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Path: /college-football/10-amazing-college-football-stats-week-4-2015
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Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated, but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.

 

Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:

 

10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 4

 

62: Points Scored by Utah in Victory Over Oregon

Utah turned in one of the most impressive performances of Week 4, thoroughly dominating Oregon 62-20 in Eugene. The 62 points scored by the Utes were the most by any road opponent in Autzen Stadium history. All three sides of the ball were critical in scoring the upset, as the offense averaged 7.2 yards per play, the defense held the Ducks to 13 points in the first half, and the special teams duo of kicker Andy Phillips and punter Tom Hackett delivered with key plays.

 

Related: College Football's Week 4 Awards

 

0-9: Arkansas’ Record Under Bret Bielema in Games Decided by 7 Points or Less

Arkansas was considered a team on the rise entering 2015. But after four games, the Razorbacks might be lucky just to get to a bowl game. Winning close games has been a problem for this program under third-year coach Bret Bielema, as the Razorbacks are 0-9 in matchups decided by a touchdown or less. The bad luck (or inability?) to win close games continued in Week 4, as Arkansas fell 28-21 to Texas A&M in overtime.

 

200+: Back-to-back 200-Yard Games by LSU RB Leonard Fournette

Another Saturday, another impressive performance from LSU running back Leonard Fournette. The sophomore rushed for 244 yards and two scores on 26 attempts in LSU’s 34-24 victory at Syracuse. Fournette’s back-to-back 200-yard games are the first in program history, and the sophomore’s 631 yards through three games is the best mark by a FBS rusher in the last 15 years.

 

Related: 20 Plays That Define College Football's Crazy Week 4 Games

 

1,357 and 107: Combined Yards and Points in TCU’s 55-52 Win Over Texas Tech

As expected, TCU and Texas Tech provided plenty of offensive fireworks in Week 4. The Red Raiders and Horned Frogs combined for 1,357 total yards and 107 overall points in the thrilling 55-52 win by TCU. The box score is a dream for fans of offense, as these two teams combined for only seven punts, nearly 900 passing yards and 70 first downs.

 

3.6: Tennessee’s Average Yards Per Play in Second Half Games Against Oklahoma and Florida

Tennessee is just a couple of plays away from a 4-0 record. However, the Volunteers have sputtered on offense in the second half of games against Florida and Oklahoma. Excluding overtime versus the Sooners, Tennessee ran 68 plays in the final two quarters against the Gators and Sooners and mustered only 245 total yards and 10 points. Whether the play-calling is too conservative or personnel issues are too much to overcome, the Volunteers left a lot to be desired on offense in two very winnable games. And as mentioned by ESPN’s Dari Nowkhah on Saturday night, FBS teams are 188-3 when leading by 13 points in the fourth quarter this season. Two of those losses belong to Tennessee.

 

5: Rushing Touchdowns Needed by Navy QB Keenan Reynolds to Set FBS Record

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds is closing in on former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball’s FBS rushing touchdown record after scoring three times on the ground in Week 4. In the Midshipmen’s 28-18 win over UConn, Reynolds led the way for Navy’s offense, recording 142 yards and three scores on the ground, while completing three of four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. Reynolds ranks No. 2 in FBS history with 73 rushing scores and needs five more to break Ball’s record (77).

 

Related: College Football's All-Injured Team for 2015

 

31: Consecutive Road Losses by Kansas

Kansas’ struggles on the road continued on Saturday, as the Jayhawks lost 27-14 to Rutgers to drop to 0-3 under new coach David Beaty. The loss against the Scarlet Knights was the 31st consecutive defeat by this program in road games. The 31-game road losing streak is the longest since 1978, surpassing Kansas State and Akron’s 30-game mark. Barring a surprise upset, the Jayhawks are headed for an 0-12 record this season.

 

105: Total Yards Allowed by Michigan Against BYU

Lost in Harbaugh mania in Ann Arbor has been the play of Michigan’s defense through the first four games of 2015. This unit delivered a dominant performance against BYU, limiting the Cougars to just 105 overall yards, zero points and a 4 of 15 mark on third-down attempts. BYU crossed midfield only three times on 12 possessions and never reached Michigan’s 40-yard line.

 

440: Average Passing Yards a Game by Bowling Green QB Matt Johnson

Bowling Green’s “Falcon Fast” offense has been flying high in 2015. Johnson has recorded four straight 400-yard games to open the season and has 13 passing scores through the first four contests. Johnson is averaging 440 passing yards per game and has 1,760 overall so far. Assuming the Falcons win the MAC East and play in a bowl, Johnson has 10 remaining contests in 2015 and needs to average around 410 passing yards a game to break the FBS single-season record held by former Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons.

 

12: Georgia RB Nick Chubb’s Consecutive Games of 100 Rushing Yards

While most of the nation focuses on LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Chubb quietly continues to post big numbers for the Bulldogs. In an easy win over Southern, the sophomore rushed for 131 yards on 15 carries, which was his 12th consecutive 100-yard performance. Chubb is one 100-yard game away from tying the school mark by Herschel Walker. Of course, getting No. 13 won’t be easy with Alabama up next for Georgia in Week 5.

Teaser:
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 4 2015
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, NFL
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-detroit-lions-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Two weeks ago, this game was considered must-see television. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos coming to town for a matchup with an up-and-coming Lions team with unlimited offensive firepower. But as of Wednesday, there were still tickets available for the Detroit season home opener, likely due in part to a 0-2 record where the Lions have looked completely inept on both sides of the football.

 

Lions’ players and coaches continue to insist the season is a marathon and not a race, but with the Seahawks and Cardinals still on the horizon following this Week 3 matchup with a 2-0 Broncos team, Detroit is already in a must-win situation.

 

Denver at Detroit


Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Broncos -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Rodney Harrison talks Matthew Stafford
The "Sunday Night Football" analyst did not back down from his comments this week after saying the Lions’ quarterback does not have much respect around the locker room following a late hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. “This is a cheap shot right here, and nobody comes to his defense except a rookie lineman,” Harrison stated on the telecast. “This is crazy. This just shows me how much respect this team has for Matthew Stafford. Not a lot.” Harrison reiterated his point again this week on Pro Football Talk, posing the question “do you think the Patriots would let this happen or the Indianapolis Colts or the Denver Broncos to Peyton Manning? Never, not on his sideline.” This topic will surely come up again for what should make for some interesting pre-game discussion.

 

2. Protection Issues
Both teams are struggling mightily to keep their quarterbacks upright to start the season. Stafford has been bruised and battered in the first two weeks, and despite being listed as Probable vs. Denver, the Lions' quarterback is likely to be playing with sore ribs. Quick passes may be the name of the game for Detroit to protect its starting quarterback. On the flipside, the Broncos are tied for fourth in sacks allowed with seven. The presence of a rushing attack would ease some of that pressure, but the Broncos have averaged just 2.8 yards per attempt. Whichever team keeps its quarterback the cleanest will likely come out on top.

 

3. Autograph session
On Sunday, Detroit cornerback Darius Slay will get his first opportunity to go against one of his favorite quarterbacks while growing up, Peyton Manning. And if he is fortunate enough to get an interception, the third-year pro will not hesitate to ask for an autograph from the future Hall-of-Famer. "I'm letting him know now, if I get a pick from him, he's got to sign that," Slay told the Detroit Free Press earlier this week. "He's got to sign that. I got to have that. He got a signature right then on the spot. I'm going to have the pen in my pocket.”

 

Final Analysis

 

This game may just come down to which offensive line can hold up the longest. If the offensive line concerns on both sides are a wash, then the determining factor may be which defense can generate a pass rush on the opposing quarterback. Give me the Von Miller/DeMarcus Ware combination in that battle. The Lions will keep it close early on with a boost from the crowd in the home opener, but they are clearly not the same team from a year ago and will fall to 0-3.

 

Prediction: Broncos 31, Lions 20

 

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

Teaser:
Denver Broncos vs. Detroit Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bears, NFC, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-vs-seattle-seahawks-preview-and-prediction-2015
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Its must-win Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears as both teams are off to 0-2 starts. The Seahawks had a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field last Sunday against Green Bay, but they just could not slow down Aaron Rodgers late, as the Packers pulled away for a 27-17 win. Consequently, Seattle now has its back against the wall moving forward this season if Pete Carroll's team is going to get one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs.

 

The Bears are in a transition season for first-year head coach John Fox and are looking to find their way defensively as they have allowed 79 points in two games. Then, on top of that they will be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who is out for multiple weeks due to a hamstring injury. Backup Jimmy Clausen will be under the center at CenturyLink Field. This creates a very ominous uphill battle for Chicago to try and send the Seahawks to 0-3 in front of an angry group of 12s.

 

Chicago at Seattle

 

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Seattle -15 O/U 45

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Kam Chancellor returns

Common sense finally prevailed in the ongoing Chancellor saga, as he finally reported to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center and got back to work. For Chancellor, the mission is going to be plain and simple - he needs to go out and make plays and act like the leader that he thinks he is. It is also going to be very fascinating to see what type of reaction he gets on Sunday from the crowd if the defense is introduced first. The odds are that Chancellor will get a mixed reaction from the crowd if the Seattle sports radio caller sample size is any indication, as callers were not so quick to forgive Chancellor right away.

 

2.  Getting Jimmy Graham involved early

After only targeting the All-Pro tight end just twice last week in the loss to Green Bay the question has to be asked why go out and acquire an elite pass-catching playmaker like Graham if you are not going to use him. On Friday, Graham did his part to downplay reports that he is frustrated with his role in the Seahawks' offense in response to a report earlier in the week he was “pissed off” about his role. It would be a wise decision by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Carroll to get Graham touches early on in this game, especially in the red zone. Otherwise, the Seahawks will run the risk of this becoming a potential chemistry issue within the locker room if they don’t take a proactive approach to use Graham properly as a pass catcher.

