Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/hawks-dennis-schroder-gets-tooth-knocked-out-puts-it-sock-atlanta-trail-blazers
Body:

Basketball players are tough. They don't get the same reputation that football players too, but these guys deserve some recognition.

 

During the Hawks game against the Trail Blazers, Dennis Schroder gets his tooth knocked out by another player's knee and just stuffed it in his sock like it was no big deal.

 

 

 

Eh, I'll get to it later. 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 10:43
Path: /college-football/3-reasons-iowa-hawkeye-fans-should-embrace-rose-bowl
Body:

Plenty of credit should be given to Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa Hawkeyes for coming oh-so-close to winning the Big Ten championship and getting into the College Football Playoff. A 12-1 record, Big Ten West Division title and an invitation to the Rose Bowl is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. And to be honest, at least in this die-hard Hawkeye fan’s opinion, if Iowa was able to hang on and defeat Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game it would have been a disaster for these Hawkeyes to go to the College Football Playoff.

 

They were certainly good enough to go 8-0 in the B1G West en route to their first division title since the current division alignment was introduced. And there should be no question that they were good enough to compete against the likes of any program the B1G East had to offer this season. They've proven all of that to be true.

 

But at the end of the day, an outright Big Ten title and subsequent 13-0 mark would've been the worst thing that could've happened to the Iowa program heading into 2016. And there are several very good reasons why this is true.

 

1. Tradition

The Hawkeyes have not been to a Rose Bowl, or appeared in a Southern California bowl, for 24 years. Their last appearance in the region, a recruiting hotbed for all those speedy wide receiver and secondary types, was the 1991 Holiday Bowl against BYU, which ended in a 13-13 tie.

 

Some say “the best Rose Bowl never played” was the 2003 Orange Bowl in which Iowa took on USC in Miami after the old BCS formula got in the way of that game being played in Pasadena, as it should have been that year.

 

And Ferentz has never been a head coach in the Rose Bowl. Since Ferentz took over at Iowa, 17 years, four conference titles and some pretty good teams have come and gone without the “Dean of B1G Coaches” getting a shot in “The Granddaddy of Them All.” Once again, you can thank the old BCS formula for that fact.

 

Couple this all with the possibility that Ferentz and the 2015 Hawkeyes could win Iowa's first Rose Bowl game since the 1958 squad defeated Cal 38-12, and it really should make this game against Stanford look pretty attractive to the Iowa faithful.

 

2. Competition

It's not politically correct to say this, especially given the lack of respect that was shown to this year's Hawkeyes by national media and pundits. But let's face it. A No. 4 Iowa squad, facing off with a No. 1 Clemson squad, could've had recruiting disaster written all over it for the Hawkeyes and their staff. That game would've been watched closely by all those future SEC recruits in the Deep South, where Iowa needs to continue to make more in-roads to remain consistently competitive looking into the future.

 

And a possible old-school shellacking to Clemson certainly would've meant many doors in the region got closed for the Hawkeyes’ future prospects. Not to mention the whole “credibility” issue it would've created for the Hawkeye staff as they work to ensure the 2016 squad can come anywhere near the success of this year's team.

 

Now in fairness to the Hawkeyes, they managed to win 12 games, and nearly got number 13 but for that final 17 seconds against Michigan State. So there's no surefire way of saying they would've lost to Clemson. But it's a far better scenario to have Iowa fans say “we coulda won that game” than to have Clemson fans and national media saying, “Iowa never even shoulda been there.”

 

3. Expectations

No one is saying it... yet. But there can be no question that the 2015 Iowa Hawkeyes have set a very high bar for next season. On a team that will return a significant portion of the talent which got it to 12-1 in 2015, and with a schedule which will be very favorable to a repeat of this team's success, a Playoff appearance and semifinal loss in 2015 could've sent the Hawkeyes and their faithful's outlook into a tailspin before the New Year had even arrived. But instead an Iowa Rose Bowl victory on New Year’s Day over a very talented Stanford team, means that the season ends on an high note heading into spring practice.

 

Throw in the fact that prior to this season, Hawkeye faithful had been calling for Ferentz' head on a platter, and you have to think that even he didn't want to go to the Playoff and be handed a smack down at the hands of Clemson. The fact that Iowa lost its last game is probably what people would have remembered. A result that likewise may have led to another call for Ferentz to step down from his position, thus ensuring his legacy in the annals of Iowa football as the coach who gave Hawkeye fans their winningest season ever yet still wasn’t able to fully capitalize on the Hawkeyes’ best shot at winning a national championship.

 

What Does This All Mean?

At the end of the day, no matter what happens in Pasadena on Jan. 1, 2016, Kirk Ferentz and his team did the unthinkable in the last four months. And in the process, left themselves a little room to grow for the future, without the typically unreasonable expectations of Hawkeye fans who too easily forget the good times when losses start to accumulate.

 

But this Hawkeye squad isn't done silencing the doubters just yet. Look for a competitive matchup against David Shaw's Stanford squad, similar in style to the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State game, but with the outcome being reversed.

 

Since I’m the Hawkeye fan who thinks winding up in the Rose Bowl is a good thing, I’ll pick the Hawkeyes to win in Pasadena for the first time since 1959, beating the Cardinal 27-21. Victory No. 13 on the season makes Ferentz King of Hawkeye Nation once more. And this time, Ferentz also gets his due for putting his program into good position headed into next season too.

 

— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently based in Southern California. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, and is a former contributing writer for The Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Teaser:
3 Reasons Why Iowa Hawkeye Fans Should Embrace This Rose Bowl
Post date: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-2015-playoff-preview
Body:

Braden Gall, Mitch Light and David Fox analyze every angle of the 2015 College Football Playoff:

 

- Which team benefits the most, the least from the long layoff?

 

- Which coach's legacy would benefit the most from a national championship?

 

- Will any team have a home-field advantage like Oregon did last year in the Rose Bowl?

 

- Can Michigan State stop Derrick Henry?

 

- Is Connor Cook the best quarterback Alabama has faced?

 

- Can a pro-style offense beat a Nick Saban defense?

 

- Should Clemson or Oklahoma be more motivated by last year's bowl blowout?

 

- Which quarterback will play better in the Orange Bowl?

 

- Is Oklahoma the best offense Clemson has faced all season?

 

- Can the Sooners defense control the line of scrimmage against DeShaun Watson?

 

And, of course, we make final score predictions for both games (and if we are wrong, WHY are we wrong?)

 

 

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

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: 2015 Playoff Preview
Post date: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 10:19
Path: /college-football/hawaii-bowl-preview-and-prediction-cincinnati-vs-san-diego-state
Body:

The last of college football’s pre-Christmas bowl games kicks off on Thursday, Dec. 24, as Cincinnati and San Diego State make the trek to Honolulu for an intriguing matchup in the Hawaii Bowl. The Aztecs are making their sixth consecutive postseason appearance, which is more than the program had combined from 1969-2009. The Bearcats have been a frequent visitor to the postseason since 2000, earning 13 trips to bowl games in that span.

 

Cincinnati was picked as one of the frontrunners to win the American Athletic Conference this preseason, but the Bearcats stumbled to 7-5, snapping a streak of four consecutive seasons with at least nine wins. Turnovers were a huge problem for coach Tommy Tuberville’s team, as Cincinnati recorded a minus-16 margin in 12 games. The defense was a concern entering the year, and the Bearcats surrendered 5.8 yards per play and 30.3 points per game. Despite the problems on defense and in the turnover department, Cincinnati wasn’t far from winning a few of its biggest games this season. The Bearcats lost by eight to Temple, by seven to Memphis and by three to Houston.

 

With a win over Cincinnati on Dec. 24, San Diego State would tie a school record for the most victories in a season (11). The Aztecs started 1-3 but finished 2015 by winning nine consecutive games, including the Mountain West Championship over Air Force. The victory over the Falcons secured San Diego State’s first outright conference championship since 1986 and the program’s first double-digit win season since 1977.

 

San Diego State and Cincinnati have only one previous matchup in program history. The Bearcats defeated the Aztecs 52-23 in 2007. This is the first time either team has played in a postseason bowl game in Hawaii.

 

Hawaii Bowl: Cincinnati vs. San Diego State

Honolulu, Hawaii – Aloha Stadium

 

Kickoff: Thursday, Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: San Diego State -1.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey might be one of the nation’s most underrated players. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior rushed for 1,554 yards and 16 scores this season and is the focal point for the Aztecs’ offense. Pumphrey also leads the team with 27 catches and tied for first among Mountain West running backs with four runs of 50 yards or more this year. The junior isn’t the only option at running back for this offense, as Chase Price (940 yards) and Rashaad Penny (351 yards) are capable of spelling Pumphrey when he needs a break. Also, fullback Dakota Gordon is a 5-foot-10 power blocker and a key cog in a rushing attack that also boasts two all-conference linemen in guard Nico Siragusa and tackle Pearce Slater. Establishing the run is critical for San Diego State, as this offense isn’t built to come from behind. The Aztecs average 48 rushing attempts per game, compared to just 19 pass attempts. Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith suffered an ACL tear against Nevada on Nov. 28 and did not play in the win over Air Force on Dec. 5. Smith is delaying surgery in an attempt to play in the bowl, but all signs point to freshman Christian Chapman (9 of 14, 203 yards against Air Force) making his second start. Smith’s injury only adds to the pressure on Pumphrey and the San Diego State ground attack. Stopping the run has been an issue for Cincinnati this season, as the Bearcats ranked ninth in the American Athletic Conference, surrendering 190.8 yards per game. Additionally, this defense gave up at least 200 yards on the ground in four of the last five games.

 

Related: Predictions for Every College Football Bowl Game in 2015-16

 

2. Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore

Cincinnati’s quarterback position has experienced its share of twists and turns in the 2015 season. Gunner Kiel opened the season as the starter, but Hayden Moore received more playing time after Kiel was injured against Memphis and finished the regular season with two starts. Kiel was the better quarterback in 2015, throwing for 2,777 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, Kiel won’t make the trip to due a personal matter, leaving Moore as Cincinnati’s starter on Thursday night. The freshman had his bright spots (4 TDs against Memphis) but also tossed eight picks on 195 attempts. Moore has a tough assignment against San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense, which wreaked havoc on Mountain West quarterbacks in 2015. The Aztecs allowed only 4.68 yards per play, gave up 17.2 points per game, generated 33 sacks and forced 31 takeaways. The Bearcats have a deep receiving corps, but San Diego State’s secondary is anchored by the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year Damontae Kazee and all-conference selection J.J. Whittaker. Can Moore avoid turnovers and connect on a few big plays against the stingy Aztec secondary?

 

3. Turnovers

San Diego State doesn’t have a huge margin for error in this game. The Aztecs should be able to establish the run against Cincinnati, but coach Rocky Long’s offense cannot afford to fall behind the chains or on the scoreboard. San Diego State’s passing game is not built to rally from a large deficit. On the other sideline, Cincinnati is capable of putting up points in a hurry. Of course, scoring points and establishing drives also depends on holding onto the ball. The Bearcats ranked No. 124 nationally with a minus-16 in turnover margin this season. San Diego State finished the regular season ranked first nationally in turnover margin, losing only 12 turnovers all year. If the turnover margin totals hold true on Thursday night, Cincinnati is going to have a tough time earning the victory over the Aztecs.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is a classic matchup of a high-powered offense (Cincinnati) versus a stingy defense (San Diego State). Which style of play will establish control of this game early in the first half? If the Aztecs get the ground game on track, win the time of possession battle and force a few turnovers, coach Rocky Long’s team should earn its 11th win of the season. The Bearcats have the edge in offensive firepower and need to push the tempo early to get San Diego State out of its comfort zone. The Mountain West has lost its last eight trips to this bowl. That losing streak ends on Christmas Eve, as the Aztecs cap one of the best seasons in school history with a close victory over the Bearcats.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 27, Cincinnati 24

 

(Credit to SDSU athletic media relations for top photo of RB Donnel Pumphrey)

Teaser:
Hawaii Bowl Preview and Prediction: Cincinnati vs. San Diego State
Post date: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/bahamas-bowl-preview-and-prediction-middle-tennessee-vs-western-michigan-2015
Body:

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and the Western Michigan Broncos have a lot to live up to. We can only hope that this year’s edition of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl is remotely as entertaining as last year’s game between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan.

