Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/2012-acc-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The ACC's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (JR)
In only his first full season as the starter, Thomas showed why he has such a high ceiling. He threw for over 3,000 yards with 19 touchdowns while rushing for 469 yards and 11 more touchdowns on the ground – which tied a school record for rushing TDs by a quarterback at a school with a long history of scamblers. His 6-foot-6, 262-pound frame has drawn Cam Newton comparisons, and while he isn’t nearly as explosive, Thomas has the capability of posting huge numbers and winning an ACC title this fall. He just needs to play better against Clemson.

2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (JR)
Last fall the Tigers quarterback led the ACC in total offense at 289.0 yards per game. His 3,828 ranked first in the league as did his 33 touchdown passes. He added 218 yards rushing and five more scores on the ground. With a loaded collection of receivers and running backs returning this fall, Boyd should be able to post another huge year under the tutelage of Chad Morris. A big performance on the road against Florida State would go a long way to getting Boyd to New York.

3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (SO)
Few players have ever been ready to compete at a Heisman level right out of high school like Watkins. As a true freshman, Watkins led the ACC in all-purpose yards: 1,219 receiving, 231 rushing, 826 kick return and 12 punt return yards. He scored a total 13 touchdowns and would likely be No. 1 on the this list if his ability to contribute in all 12 Clemson games weren’t in currently in question.

4. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (SO)
Another freshman in the ACC, Bernard burst onto the scene with four touchdowns in his frist two career games. He then rattled off five straight 100-yard efforts, to finish with 1,253 yards and 13 scores in his first year on a collegiate gridiron. With arguably the top offensive line returning in front of him and a stellar quarterback we’ll address in just a moment, the South Florida product is poised for a huge second year in Chapel Hill.

5. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina (JR)
The strong-armed Tar Heel passer had an excellent first year as the starter in Chapel Hill. He led the ACC in completion percentage (68.3%) and topped the 3,000-yard mark to go with 26 touchdowns. Take away two tough games against Clemson and Rutgers in which he tossed three interceptions in each, Renner’s TD:INT ratio would have been an admirable 23:7. With a new up-tempo offense installed behind an awesome offensive line and running game, Renner has all the pieces in place to push for the stiff-armed trophy. His team’s bowl eligibility (or lack thereof) is what will likely keep him out of Manhattan in December.

6. Mike Glennon, QB, NC State (SR)
There was a reason Tom O’Brien let Russell Wilson walk to Wisconsin and his name is Glennon. In his first season as the starter, the lanky Glennon finished second to only Boyd with 31 touchdown passes and topped the 3,000-yard mark. He finished the year with a flurry, tossing 11 touchdowns in three straight wins over Clemson, Maryland and Louisville. He has a all the talent to be a pro passer and is playing on the sleeper team to watch in the ACC this fall.

7. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State (SR)
This will be the uber-talented Manuel’s final chance to realize his recruiting potential. His physical skill drips off his massive 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame. He has a big arm and in battled injuries during his first full season under center in 2011. Manuel still mustered 2,666 yards and 22 total touchdowns against only eight interceptions for an offense that lacked play-makers. Look for his final season to be his best in Tallahassee.

8. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson (SR)
Finally, Ellington is a senior. The Tigers tailback enters his final year after 454 career touches in three season in Death Valley. He has scored 26 times and is coming off his first 1,000-yard season after battling injuries for the better part of his career. If he can stay healthy, and hold off talented back-ups, Ellington has a chance to be the league’s top rusher in the explosive Clemson offensive attack.

9. David Amerson, CB, NC State (JR)
It is hard to argue that Amerson isn’t the nation’s top coverman. He led the NCAA with an absurd 13 interceptions — returning them for a total of 205 yards and two for touchdowns. He totaled 59 tackles for one of the ACC’s better defensive units. He has to guard the opponents top receiving threat and will start the season checking the Tennessee Vols superstar Justin Hunter. A big game against that passing attack in primetime in the Georgia Dome could vault Amerson into the Heisman mix in short order.

10. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State (SR)
One of the nation’s top defensive lineman was the focal point of most offensive line coaches a year ago and it hurt his statistics. Still, Jenkins finished second in the league in sacks (8.0) and led the Noles in tackles for a loss (12.0). He has posted 104 total tackles over the last three years and will lead what could be the best Florida State defense in over a decade.

11. Tevin Washington, QB, Georgia Tech (SR)
Started hot and cooled off throughout ACC play, but returns in a great offensive scheme behind a stellar offensive line and deep stable of backs. Could easily top his 987 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing in 2012.

12. Sean Renfree, QB, Duke (SR)
Underrated passer finished third in ACC in total offense per game (236.1) and 18 total touchdowns. He trailed only Renner and Manuel in completion percentage (65.0%) in the league and has a star wideout to lean on in Conner Vernon. But he still plays for Duke.

13. Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech (SR)
Finished second amongst ACC running backs in TDs (11) and will be running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. Rarely will a Tech back get enough carries to reach Heisman status, but Smith has the big play ability — try 10.1 yards per carry — to star in this league.

14. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (JR)
Despite being the No. 2 option for Boyd, Hopkins finished fifth in the ACC in catches (72) and fourth in yards (978). He has the skillset to compliment Watkins and produce big numbers in Morris’ system.

15. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State (SO)
The freshman was on the verge of a breakout campaign until an ankle injury forced him to the sideline for four games. Greene posted a huge 12-catch, 163-yard, TD performance the week earlier against Wake Forest. He should be Manuel’s top target.

16. Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina (SR)
Despite being the No. 2 for the Tar Heels, Highsmith posted 51 receptions, 726 yards and five scores. With a new, high-flying offense under Larry Fedora, a great running game and tremendous quarterback, Highsmith should flourish as the top target.

17. Mike James, RB, Miami (SR)
The Canes were a mess in 2011 and the running game was no exception. But Al Golden is committed to growing his rushing attack and James will get the first look. He scored four of his seven touchdowns in the final four games of the year.

18. Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State (JR)
In his first season as a safety (he played corner as a freshman), Joyner delivered on his lofty recruiting stature. He finished fourth in the ACC with four picks and flashed play-making skill on special teams. His leadership and athletic ability make him one of the best safety prospects in the nation.

19. Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia (SO)
The carry split in Charlottesville is tough to pinpoint but Mike London wants a power running game and Parks gives him that. The record-setting prep back scored fime times in his first two career games and is much better suited for short yardage and goalline carries than Perry Jones. These two could easily be flipped and both could get 200 touches.

20. Perry Jones, RB, Virginia (SR)
The smaller more explosive Jones compliments the (also small) stronger and more physical Parks perfectly. Jones got more carries (184 to 152) and will catch tons of passes (48 receptions for 506 yards, 3 TD last year). Both backs will get plenty of touches.

21. Conner Vernon, WR, Duke (SR)
The top target for Renfree finished with 70 receptions for 956 yards and six scores last year. He is a tremendously dependable player in a system that is very passing game friendly. But it’s still Duke.

22. Kevin Reddick, LB, North Carolina (SR)
One of the top LB prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft should have a huge senior season as the leader of the Tar Heel defense. At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Reddick should only build on his 71-tackle season.

23. Tanner Price, QB, Wake Forest (JR)
As only a sophomore, Price posted arguably the top TD:INT ratio with 20 scoring strikes and only six interceptions. He topped the 3,000-yard mark and led the Deacons to the postseason.

24. Tobias Palmer, WR, NC State (SR)
Entering his final season of eligibility, Palmer has a chance to explode onto the ACC scene. He showed flashes of ability with 37 receptions, 495 yards and five scores a year ago. His big-play skill plays well with star quarterback Mike Glennon.

25. Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech (SR)
Few players have the raw athletic ability of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound wideout. If he can play with more consistency, he will be Thomas’ top target and will buld upon his 30-catch, 510-yard, 5-TD season of 2011.

Other Names to Watch:

Wes Brown/Stefon Diggs, RB/WR, Maryland (FR)
Burly runner could be the feature back while explosive dynamo is this year’s Watkins.

Greg Reid, CB, Florida State (SR)
Dynamic and explosive but needs to be more consistent on the outside.

Michael Holmes, RB, Virginia Tech (FR)
Could be next great Hokie back, but has rebuilt O-Line and deep backfield to hold off.

Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Dependable, consistent bookend opposite Jenkins on league’s top D-Line.

James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Should lead what should be one of the nation’s best defenses.
 

Athlon's 2012 ACC Team Previews
 

Atlantic Coastal
Boston College Duke
Clemson Miami
Florida State Georgia Tech
Maryland North Carolina
NC State Virginia
Wake Forest Virginia Tech

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports ACC Predictions

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> 2012 ACC Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Jacksonville
Week 2: at Indianapolis
Week 3: San Francisco
Week 4: at Detroit
Week 5: Tennessee
Week 6: at Washington
Week 7: Arizona
Week 8: Tampa Bay (Thur.)
Week 9: at Seattle
Week 10: Detroit
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at Chicago
Week 13: at Green Bay
Week 14: Chicago
Week 15: at St. Louis
Week 16: at Houston
Week 17: Green Bay

- Vikings fans should have plenty to cheer about in the first two weeks of the season. Opening with games against Jacksonville at home and on the road against the Colts provides Minnesota with a chance to start 2-0. The Jags defense will test Adrian Peterson’s reconstructed knee but Blaine Gabbert hardly scares anyone in purple. And rookie Andrew Luck will be making his first home start of his career while the Colts' defense won’t put up much of a fight against All-Day. Both are winnable and if the Vikes want to improve on their three wins from 2011, starting with at least one win will be key.

- Playing the NFC West is a blessing as well. With Arizona (Week 7), at Seattle (Week 9) and at St. Louis (Week 15) offering three of the few chances for the Vikings to get wins in 2012. Obviously, the home test against the Niners will be a tall order for Christian Ponder and company. The road trip to the Rams couldn’t come at a better time, either, as the last six games of the Vikings' 2012 slate is going to be downright vicious.

- That is because the Purple People Eaters will have to face Chicago twice, Green Bay twice and Houston in five of their final six games (Rams). And four of those six games will come on the road. Certainly, the Vikes play much better against the NFC North at home, but it is hard to see anything but 1-5 for Minnesota over the final month and a half.

- The NFC North might be the best division in the NFL and not getting to face the Vikings — because they ARE the Vikings — makes getting wins that much more difficult. Five of the final seven games will come within the division and all six division games could come against playoff teams. At one point, the horned warriors from the Twin Cities will face four straight NFC North teams (Week 10 to Week 14), including road trips to Soldier and Lambeau Field. Finishing the season with Green Bay at home following a road trip to Houston is about as tough a finish as there is in the NFL.

- As tough as the end of the schedule looks, the heart of 2012 could offer a few chances at victory. Following two tough bouts with the 49ers and Lions in Week 3 and 4, the Vikes play five straight teams that did not make the playoff last fall. All five could be improved but if Leslie Frazier expects to show improvement, his squad will have to make waves in the middle of the year.

- Additionally, should the Vikings improve on their three-win season a year ago, it is likely to assume a win or two in the pair of floating NFC games. Minnesota will face two “last-place teams” in Washington (road) and Tampa Bay (home) this fall. These have to be looked at as opportunities. 

Fantasy Focus: All eyes will undoubtedly be on Adrian Peterson at the start of this season as the Vikings' All-Pro running back will be returning from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 16 last season. Peterson promises he will be ready to go Week 1, but even if he is able to make it back to the field, fantasy owners need to be patient with him. Besides coming back from a serious knee injury that required extensive surgery and rehabilitation, the schedule is filled with some potentially tough match ups for Peterson and his backup, Toby Gerhart. Yes, the Vikings have Tampa Bay, who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs in 2011, along with Indianapolis (3rd-most) and Tennessee (6th), among their first eight games of the season. However, they also have San Francisco, who allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2011, in Week 3. Jacksonville, who Minnesota opens the 2012 season against, allowed the 10th-fewest, and Arizona (11th-fewest), Detroit (13th) and Washington (14th) also ranked among the top 16 stingiest teams in that respect.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Order your 2012 Minnesota Vikings Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at New Orleans
Week 2: at St. Louis
Week 3: Cincinnati
Week 4: at Tampa Bay
Week 5: Atlanta
Week 6: Minnesota
Week 7: at New York Giants
Week 8: at Pittsburgh
Week 9: Carolina
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Philadelphia
Week 12: at Dallas (Thur.)
Week 13: New York Giants (Mon.)
Week 14: Baltimore
Week 15: at Cleveland
Week 16: at Philadelphia
Week 17: Dallas

- Starting the season on the road against (what should be) Drew Brees and the Saints will be tough for the rebuilding, rookie-led Redskins. But a closer look at the defenses reveals the first six contests could be manageable for Robert Griffin III. No, I am not calling for wins, but only the Bengals should provide any sort of defensive resistance in the first six weeks.

- Hopefully those first six games will get RG3 enough experience, because Week 6 and 7 provide two of the nastiest road trips in football. Back-to-back visits to the defending champs and Pittsburgh will make for a rude awakening.

- Following the bye week (Week 10), the Skins will enter the toughest four-game stretch of the year. This is good news because of the timing of the off-week. However, facing the Eagles then Dallas four days later on the road before hosting the Giants and Ravens in consecutive weeks is about as brutal a run as there is in the league. Both the rival Cowboys and Giants will come on primetime slots on Thursday and Monday respectively.

- Playing in the East was going to be tough for Washington regardless of how the opponents are scheduled. But the NFL did them no favors as five of the final seven games will come within the NFC East. Aside from the trip north to face the defending Super Bow Champs in Week 7, most of the East will be determined in the final month and a half. Three straight divisional games (Week 11 to Week 13) will be tough enough with the regional rival Ravens looming in Week 14. Then the season wraps-up with back-to-back divisional games: at Phily and Dallas at home.

