Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-25-week-3

The first Legends Poll of the season has come out. The top 25 poll, as voted on by 17 retired college football coaching legends, has Alabama and LSU ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

Alabama was the unanimous top-ranked team amongst the voters after starting the season 3-0 and demolishing Arkansas, 52-0, on Saturday.

“Alabama is the most physical football team in the country,” former Auburn coach Pat Dye said. “They just keep bringing in good players and they don’t miss a beat.”

LSU claimed the No. 2 spot, followed by the top team in the Pac-12, Oregon. Fourth-ranked Florida State made its first appearance in the Legends Poll in a long while. And Georgia was ranked fifth, giving the SEC three teams in the top 5.

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


Rank Team Record Points Pv Rk  
1 Alabama (17) 3-0 425 -  
2 LSU 3-0 402 -  
3 Oregon 3-0 382 -  
4 Florida State 3-0 374 -  
5 Georgia 3-0 349 -  
6 Oklahoma 2-0 320 -  
7 West Virginia 2-0 291 -  
8 Stanford 3-0 284 -  
9 South Carolina 3-0 279 -  
10 Clemson 3-0 260 -  
11 Notre Dame 3-0 254 -  
12 Texas 3-0 242 -  
13 USC 2-1 220 -  
14 Florida 3-0 197 -  
15 Kansas State 3-0 195 -  
16 Ohio State 3-0 192 -  
17 TCU 2-0 166 -  
18 Michigan 2-1 131 -  
19 UCLA 3-0 122 -  
20 Louisville 3-0 119 -  
21 Arizona 3-0 85 -  
22 Michigan State 2-1 76 -  
23 Boise State 1-1 43 -  
24 Nebraska 2-1 21 -  
25 Missouri 2-1 20 -  
Others Receiving Votes

Virginia Tech 19, Oklahoma State 11, Tennessee 10, Mississippi State 10, Texas A&M 9, Wisconsin 6, Texas Tech 4, Northwestern 2, Pittsburgh 2, Georgia Tech 1, Utah 1, Cincinnati 1

* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward.  You can see the entire Poll at

<p> As voted on by 17 coaching legends</p>
Post date: Monday, September 17, 2012 - 05:47
Path: /nfl/michael-vick-should-sit-fantasy-bench-week-2

Michael VickFour interceptions. Cleveland Browns. Michael Vick. Wow!

That was my thought pattern upon seeing how poorly the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback performed against host Cleveland last week.

Then my thoughts quickly shifted to Week 2 and Vick vs. Baltimore.

No sooner do you start thinking, “If Cleveland did that, what’s Baltimore going to do?” before you hear receivers DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip) are iffy for the second game of the season.

Now you are just getting irritated across the fantasy board: Vick stinks it up, his top two receivers had good debuts but are now hurt and a top-three pick in LeSean McCoy is going to be the focus of the Ravens’ defense.

Both Jackson and Maclin practiced in a limited capacity on Friday and are expected to be game-time decisions. The Eagles did not sign a receiver from the practice squad, so perhaps optimism is high that these two will make it through another 60 minutes.

So then we’re back to Vick. 

He threw a career-high 56 passes against Cleveland last week. Repeat — 56 passes against Cleveland last week, the 30th-ranked rush defense from a year ago at 174.7 yards allowed per game. Vick completed 51.7 percent (29) of those passes for 317 yards and two scores.

Now he faces a Ravens defense, whose top two corners were targeted six times, allowed four catches and 40 yards combined in a 44-13 win over Cincinnati. Unless Vick finds a third receiver — i.e. a receiver paired up against Baltimore defensive back Cary Williams, who allowed seven catches for 82 yards on 10 targets, according to Pro Football Focus — then it’s hard to figure where much of his production will come from.

At least McCoy rushed 20 times for 110 yards and caught six balls for 26 yards and gets a Ravens defense that allowed BenJarvus Green-Ellis to collect 95 total yards and a score. Of course, this is also a Ravens rush defense that was No. 2 in the league last season at 92.6 yards per game. However, BJGE had 56 yards and his score in the first half when it was still a 17-10 game.

If Maclin, Jackson and Vick — all sixth-round fantasy picks or better — are not performing, at least the guy taken top four has a chance to do something. And McCoy as a check down or screen receiver could boost Vick’s numbers. 

But that is asking an awful lot of a QB who had such a poor performance in Week 1 against an inferior team and is now expected to correct himself a week later against a much better defense with his top two receivers iffy at best.

Then there’s this notable stat: Baltimore has not allowed multiple touchdown passes from opposing quarterbacks in a regular season game since Drew Brees tossed three in Week 15 of the 2010 season.

It’s hard to walk away from Vick in a week in which his health is not an issue, but this is one of those weeks where I can do it and have no regrets.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 08:56
Path: /nfl/injury-updates-week-2-jeremy-maclin-ryan-mathews-pierre-garcon

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and why you should look elsewhere today.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia

Two good things happened in the last few days for the Eagles top PPR receiver: he practiced on Friday — albeit on a limited basis — and the team did not sign another receiver from the practice squad to address the issues with Maclin (hip) and fellow receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring).

So Maclin is likely to play, which is the good news. 

The bad news is that Maclin will still likely draw either draw Lardarius Webb or Jimmy Smith in coverage.

According to Pro Football Focus. Webb was in on 537 snaps a season ago, targeted 90 times and allowed 52 catches for 615 yards with no scores and five picks. Smith played 173 snaps as a rookie, was targeted 33 times, allowed 16 catches for 217 yards with three TDs and two picks.

If you take anything away from last week’s game against Cleveland rookie QB Brandon Weeden, Webb was in on 37 snaps, had five passes thrown his way, allowed three catches for 23 yards; Smith played 28 snaps, saw one target which he allowed a 17-yard completion on. 

Weeden or Vick, it’s a pretty bad matchup all around for the Eagles’ passing game.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego

Will he play? Won’t he play? Why would he play?

If you saw the Titans’ defense against the run last week, apparently anyone could rush for 100 yards. Have you seen the Titans record on the West Coast since they moved from Houston? It is not good, as in 4-11 not good since 1997.

I would expect the Chargers to be in control of this game and Mathews, while he might return from his clavicle injury, should not have to be counted on for a full workload. 

This is not a situation like Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew from a week ago. Both of their squads, actually facing off against each other, were in contention for a win and those backs were called upon for the entire 60 minutes to try and help attain that win.

This should not be the case for Mathews and the Chargers, who are already plus-one in the win column, sans their star running back.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington

A right foot injury is likely to keep the Redskins’ No. 1 receiver out of the contest at St. Louis today. It would be quite a blow to QB Robert Griffin III’s success against the Rams, but could mean bigger things for fellow rookie Alfred Morris in regards to running the ball.

Garcon, in just eight plays, was a stud last week thanks to a screen pass he turned into an 88-yard touchdown; it’s always nice to get 15.8 points in a PPR on one play. He finished with four catches for 101 yards and the score — on eight plays. However, Garcon was limited in practice all week and even if he were to miraculously suit up, with little prep it’s hard to advise on placing him in your lineup.

If you want to have a back up option, go get Aldrick Robinson off the waiver wire. The SMU product — plug for my dad’s alma mater there — caught four balls for 52 yards, including 30 yards of after-the-catch production, and a score in Week 1.

The two benefactors if Garcon were to sit have to be Morris and Robinson versus the Rams today.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/anquan-boldin-start-ravens-receiver-against-eagles

Where you rank Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin for Week 2 depends on two things: 1) How many plays you believe Baltimore will run its no-huddle offense against the Philadelphia Eagles, and 2) how many times you believe Boldin will line up in the slot — i.e. away from Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Ravens ran the no-huddle on 21 of 58 offensive plays in the Week 1 44-13 win over Cincinnati. If Baltimore continues to run the no-huddle and move the ball down the field at a fast pace, it can offset the Eagles’ deep set of pass rushers and keep the standout defensive backs on their heels.

Enter Anquan Boldin. 

Assuming Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith can handle the outside receiver duties, then Boldin can move to the slot where he is historically a monster. He should also draw rookie defensive back Brandon Boykin in coverage while in the slot. 

That is a 6-1, 223-pound 10-year veteran versus a 5-9, 182-pound rookie.

According to Pro Football Focus, Boldin played 48 snaps and saw five targets in the win over Cincinnati. He pulled in four of the targets for 63 yards and a score. Now, only 16 of those 48 snaps and only two of those targets were in the slot. But the one slot target he caught was for a 34-yard touchdown.

Boykin did hold Greg Little to no catches in the opener last week. But, that is Greg Little and that was rookie Brandon Weeden throwing to him. This is Flacco — never thought I’d type that with such affirmation — and this is a veteran receiver.

If it was not already moving fast enough for a rookie, then what will a no-huddle in your second week of NFL action against a slot veteran mean for Boykin? It should mean good news for Boldin and bad news for Boykin.

Overall in 2011, Boldin was targeted a team-high 105 times and had a team-high 240 snaps and 39 targets in the slot. He caught 23 of them for 354 yards and a score. It is possible that Asomugha covers Boldin in the slot, but of the 540 snaps Asomugha played in coverage last season, only 107 of them were in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus.

Points may be at a premium in this game. Flacco’s time to get rid of the ball may be a premium versus that pass rush in this game. Boldin’s experience and matchup may be just the answer for both premiums.

If I’m picking one Ravens receiver this week it’s Boldin.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 08:14
Path: /nfl/lance-moore-start-saints-receiver-against-panthers-week-2

If only Lance Moore could stay healthy and that New Orleans receiving corps could be thinned out a bit. Those were two of the things I was looking for when scouting Moore’s fantasy prospects for 2012. 

Well, both have happened and there he sits on on my dynasty league roster. Now, what do I do with him in Week 2?

Do I look at the 10-target, six-reception, 120-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 1 and say, I told me so? Or do I say it was all in garbage time in a loss to Washington?

Moore, who played 56 of the 75 offensive plays, was targeted on the second offensive play of the game and it was incomplete. He was not targeted on a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive on the second series. He was targeted again on the first play of the third series and it was incomplete. Moore then did not see a target again until 11:24 remained in the third quarter with the team down 27-14 — it was incomplete. It took 13 more plays before Moore saw another target — a deep pass that went incomplete.

