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All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-ryan-fitzpatrick-and-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-14
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It’s Week 14, which means the start of the fantasy playoffs for many leagues. With games even more important now, the difference between keeping your championship hopes alive or going home could be who you decide to start or not start.

 

Before I break down this week’s quarterback and defense/special teams (DST) suggestions, let’s see how well I did with my Week 13 pearls of wisdom.

 

Good Calls:

 

Start Ryan Fitzpatrick (25.8 fantasy points) – Back-to-back weeks with 25-plus fantasy points.

 

Start Marcus Mariota (36.92 FP) – Mariota finally used his legs and it paid off big time.

 

Sit Philip Rivers (7.08 FP) – Playing against the Broncos with no offensive weapons meant Rivers couldn’t anything.

 

Sit Matt Ryan (14.16 FP) – Ryan’s poor play is a big reason why the Falcons are in a nosedive.

 

Bad Calls:

 

Start Jay Cutler (8.08 FP) – In what should have been a great game, Cutler struggled, throwing for 202 yards and 0 TDs against

the 49ers.

 

Sit Russell Wilson (34.06 FP) – Is there a hotter QB out there than Wilson right now?

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

Quarterbacks

 

START THESE QBS...

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (vs. TEN)

Fitzpatrick has accounted for less than two touchdowns in a game he finished only once this year - when the Jets blew out the Dolphins in London and Chris Ivory ran for 166 yards. Overtime helped inflate Fitzpatrick’s numbers in Week 13, but I’ll take 390 yards and two TDs any week. This week Fitzpatrick and the Jets play host to the Tennessee Titans, who just let Blake Bortles throw five TDs. The Titans’ defense is crumbling, now giving up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and you can bet that Fitzpatrick is going to air the ball out to Brandon Marshall all game and finish once again with 300 yards and at least two scores.

 

Russell Wilson, SEA (at BAL)

The Seahawks are playing on the east coast for their second game in a row and usually that means that Wilson struggles. That wasn’t the case last week in Minnesota, as he put up 34.06 fantasy points, his second 30-plus outing in a row. Right now there is no hotter fantasy quarterback heading into Week 14, as Russell is rounding into form at the perfect time for his owners. This week the Seahawks travel to Baltimore in what should be an excellent matchup for Wilson. The Ravens have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year and you can bet that Wilson will once again score well over 20 fantasy points. He probably won’t score 30 again because the Ravens probably won’t be able to make it much of a game.

 

Tyrod Taylor, BUF (at PHI)

The Taylor that everyone scrambled to get off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season is back. He’s scored 26.24 and 29.24 fantasy points in his last two games against pretty good defenses in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. Plus, Taylor and Sammy Watkins seem to finally be on the same page, so it should come as no surprise that both are putting up great fantasy numbers. What makes Taylor even more enticing is that he is starting to run more, evident by his 28 rushing yards and a TD last week. This week the Bills look to keep their playoff hopes alive as they visit the City of Brotherly Love. We all know by now that the Eagles have a poor defense. They are giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and Taylor should have no problem hooking up with Watkins all game and should once again get a rushing touchdown as well.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Brian Hoyer, HOU (vs. NE)
For the first time in a while, the Texans’ defense wasn’t able to control an opposing offense (in this case the Buffalo Bills),

which led to Hoyer having to throw the ball 40-plus times to keep the Texans in the game. That was great for Hoyer owners, as he ended the day with 24.22 fantasy points. The same script should play itself out this week as the Texans host a motivated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, which are coming off back-to-back loses for what seems like the first time since fire was created. You can bet that the Patriots are going to look to rebound in huge way which means Hoyer will throwing early and often once again to keep pace.

 

SIT THESE QBs...

 

Matt Ryan, ATL (at CAR)

There should be a permanent seat in the “sit” section for Ryan as he has been absolutely terrible this season. What’s worse is that this has especially been the case in the red zone, where most fantasy points are scored. Ryan has been and should have been a top-5 fantasy quarterback this season. It’s really hard not be when you get to throw the ball to Julio Jones all game. Hopefully if you’re a Ryan owner you started looking for help several weeks ago when the first cracks started to appear. It’s fantasy playoff time and Ryan will do you no good as he is playing at Carolina this week (and also against them in Week 16). The Panthers are currently allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and will easily shut down Ryan this week.

 

Derek Carr, OAK (at DEN)

Carr is good, there is no doubting that, but we all need to slow down about appointing him the next great quarterback of the future. He looked awful last week against the Chiefs, throwing three very costly interceptions and it should have been four. All you really need to know about Carr this week is that he is playing the Broncos in Denver. The Broncos are coming off a game where they completely suffocated Philip Rivers and the entire Chargers offense, holding them to only three measly points. Carr’s favorite weapons (Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree) are going to see blanket coverage from the Broncos’ cover corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, so Carr isn’t really going to have anyone or anywhere to throw the ball. Leave Carr on your bench this week.