 

The Hilltoppers prevailed over the Chippewas last December, but only after Central Michigan roared back from a 49-14 third quarter deficit and had its game-winning, two-point conversion attempt batted down — and that was only after a 75-yard Hail Mary (with three laterals thrown in for good measure) touchdown play as time expired. Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush threw for a bowl-record seven touchdown passes in that game, a feat that very well could be contested this year when two very impressive quarterbacks and high-scoring offenses take the field at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau on Christmas Eve.

 

Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan (Nassau, Bahamas)

 

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Western Michigan -4.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Young Gunslingers

Both Middle Tennessee and Western Michigan have quarterbacks that can sling the ball all around the field efficiently and with very similar numbers. With multiple weapons at their disposal, both teams are capable of putting up points in a hurry.

 

Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell sits third in the MAC in passing yards (3,225) but quite possibly has the best wide receiver duo in the country in Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis. The Broncos’ top two targets each have more than 1,200 yards receiving on the season. WMU has a very well-balanced offensive attack that includes MAC Freshman of the Year Jamauri Bogan and a couple of other capable running backs.

 

Middle Tennessee’s offense goes as quarterback Brent Stockstill goes, and the lefty can toss the leather around the yard. A redshirt freshman, Stockstill is only 380 yards away from surpassing Jameis Winston’s single-season passing record for freshmen. With an assortment of weapons that include fellow freshman and game-breaker Richie James as well as senior Ed Batties, Stockstill has a fantastic opportunity to surpass the mark set by the former Heisman winner against a Broncos defense that is susceptible to giving up the big play.

 

2. Bend, Don’t Break D

Don’t turn on the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl thinking you’re going to be watching two defensive stalwarts — this is going to be a shootout. The Broncos’ defense ranks ninth in the MAC in yards allowed per game and passing defense efficiency. This combination could lead to a long afternoon for the Western Michigan secondary and a linebacker corps that is inexperienced and marred by injury against one of the country’s best young quarterbacks in Stockstill.

 

The Blue Raider defense improved over the last three weeks of the season, granted those wins were against teams that had a combined seven victories on the year. MTSU struggles more against well-rounded passers than stopping the run, so Terrell could have a big day through the air. One advantage that the Blue Raiders have on defense over Western Michigan is their two senior playmakers in linebacker T.T. Barber and safety Kevin Byard, both of whom could be playing in the NFL next year.

WMU is second in the nation in terms of time of possession, a testament to its balanced offensive attack and top-end running game. So, the Blue Raiders’ best bet to beat the favored Broncos is to come up with third down stops and force turnovers.

 

3. How Many Points?

Both teams can put up points in bunches. Typically, Middle Tennessee is a pass-first team, while Western Michigan has a variety of ways to move the ball and score. Running back Jarvion Franklin, last season’s MAC Offensive Player of the Year, has seen his numbers and production dip over the course of the past several weeks due to fumble issues and the emergence of fellow backs Bogan and LeVante Bellamy. The Broncos are afraid to pound the ball on the ground and work the game clock in order to wear an opposing defense down. This could be head coach P.J. Fleck’s greatest advantage to keeping the quick-strike Blue Raider offense at bay — keep them off the field. However, the Broncos’ offense is arguably one of the most balanced in the country and can score through the air just as well as on the ground.

 

Middle Tennessee’s is much more on-dimensional. Earlier in the season, the Blue Raiders tried to be a running team, but injuries and inconsistent play in the backfield gave head coach Rick Stockstill little option but to turn loose his young quarterback — and it’s paid off. MTSU’s offense is now built around the pass and getting playmakers in space. James will be used on screen plays and jet sweeps to utilize his explosiveness while Batties is more of a traditional possession receiver. The tandem’s ability to keep defenses guessing has worked extremely well all season long. The key for Brent Stockstill is getting others involved in the offense, something he has shown a knack for doing at times.

 

Final Analysis

 

This game could go in either team’s favor. I think the biggest key will be protecting the ball and controlling the clock. Western Michigan likes to keep the ball on the ground to maintain possession while Middle Tennessee uses screen passes and short routes as a de-facto running game, but has quick-strike ability. Whichever team wins the turnover battle, wins in the Bahamas.

 

Prediction: Middle Tennessee 34, Western Michigan 31

 

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

 

(Brent Stockstill photo by Brent Beerends, Middle Tennessee Athletic Communications)

Teaser:
Bahamas Bowl Preview and Prediction: Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan
Post date: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: AAC, ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC
Path: /college-football/top-25-college-football-games-2015
Body:

What is great about college football is that every season seems to offer a new handful of memories that can be shared and remembered for years to come. In 2015 we saw plenty of great comebacks and nailbiters filled with monster individual performances and bizarre plays you had to see to believe. This season offered a reminder of why it is important to never count a team out until the clock hits triple zeroes, and sometimes even after that happens you just never know what you might see unfold before your eyes.

 

After breaking down the top games in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, it is time to mix the best of the best and compile a master list of the top games from around the country. We'll even mix in some of the top games worth mentioning from the Group of 5, because there were a couple of gems from those teams too.

 

25. Oregon 61, Arizona State 55 (3OT) – Oct. 29

A week after getting back on track against Washington, Oregon rediscovered its offense on the road against Arizona State. A 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Charles Nelson and a 62-yard touchdown run by Kani Benoit in the third quarter gave the Ducks a lead heading into the fourth quarter of a wild game that epitomized "Pac-12 After Dark." Then down by seven with time running out, Vernon Adams scrambled back to the 25-yard line and threw up a prayer on fourth-and-goal from the nine-yard line and Dwayne Stanford somehow came down with the ball to lead to overtime. Oregon wasted no time getting on the board in the first overtime when Adams connected with Stanford on the first play for 25 yards and the go-ahead touchdown, which was answered by Arizona State. Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici gave the home team a lead in the second overtime with an 18-yard run, but Oregon answered with a short touchdown run by Royce Freeman. In the third overtime, Adams completed a 20-yard pass to Bralon Addison for a touchdown, one that looked on video review to actually be an incomplete pass with Addison's left toe appearing to be out of bounds. The score was upheld following a review due to inconclusive evidence to overturn the play, and Oregon picked off Bercovici on second-and-goal in the end zone for the win.

 

24. Oklahoma 31, Tennessee 24 (2OT) – Sept. 12

A week before Texas Tech would score a road victory in SEC territory, Oklahoma made a trip to Knoxville for a top-25 matchup with Tennessee. After digging a 17-0 hole in the first half, the Sooners chipped away at the Vols and scored a game-tying touchdown with just 40 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Baker Mayfield forced a second overtime with his short keeper on fourth down from the one-yard line and then gave the Sooners a lead with an 18-yard pass to Sterling Shepard, who danced around a couple of would-be tacklers as he reached for the end zone along the right sideline. Oklahoma's defense, which allowed just 254 yards through a double-overtime effort, prevented Tennessee from forcing a third overtime when Zack Sanchez picked off a pass from Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs on third down.

 

23. Michigan State 31, Oregon 28 – Sept. 12

An early battle of College Football Playoff contenders lived up to the hype in Week 2. Michigan State let one slip away on the road at Oregon last season but found a way to shut the door on the Ducks this time around. Michigan State's defense seemed to handle Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams well enough with two interceptions. Adams led a fourth-quarter rally for Oregon but the Spartans held strong on Oregon's final possession of the game with a turnover on downs, which allowed Connor Cook and the offense to run out the remaining 59 seconds on the clock. Oregon may have taken a dip in the middle of the season, but the win by the Spartans was and still is a big reason why they are in the Playoff.

 

22. Miami 36, Nebraska 33 (OT) – Sept. 19

It was a game Miami dominated, and then didn't, and then escaped in overtime and boy was it a lot of fun to watch. The Hurricanes jumped all over the struggling Cornhuskers in the first quarter with a 17-0 opening frame, as Brad Kaaya was locked in en route to a 379-yard performance. Miami built a decisive 33-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, which is when Nebraska pulled off quite the comeback in the second half over the final 11 minutes of regulation. Nebraska had three touchdown drives of at least 75 yards in the fourth quarter for 23 straight points with a pair of two-point conversions in the mix. Tommy Armstrong hit three touchdown passes in the rally, including the game-tying score to Stanley Morgan Jr. with 33 seconds to play.
 
The magic ran out in regulation time for Armstrong though. Miami's Corn Elder picked off Armstrong on the first play of overtime. Nebraska took a bad unnecessary roughness penalty on the play as well, which allowed Miami to start their overtime possession on the Nebraska 12-yard line. Miami played for a field goal from there, and the Hurricanes hit it for the wild win.

 

21. LSU 35, Florida 28 – Oct. 15

At the time it looked as though this could be a preview of the SEC Championship Game, and if that was the case then it certainly set the bar high. Leonard Fournette continued pushing his early Heisman campaign with 180 rushing yards against a solid Florida offense, and the Gators held their own on offense to make a game of it in Baton Rouge. Les Miles pulled into his hat for a fake field goal that took Florida by surprise and led to what would turn out to be a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Kicker Trent Dominique took a fake field goal 16 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

 

20. Washington State 31, UCLA 27 – Nov. 14

The Washington State Cougars were full of drama this season, and their mid-November trip to Los Angeles to play UCLA was no exception. Washington State held a 24-16 lead in the fourth quarter before Josh Rosen led a UCLA rally. Rosen's 37-yard touchdown run through the Cougars' defense gave the Bruins a late 27-24 lead with 1:09 to play, but that was more than enough time for Mike Leach to have quarterback Luke Falk lead a final drive to get into field goal range. Falk did more than that though. A 30-yard pass to Dom Williams put the ball on the UCLA 21-yard line with 18 seconds to play. A 21-yard pass to Gabe Marks for the touchdown with just three seconds left gave the Cougars one more wild win in the 2015 season.

 

19. TCU 52, Kansas State 45 – Oct. 10

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin proved capable of carrying his team to victory with a huge fourth-quarter effort on the road against Kansas State. Boykin ran for a 14-yard and a 69-yard touchdown to dig TCU out of a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter and then tossed a 55-yard TD to Josh Doctson with a little over a minute to play to give the Horned Frogs a late 52-45 lead on the Wildcats. At the time, Boykin's effort helped keep No. 2 TCU in the thick of the Playoff picture midway through the season. Boykin also kept his name among the Heisman contenders with the effort, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 124 yards and two more scores to help the Frogs leave Manhattan with the wild win.

 

18. Oklahoma 44, Baylor 34 – Nov. 14

The outlook of the Big 12 changed when Oklahoma walked into Waco and handed Baylor its first loss of the season in mid-November. The win also catapulted Baker Mayfield into the Heisman Trophy discussion for a late push. Mayfield passed for three touchdowns and Samaje Perine rushed for 166 yards and two scores as the Sooners took control of the Big 12 following a back-and-forth evening. Oklahoma never trailed after taking a 7-6 lead in the first quarter following Perine's first touchdown run of the game. For Oklahoma, the win was the fifth straight since losing to Texas, and the offense continued to light up the scoreboard with five straight games of at least 40 points.

