Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /fantasy/if-fantasy-football-advice-were-honest
Body:

It’s only Week 3 of the fantasy football season and there have already been a ton of huge injuries and potential busts. Yet every Sunday morning when you check in before kickoff, all you get from your fantasy site is a bunch of bland match-up projections and quotes from that player’s local paper. Forget that. Your site should tell the truth about your highly drafted players. Here’s what we think it would look like if you got honest evaluations on your best players.

1. Chris Johnson

Honest Fantasy Advice: "Smart move drafting a guy who just inked a huge contract extension. That 2,000 yard season is still in play as long as there are 2,000 games left on this year's Titans schedule.


2. Arian Foster
 



Honest Fantasy Advice: "Was he coming off a flukey year? Check. Did he battle lingering hamstring issues all pre-season? Check. Are you a moron for taking him first overall and expecting him to replicate last season? Check."

 

3. Aaron Hernandez

Honest Fantasy Advice: "Remember when you were like, 'Should I take Gronkowski or Hernandez?' during your draft? Well, you chose wrong.


4. Peyton Hillis

Honest Fantasy Advice: "The Madden Curse strikes again. Also, the Curse of the Running Back Who Needs 37 Carries to Get 100 Yards strikes again."


5. Peyton Manning

Honest Fantasy Advice: "You really impressed yourself on draft day, huh? 'Look at me, I'm getting a top five quarterback in the 9th round! He'll never miss a start!' Now you're alternating between Tarvaris Jackson and Alex Smith while waiting on Terrelle Pryor's eligibility.


6. Michael Vick

Honest Fantasy Advice: We totally get why you'd take him so high. Nothing's more exciting than figuring out when Vick will take off next on a wild scramble and which type of injury it will result in.


7. Jamaal Charles

Honest Fantasy Advice: "Sure hope that league entry fee wasn't over 50 bucks.


8. Frank Gore

Honest Fantasy Advice: So far, so good. We'll just leave this here for now so it's ready for you when you need it: Gore will be sidelined for 2 to 4 weeks with inflammation in his knee.


9. Dez Bryant

Honest Fantasy Advice: He's unstoppable when he's on the field. No other wide receiver in the league possesses his rare combination of size, speed and injuries.


10. Marshawn Lynch

Honest Fantasy Football Advice: "Come on, dude, he plays for the Seahawks."


--By Saul Hutson

Teaser:
<p> Don't you wish fantasy football sites would just tell it like it is?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 09:07
All taxonomy terms: All My Children, Antonio Cromartie, News
Path: /news/all-my-children-ends-and-antonio-cromartie-relates-video
Body:

The long-running soap opera "All My Children" came to an end after 40 years of being on the air. Which reminded us of this classic video of the New York Jets Antonio Cromartie trying to remember all his children. 

I know nothing about this over-the-top soap, other than it was probably poorly written and overly dramatized up until the very end. It was sappy drama for people who had nothing to do during the day. Which is fine, because football is sappy drama (if you don't think football can be sappy, check out the Super Bowl pre-game show) for guys who have nothing to do on Sundays.

It's clear that these two things have nothing to do with each other, but does anyone need a reason to watch this video? Have a happy Friday.

Teaser:
<p> Naming all your children is harder than putting on a TV show for 40 years, apparently.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 17:20
Path: /fantasy/why-ryan-fitzpatrick-fantasy-football-must-play-weekend
Body:

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a fantasy star. Who would've expected to read that after two weeks of football? (Not me. And if you say you did, you're either a liar, or the biggest Buffalo Bills homer in the universe.) (Or you're Ryan's mom.)

But this is where we are. The Harvard grad who all the pundits love seems to be the real deal--for now, anyway.

And while I am not coming out and saying that Fitzpatrick will rival Tom Brady in 2011. But for this one week, he is a top-3 fantasy football quarterback. Here's why:

First, let's make it clear that both Tom Brady and Drew Brees are ranked ahead of Fitz. Brady is a monster who you should never sit ever. Even if he's in a coma, you should still consider starting him.

And this week Drew Brees is a must-start in what looks to be a shootout against Houston. Brees should be the second-ranked quarterback in week 3.

But guess who's next: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Before you think this is fantasy insanity, let's look at his situation and dive into the numbers.

What's the best situation a fantasy football quarterback can be in? In an ideal world, he's a good QB on a bad team, with just enough of a running game to not take away from his numbers, but just enough to keep the defense honest--who also happens to be playing a team with a great offense and a porous defense. And that's what you have with Ryan Fitzpatrick in week 3.

So far this season, the Pats have given up to 416 yards to the lowly Chad Henne of the Dolphins, and 378 yards in the air to the Chargers Philip Rivers. Those are numbers that even a Harvard Elementary grad would be able to surmise as "bad."

 The Pats and Brady will be putting up numbers at will against the Bills defense, which means Fitzpatrick will be throwing all day long against a suspect Pats D.

Fred Davis proved last week that he still has a little left in the tank, which means the Pats won't be able to just defend the pass, leaving Fitzpatrick with a chance to do some damage.

Could it get any better from a fantasy perspective? The only negatives are that Stevie Johnson has a bum groin and Roscoe Parrish is out for the season. But Fitzpatrick's repore with David Nelson gives me confidence that the offense won't miss a beat.

I have him ranked ahead of these fantasy stalwarts with the reason in parenthesis:

Aaron Rodgers (The Packers-Bears game is one of those rivalries that is too hard to predict)
Philip Rivers (The Chargers will be ahead fromt he getgo, and will go run-heavy in the second half)
Matthew Stafford (He'll have a good game, but not as good as Fitzpatrick)
Cam Newton (One Sunday he won't throw for 400 yards, right? Right?)
Matt Schaub (Another solid play, but emergence of Ben Tate will eat into his numbers)
Michael Vick and Tony Romo (Injuries too much of a concern to play them this week)

Ryan Fitzpatrick Very Optimistic Prediction for Week 3: 355 Yards Passing, 3 Touchdowns, 1 INT (Hey, I said I was optimistic.)

Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

--By Pete Thomas

Teaser:
<p> There are only two quarterbacks who are ahead of him in Week 3.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 16:23
Path: /college-football/conference-realignment-history-lesson
Body:

This article on college football realignment originally appeared in our 1998 college football annual. As the college football landscape continues to go through realignment and the whispers of superconferences are still heard (despite the PAC-12's decision to not expand right now), we can learn about the current state of college football by looking back at its history.

The Future of College Football

--by Tony Barnhart

As we peek over the horizon toward the 1998 football season, college football is not unlike the California coast. It is beautiful. It is calm. It is peaceful. All is well.

But just when we’ve finally become comfortable with the fact that it’s okay for the Big Ten to have 11 teams, or that, logistically, it’s easier for Miami to play a home-and-home with Cuba than with any of their comrades in the Big East, there are sign that yet another significant shift is on the way. It is no longer a question of if, but of when this monumental change to the layout of college football’s landscape will take place.

“I’ve said for a while now that I think there will be another reorganization among conferences but when it will is anyone’s guess,” says SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, who is also the boss of the College Bowl Alliance. “My sense is that people are just biding their time, trying to get prepared to make a move when things start happening.”

If the conferences learned only one thing in the last mad scramble of the early ’90, it is this: You snooze, you lose.

Driving the Business

From this core philosophy there have emerged two undeniable truths which have driven the business of college football in the 1990s:

• There are a finite number of television dollars out there and, like it or not, the majority of them will go to those conferences that can deliver the largest number of viewers on any given Saturday. So when your competition for those dollars-i.e., another conference-expands to strengthen those numbers, you stand pat at your own peril.

• Conferences expand not only to improve television number, but also to increase their power base. That power can be used to impact NCAA legislation pertaining not only to football, but to other sports and even the ultimate structure of college athletics. It’s the athletic equivalent of the Cold War as conferences feel they must continually build up their arsenals to assure their survival.

“Sometimes expansion makes more sense politically than it does economically,” says Jim Delaney, Commissioner of the Big Ten. “You have to be aware of those things and take the appropriate action.”

No one knows exactly when the next round of athletic arms buildups will occur. But rest assured, the conferences will be ready to jump into action at the first rumble.

“My wish is that the structure of college football could remain stable a while longer,” says Mike Tranghese, the Commissioner of the imperiled Big East.

“But I’m not naïve enough to believe that it will. There are some powerful forces at work here.”

To understand what is about to transpire, it is beneficial to go back to December 1989, when the entire landscape of college football was changed forever with only one move.

The Big Ten, for so long the big boy on the block when it came to TV, took a bold step by extending an invitation to Penn State, second only to Notre Dame as a successful football Independent. Penn State accepted, and six months later it became official. The Big Ten had added an 11th member in a development that would make the rest of college football world sit up and take notice.

Suddenly, the Big Ten not only had the large Midwestern television markets of Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, but it could also now deliver eastern markets like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Penn State would not begin Big Ten play until the 1993 season, but the reaction to the move was immediate and ramifications could be felt from coast to coast.

“That was the first domino to fall,” says Kramer. “There was no stopping what was about to happen next.”

First Wave

The other major players in college football, afraid that the Big Ten had now become too powerful, quickly scrambled to improve their own positions:

• Penn State’s decision to seek the shelter of a conference was a sobering signal to a number of Eastern Independents. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers, Temple, Virginia Tech, and Boston College all banded together-and convinced Miami to join them-to form the Big East. They couldn’t play a conference schedule in 1991, but Miami won the championship because it had the highest national ranking.

• By 1992, the SEC had added two teams (South Carolina and Arkansas) to form the first 12-team league that would be split in two divisions. Then, to the derision of many skeptics, the SEC launched the idea of a conference championship game. Those skeptics quickly changed their turn upon learning that the conference championship game generated an extra $4.5 million each year for the SEC.

• That same year, the ACC, over the protests from the traditionalists in its ranks, added Florida State and immediately improved its television clout.

That was the first wave of change. Then came another watershed event in February of 1994. The CFA television package with ABC and ESPN, which included all the major conferences except the Big Ten and Pac-10, fell apart when the SEC bolted and signed its own five-year $125 million deal that would begin in 1996.

After that, it became every man for himself as the conferences scrambled for their share of the pie.

Second Wave

• The Southwest Conference, which was formed in 1914, had to face reality. With eight schools all in the same state, it just didn’t have the muscle to compete in this brave new world. So its four most powerful members (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor) joined the Big Eight to form the Big 12.

