Articles By Nathan Rush

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EAST
Washington, D.C.

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
Midwest
| South | West

Top Two
(1) Indiana Hoosiers (27–6, 14–4 Big Ten)
The preseason No. 1 team in the nation desperately wanted to be the top overall seed in this year’s Big Dance. That distinction would have meant playing in front of a home crowd in Indianapolis. But when the Big Ten regular season champs lost to Wisconsin, 68–56, in the Big Ten Tournament, IU lost its grip on its potential tickets to Indy.

Tom Crean boasts arguably the most talented team in the country, with high-flying wing Victor Oladipo, steady big man Cody Zeller, big shot taker Christian Watford and freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell highlighting a deep roster. This particular group of Hoosiers represents the renaissance of Indiana basketball. Anything less than the school’s ninth trip to the Final Four — and first since 2002 — will be considered a failure. And really, IU’s sixth NCAA title — its first since 1987 — is the unspoken expectation.

(2) Miami Hurricanes (27–6, 15–3 ACC)
The 2012-13 Canes are the undisputed greatest team in Miami basketball history after clinching both the ACC’s regular season and conference tournament titles — the latter coming with an 87–77 victory over traditional powerhouse North Carolina. These are uncharted waters for the Hurricanes, however, who are making just their sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament since rejoining the D-I ranks in 1985 and have just one Sweet 16 appearance (2000) to their credit.

While no one on the Miami roster has any NCAA Tourney experience, coach Jim Larranaga has five prior trips to the Big Dance under his belt — famously leading CAA Cinderella story George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. Larranaga has even more talent to work with this time around, with a balanced backcourt of Barry’s son Shane Larkin and New York City product Durand Scott, and a stacked frontcourt of 300-pounder Reggie Johnson and former Florida transfer Kenny Kadji.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(6) Butler Bulldogs
Coach Brad Stevens is making his fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six seasons at Butler. The 36-year-old has two runner-up finishes — coming a front-rimmed halfcourt shot away from beating Duke in 2010 — and an 11–4 record in the Big Dance. Not bad. Along with a brilliant coach, Butler also has the resume (wins over Indiana, Gonzaga and North Carolina) and big-time players (led by Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke) to advance to the second weekend of the Tourney.

Upset Watch

(12) California Golden Bears vs. (5) UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
While the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee always tries to avoid rematches, it was unable to break up the bracket with this first-round matchup. Berkeley lost to Vegas, 76–75, in early December this season. Now Cal gets its chance at revenge, playing in front of a presumably Bear-friendly crowd in San Jose. UNLV will have to overcome its own youth as well as a rematch in a hostile environment.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Mike Muscala, Sr., Bucknell Bison (11)
The 6’11”, 240-pound senior anchors the Bison on both ends of the floor, averaging a team-high 19.0 points per game, while cleaning up the glass to the tune of 11.2 rebounds, dishing out an underrated 2.3 assists and protecting the rim defensively with 2.4 blocks and countless altered shots in the paint. If Bucknell hopes to pull off a “Butler” against Butler, Muscala will be counted on to do the heavy lifting.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: East Region Preview, including the Indiana Hoosiers, Miami Hurricanes, Butler Bulldogs, California Golden Bears, UNLV Runnin' Rebels and Bucknell's Mike Muscala.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:18
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-south-region-preview
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SOUTH
North Texas

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| Midwest | West

Top Two

(1) Kansas Jayhawks (29–5, 14–4 Big 12)
After losing three straight games to start February, the Jayhawks won 10 of their next 11 contests to cap their regular season with a share of the Big 12 title and a statement victory over conference co-champion Kansas State, 70–54, in the Big 12 Tournament title game. The Kansas faithful are aiming to make their 15th trip to the Final Four and shooting for the fourth national championship for the alma mater of the game’s inventor and KU’s first coach, Dr. James Naismith.

Coach Bill Self has made two trips to the NCAA championship game — beating John Calipari and Memphis in overtime in 2008 and losing to Coach Cal’s Kentucky team last season. But Self has also failed to advance to the Sweet 16 three times while at KU, including back-to-back losses in the first round in 2005 and 2006. This year’s squad has the firepower to go the distance, led by potential No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick shooter Ben McLemore, senior shot-blocker Jeff Withey and senior point guard Elijah Johnson.

(2) Georgetown Hoyas (25–6, 14–4 Big East)
The Hoyas had hoped to “kiss Syracuse goodbye” after sweeping the Orange during the regular season, but instead lost to their longtime rivals, 58–55 in overtime, in the final conference meeting between the teams in the Big East Tournament. The loss was Georgetown’s second in four games after reeling off an 11-game winning streak from late January to early March.

John Thompson III has the luxury of coaching one of the top all-around players in the country in Otto Porter Jr., a 6’8” sophomore wing who has shown the ability to rise to the occasion when the pressure is on and the spotlight is brightest. Porter is talented enough to carry the Hoyas to their sixth Final Four. But he will need the help of veteran lead guard Markel Starks, forward Nate Lubick and freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera if JT3 hopes to match his father (1984) by winning the school’s second national title.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(5) VCU Rams
Giant slayer Virginia Commonwealth knocked off Duke under coach Anthony Grant in 2007 before going coast-to-coast from the First Four to the Final Four under current coach Shaka Smart in 2011. The Rams’ havoc is keyed by wings Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels, big man Juvonte Reddic and senior point guard Darius Theus. No team wants to play the perennial Cinderellas from Richmond, a team that changed coaches but not its NCAA Tournament results.

Upset Watch

(11) Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. (6) UCLA Bruins
Unfortunately for the crazier-than-ever Bill Walton, these Bruins’ disappointing season may end in the same one-and-done fashion that coach Ben Howland controversially speculated of star freshman Shabazz Muhammad. The Golden Gophers have a championship winning coach (Tubby Smith), brothers in the backcourt (Andre and Austin Hollins) and enough athletic wing defenders (Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe) to end Shabazz’s college career earlier than even Howland expects.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Nate Wolters, Sr., South Dakota State Jackrabbits (13)
The Summit League Player of the Year has been compared to none other than Steve Nash — who led Santa Clara to an upset over No. 2 seed Arizona in the 1993 NCAA Tourney. Wolters fills the stat sheet, averaging 22.7 points, 5.8 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Wolters will have a chance to show off his all-around game against Michigan’s National Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke, in a battle of two of the best point guards in the college game.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: South Region Preview, including the Kansas Jayhawks, Georgetown Hoyas, VCU Rams, Minnesota Golden Gophers, UCLA Bruins and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:16
Path: /college-basketball/2013-ncaa-tournament-midwest-region-preview
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MIDWEST
Indianapolis

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East
| South | West

Top Two

(1) Louisville Cardinals (29–5, 14–4 Big East)
The top overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Louisville earned the Big East Tournament championship with a 78–61 win over Syracuse. The victory was the U of L’s 10th straight and 13th in its last 14 games — with the only loss being an epic five-overtime defeat at Notre Dame in early February.

Clearly, coach Rick Pitino knows how to get the job done in March, having made six Final Fours with three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) and cutting down the nets after winning it all with Kentucky in 1996. With veteran guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith leading the way and defensive enforcer Gorgui Dieng down low, Louisville’s 10th trip to the Final Four — and maybe even its third NCAA title (1980, 1986) — could be in the Cards.

(2) Duke Blue Devils (27–5, 14–4 ACC)
Coach K’s team failed to win the ACC Tournament for only the fifth time since 1999, losing to mediocre Maryland, 83–74, for the second time in eight games. Duke’s up-and-down season has been highlighted by a No. 1 ranking in the AP top 25 and given a black eye by a 27-point loss at Miami in late January.

On the bright side, the Blue Devils are still coached by the greatest NCAA Tournament coach since John Wooden. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has four NCAA championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010) and 11 Final Four appearances. This year’s squad has an inside-out game built around big man Mason Plumlee and a plethora of spot-up shooters, including Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Quinn Cook — all of whom shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range and better than 80 percent from the free-throw line.

Related: Our best advice for your bracket pool

Sweet 16 Sleeper

(5) Oklahoma State Cowboys
Cowboy combo guard Marcus Smart joined Kevin Durant (2007) and Michael Beasley (2008) — both of whom went on to be the No. 2 overall pick in their respective NBA Draft classes — as only the third player ever to be named Big 12 Player of the Year and National Freshman of the Year in the same season. “Smart-acus” is joined by fellow blue chip recruit Le’Bryan Nash and guards Markel Brown and Phil Forte, giving coach Travis Ford a perimeter lineup that will be tough to match up with.

Upset Watch

(11) First Four winner (Saint Mary’s Gaels vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders) vs. (6) Memphis Tigers
Coach Josh Pastner has not been the wunderkind he was proclaimed as John Calipari’s replacement at Memphis. This season, the Tigers were 1–3 against teams that made the field of 68, with their only win coming against Ivy League champion Harvard, in a 60–50 contest that was much closer than the final score indicates. The winner of the Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee No. 11-seed play-in game will have an excellent shot at an obviously talented, athletic and underachieving Memphis squad.

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Cinderella Superstar

Doug McDermott, Jr., Creighton Bluejays (7)
The son of coach Greg McDermott is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate after a dominant junior season. The 6’8” Ames, Iowa, native — who was a high school teammate of former North Carolina star Harrison Barnes — averages 23.1 points per game on 56.1 percent shooting from the field, 86.0 percent from the free-throw line and an amazing 49.7 percent from 3-point range.

Related: All Athlon Sports 2013 NCAA Tournament content

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview, including the Louisville Cardinals, Duke Blue Devils, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Creighton's Doug McDermott.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:12
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR
Path: /nfl/20-athletes-who-retired-then-unretired
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Turns out, Tony Gonzalez is not retiring after all. Arguably the greatest tight end in history is returning to the Atlanta Falcons for the 2013 season, his 17th year in the NFL — despite previously being “95 percent” sure that 2012 would be his last season.

“I’m happy to say that after speaking with my family, I’m coming back,” Gonzalez said in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

“The lure of being on such a great team and organization, along with unbelievable fan support was too good to pass up.

“We have a great shot to get to the Super Bowl, RISE UP ATLANTA!”

Gonzo is the latest — but not the only and surely not the last — high-profile athlete to have one foot out the door before pivoting back to the pros for another run. These are the top 10 athletes to “unretire,” in order of the success they had upon their respective returns.

1. Michael Jordan
Retired: 1993, 1998, 2003
Unretired: 1995, 2001


“I’m back.”

His Airness uttered the most famous comeback line ever in 1995, when Jordan returned to the NBA following the first of three retirements. After playing minor league baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization, MJ jumped back onto the court to lead the Chicago Bulls to three more NBA championships and the greatest single-season record (72–10) in history.

Jordan walked away from the game again after hitting the championship-clinching final shot in the 1998 NBA Finals. But MJ couldn’t stay away, so he unretired again in 2001, playing two seasons with the Washington Wizards before finally retiring — for the final time? — as a 40-year-old.

“One day you may look up and see me playing a game at 50,” Jordan said during his infamous Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009. “Don’t laugh.”

2. George Foreman
Retired: 1977, 1997
Unretired: 1987


Following a life-altering, near-death experience in a loss to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico, Foreman took a decade off before making an historic comeback at 38 years old. The former champ more than held his own, going a full 12 rounds with Evander Holyfield as a 42-year-old in 1991 and becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in history after knocking out Michael Moorer as a 45-year, 299-day-old 250-plus-pounder in 1994.

3. Brett Favre
Retired: 2006 (kind of), 2008 (sort of), 2009 (maybe), 2011 (definitely)
Unretired: 2007, 2008, 2009


The undisputed king of the fake retirement, Favre became synonymous with indecisiveness to the point where Super Bowl commercials mocked his inability to make up his mind. Favre’s emotional final press conference as a Packer in 2008 was followed by a change of heart and a trade to the Jets. A sex scandal and retirement later, Favre was off to play for the Vikings, where he had one of his best seasons ever as a 40-year-old before being knocked out of the game for good.


4. Floyd Mayweather
Retired: 2006, 2008
Unretired: 2007, 2009


“Money” Mayweather returned to the ring in 2007 for a cool $25 million to fight Oscar De La Hoya — in a fight that set a new record for most pay-per-view purchases in boxing history, as 2.4 million households paid the price. Then, in 2008, Mayweather canceled a lucrative rematch with De La Hoya and “decided to permanently retire from boxing.” Floyd’s fought four times since, making an estimated $100-million-plus over that stretch. Imagine how much cash Mayweather could bag if he fought Manny Pacquiao?

5. Randall Cunningham
Retired: 1995, 2001
Unretired: 1997


One of the most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks of all-time, Cunningham retired as the scrambling Tecmo Bowl legend “QB Eagles,” then returned to post arguably his finest season in the NFL — throwing for 3,704 yards, 34 TDs and a 106.0 passer rating for the 15–1 Vikings in 1998.

6. Roger Clemens
Retired: 2003, 2006, 2007
Unretired: 2004, 2007, 2012


Just last season, a 50-year-old Rocket was pitching in the Independent League for the Sugar Land Skeeters, sparking speculation that the seven-time Cy Young Award winner would pitch again for MLB’s Houston Astros. Clemens was the ace of the short season, arriving in midseason form — at midseason — in his early-to-mid-40s for both the Astros and New York Yankees.

7. Mario Lemieux
Retired: 1997, 2006
Unretired: 2000


Super Mario retired due to back problems and a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis before throwing his hat back on the ice in December 2000. Following a 44-month retirement, Lemieux joined Gordie Howe and Guy Lafeur as the third Hall of Famer to play after being inducted. Lemieux won a gold medal as the captain of Team Canada at both the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

8. Mark Martin
Retired: 2006
Unretired: 2009


True, the ageless wonder never left the NASCAR track. But Martin did take a last lap in 2006, his supposed final season running a full-time schedule. Three years later, Martin was a five-time winner and Cup runner-up while racing full 36-race slate for the top team in the business, Hendrick Motorsports. Martin only ran 24 races last season and there is speculation that this will be the 54-year-old’s final race to the finish. But after a third-place finish at this year’s Daytona 500, it’s hard to believe Martin is going to park his car.

