Articles By Nathan Rush
Tom Brady may not have had much sleep on Sunday night — since he and wife Gisele Bundchen welcomed baby daughter Vivian Lake to the family on Dec. 5 — but the New England Patriots quarterback sure looked well-rested during a 42–14 win over the Houston Texans in prime time on Monday night.
Brady completed 21-of-35 passes for 296 yards, four TDs and zero INTs during the 28-point win, marking the future Hall of Famer’s 14th four-TD game and his 36th game with at least three TDs as well as zero INTs — trailing only Peyton Manning (37) on the all-time list.
The near-perfect performance came at just the right time, against a team many felt was the best in the league heading into the high-profile contest.
“It was a big game because they were 11–1, leading the AFC and we had to see where we’re at, see where we match up against the better teams in the league,” said Brady. “We lost to Baltimore, who’s winning their division; we beat Denver, who’s leading their division; and we beat the Texans, who are leading their division. It’s always good to win these games.”
Winning big games at Foxborough in December — and January and February, for that matter — is nothing new for New England during the Brady and Bill Belichick era.
The Patriots have won 20 straight home games in December, with their last loss coming against the Jets on Dec. 22, 2002. Overall, the Pats have won 13 straight in December, last losing to the Panthers on Dec. 19, 2009.
New England carries an NFL-best 43–5 record in December since 2001 — Brady’s first season as the starter and Belichick’s second season at the helm. During that stretch, the Patriots have gone undefeated in December seven times (2001, ’03, ’05, ’07, ’08, ’10 and ’11). This season, two of its final three regular-season games are at home, giving New England a great chance to earn a first-round bye in the AFC Playoffs.
Brady and Belichick have made the playoffs together nine times. In six of those postseasons, the Patriots have been either a No. 1 or 2 seed. They advanced to the Super Bowl in five of those seasons.
Fresh off a big win, with a short week to prepare for an aggressive San Franchisco 49ers defense, the Patriots will need to be firing on all cylinders this week — which will be played in prime time, on Sunday night.
New England has scored 472 points through 13 weeks, putting it on pace for 581 points — eight points shy of the record Brady and Co. set in 2007. But, in classic Brady-Belichick fashion, the previous weeks don’t matter. The upcoming December showdown with the 49ers is all that matters.
“We have played in a lot of big games in December,” said Brady. “It needs to come together now. This is the perfect time for it.”
The players and coaches may hog the spotlight, but success in sports usually starts from the top. Those owners who sign the checks and make the right hires have the ability to not only change the fate of their respective teams, but to significantly improve their sport and, in some cases, impact the course of history. These are 10 of the best examples of the greatest owners in sports history.
1. The Rooney family, Pittsburgh Steelers (1933-present)
The model of consistency, the Rooney family has embodied the perfect combination of success, tradition and work ethic since Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers — then known as the Pittsburgh Pirates — in 1933. Chomping on a cigar, “The Chief” oversaw four Super Bowl championships (IX, X, XIII, XIV) before handing over the reins to his son, Dan Rooney, in 1975. The Steelers have won two more Super Bowls (XL, XLIII) since then, giving Pittsburgh an NFL-best six Vince Lombardi Trophies. Dan’s son, Art Rooney II, took over the top spot in the family business in 2003.
Though their regional roots are undeniable, the Steelers have become a national brand, thanks to the vision of the Rooney family. From the signature Steelmark logo of the American Iron and Steel Institute on the players’ helmets to the yellow “Terrible Towel” waved by fans nationwide to the “Steel Curtain” defense, Pittsburgh’s identity is strong as steel. And the brand loyalty extends to the coaching ranks, as the Steelers have only had three coaches — Chuck Noll (1969-1991), Bill Cowher (1992-2006) and Mike Tomlin (2007-present) — in the Super Bowl era.
Off the field, Dan Rooney was named the 30th United States Ambassador to Ireland and is credited with the advent of the “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for all head coach and general manager vacancies.
2. Jerry Buss, Los Angeles Lakers (1979-present)
The card-playing chemist bought the L.A. Lakers in 1979 and it has been “Showtime” ever since. Buss has signed the checks for 10 NBA champions over three distinct eras. First, Pat Riley, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won five rings (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988). Then, Phil Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant three-peated (2000-2002). Most recently, Jackson, Kobe and Pau Gasol repeated as champs (2009-2010). Buss’ Lakers are not only the NBA’s premier brand, courtside seats at the Forum and Staples Center have also become a status symbol among the who’s who in Hollywood — with Jack Nicholson leading the way in shades.
3. Robert Kraft, New England Patriots (1994-present)
Kraft saved the Patriots from being moved to St. Louis by James Orthwein, purchasing the down-on-its-luck franchise for a then-NFL-record $175 million in 1994. It’s been smooth sailing ever since. In the 19 seasons Kraft has been at the helm, New England has posted just two losing seasons, while making 14 playoff appearances, five trips to the Super Bowl and winning three Super Bowl titles. And there have been only three coaches to lead Kraft’s Patriots — Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. And while Kraft is cool enough to hang out with rock star Jon Bon Jovi on the sideline, he is savvy enough to hire the best minds in the business to run his team.
4. Walter A. Brown, Boston Celtics (1945-1964)
The founder of the Celtics in 1945 and one of the founders of the Basketball Association of America in 1946, Brown was instrumental in shaping the NBA as it is known today. Brown, who was also the president of the famed Boston Garden, hired Red Auerbach as the architect of his empire, signed off on the selection of Chuck Cooper as the first black player drafted into the NBA and won seven championships in eight seasons (1957, 1959-1964) prior to his death in 1964. Fittingly, the NBA championship trophy was named the Walter A. Brown Trophy until 1984.
5. Conn Smythe, Toronto Maple Leafs (1927-1961)
Speaking of trophies, the Conn Smythe Trophy is given to the MVP of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The award is named after one of the greatest men in hockey history. A veteran of both World Wars I and II, Smythe purchased the St. Patricks on Valentine’s Day 1927 and changed the identity of the franchise — renaming the club as the Maple Leafs, opening the new Maple Leaf Gardens arena in 1931 and winning eight Stanley Cup titles (1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1962) during his unbelievable run.
6. Walter O’Malley, Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers (1944-1979)
Prior to owning the Dodgers, O’Malley served as the team’s general counsel. O’Malley became a minority owner in the team in 1944 before taking majority control in 1950. O’Malley, along with team president Branch Rickey, made a significant racial and cultural impact by signing Jackie Robinson, who became the first-ever black MLB player in 1947. O’Malley was also responsible for bringing MLB to the West Coast, after moving the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. During O’Malley’s reign, the Dodgers won 13 NL pennants and four World Series.
7. George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees (1973-2010)
“The Boss” bought the Bronx Bombers from CBS in 1973 and restored the proud tradition of the pinstripes — winning the seven World Series titles (1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009) during his notorious reign. The volatile Steinbrenner wamted to win by any means necessary. And he had plenty of means to sign the most expensive (if not always the best) players money could buy, thanks in large part to his bold yet brilliant launching of the YES Network. A larger-than-life persona, Steinbrenner dressed as Napoleon on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1993 and was classically caricatured on NBC’s hit sitcom “Seinfeld” during his heyday.
8. Ted Turner, Atlanta Braves (1976-2007)
Captain Courageous won the America’s Cup in 1977 after starting on his voyage to make the Atlanta Braves “America’s Team” by broadcasting their games on his super-station, Turner Broadcasting System, upon purchasing the club in 1976. With a motto that he would “rather sink than lose,” Turner was a media mogul and maverick with a team that won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005 and the 1995 World Series title — all while being broadcast from coast-to-coast.
9. George Halas, Chicago Bears (1920-1983)
“Mr. Everything” was the 1919 Rose Bowl MVP and also recorded two hits for MLB’s New York Yankees before becoming the iconic namesake of the George Halas Trophy, which is given annually to the winner of the NFC Championship Game. “Papa Bear” founded the Chicago Bears, then known as the Decatur Staleys, in 1920 and remained the main man until his death in 1983. Halas was everything to the Bears, serving as owner and coach en route to six NFL championships (1921, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1946 and 1963).
10. Green Bay Packers, Inc. (1923-present)
Fans have taken the Lambeau Leap of faith, putting their money where their cheese goes since the beginning. According to the team’s official website: “Green Bay Packers, Inc., has been a publicly owned, nonprofit corporation since Aug. 18, 1923, when original articles of incorporation were filed with Wisconsin’s secretary of state.” The nine-time NFL champions and four-time Super Bowl champs (I, II, XXXI, XLV) — or, better yet, Vince Lombardi Trophy winners — have been supported financially through five stock sales, in 1923, 1935, 1950, 1997 and 2011.
10 Worst Owners in Sports History
A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 14.
Locks of the Week
Three of the worst teams in the league will be flown over by the sputtering J-E-T-S, soaring Dirty Birds and upstart Hawks.
Jets (-3) at Jaguars
Tim Tebow’s homecoming game will be a referendum on Mark Sanchez. J-Ville has eight losses by four or more points.
Falcons (-3.5) at Panthers
The Cats are 1–5 in Charlotte and riding a five-game losing streak at home; all of those losses have been by four or more points.
Seahawks (-10) vs. Cardinals
Arizona is on an 0–8 slide, while Seattle is 5–0 at home — with the only single-digit winning margins coming against the Patriots and Packers.
Straight Up Upsets
The RG3 and Andrew Luck love fests will take the week off against regional and divisional underdogs.
Ravens (+3) at Redskins
Since a Week 10 bye, RG3 is 3–0 with 667 passing yards, 185 rushing yards, nine TDs and just one INT.
Titans (+6) at Colts
Indy pulled off a 19–13 overtime win in Nashville in Week 8, and the Horseshoes are 5–1 at home this season.
These may not be straight up upsets, but the underdogs in the fight should show enough fight to keep these closer than their numbers.
Saints (+5) at Giants
The G-Men have lost three of their last four, while the Aints have lost back-to-back games against the 49ers and Falcons.
Chiefs (+6.5) at Browns
Peyton Hillis thinks former teammate Joe Thomas is “kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It’s been over a year. Get over it.”
Chargers (+7.5) at Steelers
Only two of Pittsburgh’s seven wins have been by eight or more points — against the Jets (27–10) in Week 2 and Redskins (27–12) in Week 8.
Dolphins (+10) at 49ers
Miami is 2–4 on the road, but only one of those losses came by double-digits — a Texas-sized 30–10 loss in Week 1 at mighty Houston.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who always has to have action.
Bears (-3) at Vikings
Jay Cutler says he “won’t break the bank” in his upcoming contract negotiations, you shouldn’t either.
Bengals (-3) vs. Cowboys
Tony Romo has 10 TDs and just two INTs over his last five games. Turn your hat backwards and push your chips in.
Bills (-3) vs. Rams
St. Lunatic corner Janoris Jenkins has three TDs over the past two weeks; Buffalo back C.J. Spiller has three TDs over the past 10 weeks.
Patriots (-4) vs. Texans
Houston is 6–0 on the road this season. But has New England ever lost at home in December with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?
Packers (-7) vs. Lions
Green Bay rallied for a 24–20 win at Detroit in Week 11. But Ndamukong Suh has been practicing his karate since then.
Buccaneers (-7.5) vs. Eagles
Andy Reid’s walrus mustache makes its way to the Tampa-St. Pete area for the latest chapter in a Salvidor Dali-style surreal season.
The Quarterback Class of 2012 is off to a fast start. Led by Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, the Class of 2012 has a solid base to build on. But they have a long way to go to catch up with the greatest quarterback classes in NFL history.
