Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-green-bay-packers
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What can the Green Bay Packers do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Jason Wilde, ESPNMilwaukee.com

Jordy Nelson or Greg Jennings?
As long as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and both players are healthy, Nelson and Jennings will both deliver huge numbers. Nelson’s breakout year (15 touchdowns) figures to cause him to draw more attention than he did last season, when some defenses inexplicably chose to cover him one-on-one for entire games. That said, Nelson, Jennings and Jermichael Finley create the ultimate conundrum for opposing defenses, which must decide who merits the most attention.

Is Randall Cobb the top sleeper in this offense?
Folks who watched the Packers all season won’t call Cobb a sleeper. He’s a natural playmaker who’s a tough cover lining up in the slot. His quickness off the ball and elusiveness in the open field make him a vital target on slants and other quick passes that he can turn into big gains. The slot was once the domain of Donald Driver; even if Driver returns, expect Cobb to take away some of his snaps.

Will Jermichael Finley ever develop into a consistent, elite fantasy tight end?
Finley’s numbers would have been so much better if only he held onto the football. He was in the top five in the NFL in drops last season with 11, then added two more in the playoff loss to the Giants. He is such a matchup nightmare for defenses, but he has to improve his concentration and focus to truly put up elite numbers.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Cedric Benson, RB
Deep-Sleeper: Randall Cobb, WR
Overvalued: Jermichael Finley, TE
Top Rookie: Nick Perry, LB
Bounce-Back: Clay Matthews, LB
Top IDP: Morgan Burnett, S

Related: Desmond Bishop Out for the Year?

2012 Draft Class

1. Nick Perry OLB 6-3 265 USC
2. Jerel Worthy DT 6-2 308 Michigan State
2. Casey Hayward CB 5-11 192 Vanderbilt
4. Mike Daniels DT 6-0 291 Iowa
4. Jerron McMillian SS 5-11 203 Maine
5. Terrell Manning OLB 6-2 237 NC State
7. Andrew Datko T 6-6 315 Florida State
7. B.J. Coleman QB 6-3 233 Chattanooga

Fantasy Impact: With most of their core returning from last season, the Packers used only two picks on offense. Tackle Andrew Datko and quarterback B.J. Coleman are developmental selections. Addressing the front seven on defense was critical. End Nick Perry and tackles Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels should figure prominently into the line rotation this year. Worthy’s selection is especially crucial, as he can help anchor the defense at the nose tackle position.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (DET, at CHI, TEN)

It’s the Packers: Play ’em if you got ’em. They go against a Detroit team that drafted defense with a majority of its picks after ranking sixth- and 12th-worst against fantasy QBs and WRs, respectively. Chicago was middle of the pack against fantasy backs and receivers. Championship week is vs. a Tennessee team that was one of the top fantasy defenses vs. QBs and WRs in 2011.

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the Green Bay Packers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-breaking-down-new-england-patriots
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What can the New England Patriots do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.

Inside the Locker Room
with Shalise Manza-Young, Boston Globe

Does Brandon Lloyd take away from or add fantasy value to Wes Welker?
He likely hurts it. Lloyd figures to take away some catches and touchdowns from Welker. But a drop in receptions for Welker is still a good season for many receivers, and he’ll still be a good value, particularly in PPR leagues.

Will there be any lingering affects of offseason ankle surgery and rehab for touchdown machine Rob Gronkowski?
It’s hard to know if Gronkowski will be affected come August or September, but in May, he wasn’t on the field taking part in Patriots’ organized team activities. He was spotted going through rehab drills with the team training staff, and it’s likely the team will be very cautious about his recovery.

Can Aaron Hernandez be an every-week fantasy starter despite being the No. 2 tight end on the roster?
Yes. Hernandez has lined up all over the field for New England — split wide, in the slot, near the line, in the backfield — and that looks to continue. And now that the team signed a third tight end, Daniel Fells, Hernandez can be used in even more creative ways. He’ll get plenty of touches.

Will Stevan Ridley get the bulk of the carries and break the mold of the Pats’ RB-by-committee approach?
Not likely. The Patriots have gone with a committee approach at running back since 2006, and while Ridley was the team’s most explosive back last year (all of the Pats’ 20-plus yard runs were by Ridley), fellow 2011 draftee Shane Vereen missed almost his entire rookie season to injury. If Vereen is healthy, it’s hard to believe that he won’t get his share of carries.

Athlon's Best Bets

Sleeper: Brandon Lloyd, WR
Deep-Sleeper: Stevan Ridley, RB
Overvalued: Aaron Hernandez, TE
Top Rookie: Dont'a Hightower, LB
Bounce-Back: Brandon Lloyd, WR
Top IDP: Jerod Mayo, LB

2012 Draft Class

1. Chandler Jones DE 6-5 265 Syracuse
1. Dont’a Hightower LB 6-4 260 Alabama
2. Tavon Wilson S 6-0 205 Illinois
3. Jake Bequette DE 6-5 274 Arkansas
6. Nate Ebner S 6-0 205 Ohio State
7. Alfonzo Dennard CB 5-10 205 Nebraska
7. Jeremy Ebert WR 5-11 200 Northwestern

Fantasy Impact: The Patriots owned one of the NFL’s worst defenses last year, so it was no surprise that the first six selections in the draft were devoted to fixing that side of the ball. Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are expected to contribute immediately, and both players will add playmaking ability and speed to the defense. Jake Bequette will help with the pass rush, while Tavon Wilson provides depth at safety. Jeremy Ebert faces an uphill battle to make the team and is unlikely to have any fantasy value in 2012.

Fantasy Playoff Run: Weeks 14-16 (HOU, SF, at JAC)

The Pats start the playoffs against a Texans team that was top five against fantasy QBs, RBs and TEs and top 10 against receivers. They then play host to a 49ers team that was top seven against QBs, RBs. However, the 49ers and the Jaguars both struggled against tight ends last season. That’s certainly good news if Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are on your team.

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You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Breaking Down the New England Patriots</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: New York Jets, Tim Tebow, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-cure-your-tim-tebow-obsession
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So you’re infatuated with Tim Tebow, eh? Can’t get enough of his last-minute, game-winning drives, followed by his (gasp!) world-famous thinking-man’s pose? Sure, he’s a snappy dresser — we give you that — and his determination and work ethic are admirable qualities. But as a fantasy passer, Tebow doesn’t live up to his billing — not as a franchise quarterback, not even as a reliable No. 2.

We’re not hatin’ on the man; we just know a fantasy dud when we see one.

Here’s the thing: There’s hype and there’s substance. No matter how many headlines Rex Ryan’s newest toy generates, the numbers just aren’t there. Go ahead, look. Not convinced? Look again. He averaged 144 passing yards in 12 regular-season games for Denver last year. Give him a full 16-game schedule under center in New York — heck, give him 18 games — and they still won’t be there.

Tebow is unlike any pro football phenomenon fans have ever witnessed, and yet he is similar to so many failed fantasy prospects to come before him. Fantasy owners want to believe that what they see is somehow different from what the raw numbers suggest. They crave the success and turn a blind eye to the evidence. In the end, all that’s left is disappointment.

(Voices of dissent begin to grumble) “But Tebow gives my team rushing yards and touchdowns other quarterbacks do not provide.” Not enough, we’re afraid. To prove this, let’s convert his 660 rushing yards last season (second-most among quarterbacks) and six rushing scores to passing totals (1,650 and nine, in traditional leagues). The additional numbers would give Tebow 2011 season-ending totals of 3,379 passing yards and 21 touchdown passes. Is this what you expect from your starting fantasy quarterback?

At best, he’s a fantasy backup, and his current role as Mark Sanchez’s understudy only further complicates matters. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Tebow nudges Sanchez from the lineup early in the season, as many predict will happen. Even then, Tebow is not a viable fantasy backup. Ask yourself: Does the Jets offense really provide Tebow with more fantasy firepower than what he had to work with in Denver? Will New York’s media tolerate a 46.5 completion percentage? New York was a team struggling to hold it together last year, and if anything, a quarterback controversy or poor passing numbers will only create locker room drama and tabloid fodder. As former Denver teammate Demaryius Thomas described the experience to a radio station this offseason: “If it wasn’t for the (Broncos) defense, most of the time there wouldn’t be no supposed ‘Tim Tebow Time.’”

Last year, Tebow was neither consistent nor prolific (only two regular-season games with 200 or more yards passing!) — the two qualities you should seek from a backup quarterback. And heaven forbid your starter should suffer a season-ending injury, thus thrusting Tebow into your lineup full time... well, let’s just say adieu to your fantasy postseason hopes.

Nope, Tebow is for dreamers. For New York, Tebow can be an effective situational player at best (no fantasy market for that) and a distraction at worst. For fantasy owners, he should be someone else’s problem.

— By Mike Beacom, originally published in the 2012 Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine

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Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: The Cure for Your Tim Tebow Obsession</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-players-coming-back-injury
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These players suffered serious injuries during the 2011 season. Will they be ready to play in ’12? We take a look.

Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee
After leading the AFC in receiving through two weeks with 271 yards, Britt tore an ACL against the Broncos in Week 3. He should be healthy, but it also should be pointed out that he has had two additional procedures performed on his already surgically repaired right knee since May. Health issues aside, Britt's return to the field could be delayed further due to NFL suspension as he added to his growing list of off-the-field incidents with a DWI arrest in late July. Don't forget the Titans drafted Baylor wide reciever Kendall Wright in the first round of April's draft either.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City 
Any ACL injury is a big concern, but this one took place so early in the year that Charles appears good to go for the start of the season. Adding Peyton Hillis will help ease Charles back into action.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo 
The talented tailback fractured his fibula in Week 11 after topping 100 yards six times in the first 10 weeks of the season. Something to consider: Although Jackson has played only five NFL seasons, he’s already 31 years old.

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit
The talented tailback suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon last August and has yet to appear in a preseason game, much less a regular-season game in his NFL career. He's been held out of training camp so far because of a hamstring issue, but he is hopeful of being able to return to practice soon. Even if he is able to show he is healthy, the earliest he will make his professional debut is Week 2. Leshoure is suspended for the first two games of the season after being charged on two separate occassions for drug possession during the offseason.

Peyton Manning, QB, Denver 
The great quarterback missed the entire 2011 season with neck issues. If he is even close to his old self, he will be a value on draft day.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland 
He’s never played more than 13 games in a season and was injured at Arkansas, too. He has elite ability but suffered a serious foot injury in Week 7 and missed the remainder of the season. Without Michael Bush, it’s his football, but can he handle it for a full season?

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh
He’ll start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, so you have to wonder when he’ll be at full strength.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas 
Murray dealt with multiple injuries (dislocated kneecap, pulled hamstring) while at Oklahoma and was lost for the final month of his rookie season with a broken ankle. Can he carry the load?

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota 
The most talented running back on the planet is such a physical specimen that the recovery from his severe knee injury suffered on Dec. 24 is well ahead of schedule. Will he maintain his elite-level explosiveness and cutting ability? Peterson took the next important step in his return to the field earlier this week when the Vikings removed from the PUP list. Even if he's able to make a near-miraculous Week 1 return, expect Toby Gerhart to see a fair amount of carries, especially early on.

Matt Schaub, QB, Houston
The Lisfranc injury to his right foot required surgery and kept him from making his playoff debut. He should be healthy this season, but it’s worth noting that he has missed at least five games in three of the last five years.

Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona
The explosive rookie tailback ruptured his patella tendon in the preseason last year and it's been a long road back. After being limited early in training camp and missing the Cardinals' first two preseason games, Williams is expected to play this weekend. If healthy, his explosiveness and big-play ability will make him tough to keep off the field in Arizona.

— Published on August 15, 2012

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Players Coming Back from Injury</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-decline-running-back
Body:

RBBC is the acronym du jour in the world of fantasy football. It stands for “running back by committee,” and it means the days of the workhorse back, the bell cow back — whatever term you have for the back who totes the ball a clear majority of the game — are coming to an end.

The true feature backs who are also adept at catching passes are the players who can survive, or even thrive, in this new RBBC world. But those backs, as we will see, are few and far between.

Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Steven Jackson are versatile workhorses. Each had at least 260 carries and 40 catches in 2012.

There are three others who have the potential to be complete workhorse backs — Matt Forté, Ryan Mathews and Trent Richardson.

Forté had 203 carries and 52 catches in 12 games last season. But there are some red flags. Forté is not happy with his contract situation in Chicago, and the Bears added Michael Bush — a noted touchdown thief — in free agency. Also, don’t be surprised if Khalil Bell, who played well when Forté was hurt last season, steals some carries. Forté has carried the ball 260-plus times only once (316 as a rookie in 2008) in his career.

Mathews, who had 222 carries and 50 catches in his second season as a pro, is another potential workhorse — especially with Mike Tolbert now in Carolina. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, will be asked to take on a huge role in Cleveland right away, both as a ball-carrier and pass-catcher.

Then there are the one-trick ponies — players who are still top fantasy producers but don’t bring the total package of a Foster, Rice or McCoy.

Marshawn Lynch and Michael Turner are bulk-carriers who caught under 30 passes last season yet still finished as top-seven fantasy backs. We are all waiting for the bulk-carriers who just run the ball to either break down or have their workload cut by more dynamic, change-of-pace running backs.

It has not happened to Turner yet, but many other No. 1 backs are having their production cut, and it is changing the landscape of fantasy football.

We’ve just discussed 11 players who are — or have the ability to be — workhorse running backs, which is essentially one-third of the league’s 32 starting running backs. That leaves 21 teams in a RBBC situation.

The combination of the RBBC and NFL rules that encourage more downfield passing has helped make quarterbacks, receivers and even tight ends more attractive fantasy options in recent years.

LOOK AT THE DATA
The number of receivers taken in the first three rounds has increased over the last three years, while the number of running backs taken in the same rounds has decreased.

That’s three years. What about the last decade?

Look at some historical data, according to Athlon Sports’ mock drafts (see chart, right), and you will see that 22 running backs were taken in the first three rounds (36 picks) in 2006 compared to 17 this season. There were 18 backs selected in the first two rounds (24 picks) in 2006, and that number has dropped to 13 this season.

No quarterback was taken in the first round in 2006. Nowadays, two quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton) are consensus first-round picks, and several others (Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford) can be expected to go by the end of the third round.

Rodgers was the only quarterback selected in the first round (eighth overall) in last season’s Athlon Sports mock draft. Next up was Brady at No. 20, and that kicked off a run in which four quarterbacks were selected in the next eight picks.

Rodgers was taken fifth overall in this year’s Athlon mock, followed by Newton at No. 9. Next up were Brees, Brady and Stafford, who were picked from 22-26.

Meanwhile, the number of receivers selected among the first two rounds in 2006 was three. This year, it was six; last year, it was up to eight wideouts taken in the first 24 picks.

There were no tight ends in the first two rounds in four of the six mock drafts from 2006-11. Now, we have two — Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham — in the top 24.

Even Athlon’s rankings over the last two seasons show the change. Last year, we had nine running backs in the top 12 and one quarterback. This season, we have only six running backs and four quarterbacks.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
There are a couple of ways to look at the data.

You should still try to get one of the top-five running backs as soon as you can. That will always be the case as long as there are still guaranteed workhorses out there.

