Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /mlb/world-series-preview-pictures
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The 2011 World Series kicks off tonight with a battle between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers. So to get you ready for this fall classic, let's take a look at both team's managers, players and even front office executives who you'll be watching for the next 4 to 7 games. 

By Saul Hutson

Teaser:
<p> The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals square off in the 2011 World Series</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 07:26
All taxonomy terms: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers, NFL
Path: /nfl/jim-harbaugh-captain-comeback
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Jim Harbaugh was born to coach. His father, Jack, coached football for 40 years, winning an FCS national championship at Western Kentucky in 2002. His brother, John, has made the playoffs every season since taking over the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. Even his brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is in the business — coaching basketball at Indiana University.

With all due respect to the rest of the Harbaugh coaching clan, Jim is the star — and always has been.

Raised in Palo Alto, Calif., Harbaugh played under Bo Schembechler at Michigan, where he was named the 1986 Big Ten Player of the Year, finished third in the Heisman Trophy race and took the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl as a senior.

The 6'3", 215-pound Harbaugh was a first-round pick (No. 26 overall) of the Chicago Bears. After 15 seasons — highlighted by a Pro Bowl nod and Comeback Player of the Year honors in 1995 — Harbaugh retired from the NFL and started coaching full-time.

Working his way up the ranks, Harbaugh was the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders from 2002-03 — mentoring MVP Rich Gannon for the Super Bowl XXXVII runners-up.

Harbaugh’s first head coaching job came at San Diego University. In three seasons, he led the Toreros to a 29–6 record, with back-to-back 11–1 seasons and Pioneer League titles.

From there, Harbaugh moved up from the FCS to the FBS, taking over a Stanford University squad that finished 1–11 the year before he arrived. After four seasons, Harbaugh had turned the Cardinal into a 12–1 team and Orange Bowl winner.

Nine years after walking away from the NFL, the man known as “Captain Comeback” during his playing days was presented with a “perfect competitive opportunity” to coach his hometown team. Harbaugh jumped at the chance to return to the NFL as coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

“This is the shot, and the organization I wanted to do it with,” Harbaugh said, after signing a five-year, $25 million contract. “I can feel the enthusiasm coursing through my veins.”

Harbaugh’s energy and intensity have been evident — for both better and worse. The 49ers are alone in first place of the NFC West with a 5–1 record, the proud franchise’s best start since 1998.

But the biggest win of the season — a 25–19 upset on the road against the previously unbeaten Detroit Lions — ended in controversy. When the clock hit zero, Harbaugh celebrated by untucking his shirt, jumping around, hooting, hollering and running onto the field — where he gave Lions coach Jim Schwartz a quick, slap handshake and strong pat on the back before bolting for the locker room. Schwartz took offense, chasing after Harbaugh in a surreal scene.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed and Harbaugh learned his lesson.

“I was just really revved up,” explained Harbaugh. “I shook his hand too hard. … We’ll just try to do better — work on the postgame handshake.”
 

Teaser:
<p> The rookie coach is restoring order to the 49ers — but not with his postgame handshakes.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 05:43
All taxonomy terms: Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns, News
Path: /news/athlons-april-rose-tailgates-texas-ou-game-video
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Athlon Sports Oklahoma vs Texas Tailgate Tour from Max Zarchin on Vimeo.

We sent our favorite reporter, April Rose, down to the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners game to find out why it's one of the biggest and best rivalries in sports. Apparently it has something to do with the fans not liking each other.

Teaser:
<p> The Longhorns and Sooners have one of the best rivalries in sports. April Rose finds out why.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 12:08
Path: /news/raiders-make-oopsy-trade-two-first-rounders-bengals-carson-palmer
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Carson Palmer is finally out of retirement and no longer a Bengal after the Al Davis-less Raiders traded two first round draft picks (one of them conditional) to Cincinnati.

I guess Al Davis lives on.

Let's get this straight. The Oakland Raiders gave up two first rounders (ostensibly selling their future) for a quarterback who hasn't played in over a year. And when he did play the last two years, he wasn't actually "good."

Jason Campbell, who had performed great in 2011 for the surprise Raiders, and has been part of their early season success may only be out for six weeks. Even if he's out for the season, it's going to take Carson at least a month to get up to speed and learn the Raiders' offense. 

And it's not like Carson Palmer is Peyton Manning even when he has the complete grasp of an offensive scheme. After his injury three years ago, he was never the same quarterback he was in his early years in Cincinnati. Two first round picks seems like an insane price to pay, when you could probably have gotten Bruce Gradkowski--a QB who knows the offense and can fill in while Campbell is out--for a song. 

From a fan's perspective, it is nice to know that the Raiders are doing everything they can to win now. But guess what, Carson Palmer doesn't make you better than the Patriots, 49ers, Packers or Steelers. In fact, I'm not sure he makes you better than the Rams. 

And so, when you don't actually win after raiding your future drafts, you're left with a team that will wallow in mediocrity for a long time. Just ask the Chicago Bears. They went out and spent a lot of draft picks on a quarterback thinking it would get them over the hump. It did not. Sure, they got to a Conference Championship last year, but anyone who saw the Bears play last year knew they got lucky with more than a few wins (and Cutler wasn't what got them there). And because they had no draft picks to build up their offensive line or go get a top-rated receiver, they will be a .500 football team for the foreseeable future.

But someone should finally congratulate Mike Brown, the stubborn owner of the Bengals, who finally saw the error of his ways (or was given an offer that even he couldn't refuse). Maybe turning down two first rounders for Ochocinco two years ago only to see Ochocinco turn into an Ocho-ty year old man in front of his eyes made Brown realize that it's smarter to get something for nothing, than stick with nothing sitting on a couch instead of playing football.

Teaser:
<p> This may go down as one of the worst trades in history</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:41
Path: /nfl/sam-bradford-owners-rejoice-%E2%80%94-brandon-lloyd-has-arrived
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It's safe to say that the St. Louis Rams, who have yet to win a game this season, probably won't make the NFL playoffs. However, it appears they haven't thrown in the towel yet, either, as evidenced by Monday's trade for Brandon Lloyd.

The addition of the former Denver Broncos wide receiver provides quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams' passing attack with something they have been lacking —a bona fide No. 1 receiver. Lloyd immediately becomes the top option for the Rams' aerial attack, which currently ranks 25th in the NFL with 209.4 yards per game.

The Rams acquired Lloyd from the Broncos on Monday for a conditional sixth-round pick in next year's draft. The pick could become a fifth-rounder, depending on how many receptions Lloyd has with the Rams.

Lloyd, 30, was in the last year of his contract with the Broncos and didn't figure in the team's future plans. With the trade, Lloyd is reunited with Ram's offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was the Broncos' head coach last season.

Having played for McDaniels in Denver, Lloyd is familiar with the Rams' offense, so there's little reason to think he won't be in the starting line up this Sunday when the Rams travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.

Further, it was under McDaniels that Lloyd had his best season, when he caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. This year he has 19 receptions for 283 yards and no touchdowns.

Even though Lloyd's production is down this year compared to last, he still represents an upgrade for the Rams' receiving corps. Brandon Gibson currently leads the Rams with 17 receptions, which have gone for 214 yards and a touchdown.

Danario Alexander has received the most targets (33, same number as Lloyd) and has the most receiving yards with 287. He also is averaging more than 20 yards per catch and has one touchdown.