Most drafts have one or two serviceable passers, the majority of these 10 had multiple Super Bowl caliber signal-callers:
1. Class of 1983
Still the standard by which all quarterback classes are measured. Of the 16 signal-callers selected — including six in the first round — 12 started in the NFL, four led their teams to the Super Bowl and three were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
To get the party started, Stanford two-sport star and No. 1 overall pick John Elway demanded a trade from the Baltimore Colts to the Denver Broncos, while Pitt gunslinger Dan Marino nearly fell out of the first round before landing with the Miami Dolphins.
John Elway (Colts, No. 1) *
Dan Marino (Dolphins, No. 27) *
Jim Kelly (Bills, No. 14) *
Tony Eason (Patriots, No. 15)
Ken O’Brien (Jets, No. 24)
Todd Blackledge (Chiefs, No. 7)
Gary Kubiak (Broncos, No. 197)
3 Hall of Famers *
2 NFL MVP awards
2 Super Bowl wins
11 Super Bowl trips
499 career wins
196,787 passing yards
1,212 passing TDs
2. Class of 2004
Another blockbuster trade involving a “can’t miss” No. 1 overall pick shifted the balance of power in recent NFL history. Archie Manning’s son, Peyton Manning’s little brother and Ole Miss royalty Eli Manning forced a trade from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants — a deal that shipped NC State’s Philip Rivers from coast-to-coast.
Miami (Ohio) tough guy Big Ben Roethlisberger got off to the fastest start, going 13–0 as a rookie with six game-winning drives. Eli and Big Ben have combined to play in five of the last seven Super Bowls, winning four. Virginia product Matt Schaub went from Michael Vick’s backup in Atlanta to the starter for the Houston Texans and is poised to make his playoff debut this season.
Eli Manning (Chargers, No. 1)
Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers, No. 11)
Philip Rivers (Giants, No. 4)
Matt Schaub (Falcons, No. 90)
4 Super Bowl wins
5 Super Bowl trips
21–11 playoff record
3. Class of 1949
Although three eventual Hall of Fame quarterbacks were selected in 1949, five passers were drafted before any of the Canton bust trio — including four of the top nine picks. George Blanda became the oldest player in NFL history (48 years, 109 days), Norm Van Brocklin still holds the single-game record for passing yards and Jim Finks was the architect of the four-time Super Bowl runner-up Minnesota Vikings after his playing days were over.
George Blanda (Bears, No. 119) *
Norm Van Brocklin (Rams, No. 37) *
Jim Finks (Steelers, No. 116) *
Frank Tripucka (Eagles, No. 9)
Bobby Thomason (Rams, No. 7)
John Rauch (Lions, No. 2)
Stan Heath (Packers, No. 5)
3 Hall of Famers *
3 AFL championships
2 NFL championships
2 MVP awards (AFL, NFL)
554 passing yards (single-game record, Van Brocklin)
7 passing TDs (single-game record, Blanda)
4. Class of 1971
As accomplished as this class was, there is still a lingering feeling of what might have been. Stanford Heisman winner Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls with the Raiders after washing out with both the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. Ole Miss patriarch Archie Manning was beat down before siring a pair of No. 1 overall pick, Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.
Notre Dame golden boy Joe Theismann never played a down for the Miami Dolphins, opting instead to play for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts before leading the Washington Redskins to a pair of Super Bowl trips and one win. Augustana (Ill.) underdog Ken Anderson remains one of the underrated passers of his generation.
Jim Plunkett (Patriots, No. 1)
Joe Theismann (Dolphins, No. 99)
Ken Anderson (Bengals, No. 67)
Archie Manning (Saints, No. 2)
Lynn Dickey (Oilers, No. 56)
Dan Pastorini (Oilers, No. 3)
3 Super Bowl wins
5 Super Bowl trips
2 NFL MVP awards
160,089 passing yards
946 passing TDs
102 rushing TDs
5. Class of 1984
Steve Young was the top prospect in the 1984 USFL and CFL Supplemental Draft — which also included future Hall of Famers Reggie White and Gary Zimmerman as well as Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier. The dual-threat lefty Young went on to become one of the greatest playmakers of all-time after serving as the most overqualified backup in the game to Joe Montana.
Maryland’s Boomer Esiason was the first QB taken in the amateur draft. Both Esiason and West Virginia’s Jeff Hostetler played on Super Sunday, with Hostetler winning it all for Bill Parcells’ New York Giants after taking over for an injured Phil Simms.
Steve Young (Buccaneers, No. 1 – Supplemental Draft) *
Boomer Esiason (Bengals, No. 38)
Jeff Hostetler (Giants, No. 59)
Jay Schroeder (Redskins, No. 83)
Randy Wright (Packers, No. 153)
1 Hall of Famer *
2 Super Bowl wins
3 Super Bowl trips
2 NFL MVP awards
6. Class of 1998
Other than hothead flameout Ryan Leaf, this class is notable for its slow burn. Despite being in their 15th season, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Batch have all been starting quarterbacks at times during 2012 — combining for a 12–7 record, 35 TDs and 16 INTs through Week 13. Clearly, Manning carries the statistical load, but Hasselbeck led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance, Batch has proven serviceable and Brian Griese was a solid starter during his prime.
Peyton Manning (Colts, No. 1)
Matt Hasselbeck (Packers, No. 187)
Charlie Batch (Lions, No. 60)
Brian Griese (Broncos, No. 91)
Ryan Leaf (Chargers, No. 2)
4 NFL MVP awards
1 Super Bowl win
3 Super Bowl trips
128,408 passing yards
827 passing TDs
7. Class of 1979
Washington State’s “Throwin’ Samoan” went No. 3 overall but it was Notre Dame’s “Joe Cool” who went on to become arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time despite falling all the way to No. 82 in the draft.
Joe Montana (49ers, No. 82) *
Phil Simms (Giants, No. 7)
Jack Thompson (Bengals, No. 3)
1 Hall of Famer *
5 Super Bowl wins
2 NFL MVP awards
8. Class of 1956
Coached by Bear Bryant at Alabama and Vince Lombardi with the Green Bay Packers, Bart Starr was the MVP of Super Bowls I and II after falling all the way to No. 200 overall in the draft. Picked 198 spots ahead was Michigan State’s Earl Morrall, who was Don Shula’s go-to guy — losing Super Bowl III for the Baltimore Colts before going 9–0 in place of Bob Griese for the champagne perfect 17–0 Super Bowl VII champion 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Bart Starr (Packers, No. 200) *
Earl Morrall (49ers, No. 2)
Gary Glick (Steelers, No. 1)
1 Hall of Famer *
2 Super Bowl wins
3 Super Bowl trips
2 NFL MVP awards
9. Class of 1948
Drafted by the Chicago Bears but immortalized as a Detroit Lion, Bobby Layne was a larger than life character who regularly drank beer and smoked cigarettes at halftime. The "Bald Eagle," Y.A. Tittle was a pioneer who did everything but win an NFL championship during his brilliant career.
Bobby Layne (Bears, No. 3) *
Y.A. Tittle (Lions, No. 6) *
Harry Gilmer (Redskins, No. 1)
George Ratterman (Bills, No. 139)
2 Hall of Famers *
2 NFL MVP awards
T-10. Class of 1985
After some shady wheeling and dealing, Miami’s Bernie Kosar landed with his hometown Cleveland Browns via the Supplemental Draft. UNLV’s Randall Cunningham fell just short of the Super Bowl with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Boston College’s Doug Flutie and Maryland’s Frank Reich both had brief shining moments with the Buffalo Bills.
Bernie Kosar (Browns, No. 1 – Supplemental Draft)
Randall Cunningham (Eagles, No. 37)
Doug Flutie (Rams, No. 285)
Frank Reich (Bills, No. 57)
Steve Bono (Vikings, No. 142)
2 Comeback Player of the Year awards
T-10. Class of 1995
The late Alcorn State great Steve “Air” McNair shared co-MVP honors with Peyton Manning and led the Tennessee Titans on one of the most memorable drives in Super Bowl history — falling one yard short against the St. Louis Rams. Penn State’s Kerry Collins threw for 38,709 yards and 196 TDs. Colorado miracle maker Kordell Stewart took the league by storm as “Slash” with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Steve McNair (Oilers, No. 3)
Kerry Collins (Panthers, No. 5)
Kordell Stewart (Steelers, No. 60)
Todd Collins (Bills, No. 45)
Rob Johnson (Jaguars, No. 99)
1 NFL MVP award
2 Super Bowl trips
The Tennessee Volunteers’ search for a football coach continues. Athletic director Dave Hart has already had his wish list decimated. Jon Gruden, Bob Stoops, Jimbo Fisher, Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong have all reportedly turned down the Big Orange, checking the “no” box on the orange and white checkerboard.
As if running through the “T” made by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, the Volunteers are at a crossroads and must decide in which direction Peyton Manning’s alma mater is headed.
After marking off so many big-time names, now is not the time for the Vols to be indecisive or settle for the first coach who says “yes.” Now is the time to make a bold move to re-establish UT football. Now is the time for Tennessee to hire Jim Tressel.
Jim Tressel is the best coach available
Because of the off-field NCAA baggage Tressel brings from Columbus, Ohio, he is currently on the market. It can be argued that he should remain jobless. His prior on-field coaching résumé and results, however, cannot be denied.
“The Vest” has a 241–79–2 combined record (74.8 winning percentage) over 25 years as a college coach. At Youngstown State, Tressel went 135–57–2, with four Division I-AA national championships and six national championship game appearances in 15 seasons from 1986-2000. At Ohio State, Tressel carried a 106–22 record from 2001-2010, with seven Big Ten titles, eight BCS bowl appearances, three BCS national title game appearances and an undefeated 14–0 BCS national championship campaign in 2002.
But the Buckeyes boss cracked under NCAA pressure, failing to report violations and lying to investigators in the now infamous “Tattoo-Gate” scandal. As a result, Tressel was fired at Ohio State, stripped of 12 wins from the 2010 season and given a five-year show cause by the NCAA — but more on that later.
Tennessee needs to hire a proven coach
For the third time in four years, there is a vacancy at the pinnacle of Rocky Top. The chair where the head football coach sits remains empty. Not the humiliating stool where Derek Dooley squatted to whine his way to a 16–21 record over three seasons or the airline seat in which Lane Kiffin sat to fly across the country after one soap opera season, but the throne where Phillip Fulmer, Johnny Majors and Robert Neyland combined to build an empire — a proud football program that has claimed six national championships and 16 conference titles.
The Vols are not going to a bowl game for the second straight season; they’ve failed to qualify for a bowl in three of the last five seasons and four of the last eight. At this point in program history, UT can’t go out on a limb with a hotshot assistant or an unproven son-of-a big shot. Tennessee needs to ink a real deal coach who has proven himself prior to arriving in Knoxville.
The Volunteers are a sleeping giant…
Despite all their recent struggles, the Vols remain one of the few potential national championship-caliber programs. Only 11 schools have raised the crystal after winning the BCS national championship — Tennessee is one of them, having won the inaugural BCS title game following the 1998 season.
National title aspirations aren’t pie in the sky dreams, they’re a recent reality for a team that finished in the final AP Top 25 in all but four of Fulmer’s 17 years in charge but has failed to do so in the four seasons since.