 

17. Miami 30, Duke 27 – Oct. 31

It was quite a wild season for Miami, and they had another bizarre ending on Halloween. Fast-forward to the final three minutes of the game. Miami led Duke 24-12 with 5:54 to play, but the Blue Devils drove 75 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-19 with 2:40 to play. After the defense held Miami to a three-and-out, Duke drove 80 yards over 10 plays to score the go-ahead touchdown (27-24) with just six seconds to play. Then the controversial kick return happened.

 

Miami lateraled the kickoff return eight times, at least once that should not have counted, and Corn Elder once again came up with the big play as he got credit for the 91-yard, walk-off touchdown return for a controversial win.

 

16. Alabama 30, LSU 16 – Nov. 5

Alabama and LSU always seem to play some good old-fashioned slobber knockers. This season, LSU entered the game looking to firmly take control of the SEC West heading down the stretch and cement running back Leonard Fournette’s place as Heisman Trophy front-runner. Nothing went according to plan for LSU though as the Alabama defense stuffed Fournette for just 31 yards on 19 carries while Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry went off for 210 yards and three touchdowns to become the new Heisman favorite. Alabama’s defense shut LSU down after halftime, as Alabama outscored LSU 17-6 in the second half.

 

15. TCU 55, Texas Tech 52 – Sept. 26

Before Trevone Boykin got a chance to make his in-season Heisman case against Kansas State, he seemed to have an earlier Heisman moment against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had plenty of offense to top the Horned Frogs, they just did not have enough time left on the clock. On fourth-and-goal from the Texas Tech four-yard line, Boykin completed a pass to Aaron Green, who hauled in a tipped pass intended for Josh Doctson, for a touchdown with 23 seconds remaining. Texas Tech made TCU sweat it out though with an insane final play that saw Patrick Mahomes complete a pass under pressure over the middle to DeAndre Washington for a 24-yard gain. Washington then lateralled to Le'Raven Clark, who lateralled to Devin Lauderdale, who lateralled to Jakeem Grant. The play that started at midfield advanced all the way to the TCU 10-yard line before being forced out of bounds as time expired.

 

14. Nebraska 39, Michigan State 38 – Nov. 7

Nebraska fell on the wrong side of some close calls this season. So go figure the one that went their way came against the eventual Big Ten champions in Lincoln. Nebraska jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter but trailed Michigan State 31-20 entering the fourth quarter. That's when Tommy Armstrong hit his stride. The Huskers quarterback ran for two short touchdowns to help cut the deficit to just five points. Then, following a three-and-out by Michigan State, Armstrong completed passes to Jordan Westerkamp of 28 and 33 yards to quickly move from their own nine-yard line all the way to the Michigan State 30. Armstrong then connected with Brandon Reilly down the left sideline and, for a change, a controversial call by Big Ten refs went Nebraska's way. Reilly appeared to run out of bounds on his own and returned to catch the pass before reaching the end zone, but refs ruled he had been forced out of play. The touchdown stood and the Big Red faithful celebrated as one would expect.

 

13. Baylor 45, Oklahoma State 35 – Nov. 21

Baylor bounced back form its first loss of the season to Oklahoma in a big way on the road against Oklahoma State. The Bears got three total touchdowns from third-string quarterback Chris Johnson, who was replacing an injured Jarrett Stidham, giving the Cowboys their first loss of the season, thus keeping Baylor alive for the Big 12 championship and, perhaps, even the Playoff. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon went off against Oklahoma State for 210 yards and two scores, including a 71-yard touchdown in the third quarter to help pull Baylor farther away from Oklahoma State on the scoreboard. Cannon had a 59-yard score in the first four minutes of the game as well, as Baylor jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead in Stillwater. Baylor's three turnovers helped Oklahoma State stay within reach, but Baylor's offense was too much to handle this week.

 

12. Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37 – Sept. 19

The game where it seemed the cracks in Alabama’s SEC and College Football Playoff hopes appeared to be opened and exposed came at home against an Ole Miss team that showed it was not a fluke to win against the Crimson Tide the previous season. Ole Miss, thanks to the strength and luck of quarterback Chad Kelly going off for 341 yards and three touchdowns, took a 43-24 lead in the fourth quarter.

 

Kelly completed a desperation throw under pressure for a 73-yard touchdown to Cody Core and just minutes later it was Laquon Treadwell finding room for a 24-yard touchdown pass to take the steam out of Alabama, at least for a few moments. Alabama made an effort to find a way to a win with Derrick Henry running for a touchdown and Jake Coker completing a short touchdown pass to Richard Mullaney with 4:33 to play, but Ole Miss hung on for a frantic 43-37 victory.

 

11. Notre Dame 24, Temple 20 – Nov. 1

While this was not quite a Cinderella story, it definitely had a Rocky vibe to it. Temple, the decided underdogs from Philadelphia, got a chance to go toe-to-toe with one of college football's top programs of all-time, Notre Dame, and the national spotlight shined all day long for it. The scrappy Owls hung with the Fighting Irish from start to finish, but Notre Dame managed to find just enough big plays against Temple's inspired defense. DeShone Kizer ripped off a 79-yard touchdown run in the first half to give Notre Dame a 14-10 halftime lead. The freshman quarterback later completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller to bring the Irish back from behind with just over two minutes to play for a 24-20 win in Philadelphia.

 

10. Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14 – Nov. 21

You wanted a good defensive battle? You got it with Michigan State and Ohio State slugging it out back and forth in the trenches. Neither team had much success throwing the football with a combined 135 passing yards. With starter Connor Cook sidelined, Michigan State turned to Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry at quarterback. The Spartans neutralized a frustrated Ezekiel Elliott, who carried the football 12 times for 33 yards and a touchdown. Down 14-7, Michigan State scored twice in the fourth quarter while keeping the Buckeyes off the scoreboard. A 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by a short touchdown run by Gerald Holmes tied the game at 14-14 early in the final frame, and a 41-yard field goal by Michael Geiger gave the Spartans the win as time expired. The win also gave Michigan State the inside track to the Big Ten Championship Game out of the East Division, as well as an opportunity to make a late push for a Playoff spot.

 

9. Clemson 24, Notre Dame 22 – Oct. 3

This was the game where Clemson officially became recognized as a worthy national title contender. Hosting No. 6 Notre Dame in the rain that flooded parts of South Carolina, the Tigers started fast and had to hold on for a nail-biter of a win against the Irish. Brian Kelly's decision to go for two points in the fourth quarter following an early touchdown may have come back to haunt him, but each team came away with a bit of a character-building performance. Clemson's defense forced four turnovers, including three fumble recoveries, but Clemson had to win despite being outgained 432-296. Clemson jumped six spots in the AP poll as a result of the game, which helped set up Clemson's national title campaign and run.

 

8. Oklahoma 30, TCU 29 – Nov. 21

A week after topping Baylor in Waco, Oklahoma returned home and got off to a great start against TCU in Norman. The Sooners took a 23-7 lead in the first half with a pair of touchdown passes thrown by Baker Mayfield and Austin Seibert kicking three field goals. TCU was playing without quarterback Trevone Boykin and wide receiver Josh Doctson at this point, so the Horned Frogs could have rolled over and given up pretty easily. Of course, that would not be like a Gary Patterson-coached team. The Horned Frogs rallied with three touchdowns and a field goal after halftime. Oklahoma's only score of the second half came on a 72-yard touchdown run by Samaje Perine in the third quarter. TCU's rally was nearly completed with a Bram Kohlhausen touchdown pass to Emanuel Porter with 51 seconds to play. Rather than kick the extra point and roll the dice in overtime, Patterson opted to go for the two-point conversion and the lead. With Oklahoma playing without an injured Mayfield, that seemed like a good move for TCU as the Horned Frogs shut down Oklahoma in the second half. However, Kohlhausen's pass attempt on the conversion try was swatted down by Oklahoma's Steven Parker, and the Sooners survived for a key Big 12 victory that would lead to a conference championship in the final game of the season against Oklahoma State.

 

7. Clemson 45, North Carolina 37 – Dec. 5

The most attractive ACC Championship Game in the history of the conference saw No. 1 Clemson look to complete an undefeated regular season and lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff, and No. 10 North Carolina make a case for top one-loss team in consideration for the final four. North Carolina presented Clemson with its best opposing offensive threat of the season, but the Tigers made sure UNC quarterback Marquise Williams would be off the mark. Despite tossing three touchdowns, Williams completed just 11 of his 33 pass attempts. Clemson's Deshaun Watson had a better showing, completing 26-of-42 for 289 yards and three touchdowns, but UNC made sure Clemson kept its foot on the gas from start to finish.

 

Clemson took a 42-23 lead early in the fourth quarter but UNC chipped away with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. After cutting the lead to 45-37 with 1:13 to play, UNC appeared to recover an onsides kick but the play was waved off due to a controversial offsides penalty on UNC. Clemson managed to hold on for the win as a result and advanced as the top seed in the College Football Playoff.

 

6. Oregon 38, Stanford 36 – Nov. 14

What has generally been one of the top Pac-12 games of the year the past few seasons once again delivered. Stanford's firm grip on the Pac-12 North was loosened slightly by a resurgent Oregon in dramatic fashion. Oregon trailed Stanford 23-21 at halftime but took control in the second half with a Royce Freeman 19-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and a Vernon Adams 49-yard touchdown pass to Taj Griffin to take a 35-23 lead. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey rushed for a game-high 147 yards and a touchdown and added 42 receiving yards and 60 kick return yards. This was one of Adams' most efficient games for the Ducks, completing 10-of-12 pass attempts for 205 yards and two scores as Oregon was selective about its passing decisions against the Cardinal. The Oregon win pushed Stanford's Pac-12 clincher back a week and helped Oregon climb the division standings in a strong second half of the season.

 

5. Houston 35, Memphis 34 – Nov. 15

The Memphis Tigers had been on a roll, but were clipped the previous week by Navy. Looking to storm back and remain in a good spot near the top of the AAC West Division, Paxton Lynch tossed a 61-yard touchdown to Doroland Dorceus late in the second quarter for a 20-0 lead before the home team answered with a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Kyle Postma to Linell Bonner to make it 20-7 at the half. With Cougars starter Greg Ward Jr. knocked out, it was up to Postma to lead the offense to a rally. He did so by passing for 236 yards and rushing for a team-high 49 yards with two combined touchdowns as Houston rattled off 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to turn a 34-14 deficit into a wild 35-34 win that helped catapult Houston to the AAC title.

 

4. Michigan State 16, Iowa 13 – Dec. 5

You wanted another defensive battle? Well, you got it, again. What was supposed to be the most defensive battle of the conference championship games absolutely delivered on that promise as the Spartans and Hawkeyes brought some of their best defense of the year to Indianapolis. Michigan State, a program more used to the big-game spotlight compared to the Hawkeyes, held Iowa to just 268 yards of offense and forced three turnovers. To its credit, Iowa held down Michigan State nearly as well with just 263 yards allowed before the final drive by the Spartans. What was a battle of field goals changed when C.J. Beathard completed an 85-yard touchdown strike to Tevaun Smith early in the fourth quarter, but the Spartans put together the drive of the year with the game on the line. Driving 82 yards over 22 plays and taking up more than nine minutes off the clock paid off for the Spartans. LJ Scott's second effort at the goal line on third down with 27 seconds produced the game-winning touchdown in a 16-13 victory for Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, and essentially clinched the Spartans' spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

3. Georgia Tech 22, Florida State 16 – Oct. 24

Two years ago Alabama fell victim to a Kick-Six against rival Auburn. That result dramatically changed the landscape of the SEC and national championship picture. The stakes were not quite as high on Oct. 24 in Atlanta between Georgia Tech and Florida State, but it was no less stunning.