But if you miss out, or elect to take the top quarterback or wide receivers — or Gronkowski or Graham — don’t just take the next-best back the next time around because you feel you need a player at that position. Instead, draft a top-flight player at the receiver position.

There were eight running backs last year who had at least six 100-yard rushing games. Six of them are ranked in Athlon’s top 15 — Foster, Jones-Drew, Rice, McCoy, Turner and Lynch. The other two — Willis McGahee and Fred Jackson — can be had outside the top 20.

The emergence of the RBBC has enabled owners to piece together the running back position and keep loading up elsewhere.

Good receivers are going to continue to get plenty of touches — just take a look at what happened in the league last season.

The NFL had its highest scoring average in 46 seasons (44.4 ppg), and 2011 marked the first season in NFL history in which three different teams scored at least 500 points (Green Bay, New Orleans and New England).

The league-wide passer rating (84.3) and TD:INT ratio (1.472:1) were both record-setting numbers. Games averaged an all-time high of 693.7 total yards, surpassing the record from a year earlier (672.0). The all-time passing yards per game mark was set in 2010 (443.1 ypg) and then broken in 2012 (459.4 ypg). There were 121 individual 300-yard passing games, the most in NFL history by 17. There were also 18 400-yard passing games, besting the old mark of 13.

STRATEGY
If you miss out on Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Newton or Stafford, go find a receiver (or two) who is responsible for some of these record-setting offensive numbers.

While you will find that the ADP data says there have been 33 to 36 receivers taken in the top 100 for the last decade — and 34 for the last five years, according to MyFantasyLeague.com — the number of those taken in the first four rounds (48 picks) has increased over the last four years. It was 15 in 2009, 15 in ’10, 16 in ‘11 and 19 this season (through late May).

For example, with the first pick in a 12-team league, you could grab Arian Foster, follow up with receivers Greg Jennings and A.J. Green in the second and third rounds, respectively, and still have a chance at another top-flight receiver or a tight end with your next two picks. Only then would you need to start thinking about a quarterback.

Here’s another scenario. Say you start with the sixth pick in the first round. You can grab Calvin Johnson, come back and still get a Gronkowski or Graham in the second round, followed by a top-tier receiver in the third and fourth and then grab one of the 300-yard passing quarterbacks in the fifth.

Once again: Don’t worry if you miss one of the elite quarterbacks in the early rounds. You can still get high-quality signal-callers in the middle rounds.

Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan each had at least six games with 300 yards passing in 2011. Tony Romo had five such games. Oh, and Peyton Manning is back in action this season. All of these quarterbacks can be had in the fifth-to-seventh rounds.

Then there’s Ben Roethlisberger, who had five 300-yard games and three others with at least 250 yards. His ADP is in the 90-to-100 range (around the eighth round).

We won’t deny that running backs still rule the fantasy game at the very front end of any draft, but the committee approach has reduced the number of elite backs who are available. You need to be prepared on draft day. If you miss out on a player like Foster or Rice (or you simply choose not to use a top pick on a running back), you need a sound game-plan for the top few rounds. And that game-plan should include taking several top-flight receivers and perhaps one of the top tight ends and a quarterback before you load up on running backs.

The fantasy game is changing — so change your strategy.

— By Corby Yarbrough, originally published in the 2012 Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: Decline of the Running Back</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2012-rules-picking-rookies
Body:

Fantasy owners are often tempted by the unlimited potential rookies offer. But history shows us that they rarely satisfy the demands of the roster spots they occupy.

You’re four rounds into your fantasy football draft, and already the temptation is killing you. Is it time to consider Justin Blackmon? He could be huge for Jacksonville, same as he was for Oklahoma State. He could be the game’s next elite wide receiver. He could fill my need at the No. 2 wide receiver spot.

He could … he could … but chances are, he won’t.

Rookies rarely live up to the hype. Most NFL quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends take time to mature. Success doesn’t happen in Year 1. But, because of a few well-documented exceptions, fantasy owners — even seasoned ones — ignore hard evidence and fall under the trance rookie prospects project.

Last season will only fuel the problem. Cam Newton had arguably the greatest debut of any player in league history, and fellow rookie quarterback Andy Dalton lit up the sky in Cincinnati. A.J. Green and Julio Jones each put up some of the best numbers ever posted by a rookie receiver. That success will have fantasy owners pondering whether Blackmon and others can duplicate that success in 2012.

History tells us probably not. By analyzing rookie data dating back to 1978 when the league went to a 16-game format (and in some cases dating back before that), the evidence suggests that rookies don’t meet the expectations fantasy owners have for starters (or even front-line backups).

Here is a look at some of the rookie pitfalls, broken down by key statistical categories, for each of the four primary fantasy positions:

Quarterbacks
NFL teams invest a lot in a rookie quarterback. More than the money, that player represents the team’s future, so the conventional wisdom is to bring him along slowly. Teams remind themselves of the beating Troy Aikman took in 1989, and of how some careers never got going because the player’s confidence was shattered early on. There’s another reason fantasy rookie passers fail to meet expectations: Chances are, if a team picks a quarterback in the early rounds of the draft, the rest of the team isn’t very good.

Rule 1: Quarterbacks don’t find the end zone enough
Newton is one of only four rookie quarterbacks from the Super Bowl era (1966-present) to throw for 20-plus touchdowns in a season. Peyton Manning’s 26-touchdown debut in 1998 ranks atop the leaderboard for this category and may be the only acceptable touchdown total among rookie fantasy passers. Most alarming is the fact that over the past decade — the most friendly passing era in the history of the game — only five rookie quarterbacks have logged 15 or more touchdown passes.

Rule 2: The 3,000-yard “norm” is rarely reached
Fantasy owners expect starting quarterbacks to throw for at least 3,000 yards, and recent numbers suggest that this is reasonable to expect of backups as well. At least 18 quarterbacks have reached that total in each of the past four seasons, so it’s a bit surprising that only a handful of rookie signal-callers over the past 35 years have passed for 3,000 or more yards. Four of the five have come in recent years (Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton and Cam Newton).

Rule 3: Rookie QBs don’t start enough games to matter
Perhaps the reason rookie quarterbacks do not perform well for fantasy owners is because they do not get enough snaps. Since 1978, only eight quarterbacks have started every game in their debut seasons. And to take it a step further, a total of 25 have started 12 or more games (who could forget Jeff Komlo’s 1979 campaign?) — that’s less than one per season, on average.

2012 Potential Rule-Breaker
Four quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden) will have a chance to start all 16 games, but of the three, Griffin may have the best chance to produce for fantasy owners. Washington’s receiving corps gives Griffin the edge.

Running Backs
Through the years a number of rookie running backs have found success — perhaps more so than any other fantasy position. The transition from college to the NFL is easier on backs, and teams take advantage of their rookies’ fresh legs. But recent trends should give fantasy owners reason for pause.

Rule 1: The biggest names are not always the ones to shine
A total of 27 running backs have scored 10 or more rushing touchdowns in their rookie seasons — an encouraging stat. But many of these players were middle- or even late-round picks. Next to Eric Dickerson’s 18 touchdowns (1983) in the record book is sixth-round pick Mike Anderson’s 15 scores from 2000. Five backs were selected ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew, who scored 13 touchdowns in 2006. Tim Hightower (10 touchdowns) was a fifth-round pick in 2008, Ron Davenport (11) was a sixth-round pick in 1985, and Billy Jackson (10) was a seventh-round pick in 1981. Sometimes you just can’t tell where rookie running back production will come from.

Rule 2: Rookie workloads are declining with the times
Running backs have not been putting up huge numbers in recent years, and in 2011 only two backs logged 300 or more carries (in 2006, 10 backs reached the mark). Rookie backs have followed this trend. Whereas there have been 15 rookie backs to carry 300 or more times since 1978, only one has come in the past decade (Matt Forté, 2008). In fact, in this last decade, only 16 rookies have carried 200 times or more.

2012 Potential Rule-Breaker
The Browns invested in Trent Richardson to be the workhorse for their rebuilding offense. Unfortunately, that offense has no passing game to speak of, suggesting that opponents will be able to stack the box to stop Richardson. This may be another year in which rookie running back success comes from someone fantasy owners don’t suspect.

Wide Receivers
It takes time for a wide receiver to blossom. That’s why fantasy owners long ago invented the “three-year rule,” which is used to predict when a receiver will have a breakout season. Receivers must learn all of the routes (and variances for each route) and develop chemistry (timing, trust) with their quarterbacks. Rarely does success happen overnight.

Rule 1: Receivers catch fewer than 70 balls
To crack a starting lineup, a fantasy receiver should approach the 70-reception mark (24 wide receivers reached the mark in 2011). Few rookies get there, though — only six since 1978, most recently Eddie Royal (91 catches in 2008). Over the past decade, 21 rookie wide receivers have reached the 50-catch mark, including undrafted free agents Davone Bess and Doug Baldwin. If there is a silver lining, it’s that that figure is a 50 percent increase from the decade prior (14 rookie receivers caught 50-plus balls from 1992-2001).

Rule 2: Don’t expect 1,000 or more yards
Eleven rookie receivers have topped the 1,000-yard mark since 1978, but the important thing to note here is that only six of the 11 were first-round picks, suggesting that many went unnoticed by fantasy owners on draft day. Indianapolis’ Bill Brooks was a fourth-round pick in 1986, and, of course, Marques Colston lasted until the seventh round in 2006. In terms of consistency, only 10 receivers over that same period have averaged 70 or more yards per game in their first seasons (min. of 11 starts).

Rule 3: Double-digit touchdown totals are out of the question
Here is a trivia question your friends will never get the answer to: Name the five rookie receivers of the Super Bowl era to catch 10 or more touchdowns in a season. Most know Randy Moss set a record in 1998 with 17, and some will remember that only a few years ago Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams had 11. The others? San Diego’s John Jefferson caught 13 touchdowns in 1978, and Minnesota’s Sammy White (1976) and Seattle’s Daryl Turner (1984) each caught 10. Consider that in 2010 alone there were 10 wide receivers with 10 or more touchdown catches.

2012 Potential Rule-Breaker
The Jaguars were one of the weakest teams at the position last year, so hopes are high that Blackmon can fill the void for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Of course, this only means opposing teams will be able to key on Blackmon.

Tight Ends
Obviously, the tight end position has only emerged as a fantasy force in recent years. Prior to the Tony Gonzalez era, there were few seasons of note (Mike Ditka’s rookie season of 1961 among them). Today, however, fantasy owners expect a great deal of production out of their tight ends, which is why they should evaluate rookies with caution.

Rule 1: First-year TEs don’t offer big catch totals
If 70 is the benchmark for wide receivers, 50 is the equivalent for tight ends (17 reached the total last season). Since 1978, only five rookie tight ends have caught that many passes, and only two have caught 60 or more balls (Philadelphia’s Keith Jackson has the high mark with 81 in 1988). Recent history suggests that rookies are making progress in this category, however. Half of the top 20 catch seasons among rookie tight ends have been recorded since 2001, and the 2010 NFL season was the most successful of any, as four rookie tight ends had 40 or more catches, including New England’s Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

Rule 2: Count on a low touchdown total
Gronkowski is the only rookie tight end of the Super Bowl era to catch 10 or more touchdowns, but fantasy owners shouldn’t expect that from a first-year player (10 touchdowns is a respectable total for an elite tight end). However, what is troubling is that only a dozen rookie tight ends have caught six or more scores in the same period, and surprisingly, only four from the past decade — Gronkowski, Hernandez and Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller (2005) and Washington’s Chris Cooley (2004).

Rule 3: Tight ends don’t crack the starting lineup
Same as quarterbacks, rookie tight ends do not see enough action. Only nine have started a full season since 1978, and over the past decade, only nine have started 12 or more games. Only one rookie tight end from the period has reached all of the above milestones (16 starts, 50 receptions and six or more touchdowns) – New Orleans’ Cam Cleeland, 1998.

2012 Potential Rule-Breaker
Coby Fleener knows his new quarterback (Luck) well from having played together at Stanford, but fantasy owners should be scared at the thought of a rookie throwing to a rookie.

— By Mike Beacom, originally published in the 2012 Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine

Dominate Your Fantasy Football League! Click here for the ultimate online resource for mock drafts, positional rankings, Athlon's Top 250 and more.

You can order your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012: The Rules for Picking Rookies</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Philadelphia Eagles, NFL
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-2012-nfl-team-preview
Body:

Athlon Sports is counting down its 2012 NFL preseason Power Rankings with in-depth team previews, schedule analysis and more as the start of the NFL season draws near.

The Philadelphia Eagles check in at No. 14.

After the nightmare “Dream Team” season of 2011, the Eagles are wide awake going into 2012. Owner Jeffrey Lurie admitted he considered making a change after Andy Reid’s 13th championship-free season as head coach. It is widely assumed Reid will have to make a deep playoff run, at least, to survive his 14th season. And while it is safe to say that the excuses for 2011 — the lockout, the enormous changes on the roster and among the assistant coaches — won’t apply this year, there is also a good chance that no excuses will be necessary.

Reid didn’t undo all those changes during this more typical offseason. Instead, he committed more fully to them. Juan Castillo remains as defensive coordinator after the team blew five fourth quarter leads. Michael Vick had another season plagued by injury, but Reid stood by his reclaimed quarterback and stood pat on his refurbished offensive line.

Reid has reached the playoffs in nine of his 13 seasons. His team has also done a little worse in each of the past three seasons. Which trend will hold? The answer will determine the Eagles’ course after 14 seasons under the league’s longest-tenured head coach.

Offense

The Eagles are betting on Vick to be better after his first full offseason as the team’s No. 1 quarterback. It is a bet that could make or break the 2012 season. Vick certainly has a championship-caliber supporting cast.

After several years in flux, the team’s offensive line has evolved into a strength going into this season. Todd Herremans has locked down the right tackle spot vacated by Jon Runyan. Journeyman guard Evan Mathis found a home after connecting with offensive line coach Howard Mudd, and 2011 draft picks Jason Kelce (center) and Danny Watkins (right guard) got through their growing pains and should be fixtures for years. The team suffered a blow when Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters tore his right Achilles tendon during an offseason workout and then tore it once again in a freak injury in May. The Eagles signed free agent Demetress Bell, a move that should minimize the loss.

The line’s emergence, and Mudd’s attacking style, helped LeSean McCoy establish himself as one of the top backs in the league. McCoy just got better as he developed a feel for his blockers, and he is poised to have a monster 2012 season.

One reason: The speed and production of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin clear out the intermediate areas of the field. If McCoy can get through the line, there is room for him to get up to full speed and to use his exceptional shiftiness.

Jackson, who admitted pouting over his contract and was suspended by Reid for one game, did not have a great 2011 season. He has a new deal and will be expected to be the player he was in 2009 and ’10. His mere presence helps create opportunities for Maclin, slot receiver Jason Avant and tight end Brent Celek.

But it all starts, and sometimes ends, with Vick. His 14 interceptions and 10 fumbles (four lost) were among the team’s biggest problems in 2011. Vick also missed three games and parts of three others with injuries. For the Eagles to get the most from their array of offensive talent, Vick has to play smarter and stay healthy. “He understands how important he is to this football team, that he’s healthy,” Reid says. “And that means as healthy as you can be playing the sport. You limit some of the contact points you have.”