9. Pele
Retired: 1972, 1977
Unretired: 1975


A living legend, Pele stopped playing full-time for his Brazilian club Santos in 1972. The three-time World Cup champion came out of his quasi-retirement to play for the New York Cosmos in 1975, however, instantly becoming the face of the upstart NASL. Fittingly, Pele went out in style in an exhibition match between Santos and Cosmos on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1977.

10. Sugar Ray Leonard
Retired: 1982, 1987, 1991, 1997
Unretired: 1984, 1988, 1991, 1996


A detached retina started a string of retirement-comebacks for Sugar Ray, who won the WBC middleweight title belt from Marvin Hagler in 1987 to highlight his many moves in and out of the ring. His last few bouts had mixed results, as he defeated Roberto Duran to take a 2–1 career lead over the Panamanian in 1989, then lost to Terry Norris in 1991 and suffered a TKO to Hector Camacho as a 40-year-old in 1997.

11. Deion Sanders
Retired: 2000, 2005
Unretired: 2004


At 37 years old, Prime Time returned to the gridiron to team up with good buddies Ray Lewis and Ed Reed as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Once the fastest man in the NFL, Deion wore No. 37 to remind opponents just how old he was. In two seasons, Sanders hauled in five INTs for 144 yards and his ninth career pick-six.

12. Ricky Williams
Retired: 2004, 2011
Unretired: 2005


After leading the NFL in carries in back-to-back seasons and failing a few drug tests, Ricky went up in smoke — retiring from football after earning both an NFL rushing title and Heisman Trophy. Williams served a suspension, studied yoga and played a little ball in Canada before returning to the league, where he posted an 1,100-yard, 11-TD season in 2009 but never regained his All-Pro pre-retirement form.

13. Ryne Sandberg
Retired: 1994, 1997
Unretired: 1996


After struggling to stay healthy and hitting a combined 14 home runs during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, Sandberg hung up his spikes and sat out the 1995 season. The 1984 NL MVP returned in 1996, however, hitting 25 HRs and 92 RBIs as a 36-year-old in 1996 and taking one last trot around the bases in 1997 before retiring — for good this time.

14. Magic Johnson
Retired: 1991, 1996
Unretired: 1996


After retiring from the NBA due to HIV in 1991, Magic was named MVP of the 1992 NBA All-Star Game and won a gold medal as a member of the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But he didn’t officially return to the NBA until 1996, when Johnson played 32 games, primarily as a power forward, averaging career lows in points (14.6 ppg), rebounds (5.7 rpg) and assists (6.9 apg).

15. Justine Henin
Retired: 2008, 2011
Unretired: 2010


A seven-time Grand Slam champion, Henin retired while ranked No. 1 in the world and set to return to the French Open, where she was the three-time defending champion heading into the 2008 event. She returned to the courts in 2010, but a brutal elbow injury suffered at Wimbledon derailed the comeback attempt and ended a brilliant career.

16. Lance Armstrong
Retired: 2005, 2011
Unretired: 2009


The seven-time Tour de France winner — results that have since been voided due to a steroid scandal that finally caught up with the yellow-bellied yellow jersey-wearing cyclist and cancer survivor — probably wishes he hadn’t come back in 2009. After finishing third and 23rd in the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France, Armstrong peddled away from the sport in 2011 but ultimately couldn’t outrace his past.

17. Reggie White
Retired: 1999, 2001
Unretired: 2000


The Minister of Defense played 13 consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Eagles and Packers before retiring following the 1998 season. The 2000’s were not as kind to the gentle giant, as White managed a career-low 5.5 sacks — just the third single-digit sack total of his NFL career — during his solo season with the Panthers.

18. Bjorn Borg
Retired: 1983, 1993
Unretired: 1991


The 11-time Grand Slam winner grew his hair out long like the old days and grabbed a wooden racket nearly a full decade after leaving the courts. But the Swede was ill-prepared for the comeback, failing to win a single set in his first nine matches back.

19. Bob Cousy
Retired: 1963, 1970
Unretired: 1970


The Houdini of the Hardwood spiked ticket sales in Cincinnati as a 41-year-old player-coach, suiting up for seven games at the end of the 1970 season — averaging an un-Cousy-like 0.7 points and 1.4 assists while sharing the court with legends such as Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas.

20. Muhammad Ali
Retired: 1979, 1981
Unretired: 1980


Two of Ali’s five career losses came during a comeback effort that, in hindsight, may have contributed to the current physical state of the boxing icon who famously could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” during his prime. Back-to-back losses to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick proved disastrous in both the short and long term for Ali.

Teaser:
<p> 20 Athletes Who Retired Then Unretired, including Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, George Foreman, Roger Clemens, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Mark Martin, Sugar Ray Leonard, Deion Sanders, Reggie White, Ryne Sandberg, Randall Cunningham, Mario Lemieux, Lance Armstrong, Bob Cousy, Bjorn Borg, Pele, Ricky Williams, Magic Johnson and Justine Hennin.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 14, 2013 - 17:45
Path: /mlb/top-20-mlb-prospects-world-baseball-classic
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The 2013 World Baseball Classic starts March 2, with round robin pool play getting the party started for the 16-team international tournament won by Japan in both 2006 and ’09. The championship round runs from March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Until then, many of the world’s top players will be going head-to-head from Tokyo to Miami.

Here’s a rundown of the top 20 MLB prospects playing in the WBC this time around.


Top 10 WBC Prime Prospects
These twentysomethings are players who are either working their way up an MLB farm system or making big enough waves internationally that they could make the jump to the bigs sooner rather than later.

Player, Pos., Country
Ht., Wt., Team, Age
2012 Statistics


1. Jose Abreu, 1B, Cuba
6-2, 258, Cienfuegos, 26
Cuban NL: .394, 35 HR, 99 RBI, 1.379 OPS


The Cuban slugger’s combination of plate discipline and power have drawn comparisons to both Miguel Cabrera and Barry Bonds. If his 2011-12 season wasn’t awesome enough, his age 24 year in 2010-11 produced a .453 average, 33 HR and a 1.583 OPS. Abreu has been hyped as the “best offensive weapon on the planet.”

2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Netherlands
6-3, 185, Boston Red Sox, 20
A-AA: .307, 20 HR, 81 RBI, .896 OPS


The Red Sox top prospect is the most exciting shortstop the farm system has seen since Hanley Ramirez. The X-man leads a loaded Dutch lineup that also includes Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Schoop as well as veteran Andruw Jones.

3. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Canada
6-6, 225, Pittsburgh Pirates, 21
A-AA: 9–8, 3.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 116-142 K-IP


The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is one of the Pirates’ co-aces of the future, along with 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole.

4. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Japan
6-2, 205, Rakuten, 24
JPPL: 10–4, 1.87 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 169-173 K-IP


Now that Yu Darvish is stateside, Tanaka is the ace of the Land of the Rising Sun. His 2012 season was a down year compared to 2011, when Tanaka went 19–5 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.875 WHIP and 241 strikeouts in 226.1 innings.

5. Alfredo Despaigne, OF, Cuba
5-8, 214, Granma, 26
Cuban NL: .326, 36 HR, 105 RBI


Another Cuban power hitter, the diminutive Despaigne homered off Stephen Strasburg in the 2008 Olympics and has twice set the HR record in Cuba — with 32 in 2008-09 and then 36 jacks in 2011-12, breaking the record held by last year’s AL Rookie of the Year runner up Yoenis Cespedes.

6. Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Netherlands
6-1, 195, Baltimore Orioles, 21
AA: .245, 14 HR, 56 RBI, .710 OPS


Schoop can scoop anywhere in the infield, providing dynamic defense from short, second or third. That versatility will come in handy for Holland.

7. Andre Rienzo, RHP, Brazil
6-3, 190, Chicago White Sox, 24
A-AA-AAA: 7–3, 2.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 113-103.1 K-IP


The ace of Barry Larkin’s Brazilian beisbol club has pitched well since being suspended 50 games for a positive PED test.

8. Jose Berrios, RHP, Puerto Rico
6-0, 187, Minnesota Twins, 18
RK: 3–0, 1.17 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 49-30.2 K-IP


A teenage Puerto Rican prodigy who is mature for his age, Berrios those BBs over the plate.

9. Kenta Maeda, RHP, Japan
6-0, 161, Hiroshima, 24
JPCL: 14–7, 1.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 171-206.1 K-IP


Japan’s other ace, Maeda has a three-quarter delivery and excellent command of the strike zone.

10. Hayato Sakamoto, SS, Japan
6-1, 176, Yomiuri, 24
JPCL: .311, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 16 SB, .815 OPS


Bigger and stronger than Kaz Matsui, Japan’s best shortstop has downplayed his interest in MLB.


Next 10 WBC Prospects
Not quite in their prime, these prospects are either too old, too young or unlikely to defect or post.

11. Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Canada
6-7, 260, Philadelphia Phillies, 24

Potential closer of the future pitched 14.2 innings with a 3.68 ERA for the Phils last season.

12. Yulieski Gourriel, 3B, Cuba
6-0, 196, Sancti Spiritus, 28

Son of former National Team star, Lourdes, has been called the “Cuban Derek Jeter” but is unlikely to defect.

13. Frederich Cepeda, OF-DH, Cuba
5-10, 201, Sancti Spiritus, 32

One of the Cuban mainstays, Cepeda hit .500 with three HRs in 6 games and 24 AB in the 2009 WBC.

14. Alexei Bell, OF, Cuba
5-8, 187, Santiago, 29

Another usual suspect on Cuba’s National Team, Bell was the first player to hit 30 HR and 100 RBI in Cuba.

15. Seung-Yeop Lee, 1B, Korea
6-0, 210, Samsung, 36

“The Lion King” has still got it, crushing for .307, 21 HR, 85 RBI and a .966 OPS in Korea last season.

16. Shinnosuke Abe, C, Japan
5-11, 214, Yomiuri, 33

The big-hitting backstop mashed .340, 27 HR, 104 RBI and a .994 OPS in Japan last season.

17. Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP, Chinese Taipei
6-1, 198, Sanmin Senior High School, 18

Wanting to sign with an MLB team as soon as he can, Tseng’s game will be on display at the WBC.

18. Erisbel “Barbaro” Arruebarruena, SS, Cuba
6-0, 198, Cienfuegos, 22

A slick-fielding newbie to Team Cuba, “Barbaro” is a mystery man who could have baseball abuzz soon enough.

19. Tae-Kyun Kim, 1B, Korea
6-0, 220, Chiba Lotte, 30

A big hitter who shined in the 2009 WBC but has slipped of late, jumping from Korea to Japan professionally.

20. Kang Jung-Ho, SS, Korea
6-0, 180, Hyundai, 25

One of Korea’s rising stars for many years, Jung-Ho has come into his own and should shine in the WBC.


WBC Hall of Fame Five
These WBC alums were relative unknowns who have since evolved into high-paid MLB stars.

Yu Darvish, RHP, Japan
6-5, 216, Texas Rangers, 26
MLB: 16–9, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 221-191.1 K-IP

Served as the lights out closer on Japan’s second straight WBC championship team.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cuba
6-4, 205, Cincinnati Reds, 25
MLB: 5–5, 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 38 SV, 122-71.2 K-IP

An erratic yet charismatic lefty for Cuba was one of the top closer’s in MLB last year.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Cuba
5-10, 210, Oakland A’s, 27
MLB: .292, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, .861 OPS

A five-tool quick-twitch outfielder who carried the A’s to a longshot playoff berth.

Norichika Aoki, OF, Japan
5-9, 176, Milwaukee Brewers, 31
MLB: .288, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB

Japan’s best outfielder since Ichiro has not been a star but has been serviceable.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Korea
6-2, 255, Los Angeles Dodgers, 25

The rising MLB rookie was a horse for Korea’s gold medal-winning 2008 Olympic team.
 

Teaser:
<p> Top 20 MLB Prospects in World Baseball Classic, including Cuba's Jose Abreu, Netherlands' Xander Bogaerts, Canada's Jameson Taillon, Japan's Masahiro Tanaka, Cuba's Alfredo Despaigne, Netherlands' Jonathan Schoop, Brazil's Andre Rienzo, Puerto Rico's Jose Berrios, Japan's Kenta Maeda, Japan's Hayato Sakamoto, Canada's Phillippe Aumont, Cuba's Yulieski Gourriel and Korea's Seung-Yeop Lee.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 14:23
Path: /nfl/10-best-performances-nfl-scouting-combine
Body:

Millions of dollars were made at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where the top prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft ran, jumped, lifted and interviewed in the most important job interview of their lives. These are the 10 biggest money-makers with the best performances at this year’s Combine.



1. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
As expected, “KeKe” was on another level in shorts and a cutoff at the Combine. An “Underwear Olympics” gold medalist, Mingo (6’4”, 241) ran a 4.58 in the 40, skied for a 37” vertical and exploded for a 10’8” broad jump. The long and lean Bayou Bengal is a boom or bust prospect who could become a beast off the edge as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

2. Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma
A high school quarterback turned tight end turned high-rising first-round potential franchise left tackle, L.J. was arguably the most impressive athlete in Indianapolis. The 6’6”, 303-pound dancing bear had 35 1/4” arms and 10 1/8” hands, ran a 4.72 in the 40, had 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a 34” vertical and 9’10” broad jump.

3. Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
The Ghana native is a raw athlete who possesses arguably more untapped potential than any other pass-rushing prospect in this year’s class. At 6’5” and 271 pounds, Ansah ran a 4.63 in the 40 and had a 4.26 in the 20-yard shuttle, while also posting a 34.5” vertical and 9’10” broad jump.

4. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The “Eastern Block” from Estonia is a giant at 6’8” and 277 pounds. But he’s also a freakish athlete who posted a Combine-best 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, ran an eye-popping 4.60 in the 40, skied for a 34.5” vertical and 10’1” broad jump.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The mini-Mountaineer weighed in at just 5’8” and 174 pounds but showed off blistering speed, running a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash — the second-fastest time of the Combine, behind Texas wideout Marquise Goodwin’s 4.27.



6. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Carolina’s Cooper looked better in shorts than did his top guard competition, Alabama’s Chance Warmack. The big fella from Chapel Hill posted a powerful 35 reps of 225 on the bench and ran a 5.07 in the 40-yard dash — nearly a half-second faster than Warmack’s labored 5.49 in the 40.

7. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
In line to become the third Trufant brother to play on Sundays, Desmond helped his draft stock look more like Marcus (No. 11 pick in 2003) than Isaiah (Undrafted in 2006). The youngest Trufant ran a 4.38 in the 40, posted a 37.5” vertical, 10’5” broad jump and a respectable 16 reps of 225 for a 6’0”, 190-pounder cover corner.

8. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
FSU’s latest elite cornerback prospect, the X-man showed elite explosiveness with a 40.5” vertical leap and an unbelievable 11’ broad jump, while also displaying a size-speed combination worthy of a first-round pick — running a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at 6’1” and 210 pounds.

9. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
A height-weight-speed extraordinaire, Patterson stood tall at the Combine, running a 4.42 at 6’2” and 216 pounds. The one-and-done Volunteer and former JUCO star also had a 37” vertical and 10’8” broad jump en route to establishing himself as the top receiver in this year’s draft.

10. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
If the Golden Domer wasn’t already the top tight end prospect in the Class of 2013, he certainly is after putting on a show in Indy — running a 4.68 in the 40, ripping off 22 reps of 225, leaping for a 35.5” vertical and 9’11” broad jump, and slashing his way to a 4.32 in the 20-yard shuttle and 11.52 in the 60-yard shuttle.

 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Best Performances at the NFL Scouting Combine, including LSU's Barkevious Mingo, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, BYU's Ziggy Ansah, SMU's Margus Hunt, West Virginia's Tavon Austin, North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, Washington's Desmond Trufant, Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Tyrann Mathieu, NFL
Path: /nfl/tyrann-mathieu-draft-stock-rising-nfl-combine
Body:

"Honey Badger" don’t care. But Tyrann Mathieu has made an effort to show his commitment to football during the NFL Scouting Combine.

The former LSU cornerback and Heisman Trophy finalist has put his old persona behind him and attempted a fresh start after being suspended for the 2012 season due to various failed drug tests and arrests.

“My best friend right now is honesty,” said Mathieu. “I’m trying to be as open as possible because I want to rebuild that trust.”

The 5’9”, 186-pound nickelback and return specialist ran a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 34” vertical leap. Those were more than respectable numbers following a disappointing four-rep effort on the 225-pound bench press — which tied for worst among defensive backs.

Mathieu is still rocking his bleach-blonde Mohawk, and he wants NFL decision makers to know he is still the same playmaker who had six forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, two INTs and two punt return TDs as a Bednarik Award-winning, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-America cornerback and return specialist as a sophomore at LSU.

At the same time, he wants to make it clear that he’s not the same person he was when he was the seemingly too-big-to-fail “Honey Badger” character. He’s a changed man.

“I’ve been to rehab. I’ve been to counseling. I have a sponsor,” said Mathieu. “I’m surrounding myself with people who want to do what I want to do, which is be a football player. To go back down that road? Not a chance in the world. Not a chance in this lifetime.

“I’ve got to be the best person that Tyrann can be.”
 

Teaser:
<p> Former LSU cornerback and Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu had only four reps of 225 pounds on the bench press but he ran a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and interview well at the NFL Scouting Combine, improving his draft stock in the process.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 13:41
Path: /nfl/star-lotulelei-heart-condition-hurts-draft-stock
Body:

Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was not allowed to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a heart condition that was discovered during his pre-draft medical screening in Indianapolis.

Lotulelei will return to Salt Lake City for a second opinion after his most recent echocardiogram showed a low Ejection Fraction, with his left ventricle pumping at a rate less than the normal 55-to-70 percent efficiency, according to reports.

Once thought to be a lock top-10 pick — and even a viable candidate to go No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs — Lotulelei’s heart condition could result in a steep fall down draft boards.

The best-case scenario is that the irregularity in heartbeat was caused by dehydration or possibly rapid weight loss experienced by Lotulelei, who weighed in at 311 pounds in Indianapolis. The worst-case scenario is a serious medical condition that could pose a long-term health risk.

Lotulelei is just the latest elite prospect in the Class of 2013 to experience a serious setback leading up to the April 25-27 NFL Draft. In addition to Lotulelei (heart), Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (neck), USC quarterback Matt Barkley (right arm), Georgia inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (DUI) and Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o (Catfish) all have serious red flags.
 

Teaser:
<p> Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was not allowed to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine after it was discovered that he has a heart condition.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 25, 2013 - 14:15
Path: /nfl/geno-smith-makes-case-be-kansas-city-chiefs%E2%80%99-no-1-pick
Body:

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith entered the NFL Scouting Combine already perceived as the best passer in a clustered Class of 2013 — a group of signal-callers that includes USC’s Matt Barkley, NC State’s Mike Glennon, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Tennessee’s Tyler Bray.

After running an official 4.59 in the 40-yard dash, Smith is an even more intriguing player to watch. An added athletic dimension to the pocket passer only increases the value of the Mountaineer. Smith’s time was the fastest time among quarterbacks, as Manuel (4.65) and Wilson (4.95) were the only aforementioned passers to break the five-second mark.

Although Smith’s 4.59 isn’t challenging the record-setting 4.41 run by Robert Griffin III before being picked No. 2 overall by the Washington Redskins last year, it is the same time Cam Newton ran two years ago before going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.

Smith was not only fast but explosive — posting an impressive 33.5” vertical leap and 10’4” broad jump in Indianapolis. The 6’2”, 218-pounder also spun the ball well as a throwing quarterback during position drills with the receivers. The only potential downside of the Combine experience for Smith has been his hand measurement of 9 ¼” — compared to Barkley’s 10 1/8” and Manuel’s 10 3/8” hands.

Still, Smith has shown enough to be considered a viable option for coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 1 overall as well as several other quarterback-starved teams picking in the top-10 — including the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 2), Oakland Raiders (3), Cleveland Browns (6), Arizona Cardinals (7), Buffalo Bills (8) and New York Jets (9).

One thing is certain, Smith made himself millions of dollars by competing on the biggest stage in NFL scouting. In fact, running, jumping and throwing at the Combine may have secured Smith the top spot in the NFL Draft on April 25.
 

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash and threw the ball well at the NFL Scouting Combine, making his case to be the No. 1 overall pick of coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs at the NFL Draft on April 25.</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 15:39
All taxonomy terms: Manti Te'o, NFL
Path: /nfl/manti-te%E2%80%99o-impressive-combine-press-conference
Body:

Manti Te’o went from being Notre Dame’s golden boy, Heisman Trophy runner-up, BCS National Championship Game captain, to being a national laughingstock who was either a naïve 21-year-old who fell for a Catfish story or an egomaniac who basked in the spotlight of a tall tale he knew to be false — or both.

But on Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the middle linebacker prospect — identified as LB-32 this weekend — had to go in front of the assembled circus of media members and discuss the “incident,” the national title game, his family and his future.

“This is pretty crazy. I’ve been in front of a few cameras, but not as many as this,” marveled Te’o at the packed house at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Given every opportunity to melt under the heat lamp, the Hawaiian played the press conference to near perfection, with a balanced mix of humility and sincerity, along with a touch of self-deprecation.

On post-scandal mindset:

“How I’m handling it right now is focusing on the moment and on football and the Combine. Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. I’m sure there’s thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. So, just trying to enjoy the moment.”

On his poor play against Alabama:

“That’s all on me. I played hard. And so did my team.

On Lennay Kekua:

“I cared for somebody. And that’s what I was taught to do, ever since I was young. When somebody needs help you help them out. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up the way I thought it would.”

On why he didn’t make plans to visit Lennay Kekua:

“I did. We made plans. Obviously it didn’t work out.”

On waiting to explain his side of the Catfish story:

“From our point of view, let everything come out first and then have my side come out. So the way that we did it I felt worked best for me. I’m just very grateful for those who helped me to get through that time. I think it went over as smoothly as it could.”

On moving forward from scandal:

“I’m just looking forward to getting ready, getting straight to football. I understand that people have questions. But I think I’ve answered everything I could. And, for me, I’d really like to talk about football.”

On what he would bring to an NFL team:

“What I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody who works hard.”

On any possible regrets:

“I could have done some things different, obviously. Could have done a lot of things different to avoid all this stuff.”

On being embarrassed:

“This is definitely embarrassing. You’re walking through grocery stores you kind of like give people double-takes to see if they’re staring at you. It’s definitely embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process, part of the journey. But it’s only going to make me stronger, and it definitely has.”

“If I was still embarrassed, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you.”

On understanding why NFL teams ask about the scandal:

“They want to be able to trust their player. You don’t want to invest in somebody who you can’t trust. With everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you. They’re trying to get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from.”

On what he has learned from this ordeal:

“I’ve learned, first, to be honest, in everything you do — from the big things to the small things. Secondly, to keep your circle very small and to really understand who’s really in your corner and who’s not. Going off the season that my team and I had, there were a lot of people in our corner. And then when Jan. 16 happened, there’s a lot of people in the other corner. I just learned to appreciate the people that I have, that are with me. And make sure you always try to turn a negative thing into a positive.”

On the toughest moment through all of this:

“The toughest moment, to be honest with you, was a phone call I got from my sister, where she told me that they had to sneak my whole family in their home, because there were people parked out in the yard and stuff like that. That had to be the hardest part. For me, something that I’ve always had a problem with is when I can’t do something about it, when I can’t help. To know that my family was in this situation because of the actions that I committed was definitely the hardest part for me.”

On taking legal action against Ronaiah Tuiasosopo:

“No. That’s the worst thing you could do. Both families are going through chaos. There’s not only people camped out at my house, there’s people camped out at his house. I went through what I went through and he went through his own share of stuff. I think that’s the worst thing for me to do is to do that. Forgive. If you forgive, you’ll get majority of the blessings. I’ve always tried to forgive and it’s definitely benefited me.”

On whether or not he has a girlfriend:

“No. Not right now.”

On impact of craziness on his perspective:

“As people we have to realize that we’re all people. Somebody is somebody’s son, somebody is somebody’s daughter. You know what I mean? And I try to picture it that way. And would you want somebody doing that to your son? Would you want somebody doing that to your daughter? And if not, then why do it? Through this whole experience, I’ve learned that.”

Closing statement:

“In closing, I’d just like to thank everybody for being here. It’s been a hard but tremendous ride for me and my family and the University of Notre Dame. I’d like to thank my parents, my family, my friends, the University of Notre Dame, and everybody who supports me. I couldn’t do it without all of you. Hopefully after this, I answered the things I need to answer and we can move on with football. Thank you, everybody.”

Te’o said he has already interviewed with the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers — a pair of 3-4 defenses picking toward the end of the first round who could use a middle backer — and claims there are 18 official interviews with NFL teams on his schedule. After today’s press conference, those teams may spend more time talking X’s and O’s on the chalkboard than they do XOXOs on text messages with a fake Internet girlfriend.
 

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was impressive during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, answering questions regarding Lennay Kekua, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama and his future in the NFL.</p>
Post date: Saturday, February 23, 2013 - 16:50
All taxonomy terms: Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, NFL
Path: /nfl/chance-warmack%E2%80%99s-height-should-not-hurt-draft-stock
Body:

There were a few surprises when the fat guys along the offensive line weighed in at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday. Alabama has three first-round prospects along the front five — guard Chance Warmack, tackle D.J. Fluker and center Barrett Jones. Two of the trio raised eyebrows once they hit the room with the tape measurers, scales and NFL decision-makers.

Warmack measured in shorter than advertised at 6’2”. After all, teams were expecting him to be a towering 6’3”. Fortunately, he also weighed in at 317 pounds and his arms were a long 34 3/4”. There’s no reason to worry. But come Combine time, a potential top-10 pick being one inch shorter than expected causes a panic.

The reality is that Warmack is an old-school mauler and arguably the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson went No. 17 overall in 2001. The fact that he shows off his glistening gut with a short-shirt halter-top jersey only adds to his nastiness.

After leading the Crimson Tide with 39 pancake blocks and just two penalties — while serving as one of Bama’s three team captains — Warmack is hoping to follow in the footsteps for former Alabama legend John Hannah, who was the No. 4 overall pick in 1973 before road-grading his way to a Hall of Fame career as a guard.

In fact, some are even suggesting that Warmack should be on the short list of candidates for the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 1 overall pick. With Larry Allen having been inducted into the Hall of Fame this season, it’s easy to be reminded of the impact an All-Pro guard can have on a franchise.

Warmack’s linemate, Fluker, was an as-advertised 6’5” tall, but he did weigh in at a svelte 339 pounds — some 16 pounds lighter than the 355 pounds he tipped the scales at during the Senior Bowl.
 

Teaser:
<p> Alabama Guard Chance Warmack’s Height Should Not Hurt Draft Stock After Measuring In Shorter Than Expected At The NFL Scouting Combine.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 17:32
All taxonomy terms: Jarvis Jones, NFL
Path: /nfl/jarvis-jones-makes-mistake-not-working-out-nfl-combine
Body:

Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones will watch from the sidelines at this weekend’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, rather than prove he is the top Dawg in front of the league’s assembled decision makers. Instead, the USC transfer will wait to run, jump and lift at Georgia’s Pro Day on March 21.

Jones is making a huge mistake by skipping the “Underwear Olympics.” Not only is he dodging a chance to compete against his peers in the spotlight, he is jeopardizing his current status as the top 3-4 edge rushing linebacker in the Class of 2013. Jones and his team of advisors are making the wrong decision for a variety of reasons:

Undersized Speed Rusher
The main skill Jones is marketing to potential NFL employers is his ability to get to the quarterback and apply pressure on passers — in a hurry. That requires running. If Jones ran a lightning fast 40-yard dash and floated through the cone drills at the Combine, he would likely cement his status as the best pass-rushing prospect available. Since he’s not built like DeMarcus Ware, timed speed will be even more important to Jones’ stock. Being afraid of the 40 is a sign of weakness.