Then the middle of the fourth quarter came; the Saints were down 33-17. Moore was targeted on the first play and made his first grab for 12 yards. Four plays later, it was Brees to Moore again for an incompletion on third-and-10. Trailing big, the Saints go for it and Brees finds Moore for a 33-yard TD.

Through 56 minutes, Moore had six targets, two catches, 45 yards and a TD in a game that was now 33-25. There’s a 12.5-point day in fantasy right there. 

Until he’s more consistent, Moore is not a WR1 or 2 but is a decent flex. So 12.5 from a flex is OK to get your Week 1 going.

The next drive started with a pass intended for Moore that was intercepted. The Redskins converted it into an Alfred Morris 3-yard score and 40-25 lead.

There’s 3:18 left on the clock. Now it’s garbage time.

Moore is targeted two times, catches two for 34 yards and sets up another player to salvage his fantasy day as Darren Sproles had a receiving TD from the 2.

Moore catches his next two targets for 15 and 26 yards, Brees is intercepted on a Hail Mary and the day is over. Pre-garbage for Moore is 2-45-1; by game’s end it is 6-120-1.

This is a long road to lead you down to say: start Lance Moore as at least a WR2 this week.

Three reasons: Teammate Devery Henderson (concussion) is out. Chris Gamble for the Panthers. The Saints’ passing defense.

Henderson’s absence thins out the receiving corps, thus more opportunities for Moore early and often. 

Gamble is the top corner in the NFC South and just posted a game in which only four passes came his way for one catch and six yards and a TD (Mike Williams with 5:20 left in the first quarter).

New Orleans just allowed rookie Robert Griffin III to throw for 306 yards and two scores on 19-of-26 passing with no interceptions.

The knock on Moore could be his performance away from domes — 76-807-6 to 174-2,096-25 indoors in 24 versus 46 games. But he has also not had the opportunity to be the clear-cut No. 2 WR for the Saints like he has now.

If there was EVER a week to trust Lance Moore, this has to be the week.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 08:10
All taxonomy terms: Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/brandon-lafell-carolina-panthers-receiver-could-have-big-week-2

You cannot call Brandon LaFell the clear-cut No. 2 receiver for the Carolina Panthers, but his connection with quarterback Cam Newton has not faded from a season ago. 

Brandon LaFell was targeted five times in the Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay and caught three of them for 65 yards. Those numbers are nearly identical to Louis Murphy, who was acquired in a trade with Oakland in the offseason. Murphy had five targets, three catches for 63 yards. 

LaFell’s third-quarter, 22-yard touchdown and the fact he played 100 percent of the snaps (52) were the difference between the two receivers in Week 1.

So why would you consider starting LaFell in Week 2 against the visiting New Orleans Saints?

Well, there are a few reasons. 

No. 1 is the health of Steve Smith, who has battled a knee injury this week. No. 2 is the Saints’ pass defense, or lack thereof. No. 3 is LaFell played every offensive snap a week ago.

New Orleans just allowed Washington rookie Robert Griffin III to throw for 320 yards and two scores on 19-of-26 passing with no interceptions. All but two Redskins pass catchers averaged double-digits in yards per catch against the Saints in Week 1.

So the numbers are there for the taking for Carolina’s receivers.

Let us also keep in mind the Panthers were the No. 24 defense against the pass last season. Holding Josh Freeman to 16-of-24 for 138 yards and a first-quarter TD pass in Week 1 is one thing compared to Drew Brees throwing for 748 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions in the two meetings against Carolina a year ago.

Newton was not nearly as productive in his two games with the Saints — 382 yards, three passing TDs and two interceptions. 

However, as most Saints’ games go, expect a shootout. 

If you’re telling me each team allows at least 20 points — something the Saints allowed last week and eight times last season — once to the Panthers — and something Carolina allowed 11 times last season — and in both meetings against the Saints, then give me a receiver that’s going to be a part of that.

LaFell was targeted 56 times last season, pulling down 36 of those balls for 613 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games played and five starts. LaFell also played 27 of his 52 snaps last week in the slot, garnering three targets, two catches and the 22-yard TD, according to Pro Football Focus.

Murphy, in 11 games and one start with Oakland last season, was targeted 33 times for 15 catches, 241 yards and no scores. Murphy had seven of his 39 snaps in the slot last week, was targeted once there and did not catch it.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 07:53
Path: /nfl/chris-johnson-sit-titans-running-back-week-2-versus-san-diego-chargers

At what point do we stop starting Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson on the “potential” that he could do something each week?

Unless you are in a PPR league, there is NO way you can comfortably insert Johnson into your starting lineup on a weekly basis. Even as a flex he is questionable.

Yes, you spent the high draft pick on potential. And that was unfortunate on your part. But the theory of “you picked ’em high, start ’em” is flawed. If someone has a better matchup and you know it, you go with the better matchup. 

There are very few RBs that are immune to this theory. 

Johnson used to be one of them; two years ago for sure, last year because we were naïve. Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, DeMarco Murray, a healthy Darren McFadden and Matt Forte, before Thursday’s injury, all still hold the status of “start ’em no matter what.”

But there is very little through 2011, three 2012 preseason games and one 2012 regular season game — albeit against a stout New England front — that says Johnson is anywhere close to having that status as a reliable starter.

If the four rushing yards on 11 carries in Week 1 were not enough to convince you then how about the fact that he only pulled off double-digit rushing performances on four occasions last season. And those came against the Nos. 30, 25, 6 and 28th ranked rush defenses. 

That was a year ago. After one week, all four of those defenses were ranked 21st or worst against the run.

Johnson, who eclipsed 70 yards rushing just four times last season, had eight double-digit fantasy days altogether in 2011, and four of those were 13.2 points or less. Is that what you want from a top-12 pick? Take away the PPR and he drops to five double-digit days. 

Now it’s on to San Diego and a Chargers team that was 20th against the run last season. All they did was finish the first week as the sixth-best team against the run, holding Oakland’s Darren McFadden to 32 rushing yards on 15 carries.

McFadden, like Johnson, only salvaged his high-pick status in Week 1 by catching a career-high 13 balls for 86 yards. Johnson did the same, countering the 11 yards on the ground with six catches for 47 yards. 

The Titans’ offensive line looked awful against the Patriots and the few chances Johnson did have he danced behind the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Stevan Ridley, was aggressive running through any lane created by the Patriots’ offensive line. 

Oh, remember when Johnson was aggressive? But I digress.

There is nothing to suggest that the Titans, who have traditionally been awful on the West Coast — 4-11 since moving to Tennessee in 1997 — can have success running against the Chargers.

Add in that starting QB Jake Locker (shoulder) and starting receiver Nate Washington (leg contusion) are hurting and receiver Kenny Britt (knee/suspension) will be on a limited snap count as he makes his first appearance since Week 3 of 2011 and there are not a lot of positives surrounding the Titans’ camp.

The only saving grace for Johnson will be in PPR leagues as Javon Ringer (elbow) is still out and will not vulture snaps. But if you are banking on starting CJ on just the PPR potential, it’s going to be a long year at your RB1 or 2 spot.

I may be wrong, but I will take being wrong until Johnson can consistently prove he’s right again. I am tired of starting him on “potential” when players like Ridley, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and even Alfred Morris clearly have better matchups in Week 2.  

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/september-2012-crossword-solution

Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 15:15
Path: /nfl/bears-qb-jay-cutler-underwhelms-against-green-bay-packers

We fell for it and we could not have been any angrier watching that disaster of a fantasy, er, football game Thursday night as the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 23-10.

We fell for Jay Cutler’s Tuesday presser this week where he told us “this is a totally different scheme, a mentality and direction that we’re going offensively.”
Why didn’t we just see it right there? 
He all but told us he was the same Cutler, just with a healthy thumb now. 
Totally different scheme, mentality and direction could have been looked at as where the offense goes from here under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. After all, it’s Tice who was set to get a true ground game going in Chicago and Bates who coached Cutler for three seasons in Denver.
In hindsight, it looks like Cutler again placing blame where he always has — elsewhere.
Cutler was cocky and confident on Tuesday. He invited press coverage; he invited man coverage from the Packers.
Yes, my heart believed while my mind was telling me: “You know better than this.”
But it was all there for the taking.
We saw Green Bay’s last-ranked pass defense from a year ago that showed up at home in Week One and allowed San Francisco’s Alex Smith to throw for a pedestrian 211 yards but on 20-of-26 passing with two scores and no interceptions.
We saw Cutler’s two new weapons — Brandon Marshall (6-5) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3) going against smaller cornerbacks Tramon Williams (5-11) and Jarrett Bush (6-0). He even has his old Vanderbilt buddy, Earl Bennett, to run around the middle of the field and make plays. 
But numbers are numbers are numbers. We don’t even care that he was 1-5 in six starts against Green Bay; this is fantasy football. However, Cutler had completed just 56.9 percent of his passes for 240.2 yards per outing with 11 interceptions and seven scores going into Thursday’s game. That’s terrible.
And if that’s terrible, what’s this?: 11-of-27 for 126 yards, one TD and four interceptions. Well, that’s just “same old Jay” as Packers defensive back Charles Woodson said after the game.
Why didn’t it just register in my mind that Cutler was 1-for-10 for 13 yards before elite pass rusher Dwight Freeney went out of the game last week against the Indianapolis? I’m pretty sure 32nd-ranked pass defense or not, the Packers have more to offer in the form of pressure than the Colts do.
But there we were, holding out hope much like Cutler was holding on to the ball for….ev…
It may be said that Thursday night was a result of his offensive line, the drops from his receivers or that running back Matt Forte went out with an ankle injury in the third quarter. But it’s always going to be something with Cutler. 
With this performance fresh in our minds, it is easy to be beyond pessimistic on what Cutler has in store as a fantasy QB the rest of the way. 
Next up are the Rams, Cowboys and Jaguars before a bye. He returns to face the Lions, Panthers, Titans, Texans and 49ers. 
Call us pessimistic. 
Look at the numbers see that Cutler was only a top-10 fantasy quarterback on three occasions last season and a top-12 in only four outings. On three occasions he was 24th or worse. He reached as high as fifth in his last game before the thumb injury but that came a week after he was 31st.
That about sums it up, don’t you think? 
Cutler will get his some weeks. But with games against Dallas, Detroit, Houston, San Francisco and Carolina, yes, even Carolina where he finished 32nd amongst QBs when he faced them last year, he just can’t be trusted as a weekly starter.
Perhaps he will put it together against the likes of the Rams and Jaguars and Titans and you can trust him again. But then fate and Packers rear their heads again as he gets Green Bay again in the fantasy semifinals Week 15.
In the words of Jay Cutler this week: “Good luck.” 
— By Corby A. Yarbrough,  @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
<p> Despite his assurances, Cutler was a fantasy football dud.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-week-2-start-or-sit

Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season is here, which means it's time to get those fantasy lineups in order for this weekend’s action. Just like the 16 NFL teams that lost in Week 1, there’s still plenty of time to right the ship if your fantasy team is 0-1, especially if you can get into the win column this week.

