Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /seattle-seahawks-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Pete Carroll is building quite a franchise in the Great Pacific Northwest. Seattle made the playoffs a year ago, won a postseason game and return largely intact. Now, the Seahawks are eyeing a third trip to the playoffs in just four seasons under Carroll. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Seattle Seahawks 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Carolina
Week 2: San Francisco
Week 3: Jacksonville
Week 4: at Houston
Week 5: at Indianapolis
Week 6: Tennessee
Week 7: at Arizona (Thurs.)
Week 8: at St. Louis (Mon.)
Week 9: Tampa Bay
Week 10: at Atlanta
Week 11: Minnesota
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: New Orleans (Mon.)
Week 14: at San Francisco
Week 15: at New York Giants
Week 16: Arizona
Week 17: St. Louis

Order your 2013 Seattle Seahawks Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: While San Francisco will be dealing with one of the toughest first months in the NFL, Seattle gets the Jaguars and Panthers in the first three weeks. Yes, a home game against those very Niners and a trip to Houston are both incredibly daunting tasks, but this team could easily start 3-0 — Seattle pounded San Francisco at home last year — and that would be a huge first punch in the NFC West race. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks will play all four AFC games by Week 6 and will finish with 10 straight NFC games.

Toughest Stretch: From Week 10 to Week 15 the Seahawks will face four teams that made the playoffs last year and the New Orleans Saints. Three of those games will come on the road in Atlanta, San Francisco and New York (Giants). In between are home games with Adrian Peterson and a "Monday Night Football" matchup with Drew Brees. This is a huge stretch against elite competition heading into the final two weeks of the season. The good news is an off weekend comes in Week 12, but even then it seems to be going to waste as it falls between home games and because the Saints game is on a Monday night.

Swing Games:MIN (Week 11), at NYG (Week 15)
Crossover Divisions:NFC South, AFC South
Bye Week:Week 12
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.516 (11th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:14th

Easiest Stretch: This one is easy. From Week 6 to Week 9, Seattle will be heavily favored in three games and likely favored in the fourth. Tennessee and Tampa Bay face long road trips to Seattle and stand little chance of winning at CenturyLink Field. Between those two games will be two NFC West road trips. The trip to the desert against Arizona comes on a short week on Thursday night. That leaves the toughest game of this stretch coming in St. Louis on Monday night. However, Carroll and company will have 11 days to prepare for Jeff Fisher's physical and pesky Rams.

Circle The Calendar: Either battle with the 49ers would work. The home game will come early in the year and gives the Seahawks a distinct home-field advantage. Therefore, the Week 14 trip south to the Bay Area has to be the most important game of the season for Seattle. This team crushed the Niners 42-13 late in the season a year ago, but lost on the road 13-6 in mid-October. A sweep of SanFran could mean home field throughout the playoffs and an inside track on the Super Bowl.

Divisional Notes: Two games with the 49ers cannot be undersold as they may be the two most important NFC games of the year. But St. Louis actually had the best record in NFC West play a year ago. The good news for Seattle is the timing of those battles with the Rams. The season finale comes at home and could mean nothing for Seattle, who could be locked into the playoffs or the division crown already. The road trip to St. Louis, were the Seahawks lost 19-13 last season, comes on a Monday night following a Thursday night game, giving Carroll and his team four extra days to prepare. Strangely, both games with Arizona will come as precursors to bigger games with the Rams.

Playoff Push: The final month should provide plenty of intrigue for Seahawks fans. There are huge tests with the Saints, Niners and Giants to start December but the year will end with back-to-back home NFC West games with Arizona and St. Louis. There is more good news for Seattle as the bye week comes in the final possible week (Week 12) and allows for this team to get a breather at the last possible moment — making them one of the most rested teams heading into the final month of play this year.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Russell Wilson was a pleasant surprise last season, but could have his work cut out for come fantasy playoff time. The Seahawks will play division rival San Francisco and the Giants on the road before coming home for an NFC West tilt with Arizona. The 49ers and Cardinals were both top-10 fantasy defenses against QBs last season, while a cross-country trip is never easy on the West Coast teams.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Seattle Seahawks 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-francisco-49ers-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Jim Harbaugh had his San Francisco 49ers less than 10 yards from a Super Bowl victory last year. With brilliant offseason moves and another great draft class, the Niners are the frontrunner to repeat as NFC champions. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

San Francisco 49ers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Green Bay
Week 2: at Seattle
Week 3: Indianapolis
Week 4: at St. Louis (Thurs.)
Week 5: Houston
Week 6: Arizona
Week 7: at Tennessee
Week 8: at Jacksonville
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Carolina
Week 11: at New Orleans
Week 12: at Washington (Mon.)
Week 13: St. Louis
Week 14: Seattle
Week 15: at Tampa Bay
Week 16: Atlanta (Mon.)
Week 17: at Arizona

Order your 2013 San Francisco 49ers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The Niners will have the toughest first two games of the season of any team in the NFL. And the importance of games with Green Bay and Seattle cannot be understated, as both could determine playoff seeding. In addition, the NFC West could easily be on the line at CenturyLink Field just seven days into the season. And things don't get any easier for the 49ers either as they get a visit from Andrew Luck and the Colts in Week 3 and travel to St. Louis in Week 4. Most teams would be staring at an 0-4 start to the year but not San Francisco. It has to be bittersweet that the two toughest games in the division will be out of the way in the first month.

Toughest Stretch: The first five weeks of the season have to be considered the toughest stretch for the defending NFC champs. On top of two huge road divisional games and tests with elite signal-callers Aaron Rodgers and Luck at home comes a visit from the Houston Texans. The final seven weeks of the season won't be easy but the elite level of competition in the first five weeks makes the start to the season the most daunting stretch of the 2013 slate for San Francisco.

Swing Games:GB (Week 1), at WAS (Week 12)
Crossover Divisions:NFC South, AFC South
Bye Week:Week 9
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.520 (9th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:8th

Easiest Stretch: As the defending NFC champs, there shouldn't be any truly easy stretches. However, there is a five-week run following the Week 5 tilt against Houston that should provide some easier wins. The 49ers will face the Cardinals, Titans and Jaguars — arguably the three worst teams on their schedule this year — in three consecutive weeks. Then San Fran gets an off weekend before a visit from Carolina in Week 10. Four losing teams from a year ago and the bye week makes Weeks 6-10 the easiest stretch of games for Harbaugh and company.

Circle The Calendar: Week 2 in Seattle will be downright epic. The Link's crowd is always rowdy and both sides know full well what will be at stake in this monstrous NFC West showdown. Last year, the Niners edged past the Seahawks at home 13-6 in mid-October. However, Pete Carroll's boys put a beatdown on Harbaugh's guys 42-13 in Week 16 last year. These two coaches have had a long-standing rivalry dating back to their Pac-10 USC-Stanford days and now they may boast the two best teams in the league. This could be the biggest game of the entire NFL calendar in 2013.

Divisional Notes: This could be the toughest division in football but the Niners are luckier than the other three teams in the NFC West as they don't have to face, well, the 49ers twice. That said, road trips to both Seattle and St. Louis will be nasty in the first month. The home rematches with both will take place in back-to-back weeks to start December. With so much space between these key divisional games, it is likely that all three teams will be dramatically different in the second bouts. Arizona, which is no easy out, will be a welcome sight for San Francisco in Weeks 6 and 17.

Playoff Push: The final month won't be easy for the Niners but there is plenty to like about this end to the season. Road trips to Tampa Bay and Arizona both happen within the final three weeks and three huge NFC showdowns come in Candlestick Park. St. Louis had Harbaugh's number a year ago and will be a tough out while home-field advantage and the NFC West will hang in the balance when Seattle and Atlanta visit during December. The final home game of the year against the Falcons will come on "Monday Night Football" and should be one of the most anticipated games of the year.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Colin Kaepernick could have one of the toughest fantasy playoff schedules of any of his peers. The dual-threat has to face top-seven fantasy defenses against QBs in Seattle and Atlanta, although both of those games are at home, as well as Tampa Bay’s upgraded secondary on the road. The Seahawks (sixth against fantasy RBs) and Buccaneers (No. 1 in rushing defense last season) also weren’t that kind to RBs either.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (7/1)Tennessee (7/3)San Diego (7/2)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
Washington (7/3)MinnesotaTampa Bay (7/2)Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 28, 2013 - 12:31
All taxonomy terms: AFC, New York Jets, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-jets-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The 2013 season feels like a transition year for the New York Jets despite the fact Rex Ryan is still leading the ship. But with lots of new faces in key positions, the Jets could be in store for a long '13 season. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

New York Jets 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Tampa Bay
Week 2: at New England (Thurs.)
Week 3: Buffalo
Week 4: at Tennessee
Week 5: at Atlanta (Mon.)
Week 6: Pittsburgh
Week 7: New England
Week 8: at Cincinnati
Week 9: New Orleans
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Buffalo
Week 12: at Baltimore
Week 13: Miami
Week 14: Oakland
Week 15: at Carolina
Week 16: Cleveland
Week 17: at Miami

Order your 2013 New York Jets Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: There are winnable games in the first month for Ryan and the Jets. New York will face Tampa Bay and Buffalo at home with a road trip to Nashville, Tenn., capping the first month. A road trip to New England on a short week feels like a potential bloodbath, but if the Jets can win one or two of the first four, signs would be very positive for a team in desperate need of good news.

Toughest Stretch: This one is easy. From Week 5 to Week 9, the Jets will face five teams all projected to make the playoffs this year — three of which have played in the Super Bowl within the last four seasons. The other two will involve road games with two frontrunners for this year's Super Bowl in Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Jets need to make headway in the first month because an 0-5 stretch is waiting for them in October.

Swing Games:at TEN (Week 4), OAK (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions:AFC North, NFC South
Bye Week:Week 10
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.496 (19th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:23rd

Easiest Stretch: The first month may provide some wins but the final month is the easiest. Two games with Miami, home games with the Raiders and Browns and a road trip to Carolina might be the easiest finish in the NFL this fall. These five games will feature five opponents who combined to lose 50 games a year ago and could help save Ryan's job should the Jets pull some upsets.

Circle The Calendar: What is the marquee showdown for a team expected to be one of the league's worst? A visit to the Super Bowl champs in Week 12? Two battles with former rival Tom Brady that will feature endless loops of butt fumble footage? How about a Monday night trip to Atlanta? Sure, these games feature big-time opponents but no one thinks the Jets can win a single one of them. That said, there are many swing games on this schedule and a few wins over those teams could give this team a seven-win season. So the home and season opener against Tampa Bay might be the most exciting and most watchable Jets game of the year.

Divisional Notes: The AFC East slate is pretty spread out for the J-E-T-S. Games with New England on the road and Buffalo at home will come in back-to-back weeks early in the season, but New York only has one divisional game between Week 4 and Week 10. The final three AFC East games will come in the final seven weeks and the final two be against the Dolphins. There are plenty of wins to be had in the weak AFC East, but both games with the Patriots appear to be guaranteed losses.

Playoff Push: As previously stated, the final month of the season will be the Jets' easiest stretch of games. It is hard to see this New York team making a playoff push but there are definitely wins to be had in December. Two with Miami and one each with Cleveland, Carolina and Oakland would be a cakewalk for most of the playoff contenders, but Ryan's squad will have to battle to pick up some victories. That said, a 3-2 finish could give the current coaching regime another year to rebuild.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): No current Jet finished among the top 20 at their position in fantasy last season, so chances are that many fantasy players may not rely on this roster in 2013. However, if some weapons emerge, it’s possible some Jets could pay off come playoff time. For example, Oakland, Carolina and Cleveland were all in the bottom 13 against fantasy RBs in '12, and the Raiders and Panthers were among the bottom 10 defenses against TEs.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland (6/28)
NY JetsPittsburgh (7/1)Tennessee (7/3)San Diego (7/2)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3)MinnesotaTampa Bay (7/2)Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 11:53
Path: /node/23321
Body:

The Pac-12 Conference doesn’t win a lot of Heisman Trophies, but when it does, it dominates.

Over the last 30 years, the league has just three such stiff-armed awards, but USC won those three Heisman in a four-year span from 2002-05: Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (’04) and Reggie Bush (’05). That said, the Pac-12 has been close recently with Heisman finalists LaMichael James, Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart coming extremely close to winning the trophy.

On top of that, recent trends are pointing toward another potential Heisman run for the Pac-12. An influx of elite offensive coaches and a dearth of electric underclassmen gives this conference as good a chance as any to win sports most prestigious award.

Here are the Pac-12’s top Heisman contenders for 2013 (complete with updated Vegas odds):

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (16/1)
Manziel gets most of the love as a redshirt freshman, but Mariota wasn’t far behind. Thanks to big leads by Oregon, he didn't see a ton of action deep into most second halves and still led the nation in road passing efficiency. Overall, he led the Pac-12 in passer rating and scored 37 total touchdowns. He plays with poise and confidence well beyond his years. The big question mark will be the loss of head coach Chip Kelly. The last time Oregon switched head coaches internally, there was little drop off, but one has to think this offense will take a small step back. Yet, as the leader of Oregon's offense, the supremely gifted 6-foot-4, 200-pound second-year starter should be destined for at least one trip to NYC in his career.

2. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (40/1)
Carey was the most underrated player in the nation last fall. He led the nation in rushing (148.4 ypg, 1,929 yards), set the Arizona single-season rushing record and the Pac-12 single-game rushing record (366 yards). He scored 24 times and helped turn the Wildcats from a four-win team in 2011 to an eight-win, zone-read monster. And he did all of this as a sophomore. With spread guru Rich Rodriguez calling the shots, the tough-nosed workhorse has a chance to post huge numbers once again in 2013. Charges were recently dropped concerning Carey’s domestic dispute and he has been punished internally by RichRod, so all signs are go for a huge 2013 campaign… as long as he walks the straight and narrow.

3. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (14/1)
An elite big-play machine, Thomas’ biggest weakness is actually one of his biggest strengths. The Oregon scheme lends itself to huge numbers but it also distributes the football. Simply, he needs more than 137 touches on offense to get to New York. The change in head coach will also play a role with Thomas' campaign like it will Mariota's. That said, few players in the nation are as captivating and explosive as Thomas. His 18 rushing touchdowns, 14 receiving touchdowns and four return touchdowns in just two seasons prove that pretty clearly.

4. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (14/1)
With a proven commodity at quarterback coming back, Lee might be a Heisman frontrunner nationally. But with Matt Barkley — and counterpart Robert Woods who drew plenty of defensive attention — leaving for the NFL, Lee’s numbers will almost assuredly go down. Those numbers, however, were extraordinary a year ago as he was No. 2 in the nation in receptions per game (9.1) and yards per game (132.4) and he scored 15 times. He is an elite player who may not have the supporting cast to get to Radio City Music Hall.

5. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (25/1)
The Bruins finally found a quarterback. The redshirt sophomore-to-be threw for three 300-yard efforts in his first four career games. He then led his team to the Pac-12 title game, scored 38 total touchdowns and produced nearly 4,100 yards of total offense in just his first year under center. The show will be all his in Westwood now that Johnathan Franklin is gone.

6. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
In just his first year under center, Kelly finished No. 2 in passing efficiency in the Pac-12 and averaged more than 273 yards of total offense per game. He also threw at least four touchdowns in a game four times in the final eight contests. With a host of talented surrounding cast, the efficient Sun Devils passer could easily push for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors.

7. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
The Huskies tailback and his 1,439-yard, 16-TD sophomore season flew well under the national radar a year ago. But with four starters back along the offensive line and his quarterback entering his third season as the starter, Sankey has a great chance to earn national acclaim as a junior. Even just a slight increase in production would place Sankey among the nation’s best.

8. Silas Redd, RB, USC
Redd scored in seven of his first nine games as a Trojan and posted three 100-yard efforts in his first five. But he slowed over the course of the year and dealt with small injuries late in the year. Still, he posted 1,018 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns in his first season in L.A. With a new quarterback, he should now be the focal point of the offense.

9. Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
It took eight games but David Shaw found his replacement for Andrew Luck when he inserted the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder into the lineup a few plays into the Colorado game. Hogan proceeded to lead the Cardinal to a 6-0 record to end the season — including the school’s first Rose Bowl win since 1972 — with efficient and dynamic play under center. He passed for 1,096 yards (71.7%) with nine touchdowns while providing a spark on the ground with 263 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. Look for much bigger things in ’13 from the Cardinal signal caller. 

10. Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Now that C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele have departed the backfield and Keenan Allen is in the NFL, Bigelow becomes the main offensive weapon in Berkeley. And few players nationally have as much upside as the electric tailback (see Ohio State game). He has big-play ability and will be right at home in Sonny Dykes high-octane offense.

11. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The next dynamic, versatile all-purpose type for Mike Riley. Extremely explosive.

12. Keith Price, QB, Washington
Look for the Husky's QB to return to his record-setting form in 2013.

13. Storm Woods, RB, Oregon State
Should build on solid freshman season: 940 yards and 13 TDs.

14. Arizona’s Quarterback
Anu Solomon would post much bigger dual-threat numbers while Jesse Scoggins might win the most games. But both players are chasing B.J. Denker entering fall practice. 

15. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
The nation's top tight end is in store for a huge (and final) year in Seattle.

16. USC’s Quarterback
Cody Kessler and Max Wittek will battle for one of the most Heisman-worthy positions in the nation.

17. Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon
Marshall will fill the Kenjon Barner role and could see more touches than DAT.

18. UCLA’s Running Back
Jordan James and Paul Perkins will battle for touches in void left by Franklin.

19. Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State
Year No. 2 under Mike Leach has to better than Year No. 1, right?

20. Anthony Wilkerson, RB, Stanford
Will get the first crack at taking over for Stepfan Taylor. Tyler Gaffney and Barry Sanders will play too.

2013 Pac-12 Team Previews

NorthSouth
CaliforniaArizona
OregonArizona State
Oregon StateColorado
StanfordUCLA
WashingtonUSC
Washington StateUtah

Best of the Rest:

21. Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
22. DJ Foster, RB, Arizona State
23. Christian Powell, RB, Colorado
24. Zach Kline, QB, California
25. Travis Wilson, QB, Utah
26. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
27. Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
28. Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA
29. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
30. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC 

10 Defensive Players to Watch:

Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
Morgan Breslin, DE, USC

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 07:24
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /new-england-patriots-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

It's been quite an offseason for the New England Patriots. But even murder scandals and public contract disputes won't keep Tom Brady and the Pats from being the clear-cut AFC East frontrunner. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

New England Patriots 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Buffalo
Week 2: New York Jets (Thurs.)
Week 3: Tampa Bay
Week 4: at Atlanta
Week 5: at Cincinnati
Week 6: New Orleans
Week 7: at New York Jets
Week 8: Miami
Week 9: Pittsburgh
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Carolina (Mon.)
Week 12: Denver
Week 13: at Houston
Week 14: Cleveland
Week 15: at Miami
Week 16: at Baltimore
Week 17: Buffalo

Order your 2013 New England Patriots Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: There should be little doubt that the Patriots will start the 2013 season 3-0. But a 4-0 first month will be difficult as New England will visit one of the NFC's best in Week 4 when it heads south to Atlanta. A 3-1 start looks like the worst possible scenario while a 4-0 first month wouldn't be far fetched at all.

Toughest Stretch: Tom Brady and his squad will face the other three projected AFC division winners over a four-game stretch. Games with Pittsburgh, Denver and at Houston will be tell-all tests in the conference that could have huge seeding implications. A road trip to take on Cam Newton mixed in makes the heart of the Pats' schedule the toughest of the year. There is good news, however, as the off weekend falls right in the middle of this run (Week 10).

Swing Games:DEN (Week 12), at HOU (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions:AFC North, NFC South
Bye Week:Week 6
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.508 (14th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:9th

Easiest Stretch: The final four weeks provide some easier games but the first three weeks of the '13 slate look about as "easy" as an NFL schedule can get. Home games with the Jets and Bucs could get ugly quickly while a road test in Buffalo could feature the NFL debuts for both the head coach (Doug Marrone) and quarterback (EJ Manuel).

Circle The Calendar: Huge AFC tests with Pittsburgh, Houston, Denver, Cincinnati and Baltimore will all carry playoff seeding import. But the date to circle will be the visit from New Orleans and Drew Brees in Week 6. Should Brady throw a touchdown in each of the first five games, he will be attempting to tie Brees' NFL record for consecutive games with a TD pass at 54... against Brees himself. Coincidence? Hard to believe.

Divisional Notes: No team in the NFL may have an easier divisional slate than the Patriots. A pair of games each with Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets mean no team has a better shot at 6-0 in their division than New England. Two of those will come right out of the gate to start the year before back-to-back AFC East games in Weeks 7 and 8. The next two come in the final three weeks with a home game against Buffalo capping the year.

Playoff Push: The Patriots have two huge road games in December with Houston and Baltimore. But Belichick's team also will have three games in which they are likely to be heavy favorites. And since the Houston game comes in Week 13, the Pats will finish with an extremely manageable final four weeks. If a 3-1 finish is the worst possible scenario, the Pats could have a big leg up in the race for the all-important first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): The wide receivers have changed in New England, but they still have Tom Brady throwing to them and a fantasy playoff schedule that opens against Cleveland. The Browns were the 30th-ranked fantasy defense against WRs last season. Miami (15th) and Baltimore (17th) fared better, but Brady has impressive career statistics against the Dolphins, and the Ravens have several new faces in their secondary and, more important, no more Ed Reed.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.
Post date: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Miami Dolphins, Miami Dolphins, NFL, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Miami Dolphins began the season 1-3 last year but finished 6-6 in their final 12 games. So year No. 2 under Joe Philbin begins with cautious optimism. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Miami Dolphins 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Cleveland
Week 2: at Indianapolis
Week 3: Atlanta
Week 4: at New Orleans
Week 5: Baltimore
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Buffalo
Week 8: at New England
Week 9: Cincinnati
Week 10: at Tampa Bay
Week 11: San Diego
Week 12: Carolina
Week 13: at New York Jets
Week 14: at Pittsburgh
Week 15: New England
Week 16: at Buffalo
Week 17: New York Jets 

Order your 2013 Miami Dolphins Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Year two under Philbin will begin with three road games in the first four weeks. And other than the season opener against Cleveland, the Fish will play three projected playoff teams during that span. Road trips indoors to face elite quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Drew Brees will be tough for the Fins defense while hosting Matt Ryan and company is no joke either. A 1-3 start to the year is likely.

Toughest Stretch: And considering Week 5 features a home visit from the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Miami will deal with its toughest stretch right out of the gate. The Dolphins will face a four-week stretch against teams that won 41 games a year ago. Unfortunately, the Saints and the Colts should be improved this fall while the Falcons and Ravens are looking to retain the status quo. The good news is this team enters the perfectly placed bye week in Week 6 in dire need of a rest.

Swing Games: at IND (Week 2), SD (Week 11)
Crossover Divisions: AFC North, NFC South
Bye Week: Week 6
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .520 (8th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 21st

Easiest Stretch: Few teams have as obvious an easy stretch as Miami will deal with from Week 10 to Week 13. Home games with Carolina and San Diego provide big chances for wins while road trips to in-state Tampa Bay and AFC East bottom dweller New York Jets aren't very daunting. The Fish have a chance to make a run as the calendar flips from November to December.

Circle The Calendar: The Mike Wallace storyline might be the top story to track if the Dolphins aren't making a playoff push. A Week 14 visit to Pittsburgh will bring the former Steelers' star wide receiver back to Heinz Field for a late-season showdown. It also will be the first time the Steelers will get a crack at the former Packers assistant who helped to defeat the Steel Curtain in Super Bowl XL in 2010.

Divisional Notes: The Dolphins won't play an AFC East game until Week 7 when Buffalo comes to town. Then six of the final 11 will come in the division, including the final three games of the year. There are four very winnable games with the Bills and Jets with two nasty uphill battles with the Patriots. However, a December home game with the Pats provides Miami a signature win opportunity during the playoff push.

Playoff Push: There are wins to be had in the final month — the Jets twice and Buffalo — but there are also two tough tests against New England and Pittsburgh. A 3-2 record in the final month would likely put the Fish in second place in the AFC East and in contention for a Wildcard bid. Anything better than that would be a huge success.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Sean Payton is back to steer the Saints’ offense, which gets a double dose of Carolina in the fantasy playoffs. Believe it or not, but the Panthers were top five against fantasy WRs last season. If this holds up again, it could be good news for Jimmy Graham owners, as Carolina didn’t perform nearly as well (23rd) against TEs. The Rams also were a top-10 fantasy defense against WRs last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami  Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City
New England Cleveland Jacksonville Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas  Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay New Orleans San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Sean Payton returns to the New Orleans Saints after his team went through a tortuous 2012 season. He has his sights set on a return to the postseason this fall. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

New Orleans Saints 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Atlanta
Week 2: at Tampa Bay
Week 3: Arizona
Week 4: Miami (Mon.)
Week 5: at Chicago
Week 6: at New England
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Buffalo
Week 9: at New York Jets
Week 10: Dallas
Week 11: San Francisco
Week 12: at Atlanta (Thurs.)
Week 13: at Seattle (Mon.)
Week 14: Carolina
Week 15: at St. Louis
Week 16: at Carolina
Week 17: Tampa Bay

Order your 2013 New Orleans Saints Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: There will be loads of intensity in the home season opener against arch rival Atlanta in the Superdome as Payton makes his triumphant return to the sideline. But after that, three games with Tampa Bay, Arizona and Miami shouldn't scare Drew Brees and company. A 3-1 mark to start the year is a very real possibility.

Toughest Stretch: There is an unenviable four-week stretch to end November that could decide the Saints' postseason fate. New Orleans will have back-to-back home games with the NFC postseason hopefuls Dallas and San Francisco before facing the Falcons on a short week and the Seahawks on a long one on the road. The only comfort will be the extra three days of rest between the trip to Atlanta and the trip to Seattle. From Week 11 to Week 13, the Saints could face the best three teams in the NFC.

Swing Games: at CHI (Week 5), DAL (Week 10)
Crossover Divisions: NFC West, AFC East
Bye Week: Week 7
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .539 (3rd)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 11th

Easiest Stretch: Both the first and last month of the regular season are fairly manageable, but the final four weeks seem like a big blessing for the Big Easy. Not only were all four teams under .500 a year ago but three of them will come in the division. A road game at the Rams will be the toughest game of the final four weeks.

Circle The Calendar: Drew Brees' consecutive game streak with a touchdown pass would be tied by Tom Brady the same week the Saints come to town in a strategically placed bout with the Patriots. Recent radio fodder from "Mayhem in the AM" only adds fuel to the Falcons-Saints fire, so both of those games are worth circling. But Payton's return to the sideline in the Superdome in the season opener against division favorite and arch rival Atlanta in Week 1 has to be the biggest date on the calendar for Who Dat nation.

Divisional Notes: The Saints have an odd divisional slate as they will start the season with two NFC South games and will finish the year with three out of four coming within the division. Playing Cam Newton twice in a three-week span in the second half of the year could be sneaky dangerous. And the massive road game at Atlanta will come on a short week between physical tests with San Francisco and Seattle.

Playoff Push: Few teams will have the opportunity to win games in the final four weeks like the Saints. Two games with Carolina and one each with St. Louis and Tampa bodes extremely well for New Orleans' push for the postseason. All three teams pose interesting challenges but combined for 26 losses a year ago and none are predicted to make the postseason in 2013.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Sean Payton is back to steer the Saints’ offense, which gets a double dose of Carolina in the fantasy playoffs. Believe it or not, but the Panthers were top five against fantasy WRs last season. If this holds up again, it could be good news for Jimmy Graham owners, as Carolina didn’t perform nearly as well (23rd) against TEs. The Rams also were a top-10 fantasy defense against WRs last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas  Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay New Orleans San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 24, 2013 - 11:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Roto, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-24
Body:

Every Monday, Athlon Sports covers the hottest hitters in fantasy baseball over the past seven days as well as gets you ready for this week's action. Be sure to check back each week as our fantasy junkies analyze the best waiver wire pick ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bullpens from around the league.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (June 17-23):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Pedro Alvarez 3B PIT 5 4 10 0 .414 1.383
2. Jay Bruce OF CIN 6 6 7 0 .276 1.266
3. Hanley Ramirez 3B/SS LAD 6 3 7 0 .500 1.542
4. Chris Davis 1B/OF BAL 5 4 10 0 .348 1.357
5. Edwin Encarnacion 1B/3B TOR 7 3 8 0 .364 1.326
6. Nelson Cruz OF TEX 3 3 11 0 .379 1.124
7. Raul Ibanez* OF SEA 4 4 9 0 .321 1.117
8. Ryan Howard 1B PHI 4 3 7 0 .476 1.633
9. Paul Goldschmidt 1B ARI 5 4 6 0 .364 1.326
10. Joe Mauer C/1B MIN 8 2 4 0 .407 1.226
11. Miguel Cabrera 3B DET 3 2 6 0 .536 1.427
12. Gregor Blanco* OF SF 4 0 4 2 .500 1.160
13. Maicer Izturis* 2B/3B/SS TOR 7 2 5 0 .364 1.118
14. David Wright 3B NYM 5 3 5 0 .361 1.156
16. Ben Revere* OF PHI 6 0 2 4 .320 .640
15. Shane Victorino OF BOS 4 1 7 2 .333 .968
17. A.J. Pierzynski* C TEX 6 2 7 0 .320 1.050
18. Ian Kinsler 2B TEX 6 0 6 1 .407 .859
19. Jed Lowrie 2B/SS OAK 6 1 6 0 .407 1.045
20. Evan Longoria 3B TB 6 3 5 0 .280 1.067
21. Nick Franklin* 2B/SS SEA 4 2 9 1 .241 .773
22. Anthony Rizzo 1B CHC 6 2 5 0 .350 1.140
23. Austin Jackson OF DET 7 0 3 0 .522 1.172
24. Adam Dunn* 1B/OF CWS 5 2 8 0 .280 .920
25. David Ortiz 1B BOS 3 2 6 0 .429 1.181

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, SEA (35% owned in Yahoo! Leagues)
The elite prospect is delivering for the Mariners and for fantasy owners alike these days and is still just 35-percent owned. His .283/.848 slash line would make him valuable at either middle infield position, but his complete production line makes him a must-add: 10 R, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 3 SB in just 92 at-bats. Go to the waiver wire today.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, MIL (64%)
Lucroy just got finished with one of the best months of his career. He hit .360/1.027 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 89 at-bats. He may have his slumps from time to time but this guy can hit — as his 40 RBIs attest.

Jason Castro, C, HOU (46%)
If you need a back-stop, this might be the week to snag one off the wire. Castro is a former first-round pick who is finally rounding into form. He clubbed six homers at a .313 clip over the last month. Don't be afraid to punt on bad draft picks (looking at you Miguel Montero).

Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC (60%)
Time to get back on the Royals train. Hosmer is hitting .294 over the last month with 15 runs, 15 RBIs and four stolen bags to go with his two homers. Mike Moustakas might be turning it around and Billy Butler is showing signs of life. Is it time to get back on the Royals bandwagon?

Nate Schierholtz, OF, CHC (16%)
There is no track record or glaring talent that indicates the Cubs outfielder is worth owning. But owners can no longer ignore his production. As of Monday morning this is his tidy roto line in 199 at-bats: 30 R, 10 HR, 29 RBIs, 4 SB, .296/.905. That'll play.

Last Week:

Brandon Crawford, SS, SF: 3/15, 2 R
Zack Cozart, SS, CIN: 6/24, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI
Omar Infante, 2B, DET: 9/27, 2 R, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, SB
Kelly Johnson, 2B/OF, TB: 2/11, R, HR, RBI
Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS, COL: 4/18, 4 R, 2B

 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Yovani Gallardo MIL 21.0 2 15 0.00 0.81
2. Matt Harvey NYM 20.0 2 26 1.80 0.75
3. Madison Bumgarner SF 14.0 2 18 1.29 0.71
4. Max Scherzer DET 20.0 3 22 2.25 1.00
5. Mike Leake* CIN 23.0 2 10 1.57 0.70
6. Cliff Lee PHI 15.0 2 15 2.40 0.60
7. Corey Kluber* CLE 21.2 3 15 1.66 1.15
8. Matt Cain SF 19.2 1 21 2.29 0.81
9. Jeff Locke* PIT 14.0 1 8 0.00 0.71
10. Ervin Santana KC 14.2 1 9 0.61 0.68
11. Jhoulys Chacin* COL 20.2 3 8 1.74 1.02
12. Chris Capuano* LAD 11.0 1 9 0.00 0.64
13. Erik Bedard* HOU 13.1 1 14 0.68 0.90
14. Josh Collmenter* ARI 8.0 1 9 0.00 0.38
15. C.J. Wilson LAA 14.0 2 7 1.29 0.86
16. Bartolo Colon OAK 21.0 3 10 2.14 1.14
17. Stephen Strasburg WAS 12.0 1 13 1.50 0.83
18. Miguel Gonzalez* BAL 21.2 2 12 2.91 0.83
19. Esmil Rogers* TOR 13.2 2 6 1.98 0.80
20. Gio Gonzalez WAS 14.0 0 19 1.93 0.79

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Jose Fernandez, MIA (Tues.) vs. Minnesota (63% owned)
The star rookie pitcher won't win a ton of games this year due to his team, but he is starting to show people why he was such an elite prospect. He's allowed three earned runs in his last three starts (20.0 IP) with 25 strikeouts and two wins. Look for more against the Twins this week.

2. Eric Stults, SD (Sun.) at Miami (42%)
The Padres starter has a streak of five consecutive starts with two runs allowed or fewer. He also has just three walks over that span with 25 strikeouts. The Marlins lineup will provide little challenge for the developing eighth-year vet.

