Articles By Rob Doster

Path: /nba/houston-rockets-are-proving-everyone-wrong
Body:

It was not a nice summer for the Houston Rockets, and their celebrity general manager Daryl Morey. After Chris Bosh spurned ongoing talks with Houston to return to the Miami Heat on a deal worth around $118 million, the basketball world was ready to the put the Rockets under a headstone. This snippet of Morey whiffing on a ping pong serve seemed telling:

Morey had unloaded Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to free the space for Bosh, Carmelo Anthony or — the dream of dreams — LeBron James. He also let (one he chose not to match) and the team looked depleted. Then, James Harden had some fairly graceless things to say to the media. 

"Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets," . "The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We've lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we'll be fine next season.”

Those words cost The Beard some points with his fans, but so far in 2014-15, Harden appears to be right. Parsons has been effectively supplanted by the overlooked Trevor Ariza, an ace defender and knockdown 3-point shooter who fits into Houston’s program a lot more suitably than Parsons ever did. With tenacious point guard Patrick Beverley and a defensively improved Harden, Ariza has become the linchpin to a perimeter stronghold that’s making Dwight Howard’s life protecting the rim much easier.

It’s hard to keep track of in all the debate about Morey’s often-cold style (a common impression as “treating players like assets instead of humans”) but the Rockets are really good.

They’re off to a 5-0 start, looking vindicated and driven on the heels of a 108-91 statement victory in Miami. And tonight they take on the champion San Antonio Spurs at home, with Texas supremacy at stake, at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-november-6-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 6:

 

.

 

. This just might kill England's interest in the NFL.

 

• This is cool: .

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

• This is kind of amazing: .

 

.

 

.

 

. Tom Brady feels his pain.

 

.

 

• Watch Gordon Hayward's game-winning dagger against LeBron and the Cavs.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 10:53
Path: /nfl/cleveland-browns-vs-cincinnati-bengals-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Tonight’s battle for Buckeye State supremacy is by far the most nationally relevant matchup between the Cleveland Browns (5-3) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1) since the expansion Browns returned to the league in 1999 and will be must-see TV on the NFL Network. Although Cleveland’s sports scene is providing a feel-good story — complete with a national ad campaign featuring LeBron James — it’s too soon to overreact (on the gridiron or hardwood). The Browns’ five wins have come against teams with a combined 13–28 record (7–25 if Pittsburgh’s 6–3 mark is removed) and they are the only team to lose to lowly Jacksonville (24–6 in Week 7).

 

Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals

 

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NFL Network

Spread: Cincinnati -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Mirror Images

The statistical similarities between these two Buckeye State rivals are uncanny. The Bengals are averaging 361.6 yards of total offense per game, the Browns 352.3. Cleveland averages 241 yards through the air, Cincinnati 240. The two teams have both allowed precisely 1,117 rushing yards on the season (although Cincinnati has done so on two fewer carries). Cleveland is allowing 392 yards per game, Cincinnati 395. Both teams come in having won two in a row following disappointing losses. You get the idea. These two evenly matched squads are even mirroring one another in the pregame respect department. "This will be the best opponent we've played in a few games so it will certainly be a good measuring stick," said Browns tackle Joe Thomas. Bengals safety Tashaun Gipson countered with, "(The NFL) definitely (knows) about the Cleveland Browns. They take the Browns seriously. They have no choice. You don't win five games by mistake."

 

2. Super Sub

Jeremy Hill's play against Jacksonville in relief of Giovani Bernard was spectacular, although the fact that it came against Jacksonville gives the rookie from LSU’s performance a bit of an asterisk. With Bernard nursing shoulder and hip injuries, Hill exploded with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, including a decisive 60-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run after the Jaguars had trimmed the Bengals' lead to 26–23. "We challenged him," said quarterback Andy Dalton. "We knew he was going to get a lot of carries with Gio out. He answered and had played pretty well. Even besides that 60-yard run, he was having a really good day. I'm sure this is one he'll remember for a long time." With Bernard listed as Doubtful on the injury report and unlikely to play tonight, Hill will have no time to rest on his laurels.