 

3. Seahawks' running game
With Marshawn Lynch battling a calf issue that puts him as a game-time decision, it will be a great opportunity to turn Fred Jackson loose if Lynch is unable to go. Jackson has the ability as a runner and especially as a pass catcher out of the backfield to help keep the chains moving if Lynch can’t play. Russell Wilson also needs to continually be let loose with the read-option packages. The Seahawks offensively started to get into a nice rhythm in the third quarter against the Packers when they scored 14 points as a result of Wilson using his legs more with the zone-read element of the offense. Also, a concerted effort to pound the football down the throats of a suspect Bears defense should give some confidence to a Seahawks offensive line that needs to continue to grow as a unit and running the football is the best recipe to jumpstart that.


Final Analysis

 

This should be a very straightforward type of home opener for Seattle, as Chicago just simply does not have the horses to stay with the Seahawks over the course of 60 minutes. An ideal start would be to put together an opening, 10-play, 75-yard drive that's finished off with a Jimmy Graham touchdown to put the Bears down early. Then defensive coordinator Kris Richard needs to allow his charges to go aggressively after Clausen, who will be making just his second start in the last five seasons. The end result of this game if it goes to plan should have Tavaris Jackson getting some playing time in the fourth quarter and Seattle should easily cover the 15-point spread on Sunday with a confidence-building win.


Prediction: Seattle 41, Chicago 17

 

— 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. Follow him on Twitter @scottwhittum.

Teaser:
Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-4-awards-2015
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Week 4 of the 2015 college football season is in the books. The Pac-12 was the conference in the spotlight on Saturday, as Arizona-UCLA, Oregon-Utah and Arizona State-USC were some of the weekend’s most anticipated matchups. However, all three games produced one-sided results. The mid-afternoon slate produced some of the best games from Week 4, including wild finishes at Tennessee-Florida and TCU-Texas Tech.

 

With another weekend of action in the books, it’s time to hand out the hardware to honor the best of the best from Week 4. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, freshman and unsung hero from Week 4:

 

College Football Week 4 Awards

 

Co-Offensive Players of the Week: Trevone Boykin, QB/Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

We normally pick just one player for this award, but it’s hard to separate the performances of Boykin and Doctson since this duo delivered in the clutch for TCU on Saturday. Boykin completed 34 of 54 passes for 485 yards and four scores and also rushed for 42 yards on 14 attempts. Doctson was Boykin’s preferred target in the last-minute win over the Red Raiders, catching 18 passes for 267 yards and three scores.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Cash, S, Duke

Duke’s defense held Georgia Tech’s high-powered rushing attack in check on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets managed only 2.9 yards per carry and finished with only 173 yards on the ground. Cash was instrumental in the success of the defense on Saturday, recording 12 tackles (three for a loss), one sack and two forced fumbles.

 

Coordinators of the Week: Aaron Roderick/Jim Harding, Co-Offensive Coordinators, Utah

Utah’s gameplan on Saturday for its upset win at Oregon was flawless. The defense held the Ducks to just 20 points, while the offense recorded 7.2 yards per play, scored 62 points – the most by an opponent in Autzen Stadium history – and went 6 of 13 on third-down attempts. Roderick and Harding used a good mix of the run (273 yards), along with efficient passing from quarterback Travis Wilson (18 of 30 for 227 yards) to score one of the 42-point win in Eugene.

 

Freshman of the Week: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

A number of freshmen are worthy of a mention in this space, but it’s hard to pick against Rosen. The true freshman delivered a steady performance (19 of 28 for 284 yards and two scores) in UCLA’s 56-30 road win over Arizona in the Pac-12 opener for both teams. Rosen did not throw an interception against the Wildcats and also added a rushing touchdown in the third quarter.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week: Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State

Ervin’s performance against Fresno State will be overshadowed by what transpired between Texas Tech-TCU and LSU running back Leonard Fournette's monster game against Syracuse, but the senior posted a record-setting performance against the Bulldogs. Ervin rushed for 300 yards and three scores on 42 attempts and caught four passes for 45 yards in Saturday’s win, setting school records for most rushing yards and taking the top spot among all FBS players in 2015 for best single-game rushing performance. 

Teaser:
College Football Week 4 Awards
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 08:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/20-plays-defined-college-footballs-crazy-week-4-games-2015
Body:

Week 4 of college football’s 2015 season was crazy. While the schedule wasn’t deep with top 25 matchups, the slate produced several games decided in the final minute, unbelievable finishes, crazy plays and strange coaching decisions.

 

Don’t believe us? From the great plays to the crazy finishes, check out these 20 plays that defined Week 4. 

 

20 Plays That Defined CFB's Crazy Slate of Results in Week 4

 

1. TCU scores on tipped pass on fourth down to defeat Texas Tech:

 

2. Florida quarterback Will Grier hits receiver Antonio Callaway for a 63-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 14 for the winning score:

 

3. Tennessee kicker Aaron Medley misses game-winning field goal as time expires (and coach Butch Jones seems to celebrate a little too early):

 

4. Forced fumble by Texas A&M prevents Arkansas from winning late in the fourth quarter, as the Aggies later win in overtime:

 

5. Texas loses after punter loses snap late in fourth quarter, allowing Oklahoma State to kick game-winning field goal:

 

6. Rare penalty costs Ohio a chance to tie Minnesota with seven seconds left in fourth quarter:

 

7. Michigan running back De'Veon Smith disappears...then reappears for a 60-yard touchdown run:

 

8. LSU quarterback Brandon Harris somehow flips ball to running back Leonard Fournette for a huge gain:

 

9. Utah running back Devontae Booker throws a touchdown pass in a road win against Oregon:

 

10. West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson runs into Maryland cheerleader:

 

11. Michigan receiver Amara Darboh makes a nifty one-handed grab in blowout win over BYU:

 

12. Utah fools Oregon special teams with decoy on return:

 

13. Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson returns a fumble for a touchdown:

 

14. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes doesn't see snap going behind him for a TCU safety:

 

15. Syracuse punter Riley Dixon hurdles LSU defender on fake field goal attempt:

 

16. East Carolina wide receiver Isaiah Jones makes a one-handed catch to help the Pirates upset Virginia Tech:

 

17. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy breaks out the dances moves after win over Texas:

 

18. Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche scores third touchdown of the year on offense:

 

19. Overzealous official flags Texas coach Charlie Strong 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct:

 

20. USC WR/CB Adoree' Jackson makes a ridiculous stop and go move against Arizona State:

Teaser:
20 Plays That Defined College Football's Crazy Week 4 Slate
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 08:20
Path: /nfl/san-francisco-49ers-vs-arizona-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2015
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When quarterback Carson Palmer was injured last season, the Cardinals were thinking big: playoffs — and beyond. Arizona was 9-1 and cruising. Palmer was piloting an offense that was extremely potent and looked practically unstoppable at times. After two games in 2015, ‘Zona appears to be back on that track, and the Cards get a chance Sunday to take a big NFC West step by dumping the visiting Niners.

 

Offense isn’t a problem for San Francisco this season. It’s the other side of the ball that has caused some problems, particularly against the pass. If the 49ers don’t tighten things up, it won’t matter how well Colin Kaepernick (69.4 percent completion rate) is slinging it, they will be in trouble. A team that for the past few years tried to win games by playing solid defense and low-risk O has found itself in an opposite situation, thanks to injuries and retirements. SF can’t afford to let things get out of hand this week against a potent Cardinal attack.

 

San Francisco at Arizona

 

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Spread: Arizona -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Larry Land

Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after catching eight passes for 112 yards and a regular-season personal best of three TDs in the Cards’ rout of Chicago. Fitzgerald is averaging 14.4 yards on his 14 catches so far and appears to be completely back to his Pro Bowl form.

 

“What I’m capable of doing, what I’ve done, it speaks for itself,” Fitzgerald said. “At this point, I’m just more so happy to be on a team that really has an opportunity to do something special.” With Palmer completing 64.3% of his passes and throwing seven TDs against one interception, it would appear as if Fitzgerald’s prosperity will continue.

 

2. Statistically Speaking

The Niners are enjoying some great individual performances on offense. Kaepernick has been exceedingly accurate, and running back Carlos Hyde has run for 211 yards and two scores, while averaging 5.4 yards/carry. Kaepernick is spreading the ball around well — Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis have combined for 19 catches — and the Niners appear to have their attack running at a good clip.

 

3. D-ficient

Even though new Niners head coach Jim Tomsula has a defensive background, his team struggled mightily last week in the 43-18 loss to the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 369 yards and three TDs in the rout, and opposing QBs are completing 74.6 percent of their throws. Unless the Niners tighten things up, there could be big trouble on Sunday in the desert.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is a huge game for the Niners, who run the risk of falling two games behind the Cards in the standings and helping Arizona get another quick start. San Francisco cannot afford to let Palmer get comfortable in the pocket, because he is extremely confident right now, and with Hyde to provide some balance, has the ability to lean on the running game if SF decides to blitz too much.

 

The Cardinals have a great opportunity to step forward in the West, and they can do it in front of their home crowd. There is no reason to think Arizona isn’t capable of the big start they authored last year, particularly in an NFC West that looks pretty wide open now. Jumping to 3-0 could set up big things down the road.

 

Prediction: Cardinals 31, Niners 23

 

— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.

Teaser:
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 08:15
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/buffalo-bills-vs-miami-dolphins-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

After suffering a shocking defeat at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, the Miami Dolphins will return home to play in their first regular season home game of 2015 against their archrivals, the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins hold a 58-43-1 (including postseason) advantage in their divisional rivalry against the Bills. The last time these two times played, Miami defeated Buffalo, 22-9, last November on "Thursday Night Football."

 

Buffalo is also coming off a loss as they were defeated 40-32 at the hands of the New England Patriots. In Week 1, the Bills manhandled the Indianapolis Colts 27-14 behind three Colts turnovers.

 

Buffalo at Miami

 

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Miami -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch For

 

1. Miami’s offensive line

Despite changes throughout the years, the Dolphins offensive line has remained a problem for them each of the last three seasons. Former Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert was limited to 19 snaps against Jacksonville last week as he is still trying to recover from his knee injury from last season. His replacement, Jason Fox was mediocre at best.

 

Miami’s guards have also been a problem as Pro Football Focus ranks Jamil Douglas (72nd) and Dallas Thomas (74th) among the worst guards on their list. The poor play on the offensive line has not only affected quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins passing game but also the team’s running game.