Tennessee also boasts 102,455-seat Neyland Stadium and top-flight facilities that have pumped full of Manning money. The traditions of the Vol Walk, running through the T, the Vol Navy, checkerboard end zones, Smokey howling and fans singing “Rocky Top” are all attractive selling points. There have been 12 Volunteers drafted in the first round and 63 total since 2000, albeit only three total in the past two draft classes.
…but Tennessee is certainly not a quick fix
The climb back to bowl eligibility, Top 25 rankings, SEC East title contention and, ultimately, BCS bowl invitation status will take time. The stagnant last years of Fulmer, cut-and-run tactics of Kiffin, and arrogant ignorance of Dooley have compounded problems and made the reclamation project an uphill battle.
No doubt, there would be instant results under Tressel, who turned 60 on Dec. 5. But the proven program builder with a reputation for disciplined teams and a conservative style would need time of his own while dealing with the NCAA noose around his neck.
After being given “at least four different opportunities to report” information on players receiving impermissible benefits, Tressel was slapped with a five-year show cause — meaning Tennessee would have to receive permission from the Committee on Infractions and “show cause” for not being penalized as a result of hiring Tressel.
From there, Tressel would be suspended from team meetings, practices and games for the first five weeks of the season. Tennessee would be ineligible for a bowl during Tressel’s first season. The university and its new coach would also have to meet with the NCAA every six months until Dec. 2016. Otherwise, barring additional NCAA action, it would be business as usual after the first five weeks of Tressel's tenure.
The Vest would look great in Big Orange
In the wake of the Bruce Pearl fiasco, Tennessee would catch plenty of heat early on from high-horsed, holier-than-thou media and message board types. But in the long run, if Tressel ran a clean program, the UT-Tressel combination could result in another decade of dominance for the Volunteers.
Or, Tennessee can go with Plan E, F, or G. Hart can hire a middling man he never really wanted for the job in the first place and then do this all over again in three or four years.
NFL Week 14 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Broncos (9-3) at Raiders (3-9)
Denver MVP candidate Peyton Manning had his best game of the season against Oakland in Week 4, throwing for a season-high 338 yards, three TDs and zero INTs during a 37–6 win that pulled the Broncos back to the .500 mark with a 2–2 record. Manning lost to Tom Brady’s Patriots the following week, but has reeled off seven straight wins since then.
Broncos by 10
Ravens (9-3) at Redskins (6-6)
The hits keep on coming for Robert Griffin III. After making his four-TD Thanksgiving debut, RG3 shined under the lights in his first appearance on Monday Night Football. Up next: The Battle of the Beltway. Since a Week 10 bye, Griffin has thrown for 667 yards, nine TDs and one INT, while rushing for another 185 yards and leading the Skins to a 3–0 record.
Redskins by 2
Cowboys (6-6) at Bengals (7-5)
After throwing nine TDs and 13 INTs with a 3–4 record over his first seven games, Tony Romo has thrown 10 TDs and just two INTs with a 3–2 mark over his last five games.
Bengals by 2
Rams (5-6-1) at Bills (5-7)
St. Louis rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins has scored three TDs — on two pick-sixes and a fumble recovery — over the past two weeks, or as many as Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller has scored over the last 10 weeks this year.
Rams by 1
Eagles (3-9) at Buccaneers (6-6)
Philly puts its eight-game losing streak on the line against a Tampa team that is the definition of mediocre — 3–3 at home, 3–3 on the road.
Buccaneers by 6
Falcons (11-1) at Panthers (3-9)
Atlanta earned a 30–28 win over Carolina in Week 4 thanks to a game-winning FG by Matt Bryant with just five seconds remaining.
Falcons by 8
Chiefs (2-10) at Browns (4-8)
Romeo Crennel returns to Cleveland, where he went 24–40 in four years as the team’s coach. In the four seasons since, the Browns have an 18–42 record (and counting).
Browns by 3
Chargers (4-8) at Steelers (7-5)
With Ben Roethlisberger already sidelined, 2004 draft classmate Philip Rivers will try to avoid a similar fate as he takes on the Steel Curtain without three starting O-linemen.
Steelers by 6
Titans (4-8) at Colts (8-4)
The legend of Andrew Luck grew in Week 8, when Indy pulled off a 19–13 overtime win in Tennessee. But home is where the heart is, as Luck and Co. are 5–1 at Lucas Oil Field.
Colts by 4
Jets (5-7) at Jaguars (2-10)
The Tim Tebow three-ring circus has added a third QB just as Tebow heads back home to Jacksonville. Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy both played while Tebow watched with injured ribs last week. Who knows which QB(s) will play this week. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are running out of winnable games as they look to avoid the worst season in team history — a 4–12 mark in their inaugural season of 1995.
Jaguars by 1
Bears (8-4) at Vikings (6-6)
Chicago’s O-line could be out for justice against Minnesota sack artist Jared Allen, whose illegal block on guard Lance Louis resulted in a torn ACL during a 28–10 Bears win in Week 12.
Bears by 6
Dolphins (5-7) at 49ers (8-3-1)
Don’t expect Marino or Montana-style passing in this Super Bowl XIX rematch.
49ers by 9
Cardinals (4-8) at Seahawks (7-5)
Arizona got the best of Seattle during a 20–16 win in Week 1. But this game will be played at CenturyLink Field, where the Hawks are 5–0.
Seahawks by 9
Saints (5-7) at Giants (7-5)
The roller-coaster ride season continues for New Orleans. After an 0–4 start, the Saints went 5–1. Since then, Drew Brees and Co. are channeling the Aints, with back-to-back 10-point losses to the 49ers and Falcons. In those games, Brees has thrown a combined three TDs and seven INTs, while taking six sacks.
Giants by 4
Lions (4-8) at Packers (8-4)
The wheels have fallen off for Detroit. The Lions have lost four consecutive contests, including three straight when leading in the fourth quarter with 2:00 left in regulation — becoming the first team to match that streak of collapsing futility since 2000. In Week 11, the Packers saw one such meltdown up close in a 24–20 win.
Packers by 8
Texans (11-1) at Patriots (9-3)
The Pats just locked up their 12th straight winning season by clinching their fourth consecutive division title. Meanwhile, the 10-year-old Texans secured just their second-ever playoff berth. Houston is 6–0 on the road this season, but that perfect streak will be put to the ultimate test in prime time on Monday night.
Patriots by 1
Last week: 9–7 // Season: 129–63
Athlon Sports' weekly rankings of NFL teams. The Houston Texans remain the top team, while the Jacksonville Jaguars moved back to the bottom this week.
Here are our NFL Power Rankings following Week 13 of the season:
1. Texans (11-1) Punch playoff ticket, set franchise record for wins.
2. Falcons (11-1) Earn NFC South title for second time in three years.
3. Patriots (9-3) Tom Brady becomes first QB to win 10 division titles.
4. Broncos (9-3) Von Miller’s pick-six adds to Defensive POY resumé.
5. Steelers (7-5) James Harrison forced fumble shifts momentum.
6. Ravens (9-3) Fifteen-game winning streak in Baltimore snapped.
7. 49ers (8-3-1) Lose to Rams on Greg Zuerlein 54-yard FG in OT.
8. Packers (8-4) Have won 10 consecutive games vs. NFC North foes.
9. Bears (8-4) Tied with Packers for division lead following defeat.
10. Giants (7-5) Can’t catch RG3, have lost three of last four games.
11. Seahawks (7-5) Third straight win at second home in Soldier Field.
12. Colts (8-4) First game-winning TD with no time left since 1990.
13. Bengals (7-5) Fourth consecutive win ends on Andy Dalton TD run.
14. Redskins (6-6) RG3 breaks Cam Newton’s rookie QB rushing record.
15. Saints (5-7) Drew Brees’ TD streak ends at 54 on five-INT night.
16. Vikings (6-6) Adrian Peterson runs wild for 210 yards in defeat.
17. Cowboys (6-6) Tony Romo breaks Troy Aikman’s TD record in win.
18. Rams (5-6-1) Just 26 ticks away from second tie in four weeks.
19. Buccaneers (6-6) Unable to stop Broncos’ ironman star Mitch Unrein.
20. Jets (5-7) Sanchez benched, Tebow inactive, McElroy cheered.
21. Chargers (4-8) Low voltage Bolts have lost seven of last eight games.
22. Titans (4-8) David Stewart (leg), Steve Hutchinson (knee) injured.
23. Dolphins (5-7) Sloppy execution results in fifth straight loss to Pats.
24. Bills (5-7) Ryan Fitzpatrick answers critics with win over Jags.
25. Lions (4-8) Ndamukong Suh cheap shots, late collapses a trend.
26. Browns (4-8) Earn first victory on the road since Sept. 18, 2011.
27. Cardinals (4-8) Ryan Lindley struggles in Cards’ eighth straight loss.
28. Eagles (3-9) Nick Foles to start at QB for remainder of season.
29. Raiders (3-9) “Can’t stop the run” or “the pass,” says Michael Huff.
30. Chiefs (2-10) Jovan Belcher murder-suicide a Kansas City tragedy.
31. Panthers (3-9) Unable to maintain MNF momentum in loss at K.C.
32. Jaguars (2-10) Mike Mularkey blown out in return trip to Buffalo.
Apparently no one told this year’s rookie class of quarterbacks about the proverbial “rookie wall,” which, for years, has stood as an obstacle to stardom for even the best and brightest.
Four-time Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw threw six TDs and 24 INTs in his first season. Two-time Super Bowl winner John Elway started off by completing just 47.5 percent of his passes, with seven TDs and 14 INTs. Four-time MVP Peyton Manning broke the single-season INT record as a rookie, throwing 28 picks.
Even for future Hall of Famers, the wear and tear of an NFL season can be too much to bear during that first go-round as a professional.
But this season, first-year signal-callers are playing some of their best football down the stretch.
Seven rookie quarterbacks started in Week 13, posting a combined 4–3 record. Three, in particular, stood out — Seattle’s undersized underdog Russell Wilson, Indianapolis’ No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck and Washington’s Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III — en route to close-call victories that kept their respective teams alive in the playoff hunt.
Wilson led a 12-play, 97-yard scoring drive for a go-ahead touchdown in a 23–17 upset at Chicago. The 5'11" dynamo took charge of the huddle and then marched the Seahawks down the field for just their second road win of the season
“I just told the guys, ‘This is what the season comes down to, right here and right now,’” said Wilson, a third-round draft pick at No. 75 overall.
Across the Great Lakes in Detroit, Luck threw a 14-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Donnie Avery as time expired on a 35–33 comeback victory over the Lions. The winning play — a short dump off toss that Avery hustled across the goal line — capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive and secured another “Chuck Strong” win for the Colts, who are 8–4 this season after finishing with a league-worst 2–14 record last season.
“You always hesitate throwing the ball not in the end zone, for fear of the clock running out with a guy in bounds,” said Luck. “Took the calculated risk that Donnie could get there in the end zone, and he did.”
Finally, on Monday night, RG3 outran the Big Blue Wrecking Crew of the defending Super Bowl champs, during a 17–16 win over the Giants. The win moves the Redskins to 6–6 and just one game behind the Giants in the NFC East division race.
The dynamic dual-threat run-pass ability of Griffin was on full display against a New York defense that was gasping for air all night long.
“If he stays healthy,” said Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, “he’s going to be a havoc on defenses for a long time.”
When it’s all said and done, that could be the case for several members of the quarterback class of 2012.
A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 13.
Locks of the Week
Three quarterbacks with chips on their shoulders take on two of the most inconsistent teams in the league and the worst squad.
Panthers (-3) at Chiefs
Eight of Kansas City’s 10 losses have come by four or more points; Cam and Co. are riding a wave of momentum into Arrowhead.