Defense

Once Reid decided to stick with Castillo, and with defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s signature “wide 9” philosophy, the focus became adding pieces that fit the puzzle. The first of those pieces filled a gaping hole in the middle. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans, acquired in a trade with the Texans, could be the team’s first impact linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s heyday. While Washburn’s approach generated enormous pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it also created huge gaps for running backs. Ryans, available because the Texans switched to a 3-4 defense last year, provides an imposing, three-down presence in the middle of the field.

The linebacker-light Eagles also drafted short but fast Mychal Kendricks from Cal to compete for the strong-side spot. That could leave the best of the incumbents, Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle, competing for the weak-side job.

The other adjustment was made in the secondary. The Eagles dumped their best defensive back of the past few years, Asante Samuel, to commit to more aggressive press coverage. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, both of whom looked woefully miscast in their first seasons as Eagles, need to step up with Samuel gone.

At safety, the Eagles are relying on youth. Nate Allen is rebounding from a serious knee injury, while Jaiquawn Jarrett’s rookie year was spoiled by the lockout and the general chaos surrounding the defense. The team also signed veteran Oshiomogho Atogwe to a one-year deal to provide some depth at safety.

The centerpiece of the defense will continue to be the line. Ends Jason Babin (18 sacks) and Trent Cole (11), unleashed by Washburn’s system, combined for 29 sacks in 2011. Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon rotated in the middle. They will be joined by first-round pick Fletcher Cox, a disruptive inside presence from Mississippi State, and rush end Vinny Curry from Marshall. Cox could displace Jenkins as a starter, while Curry is likely to provide energy off the bench.

Specialists

  The kids were all right. After years of continuity in the kicking game, the Eagles went with rookies Alex Henery and Chas Henry in 2011. They acquitted themselves well and will be back in 2012. Henery, a fourth-round pick, made 24-of-27 field goals and all 46 of his extra-point attempts. His field goal percentage was the best ever for a rookie kicker and the best in Eagles history. The only question left unanswered was how he would handle a clutch kick with the game on the line. The situation didn’t arise in 2011. The undrafted Henry was solid. As long as he doesn’t try throwing the ball — as he did on one ill-advised trick play — he should be fine.

The return game is less settled. Jackson and, to a lesser degree, Maclin are weapons as punt returners but figure to be used sparingly in that dangerous role. Rookie Brandon Boykin and running back Dion Lewis could compete for that job as well as kickoff returns.

Final Analysis: 3rd in the NFC East

The only way for the Eagles to shake the unfortunate “Dream Team” label applied by departed backup quarterback Vince Young is to rebound with a more typical Reid-era season. If Vick remains healthy and effective, this team should certainly contend for a playoff berth.

It may take more than that — an appearance in the NFC title game or even the Super Bowl — for Reid to retain his job, but it would be a good start.

Related: 2012 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule Analysis

Outside The Huddle

Divine intervention
Defensive line coach Jim Washburn was very excited when the team traded up to select his guy, Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox. “I didn’t think we had a chance,” Washburn said. “Guess it was just meant to be.” Asked how Cox fits his philosophy, Washburn gushed, “When God made him, he made him to be in this system right here.” Tough to overrule the Big Scout.

Bargain bin
When cornerback Asante Samuel accused Eagles GM Howie Roseman and president Joe Banner of playing “fantasy football” by acquiring corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, it was assumed he’d soon be an ex-Eagle. The rest of the NFL assumed it as well, and the Eagles were only able to get a seventh-round draft pick from Atlanta for the Pro Bowler.

Free trade agreements
Going into the 2012 draft, Roseman confided, “We like action.” And once again, Roseman engineered a bunch of draft-weekend trades. The big one was moving up to get Cox in the first round. To recoup the fourth-round pick surrendered in that deal, Roseman moved down eight spots in the second round in a trade with Green Bay. They got corner/return specialist Brandon Boykin with their new fourth-round selection.

True fan
A lot of players say they are fans of the teams that draft them. Vinny Curry, the second-round defensive end from Neptune, N.J., is the real deal. He declined a request from NFL Network to send a crew to his home because he didn’t want to take down his Eagles memorabilia. His first trip to NovaCare Complex coincided with a ceremony honoring retiring former Eagle Brian Dawkins. “This has got to be the best day of my life,” a teary Curry said.

20/20 hindsight
Eagles fans already know one of the highlights of the 2012 season. It will be the game where the team honors Dawkins. There was much angst when Dawkins left to finish his career in Denver. The team and Dawk himself tried to repair that damage upon Dawkins’ retirement. He signed a one-day contract to retire as an Eagle, and the team announced the retirement of Dawkins’ No. 20.

@EvanMathis69
His Twitter profile proclaimed him “The People’s OG.” Maybe, but guard Evan Mathis certainly is one of the wittier and more entertaining tweeters among professional athletes. On draft day: “Welcome to Philly @fcoxx_94 (Fletcher Cox). Watch out for their LG in training camp. He’s awesome.” Or: “For every new follower I get in the next month I’ll donate nothing to everyone.” Worth a follow.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Seattle Seahawks
No. 20: Carolina Panthers
No. 19: New York Jets
No. 18: Buffalo Bills
No. 17: Tennessee Titans
No. 16: San Diego Chargers
No. 15: Cincinnati Bengals
No. 14: Philadelphia Eagles
No. 13: Wednesday, August 14, 2012

Order your 2012 Philadelphia Eagles Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 Philadelphia Eagles Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Philadelphia Eagles 2012 NFL Team Preview</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Ryan Mathews, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/chargers-ryan-mathews-breaks-collarbone-out-4-6-weeks
Body:

San Diego running back Ryan Mathews broke his collarbone on his first carry in Thursday night’s preseason game against Green Bay and is expected to be out between 4-6 weeks. With that diagnosis, the hope is that Mathews will be able to play at the latest by Week 3.

Mathews, who rushed for 1,091 yards with six touchdowns in 2011, appeared to be poised for an even bigger year in 2012 with the Chargers losing backup running back Mike Tolbert to the Carolina Panthers in free agency. Now, the coaching staff’s attention will turn to who will get the carries in Mathews’ absence, while fantasy owners figure out what to do regarding his draft status.

Fantasy-wise, all signs were pointing to a breakout year for the third-year pro, especially with Tolbert no longer around to vulture touchdowns. Tolbert scored 19 touchdowns combined the last two seasons, while Mathews had a total of 13 during that same span.

For all intents and purposes, it appeared that Mathews was going to become the league’s next workhorse back, a rarity these days, which had his fantasy value at an all-time high. Preseason fantasy rankings have Mathews as high as sixth among running backs and certainly among the top 10 overall.

This latest injury, however, also highlights one of the biggest criticisms when it comes to Mathews – durability. Mathews has missed time in each of his first two seasons, two games last year and four in 2001, because of different injuries. While this latest, a broken collarbone, doesn’t necessarily cement a “brittle” reputation for him, the fact that he’s looking at missing the first two weeks of the season, if not longer, certainly needs to be addressed when it comes to his draft value.

That said, I for one, am taking the optimistic approach with Mathews thinking that he will be out no more than the reported 4-6 weeks, meaning you will hopefully get more than enough games out of him (depending on the set up of your league’s playoffs) to maintain his current draft value.

For my money there are four clear-cut top-tier options when it comes to running backs this season – Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Chris Johnson. These four are secured as the starters on their teams and are virtually guaranteed of touching the ball, provided they stay healthy, no less than 300 times this season.

After that there’s no shortage of appealing options certainly, but there’s no shortage of questions associated with each option. For example, Maurice Jones-Drew has yet to report to Jaguars’ training camp because he’s holding out for a new contract. Will this holdout carry over into the regular season? No one knows right now, but depending on when your league holds its draft, isn’t this enough reason to give you pause on calling his name out?

Matt Forte got his new contract, so he’ll be toting the rock for the Bears starting in Week 1. However, remember he missed the final four games of last season with an MCL sprain and the Bears signed Michael Bush in the offseason. Considering Bush rushed for 977 yards with the Raiders last season, you can’t help but wonder if Forte’s workload will be decreased this season as the Bears look to protect their latest long-term investment.

Speaking of injuries, what about Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles? Two dynamic, explosive running backs for sure, but they also are both coming back from severe keen injuries that ended their 2011 campaigns at different times. Charles got hurt in Week 1 of last season, while Peterson went down in Week 16. The difference in recovery time alone for the two would lead you to believe that Charles is the “safer” option, but the reports on Peterson’s recovery have been so positive. Which one do you take and when?

And we haven’t even gotten to Darren McFadden (injury risk), Marshawn Lynch (facing potential suspension due to legal troubles), DeMarco Murray (injury risk) or Trent Richardson, who just went under the knife to remove loose particles from a knee that has already been surgically repaired.

The point is this – once you get past the first four running backs, there are really no sure things. While Jones-Drew, Forte and, to a degree, Lynch, appear to be among the safest of the next best available options, I still think you can include Mathews in there as well.

For one, while Mathews did break a bone, he didn’t shred his knee like Charles or Peterson did. As long as the bone heals properly, which is why the initial prognosis is he will be out 4-6 weeks, it shouldn’t take him that long to get back into the flow of things with San Diego’s offense.

Also, even though all three have already had their share of injuries in their NFL careers, I would rather take my chances with Mathews than McFadden or Murray. McFadden has played no more than 13 games in any of his first four seasons, including just seven last year. Murray’s injury history goes back to his college days at Oklahoma and he is coming off a broken ankle he suffered last December. Mathews’ latest injury doesn’t affect his ankle or legs, while both McFadden and Murray have histories with such.

And far as Richardson goes, while I’m not expecting the knee surgery to keep him out an extended period of time it does cut into the rookie’s preparation time as he gets ready for his first NFL season. Combine that with the reports that this knee issue could “linger” as the season progresses, the questions I have related to Cleveland’s offensive line and the fact that rookie Brandon Weeden will be starting at quarterback, that’s enough reasons for me to think twice before drafting Richardson early, especially in a redraft league.

Provided Mathews is back in the lineup by Week 3, he still should be I line for a very productive season. The clear-cut No. 1 back, Mathews is also a viable weapon catching passes out of the backfield as he had 50 receptions for 455 yards last season. Even though he had a down year in 2011, Philip Rivers is still one of the top quarterbacks in the league, which increases Mathews’ value and potential to have a big season as the Chargers’ passing game should help open up rushing lanes but also present big-play opportunities for him.

Before he got hurt, I viewed Mathews as a solid top-10 fantasy running back option this season. My view hasn’t changed, even if it means Mathews won’t play until Week 3. I would put him clearly behind Foster, Rice, McCoy, Johnson, Forte and probably still Jones-Drew, but after that he’s definitely among the next-best available options and right now the only one I would consider taking ahead of him would possibly be Lynch.

Now as far as the San Diego backfield options go without Mathews, this screams running back-by-committee so I wouldn’t go looking for any sleepers here. The Chargers don’t lack for options as Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley and Ronnie Brown are all on the roster.

Last season, Brinkley was third on the Chargers in carries with 30, putting him considerably behind Mathews (222) and the now-departed Tolbert (121). Brinkley finished the season with 101 yards rushing (3.4 ypc) and a touchdown.

After losing Tolbert in free agency, the Chargers signed veterans Brown and Battle. Brown is a 1,000-yard rusher, but that came back in 2006 as injuries have taken their toll on the former Auburn Tiger who has taken with the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Last season with the Eagles, the now 30-year-old Brown rushed for only 136 yards on 42 carries (3.2 ypc) as the primary backup to McCoy.

For the second straight season, Battle could get an opportunity to establish himself because of an injury to the incumbent starter. Last season, Battle got four starts in Kansas City after Charles went down with season-ending ACL injury in Week 1. Although Battle’s opportunities decreased as the season went along, the sixth-year pro out of Houston finished 2011 with a career-high 597 yards on 149 carries (4.0 ypc) and two touchdowns.

It’s entirely possible that one of these could do enough in training camp and preseason action to lay claim to the starting position. Even if that happens, however, I don’t see enough reason to seriously invest in any of them, except in deeper leagues. Brown is nowhere near the dynamic player he once was and I just don’t think his body can sustain a heavy workload. Battle is one-dimensional, which really doesn’t fit how the Chargers were planning on using Mathews. The opportunity is there for Brinkley, but there’s no history of production to really cling to.

There’s also Le’Ron McClain, the All-Pro fullback the Chargers signed as a free agent in the offseason. Brought in to help clear the way for Mathews, McClain now may get a few more chances to carry the ball instead. That alone should tell you all you need to know about the Chargers’ backfield without Mathews – stay away.

In fact, the biggest beneficiary of Mathews’ absence could be Rivers and wide receivers Vincent Brown, Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem and tight end Antonio Gates. Chances are without Mathews, the Chargers may be inclined to throw the ball even more than they usually do.

— By Mark Ross, published on August 10, 2012

Teaser:
<p> <font>Chargers' Ryan Mathews Breaks Collarbone, Out 4-6 Weeks</font></p>
Post date: Friday, August 10, 2012 - 12:19
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, San Diego Chargers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the San Diego Chargers official Twitter account:

@chargers (Followers: 146,200)

Top Chargers To Follow:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, August 10, 2012

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Shaun Phillips LB @ShaunPhillips95 434,112
2. Takeo Spikes LB @TakeoSpikes51 390,435
3. Richard Goodman WR @2_Good2BTrue 87,333
4. Eddie Royal WR @EddieRoyalWR 63,657
5. Antonio Gates TE @AntonioGates85 46,281
6. Ryan Mathews RB @mathews24 35,522
7. Le:Ron McClain FB @LeRon_McClain33 34,849
8. Curtis Brinkley RB @boonah920 29,563
9. Jacob Hester FB @JacobHester22 24,588
10. Atari Bigby S @20ataribigby 22,978
11. Melvin Ingram LB @MelvinIngram 21,581
12. Marcus McNeill OT @MarcusMcNeill73 17,505
13. Luis Castillo DT @LuisCastillo93 14,423
14. Roscoe Parrish WR @scoe11 12,744
15. Larry Englsih LB @LarryEnglish52 8,665
16. Nick Hardwick C @hardwina 8,551
17. Jordan Todman RB @JordanTodman 5,739
18. Edwin Baker RB @E_Baker4 5,046
19. Marcus Gilchrist CB @mgilchr 4,989
20. David Molk C @dmolk 4,490
21. Randy McMichael TE @randymac81 4,457
22. Cam Thomas DT @Baby_Zilla76 4,447
23. Corey Liuget DE @CoreyLiuget 3,519
24. Kendall Reyes DL @Kendall_Reyes 3,430
25. Antwan Barnes LB @vikes42 3,360

The Chargers Beat:

Kevin Acee, covers Chargers and columnist for San Diego Union-Tribune: @UTKevinAcee (20,180)

Michael Gehlken, Chargers beat writer for San Diego Union-Tribune: @UTgehlken (4,558)

Scott Bair, covers Chargers for North County Times: @NCTchargers (2,073)

Chargers Blog Roll:

Bolts From The Blue is SB Nation's Chargers blog.

Bolt Hype presents itself as "The San Diego Chargers Blog."

Bolt Beat and Chargers Gab are some others out there.

