Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-footballs-week-1-burning-questions-peyton-manning-struggles-james-jones-finds-pay-dirt-twice
Body:

After waiting all preseason for "real" football to start, Sunday's NFL Week 1 games did not disappoint. We had onside kicks, overtime, missed extra points and of course, players that surprised everyone across the fantasy landscape.

 

As we look back on the Week 1 games, not only were there some players that surprised everyone, but also some scores. The Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts both lost (hope you didn't have either of those teams in your eliminator pools). Peyton Manning had a terrible game and in terms of fantasy points, was outscored by pretty much every other quarterback who played a full game except for Joe Flacco.

 

Each week we'll look at some postgame storylines along with pondering some burning questions.

 

Is Green Bay struggling or is Chicago really not that bad?

Throughout the game, Chicago had chances to win. While the game was in the Windy City, everyone had thought that Aaron Rodgers and his high-powered offense would blow through Jay Cutler and the leaky Chicago defense. Somehow, that didn't quite happen. The question remains: is Chicago's defense not terrible or is Green Bay struggling on offense?

 

Green Bay's defense wasn't going to be the top option in league, but they let Matt Forte run all over them. Forte totaled 141 rushing yards and a touchdown and added 25 receiving yards against the Packers. That wouldn't be as bad except Green Bay's offense was sputtering. Chicago's defense was a joke in 2014. In Week 1 of 2015, Rodgers only threw for 189 yards. He did throw for three touchdowns, but Eddie Lacy only rushed for 85 yards (and a touchdown). Not a bad day overall, but not the offensive beating that was expected.

 

Part of the problem for both teams is their wide receiver corps are banged up. All three Chicago receivers entered the game with a Questionable tag. Eddie Royal was in and out of the game, Alshon Jeffery played, but didn't look 100 percent, and Marquess Wilson was only targeted twice.

 

On Green Bay's side, James Jones stole the show, catching all four of his targets which included two touchdowns. Randall Cobb is playing with a shoulder injury, and he has admitted that he is not at 100 percent. He caught all five of his targets, but with Jordy Nelson out, it wasn't the type of game fantasy owners expected from him. Davante Adams was the leading receiver with 59 yards.

 

Fantasy owners shouldn't panic about any of these guys... yet. Wait and see how Week 2 plays out. The Packers play the Seahawks in Green Bay; the Bears host Arizona.

 

Can you find fantasy value in St. Louis?

On draft day, most people avoided most Rams. Nick Foles was not drafted in most leagues (currently 13 percent owned). Tre Mason and Todd Gurley were drafted, but neither played in Week 1. Benny Cunningham, the Week 1 starting running back for the Rams, is owned in 16 percent of leagues. He rushed for 45 yards and added four receptions for 77 yards. In terms of the wide receivers, well, Cunningham had the most targets, followed by tight end Jared Cook. Next was Tavon Austin, although he only caught two of his five targets. Stedman Bailey had the most receiving yards out of all wide receivers with 58.

 

For fantasy purposes, Cunningham is worth an add if Mason will miss more time. Just know that he's not the long-term answer (but he will suffice for desperate Andre Ellington owners, for example). Brian Quick was supposed to be the No. 1 wideout for the Rams, but he was a healthy scratch in Week 1. It's too hard to trust any of the Rams' wide receivers at this point, but keep Austin on your radar, especially if you get points for return yards.

 

Should we be worried about Peyton Manning?

Going into the game against the Broncos, the word out of Baltimore was the Ravens wanted to make Manning throw the ball. Denver wanted to focus on a run-based attack to protect its quarterback, and after Week 1, we can see why both teams thought the way they did. When Manning was forced to throw, it was painful to watch.

 

Manning is 39, and at the end of the 2014 season, questions were raised regarding his ability to maintain his status as one of the league's top quarterbacks. He was struggling, but it was blamed on his quad injuries. In Week 1, Manning attempted 40 passes, but he only completed 24 of them for 175 yards and no touchdowns. He had one interception, and he just didn't seem to be on the same page as his receivers.

 

Perhaps the problem was just Denver's offense was in trouble. C.J. Anderson totaled 29 rushing yards on 12 carries. He added four receptions for 19 yards and was out-played by Ronnie Hillman. It appeared he may have a toe injury, but the Broncos have said he is fine.

 

The Broncos face Kansas City on Thursday night, and at this point, fantasy owners are stuck. Manning is still a starting quarterback and as long as he's active, you're starting Anderson as a RB1. Demaryius Thomas is a WR1 and Emmanuel Sanders is a WR2. However, the rest of the offense should be avoided for fantasy purposes in Week 2.

 

More Burning Questions

 

How long will it take for Kansas City to throw a touchdown to a wide receiver?

 

What's wrong with Andre Johnson?

 

Will Sammy Watkins help fantasy owners in Week 2?

 

Will Tyrod Taylor have fantasy value moving forward? What about Marcus Mariota?

 

Will Jameis Winston be that bad even when he has Mike Evans back?

 

What happened to all of the receptions that were supposed to go to Greg Olsen now once Kelvin Benjamin was injured?

 

Should we buy in to Tyler Eifert as a TE1 or should we just start tight ends against the Raiders?

 

Will Jarvis Landry, Keenan Allen and Julian Edelman continue to be PPR machines?

 

Is Chris Ivory going to be a RB1 for fantasy purposes?

 

What will Week 2 reveal?

 

— 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's Week 1 Burning Questions: Peyton Manning Struggles, James Jones Finds Pay Dirt Twice and More
Post date: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, waiver wire, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-waiver-wire-week-2
Body:

Holy cow what a week to kick off the NFL season and bring us to the Week 2 waiver wire. A rookie quarterback made a big splash, tight ends ruled the day/week, and of course there were injuries. Simply swapping bench players for waiver adds is just fine, but more often than not an injury can entice owners to flock to the wire early on.

 

When to add or target free agents in your fantasy leagues can be difficult to assess. How I like to look at it is probability of playing your bench players, do you need a replacement or have an open spot because of injury? Is this just a swap to replace a bench player with a bigger name but you will never play?

 

These questions need to be asked before making your moves, especially if you are in a league with FAAB. Knowing how much to bid, and what you truly think your waiver wire targets will accomplish is even more important. If you have a wide receiver core of Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Brandin Cooks is adding James Jones critical? Now swap Green with Dez Bryant. Suddenly your one or two dollar bid may be boosted up for Jones.

 

Either way, you should know your league makeup, owners that are aggressive in bidding, or target the “hot player” each week. If you don’t desperately need a player don’t blow your FAAB on him yet. The guaranteed playing opportunities this week's players mentioned are expected to receive  are important so I would, and will be, bidding on David Johnson and James Jones heavier than others.


I will be here to guide you each and every week with some players who are owned in less than 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues and could have an impact on your squad for the particular week, or rest of season.

 

Note: Fantasy points referenced are in accordance with standard scoring

 

1. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (37.1 percent owned per ESPN.com)

This one carries over from Week 1, so hopefully you took my advice and scooped him up last week. Andre Ellington went down already and will miss a few games, opening the door for the youngster to shine. Don’t worry about Chris Johnson too much folks he may be the man for now but the youngster will be taking carries soon enough. (Week 1: 11.5 pts)

 

2. James Jones, WR, Green Bay (30.7 percent owned)

I was hesitant to jump on Jones after being signed by the Packers last week. He had a fantastic touchdown-filled 2012 season with Green Bay, but hasn't been overly productive since then and was cut by several teams this offseason and preseason. But back with his old team, he looked like he will be just fine as a fill-in receiver, if not more, hauling in two touchdowns against the Bears. This may not continue, but you have to consider him now. Especially if you own Dez Bryant. (Week 1: 17.1 pts)

 

3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (35.7 percent owned)

Mariota will likely be one of the most sought-after players this week after his huge debut. I am all for pursuing him if available, but I would urge you to temper expectations. Unless you have a quarterback below the top 8 will you be starting him? And don't forget, he's a rookie, so there will be bumps in the road. Also keep in mind he only had 209 passing yards with his four touchdowns. (Week 1: 26.6 points)

 

4. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24.1 percent owned)

Jenkins was one of the several tight ends to explode in Week 1. There will be more to come for the talented youngster who many loved in 2014. Now with a rookie quarterback who will be checking down to avoid mistakes Jenkins can start for most teams without the top 4 tight ends. (Week 1: 23 points)

 

5. Brandon Coleman, WR, New Orleans (16.8 percent owned)

Coleman is a mighty big target for Drew Brees. He already caught one touchdown pass and there will likely be more to come. A deep league pickup, or flyer add in most leagues. I would rather have him over many other options on the wire at WR currently.

 

Don't forget about: Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Carolina (14.0 percent owned), Danny Amendola, WR, New England (16.9 percent owned)

  

DST Streamer(s) of the Week

 

I am a part of the streaming DST movement. I don’t typically waste a draft pick, unless I need to, in my drafts and instead cut someone and add a DST. Clearly the top defenses will be owned and not available, but streaming is always an option when it comes to DSTs. So each week I will be providing a DST that is owned in less than 30 of ESPN.com leagues and can be useful.

 

New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay (1.2 percent owned per ESPN.com)

This is truly another week of bullying up on the Buccaneers' offense. Jameis Winston had a shaky debut, and if he makes a few mistakes this week again the Saints can certainly capitalize.