Texans (-6.5) at Titans
Despite a 141-yard effort from Chris Johnson, Tennessee lost at Houston, 38–14, in Week 4. Now, it’s coming off a loss at Jacksonville.
Broncos (-7) vs. Buccaneers
Three of Denver’s four wins at Mile High have been by 10 or more points; the other win was by exactly seven points. The one loss was to 10–1 Houston in Week 3.
Straight Up Upsets
Measuring stick games for two teams with pride to play for against a pair of playoff squads that have been up-and-down this year.
Chargers (+2) vs. Bengals
It will be obvious this week whether the Bolts have already turned off the lights on 2012 or if there is still juice flowing through the powder blue roster.
Redskins (+3) vs. Giants
If RG3’s Thanksgiving debut is any foreshadowing of his Monday Night Football debut, there may not be much Big Blue can do about Bob.
Big numbers have not been kind this season, but there’s a good chance these three division contests get ugly.
Patriots (-9) at Dolphins
In the old days, Tom Brady had trouble in Miami. But that’s back when Jason Taylor was a sack champ and Ricky Williams was taking rushing crowns.
Packers (-9) vs. Vikings
Green Bay discount-double-checker Aaron Rodgers is 4–0 against Minnesota since his good buddy Brett Favre beat him twice back in 2009.
Cowboys (-10.5) vs. Eagles
Betting against Philly rookie Nick Foles is always a good bet; the Eagles lost 38–23 at home to the Cowboys in Week 10, Foles’ first NFL game action.
Stay away from these games completely unless you are a hometown homer or a degenerate who has to have action at all times.
Bears (-3.5) vs. Seahawks
Over the past two years, Chi-town is 15–5 with Smokin’ Jay Cutler starting and 0–6 without him.
Jets (-4.5) vs. Cardinals
These two flightless clubs both have 4–7 records and their coaches’ jobs to play for. Now that’s motivation.
Bills (-6) vs. Jaguars
Chad Henne has taken the Texans to overtime and taken down the Titans since taking over for Blaine Gabbert.
49ers (-7.5) at Rams
This is a rematch of the 18th overtime tie in NFL history, Week 10’s entertaining 24–24 NFC West stalemate.
Off the Board
The big board in Las Vegas doesn’t want to touch these games until later on, so we’ll wager on what the final line will be.
Steelers at Ravens (n/a)
Seven of the last nine games in this series have been decided by exactly three points, but not this time. Take the Ravens (-4.5)?
Browns at Raiders (n/a)
The race to the bottom — or top of the NFL Draft order, as it were — starts with this brown-or-blackout. Take the Raiders (-2.5)?
New York Jets superfan Fireman Ed penned a guest column in the Metro declaring his intentions to quit his unofficial post as the team’s mascot, following the 49–19 Thanksgiving Day massacre loss to the rival New England Patriots.
The man known to some as Ed Anzalone, former firefighter at Ladder 28 in Harlem, but to many as Fireman Ed, a crazed Jets fanatic and season-ticket holder since 1976, will no longer lead the “greatest chant in all of sports,” as he calls it. Fireman Ed will not lead the famed, “J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!” cheer ever again because of more frequent “confrontations with other Jets fans.”
“I love the guy’s passion and energy he would bring,” said Jets coach Rex Ryan. “He’s a great fan. I really admire him. He was great. If we do our job on the field, that ‘Jets’ chant will continue.”
After losing Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes, the Jets must now fill the void left by their recently retired superfan, who “will attend games as usual, just not as Fireman Ed.”
So who's going to fill Fireman Ed's shoes? Here are 10 candidates who would be perfect to take over as New York’s No. 1 Jets fan:
Mark Sanchez’s backup might be better utilized as the Jets’ top cheerleader in the stands at MetLife Stadium rather than the highest profile bench player on the planet. Any role would have to be more productive than Tebow’s current purgatory — which has been low-lighted by seven pass attempts and 29 carries for a combined 126 total yards.
In fact, Tebow is indirectly responsible for Fireman Ed’s evacuation. “The stadium has become divided because of the quarterback controversy,” Ed said. “The fact that I chose to wear a Mark Sanchez jersey this year and that fans think I am on the payroll — which is an outright lie — have made these confrontations more frequent.”
Tebow is on the Jets’ payroll and would bring over-the-top positive energy all game long. As the J-E-T-S cheerleader, Tebow would probably be more mixed up in the quarterback controversy than he already is — whether he wore his own No. 15 jersey or supported Sanchez by wearing a green No. 6 just like Fireman Ed.
Maybe “J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!” has run its course. Imagine “Gangnam Style” remixed as “Gang Green Style.” Maybe it’s time to get the New York crowd back on their high horses and dancing with a remix from the South Korean K-pop star PSY. Jets bowties would spread like wild fire.
3. The Village People
Fireman Ed likes to dress up, so do these guys. There’s a cop, chief, cowboy, biker and who knows what else. Plus, as an added bonus, these guys have plenty of practice leading large crowds in four-letter songs. Instead of Y-M-C-A, the new Village voice would lead the chant of J-E-T-S.
4. Jenn Sterger
The former Jets sideline reporter has been a superfan before — becoming internet famous as an FSU Cowgirl, thanks to Brent Musburger commenting that “1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State” after seeing her on national television during the 2005 FSU-Miami game.
But the model, actress and hostess really hit the big time when she was involved in a Jets quarterback controversy of a different kind, as the object of Brett Favre’s obsession late in 2010. It’s about time the Jets brought her back into the mix; they should send her a text or leave a voicemail to see if she’s interested.
5. Minka Kelly
Derek Jeter’s former fiancé played a football cheerleader on “Friday Night Lights,” giving her New York sports cred and gridiron cheering chops. She’s also the daughter of one-time Aerosmith guitarist Rick Dufay, so there’s no doubt she would have thousands of rabid fans waving their lighters in the air. Oh, and she's really, really hot. So there's that.
6. Fire Marshal Bill
The Jim Carrey character from “In Living Color” isn’t a fireman but he is a fire marshal who can “show ya something” about surviving the type of dumpster fires these Jets have been battling all season. Fire Marshal Bill Burns would bring electricity to the crowd and dump Gatorade on himself after every win.
7. Mark Gastineau
The chairman of the 1980’s New York Sack Exchange is the father of Kim Kardashian’s BFF Brittny. A former ‘roid rager who would not be intimidated by any confrontations, Gastineau would be the perfect green Hulk to lead Jets cheers. In fact, he already made his mark on the 2012 season during the team’s Ring of Honor ceremony with a drunken acceptance speech that SI.com’s Jimmy Traina called “Joe Namath Part II.”
8. Brett Favre
When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, right? Well, Favre was kind of a Jet back in 2008, when he threw for 3,472 yards, 22 TDs and 22 INTs for the 9–7 Jets. Sure, he missed the playoffs, sent some infamous pictures of his watch and Crocs to a team employee and was fined $50,000 for not cooperating with an NFL investigation. But is that really worse than the season Sanchez is having?
Plus, it would never get so bad where Favre would have to walk away Fireman Ed-style. Just the opposite, a few “F-A-V-R-E! Favre! Favre! Favre!” chants and No. 4 would be back out there as a 43-year-old gunslinger showing Sanchez and Tebow how to play a little throw-and-catch and a lot of show-and-text.
9. Cast of MTV's Jersey Shore
Jets Guidettes like Snooki and J-Woww would be all about the drama that Fireman Ed is trying to get away from. And The Situation, Pauly D, Ronnie and Vinny would be fist-pumping all game and ready to J-E-T-S after G-T-L and t-shirt time. Plus, East Rutherford, N.J., is near their old neighborhood on the Jersey Shore.
10. Rex Ryan
No one is New York or New Jersey talks as big or bold as Rex Ryan, who back-to-backed it up with consecutive trips to the AFC title game early in his reign. But now, Ryan can’t keep his locker room or fan base from splintering. He might as well put on a Sanchez jersey like Fireman Ed — of whom Ryan said, “If he could play linebacker, I’d use him.” And the way the season is going compared to his own unrealistic expectations, Ryan might have some time on his hands next season.
As long as sports have been played in organized leagues, there have been team owners who have disgraced their respective games. Scoundrels, cheapskates and spoiled brats have always found a way to rip defeat from the jaws of victory — none worse than these 10 worst owners in sports history.
1. Harry Frazee, Boston Red Sox (1916-1923)
The infamous Harry Frazee is the man who sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 and started the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino.” Legend has it that Frazee used the ill-gotten gains to finance his Broadway play “No, No, Nanette.” After selling the “Sultan of the Swat” in 1919, the Red Sox did not have another winning season until 1935 and didn’t win another World Series title until 2004. Frazee bought one of baseball’s best teams — a club that won the World Series in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 — then promptly sold its best player and ran the franchise into the ground.
2. Donald T. Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers (1981-present)
Notoriously racist slumlord Donald Sterling has an 874–1620 record (.350 winning percentage), with 28 non-winning seasons in his 31 years (prior to 2012-13) owning the Clippers. Despite just three winning campaigns (1992, 2006 and 2012), L.A.’s “other” NBA team has made the playoffs five times by default under Sterling. His many off-the-court indiscretions include paying the largest housing discrimination settlement involving apartment rentals in Justice Department history, being sued by Hall of Famer and longtime Clippers GM Elgin Baylor for age and racial discrimination, being sued for sexual harassment, and giving casual yet graphic testimony under oath regarding his preference for prostitutes.
3. Dan Snyder, Washington Redskins (1999-present)
Dave McKenna’s piece on Dan Snyder for the Washington City Paper is a comprehensive breakdown, albeit two years old, of the Redskins owner and his greedy, manipulative, petty ways. Snyder’s list of terrible free-agent signings includes washed up overpaid former All-Pros like Jeff George, Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Albert Hayneworth. He’s also not afraid to hire a has-been or never-was to run the show, with Norv Turner (1999-2000), Terry Robiskie (2000), Marty Schottenheimer (2001), Steve Spurrier (2002-03), Joe Gibbs (2004-07), Jim Zorn (2008-09) and Mike Shanahan (2010-present) all coaching during Snyder’s reign.
4. Marge Schott, Cincinnati Reds (1984-1999)
Chain-smoking, slur-spewing Marge Schott was banned from MLB from 1996 until 1998 for her outspoken hate-speech against pretty much all races and orientations — except for Adolf Hitler; Schott made it known that she was a big fan of Hitler and the Nazi Party. The Reds did win the 1990 World Series, in one of the two playoff appearances Cincy made under Schott.
5. Charles Comiskey, Chicago White Sox (1901-1931)
Another historic swindler, Charles Comiskey planted the dishonest seeds for arguably the worst sports scandal in history. The 1919 World Series “Black Sox Scandal” has its roots in Comiskey scamming ace pitcher Eddie Cicotte out of a $10,000 bonus he was set to receive for winning 30 games. With Cicotte — who earned a $6,000 salary that season — sitting at 29 wins, Comiskey ordered manager Kid Gleason to bench Cicotte for his final five starts in order to avoid paying the bonus. According to the book Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof, Cicotte resisted taking mob money to throw the World Series until being denied a chance to earn his bonus by Comiskey.