 

Marcus Mariota, TEN (at NYJ)

Mariota has been on fire lately, scoring 21.42 fantasy points two weeks ago and then he went off for 36.92 last week against the Jaguars, a performance that was really helped by rushing for a career-high 112 yards and a touchdown. That won’t happen this week as the Titans travel to New York to take on a Jets team that is very much in the playoff hunt and knows that this is a must-win game for them. Darrelle Revis (concussion) will also likely be back, which will probably eliminate Dorial Green-Beckham from the game (unless Revis covers Kendall Wright, but why bother?). The Jets are allowing the 10th-fewest fantast points to opposing quarterbacks on the season and the last time Mariota faced a good defense was back in Week 10 against the Panthers, when he scored just 8.8 fantasy points.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Philip Rivers, SD (at KC)

If you listen to all the fantasy experts out there you will know that they love the matchups that Rivers has for the fantasy playoffs. That was back in the middle of the season before the Kansas City Chiefs turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best. Even though Rivers has been a very good fantasy quarterback this season and usually rebounds big time from clunkers (like he had last week when he scored 7.08 fantasy points against the Broncos), he just doesn’t have any receiving threats left. Antonio Gates is playing valiantly through a knee injury and the only legitimate target Rivers had left, Stevie Johnson, went down with a groin injury last week. Stay away from Rivers this week if you can.

 

Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)

 

START THESE DSTs...

 

Kansas City Chiefs (vs. SD)

Over the last four weeks, the Chiefs DST has scored a combined 61 fantasy points… or 12 more than the next-best unit in that time. There's no reason to think this defense won't continue to shine against the Chargers, who have been generous to fantasy DSTs. Consider Kansas City a must-start DST this week.

 

Detroit Lions (vs. STL)

The Lions DST hasn't been a great fantasy option this season, but owners who like to stream should give it a serious look based on a terrific matchup in St. Louis. Detroit should roar against a struggling Rams offense that lacks a stable quarterback and fields very few weapons aside from running back Todd Gurley.

 

SIT THESE DSTs...

 

Houston Texans (vs. NE)

The Texans DST has looked much better in recent weeks, ranking 10th in fantasy points at the position in their last four games. However, an upcoming matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots is enough reason to keep Houston on the bench this week. Opposing defenses have averaged the fifth-fewest points against them.

 

Miami Dolphins (vs. NYG, Mon.)

You could be tempted to start the Dolphins DST after last week's 17-point performance against Matt Schaub and the Ravens, but facing the Giants isn't what you would call a favorable matchup. In fact, opposing DSTs that have faced Eli Manning and the G-Men have averaged a mere 5.25 fantasy points per contest.

 

— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Teaser:
Why You Should Start Ryan Fitzpatrick and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-2015-team-awards
Body:

If you thought Lane Kiffin getting fired at an airport in 2013 was a sign that things were going to improve for USC, 2015 was one of those years that made you second guess everything you knew.

 

The year saw former head coach Steve Sarkisian first suspended and then fired for drinking excessively on the job. And earlier this week he filed a lawsuit against USC for the school's handling of his termination. Oh, and none of that even factors in the "Salute to Troy" debacle, Christian McCaffrey’s "Heisman moment" game, interim head coach Clay Helton being hired full time, or the firing of half the USC coaching staff following the Pac-12 Championship Game. Let us also not forget that the courts affirmed the ruling against the NCAA’s motion to seal evidence in the Todd McNair case, evidence that now looks worse for the NCAA than it ever could have looked for McNair, Reggie Bush, Pete Carroll or the USC Trojan football program. Whew!

 

In spite of all of this, however, the team has remained a united front and played for one another. The fact that USC even made a Pac-12 title game appearance after this year says more about the integrity of the players than any words ever could. There are a lot of rough scenarios in college football, but asking seniors on this team to sit through 18 full-time coaching changes and five head coaches has to be up near the top of the list.

 

Perhaps even more stunning is the fact that this group of seniors has never had a losing season. In fact, this graduating class won 44 of 65 games over the last five years and can still win a 45th before 2015 is over. It is a truly remarkable feat. To accomplish all of that in the face of the adversity this team faced is worthy of its own award. Never mind the fact that USC seem to have added serious talent to the program through recruiting during all of that.

 

Much of that talent is going to be celebrated here today. When you’re hit with sanctions as hard as the Trojans were hit, getting it right in recruiting becomes more important than ever. The Trojans seem to be churning out far more booms than busts out of their recruiting classes and many of them had to emerge as stars early. If Helton can bring in the right coaches and have a great offseason, then next season's opener against Alabama should be one for the ages, perhaps even a “game of the century.”

 

Offensive MVP: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR

This is a pretty easy call. Smith-Schuster (above, right) has 1,389 yards receiving and 10 TDs on the season, averaging 16.3 yards per catch. Smith-Schuster had six games with more than 100 yards and twice went over 150. Smith-Schuster finished seventh in the nation in receiving yards per game (106.8). He was No. 3 in the nation in total receiving yards too. He wasn’t a Biletnikoff finalist, but he’s certainly USC’s offensive MVP.