3. Jeff Locke, PIT (Tues.) at Seattle (74%)
Locke has been lucky this year but he is starting to prove that it's more than just good BABIP numbers. In five of his last seven starts he has allowed nary a run and has allowed just four total earned runs over that span. A trip to Seattle won't hurt his awesome 2.01/1.13 ratios much.

4. Ricky Nolasco, MIA (Fri.) vs. San Diego (22%)
The Marlins starter has always had tantalizing talent and quality strikeout rates. He has allowed one earned run in three of his last seven starts and has only allowed more than three ER once over that span. The Padres don't have a full complement of (no Yonder Alonso, Everth Cabrera or Cameron Maybin) players and could afford some good numbers.

5. Kyle Lohse, MIL (Tues.) vs. Chicago Cubs (49%)
He has posted three straight starts with one earned run (20.0 IP) and got one of his two wins this year. He struck out 14 over that span with just 19 baserunners. Expect another quality start from the Brewers starter.

Closing Morsels:

The Tigers DFAed Jose Valverde after a couple of horrendous outings so Joaquin Benoit becomes the go-to guy in Motown. This is a last-resort option right now until Detroit can find a full-time ninth inning guy. Proceed with caution... Boston's Andrew Bailey gave up four home runs over the last few weeks and while he could certainly regain the closer's job at some point, it appears the Red Sox will use a committee to finish off games for the time being. Koji Uehara gets the first look while Junichi Tazawa and lefty Andrew Miller could also figure into the mix. Add in that order and at your own risk... Rafael Betancourt could be back with the Rockies as soon as Thursday and should slide right back into the ninth inning for Colorado... The Brewers' bullpen situation is still in a state of flux as Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez have seen time as both set-up and closing options. Last year's star closer, John Axford, hasn't figured in the mix. K-ROD might be 1a while Henderson is 1b.

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

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 24</p>
Post date: Monday, June 24, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/accs-top-heisman-contenders-2013
Body:

The ACC has won two Heisman Trophies. Ever.

Florida State has provided both awards to the league when quarterbacks Chris Weinke won the award in 2000 and Charlie Ward took home the stiff-armed trophy in 1993. Both quarterbacks also have National Championship rings on their fingers as well.

Needless to say, the ACC is lagging behind the rest of big-time college football when it comes to the most prestigious award in sports. Miami and Boston College do have Heismans sitting in their trophy cases but those — Vinny Testaverde, Doug Flutie and Gino Torretta — all took place in the Big East Conference. And C.J. Spiller in 2006 was the last ACC player to even crack the top 10 in the voting.

So could 2013 break the 12-year Heisman drought in the ACC? It’s certainly possible as more than one elite player has a chance to represent the league in New York come December.

Here are the ACC’s top Heisman candidates for 2013 (complete with current Vegas odds):

1. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (16/1)
Few players posted numbers comparable to Johnny Heisman, but Boyd was one of them. He led the ACC in passing efficiency (165.59) and total offense (339.2 ypg) and was fifth and seventh in each category nationally. He scored 46 total touchdowns (36 pass, 10 rush) and has a host of elite weapons returning. More importantly, this team should be the preseason favorite in the ACC with Boyd under center and Chad Morris calling the plays. He is one of few players who will have the numbers, the marquee showdowns (vs. Georgia, at South Carolina), the potential championship and the offensive support to win the Heisman.

2. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (14/1)
The De’Anthony Thomas of the East Coast, Johnson led the ACC in kickoff returns and was third in all-purpose running as just a freshman. As the season went on, Al Golden trusted Johnson more on offense and he topped 100 yards three times in his last four games. The key will be his role in 2013 as Golden looks to get him more involved in the traditional offense. He could see a big jump from 139 carries a year ago, and should that happen, fans can bet the sophomore speedster's numbers will be eye-popping.

3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (--)
When it comes to raw upside and physical talent, Watkins is second to none nationally. But staying healthy and focused has been an issue for the electric playmaker, causing him to miss four games in his first two years. With DeAndre Hopkins off to the NFL and his quarterback Boyd returning, the sky could be the limit for the star wideout. Consistency will be the name of the game for the junior-to-be.

4. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (--)
Many people were massively disappointed by the 260-pound quarterback in 2012. He rallied the Hokies late and the offense should be improved in 2013 under new coordinator Scott Loeffler, but Thomas needs to show more growth as a passer (18 TD, 16 INT) to get to New York. The good news is he did run the ball more effectively and threw it with more accuracy as a sophomore than he did as a junior. A return to 2011 will get Thomas back in the mix.

5. Stephen Morris, QB, Miami (25/1)
The Canes quarterback blossomed as a junior in 2012. Morris set a Miami single-season total offense record (3,415) as well as the ACC’s all-time single-game record with 566 yards against NC State. In fact, he threw for over 1,000 yards (1,002) over a two-game span to finish the month of September. He proved to be dependable as well, tossing just seven interceptions in a school-record 421 attempts. With the youth developing around him and the running game improving, the Hurricanes gunslinger is poised for a big senior season this fall.

6. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland (40/1)
This dynamic, explosive all-purpose talent can do a little bit of everything. As just a true freshman, he is the leading returning all-purpose “runner” in the ACC at 172.4 yards per game and a sick 15.7 yards per play. He ran the ball 20 times for 114 yards. He caught 54 passes for 848 yards. He returned 22 punts for 221 yards. And he returned 25 kicks for 713 yards. He could easily double his eight total touchdowns from a year ago and that would put him squarely in Player of the Year contention.

7. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina (--)
Playing in Larry Fedora’s high-flying offensive scheme will give Renner a chance to compete for the nation’s top honor. He lost plenty of talent to the NFL (Gio Bernard, Jonathan Cooper) but also has tons of future draft picks returning. He trails only Boyd as the ACC’s most efficient returning starter as he tossed just seven interceptions and completed 65.4-percent of his passes a year ago (422 att.). He won’t add much to the running game so he will have to post huge numbers through the air — and likely win the Coastal Division — to get Heisman consideration. But after 3,356 yards, 28 TDs and a co-division title a year ago, that isn’t far fetched at all.

8. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (--)
The raw talent and pure athletic ability of Winston has fans in Tallahassee raving about their future signal-caller. He has a huge arm, elite size, above-average mobility and the poise of an upperclassman. If his offensive line and running game can give him some help, Winston could easily lead his team to an ACC title and complete for Player of the Year honors.

9. Vad Lee, QB, Georgia Tech (--) 
Lee is the next in line to pilot Paul Johnson’s triple option attack. Like Josh Nesbitt and Tevin Washington before him, Lee’s physicality and athletic ability are a perfect match for the Yellow Jackets’ offensive scheme. Lee saw his playing time steadily increase last season, as Johnson got more comfortable going to the sophomore. He got 19 carries and threw nine passes in the first six games, but carried 77 times for 358 yards and six touchdowns while throwing 47 times over the final eight games of the year. His playing time last year should help the 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior-to-be immensely as he takes over as the leader of the Ramblin’ Wreck in '13.

10. Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse (--)
In his first year as the starter, Smith delivered admirably with 1,171 yards on 227 carries. The 220-pounder came on strong in the second half as well, posting five 100-yard efforts and all three touchdowns in the season’s final seven games. Look for a new coaching staff and new quarterback to lean on Smith early and often in 2013.

11. Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia (--)
The short but powerful running back is finally looking at a full-time work load for the Cavaliers. And with Steve Fairchild now calling the plays, Parks could be in for a huge season. The powerful little back is great between the tackles and, despite splitting time his first two years, has had plenty of success around the goal line (15 career TD).

12. James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State (--)
The Noles tailback was one of the most highly touted prospects in the nation a few years ago and 2013 is his time to shine. He is an extremely gifted and physical player who is at his best between the tackles and around the goal line — as his 11 touchdowns last year indicate. He only gets better with a heavy workload and could become a star as a junior. He could easily be Winston’s best friend early in the season as Jimbo Fisher breaks in his new quarterback.

Best of the Rest:

13. Tanner Price, QB, Wake Forest
14. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
15. James Hurst, OL, North Carolina
16. David Sims, RB, Georgia Tech
17. Roderick McDowell, RB, Clemson
18. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
19. Quinshad Davis, WR, North Carolina
20. Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest

Five Defensive Players to Watch:

Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State
Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina


Prep for the 2013 season on Twitter @AthlonSports


Related College Football Content

ACC Predictions for 2013
ACC's 2013 All-Conference Team
College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> The ACC's Top Heisman Contenders in 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, June 24, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

There are plenty of storylines to track in Minnesota this year. The team made the playoffs a year ago and Adrian Peterson topped 2,000 yards rushing. Can either repeat remains to be seen. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Minnesota Vikings 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Detroit
Week 2: at Chicago
Week 3: Cleveland
Week 4: Pittsburgh
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Carolina
Week 7: at New York Giants (Mon.)
Week 8: Green Bay
Week 9: at Dallas
Week 10: Washington (Thurs.)
Week 11: at Seattle
Week 12: at Green Bay
Week 13: Chicago
Week 14: at Baltimore
Week 15: Philadelphia
Week 16: at Cincinnati
Week 17: Detroit

Order your 2013 Minnesota Vikings Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: There are wins to be had for Minnesota in the first four weeks of the season. They won't be easy and they carry plenty of importance, but these games are winnable. Road trips to divisional foes Detroit and Chicago open the 2013 season before home games with AFC North foes Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Only one of those four is picked to make the postseason (PIT) and that one comes at home. The first month also ends with an off weekend in Week 5.

Toughest Stretch: The Vikings better pick up some wins early in the year because few teams will deal with a six-week stretch like Minnesota will from Week 7 to Week 12. Four road games against the Giants, Cowboys, Seahawks and Packers sandwiched around home tests with the Redskins and Packers makes this arguably the toughest six-week slate in all of the NFL in 2013.

Swing Games: CAR (Week 6), at SEA (Week 11)
Crossover Divisions: NFC East, AFC North
Bye Week: Week 5
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .516 (10th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 2nd

Easiest Stretch: The first four weeks and the final three provide some chances for wins. Philadelphia and Detroit combined for 24 losses a year ago and the Vikings will play both at home in the final three weeks. Certainly, a road trip to Cincy won't be easy, but a 2-1 finish is a must for the Vikes. As is a 3-1 start if the Purple People Eaters want to return to the postseason.

Circle The Calendar: Anytime All Day is running the football it should be appointment viewing. And he could be pushing for another 2,000-yard season in the final month of the season. But a mid-season road trip to Seattle could give football fans a matchup between the league's best defense and the league's best running back. That game will be as physical as any in the league this fall.

Divisional Notes: Not many teams will start the season with back-to-back divisional games on the road like the Vikings. The good news is that it isn't the Packers, but getting off to a fast start won't be easy with trips to Detroit and Chicago. More bad NFC North news kicks in during that nasty six-game stretch that will include two with the division favorite Packers. A home game with the Bears would be the seventh game in that stretch. The only good news in the division for Minnesota is a home season finale against the Lions — which could be a huge playoff-clinching type of win.

Playoff Push: There are worse ways to finish the season. There are three extremely winnable home games against the Bears, Eagles and Lions in the final five weeks. The two AFC North road trips to Baltimore and Cincinnati look equally as daunting but nether is picked by Athlon Sports to win their division. The first and last months will determine where the Vikings end up next season.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): It doesn’t matter which team the Vikings play: If you own Adrian Peterson, you are taking your chances with the reigning MVP. For this season’s fantasy playoffs, Peterson gets three of last season’s middle of the pack fantasy defenses against RBs in Baltimore (18th), Philadelphia (16th) and Cincinnati (15th). Even if Christian Ponder shows dramatic improvement in 2013, the Ravens and Bengals were both in the top six fantasy defenses against QBs.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas  Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 21, 2013 - 12:20
Path: /nfl/timeline-demise-new-england-patriots
Body:

This isn’t going to be pretty for the New England Patriots.


Contract disputes, broken forearms, video scandals and Super Bowl disappointments are one thing. Murder is an entirely different issue all together.


New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is originally from Bristol, Conn., has been tied to the investigation of the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd near the tight end’s $1.3 million Massachusetts home. Lloyd was shot and found dead Monday night about a mile from Hernandez’ North Attleborough mansion.


And it doesn’t look good for the Patriots star tight end.


Every American has the right to be “innocent until proven guilty,” but the court of public opinion has no choice but to rule on Hernandez. His track record of behavior has been well documented and in no way conjures up an image of innocence.


Hernandez is currently the subject of a civil lawsuit in which he allegedly shot a Connecticut man in February — a man who claims to have been a friend of his for many years. He also has a long history of drug issues both at Florida and throughout the NFL Draft process.


Unfortunately, for the once untouchable and revered football genius that is Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, this is simply the latest — and by far the worst — incident in a long line of questionable occurrences that have slowly destroyed this once proud football team.

New England hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2004 and a murder investigation will be the final nail in the Pats' dynastic coffin. The franchise became the shining example for NFL success when it won three Super Bowls in four years in the early 2000s. However, for the better part of the last decade, this organization has been cannibalizing itself with more punch lines than a Jaguars home game in December.


And its demise began with a perfect season.


2007: Randy Moss and Spygate
Moss is an awesome football player. There is no doubting his ability. But there are plenty of doubts about his character, work ethic and dedication. But Belichick took a risk on the troubled wideout and it paid off in the short term with a monster '07 season. Moss helped lead the Patriots to the NFL’s second unbeaten regular season in history. That same year, however, Belichick was also hit with the largest fine ever imposed on an NFL coach during the 87-year history of the league. Busted for filming the New York Jets’ sideline signals during a game, he was fined $500,000 while the Patriots were hit with a $250,000 fine of their own and forced to forfeit their 2008 first-round pick. Moss had plenty of success for the Pats but his career in Boston came to an abrupt and controversial end three years later when he was traded four weeks into the 2010 season.


2008: Super Bowl XLII
Tom Brady was 3-0 in Super Bowls when he and Moss led the 18-0 Patriots into Super Bowl XLII against the upstart New York Giants, who won the NFC title after getting into the playoffs as a wild card team. With history within the Patriots' grasp, the highest scoring team (589 points) the NFL has ever seen was held to just 14 points by a stellar Giants defensive line. Eli Manning and David Tyree were the heroes that Super Sunday, not Brady or Moss. It was the beginning of the end.


2009: Scott Pioli Heads West
The VP of Player Personnel in New England responsible for building all but one of the Patriots' Super Bowl teams left the organization following the 2008 season to become the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. This is what Belichick had to say when he lost his long-time wingman: “To sum up in words everything Scott Pioli has meant to this organization and to me personally would be difficult, if not impossible. There is no more capable, hardworking, loyal, team-oriented person than Scott Pioli.” Needless to say, losing Pioli was a huge blow to the Patriots' long-term stability and personnel decisions have been questionable at best since his departure.


2009: Fourth and 2

With 2:23 left in the fourth quarter of a critical Week 10 showdown with archrival Peyton Manning and the Colts, Belichick’s coaching prowess was called into question for the first time. Leading by six, he elected to go for it on fourth and two from his own 28-yard line. The Patriots failed to convert and the Colts scored three plays later to win the game 35-34. It was the first crack in Belichick’s coaching armor, as he was skewered by fans and experts alike for the horrendous decision. His public whining about the spot of the ball the following Monday only stoked the media fire.


2010: The Tight End Draft
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were elite college players, but both had major red flags on their draft resumes. This is why the Patriots were able to snag both players in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, in the 2010 NFL Draft. Hernandez has an obviously checkered past (and present) off the field and Gronkowski was a wild man with severe injury problems while at Arizona. Well, after three seasons in the league, both players’ warts have returned to haunt New England. Gronkowski can’t stay healthy or out of grainy, late-night cell phone videos while Hernandez is involved in a murder investigation. (Brandon Spikes also was part of this draft class.)


2010: Brandon Spikes Suspended
The troubled middle linebacker from Florida was a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. The talented tackler violated the NFL’s banned substances policy, however, and was suspended for four games prior to Week 14 of his rookie year. Additionally, he was involved in a bizarre sex tape incident with Doc Rivers' daughter, Callie, and his brother is serving a life sentence in prison for first-degree murder after a drug deal went bad in 2001. Neither of these tidbits are an indictment of his character but are merely statements of fact.


2011: Albert Haynesworth Trade
The Patriots gave up a fifth-round pick in late July 2011 to acquire the troubled and self-absorbed defensive tackle. Haynesworth built a long reputation for poor work ethic and is widely considered a clubhouse cancer. He lasted six games with New England and was placed on waivers four months later after a public sideline confrontation with assistant coach Pepper Johnson.


2012: Super Bowl XLVI
The Patriots once again met the New York Giants in the biggest sporting event of the year. And once again, Brady was defeated by the younger Manning. The Patriots coughed up yet another second half lead to the G-Men as Manning led three unanswered scoring drives in the final 21 minutes of play. The Patriots were held scoreless for the final 26:20.