 

This week, Miami’s offensive line will be going up against arguably the best defensive line in the NFL. Last season, Buffalo led the NFL in sacks with 54 and they have three Pro Bowlers (Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus) on their defensive line.

 

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked five times this season against average defensive lines in Washington and Jacksonville. Just imagine what the Bills defensive line could do against a subpar Dolphins offensive line.

 

2. Tyrod Taylor

Against the Colts in Week 1, Taylor played a very efficient game as he finished 14-of-19 for 195 yards with a touchdown pass and a total quarterback rating of 88.2. While he threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns last week against New England, Taylor also threw three interceptions and finished with an overall total quarterback rating of 32.6.

 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick made Taylor a pure pocket passer last week and that was the primary reason for the turnovers and the eight sacks on the quarterback. If Taylor can roll out of the pocket like he did in Week 1, this will give the Bills receiver a better chance to extend plays down the field. 

 

“He’s (Taylor) a very talented young man,” said Bills coach Rex Ryan on a conference call on Wednesday. He’s got some poise, he can all the throws and he can run.”

 

While Taylor rallied the Bills late in the fourth quarter, his mistakes were too much to overcome. Miami’s defense only has one sack on the season, so they will have to use the Belichick blueprint in order to slow down the mobile Taylor.

 

3. Dolphins' defense

For all the talk from the Dolphins players about how they could have the best defense in the NFL during the preseason, the unit has been anything but during the first two weeks of the season. Miami currently ranks 23rd overall in total defense, which includes having the 27th-best rushing defense in the NFL.

 

“Obviously we have high expectations about not just the pass rush but just the overall play of our group,” said Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle after Sunday’s loss. “I think we would have certainly expected more through two games, but yet, I think we are seeing things that we anticipated from our opponents."

 

This week, Miami will have to contain one of the best running backs in the league in Bills' LeSean McCoy. While he has only rushed for 130 yards this season, McCoy is capable of having a big game against the Dolphins defense. Last season while playing for the Eagles, McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns.

 

Miami has given up an average of 142 rushing yards per game in their first two games. If McCoy can run against the Dolphins defense, that will take pressure off of the Bills inexperienced quarterback, Taylor.

 

Final Analysis

 

Miami’s biggest problem the first two weeks of the season is their lack of in-game adjustments. They have failed to make the necessary changes to what teams are doing to them defensively and that’s why they struggled against Washington and lost to Jacksonville last week.

 

Buffalo is far more talented than the Redskins and Jaguars and they should be able to exploit a lot of the Dolphins weaknesses. Expect the Bills to run the football early and often on Sunday, which should set up opportunities for play action passes from Taylor and the Bills offense.

 

The Dolphins will have an uphill day trying to contain the Bills defensive line. Ryan is one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL and he will scheme a way to have constant pressure on Tannehill. 

 

Miami has to be able to run the football against Buffalo in order to win this game. The Dolphins ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing after the first two weeks. If Tannehill has to throw the ball 30 times or more to defeat the Bills, that will play right into Buffalo’s strengths.

 

Prediction: Buffalo 24, Miami 21

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Teaser:
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-3-injury-updates-matthew-stafford-jason-witten-delanie-walker-jordan-cameron
Body:

By the third week of the season, the fantasy injury report just seems to be getting longer and longer. Long enough in fact, that there's more than enough names to go around each position. Note that these are the fantasy-relevant players that may be truly questionable. Some players appear on the injury report with a probable tag after practicing all week, and they will be active on Sunday. Week 2 was apparently a bloodbath in the NFL, and we're here to analyze the aftermath.

 

Before sizing up the ailing QBs and TEs below, don't forget to check out the RBs (here and here), as well as the WRs.

 

Note: if a time isn't indicated, the player is playing at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

 

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions vs. Denver Broncos (Sunday, 8:30 p.m.)

Probable - Ribs

Stafford was on the injury report after getting banged up in Week 2. He was slow to get up after taking some brutal hits, but he did put in full practices all week. He should play Sunday night, but the question is how well. The Denver defense has allowed the fewest yards through the air this season. Stafford hasn't been lighting up the stat sheet in his first two matchups (532 total yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions). The matchup and the injuries make him a QB2 this week.

 

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

Out – Shoulder

Brees was ruled out on Friday after he reportedly didn’t have any “zip” on his throws in practice. Luke McCown will fill in, which means all Saints pass catchers can be downgraded. Unfortunately for Brees' owners, the timetable for his return depends on how quickly he can get back to throwing like he is capable of.

 

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)

Out – Hamstring

Cutler has been ruled out with a hamstring injury he sustained during the game in Week 2. Jimmy Clausen will take the reins in what should be a blowout game in Seattle. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) also has been ruled out already. Avoid all Bears if possible this week. Cutler may be back in Week 3 depending on how fast the hamstring heals.

 

Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts

Probable - Wrist

After missing Week 2 with a wrist injury, Walker is on track to play today. He practiced in full all week, and especially with all of the other injuries at tight end, is a TE1 for Week 3. He did score a touchdown in Week 1 and he has a good shot at finding the end zone again against the Colts.

 

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons

Probable – Ankles/Knee

Even though he’s dealing with two sprained ankles and a sprained knee, the expectation is that Witten will play today. After all this is the same durable guy who played through a lacerated spleen last year and countless other injuries. A couple of sprains isn't going to stop him. However, with Brandon Weeden at the helm, it's hard to trust Witten this week. He's a TE2 in case Weeden uses him to check down, but don't expect too much.

 

Jordan Cameron, TE, Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)

Questionable – Groin

Cameron injured his groin in Week 2, but was able to put in some practice time this week. It appears that he will play on Sunday, based on the practice reports. The Bills were torched by Patriots tight ends in Week 2, but Cameron isn't exactly Rob Gronkowski. However, Cameron is still a low-end TE1 if active. He does play in a late game, so be sure to have a backup, just in case.

 

Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings

Questionable – Head

Green showed up to practice on Tuesday with concussion-like symptoms. He either suffered a concussion in Sunday's game or is still dealing with symptoms from his earlier concussion. Either way, he has to pass through the concussion protocol before being cleared to play. Based on either how close the concussions were or how long the symptoms have lasted, it is a good bet that Green sits out Week 3.

 

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans

Out – Shoulder

Seferian-Jenkins has a strained shoulder and will be out for the next four to six weeks. Brandon Myers is the tight end in Tampa Bay, but is not worth rostering in fantasy leagues.

 

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

Out – Ankle

Allen is dealing with an ankle sprain, and has already been ruled out for Week 3. Fire up Coby Fleener as a TE1 as long as Allen is sidelined. Follow the practice reports this coming week to get an early idea on Allen’s Week 4 status.

 

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions vs. Denver Broncos

Out – Hamstring

Pettigrew missed Week 2 and he has been ruled out for Week 3 with a hamstring injury. This bodes well for Eric Ebron owners. It is unclear when Pettigrew will return.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Week 3 Injury Updates: Matthew Stafford, Jason Witten, Delanie Walker, Jordan Cameron
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-3-fantasy-football-injury-updates-eric-decker-deandre-hopkins-mike-evans-brandin-cooks-davante-adams
Body:

While the list of wide receivers that are injured and may affect your lineup decisions for Sunday is shorter than the RB injuries (list 1, list 2) and the QB/TE injuries, it doesn't mean fantasy owners won't be scouring the waiver wire. Some of the players on this list shouldn't be surprises, but that doesn't make lineup decisions any easier. Let's take a look at the wide receivers on the Week 3 injury report.

 

Note: if a time isn't indicated, the player is playing at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

 

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Probable – Head

On Wednesday's practice report, Hopkins showed up with a concussion. It isn't clear when the concussion happened, but he does need to go through the league's concussion protocol and be cleared before he can play, but the Probable designation is a good sign. The good news is that this is a 1 p.m. ET kickoff so fantasy owners should know early if they will have their WR1 or not.

 

Eric Decker, WR New York Jets vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Questionable – Knee

Decker suffered a knee injury in Week 2 and he did not practice at all this past week. Typically when players don't practice, they don't play. Decker has said he isn't going to play until he's 100 percent, and the tea leaves suggest if he couldn't get in a limited practice on Friday, he's not going to be at 100 percent on Sunday. Brandon Marshall gets a boost, and fantasy owners should expect to be without Decker for Week 3. Watch the practice reports to see his status for Week 4.

 

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans

Probable – Hamstring

After missing Week 1 and putting up a goose egg for fantasy owners in Week 2, Evans is set to play in Week 3. He's put in full practices this week and reportedly will not be on a snap count. He is a WR1 against a beatable Texans defense. Jameis Winston will soon learn that Evans is the go-to guy on the roster.

 

Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

Probable – Ankle

While Cooks is battling an ankle injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday, he did put in a full practice on Friday. However, between the ankle injury and the Luke McCown factor, he's a WR3 this week. He had 62 yards in Week 2, which is higher than his 49 yards in Week 1. Until Drew Brees (shoulder) is back, try to find other options for WR if possible.

 

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City (Monday, 8:30 p.m.)

Questionable - Ankle

Adams tweaked his ankle during Week 2's game, but was able to return to the game. He missed practice on Thursday, but put in a limited session on Friday. He was given the Questionable tag, but it appears that he will play on Monday. It's tough because the Packers don't play until Monday, but owners should feel fairly confident about penciling Adams into their lineups as a WR2.

 

Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal & Marquess Wilson, WRs, Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)

Out – Hamstring, Questionable – Back, Probable – Shoulder

Chicago’s offense is a M.A.S.H. unit right now with quarterback Jay Cutler out because of a hamstring injury and the wide receiver corps hobbling. Jeffery will miss a second straight game because of a hamstring injury, while Royal, who moves up to the No. 1 WR role in Jeffery’s absence, is Questionable with a back injury. Royal should play, same for Wilson, but neither should be counted on this week with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback and a hungry Seahawks defense back at home desperately wanting to get into the win column. If you have no other option, Royal is a WR4 at best this week.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Week 3 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Eric Decker, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-3-fantasy-football-injury-updates-demarco-murray-chris-ivory-jonathan-stewart-todd-gurley-carlos-hyde
Body:

Week 2 was brutal in terms of injuries, as the list of running backs this week is longer than ever. There are plenty of big names on the injury report, so your backfield's depth may be tested this week. It's always hard to trust a player that has been injured all week, even if they have been solid for your team so far. Let's analyze the first wave of running back injuries and their playing status for Sunday below, and then be sure to check out the rest here. Don't forget about the WR and QB/TE injury updates as well.