 

Defensive MVP: Su’a Cravens, SOLB

Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith could have taken this honor, but a knee injury claimed the back half of his season and Cravens was going to be tough to beat out as it was. They both finished the year with 78 total tackles, but Cravens also added 14.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. Cravens was a one-man wrecking crew.

 

Best Freshman: Cameron Smith, MLB

Smith was a revelation for the Trojans. Not only did he start at middle linebacker for the Trojans as a true freshman, he did so in style. Smith’s performance against Utah will be mentioned later in this article, but the overall impact he had before going down with an injury was nothing short of impressive. Even though he got injured on Nov. 13, Smith still led the team in tackles for two more weeks until the Pac-12 Championship Game when Cravens finally tied him. Smith's three interceptions on the season beat out Cravens’ two and he also was a force in stopping the run. Smith actually led the entire team in interception returns with 122 yards. He’s a true freshman playing middle linebacker.

 

Best Newcomer: Ronald Jones II, RB

Whenever you break Charles White’s freshman rushing record, you’re bound to end up with some praise at the end of the season. Jones wasn’t just USC’s leading rusher with 940 yards, he may have been in contention for conference freshman of the year if USC had given him the ball a little more. Jones averaged 6.5 yards per carry and added eight rushing touchdowns and one TD catch. If he improves those hands in the offseason, he’s going to be a dangerous weapon for USC moving forward.

 

Best Play: JuJu Smith-Schuster humiliating Utah DB Dominique Hatfield

Utah DB Dominique Hatfield was running his mouth to Smith-Schuster all game long until JuJu invited him to come and get some love. What happened next broke Twitter.

 

 

Best Performance: Cameron Smith against Utah

When a middle linebacker has a pick-six to go along with two other interceptions and 122 yards returned off those interceptions, it’s likely to be up for best performance. You could really list several performances here, but Smith’s output against Utah at the time was one of the greatest single-game performances we’ve seen out of a storied and proud position on the Trojans.

 

Best Game: 40-21 win over UCLA

The Trojans needed this one for themselves and they needed it if they were going to have any hope of landing Clay Helton the permanent job. They won impressively and Helton had the interim tag removed shortly after. Freshman CB Iman Marshall bounced back from a brutal Oregon game to nab two interceptions on fellow freshman phenom Josh Rosen and Justin Davis pounded the Bruins for 130 yards on the ground. The box score on this game does it a disservice, it was the most complete game USC played all year.

 

Defining Moment: Helton’s Helm

USC loves to rally around an interim head coach, but Helton seemed to command even more love than his predecessor in this capacity, Ed Orgeron. Whether or not that is actually the case is a matter of opinion, but the players’ campaign for him felt like they did. So much could have gone wrong when Helton took over, but the team seemed to rally around him. It may not have ended with the dream trip to the Rose Bowl some had hoped, but it’s hard to deny the fact that this season could have been much, much worse if not for Helton’s guidance.

 

Biggest Surprise: Steve Sarkisian’s problems

The actual termination of Sarkisian following his indefinite suspension by athletic director Pat Haden wasn’t that hard to see coming, but the way this season unfolded for USC was bizarre to say the least. USC hired Sarkisian in the hopes that he would be everything Lane Kiffin wasn’t, but things didn’t turn out as they would have liked. Sarkisian’s hiring was questionable when it happened, but looked downright baffling following his termination. Add in the fact that he’s now suing USC over the handling of his termination and this situation is probably going to worse before it gets better.

 

Biggest Disappointment: Bob Connelly & Justin Wilcox (tied)

The simple fact of the matter is that offensive line coach Bob Connelly should have never been hired at USC. While this may seem harsh, a simple look at his resume and what happened with the Trojan offensive line this year should be more than enough to convince anyone there. Experts often overthink these things when they try to project confidence in the hire, but sometimes things just are what they are and Connelly was a vagabond for a reason. USC QB Cody Kessler’s predisposition to hold the ball didn’t help his case, but the lack of any physicality on USC’s offensive line was his real undoing.

 

Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has had a rough fall from grace. Once one of the hottest assistants in the land, Wilcox’s defenses have been scrutinized heavily during his time in the Pac-12. Opponents were basically given free reign of the middle of the field and aggression on defense was thrown out the window. The odd part about Wilcox’s lack of success was the success USC did have when the Trojans blitzed. For many, it was almost stunning how his defenses could flip back and forth between potency and inefficiency at the drop of a hat.

 

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most: Cody Kessler, QB

This should not come as a shock to anyone. Despite never really reaching the winning level one expects of a USC quarterback, Kessler more than exemplified the five attributes of the ideal Trojan. Kessler was faithful to the program, scholarly in his studies, skillful on the field, courageous in the face of adversity, and ambitious in his attitude. He never settled and he never let his team quit. No quarterback is going to win every game, but few leaders have done as much for USC in a time of need as Kessler. His leadership will be sorely missed next year.

