Backs
Just about everyone on the Louisville roster, or at the least the offense, has played in the shadow of Jackson, but running back Brandon Radcliffe, a senior, is in the midst of a career year. Radcliffe is on pace for about 1,200 yards rushing and currently leads the ACC, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Radcliffe has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three of the Cardinals’ five games and will be facing a good Duke rushing defense on Saturday.


On the other sideline, senior Jela Duncan is Duke’s biggest offensive weapon. After missing action in a loss to Virginia, Duncan returned the lineup for the Blue Devils in last week’s win over Army and is expected to have a bigger role this week. Duncan is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and leads the team with four touchdowns. In Duke’s three wins this season, he is averaging six yards per carry compared to just 3.9 in the three losses.


3. Turnovers
For Duke to have any real chance at making this one interesting on Friday night, the Blue Devils will probably need to win the turnover battle and win it decisively. Doing so however, has hardly been a strong suit for Duke, who is an ACC-worst minus-3 when it comes to turnover margin. In Duke’s two victories over FBS teams, the Blue Devils have just one turnover in each game. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones has seven total touchdowns and just one interception in Duke’s three wins this season compared to just three touchdowns and seven picks in the Blue Devils’ three losses.


Turnovers have been an issue for Louisville as well. The Cardinals have turned the ball over three times in four of their five games this season. Fortunately for Louisville, it hasn’t had much trouble taking the ball away either. Sophomore cornerback Jaire Alexander leads Louisville with three interceptions on the season, including two off Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Linebacker James Hearns has already forced four fumbles this season.


Final Analysis


Bouncing back from its first loss of the season shouldn’t be too difficult for Louisville. The Cardinals have had an extra week to prepare and will be in front of their home crowd. Like Louisville with Bobby Petrino, Duke is a well-coached team. The Blue Devils however, lack the offensive firepower to keep up with the prolific Louisville attack. They also lack the athletes on defense to significantly slow it down.


Prediction: Louisville 52, Duke 13


— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.  

Duke Blue Devils vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:00
Path: /mlb/alcs-preview-and-prediction-toronto-blue-jays-vs-cleveland-indians-2016

Both the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays swept what many might have called superior opponents in their respective American League Division Series. Cleveland shocked the baseball world by keeping Boston, the best offense in the game, in complete check, while Toronto slugged its way past an elite starting rotation and defense in top seed Texas.


After running away with the AL Central title this year, Cleveland is looking for its first AL pennant since 1997 and World Series championship since ‘48 — one of the longest droughts in American pro sports. While Toronto’s recent success has been fun to watch over the last season and a half, Blue Jays fans haven’t forgotten the two decades of petulance since their back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and ’93.


One way or the other, at least one title-starved fan base will be ecstatic to watch their team raise the Commissioner’s Trophy by series end.


Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians

Game Day Time (ET) TV Pitching Matchup Location
1 Fri., Oct. 14 8:08 p.m. TBS Marco Estrada vs. Corey Kluber CLE
2 Sat., Oct. 15 4:08 p.m. TBS J.A. Happ vs. Josh Tomlin CLE
3 Mon., Oct. 17 8:08 p.m. TBS Trevor Bauer vs. Marcus Stroman TOR
4 Tues., Oct. 18 4:08 p.m. TBS Mike Clevinger vs. Aaron Sanchez TOR
5* Wed., Oct. 19 4:08 p.m. TBS TBD vs. TBD TOR
6* Fri., Oct. 21 8:08 p.m. TBS TBD vs. TBD CLE
7* Sat., Oct. 22 TBD TBS TBD vs. TBD CLE

*If necessary


Three Things to Watch


1. Jays’ Bats Waking Up
Toronto’s high-flying, record-breaking offense that blasted through the American League a season ago, might be waking up at just the right time this October. Last year, the Jays scored 127 more runs than any other team in the AL and led all of baseball in home runs, doubles, RBIs, and OPS. This season was less forgiving as the Jays dealt with injuries to key players (Jose Bautista), natural regression, and an improved AL East.


The Jays’ offense was clicking on all cylinders against the Rangers’ top-notch pitching staff, scoring 22 runs in their three-game sweep, 16 of which off of Texas’ starting rotation that features Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. Cleveland’s rotation will be without Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Danny Salazar (strained forearm) for the entirety of the ALCS, leaving an already vulnerable Indians rotation susceptible to Toronto’s big bats.


2. Can Cleveland Pitching Keep Up?
If we didn’t see it on our TV screens or in person, it might have been too hard to believe — but the box score doesn't lie. Yes, the Cleveland pitching staff really did hold the Boston Red Sox, the best offense in baseball, to just seven runs and a .136 batting average with runners in scoring position in a three-game sweep, something that no other pitching staff was able to do this entire season.


The amazing part about the Indians’ pitching performance was that the Tribe were without two of their three best starters, the aforementioned Carrasco and Salazar, but still got two solid starts from Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Mixed in with a typical dominating performance from ace Corey Kluber, and brilliant bullpen management from manager Terry Francona, and great relief appearances from every Cleveland reliever, it was the perfect pitching mix for a shortened five-game series.


But what happens in a best-of-seven series, when starting pitching performances are so essential, and bullpens can easily get overused — especially against a red-hot Toronto offense? Do the Indians have enough arms to keep up with the Blue Jays’ bats?


3. Who is the Hero?
In postseason baseball, in every series, there is a player — often times the most unassuming of players — who steps up for his respective team and takes them to the next level. This series between the Blue Jays and Indians has no shortage of A-list players that can take over or change the course of a series.


For Toronto, the obvious choices are in its lineup. With the likes of reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, and sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, one swing of the bat can change the series in the Blue Jays’ favor. But I’ve got my eyes on center fielder Kevin Pillar and not necessarily at the plate. Pillar is the best center fielder in baseball, ranking second in defensive runs saved (21) and ultimate zone rating (21.4), the two defensive metrics measuring the efficiency of a defender’s ability in the field.


For Cleveland, it’s all about the bullpen — and not just the usual suspects of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, two of the best relievers in the AL. Allen and Miller are a given, especially with a worn-down Indians rotation. But it is the other bullpen arms that could make or break this series for the Tribe. The performances of relievers Bryan Shaw (vs. BOS: 2 1/3 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 HR) and Dan Otero (vs. BOS: 1 IP, 0 runs, 0 hits) are going to be vital if Cleveland hopes to advance to the Fall Classic.


Final Analysis


The Blue Jays’ red-hot offense isn’t going to be the only issue for the Indians in this series. The Jays have the best starting rotation in the American League this season in terms of ERA (3.78) and it’s a group with plenty of postseason experience. The likes of J.A Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman could prove to be too much for Cleveland’s offense and be the catalyst for Toronto’s first World Series appearance since 1993.


Prediction: Blue Jays in 6


— Written by Jake Rose, an avid baseball fan who also is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

ALCS Preview and Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-indianan-hoosiers-preview-and-prediction-2016

For the first time since 2011, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are a top 10 team in college football. After a 2015 season where very little went right for Mike Riley's bunch, the Huskers have stuck to the process, taken it one game at a time, rode a balanced offensive attack and come out of the early portion of the season unblemished.


Are they ready for their biggest challenge to date?