• Three other SWC members (SMU, Rice, TCU) joined the WAC, which took the expansion idea to another level. Along with the three SWC teams, it added Independent Tulsa and Big West defectors San Jose State and Nevada-Las Vegas.

Beginning in 1996, the WAC was a 16-team league which covered nine states and four time zones.

Since all this shuffling, each of the conferences has cut its own television deals. The conferences banded together to form the Bowl Coalition, which begat the Bowl Alliance, which this season begat the Super Alliance.

For the first time this season, all the major conferences will work together in the postseason to put together a 1 vs. 2 game for the national championship. Each season, it seems, both the product and process become more refined.

What Happens Next?

Conference commissioners and others directly involved in the college football business are reluctant to discuss their issue in great detail. They don’t want to tip their hands on what their potential moves might be once the changes begin. But here, based on a number of interviews with the movers and shakers of college football, is a reasonably clear picture of what the next set of major shakeups in the sport will probably be.

On this point they all agree: The first move will again be made by the Big Ten.

When Penn State became the 11th member back in 1993, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before the Big Ten added a 12th school and, like the SEC and Big 12, went to divisional play and a lucrative conference championship game.

And there is no secret about which school the Big Ten would like to tap as its 12th member. It is, of course, the mother lode of college football properties: The University of Notre Dame.

Conventional wisdom says that Notre Dame will never give up its Independent status as long as it has the lucrative and exclusive television contact with NBC. Chances are that will remain true. While the other Independents were finding safe shelter among the conferences, Notre Dame still has the clout to do it alone.

A key here: In order to remain an Independent, Notre Dame has to eventually come to some understanding with the Bowl Alliance so that in the down years, the Irish don’t get stuck in the Independence Bowl, as they did in 1997. A few more trips to Shreveport and Notre Dame will run screaming into the arms of the Big Ten. The bet here is that ND and the bowls get things worked out and the Irish remain independent.

After taking its best shot at Notre Dame, the Big Ten will return to the strategy which originally brought Penn State into the fold, that of adding to its impressive lineup of powerful television markets. Can you say New York? Can you say Syracuse University? Yes, I thought you could.

In public, the folks at Syracuse will tell you they feel just dandy about being in the Big East. But in their heart of hearts, they know that if the Big Ten calls, they must listen. This Big East, with the competitive demise of Miami and with waning interest among the bowls, has at best a shaky football future.

Even Tranghese, whose job it is to hold the Big East together, has told Syracuse that it must listen to the Big Ten because he can’t guarantee what the future will bring.

So friends, mark it down. Syracuse will jump to the Big Ten and since there’s already a Big 12, what they will call this conference is anybody’s guess.

Oh, by the way. After Syracuse jumps, all hell is going to break loose.

“You hope nothing drastic happens but you can’t live with your head in the sand either.” Says Tom Mickle, the associate commissioner of the ACC. “You have to have some idea of your next move if things start happening.”

New Wave

There are some disagreements on a few points, but roughly, this will be the sequence of events once Syracuse jumps to the Big Ten:

• The Big East will be out of the football business and Trandhese will begin to scramble, looking for homes for its football-playing members. Some of those schools will find a new home in the ACC.

• The ACC will have another major philosophical battle over expansion. The traditionalists will argue that the ACC doesn’t have to follow the pack, that they can go at it alone with nine members. They will argue that it will only hurt the conferences if it had to further divide the league’s most precious commodity-tickets to the ACC Basketball Tournament.

But the ACC has had significant turnover among its athletic directors since the discussions of 1991, further weakening the power of the traditionalist. The pragmatists will rule the day, and the ACC will bring in three Big East refugees: Miami, Boston College, and Rutgers.

Miami is a no-brainer. Academically, it is in tune with the other ACC members and all indications are that under Butch Davis, the football program is cleaning up its act. It would also give the ACC two of Florida’s big three school and anchors on both ends of the state.

The ACC will pass on Virginia Tech and West Virginia, schools with greater geographical proximity to current members, in favor of strengthening its position in the larger eastern television markets. The Boston and New York markets are too rich to pass up.

• Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh will begrudgingly accept invitations to Conference USA. The remaining Big East member, Temple, should recognize this turmoil as its cue to get out of the football business.

• The Pac-10, never wanting to be outdone by the Big Ten, becomes hot to trot for expansion. It will make another run at Texas and Texas A&M, which it did unsuccessfully several years ago. But once again, the Texas state legislature will remind the schools that it controls the purse strings, and that no Texas team is going to be a member of a left-coast conference.

When that effort fails, the Pac-10 will reach out and finally touch Colorado, which has long wanted to be a member, because the Buffs practically live in California when it comes time to recruit. Plus, the lifestyle and attitude of Boulder is more akin to Seattle and Los Angeles than Lincoln, Neb. And Manhattan, Kan.

For its 12th team, the Pac-10 will look around the West for another school that plays strong football. Bringham Young, which to its considerable anger got left out of the Alliance bowls with a 13-1 record in 1996, will make the jump.

• With Colorado gone, the Big 12 will think long and hard about a replacement and will finally invite Southern Methodist. SMU, which went to the WAS when the Southwest Conference folded, is on the way back in football under second-year coach Mike Cavan. The school is about to build a new, on-campus football facility, and Cavan has been given the financial commitment by the administration to make the Mustangs competitive once more. The Dallas market is one the Big 12 cannot ignore.

• The SEC will stand pat with its 12 teams and high television revenue, unless Arkansas uses this opportunity to get out. The Razorbacks left the Southwest Conference just before it folded and financially, has benefitted enormously from being in the SEC. Competitively, however, the Hogs have struggled in football. They won an SEC West title in 1995, but other than that, it’s been a tough road. Arkansas football is struggling. Back in the days when it was winning Southwest Conference championships, the state of Texas was its most fertile recruiting ground. One of the keys to recruiting Texas is going into that state and winning, which it did. When Arkansas stopped playing in Texas, it stopped getting players from that talent-rich state.

Word from inside Arkansas and inside the SEC is that Arkansas will never leave its current home as long as Frank Broyles is the athletic director. Last year the SEC divided over $58 billion in revenues among its 12 members. The bounty would not be as great in the Big 12.

• The WAC, which turned into an unwieldy 16-team league in the previous round of expansion, will lose three members in the next round, and add a school from the Big West (we guess Nevada over Utah State and New Mexico State). The conference will miss BYU, its most celebrated program, and struggle without any major media markets.

• Conference USA does the most work of all, in hopes of getting a better television contract. In addition to picking up Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech from the Big East, C-USA will also get Rice and TCU from the WAC, forming a 14-team league that stretches from West Point, NY (Army) in the East, to Fort Worth, TX (TCU) in the Southwest. It truly will be a Conference USA.

• Many independents, particularly in the south, will find life alone in Division I-A difficult at best. Scheduling problems and being completely shut out of bowl money will drive the remaining indies to unify. Middle Tennessee will move from I-AA to I-A in 1999 and join other southern independents Central Florida, Southwestern Louisiana, Northeast Louisiana, Louisiana Tech, and Arkansas State to form a league, and hopefully generate bowl clout.

One scenario would have this league champion playing the Big West champ in the Humanitarian Bowl. Or perhaps the Music City Bowl in Nashville would be a good fit.

Worth Noting

The SEC and Mid-America Conferences stand pat. The Big East folds.

Winners
• BYU
Not only does BYU shake the less-revenue-producing schools from the lower division of the WAC, but at last gains a legitimate shot at Bowl Alliance bid.
• C-USA
Although a bit heavy with 14 teams, markets like Pittsburgh, Tampa, and Fort Worth are huge pluses. Garnering an Alliance spot is a must for conference legitimacy and C-USA will get a guaranteed spot. The addition of West Virginia gives the league a ready-made football power and large state school, which the league had been missing.

• ACC
The Miami-Florida State game is now a conference game that the ACC can claim its own, obviously bringing TV money. The addition of the Boston and New York markets is key, and don’t overlook the fact that Mike Krzyzewski and Bill Guthridge love visiting the basketball-rich Northeast on a regular basis.

• SMU
Anyone would love the move from the WAC, with conference games in California, Utah, and Hawaii, into a conference with four other teams in-state.

• Pac-10
The conference championship game is enough to consider the conference a winner, but the Denver market is a plus.

• Big 10
Again, the conference championship game plus another eastern market with Syracuse

• UAB and South Florida
Two schools that did not even have football programs in 1990 will now be members of a Super Alliance conference

Losers
• Temple
For obvious reasons.

• Big East
See above.

• Big 12
The media market of Dallas is nice with the addition of SMU, but losing the state of Colorado and the Nebraska-Colorado rivalry hurts.

• WAC
Losing BYE practically assures the league to be shut out of the Super Alliance.

• Notre Dame
Slowly but surely, the conferences are squeezing the Irish out.

Peace at Last?

Once everything shakes out, all television contracts between the conferences and the networks will have to be renegotiated to reflect the worth of the new leagues. After that is done, and the multi-year agreements are in place, college football will again be at peace. But for how long?

“I’m hoping that after the next round, things are going to stay in place for a long, long time,” says Kramer. “But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it. No way.”

Old ACC

Clemson
Duke
Florida State
Georgia Tech
Maryland
North Carolina
NC State
Virginia
Virginia Tech

New ACC

North

Boston College
Maryland
North Carolina
NC State
Virginia
Rutgers

South

Clemson
Duke
Florida State
Georgia Tech
Miami
Wake Forest

The ACC absorbs Miami, Boston College and Rutgers from the Big East. In order to balance the divisions, the four North Carolina schools must be split. North Carolina and Duke for basketball purposes, are separated. North Carolina, as the strongest football program among the four, is placed in the North because the South includes Florida State, Clemson and Miami.

Old Big 10

Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan state
Minnesota
Northwestern
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Wisconsin

New Big 10

Land

Indiana
Iowa
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Wisconsin

Lakes

Illinois
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Northwestern
Syracuse

Syracuse bolts enthusiastically for the Big Ten. The league will still be called the Big Ten even though it has 12 members. Geographically, the split doesn’t make sense, but the two divisions are balanced for both football and hoops.