 

Georgia Tech's defense played a solid game against Florida State by holding Dalvin Cook to just 82 yards on the ground and 50 receiving yards. Everett Golson was 20-of-30 with his passing attempts but was picked off once and never got the Seminoles in the end zone. Florida State held a 16-10 lead on the Yellow Jackets going into halftime and then never scored again. Georgia Tech tied Florida State at 16-16 with a Harrison Butker 35-yard field goal with 54 seconds to play. It looked as though overtime was coming, but Florida State had to burn a timeout on its second play from scrimmage following a short run by Cook and Golson threw two incomplete passes on the drive. On 2nd-and-15, following a pass completion, Florida State again burned a timeout with 10 seconds to play, only to see Golson throw another incomplete pass. Florida State set up for a 55-yard field goal attempt by sure-footed Roberto Aguayo, but Georgia Tech blocked the field goal and Lance Austin returned it 78 yards for a walk-off touchdown and a huge upset of the No. 9 Seminoles.

 

The result of the game, at the time, seemed to be a big hit to the ACC's chances of reaching the College Football Playoff. Fortunately for the ACC, Clemson and North Carolina held up their end of the bargain to keep the ACC in the Playoff picture. Florida State took a second loss a couple of weeks later at Clemson but managed to finish the regular season on a strong note with a dominating victory over Florida and received a spot in the New Year's Six lineup against AAC champion Houston.

 

2. Michigan State 27, Michigan 23 – Oct. 17

Before the Ohio State victory and well before the Big Ten championship victory against Iowa, Michigan State needed a little help from the football gods in Ann Arbor in the middle of October to make any of that drama happen and mean anything. And that's exactly what happened, on the road against its rejuvenated in-state rival nonetheless. The Spartans never held a lead in the Big House and Michigan looked to be just seconds away from wrapping up a big signature victory for Jim Harbaugh, one that would have announced Michigan as "back" in the state and in the Big Ten. But Michigan let a 23-14 lead in the fourth quarter evaporate when LJ Scott finished off a quick, 75-yard touchdown drive following a 74-yard pass from Connor Cook to Trevon Pendleton. The touchdown cut Michigan's lead to just two points.

 

With 10 seconds left on the clock, Michigan was forced to punt the ball from the Michigan State 47-yard line. The punt alone would have eliminated most of the clock, which seemed to favor Michigan with a clean punt. Oh, if only that had happened. The fate of the Big Ten would have been so much different. Instead, Michigan punter Blake O'Neil fumbled the snap and Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up the loose ball and made a mad dash down the left sideline for the game-winning score as the final seconds ticked away.

 

1. Stanford 38, Notre Dame 36 – Nov. 28

Already with a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game locked up the previous week, the Cardinal looked to make one final Playoff statement in the regular season against a battle-tested Notre Dame in Palo Alto. Notre Dame and Stanford exchanged the lead nine times, with Stanford kicker Conrad Ukropina kicking a 45-yard field goal as time expired to lift Stanford to a thrilling victory against the Fighting Irish. Stanford's Kevin Hogan had one of his finest games with 17 completed passes out of 21 attempts for 269 yards and four touchdowns. McCaffrey rushed for 94 yards and added 109 kick return yards. Notre Dame got big rushing performances from Josh Adams (168 yards and a touchdown) and quarterback DeShone Kizer (128 yards and a touchdown), but Stanford had just a little bit more magic left in the bottle to pick up the big win in the final week of the regular season.

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Teaser:
Top 25 College Football Games of 2015
Post date: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/deangelo-williams-thomas-davis-surprise-holiday-shoppers-steelers-panthers-dicks-sporting-goods
Body:

Have you ever gone into a store to pick something up that you purchased online? Was there a time when it wasn't what you ordered?

 

Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams and Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis surprised Dick's Sporting Goods shoppers with some merchandise that was a little different than what they ordered. It was all in good fun and the customers didn't seem to mind when they figured out who the fake employees really were.

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 17:35
All taxonomy terms: Video, NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/mike-francesa-destroys-odell-beckham-jr-new-york-giants-suspension
Body:

People were on Odell Beckham Jr.'s side during his rookie season, but the tide seems to have turned.

 

It could be a combination of overexposure, underperformance, and the feeling that Beckham hasn't earned any of the praise he's received, but some people have had enough. Radio host Mike Francesa is definitely one of those people. 

 

"Here's a case of a player who just has gotten so big, so fast while his team has won absolutely nothing, which is what you detest about what goes on in sports now," Francesa said. "Everything with him is me, me, me... you're part of a team, and you're not even part of a good team."

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/matt-stafford-wife-kelly-fire-back-fans-selling-lions-tickets-saints
Body:

NFL wives are often criticized for no reason. Often times they won't respond.

 

Matt Stafford's wife Kelly isn't afraid to clap back. The Lions star's wife went on Instagram a couple days ago to sell tickets to the Monday night showdown between Detroit and New Orleans. These were not player tickets, these were tickets she purchased.

 

 

Some fans thought it was horrible that Kelly was selling the tickets as opposed to giving them away to fans. Fans made two points saying that she probably got the tickets for free, and she doesn't need the money when her husband makes millions. She was tired of the talk so she went back to Instagram to explain that the tickets weren't free, and also why she was going to miss the game.

 

 

Usually when you buy something you aren't able to use, the first thing you do is try to get your money back so it makes sense. 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 14:11
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Duke Blue Devils, News
Path: /college-football/duke-unveils-alternate-blue-devil-themed-helmet-pinstripe-bowl-matchup-against
Body:

College football’s bowl season always seems to be a good spot for teams to unveil a new alternate helmet or uniform.

 

Duke is one of the first teams to unveil a new design for the postseason, as the Blue Devils will wear a white helmet and alternate logo for their matchup against Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl.

 

The alternate logo features a Blue Devil mascot and is a design from the 1966-69 seasons.

 

Check out Duke’s awesome alternate helmet for the Pinstripe Bowl:

Teaser:
Duke Unveils Alternate Devil-Themed Helmet for Pinstripe Bowl Matchup Against Indiana
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 12:37
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/urban-meyer-make-a-wish-ohio-state-buckeyes-fiesta-bowl-tickets-notre-dame
Body:

Say what you will about Urban Meyer, there's no doubting he's got a heart of gold.

 

The Ohio State coach recently surprised a 5-year-old and his family with tickets to the Fiesta Bowl. The family just thought they were going to get a tour of the Buckeyes' facilities, but the fun didn't stop there. They got to meet J.T. Barrett and Joey Bosa, but Meyer provided the icing on the cake.

 

 

Ohio State will get to put on a show on Jan. 1 against Notre Dame.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 12:23
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/emmitt-smith-reaction-steve-harvey-gaffe-miss-universe-colombia-philippines
Body:

By now everyone has seen Steve Harvey's misreading of the Miss Universe winner. 

 

He crowed Miss Colombia as the winner, when Miss Philippines was the rightful owner of the Miss Universe crown. To say it was awkward would be an understatement.

 

The best part of the situation came from NFL legend Emmitt Smith, who said what everyone was thinking, "how you do that??" 

 

 

Well said, Mr. Smith. Afterwards, the Cowboys legend tweeted his support for Harvey, saying that everyone makes mistakes.

 

 

From there, Sports Twitter took over and made it the talk of the internet.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/poinsettia-bowl-preview-and-prediction-boise-state-vs-northern-illinois
Body:

The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (say that five times fast, I dare you) offers up two well-respected Group of 5 programs in Boise State and Northern Illinois. Unfortunately for both, the 2015 season did not end as positively as it began.

 

Northern Illinois comes into the game with an 8-5 record. The Huskies played well at the beginning of the season, giving Power 5 teams such as Ohio State (20-13 loss in Ohio Stadium) and Boston College (17-14 loss in Alumni Stadium) all they could handle. Northern Illinois won the MAC West Division and faced Bowling Green in the conference championship game, but was unable to stay close to the Falcons, losing 34-14. Northern Illinois essentially limped to the finishing line, due to significant injuries sustained at the quarterback position to starter Drew Hare and backup Ryan Graham.

 

Boise State (8-4) entered the 2015 season with higher aspirations. Looking at a favorable schedule, the Broncos were considered to be one of the top contenders to serve as the Group of 5 New Year’s Six representative. Bryan Harsin’s team began the season on a high note, defeating Washington 16-13 in the opener. But any momentum was gone shortly after as Boise State lost 35-24 the following week to BYU in Provo, Utah. Then in the middle of November, back-to-back losses to New Mexico (31-24) and Air Force (27-20) removed any shot of winning the Mountain West Mountain Division. What’s worse, the shocking loss to the Lobos snapped the Broncos 18-game winning streak (nation’s second longest active one at the time) on the famed blue turf.

 

Boise State vs. Northern Illinois

 

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET (Wednesday)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Boise State -8.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols vs. Northern Illinois defense

McNichols is the linchpin of the Broncos’ offense, as he has rushed for 1,244 yards.  His 18 rushing touchdowns led the Mountain West and currently have him tied for fifth in all of FBS. The sophomore also has shown to be a reliable receiving option, as he is third on the team with 46 catches for 364 yards. McNichols’ total of 23 touchdowns has him tied with Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry for the most in the nation this season. There’s little doubt that stopping McNichols will be one of the Huskies’ top priorities on defense.

 

2. Northern Illinois RB Joel Bouagnon vs. Boise State defense

In many ways, Bouagnon is just as key for the Huskies’ offense as Jeremy McNichols is for the Broncos. Unlike McNichols, who is listed at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, Bouagnon (6-2, 226) is the stereotypical Midwestern back who wears opposing defenses down with a physical running style. Bouagnon led the MAC with 1,270 yards rushing and he also has scored 18 times on the ground. Bouagnon has chipped in 13 receptions out of the backfield, but with five other Huskies who have at least 19 catches, he’s not as involved in the passing game for his team as McNichols is for Boise State. Still, if Bouagnon can have success against the Broncos’ 13th-ranked rushing defense (117.7 ypg) it should only open the Huskies’ passing game more.

 

3. Boise State QB Brett Rypien

The nephew of former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, Brett Rypien was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year and first-team all-conference. Rypien enters this game with 2,976 yards passing and 17 touchdowns. He has thrown just seven interceptions in 10 games and six of those came in losses to Utah State and New Mexico. The true freshman has been steady all season and it will be interesting to see how he fares against Northern Illinois. The Huskies are in the middle of the pack among FBS teams in passing defense (tied for 78th, 223.4 ypg) but have just as many interceptions (21) as TD passes allowed (22).

 

Final Analysis

 

So often in bowl games, it truly depends on which team is excited to be there. As stated above, both Boise State and Northern Illinois enter this contest feeling somewhat disappointed in how their respective seasons concluded. Given all of the injuries the Huskies have had to deal with, especially at quarterback, the edge appears to be in the Broncos’ favor. Northern Illinois will put up a fight, but Brett Rypien and the Boise State offense have too much firepower in the end.

 

Prediction: Boise State 35, Northern Illinois 21

 

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

 

(Brett Rypien photo courtesy of Boise State media relations; Joel Bouagnon photo courtesy of Scott Walstrom, NIU Photography.)

