Articles By Nathan Rush

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
Path: /college-football/10-biggest-boom-or-bust-underclassmen-2013-nfl-draft
Body:

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft was Jan. 15. The economic majors who can play ball decided to take the money and run. But not every name on the list is a can’t-miss blue-chip draft stock.

These are the 10 biggest boom or bust underclassmen in the 2013 NFL Draft:


1. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Is Mingo a 6’5”, 240-pound “Freak” in the mold of Jevon Kearse or Jason Pierre-Paul? Odds are there’s a team with a top-10 pick willing to bank on that chance — especially after watching the lightning fast Mingo run and jump in neon Under Armour at the NFL Scouting Combine, where coaches and GMs will be drooling over the hybrid edge rusher like Les Miles over Bermuda grass on a Saturday afternoon. But Mingo was never able to turn that in-shorts potential into in-pads production at LSU, with just 4.5 sacks this year while playing alongside several former five-stars and future first-rounders.


2. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The big-talking big man who said the SEC, and Georgia in particular, played “old man football” has all the warning signs of a bust. All-world recruit with an ego as big as his massive frame? Check. Apparent lack of respect for authority or discipline? Check. History of shoulder injuries on a man soon to be paid to battle in the trenches? Check. Fast-rising prospect at the most bust-laden position, D-tackle? Check. Off-field issues as a cherry on top of the boom-or-bust sundae? Check yeah.


3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
There’s no doubt about the respect Lattimore has earned from his coaches, peers and fans during his time as arguably the nation’s top high school runner at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., and collegiate back at South Carolina. The football community was emotionally crushed after watching Lattimore’s knee get physically smashed. And it was Lattimore’s second devastating knee injury in as many years. But Adrian Peterson just ran for 2,000 yards on a recently reconstructed knee, Willis McGahee bounced back from a brutal blow and Frank Gore is still a beast running on a pair of repaired legs.


4. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
Classic case of a 6’6” quarterback with a million-dollar arm and a ten-cent head. It’s hard to blame the California kid who likes to chuck beer bottles at passing cars, though. After traveling cross-country to play for Lane Kiffin in Knoxville, his West Coast bro-coach bailed on him for USC. That left Bray holding the double-D-bag and playing for Derek Dooley. Well, not necessarily playing. Bray conveniently missed games against LSU (twice), Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas and Oregon during the first two years of his injury-riddled career. His last two years, he went 2–10 in the SEC, including losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. But there’s no denying the arm; even Jeff George and Ryan Mallett are impressed by Bray.


5. Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Once Bray’s go-to guy at Tennessee, the 6’3” jump-baller posted a 1,000-yard, nine-TD season in the SEC as a sophomore. But Rogers’ prima donna routine became expendable when Justin Hunter returned from injury and Cordarrelle Patterson arrived from JUCO to give the Volunteers more than enough NFL talent at wideout. After failed drug tests and indefinite suspensions, Rogers went to play for Mack Brown’s brother Watson Brown at Tennessee Tech, where the Georgia native had an 800-yard, 10-TD campaign against lesser FCS competition.


6. Tyrann Mathieu, CB/PR, LSU
The “Honey Badger” went from a cult hero Heisman Trophy finalist playing in the BCS national title game to the national spokesman for Spice synthetic weed. After watching this season from the couch and occasionally the stands, Mathieu hopes teams overlook his 5’9”, 175-pound frame — as well as a stack of off-field red flags at least that big — and focus on his unique playmaking ability as a nickel corner and punt returner. There was an intangible quality to Mathieu’s game in his heyday, but the tangible reality is that “Honey Badger” don’t care, and it may have cost him a lucrative NFL career.

 


7. William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
The 6’7”, 280-pound “Too Tall” is the cousin of Vernon Gholston, a former All-American at Ohio State who was selected No. 6 overall by the New York Jets in 2008. Vernon was an elephant man who wasn’t a freak so much as just ugly — as a player on the field and contract on the books. Unfortunately for William, he was nowhere near as productive as Vernon was in the Big Ten but he shares the last name “Gholston,” which is now synonymous with “bust” in certain draft circles.


