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The list of tight ends on the Week 14 fantasy injury report is one of the longest it's been in recent weeks. Vance McDonald has been ruled out, and some guys are probable that will play as they practiced in full on Friday. Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and, Ladarius Green will all be active and fantasy owners should plan to start them as they normally would.
Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.
Gary Barnidge, TE, Cleveland Browns vs. San Francisco 49ers
Questionable – Ankle
Be sure to check the inactive reports on this one, but all signs point to Barnidge playing in Week 14. He has been a solid TE option for fantasy owners and is a TE1 this week as well, assuming he's active. Even with Johnny Manziel at quarterback he still should get enough targets to provide fantasy value.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots at Houston Texans (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Questionable – Knee
Gronkowski made the flight to Houston, so it is possible that he does play on Sunday night. However, for fantasy owners, it's going to be a tough call as he is going to be a game-time decision. Signs point to him playing, but will he be a decoy? Will he be limited? Or will he just come in for a few red zone packages and put up a 2-20-2 stat line? It's a tough call to make, but the safest call for fantasy owners in the first week of the fantasy playoffs is to bench Gronk, as hard as that may be, unless you also own Scott Chandler.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Probable – Shoulder
He hasn't been scoring touchdowns (one on the season) but he has been a viable fantasy option. Now that Leonard Hankerson is on injured reserve, Tamme is behind only Julio Jones in terms of targets on the team. With Jones drawing a lot of Josh Norman’s attention this week, look for Tamme to have a big week. He's a TE1.
Scott Chandler, TE, New England Patriots at Houston Texans (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Questionable – Knee
Chandler had a knee injury and played in Week 13, finishing with four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. He's scored touchdowns in the past two weeks. He's expected to play in Week 14, although if Rob Gronkowski is active, his role will be unknown. If Gronk is simply a decoy, Chandler is still a high-end TE2. If possible, find another option at tight end unless you also own Gronk, which would allow you to wait and start whomever ends up playing.
Owen Daniels, TE, Denver Broncos vs Oakland Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m.)
Probable – Knee
Daniels is probable, and Vernon Davis is questionable (concussion). If Davis is out, Daniels' outlooks improves even though fantasy owners do remember the donut that he gave them when the Broncos played the Raiders earlier in the season. While tight ends do succeed against the Raiders it's tough to trust Daniels if Davis is active. Daniels is a high-end TE2 if Davis is out; a TE3 if he plays.
Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins
Questionable – Ribs
With Martellus Bennett on injured reserve, Miller is now the No. 1 tight end in Chicago. He is dealing with a rib injury, but is expected to play. When filling in for Bennett in Week 12, Miller had two receptions for 10 yards and a touchdown. Jay Cutler does look for him in the red zone, so Miller is a viable TE2 for Week 14.
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Probable – Rib
Miller missed Week 13, but is on track to play today. The Bengals have only allowed one opposing tight end to score a touchdown and Miller hasn't found the end zone since Week 2. He's a low-end TE2 this week.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles
Probable – Knee
While Clay will play on Sunday, he isn't a recommended fantasy option. The Eagles' defense is pretty terrible, but they have actually been decent at defending tight ends. They've only allowed three touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year (although two of those TDs have been in the past three weeks). Clay is barely on the TE2 radar.
Crockett Gillmore, TE, Baltimore Ravens vs. Seattle Seahawks
Doubtful – Back
Gillmore had a big game in Week 11, but has faded since. He is not likely to play this week, which means Maxx Williams will be the tight end that Jimmy Clausen (most likely) looks to throw the ball to. While the Seahawks struggle against tight ends, this isn't exactly an ideal matchup. Williams is a desperation start, but that's about it.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
Christian McCaffrey finished second to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry on Saturday, as the Stanford running back earned his recognition as a finalist on the strength of a series of electric moments.
As an explosive ball carrier, sure-handed pass catcher and dynamite kick returner, McCaffrey compiled a highlight reel in the 2015 season that could have filled the Heisman presentation's entire hour-and-a-half broadcast time.
Why, his 461 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the Pac-12 Championship Game alone were punctuated with enough dazzling moments to make up an entire season's worth of highlights. Paring it down to just five is no easy task -- so I didn't.
The following are McCaffrey's five defining plays of his record-setting season, with a bonus, sixth highlight thrown in.
A Tightrope Walk on Halloween
Washington State hosted Stanford Halloween night, with Pac-12 North supremacy on the line. After falling behind big in the first half, the Cardinal rallied to trade the lead with the Cougars throughout the second half.
Washington State grabbed the advantage late, but this McCaffrey run set up the eventual game-winning field goal. McCaffrey's ability to stay inbounds and extend the play proved critical.
"That's just natural ability. Few human beings would stay inbounds there," Stanford head coach David Shaw said. "To be going that fast towards the sideline, and turn up vertical, get hit by someone and still stay inbounds, it doesn't make sense."
Note: Referenced play begins around the 2:10 mark in the video below
Running The Bruins Into Ruins
McCaffrey emerged on the national radar with a record-setting performance in Stanford's rout of UCLA on a Thursday night. He went for 70 of his 243 yards and scored on of his four touchdowns on this run.
Going to the Air
Enjoy a two-for-one with each of McCaffrey's two touchdown passes thrown this season.
C. McCaffrey pass,to A. Hooper for 28 yds for a TD https://t.co/MVQs1WrzTA— Stanford Sports Now (@StanfordSN) November 7, 2015
To The House and For The Ax
Shaw remarked that big-time players make their bones in big games, and for Stanford, none is bigger than The Big Game. That's the annual rivalry tilt with neighbor Cal, which included McCaffrey's 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
"He was phenomenal," Shaw said. "They go down and kick a field goal to make the game tighter, he returns the next kickoff... You run out of adjectives to describe him. He's that good, he can take over any game we play."
67 Yards into the Heart of Troy
USC scored 16 points in the second and third quarters of the Pac-12 Championship Game to seize momentum and the lead. Facing third down, Stanford needed a big play to regain control. Who else but McCaffrey?
McCaffrey turned a short completion into a game-changing play when he turned on the jets and broke upfield, setting up the Cardinal in the red zone for a touchdown on the subsequent play.
Stanford did not cede the lead from that point, which makes this reception, ostensibly, the Cardinal's conference championship-sealing play.
Note: Referenced play begins around the 1:28 mark in the video below
Alabama has its second Heisman Trophy winner with Saturday's announcement that Derrick Henry is the 2015 recipient. And, at a place like Alabama where old-school, smash-mouth football still carries the day, it seems only fitting that once again it's a running back that hoists the bronze trophy for the Crimson Tide.
Henry became the 81st winner of the prestigious award, as the 6-foot-3, 242-pound junior won over fellow finalists Christian McCaffrey, Stanford's do-it-all playmaker, and Deshaun Watson, quarterback of the top-ranked Clemson Tigers. He's the second Alabama player to win, joining fellow back Mark Ingram (2009).
For Henry, who became the favorite for the coveted award when he outperformed then Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette of LSU on Nov. 7, it's been a memorable, record-breaking 2015 campaign. Here's a look at five plays that define Henry's Heisman season.
First TD of 2015
In a top-20 matchup with Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas, to open the season, Alabama found itself in a scoreless tie with the Badgers midway through the first quarter. With 6:01 remaining in the first stanza, Alabama faced a fourth-and-one from the Wisconsin 37. The Crimson Tide elected to go for it, handed the ball to Henry, and he got more than just a first down, sprinting 37 yards for the touchdown, setting the tone for the season he and the Tide would go on to have in 2015.
Gashes Georgia Between the Hedges
Facing favored, undefeated and No. 8-ranked Georgia on the road on Oct. 3, Alabama found itself in a deadlocked defensive struggle in rain-soaked conditions. But with 8:26 left in the second quarter and score tied at 3-3, Henry, who had been held to 27 yards rushing on 10 carries up to that point, got the Tide rolling with a crowd-quieting 30-yard touchdown run.
Leaves the Bulldogs in His Dust
Henry put his deceptive speed on full display against No. 17 Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., on Nov. 14. About midway through the fourth quarter, Henry took the handoff, headed left and then proceeded to outrun the Bulldogs defense down the left sideline all the way to the the end zone. Free safety Kivon Coman, the last Bulldog who had a shot at him, had a clear angle on Henry, but the 6-foot-3, 196-pounder couldn't catch the 242-pound Henry and got a stiff arm to the face instead.
Steals Heisman Spotlight vs. Leonard Fournette
In one of the most anticipated and hyped games of the 2015 season -- No. 4 Alabama hosting No. 2 LSU and Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette on Nov. 7 -- Henry, along with the Alabama defense, stole the show. The junior running back set the tone for the evening midway through the second quarter. With Alabama up by just three and facing a first-and-10 at the LSU 42, Henry took the handoff and rambled 40 yards to the LSU 2, stiff-arming strong safety Jamal Adams multiple times along the way, to set up his own 2-yard TD run on the next play.
Caps Record-Setting Day in Iron Bowl with TD
Against rival Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 28, Henry's school-record 46th and final carry of the afternoon came with 26 seconds to play on fourth-and-one and resulted in an oh-so-fitting 25-yard TD run. The score extended Henry's streak of consecutive games with a TD to 17 and punctuated one of the most dominating individual performances in Alabama football history. The Crimson Tide workhorse finished with 271 yards rushing -- the most by an Alabama running back in a game since 1996 and the third most all-time.
— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.
Alabama running back Derrick Henry claimed the 2015 Heisman Trophy on Saturday night as college football’s most outstanding player, edging Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson for the No. 1 spot.
Henry is the second Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy over the last seven seasons. Additionally, the junior is only the second Crimson Tide player to claim the Heisman, joining Mark Ingram (2009) in the exclusive club.
Henry recorded 1,832 total points in voting, followed by Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey at No. 2 (1,539) and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (1,165). Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield finished fourth, while Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was fifth in the voting.
Henry is also the first running back since Ingram to claim the Heisman Trophy. The last five Heisman winners after Ingram in 2009 were quarterbacks, including Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Auburn’s Cam Newton.
Henry led the nation with 1,986 rushing yards this season and finished first among all players with 23 rushing scores. The junior recorded a whopping 339 carries and rushed for at least 200 yards in four out of his last seven games.
Henry will lead Alabama into the College Football Playoff on Dec. 31 against Michigan State.
For all the talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers being the team you don't want to face in the playoffs following their 45-10 rout of the Indianapolis Colts, the Cincinnati Bengals know if they defeat the Steelers this Sunday at home, they'll be the AFC North Division champions.
They'd also be in line for a bye and potentially home-field advantage, which if both New England and Cincinnati (10-2) won out would be determined by "strength of victory" - the winning percentage of the opponents a team has defeated.
The team that wins this game may ultimately be viewed as New England's top rival to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50. Of course, if Pittsburgh (7-5) doesn't win the game, it will likely be a game out of the playoffs, as if the season ended today the Steelers would lose out on a playoff berth because of tiebreakers.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Three Things to Watch
For their part, Cincinnati has been a healthy team this season. Marvin Lewis has handled things in a way that might make Bear Bryant turn over in his grave, giving his team an extra day of rest during the week. The result is the Bengals have made only four transactions this season and have only put one player on injured reserve. Compare that to the Steelers, who have 17 players on injured reserve or similar list.
But the long season might be taking its toll on the Bengals. Cornerback Adam Jones is out with a foot injury. Two other members of the Cincinnati secondary, cornerback Leon Hall and safety George Iloka, missed practice this week. Cornerback Josh Shaw left last Sunday's 37-3 victory against Cleveland early due to a back injury, and cornerback D'Andre Kirkpatrick isn't at 100 percent. Considering how well the Steelers' passing game has been clicking recently, this could be a serious problem for Cincinnati.