Lloyd's arrival also means the departure of Mike Sims-Walker, who signed as a free agent in August and was released Monday afternoon. He was expected to be the Rams' starting wide receiver, opposite Danny Amendola, before the start of this season. Sims-Walker caught six passes against the New York Giants in Week 2, but totaled five receptions in three other games. He was inactive this past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

Amendola, on the other hand, was the Rams' leading receiver last year, but he went down in Week 1 with a dislocated elbow and then suffered a triceps tear that required surgery. Looking at a four-month recovery, the team placed him on injured reserve during their bye week, ending his season.

Lloyd should be one starter, with Alexander, a viable deep threat provided he can stay healthy, lining up on the other side. Gibson had replaced Amendola as the Rams' second option/slot receiver, but he's being pushed by rookie Greg Salas, who caught eight passes against the Packers.
 
Regardless, the addition of Lloyd should lead to good things for the Rams’ passing attack and likewise, Bradford’s numbers. Bradford was the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year last season after completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards (219.5 ypg) with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 76.5. Five games into this season, Bradford’s completion percentage has dropped to 53 percent and he’s thrown for 1,170 yards (234 ypg) with just three touchdown passes and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 72.0.
 
Some of Bradford’s struggles can be attributed to the offensive line. Last year he was sacked a total of 34 times. This year, Bradford’s already been sacked an NFL-high 21 times. At this rate (4.2 sacks per game), Bradford is on pace to be sacked 67 times. Last year, the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times, the most of any quarterback.
 
Besides the offensive line, wide receiver play has not helped Bradford’s production, as Rams receivers have already dropped 11 passes this season. That ties for the sixth-most in the NFL, according to STATS.
 
Lloyd should help here as he has 19 receptions on 33 targets this season, meaning he has caught 58 percent of the passes thrown his way. Among Rams receivers with 20 or more targets, only Salas (13 for 21, 62 percent) has a better percentage than Lloyd.
 
Unfortunately, as eager as Bradford may be to start working with Lloyd, he may have to wait a while still. Bradford suffered a high left ankle sprain in the loss to the Packers and is in a walking boot. His status for this Sunday’s game against the Cowboys is up in the air and the Rams are preparing to have backup A.J. Feeley under center instead of Bradford.
 
Feeley is an 11-year veteran, but he’s played in a total of 24 games and he’s just 1-for-5 for 21 yards in mop up duty this season. He has 15 career starts under his belt, but his most recent one came with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007.
 
Obviously not the scenario the Rams envisioned when they made the trade for Lloyd, but at least Bradford has something to look forward to, or more specifically, someone to look forward to throwing to, when he does return to action.

Teaser:
<p> Wide receiver looks to invigorate St. Louis Rams' passing attack</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:37
All taxonomy terms: Donovan McNabb, Minnesota Vikings, News
Path: /news/donovan-mcnabb-pulls-al-bundy-after-his-benching
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This is Donovan McNabb's stance after getting benched. He looks more like Al Bundy than a Super Bowl almost-winning quarterback who's been sent to the bench for--and then getting outplayed by--a rookie quarterback (Christian Ponder) who, by all consensus, was drafted way too high. 

It looks like the only thing missing from Minnesota's sideline was a couch, a TV and a bag of chips.

Teaser:
<p> The Vikings quarterback seemed to take his benching pretty well</p>
Post date: Monday, October 17, 2011 - 02:10
Path: /news/delone-carter-danny-woodhead-tim-hightower-and-greg-little-who-you-should-play-and-who-you-shou
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Here we are in week 6 of the NFL fantasy football season and difficult decisions need to be made. With byes decimating some teams, it's hard to decide who to take a flier on. Here's what you should do with four of them.

Delone Carter: Don't Play
Delone has been the darling of the waiver wire this week, but this is not an ideal match-up for him against the Bengals, who have one of the top defenses against the run. If Carter had performed admirably last week when he took over for the injured Joseph Addai, we'd say give him a shot, because he does seem to have the goal line duties. But back-up Donald Brown seemed to outplay him last week, which means there's a good chance the two will split carries against Cincinnati. Not a good place to be even for a top back. The most you can hope for out of Carter is 40-50 yards and a touchdown. That's his upside. If you have another sure thing in your backfield who's guaranteed more than 12 touches, go that route. It just doesn't seem like a good situation for Carter this week.

Danny Woodhead: Don't Play
Ahh, the game-time decision. The bane of the fantasy football player's existence. And that's what the Patriots' Danny Woodhead is this week. And that's why you should sit him. The Pats are firing on almost all cylinders now with Aaron Hernandez back and the man with the law firm name, BenJarvis Green-Ellis having a career week last week. I know Bill Belichick's New England Patriots' switches is up from week to week, but the last thing this offense seems to need is Danny Woodhead. Which means there's no need for them to push him out onto the field faster than they need to. If he's on your waiver wire next week, and you're still dealing with bye week issues, go after him. But this week, let him sit.

Greg Little: Play
Yes, the Browns offense has been anemic. Yes, the Browns haven't done those minor things like "move the ball" or "score points," but this week Greg Little, the flashy, playmaking rookie wide receiver got a vote of confidence from the coaching staff and was promoted to starter for the Browns. What exactly does this mean? Who knows, but it seems like he'll at least get a few looks and targets as the staff will want to make their decision look like a smart one. And Little has the skills to make them right. So pop him in your lineup and see what happens. He's got nothing but upside right now. That could change from upside to downside at some point, but this is a smart, calculated gamble. If he's going to become a WR2, he may as well do it on your team. You can always cut him if he flops.

Tim Hightower: Don't Play
It's rare to say you shouldn't play a running back who's going to probably start against one of the worst run defenses in the league. But when he's starting a committee, that looks like it's leaning towards a dictatorship (with Ryan Torain acting as the dictator), it's a tough call, but you may want to sit him. It seems as though Hightower, who is coming off a tweaked knee, is fine on the ninjury front. But after Ryan Torain blew up two weeks ago, we're expecting Ryan to get the majority fo the carries. While it's tempting, and probably hurts, to see your 5-7th round draft pick get upstaged by a waiver wire pickup, this is the tough decision fantasy football owners have to make to win leagues. We expect Hightower to get 10 touches and put up 50 yards. If he's lucky enough to add a touchdown to that line, then he's worth playing. But if you have someone on your bench who will get 15-20 touches, put him in instead. You can never bank on touchdowns, and we always opt for the guy who should get more touches.

Teaser:
<p> We break down four key fantasy football players in week 6</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 16, 2011 - 02:57
Path: /news/legarrette-blount-out-2-4-weeks-go-get-earnest-graham-kregg-lumpkin-and-delone-carter
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LeGarrette Blount wasn't having a great season, but he was having a very LeGarrette Blout-esque season. Which means his owners are hurting now that the Tampa Bay running back is out several weeks with a grade 2 tear in his left MCL.

So what should Blount owners do now that their missing a fantasy footballer who wouldn't pile up yards, but had found the end zone three times in four and a half games.

There's speculation for exactly how long Blount will be out, but you can easily expect to miss weeks 6-8 at best.

The first option is to go get Earnest Graham, who will be the primary back-up while Blount is riding the pine. But there's a catch (there's always a catch in fantasy football, isn't there). Graham has battled hamstirng issues for a few weeks. And while he was on the field in last week's shellacking at the hands of the 49ers, hamstrings have a way of coming back.

Earnest Graham should catch a few ball (he's got 23 receptions so far this season.) Some of that is from his role as third down back when Blount is getting the majority of carries. But look for that to continue. If his hamstring holds up, Graham could easily put up a 80 yard, 1 TD day with 4-5 catches sprinkled in. He should be a solid RB1 if healthy.