The ESPN AFC West blog is run by Bill Williamson and you can follow him @espn_afcwest.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Seattle Seahawks
No. 20: Carolina Panthers
No. 19: New York Jets
No. 18: Buffalo Bills
No. 17: Tennessee Titans
No. 16: San Diego Chargers
No. 15: Monday, August 13

Order your 2012 San Diego Chargers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 San Diego Chargers Season Preview
Related: 2012 San Diego Chargers Schedule Analysis

- By Braden Gall and Mark Ross, published on August 10, 2012

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> San Diego Chargers Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Friday, August 10, 2012 - 04:20
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/august-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 17:57
All taxonomy terms: Olympics
Path: /olympics/top-10-london-olympic-momentsso-far
Body:

1.  Phelps Becomes Most Decorated Olympic Athlete in History

Even with all the question marks surrounding Michael Phelps and his purported laziness in training heading into the London Olympics, it was still a foregone conclusion that the swimming great would pass gymnast Larissa Latynina to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. Phelps' 19th medal would come during the 4x200m freestyle relay, which Phelps uncharacteristically anchored.  Ending his Olympic career with 22 medals (18 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze), Phelps will likely go down as the greatest swimmer ever. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Usain Bolt sets Olympic Record in Men’s 100m Final

Questions surfaced about the speed of the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist after his disqualification at the 2011 World Championships and more recently, his loss to countryman Yohan Blake at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. However, Bolt once again proved that he is the world’s fastest man, running an Olympic Record 9.63s in the finals that left the rest of field in the dust. He joins the venerable Carl Lewis as only the second person in history to successfully defend their gold medal in the 100m dash. (UPDATE: Bolt has become the first man to win the Olympic 100-200m double twice.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  GYMNASTIC MOMENTS

McKayla Maroney’s Near-Perfect Vault 

McKayla Maroney’s performance on the vault during the team gymnastics competition was pivotal in lifting the United States to its first Olympic gold medal in the event since the 1996 Atlanta Games. The 2011 World Champion in the vault made her two-and-a-half twisting laid-out Yurchenko vault, colloquially known as an Amanor, look easy. She scored a 16.233 that experts agree should have been even higher as the judges inexplicably deducted 0.267 points from Maroney. Of all the highlights from Team USA’s gold medal performance, none will be remembered more than this amazing vault. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gabby Douglas Becomes the First

Equally as memorable is the amazing achievement of Gabby Douglas, the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. Her winning smile and athletic achievement has made her a household name.

 

4.  Murray Defeats Federer in Men’s Singles Final

Playing on home turf, Murray avenged his loss to Federer in the Wimbledon Championship to bring home a gold medal for Great Britain. Murray won emphatically, defeating No. 1 Federer in straight sets. His victory marked the first time Great Britain has taken gold in tennis since the sports’ reintroduction to the Olympics in 1988. No sport means more to the host nation Great Britain than tennis, whose roots lie in Birmingham, England, making Murray’s victory especially sweet.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Missy Franklin Sweeps Backstroke Events in Olympic Debut

No athlete making their Olympic debut has ever been subjected to as much pressure as 17-year-old Missy Franklin was coming into the London Games. She lived up to the hype, however, earning four gold medals and one bronze, and setting two world record times. Franklin emerges out of these games as one of the most prominent female athletes in the world and figures to an even greater threat four years from now in Rio. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.  South African Double-Amputee Reaches 400m Semi-Finals

Oscar Pistorius didn’t even have to make an Olympic final to make history.  Named one of Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Pistorius made history as the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympic games.  Overcoming his disability to run with some of the world’s fastest men, the South African native reached the semi-final of the men’s 400m. His participation should mark a watershed moment in parathlete history, since it proved to the world that a disabled athlete can and should be taken seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  China’s 16-Year-Old Phenom Ye Shiwen Shocks the World

You may not have heard of Ye Shiwen before the London Olympics, but the entire world is familiar with the swimmer following her extraordinary performance in the 400m IM. Her world-record time of 4:28.43 was nearly 3 seconds faster than the silver medalist and even more shocking, the last 50m of her race was faster than Ryan Lochte’s split in the same event. The performance was so extraordinary that it immediately drew suspicion from pundits who claimed that such dramatic improvement in personal best times could only be the result of doping. However, the much more likely scenario is that the athlete’s still-growing body accounted for the dramatic reduction in her personal best time since competing in the 2010 Asian Championships. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Kayla Harrison Wins Gold Medal in Judo

Kayla Harrison’s career-defining performance in the Women’s 78kg Judo Final completed the athlete’s story of individual perseverance as well as lifted the hopes of USA Judo as Harrison’s 2-0 victory over Britain’s Gemma Gibbons finally gave the United States the gold medal that had eluded them for so long. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.  Women’s Soccer Semifinal (USA vs. Canada)

We couldn’t pick just one moment from this epic match between these North American powerhouses in what was arguably the best team match of these Olympics so far. Christine Sinclair’s determined performance kept the underdog Canadian team in the game scoring all three goals for her squad. The United States’ Megan Rapinoe went toe-to-toe with Sinclair, scoring two goals of her own in the match and setting up the indirect penalty kick in the 79th minute that ultimately sent the game into extra time. 

The most iconic moment would come in the third and final minute of injury time that had been added on to extra time, as U.S. striker Alex Morgan converted a 6-yard header on a long cross from Heather O’Reilly to give the U.S. a 4-3 win and a trip to the finals against Japan. With this victory, the U.S. will meet Japan in a highly-anticipated rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final. (UPDATE: The U.S. beat Japan in the Olympic women's soccer final Thursday 2-1, avenging their 2011 World Cup loss and bringing home the gold for the third straight time.)    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.  Kimberly Rhode Becomes First Athlete to Win Medals for an Individual Event in Five Consecutive Olympics

This is the top moment from the London Games that you’ve probably never heard of. Kimberly Rhode equaled a world record, shooting 99 out of 100 clays en route to a gold medal in skeet shooting. Her victory marks the first time that any athlete has ever won individual medals in five separate Olympics. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-by Eric Chalifour

Teaser:
<p> The most amazing moments of the 2012 Summer Games</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 12:18
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New York Jets, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/new-york-jets-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the New York Jets official Twitter account:

@NYJets (Followers: 425,845)

Top Jets To Follow:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, August 7, 2012

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Tim Tebow QB @TimTebow 1,781,345
2. Mark Sanchez QB @Mark_Sanchez 739,857
3. Darrelle Revis CB @Revis24 297,575
4. Santonio Holmes WR @santonio10 159,864
5. Nick Mangold C @nickmangold 116,793
6. Dustin Keller TE @DUSTINKELLER81 78,018
7. Greg McElroy QB @GVMcElroy 72,600
8. LaRon Landry S @MrLandry30 44,173
9. Bart Scott LB @Madbacker57 43,460
10. D'Brickashaw Ferguson OT @Dbrickashaw 37,393
11. Kyle Wilson CB @KWilson20 29,870
12. Aaron Maybin LB @AaronMaybin51 29,178
13. Calvin Pace LB @jetsPACE97 28,438
14. John Conner FB @JCONNER38 25,060
15. Mike DeVito DE @MikeDeVito70 23,357
16. Sione Pouha DT @Pouha91 18,304
17. Muhhamad Wilkerson DL @mowilkerson 15,812
18. Marcus Dixon DT @MarcusDixon94 15,513
19. Joe McKnight RB @OfficialJoeJet 12,499
20. Eric Smith S @Esmitty33 10,533
21. Ricky Sapp LB @Sapp55 10,178
22. Jeremy Kerley WR @Jkerley_11 8,634
23. Nick Folk K @nickfolk2 8,543
24. Kenrick Ellis DT @KenrickEllis 8,509
25. Stephen Hill WR @_StephenHill_ 7,578

It's a good thing that the Jets' starting quarterback decision isn't decided by Twitter followers, otherwise Mark Sanchez wouldn't have a chance. Even though Sanchez has more than 700,000 followers, his backup, Tim Tebow, has more than twice as many at nearly 1.8 million.

Even third-stringer Greg McElroy gets into the act as his more than 72,000 followers places him seventh on this list. For what it's worth, McElory has considerably more followers than Hall of Fame quarterback and Mr. Jet himself, Joe Namath (@RealJoeNamath).

Quarterbacks aside, what's a little surprising is the absence of two prominent Jets on this list. Neither head coach Rex Ryan nor cornerback and self-proclaimed No. 2 wide receiver Antonio Cromartie made the cut. Cromartie deactivated his Twitter account in May (but hasn't let that decision prevent him from speaking his mind), while Ryan has yet to embrace the world of Twitter. Then again, it's not like his lack of Twittering has any affect whatsoever on his media exposure, right?

Last, but certainly not least, a special mention to Jets legend and one of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Curtis Martin (@CurtisMartin28).

The Jets Beat:

Manish Mehta, Jets beat writer for the New York Daily News: @MMehtaNYDN (31,021)

Rich Cimini, covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com: @RichCimini (29,385)

Jenny Vrentas, Jets beat writer for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.: @JennyVrentas (13,915)

Jane McManus, covers Jets for ESPNNewYork.com and ESPNW: @janesports (12,143)

Ben Shpigel, Jets beat writer for The New York Times: @benshpigel (7,699)

Ian Begley, covers Jets as a writer for ESPNewYork.com: @IanBegley (6,008)

Brian Costello, Jets beat writer for the New York Post: @BrianCoz (5,457)

Kristian Dyer, covers the Jets for Metro - New York: @KristianRDyer (3,238)

Kimberley A. Martin, Jets beat writer for Newsday: @KMart_LI (2,731)

Dennis Waszak Jr., AP sports writer who's covered the Jets since 2006: @DWAZ73 (2,346)

Jets Blog Roll:

Jets Blog is the New York Post's home for all things J-E-T-S related.

The Jets Stream is the New York Daily News' Jets blog.

Gang Green Nation is SB Nation's Jets blog.

The Jets Blog is part of the SNY (SportsNet New York) Blog Network and was founded by @Brian_Bassett with additional coverage provided by Jake Steinberg (@Steiny31), among others.

New York Jets Confidential and Dan Leberfled (@jetswhispers) have been covering the team for 16 years.

Jets Insider is "The Most Heavily Trafficked NY Jets Fansite on the Planet," in case you were interested.

Turn On The Jets is home to "Ground and Pound Writing."

You can make your own conclusions after checking it out, but if anything JetsTwit has an intriguing sales pitch, if you will - "THE New York Jets Blog covering the players from the social media perspective." It was founded by Erik Manassy (@e_man) and also appears to be tailor-made for Twitter (@JetsTwit).

JetNation, The Jet Press, and Jets Gab are just a few of the other ones out there.

The ESPN AFC East blog is run by James Walker and you can follow him @espn_afceast.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Seattle Seahawks
No. 20: Carolina Panthers
No. 19: New York Jets
No. 18: Wednesday, Aug. 8

Order your 2012 New York Jets Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 New York Jets Season Preview
Related: 2012 New York Jets Schedule Analysis

- By Braden Gall and Mark Ross, published on August 7, 2012

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> New York Jets Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - 04:59
All taxonomy terms: Carolina Panthers, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Carolina Panthers official Twitter account:

@Panthers (Followers: 99,115)

Top Panthers To Follow:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, August 6, 2012

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Jonathan Stewart RB @Jonathanstewart1 64,348
2. Greg Olsen TE @gregolsen82 63,747
3. Cam Newton QB @CameronNewton 54,377
4. Jon Beason LB @jonbeason 52,588
5. Jimmy Clausen QB @JimmyClausen 39,970
6. Louis Murphy WR @murph918 27,375
7. Darius Butler CB @DariusButler27 26,241
8. Ryan Kalil OL @RyanKalil 19,651
9. Joe Adams WR @JoeAdams_3 18,040
10. Brandon LaFell WR @Blafell1 13,942
11. Lee Ziemba OT @Ziemba73 13,297
12. Thomas Davis LB @TD58SDTM 11,911
13. Armanti Edwards WR @ArmantiEdwards 11,799
14. Captain Munnerlyn CB @captain_41 10,388
15. Reggie Smith S @superreg30 10,039
16. Eric Norwood DE @ENorwood40 9,962
17. Frank Alexander DE @frankalex90 8,881
18. Tauren Poole RB @WhoisTPoole 8,844
19. Ryan Van Bergen DE @VanBergen53 8,358
20. Jason Williams LB @Jwill_54 7,267
21. James Anderson LB @50janderson 5,566
22. Charles Johnson DE @randywattson 5,355
23. Sherrod Martin S @SherrodMartin23 4,525
24. Wll Blackwell OL @WillyB60 4,238
25. Kealoha Pilares WR @kealohapilares 4,017

Several of the Panthers' offensive playmakers — wide receiver Steve Smith and running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert — didn't make this list because they either have yet to join the Twittersphere or their account has been inactive for quite a while.

That's not the case for first-round pick Luke Kuechly, however. The linebacker who Carolina took with the ninth overall pick is on Twitter (@Luke_Kuechly), or at least it appears he is. The only problem is he has yet to Tweet, even though he has more than 2,500 followers.

Perhaps Kuechly, not to mention Smith, Williams and Tolbert and the rest of the Panthers should ask for Twitter advice from Sir Purr. That's right, the Panthers' official mascot not only has a Twitter account (@PanthersSirPurr), but he has nearly 5,000 followers. That's defintiely something he can be purr-oud about.

The Panthers Beat:

Joe Person, Panthers beat writer for The Charlotte Observer: @josephperson (8,255)

Darrin Gantt, covers Panthers for Profootballtalk.com: @darringantt (7,558)

Steve Reed, covers the Panthers for the Associated Press: @SteveReed_AP (7,160)

Tom Sorensen, columnist for The Charlotte Observer: @tomsorensen (3,767)

Scott Fowler, columnist for The Charlotte Observer: @scott_fowler (3,728)

Ron Green Jr., helps cover the Panthers for The Charlotte Observer: @RonGreenJr (1,605)

Panthers Blog Roll:

Inside the Panthers is The Charlotte Observer's blog covering the team.

Cat Scratch Reader is SB Nation's Panthers blog.

Carolina Huddle, Cat Crave and Panthers Gab are some others out there.