6. James Dolan, New York Knicks (1999-present)
The son of Cablevision founder Charles Dolan, little Jimmy was a wannabe rock star with a few drug, alcohol and anger issues before inheriting his way to being one of the worst owners in sports history — mismanaging both the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers as the top dog at Madison Square Garden. Dolan stood by the equally incompetent Isiah Thomas for most of the 2000s, despite an ugly sexual harassment lawsuit involving Thomas and an extensive history of bad free-agent signings, terrible trades and the squandering of numerous high draft picks — usually as part of one of the aforementioned terrible trades. In 2005-06, the Knicks had the NBA’s second-worst record despite having the Association’s highest payroll. But at least Dolan has provided plenty of material for comedy-sportswriters.
7. Every NBA Owner in Charlotte History
The NBA in North Carolina makes sense in theory. The Tobacco Road hoops traditions of UNC, Duke, NC State and Wake Forest are strong. But the transition from college to the pros has never worked in the state that was first in flight. All three owners in Charlotte’s NBA history — with the expansion Hornets and Bobcats — have failed.
George Shinn, Charlotte Hornets (1987-2002)
Shinn was a Court TV fixture during his 1999 kidnapping and sexual assault trial before ripping the Hornets out of Charlotte and relocating the team to New Orleans in 2002.
Robert Johnson, Charlotte Bobcats (2004-2010)
The founder of BET and first black billionaire, “Bob” named an NBA team after himself — as in “Bob-cats” — before selling the club to “His Airness” in 2010.
Michael Jordan, Charlotte Bobcats (2010-present)
As painful as it is for longtime MJ fans to admit, the greatest basketball player of all-time has been one of the sport’s worst owners, as last season’s 7–59 record and record-low 10.6 winning percentage proved.
8. CBS, New York Yankees (1964-1972)
The Columbia Broadcasting System had a big eyeball on the Bronx Bombers’ worst stretch in franchise history. After winning 20 World Series titles before CBS bought the pinstripes in 1964 — including championships as recently as 1961 and 1962 — the Yanks only made the playoffs once (1964) under the watchful eye. The immediate failure included finishing second in the division for the first time in 40 years in 1965 and a last-place finish in the AL for the first time since 1912 in 1966. Luckily, CBS canceled their own show and sold the club to the “Boss,” George Steinbrenner, whose extended legacy includes seven World Series titles.
9. William Clay Ford Sr., Detroit Lions (1963-present)
The last living grandchild of automotive pioneer Henry Ford is possibly the least innovative owner ever. Ford’s lowlights include the only 0–16 season in NFL history in 2008, keeping Matt Millen as the club’s primary decision-maker for eight years despite a 31–97 record (.242 winning percentage) and absolutely no signs of improvement, and the national injustice of wasting the sheer genius of Barry Sanders, who may or may not have retired in his prime due to the leadership behind the wheel in Detroit.
10. Jeffrey Loria, Miami Marlins (2002-present)
Loria sold the Montreal Expos to MLB’s other 29 teams before turning around to buy the then-Florida Marlins in 2002. The Marlins won the World Series in 2003, then sold off the team — just like the Fish did after winning the World Series in 1997. Fair enough. But Loria’s latest budget cuts are shameful and inexcusable. After spending over $500 million in public money from taxpayers and the city of Miami in order to build Marlins Park, the Marlins pulled the bait and switch — trading away nearly every player of note on the roster. Shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and utility speedster Emilio Bonifacio were shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays in a pennies-on-the-dollar salary-dump trade.
NFL Week 13 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Saints (5-6) at Falcons (10-1)
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has a 2–7 career record against NFC South rival New Orleans, including a 31–27 defeat in Week 10. The Dirty Birds are on a four-game losing streak against the Saints, and haven’t beaten Drew Brees and Co. since a 27–24 victory on Sept. 26, 2010.
Falcons by 2
Seahawks (6-5) at Bears (8-3)
The Windy City is 15–5 with Smokin’ Jay Cutler starting and 0–6 without him in 2011 and ’12.
Bears by 6
Texans (10-1) at Titans (4-7)
Despite a 141-yard effort from Chris Johnson, Tennessee lost at Houston, 38–14, in Week 4.
Texans by 10
Patriots (8-3) at Dolphins (5-6)
Miami may need the sprinklers to come on again in order to cool off Touchdown Tom Brady — who has 15 total TDs and zero turnovers during New England’s five-game winning streak.
Patriots by 9
Jaguars (2-9) at Bills (4-7)
J-Ville boss Mike Mularkey returns to Buffalo, where he went 14–18 in two seasons as coach. Current coach Chan Gailey has a 14–29 record.
Bills by 4
Colts (7-4) at Lions (4-7)
Two of the last four No. 1 overall picks — Andrew Luck (2012) and Matthew Stafford (2009) — go head-to-head in a potential shootout.
Lions by 2
Panthers (3-8) at Chiefs (1-10)
Fantasy football players who didn’t already give up on Cam Newton may want to start him in K.C.
Panthers by 1
Vikings (6-5) at Packers (7-4)
Aaron Rodgers is 4–0 against Minnesota since losing to good buddy Brett Favre twice in 2009.
Packers by 6
49ers (8-2-1) at Rams (4-6-1)
A rematch of the 18th overtime tie in history, Week 10’s epic 24–24 NFC West stalemate.
49ers by 9
Cardinals (4-7) at Jets (4-7)
If Fireman Ed “could play linebacker, (Rex Ryan) would use him.” That’s not a good sign, coach.
Jets by 4
Buccaneers (6-5) at Broncos (8-3)
Peyton Manning is 4–1 at Mile High this season, losing only to the 10–1 Texans back in Week 3.
Broncos by 9
Steelers (6-5) at Ravens (9-2)
Seven of the last nine Steelers-Ravens games have been decided by exactly three points, including a 13–10 Baltimore win in Week 11.
Ravens by 6
Bengals (6-5) at Chargers (4-7)
The Freezer Bowl — the –37-degree 1981 AFC title game — won’t happen in sunny San Diego.
Chargers by 1
Browns (3-8) at Raiders (3-8)
The race to the bottom — or top of the NFL Draft as it were — starts with this brown-or-blackout.
Raiders by 3
Eagles (3-8) at Cowboys (5-6)
Philly owner Jeffrey Loria said 8–8 wouldn’t be good enough; it’s all but over for Andy Reid.
Cowboys by 6
Giants (7-4) at Redskins (5-6)
From “Bob” to “Sir,” RG3 earned the respect of Osi Umenyiora, who called Robert Griffin III the “best quarterback” the G-Men had played after a 27–23 New York win in Week 7.
Giants by 2
Last week: 11–5 // Season: 121–55
Athlon Sports' weekly rankings of NFL teams — from the best, one-loss Houston Texans, to the worst, the autograph-seeking one-win Kansas City Chiefs.
Here are our NFL Power Rankings following Week 12 of the season:
1. Texans (10-1) Schaub says Ndamukong Suh not “Texan-worthy.”
2. Falcons (10-1) Ryan leads fifth fourth-quarter winning drive of ’12.
3. 49ers (8-2-1) Healthy Alex Smith watches Colin Kaepernick win.
4. Ravens (9-2) Ray Rice 4th-and-29 conversion already legendary.
5. Giants (7-4) Martellus Bennett uses “Spidey-sense” to save fan.
6. Packers (7-4) Greg Jennings set to return from abdomen ailment.
7. Bears (8-3) Upset over Jared Allen blindside block of Lance Louis.
8. Patriots (8-3) Bill Belichick the eighth coach with 200 wins.
9. Broncos (8-3) Peyton Manning passes John Elway in all-time wins.
10. Colts (7-4) Cheerleaders shave heads to support Chuck Pagano.
11. Steelers (6-5) First-round pick David DeCastro returns from injury.
12. Bengals (6-5) Andrew Whitworth ejected after brawl with Raiders.
13. Seahawks (6-5) Ball-Hawks Sherman, Browner may face suspension.
14. Vikings (6-5) “It’s a big deal” Adrian Peterson missed team bus.
15. Buccaneers (6-5) Ronde Barber makes 210th straight start, 47th INT.
16. Saints (5-6) Marques Colston scores team record 56th TD in loss.
17. Redskins (5-6) RG3 compared to Cool Hand Luke by Mike Shanahan.
18. Cowboys (5-6) Tony Romo falls to 5–1 on Thanksgiving Thursdays.
19. Dolphins (5-6) Snap three-game slide with FG on game’s final play.
20. Chargers (4-7) Prevent defense prevents Bolts from stopping Rice.
21. Rams (4-6-1) Janoris Jenkins high-steps for two pick-sixes in win.
22. Panthers (3-8) Ron Rivera relieved after MNF win at Philadelphia.
23. Titans (4-7) OC Chris Palmer fired, replaced by Dowell Loggains.
24. Lions (4-7) Ndamukong Suh not suspended for Turkey Day kick.
25. Jets (4-7) Famed superfan Fireman Ed to hang up his helmet.
26. Bills (4-7) Chan Gailey, not Ryan Fitzpatrick, will be play-caller.
27. Cardinals (4-7) Rookie Ryan Lindley throws four INTs in first start.
28. Eagles (3-8) DeSean Jackson out for season with broken ribs.
29. Raiders (3-8) Carson Palmer endures painful return to Cincinnati.
30. Browns (3-8) Brandon Weeden status uncertain after concussion.
31. Jaguars (2-9) Win first home game of season over rival Tennessee.
32. Chiefs (1-10) Charles, Bowe ask Peyton Manning for autograph.
After avoiding the rookie wall last season, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton experienced a sophomore landslide this year until finding his footing during a 30–22 win on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.
Newton completed 18-of-28 passes for 306 yards, two TDs and zero INTs through the air, while tucking the ball to run for 52 yards and two TDs on the ground in a prime time victory.
The four-score effort brought back memories of the a phenomenal first year that included a rookie-record 4,051 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 706 rushing yards and a quarterback-record 14 rushing TDs en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
“He was very decisive, and that’s when you see his ability, his athleticism come through,” said Panthers second-year coach Ron Rivera, who entered the nationally televised game with a 2–8 record and a spot firmly on the proverbial hot seat.
“We put a lot on his plate early in the year, and we’ve taken some of it back. He’s reacting to that very well. The last few weeks he’s been outstanding, and he’s giving us a chance to win.”
After accounting for eight TDs and 11 turnovers while leading the Cats to a 1–6 start to the season, Newton has reversed field to the tune of nine TDs and just two turnovers during Carolina’s recent 2–2 stretch — which has included road wins at Washington and Philadelphia, with home losses to Denver and Tampa Bay.
“Cam is not trying to carry everything,” said receiver Steve Smith. “He’s just relaxing. He seemed very comfortable (against the Eagles) and threw some great passes.”
Never was that comfort level more evident than late in the fourth quarter on Monday night. Heading into Philly, the Panthers had held fourth-quarter leads in five of their previous six losses — a fact that had to be on the mind of every fan, player and coach wearing electric blue and black.
But Newton calmly led a six-play, 60-yard drive that was capped by a two-yard QB-sneak TD and Cam’s signature Superman celebration.
Rather than losing yet another close call — six of Carolina’s eight losses have come by six or fewer points — the Panthers pulled out a victory that could change the trajectory of this year and the near future in Charlotte.
“Winning is huge. It cures all,” said Rivera. “We’ve got to continue now. We have to take this momentum we have on a short week to Kansas City.”
With four of their next five games coming against teams with sub-.500 records, Carolina could turn it around — especially if Newton keeps it up.
“I think my best is yet to come,” said Newton. “I’m still focused on getting better each and every week.”
A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Thanksgiving Day, Sunday and Monday in Week 12.
Turkey Leg Locks
The three Thanksgiving Day games should be as good as the tryptophan-filled big bird and grandma’s homemade cornbread dressing.