If his hamstring acts up, keep an eye on Kregg Lumpkin, who would slide into the feature back role. I wouldn't pick up Lumpkin just yet, but monitor the Tampa Bay-Saints box score and news, and if you have some space for a flier, Lumpkin could be a decent gamble.

And of course, if you're really looking for an exact replica of Blount (well, a B-version of LeGarrette) go get Delone Carter. With Joseph Addai out this Sunday, Carter, who's been the goal line back for the Indianapolis Colts, will get more carries this week as well as the goal line duties. Delone hasn't shown many flashes of brilliance, or flashes of gaining yards, but he has found the end zone once (and when you take into account how woeful the Colts offense was in the first few weeks, and how few carries he got when Addai was healthy, any end zone trips is a success on that team.) Look for Delone to put up 50 yards and a touchdown this Sunday against a solid Bengals defense. 

Teaser:
<p> The Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back has a grade 2 MCL tear.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 13:49
Path: /college-basketball/duke-blue-devils-basketball-2011-2012-preview-and-predictions
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As he stands on the cusp of history, Mike Krzyzewski’s 32nd season for the Duke Blue Devils means dealing with a program reboot. With 900 Division I college basketball coaching wins, Krzyzewski needs two wins to catch his mentor, Bob Knight, for the all-time record and three wins to call the mark his own. He’ll likely get there in November, but he’ll do so with a team that will look nothing like the squad that went 32–5 and won the ACC Tournament before bowing out in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Devils lost a pair of senior stalwarts in guard Nolan Smith, the ACC Player of the Year, and Kyle Singler, plus freshman guard Kyrie Irving, who showed enough during his injury-shortened, 11-game season to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

So last year’s perimeter-oriented team has transformed into this year’s version featuring a deep, but not yet proven, frontcourt along with a talented but mostly inexperienced backcourt. Duke’s top returning scorer is junior guard Seth Curry (9.0 ppg). The Blue Devils’ lone senior is forward Miles Plumlee (4.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

Yet the 64-year-old Krzyzewski is at peace with the challenge ahead as he looks down the road beyond win No. 903. “Now it’s this group’s turn,” Krzyzewski says, “not just for this year, but to set the wheels in motion to see how the next few years can be.”

FRONTCOURT 
While Duke lacks a dominating post player, the Blue Devils possess depth and experience that should provide defensive toughness and rebounding. Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee were regular starters last season, while Miles Plumlee started occasionally and was a solid player off the bench. Krzyzewski likes his frontcourt depth so much that there’s a chance Duke could be an “inside-outside” team this season rather than looking for points on the perimeter first.

The 6'10" Miles Plumlee became a serviceable cog in the rotation last year while averaging 17 minutes per game. He’s not likely to develop into a double-figure scorer but should provide solid rebounding and defense with additional minutes. Junior Mason Plumlee possesses the highest ceiling. He started 32 games, averaging 7.2 points and 8.4 rebounds last season while blocking a team-high 62 shots. More consistent play could make him the kind of double-double regular Duke needs. This season, a third Plumlee brother, 6'11" freshman Marshall, will fight for playing time in the paint.

Kelly made a big jump in his sophomore season, contributing points from the perimeter and inside while teaming with the Plumlees to guard the basket well. His 3-point shot (31.9 percent) ­wasn’t consistent, but his strength and passing ability make him valuable.

Sophomore Josh Hairston, an athletic 6'7" forward, saw few significant minutes last season as he adjusted to the physical nature of Division I basketball. His improvement in conditioning will determine how much he’ll contribute. Freshman Alex Murphy is built in the Singler mode and could force his way into the rotation.

Key Blue Devil Stat: 4
There are four former Blue Devil team captains on Duke's coaching staff, with former Oklahoma and VCU head coach Jeff Capel joining Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski and Nate James on the bench.

BACKCOURT
Curry and Andre Dawkins bring the most experience but are both score-first players. Both have the ability to knock down 3-pointers with regularity, yet the Blue Devils are in need of playmakers this season.

Sophomore point guard Tyler Thornton showed strong defensive skills last season in spot duty. He’ll need to produce on the offensive end to increase his playing time.

Freshmen Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook will provide athleticism and talent. A true scorer, Rivers will play from Day 1, while Cook has a chance to seize the point guard minutes. Their development, when and if it comes, is crucial to Duke’s success.

“It’s kind of a rite of passage, from being a good player to being an outstanding player,” Krzyzewski says. “Some guys make it freshman year. Some guys do it along the way. I’m looking forward to seeing who does that.”

Curry and Dawkins have played enough in Krzyzewski’s system to know what needs to be done. The Blue Devils need them to provide regular double-figure scoring nights to be a top-10 team.

FINAL ANALYSIS 
With so many proven players gone, Krzyzewski faces a season in which roles will develop as the months progress. He’s not worried, though. “We have talent,” Krzyzewski says, “and that’s a good place to start.”

North Carolina is the overwhelming favorite in the ACC, but Duke is the clear No. 2 pick. If Mason Plumlee emerges as a consistent force and the freshman guards are as good as advertised, a trip to the Final Four is well within reach.

ACC Prediction: 2nd
NCAA Tournament Prediction: Elite Eight

 

Teaser:
<p> We break down the Duke Blue Devils chances at winning the championship in 2011-2012</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 12:50
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2011-preview-north-carolina-tarheels
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After the North Carolina Tar Heels fell one step short of the Final Four, Roy Williams entered the offseason uncertain about what his team might look like for 2011-12. Now, he couldn’t be more pleased. Each member of Williams’ starting frontcourt — Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller — passed up a chance to enter the NBA Draft. Their decision to stay in school means that the Tar Heels return their top seven scorers from last season. Throw in a recruiting class that includes top-flight freshmen James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, and UNC is a favorite to win its third NCAA college basketball title in the last eight years.

“I’ve had five or six teams that I thought had a chance if they get lucky, if things go well, to win a national championship,” Williams says. “That’s the same kind of thing I think with this team. But you never know what’s going to happen.”

FRONTCOURT
UNC’s starters up front will contend for All-ACC first-team status after the trio combined for 43.1 points per game last season. Barnes got off to a slow start amid unreasonably high expectations for his freshman season, but he established himself as a fearless shot-maker in the clutch. He spent the offseason working on his ball-handling, which he hopes will enable him to drive more to the basket rather than relying so heavily on his jumper.

Henson, with his long reach and leaping ability, has become the ACC’s most dominating defensive force. He still needs to improve his offense, but he led the league in blocked shots (3.2 bpg) and finished third in rebounding (10.1 rpg) last year as a sophomore. Zeller, meanwhile, proved how effective he could be when healthy for a full season. The senior remains a perfect fit for UNC’s transition game — “He’s as good a runner as I’ve ever coached,” Williams says — and he has refined a right-handed hook shot as his go-to move in the post.

McAdoo figures to rotate in as the team’s third big man, and sophomore Reggie Bullock can spell Barnes at small forward after missing the final nine games last season with a knee injury. Senior Justin Watts is undersized as a backup forward, but he compensates with explosive leaping ability.

Tar Heels Key Stat: 19.7
Harrison Barnes averaged 19.7 points over the final 18 games of his freshman season. He averaged 11.8 in his first 19 games.