 

Note: if a game date and time isn't included, the player is playing at 1 p.m. EST on Sunday.

 

DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets

Questionable – Hamstring

Murray played in Week 2 (although was ineffective with 13 carries for two yards and five receptions for 53 yards), but injured his hamstring in practice on Wednesday. He sat out Thursday, but returned to full practice on Friday. He is on track to play, but based on his Week 2 performance, plus the matchup, is a RB2 on name value only. The Jets have not allowed a rushing touchdown yet this year and the longest run they've allowed has been 18 yards.

 

Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Questionable – Quad/Groin

It's already been said that Ivory will be a game-time decision with his groin/quad injury. Because there is a chance Ivory could make the injury worse by playing through it, fantasy owners should not count on having him in Week 3. He did put in a limited practice on Friday, but the Jets will likely rest him this week. Bilal Powell will get the start but is a RB3. The good news is fantasy owners will know early if Ivory is playing or not.

 

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

Questionable – Knee

While Stewart hasn't exactly been spectacular so far this season (18 carries for 56 yards in Week 1, 17 carries for 62 yards in Week 2), he is the lead back on a team that likes to run the ball. He missed practice with a knee injury on Wednesday, but put in limited practices on Thursday and Friday. He will likely suit up and play against a terrible Saints defense. He is a RB2 with upside for Week 3.

 

Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Questionable – Knee

Coming back from ACL reconstructive surgery, this may be the week fantasy owners get to see Gurley in action. He's put in full practices, but he has yet to the see the field in the NFL. The Rams will likely ease Gurley into game action, putting him on a snap count and not using him in red zone opportunities right away. Gurley, as long as he's healthy and productive, should emerge as the lead back for the Rams, but the team is playing it safe with him. Fantasy owners should continue to stash Gurley, but don't start him this week, even if he's active.

 

Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m.)

Probable – Quad

After giving fantasy owners a scare in Week 2, Hyde appears good to go for Week 3. He did not have a concussion and the thigh injury was just a bruise. Hyde participated in full practices this week, and is a low RB1 for Week 3.

 

Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Questionable – Foot

After acting as a touchdown vulture in Week 2, Taliaferro missed practice this week with a foot injury. He had missed time earlier this year with a knee injury, so this is a new issue. Taliaferro did practice on Friday, but he may not suit up on Sunday. At this point, he is not a fantasy option. If healthy, he has some value as a touchdown vulture, but do not take the chance to start him this week.

 

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m.)

Doubtful - Knee

Ellington got in his first practice, a limited session, on Friday, after injuring his PCL in Week 1. The original timeline on the injury was two to three weeks. He should be able to practice this coming week, and assuming he doesn't suffer any setbacks, should play in Week 4. However, expect Week 3 to be more Chris Johnson (RB2) and David Johnson (RB3).

 

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys

Out – Rib

Coleman broke his ribs in Week 2 and has been ruled out for Week 3. Devonta Freeman will be the lead back, but is a RB3 at best. Coleman may end up missing next week as well, depending on how the ribs heal and how he manages the pain.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Week 3 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: DeMarco Murray, Chris Ivory, Jonathan Stewart, Todd Gurley, Carlos Hyde
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-3-injury-updates-marshawn-lynch-lamar-miller-eddie-lacy-lesean-mccoy
Body:

There are no lack of running backs appearing on the Week 3 injury report. The late Sunday games alone is full of top-10 options entering this season, and that group doesn't include Eddie Lacy, who is Questionable for Monday night. So what should a worried fantasy owner do? Be sure to read the latest on these banged-up ball carriers below and check out the other key RB injuries before setting your lineup and then do what everyone else does — sit back and hope for the best. Also, don't forget about the important WR and QB/TE injuries.

 

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)

Questionable – Calf

After Lynch missed practice on Wednesday, fantasy owners thought it was just for a day of rest. He returned to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Then Lynch did not practice on Friday, which raised alarm bells. The Seahawks have said that he is going to be a game-time decision after testing his calf. This is the toughest call of the week. If he plays, Lynch is a clear RB1 against a terrible Bears defense. If he doesn't play, fantasy owners need to have a better option that is playing in the later Sunday games or Monday night.

 

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)

Questionable – Ankle

Miller injured his ankle in Week 2 and put in limited practices Thursday and Friday. He is on track to play, despite the Dolphins signing Jonas Gray from the practice squad. That may have just been an insurance move. Look for Miller to struggle on Sunday against a tough Bills defense. Between the matchup and the injury, Miller is a low-end RB2 this week with little upside.

 

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Monday, 8:30 p.m.)

Questionable – Ankle

During Week 2, Lacy injured his ankle and did not return to the game. He missed practice time this week, but did put in a limited practice on Friday. The reports out of Green Bay are optimistic that he will suit up and play. However, not playing until Monday night leaves fantasy owners with a tough decision. Hopefully Lacy owners also have James Starks and just have to play one of them on Monday. If you are a Lacy owner without Starks, you may want to play it safe and start a running back you know is playing. Lacy could still be a RB1 for those willing to roll the dice to wait and see if he plays.

 

LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)

Probable – Hamstring

McCoy has been dealing with a bum hamstring since the preseason, but he was able to practice in full this past week. He is going to play this weekend and is a RB1. His Week 1 totals were low, but in Week 2, he rushed for 89 yards and caught three passes for 27 yards. Expect him to improve on those numbers against a weaker-than-expected Dolphins defense.

 

C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions (Sunday, 8:30 p.m.)

Probable – Ankle

Anderson had been battling ankle/toe injuries, but he claims that he is healthy for Week 3. He will play, but the question is how effective will he be. In danger of losing the starting job to Ronnie Hillman, Anderson is on a short leash. Anderson will still likely split carries with Hillman, but he should get another chance at establishing his role as Hillman hasn't run away with the job. If Anderson can get the red zone carries (and convert them and not fumble), he should keep his job. For Week 3, he's a RB2.

 

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 4:25 p.m.)

Probable – Knee

Forte was limited in practice this week, thus earning the Probable tag. However, he is going to play. He's still an RB1 in Week 3, despite a tough matchup against the Seahawks. With Jimmy Clausen at the helm, expect Chicago to try to run the ball as much as possible. Forte is a solid pass-catching back as well, thus cementing his RB1 status, especially in PPR leagues.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Week 3 Injury Updates: Marshawn Lynch, Lamar Miller, Eddie Lacy, LeSean McCoy
Post date: Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/knee-jerk-reactions-southern-mississippi-golden-eagles-vs-nebraska-cornhuskers
Body:

After a game that featured more starts and stops than a kid driving his first manual transmission, Nebraska came out on top against the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi 36-28. Per usual, there are some immediate takeaways from what is the Huskers’ last non-conference game. Let’s review:

 

- Tommy Armstrong became the second player in school history to reach 1,000 yards passing in just four games also chalking up a career-high 431 yards of total offense.

 

Plenty of career-highs were chalked up against the Golden Eagles, but Tommy Arm-So-Strong had himself what is becoming a regular efficient day aside from a few hiccups here and there.

 

- The running game still has room to improve, but lo! It’s the Andy Janovich Show! The H-back tallied 68 yards on the ground and 53 yards receiving. Said Riley of his performance, “I don't know if every game running-wise will work out like that for our fullback, but it certainly was good today." Aw shucks, coach.

 

- Surely this will shock you. Jordan Westerkamp set a new career-high 11 catches netting Nebraska 118 yards and a score. Brandon Riley also had a day and a half with three snags for 112 yards.

 

It was a very disappointing day for Cethan Carter who didn’t seem to have his head in the game as he gave a half-hearted effort. His route running and pass catching were tepid at best.

 

- This offensive line needs a kick in the pants as after four games, the best of the five is redshirt freshman Nick Gates. The others don’t play to the whistle or take plays off including captain Alex Lewis and center Ryan Reeves still suffers from high snaps.

 

- It stinks having Jack Gangwish on the sideline, but depth is being built with the work of Freedom Akinmoladun. He’s outplaying junior Greg McMullen on the opposite end and when Gangwish is ready to return, I look forward to see if there’s a battle for a Blackshirt.

 

- Considering what Trent Bray and the Nebraska linebackers have had to deal with this season, I have to say they’ve performed admirably. Groin issues plague this group forcing Chris Weber, Luke Gifford and Marcus Newby to step up.

 

There’s going to be yards given up. If you were an opposing offensive coordinator, wouldn’t you take advantage? It’s tough to watch, but this group does have its moments despite razor thin depth.

 

- The changes to the secondary didn’t suddenly hold the Golden Eagles to under 200 yards passing, but there may be a new weak link.

 

While Jonathan Rose, Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu all work well at the cornerback and nickel roles respectively, safety Byerson Cockrell’s play is becoming a concern quickly.

 

- How about Drew Brown? Brown tied the NCAA record for most field goals in the first half and set a new career-long of 50 yards besting his 49-yarder versus Miami earlier this season. The kid went five of six on the day and that is why you have a special teams coach.

 

Unfortunately, there was a botch on an onside kick following a Southern Miss score. However, Riley took responsibility and noted that after the mistake, he and special teams coach Bruce Read made sure that Westerkamp was back to recover a pooch kick later in the game.

 

Bottom Line: After a rough 2-2 non-conference slate, the Huskers are pretty banged up. However, they may see a very welcome face return to the sideline all padded up next week.  Yeah, No. 15.

 

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.

Teaser:
Knee-Jerk Reactions: Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Post date: Saturday, September 26, 2015 - 19:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-wr-shelton-gibson-pummels-maryland-cheerleader
Body:

As a football player, you're used to running over people.

 

Shelton Gibson took couldn't put on the brakes after scoring a touchdown and ran right into a Maryland cheerleader. Ouch. The West Virginia wide receiver was running too fast and she clearly couldn't move out of the way in time.

 

Who said cheerleading was easy?