Injury History
Along with serious medical concerns swirling around Jones’ reported spinal stenosis, there were also lingering groin, ankle and shoulder injuries that caused him to miss time at Georgia. Of course, Jones will be required to participate in the NFL’s rigorous pre-draft medical exams at the Combine. But his reluctance to put his physical ability on display on the biggest stage raises doubt about both his current fitness as well as his confidence in his short-term and long-term durability.

Not No. 1 Prospect
Unless a prospect is already the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the draft, there is always room to move up draft boards. Jones is a top-10 talent by most accounts, top-5 by many and in the ballpark for the top spot according to a few. Why would Jones pass up the opportunity to steal the show at the Combine and prove without a shadow of a doubt that his athleticism matches his on-field, on-tape production? Is he content to just hang on to his top-10 status? Has he already lost his competitive fire, before even being drafted? The Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 1 overall pick is up for grabs. Why isn’t Jones chasing it?
 

Teaser:
<p> Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is making a mistake by not working out at the NFL Scouting Combine due to the facts that he is an undersized speed rusher, has a lengthy injury history and is not currently the No. 1 prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 17:38
Path: /nba/25-greatest-los-angeles-lakers-jerry-buss-era
Body:

Dr. Jerry Buss (Jan. 27, 1933 - Feb. 18, 2013) was the greatest owner in NBA history. In fact, the chemist and card player was arguably the best owner in sports history. The day after this year's All-Star Game in Houston, the NBA's brightest star faded away. With Buss's passing, David Stern's Association lost its most accomplished boss, savviest visionary and coolest 80-year-old.

Buss was a brand builder who purchased the Los Angeles Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 and transformed the franchise into the "Showtime" staple of Staples Center they are today. He did so by hiring the best and brightest as well as cultivating an environment that attracted the top talent to Hollywood. It starts from the top, but there were plenty of Hall of Famers and all-time greats wearing purple and gold during Buss's reign of 10 NBA Championships:


1. Jerry Buss
Owner (1979-2013)
The good Doctor knew how to throw a party, making Lakers courtside seats the place to be and be seen while flipping his franchise's price tag from just one piece of a nearly $70 million purchase (which also included the NHL's Kings, The Forum and a ranch) into a $900 million asset, according to a recent Forbes estimate.


2. Magic Johnson
Guard (1979-91, ’96)
Of all the stars in Hollywood, Magic had the brightest smile and the most style, at least while leading a five-time NBA title-winning fast break that changed the way the game is played.


3. Kobe Bryant
Guard (1996-present)
Straight out of high school it was clear that Kobe was the next Laker great. Five rings and two Olympic gold medals later, Black Mamba has slithered his way as far up this list as possible.


4. Jerry West
Executive (1980-2000)
The Logo's playing days were pre-Buss. But his foresight in the front office made West more valuable than even a franchise 7-footer.


5. Shaquille O’Neal
Center (1996-2004)
Say what you will about Diesel, he was Superman and Kobe was his sidekick during the three-peat days. It shouldn't take the Big Aristotle to figure that out.


6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Center (1975-89)
Lew Alcindor was better and Roger Murdock was funnier, but Kareem deserves a statue, if only to immortalize the Sky Hook. Right?


7. Pat Riley
Coach (1981-90)
A champ as a pre-Buss player on the 1972 title team and an assistant to Paul Westhead on the 1980 title team, Riles was Magic's main man for the next four rings (1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988). The epitome of "Showtime."


8. Phil Jackson
Coach (1999-2004, 2005-11)
The Zen Master won five rings (2000-02, '09-10) with Kobe's Lakers after winning six rings with Michael Jordan's Bulls. Plus, he's engaged to Jerry's daughter Jeanie, so that's like winning a sixth ring for the Lake Show.


9. Chick Hearn
Broadcaster (1965-2002)
The voice of the Lakers for 3,338 consecutive games, Hearn's last game was a three-peat clinching win over the Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals. No harm, no foul. Never an air ball. Chick was a slam dunk for this list.


10. Jack Nicholson
Fan (1970-present)
Heeeeeerrrre's Jackie! No one's cooler. And no, you can't wear sunglasses indoors just cause Jack does. He's Jack, that's why. Jack's been around since before Buss was boss.



11. James Worthy
Forward (1982-94)
Big Game James was a No. 1 overall pick and Finals MVP and he can't beat out a play-by-play guy and a courtside season-ticket holder!? You've got to be kidding me!?


12. Pau Gasol
Forward (2007-present)
Mike D'Antoni clearly doesn't agree. But D'Antoni has also proven he doesn't know much about the Lakers. Ask Phil, he knows better. If only Jim Buss would ask Phil - or Jeanie, she knows better.


13. Jamaal Wilkes
Forward (1977-85)
UCLA legacy carried over to L.A. Lakers, with five championships between the two stops along with a pair of No. 52 retired jerseys.


14. Jeanie Buss
Executive (1995-present)
Brilliant and beautiful, daddy's girl has been the brains of the business side since Jerry took a step back several years ago. Thankfully, Jeanie is taking Jerry's seat on the NBA Board of Governors.


15. Mitch Kupchak
Executive (1986-present)
When John Malkovich had hair, he looked like Jerry West's protege. Or vice versa?


16. Byron Scott
Guard (1983-93)
"Showtime" shooter. Who knew that he really was a "coach on the floor?"


17. Michael Cooper
Guard (1978-90)
Lockdown defender was on all five of Magic's championship teams, playing his role to perfection.


18. Derek Fisher
Guard (1996-2004, '07-12)
Another five-ring bearer, Fish came in with Kobe but hoped to go out with anyone but Billy Hunter.


19. Robert Horry
Forward (1997-2003)
Big Shot Bob has seven total rings, that's more than anyone who didn't play with Bill Russell. Don't forget about Bob playing with Hakeem, Shaq and Duncan, though. Plus, he looked a little like Will Smith when he was in L.A. winning three rings.


20. A.C. Green
Forward (1985-93, '99-00)
Ask anyone what A.C. is known for. It's not for being a basketball player. It's for being a ...


21. Vlade Divac
Center (1989-96, 2004-05)
Well, Vlade's known for being a flopper. Maybe he even introduced the flop to the NBA. But he was also the trade chip that acquired an 18-year-old Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets. Remember that far back? Not the Charlotte Bobcats, or the New Orleans Hornets, or even the New Orleans Pelicans...


22. Lamar Odom
Forward (2004-11)
Love the rumor that Khloe Kardashian is O.J.'s daughter. Lefty Lamar is a point forward with Clippers pedigree, but his best days were as a Laker, that's a reality.


23. Nick Van Exel
Guard (1993-98)
Nick the Quick was a second-round steal who turned into a bridge between Magic and Kobe. Someone had to represent the dark, dark championship void.


24. Kurt Rambis
Glasses
The glasses are timeless.


25. Paula Abdul
Laker Girls
Abdul parlayed Laker Girl status into American Idol stardom. Surely she thanks Jerry Buss. Without him, it likely wouldn't have been possible. We all thank you, Jerry. You will be missed. R.I.P.
 

Teaser:
<p> Jerry Buss (1933-2013) led the L.A. Lakers to 10 <a href="http://www.athlonsports.com/nba" target="_blank">NBA</a> championships after buying the team in 1979, designing an empire that included Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Chick Hearn, Jack Nicholson, James Worthy, Pau Gasol, Jamaal Wilkes, Jeanie Buss, Mitch Kupchak, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, A.C. Green, Vlade Divac, Lamar Odom, Nick Van Exel, Kurt Rambis and the Laker Girls.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/10-most-athletic-freaks-nfl-combine-history
Body:

The NFL Scouting Combine (Feb. 20-26) is just one step in the job interview process leading up to the NFL Draft (April 25-27). But the “Underwear Olympics” is a big deal. Millions of dollars are on the line during the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap, broad jump, cone drills, Wonderlic and BOD Pod tests.

Here’s a look at 10 workout warriors who aced their tests at the Combine.



1. Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn – 1986
The two-sport tall tale weighed in at a chiseled 6’1”, 230 pounds before running an unofficial hand-timed 4.12 in the 40-yard dash — a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring effort that is still a part of Combine folklore.


2. Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State – 1989
In hindsight, the most impressive thing the “Incredible Bulk” did was pass his steroid drug screening during the Combine. At 304 pounds, Mandarich ran a 4.65 in the 40, exploded for a 30” vertical and 10’3” broad jump, and ripped off 39 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.


3. Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland – 2006
Davis looked like a body builder or, at the very least, an actor from an Under Armour commercial en route to running a 4.38 in the 40, skying for a 42” vertical, 10’8” broad, and slamming 33 reps on the bench press.


4. Mike Mamula, LB, Boston College – 1995
After all these years, Mamula remains the go-to cautionary tale of the Combine. The BC beast vaulted up draft boards after a 4.58 in the 40, 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, a 38” vertical and a 49-of-50 on the Wonderlic Test. Mamula never looked as good in pads as he did in shorts.

 


5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – 2012
The fastest quarterback in Combine history, RG3 was a track star on the fast track to NFL and commercial superstardom — with a blistering 4.41 in the 40-yard dash to go along with a dunk contest-worthy 39” vertical.


6. Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina – 2008
Before he became CJ2K, the gold-grilled CJ4.24 was the gold standard official record-holder in laser-timed 40-yard sprints, posting a 4.24 and hitting the first-round finish line in-stride. CJ has not, however, been able to set up a race against Usain Bolt.


7. Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State – 1989
The ultimate showman (and show-boater), Deion showed up fashionably late (and probably fashionably loud) to the Combine, then ran his 40-yard dash only once — in a time between 4.19 and 4.29, depending on whose hand-timed stop watch you trust. But Prime Time didn’t stop running once he hit the finish line; Sanders ran out of the building to a limousine waiting to take him to the airport.


8. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech – 2007
With his draft stock holding strong near the top of the class, Johnson planned on kicking back and watching the festivities. But once the fireworks started, Megatron’s competitive juices started flowing and he decided he wanted to run after all. The only problem? He didn’t bring any track shoes. So Johnson borrowed a pair of spikes from East Carolina’s James Pinkney — then proceeded to run a blistering 4.32 in the 40.

 


9. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin – 2011
In hindsight, the numbers that Watt put up at the Combine were a window into his dominant Defensive Player of the Year future. At 6’5”, 290 pounds with 11 1/8” hands and 34” arms, Watt ran a 4.84 in the 40, soared for a 37” vertical and 10’ broad jump, and threw up a long-armed 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.


10. Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State – 2008
One of the main reasons teams remain skeptical of off-the-charts Combine stats, Gholston was the classic “look like Tarzan, play like Jane.” In shorts and a muscle shirt, Gholston ran a 4.67 in the 40, had 37 reps on the bench and lifted off for a 35.5” vertical and 10.5” broad jump.
 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Most Athletic Freaks in NFL Combine History, including Bo Jackson, Tony Mandarich, Vernon Davis, Mike Mamula, Robert Griffin III, Chris Johnson, Deion Sanders, Calvin Johnson, J.J. Watt and Vernon Gholston.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/75-funny-fantasy-baseball-team-names
Body:

Pitchers and catchers have reported, the World Baseball Classic is around the corner and fantasy baseball season is nearly here. The weather is heating up and it's time to name your fantasy baseball team. You could always go with one of the classics like Chico's Bail Bonds, Springfield Isotopes, New York Knights or Myrtle Beach Mermen. But you might as well go with one of these 75 funny fantasy baseball team names.

Alabaster Blasters
Bats in the Pelfrey

Better Safe Than Soria

Big League Choo

Big Wang Theory

Bossman Senior
Breaking Badenhop 

Bryce Hyper
Cannot, Cantu

Chen Music

Citizen Cain

Clown Question Bros
Come Sale Away

Cuckoo for Coco Crisp

Cust Out

Davey Johnson’s Tweeter
Depends on Asdrubal

Dick Pole’s Staff

Ethier Said Than Dunn

Fister-Furbush 

G’s Up, Scott Downs

Golden Sombreros
Grand Theft Votto

Griffey Jr.’s Tonic
Hall of Shamers
Hannibal Lester

Harang 'em High

Harper Valley OBP

Hey Upton Upton
High Plains Fister

Honey Nut Ichiro's

Horse walks into Aybar

I’m Rich, Litsch! 

Inglourious Bastardos

Jeter’s Gift Baskets
Jeters Never Prosper 

Joe Maddon Gnomes
Jon Jay Jack Jim Joe

Kimbrels 'n Bits

Latos Intolerant 

Lay down the Lawrie

Less is Morrow
Looking Illegal
Loria’s Lease
Man walks into a Bard

Marcum Eight

Mattingly’s Sideburns
Miami Mortgage
A Mighty Lind

Next of Kinsler

Not at the Table Carlos

Old Hoss’s Beaneaters
Out of Saito

Outfield Fly Rule
PED-co Park
Rusty Trumbo

Sam Above the Fuld


Scratch My Ichiro

Senior Circuit Rascals
Smoak a Swisher
Spitball LOOGYs
Take Maholm Tonight

Talent-less South Beach
The Bourn Supremacy 

The Melky Way

The Price Is Wrong

The Scioscial Network

The Yankee Clippard

Thome Don’t Play That

Triple-Hawpe Brewed

Vin Scully’s Homeboys
Void A-Roid
Yellow Brick Gload

Yoenis Envy
Yu Da Man
Zero Dark Cooperstown

 

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board

2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield

2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield

2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher

2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid

Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013


 

Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

Teaser:
<p> 75 Funny Fantasy Baseball Team Names</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /nba/nba-slam-dunk-contest-champions-ranked-1-22
Body:

The 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contests lifts off on Saturday, Feb. 16, in Houston. The Jazz’s defending Slam Dunk Contest champion Jeremy Evans, Pacers’ Gerald Green (2007 Slam Dunk Contest champion), Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe, Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried, Raptors’ Terrence Ross and Knicks’ James White will follow in the flight paths of MJ, Dr. J and Dominique.

