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There’s one simple stat that tells the story of Alabama’s 55–44 Iron Bowl victory. And at first glance, it appears that Auburn did quite well executing its offense in the red zone. After, all the Tigers scored on seven of their eight trips inside the Alabama 20-yard line. But five of those seven scores ended in field goals, including four of fewer than 25 yards. Auburn had seven possessions that went 60 yards or more — an amazing feat against the Alabama defense — but only two of those seven ended with a touchdown.

 

“I think the name of the game really was that when we got in the red zone, we had to kick field goals,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We kicked five of them and didn’t score our touchdowns. We had enough yards to score a whole bunch of points and that was probably the name of the game.”

 

Alabama, on the other hand, converted its opportunities into touchdowns, finding the end zone on all five of its trips into the red zone.

 

The Tide was especially efficient in the second half; after Alabama’s first drive of the third quarter ended with a Blake Sims interception — his third of the game — it proceeded to score a touchdown on its final five possessions of the game. A 36–27 deficit gradually turned into a 55–36 lead.

 

“We started making some plays on offense can got the momentum of the game back,” coach Nick Saban said.

 

Alabama’s outstanding execution in the second half resulted in some gaudy final stats. Despite running only 61 plays — the second-fewest of the season — the Tide accumulated 539 yards of offense and averaged 8.84 yards per play, the most against an SEC opponent since they went for 9.1 in a 52–7 win at Ole Miss in 2011.

 

 

Teaser:
Alabama's Red Zone Performance the Difference in Iron Bowl Win Over Auburn
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/13-coaching-candidates-replace-bo-pelini-nebraska
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Nebraska fired coach Bo Pelini after the Cornhuskers closed the 2014 regular season with a 9-3 record. Pelini’s record in Lincoln was an impressive 67-27, but the program never took the next step under his watch. Nebraska won at least nine games in each of Pelini’s seven seasons and had four finishes in the final Associated Press poll. However, the Cornhuskers never played in one of college football’s premier bowl games or won a conference title.

Nebraska is one of the top 25 jobs in college football, but there are also drawbacks to coaching in Lincoln. The state does not produce enough in-state talent to win a national championship, which means the coaching staff has to recruit Texas and surrounding areas for talent.

Even though this job may not be as elite as some would suggest, Nebraska has all of the necessary resources to win a Big Ten title – and it’s the best program in the Big Ten West Division.


13 Candidates to Replace Bo Pelini at Nebraska

 

Steve Addazio, Head Coach, Boston College
Addazio has quickly emerged as one of the top coaches in the ACC over the last two years. Boston College is 14-11 under Addazio’s watch and has finished .500 in league play in both seasons. Prior to Addazio’s arrival, the Eagles went 6-18 from 2011-12 and missed out on bowl appearances in both years. Making Addazio’s two years in Chestnut Hill even more impressive is his ability to win with the available talent and mesh with graduate transfers (quarterback Tyler Murphy), while the program reloads and builds an identity through recruiting. Addazio’s style of play (run-first mentality and toughness) would translate well in Lincoln. Prior to taking over at Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two years at Temple and served as an assistant at Florida, Indiana, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

 

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Craig Bohl, Head Coach, Wyoming

To borrow a term from another Big Ten program, Bohl seems to be a “Nebraska man.” He’s a Lincoln native, played under Tom Osborne from 1977-79 and worked on the Cornhuskers’ coaching staff from 1995-02. Bohl was hired as North Dakota State’s head coach in 2003, and he led the Bison until 2013 when he was hired at Wyoming. Bohl’s record with the Bison was a stellar 104-32 and included three consecutive FCS Championships from 2011-13. Bohl led Wyoming to a 4-8 mark in 2014. 

 

Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, Air Force

Calhoun currently coaches at his alma mater (Air Force), so it’s not a guarantee that he wants to leave for another job. Calhoun is 58-44 in eight seasons with the Falcons and guided the program to six consecutive bowl appearances from 2007-12. Air Force missed out on a bowl and went 2-10 in 2013, which was Calhoun’s worst season with the program. However, the Falcons rebounded to 9-3 and could reach 10 victories if they win a bowl game. And considering Nebraska’s history with the option offense, Calhoun’s ties to that style of play would be attractive to the fanbase. Calhoun also has stops on his resume from stints in the NFL (Houston and Denver) and in college with Ohio and Wake Forest.


Willie Fritz, Head Coach, Georgia Southern
Fritz is coming off a successful debut at Georgia Southern, as the Eagles finished 9-3 in their first season on the FBS level. Barring an appeal that’s approved by the NCAA, Georgia Southern won’t be eligible for a bowl game, but a 9-3 record with a Sun Belt title is an impressive debut from Fritz. Prior to Georgia Southern, Fritz went 40-14 at Sam Houston State and 97-47 at Central Missouri. The Kansas native could be in the mix for the opening with the Jayhawks after the program fired coach Charlie Weis earlier this year.
 

Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon

As a former Nebraska quarterback, Frost is already a popular name in the search to replace Bo Pelini. Frost is only 39 years old, and a younger coach could spark energy into a program that is looking to move back into the national title mix on a yearly basis. The Lincoln native doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience, but he spent one season as a graduate assistant at Nebraska (2002), a year in the same capacity with Kansas State (2006) and two seasons at Northern Iowa from 2007-08. Frost was hired by former Oregon coach Chip Kelly to tutor the wide receivers in 2009, and he served in that capacity until the start of the 2013 season. Frost was promoted to offensive coordinator after Kelly left for the NFL, and the Ducks’ offense continues to be one of the best in the nation under his watch. Oregon averaged 45.5 points per game in 2013 and has a 45.9 mark entering the Pac-12 Championship.

 

Justin Fuente, Head Coach, Memphis

Fuente inherited a mess after the failed Larry Porter era at Memphis. But in just three years, the Tigers went from 4-8 to winning a share of the American Athletic Conference title in 2014. Fuente’s record at Memphis is just 16-20, but the program has clearly made progress under his watch and finished 9-3 in its second season playing in the American Athletic Conference. The Oklahoma native is no stranger to coaching in the Midwest, as he spent five years under Gary Patterson at TCU and worked from 2001-06 at Illinois State.

Mike Gundy, Head Coach, Oklahoma State
Gundy is 82-44 since taking over as Oklahoma State’s head coach in 2005. Considering he works at his alma mater, Gundy isn’t necessarily looking to leave Stillwater, but reports have indicated there could be friction between the head coach and athletic director Mike Holder. Under Gundy’s direction, the Cowboys have played in eight consecutive bowl games and finished No. 3 nationally in 2011. Gundy’s name also popped up in connection with the opening at Florida.

Mark Hudspeth, Head Coach, UL Lafayette
Hudspeth has been successful at two different head coaching stops, including a 35-16 mark with UL Lafayette over the last four years. The Ragin’ Cajuns are also poised to earn their fourth consecutive bowl appearance after an 8-4 mark in 2014. Prior to taking over at ULL, Hudspeth worked as an assistant at Mississippi State for two seasons (2009-10) and worked for seven years as the head coach at North Alabama (66-21). Hudspeth also has stops in his career at Navy, Delta State and Central Arkansas. Hudspeth is due for a promotion to run a Power 5 job, but his background suggests he would be more interested in SEC openings.

 

Jerry Kill, Head Coach, Minnesota

Nebraska fans are certainly familiar with Kill after Minnesota claimed back-to-back victories against the Cornhuskers in 2013-14. The Kansas native has a good job at Minnesota, but it’s much easier to win at a higher level at Nebraska. Kill wouldn’t necessarily be the most exciting hire for a program that wants to return to national prominence. However, there’s no doubt Kill knows how to win games. He went 38-14 in five years at Saginaw Valley State, 55-32 in seven seasons at Southern Illinois, 23-16 at Northern Illinois and is 25-25 in four years with the Golden Gophers. Kill’s career record is 152-98, and he has elevated the Minnesota program over the last two seasons.

 

Jim McElwain, Head Coach, Colorado State
McElwain is one of the rising stars in college football’s coaching ranks. In three years with Colorado State, McElwain is 22-16 and has the Rams poised to earn back-to-back bowl appearances. Colorado State is also 15-3 in McElwain’s last 18 games, which includes wins over Power 5 opponents in Boston College, Washington State and Colorado. Prior to taking the top spot in Fort Collins, McElwain served as an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2008-11, coordinated Fresno State’s offense in 2007 and worked with the Raiders in 2006. He also has stops as an assistant at Michigan State, Louisville, Eastern Washington and Montana State. McElwain is primed to eventually move up the coaching ranks, but there’s a potential issue with his buyout. All signs point to McElwain’s buyout at Colorado State checking in at a hefty $7.5 million this year.

 

Joe Moglia, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina

Moglia might be a better fit in the longshot category, but he’s an intriguing name to remember in coaching searches this offseason. The former Ameritrade CEO spent two years as a volunteer assistant at Nebraska (2009-10) and was hired as Coastal Carolina’s coach after a four-game stint with the Omaha Nighthawks. In three years with the Chanticleers, Moglia’s record is 31-9 and has guided the program to three consecutive FCS playoff appearances.

 

Pat Narduzzi, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan State

Would Nebraska venture into the defensive assistant ranks once again for a coach? If so, Narduzzi would be a home-run hire for athletic director Shawn Eichorst. The Connecticut native reportedly turned down the UConn job last year, but it’s only a matter of time before he runs his own program. Narduzzi has coordinated some of the nation’s top defenses at Michigan State, including the 2013 season when the Spartans led the nation by holding opponents to four yards per play. Prior to coordinating Michigan State’s defense, Narduzzi called the defensive signals at Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) and has stops as an assistant at Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.