 

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, September 26, 2015 - 16:53
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/warren-hills-regional-hs-quarterback-dies-evan-murray-summit
Body:

Warren Hills Regional High School quarterback suffered an unimaginable fate after an injury during a Friday night football game.

 

Evan Murray was injured in a 14-12 loss to Summit High School but, according to NJ.com, finished the game. It wasn't until after the game that he succumbed to his injuries. The senior quarterback suffered a lacerated spleen with "massive" bleeding that led to his death. Murray's spleen was abnormally enlarged which made it more susceptible to injury.

 

"We're all very deeply saddened by the passing of Evan Murray," superintendent Gary Bowen said. 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, September 26, 2015 - 11:37
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/best-signs-college-gameday-ucla-arizona-state-josh-rosen-meek-mill-drake-diddy-espn
Body:

Saturday morning really brings out the best in everybody.

 

Some of the best "signage" came out for the UCLA-Arizona game, and it did not disappoint.

 

 

Okay Brian Williams... #ruinthebruins #itsgameday #Zonazoo #zonazoocrew

A photo posted by Noah Deitch (@noahdeitch) on

 

 

Lots of Diddy out there.

 

 

#collegegameday #arizona #beatucla

A photo posted by Caleb (@calebovo) on

 

 

Even though the game is against UCLA, Arizona fans can't help but to take some jabs at in-state rival Arizona St.

 

 

 

Elements of Drake and Meek Mill.

 

 

#collegegameday #arizonafootball #zonazoo ❤️

A photo posted by Heby Song (@hebyss) on

 

 

 

Last but not least, there's a new lead in the mystery of who killed Tupac. 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Saturday, September 26, 2015 - 09:41
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/hurdling-highlight-reel-td-ignites-buzz-around-new-alabama-wr-richard-mullaney
Body:

Smothered. That's kind of what happened this week to one eyebrow-raising play in last Saturday's Alabama-Ole Miss game. Smothered by talk of other Alabama football-related topics, including other memorable plays from the Rebels' 43-37 win over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

 

Almost forgotten in that drama-filled, action-packed, roller-coaster of a ride game last Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium is Alabama's first touchdown of the night. It came when Alabama was in dire need of a TD. Just to maintain a pulse in the game.

 

Ole Miss was up 17-3 and the first half was winding down. A touchdown would put Alabama right back in the game, however, and the Tide had put together a gutsy, 15-play, 66-yard drive to get to the Ole Miss 9. On second-and-goal, quarterback Jake Coker hit Richard Mullaney in the flat. And Mullaney did the rest. And he did it with some flair and moxie.

 

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound graduate transfer caught the ball around the 9-yard line and sped toward the left corner pylon. When Ole Miss defensive back Kendarius Webster closed in just inside the 5, Mullaney shot skyward, hurdling the would-be tackler and going airborne for those final four yards, tumbling into the end zone.

 

 

"We were down 17-3 at the time, and a play needed to be made," Mullaney said this week. "Jake gave me a great pass. The line blocked good. I just knew I needed to get in the end zone in any way. It never really occurred to me to hurdle a guy, but just at the time it was just the instinctive thing to do."

 

Talk about one igniter of a play. Alabama didn't just get the touchdown it so desperately needed right before halftime. It got it in stirring, awe-inspiring fashion. And from an unlikely source.

 

Mullaney was born in Valencia, Calif., attended high school in Thousand Oaks and played three years at Oregon State before transferring to Alabama over the summer. He was on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List heading into the 2014 season but suffered a season-ending elbow injury against Utah midway through the season.

 

No one really knew what to expect from the former Beaver going into this season. His injury-attributed absence from the game since Oct. 16 only added to the mystery. Of course, Bama fans normally don't stay up late on fall Saturday nights in a quest to catch Oregon State football games anyway. Heck, some Bama fans probably didn't even know who No. 16 was when Alabama opened its season in Arlington, Texas, against Wisconsin.

 

Everyone in the Heart of Dixie knows who Mullaney is now. 

 

In addition to his highlight-reel, hurdling TD late in the first half, Mullaney also had a nice snag of a two-yard dart by Coker late in the game that showed off his excellent hands and again punctuated his knack for stepping up in key situations. That second TD came with 4:33 remaining in the game and pulled the Tide to within one score.

 

Fans may have been pleasantly surprised by Mullaney's performance last Saturday night, but back in August Alabama head coach Nick Saban was seeing things on the practice field that made him believe the Tide's transfer-in wideout was primed for a big season in Tuscaloosa.

 

"He's got great hands, a very smart player," Saban said of Mullaney. "He's very instinctive, knows how to get open. He's especially effective in the slot. So he's definitely gonna help us this year. His maturity and experience is something that to a very young inexperienced group has been very welcomed by us and I think our other players."

 

Through three games now, Mullaney has 10 catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. And, based on his performance last Saturday, it looks like No. 16 is just getting warmed up in this Alabama offense. And on a squad peppered with some big-time - albeit young - talent, the seasoned Mullaney is the one looking more and more like the Tide's go-to receiver in clutch situations. 

 

One thing's for certain. Whatever happens the rest of the season, the California kid who was playing Pac-12 football this time last year has endeared himself to followers of Alabama football.

 

A determined, you-can't-stop-me, four-yard leap over a defender when Alabama was in desperate need of six points took care of that.

 

"Just depends on how they respond to the loss," he said of his players. "That's all I can tell you."

 

— 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.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
Hurdling, Highlight-Reel TD Ignites Buzz Around New Alabama WR Richard Mullaney
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 21:00
Path: /college-football/five-most-important-florida-vs-tennessee-games-history
Body:

Saturday’s Tennessee vs. Florida matchup is a moment of truth for both teams. The Volunteers are still looking for that signature win under Butch Jones that shows it can contend for the SEC East. Gator fans are still uncertain what the future holds with head coach Jim McElwain. While it is not the same as the Steve Spurrier/Philip Fulmer era, this rivalry always brings high drama.

 

Related: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Prediction

 

Florida and Tennessee have played 44 times, with 23 of those games taking place since 1992 (when the SEC split into two divisions) and its not hyperbolic to say that at least a quarter of these games have had a direct impact on the national title race. 

 

In looking through the series, five games stand out for their significance. However, there are few qualifiers to note. First, blowouts are not included. Second, the game must have significance to the overall college football picture. For example, last year’s less-than-thrilling 10-9 Florida win in a game played by two teams whose primary seasonal goal was just to get to a bowl game was not even considered for this list.

 

Finally, some games were very impactful but did not crack the top five of one of college football’s biggest rivalries. Now, without further adieu, here are the five biggest Florida vs. Tennessee games.

 

5. Florida 17, Tennessee 10

Gainesville, Fla. – Oct. 12, 1985

Both teams were unbeaten and went into the half tied 3-3, but Florida pinned Tennessee deep in its own territory and then converted short drives punctuated by Neal Anderson touchdown runs to take a 17-3 lead. Volunteers quarterback Tony Robinson hit Tim McGee with a 20-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to close the gap to 17-10, but that was as close as the Vols got. Florida’s only blemish that season was a 24-3 loss to Georgia, but the program was on NCAA probation and ineligible for postseason play. The Vols did not lose again, won the SEC title, and upset Miami 35-7 in the Sugar Bowl. In Neyland Stadium, the signage notes Tennessee’s SEC championship. In The Swamp, it highlights the fact that Florida had the best record in the SEC in 1985.

 

4. Florida 14, Tennessee 13

Jacksonville, Fla. – Dec. 27, 1969

Tennessee head coach Doug Dickey, who had played quarterback for Florida in the 1950s, had taken a fledgling Tennessee program in the early 1960s and returned it to national prominence.  In 1969, the 11th-ranked Volunteers were invited to play No. 15 Florida in the Gator Bowl, the only time the two teams have met in the postseason. The game was expected to be an offensive showdown, but the main drama was whether Dickey would take the vacant head coaching position at Florida. Early in the game, Gator defensive back Steve Tannen blocked a Vol punt and linebacker Mike Kelly picked it up and carried it into the end zone to put Florida ahead 7-0. Tennessee responded with 10 points in the second quarter and then the Gators went ahead 14-10 on a touchdown pass from John Reaves to Carlos Alvarez. The Vols were only able to muster a field goal and the Gators came away with a 14-13 win. A few days later, Dickey announced that he was leaving for Florida, creating bitterness and skepticism on both sides. Dickey coached the Gators until 1978 and then returned to Tennessee to serve as Athletic Director from 1985-2002.

 

3. Florida 21, Tennessee 20

Knoxville, Tenn. – Sept. 16, 2006

Both teams entered undefeated and ranked in the top 20. Despite holding the Vols to -11 yards rushing, the Gators found themselves down 17-7 midway through the third quarter. Florida quarterback Chris Leak completed a touchdown pass to Dallas Baker and the Vols kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 20-14. On the next drive, Florida was facing fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 28-yard line, but freshman Tim Tebow replaced Leak and picked up the crucial first down. Leak reentered the game and completed another touchdown pass to Baker to put his team ahead. Safety Reggie Nelson intercepted Volunteers quarterback Erik Ainge’s pass on the next drive and the Gators ran out the clock. Florida would go on to win the national championship.

 

2. Tennessee 20, Florida 17

Knoxville, Tenn. – Sept. 19, 1998

After losing five straight games to Florida, Tennessee responded with a gutsy performance and a little luck. Playing in a deafening Neyland Stadium, Volunteer linebacker Al Wilson caused three fumbles and cornerback Deion Grant snagged an interception to stymie Florida’s prolific passing attack. Meanwhile, a 57-yard touchdown run by fullback Shawn Bryson and leaping end zone catch by Peerless Price gave the Vols a 17-10 lead in the third quarter. However, Florida responded with a 70-yard touchdown pass from Jesse Palmer to Travis McGriff to tie the game. After a scoreless fourth quarter, the game went into overtime. Tennessee got the ball first and kicker Jeff Hall nailed a 41-yard field goal. On Florida’s subsequent series, kicker Collins Cooper hooked his 32-yard attempt and Vol fans stormed the field. It is the last time the goal posts have come down at Neyland Stadium. The Vols would go undefeated and beat Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl to win the national title.