With that in mind, we judge all 22 Slam Dunk Contest champions since the ABA introduced the competition in 1976 and the NBA brought it back in 1984.

Mount Rushmore
One-name icons with star power, style and the ability to jump out of the gym — or from the free-throw line, as it were — no one in history has had the hang time or staying power of these four fly guys.

1. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (1987, 1988)
“Air” Jordan was an aerial artist who transcended the act of putting a ball through a rim.

2. Julius Erving, New York Nets (1976 in ABA)
“Dr. J” was the originator — complete with an Afro and red-white-and-blue ABA ball.

3. Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks (1985, 1990)
The “Human Highlight Film” windmilled and tomahawked his way into dunk history.

4. Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors (2000)
“Half Man, Half Amazing” could jump over French dudes and through 10-foot hoops.

 

Freak Shows
There’s just something about watching a sub-six-footer or near-seven-footer take over the Dunk Contest that adds to the spectacle of Saturday night’s three-ring circus.

5. Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks (1986)
The shortest (5’7”) champ ever beat his teammate in front of his hometown crowd.

6. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (2008)
Superman’s hand missed the rim on his most famous dunk, but it was out of this world.

7. Nate Robinson, New York Knicks (2006, 2009, 2010)
The only three-time champion in event history was 5’9” of Kryptonite for Dwight.

 

Big Names, Bigger Air
No matter how great the dunks are it’s always better when there is a name that matters on the marquee. Lately, the lack of cachet has taken the air out of the slam-dunk sails.

8. Larry Nance, Phoenix Suns (1984)
The underrated Nance could get high in his high socks, winning the NBA’s first contest.

9. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (2005)
The ATL native paid homage to Nique with a throwback jersey to go with pogo hops.

10. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (1997)
Remember when Kobe was bald, Brandy was his girl and Adidas was his shoe of choice?

11. Kenny Walker, New York Knicks (1989)
“Sky” Walker could rise with the best of them, rocking Knicks No. 7 before Carmelo did.

12. Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors (2002, 2003)
One of three repeat champs in history, along with Michael Jordan and Nate Robinson.

 

Props Plus Hops
The All-Star Game sideshow has featured its fair share of gimmicks, third parties and prop comedy that almost always ends in winning over the crowd and the trophy.  

13. Dee Brown, Boston Celtics (1991)
Brown Pump-ed up his Reeboks and covered his eyes with his arm to take the title.

14. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (2011)
Jumping over a car — the type of Kia he endorses — was Griffin’s modus operandi.

15. Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns (1992)
Ceballos put on a blindfold that he may or may not have been able to see through.
 

Signature Style
To contest connoisseurs, these are two of the more exciting dunkers. Each had a signature dunk that every kid who ever had an eight-foot goal attempted over and over.

16. Harold Miner, Miami Heat (1993, 1995)
“Baby Jordan” matched his namesake with two Slam Dunk Contest statement wins.

17. Isaiah Rider, Minnesota Timberwolves (1994)
Wild child “J.R.” went between the legs midair in front of the Twin City crowd.

 

White Man Can Jump
His dad Granny-shot free-throws but Bones could throw down like no one this side of Woody Harrelson — and he remains the only white guy to win it all in event history.

18. Brent Barry, Los Angeles Clippers (1996)
Not quite from the free-throw line, but Barry did take off from near the charity stripe.
 

Hi and Bye
Who are you? And why are you here? Okay, you can dunk. Nice job. But I still wish the field had more star power. After all, literally every player in the NBA can dunk…

19. Gerald Green, Boston Celtics (2007)
Sure this wasn’t the NBDL Dunk Contest?

20. Desmond Mason, Seattle SuperSonics (2001)
The Sonics? Is that a WNBA team?

21. Fred Jones, Indiana Pacers (2004)
You mean the character from Scooby-Doo?

22. Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz (2012)
Is that the Ray Bandit who stole sunglasses?
 

Teaser:
<p> Best Slam Dunk Contest Championship of All-Time, including Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter, Spud Webb, Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson, Larry Nance, Josh Smith, Kobe Bryant, Kenny Walker, Jason Richardson, Dee Brown, Blake Griffin, Cedric Ceballos, Harold Miner, Isaiah Rider, Brent Barry, Gerald Green, Desmond Mason, Fred Jones and Jeremy Evans.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /nfl/25-greatest-middle-linebackers-nfl-history
Body:

Middle linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense, the nerve center of a stop-unit. Many of the game’s greatest players have been the man in the middle who called the shots in the huddle before turning into tackling machines and splash-playmakers from sideline-to-sideline once the ball was snapped. Keeping all aspects of the job in mind, we rank the top 25 greatest middle linebackers in NFL history.
 

1. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens (1996-2012)
2000 Defensive Player of the Year
2003 Defensive Player of the Year
7-time first-team All-Pro
13-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXV MVP
Super Bowl XXXV champion
Super Bowl XLVII champion


It’s hard to argue with No. 52 — whose off-the-charts football IQ, spiritual leadership and on-field accomplishments are unmatched. Along with his overflowing trophy case, Lewis posted 41.5 sacks, 31 INTs returned for 503 yards and three TDs, 19 forced fumbles, 20 fumble recoveries and one safety in the regular season; and six forced fumbles, two INTs returned for 54 yards and one TD, and two sacks in the playoffs. And that dance. Don’t forget Ray’s dance.


2. Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-84)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1990
1976 Defensive Player of the Year
1974 Defensive Rookie of the Year
6-time first-team All-Pro
9-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl IX champion
Super Bowl X champion
Super Bowl XIII champion
Super Bowl XIV champion


The foreman of the “Steel Curtain” defense, Lambert expanded the job description of the middle backer — dropping into pass coverage as smooth as a safety while remaining the sledgehammer enforcer of an old-school middle man. Lambert hauled in 28 INTs and scooped up 17 fumble recoveries. But it was his leadership in four Super Bowl wins that moves Lambert ahead of Dick Butkus — as sacrilegious as that may seem.


3. Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears (1965-73)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1979
1969 Defensive Player of the Year
1970 Defensive Player of the Year
5-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler


The best high school, college and NFL linebackers are annually presented with the Butkus Award, named in honor of arguably the greatest linebacker — possibly the best defensive player — to ever put on a helmet. Butkus punished ball carriers and crushed spirits. But for all his individual success, he never made the playoffs.


4. Mike Singletary, Chicago Bears (1981-92)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1998
1985 Defensive Player of the Year
1988 Defensive Player of the Year
7-time first-team All-Pro
10-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XX champion


“Samurai Mike” had crazy eyes that struck fear into an opposing offense even before he laid the smack down. The on-field brains behind Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan’s famed 1985 Bears defense, Singletary is undeniably one of the greatest to ever play the position.


5. Ray Nitschke, Green Bay Packers (1958-72)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1978
2-time first-team All-Pro
1-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl I champion
Super Bowl II champion
5-time NFL Championship Game winner
NFL Championship Game MVP (1962)


Before becoming a pop culture reference in Brian’s Song and an actor in The Longest Yard and Head, Nitschke was one of the most feared men in football. Vince Lombardi’s leader on defense, Nitschke (No. 66) and Bart Starr (No. 15) are the only Lombardi players whose numbers were retired.


6. Bill George, Chicago Bears (1952-65), Los Angeles Rams (’66)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1974
8-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler


George is credited by many as being the first-ever true middle linebacker, creating a legacy that future Bears like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher would cement in history.


7. Junior Seau, San Diego Chargers (1990-2002), Miami Dolphins (’03-05), New England Patriots (’06-09)
1992 Defensive Player of the Year
1994 Walter Payton Man of the Year
6-time first-team All-Pro
12-time Pro Bowler


Arguably USC’s most notable No. 55, Seau went on to become a legend in San Diego. A notorious freelancer, Seau notched 56.5 sacks, 18 INTs returned for 238 yards, 11 forced fumbles, 18 fumble recoveries and one TD while winning two AFC titles with the 1994 Chargers and 2007 Patriots.


8. Chuck Bednarik, Philadelphia Eagles (1949-62)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1967
5-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
2-time NFL Championship Game winner


A two-way player who also played center on offense, Bednarik was in the middle of the action on both sides of the ball — ask Frank Gifford.


9. Nick Buoniconti, Boston Patriots (1962-68), Miami Dolphins (’69-76)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2001
5-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl VII champion
Super Bowl VIII champion


The most famous member of the “No Name Defense,” Buoniconti is alleged to be the ringleader of the 1972 Dolphins’ annual champagne toast when the last undefeated team loses each season.


10. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears (2000-12)
2005 Defensive Player of the Year
2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year
4-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler


The latest in an historic line of Hall of Fame caliber Bears middle linebackers, Urlacher has produced 41.5 sacks, 22 INTs returned for 324 yards and two TDs, 11 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries returned for 177 yards and one TD during his career. Urlacher’s legacy was secure after leading Chicago to the NFC title in 2006


11. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers (2007-12)
2009 NFL Butkus Award winner
2007 Defensive Rookie of the Year
5-time first-team All-Pro
6-time Pro Bowler


12. Joe Schmidt, Detroit Lions (1953-65)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1973
8-time first-team All-Pro
10-time Pro Bowler
2-time NFL Championship Game winner


13. Willie Lanier, Kansas City Chiefs (1967-77)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1986
1972 NFL Man of the Year
3-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler


14. Sam Huff, New York Giants (1956-63), Washington Redskins (’64-69)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1982
2-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler


15. Harry Carson, New York Giants (1976-88)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2006
9-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXI champion


16. Lee Roy Jordan, Dallas Cowboys (1963-76)
1973 Defensive Player of the Year
1-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl VI champion


17. Zach Thomas, Miami Dolphins (1996-2007), Dallas Cowboys (’08)
5-time first-team All-Pro
7-time Pro Bowler


18. Randy Gradishar, Denver Broncos (1974-83)
1978 Defensive Player of the Year
2-time first-team All-Pro
7-time Pro Bowler


19. Les Richter, Los Angeles Rams (1954-62)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2011
1-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler


20. Karl Mecklenburg, Denver Broncos (1983-94)
3-time first-team All-Pro
6-time Pro Bowler


21. Ken Norton Jr., Dallas Cowboys (1988-93), San Francisco 49ers (1994-2000)
1-time first-team All-Pro
3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXVII champion
Super Bowl XXVIII champion
Super Bowl XXIX champion


22. James Farrior, New York Jets (1997-2001), Pittsburgh Steelers (’02-11)
1-time first-team All-Pro
2-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XL champion
Super Bowl XLIII champion


23. Hardy Nickerson, Pittsburgh Steelers (1987-92), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (’93-99), Jacksonville Jaguars (2000-01), Green Bay Packers (’02)
2-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler


24. London Fletcher, St. Louis Rams (1998-2001), Buffalo Bills (’02-06), Washington Redskins (’07-12)
3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXIV champion


25. Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots (1996-2008)
2005 Comeback Player of the Year
1-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXVI champion
Super Bowl XXXVIII champion
Super Bowl XXXIX champion
 
Teaser:
<p> 25 Greatest Middle Linebackers in NFL History, including Ray Lewis, Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Ray Nitschke, Bill George, Junior Seau, Brian Urlacher, Patrick Willis, Chuck Bednarik, Nick Buoniconti, Joe Schmidt, Willie Lanier, Harry Carson, Lee Roy Jordan, Ken Norton Jr. and Tedy Bruschi.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 09:47
Path: /nfl/most-memorable-moments-super-bowl-xlvii
Body:

Super Bowl XLVII had it all — a blackout, fireworks, records broken, sex appeal and mass hysteria. The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34–31, at the Superdome in New Orleans. But there was plenty of action, from Alicia Keys' National Anthem to Beyonce's halftime show to Ray Lewis' postgame speech, and every commercial in between. These are the most memorable moments from Super Bowl XLVII.



Zero Dark 47
The CBS telecast of Super Bowl XLVII became the Will Ferrell “Wake Up and Smile” teleprompter skit on SNL when the lights went out at the Superdome in New Orleans.


National Anthem Remix
Alicia Keys took the over on the Vegas line of 2:10, clocking in at a 2:36 after tickling the ivory and repeating the last line of a record-length “Star Spangled Banner.”


Put a Ring On It
Beyonce’s lip-syncing halftime show included a Destiny’s Child reunion but no Jay-Z. But the Ravens’ best omen came pregame, when Jonathan Ogden showed off his Super Bowl XXXV ring during Class of 2013 Hall of Fame introductions.


84-Minute MVP
Ravens quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco sat out 84 minutes of real time during the Beyonce concert, Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return and the Superdome blackout.


Brotherly Love
When the game was over, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh refused to be interviewed by CBS — after he had the following exchange with older bro and Ravens coach John Harbaugh: “I love you,” said John. “Congratulations,” replied Jim.


Other Worldly Love
Danica Patrick gave us another wreck to watch, with Israeli ubermodel Bar Refaeli making out with some lucky nerd in a gag reflex GoDaddy.com spot.



Jacoby Jones’ Not-Touched-Down Touchdown
“Smokin’ Joe” Flacco hit Jones on a deep ball which he fielded like a punt, fell down untouched, got back up, juked and sprinted into the end zone to cap a 56-yard score.


Jacoby Jones’ 109-turned-108-yard Kick Return
Jim Nantz credited Jones with a record 109-yard kickoff return to open the second half. The eye in the sky took one yard away for a record-tying 108-yard return.


Record INT
Ravens safety Ed Reed tied the all-time playoff record with his ninth career INT, which was the first-ever INT thrown by a 49ers quarterback in the Super Bowl. Joe Montana and Steve Young threw 17 TDs and zero INTs before Colin Kaepernick’s miscue.