 

3. Road Woes

For as well as the Browns have played this season, there is still an albatross hanging around their necks that will dog the Dawg Pounders until they shed it: Cleveland has lost a staggering 17 consecutive divisional games on the road. The last time the Browns ventured away from Cleveland and beat a divisional opponent? Sept. 28, 2008, late in the administration of George W. Bush. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the longest such drought by any team since the 1970 NFL merger. To add to their ledger of road futility, the Browns haven't won more than two road games in a season since that same 2008 season. Conversely, the Bengals have not lost a regular season home game since Week 14 in 2012. This glaring contrast could provide a significant mental edge for the home team. 

 

Final Analysis

 

This is a different Browns team — at home. Their only road win so far this season came in Week 5 against a struggling Tennessee team that suffered an epic collapse in Cleveland's 29–28 win. Until the Browns prove that they can win a divisional road game, something that they last did before America had elected its first black president, we have to go with the home team. 

 
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 17
Teaser:
Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-november-5-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 5:

 

• Brains, beauty, brawn: .

 

.

 

.

 

. Well, at least .

 

• Today's least shocking confession: .

 

. At least they're getting serious with that show.

 

• If this is your thing, .

 

.

 

.

 

• Unsettling headline of the day: .

 

• Watch a pretty one-hander by Vladimir Tarasenko.

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 11:19
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-november-4-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 4:

 

. Mazel tov.

 

, proving that they've run out of cover options. I preferred Paulina Gretzky.

 

.

 

. They learn fast, don't they?

 

, his favorite player.

 

• Interesting partisan divide: .

 

• Alaska voters:

 

.

 

• Here's an unusual sentence for you: .

 

• Proof that running long distances is stupid: .

 

.

 

• Mad Bum made a visit to Fallon last night.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - 10:50
Path: /nba/nba-weekend-recap-cavs-beat-bulls-ot-warriors-crush-lakers
Body:

The Rust Belt and California both got good looks at the new tilt of the NBA’s power balance this weekend.

Friday night featured perhaps the premier matchup of the young season, when LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers armada visited the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Coming into the game on the heels of a big letdown on opening night — when, behind James’ eight turnovers and overall stiff play, — the Cavs were focused like a laser Friday. James scored 36 and Tristan Thompson added 12 offensive rebounds as Cleveland overcame the Bulls in overtime, 114-108.

More significant than the game’s result was the fact that Bulls’ point guard Derrick Rose left the contest with a sprained ankle. Rose traveled and warmed up with the team Saturday, but did not play as the Bulls beat the Minnesota Timberwolves. The injury appears to be minor, and if Rose’s scintillating play on Friday is any indication, we’re all lucky for that; the Bulls and Cavs could be embarking upon the league’s new top rivalry.

Out West by the bay on Saturday night, Kobe Bryant and his thin Los Angeles Lakers roster couldn’t find such feverish competition against the Golden State Warriors; the Warriors are of a higher class than the Lakers now, and they let them know it. Klay Thompson went off for 41 points and combined with Steph Curry to total 72, as the Warriors beat L.A. 127-104. Thompson’s performance was taken as something of a statement game — a proving ground for his new four-year, $70 million contract extension, inked over the weekend. Klay wanted the world to see that he’s worth all that paper.

Bryant and the Lakers have started the season 0-4. When asked by a reporter about the skid — the worst Lakers’ start of Kobe’s career — , saying “No, it doesn't bother me. I’m festive and jovial about it." 

Adjusting to the status of mere basketball mortal clearly isn't easy on Bryant. But at least he turned back the clock for a moment or two toward 28 points, and got in one of the plays of the year during the loss:

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 3, 2014 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-november-3-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 3:

 

• While you work off your Halloween hangover, .

 

.

 

.