Athlon Sports is to help you make those important decisions each week with our Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.

Week 2 Positional Rankings

Sneaky Start of the Week
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco vs. Detroit
San Francisco had the third most rushing attempts in the NFL last season, compared to the second-fewest pass attempts. During the offseason, the 49ers added wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham through free agency and drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round, looking to give Alex Smith more weapons. If the early results are to be believed, it looks like the team is in fact serious about airing it out more in 2012.

Against Green Bay in Week 1, Smith had just six fewer pass attempts (26) compared to rushes (32) by the team, completing 20 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with six different receivers, including four times each with Moss and Manningham. This week Smith and the 49ers open up at home against Detroit and a secondary that’s still dealing with several injuries. If Smith plays like he did against the Packers, I think he’s in for an even bigger week, as he’s also capable of making plays with his legs.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore vs. Philadelphia
Fewer quarterbacks had a better opening week than Flacco, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing against Cincinnati on Monday night. Uncharacteristically, the Ravens threw more times (32) than they ran the ball (23), as Ray Rice had just 10 carries on the night.

Those who are expecting similar numbers from Flacco this week against Philadelphia are going to be in for rude awakening, I’m afraid. For one, the Eagles defense figures to be a little more difficult to post big numbers against compared to the Bengals. Last week, the Eagles hurried and harassed Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden all game as the rookie struggled mightily in his NFL debut, connecting on just 12 of 35 pass attempts for only 118 yards. He also threw four picks and was sacked twice. Besides the Eagles’ pass rush and secondary, I also think Flacco will be held in check by the Ravens’ own game plan, which I believe will feature a much heavier dose of Rice and the running game.

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Big Ben was solid in Week 1 against Denver, but his pass protection broke down late and he threw a costly pick-six in the fourth quarter. Even though it’s the Jets this week, the game is at home, where Roethlisberger always plays well, and the visitors will more than likely be missing their best defensive player. Cornerback Darrelle Revis suffered a concussion in last week’s win against Buffalo and as of Thursday had not yet been cleared to practice. No Revis completely changes the complexion of the Jets’ secondary and defense as a whole, which increases Big Ben’s fantasy appeal.

Christian Ponder (MIN) at Indianapolis
Ponder was very solid (20-27, 270 yards) in the Vikings' win against Jacksonville. He didn’t throw any touchdown passes, but that should change, especially with Adrian Peterson appearing to be close to his usual form after his first game back since tearing his ACL late last season. This week, Ponder and the Vikings will get their shot at a Colts’ defense that gave up more than 400 yards of total offense, including 333 through the air, to the Bears in Week 1.

Kevin Kolb (ARI) at New England
This is a tentative endorsement as you should have better options than Kolb on your roster, but I am curious to see how Kolb does against New England. The high-priced backup entered last week’s game against Seattle in the fourth quarter after starter John Skelton went down with an ankle injury. Kolb completed six of the eight passes he threw, including the game-winning score. Skelton will more than likely be unable to go this Sunday against the Patriots, giving Kolb another shot to show everyone why the Cardinals traded for him in the first place. New England gave up 264 yards passing to the Titans in Week 1, and you have to figure Kolb will get his chances to air it out as the Cardinals will be trying to keep up with the Patriots on the scoreboard.

Michael Vick (PHI) at Baltimore
The Eagles won, but Vick (completed just 52 percent of passes, 4 INTs) didn’t play all that well even though he finished with more than 300 yards passing. That was against Cleveland. This week it’s Baltimore and the Ravens defense that limited Andy Dalton to 211 yards passing with no touchdowns, sacked him four times and forced two turnovers. It also doesn't help that both of Vick's top wide receivers, DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip), missed practice on Thursday and their status is uncertain headed into Sunday's game.

Carson Palmer (OAK) at Miami
Palmer completed 32 passes on Monday night against San Diego, with 13 of those going to his running back, Darren McFadden. The Raiders’ wide receivers situation is a mess right now because of injuries and I don’t think it will get markedly better this week as the Silver and Black make the cross-country trip to take on Miami.

Mark Sanchez (NYJ) at Pittsburgh
Sanchez was near spectacular (266 yards, 3 TDs, INT) against Buffalo in Week 1 as Tim Tebow was basically relegated to mop-up duty. This week the Jets go to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers defense that’s still smarting from the loss in Denver and gets starting free safety Ryan Clark and linebacker James Harrison back. I expect the going for the Jets’ offense to be much tougher this Sunday and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Tebow sees significantly more snaps as the Jets will turn to their version of the Wildcat to keep the Steel Curtain off balance.

Running Backs

Doug Martin (TB) at New York Giants
Martin dominated the carries for the Buccaneers in Week 1, getting 24 of the team’s 36, and also caught four passes out of the backfield. The Giants gave up 131 yards on the ground to DeMarco Murray in their opener, and I think Martin will get more than enough touches in this game to be a factor.

Jonathan Stewart (CAR) vs. New Orleans
Barring a late setback, Stewart should make his season debut against the Saints after missing Week 1 because of an ankle injury. The good news for Stewart is twofold: 1) The Panthers rushed for a grand total of 13 yards on 10 carries without him last week against Tampa Bay and 2) He’s going up against a rush defense that gave up 153 yards to the Redskins in Week 1. Stewart also is a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield, further increasing his value.

Jonathan Dwyer (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Isaac Redman got the start and more carries (11 to 9) against Denver, but it was Dwyer who did more damage, finishing with a team-high 43 yards rushing. His solid production was enough to earn him a bigger role for this Sunday’s game against the Jets. Remember, the Jets gave up 169 yards on the ground to C.J. Spiller, who like Dwyer was initially Buffalo’s backup running back, last week. Depending on your other options, Dwyer may be worth taking a flyer on as a RB3 or flex option this week.

Michael Turner (ATL) vs. Denver (Monday)
Going into the season, the expectation was that the Falcons would cut down on Turner’s workload. That came to fruition last week as he got only 11 carries against Kansas City, finishing with a mere 32 yards. The Falcons seem very comfortable with a more pass-oriented offense and between that and the presence of Jacquizz Rodgers, who got seven carries and is a bigger threat out of the backfield as a receiver, I expect we will see more of the same on Monday night against Denver.

Aflred Morris (WAS) at St. Louis
Yes, Alfred Morris got more than 65 percent of the Redskins’ carries in Week 1, turning those opportunities into 96 yards and two touchdowns. However, that doesn’t mean that this week it won’t be Roy Helu or Evan Royster or even Robert Griffin III with that distinction. Plus, the Redskins will be going up against a St. Louis defense that surrendered a total of 83 yards on the ground to Detroit in Week 1. If you want to jump on the Morris bandwagon, you go right on ahead. I’m just not quite ready to join you.

Kevin Smith (DET) at San Francisco
The good: Smith scored two touchdowns last week against St. Louis, one rushing, one receiving. The bad: He only had 81 total yards (62 rushing, 29 receiving) in that game. The ugly: That came against St. Louis, this week the Lions take on San Francisco, who gave up only 45 yards rushing to Green Bay in Week 1.

Wide Receivers

Wes Welker (NE) vs. Arizona
Including Welker here says his three-catch, 14-yard effort against Tennessee last week is the exception and not the norm. I expect Tom Brady will look to get Welker involved early and often this Sunday against Arizona.

Antonio Brown (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Brown’s numbers (4 rec., team-high 74 yards) weren’t bad in Week 1 against Denver; they just don’t jump out at you either. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that change this Sunday as the Jets will more than likely be without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. No Revis thins out the Jets’ secondary from the start, and I think Brown is the Steeler receiver who will benefit most from his absence.

Andre Roberts (ARI) at New England
Larry Fitzgerald is the main man in Arizona, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s plenty of room for a No. 2 and right now that appears to be Roberts, and not first-round pick Michael Floyd. Roberts finished second to Fitzgerald in targets in Week 1, turning nine of them into a team-high five receptions. One of those was the game-winning touchdown pass from Kevin Kolb in the fourth quarter. Kolb is expected to start this Sunday’s game in New England.

Sidney Rice (SEA) vs. Dallas
The Cowboys upgraded their secondary during the offseason through both free agency (Brandon Carr) and the draft (Morris Claiborne) and it held up very well against Eli Manning and the Giants’ pass attack in Week 1. Russell Wilson looked every bit the rookie in his first NFL start last week against Arizona. Don’t expect drastic improvement from the Seahawks’ passing game this Sunday either.

Kevin Ogletree (DAL) at Seattle
Ogletree stole the show a week ago when he starred in the NFL’s season opener, grabbing a game-high eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Seattle’s secondary will be a much tougher test for Ogletree and the entire Cowboys’ passing game this week compared to the Giants’ injury-depleted corps they faced in Week 1. Ogletree may be productive again, but expectations should be limited to that of a possible WR3, and not along the lines of what he did in Week 1.

Titus Young (DET) at San Francisco
Young caught just one pass in Week 1 as he committed a personal foul penalty that earned him a seat on the bench for much of the game. Young is oozing with fantasy upside, especially if he grabs hold of the No. 2 wide receiver job for the Lions, but just hasn’t been able to get out of his own way. Until he can prove that he can maintain his composure on the field, including practicing with his own teammates, it’s probably best to leave him on your bench.