Old Big 12

South

Baylor
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech

North

Colorado
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
Nebraska

New Big 12

South

Baylor
Missouri
SMU
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech

North

Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Nebraska
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State

When Colorado jumps to the Pac-10, the Big 12 will consider Arkansas, but ask SMU to return from its WAC exile. All five Texas schools will be in the South Division. Missouri agrees to swap to the South because of basketball. The Oklahoma schools are not separated.

Old WAC

Mountain

BYU
New Mexico
Rice
SMU
TCU
Tulsa
Utah
UTEP

Pacific

Air Force
Colorado State
Fresno State
Hawaii
San Diego State
San Jose State
UNLV
Wyoming

New WAC

Mountain

Colorado State
New Mexico
Rice
Tulsa
Utah
UTEP
Wyoming

Pacific

Air Force
Fresno State
Hawaii
Nevada
San Diego State
San Jose State
UNLV

The WAC loses BYU, TCU and SMU to expansion. Nevada becomes the newest member.

Old Conference USA

Army
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Houston
Louisville
Memphis
Southern Miss
Tulane

New Conference USA

American

Army
Cincinnati
East Carolina
Pittsburgh
South Florida
Virginia Tech
West Virginia

National

Houston
Louisville
Memphis
Southern Miss
TCU
Tulane
UAB

Old Pac-10

Arizona
Arizona State
California
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
UCLA
USC
Washington
Washington State

New Pac-12

North

California
Oregon
Oregon State
Stanford
Washington
Washington State

South

Arizona
Arizona State
BYU
Colorado
UCLA
USC

Colorado eagerly leaves the Big 12 for a conference just one time zone away and the guarantee of at least one home game in California every year. The conference invites BYU instead of Utah, giving the edge to football over basketball. The four California schools are split because of travel. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah (BYU) are adjacent states and closet to Los Angeles (UCLA, USC).
 

Teaser:
<p> This isn't the first time college football has gone through major changes.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 13:18
Path: /mlb/predicting-mlb-wild-card-race
Body:

--By Josh Kipnis

With October right around the corner, who are the most feared teams in the MLB? Surprising to most, the Yankees and the Phillies aren’t at the top of my list. In fact, the two hottest teams might not even make the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals are on fire right now. The Cardinals have won ten of their last twelve games, while the Rays are almost as hot, winning eight of their last eleven. Still, both teams remain in second in their wild-card races. So the question remains, do these two teams have enough magic in their wands to break into the playoff picture?

Tampa Bay Rays
On September 3, the Tampa Bay Rays were nine games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL wild-card race. Amazingly, the Rays have cut that down to a miniscule two; leaving people to wonder what manager Joe Maddon is sneaking into the Gatorade cooler.

Pitching: The Rays pitching staff has been solid all year long, ranked first in the American League in ERA. Right-hander James Shields, 15-11, has been a vital arm in their rotation, throwing an ML-leading eleven complete games. The biggest surprise this year has been rookie Jeremy Helickson, 13-10. The frontrunner for AL-Rookie of the Year, he ranks 5th in the AL with a 2.91 ERA. With three other double-digit winners completing the Rays’ rotation, opponents are lucky to get a hit, let alone a run.

Hitting: For the majority of the season the Rays have ranked 15th in the MLB in runs scored. In the month of September, however, Tampa Bay has jumped all the way to 6th. After struggling in the first half of the season, Evan Longoria leads the team with 28 HR and 92 RBI. Commenting on his recent performance, “No matter if you’re hitting .300 with 20 home runs, whatever it is at that point, you always want more.” It seems as if the entire team has adopted this attitude.

Upcoming Schedule: While everything, and I mean everything, has been going the Rays’ way lately, the final ten games of the season could very well turn for the worse. They have shifted into the 6th gear in September, but unfortunately there is a towering pinstripe wall just up the road. The Rays will have to face the New York Yankees seven out of their last ten games. The Yankees lead the season series 6-5.

With their hands full in the Bronx, the Rays are also going to need the Red Sox to continue their monumental struggle. Unfortunately for them, of Boston’s final ten games, seven are against the Baltimore Orioles. Sticking with the car analogy, it’s as if the Orioles are a 15-year old driver’s ed student, while the Rays sit in the passenger seat, bracing themselves to hit ongoing traffic.

Prediction: It is going to be too little, too late for the surging Rays. The Rays could very well take five or six games from the Yankees, but at this point it isn’t in their hands. The Red Sox are up 9-4 in their season series with the Orioles. Expect them to continue that success and take some built up stress out on Baltimore. If the schedule were different, I could find a way to say the Rays will do it, but the Orioles just don’t have it in them.


St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals find themselves just 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL wild-card race. The Cardinals have won their last four series’, three of which are against playoff-caliber teams. The Red (Hot) Birds took two of three from the NL-Central leading Brewers, swept a three game series against the Braves, and won three of four against the best team in baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies. Any team that can do that much damage, yikes.

Hitting: Although Albert Pujols had a shaky start to the season, he still has a chance to hit .300, 100 RBI, and 30 HR; it would be the 11th straight season putting up those numbers (Can you say machine?). While Berkman and Holliday have each cooled down, the Cardinals are still ranked in the top 6 in the league in runs scored, average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Not enough for you, check out their past two performances; they scored four runs on both Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.

Bullpen: The only aspect of their game worth improving upon right now is their bullpen. Still struggling to find the right man to close out their games, the Cardinals are 3rd in the MLB in blown saves with 25.

Upcoming Schedule: With nine remaining games on their schedule, the Cardinals get to play six more in St. Louis. Not only that, but they are against the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals final series of the season is against the Houston Astros who sit at the very bottom of the NL-Central.

The Braves next five games look just as easy as the Cardinals’, but they are all on the road as they face the Florida Marlins two more times and the Washington Nationals in a three game series. The final three games of their season are against the Philadelphia Phillies, who are up on the Braves in the season series 6-9.

Prediction: The Braves seem as if they have forgotten how to play baseball. In last night’s game, the Braves led 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs. Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins hit a high chopper to third base, but the curse hovering over the Braves played a trick on veteran Chipper Jones, who lost the big hop in the lights and allowed it to drop for a base hit. The next batter, Omar Infante, blasted a ball to deep left field, sealing the deal in walk-off fashion. I would not be all that surprised if they drop one more to the Marlins in the final two games of this series.

I’m going to have to say that the Cardinals will complete this comeback and snag the last playoff spot in the National League. The Cardinals have players who know how to win when the pressure in on. With their impressive wins, and the devastating losses the Braves are suffering, I think the Cardinals have what it takes to play ball in October.
 

Teaser:
<p> Will the Tampa Bay Rays or St. Louis Cardinals make the postseason?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 11:35
Path: /fantasy/david-nelson-and-denarius-moore-are-worthy-waiver-wire-pickups
Body:

David Nelson and Denarius Moore are the two guys you probably haven't heard much about in fantasy football...until this week.

The Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders wide receivers made fantasy football owners in deep leagues stand up and take notice when they put up some big points on Sunday. But are they just flashes in the pan, or is there some long-term value for either of these deep sleepers? In other words, are they worth a waiver wire add?

David Nelson, WR, Buffalo Bills

The former Florida Gator receiver is big. At 6-5 he's been the recipient of Ryan Fitzpatrick's strong start with 14 catches through the first two games, 10 of which came on Sunday against the Raiders with a nice touchdown catch on top of it.

The good thing for Nelson right now is that the Bills are hurting at wide receiver. Stevie Johnson is fighting a groin injury, which he is going to attempt to play through, which of course puts him at more risk at aggravating it and missing extended time. The Bills other receiver, Roscoe Parrish, is out for the season leaving Nelson with a great chance to continue his success. 

And to make his situation even better, the Bills are going to be losing a lot of their games, which means Fitzpatrick is going to have to put the ball in the air a lot and he's already proven he likes tossing the ball to his big target Nelson.

Go get this guy if he's available and start him this week. The Bills play New England this week, which means Team Fitz will be throwing the ball all day long against a Patriots defense that has been a little suspect and can't seem to get off the field through the first two games of the season.

David Nelson Fearless Prediction for Week 3: 7 receptions, 85 yards and a TD.

Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders

I like Denarius Moore less than David Nelson, but I still like him. The Raiders have been talking non-stop about how much they love Moore, and they should. He's a big receiver who's not afraid to go up and get the ball. He piled up a lot of yards (146) in Sunday's loss to the Bills, but what scares me a little bit was his number of catches. He only caught five balls, which means he may have gotten a little lucky to get so much yardage. He's not going to average 30 yards a catch every game, and I'd rather have a guy like Nelson, who gets more targets.

The other worrisome factor with Moore is that he only managed five catches when the majority of the Raiders receiving corps was on the bench. Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford were all out of the game, and if Moore was really going to step in and become the primary No. 1 receiver, I would have liked to seen a few more targets and catches for him. 

The Raiders, as much as they like Moore, also like Ford and Heyward-Bey (for now). If Moore keeps playing like this he could be a solid WR3/Flex option all year long. 

This week would normally be a great play for Moore as Heyward-Bey and Ford are dinged up, but the Raiders play the Jets this week, meaning Moore could find himself on Revis Island, which is never a good thing for fantasy owners.

Denarius Moore Fearless Prediction for Week 3: 4 receptions, 55 yards. 0 Touchdowns

For other options this wek, check out our full fantasy football waiver wire. (And not to toot our own horn, but we told you to go get David Nelson in our week 2 waiver wire. Yes, we're that good.)

— By Pete Thomas

Teaser:
<p> Looking for Fantasy Football players to target? Look no further.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 03:59
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, Jon Kitna, Tony Romo, News
Path: /news/tony-romo-has-punctured-lung-hed-be-stupid-play-monday-night
Body:

Tony Romo is a man. We know that now. There's no discussion about his toughness or his ability to lead the Dallas Cowboys locker room after it was revealed that he had a punctured lung and two fractured ribs during Sunday's game against the 49ers.

He's tough, we get it. 

But there's a fine line between tough and stupid in the NFL. And if Tony Romo puts his longterm health in jeopardy to play on Monday Night Football, then that would fall in the stupid category.

When Romo came back in the game last week, the extent of his injury was not know. The team doctors knew he had a couple broken ribs, but they didn't know he had a punctured luing. If they had known that, there would be no way they would have let him back in the game.

A punctured lung, much like cracked ribs, is an injury that can take a long time to heal. But the only real concern about playing with broken ribs is the pain factor. If you can play through the pain, then you can go ahead and play, there's no real long-term harm you can do to your body.