- Facing the AFC North this year will hurt the Skins' case for improvement as it could be the toughest division in the AFC this season. A road trip to the Steel City will be nasty and a late season trip to Cleveland is winnable but could be filled with weather concerns (in Week 15). Hosting Baltimore on the Parkway will be fun for fans — until they look at the scoreboard. Hosting Cincinnati in Week 3 will be a huge indicator of Mike Shanahan’s current level of development. Should they beat the Bengals, a playoff team from last year, fans will have a reason to be optimistic in 2012.

- Within the NFC, Washington will face the NFC South, all of which will take place before the bye week on Week 10. The season opens with a trip to NOLA before a Week 4 visit to the New Sombrero in Tampa. A tough match-up with Matt Ryan and Atlanta in Week 5 and an equally intriguing Cam Newton-Robert Griffin III showdown against Carolina (Week 9) gives the Redskins four NFC South games in their first nine contests.

- The two floating games for 2012 will be a blessing for Hog Heads everywhere. A road trip to St. Louis in Week 2 and a home game against Minnesota in Week 6 offer up two great chances for wins this fall. If the Skins want to improve in 2012, wins over the Vikes and Rams will be imperative.

Fantasy Focus: Despite the difficulty of predicting Shanahan’s workload tendencies, Redskins’ offensive players should face few speed bumps in the first six weeks of the season. The Bengals offer the toughest defense over that span, so sell your Skins high before they hit the Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens run of mid-to-late season. 

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Order your 2012 Washington Redskins Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Denver Broncos, NFL
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Pittsburgh
Week 2: at Atlanta (Mon.)
Week 3: Houston
Week 4: Oakland
Week 5: at New England
Week 6: at San Diego (Mon.)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: New Orleans
Week 9: at Cincinnati
Week 10: at Carolina
Week 11: San Diego
Week 12: at Kansas City
Week 13: Tampa Bay
Week 14: at Oakland (Thur.)
Week 15: at Baltimore
Week 16: Cleveland
Week 17: Kansas City

Order your 2012 Denver Broncos Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Peyton Manning likely analyzed offensive lines, receiving corps, home field advantages, coaching staffs and front offices when making his decision on where to play football in 2012. But the schedule could not possibly have been one of the facets to his choice of the Broncos. There might not be a tougher start to the season than what Denver will deal with this fall. The first five weeks feature four playoff teams, including what could be the top three teams in the AFC (PIT, HOU, NE). In fact, of the first eight games, six will come against playoff teams from a year ago — and that doesn’t include San Diego. The only comfort is that Manning will get three of his first four games at home in Mile High.

- And in case any football fan out there forgot, on Opening Weekend the Steelers will be returning to the scene of the crime last year when Tim Tebow miraculously upset the Steel Curtain on Wild card Weekend.

- Manning and the Orange Crush will be featured prominently, rightly so, on national TV plenty in 2012. However, all three non-Sunday games will take place on the road. A week 2 trip to Atlanta and Week 6 visit to San Diego will be Monday Night showcases while the late-season division road trip to Oakland takes place on a Thursday night.

- The NFC West would not only be easier on the win-loss column but as well as the travel schedule, but playing the NFC South isn’t all that daunting. A road trip to Atlanta in Week 2 will be brutal but hosting New Orleans and Tampa Bay isn’t all that scary. It will be the first time Manning has faced the Saints since his Super Bowl loss. And the storylines for the Broncos-Panthers 1:00 PM ET kickoff in Carolina are too juicy not to appreciate. Manning vs. Cam? John Fox returns to BOA Stadium? What’s not to like?

- Along with an first weekend bout with Pittsburgh, the Orange Stallions will have to face the rest of the AFC North – also known as the best division in the AFC. Road trips to Cincinnati (Week 9) and particularly Baltimore (Week 15) will carry heavy AFC playoff implications.

- The division schedule is evenly spaced out over the course of the year. With the exception of three AFC West tests in four weeks from Week 11 to Week 14 (which will be a key playoff stretch for all teams involved), there are divisional games in each quarter of the season for Denver this year.

- The great news for Fox and Manning is the overall finish to the season. If the first two months will be filled with potential playoff match-ups, the final six games could give the division crown to the Broncos. Other than a road trip to Baltimore, Denver will play five non-playoff teams that could easily all be wins. Kansas City (twice), Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland gives Denver a great shot at locking down the West for the second straight year. Especially, considering the final two games of the year are against the Browns and Chiefs — both at home.

- Notably absent from the schedule is the one game every fan in every city would like to see obviously: Denver and Indianapolis. Not to worry, the AFC West will face the AFC South next year.

Fantasy Focus: With an offense trying to get acclimated to a new quarterback, the start to the 2012 season could be very bumpy for the Broncos. Look for this offense to explode following the bye week (Week 7) and provide huge second-half numbers. Don't reach on Broncos early in the draft, but target them as the first two months play out.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule:

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

- The kickoff to the 2012 season will be what many Packers fans believed would be an epic NFC Championship game showdown last year. The Giants obviously thwarted any dreams of a 49ers-Packers title game battle, but these two fanbases will get a shot to start their revenge tour in style. The late Sunday afternoon game on FOX will feature what could be the top two teams in the NFC — with home field advantage potentially determined on Opening Weekend.

- Green Bay then has to deal with an incredibly short week when it welcomes the arch-rival Bears to town on Thursday night. So four days after facing Patrick Willis and Company, Aaron Rodgers will have to deal with Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers and the rest of the Monsters of the Midway. Those could be the top two defenses in the NFC in 2012 and the Packers will face them right out of the gate with a short week of preparation.

- The long trip west to battle Seattle in Week 3 provides the second primetime match-up in three weeks. The Packers will have 11 days to prepare for the Monday night tilt with the Seahawks after their Thursday night bout with the Bears.

- Three of the first four games of the season will be played on the not-yet-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. However, three straight road games from Week 5 to Week 7 make up for the home-road imbalance. Getting three December home games in four weeks could provide the cold weather home field advantage most Packers fans would prefer.

- There are two small breaks in the round-robin rotation. First, the NFC West will play the NFC North — giving three potential playoff teams from the North a collection of “easy (-er)” games with Arizona, St. Louis and Seattle. It will likely be the worst division in the NFC again this year. Green Bay will have played all four teams from the West by Week 9.

- In crossover play, the Packers get the AFC South. While this creates a brutal road trip to Houston which could be a potential Super Bowl preview, it also means the Jaguars, Colts and Titans are on the schedule as well. Much like the NFC West, this division provides two easy games, one modest test and one physical, nasty throwdown.

- With the exception of the Week 2 Thursday night match-up with Chicago at home, the Packers will play every divisional game post-bye week (Week 10). In fact, four of the final five games of the season will come against NFC North teams. The seven-game stretch to finish the season is not only going to be trying, but could determine a huge chunk of the seeding for the playoffs. Green Bay starts its second half with nasty road trips to the Lions and the Giants. Nothing needs to be said about the storylines of a trip to the New Meadowlands. Green Bay will wrap-up its ’12 season with two road division games and a home game against Tennessee. With the Lions, Giants and Bears (which certainly isn't Kansas anymore) pushing for NFC playoff bids, fans can expect some big-time fireworks in the final seven weeks.

- The two floating games of the 2012 season are New Orleans at home in Week 4 and the Week 12 road trip to the face the Super Bowl champs. Certainly, not many teams will play these type of floating games — and rightly so, considering the Packers might be the preseason favorite to win the NFC. So for two years in a row, the Cheeseheads will host the Saints and visit the Giants.

Fantasy Focus: Many believe James Starks could have a breakout 2012 campaign, but be sure to have other options early in the season. San Francisco, Chicago and Houston provide must-bench weekends for most running games and Green Bay will face all three in the first six weeks of the season. That said, the fantasy-rich passing game should be on cruise control after Week 2.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Order your 2012 Green Bay Packers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/aj-mccarron-vs-tyrann-mathieu-twitter-war
Body:

As if the LSU-Alabama college football rivalry needed any more fuel. 

Monday brought the next chapter in the Bayou Bengals-Crimson Tide SEC epic narrative. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and LSU's Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu not only went head-to-head twice last year on the field, with McCarron getting the last laugh, but the two stars have moved their duel to cyberspace. 

The two Athlon Sports coverboys started running their yaps on twitter. To quote McCarron, "this should fuel everything and more now."

It was highly entertaining — unless your name happens to be Saban or Miles, of course. In fact, it looks like someone in both athletic departments got to the two stars to shut them up before it got too out of hand. They both ended the conversation about the same time.

Here is how it all went down:

 

 

 


 

A.J. immediately countered...

 

 

 


 

Honey Badger decided to tell the BCS MVP that it wasn't him who won the title...

 

 

 


 

 

And McCarron was happy to agree...

 

 

 


 

 

Mathieu is clearly ready for November 3...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just called you to the mat Honey Badger. Did you hear him?

 

 


 

 

Alabama wideout Kenny Bell had no problem jumping into the mix...

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCarron got the final word — as the defending National Championship Game MVP should:

 

 

 

 


Anyone else excited about Death Valley, November 3, 2012?

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> A.J. McCarron vs. Tryann Mathieu: Twitter War</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-11
Body:

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

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/4-6/10):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Torii Hunter* LAA OF 10 4 10 1 .500 1.605
2. Mike Trout LAA OF 10 0 4 4 .520 1.167
3. Alfonso Soriano* CHC OF 7 4 9 0 .357 1.257
4. Norichika Aoki* MIL OF 9 2 2 3 .375 1.214
5. Jason Kubel* ARI OF 6 2 12 0 .409 1.253
6. Mark Trumbo LAA 1/3/OF 5 4 12 0 .292 1.203
7. Dan Uggla ATL 2B 8 3 9 0 .316 1.342
8. Ben Revere* MIN OF 6 0 3 4 .458 1.022
9. Russell Martin* NYY C 4 4 8 0 .368 1.453
10. Neil Walker* PIT 2B 5 1 6 3 .360 .905
11. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 7 2 7 0 .379 1.055
12. Allen Craig STL 1/2/OF 7 2 7 0 .357 .990
13. Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 6 2 6 1 .348 1.053
14. Ryan Theriot* SF 2B/SS 3 0 6 4 .367 .839
15. Michael Bourn ATL OF 5 1 4 1 .500 1.305
16. Albert Pujols LAA 1B 7 1 7 0 .400 1.174
17. Tyler Colvin* COL OF 4 3 5 0 .600 2.236
18. Scott Hairston* NYM OF 5 2 3 2 .400 1.338
19. Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 4 2 5 1 .421 1.395
20. Robinson Cano NYY 2B 4 3 5 0 .409 1.299
21. Seth Smith* OAK OF 3 1 5 1 .550 1.491
22. Jose Altuve HOU 2B 6 1 4 1 .407 1.096
23. Jason Heyward ATL OF 6 2 4 1 .333 1.078
24. Trevor Plouffe* MIN 2/3/SS/OF 5 3 6 0 .304 1.143
25. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 5 1 5 2 .320 .913

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Summer Farm Waiver Wire Adds

Trevor Bauer's name is widely known as the former UCLA Bruin who will be in Arizona sometime very soon. But there are plenty of other names who could be contributing to your fantasy club in a matter of weeks — or days. Kansas City catcher-turned-outfielder Wil Myers has been crushing the ball —try 20 HRs in 225 at-bats at two levels to go along with a .342/.404/.724 line. He will help with your power numbers instantly and has "C" eligibility even though he will play in the outfield. Anthony Rizzo is back dominating the box score again. He now has 20 bombs with a .363 average in 215 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa. With Alfonso Soriano elevating his stock at the moment, the Cubs would be smart to move the inconsistent outfielder in order to get Rizzo to the Northside. Reds future shortstop Billy Hamilton is hitting .320 with 71 stolen bases in 60 games. No, that isn't a typo. If you need speed, keep a very sharpe eye on the Bakersfield prospect. Career .300 hitter Nolan Arenado could help Colorado today at third base and could help a shallow fantasy position once he is called up. Toronto catcher Travis D'Arnaud might be the hottest prospect in all of baseball — currently hitting .332 with 13 homers at Triple-A Las Vegas. He is also better defensively than J.P. Arencibia. Seattle parted with Michael Pineda so easily because of their pitching depth on the farm. Last year's first rounder, Danny Hultzen, has made 12 professional starts and already has little to prove at Doube-A Jackson. In 70.1 innings, he has a nasty 1.28 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 75 strikeouts. The Padres' two-sacker Jedd Gyorko is close to making it to the show as well, as he is hitting .366 since being elevated to Triple-A. And the Fathers could use any offensive help they can get.

DL Watch

- The Braves have had weird issues with Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann of late, but Tim Hudson and Dan Uggla are the two to watch now. Both are dealing with an ankle issue. Hudson was scratched from his start on Sunday because of it and is now scheduled to take the mound on Wednesday against the Yankees. Uggla is questionable for tonight's series opener.

- BREAKING: Brian Roberts might be playing baseball this week! He is on Triple-A rehab assignment and could be back with the Orioles as early as Tuesday.

- Drew Stubbs is out until at least Tuesday with an oblique strain. Keep an eye on this one.

- Dayan Viciedo and Yoenis Cespedes both were swinging a hot stick until balky hamstrings brought them both to a screeching halt. Both have responded to treatment but they might not be ready to return just yet. Melky Cabrera is also dealing with his own hammy problem as he is questionable for Tuesday's game against Houston.

- Carlos Zambrano got rocked by the Rays his last time out and is now listed as questionable for his start on Friday — against the Rays.