8. Kwame Geathers, NT, Georgia
A big Dawg at 6’6”, 355-plus-pounds, Geathers is another namesake — as the brother of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Robert Geathers, brother of South Carolina’s Clifton Geathers, son of former NFL third-round pick Robert Geathers Sr., and nephew of 13-year NFL vet and two-time Super Bowl champion “Jumpy” Geathers. With that pedigree and so few nose guards to choose from for the ever-expanding list of teams running a 3-4 defense, Kwame Geathers will get over-drafted; hopefully not as bad as Kwame Brown was.


9. Greg Reid, CB/PR, Valdosta State
After getting kicked off of Florida State’s eventual Orange Bowl-winning squad, Reid suffered a season-ending knee injury before he could suit up for Valdosta State’s eventual Division II national title-winning team. If his run of bad decisions and bad luck comes to an end, Reid is the type of return man capable of breaking Deion Sanders’ FSU career record for punt return yards — which he was on pace to do before his quick-twitch exit from Tallahassee.


10. Brad Wing, P, LSU
Look out, you’ve got company, Chris Gardocki — who, by the by, was the last punter to declare early for the NFL Draft, back in 1991. The Bayou Bengal from Australia pinned himself into a coffin corner after being suspended for Honey-Badgering a drug test. So the 6’3”, 200-pounder entered the draft, where his Sebastian Janikowski attitude and success rate could make him a highly drafted, highly volatile special teams weapon. Don’t forget to watch out for the fake punt, either.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Biggest Boom or Bust Underclassmen in 2013 NFL Draft, including LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Tennessee Tech receiver Da'Rick Rogers, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, Michigan State defensive end William Gholston, Georgia nose tackle Kwame Geathers, LSU punter Brad Wing and Valdosta State cornerback Greg Reid.</p>
Post date: Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-playoff-picks-afc-nfc-championship-games
Body:

NFL Playoffs previews and predictions for the AFC and NFC Championship Games:


AFC Championship Game

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS

How the Ravens can win:
None other than Ray Lewis himself has put the weight of the world on the right shoulder of quarterback Joe Flacco. “You’re the General, lead us to victory,” Lewis told Flacco. “Smokin’ Joe” will need to deliver another knockout blow on the road against the AFC’s reigning heavyweight champion Patriots.

Flacco will have plenty of help, however, as home-run threat Torrey Smith and physical target Anquan Boldin line up out wide, while multi-threat running back Ray Rice and rookie runner Bernard Pierce handle the workload on the ground behind a solid O-line.

Although the offense will need to keep up on the scoreboard, the Ravens’ defense will be charged with containing Tom Brady and Co. The usual suspects of Lewis, safety Ed Reed, tackle Haloti Ngata and edge rusher Terrell Suggs will need to bring the heat in New England. In the end, it may come down to rookie kicker Justin Tucker, who will need to avoid the fate of Billy Cundiff, the goat of last year’s 23–20 AFC title game defeat in Foxborough.

How the Patriots can win:
Brady has more playoff wins than any other quarterback in history — with a 17–6 postseason record, including an 11–2 mark at home. Coach Bill Belichick will put the ball in Brady’s hands and let him work the magic that has already earned the duo five trips to the Super Bowl and three Vince Lombardi Trophies during their time in New England.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski is injured, but these Patriots are still loaded with playmakers like slot receiver Wes Welker and versatile tight end Aaron Hernandez. The power and speed backfield combo of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen has become nearly unstoppable as the season has worn on.

Defensively, 320-plus-pounder Vince Wilfork continues to anchor the unit, while playmakers like linebacker Jerod Mayo, hybrid end Chandler Jones and cornerback Aqib Talib fly around the field.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Zoltan Mesko and a return game led by Welker and Devin McCourty round out a solid squad.

What will happen: New England by 5
Patriots march to Super Bowl XLVII; Ravens fly home for winter.


NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET, FOX

How the 49ers can win:
If dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s second career playoff start is anything like his first, then San Francisco should cruise to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Kaepernick posted 263 passing yards, 181 rushing yards and four total TDs against Green Bay in just his eighth career NFL start.

Coach Jim Harbaugh’s club is far from a one-man team. Veteran running back Frank Gore, wideout Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis have all had their own breakout playoff performances. And the Niners’ O-line is arguably the best in the business.

Defensively, San Francisco’s lineup reads like the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster, with All-Pro linebackers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner, and end Justin Smith leading the charge.

Special teams was the Achilles’ heal of San Fran’s NFC title game effort last season and could be again this year, with kicker David Akers showing signs of physical and mental fatigue down the stretch.

How the Falcons can win:
Matt Ryan finally ripped the playoff monkey off his back, winning his first career postseason game in his fourth attempt. But he’s far from satisfied. It will be up to “Matty Ice” to keep his cool against an aggressive 49ers defense that will bring exotic blitz packages from their 3-4 scheme.

Ryan’s fleet of pass-catchers is easily the best remaining in the playoffs, as receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are joined by future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. In the backfield, Michael Turner has split more time with Jacquizz Rodgers of late, giving the Falcons a variety of offensive looks.

Atlanta’s defense will need to do to Gore what it did to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (16 carries, 46 yards) while not allowing Kaepernick to do what Russell Wilson (385 pass yards, 60 rush yards, 3 TDs) was able to do both through the air and on the ground.

Kicker Matt Bryant already has one playoff game-winner, giving coach Mike Smith confidence in what should be a close contest.

What will happen: San Francisco by 3
49ers strike Super Bowl gold; Falcons’ wings clipped at home.

 

Last week: 3-1 // Season: 178-86
 

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Playoff Picks: AFC, NFC Championship Games, Previews of the Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 23:58
Path: /nfl/colin-kaepernick-carries-49ers-nfc-championship-game
Body:

When placed directly in the spotlight of the NFL Playoffs, many players shrink amid the added scrutiny, while others shine brightest when given national attention.

Heading into San Francisco’s Divisional Round playoff showdown with Green Bay, no one was quite sure which type of player 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be.

The second-year dual-threat signal-caller out of Nevada was making just his eighth career start since replacing veteran Alex Smith — who led the Niners all the way to the NFC title game last year before being concussed in Week 10 this season and never reclaiming his starting job.

Clearly Kaepernick looked the part during the regular season — posting a 5–2 record while completing 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,814 yards, 10 TDs and three INTs for a 98.3 passer rating, while scrambling for 415 yards, on 6.6 yards per carry, and five TDs on the ground.

The playoffs, however, are a completely different animal. And Kaepernick was the youngest quarterback (25 years, 2 months, 9 nines) to start for San Francisco since Joe Montana (25 years, 6 months, 23 days).

Kaepernick looked his age early on, throwing an interception that was returned for a 52-yard TD by Packers cornerback Sam Shields, giving Green Bay an early 7–0 lead. But, as a young Joe Cool might have done, Kaepernick stayed calm and answered with an eight-play, 80-yard TD drive to tie the game at 7–7.

“He does a great job of responding. He has done that. Every time there’s been an interception that he’s thrown, or safety or turnover. He’s responded with a scoring drive. I think that’s rare. I think that’s a rare quality. And so far he’s shown that he’s got that ability to come back,” said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who was known as “Captain Comeback” during his playing days.

From that point on, Kaepernick was in total control of the 49ers offense and the Packers defense was helpless to stop San Fran’s new golden boy. Kaepernick completed 17-of-31 passes for 263 yards and two TDs, while running 16 times for 181 yards and two TDs en route to a 45–31 win. His 181 rushing yards broke both the NFL single-game and playoff game records for a quarterback, both of which were held by Michael Vick, as well as the 49ers’ team playoff record, held by Roger Craig.