The ESPN NFC South blog is run by Pat Yasinskas and you can follow him @espn_nfcsouth.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Seattle Seahawks
No. 20: Carolina Panthers
No. 19: Tuesday, Aug. 7

Order your 2012 Carolina Panthers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 Carolina Panthers Season Preview
Related: 2012 Carolina Panthers Schedule Analysis

- By Braden Gall and Mark Ross, published on August 6, 2012

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Carolina Panthers Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Monday, August 6, 2012 - 06:15
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Seattle Seahawks official Twitter account:

@Seahawks (Followers: 92,797)

Top Seahawks To Follow:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, August 3, 2012

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Earl Thomas FS @Earl_Thomas 305,701
2. Michael Robinson FB @RealMikeRob 153,965
3. Braylon Edwards WR @OfficialBraylon 146,164
4. Sidney Rice WR @sidneyrice 92,413
5. Marshawn Lynch RB @MoneyLynch 44,819
6. Golden Tate WR @ShowtimeTate 33,847
7. Russell Wilson QB @DangeRussWilson 28,118
8. Bruce Irvin DE @BIrvin_WVU11 23,544
9. Kam Chancellor SS @Kam_Chancellor 18,452
10. Tarvaris Jackson QB @7tjackson 17,428
11. Leon Washington RB @Leon_Washington 15,778
12. Russell Okung OT @BDR76 14,979
13. Doug Baldwin WR @DougBaldwinJr 10,419
14. Richard Sherman CB @RSherman_25 8,793
15. James Carpenter OT @GotToGetIT75 7,658
16. Zach Miller TE @ZachMiller86 7,642
17. Kris Durham WR @KrisDurham16 7,578
18. David Hawthorne LB @D_Hawthorne57 7,374
19. K.J. Wright LB @KJ_WRIGHT34 7,270
20. Winston Guy SS @WinstonGuyJr21 6,793
21. Brandon Mebane DT @Mebane92 5,747
22. Jon Ryan P @JonRyan9 5,722
23. Ricardo Lockette WR @RicardoLockette 5,677
24. Bobby Wagner LB @Bwagz9_TS 5,165
25. Walter Thurmond CB @WaltThurm3 5,084

As impressive as Earl Thomas' 305,000+ Twitter followers may be, it's good for only first place among his teammates. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) blows away Thomas and the rest of his players as his following currently tops more than 618,000. Who says no one listens to what the head coach has to say or, in this case, Tweet?

And if following the head coach isn't enough for you, you can go straight to the top and follow Seahawks owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) if you want.

The Seahawks Beat:

Danny O'Neil, Seahawks reporter for The Seattle Times: @dannyoneil (12,899)

Seahawks Update is "Your source for news about the Seattle Seahawks": @SeahawksUpdate (5,926)

Liz Mathews, Seahawks reporter on 710 ESPN in Seattle: @Liz_Mathews (4,759)

Eric Williams, covers Seahawks for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash.: @eric_d_williams (3,480)

Curtis Crabtree, Seahawks reporter for Sports Radio KJR: @Curtis_Crabtree (2,679)

John Boyle, sports writer/columnist who covers Seahawks for the Everett Herald: @johnboyle (2,503)

Seahawks Blog Roll:

The Seattle Times' Seahawks blog is where you can find the work of the aforementioned Danny O'Neil.

Seahawks Insider is The News Tribune's 'Hawks blog.

Field Gulls is SB Nation's Seahakws blog, featuring the work of managing editor and lead writer Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls).

Hawk Blogger is the self-proclaimed "#1 Seahawks Blog" and has a decent-sized Twitter following (@hawkblogger) to support said claim.

The cleverly named Dave Krieg's Strike Beard has been "Providing Seahawks Propaganda and History Since 2008."

Seahawks Addicts, 12th Man Rising, and Seahawks Gab are some others out there.

The ESPN NFC West blog is run by Mike Sando and you can follow him @espn_nfcwest.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Seattle Seahawks
No. 20: Mon., Aug. 6

Order your 2012 Seattle Seahawks Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 Seattle Seahawks Season Preview
Related: 2012 Seattle Seahawks Schedule Analysis

- By Braden Gall and Mark Ross, published on August 3, 2012

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Seattle Seahawks Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Friday, August 3, 2012 - 05:09
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Washington Redskins official Twitter account:

@Redskins (Followers: 113,165)

Top Redskins To Follow:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, August 2, 2012

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Robert Griffin III QB @RGIII 277,348
2. Joshua Morgan WR @FeetzMorgan202 103,944
3. Pierre Garcon WR @PierreGarcon 89,476
4. DeAngelo Hall CB @Dhall23 88,869
5. Brian Orakpo LB @rak98 48,412
6. London Fletcher LB @LFletcher59 39,880
7. Ryan Kerrigan LB @RyanKerrigan91 37,840
8. Santana Moss WR @EIGHTTODANINE 28,774
9. Niles Paul WR @Niles_Paul84 23,088
10. Evan Royster RB @Evan_Royster 22,156
11. Kirk Cousins QB @KirkCousins8 21,340
12. Brandon Banks WR @speedybanks16 19,744
13. Terrence Austin WR @Terrence_Austin 19,306
14. Anthony Armstrong WR @MrArmstrong13 18,113
15. Leonard Hankerson WR @HankTime85 16,554
16. Tim Hightower RB @Tim_Hightower 16,178
17. Adam Carriker DE @AdamCarriker94 14,232
18. Jarvis Jenkins DE @Jarvis99jenkins 13,270
19. Reed Doughty S @doughty37 8,426
20. Stephen Bowen DE @stevebo72 7,958
21. Chris Neild NT @TruckNeild 5,801
22. Graham Gano K @GrahamGano 5,043
23. Chris Baker NT @cbaker92redskin 2,600
24. Richard Crawford Jr. CB @Rich_Crawford6 1,538

It's probably no surprise that even though he's yet to take a snap in the NFL, Robert Griffin III is the runaway leader in terms of Twitter followers on the Redskins' roster. What may be a little more surprising, however, is that the team's current No. 2 and 3 on the list are also newcomers — wide receivers Joshua Morgan and Pierre Garcon, both of whom who signed as free agents this offsesason.

In fact, a total of eight wideouts currently on the Skins' roster, along with running backs Evan Royster and Tim Hightower (Roy Helu where are you?) fall among the team's Top 16 Twitterers. No doubt Redskins fans are hoping the offense will be just as explosive this season as their playmakers' Twitter feeds appear to be.

If you wish to relive some of the Redskins' glory years of the past, you can follow Joe Gibbs (@CoachJoeGibbs), Joe Theismann (@Theismann7), Darrell Green (@darrellgreen28), John Riggins (@riggo44) and Brian Mitchell (@BmitchliveCSN). Alas, Albert Haynesworth doesn't appear to have an active Twitter account right now.

The Redskins Beat:

Mark Maske, NFL reporter for The Washington Post, contributor to The Insider blog: @MarkMaske (11,167)

Chris Russell, Redskins Insider for ESPN Radio 980, also can be heard on the Redskins Radio Network: @Russellmania980 (9,009)

Rich Campbell, beat writer for The Washington Times: @Rich_Campbell (7,638)

Mike Jones, beat writer for The Washington Post: @MikeJonesWaPo (6,460)

John Keim, beat writer for the Washington Examiner: @john_keim (6,369)

Barry Svrluga, helps cover Redskins for The Washington Post: @barrysvrluga (4,487)

Redskins Blog Roll:

The Insider (@Insider) is The Washington Post's Redskins blog, featuring the work of beat writers Mike Jones, Mark Maske and Barry Svrluga.

Redskins Watch is The Washington Times' online destination for all you need or want to know about the team.

Redskins Confidential is the Washington Examiner's 'Skins-dedicated online home.

Chris Russell's blog is just one part of ESPN Radio 980's Redskins Portal.

Hogs Haven is SB Nation's Redskins blog.

Real Redskins is "The Original Redskins Blog Since 2004" run by @Rich_Tandler.

The Burgundy Warpath, Riggo's Rag, Redskins Hog Heaven, and Redskins Gab out in cyberspace for your perusal.

The ESPN NFC East blog is run by Dan Graziano and you can follow him @espn_nfceast.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Fri., Aug. 3

Order your 2012 Washington Redskins Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 Washington Redskins Season Preview
Related: 2012 Washington Redskins Schedule Analysis

- By Braden Gall and Mark Ross, published on August 2, 2012

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Washington Redskins Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 2, 2012 - 04:59
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Oakland Raiders, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/oakland-raiders-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Oakland Raiders official Twitter account:

@RAIDERS (Followers: 173,448)

Top Raiders To Follow:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, August 1, 2012

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Terrelle Pryor QB @TerrellePryor 92,950
2. Darren McFadden RB @dmcfadden20 90,474
3. Jacoby Ford WR @JacobyFord12 52,692
4. Matt Leinart QB @MattLeinartQB 43,430
5. Michael Huff FS @Huffy247 34,932
6. Aaron Curry LB @AaronCurry51 33,349
7. Tyvon Branch SS @tyvonbranch 25,669
8. Darrius Heyward-Bey WR @theDHB85 21,026
9. Marcel Reece RB @CelReece45 18,512
10. Taiwan Jones RB @TaiwanJonesNFL 18,144
11. Chimdi Chekwa CB @ChimChek 16,589
12. Mike Mitchell SS @MikeMitchell34 14,722
13. Lamarr Houston DE @solo_dolo_9s 14,216
14. Mike Goodson RB @GoodNplenty33 9,008
15. Bryan McCann DB @bmac929 7,806
16. Nathan Stupar LB @thenastynate54 7,412
17. Joseph Barksdale OT @BazookaJoe72 6,875
18. Jack Crawford DE @Sack_Religious 6,278
19. Juron Criner WR @JbamaCriner82 5,163
20. Miles Burris LB @MilesBurris 4,164

Richard Seymour would have made the list as he has nearly nearly 5,500 followers. However, he has yet to Tweet from @BigSey92. Does anyone else find this strange?

If you want to follow some former Raider greats in the Twitterverse, you can choose from Marcus Allen (@MarcusAllenHOF), Tim Brown (@81TimBrown), Bo Jackson (@BoJackson) or Rich Gannon (@RichGannon12), to name a few.

The Raiders Beat:

Tim Kawakami, Mercury News sports columnist: @timkawakami (24,142)

Paul Gutierrez, Raiders Insider for Comcast SportsNet California, @PGutierrezCSN (10,453)

Steve Corkman, Raiders blogger for Contra Costa Times/Bay Area News Group: @CorkOnTheNFL (10,001)

Vic Tafur, covers Raiders for San Francisco Chronicle: @VicTafur (8,658)

Jason Jones, helps cover Raiders for Sacramento Bee: @mr_jasonjones (5,717)

Eric Gilmore, CBSSports.com Raiders RapidReports correspondent: @CBSSportsNFLOAK (1,395)

Raiders Blog Roll:

Silver And Black Pride is SB Nation's Raiders blog, featuring work by lead writer @LeviDamien.

Comcast SportsNet California has its own Raiders page and Raiders' news feed on Twitter, @CSNRaiders.

Silver & Black is the San Francisco Chronicle's Raiders blog, featuring posts by the aforementioned Vic Tafur.

RaiderFans.net is "The Largest Oakland Raider Fan Community on the Net," and it also has a good-sized following on Twitter (@raiderfans).

RaidersBlog.com is run by Chris Hansen (@RaidersBlog, 5,213), whose work can also be read on Bleacher Report as he is the site's lead AFC West blogger.

Inside the Oakland Raiders, Just Blog Baby, Raiders Gab are some others to check out.

The ESPN AFC West blog is run by Bill Williamson and you can follow him @espn_afcwest.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Thurs., Aug. 2

Order your 2012 Oakland Raiders Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 Oakland Raiders Season Preview
Related: 2012 Oakland Raiders Schedule Analysis

- By Braden Gall and Mark Ross, published on August 1, 2012

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Oakland Raiders Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 04:59
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-top-twitter-accounts-follow
Body:

Keeping up with your favorite team can be an all-consuming task. We’re here to help indulge that need to follow all aspects of the NFL on Twitter.

For all 32 teams, we’re picking the best Twitter accounts for each franchise. They run the gamut from players, coaches, executives, traditional media, bloggers or simply accounts that keep us informed and entertained.

Whether you’re a Twitter neophyte or simply trying to spice up your feed for football season, we’re here to help. And it all starts with the Kansas City Chiefs official Twitter account:

@kcchiefs (Followers: 97,094)

Top Chiefs To Follow:

Note: Followers as of date of publication, July 31, 2012

  Name Pos. Twitter Followers
1. Jamaal Charles RB @jcharles25 967,598
2. Jon Baldwin WR @Jon__Baldwin 288,492
3. Eric Berry S @Stuntman1429 67,593
4. Peyton Hillis RB @thepeytonhillis 49,739
5. Dexter McCluster RB @dextermccluster 45,380
6. Steve Breaston WR @SBreaston15 41,952
7. Brady Quinn QB @BQ9 37,075
8. Kevin Boss TE @KevinBossman 35,397
9. Brandon Flowers CB @BFlowers24 34,474
10. Eric Winston OT @ericwinston 28,924
11. Javier Arenas CB @JavierArenas21 28,183
12. Tamba Hali LB @TambaHali91 24,159
13. Derrick Johnson LB @superdj56 22,790
14. Dwayne Bowe WR @DwayneBowe82 12,807
15. Stanford Routt CB @SRoutt26 10,808
16. Kendrick Lewis S @klewis23 10,680
17. Andy Studebaker LB @studie32 10,227
18. Dontari Poe DT @PoeMans_dream 9,868
19. Tony Moeaki TE @TonyMoeaki81 8,565
20. Branden Albert OG @B_albert76 6,040

If you want the latest Chiefs' news and information, you need to follow @ChiefsPR (8,153 followers) and Chiefs Insider @JoshLooney (16,040).

Mitch Holthus, the Voice of the Chiefs, can be found in the Twitterverse at @mitchholthus (12,298).

To help you get in the spirit for the upcoming season, you can follow the Chiefs' cheerleaders at @ChiefsCheer (4,471).

The Chiefs Beat:

Kent Babb, Columnist for the Kansas City Star: @kentbabb (12,239)

Adam Teicher, Writer for Kansas City Star: @adamteicher (6,402)

Randy Covitz, Writer for Kansas City Star: @randycovitz (1,484)

Chiefs Blog Roll:

Red Zone is the Kansas City Star's Chiefs blog.

Arrowhead Pride is SB Nation's Chiefs blog, which also can be found on Twitter at @ArrowheadPride.

Warpaint Illustrated offers independent coverage of the Chiefs in print, online and via the Out of Bounds podcast. It's Twitter handle, @ChiefsInsider should not be confused with that of @JoshLooney, who is the official Chiefs Insider.

Arrowhead Addict, Chiefs Command, Chiefs Gab, and the appropriately named KC Chiefs Blog are some others to check out.