2012: Aqib Talib's Rap Sheet
Where to begin with the former Kansas Jayhawks star corner? At the rookie symposium, he got into a fight with fellow Bucs rookie Cory Boyd. The following year, he was arrested by Florida police after beating up a taxi driver and resisting arrest. In 2011, a felony warrant was issued for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he fired a gun at his sister’s boyfriend. And last year, the talented defensive back was suspended by the NFL for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Belichick and the Pats re-signed Talib to a one-year deal this March.


2013: Wes Welker’s Contract Dispute
Cutting ties with veterans is a tough but necessary part of life in the NFL. Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick had to make a difficult decision on their star wide receiver this offseason, but clearly the Patriots mishandled the situation. Public comments disparaging Welker’s representation were inaccurate and the last-second offer from the Pats left little room for any negotiation. It may seem like an insignificant issue, but it became a very public divorce over a player who will go down as one of the greatest and most beloved in franchise history.


2013: Tebow-a-palooza
Is Belichick simply doing old friend Urban Meyer a favor? Is Robert Kraft simply trying to sell team merchandise during the offseason? Do the Pats think Tim Tebow can play tight end — considering the sudden lack of depth at the position? Or is Belichick simply THAT arrogant? Whatever the reason, the signing of Tebow this summer will be a major distraction with little chance of return on investment.


This, of course, brings us to Odin Lloyd’s murder.


The slow and painful demise of the once venerated franchise appears to be culminating as one of its biggest stars finds himself as the centerpiece of a murder investigation. Innocent or guilty, New England must cut ties with Hernandez immediately and suffer the consequences both from a PR and depth chart standpoint.


Tom Brady is set to enter his 14th NFL season and will turn 36 in August. How many more years does he have left? Two? Maybe three? Yes, the Patriots play in a horrendous AFC East in the much weaker American Football Conference so they should make the playoffs again this fall. But there will come a time in the very near future when Brady will have to walk away from the game. And when that happens, fans in New England better hope the Red Sox and Bruins are still winning games.


Because it sure as hell doesn't look like Belichick will give them anything to cheer about.

Teaser:
<p> Timeline: The Demise of the New England Patriots</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Packers have gone to the playoffs four straight seasons and in five of head coach Mike McCarthy's seven seasons. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Green Bay Packers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at San Francisco
Week 2: Washington
Week 3: at Cincinnati
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Detroit
Week 6: at Baltimore
Week 7: Cleveland
Week 8: at Minnesota
Week 9: Chicago (Mon.)
Week 10: Philadelphia
Week 11: at New York Giants
Week 12: Minnesota
Week 13: at Detroit (Thurs.)
Week 14: Atlanta
Week 15: at Dallas
Week 16: Pittsburgh
Week 17: at Chicago

Order your 2013 Green Bay Packers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The start to the season won't be easy for the defending NFC North champs. Two road trips to playoff teams in San Francisco and Cincinnati are packaged around a visit from Robert Griffin III, provided he's healthy and on the field. The first month ends abruptly, however, with the earliest possible off weekend in Week 4. A winning record after the first four weeks would be considered a successful start to the year.

Toughest Stretch: Where to begin? The first three are nasty and a four-week stretch in the middle is equally tough (Weeks 8-11). But the final four games will be the toughest and likely most important. Massive NFC matchups with Atlanta and Dallas lead up to a rare visit from historic AFC power Pittsburgh in Week 16 before the season ends on a tough road trip to Chicago. The Packers' fate — and playoff seeding — won't be determined until the final four weeks of the 2013 campaign.

Swing Games: at SF (Week 1), ATL (Week 14)
Crossover Divisions: NFC East, AFC North
Bye Week: Week 4
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .533 (6th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 5th

Easiest Stretch: From Week 4 to Week 7, the Packers will face only one tough opponent. The off weekend feeds into home games with Detroit and Cleveland as well as a road trip to Baltimore. Other than the Ravens, who are clearly not the same team that won the Super Bowl, this four-week stretch should allow for the Packers to breathe somewhat. Additionally, this stretch feeds into games with the Vikings, Bears and Eagles — all of whom are picked to miss the playoffs this year.

Circle The Calendar: There are awesome storylines all over this schedule. A trip to the Bay in a playoff rematch in Week 1, a budding rivalry game with the New York Giants and a trip south to hated rival Dallas in Cowboys Stadium are all huge playoff seeding games. But the date to circle is Week 16. A rematch of Super Bowl XL takes place when the Steel Curtain invades Lambeau Field for a rare cross-conference showdown. Arguably the top two fan bases from the top two franchises will meet in a cold late-season battle. What's not to love?

Divisional Notes: The Packers will play five of their six NFC North games in the second half of their season. Only a home game with the Lions dots the first half of the schedule. But in the middle of the year, divisional games will come hot and heavy. Over a six-week stretch from Week 8 to Week 13, Green Bay will play four divisional games. The season then ends with the oldest and best rivalry game in all of the NFL — in Soldier Field in Chicago.

Playoff Push: As mentioned, the final four weeks might be the toughest of the year, so the playoff push isn't going to be easy for the Pack. But that comes with the territory of being one of the most successful and powerful teams in the league. The real issue may be fatigue and roster depletion. The bye week comes so early that Green Bay could be limping into the final few games. Green Bay will play 13 straight games to end its season.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): The matchup against Atlanta should be equally entertaining and high scoring, as two of the NFL’s best offenses go head-to-head. The road game against Dallas (19th against the pass in 2012) should be business as usual for Aaron Rodgers and company. The same can’t be said, however, for that championship week date with Pittsburgh, which was No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 against fantasy QBs last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Jim Schwartz is entering a critical season in Detroit. A good season is likely needed to keep his job as the Lions' head coach. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Detroit Lions 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Minnesota
Week 2: at Arizona
Week 3: at Washington
Week 4: Chicago
Week 5: at Green Bay
Week 6: at Cleveland
Week 7: Cincinnati
Week 8: Dallas
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: at Chicago
Week 11: at Pittsburgh
Week 12: Tampa Bay
Week 13: Green Bay (Thurs.)
Week 14: at Philadelphia
Week 15: Baltimore (Mon.)
Week 16: New York Giants
Week 17: at Minnesota

Order your 2013 Detroit Lions Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The first month isn't all that daunting (relatively speaking, of course) to start the season. None of the four teams to start the Lions' season are predicted to go to the postseason and this group combined for an 0-2 playoffs mark a year ago. With two divisional games coming at home and a winnable trip to the desert, the Lions could easily begin the season with two or even three wins in the first month. A slow start could spell doom for this coaching regime.

Toughest Stretch: Three of the final five games will feature playoff teams from a year ago and it means the toughest portion of the Lions' slate will come in December. Detroit will face the last three Super Bowl champions before capping the season with a visit to the Twin Cities to take on Adrian Peterson — who could be charging for an NFL rushing record in the season finale. And mixed in is a trip to Philly to take on Chip Kelly and what should be a much-improved Eagles team.

Swing Games: at ARI (Week 2, TB( Week 12 )
Crossover Divisions: NFC East, AFC North
Bye Week: Week 9
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .539 (T-2nd)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 16th

Easiest Stretch: There is no easy stretch for the Lions as this team plays seven games against playoff teams from last year. The good news is the schedule features just five games with predicted playoff teams this year. The first month could provide some victories, and Detroit also will have two winnable games against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia over a three-week stretch (Week 12-14) later in the season.

Circle The Calendar: There are loads of historic NFC rivalry games on the schedule this year as the Lions will play the NFC East in crossover play. But a home game against the Bears in Week 4 might be the most important game of the year. A win could cap a successful first month and would give the Lions some momentum in the division heading into back-to-back road games. A loss could send the Lions spiraling into a new coaching staff. A potential record-setting performance from Adrian Peterson in the season finale will also be must-see TV.

Divisional Notes: The worst part of the Lions' NFC schedule is that they don't get to face the Lions twice. The Packers, Bears and Vikings combined for 31 wins a year ago and all three have eyes on the postseason again this year. Detroit will face all three in the first five weeks of the season and wrap up with a road trip to Minnesota. The Bears may be heading in the wrong direction and Green Bay is still the kings of the NFC North, so back-to-back games in Week 4 and 5 against those two rivals could determine the Lions' divisional fate early in the year. Games with the Vikings bookend the 2013 campaign.

Playoff Push: The month of December will likely be the toughest five-week stretch for the Lions in '13. It means they will have to get work done before the calendar flips. The Packers and Giants are picked to win their divisions this year and the Ravens are the defending champs. If Schwartz wants to keep his job, he better have plenty of wins before he enters the final month of the season.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Matthew Stafford will be more than happy to see just how far Philadelphia’s defense, which allowed the second-most fantasy points to QBs last season, has come. At first glance the Ravens and Giants may look scary, but the Lions get both at home, inside on the turf, and both defenses, especially the defending Super Bowl champs, have seen a lot of changes on their respective depth charts.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/greatest-and-most-bizarre-athlete-name-changes-all-time
Body:

What’s in a name? Much more than a few letters, that is for sure.

Teams change their nicknames all the time. Some organizations refuse to change their name despite odd arithmetic — looking at you, Big Ten. Everything from branding to religion has been cited as a reason to change a name. Some have done it simply to gain exposure and command headlines while others have been forced to change due to societal pressures and sensitivities.

However, this list doesn't apply to the men-less Syracuse Orange or 10-team Big 12 Conference. This one is dedicated just to the greatest and most bizarre athlete name changes of all-time. Here are some of our favorites:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Born: Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr.

Growing up in Harlem, Alcindor was quickly discovered as one of the greatest basketball prospects in the history of the sport. He led Power Memorial Academy to three straight New York City Catholic titles before signing with UCLA and leading the Bruins to three straight national championships. He was raised Roman Catholic, however, before his final season at UCLA he joined the Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam in the summer of 1968. The move prompted a name change to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which means "generous servant of the mighty one." At an official press conference in June 1971, the reigning NBA MVP told the world he wanted to go by his Islamic name instead of his given name.

Muhammad Ali
Born: Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.

Named after his father and raised a Baptist by his mother in Louisville, Ky., Ali won a pair of national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Championship and a Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics as Cassius Clay. Clay won his first World Heavyweight Championship against Sonny Liston in 1964 — the same year he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Eleven years later, Ali officially converted to Sunni Islam. He likely didn't have to change his already intimidating name to become arguably "The Greatest" in American sports history.

Metta World Peace
Born: Ronald Williams Artest, Jr.

Not only is this name change one of the most bizarre, it’s also the most ironic. From the Queensbridge projects in Queens, New York, Artest had a hardened edge from his childhood — one story has him witnessing a murder on the court of a YMCA hoops tournament. After three years at St. John’s, the troubled Artest was a first-round pick by the Bulls. In 2004, Artest sprinted into the stands to attack a fan and was given the longest suspension in NBA history. Artest has gained a reputation for being a great defender on the basketball court, but he also never lost his troubled edge. However, in 2011 in a bizarre effort to change his entrenched image and “inspire and bring youth together all around the world,” he officially changed his first name to “Metta” and his surname to “World Peace.”

Sugar Ray Robinson
Born: Walker Smith, Jr.

Many believe the welterweight and middleweight champion was the best pound-for-pound fighter of all time. But many don’t know his birth certificate from Ailey, Ga., read Walker Smith, Jr. After moving to Harlem, and at 14 years old, he attempted to enter his first boxing tournament. But since AAU had a 16-year-old age minimum, Smith had to borrow his friend’s membership card in order to compete. His friend’s name was Ray Robinson. His manager George Gainford added “Sugar” a few years later because his boxing style was a “sweet as sugar.” The rest is history.

Chad Ochocinco
Born: Chad Javon Johnson

The brash wide receiver has made a lot of bizarre — and questionable — decisions in his time as an athlete. Through social media and savvy business moves, Johnson grew his brand both on and off the field until his absurd 2008 name change. Interestingly enough, his official name to change to Chad Ochocinco — which doesn’t even mean eighty-five — coincided with his worst season in the NFL to date. He was never the same player again, has since changed his name back to Chad Johnson and was released from the Dolphins in 2012 due to domestic abuse issues.

Ahmad Rashad
Born: Robert Earle Moore

A College Football Hall of Famer, Moore starred at Oregon as both a wide receiver and running back. He was drafted in 1972 in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals and converted to Islam the same year. Bobby Moore became Ahmad Rashad — meaning "Admirable One Led to Truth" in Arabic — after his mentor Rashad Khalifa. He played for 11 seasons in the NFL and has built a remarkable career as one of sports top broadcasters.

The other Karim Abdul-Jabbar
Born: Sharmon Shah

Shah was a standout running back for the UCLA Bruins in 1995 and was already a member of the Muslim faith when his Imam gave him a new name. The newly minted Karim Abdul-Jabbar quickly gained national notoriety due to its similarities to famed Bruins great hoops star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The basketball Abdul-Jabbar filed a lawsuit in 1998 against the football Abdul-Jabbar, feeling the then Dolphins running back was profiting from the hoops Hall of Famer’s name. Thus, Shah changed his name a third time and is now known as Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar.

Fausto Carmona
Born: Roberto Heredia Hernandez

This story is a long and circuitous one for the current Tampa Bay Rays pitcher. In order to play professional baseball in America, the Dominican native had to obtain an illegal visa under the name Fausto Carmona. He debuted for the Cleveland Indians in 2006 and went 19-8 in his second season, as he helped the Indians to the playoffs in 2007. However, in January 2012, Dominican police arrested Hernandez after leaving the U.S. Consulate, accusing him of using a false identity. When the Indians found out that not only was their starting pitcher not named Fausto Carmona but was also three years older than reported, they placed him on the restricted list. He signed with the Rays 12 months later and is now a member of their starting rotation.

World B. Free
Born: Lloyd Bernard Free

A former NAIA star at Guildford College, Free landed in the NBA as a second-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers. But in 1981, on his third NBA team, Free legally changed his first name from Lloyd to World. His nickname “All-World” was the inspiration. He played for five different NBA teams over a 12-year NBA career. He was an All-Star as a Golden State Warrior, was honored by Cleveland as a “Cavaliers Legend” and is currently a Director of Player Development and Community Ambassador for the 76ers.

Bison Dele
Born: Brian Carson Williams

Dele’s story is a tragic and bizarre one that involves a famous musician father (Eugene Williams of The Platters), a nine-year NBA career, a post-career name change honoring his Native American and African ancestry and a terrible South Pacific disappearance. A catamaran trip with Captain Bertrand Saldo, girlfriend Serena Karlan and brother Miles Dabord (born Kevin Williams) ended when Dabord brought the boat into port in Tahiti by himself. No one has ever heard from anyone else aboard the ship since and Dabord eventually overdosed on insulin months after the fatal voyage while reportedly under police suspicion, only adding to the mysterious circumstances.

Pele
Born: Edison Arantes do Nascimento

Born in Brazil and named after Thomas Edison, Pele’s name doesn’t come from a religious belief, bizarre self-image or important family heritage. The greatest soccer player the world has ever seen is named Pele because he couldn’t say his favorite player’s name correctly when growing up. Local Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bile was young Nasciemento’s favorite player but he couldn’t say the name correctly and it stuck — despite years of trying to rid himself of the nickname. Now, his one-word name is the most recognized in all of soccer history worldwide.

Leo Nunez
Born: Juan Carlos Oviedo

At age 17, the Dominican pitcher started using the name Leo Nunez — his 16-year-old best friend at the time. The former Royals and Marlins relief pitcher was simply trying to gain an extra year to sell to MLB clubs. He signed with the Pirates before being traded to the Royals for catcher Benito Santiago. After four uneventful years in Kansas City and four similar ones in Miami, Nunez was placed on the restricted list in September 2011 in order to return to the Dominican. He signed a statement saying he used fake identification and was allowed to re-sign in the majors (Tampa Bay). He is currently on the 60-day disabled list.
 

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Born: Chris Wayne Jackson

One of the SEC’s best players, Jackson excelled as a guard at LSU. He was the third overall pick by the Denver Nuggets in 1990 and went on to a 11-year NBA career with three franchises. He converted to Islam in 1991 and officially changed his name in 1993 — the same year he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He is best known for not standing for the National Anthem and calling the U.S. flag a symbol of oppression. He played in Turkey, Russia, Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia and Japan after his NBA career ended.

He Hate Me
Born: Torrold Deshaun Smart

With a first name like Torrold, it is easy to see why Smart wanted to change his name and went by Rod most of his life. However, the former Western Kentucky running back took it to another level when he put “He Hate Me” on the back of his XFL jersey in 2001. Technically, it was short for his nickname “They Hate Me” but it didn’t fit on his Las Vegas Outlaws jersey. While he clearly wasn’t as committed to his nickname as Ochocinco or World Peace because it was just a nickname and not legally changed, Smart’s “He Hate Me” was the XFL’s top selling jersey. After one year in the XFL and one cup of coffee with the Edmonton Eskimos, Smart actually had a brief NFL career with the Eagles (2001) and Panthers (2002-05). Had he legally changed his name, he might be up there with Ron Artest and Chad Johnson.