Texans (-4) at Lions
Barry Sanders, the greatest televised Thanksgiving tradition, had a 7–3 holiday record during his decade of dominance; the Lions are 3–10 since the great No. 20 stopped showing up for dinner.
Redskins (+3) at Cowboys
Tony Romo is 5–0 on Thanksgiving Day. But for some reason, RG3’s 0–0 record on Turkey and Dressing Day smells a little bit better this season.
Jets (+7.5) vs. Patriots
New England won but failed to cover an even bigger number against New York during a 29–26 victory at home in Week 7. In case of a blowout, you can always watch The Godfather or whatever’s on the James Bond marathon.
Sunday Sales Rack
The masses will hit the stores at 4 a.m. or whenever it is they show up on Black Friday, but the real deals might have to wait until Sunday afternoon.
Ravens (-1) at Chargers
This has the feel of a trap game, with Baltimore coming off an emotional win at Pittsburgh and San Diego in do-or-die mode. But it’s pretty much a pick ‘em.
Falcons (-1.5) at Buccaneers
Although Matt Ryan does carry a 6–2 record against the Bucs, he’s just 2–2 on the road in Tampa Bay.
Seahawks (-3) at Dolphins
Miami is a miserable 9-for-34 on third downs over its current three-game losing streak.
Titans (-3) at Jaguars
This would be easier to call if Blaine Gabbert were starting in Jacksonville. But what are the odds Chad Henne puts together back-to-back good games?
Broncos (-10.5) at Chiefs
Kansas City’s disgruntled fanbase will wear all-black again this week — and probably leave at halftime of the wake once again.
Steer clear of these games like they were your creepy uncle or the aunt who always gets emotional at family gatherings.
Cardinals (-3) vs. Rams
Arizona’s six-game winless drought started with a 17–3 loss at St. Louis on Thursday in Week 5. This is like roulette; just because a color/number has hit six straight times doesn’t make it less likely there will be a seventh straight.
Colts (-3) vs. Bills
Indianapolis will probably run by Buffalo. But if there is going to be a rookie wall for Andrew Luck, he’ll hit it the week after being destroyed by New England.
Giants (-3) vs. Packers
The last time these two powers met, New York shocked No. 1-seed Green Bay, 37–20, at Lambeau Field in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Bengals (-8) vs. Raiders
Cincy has been way too up and down this season to bank on — a 3–1 start, then an 0–4 slump and now a two-game winning streak. Who knows?
Off the Board
The concussed and crippled fraternity of starting quarterbacks has led to uncertainty on the big board in Vegas. As of Wednesday afternoon, these games were up in the air. But let’s bet on what the spread might be, anyway.
Steelers (n/a) at Browns
Charlie Batch puts his 5–2 record as a Steelers starter on the line. Odds are, he’ll improve to 6–2. Take the Steelers (-4.5)?
Vikings (n/a) at Bears
Samantha Steele powers Christian Ponder. Planet Krypton powers Adrian Peterson. Take the Vikings (+2.5)?
49ers (n/a) at Saints
Alex Smith is a game manager, Colin Kaepernick is a playmaker, Jim Harbaugh is a quarterback guru… Take the 49ers (-3)?
Panthers (n/a) at Eagles
What’s Cyber Monday without a little online action? Pick the gift that Nick Foles doesn’t have anything to do with. Take the Panthers (+2.5)?
There were plenty of epic failures in 2012. Players, coaches and even entire sports leagues embarrassed themselves in a variety of ways. With Thanksgiving Day in mind, here’s a rundown of the 10 biggest turkeys of the year.
1. NFL Replacement Referees
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was the root of this evil. But he wasn’t the one throwing the yellow flags, handing out fourth timeouts, putting more or less than the right amount of time on the clock, spotting the ball on the wrong yard-line, calling college football rules in an NFL game or creating an environment of casual chaos on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays from Weeks 1-through-3 this season. The Replacement Refs went out with a bang, however, making a controversial call of simultaneous possession on a game-winning touchdown “catch” by the Seahawks’ Golden Tate to beat the Packers in prime time on Monday Night Football.
2. Gary Bettman, NHL clueless commissioner
The NHL owners have declared a lockout of the NHL Players’ Association, canceling the scheduled Oct. 11, 2012 start of the season. The Bettman-led NHL owners want to reduce the NHLPA’s previous guaranteed share of 57 percent of hockey related revenues. Having already canceled NBC’s Thanksgiving Showdown on Black Friday as well as the 2013 NHL Winter Classic, the league has already missed out on two of its highest-rated events of the year. Losing all momentum and turning on a loyal fanbase are not the best moves for a league struggling to keep the “Big Four” team sports from shrinking to the “Big Three.”
3. Jeffrey Loria, Marlins bait and switch conman
After spending over $500 million in public money from taxpayers and the city of Miami in order to build Marlins Park, Loria pulled a classic bait and switch — trading away nearly every player on the roster worthy of having his own baseball card. Is a ball club better with or without Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Mark Buehrle, Omar Infante, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, Heath Bell, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica and Gaby Sanchez? Doesn’t take a Sabermetrics statistician to answer that one.
4. Bobby Petrino, Hog wrecker and home wrecker
The ultimate April Fool, the 51-year-old married father of four wiped out on his motorcycle with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, a blonde former Arkansas volleyball player turned football program employee. When the neck brace was off, it turned out that the young Dorrell had accepted some $20,000 in gifts used for a car, vacation and wedding expenses — that’s right, she was engaged to be married. Petrino lost his job, but not before making himself into a national punch-line and reminding everyone not to use a company phone (especially if working for a state school) when trying to keep an inter-office affair hidden from your wife and boss.
5. Bobby Valentine, Red Sox mental manager
In his first season managing the Red Sox, the funny Valentine led the proud franchise to its worst winning percentage since 1960. But it wasn’t just what he said and did, it was how he said and did it. He mismanaged pitchers, position players and the Boston media every chance he got en route to a 69–93 record and last-place finish in the AL East. The lovable slugger David Ortiz even questioned Valentine’s mental stability after hearing the lame duck manager’s double-talk on television and via text message. “I said to myself, ‘This guy must have some mental issues or needs medicine or something?’ I said, ‘I am dealing with someone crazy and I am not going to drive myself crazy, so it is better if I leave it alone.’” Good eye, Big Papi.
6. Melky Cabrera, Giants juiced All-Star Game MVP
San Francisco enjoyed home field advantage in this year’s World Series thanks to its own suspended outfielder. Cabrera went 2-for-3 with two RBIs on his way to winning MVP of the All-Star Game. Soon after, the then-MLB hits leader and NL batting champ contender was suspended 50 games for testing positive for high levels of testosterone. And while the Giants distanced themselves from their disgraced hitter in the midst of a tainted career year, the damage had already been done. No one benefited more from Cabrera’s indiscretions — which also included creating a shady fake website in an attempt to win his appeal of suspension — than San Fran, who reaped the rewards with a World Series home field edge and a batting champ in MVP Buster Posey.
7. Hope Solo, Olympic net-minder and never-mind-her
The Team USA goaltender was in rare form this year. First, she got into the Olympic spirit by ripping former Team USA star, sports bra flasher and NBC commentator Brandi Chastain via Twitter. “Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! #fb” Followed by, “Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago. #fb”
Then, she made waves by dishing dirt about athletes getting down and dirty in the Olympic Village. “There’s a lot of sex going on,” said Solo, of Olympic Village. “I’ve seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty.”
Finally, Solo became a duo with former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens one day after her husband-to-be was arrested following a domestic dispute. Stevens has a long history of run-ins with the law; Solo has a history of run-ins with whoever will pay attention to her. If those two kids can’t make it…
8. Lolo Jones, Olympic virgin and media whore
Wrongfully targeted but targeted nonetheless, the Lolo backlash was a brutal example of “build ‘em up to tear ‘em down” media. Jones had a phenomenal rags-to-riches story and a chance at redemption at the 2012 London Olympics. Instead, the self-proclaimed virgin became America’s media darling and was a victim of premature adulation. When Lolo finished a disappointing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, even her teammates turned on her. “I’ve had family issues as well, but I’m not willing to say all of them just so it can be in the papers. I don’t want that for myself or my family,” said silver-medalist Dawn Harper on the Today Show. “The three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed,” added bronze-medalist Kellie Wells. “And that’s all that really needs to be said.”
9. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees pinstripe Ponzi schemer
The world’s most overpaid athlete hit .120 (3-for-25) with two walks and one run scored over seven games in the playoffs. Plus, A-Rod produced the ultimate A-Rod moment when he allegedly attempted to get the phone number of Australian model Kyna Treacy by sending a souvenir baseball to her in the stands during Game 1 of the ALCS. A-Rod shut down his flirting bar fly from the bench routine when the Captain, Derek Jeter, broke his ankle hustling for the team in extra innings.
10. U.S. Ryder Cup team, international choke artists
In an epic meltdown that Greg Norman, Jean Van de Velde, or any member of the 1999 European Ryder Cup team could relate to all too well, the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team folded like a Medinah spectator’s golf chair at the 38th Ryder Cup. On the comfortable confines of U.S. soil and in front of 40,000 rowdy American fans, Team USA led 10–6 on Sunday — needing just 4.5 points out of 12 singles matches.
But the lineup assembled by Captain Davis Love III struggled out of the gate and never regrouped. When Germany’s Martin Kaymer beat Steve Stricker in the penultimate group, the U.S.’s closer Tiger Woods became essentially irrelevant. Woods’ missed putt on the final hole — which came after an over-the-top Euro celebration — gave Europe the outright win rather than just a retained Ryder Cup after one of the worst letdown’s in the 85-year history of the international competition.
Just like the crazy uncle with the nonstop inappropriate jokes or the aunt with the barely edible green bean casserole, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are welcome additions to the holiday family gathering even though they will probably provide an awkward moment or two.
Here are a few of the noteworthy Thanksgiving Day memories from the Lions, whose first Turkey Day game was in 1934, and Cowboys, who first sat at the table in 1966.
1. Lett It Snow
On a snow-covered field at old Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in 1993, the Cowboys blocked a potential game-winning field goal by the Dolphins with 15 seconds to play. The Boys surrounded the dead ball in celebration before Leon Lett came sliding in through the snow, tipping the ball and allowing the Fins to recover the muff at the one-yard-line — and beat Dallas, 16–14, on a game-winning field goal as time expired.
2. Heads or Tails?
Prior to the coin toss at the start of overtime in Detroit in 1998, Pittsburgh’s “Bus” Jerome Bettis clearly called “tails.” But referee Phil Luckett awarded the ball to the Lions, who kicked a game-winning field goal on their first drive to beat the stunned Steelers, 19–16.
En route to becoming the only 0–16 team in history, the Lions allowed a Thanksgiving Day team-worst 47 points to the Titans, who posted an NFL-best 13–3 record in 2008.
4. Fried Turkey
Vikings rookie Randy Moss burned the Cowboys — who infamously passed on the wideout in the 1998 draft — to the tune of three catches for 163 yards (54.3 ypc) and three touchdowns, as Minnesota ran by Dallas, 46–36.
5. Unruly Kids
Detroit 24-year-old Ndamukong Suh threw a temper tantrum on the field and was ejected from the game for stomping on Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith during a 27–15 loss in 2011.