But a punctured lung is a totally different story. If Romo were to get hit the wrong way he could be put in a life-threatening situation. And while football is full of tough guys, it's just not worth it. Not for Romo's health, and it's not worth it to put the Cowboy's season in jeopardy.

It makes much more sense to give Romo another week to make sure he's healed enough to step on the field. Jon Kitna proved last year that he is a more than capable back-up. If given ample practice time he can be a slightly elevated game managing quarterback who can utilize all the weapons that the Cowboys have at their disposal on offense.

With Romo hurting this week (apparently rib injuries hurt more during the few days following the injury then they do right as the injury occurs), Kitna will already be practicing with the first team offense.

Let Kitna go in against the Redskins, and let Tony Romo sit this one out. We already know he's tough, don't put his life in jeopardy to prove it all over again.

Teaser:
<p> Should the Cowboys' quarterback take the field against the Redskins?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Brendan Laroux, News
Path: /news/onions-brendan-laroux-story-greatest-sports-movie-ever-video
Body:

Brendan Laroux (The Onion Movie) from tolep on Vimeo.

I'm pretty sure the Onion's Brendan Laroux Story, a movie about a no-legged and no-handed hockey player in a wheelchair is going to top Brian's Song, The Longest Yard and The Blindside as the greatest and most-inspiring sports movie in the history of film.

Teaser:
<p> This is truly the pinnacle in sports film achievement.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 11:49
All taxonomy terms: Charlie Sheen Roast, Mike Tyson, Steve-O, News
Path: /news/mike-tyson-breaks-steve-os-nose-charlie-sheen-roast-video
Body:

Iron Mike's still got it! During the end of an exceptionally brutal Charlie Sheen roast on Comedy Central last night, Steve-O, the Jackass star known for stapling his nuts to his leg, thought it would be a good idea to get a running start and jump head first into Mike Tyson's outstretched fist.

And of course it was. Because that's what a good Jackass performer would do to put a proper end to a good night of television.

After the show Steve-O tweeted "broken nose!" confirming what his bloodied face lead us to believe as the credits for the show rolled by.

We're not sure how many times Steve-O has broken his nose, but we'd love to see a tally if someone has it.

So, does Steve-O need to do this sort of stuff? It seems like it's in his blood (which is also running down his face) for him to entertain with the physical comedy of a 21st Century Three Stooges. Whatever it is, we're glad he's here for us. God bless you, Steve-O.

Teaser:
<p> The Jackass star jumps into Iron Mike's fist, the obvious ensues.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 10:12
Path: /fantasy/dexter-mccluster-or-ben-tate-who-will-win-more-fantasy-football-leagues
Body:

With the season-ending injury to Jamaal Charles and the nagging hamstring injury to Arian Foster, two names have emerged as the "you have to go get" players from your fantasy football waiver wire: Dexter McCluster and Ben Tate.

They're two players in two very different positions in the fantasy football landscape. But which one will have the larger effect on the 2011 season?

The Case for Dexter McCluster

The Pros: The obvious upside with McCluster is that his team's first stringer (Jamaal Charles) is definitely out for the season. The only person standing in Dexter's way of becoming the feature back is the ancient (although extremely jacked-up-for-his-age) Thomas Jones. Last year, which was his rookie campaign, McCluster played only 11 games in a smaller role in the offense, yet managed to catch 21 balls for 209 yards (a tidy 10 ypc avg) and ran the ball only 18 times for a n even tidier 3.9 yards per carry. Yes, it's a small sample size, but Dexter proved in his kickoff and punt returns that he's a pro-caliber runner. His slashing style makes people miss, and the fact that he's playing behind one of the better offensive lines in football, this is almost a perfect situation for McCluster to find himself in.

The obvious elephant in the fantasy locker room is Thomas Jones. How much time will he take away from Dexter? While he may be the first down back and will steal some touchdowns, the truth of the matter is that the Chiefs are a bad football team right now. Their defense is atrocious, which is actually great for Dexter owners. 

The Chiefs are going to be behind much more than they will be leading in most games, which means they're going to be throwing the ball. Last year, in 16 games, Thomas Jones caught only 14 balls. Less than one reception a game. While Dexter averaged two a game in a much more limited role.

Without using too much hyperbole, it seems to me (especially in a PPR league) Dexter McCluster is going to be this year's Peyton Hillis.

The Cons: Injuries are really the only con facing McCluster this year. He missed 5 games last year, but in reality almost every player is an injury risk, so don't let that bother you.

Dexter McCluster 2011 Prediction: 845 yards rushing and 3 rushing touchdowns. 63 receptions for 560 yards and 4 receiving touchdowns. And one kickoff/punt TD for good measure.

The Case for Ben Tate

Pros: What most people don't know is that Ben Tate was a great running back at Auburn. And after the first two games of the season, he's garnered the third-most yards of any running back this season. He's ahead of other fantasy darlings Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy. And he shared time with Arian Foster of the first half of the Texans game against the Dolphins.

So we know he can run, and he's on an offense that can move the ball. Texans coach Gary Kubiak came out and gave Tate the primary back duties as long as Foster's hamstring is still injured.

So, the real question on Tate is how much time will he be the #1 back. And if he's leading the league in rushing, is there a possibility he will keep this job even after Arian's hammy is fully healthy? 

Hamstrings take forever to heal. It's one of those nagging injuries that seem to always pop back up throughout any season (just ask fantasy baseballers who own Nelson Cruz). So I'd be willing to put a good bet that Tate puts up more fantasy points than Foster this year (he's already got a sizeable lead with a good chance he's going to start for the next week or two at minimum.) Either way, if he's available, go get him.

The Cons: It all comes down to Arian's hammy, whether or not Tate becomes this year's Arian. How's that for meta?

Ben Tate 2011 Prediction: 1,250 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. 15 receptions for 120 yards.


If you've missed out on both of these guys, check out our complete waiver wire pickups for week 3.

Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

By Cory Jones

Teaser:
<p> Both of these backups are poised to take bigger offensive roles.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 10:05
All taxonomy terms: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, MLB
Path: /mlb/mariano-rivera-becomes-baseballs-all-time-saves-leader-no-602
Body:

by Mark Ross

With save no. 602 on Monday, Mariano Rivera became major league baseball's career saves leader and further cemented his legacy as not only the game's greatest closer of all-time, but one of the best pitchers period. The New York Yankees right-hander passed Trevor Hoffman for the all-time saves mark, one that won't be broken any time soon, if ever. The active pitcher with the second-most saves is Francisco Cordero with 323 or 279 fewer than Rivera. And even though Rivera will turn 42 in November, he hasn't showed any signs of slowing down as evidenced by his 43 saves and 1.98 ERA this season.

Rivera is a 12-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion in his 17-year-career with Yankees. For his career, besides the 602 saves, Rivera is 75-57 with a 2.22 ERA, 1,108 strikeouts and just 274 walks in 1,209 innings pitched. He has pitched in 1,039 games, which is the most among active pitchers and ninth-most in baseball history and is the all-time leader in games finished (881).

His 2.22 career ERA places him 13th all-time among pitchers with 1,000 IP. For perspective, Hoffman's career ERA of 2.87 puts him 127th on the all-time list, while the lowest career ERA among active pitchers belongs to Tim Lincecum, whose 2.95 ERA ranks 155th and barely qualifies given his 1,016 career IP. In fact, among pitchers with 300 or more career saves, the second-best career ERA belongs to Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter (300 career saves), whose 2.83 career ERA is tied for 110th on the all-time list.

Rivera also is one of the stingiest pitchers in baseball history. Using WHIP (walks + hits/IP), which is a measure of a pitcher's ability to prevent batters from reaching base, as the gauge, Rivera's current 0.99 WHIP is second on the all-time list, according to Baseball-Reference.com. The only pitcher with a lower career WHIP is Hall of Famer Addie Joss, whose career ended in 1910.

Since becoming the Yankees' full-time closer in 1997, Rivera has been the definition of consistency. He has accumulated 30 or more saves in every season but one, and that came in 2002 when he had 28 saves in a season shortened by injuries. He has eight seasons of 40 or more saves and two (2001, '04) with 50 or more. He has finished in the top 5 in voting for the American League Cy Young five times, including second to Bartolo Colon in 2005.

As a closer, Rivera is certainly no stranger to late-inning, high-pressure situations, and his production and effectiveness during them is further evidence of his greatness. For his career, Rivera has saved 89 percent (602 of 674) of his save opportunities.

He has inherited a total of 350 runners in his career, meaning they were already on base when he entered the game, and he has only allowed 102 of them to score. That translates to a strand rate of 71 percent.

It's no surprise that the majority of Rivera's innings (872 1/3) have come in the 9th. In that inning alone, Rivera's career numbers are a 2.01 ERA, a .208 opponent's batting average, a .254 opponent's on-base percentage, a .281 slugging percentage and a microscopic 0.95 WHIP.

As impressive as Rivera's regular-season numbers are, he's been even more dominant in the postseason. He is the leader by far for career postseason saves (42) and games pitched (94), and he also holds the career marks for ERA (0.71) among pitchers with 30 IP in the postseason. His 139 2/3 IP are the most of any relief pitcher and tied for the seventh-most in postseason history, and his 109 strikeouts place him ninth all-time. He has a 8-1 career postseason record, has given up a total of two home runs in his 139 2/3 IP and has a microscopic WHIP of 0.77.

He has pitched in a total of 31 postseason series (15 AL Division Series, nine AL Championship Series and seven World Series) and was named the World Series MVP in 1999 and the ALCS MVP in 2003. And he will have the chance to add to these numbers as his Yankees are most likely headed to the postseason for the 16th time in his career.

Rivera along with Derek Jeter, is synonymous with the Yankee teams of the late '90s and 2000s that won those five World Series titles and he will go down in his career as one of the greatest to ever wear the famous Yankee pinstripes. In fact, the only part of the game where Rivera has fared poorly is at the plate. He's gone hitless in six career at bats (including postseason), although he did reach base once via a walk. So Babe Ruth he's not.

But like the Bambino, it's not a matter of "if" he gets into the Hall of Fame, it's only a question of when and will he be a rare first-ballot inductee, which is another perceived measure of greatness among baseball's elite.