 

Player to Watch in 2016: Ronald Jones II, RB

One of the only areas that RoJo 2.0 did not excel in 2015 was catching the ball out of the backfield. If Jones can improve his hands, the sky's the limit for this kid. His ability to power through tackles and accelerate is nothing short of impressive. Even his style of running mixes power and speed. Jones’ horse buck before he hits next gear is a visual cue that someone is about to be run over. He was basically a part-time running back and he launched right past Charles White in the USC record books. He’s worth keeping an eye on.

 

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Coaching Hires

This offseason is going to be critical for Clay Helton. With Alabama on the horizon (preceded by a Holiday Bowl date with Wisconsin), there really isn’t a lot of time to fix things on the fly. While the Trojans can easily afford a loss to Alabama in the new College Football Playoff system (who couldn’t?), USC is one of the rare programs across the nation that will enter that game with an expectation of victory. Helton’s hires are going to have to hit the ground running when they arrive.

 

Whichever direction Helton decides to go on offense and defense could have a huge impact not just in recruiting, but also in who returns to the team next year. Su’a Cravens plans to announce his decision next week and all of his hints seem to leave the ball in USC’s court. They have a golden chance to keep him and add someone like Wole Betiku in recruiting, but all of that is going to depend on who Helton decides to hire.

 

— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to USCFootball.com, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for CFBHuddle’s Hurry-Up, No-Huddle Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.

Teaser:
USC Trojans 2015 Team Awards
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/herm-edwards-gets-fired-about-lesean-mccoy-nfl-live-espn
Body:

Herm Edwards has always been a "don't talk about it, be about it" kind of guy.

 

LeSean McCoy has been pretty vocal on his former head coach Chip Kelly since his move to Buffalo. The Bills running back said he wouldn't talk to or shake hands with Kelly when he returns to Philadelphia Sunday. 

 

Disclaimer: This video contains NSFW language.

 

 

Edwards went off on a bit of a tangent talking about how it's about more than just McCoy. There are other players on the field and other players in the league. In essence, he wants the running back to be less vocal and show his feelings through his play on the field.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 10:57
Path: /college-football/army-navy-game-during-world-war-ii
Body:

The Army-Navy game is as much a part of college football as any rivalry or bowl game. It has received national attention since it was first played in 1890 and has been a stalwart for the sport.

 

Related: Ranking the Top 25 Rivalries in College Football History

 

During World War II, many schools suspended their football programs but Army and Navy did not. They continued on, adjusting for and aiding to the war effort, and reached their greatest level of success despite the circumstances. Here’s a quick recap.

 

Navy 14, Army 6

Nov. 29, 1941 - Philadelphia

More than 100,000 people packed into Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium in 1941 to see this game. Navy had won two straight games against the Cadets (now the Black Knights) and its only loss that season was to undefeated Notre Dame, who tied Army earlier in the season. In what sportswriters at the time considered to be one of the best contests in the rivalry’s history, Army took a 6-0 halftime lead. Navy responded in the third quarter with two long touchdown drives that clinched the victory. The game was the final one for head coach Emery Ellsworth "Swede" Larson, who was ordered to report to service at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. After the game, Larson said, “This will be the last football game for me for a while. There’s a bigger game coming up and I’m going to be in it.” Eight days later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States was plunged into World War II.

 

Navy 14, Army 0

Nov. 28, 1942 - Annapolis, Md.

Only 13,000 people were on hand to see this game because of a decree by President Franklin Roosevelt that only residents within 10 miles of Annapolis could attend. Roosevelt declared that the war effort did not need to be impeded in any way by the train system having to create special routes to cart attendees to the game, which was the norm for major sporting events at the time. The 10-mile rule meant that residents of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, the two largest cities near Annapolis, could not attend. The relatively small crowd on hand saw the Midshipmen dominate the Cadets, not even allowing Army across midfield until the fourth quarter.

 

Navy 13, Army 0

Nov. 27, 1943 – West Point, N.Y.

In 1942, more than 120 universities and institutions fielded football teams. In 1943, only 76 teams played and 13 came from military institutions or bases. Seeing how playing football could only benefit combat training, commanders from all four armed services branches allowed these teams to play both collegiate and professional games. And many of these teams were really good. To provide a little perspective here, the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks, which represented the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at the University of Iowa, finished the season ranked second in the AP poll. Navy and Army fared pretty well themselves, finishing the season at No. 4 and No. 11 respectively. Once again, the 10-mile rule was in place and only 15,000 attended and once again, the Midshipmen dominated for their fifth straight victory in the series. At the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Midshipmen (also the name for students) screamed in celebration as they listened to the radio broadcast. They then poured out of Bancroft Hall and began ringing Gokokuji Bell, which Commodore Matthew Perry had brought back from his expedition to Japan in 1854. The bell is rung to celebrate victories over Army (The original bell was given back to the people of Okinawa in 1987 and a replica is now its place.).