Tight Ends
Jared Cook (TEN) at San Diego
Cook led all Titans receivers with 64 yards on four catches last week and his workload should only increase as the season goes on. The Titans could have wide receiver Kenny Britt back on the field this week, which should help Cook more than hurt him as Britt’s presence, especially as a deep threat, helps open the middle of the field even more for the athletic tight end.

Kyle Rudolph (MIN) at Indianapolis
It's Coby Fleener’s home debut, but don’t be surprised if Rudolph is the young tight end that finishes with better numbers in this game. The Colts’ linebacking corps is missing its leader as Pat Angerer is still sidelined by a broken foot. Rudolph, who caught five passes for 67 yards last week, should be able to find plenty of room to roam in the middle of the field this Sunday.

Martellus Bennett (NYG) vs. Tampa Bay
Eli Manning found Bennett in the end zone in Week 1 against Dallas and will look for his tight end again this week against Tampa Bay. Bennett’s size is a weapon in the red zone, and Manning has never been afraid to throw to his tight ends.

Fred Davis (WAS) at St. Louis
Surprisingly, Davis and Robert Griffin III only connected twice during the rookie’s impressive debut against New Orleans. While that could change any given week or as the season progresses, I would consider benching Davis until Griffin starts looking his way more consistently.

Jason Witten (DAL) at Seattle
Let’s give credit where credit is due. I was stunned when Witten played last week against the Giants in the first place. However, it shouldn’t be ignored that he caught just two passes and was only targeted three times. It’s completely understandable that Witten may not be back to 100 percent health for several more weeks. This is also the reason why I would bench the All-Pro, at least until his production is more along the lines of what we have come to expect.

Brent Celek (PHI) vs. Baltimore
Michael Vick did look Celek’s way eight times in Week 1 against Cleveland, but what’s more concerning to me is that Clay Harbor, and not Celek, appeared to get the looks when the Eagles were in the red zone. That coupled with Ray Lewis and co. on the docket this Sunday is more than enough reason for me to bypass Celek this week.

Defense/Special Teams

New England vs. Arizona
Arizona should be able to get some yards and points against the Patriots, but their run defense was awfully stout against Tennessee last week and I expect the opportunistic unit to get a score via a turnover or on special teams.

Cincinnati vs. Cleveland
What better way to let your defense get healthy and gain some confidence than to face an offense with a rookie quarterback that did next-to-nothing in Week 1, right?

Oakland at Miami
See above and add to it the fact that the Raiders gave up just one touchdown to the Chargers in five red zone attempts on Monday night. It’s entirely possible that the Dolphins end up with fewer this Sunday.

New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay
The Giants’ defense yielded both a 100-yard rusher and 300-yard passer in their opener. While the Cowboys’ offense and the Buccaneers’ offense are two entirely different animals, I think Tampa has enough weapons and will get enough opportunities to make the Giants’ defense a fantasy non-factor once again.

Detroit Lions at San Francisco
The Lions’ defense more than held its own against St. Louis in Week 1, but will face something completely different this Sunday in San Francisco. The 49ers attacked Green Bay in Week 1 with both the run and the pass, and I’m expecting more of the same this Sunday in their home opener. The Lions' D relies heavily on big plays and turnovers, but the 49ers have a reputation for protecting the ball.


Nate Kaeding (SD) vs. Tennessee
The Chargers had all sorts of trouble punching it into the end zone against Oakland, which resulted in Kaeding kicking five field goals. Given their issues along the offensive line and with the running game, I don’t expect much to change this Sunday against the Titans.

Justin Tucker (BAL) at Philadelphia
Baltimore should be able to move the ball and put several drives together against the Eagles, but I think they will have trouble getting into the end zone. This should leave Tucker with plenty of chances to put three points on the board.

Dan Carpenter (MIA) vs. Oakland
Carpenter’s chances to kick will be limited as long as Ryan Tannehill struggles under center.

Phil Dawson (CLE) at Cincinnati
Dawson and Carpenter will probably remain linked throughout the season as both kickers are relying on struggling offenses led by rookie quarterbacks to provide them with scoring opportunities.

— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 14, 2012

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football: Week 2 Start or Sit</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /golf/golfs-mount-rushmore

As my colleague Charlie Miller has continued to unveil his elite quartets for each major league baseball franchise, it got me to thinking: Who is on golf’s Mount Rushmore?

Arnold Palmer received the Congressional Gold Medal this week as that body's "highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions." Arnie is clearly one member of this elite foursome, as is Jack Nicklaus, who was also on hand for the ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

In completing my list, I used two primary criteria: achievement and impact. Who won important golf tournaments, and who transcended the game while doing so?

Here, then, is my ultimate foursome — the four men who have had the greatest, most lasting impact on the game of golf. Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong.

Tiger Woods

Rather than recite Tiger’s resume, I’d rather revisit the one moment that made Woods’ spot on golf’s Mount Rushmore an inevitability. In April 1997, Woods so dominated the most storied and tradition-steeped tournament in golf that the sport was changed forever.

We all remember the Masters-record 18-under par total that Woods shot in his first Masters as a pro. We remember his incredible 12-shot margin of victory. (Runner-up Tom Kite’s 282 total would have been good enough to win 17 previous Masters, but it only got him within 12 shots of Tiger.) We remember the way his mammoth drives turned the par-5s into pitch-and-putts. What many people don’t remember about the 1997 Masters is how badly Tiger started the tournament. On the front nine on Thursday, Woods went out in 40, leaving him 4-over par. That, apparently, is when the stars aligned and the golf gods smiled. Over the next 63 holes, Woods swept through Augusta National like a tornado, toying with the course and demoralizing the greatest players in the world. 

Tiger’s runaway, far from putting a crimp into the television ratings, instead gave golf its greatest ratings winner to date. In 1996, before Woods turned pro, the ratings were 9.2 on Sunday. In 1997, when Woods won, the number jumped to 14.1.

The rest, as they say, is history — 14 major championships, 74 PGA Tour wins, the lowest career scoring average in PGA Tour history, 10 Player of the Year awards, and, yes, scandal and disgrace. But the impact and the level of achievement are undeniable and unprecedented.

Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus brought out greatness in his opponents — Palmer, Player, Watson, Trevino. But more importantly, he made golf a greater game through his physical skill and strength, his mental toughness, his sustained level of excellence and his genius for strategically dismantling golf courses around the world.

You know the litany of accomplishments. 18 major championships, more than Hogan and Palmer combined. A mind-boggling 37 top twos in majors.

And lest we think the Tour of the 21st Century outshines the Tour in Jack’s prime, consider this: Nicklaus fought many of the game’s greatest at their very peak and beat them all. And when he didn’t beat them, he coaxed their very best out of them.

As if to prove the point, at age 46, Nicklaus was able to muster enough of his old-time wizardry to outduel names like Ballesteros, Kite, Norman — all of them at the peak of their powers — to win his sixth Masters in 1986 in one of the greatest sports moments of all time.

In his golden years, the Golden Bear has continued to shape the game with his prolific golf course design company. 

Arnold Palmer

There have been better players with prettier swings. But there has never been a more important golfer than the King, Arnold Palmer. He quadrupled purses, brought golf away from the country clubs and into our living rooms, and assembled an Army of devoted followers. He won — and lost — with more flair than any other athlete.

From 1958 to 1968, Palmer reigned amid the azaleas and pines of Augusta National, where Arnie’s Army first mustered. With the lone exception of 1963, he was in contention at every Masters during that epic stretch, winning four times, finishing second twice, third once and fourth twice.

Although he made his reputation at The Masters — and made the tournament what it is today — it was the 1960 U.S. Open that truly captured the King at the peak of his powers. The leaderboard on that final day included a chubby 20-year-old amateur named Jack Nicklaus. It included a legend — the Hawk, Ben Hogan. The third member of this historic trio lit a cigarette, stalked to the tee of the 318-yard, par-4 first hole at Cherry Hills and drove the green on his way to a historic final-round 65, erasing a seven-stroke deficit for the greatest comeback in Open history.

Sam Snead

If winning is the standard for determining excellence, there is no greater player in golf history than Sam Snead.

Using a smooth, syrupy swing that looked as natural and effortless as breathing, Slammin’ Sammy won more golf tournaments than any other player — a staggering total of 81 PGA Tour titles, and anywhere from 135 to 165 victories worldwide, depending on whom you ask. He posted wins in four different decades, from the 1936 West Virginia Closed Pro to the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open (his eighth title in that event), when he was 52 years old.

Snead won three Masters, including a 1954 playoff triumph over friend and rival Ben Hogan. He won three PGA Championships and a British Open.

There is one hole in the Slammer’s résumé that prevents him from staking a legitimate claim to being the greatest player in history. Somehow, Snead never won the one tournament that seemingly should have been his by birthright. He never won a U.S. Open. But his near-tragic failures at the Open do not diminish his accomplishments.

His swing was such an efficient device that it served him well into his golden years and remains the gold standard for golf swings. In 1979, he offered golf fans one final glimpse of his greatness, as he became the first player to score below his age, shooting 67 and 66 in the Quad Cities Open at the age of 67. By then, and for the rest of his life, Snead was a beloved ambassador and advocate for the game.


Ben Hogan is widely considered the greatest ball-striker in the game’s history, and he changed golf instruction forever with his Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. Along with Nicklaus, Woods, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen, he’s one of five players to own a career Grand Slam. His courage in coming back from a near-fatal car crash added to his legend. His tough-to-love, prickly personality kept him distant from fans and keeps him off Mount Rushmore. Barely.

Gary Player was golf’s first global ambassador, winning tournaments all over the world, including nine major championships.

Seve Ballesteros was Europe’s version of Arnold Palmer, putting a sport on his back and selling it to an entire continent. Almost singlehandedly, he transformed the Ryder Cup into one of the greatest spectacles in sports.