 

1. Tennessee 34, Florida 32

Gainesville, Fla. – Dec. 1, 2001

The SEC’s biggest rivalry of the 1990s reached its watershed moment with this game and has not been the same since. The game was delayed because of the Sept. 11 attacks and both teams were in the top five when they finally met. The Volunteers jumped out 14-0 in the first quarter, but Florida roared back with 20 unanswered points to take a 20-14 lead into halftime.  Vol running back Travis Stephens, who finished the game with 226 yards, broke free for a 35-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to put Tennessee back on top. Florida kicked a pair field goals, but Tennessee scored two more touchdowns to take a 34-26 lead with just a few minutes remaining.

 

Quarterback Rex Grossman, the best pure passer Spurrier ever coached, led Florida on a 77-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Perez. On the two-point conversion, Grossman was unable to find an open receiver and his pass went incomplete. The win marked the Vols’ first The Swamp since 1971 and put them in position to play Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national title, provided it beat LSU in the SEC Championship Game the next week. However, head coach Philip Fulmer literally smelled the roses too soon and the Vols were upset by the Tigers. Tennessee’s football program has never been that close to a national title since then.  In January 2002, Spurrier announced that he was leaving Florida to coach the Washington Redskins. Although the rivalry has had its moments since and the best may be still yet to come, its heyday ended that night in December 2001.

 

— 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.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
The Five Most Important Florida vs. Tennessee Games in History
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 20:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/colin-cowherd-rips-espn-draftkings-mike-fox-sports-twitter-gambling
Body:

Colin Cowherd is at Fox Sports now, so he can pretty much say anything about ESPN without punishment. 

 

"The Herd" radio host starts off talking about the respect he has for the worldwide leader, and then things get a bit awkward. Cowherd then goes on to talk negatively about the network backing off gambling and DraftKings, how his Twitter account was monitored as an ESPN employee, the layoffs that are happening in Bristol, and "Mickey & Mickey in the Morning." He makes a few comparisons between Fox Sports and ESPN, but to some it comes off as just a bashing session of sorts.

 

 

(h/t Awful Announcing)

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 13:59
All taxonomy terms: Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams, NFL
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-st-louis-rams-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Pittsburgh Steelers' visit to St. Louis in what could be the Swan Song season for NFL football in the Gateway to the West is a contrast in cultures.

 

While both teams come in at 1-1, the Steelers are a team of stars (Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, James Harrison, etc.) whereas the Rams are generally anonymous (Aaron Donald?).

 

But if this is the Steelers' last visit to St. Louis, one wonders what would have happened if the ownership group headed by St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts hadn't been foiled by political correctness when it was revealed Rush Limbaugh was part of the ownership group, leading to the eventual demise of Checketts' bid.

 

It's also worth noting how while Pittsburgh and St. Louis are common rivals in other sports, the schedule divide of the two conferences does not allow this for the Steelers and Rams. Meanwhile the Pirates and Cardinals have played each other regularly for more than a century, and even Duquesne and the University of St. Louis, not to mention Carnegie-Mellon and Washington, are conference rivals.

 

Then again, didn't the Steelers acquire Jerome Bettis from St. Louis? Didn't the Rams win at Pittsburgh in the Steelers' 1000th game as a franchise in 2003, a game most remembered by a should-have-been interception that went through rookie Troy Polamalu's hands and into wide receiver Dane Looker's, who then ran to the Steelers one-yard line in a 33-21 Rams victory?

 

And in 1969, all of St. Louis' major pro sports franchises were in the same division with Pittsburgh teams; baseball Cardinals and Pirates (National League East), Blues and Penguins (NHL West), and the football Cardinals and Steelers (NFL Century).

 

So, for perhaps the final time, let's sail down the Ohio to the Mississippi and analyze the game.

 

Pittsburgh at St. Louis

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Pittsburgh -1.5, O/U 48

 

Three things to watch

 

1. Return of the running backs

St. Louis drafted running back Todd Gurley with the tenth overall selection in the NFL Draft. He has yet to play a down for the Rams after tearing his ACL last November at the University of Georgia.

 

But he was not listed on the injury report this week, meaning Gurley may make his NFL debut against the Steelers.

 

Meanwhile Le'Veon Bell is set to return for the Steelers after a two-game suspension for illegal drug use.

 

The question here is how much either player will play. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher insists Gurley is not a 100 percent certainty to play, and with De'Angelo Williams leading the AFC in rushing it would seem like a crime to completely shelve the veteran.

 

2. If Kirk Cousins can complete 23-of-27 against the Rams, what can Ben Roethlisberger do?

Cousins's completion percentage last week also featured 207 yards passing, or a respectable 7.5 yards per pass average. While it would be unfair to totally judge all future quarterback accomplishments against this mark, it may show reports of the Rams becoming the next dominant defense in the NFL have been exaggerated.

 

The Steelers' defense isn't reminding anyone of the Steel Curtain, either. But Pittsburgh found a pass rush last week, sacking San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick five times, which must continue with the Steelers' somewhat suspect secondary.

 

St. Louis has protected quarterback Nick Foles rather well this year, allowing only three sacks. Are the Steelers ready to blitz their way to another title, or was last week an example of how running quarterbacks are often sacked more than drop back passers? This game could be the indication.

 

3. Could this be the game the Steelers miss Maurkice Pouncey?

Even if Washington was able to succeed against them, the Rams sacked Russell Wilson six times in the opener and have eight sacks on the season. Some believe Donald heads up the NFL's best defensive line, along with Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers. And when push came to shove, St. Louis stopped Marshawn Lynch on fourth down in overtime to secure the Rams' first victory of the season.

 

The center is the player who makes the blocking calls, so judge the level of Pittsburgh's Cody Wallace's play by this game. So far its gone well, as the Steelers have been able to run the ball and have protected Roethlisberger well, allowing only three sacks this season.

 

Final Analysis

 

It's important to note the Rams beat Seattle to begin the season, 34-31, while the Steelers lost to New England, 28-21. And those opponents were only a yard apart last season.

 

Steelers left inside linebacker Ryan Shazier won't play after suffering a shoulder injury while making 15 tackles in only his second NFL game. Last year's starter, Sean Spence, is listed next on the depth chart. 

 

Of course, Rams outside linebacker James Laurinaitis laid an egg against the Redskins. 

 

But even if the Rams defense is the best the Steelers have played this season, Pittsburgh's offense is the best St. Louis has played. One gets the feeling there will be plenty of Terrible Towels waving in the Edward James Dome, which was 15,000 tickets shy of a sellout on opening day. Take the Steelers' tendency to go for two points after a touchdown last week to be the difference, one way or the other.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 25, St. Louis 23

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. St. Louis Rams Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-vs-minnesota-vikings-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings will meet in a matchup of 1-1 teams. The Vikings are coming off their first win of the season after defeating Detroit 26-16 in Week 2.

San Diego lost 24-19 to Cincinnati in Week 2 after opening its season with a 33-28 win against Detroit. Here a preview of Sunday's Week 3 matchup.

 

San Diego at Minnesota

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Minnesota -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Rivers vs. Vikings' secondary

Philip Rivers is off to another impressive start in 2015. He's thrown for 644 yards, four touchdowns and an 80.9 completion percentage through two games, despite three interceptions.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer praised Rivers earlier this week, calling him "one of the best quarterbacks of all-time." But he will have his hands full against an improved Minnesota secondary that includes standout safety Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes.

 

2. Is Adrian Peterson back?

So which game was more of a sign of things to come: The Vikings' Week 1 loss in which Zimmer disregarded giving Peterson enough carries or his 134-yard Week 2 performance? The answer is probably the latter.

Peterson proved that — despite a year-long absence from football — he's still one of the game's best running backs. Obviously, he's more likely to succeed when given 29 carries rather than 10. The former MVP faces a struggling San Diego defense that's allowed 244 yards and a 4.7 yards per carry average on 52 attempts.

 

3. Norv Turner vs. former team

Turner served as the Chargers' head coach from 2007-12 and went 52-40 during the regular season. The team reached the AFC Championship Game during his debut season but missed the playoffs the next three years.

He faces both his former team and replacement Mike McCoy on Sunday as Minnesota's offensive coordinator. While he may not admit it, there's obviously some personal feelings riding on this game for the veteran coordinator.
 

Final Analysis

 

It's simple, keep giving Adrian Peterson the football and good things will happen. Minnesota's Week 1 loss to San Francisco seems to be an afterthought after a convincing win last Sunday.

The Vikings have a talented young roster but ultimately rely most on the success of their veteran tailback. Teddy Bridgewater doesn't need to throw 30 times a game, but rather when the passing game is opening by Peterson and a strong rushing attack.

The duo should find success against San Diego's defense and earn the Vikings their second win of 2015.


Prediction: Vikings 31, Chargers 21

 

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.

Teaser:
San Diego Chargers vs. Minnesota Vikings Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-vs-carolina-panthers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

It is no exaggeration to label this game as the crossroads of the Saints' season. A loss in Charlotte would not just drop the Saints to 0-3. Since all losses would have occurred within the conference, the prospects of securing a wildcard spot would be weakened. It would also put the men in black and gold at 0-2 within the NFC South, greatly hampering their chances of winning the division.

 

Carolina needs this game to keep pace with Atlanta; both teams are 2-0 so far. Although coaches hate to admit that some games matter more than other, they and their players know that is true. The Panthers' first two victories occurred against AFC teams. A game versus a divisional rival counts for more, both in the race for the NFC South crown and in the standings for playoff seeding and wildcard spots.

 

New Orleans at Carolina

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Carolina -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Saints' pass rush against Cam Newton

Compared to the other quarterbacks that the Saints have faced so far, Cam Newton poses more danger than the first two. He is much more a threat to scramble, either to complete a pass under pressure or just take off down field for a big gain, than Carson Palmer. He has started 64 games in the NFL compared to Jameis Winston's single start prior to last week's game. Somehow, the Saints front seven must find a way to pressure Newton on a consistent basis yet not let him escape the rush then tuck the ball and run for positive yards.