 

• I can't imagine a more tragic ending to a football game than .

 

• Has the Dallas collapse begun? .

 

And

 

• Years after giving us the Buttfumble, .

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

• Everything's coming up Steelers right now. They turned a botched PAT into a two-point conversion.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 3, 2014 - 10:39
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-new-england-patriots-preview-and-prediction-2014
Body:

Two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game take center stage this afternoon when the Denver Broncos face the New England Patriots on CBS. Manning-Brady Bowl XVI features history’s greatest QB rivalry — Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Although Brady has a 10–5 all-time record vs. Manning, including a 7–2 mark at Foxboro, this year’s Patriots (6-2) seem far more vulnerable than this year’s Broncos (6-1).

 

In the previous 15 games, Brady has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,680 yards, 27 TDs and 12 INTs for a 96.4 passer rating; Manning has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 4,371 yards, 31 TDs and 20 INTs for an 88.0 passer rating. The 37-year-old Brady and 38-year-old Manning can’t keep up this pace forever. Enjoy the hype and hoopla while it lasts.

 
Related:

 

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots

 

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Denver -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have always had a two-man mutual admiration society, but they've amped up the praise heading into their 16th career matchup. "Peyton has been a phenomenal player — so consistent and durable for a long period of time," Brady said. "We've had a great rivalry in the AFC East (when Manning was with Indianapolis), and this year is no different." Brady's too modest to point out that he's had a significant upper hand in his personal rivalry with Peyton, holding a 10–5 record against Manning's teams, but both quarterbacks have produced huge head-to-head numbers in what amounts to a season's worth of work, and Manning won the most recent encounter, 26–16 in last season's AFC Championship Game. Football is a team game, but quarterback is the most important position in team sports, and all eyes will be on the two future Hall of Famers under center.


Related:

 

2. Patriots Peaking?

The Patriots played their best, most complete game of the season in routing the Bears 51–23 last Sunday in a game that wasn't even as close as the score, as the P-men raced to a 45–7 third-quarter lead before a couple of meaningless Chicago touchdowns. New England was flawless in all three phases, prompting cornerback Darrelle Revis — who had an interception against the Bears — to observe: "We're a team on a mission." The Patriots have won four straight, but it's worth noting that one week earlier, they struggled to beat the lowly Jets, and four of their six wins have come against teams with losing records, including the rapidly imploding Bears. In other words, it's premature to anoint this team the AFC favorite. This game will be far more revealing about the Patriots' prospects.

 

3. Run to Glory

Most of the ink gets spilled in talking about the quarterbacks, but the running game takes on special importance when the Patriots and Broncos get together. Since 2006, the team that has rushed for more yardage has posted a 6–2 record in this rivalry, including last season's playoff meeting, when the Broncos outrushed the Patriots 107–64. Neither of these teams has been particularly adept at running the ball this season; the Patriots rank 17th in the NFL, the Broncos 21st. In terms of run defense, the Broncos have an overwhelming advantage, ranking first in the NFL, allowing only 72.4 yards per game, while the Patriots surrender an average of 129.6. "We don't want people running the ball on us," said Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall. "We want to get to all of the things we can do with our packages in the pass rush. To do that we have to stop the run."

 

Final Analysis

 

Some key factors seem to favor New England in this one: Brady's head-to-head record against Manning, his 14-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio during the Patriots’ current four-game winning streak, their 4–0 record at home this season and their 13-game winning streak in Foxboro. This Denver team looks like a Super Bowl contender, but they won't get there unscathed.

 
Prediction: New England 31, Denver 28
Teaser:
Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, November 2, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-31-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 31:

 

.

 

. It wasn't exactly Jordan-esque. .

 

.

 

.

 

, even amid racial allegations.

 

.

 

.

 

• Eric Decker took to Twitter to ask fans what they love about the Jets. .

 

• Scare of the day: .

 

• This is inspiring: .