As impressive as his resume and statistics are, it also should be pointed out that he pitched during what is considered the "Steroid Era," a time in baseball marked by prolific offense, not to mention the "live-ball" era, which make his numbers stand out even more. So regardless of what your opinion is when it comes to the debate of starting pitcher vs. relief pitcher as it applies to legendary status, the numbers speak loud and clear in the case of Mariano Rivera. He is unquestionably one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

Teaser:
<p> Yankee righty furthers case as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history<br />  </p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 08:02
Path: /nfl/vick-goes-down-lions-go-our-nfl-week-2-recap
Body:

Michael Vick returned to the city where he first electrified NFL audiences before his stunning fall from grace and equally stunning climb back to glory. Would he complete his return from scandal and ignominy by leading his team to a dramatic victory over the franchise that discarded him?

Sadly, while the Week 2 headliner largely lived up to the hype, we were denied the spectacle of a Vick-fueled desperation drive amid the din of the Georgia Dome. With the game on the line, Vick was in the locker room, victim of a freak collision with one of his own linemen that resulted in an apparent concussion. Replacement Mike Kafka performed admirably, but his final pass glanced off the hands of Jeremy Maclin, and the Falcons held on for a dramatic 35–31 comeback win.

Before a frenzied home crowd, the Falcons hung around thanks to the arm of Matt Ryan, who threw a career-high four touchdown passes, and then erased a 31–21 fourth-quarter deficit largely on the legs of Michael Turner, who churned for 114 yards, including a 61-yard run that set up his go-ahead touchdown run with 4:48 left.

Clearly, this town now belongs to Ryan and Turner, but Vick was the story coming in, and the fans welcomed him with a cascade of boos that drowned out pockets of welcoming cheers. Vintage Vick No. 7 Falcons jerseys were vastly outnumbered by Ryan’s No. 2.

In typical fashion, Vick was both dazzling and disappointing, making a number of scintillating plays but also turning the ball over three times, twice on fumbles, and throwing an interception that led to a touchdown. His inconsistent evening ended in the third quarter when he was spun into teammate Todd Herremanns and staggered off the field spitting blood.

“I feel for him,” Maclin said. “Obviously, he wanted to come home and make a statement.”
To Vick’s credit, he left the field with the lead, having played well enough to win. But the Eagles defense had no answer for Turner, Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez, who burnished his Hall of Fame credentials with seven catches, two of them for scores, including a highlight reel grab in the second quarter.

“It was a wild one, for sure, but we hung in there," Ryan said after only the sixth double-digit fourth quarter home comeback in franchise history. "I think everybody hung in there and kept making plays, kept battling. Credit to guys on both sides of the ball — we never gave up.”

“I thought the guys battled," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “We just had too many turnovers, too many mistakes.”

Reid now faces the last thing he needs — a possible quarterback controversy. Kafka performed well in relief, but the franchise’s nominal No. 2 quarterback is Vince Young, who was inactive with a hamstring injury. If Vick is unable to go, Young might get the chance to lead his Dream Team against the Giants on Sunday.


Elsewhere…
• Let’s hear it for this unlikely trio of unbeatens: the 2–0 Bills, Lions and Redskins. Last season, they combined for 16 wins; after Week 2, they’re more than a third of the way to surpassing that number. The Bills, a selfless group of unsung everymen, lead the NFL with 79 points scored.

• They’re 0–2, but these aren’t the same Panthers. Cam Newton is for real.

• It’s panic time in Kansas City, Miami, Seattle and Indianapolis. The Chiefs, in particular, have been putrid, outscored 89–10 in their two losses, and they watched stud ballcarrier Jamaal Charles get carted off with an apparent ACL tear. Let the Andrew Luck sweepstakes begin.

• Let’s not crown the Texans AFC South champs just yet. The Titans showed the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 in the NFL.

• Tony Romo went from Week 1 goat to Week 2 superhero, shaking off a broken rib to lead the Cowboys to a 27–24 comeback win over the 49ers. 

Teaser:
<p> It was a wild, injury-filled second week of the NFL season</p>
Post date: Monday, September 19, 2011 - 16:13
Path: /news/antonio-gates-owned-bill-belichick-held-catchless-loss
Body:

Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends in the league. Unless, that is, he's going up against Bill Belichick's Patriots defense.

Gates, who is the San Diego Chargers primary weapon and one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league was held to zero catches and only one target in the Chargers' loss to the Pats on Sunday.

And that's what Bill Belichick does. He finds the thing you do best, and then he takes it away from you. (No catch for you!)

It was clear that Gates, a seven time Pro-Bowler was the main focus of a Pats defense. Linebacker Patrick Chung was on him most of the game, with Sergio Brown chipping in from time to time to completely shut him down.

Now, that's not to say that the loaded Chargers didn't have some success. Vincent Jackson had 10 catches for two touchdowns and 172 yards, but shutting down Gates clearly changes the profile of the Chargers offensive game plan.

Antonio is Rivers favorite third-down target. With his enormous body, Gates boxes out like a basketball player and is tough to stop, making it all the more impressive that the Pats were able to achieve their goal.

If there's anything that the Chargers can take away from this loss, it's that they were in it to almost the end and they played poorly.

Mike Tolbert, who was the hero in last week's win against Minnesota, had a momentum-killing 4th quarter fumble took the wind out of the Chargers' sails as they were driving to tie the game and clearly had a chance to make it a ball game.

For some reason, Tolbert didn't drive forward into the line, which seemed like would have been an easy four-to-five yards. Instead, he stopped, went backwards, and had the ball knocked out of his hands. That turnover, coupled with their inability to punch the ball in on a 4th and goal, which Tom Brady promptly turned into a 99-yard scoring drive that put the game out of reach.

But shutting down a team's most powerful offensive weapon has become his calling card. No one else takes away what your team does best quite like he does. It comes in handy becasue so few teams do many things well in this league of parity. Look at the Patriots themselves. If you can take away Tom Brady (a feat much easier said than done), they don't have a very solid run game to fall back on.

Teaser:
<p> San Diego's Star tight end gets schooled by the New England Patriots' coach</p>
Post date: Monday, September 19, 2011 - 15:49
Path: /news/justin-hunter-vols-star-wide-receiver-out-season
Body:

Tennessee Volunteers' star wide receiver Justin Hunter is out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during the Vols loss to the Gators on Saturday.

Hunter, who is arguably one of the most exciting and explosive players in college football will have to hit the rehab room, but should be expected back for spring workouts next season.

It's a crushing blow for one of the most promising players in the NCAA. ANd a huge blow to the Volunteers hopes for the 2011 season.

Tennessee was hanging tough in the Swamp until Hunter went down. It seemed to take the wind out of the team's sails as the injury could be felt on the sideline. Who knows if the Vols could have pulled the upset if Hunter had not gotten injured, but it was clear they had a much better chance of making it a comnpetitive game with Hunter still in there.

The freakish nature of the injury made this much harder to swallow. Hunter wasn't hit on the play. He caught a pass from up-and-coming Vol quarterback Tyler Bray, turned to pivot and went down immediately, clutching his left knee in visible pain. he was helped off the field, where it was later learned that he wasn't going to return for the rest of the season.

Hunter's size and speedm the two things that make him a difficult receiver to stop, ironically may have contributed to his injury. At 6 foot 4 inches, and 200 pounds, he is a huge, lanky player. It seems like players of his size who play the wide receiver position have a tendency to get injured.

Here's hoping his rehab goes well and he comes back at 100% next season. Until then, the Volunteers are going to have a tough time replacing one of their biggest playmakers, as this injury should also have a negative affect on Bray as well.

Teaser:
<p> The Tennessee Volunteers will have a tough time recovering from their star's injury</p>
Post date: Monday, September 19, 2011 - 13:28
All taxonomy terms: cracked ribs, Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, News
Path: /news/tony-romo-bum-now-tony-romo-hero-dallas
Body:

Remember last week when that bum Tony Romo played like a stupid jerk and ruined the Cowboys victory against the Jets? Yeah, me either. Because after suffering through a week of "he can't do it" and "Romo is not a gamer" and "The Cowboys can never win with Romo as their quarterback," Tony Romo came out and was the hero against the San Francisco 49ers.

By now you've seen the footage of Romo getting sacked, and then lead off to the locker room, where his disgusted face told the whole story. Jon Kitna comes in, tosses a TD and a couple picks, but the Cowboys are still losing.

Then, in a moment fitting of a Hallmark Channel made-for-TV movie, Romo comes out of the locker room, shakes off his aching ribs, grabs his helmet and gets back in the game, leading the Cowboys to a much-needed overtime win on the road.

This moment has so much meaning to thie season for Romo and the Cowboys it's almost too big to quantify.

Let's imagine for a moment that Romo doesn't come back out. Kitna stays in the game and the Cowboys lose like it seemed like they would.

What would the Monday morning headlines have to say about an 0-2 Dallas team and an injured Romo. The anti-Romo bandwagon would have snowballed bigger than the boulder that chased Indiana Jones, and Romo may not have been able to get out of the way. 

The hate may have become too much for Romo (who's gotten a bad rap) and the city, which was already on the verge of turning on him, would have completely turned against him. But more importantly, he may have lost his teammates as well.

The problem with Romo is that he has taken it on the chin in his whole career. And it's mostly because of a few notorious plays and games. His botched field goal attempt on 1996. A couple of bad playoff games. But when you look at his body of work, Tony Romo has been a great player for the Cowboys. Since 1996 no other NFL quarterback has had a higher QB rating in the 4th quarter than Romo. Not Brady, not Manning, not Brees, not Rivers, not anyone. And yet, he throws one bad pick on Monday Night football and he's a goat, the reason the Cowboys can't win a championship with him at the helm.

But now, things might be different.

Instead, Tony solidified his position as the leader and captain of the Cowboys and fortified that locker room just when they needed it most. That decision to gut it out and play through the pain was the turning point for the 2011 Cowboys NFL season. If the Cowboys do anything at all this year and finally live up to the high expectations they seem to have each and every season, every pundit and media talking head will turn and point to this moment when Tony Romo the Bum became Tony Romo the Hero.

Teaser:
<p> The Cowboys quarterback shook off two fractured ribs to lead the Cowboys to victory.</p>
Post date: Monday, September 19, 2011 - 12:29
Path: /news/jamaal-charles-out-season-heres-five-guys-save-your-fantasy-season
Body:

Jamaal Charles, the Kansas City Chiefs' star running back who was poised for a breakout season has torn his ACL and is out for the season.