Bobby Jones was the game’s breakthrough superstar who pulled off one of golf’s signature achievements with his 1930 Grand Slam — winning the U.S. and British Opens and U.S. and British Amateurs in one season. Oh, and he founded The Masters.

Byron Nelson was golf’s greatest gentleman and the author of its greatest individual achievement — 11 wins in a row in 1945, a season in which he won 18 tournaments in all.

Tom Watson won eight majors and dominated golf’s oldest tournament, the British Open, like no one else, winning five times in a nine-year span and coming close to a historic sixth win in 2009 at age 59.  

<p> Who would make the list for professional golf's ultimate foursome?</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/greg-jennings-bench-packers-wide-receiver-week-2

Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings is officially listed as Doubtful for Thursday night’s game against Chicago. The Packer, who is dealing with a groin injury, is said to have a “50-50” chance of playing in this NFC North clash against the Bears.

Play it safe and keep Jennings on your bench this week, especially if you have other, healthier options or room to pick up someone off of the waiver wire.

Jennings sustained the groin injury late in the Week 1 loss to San Francisco and hasn’t practiced all week. The short turnaround for the Thursday game hurts him even more, not to mention that groin injuries are very easy to re-aggravate. Even if Jennings does make it on the field, there's no guarantee of how many snaps he will get or if he will even be able to make it through the entire game.

This early in the season, even though they could very well be 0-2 by the end of tonight’s game, the Packers will more than likely err on the side of caution when it comes to Jennings and if you have him on your roster, I think you should too.

Fret not Aaron Rodgers owners, Jennings’ absence does nothing to change his fantasy value as he ranked as Athlon Sports’ No. 1 quarterback for Week 2. As evidenced last week when the Packers managed a measly 45 yards on the ground, win or lose, Rodgers is going to throw the ball plenty.

There’s no reason to not expect him to put up 250-300 yards passing and two-three touchdown passes each week, if not more considering he went for more than 300 (2 TDs, 1 INT) against the 49ers, the NFC’s No. 1 defense last season.

No, the one who’s impacted most by Jennings not playing would be the other receivers, namely Randall Cobb and James Jones. Fellow wide receiver Jordy Nelson is already a borderline top-10 wide receiver option, while tight end Jermichael Finley may even see an increase in targets his way. Donald Driver also could see an increase in playing time, but I wouldn’t count on getting much production from the 37-year-old veteran. Not with the other options ahead of him on the depth chart.

Speaking of Cobb and Jones, either one or both could put up starter-worthy numbers on Thursday night, if anything because of the increase in opportunities with Jennings on the sideline. Jones is listed second on the depth chart behind Jennings, so presumably he will get the start opposite Nelson if Jennings can’t go.

Jones led all Packers receivers with 81 yards receiving against San Francisco in Week 1, hauling in a total of four passes, including a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jones also had a 28-yard completion earlier in the game wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty called on him.

Although Jones should get the start if Jennings doesn’t play, Cobb would be my choice for the one to have a bigger impact fantasy-wise. The dynamic wide receiver/returner was second on the team to Finley in targets in Week 1 with nine. He converted all of those targets into receptions, finishing with 77 yards receiving and also returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Packers lined Cobb all over the field — in the slot, on the outside, in the backfield — in an effort to get him the ball in space and I expect to see the same against the Bears. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he didn’t get a carry or two either as a running back or on some sort of reverse/trick play as the Packers look to jumpstart an ineffective running game.

Early games are always the toughest when it comes to game-time decisions, but an injury classification of Doubtful is much closer to Out/Inactive than it is Questionable. Rodgers and the Packers have plenty of other options to not risk Jennings injuring himself even more. I recommend you do the same if you have him on your roster.

— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 13, 2012


2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 2

<p> Greg Jennings: Bench the Packers Wide Receiver in Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 10:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-positional-rankings-week-2

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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.

2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 2 Start or Sit

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

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

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

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-2

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

Neither Aaron Rodgers nor Jay Cutler were all that impressive on Thursday night as the two combined for just two touchdown passes and five interceptions. Defenses, especially Green Bay's, dominated the proceedings on Thursday as the Packers sacked Cutler seven times and picked off Cutler four times. Defenses also could play a major role in the Baltimore vs. Philadelphia match up, so it will be interesting to see if Joe Flacco can build off his near-flawless (299 yards, 2 TDs) Monday night performance against the Eagles, while Michael Vick is hoping to improve from his Week 1 passing effort (52 percent completion rate, 4 INTs)  against a Ravens defense that flexed its muscles against the Bengals. Other quarterbacks looking to bounce back from subpar Week 1 performances include  Drew Brees and Cam Newton, who also are looking to help their teams break into the win column on Sunday as the NFC South divisional foes face off. However, the quarterback showcase that everyone will be watching is on Monday night when Peyton Manning takes his Broncos to Atlanta to face Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Manning looked like his old self in leading the Broncos to a win over Pittsburgh, but it was Ryan who topped all quarterbacks in Week 1 with his 299 yards passing and four total touchdowns (3 pass, 1 rush) against Kansas City.

2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
2 Drew Brees NO at CAR
3 Tom Brady NE vs. ARI
4 Cam Newton CAR vs. NO
5 Eli Manning NYG vs. TB
6 Matt Ryan ATL vs. DEN (Mon.)
7 Peyton Manning DEN at ATL (Mon.)
8 Matthew Stafford DET at SF
9 Jay Cutler CHI at GB (Thurs.)
10 Robert Griffin III WAS at STL
11 Tony Romo DAL at SEA
12 Philip Rivers SD vs. TEN
13 Joe Flacco BAL at PHI
14 Michael Vick PHI vs. BAL
15 Ben Roethlisberger PIT vs. NYJ
16 Alex Smith SF vs. DET
17 Matt Schaub HOU at JAC
18 Josh Freeman TB at NYG
19 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF vs. KC
20 Andrew Luck IND vs. MIN
21 Carson Palmer OAK at MIA
22 Mark Sanchez NYJ at PIT
23 Jake Locker TEN at SD
24 Andy Dalton CIN vs. CLE
25 Christian Ponder MIN at IND
26 Sam Bradford STL vs. WAS

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

Additional Week 2 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 2 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings: Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:29
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-2

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

Greg Jennings did not play Thursday night against Chicago, sitting with a groin injury, but it's not like any receiver on either team did that much as both quarterbacks combined for two touchdown passes and five interceptions. Hopefully, Sunday will bring better results for top wide receiver options like Julio Jones, who got his 2012 season off to a nice start as he hauled in two touchdowns from Matt Ryan in Week 1. Jones and teammate Roddy White will get the Monday night spotlight this week against Denver's own dynamic duo of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Kenny Britt should also make his season debut after serving his one-game suspension as Tennessee is in San Diego on Sunday. Don't forget that Britt was leading the AFC in receiving after the first two weeks of last season before tearing his ACL in the Titans' third game. Another situation that bears watching is Philadelphia's duo of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, both of whom missed practice on Thursday because of injuries.

2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET at SF
2 Andre Johnson HOU at JAC
3 Larry Fitzgerald ARI at NE
4 Julio Jones ATL vs. DEN (Mon.)
5 Brandon Marshall CHI at GB (Thurs.)
6 A.J. Green CIN vs. CLE
7 Steve Smith CAR vs. NO
8 Percy Harvin MIN at IND
9 Victor Cruz NYG vs. TB
10 Roddy White ATL vs. DEN (Mon.)
11 Jordy Nelson GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
12 Hakeem Nicks NYG vs. TB
13 Dez Bryant DAL at SEA
14 Wes Welker NE vs. ARI
15 Miles Austin DAL at SEA
16 Demaryius Thomas DEN at ATL (Mon.)
17 Brandon Lloyd NE vs. ARI
18 Reggie Wayne IND vs. MIN
19 Mike Wallace PIT vs. NYJ
20 Marques Colston NO at CAR
21 Vincent Jackson TB at NYG
22 Stevie Johnson BUF vs. KC
23 Antonio Brown PIT vs. NYJ
24 Pierre Garcon WAS at STL
25 Dwayne Bowe KC at BUF
26 Greg Jennings* GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
27 DeSean Jackson PHI vs. BAL
28 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. BAL
29 Torrey Smith BAL at PHI
30 Eric Decker DEN at ATL (Mon.)
31 Malcom Floyd SD vs. TEN
32 Lance Moore NO at CAR
33 Michael Crabtree SF vs. DET
34 Santonio Holmes NYJ at PIT
35 Nate Washington TEN at SD
36 Randall Cobb GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
37 Anquan Boldin BAL at PHI
38 Robert Meachem SD vs. TEN
39 Sidney Rice SEA vs. DAL
40 Kenny Britt TEN at SD
41 Brandon LaFell CAR vs. NO
42 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK at MIA
43 James Jones GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
44 Kevin Ogletree DAL at SEA
45 Danny Amendola STL vs. WAS
46 Randy Moss SF vs. DET
47 Nate Burleson DET at SF
48 Laurent Robinson JAC vs. HOU
49 Mike Williams TB at NYG
50 Davone Bess MIA vs. OAK
51 Andre Roberts ARI at NE
52 Dexter McCluster KC at BUF
53 Greg Little CLE at CIN
54 Doug Baldwin SEA vs. DAL
55 Donald Jones BUF vs. KC
56 Braylon Edwards SEA vs. DAL
57 Mario Manningham SF vs. DET
58 Justin Blackmon JAC vs. HOU
59 Kendall Wright TEN at SD
60 Rueben Randle NYG vs. TB
61 Kevin Walter HOU at JAC
62 Denarius Moore OAK at MIA
63 Eddie Royal SD vs. TEN
64 Titus Young DET at SF

*NOTE: Jennings did not play on Thursday night against Chicago because of a groin injury.