 

Tennessee Titans at Cleveland (2 percent owned)

The Titans are a streaming pick for me in back-to-back weeks. That really won’t happen very often but the Titans will get the Browns' offense this week and no matter who is under center in Cleveland it appears to be an offense that will turn the ball over.

 

— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Waiver Wire: Week 2
Post date: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Utah Utes, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/next-man-will-kendal-thompson-be-utahs-new-starting-quarterback
Body:

It appears Kendal Thompson will get a second chance to prove he can lead Utah's offense.

 

Thompson filled in for starting quarterback Travis Wilson on Friday night after Wilson left the game with a sprained shoulder in the second quarter of Utah's 24-14 victory over in-state rival Utah State. The senior threw for 56 yards on 8-of-10 passing and rushed for 23 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

 

Utah released its weekly depth chart on Monday and Thompson is listed as the co-starter with Wilson at quarterback. Wilson is expected to sit out against Fresno State on Saturday, though he could return to play in the Utes' Pac-12 opener at Oregon the following week. This means, at least for now, the job of directing the offense belongs to Thompson.

 

Taking over for Wilson is not new ground for Thompson. He made a pair of starts at quarterback for Utah in 2014. Thompson earned a start against Oregon State after leading the Utes to a 30-28 victory over UCLA. He made his second start a few weeks later in a 51-27 loss to Oregon. Thompson's brief stint at no. 1 on the depth chart came to an end when he suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Ducks.

 

Thompson was limited throughout spring ball as he rehabilitated the knee and was not at full strength until fall camp. Just getting out on the field again felt like another battle won.

 

“After a long recovery, it felt really good to get out and play football,” Thompson said. “I honestly didn't know how it would feel once I got out there and took a hit — but it felt great.”

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Thompson could get plenty more chances to enjoy running, passing and taking hits. Wilson's injury is not season-ending according to Utes coach Kyle Whittingham, but the senior could still be sidelined an indefinite amount of time.

 

Wilson left the game shortly after injuring his shoulder while running for a 4-yard gain that set up a 4-yard touchdown by Devontae Booker on the following play, giving Utah a 14-7 lead. Wilson came back from the locker room in the second half in street clothes. He had a bag of ice on his left shoulder and his arm in a sling.

 

Whittingham does not expect much to change with Thompson on the field instead of Wilson.

 

“They're both extremely intelligent,” Whittingham said. “They both fit our system really well. There's more common ground than there is differences, so there won't be a dramatic change regardless of who's in there.”

 

If Wilson is sidelined for multiple games, Thompson's experience from a year ago gives Whittingham confidence that Utah can be successful at moving the ball with him taking the snaps.

 

“He won some big games for us last year,” Whittingham said. “He was doing some really good things before he went down with his injury. If he’s our guy next week, and Travis isn’t ready to go, he’ll be better than he was tonight because he’ll be the guy all through practice and preparation. He’s a proven commodity in our eyes.”

 

Thompson threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns on 32-of-52 passing as a junior after transferring to Utah from Oklahoma. He also ran for 192 yards and another TD on 56 carries.

 

Thompson offers a trade-off in strengths with Wilson. His accuracy and arm strength does not match what Wilson can do in the passing game. Thompson is mobile and speedy, however, and this leads to a running ability that mirrors Wilson's effectiveness as a passer. He thrives in running the option and can burn a team when seams open up.

 

“For me, the thing is just making plays, whether I have to run the ball 20 times or throw the ball 20 times,” Thompson said. “I'll do whatever it takes. At this level of football, the name of the game is moving the chains. By any means necessary, I'll do that.”

 

With Thompson at the controls, Utah will likely rely on Booker to be the main engine to move the offense – like so many times last season. Still, Thompson believes he can make a positive impact as a dual-threat quarterback in his second year in the Utes' offense.

 

"When I went down against Oregon last year, I felt like I was playing well," Thompson said. "The game had finally slowed down for me. I was making correct reads and things like that. The game plan was built to my skill set."

 

Utah hopes that remains the case for as long as Thompson needs to fill in as the starting quarterback.

 

Written by John Coon,who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

Teaser:
Next Man Up: Will Kendal Thompson be Utah's New Starting Quarterback?
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 16:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC
Path: /college-football/what-we-learned-about-lsu-after-21-19-win-over-mississippi-state
Body:

On Saturday LSU squeaked out a 21-19 win on the road against Mississippi State starting the 2015 season off on the right foot. The game was far from pretty but an SEC win is an SEC win.

 

Most LSU (1-0) and college football fans have no misconceptions about who LSU is on the field. With head coach Les Miles on the sidelines, the Tigers are a smash-mouth defense with a great secondary and athletes all over the field and road graders up front on offense blowing holes open for the running backs. And that is exactly what LSU did against Mississippi State (1-1).

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

New LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had a great opening half for the Tigers, limiting Mississippi State to 109 total yards of offense. Be it depth issues or adjustments made by the Bulldogs after halftime, the tight LSU defense started to slip in the second half. For the game, Mississippi State outgained the Tigers 378 to 337. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott eventually tore LSU apart, passing for 335 yards with one score. The senior also picked up a rushing touchdown.

 

In the first half Prescott was constantly under duress, as he wound up getting sacked three times. Mississippi State had little choice but to rely on Prescott’s arm after being held to a net 43 yards on the ground. Again, all of that changed in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter when the home team scored 14 unanswered points pulling to within two at 21-19.

 

The Tigers' defense did crack down on third down conversions, allowing the Bulldogs to convert on just three of 15 attempts. Any LSU fan would have hoped for a created turnover against Mississippi State, especially with Prescott attempting 52 passes, but both sides played clean throughout the contest.

 

On offense, LSU exerted its will on the Mississippi State defense, building a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter after a pair of touchdown runs from Leonard Fournette. In the third quarter Fournette found the end zone again, this time on an 18-yard burst around the right side pushing LSU’s lead to 21-6.

 

The good and the bad of LSU’s run game on Saturday was Fournette put up a career-high 159 yards on 28 totes with the three scores. The bad was that Mississippi State only featured three returning starters on defense. The schedule, as things currently stand, favors LSU being able to run over pretty much everyone on the docket but what happens against Alabama, Ole Miss and a potentially tough John Chavis-coached Texas A&M defense in the month of November?

 

Brandon Harris was efficient, completing 9-of-14 passes for just 71 yards. Harris scrambled five times for 48 yards, edging Darrel Williams as the team’s second-leading rusher for the game. In tighter contests, will LSU be able to call on Harris to carry the Tigers in parts of tough drives with his arm? He found Travin Dural four times but Dural was never able to pick up yards after the catch, finishing with just 15 yards receiving for the game.

 

In the 1950s having a receiver lead the team with one catch for 23 yards, Colin Jeter, may have been acceptable but in today’s game that kind of production will not lead to an SEC West title.

 

Because Harris is not a threat with his arm at this stage of his collegiate career, the Tigers only converted four of 13 third down attempts, routinely seeing eight in the box to stop the run.

 

One thing the final score does not indicate is that LSU had two touchdowns called back due to penalties. Without the penalties the game would have been out of hand. The reality is Mississippi State hindered its own success on the final drive of the game getting a five-yard delay of game penalty. This pushed kicker Devon Bell’s game-winning, filed goal attempt from 47 yards to 52.

 

In the end, LSU beat Mississippi State for the 15th time in 16 attempts, getting revenge for a 34-29 loss in Death Valley a year ago.

 

Next week LSU hosts a shaken Auburn team before taking a two-game non-conference break and returning to SEC play on Oct. 10 with a trip to South Carolina.

 

The keys for the Tigers' potential run at the SEC Wes title are getting Harris confident in the pocket, not wearing down Fournette early in the season, and tightening up the pass defense. Can all of that be accomplished before for what promises to be an exciting game against Auburn?

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Teaser:
What We Learned About LSU After 21-19 Win Over Mississippi State
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/5-wrs-replace-dez-bryant-desean-jackson-ty-hilton-fantasy-football
Body:

All fantasy owners enter the football season with hope, knowing that it takes a good draft, good waiver wire pickups, good trades, and good luck to get through the season successfully. The good luck often comes from hoping that your players stay healthy. When a first-round draft pick goes down in the first game of the season, it's a tough blow to any team.

 

While there were certainly plenty of injuries to talk about from Week 1, the most devastating for fantasy owners, at least based on the information we have right now, is the news that Dez Bryant has a broken bone in his foot and needs surgery. The timeline is a 4-6 week injury, although since the Cowboys have a bye in Week 6, it is likely that Bryant won't be back on the field until Week 7.

 

Along with Bryant, DeSean Jackson went down with a hamstring injury (leaving his fantasy owners with zero points) and T.Y. Hilton has a bruised knee, which will cost him time.

 

As a fantasy owner scrambling to place waiver claims, what are some options? Here are the five wide receivers you should target if they are available in your league.

 

Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys (57 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)

Williams is the obvious replacement for Bryant. He'll step up to the No. 1 receiver role for the Cowboys while Bryant is sidelined. Cole Beasley will also be in the mix, but Williams has always been a red-zone threat and a better bet for fantasy points than Beasley. He had eight touchdowns in 2014 and had three red-zone targets in Week 1. He's not a WR1 to replace one you lost, but at this point, odds are you aren't going to find a WR1 on the waiver wire.