More than that, however, is the fact Steelers-Bengals games have historically been blood baths. Cincinnati wide receiver Marvin Jones has commented how physical the game will likely be, both teams are upset over allegations of cheap shots resulting in injuries to players (Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell has suffered season-ending injuries in the Steelers' last two games against the Bengals), and really the only positives one could say about player safety in this game is Cincinnati hasn't played on the artificial surface of Riverfront Stadium in 15 years and Kimo von Oelhoffen has been long retired.
The point is this game could easily be decided by a reserve.
2. Hey, is that Brandon Boykin?
All year long fans wondered why the Pittsburgh Steelers traded for cornerback Brandon Boykin if they weren't going to play him, especially with the team ranked 29th in the NFL in pass defense.
When he was finally placed in the cornerback rotation, he had an interception against the Colts last Sunday in Pittsburgh's 45-10 victory and played roughly two-thirds of the game on defense.
Boykin's play was the shot in the arm the Steelers' secondary needed. He's expected to continue in this role as a cornerback, alternating time with Antwon Blake.
3. Cincinnati's deception against Pittsburgh's basics
Back in the 1980s, Bengals-Steelers games often featured a contrast in cultures. Chuck Noll realized his post-Terry Bradshaw teams were best suited to pound the ball with trap plays, while Sam Wyche rejoiced in trying trick plays (a 24-22 Cincinnati victory in 1986 was won when punter Jeff Hayes ran 61 yards on a fake for a touchdown in the fourth quarter).
It's almost like those days are back. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has been experimenting with things like passing out of three-tackle sets, while the only loss the Steelers suffered in their last four games came when starting running back DeAngelo Williams had only eight carries against Seattle.
Jackson has roles for both running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, while Williams is the a single, and effective pounder of the Pittsburgh ground game.
Question- could Bernard only have only one carry in the Bengals' 16-10 victory in the previous matchup between the two teams to try to deceive the Steelers in this game?
While both these teams could match each other pass for pass, it's difficult to score if you don't have the ball. The team that wins could easily be the team that wins the time of possession battle.
There is a feeling the team that loses this game will fall from the ranks of the NFL's best. If Cincinnati loses, questions will abound if the Bengals can really win big games and if they can get a first-round bye. If the Steelers lose, they may not make the playoffs.
Cincinnati is coming off a 37-3 victory against perhaps the worst team in football that was starting in essence a third-string quarterback. Now the Bengals must face the second-ranked offense in the NFL and Ben Roethlisberger with a banged-up secondary.
Sure, they hit a home run off a changeup in their last time at-bat, but what can the Bengals do against a fastball pitcher?
Prediction: Steelers 25, Bengals 24
— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.
The Carolina Panthers (12-0) may have gotten a little complacent last week, just edging out a struggling Saints team to keep their perfect season intact. That said, a win is still a win, and last week's narrow victory also enabled Ron Rivera's team to keep its regular season win streak alive. A streak that now stands at 16 in a row dating back to last season. The Panthers will once again try to avoid upset at the hands of yet another struggling division rival, this time at home.
The Atlanta Falcons' (6-6) downward spiral continues after collecting their fifth consecutive loss against Tampa Bay last week. After starting the season a perfect 5-0, the Falcons have now lost six of their last seven games. Dan Quinn has the daunting task of getting his Falcons back into the playoff hunt by scoring their first NFC South win of the season on the road against the undefeated Panthers. If the offense can return to early-season form, the Falcons could make it difficult for the Panthers to avoid an upset two weeks in a row. Ron Rivera and the Panthers will do everything in their power to make sure that does not happen.
This will be the 41st meeting between Atlanta and Carolina all-time dating back to 1995. The Falcons lead the series with a record of 24-16. The NFC South rivals split the series last season with each team winning on the road.
Atlanta at Carolina
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Carolina – 7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Atlanta Jumpstart a Sputtering Offense?
Since starting the season 5-0, the Falcons have literally cut their points per game average in half, going from 32.4 points per game in their first five games to 16.7 in their last seven. Oddly enough, they still rank in the top five in the NFL in total offense. Thus, moving the football has not been the problem.
The glaring issues plaguing this offense have been the inability to score points in the red zone. Matt Ryan has one of the worst QB ratings in the NFL once he gets his team within the opposition's 20-yard line. Further complicating matters, Ryan cannot seem to stop turning the ball over in critical moments.
Ryan also has failed to get the Falcons' biggest playmakers involved in the red zone. Julio Jones has not scored a touchdown since Week 8. Devonta Freeman, who was a scoring machine early on this season, has yet to find pay dirt since Week 6. In fact, the Falcons as a whole have not scored a rushing touchdown since Freeman last scored, in addition to averaging just 74 rushing yards per game over their last four contests.
Atlanta’s woes on offense will be further compounded facing off against one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL, especially when it comes to taking advantage of turnovers. The Panthers already have 29 takeaways on the season, 19 coming by way of interception. By far the most in the NFL. The Carolina defense will also head into this game with a nasty disposition following an uncharacteristically bad performance against the Saints last week. The Falcons may get their offense back on track before season’s end, but it seems highly unlikely that it happens on Sunday.
2. Julio Jones vs. Josh Norman
It is worth taking notice any time two of the game’s best players at their respective positions go head-to-head. That will definitely be the case on Sunday when lockdown cornerback Josh Norman attempts to shadow Julio Jones, Atlanta's elite wide receiver.
It is well documented that Jones is capable of exploding against any defensive back in the NFL. That being said, this matchup bodes particularly well for Norman. He has a very good track record of shutting down, or at least limiting, the best wide receivers the league has to offer, and that includes Jones.
Norman helped limit Jones to a combined 10 receptions for 117 yards in two meetings last season. Jones did not collect more than 59 receiving yards in either game, nor did he score a touchdown. Norman has even more help this time around in the form of ball-hawking free safety, Kurt Coleman. It is also worth noting that Jones may be somewhat limited by a minor knee injury this week. The smart money is always on Jones, but the deck seems to be somewhat stacked against him this time around.
3. The Panthers' Rushing Attack vs. the Falcons' Run Defense
While the Panthers' passing attack has really come to life in recent weeks (at least when Ted Ginn isn’t dropping passes), the run game is still Carolina's bread and butter on offense. The Panthers rank third in the NFL in both rushing yards per game (142) and rushing touchdowns (14). They should find success once again against the Falcons.
Atlanta has been fairly solid against the run for most of the season, giving up just over 100 rushing yards per game. However, this defense has allowed 15 rushing touchdowns on the season, which is the second most in the NFL. In addition, the Falcons have struggled against run-heavy offenses. They have proven particularly vulnerable of late, giving up a combined 357 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in their last two contests against the Vikings and Buccaneers.
The Atlanta Falcons' inability to successfully run the football with consistency is an issue of concern. The bigger problem is that they can’t seem to put points on the scoreboard. You couple that with a tendency to turn the ball over in critical moments, and you have a recipe for losing, which is exactly what the Falcons continue to do on a weekly basis.
To make matters worse, Atlanta’s struggling offense will have to circumvent a stout Carolina defense looking to unleash the frustrations of a poor showing last week on the road. New Orleans nearly spoiled the Panthers' perfect season by recapturing some magic on offense. It is certainly plausible that the Falcons could do the same in this game. The problem is, plausible and likely are two very different things.
The Falcons' defense may be in for the biggest challenge trying to contain Cam Newton, who seems to be able to conjure up touchdown drives at will of late. There is no question that Atlanta will have its hands full against a Panther offense that is averaging close to 40 points per game over the last three contests.
Prediction: Panthers 31, Falcons 17
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.
The Seattle Seahawks continued their winning ways last Sunday as they absolutely annihilated the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 38-7. Russell Wilson continued to step up his game with another three-touchdown performance after completing 21-of-27 passes for 274 yards against the Vikings. Wilson, now has thrown 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his last three games. These performances in the last three games are what you would expect out of the second-highest paid quarterback in the NFL. It would have been very easy for Wilson to mail it in the rest of the season after the Arizona loss, as he was getting plenty of well-deserved criticism. However, for the Seahawks and the 12s Wilson has stepped up and let his performance on the field speak for itself.
Baltimore has struggled all season long thanks in part to a slew of injuries that has decimated them on both sides of the ball. The matchup with Seattle will have a strange feel to it as Jimmy Clausen will very likely get his second chance at the Seahawks' defense after facing them in Week 3 while a member of the Chicago Bears.There is also the chance that Matt Schaub could get the start, depending upon how recovers from shoulder and knee injuries suffered last week against Miami. In order for Baltimore to stay in this football game against the Seahawks the Ravens are going to have to cause a couple of turnovers to create a short field for their offense. They also are going to have to take care of the football and get the running game going early. If Seattle eliminates the running game of the Ravens like they did against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings things will get ugly early.
Seattle at Baltimore
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Seattle -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' defensive aggressiveness
One very encouraging end result of the rout of Minnesota was the Seattle defense flying around and getting back to having fun as a unit. Michael Bennett practically lived in the Vikings' backfield all afternoon long. Bennett graded out with a plus-7.8 rating from Pro Football Focus in the Minnesota game. Rookie defensive end Frank Clark also had a bit of coming out party last week as he graded out with a plus-5.0 rating, thanks in part to his two sacks. The entire defense's tackling in the open field was some of the best by the Seahawks all season long. Thus, with the likelihood of facing a third-string, recently signed quarterback in Jimmy Clausen or backup Matt Schaub it will be important for defensive coordinator Kris Richard to unleash the hounds and attack the Ravens all day long.
2. The continued improvement of Seattle's offensive line
This unit while still not great has gotten better as the season has gone along as Russell Wilson has at least had a little bit of a chance to not have to run for his life during the current three-game winning streak. The offensive line is going to have to control things early so Thomas Rawls can get the running game rolling and then just stay disciplined in passing situations so Wilson can quickly get the ball out to his receivers. Patrick Lewis taking control of things at center since regaining the starting job prior to the Week 10 loss in Arizona has helped a great deal. Another contributing factor has been Wilson staying a little more disciplined when feeling the rush, hanging in longer ;and creating plays from the pocket.
3. Seahawks' passing game
While you never want to lose a player the caliber of Jimmy Graham to injury the Seahawks' wide receivers did a nice job last week of picking up the slack in the passing game. Tyler Lockett was on fire as he had seven receptions for 90 yards along with Doug Baldwin, who is arguably having the best season of his career. It is going to be vital for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to get some easy throws called for Wilson to play pitch and catch with Lockett and Baldwin so the Ravens aren't able to stack the box in an attempt to stop Thomas Rawls and the running game.
This game should be a sound decisive victory for the Seahawks as the Ravens are going to be too limited offensively if Jimmy Clausen starts at quarterback and probably a little too mistake-prone if it's Matt Schaub under center. Look for the passing game to get in a rhythm early and get Seattle an early lead to set the tone right away. If the Seahawks play undisciplined early on against Baltimore that is going to be dangerous as they can’t afford to give the Ravens any hope that they can win this matchup. If Baltimore is allowed to stay in the game until the fourth quarter, then all bets would be off as the Ravens have secured each of their four wins on the final play of the game this season. In the end, Seattle knows that it in all likelihood will be the top NFC wild card team after Sunday as the Vikings should lose to Arizona. That No. 5 seed would set the Seahawks up to play the NFC East champion during wild card weekend. Overall, look for the Seahawks to take care of business to get to 8-5, setting up two very winnable home games against Cleveland and St. Louis.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Ravens 16
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball.