- Nelson Cruz (Achilles) and Alexi Ogando (groin) are both questionable for their next starts — Tuesday against Arizona for Nellie and Saturday against Houston for Ogando.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CHW 24.1 3 30 1.11 0.66
2. R.A. Dickey NYM 16.1 2 17 0.00 0.80
3. Matt Harrison* TEX 23.2 3 12 1.90 0.80
4. Brandon Morrow TOR 15.1 2 13 0.59 0.65
5. Stephen Strasburg WAS 13.0 2 22 1.38 0.77
6. Clay Buchholz* BOS 17.0 2 13 1.06 0.76
7. Ian Kennedy ARI 13.2 2 19 0.66 0.95
8. Shaun Marcum MIL 19.2 3 23 2.29 1.12
9. Matt Cain SF 15.0 2 16 0.60 1.00
10. A.J. Burnett* PIT 19.1 3 17 2.33 1.03
11. Zack Greinke MIL 13.0 2 19 0.69 1.08
12. Drew Hutchison* TOR 20.1 2 21 2.66 0.98
13. David Price TB 12.1 2 13 0.73 1.05
14. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 21.2 2 14 1.66 1.06
15. James McDonald PIT 18.0 2 15 2.00 1.00
16. Chad Billingsly* LAD 20.0 2 19 2.70 1.00
17. Hiroki Kuroda* NYY 14.0 1 11 1.29 0.71
18. Francisco Liriano* MIN 17.2 1 23 2.55 0.96
19. C.J. Wilson LAA 14.0 1 14 0.64 1.00
20. Ubaldo Jimanez* CLE 13.2 1 11 1.32 0.80

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Ryan Vogelsong, SF: at Seattle (Fri.)
Has been on a nasty tear the last two weeks: 2 W, 14 K, 1.66, 1.06

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK: San Diego (Fri.)
If you can handle a few walks, Parker should contribute nicely against the Fathers.

3. Andy Pettitte, NYY: at Washington (Sat.)
Has been AP of old: Nearly a K/IP and 4+ K/BB ratio. Will get wins if healthy.

4. Alex Cobb, TB: New York Mets (Tues.)
Held his own against steller offenses in four starts: NYY, BOS, CHW and ATL.

5. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY: at Atlanta (Wed.)
Posted tasty 14.0 IP, 2 W, 11 K, 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP over last two weeks.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Joel Hanrahan PIT 13.1 2 11 14 0 1.35 0.90
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 15.1 1 6 28 3 1.76 0.78
3. Tyler Clippard* WAS 13.1 0 8 16 3 0.68 0.60
4. Craig Kimbrel ATL 10.0 0 7 14 0 0.00 0.30
5. Kenley Jansen LAD 11.0 2 7 15 0 1.64 0.82
6. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 13.2 0 4 27 3 0.00 0.73
7. Fernando Rodney TB 13.0 0 9 12 0 1.38 0.77
8. Jim Johnson BAL 13.1 1 8 4 0 2.02 0.60
9. Chris Perez CLE 10.2 0 9 12 0 0.84 0.84
10. Santiago Casilla SF 13.0 1 10 11 1 1.38 1.31
11. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 5 15 0 0.75 0.58
12. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 12.1 0 7 15 0 1.46 0.89
13. Sergio Romo* SF 9.0 1 3 15 5 1.00 0.44
14. Brayan Villarreal* DET 14.2 3 0 23 0 1.84 1.09
15. Tim Collins* KC 12.1 1 0 20 2 0.00 0.81
16. J.J. Putz ARI 10.0 1 7 10 0 1.80 1.10
17. Matt Capps* MIN 11.1 1 8 8 0 2.38 1.15
18. Charlie Furbush* SEA 12.0 0 0 14 1 0.75 0.25
19. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.0 0 8 16 0 3.71 0.94
20. Jose Valverde DET 10.2 1 6 6 0 2.53 0.75

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 11</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 09:54
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

New England Patriots 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Tennessee
Week 2: Arizona
Week 3: at Baltimore
Week 4: at Buffalo
Week 5: Denver
Week 6: at Seattle
Week 7: New York Jets
Week 8: at St. Louis
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Buffalo
Week 11: Indianapolis
Week 12: at New York Jets
Week 13: at Miami
Week 14: Houston
Week 15: San Francisco
Week 16: at Jacksonville
Week 17: Miami

Order your 2012 New England Patriots Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The first thing that stands out about the Patriots 2012 schedule are the road trips early on. The season begins with three of the first four — and four of the first six — games taking place away from Foxborough. Even tougher are the opponents as the Titans, Bills and Ravens (the first three road games) should all be around or above .500 on the season. Additionally, the fourth road trip in six weeks will happen over 3,000 miles away in Seattle. Sprinkle-in a developing Broncos and Cardinals defense and the first month and a half will provide plenty of speed bumps for Tom Brady and company.

- Three of the final four games of the year will come at home for Bill Belichick. Which is good news considering Houston, San Francisco and Miami are coming to town. The Texans game could be a preview of the AFC championship game and the winner of that contest will likely claim home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

- The Pats got one big break in the scheduling department by facing the NFC West in crossover play this fall. A home game against San Francisco could be a Super Bowl preview in Week 15 but should have little impact on the final standings or seedings in either league. Road games to Seattle and St. Louis, while long, shouldn’t be arduous while a home game against Arizona won’t press the Pats either. A 4-0 record is easily within reach while anything worse than 3-1 would be disappointing.

- Despite tough games against Houston and Tennessee on the road, playing the AFC South is a nice break. Jacksonville and Indianapolis are as near-locks for victory as it gets in the NFL and the Titans game happens in Week 1. The Titans could be a quality team in 2012 but will be a much better squad come the second half of the year. The implications of the Houston game have been well covered.

- The Patriots have the easiest schedule in the AFC East since they don’t have to face the, uh, Patriots. Road trips to Buffalo and New York certainly won’t be gimmies, but there is no doubt that the division is New England’s to lose. It finishes with three division games in the final six weeks — including back-to-back road games in Week 12 (NY Jets) and Week 13 (Miami).

- The two floating games are not going to be easy for the Pats as both could be playoff previews. A trip to Baltimore in Week 3 provides a rematch of the AFC Championship game from a year ago while Denver at home in Week 5 will be another chapter in the historic Manning-Brady rivalry. These two will be must-see TV.

- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> New England Patriots 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 07:02
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, San Diego Chargers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

San Diego Chargers 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 San Diego Chargers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Fans have to go back to 2007 to find the last time that Week 1 of the NFL season didn’t end with an AFC West Monday night divisional showdown. The Chargers will begin the season on primetime TV as the second Monday night game by visiting the Raiders. As a fan without a dog in the hunt, I am a huge proponent of the late night West Coast divisional battles to wrap-up the season’s first weekend. The last three have been decided by one touchdown or less with a grand total of 14 points separating victory from defeat.

- The off week is located in Week 7 and should provide a nice respite from the relatively tough first six weeks of the season — that will feature Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Carson Palmer. However, after resting up, the Chargers should make a big playoff push over the next three weeks. Cleveland, Kansas City — which will feature short rest on a Thursday — and Tampa Bay provide the easiest three-game stretch of the year.

- The divisional slate will be fun to watch this year, and not simply because the AFC West could be wide open. San Diego will play five of its first 11 games within the division — three of which won’t be played on a Sunday. The Chargers will wrap-up the year with a home division game with the Raiders.

- The AFC North will be the AFC round-robin for the Bolts this season. Not an easy draw. A road trip to Cleveland isn’t daunting following the bye week, but three straight games against AFC North playoff teams will be. From Week 12 to Week 14, the Super Chargers will play three Super Bowl contenders in Baltimore, Cincinnati and at Pittsburgh — an odd scheduling twist. Having to visit fellow AFC foes Pittsburgh and New York in the final four weeks of the year won’t be easy.

- There are much worse divisions to face from the NFC than the South (like the North or the East). And the Chargers will get the two tough tests — Atlanta and at New Orleans — out of the way within the first five weeks of the season. This give the Bolts Tampa Bay and Carolina for the second half of the season.

- The home-road schedule doesn’t offer any unique scheduling twists for the Bolts. There are only four truly lengthy trips across the country — at Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York. Road games at Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and New Orleans are not as long as the others. And the final playoff push could provide some home-cooking for Norv Turner and Company. Four of the final six games will come at home, including potential wild card showdowns against Baltimore, Cincinnati and Oakland.

- The two floating games for San Diego fit their level of expectation perfectly. While a team like Baltimore must face New England and Houston and a team like the Colts must face Kansas City and Cleveland. Getting the Titans and Jets, two teams that missed the playoffs but were in contention late in 2011, provides appropriate wild card competition for a team like San Diego.

Fantasy Focus: Philip Rivers turned the ball over entirely too much a year ago and fans can bet he won't play nearly as poorly in 2012. And the start to his schedule helps. While there are some potentially "okay" fantasy defenses on the schedule (Tennessee, Denver), the first nine games of the year provide plenty of "must-start" situations for Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates, etc. All Chargers might be moving up my draft board.

- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> San Diego Chargers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Cleveland Browns, NFL
Path: /nfl/cleveland-browns-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Cleveland Browns 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Philadelphia
Week 2: at Cincinnati
Week 3: Buffalo
Week 4: at Baltimore
Week 5: at New York Giants
Week 6: Cincinnati
Week 7: at Indianapolis
Week 8: San Diego
Week 9: Baltimore
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Dallas
Week 12: Pittsburgh
Week 13: at Oakland
Week 14: Kansas City
Week 15: Washington
Week 16: at Denver
Week 17: at Pittsburgh

Order your 2012 Cleveland Browns Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The Cleveland Browns have easily the toughest divisional schedule in the AFC. This, of course, is due in large part to the division in which they reside. The AFC North has three potential playoff teams and two perennial Super Bowl contenders. And since the Browns don’t get to face the, uh, Browns twice every year, it makes their AFC North schedule harder than any other team’s in the division. To make matters worse, the North round-robin begins with two road games within the first four weeks of the season. The only comfort for the Dawg Pound is that, following trips to Baltimore and Cincy, three of the final four games within the North will be played on the banks of Lake Erie.

- Interestingly enough, by game nine, the Browns will have played the Bengals and the Ravens twice. And by game 11, only a road trip to the hated Steelers in the season finale will remain on the divisional slate.

- Two rookies will be lined up behind the center this fall as quarterback Brandon Weeden and tailback Trent Richardson will usher in a new era of Browns football. But Pat Shurmur shouldn’t expect too much from the first-round duo right out of the gate. The first six games are against potentially elite-level defenses. The Giants, Ravens and Bengals units speak for themselves but the Eagles' and Bills' front-sevens should be dramatically improved in 2012. Best of luck rooks.

- The Browns will have the unfortunate task of battling the NFC East in crossover play this season as there are no easy outs and three potential playoffs teams residing in the East. Washington at home is a potential win for a team that claimed victory only four times a year ago. But road trips to New Jersey to square-off against the defending champion Giants and a jaunt down to the biggest football stadium in the world to take on the Cowboys loom extremely large. Additionally, facing the Eagles at home on opening weekend is interesting because the two teams will have played two weeks earlier in the third, and most normal looking, preseason game. There will be plenty of familiarity between these coaching staffs when the season kicks off in Browns Stadium.

- The Browns will face the AFC West this fall in intra-conference action. Strangely enough, three of the four contests will take place in a four-week period of time from Week 13 to Week 16. Cross-country trips to Oakland and Denver sandwich a pair of home games against Kansas City and the Redskins. The Chargers come calling in Week 8.

- There isn’t anything special about the home-road splits for the Browns in 2012. Three of the first five are on the road while, more depressingly, the final two games of the year will be on the road against Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. This does mean, however, that the heart of the 2012 season will be filled with home games — six in nine games to be exact.

- For a team trying desperately to win more than five games for the first time since 2007, the two floating games offer some comfort. A home game against the Bills in Week 3 is a winnable game and a road trip to Indianapolis in Week 7 is even easier. Nothing is a sure thing with Cleveland, but these are two games Shurmur and company likely have circled as opportunities.

- The bye week feels like it is perfectly situated to best aid the Browns' rebuilding project in 2012. Following two brutal home games against the Chargers and Ravens, Cleveland will get some time to recoup before traveling to Big D and then hosting rival Pittsburgh. With nine games before and seven after, the off-week should give this team a halftime break that many other teams won’t enjoy.

Fantasy Focus: Trent Richardson is creeping into the back-end of the first round, and while I love his raw talents and upside long term, there will be plenty of growing pains early in his rookie year. The same goes for Weeden too. See the first six games of the season about six paragraphs up from here.

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Cleveland Browns 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFC, NFC East, NFL
Path: /nfl/dallas-cowboys-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Dallas Cowboys 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 Dallas Cowboys Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The season will get started with a bang as Dallas visits the defending champs on Wednesday night in the New Meadowlands. It’s a return to the scene of the 2011 season finale where the Giants crushed the Cowboys' postseason hopes in a 31-14 dismantling that eventually propelled the G-Men to a Super Bowl championship.

- The home and road splits for the Cowboys might be the most intriguing of any team in the league for 2012. First, Dallas will start with back-to-back road games over 3,000 miles apart. Of course, having the 11 days between games helps. Second, from Week 6 to Week 10, the Cowboys will play four road games in five weeks, including road trips to Baltimore, Atlanta and Phily. In fact, of Dallas’ first nine games, six will be played away from Cowboys Stadium.

- The script will be flipped in the second half, however, as Dallas gets plenty of home cooking after Week 9. The Cowboys will play five of their final seven games in Jerry’s Palace in Arlington. This slate includes brutal playoff-type games against Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Philadelphia as well as two rivalry games with Washington. This lopsided home-road slate seems unique to the Cowboys. Can we start the Roger Goodell is trying to get Dallas into the playoffs conspiracy talk?