BACKCOURT
The Tar Heels won 17 of their final 20 games last season, a run that began when Kendall Marshall became their starting point guard. Marshall took over the starting role after outplaying incumbent Larry Drew II for the first half of the season, and he received heavy minutes after Drew quit the team in early February. Now a sophomore, Marshall is comfortable in his leadership position. He isn’t UNC’s top talent, but he is its most indispensable player because of the team’s lack of depth at his position.

Ultra-quick junior Dexter Strickland struggled with his shooting for the second year in a row, but he found his niche as UNC’s best perimeter defender. He will continue to start at shooting guard while also serving as Marshall’s primary backup at the point.

The Tar Heels shot just 32.8 percent from 3-point range last season, an area they must improve to fulfill their national championship aspirations. Junior Leslie McDonald was expected to provide some outside shooting off the bench, but he suffered a torn ACL over the summer. His loss will put more pressure on Bullock and Hairston to deliver some scoring from the perimeter.

FINAL ANALYSIS
The Tar Heels face different expectations from the ones they encountered a year ago. Then, UNC basketball rallied around the idea of clawing their way to the top of the ACC after they fell out of the Top 25 early in the season. Now, they will open the season at the top of every major poll because of their unequaled combination of talent, depth and experience.

Anything less than the ACC regular-season title and a trip to the Final Four would be a disappointment for UNC players, coaches and fans alike. There are no guarantees in the single-elimination world of the NCAA Tournament, of course, but the Tar Heels have as good a chance as anyone of cutting down the nets in New Orleans — coincidentally, the site of Dean Smith’s 1982 and ’93 national titles.

“We have the opportunity to win it all, and we have the opportunity to completely fail,” Barnes says. “It’s just a matter of whether we continue to stay humble and continue to take the right steps and get our way back up to the top like we did last year.”

ACC Prediction: 1st
NCAA Tournament Prediction: National Champs

Teaser:
<p> How far will Roy Williams and his Tar Heels go this season?</p>
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2011 - 11:48
Path: /college-basketball/jared-sullinger-singing-eating-and-returning-ohio-state
Body:

Jared Sullinger’s decision to return to Ohio State ensured the Buckeyes another shot at getting to the Final Four. Thad Matta hadn’t had much luck keeping big men around Columbus for more than one year — witness Greg Oden, Kosta Koufos and B.J. Mullens.

However, Sullinger is a different breed. He averaged a double-double as a freshman and would have been a sure-fire lottery pick, but he opted to return for another year in college.

He told reporters immediately after getting bounced in the Elite Eight that he’d be back — and he stuck to his word. Athlon Sports sat down with Sullinger over the summer to discuss the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports: What is your favorite opposing gym?
Jared Sullinger: Michigan — mostly because of the rivalry. That building is electric and a fun place to play.


What’s the place you least like to play in the Big Ten?
I’m not sure there is a bad place to play in the league, but they were entertaining at Purdue. They kept singing “Party in the USA” and were yelling “Subway Diet” at me every time I was at the free throw line.


Who is the toughest guy who guarded you so far in college?
Colton Iverson at Minnesota (who has since transferred to Colorado State). The one thing about him is that I couldn’t move him. He really held his ground and I honestly didn’t expect that.


How about the most difficult player you have had to guard?
JaJuan Johnson. He’s able to make really difficult shots. Even when I had a hand in his face, he made shots. There was really nothing you could do.

Which coach in the league would you want to play for — other than Thad Matta, of course?
Tubby Smith. I like his high-low. It looks like there are a lot of easy baskets down in the post.

You didn’t wait long to announce you’d be coming back to Ohio State for your sophomore season. You did it immediately after you guys lost in the Elite Eight. Did you ever have second thoughts after saying it?
Never. Honestly, I knew the whole year I was coming back. I never came out and blatantly said it, but I knew. A lot of people were telling me it was off emotion, but I knew I was coming back — and I’m a man of my word.

Why did you decide to come back even though you probably would have been a high lottery pick?
My teammates. They make college fun. I still want to be a kid. I don’t want to be a professional just yet. I’m honestly having too much fun right now — and I also think that I can learn a lot more from Coach Matta and develop my game before I get to the next level.

When did it hit you that your season was over?
The day after we lost, when I got on the plane. I was thinking that we were supposed to be in the hotel getting ready to shoot. Actually, maybe it was right after the game, when the buzzer went off, I was still thinking we had tomorrow. But then I walked in the locker room and saw Jon (Diebler), Dave (Lighty) and Dallas (Lauderdale) all crying, and then it hit me that there was no tomorrow for them.



How much blame did you put on yourself for the loss to Kentucky?
Those two free throws I missed. I put a lot on those because we ended up losing by two points. I went 7-for-9 from the line, but if I make those two free throws, we have a chance to go to overtime. It’s tough thinking about that. It’s still tough.

There’s been a lot of talk that you decided to come back so that you could expand your game and play power forward.
I talked to Coach Matta and told him that whatever position he wants me to play, I’ll play it. Whatever he asks, I’ll do — whether it’s the 4 or the 5. People say that I can’t shoot, dribble and that I’m too slow to guard a 4. I’ll let people be the judge of that this year. I came in last year at 285 pounds, and now I’m at 275. It’s a big difference. I’m actually surviving conditioning this time around.

How tough has it been to slim down? Let’s face it, I know you like food.
I love to eat, but I don’t eat a lot anymore. I used to eat three or four plates at each meal, but I’ve cut it down now to just one plate. It’s kind of crazy.

What’s your ultimate meal?

My mom’s steak, my aunt’s broccoli and cheese and some loaded mashed potatoes.

Have you and Aaron Craft worked on your voices after that, um, unique rendition last year of “Party in the USA” that made the rounds just about everywhere?

No singing lessons. We still get a lot of stuff about that, though. I was in a fast food restaurant and “Party in the USA” came on and everyone in the whole place wanted me to sing it. 



Give me a rating from 1 to 10 on each of your singing performances — you, (Aaron) Craft and (Jon) Diebler.
(laughing) Craft was a negative two, Diebler was probably a 0.28 and I was a 10. But I’m going to take Craft’s side on this one, he was sick when he sang. He’s better than what was in the video.



What’s your take on a bunch of the top players — not just you — returning to college basketball this season?
That was pretty amazing for college basketball. We showed that it’s not just about the money; it’s about winning. I know Terrence Jones and Harrison Barnes personally — and they both love to win. This was a big step for college basketball. and I think it’ll make for a great year.



With Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all coming back to North Carolina and Jones returning to Kentucky, you guys went from the preseason No. 1 team in the country to the consensus No. 3 team. What are your thoughts on that?
I feel like we’re in the same spot as we were last year, not being the favorite — but being ranked somewhere between three and five. It doesn’t really matter to me. I like where we’re at — and I love the freshman class we’ve brought in.

Tell us a little bit about this new group. Give us your thoughts on each of the new guys.
Let’s start with (center) Amir Williams. He’s a funny kid who is real athletic and has a high motor. (Center) Trey McDonald is a hard worker who is pretty dang good. (Forward) Sam Thompson is athletic, smart and is high-energy — especially on defense. (Forward) LaQuinton Ross is a skilled forward who is long as can be, and (point guard) Shannon Scott is fast and is similar to Aaron Craft. These guys are really going to help us this year and in the future.

What do you want to do after you are done playing basketball?
I want to own my own business someday. I’m big and I like to eat. I want to own a restaurant, maybe a soul food place.