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

Additional Week 2 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 2 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:28
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-2

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. ARI
2 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at MIA
3 Garrett Hartley NO at CAR
4 David Akers SF vs. DET
5 Nate Kaeding SD vs. TEN
6 Mason Crosby GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
7 Dan Bailey DAL at SEA
8 Matt Bryant ATL vs. DEN (Mon.)
9 Justin Tucker BAL at PHI
10 Matt Prater DEN at ATL (Mon.)
11 Robbie Gould CHI at GB (Thurs.)
12 Rob Bironas TEN at SD
13 Alex Henery PHI vs. BAL
14 Billy Cundiff WAS at STL
15 Jason Hanson DET at SF
16 Shayne Graham HOU at JAC

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

Additional Week 2 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 2 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings: Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:25
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-2

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1 Houston Texans at JAC
2 Baltimore Ravens at PHI
3 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. NYJ
4 San Francisco 49ers vs. DET
5 New England Patriots vs. ARI
6 New York Jets at PIT
7 Dallas Cowboys at SEA
8 Philadelphia Eagles vs. BAL
9 Washington Redksins at STL
10 Seattle Seahawks vs. DAL
11 Chicago Bears at GB (Thurs.)
12 Oakland Raiders at MIA
13 New York Giants vs. TB
14 Cincinnati Bengals vs. CLE
15 Green Bay Packers vs. CHI (Thurs.)
16 Detroit Lions at SF

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


Additional Week 2 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Week 2 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:24
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-2

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

Even though both were questionable headed into their teams' respective owners, Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew got enough carries in Week 1 to be relevant for those owners who decided to stick with them. This week there's no uncertainty about whether you should start either, although Jones-Drew appears to be in for a tougher time as he will face off against Houston, while Peterson will get his crack at Indianapolis. The marquee running back showcase is in Philadelphia as Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy will be on the same field and have tough assignments against the respective defenses. Darren McFadden caught 13 passes on Monday night, but his owners are hoping for considerably more than the 32 yards rushing he had against the Chargers as the Raiders go cross-country to play the Dolphins. All eyes also will be on Chris Johnson to see if he can bounce back against San Diego from a miserable four-yard effort on the grond in Week 1, while C.J. Spiller looks to prove to everyone he is ready to be a No. 1 option following his 169 yards against the Jets and with Fred Jackson sidelined for at least a month. Spiller will get his chance against a Kansas City defense that gave up 40 points to the Falcons in Week 1, although most of that damage came via the pass.

2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Arian Foster HOU at JAC
2 Ray Rice BAL at PHI
3 LeSean McCoy PHI vs. BAL
4 Matt Forte CHI at GB (Thurs.)
5 Darren McFadden OAK at MIA
6 Jamaal Charles KC at BUF
7 DeMarco Murray DAL at SEA
8 Adrian Peterson MIN at IND
9 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC vs. HOU
10 Chris Johnson TEN at SD
11 Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. DAL
12 Frank Gore SF vs. DET
13 Steven Jackson STL vs. WAS
14 C.J. Spiller BUF vs. KC
15 Reggie Bush MIA vs. OAK
16 Stevan Ridley NE vs. ARI
17 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG vs. TB
18 Doug Martin TB at NYG
19 Willis McGahee DEN at ATL (Mon.)
20 Shonn Greene NYJ at PIT
21 Michael Turner ATL vs. DEN (Mon.)
22 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN vs. CLE
23 Darren Sproles NO at CAR
24 Trent Richardson CLE at CIN
25 Donald Brown IND vs. MIN
26 Alfred Morris WAS at STL
27 Kevin Smith DET at SF
28 Jonathan Dwyer PIT vs. NYJ
29 DeAngelo Williams CAR vs. NO
30 Mark Ingram NO at CAR
31 Beanie Wells ARI at NE
32 Michael Bush CHI at GB (Thurs.)
33 Cedric Benson GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
34 Jonathan Stewart CAR vs. NO
35 Ben Tate HOU at JAC
36 Ryan Williams ARI at NE
37 Ronnie Brown SD vs. TEN
38 Kendall Hunter SF vs. DET
39 Peyton Hillis KC at BUF
40 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. DEN (Mon.)
41 Toby Gerhart MIN at IND
42 Curtis Brinkley SD vs. TEN
43 Isaac Redman PIT vs. NYJ
44 Pierre Thomas NO at CAR
45 Felix Jones DAL at SEA
46 Knowshon Moreno DEN at ATL (Mon.)
47 David Wilson NYG vs. TB
48 Brandon Jackson CLE at CIN

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

Additional Week 2 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 2 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:22
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-2

Each week during the NFL season, we will 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 Web site can give you.

Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski did what we have come to expect them to do - find the end zone - but they weren't the only tight ends to enjoy big opening weeks. Gronkowski's teammate Aaron Hernandez also caught a touchdown pass against Tennessee, while Tony Gonzalez enjoyed a triumphant and productive return to Kansas City, where his Hall of Fame career started. No one had a more surprising Week 1 performance, however, than Baltimore's Dennis Pitta. Pitta was Joe Flacco's top target in the Ravens' dominating win over Cincinnati on Monday night, catching five passes for 73 yards and a score. Can he do it two weeks in a row, this time against a tough Philadelphia defense? Also what sort of encore does rookie Coby Fleener (6 rec., 82 yds.) have in mind, and what can we expect from Jason Witten, who was largely ineffective (2 rec., 10 yds.) in his first action after suffering a lacerated spleen in the preseason?

2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jimmy Graham NO at CAR
2 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. ARI
3 Antonio Gates SD vs. TEN
4 Jermichael Finley GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
5 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. ARI
6 Vernon Davis SF vs. DET
7 Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. DEN (Mon.)
8 Brandon Pettigrew DET at SF
9 Fred Davis WAS at STL
10 Jared Cook TEN at SD
11 Jason Witten DAL at SEA
12 Coby Fleener IND vs. MIN
13 Kyle Rudolph MIN at IND
14 Jacob Tamme DEN at ATL (Mon.)
15 Greg Olsen CAR vs. NO
16 Martellus Bennett NYG vs. TB
17 Owen Daniels HOU at JAC
18 Brent Celek PHI vs. BAL
19 Dustin Keller NYJ at PIT
20 Dennis Pitta BAL at PHI
21 Jermaine Gresham CIN vs. CLE
22 Scott Chandler BUF vs. KC
23 Heath Miller PIT vs. NYJ
24 Marcedes Lewis JAC vs. HOU
25 Kevin Boss KC at BUF
26 Dallas Clark TB at NYG

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

Additional Week 2 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 2 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings: Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:17
Path: /nfl/how-5-rookie-quarterbacks-will-do-week-2

The book on rookie quarterbacks in the NFL was a pretty simple one. They were always expected to struggle, especially in the opening games of their careers. Great ones like John Elway and Troy Aikman have talked about how unprepared they were for their first start. Boomer Esiason has described seeing “ghosts” on the field – defenders he never saw who just suddenly appear.

And then last season Cam Newton exploded onto the scene starting as a rookie on opening day and completing 24 of 37 passes for 422 yards and two touchdowns while running for another touchdown. That figured to be the most impressive rookie quarterback debut we’d ever see.

Then on Sunday, Robert Griffin III had a debut that might have been even better – or at least just as good. In the Superdome in New Orleans, one of the toughest places in the league to play, against a good Saints team motivated by the fallout from the Bounty scandal, Griffin completed 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, out-dueling Drew Brees in a 40-32 win.

It was an amazing debut and the best of the record five rookie quarterbacks that started on opening day. It also could be a sign of greatness to come.

Or not. Because one game isn’t a good barometer for anything. There’s a long way to go in the 2012 season and a long way to go in these rookie quarterbacks’ careers. Some of them are off to a good start. But what matters is what lies ahead.

Here’s a look at the future expectations of the new Fab Five:

Robert Griffin III (Redskins): There weren’t many people that rated him ahead of Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft, but there were definitely a few personnel people that did. That’s how good Griffin’s skill is. Plus, he’s the prototypical “new” quarterback – although that prototype is getting old – a man who can make plays out of the pocket just as well as he can in them.

Griffin figures to be a long-term star as long as he can stay healthy and he just might turn the Washington Redskins around. In the short term, though, don’t expect the Redskins’ game in St. Louis to be the same shootout he had in New Orleans. Jeff Fisher’s Rams are going to run the ball to keep it out of Griffin’s hands. Also, now that they’ve seen Griffin in action, it’s a little easier to devise a plan.

Also, keep in mind that Griffin’s biggest play was a short pass to Pierre Garcon that ended up as an 88-yard touchdown. He can’t count on his average receivers making plays like that every game.


Andrew Luck (Colts): He’s been pretty universally called the most complete and NFL-ready prospect since John Elway and his opening day numbers (23 of 45, 309 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions) were eerily similar to those of Peyton Manning back in 1998. There is no doubt that Luck will end up as a great one and eventually have the Colts in the hunt every season, just like Manning once did.

For Week 2 against the Vikings – and for the rest of the season – what you saw out of Luck on Sunday is likely what you’ll get. He’s got a lot of young talent around him, but it’s hardly a polished team. They will be behind a lot and they will throw often, and that will lead to mistakes. The Vikings can also rush the passer as well as the Bears, which will keep Luck on the run and force him to make his decisions quickly.


Russell Wilson (Seahawks): Wilson was probably the biggest surprise starter out of this five, having beaten out Matt Flynn in training camp. But the Seahawks spent a lot of money on Flynn and they think they’ve built a decent team, so there’s only so long Pete Carroll figures to be patient with a rookie quarterback’s struggles.

On opening day, against a Cardinals team he should’ve beaten, Wilson didn’t struggles as much as he was very average – 18 of 34 for just 153 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Unfortunately for him, now comes the hard part. He gets two home games, but they’re against the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. If he wants to keep up with either Tony Romo or Aaron Rodgers the next two weeks he’s going to have to start throwing more downfield, which it remains to be seen if he can do consistently and effectively.


Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins): It should be exactly the opposite for Tannehill, who had a very rough opening day assignment against the AFC power Texans in Houston. He wasn’t good, getting picked off three times and completing 20 of 36 passes for 219 yards. He threw almost exclusively short passes, which is a combination of him not quite being ready and the Dolphins barely having an adequate receiving corps. That won’t do against a high-scoring team like Houston.

This week, though, Tannehill goes home and gets a Raiders team that has to fly cross country and has some problems of their own. They do have Carson Palmer, though, so they can score, which means that Joe Philbin may have to take the reins off. That could make for a painful start for Tannehill, but the Dolphins need to know if he can handle more on his plate. Because after the Raiders, they get the Jets and one of the best secondaries in the league.