 

• Here's LeBron's epic intro last night.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 31, 2014 - 10:58
Path: /nba/lebron-james-calls-his-return-game-%E2%80%9Cone-biggest-sporting-events%E2%80%A6-ever%E2%80%9D
Body:

Surely you’ve heard by now — LeBron James is back in Ohio, once again the leader of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Last night’s ugly 95-90 home loss to the New York Knicks marked his first regular season game as a reborn Cav, and the birth of Cleveland’s new mega team featuring James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. James looked stiff and, frankly, not himself in the game. It’s unlikely the Cavs’ faltering start will be representative of their year at large.

But yesterday also showed us the latest of Mr. James’ hubris. We’d be foolish to undermine his confidence about his playing abilities — he’s one of the greatest ballers the game’s ever seen — but he’s clearly imagined himself into quite the inflated cultural figure. When asked about the significance of his return game, James said “this is probably one of the biggest sporting events that is up there ever,” .

James’ P.R. team is probably wishing for a mulligan on this one. Especially after at training camp, holding an impromptu players-only meeting during which he gave each roster member a specific, personal goal for the season. This before rookie coach David Blatt was able to begin his own team instructions.

If you assumed LeBron had learned his media lessons since his gaudy, absurd production of “The Decision” and the ridiculous “not one, not two, not three…” celebration that followed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh when he joined the Miami Heat four years ago — well, you assumed wrong. James may have figured out that it behooves him to keep expectations for wins, losses and awards lower, but he hasn’t yet seen how to hide some of his megalomaniacal tendencies.

Maybe it will take a retired, further-wizened LeBron to wield his substantial power without all the corny reminders of how tall he stands over the pack. Or maybe he’ll never be humble enough to stop giving his skeptics more reasons to mock him.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 31, 2014 - 10:12
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-30-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 30:

 

• Fireball is getting recalled in Europe, but here in 'Murica, we don't mind a little propylene glycol in our booze. .

 

• Madison Bumgarner ruled this postseason, but he had a weak postgame. .

 

• Oops. .

 

.

 

.

 

• Throwback Thursday: . Or, if hoops is your thing: .

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

• Remember Antoine Dodson? .

 

• Pablo Sandoval celebrated the Giants World Series win in a costume panda head.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 10:59
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-vs-carolina-panthers-preview-and-prediction-0
Body:

A surface glance at this matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers would indicate that a boring clash of NFC mediocrities is in store, as the NFL Network takes over “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts. But a look at the standings reveals that the top spot in the NFC South is actually on the line. It's true — one of these teams is likely to make the playoffs, and the winner of this one takes a giant step toward that goal.

 

After a 2–0 start, the Panthers are 1–4–1 and coming off of a disappointing 13–9 home loss to Seattle in a game that was theirs for the taking. Looking at recent results, the Saints (3-4) would seem to have the upper hand, since they're coming off their best performance of the season, a 44–23 win over Green Bay. But New Orleans must venture away from the friendly, comfy confines of the Superdome, and Sean Payton's Saints have not exactly been kings of the road.

 

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

 

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NFL Network

Spread: New Orleans -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. New Orleans' Road Woes

It's becoming a sadly familiar refrain for Saints fans: The team is great at home, but take one foot out of New Orleans and they become the Raiders. The numbers are stark — 3–0 at home, 0–4 on the road this season, after going 3–5 away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2013. The hopeful thing, though, is that the Saints' road games have been competitive; they led in the fourth quarter in three of the four losses. "You look at how we've lost three of those four road games and you say, `We made some critical errors at the end,’" said tackle Zach Strief. "It's not that we were getting dominated on the road." But until the Saints close the deal on the road, this bit of futility is going to follow them like a black cloud. 