- Within the NFC, the East will square-off with the South. Road trips to Carolina and Atlanta will be intriguing tests as both feature stellar quarterback play. Getting the Saints at home in Week 16 could easily decide a Wild Card spot as both should be fighting for a playoff berth. Tampa at home in Week 3 will be a welcome sight as it will be the home opener in 2012.

- In crossover play with the AFC, the Cowboys — and the rest of the East — catch no breaks by facing the AFC North. Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are all playoff teams from a year ago and Cleveland should be improved. The road trip to Baltimore in early October follows the bye and could be a classic bout while heading north to Cincinnati in December is always tricky. After surviving the elements in Cincy, the Cowboys welcome perennial Super Bowl contender Pittsburgh to town.

- The bye week, while possibly earlier than most coaches would prefer in Week 5, offers a perfect two-week prep time for one of the nastiest five-week stretches in all of the NFL. Dallas will play four road games in five weeks immediately following the off week. Oh, and the lone home game in that stretch? A visit from the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.

- The two floating games will be the road trip to Seattle and a primetime Monday night affair with Chicago. The Bears game could have long-reaching Wild Card implications while the road trip to Seattle will be a rematch of that infamous Tony Romo botched field goal.

Fantasy Focus: The home-road schedule is easily the biggest thing that stands out about the Cowboys' 2012 slate. If the 'Boys struggle in the first half, don't be scared to buy low as five of the final six games of the fantasy season (not counting Week 17) will be played on the fast track of Cowboys Stadium.

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Baltimore Ravens, NFL
Path: /nfl/baltimore-ravens-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Baltimore Ravens 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Cincinnati (Mon.)
Week 2: at Philadelphia
Week 3: New England
Week 4: Cleveland (Thur.)
Week 5: at Kansas City
Week 6: Dallas
Week 7: at Houston
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Cleveland
Week 10: Oakland
Week 11: at Pittsburgh
Week 12: at San Diego
Week 13: Pittsburgh
Week 14: at Washington
Week 15: Denver
Week 16: New York Giants
Week 17: at Cincinnati

Order your 2012 Baltimore Ravens Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The first three weeks of the 2012 season will be difficult for the Ravens to say the least. The year gets cranked up with a primetime Monday night affair with playoff team and division rival Cincinnati before a road trip to Phily and a home game against the New England Patriots. All three passing games should challenge the young corners and aging safeties of the Ravens. The good news? Three of the first four games of the year will come at home.

- Within the division, the Ravens' slate is somewhat unorthodox. Two of the first four games of the year will be home division games to be played on days other than Sunday. The Bengals' opener is on Monday night while the Week 4 contest against Cleveland is on Thursday night. That creates a very quick turn around after having to battle Tom Brady. It also means that four of the final six divisional games will be on the road, including the season finale against the Bengals. The season series with arch-rival Pittsburgh will also be intriguing. These two play some of the best games each and every year and Baltimore will face the Steelers twice in three weeks as the calendar flips to December. Making matters worse is a long road trip to San Diego slapped in between the two AFC North bouts.

- In NFC play, the Ravens will face the NFC East, creating more than one interesting match-up. The road game against the Eagles will be tough sandwiched between two key AFC contests. The Cowboys will come to town in mid-October. Baltimore also gets to welcome the defending Super Bowl champs to town in Week 16. And lastly, an inter-regional battle along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway should be fun for both fan bases. There are more than plenty juicy storylines in this round robin.

- In the AFC, Baltimore will play the AFC West this year. A raod trip to Kansas City and a home test against Oakland look like wins for the Ravens. The Broncos game at M&T Bank could be a Wildcard showdown in Week 15. And the extremely taxing cross-country trip to visit the always tricky Chargers is amplified by the fact that the Ravens must face the Steelers the week prior to and following the trip to San Diego. Both divisional rotations should provide some fireworks for the Ravens.

- The two floating games in 2012 are about as brutal as possible. New England and Houston could be considered the two favorites in the AFC this season and both are eyeing first-round byes. And Baltimore will have to face both — one at home (NE, Week 3) and one on the road (HOU, Week 7). Luckily, the Ravens get a much-needed off week following the trip down to Houston. In fact, the Week 8 bye falls nearly perfectly in the middle of the season and comes on the heels of one of the tougher seven-game stretches to open the season.

- Three of the last five games, all against major playoff contenders, will come at home.

Fantasy Focus: The Ravens DEF/ST used to be utterly unstoppable. While the unit has aged in recent years, it still will be one of the higher drafted DSTs of this year. But don’t bank on big numbers until after the bye week. Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub and Andy Dalton will all take aim at the Ravens' secondary in the first seven weeks. But after the break, the Ravens will have six straight quality match-ups to finish the fantasy regular season. Look to buy low with this unit at midseason.

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Baltimore Ravens 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 03:05
All taxonomy terms: New York Giants, NFC, NFC East, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

New York Giants 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Dallas (Wed.)
Week 2: Tampa Bay
Week 3: at Carolina (Thur.)
Week 4: at Philadelphia
Week 5: Cleveland
Week 6: at San Francisco
Week 7: Washington
Week 8: at Dallas
Week 9: Pittsburgh
Week 10: at Cincinnati
Week 11: Green Bay
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: at Washington
Week 14: New Orleans
Week 15: at Atlanta
Week 16: at Baltimore
Week 17: Philadelphia

Order your 2012 New York Giants Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- In the NFL, heavy is the head that wears the crown normally. Starting the year with two mid-week games in three weeks will likely keep the Giants from getting into any sort of normal rythmn until Week 4. Having said that, the defending Super Bowl champions start with a pretty easy slate. The first playoff team the G-Men will face will be an NFC title game rematch with the 49ers in Week 6. Even though the Cowboys and Eagles will be brutal NFC East tests, the Giants won’t face a team with a winning record from last year until that Week 6 game with San Francisco. A 4-1 start is almost all but certain.

- One of those primetime games early on is a road game against Cam Newton and the Panthers. The Giants will have a round robin with NFC South this year, giving the Giants a two back-to-back tough late season games against the Saints (home) and Falcons (road). Tampa Bay in the New Meadowlands should pose little problem to the nasty Giants front seven.

- Speaking of a tough way to end a season, the Giants have one of the nastiest finishes to 2012. After the bye in Week 12, the G-Men will face four playoff teams in six weeks to end the year. Toss in a road division game with the improved Redskins and home season finale against the Eagles, and the Giants will have their work cut out for them come December.

- Having to face the AFC North in crossover play offers few breaks as well. A home game against Cleveland is an easy win, but a November trip to Cincinnati and a December trip to Baltimore won’t be too kind to the Giants, on the field or on the Doppler radar. Mixed in is a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to make matters worse. Unfortunately for New York, the North appears to be the deepest and toughest division in the AFC.

- On the whole, the Giants will face seven teams that made the playoffs a year ago, including three of the four teams who earned byes a year ago. Additionally, the Giants will face 11 weekends in which the opposition posted at least a .500 record a year ago. Meaning, New York will face only four teams, the Redskins twice, with a losing record from 2011. And three of those five games will come in the first five weeks of the year.

- The Giants’ two floating games are tough tests as they are forced to play the top two seeds from the NFC a year ago. The Packers (home) and 49ers (road) were the best two teams in the regular season a year ago and could both be on bye in the first week of the playoffs again this fall. New York landed arguably the toughest floating schedule in the NFL. The Colts, for example, will face Cleveland and Kansas City in their extra two games while Oakland gets Miami and Jacksonville. As Super Bowl champs, fans should expect this type of challenge in 2012.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> New York Giants 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 03:05
All taxonomy terms: Bye Week, Fantasy, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/fantasy-football-2012-nfl-bye-week-cheat-sheet
Body:

The all-important bye week can make or break a fantasy football season.

Finding quality spot starters doesn't have to be just a last-minute, Sunday morning race to the waiver wire, either. A quality fantasy general manager plans well ahead of time for off weeks. And while I, personally, am willing to sacrifice one week loaded with byes in order to draft the best team for the other 16 weeks, most GMs will address the off week in the draft room.

In a move that I applaud, the NFL has decided to condense its off-week scheduling into a tighter eight-week window.

Order your preseason Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview magazine

2012 NFL Bye Week Schedule:

Week 1: None
Week 2: None
Week 3: None

Week 4: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh

Week 5: Dallas, Detroit, Oakland, Tampa Bay

Week 6: Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans

Week 7: Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego

Week 8: Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston

Week 9: New England, New York Jets, San Francisco, St. Louis

Week 10: Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Washington

Week 11: Minnesota, New York Giants, Seattle, Tennessee

Week 12: None
Week 13: None
Week 14: None
Week 15: None
Week 16: None
Week 17: None

2012 NFL Fantasy Rankings:

2012 Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 100

2012 Positional Rankings: QBs

2012 Positional Rankings: RBs

2012 Positional Rankings: WRs

2012 Positional Rankings: TEs

2012 NFL Schedule Analysis:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jacksonville Jaguars

New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Oakland Raiders

Indianapolis Colts

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012 NFL Bye Week Cheat Sheet</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 02:58
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-4
Body:

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

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/28-6/4):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Dexter Folwer* COL OF 13 2 8 3 .556 1.599
2. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 8 4 9 1 .500 1.531
3. Hanley Ramirez MIA SS/3B 6 4 6 1 .500 1.625
4. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 7 1 6 5 .320 .810
5. Michael Cuddyer COL 1/2/OF 8 2 9 1 .364 1.208
6. Curtis Granderson NYY OF 7 3 8 2 .286 .989
7. Mark Trumbo LAA 1/3/OF 6 3 7 1 .375 1.302
8. Justin Smoak* SEA 1B 7 3 8 0 .348 1.266
9. Carlos Quentin SD OF 5 3 7 0 .474 1.650
10. Willin Rosario* COL C 7 2 7 2 .318 .984
11. David Ortiz BOS UTL 5 3 7 0 .385 1.294
12. Darwin Barney* CHC 2B 6 2 5 1 .400 1.278
13. Mike Trout LAA OF 5 1 8 1 .385 1.138
14. Gordon Beckham* CHW 2B 5 3 8 0 .310 .954
15. Alejandro De Aza CHW OF 3 0 3 5 .421 .963
16. Josh Willingham MIN OF 5 2 8 0 .348 1.162
17. Marco Scutaro* COL 2B/SS 5 1 7 2 .320 .873
18. Miguel Cabrera DET 1B/3B 6 2 4 1 .355 1.117
19. Ty Wiggington* PHI 1/3/OF 4 2 8 0 .389 1.333
20. Joey Votto CIN 1B 6 1 4 0 .526 1.302
21. Hunter Pence PHI OF 7 2 4 1 .318 1.021
22. Paul Goldschmidt* ARI 1B 3 3 4 0 .455 1.475
23. Lucas Duda* NYM 1B/OF 4 3 8 0 .286 1.074
24. Justin Maxwell* HOU OF 5 2 5 0 .500 1.745
25. Kirk Nieuwenhuis* NYM OF 8 1 4 0 .400 .979

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Not Buying the Post-Hype

Justin Smoak and Gordon Beckham have been on fantasy sleeper lists for the last four or five seasons. And not once has it paid off for either of them. Both had excellenet weeks but I am not going anywhere near them. With options at both 1B and 2B a-plenty on the wavier wire, I would much rather take a risk with a player like Lucas Duda or Paul Goldschmidt. And while Darwin Barney and Marco Scutaro don't inspire greatness, I might lean that direction over Beckham too. I would watch list both and monitor the situation closely. Beckham, in the 2-hole for the White Sox, has a much better chance of performing than Smoak.

Colorado Avalanche

Dexter Fowler has avoided his dreaded yearly demotion and went directly to fantasy production. He can contribute in all five categories - especially with his ability to get extra base hits in that big park. And the Rockies offense has really taken off of late. Todd Helton has a nine-game hitting streak, CarGo is raking, Michael Cuddyer has delivered all season and names like Scutaro and Willin Rosario have started to produce. This team always has solid fantasy options, and when scouring the waiver wire, there are much worse places to look for help than Denver, Colo. If you are in backstop trouble, Rosario might be a must add. Fowler should already be rostered and Helton is a solid option if you are desperate at 1B.

The Farm Update

Names to keep an eye on who have either been called-up already or will be joining the big league ranks soon: San Diego switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, Seattle flame-throwing reliever Stephen Pryor (2.1 IP, 4 K, ER thus far), Arizona's future ace Trevor Bauer, Dodgers outfielder Alex Castellanos (2/5, 2 RBI in debut) and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo should all be fantasy contributors in the second half of the season.

DL Watch

- Brian McCann took a pitch off the knee and is questionable for Tuesday's game against Miami.

- Adam Jones is still battling with his wrist issue but it doesn't seem to have affected him much while Nick Markakis landed on the 15-day DL on Friday with a hand injury.

- Dustin Pedroia still hasn't played since May 28 but has yet to land on the DL. At first, his thumb injury didn't seem too serious, yet a trip to the DL might still be in the cards.

- Alejandro De Aza didn't play Sunday due to an illness and is questionable for Tuesday's game against Toronto.

- Carlos Santana is on the 7-day DL and should begin a Class A rehab stint on Monday — which could get him back onto the field by Tuesday.

- Aramis Ramirez is questionable for Tuesday's game against his former club the Cubs with a quad issue. Ryan Braun is also dealing with both a hip and Achilles issue and is also listed as questionable for Tuesday.

- Desmond Jennings is set to return to the field on Tuesday for the Rays against the Yankees.

- Joe Mauer is questionable for Monday's game against Kansas City with a thumb problem.