 

Army 23, Navy 7

Dec. 2, 1944 - Baltimore

When this game was played, the Allies were on the outskirts of Germany, General Douglas MacArthur had returned to the Philippines and Army and Navy were ranked Nos. 1 and 2. World War II was far from over, but this game would help with the war effort. After conferring with the cabinet, President Roosevelt agreed to move the game to Baltimore’s Municipal Stadium, which was larger, and allowed about 30,000 of the general public to attend. However, there were two conditions: 1) they had to live within 8.3 miles of Baltimore, and 2) they had to purchase a $25 war bond. A crowd of 66,659 watched the two schools battle back and forth in the frigid weather. Army entered the fourth quarter with a 9-7 lead, but scored two touchdowns to secure the game, clinch the national championship and complete the school’s first undefeated season since 1916. After the game, MacArthur telegrammed Army head coach, Earl “Red” Blaik to say, “The greatest of all Army teams---STOP---We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success. MacArthur.”

 

Related: The Most Patriotic Games in College Football History

 

Army 32, Navy 13

Dec. 1, 1945 - Philadelphia

The war had ended three months earlier and again, Army and Navy were both undefeated and the top two teams in the country. As in 1941, more than 100,000 people, including President Harry Truman, packed into Municipal Stadium for the game and it was broadcast on television for the first time (only in the New York, Philadelphia and Schenectady areas). Powered by fullback Felix “Doc” Blanchard and halfback Glenn Davis, one of the greatest running back tandems in college football history, Army jumped out to a 20-0 lead. The Midshipmen, who had literally bet their game jerseys, were unable to recover and lost 32-13. At the end of the game, Navy’s Jim Carrington took off his jersey and handed it to Army’s Arthur Gerometta. Army won the national title and Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy. Davis won the award in 1946 and Army would not lose again until Oct. 25, 1947. 

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

Teaser:
The Army-Navy Game During World War II
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2015-team-awards
Body:

Athlon couldn’t get Ricky Gervais or Stephen Colbert, so I’m going to be hosting the Nebraska Cornhuskers 2015 Team Awards this year. It’s easily been one of the oddest seasons in well over a century’s worth of Nebraska football. We’re here today to recognize everything that made it what it was (good and bad) starting with the best of the best.

 

Offensive MVP: Jordan Westerkamp, WR
One WesterKatch after another, No. 1 continues to prove he’s one of the most reliable members of the Huskers’ offensive 11 every year.

 

Defensive MVP: Joshua Kalu, DB
A consistent pain in the backsides of offensive coordinators, Kalu finished the season second in tackles with 67 tackles (44 solo) along with five tackles for loss, a sack, two interceptions and a blocked kick. Not a bad year’s work for the sophomore cornerback/nickel back.

 

Best Freshman: Dedrick Young II, LB
An early enrollee, Young had the look of a starter from the get-go and sure enough, he took to the field as one when Nebraska opened its season against BYU. He finished fourth in tacking with 58 (24 solo) and five tackles for loss.

 

Best Play: Tommy Armstrong's TD pass to Brandon Reilly vs. Michigan State
Prepare to hear a lot about this game as it was easily the most rewarding of the season for many reasons. Millions argue about whether or not this 30-yard hook up was actually legal, but the conference itself confirmed Reilly’s catch as legit.

 

 

Best Performance by a Player: Tommy Armstrong's 91-yard TD drive to beat Michigan State
To say Armstrong had anything less than a roller-coaster year would be a lie. However, when the Spartans were ahead 38-33 on Nov. 7 with less than a minute to go, No. 4 led a four-play (three completions) drive that made him look like one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

 

Best Game: Come-from-behind victory over Michigan State
A Nebraska team that started out as individuals came together to knock off the Big Ten champion and current No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff and a nearly still full Memorial Stadium danced together as a result.

 

Defining Moment: 23-21 loss to Wisconsin

There comes a point where a person (let alone 120+) can only take so much disappointment. Nebraska looked to have wrapped up a huge victory over the pesky Wisconsin Badgers following the second-longest scoring run by a fullback thanks to Andy Janovich.

 

Badger kicker Rafael Gaglianone would go on to tear the Huskers’ hearts out with a 46-yard field goal. This set up the remainder of a season that should’ve been sponsored by Aleve.

 

 

Biggest Surprise: Seven losses by a combined 31 points
See if you can wrap your noggin around this: If Nebraska would’ve scored a mere 32 points more this season, the Huskers would’ve met Michigan State for a rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game.

 

Biggest Disappointment: Lack of a consistent running game
Everyone knew the loss of Ameer Abdullah would sting, but few likely felt it would take the toll it did. Nebraska checks in at No. 71 in the country, gaining an average of 168 yards on the ground.

 

Senior That Will be Missed the Most: Andy Janovich, FB
He was quiet, he put in work and kept his head down. He let loose on special teams, blocked like a machine and gave a taste of the fullback trap. Beyond that, he was simply a humble, nice guy.

 

Player to Watch in 2016: Stanley Morgan, WR
One of the few receivers able to catch Tommy Armstrong’s bullets aside from Westerkamp was Morgan. His athleticism and one-handed catches should be fun to watch for years to come.

 

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Who emerges as the starting QB?
With early enrollee Patrick O’Brien scheduled to be on campus in January, don’t be fooled. There will be a competition for the top spot between him and Tommy Armstrong. It likely goes until kickoff 2016.