 

Percy Harvin, WR, Buffalo Bills (41 percent owned)

Harvin had been dealing with hip soreness during the preseason, but he looked good in Week 1. Tyrod Taylor hooked up with Harvin for a 51-yard touchdown pass, which helped both of their numbers. Harvin ended the day with a 5/79/1 stat line, however, he had five targets, and caught them all. He added one nine-yard rush as well. The Bills are still going to be a run-first offense (Taylor only attempted 19 passes) and Sammy Watkins will be the No. 1 receiver. However, Harvin has value as a fill-in for desperate Bryant owners.

 

James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers (31 percent owned)

After a year in Oakland and being bounced around teams in the offseason and preseason, Jones landed back with Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers looked for him. He had four targets and he caught all four, piling up 51 yards and two touchdowns. Jones has always been hit or miss (he'll likely follow up his huge week with a 1/14/0 stat line next week) but he is certainly worthy of filling in for an injured WR because of the huge red-zone potential.

 

Brandon Coleman, WR, New Orleans Saints (27 percent owned)

Coleman was a darling of the preseason and his Week 1 performance shows he should be picked up, especially if you need a wide receiver replacement. He had seven targets and caught four of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. Drew Brees did attempt 48 passes, so the target ratio isn't great, but Brandon Cooks only had eight targets and Coleman was tied with Colston with seven. In the event Cooks or Colston gets injured, Coleman will have a huge boost in fantasy value. Grab him now as a low-end WR3 even with the two other WRs on the Saints.

 

Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts (11 percent owned)

Moncrief makes the list because he's the most obvious injury fill-in for T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has a bruised knee, the extent of which is unknown, but he could miss a game or two. His Week 2 status is certainly in jeopardy. Moncrief will be next in line, although based on Week 1, the Colts need to work on their passing game. Moncrief caught six of his 11 targets for 46 yards and a touchdown. Andre Johnson will still be ahead of him on the depth chart, but based on Sunday's performance that won't be the pecking order for long. Look for Moncrief to be a good add even once Hilton comes back if Johnson keeps faltering.

 

— 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:
5 WRs to Replace Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton in Fantasy Football
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/most-valuable-teams-nfl-cowboys-redskins-patriots-raiders-bills-giants
Body:

A great man once said, "money ain't a thang." If it were, these teams would be everything.

 

Forbes released the most valuable NFL franchises and it should be no surprise as to who tops the list. 

 

1. Cowboys - $4 billion

 

View post on imgur.com

 

2. Patriots - $3.2 billion

 

View post on imgur.com

 

3. Redskins - $2.85 billion

 

View post on imgur.com

 

The least valuable franchises aren't anything to turn your nose up at. They're still worth a lot of money.

 

3. Lions - $1.44 billion

 

View post on imgur.com

 

2. Raiders - $1.43 billion

 

View post on imgur.com

 

1. Bills - $1.4 billion

 

View post on imgur.com

 

To check out the full list, head here.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 14:03
All taxonomy terms: Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-takeaways-miami-dolphins-win-over-washington-redskins
Body:

Some people predicted the Miami Dolphins could be one of the biggest surprises in the NFL in 2015. If Sunday was any indication of how this season is going to go, then the Dolphins look like the same team fans have seen the last three years. 

 

Miami struggled to defeat the Washington Redskins 17-10. The Redskins led 10-7 at halftime before the Dolphins scored 10 unanswered points to secure the victory. 

 

There are a number of takeaways from the Dolphins/Redskins game, but here are the top five. 

 

1. Miami’s offense has a lot of the same issues as last season

During the offseason, the Dolphins thought they upgraded their offense by acquiring Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron and trading Mike Wallace to the Minnesota Vikings. While it was only one game, Miami appears to have similar issues as they did a season ago. 

 

The Dolphins had trouble converting touchdowns in the red zone on Sunday as the team was 1-for-3 inside the Redskins 20-yard-line. One of those missed opportunities was a failed fourth-down handoff to Damien Williams. 

 

While 17 points was enough to defeat the Redskins, it won’t be good enough to defeat most of the teams on the Dolphins’ schedule. 

 

Ryan Tannehill was very average as he finished with 226 yards and one touchdown pass. Tannehill appeared he was ready to take the next step during the preseason, but he looked like the same inconsistent quarterback Dolphins fans have seen for years. 

 

2. Alfred Morris will be the featured player in the Redskins' offense

If Kirk Cousins showed one thing on Sunday, it was that he cannot carry the Redskins offense. The team had their most success when they handed running back Alfred Morris the football. 

 

Morris, who nearly had 100 yards at halftime, finished with 25 carries for 121 yards on Sunday. Early in the game, Miami’s defense had problems tackling Morris. 

 

Cousins completed 21-of-31 passes and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions. 

In order to win games this year, Morris may have to carry the football 25-30 times. 

 

3. Lamar Miller needs to get more carries

During the first three quarters on Sunday, there was a very noticeable player absent in the Dolphins offense and his name is Lamar Miller. 

 

The fourth-year running back only carried the ball six times for Miami during the first three quarters of the game. He finished with 13 carries for 53 yards total. 

 

Instead of having Tannehill throw the ball on short passes throughout the game, Miller should be featured more in the Dolphins offense. Maybe Miami can’t run him 25 times a game, but there’s no reason Miller should only have six carries in a game where the Dolphins offense was struggling all day long. 

 

4. Redskins' self-inflicted penalties cost them

Washington played a very clean first half of football on Sunday as they didn’t commit a single penalty. In the second half however, the team had 11 penalties for 88 yards. 

 

The biggest penalties might have been on third down when the Redskins had a delay of game, followed by two holding calls by Jordan Reed and Ty Nsekhe that left Washington facing a 3rd-and-29. 

 

Washington’s second half penalties left the team in third and long situations too often and that’s why the team failed to score any points in the second half. 

 

5. Jarvis Landry makes big plays

The Dolphins do not win Sunday's game without receiver Jarvis Landry. Not only did he have a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown that won the game for the Dolphins, Landry was also a major contributor on the offense.

 

Landry recorded a team-high, eight catches for 53 yards. Now that LaMike James was released on Monday afternoon, the Dolphins could look to Landry for an even bigger role on the team. 

 

— 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:
5 Takeaways from the Miami Dolphins' Win Over the Washington Redskins
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/week-3-college-football-picks-challenge-athlon-sports-experts
Body:

The college football season is just getting started, and the competition off the field is nearly as heated as the competition on game day.

 

The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club presented by Nexium & Advil gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.

 

Think you’re up for taking on our experts every week? Think you can beat the writers and editors each week? Join our weekly pick ‘em game and compete for tons of cool prizes.

 

Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

 

Saturday's games:

 

USF at Maryland

Maryland’s defense couldn’t contain Bowling Green’s passing attack in Saturday’s upset loss. Good news for the Terps: USF will struggle to throw the ball.

Fox’s prediction: Maryland 28–14

 

Air Force at Michigan State

Air Force has amassed 822 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground in two games this season, but hasn’t faced a team as hell-bent and as capable as Michigan State at stopping the run. The most important storyline is how Michigan State responds to its signature win over Oregon.

Fox’s prediction: Michigan State 38–21

 

Illinois at North Carolina

Illinois has responded to the firing of Tim Beckman by pounding Kent State and Western Illinois by a combined score of 96–3. Then again, that’s what Big Ten teams should do to Kent State and Western Illinois. North Carolina’s Marquise Williams bounced back from three interceptions in Week 1 with three total touchdowns in Week 2 against North Carolina A&T.

Fox’s prediction: North Carolina 35–24

 

Nevada at Texas A&M

When the Aggies get rolling, watch out. Texas A&M scored 70 points in a three-quarter span between the end of the Arizona State game and the start of the Ball State game. Nevada last week gave up 301 rushing yards at home against Arizona.

Fox’s prediction: Texas A&M 49–17

 

Northwestern at Duke

New Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk is off to a good start throwing the ball, but that’s against Tulane and North Carolina Central. Northwestern’s pass defense is off to a good start (4.1 yards per attempt, 0 TD, 3 INT), but that’s against Eastern Illinois and risk-averse Stanford.

Fox’s prediction: Northwestern 31–28

 

Northern Illinois at Ohio State

Ohio State was understandably uneven in its win over Hawaii, only five days after the road trip to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes should return to form here. NIU’s offense is averaging 7.8 yards per play, but the Huskies’ defense has been suspect against UNLV and Murray State.

Fox’s prediction: Ohio State 49–20

 

Auburn at LSU

Auburn hasn’t always been playing with a full deck on defense, but the close call with Jacksonville State — and the ease at which the Gamecocks moved the ball — was alarming. With uneven quarterback play by both Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson and LSU’s Brandon Harris, the respective run games may be the difference. In that case, LSU’s may have the edge with Leonard Fournette.

Fox’s prediction: LSU 17–13

 

Georgia Tech at Notre Dame

Injuries are piling up at Notre Dame as the Irish have lost starters at quarterback, running back and defensive tackle since the preseason. And remember, Notre Dame was having difficulty with Virginia before Malik Zaire got hurt. Georgia Tech has topped 60 points in each of its first two games but hasn’t faced anyone close to Jaylon Smith, KeiVarae Russell and so on.

Fox’s prediction: Georgia Tech 31–28

 

Nebraska at Miami

Nebraska and Miami both have streaky offenses, which makes sense for the Cornhuskers and a new coaching staff. For Miami, not so much.