Teaser:
Poinsettia Bowl Preview and Prediction: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/peyton-manning-calls-ian-rapoport-reporting-broncos-bulls-insulting
Body:

Peyton Manning is a pretty reserved guy for the most part.

 

When the Broncos quarterback is fired up about something, chances are it home in some way. NFL.com reporter Ian Rapoport allegedly received false information regarding Manning's status as the backup QB.

 

 

Immediately following the quotes, Broncos VP John Elway tweeted out that Rapoport's findings were not true. 

 

 

ESPN.com reporter Jeff Legwold went straight to Manning and asked his thoughts on the report. 

 

 

The URL now leads to a dead link, but according to Legwold and PFT, this is what Manning said:  

 

"'It's bulls— and it's insulting.' I asked if that was on the record and he said, 'yes, I can't say it any plainer than that.'"

 

This wouldn't be the first time an NFL player has a problem with Rapoport's reporting, as Ndamukong Suh insinuated the NFL.com reporter recently gave a false report on him.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 10:28
Path: /college-football/godaddy-bowl-preview-and-prediction-bowling-green-vs-georgia-southern
Body:

The 2015 GoDaddy Bowl matchup between Bowling Green and Georgia Southern features contrasting, yet exciting styles of play and two teams looking to finish the season on a high note with an interim coach on the sidelines. Last year’s GoDaddy Bowl featured 107 points between Toledo and Arkansas State, and another high-scoring game should be anticipated on Wednesday night when the Falcons and Eagles meet in Mobile, Ala.

 

The Falcons used an explosive passing attack to finish the regular season with a 10-3 record, a MAC Championship and wins over Purdue and Maryland in non-conference action. However, coach Dino Babers left for Syracuse after the MAC title game, leaving defensive coordinator Brian Ward as the team’s interim coach. Ward is joining Babers’ staff at Syracuse following Wednesday night’s game. Texas Tech assistant Mike Jinks was tapped to replace Babers and will take over full-time control of the team following the GoDaddy Bowl.

 

Led by a prolific rushing attack, Georgia Southern has been on a fast track through the FBS ranks. Willie Fritz guided Georgia Southern to a 17-7 record over the last two seasons, but he accepted the head coaching job at Tulane in early December. Wednesday night’s appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl is the program’s first postseason contest at this level, and running backs coach Dell McGee will call the shots as the interim coach against the Falcons.

 

This is the first matchup between Georgia Southern and Bowling Green. The Falcons have made two previous appearances in the GoDaddy Bowl, including a 52-35 victory over Memphis in 2004.

 

GoDaddy Bowl: Georgia Southern (8-4) vs. Bowling Green (10-3)

Mobile, Ala.

 

Kickoff: Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Bowling Green -7.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Bowling Green’s Passing Attack

Even though Babers left for Syracuse, the Falcons won’t abandon their plan of attack on offense. Quarterback Matt Johnson is the catalyst behind a passing attack that ranks third nationally, averaging 376.1 yards per game through the air. Johnson threw for 43 scores and 4,700 yards this year and tossed only eight interceptions. The senior is surrounded by a deep group of skill players, including receivers Roger Lewis (82 catches), Gehrig Dieter, Ryan Burbrink and Ronnie Moore. Running back Travis Greene is a key piece of the passing attack (27 receptions), and the shifty and explosive senior rusher also has 1,220 rushing yards and 14 scores this season. Johnson is an effective distributor on short passes in this offense, but the Falcons aren’t afraid to take shots downfield. Bowling Green ranked fourth nationally by recording 47 plays of 30 or more yards. Can Georgia Southern’s pass defense find a way to contain Johnson and Bowling Green’s skill players? The Eagles allowed 19 passing touchdowns this season and 70th nationally in pass efficiency defense. In the regular season finale against Georgia State, Georgia Southern’s secondary surrendered 346 yards and three passing scores. With a pass rush that’s only generated 21 sacks in 2015, the Eagles’ defensive backfield may not have much help from its front four. Even if Georgia Southern gives up yardage to Johnson, it has to limit the big plays allowed. Simply, 10-yard completions can't become 50-yard touchdowns.

 

Related: Predictions for Every 2015-16 College Football Bowl Game

 

2. Georgia Southern’s Ground Game

The clear strength of Georgia Southern’s offense is its ground attack. Anchored by quarterback Kevin Ellison and running back Matt Breida, the Eagles average 355.6 rushing yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry. And to further illustrate how much this offense leans with its ground game, Georgia Southern averages 55 rushing plays per game, compared to just 11 passes. Fritz and his staff maintained the triple-option attack used under former coach Jeff Monken and implemented some spread-option principles over the last two seasons. Running back Matt Breida (1,540 yards and 16 scores) is the team’s leading rusher, but L.A. Ramsby (772 yards), Wesley Fields (607) and quarterbacks Kevin Ellison (642) and Favian Upshaw (384) also contribute to the ground game. Bowling Green ranked fifth in the MAC this season by limiting opponents to 161.6 yards per game. However, this unit won’t have nose tackle Mike Minns for this game, as the junior was suspended in December after an off-field incident. Considering the firepower on Bowling Green’s sideline, Georgia Southern’s best defense might be its offense and a ball-control approach. Breida and Ellison should have their share of success, but the Falcons want to force this offense into third-and-long situations. 

 

3. Turnover Margin and Third-Down Conversions

It’s no secret what both teams want to do. Georgia Southern wants to utilize its ground attack, limit the possessions by Bowling Green’s offense and keep third downs in manageable short-yardage situations. Quarterback Kevin Ellison wasn’t prolific as a passer this season and completed only 44 percent of his throws. It’s critical for the Falcons to force Georgia Southern into third-and-long situations and make Ellison and his receivers win one-on-one battles downfield. Also, turnover margin is critical for both teams. With both offenses expected to have their way against the defenses, stealing a possession or two with a turnover could be enough for one team to swing this game in its favor. Bowling Green excelled on third downs this season, converting 51.02 percent of its attempts and ranked as one of the best nationally in turnover margin (+14). Georgia Southern was plus-four in turnover margin and connected on 40.24 percent of third-down attempts. Close games usually come down to one or two small areas in the stat sheet. Keep an eye on how both teams perform on third-down attempts and the yardage needed to convert. Additionally, the turnover margin is critical. The Falcons can’t afford to allow the Eagles several long-scoring drives, while the offense has to avoid three-and-out situations.

 

Final Analysis

 

If you like offense and contrasting styles of play, then the GoDaddy Bowl matchup is a must-see matchup. While Bowling Green and Georgia Southern are opposite in terms of approach, both teams are effective in lighting up the scoreboard. The Falcons want to push the tempo, score quickly and keep Georgia Southern in third-and-long situations on offense. The keys to victory for the Eagles are simple – establish the run, keep Bowling Green’s explosive offense on the sidelines, limit the big plays of Johnson and his receivers, while staying out of third-and-long situations. Which style of play will win out? If Georgia Southern gets its ground game on track, wins the battle up front and in time of possession, it’s a bad sign for the Falcons. If Bowling Green jumps to an early lead and forces the Eagles out of their comfort zone, that’s a huge edge in the favor of the Falcons. The guess here is both teams have their moments controlling the tempo and land a few big plays on offense. The difference should be Johnson and the explosive Bowling Green receivers, as the Falcons take to the air to score the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

 

Prediction: Bowling Green 38, Georgia Southern 34

 

(Credit to BGSU athletics for top photo of QB Matt Johnson)

Teaser:
GoDaddy Bowl Preview and Prediction: Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/boca-raton-bowl-preview-and-prediction-toledo-vs-temple-2015
Body:

In August, if I were to tell you that Temple and Toledo would win 10 games each during the regular season but neither would have a conference championship ring entering bowl festivities, you might have rolled your eyes in disbelief.

 

But it happened, and now the two teams are meeting up in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl.

 

Including dominating wins over Penn State, Cincinnati and Memphis, Temple achieved the 10-win mark for the first time since 1979 during the regular season and fell to Houston in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. The Owls, who nearly knocked off Notre Dame at home on Halloween night after hosting ESPN's "College GameDay," are a tough matchup for any opponent.

 

Toledo enjoyed a 7-0 start to the 2015 season – including a road win at SEC foe Arkansas – and climbed as high as No. 19 in the AP poll. However, losing two of its last four kept it from the MAC title game, and now the Rockets enter the postseason without their head coach. Matt Campbell left for the Iowa State vacancy and usually a change in leadership (offensive coordinator Jason Candle was named Campbell's replacement) usually sparks some level of adversity.

 

At one point, both teams were hoping to appear in a New Year’s Six bowl, but the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl is a solid consolation prize as they get to square off against one more quality opponent to end the year.

 

Temple vs. Toledo (Boca Raton, Fla.)

 

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Tuesday)

TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Temple -1

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Temple’s stout defensive front
Between the Bronco Nagurski award winner in linebacker Tyler Matakevich and all-league linemen Nate D. Smith, Matt Ioannidis, and Haason Reddick, Temple’s defensive front has been exceptional all season long and are the foundation to the team's success. Opponents have struggled to run the ball on the Owls in 2015, who rank 21st nationally in that category (126.2 yards per game) and are fifth with an insane 101 tackles for a loss. With Kareem Hunt and a handful of durable supplemental backs, Toledo averages 41.7 carries per contest – but early struggles could cut that number significantly.

 

2. Toledo’s endless number of offensive skill players
With balance in the backfield, a consistent quarterback and limitless passing options, Toledo’s offense has been difficult to stop this season. Three different running backs — Hunt, Terry Swanson and Damion Jones-Moore — have scored at least five touchdowns. Seven different players have double-digit receptions, with Cody Thompson, Alonzo Russell and Corey Jones all contributing 535 yards or more. And with an offensive line that has allowed four sacks all year (2nd in FBS), the Rockets have soared to 35.3 points per game (26th).

 

3. Level of motivation
Toledo didn’t even get the chance to play for a conference championship game after losing to Western Michigan in its regular season finale. Losing head coach Matt Campbell might not have a long-term effect on the program’s status as a top-tier member of the MAC, but it could prove to be a distraction for a team already feeling a little low. Meanwhile, Temple seems to treat every game like it’s the national title game, and a victory here would give the program its first 11-win campaign ever, and just its second bowl win since 1979.

 

Final Analysis

 

Temple and Toledo have similar strength of schedules and have seen plenty of bowl-worthy competition to this date, but it’s the Owls that enter the game more battle-tested, having played three ranked opponents in their last six games (compared to zero for the Rockets). An aggressive defense full of talent and experience should be able to keep Toledo’s backfield in check for most of the day, and dual-threat quarterback P.J. Walker can stick to routine with effective management under center as Temple notches 11 wins for the first time in program history.

 

Prediction: Temple 27, Toledo 16

 

— Written by Tyler Waddell, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Waddell’s work has previously been published by Bleacher Report, the Los Angeles Times, NOLA.com, Today's U, and other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @Tyler_Waddell.

 

(Tyler Matakevich photo courtesy of Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University)

Teaser:
Boca Raton Bowl Preview and Prediction: Toledo vs. Temple
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/10-best-sec-college-football-games-2015
Body:

When it comes to the SEC you may not think of high-flying offenses that put up scores you might expect to see more commonly in the Big 12 or Pac-12, but even the SEC got involved in some high-scoring contests this season. And yes, there was a nice assortment of defensive battles and strong running games leading the charge in the SEC this season, so there was a little something for everybody in 2015. Here’s hoping this top 10 list satisfies fans of high-scoring overtime thrillers and those who prefer grinding in the trenches for some hard-earned short gains.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Here are a few that are worth remembering, but just didn’t make the cut:

 

Auburn 31, Louisville 24: Auburn held on for a victory in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta. Up 24-0, Auburn held on for a 31-24 victory.

