Articles By Patrick Snow

Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-vs-minnesota-vikings-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two NFC foes with drastically different 2012 results will meet on Thursday Night Football, when the Minnesota Vikings host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 8:20 p.m. EST on the NFL Network. The Bucs have struggled to a 2-4 record this season, and they travel to Minnesota coming off a heartbreaking last-second loss to the Saints. Meanwhile, the Vikings have played well during a 5-2 start and have been energized by the healthy return of intrepid running back Adrian Peterson.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the ball:
The Buccaneers have been inconsistent on offense this year, but they have scored four touchdowns in both of their last two games after a Week 5 bye. Quarterback Josh Freeman threw five touchdowns against four interceptions in Tampa’s first four contests, but he has tossed six TD passes and only one pick the last two weeks. The Bucs passing game has been improved greatly by the free agent addition of receiver Vincent Jackson, who already has 586 yards and five scores through six games. Running back Doug Martin has been solid in his rookie campaign, compiling 480 yards on 100 carries.

Minnesota ranks ninth in the NFL in total defense, as well as sixth in points (18.7) allowed. The Vikings rely on getting solid pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and they stand third in the league with 22 sacks this season. The defensive end tandem of Jared Allen and Brian Robison has compiled 10 of those sacks, and they will draw the attention of the Buccaneers game plan tonight. Linebacker Chad Greenway is also having a stellar season, ranking third in the league with 68 tackles.

When the Minnesota Vikings have the ball:
There were many questions around the health of Peterson following his knee injury late last season, but the All-Pro running back has returned to his old form with 652 yards and three touchdowns this year. He did miss practice earlier this week with an ankle issue, but Peterson should be good to go tonight. Quarterback Christian Ponder has been solid enough to win games during his sophomore season, throwing for nine scores against six interceptions. His favorite target has been electric receiver Percy Harvin, who already has 53 catches for 577 yards on the year.

The Bucs defense has been especially stingy against the run this season, ranking third in the league by allowing only 76 yards per game on the ground. However Tampa Bay has struggled mightily versus opposing passing attacks, giving up an alarming 323 yards per game through the air. A major issue has been a lack of pass rush, as the Bucs have totaled only eight sacks this season. They will look for improvement in that area against Ponder, who has already been sacked 16 times this year.

Key Factor:
This NFC battle should come to Peterson versus Tampa’s nasty run defense. If he has any kind of success, it will be a long night for the Bucs. Minnesota should play well with a raucous home crowd, and that factor could be huge in pressuring Freeman. Tampa Bay has won five straight in this series dating back to 2001, but look for the Vikings to ride their current momentum to a close victory tonight.

Prediction:
Vikings 20 Buccaneers 16


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 06:49
All taxonomy terms: Jon Gruden, Overtime, News
Path: /college-football/wikipedia-has-jon-gruden-tennessee-volunteers-head-coach
Body:

Current Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley is definitely on the hot seat in Knoxville, as the Vols have lost 11 of their last 12 SEC games. Rumors are rampant every year about former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden returning to a college or NFL sideline, and the fact the his wife went to Tennessee has some fans thinking he could be the next coach of the Vols. It turns out that Wikipedia already has Gruden listed as the Tennessee boss, even though there is not a current opening. We're sure some fact-checking do-gooder will fix the error shortly, so we grabbed this screen shot below. 

Teaser:
<p> Wikipedia has Jon Gruden as the Tennessee Volunteers Head Coach</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 17:58
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Basketball, NBA, Fantasy, Overtime
Path: /nba/50-funny-fantasy-basketball-team-names
Body:

The NBA season is upon us (yes, a full one this year), and it’s time to name your 2012-13 fantasy basketball team. It’s difficult to win a championship in your league each season, but you can have the best team name every year. Our goal was to stay above board for the most part, so we’ll leave the Chris Kaman-inspired names to you. Here’s our list, in no particular order of swag.

Kawhi, Maybe

Don’t Bring Guns to Arenas

Blake Gryffindor

Pippen Ain't Easy

Ibaka Flocka Flame

Dirks Digglers

Bosh Spice

Power Grangers

Rose Before Hoes

Ever been in a Turkoglu prison?

Temporary Linsanity

Honeycutt Boo Boo (Sorry Tyler.)

Durant Durant

Redick in a box

Deng Girl!

Wait a Mehmet

2 Hansbroughs, 1 Cup

Hold the Mayo

Shot of Jamison

Divac School of Flop (Vlade would not like these new rules.)

Hide ya Kidd, Hide Dwight

Hinrich Maneuver

50 Shades of Aaron Gray

Let's Get Tropical (The NBA needs Jackie Moon.)

Fab 5 Melo

Maggette & Meatballs

Landry Fields Forever

K. Love and Special Sauce

Lil Wayns (We’re pulling for Maalik to make the 76ers.)

Radio Shaq

LeBrontourage

Be all you Camby

Zeller Dwellers

7-10 Splitter (No clue if the Spurs forward likes to bowl.)

Yao know what I Ming

Grand Theft Rondo

I Noah Can

That’s Amar’e

Kobe! (For you old-school Chappelle Show fans. That ‘love contract’ skit was hilarious.)

Count of Monta Ellis

Out of My Teague

Head-on Collison

Forgetting Kendall Marshall

Me and World B. Free (Gotta love one of the NBA’s all-time top names and personalities.)

Metta World Peace Pipe

Por Favors

Man Walks into a Barea

Coca Scola

Kobe Wan Kenobi

Van Gundy’s Combover


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Funny Fantasy Basketball Team Names</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-vs-chicago-bears-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes with drastically different 2012 results will meet on Monday Night Football, when the Chicago Bears host the Detroit Lions at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. Lovie Smith’s Chicago crew has jumped out to a 4-1 start, outscoring its opponents by 78 points. Meanwhile, the last-place Lions are 2-3 and have looked nothing like the playoff team of a year ago.

When the Detroit Lions have the ball:
Quarterback Matthew Stafford had an amazing season in 2011, throwing for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. However the 2012 campaign has been somewhat of a struggle for the Lions signal caller, as he has more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4). The Detroit offense did show some positive signs last week in Philadelphia, as Stafford had a fourth-quarter touchdown run and pass to the lead the Lions back from a double-digit deficit to an overtime victory. All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson (35 catches for 558 yards and one score) is always the top Detroit threat, and the Lions will lean on running back Mikel Leshoure to balance out the offense.

The Bears defense has simply been stellar through five games, ranking No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed (14.2 ppg). Chicago has excelled against the run and in creating turnovers, topping the league in those categories as well. The Bears have also turned the takeaways into points, already scoring an amazing five times this season. The focus on Monday night will be to limit Johnson’s impact, whiles also pressuring Stafford into more mistakes and interceptions.

When the Chicago Bears have the ball:
The Chicago attack has not been overwhelming this season, but it has not had to be with a dominant defense. With the exception of the Green Bay loss when they could not control the Packers pass rush, the Bears have been fairly solid under quarterback Jay Cutler. He has thrown for two touchdowns in three of the four Chicago wins, with Brandon Marshall (35 catches for 496 yards and three scores) getting the most targets by far. The Bears also got a lift from running back Matt Forte in their last game, as he compiled the team’s first 100-yard rushing performance of the year.

Detroit ranks ninth in the league in total defense, allowing 324 yards per game. However, the team is giving up over 27 points per contest. One of the Lions biggest problems this year has been special teams, with opponents scoring four times on return touchdowns. Another issue has been a lack of takeaways, as Detroit defenders have only caused six turnovers in five games. To beat the Bears, the Lions will need to stop Forte on the ground and pressure Cutler into giving the ball away.

Key Factor:
This NFC North battle should come down to turnovers, which favors Chicago. If the Bears protect the ball, they will be tough to beat in front of a raucous Soldier Field crowd. The Lions will need to force Cutler into mistakes, while also getting a big-time performance from Stafford. Look for the Bears to continue their excellent MNF play under Smith, and stay atop the division.

Prediction:
Bears 27 Lions 20


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Monday, October 22, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-cincinnati-bengals-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes coming off disappointing road losses will meet on Sunday Night Football, when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. The Bengals dropped to 3-3 on the season last week with a surprising 34-24 defeat in Cleveland to the previously-winless Browns. The Steelers have had 10 days to recover from their 26-23 loss to the Titans that dropped Pittsburgh to an uncomfortable 2-3 on the year.

When the Cincinnati Bengals have the ball:
Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green have become the focal point of the Bengals attack. The second-year signal caller has hooked up with his fellow sophomore pass catcher for six touchdowns this season, but the dynamic duo needs a little help from the running game. Cincinnati needs more from lead runner BenJarvus Green-Ellis (averaging only 3.4 yards per carry) to keep the Pittsburgh pressure off Dalton, who has thrown nine interceptions and been sacked 17 times in six games.

The Steelers defense has been inconsistent this season, especially in the three road losses. Injuries (highlighted by the absence of Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu) have played a big part in that, but Dick LeBeau’s unit must find a way to get late stops when Pittsburgh has the lead. The Steelers rank fourth in the NFL in yardage allowed, but 17th in points per game. Pittsburgh must apply pressure on Dalton and improve on a total of just six takeaways in five games.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers have the ball:
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been solid this season, throwing for 1,487 yards and 10 touchdowns against only two interceptions. However, the Steelers attack has been hampered greatly by injuries on the offensive line and at running back. Pittsburgh ranks 31st in the league in rushing, only compiling 74.8 yards per game on the ground. It won’t get any easier this week with top runners Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) listed as questionable. The good news for the Steelers is that the receiving trio of Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and tight end Heath Miller has been very productive this season.

The Bengals defense will need a solid performance coming off two straight losses. Cincinnati should catch a break with a banged-up Steelers rushing attack, and Mike Zimmer’s crew leads the AFC in sacks with 20. The Bengals will look to continue that type of pressure on Roethlisberger, who can be very crafty in avoiding the pass rush. Cincinnati must improve in creating turnovers, only totaling seven takeaways in six games this year.

Key Factor:
The Steelers had started at least 6-2 in each of coach Mike Tomlin’s five seasons at the helm, so the 2012 campaign is unusual territory for Pittsburgh. Even with the injuries, it is difficult to see Roethlisberger and company falling to 2-4 on the year. The Bengals will benefit from the home crowd, but look for the desperate Steelers to continue their recent dominance over Cincinnati and get back to .500 on the season.