From a regular football standpoint, this is almost a deathblow to an already horrific season for Kansas City. After two games, KC is 0-2 and have been outscored 89-10 in losses to the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills. They have looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL and could be vying for the coveted Andrew Luck sweepstakes (which right now looks like a race to the bottom of the NFL standings between the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs). 

And now, with Jamaal Charles out for the season, it's adding insult to injury. If the Chiefs were getting destroyed with Charles IN the lineup, it's scary to think of what will happen with him out of the lineup. I know it's easy to overreact this early in the season, but it's not far-fetched to think that the Chiefs could be a team that wins one or two games this season.

Which brings us to the fantasy side of football. Charles was a top 5 pick, and a consensus pick to be one of the leading fantasy scorers in the 2011 season. 

Most fantasy football owners who drafted him had to take him so early that they don't have a viable backup at running back. Which almost kills their chances of taking any fantasy crowns this season.

How can you recover from losing your first round pick?

Last season there were two ways: picking up Michael Vick or Peyton Hillis. Looking back on most league champions last year there was one common thread among them in that they were lucky (or smart) enough to pick up either one or both of those players.

Charles owners will be asking themselves the question: Who are this year's Vick and Hillis?

A few of the candidates are:

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: The rookie looks like a seasoned veteran havin thrown for close to 900 yards in his first two games. Sure, one was against a suspect Cardinals defense, but the other was against the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers D. Nothing to sneeze at (sure he also had three picks that probably cost his team the win, but the thing about fantasy is that real-life wins and losses have no affect on ours.) He probably was picked up in your league last week, but he may be worth a look this week now that's he's proven that the first week wasn't a complete fluke.

Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos: There were whispers of the Broncos wide receiver being a deep fantasy sleeper before the season, and he proved that to be true with a big 2 TD game against the Bengals on Sunday. Pick him up if he's available in your league. He probably won't put up these numbers every week, but at least he's proven than he can perform when called upon (even if it is against the lowly Bengals.)

Dexter McCluster, WR, RB; Kansas City Chiefs: The guy most likely to see a big increase in touches with the loss of Charles. He's sort of a catch-all kind of player who lines up at wideout at times, as well as running back and kick returner. Stash him in your league right away. He's a slasher who could put up big numbers this year. The only problem is that the Chiefs are going to be losing a lot of games, so their running situation should be mediocre at best. I had him last year and he showed flashes of greatness. Now with more playing time and another year under his belt, he may be the breakout candidate everyone is looking for from a waiver wire pickup.

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans: I'm all in on Ben Tate. If there's one thing sports fans know about hamstring injuries, it's that they linger more than that Cranberries song. And Arian Foster could be in big trouble. The consensus first round pick when healthy, is now a week-to-week concern and after getting pulled this week proved that he can't be counted on. Even if he plays next week are you going to feel comfortable slotting him in your starting lineup knowing that he could tweak his fragile hammy once again? Get Tate if he's available. Ben won't catch as many balls as Arian (if you're in a PPR he won't be as valuable) but he's still a great guy to have on your bench.

Mike Kafka, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: This one is a long-shot, but what the heck. Peyton Hillis was a long-shot last year, too. With Michael Vick out of for an unknown amount of time and Vincy Young nursing a hamstring (and you know how we feel about hamstring injuries), Mike Kafka could take the helm for a while and become the quarterback for one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. He is definitely worth a flyer, so drop your extra kicker, defense or pine-riding scrub and take a chance on Kafka. It really can't hurt.

Teaser:
<p> The Chiefs running back is out for the season. And so are a lot of fantasy football teams.</p>
Post date: Monday, September 19, 2011 - 11:44
Path: /news/michael-vick-spits-blood-gets-concussed-possibly-out-season
Body:

Michael Vick was spitting up blood and walking off the field the last time fantasy football owners saw him. And that's not good.

The Eagles electrifying quarterback, and very high draft pick in fantasy football leagues injured his neck in yesterday's loss to the Atlanta Falcons on a weird play where he was whipped around and knocked helmets with his own offensive lineman. On the play Vick bit his tongue and had to be helped off the field as he was seen spitting blood onto the turf.

Apparently the blood is only from his tongue and not from anything more serious. But he also suffered a concussion on the play, leaving his availability for next week's game against the New York Giants up in the air.

What's so ironic about this injury is that it didn't happen on one of Vick's trademark scrambles or one of his superhuman athletic moves. Instead of getting hit by a charging linebacker, he took this hit from his own teammate.

And this is what we all knew would happen to Vick. He's a small guy who throws his body around more than any other NFL quarterback (or NFL running back for that matter) who's playing behind a questionable offensive line. This was bound to happen. And yet, fantasy football sites (except ours) had him ranked as either the first or second quarterback overall behind Aaron Rodgers. We had him ranked sixth for this very reason. If we're going to have to spend a late first or second round pick ona  guy, we'd rather go with the one that has a better chance of staying on the field and playing all 16 games, than the one who's missed games in nearly every season of his career (and that's not counting the ones he missed for dog fighting.)

Everyone knew Vick was going to get injured at some point this season. It was just a matter of when and for how long. More information will be available later today, but we've seen how concussions have affected players lok Austin Collie, Ben Roethlisberger, the NHL's Sidney Crosby, MLB's Justin Morneau and countless other athletes in recent years.

If we've learned anything from the scariness of concussions, it's that Vick could be out for the rest of the season. He's almost assuredly out for their home opener, but time will tell how much longer he's out.

For all you fantasy players out there who owned Vick, you may want to scour the waiver wire this week for a replacement. It could be a very long season.

Teaser:
<p> The Eagles quarterback has a lot of fantasy football players very nervous today</p>
Post date: Monday, September 19, 2011 - 10:33
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, News
Path: /news/arian-foster-santonio-holmes-and-johnny-knox-who-you-should-and-should-not-play
Body:

Here we are in week 2 of the NFL season and fantasy football players are already faced with three difficult questions. Here's what you should do with three of them.

Arian Foster: Don't Play
Yes, he's going to give it a go, but at what point is he worth being in your lineup. Is a 75% Arian Foster worth more or less than the third running back in your lineup? WIth Ben Tate proving he can be a more than capable replacement, the Texans are going to be more cautious than crazy with Foster, so I would sit him. I know he's targeted for 20 touches against the Dolphins, but I'd rather see it before I believe it. And the Dolphins (despite what Tom Brady did to them on Monday night) have a pretty stout run defense. Chances are, you have someone in the Benjarvis Green-Ellis, Mark Ingram and Reggie Bush tier. Those are a better play than Foster this week.

Johnny Knox: Play
I love Johnny Knox this week. The Saints gave up a ton of yards to the Packers and Jay Cutler could have a similar field day. With Roy Williams nicked up and listed as questionable, this could be Knox's game to breakout and recapture the starting role in the second week of the season. Play him if you got him. And if he's available on your waiver wire, pick him up immediately. The Bears offense looks much different than it did last year, and they could actually look like the Greatest Show On (Terrible) Turf--since Soldier Field's sod is like a swamp.

Santonio Holmes: Don't Play
Holmes is going to "give it a try" and play on his injured knee and quadricep. I don't like how that sounds. What happens if he gives it a try, it doesn't work and now you're left with an essentially empty spot on your roster. I hate these types of gamble, so go with the sure thing you have on your bench (as if anything can be a sure thing in fantasy football.) The Jets should also be up handily on the pitiful Jaguars so they may turn to a run-heavy offense in the second half. Do you really think Holmes (who I think will have a great year) will do much with just a first half? Go bench here.

Teaser:
<p> We break down three key fantasy football players or week 2&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 11:02
Path: /nfl/5-overreactions-nfls-week-1
Body:

By RALPH VACCHIANO

In 2003, the New England Patriots released popular safety Lawyer Milloy, causing an uproar up in Foxboro, Mass. He promptly signed with the Buffalo Bills, and together they hammered the Pats 31-0 on Opening Day. Tom Brady was picked off four times.

The Patriots looked like their NFL dynasty would never get started. The Bills looked like they had recaptured their glory days.

The Bills finished 6-10 that season. The Patriots finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl.

The point: Strange things happen on Opening Day.

So it’s always wise to hold off on the overreactions until at least Week 2, when at least the beginnings of pretenders and contenders really take shape. In the first game of the season when nerves are tight, emotions are high, and players are still getting up and back to speed, results sometimes tend to be aberrations. It pays to be cautious when reading the week one tea leaves.

For example, here are five overreactions from the first week of the season that aren’t likely to turn out to be true:

1.“Cam Newton is a Pro Bowler.”
One of the most controversial rookies in years had the best debut for a rookie quarterback since … well, ever, really. Going 24 for 37 for 422 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals was remarkable considering the No. 1 overall pick had no offseason, thanks to the lockout, to work with his team.

Here’s a fact, though: Rookie quarterbacks struggle. Newton will struggle. This won’t be an arrow that points directly up and makes him immediately one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC. Even Peyton Manning had some troubles as a rookie, and he was arguably m ore polished than any quarterback who ever entered the league.

So expect flashes of brilliance from Newton, like he displayed on Sunday. But also expect to see more downs than ups.

2.“The Buffalo Bills are a contender.”
Coming off a 4-12 season, even the most optimistic Bills fan couldn’t have expected what happened on Sunday: a 41-7 blowout win in Kansas City. And the Bills did look good, no doubt.

It was also a classic case of a game snowballing out of control, starting with the Chiefs’ fumble on the opening kickoff. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdowns, but only 208 yards, so it’s not like the offense lit up the Chiefs. It had more to do with turnovers and the Bills’ defense shutting down the Chiefs.

In other words, it was good, but not great, and in a division with the New England Patriots and New York Jets, they’ll need much more. The Bills are improved, no doubt, but the playoffs are likely still out of reach.

3.“Donovan McNabb is done.”
It’s a hard point to argue after his 7-for-15, 39-yard performance in a loss to the Chargers. One observer said “He looked disinterested,” which is an alarming criticism of a 34-year-old vet who was supposed to be revived by another fresh start.

Don’t completely write off McNabb, though. He’s only two years removed from a good season in Philadelphia and even last year he put up decent numbers in the midst of Washington’s mess. He has some weapons to help him in Minnesota, like Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson, and he definitely has a little bit left in the tank.

There’s no defending his opening-day showing, but you dismiss his chances of a rebound at your own risk.