 

Auburn 27, Jacksonville State 20 (OT): Auburn needed to force overtime to get by one of the FCS’ top teams. Some over-coaching from the Jaguars may have helped Auburn out too.

 

LSU 21, Mississippi State 19: Leonard Fournette rushed for 159 yards and all three LSU touchdowns in an early road win for the Tigers.

 

Missouri 20, BYU 16: A week after a stressful time around the Missouri campus, the Tigers rallied together for a well-deserved victory against a good BYU team.

 

Mississippi State 51, Arkansas 50: Here’s one shootout that did not go the way Arkansas would have liked. Dak Prescott passed for 508 yards and five touchdowns in the win.

 

10. LSU 45, Auburn 21 – Sept. 19

After opening the season with a close call in Atlanta against Louisville and an even closer call at home against Jacksonville State, LSU gave Auburn a big dose of reality with a dominating performance that put Leonard Fournette at the front of the Heisman Trophy discussions. Fournette rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns as LSU pummeled the preseason trendy pick in the SEC. LSU stormed out to a 24-0 lead at halftime and put things on cruise control the rest of the way for a nice early statement game.

 

9. Texas A&M 28, Arkansas 21 (OT) – Sept. 26

The 2015 season did not start well for Arkansas. Following losses to Toledo and Texas Tech at home, Texas A&M handed Arkansas a third straight loss in Arlington. Texas A&M tied the game late in the fourth quarter following a drive that saw three straight first downs highlighted by a 63-yard pass from Kyle Allen to Josh Reynolds. After Texas A&M scored in the overtime, Arkansas was unable to pick up a first down and the game ended. Texas A&M improved to 4-0 and continued to climb the rankings while Arkansas dropped to 1-3.

 

8. Tennessee 38, Georgia 31 – Oct. 10

Tennessee has been known to blow some big leads, as they have done a couple of times this season, but on Oct. 10 in Knoxville it was the Volunteers who came from behind for a wild win against Georgia. The Bulldogs held a 24-3 lead in the second quarter but only got to halftime with a seven-point edge on the Vols. In the second half, Tennessee continued to capitalize on the momentum swing by taking a 31-24 lead on a short pass from Joshua Dobbs to Alvin Kamara, and Dobbs gave the Vols a game-winning touchdown with 5:48 to play in the fourth quarter after Georgia had tied the game at 31-31.

 

7. Arkansas 54, Auburn 46 (4OT) – Oct. 24

It took four overtimes for Auburn and Arkansas to settle their differences. The two teams traded touchdown for touchdown through three overtime sessions before Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen completed a 25-yard scoring strike to Drew Morgan on the first play of the fourth overtime. After a successful two-point conversion attempt by the Razorbacks, Auburn’s last attempt to keep things going fell incomplete on a fourth down pass from Sean White toward Ricardo Lewis.

 

6. Arkansas 53, Ole Miss 52 (OT) – Nov. 5

Arkansas had a knack for these high-scoring contests this season. This one took the cake though. Brandon Allen completed a pass to Hunter Henry on a fourth-and-25 play in overtime (with Ole Miss already up a score), and Henry flung the ball back before being tackled and Alex Collins picked it up and somehow ran for a 31-yard gain to keep the game alive. A two-point conversion by Arkansas was no good but the Razorbacks got another crack at it following a face mask penalty on Marquise Haynes, and Allen ran into the end zone for the overtime win.
 

5. Florida 28, Tennessee 27 – Sept. 26

It has been a long time since Tennessee defeated Florida, and the Volunteers let one slip away in Gainesville this season. With the Vols leading the rival Gators 27-14, everything seemed to be squared away for a road win in SEC East play. Tennessee just had to find a way to milk 10 more minutes off the clock against an offense that was doing very little of anything, but the Gators got some breaks. A 17-play, 86-yard drive ended with Will Grier completing a five-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Powell with 4:09 to play to cut the Vols’ lead to six. On the next drive, on a fourth-and-14 from the Florida 37-yard line, Grier launched a pass up for grabs and Antonio Callaway got his hands on it and ran the rest of the way down the field for a go-ahead score. It was Florida’s 11th straight win against Tennessee.

 

4. Alabama 19, Tennessee 14 – Oct. 24

It has been a long time since Tennessee defeated Alabama, and they let one slip away in Tuscaloosa this season (notice a theme here?). Up 14-13 with 5:49 to play following Jalen Hurd’s go-ahead touchdown run on a quick four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, Tennessee could not stop Derrick Henry on the ground and Jake Coker made some key passes to move the football down the field. On first down form the 14-yard line, Henry broke loose for a 14-yard score to regain the lead and Tennessee fumbled away its upset bid on the fourth play of the ensuing drive.

 

3. LSU 35, Florida 28 – Oct. 15

At the time it looked as though this could be a preview of the SEC Championship Game, and if that was the case then it certainly set the bar high. Leonard Fournette continued pushing his early Heisman campaign with 180 rushing yards against a solid Florida offense, and the Gators held their own on offense to make a game of it in Baton Rouge. Les Miles pulled into his hat for a fake field goal that took Florida by surprise and led to what would turn out to be a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Kicker Trent Dominique took a fake field goal 16 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
 

2. Alabama 30, LSU 16 – Nov. 5

Alabama and LSU always seem to play some good old-fashioned slobber knockers. This season, LSU entered the game looking to firmly take control of the SEC West heading down the stretch and cement running back Leonard Fournette’s place as Heisman Trophy front-runner. Nothing went according to plan for LSU though as the Alabama defense stuffed Fournette for just 31 yards on 19 carries while Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry went off for 210 yards and three touchdowns to become the new Heisman favorite. Alabama’s defense shut LSU down after halftime, as Alabama outscored LSU 17-6 in the second half.

 

1. Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37 – Sept. 19

The game where it seemed the cracks in Alabama’s SEC and College Football Playoff hopes appeared to be opened and exposed came at home against an Ole Miss team that showed it was not a fluke to win against the Crimson Tide the previous season. Ole Miss, thanks to the strength and luck of quarterback Chad Kelly going off for 341 yards and three touchdowns, took a 43-24 lead in the fourth quarter.

 

Kelly completed a desperation throw under pressure for a 73-yard touchdown to Cody Core and just minutes later it was Laquon Treadwell finding room for a 24-yard touchdown pass to take the steam out of Alabama, at least for a few moments. Alabama made an effort to find a way to a win with Derrick Henry running for a touchdown and Jake Coker completing a short touchdown pass to Richard Mullaney with 4:33 to play, but Ole Miss hung on for a frantic 43-37 victory.

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
10 Best SEC College Football Games of 2015
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFL
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-vs-new-orleans-saints-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

If not for the fact that this is the Monday night game, there would really be no reason to tune into this matchup between the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. The Lions (4-9) were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention after last week's road loss to the Rams. All they are playing for at this point is pride, draft positioning and trying to avoid double-digit losses.

 

The Saints (5-8) were mathematically eliminated on Sunday when the Vikings beat the Bears to move to 9-5. New Orleans has a chance to finish strong with a home game against Jacksonville and a visit to Atlanta remaining on its schedule after tonight's tilt with Detroit.

 

Considering these two teams have quarterbacks that are capable of slinging the football all over the field and the defenses rank among the bottom five in the NFL in points allowed, it's reasonable to assume that there should be a fair number of points scored in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. So while the game may mean absolutely nothing as it relates to the playoff picture, hopefully it will at least be entertaining.

 

New Orleans leads the all-time series 12-10-1. The Saints hold a 9-2 advantage in games played in New Orleans. That includes winning the three most recent games in the Superdome. The Lions’ last win in New Orleans occurred in 2000.

 

Detroit at New Orleans

 

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
TV: ESPN
Spread: Saints -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Running attack possible for the Saints?

The Saints have been held to fewer than 90 rushing yards in each of the past three contests. Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson have sustained season-ending injuries. Will anyone else step in and provide a credible threat on the ground?

 

C.J. Spiller has played tentatively when he has been out on the field. His highest rushing total this season was 24 yards in eight attempts. His season numbers stand at 34 carries for 110 yards.

 

Tim Hightower gained 85 yards on the ground last week. That was only the fifth game in which he was on the active roster this season. Despite his limited playing time, he has rushed for 133 yards on 40 attempts.

 

2. Calvin Johnson ready to burn the Saints' depleted secondary?

The Saints have allowed opponents to rack up at least 300 passing yards in eight games this season. New Orleans has lost six of those contests. When the Saints have allowed an opposing wide receiver 80 or more yards they are 3-5.

 

The Lions have only won two of the 10 games in which they have accumulated fewer than 300 passing yards. When Calvin Johnson has failed to reach at least 80 yards, the Lions are 0-6. Clearly, the Lions must exploit the greatest weakness of the Saints.

 

3. Night time is the right time for the Saints?

The decline of the home-field advantage of the Superdome has occurred since last season. Despite that, the Saints’ dominance in night games has not ended. They have won 19 of the last 21 games played in prime time. One wonders why head coach Sean Payton has not petitioned the NFL to have all of the Saints' games scheduled in the evening.

 

Final Analysis

 

This game would hardly register on the national radar if not for the fact it’s the “Monday Night Football” matchup that wraps up Week 15 action. The Lions are already out of playoff contention. The Saints for all practical purposes are too.

 

Nevertheless, the Saints excel when the national focus is shown on their games at night. The Who Dat Nation will pack the Superdome and make it deafening. The Lions will not have motivation to counter-act the noise and hostility.

 

Prediction: Saints 28, Lions 24

 

— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Teaser:
Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, December 21, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/josh-norman-rips-odell-beckham-jr-after-panthers-win-giants-dab-newton
Body:

So much for the Christmas spirit. There's some bad blood between the Panthers and the Giants these days.

 

New York gave Cam Newton and his crew a run for their money, forcing the Panthers to rely on a late field goal in order to win. The real story was between Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman.

 

You can see a little of the back and forth between the two after a touchdown pass caught by Beckham to eventually tie the game.

 

 

There was even a point when Beckham mocked Newton's famous dab. Although to be fair, it's not like Newton made the dance up so he doesn't exactly have rights to it.

 

 

After the game, Norman was still fired up and unleashed this thought on Beckham. 

 

 

However, Newton only had good things to say and immediately following a post-game interview, went right over to talk to Beckham.

 

 

Even as time passed, Norman was still going in on the Giants receiver.

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 - 17:12
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, NFC, Philadelphia Eagles, NFL
Path: /nfl/arizona-cardinals-vs-philadelphia-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The crazy NFC playoff picture will get a little clearer this Sunday when Arizona tries to clinch the West Division title, while surprising Philadelphia looks to build on a two-game winning streak that has put it back into contention in the hapless East. A month ago, this looked like a walkover for the Cardinals, but Philadelphia’s mini-resurgence has given the contest plenty of extra interest, enough to lead NBC to flex the game to Sunday night.

 

The Cardinals’ offense remains the league’s most imposing and leads the NFL in yards per game, while ranking second in points. That was supposed to be what Philadelphia would do with its high-speed attack, but now that teams have figured out to control the Eagles’ tempo, they have leaned on special teams (in the win over New England) and defense (in last week’s triumph over Buffalo) to overcome a lack of significant offensive production.