 

Greg Schiano, former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach
Schiano sat out the 2014 season after he was fired after two years as Tampa Bay’s head coach. Despite the failed stint in the NFL, Schiano is expected to get back in the mix for college jobs, as he recorded a 68-67 record at Rutgers, which included six bowl appearances over his final seven years. Schiano’s record with the Scarlet Knights was just one win over .500, but he inherited a program that won only nine games in the four years prior to his arrival. 


Other Names to Watch/Longshots

 

Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst has ties to Wisconsin from a stint under Barry Alvarez in the program’s athletic department from 2006-11. Eichorst and Aranda didn’t work together at Wisconsin, but it’s probably a safe bet Eichorst has kept a close watch on the Badgers over the last few years. Aranda helped to coordinate a defense that led the Big Ten in fewest points allowed per game (16.8) in 2014. A rising star in the coaching ranks but likely a year or two away from taking a head coaching job.  

Al Golden, Head Coach, Miami
Golden has ties to athletic director Shawn Eichorst, as they worked together in Miami from 2011-12. However, Golden could be a tough sell in Lincoln after a 28-21 start to his tenure in Coral Gables. Additionally, the Hurricanes are coming off a 6-6 record and went 3-5 in a mediocre Coastal Division.

 

Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, San Francisco 49ers
All signs point to Harbaugh coaching somewhere other than San Francisco in 2015. Will it be Michigan, the Raiders or the Jets? Hard to see Harbaugh going to Nebraska, but he’s a name to watch in all coaching searches this offseason.

 

Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury in fall practice, Ohio State’s offense ranked as the best in the Big Ten by averaging 44.1 points per game. Herman and coach Urban Meyer were instrumental in the development of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and will have to do the same for Cardale Jones after Barrett’s injury against Michigan. Herman has worked under coach Urban Meyer since 2012 and called the plays at Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08) and Iowa State (2009-11). Herman also is a member of Mensa International. Expect Herman to get a look for openings outside of the Power 5 leagues.

 

Jim Tressel, Former Ohio State Head Coach

Tressel has been out of coaching since he resigned at Ohio State after the 2010 season. While the end of his tenure with the Buckeyes was rocky with NCAA problems, Tressel is a proven winner with a 241-79 career record. Is he ready to get back into coaching? Or is Tressel comfortable serving in an administration role at Youngstown State?

 

Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson
Venables is familiar with Nebraska from his time as a player and coach at Kansas State. And Venables has emerged as one of the nation’s highest-paid defensive coordinators and has guided Clemson’s defense to finishes inside of the top three in the ACC in scoring defense over the last three seasons. 

Teaser:
13 Coaching Candidates to Replace Bo Pelini at Nebraska
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 13:54
Path: /college-football/nebraska-fires-coach-bo-pelini
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Nebraska has fired coach Bo Pelini. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst will hold a press conference on Sunday to discuss Pelini's firing and what's next for the program. Pelini will not coach Nebraska in a bowl game.
 

Pelini went 67-27 in seven full years with the Cornhuskers and won at least nine games in each season.

However, the expectations are high at Nebraska. Pelini never won a conference championship and never led the program to one of college football’s top bowl games.

 

Teaser:
Nebraska Fires Coach Bo Pelini
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 11:26
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-vs-green-bay-packers-preview-and-prediction
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A potential Super Bowl XLIX preview pits Tom Brady’s New England Patriots (9-2) against Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers (8-3) this afternoon on CBS in the first matchup between these two QB legends. Rodgers has been nearly unstoppable at Lambeau Field this season, where he has thrown for 1,413 yards, 18 TDs and zero INTs on his way to a perfect 5–0 record. Most Packers fans would like to forget Tom Brady’s first and only trip to Title Town, when he threw four TDs in a 35–0 shutout victory in 2006.

 

New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers

 

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Green Bay -3

 

New England’s Key to Victory: Piercing the Lambeau Mystique

The Patriots are walking into a true hornet’s nest on Sunday. Lambeau Field may provide the best home-field advantage in the NFL. This season, Green Bay is 5–0 on the tundra, outscoring those five opponents 219–85 — an average score of 44–17. In their last two home games, the Packers have shown no mercy, dispatching Chicago 55–14 (after building a 42–0 halftime lead) and Philadelphia 53–20 (after holding a 30–6 halftime advantage). Clearly, it’s incumbent upon the Patriots to weather the early storm. In their last loss, a 41–14 Week 4 blowout at the hands of the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Patriots fell behind 27–0 in the third quarter. A similar start against the Packers will be a death knell for the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak.

 

 

Green Bay’s Key to Victory: Disrupting Brady’s Rhythm

The last time the Packers played an elite quarterback, Drew Brees carved up the Green Bay defense in a 21-point Saints win. If Tom Brady gets in a similar groove, it will be a long afternoon for the Packers. After four interception-free games in a row, Brady has tossed four picks in the last three games, giving the Packers a glimmer of hope that they can get him off his game. “When you're playing against these quarterbacks like Brady, it's like having a coach on the field," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Kind of like what Aaron does where he calls a lot of the game and has the flexibility to change things on the field. You have to be on top of your game in terms of the alignments, the disguise, those pre-snap reads. So, hopefully you don't let them get into a rhythm, because he's as good as there is.”

 

Final Analysis

 

Two of the hottest teams in the NFL provide the main course for a Thanksgiving weekend feast. It’s worth noting, though, that New England has navigated a tougher schedule and can claim Denver, Cincinnati and Indianapolis among its victims. If the Patriots’ cobbled-together running game can find room to run against Green Bay’s 30th-ranked rush defense, the P-men should run their winning streak to eight.

 
Prediction: New England 27, Green Bay 24
Teaser:
New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-and-prediction-2014
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The Kansas City Chiefs will try and tighten up the AFC West race when they host the Denver Broncos tonight on NBC. The Chiefs (7-4) trail the Broncos (8-3) by a game in the win column, but two in divisional play (1-2 vs. 3-0), so a victory tonight would only add to the intrigue over the last month of the regular season.

 

Denver has defeated Kansas City five straight times and a win in Arrowhead Stadium would definitely put the Broncos in the driver’s seat for a fourth straight AFC West crown. Each of the last two meetings between these teams has been decided by a touchdown. Denver beat Kansas City 24-17 at home back in Week 2.

 

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

 

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Denver -2.5

 

Denver’s Key to Victory: Keep Charles in Check

The Broncos’ defense has done a good job against the run all season. Denver enters this game ranked second in the NFL in rushing defense at 75.5 yards per game. Ironically, the most yards the Broncos have given up on the ground this season were to the Chiefs, who rushed for 133 in Week 2. In that game it wasn’t Jamaal Charles who did the damage though, as he departed early with an ankle injury. Instead it was Charles’ backup, Knile Davis, who finished with 79 yards on 22 carries (3.6 ypc) and scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns. Alex Smith added 42 yards on five carries, as the Chiefs outrushed the Broncos 133 to 88. Charles wound up missing just one game and has re-established himself as one of the league’s most dangerous running backs. Since Kansas City’s bye in Week 6 Charles has averaged 96.2 yards rushing per game. He’s also scored eight touchdowns (7 rushing, 1 receiving) in these six games. Denver’s defense is pretty banged up, especially at linebacker, but its focus does not change – contain Charles. Even with one game missed because of injury, Charles has accounted for more than a quarter (962 total yards) of Kansas City’s total offense (3,593). Limit Charles and you have taken a big piece away from the Chiefs’ attack.

 

Kansas City’s Key to Victory: Force Peyton to Pass

Make Peyton Manning, one of the best to ever play quarterback, throw the football? At first it probably sounds like crazy talk, but hear me out. As prolific and potent Denver’s passing attack is, the Broncos are a better team when they are balanced on offense. Against Seattle, New England and St. Louis, Manning averaged an impressive 364.7 yards passing per game – and lost all three. Turnovers (5 INTs) obviously played a role, but another common thread was Denver’s inability to run the ball, averaging a measly 35.7 yards rushing per game. Contrast that to last week when C.J. Anderson ran for 167 of the Broncos’ season-high 201 yards, which helped fuel Denver’s comeback (trailed 28-17 with 2:11 left in the third quarter) win against Miami at home. A consistent running game only makes the Broncos’ aerial attack more dangerous, as it opens up play-action and usually results in coverage mismatches Manning can exploit. When you force Manning to throw, it allows defenses to focus on pass coverage and applying pressure. Case in point, despite all of the passing yards against the Seahawks, Patriots and Rams, Manning’s completion rate was 62 percent for those three games and Denver managed just 16 points per game. Compare that to a 72 percent completion rate and 35.5 points per game in the Broncos’ eight wins. As strange as it sounds, the Chiefs’ best strategy tonight may be to focus on shutting down Anderson, a second-year undrafted free agent, and instead take their chances against the five-time MVP and future Hall of Famer. It’s a strategy that has worked for other teams, so why not Kansas City?

 

Final Analysis

 

If Kansas City hadn’t lost to Oakland last week, tonight’s game would be a battle for first place in the AFC West. As it stands now, the Chiefs must beat the Broncos at home or the division title could basically be decided. Denver has yet to lose in divisional play (3-0), while Kansas City is just 1-2. By sweeping the Chiefs, the Broncos can essentially eliminate Andy Reid’s team from title contention. What’s more, Kansas City hasn’t beaten Denver since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos in 2012. Some of the games have been close, but it’s been a continuation of the dominance Manning has had against the Chiefs since coming into the NFL. Manning is 12-1 against Kansas City in his career, including 2-0 in the playoffs when he was in Indianapolis. Manning aside, I just don’t think the Chiefs have enough firepower of their own to overcome Denver’s rejuvenated running game or a defense that excels in the same department. Manning won’t have to carry the team in this one, as a well-rounded effort extends the Broncos’ winning streak against the Chiefs to six.