The ESPN AFC West blog is run by Bill Williamson and you can follow him @espn_afcwest.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Wed., Aug. 1

Order your 2012 Kansas City Chiefs Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 Kansas City Chiefs Season Preview
Related: 2012 Kansas City Chiefs Schedule Analysis

- By Braden Gall and Mark Ross, published on July 31, 2012

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Kansas City Chiefs Top Twitter Accounts To Follow</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 04:59
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-30
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (7/23-7/29):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Carlos Gomez* MIL OF 10 4 10 3 .346 1.264
2. Drew Stubbs* CIN OF 9 3 10 3 .370 1.197
3. Adam Dunn CWS 1B/OF 9 3 8 1 .375 1.256
4. Jose Reyes MIA SS 6 2 5 3 .409 1.344
5. Ike Davis* NYM 1B 6 6 6 0 .276 1.173
6. Anthony Rizzo* CHC 1B 5 3 7 1 .348 1.139
7. Josh Willingham MIN OF 6 4 10 0 .208 1.004
8. Corey Hart MIL 1B/OF 5 2 5 2 .379 1.040
9. Yoenis Cespedes OAK OF 6 1 9 1 .360 1.047
10. Michael Morse WAS 1B/OF 5 3 9 0 .321 1.066
11. Paul Konerko CWS 1B 4 3 7 0 .435 1.310
12. Ryan Braun MIL OF 6 2 5 2 .310 .961
13. Denard Span* MIN OF 8 0 2 2 .458 1.161
14. Shane Victorino PHI OF 6 1 2 3 .400 1.105
15. Adam LaRoche OAK OF 4 2 3 1 .455 1.293
16. Alex Rios CWS OF 6 2 8 1 .250 .894
17. Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 5 2 6 0 .417 1.256
18. Ryan Ludwick* CIN OF 6 2 5 0 .444 1.444
19. Torii Hunter* LAA OF 6 1 3 1 .385 1.029
20. Hanley Ramirez LAD 3B/SS 5 1 8 1 .320 .953
21. Coco Crisp* OAK OF 6 2 5 1 .304 1.056
22. Chase Utley PHI 2B 5 2 5 2 .250 1.073
23. Ben Revere* MIN OF 4 0 5 3 .364 .872
24. Chris Johnson ARI 3B 4 2 4 0 .458 1.394
25. Miguel Montero ARI C 3 2 5 0 .529 1.608

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Opportunity Knocks

The non-waiver trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday and while the majority of the attention is paid to the "name" players who change uniforms, such as Hanley Ramirez going from Miami to the Dodgers or Ichiro Suzuki moving from Seattle to the Yankees, what shouldn't get overlooked is those players who receive more playing time as a result of said moves. For example, while Ramirez has settled in nicely with the Dodgers (.333, 1 HR, 7 RBI in first five games), the beneficiary of the trade on the Marlin is Donovan Solano. The new Marlins' third baseman, the 24-year-old Salano has been somewhat productive (.282, 6 RBI, 4 SB in 71 at-bats) when given the opportunity and now he should get an extended look at third base with Ramirez elsewhere.

In Suzuki's case, the main beneficiary in Seattle appears to be Michael Saunders, who has been moved into the No. 3 spot in the Mariners' lineup. Saunders was already offering valuable production in both the power (10 HR) and speed categories (15 SB), and now should have more opportunities to drive in more runs. Suzuki's absence also presents an opportunity for someone to seize the starting right field job, whether that be Mike Carp, Carlos Peguero or Trayvon Robinson.

A trade isn't the only avenue to increased playing time as an injury could open the door and allow some unknown the opportunity to make a name for themselves. Look no further than Justin Ruggiano. A bench player for the Marlins at the start of the season, Ruggiano made the most of the playing time he got filling in for injured outfielders Emilio Bonifacio, Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton and has since became a mainstay for manager Ozzie Guillen. As a starter, Ruggiano has posted a respectable .350-7-21 line to go along with eight stolen bases in just 33 games so far. With Stanton still on the disabled list and Morrison going back on it late last week and facing the prospect of season-ending knee surgery, it doesn't look like Ruggiano will be returning to the Marlins' bench anytime soon.

Washington recently lost shortstop Ian Desmond to an oblique injury, which resulted in them moving Danny Espniosa over from second base. Steve Lombardozzi was given the first chance at replacing Espinosa at second and so far he has made the most of his opportunity. The versatile Lombardozzi, who has played second, short, third and left field this season, is hitting .292 in July with one home run, 12 RBIs and three stolen bases. His numbers may not blow you away, but any sort of consistent production from a middle infield spot is worth mentioning, especially in deeper leagues. Keep in mind that besides the aforementioned Desmond, other middle infielders currently on the DL include the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Jed Lowrie, Dee Gordon, Erick Aybar and one of this year's fantasy revelations, Trevor Plouffe.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Hiroki Kuroda NYY 22.0 2 18 1.23 0.73
2. Ian Kennedy ARI 22.1 3 23 2.42 0.94
3. Paul Maholm* CHC 22.2 2 16 1.19 0.84
4. Jordan Zimmerman WAS 18.0 2 16 1.00 0.78
5. Mike Minor* ATL 21.0 1 20 1.71 0.71
6. David Price TB 14.0 2 17 0.64 0.86
7. Doug Fister* DET 23.0 2 23 1.96 1.00
8. Jeremy Hellickson TB 18.1 2 11 1.96 0.60
9. Blake Beavan* SEA 20.2 3 14 3.05 0.77
10. Edinson Volquez* SD 16.0 1 13 1.13 0.63
11. Mike Fiers* MIL 19.1 1 17 0.47 1.03
12. Matt Moore TB 19.1 2 16 1.86 0.98
13. Scott Feldman* TEX 15.0 2 10 0.60 0.93
14. Jeff Samardzija* CHC 19.0 1 21 1.42 1.05
15. Homer Bailey* CIN 15.0 1 17 0.60 1.00
16. Max Scherzer DET 14.0 2 17 1.93 1.00
17. Adam Wainwright STL 20.1 1 21 2.21 0.93
18. Joe Blanton* PHI 23.0 1 20 2.74 0.83
19. Wei-Yin Chen* BAL 19.1 2 22 2.79 1.09
20. A.J. Griffin* OAK 12.0 2 15 1.50 1.00

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Mon. - Sun.):

1. Homer Bailey, CIN: San Diego (Tues.)
Has posted five straight starts of 6 2/3 innings or more in which he has given up two earned runs or less in each. Since the All-Star break he has gone 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA, 19 strikeouts and seven walks in three starts (23 IP).

2. Mike Fiers, MIL: Houston (Wed.)
Has been a revelation for Brewers since entering starting rotation in late May. Has posted eight quality starts out of 10 total, including seven in a row. Gave up a total of three earned runs and struck out 26 in 26 2/3 innings in July (four starts).

3. Ben Sheets, ATL: Miami (Wed.)
Has given up one earned run (0.50) and posted three consecutive quality starts (18 IP) since joining Braves' rotation on July 15.

4. Doug Fister, DET: Cleveland (Sat.)
After struggling with injuries in the first half, right-hander has been at his best since the All-Star break. He has posted four consecutive quality starts, going 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA, 31 strikeouts and just five walks during that span. Only loss during this stretch was last Tuesday when he surrendered three runs on nine hits in seven innings in a 3-2 loss at Cleveland.

5. Tommy Milone, OAK: Tampa Bay (Tues.), Toronto (Sun.)
Has gone 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA (6 ER in 59 2/3 IP) in eight home starts. Also gets another shot at Blue Jays, who roughed him up for six runs (5 ER) on eight hits, including two home runs, in seven innings in his last start.

Other Pitchers to Watch

Oakland's A.J. Griffin and Boston's Clay Buchholz are each scheduled for two starts this week. The rookie Griffin (TB, Mon.; TOR, Sat.) has put together six quality starts witn a 2.25 ERA and 0.97 WHIP since joining the starting rotation in late June. Buchholz (DET, Mon.; MIN, Sat.) has posted consecutive solid outings in which he's given up a combined two earned runs in 15 innnings. Everyone will be watching Mets' rookie Matt Harvey on Tuesday in San Francisco after the right-hander set a franchise record with 11 strikeouts in his first major league start last Thursday. Harvey shut out the Diamondbacks on just three hits over 5 1/3 innings, walking just three, and will make his second career start in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. A pair of lefties also have been doing good work lately as Atlanta's Mike Minor (MIA, Thurs.) has given up just six earned runs over his 27 1/3 innings and is coming off of a gem (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) against Philadelphia, while Washington's Ross Detwiler, who had posted a 2.35 ERA in his previous five starts before getting roughed up (4 ER in 4 2/3 IP) by the Brewerst last time out, will look to rebound against those same Phillies, who are hitting just. 232 as a team against southpaws.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.1 0 12 30 0 0.00 0.60
2. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 8 19 0 0.82 0.27
3. Huston Street SD 10.2 1 6 15 0 0.00 0.47
4. Jason Motte STL 10.1 1 7 13 0 0.00 0.68
5. Rafael Soriano NYY 13.1 0 9 17 0 2.03 0.83
6. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.1 1 11 12 0 2.38 1.15
7. Kenley Jansen LAD 13.1 0 8 18 0 0.68 0.98
8. Fernando Rodney TB 12.0 0 8 11 0 0.00 0.83
9. David Phelps* NYY 11.2 1 0 20 0 0.77 0.51
10. Carlos Torres* COL 12.0 1 0 12 0 0.00 0.42
11. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 14.2 0 8 16 0 1.84 1.23
12. Jerry Blevins* OAK 10.0 3 0 12 3 1.80 0.80
13. Alfredo Aceves BOS 15.1 2 4 8 0 1.76 1.11
14. Steve Cishek* MIA 11.1 0 3 11 4 0.00 0.71
15. Kevin Jepsen* LAA 9.1 1 1 9 4 0.00 0.54
16. Ryan Cook* OAK 8.2 2 4 7 0 3.12 0.92
17. Casey Janssen* TOR 9.0 0 4 10 0 1.00 0.67
18. Vinnie Pestano* CLE 13.0 0 0 17 11 0.00 0.77
19. J.J. Putz ARI 8.0 0 5 8 0 0.00 0.88
20. Fernando Salas* STL 12.2 1 0 13 1 0.71 0.79

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 30</p>
Post date: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Olympics
Path: /olympics/5-olympic-sports-united-states-sucks
Body:

Numbers do not lie.  With 2296 cumulative medals in the Summer Olympics, the United States is irrefutably the most dominant participating country in the history of the Olympic Games.  Despite this, there are events in which the U.S. has seen little success.  Here are five events where you'll be certain not to see an American atop the podium.  

 

5.  Weightlifting

From 1904 to 1968, the US won 38 medals in Men’s Olympic Weightlifting, 15 of which were gold.  Despite our initial dominance in the sport, since 1972, we’ve only managed to win 3 medals (none of which were gold).  The reasons for our fall from dominance are varied, most critical of which is a lack of financial incentive for our nation’s most talented athletes.  From the 1970s and until the fall of the Iron Curtain, the medal podium was dominated by the USSR.  However, China has recently emerged to be the major player in Olympic Weightlifting, having taken 8 of 15 possible gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  With only one man, Kendrick Farris, having qualified for the United States, don’t look for our losing streak to end any time soon on the men’s side. 

 

4.  Judo

One of the three different martial arts featured in the Olympic Games, Judo is a combat sport whose ultimate goal is for competitors to take down an opponent and hold them in submission using a myriad of techniques.  Historically, Japan has dominated the sport that they invented around the turn of the 20th century with 65 overall medals, 35 of which are gold.  The United States has a respectable overall medal count at 10, however they’ve never taken home a gold medal in the sport.  With only 5 entrants at the London Olympics, the United States is unlikely to break their winless streak.  Kayla Harrison, the 2010 World Judo Champion at 78 kilograms, represents Team USA’s most promising contender for their first gold medal in this event. 

 

3.  3000m Steeplechase

Kenyan athletes have historically dominated the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase, an obstacle race that has runners clear 28 ordinary barriers and seven water jumps over a 3000m track.  You have to go back to the 1980 Olympics to find a year where Kenya did not produce a Steeplechase champion.  The United States has not won a gold medal in this event since 1952 and has not reached the podium at all since 1984.  Top US qualifier Daniel Huling’s time at last month’s Olympic Trials was 8:29:00, well off the sub-8 minute pace that the top Kenyan competitors have posted in 2012.  In London, expect Kenya to continue its’ domination of this distance event.     

2.  Table Tennis

Table Tennis made its Olympic debut at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and has been dominated by China ever since.  China’s overall medal count stands at 41, 20 of which are gold. South Korea, the next closest nation has won 17 medals, only 3 of which are gold.  The United States has never medaled in Table Tennis and barring a major upset in London, will continue to languish in mediocrity.  To demonstrate our ineptitude in this event, Team USA’s top ranked player, Timothy Wang, is only #408 in the world.  

1.  Men’s Football (Soccer)

The United States’ failure to produce a competitive men’s football squad has been well documented over the years especially as the US Women’s National Team has enjoyed tremendous success ever since the sports’ inception as an Olympic event.  The men’s squad has won 1 silver and 1 bronze medal however; both medals came from the 1904 Olympics where only 3 teams participated in the tournament.  The 108 year medal-less streak will undoubtedly continue in London, as the United States failed to qualify for the 2nd time out of the last 3 tournaments after losses at the hands of El Salvador and Canada.  On the bright side, the women’s squad enters the London Olympics as heavy favorites to take home a 4th gold medal for the United States.  

 

By Eric Chalifour

Teaser:
<p> Hey, we can win them all</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 12:35
All taxonomy terms: Olympics, Olympics
Path: /olympics/weirdest-olympic-sports-all-time
Body:

The 2012 Summer Olympics are just around the corner. Millions of viewers around the world will be glued to their TV sets watching popular events such as basketball, gymnastics and swimming. But there are some sports, historically and today, that have us wondering one thing—WHY?!

Here is a look at some of the weirdest actual events in the history of the modern Olympics.

Live Pigeon Shooting

The 1900 Paris Olympics has the distinction of being the only Olympics where athletes killed animals for sport. Belgium’s Leon Lunden took home the gold with 21 downed birds, with a total of 300 birds being killed during the competition.   

 

Tug-of-War

Remember playing Tug-of-War in elementary school during gym class? In the early days of the modern Olympics, this event was a mainstay of the games, with the Tug-of-War being held at every Olympiad as a track-and-field event between the years 1900 and 1920. The sports’ greatest scandal came in 1908 when the City of London Police Club purportedly wore illegal footwear that was so heavy the men had trouble moving their feet.

The champions were as follows: 1900, a combination Swedish/Danish team; 1904: the Milwaukee Athletic Club, representing Team USA; 1906: Germany/Switzerland; 1908: The London Police Club, representing Great Britain; 1912: Sweden; and 1920: Great Britain.

 

Racewalking (20km and 50km)

It seems ridiculous that racewalking continues to be an Olympic sport while more popular sports like baseball and cricket continue to be snubbed by the Olympic Committee. For the uninformed, Racewalking differs from running in that competitors must maintain contact with the ground at all times with at least one foot. While the event is very technically difficult (competitors are continually judged for proper form and docked if caught using illegal technique), there is nothing exciting about watching a bunch of people walking at a brisk pace. Finally, it doesn’t help that the athletes look like constipated penguins when competing. See for yourself. 

 

Rhythmic Gymnastics

Olympic Committee members, if you’re reading this, please vote to eliminate Rhythmic Gymnastics for 2016. While there’s no denying the technical difficulty and beauty of the competitors’ performances, this activity has no place in today’s Olympic Games. The sport is simply painful to watch and is guaranteed to put viewers at home into a deep coma. Proponents argue that the sport combines elements of modern dance, ballet and artistic gymnastics but that does not prevent the uninitiated viewers from seeing a bunch of girls dancing around with a ribbon and hula-hoop. 

 

Rope Climbing

One of the more unusual events in the history of the modern Olympic movement, Rope Climbing was part of the gymnastics programs in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924 and 1932. Starting in a seated position, competitors raced to the top of a roughly 8-meter rope and were judged on both their time and style. In the 1986 Olympics, 

The sport is enjoying a resurgence in France and the Czech Republic, giving hope for those who wish to see this event return to the Olympic Games. 

 

Dueling Pistols

It is hard to believe that dueling pistols was an actual Olympic event, but it was part of the 1906 Athens Olympics. Despite the name of the event, competitors were forced to fire at mannequins with bulls eyes affixed to their chests. Evidently, the lack of bloodshed made this shooting event unpopular, as it was not renewed in future Olympics.   