The Indiana Hoosiers are 3-2 and have grown into a competitive football team and a tough out for most opponents. They bring an improved defense to the table to back up a bold, attacking offensive scheme that we have come to know every year recently in Bloomington.


This series is historically much closer than many might assume, favoring Nebraska 9-7. That said, it will be the first meeting between the two programs since 1978, when Tom Osborne's Huskers defeated Lee Corso's Hoosiers 69-17.


Nebraska at Indiana


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Nebraska -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Which team gets off to a fast start?

The Huskers were banged up heading into their bye last week. You'd like to think they are healthier and rested, which should lead to a little pep in their step early on. On the other hand, the week off could mean it may take a little extra time to get back into the swing of things. They might need to get punched in the mouth to wake up and realize what kind of fight they are in. The problem for Nebraska in that scenario is that Indiana can score and do so quickly. If the Hoosiers smell blood and see any haze in Nebraska's eyes, it's very possible Indiana could lead by two scores before Tommy Armstrong is finished lacing up his cleats.


2. Which offense establishes the run early?

Both of these teams can hang points on the scoreboard, but at some point, one of them will need to take control of this shootout with a consistent run game — especially to preserve a lead. Devine Redding is Indiana's workhorse back, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Nebraska's rush defense is among the worst in the country, allowing opponents 4.8 yards per carry. On the other side of the ball, the Huskers roll largely with a "running back by committee" setup, pounding the ball between the tackles with Devine Ozigbo and changing the pace with Terrell Newby and a couple of underclassmen. Additionally, the designed quarterback run has been extremely effective for Nebraska this season. All told, the Husker rushing attack is well within the top third of the nation in terms of effectiveness, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and punching it into the end zone 14 times. The Hoosiers have been slightly better than Nebraska against the run, limiting opponents to 4.2 yards per carry.


3. Which defense can create turnovers?

You get the sense that this could end up being a one-possession game. If that is to be the case, taking care of the football will be critical. Nebraska has done a better job than Indiana in that department this season. Indiana's passing attack lends itself to giving the Nebraska secondary plenty of chances to make a game-changing interception. On the flip side, the Huskers have had some difficulties securing the ball near the goal line. Some miscues similar to what we saw out of Nebraska against Northwestern could prove costly in this one.


Final Analysis


This should be a highly entertaining football game from a spectator standpoint. You'll see two of the most exciting offenses in the Big Ten trading blows all afternoon. The biggest difference in this one is likely going to be Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong's playmaking ability. He carries the Husker offense, which lives and dies based on his decision-making. Thus far, he has taken care of the football while simultaneously taking the initiative to make things happen. I expect a big day on the ground from Armstrong and perhaps one big play through the air — made possible with his elite mobility — that puts the game away for Nebraska.


Prediction: Nebraska 27, Indiana 23


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on,, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-amazing-facts-about-jerry-rices-career-celebrate-his-birthday

While many fans debate who the greatest quarterback or running back in NFL history is, there is little dispute about the title of best wide receiver. Jerry Rice has pretty much guaranteed that. Emerging from Mississippi Valley State University in 1985, Rice went on to have one of the most prolific careers in the history of sport.


A 10-time First-Team All-Pro, Rice led the NFL in receiving yards and touchdowns six times apiece and won three Super Bowls, in one winning the MVP award as only the third receiver to ever do so (three more have since accomplished the feat). Rice is the all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, and in 2010 was chosen by NFL Films as the greatest player in NFL history.


Today, on Rice’s 54th birthday, we take a look back at five of the greatest moments in the G.O.A.T’s historic and illustrious career.


274 game receiving streak

On December 1, 1985, Jerry Rice was held without a catch for the second time during his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers. The next week against the Rams, Rice had 10 receptions for 241 yards and a touchdown. For the next 18 seasons of his career he would catch at least one ball in every single game he played. His 274 game streak is practically untouchable, with Marvin Harrison finishing in a distant second at 190 consecutive games.


1987 season, catching 22 TDs

In 1987 Rice had only 1,078 receiving yards, his lowest total for the next decade. However, he caught a whopping 22 touchdown passes that year, a number which has never been touched since. Rice’s rare ability to both rack up massive amounts of yardage and be a red zone threat is an unparalleled combination in NFL history.


Super Bowl XXIII MVP

Super Bowl XXIII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals turned out to be a slugfest, with neither team scoring a touchdown until a 93-yard kickoff return by the Bengals late in the third quarter. San Francisco scored two touchdowns in the final frame to win it, with Rice catching the touchdown pass for the first and moving the chains twice during the second drive. Rice finished with 11 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown, earning him the MVP honors.


October 14, 1990, 225 yards, 5 TDs

On this day in 1990, the 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons 45-35 on the back of Joe Montana’s six touchdown passes. While that is an impressive feat, perhaps more so is the fact that five of them were caught by Jerry Rice. Rice joined Bob Shaw and Kellen Winslow in a share of the record for most touchdown receptions in a single game.


December 18, 1995, 289 yards, 3 TDs

While Jerry Rice had four different games in his career with 200 receiving yards, this one was his most prolific. On Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, Rice caught 14 passes for 289 yards and 3 TDs. His touchdowns helped pave a 27-10 lead that the 49ers would fight to hold onto against a ferocious Vikings’ comeback. His 289 yards were more than half of San Francisco’s total yardage (467) and Rice had arguably as large of a role in his team’s victory as any receiver ever has.

Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 10:01
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-7-start-or-sit-2016

It’s Week 7 of the college fantasy football season and the slate is full of enticing matchups to wet your palate. On Saturday alone there are 13 pairings of teams that average 30 or more points per game, which means we should see the scoreboard light up plenty this coming weekend.


Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Deshaun Watson or Christian McCaffrey as those players are typically starters regardless of the matchup.


Also below are the top 10 rankings for each position for the given week.




Start ’Em


Kurt Benkert, Virginia vs. Pittsburgh

The East Carolina transfer has become a viable fantasy option at QB with his performances the last two weeks, combining for eight touchdown passes against Central Michigan and Duke. The yardage numbers have been there as well with Benkert going for 421 and 336 in each game respectively. Maybe the most promising statistic for Benkert’s value moving forward isn’t even related to him specifically. The run game for Virginia has been poor, as the Cavaliers rank 118th in the country, averaging just 3.92 yards per carry as a team. That has forced Benkert to throw it and throw it often, to the tune of about 40 pass attempts per contest. I wouldn’t be surprised if he threw it 50 times against Pittsburgh this week with the Panthers giving up more than 300 passing yards per game.


Garrett Smith, ULM vs. Texas State

Quarterbacks have had plenty of success this season when going up against the Texas State secondary. In Week 1, the Bobcats gave up 393 passing yards and four touchdowns. In Week 2, it was 241 yards and two scores, followed by 289 and a pair in Week 3. Then two weeks ago, those numbers were 340 and two. You get the idea. Smith has struggled with turnovers during the early portion of the season, but he is coming off his best performance statistically with 302 passing yards passing and two touchdowns last week while adding in 88 yards and another score on the ground. If you need a quick starter at quarterback in a pinch, Smith is likely to be available off waivers.