4.“The Colts can’t win without Peyton Manning.”
They probably can’t, given how much he’s meant to that offense, and the longer he’s out with a neck injury the bleaker their prospects get. But could there have been a worse opening-day situation to through 38-year-old QB Kerry Collins into? On the road in Houston against a team with an explosive offense and good young defense, after signing late in camp and not having much time to learn a complicated offensive scheme?

Collins struggled, fumbled a couple of snaps, and the offense was so inept it put the defense in terrible position. But Collins is a pro with a big arm and he’s surrounded by talented weapons. He’ll get more comfortable as the games go on. The Colts probably won’t win a championship unless Manning returns healthy, but Collins is more than capable of keeping them in the hunt until their savior gets back.

5.“The NFC South has gone from ‘beast’ to ‘least’.”
With the Falcons, Saints and Bucs all with double-digit wins last year they may have been the best or most exciting division in football. This year all four teams are 0-1 and all of a sudden everyone has noticed they fattened their records last season on the terrible NFC West.

Will they have three teams with double-digit wins this year? No. But don’t knock this division, especially with the improved and reloaded Carolina Panthers bringing up the rear. The New Orleans Saints lost their opener in Green Bay to the defending Super Bowl champs on the last play of the game. The Atlanta Falcons lost on the road in Chicago against a tough Bears defense and a team that reached the NFC championship game last year. The Bucs lost to a Detroit Lions team many think will be surprise contenders this year.

All three of those teams have good quarterbacks and an array of offensive weapons. The NFC South may take a small step back, but at least three of their teams will be in the playoff chase right until the end.
 

Teaser:
<p> As we prepare for the NFL's Week 2, which teams are for real and which teams are not.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2011 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/future-college-football-uniforms
Body:

College football uniforms have been in the news lately. With Maryland's flag uniforms that looked like something out of Middle Earth, Boise State's "Power Rangers" getup and Oklahoma State's all grey, we're not sure what's going on with the current state of uniforms. What happened to the classics?

In an effort to see what uniforms will look like in the future, we looked into our crystal ball (which is actually just Photoshop) and saw what the college football uniforms will look like in the upcoming seasons.

The Texas Longhorns


Syracuse Orange



Florida State Seminoles


Oregon Ducks (if their mascot is too good for pants, then we're guessing the players will be, too.)


Michigan Wolverines



 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish


USC Trojans


Joe Paterno's Nike-sponsored IV bag

Teaser:
<p> College football uniforms are out of control. And they're only going to get worse.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2011 - 10:27
Path: /nfl/nfc-south-has-strongest-qbs-nfl-division
Body:

By Josh Kipnis

This past weekend, we all witnessed history as Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers broke the record for most passing yards in a quarterback’s NFL debut. Even with his astonishing 110.4 passer rating, 2 TD, 422-yard performance, Newton still has a long way to go before he can claim kingship over the division. With Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Josh Freeman leading the other three teams in the NFC South, 2011 should be a very promising year for this division.

Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
Background: Brees, who was signed by the Saints in 2006, led the Saints to their first ever Super Bowl victory in 2009. Winner of the MVP award in that game, he is also the Saints’ all-time leader in passing yards. The five-time pro-bowler was the AP Player of the Year in 2008 and has thrown over 4,000 yards each season with the Saints.

Strengths: Brees’ most eye-catching strength has to be his pinpoint accuracy. In fact, “pinpoint” cannot even describe how well this guy can hit a receiver downfield. In his “SportsScience” debut, Brees was asked to throw a football at an archery target from 20 yards away. Out of the ten throws he took, he hit the bulls-eye all ten times. Not even Olympic archers hit the bulls-eye that much.

Weaknesses: Many scouts questioned the Purdue alum’s height (6-0) as he entered the NFL draft back in 2001. His arm strength is also below average compared to the competition around the league. Nonetheless, do his weaknesses even matter at this point? He is unquestionably a top five QB in the NFL, and has the Saints in the Super Bowl conversation every year.

Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
Background: Ryan is one of two rookie quarterbacks (Peyton Manning) in NFL history to throw over 3,000 yards in his rookie season, making him the obvious choice for the 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Ryan led the Falcons to the playoffs his rookie season and again last season. Ryan continues to show signs of improvement; increasing his touchdown totals in each of the three seasons he has been a pro.

Strengths: Ryan shows a great balance of attributes; he might not be the most accurate or have the strongest arm, but he is definitely above average in both categories. So what’s so incredible about “Matty Ice?” In just three seasons in the NFL, Ryan has led the Falcons to eight 4th quarter comebacks and thirteen game winning drives. I’d say the nickname holds true.

Weaknesses: Leading the Falcons to the playoffs twice is a great feat, however, Atlanta lost in both of those openers. His 0-2 record in the playoffs is the only part of Ryan’s game holding him back from an elite status.

Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Bucs)
Background: Freeman broke the Bucs’ rookie records in passing yards (1,855) and TD passes (10) back in 2009. In just his second NFL season, he blew those numbers out of the water, throwing for 1,600 more yards, 15 more TDs, and 12 less INTs. Just 23 years old out of Kansas State, Freeman is posting numbers close to Brad Johnson in ’03, the last time Tampa Bay won the Lombardi Trophy.

Strengths: Coaches have to wipe the drool from their mouths when they see this guy throw on a pair of shoulder pads. Standing at 6-6 and weighing 248 lbs, Freeman is an absolute monster at the quarterback position. Add his mobility and arm strength to the list, and defensive coordinators suddenly find their tail between their legs.

Weaknesses: The major flaw in his rookie season was turnovers. Freeman ranked 4th in the NFL with 18 interceptions in 2009. However, it seems he found a solution to the problem during the off-season because he threw 12 less INTs in 2010. It sounds crazy, but does this guy have a weakness? Maybe his only limitation is Tampa Bay’s receiving corp.

Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
Background: As mentioned earlier, Newton displayed one of the best rookie performances ever, by throwing for 422 yards in his NFL debut. The Panthers have to be ecstatic seeing their number one overall pick playing this well. Last season, Panthers’ starter Jimmy Clausen never threw more than 300 yards and one touchdown in a game; Newton was better in both categories in just his first NFL start. The Heisman Trophy winner and NCAA National Champ from Auburn posted the 2nd highest yardage total among all QBs in Week 1.

Strengths: Almost identical in size to Josh Freeman, 6-6, 248 lbs, Newton is another beast among men. His combination of size, arm strength, and mobility made it impossible for Carolina to pass on this young stud. Although it is too early in his career to say his mentality is a strength, you have to love how the 22-year old carries himself in an interview. Following his epic performance, all Newton could think about was not being able to lead his team to victory, his first loss in over a year. “The last time I lost a game was Navarro Junior College,” Newton said. “What do you want me to say, it feels great? It is not a comfortable feeling for me.”

Weaknesses: The only flaw in his rookie debut came in red zone efficiency. On the final drive of the game, the Panthers had a first down on the Arizona 11-yard line. Newton’s next four plays were incomplete passes, and the fifth fell short of the end zone.

No question about it, the NFC South is stacked at the quarterback position. With Drew Brees continuing to display his pro-bowl career, and young gun-slingers Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, and Cam Newton entering the NFL’s spotlight, one thing is for sure: defensive backs around the league are all starting to shake as they see NFC South teams on their schedule.

Teaser:
<p> With Cam Newton's big splash, the NFC South is stacked with top quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2011 - 08:22
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/she-takes-what-where
Body:

That's kind of weird. What about the other swimmers? If she had any respect for the others around her, she would take one in the bathroom, like every other person.

Teaser:
<p> It's not cool to take a sheet in the pool.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2011 - 08:08
All taxonomy terms: 2004, nascar archive, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-realignmentathlon-style
Body:

This article was originally published in the 2004 Athlon Sports Racing Edition Vol. 2/2004

Realignment… Athlon Style

For the past few years, NASCAR has been adding, subtracting, swapping, cutting and pasting the Cup schedule. It has become clear to die-hard fans that NASCAR has less interest in staying true to its roots than in taking the series to the big markets across the country. While change is natural to any sport’s evolution, many feel that taking dates from the old tracks that have character (North Wilksboro, Darlington, Rockingham) and moving them to the new cookie-cutter tracks (California, Kansas, Chicago, Las Vegas) will make aerodynamics more important than driver skill. If we wanted follow-the-leader, spread-out-style racing, we’d watch the IRL.

We at Athlon believe that a diverse schedule that takes the sport to many areas of the country is important to the continued growth of NASCAR. At the same time, we believe that loyalty goes a long way in the eyes of the fans. The following is how we would put together the 2004 Nextel Cup schedule if we were in charge at the France Palace. We have no hidden agendas or allegiances to anyone — except to true fans. Our purpose is to provide the best, most entertaining schedule for the most avid fans while supporting NASCAR’s plans for future growth. So the SMI/ISC tug-of-war does not play into our schedule, but you better believe Darlington getting its Labor Day date back does.

February
2/7 Bud Shootout Daytona Int’l Speedway
2/12 Gatorade Twin 125s Daytona Int’l Speedway
2/15 Daytona 500 Daytona Int’l Speedway
2/22 Subway 400 North Carolina Motor Speedway
2/29 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Daytona is where it should be on the schedule, and what better way to follow up the glitz and glamour than with a trip to historic, quaint little ol’ Rockingham. Follow that up with a trip out west to Las Vegas, which will now fall on what was an off weekend. More about that off-weekend later.

March
3/7 Kentucky 400 Kentucky Speedway
3/14 Checker Auto Parts 500 Phoenix International Raceway
3/21 Golden Corral 500 Atlanta Motor Speedway
3/28 Samsung/Radio Shack 500 Texas Motor Speedway

Here’s where we start having a little fun. The drivers seem to love the new Kentucky Speedway, with most taking a trip or two up there to test each year. Give that track a date and you’ll attract the Louisville/Lexington/Cincinnati crowd. Out to Phoenix and its fun little one-mile oval, then down to Atlanta for the annual March race in the Peach State and on out to Texas, whose date is moved up one weekend.

April
4/4 Off-Weekend #1
4/10 Food City 500 Bristol Motor Speedway
4/18 Aaron’s 499 Talladega Superspeedway
4/25 Banquet 400 Kansas Speedway

April gets real silly. Let’s give the boys a break on the first weekend of the month. That’s seven points races to start the season followed by an off-weekend. This is a trend that will continue throughout the season. Why run 20 weekends in a row if you can space your off-dates evenly? Follow that up with the first of two Bristol night races. That’s right, run both Bristol dates on a Saturday night. Why? Because Bristol is just better at night. Talladega makes for two awesome weekends in a row on the 18th, followed by the annual bore-fest at Kansas.