New Orleans gave a tremendous effort last Sunday. The Saints attempted to tarnish the record of the sole remaining undefeated team in the NFL. They came commendably close. Now, they have nothing left for which to strive other than avoiding a losing season.
Tampa Bay is still in contention for the postseason. The Buccaneers trail the Seahawks by one game for the second wild card spot in the NFC. Obviously, winning their final four regular season games would greatly aid Tampa Bay's chances of grabbing that playoff berth. That course would start with defeating the Saints.
New Orleans leads the overall series 29-18. Tampa Bay's victory on Sept. 20 ended the Saints' seven-game winning streak in this series. The Saints hold a 13-7 advantage in games played in Tampa.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Tampa Bay -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Offensive Balance for Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have lost six out of seven games when the difference between their passing yards and rushing yards is more than 80. In short, they need to have close to equal amounts in both statistical categories in order to win.
2. Plague of Penalties on the Saints
The Saints have committed at least seven penalties in all but one game this season. They have amassed at least 50 yards in penalties per game except for one. When they have committed eight or more penalties in a game, they are 3-5. When their amounts of penalties have exceeded 70 yards in a game, they have lost six out of eight times. The Saints' defense is too depleted and inexperienced to give away so many yards so often for usually avoidable infractions.
3. Can Bucs Exploit the Weakest Aspect of the Saints?
Tampa Bay has piled up more than 200 passing yards in eight games. Those include the five most recent games. Can the Buccaneers' offense continue that string of success and throw successfully against the Saints' secondary?
The Saints' struggling defense has given up more than 200 passing yards per game with the exception of two. The first of those two sub-200 yard performance occurred in the Superdome versus Tampa Bay. Can the Saints replicate that respectable effort against the Bucs' passing attack?
Tampa Bay does not control its own path to the playoffs. However, the Buccaneers could derail their own drive to the postseason with a loss at home to the Saints. The Saints showed a lot of heart in the nail-biting defeat at home to Carolina. The Buccaneers have a ton of motivation heading to this game. The Saints have nothing but pride left. The hope for a wild card spot outweighs the desire to avoid consecutive losing seasons.
Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Saints 14
-Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.
It seems that every week there is a new NFL drama coming to life in Philadelphia or Buffalo — this week, it's both.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s divorce from former NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy wasn’t pretty. McCoy was traded to the Bills this past offseason for linebacker Kiko Alonso, and McCoy wasn’t shy about why he and other players were surprisingly let go. We all know that story.
The story this week is three parts. The first part is obvious. The return of McCoy to Philadelphia, where he played his first six seasons and became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher is the natural headline. But McCoy added fuel to this typical “return of the jaded NFL star” tale by stating Kelly “can’t shake (anything),” in regard to postgame hand shakes. Bills’ head coach, Rex Ryan, not afraid of playing the role of the heel, has obviously hinted that Shady McCoy will be his only team captain on the field for the pregame coin toss.
But McCoy isn’t the only running back that has issues with Kelly. Now, its Kelly’s new running back, last year’s No. 1 rusher, DeMarco Murray. Reports surfaced that Murray sought out Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to voice his frustrations about his lack of playing time and overall involvement in Kelly’s offense. Both Kelly and Murray were quick to try and squash any potential controversies, but that hasn’t kept columnists from filling inches on the potential breakup of Murray and Kelly in the future.
Man, all this drama, and all before Friday’s walkthrough practices. Believe it or not, this game between the Bills (6-6) and Eagles (5-7) has major playoff implications as both teams find themselves in the thick of the postseason race. With only four weeks left each game grows exponentially in importance.
Buffalo at Philadelphia
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Philadelphia -1
Three Things to Watch
- 1. McCoy vs. Murray: A Tale of Two Running Backs
And just because we can’t get enough of the low hanging fruit... how about this LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray storyline, huh!?
Since being traded to the Bills, McCoy has proven that it wasn’t just Chip Kelly’s fast-paced spread offense that made him a such special player. McCoy is ninth in yards from scrimmage per game (104.1 ypg) averaging 4.6 yards per rush and 9.2 yards per catch this season. McCoy is coming off one of his best games in 2015 when last week against the highly touted Houston Texans defense he rushed for 112 yards, his third 100-yard effort of the season. McCoy should expect to carry a heavy load against the 27th-ranked rush defense of the Eagles on Sunday afternoon, a perfect opportunity to exact his revenge on Kelly and his former team.
On the other sideline, Murray’s arrival in Philly has been less than stellar. After leading the NFL in rushing last season, Murray is only averaging 3.5 yards per attempt for a grand total of 569 yards in 2015. In losses, Murray is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry with one touchdown. So far this season, Murray has only topped 100 yards rushing once, and has rushed for more than 80 yards just three times. His carries seem to come and go, as last week against the Patriots, Murray only carried the ball eight times. His high for the season is 22 attempts in Week 10 against Miami.
While the topic of Murray’s usage has been a hot one as of late, the issue doesn't seem like it’s going away anytime soon as the more effective Ryan Mathews is expected to make his return from a concussion this week.
2. Quarterback Play
In another bold and surprising move by Kelly, Sam Bradford, the former Heisman winner and No. 1 overall draft pick, was brought in to be the starting quarterback in March. Coming off two consecutive ACL tears and constant erratic play, Bradford seemed like a long shot to be successful. Most Philly fans are still waiting. Bradford’s play is still erratic and at sometimes, odd.
Last week against the Patriots, Bradford threw two touchdown passes, but completed only 14 of his 24 attempts for 120 yards. Granted, Bradford didn't have to go out and win the game, thanks to three three return touchdowns by the defense and special teams. But it seems Bradford’s play has been that way all season long. In wins, Bradford is completing 63.7 percent of his throws, but has thrown almost as many interceptions as he has touchdowns, and has actually thrown for more yards in losses. If the Eagles hope to win the watered down NFC East, Bradford’s play is going to have to be more reliable.
While Bradford’s play has been rather expected, the Bills’ Tyrod Taylor has been one the league’s more pleasant surprises. Taylor’s throwing numbers don’t jump out at you like Tom Brady’s, but he has been extremely reliable, only turning the ball over five times this season, four of which have been interceptions.
Taylor still struggles to find all-world athlete and wide receiver Sammy Watkins with any sort of regularity, but if he can over the next few weeks, the Bills will be in the playoff discussion until the end.
3. Intertwined Fates
If the playoffs started today, the Bills would be on the outside looking in as they sit in eighth place in the AFC and third in the AFC East. A win against the Eagles on Sunday and a Jets loss to the Titans would put the teams in a two-way tie for second place in their division and battling for the final AFC wild card spot with a bevy of teams.
After the game in Philly, the Bills' schedule is very much in their favor, as they travel to Washington next week, then host the Cowboys before welcoming the Jets to Orchard Park for the regular season finale. All three of those are extremely winnable games.
And the team that will be rooting for the Bills the most might just be the Eagles. Currently Philadelphia is sitting in a three-way tie for the NFC East with Washington and the New York Giants. If the Bills can defeat both Washington and New York in the next two weeks, the Eagles' chances of making the postseason are greatly increased.
The Bills have shown flashes of legitimacy all season long. This week I believe we are going to see the character of this Buffalo team. With the final three weeks essentially being must-win games, the Bills' defense must play an improved brand of football — and what better way to enhance their game than laying against the Eagles' inconsistent offense? I expect Rex Ryan to blitz Sam Bradford non-stop and force-feed LeSean McCoy in his Philly homecoming.
Prediction: Bills 28, Eagles 17
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Welcome to the fantasy football playoffs (for most leagues). Week 14 is the start of what we've all been playing for all season. With that said, fantasy owners need to win. No longer is there another week, another game. Win now, and you move on. Lose now and you're done.
These are guys that we like or dislike more than usual based on their matchups or previous performances. This is not a start/sit column, rather a guide to use to look a little closer at players you may have just been starting without looking in depth at the matchups.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
While it still sounds strange to say start Bortles in your fantasy playoffs, he has been a solid fantasy quarterback this season. He's thrown for at least one touchdown in every game so far this season. He has five games with more than 300 yards and only 13 interceptions on the season. He is the sixth-ranked quarterback for Week 14. He'll get Allen Hurns back this week and he faces a Colts pass defense that has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Shake off the fact that it's Jacksonville and start Bortles in your fantasy playoffs.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles
Running back on a team that really wants to run the ball? Check. Facing a team that has given up a touchdown to a running back in each of the past four games? Check. Oh, and facing his former team? Check, check, check. McCoy is the fourth-ranked running back for Week 14, but he may end up finishing at the top. He has three 100-yard rushing games in his past five. He has at least 100 yards from scrimmage in the past six games he's played in. McCoy clearly is a top running back, and this is setting up to be the week he just runs wild.
Shaun Draughn, RB, San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns
Imagine, if, in Week 1, someone told you that Draughn would be the 10th-ranked running back in Week 14? Yikes. Well, the Cleveland Browns give up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and Draughn is the clear-cut running back for the 49ers. He's had double-digit carries in the past four weeks and at least four receptions in each game. He's had at least 77 total yards in each of those four games and he did find the end zone in Week 13. He's a RB1 this week because of the volume of carries he'll receive.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The last time Green faced the Steelers (Week 8), he had 11 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers' defense has gotten worse since then, allowing a wide receiver to put up 100-plus yards in three of the previous four games (following the first meeting with the Bengals). Green is the sixth-ranked wide receiver for Week 14. Look for Andy Dalton to have a good game and plenty of targets heading Green's way.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
Finally back from his shoulder injury, Seferian-Jenkins is a semi-sneaky fantasy option for Week 14. He did return in Week 13, and had three catches for 31 yards on six targets. However, the Buccaneers play the Saints this week, and New Orleans is known for giving up touchdowns. ASJ played on just over a quarter of the total snaps in Week 13 as the Bucs were likely easing him back into game action. It appears he didn't have any setbacks, and he is a solid TE1 for Week 14, as the eighth-ranked tight end.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
When looking at playoff schedules a few weeks ago, it appeared that Rivers had a great slate ahead of him. The Kansas City defense shouldn't scare anyone, as the Chiefs just let Tyrod Taylor throw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in Week 12 and Derek Carr to throw for 283 yards and two touchdowns. However, when Rivers played Kansas City in Week 11, he threw for 178 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He's lost Keenan Allen, while Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman are questionable with injuries heading into this week. While Rivers has had seasons in the past where he's thrown to armchairs, he's merely a low-end QB2 for Week 14.
Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. Detroit Lions
From first to 12th. Gurley had been the top-ranked running back six weeks ago. Now he has two weeks where he doesn't even have double-digit carries. The St. Louis Rams' offense is a mess isn't using Gurley for some reason. Until the Rams do (and time is quickly running out), Gurley is no longer a must-start RB1. He is the 12th-ranked running back, so he has RB2 value. Detroit's defense has stepped up in the past four weeks, and this is going to be a tough matchup for Gurley.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Throughout the fantasy community, many owners looked at the Weeks 14 and 16 matchups with the Panthers and were worried about Jones. And with good reason. Carolina has what may be the defensive player of the year in Josh Norman. He is a true shutdown corner and he will be on Jones this week. Norman was on Brandin Cooks last week, and Cooks did score in Week 13, but a lot of his yards came in the slot and Norman doesn't defend the slot as well. Jones typically doesn’t line up in the slot, which means he'll see a lot of Norman. Now, Jones is an elite wide receiver and it is hard to bench him. He has six touchdowns in the past five games, but is a low WR1 this week.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Here are Bryant's targets over the past four games: 12, 9, 8, 7. He's had one red zone target in three out of the past four games as well. The entire Cowboys offense is struggling with Matt Cassel at quarterback, but Bryant especially has taken a giant fall from fantasy grace. Cassel has had a hard time getting the ball out and finding Bryant. It isn't clear if Bryant is still feeling the lingering effects of his foot injury, but it doesn't seem to matter. He is the 21st-ranked receiver for Week 14, but that's because of the potential he does bring. He's a WR3 this week.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Typically when a backup quarterback takes over, the tight end's value goes up. Witten has always been Tony Romo's safety net, but without Romo in the game, he's barely worth starting as a TE2. He's seen one red zone target in the past six games and hasn't found the end zone since Week 1. He hasn't had more than 50 yards in the past six games either. Most tight ends are touchdown-dependent, but when Witten isn't even getting red-zone looks, it is hard to trust him in fantasy.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
Week 14 of the NFL season is upon us, which can only mean one thing… fantasy playoff time! Will one of your players score more than 40 fantasy points this week? Or will your so-called stud that has carried your team to the playoffs have his worst game of the season causing you to bow out in defeat?