 

2. Can Cam Reverse the Trend?

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's numbers have been on a season-long decline. After posting a 100.2 passer rating in a September win over Detroit, Newton has seen his stats and his production plummet, hitting a season-low 61.0 passer rating in the loss to Seattle. A contributing factor: a troublesome ankle that has impacted Newton’s production as a runner. A year after posting six rushing touchdowns, Newton has found the end zone on the ground only once so far this season and has seen his yards per carry average dip by a yard (5.3 to 4.3). A New Orleans pass rush that was invigorated against the Packers — four sacks and 13 hurries — will look to keep the big-bodied Newton in the pocket and get him to the ground a few times. 

 

3. Saints’ Renewed Rushing Attack

The Saints' reliance on Drew Brees and the passing attack has been well documented. But New Orleans has seen a rushing renaissance in 2014. The Saints are averaging 133 yards per game on the ground, seventh in the NFL, and rank second in the league with 5.1 yards per carry. That makes this a tough matchup for the Panthers, who are surrendering 5.2 yards per carry (28th in the NFL). Mark Ingram exploded for 172 yards rushing against the Packers, and the Saints would no doubt love to get similar production from the former Heisman Trophy winner this week. 

 

Final Analysis

 

The numbers seem to favor New Orleans, but the Saints' road futility is starting to embed itself in the franchise's DNA, and that's not a positive indicator heading into a critical division matchup on the road. The powerful New Orleans offense seems to have difficulty protecting the football away from home, and Carolina has been highly adept at forcing miscues (14 on the season). Plus, Drew Brees has struggled in his last two visits to Carolina, tossing four interceptions and posting a 73.1 passer rating. Look for miscues to make the difference in this one.

 
Prediction: Carolina 24, New Orleans 23
Teaser:
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-29-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 29:

 

.

 

• Have to say this is cool: .

 

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.

 

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• Presented without comment: .

 

• That didn't take long: .

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

. That's a good doggie.

 

• Anthony Davis started the NBA season with an Olajuwon-esque statline.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 11:24
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-28-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 28:

 

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• Jimmy Fallon can get anybody to do anything. He got Charles Barkley, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Tweedy to play Charades.

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 10:36
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-27-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 27:

 

.

 

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. Who knew Watt was such a Schiano Man?

 

. Too bad Rex won't be there to see it.

 

.

 

• Interesting stat: .

 

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.

 

. Wait, what?

 

• So the guy from Staind apparently botched the national anthem. I haven't had the heart to watch it yet, but here it is.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, October 27, 2014 - 10:35
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-vs-arizona-cardinals-preview-and-prediction
Body:

A pair of 5-1 teams that met under similar circumstances last season will get together again when the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Arizona Cardinals this afternoon on FOX. Last season, Philadelphia hosted Arizona following a Week 12 bye. This year, the Eagles travel to take on the Cardinals after a Week 7 bye.

 

Arizona is undefeated at home this year, with quality wins over the Chargers (18–17), 49ers (23–14) and Redskins (30–20). Meanwhile, Philly has had issues on the road, with a last-second 30–27 win at Indianapolis and 26–21 defeat at San Francisco. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, in particular, has struggled on the road, with a combined one TD and three INTs — after just two INTs in all of 2013.

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

 

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Arizona -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Carson Palmer for MVP?

Okay, so that's a bit extreme, but the Cardinals’ quarterback has his team in first place in a division that was thought to belong to the Seahawks and 49ers. Despite dealing with a shoulder injury that has caused him to miss three games, Palmer has led the Cards to a 3–0 record, completing 74-of-112 passes for 807 yards, six touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 101.3. In fact, in his last 12 starts for Arizona, Palmer is 10–2, and his passer rating of 97.8 over that span ranks seventh in the NFL. And he's hungry after last year's 10–6 record wasn't enough to get the Cards to the postseason. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," Palmer said. "I think we're getting ready to define hopefully my time here and our time as a team."

 

2. Philly's Jekyll-and-Hyde Defense

The Eagles went into their bye with one of their most dominant defensive performances in years in a 27–0 win over the Giants, a game in which they allowed only 254 total yards. In the three preceding games, though, the Philly defense was alarmingly porous, allowing 461 yards per game — including 511 yards in a 37–34 win over the Redskins. So which Eagles defense will we see? One hopeful sign for Philly fans is the return of linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who has missed the past four games with an injured calf.