- It is doubtful he will miss the start but King Felix Hernandez is questionable for his Wednesday start against the Angels.

- Edwin Encarnacion is questionable for Tuesday's game against the White Sox with a wrist issue.

- Jemile Weeks is questionable with his own hip injury.

- Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp both landed on the 15-day DL last Thursday.

- According to the official Tigers website, Alex Avila, Joaquin Benoit and Gerald Laird are all questionable for Tuesday's game against the Indians.

- Santiago Casilla is dealing with a knee injury as Sergio Romo has picked-up a pair of vulture saves. It doesn't seem to be too serious.

- Huston Street has begun his Class A rehab assignment and could return to the closer's role in San Diego sometime this weekend.

- JJ Putz is questionable this week with an illness...and a sore neck...and control issues.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. R.A. Dickey NYM 23.1 3 30 0.39 0.69
2. Chris Sale CHW 23.1 3 29 1.16 0.69
3. Johan Santana NYM 24.1 2 22 1.48 0.78
4. James McDonald PIT 21.0 2 21 0.86 0.81
5. C.J. Wilson LAA 20.0 2 17 0.45 0.75
6. Dan Haren LAA 21.0 2 23 1.29 1.00
7. Brian Matusz* BAL 19.2 2 21 2.29 0.92
8. Homer Bailey* CIN 15.0 2 11 1.80 0.67
9. Gio Gonzalez WAS 17.2 2 24 2.55 1.13
10. A.J. Burnett* PIT 12.1 2 9 0.00 0.97
11. Matt Cain SF 21.2 3 19 2.49 1.20
12. Jonathon Niese* NYM 18.2 2 22 2.41 1.12
13. Felix Doubront* BOS 18.1 2 22 2.95 1.04
14. Matt Harrison* TEX 21.2 3 14 2.49 1.11
15. Madison Bumgarner SF 21.2 1 28 2.91 1.06
16. Shaun Marcum MIL 20.0 2 22 3.60 1.00
17. Felipe Paulino* KC 18.1 2 18 1.47 1.31
18. Mike Leake* CIN 18.2 2 17 2.41 1.12
19. Cole Hamels PHI 22.2 2 22 3.57 1.06
20. Adam Wainwright STL 21.1 2 17 3.38 0.98

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. James McDonald, PIT: Kansas City (Sat.)
Was the No. 4 starter in the game over the last two weeks and will get a start against the Royals.

2. Homer Bailey, CIN: Pittsburgh (Tues.)
When he gets hot, he is very useful. He's won three straight with 18 Ks and only 3 BBs.

3. Edwin Jackson, WAS: NY Mets (Wed.)
Has allowed three or fewer earned runs in five straight starts.

4. Bud Norris, HOU: St. Louis (Wed.)
Was scortching hot until last start (9 ER) with four total ER in five previous starts. Lots of Ks.

5. Philip Humber, CHW: Houston (Sun.)
Gets two starts this week, including a home games against lowly Astros.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Aroldis Chapman CIN 14.2 2 5 27 3 0.00 0.48
2. Fernando Rodney TB 14.0 1 8 13 0 1.29 0.79
3. Ernesto Frieri LAA 14.1 0 4 30 3 0.00 0.84
4. Craig Kimbrel ATL 9.0 0 7 14 0 0.00 0.33
5. Santiago Casilla SF 13.2 1 10 11 1 1.32 1.17
6. Jim Johnson BAL 12.1 0 9 6 0 1.46 0.57
7. Joel Hanrahan PIT 12.0 1 10 12 0 2.25 1.08
8. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.0 2 4 14 1 0.90 0.80
9. Nate Jones* CHW 18.0 3 0 20 2 1.50 0.94
10. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 5 16 0 0.75 0.75
11. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.0 0 9 15 0 3.18 1.00
12. Heath Bell MIA 13.0 2 9 10 2 3.46 1.31
13. Tyler Clippard* WAS 10.2 0 4 15 4 0.84 0.56
14. Chris Perez CLE 9.2 0 7 12 0 1.86 0.83
15. Sergio Romo* SF 8.2 1 2 15 6 1.04 0.46
16. Jonathan Broxton KC 12.0 0 8 7 0 1.50 1.17
17. Jake McGee* TB 10.2 2 0 12 3 0.84 0.75
18. Scott Atchison* BOS 16.1 0 0 13 2 0.00 0.80
19. Rafael Soriano NYY 10.0 0 7 10 2 1.80 1.10
20. Jason Motte STL 13.1 2 4 9 0 3.38 0.98

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 4</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 02:30
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Indianapolis Colts, NFL
Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Indianapolis Colts 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 Indianapolis Colts Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The Chosen One will begin his NFL career by facing two of the great pass rushers of this generation in Julius Peppers and Jared Allen. The odds of Andrew Luck having ever faced anything close to those two in the Pac-12 is slim and none. Chicago is about as bad a match-up for an NFL debut as there is in the league this year. Best of Luck, rook.

- There is good news, however, as the Vikings have little else around Allen to scare Luck, Jacksonville sits in Week 3 and the bye week comes quick in Week 4. Facing the Jags and Vikes when he does, followed by an off week to catch his breath, should help ease Luck into his first NFL season — if he survives the law firm of Urlacher, Peppers, McClellin, Tillman and Briggs in Week 1. Additionally, Luck, and the rest of the young Colts, will need that bye to prepare for the Packers’ and Jets’ complicated 3-4 defenses in Week 5 and 6.

- Having to face the Houston Texans twice each season will be brutal for the new regime in Indy, especially, as both games fall within the final three weeks of the regular season. But the other four games within the division are winnable. Jacksonville poses no real threat and the Titans, as fans saw last year, can be beaten by the Colts even without Peyton Manning. If Indianapolis doesn’t want the worst record in football again, it will have to win a couple of games within the AFC South.

- Playing the AFC East offers its own unique challenge, like visiting Tom Brady and the Patriots in November. But getting Buffalo and Miami at home is a blessing and the Jets have a tendency to play up (or down) to their competition. A 2-2 record in round-robin action with the East wouldn’t be all that crazy, a statement that if made a year ago would be asinine.

- Indianapolis got no favors by having to face the NFC North this fall. The defenses, other than Chicago, aren’t exactly stifling, but offensively this could be arguably the best division in football. With potentially three teams making the playoffs, the Colts are likely to finish 1-3 against the NFC. As stated, the season starts with two NFC North teams and Green Bay comes to the Oil Drum in Week 5. Not until Week 13 do the Colts finally visit Detroit to take on quarterback Matthew Stafford and a potent Lions' offense.

- The two floating games within the AFC are also an added bonus for the rebuilt Colts organization. Cleveland visits Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 7 and Indy will travel to Kansas City in Week 16. Both would certainly be considered winnable games at this stage of the summer.

- As an interesting side note, Luck and the Colts will face 10 straight quarterbacks who were drafted in the first round to start the season (assuming that Jake Locker is in the line-up by Week 8). Strangely enough, the best two teams in the AFC, the Patriots and Texans, will feature two signal callers not drafted in the first round.

Fantasy Focus: If you are drafting Andrew Luck, or any other rookie from the Colts for that matter, be patient, even more so than usual. The first month of the season is going to be brutal for Luck, but the schedule eases up as the year goes along. Expect Luck to be owned in most leagues by the halfway mark as he is slated to play Cleveland, Tennessee, Miami and Jacksonville in four straight during the heart of the off weeks. And, honestly, there is only one elite defense on the schedule after Week 7, Houston (twice).

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Indianapolis Colts 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 1, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Oakland Raiders, NFL
Path: /nfl/oakland-raiders-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Oakland Raiders 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: San Diego (Mon.)
Week 2: at Miami
Week 3: Pittsburgh
Week 4: at Denver
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at Atlanta
Week 7: Jacksonville
Week 8: at Kansas City
Week 9: Tampa Bay
Week 10: at Baltimore
Week 11: New Orleans
Week 12: at Cincinnati
Week 13: Cleveland
Week 14: Denver (Thur.)
Week 15: Kansas City
Week 16: at Carolina
Week 17: at San Diego

Order your 2012 Oakland Raiders Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Fans have to go back to 2007 to find the last time that Week 1 on the NFL season didn’t end with an AFC West Monday night divisional showdown. The Raiders will begin the season on primetime TV as the second Monday night game by hosting the San Diego Chargers. As a fan without a dog in the hunt, I am a huge proponent of the late night West Coast divisional battles to wrap-up the season’s first weekend. The last three have been decided by one touchdown or less with a grand total of 14 points separating victory from defeat.

- Strangely, the Raiders won’t face the Chargers again until the season finale as San Diego bookends the Black and Silver this year. After the Chargers visit Denver in Week 4 and Kansas City in Week 8, the Raiders won’t face an AFC West foe until Week 14. Three of the final four games, however, will come against divisional opponents: Denver (home), Kansas City (home) and San Diego (road). Since there is no dominate team in the West this year, Oakland merely needs to hang around .500 until the final quarter-leg of the season — where it could win a division crown with a few upsets.

- Maintaining an even win-loss record will be impeded by the round robin with the AFC North. Having to visit Baltimore and Cincinnati in November is never an easy task and hosting Pittsburgh early in the year certainly poses a big challenge. Cleveland at home in Week 13 is the only “easy” game in the bunch. A 2-2 record against the North would likely be looked upon as a big success.

- In crossover play, the Raiders will face the NFC South. But this shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as facing the AFC North. New Orleans is reeling and could struggle on defense this year and has to face Oakland on the road. Tampa Bay makes one of the longest trips in the NFL when it comes to the Bay Area. And the road trip to Carolina is a flip of the coin. A trip to Atlanta looks like the only sure loss in the group.

- Oakland will play a road game every other week of the season until the final five weeks. In Week 13 the Raiders will begin a three-game homestand, something most teams will not have in 2012, when it hosts Cleveland, Denver and Kansas City. The Denver game comes on a short week on a Thursday and likely led to the schedule makers giving Oakland three straight at home. To compensate, the NFL has forced the Black and Silver to play back-to-back road games to end the year. A 3,000-mile trip to face Cam Newton in Carolina won’t be easy and a quick jaunt down to San Diego to finish the year could carry heavy implications.

- The bye week comes at an opportune time between two road games against excellent quarterbacks in Denver and Atlanta. With the Steelers’ game leading into the battle with Peyton Manning, the bye week should fall at just the right time for the new coaching staff following what should be two brutally physical contests.

- A road trip to Miami and a home game against Jacksonville are the two floating games on the slate this year. That has to have Raiders fans excited about their chances to compete for a wild-card berth.

Fantasy Focus: Here is some advice for owners targeting Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore or Carson Palmer: Don’t give up on your guys. The first month will be tough with games against four quality defenses before the off week. But with Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Carolina and Kansas City left after Week 7 (if Run DMC can survive), the Raiders' fantasy options should have solid second halves. 

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Oakland Raiders 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 1, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Philadelphia Eagles, NFL
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Cleveland
Week 2: Baltimore
Week 3: at Arizona
Week 4: New York Giants
Week 5: at Pittsburgh
Week 6: Detroit
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Atlanta
Week 9: at New Orleans (Mon.)
Week 10: Dallas
Week 11: at Washington
Week 12: Carolina (Mon.)
Week 13: at Dallas
Week 14: at Tampa Bay
Week 15: Cincinnati (Thur.)
Week 16: Washington
Week 17: at New York Giants

Order your 2012 Philadelphia Eagles Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- It is a good thing the bye week comes when it does for the Eagles. Philadelphia will face a six-game run that will rival any in the NFL in 2012: NY Giants, at Pittsburgh, Detroit, Atlanta, at New Orleans and Dallas. If you are counting at home, that stretch features five playoff teams from a year ago not to mention three of the last four Super Bowl champions. And the Cowboys were one game away from winning the NFC East a year ago. Thankfully, the bye falls directly in the middle of that brutal run for the Eagles. They are going to need it.

- The Eagles will play three non-Sunday games this season with a pair of showcase games. A Monday nighter at New Orleans could carry wild card implications. A Week 15 Thursday nighter against Cincinnati should also feature two teams fighting for a playoff bid. But the one to circle is the Week 12 Monday night contest against Carolina. Anytime Michael Vick and Cam Newton are on the field together, it’s must-see TV.

- Two of those non-Sunday contests are against the NFC South — the division the NFC East has to face in round-robin competition this fall. Carolina provides a primetime QB showcase while Phily could be fighting with the Saints and/or Falcons for a wild card playoff berth. The Bucs should also be improved this fall as well.

- In AFC play, the East will have the unenviable task of facing the AFC North this fall. It might be the deepest and toughest division in the AFC, so having to face three playoff teams from a year ago won’t be easy for Vick and company. The season gets started with a road trip to Cleveland. Getting Baltimore and Cincinnati at home is a nice break, but traveling to Pittsburgh isn’t. Some small comfort can be taken from facing the Browns and Steelers within the first five weeks — when the weather in Ohio and Pennsylvania shouldn't be too terrible.

- Within the NFC East, a division that could be completely wide open in 2012, Philadelphia will face only the NY Giants before Week 10. This means the Eagles will face five divisional opponents in the last eight games of the season. It starts with three divisional games in four weeks, including both games against the rival Cowboys. If Andy Reid wants to challenge for a division title, he likely needs to go 2-1 in that span. Additionally, the season will end with back-to-back NFC East games, including a season finale road test in the Meadowlands to battle the Super Bowl champs. This is a cannibalistic division that tends to beat on itself. This season should be no different.

- Home-road splits are negligible in 2012 for the Eagles. They will play consecutive road games only once (Week 13-14) and will play consecutive home games twice (Week 15-16 and Week 6-8).