You never know what’s going to happen on any given Sunday. So let’s take a look into the crystal ball and see what crazy things could be in store this week.
Andy Dalton Outduels Ben Roethlisberger
One might think that the way both the Bengals and Steelers are playing right now, this game might end up something like 43-41. But of course this is a divisional game and it really matters in the playoff race so the game is more likely to be 24-21 than a high-scoring affair. Regardless of the score, this is the game where Andy Dalton sends notice to all the NFL that he is legit. Dalton has never had such good weapons on offense. It now seems that running back Jeremy Hill is starting to play like the Hill of late last season and Dalton should get his favorite touchdown machine back in Tyler Eifert. Add in that the Steelers don’t really have much of a defense, currently allowing the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and Dalton should finish the day with well over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, while Big Ben struggles.
The Houston Texans Force Tom Brady to Throw More Picks Than Touchdowns
Tom Brady started the season on fire and was the easy choice for league MVP just a few short weeks ago. That was until his offensive weapons started falling apart around him. Just look at who Brady has available to throw the ball too. Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, James White, Scott Chandler. None of those guys put fear in opposing defenses. Look at how Brady struggled last week at home against a porous Eagles defense just to complete easy passes. This week the Patriots travel to play a tough Texans defense that will be looking to make a statement and lay claim to the AFC South. The Texans will pressure Brady all game, forcing him to make ill-advised throws and finishing with with three picks to only two touchdown passes.
Jameis Winston Goes HAM on the New Orleans Saints
The best quarterback in the NFL this year is whoever is playing New Orleans. The Saints are currently allowing an all-time high passer rating against, and they also have surrendered 21 passing touchdowns in the last five games, with no fewer than two allowed in any contest. Winston just got the last of his major three weapons — tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins — back, and he also is second in the NFL in quarterback rushing touchdowns with five. Tampa is still in the playoff hunt and the Buccaneers have plenty to play for, so Winston should have plenty of stats to collect in this one.
Devonta Freeman Single-handedly (Almost) Beats the Carolina Panthers
This is not the space to get into how or why Matt Ryan sucks this year. The only thing that needs to be said is that Ryan has killed many a fantasy team because of his play and his inability to take full advantage of Julio Jones. The Falcons are playing like the worst team in football right now, having lost six games in a row, but believe it or not they are still in wild card contention. They absolutely need a win this week and it isn’t going to come easy playing in Carolina against the undefeated Panthers. Instead of leaning on Ryan in this one, the Falcons instead are going to let Freeman do the heavy lifting, as he will eclipse 200 all-purpose yards and score two touchdowns in Charlotte. In fact, Freeman's performance will be so impressive that the Falcons will come this close to handing the Panthers their first loss, if not for last-minute field goal from Graham Gano. Remember, you read it here first.
Johnny Manziel Shows He Can Play and Score More Than 20 Fantasy Points
The up and (mostly) downs of Manziel’s young NFL career have been well documented and unfortunately for him, he’s more known for his poor decisions off the field than he is for anything he’s done on it. Now finally the Cleveland Browns, even out of reluctance, are going to give the ball to Manziel and let him play, short leash or not. By the end of Sunday's game, Browns fans who have been clamoring for Manziel to play since day one, will be screaming “I TOLD YOU SO” at the top of their lungs. This week the Browns play host to the 49ers and while San Francisco has been playing surprisingly well, this team won't be able to put together two good games in a row on the road. Manziel will use his arm and legs to move the ball all over the field and finish the game with around 250 passing yards and two TDs, while adding another 60-plus yards and a touchdown on the ground.
LeSean McCoy Crushes the Eagles and Rubs it in Chip Kelly’s Face
By now everyone has heard the sour grapes that McCoy has regarding Kelly and his departure from the Eagles last offseason. Whether or not you agree with McCoy, or what you think about Kelly, this is a revenge game for McCoy and players always get up for those opportunities. It also just so happens that the Eagles' defense just isn’t any good, currently giving up the 13th-most fantasy points to running backs. McCoy also plays for Rex Ryan, who loves to run the ball down teams' throats and will give McCoy every opportunity to get back at Kelly. McCoy is set for a huge game to the tune of at least 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
Kickers are people too.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is probably one of the NFL's favorites. If he wasn't, this performance certainly puts him in the running. Tucker sang his little heart out with the Concert Artists of Baltimore and it was better than anyone could've imagined.
If that whole football thing doesn't work out, this would be a great alternative for him.
A loss to rival Texas in the Red River Showdown left Oklahoma's season in doubt midway through the season. The Sooners regrouped and exploded in the second half of the year, capturing the Big 12 championship and a bid to the College Football Playoff.
Stellar performances by stars like quarterback Baker Mayfield and Eric Striker headlined the Sooners' season, but OU coach Bob Stoops received key contributions from a number of players across his roster.
Offensive MVP: Baker Mayfield, QB
Mayfield eased OU’s transition to the Air Raid and made new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley looked awfully good en route to the Broyles Award. The Sooners’ star quarterback has a chance to grow his legend this postseason.
Defensive MVP: Eric Striker, LB
Striker took a somewhat unlikely leadership role on not only the football team, but the OU campus in the spring following the ugly SAE incident. He carried that over to the field this fall, where the outside linebacker acted as the emotional center of the defense. He also terrorized opposing backfields attacking from the edge.
Best Freshman: Joe Mixon, RB
After sitting out last year due to suspension, Mixon showed the versatility coming out of the backfield that everyone expected. He combined to go over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving, providing an explosive complement to workhorse running back Samaje Perine.
Best Newcomer: Dede Westbrook, WR
Westbrook made for a solid No. 2 receiver to all-star wideout Sterling Shepard. The JUCO transfer will get a chance to show he’s the man in 2016, assuming he doesn’t leave early for the NFL.
Best Play of the Season: Joe Mixon’s 66-yard touchdown run vs. Oklahoma State
Mixon’s gallop to the Cowboys’ end zone was notable for a filthy spin move and cutback across the field. Even more impressive, Mayfield cleared the way for him, burying a would-be tackler with a lead block.
Best Performance: Eric Striker vs. West Virginia
The Sooners had plenty of deserving candidates for this award, but Striker’s dominating day against the Mountaineers stands out more than any other: 13 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble. West Virginia came into Norman undefeated and riding high. Striker single-handedly brought them low.
Best Game: Oklahoma 44, Baylor 34
The Sooners notched a hard-fought win in November over one-time doormat Baylor, who had laid waste to OU in the two previous meetings. The Bears had no answer for the Sooners’ white-hot offense, which rolled up more than 500 total yards.
Defining Moment: Baker Mayfield and Sterling Shepard break the Volunteers’ hearts
Looking for a win to announce its return to the nation’s elite, Tennessee had OU on the ropes during a September clash in Knoxville. The Sooners shut down the Vols on offense in the second half, while the offense finally found a way to move the ball. Mayfield and Shepard completed the comeback with a gorgeous fade route in the final minute of the contest, sending the game to overtime and the Sooners to a statement win.
Biggest Surprise: Dru Samia, OT
The freshman offensive tackle stepped in as a starter midway through the season and never relinquished the job. It’s not a coincidence that the line performed better in the second half of the year.
Biggest Disappointment: Return game
OU fielded one of the best kickoff return units in the country in 2014, led by explosive return man Alex Ross. The unit lacked the same pop this year.
Senior That Will be Missed the Most Next Season: Sterling Shepard, WR
The four-year starter took his game to another level as a senior. Good luck to receivers coach Dennis Simmons, who’s tasked with finding someone to fill Shepard’s go-to shoes in the passing game.
Player to Watch in 2016: Neville Gallimore, DL
Gallimore, a mountainous Canadian, was the highest-rated prospect in OU’s 2015 class. He’s redshirting this season and will have a chance to work his way into the rotation on the defensive line next season. With a little seasoning, Gallimore has all-conference potential.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Wide Receiver
Shepard’s departure will leave a massive hole in the offense next season. Westbrook has a chance to fill it, but also keep an eye on John Humphrey. The shifty pass catcher could be lethal working out of the slot.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.
One of the greatest rivalries in college football will serve as the grand finale to college football’s regular season and transition us into bowl season. The Army-Navy Game is back in Philadelphia, and Navy is looking to make it 14 straight victories against their rivals from West Point. Navy’s 13-game winning streak is the longest in the series, and they look prime to extend the winning streak following a tremendous debut season in the American Athletic Conference.
Army vs. Navy (Philadelphia)
Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Navy -21.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Keenen Reynolds, The Heisman Snub
The Heisman Trophy will be presented to either Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson or Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. Despite plenty of public support and a full-force campaign by the Naval Academy, Keenan Reynolds will not be making the trip to New York for the ceremony following the game. Don’t be shocked if Navy looks to give Reynolds one last great game before the bowl season arrives.
2. Biggest Blowout in Army-Navy History?
This year’s Army-Navy Game may be a bit more of a mismatch than it has been in a while, with Navy having one of the most successful seasons under Ken Niumatalolo as a top-25 program and Army managing just two wins this season, but Navy will be hard-pressed to make this one of the more wider margins of victory in the history of the series. Navy owns the most lopsided wins in the series, including a 51-0 shutout in 1973 and a 58-12 victory in 2002.
3. A Tradition Unlike Any Other
OK, this is not The Masters, but the Army-Navy Game should still be considered one of sports’ best traditions. It should also be on every college football fan’s bucket list as the Army-Navy Game brings the kind of passion and emotion most bowl games in December would love to emulate. From the marching on of the Cadets and Midshipmen and flyovers before the game to the action and intensity on the field and the postgame singing of the alma maters for both academies, you simply have to experience this one to fully understand and appreciate it.
Navy should win this year rather easily, assuring the Mids they will once again sing second yet again. After being left out of the mix as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Navy’s Reynolds will be expected to put on quite the show and his teammates are equipped to make that happen.
Prediction: Navy 38, Army 21
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
The NFL is a crazy fickle beast with week-to-week turns that many TV shows would love to have. Eagles fans went from loving Chip Kelly to hating him and now back to loving him. The NFC East is still a muddled mess, but now the Cowboys are in the mix just one game behind the three-team mash up at the top. All I do know is the wins keep coming for us and this league continues to be real friendly for me.