Fox’s prediction: Nebraska 28–21

 

South Carolina at Georgia

The Gamecocks are in a bit of trouble. Starting quarterback Connor Mitch is out. Running back Brandon Wilds wants the ball more. And the defense is giving up 6.4 yards per play. Not everything is perfect at Georgia, particularly at quarterback. But the Bulldogs have Nick Chubb. That’s what matters.

Fox’s prediction: Georgia 31–14

 

Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver)

Colorado has been surprisingly effective running the ball while Colorado State is still trying to find its way on offense after benching quarterback Nick Stevens (two interceptions) against Minnesota.

Fox’s prediction: Colorado 21–17

 

Texas Tech at Arkansas

Arkansas has been passing the ball more 53 percent of the time, a wildly high rate for a Bret Bielema-coached team. With the Razorbacks coming off the loss to Toledo, the Hogs may try to return to what’s worked in the past. That’s particularly true for a matchup with Texas Tech, which surrounded 438 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to Arkansas a year ago. Of course, the Red Raiders would be advised to throw the ball with Patrick Mahomes averaging 9.1 yards per attempt with eight touchdowns and one interception in two games.

Fox’s prediction: Arkansas 31–21

 

Cal at Texas

The Texas offense may have found the right formula with Jay Norvell calling plays and Jerrod Heard running them. The Longhorns averaged 7.3 yards per play against Rice. Cal’s defense is still in rebuilding mode, but the Bears have yet to face an offense similar to what they’ll see in the Pac-12 schedule. Quarterback Jared Goff, a 73-percent passer, may be the difference here.

Fox’s prediction: Cal 35–21

 

Florida at Kentucky

Kentucky hasn’t defeated Florida since 1986, but the Wildcats came close in Gainesville last season. Buoyed by a 26-22 win at South Carolina, Kentucky has reason to believe this is the year to end the losing streak. Florida regressed from Week 1 to Week 2. With 12 penalties for 105 yards and ineffective offense against East Carolina, Florida looked more like a Will Muschamp team than anything under a new regime.

Fox’s prediction: Kentucky 24–17

 

Pittsburgh at Iowa

New Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi plans on rotating quarterbacks Chad Voytik and Nathan Peterman, all without the security of James Conner running the ball. Call us skeptical. Meanwhile, Iowa seems poised to surprise with the efficient C.J. Beathard securely under center.

Fox’s prediction: Iowa 24–14

 

Stanford at USC

Other than USC athletic director Pat Haden’s bizarre on-field conversation with officials, this game was a snooze last season. Stanford’s red zone ineptitude cost the Cardinal the game. Stanford has yet to cure its ills in that department (two touchdowns in seven trips inside the 20).

Fox’s prediction: USC 31–21

 

Rutgers at Penn State

Penn State gave up no sacks last week against Buffalo, but Christian Hackenberg is still No. 1 in the country in time spent on the turf. That's how bad the 10-sack opener was agains Temple. For all the issues at Penn State this season, Rutgers might be in worse shape. Embattled coach Kyle Flood suspended his top player, receiver Leonte Carroo, indefinitely after an incident outside the stadium after Saturday’s game against Washington State.

Fox’s prediction: Penn State 21–10

 

SMU at TCU

Injuries are piling up at TCU, putting the Horned Frogs’ outlook for the College Football Playoff at risk. TCU should still have the personnel to beat SMU, but the Frogs need to be mindful that SMU was competitive for a half against Baylor in the opener.

Fox’s prediction: TCU 42–28

 

Ole Miss at Alabama

Ole Miss has never defeated Alabama in back-to-back seasons and has one win in Tuscaloosa (1988) in school history. The odds are stacked against the Rebels, but they have to like the team they’re taking to Bryant-Denny. Ole Miss has topped 70 points in back-to-back games, something that hasn’t happened in the SEC since Steve Spurrier brought the Fun ‘n’ Gun to Florida. Alabama’s defense surely will be tougher.

Fox’s prediction: Alabama 42–35

 

BYU at UCLA

BYU’s wild finishes and the injury to Taysom Hill has obscured that the Cougars’ defense is nasty again, holding teams to 2.8 yards per carry. That gives us a great matchup between the BYU defense and perpetually underrated UCLA running back Paul Perkins. Bruins freshman quarterback Josh Rosen will have much on his shoulders, but he seems ready.

Fox’s prediction: UCLA 35–31

 

Last week: 16–4

Season to date: 31–9

 

Teaser:
Week 3 College Football Picks: Challenge Athlon Sports Experts
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 13:18
Path: /college-football/five-thoughts-notre-dame-after-week-two
Body:

It certainly was an eventful Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. Notre Dame came away with an exciting, last-second victory but in the process lost their starting quarterback for the season.

 

After beating Texas so handily and watching Virginia lose to UCLA a week ago, the Cavaliers were not given much of a chance against the Irish. A quick 12-0 Irish lead seemed to indicate that the game would go according to plan.

 

Then things went squirrely.

 

Here are five thoughts following the win over Virginia.

 

1. DeShone Kizer, come on down

It all falls on the sophomore from Toledo. It doesn’t matter how little he has played or how few reps he has had in practice since he’s been at Notre Dame. That no longer matters. The job is his. Reserve Brandon Wimbush has immense talent, but the true freshman does not have Kizer’s knowledge of the offense at this time. Kizer may be able to throw and run, but how the team responds to his leadership is the most important variable going forward.

 

Related: How Will the Malik Zaire Injury Affect Notre Dame?

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Issues in the secondary

There were problems all over the defense, but we’ll start on the back end. Cole Luke is a good player, but he had a rough day. Devin Butler struggled as well. It wasn’t KeiVarae Russell’s finest hour either. Virginia’s Canaan Severin torched the trio of corners for 11 catches and 153 yards. At safety, Max Redfield has a hand injury and it may have affected his play, especially his tackling which was poor. There were also several passes that UVA quarterback Matt Johns threw up for grabs that resulted in ‘Hoos receptions. It wasn’t a good performance by the secondary and they certainly weren’t helped by….

 

3. The lack of a pass rush

The lackluster secondary play and the mediocre pass rush worked hand in hand. When the Irish did cover the Virginia receivers, Johns had time to wait for someone to come free. When the Irish did pressure the passer, Johns heaved the ball up and a Virginia receiver (most of the time Severin) would make a play over an Irish defensive back. Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder likes to send extra attackers, so if they don’t make life hard on the quarterback there will be space for opposing receivers. For the most part on Saturday, Virginia was able to handle the ND blitz packages.

 

4. Tough yardage problems

The Irish were 0 for 10 on third down conversions. That is terrible, but when you look even deeper it’s even worse. Twice they failed to convert on third and one. They also turned the ball over on downs after facing a second and two situation, and committed a delay of game penalty on 3rd and six. After failing to convert, Justin Yoon missed a field goal. It wasn’t like Notre Dame was constantly in third and long. They just couldn’t pick up the tough yards when they needed to. Finishing drives was a huge problem for the Irish too, as they settled for two field goals, missed another, and turned the ball over on downs once.

 

5. C.J. Prosise is a more than capable running back

The most frustrating part of the short yardage failures was that the offensive line and running back C.J. Prosise worked so well together the rest of the day. Prosise ran effectively between the tackles and looked like a natural at the position. He had 17 carries for 155 yards and a score. Josh Adams had just three carries and Dexter Williams did not have any, so it appears that Prosise will be the bell-cow back. Against Virginia, he certainly looked the part.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/rutgers-woes-continue-last-second-home-loss-suspension-top-wr-leonte-carroo
Body:

How does that old saying go? 

 

"If you feel like you're going through hell, keep going." 

 

That sure is what it feels like both inside and outside of the Rutgers football program anymore. After a dominating season-opening victory, the Scarlet Knights hosted the Washington State Cougars in a game that was built on inefficiency and a pure lack of discipline. Neither team was able to maintain any type of momentum, and the flood gates opened on both sides in the fourth quarter, where a combined 39 points were scored. 

 

Rutgers drew 11 penalties for 100 total yards and looked uninterested at times defensively. Washington State drove down the field in the final minutes of the game, and quarterback Luke Falk cemented the Cougars' victory with a touchdown pass with just 21 seconds left on the game clock. Falk put up 478 yards through the air on 47-of-66 passing for Washington State's pass-happy offense. All in all, Rutgers' defense wasn't ready for this passing attack, and quarterback Chris Laviano has yet to endear himself with the fan base as the right choice moving forward under center.

 

There's plenty of blame to go around, so why not share it? 

 

Chris Laviano

Unless you were either at the game, or watching it at home on TV, you'd think that 23-of-29 passing would've been a solid performance for the Scarlet Knights' newly crowned starter; except it was all but solid. Laviano threw a horrific interception while being pressured, and was gifted with a drop of another pick in the end zone by two Washington State defenders later in the game. While Laviano was able to complete his throws, he wasn't able to efficiently keep the offense in a flow during the game. Whether it was miscommunicaton, or just a lack of in-game chemistry, it wasn't pretty nor effective. With fans still clammoring for Hayden Rettig to be given the starting job, Laviano's microscope will only intensify after this loss. The loss certainly doesn't fall entirely on his shoulders, but it doesn't help his case any with an anxious fan base.