And with running back Frank Gore adding 23 carries for 119 yards and one TD, the Niners’ play-action opened up the downfield passing game for wideout Michael Crabtree, who finished with nine catches for 119 yards and two TDs. The 49ers’ trio became the first in NFL history to post two 100-yard rushers and one 100-yard receiver in a playoff game. San Francisco also set team records for total yards (579) and rushing yards (323) in the process.

“Our offensive line played great today. They did a lot of things well up front. Our running backs ran well and our receivers made plays,” said Kaepernick, who joined Jay Cutler and Otto Graham as the only players in history to record two passing TDs and two rush TDs in a playoff game.

Kaepernick’s humility did little to shift the credit, however. There was no denying the impact of No. 7.

“He is a playmaker,” said 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. “He can run. He is athletic. He can throw. All the things you want in a quarterback, he has it.”

As for whether or not Kaepernick is a “running” quarterback, the former two-sport star who was drafted by MLB’s Chicago Cubs doesn’t bother worrying about labels.

“I don’t want to be categorized,” Kaepernick said after the game.

All Kaepernick seems to care about is being a big-time player — the type who rises to the occasion to make big plays in big games.
 

Teaser:
<p> Colin Kaepernick carries San Francisco 49ers to NFC Championship Game with record-breaking effort that included 263 passing yards, 181 rushing yards and four TDs during a 45-31 win over the Green Bay Packers.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 23:49
Path: /nfl/nfl-power-rankings-going-afc-nfc-championship-games
Body:

Athlon Sports' weekly rankings of NFL teams. The New England Patriots have taken over the top spot. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs remain locked into the No. 1 pick in this April's NFL Draft.

Here are our NFL Power Rankings following the NFL Playoffs' Divisional Round:



1. Patriots (13-4) Aim for sixth Super Bowl of Belichick-Brady era.

2. 49ers (12-4-1) Alex Smith who? Colin Kaepernick owns spotlight.

3. Falcons (14-3) Unintended onside kick ends thrilling win vs. Hawks.

4. Ravens (12-6) Return to site of last year’s AFC title game defeat.

5. Broncos (13-4) John Fox taking heat for taking knee to settle for OT.

6. Packers (12-6) Unable to double-check Colin Kaepernick in defeat.

7. Texans (13-5) Gary Kubiak, teammates “believe” in Matt Schaub.

8. Seahawks (12-6) Russell Wilson sets rookie QB playoff passing mark.

9. Redskins (10-7) NFLPA executive says FedEx Field a “safety issue.”

10. Bengals (10-7) Vontaze Burfict not fined for hit on Texans’ Graham.

11. Colts (11-6) Andrew Luck acts on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.”

12. Vikings (10-7) Problems with Percy Harvin downplayed by GM.

13. Bears (10-6) Brandon Marshall an All-Pro in first year in Chicago.

14. Giants (9-7) Rookie David Wilson second-team All-Pro as KR.

15. Cowboys (8-8) Hire “Godfather of Tampa 2” Monte Kiffin as DC.

16. Steelers (8-8) Chris Rainey placed on waivers after being arrested.



17. Rams (7-8-1) Rob Ryan rumored to be near deal to be next DC.

18. Panthers (7-9) Cam Newton taking classes at Auburn in offseason.

19. Saints (7-9) New Orleans preps as host city of Super Bowl XLVII.

20. Dolphins (7-9) Promise to pay for half of redone Sun Life Stadium.

21. Chargers (7-9) Hire Broncos OC Mike McCoy as next head coach.

22. Buccaneers (7-9) Ronde Barber to take his time debating retirement.

23. Titans (6-10) Fire Alan Lowry, architect of “Music City Miracle.”

24. Bills (6-10) Hire Nathaniel Hackett as OC, Mike Pettine as DC.

25. Jets (6-10) Struggle to fill vacant GM position amid team turmoil.

26. Cardinals (5-11) Steve Keim named GM, turns attention to new coach.

27. Browns (5-11) Norv Turner to be OC under coach Rob Chudzinski.

28. Lions (4-12) Cliff Avril set for another offseason contract battle.

29. Eagles (4-12) Interview both Brian Billick and Ken Whisenhunt.

30. Raiders (4-12) Rolando McClain arrested, tells cops “F--- y’all.”

31. Jaguars (2-14) Not interested in Tim Tebow “even if he’s released.”

32. Chiefs (2-14) Will take “best player available” in draft, says GM.

 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Power Rankings Going Into AFC, NFC Championship Games, including the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 20:49
Path: /nfl/nfl-playoffs-picks-against-spread-divisional-round
Body:

A betting preview of every game (against the spread) in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

Lock of the Week
These two teams played in prime time six Sundays ago in Week 14 of the regular season, with New England beating Houston, 42–14. Expect another blowout this weekend.

Patriots (-10) vs. Texans
Tom Brady has a 16–6 career playoff record — one win shy of taking sole possession of first place (Joe Montana has a 16–7 postseason mark) on the all-time playoff wins list. At home, Brady carries a 10–2 playoff record at home, winning six of those contests by double-digits.


Straight Up Upset
The West Coast bias ended last week, when Seattle flew to D.C. to knock out RG3. The Dirty Birds are up next for the soaring Hawks, who are in Beast Mode at the moment.

Seahawks (+3) at Falcons
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown just 11 TDs and nine INTs at home this year. Matty Ice has been ice cold in the playoffs, failing to throw for over 200 yards, while tossing a combined three TDs and four INTs, while losing two fumbles and taking 10 sacks en route to an 0–3 record.


Backdoor Cover
This may be Ray Lewis’ last game — a fitting end with a matchup against all-time great and generational peer Peyton Manning. But don’t expect it to be a double-digit blowout.

Ravens (+10) at Broncos
Manning is 2–0 against Baltimore in the playoffs, with both wins coming as a member of the Colts. But he has struggled against the ball-hawking Ravens, throwing three picks to center field safety Ed Reed. With a healthy defense containing Manning, it will be up to Joe Flacco to survive Von Miller and the Mile High D.


Sucker Bet
Steer clear of this matchup unless you’re a degenerate or don’t feel right unless you’re wearing a Cheesehead or gold body paint — and have to have hometown playoff action.

49ers (-3) vs. Packers
San Francisco took down Green Bay, 30–22, at Lambeau Field in the Week 1 season opener. Alex Smith has since been replaced by Colin Kaepernick, who will be making his first career playoff start. Double-checking the other side, Aaron Rodgers has a 4–2 mark in the playoffs and is tough to bet against.

 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Playoffs Picks Against the Spread: Divisional Round, including the Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos, Houston Texans at New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 11, 2013 - 16:08
Path: /nfl/10-best-nfl-comeback-stories-season
Body:

None other than the great Dr. James Andrews has decided that Robert Griffin III will require total reconstructive surgery to repair the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament) in his right knee. The roughly two-hour surgery took place on Wednesday, Jan. 9, and rehab for the Washington Redskins quarterback is expected to take anywhere between six-to-eight months.

But judging by a few recent miracles of modern science and other improbable returns, RG3 may be ready in plenty of time for the 2013 NFL season opener. These are the NFL’s top 10 comeback kings from this season — covering everything from physical injuries to damaged reputations to video game superstition and preconceived notions.


1. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
Injury Report: Neck injury requiring two vertebrae to be fused over the course of at least four separate surgical procedures
Initial Prognosis: Missed entire 2011 season with potentially career-ending injury
Actual Results: A five-year, $96 million contract with the Broncos, followed by a 13–3 record, No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs and possible fifth league MVP award


2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
Injury Report: Torn ACL, MCL in Week 16 of 2011
Initial Prognosis: Expected to miss start of 2012
Actual Results: Played all 16 games, becoming the seventh running back in history to rush for 2,000 yards, falling just short of Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season record


3. Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens
Injury Report: Torn right triceps in Week 6 of 2012
Initial Prognosis: Expected to miss remainder of 2012, possibly force retirement
Actual Results: Made triumphant return in a Wild Card playoff victory over the Colts, giving the fans in Baltimore one last dance after announcing his pending retirement