- The two floating games on the Eagles' schedule this fall will be Arizona (road) and Detroit (home). Former Eagle Kevin Kolb could still be the Cardinals' starting quarterback in Week 3 when Phily visits the desert. Both are winnable contests. 

Fantasy Focus: The fantasy playoffs looks pretty comfortable for any owners with Eagles players. The postseason opponents will be some combination of Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Washington. This adds some value to the LeSean McCoys and Jeremy Maclins of the world. If your league uses Week 17, knock them down a peg since Phily visits the Giants in the season finale.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC South, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Tampa Bay Bucs 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Carolina
Week 2: at New York Giants
Week 3: at Dallas
Week 4: Washington
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Kansas City
Week 7: New Orleans
Week 8: at Minnesota (Thur.)
Week 9: at Oakland
Week 10: San Diego
Week 11: at Carolina
Week 12: Atlanta
Week 13: at Denver
Week 14: Philadelphia
Week 15: at New Orleans
Week 16: St. Louis
Week 17: at Atlanta

Order your 2012 Tampa Bay Bucs Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The toughest part of the Bucs' 2012 schedule has to be the round robin with the NFC East. While there are some question marks about Dallas’ and Phily’s ability to push for a postseason bid, there is no doubting their ability to compete. The East has three quality teams and an improving Redskins squad that now features Robert Griffin III. In fact, the season begins with a home game against Carolina before three straight NFC East games. The brutal back-to-back NFC East road games — at NY Giants, at Dallas — in Weeks 2 and 3 will be virtually impossible for Josh Freeman and company.

- The NFL has condensed the bye week schedules into a smaller window than normal in 2012. The Buccaneers’ off-week comes at the second-earliest possible date in Week 5. This could have multiple effects on a new coaching staff and young roster. The early bye will give the new coaching staff and first-time NFL head coach a chance to regroup after the first month of the season — especially, considering the tough first four weeks of the season. This could be great news for Greg Schiano. This also means his youthful team must play 12 straight contests to end the year. It won’t allow for any injury recovery time after September and all major adjustments or position battles will have to be played out on the field.

- The overall difficulty of the Bucs' slate, at least at this point of the summer, seems to pale in comparison to most NFL schedules in 2012. Within the NFC, there is no Green Bay, San Francisco, Detroit or Chicago on the docket. The Buccaneers will also miss New England, Houston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Buffalo, Tennessee, Cincinnati and the Jets in the AFC. If only one team from the NFC East and AFC West make the playoffs, the Bucs could face as few as three playoff teams in 2012.

- The crossover AFC schedule includes road trips to Oakland and Denver with home dates against Kansas City and San Diego. Those cross-country trips are magnified when played at altitude and for a team based in Florida. A 2-2 record would likely be considered a big success in interconference play.

- The Bucs will start with two of their first three games on the road and will finish with three of their last five (and two of three) on the road. So while the beginning and end of 2012 might be extremely tricky, the middle should provide some opportunities for success. Over a seven-week span (Weeks 4-10) Tampa will play only two road games, gets the bye week and plays four home games. Finishing its away slate against Peyton Manning (Week 13),  Drew Brees (Week 15) and Matt Ryan (Week 17), however, will be tough.

- The two floating games for the Bucs will feature two very winnable games. Tampa Bay gets St. Louis at home in Week 16 and visits Minnesota on a Thursday evening thriller in Week 8. For a team that won a total of four games a year ago, these two contests should be circled for Greg Schiano.

Fantasy Focus: Following the bye week, the Bucs have a tasty run of average to below average defenses which could provide some sneaky value. If you need a bye week spot starter, the Bucs might be a solid place to look as they will face Kansas City, New Orleans, Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego and Carolina in successive weeks. Only the Chargers, and to a lesser extent possibly the Raiders, offers any semblance of defensive prowess.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 02:59
All taxonomy terms: New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Washington
Week 2: at Carolina
Week 3: Kansas City
Week 4: at Green Bay
Week 5: San Diego
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at Tampa Bay
Week 8: at Denver
Week 9: Philadelphia (Mon.)
Week 10: Atlanta
Week 11: at Oakland
Week 12: San Francisco
Week 13: at Atlanta (Thur.)
Week 14: at New York Giants
Week 15: Tampa Bay
Week 16: at Dallas
Week 17: Carolina

Order your 2012 New Orleans Saints Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Joe Vitt is the interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2012, but he won’t officially begin his stint on the sidelines until after his own six-game suspension is over. The Saints will have to tackle the Packers and Chargers in their first six, but otherwise, face four beatable opponents (WAS, CAR, KC, TB). If the Saints get Vitt back sporting a 4-2 mark, Who Dat nation might be postseason bound. The bye week coming during the interim’s interim should also help the coaching staff adapt.

- Vitt and company better get work done early in the 2012 season because the second half, and more specifically the final month, will provide brutal tests. Three of the final five games will be on the road, including road trips to division rival Atlanta, the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants and into Jerry’s Palace to battle the Cowboys. Only once will the Saints have back-to-back home games all season — Weeks 9 and 10 against the Eagles and Falcons.

- The NFC East will be the intra-conference round robin for the NFC South. The season gets started with a visit from Robert Griffin III and the Redskins while Michael Vick brings the Eagles to town for a Monday night showdown to start November. Finally, the Saints have the misfortune of having to face both the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys on the road — both within the final four weeks of the regular season.

- The intriguing aspect to the Saints divisional slate in 2012 is how spaced out the schedule is. Not one time will New Orleans face back-to-back divisional opponents this fall. It does have to face division favorite Atlanta twice in a four-week span, packaged around a long road trip to Oakland and a visit from the 49ers. It wraps-up NFC South play facing Tampa and Carolina at home in the final three weeks of the season (sandwiched around a trip to Dallas). This could be the Saints' saving grace if it expects to compete for a division title in 2012.

- The Saints' schedule as a whole looks extremely difficult — as if Roger Godell would have it any other way. But a three-week stretch from Week 12 to 14 could make or break the Saints' playoff hopes this season. After facing Atlanta at home and visiting Oakland, the Saints will have to host San Francisco (Week 12), visit Atlanta four days later (Week 13) before heading north to East Rutherford to take on the Super Bowl Champs (Week 14). Yes, the Falcons will have a short week to prepare for the Thursday night bout with the Saints, but visiting the Bucs the Sunday before will be slightly less strenuous than battling with Jim Harbaugh’s hard-hitting defense.

- In crossover play, the NFC South faces the AFC West in 2012. There are no elite teams out west in the AFC but each has a chance to be improved from a year ago. Kansas City at home is the closest thing to a sure-fire win, but trips to Denver and Oakland won’t be easy. When New Orleans travels to Denver to face the Broncos in Week 8 it will mark the first time that Peyton Manning will face the Saints since tossing his infamous interception in the Super Bowl XLIV loss to Drew Brees and company.

- The two floating games for the Saints couldn’t be tougher — and have to be the toughest of any team in the league. Brees will have to visit Lambeau Field for the second straight season in Week 4 and will host the 49ers in Week 12. Those were the two best teams in the stacked NFC a year ago and likely will have the best records in the conference again in 2012.

- Will any defense face more athleticism at the quarterback position than the Saints? Aaron Rodgers, Vick, RG3 and Cam Newton (twice) will get their crack at the reworked New Orleans defense. Toss in both Mannings, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan twice, and Carson Palmer and the Saints secondary appears to be in for a long season this fall. 

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-29
Body:

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

Patience is a virtue. Those who have bided their time with first basemen Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau and outfielder Nelson Cruz have seen their fantasy teams rewarded. Getting Pujols for dirt cheap may never happen again, so if you want to go after the historic slugger, now is the time. His price is rising by the day.

Cruz has the ability to completely dominate the fantasy world when hot – and that Nelson Cruz is so hot right now.

And don't look now, but the White Sox outfield is a pretty good place to find fantasy support if your lineup needs a boost.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/21-05/28):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Melky Cabrera SF OF 11 2 8 3 .414 1.245
2. Paul Konerko CWS 1B 10 3 10 0 .536 1.567
3. Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 8 4 10 0 .524 1.868
4. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 7 2 6 3 .448 1.122
5. Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 8 3 9 0 .429 1.341
6. Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 8 3 8 1 .370 1.285
7. Albert Pujols LAA 1B 6 4 8 1 .357 1.227
8. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 6 3 11 1 .320 1.106
9. Alex Rios* CWS OF 8 3 9 1 .286 1.012
10. Michael Brantley* CLE OF 6 0 6 4 .409 .935
11. Dayan Viciedo* CWS OF 6 3 10 0 .357 1.093
12. Justin Morneau* MIN 1B 7 4 10 0 .250 1.017
13. Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 7 3 8 0 .348 1.247
14. Jeff Francoeur* KC OF 5 3 4 1 .478 1.457
15. Dexter Fowler* COL OF 6 2 4 1 .533 1.630
16. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 8 2 5 1 .333 1.127
17. Yadier Molina STL C 3 2 9 0 .417 1.107
18. Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 4 2 7 0 .400 1.087
19. Starlin Castro CHC SS 3 2 6 2 .308 .923
20. Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 8 1 2 1 .385 1.038
21. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 3 2 5 2 .333 1.083
22. Quintin Berry* DET OF 6 0 2 3 .360 .869
23. Bryce Harper WAS OF 6 2 4 0 .391 1.220
24. Tony Gywnn Jr.* LAD OF 4 0 6 3 .308 .616
25. David Freese STL 3B 7 2 4 0 .350 1.181

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Outfield Help

Of the Top 25 hitters from last week, 13 of them were outfielders. But most importantly, eight of those 13 are owned in 70% or less of Yahoo! leagues. If you need power Dayan Viciedo, who has been hitting seventh behind Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski, should be able to provide some pop — and some ribeye steaks as well. Rios and Jeff Francoeur are what they are but have the ability to deliver over short periods of time — only if you can handle the 2-for-23 runs that generally follow suit. 

I would be more interested in the "post-hype" names on this list, Dexter Fowler and Colby Rasmus. Fowler is playing at a high fantasy level currently and should be one of the top OF adds this week. Rasmus might need to prove it for another 7-10 days before I give him a shot. 

For what it is worth, I picked-up Viciedo this morning over all other OFers on this list.

DL Watch

- I can't make this up. Brewers stud catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who is hitting .345, was sent to the DL after breaking his hand on his own luggage. While searching for a sock under his hotel bed, his wife somehow managed to drop the suitcase on his hand. It is broken and he will miss 4-to-6 weeks. 

- Jered Weaver has provided the biggest fantasy scare of the week thus far after leaving his Monday start after throwing to just four Yankees. After 12 pitches, the Angels ace left with "excruciating lower back pain." He will have an MRI Tuesday and a trip to the DL is uncertain. It certainly didn't look good. Especially, considering CJ Wilson is questionable for his June 2 start against Texas.

- Roy Halladay is questionable for his June 2 start against Miami. This one is very concerning as his shoulder soreness has led the Phillies' ace to get an examination after lasting only two innings on Sunday. He is having one of his worst seasons, so fantasy owners' worries should be warranted.

- Freddie Freeman is questionable for Tuesday's game against the Cardinals with an eye issue. He missed Monday's game because of vision problems and Atlanta doesn't seem too optimistic about his long-term availability. Apparently, he cannot make tears. 

- Dustin Pedroia is doubtful for Tuesday's game against Detroit with a thumb issue. The two-sacker left Monday's game with a jammed right thumb, but it doesn't appear to be serious enough to warrant a DL trip. He could miss a few games, however.

- Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera is doubtful for Tuesday's start against Kansas City. He is day-to-day due to tightness in his left hamstring. Those are tricky to nail down. The Indians need the shortstop's bat now that catcher Carlos Santana is on the seven-day DL with concussion issues.

- The brittle David Freese had a great week over the last seven days but is questionable for Tuesday's game with a wrist injury. 

- Matt Kemp has begun his Triple-A rehab assignment and could be back as early as Tuesday. The A's Yoenis Cespedes also went 1-for-3 and played left field in his rehab stint and should be back this week as well while pitcher Brandon McCarthy could return to the mound June 2 against the Royals. The Mets' Jason Bay has been DHing and will soon play the field in an effort to return to the Flushing this weekend. 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CWS 19.2 3 28 0.92 0.76
2. Gio Gonzalez WAS 20.0 3 29 2.25 0.80
3. R.A. Dickey* NYM 20.1 2 29 1.77 0.74
4. Kevin Millwood* SEA 20.0 2 14 0.45 0.65
5. James McDonald PIT 20.2 2 24 1.74 0.82
6. Josh Beckett BOS 21.2 2 19 1.25 0.88
7. Justin Verlander DET 17.0 1 19 1.06 0.59
8. Cole Hamels PHI 23.0 3 23 2.74 0.96
9. Andy Pettitte* NYY 15.0 2 17 1.20 0.87
10. C.J. Wilson LAA 17.2 2 15 1.02 0.96
11. Dan Haren LAA 15.2 1 19 1.72 0.70
12. Kyle Kendrick* PHI 22.0 1 12 1.23 0.77
13. Chris Capuano LAD 19.1 2 19 2.33 0.93
14. Adam Wainwright STL 20.2 2 12 1.31 1.06
15. Brandon Beachy ATL 21.0 1 18 2.14 0.90
16. Felix Doubront* BOS 17.2 2 22 2.55 1.19
17. Clayton Kershaw LAD 16.0 1 10 1.12 0.88
18. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 13.1 2 9 2.02 0.90
19. Johan Santana NYM 22.0 1 19 2.45 1.00
20. J.A. Happ HOU 18.1 2 20 1.47 1.42

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Chris Sale, CWS: Seattle (Sun.)
The stud Sox youngster has rebounded perfectly after a short injury scare. Struck out 15 hitters on Monday against Tampa and should dominate the Mariners this weekend.