Record: 30-19-1 (3-1 last week)
San Francisco 49ers (4-8) at Cleveland Browns (2-10)
Johnny Manziel is back under center for the Browns, who host the 49ers on Sunday. Blaine Gabbert had his coming out party last week in a road win at the Bears, as he ran for a touchdown and threw for another one. Now the 49ers hit the road for the second straight week and take on a wallowing Cleveland team. There was talk this week of locker room issues with the Browns although they may go away now that Manziel is under center. There aren't a lot of ATS numbers that go the Browns’ way in this one. I don't care. SELECTION: Browns Moneyline
Detroit Lions (4-8) at St. Louis Rams (4-8)
Two teams going in different directions play in St. Louis. The Lions have won three of their last four, but we're less then a few seconds away from making it four in a row and putting themselves back into the playoff conversation. But then Aaron Rodgers ripped out the hearts of Detroit fans with a game-winning Hail Mary to tight end Richard Rodgers on the final play of the game. Even so, the Lions’ defense has been smoking hot, allowing a total of 70 points over their last four games. St. Louis has lost five straight, scoring just 54 points over that span. Case Keenum and Nick Foles have been terrible under center and it's ruining Todd Gurley, who has nowhere to run. St. Louis' defense has played well despite the numbers and the amount of time the unit has been on the field. The Rams have gone under in nine of their 12 games, including five of seven as an underdog. SELECTION: Under 41
Dallas Cowboys (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (8-4)
Aaron Rodgers saved what could have been a terrible tailspin last Thursday in Detroit. Green Bay had lost four of five and were on the way to another before Rodgers’ Hail Mary throw landed in the hands of Richard Rodgers. Now the Packers get a Dallas team that also needed some late-game heroics on Monday night to get out of Washington with a much-needed victory. You've got a Cowboys offense that did just enough against the Redskins now heading to Green Bay. Matt Cassel is not the answer at QB and because of that, teams are stacking the box against the run. The Packers are hard to beat at home and that's with a full week of prep. I usually don't like these big numbers, but the situation is real good. SELECTION: Packers -7
New York Giants (5-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-7) (Monday)
Oh so close once again for New York, as the Giants fell in overtime to their crosstown rival the Jets last week. The G-Men have now lost three in a row and four out of five as they head to Miami to play the Dolphins. These two teams are some of the hardest to figure out considering their talent levels and how consistent they've been. The Giants have allowed four of the last five opponents to throw for more than 300 yards. Miami's offense is sputtering right now despite the pieces to make things work. The Dolphins managed just 219 yards against the Ravens in an ugly 15-13 home win. New York has a huge home game next week against Carolina. I don't think the Giants will be looking ahead, but it's another reason to go with the home team in this one. SELECTION: Miami +1.5
— The Bills seem like a really good spot play for this Sunday. Philadelphia is coming off an improbable win over New England in Foxborough. The Eagles now have three straight at home beginning with Buffalo. Upon closer inspection of last week's win, the Eagles’ offense is still broken, managing 248 yards on 57 plays against the Patriots. It was the defense and special teams that provided most of the fireworks. The concern for me with Buffalo is that this is the fourth road game in the last five weeks and the money is pouring in so much on the Bills that the home team is almost worth a look. Philly has a lot of flaws, but as last week showed, it doesn’t mean the Eagles still can’t win in spite of them.
— The Titans at the Jets was one of those games that I felt like I could make a case for each side and each total. Darrelle Revis' (concussion) status is a big part of this decision, as New York’s secondary has been terrible without him. Tennessee doesn't have the weapons to make the Jets pay outside of Delanie Walker. Marcus Mariota has had his good games and his bad ones. I could see a lot of points in this one, but I could also see a close game with a lot of punts. I made a case to myself where the upstart Titans put it all together and keep things close. Problem was that I just as easily could see them getting blown out of the building in the Jets’ third straight "home" game.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
David Fox, Braden Gall and Mitch Light get together for a year-in-review superlatives edition of the Cover 2.
The guys pick their favorite game, player, play, team and freshman as well as ugliest game, worst uniform and poorest coaching job. How about who made the best hire? Best bowl matchup? Best bowl sponsor? Best bowl gift.
The guys even delve into TV, movies, music, broadcast teams, sports documentaries and more. We rank 25 of the best and worst from 2015.
Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcast, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.
Not everyone is impressed with Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook.
Back in the old days they would call it not "liking the cut" of someone's jib. That thing you just can't put your finger on about a person, but you know you don't like them for some reason. That's how the Spartans star comes off to some people. After Cook's acceptance of the Big Ten Championship game MVP trophy from Archie Griffin didn't come off the way he planned, he ended up apologizing for his actions. Case closed, right?
Wrong. Some teams around the NFL see that as a sign that this guy would not be a good addition to the locker room. Todd McShay joined "Russillo & Kanell" and was asked if Cook's decision to stay in school this year has helped his draft stock.
"On the field — helped," McShay said. "Off the field, there are some real questions. It's amazing. Everyone I talk to — the fact that he was not a captain, the way he carries himself, [there's] a little bit of a Jay Cutler, turns people off."
McShay said those words are coming directly from NFL teams.
"It started from all the NFL scouts, teams doing due diligence on him," McShay continued. "So that's really gong to be a big thing. Now, he doesn't have the strongest arm in the world, and there are some minor things in his game that aren't great, but I really believe he would be a first-round pick if he was clean or perfect in terms of the intangibles and the personality that you're bringing in... He didn't help himself at all at the [Big Ten Championship] ceremony."
Cook will have a chance to show the world one final time what he can bring on and off the field when Michigan State faces Alabama on New Year's Eve.
It’s Week 14 and for many the fantasy playoffs are nigh! Lineup decisions are even more critical with every game a win-or-go-home situation. So what should you do at wide receiver and tight end? Well first let’s check to see how some of my advice for Week 13 turned out before moving on to the business at hand.
Start Brandon Marshall (19.1 fantasy points) – Back-to-back weeks with exactly 131 receiving yards and at least one touchdown.
Start Scott Chandler (12.1 FP) – Might have sounded like a no-brainer, but at least Chandler produced a touchdown.
Sit Antonio Gates (5 FP) – The entire Chargers’ offense couldn’t get anything going against the Broncos.
Start T.Y. Hilton (3.6 FP) – Matt Hasselbeck struggled all game against the Steelers and Hilton was an afterthought.
Sit Sammy Watkins (16.9 FP) – That’s back-to-back 100-yard receiving games with at least one touchdown.
Sit Brandin Cooks (16.4 FP) – Whoever thought that Cooks would produce numbers like that against super corner Josh Norman?
START THESE WRs...
Brandon Marshall, NYJ (vs. TEN)
Can you believe that the Chicago Bears basically gave Marshall to the New York Jets for nothing? Actually, it was for a sixth-round pick but you get my point. Marshall has played like his old self again this year, establishing himself as an elite WR1. Marshall has scored a touchdown in five straight games and also is coming off back-to-back games with 131 receiving yards. This week the Jets play host to the lowly Tennessee Titans, who just allowed the Jaguars’ Allen Robinson to catch three TD passes. You can grab your Sharpie and permanently right down Marshall for another 100-yard receiving game with at least one touchdown this week.
Doug Baldwin, SEA (at BAL)
If Russell Wilson is the hottest fantasy quarterback in the NFL right now, it would make sense that Baldwin is the hottest fantasy wide receiver. The two of them are two peas in a pod right now. Baldwin has scored 20-plus fantasy points in three of his last four games, thanks in large part to catching six TDs in those four games. He should continue to see an increase in targets with Jimmy Graham out for the season, as Seattle heads out on the road to face a Baltimore pass defense that doesn't figure to pose a huge problem for the Seahawks’ suddenly rejuvenated passing game. The Ravens are allowing the third-most fantasy points to WRs this season, so look for the Wilson-to-Baldwin combo to be good for another 100-yard game with at least one touchdown this week.
Sammy Watkins, BUF (at PHI)
Oh Watkins how you can be such a tease! One week he can score 22.8 fantasy points, and then follow that up with two weeks where he scores 1.3 and 3.9 fantasy points, promptly forcing fantasy owners to bench him. Then Watkins goes out and scores 27.8 fantasy points two weeks ago when most people had him on their bench. Well, hopefully people caught on and started Watkins last week as he was good for 16.9 fantasy points thanks to 109 receiving yards and one touchdown. It seems that he and Tyrod Taylor are finally on the same page and just when you think you can’t depend on Watkins, he becomes a must-start. Especially this week as the Bills travel to Philly to play an Eagles defense that has given up the most fantasy points to WRs on the season. Watkins should have no problem getting another 100 yards and a score in this one.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Tyler Lockett, SEA (at BAL)
It’s all about Doug Baldwin right now when the Seahawks get in the red zone, but remember that Lockett had two scores in Week 11 against San Francisco, and he could easily be the apple of Russell Wilson’s eye this week against Baltimore. The Ravens have allowed multiple wide receiver scores in more than half of their games this year, and Malcom Floyd, Travis Benjamin, Torrey Smith, and DeVante Parker have all scored on deep balls against them. Lockett is probably the target if Russell takes any downfield shots this week.
SIT THESE WRs...
T.Y. Hilton, IND (at JAC)
It all comes down to whether or not you can stomach starting Hilton with Matt Hasselbeck as his quarterback. Two weeks ago, Hilton scored 21.5 fantasy points thanks to 95 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but in Week 11 he scored 2.1 fantasy points and just last week Hilton scored a pathetic 3.6 against the Steelers. This week the Colts continue to fight for their playoff lives in a must-win game against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. You would think that this would be a great matchup for Hilton, but with this being the fantasy playoffs and all, you need to put your best lineup out there, which means leaving Hilton out of it.
Amari Cooper, OAK (at DEN)
Even the best of the best wide receivers are only as good as their quarterback and right now Derek Carr isn’t playing like he did in the first half of the season, which is causing Cooper’s numbers to take a big hit. Cooper hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 9 and has only two 100-yard receiving games in his last nine games. This week is a terrible matchup for both Carr and Cooper, as they go up against the best pass defense in football in the Denver Broncos. The last time Cooper played the Broncos was at home in Week 5 and he scored 4.9 fantasy points. This week Cooper won’t be able to do much better and you should look for better options.
Randall Cobb, GB (vs. DAL)
Did you know that Cobb is the No. 74 fantasy wide receiver? Not exactly what you were hoping for when you drafted him in the second or third round. Cobb has been fantasy irrelevant all season and has only scored 10 or more fantasy points once in his last nine games. With 75 percent of the season now in the books, Cobb is on pace for a thoroughly underwhelming 76-875-8. He's averaging just 11.5 yards per catch after posting a 14.1 mark in 2014. Cobb is not earning his four-year, $40 million contract. This week the Packers host the Dallas Cowboys, who actually have an excellent pass defense as they are currently allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to WRs on the year. Look for yet another dud from Cobb this week.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Julio Jones, ATL (at CAR)
It seems blasphemous to even consider sitting Jones and of course no one is going to sit him. But while Jones is an elite talent he has two things going against him in a week that you really need him because it’s fantasy playoff time. First he has Matt Ryan playing the worst football of his career and not even looking Jones’ way in the red zone anymore and secondly, the Falcons have lost five games in a row and this week play the undefeated Carolina Panthers on the road. That means that Jones is going to be lined up against uber-cover corner Josh Norman all game. Hopefully you don’t need Jones to have a big game to help win your matchup this week.
START THESE TEs...
Scott Chandler, NE (at HOU)
This is assuming that the Patriots don’t rush Rob Gronkowski back this week, even though they lost their second game in a row last week and are now sitting behind the Bengals and Broncos in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye. Chandler has found the end zone in consecutive games and should continue to be heavily targeted in the absence of Gronkowski. This week Chandler will face a Houston Texans defense that allowed three passing scores in its last contest and you know that Tom Brady is going to be out for blood this week after the way he played last week against the Eagles. Look for Chandler to add another touchdown to his stat sheet.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB (vs. NO)
It’s not surprising Seferian-Jenkins was limited in his first game action since Week 2, yet his involvement in the passing game was promising despite the limited snaps. ASJ was second on the team with six targets, and he could have had a nice fantasy day if not for dropping a likely touchdown catch. Seferian-Jenkins should become more involved in the offense moving forward and has shown this season he can be a fantasy factor when healthy. This week ASJ and the rest of the Buccaneers get a great matchup against the pitiful New Orleans Saints defense, which is currently giving up the most fantasy points to TEs. Look for ASJ to steal the tight end spotlight this week.