4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Injury Report: Cursed after being placed on cover of Madden 13
Initial Prognosis: Would certainly follow in the footsteps of cursed former coverboys Vince Young, Brett Favre, Michael Vick and Peyton Hillis
Actual Results: Became the first receiver in NFL history to record 2,000 yards receiving, breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season record in the process


5. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Injury Report: Allegedly stands just over 5’10” tall
Initial Prognosis: Too small to see over O-line, clearly not an NFL starting QB
Actual Results: Drafted No. 75 overall before leading Seattle to playoffs, defeating RG3 head-to-head and becoming fifth rookie quarterback in history to win a postseason game


6. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
Injury Report: Hamstrung by pockets full of money
Initial Prognosis: Loss of breakaway speed more confusing than CJ2K Twitter slang
Actual Results: Had longest TD run of his career (94 yards), became eighth running back in history to begin his career with five straight 1,000-yard seasons


7. Jonathan Vilma, LB, Saints
Injury Report: Taken out by Roger Goodell, as Gregg Williams’ “Kill the head” motto was adopted by the Commissioner
Initial Prognosis: Out indefinitely as ringleader of Saints’ Bounty Scandal
Actual Results: Returned to lineup in Week 7, backed by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, currently suing the Commissioner Goodell in a defamation lawsuit


8. Terrell Suggs, LB, Ravens
Injury Report: Torn Achilles tendon playing basketball in April 2012
Initial Prognosis: Pickup basketball career potentially over
Actual Results: Missed first six weeks of NFL season, returned to action in Week 7, started nine games including playoffs, hopes to play basketball again this summer


9. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Rams
Injury Report: Kicked off team at Florida, arrested three times, failed multiple drug tests, had four children by three different women
Initial Prognosis: Irreparable damage to reputation and draft stock
Actual Results: Became Jeff Fisher’s Pacman 2.0, drafted in the second round, shined with four INTs and four defensive TDs during a breakout rookie campaign

10. Randy Moss, WR, 49ers
Injury Report: “Straight cashed out, homey” in 2010
Initial Prognosis: League-wide black-listing after quitting on three teams in single season
Actual Results: Playing for the third-best team of his career with a chance to win his first Super Bowl and provide several more “Straight cash, homey,” reference opportunities

Teaser:
<p> 10 Best NFL Comeback Stories of This Season, including Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-playoff-picks-divisional-round
Body:

NFL Playoffs previews and predictions for the Divisional Round:


AFC PLAYOFFS:

Ravens (11-6) at Broncos (13-3)
Saturday, CBS, 4:30 p.m. ET

Peyton Manning makes his return to the playoffs in what could be Ray Lewis’ final NFL game, as arguably the best offensive and defensive players of the last decade go head-to-head one last time. As a member of the Colts, Manning had a 2–0 postseason record against the Ravens — with a 20–3 win following the 2009 season in his last trip to the playoffs and a 15–6 victory after the 2006 season en route to winning his only Super Bowl title. Although he has won both of his matchups with Baltimore, Manning has not necessarily been the reason for victory — throwing for a combined 416 yards, two TDs and three INTs. All three of Manning’s picks against the Ravens have been thrown to center field safety Ed Reed, who has eight INTs in 12 career playoff games, one shy of the all-time record.

Broncos by 9


Texans (12-5) at Patriots (12-4)
Sunday, CBS, 4:30 p.m. ET

Three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is one victory away from the all-time playoff wins record, currently held by Brady’s boyhood hero Joe Montana (16–7 playoff record; 14–5 with 49ers, 2–2 with Chiefs). This will be the second meeting in the last six weeks between Houston and New England. In Week 14, the Patriots marched to a 42–14 statement victory over the Texans, who carried a then-AFC-best 11–1 record. Including that loss, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown one TD and four INTs while posting a 2–3 record over the last five weeks. Brady was better than that, but not quite at his best down the stretch, throwing four of his eight total INTs in Weeks 15 and 16. Brady does, however, enter with the confidence of a 10–2 playoff record at home, while Schaub is making his first-ever playoff start on the road.