 
Prediction: Denver 27, Kansas City 20
Teaser:
Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/alabamas-amari-cooper-athlon-sports-week-14-player-week
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Alabama is known for its elite defenses under coach Nick Saban, but in order to win the Iron Bowl matchup against Auburn and keep its national title hopes alive, the Crimson Tide leaned on the offense and receiver Amari Cooper.

Cooper earned Athlon Sports Week 14 Player of the Week honors by catching 13 passes for 224 yards and three scores in a 55-44 shootout victory over Auburn. The junior caught 13 of quarterback Blake Sims’ 20 completions, as the Tigers’ secondary simply had no answer for the receiver that should win the Biletnikoff Award in December.

 

Cooper and quarterback Blake Sims guided Alabama back from a 26-20 halftime deficit in the highest-scoring game in Iron Bowl history. The Sims-Cooper connection helped to power an offense that averaged 8.8 yards per play and scored on each of its final five drives of the second half.

Cooper caught two of his touchdowns after halftime, including a 75-yard bomb from Sims to cut Auburn’s lead to 36-34 heading into the fourth quarter.
 

The Iron Bowl totals – 13 catches for 224 yards and three scores – each tied a season-high for Cooper.

 

Cooper heads into the SEC Championship with 103 catches for 1,573 yards and 14 touchdown catches.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

Wright continued to state his case as the best defensive player in college football this season with a huge performance in the win over Arizona State. The sophomore helped the Wildcats clinch the Pac-12 South title by leading the team with 13 tackles (five for a loss), one forced fumble and two sacks. Wright’s forced fumble came on Arizona State’s third offensive play from scrimmage, which was returned by Anthony Lopez to give Arizona an early 7-0 lead. Wright heads into the Pac-12 Championship with 139 total tackles, 14 sacks and six forced fumbles.

 

Coordinator of the Week: Dave Wommack, Ole Miss

The Rebels reclaimed in-state bragging rights and the Egg Bowl trophy after a 31-17 victory over Mississippi State in Oxford. The offense generated 532 yards, but the defense – and coordinator Dave Wommack – deserves accolades for holding Mississippi State to just 17 points and 5.3 yards per play. The 17 points scored by the Bulldogs tied a season-low, and the 5.3 yards per play mark was the second-lowest total recorded by coach Dan Mullen’s team in 2014. Mississippi State’s offense accumulated 445 total yards, but Wommack’s defense stepped up when it mattered. The Rebels stopped two drives on downs and limited the Bulldogs to just one red zone conversion score on three opportunities. Ole Miss also recorded three sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Wommack’s defense also refused to allow Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott any room on the ground, limiting the junior to 48 yards on 24 attempts. Injuries took a toll on the Ole Miss defense in 2014, but the Rebels stood tall against their in-state rival.

 

Freshman of the Week: Kyle Bolin, QB, Louisville

Bolin became an unlikely hero in Louisville’s 44-40 victory over Kentucky. After a knee injury sidelined starting quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, Bolin entered the game in the second quarter and jumpstarted the offense. The redshirt freshman from Lexington attempted just seven passes prior to Saturday’s game but showed poise against Kentucky’s pass rush and helped to guide coach Bobby Petrino’s team back from a 13-0 deficit to a huge victory in the rivalry matchup. Bolin completed 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards and three scores, with all three of his touchdown tosses traveling at least 33 yards.

Teaser:
Alabama's Amari Cooper is Athlon Sports' Week 14 Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-13-injury-updates-julius-thomas-jared-cook-jordan-cameron-jordan-reed
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The Week 13 tight end injury report is brought to you by the letter J. Between Jared, Julius and a pair of Jordans, Athlon Sports has the latest on the TE injury news you need to know, even if their first or last name doesn’t start with a J.

 

Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams vs. Oakland Raiders

Probable – Back
Cook was a full go on both Thursday and Friday, so his mere practice participation alone indicates his back is getting better. He was Questionable last week and played, so there’s little doubt regarding his availability this week given his Probable designation. Cook was targeted nine times last week against the Chargers, but reeled in only three of those for 27 yards. The Raiders are a more appealing matchup, but this is a TE who has a total of one touchdown catch even though he’s been targeted 70 times. At best, Cook is in the TE2 discussion.

 

Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Questionable – Ankle
Not surprisingly, Thomas wasn’t activated for last week’s game after not practicing because of an ankle injury. He’s Questionable again, but he was a limited practice participant on Thursday and Friday, and head coach John Fox said his tight end was “much better” on Friday. Chances are Thomas will probably end up being a game-time decision yet again, but unlike last week, the Broncos don’t play until tonight. Unless something more definitive comes out before the 1 p.m. ET kickoffs, it may be safest to leave Thomas on your bench. Jacob Tamme’s role would increase if Thomas were to miss his second straight game.

 

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills

Questionable – Concussion
Cameron missed his fourth straight game last week, but he was able to participate in practice to some degree every day this week. He’s listed as Questionable, but it’s possible that Cameron will end up being a game-time decision. The Browns have taken their time in bringing Cameron back, which probably speaks to the severity of the concussion he suffered. Cameron is an appealing fantasy option, but with so much uncertainty still surrounding his status, not to mention the presence of one Josh Gordon, it may be best to leave Cameron on your bench and then revisit this situation next week.

 

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins at Indianapolis Colts

Questionable – Hamstring
Reed was a full practice participant on Friday, so that certainly helps his chances of playing despite the Questionable designation. There’s plenty of risk when it comes to relying on Reed, as evidenced by the five games he has missed this season because of other injuries, but he’s also potential TE1 material. Another thing Reed has going for him is the switch back to Colt McCoy at quarterback. In McCoy’s lone start this season, a Week 8 win in Dallas, Reed tied for the most targets on the team with seven. Provided he plays, an argument could be made for Reed as a low-end TE1 option this week.

 

Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (Mon.)

Doubtful – Hamstring/Knee
Clay missed last week’s game because of a knee injury and after practicing some on Thursday, he was not able to participate at all on Friday or Saturday. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s no doubt in my mind what you should do with Clay – leave him on the bench this week and go a different direction.

 
Already Ruled Out:

 

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts – Allen has yet to return to practice, so he will miss a second straight game because of an ankle injury. Coby Fleener will get the start and despite last week’s disappointing showing (2 rec., 28 yds.) he remains in the TE1 discussion because the Colts are the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL.

Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets – Amaro suffered a concussion in the Monday night loss to the Bills and hasn’t been able to make progress getting through the league-mandated protocols. Amaro will miss the Monday night game against Miami, but it’s not like he was a major fantasy contributor in the first place.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Week 13 Injury Updates: Julius Thomas, Jared Cook, Jordan Cameron, Jordan Reed
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-13-fantasy-football-injury-updates-larry-fitzgerald-roddy-white-mike-wallace-brandon
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Arizona and Atlanta both have some banged up targets entering their Week 13 matchup. Will the Cardinals or Falcons or any other team in action be shorthanded in their wide receiver corps this week?  

 

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals

Questionable – Ankle
White is back on the injury report after not being able to practice because of an ankle issue. He’s listed as Questionable, but Mike Smith said on Friday that he expects White to play despite the injury and missed practice time. White’s production has actually been on the uptick lately – averaging 82 yards receiving with three touchdowns over the past five games – so his status is something definitely worth keeping an eye on. The Falcons play later in the afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET kickoff) out in Arizona, but I think it’s safe to take Smith at his word and keep White in your starting lineup.

 

John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald, WRs, Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons

Probable – Teeth; Questionable – Knee
Brown had his wisdom teeth pulled earlier this week, which is why he shows up on the injury report. He’s listed as Probable and should be just fine today. The same can’t be said for Fitzgerald, however, who saw his streak of 110 consecutive regular-season games end last week because of a knee injury (Grade 2 MCL sprain). Fitzgerald is anxious to return and he was able to practice a little on Friday. He’s Questionable and will be a game-time decision. The matchup with the Falcons is appealing, but Brown and Michael Floyd are much safer options than Fitzgerald. If you can wait for the later (4:05 p.m. ET) kickoff before making a final decision, you are welcome to do so, but I wouldn’t count on having Fitzgerald in my lineup this week.

 

Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (Mon.)

Probable – Chest
Wallace continues to get nicked up, as he was limited in practice this week due to a chest injury. He is considered Probable and despite all the bumps and bruises, he’s yet to miss a game. Wallace caught just four passes last week against Denver, but one of those was for a touchdown, his seventh of the season. He’s averaging about eight targets per game and has already surpassed his touchdown total from 2013 (five), two reasons why Wallace has been a top-25 fantasy WR this season. Regardless of the matchup, Wallace is pretty locked in as a WR2.

 

Brandon LaFell, WR, New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers

Questionable – Shoulder
Last week it was Julian Edelman who was dealing with a thigh injury, this week it’s LaFell, who was limited in practice by a shoulder ailment, which has him listed as Questionable. LaFell should be out there today and he did lead tbhe Patriots last week with 98 yards on nine catches (12 targets). His production can be up-and-down, but given this matchup against Green Bay, LaFell should be a relatively safe WR3/flex option.

 

Kenny Britt, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Oakland Raiders

Probable – Back
A back injury is bothering Britt enough that he didn’t practice on Wednesday. He was a full go the rest of the way, however, and is listed as Probable. Britt is the closest thing the Rams have to a No. 1 WR right now, which isn’t saying much. He does have two touchdown receptions over his last four games and two weeks ago put up a season-best 128 yards receiving. Britt is a risky play regardless, but he could end up earning his keep as a flex or a WR3 depending on your other options and your willingness to roll the dice.