May
5/2 Advance Auto Parts 500 Martinsville Speedway
5/9 Pocono 500 Pocono Raceway
5/16 Colorado 500 Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway
5/22 Nextel All-Star Challenge Lowe’s Motor Speedway
5/30 Coca Cola 600 Lowe’s Motor Speedway

Let’s start May at Martinsville and then head up to Pocono and pray for good weather for its one and only race of the year. Out to Pikes Peak for the inaugural Cup race there. This one mile D-shaped oval puts on a heck of a show when the Busch boys come to town. Plus, you’re hitting a new fan base and, hey, the track’s got character. The All-Star race and the 600 round out the month as usual. And by the way, we think the All-Star race should stay in Charlotte.

June
6/6 Off-Weekend #2
6/12 Pontiac Performance 400 Richmond International Raceway
6/20 MBNA America 400 Dover International Speedway
6/27 Michigan 400 Michigan International Speedway

Another off-weekend to start June. As with Bristol, we’re going to run both Richmond races at night. Up to Dover, because the weather should permit it by June, and then over to Michigan.

July
7/3 Auto Club 500 California Speedway
7/11 Tropicana 400 Chicagoland Speedway
7/17 New England 300 New Hampshire Int’l Speedway
7/25 Subway 500 Martinsville Speedway

OK, OK, before you throw a rod, let’s get one thing straight: the Labor Day date needs to be at Darlington. Therefore, we’ll throw California a bone and give them a high-profile Saturday night date on the Fourth of July weekend. We’ll get back to Daytona soon enough, don’t worry. From there, it’s up to Chicago and New Hampshire only, and we mean only, if NHIS puts some lights up. Then we go short track racin’ again at Martinsville, moving their race weekend up from October.

August
8/1 Off-Weekend #3
8/8 Brickyard 400 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
8/15 Dodge/Save Mart 350 Infineon Raceway
8/22 Ford 400 Homestead-Miami Speedway
8/28 Chevy Monte Carlo 400 Richmond Int’l Speedway

August starts with an off-weekend after seven weeks on the road. Indy’s weekend stays pretty much where it’s always been. No real change there. Then out to Infineon, so we can run our one and only road course. Down to Miami, which is moved up from the last weekend because let’s face it, Miami is the ultimate anticlimax to the season. Then back under the lights at Richmond for some hood stompin’.

September
9/5 Mountain Dew Southern 500 Darlington Raceway
9/12 Michigan 400 Michigan Int’l Speedway
9/19 Lone Star 500 Texas Motor Speedway
9/25 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 Atlanta Motor Speedway

We’re giving Darlington its Labor Day date back, provided they run it under the lights. I doubt we’ll get too much negative feedback on that. Up to Michigan before it gets too cold. Texas gets its coveted second date which we hope will end the silly feud between NASCAR and Bruton Smith (er, we mean Francis Ferko). Finally, on to Atlanta, where AMS’ weekend gets bumped up from October. While we’re at it, let’s run Atlanta under the lights. The cars look spectacular qualifying at night, so why not turn all 43 of them loose in prime time.

October
10/3 EA Sports 500 Talladega Superspeedway
10/10 Off-Weekend #4
10/16 Athlon Sports 400 Nashville Superspeedway
10/23 Pop Secret 500 California Speedway
10/30 Sharpie 500 Bristol Motor Speedway

We start our stretch run at Talladega, then give everyone a week off to catch their breath. The Cup boys then visit Nashville Superspeedway for its first-ever Cup race. Even better: it’s under the lights. California gets its second date, which will also be run at night, as will the Sharpie 500 at Bristol.

November
11/6 UAW-GM Quality 500 Lowe’s Motor Speedway
11/13 Pepsi 400 Daytona International Speedway
11/21 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 Darlington Raceway

The months of October and November are set up to take the Series to some of its most popular events. Imagine a race for the title coming down to the final few weeks where the guys have to slug it out at tracks such as Talladega, Bristol, Lowe’s, Daytona and Darlington. In our world anything is possible, so November shapes up to be truly amazing. Lowe’s is run at night in the teams’ backyard. A Saturday night race down in Daytona, where we’ve taken their July 4th race and placed it in “the stretch run.” And finally the season wraps up at the one track that tests every driver’s mettle — Darlington.

--------------

So let’s summarize: We run a bunch of events on Saturday night because night racing rules. It’s as simple as that. Plus, that makes for more prime-time exposure. You’ve still got 36 points events, and the season still encompasses 41 weeks. Some tracks must lose a date, and some must be awarded one. Off-weekends are spread out evenly, and the end of the season brings possibly the most exciting eight-week stretch of racing imaginable. As fans of racing, we feel this is the ultimate format to watch today’s NASCAR bridge a gap between the old and the new. Now if only we could get NASCAR on the phone…
 

Teaser:
<p> Our 2004 issue breaks down the how we would realign NASCAR</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 16:05
Path: /nfl/new-kickoff-rules-dont-hinder-scoring-exciting-plays-nfls-opening-week
Body:

by Mark Ross

When the NFL announced in March that kickoffs would be moved from the 30-yard-line to the 35-yard-line, it was not well received. Everyone from players, coaches and team executives to analysts and fans voiced their displeasure at a decision the league said was made to address player safety concerns. The general consensus among the dissenters was this — moving the kickoff five yards would result in basically eliminating any sort of return.

So now that Week 1 of the new NFL season is in the books, did the new kickoff rule have that much of an impact on the games? Yes, but not necessarily in the manner that so many predicted.

Moving kickoffs to the 35-yard-line definitely resulted in more touchbacks, substantially more in fact. In 2010, only 24 of 137 kickoffs (18 percent) in Week 1 went for touchbacks, according to STATS LLC. This season that number grew to roughly half as 79 of 162 (49 percent) kickoffs went for touchbacks. However, what must not be missed is what happened when one of them was returned.

Three kickoffs were returned for touchdowns, which ties the record for most in NFL history in an opening week. The record was initially set in 1970 and then tied in 1998. Last season only one kickoff was returned for a touchdown in Week 1. And if anything, moving the kickoff back five yards actually produced more exciting kickoff returns, highlighted by Green Bay Packers rookie Randall Cobb's record-tying 108-yard kickoff return in the Thursday night game against the New Orleans Saints that marked the start of the 2011 NFL season.

Besides Cobb, the other two kickoff returns each were more than 100 yards as well as the Minnesota Vikings' Percy Harvin took the opening kickoff against the San Diego Chargers 103 yards for the score and the San Francisco 49ers' Ted Ginn Jr. returned one 102 yards against the Seattle Seahawks in the 4th quarter of that game.

And Ginn didn't stop there. Following the kickoff return and a three-and-out by the Seahawks, Ginn returned the subsequent punt 55 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach. With that return, Ginn became the first player to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game in the opening week of an NFL season.

Ginn's punt return for a touchdown was one of five that happened during Week 1 action. The Saints' Darren Sproles got the first one of the 2011 season on Thursday night against the Packers, followed by Jacoby Jones of the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson in their games on Sunday. The fifth and final one came courtesy of Eric Decker, who returned one 90 yards for his Denver Broncos against the Oakland Raiders on Monday night. That game also had the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski tying the NFL record for longest field goal made when he booted one from 63 yards out to end the first half.

In total, the eight combined kick-return touchdowns (five punt, three kickoff) set a record for the most combined kick-return touchdowns in a single week in NFL history. So using Week 1 as a gauge, it appears that while the new kickoff rule may have significantly reduced the number of kickoff returns in a game, it also created the potential for more exciting plays in the process because of the increased distance (not to mention degree of difficulty) on those that are returned from deep in the endzone.

Besides the impact on the return game, the increased number of touchbacks from the new kickoff rule also meant teams were starting the vast majority of their drives from their own 20-yard-line. Whether or not the two are directly related, this much is clear — the first week of game action using the new kickoff rule featured plenty of prolific offense. Among the other records either set or tied in Week 1, according to the NFL:

  • The 752 points scored tied for the ninth-most in a single week in NFL history and were the second-most ever scored in Week 1.
  • There were 89 touchdowns scored, tied for the sixth-most in a single week in NFL history and tied for the most ever in Week 1 (2002).
  • Teams combined to throw for 7,842 net passing yards, the highest total in any week in NFL history.
  • There were five games in which each team had a player throw for at least 300 yards, the most such games in a week in NFL history.
  • Fourteen quarterbacks threw for at least 300 yards, the most in a single week in NFL history.

And far as the NFL's concerns about player safety go, the new kickoff rules did produce substantially more touchbacks, which resulted in fewer returns and thereby reduced the number of chances players could get hurt during a return. To be fair, players still got hurt during kickoffs in Week 1, most notably Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff that Harvin returned for a touchdown. But let's be realistic here. This is football we're talking about. It's a physical, contact-oriented, high-impact sport. To quote what one former college football coach once memorably said, "It ain't intramurals brother!"

It's still (really) early, but on first glance, it appears that moving the kickoff results in more exciting returns and the potential for even more offensive fireworks. If that's the case, while the players, coaches and team executives may not still not be crazy about the new rule, and I'm sure you'll still hear a fair number of analysts put their two cents in; I don't think you'll hear the fans complain. And in the end, that's music to the NFL's ears. 

Teaser:
<p> There were a record eight kickoffs and punts returned for TDs in Week 1</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 11:50
All taxonomy terms: Glenn Rice, Sarah Palin, Overtime
Path: /overtime/how-bang-sarah-palin-flowchart
Body:

With the very unexpected news breaking this week that Sarah Palin and ex-Michigan Wolverine and NBA star Glen Rice had a one-night stand back in the 80s (seriously, did anyone see this one coming?), we thought we'd provide this very informative and helpful flowchart to break down and analyze the various ways in which you could bed Sarah Palin. 

Don't you feel like you are much more prepared if you ever come across the Republican presidential candidate (yes, she will be some day) who's known for family values event hough her daughter has two kids out of wedlock and Sarah herself has had one-night stands?

Teaser:
<p> Ya know, in case you ever find yourself being Glen Rice or a snowmobiler.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 11:35

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