Sit ’Em


J.T. Barrett, Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

Yours truly has this very dilemma this week whether to roll with a weekly top play at quarterback despite the matchup, or sit him against the No. 4 scoring defense in the country in Wisconsin. Gauging the responses on Twitter, the results were mixed, but I am leaning towards sitting Barrett this week. The Badgers have just been so tough on opposing quarterbacks this season, having given up just three touchdown passes in five games. With this being a primetime game on the road against a top-10 defense, I have a hard time envisioning Barrett putting up the kind of numbers we are used to seeing out of the Buckeyes quarterback.


Drew Lock, Missouri vs. Florida

Did anyone foresee the Missouri offense replicating how it looked during the Chase Daniel era this season? For the first four weeks that’s how it felt as the Tigers fielded a top-10 passing offense with Lock averaging 377 yards per game. Missouri hit a massive roadblock last week against LSU, scoring just seven points with 265 total yards. And that was a middle of the road defense, statistically speaking. The Tigers now trek to the Swamp to face one of the nation’s stingiest defenses against the pass. Florida is giving up fewer than 140 passing yards per game and limiting quarterbacks to a completion rate of just 39 percent. Lock has made huge strides in his sophomore season, but don’t look or expect for pretty numbers this week.


Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 7:

Lamar Jackson, Louisville vs. Duke

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech vs. West Virginia

Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech vs. UMass

Greg Ward Jr., Houston vs. Tulsa

Luke Falk, Washington State vs. UCLA

Logan Woodside, Toledo vs. Bowling Green

Deshaun Watson, Clemson vs. NC State

Mike White, Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee

Quinton Flowers, South Florida vs. UConn

Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee vs. Western Kentucky


Running Backs


Start ’Em


James Gilbert, Ball State vs. Buffalo

Gilbert was mentioned this week in my waiver wire article not just for what he has done the previous two weeks, but more so the favorable matchup he has against Buffalo this weekend. The Bulls are ranked 125th in the country against the run, allowing more than 270 rushing yards per game. And Gilbert enters this game after piling up a combined 260 yards and five touchdowns in his last two outings against Northern Illinois and Central Michigan. With backups Darian Green and Teddy Williamson seeing fewer and fewer carries as the season progresses, that only boosts Gilbert’s stock moving forward.


Derrius Guice/Darrell Williams, LSU vs. Southern Miss

News came out on Wednesday that Leonard Fournette would miss a second consecutive start due to a nagging ankle injury that is preventing him from participating in practice. It’s not that surprising that Fournette won’t play considering the competition. That leaves the carries to Guice and Williams, each of whom fared well two weeks ago against Missouri, topping 100 rushing yards and scoring three touchdowns apiece. The stage is set for a repeat performance, as they face Southern Miss defense that allowed UTSA’s Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes to each run for 100 yards last week.


Sit ’Em


D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa vs. Houston

Brewer was money for us last week against SMU, as the junior ran for 182 yards and a touchdown. Combined with his effort against Fresno State the week prior, that’s 424 rushing yards in his last two games. Brewer’s workload also has increased dramatically with 46 and 38 carries respectively the last two weeks, and is just 27 carries from surpassing his total from all of last season. It may not happen this week, though, against a formidable Houston rush defense that ranks fourth in the country, allowing just 86 yards per game. This is set up to be a game where Tulsa QB Dane Evans throws the ball 40 or more times as opposed to handing off to Brewer.


Ito Smith, Southern Miss vs. LSU

There are not many weeks where I would advocate keeping Smith on your bench, but this weekend against is one of those rare instances. Against Power Five teams last season, Smith struggled mightily with a total of 138 rushing yards in three games. Smith also enters this game in a mini-slump as he not eclipsed the 100-yard in either of his last two games after doing this in each of the first four to start the season. LSU has been solid against the run to this point, allowing just 3.02 yards per carry. The Tigers have yet to allow any player top 100 rushing yards against them either. Smith will be involved in the game plan as he is the team's best offensive player, but yards on the ground will be hard to come by in Tiger Stadium.


Top 10 Running Backs for Week 7:

Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State vs. Fresno State

Dalvin Cook, Florida State vs. Wake Forest

Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. Colorado State

I’Tavius Mathers, Middle Tennessee vs. Western Kentucky

Nick Holley, Kent State vs. Miami (Ohio)

D’onta Foreman, Texas vs. Iowa State

Derrius Guice, LSU vs. Southern Mississippi

James Gilbert, Ball State vs. Buffalo

Kareem Hunt, Toledo vs. Bowling Green

Jarred Craft, Louisiana Tech vs. UMass


Wide Receivers


Start ’Em


Cody Thompson, Toledo vs. Bowling Green

Maybe this is a cop-out considering the kind of season Thompson has had to this point, but I still feel like his name is not mentioned in the same circles as some of the top receivers in the country. The junior has started the season on a tear with a touchdown in all five games and has surpassed 100 receiving yards in four out of the five. Thompson only has 23 receptions to this point, but is fourth in the country in yards per game, due largely to his big-play ability as he leads all of college football with eight catches of 40 yards or more. It’s all but guaranteed that Thompson will find the end zone this week against a Bowling Green secondary that has allowed the most touchdown passes in the nation with 21.


Allen Lazard, Iowa State vs. Texas

Lazard has yet to have the breakout season many were expecting, mainly due in part to a foot injury suffered against TCU in Week 3. But last Saturday may have been a turning point. After two consecutive games of 100-plus receiving yards to start the year, Lazard fell of the map with just eight receptions over the next three weeks. Against Oklahoma State last week, Lazard bounced back with two touchdown receptions and stated after the game that he is feeling as healthy as he has all season. Look for him to continue that success this week against a Texas secondary that is allowing about 300 yards per game through the air and has had an opposing wide receiver reach 100 yards each of the last three weeks.


Sit ‘Em


Steven Sims Jr., Kansas vs. Baylor

Through just five games, Sims has already surpassed his freshman year numbers in both yards (413) and touchdowns (5), and is on pace to be the Jayhawks’ first 1,000-yard receiver since 2009. And he is producing against the better teams on the schedule as well with a combined 15 receptions the past two weeks against Texas Tech and TCU. His toughest challenge to date will come this Saturday against a Baylor secondary that has allowed just three touchdown passes this season.


Jerome Lane, Akron vs. Western Michigan

After a blazing start to the season with 100-yard efforts in three out of the first four games, Lane has struggled the last two weeks with just three catches. Could it be a coincidence that Lane’s struggles began when backup quarterback Tra’Von Chapman was inserted into the lineup as the starter in place of an injured Thomas Woodson? Chapman has fared well in his two starts with a combined six touchdowns and two wins but seemingly he has not looked Lane’s way when throwing the football. With Chapman set to start again this week against undefeated Western Michigan, I would keep Lane on the bench until Woodson returns.


Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 7:

Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. UMass

Corey Davis, Western Michigan vs. Akron

Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois vs. Central Michigan

Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech

Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech vs. West Virginia

Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee

Nicholas Norris, Western Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee

Shelton Gibson, West Virginia vs. Texas Tech

Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech vs. Syracuse

Cody Thompson, Toledo vs. Bowling Green


— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. For College Fantasy Football insight, Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

College Fantasy Football Week 7 Start or Sit
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-week-6-picks-and-odds-2016

It was a second straight winless week for me on the NFL side of the ledger, as I continue to be victim of late-game worthless touchdowns. This league has a way of humbling a gambler a bit. It's ironic because last year I was extremely hot on the pro side while I struggled in college football. At some point, my picks become fade material. It's just on you to decide when. I continue to remind you, that the chandeliers are really nice in Vegas for a reason.