 

The Defense

Return specialist Janarion Grant gifted the defense 14 points, and it still wasn't enough to overcome the Washington State passing attack. Falk put the ball in the air 66 times, and Rutgers was unable to force a turnover, or create any type of pressure in the backfield. Falk had seemingly all day to throw, and was surgically moving down the field all afternoon with precision and accuracy. It was surprising not to see any creative blitz packages or pass-rush schemes in the defensive game plan, something that easily contributed to Falk feeling entirely comfortable and poised on Saturday. 

 

Rutgers also suspended leading receiver Leonte Caroo indefinitely on Sunday, after what head coach Kyle Flood said was related to an incidient outside of HighPoints Solutions Stadium after Saturday's game. The exact details of the incident are still undisclosed, but it's just another proving point that Flood has absolutely lost control of this program as a whole. We're entering week 3 of the 2015 campaign, and Rutgers has already dismissed six players, undergone an internal investigation on their head coach, and now has suspended their leading receiver for the foreseeable future. 

 

Rutgers needed this victory over Washington State to continue their upswing in the Big Ten this season. With a road trip out to Happy Valley to face Penn State this coming weekend, one would have to imagine they're going to be licking their chops on their way home to face Kansas in week 4. It's an ugly time in Piscatway right now, but it's early. Flood may not be around to see much more if things continue to get out of hand, and not many would bat an eye if that were to be the case.

 

— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.

Teaser:
Rutgers' Woes Continue with Last-Second Home Loss, Suspension of Top WR Leonte Carroo
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC
Path: /college-football/3-takeaways-florida-gators-win-over-east-carolina
Body:

It wasn’t as beautiful and spectacular as their first win of the season, but the Florida Gators held off the East Carolina Pirates 31-24 Saturday night for their second win of the 2015 season.

 

The Gators clinched the victory when ECU quarterback Blake Kemp fumbled the ball deep in the red zone late in the fourth quarter. On a day where the SEC had a number of embarrassingly close calls, the Gators were able to hold on for the narrow victory over a quality opponent.

 

Here are the three takeaways from the Florida victory over East Carolina on Saturday night.

 

1. Penalties nearly killed Florida

Under former head coach Will Muschamp, the Gators were consistently one of the most penalized teams in the nation. New coach Jim McElwain has been trying to get Florida to play smarter and not give yards away. After watching Saturday night’s game, McElwain still has a lot of work to do.

 

Florida ended the night with 12 penalties for 105 yards a week after being flagged with just one penalty against New Mexico State.

 

“It’s not how it’s going to be around here anymore,” McElwain said. “We got to learn it. It’s not the brand of football we’re going to play.”

 

The biggest flag of the night came when Gators running back Kelvin Taylor scored a seven-yard touchdown that gave the team a 14-point lead with 6:57 left. Taylor gave a throat slash after the score and was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

 

Related: Florida Coach Jim McElwain Goes Off on Running Back Kelvin Taylor

 

Florida then had to kick off from the 20-yard-line and ECU eventually scored a touchdown on that drive. The Gators barely defeated a quality Pirates team, and the penalties did not help. Florida will have to clean up their negative plays if they want to defeat an improved Kentucky Wildcats Saturday.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Gators missed Vernon Hargraves III

Prior to Saturday’s kickoff against the Pirates, Florida announced that it would be without its best player, Vernon Hargraves III, due to a leg injury. While the Gators have a talented secondary, the team missed the All-American corner.

 

ECU was able to throw for 346 yards, and quarterback Kemp threw three touchdown passes.

 

Early in the game, the Pirates picked on Hargraves' replacement, Quincy Wilson, early and often. ECU's early success on Wilson led to the Pirates' first touchdown of the game to Davon Grayson.

 

3. Grier should be the starting quarterback

While Treon Harris did play against ECU, the offense ran more smoothly under redshirt freshman Will Grier. The Davidson N.C. native was 10-of-17 for 151 yards and two touchdowns against the Pirates. Harris closed the game out as he finished 5-of-8 for 54 yards and led the Gators on their last touchdown drive.

 

Maybe coach McElwain continues to play both Harris and Grier, but it seems Grier was the more effective passer.

 

As Florida will begin SEC play next week at Kentucky, it will be hard to keep with the two-quarterback system. Grier appears to be the guy that will get the start in Lexington, but we will see what McElwain decides next week.

 

— 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:
3 Takeaways from the Florida Gators' Win over the East Carolina Pirates
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/lumberton-high-school-cheerleaders-defend-september-911-tribute-texas
Body:

Every year on September 11, the cheerleaders of Lumberton High School in Texas do a tribute cheer to those who lost their lives.

 

This year a video of said tribute surfaced, and some people aren't happy about it. The controversy started because the team used actual phone calls and broadcasts during the cheer.

 

 

Seems innocent enough, right? Some were just beside themselves because the tribute was so touching.

 

 

Others felt the complete opposite, calling the video "cringe-worthy."

 

 

The team's cheer sponsor Lauren Sheffield defended the cheer, saying that it's just a way to honor the country and those who've fallen in the attacks.

 

"One of our cheerleaders, Rachel Richard, put it perfectly, 'This wasn't a way for us to show off. It was a way for us to use our skills in honor of our country,' Sheffield told E! Online. "One thing we have stressed to our girls, in light of this whirlwind of a weekend, is that with anything positive, there will always be people who have something negative to say. It is an unfortunate and hard lesson to learn; but it is very important that throughout life, they always focus on the positives and not let those things prevent them from doing what they love and making an impact on those around them."

 

Solid advice.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/perils-having-nascar-playoff
Body:

Richmond International Raceway used to produce “must-see” NASCAR events every time out. One part short track, one part intermediate its unique three-quarter mile layout produced the perfect balance of side-by-side racing and fender-rubbing competition. Drivers loved racing there and fans loved seeing it, crowds to the tune of 150,000 once dotting the landscape of central Virginia.

 

With such a great track record it’s no surprise RIR was selected as the sport’s “regular season” finale once the Cup Series adopted a ten-race playoff format in 2004. At first, the great RIR times continued; Jeremy Mayfield won the September race that first year to launch himself from the outside right into the Chase field. But as the years went by, changing rules expanded the playoffs from 10, to 12, to the current field of 16. Over time, the crop on the Chase “bubble” became watered down, equivalent to an 8-8 NFL team or the entire NBA’s Eastern Conference (sorry, LeBron). Drivers on the cut line just weren’t title-contending material even if they did use the final race to get over the hump.

 

Suddenly, Richmond was losing its luster, little more than a truck stop on the highway to other races that really counted. Entering Saturday night, 12 of the 43 drivers in the field had clinched their playoff spot simply by starting the race. Gone was their incentive to go the extra mile if they didn’t feel their car was capable of winning. Of the drivers left “on the bubble,” only a handful had speed to earn the necessary victory that would have handed them a last-second spot in the playoffs. Aric Almirola from that group was the only one who came close, rising to third but inevitably no match for a dominant winner in Matt Kenseth.

 

Kenseth led 352 of 400 laps at Richmond, another one of the track’s big problems during this decade-plus of continual decline. It’s the third straight race the winner has led over 70 percent of the time, showcasing a level of dominance that makes it hard for people to believe they’ll be challenged. Over on the XFINITY side of things, NASCAR’s “AAA” baseball division it’s even worse — Kyle Busch led all 250 laps in a race that had zero lead changes last fall.

 

No wonder why the racetrack, looking at dwindling attendance figures pushed hard for Goodyear to introduce a new tire compound Saturday night. To their credit, their fresh rubber wore off over the course of a long green-flag run; differing speeds caused a bit more passing. But considering the different agendas out there, most of them highly conservative, the beating and banging so common on smaller tracks was kept to a minimum. Drivers simply said “please” and “thank you” and pretty much stayed out of each other’s way. Only two of NASCAR’s six cautions were for wrecks and the others, all for debris, seemed forced in order to bunch up the field.

 

How do you change it? The track itself is looking at Sunday race dates (at least for the spring), more testing and perhaps a tweak to its asphalt surface. But their biggest problem may be one NASCAR refuses to correct — its place on the schedule. A playoff format of any sort will make a “regular season” finale like Week 17 of the NFL. No matter how much lipstick you put on the pig, the teams already in the playoffs know this race means less than the next ten. NASCAR points may pay the same week to week but the “weight” of them is no longer created equal.

 

It’s a hard concept to accept for longtime fans used to decades of a different format; its mere existence is killing one of the sport’s iconic tracks. So perhaps the sport itself needs to fully accept reality, balancing out the boredom by rotating the regular season finale across different racetracks. If they don’t?

 

RIR might as well R.I.P.

 

Through the Gears we go…

 

FIRST GEAR: Did Kenseth Jump The Restart?

 

Matt Kenseth’s final restart at Richmond was a sight to behold. Judge for yourself, as following the final caution the No. 20 Toyota appears to scoot ahead long before the white lines on the inside of the track designating the “restart zone.”

 

Many thought that extra push could have been nerves. Almirola started directly behind Kenseth, made no bones about the fact he’d get aggressive on the restart and appeared to have no problem moving a car out of the way to win (and make the Chase). After all, the difference between the top 16 and 17th in the standings could work out to be several million. 

 

“Really had nothing to do with Aric, really,” Kenseth claimed when asked. “The short run was not our strong suit. Joey [Logano] typically beat me on those restarts… I knew it was going to be important to make sure we were clear.”