Delanie Walker, TEN (at NYJ)
With Rob Gronkowski currently out with injury, Walker has replaced him as the game’s best tight end. It’s true – just look at his numbers. On the year he has 67 receptions for 800 yards and four touchdowns. In his last three weeks alone, he’s averaging seven catches for 95 yards – talk about consistency. This week the Titans travel to the Meadowlands to take on the Jets. The Jets are giving up the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season, but Marcus Mariota has shown a willingness to throw the ball to Walker no matter what. If the Titans are going to have any chance of leaving MetLife Stadium with a win, they’re going to need to use Walker a lot.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Julius Thomas, JAC (vs. IND)
With Allen Hurns (concussion) out, Thomas' role didn't grow very much as a pass catcher, as the Jaguars instead opted to force-feed the ball to Allen Robinson, who scored three touchdowns last week. Thomas still found the end zone, however, scoring from nine yards out. Thomas has now visited pay dirt in three straight games. This week the Jaguars play host to the Indianapolis Colts and their defense that is currently allowing the 12th-most fantasy points to tight ends. Thomas should be good for another touchdown this week.
SIT THESE TEs...
Antonio Gates, SD (at KC)
Antonio Gates secured 6-of-9 targets for 50 yards in the Chargers' Week 13 loss to the Broncos. He was the lone San Diego pass catcher to finish above 30 yards in a game where the Chargers' offense was wholly dysfunctional. The good news is Gates appeared to play more than he has the past two weeks, when his snap rates were both below 50 percent. Gates is in for another tough day at the office this week against the Chiefs, who held Gates to six yards on three targets in Week 11. The Chiefs’ defense is on fire, so Gates will probably end up with similar numbers once again.
Ben Watson, NO (at TB)
Watson has posted six or fewer fantasy points in four of his last six games with just two scores in that time. If that weren't enough to keep him benched, the veteran also has a tough road matchup against the Buccaneers. Their defense has allowed an average of 5.80 fantasy points per game to tight ends in the last four weeks. Throw in the fact that Drew Brees has really struggled as of late in road games and you’re way better off starting someone like Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Scott Chandler this week, if you can grab them.
Jason Witten, DAL (at GB)
Witten just became the 12th player to ever record 1,000 reception and only the second tight end to do so, joining Tony Gonzalez in this exclusive club. That’s the good news; the bad news is that Witten once again scored fewer than five fantasy points. That makes it six weeks in a row where Witten has failed to score more than five fantasy points. Even though this week’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers is a good one for tight ends, it’s not for Witten. Not with Matt Cassel throwing him the ball.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Gary Barnidge, CLE (vs. SF)
Barnidge has been one of fantasy football’s biggest surprises this season but he really does miss Josh McCown throwing him the ball. He and McCown were on fire for the first half and now with McCown out for the year and Johnny Manziel set to return as the Browns’ starting quarterback, you really have no idea what you’re going to get out of Barnidge. While there isn’t a long track record for the Manziel-to-Barnidge combo, you can imagine that Manziel is going to struggle with rust this week even against the San Fransisco 49ers, who are actually playing better defense right now that anyone thought they would. Don’t expect big numbers for Barnidge this week.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
Six Lehigh University players were brought in on charges stemming from an off-campus revenge plot.
Jacob Scott, Maxwell Frankel, Dylan, J. Parsons, Noah Scott Robb, Michael D. Gies, and Mark D. Walker were identified on the team's roster and each were charged with a felony count of criminal trespass. All either posted bail or were released on unsecured bailed.
Brian Githens, another Lehigh football player, was initially charged in the case. He allegedly attacked one of the students in the home while he was sleeping. Githens hit the student repeatedly and punched holes in the wall of the home. The student ended up with a concussion. Parsons urinated in the refrigerator of the home, but was only charged with trespassing.
Githens said he and others were seeking revenge for the assault of a fraternity president. The problem was that he targeted the wrong house. The victim was not involved in an incident with the fraternity president.
Per Lehigh Valley Live:
"Authorities have not identified the fraternity involved, but Lehigh's student newspaper, The Brown & White, has reported that Githens was a member of Chi Psi.
That fraternity was suspended from all activities for about a week last month as the university investigated multiple incidents. One of the incidents, according to the Lehigh Greeks community blog, involved "trespassing and assault motivated by retribution," but the blog did not specifically mention the invasion of the Pierce Street home."
The investigation is ongoing.
For many fantasy leagues Week 14 marks the start of the playoffs. With every game a must-win scenario from here out, deciding which player to start and which to sit could be the difference between a much-coveted championship or engaging in the “what if” game until next year’s draft.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the running back advice I offered last week before shifting our focus to Week 14.
Start DeAngelo Williams (14.5 fantasy points) – Didn’t have as big game as he should have, but still very serviceable.
Start Doug Martin (14 FP) – Martin scored his first rushing touchdown since Week 5 and is looking like an easy RB1 from here on out.
Start Javorius Allen (23 FP) – He is easily the focal point of the Ravens’ offensive attack.
Sit DeMarco Murray (2.4 FP) – Murray was out-touched by Darren Sproles. Should be interesting to see what Murray’s role is moving forward.
Plus, I warned you about starting Todd Gurley (4.1 FP), who has definitely hit the rookie wall.
Sit LeSean McCoy (11.2 FP) – McCoy is back to being a must-start, elite RB1.
Sit Mark Ingram (15.9 FP) – After a few weeks of being fantasy irrelevant, Ingram finally produced. Unfortunately, a shoulder
injury he suffered last week has ended his season prematurely, as he has been placed on injured reserve.
START THESE RBs...
Thomas Rawls, SEA (at BAL)
Ho-hum, just another 100-yard day for the undrafted free agent who is now starting for Seattle. And the good news for Rawls’ owners is that Marshawn Lynch is unlikely to see the field for at least three more weeks. In every game that Rawls’ gets at least 20 touches, he scores a minimum of 10 fantasy points. That is amazing consistency from the running back position. This week is supposed to be a tough matchup for Rawls as the Seahawks travel all the way to Baltimore to play a Ravens defense that has given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to RBs, but he also was supposed to struggle last week against a very good Vikings rush defense. Rawls’ expected volume only helps is potential output. Start him this week and ride him as far as he will take you through the fantasy playoffs.
Lamar Miller, MIA (vs. NYG, Mon.)
An interesting thing happens when Miller becomes the focal point of the Dolphins’ offense, they win. After seeing a total of 12 carries (and scoring a total of 6.8 fantasy points) in the previous two games, the Dolphins introduced a new offensive coordinator last week in Zac Taylor, who looked like a genius because he finally gave Miller the ball. He ran 20 times for 113 yards. You can bet moving forward that Miller will continue to see the ball at least 20 times a game and he should also see more opportunities in the passing game like he did in the middle of the season. This week the Dolphins welcome the New York Giants to town, who are currently allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to running backs on the year. Look for the Dolphins to use Miller to control the game, and he in turn should respond with another 100-yard game and at least one touchdown.
Doug Martin, TB (vs. NO)
Anyone who drafted Martin this year got quite the steal. Easily drafted as a RB4, Martin has played himself into elite RB1 status each and every week. The best part is that as Jameis Winston has been improving throughout the year, so has Martin, as he now has 1,133 rushing yards and four touchdowns to his credit. This week Martin should once again be a fantasy superstar as his Buccaneers welcome the New Orleans Saints and their horrific defense to town. The Saints are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs on the season. Martin should see at least 25 carries, which means he should once again be good for at least 100 yards and one touchdown, and that’s just what he will do on the ground.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Ronnie Hillman, DEN (vs. OAK)
The Broncos’ backfield sure has been interesting this season. At the beginning of the year everyone thought that C.J. Anderson was going to be the man and Anderson was being drafted accordingly, easily being a late first-round or early second-round pick. Then Anderson struggled, so Hillman got a chance and everyone said that he was best suited for Gary Kubiak’s offense. Then Hillman struggled and Anderson started to come on, leading everyone to believe that Anderson was best suited for the role. Well that might be true, but Anderson is now banged up with an ankle injury and even if he does play, he won’t be effective. This means that Hillman once again has the opportunity to seize the lead back role in the Broncos’ offense and he should produce good numbers this week against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs this season and Hillman should see 20-plus touches, which should allow him to gain over 100 all-purpose yards and find his way into the end zone.
SIT THESE RBs...
Chris Ivory, NYJ (vs. TEN)
Remember in Weeks 4 and 6 when Ivory looked like the best running back in fantasy football because he had back-to-back outings of 20-plus fantasy points? That sure seems like a distant memory. Ivory owners who have been plugging him into their lineups every week since are not happy that Iovry has been averaging fewer than 10 fantasy points per game since. Maybe Ivory is injured or just not used to this many carries this late in the season, but he is slowing down, which has allowed Bilal Powell the opportunity to get on the field and take touches away, especially in the passing game. This week sets up as more of a Powell game than it does an Ivory game as the Jets host the Tennessee Titans and their defense that is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. If you’re smart, you’ll bench Ivory this week.
Javorius Allen, BAL (vs. SEA)
Allen has been a breath of fresh air for anyone who was able to snag him off the waiver wire when Justin Forsett went down for the season. Allen probably doesn’t offer a ton of fantasy upside as a rusher, but Matt Schaub's reliance on the checkdown will make the rookie a decent RB2 play in PPR leagues. The real problem with starting Allen this week is that he has to go up against the Seattle Seahawks, who have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Last week the Seahawks completely shut down Adrian Peterson, limiting him to just 18 yards rushing on eight carries. If the Seahawks can do that to Peterson, imagine what they can do to Allen.
DeMarco Murray, PHI (vs. BUF)
What a difference a year makes. This time last year Murray was running away with the rushing title and leading the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs. This year Murray is complaining to the Eagles’ owner about not getting the ball enough. All you need to know is that head coach Chip Kelly says he plans to evaluate his running back rotation on a "week-to-week basis" going forward. In other words, Murray is no longer the locked-in starter. Murray got out-carried by both Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner in last week's upset of the Patriots. Murray just isn't a fit for Kelly's offense, and it's been evident for months. Kelly is waving the white flag while the Eagles still have time to win the NFC East. There will probably still be some weeks where Murray gets 15-20 touches, but considering the way Week 13 went down, he doesn’t even look like a legitimate RB2 for Sunday's game against the Bills.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Todd Gurley, STL (vs. DET)
When Gurley finally got on the field this season, those who drafted Gurley thought that they should just be given their league’s trophy since Gurley was going to take them all the way to fantasy heaven. Well, Gurley's rookie season has hit a wall in large part due to the Rams’ sputtering offense. Gurley has failed to top 50 yards rushing in three of his last four games. The only glimmer of hope for Gurley owners is his matchup this week against the Detroit Lions, who have given up the 11th-most fantasy points to running backs on the season, but have been playing really, really well as of late. With Case Keenum or Nick Foles as his quarterback, Gurley has very little fantasy value at this point.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
It’s Week 14, which means the start of the fantasy playoffs for many leagues. With games even more important now, the difference between keeping your championship hopes alive or going home could be who you decide to start or not start.
Before I break down this week’s quarterback and defense/special teams (DST) suggestions, let’s see how well I did with my Week 13 pearls of wisdom.
Start Ryan Fitzpatrick (25.8 fantasy points) – Back-to-back weeks with 25-plus fantasy points.