 
Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns

Probable – Ankle
Woods caught a career-high nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ Monday night romp over the Jets, but was limited in practice because of an ankle injury. The issue must not be that worrisome, however, as Woods is Probable. Even though Woods is the hot hand, be sure to temper your expectations if you plan on having him in your lineup today. Before Monday night’s breakout, Woods had caught 36 passes for 361 yards (10.0 ypr) and two scores in 10 games. That’s less than four catches and 36 yards per game. That’s not even reliable flex production in a PPR league.

 

Greg Jennings and Coradarrelle Patterson WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers

Probable – Rib; Probable – Knee
Jennings was a full practice participant this week, so he’s good to go. Patterson on the other hand, didn’t practice until Friday. Both are listed as Probable, so the expectation is they will play. However, I wouldn’t trust any Viking WR in my starting lineup. Jennings is inconsistent, Patterson has been a colossal bust and pretty much replaced in the starting lineup by Charles Johnson. And there’s also the fact that Teddy Bridgewater has looked every bit like the rookie quarterback he is over the past several weeks. Right now, Minnesota's backfield and wide receiver corps have two things in common: 1) both are unsettled situations and 2) are positions you don’t want to have anything to do with fantasy-wise.

Teaser:
Week 13 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Mike Wallace, Brandon LaFell
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-13-injury-updates-andre-ellington-lamar-miller-mark-ingram-latavius
Body:

A generous Atlanta defense may be just what Arizona needs to get its top running back going in Week 13. Elsewhere, New Orleans’ backfield should be well stocked this week, Denver’s has become more of a one-man show recently and Oakland will have to make do without its most explosive option.

 

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (Mon.)

Probable – Knee
Miller has been dealing with a knee issue the last few weeks, but he’s been able to play through it and it also hasn’t caused him to miss much practice time. He was a full practice participant this week, so his Probable designation is a mere formality. As bad as the Jets have been record-wise, this is not an ideal matchup for Miller. New York’s defense has done a pretty job against the run, giving up just 3.4 yards per carry. Miller does catch a break in that Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson won’t play, but yards will probably be pretty tough to come by on the ground, which is why Miller is a low-end RB2 this week.

 

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons

Probable – Foot/Hip
Injuries really aren’t the main concern when it comes to Ellington. He’s been dealing with something every week this season and even though his practice time has been limited, he’s yet to miss a game. He’s Probable for this one too, but what Ellington’s owners are really hoping for is that this matchup against the Falcons will be what finally gets him going again. Ellington is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and has one touchdown over his last three games. He continues to see a fair number of targets (64 for the season), which has helped maintain his fantasy value. The Falcons are giving up the most fantasy points to RBs, so hopefully Ellington will be able to put up RB1 numbers.

 

Travaris Cadet, Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, RBs, New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers

Probable – Hamstring; Probable – Shoulder; Out – Forearm; Probable – Rib/Shoulder
No change to last week – Robinson is out yet again while everyone else is Probable. Ingram remains the most appealing option of this backfield, but it’s worth noting that after averaging 26 carries over a four-game stretch, he had just 11 on Monday night against Baltimore. The good news is that total was still more than half of the team’s 21 carries, so Ingram maintains RB2 status. Monday night also marked Thomas’ return from a four-game absence, and as expected, he impacted Cadet the most. Based on Monday night’s usage (Thomas 11 touches, Cadet two), it certainly appears that Thomas has reclaimed his versatile role in New Orleans’ offense, making him the more appealing flex option for this week, if not the rest of the way.

 

Already Ruled Out:

 

Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders – In less than a half last week Murray racked up 112 yards rushing (on just four carries) and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he left in the second quarter after sustaining a concussion and he’s already been ruled out for today. In Murray’s absence, Darren McFadden should get the most touches out of a committee that also includes Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcel Reece. This also is a committee that you should pay no attention to.

 

Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, RBs, Denver Broncos – Neither Ball (groin) nor Hillman (foot) practiced this week, so this duo will be inactive for yet another game. C.J. Anderson exploded for 167 yards rushing and a touchdown last week against Miami and is firmly entrenched as a top-10 option against Kansas City this week. Anderson’s effectiveness makes Juwan Thompson mostly an afterthought, as there’s no guarantee he’ll see enough touches to even merit flex consideration.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Week 13 Injury Updates: Andre Ellington, Lamar Miller, Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-13-fantasy-football-injury-updates-arian-foster-ryan-mathews-charles-sims-jerick
Body:

Not only is Arian Foster expected to return today, he also has a very appealing matchup for Week 13. While Foster is the indisputable workhorse for Houston, the backfield situations for Minnesota and Tampa Bay are slightly more complicated, and not nearly as palatable fantasy-wise.

 
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

Probable – Shoulder
Mathews missed seven games because of a MCL sprain, but returned two weeks ago and has rushed for 175 yards in the past two games. He put up 105 last week against the Rams, but also left at one point because of a shoulder injury. The good news is that he did return to that game and was a full practice participant this week. He is Probable, and you must start Mathews, but just keep in mind that the Ravens are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to RBs.

 

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans

Probable – Groin
After missing the past two games because of a groin injury, it looks like Foster will finally get back on the field today. He was still limited in practice on Friday, but Foster is listed as Probable, which is defined as a “virtual certainty” to play. Head coach Bill O’Brien also has said he expects Foster to play. As frustrating as it’s been to own Foster this season, at least he’s picking a good time to get back out there. The Titans are last in the NFL in rushing defense (145.4 ypg) and have given up 13 TDs on the ground. Foster is a must-start and his return means Alfred Blue’s days of fantasy relevancy are probably over.

 

Charles Sims, RBs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Probable – Ankle
Sims is the only Buccaneer back on the injury report this week, as Doug Martin has been removed. Sims was limited in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, but got in a full session on Friday and is listed as Probable. Even though it looks like Sims and Martin are good to go for today, I’m not sure I would trust either in my starting lineup. For one, both will at least share the touches and last week that breakdown was 12 for Martin and eight for Sims. Those 20 touches, however, produced a total of 64 yards and no touchdowns. The only thing that appears clear with this backfield at this point is that Bobby Rainey is pretty much a non-factor. As far as Sims and Martin go, if you want to take a chance on either, you go right ahead but I hope it’s as nothing more than a desperation flex option.

 

Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, RBs, Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers

Probable – Concussion; Doubftul – Back
Looks like the Vikings will be down one man in their backfield, but it will be a different face this week. Asiata is listed as Probable and expected to return today after missing last week because of a concussion. McKinnon, however, is Doubtful as his back injury has gotten progressively worse. He was not able to practice at all this week and with the recent addition of Ben Tate, there’s no reason for the Vikings to take any chances with their third-round pick. In fact, McKinnon himself said on Friday that he was not going to play. Even without McKinnon, there could be three mouths to feed today against the Panthers with Asiata, Tate and second-year back Joe Banyard likely to see touches.  How the touches will get distributed is anyone’s guess, but this has all the makings of a dreaded RBBC and is a situation I would avoid at all costs.

Teaser:
Week 13 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Arian Foster, Ryan Mathews, Charles Sims, Jerick McKinnon
Post date: Sunday, November 30, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-jt-barrett-out-remainder-2014-season-ankle-injury
Body:

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a fractured ankle in Saturday’s 42-28 win over Michigan and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season. Barrett was injured during the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes’ victory and was carted to the locker room with an air cast on his leg.

Barrett will be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Cardale Jones in the Big Ten Championship and in Ohio State’s bowl game. Jones completed 2 of 3 passes for seven yards and rushed for 19 yards on two attempts in limited snaps against Michigan.

Jones has attempted just 16 passes during his career in Columbus. The sophomore has rushed for 316 yards and one score during that span.

 

Jones will have a huge opportunity in his first start next Saturday in the Big Ten Championship. If Ohio State emerges with a victory next week, it will stay in the mix for a playoff spot.

 

However, Barrett’s injury is a huge blow to Ohio State’s playoff hopes. The committee will take into account injuries, and a team with a third-string will be an interesting evaluation for the rankings after the final weekend – assuming the Buckeyes win the Big Ten title.

Prior to Week 14, Barrett was considered a top-five candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Sure, the redshirt freshman was a longshot, but his candidacy was remarkable considering what transpired for Ohio State in the preseason. Starter Braxton Miller was lost for the year, and Barrett – with zero career attempts – was pushed into the lineup.

Barrett’s final 2014 numbers were impressive by a first-year starter, as he threw for 2,658 yards and 33 scores and added 849 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

 

Teaser:
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett Out for Remainder of 2014 Season With Leg Injury
Post date: Saturday, November 29, 2014 - 17:43
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-qb-jt-barrett-leaves-game-against-michigan-leg-injury
Body:

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a leg injury and was carted off the field during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Michigan. Barrett was tackled by a Michigan defender, and his leg bent awkwardly in a pile of defenders. The redshirt freshman was replaced by Cardale Jones.

Barrett’s injury is a huge blow to Ohio State’s national and Big Ten title hopes. The Buckeyes were on the outside of the college football playoff’s top four teams and needed a lot of help over the final two weeks. However, with a win over Michigan and the Big Ten West champ, there was plenty for Ohio State to play for over the final few weeks of the season.

With Barrett out indefinitely, Jones – the third quarterback to play major snaps for Ohio State – will have to lead the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship next Saturday. And in the first year of the college football playoff, who knows how the committee would view the Buckeyes if Barrett can't play in a bowl. 

Barrett entered fall practice as the No. 2 quarterback but moved to the top spot on the depth chart after Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in August.