Prediction:
Steelers 27 Bengals 23


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Links, College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-eleven-links-day-1
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for October 19.

• John Harper of the New York Daily News looks at the Yankees meltdown in the ALCS. Did getting booed really affect the team?

• Jon Cooper of Saturday Down South previews the huge South Carolina-Florida matchup in the Swamp.

• This idiot pretty much gets what he deserves.

• 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh declined a safety in last night’s 13-6 win over the Seahawks, and the betting world is abuzz over the decision.

• The New York Post has a well-played cover ripping Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees.

• The Texans-Ravens and RG3’s trip to New York highlight this week’s NFL schedule.

• Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is not lighting up the NFL, but he has played well enough to help Minnesota to a 4-2 start. And now comes word that the second-year signal caller is dating ESPN’s Samantha Steele. Life is good.

• Sort of like the Longhorns defensive game plan, Big Tex caught on fire at the Texas State Fair.

• The St. Louis Cardinals are getting hot in October once again.

• Dwight Howard is aiming to make his Lakers debut this weekend.

• Check out high-school kicker Austin Rehkow (Spokane Valley, Wash.) making this record 67-yard field goal to send the game to overtime, where his team would go to win. Boise State should be calling soon Austin.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 18

• Rushing yards will be at a premium in tonight’s NFC West slobberknocker between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

• Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times looks at the Tutogi brother vs. brother matchup in this weekend’s Arizona-Washington game.

• This has got to hurt. I keep picturing this guy yelling “Nowitzki!!” each time.

• Will the Jets use Tim Tebow at running back this week against the Patriots?

• Timberwolves star Kevin Love could miss two months with a broken hand.

• From way downtown….Bang. Poor little bro.

• Check out this LSU-Texas A&M GIF duel.

• Bob Brenly is leaving the Cubs booth, and many feel that the former Diamondbacks manager may join the Arizona broadcast.

• Arizona State is off to a 5-1 start under new coach Todd Graham, and tonight’s home game against undefeated Oregon will be a quality litmus test for the Sun Devils.

• Could Ravens Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs, who tore his Achilles this spring, return for this week’s game against the Houston Texans? It may happen.

• Check out the Texas wind taking this high schooler’s punt straight backwards. We apologize for the annoying music.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 17

• NBA star Kobe Bryant is giving Alex Rodriguez pep talks to help the Yankees benched third baseman out of his current slump. Good luck with that.

• USA Today’s Christine Brennan covers the divorce of Nike and former Tour de France champion (and cheater) Lance Armstrong.

• Somebody make sure Kevin Bacon is okay.

• Chuck Oliver looks at the rise of LSU running back Jeremy Hill, who had 124 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s win over South Carolina.

• Tigers ace Justin Verlander has achieved almost everything in baseball — from awards to no-hitters to dating Kate Upton — and a championship could be next.

• Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has been cleared to practice this week. He suffered a concussion is last week’s win over Stanford.

• Check out Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas back in the day.

• College basketball is getting close, and here is the latest from the ACC, Big East and Big 12 Media Days.

• New York Giants defensive back Antrel Rolle says that Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III is a much different quarterback than Michael Vick.

• Can 5-1 Arizona State keep up with 6-0 Oregon on Thursday night?

• The Florida Gators are looking for more from junior big man Patric Young on the court this season. We’ll see if his game improves, but his workout regimen is doing just fine.
 


--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


October 16

• He did it again. Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos to the largest comeback in Monday Night Football history, winning 35-24 over the Chargers after trailing 24-0 at the half. Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post says the victory will last with Broncos fans for ages.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben looks forward to this weekend’s Kansas State-West Virginia battle, where quarterbacks Collin Klein and Geno Smith will spice up a “painfully boring” Heisman race.

• I get pretty excited about weather as well.

• The 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo today, although many believe he is just a scapegoat for Andy Reid. We’re not sure that will help Mike Vick from turning the ball over so much, but who knows.

• Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated look at the “real story” of LSU’s Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu.

• Playing a four-on-four hoops in Los Angeles soon? If so, you can bid to have Shaq (The Big Bavetta?) referee your game.

• How will the Yankees fare against Justin Verlander in Detroit?

• Nebraska and Northwestern meet in a key Legends Division battle this weekend at tiny Ryan Field. But could this game be played at iconic Wrigley Field in 2014?

• Beyonce will perform at this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. Will Jay-Z hit the stage as well?

• New Browns owner Jim Haslam will reportedly replace team president Mike Holmgren with former Eagles president Joe Banner.

• I have no clue what game these kids are playing, but the one guy who won’t fall in line gets smashed in the face.



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


October 15

• What has happened to the Yankees bats in the playoffs? A-Rod is not the only Bronx Bomber struggling, as Robinson Cano is hitting 2-for-32 (.063) in the 2012 postseason. New York trails the Tigers two games to none with the ALCS headed to Detroit.

• Many Texas fans and media members are calling out Longhorns’ coach Mack Brown after their embarrassing 63-21 loss to Oklahoma. Is it time for a change in Austin?

• It’s important to spend time with kids, like taking them to the mall for an unforgettable learning experience. This is going to leave an impression.

• Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune sets the stage for Monday Night Football, where the Chargers will host Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

• Many college football fans believe Notre Dame received a very fortunate call on the last play of its 20-13 overtime victory over Stanford.

• Aaron Rodgers was back to MVP form on Sunday night, tossing six touchdowns in Green Bay’s 42-24 road win over the Texans. The Packers are back to .500 at 3-3 on the year.

• Things do get a little crazy in Baton Rouge for LSU night games, but one South Carolina fan went a little far with the multiple pants drops.

• The Ravens have started 5-1 this season, but multiple injuries on defense have Baltimore fans concerned.

• West Virginia was finally stopped on offense by Texas Tech, and the Mountaineers poor defense caught up with them in a crushing 49-14 loss to the Red Raiders.

• Ty Willingham is back at Stanford….as the volunteer assistant coach to the women’s golf team in charge of psychology?!

• Many of you would probably like to throw a football at Chris Berman or Rich Eisen, but NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport actually took one to the face during a Packers-Texans pregame segment.



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 12:18
Path: /college-football/10-statistical-highlights-lsu-vs-texas-am-games
Body:

LSU and Texas A&M will meet for the 51st time on Saturday, when the Tigers travel to Kyle Field for the first time since 1995 to battle the Aggies. These two proud schools may be new SEC rivals, but obviously LSU and Texas A&M are very familiar historically and on the recruiting trail.

The Tigers lead the all-time series 27-20-3, with the first game being played in 1899 and the last meeting in the Cotton Bowl at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Here are 10 statistical highlights focusing on the history between two teams with elite fan bases and tradition.


1 – Common head coach between the schools, the legendary Dana X. Bible. Many Texas A&M fans know his name well, but College Football Hall of Famer coached at LSU for three games in 1916, going 1-0-2. Bible would leave for College Station the next year and would compile a 72-19-9 record in 100 games at the A&M helm. He also coached basketball and baseball at the school, and Bible would go on to lead the Nebraska and Texas programs as well.

446 – Total yards for LSU in the 2011 Cotton Bowl, a 41-24 win over Texas A&M in the last meeting between these programs. Running backs Stevan Ridley and Spencer Ware both topped the 100-yard mark for the Tigers, while Jordan Jefferson tossed three touchdown passes. Many college football pundits predicted this would be LSU coach Les Miles last game as head coach because of the Michigan vacancy, but the Mad Hatter stayed in Baton Rouge and led the Tigers to an SEC championship last year.

33 – Games in this series played in Baton Rouge. LSU holds the advantage in those contests, 22-10-1. Only nine of the 51 games have been played in College Station, with the Aggies going 7-1-1 at home. The Tigers lead in eight neutral-site games by a 4-3-1 mark.

63 – Points scored by Texas A&M in the 1914 game, a 63-9 win in Dallas. That is the highest scoring mark in this series. The Aggies own the four top point totals (63 in 1914, 52 in 1899, 46 in 1922 and 45 in 1991) over the Tigers, with LSU’s largest total coming in the 42-17 victory in 1972.

18 – Number of used cars that LSU needed to get back to Baton Rouge after its 19-14 victory over Texas A&M in the 1944 Orange Bowl. According to schools officials, most of them ran out of fuel stamps before returning to campus.

39 – FBS teams with less total yards than current Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. “Johnny Football” has amassed 1.680 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air, while also running for 676 yards and 10 scores.

9 – Wins for LSU in this series during the 1960s. The 10th game in that decade was a 7-7 tie in 1966. Paul Dietzel led the Tigers in 1960-61, and the legendary Charlie McClendon took over in 1962 and would lead the LSU program until 1979.

5 – The longest winning streak for Texas A&M in this series, and it happens to be the last five regular-season meetings. The R.C. Slocum-led Aggies beat the Tigers every season from 1991-95

1 – Heisman Trophy winner for each school, and the two winners were just two years apart. Texas A&M halfback John David Crow won the award in 1957, while LSU legend Billy Cannon would take home the trophy in 1959. Unfortunately, the two Hall of Famers just missed playing against each other in this series.

5 – Times that LSU’s Les Miles has faced the Aggies, compiling a 3-2 record. He went 2-2 versus Texas A&M as the Oklahoma State head coach, and Miles led the Tigers to the aforementioned Cotton Bowl victory to conclude the 2010 campaign.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Statistical Highlights from LSU vs. Texas A&amp;M Games</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 12:24
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-vs-san-francisco-49ers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes coming off drastically different  Week 6 contests will meet on Thursday Night Football, when the San Francisco 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks at 8:20 p.m. EST on the NFL Network. The 49ers were surprisingly “out-physicaled” against the Giants last week, losing the NFC Championship Game rematch 26-3 at home. Meanwhile, the Seahawks overcame a 23-10 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Patriots 24-23 in dramatic fashion.

When the Seattle Seahawks have the ball:
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson had been fairly inconsistent through five weeks, but he had his best game by far in the Patriots win on Sunday. Wilson threw for 293 yards and three scores, including the game-winning 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with less than two minutes to go. The young signal caller will need Marshawn Lynch and the running game to get going after two subpar weeks, as playing one-dimensional football against the stingy 49ers is not a formula for success.