 

Arizona at Philadelphia

 

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: NBC

Spread: Arizona -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Sudden Sam

When Sam Bradford went 10-for-10 passing against Green Bay in a preseason game, Eagles fans thought the team had the perfect player for Chip Kelly’s system. But that wasn’t the case during the first half of the year. Bradford had trouble starting games quickly, and he threw 10 picks in his first seven contests. He missed a pair of games with concussions but has returned to play quite well, leading the Eagles to a 3-1 record in their last four games and throwing just one interception. Bradford isn’t getting the ball downfield all that often, although his long TD pass to Nelson Agholor last week against the Bills was nice. But he is more accurate and confident, and the Eagles are reaping the benefits.

 

2. Can’t Wait

One would imagine the Eagles’ secondary would have to pay close attention to Larry Fitzgerald, simply because the standout receiver has caught 96 passes and scored seven times this year. But Fitzgerald is particularly deadly against Philadelphia. In seven games against the Eagles in his career, he has caught 47 passes, scored 11 times – including at least once in every game – and averaged a whopping 17.1 yards/catch. That’s quite a stat line and one that means the Philadelphia defensive backs had better be ready to go Sunday night.

 

3. Championship Chase

If a team is going to stagger around throughout the season, it is best advised to do it when the rest of the division is a disaster. That’s how the Eagles have rolled this year, and they find themselves in great position to win the NFC East, something that seemed ridiculous on Thanksgiving, when the Lions were carving them up. But Philadelphia is tied with Washington and New York “atop” the East with a 6-7 record, and though Washington has the tiebreaker now, a win by the Eagles next week at home would give them the upper hand, thanks to a better division record. It would be nice for Philadelphia to win Sunday against Arizona, but if the Eagles beat Washington and the Giants to close the season, it’s likely they’ll win the division, since New York must face Carolina and Minnesota before Kelly and company in the season finale.

 

Final Analysis

 

Arizona is an offensive juggernaut, and those who remember how Tampa Bay and Detroit rolled through the Eagles’ defense can only imagine what the Cardinals could do Sunday night. But Philadelphia has tightened things up the past two weeks and could be a tougher challenge than some think. And with Arizona defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Tyrann Mathieu hobbled, the Cards could be susceptible to the passing game, something Sam Bradford has mastered of late.

 

It’s hard to know which Philadelphia team will show up. Is it the one that allowed 10 TD passes in two weeks to Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford, or the one that whipped New England on the road? The Eagles are on a mini-roll, but Arizona is a definite step up in class.

 

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Eagles 24

 

— 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:
Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-pittsburgh-steelers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

At the beginning of the season, Sunday's Denver (10-3) at Pittsburgh (8-5) game looked like a classic matchup. With the game now upon us, there's no doubt it lives up to its preseason billing.

 

Pittsburgh's second-ranked offense against Denver's top-ranked defense. A game that defines which team is a dark horse contender in the playoffs. Two franchises that have historically dominated the AFC. Okay, maybe this won't be Peyton Manning's last regular season road game, but that's petty.

 

If the Steelers lose, they will have a tough time getting into the playoffs. At the start of the week Pittsburgh trailed both Kansas City and the New York Jets in tiebreakers, with all three 8-5 teams bidding for two wild card berths.

 

Yes, there is always the chance the Steelers could win out and 10-3 Cincinnati could completely collapse with AJ McCarron behind center and fail to claim the AFC North title, but conventional wisdom believes no matter what the Bengals do next week against Denver, a quarterback that won a national championship at Alabama will be able to defeat San Francisco and Baltimore and clinch the division.

 

The Chiefs' schedule also is soft from here on out so realistically, Pittsburgh's hopes for a playoff berth rely on winning out, as tie breakers could eventually give the Steelers an advantage against the Jets.

 

Denver also has much to play for. If the Broncos win out and New England loses any of its remaining games (Tennessee, New York Jets and Miami), the Broncos will have home-field advantage in the postseason. But beating Pittsburgh isn't vital to a first-round bye, as Denver could still gain one with a victory next week against Cincinnati or against San Diego in the regular season finale.

 

Denver at Pittsburgh

 

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

TV: CBS

Spread: Steelers -6

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Brock Osweiler vs. Steelers' pass defense

There is an old adage that a team cannot win the Super Bowl unless it possesses a quality pass defense. If this is the case then the Steelers are doomed, as they rank 31st in the NFL against the pass.

 

But is the defense that bad, or is this ranking a result of their style of play? The Steelers' 38 sacks rank fifth, thanks to the gambling style of blitzing first-year defensive coordinator Keith Butler employs.

 

Strong safety Will Allen leads all NFL defensive backs with three sacks, and last week cornerback William Gay's interception for a touchdown came when he jumped the route on a swing pass. Yes, Gay read the play perfectly, but if he had missed, the pass could have gone for big yards the other way, such as when Cincinnati's A.J. Green was wide open and caught a 66-yard touchdown in the Bengals' 33-20 loss to Pittsburgh.

 

Now enter the struggling Osweiler, who has not produced a touchdown in his last 23 drives leading the Broncos' offense. Additionally, since taking over for Peyton Manning, Osweiler has been sacked 17 times in 18 quarters, whereas Manning went down just 15 times before a foot injury sidelined him in Week 11.

 

If any team had a license to blitz in a game, it would seem to be the Steelers. Butler was even quoted as saying he didn't believe Osweiler always knew where to throw the ball.

 

2. For that matter, Ben Roethlisberger against the Denver pass defense

No quarterback has thrown for 300 yards against the Broncos this season. Roethlisberger is averaging 332 yards through the air per game.

 

The Broncos have not allowed any team to score 30 points on them this season. The Steelers have scored more than 30 in five straight games.

 

Something's got to give.

 

This may be a test of just how good the Steelers' wide receivers really are. When the Broncos held Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards passing in Week 8, they did so by so effectively taking his first read out of the play and then bringing pressure with the NFL's best pass rush, which has collected 44 sacks. So look for quick slants and screens, though the hamstring injury to starting free safety Darian Stewart could give the Steelers the chance to throw deep, something the Packers weren't able to exploit.

 

3. The running backs

Speaking of screens, if DeAngelo Williams averages just two receptions over the Steelers' final three games (something he has done in five of the six games since since taking over for the injured Le'Veon Bell), he will tie his career high for catches in a season. Not bad for a 32-year-old player who was supposed to be a complementary piece, not the main ball carrier.

 

But this reveals is how Williams could be a factor in this game. When Seattle's Richard Sherman effectively took Antonio Brown out of the Steelers' offense three weeks ago, Williams caught seven screens and the Steelers still scored 30 points. Williams also could figure to have a big game because Denver run-stopping safety T.J. Ward will miss his third straight game due to injury.

 

In fact, the Broncos' defense is dealing with quite a few injuries, which will keep several guys from playing while some others are questionable at best. This is all the more reason for Pittsburgh to try to wear out the Denver D by giving the ball to Williams. True, he's been sick this week, but is still listed as probable, and is fully expected to play.

 

Meanwhile the Broncos, who average 21 fewer rushing yards a game than Pittsburgh, have listed running back C.J. Anderson as questionable with an ankle injury.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Steelers seem to be peaking at the right time, the Broncos are not. Pittsburgh has the stronger running game, the superior quarterback, and have more to play for. The Steelers are likely playing their final home game even if they do make the playoffs and they won't leave the Heinz Field faithful disappointed.

 

Prediction: Steelers 26, Broncos 20

 

— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Teaser:
Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-vs-san-francisco-49ers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) enter Week 15 a little worse for the wear following last week’s home loss to Pittsburgh. They will be without two of their biggest offensive weapons in quarterback Andy Dalton and tight end Tyler Eifert. Despite those losses, Marvin Lewis’ Bengals will look to get back on track, making the long journey west to face San Francisco. A victory would solidify the Bengals' fifth consecutive playoff berth. More importantly, Cincinnati can clinch the AFC North title with a win, coupled with a Steelers loss.

 

Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers (4-9) are coming off of an embarrassing loss on the road to Cleveland. In spite of a tough 2015 overall, San Francisco has played fairly well in games at Levi’s Stadium this season. They have allowed the fewest points in the NFL at home (95 points in six games), compiling a home record of 3-3. While the 49ers no longer have postseason aspirations, pride is still on the line. San Francisco also has the potential to play the role of spoiler. A 49ers win over the Bengals could shake up the AFC playoff picture in a big way.

 

This will be the 15th all-time meeting between the Bengals and 49ers, dating back to 1974. It will be the first-ever meeting at Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco holds a commanding 11-3 lead in the all-time series. The two teams last met in 2007 with the 49ers winning by a score of 20-13.

 

Cincinnati at San Francisco

 

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

TV: CBS

Spread: Cincinnati - 5.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. AJ McCarron’s Debut as a Starting QB

There is no question that the Bengals would prefer to enter this matchup with Andy Dalton under center, but a solid supporting cast will go a long way towards helping AJ McCarron in his NFL debut as a starting signal-caller. Despite missing big-play tight end, Tyler Eifert, McCarron still has the ultimate weapon in A.J. Green. An outstanding Bengal offensive line should provide McCarron with adequate time, and a great complementary run game should help open passing lanes.

 

The matchup itself bodes fairly well too. San Francisco is ranked 28th in the NFL in pass defense. The 49ers also have just 22 sacks to their credit so far this season. That being said, it should be noted that the Niners' defense, led by linebacker NaVorro Bowman, has played much better in home games than their ranking suggests. They are expected to have several key defensive players back from injury this week as well, including outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who should bolster San Francisco's pass rush. It won’t be a slam dunk for McCarron and a few hiccups are to be expected, but he is fully capable of effectively leading the Bengals' offense this week.

 

2. 49ers' Offensive Line vs. Bengal Pass Rush

In last week’s loss to the Browns, the 49ers' offensive line gave up a ridiculous nine sacks. That becomes even more astonishing when you consider that Cleveland entered last week’s game ranked near the bottom of the NFL with just 17 sacks. San Francisco has now allowed more sacks (45) than any other NFL team this season. To make matters worse, the 49ers lost starting left guard, Alex Boone, to a possible MCL tear last week.

 

An anemic 49ers offensive line will be in for a monumental challenge this week. The Bengals have two of the NFL’s top pass-rush specialists in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. These two have combined for 18.5 of the Bengals' 34 sacks on the season. If 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula cannot figure out how to shore up his offensive front and convince the ultra-conservative Blaine Gabbert to get rid of the football in a hurry; the Cincinnati pass rush may end up making Gabbert a permanent fixture in the turf at Levi’s Stadium.

 

3. The Bengals' Rushing Attack vs. the 49er Run Defense

You can probably expect the Bengals to unleash a heavy dose of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard this week. Not only because of the Bengals' situation at quarterback, but because it provides Cincinnati with its best chance for success on offense.

 

Only one other team in the NFL has allowed more rushing yards than San Francisco so far this season. The 49ers' defense also has allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns (16). Last week, San Francisco allowed a terrible Cleveland run game to rush for a season-high 230 yards and two touchdowns.

 

The Bengals' run game should be able to take advantage of one of its more favorable matchups of the season this afternoon. Hill should rebound nicely from a poor showing last week against Pittsburgh, while speedy counterpart Bernard should continue to rack up yards by ground and air.

 

Final Analysis

 

It’s difficult to understand how San Francisco ranks near the bottom of the NFL in almost every statistical defensive category, yet, no other unit in the NFL has allowed fewer points per game at home (15.8 ppg). Statistical anomalies aside, it is clear that the 49ers tend to play inspired defense at home. This week they have the added benefit of playing a Bengals team that will be without two of its biggest contributors on offense. Cincinnati will sorely miss starting quarterback Andy Dalton as well as NFL touchdown leader Tyler Eifert. In order to have success against the Niners' stubborn defense, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard will need to step up in the run game for the visiting Bengals. A.J. Green must continue his hot streak, and AJ McCarron will have to limit mistakes in his first-ever NFL start at quarterback.