 

Solo Synchronized Swimming

Solo Synchronized Swimming was an official Olympic sport between 1984 and 1992. What’s most shocking about this is that it took the IOC three Olympics to realize that the sport is an oxymoron since a person swimming alone cannot be synchronized with someone else. In reality, competitors were judged for their synchronization with the music. Quite frankly, we’re OK if this event never returns from the abyss of retired Olympic sports.    

 

 

—By Eric Chalifour

See more 2012 Olympics coverage.

Teaser:
<p> Examining some of the strangest sports of the games</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 06:01
All taxonomy terms: News, Olympics
Path: /news/11-olympians-who-are-more-famous-something-else
Body:

For these former 11 Olympians, being famous for their athletic efforts at the games just wasn't enough.

Herschel Walker

Everyone remembers the former running back as one of the great sports icons of the 1980s; Walker finished in the top three of the Heisman Trophy voting after all three of his seasons at Georgia, and he won the award in ’82. He was also an accomplished sprinter for the Bulldogs track team. Walker played professionally in the USFL and NFL from ’83 to ’97, but many probably have forgotten about his brief foray into Olympic bobsledding: He was on the U.S. two-man team in ’92, and finished seventh.

 

Princess Anne

The princess competed in the 1976 Olympics on Britain’s equestrian team, where she did not medal, though she did medal in the European Eventing Championships. Obviously, Her Royal Highness is far more famous for representing her country than for her athletic feats.

Bill Bradley

The Princeton basketball star became the youngest member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic basketball team, which won gold. Bradley later went on to a successful NBA career, but became just as (and maybe more) famous as a U.S. Senator from New Jersey from 1979 to 1997 and a Presidential candidate.

 

 

 

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

The Texan won two golds and one silver in the 1932 Games between the javelin, high jump, and 80-meter hurdles. She also dove, roller-skated, bowled, and played baseball and basketball outside the Olympics, but was most famous as a dominant golfer (she won 82 amateur tournaments) and a founding member of the LPGA, where she won 41 events and even played in three PGA men’s events as well. She may be the greatest female athlete of all time.

Larry “Buster” Crabbe 

The Hawaiian swimmer won bronze in the 1500-meter freestyle in 1928, and the gold in the 400-meter freestyle four years later. He later starred in over 100 movies, including roles as Tarzan and Flash Gordon.

Ben Nighthorse Campbell

Campbell immigrated to America at age 6, then competed for his country in judo in the 1964 Olympics, where he was injured and did not medal. A military veteran-turned-politician in the 1980s, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1993, then as a Senator from ’93 to 2005. Campbell switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican side in 1995.

Bruce Jenner

Those of us who grew up in the 1970s know Bruce Jenner as one of the most famous Olympic athletes of his time. Jenner finished third in the decathlon at the 1972 Munich Olympics and won the same event in 1976 in Montreal. He won the Sullivan Award and the AP’s Male Athlete of the Year in ’76 as well. Sadly, later generations know him as the stepfather to Kourtney, Kim and Khloe and father to Kendall and Kylie on the E! reality series, Keeping up with the Kardashians.

 

Bob Mathias

The Californian won the decathlon in 1948 and in ’52, and also took Stanford to the Rose Bowl the latter year. He served his state in the U.S. House of Representatives from ’67 to ’75 as well.

Jim Thorpe

Thorpe was the male counterpart of Babe Didrikson, excelling in just about every sport he ever tried. As far as Olympic sports, that included the decathlon and pentathlon, in which he won gold in both at Stockholm in 1912. Those medals were taken away from Thorpe when it later became known he’d taken money for playing baseball, but he was re-awarded them in 1983. He later played Major League Baseball and also in the NFL, where he was elected to the Hall of Fame. After Thorpe’s death, the Pennsylvania town of Mauch Chunk renamed itself “Jim Thorpe” even though Thorpe had never been there.

Johnny Weismuller

When Weissmuller was nine, he contracted polio, and doctors recommended swimming as therapy. What a suggestion that turned out to be: He won three swimming gold medals in the 1924 Games and then two more in Amsterdam four years later. The handsome Weismuller became a model one year later before Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cast him as Tarzan in the 1932 hit, Tarzan the Ape Man. He would appear in six more Tarzan movies, and later, 13 Jungle Jimfilms while working for Columbia.

Jim Ryun

Ryun won silver at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City in the 1500 meters, four years after becoming the first U.S. high school runner to break four minutes in the mile. From 1996 to 2007, Ryun served his native Kansas at one of its U.S. Representatives.

 

By Chris Lee, VandySports.com (@ChrisLee70)

Teaser:
<p> These athletes made their mark away from the games.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 05:28
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-training-camp-storylines-watch
Body:

NFL training camps are underway as teams have begun their preparations for the upcoming season in earnest. Here are a few storylines to keep an eye as players and teams return to the practice field.

Quarterback Battles
The most wide-open battles for starting quarterback spots are in Arizona, Jacksonville and Miami. Cleveland, Seattle and Tennessee are some other situations that bear watching for different reasons. For the Browns and Titans a decision has to be made on whether to go with the “young” quarterback over the veteran on the roster, whereas the Seahawks appear ready to hold a three-man competition for their starting job.

And then there are the Jets. While Rex Ryan’s team may not be starring on “Hard Knocks” this season, the Jets’ training camp will still attract its fair share of attention, as the media is sure to provide plenty of coverage on the daily Mark Sanchez vs. Tim Tebow “battle.”

Related: 2012 Training Camp: Quarterback Battles to Watch

New Eras Begin in Indianapolis and Washington
There appears to be no quarterback controversy in both Indianapolis and Washington as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are expected to be the starter for their respective teams come Week 1. Expectations are high for the first two picks of this year’s draft as Luck will attempt to the take the place of a future Hall of Famer, while Griffin will be tasked with leading a once-proud franchise back to the Super Bowl.

No one, however, is expecting either of these scenarios to occur in 2012, especially considering Luck is joining a team that was able to take him at No. 1 overall because it went 2-14 in 2011. The starting quarterback isn’t the only thing that’s new in Indy in 2012 either, as owner Jim Irsay brought in a new general manager (Ryan Grigson) and head coach (Chuck Pagano), in addition to overhauling the Colts’ roster during the offseason and through the draft. Now fellow rookies Grigson, Pagano and Luck hope to transform the Colts into a new version of the team that dominated the AFC South from 2002-10.

The situation in Washington is a little different as head coach Mike Shanahan and owner Daniel Snyder want to win now. That’s easier said than done considering the Redskins are in the NFC East, the same division as the defending Super Bowl Giants, not to mention the Cowboys and Eagles. So while no one is expecting the ‘Skins to win the division this season, an improvement on last season’s 5-11 showing must happen. Otherwise, Shanahan may not be around long enough to see if Griffin was worth trading up for in the first place.

Peyton’s New Place
Luck is the starter in Indianapolis because, after 14 seasons, Peyton Manning is no longer there. After cutting ties with the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998, the coveted free agent decided to sign a five-year contract with Denver, much to the delight of both Broncos’ fans and John Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback and team’s executive vice president of football operations.

Elway and the rest of the Broncos’ front office is pinning their hopes of another Super Bowl title on Manning, who last played in an NFL game in January 2011. Manning appears to be healthy after missing all of last season because of multiple neck surgeries, but no one knows for sure until they get a close look at him in action, both in training camp and in preseason games.

Denver head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy are comfortable handing the offense over to Manning, and the team has made multiple moves during the offseason to provide No. 18 with more weapons. However, it will be for naught if the Broncos don’t make the postseason, or worse, if Manning succumbs to injury once again. After all, Manning’s current backup is former Chicago Bear Caleb Hanie, who could end up losing that job this season to second-round pick Brock Osweiler.

Bountygate Hangover?
Without question, no team had a worse offseason than New Orleans. Thankfully, with training camp opening on Tuesday, the team can finally turn its focus to this season. Or at least that’s what they would like to do.

The truth is that the questions about the bounty scandal and the NFL’s punishments stemming from it, won’t go away anytime soon, especially since Saints head coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma are both suspended for the entire season because of it.

General manager Mickey Loomis and interim head coach Joe Vitt, both of whom will be serving multi-game suspensions themselves once the regular season starts, will get the bulk of the questions, but the players will not be immune to the constant queries. One can’t help but wonder how much of a distraction this will be for the Saints during training camp.

At least the Saints do have some good news to talk about as franchise quarterback Drew Brees and the team finally came to agreement on a new five-year contract worth $100 million, including a record $60 million guaranteed. Then again, Brees has already filed an affidavit in support of teammate Vilma’s appeal of his season-long suspension by the NFL.

One way or another, Bountygate isn’t going away anytime soon. This just adds another obstacle for the Saints to overcome as they prepare to defend their NFC South crown against an Atlanta team that won 10 games in 2011 and a Carolina team that should be even better in Cam Newton’s second year.

Dynasty in Philadelphia?
Apparently Michael Vick didn’t learn anything from the mistake made by his former teammate Vince Young, who declared the Eagles a “Dream Team” prior to last season, only to watch them finish a disappointing 8-8 and miss the playoffs. In fact, you could argue Vick went a step further than Young’s bold prediction when he said in a recent interview that he thinks the Eagles could develop into a dynasty.

Before Vick and the rest of the Eagles can even start to mention their team in the same breath as the Steelers from the 1970s or the 49ers from the ‘80s or even the Patriots from the 2000s, they may want to win one Super Bowl, something the franchise has yet to do in its history.

For what it’s worth, the Eagles look to be a legitimate playoff contender in 2012, as the team took a different route to improving its roster this offseason. Unlike the free-agent spending spree that took place in 2011, this time around the Eagles used trades and the draft to further bolster their defense, while signing key offensive playmakers LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson to contract extensions.

So once again the Eagles look the part, at least on paper, to be a contender not only in 2012, but also beyond. But if last season showed the team and everyone else anything, it’s that the games aren’t played on paper. If the Vick and his teammates have any hopes of laying the groundwork for a possible dynasty, it needs to start this season; otherwise head coach Andy Reid may be looking for a new job.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 24, 2012

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Training Camp: Quarterback Battles to Watch
2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who is on the Hot Seat?
Ranking the NFL's Top 10 Head Coaches in 2012
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the NFC's Best Coach?
2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best Coach?

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters

Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks

The 10 Worst NFL Teams Since Expansion

NFL Quarterbacks Rewrote Record Books in 2011

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Dan Marino: An NFL Horror Story

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings


NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

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Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Training Camp Storylines to Watch</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 09:01
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-training-camp-quarterback-battles-watch
Body:

Position battles are always one of the main focuses during training camp and no position garners more attention and scrutiny than quarterback. While the majority of NFL teams are set when it comes to their starter under center, there are several teams that are searching for an answer as training camps get underway.

As it stands right now, the starting jobs in Arizona, Jacksonville and Miami appear to be completely wide open. Cleveland, Seattle and Tennessee are unsettled to different degrees and when it comes to the Jets, let’s just say it’s a made-for-TV storyline that everyone will be watching.

Duel in the Desert
A year ago, Arizona thought that it had found their long-term answer when the team acquired Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia. Not only did the Cardinals send cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to the Eagles for Kolb last July 29, they then signed him to a five-year contract worth more than $62 million.

So far, the returns have been nothing short of disastrous, as Kolb went 3-6 as the Cardinals’ starter last season, completing less than 58 percent of his passes for 1,955 yards and accounting for fewer touchdowns (nine, all passing) than turnovers (11 total). Kolb also had to deal with a foot injury and a concussion that cost him the final month of the season. To make matters worse, backup John Skelton had better numbers (1,913 yards passing, 14 TD, 11 INT) in fewer starts and led the Cardinals to a winning record (5-2) in those games.

The Cadinals’ training camp in Flagstaff, Ariz., got going on Tuesday, so now is the time for Kolb to show head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the rest of the coaching staff, the front office and his teammates that he’s the guy to lead them back to the playoffs, otherwise Skelton may get an extended look and a legitimate shot at the starting job. Sixth-round pick Ryan Lindley out of San Diego State also bears watching.
Prediction: The Cardinals have too much invested in Kolb to not give him another chance. However, I think he will under a short leash and they will turn to Shelton should he struggle once again.

Does Gabbert Get Another Chance in Jacksonville?
In Jacksonville, Blaine Gabbert did little, if anything at all, in his rookie season to show that he has what it takes to be a capable starting quarterback in the NFL. It also doesn’t help that the Jaguars have a new head coach, Mike Mularkey. On the other hand, the regime change presents Gabbert a chance to start over with a new coaching staff, one led by Mularkey, who helped develop Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan during his time as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator.

Whether Gabbert will get the chance to prove his worth come Week 1 remains to be seen, as he will more than likely have to hold off Chad Henne in training camp to remain the Jaguars’ starter. Nathan Enderle and Jordan Palmer are also expected to participate in training camp with the Jaguars.
Prediction: As bad as Gabbert was in 2011, it’s entirely too early to completely give up on him. Jacksonville isn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, so I think Mularkey will give Gabbert another season to show if he’s the long-term answer or not.

Who Starts in Miami?
Just like Jacksonville, Miami also has a new head coach as former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin takes over the Dolphins. The first-year head coach will experience plenty of new things running his first training camp in Davie, Fla., one of those being he won’t see Aaron Rodgers out on the field in a red jersey.

Instead Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman will have to decide if their starting quarterback for Week 1 will be Matt Moore, David Garrard or first-round pick Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M. Moore went 6-6 as the ‘Fins’ primary starter last season, putting up respectable numbers (2,497 yards passing, 16 TD, 9 INT) in the process. Garrard spent nine seasons (2002-09) in Jacksonville, five of those as the starter, before sitting out last season with a back injury. He appears to be fully healthy and some reports label him as the early front-runner for the starting job.

Tannehill appears to be the long shot at this point because the team wants to give the No. 8 overall pick as much time as they can to develop. After all, Tannehill is the first quarterback taken by the Dolphins in the first round of the draft since 1983. That year, Miami selected a certain University of Pittsburgh quarterback at No. 27 overall. That quarterback was named Dan Marino and he worked out pretty well. The Dolphins are hoping history will repeat itself with Tannehill, even if it may take some time to see the finished product on the field.
Prediction: Garrard may reportedly have the early lead, but I think Moore will overtake him in the end and be the Dolphins’ Week 1 starter. Moore, who turns 28 in August, showed last season what he’s capable of and he presents more upside than Garrard, who’s 34. I also don’t think Tannehill gets on the field for a single snap this season. He’s the future and they are going to take their time with him.

Browns Could Turn to “Old” Rookie
Cleveland also used a first-round draft pick on a quarterback, taking Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden at No. 22 overall. Unlike Tannehill, Weeden appears to have a very good shot at starting for the Browns in Week 1, provided he performs better than incumbent starter Colt McCoy in training camp.

Weeden is not your typical NFL rookie, just as he wasn’t a typical college quarterback for the Cowboys. At 28, Weeden became the oldest ever taken in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Browns took him. In fact, Weeden is four years older than McCoy, five years older than Cam Newton, last season’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, and nearly two months older than Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP.