 

Logano’s owner, Roger Penske was livid after the race and several inside the garage were mystified by NASCAR’s “no call.” If not now in terms of policing the restart — setting ground rules in a race that ultimately had no meaning for the Chasers — how will you ever be able to do so? Kenseth’s ability to get away with it means other drivers are likely to push the boundaries even further, putting NASCAR in a difficult position should this incident happen during the Chase.  Expect officials to have their hands full, especially at intermediates where speed on restarts may be the difference in getting 4-5 positions on the racetrack.

 

SECOND GEAR: Gibbs the Favorite? Or is it Hendrick?

 

Joe Gibbs Racing, fresh off Kenseth’s victory became the only organization to put four cars in the Chase this season. Winning eight of the last 11 races, JGR has had the upper hand as of late and will get almost undivided attention from Toyota with Michael Waltrip Racing beginning the process of ceasing operations.

 

Yet JGR’s success, to some degree has been a matter of smoke and mirrors. Five of those victories were either on road courses or with rule packages distinctly different from what NASCAR will run during the Chase. A driver like Kyle Busch, fighting to get inside the top 30 in points after injury, also had to give 110 percent while other drivers and teams could take a step back, put together risky summer setups and stomach a 15th-place finish.

 

Jimmie Johnson, as always was one of those drivers who appears in better shape heading into the postseason (ninth at Richmond). Johnson joins Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a retiring Jeff Gordon in the Chase from Hendrick Motorsports. The trio has nearly 200 Cup wins between them. Add in the information sharing gleaned from fellow Chasers Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray plus Kevin Harvick (reigning champ) and it’s easy to see why JGR can’t be considered an overwhelming favorite. Harvick has still led more laps than anyone else, has accumulated an impressive 18 top-5 finishes and been a contender at any type of track. It’s a battle of the titans, a back-and-forth that’s played out all season and should only continue to get better as the races wind down.

 

THIRD GEAR: Truex Trying To Hang In There

 

Only two cars had hard hits with the wall Saturday night: Michael Annett and Martin Truex Jr. For Truex, it was a rough race that had limited meaning. His spot in the Chase long secure, a 32nd-place finish did little to dampen the stat sheet. But it’s also part of a summer slump that saw him slip from second in the standings to seventh over the past ten races. Now, with the Chase upon us his lone win (Pocono) has the No. 78 seeded in a season-low tie for ninth.

 

“Yeah, honestly with crashes and flat tires and hitting oil and things like that the last month-and-a-half or so, aside from that stuff, it's really been flawless,” Truex joked. “We're going to have to find some more speed and step it up for the Chase, everybody is.  There's a lot of cars that are really fast right now, and we feel like we're not quite where we were in the middle of the summer.”

 

What’s worrisome here is outside distractions that also threaten to weave their way in. Toyota, grappling with MWR’s departure is trying hard to add the No. 78 car to their stable. Truex also has yet to announce an extension with Furniture Row Racing, one of the sport’s few remaining free agents and remains someone who’s getting courted elsewhere. How all sides handle both situations should make the difference in whether they’re a true contender or an easy out.

 

FOURTH GEAR: No One Is Safe

 

Michael McDowell provided a scary moment at Richmond when his No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford lost control under caution. Oblivious to a safety car on the backstretch, McDowell reacted far too late, slammed into the side and tore up the rear section of his racecar.

 

“It was just my mistake, obviously,” he said to Bob Pockrass of ESPN. "I'm driving it. I take full responsibility for it. But it definitely caught me off guard. ... I'm thankful nobody got hurt. I'm embarrassed for my team."

 

It’s the second bizarre incident involving safety personnel for NASCAR within the last few years. In the 2012 Daytona 500 Juan Pablo Montoya ran into a jet dryer on the track and caused a fire, destroying his No. 42 Chevrolet. All the necessary precautions appear to be in place to prevent this type of situation from happening (spotters, slow speeds, no passing) but these two strange coincidences make you wonder if risks could be minimized further.

 

OVERTIME

 

Almirola deserves credit for his fourth-place run, a season best. Just don’t feel too bad for the No. 43 team missing the Chase. When you only lead three laps all season you should hardly be considered a title contender… on the flip side, congratulations are in order for both Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray, both of whom earned their first NASCAR Chase bid. McMurray erased a dubious stat that had him as the only driver to run full-time, each season since the inception of NASCAR’s playoff format and not qualify even once since 2004… Roush Fenway Racing officially has missed the postseason for the first time in Chase history. While former driver Carl Edwards qualified, winning twice so far with his new team, RFR has just six top-10 finishes on the year combined among its three cars.

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at tom.bowles@frontstretch.com or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

Photos by ASP Inc.

Teaser:
The Perils Of Having A NASCAR Playoff
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes
Path: /college-football/3-takeaways-miami-hurricanes-win-over-fau
Body:

The Miami Hurricanes didn’t have their best performance against the FAU Owls on Friday night in front of a national audience. Miami led by just three points at halftime and FAU tied the game 20-20 in the third quarter before the Hurricanes scored 24 unanswered points to put things out of reach.

 

The Hurricanes should have some concerns as they head into their game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday at Sun Life Stadium. Here are some key takeaways from Miami's 44-20 win over FAU.

 

1. Miami’s shaky defense

In Week 1, the Hurricanes' defense recorded a shutout against Bethune-Cookman. Even though it was against an FCS opponent, many saw progress from Miami’s defensive performance. However, the same defense that produced a shutout looked shaky against FAU's offense.

 

The Hurricanes struggled to make tackles against the FAU ball carriers and they were out of position a number of times in the first half. Jay Warren rushed for 132 yards for the Owls before he got injured during the second half. Miami also struggled to contain backup quarterback Jason Driskel, who led FAU to a couple of scoring drives in the first half.

 

While Miami forced five turnovers in the game, they also gave up 292 yards to FAU in the first half. That has to improve if they want to beat Nebraska, which boasts considerably more talent on offense, this weekend.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Yearby and Walton are playmakers

One of the positives for the Hurricanes on Friday night was the play of their running backs. Both Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton have shown in the Hurricanes’ first two games that the team will be just fine at running back.

 

Yearby rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown. He also recorded three receptions for 97 yards and another score. Freshman Mark Walton rushed for 42 yards and three touchdowns. He also chipped in four catches for 20 yards.

 

Related: 10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2

 

When Miami announced Gus Edwards was out for the season with a season-ending foot injury, many people had questions about the Hurricanes' rushing attack. So far, Yearby and Walton have put those questions to rest.

 

3. Despite 2-0 start, Al Golden is still on the hot seat

Throughout the years, plenty of Miami fans have been calling for the firing of head coach Al Golden. On Friday night, fans showed their displeasure of Golden once again.

 

Before kickoff at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton,  banner that read “Make Miami Great Again—Butch Davis 2016” flew overhead. Golden clearly saw the banner and was not pleased.

 

This isn’t the first time a banner calling for Golden’s job has flown prior to a Hurricanes game. Last season prior to a home game against Cincinnati, a banner that said “Fire Al Golden Save The U” was flown over Sun Life Stadium.

 

In his fifth season at Miami, Golden has a 30-22 record but he has failed guide the Hurricanes to an ACC Championship Game appearance and also is still looking for his first bowl victory (0-2).

 

Even with the 2-0 start in 2015, the pressure will be on Golden all season long, unless he can lead the Hurricanes back to contention in the ACC Coastal Division. And even that may not be enough to save his job.

 

— 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:
3 Takeaways from the Miami Hurricanes' Win over FAU
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, San Francisco 49ers, NFL
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-vs-san-francisco-49ers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The San Francisco 49ers host the Minnesota Vikings in the late matchup of ESPN's "Monday Night Football" doubleheader to conclude Week 1. Minnesota is coming off a 7-9 record and third-place NFC North finish in 2014. But the team expects to improve in Year Two of the Mike Zimmer regime with second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a talented defense and the return of former MVP Adrian Peterson.

 

San Francisco went 8-8 last season and mutually agreed to part ways with former head coach Jim Harbaugh. The team also lost several key members of its roster including guard Mike Iupati and running back Frank Gore to free agency as well as offensive tackle Anthony Davis and linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement.

 

Minnesota at San Francisco

 

Kickoff: 10:15 p.m. ET (Monday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Minnesota -2.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Return of Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson makes his return after a nearly season-long suspension and a tumultuous offseason. But after claiming that his relationship with the Vikings was "permanently damaged" the two parties reconciled. Peterson now joins an offense that has a capable, young quarterback, an underrated group of wide receivers and a solid offensive line that should provide enough holes for one of the league's best running backs to make a successful return. 

 

2. Teddy Bridgewater in Year Two

Bridgewater enjoyed a solid rookie campaign as the Vikings' starting quarterback. He threw for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on 259-of-402 passing. Bridgewater started in 12 games and led Minnesota to a 6-6 record. With Peterson back in the fold, as well as having a year of NFL experience, many expect the former Louisville standout to improve in Year Two. Bridgewater should find success in Minnesota's offense with the addition of Mike Wallace and several other capable targets.

 

3. 49ers Bounce Back After Tough Offseason

San Francisco had the worst offseason in NFL history. The infamous breakup with Harbaugh was a sign of bad things to come for the 49ers. The team lost the majority of its key players to free agency, retirement and — in Aldon Smith's case — breaking the law multiple times. There's also the fact that many expect Vernon Davis to continue to see a decline in production after a disappointing 2014 campaign and the jury is still out on whether Colin Kaepernick is an "elite quarterback." San Francisco needs a strong performance Monday to reassure its fans that the franchise is still moving in the right direction.