Hulk Hogan
Born: Terry Eugene Bollea

This might be a reach because the name Hulk Hogan is simply a character created out of thin air. However, Bollea has built a career as a wrestler, actor, TV personality and entrepreneur due to his brand as Hulk Hogan. No actor has ever absorbed a character like Bollea’s permanent transformation and has turned it into a multimillion dollar brand for himself. Why would he ever go back to being called Terry or Gene?

Teaser:
<p> The Greatest and Most Bizarre Athlete Name Changes of All-Time</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFC, NFC East, NFL
Path: /nfl/dallas-cowboys-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Jason Garrett and Tony Romo both enter what is a pivotal year for them and the Cowboys. A trip to the playoffs is a must and since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Dallas Cowboys 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: New York Giants
Week 2: at Kansas City
Week 3: St. Louis
Week 4: at San Diego
Week 5: Denver
Week 6: Washington
Week 7: at Philadelphia
Week 8: at Detroit
Week 9: Minnesota
Week 10: at New Orleans
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at New York Giants
Week 13: Oakland (Thurs.)
Week 14: at Chicago (Mon.)
Week 15: Green Bay
Week 16: at Washington
Week 17: Philadelphia

Order your 2013 Dallas Cowboys Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Despite the brutal opening weekend rivalry game with the Giants, Dallas has a very manageable first month of the 2013 season. Kansas City, St. Louis and San Diego all missed the playoffs a year ago and all are picked to be at home this postseason as well. All could be improved this fall, so this month isn't a gimme but the Cowboys could easily be 3-1 heading into October.

Toughest Stretch: The final month of the season will be tough for the Boys. Week 12 to Week 16 — despite a game with lowly Oakland at home — features four huge games with NFC rivals. Nasty road trips to face the Giants, Bears and Redskins sandwiched around a home game with Green Bay serve as massive speed bumps during the most critical stretch of the season. The only good news is Dallas will get an off weekend before heading into this five-week stretch.

Swing Games: STL (Week 3), at NO (Week 10)
Crossover Divisions: NFC North, AFC West
Bye Week: Week 11
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .480 (25th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 25th

Easiest Stretch: In addition to three winnable games in September (see "Out of the Gate"), the Cowboys also should be able to make some headway in Week 6-9. During this stretch, the Cowboys will face four teams not picked to make the playoffs. Home games with Washington and Minnesota are sandwiched around road games with the Eagles and Lions — two teams who combined for 24 losses a year ago. Both of these portions of the schedule should give Dallas a chance to pad its win total.

Circle The Calendar: Home games with both Manning brothers, Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson will be great. And most every NFC East showdown is massive. But how can a home game in Week 17 against Philadelphia not be the most important of the season? Dallas has had the opportunity in each of the last two seasons to get into the playoffs with a win on the final Sunday of the year. Jason Garrett and company lost both of these games and therefore has missed the postseason both times. A win against the Eagles in the season finale could change that trend and send this once proud franchise back into the playoffs.

Divisional Notes: The always important, always heated NFC East rivalry games will come in bunches this year. The two games with the Giants are randomly located in Week 1 and Week 12, but Dallas will play back-to-back divisional games twice with Washington and Philly. The first meetings come in Week 6 and 7 before ending the season with, you guessed it, Washington and Philly. Few teams will play back-to-back divisional games to end the season like the Cowboys will in 2013.

Playoff Push: As mentioned earlier, the final month of the season looks to be the toughest stretch to Dallas' season. The Giants, Bears, Packers and Redskins could all be fighting for NFC playoff seeding and all four are on the Cowboys slate in the final six weeks. Winnable games with Oakland and Philadelphia at home are the only comfort for Dallas after taking their off weekend in Week 11.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Road games in Chicago are rarely fun, let alone for a Monday night game in December. And don’t forget that the Bears intercepted five Tony Romo passes when they last met. The Packers were no slouch against the pass (11th) either, although that Week 16 date in Washington (30th) could be a different story. Romo threw for 659 yards and five TDs (along with five INTs) in two games against the Redskins last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston (6/19) Denver
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit (6/19) Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Cleveland Browns, NFL
Path: /nfl/cleveland-browns-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Cleveland hasn't made the playoffs since 2002. But with a new head coach and emerging young nucleus of talent, Browns fans are hoping that trend will end soon. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Cleveland Browns 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Miami
Week 2: at Baltimore
Week 3: at Minnesota
Week 4: Cincinnati
Week 5: Buffalo (Thurs.)
Week 6: Detroit
Week 7: at Green Bay
Week 8: at Kansas City
Week 9: Baltimore
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Cincinnati
Week 12: Pittsburgh
Week 13: Jacksonville
Week 14: at New England
Week 15: Chicago
Week 16: at New York Jets
Week 17: at Pittsburgh

Order your 2013 Cleveland Browns Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The season opener will be huge for the new coaching regime as Miami comes to town in a very winnable game. Getting the Rob Chudzinski era under way with a win is important considering both Baltimore and Cincinnati, as well as NFC 2012 playoff team Minnesota, lurk in the first month. A 2-2 start to the season would be a big success heading into a short week and primetime showdown with Buffalo in Week 5.

Toughest Stretch: The four weeks following the off weekend might be the toughest stretch despite the contest with the lowly Jaguars in Week 13. Road trips to Cincy and New England and a home game with rival Pittsburgh over a four-week span has to be the toughest stretch of action for the Browns. Especially with a home test against the Bears after a trip to Foxborough, Mass.

Swing Games: at KC (Week 8), JAC (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions: AFC East, NFC North
Bye Week: Week 10
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .492 (21st)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 24th

Easiest Stretch: There is no easy stretch for the Browns but there may be a chance for some wins in the heart of the schedule from Week 5 to Week 8. Buffalo and Detroit at home are very winnable games and a trip to Kansas City could also provide a chance for success. Yes, a road trip to Lambeau Field lurks in Week 7, but this stretch might be the best shot at wins for Cleveland.

Circle The Calendar: There isn't a major storyline game on this schedule as neither of Chudzinski's former teams — San Diego or Carolina — is on the slate. College teammates Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon (Jacksonville WR) will be reunited in Week 13, while Trent Richardson will square off with Eddie Lacy (Green Bay RB) in Week 7. The most important game, however, will likely be Week 1 against Miami. A winnable game in Chudzinski's debut at home could set the tone for the entire season — and entire coaching tenure.

Divisional Notes: The worst part of the Browns' AFC North schedule is that they don't get to the play the Browns twice. It means that Cleveland might have the worst divisional schedule in the NFL this fall. The good news is that the six games are spread out over the course of the season. A bye week between hosting the Ravens and visiting Paul Brown Stadium also is helpful. Ending the year with a road trip to potential division champ Pittsburgh will be a rough way to end a new coach's first season.

Playoff Push: There are two extremely winnable games in the final month as games with Jacksonville and the Jets provide opportunity for success. However, road trips to New England and Pittsburgh in December will be nasty. A swing home game with Chicago could give the Browns a 3-2 mark in the final month and some potential momentum heading into the offseason — if the team isn't in playoff contention.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Those counting on Trent Richardson to win them a fantasy championship didn’t get a lot of help from the schedule-makers. The Patriots and Bears were ranked among the top 10 fantasy defenses against RBs last season. The Jets were a little more generous (No. 21) in this category, but there’s no guarantee that the Browns’ passing attack will be able to divert the defensive attention away from T-Rich.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston (6/19) Denver (6/18)
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas (6/18) Chicago Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit (6/19) Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 17, 2013 - 11:40
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Cincinnati Bengals, NFL
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs four times since 1990, but three of those four have come in the last four seasons. This franchise is looking to take the next step in the postseason this fall. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Cincinnati Bengals 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Chicago
Week 2: Pittsburgh (Mon.)
Week 3: Green Bay
Week 4: at Cleveland
Week 5: New England
Week 6: at Buffalo
Week 7: at Detroit
Week 8: New York Jets
Week 9: at Miami (Thurs.)
Week 10: at Baltimore
Week 11: Cleveland
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: at San Diego
Week 14: Indianapolis
Week 15: at Pittsburgh
Week 16: Minnesota
Week 17: Baltimore

Order your 2013 Cincinnati Bengals Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Few teams will begin the season like the Bengals in 2013. The first five weeks of the season have to be the league's toughest opening slate and the first three weeks are definitely the NFL's most difficult opening. Home games with Pittsburgh, Green Bay (after a short week) and New England coupled with road games against Chicago and Cleveland offer as nasty a first month as there is in the NFL. And two of these contests are divisional games that will likely decide playoff seeding come the season's end.

Toughest Stretch: The final month of the season won't be any easier for Marvin Lewis and company. Road games with San Diego and Pittsburgh will be tough and three other playoff teams from a year ago — Indianapolis, Minnesota and Baltimore — will come to Paul Brown Stadium during the season's most important month. Not only are two of those tests against divisional foes, but this slate also includes four AFC teams that figure to battle for a postseason berth.

Swing Games: at SD (Week 13), IND (Week 14)
Crossover Divisions: AFC East, NFC North
Bye Week: Week 12
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .508 (12th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 4th

Easiest Stretch: With the AFC's toughest schedule according to Athlon Sports, there are few breaks in '13 for the Bengals. But there is a four-week stretch in the heart of the season that will allow this team catch its breath. Three of them are on the road but Cincy should be favored heavily in all four. Fans of the Bills, Lions, Jets and Dolphins can't possibly be expecting to make the playoffs this fall, can they?

Circle The Calendar: Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Big Ben and Adrian Peterson are all coming to Cincinnati this year (buy your season tickets now, folks). But when the defending Super Bowl champs roll into town for the regular-season finale, all eyes will be on Paul Brown Stadium. The AFC North championship and/or a wild card berth should be on the line, providing a fitting end to the regular season.

Divisional Notes: The AFC North could be the most balanced and deepest division in the AFC this fall (sorry, Browns fans). The good news is the Bengals will get extra time to prepare for both Pittsburgh in Week 2 (Monday night) and the trip to Baltimore in Week 10 (Thursday night game in Miami the previous week). The bad news is the Bengals will play at Pittsburgh and will host Baltimore over the final three weeks of the season. This does afford the team a chance to win the division on its own. However, it also means the division favorite (Steelers) and the defending Super Bowl champs could control their own destiny as well. Much will hang in the balance in the final three weeks for Cincinnati.

Playoff Push: As the "toughest stretch" shows, the final month of the season will be brutal for the Bengals. The two division games are massive but a potential wild card showdown with Indianapolis and visit from the developing Vikings and All-Day are just as difficult. The good news is three of the final four contests will come at home, including the all-important regular season finale against the Ravens.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): A visit to Heinz Field, especially considering that the Steelers were No. 1 in the NFL in both total and passing defense last season, is not what you want to see on a fantasy postseason schedule. What there is to like: the two home games against Indianapolis and Minnesota. The Colts’ and Vikings’ defenses are not the second coming of the Steel Curtain, as evidenced by their 21st and 24th rankings, respectively, against the pass last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston (6/19) Denver (6/18)
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland (6/17) Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas (6/18) Chicago (6/17) Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit (6/19) Carolina St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Cincinnati Bengals 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 14, 2013 - 11:50
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-stadiums
Body:

Fall Saturdays are special.

Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.

There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.

With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the Big 12 stack up.

1. Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, Texas
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 100,119
2012 Attendance: 100,884 (4th)

Everything is actually bigger in Texas and the Longhorns' stadium tops the Big 12 based on sheer size alone. It isn’t the loudest 100,000 fans in the nation, but the building is arguably the most imposing facility as it dwarfs most every other stadium in the Big 12. After the most recent run of extensive exterior construction, the amenities are second to none in the league as well. Plans are also in the works to expand the south end zone that will push DKR’s capacity to upwards of 112,000 fans — which would make it the nation’s largest stadium. And finally, located in the heart of one of the world’s best cities, fans have a long list of attractions while pre- and post-gaming on Saturdays.

Related Content: 2013 Big 12 Predictions

2. Memorial Stadium, Oklahoma
Opened: 1925
Capacity: 82,112
2012 Attendance: 85,243 (13th)

Easily the No. 2 spot to catch a game in the Big 12, Norman’s college football palace provides the loudest and most passionate fan base in the league. The 103.8-percent capacity and single record against Notre Dame (86,031) a year ago prove that. A recent round of renovations have added 8,000 seats, a massive new brick-lined video board, new luxury suites, a new press box and beautiful brick exterior. Large gaps in the end zone seating keep the capacity well below that of a certain arch rival in Austin and likely limit the decibel levels as well.

3. Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State
Opened: 1920
Capacity: 60,218
2012 Attendance: 56,557 (32nd)

Named after billionaire benefactor T. Boone Pickens just a few years ago, the Cowboys' home stadium got a massive facelift, new additions, extra seats and a beautiful new façade. The single-tiered, true horseshoe building is now flanked on the west by a 146,000-square foot, state of the art facility that contains all of the Pokes' football operations. The West end zone is still flanked by historic Gallagher-Iba Arena. The brick and mortar exterior creates a massive set of exterior columns that majestically climb above the Stillwater skyline. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and when packed, BPS is as raucous as any place in the nation. Keeping the seats full during down times as well as the overall lack of size is what keeps this gorgeous facility from competing with Texas' or Oklahoma's.

4. Milan Puskar Stadium, West Virginia
Opened: 1980
Capacity: 60,000
2012 Attendance: 55,916 (33rd)

When it comes to rabid, passionate supporters, the Mountaineers are much closer to SEC levels rather than Big East. And the surrounding mountains of Morgantown are a fantastic setting for a college football Saturday. That said, the building isn’t one of the nation’s biggest and the stadium itself is a fairly straight-forward facility that likely could use another round of renovations.

5. Jones AT&T Stadium, Texas Tech
Opened: 1947
Capacity: 60,862
2012 Attendance: 57,209 (29th)

Mike Leach had his issues departing Lubbock but he is largely responsible for the consistent growth and development of Texas Tech’s home venue. The stadium has been improved and upgraded in 2005 (luxury suites, parking garage), '07 (master plan), '08 (Spanish façade), '09 (6,000 east side seats) and '13 (new jumbotron). The atmosphere is electric and the facilities have advanced dramatically from over the last decade. The trip to Lubbock makes getting to a game slightly more difficult than even some of the other Big 12 outposts.

Related Content: 2013 Big 12 Predictions

6. Jack Trice Stadium, Iowa State
Opened: 1975
Capacity: 55,000
2012 Attendance: 55,274 (36th)

Iowa State is home to one of the most underrated home atmospheres in the nation in a building named after Iowa’s first black athlete. The passion of the fans cannot be questioned as the Cyclones outdrew their capacity in 2012 on a team that barely reached the postseason the last two seasons. In the works are future expansions of the south end zone and east concourse. The move will upgrade the facilities across the board and will add an upper deck to the end zone. This isn’t the most daunting home field experience, but it has consistently over-delivered compared to its team success.

7. Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kansas State
Opened: 1968
Capacity: 50,000
2012 Attendance: 50,278 (39th)

It’s small on three sides and has some quirky lines, but Bill Snyder Family Stadium will rock when the Wildcats are rolling. Like Iowa State, this building was over capacity on average a year ago as the team clinched its first Big 12 title since 2003. A 2006 renovation expanded seating in the north end zone and also upgraded the locker rooms. It isn’t the biggest or fanciest building in the conference, but this place will over-deliver much like Jack Trice will on game day.

8. Amon Carter Stadium, TCU
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 45,000
2012 Attendance: 46,047 (48th)

Named after prominent Ft. Worth businessman Amon Carter, TCU completely rebuilt its home venue following the 2010 season. The $164 million renovation changed the quaint worn down stadium into a state of the art football facility that provides more room to grow in the near future. The beautiful Southwestern art deco blends with the new football facilities as well as the popular design trend in the DFW area. The building is brand new and fans showed up in force last year (over capacity) but it is still small and will take time to build-up the long-term tradition and pageantry that exists throughout college football’s blueblood venues.

9. Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor
Opened: 1950
Capacity: 50,000
2012 Attendance: 41,194 (60th)

Long named Baylor Stadium, the school changed the name in 1988 when longtime supporter and trustee Carl B. Casey and his father Floyd Casey were honored. The simple, straightforward, single-tiered bowl has long struggled to draw big crowds but that is something Art Briles has changed. The Baylor tarp is still needed for most games and last spring, the Board of Regents approved a new on-campus facility to be completed by 2014.

10. Memorial Stadium, Kansas
Opened: 1921
Capacity: 50,071
2012 Attendance: 41,329 (59th)

A poor home win-loss record (209-199-16), the old-school athletic track circling the field and simple styling make this the worst venue in the conference. The last major upgrade took place over a decade ago, the attendance is fairly small and the building itself lacks tradition and character.
 