The redshirt freshman was one of the big question marks for Ohio State in 2014, but he quickly emerged as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks.

Prior to his injury against Michigan, Barrett completed 12 of 20 throws for 170 yards and one touchdown and added 85 yards and two scores on the ground.

Entering the Michigan contest, Barrett was considered one of the favorites to get to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. The redshirt freshman threw for 2,658 yards and 33 scores and rushed for 849 yards and nine touchdowns through the first 11 games of the year.

 

Teaser:
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett Leaves Game Against Michigan With Leg Injury
Post date: Saturday, November 29, 2014 - 15:07
Path: /college-football/louisville-and-kentucky-scuffle-midfield-prior-kickoff
Body:

It’s rivalry week, so it’s no surprise when teams exchange words or punches at midfield prior to kickoff. And the overall play in a rivalry game is usually pretty chippy.

Prior to kickoff, Louisville and Kentucky met at midfield and had a small scuffle – including Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino.

Here’s video of the scuffle, along with a picture of Petrino and Kentucky assistant Dan Berezowitz exchanging words prior to kickoff. 

Teaser:
Louisville and Kentucky Scuffle at Midfield Prior to Kickoff
Post date: Saturday, November 29, 2014 - 12:54
All taxonomy terms: Ray Rice, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/ray-rice-wins-appeal-will-he-play-again-2014
Body:

It’s only the day after Thanksgiving, but Ray Rice got an early Christmas present Friday, winning an appeal of his indefinite suspension and immediate reinstatement into the NFL. Rice was released by Baltimore on Sept. 8, shortly after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the indefinite suspension, so Rice is eligible to sign with any team.

 

Rice’s case, which revolves around a February incident at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino involving Janay Palmer, his then-fiancée, now wife, has been a hot-button topic from the very beginning. From the moment in late July when Goodell suspended Rice for two games, the NFL’s response to this incident has been front-page news regardless of the medium. And that was before video of Rice striking Palmer was released publicly in early September, which prompted Goodell to suspend the running back indefinitely for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

 

Shortly after Goodell’s decision, the NFL Players Association appealed on Rice’s behalf, disagreeing not only with the punishment, but also the process. Rice’s appeal was heard earlier this month by former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones. After hearing testimony from several parties, including Rice and Goodell, Jones announced her decision earlier today in Rice’s favor, stating: “I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated.”

 

The NFL released a statement saying it respected Jones’ decision and that Rice is a free agent eligible to sign with any team. There are still some procedural- and contractual-related issues that need to be resolved (i.e., a grievance against the Ravens regarding back pay), but from a football standpoint, the focus shifts to one simple question – will Rice play again this season?

 

Strictly from a talent standpoint, Rice immediately becomes the most attractive free agent running back on the market. Rice was one of the most productive players in the league from 2009-12, when he ran for 5,066 yards and scored 39 total touchdowns, and he’s just 27 years old. His numbers (660 yds. rushing, 4 TDs) dropped rather dramatically last season, but he also reportedly played through a hip injury.

 

With five games left in the regular season, there is no shortage of teams that could use more depth in their backfield. As long as a team is prepared to deal with the potential negative publicity and feedback from those have not been pleased with the NFL’s response to domestic violence-related incidents such as Rice’s, it’s highly likely that he will get a second chance and it could happen fairly soon.

 

So which teams are the mostly likely potential landing spots for Rice? Here are the ones that appear to be the best fit, at least as it relates to the football side of the decision, along with some other possible options.

 

Forget About Baltimore or Minnesota

The Ravens decided to cut their losses in early September and could still wind up paying Rice for some of the games he missed, depending on the resolution of his grievance against the team. That alone pretty much rules out any likelihood of a reunion, don’t you think? And as far as the Vikings go, they have already been down this road once and I don’t think they have any desire of doing so again.

 

The Best Fits:

 

Indianapolis Colts – The Colts are a pretty safe bet to win the AFC South and make the playoffs, but they also have a need at running back. Trent Richardson (3.4 ypc) just has not worked out and the team’s most productive back, Ahmad Bradshaw (4.7 ypc, 8 total TDs) is out for the season with a broken leg. Rice’s resume pales in comparison to Richardson’s in the first place and the two are not only similar in stature, but also in their ability to produce as reliable receiving options out of the backfield. Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano also knows Rice pretty well, going back to when Pagano was on the Ravens’ staff from 2008-11. The Colts may be one of the softer landing spots out there for Rice.

 

Atlanta Falcons – Steven Jackson has not aged well since joining the Falcons, and Rice is four years younger. The Falcons do have rookie Devonta Freeman in the fold, but Rice could serve as a change-of-pace option while also allowing Freeman more time to develop. Atlanta’s passing game is in pretty good shape, but the ground attack could use some beefing up and again, Rice’s dual-threat ability would fit in nicely.

 

Oakland Raiders – The Raiders have one win and the one running back who has rushed for more than 100 yards in any game this season (Latavius Murray) is dealing with a concussion. Darren McFadden is a free agent, Maurice Jones-Drew looks washed up and Oakland needs all the talented offensive players it can find. Rice may not only be able to provide a jolt for the rest of this season, he could potentially be a long-term answer. And if there’s one team that would embrace a so-called “bad boy,” it would be the Silver and Black.

Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jags are 1-10 and just like Oakland, need to improve the talent on their roster. Jacksonville’s No. 1 running back is Denard Robinson, a converted quarterback. The Jags do have Blake Bortles, who they hope can be the franchise quarterback the Jags desperately need. And what better way to help a young signal-caller develop than to give him a reliable, productive running back that can make plays as both a rusher and receiver.

 

Carolina Panthers – Ron Rivera’s preference would be to run the ball, but his running backs have either been hurt and/or ineffective this season. The Panthers haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2009, which means Cam Netwon hasn’t gotten a ton of support from his backfield. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are both under contract for several more seasons, but no one would be surprised if the team decided to move on and go a different direction. Rice could be that direction, albeit it may not happen until after the season.

 

Other Possible Options:

 

Buffalo Bills – C.J. Spiller is on injured reserve and has just one year left on his contract. Fred Jackson will turn 34 in February. No other back on the current roster has really stood out this season, so it’s possible that the Bills could decide to give Rice a chance and see what happens.

 

Miami Dolphins – Lamar Miller has emerged somewhat, but that was only after Knowshon Moreno dislocated his elbow before tearing his ACL. Moreno was signed for just one year and his medical file is much thicker than Rice’s. Could Rice be taking his talents to South Beach?

 

New York Jets – There figure to be a lot of changes coming for the Jets this offseason. Why not give Rice, who starred in college at nearby Rutgers, a chance this last month of the regular season? It’s not like the Jets are going anywhere with Chris Johnson and if it doesn’t work out, send Rice packing along with everyone else once the season is over.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers have Doug Martin, who as a rookie in 2012 did a really good Rice impression with 1,454 yards rushing, 49 receptions and 12 total touchdowns. Martin has been a disappointment since then and Rice could serve as a mentor (on the field) for third-round pick Charles Sims, who’s cut from the same dual-threat cloth.

Tennessee Titans – The Titans have second-round pick Bishop Sankey, but pretty much every team needs two productive running backs these days. Sankey and Rice are similar in skill sets, but remember what Danny Woodhead did when Whisenhunt was San Diego’s offensive coordinator last season and that was in a backfield that also included Ryan Mathews.

Teaser:
Ray Rice Wins Appeal: Will He Play Again in 2014?
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 21:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/kevin-sumlin-begins-process-fixing-texas-ams-defense-firing-coordinator-mark-snyder
Body:

Texas A&M finished its regular season slate with a 23-17 loss to LSU, and one day after the finale, coach Kevin Sumlin announced defensive coordinator Mark Snyder won’t return in 2015.

Snyder’s firing was no surprise, as Texas A&M’s defense has lagged behind its offense since this program joined the SEC prior to the start of the 2012 season.

The Aggies allowed 5.2 yards per play in Snyder’s debut (2012), and the numbers only got worse from there. In 2013, Texas A&M gave up 6.4 yards per play and then 5.9 in 2014.

The points allowed totals weren’t much better for Snyder. Texas A&M gave up 21.8 points per game in 2012, 32.2 in 2013 and 27.3 in 2014.

 

Additionally, the Aggies ranked near the bottom of the SEC in third down and red zone defense over the last two seasons.

In a brutal SEC West, Texas A&M simply can’t fall far behind its opponents, and the timing was right for Sumlin after a 7-5 record.

Former Florida coach Will Muschamp has been mentioned as a possible candidate in College Station and several other big names are expected to be in the mix to replace Snyder.

Texas A&M has plenty of talent on the roster, but it has to fix its defense in order to move up the pecking order in the SEC West.

The next defensive coordinator won’t be short on talent, as defensive end Myles Garrett is one of the nation’s rising stars, and there’s a good chunk of talent on the roster in the underclassmen ranks.

The SEC West isn’t getting any easier. Sumlin isn’t facing a make-or-break year in 2015, but progress is certainly needed in College Station. Hiring a new defensive coordinator is a chance to hit the reset button on defense and find the right solution before it’s too late for Sumlin and this coaching staff. 

Teaser:
Kevin Sumlin Begins Process of Fixing Texas A&M's Defense by Firing Coordinator Mark Snyder
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 17:54
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-wr-jaelen-strong-makes-one-handed-td-catch-against-arizona
Body:

Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong is one of the best in the nation, and the junior has provided plenty of highlight-worthy catches during his two seasons in Tempe.

Strong grabbed an awesome one-handed touchdown grab against Arizona during Friday’s Territorial Cup that might be one of the best catches of the year in the Pac-12.