2. Ryan Dempster, CHC: San Diego (Wed.)
Might not be on your wire, but has yet to win a game in 8 starts. This is his best chance yet.

3. Trevor Cahill, ARI: at San Diego (Sun.)
Is walking too many people (12 in his last five starts) but has been solid of late. Will face one of worst offenses in the league.

4. Ubaldo Jimanez, CLE: Minnesota (Sat.)
Has been very wild but if any match-up will get him back into the swing of things, it will be against the Twins.

5. Gavin Floyd, CWS: Seattle (Sat.)
Got shelled the last three outings but has nice 8.0 K/9 and 3.18 K/BB ratio thus far. Will face lowly Mariners at home.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 16.2 1 10 17 0 1.08 0.84
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.2 2 3 23 3 0.00 0.44
3. Santiago Casilla SF 14.1 1 10 13 0 1.26 1.05
4. Chris Perez CLE 12.1 0 10 15 0 1.46 0.73
5. Jim Johnson BAL 13.2 0 9 8 0 1.32 0.51
6. Jason Motte STL 12.1 2 5 10 0 2.19 0.73
7. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.1 2 5 15 2 1.74 0.97
8. Joe Nathan TEX 11.0 0 6 14 0 0.82 0.64
9. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 14.0 0 2 26 4 0.64 0.71
10. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 8 12 0 2.45 1.09
11. Tyler Clippard* WAS 11.2 0 3 15 5 0.77 0.51
12. Jake McGee* TB 12.0 2 0 13 4 0.75 0.67
13. Nate Jones* CWS 15.0 2 0 16 2 0.60 1.00
14. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 11.1 0 7 15 0 3.18 0.88
15. Brett Myers HOU 11.2 0 8 9 0 2.31 1.03
16. Craig Stammen* WAS 18.1 1 0 18 1 1.47 0.82
17. Casey Janssen* TOR 10.1 0 4 8 1 0.00 0.68
18. Brian Fuentes* OAK 11.1 1 4 7 1 1.59 0.79
19. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.2 0 6 20 0 3.06 1.08
20. Jordan Walden* LAA 12.1 2 0 12 4 0.73 0.89

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 29</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:10
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Denver
Week 2: NY Jets
Week 3: at Oakland
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Philadelphia
Week 6: at Tennessee (Thur.)
Week 7: at Cincinnati
Week 8: Washington
Week 9: at NY Giants
Week 10: Kansas City (Mon.)
Week 11: Baltimore
Week 12: at Cleveland
Week 13: at Baltimore
Week 14: San Diego
Week 15: at Dallas
Week 16: Cincinnati
Week 17: Cleveland

Order your 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The Steelers will face the NFC East in 2012 and that delivers no favors for the Steelers. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, while Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington are no easy outs. The East could be second only to the NFC North in terms of depth in a loaded NFC this fall. To top it off, Pittsburgh must face the top two contenders in the East — Dallas and New York — on the road.

- Within the conference, the Steelers will play the AFC West. While it isn’t the strongest division in the AFC, it could end up as the most balanced. The most intriguing match-up will take place in Week 1 when Pittsburgh returns to the scene of the crime in Denver. Now led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos will face a Steel Curtain defense that is sure to test the reconstructed neck of No. 18. Pittsburgh’s season was infamously ended in overtime at the hands of Tim Tebow last year and fans can bet that every member of the Steelers' organization will be ready to compete right out of the gate — which will be a good thing for a team likely picked to win the division.

- The NFL has squeezed the bye weeks into a smaller window over the last few years, starting them later and ending them sooner. But the Steelers will get the first bye week available after playing three AFC games in 2012. Generally speaking, most teams would want the bye to fall as close to Week 8 or 9 as possible to split the season evenly — or just before or just after a key stretch of the schedule. That said, the Steelers are trying to get Rashard Mendenhall back into the line-up and the early bye week could give him one extra game played. The bye week also could benefit the team if there are any growing pains with Todd Haley’s new offensive system that need to be ironed out after three weeks.

- The division slate is very interesting. First, the two games with the rival Baltimore Ravens will take place within a three-week span between Week 11 and Week 13 — generally, the most difficult area of any NFL schedule — sandwiched around another division road game against the Browns. The division crown will likely be decided in that three-week period of time. Second, the Steelers won’t face a divisional opponent until Week 7 when they visit Cincinnati, meaning six of the final 11 games will be within the division. Lastly, the final two weeks of the season will feature two home division games against the Bengals and Browns.

- Notably absent from the 2012 Pittsburgh schedule are what could be considered the top two teams in the AFC, New England and Houston. Missing the rival Patriots and rising Texans could play a huge role in two ways come seeding time for the playoffs. Head-to-head tie-breakers will not be applicable for first-round byes between what will likely be considered the top three teams in the conference.

- Home-road splits are intriguing with this team. Pittsburgh will be forced to play four of its first six games on the road — against four teams that were at least .500 a year ago nonetheless. The flipside of that equation, of course, is finishing the 2012 campaign with three of the last four at home – including back-to-back home divisional games against Cincinnati and Cleveland. An interesting twist comes from Week 6 to Week 9, when the Steelers will have three brutal road games (TEN, CIN, NYG) in four weeks which begins with a short week of preparation for a Thursday night road trip to Tennessee.

- The two floating games will be a home game against the Jets in Week 2 and a road trip to the Tennessee Titans in Week 6.

- As a completely meaningless side note that matters very little to the outcome of anything, Pittsburgh will begin its 2012 season against Denver, the team that drafted Tim Tebow, followed by the Jets, the team that currently employs Tim Tebow.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Minnesota
Week 2: Houston
Week 3: at Indianapolis
Week 4: Cincinnati
Week 5: Chicago
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at Oakland
Week 8: at Green Bay
Week 9: Detroit
Week 10: Indianapolis (Thur.)
Week 11: at Houston
Week 12: Tennessee
Week 13: at Buffalo
Week 14: New York Jets
Week 15: at Miami
Week 16: New England
Week 17: at Tennessee

Order your 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The season won’t get started easily for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He will have to face fierce pass rushes from Houston, Cincinnati and Chicago all within the first five weeks of the season before reaching the bye. The Colts and Vikings do offer some respite, but both of those games will come on the road. It feels like 0-5 and 1-4 heading into the bye week while 2-3 would be considered a windfall.

- The Jags will need that bye when it comes around in Week 6. They will have faced some powerful defenses in the first month and then have two brutal road trips following their off week. First, they travel 3,000 miles to Oakland before heading north to face Green Bay in Lambeau in the first two games following the bye. Just to make sure they are tested, Matt Stafford and Megatron come to town the next week.

- The NFC North is the cross-over division Jacksonville will face in 2012 and it could be the top division in a loaded NFC. Three playoff teams could come from this group this fall, including what many consider the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in the Packers. The only comfort? The Jags get Detroit and Chicago at home and Minnesota on the road. Green Bay is a loss either way, so it might as well come on the road. All four NFC North games will take place in the first half of the season, giving the Jags eight straight AFC foes to end the year.

- The intraconference division Jacksonville will face this season is the AFC East. One excellent team, two quality teams and one improving squad makes for another tough draw for the Jags. The real bizarre story line, however, for Jacksonville’s round robin with the AFC East is the timing. Jacksonville will play all four teams from the East in four consecutive weeks starting in Week 13 — on the heels of playing three straight divisional games. The most intriguing story line here, obviously, includes a visit from local legend Tim Tebow. The Jets visit the largest metro area in the lower US in Week 14. Expect a hero’s welcome for No. 15. It could be the biggest crowd of the year for the Jags as they will likely to have to remove some tarps to accommodate the Tebow fanatics.

- Speaking of division play, the Jags will be in a fierce battle with the Colts to see who won't finish last in the AFC South. The intriguing aspect to the Jags' schedule is the peaks and valleys. They will play back-to-back games within the division in Weeks 2 and 3 and won’t face another AFC South team until Week 10 — where they will face three straight. Following their strange four-game run against AFC East teams, Jacksonville will wrap-up 2012 on the road against the Titans.

- The really nice aspect of the Jaguars' schedule are the home and road splits. The 2012 slate is extremely balanced from this perspective as Jacksonville will alternate home-road games over the first four weeks and the final seven weeks of the season. It is a small comfort that it will play back-to-back road games only one time all season long — Week 7 and 8 following the bye week.

- Jacksonville will visit Oakland and host Cincinnati in their two floating games of the year. Not deadly, but not easy either.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 02:59
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-14
Body:

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

As I stated last week, we will no longer analyze the current season-to-date Top 25 players will instead look at the Top 25 hitters and pitchers based on last week. This way, each week you fantasy owners know exactly who are the hottest players in the game. This comes with a warning label, however, in the form of Joey Votto. 

Votto had the fifth-best week of any hitter in baseball over the last seven days. Votto has been solid, walking a ton (31 BB in 113 AB so far) and has been hitting for average (.296 before yesterday). But after his 4/5, 3-HR, 6-RBI, 4-R day agains the Nats, he finished last week as the No. 5 hitter in the game. He had three runs, no homers and two RBI in the first six days of the week. 

So while this chart can certainly tell you excatly who to target on the waiver wire, it can also deceive from time to time. The lesson? Do your homework before dropping, adding or trading players.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/17-05/13):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB AVG OPS
1. Josh Hamilton TEX OF 10 9 18 0 .467 1.962
2. Carlos Beltran STL OF 8 6 13 0 .360 1.648
3. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 9 1 7 1 .500 1.313
4. Josh Reddick* OAK OF 7 3 8 1 .417 1.375
5. Joey Votto CIN 1B 7 3 8 1 .429 1.586
6. Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 8 2 9 1 .393 1.205
7. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 5 3 6 1 .524 1.600
8. Rafael Furcal STL SS 4 1 3 2 .667 1.506
9. Allen Craig* STL 1B/2B/OF 5 4 9 0 .348 1.318
10. Elvis Andrus TEX SS 10 0 4 1 .419 1.002
11. Raul Ibanez* NYY OF 5 4 8 0 .353 1.539
12. Will MIddlebrooks* BOS 3B 6 3 9 0 .308 1.126
13. David Wright NYM 3B 6 1 7 0 .481 1.258
14. Nick Markakis BAL OF 4 3 7 1 .333 1.240
15. Elliot Johnson* TB 2B/SS 5 1 3 2 .500 1.279
16. Ryan Braun MIL OF 6 2 3 1 .429 1.348
17. Brandon Inge* OAK 2B/3B 3 3 12 0 .286 1.080
18. Danny Espinosa* WAS 2B 4 2 5 2 .304 1.012
19. Adam LaRoche* WAS 1B 4 2 7 0 .450 1.477
20. Jemile Weeks* OAK 2B 4 0 0 4 .389 .920
21. Melky Cabrera SF OF 5 1 4 0 .500 1.288
22. Austin Jackson DET OF 7 0 2 2 .364 .919
23. Roger Bernadina* WAS OF 3 2 5 2 .286 .967
24. Andy Dirks* DET OF 5 1 4 0 .500 1.304
25. Mike Trout* LAA OF 4 1 5 1 .421 1.184

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Middle Infield Help

If you needed MI help this week, or next, you should have plenty of options on your waiver wire. Allen Craig, Elliot Johnson, Brandon Inge, Danny Espinosa and Jemile Weeks all boast some sort of middle infield eligibility and all had Top 25 weeks. Most importantly, all of them are owned in less than 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Weeks and Craig are less likely to be available and both have the most long-term potential. But while Evan Longoria is on the shelf, Johnson has some intriguing value as he can contibute across the stat box and has the coveted "2B/SS" moniker.

Espinosa might be the top name to watch, however. He likely has the most raw talent and nearly got to the 20/20 mark a year ago (21/17). He will never help your team's batting average, but there is no weakness in his counting stats. Just be prepared for streaky ups and downs.

DH or No DH

Keep an eye on your DHs out there as Interleague play begins this week. There are some names out there who will either A) lose at-bats because they cannot help the team enough in the field or B) will gain eligibility somehow (fingers-crossed David Ortiz owners). Other platooners who need more at-bats in the NL could find some easy plate appearances as a DH. Keep your eyes peeled.

DL Watch

- Uber-star Matt Kemp has a tweaked hamstring and many believe (and want) to see him protected from himself with a quick DL stint. Kemp himself refuses to admit he will visit the DL. As the top player in the game, fans need to keep a close eye on this one. A week or two off doesn't seem like a bad idea.

- Arizona OF Chris Young is expected to start his Class A rehab this week. Keep a close eye on the young Diamondback.

- Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes is going to miss a few weeks after finally being placed on the 15-day DL with his broken hand.

- The Braves' Chipper Jones is questionable with "soreness." This may be the case for the rest of his swan song.

- The Cubs placed closer-turned-set-up man Carlos Marmol on the DL with a hamstring issue. Am I the only one that has "conspiracy theory" flashing in bright lights in the back of my head?

Rickie Weeks is questionable with a hand and wrist issue after missing a few games. That isn't the only thing wrong with the .158 hitter.

- Scott Rolen was placed on the DL over the weekend with a shoulder injury.

- Outfielder Dexter Fowler is questionable this week with an eye injury.

- The Royals Mike Moustakas missed a couple of games with a hamstring issue, but it doesn't appear to be serious.

- The Halos' Dan Haren is questionable for his Monday start against Oakland.

- The Mets' Ike Davis missed some time with an illness but should be back while Jason Bay's rehab is taking longer than expected — also with an flu-like illness.

- Erik Bedard is questionable for his May 16 start against Washington with a back issue.