 

Teaser:
<p> Here's our Q&amp;A with the Buckeyes big man as he returns for his sophomore year</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 17:26
All taxonomy terms: Tim Tebow, Overtime
Path: /overtime/worst-tim-tebow-tribute-video-0
Body:

I've never seen grown men get so worked up over another grown man like football fans and Tim Tebow. What is is about the Denver Broncos new starting quarterback that makes guys want to spend a lot of time and energy expressing their love for him?

Sure, he works hard, but lots of players work hard. Are these all Florida Gators fans? I just don't get it. 

If anyone can explain the Tim Tebow phenomenon to me, I would love to hear it.

Teaser:
<p> Sometimes you don't want people to pay tribute to you.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 14:56
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-rolls-dice-dennis-erickson
Body:

This article originally appeared in Athlon's 2007 College Football annual.

This is Dennis Erickson:

He won two national championships at the University of Miami.

He led downtrodden Oregon State to an 11–1 season capped off by a 41–9 rout of Notre Dame in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.

He’s the all-time winningest coach in University of Idaho history, he guided Washington State to its first bowl victory since 1931, and his record in the college ranks is a gaudy 148–65–1.

This, too, is Dennis Erickson: His 1987 WSU team had a 1.94 grade-point average when it won the Aloha Bowl. During his six-year tenure at Miami, players fraudulently received more than $200,000 in Pell Grant money.

The Hurricanes were slapped with multiple rules violations that resulted in the loss of 31 scholarships and a one-year ban on postseason play. The NCAA also found that Erickson allowed three players who failed drug tests to play in games.

Miami’s 46–3 drubbing of Texas in the 1991 Cotton Bowl was tainted by the Hurricanes’ nine personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, leading Miami president Edward Foote to say it was “an unfortunate end to an otherwise outstanding season.”

Arizona State researched the good and the bad before it hired Erickson last December.

Its verdict?

“I feel comfortable with who this man is,” says Lisa Love, ASU’s vice president of athletics.

It’s easy to understand why the Sun Devils hired Erickson. They were perennial underachievers under coach Dirk Koetter, fashioning a 40–34 record in his six seasons in Tempe and never finishing higher than third in the Pac-10 Conference.

In addition, Koetter was 0–12 in Pac-10 games played in California, 21–28 overall in conference play and 2–19 against top-25 teams.

Erickson, 60, should change all that. He’s won wherever he’s coached in college, with the exception of his one-year stint at Idaho in 2006, and the Sun Devils expect nothing less.

“This is not a guessing game,” Love says. “This is not a roll of the dice. His track record is extraordinary. He is not only a big-game coach. He is a big-season coach. And he is a program builder, which is what we are seeking. We are not seeking a success on one great game day; we’re seeking a great season, and then a repeat.”

UTEP coach Mike Price, a friend of Erickson’s since high school, says: “Wherever Dennis goes, he fits right in immediately. He won’t have to start from scratch at ASU. He’s got good coaches and a good plan, and he’ll put it to use. I’m excited for ASU. It will be a lot of fun with him there.”
The Sun Devils could use a little fun.

“I don’t think our team had a personality (last year),” says quarterback Rudy Carpenter. “We didn’t play with a swagger or attitude. It was a little suppressed.”

That won’t happen under Erickson, who signed a five-year, $5.6 million contract. He’ll want his players to be intense, outgoing and vocal. His Miami and Oregon State clubs weren’t wallflowers, and ASU won’t be either.

Erickson’s players appreciate the freedom and, in turn, are fiercely loyal to him.

Former Oregon State and current Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson once said, “If I was 90 years old and he recruited me, I would play for him.”
In the days leading up to the 2006 Hawaii Bowl, Koetter said it would be difficult for any coach to consistently win in Tempe. “The thing is — and I was guilty of this — a lot of people look at ASU on the outside and have a perception of what Arizona State is. That’s not what it is,” said Koetter, declining to be more specific. “The only way to know that is to go on the inside. Arizona State is not what it is perceived to be on the outside. It really isn’t. That’s been proven.”

ASU has been to two Rose Bowls (1986 season, 1996 season) in its 28 years in the Pac-10. Since 1986, it’s won more than seven games in a season just four times.

Erickson, however, doesn’t believe the Sun Devils have to be trapped in a spin cycle of mediocrity. “I’ve always felt, from the outside looking in, that ASU is a place where you have an opportunity to win a Pac-10 championship and compete nationally,” he says. “This job opened at the right time. It’s an opportunity for me and my coaches to get back in the Pac-10 and get to a Rose Bowl, which is the only big bowl I haven’t been to.”

“Dennis’ message has been clear ever since we got here,” says offensive line coach Gregg Smith, an assistant to Erickson at every coaching stop since 1982. “He wants ASU to not be satisfied with seven-win seasons or lower-tier bowls. … When things look impossible, Dennis will sit you down and show you the light at the end of the tunnel. And he’ll get you there.”

It helps to have two championship rings to show off to the players. Getting the players’ attention won’t be an issue for Erickson. 

“Going in, they know we’ve been there and what we’ve done,” he says. “They have respect for that. They know that, if they listen to what we ask them to do, they have a chance to be successful. If you do these things and are accountable in all aspects of what we ask you to do, you will be successful.”

The question is, what price will ASU pay for those victories? Erickson’s hire, while greeted enthusiastically by boosters, was met with skepticism by the media and some fans. Sun Devil alums Dan and Barbara Driscoll showed up for Erickson’s introductory press conference holding a sign that said, “Erickson, Go Home … ASU Deserved Better.” They were upset Erickson left Idaho after only one season. 

“I’m amazed,” says Dan Driscoll, who grew up in Moscow, Idaho. “You trust what the guy says, and 10 months later, he’s gone.”

The second question at his press conference: “Coach, I was just wondering what the words commitment and loyalty mean to you?”

ASU officials bristle at the notion that in Erickson, they hired a man who runs a renegade program and has little regard for NCAA rules or on-field sportsmanship.

“He is a person of character,” says university president Michael Crow. “I was assuming a Barry Switzer-type, a cocky personality. He’s more professorial, a master coach. I became convinced in talking to him that, with the right support that we provide in academics and compliance that other programs might not have, he’ll be great.”

Erickson hasn’t ducked the hard questions, including queries about his DUI arrest in 1995. He will not admit the criticisms have any merit, though, particularly in regard to his teams’ lack of discipline. “You talk about discipline,” Erickson says. “I see it (undisciplined behavior) happen sometimes, but I don’t see that’s something that has happened regularly in Dennis Erickson’s program at all.”

Erickson has held nine head coaching jobs in the past 21 years: Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Miami, the Seattle Seahawks, Oregon State, the San Francisco 49ers, Idaho again and now ASU. He has been, by any measure, a coach always looking for the bigger job and the bigger paycheck. But that doesn’t bother ASU. 

“I personally hope that he is here for the long haul,” Love says. “If he’s not, we’ll go hire another great football coach.”

“I am here to build a program,” Erickson says. “If I do leave — and that may be 20 years down the road, I don’t know — it will be a very solid program that people will be proud of.”
 

Teaser:
<p> The Sun Devils took the risk of hiring Dennis Erickson. And it paid off.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 14:08
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-blueprint-missing-playoffs
Body:

The Philadelphia Eagles have already declared the Dream Team “dead”, but they only meant the nickname, not the team itself. They still remain confident that they’re talented enough and have enough time to turn their sinking ship around.

But do that? Five weeks into the season they’ve been a disaster. They’ve won only one game and given up 132 points – tied for most in the NFC. Their explosive quarterback, Michael Vick, has become turnover prone. Their coach, Andy Reid, is already sitting on a seat that’s on fire.