Check out Strong’s one-handed touchdown grab:

Teaser:
Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong Makes One-Handed TD Catch Against Arizona
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 17:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-rb-leonard-fournette-runs-over-texas-ams-howard-matthews
Body:

LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette helped to power the Tigers past Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night with 146 yards and one score on 19 carries.

Fournette’s production wasn’t the only highlight of the night, as the freshman destroyed Texas A&M safety Howard Matthews on a touchdown run in the second quarter.

Check out Fournette’s touchdown run and destruction of a Texas A&M defender in the process: 

 

 

Teaser:
LSU RB Leonard Fournette Runs Over Texas A&M's Howard Matthews
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 14:24
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-vs-ole-miss-rebels-game-preview-and-prediction-2014
Body:

The Egg Bowl is always one of the top rivalry games in the SEC, but there’s more at stake in 2014 for Mississippi State and Ole Miss than in recent memory. For the Rebels, the opportunity to play spoiler against their biggest rival is huge. However, coach Hugh Freeze’s team still has an outside shot at one of college football’s top bowl games if it knocks off Mississippi State, combined with losses by a few teams ahead in the rankings. For the Bulldogs, this is a must-win situation with a No. 4 ranking in the college football playoff headed into Week 14. And style points certainly wouldn’t hurt with Ohio State, TCU and Baylor all close behind Mississippi State.

 

Ole Miss has a 61-43-6 edge over Mississippi State in the all-time series rivalry. However, the recent trend in this series favors the Bulldogs. Mississippi State has won four out of the last five meetings against the Rebels, including a 17-10 thriller in Starkville last season.

 

Mississippi State at Ole Miss

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Mississippi State -2.5

 

Ole Miss’ Key to Victory: Contain Dak Prescott

 

Containing Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott sounds easy, but only one team – Alabama – has been able to accomplish that in 2014. The junior was held to 82 yards on 22 rushing attempts against the Crimson Tide and completed 27 of 48 passes for 290 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Those numbers certainly aren’t awful for Prescott, but it’s important to remember 14 of Mississippi State’s points scored in that game were in the fourth quarter – after Alabama was ahead 19-3 at halftime. Stopping the run is the best way to slow down the Bulldogs’ offense. And it doesn’t just revolve around Prescott, as junior Josh Robinson leads the team with 1,084 yards and 11 scores. Ole Miss ranks sixth in the SEC against the run, but the Rebels have limited opponents to just 3.4 yards per carry and seven scores on the ground. This unit is giving up 4.4 yards per carry in its last three SEC games. Injuries and a brutal schedule have taken a toll on the Rebels’ defense in the second half of the year, but this unit limited a potent Arkansas’ ground attack to 3.2 yards per rush last week. Ole Miss has to find a way to limit Prescott and Robinson’s effectiveness on early downs, which will place the offense in third-and-long situations.

 

Mississippi State’s Key to Victory: Protect the Ball, Win the Turnover Battle

 

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is dealing with an ankle injury and was clearly less than 100 percent in last week’s game against Arkansas. Wallace has been inconsistent at times, as he completed 70 percent of his passes in a 35-31 loss to Auburn but tossed an interception and completed only 14 of 33 throws in a 10-7 loss against LSU. It’s no secret Wallace is the key to the Ole Miss offense, especially since Freeze’s team is trying to find a rushing attack. In last week’s defeat to the Razorbacks, the Rebels lost six turnovers. And for the first time all year, Ole Miss has recorded a negative turnover margin in back-to-back games. That’s a concern for Freeze as Mississippi State has recorded 21 takeaways this year and has five games of at least three takeaways in 2014. In addition to forcing turnovers, the Bulldogs have to do a better job of protecting the ball. In three out of Mississippi State’s seven SEC games, Mullen’s team has a negative turnover margin. Despite that mark, the Bulldogs are 2-1 in those games. In a rivalry game, Mississippi State cannot afford to let the underdog hang around due to a turnovers and sloppy play.

 

Final Analysis

 

Rivalry games always bring out the best in the underdog, which is why Mississippi State should get a test from Ole Miss on Saturday. Sure, the Rebels have lost three out of their last four games, but this team still has talent and is capable of pulling off the upset at home. Freeze will have Ole Miss ready to play – there’s no doubt about that. However, Mississippi State has more to play for and is the better team in 2014. Prescott won’t have huge numbers against the Rebels, but he will find just enough running room and should connect on a few big plays in the passing game to give the Bulldogs a tight victory in Oxford.

 

Prediction: Mississippi State 27, Ole Miss 24
Teaser:
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Ole Miss Rebels Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-vs-minnesota-golden-gophers-game-preview-and-prediction-2014
Body:

Minnesota and Wisconsin have met 123 previous times on the gridiron, but Saturday’s matchup in Madison could be one of the biggest in the history of this annual Big Ten rivalry. The Golden Gophers and Badgers are not only playing for the coveted Paul Bunyan’s Axe, but a trip to the Big Ten title game is also up for grabs. The winner of Saturday’s game will claim the West Division title.

 

Minnesota has made steady progress in four years under coach Jerry Kill. With a victory over Wisconsin or in the bowl game, the Golden Gophers will increase their win total for three consecutive seasons after going 3-9 in Kill’s debut. Minnesota lost to TCU in non-conference play earlier this year, but the Golden Gophers were defeated by Illinois and Ohio State by a combined 11 points. On the other sideline, Wisconsin enters this matchup with six consecutive victories. The Badgers lost 20-14 to Northwestern in early October but rebounded by claiming five of those wins by at least 10 points.

 

Minnesota owns a 59-56-8 series edge over Wisconsin. However, this rivalry has been a one-sided affair in recent years. The Badgers have claimed 10 in a row over the Golden Gophers, including four consecutive games by at least 13 points.

 

Minnesota at Wisconsin

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Wisconsin -14

 

Minnesota’s Key to Victory: Stop Melvin Gordon

 

Those three words – stop Melvin Gordon – sound really simple. But one look at the stat sheet shows how difficult that has been for opposing teams in 2014. The junior is making a run at the record books with 2,109 yards and 25 touchdowns on 254 attempts. Gordon averages 213.9 rushing yards in conference-only matchups and has not been held below 200 over his last three games. Minnesota’s rush defense is allowing 167.9 yards per game on the ground in conference action. The Golden Gophers held Nebraska to 174 last week but allowed 289 to Ohio State on Nov. 15. In last year’s meeting, Minnesota gave up 197 yards and one score to Wisconsin’s rushing attack. Make no mistake: The Badgers and Gordon are going to get their yards on the ground. However, Minnesota needs to limit the damage and prevent Gordon from breaking big plays.

 

Wisconsin’s Key to Victory: Limit Turnovers

 

Minnesota running back David Cobb is questionable due to a hamstring injury. Cobb is the team’s leading rusher this season with 1,430 yards and 12 scores, and if he can’t go, it’s a huge loss for the offense. Quarterback Mitch Leidner is second on the team with 408 yards, with Berkley Edwards, Rodrick Williams and Donnell Kirkwood the next in line as options at running back. Considering Minnesota could be shorthanded at running back, combined with Leidner’s inconsistent play under center, it’s important for Wisconsin to not give the Golden Gophers any advantage in the turnover department. Minnesota ranks second in the Big Ten with 27 forced turnovers and a +11 margin. The Badgers cannot afford to give a shorthanded offense any short fields on Saturday afternoon.

 

Final Analysis


The breakdown of this game seems pretty simple: Wisconsin has a better defense and rushing attack. If the Badgers establish the run and manages to limit the success of Minnesota’s rushing attack, Wisconsin will pull away in the second half. Leidner’s ability to make plays on the ground could be a huge boost to the Golden Gophers’ upset hopes. On the Badgers’ sideline, Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will each see time, and both need to limit their mistakes against an opportunistic defense. Minnesota finds a way to keep this game close into the third quarter. However, Wisconsin is simply a better team, and Gordon clinches the game in the fourth quarter with another huge second-half effort.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 20
Teaser:
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 10:00
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Florida State and Florida enter their annual Sunshine State showdown with different goals in mind. Despite the differences in record and what’s next for both programs, this rivalry matchup will have plenty of intrigue on Saturday afternoon in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Florida State enters this matchup with a 27-game winning streak. The last loss by the Seminoles? Try a 37-26 defeat at the hands of Florida in 2012. But since that game, much has changed for both programs. The Gators are looking for a new coach after Will Muschamp was not retained for 2015, while Florida State is trying to win back-to-back national championships.

The Gators have already clinched bowl eligibility, and with this being Muschamp’s finale game at Florida, expect this team to play hard for their soon-to-be former coach. Florida State has struggled in the first half of games (at times) this year but continues to find ways to win. The Seminoles used a last-second field goal to beat Boston College last week and defeated Miami by four points one week prior.

 

Florida owns a 34-23-2 series edge over Florida State. However, the recent history in this series favors the Seminoles. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has won three out of the last four against the Gators. Florida State won last year’s meeting by a convincing 37-7 margin.

 

Florida at Florida State

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Florida State -7.5

 

Florida’s Key to Victory: Win the Battle Up Front

 

If Florida wants to spoil Florida State’s unbeaten season, it has to win the battle up front on offense. The Seminoles are not as strong as they were last year in the trenches, as the rush defense allows 148.8 yards per game. In last week’s win over Boston College, Florida State gave up 240 yards and allowed the Eagles to rush for 4.7 yards per carry. The Seminoles will be challenged once again up front, as the strength of Florida’s offense is its rushing attack. The Gators average 201 yards per game in SEC play on the ground and plan to test the Florida State defensive front with two running backs: Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor. Jones leads the team with 788 yards, but Taylor isn’t far behind with 528 yards. Freshman quarterback Treon Harris is a former Florida State commit that switched to Florida on signing day. Harris hasn’t been asked to do much in the passing game (37 of 68 for 727 yards), but his ability to run (250 yards on 56 attempts) will be a valuable asset for the Gators’ offense. If Florida has success on first and second downs to limit putting Harris in long-yardage situations, then the Gators can control the clock and limit Florida State’s possessions on offense. That’s the best formula for a Florida upset.