Record: 5-10 (0-3 last week)


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay


Note: All games on Sunday and times ET


Los Angeles Rams (3-2) at Detroit Lions (2-3), 1 p.m.

The Lions needed every break in the world to beat the Eagles last week and now they host the Rams. Detroit's offense has struggled due to it being so one-dimensional. Matthew Stafford is being asked to carry that group and he doesn't have Calvin Johnson to throw to anymore. The Rams' defense has been stellar, although Buffalo took advantage of an injury-depleted defensive line last week as LeSean McCoy and company rushed for 193 yards. Los Angeles’ defense has had to carry the load considering the offense has been terrible, averaging just 284.2 yards per game. The Rams have already won at Tampa Bay and Arizona and probably have a good shot to take this one as well. The Rams have gone under in 14 of their last 19 road games and 23 of their last 37 overall. To me, this game is shaping up to be a 17-13 kind of contest. SELECTION: Under 43


Atlanta Falcons (4-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1), 4:25 p.m.

Fading Atlanta is my target once again as the Falcons play their fourth road game in five weeks. I tried to beat them with the Broncos last week and somehow Denver struggled with the Falcons' defense. I don't believe Atlanta can do it on the side of the ball once again in Seattle. The Seahawks scored 64 points in their last two games before the bye and now should have a much healthier Russell Wilson at the helm. Seattle's defense has not allowed a single team to score more than 20 points so far this season. Take away Julio Jones and the Falcons’ WR corps isn't very good. You know that Pete Carroll saw how active Atlanta’s RBs were, especially in the passing game, against Denver last week and will figure out a way to defend that. The Seahawks have covered in 12 of their last 20 home games. I'll go back to the well and fade Atlanta. SELECTION: Seattle -6.5


Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at Green Bay Packers (3-1), 4:25 p.m.

I'm sorry, I'm going back to fading the Cowboys once again. Dallas has been living pretty with Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, but the Packers have stonewalled run games, allowing just 42.8 yards per game on the ground. They are very vulnerable against the pass, but if Dez Bryant is out once again, I'm just not sure Dallas can take advantage. Green Bay's offense has struggled to get on track as Aaron Rodgers just doesn't seem like himself. The Packers are averaging just 209.8 yards per game through the air. Dallas has had its issues in the secondary and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb should be able to take advantage. Green Bay has covered 12 of its last 19 at home and 24 of its last 40 overall. Last year, the Pack beat Dallas 28-7 at home in Week 14. I think the Packers are due to explode offensively. SELECTION: Packers -4




— Based solely off situational plays, the Dolphins have to be on the radar. The problem is that Miami is so bad and this game will sound like a Steelers' home tilt. Pittsburgh has New England at home next week and that's going to be for AFC supremacy. If the Fins had shown any sort of pulse this season, I'd have made them an official play. Still, they have to be under consideration.


— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Betting Against the Spread: NFL Week 6 Picks and Odds
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/fcs-football-best-games-and-predictions-week-7-2016

My wife doesn’t know the house is on the line this week. She already says I’m a knucklehead, but the fact we’re trying to pick winners from this week’s FCS games, well, her words might be too kind.


This week features one of the more competitive schedules of the season. Even top-ranked North Dakota State isn’t safe.


Related: 6 FCS Teams That Could End North Dakota State's National Title Run in 2016


Maybe let us fold fitted sheets over picking winners. That’s easier.


Here are the FCS games of the week:


Note: All times ET


Saturday, Oct. 15


No. 7 James Madison (5-1, 3-0 CAA) at New Hampshire (4-2, 3-0), noon

First place in CAA Football is at stake and both teams are on three-game winning streaks. It’s the Dukes’ second trip to the upper end of the conference as they won at Maine already. Tired legs? Not running back Khalid Abdullah.

Pick: James Madison


Bryant (2-3, 1-0 NEC) at Saint Francis (3-3, 1-0), noon        

Bryant quarterback Dalton Easton has gotten it done with 14 touchdown passes, but he won’t face a better defensive back this season than Saint Francis safety Lorenzo Jerome.

Pick: Saint Francis


No. 25 North Carolina A&T (4-1, 2-0 MEAC) at Bethune-Cookman (0-4, 0-2), 1 p.m.

Bethune-Cookman is the sentimental choice as its campus in Daytona Beach, Florida, recovers from Hurricane Matthew. N.C. A&T is simply too good behind running back Tarik Cohen, the MEAC’s new all-time leading rusher.

Pick: North Carolina A&T


San Diego (4-1, 3-0 Pioneer) at Drake (3-3, 2-1), 1:30 p.m.

San Diego isn’t the first team that comes to mind when discussing conference powers in the FCS, but the Toreros are shooting for their fifth PFL title in six seasons. They rank second in the FCS in scoring defense (14.6 ppg).

Pick: San Diego


Southern Utah (3-2, 2-1 Big Sky) at No. 18 North Dakota (4-2, 3-0), 2 p.m.

Fighting Hawks fans are clamoring to be in the playoffs. What better way than to win the Big Sky title? Bubba’s boys would take sole possession of first place with a win.

Pick: North Dakota


No. 5 Chattanooga (6-0, 4-0 Southern) at No. 12 The Citadel (5-0, 3-0), 3 p.m.

Two of the five unbeaten teams in the FCS collide, but, more importantly, first place in the SoCon is on the line between last year’s co-champs. The Citadel found out in last year’s game that Mocs quarterback Alejandro Bennifield is a dynamic player.

Pick: Chattanooga


No. 10 South Dakota State (3-2, 2-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 1 North Dakota State (5-0, 2-0), 3:30 p.m.

The Bison dynasty has won all eight meetings since the 2010 season, but an upset might be brewing with the way SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion has clicked with wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert. The Bison want to pound the rock and control the clock.

Pick: North Dakota State


No. 13 Villanova (5-1, 3-0 CAA) at No. 7 Richmond (5-1, 2-1), 3:30 p.m.

Even ‘Nova head coach Andy Talley is saying this game will show if the Wildcats are for real. Richmond is coming off the best CAA game of the season – a 36-30 in over Albany in three overtimes – but the injuries are mounting.

Pick: Villanova


No. 23 Central Arkansas (4-1, 3-0 Southland) at McNeese (3-3, 2-2), 7 p.m.

UCA hasn’t exactly been beating the upper echelon of the conference while jumping out to a big start and McNeese may have blown a realistic shot at the playoffs with last week’s late meltdown. A McNeese win could make the Southland vulnerable to being a one-bid conference.

Pick: Central Arkansas


No. 17 Northern Iowa (2-3, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 14 Youngstown State (4-1, 2-0), 7 p.m.

It’s getting close to being now or never for UNI, whose schedule is strong enough to probably get the Panthers in the playoffs at 6-5. Something always goes wrong with the host Penguins when they’re having success, right?

Pick: Northern Iowa


Eastern Kentucky (2-3, 1-1 OVC) at Tennessee State (4-1, 1-1), 7 p.m.

Slow-starting TSU hasn’t scored a first-quarter touchdown in four of its five games, despite averaging 36.6 points per contest. With nemesis EKU in town, the Tigers can’t afford to play from behind.