 

Final Analysis

 

Monday's game is the perfect example of two franchises going in different directions. Minnesota is on the rise with a young, talented roster that is expected to be a dark horse in a tough NFC North division. San Francisco is on the decline and should struggle after a horrendous offseason. This should be a big win for the Vikings, who need as many wins as possible to compete with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago.


Prediction: Vikings 28, 49ers 14

 

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

Teaser:
Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: girls, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/miss-georgia-tom-brady-cheated-crowned-miss-america-balls-patriots
Body:

Apparently no question is off limits at the Miss America Pageant. 

 

During the Q&A segment, Miss Georgia was asked if what Tom Brady did is considered cheating. Her response was priceless.

 

 

Miss Georgia of course went on to win the pageant, solidifying Brady's winning powers. 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 09:38
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-vs-atlanta-falcons-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

After offseasons filled with dramatic changes, Philadelphia and Atlanta make their debuts Monday night, with one looking to make a run at the Super Bowl, and the other hoping to erase some of the problems that prevented it from contending in the fetid NFC South last year.

 

After consolidating his power during an early 2015 coup, Eagles coach Chip Kelly continued to stock the team with “his guys.” In are quarterback Sam Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray, linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell — among others. After two 10-win seasons and zero playoff victories, Kelly has a team more suited for his high-speed, outscore-‘em-all approach. It’s time to see if his radical methods can produce big success.

 

Atlanta, meanwhile, jettisoned long-time boss Mike Smith in favor for former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is charged with helping the Falcons stop somebody, a big problem in last year’s 6-10 disappointment. He’ll also have to find a way to run the football successfully, in order to take pressure off quarterback Matt Ryan.

 

Philadelphia at Atlanta

 

Kickoff: 7:10 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Spread: Eagles -2.5

 

Three Things To Watch

 

1. Sam I Am

New Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford may be working on his third ACL, but he looked razor sharp during the preseason, particularly in the third game at Green Bay, when he completed all 10 of his passing attempts. Bradford’s ability to make quick decisions and release the ball at a rapid pace is perfect for Kelly’s dragster offensive style, which seeks to apply consistent pressure on opposing defenses. “Our biggest thing is: Are we ready to play when the ball is put back into play?” Kelly says. “That’s kind of the big thing, and I think we’ve been like that for a while.”

   

2. Defensive Stance

The Falcons ranked dead last in the NFL last year in yards per game allowed (398.2), a big reason Quinn is in Atlanta right now. He’ll be charged with creating a push along the front four, the better to protect his secondary, which was last in the league last year against the pass. Quinn will make use of sizeable tackles Paul Soliai and Ra’Shede Hagemen. But perhaps most important is first-round pick Vic Beasley, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end with great speed and the ability to create trouble off the edge.

 

3. Julio Jones vs. Byron Maxwell

Maxwell spent the last few years as the Other Guy in the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom defensive backfield, listening to the praise heaped upon Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Signed to a hefty free-agent contract by Philadelphia in the offseason, Maxwell is now the featured cover man for the Eagles and will get the chance to show his skills against Atlanta’s Jones, one of the league’s best. Jones caught 104 passes last year and scored six times. It should be a great matchup and could have a huge impact on the game. “[Maxwell] has a terrific mindset for going after the ball — the poke-out, the interception, the forced fumbles; that part of his game is really in tune,” said Quinn, who coached Maxwell in Seattle.

 

Final Analysis

 

There is excitement in Atlanta about Quinn’s hiring, and it will be interesting to see if he makes an immediate impact on the rotten Falcon defense. If that happens, the Falcons should be in good shape, since Ryan was strong last year and looked particularly sharp during the preseason while completing 72.2 percent of his passes. Ryan also is 7-0 in home openers during his career.

 

It has taken three years for Kelly to get the Eagles roster the way he wants it, and there are only 12 holdovers from the Andy Reid era, which ended after the 2012 season. Philadelphia should be able to play faster than ever with Bradford at the helm, and the presence of Murray should help resurrect the ground game, which wasn’t as effective in 2014 as it was the year before. Murray is a plant-and-go runner well suited for Kelly’s philosophy. The Eagles want to score as much as possible, and with a defense that remains a bit shaky, they’ll need as many points as they can muster to win.

 

Prediction: Eagles 34, Falcons 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:
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/how-will-malik-zaire-injury-affect-notre-dame
Body:

For Notre Dame it never seems to end. After a 2014 season riddled with injury after injury, decimating the defense beyond recognition at the end of the year, Irish fans hoped this fall would be different.

 

Unfortunately, it’s been more of the same. Notre Dame lost defensive tackle Jarron Jones to a freak injury before the season even started. In the first game, running back Tarean Folston’s season ended with a torn ACL. This week the Irish suffered their biggest injury to date when quarterback Malik Zaire broke his ankle.

 

Related: 10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2

 

DeShone Kizer came in and after a slow start rallied the Irish to victory, dropping a perfect 39-yard strike on Will Fuller for the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left against Virginia. Kizer finished the game 8-of-12 passing for 92 yards and two touchdowns, the other being a shovel pass to Durham Smythe on the fake field goal in the first quarter.

 

College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Kizer was a heavily recruited prospect coming out of Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio. He had offers from Alabama, LSU, Penn State, Tennessee, Nebraska, Michigan State and many others, so he has talent.

 

But a couple of things have happened while he’s been at Notre Dame that have stunted his development. Kizer’s girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer and had a tumor removed from her neck last spring. While Kizer remained with the team, it had to affect his focus. Also, the Everett Golson situation did not exactly help Kizer's preparation. Because Golson and Zaire were both on campus through the end of the 2015 academic year, Kizer got third-team reps all spring. The primary focus for head coach Brian Kelly and the offensive staff was to get Zaire and Golson ready for action because those were the guys that were expected to play. But when Golson transferred, Kizer was bumped up a spot and those additional reps would have been beneficial.

 

From a game experience standpoint, Zaire has only started three games, so the drop off in actual playing time is not drastic. But Zaire has been in the program an extra year and knows the offense better. Plus, the running dimension that Zaire brings is gone. Kizer is mobile and can make things happen with his legs, but he is not Zaire running the football. Also, with true freshman Brandon Wimbush as the only scholarship quarterback behind Kizer, Kelly will probably want to protect his new starter. That, in turn, will change the way Kelly will put together his offensive game plan.

 

The Zaire injury is a massive blow to Notre Dame. You could tell by the team reaction after the injury and by Kelly’s dejectedness in his postgame press conference. Every facet of the team will have to take a step forward, especially the defense.

 

Kizer is a smart guy with ability. The Irish can still win a lot of games with him at quarterback, assuming other players at other positions rise to the challenge. How good this team can be has less to do with Kizer than it does the rest of the team, players and coaches alike.

 

Expectations remain high in South Bend. But they have to be somewhat tempered after the events in Charlottesville this past Saturday.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Teaser:
How Will the Malik Zaire Injury Affect Notre Dame?
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-sports-2015-16-preseason-womens-college-basketball-top-25
Body:

Once again, Connecticut is an easy choice to take the women’s basketball national title. The Huskies will be aiming for their 11th championship, which would tie the fabled UCLA men’s program for the most all time.

 

There will be some talented teams pursuing the Huskies, but the crew from Storrs is an overwhelming favorite.

 

1. Connecticut (38-1)

The Huskies lost All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, but the program is so strong that it should only be a bump in the road. It starts with senior forward Breanna Stewart, who was the consensus 2015 National Player of the Year. UConn will also rely on returning double-digit scorers Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Kia Nurse. Katie Lou Samuelson, the nation’s top-rated recruit according to the All Star Girls Report, could step into Mosqueda-Lewis’ spot.

 

2. Notre Dame (36-3)

Coach Muffet McGraw will have to replace standout Jewell Loyd, but the Fighting Irish have successfully replaced All-Americans before. Four proven starters are back, and a tremendous recruiting class will join the program. Sophomore Brianna Turner may be Notre Dame’s next All-American, and she will be joined in the starting lineup by Lindsay Allen, Taya Reimer and Michaela Mabrey. Arike Ogunbowale leads a freshman class that includes three top-20 recruits.

 

3. Tennessee (30-6)

Mercedes Russell and Diamond DeShields were two of the best freshmen in the country in 2013-14, and they both sat out last year. Now, Russell (who underwent surgery on both feet) and DeShields (who transferred from North Carolina) will be playing together for the Lady Vols. Add in returnees Bashaara Graves and Jasmine Jones, plus two outstanding recruits, and Tennessee could be the top team in the SEC.

 

4. South Carolina (34-3)

Tiffany Mitchell returns as the Gamecocks’ unquestioned leader, but the spotlight at USC may fall on sophomore A’ja Wilson and junior Alaina Coates. Those two delivered impressive numbers last year while coming off the bench. Can they move to another level as starters in 2015-16?

 

5. Ohio State (24-11)

The Buckeyes should top the Big Ten under third-year head coach Kevin McGuff. Ohio State will be powered by sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, who netted 24.9 points per game as a freshman. Backcourt partner Ameryst Alston will provide senior leadership, while forwards Shayla Cooper and Alexa Hart are also returning starters.

 

6. Mississippi State (27-7)

A very young Bulldogs team set the school record for wins last year, so expectations are soaring in Starkville. MSU’s nucleus will feature four returning starters: juniors Breanna Richardson and Dominique Dillingham, plus sophomores Victoria Vivians and Morgan William. Teaira McCowan, a 6'7" freshman center, should also make an impact this winter.