Brandon Weeden (Cleveland): Weeden was so bad in his debut, it’s unfathomable that he nearly beat the Philadelphia Eagles anyway. The 28-year-old rookie completed just 12 of 35 passes for 118 yards and was picked off four times. One scout, when asked about his performance said, “Colt McCoy would’ve won that game, easily.”

We all may find out if that’s true soon enough because it’s hard to see the Browns giving Weeden more than one more game, unless they’re already prepared to surrender and play for the No. 1 overall pick. Next up for the Browns are the Buffalo Bills at home – a team he should fare much better against given how good Mark Sanchez looked against the Bills last week.

If he doesn’t improve quickly, it’s hard to imagine him getting the start at Baltimore and at the New York Giants in the following two weeks. These aren’t the old days for rookie quarterbacks. Teams don’t have time to let them be disasters at the start of their careers anymore.


<p> Was Week 1 just a fluke?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 10:03
Path: /nfl/giants-packers-or-saints-which-0-1-team-most-trouble

Throughout the 2012 NFL season, Athlon Sports will tackle the hot issues on and off the gridiron with our our editors and other pigksin experts.

Q: New York Giants, Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints: Which 0-1 Team is in the Most Trouble?

Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster):
It's definitely the Saints. I don’t care how great Robert Griffin III is: When you surrender 40 points and 464 yards at home to a team with a rookie quarterback at the helm and a rookie feature back (sixth-round pick Alfred Morris, who rushed for 96 yards), you have defensive issues that extend far beyond a little bounty-induced personnel depletion. Throw in a punchless running game (32 yards), an alarming carelessness with the football (three turnovers) and an All-Pro quarterback who completed 46 percent of his passes, and you have Week 1’s most disappointing team. Time to panic, New Orleans fans.


Gene Higginbotham,
I feel that out of all three, the Saints could be the most in trouble. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, but they have shown that they can come together at the end of the season and win when they need to. The Packers almost had my vote because of their loss at home in Lambeau Field, but the San Francisco 49ers are a high quality opponent especially on defense. The Saints however not only lost at home in one of the loudest "Dome-field advantage" venues, but to the Washington Redskins who have a brand new rookie quarterback in Robert Griffin III and aren't known over the past few seasons to be a huge threat. It seemed that the Saints came in with a slight bit of overconfidence with the "Us Against the World" mentality. Another issue facing them is the "Do Your Job" that suspended head coach Sean Payton left them with. It was stated by the coaching staff after Sunday's loss that too many players were focused on too many things other than "their job." Instead of trying to create the magic fueled from adversity, they just simply need to let it happen and let this season it be special on its own like the 2009-10 season. If not, they could be headed for bigger trouble down the road.


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
Luckily for all three teams (Giants, Saints and Packers), there is plenty of time to turn things around and still make the postseason. However, even though it's only one game, each team has a reason to be concerned going into Week 2. I think the Saints are in the most trouble, especially after the defense was torched for 464 yards against the Redskins. Robert Griffin will be a great quarterback in the NFL, but it's troubling New Orleans' veteran defense couldn't generate much of a pass rush and struggled to get stops on Sunday afternoon. The Saints can score a lot of points, but the defense has to be better, especially in a division that features Matt Ryan and Cam Newton at quarterback. Without Sean Payton on the sidelines, the Saints figured to have a tough time making the playoffs. However, if Sunday's performance is repeated in Week 2, New Orleans could have trouble just reaching eight wins. 


Mark Ross, Athlon Sports:
Let's face it, the openers didn't go as planned for any of these teams as each one tasted defeat on their respective home turfs. The defending Super Bowl champion Giants started their title defense by losing a NFC East division game to the despised Cowboys. The Saints made Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III look like a Hall of Famer in his first career start, while the Packers got beat up and beat down by the 49ers. While there are certainly reasons to be alarmed if you root for one of these teams, I am keeping a close eye on the Packers as they head into this Thursday's home date with Chicago.

The Packers couldn't run the ball at all against the 49ers and I'm not expecting much different results against the Bears' defense. San Francisco also had little trouble going up and down the field against the Green Bay defense. This could be a problem on Thursday since in my estimation, the Bears have a more potent offense than the 49ers, especially when you take into consideration the additions of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Michael Bush. The Packers' secondary was already a question mark going into the season and you know that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, Marshall and his fellow wideouts are more than willing to test it out again this Thursday. Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers has had plenty of success in his career against the Monsters of the Midway, but this time around it appears the Bears have enough firepower of their own to not only keep up with Pack Attack, but possibly even out-score it. The NFC North already figured to be a dogfight with the Packers, Bears and Detroit Lions battling it out, so the last thiing the defending division champs want to do is put themselves in a 0-2 hole this early in the season.


Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports:
The Saints are in jeopardy of becoming the Aints this season. After one of the worst offseasons in NFL history, New Orleans opened the season by losing to the Redskins in the NFL debut of Robert Griffin III. Now, Drew Brees and Co. are 0–1 headed to Carolina to take on Cam Newton in an NFC South division showdown. With a skeleton crew coaching staff, ongoing off-field distractions and a legal battle with Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Saints can't afford to get off to a slow start.


Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
It has to be the Saints, who had very little go right in a 40-32 home loss to the Redskins in Week 1. The Packers lost to another elite team in the 49ers, while the Giants have shown a recent penchant for starting slow and turning it on late. I did not believe the New Orleans’ coaching changes were going to be such a huge factor, but the performance against Washington said otherwise. The Saints defense is still trying to become comfortable in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme, while the offense made way too many mistakes and has no running game. Even All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees was 24-for-52 passing (46.2 percent) versus the Redskins, after a 2011 season where he was never below 59 percent in any game. The NFC South is a strong division, especially with an improved Buccaneers squad, so the schedule will be difficult all year. Brees has the ability to mask over some team deficiencies, but the Saints will need to show marked improvement to get back to the postseason.


Joe Tufaro,
While I don't think that any 0-1 team is in all that much trouble, the Saints probably have the biggest question marks. With all that has surrounded that team in the off-season, they needed to make the statement Sunday that they were prepared to put it all behind them and move on. The fact that they looked poor on both offense and defense for much of the game, at home, has to be a concern. Facing the Panthers now, who are also 0-1, will be a major test for this defense.

The Packers defense did not look like the improved product it was supposed to be, and of course they need to right the ship quickly due to their Thursday night affair against division rival Chicago. The Bears have a new big offense, and the Pack must find a way to either stop it or offset it in a hurry.

The Giants played an odd game last Wednesday, in that a lot of their mistakes were uncharacteristic for them, and they still had a chance to either win or at least tie the game in the last minutes. The Giants are not the dominant team at home that the Saints and Packers are, so losing a game at home is not as much of a concern. The Giants only become a team in trouble if they somehow lose to Tampa Bay and then have to face what could be an 0-2 Carolina team on short rest on the road.

So, while the 0-1 start didn't knock any of the 16 teams that started that way out of the playoffs, the match-ups in Week 2 are of major concern to some of those teams.

— Published on Sept. 12, 2012

<p> <span>New York Giants, Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints — Which 0-1 Team is in the Most Trouble?</span></p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 06:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-waiver-wire-week-2

The first week of NFL action is in the books and many fantasy football owners are already looking to the waiver wire. We're here to help. The players listed in Athlon Sports’ weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.


Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville
It’s only one week, but Gabbert looked pretty good against Minnesota, completing nearly 60 percent of his attempts for a career-high 260 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. However, it is still early and Houston’s defense figures to be a much tougher test than the Vikings’, but progress is progress, right?

Christian Ponder, Minnesota
Speaking of progress, fellow second-year signal caller Ponder completed nearly 75 percent of his pass attempts against the Jaguars. He threw for 270 yards, but had no touchdowns. Still, with Adrian Peterson back in the fold, Ponder could become a reliable spot-starter, especially if the Vikings’ offense continues to progress.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Tim Tebow did get on the field, but it was Sanchez who did all the damage under center, as he passed for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the Jets’ demolition of Buffalo. A trip to Pittsburgh is next up for the Jets, but the Steelers had trouble stopping Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ aerial attack, so Sanchez could be worth a look in Week 2, if not beyond.

Alex Smith, San Francisco
Is San Francisco changing its style? The 49ers passed nearly as many times (26) as they ran the ball (32), and when they did go to the air, Smith made it count. He missed on just six of his 26 attempts for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the huge road win over Green Bay. He connected with six different receivers on the day, including a total of eight catches by new wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. If the 49ers continue to let Smith throw the ball, he could put up some decent numbers, starting this week as Detroit and its banged up secondary comes calling.

Running Backs

Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Isaac Redman started and had more carries (11 to 9), but Dwyer did more with his touches as he had 43 yards rushing and caught two passes in the Steelers’ loss to Denver. It remains to be seen if Dwyer will supplant Redman as the starter, and also what will happen once Rashard Mendenhall returns, but the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket certainly bears watching.

Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore (112 yards rushing) did the bulk of the damage on the ground, but Hunter still got nine carries against Green Bay. Hunter finished with 41 yards (4.6 ypc) and with LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs sidelined by injuries, he appears to be the clear-cut second option for a team that likes to run.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
Willis McGahee is the No. 1 option in Denver right now, but if Week 1 showed us anything, it’s that Moreno and not third-round pick Ronnie Hillman, is No. 2. Moreno was productive in his return from last season’s torn ACL as he had five carries for 13 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Broncos’ win over Pittsburgh. Even though Peyton Manning is now under center, it’s not like he’s going to throw the ball every play, so opportunity is there for Moreno, especially if McGahee goes down to injury.

Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Morris got more than four times as many carries as any other Washington running back against New Orleans, and turned those 28 totes into 96 yards and two scores. The obvious caveat with him, however, is that he plays for Mike Shanahan, who has a well-earned reputation for driving fantasy owners crazy with how he handles his backfield. You’ve been warned.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
Although Atlanta's 40-24 domination of Kansas City may not be the best gauge, it should be pointed out that Rodgers carried the ball just four times fewer than Michael Turner, who had 11 carries. Rodgers had a better average (3.1 to 2.9 ypc) and also had two receptions. If the coaching staff is serious about cutting down Turner’s workload, Rodgers will be the primary beneficiary.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
He leads the NFL in rushing and he’s probably the Bills’ starter moving forward as Fred Jackson is dealing with a knee injury that will reportedly keep him out at least a month. Spiller was the lone Bills highlight in the lopsided loss to the Jets, as he gashed them for 169 rushing yards on just 14 carries. Even if you took out his 56-yard touchdown run, Spiller would have finished with 113 yards on 13 carries (8.7 ypc).

Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
He didn’t do a lot with them (9 yards rushing), but Williams finished Arizona’s win over Seattle with more carries (8 to 7) than Beanie Wells. He also caught two passes for 17 yards. The workload for the two backs is what bears watching moving forward, especially if Williams establishes himself as the lead horse.

Wide Receivers

Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions
Detroit surprisingly struggled to put away St. Louis, but Matthew Stafford still finished with more than 300 yards passing and Calvin Johnson led the way with 111 yards receiving. It was Burleson, however, who got more targets (8 to 7) than Johnson and tied Megatron with six catches (69 yards). As much as the Lions throw the ball, Burleson could develop into a valuable contributor, especially if he’s able to hold off Titus Young as the No. 2 receiver.

Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Cobb tied Greg Jennings for most targets among Green Bay wide receivers in the loss to San Francisco with nine. More than that, however, was how the Packers lined the second-year pro up – in the backfield, on the outside, in the slot – in an attempt to get him the ball. If you have any doubts about his big-play ability, look no further than his 75-yard punt return for a touchdown that got the Packers back in the game early in the fourth quarter.

Stephen Hill, New York Jets
It was Hill and not Santonio Holmes, who was the Jets’ leading receiver against Buffalo. Hill put a disappointing preseason completely behind him with his five-catch, 89-yard effort that also included two touchdowns. Holmes was targeted more (8 to 6), but Hill is the other starting wideout for the Jets and it looks like Mark Sanchez will not be afraid to throw it his way.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
There’s no doubt that Brandon Marshall is and will be Jay Cutler’s favorite target, but there’s room for someone to emerge as his No. 2 option and Jeffery did nothing to hurt himself in that regard in Week 1. The rookie out of South Carolina was targeted five times, which was second only to Marshall’s 15 among Bears wideouts, and finished with three receptions for 80 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter.

Donald Jones, Buffalo Bills
Jones led the Bills in receptions with five in Week 1, and he should continue to see plenty of opportunities as David Nelson tore his ACL in the loss to the Jets. Stevie Johnson is the clear No. 1 option for Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Jones will line up opposite him as the other starter due to the loss of Nelson.

Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
Barring injury, LaFell won’t supplant Steve Smith as Cam Newton’s favorite target anytime soon. Still, the former LSU Tiger came on late last season and continued that momentum in Week 1 as he caught three passes for 65 yards (21.7 ypc) and a score.

Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers
Is he back? Perhaps, but one thing is for sure – Alex Smith did his part to involve him in San Francisco’s passing attack. Moss was targeted four times, which tied him for second among 49er wide receivers with Mario Manningham, but he caught all of them for 47 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, Smith looked his way multiple times in the red zone.

Kevin Ogletree, Dallas Cowboys
On the one hand there’s the eight receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, which is certainly the type of production anyone would want to have in their lineup. There are also the team-high 11 targets he got from Tony Romo. On the other hand, there’s the fact that Ogletree will remain the Cowboys’ No. 3 receiver, barring injury, and that opposing secondaries will probably offer more resistance than the Giants’ injury-depleted one did in Week 1. All of that said, Ogletree is still worth picking up if you have room for him. Remember what Laurent Robinson did last season?

Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s quarterback situation and the presence of Larry Fitzgerald notwithstanding, Roberts staked his claim to the No. 2 receiver job in Week 1. Besides leading the team in catches (five for 54 yards and a touchdown), and receiving just two fewer targets (11 to 9) than Fitzgerald, Roberts also was the Cardinals’ leading rusher. He gained 15 yards on one lone carry.

Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett, New York Giants
Three different Giants tight ends were targeted a total of 86 times last season. Only one of them – Bear Pascoe – is on the active roster this reason. Eli Manning targeted his tight ends a total of seven times in the opener against the Cowboys. Pascoe got one, while Bennett got the other six and turned them into four catches and a touchdown.

Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Fleener was targeted by his former Stanford teammate Andrew Luck 10 times against Chicago, finishing with six catches for 82 yards. Overall Luck threw the ball 45 times, a trend that figures to continue considering the chances the Colts will be playing from behind a majority of the season.

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars
A breakout star in 2010, Lewis all but disappeared in 2011. After posting five catches on five targets for 52 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, Lewis may be back on the fantasy map this season, especially if Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert can perform like he did against Minnesota on a weekly basis.

Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta and not Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin or even Ray Rice was the most targeted Raven on Monday night with nine of them. He finished the evening with a team-high five receptions, 73 yards receiving, and scored a touchdown. He and Ed Dickson give quarterback Joe Flacco two dependable options at tight end, but the early returns seem to show that Pitta is first in the pecking order. Don't lose sight of the fact that even though the outcome against Cincinnati was a laugher, 44-13, the Ravens still threw the ball (32 attempts) more than they ran it (23 rushes).

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Rudolph got seven targets, just one fewer than wide receiver Percy Harvin, and caught five passes for 67 yards in the win over Jacksonville, He should continue to receive his fair share of opportunities as he and Harvin will more than likely be Christian Ponder’s primary reads in the Vikings’ passing game as the season progresses.

Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.

— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 11, 2012

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Week 2</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-news-12-drivers-2012-chase-sprint-cup
The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup field—12 drivers in all—is finally set.
The final wild-card spot was earned in dramatic fashion last night at Richmond International Raceway, when Jeff Gordon squeaked into the 12th slot.
Notable names such as Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards didn't make this year's cut, after a grueling 26-week season that began in late-February with the Daytona 500. 
Here are the 12 drivers who will vie for the 2012 title over the next 10 races.
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Tony Stewart
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Greg Biffle
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Jeff Gordon
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Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 11:20
Path: /nfl/robert-griffin-iii-expect-top-12-fantasy-performance-redskins-qb

Robert Griffin III (aka RG3) makes his debut at New Orleans in Week 1 in a game that seems to be getting labeled the shootout of the week. Of course, this probably means it will be the dud of the week. 

But you do have the new Washington Redskins quarterback in the Superdome trying to keep up with a team that scored 34.2 points per game last year (2nd) while allowing 21.2 (20th).

Washington, meanwhile, allowed 22.9 (12th) while scoring 18 (26th). It’s the latter where Griffin is expected to be able to help the Redskins make a marked improvement on and it begins Sunday in New Orleans.

He will be a top-12 fantasy quarterback when Week 1 comes to an end.

New Orleans was generous to rookie QBs a year ago — facing them four times for an average of 196 yards passing, 32.3 yards on the ground with eight TDs and three interceptions. 

The Saints allowed four rookies to throw for at least one touchdown last season, and they allowed 193 yards and two scores on the ground to opposing QBs a year ago. All three top performances came from rookies as Cam Newton had 59 yards and a score in two game, Jake Locker had 36 yards and a score and Christian Ponder rushed for 34 yards.

It comes out to an average of 23.04 points for the four rookies.

I would be happy with a 23-point day from RGIII in his NFL debut.

RGIII has a stable of receivers to throw to — Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss — and a stable of pass-catching backs — Evan Royster, Roy Helu and Alfred Morris. He also has the ability to pull it down and run himself.

Expect a shootout of a game where each team scores at least 20. That happened to the Saints in half of their games last season, and opposing QBs averaged 283 yards and 2.1 touchdown passes with five total interceptions in those eight games.

Washington might be on the 20-point end of the shootout, while New Orleans is on the 40-point side, but that doesn’t matter in fantasy. What matters is RGIII can help you and the Redskins score 20 on the way there and be considered a top-12 start in Week 1.

—by Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 09:24
Path: /nfl/trent-richardson-dont-start-browns-running-back-week-1

Do something Trent Richardson was not able to do in preseason games in 2012 — run!

Run from starting the Cleveland Browns’ rookie running back in any capacity in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Take away the fact that a knee injury kept him off the field during the four preseason games. Take away that it was his second knee surgery in six months. Take away that he has been limited in practice this week leading up to his highly anticipated debut.

Richardson’s knee is an issue — one that allowed him to participate in just the first 10 days of training camp — but what surrounds his team in this game is the bigger issue.

The issues are these:

Quarterback Brandon Weeden. No proven pass catchers. A Browns run defense that was eighth-worst against fantasy running backs. Facing an Eagles team that was a top-13 fantasy team at the quarterback (9), running back (12), receiver (9), tight end (13) and defense (8) positions last season.

They are all issues because you have an already unhealthy back that should be in no position to succeed in a game where the Eagles should lead comfortably.

Weeden is a rookie himself and will face one of the deepest pass rushing groups in the league — one that tied for a league-leading 50 sacks a season ago. Cleveland was 23rd in the league with 162 receptions from its receivers and ranked second to last with eight touchdowns from that group.

There are plenty more playmakers on the Philadelphia side that have the oddsmakers favoring the Eagles by nine.  Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and the Eagles defense/special teams will be the ones coming out of this game in a favorable fantasy light.

The only plus for Richardson is that the Eagles were 24th against fantasy RBs last season. But were he cleared to play, it is expected that it would be in a limited capacity. Maybe he would be better served to make his debut against rival Cincinnati next week and its 16th-ranked fantasy defense against running backs from a year ago. Or better yet, get fully healthy and take on a Buffalo defense in Week 3 that, while they have bolstered their roster on that side of the ball, were 29th against fantasy backs last season. 

If you drafted Richardson — which you probably did pretty early — you don’t want to see him on the sideline long. But you also don’t want to see him on the field too soon and suffer another setback. Sit him, as the Browns should this week and get ready for the Bengals.

As an aside, the Browns are 1-11-1 against the spread in season openers.

—by Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 09:00