Start Marcus Mariota (36.92 FP) – Mariota finally used his legs and it paid off big time.
Sit Philip Rivers (7.08 FP) – Playing against the Broncos with no offensive weapons meant Rivers couldn’t anything.
Sit Matt Ryan (14.16 FP) – Ryan’s poor play is a big reason why the Falcons are in a nosedive.
Start Jay Cutler (8.08 FP) – In what should have been a great game, Cutler struggled, throwing for 202 yards and 0 TDs against
Sit Russell Wilson (34.06 FP) – Is there a hotter QB out there than Wilson right now?
START THESE QBS...
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (vs. TEN)
Fitzpatrick has accounted for less than two touchdowns in a game he finished only once this year - when the Jets blew out the Dolphins in London and Chris Ivory ran for 166 yards. Overtime helped inflate Fitzpatrick’s numbers in Week 13, but I’ll take 390 yards and two TDs any week. This week Fitzpatrick and the Jets play host to the Tennessee Titans, who just let Blake Bortles throw five TDs. The Titans’ defense is crumbling, now giving up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and you can bet that Fitzpatrick is going to air the ball out to Brandon Marshall all game and finish once again with 300 yards and at least two scores.
Russell Wilson, SEA (at BAL)
The Seahawks are playing on the east coast for their second game in a row and usually that means that Wilson struggles. That wasn’t the case last week in Minnesota, as he put up 34.06 fantasy points, his second 30-plus outing in a row. Right now there is no hotter fantasy quarterback heading into Week 14, as Russell is rounding into form at the perfect time for his owners. This week the Seahawks travel to Baltimore in what should be an excellent matchup for Wilson. The Ravens have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year and you can bet that Wilson will once again score well over 20 fantasy points. He probably won’t score 30 again because the Ravens probably won’t be able to make it much of a game.
Tyrod Taylor, BUF (at PHI)
The Taylor that everyone scrambled to get off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season is back. He’s scored 26.24 and 29.24 fantasy points in his last two games against pretty good defenses in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. Plus, Taylor and Sammy Watkins seem to finally be on the same page, so it should come as no surprise that both are putting up great fantasy numbers. What makes Taylor even more enticing is that he is starting to run more, evident by his 28 rushing yards and a TD last week. This week the Bills look to keep their playoff hopes alive as they visit the City of Brotherly Love. We all know by now that the Eagles have a poor defense. They are giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and Taylor should have no problem hooking up with Watkins all game and should once again get a rushing touchdown as well.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Brian Hoyer, HOU (vs. NE)
For the first time in a while, the Texans’ defense wasn’t able to control an opposing offense (in this case the Buffalo Bills),
which led to Hoyer having to throw the ball 40-plus times to keep the Texans in the game. That was great for Hoyer owners, as he ended the day with 24.22 fantasy points. The same script should play itself out this week as the Texans host a motivated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, which are coming off back-to-back loses for what seems like the first time since fire was created. You can bet that the Patriots are going to look to rebound in huge way which means Hoyer will throwing early and often once again to keep pace.
SIT THESE QBs...
Matt Ryan, ATL (at CAR)
There should be a permanent seat in the “sit” section for Ryan as he has been absolutely terrible this season. What’s worse is that this has especially been the case in the red zone, where most fantasy points are scored. Ryan has been and should have been a top-5 fantasy quarterback this season. It’s really hard not be when you get to throw the ball to Julio Jones all game. Hopefully if you’re a Ryan owner you started looking for help several weeks ago when the first cracks started to appear. It’s fantasy playoff time and Ryan will do you no good as he is playing at Carolina this week (and also against them in Week 16). The Panthers are currently allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and will easily shut down Ryan this week.
Derek Carr, OAK (at DEN)
Carr is good, there is no doubting that, but we all need to slow down about appointing him the next great quarterback of the future. He looked awful last week against the Chiefs, throwing three very costly interceptions and it should have been four. All you really need to know about Carr this week is that he is playing the Broncos in Denver. The Broncos are coming off a game where they completely suffocated Philip Rivers and the entire Chargers offense, holding them to only three measly points. Carr’s favorite weapons (Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree) are going to see blanket coverage from the Broncos’ cover corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, so Carr isn’t really going to have anyone or anywhere to throw the ball. Leave Carr on your bench this week.
Marcus Mariota, TEN (at NYJ)
Mariota has been on fire lately, scoring 21.42 fantasy points two weeks ago and then he went off for 36.92 last week against the Jaguars, a performance that was really helped by rushing for a career-high 112 yards and a touchdown. That won’t happen this week as the Titans travel to New York to take on a Jets team that is very much in the playoff hunt and knows that this is a must-win game for them. Darrelle Revis (concussion) will also likely be back, which will probably eliminate Dorial Green-Beckham from the game (unless Revis covers Kendall Wright, but why bother?). The Jets are allowing the 10th-fewest fantast points to opposing quarterbacks on the season and the last time Mariota faced a good defense was back in Week 10 against the Panthers, when he scored just 8.8 fantasy points.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Philip Rivers, SD (at KC)
If you listen to all the fantasy experts out there you will know that they love the matchups that Rivers has for the fantasy playoffs. That was back in the middle of the season before the Kansas City Chiefs turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best. Even though Rivers has been a very good fantasy quarterback this season and usually rebounds big time from clunkers (like he had last week when he scored 7.08 fantasy points against the Broncos), he just doesn’t have any receiving threats left. Antonio Gates is playing valiantly through a knee injury and the only legitimate target Rivers had left, Stevie Johnson, went down with a groin injury last week. Stay away from Rivers this week if you can.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. SD)
Over the last four weeks, the Chiefs DST has scored a combined 61 fantasy points… or 12 more than the next-best unit in that time. There's no reason to think this defense won't continue to shine against the Chargers, who have been generous to fantasy DSTs. Consider Kansas City a must-start DST this week.
Detroit Lions (vs. STL)
The Lions DST hasn't been a great fantasy option this season, but owners who like to stream should give it a serious look based on a terrific matchup in St. Louis. Detroit should roar against a struggling Rams offense that lacks a stable quarterback and fields very few weapons aside from running back Todd Gurley.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Houston Texans (vs. NE)
The Texans DST has looked much better in recent weeks, ranking 10th in fantasy points at the position in their last four games. However, an upcoming matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots is enough reason to keep Houston on the bench this week. Opposing defenses have averaged the fifth-fewest points against them.
Miami Dolphins (vs. NYG, Mon.)
You could be tempted to start the Dolphins DST after last week's 17-point performance against Matt Schaub and the Ravens, but facing the Giants isn't what you would call a favorable matchup. In fact, opposing DSTs that have faced Eli Manning and the G-Men have averaged a mere 5.25 fantasy points per contest.
If you thought Lane Kiffin getting fired at an airport in 2013 was a sign that things were going to improve for USC, 2015 was one of those years that made you second guess everything you knew.
The year saw former head coach Steve Sarkisian first suspended and then fired for drinking excessively on the job. And earlier this week he filed a lawsuit against USC for the school's handling of his termination. Oh, and none of that even factors in the "Salute to Troy" debacle, Christian McCaffrey’s "Heisman moment" game, interim head coach Clay Helton being hired full time, or the firing of half the USC coaching staff following the Pac-12 Championship Game. Let us also not forget that the courts affirmed the ruling against the NCAA’s motion to seal evidence in the Todd McNair case, evidence that now looks worse for the NCAA than it ever could have looked for McNair, Reggie Bush, Pete Carroll or the USC Trojan football program. Whew!
In spite of all of this, however, the team has remained a united front and played for one another. The fact that USC even made a Pac-12 title game appearance after this year says more about the integrity of the players than any words ever could. There are a lot of rough scenarios in college football, but asking seniors on this team to sit through 18 full-time coaching changes and five head coaches has to be up near the top of the list.
Perhaps even more stunning is the fact that this group of seniors has never had a losing season. In fact, this graduating class won 44 of 65 games over the last five years and can still win a 45th before 2015 is over. It is a truly remarkable feat. To accomplish all of that in the face of the adversity this team faced is worthy of its own award. Never mind the fact that USC seem to have added serious talent to the program through recruiting during all of that.
Much of that talent is going to be celebrated here today. When you’re hit with sanctions as hard as the Trojans were hit, getting it right in recruiting becomes more important than ever. The Trojans seem to be churning out far more booms than busts out of their recruiting classes and many of them had to emerge as stars early. If Helton can bring in the right coaches and have a great offseason, then next season's opener against Alabama should be one for the ages, perhaps even a “game of the century.”
Offensive MVP: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
This is a pretty easy call. Smith-Schuster (above, right) has 1,389 yards receiving and 10 TDs on the season, averaging 16.3 yards per catch. Smith-Schuster had six games with more than 100 yards and twice went over 150. Smith-Schuster finished seventh in the nation in receiving yards per game (106.8). He was No. 3 in the nation in total receiving yards too. He wasn’t a Biletnikoff finalist, but he’s certainly USC’s offensive MVP.
Defensive MVP: Su’a Cravens, SOLB
Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith could have taken this honor, but a knee injury claimed the back half of his season and Cravens was going to be tough to beat out as it was. They both finished the year with 78 total tackles, but Cravens also added 14.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. Cravens was a one-man wrecking crew.
Best Freshman: Cameron Smith, MLB
Smith was a revelation for the Trojans. Not only did he start at middle linebacker for the Trojans as a true freshman, he did so in style. Smith’s performance against Utah will be mentioned later in this article, but the overall impact he had before going down with an injury was nothing short of impressive. Even though he got injured on Nov. 13, Smith still led the team in tackles for two more weeks until the Pac-12 Championship Game when Cravens finally tied him. Smith's three interceptions on the season beat out Cravens’ two and he also was a force in stopping the run. Smith actually led the entire team in interception returns with 122 yards. He’s a true freshman playing middle linebacker.
Best Newcomer: Ronald Jones II, RB
Whenever you break Charles White’s freshman rushing record, you’re bound to end up with some praise at the end of the season. Jones wasn’t just USC’s leading rusher with 940 yards, he may have been in contention for conference freshman of the year if USC had given him the ball a little more. Jones averaged 6.5 yards per carry and added eight rushing touchdowns and one TD catch. If he improves those hands in the offseason, he’s going to be a dangerous weapon for USC moving forward.
Best Play: JuJu Smith-Schuster humiliating Utah DB Dominique Hatfield
Utah DB Dominique Hatfield was running his mouth to Smith-Schuster all game long until JuJu invited him to come and get some love. What happened next broke Twitter.
Best Performance: Cameron Smith against Utah
When a middle linebacker has a pick-six to go along with two other interceptions and 122 yards returned off those interceptions, it’s likely to be up for best performance. You could really list several performances here, but Smith’s output against Utah at the time was one of the greatest single-game performances we’ve seen out of a storied and proud position on the Trojans.
Best Game: 40-21 win over UCLA
The Trojans needed this one for themselves and they needed it if they were going to have any hope of landing Clay Helton the permanent job. They won impressively and Helton had the interim tag removed shortly after. Freshman CB Iman Marshall bounced back from a brutal Oregon game to nab two interceptions on fellow freshman phenom Josh Rosen and Justin Davis pounded the Bruins for 130 yards on the ground. The box score on this game does it a disservice, it was the most complete game USC played all year.
Defining Moment: Helton’s Helm
USC loves to rally around an interim head coach, but Helton seemed to command even more love than his predecessor in this capacity, Ed Orgeron. Whether or not that is actually the case is a matter of opinion, but the players’ campaign for him felt like they did. So much could have gone wrong when Helton took over, but the team seemed to rally around him. It may not have ended with the dream trip to the Rose Bowl some had hoped, but it’s hard to deny the fact that this season could have been much, much worse if not for Helton’s guidance.