 

2. Panthers' passing attack vs. Saints' defensive backs

Carolina has only managed an average 185 yards receiving. In neither game did they exceed 200 yards. Newton has thrown an interception in each game. The Saints are allowing an average of 257 yards through the air. They have not yet picked off a pass. 

 

Can the Panthers exploit the most glaring weakness of the Saints' defense? Will the Saints be able to suppress Carolina's passing enough to help keep the home team from piling up 20 or more points?

 

3. Drew Brees' injury status

The Saints' organization and its fans may have a glimpse of life after Drew Brees. It does not look pretty. Considering the offense only managed to score 19 points in each of the first two games with Brees at the helm, how much will the offense struggle without him?

 

If Brees cannot play at Carolina, the Saints have two choices. The first is Luke McCown, nominally a veteran and the obvious choice. However, he has only started nine games in his entire NFL career — the two most recent of those occurred in 2011. The other option is Garrett Grayson, a rookie. If Drew Brees does not start on Sunday, the Saints' offense came be summed up in one word: DOOMED!

 

Final Analysis

 

The Saints' defense must pick up some slack, especially if Brees is physically limited or outright benched. Their forcing and recovering two fumbles inside Buccaneers territory on consecutive possessions in the second half serves as a model of what they need to do this week. Actually, the Saints would greatly benefit from a turnover returned for a touchdown. The offense seems quite unlikely to be able to break the 19-point barrier in Charlotte.  

 

The Panthers are only managing 22 points per game on average so far. One of the Panthers' five touchdowns was scored by its defense. That modest average would suffice; Carolina will raise it against a weak defense.

 

Prediction: Carolina 27, New Orleans 13

 

— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Teaser:
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: Houston Texans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-vs-houston-texans-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

After Week 1, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked like the worst team in the NFL. Jameis Winston looked confused and overmatched against a decent-at-best Titans defense. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota put up Madden-like numbers against the Bucs' revamped defense, throwing for four first-half touchdowns. 

 

Week 2 was the perfect storm for the Bucs to get rolled for the second straight week, traveling to New Orleans to face a Saints team coming off a big loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Bucs spoiled the bayou party with a 26-19 win in hostile territory. The Bucs defense looked nothing like the team that surrendered 35 first-half points to the Titans the week before, as the D only allowed seven points through three quarters, and held Drew Brees to 255 yards passing and a 29.4 QBR. Offensively, Winston improved from his Week 1 performance drastically, completing over 66 percent of his passes, throwing and running for a touchdown with no picks. Lovie Smith’s Bucs were showing signs of life. 

 

The Texans were back to square one after a second straight loss, this time to the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Ryan Mallett made just his third career start last week and the inexperience showed. Mallett was put in a no-win situation as the Texans were without All-Pro running back Arian Foster and stuck with an injury riddled offensive line. The Texans lack of a running game was obvious as the team rushed for just 61 total yards and Mallett was forced to throw 58 times in the 24-17 loss to Carolina. 

 

To compound the offensive woes, the Texans defense, which was supposed to carry this Houston team, surrendered 172 rushing yards to Carolina, and for the second straight week allowed the opposing team’s tight end to burn them. In Week 1 the Chiefs' Travis Kelce torched the Houston D for two first-half touchdowns and over 100 yards receiving, last week it was Carolina’s only receiving threat, Greg Olsen who led the way with six catches for 70 yards. The Texans cannot only not stop opposing tight ends, but they aren’t putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks either. Last week the Texans hit Cam Newton just six times, and sacked him only once. The underperforming Texans defense is only making things worse for a Texans offense that is in desperate need of relief. 

 

Tampa Bay at Houston

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: FOX

Spread: Houston -6.5

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Establishing The Running Game

Things keep getting worse for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. He is already without his leading running back, star Arian Foster, and now will likely be without current NFL leading receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has been sidelined from practice this week with a concussion and is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. With no offensive firepower to speak of, establishing a running game for the Texans is imperative, because forcing Mallett to sling the ball 58 times is not the formula to success — although it may be the only option for the time being.

 

With no Foster, back up running back Alfred Blue was expected to make the most of the opportunity. Blue rushed for six yards on five carries last week and consequently found himself on the bench, replaced by fourth year undrafted free agent Chris Polk. Polk wasn't any better than his predecessor, rushing for 38 yards on 14 carries. Granted, it is hard to run the ball behind an offensive line that is completely beat up and out of position. 

 

First year Tampa Bay offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, did a much better job of putting Jameis Winston in more manageable situations, throwing just 21 times for a 9.9 yard average. The Bucs ran the ball a little-more efficiently between running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims against the Saints last week than they did Week 1 against the Titans. Initiating a run game, even if it means utilizing Winston’s legs, is going to be of upmost importance this week against a Texans defense looking to reestablish itself as one of the league’s best. 

 

2. Winning Third Down

Both of these squads are two of the worst in the league when it comes to converting third downs on offense. The Texans only convert third downs 24.2 percent of the time and now are at even more of a disadvantage without their two biggest offensive weapons in Foster and Hopkins. Establishing a run game is going to be vital in order to protect Mallett and keep him from too many third-and-long situations. Mallett must, must, must utilize his tight ends. Last week Mallett spread the ball around to nine different receivers, but tight ends Garrett Graham and C.J. Fiedorwicz were only targeted six times for two catches. 

 

The Bucs aren’t much better when it comes to third downs, converting just 28.6 percent of the time. Winston does have a better running game behind him than that of Mallett, but he also has his best receiving target in Mike Evans back and ready to contribute full-time after being limited last week thanks to a troublesome hamstring. Look for a heavy dose of running back Doug Martin on third and short situations in order to keep the number of throws Winston attempts in check against the Texans pass rush. 

 

3. Pressuring The Quarterback

The Texans defense has under performed so far this season — which is weird saying. How does a defense with JJ Watt, Brian Cushing, Vince Wilfork, and Jadeveon Clowney underachieve? It is baffling, yet true. The Texans are 30th in getting off the field on 3rd downs, stopping offenses just 27 percent of the time. The Texans have a great opportunity this week to get back on the right track against the Bucs. Winston has shown though that his decision making on drop backs can be shaky, often throwing into double coverage or holding on to the ball too long. Winston also has trouble hanging on to the football as he has fumbled three times in the first two weeks. In addition to Winston’s early learning curve, the Bucs offensive line has allowed seven sacks so far this season. Expect Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to dial up plenty of blitzes, forcing Winston into more hurried decisions. 

 

On the other sideline, Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has to be licking his chops. The Texans offensive line is a mess, and with no running attack, Mallett is going to be forced to throw the ball too many times as is. The lack of viable targets and Mallett’s limited ability could inspire the Bucs defense to a second straight week of dominant play.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Texans are approaching desperation time after just two weeks, as they’ve gotten off to their worst start since 2008 when they started the season 0-4. In order for the Texans to avoid 0-3 the defense is going to have to make plays and force Jameis Winston into turnovers — which they can. If the D plays as poorly as it has the past two weeks, the Texans have little chance. 

 

The key for the Buccaneers is to control the clock by running the ball and putting Winston in the most manageable situations possible on passing downs. Even though WR Mike Evans is expected to be more useful this week, I wouldn't presume that he will be more productive, as Winston may not have the time to find him against the Texans pass rush. 

 

Prediction: Texans 17, Buccaneers 14

 

— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

Teaser:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Houston Texans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 13:00
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-vs-new-england-patriots-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The 1-1 Jacksonville Jaguars travel to the 2-0 New England Patriots on Sunday with the daunting task of defeating Tom Brady at home. The Jags are coming off an impressive win over the Miami Dolphins last week, as Blake Bortles took a significant step forward in his development, throwing for 273 yards, two touchdown and no interceptions. Second-year receiver Allen Robinson hauled in six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns, giving the Jags a big and explosive outside receiving threat they've long lacked.

 

The Patriots are coming off an equally impressive win in hostile Buffalo, against a Bills team that thought they were ready to finally turn the tide against Brady and Belichick. Instead they nearly got blown off the field before putting together a late comeback that made things interesting.

 

On paper (and in Vegas) this one might appear to be a mismatch, but the Patriots aren't always a lock at home in September. In 2012 they lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Foxborough, a team en route to a 5-11 season, and it was the Cardinals' only road win of the season. The Patriots were flat that day and always seem to have a game early in the season where they just can't do anything right.

 

With the Jags looking to make a statement and nothing to lose, they should put it all on the line and play aggressive. That could make for a far more entertaining game than most might expect.

 

Jacksonville at New England

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

Channel: CBS

Line: New England -14

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. How do you solve a problem like Gronk?

Each week teams have a plan to stop Rob Gronkowski and each week he seems nearly unstoppable. The Patriots are masters of scheming their big tight end open, but he's so talented he often has no trouble doing that on his own. Eventually a team will over-commit their resources to take Gronk out of the game, but until that day the monstrous tight end will continue putting up numbers and setting records. Gus Bradley certainly saw what Gronkowski did to his old Seattle team in the Super Bowl, and will have some adjustments for him. Bradley does have the size throughout his defense to give the big tight end some problems, but if they can't slow him down at all it will be a long day for the Jags.

 

2. Can Bortles stack success?

The biggest key to beating the Patriots is to not turn the ball over. Blake Bortles played perhaps the best game of his career against a very aggressive Dolphins front seven and he'll need to have the same exact clean game to give the Jags a chance in this one. Of course, doing it at home is one thing, doing it in the stadium of the defending Super Bowl champs is another. The Patriots will mix-and-match their front seven, forcing Bortles to identify who's coming and who's dropping. If confusion arises from those pre-snap reads, Bortles will fall into the traps that Bill Belichick and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are setting for him. Bortles can't force anything, but he also cannot play too conservative. A big part of that will be trusting his big receivers to win the jump balls on New England's smaller defensive backs.