San Francisco ranks No. 1 in the league after six weeks, allowing only 275.8 yards per game. However, Patrick Willis and company are company off a performance where they allowed 149 rushing yards to the Giants and did not cause any turnovers or sacks. The 49ers’ focus tonight will be on Lynch, who rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown when these teams met last Christmas Eve. If the Niners can limit Seattle’s run game, they should be able to force the youthful Wilson into mistakes.

When the San Francisco 49ers have the ball:
The San Francisco offense is known for its power running attack, but the Giants held Frank Gore to 36 yards on eight carries. Additionally, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley is expected to miss this game with a concussion. The 49ers will need Gore and Kendall Hunter to grind out tough yards against an elite Seattle run defense. After throwing for eight touchdown passes and just one interception in the first five games of the season, quarterback Alex Smith tossed an uncharacteristic three picks in the loss to New York. He must get back to protecting the ball and completing a high percentage of his passes tonight.

The Seattle defense has been excellent against the run in 2012, ranking No. 2 in the NFL by allowing only 70 yards per game on the ground. The most rushing yards by an opposing running back against the Seahawks this year was 55 by the Rams’ Steven Jackson, and they will look for more of the same versus Gore and the 49ers. The physical Seattle secondary has intimidated opponents all season with its solid run support and punishing hits on pass catchers.

Key Factor:
This NFC West battle should be an old-fashioned slobberknocker, with yards very difficult to come by. The quarterback who can make some first downs through the air and not turn the ball over should lead his team to a huge divisional victory. We’ll take San Francisco to bounce back from its worst loss under coach Jim Harbaugh and win a close one at home.

Prediction:
49ers 20, Seahawks 16


By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:25
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-san-diego-chargers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes coming off painful road losses will clash on Monday Night Football, when the San Diego Chargers host the Denver Broncos at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. The Lightning Bolts appeared to be on their way to a 4-1 start with a 24-14 lead over the Saints late in the third quarter last week, but New Orleans would rally with 17 unanswered points to win 31-24 and send San Diego home with a 3-2 mark. The Denver defense was gashed in New England eight days ago, as the Patriots piled up 251 rushing yards in a 31-21 defeat of the Broncos.

When the San Diego Chargers have the ball:
The Chargers offense entered the weekend ranked 23rd in the NFL in yards per game (334.8) but 13th in scoring (24.8 ppg), so Philip Rivers and company have done a good job of capitalizing on their opportunities. The veteran quarterback has spread the ball around this season, as five San Diego pass catchers have double-digit receptions. And that does not include offseason signee Robert Meachem, who had two touchdowns versus New Orleans. The Chargers will look for a big game from running back Ryan Mathews, who had 139 total yards and a score last week and has torched the Broncos defense in the past.

The Denver defense has been very inconsistent under new coordinator Jack Del Rio, digging early holes against top opponents. In their three losses to Atlanta, Houston and New England, the Broncos have allowed a combined 58 first-half points. That must stop if Denver is going to compete with the Chargers in the AFC West. The Broncos must also start generating turnovers, as they have totaled only four takeaways in five games. Denver will look to limit Mathews while pressuring Rivers, who has been sacked 14 times this season.

When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
The Broncos have started to adjust to new quarterback Peyton Manning, but turnovers, offensive line injuries and an average running game have hurt the offense. The four-time MVP has thrown for 975 yards and eight touchdowns against no interceptions over the last three games, but Denver has lost two of those contests. The Broncos have a potential star in receiver Demaryius Thomas, but he has lost a fumble in three straight games. Denver needs to get more out of veteran runner Willis McGahee, but the early deficits have hurt his opportunities.

The Chargers defense has been solid against the run this season, ranking fifth in the NFL. McGahee has had past success versus San Diego, so he will be a focal point as the Chargers look to make the Broncos one-dimensional. Manning struggled against San Diego during his days with the Colts, and John Pagano’s unit will try to continue that trend by adding to its 10 takeaways on the season.

Key Factor:
The Broncos defense must simply solve its first-half issues and not keep putting the team into uphill battles in key games. The team that can establish a running attack will have a huge advantage in this Monday night battle. The early AFC West lead is at stake in San Diego, and we’ll take the home team to prevail with Rivers and Mathews leading the way.

Prediction:
Chargers 27 Broncos 23


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 07:19
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-houston-texans-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two preseason favorites with drastically different 2012 results will meet on Sunday Night Football when the Houston Texans host the Green Bay Packers at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. The Texans are off to a perfect 5-0 start, besting their opponents by a combined 76 points on the season. Meanwhile, the Packers have languished through two excruciating losses in the last three weeks. A terrible call in Seattle and a blown 21-3 halftime lead in Indianapolis have Green Bay standing at 2-3 and in desperate need of a victory.

When the Houston Texans have the ball:
The Texans offense is tied for third in the NFL in scoring at 29.8 points per game, and they of course are led by Pro Bowl runner Arian Foster. The league’s second-leading rusher has 532 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and he can be a threat in the passing game as well. Quarterback Matt Schaub has been excellent in spreading the ball around this season, as five Texans have already reached double-digits in receptions. Tight end Owen Daniels and veteran receiver Andre Johnson have been the top pass-catching targets, while fullback James Casey has been a solid dual-threat player with quality blocking and 16 catches on the year.

The Packers defense has been inconsistent against the run this season, and that cannot be the case versus Foster and the Texans. Another concern for Green Bay is the likely absence of defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. If the Packers can limit the Houston run game, then they will have an opportunity to add to their NFL-leading sack total (T-1st with 18) against Schaub. Houston will definitely focus on Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who tops the entire league with eight sacks (0.5 ahead of Watt).

When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have not been able to find the same rhythm as last season, and the reigning MVP will be without several key weapons on Sunday night. Star wide receiver Greg Jennings is still out, and running back Cedric Benson was lost for the year with a foot injury suffered in the Colts loss. Additionally, tight ends Jermichael Finley (shoulder) and D.J. Williams (hamstring) are listed as questionable against Houston. The Green Bay offensive line must play well versus the formidable Texans pass rush, as Rodgers has been sacked 21 times in five games.

The Texans defense has been very stingy this season, ranking No. 3 in the NFL after five weeks. However, Houston suffered a huge blow last Monday night against the Jets when top linebacker Brian Cushing tore a knee ligament on a low block. Without their top tackler, the Texans will need to rally around replacement Tim Dobbins to continue their current momentum. Houston has found a star in second-year end J.J. Watt, who has seven and a half sacks and eight pass deflections on the season.

Key Factor:
The Packers defense must improve on its recent play to stay in this game, as Green Bay has allowed 57 points and over 900 yards in its last two contests. The undefeated Texans will be tough to beat at home in front of an electric crowd, as Houston has proven to be solid on all phases of the game this season. Look for the Packers to play inspired ball as they try to get back to .500, but for the better team to win a close one.

Prediction:
Texans 27 Packers 24


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Green Bay Packers vs. Houston Texans Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Links, College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-eleven-links-day-0
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for October 12.

• Tigers ace Justin Verlander was dominant in his Game 5 victory over the A’s, and he set a new LDS record with 22 strikeouts in the series. Plus he dates Kate Upton.

• On the eve of the Tennessee-Mississippi State matchup, Kyle Veazey of the Commercial Appeal has the amazing story of Memphis’ Canale brothers — three who were Vols and three who were Bulldogs.

• Mandatory.com has us covered on the “go to the NFL game” versus “watch it on the couch” decision.

• Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder believes that Texas must play power football to beat Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry.

• It should be an incredible night of baseball, with the Yankees-Orioles ALDS and Cardinals-Nationals NLDS being decided in Game 5s.

• NFL scouts will be drooling watching the defensive ends in the South Carolina-LSU matchup this weekend.

• 49ers receiver Mario Manningham will have an interesting perspective when San Francisco takes on the Giants in an NFC Championship Game rematch.

• The Rolling Stones 50th anniversary has the band’s marketing team going full throttle.  But what about some upcoming shows?

• The Stanford-Notre Dame game should be a physical battle, and it will have big-time national implications.

• Is there really a Kobe Bryant-Smush Parker feud?

• We tend to stay away from politics on the E11, but all of us can agree that it would be nice if our elected officials actually listened to their constituencies. Some Kent State students (MACtion!) decided to write their Ohio Congressional delegation for some healthcare information, and here is the result.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 11

• The struggling Titans host the Steelers tonight, and Tennessee running back Chris Johnson said earlier this week that his team “is not close” to being good. That can happen when you pay a runner "superstar" money and he produces only 2.9 yards per carry and zero touchdowns.

• FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi provides insight into the decision by Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pinch-hit for the slumping Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of ALDS Game 3. It paid off royally as Raul Ibanez homered twice, and New York won 3-2 in 12 innings.
 
• If there’s a water shortage in your town, it could be this guy’s fault. He makes a rather large ninja.

• Popular NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been diagnosed with a second concussion in six weeks and will miss the next two Chase races.

• The A’s had a dramatic, season-saving, comeback 4-3 win over the Tigers in Game 4 of the ALDS. Will Oakland’s magic extend to Game 5 against Detroit ace Justin Verlander?

• College football historian and former ESPN commentator Beano Cook has passed away at age 81.

• The debut of the Texas Kickoff Classic will be next August at Reliant Stadium in Houston, with an Oklahoma State versus Mississippi State matchup.

• It looks like Rick Pitino may sign an extension with Louisville in the near future.

• Check out Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas’ new method for trying to cure his fumbling issues.

• Is a knee scope on the horizon for Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki?

Washington State coach Mike Leach is always a unique quote, and he said yesterday that some of his seniors have “an empty-corpse quality.” We just wondered how that fact may affect any of his players’ “fat little girlfriends.”



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 10

• Many Yankees fans are waiting to see if manager Joe Girardi will adjust the lineup — especially dropping the slumping Alex Rodriguez down in the batting order — for Game 3 versus the Orioles tonight.

USA Today’s George Schroeder has an interesting column on former Auburn running back Michael Dyer, who now attends Arkansas Baptist College while still hoping to be a football star once again.

• David Teel of the Daily Press looks at the ACC’s “defenseless” Coastal Division.

• Whether this is the best or worst “cosplay” ever, you have to love Patrick from SpongeBob.

• MrSEC.com details at Steve Spurrier’s lofty perch in league coaching lore.

• Former NFL star defensive lineman and actor Alex Karras has passed away at age 77.

• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is enjoying the new Mike Tice offense.

• LSU’s Sam Montgomery will take on his hometown friends from South Carolina in this week’s huge SEC clash.

• Check out these wild slides at the plate, inspired by Ichiro’s amazing play in Game 2 of the ALDS.

• Kansas coach Charlie Weis decided to practice without the seniors on Sunday.

• Check out this incredible moment from the South Carolina game against Georgia. Sergeant First Class Scott Faile’s family is being honored on the field while he is talking to them (and the crowd) on the Jumbotron. After his heartfelt message, Faile had a surprise for everyone.



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


October 9

• The Texans beat the Jets 23-17 on Monday Night Football and moved to 5-0 on the season. However, Houston fears it may have lost top linebacker Brian Cushing to an ACL injury.

• The monster that is former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced today to between 30-60 years in prison after being convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.

• ESPN’s Dana O’Neil has a moving column on the Richmond basketball family and coach Chris Mooney.

• Jim Lamar of the Tallahassee Democrat calls Florida State’s loss at NC State an “embarrassment” among other things.

• Much like the NFL, guys in the Canadian Football League are always looking to make explosive plays.

• Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads provided some wonderful GIF material with his referee reaction against TCU.

• It looks like veteran manager Jim Leyland will return to the Detroit Tigers dugout in 2013.

• With the Georgia Tech defense struggling mightily, coach Paul Johnson felt he had to fire coordinator Al Groh.
 
• The polarizing Terrell Owens decided to let the Jets know that he’s available.
 
• Will the Red Sox re-sign designated hitter David Ortiz?

• Check out Ichiro Suzuki’s amazing ability to avoid multiple tags and score in last night’s ALDS game against the Orioles.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


October 8

• Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star has an excellent column on the Colts emotional 30-27 comeback win over the Packers. A week ago, Indy head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. After the victory, Colts management presented Pagano with the game ball at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

• Mitch Vingle of the Charleston Gazette looks at West Virginia’s huge road win against Texas, a victory that proves the Mountaineers belong with college football’s “big boys.”

Is this really Meg Griffin?

• Kudos to Chiefs offensive lineman Eric Winston for calling out the fans who were booing an injured Matt Cassel. Check out his postgame take from the Kansas City locker room.

• Florida and South Carolina had huge wins on Saturday, setting up a very compelling SEC East race.

• The Cincinnati Reds steamrolled their way to a 2-0 lead over the Giants with impressive wins in San Francisco.

• As expected, Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas’ all-time NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. His streak reached 48 games in New Orleans’ 31-24 win over the Chargers.

• ACC football fans — and the league’s gridiron image — need a break after Saturday’s results.

• What will LeBron’s psyche be now that he has won that elusive NBA title?

• The Detroit Tigers found a way to slow down the Oakland A’s momentum, as Jim Leyland’s club took a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALDS.

• Football fans have been clubbed over the head by that new IE9 commercial (with the pop song “Too Close”) that seems to run during every break of every game this season. Here’s a humorous different version of that ad.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 12:03
All taxonomy terms: Nebraska Cornhuskers, College Football
Path: /college-football/5-things-watch-nebraskas-second-half
Body:

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are 4-2 at the halfway point of the regular season and stand 1-1 in Big Ten play. Bo Pelini’s club is still reeling from a 63-38 loss to Ohio State, and the Huskers will use a much-needed bye week to work on their goal of winning the Legends Division. The NU offense has the firepower to win the league, while the defense must improve greatly from its performance in the first six games. The division race should be very compelling in October and November, and here are five things to watch for Nebraska during the second half of the 2012 campaign.

1. Defense
The Cornhuskers have struggled mightily on this side of the ball, and the issues range from tackling problems to missed assignments within the scheme to keeping composure during adversity. In two losses, Nebraska gave up an alarming 653 total yards to UCLA and 371 rushing yards against the Buckeyes. The defensive deficiencies must stop if NU wants to win its first conference crown since 1999. The Huskers have been solid against the pass and in pressuring opposing quarterbacks, but that will not matter if the nation’s 92nd-rated rush unit does not improve. In fact, Indiana is the only Big Ten squad to give up more rushing yards per game. Pelini and coordinator John Papuchis must use the bye week to solve the defense’s execution issues.

2. Health
Nebraska received a major scare in the Ohio State game when I-back Rex Burkhead had to leave with a knee injury. The senior runner has already missed the UCLA and Arkansas State games this season, and the Huskers will need their senior leader in league play. Burkhead is expected to return for the October 20 Northwestern game, and his presence along with the emergence of Ameer Abdullah gives Nebraska a formidable rushing tandem that can put up points and dominate the time of possession. The Huskers will also need to manage the carries of quarterback Taylor Martinez, who could wear down if he absorbs too many hits in the second half of this year.

3. Passing Game
The Nebraska passing game has been fairly solid this season, although Martinez’s three interceptions against the Buckeyes is cause for concern. There is not a huge need for tons of yards in the passing attack, but the ability to make first downs and not let opponents key on the run game will be paramount down the stretch. Martinez has been very efficient this season, and he has solid targets in Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and tight end Kyler Reed. The NU offense must continue to carry the team and help keep the defense on the sideline, and continued production in the passing game will assist the Huskers in remaining among the elite scoring offenses in the nation.

4. Schedule
Nebraska is 3-8 in its last 11 games away from Memorial Stadium. And while the Huskers have played many top opponents during that stretch, the road woes must change in order to win the Big Ten. NU’s next three games will be huge in the Legends race, and two of those — Northwestern and Michigan State — are on the road. The home contest sandwiched in between is versus Michigan, who blew out Nebraska by a 45-17 mark last season. Martinez’s play has been subpar in many of the aforementioned road losses, but the entire roster must step up during this critical three-game stretch.

5. Pelini stability
We are not trying to suggest a “hot seat” issue here, but another four-loss season would make some in the passionate Nebraska fan base feel like the program has become fairly stagnant. Most schools would love to have those types of “issues”, but the NU tradition under legends like Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne is among the best in the history of college football. While the overall results are still solid, Pelini has a club in his fifth season that has struggled with penalties, turnover margin and porous run defense. With new athletic director Shawn Eichorst taking over, the NU staff could feel some extra pressure. Pelini’s Huskers have an opportunity to fix some issues during the bye week, and they should compete much better on defense down the stretch.  The second half of the season will definitely be fun to watch, as Nebraska strives for that elusive league crown.

Teaser:
<p> &nbsp;5 Things To Watch in Nebraska's Second Half</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 05:43
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-tennessee-titans-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two AFC teams hungry for a victory will clash in Nashville tonight, when the Tennessee Titans host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 p.m. EST on the NFL Network. Pittsburgh got back to .500 last week with a hard-fought 16-14 win against the Eagles. Tennessee was blown out on the road for the second consecutive week, dropping to 1-4 on the year after losing a 30-7 decision to the Vikings.

When the Tennessee Titans have the ball:
The Titans have a highly-paid running back in Chris Johnson and two solid tackles, but they rank 30th in the league in rushing with only 65.4 yards per game. The blame has ranged from Chris Palmer’s scheme to weak interior line play to Johnson himself, but Tennessee must find a way to start getting some production on the ground. Matt Hasselbeck started in place of the injured Jake Locker last week in Minnesota, and the veteran signal caller went 26-for-43 for 200 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

The Steelers defense has battled constant injuries this season, and stud safety Troy Polamalu (calf) will miss this game while linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) is doubtful. Pittsburgh has only allowed 280 yards per game through four games, but Dick LeBeau’s group has been torched in both road losses at Denver and Oakland. The Steelers only have one interception and eight sacks on the year, and they cannot afford to let Hasselbeck get into a rhythm tonight.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers have the ball:
The Pittsburgh offense received a huge boost last week with the return of top running back Rashard Mendenhall, who totaled 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the victory over the Eagles. The improved rushing attack will be a big help to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been solid in compiling 1,111 yards and eight touchdowns against only one pick this season. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are big-time threats on the outside, and Heath Miller could play a huge role tonight as the Titans have been repeatedly burned by opposing tight ends this year.

The Tennessee defense has simply been awful in 2012, allowing an NFL-high 36.2 points per game. The Titans have battled injuries as well, and they will need big efforts from banged-up defenders like middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, safety Jordan Babineaux and cornerback Alterraun Verner to beat the Steelers. Jerry Gray’s group must contain Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh run game, while trying to force Roethlisberger into some bad decisions.

Key Factor:
The Titans offense must win the time of possession battle and take advantage of the Steelers defensive injuries and the short week of preparation. If Hasselbeck can get some help from the run game, he can lead the team to first downs and keep Tennessee in the game. If not, the Titans defensive woes will be exposed with too much time on the field. The Titans should play inspired ball at home, but look for the Steelers firepower to take over in the end.

Prediction:
Steelers 27 Titans 20

 

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 06:49
Path: /college-football/lsu-vs-south-carolina-numerical-history
Body:

LSU and South Carolina will clash Saturday in Baton Rouge in a battle of top 10 SEC teams. The 5-1 Tigers will be hungry for a win after falling 14-6 to Florida in the Swamp last week, while the 6-0 Gamecocks arrive sky-high after their 35-7 beatdown of Georgia. This will be the 20th meeting between LSU and South Carolina, so here are 20 statistical highlights focusing on the history between these two schools.

1 – Common head coach and athletic director between the schools. The legendary Paul Dietzel led the LSU program from 1955–1961, winning a national championship in 1958. He surprisingly left Baton Rouge to become the first non-Army graduate to lead the Cadets on the gridiron. After four seasons at Army, Dietzel would take over at South Carolina as head coach and athletic director in1966. He won the ACC Coach of the Year in 1969 and led the Gamecocks on the gridiron through the 1974 season. Dietzel would later return to Baton Rouge and serve as LSU’s athletic director from 1978–1982.

2 – Wins for South Carolina over LSU, both by one point. USC won the first meeting of the series in 1930, as well as the 1994 contest.

3 – Losses for head coach Steve Spurrier to LSU. He lost once to the Tigers at Florida in 1997, and then twice at South Carolina in 2007 and 2008.

4 – Point differential in the highest scoring game in LSU-South Carolina history, a 33-29 Tigers victory in 1973.

5 – Wins for LSU in its seven games played in Columbia.