 

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

Teaser:
Nebraska Cornhuskers 2015 Team Awards
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2015-team-awards
Body:

With the College Football Playoff on the horizon, there is still much work to be done for the Clemson Tigers. But with the regular season over, let’s take a look back and give out some awards for the 2015 regular season.

 

Offensive MVP: Deshaun Watson, QB

Seeing that Watson was voted ACC Player of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association and will be in New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist, the star quarterback is the obvious choice. The sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., competed 69.5 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 887 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those statistics, coupled with Watson’s leadership qualities, spell MVP.

 

Defensive MVP: Shaq Lawson, DE

On an immensely talented defense, Lawson stood out. The Central, S.C., product was a finalist for the Nagurski Aaward and has been nominated for the Hendricks and Lombardi Awards after a 9.5-sack, 22.5 tackles for lost yardage campaign.

 

Best Freshman: Mitch Hyatt, OL

When Isaiah Battle declared for the NFL supplemental draft, the true freshman was given the responsibility of protecting Watson’s blind side. He didn’t disappoint. As the offensive line developed over the course of the season, so did Hyatt, who at times looked like the best offensive lineman on the team.

 

Best Play of the Season: Denying Notre Dame’s Two-Point Conversion

After jumping out to a big lead, Clemson saw Notre Dame score a touchdown with seven seconds left to get within two points. The Irish chose to run quarterback DeShone Kizer to the right side in an effort to tie the game. Defensive end Kevin Dodd beat his block and forced Kizer inside where Carlos Watkins and Ben Boulware were waiting. In a season filled with flashy plays, this was perhaps the most important moment.

 

Best Performance by a Player in 2015: Deshaun Watson Against NC State

It had to be one of the star quarterback’s many great efforts and his performance on Halloween against the Wolfpack is the choice. Every time that Clemson seemed to put the game away, NC State charged back. But Watson always had an answer. He finished with 383 yards passing, 54 yards rushing, and accounted for six total touchdowns in the 56-41 victory.

 

Best Game (Team Performance): 58-0 Win at Miami

Miami head coach Al Golden was on thin ice before the game and Clemson cracked that ice into a million pieces in its destruction of the Hurricanes. It was 21-0 after the first quarter and 42-0 at halftime. Clemson outgained Miami by 421 yards and won the first down battle 33-6.

 

Defining Moment: Finishing Off Florida State

Clemson was leading the Seminoles 16-13 with less than seven minutes to play and FSU had the ball on the Tigers' 40 facing a third-and-one. B.J. Goodson stopped Dalvin Cook for no gain on the third down play and Shaq Lawson combined with Ben Boulware to tackle the Florida State star short of the marker on fourth down. Clemson showed its killer instinct by squashing any Florida State hopes on the ensuing drive, culminated by Wayne Gallman’s 25-yard touchdown run. That sequence, both offensively and defensively, epitomized the entire Clemson season.

 

Biggest Surprise: Kevin Dodd, DE

Over his first three years at Clemson, the defensive end had a total of 21 tackles, with three of those resulting in lost yardage. This fall, the redshirt junior exploded on the scene with 51 tackles, 15 tackles for lost yardage, and eight sacks. His emergence freed up Lawson and others in the front seven, allowing them to make big plays.

 

Biggest Disappointment: The Mike Williams Injury

13-0. ACC Champs. Top seed in the College Football Playoff. Not too many things went wrong for Clemson in 2015. But it is disappointing that Mike Williams was not a part of the Tigers’ run after breaking a bone in his neck in week one while colliding with the goalpost. Williams was a preseason first team All-ACC selection and his big-play ability would have made this offense even more dangerous.

 

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: B.J. Goodson, LB

Clemson is actually a very young team though they will suffer losses as underclassmen declare for the draft. The senior that will be most missed is middle linebacker Goodson. A solid performer for several seasons, Goodson made the most of his first season as a true starter. He is the team leader in tackles with 91 and he played his best in the most important games. He had a fumble recovery and an interception in the win over Notre Dame and he had 3.5 tackles for lost yardage and a fumble recovery in the Florida State victory.

 

Player to Watch in 2016: Christian Wilkins, DT

The true freshman had some big moments this fall and finished the year with 27 tackles and two sacks. With another year in the system and more time in the strength and conditioning program, Wilkins may blossom into an all-conference performer in 2016.

 

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Defensive Early Entrees

While Clemson is young, they have several draft-eligible defensive players that may receive first-round grades. Lawson and cornerback Mackensie Alexander are virtual first-round locks while safety Jayron Kearse and cornerback Codrea Tankersley are also highly regarded in NFL circles. Clemson has its core eligible to return, but if these defenders head to the next level, the unit could take a step back. Of course, wasn’t that supposed to happen this year?

 

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

Teaser:
Clemson Tigers 2015 Team Awards
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/10-amazing-heisman-trophy-stats-you-need-know-2015
Body:

Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson have been invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York this Saturday as the three finalists for the 2015 season.