 

Florida State’s Key to Victory: Attack the Florida Secondary

 

Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the best in college football. And it’s expected the sophomore will see some snaps against Florida State senior Rashad Greene (83 catches for 1,148 yards and five scores) on Saturday afternoon. However, even with Hargreaves III on their side, the Gators’ pass defense struggled at times in SEC play. Florida was torched by Alabama for 449 yards, Kentucky for 369 yards and Georgia for 319. Total yardage isn’t the best indicator of success or failure by a pass defense, and it’s notable the Gators are fifth in the SEC in pass efficiency defense. The secondary also has help in the form of pressure generated by its front seven, as Florida ranks sixth in the SEC with 25 sacks this year. Even though the Gators are strong up front, if Florida State’s revamped offensive line can provide adequate protection for quarterback Jameis Winston, the sophomore should have opportunities to make big plays against this secondary. Winston threw for 327 yards and three scores against Florida last year and seems to be developing a nice rapport with younger receivers like Jesus Wilson and Travis Rudolph during the second half of the season. And the offense has an emerging star in running back Dalvin Cook to test a Gators’ defense that ranks second in the SEC against the run. Florida State’s keys to victory are pretty clear: Stop the run on defense and let Winston attack downfield against an improving, but potentially vulnerable secondary.

 

Final Analysis

 

It isn’t always pretty, but Florida State continues to win games. While style points are important to some, the Seminoles just need to survive and advance. Coach Jimbo Fisher has a relatively young team in spots, including on defense where Florida State is not as dominant as it was last year. Even though Florida is struggling, this is a dangerous spot for the Seminoles. The Gators have the front seven to give Winston and the offensive line trouble, while the rushing attack will test the Florida State defensive front. Expect Florida to play tough for Muschamp and find a way to hang around until the fourth quarter. However, the Seminoles are the better team and the best player on the field is still Winston. Florida State gets it done in the fourth quarter once again and extends its winning streak to 28 games in a row.

 

Prediction: Florida State 30, Florida 20
Teaser:
Florida State Seminoles vs. Florida Gators Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 09:30
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Alabama and Auburn is one of college football’s top rivalries, and the winner of the last five Iron Bowl matchups has played in the national championship that season. The Crimson Tide could extend that streak to six, as coach Nick Saban’s team was No. 1 in the latest release of the playoff committee rankings. Auburn is out of the playoff picture, but the Tigers can play spoiler against their in-state rival and improve their bowl position in the process.


Alabama enters the Iron Bowl with six wins in a row after losing 23-17 to Ole Miss on Oct. 4. The Crimson Tide defeated Mississippi State on Nov. 15 to take the No. 1 spot in college football’s playoff committee rankings. In addition to the win over the Bulldogs, Saban’s team has quality wins over Arkansas, LSU and a 59-0 shutout victory over Texas A&M. Auburn has lost two out of its last three games, including a 34-7 defeat at the hands of Georgia. The Tigers played for the national championship last year, but a tough road schedule and a struggling defense has been too much for coach Gus Malzahn’s team to overcome.

 

Alabama owns a 41-30-1 series edge over Auburn. The Crimson Tide has won four out of the last six meetings against the Tigers. However, no team has won more than two in a row in this series since Auburn claimed six consecutive victories from 2002-07.

And of course, we can’t preview Alabama-Auburn without mentioning last year’s crazy “Kick Six” ending to lift the Tigers to the SEC West Championship.

 

Auburn at Alabama

 

Kickoff: 7:45 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Alabama -9.5

Auburn’s Key to Victory: Push the Tempo

 

In last year’s meeting, Auburn averaged 5.8 yards per play and gashed the Crimson Tide for 296 yards on the ground. The Tigers aren’t as stout on the offensive line as they were last year, yet still lead the SEC in rushing offense by averaging 266.2 yards per game. Tre Mason has moved onto the NFL, but Cameron Artis-Payne (1,405 yards, 11 TDs) has proven to be a capable replacement, and quarterback Nick Marshall has 731 rushing yards on 133 attempts. The ability to run between the tackles is a strength of Artis-Payne, but the senior has seven runs of 30 yards or more this season – second in the SEC. In addition to Artis-Payne’s ability to hammer away on the interior, Marshall can make plays on the outside, which is difficult to defend when Auburn establishes its tempo. Alabama’s rush defense has been an immovable object all year. The Crimson Tide limit opponents to just 2.8 yards per carry and have not allowed a rushing touchdown since Oct. 11. Running room could be limited for Auburn, but Malzahn’s offense is going to give the Crimson Tide defense a lot of reads and different looks to find room on the ground. And when Auburn gets first downs, Malzahn will speed up the tempo, allowing the offense to keep Alabama’s defense on the field and out of position. The Tigers need to have success on the ground to setup their offense, but Marshall has to be able to take advantage of opportunities in the passing game. The senior has tossed three of his picks in Auburn’s three losses in 2014. But Marshall will have some additional help on Saturday, as receiver Duke Williams is expected to return from a leg injury suffered against Texas A&M.

 

Alabama’s Key to Victory: T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry

 

We could list a number of keys to the game for Alabama, but let’s focus on the Crimson Tide running backs. Yeldon has been dealing with injuries to his foot and ankle recently, and the junior did not play against Western Carolina. The extra rest should pay dividends for Yeldon, as Auburn’s rush defense has struggled to stop the run in SEC play. The Tigers rank ninth against the run in conference-only matchups, allowing 177.7 yards per game. Two opponents – Georgia and Mississippi State – also rushed for over 200 yards against Auburn, while Texas A&M averaged five yards per touch in a 41-38 win by the Aggies in Jordan-Hare Stadium. As long as he’s healthy, Yeldon will be the feature back for coordinator Lane Kiffin. But the Tigers will see plenty of Derrick Henry, who averages 5.1 yards per carry on 134 attempts this year. Establishing Henry and Yeldon is critical for Kiffin, as it will help open up passing opportunities downfield for receiver Amari Cooper. Quarterback Blake Sims has tossed only two picks at home, and the Sims-Cooper connection will be a handful for an Auburn secondary ranked 10th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Never count out the underdog in a rivalry matchup. Alabama will get Auburn’s best shot, but the Crimson Tide defend home turf and reclaim bragging rights within the state for the next year. The Tigers should have some success moving the ball with their up-tempo attack. However, Alabama’s defense stops Auburn in the redzone and on third downs to prevent the Tigers from pulling off the upset. The Crimson Tide’s offense has been better at home than in road contests. Sims connects with Cooper a few times, and Yeldon and Henry pound away on the ground to push Alabama to victory.

 

Prediction: Alabama 34, Auburn 24
Teaser:
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Auburn Tigers Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
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The Crimson Tide stayed at No. 1, with eleven first place votes. Alabama started slow against Western Carolina but trudged to a victory, 48-14.

 

No. 2 FSU slipped past Boston College on a last second field goal 20-17. The Seminoles came in with two first place votes and stay undefeated. They have a 27-game win streak.

 

Oregon maintained the 3 spot in the poll, as they continued to roll for another blowout, 44-10, against Colorado. The Ducks have won six straight games since losing to Arizona.

 

Vandy proved no contest for the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Commodores got shellacked 51-0.

 

Baylor beat Oklahoma State 49-28, TCU was idle, and Ohio State struggled past Inidiana 42-27. Those three teams come in ranked at No. 5 through No. 7, with Georgia staying at no. 8 after easily destroying Charleston Southern 55-9.

 

Next weekend will be what is always the most exciting of the year … Rivalry Weekend. The Iron Bowl in Alabama, the Egg Bowl in Mississppi, the Civil War in Oregon, and the Florida-FSU game could provide the biggest shake up in the top 4 this coming week.
 

RKTEAMRECORDPOINTSPV RK
1AlabamaAlabama (11)10-11021
2Florida StateFlorida State (2)11-0862
3OregonOregon10-1783
4Mississippi StateMississippi State10-1724
5BaylorBaylor9-1467
6TCUTCU9-1385
7Ohio StateOhio State10-1326
8GeorgiaGeorgia9-2118

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, November 28, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-vs-san-francisco-49ers-preview-and-prediction-0
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One of the NFL’s most heated rivalries will serve as the finishing course for this season’s Thanksgiving football feast when the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers wrap up the action on NBC. A rematch of last season’s NFC Conference Championship Game, the Seahawks and 49ers both enter this game at 7-4, two games behind NFC West leader Arizona.

 

Seattle currently lays claim to the last Wild Card spot in the NFC, by virtue of a better divisional record than San Francisco. However, the Seahawks have only played two games (1-1) against NFC West foes while the 49ers have played three (1-2). Whichever team wins this game will take at least a one game lead over the other in the playoff standings.

 

In the all-time series, Seattle leads 16-15 thanks to its 23-17 win at home over San Francisco in last season’s conference title game. Jim Harbaugh holds a 4-3 edge over Pete Carroll since they started going head-to-head in the pros in 2011, and Carroll has yet to beat the 49ers at home (0-4). This will be the first game in the series at Levi’s Stadium and these teams will play again up in Seattle in Week 15.