6 – The game on Saturday will be the sixth time in South Carolina history where both teams involved were ranked in the top 10. Last week’s victory over Georgia was the fifth.

7 – Times in this series that LSU has scored 30 or more points. South Carolina has never reached the 30-point mark against the Tigers.

8 – This is the eighth season for Les Miles at LSU and for Steve Spurrier at South Carolina.

9 – Wins over LSU in the 1990s for Steve Spurrier, Florida’s head ball coach at the time.

10 – Consecutive wins by South Carolina entering Saturday’s game at Tiger Stadium. That represents the longest current FBS winning streak.

11 – First downs for South Carolina in the 2003 game, a 33-7 win for LSU in Columbia.
Matt Mauck threw two touchdowns for the Tigers, while Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent led a dominant rushing attack. “Right now, I'm sort of numb,” USC coach Lou Holtz said after the blowout.

12 – Passes completed in the 2002 game by Marcus Randall, who was filling in for the injured Mauck. Randall threw for 183 yards and Domanick Davis led the ground game with 113 yards, as LSU scored 25 third-quarter points on the way to a 38-14 victory.

13 – Meetings in this series where South Carolina was a member of the Southern Conference, the ACC or an Independent. The last six games have been SEC battles. LSU was also a member of the Southern Conference during the first three contests from 1930-32.

14 – First-quarter points scored by LSU in the 1987 Gator Bowl, giving the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. Both touchdowns in the first stanza were passes from Tommy Hodson to Wendell Davis, and the pair would hook up for another score in the second half to lead LSU to a 30-13 bowl victory.

15 – Yards run by LSU kicker Colt David on a fake field goal touchdown in the second quarter of the 2007 game. The Tigers totaled a dominant 290 rushing yards in the 28-16 win over the Gamecocks.

16 – Wins by LSU in 19 games against South Carolina.

17 – Second-quarter points scored by South Carolina in the 2008 game, Stephen Garcia’s first career start. USC led 17-10 at half, but LSU would rally for 14 unanswered points in the second half to win 24-17 in Columbia.

18 – Points scored by the Gamecocks in 1994, the last time they defeated LSU. A stingy USC defense and quarterback Steve Taneyhill led the way in the18-17 victory.

19 – Losses for Les Miles at LSU, against an incredible 80 wins.

20 – Points scored by each team in the series’ only tie in 1995.


By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> LSU vs. South Carolina: A Numerical History</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 14:00
Path: /mlb/10-worst-contracts-baseball
Body:

Fans love it when their team signs a big-name free agent or locks up a current star, but too many times organizations pay for past accomplishment instead of future production. There are obviously some baseball superstars on this list, but unfortunately much is expected from those who have been compensated at the highest level. Here’s our look at the 10 worst contracts in major league baseball.

1. Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels; 2 years and $42 million left on his deal.
Blue Jays general manger Alex Anthopoulos may never construct a playoff team, but his bosses were elated when he dumped this contract (originally seven years for $126 million). Not only did Anthopoulos save the club a ton of money, he got Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera in return. Wells is a great guy, but the reality is that he’s making over $20 million a year as a non-starter. Ouch. Wells has a combined .222 average and .667 OPS in his two seasons in Anaheim. Double ouch.

2. Carl Crawford, Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 years and $106.8 million left on his deal.
The speedy outfielder was outstanding during his (Devil) Rays tenure, but Crawford has struggled mightily since leaving Tampa Bay. His 2011 campaign was a season-long slump in Boston, hitting .255 with 11 home runs in over 500 at-bats. With injuries cutting his 2012 season to 31 games, the Red Sox decided to dump their massive mistake on the Dodgers. Of course, that cost Boston Adrian Gonzalez as well. Maybe Crawford will regain his form on the west coast once healthy, but his Boston deal just looks awful at the current time.

3. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: 5 years and $119 million left on his deal.
Obviously A-Rod was once the best player in baseball, and he’s a lock (barring a PED protest by the writers) for the Hall of Fame. However, Rodriguez’s last two years average out to 110 games played, a .274 batting average, 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. Astros/Diamondbacks third baseman Chris Johnson and his $495,000 salary matched those types of numbers this season. A-Rod turned 37 this summer and is just an average third baseman now. He can make additional bonuses should he reach all-time home run milestones, so this deal is a dud even with the Yankees' deep pockets.

4. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: 9 years, $228 million left on his deal.
The baseball world cringed when the Angels gave a 32-year-old first baseman a 10-year deal over the winter, and owner Arte Moreno was not counting on missing the postseason when he inked Pujols to such a large contract. King Albert’s final numbers were solid (.285, 30 home runs and 105 RBIs), but his slow start set a tone for an underachieving team that should have been better. We all know the slugger’s deal will become an albatross in a few years, but missing the playoffs in its cheapest year was not in the plans of Angels management.

5. Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals: 5 years and $101.8 million left on his deal.
This oversized contract becomes easier to take with the Nationals' pitching leading the team to the postseason. Baseball pundits screamed at Washington in December 2010 for signing a .272 hitting outfielder who had never driven in 100 runs to a seven-year, $126 million contract. Werth hit .232 and knocked in only 58 runs for the Nats in 2011, and he battled injuries and only totaled five homers (although he did hit .300 in his 81 games played) this season. Werth turns 34 next May, so the length of this deal is scary.

6. Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs: 2 years, $38 million left on his deal.
The embattled outfielder has topped this list for a few years now, but his 2012 numbers (32 home runs and 108 RBIs) showed a little bit of his old form. Soriano is considered a non-leader and a below-average fielder, which seemed to make his power bat untradeable for new Cubs management who would love to get him out of their clubhouse.

7. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: 6 years and $138 million left on his deal.
We all loved it when Minnesota kept the likeable Mauer at home, instead of seeing him become the next big-market acquisition. However, Mauer’s total of 22 home runs from 2009-11 make it difficult to deal with his stranglehold on the Twins payroll. He hits for average and gets on base, but Mauer’s deal will hinder Minnesota efforts to acquire pitching to help the ball club become relevant again.

8. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: 4 years and $105 million left on his deal.
We all feared what the 2011 NLDS-ending Achilles injury could mean for the slugger’s career, and Howard only posted a .219 average and .718 OPS in 71 games played this season. He turns 33 this winter, and it will be interesting to see if he can regain his dependable form in 2013. If not, Philly management has a big issue on its hands.

9. John Lackey, Boston Red Sox: 2 years and $31 million left on his deal.
The big right-hander missed this season after having Tommy John surgery, and Lackey was already struggling in New England before his injury. A 4.40 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in his 2010 Boston debut turned into a disastrous 6.41 ERA and 1.62 WHIP during the 2011 campaign. The Red Sox were able to dump Crawford’s contract, but they look to be stuck with Lackey’s deal during their attempt to rebuild.

10. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees: 4 years, $92.5 million left on his deal.
It was a tough call to put the Yankees first baseman on the list, but his .249 average and .822 OPS over the last two years is concerning. He played 123 games this season, and injuries could become a large concern for Teixeira who turns 33 next April. He still plays quality defense and can produce a 30-100 season, but $23+ million for four more years seems excessive even with the Yankees' budget.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Worst Contracts in Baseball</p>
Post date: Monday, October 8, 2012 - 15:11
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-vs-new-york-jets-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two contrasting AFC teams will meet on Monday Night Football when the New York Jets host the Houston Texans at 8:30 pm EST on ESPN. The Texans are off to a stellar start, standing at 4-0 and topping their opponents by a combined 70 points on the year. On the other hand, the Jets enter the game at 2-2 but have been outscored 81-33 since their Week 1 victory over the Bills. Additionally, New York has already lost two top playmakers for the season in cornerback Darrelle Revis and receiver Santonio Holmes.

When the New York Jets have the ball:
The Jets were all about the “ground-and-pound” running attack when they went to consecutive AFC title games in 2009 and 2010, but they are only averaging 86.5 yards per game on the ground this season. In fact, top tailback Shonn Greene is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry on 68 rushes this year. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has struggled mightily over the last three weeks, and many fans are waiting to see the polarizing Tim Tebow take over at signal caller. With Holmes out and tight end Dustin Keller and receiver Stephen Hill listed as doubtful, it’s difficult to see the Jets moving the ball on a consistent basis.

The Texans defense ranked No. 2 in the NFL in 2011, and that number has improved to No.1 in the league this season. Wade Phillips’ group has allowed only 273 yards and 14.0 points per game this season, while also compiling nine takeaways. Additionally, Houston defenders scored twice on interception returns in last week’s 38-14 win over the Titans. The key on Monday night for the Texans defense will be to not lapse in concentration against a struggling Jets attack.

When the Houston Texans have the ball:
The running game has been the calling card for the Houston offense over the last couple of seasons, but quarterback Matt Schaub has also been very effective this year. The veteran signal caller has 953 passing yards and seven touchdowns this season against only one interception. Arian Foster has compiled 380 rushing yards and four touchdowns in four games, but the Houston ground game has not been able to break many long runs so far. Andre Johnson is still the Texans top receiving threat, while tight end Owen Daniels and fullback James Casey have played a large role in the passing game as well.

The Jets defense was a force to be reckoned with over the last few years, but the 2012 unit has been gashed on a constant basis. New York is allowing over 27 points per contest, and the defense has only compiled five sacks and six takeaways on the season. The biggest issue for Jets has been their 31st-ranked run defense, as they are giving up over 170 yards per game on the ground. Last week against the 49ers, New York surrendered an alarming 245 yards and three touchdown runs.

Key Factor:
Houston appears to be the most balanced team in the NFL on both sides of the ball, and New York is simply not playing well. To stay in this game and give themselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter, the Jets must find a way to limit the Texans running attack. If Rex Ryan’s team can force Schaub into mistakes and not turn the ball over, then perhaps the home crowd can lift the Jets. Look for New York to play inspired ball, but for the better team to take this game and move to 5-0 on the season.

Prediction:
Texans 24 Jets 16


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Houston Texans vs. New York Jets Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Monday, October 8, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Links, College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-eleven-links-day
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for October 5.

• The SEC has two great matchups on Saturday involving four undefeated, top-10 teams. Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee looks at the potential BCS logjam between Florida, Georgia and South Carolina from the East.

• MLB’s wild card games make their debut today, with the Braves hosting the Cardinals and Orioles visiting the Rangers. Is the one-game system fair?