Hard as it is to believe, their last win was more than a month ago on Opening Day.

There’s also not much reason to think things will get better. Still looming on their schedule are the Chicago Bears, the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and five division games. They’re 1-4 and need to finish 7-4 just to get to .500 – and that might not be enough for a playoff berth in the NFC.

Is it impossible? No. Difficult? Yes. And keep in mind that the more the former Dream Team falters the more intense the pressure will become and the more difficult a playoff run will get. It’s hard to look at the schedule in a vacuum, but if you could, here’s a look at what the Eagles are facing and a prediction of the outcome.

It’s not a pretty sight:

Sunday at Washington – The Redskins are not only 3-1, they’re playing mistake-free football and look the most like an old NFC East team that can run the ball and dominate both lines of scrimmage. The mistake-free part is the opposite of what’s happening in Philly.
Prediction: Loss, 1-5

Bye – If ever a team needed a week off to regroup, it’s this one.

Oct. 30 vs. Cowboys – It could be a very ugly return home for the Eagles, but the Cowboys aren’t exactly the NFL’s most disciplined team. Plus, despite what’s happening this year, Reid is a brilliant coach and he’s a good bet to have his team ready with an extra week to prepare.
Prediction: Win, 2-5

Nov. 7 vs. Bears – The Bears defense is tough (despite their bad game against Detroit), but maybe more concerning for the Eagles is that the Bears Matt Forte may be one of the better running backs in the league. The Eagles are very susceptible to the run, which means this could be a big day for Forte.
Prediction: Loss, 2-6

Nov. 13 vs. Cardinals – Game three of a three-game home stand against a team that doesn’t travel very well. Cards quarterback Kevin Kolb knows his old team, but more importantly they know him. Figure Reid knows how to confuse and beat him, too.
Prediction: Win, 3-6

Nov. 20 at Giants – The Giants beat them last time, but the Eagles out-played them for much of the game and killed themselves with mistakes. That can happen again, obviously, but the Eagles have the receivers to torch the Giants’ secondary. This seems like a season series destined to split.
Prediction: Win, 4-6

Nov. 27 vs. Patriots – The way the Eagles’ defense has played so far this year, they likely will be no match for the most explosive offense in the NFL. The Patriots have way too many weapons and are too smart to lose to a team that has become turnover prone.
Prediction: Loss, 4-7

Dec. 1 at Seattle – The Seahawks are sometimes a different team at home, and trips across the country are never easy. They are a beatable team, though, with a questionable run game and a shaky passing offense. They also likely won’t have a good defensive answer for Michael Vick and his arsenal.
Prediction: Win, 5-7

Dec. 11 at Miami – Maybe the easiest game and certainly the easiest road trip left on their schedule. The Dolphins’ season is already over at 0-4 and at this point in the season their main goal could be to win the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. If the Eagles have any hopes of being anything this season, this is one they have to win.
Prediction: Win, 6-7

Dec. 18 vs. Jets – This game may completely depend on what Jets team shows up. Is it the brash, tough-talking, contending Rex Ryan Jets? Or is it a team in turmoil, like it seems to be now, sleepwalking through the end of the season? These aren’t the Jets of the last two years, though, so chalk this up as a winnable game.
Prediction, Win 7-7

Dec. 24 at Dallas – NFC East games late in the year are always close, and these two teams could be locked in a very tight battle for a playoff berth. As long as Tony Romo is still healthy, figure the Cowboys will be able to put up some points. And give them a big home-field advantage, too.
Prediction: Loss, 7-8

Jan. 1 vs. Redskins – Will .500 be enough to get into the playoffs in the NFC this year? That’s hard to imagine. If this game matters, though, it’s a good bet the Eagles will find a way to win it at home. But by this point, their season may already be over. In that case, they could be in for a very ugly end.
Prediction: Loss, 7-9.

Since this isn't the NFC West, a sub-.500 record will not get the Eagles into the playoffs. Where will this debacle go down in football history? Only time will tell.

By Ralph Vacciano

Teaser:
<p> We predict each of the Eagles' remaining games and it doesn't look good for Philly.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 13:36
Path: /overtime/mike-martzs-chicago-bears-offensive-playbook
Body:

Anyone who saw the Chicago Bears self-destruct against the Detroit Lions on Monday night probably thought Chicago’s offense was in complete disarray. Well, you thought wrong. We’ve obtained an exclusive look at Mike Martz’s playbook for Monday night’s debacle and from the looks of it, the Bears' offense executed to near perfection.

Play #1: The Make Sure Everyone Misses Their Blocking Assignment Play

 

Play #2: The One of Us Should False Start Play (Version 1)

 

Play #3: Maybe We Can Get 15 Yards With A Roughing The Passer Penalty
 

Play #4: The One of Us Should False Start Play (Version 2)

 

Play #5: Make Sure We Burn All Our Timeouts In the First Quarter Play 
 


Play #6: The Make Sure The Receivers Don't Get Open Play
 


Play #7: The Let's Call Another Seven Step Drop Because We're Stupid Play
 


Play #8: The Left-Handed Throw Will Really Confuse The Defense Play
 

Mike Martz has a history of drawing up unique NFL offensive plays that can result in confusing defenses and putting a great deal of points on the scoreboard. But as you can see, on the flipside, they can also leave their quarterback hanging out to dry if the offensive line and receivers aren't clicking on all cylinders. This is what Bears football is right now.

By Saul Hutson

Teaser:
<p> Mike Martz is an NFL offensive play calling genius. Here's a few of his unique plays</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 12:50
Path: /mlb/nelson-cruz-baseballs-newest-postseason-legend
Body:

— by Mark Ross

Move over Derek Jeter, there's a new baseball postseason hero and his name is Nelson Cruz. OK, that may be a little presumptuous, but this much is clear: Cruz's Texas Rangers and not Jeter's Yankees are the team on the verge of playing in their second straight World Series, thanks in part to Cruz's potent bat.

On Monday, Cruz hit the first-ever walk-off grand slam in postseason history to help the Rangers take Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers in 11 innings. Then last night, Cruz struck again, taking Tigers' closer Jose Valverde deep in the top of the 11th inning to seal Texas' 7-3 victory.

The end result is the Rangers are one win away from their second straight trip to the Fall Classic and the clear cut MVP of this ALCS is Cruz. In four games against the Tigers, the Rangers' outfielder has four home runs, driven in nine and is hitting .357.

Cruz has all of the Rangers' home runs in the ALCS and has driven in roughly half (nine of 19) of their runs. Cruz by himself has nearly out-produced the entire Tigers' team, which has five home runs and 12 RBIs.

The right fielder also has been a difference-maker with his arm, as he nailed the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera at home in the bottom of the 8th inning, unleashing a Cruz missile that cut down the potential game-winning run.

Postseason production is nothing new for Cruz, who last year slugged six home runs, drove in 11, scored 13 runs and hit .317 in 16 playoff games. In 24 postseason games in his career thus far, Cruz has hit .281 with 18 runs scored, 10 home runs and 20 RBIs. If you took out his 1-for-15 performance in this year's ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, his batting average would rise to .324.

Even with that series included, Cruz's ratio of 8.9 at-bats per home run is the fourth best in postseason history, among players with at least 75 career postseason at-bats. The only players ahead of him are Carlos Beltran, Babe Ruth and Troy Glaus.