6. Delicious Leftovers
Cowboys third-stringer Jason Garrett starts in place of an injured Troy Aikman and outpitches the Packers’ Brett Favre in a 42–31 Dallas win in 1994. The game reminds many of the time Cowboys backup Clint Longley replaced an injured Roger Staubach to lead thrilling come-from-behind 24–23 win over the rival Redskins in 1974.
7. Juice Spoiled
O.J. Simpson broke the NFL’s single-game rushing record with 273 yards at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day in 1976. But due to inept quarterback play from Gary Marangi, who went 4-for-21 for 29 yards, the Bills lost to the Lions, 27–14.
8. Unfitting Finale
Mr. Thanksgiving himself, Lions legend Barry Sanders, had just 33 yards on 20 carries against the Steelers in 1998 — the worst showing No. 20 ever had on a fourth Thursday in November. Although the effort pushed Sanders over the 15,000-yard mark for his career, it was (shockingly) the last Thanksgiving Day he graced the nation with his brilliance.
Thanksgiving weekend college football rivalry games are as much of a tradition as eating leftover turkey and falling into a tryptophan-induced coma on the couch.
The best games of the year are crammed into a holiday weekend like an extra slice of pie on an already overflowing plate. Naturally, the oldest and most bitter rivals have produced some of the most memorable moments in the sport’s history.
Chomp vs. Chop
The Gators’ chomp and Seminoles’ tomahawk chop are two of the most recognizable celebrations in all of sports — especially when done by UF Gator girls and FSU cowgirls.
Free Shoes University
The Ol’ Ball Coach has a yap trap full of razor sharp one-liners. When he coached at Florida in the 1990s, Steve Spurrier gave the FSU acronym new meaning — referring to "Free Shoe University" after a Foot Locker scandal rocked Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles.
The rivalry between Notre Dame and USC would not even exist if not for a train conversation that sparked a fast friendship between Irish coach Knute Rockne’s wife, Bonnie, and USC de facto athletic director Gwynn Wilson’s wife, Marion. Returning from Nebraska, Mrs. Rockne thought a trip to Los Angeles would be more to her liking. The rest is history.
Punt, Bama, Punt
The Auburn Tigers rallied from a 16–0 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play to take down Bear Bryant’s undefeated No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1972 Iron Bowl. Bill Newton blocked two punts, which were both returned for TDs by David Langner....Forty years later, Alabama loon Harvey Updyke Jr. became the poster boy for sociopathic football fans when he poisoned the historic trees at Toomer’s Corner on Auburn’s campus.
“From the Emerald Isle,” the Irish club goes to the winner of the Notre Dame and USC intersectional rivalry. It is currently adorned with 43 Fighting Irish shamrocks and 35 Trojan heads and five combined medallions, representing ND’s 43–35–5 all-time edge since 1926 — although USC has won nine of the last 10 in the series.
The Ohio State loving “best damn punk band in the land” had a cult following in the early 2000s, bashing Michigan with songs like “We Don’t Give a Damn For the Whole State of Michigan,” “Chad Henne is a Mother F****** Joke” and “I Hate Michigan.”
What do you get when you cross an Oregon Duck with an Oregon State Beaver? A duck-billed, beaver-tailed Platypus Trophy awarded the winner of the Civil War.
Beat the Farmers
Ole Miss students dress old money preppy, donning buttons and biting their thumbs at their “Cow College” rivals from Mississippi State. The problem is that the Bulldogs are riding a three-game win streak and have beaten the Rebels five of the last seven meetings.
Bedlam “Bets, Drugs, and Rock & Roll”
In his 2007 book, offshore gambling maven Steve Budin claimed that in 1954 the Bedlam Series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M) had been fixed by mobsters who had paid a cook to poison Bud Wilkinson’s undefeated Sooners with horse laxatives. The Cowboys (then Aggies) covered the spread but ultimately lost the game.
In 1961, the South Carolina chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity pulled an epic prank on its arch-rival Clemson. Roughly 50 frat boys dressed in orange and purple football uniforms and ran out onto the field prior to kickoff, as 47,000 confused Tigers fans cheered on the Gamecock imposters.
Conference realignment put an end to several of Thanksgiving weekend’s greatest historical rivalries.
Texas A&M vs. Texas
The Aggies headed to the SEC and will not play the Longhorns this year.
Missouri vs. Kansas
The Border War dates back to 1891. But sadly, it is no more.
West Virginia vs. Pitt
The Backyard Brawl dates back to 1895. But after WVU’s move to the Big 12, it’s over.
NFL Week 12 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Redskins (4-6) at Cowboys (5-5)
DeMarco Murray (foot) and Tyron Smith (ankle) are both expected to miss this traditional rivalry game between the Skins and Boys, while RG3 is making his first Thanksgiving Day appearance.
Cowboys by 1
Texans (9-1) at Lions (4-6)
Detroit is 3–10 on Thanksgiving Day since Barry Sanders retired prior to the 1999 season.
Texans by 5
Patriots (7-3) at Jets (4-6)
New England has a perfect 18–0 regular-season record in the second half of the season since 2010. New York is 9–9 over that same stretch.
Patriots by 9
Titans (4-6) at Jaguars (1-9)
Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert were selected Nos. 8 and 10 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. But Gabbert has been benched for Chad Henne.
Titans by 4
Bills (4-6) at Colts (6-4)
Andrew Luck looks to bounce back against a Buffalo team coming off a win and 10-day break.
Colts by 4
Steelers (6-4) at Browns (2-8)
Cleveland is 1–9 against Pittsburgh over its last 10 meetings with the AFC North heavyweight.
Steelers by 5
Raiders (3-7) at Bengals (5-5)
Cincy’s roller-coaster season started 3–1, went into an 0–4 slump and is now on a 2–0 run.
Bengals by 6
Broncos (7-3) at Chiefs (1-9)
Von Miller enters Derrick Thomas country having just joined Reggie White, Jevon Kearse and Dwight Freeney as the only players with 11 or more sacks in each of their first two seasons.
Broncos by 12
Seahawks (6-4) at Dolphins (4-6)
Miami a miserable 9-for-34 on third downs over current three-game losing streak.
Dolphins by 2
Falcons (9-1) at Buccaneers (6-4)
Matt Ryan has a 6–2 record against the Bucs, but just a 2–2 mark on the road in Tampa Bay.
Falcons by 6
Vikings (6-4) at Bears (7-3)
Jay Cutler (concussion) “feels good” but “felt bad” for Jason Campbell on Monday night.
Bears by 1
Ravens (8-2) at Chargers (4-6)
Baltimore ball-hawk Ed Reed had his one game suspension overturned and will be playing center field against Bolts knuckleballer Philip Rivers.
Ravens by 2
Rams (3-6-1) at Cardinals (4-6)
Arizona’s six-game winless drought started with a 17–3 loss at St. Louis on Thursday in Week 5.
Cardinals by 2
49ers (7-2-1) at Saints (5-5)
San Fran’s Aldon Smith notched 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on Monday night. N’awlins’ Drew Brees won’t be so easy to take down.
49ers by 2
Packers (7-3) at Giants (6-4)
The last time these two powers met, New York shocked No. 1-seed Green Bay, 37–20, at Lambeau Field in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
Giants by 1
Panthers (2-8) at Eagles (3-7)
Carolina has held a fourth-quarter lead in five of its last six losses. Meanwhile, Philly has lost six straight in a variety of embarrassing ways.
Eagles by 1
Last week: 12–2 // Season: 110–50
Athlon Sports' weekly rankings of NFL teams — from the best, the one-loss Houston Texans, to the worst, the miserable one-win Kansas City Chiefs.
Here are our NFL Power Rankings following Week 11 of the season:
1. Texans (9-1) Matt Schaub flirts with Norm Van Brocklin record.
2. Falcons (9-1) Ryan first QB to win with five INTs, no TDs since ’67.
3. 49ers (7-2-1) Colin Kaepernick definitely ready for prime time.
4. Packers (7-3) Aaron Rodgers improves to 8–1 against Detroit.
5. Ravens (8-2) Earn third straight win over Steelers at Heinz Field.
6. Patriots (7-3) Rob Gronkowski out 4-to-6 weeks with broken arm.
7. Broncos (7-3) Von Miller a dancing sack-machine vs. Bolts.
8. Bears (7-3) Jason Campbell ambushed by Niners in MNF loss.
9. Giants (6-4) Big Blue Wrecking Crew well-rested for Green Bay.
10. Steelers (6-4) Re-sign former Steeler (2000-04) Plaxico Burress.
11. Vikings (6-4) Adrian Peterson “can still get stronger” after bye.
12. Seahawks (6-4) Pete Carroll uses bye to solve third-down issues.
13. Colts (6-4) Andrew Luck loses career-worst four turnovers.
14. Buccaneers (6-4) Now 5–1 since bye after comeback at Carolina.
15. Saints (5-5) Marching back, with 5–1 record since 0–4 start.
16. Bengals (5-5) A.J. Green has scored a TD in nine straight games.
17. Cowboys (5-5) Tony Romo takes career-high seven sacks in win.
18. Redskins (4-6) RG3 completes 93.3 percent of passes vs. Philly.
19. Titans (4-6) Jake Locker returns from bye ready for stretch run.
20. Lions (4-6) Coaches have heated sideline argument in defeat.
21. Chargers (4-6) Power outage could mean end of Norv Turner era.
22. Bills (4-6) Score four FGs in four red zone trips but still win.
23. Dolphins (4-6) Just 50 yards, two first downs in first half of loss.
24. Jets (4-6) End three-game losing streak with win at St. Louis.
25. Rams (3-6-1) Defense on longest turnover-less streak since ’50.
26. Cardinals (4-6) Have lost six consecutive games after 4–0 start.
27. Eagles (3-7) First two series of Nick Foles’ first start end in INTs.
28. Raiders (3-7) Have allowed 135 points over three straight losses.
29. Browns (2-8) On a 12-game slide on the road after Big D defeat.
30. Panthers (2-8) Loss to Bucs “as bad as it gets,” says Ron Rivera.
31. Jaguars (1-9) Chad Henne taking over for Blaine Gabbert at QB.
32. Chiefs (1-9) Fans dressed in black, saw ugly ending vs. Cincy.
There’s an age-old football saying: “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.” That may be the case most of the time, but San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seems pretty confident in both eighth-year veteran Alex Smith and second-year young gun Colin Kaepernick.
“We really have two quarterbacks with a hot hand,” said Harbaugh, a QB guru who played the position in the NFL from 1987-2000 and also coached Andrew Luck at Stanford.
Before suffering a concussion against the Rams in Week 10, Smith was completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,731 yards, 13 TDs and five INTs for a 104.1 passer rating over his first nine games. Smith’s job seemed pretty safe. He was playing well, had led the 49ers to a 13–3 record and trip to the NFC title game last season, and inked a contract extension worth $16.5 million guaranteed this offseason.
But despite Smith’s recent success and impressive resumé — he was, after all, the No. 1 overall pick (ahead of Aaron Rodgers) in the 2005 draft, had led Utah to an undefeated season under coach Urban Meyer and was a Helix (Calif.) High School teammate of Reggie Bush — he has always been labeled a “game manager” and remains hounded by doubters.
Just when it seemed as if the crowd calling for his exit had quieted down, Smith could only watch as his backup, Kaepernick, shredded the vaunted Chicago Bears defense in a 32–7 win on Monday Night Football.
The 6'4", 230-pound Kaepernick — a local kid from Turlock, Calif. — completed 16-of-23 passes for 243 yards, two TDs and zero INTs, taking only one sack while posting a 133.1 passer rating in his first career start.