• Check out these wild hotel rooms around the world.

• As Mike Klis of the Denver Post points out, the elite rivalry over the past decade plus has really been Peyton Manning versus Bill Belichick. The Patriots host the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.

• Can Texas slow down Geno Smith and the West Virginia offense?

• The Steelers look to avoid a 1-3 start when they host the Eagles on Sunday.

• At the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, Paul Casey was lining up an eagle putt when a dog came on the green and took his golf ball. Always have to account for the dogleg Paul.

• Dwight Howard is ready to go in Los Angeles.

• Texas Tech promoted assistant Chris Walker to interim head coach, replacing Billy Gillispie.

• Heralded Missouri freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been suspended for this Saturday’s Vanderbilt game.

• We all celebrate our teams in different ways, but I’ve never seen victory excitement quite like this Oakland A’s fan. Be careful down there.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 4

• Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers finished the job, becoming MLB’s first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

• The Oakland A’s were the other amazing story on baseball’s last day, sweeping the Texas Rangers and clinching the AL West.

• The Red Sox will look for a fresh start after firing manager Bobby Valentine.

• Where is “The Ocho”, along with Cotton and Pepper? We’re still waiting ESPN.

• Suspended Saints coach Sean Payton will be allowed to attend the New Orleans-San Diego game, where quarterback Drew Brees looks to break Johnny Unitas’ NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

• Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be part of an ownership buying the Memphis Grizzlies

• TCU quarterback Casey Pachall has been indefinitely suspended following a DWI arrest.

• Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst has resigned to take the AD job at Nebraska.

• Is there a formula for slowing down the Oregon offense?

• In a shocker to no one who follows college basketball and John Calipari’s “recruiting”, the highly-touted Harrison twins from Texas committed to Kentucky.

• Clippers star Blake Griffin is known for powerful dunks, but maybe he should try more three-pointers this season.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 3

• Just who are these Oakland A’s and what are they doing tied for first in the AL West with one game to go?

• The awful Red Sox blew it in the ninth against the Yankees last night, and the eventual New York victory kept the Orioles a game back in the AL East.

• You have to appreciate an accurate statistic that completely clarifies the situation.

• Yahoo’s Les Carpenter profiles the popular GIF work and art of “LSUFreek.”

• Texas A&M is still adjusting to SEC defenses, and it appears the Aggies need to work on a closer Waffle House as well.

• New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden, who has been productive filling in for the injured Hakeem Nicks, has been diagnosed with a concussion.

• How did the upgraded Los Angeles Lakers look in their first practice?

• Georgia has lost its leading receiver, Michael Bennett, to an ACL injury as the Bulldogs prepare for a mammoth SEC East clash at South Carolina.

• The inspiring Adam Greenberg returned to the big leagues last night in Miami.

• Here are some top quotes from athletes and their handlers from last night’s Broke, the latest in ESPN’s 30for30 film series.

• This pro-wrestling wannabe Cowboys fan has become a popular YouTube view as Dallas continues to decline. He does not want to “rant” but still does a pretty good job of it. DEFENSIVE LINE!!

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 2

• Tony Romo threw five interceptions in the Cowboys’ 34-18 loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football, but he might not be the problem in Dallas.

• ESPN resumes its “30 for 30” series tonight with Broke, a film directed by Billy Corben on athletes and their handling of big money.

• Awww...look at the cute little animal.

• With Monday night’s 4-for-5 with a home run performance by Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, it looking more and more like the Tigers slugger will win baseball’s first triple crown since 1967.

• It’s a huge weekend for the SEC East, with Georgia traveling to South Carolina and Florida hosting LSU.

• Bleacher Report’s Ian Casselberry looks at Bryce Harper’s chances for the National League Rookie of the Year. The Washington phenom had a very productive September.

• The Steelers will helped by the return of running back Rashard Mendenhall this weekend against the Eagles, and Pittsburgh will look to avoid a catastrophic 1-3 start.

• The Oakland A’s may have one of the youngest, no-name teams in baseball, but they will be heading to the postseason in what is an amazing story.

• College basketball practice will be starting soon, and here’s a look at the best non-conference games that will highlight that start of the season.

• Is a Russell Wilson-Matt Flynn quarterback controversy looming in Seattle?

• Former Penn State and NFL defensive lineman Anthony Adams has a new sporting goal, being a gymnast at the 2016 Olympics. Check out the big man’s hilarious video as he works through the various gymnastics events.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 1

• Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star looks at the total lack of defense being played on the college gridiron this season, especially after the West Virginia-Baylor 70-63 flag football contest.

• While most American golf fans are still stinging from the U.S. team’s choke job on the final day of the Ryder Cup, FOX Sports’ Robert Lusetich believes Sunday was one of the greatest day’s ever for the sport.

• I’m surprised this street does not have more traffic.

• The Philadelphia Eagles keep finding a way to win close ball games, and the defense came through in Sunday night’s 19-17 victory over the Giants.

• Did Urban Meyer and Ohio State edit the game film that they were required to send Michigan State? This story surprises no one around college football.

• The Baltimore Orioles have clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1997.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben recaps the league’s wild Week 5.

• There is sad NFL news in Indianapolis, where new Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia and will miss several games.

• Ray Allen’s signing with the Heat has caused a rift with former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett.

• Titans offensive lineman Leroy Harris wasn’t that impressed with the Texans J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL in sacks. Delusional much, Leroy?

• Jets coach Rex Ryan gives his “recipe for getting you’re a$$ kicked” after his club was beaten 34-0 at home by the 49ers.



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:40
All taxonomy terms: Boston Red Sox, MLB
Path: /mlb/5-candidates-replace-bobby-valentine-red-sox-manager
Body:

The tumultuous one-year tenure of Bobby Valentine in Boston is over. The Red Sox were awful under the polarizing manager, and the 2012 season was the first time the franchise had lost 90 or more games since 1966. There was constant turmoil between players and Valentine in the Boston clubhouse, as well as bickering between both parties in the media. The 69-93 campaign saw general manager Ben Cherington change the club’s philosophical direction by trading away veterans Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. So now the focus turns to a new skipper, one who can clean up the current mess and get the Red Sox back to prosperity.

1. John Farrell, Toronto Blue Jays manager
His name has been hot in Boston for a while now, even though Farrell had led Toronto to a 154-170 record and two fourth-place finishes. The Red Sox former pitching coach from 2007-10 is obviously very familiar with the Red Sox staff and is very respected by team management. The big issue here is that Farrell has one year left on his deal with the Blue Jays, and they would have no desire to let him walk to an AL East rival without major compensation.

2. Mike Maddux, Texas Rangers pitching coach
He was not interested in interviewing for Boston job last year, but the dynamic in Texas may be changing after a late-season swoon. Many clubs hesitate to look at pitching coaches for the manager position, but Maddux is considered one of the best in the game. The Rangers have gone to two straight World Series after Maddux built up a quality staff, and he could do the same thing with a Boston group that finished 12th in the American League with a 4.70 ERA

3. Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox special adviser
He played 15 years with the organization from 1997-2011, and the former catcher was an exemplary leader on both of Boston’s World Series winners in 2004 and 2007. Varitek was given the prestigious honor of being named Captain after the 2004 season, and his presence in the clubhouse would help end some of the internal issues that have plagued the Sox. While Tek has an obvious lack of managerial experience, front offices are finding success with hires like Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura.

4. Brad Ausmus, San Diego Padres special assistant
He would be another candidate much like Varitek, a well-respected former catcher who is looked at as a classic leader among his peers. Ausmus played in five postseasons with the Astros and was a clubhouse favorite during his 18 years in the big leagues. He grew up in Connecticut and went to college in New Hampshire (Dartmouth), so he knows the New England market and its rabid fans.

5. Dave Martinez, Tampa Bay Rays bench coach
He will get a managerial opportunity in the near future, and Boston could hire a quality leader while also hurting a division rival. Martinez was highly respected during his 16 MLB seasons, and working with one of the game’s top managers in Joe Maddon has to help his candidacy as well. His Rays experience could relate well to Boston’s new younger approach to the roster.
 

Teaser:
<p> 5 Candidates to replace Bobby Valentine as Red Sox Manager</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 16:50
Path: /college-football/5-great-moments-lsu-florida-rivalry
Body:

The attention of college football fans will be on the Swamp Saturday afternoon, when LSU and Florida put their undefeated records on the line. Over the last twenty years, the annual meeting between the Tigers and Gators has developed into one of the better rivalries in the SEC. And over the last decade, this physical clash has probably been the league’s best and most competitive matchup. There has been some interesting history between LSU and Florida: from stolen plays to controversial Sugar Bowl bids to weather concerns, from the Tigers breaking a nine-game Gators losing streak in 1997 to this game producing three straight national champions from 2006-08. Here are five great LSU-Florida moments from the last decade.
 
1) The Fake Field Goal — 2010
LSU kicker Josh Jasper’s run in the Swamp is one of the more famous plays in recent college football history, and the fourth quarter of this game was incredible. After a Jordan Jefferson run put LSU up 26-14 early in the final frame, Florida’s Andre Debose would take the kickoff back for a touchdown. With just over three minutes to go, a Mike Gillislee run and two-point conversion would put the Gators ahead 29-26. LSU lined up for a game-tying 53-yard field goal with 35 seconds to go, but then holder Derek Helton flipped the ball over his shoulder to Jasper. The pigskin hit the ground, but the LSU kicker took the bounce and ran for the first down. Jarrett Lee then completed two passes to Terrence Toliver, including the game-winning score with six seconds to go, to cap off a wild 33-29 Tigers victory in the Swamp.

 

2) Fourth-Down Dominance — 2007
This game at Death Valley was an absolute SEC classic. Florida led 24-14 to start the fourth quarter, but LSU would roar back with 14 unanswered points to win 28-24. Les Miles’ bunch converted five 4th-down conversions (9:16 mark of the video), and Jacob Hester’s touchdown with just over a minute to go would put the Tigers up for good. Tim Tebow’s Hail Mary pass was batted down on the game’s last play LSU, of course, went on to win the BCS Championship.