 

And there’s a possibility that they could finish in that order, with Henry becoming the 79th player in college football history to claim the prestigious award. But it’ll be close — very close.

 

Related: 2015 Heisman Trophy: How the Ballot Should Read

 

In 13 games this season, Henry has rushed for an SEC single-season record 1,986 yards (5.9 per carry), adding 23 touchdowns. Even more remarkable is the fact that most of his production came in the latter half of the season against solid competition; as he has averaged 188.7 yards over the last seven games.

 

McCaffrey, who obliterated the single-season all-purpose yards record previously held by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders, comes in with 2,426 yards between his rushing, receiving, and passing contributions. He also added another 1,109 yards from punt and kickoff returns.

 

No one will bat an eye if he wins the Heisman. The sophomore from Castle Rock, Colorado, has had a sensational season to date, and will have another opportunity to continue shredding defenses when Stanford plays Iowa in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

 

Then there’s Watson, who is the best offensive player on the only undefeated team remaining in FBS. This might be the year of the running back, but when it comes to who you would want to build a team around, it’d be difficult to argue against picking anyone but him — he’s that good, and without him, the Tigers would probably have at least two or three losses, instead of zero.

 

All three candidates are no stranger to producing eye-popping statistics. Here are 10 others stats you should know before tuning in to ESPN on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET to see whose name is called.

 

2: Running backs that have won the Heisman since 2000

Since the start of the new millennium, only two running backs have won the Heisman Trophy Award — Reggie Bush in 2005 (since vacated), and Mark Ingram in ‘09. Every other winner has been a quarterback.

 

3: Years in a row that the national leader in total QBR has won the Heisman

Johnny Manziel led the nation in total QBR with 91.3 and won the Heisman in 2012. In 2013, Jameis Winston topped the country with a mark of 90.2 and claimed the hardware. Last season, Marcus Mariota ran away with the award after leading FBS with a 91.3 QBR. Deshaun Watson’s 86.6 QBR in 2015 is impeccable, but it falls short of the nation’s leaders — Seth Russell (88.2) and Brandon Allen (87.3).

 

24.1: Probability that a running back wins during “spread” era

The odds that a running back wins the Heisman have drastically declined since the “spread offense” emerged in college football back in the late 1980s. With the introduction of the “Run & Shoot,” running backs have claimed the award just 24.1 percent of the time over the last 27-plus years.

 

4: Winners from the SEC in last 10 years

Over the last 10 years, the SEC has had the highest amount of players to go on and win the Heisman: Tim Tebow (2007), Mark Ingram (2009), Cam Newton (2010), and Johnny Manziel (2012). Both the Big 12 and Pac-12 have had two apiece — Reggie Bush (2005), Sam Bradford (2008), Robert Griffin III (2011), and Marcus Mariota (2014) — and the Big Ten and ACC claim one each – Troy Smith (2006) and Jameis Winston (2013). Will the SEC continue to dominate this decade?

 

179-23: Heisman winners’ team record since 2000

Dating back to the 2000 season, teams that have a Heisman winner have posted a 179-23 record (88.6 winning percentage). Out of those 15 teams, an incredible 10 have played in the national championship game, and four have gone on to win it all. Robert Griffin III is the only Heisman winner to play on a team that won less than 10 games during this time (9-4 in 2011), proving that winning does matter when it comes to the criteria for the award.

 

308 and 169: More yards that Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey have rushed for than Mark Ingram, the last running back to win the Heisman

Mark Ingram piled up 1,678 yards (6.1 ypc) and 17 touchdowns on 271 carries in 13 games before winning the Heisman during the 2009 season. Henry enters the College Football Playoff with 1,986 yards (5.9 ypc), and 23 scores, while McCaffrey has posted 1,847 yards (5.8 ypc) and eight TDs on the ground.

 

1970: The last time a Stanford player won the Heisman

Thanks to his 461 all-purpose yards in the team’s 41-22 win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Christian McCaffrey has a legitimate shot to become the school’s first Heisman winner since Jim Plunkett in 1970. McCaffrey also would become the Cardinal’s second winner, which would help Stanford become the 18th school with multiple Heisman medalists.

 

19: Winners to be drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft since 1989

If you win the Heisman, chances are you’re about to make a lot of money; a remarkable 19 of the last 25 winners have gone on to be selected in the first round of the draft, including the last eight in a row. Can you say, “cha-ching?”

 

0: Number of previous Heisman winners that played at Clemson

Despite an illustrious, 114-year history that includes 682 wins, Clemson has never had a player win the Heisman Trophy. Running back C.J. Spiller is the most recent player to even come close, finishing sixth in the voting in 2009. The Tigers may never have had a better candidate (or opportunity) to bring home the stiff-armed trophy than with Deshaun Watson, who is just a sophomore.

 

8: Consecutive seasons a non-senior has been awarded the Heisman

The last senior to win the Heisman was Troy Smith in 2006. This run of eight seasons in a row without a senior winner will be increased to nine on Saturday, as Derrick Henry is a junior, and both Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson are sophomores.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
10 Amazing Heisman Trophy Stats You Need To Know in 2015
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFL
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-vs-arizona-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2015
Body:

The Minnesota Vikings look to bounce back from a disappointing 38-7 loss to Seattle against another NFC West foe, the Arizona Cardinals, as the playoff contenders kick off Week 14 action Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.