 

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

 

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: San Francisco -1

 

Seattle’s Key to Victory: Play Like It’s 2013

This time last season, the Seahawks were on bye enjoying the fruits of a six-game winning streak that had them sitting at 10-1. They would go just 3-2 after the bye, but that was still good enough to win the NFC West on their way to a dominating playoff run that culminated with a blowout victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. That Seattle team was characterized primarily by two things – a suffocating, physical defense and a punishing running game. This season, the Seahawks sputtered out of the gate, as back-to-back losses in the middle of October had them sitting at 3-3. While injuries can be blamed for Seattle’s mediocre start, the Seahawks also had the look of a team that was searching for an identity. Starting in Week 8, Pete Carroll’s team got back to what worked so well for them last season, recommitting to running the football and playing the type of defense that defined it during its championship run. The result is a 4-1 stretch that includes last week’s domination of Arizona, the team with the best record in the NFL. With five games remaining and their playoff fate far from secure, the Seahawks are getting healthy at the right time. More importantly, however, Carroll’s team also appears to be hungry once again, just like it was at this point last season. And we all know how 2013 turned out, right?

 

 

San Francisco’s Key to Victory: Secure the Football

While on paper this is a rematch of last season’s NFC Conference Championship Game, much has changed since then for both teams. Seattle’s struggles have already been documented, while the start of San Francisco’s troubles can be traced back to Jan. 19 when the Seahawks beat the 49ers 23-17 in Seattle to earn a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. Late in that game, All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman suffered a serious knee injury and has yet to return to the field. San Francisco’s defense has clearly been impacted by his absence and that was before fellow All-Pro Patrick Willis was placed on injured reserve a few weeks ago because of a toe injury. Those aren’t the only losses this defense has had to endure either with another starter (DT Ian Williams) as well as the team’s first-round pick, SS Jimmie Ward, also on IR. A depleted defense has put more pressure on the offense to produce, but the results have been mixed. The 49ers are 7-4 and have won three in a row, but those victories have come by a total of 13 points against teams that are a combined 10-23. San Francisco is not an offensive juggernaut, ranking 19th in total (340.0 ypg) and 22nd in scoring (20.7 ppg) offense, so right now John Harbaugh’s team’s margin of error is rather thin. That’s why ball security is so critical. For the season, the 49ers are tied for fourth with a plus-eight turnover differential, but they are just plus-two over their past five games. They are 3-2 during this stretch, but all of the wins have been close while the two losses were by a total of 28 points to Denver and St. Louis. Seattle enters this game having forced eight takeaways and committing just three turnovers in its past four games. In three games against the 49ers last season, the Seahawks dominated the turnover battle with a plus-six margin. With a shorthanded defense and an inconsistent offense, San Francisco must maximize its possessions. Especially against Seattle, a team that feeds off of the opposition’s mistakes and would love nothing more than to deal a blow to their archrival’s playoff hopes.

 

Final Analysis

 

Seattle and San Francisco have the same record, but the Seahawks currently hold the tiebreaker edge over the 49ers in the playoff standings. There are still plenty of divisional games remaining, but don’t mistake the importance of this one, considering Arizona has a two-game lead in the NFC West on both teams. After an uneven stretch, Seattle has gotten back to the style of football that was so successful last season. San Francisco is hanging tough, but I think the injuries on defense are just too much to overcome, especially against quality teams like the Seahawks. In typical Seattle vs. San Francisco fashion, this game will be close, physical and feisty, but the Seahawks’ defense will eventually wear down the 49ers’ offense with Russell Wilson applying the final blow.

 
Prediction: Seattle 23, San Francisco 17
Teaser:
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 27, 2014 - 12:30
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Load up a plate of leftovers and another piece of pie; this Thanksgiving afternoon matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on FOX will go a long way towards deciding the NFC East division. Last year, Philly (8-3) and Big D (8-3) split the season series — with both teams winning on the road, as the Cowboys won 17–3 in Week 7 and the Eagles clinched the division title with a 24–22 win-and-you’re-in victory over Kyle Orton (subbing for an injured Tony Romo) in Week 17. This time around, it’s Philadelphia playing its backup QB, with Mark Sanchez starting in place of Nick Foles.

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

 

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Dallas -3.5

 

Philadelphia’s Key to Victory: The Real McCoy

LeSean McCoy’s maddeningly inconsistent season reached a low point in Week 10’s 45–21 win over Carolina, when Shady could muster only 19 yards on 12 carries (1.6 yards per carry). The following week, McCoy slogged his way to 88 yards on 23 tough carries (3.8 yards per carry) with a long of only 13 yards in a 53–20 loss to Green Bay. Against the Titans, though, the old Shady re-emerged. McCoy dashed for 130 yards on only 21 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and broke a 53-yard jaunt that featured more than a flash of the old explosiveness. The threat of the run adds an important dimension to Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, while relieving pressure from quarterback Mark Sanchez. Dallas has allowed only 160 rushing yards in the last two games, but respect for McCoy and the run game would open things up for Sanchez, Jordan Matthews and the Eagle passing attack.

 

 

Dallas’ Key to Victory: Keep Romo Rolling

In two November wins, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has played some of his best football — 71.7 completion percentage, a 7-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, a 142.4 passer rating. This is all par for the course for Mr. November. Romo has a career record of 28–6 during Turkey Month, with a passer rating of 107.6. So, before the calendar turns to December, it’s critical for Dallas to close the month with a divisional win. Romo’s December struggles — a 14–19 career record — are well documented, so the Cowboys need to build a little margin for error in anticipation of a possible December swoon. The oft-maligned Romo is on the cusp of exorcising a lot of demons, and a home win over Philly would be another important step.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Philadelphia defense has produced a lot of big plays this season — the Eagles have scored a league-best 10 non-offensive touchdowns — but Philly has also been vulnerable to big plays and surrendered a ton of points (25.0 per game). If Romo can protect the football, something he has a habit of doing in November, the Cowboys should take the lead in the NFC East at AT&T Stadium.

 
Prediction: Dallas 31, Philadelphia 28
Teaser:
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 27, 2014 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, NFC, NFC North, NFL, News
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The NFL’s Thanksgiving tripleheader starts off with a classic NFC North matchup when the Chicago Bears take on the Detroit Lions on CBS. Both the Bears (5-6) and the Lions (7-4) are jockeying for playoff positioning, as right now they are on the outside looking in at a potential Wild Card spot and trailing the division-leading Packers.

 

This will be the first of two meetings between these two teams (Week 16 in Chicago) and the 16th time they have faced each other on Thanksgiving Day. Chicago leads this Turkey Day series 8-7. The only team Detroit has faced more on Thanksgiving than Chicago is fellow division rival Green Bay (22 games, Lions are 13-8-1 vs. Packers).

 

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

 

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Detroit -7

 

Chicago’s Key to Victory: Follow New England’s Game Plan

The Bears know full well what the Patriots are capable of, having been on the other end of a 53-21 beatdown in Foxboro back in Week 8. This past Sunday, it was the Lions’ turn, as Tom Brady shredded what was then the NFL’s No. 1 defense for 349 yards passing in a convincing 34-9 win. Prior to this game the most points Detroit had allowed were 24 and the 439 yards of total offense also were a season high. Now no one is going to mistake Jay Cutler for Brady or Chicago’s offense for New England’s, but the Bears would be to wise to put together a pass-heavy game plan. For one, Detroit is tops in rushing defense (70.7 ypg) but 10th in passing defense (233.1 ypg). Secondly, in the Lions’ seven wins only one opponent (New Orleans) has thrown for more than 204 yards. Compare that to the 300 yards passing teams have averaged in Detroit’s four losses. Chicago enters this game 14th in passing offense (246.1 ypg), which is lower than New England (sixth) but higher than Arizona, Carolina and Buffalo, the three other teams Detroit has lost to. In wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forté, the Bears do match up with the Patriots when it comes to pass-catching weapons. Provided Cutler makes the right decisions and the offensive line holds up against a relentless pass rush, the pieces appear to be in place for Chicago to at least try and follow New England’s blueprint. After all, it worked out pretty well for the Patriots.

 

Detroit’s Key to Victory: Get Offensive

The Lions are 7-4 even though they are scoring less than 18 points per game, a total that places them 28th in the NFL. The defense has been doing most of the heavy lifting this season, holding opponents to a league-low 17.3 points per game and that’s after giving up 34 to the Patriots last week. Detroit hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 10, managing a total of five field goals in their past two games, losses to Arizona and New England. Even though the Lions aren’t scoring a ton of points, their disparity in wins and losses is still pretty glaring. In seven wins Detroit is averaging 23 points per game. In its four losses that number plummets to just nine. The running game has been inconsistent, but this is still an offense with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback (Matthew Stafford) and an All-Pro wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) that finally has a suitable sidekick (Golden Tate). Chicago’s defense has had its share of issues this season. The Bears have given up 50 points on two different occasions and are currently tied with the lowly Jets for 30th in the league in points allowed (27.5 ppg). Points have been a problem lately for the Lions and should that trend continue, especially against a generous defense like Chicago’s, a once-promising season may finish on a disappointing note.

 

Final Analysis

 

Chicago has won its last two games, Detroit has lost theirs. However, the Lions are still two games better than the Bears record-wise and their losses were to a pair of division leaders (Arizona and New England), while Chicago’s wins were against teams (Minnesota and Tampa Bay) that are a combined 6-16. Detroit’s offense has struggled recently, but the Lions have a significant edge on defense. Jay Cutler has played pretty well against Detroit in his career, but I’m not sure the Bears’ offensive line will be able to hold up against the Lions’ disruptive front four. Chicago hangs around, but the Bears’ defense won’t be able to contain Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, as the Motor City’s new dynamic duo propels the Lions to a much-needed victory.

 
Prediction: Detroit 27, Chicago 20
Teaser:
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 27, 2014 - 12:30

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