 

3) Gators Second-Half Slaughter — 2008
In this clash of the last two BCS champions, the Gators would start well and close better in a surprising 51-21 rout of the Tigers. Florida scored first on a Tim Tebow to Percy Harvin 70-yard touchdown pass on a tipped ball, and the Gators jumped out to a 20-0 lead. LSU would battle back to a 20-14 deficit in the third quarter, but then Tebow and company scored at will down the stretch. Urban Meyer’s Gators would go on to win their second BCS title in three seasons.

 

4) Tebow Jump Pass — 2006
Many fans outside of the SEC seem to forget that Chris Leak was the starting quarterback for Florida’s national title squad this year, and it was the LSU game where the nation first really noticed Tim Tebow. The heralded freshman quarterback would account for all three of the Gators touchdowns in a 23-10 win. Tebow was 2-for-2 passing for two scores, plus he ran in a touchdown. And of course there was the famous “jump pass”, which we witness from the crowd in the Swamp.

 

5) First-Year Head Coaches — 2005
This game of momentum swings was the first contest between a Les Miles’ LSU team and an Urban Meyer Florida crew, and their aforementioned matchups were as good as it gets in college football. The Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 advantage early, but the Gators would rally to a 17-14 lead after three quarters. LSU would answer back on the strength of a JaMarcus Russell to Dwayne Bowe 31-yard pass play, and then Joseph Addai ran in the game-winning score (7:04 mark of the video). The Tigers defense would hold the line in the fourth quarter for a 21-17 win, one where LSU overcame five turnovers.

Teaser:
<p> 5 Great Moments from the LSU-Florida Rivalry</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 12:43
Path: /nfl/arizona-cardinals-vs-st-louis-rams-preview-and-prediction
Body:

NFC West rivals will clash tonight when the St. Louis Rams host the Arizona Cardinals at 8:20 pm EST on the NFL Network. The Cardinals have been one of the better stories in the NFL after one month, as Ken Whisenhunt’s club is one of only three undefeated teams in the league. Arizona has won 10 of the last 11 meetings against the Rams, but St. Louis has won both of its home games under new coach Jeff Fisher.

When the Arizona Cardinals have the ball:
The Arizona offense began the season with John Skelton at quarterback, but Kevin Kolb replaced the injured starter in Week 1 and has been very effective. Kolb has totaled seven touchdowns against only two interceptions, and his efficient play has been a key in the Cardinals 4-0 start. Larry Fitzgerald is still the top outside threat for Arizona, but the contribution of Andre Roberts (229 yards and four touchdowns) was huge in September. The Cards still need to get the running game on track, as Arizona has only rushed for 2.7 yards per carry on the season.

The Rams defense has played fairly well under Fisher and staff, ranking 15th in the league after four games. St. Louis held Seattle to 13 points last week, and the defense will need a similar performance tonight versus another division rival in Arizona. The Rams have only six sacks on the year, but they do rank second in the NFL with eight interceptions. The defensive unit has struggled some against the run, but the Cardinals have yet to establish success in that area.

When the St. Louis Rams have the ball:
Quarterback Sam Bradford played well (310 yards and three touchdowns) in the Week 2 home win against the Redskins, but has been pretty pedestrian otherwise. His favorite target by far has been fourth-year receiver Danny Amendola, who already has 31 receptions on the season. The next highest total on the club is Brandon Gibson with 10 catches. The Rams will be looking for more from veteran running back Steven Jackson, who has been battling a groin injury while averaging only 3.3 yards a carry so far.

The Arizona defense has been all about pressuring opposing quarterbacks, and getting after the youthful Bradford will be a top priority. The Cardinals lead the NFC with 16 sacks, and they have totaled 10 takeaways on the season. Despite giving up over 250 passing yards per game, the aggressive Arizona defense ranks third in the NFL in points allowed at only 15.3 per contest.

Key Factor:
Both teams have given up 14 sacks (tied for second-worst in the NFL), so protecting the passer will be the critical element in this divisional battle. Red zone success and special teams will also be key, and Rams rookie Greg Zuerlein and Arizona veteran Jay Feely have both been perfect on field goals this season. It should be a tight, low-scoring affair, and we’ll take the Rams (hosting their first primetime game in five years) to spoil the Cardinals perfect record.

Prediction:
Rams 23 Cardinals 20


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams Preview and Prediction</p> <br />
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-vs-dallas-cowboys-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two classic franchises will battle on Monday Night Football when the Dallas Cowboys host the Chicago Bears at 8:20 pm EST on ESPN. Both teams enter the contest at 2-1, and the victor at Cowboys Stadium will secure a positive start towards the goal of making the postseason. The Cowboys and Bears have top ten defenses, so a fairly low-scoring affair is expected tonight in Texas.

When the Dallas Cowboys have the ball:
Quarterback Tony Romo had a solid first game in a win over the defending champion Giants, but he struggled against the pressure of the Seattle and Tampa Bay defenses over the last two weeks. The rebuilt Cowboys offensive line will face a major challenge in containing the ferocious pass rush of the Bears, and running back DeMarco Murray needs to improve on his 30-carry, 82-yard combined total from the last two games. Dallas will also look to get veteran tight end Jason Witten more involved, as he has just eight catches on the year after battling preseason injuries.

The Bears look to their defense to be a catalyst, and they have allowed only 50 points in three games. Chicago is excellent as pressuring opposing signal callers, as Julius Peppers and company already have produced 14 sacks and nine takeaways. The Bears will aim to make Dallas a one-dimensional offense, stopping Murray and forcing Romo (and the Cowboys offensive line) into hurried decisions.

When the Chicago Bears have the ball:
The Bears are still getting comfortable in Mike Tice’s offense, and the rushing attack would be helped greatly by the return of Matt Forte. The talented running back sat out last week’s win against the Rams with an ankle injury, and he is questionable for tonight’s primetime showdown. That puts the pressure on big back Michael Bush and the Bears offensive line to establish the run and keep pressure off quarterback Jay Cutler, who has six interceptions and has suffered 11 sacks already this season.

The Cowboys defense is ranked No. 1 in the league through three games, giving up only 250 yards per contest. Dallas has given up some rushing yardage (4.0 ypc) this year while being stingy versus the pass, so look for coordinator Rob Ryan to focus his charges on stuffing the Chicago run game. The Cowboys have caused only three turnovers through three games, and they would love to change that fact against Cutler and the Bears.

Key Factor:
This important NFC contest will simply come down to which offensive line is more effective in protecting its passer. Granted both Cutler and Romo could get rid of the ball quicker at times, but the quarterback who gets the time to make big plays (and prevent turnovers) should lead his team to victory. This game should be decided by one or two critical plays, and we will take the Cowboys at home by a field goal.

Prediction:
Cowboys 23 Bears 20


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Chicago Bears vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Monday, October 1, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-philadelphia-eagles-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two teams coming off drastically different Week 3 results will battle tonight when the Philadelphia Eagles host the New York Giants at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. The defending Super Bowl champions went to Carolina 10 days ago and absolutely dominated the Panthers 36-7. On the other hand, the Eagles traveled to Arizona last Sunday and were blown out by the Cardinals by a 27-6 mark. Philadelphia has owned this rivalry in recent years, winning seven of the last eight contests including a playoff game.

When the Philadelphia Eagles have the ball:
The Philly offense has put up major yardage (1,249) through three games but only has 47 points to show for the effort. The obvious factor in the lack of scoring is turnovers, and the Eagles lead the league with 12. Quarterback Michael Vick was harassed into five sacks and two fumbles against Arizona, and the banged-up Philadelphia offensive line must play better versus New York. The Eagles will need to get elite back LeSean McCoy more than the 16 touches he had last week.

The Giants defense has played decently versus the run but has given up 785 passing yards in three games. The vaunted New York pass rush will look to improve on its six sacks this season, but the Giants do have six interceptions on the year. The key against Philadelphia will be stopping McCoy on the ground and forcing Vick into more mistakes and turnovers.

When the New York Giants have the ball:
Quarterback Eli Manning already has 1,011 passing yards, and he has found some new weapons this season. Tight end Martellus Bennett has 15 receptions and three touchdowns on the year, and backup receiver Ramses Barden got the start in place of ailing wideout Hakeem Nicks (also out tonight) against Carolina and tallied nine catches for 138 yards. New York also had a big-time performance against the Panthers from backup running back Andre Brown, who produced 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns filling in for the injured Ahmad Bradshaw.

The Philly defense ranks fifth in the NFL, including third-best in the league against the pass. The Eagles allowed only 29 rushing yards in last November’s win over the G-men, and they will need a repeat performance on Sunday night. If Juan Castillo’s group can stop the New York running attack, then it will have an opportunity to harass Manning. The Eagles have five interceptions and seven sacks this season, and they will need to force the Giants into a lack of balance.

Key Factor:
This divisional battle should be a tight contest, and winning the turnover battle will be critical. The Eagles have been able to move the ball all season, but the giveaways have to stop to stay in the NFC East race. Manning has been solid through the three games, but the Eagles pass defense will provide a major challenge. We’ll go with Eagles to protect the ball and win a close one in front of a raucous Philadelphia crowd.

Prediction:
Eagles 27 Giants 24


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Links, College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-18
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for September 28.

• Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times has the story on Washington’s upset of No. 8 Stanford last night at CenturyLink Field.

• The Ravens beat the Browns, 23-16, last night to move to 3-1 on the season. However, the Baltimore defense has looked vulnerable through four games.

• Mandatory.com presents some of the best Oktoberfest beers for your enjoyment.

• Dave Miller of the National Football Post looks at the upcoming make-or-break stretch for Tennessee’s Derek Dooley.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett previews the Ohio State-Michigan State matchup, where Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller could be the difference.

• Gotta love this guy making the most of a flood.

• CBS’ Jeff Goodman has a good piece on the maturation of Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State.

• Who will get the blame if the Angels miss the playoffs after an offseason of huge spending?

• The 0-3 New Orleans Saints have the difficult task of facing a must-win at Lambeau Field against the 1-2 Packers.

• The NBA is going to enact procedures against floppers. Vlade Divac already retired, right?

The regular NFL officials are back, and we look forward to more moments like this one.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 27

• When the Ravens and Browns meet tonight, the regular NFL officials will return to the field after reaching a labor agreement with the league. It will be nice to have Ed Hochuli, Mike Carey and the old crew back blowing calls.

Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel looks at the incredible legacy on Nebraska’s Tom Osborne, who will retire at the end of the year.

• They couldn't just call it 'chicken' soup?!