Pistachio Psy
South Korean psuper pop pstar Psy hit the Super Bowl hard, with a neon-green pistachio dance party that clearly was “Gangnam Style.”


 

Fake FG, Non-Punt
Former special teams coach John Harbaugh called for both a fake field goal with rookie kicker Justin Tucker and an intentional safety with punter Sam Koch.


Jerome Boger
The second black referee in Super Bowl history was a controversial choice to work the game, which included several shoving matches but no crazy calls. Unless you think there was a…


Botched Holding Call?
On 4th-and-Goal with the game on the line, 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree and Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith tangled as the ball sailed over their heads and hit the ground. No flag was thrown, causing Jim Harbaugh to lose his mind.


Ill-Conceived Concept
Calvin Klein caused plenty of Super Sunday partygoers to freak out Harbaugh style with its creepy black-and-white ad featuring a half-naked male model.


So God Made a Farmer
Ram brought it all back to Earth with an earnest, honest ode to hard work — brilliantly using Paul Harvey’s famed 1978 speech in a spot that played like a short film.


Ray Lewis' Last Words
Ray tried to wrestle the mic from Jim Nantz in the postgame trophy ceremony. But settled for repeating his familiar message: "When God is for you, who can be against you?"


Goodell's Girl
The Commissioner avoided being beat down on Bourbon Street by watching the big game with nine-year-old phenom Samantha Gordon. Because, win or lose, Ravens or 49ers, everyone loves that girl.

Teaser:
<p> Most Memorable Moments of Super Bowl XLVII, including the Superdome blackout, Alicia Key's record-breaking National Anthem, Beyonce's halftime performance, Jacoby Jones' record-tying 108-yard kickoff return, Ed Reed's record-tying INT, a fake field goal, intentional safety, Bar Refaeli's kiss, Psy's pistachios, the Harbaugh brothers and Ray Lewis' final speech.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 4, 2013 - 13:19
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvii-prop-bets
Body:

Super Bowl betting — and prop bets, in particular — attract sharks and suckers alike who can’t afford a $3.8-million, 30-second commercial spot on CBS’s telecast or a $2,500 nosebleed seat at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, but do have some lunch money to wager on Super Sunday.

Here’s a quick look at this year’s popular Super Bowl bets, along with advice on where the smart money should play. For consistency’s sake, all odds and lines are courtesy of Bovada.lv — the online gambling website formerly known as Bodog.com.

(For the average Joe who doesn’t speak in Vegas tongues, when the odds are –150, you must wager $150 in order to win $100; when the odds are +150, your $100 bet nets $150. Just FYI.)

NATIONAL ANTHEM

How long will it take Alicia Keys to sing the National Anthem?

Over 2:10 (+120)
Under 2:10 (–160)

The all-time record is Whitney Houston’s 1:55 effort — which included an 11-second — “brave” finale before Super Bowl XXV. Last year, Kelly Clarkson clocked in at an economical 1:34. The year before, Christina Aguilera went 1:54 without even knowing the lyrics. Alicia Keys would have to add another verse to over 2:10, right?

COIN TOSS

Heads or tails?

Heads (–105)
Tails (–105)

Heads has a 24–22 all-time lead over Tails in this head-to-tail showdown. Expect Tails to make a comeback in the Big Easy.

Which team will win coin toss?

Baltimore Ravens (–105)
San Francisco 49ers (–105)

The NFC has a 31–15 all-time lead, but its streak of 14 straight coin toss victories was snapped last year. Still, the NFC has had the hot hand for 15 years or so, let it ride. Historically, the coin toss hasn’t mattered much; the winner has a 22–24 record.



HALFTIME

Will Beyonce be joined by Jay-Z on stage during the halftime show?

Yes (–105)
No (–135)

A Destiny’s Child reunion won’t be enough. Blue Ivy’s dad has to make an appearance. Expect Shawn Carter to stomp on stage and steal the show in the N-to-the-izz-O.

BIG GAME

Total touchdowns scored in game

Over 5.5 (–125)
Under 5.5 (–105)

The Ravens and 49ers have combined to allow 20 second-half points over five games. If there aren’t fireworks on the scoreboard early, there probably won’t be much scoring late.

How many times will Harbaugh be said during the game?

Over 22.5 (–150)
Under 22.5 (+110)

Jim and John are tremendous storylines leading up to kickoff. But neither is playing in the game. There should be long stretches where neither Harbaugh is mentioned at all.

Will the team that scores last win the game?

Yes (–190)
No (+155)

Let’s hope it’s that kind of Super Bowl.

Will the game go to overtime?

Yes (+600)
No (–1000)

There has never been an overtime game in Super Bowl history. Ofer-46. Go ahead and bet $1,000 to make a sweet $100 profit that there will be no free football. Seriously, don’t do that. Put all your money on the coin toss.

POSTGAME

What color will the Gatorade (or liquid) be that is dumped on the winning coach?

Yellow (7/4)
Clear/Water (19/10)
Orange (7/2)
Red (13/2)
Blue (7/1)
Green (7/1)

Four of the last 10 Gatorade baths have been clear, with orange, yellow and purple each coming in at twice apiece over that same time. Jim Harbaugh was dumped with yellow Gatorade after clinching the NFC West title last season.

Who will be named Super Bowl MVP?

Colin Kaepernick (8/5)
Joe Flacco (11/4)
Frank Gore (7/1)
Ray Lewis (7/1)
Ray Rice (12/1)
Michael Crabtree (14/1)
Anquan Boldin (16/1)
Vernon Davis (18/1)
Torrey Smith (20/1)
Ed Reed (33/1)
Patrick Willis (40/1)

Seven of the last 12 Super Bowl MVPs were the quarterback of the winning team. Ray Lewis is one of the five that wasn’t and he will look to become just the sixth player — and first non-quarterback — to win the award multiple times.

BOTTOM LINE

Baltimore Ravens (+4) (+140)
San Francisco 49ers (–4) (–160)

Deer antler spray aside, Ray Lewis will ride off into the sunset as a two-time Super Bowl champ. “Smokin’ Joe” Flacco will hit a deep ball at some point and Ed Reed might just make a splash play in front of his hometown NOLA crowd. Win or lose, the Ravens should keep it close enough to pay out.

Over 47.5 (–110)
Under 47.5 (–110)

The teams combined to score 22 points in the first Har-Bowl on Thanksgiving last year. There will be more points than that this time around, but don’t expect a shootout. Go low.
 

Teaser:
<p> Super Bowl XLVII Prop Bets, including the National Anthem time sung by Alicia Keys, the halftime show with Beyonce, heads or tails on the coin toss, the color of the Gatorade bath, the game's MVP and which team will cover the spread.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 1, 2013 - 16:35
Path: /nfl/30-best-brothers-sisters-and-twins-sports
Body:

The Harbaugh Brothers are hogging — or Har-gging or whatever — all the attention at Super Bowl XLVII. But little Johnny and Jimbo aren’t the only tikes in the backyard turned titans in the world of sports. Here’s a rundown of the top 30 sets of active athlete siblings, with the combined accomplishments of the top 10 brothers, sisters and twins.


1. Manning Brothers
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (36)
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (32)


91,014 passing yards
647 TD passes
15 Pro Bowls
4 NFL MVPs
3 Super Bowl wins
3 Super Bowl MVPs
2 No. 1 overall picks

Archie and Olivia’s boys — you know, Cooper’s younger brothers — are still the standard. Both Peyton and Eli are former No. 1 overall picks, Super Bowl MVPs and Saturday Night Live hosts.


2. Williams Sisters
Venus Williams, Tennis (32)
Serena Williams, Tennis (31)


10 Wimbledon singles titles
6 U.S. Open singles titles
5 Australian Open singles titles
2 Olympic Gold singles medals
1 French Open singles title

5 Wimbledon doubles titles
4 Australian Open doubles titles
3 Olympic Gold doubles medals
2 U.S. Open doubles titles
2 French Open doubles titles

Everyone thought Richard was the craziest cook in Compton, Calif., when he was training Venus and Serena. Everyone still thinks he’s a loon, but his unorthodox style resulted in a pair of champions.
 

3. Harbaugh Brothers
John Harbaugh, Coach, Baltimore Ravens (50)
Jim Harbaugh, Coach, San Francisco 49ers (49)


78–33–1 regular season record
11–5 postseason record
1 Super Bowl win (pending)

Jack’s coaching career included an FCS national title at Western Kentucky. Impressive. But one of his boys is about to win the Super Bowl, while the other will lose the NFL’s big game. Unbelievable.


4. Klitschko Brothers
Vitali Klitschko, Boxing (41)
Wladimir Klitschko, Boxing (36)


104–5 record
91 KO
6 Heavyweight title belts (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, Ring)
1 Olympic Gold medal

The Ukrainian fighters weigh in at 6’8”, 245 pounds and 6’6”, 245 pounds, respectively. But the heavyweight champs will never fight each other — despite the fact that it would be a pay per view goldmine.


5. Bryan Twins
Bob Bryan, Tennis (34)
Mike Bryan, Tennis (34)


6 Australian Open doubles titles
4 U.S. Open doubles titles
2 Wimbledon doubles titles
1 French Open doubles titles
1 Olympic Gold doubles medal
1 Olympic Bronze doubles medal

The greatest doubles tennis team in the history of racket sports, Bob’s the lefty and Mike’s the righty — that’s how you tell the identical duo apart. Together, they’ve won a record 13 Grand Slam titles.


6. Sedin Twins
Daniel Sedin, LW, Vancouver Canucks (32)
Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver Canucks (32)


5 All-Star Games
2 Olympic Gold medals
2 Art Ross Trophies
1 Hart Memorial Trophy
1 Ted Lindsay Award
Nos. 2-3 overall picks

The cerebral Swedes are identical twins with a seemingly telepathic connection on the ice. Henrik is the passer and Daniel is the scorer — but both ginger geniuses look a little like Vincent van Gogh.


7. Gasol Hermanos
Pau Gasol, C, Los Angeles Lakers (32)
Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies (27)


5 NBA All-Star Games
4 Olympic Silver medals
2 NBA championships
1 Rookie of the Year Award

The Spanish 7-footers were traded for each other back when Pau was an All-Star and Marc was his baby-fatted kid brother. Times have changed. Pau is on the trade block and Marc is the All-Star.


8. Kalil Brothers
Ryan Kalil, C, Carolina Panthers (27)
Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota Vikings (23)


4 Pro Bowl appearances
2 Morris Trophies
2 First-team All-America

Two of the best young O-linemen in the NFL, Ryan and Matt were both named Pac-12 lineman of the year at USC. That’s great and all, but everyone really just wants to talk about their mom, Cheryl.


9. Upton Brothers
B.J. Upton, CF, Atlanta Braves (28)
Justin Upton, LF, Atlanta Braves (25)


312 Stolen Bases
226 Home Runs
2 MLB All-Star Games
1 Silver Slugger Award
Nos. 1-2 overall picks

After the Braves signed Bossman Junior to a five-year, $75-million free agent deal, they turned around and traded for little-but-bigger Justin. Their next move should be to acquire Kate Upton (no relation).


10. Busch Brothers
Kurt Busch, NASCAR (34)
Kyle Busch, NASCAR (27)


48 Cup Series wins
3 Rookie of the Year Awards (Cup, Busch, Truck)
1 Cup Series championship
1 Nationwide Series championship

The troubled but talent Busch bros are known as much for their hot tempers as they are for their hot wheels. Kurt is a former Cup champ; it’s only a matter of time before Kyle joins those ranks.



11. Boateng Brothers
Kevin-Prince Boateng, M, A.C. Milan (25)
Jerome Boateng, D, Bayern Munich (24)

In the 2010 World Cup, Prince played for Ghana and Jerome suited up for Germany.


12. Harrison Twins
Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky signee (18)
Aaron Harrison, G, Kentucky signee (18)

John Calipari has already locked up the blue-chip twin talents for Big Blue Nation.


13. Dillon Brothers
Austin Dillon, NASCAR (22)
Ty Dillon, NASCAR (20)

Richard Childress’ grandsons are on the fast track — with Austin driving Dale’s No. 3.



14. Jones Brothers
Arthur Jones, DE, Baltimore Ravens (26)
Jon Jones, MMA fighter, UFC (25)
Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots (22)

“Bones” is a mixed martial artist, while Arthur and Chandler are both sack artists.


15. Lopez Twins
Brook Lopez, C, Brooklyn Nets (24)
Robin Lopez, C, New Orleans Hornets (24)

Following in the pine tree footsteps of Stanford twin towers Jason and Jarron Collins.


16. Pouncey Twins
Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers (23)
Mike Pouncey, C, Miami Dolphins (23)

Maurkice is more talented but Mike lives in Miami, where there’s way more talent.


17. Staal Brothers
Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes (28)
Marc Staal, D, New York Rangers (26)
Jordan Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes (24)
Jared Staal, RW, Charlotte Checkers (22)

Quantity outweighs quality with these Thunder Bay, Ontario, thunder-stick clappers.


18. Molina Brothers
Jose Molina, C, Tampa Bay Rays (37)
Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals (30)

The mystique of the Molina family name results in overrating; plus Bengie just retired.


19. Davis Brothers
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers (28)
Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts (24)

Vernon (6’3”, 250) and Vontae (5’11”, 205) are like Schwarzenegger and DeVito, right?


20. Brownlee Brothers
Alistair Brownlee, Triathlon (24)
Jonny Brownlee, Triathlon (22)

Alistair is a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; Jonny is not.


21. McCourty Twins
Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots (25)
Jason McCourty, CB, Tennessee Titans (25)

Did Devin and Jason pull a Parent Trap this year, when Devin moved from CB to FS?


22. Zeller Brothers
Luke Zeller, F, Phoenix Suns (25)
Tyler Zeller, F, Cleveland Cavaliers (23)
Cody Zeller, F, Indiana Hoosiers (20)

Are there any more Zeller boys coming up? They keep getting better and better.