2013 Big 12 Team Previews

Related Content: 2013 Big 12 Predictions

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia


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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big 12's Football Stadiums</p>
Post date: Friday, June 14, 2013 - 08:10
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Buffalo Bills, NFL
Path: /nfl/buffalo-bills-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

A new era of Buffalo Bills football begins this fall with Doug Marrone now steering the ship. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Buffalo Bills 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: New England
Week 2: Carolina
Week 3: at New York Jets
Week 4: Baltimore
Week 5: at Cleveland (Thurs.)
Week 6: Cincinnati
Week 7: at Miami
Week 8: at New Orleans
Week 9: Kansas City
Week 10: at Pittsburgh
Week 11: New York Jets
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: Atlanta (Toronto)
Week 14: at Tampa Bay
Week 15: at Jacksonville
Week 16: Miami
Week 17: at New England

Order your 2013 Buffalo Bills Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Doug Marrone's first month as an NFL head coach won't be easy. The month begins with the two of the toughest three home games of the year as September is bookended by the Patriots and Ravens paying a visit to Ralph Wilson Stadium. Carolina and the Jets are two of the more winnable games but asking Marrone to gameplan for Cam Newton in just his second game won't be easy either. A 2-2 start would be a huge success.

Toughest Stretch: The AFC East will play the AFC North this year and the toughest stretch of games — Week 4 to Week 8 — includes three straight with the North. After playing the Ravens, the Browns on a short week and the Bengals, Buffalo takes two road trips to Miami and New Orleans. This team likely won't be favored in any of those five games and this stretch could end the Bills' season before the halfway mark.

Swing Games: KC (Week 9), at JAC (Week 15)
Crossover Divisions: AFC North, NFC South
Bye Week: Week 12
Opp. 2012 W/L %: .496 (19th)
Athlon's SOS Rank: 27th

Easiest Stretch: If somehow, some way the Bills can survive the first 13 weeks of the season, Marrone and his squad will have three winnable games in December. Two trips south to Florida to face Tampa Bay and Jacksonville and a home test against Miami could provide a late-season boost to the win-loss record.

Circle The Calendar: The Bills will only play one primetime national showdown when it travels to Cleveland in Week 5, so finding marquee contests for this team is difficult. However, there is some added juice to a late-season visit to Tampa Bay. Marrone and Bucs coach Greg Schiano coached against each other for three seasons in the Big East. Syracuse and Marrone won two out of three and Schiano doesn't forget that type of thing.

Divisional Notes: The AFC East offers chances for wins for all four teams, including the Bills. The season will begin and end with uphill battles against the Patriots, but the other four divisional tests could provide some success. Home games with the Jets and Dolphins over the final seven weeks will come as welcome sights for a team that could struggle for wins in 2013.

Playoff Push: Buffalo's off weekend will come in the final possible slot, which this season is Week 12. This means the Bills will be well rested for the final month of the season. December begins with the annual Toronto game (against Atlanta) and ends with a daunting road trip to the Patriots. However, in between could be the "easiest" stretch of the schedule. A 3-2 final month would be considered a successful finish for Buffalo.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Yes, Tampa Bay, the Bills' Week 14 opponent, finished dead last in passing defense and fantasy points allowed to WRs last season. No, this is not the same Buccaneers secondary with All-Pros Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson now on the roster. Sorry, Stevie Johnson. Fortunately, C.J. Spiller can look forward to the Week 15 trip to Jacksonville and a chance at the Jaguars’ 30th-ranked rushing defense.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
Buffalo Baltimore Houston (6/19) Denver (6/18)
Miami (6/25) Cincinnati (6/14) Indianapolis (6/20) Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26) Cleveland (6/17) Jacksonville (6/21) Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27) Pittsburgh (7/1) Tennessee (7/3) San Diego (7/2)
       
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Dallas (6/18) Chicago (6/17) Atlanta Arizona
NY Giants (6/25) Detroit (6/19) Carolina (6/14) St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26) Green Bay (6/20) New Orleans (6/24) San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3) Minnesota (6/21) Tampa Bay (7/2) Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-stadiums
Body:

Fall Saturdays are special.

Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.

There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.

With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the Pac-12 stack up.

1. Autzen Stadium, Oregon
Opened: 1967
Capacity: 54,000
2012 Attendance: 57,490 (28th)

There is a long list of players who have claimed they’ve never heard a louder atmosphere than the Ducks' home building. Tales of the tunnel shaking in the pre-game ceremonies only add to the already amazing Saturday experience despite a smaller capacity. Smooth design lines, a beautiful setting, signature, two-tone green field turf and loads of backing from Nike money make Oregon’s home stadium one of the nation’s top venues. In the friendly confines of Thomas J. Autzen Stadium, the Ducks were 26-2 under Chip Kelly in his four seasons.

Related Content: 2013 Pac-12 Predictions

2. Husky Stadium, Washington
Opened: 1920
Capacity: 71,900*
2012 Attendance: 58,617 (27th)

Technically, the rebuild is a renovation but it might as well be considered a new stadium. With a breath-taking view of Lake Washington, new Husky Stadium will be one of the finest facilities in the nation when it opens this fall. The $250 million “facelift” will actually drop the capacity ever so slightly, but the building will keep its trademark cantilever roofs that trap sound and make the venue one of the Pac-12’s loudest. Seattle has excellent fan support for its football teams (including its MLS Sounders) and no doubt U of W faithful will flock to this luxurious and picturesque football cathedral.

* - estimated

3. Rose Bowl, UCLA
Opened: 1921
Capacity: 92,542
2012 Attendance: 68,481 (22nd)

There may not be more hallowed ground in college football than the Rose Bowl. Historically, some of sports greatest moments have happened within these walls — five Super Bowls, multiple World Cup matches, BCS national title games and, of course, the Granddaddy of Them All. So Bruins home games, at times, fail to live up to the epic reputation of the venue — there were roughly 20,000 empty seats per game last year for a team that won the Pac-12 South championship. The building also deserves to get knocked for being 30 minutes from campus. That said, visiting the Arroyo Seco Park Area for a game, with mountains on the horizon and the Brookside Golf Course next door, is a one-of-a-kind experience. A $164.5 million renovation is underway that should be completed by the end of the 2013 calendar year and should only add to the experience on Saturdays.

4. Los Angeles Coliseum, USC
Opened: 1923
Capacity: 93,607
2012 Attendance: 87,945 (9th)

The biggest venue in the Pac-12 is home to the Men of Troy. The massive, intimidating Coliseum has all the quirks and character of the best venues in the nation, which is why this building has hosted the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the World Series. And when the Trojans are rolling, it is an impossible place for the visiting team to win in. That said, USC doesn’t feature one of the louder 90,000-seat atmospheres in the nation, and, in certain sections, the sheer size of the building can distance the fans from the action. Otherwise, the weather is amazing and the scenery (in all senses of the word) gorgeous.

5. Folsom Field, Colorado
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 53,750
2012 Attendance: 45,373 (50th)

When the Buffs are good, this is one of the greatest places to watch a game in the nation. It certainly needs a facelift and the accommodations need upgrading across the board, but few places can match the beauty of Boulder, Colo., on Saturdays. Named after former coach Fred Folsom, rowdy fans have poured into this building for nearly a century. The Buffaloes have won a grand total of four games over the last two years but this building was still 84.6-percent full last season — a testament to the passion of the fans.

6. Memorial Stadium, Cal
Opened: 1923
Capacity: 62,717
2012 Attendance: 55,876 (34th)

This venue was in dire need of an upgrade and the administration has done a great job refurbishing one of the more unique stadiums in the Pac-12. The $321 million renovation took two years but, Memorial Stadium re-opened in 2012 and the project was hailed as a rousing success. The entire West Side was demolished and rebuilt, the field was lowered to improve sightlines and the East Side amenities were totally overhauled. Earthquake engineering and Tight Wad Hill, where students climb trees to watch the game, give this building some extremely unique character. And at 34th nationally in attendance, Cal sports one of the sneaky good gameday atmospheres on the West Coast.

7. Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State
Opened: 1958
Capacity: 71,706
2012 Attendance: 56,835 (31st)

This building is a bit older than some of the others and has plenty of empty seats, but Sun Devil Stadium has provided many a excellent Saturday evening. The crowd is one of the most beautiful in the nation and climbing nearby Tempe Butte is a right of passage for many. It also is one of the league’s largest venues and consistently led the conference in attendance in the '80s. Future renovations and consistent winning could make SDS one of the nation’s best in the near future.

8. Reser Stadium, Oregon State
Opened: 1953
Capacity: 45,674
2012 Attendance: 43,424 (56th)

At 95.1-percent of capacity, quaint Reser Stadium has very few empty seats on Saturdays. Recent renovations gave Oregon State faithful one of the biggest video boards in the nation, expanded seating in the end zones, hip upgrades to the East Grandstand and improved amenities. Future plans also call for more growth, targeting a 55,000-seat capacity. Named in 1999 after benefactors Al and Pat Reser of Reser’s Fine Foods, Oregon State’s home on Saturday’s is one of the more underrated places to watch a game.

9. Stanford Stadium, Stanford
Opened: 1921
Capacity: 50,000
2012 Attendance: 43,343 (57th)

The Farm isn’t the biggest or loudest place to watch a game but there is much to like about Stanford Stadium. The amenities are second-to-none and the state-of-the-art building is located among groves of eucalyptus and oak trees on one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. If the building were bigger, and the fans louder, Stanford Stadium would be ranked higher among its peers.

10. Arizona Stadium, Arizona
Opened: 1928
Capacity: 51,811
2012 Attendance: 47,931 (43rd)

When the team is playing well, this place can get loud. The recent $378 million renovation project added a new video board, upgraded team facilities and football offices while expanding seating in the North end zone. The Wildcats' home sits 2,430 feet above sea level in the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. The three-tiered stadium has a long-standing reputation for bizarre late-season upsets and crazy endings.

11. Rice-Eccles Stadium, Utah
Opened: 1998
Capacity: 45,017
2012 Attendance: 45,347 (51st)

The building was completely torn down and rebuilt in 1998 after being deemed unworthy of hosting events for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Since then, the building and its fans have watched the school outgrow the Mountain West and leap into the deep and powerful Pac-12 waters. Named after donors Robert L. Rice and George and Dolores Eccles, the building is regularly at capacity and the offers the Wasatch Mountains as a fantastic backdrop. The longer this team plays in the Pac-12, the better Saturdays will get in Rice-Eccles.

12. Martin Stadium, Washington State
Opened: 1972
Capacity: 32,248
2012 Attendance: 30,252 (74th)

During a big game, Martin Stadium will pop to life and make fans forget the building is the smallest in the league. Or that it’s located in the Pac-12’s most distant outpost. The building has a metallic feel and getting to campus is virtually impossible, but the Cougars' faithful hold their own during critical moments (see Washington game last year).
 

2013 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Stadiums</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 07:17
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-stadiums
Body:

Fall Saturdays are special.

Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.

There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.

With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the Big Ten stack up.

1. Ohio Stadium, Ohio State
Opened: 1922
Capacity: 102,329
2012 Attendance: 105,330 (2nd)

There is little doubt that the Horseshoe is the Big Ten’s best place to watch a game. A great nickname, awesome traditions, tremendous fan support and commitment, elite level of success, High Street and the Banks of the Olentangy make Ohio Stadium a bucket list destination for fans of every team. And with a brand new video board, audio system and LED lighting, Ohio State boasts one of the top college football venues in the nation. Watching the "Dotting of the I" before a Buckeyes game is something all college fans should experience. Finishing No. 2 in average attendance doesn’t hurt either.

2. Beaver Stadium, Penn State
Opened: 1960
Capacity: 106,572
2012 Attendance: 96,730 (5th)

From a massive city like Columbus to a sleepy college town like State College, Beaver Stadium nearly matches The Horseshoe’s every facet. Named after former Board of Trustees’ President James Beaver, Penn State’s home stadium is as intimidating as any in the nation — especially when 100,000 fans are all wearing white. Massive, boisterous crowds steeped in rich tradition and history make Nittany Lions’ home games a sight to behold. And climbing nearby Mount Nittany is a right of passage of sorts for all who attend a game at Beaver Stadium.

3. Memorial Stadium, Nebraska
Opened: 1923
Capacity: 81,067
2012 Attendance: 85,517 (12th)

Towering over the sprawling Lincoln campus, Memorial Stadium rises high into the horizon for all Big Red faithful to see. The façade of Memorial Stadium is extremely intimidating to those down on the field and the crowds are the most committed in the nation. This venue has been sold out since 1962. With another round of multimillion dollar expansions coming, this college football cathedral is expected to get even bigger (91,000) and even more luxurious. And from a technology standpoint, few programs in the nation can boast the level of advancement of the Cornhuskers football program.

4. Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin
Opened: 1917
Capacity: 80,321
2012 Attendance: 80,006 (17th)

Madison is routinely considered one of the nation’s most enjoyable college towns. Nestled between two gorgeous lakes, the downtown campus “jumps around” on fall Saturdays. The brat haze that floats over State Street and down Regent Street ushers fans through a gorgeous campus and into the House that Barry built. Camp Randall got its name from its time as a Civil War army base in the 1800s long before Big Ten athletics were created. Wisconsin has consistently poured money into renovating its prized gem of a stadium over the years, with some finishing touches still yet to come. One of the nation’s best game day atmospheres is only getting better with time.

5. Michigan Stadium, Michigan
Opened: 1927
Capacity: 109,901
2012 Attendance: 112,252 (1st)

The biggest stadium in the nation is located in Ann Arbor, Mich. And capable of holding upwards of 80,000 people at the time it opened, The Big House was well ahead of its time in terms of sheer size and capacity. Built down into the ground, the massive bowl doesn’t tower over the land or hold in the sound like some of its 100,000-seat brethren. However, the renovations completed in 2010 installed new luxury boxes, added a massive video scoreboard and thousands of club seats. These changes have contained the noise to some degree and made The Big House more inhospitable to opposing teams.

6. Kinnick Stadium, Iowa
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 70,585
2012 Attendance: 70,474 (21st)

Formerly Iowa Stadium, the name changed in 1972 when a local sports writer convinced the powers that be to rename the building after former Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick. The Hawkeyes' home field took its current shape in 2006 when a $86 million renovation added a new press box, video scoreboard and built permanent seating in the south end zone, complete with upgraded amenities. The no-frills, straight forward seating can be as loud as any stadium in the Big Ten and the famous pink visitors’ locker room only adds to the building’s rich tradition.

7. Spartans Stadium, Michigan State
Opened: 1923
Capacity: 75,005
2012 Attendance: 75,382 (20th)

Entering the 2012 season, Michigan State has put together an extremely respectable 69.6-percent winning percentage (334-142-13) at home since taking up residency in Spartan Stadium. So clearly, last year’s bizarre 2-5 home mark isn’t indicative of the home-field advantage that Sparty has enjoyed within the perfectly symmetrical walls of Spartan Stadium. Renovations completed in 2006 upgraded the luxury suites, club seats, concourses and amenities and added The Grand Entrance, a sharp looking glass and brick façade that welcomes Green and White faithful each Saturday.

8. TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota
Opened: 2009
Capacity: 50,805
2012 Attendance: 46,637 (47th)

The newest building in the Big Ten is home to the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The on-campus, outdoor facility opened in 2009 and cost roughly $300 million to build. It could be expanded to 80,000 should it be needed. The west end zone is open air, holds a massive HD video board and provides a scenic view of downtown Minneapolis. “The Bank” or “Gopher Hole” has dramatically improved the game day atmosphere for home games and provides Minnesota an on-campus home of its own for decades to come. The amenities are also among the league’s best considering it’s the newest building in the conference.

9. Ross Ade Stadium, Purdue
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 62,500
2012 Attendance: 43,588 (55th)

Named for Boilermakers alumni David Ross and George Ade, Purdue’s home stadium could be the next Big Ten stadium to get a makeover. It has plenty of tradition, a rich history of elite players and has provided plenty of upsets — just ask Ohio State. But an upper deck on the North and East sides as well as a facelift for the amenities would go a long way to improving the status of this proud venue. The rumored additions would balance out the currently western heavy feel to the building — due to the massive press box and luxury suites towering over the single-bowl facility. Winning more games, of course, would go a long way to pushing forward these potential renovations.

10. Memorial Stadium, Illinois
Opened: 1923
Capacity: 60,670
2012 Attendance: 45,564 (49th)

The exterior of Illinois’ facility has always had a classic and traditional feel that welcomes home and road fans. But prior to 2008, this facility lacked the passion and intensity of the bigger Big Ten buildings. However, a brand new press box and luxury suites on the West side coupled with 10,000 new seats in the north end zone have helped rebuild the Memorial experience. And when the multimillion dollar video board is added in the coming months, the Fighting Illini’s home venue will be even better.

11. Memorial Stadium, Indiana
Opened: 1960
Capacity: 52,959
2012 Attendance: 44,802 (52nd)

The Hooisers’ home field is one of the few in the nation that has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. The signature, solitary press box rests gently atop the single-tier bowl nicknamed “The Rock.” A rare 2009 renovation expanded seating slightly, added the brand new Hall of Champions athletic facility and enclosed the north end zone. Bloomington is an awesome college town and Memorial offers the homely experience of a laid-back Midwestern campus. But until the team can win at a higher level more consistently, The Rock won’t be nearly as intimidating as most places in the league.