Pick: Tennessee State


— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.


(Top photo by The Citadel Athletics)

FCS Football: Best Games and Predictions for Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-flex-rankings-week-6

One of the interesting aspects of fantasy flex rankings is that it presents you with a snapshot of how the elite running backs compare to the stud wide receivers. For example, Le’Veon Bell is baaaack and crushing it week to week, while Julio Jones has returned to planet earth, and may remain grounded for at least one more week facing Seattle.


Speaking of the Seahawks, Christine Michael has been tearing it up much to his owners’ delight. A sleeper favorite for many for several years running, he’s finally breaking out. But where does he rank for Week 6 coming off of a bye and facing an Atlanta defense that appears vulnerable but played pretty well in Denver last week?


Some other running back questions that need to be answered include, is this the week Lamar Miller finally has a big game? If Jamaal Charles is healthy and says the “training wheels will be off” where does he fit in these rankings? Can you trust him?


These questions and so many more are answered in the rankings below. The flex position can be the most difficult one to determine which player is your best option in a given week. Hopefully these rankings will help you make up your mind, but when in doubt you can always throw a dart or flip a coin. No matter the outcome, have fun!


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Flex Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-wide-receiver-rankings-week-6

The good news is that a sense of normalcy has returned to the fantasy wide receiver rankings for Week 6 simply because Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans and Seattle are back from their bye. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t still those tough lineup decisions to make at the position, depending on your roster.


For example, Julio Jones came crashing back to earth this past Sunday against Denver (2 rec., 29 yds.) after torching Carolina for 300 yards. Will this week be much better? The matchup against Seattle All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman sure doesn’t look all that appealing on paper.


And what about Dez Bryant? He returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday, but will be play Sunday or will Dallas keep him out again with its Week 7 bye looming? Green Bay has been susceptible to the pass, but even if Bryant returns, can you start him with confidence? And is it possible for Jeremy Kerley to keep up his performance this week now that Colin Kaepernick has replaced Blaine Gabbert as San Francisco’s starting quarterback?


There are plenty of receivers with great matchups. Allen Robinson in Chicago this week is drool-worthy, which is why he checks in at No. 2 behind the obvious Antonio Brown. And speaking of the Steelers, what should a fantasy owner do with Sammie Coates, who is dealing with a hand laceration, after exploding last week for 139 yards and two touchdowns.


No matter how you look at it, you can count on plenty of moving and shaking in these wide receiver rankings leading up to kick off on Sunday. Be sure to check back before you set your lineup.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-tight-end-rankings-week-6

As was expected, Rob Gronkowski finally came through for his fantasy owners last week, as New England’s top tight end posted his first 100-yard game. However, it was his teammate and fellow tight end, Martellus Bennett who really enjoyed Tom Brady’s first game back, as the former Bear caught six passes for 87 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, that’s right, in Brady’s first game he helped not one, but two tight ends, finish among the top 10 in fantasy points for Week 6.


Greg Olsen may have not found the end zone on Monday night, but he still produced in a major way, catching nine passes (on 13 targets) for 181 yards in Carolina’s last-second loss to Tampa Bay. It doesn’t matter if it’s Cam Newton or Derek Anderson at quarterback, Olsen is one of the main focal points of the Panthers’ offense.


Olsen, Gronkowski and Bennett all are safe starting options in Week 7, as well as the other usual suspects — Jordan Reed (provided he's not placed in the concussion protocol after showing symptoms on Wednesday), Travis Kelce and Delanie Walker. It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Graham can continue his renaissance coming off of a bye, and to see if a break was just what Coby Fleener and Julius Thomas needed to get them going. Also is this the week Tyler Eifert finally returns?


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay


Rk Player Team Opp
1 Greg Olsen CAR at NO
2 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. CIN
3 Jordan Reed WAS vs. PHI
4 Travis Kelce KC at OAK
5 Jimmy Graham SEA vs. ATL
6 Delanie Walker TEN vs. CLE
7 Martellus Bennett NE vs. CIN
8 Julius Thomas JAC at CHI
9 Coby Fleener NO vs. CAR
10 Zach Ertz PHI at WAS
11 Zach Miller CHI vs. JAC
12 Gary Barnidge CLE at TEN
13 Dennis Pitta BAL at NYG
14 Tyler Eifert CIN at NE
15 Jason Witten DAL at GB
16 Antonio Gates SD vs. DEN (Thurs.)
17 Jesse James PIT at MIA
18 Hunter Henry SD vs. DEN (Thurs.)
19 Charles Clay BUF vs. SF
20 Dwayne Allen IND at HOU
21 Jacob Tamme ATL at SEA
22 Will Tye NYG vs. BAL
23 Virgil Green DEN at SD (Thurs.)
24 Clive Walford OAK vs. KC
25 Richard Rodgers GB vs. DAL
26 Lance Kendricks LA at DET
27 Vance McDonald SF at BUF
28 Jack Doyle IND at HOU
29 Dion Sims MIA vs. PIT
30 C.J. Uzomah CIN at NE

— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football 2016 Tight End Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-quarterback-rankings-week-6

Tom Brady sure didn’t seem rusty after missing the first four games of the season, which is why he once again leads off the Week 6 fantasy quarterback rankings. Brady led the position with 406 yards and added in three touchdown passes in New England’s dismantling of Cleveland last week. He gets his first home game this week against a Cincinnati defense that is in the top 10 in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs.


Cam Newton also should be back after sitting out the Monday night game because of a concussion. It was clear Carolina missed the reigning MVP and if he plays, he’ll face a New Orleans defense that ranks at or near the bottom of the NFL in all four major statistical categories (total, scoring, rushing, passing defense).


With just two teams on bye (Minnesota, Tampa Bay), most fantasy owners are not going to need a fill-in, especially with Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Blake Bortles and Alex Smith also returning to action. But there could still be some decisions to make as to which quarterback(s) to start, based on matchups and recent results.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay





— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Quarterback Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-defense-special-teams-rankings-week-6

After a couple of OK, but not great outings, the Arizona defense/special teams showed up in a major way in its last game, which is why the Cardinals occupy the top spot for the Week 6 fantasy rankings. The bye week schedule also had something to do with this, but more on that in a moment.


As for Arizona, the Cardinals harassed Blaine Gabbert last Thursday night, sacking him seven times, including once for a safety, and came up with three takeaways (2 INTs, fumble) in their win. Entering Week 6, Arizona is second in the NFL in sacks (18) and tied with Minnesota for the most takeaways (12). This week, the Cardinals will host the Jets for “Monday Night Football.” Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the league in interceptions with 10 and New York has the worst turnover margin (-10) of any team. With the Vikings, far and away the top fantasy DST to this point, on bye, Arizona gets the top spot for Week 6.


Speaking of Minnesota, owners who are looking for a bye week fill-in may want to kick the tires on Detroit. The Lions DST is not widely owned in most leagues and has a decent matchup at home against Los Angeles. The Rams rank near the bottom in total, scoring, rushing and passing offense and are near the top in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs. That’s the type of combination you look for when it comes to picking a DST.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay





— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-kicker-rankings-week-6

Stephen Gostkowski looks to be a safe bet as the top fantasy kicker on a weekly basis once again with Tom Brady back, but it was Adam Vinatieri who dominated the position in Week 5.