23. Plumlee Brothers
Miles Plumlee, F, Indiana Pacers (24)
Mason Plumlee, F, Duke Blue Devils (22)
Marshall Plumlee, C, Duke Blue Devils (20)

Like the Zellers, only less talented and all alums of Coach K’s school of hardwood.


24. Curry Brothers
Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors (24)
Seth Curry, G, Duke Blue Devils (22)

Dell’s sons inherited their old man’s 3-point stroke but mom Sonya is the real star.


25. Ryan Twins
Rex Ryan, Coach, New York Jets (50)
Rob Ryan, Defensive Coordinator, TBD (50)

Buddy’s boys would have been ranked higher in years past — or like five minutes ago.


26. Molinari Brothers
Edoardo Molinari, Golf (31)
Francesco Molinari, Golf (30)

The Italian maestros are have strikingly different swings but similar disappointing results.


27. Jerry Brothers
Peria Jerry, DT, Atlanta Falcons (28)
John Jerry, G, Miami Dolphins (26)

Imagine dinner with the Jerrys, who live large at 295 and 345 pounds, respectively.


28. Landry Brothers
Dawan Landry, S, Jacksonville Jaguars (30)
LaRon Landry, S, New York Jets (28)

LaRon is jacked up and hyped up, but on game days it’s Dawan who actually shows up.


29. Trufant Brothers
Marcus Trufant, CB, Seattle Seahawks (32)
Isaiah Trufant, CB, New York Jets (30)
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington Huskies (21)

Desmond is quickly moving up draft boards and might join Marcus as a first-round pick.

30. Mowen Sisters
Justine Mowen, Beach Volleyball (26)
Jordan Mowen, Beach Volleyball (23)

Australian blondes will take their bikinis to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics — hopefully.

 

Teaser:
<p> The Harbaugh Brothers are both in Super Bowl XLVII, but are not the only active siblings in sports.</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/senior-bowl-winners-and-losers
Body:

As always, there was money to be made at the Senior Bowl, where high-profile prospects and small school gems alike look to prove their worth to NFL executives, coaches and scouts. The South defeated the North, 21–16, with Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel earning MVP honors.

But the games within the game — along with the previous week’s practice — were more important than the scoreboard. Here are the Mobile money makers as well as the players who have ground to make up heading into the Scouting Combine (Feb. 20-26) and leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27).

Winners
 
Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan
Already a late first-round prospect, the 6-7, 305-pound Fisher vaulted himself into the top-10 pick conversation and “by simple math, made $4 million bucks,” according to NFL Network scouting guru Mike Mayock, who said Fisher was “(49ers Pro Bowl left tackle) Joe Staley with better feet.”

Ezekial Ansah, DE, BYU
“Ziggy” is hoping to ride the “next Jason Pierre-Paul” hype as far as he can up draft boards. Ansah’s Senior Bowl game was certainly JPP-like, with a sack, forced fumble, batted ball at the line on a screen pass and open field tackle for a loss against Michigan’s Denard Robinson. No one was more impressive on game day than Ansah.
 
EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
The MVP completed 7-of-10 passes for 76 yards, one TD and one INT on a tipped pass, while showing off his mobility with another TD on the ground. Manuel’s scoring strike was a perfectly thrown 20-yard touch pass over the top to Alabama tight end Michael Williams in the back of the end zone.
 
Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
It was a good day for small school corners, as Alford and William & Mary’s B.W. Webb both shined in coverage and as return men. Alford opened the game with an 88-yard kickoff return and finished strong with an INT in the end zone on a 2-point conversion attempt.
 
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
The best cornerback in practices showed off his straight line speed by hawking Alford from behind to make a TD-saving tackle (albeit with a facemask penalty tacked on to the end of the run) on the opening kickoff. Desmond is quickly following in the NFL footsteps of his brothers Marcus and Isaiah.
 
Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma
The 6’6”, 300-pound former quarterback solidified his status as a first-round talent with the feet and frame to play left tackle at the next level.

Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
The top D-tackle in Mobile, Short was disruptive all afternoon, teaming with UCLA’s Datone Jones to form a nearly unblockable tackle tag-team.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Danny Lee Jesus didn’t play in the game itself, but the massive 6’5”, 355-pounder stole the show at the weigh-in and could be one of the fastest risers in this year’s class by the time the Commissioner is giving bear hugs.

Mike Mayock, NFL Network
One of the best in the business, Mayock was on his game yet again — calling name-dropping colleague Charles Davis “first-team All-Elevator” while providing brutally honest assessments of everyone other than Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long, the son of Mayock’s 1980 Blue-Gray Game roommate Howie Long.
 
Losers
 
Mike Glennon, QB, NC State
Showed flashes of a big league arm, but threw too many ground balls in the dirt and showed little pocket presence. The 6’7” Glennon completed 8-of-16 passes for 82 yards. Still, in a league desperate for quarterbacks, there’s probably a team already trying to convince itself that Glennon is the next Joe Flacco.
 
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Showed no awareness, holding the ball too long, allowing the pocket to collapse around him and throwing an ill-conceived dump-off pass on 4th-and-8. Jones completed 3-of-9 passes for 16 yards, took two sacks and looked lost for much of the game.

Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan
“Shoelace” fought through an arm injury to participate in the Senior Bowl. So, in that regard, he is a winner. Unfortunately, his only real highlight was the lowlight of being caught by Ziggy Ansah for a 3-yard loss on an end-around. Denard X will need to run like lightning at the Combine to save his struggling draft stock.

John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
Never was it harder to find a man who stands 6’3” and 350-plus pounds than it was with Jenkins during the game in the Senior Bowl. But legit nose tackles are hard to find, so this boom-or-bust Dawg will hear his name called earlier than most on draft day.
 
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Tim’s son was beaten badly by 270-pound Alabama tight end Michael Williams for a TD, failing to find the football in the air or make a play with his athleticism. McDonald reaffirmed the scouting report that he is an in-the-box safety with no ball skills whose last name is his best tool.
 
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
Made the brilliant move of attempting to field a punt at the one-yard-line, then nearly getting tackled in the end zone for a safety before showing off his track star speed.
 
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The Estonian “Eastern Block” has an NCAA record 10 blocked field goals, but was confused multiple times by the same misdirection toss and otherwise overmatched against the high-end O-tackles.

Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Lennay is going to be pissed. Te’o skipped the Senior Bowl altogether, despite on-field concerns following his BCS national title disappearing act and off-field issues in the wake of his catfish story too big for Twitter.
 

Teaser:
<p> Senior Bowl Winners and Losers, including Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, BYU defensive end Ezekial "Ziggy" Ansah, Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, Michigan receiver Denard Robinson, Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins and USC safety T.J. McDonald.</p>
Post date: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 11:27
Path: /college-football/senior-bowl-preview-5-things-watch
Body:

The 63rd Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., kicks off Saturday (Jan. 26, 2013) at 4 p.m. EST on NFL Network — or Ladd-Peebles Stadium, if you want to scout from a front row seat. Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions are coaching the South squad, with Dennis Allen and the Oakland Raiders leading the North team.

But here’s what to really watch for between the lines once the game gets going:


1. Elite Left Tackles
Texas A&M true junior Luke Joekel isn’t eligible to compete at the Senior Bowl; he’ll probably be kicking it with Johnny Football attempting ridiculous trick shots or gambling or something else crazy. Joekel is considered this year’s top left tackle prospect — and a legit candidate to go No. 1 overall in the draft to the Kansas City Chiefs.

But a pair of first-round candidates will be in Mobile. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (6’7”, 305) will man the blindside up North and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (6’6”, 303) handles the big money spot down South. Both dancing bears have been cashing in during practice all week, with Fisher working his way into fringe-top-10-pick range.


2. QB Shuffle
Before arriving on the scene at Super Bowl XLVII, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick were low profile Senior Bowl quarterbacks from Delaware and Nevada, respectively. But they aren’t the only recent success stories, four Senior Bowl quarterbacks have been taken in the first-round over the past three drafts.

This year crop of QBs includes NC State’s Mike Glennon, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Miami (Ohio)’s Zac Dysert. With so many teams still unsettled at quarterback, one of these signal-callers could make a late charge up draft boards like Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler (No. 11 in 2006) or TCU’s Andy Dalton (No. 35 in 2011).


3. Family Traditions
Several familiar surnames will be doing pops and/or big bro proud in Mobile.

Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant studded out during practice this week and might have earned a first-round grade — although he won’t go as high as Marcus Trufant (No. 11) did out of Washington State back in 2003.

USC safety T.J. McDonald weighed in at 6’2” and 205 pounds, with a similar frame to his old man Tim (6’2”, 215) — who went on to a six-time All-Pro and Super Bowl XXIX championship career after being the No. 34 pick in 1987.

Oregon O-lineman Kyle Long is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of former No. 2 pick Rams defensive end Chris Long. After measuring in at 6’7”, 312 with shorter than expected arms, Kyle may have to kick in from tackle to guard — but he’s still likely to carry on the Long tradition of his NFL family.



4. Denard X-Factor
The Senior Bowl has proven to be fertile proving ground for quarterbacks-turned-receivers/runners/return-specialists like Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El (MVP in 2002) and West Virginia’s Pat White (MVP in 2009) — both of whom went on to be second-round picks after MVP efforts in the Senior Bowl.

This year, Michigan’s Denard Robinson has had a choppy week of practice while trying to prove he can successfully transition from quarterback to triple-threat playmaker. “Shoelace” will have one last shot to perform in pads — after a career that saw Denard X. pass for 6,250 yards, rush for 4,459 yards and account for 91 total TDs.


5. Raw, Unreal Athletes
Although Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker won’t play in Saturday afternoon’s game, Danny Lee Jesus stole the show during weigh-ins earlier in the week — checking in at 6’5”, 355 pounds and carrying his weight with impressive ease. Fluker's fellow Crimson Tide national champion, linebacker Nico Johnson, will give local Bama fans a reason to yell "Roll Tide," however, so Nick Saban's club will be well represented.

On game day, all eyes will be on potential 3-4 elephant man Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, BYU’s 6’5”, 270-pound pass rushing specimen who has only been playing football for three years but has been called the “next Jason Pierre-Paul” by some. A few splash plays in the Senior Bowl would go a long way to securing Ziggy’s status as a first-rounder.

Arguably the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the Senior Bowl — and maybe the entire 2013 draft pool — is 359-pound Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins. To no one’s surprise, Jenkins was the heaviest man on the scales in Mobile and will be one of the players with the most ground to gain or lose on Saturday.

Teaser:
<p> Senior Bowl Preview: 5 Things to Watch, including Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher, Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson, Michigan's Denard Robinson, Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, USC safety T.J. McDonald, BYU's Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 18:57
Path: /nfl/10-greatest-players-never-play-super-bowl
Body:

Being a future Hall of Famer does not guarantee a trip to the Super Bowl. In fact, many of the game’s greatest players never took the field with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line. This year, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed will finally end his Super Sunday drought against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. But these all-time greats were not so lucky.


1. Barry Sanders, RB, Lions (1989-98)
Playoff record: 1–5
Playoff stats: 386 rush yards (4.2 ypc), TD; 111 receiving yards (5.3 ypc), TD
Best team: 1991 Lions (12–4 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1991 (NFC Championship Game, 41–10 loss at Redskins)


After winning his playoff debut 38–6 against the Cowboys, Sanders lost his next five postseason games. Shockingly, one of the most exciting players of all-time was limited to 13 or fewer carries in four of his six playoff contests. The only time No. 20 was given more than 20 carries, he ripped off 169 yards in a 28–24 loss to the Packers. Although Sanders ran wild every year on Thanksgiving Day, he never showed up to the party on Super Bowl Sunday.


2. Deacon Jones, DE, Rams (1961-71), Chargers (’72-73), Redskins (’74)
Playoff record: 0–2
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1967 Rams (11–1–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1969 (Divisional Round, 23–20 loss at Vikings)


The “Secretary of Defense” was known for head-slapping opposing offensive linemen, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year must have been doing some head-scratching after retiring with zero playoff wins — and zero Super Bowl appearances — despite an unofficial total of 173.5 sacks during his Hall of Fame career.


3. Dick Butkus, LB, Bears (1965-73)
Playoff record: 0–0
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)


Arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history, Butkus played for George Halas — the legendary coach whose name graces the trophy awarded to the winner of the NFC Championship Game — and on the same team as Hall of Fame triple-threat playmaker Gale Sayers. Despite looking great on paper at the time and even better in historical hindsight, Butkus’ Bears were unable to make the playoffs, which is the first step toward advancing to the Super Bowl.


4. Gale Sayers, RB, Bears (1965-71)
Playoff record: 0–0
Playoff stats: N/A
Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)


Butkus and Sayers were drafted Nos. 3 and 4 overall, respectively, by the Bears in 1965. But the Hall of Fame duo were unable to translate their individual achievements into team success. Sayers notched a record six TDs in a single game — with nine carries for 113 yards and four TDs, two catches for 89 yards and one TD, and five punt returns for 134 yards and one TD as a rookie — but failed to score even a single Super Bowl trip.


5. Earl Campbell, RB, Oilers (1978-84), Saints (’84-85)
Playoff record: 3–3
Playoff stats: 420 rush yards (3.1 ypc), 4 TDs; 45 receiving yards (9.0 ypc)
Best team: 1979 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in AFC Championship Game), 1980 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in Wild Card Round)
Closest call: 1979 (AFC Championship Game, 27–13 loss at Steelers), 1978 (AFC Championship Game, 34–5 loss at Steelers)


The “Luv Ya Blue” bulldozer was unable to take down the powerful “Steel Curtain” during back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses. In two painful defeats at Pittsburgh, Campbell had a combined 39 carries for 77 yards (1.97 ypc), two catches for 15 yards, and zero TDs. Campbell’s two scoreless games against the Steelers were the only two playoff games in which he failed to find the end zone.