• CBS’ Dennis Dodd details the struggles of Big Ten football.

• Georgia and Tennessee will meet in a big SEC East contest on Saturday. Instead of breaking down quarterbacks and 3-4 defenses, we’ll let these cheerleaders get you fired up for the game. Enjoy.

• Rangers third baseman and former Dodger Adrian Beltre reacts to Eric Gagne’s claim that 80 percent of his teammates were using performance-enhancing drugs.

• The Michigan State defense against elusive Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will be a great matchup this weekend.

• SB Nation ranks the top 100 college basketball players for the 2012-13 season.

• It must be getting near October when Jon Gruden’s name starts being mentioned by SEC fans.

• So Seahawks receiver Golden Tate now admits he pushed off on Green Bay’s Sam Shields on the last play of the Monday Night Football debacle? Thanks for clearing that up big man.

• The South Park character Butters came out with a new “energy drink” on last night’s episode. The fact that the commercial for “Butters’ creamy goo” involved Tom Brady and Jim Rome just makes perfect sense.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 26

• ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that a deal between the NFL and its regular referees is imminent, with a goal of the officials returning this weekend. 

• Former Cy Young winner Eric Gagne has a new book in which he states that 80 percent of his Dodgers teammates were using performance-enhancing drugs.

• MrSEC.com looks at the league’s inconsistent policy on suspending players for helmet-to-helmet hits this season.

• It looks like Carmen from Spy Kids has, uh, grown up a little.

• The University of Minnesota-Crookston had a little issue painting the logo on its football field. Great Googly Moogly!

• Mississippi State will wear all-white uniforms against Texas A&M on November 3, commemorating when the schools played in a blizzard in the 2000 Independence Bowl.

• Does Oklahoma still have elite talent?

• The National League Cy Young decision will be a very interesting vote.

• Infamous Alabama fan, Harvey Updyke, is back in trouble. Shocker.

• The health news for North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams has been positive after his surgery to remove a tumor from his kidney.

• A little Green Bay local news humor after the Packers were robbed on Monday Night Football.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 25

• All of the NFL conversation today is focused on the botched call by the replacement referees that cost the Packers a win in Seattle on Monday Night Football. ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert says the league got what it deserved with its substitute officials.

• The Packers-Seahawks debacle was the latest and most egregious of many blown calls by the replacement referees this season, and it set off a media and social network firestorm.

• Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder looks at the SEC’s current rankings and what some pollsters may do later in the year to teams from college football’s best league.

• Notre Dame has decided to cancel its rivalry game with Michigan after 2014, obviously influenced by the future agreement to play five ACC opponents per season.

These are going to become way too popular with the NFL’s current officiating mess.

• Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has an interesting piece on the handling of White Sox ace Chris Sale versus that of Stephen Strasburg.

• Are the Falcons the NFL’s best team?

• NC State has a good shot at winning its first ACC basketball title in over 20 years.

• Apparently caffeine intake caused blurred vision for Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton.

• Mandatory.com looks at the best concerts left in 2012.

• Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks decides to do a little iPhone 5 testing.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 24

• Don Banks of Sports Illustrated looks at the inspiring performance of Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, who starred in a win over the Patriots after his younger brother died in a motorcycle accident earlier in the day.

• The Jets worst fears came true today with the announcement that All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis will undergo season-ending surgery for a torn ACL.

• I think we all should strive to live our lives a little more like “Flathead” every day.

• ESPN Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna looks at the huge Irish win over Michigan, which now has ND standing at 4-0.

• The Florida State Seminoles also made a statement on Saturday night with their 49-37 win over Clemson.

• If you live in or have visited California, then you are probably aware of the popularity of “In-and-Out” burgers. Kudos to Oregon State coach Mike Riley for taking the Beavers there after defeating UCLA, 27-20, at the Rose Bowl.

• Could Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera win the American League triple crown, but not the MVP?

• The Titans won a 44-41 overtime thriller over the Lions in one of the wildest, big-play games that the NFL has ever seen.

• Check out this comparison of South Carolina’s Ace Sanders punt return this weekend against Missouri to some Tecmo Bowl video.
 
• The knee injury to Dolphins running back Reggie Bush may not be as severe as Miami feared.

• So you want to play quarterback in the National Football League? Check out the vicious hit Joe Mays of the Broncos puts on Houston’s Matt Schaub. Ouch.



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 28, 2012 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/baltimore-ravens-vs-cleveland-browns-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two teams on the opposite end of the NFL spectrum will clash tonight when the Baltimore Ravens host the Cleveland Browns at 8:20 pm EST on the NFL Network. The Ravens have the difficult task of a short recovery from an emotional 31-30 Sunday night win over the Patriots, but Ray Lewis and company have beaten Cleveland eight straight times. The Browns are looking for anything positive after an 0-3 start, and Baltimore is a tough place to get well. At least this game will feature the regular NFL referees after an agreement was reached Wednesday night.

When the Baltimore Ravens have the ball:
Quarterback Joe Flacco is off to a great start, leading the AFC with 913 passing yards. His favorite target has been tight end Dennis Pitta, who already has 18 receptions on the season. Second-year wideout Torrey Smith leads Baltimore in receiving yards with 235. And then there is All-Pro tailback Ray Rice, who has compiled over 2,000 total yards in two of the last three seasons and already has three scores this year.

The Browns defense has played decently at times this season, but there must be improvement on the 1,175 yards allowed in three games. Cleveland has been able to pressure opposing passers, totaling nine sacks and an AFC-leading five interceptions this year. Frustrating Flacco and getting some takeaways will be a key for the Browns, but they must be able limit Rice’s production on the ground to do so.

When the Cleveland Browns have the ball:
The rookie tandem of quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson will try to lead a Browns offense that currently ranks 26th in the league in yardage. Cleveland cannot afford to turn the ball over against the Ravens, and Weeden already has six interceptions and has been sacked eight times this year. Finding a way to get the dynamic Richardson more touches will be a key tonight. The Browns challenge becomes even more difficult with receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) and tight end Alex Smith (concussion) out for this game.

The Ravens defense has plenty of veteran stars like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but the usually-elite unit has given up over 400 yards per game this year. Weeden should pose less of a threat than signal callers like Michael Vick and Tom Brady, so the key for Baltimore will be stopping Richardson. As long as the rookie runner never gets into a rhythm, the Ravens should be able to stifle the Browns offense.

Key Factor:
This one looks like a mismatch on paper, with Baltimore heavily favored to make it nine consecutive wins over Cleveland. The Browns must win the turnover battle to stay in this game, and they have shown a penchant for harassing opposing signal callers. If the Ravens protect the ball, an easy home win should follow.

Prediction:
Ravens 27, Browns 13


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Ryder Cup, Golf, Monthly
Path: /golf/ryder-cup-numbers
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The 2012 Ryder Cup begins Friday at famous Medinah Country Club outside Chicago, and the United States will try to regain the title from the European squad. In 2008, the U.S. team reclaimed the Cup at Valhalla after three consecutive Euro victories. However in 2010, Europe won it back at Celtic Manor in Wales. Davis Love will captain the U.S. squad at Medinah, while Spaniard José María Olazábal will lead the European contingent. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk are the veterans on an American team that has four Ryder rookies, while Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy lead a dynamic Euro squad. Here’s a statistical look at golf’s top team competition:

1: Number of winning Ryder Cup teams on which Tiger Woods has played. Woods has played in the Ryder Cup six times, but the U.S. won only one of those — in 1999. He missed the 2008 U.S. victory due to injury.
 
45: The number of feet Justin Leonard’s birdie putt traveled on the 17th green at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., clinching the half-point necessary for the U.S. to come back from 4 points down and win the Ryder Cup in 1999.
 
9: Appearances, including this year, by Phil Mickelson in the Ryder Cup. In fact, he has also played on nine U.S. Presidents Cup teams and has never required an at-large selection.
 
0: Times 2010 European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie lost in singles during his career, going
6-0-2 for a total of 7 points.
 
7: Major championships won by Jack Nicklaus before he played in his first Ryder Cup. Nicklaus was not eligible to compete until 1969, due to restrictions no longer in place having to do with status as a PGA professional.
 
11: Ryder Cup veterans on the 2012 European team.
Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts is the only Ryder Cup rookie on the European squad.
 
1979: The year the Ryder Cup added players from continental Europe to Great Britain & Ireland.
 
18-8-5: European captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s Ryder Cup record in seven appearances.
 
9-12-5: U.S. captain Davis Love III’s Ryder Cup record in six appearances.
 
8-7-1: Record, in favor of Europe, since 1979, when the matches began to include all of Europe.
 
1993: The year when the U.S. last won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil.
 
Ryder Cup Career Records

Most Appearances
Nick Faldo      11


Most Career Points
Nick Faldo      25


Most Singles Points
Five Players tied with 7:
Colin Montgomerie      (6-0-2)
Billy Casper      (6-2-2)
Lee Trevino      (6-2-2)
Arnold Palmer      (6-3-2)
Neil Coles      (5-6-4)


Most Foursome Points
Bernhard Langer      11½


Most Four-Ball Points
Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal      10½


Best Match Winning Percentages
(Min. three matches)
Jimmy Demaret      100% (6-0-0)
Jack Burke     87.5% (7-1)
Horton Smith     87.5% (3-0-1)
Walter Hagen     83% (7-1-1)
J.C. Snead     81.8% (9-2)


Youngest Player
Sergio Garcia     1999 (19 yrs., 258 days)


Oldest Player
Ray Floyd     1993 (51 yrs., 20 days)
 
The last 12 Ryder Cups
 
Year     Venue     Winning Team     Score
2010     Celtic Manor     Europe     14½ to 13½
2008     Valhalla     United States     16½ to 11½
2006     The K Club     Europe     18½ to 9½
2004     Oakland Hills     Europe     18½ to 9½
2002     The Belfry     Europe     15½ to 12½
1999     The Country Club     United States     14½ to 13½
1997     Valderrama     Europe     14½ to 13½
1995     Oak Hill     Europe     14½ to 13½
1993     The Belfry     United States     15 to 13
1991     Kiawah Island     United States     14½ to 13½
1989     The Belfry     Europe *     14 to 14
1987     Muirfield Village     Europe     15 to 13
*retained Cup with tie
 

Teaser:
<p> Ryder Cup: By the Numbers</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:50

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