 

3. What About the Eagles Playmakers?

Much like the defense, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy seemed to emerge from a season-long shell against the Giants, rushing for 149 yards on 22 carries. Prior to that, though, McCoy had been a colossal disappointment to all those fantasy owners who drafted him in the first few picks. Before the Giants game, McCoy had averaged only 2.9 yards per carry on the season. Likewise, quarterback Nick Foles has struggled to return to the heights he enjoyed in a breakthrough 2014 season; he's thrown seven interceptions this season after throwing only two all of last season. The Birds also may welcome back diminutive playmaker Darren Sproles (sprained MCL), who could help Philly find some consistency on offense. 

 

Final Analysis

 

The Cardinals have the top run defense in the NFL, allowing only 72 yards rushing per game, meaning that Foles will need to make some plays for the Eagles to be successful. Look for Chip Kelly to find ways to get Sproles the ball in space, allowing him to make plays and open things up downfield. But if Palmer continues to protect the ball, it might not matter. The Cards are having a charmed season, and Bruce Arians' team is playing well enough to pick up a key win at home.

 
Prediction: Arizona 27, Philadelphia 24
Teaser:
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, October 26, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-24-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 24:

 

. Not the ring, but still nice.

 

.

 

• Alright, alright, alright — .

 

• Hate stuff like this: .

 

. Should be amusing.

 

.

 

• The Warriors engaged in a little fun rookie hazing, .

 

. Pretty impressive.

 

• Weird story of the day: .

 

.

 

.

 

• Watch Jeremy Lin pose as an adidas employee in an elaborate prank.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 10:46
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-23-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 23:

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

. Yep, 6-4.

 

 

.

 

• A headline I think we'll see a lot this season: .

 

• Watch Kyrie Irving go between the legs to Kevin Love.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:38
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-vs-denver-broncos-preview-and-prediction-2014
Body:

Week 8 of the NFL slate kicks off with tonight’s AFC West divisional matchup between the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos on CBS/NFL Network. This game features a pair of MVP-candidate quarterbacks in San Diego’s Philip Rivers (17 TDs, three INTs) and Denver’s Peyton Manning (510 career TD passes).

 

Last season, the Chargers played the Broncos better than just about any team this side of the Seahawks. All three meetings between the two were one-score margins, with Denver winning on the road 28–20 in Week 10, San Diego winning at Sports Authority Field at Mile High 27–20 in Week 15 and the Broncos earning a 24–17 victory in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs. The Bolts did not fare as well against the Broncos in 2012, losing 35–24 at home in Week 6 and 30–23 in Week 11.

 

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

 

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network

Spread: Denver -8

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Back to Work for Peyton Manning

Manning hasn't had much time to savor his newly minted record for career touchdown passes, but chances are pretty good that he'll add to that record in this game. Manning has thrown touchdowns in each of his 11 meetings with the Chargers, including a total of eight in the three games in which these teams met last season. Manning's Broncos avenged a December loss to the Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High by dispatching San Diego a few weeks later in the playoffs. During his Broncos tenure, Manning is 4-1 against the Chargers, but he knows that the familiarity cuts both ways. "We're playing a great team in the Chargers, a team we're very familiar with, as they are with us," Manning said. "They beat us last year, so we got to get ready on this short week."

 

2. Freeney vs. Manning

For nine years, Dwight Freeney and Peyton Manning were highly successful teammates in Indianapolis. Finally, Freeney gets a chance to attack the former Colt like he's attacked quarterbacks across the league throughout his career. Freeney leads the team with 14 quarterback hits and 12 pressures, and he's sixth among active players with 110.0 career sacks. "It should be interesting,” Freeney told Chargers.com. “But it should be good.  It’s going to be a little bit different for me because I’m used to having him on the same team, but it should be fun.  I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with it.  2011 was the last time I’ve actually seen him.  In practice you go against the guys all the time but you obviously don’t hit them. I’ll tell you what though; I’m not laying up against him!  It’s going to be an experience I’ll never forget."