6. O.J. Simpson, RB, Bills (1969-77), 49ers (’78-79)
Playoff record: 0–1
Playoff stats: 49 rush yards (3.3 ypc); 37 receiving yards (12.3 ypc), TD
Best team: 1974 Bills (9–5 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1974 (Divisional Round, 32–14 loss at Steelers)


Another victim of the mighty Steelers, the Juice had better luck than Campbell — with 18 touches for 86 total yards and one TD — but was unable to lead the Bills to victory in what would be his only postseason appearance. The actor and defendant never basked in the spotlight of the Super Bowl but he was seen by millions during his days as Lt. Nordberg in the "Naked Gun" franchise and his starring role in the Trial of the Century.


7. Eric Dickerson, RB, Rams (1983-87), Colts (’87-91), Raiders (’92), Falcons (’93)
Playoff record: 2–5
Playoff stats: 724 rush yards (4.9 ypc), 3 TDs; 91 receiving yards (4.8 ypc), TD
Best team: 1985 Rams (11–5 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)
Closest call: 1985 (NFC Championship Game, 24–0 loss at Bears)


Upon first glance, the single-season rushing yards record holder posted solid playoff numbers. But take off the goggles and you’ll see that Dickerson’s 248-yard, two-TD outburst during a 20–0 win over the Cowboys in 1985 accounted for one-third of his career postseason rushing yards and half of his total TDs.


8. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (2001-09), Jets (’10-11)
Playoff record: 4–5
Playoff stats: 468 rush yards (3.6 ypc), 6 TDs; 176 receiving yards (7.0 ypc), TD
Best team: 2006 Chargers (14–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2010 (AFC Championship Game, 24–19 loss at Steelers), 2007 (AFC Championship Game, 21–12 loss at Patriots)


Infamously sulking on the sideline, injured and wearing in a Darth Vader facemask and trench coat at New England — after just two carries for five yards — was clearly the low point of L.T.’s playoff career. Staying on the dark side, three of his five playoff losses were by margins of three points, one defeat came by four points and the most lopsided was a nine-pointer.


9. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs (1997-2008), Falcons (2009-12)
Playoff record: 1–6
Playoff stats: 30 catches for 286 yards (9.5 ypc) and 4 TDs
Best team: 2012 Falcons (13–3 record, lost in NFC Championship Game), 2010 Falcons (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round), 2003 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round), 1997 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 2012 (NFC Championship Game, 28–24 loss vs. 49ers)


It took Gonzo 16 seasons to finally earn a playoff win. Then, with the Falcons holding a 17–0 lead over the 49ers in the NFC title game, it looked like the future Hall of Fame tight end would be punching his ticket to the Super Bowl and possibly riding off into the sunset as a champion. Nope. Not this year. Gonzalez will have to come back for a 17th season if he hopes to break his Super Bowl-less slide.


10. Warren Moon, QB, Oilers (1984-93), Vikings (’94-96), Seahawks (’97-98), Chiefs (’99-00)
Playoff record: 3–7
Playoff stats: 2,870 yards, 17 TDs, 14 INTs, 84.9 passer rating
Best team: 1993 Oilers (12–4 record, lost in Divisional Round)
Closest call: 1993 (Divisional Round, 28–20 loss vs. Chiefs), 1991 (Divisional Round, 26–24 loss at Broncos), 1988 (Divisional Round, 17–10 loss at Bills)


Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups and was twice named Grey Cup MVP in the Canadian Football League. But in these United States south of the border, the former CFL champion was unable to translate his prior success to the NFL Playoffs. Moon’s waning moment came in the worst collapse in postseason history, as his Oilers watched a 35–3 lead evaporate into a 41–38 overtime loss against the Frank Reich-led Bills.
 

Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Ravens vs. 49ers and the history of the big game.

Teaser:
<p> Sanders, Jones, Butkus and LT never played in the Super Bowl.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /nfl/25-greatest-tight-ends-nfl-history
Body:

Few positions in football have evolved as much as the tight end — which has morphed from that of old school glorified sixth offensive lineman to modern giant slot receiver. Keeping that role reversal in mind, we rank the 25 greatest tight ends in NFL history.


1. Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs (1997-2008), Falcons (’09-12)
6-time first-team All-Pro
13-time Pro Bowler
1,242 catches for 14,268 yards (11.5 ypc) and 103 TDs

The No. 13 overall pick out of Cal played basketball for the Golden Bears and then used his 6’5”, 250-pound frame to ball about as hard as any pass-catcher this side of Jerry Rice during a sure-fire Hall of Fame career. Gonzalez currently ranks second in all-time receptions, sixth in all-time receiving TDs and seventh in all-time receiving yards — all of which rank first among tight ends.

Regardless of whether the soon-to-be 37-year-old retires following a painful loss in the NFC Championship Game, Gonzalez has already established himself as the greatest to ever play the tight end position.


2. Kellen Winslow, Chargers (1979-87)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1995
3-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
541 catches for 6,741 yards (12.5 ypc) and 45 TDs

Winslow teamed with fellow Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Charlie Joiner to form the nucleus of the dynamic “Air Coryell” passing attack. One of the original downfield threats from the tight end spot, the 6’5”, 250-pounder led the entire NFL in receptions in 1980 and ’81.

The No. 13 pick out of Missouri posted three of the more impressive seasons ever — with 89 catches for 1,290 yards (14.5 ypc) and nine TDs in 1980, 88 catches for 1,075 yards and 10 TDs in 1981, and 88 catches for 1,172 yards and eight TDs in 1983. Plus, Winslow sired Kellen Winslow II, a full-time “soldier” and part-time tight end who was drafted No. 6 overall in 2004.


3. Mike Ditka, Bears (1961-66), Eagles (’67-68), Cowboys (’69-72)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1988
2-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl VI champion (Cowboys)
427 catches for 5,812 yards (13.6 ypc) and 43 TDs

The No. 5 overall pick out of Pitt exploded onto the scene like only Hurricane Ditka can, posting 56 catches for 1,076 yards (19.2 ypc) and 12 TDs as a rookie. The first tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame also caught a TD from Roger Staubach in Super Bowl VI.


4. John Mackey, Colts (1963-71), Chargers (’72)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1992
3-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
331 catches for 5,236 yards (15.8 ypc) and 38 TDs
19 rushes for 127 yards (6.7 ypc)

Many on this list were winners of the John Mackey Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top collegiate tight end. A big-play threat who revolutionized the position, Mackey supporters can make a strong case that he is the best ever.


5. Shannon Sharpe, Broncos (1990-99, 2002-03), Ravens (’00-01)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2011
4-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXXII champion (Broncos)
Super Bowl XXXIII champion (Broncos)
Super Bowl XXXV champion (Ravens)
815 catches for 10,060 yards (12.3 ypc) and 62 TDs

Sterling Sharpe’s lesser-known little brother was a seventh-round pick (No. 192 overall) out of Savannah State who worked his way to the top of the tight end mountain — and now he won’t stop talking about it.

But there’s plenty for Shannon to brag about after a career that included back-to-back Super Bowl wins playing with the Broncos’ John Elway and a third Super Bowl ring in four seasons as the Ravens’ go-to guy — a role that led to the longest TD reception in playoff history, a 96-yard score in the 2000 AFC title game.


6. Antonio Gates, Chargers (2003-12)
3-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
642 catches for 8,321 yards (13.0 ypc) and 83 TDs

Another former basketball player, Gates went undrafted out of Kent State before posting up overmatched defenders with a rare blend of size (6’4”, 255), power and agility. A series of foot injuries have stunted Gates’ career, but not before he was to redefine the parameters within which the position is played.


7. Ozzie Newsome, Browns (1978-90)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1999
1-time first-team All-Pro
3-time Pro Bowler
662 catches for 7,980 yards (12.1 ypc) and 47 TDs

Before becoming the front office architect of the Baltimore Ravens, Newsome was one of the greatest Cleveland Browns and most impressive tight ends in history.


8. Dave Casper, Raiders (1974-80, ’84), Oilers (’81-83), Vikings (’83)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2002
4-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XI champion (Raiders)
Super Bowl XV champion (Raiders)
378 catches for 5,216 yards (13.8 ypc) and 52 TDs

After recording just nine combined catches in his first two seasons, Casper became one of Kenny Stabler’s favorite targets on the classic Raiders dynasty that defined the franchise.


9. Jason Witten, Cowboys (2003-12)
2-time first-team All-Pro
8-time Pro Bowler
806 catches for 8,948 yards (11.1 ypc) and 44 TDs

Four 1,000-yard seasons have put Witten in rarified air among tight ends. And the star on the helmet won’t hurt when it comes time to voting for the Hall of Fame.


10. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (2010-12)
1-time first-team All-Pro
2-time Pro Bowler
187 catches for 2,663 yards (14.2 ypc) and 38 TDs

The “Gronk” posted the single greatest season ever by a tight end, with 90 catches for 1,327 yards (14.7 ypc) and 17 TDs in 2011. A 6’6”, 265-pound freak show on and off the field, the 23-year-old is the new Frankenstein monster prototype for NFL tight ends.



11. Jackie Smith, Cardinals (1963-77), Cowboys (’78)
Hall of Fame, Class of 1994
5-time Pro Bowler
480 catches for 7,918 yards (16.5 ypc) and 40 TDs
38 carries for 327 yards (8.6 ypc) and three TDs


12. Charlie Sanders, Lions (1968-77)
Hall of Fame, Class of 2007
3-time first-team All-Pro
7-time Pro Bowler
336 catches for 4,817 yards (14.3 ypc) and 31 TDs


13. Jerry Smith, Redskins (1965-77)
1-time first-team All-Pro
2-time Pro Bowler
421 catches for 5,496 yards (13.1 ypc) and 60 TDs


14. Ben Coates, Patriots (1991-99), Ravens (2000)
2-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
499 catches for 5,555 yards (11.1 ypc) and 50 TDs


15. Todd Christensen, Giants (1979), Raiders (’80-88)
2-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
461 catches for 5,872 yards (12.7 ypc) and 41 TDs


16. Keith Jackson, Eagles (1988-91), Dolphins (’92-94), Packers (’95-96)
3-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
441 catches for 5,283 yards (12.0 ypc) and 49 TDs


17. Jay Novacek, Cardinals (1985-89), Cowboys (’90-95)
1-time first-team All-Pro
5-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXVII champion (Cowboys)
Super Bowl XXVIII champion (Cowboys)
Super Bowl XXX champion (Cowboys)
422 catches for 4,630 yards (11.0 ypc) and 30 TDs


18. Brent Jones, 49ers (1987-97)
4-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXIII champion (49ers)
Super Bowl XXIV champion (49ers)
Super Bowl XXIX champion (49ers)
417 catches for 5,195 yards (12.5 ypc) and 33 TDs


19. Mark Bavaro, Giants (1985-90), Browns (’92), Eagles (’93-94)
2-time first-team All-Pro
2-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XXI champion (Giants)
Super Bowl XXV champion (Giants)
351 catches for 4,733 yards (13.5 ypc) and 39 TDs


20. Riley Odoms, Broncos (1972-83)
2-time first-team All-Pro
4-time Pro Bowler
396 catches for 5,755 yards (14.5 ypc) and 41 TDs
25 carries for 211 yards (8.4 ypc) and two TDs


21. Raymond Chester, Raiders (1970-72, ’78-81), Colts (’73-77)
4-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XV champion (Raiders)
364 catches for 5,013 yards (13.8 ypc) and 48 TDs


22. Dallas Clark, Colts (2003-11), Buccaneers (’12)
1-time first-team All-Pro
1-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XLI champion (Colts)
474 catches for 5,322 yards (11.2 ypc) and 50 TDs


23. Steve Jordan, Vikings (1982-94)
3-time first-team All-Pro
6-time Pro Bowler
498 catches for 6,307 yards (12.7 ypc) and 28 TDs


24. Billy Joe Dupree, Cowboys (1973-83)
3-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XII champion (Cowboys)
267 catches for 3,656 yards (13.4 ypc) and 41 TDs
26 rushes for 178 yards and one TD


25. Heath Miller, Steelers (2005-12)
2-time Pro Bowler
Super Bowl XL champion (Steelers)
Super Bowl XLIII champion (Steelers)
408 catches for 4,680 yards (11.5 ypc) and 39 TDs

Teaser:
<p> The 25 Greatest Tight Ends in NFL History, including Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Shannon Sharpe, Antonio Gates, Ozzie Newsome, Dave Casper, Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski, Jackie Smith, Charlie Sanders, Jerry Smith, Ben Coates, Todd Christiensen, Keith Jackson, Jay Novacek, Brent Jones, Mark Bavaro, Riley Odoms, Raymond Chester, Dallas Clark, Steve Jordan, Billy Joe Dupree and Heath Miller.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /nfl/nfl-playoffs-picks-against-spread-nfc-afc-championship-games
Body:

A betting preview (against the spread) in the NFC and AFC Championship Games of the NFL Playoffs.



Lock of the Week
The great Colin Kaepernick takes his one-man band on the road to Atlanta this weekend, after passing for 263 yards, rushing for 181 yards and scoring four total TDs in San Fran during his playoff debut. The 49ers fell just short of a trip to the Super Bowl last season but they’ll be headed to New Orleans after winning this week.

49ers (-5) at Falcons
Matt Ryan is much better at home (34–6 career record, including playoffs) than he is on the road (23–19 record). But this season, he has struggled statistically at home, throwing 13 TDs and 11 INTs at the Georgia Dome compared to 21 TDs and five INTs on the road. The Niners defense will bring too much heat for Matty Ice to handle.



Backdoor Cover
Baltimore was shown no respect last week in Denver, entering the Divisional Round game as a 10-point underdog before pulling off a 38–35 double-overtime victory. Ray Lewis’ retirement tour may not shock the world this week, but it won’t go down without a fight — especially in a rematch of last year’s painful AFC title game loss.

Ravens (+10) at Patriots
Joe Flacco is 7–4 in the playoffs, with his four losses coming at New England (23–20), at Pittsburgh (31–24), at Indianapolis (20–3) and at Pittsburgh (23–14). In other words, Flacco is 10–1 as a 10-point underdog.
 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Playoffs Picks Against the Spread: NFC, AFC Championship Games, featuring the San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 18, 2013 - 12:19

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