Patriots by 10



NFC PLAYOFFS:

Packers (12-5) at 49ers (11-4-1)
Saturday, FOX, 8 p.m. ET

In the season-opener back in Week 1, the Niners traveled to Lambeau Field to defeat the Packers, 30–22. San Francisco took an early 10–0 lead and carried a 23–7 lead into the fourth quarter before Green Bay rallied to within one score and two-point conversion away from a tie in the fourth quarter. In that game, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith threw two TDs in a near flawless effort. Since then, however, Smith has been replaced with second-year dual-threat Colin Kaepernick, who went 5–2 as a starter, including a 3–0 mark at home. While Kaepernick is making his first playoff start, Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers carries a 4–2 postseason record and a championship belt celebration following a victory in Super Bowl XLV.

49ers by 1


Seahawks (12-5) at Falcons (13-3)
Sunday, FOX, 1 p.m. ET

Much has been made of Matt Ryan’s 0–3 record in the playoffs, and rightly so. In three postseason defeats — at New York (24–2), vs. Green Bay (48–21) and at Arizona (30–24), respectively — Ryan has never thrown for even 200 yards in a single game. Meanwhile, he has thrown a combined three TDs and four INTs, while losing two fumbles and taking 10 sacks. In fairness, his losses have come against Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner, three passers who have a combined four Super Bowl wins. This time around, Ryan will square off against rookie Russell Wilson, who is 4–5 on the road, 1–2 in domes and 2–2 in the Eastern Time Zone this season — but does have a playoff win already.

Falcons by 1

 

Last week: 3-1 // Season: 175-85
 

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Round, including Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos, Houston Texans at New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 18:26
Path: /nfl/nfl-power-rankings-going-divisional-round-playoffs
Body:

Athlon Sports' weekly rankings of NFL teams. The Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons head into the playoffs as the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs have locked up the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

Here are our NFL Power Rankings following the NFL Playoffs' Wild Card Weekend:



1. Broncos (13-3) Peyton Manning 2–0 vs. Ravens in postseason.

2. Falcons (13-3) Haven’t won playoff game since Mike Vick was QB.

3. Patriots (12-4) Tom Brady puts 16–6 postseason record on the line.

4. 49ers (11-4-1) Colin Kaepernick to make first career playoff start.