Five of his 16 completions went for over 20 yards, and the 25-year-old showed the type of rare athleticism that made him the only quarterback in Division I FBS history to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards during his stat-stuffing career at Nevada.
Kaepernick was anything but a “game manager.” He was the definition of a “playmaker.”
“Everything he did was exemplary,” said Harbaugh, who traded the Nos. 45, 108 and 141 picks to the Denver Broncos in order to move up to No. 36 overall to draft Kaepernick last year.
Now the question isn’t whether or not Kaepernick is the quarterback of the future. The question is whether he has supplanted Smith as the starter.
“Kaepernick is a baller,” said 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. “That boy can play football. I’m not worried about Colin. We’ve got quarterbacks, man.”
But do the 49ers have one too many quarterbacks?
A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 11.
Locks of the Week
Some fans in Kansas City plan on wearing funeral black to Arrowhead on Sunday, while Detroit fans may be close to breaking out their brown paper bags from the early 2000s.
Bengals (-3.5) at Chiefs
“The fans are frustrated,” said Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. “Hopefully… we can change the atmosphere and environment around here.” Not this week.
Packers (-4) at Lions
Green Bay is fresh off its bye week and Aaron Rodgers carries a 7–1 record against Detroit, with five of those wins by five or more points.
The Keystone State’s quarterbacks — Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick — are banged up, making teams from the Beltway a better bet this weekend.
Ravens (-3.5) at Steelers
Byron Leftwich will start in place of Big Ben (right shoulder). Baltimore will look to make it three straight in Pittsburgh, after a pair of three-point wins in 2010 and ’11.
Redskins (-4) vs. Eagles
Rookie Nick Foles makes his first career start in place of Vick (concussion). Skins coach Mike Shanahan puts his 10–6 record after a bye on the line.
Big numbers were a big letdown last week, but these three high-powered home teams should be able to take care of business against traditional losers this week.
Cowboys (-8) vs. Browns
If Big D can’t put the smack down on Cleveland, heads will roll. Expect to see Jerry Jones on the sidelines celebrating late in this blowout win.
Falcons (-10) vs. Cardinals
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has an 8–0 record in games immediately after a loss over the last two years and a 14–3 career mark after being defeated.
Texans (-15.5) vs. Jaguars
Houston beat J-Ville 27–7 in Week 2. Five of the Jags’ eight losses have been by 16 or more points, with a pair of 17-point losses to the Lions and Colts the past two weeks.
These may not be straight up upsets, but keeping it close is not out of the question.
Raiders (+6) vs. Saints
New Orleans needs to march to victory, no doubt. But the West Coast bias at the Black Hole might not lend itself to a Big Easy blowout.
Chargers (+8) at Broncos
The Bolts were blitzed 35–24 by the Broncs in Week 6. But that week, Philip Rivers threw four INTs and coughed up two fumbles.
Steer clear of these bad boys, unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action.
Buccaneers (-2) at Panthers
Cam Newton may have lost every press conference and all but two games this year, but this smells like a divisional upset for the Cats.
Rams (-3.5) vs. Jets
Jeff Fisher will play for the tie, unless you consider near-60-yard FG attempts as playing for the win. But it’s hard to push on a 3.5-point line.
Patriots (-9) vs. Colts
New England failed to cover against lowly Buffalo last week. But the stats show that Indy either wins or gets blown out — with three losses of 24, 20 and five points.
Off the Board
The big board in Vegas has a headache with the Monday night party between San Fran and Chi-town.
49ers (n/a) vs. Bears
Both Alex Smith and Jay Cutler suffered concussions last week. Let’s wager on what the line will be — take the Niners (-2.5) to cover.
NFL Week 11 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Dolphins (4-5) at Bills (3-6)
The home team is 7–3 on Thursday night this year, so there is a chance that Buffalo fans could witness their first win at Ralph Wilson Stadium since Week 2 against the Chiefs.
Bills by 1
Bengals (4-5) at Chiefs (1-8)
Kansas City is 0–4 at Arrowhead this season and just 1–8 at home dating back to last year.
Bengals by 7
Eagles (3-6) at Redskins (3-6)
Mike Shanahan has a 10–6 record in games immediately following his bye. But this will be the third straight year the Skins play the Eagles after the bye; they’re 0–2 in those contests, with a 59–28 loss in 2010 and 20–13 loss last year.
Redskins by 3
Jaguars (1-8) at Texans (8-1)
The Jags are happy to leave Jacksonville, where they have been outscored 153–44. Strangely, the teal team has only been outscored 93–83 on the road. They must like playing in front of a crowd.
Texans by 16
Jets (3-6) at Rams (3-5-1)
Rex Ryan is standing by his man Mark Sanchez despite the fact that the Jets have scored only one offensive TD over their last eight quarters.
Rams by 3
Browns (2-7) at Cowboys (4-5)
This is a classic trap game for Dallas — tucked between a win over the Eagles and a Turkey Day showdown with the Redskins.
Cowboys by 8
Buccaneers (5-4) at Panthers (2-7)
Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman has thrown 13 TDs and one INT while leading the Bucs to a 4–1 record over his last five games. Carolina’s Cam Newton has passed for four TDs, five INTs and has a 1–4 mark over the same time frame.
Buccaneers by 4
Packers (6-3) at Lions (4-5)
The last time Titletown’s team traveled to the Motor City, Lions wild child Ndamukong Suh was ejected for stomping on Thanksgiving.
Packers by 7
Cardinals (4-5) at Falcons (8-1)
Matt Ryan has an 8–0 record after a loss over the last two years and a 14–3 career mark.
Falcons by 9
Saints (4-5) at Raiders (3-6)
If they’re not careful, the Saints’ march back into the playoff picture will get lost in the Black Hole.
Saints by 6
Colts (6-3) at Patriots (6-3)
Hopefully Tom Brady will spark up a rivalry with Andrew Luck like he had with the other guy.
Patriots by 9
Chargers (4-5) at Broncos (6-3)
Peyton Manning threw his 420th TD pass and won his 147th game last week, tying Dan Marino on both all-time lists. Time to pass Dan the Man.
Broncos by 6
Ravens (7-2) at Steelers (6-3)
Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders was fined $15K for faking an injury. But Ben Roethlisberger’s right shoulder injury appears to be very real. Surviving Baltimore without Big Ben will be tough.
Steelers by 2
Bears (7-2) at 49ers (6-2-1)
Chi-town’s Jay Cutler and San Fran’s Alex Smith suffered concussions in disappointing games, leaving backups Jason Campbell and Colin Kaepernick in charge until further notice.
49ers by 4
Last week: 10-4 // Season: 98-48
Athlon Sports' weekly rankings of NFL teams — from the best, the one-loss Houston Texans, to the worst, the clawless one-win Jacksonville Jaguars.
Here are our NFL Power Rankings following Week 10 of the season:
1. Texans (8-1) Survive rain in Windy City for hard-fought victory.
2. Falcons (8-1) Tony Gonzalez becomes first TE to catch 100 TDs.
3. Packers (6-3) Aaron Rodgers watches brother Jordan win on bye.
4. Bears (7-2) Jay Cutler knocked out of game in loss to Texans.
5. Ravens (7-2) Set new franchise record for points scored (55).
6. Steelers (6-3) Big Ben throwing shoulder injury a big concern.
7. Giants (6-4) Phil Simms says Eli Manning not “elite” NFL QB.
8. 49ers (6-2-1) Sloppy effort vs. Rams in first tie since 2008.
9. Patriots (6-3) Improve to 20–2 against Bills in last 22 games.
10. Broncos (6-3) John Fox’s return to Carolina ends with easy win.
11. Colts (6-3) Chuck Strong en route to fourth straight victory.
12. Vikings (6-4) Samantha Steele good luck for Christian Ponder.
13. Seahawks (6-4) Marshawn Lynch tops 1,000 rushing yards in win.
14. Saints (4-5) Improve to 4–1 after 0–4 start with win vs. Atlanta.
15. Cowboys (4-5) After all this, Boys just 1.5 games behind G-Men.
16. Bengals (4-5) A.J. Green was right about “holes” in Giants’ D.
17. Buccaneers (5-4) Blocked punt for TD and INT for TD help beat Bolts.
18. Chargers (4-5) Philip Rivers’ decision-making results in defeat.
19. Titans (4-6) Bud Adams sees 34-point win after 31-point loss.
20. Dolphins (4-5) Defense allows first 100-yard rusher in 23 games.
21. Lions (4-5) Megatron tops 200 yards but loses crucial fumble.
22. Rams (3-5-1) Missed 58-yard FG results in 18th tie since 1974.
23. Cardinals (4-5) Michael Floyd making case for more playing time.
24. Redskins (3-6) RG3 looking for first division win following bye.
25. Eagles (3-6) Rookie Nick Foles replaced concussed Mike Vick.
26. Jets (3-6) Mark Sanchez loses to old USC coach Pete Carroll.
27. Bills (3-6) Ryan Fitzpatrick throws game away at Patriots.
28. Raiders (3-6) Tie franchise record for most points allowed (55).
29. Panthers (2-7) Cam Newton harassed by Von Miller in ugly loss.
30. Browns (2-7) CEO Joe Banner uses bye to evaluate entire team.
31. Chiefs (1-8) Marty Schottenheimer could return in advisor role.
32. Jaguars (1-8) Have lost nine of last 10 games on prime time TV.
Just when it looked like the New Orleans Saints were down for the count, the fleurs-de-lis from the French Quarter bounced back off the mat with a 31–27 upset win over the previously unbeaten NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons.
There had been plenty of reasons to count out the Saints. The offseason suspensions of coach Sean Payton, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith and several other key members of the team’s coaching staff and roster as a result of “Bounty Gate” would have crippled most clubs. And when the appeals process spilled into the season, the ongoing feud with Commissioner Roger Goodell did not seem good for anything other than an off-field distraction of the highest order.
An 0–4 record to start the season reaffirmed the preconceived notion that the 2012 season was a placeholder year for New Orleans, a punishment for allegedly attempting to knock out Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and a handful of other players. After all, the Saints lost to a quartet of teams — the Redskins, Panthers, Chiefs and Packers — that carry a combined 12–24 record heading into Week 11. And Green Bay boasts half of those dozen combined victories.
But record-breaking Super Bowl XLIV MVP quarterback Drew Brees promised all was not lost. For some reason, he was convinced the 2012 season could be saved.
“This team is all in,” Brees said after a winless first quarter of the year. “They are on the cusp of becoming a very productive, winning team.”
It turns out, Brees wasn’t another big talker on Bourbon Street. The man who led New Orleans from the dark depths of Hurricane Katrina to the top of the Super Bowl mountain knew what he was talking about.
Since starting 0–4, the Saints have gone 4–1, a stretch during which Brees has thrown 15 TDs and just four INTs. As the famous saying goes: “They don’t ask how, they ask how many?” But this past week’s victory over the 8–0 Falcons meant more than just another notch in the win column. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan entered with a 2–6 career record against the Saints and a 1–3 mark on the road in what has been the Big un-Easy for him.
New Orleans intended to keep Ryan and Atlanta coach Mike Smith — who arrived in the division the same year as “Matty Ice” — on edge, while re-establishing the Saints as a legit contender in the NFC Wild Card race.
Following the statement victory, New Orleans has a 4–5 record and momentum on its side. And guess what? Just like earlier this season, Brees thinks the Saints are a team to be reckoned with.
“I feel like our best football is yet to come,” said Brees. “We’ve played some really good games, we’ve beaten some very good opponents in some big-time situations, but I truly believe that our best is yet to come.”