What's even more important is that the Rangers as a team have been able to reap the benefits of Cruz's success at the plate. If the Rangers go on to defeat the Tigers in the ALCS, that will run their postseason series mark to 4-1 the past two years. Their lone loss coming in last year's World Series to the San Francisco Giants.

Cruz, who is just 31, still has a long way to go before he approaches the level of a Jeter, whose five World Series rings headline his illustrious postseason resume, or even another famous Yankee power hitter, Reggie Jackson, aka Mr. October. But given his postseason production these past two seasons, he's certainly off to a good start.

And should the Rangers make it to their second straight World Series, Cruz will get the chance to add to his postseason numbers and help win the franchise's first championship in the process. After all, a World Series ring certainly wouldn't hurt his claim as baseball's newest postseason legend.

Teaser:
<p> Texas Rangers' slugger is putting up prolific numbers in 2011</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 12:40
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-rankings-week-6
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 6 Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 07:47
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-6
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 6 — Defense/Special Teams Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Teams on bye this week: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee

Rk Player OPPONENT
1 Green Bay Packers vs. STL
2 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. JAC
3 New York Jets at MIA
4 Baltimore Ravens at HOU
5 Detroit Lions vs. SF
6 Cincinnati Bengals vs. IND
7 Chicago Bears vs. MIN
8 New Orleans Saints at TB
9 San Francisco 49ers at DET
10 Washington Redksins vs. PHI
11 Houston Texans at BAL
12 Buffalo Bills at NYG
13 Minnesota Vikings at CHI
14 New York Giants vs. BUF
15 Philadelphia Eagles at WAS
16 Oakland Raiders vs. CLE

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 16:14
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-6
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 6 — Kicker Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Teams on bye this week: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Sebastian Janikowski OAK vs. CLE
2 Neil Rackers HOU at BAL
3 Jason Hanson DET vs. SF
4 Mason Crosby GB vs. STL
5 John Kasay NO at TB
6 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. DAL
7 Dan Bailey DAL at NE
8 Billy Cundiff BAL vs. HOU
9 David Akers SF at DET
10 Nick Folk NYJ at MIA
11 Mike Nugent CIN vs. IND
12 Matt Bryant ATL vs. CAR
13 Rian Lindell BUF at NYG
14 Robbie Gould CHI vs. MIN
15 Alex Henery PHI at WAS
16 Graham Gano WAS vs. PHI

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 16:07
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-6
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 6 — Tight End Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Teams on bye this week: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jimmy Graham NO at TB
2 Jason Witten DAL at NE
3 Jermichael Finley GB vs. STL
4 Vernon Davis SF at DET
5 Owen Daniels HOU at BAL
6 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. DAL
7 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. DAL
8 Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. CAR
9 Greg Olsen CAR at ATL
10 Jermaine Gresham CIN vs. IND
11 Dustin Keller NYJ at MIA
12 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. SF
13 Fred Davis WAS vs. PHI
14 Ed Dickson BAL vs. HOU
15 Dallas Clark IND at CIN
16 Ben Watson CLE at OAK
17 Kellen Winslow TB vs. NO
18 Heath Miller PIT vs. JAC
19 Scott Chandler BUF at NYG
20 Marcedes Lewis JAC at PIT
21 Jeremy Shockey CAR at ATL
22 Anthony Fasano MIA vs. NYJ
23 Chris Cooley WAS vs. PHI
24 Visanthe Shiancoe MIN at CHI
25 Jake Ballard NYG vs. BUF
26 Lance Kendricks STL at GB

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 15:50
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-6
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 6 — Wide Receiver Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Teams on bye this week: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. SF
2 Greg Jennings GB vs. STL
3 Hakeem Nicks NYG vs. BUF
4 Wes Welker NE vs. DAL
5 Steve Smith CAR at ATL
6 Roddy White ATL vs. CAR
7 Mike Wallace PIT vs. JAC
8 DeSean Jackson PHI at WAS
9 Miles Austin DAL at NE
10 Steve Johnson BUF at NYG
11 Dez Bryant DAL at NE
12 Santonio Holmes NYJ at MIA
13 A.J. Green CIN vs. IND
14 Jeremy Maclin PHI at WAS
15 Marques Colston NO at TB
16 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. HOU
17 Santana Moss WAS vs. PHI
18 Jordy Nelson GB vs. STL
19 Brandon Marshall MIA vs. NYJ
20 Pierre Garcon IND at CIN
21 Mario Manningham NYG vs. BUF
22 Reggie Wayne IND at CIN
23 Percy Harvin MIN at CHI
24 Victor Cruz NYG vs. BUF
25 Deion Branch NE vs. DAL
26 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. CLE
27 Mike Williams TB vs. NO
28 David Nelson BUF at NYG
29 Lance Moore NO vs. TB
30 Plaxico Burress NYJ at MIA
31 Robert Meachem NO at TB
32 James Jones GB vs. STL
33 Michael Crabtree SF at DET
34 Mike Thomas JAC at PIT
35 Antonio Brown PIT vs. JAC
36 Kevin Walter HOU at BAL
37 Denarius Moore OAK vs. CLE
38 Jason Avant PHI at WAS
39 Hines Ward PIT vs. JAC
40 Jabar Gafney WAS vs. PHI
41 Mike Sims-Walker STL at GB
42 Johnny Knox CHI vs. MIN
43 Jacoby Ford OAK vs. CLE
44 Davone Bess MIA vs. NYJ
45 Jacoby Jones HOU at BAL
46 Greg Little CLE at OAK
47 Jerome Simpson CIN vs. IND
48 Danario Alexander STL at GB
49 Harry Douglas ATL vs. CAR
50 Jason Hill JAC at PIT
51 Torrey Smith BAL vs. HOU
52 Titus Young DET vs. SF
53 Arrelious Benn TB vs. NO
54 Preston Parker TB vs. NO
55 Nate Burleson DET vs. SF
56 Brandon Gibson STL at GB
57 Josh Cribbs CLE at OAK
58 Devery Henderson NO at TB
59 Michael Jenkins MIN at CHI
60 Emmanuel Sanders PIT vs. JAC
61 Brandon LaFell CAR at ATL
62 Austin Collie IND at CIN
63 Randall Cobb GB vs. STL
64 Mohamed Massaquoi CLE at OAK

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 15:43
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-6
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 6 — Quarterback Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

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

Teams on bye this week: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB vs. STL
2 Tom Brady NE vs. DAL
3 Tony Romo DAL at NE
4 Drew Brees NO at TB
5 Michael Vick PHI at WAS
6 Cam Newton CAR at ATL
7 Ben Roethlisberger PIT vs. JAC
8 Eli Manning NYG vs. BUF
9 Mark Sanchez NYJ vs. MIA
10 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at NYG
11 Matt Ryan ATL vs. CAR
12 Matthew Stafford DET vs. SF
13 Rex Grossman WAS vs. PHI
14 Joe Flacco BAL vs. HOU
15 Matt Schaub HOU at BAL
16 Josh Freeman TB vs. NO
17 Alex Smith SF at DET
18 Jason Campbell OAK vs. CLE
19 Jay Cutler CHI vs. MIN
20 Sam Bradford STL at GB
21 Andy Dalton CIN vs. IND
22 Colt McCoy CLE at OAK
23 Donovan McNabb MIN at CHI
24 Curtis Painter IND at CIN
25 Blaine Gabbert JAC at PIT
26 Matt Moore MIA at NYJ

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 15:31
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2011-preview-kentucky-wildcats
Body:

Though John Calipari’s office overlooks the court at the Kentucky Wildcats' basketball practice facility, he’s not allowed to watch what happens there in the summer. Apparently, he was missing out on quite a show. “I asked about the pickup games, and somebody said, ‘Ooh. Kind of like a couple years ago,’” Calipari says. “So it’s good.”