Vinatieri, who at 43 and now in his 21st season just keeps going and going, nailed five field goals in Indianapolis’ win over Chicago, including two from beyond 40 yards and two from beyond 50. Depending on league scoring, he has the most fantasy points among kickers this season and he should be good for another strong game this week against Houston.


Meanwhile, Gostkowski is back atop the rankings mainly because Brady is back leading New England’s offense. Gostkowski didn’t rack up a ton of fantasy points last week against Cleveland because the Patriots scored so many touchdowns. However, points of some sort shouldn’t be an issue moving forward, which is why he’s No. 1 and probably there to stay, except for Week 9 when New England is on bye.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay





— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Kicker Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-san-diego-chargers-preview-and-prediction-2016

San Diego enters tonight’s game with a 1-4 record after dropping a third straight in heartbreaking fashion. The Chargers continue to find new ways to lose, this time squandering yet another late fourth quarter lead on the road against the Raiders. San Diego has led in the fourth quarter in each of its four losses.


To make matters worse, the seemingly cursed Chargers have now lost 10 in a row to AFC West opponents dating back to 2014, a streak that puts head coach Mike McCoy firmly on the hot seat. McCoy and company will attempt to alter their fortunes tonight against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos. Denver has defeated San Diego five straight times.


Week 5 was not particularly kind to the Broncos either. Rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch was sacked six times in an underwhelming 23-16 loss to the Falcons, Denver’s first of the season. The good news is that it looks like Trevor Siemian will be back at quarterback for tonight’s contest against the Chargers. The bad news is that Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak will not be on the sideline. Kubiak, who suffers from what has been described as “complex migraines,” had to be briefly hospitalized following last Sunday’s loss. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis will fill in as interim head coach this week while Kubiak recovers.


Denver at San Diego


Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 13 at 8:25 p.m. ET

Broadcast Channels: CBS, NFL Network, Twitter

Spread: Denver -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Broncos’ Offensive Line vs. Chargers’ Defensive Front
Denver’s revamped offensive line was supposed to be a big upgrade over last year’s unit, and for the first two games, it was living up to that billing. But calf injuries to starting right tackle Donald Stephenson and blocking tight end Virgil Green have coincided with a steep decline in the Broncos’ offensive production. In the first two games, Denver averaged 141 rushing yards per game. Over the last three without Stephenson or Green, that number has been cut in half (75 ypg), as running back C.J. Anderson has been rendered largely ineffective.


Stephenson’s and Green’s absence also has been felt in the passing game, where the offensive line had been giving up just 1.5 sacks and four quarterback hits per game with them in the lineup. Starting in Week 3, the Broncos have allowed four sacks and eight quarterback hits on average without them. Green’s absence also has removed the threat of a capable pass catcher from the offense as well.


Fortunately, both Stephenson and Hill are expected back for tonight’s game. It will be interesting to see if there is a marked improvement from Denver’s offense with them back on the field. Despite the record, San Diego’s defense has played well. The Chargers are eighth in the NFL against the run (83.4 ypg), and the pass rush has been making some noise too. In his debut last week against Oakland, No. 3 overall pick Joey Bosa collected two sacks and three tackles for a loss. Ironically, Bosa will likely be lined up opposite Stephenson tonight in one of the key positional matchups.


2. San Diego Turnovers
If the Chargers have any hope of winning tonight’s game, they must avoid the costly late turnovers and mistakes that have plagued them in each of their last three games. Following a 1-1 start to the season, the Bolts had just two turnovers. Since then, they have turned the ball over 10 times, with at least three giveaways turnovers in each of the past three games. Melvin Gordon has had two costly late-game fumbles in each of the last two games, and Philip Rivers has thrown all three of his interceptions within the last two weeks.


It will be a tall order for San Diego to turn its fortunes around tonight against the best defense it has faced all season. Denver’s defense thrives on putting pressure on the quarterback and forcing opponents into making costly mistakes. The Broncos are tied for the league lead (with Minnesota) in sacks with 19 and have already forced nine turnovers (5 INTs, 4 fumbles). They are more than capable of adding to that total tonight and figure to be plenty motivated following last week’s loss to Atlanta.


3. San Diego Passing Game vs. Denver Pass Defense
The Chargers currently have the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL at 30.4 points per game. A passing attack that ranks fourth (282.8 ypg) is a big reason why. Philip Rivers has played exceptionally well so far this season, especially when you take into account that he has been without each of his top five receivers from last season for much of this year. Fortunately, players such as Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman and Hunter Henry have all stepped up to fill the void.


A Broncos’ pass defense that currently ranks third in the league (185.6 ypg) will give Rivers and company all they can handle tonight. Once again, the pass rush has been potent, led by current sack leader Von Miller (6.5 sacks), and has produced 19 sacks in five games. The secondary, led by lockdown cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., has allowed just three touchdown passes. Throwing the football is the primary strength of San Diego’s offense. So, it will be critical for the Chargers to find success through the air. They may want to a take a few cues from the Falcons, who found some holes to exploit against Denver’s defense last week, especially when it came to forcing Bronco linebackers to cover Atlanta running backs in space one-on-one.


Final Analysis


The key for San Diego will be to eliminate the mistakes and turnovers that have haunted this team in the fourth quarter this season. Philip Rivers will need to have the passing game clicking, and Melvin Gordon needs to step up against a Denver defense that has been vulnerable against the run. Gordon has scored a touchdown in every game so far this season which bodes well, but his 3.4 yards per carry average leaves plenty to be desired.


Defensively, San Diego will need to pressure Trevor Siemian, who is expected to return after missing last week with a shoulder injury, and force the Broncos’ offense into a few mistakes. The Chargers have at least one interception in all five of their games, so they have displayed a nose for the football. Despite a 1-4 record, San Diego is not a terrible football team, especially when you consider the ridiculous number of injuries to key players. If all goes as planned, the Chargers should be able to keep pace with the Broncos tonight.


The winning recipe for Denver is the same as it has been: play great defense and run the football. The latter has been noticeably absent of late, as the Broncos haven’t rushed for more than 89 yards in a game since Week 2. The return of starting right tackle Donald Stephenson and tight end Virgil Green should help remedy that to some degree. Siemian’s return at quarterback also will go a long way in helping this offense find some traction. It is concerning that head coach Gary Kubiak will not be on the sidelines for tonight’s game. But this is a veteran team, made up of players that fully understand their roles, and should make enough plays to squeak by what has been a snake-bitten Chargers team.


Prediction: Broncos 20, Chargers 17


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/rhode-island-rams-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Maybe no team in the country had its season short-circuited as quickly as the Rhode Island Rams last November.


Just 10 minutes into a season-opening win over American, star guard E.C. Matthews crumpled to the floor in a heap while making a scoring move to the hoop. In that instant, a knee injury robbed the Rams of their leading scorer and perhaps the top player in the Atlantic 10, snuffing out any NCAA Tournament dreams.


The Rams didn’t fold their tents but simply became a very ordinary team (17–15, 9–9). To coach Dan Hurley’s credit, other players took on leadership roles and progressed in meaningful ways. Now with Matthews and a few key additions in tow, the Rams appear poised to make a run at a conference title.