 

The 49ers have several glaring issues to contend with on offense. Their top wide receivers, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, are both dinged up. Shaun Draughn has been largely ineffective in the running game. They have shuffled through numerous tight ends to little avail, and most importantly, San Francisco has a porous offensive line that could struggle to keep Blaine Gabbert upright. Even if the 49ers' defense lives up to its reputation on defense at home again on Sunday, San Francisco still has to find a way to score points on a stingy Bengals defense. A daunting challenge for an offense averaging an NFL-worst 14.5 points per game.

 

Prediction: Bengals 20, 49ers 10

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Teaser:
Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-vs-san-diego-chargers-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

This Sunday could be a historic event at Qualcomm Stadium. Not because the 5-8 Miami Dolphins will visit the 3-10 San Diego Chargers, but because it could be the final game ever played in San Diego.

 

Not only have the Chargers had to deal with close losses on the field, but the team has had to deal with rumors of a possible move 90 miles north to Los Angeles. If Sunday is indeed the final NFL game in San Diego County, the Chargers will want to come out on the winning side of things.

 

As for the Dolphins, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the 31-24 home loss to the New York Giants on Monday night. Miami began the season with high expectations, but it will be interesting to see if the team is motivated with such a short turnaround and after flying across the country to face the Chargers.

 

Miami holds a 16-14 overall series record over San Diego. In their last meeting in 2014, the Dolphins blanked the Chargers 37-0 at Sun Life Stadium.

 

Miami at San Diego

 

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

TV: CBS

Spread: San Diego -1.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Lamar Miller

Last week against the Giants, Miller had a big first half as he rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. When the game was on the line, the Dolphins didn’t use their most explosive weapon.

 

Miller only had five carries for 20 yards after halftime. Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell said that Miller had an ankle injury, but the running back said he was healthy and could have returned to the game.

 

Since 2014, when the Dolphins give Miller 20 touches or more, the team is 4-0. Whenever he ends up with 15 or fewer touches, Miami is 5-10.

 

San Diego gives up an average of 126.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th in the NFL. It seems simple the Dolphins should feed Miller the ball this afternoon, but that doesn’t mean that’s what will happen.

 

2. Philip Rivers

Miami’s defense has struggled against the pass this season. The Dolphins rank 26th in passing yards per game allowed with 261.8. This sets up well for Philp Rivers to have a big game in what could be his last as the home team at Qualcomm Stadium. This season, Rivers has thrown for 3,976 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

 

Campbell knows the challenges facing Rivers will have on his defense. “He’s a veteran quarterback that’s won a lot of games. He has the offense set to pretty much the way that he wants it. He milks the play clock. He gets the perfect call for what he wants, what he’s looking for and he can make the throws. He’s a tough guy and he’ll sit in there even if he feels pressure in his face. If he feels like he could make the throw he’ll stand in there and throw it. Again, when you have a quarterback like him you’ll always have hope.”

 

3. Chargers WR Malcolm Floyd vs. Dolphins CB Brent Grimes

In his first two seasons with the Dolphins, Grimes made the Pro Bowl and established a reputation for being one of the best at his position. This season, however, Grimes has struggled to guard some of the NFL’s best wide receivers.

 

According to Pro Football Focus, Grimes has allowed 52 catches on 78 attempts (66.7 percent) for 783 yards, five touchdowns and a passer rating of 104.8. That’s a step back from last season when he allowed 56 receptions on 95 targets (58.9 percent) for 706 yards and seven touchdowns.

 

At age 32, Grimes is showing his age and this week he will have the tall task of trying to slow down the Chargers’ Malcom Floyd.

 

In his 11th season, Floyd’s numbers have been down, as he has yet to record a 100-yard game. Miami is one of the worst teams in the NFL at defending the deep ball, so facing the Dolphins’ defense could be exactly with the doctor ordered.

 

Final Analysis

 

In a game that doesn’t have anything at stake, Dolphins vs. Chargers could still be an entertaining contest. With Miami traveling on a short week, the odds appear stacked against the visitors.

 

Philip Rivers should be able to move the ball against a subpar Dolphins secondary. Rookie running Melvin Gordon has struggled this season, but Sunday could provide him with the breakout game he has been looking for. Expect Gordon to finally score the first touchdown of his career this Sunday.

 

San Diego is fully aware of the 37-0 loss to the Dolphins last season. While it won’t make their season any better, the Chargers would love to nothing more than to keep the Dolphins on a downhill spiral.

 

Prediction: Chargers 28, Dolphins 20

 

— 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:
Miami Dolphins vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-oakland-raiders-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

Looking at the schedule at the beginning of the 2015 season, many would have said the Green Bay Packers’ game against the Oakland Raiders would be a laugher or maybe a cakewalk. Instead, this game has a much different feeling to it in December than it did at the beginning of September.

 

While the Packers (9-4) are a contender like many expected, the Raiders (6-7) have been a bit of a surprise. Usually by this time, Oakland is already eliminated from postseason contention, but the Raiders still have an outside shot of making the playoffs.

 

Green Bay holds a 7-5 series advantage over the Raiders, which includes the Packers’ 33-14 victory way back in Super Bowl II.

 

Green Bay at Oakland

 

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: FOX

Spread: Green Bay -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Eddie Lacy and the Packers’ running game

Aaron Rodgers always is the opposing team’s focal point when trying to slow down Green Bay’s offense. This week, the Raiders also will have to keep an eye on Lacy and the rest of the Packers’ rushing attack.

 

In their last three games, Green Bay has pounded out a league-best 158 yards per game on the ground. While Oakland’s rushing defense has been better the last two weeks against Tennessee and Denver, the Raiders will have to worry about a mobile quarterback, Lacy and James Starks. All three average at least four yards per carry.

 

2. Khalil Mack

In the Raiders’ 15-12 victory over the Broncos last week, Mack had his best game as a pro. The pass rusher recorded five sacks, all of them coming in the second half.

 

Mack tied Howie Long’s franchise record for the most sacks in a game. The 2014 first-round pick needs just three sacks in the last three games to break Derrick Burgess’ franchise record for sacks in a season (16).

 

Green Bay tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari will have the tough task of trying to slow down Mack this afternoon.

 

3. Latavius Murray

Green Bay comes into Week 15 with the No.22 rushing defense in the NFL, giving up 116.4 yards per game. This matchup should provide a golden opportunity for Murray to break out of his slump.

 

Murray hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards in a game since the Raiders’ 34-20 victory against the New York Jets on Nov. 1. In his last five games, Murray has averaged just three yards per carry.

 

Oakland will need Murray to be productive with his carries to help keep the Packers’ defense honest. If Murray does have success on the ground, it should create opportunities for quarterback Derek Carr to make some plays with his arm.

 

Final Analysis

 

With Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy reassuming the play-calling duties, it is tough to know what to expect from the Packers’ offense. One thing the Raiders will have to do is continually harass Aaron Rodgers if they want to have a shot to win.

 

The Packers will likely start a pair of rookie cornerbacks in Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Oakland wide receiver Amari Cooper has hit a bit of a rookie wall as of late, but this could be the game he comes out of his slump.

 

The Raiders have played teams tough at home and this afternoon shouldn’t be any different. Oakland will make life tough on Rodgers and his struggling receiving corps and that will be the difference in one of Week 15’s better games.

 

Prediction: Raiders 31, Packers 28

 

— 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:
Green Bay Packers vs. Oakland Raiders Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 - 08:15
All taxonomy terms: Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /cleveland-browns-vs-seattle-seahawks-preview-and-prediction
Body:

After winning four straight games, the swagger and bravado of the Seattle Seahawks (8-5) has returned, the latest triumph coming in the form of a 35-6 domination of the Baltimore Ravens on the road. Russell Wilson was brilliant once again with five touchdown passes as he is playing like a man possessed at the quarterback position.

 

The defense completely eliminated the Ravens' running attack, as they could only muster 23 yards on the ground. Off the field you have Richard Sherman coming out with comments regarding his displeasure of those members of the media who had counted the Seahawks out earlier this season. Put all of these elements together and you have a Seattle team that the majority of the 12s love and fans of other teams hate with a passion once again.

 

The Cleveland Browns (3-10) got off the mat last week with a 24-10 home win over the San Francisco 49ers. Johnny Manziel did a nice job of taking care of the football and went about his business without too drama. However, there has been some interesting off-the-field banter with head coach Mike Pettine coming out earlier this week saying that Wilson was not in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks.

 

That set off Wilson's teammate Michael Bennett, who responded with his take about Pettine not being elite either as a head coach and not being very good at picking quarterbacks. Bennett, quite simply, was telling the truth as it has been an epic circus at the quarterback position in Cleveland for a long time.

 

Cleveland at Seattle

 

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV: FOX

Spread: Seattle -14.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Seahawks Running Game

With the loss of Thomas Rawls for the season after breaking his ankle last week, Seattle re-signed Christine Michael and Bryce Brown to provide some depth at running back. For Michael it will be a second chance with the team that took him in the second round of the 2013 draft. So far during the week he has shown more humility with the press than during his first stint in Seattle. But the only thing that will matter for Michael is what he does on the field as he will only have most likely a couple of games to prove that he still belongs in the NFL as a complementary running back.

 

2. Johnny Manziel vs. the Seattle Defense and the 12s

Manziel showed some progress on the field last week, completing 21-of-31 passes for 270 yards. He had one touchdown, but also threw an interception. However, the challenge for Manziel will ramp up significantly by having to go on the road to take on a Seahawks defense that is starting to find its groove, especially up front.

 

If Cleveland is going to have any chance of being competitive on Sunday, the Browns need Manziel to exude tremendous patience and take what the defense gives him. It will not be a walk in the park for Johnny Football as the 12s will be lying in wait to make his life insanely miserable all afternoon long.

 

3. Russell Wilson vs. Browns Secondary

Christmas should come early for Wilson and the Seahawks' offense as Cleveland has one of the worst pass defenses in all of the NFL. The Browns are allowing 253.8 passing yards per game, which places them 23rd in the league. They also are surrendering just under 28 points per game. The only team that has given up more points is New Orleans (30.5 ppg).

 

Now, combine these stats with cornerback Joe Haden out for the season with a concussion and look for Wilson to go on the attack and get the ball into the hands of wide receivers Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse early and often on Sunday afternoon against what appears to be a suspect Cleveland defense.

 

Final Analysis

 

Seattle should continue its stretch of impressive play as it moves towards locking down the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks should have little trouble picking up their fifth win in a row this afternoon at home, especially if they start fast and impose their will on the Browns. The only way this game stays competitive will be if Seattle turns the ball over multiple times early on in the first half and Cleveland takes advantage of it. If Pete Carroll's team starts out fast and can get a 17-0 type of lead early, it will put the defense in the driver’s seat, giving that unit plenty of opportunity to create havoc by putting pressure on Johnny Manziel and forcing the young quarterback into making some mistakes.

 

For Cleveland it will be a rough homecoming for several players, as defensive lineman Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper and kicker Travis Coons player in college at either the University of Washington or Washington State respectively. This game also should give Carroll a chance to get some of his starters out early to rest them up and protect them for their final two NFC West tests - home vs. St. Louis and at likely division champion Arizona. 

 

Prediction: Seahawks 34, Browns 7

 

— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball.

Teaser:
Cleveland Browns vs. Seattle Seahawks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 20, 2015 - 08:00

Pages