Whether Weeden follows more the path of McCoy or Newton (minus the rushing numbers) in his first season remains to be seen, but it does look like the Browns are willing to put him out on the field early, perhaps starting in Week 1, to find out.
Prediction: You don’t draft a 28-year-old rookie quarterback and not find out if he can play in the NFL, right? I think Weeden gets the call in Week 1 and it will be up to him if he keeps the job or not.

Three-Way Battle in Seattle
Prior to the draft in April, it looked like Seattle settled its quarterback situation when it signed free agent Matt Flynn in March. The Seahawks signed Flynn, who served as Rodgers’ backup in Green Bay, to a three-year deal worth $26 million with $10 million guaranteed.

One thing Flynn’s new contract doesn’t seem to guarantee, however, is the Seahawks’ starting job as early indications are that head coach Pete Carroll will give Flynn, incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson and third-round pick Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin equal snaps with the first-team offense.

Jackson went 7-7 as the Seahawks’ starter in 2011 and has 34 career starts under his belt, compared to a grand total of two for Flynn. Then again Flynn threw for 518 yards and six touchdowns in his lone start last season, and you don’t sign someone to a contract like this to be the backup, do you?

And what about Wilson? Could the highly polished and accomplished college quarterback who slid down everyone’s draft board in April because of his size (5-11) prove everyone wrong by wresting the starting job from the two veterans? Whoever ends up under center come Week 1, it should make for an interesting couple of weeks at Seahawks’ camp in Renton, Wash.
Prediction: Jackson has had his chances as a starting quarterback for two different teams. And while his record (17-17) as a starter for both the Vikings and the Seahawks is respectable, I think there’s a reason the team committed three years and all that money to Flynn. Besides, Seattle’s already gone down this road with another Green Bay backup quarterback once before and that worked out pretty well for the team.

The Future is now in Tennessee?
Tennessee Titans training camp in Nashville also bears watching because it’s possible that Jake Locker, the team’s first-round pick (No. 8 overall) in 2010, could unseat veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job. Hasselbeck put together his best season since 2007 as he nearly led the Titans to the playoffs in his first season not in a Seattle uniform.

However, Locker showed signs of what he’s capable of in the five games he played in last season. In fact, the rookie fared so well that Titans’ head coach Mike Munchak has already declared that there will be an open quarterback competition for the starting job in training camp, which starts up on Friday for the veterans.

Early indications are that Locker will have to clearly out-perform Hasselbeck in order to wrest the Week 1 starting job away from the 13-year veteran. Whether that happens or not, it does look like the 36-year-old Hasselbeck will be turning the reins over sooner rather than later to the 24-year-old Locker.
Prediction: Locker is the future in Tennessee, but I don’t see that starting in Week 1. I think Hasselbeck holds off the rookie to start the season, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Locker take over by the end of October or early November.

The “Battle” Everyone Will Be Watching
Age is certainly not the issue as far as the Jets’ starting quarterback situation goes. Mark Sanchez is a little more than a year older than Tim Tebow, but head coach Rex Ryan has already made it clear that Sanchez is the starter and Tebow is the backup.

Of course that means little to the media throng that will descend upon Jets’ training camp when the two report on Thursday. After all that’s what happens when you play in the media capital of the world and the team shows it faith in its incumbent starter by trading for a guy who attracts more attention than anyone and fared better as a starter last season.

For all the criticism regarding his abilities as a passer, Tebow had a better record (7-4) as a starter than Sanchez (8-8) last season, and that doesn’t include his win over Pittsburgh in the first round of the AFC Playoffs. Sanchez actually had his best season in terms of statistics in 2011, but all that production (3,474 yards passing, 26 TD) didn’t carry the Jets to the playoffs.

And in New York, which also is home to the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, winning and playing in the postseason is what truly matters. So while Sanchez may be the clear-cut starter, Tebow will see his share of snaps under center too.

The pressure is on Ryan and the Jets to get back to the playoffs this season. Sanchez may be the starter, but if Tebow and the team produce better results when he’s under center, Ryan may have no choice but to make the switch.

So while Sanchez’ status as the Jets’ starting quarterback is clear in July and August, come September his job security will come down to what he does with the football when it’s in his hands.
Prediction: Despite his best efforts, the quarterback situation is persistent distraction throughout the season for Ryan and the rest of the team. Sanchez’ poor play at the start of the season leads to a near 50-50 split on snaps come October. Sanchez requests a trade at season’s end, if not sooner, and the Jets end up drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, meaning we get to revisit this again next season.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 24, 2012

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2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers


AFC South
Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings


NFC South
Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Training Camp: Quarterback Battles to Watch</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-biggest-changes-2012-season
Body:

Simply put, college football fans may never again witness the pure volume and amplitude of changes which will take place as the 2012 season unravels itself. Below is a list of the top-ten changes, in ascending order of significance (defined by national impact and/or the precedent for the listed change):

10. New Coordinator Sets at Auburn and Iowa
Auburn followed up its 2010 National Championship season with a less-than-stellar 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record. Gus Malzahn dropped the reins of the Tigers’ offense to become head coach at Arkansas State. Meanwhile, Ted Roof left Auburn’s defense to take over at Penn State (following a one-month stay at UCF). Gene Chizik hired Temple’s Scott Loeffler to lead the offense. Taking what the defense offers, Loeffler expects to establish the run but that task will not be easy with a giant question mark at quarterback. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder came over from the Atlanta Falcons and was well received this spring. One of the nation’s top set of bookends (Nosa Eguae and Corey Lemonier) will help him develop pressure but anchoring against the run will be an important goal to cement this season.  Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz never lost a coordinator in his 13 years at Iowa – until this past offseason, when he lost both. This year, Greg Davis takes over the offense while Phil Parker will lead the Hawkeyes’ defense. Parker coached Iowa’s defensive backs during all of Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa so, to say the least, he is familiar with the old system which should reduce that unit’s learning curve. Davis spent the last 13 years leading the Texas offense, which begs a focus on whether Iowa can control the line of scrimmage in this season’s running game.           

9. Mike Stoops Joins His Brother – Brent Venables Leaves for Clemson 
The venerable Venables was a fixture on Bob Stoops’ defensive staff for the past 13 years during which time many fans wondered how he would fare with another school. It was not under ideal circumstances but Venables gets the chance to hold his own reins and start anew this season With Mike Stoops’ dismissal as head coach of Arizona, his brother, Bob, sought a staff reunion which brought Mike to Norman as a supposed co-defensive coordinator with Venables. The situation was not comfortable for any of the men involved and a disastrous Orange Bowl performance by Clemson against West Virginia opened the door for Venables to take over Tigers’ stop-unit. The changes injected new blood and enthusiasm into both programs. Mike set out to simplify the Sooners’ defensive scheme while Venables set out to instill toughness in his athletic Clemson personnel.

8. The State of Arizona Starts Over
As stated above, Mike Stoops was dismissed from Arizona last season, and the Wildcats find themselves under the leadership of Rich Rodriguez. Unlike Rich Rod’s last transition (where he pounded the square-peg of a read-option spread scheme into the round-hole of plodding pro-style personnel with no prior spread knowledge or experience), he now inherits a program that has a basic understanding of spread concepts and a quarterback in Matt Scott who has the tools to make the offense run. A focus on passing this spring paid surprising dividends for Scott and the offense, though things may change as he becomes a live target this fall. Meanwhile, in Tempe, Pitt’s former head coach sprinted his way into the Arizona State teamhouse this offseason. Graham’s tenure at Tulsa proved he can squeeze production out of his brand of the spread and that the system is capable of producing on the ground as well as the air. The Sun Devils came out of spring camp without a named starter under center though some insiders feel there is a “slight edge” to Mike Bercovici (Brock Osweiler’s backup last season).

7. Arkansas Picks Up Bobby Petrino’s Pieces
Arkansas fans may have wished the news out of campus was a mere April Fool’s joke but, alas, it was not. Bobby Petrino wrecked his motorcycle with 25-year old Jessica Dorrell on board. As word of his affair with the engaged Dorrell continued to leak, and the extent of Petrino’s attempt to cover-up the affair and incident became clear, Arkansas became the last school to require a new head coach for the 2012 season. Former Razorback assistant coach John L. Smith was brought in to assure continuity and stem the bleeding. Many eyes will be on Arkansas this fall to see whether the hire is simply a band-aid or if Smith can lead the talented ‘Hogs to success in the nation’s toughest division (the SEC West).

6. 28 New Head Coaches
There are 124 teams in the FBS, so nearly a quarter of them are subject to new skippers this season. No fewer than 14 of the programs with new head coaches are from BCS conference-affiliated schools and they include four of the more storied programs in the country (Ohio State, Penn State, UCLA and Texas A&M). Florida Atlantic turns to Carl Pelini to take over for Howard Schnellenberger, who hung up his sport coat after 52 years of coaching.

5. Rule Changes
Safety, safety, safety. Stopping shy of installing Velcro flags on waists, the NCAA has made several rule changes with a nod towards reducing the incidences of players placing themselves in the game’s most unsafe positions. Having resolved that more injuries occur during kickoff returns than any other play, the NCAA implemented three rules designed to reduce their frequency. First, teams will kick off from the 35-yard line (instead of the 30). Second, no player can line up further than five (5) yards behind the line of scrimmage prior to the kickoff so that running starts by coverage personnel will be shortened. Perhaps the most impactful rule-change, though, is a “carrot” rather than a “stick.” From now on, touchbacks from kickoffs will result in drives beginning at the 25-yard line instead of the traditional 20-yard line. We all know that concussions have become a ‘hot topic,’ so two new rules have been implemented to seek their reduction. Any player who loses his helmet during a play (except due to an opponent’s facemask violation) will be required to leave the field for one play. Moreover, a player who loses his helmet during a play must quit the play rather than continue without the helmet. The final change to be highlighted here is that, seeking to reduce the incidences of players flipping over onto their heads, players may no longer leap over blockers in an attempt to block a punt.

4. Playing Without Historic Players Under Center
At the end of last season, the NCAA lost the most prolific career passer in its history (Houston’s Case Keenum [19,217 yards, 155 TD’s]), its winningest quarterback (Boise State’s Kellen Moore [50-3]), its most efficient single-season passer (Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson) and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner (Baylor’s Robert Griffin III). Yet, none of those players were the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft (Stanford’s Andrew Luck) and, potentially, next year’s most productive NFL rookie signal caller could be Oklahoma State’s former starter, 28-year old Brandon Weeden. These programs don’t simply have an opening to fill in their roster – they have gaping craters. So, too, do Michigan State (replacing Kirk Cousins), Arizona State (Brock Osweiler) and Texas A&M (Ryan Tannehill). The staffs at each of these schools have their work cut out for them in 2012.

3. West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12
With the loss of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC (see below), last year’s ten-team Big 12 dropped to eight members. West Virginia committed to join the Big 12 and the Big East sued. Twenty million dollars later, the Mountaineers freed themselves from their former conference and joined the Big 12. TCU joined WVU as a new Big 12 member having never set foot in the Big East which they had formerly committed to join. The change was seamless as West Virginia took over Missouri’s conference schedule and the Horned Frogs took over A&M’s. TCU brings its historically elite defense to the land of the spread offense, while WVU quarterback Geno Smith has found the luster added by the increased schedule-difficulty in the Big 12 has enhanced his presence in preseason Heisman Trophy discussions.

2.  Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC
Winners of the last six national championships, the SEC’s expansion was a matter of ‘want-to’ rather than ‘need-to.’ Perhaps with an eye towards a national move towards ‘super-conferences,’ the SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M to bring the conference to 14 members. Missouri will compete in the Eastern Division and, given the volume of players returning to the Tigers from its 2011 edition (along with the nation’s top recruit at receiver [Dorial Green-Beckham]), it should compete from the start. A&M opens up Texas to the SEC market and brings 350,000 alumni to the fan base but many question marks exist given the brand-new staff (Houston’s Kevin Sumlin took over this spring) and loss of last year’s quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

1. New Beginnings in Happy Valley
As he continued to stamp his own renewals, the nation wondered whether Joe Paterno’s tenure at Penn State might end poorly but nobody could have imagined the carnage of the few weeks which ultimately ended his 46th year at the helm of the Nittany Lions. Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on the strength of accusations from several men that Sandusky sexually abused them when they were young boys and the story suggested knowledge of at least one incident reached the Penn State football offices without meriting a substantial response. When the nightmarish smoke cleared, Joe Pa was fired and all but two of his coaches were let go while the fallout also claimed the jobs of the school’s President and Athletic Director. Rising from the wreckage was the refreshing leadership of former New England Patriot offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, who assembled a competent and hungry staff. The nation’s eyes will be on Happy Valley this fall and it is wise to remember that: a) the players had nothing to do with the Sandusky debacle; and, b) the magnitude of change to be experienced by the Nittany Lion faithful is unprecedented. Well over two generations of fans witnessed the late-Joe Paterno lead Penn State from the sidelines. Today’s world demands immediate satisfaction with such intensity it is safe to say that no other school will ever lay claim to such a feat.

 

Brock Murphy is a freelance college football writer and analyst and can be reached at bgmurphy91@yahoo.com

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Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

Who Will Be the First College Football Coach Fired in 2012?

College Football's Top 10 Impact Transfers for 2012

Ranking All 124 College Football Teams for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College Football's 10 Biggest Changes For the 2012 Season</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 04:55
Path: /olympics/michael-phelps-ryan-lochte-rivalry-comes-london
Body:

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are two of the most decorated, dominant swimmers in U.S. history. Rivals in the pool and friends out of it, they’re poised to take their personal rivalry to London for the 2012 Olympic Games, where they’ll showcase it with the world watching.

Phelps will arrive in London looking to add to his record haul of 14 gold medals and cap off a career that has already established him as arguably the greatest Olympian in history. Four years ago, he took Beijing by storm, winning eight gold medals and providing some of the Games’ indelible images. Phelps’ gold medal total surpassed fellow swimmer Mark Spitz’s seven at the 1972 Games as the American standard, leaving even Spitz in awe of this pool prodigy.

“Epic,” said Spitz of Phelps’ performance. “It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.”

Phelps remains a threat for gold even in the twilight of his career, says rival and fellow gold medalist Ian Thorpe.

“I believe Michael is the very strong favorite to win three gold medals in London, and is a 50-50 contender to win another three,” Thorpe told the UK website Sportsvibe. “In my mind winning multiple golds in London would be just as impressive as winning eight in Beijing. Of course what he achieved in China was phenomenal. There’s no way I’ll ever see that again in my lifetime.”

If anyone can threaten Phelps for current swimming supremacy, it’s Lochte, who won five titles at last year’s world championships to Phelps’ four before out-swimming his rival at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. “If we look at the results, just the numbers, Lochte looks better,” Thorpe said.

Lochte is also outpacing his countryman on the hype meter heading to London after Phelps mania reached its peak four years ago. But together, they comprise a TV ad exec’s dream pairing.

And even if Lochte dethrones Phelps as king of the pool in the minds of Americans, Thorpe says that Phelps’ place in history is secure.

“To keep on doing it, Games after Games, is what makes Michael so special,” Thorpe said. “The man has dominated world swimming for a decade now. How can he still have such desire when he’s accomplished everything there is to in sport?

“He’s the greatest swimmer in history.”

Teaser:
<p> USA swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte highlight the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 04:51

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