“After we lost E.C., guys like Jarvis Garrett and Jared Terrell really stepped up and led our team,” Hurley says. “They’re juniors now, and the depth in our junior and seniors classes is what you like to see as a coach.”


All Atlantic 10 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.


At a Glance


HEAD COACH: Dan Hurley

2015-16 RECORD (A-10): 17–15 (9–9)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: None

2016-17 PREDICTION: Second in the Atlantic 10


G Four McGlynn (11.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

C Earl Watson (5.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg)




Matthews wasn’t the only Ram to battle injury, as the team’s projected starters missed close to 35 percent of the season due to assorted woes. Hassan Martin, Rhody’s frontcourt leader, coped with knee and ankle problems that eventually shut him down by the time March rolled around. The Rams badly need a return to top form by the undersized but bouncy and long-armed forward. When he’s on, Martin is a shot-blocking menace and efficient scorer around the rim.


He’ll be ably assisted by Kuran Iverson, a talented combo forward who ended up leading the Rams in rebounding with 7.1 per game. If he can avoid persistent foul woes that limited him to 27 minutes per game, Iverson could blossom into a major force. The Rams need additional bulk up front, and Hurley hopes he addressed that with recruits who will compete with 285-pound senior Andre Berry for time in the post. Mike Layssard, a 6'9" wide-body freshman, is the top candidate, but New Jersey native Cyril Langevine could be a recruiting steal.


Sophomore Nicola Akele showed some promise a year ago, and Hurley knows he’ll have to find time for swingman Stanford Robinson. He started 10 games over two seasons at Indiana before sitting out last season and flashing major promise in practice sessions.




This is where the Rams are as good as any team in the Atlantic 10 and can compete with virtually every team on their schedule. The key is a return to form by Matthews, who averaged 16.9 points in 2014-15. The lefty was one of the top offensive threats in the league in his first two college seasons and says that he learned a lot by sitting and watching last season. He returned from his ACL injury by the end of the summer and looks stronger than ever.


The good news is that Matthews won’t have to shoulder nearly as large of a load as he did earlier in his career. Hurley has a plethora of scoring options. Terrell stepped into the off-guard spot and led the Rams with 13.6 points per game. Garrett is now a seasoned point man and Hurley’s type of player. He played with a facemask for the last six weeks of last season after fracturing his jaw and still matured into one of the A-10’s top floor leaders.


The Rams are blessed with depth to complement the trio of Garrett, Terrell and Matthews. Robinson will certainly see time at the wing, as will sophomore Christion Thompson. Hurley is also excited about the shooting ability of Jeff Dowtin, a product of Washington D.C.’s powerful Catholic Athletic Conference.




The Rams add five players, and several could play key roles. Indiana transfer Stanford Robinson can guard three positions. Guard Jeff Dowtin is a dangerous deep shooter, and forwards Mike Layssard, Cyril Langevine and Michael Tertsea are all good prospects. Layssard owns big-time size and shooting range out to 15 feet.


Final Analysis


Despite never coming close to an NCAA Tournament in four seasons, Hurley has received three contract extensions. That’s how much Rhody leaders think of him and the positive path the program is traveling. With a healthy Matthews last season, the Rams likely would have been in position to earn the school’s first NCAA berth since 1999.


Now that Matthews is back, Robinson is eligible and additional size is on hand thanks to solid recruiting, the pieces finally appear to be in place.


Give the Rams some badly overdue luck and they certainly should contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Rhode Island Rams 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/florida-state-seminoles-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Replacing a first-round draft pick after falling short of the NCAA Tournament isn’t as big a worry as it may appear.


Leonard Hamilton reloaded again with a recruiting class that ranks among the top 15 nationally for the second straight year. Combine that with rising star Dwayne Bacon’s decision to stay in school for another year, and Florida State actually has better overall talent than it had last year with Malik Beasley — 19th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft — still on the roster.


Ironically, fixing the defense — which had long been the cornerstone of the Hamilton era — is the biggest obstacle for a program looking to end a four-year NCAA Tournament drought. The Seminoles ranked near the bottom of the conference in the major defensive categories last year.


“We can be the surprise of the ACC,” Hamilton says. “We will be a very deep team if we stay healthy. Scoring won’t be a problem. We just need to get back to playing junkyard defense.”


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.


At a Glance


HEAD COACH: Leonard Hamilton

2015-16 RECORD (ACC): 20–14 (8–10)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NIT: Lost to Valparaiso 81–69 in the second round

2016-17 PREDICTION: Sixth in the ACC


G Malik Beasley (15.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

C Boris Bojanovsky (6.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg)

G Devon Bookert (9.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.8 apg)

G Montay Brandon (3.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg)




Much like Bacon last year, prize freshman Jonathan Isaac arrives with enormous hype. A top-10 national recruit, the lanky 6'10" forward possesses a rare blend of quickness and skills. Hamilton will likely play Isaac mostly as a stretch-4, which will instantly create matchup issues for just about every defense the Seminoles face.


Finding someone to bolster their own interior defense is a glaring need after the Noles lost 7-footer Boris Bojanovsky, who didn’t provide much offense but ranked among the ACC’s best shot blockers.


The good news is 7'1" center Michael Ojo and 6'8" forward Phil Cofer are healthy again. Due to injuries, Ojo, a fifth-year senior, missed all of last season, and Cofer played in only 11 games. Hamilton says their toughness is invaluable.


“Michael and Phil are our two most intense players. We missed that intensity last year,” Hamilton says. “That’s going to help us be sharper on the defensive end.”


Jarquez Smith, an athletic 6'9" senior, is the team’s most experienced forward and is capable of playing multiple positions.




Bacon and junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes both flirted with the idea of turning pro (each entered the draft but never hired agents). Instead, they will form one of the best guard tandems in the conference.


Bacon, a slasher with tremendous physical tools, gives the Seminoles a go-to scorer who can create off the dribble. After becoming the first freshman in school history to lead the team in scoring and rebounding last year, he has the potential to be one of the best players in the country.


“I wanted to come back to get better. When I get to the NBA, I want to be able to help a team right away,” Bacon says. “There’s a lot more things for me to do (in college). I want to take this team where it hasn’t been in a while. Our whole mindset is to get to the (NCAA) tourney.”


Rathan-Mayes, who wasn’t asked to score as much last year with Bacon and Beasley on the wings, can provide offensive firepower too — he scored 30 points or more in three games as a freshman. But the veteran’s ability to create shots and limit turnovers will be more important, especially with the graduation of back-up point Devon Bookert, who shared much of the ball-handling duty.


Expect steady improvement and a bigger role for swingman Terance Mann after he earned significant playing time as a freshman. Junior college transfer Braian Angola-Rodas, a lanky shooting guard who can create his own shot, and freshman Trent Forrest, a consensus top-100 recruit, are ready to contribute now. That group will certainly give Hamilton a lot of interchangeable parts and keep Bacon and Rathan-Mayes from having to play heavy minutes.




Jonathan Isaac ranks as one of the top recruits in school history. Braian Angola-Rodas will be expected to contribute after two years at the junior college level. Trent Forrest has a college-ready frame that should help get him on the court early on. C.J. Walker is a true point guard who will compete for back-up duties. Mfiondu Kabengele is a year or two away from contributing.