Biggest Surprise: Steve Sarkisian’s problems
The actual termination of Sarkisian following his indefinite suspension by athletic director Pat Haden wasn’t that hard to see coming, but the way this season unfolded for USC was bizarre to say the least. USC hired Sarkisian in the hopes that he would be everything Lane Kiffin wasn’t, but things didn’t turn out as they would have liked. Sarkisian’s hiring was questionable when it happened, but looked downright baffling following his termination. Add in the fact that he’s now suing USC over the handling of his termination and this situation is probably going to worse before it gets better.
Biggest Disappointment: Bob Connelly & Justin Wilcox (tied)
The simple fact of the matter is that offensive line coach Bob Connelly should have never been hired at USC. While this may seem harsh, a simple look at his resume and what happened with the Trojan offensive line this year should be more than enough to convince anyone there. Experts often overthink these things when they try to project confidence in the hire, but sometimes things just are what they are and Connelly was a vagabond for a reason. USC QB Cody Kessler’s predisposition to hold the ball didn’t help his case, but the lack of any physicality on USC’s offensive line was his real undoing.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has had a rough fall from grace. Once one of the hottest assistants in the land, Wilcox’s defenses have been scrutinized heavily during his time in the Pac-12. Opponents were basically given free reign of the middle of the field and aggression on defense was thrown out the window. The odd part about Wilcox’s lack of success was the success USC did have when the Trojans blitzed. For many, it was almost stunning how his defenses could flip back and forth between potency and inefficiency at the drop of a hat.
Senior That Will Be Missed the Most: Cody Kessler, QB
This should not come as a shock to anyone. Despite never really reaching the winning level one expects of a USC quarterback, Kessler more than exemplified the five attributes of the ideal Trojan. Kessler was faithful to the program, scholarly in his studies, skillful on the field, courageous in the face of adversity, and ambitious in his attitude. He never settled and he never let his team quit. No quarterback is going to win every game, but few leaders have done as much for USC in a time of need as Kessler. His leadership will be sorely missed next year.
Player to Watch in 2016: Ronald Jones II, RB
One of the only areas that RoJo 2.0 did not excel in 2015 was catching the ball out of the backfield. If Jones can improve his hands, the sky's the limit for this kid. His ability to power through tackles and accelerate is nothing short of impressive. Even his style of running mixes power and speed. Jones’ horse buck before he hits next gear is a visual cue that someone is about to be run over. He was basically a part-time running back and he launched right past Charles White in the USC record books. He’s worth keeping an eye on.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Coaching Hires
This offseason is going to be critical for Clay Helton. With Alabama on the horizon (preceded by a Holiday Bowl date with Wisconsin), there really isn’t a lot of time to fix things on the fly. While the Trojans can easily afford a loss to Alabama in the new College Football Playoff system (who couldn’t?), USC is one of the rare programs across the nation that will enter that game with an expectation of victory. Helton’s hires are going to have to hit the ground running when they arrive.
Whichever direction Helton decides to go on offense and defense could have a huge impact not just in recruiting, but also in who returns to the team next year. Su’a Cravens plans to announce his decision next week and all of his hints seem to leave the ball in USC’s court. They have a golden chance to keep him and add someone like Wole Betiku in recruiting, but all of that is going to depend on who Helton decides to hire.
— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to USCFootball.com, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for CFBHuddle’s Hurry-Up, No-Huddle Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.
Herm Edwards has always been a "don't talk about it, be about it" kind of guy.
LeSean McCoy has been pretty vocal on his former head coach Chip Kelly since his move to Buffalo. The Bills running back said he wouldn't talk to or shake hands with Kelly when he returns to Philadelphia Sunday.
Disclaimer: This video contains NSFW language.
Edwards went off on a bit of a tangent talking about how it's about more than just McCoy. There are other players on the field and other players in the league. In essence, he wants the running back to be less vocal and show his feelings through his play on the field.
The Army-Navy game is as much a part of college football as any rivalry or bowl game. It has received national attention since it was first played in 1890 and has been a stalwart for the sport.
During World War II, many schools suspended their football programs but Army and Navy did not. They continued on, adjusting for and aiding to the war effort, and reached their greatest level of success despite the circumstances. Here’s a quick recap.
Navy 14, Army 6
Nov. 29, 1941 - Philadelphia
More than 100,000 people packed into Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium in 1941 to see this game. Navy had won two straight games against the Cadets (now the Black Knights) and its only loss that season was to undefeated Notre Dame, who tied Army earlier in the season. In what sportswriters at the time considered to be one of the best contests in the rivalry’s history, Army took a 6-0 halftime lead. Navy responded in the third quarter with two long touchdown drives that clinched the victory. The game was the final one for head coach Emery Ellsworth "Swede" Larson, who was ordered to report to service at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. After the game, Larson said, “This will be the last football game for me for a while. There’s a bigger game coming up and I’m going to be in it.” Eight days later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States was plunged into World War II.
Navy 14, Army 0
Nov. 28, 1942 - Annapolis, Md.
Only 13,000 people were on hand to see this game because of a decree by President Franklin Roosevelt that only residents within 10 miles of Annapolis could attend. Roosevelt declared that the war effort did not need to be impeded in any way by the train system having to create special routes to cart attendees to the game, which was the norm for major sporting events at the time. The 10-mile rule meant that residents of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, the two largest cities near Annapolis, could not attend. The relatively small crowd on hand saw the Midshipmen dominate the Cadets, not even allowing Army across midfield until the fourth quarter.
Navy 13, Army 0
Nov. 27, 1943 – West Point, N.Y.
In 1942, more than 120 universities and institutions fielded football teams. In 1943, only 76 teams played and 13 came from military institutions or bases. Seeing how playing football could only benefit combat training, commanders from all four armed services branches allowed these teams to play both collegiate and professional games. And many of these teams were really good. To provide a little perspective here, the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks, which represented the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at the University of Iowa, finished the season ranked second in the AP poll. Navy and Army fared pretty well themselves, finishing the season at No. 4 and No. 11 respectively. Once again, the 10-mile rule was in place and only 15,000 attended and once again, the Midshipmen dominated for their fifth straight victory in the series. At the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Midshipmen (also the name for students) screamed in celebration as they listened to the radio broadcast. They then poured out of Bancroft Hall and began ringing Gokokuji Bell, which Commodore Matthew Perry had brought back from his expedition to Japan in 1854. The bell is rung to celebrate victories over Army (The original bell was given back to the people of Okinawa in 1987 and a replica is now its place.).
Army 23, Navy 7
Dec. 2, 1944 - Baltimore
When this game was played, the Allies were on the outskirts of Germany, General Douglas MacArthur had returned to the Philippines and Army and Navy were ranked Nos. 1 and 2. World War II was far from over, but this game would help with the war effort. After conferring with the cabinet, President Roosevelt agreed to move the game to Baltimore’s Municipal Stadium, which was larger, and allowed about 30,000 of the general public to attend. However, there were two conditions: 1) they had to live within 8.3 miles of Baltimore, and 2) they had to purchase a $25 war bond. A crowd of 66,659 watched the two schools battle back and forth in the frigid weather. Army entered the fourth quarter with a 9-7 lead, but scored two touchdowns to secure the game, clinch the national championship and complete the school’s first undefeated season since 1916. After the game, MacArthur telegrammed Army head coach, Earl “Red” Blaik to say, “The greatest of all Army teams---STOP---We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success. MacArthur.”
Army 32, Navy 13
Dec. 1, 1945 - Philadelphia
The war had ended three months earlier and again, Army and Navy were both undefeated and the top two teams in the country. As in 1941, more than 100,000 people, including President Harry Truman, packed into Municipal Stadium for the game and it was broadcast on television for the first time (only in the New York, Philadelphia and Schenectady areas). Powered by fullback Felix “Doc” Blanchard and halfback Glenn Davis, one of the greatest running back tandems in college football history, Army jumped out to a 20-0 lead. The Midshipmen, who had literally bet their game jerseys, were unable to recover and lost 32-13. At the end of the game, Navy’s Jim Carrington took off his jersey and handed it to Army’s Arthur Gerometta. Army won the national title and Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy. Davis won the award in 1946 and Army would not lose again until Oct. 25, 1947.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
Athlon couldn’t get Ricky Gervais or Stephen Colbert, so I’m going to be hosting the Nebraska Cornhuskers 2015 Team Awards this year. It’s easily been one of the oddest seasons in well over a century’s worth of Nebraska football. We’re here today to recognize everything that made it what it was (good and bad) starting with the best of the best.
Offensive MVP: Jordan Westerkamp, WR
One WesterKatch after another, No. 1 continues to prove he’s one of the most reliable members of the Huskers’ offensive 11 every year.
Defensive MVP: Joshua Kalu, DB
A consistent pain in the backsides of offensive coordinators, Kalu finished the season second in tackles with 67 tackles (44 solo) along with five tackles for loss, a sack, two interceptions and a blocked kick. Not a bad year’s work for the sophomore cornerback/nickel back.
Best Freshman: Dedrick Young II, LB
An early enrollee, Young had the look of a starter from the get-go and sure enough, he took to the field as one when Nebraska opened its season against BYU. He finished fourth in tacking with 58 (24 solo) and five tackles for loss.
Best Play: Tommy Armstrong's TD pass to Brandon Reilly vs. Michigan State
Prepare to hear a lot about this game as it was easily the most rewarding of the season for many reasons. Millions argue about whether or not this 30-yard hook up was actually legal, but the conference itself confirmed Reilly’s catch as legit.
Best Performance by a Player: Tommy Armstrong's 91-yard TD drive to beat Michigan State
To say Armstrong had anything less than a roller-coaster year would be a lie. However, when the Spartans were ahead 38-33 on Nov. 7 with less than a minute to go, No. 4 led a four-play (three completions) drive that made him look like one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Best Game: Come-from-behind victory over Michigan State
A Nebraska team that started out as individuals came together to knock off the Big Ten champion and current No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff and a nearly still full Memorial Stadium danced together as a result.
Defining Moment: 23-21 loss to Wisconsin
There comes a point where a person (let alone 120+) can only take so much disappointment. Nebraska looked to have wrapped up a huge victory over the pesky Wisconsin Badgers following the second-longest scoring run by a fullback thanks to Andy Janovich.
Badger kicker Rafael Gaglianone would go on to tear the Huskers’ hearts out with a 46-yard field goal. This set up the remainder of a season that should’ve been sponsored by Aleve.
Biggest Surprise: Seven losses by a combined 31 points
See if you can wrap your noggin around this: If Nebraska would’ve scored a mere 32 points more this season, the Huskers would’ve met Michigan State for a rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Biggest Disappointment: Lack of a consistent running game
Everyone knew the loss of Ameer Abdullah would sting, but few likely felt it would take the toll it did. Nebraska checks in at No. 71 in the country, gaining an average of 168 yards on the ground.
Senior That Will be Missed the Most: Andy Janovich, FB
He was quiet, he put in work and kept his head down. He let loose on special teams, blocked like a machine and gave a taste of the fullback trap. Beyond that, he was simply a humble, nice guy.
Player to Watch in 2016: Stanley Morgan, WR
One of the few receivers able to catch Tommy Armstrong’s bullets aside from Westerkamp was Morgan. His athleticism and one-handed catches should be fun to watch for years to come.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Who emerges as the starting QB?
With early enrollee Patrick O’Brien scheduled to be on campus in January, don’t be fooled. There will be a competition for the top spot between him and Tommy Armstrong. It likely goes until kickoff 2016.