12. Ryan Field, Northwestern
Opened: 1926
Capacity: 47,130
2012 Attendance: 35,697 (65th)

Formerly Dyche Stadium, the Wildcats' home stadium was renamed Ryan Field in honor of Patrick G. Ryan, who was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at that time. The unique gentle curves of the stadium allow for great sight lines and few bad seats. Located in northeast Chicago along Lake Michigan, the Evanston campus offers plenty for fans to enjoy. However, much like Duke or Vanderbilt, this venue struggles to match the rabid intensity of bigger more powerful athletic departments.

Big Ten Team Previews

Leaders Division Legends Division
Illinois Iowa
Indiana Michigan
Ohio State Michigan State
Penn State Minnesota
Purdue Nebraska
Wisconsin Northwestern

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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big Ten's Football Stadiums</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC, AFC North, AFC Schedule, Baltimore Ravens, NFL, NFL
Path: /nfl/baltimore-ravens-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Baltimore Ravens will begin defense of their Super Bowl Championship in style this season with a huge showdown against an AFC rival. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Baltimore Ravens 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Denver (Thurs.)
Week 2: Cleveland
Week 3: Houston
Week 4: at Buffalo
Week 5: at Miami
Week 6: Green Bay
Week 7: at Pittsburgh
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Cleveland
Week 10: Cincinnati
Week 11: at Chicago
Week 12: NY Jets
Week 13: Pittsburgh (Thurs.)
Week 14: Minnesota
Week 15: at Detroit (Mon.)
Week 16: New England
Week 17: at Cincinnati

Order your 2013 Baltimore Ravens Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate The Ravens certainly won't be easing their way into their title defense. In the first three weeks, Joe Flacco will battle with Peyton Manning on Thursday night in Denver and host the Texans, two teams that won their respective divisions last season. Mix in a divisional game at home and a road trip to Buffalo and the Ravens are staring at a rough first month of the season.

Toughest Stretch: From Week 4 to Week 7, the Ravens will play three road games and host Green Bay. Trips to Pittsburgh and Miami won't be easy sandwiched around the visit from the Packers. And this comes after the daunting first three weeks of the schedule. The good news is an off weekend awaits the Super Bowl champs in Week 8.

Swing Games:at DEN (Week 1), HOU (Week 3)
Crossover Divisions:AFC East, NFC North
Bye Week:Week 8
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.535 (5th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:15th

Easiest Stretch: If Baltimore can make it to the bye weekend around .500, it will have a chance to make some headway in the standings. Of the four games following the open date, only one — Cincinnati — features a predicted playoff team. The Browns and Jets are easy wins and getting the Bengals at home helps as well. Should the Ravens go into Chicago and beat a team with a new coach and question marks all over the defense, it has a good chance to go 4-0 in November before welcoming the Steelers to town on a Thursday night.

Circle The Calendar: Both Ravens-Steelers games will be epic as it has developed into one of the best NFL rivalries. So will huge AFC games with Houston (Week 3) and New England (Week 16). However, Thursday night in Denver against Manning and the Broncos in a primetime slot to start the entire 2013 NFL season has to be the premiere game on this schedule. Anything shy of last year's historic divisional overtime showdown will be a disappointment.

Divisional Notes: The divisional slate is fairly balanced and spread out through the season with the exception of back-to-back games with Cleveland (Week 9) and Cincinnati (Week 10). A trip to Pittsburgh will be not only the toughest AFC North game of the year but will also come immediately after hosting NFC power Green Bay. Getting up for both games will be tough for the Ravens. Finally, visiting the Bengals in the season finale could be epic, as a playoff berth and divisional crown could be on the line in Week 17.

Playoff Push: The good news is Minnesota and Detroit start the final month of the season for the Champs. The bad news is the Ravens will face New England at home and the Bengals on the road in the season's final two games. Baltimore likely needs to be at seven or eight wins entering December to make the playoffs with a nasty end to its season.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Not only will Ray Rice face the eighth-, ninth- and 10th-best defenses against fantasy RBs, the matchups with Detroit and New England could result in a more pass-oriented offensive game plan for the Ravens. That could be good news for Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith owners, as all three of the Ravens’ opponents during this stretch were 21st or worse against fantasy QBs and WRs last season.


2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
Buffalo (6/13)BaltimoreHouston (6/19)Denver (6/18)
Miami (6/25)Cincinnati (6/14)Indianapolis (6/20)Kansas City (6/24)
New England (6/26)Cleveland (6/17)Jacksonville (6/21)Oakland (6/28)
NY Jets (6/27)Pittsburgh (7/1)Tennessee (7/3)San Diego (7/2)
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (6/18)Chicago (6/17)Atlanta (6/13)Arizona
NY Giants (6/25)Detroit (6/19)Carolina (6/14)St. Louis (6/27)
Philadelphia (6/26)Green Bay (6/20)New Orleans (6/24)San Francisco (6/28)
Washington (7/3)Minnesota (6/21)Tampa Bay (7/2)Seattle (7/1)


Other Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Toughest Schedules of 2013
10 Things Every Fan Should Know about the 2013 NFL Schedule

Teaser:
<p> Baltimore Ravens 2013 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-american-athletic-conferences-football-stadiums
Body:

Fall Saturdays are special.

Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.

There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.

With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the American Athletic Conference stack up.

1. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville
Opened: 1998
Capacity: 55,000
2012 Attendance: 49,991 (40th)

When it opened, the Cardinals' home stadium was a 42,000-seat, single-deck facility. After the 2010 expansion, which added an upper deck to the East Side, capacity grew to 55,000. The completion of the Howard Schnellenberger Complex and the addition of the massive video board put the final touches on the American Athletic Conference’s finest stadium. The amenities are new and there is plenty of area to enjoy an adult beverage or two. Should things continue under mastermind A.D. Tom Jurich, this venue — which already leads the league in attendance — is poised to grow even further.

2. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers
Opened: 1994
Capacity: 52,454
2012 Attendance: 49,188 (42nd)

The No. 2 stadium in attendance in the league formerly known as the Big East is located in New Jersey. This on-campus facility grew from 41,500 seats to its current capacity after an extensive round of additions in 2009. The Knights use a signature two-tone green field turf for football games and the atmosphere performed well in signature moments — see Jeremy Ito’s field goal in 2006. It lacks a great name due to corporate sponsorship, but its symmetry, fan support and view of the Raritan River make it one of the AAC’s top venues.

3. Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 35,097
2012 Attendance: 29,138 (77th)

Easily the league’s oldest venue, there is much to like about quaint Nippert Stadium. Built into the downtown campus streets of UC, Nippert is named after a player (Jimmy Nippert) who suffered a deadly injury during a 1923 game with Miami (Ohio). Multiple renovations and new turf — the first of its kind in the U.S. in 2000 — have not taken away from the old-school feel of the classic brick and wrought iron trim. It is one of the smallest buildings in the nation but sells tickets at one of the AAC’s best rates (83.3 percent).

4. Bright House Networks Stadium, UCF
Opened: 2007
Capacity: 45,323
2012 Attendance: 34,608 (68th)

After playing in the dilapidated Citrus Bowl for years, the Knights moved into a brand new, on-campus facility in 2007. It’s one of the newest facilities in the nation, is one of the AAC’s bigger on-campus venues and has excellent surrounding scenery. Additionally, considering UCF’s massive student body population, the building has been built to expand to seat 65,000 if an upper deck is needed. That said, the building is said to be lacking in character and nearly 10,000 seats in its current configuration were empty each Saturday in 2012.

5. Rentschler Field, UConn
Opened: 2003
Capacity: 40,000
2012 Attendance: 34,672 (67th)

Built just a decade ago and named after famous aviator Frederick Rentschler, the Huskies' football stadium is actually underrated nationally. While ranking just 67th in attendance a year ago, the building provides one of the league’s top ticket rates at 86.7-percent sold. Two narrow decks make the building feel bigger than its 40,000-seat capacity might indicate and it is located in the plush greenery of a former airfield run by Pratt & Whitney.

6. Liberty Bowl, Memphis
Opened: 1965
Capacity: 62,380
2012 Attendance: 24,371 (87th)

This building is a bizarre dichotomy of characteristics. Because it houses the Liberty Bowl each winter, the powers that be maintain its upkeep fairly well. And its strangely curved shape give it plenty of character. However, Memphis sells only 39.1-percent of its tickets each weekend, leaving nearly 40,000 empty seats to suck the pageantry out of the building. This facility has plenty of upside should the team ever compete at a high level for an extended period of time. But until then, it will never be considered one of the better locations to watch a game.

7. Gerald Ford Stadium, SMU
Opened: 2000
Capacity: 32,000
2012 Attendance: 21,292 (92nd)

Built 25 feet below street level, SMU’s single-tier horseshoe opened just 12 seasons ago in Dallas. The Mustangs have a rich and high profile football tradition in a football crazy state. And the building is a nice facility. Yet, SMU is would have been last in the conference in attendance a year ago as nearly 11,000 seats go empty each weekend. Simply put, there isn’t much to Gerald Ford Stadium.

8. Raymond James Stadium, South Florida
Opened: 1998
Capacity: 65,857
2012 Attendance: 44,130 (53rd)

The facility is fairly new, good enough for an NFL team and the Bulls are third in the league in attendance. However, this means the building is not on campus and that roughly 20,000 seats go empty each Saturday. The building is adorned with Buccaneers logos and a tacky pirate ship caps the North end zone. At least, those in charge repaint the end zones with “Bulls” for home games unlike other NFL-turned-NCAA stadiums in the nation.

9. Lincoln Financial Field, Temple
Opened: 2003
Capacity: 68,532
2012 Attendance: 26,580 (81st)

The building is nearly brand new and is amenity heavy because the Philadelphia Eagles call it home. But on Saturdays, this is arguably the worst atmosphere in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Only SMU trails the Owls in attendance as more than 40,000 seats go empty each weekend at “The Link.” Adorned by Eagles logos, Temple takes a back seat in its off-campus, shared facility.

10. Reliant Stadium, Houston
Opened: 2002
Capacity: 71,054
2012 Attendance: 27,247 (80th)

By default, this building is ranked last in the AAC. Reliant is an awesome football stadium that is packed to the gills and loud as any in the nation — when the Texans are playing. Houston will rent the facility in 2013 while a replacement for Robertson Stadium is built. The new $105 million building will be at the same site as the old building and will seat 40,000. As far as 2013 goes, however, the 30,000 Cougar fans will look wildly out of place in the Texans' home, which will double as the AAC's largest venue this fall.

2013 American Athletic Conference Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut SMU
Houston South Florida
Louisville Temple
Memphis UCF


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College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40

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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the American Athletic Conference's Football Stadiums</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-50-offensive-linemen-bcs-era
Body:

Greatness is defined in so many different ways. Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, level of competition, raw talent and athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.

So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest offensive linemen of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 tackles, guards and centers since the BCS was implemented in 1998:

Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 50 blockers of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter at @AthlonSports, using the hashtag #AthlonOL50.

1. Bryant McKinnie, T, Miami
He only played two seasons for Miami after beginning at Lackawanna College (Pa.) but he was downright unstoppable during his time in a Hurricanes' uniform. He was an All-American in both seasons, won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and led Miami to a 23-1 record and the 2001 BCS National Championship. He is the only offensive lineman during the BCS era to finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy balloting. The Pro Bowl left tackle was the seventh overall pick by the Vikings in the 2002 NFL Draft.

2. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
No offensive lineman during the BCS era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle in 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA. Jones pretty much dominated college.

3. Joe Thomas, T, Wisconsin
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare footspeed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all six of his NFL seasons. He was taken No. 3 overall in 2007 by the Cleveland Browns.

4. Greg Eslinger, C, Minnesota
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger has one (2005). He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05 too. The best stat for Eslinger, however, is that Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career and had the school’s first 10-win campaign since 1905.

5. Chris Samuels, T, Alabama
The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American. He was picked third overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft.

6. Jammal Brown, T, Oklahoma
Starting his career as a defensive tackle, Brown exploded onto the national scene as a blocker as a sophomore. He helped lead the Sooners to the BCS National Championship game twice and was recognized as the nation’s top offensive lineman in 2004 when he was awarded the Outland Trophy. The consensus All-American paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s NCAA record-setting freshman season. Brown was the 13th overall pick by the Saints in the 2005 NFL Draft.

7. Jake Long, T, Michigan
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft (Miami) was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy finalist. He was a Freshman All-American in his first year playing in college and was the Big Ten Lineman of the Year award twice as a junior and senior. He’s been to four Pro Bowls in his five-year NFL career.

8. Dominic Raiola, C, Nebraska
At a school known for its big uglies, Raiola is the Huskers’ best of the BCS era. He was the first freshman O-lineman to start since 1991 when he took the field in 1998. The following two seasons he set school records for knockdowns. As a junior, Raiola was the Rimington Trophy winner as the nation’s top center, was an Outland Finalist and earned consensus All-American honors before leaving school early for the NFL.

9. Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M 
The supremely talented Joeckel helped lead the Aggies from the Big 12 to the SEC seamlessly due in large part to his blocking. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman and earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top blocker. The consensus All-American was the No. 2 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft.

10. Andre Smith, T, Alabama
Smith was a dominant, five-star prospect from Birmingham before dominating the SEC for three seasons at Alabama. As a junior, Smith won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and was a consensus All-American. He left school early or else would have been a part of the 2009 BCS championship team. Still, Smith gets credit for helping to rebuild Alabama and was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Related: The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

11. Shawn Andrews, T, Arkansas
A two-time consensus All-American, Andrews was an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist in 2003. He earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking Awards as the SEC’s top lineman in 2002-03. Andrews was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles and has been to three Pro Bowls.

12. Steve Hutchinson, G, Michigan
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Wolverines win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan. He was a first-round pick by the Seahawks in 2001 and earned seven Pro Bowl invites during his 12-year NFL career.

13. Alex Barron, T, Florida State
The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder was arguably Florida State’s top lineman of the BCS era. He was a two-time consensus All-American (2003-04) and an Outland Trophy finalist in 2004. He was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Rams.

14. Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas
The Razorbacks’ pivot for Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones was a three-time first-team All-SEC performer. Luigs was a two-time Rimington finalist, winning the award given to the nation’s top center in 2007. He was a consensus All-American in 2007 and was a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with 49 consecutive starts.

15. Brett Romberg, C, Miami
With Romberg at center, the Hurricanes went 35-2, won three Big East championships, played in two national championship games and won the 2001 BCS national title. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and was a consensus All-American in 2002.

16. Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma
The guard from Atlanta was one of Bob Stoops' greatest players. He was two-time consensus All-American in 2007 and '08 and helped lead Oklahoma to the BCS Championship game against Florida. He was an Outland Trophy finalist in 2008.

17. Dan Mozes, C, West Virginia
The captain of one of the best WVU teams in history, Mozes earned first-team All-Big East honors three different times. The Mountaineers went 22-3 over his final two seasons and he was awarded with consensus All-American honors and the 2006 Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center.

18. Sam Baker, T, USC
The stud left tackle charged with protecting Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was a three-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He played in two BCS national title games and was a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.

19. Justin Blalock, T, Texas
The star blocker for the Horns helped return Texas to the promised land by paving the way for Vince Young on the 2005 BCS title team. He was a four-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and earned Big 12 Lineman of the Year honors in 2006. He was a consensus All-American that year and was a second-round pick of the Falcons in 2007.

20. Michael Oher, T, Ole Miss
One of the most high profile lineman during the BCS era, Oher was a consensus All-American, a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection and the SEC’s top offensive lineman in 2008 (Jacobs Trophy). The Outland finalist was a freshman All-American in 2005 and a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Related: The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

21. Chris McIntosh, T, Wisconsin
An Outland Trophy finalist and consensus All-American, McIntosh helped pave the way for the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher and led Wisconsin to back-to-back Rose Bowl championships. He was also a first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2000 NFL Draft.

22. Ben Wilkerson, C, LSU
Starting for Nick Saban up front, Wilkerson helped lead LSU to two SEC championships and its first national title (2003) in over 50 years. He was a consensus All-American in 2004 and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He was a two-time Rimington finalist.

23. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, T, Virginia
Ferguson started 49 games in his Virginia career, helping the Cavaliers to four straight bowl games. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and earned All-American honors in 2005. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has gone to three Pro Bowls.

24. David Baas, C, Michigan
The interior blocker was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and capped his career with a Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He also earned consensus All-American honors and was named the Big Ten’s top lineman. He was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft.

25. Gabe Carimi, T, Wisconsin
Carimi perpetuated the run of elite Badgers blockers by winning the Outland Trophy in 2010. He was the Big Ten Lineman of the Year and earned consensus All-American honors. He was a first-round pick by the Bears in 2011.

26. Trent Williams, T, Oklahoma
The big fella was forced into action as true freshman and earned freshman All-American honors in 2006. He paved the way for arguably the most productive backfield in Sooners history (Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray) and helped lead the Sooners to the 2008 BCS national championship game. He was a consensus All-American in 2009 and was the fourth overall pick by the Redskins in the 2010 NFL Draft.

27. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
There are no holes in Pouncey’s resume. He won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2008. He was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2009. And was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2010.

28. Kris Farris, T, UCLA
The 1998 Outland Trophy winner was a consensus All-American for the Bruins in 1998. He helped lead UCLA to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and a Rose Bowl berth in his final season. Farris was a third-round pick by the Bills in 1999.

29. Robert Gallery, T, Iowa
The massive blocker helped Iowa win a share of the Big Ten title as a junior in 2002. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top blocker the next year as the Hawkeyes went 21-5 over his final two years. The consensus All-American was the No. 2 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

30. Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
Academic issues caused some speed bumps for Iupati, but eventually he developed into a first-round NFL Draft pick. He was a consensus All-American and helped the Vandals to an eight-win season in 2009 — the school’s second-best win total ever. He is an NFL Pro Bowler already for the 49ers.

Related: The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

31. Russell Okung, T, Oklahoma State
The star left tackle for the Pokes was a two-time All-American, an Outland Trophy finalist, the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2009) and claimed the Jim Parker Trophy. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and has already been to one Pro Bowl.

32. Ryan Kalil, C, USC
The Rimington Finalist was one of the stars of the USC offensive line during its national championship run in the early 2000s. He played a big roll on both the 2004 and '05 BCS title game teams and was voted the Morris Trophy winner in 2006. He also earned All-Americn honors and was drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler.

33. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Warmack has three BCS National Championship rings from his three-year starting career at Alabama. He was a consensus All-American, an Outland Trophy finalist and first-round pick of the Titans in April. He started 39 games over his final three years paving the way for Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.

34. Alex Mack, C, Cal
The star center started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears. He won the “Academic Heisman” when was named the recipient of the Draddy Trophy in 2008 and was a two-time Rimington Finalist. Mack also claimed the Morris Trophy as the top Pac-10 lineman and was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He also was a rare first-round pick as a center by the Browns in 2009 and has been sent to three Pro Bowls in his career.

35. Nick Mangold, C, Ohio State
From a technique and fundamentals standpoint, Mangold is one of the best college centers to ever play the game. He was a Rimington Finalist, a three-year starter and a first-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Jets. He has gone to four Pro Bowls in eight NFL seasons.

36. Leonard Davis, T, Texas
The 6-foot-6, 355-pound stud from Texas was a consensus All-American in 2000 and an Outland Trophy Finalist. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft and has gone to three Pro Bowls in the NFL.

37. Marcus McNeil, T, Auburn
The All-American helped lead the Tigers to an unbeaten SEC championship season in 2004 (13-0). He was again an All-American as a senior in 2005 and was taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Chargers. He’s gone to two Pro Bowls.

38. Ryan Clady, T, Boise State
As a sophomore and in his first year as a starter, Clady earned All-American recognition from some outlets before leading Boise to a perfect 13-0 record as a junior and earning consensus All-American honors in 2007. He was the 12th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and has been to three Pro Bowls already.

39. Jordan Gross, T, Utah
A consensus All-American and Outland Trophy finalist in 2002, Gross is one of the Mountain West’s best blockers of all-time. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and has gone to two Pro Bowls.

40. LeCharles Bentley, C, Ohio State
The Cleveland native was a consensus All-American in 2001. He also won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center that year before getting drafted in the second round by the Saints in 2002.

Related: The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

41. Steve Justice, C, Wake Forest
Few players have meant more to their school than Justice did to Wake Forest. As a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection, the pivot helped lead the Deacons to the ACC Championship in 2006 before earning consensus All-American honors in 2007. He was a Rimington finalist that year as well.

42. Rodney Hudson, G, Florida State
The mauler from Mobile was a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, a two-time, first-team All-American and the Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner in 2009. He was a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

43. Logan Mankins, G, Fresno State
Easily one of the best lineman of this generation, Mankins is the best blocker to ever play at Fresno State. He wasn't highly decorated (All-WAC) but as a first-round pick, Mankins has earned five Pro Bowl bids. 

44. David DeCastro, G, Stanford
As a freshman in 2009, he started all 13 games for the 8-5 Cardinal and was a freshman All-American. He started all 13 games as a sophomore for the 12-1 Cardinal, helping to win the program’s first BCS bowl game (Orange Bowl). He capped his career with a consensus All-American season for the 11-2 Cardinal. He left school early and was the 24th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Steelers.

45. Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU
The Horned Frogs pivot was a two-time Rimington finalist as the nation's top center and claimed the trophy in 2010. He was a two-time All-American as well.

46. David Molk, C, Michigan
The Wolverines center was a two-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and earned Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the year in a conference with Michael Brewster and Peter Konz. Molk was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2011.

47. Jonathan Scott, T, Texas
The two-time All-Big 12 pick was also a consensus All-American in 2005 — the same season he helped lead Texas back to the national championship game. He was a fifth-round pick of the Lions and has played on five NFL teams.

48. Matt Stinchcomb, T, Georgia
The older Stinchcomb brother was a two-time All-American at Georgia and won the Draddy Trophy (the "academic Heisman"). He was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 1999 NFL Draft.

49. Nate Solder, T, Colorado
A consensus All-American, first-round NFL Draft pick and Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year dot his college resume. He was two-time, first-team All-Big 12 pick and Outland Trophy finalist before joining the Patriots in 2011.

50. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
The big Tar Heels blocker was a three-time All-ACC performer and an Outland Trophy finalist in 2012. The consensus All-American was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Cardinals after paving the way for the ACC’s top running back (Gio Bernard).

The Next 25:

51. Max Jean-Gilles, G, Georgia
52. Aaron Gibson, T, Wisconsin
53. Casey Rabach, C, Wisconsin
54. Anthony Davis, T, Rutgers
55. Jake Grove, C, Virginia Tech
56. Craig Page, C, Georgia Tech
57. Anthony Collins, T, Kansas
58. Nate Potter, T, Boise State
59. A.Q. Shipley, C, Penn State
60. D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama
61. Levy Adcock, T, Oklahoma State
62. Toniu Fonoti, G, Nebraska
63. Levi Brown, T, Penn State
64. Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
65. Eric Steinbach, G, Iowa
66. Lee Ziemba, T, Auburn
67. Damien Woody, C, Boston College
68. Deuce Lutui, T, USC
69. Chase Beeler, C, Stanford
70. Duane Brown, T, Virginia Tech
71. Ben Grubbs, G, Auburn
72. Elton Brown, T, Virginia
73. Joe Staley, T, Central Michigan
74. Kenyatta Walker, T, Florida
75. Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia

Top 50s of the BCS Era:

The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era


Agree or disagree with our ranking of College Football's Top 50 offensive linemen of the BCS Era? Let us know on Twitter (@AthlonSports), using the hashtag #AthlonOL50

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 50 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 07:42
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-college-football-stadiums
Body:

Fall Saturdays are special. Especially, in the South.

Small towns, huge crowds, tailgating, bands, cheerleaders and student sections are just a few of the reasons college football is the best sport on the planet. When campuses jump to life across the nation each weekend in the fall, college stadiums become a staging ground for history.

There are a variety of ways to evaluate the greatness of a stadium. Huge attendance numbers, home-field advantage in the win-loss column, ear-piercing decibels, rich traditions, picturesque landscapes and amenities are just a few of the aspects that must be considered to rank so many great college football cathedrals.

And there is no better collection of home stadiums than in the nation's best conference, so keep in mind that ranking this league's stadiums functions like recruiting rankings. Meaning, Arkansas may be seventh in the SEC but top 20 nationally.

With that in mind, here's how the stadiums in the SEC stack up.

1. Tiger Stadium, LSU
Opened: 1924
Capacity: 92,542
2012 Attendance: 92,626 (7th nationally)

Be it the vast and unique tailgating menu or Richter Scale-inducing fans, few places in the nation can send chills down your spine like a game at Tiger Stadium. As one of the loudest and most rabid atmospheres in the nation, LSU boasts one of the most daunting home-field advantages in college football — especially at night. Les Miles has three perfect home seasons and is 50-7 in Death Valley overall during his eight seasons as head coach. A $70 million renovation is underway to push Tiger Stadium’s capacity to 100,000, only furthering this hallowed ground reputation as one of the nation’s top venues. And, honestly, how many venues have a real live Bengal Tiger roaming the sidelines?

2. Sanford Stadium, Georgia
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 92,746
2012 Attendance: 92,703 (6th)

It may not be the SEC’s biggest or loudest stadium but it is the most beautiful. Named for late former university president Dr. Stedman Vincent Sanford, the Bulldogs' home stadium is located in the heart of the plush greenery of the gorgeous Athens campus. The famed privet hedges line the field and separate the Georgia fans and the action on the field with style that matches the dolled-up student section. Sanford’s Southwest corner is also home to a canine marble mausoleum in which the first eight generations of Bulldog mascots have been laid to rest. Uga IX currently resides in a permanent on-field, air-conditioned doghouse near the cheerleaders’ platform on Saturdays. Mark Richt is 63-13 “Between the Hedges” and has his team poised for another perfect home slate in 2013.

 

3. Neyland Stadium, Tennessee
Opened: 1921
Capacity: 102,455
2012 Attendance: 89,965 (8th)

Named for former head coach General Robert Reese Neyland, the biggest venue in the SEC has, at one time or another, been the biggest college football stadium in the nation. Recent renovations have transformed the once dilapidated exterior into a brick Big Orange cathedral. Towering over the winding Tennessee River and subsequent Vol Navy, Neyland’s double-deck, totally enclosed seating makes it one of the loudest places to watch a game in the nation. A recent run of horrendous win-loss records have impacted attendance in a big way, as thousands of empty upper deck seats have taken away from the once daunting home-field advantage. But the Pride of the Southland Marching band still form the famed Power-T before every game, and, when this program is surging, few places in the nation can match the pageantry and passion of Neyland Stadium.

4. Kyle Field, Texas A&M
Opened: 1904
Capacity: 82,589
2012 Attendance: 87,014 (11th)

If things progress the way Texas A&M faithful believe, Kyle Field is poised to become arguably the best football stadium in the SEC. Once the $450 million renovation is completed prior to the 2015 season, the Aggies' home stadium will be the largest in the SEC (102,500). That said, the home of the 12th Man is no joke today as it stands. Three towering decks of screaming fans urge their team on through choreographed cheering and rich traditions. And fall Saturdays actually begin the night before with Midnight Yell Practice in which thousands of Aggies fill the seats at Kyle to warm up their windpipes for the following day of action. The surrounding campus offers little in the way of sightseeing and the win-loss home record from 2000-12 leaves much to be desired (56-30). Once enclosed and with Kevin Sumlin still patrolling the sidelines, that number is sure to improve. Despite having hosted only half-a-dozen SEC games, Kyle Field is currently the oldest venue in the conference and averaged one of the highest attendance percentiles in the nation (105.3% capacity) a year ago.

5. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama
Opened: 1929
Capacity: 101,821
2012 Attendance: 101,722 (3rd)

Legendary head coach Bear Bryant and former university president George Denny team up to name one of college football’s most intimidating home venues. Alabama is 224-52-3 since opening the building in 1929 and Nick Saban is 29-6 at home during his tenure. In front of the most dedicated fans in the nation, the Crimson Tide routinely bring opponents to their knees with ear-shattering support and one appropriately named visitor’s locker room (“The Fail Room” after donor James Fail). A round of various multi-million dollar expansions completed in 2010 have made this football palace the No. 2 largest stadium in the SEC and one of the most luxurious places to watch a game.

6. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida
Opened: 1930
Capacity: 88,548
2012 Attendance: 87,587 (10th)

Coined by Steve Spurrier in the early 1990s, no stadium in the nation has a better nickname than “The Swamp.” And when the Gators are rolling, few places in the nation are as intimidating as a hot and humid Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Unique sightlines and design subtleties give BHGS plenty of character and gives the team a huge home-field advantage. From 1990 to 2009, the Gators had the best home field record in the nation at 113-13. When it comes to noise and success, The Swamp is among the game’s most preeminent locations to watch a game.

7. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Arkansas
Opened: 1938
Capacity: 72,000
2012 Attendance: 68,046 (23rd)

One of the most underrated home atmospheres lies just a few miles north of the Ozarks in Northwest Arkansas. After massive renovations in 2001, “DWRRS” grew to accommodate some of the most dedicated fans in the nation. The nation’s second largest video board (167 feet wide) was added just last year to the North end zone and additional planned renovations will push this stadium to 80,000 seats in the very near future. Arkansas’ all-time record at their home stadium is a solid but uninspiring 166-81-2 and the trademark “Woo Pig Sooie” chant can be heard echoing across campus during each home game in the fall.

8. Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn
Opened: 1939
Capacity: 87,451
2012 Attendance: 82,646 (14th)

The Tigers' football stadium is named after Shug Jordan, the winningest coach in school history, and Cliff Hare, a member of Auburn’s first-ever football team and former president of the Southern Conference. Beautiful and historic murals on the east-side exterior as well as freshly planted “War Eagle” flowers in the end zone give this venue plenty of character. And when “Nova” (War Eagle VII), the team’s live golden eagle mascot, flies into the friendly confines, the Auburn faithful explode into a pre-game frenzy. It takes a special fan base and venue to attract over 82,000 fans to watch a team that didn't win a single SEC game a year ago.

9. Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina
Opened: 1934
Capacity: 80,250
2012 Attendance: 80,001 (18th)

Recent upgrades to the tailgating areas and stadium itself have elevated Williams-Brice into the upper echelon of SEC venues. “The Cock Pit” has signature lighting high above the upper deck on either side of the field as the school continues to break attendance records — 85,199 in 2012 against Georgia. Each home game begins with the playing of the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey," giving South Carolina one of the best pre-game reputations in the nation. Formerly known as Carolina Stadium, the name was changed in 1972 to Williams-Brice after university benefactor Martha Williams-Brice. Steve Spurrier has built WBS into one of the impossible places to win, posting a 25-3 mark at home over the last four seasons.

10. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss
Opened: 1915
Capacity: 60,580
2012 Attendance: 57,066 (30th)

Can Ole Miss figure out a way to move The Grove inside Vaught-Hemingway? The world’s greatest pre-game tailgate takes place just a few yards away from the comparably small, but no less enjoyable, stadium. So while the third-oldest venue in the SEC hasn’t been all that daunting to opposing teams over the years, it does house what may be the most beautiful fan base in the nation. Everyone should attend at least one tailgate in Oxford, Miss.

11. Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State
Opened: 1914
Capacity: 55,082
2012 Attendance: 55,628 (35th)

The Bulldogs averaged more than 100-percent attendance a year ago and this is one of the reasons why Mississippi State has planned yet another expansion to Davis Wade Stadium. The $75 million work will take two years and will be completed before the 2014 season and will push capacity to 61,337 seats. The North end zone will be sealed off and a high-definition video board will be installed. Opposing fans and teams have grown to despise playing in front of the piercing collection of cowbells.

12. Memorial Stadium, Missouri
Opened: 1927
Capacity: 71,009
2012 Attendance: 67,476 (24th)

Missouri is doing everything it can to make its atmosphere and gameday experience match its big-time SEC rivals. In 2013, Mizzou faithful will be greeted with a brand new luxury suite tower to the West and tweaks to the historic north hill beyond the end zone. The famous rock “M” emblazoned hill was moved closer to the field to get fans closer to the action and create more concourse space. Additionally, a new project to build east-side suits and towers will expand the capacity to 77,000 over the next two years.

13. Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky
Opened: 1973
Capacity: 67,692
2012 Attendance: 49,691 (41st)

From a percentage standpoint, the Wildcats posted the worst 2012 home attendance in the SEC. However, that had more to do with the poor play of the team than anything else. When this team is good, Big Blue Nation is as loud and passionate as any stadium with less than 70,000 seats in the nation. This venue has witnessed some historic moments — i.e., the Bluegrass Miracle — and Mark Stoops hopes his Spring Game attendance numbers (est. 50,381) are a preview of things to come this fall.

14. Vanderbilt Stadium, Vanderbilt
Opened: 1922
Capacity: 40,350
2012 Attendance: 37,860 (62nd)

The new brick façade and back-to-back winning seasons have helped build up the Dores' home atmosphere. However, the tiny alumni base and single-tiered stadium lacks the pageantry and passion of every other SEC venue. Vandy will always have a tough time selling out and competing in attendance numbers compared to the SEC's bluebloods. However, being located on beautiful West End with plenty to do within walking distance, there is still plenty to enjoy on gameday in Nashville. Of course, if James Franklin keeps winning nine games a season, all of this could change rapidly.

2013 SEC Team Previews

East DivisionWest Division
FloridaAlabama
GeorgiaArkansas
KentuckyAuburn
MissouriLSU
South CarolinaMississippi State
TennesseeOle Miss
VanderbiltTexas A&M


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College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
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Teaser:
<p> Ranking the SEC's Football Stadiums</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 07:00

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