 

3. Playing Keep-away

Following Manning's record-setting touchdown pass, a couple of his teammates engaged in a playful (and scripted) game of keep-away with the football in question. The Chargers would love to play a real game of keep-away with the Broncos signal-caller. The formula worked in last December's win in Denver, when Ryan Mathews rushed for 129 yards and the Chargers held the ball for more than 38 minutes. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich wouldn't mind seeing a repeat performance. "We want to be on the field as much as we can,” he said. “We want to play our game. And that is our game. Our game is convert on third down, mix it with the run and pass, be efficient and score touchdowns in the red zone." In Mathews’ absence while he nurses a knee injury, look for Branden Oliver to get plenty of chances. Oliver has rushed for 282 yards on 60 carries the last three weeks. 

 

Final Analysis

 

The weekend gets off to a strong start with this matchup of division rivals off to strong starts. Denver is riding high following its best performance of the season, a 42–17 win over San Francisco, while San Diego was lackluster in a loss to Kansas City. In addition, the Broncos' run defense is much improved this season, which could hamper the Chargers’ ball-control ambitions. 

 
Prediction: Denver 31, San Diego 21
Teaser:
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-22-2014
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 22:

 

• Meet , MaCall of UCLA.

 

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. It didn't help that .

 

• A little lost amid Peyton's records is the fact that . How is that possible?

 

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. But it's still worth a link.

 

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• A top QB recruit picked UCLA. . That's gotta hurt.

 

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• A T-Wolves fan made a 90210-themed introduction for his team.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 11:19
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-21-2014
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 21:

 

. That's her in the picture.

 

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• Another grumpy coach: .

 

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. Haven't been following closely enough to know whether to be outraged.

 

• Unlike his surly colleagues, Les Miles takes a dumb question and has fun with it.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - 10:36
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-20-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 20:

 

• Happy 26th birthday to Victoria's Secret model Candice Swanepoel. .

 

• Peyton Manning made history last night. Can we stop using numbers as letters now? Plea5e?

 

, although Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes broke out the ring-check in congratulating "Eli's brother."

 

• You've seen it by now, but yesterday, .

 

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. Not shockingly, Brandon Marshall was the one doing much of the yelling.

 

• Had the little keep-away game with Peyton's record-setting TD ball been spontaneous, it would have been cute. .

 

• This will put a dent in the J.J. Watt for MVP campaign: .

 

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• The World Series starts tomorrow. .

 

• So did Notre Dame get screwed the other night? .

 

• The pressure of a bad start is getting to Saints coach Sean Payton.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, October 20, 2014 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, NFC, NFC East, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-dallas-cowboys-preview-and-prediction-2014
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The New York Giants hope to bounce back from one of their worst performances in years, while the Dallas Cowboys hope to continue their unexpected ascent to the top of the NFC mountain, as these two classic NFC East rivals collide this afternoon on FOX. Dallas won both of last season's meetings, with Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray rushing for 86 yards in both games — a respectable number, but one that would disappoint Murray this season as he chases history.

 

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

 

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Dallas -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Romo's Roll

Don't look now, but Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has played like a Hall of Famer during this five-game winning streak. Since a three-interception performance in the opening loss to San Francisco, Romo has thrown 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions in the ensuing five games, without a passer rating below 93.5. Making Romo's life easier? A running game that relieves much of the pressure that has so often forced Romo into critical mistakes. Dallas is averaging a league-leading 33.3 rushes per game, and Romo's 191 pass attempts are the fewest of his starting career through Dallas' first six games. "We've had good running games in the past before -- probably not as many in a row — but my job is to obviously get us into good plays and get the ball to DeMarco and run the ball to the right looks," Romo said. "On third down, the running game doesn't help you as much — you've got to go out and execute it." So far, that execution has been nearly flawless.