5. Packers (12-5) Chico’s own Aaron Rodgers going back to California.

6. Texans (13-4) Arian Foster Twitter avatar now critical column pic.

7. Ravens (11-6) Ray Lewis victorious in final Baltimore home game.

8. Seahawks (12-5) Russell Wilson fifth rookie QB to earn playoff victory.

9. Redskins (10-7) Shanahan, Andrews dispute handling of RG3 injury.

10. Bengals (10-7) Marvin Lewis’ career postseason record falls to 0–4.

11. Colts (11-6) Bruce Arians hospitalized, misses loss at Baltimore.

12. Vikings (10-7) Joe Webb replaces Christian Ponder, struggles in loss.

13. Bears (10-6) Getting crazy eyes for interviewing Mike Singletary.

14. Giants (9-7) Jason Pierre-Paul to seek help from Michael Strahan.



15. Cowboys (8-8) Tony Romo taunted by NHL’s Dallas Stars on Twitter.

16. Steelers (8-8) OC Todd Haley debating interview for Cardinals’ job.

17. Rams (7-8-1) Williams boys, Gregg and Blake, let go in St. Louis.

18. Panthers (7-9) X-rays on Cam Newton’s ribs, left ankle negative.

19. Saints (7-9) Sean Payton reportedly signs richest deal in NFL.

20. Dolphins (7-9) Owner Stephen Ross backs Philbin-Tannehill duo.

21. Chargers (7-9) To settle on GM before making next coaching hire.

22. Buccaneers (7-9) Josh Freeman contract not extended by Tampa Bay.

23. Titans (6-10) Chris Johnson guaranteed $9 million bonus Feb. 9.

24. Bills (6-10) Hire Doug Marrone as franchise’s 16th head coach.

25. Jets (6-10) Rex Ryan has tattoo of wife in Mark Sanchez jersey.

26. Cardinals (5-11) Darnell Dockett types tweet nothings during BCS title.

27. Browns (5-11) Chip Kelly backs off NFL, headed back to Oregon.

28. Lions (4-12) Calvin Johnson career year defies “Madden Curse.”

29. Eagles (4-12) Set to interview Bengals’ Jay Gruden. Is Jon next?

30. Raiders (4-12) Dennis Allen to coach North team in Senior Bowl.

31. Jaguars (2-14) Mike Mularkey status uncertain until new GM hired.

32. Chiefs (2-14) Andy Reid to coach, make personnel moves in K.C.
 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Power Rankings Going Into Divisional Round of Playoffs, including the Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 18:15
Path: /nfl/ray-lewis-says-goodbye-baltimore-prepares-peyton-manning
Body:

High-stepping, sliding, throwing his fists back and pointing his chest to the sky to let out one final battle cry, Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis made his triumphant return from injury as well as his last appearance as a player in front of the home crowd at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore during a Wild Card Weekend showdown with the Indianapolis Colts.

And he did so in style, with his signature dance during pregame introductions and on the field in the final seconds of a 24–9 victory, prior to taking a victory lap to say goodbye to the fans who have supported the Super Bowl MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year during his 17 seasons, all with the Ravens.

“I knew how it started, but I never knew how it was going to end here in Baltimore,” said Lewis. “For it to go the way it went today, I wouldn’t change anything.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell was in attendance to hug the future Hall of Famer prior to kickoff, in Lewis’ first action since suffering a torn triceps on Oct. 14 in Week 6. The 37-year-old didn’t miss a beat, with 13 total tackles and a near-interception of Indianapolis rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

“He played well. He was physical at the point of attack. He did a good job in the pass game,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “Really nothing negative. He played a good, solid game.”

Chants of, “Thank you, Ray!” rained down from the purple-clad crowd with the game decided late in the fourth quarter, as the fans in Baltimore said a collective goodbye to their franchise’s greatest player.

“It was one of those great moments. I felt so proud of our fans. So pleased that we all have something that we will be able to talk to our kids and our grandkids about,” said Harbaugh.

“A Baltimore football moment that is going to just live on. That’s kind of why you do this — it’s kind of why you’re a fan, to be a part of moments like this.”

Now the Ravens hit the road to take on the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs. The game is a rematch of a Week 15 contest won, 34–17, by Denver.

And in order to take down the stampeding Broncos — who have won 11 straight since staggering to a 2–3 start — the Ravens defense will have to outplay Peyton Manning, the four-time MVP quarterback and current MVP candidate who Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard recently compared to a “MacBook” computer.

“He’s not a computer, that’s for sure. He may have a computer for a brain, but he’s a man. We’re going to try to confuse him, and we’re going to need to try to put pressure on him,” said Harbaugh. “It’s a great analogy.”

In what could be his final game in the NFL, Lewis will lead the Ravens against arguably the greatest passer of his (or any) generation. Manning vs. Lewis, winner takes all, loser goes home — for good, in Lewis’ case.

“It’s just one of those chess matches,” said Lewis. “He knows me very well. I know them very well.”

Much has changed since the Raven’s defeat four weeks ago. Baltimore was without Lewis, Pollard and guard Marshal Yanda in that contest, while linebacker Terrell Suggs was playing his first game back from injury and Jim Caldwell was in his first game as the team’s play-caller after replacing Cam Cameron as the team’s offensive coordinator. Baltimore is back full strength headed to Denver for revenge. That’s all they can ask.

“We saw them earlier in the year, but now we get them again with all of our guys back,” said Lewis. “We are really looking forward to it.”
 

Teaser:
<p> Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis played his final home game at M&amp;T Bank Stadium in a win over the Indianapolis Colts, now he prepares to take on Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in what could be Lewis' final game in the NFL.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 17:52

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