 

3. Can the Jags run?

The Patriots currently have the 31st-ranked run defense according to the Football Outsider's DVOA metric. Part of this is having leads in two games and focusing more on stopping the pass, but another part of it is New England's evolution toward putting more athletes on the field. In most situations the Patriots will have just two big defensive linemen on the field, and the rest of the front seven will be rounded out with hybrid linebacker types. The Jags should attack the Patriots with their running game and force them to play a grind-it-out type game. If Jacksonville can put together long drives on the ground they'll eat up clock and keep Tom Brady off the field. Forcing the Patriots to put three defensive tackles on the field will also tire them out as there's limited depth behind Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch and Malcom Brown.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Patriots' run defense could be a significant team flaw, but in today's NFL will it be a critical one? Expect the Jags to attack it and find out, but they cannot afford to get behind early. Things have to break extremely right for teams to get an upset in New England — you can't turn the ball over, you need an early lead or an early mistake from the Patriots offense, and you must compete for the entire sixty minutes. Despite their mystique, the Patriots have had plenty of close games with lesser teams in Foxborough over the years, but even then they usually were able to pull them out late. If the Jags don't have a near-flawless game in them, it could get out of hand.

 

Prediction: Patriots 37, Jaguars 13

 

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

Teaser:
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 12:45
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The Indianapolis Colts have been here before — sort of. The Colts started 0-2 in 2014 as well. But this 0-2 feels different, very different. The 2015 Colts have been thoroughly manhandled by teams quarterbacked by Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick — it's that bad. 

 

But these Colts are mostly struggling because of their own shortcomings, starting with the atrocious offensive line that has been tragically overwhelmed since Andrew Luck’s rookie season. Since Luck’s rookie season, he has been hit more than any other quarterback in the league. The failure to address this faux pas falls on one man, Colts GM Ryan Grigson. Grigson’s idea of shoring up a leaky offensive live is signing guard and 10-year vet Todd Herremans after he was cut by the Eagles and drafting guard Denzelle Good from Mars Hill University in the seventh round. I had to Google “Mars Hill University” to make sure it was —ya know, a real school with a real football team. 

 

But the offensive line and Grigson aren’t the only ones worthy of blame. A lot of blame belongs to Luck, whose 58.9 QBR is dead last in the NFL. Five of the Colts’ eight turnovers have been Luck interceptions, which are the products of a soft front line and Luck trying to force the ball down field into heavy coverage.

 

On the opposite end of the QBR spectrum is Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota’s 129.9 QBR is tops in the league and is the highest in history for any starting rookie quarterback after two weeks. Mariota’s debut was something to behold as he threw for four first-half touchdowns against the Buccaneers in Week 1. 

 

Week 2 was a reality check for both Mariota and the Titans as the rookie was sacked seven times and lost two fumbles. The Titans' offensive line was thought to be a building block for the franchise, but underperforming top draft picks are leaving Titan coaches and fans frustrated. Even though the offensive line is a work in progress, Mariota —albeit after only two games, seems like he could be the real deal, giving Titans fans a legitimate reason to be excited for their football future.

 

Indianapolis at Tennessee

 

Time: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: CBS

Line: Tennessee +3

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Rebounding Quarterbacks

Both starting quarterbacks are in similar situations. Both Luck and Mariota have shoddy offensive lines and are facing defenses that struggle to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Mariota showed last week against the Browns that he is going to struggle against blitzing defenses. Lucky for him the Colts don’t have anyone that can pressure the quarterback. Blitz specialist, OLB/DE Bjoern Werner has been the complete opposite of special in his two-plus seasons as a Colt and actual blitz specialist Robert Mathis is still recovering from a torn achilles that sidelined him for all of 2014. Mariota will look to throw to whomever Colts shutdown corner Vontae Davis isn’t covering. Davis, who suffered a shoulder injury on Monday night against the Jets, is the only healthy-ish starting cornerback on the Colts' depth chart as fellow CBs Greg Toler and Darius Butler are still questionable for Sunday’s game. The banged up Colts secondary could mean big days for Titans receivers Harry Douglas, Kendall Wright and Dorial Green-Beckham.  

 

Andrew Luck has to look at what Browns QB Johnny Manziel did last week against the Titans secondary and be licking his chops. Manziel hit wideout Travis Benjamin on two long scoring passes that shut down any chance of a Titans comeback. Luck loves stretching the field, but his willingness to go down field so quickly has gotten him in turnover trouble early this year. Look for Luck to finally use his tight end tandem of Colby Fleener and Dwight Allen frequently. Also, this week would be a perfect opportunity to get free agent signee, WR Andre Johnson, and budding star Donte Moncrief going with routes underneath zone coverage. 

 

2. Titans' Offensive Line vs. Colts' Defensive Line

No young quarterback can be successful unless the big bodies in front of him can protect him. Marcus Mariota is learning this the hard way. In Week Two, Mariota had his “welcome to the NFL, rook” moments: having trouble reading coverages, struggling to check down to second options, getting sacked seven times, and losing two fumbles. The bottom line from the Browns game was that the offensive line played very poorly. Too many times Mariota would take a three or five step drop and have a Browns defender in his face before he was set to throw. 

 

Titans head coach Ken Wisenhunt should be willing to test the banged up Colts secondary, especially since the Colts defensive front has been playing so well against the run. The three man front consisting of vet Kendall Langford and rookies David Parry and Henry Anderson have played exceptionally well, especially for a defense that lacks playmakers in the linebacking core. The Colts kept both the Jets’ Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory under 60 yards rushing on Monday night and stuffed the Bills’ LeSean McCoy for 41 yards on 17 carries two weeks ago. The Titans will surely look to run the ball to keep Mariota from throwing too many times, and that is exactly what the Colts front line is hoping for.

 

3. Something To Play For

The Titans finally have a spark, a hope for a brighter future with Mariota at quarterback. The days of less than half-full home games could be over forever if momentum keeps rolling in the Titans favor. And what a way to turn the next page in the franchise’s history than beating the division bully at home for the first time in seven tries? If the Titans beat the Colts this Sunday there won’t be a Mariota jersey available within Nashville city limits for months.

 

It seems the past three years the Colts have over-achieved in a sense, from just making the playoffs, to coming from behind to win playoff games, to winning on the road in playoff games — only to get rocked in the end by New England. But this season was supposed to be different. The Colts were no longer the dark horse, but one of the favorites in what was supposed to be a wide open AFC. Indy made the playoffs last season after starting 0-2, thanks in large part to a very bad AFC South. Lucky for the Colts, the AFC South is still bad, or at least very unproven. The Colts have the opportunity to come into a division opponent's house on Sunday and prove they are still the leader of the pack in the AFC South.

 

Final Analysis

 

Marcus Mariota has been a great story thus far, and I have no doubt that he will be a fantastic NFL player for many years. But I believe that Andrew Luck and the Colts have too much to play for. The Titans are still figuring out their identity as a team and as a franchise, while the Colts know that they belong at the top of the AFC mountain. The question is, can the Colts offense make the necessary adjustment schematically to be a successful team with a bad offensive line? My gut tells me that Andrew Luck exploits a weak Titans secondary, and establishes a running game with Frank Gore to find a way to get the job done in Nashville on Sunday. 

 

Prediction: Colts 28, Titans 21

 

— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

Teaser:
Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 12:30
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-vs-baltimore-ravens-preview-and-prediction-2015
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The Cincinnati Bengals visit the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, with the Ravens still looking for their first win of the season after losing their first two games out west. The Ravens were surprisingly shredded by Derek Carr and the Raiders, as the loss of Terrell Suggs for the season loomed large over their defense, which gave up almost 500 total yards.

 

The Bengals meanwhile are off to a strong start, posting convincing victories over those same Raiders (33-13) and the always-tough San Diego Chargers (24-19). Andy Dalton has thrown for 493 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions so far, as the Bengals offense has welcomed tight end Tyler Eifert into the mix and he's rounded out their attack. 

 

The Bengals beat the Ravens twice last season, including a season-opening 23-16 win in Baltimore, but both teams still made the playoffs. It's still early, but the Ravens' backs are against the wall as falling to 0-3 in the competitive AFC North could be a playoff death sentence.

 

Expect a hard-hitting affair between two teams that know each other well and dislike each other equally well.

 

Cincinnati at Baltimore

 

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Channel: CBS

Line: Baltimore -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can the Ravens D Find Their Mojo?

Last week was the first time since the 1990s that the Ravens defense didn't have at least Ed Reed, Ray Lewis or Terrell Suggs and they looked like a defense that was lost against the Raiders. Their secondary is still much-improved over last year's squad that came within two 14-point leads on the Patriots from going to the AFC Championship, but the front seven faces are no longer as recognizable as the days of Lewis, Suggs, Haloti Ngata and the rest. Baltimore is still a talented group and they're well coached, but they'll have their work cut out for them against the Bengals' assortment of weapons.

 

2. Is the Bengal Offense Really That Good?

The Bengals are sixth in the NFL in points and have done it with A.J. Green only grabbing eight catches for 108 yards and a single touchdown. Does that signal a downward trend for the receiver, or is it a good sign that you can no longer stop Cincinnati by simply taking him out of the game? Starting running back Jeremy Hill was benched after two fumbles last week, but Giovanni Bernard stepped right in and picked up 123 yards on 20 carries. Eifert leads the team with 13 catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns on the season and is sure to get more and more attention each week. Divisional opponents always give the toughest defensive tests and this week, on the road, will prove just how good the Bengals offense really is.

 

3. Is Joe Flacco Elite?

Yes, that's an old joke, but as the Baltimore defense turns over, along with the numerous departures at the weapons positions, more and more pressure is being put on Flacco to carry this team. The Bengals defense is ranked 4th in points and 6th in yards through two weeks and will give Flacco everything he can handle. Flacco's top target has been 36-year-old Steve Smith, who has has 12 catches for 163 yards, but after Smith there isn't a lot for Flacco to work with. This could be a defining game for Flacco going forward, but he'll need some new faces like Crockett Gilmore and Kamar Aiken to step up.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Bengals are surging and the Ravens are floundering at the moment, but often a team's performance out of the gate to start a new season can be misleading. Nowhere is this more true than in division games because more often than not you can throw out what you think you know and just expect a hard-fought close game. That's even more accurate when talking about the AFC North, where three teams made the playoffs last season. Baltimore finished third in the division last year and it's hard to say this year's version is better in any aspect. The Bengals will be looking to make an early claim on divisional dominance over one of their biggest foes, and they looked primed to do so.

 

Prediction: Bengals 27, Ravens 17

 

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

Teaser:
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 12:15

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