A couple years ago, Calipari assembled the most heralded recruiting class in the school's storied college basketball history. Four of them jumped to the NBA after one year. Last season, with a team less star-studded but more experienced, he coached the Wildcats to their first Final Four since 1998.

Now Calipari has a team with some of the same hype as his first squad at Kentucky but some of the same intangibles as the second, a team that figures to be among the favorites for the NCAA title. “We’ve got a good blend of veteran guys and young players,” Calipari says. “We’ve got some length, got a little bit of everything.”

FRONTCOURT 
No player exemplifies that versatility more than 6'9" sophomore Terrence Jones, who spurned an NBA opportunity to return for a second season at Kentucky. Jones led the SEC in rebounding last season, was seventh in scoring and was the league’s Freshman of the Year. And he’s “on a mission” this season, Calipari says, to show that he can be even better after bulking up to 252 pounds. “I came back to try to win a national championship, get more mature,” Jones says. “College was just too fun. I wasn’t ready to leave.”

At his new weight, Jones could be more physical, but Kentucky lacks a true bruiser in the mold of DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Harrellson, keys to the Wildcats’ success the past two seasons.

Instead, the frontcourt focus will be on athleticism, much of it provided by 6'10" freshman Anthony Davis. Two years ago, Davis was a 6'3" guard, but he hit a growth spurt that turned him into an explosive frontcourt player with guard skills. He’ll likely contend for National Freshman of the Year honors.

Kentucky will get frontcourt depth from freshman Kyle Wiltjer, a 6'9" sharpshooter. And Calipari hopes that senior center Eloy Vargas can provide some rebounding and inside presence.

Key Wildcats Stat: 7
In two seasons at UK, John Calipari has won seven NCAA tournament games. The Cats won a combined six games in the NCAA tournament in the six seasons prior to his arrival.

BACKCOURT 
Point guard Marquis Teague will run the show as a freshman, and if that sounds familiar, it should. He’ll be the fifth consecutive highly touted freshman to play the point for Calipari, following Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and John Wall and Brandon Knight at Kentucky, all of whom were one-and-done stars.

Teague is an explosive finisher and a deft distributor who should complement shooting guard Doron Lamb, back for his sophomore season after leading the SEC in 3-point percentage as a freshman.

Lamb has added weight and strength, and his instinctive feel for the game makes him “our best basketball player,” says Calipari, who claims Lamb could be a top-15 player nationally.

The third backcourt spot likely will go to senior Darius Miller, who has 71 starts in three seasons, but he’ll be pushed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6'7" freshman who can provide defensive toughness and offensive versatility.

Junior Jon Hood is expected to miss the season with a knee injury, so Kentucky will look to sophomore Stacey Poole for backcourt depth.

Twany Beckham, who transferred from Mississippi State at the semester break last season, could be a defensive stopper when he becomes eligible in the second semester.

FINAL ANALYSIS 
Once again, Calipari will have to blend a core of talented newcomers with established veterans, but that’s become old hat for the Kentucky Wildcats.

“We’ve been in this situation before with new teammates, a new team,” Miller says. “We know what it’s going to take to get where we got last year. We know how hard it’s going to be and what kind of work we’re going to have to put in.”

Most of that work will have to come on the defensive end. After struggling in the regular season in 2010-11, Kentucky caught fire in the postseason and made the Final Four based largely on the strength of its team defense.

Calipari’s cupboard is loaded with offensive weapons, and it’s his best mix yet of talent and experience at Kentucky.

If this team can replicate last season’s defensive intensity — and if Teague is ready to hit the ground running like his point guard predecessors — the Wildcats have all the ingredients for a repeat run to the Final Four with a legitimate chance at an NCAA title.  

SEC Prediction: 1st
NCAA Tournament Prediction: Runner-Up

Teaser:
<p> How far will John Calipari and Kentucky basketball go in 2011?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 13:27
Path: /news/andre-johnson-hamstring-recovery-slower-expected-speculation-abounds
Body:

Andre Johnson's hamstring surgery is causing a lot of speculation in fantasy football circles. While the Houston Texans star wide receiver  was originally scheduled to only be out "a couple of weeks" but there is some speculation that he could be out longer than the initial prognosis of week 7 or 8.

The Texans traded for veteran wideout Derrick Mason this week from the Jets. The Texans are also going to sign another wide receiver, Juaquan Iglesies to their practice squad. 

Are they piling up wideouts in anticipation of being without their star for longer than expected? CBSSports' Mike Freeman is also wondering as much, and while Johnson hasn't come out and publicly said anything, it's worth monitoring.

The Texans are refuting it, and Johnson says he feels good and his soreness has gone away. But for fantasy owners, the additions of two extra receivers should be something to keep an eye on. 

Hamstring issues always have a history of lingering (it feels like that for fantasy owners, anyway). And the Texans have showed caution this year with Arian Foster after trying to rush him back early in the year, they gave him an extra week to get back to 100%. The Texans may be showing that same caution with Johnson.

Derrick Mason may be worth a flier for the next week or two as he goes from a dysfunctional offense to a very functional one. He probably also has a chip on his shoulder after getting sent packing from the Jets.

Teaser:
<p> Is the Texans wide receiver going to be out longer than originally thought</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 10:52
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-6
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 6 — Running Back Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 6 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Teams on bye this week: Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, Tennessee

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Adrian Peterson MIN at CHI
2 Darren McFadden OAK vs. CLE
3 Fred Jackson BUF at NYG
4 Ray Rice BAL vs. HOU
5 LeSean McCoy PHI at WAS
6 Arian Foster HOU at BAL
7 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG vs. BUF
8 Matt Forte CHI vs. MIN
9 Frank Gore SF at DET
10 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC at PIT
11 Michael Turner ATL vs. CAR
12 Cedric Benson CIN vs. IND
13 Steven Jackson STL at GB
14 Pyeton Hillis CLE at OAK
15 Shonn Greene NYJ at MIA
16 Jahvid Best DET vs. SF
17 Darren Sproles NO at TB
18 Felix Jones DAL at NE
19 James Starks GB vs. STL
20 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE vs. DAL
21 Rashard Mendenhall PIT vs. JAC
22 Ryan Torain WAS vs. PHI
23 DeAngelo Williams CAR at ATL
24 Mark Ingram NO at TB
25 Earnest Graham TB vs. NO
26 Daniel Thomas MIA vs. NYJ
27 Ryan Grant GB vs. STL
28 Jonathan Stewart CAR at ATL
29 Tim Hightower WAS vs. PHI
30 Delone Carter IND at CIN
31 Pierre Thomas NO at TB
32 Reggie Bush MIA vs. NYJ
33 LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ at MIA
34 Montario Hardesty CLE at OAK
35 Stevan Ridley NE vs. DAL
36 Michael Bush OAK vs. CLE
37 Brandon Jacobs NYG vs. BUF
38 Kendall Hunter SF at DET
39 Bernard Scott CIN vs. IND
40 Donald Brown IND at CIN
41 Roy Helu WAS vs. PHI
42 C.J. Spiller BUF at NYG
43 Ricky Williams BAL vs. HOU
44 Isaac Redman PIT vs. JAC
45 Ben Tate HOU at BAL
46 DeMarco Murray DAL at NE
47 Marion Barber CHI vs. MIN
48 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. CAR

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 08:36

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