- The Nationals' Wilson Ramos appears to be out for the season with a brutal knee injury.

As far as pitching goes, to accurately analyze who is hot and who is not, all pitchers need to be graded on an equal playing field. We will use every two weeks to breakdown the mound, since most every starter in the game will get three starts in every two week period of time. It makes for a very interesting Top 25:

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of the last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Carlos Zambrano* MIA 23.0 1 21 0.39 0.87
2. Brandon Morrow TOR 15.0 2 18 0.60 0.73
3. Jeff Samardzija* CHC 19.2 2 20 1.37 0.86
4. Scott Diamond* MIN 14.0 2 10 0.00 0.71
5. Chris Capuano LAD 14.0 2 10 0.64 0.64
6. Bud Norris* HOU 18.2 2 19 1.45 0.96
7. James McDonald* PIT 22.0 2 25 2.05 1.05
8. Brandon McCarthy* OAK 13.2 2 14 0.66 0.88
9. Justin Verlander DET 21.0 2 21 2.57 0.90
10. CC Sabathia NYY 16.0 2 15 1.13 0.94
11. Cole Hamels PHI 21.0 2 19 1.71 1.05
12. Paul Maholm* CHC 13.0 2 7 0.69 0.69
13. Matt Cain SF 21.0 1 22 2.14 0.90
14. Lance Lynn STL 17.2 2 20 2.55 1.02
15. Felix Hernandez SEA 22.2 1 25 1.99 1.10
16. Max Scherzer* DET 13.1 1 18 2.03 0.83
17. Johnny Cueto CIN 16.0 1 9 0.56 0.81
18. Brandon Beachy ATL 19.1 2 13 2.33 0.93
19. Jason Vargas SEA 14.1 1 11 1.26 0.77
20. Joe Blanton PHI 15.2 1 13 2.30 0.70

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Ervin Santana, LAA: Oakland (Tues.)
Coming off three quality starts in a row. Also gets the Padres on Sunday.

2. Doug Fister, DET: Minnesota (Thur.)
Has been excellent since returning from the DL and faces lowly Twins.

3. Max Scherzer, DET: at White Sox (Tues.)
Has 18 Ks and 2 BBs in last two starts. Also gets the Pirates on Sunday.

4. Colby Lewis, TEX: Kansas City
Two poor starts in a row (12 ER) but had 12 Ks against Orioles last time out.

5. Ryan Vogelsong, SF: Oakland (Sat.)
Two earned runs allowed in last 14.1 IP. Gets Oakland this weekend.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of the last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Pedtro Strop* BAL 15.0 3 2 16 3 1.20 0.80
2. Fernando Rodney TB 14.0 1 7 14 0 0.64 1.07
3. Jim Johnson BAL 12.0 0 8 9 0 0.75 0.67
4. Chris Perez CLE 11.0 0 10 8 0 2.45 0.82
5. Brett Myers HOU 11.2 0 8 7 0 1.54 0.69
6. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 11.0 0 8 13 0 2.45 0.82
7. Wilton Lopez* HOU 16.2 2 0 15 3 1.62 0.60
8. Santiago Casilla SF 12.0 0 7 9 0 1.50 0.83
9. Kenley Jansen LAD 12.2 0 3 19 6 0.71 0.79
10. Darren O'Day* BAL 14.2 2 0 16 2 1.23 0.75
11. Alexi Ogando* TEX 13.0 1 0 12 3 0.00 0.46
12. Aroldis Chapman CIN 11.2 1 0 20 2 0.00 0.69
13. Craig Kimbrel ATL 10.0 0 8 19 0 3.60 1.30
14. Jose Arredondo* CIN 11.2 2 0 17 0 1.54 0.69
15. Jason Motte STL 10.2 1 4 11 0 1.69 0.84
16. Logan Ondrusek* CIN 10.2 2 1 8 3 0.00 0.75
17. Robbie Ross* TEX 13.2 4 0 10 1 2.63 0.95
18. Steve Cishek* MIA 11.0 4 0 13 1 2.45 1.27
19. Rafael Betancourt COL 10.0 1 4 11 0 2.70 1.00
20. Joe Nathan TEX 9.2 0 5 10 0 0.93 1.14

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Closing Carousel

Casey Janssen and Dale Thayer have been clean (so far) in their week-long stints as closers for Toronto and San Deigo respectively. Sergio Santos and Huston Street should be back at some time, but for now these two seem safe to use in your desperate chase for saves.

Brian Fuentes has been named the Athletics' closer. He has plenty of experience in the ninth inning but plays for a bad team and has been anything but a sure thing over the course of his career. Keep an eye on this one.

Frank Francisco got off to a great start finishing games for the Mets, but has been terrible — 5 ER in 0.2 IP in his last two outings — of late. Jon Rauch has experience and the inside track while Bobby Parnell has the whiff-stuff needed to close.

This has been easily the most volatile and unexpected year of the closer I can remember. Prices for formerly concerning names like Chris Perez and Jason Motte continue to rise. Owners are going to be waiver chasing or paying premiums this season. 

Keep this link handy as Athlon keeps its Closer Grid up to date all season long.

-by Braden Gall

 @bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 14</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-8
Body:

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

As we enter our second month of the 2012 season, these weekly rankings updates will switch gears a bit. Thus far, we have looked at the best players across the board for the season up until this point. Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton are still pacing the field and have justified thier lofty draft status. Yet, starting next week, we will only be ranking the best players of the week to show owners excatly what has taken place over the last weekend. So you Bryan LaHair and Jose Altuve owners will have one more list to gloat about...

Here are your current Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters:

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Matt Kemp LAD OF 29 12 27 2 .406 1.320
2. Josh Hamilton TEX OF 21 10 28 2 .376 1.138
3. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 22 7 26 5 .320 .998
4. David Ortiz BOS UTL 21 7 23 0 .380 1.128
5. Adam Jones BAL OF 23 8 17 5 .297 .917
6. Derek Jeter NYY SS 22 5 15 1 .397 1.034
7. Edwin Encarnacion TOR 1B/3B 17 9 25 4 .279 .931
8. Carlos Beltran STL OF 21 8 20 5 .280 .925
9. Starlin Castro CHC SS 15 1 19 11 .350 .825
10. Jay Bruce CIN OF 18 9 21 3 .298 .980
11. Ryan Braun MIL OF 18 9 19 4 .288 .974
12. Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 29 5 17 2 .287 .884
13. Rafael Furcal STL SS 22 2 15 6 .342 .905
14. Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 21 6 26 0 .291 .848
15. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 19 5 19 6 .287 .875
16. Bryan LaHair CHC 1B/OF 14 8 17 0 .388 1.279
17. Curtis Granderson NYY OF 20 9 18 0 .284 .973
18. David Freese STL 3B 14 7 26 0 .307 .933
19. David Wright NYM 3B 18 3 16 3 .374 1.031
20. Michael Bourn ATL OF 20 0 7 11 .333 .809
21. Andre Ethier LAD OF 15 6 30 0 .278 .880
22. Jose Altuve HOU 2B 18 2 13 5 .351 .920
23. Hunter Pence PHI OF 18 6 20 3 .267 .780
24. Jason Heyward ATL OF 17 4 13 9 .269 .849
25. Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS 20 5 19 4 .261 .750

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

DL Watch

-Ryan Zimmerman has been activated from the DL while Jayson Werth will miss roughly 12 weeks after having surgery on his broken wrist. I guess Bryce Harper isn't headed back to Triple-A ball anytime soon.

-Nolan Reimold continues to frustrate with solid numbers and missed at-bats. He landed on the DL with a bulging disc in his neck. He was hitting .313 with a .960 OPS and five homers in 67 ABs so he might be worth stashing if you have the space. 

-The Giant's Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, was hitting .316 when he broke his left hand. He had surgery and is supposed to miss at least four weeks.

-Josh Beckett is questionable for his start on May 9th against Kansas City.

-Brett Gardner is slated to make his rehab starts in Triple-A this week and could be ready shortly thereafter for the Yankees.

-Jemile Weeks is questionable for Tuesday's start after tweaking his groin injury recently. The A's two-sacker has struggled mightily this season thus far. 

-Cliff Lee is schedule to come of the DL on Wednesday against the Mets. BE SURE TO ACTIVATE HIM TODAY IF YOU HAVE TO!

- The Cardinals are supposed to welcome back Lance Berkman this weekend. Be sure to monitor closely and adjust your line-up accordingly.

-Kevin Youkilis is on the disabled list for the forseeable future. Will Middlebrooks might be the long-term solution at the hot corner for Boston.

-Scott Downs didn't last too long in the closers' role in L.A. He underwent an MRI on his knee on Sunday but the test showed little damage. He should be held back for a week and could be ready by the weekend.

-Justin Morneau has finally landed on the DL — again — with a wrist issue. The tendinitis is on his left wrist, the same one which needed stabilization surgery last September. He may never return to his AL MVP form.

-Desmond Jennings is questionable for Wednesday's game with a knee injury.

-Rueben Tejada is DLed with a quad injury for the near future. 

Current Top 20 fantasy starting pitchers:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Jered Weaver LAA 50.2 5 47 1.60 0.79
2. Lance Lynn STL 38.2 6 37 1.40 0.85
3. Felix Hernandez SEA 52.1 3 51 1.89 0.94
4. Jake Peavy CHW 45.1 3 39 1.99 0.75
5. Gio Gonzalez WAS 36.2 3 41 1.72 0.90
6. Johnny Cueto CIN 41.1 4 26 1.31 0.99
7. Stephen Strasburg WAS 38.0 2 38 1.66 0.84
8. Jason Hammel BAL 38.2 4 38 2.09 0.98
9. Matt Cain SF 45.1 1 40 2.38 0.73
10. Cole Hamels PHI 40.1 4 44 2.45 1.02
11. Justin Verlander DET 45.1 2 42 2.38 0.86
12. Ted Lilly LAD 32.0 4 21 1.41 0.88
13. Brandon Beachy ATL 39.0 3 27 1.62 0.95
14. David Price TB 38.1 5 35 2.35 1.12
15. Kyle Lohse STL 38.1 4 24 2.11 0.94
16. C.J. Wilson LAA 41.1 4 39 2.61 1.04
17. Chris Capuano* LAD 36.2 4 36 2.21 1.12
18. Brandon Morrow TOR 41.2 3 29 2.38 0.91
19. Madison Bumgarner SF 39.0 5 22 2.31 1.08
20. Matt Garza CHC 33.2 2 36 2.67 0.89

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Doug Fister, Detroit: at Oakland (Sat.)
Ho-hum seven scoreless innings on Monday debut off DL.

2. Carlos Zambrano, Miami: at NY Mets (Sun.)
Lowered ERA to 1.98 after complete game, three-hit shutout on Monday.

3. Eric Bedard, Pittsburgh: Washington (Wed.)
Posted 11 strikeouts against Cardinals last time out.

4. Jonathon Niese, NY Mets: at Miami (Sun.)
Has 29 Ks in 33.2 IP with five quality starts in six trips to the mound this year.

5. Ricky Nolasco, Miami: at NY Mets (Sat.)
Picked up fourth win on Monday, dropping ERA to 2.72 and WHIP to 1.11

Current Top 15 fantasy relief pitchers:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 13.2 1 9 12 0 0.66 0.66
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 14.2 2 0 25 3 0.00 0.61
3. Jim Johnson BAL 12.2 0 8 11 0 0.00 0.87
4. Steve Cishek* MIA 14.1 4 0 15 3 0.63 0.91
5. Alexi Ogando* TEX 15.2 1 1 16 6 0.57 0.38
6. Pedro Strop* BAL 17.0 3 2 15 2 1.59 1.00
7. Henry Rodriguez WAS 12.1 1 6 16 0 1.50 1.00
8. Robbie Ross* TEX 11.2 4 0 10 1 1.54 0.69
9. Kenley Jansen LAD 16.2 2 2 27 7 2.70 0.96
10. Chris Perez CLE 12.2 0 11 9 0 2.84 1.11
11. Duane Below* DET 13.1 2 0 9 0 0.00 0.60
12. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 12.0 0 9 13 0 3.00 1.00
13. Brett Myers HOU 8.2 0 7 6 0 1.04 0.58
14. Logan Ondrusek* CIN 13.1 2 0 11 3 0.00 0.83
15. Huston Street (DL) SD 9.2 0 4 13 0 0.93 0.52

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Closing Carousel

Heath Bell. Carlos Marmol. Jordan Walden. Javy Guerra. Huston Street. These are all highly-thought of closers who entered the season with the ninth inning in their hands. And for a variety of reasons, all of them are now sitting on the pine when the ninth frame rolls around.

Bell and Walden are likely to return to the closer role at some point in the near future. They are their teams best options and simply need to iron out the current control issues that have plagued each in the early going. For the time being, Steve Cishek will get the ninth in Miami while look for recently acquired Ernesto Frieri — and his 22 strikeouts in 13.2 innings — could be the sneaky pick-up out in Anahiem.

Marmol and Guerra may have a tougher time returning to the ninth inning. Marmol has been downright atrocious. He has blown two of his three save chances and has 15 walks in 10.2 innings. Look for Rafael Dolis and James Russell to get the call in the ninth inning. Guerra started hot but Kenley Jansen has way too much ability to keep in the eighth. Guerra and Marmol may never see the ninth inning again — at least, not in 2012.

Street, shockingly, went on the DL this weekend. Andrew Cashner, Dale Thayer and Luke Gregerson could all get chances to close while Street is out. Cashner has a closers' pedigree and strikeout stuff but has struggled with control thus far. Look for a day-to-day decision process for Bud Black.

Keep this link handy as Athlon keeps its Closer Grid up to date all season long.

-by Braden Gall

 @bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 8</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 13:27

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