 

2. Good Eli or Bad Eli?

Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a popular whipping boy, but it's still a bit unfair to lay all of New York's struggles at his feet. In the Giants' 27–0 loss to the Eagles, which snapped a three-game winning streak for the G-men, Manning was pummeled, getting sacked eight times and hit seven more. But it is fair to say that Manning's production is an accurate bellwether for the Giants. In the three-game winning streak that preceded the Philly loss, Manning threw eight touchdowns and only one interception, completing 70.1 percent of his passes. In the Giants' three losses this season, Manning has thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 60 percent of his throws. Now, the Giants hope that good Eli makes an appearance, even without star wideout Victor Cruz, lost for the season to a torn patellar tendon. "You just hate it happened to Victor because he loves playing this game," Manning said. "He has a great attitude, and so to see him get injured and be out for the season, I feel for him."

 

3. When will the mileage catch up with DeMarco Murray?

Dallas running back DeMarco Murray has been remarkable this season, leading the NFL in rushing by a wide margin with 785 yards and joining Jim Brown as the only two players to rush for 100 yards or more in each of a team's first six games of the season. But production like that has to come at a price. Murray has the fourth-most rushing attempts in NFL history through six games, having toted the rock 159 times, an average of 26.5 carries per game. Over a full 16-game season, that extrapolates to 424 carries, which would set an NFL record. It's a sad fact of life as an NFL running back that there are only so many carries a body can take. Will the Cowboys start to taper Murray's carries a bit to save him for the stretch run? Look for Joseph Randle (fresh off a shoplifting scandal) to get a few more relief carries, starting this week — especially when (and if) Murray cracks the 100-yard barrier for the seventh time. Randle can't outrun the mall cops, but he is averaging 7.1 yards per carry this season.

 

Final Analysis

 

Combine the Cowboys' positive mojo, their eye-opening win at NFC kingpin Seattle and their two wins over the Giants last season, and this has the makings of another Dallas statement win. Anything's possible in a division rivalry like this one, but the Cowboys appear poised to keep the magic going.

 
Prediction: Dallas 31, New York 17
Teaser:
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-17-2014
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 17:

 

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• Geno Smith played well last night, but .

 

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• There's nothing quite like a series-ending walk-off homer. Relive the magic.

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 17, 2014 - 10:48
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Hawks, Chris Webber, NBA
Path: /nba/chris-webber-might-buy-atlanta-hawks
Body:

Chris Webber never really left the NBA. After retiring and ending his 15-year career (including five All-Star selections and five All-NBA spots), he began moonlighting as an analyst on TNT. Now he’s spewing his wisdom for the game over on NBA TV, and also considering a much loftier perch in the league.

“The Webber Group,” , “contacted the NBA to respectively express our intentions to acquire the majority interest of the Atlanta Hawks.” Here’s Webber’s statement in full:

 

 

Webber’s purposeful words about his interest in the team get at the reason the Hawks are on the market in the first place, and the weird history of pro basketball in Atlanta generally. 

This summer, just before racist remarks made by general manager Danny Ferry were leaked, about prospective free agent signing Luol Deng — — current majority owner Bruce Levenson announced the team was for sale. Levenson himself was caught with his own politically correct pants down, too, in .

 

Through all the Ferry-Levenson controversy, one thing became crystal clear: The Hawks’ organizational incompetence. They’ve simply failed — time and time again — at both appealing to their city culturally and building a team that’s more than first-round playoff fodder in the consistently weak Eastern Conference.

Whether Webber and Co. have the chutzpah and savvy needed to turn things around is unclear — there’s no sort of experience that could compare to the task of running an NBA team. But Atlanta boasts a regional population in the millions and is a proud, fertile place for sports. That they ranked 28th in attendance in 2013-14 is alarming, and tells us that whoever’s next is likely to do much better.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 17, 2014 - 10:15

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