Final Analysis


There’s too much talent for Florida State not to at least be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid. Isaac could be a one-and-done player, and Bacon is destined for the NBA, too.


The lack of a quality big man hurts, but the guard play is more than strong enough to compensate. The real issue is whether the defense will improve, especially after losing the team’s best shot blocker (Bojanovsky).


If Hamilton can get the Noles to play the type of stingy defense that they used to, they could win a couple NCAA Tournament games. If not, they’ll be a bubble team at best.

Florida State Seminoles 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 07:00
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Path: /college-football/predictions-every-college-football-game-week-7-2016

College football’s Week 7 slate kicks off on Wednesday night with another Sun Belt midweek showdown, as Appalachian State travels to UL Lafayette in a key conference matchup for both teams. Navy and East Carolina was slated for Thursday but was postponed due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew. Four games dot the schedule for Friday, including Mississippi State at BYU and Duke at Louisville. There’s no shortage of intrigue for Saturday, as NC State travels to Clemson, West Virginia meets Texas Tech and Kansas State takes on Oklahoma in the first window of games. The afternoon slate begins with Tennessee hosting Alabama, North Carolina traveling to Miami and Nebraska taking on Indiana. The Week 7 slate concludes with a few interesting night games, including Arkansas-Ole Miss, Stanford-Notre Dame and Ohio State-Wisconsin.


Which teams will come out on top in every FBS game for Week 7? Bryan Fischer and Jim Weber join Athlon Sports' Steven Lassan and Mitch Light to provide weekly predictions for every contest:


College Football Week 7 Predictions









Appalachian State at

UL Lafayette

Duke at 


Memphis at 



Fresno State

Miss. State at


Lafayette at


NC State at


Missouri at


Wake Forest at

Florida State

Vanderbilt at


Georgia Southern at

Georgia Tech

Minnesota at


Iowa at


Illinois at


Virginia Tech at


Pitt at 


UConn at 

Temple at


W. Michigan at


Ball State at


Kent State at 

Miami, Ohio

E. Michigan at


Kansas at


Southern Miss at


New Mexico vs. 


Kansas State at


Iowa State at


W. Virginia at

Texas Tech

Tulsa at


CMU at

N. Illinois

South Alabama at

Ark. State

Georgia State at


Arizona State at


Colorado State at

Boise State

WKU at


USC at


Utah at 

Oregon State


Washington State



Nebraska at


La. Tech at


Northwestern at

Michigan State

Bowling Green at


FIU at


FAU at




Texas State at


Stanford at

Notre Dame

Ohio State at


Nevada at 




Ole Miss at


Alabama at


North Carolina at



Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 7 2016
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/nfl-best-daily-fantasy-football-lineups-fanduel-and-draftkings-week-6-2016

Week 5 had its ups and downs for me in daily fantasy football (DFS). Many of my Top Play calls were solid while a few stunk it up (A.J. Green, Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Rudolph I’m looking at you). This inconsistency hurt otherwise solid lineups in what was a high-scoring week.


The lineup I presented with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown headlining struggled mightily with only 106 points, while the Aaron Rodgers-led lineup didn’t fare much better on FanDuel (127.56 points), but managed to cash in most cash contests.


For, DraftKings both Week 5 lineups held their own in cash contests but didn’t make the cut in GPP because it was such a high-scoring week. Plays such as Roethlisberger, Jordan Howard, Theo Riddick and the Vikings DST were gold while Green, McKinnon and Rudolph struggled mightily.


With more teams playing this week than last week (just two on bye in Week 6 compared to four in Week 5), there will be more players in the pool to choose from as well. So after having a few spotty weeks in DFS I am pulling back a bit and only entering a few lineups to see if we can’t get back on track.


Le’Veon Bell has come back with a roar as has Tom Brady and this week they will be appealing plays once again. I am loading up more on running backs this week than I have in the past and taking some more risks in the wide receiver position.


What I will be doing in this space is sharing my top plays for the week, a value play, and most importantly a lineup or two. I will likely be focusing on cash games (50/50 and Double Up) and not GPP (tournaments, multi-player) contests. My Week 5 lineups should work in both formats.


So let’s get into my top plays, value play and lineups for Week 6 shall we? As always any questions, arguments, or glowing praise can be sent to me via Twitter @fantsychillpony.


Week 6 Top Plays


These will be my top plays of the week. These are players who I will try to have in as many lineups of mine as possible. If I can, I will use all three in one lineup. A reminder for cash games: going with an elite quarterback is typically recommended. If you opt for a value quarterback he MUST meet value for your loaded lineup to be worth it.


QB: Drew Brees, New Orleans vs. Carolina ($8,500 FanDuel/$7,900 DraftKings)

Brees gets the surprisingly, well maybe not too surprising, weak secondary of Carolina this week and if Cam Newton (concussion) is unable to play the Saints have a favorable matchup at home. Coming off a bye week should give Brees and his receivers a breather. If Newton comes back I also like him in contests as well. For this week though I am rolling with Brees.


RB: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh at Miami ($9,300 FanDuel/$7,900 DraftKings)

Bell has been a fireball since returning from suspension and simply put looks like the best running back in the game once again. He should be in line for yet another week in this offense, which looks unstoppable at the moment. Yes, it’s a high price tag, but certainly worth the cost this week against the 15th-ranked run defense. Bell is essentially matchup-proof so play with confidence.


WR: Doug Baldwin, Seattle vs. Atlanta ($7,600 FanDuel/$6,500 DraftKings)

The Falcons have looked fantastic on offense this season but their secondary leaves something to be desired. Ranked 23rd in the league this season and with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks coming off a bye, Baldwin should be once again a reliable WR1 play at a more than fair price on both sites. If Wilson has healed and can play close to his old mobile ways look out for this offense to continue clicking, especially with a resurgent running game.


TE: Zach Miller, Chicago vs. Jacksonville ($5,800 FanDuel/$3,800 DraftKings)

Miller has been a lock for me the past three weeks solely due to volume and his price. Rather than spending up on one of the top three tight ends saving money with Miller has paid off. I will continue to do so until he greatly disappoints us. The Jaguars are seventh in the league against tight ends so there is a little risk here, but again at this price I am willing to take it.


Value Play of the Week


Brice Butler, Dallas at Green Bay ($5,600 FanDuel/$3,500 DraftKings)

Butler is a Hail Mary play this week and is priced the same way. He is facing off against one of the weaker secondaries in the league in Green Bay. Ranked 24th in the league against the pass, Green Bay was lucky last week that the Giants once again seemed off of their game. Butler is no Odell Beckham Jr., and if Dez Bryant can give it a go this play is even riskier. But if Bryant misses another game, Butler is a punt of all punt plays to allow your lineup to be more top-heavy. A touchdown called back in Week 5 prevented a solid week for Butler at minimum cost. Again, if Bryant plays I will avoid, but if he is out I am taking the risk on Butler in many GPP lineups.


The Lineup(s)


This week I am only posting one lineup for each site. After a few weeks of some great plays, and plenty of duds I am hoping thinning out the lineups help us get back to our winning ways. So this week I constructed a lineup I will be playing in both types of game on both sites.


FanDuel Cash/GPP Lineup


DraftKings Cash/GPP Lineup


— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

NFL Best Daily Fantasy Football Lineups for FanDuel and DraftKings (Week6)
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 10:30