 

7. Baylor (33-4)

The talented tandem of junior forward Nina Davis and senior point guard Niya Johnson will make the Bears a serious Final Four contender. Juniors Imani Wright, Khadijiah Cave and Alexis Prince are proven veterans. The contributions of newcomers Alexis Jones (a Duke transfer) and freshman post players Kalani Brown and Beatrice Mompremier could be critical.

 

8. Louisville (27-7)

The Cardinals lost three starters, so they will be looking for help from one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Louisville, which has reached the Final Four two times over the last seven years, will be paced by the team’s top two scorers from 2014-15, sophomore forwards Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen. Asia Durr, who was listed as the No. 2 prospect in the country by the All Star Girls Report, leads an outstanding five-player recruiting class.

 

9. Texas A&M (23-10)

The Aggies should have strong senior leadership and an equally strong bench this year. Courtney Williams and Courtney Walker return after they both tallied over 14 points per game in 2014-15, and point guard Jordan Jones should be back after suffering a knee injury during the season.

 

10. Texas (24-11)

Heading into her fourth season in Austin, coach Karen Aston has done a tremendous job rebuilding the Longhorns. Eight players who saw significant minutes last year return, with 6'5" junior Kelsey Lang and 6'7" senior Imani McGee-Stafford forming an impressive baseline tandem. The development of freshman shooting guard Lashann Higgs could prove to be a key for Texas.

 

11. Oklahoma (21-12)

The Sooners used a balanced attack to cross the 20-win plateau last year, and they have four starters returning. A productive perimeter group features juniors Peyton Little and Gioya Carter, along with sophomore Gabbi Ortiz. Senior forward Kaylon Williams will need some help on the baseline.

 

12. Northwestern (23-9)

After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years, the experienced Wildcats should have their sights set even higher in 2015-16. Four starters return for coach Joe McKeown, and all four scored in double figures last year. That quartet includes seniors Maggie Lyon and Lauren Douglas, plus juniors Nia Coffey and Ashley Deary.

 

13. Duke (23-11)

Elizabeth Williams is gone, but Azurá Stevens appears to be the heir apparent to Williams’ All-American legacy. Stevens, a 6'6" sophomore wing, contributed 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a freshman. Rebecca Greenwell is another sophomore who is a proven scorer, and the Blue Devils will also rely on Amber Henson, Oderah Chidom and an outstanding recruiting class that features four top-50 prospects.

 

14. Arizona State (29-6)  The Sun Devils were the surprise team of 2014-15, and they have a strong cast returning. Senior sharpshooter Katie Hempen is the top scoring threat, and junior Sophie Brunner is productive in the paint. Senior Elisha Davis will be back running the point, with junior Quinn Dornstauder returning in the post.

 

15. Florida State (32-5)

The Seminoles enjoyed a great run last year, and four the of the team’s five double-digit scorers will be back in Tallahassee. Senior center Adut Bulgak will lead the way after she averaged 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 2014-15. Bulgak should get plenty of help from junior center Leticia Romero, junior forward Ivey Slaughter and sophomore forward Shakayla Thomas.

 

16. Maryland (34-3)

The Terrapins have reached the past two Final Fours, but the graduation of Laurin Mincy and the late transfer of Lexie Brown created major voids. Senior Malina Howard and juniors Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones will form a solid foundation, but highly regarded freshmen Brianna Fraser and Kiah Gillespie will have to adapt to the college game quickly.

 

17. Stanford (26-10)

The Cardinal will rely on 3-point shooting and a strong junior class that features guard Lili Thompson, who led a balanced attack with 13.3 points per game last year. Thompson will be supported by classmates Erica McCall, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson, and sophomore Kaylee Johnson is another proven performer.

 

18. Oregon State (27-5)

The Beavers are coming off their best season in school history, and expectations should be even higher in Corvallis for 2015-16. Four starters return, including three who piled up impressive numbers last year. Jamie Weisner (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Ruth Hamblin (12.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Sydney Wiese (12.7 ppg, 5.6 apg) will give Oregon State an outstanding core.

 

19. Kentucky (24-10)

The Wildcats were inconsistent last year, but a veteran backcourt should keep UK on target this winter. Senior point guard Janee Thompson will work with juniors Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper on the perimeter. Highly regarded newcomers Evelyn Akhator (the No. 1 junior college recruit in the nation) and freshman Batouly Camara will be counted on for immediate help.

 

20. North Carolina (26-9)

The Tar Heels have talent, but these are tumultuous times in Chapel Hill. After Diamond DeShields transferred following a tremendous 2013-14 freshman campaign, leading scorer Allisha Gray opted to transfer this summer. Stephanie Mavunga and Xylina McDaniel will give UNC two talented forwards, but freshmen Stephanie Watts and Destinee Walker will have to step up immediately in the backcourt.

 

21. George Washington (29-4)

The Colonials will have plenty of depth and plenty of size. The impressive George Washington frontline will be led by senior Jonquel Jones, who averaged a double-double in 2014-15. The 6'4" Jones will be joined on the baseline by 6'5" sophomore Kelli Prange and 6'2" junior Caira Washington. Junior Hannah Schaible will be the Colonials’ top perimeter threat.

 

22. Chattanooga (29-4)

The gaudy 2014-15 win total included victories over Tennessee and Stanford, and a strong nucleus returns for veteran coach Jim Foster. Junior forward Jasmine Joyner led the Mocs in scoring and rebounding last year, and senior point guard Alicia Payne is back to run the show. Junior Chelsey Shumpert and sophomore Keiana Gilbert are also reliable contributors.

 

23. South Florida (27-8)

All five starters return for the Bulls, including a pair of supremely talented seniors. Courtney Williams delivered 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last year, while Alisia Jenkins posted 12.8 points, 11. 3 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots.

 

24. Syracuse (22-10)

The Orange are another program with five returning starters. The backcourt combo of Alexis Peterson and Brianna Butler will lead the way after they combined for just under 30 points per game last year. The key performer may be center Briana Day, who contributed 9.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest as a sophomore.

 

25. Princeton (31-1)

The Tigers ripped off 31 straight wins before they fell to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Princeton lost the player on top of its scoring column, but the next six players on that list return. Most important, the Tigers will have five proven seniors — guards Michelle Miller and Amanda Berntsen, plus forwards Alex Wheatley, Annie Tarakchian and Taylor Williams.

Teaser:
Athlon Sports' 2015-16 Preseason Women's College Basketball Top 25
Post date: Monday, September 14, 2015 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/pacman-jones-slams-amari-cooper-head-helmet-raiders-bengals-adam
Body:

It doesn't have to be playoff football for players to be amped.

 

During the Bengals-Raiders game, things got a little out of hand. Adam "Pacman" Jones let his emotions get the best of him and pushed receiver Amari Cooper's head into his helmet. Jones was given a personal foul, but surprisingly not ejected. 

 

 

 

Nothing major, but a fine should be on its way.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 17:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-2-review
Body:

Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox break down the three biggest games of Week 2.

 

How good is Micigan State and what does this win mean for the both the Spartans and the Ducks? What can Tennessee learn from this loss and does this catapult Oklahoma into Big 12 contention? How bad really was Week 2 for the SEC? Can Notre Dame win big after losing its QB?

 

The guys also up their Top 4 Playoff teams as they do every week as well.

 

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @DavidFox615 or email podcast@athlonsports.com. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcastiTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 2 Review
Post date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/rams-troll-russell-wilson-seahawks-loss-st-louis-seattle-marshawn-lynch-tweets
Body:

It's only Week 1 but the troll game is on strong.

 

Before the Seahawks-Rams game, Russell Wilson tweeted this out, letting everyone know what his team's record was about to be.

 

 

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, their plans were foiled and ended up losing 34-31. Rams were not going to let that tweet go so easily. They must've favorited and kept it in their drafts folder. When Marshawn Lynch was stuff on fourth down in overtime, it was time to unleash the tweets.

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 16:56
All taxonomy terms: Cleveland Browns, NFL
Path: /nfl/josh-mccown-cleveland-browns-jets-hit-touchdown-fumble
Body:

This is peak Cleveland Browns.

 

In the game against the Jets, Josh McCown saw an opening and went for it. In retrospect, this is probably one he wants back because he got lit up like a Christmas tree and had to leave the game. Oh and he fumbled on top of it.

 

 

On a lighter note, it's Johnny Manziel time. 

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 13:47
All taxonomy terms: Washington Redskins, NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/redskins-fan-comes-prepared-quarterback-robert-griffin-colt-mccoy-kirk-cousins
Body:

There's nothing wrong with planning ahead.

 

Due to the interesting quarterback situation the Redskins have going on over in D.C., one fan decided to get ready to cheer on anyone who gets a snap under center. Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy will have one guy rooting for all three of them equally.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 13:32
All taxonomy terms: High School, Overtime
Path: /high-school/st-anthonys-high-school-zeke-cardenas-hits-referee-video
Body:

Another video of a football player getting out of hand with a referee has surfaced.

 

St. Anthony's High School player, Zeke Cardenas, is seen shoving a referee after a fight was broken up between the two teams. The player gets caught in the moment, but it's a mistake that could cost him in the long run.

A suspension is likely coming for the Cardenas.

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 12:16

Pages