 

The Vikings enter tied with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North's best record, despite losing an earlier head-to-head matchup in Week 9. Arizona currently sits atop the NFC West standings but looks to fend off the suddenly streaky Seahawks.

 

Minnesota at Arizona
 

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV: NFL Network

Spread: Arizona -9

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Adrian Peterson-Mike Zimmer spat

Adrian Peterson took a jab at head coach Mike Zimmer after the Vikings' loss to Seattle by saying the team was "outcoached" among other things. Zimmer responded by saying, "I don't really worry about other people's opinions. I just worry about what I think."

 

Should Vikings fans be concerned that their best player and coach aren't on the same page? Perhaps, but it could also mean that Zimmer is going to give his star running back more carries down the stretch against a game Cardinals defense.

 

2. Red-hot Red Birds

The Cardinals haven't lost a game since Oct. 18. Since then, Arizona has looked like one of the NFL's best offense with a league-best 419.5 yards per game, including a 356-yard, two-touchdown performance by quarterback Carson Palmer last week.

 

The Cardinals' defense has been equally impressive, holding its last two opponents to a combined 133 rushing yards and average of 316.8 yards per game — which ranks fourth in the league. Arizona also ranks third overall with 16 interceptions.

 

3. Can Teddy Bridgewater take over?

For better or worse, Teddy Bridgewater has been a game-managing quarterback for Minnesota. It's a positive attribute when the Vikings win and a criticism when they lose.

 

But he may need to step up facing one of the NFL's top teams. Adrian Peterson will remain the focus of Minnesota's offense, but with Arizona capable of jumping out to a big lead and pressuring the rushing attack, Bridgewater may need to step up and be more than just a game manager.

 

Final Analysis

 

Minnesota was exposed by a surging Seattle team and shouldn't see much of a difference on Thursday, other than a better performance from Adrian Peterson, provided he gets more touches. Arizona seems like one of the NFL's most complete teams and a legitimate contender to make a deep postseason run. The Cardinals should earn a big victory in prime time.

 

Prediction: Cardinals 31, Vikings 24

 

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

Teaser:
Minnesota Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings-week-14
Body:

It’s fantasy playoff time! Assuming you made the playoffs of course. Even if you didn’t quite make it and are now playing on the consolation side of things, there is still pride on the line.

 

You need to know where guys like Adrian Peterson (just 18 yards on eight carries vs. Seahawks), Todd Gurley (been struggling lately) and Matt Forte (sharing the workload to a degree with Jeremy Langford) rank this week so you can put together the best lineup possible. Also what about the emergence of backups now starters like Thomas Rawls (101 yards, TD last week vs. Vikings), Javorius Allen (107 yards receiving, TD vs. Dolphins), and Spencer Ware (236 yards rushing, 4 TDs in last three games)? How much should you trust them in a critical week like this?

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

Check out the Week 14 rankings to find out:

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1DeAngelo WilliamsPITat CIN
2Doug MartinTBvs. NO
3Thomas RawlsSEAat BAL
4LeSean McCoyBUFat PHI
5Darren McFaddenDALat GB
6Adrian PetersonMINat ARI (Thurs.)
7Devonta FreemanATLat CAR
8David JohnsonARIvs. MIN (Thurs.)
9Matt ForteCHIvs. WAS
10Shaun DraughnSFat CLE
11Lamar MillerMIAvs. NYG (Mon.)
12Todd GurleySTLvs. DET
13T.J. YeldonJACvs. IND
14Javorius AllenBALvs. SEA
15James WhiteNEat HOU
16Jonathan StewartCARvs. ATL
17Jeremy HillCINvs. PIT
18Ronnie HillmanDENvs. OAK
19DeMarco MurrayPHIvs. BUF
20Matt JonesWASat CHI
21Charcandarick WestKCvs. SD
22Frank GoreINDat JAC
23Latavius MurrayOAKat DEN
24James StarksGBvs. DAL
25Chris IvoryNYJvs. TEN
26Spencer WareKCvs. SD
27LeGarrette BlountNEat HOU
28C.J. SpillerNOat TB
29Charles SimsTBvs. NO
30Danny WoodheadSDat KC
31Jeremy LangfordCHIvs. WAS
32C.J. AndersonDENvs. OAK
33Darren Sproles PHIvs. BUF
34Melvin GordonSDat KC
35Duke JohnsonCLEvs. SF
36Bilial PowellNYJvs. TEN
37Antonio AndrewsTENat NYJ
38Isaiah CrowellCLEvs. SF
39Giovani BernardCINvs. PIT
40Ameer AbdullahDETat STL
41Chris PolkHOUvs. NE
42Shane VereenNYGat MIA (Mon.)
43Ryan MatthewsPHIvs. BUF
44Rashad JenningsNYGat MIA (Mon.)
45Jonathan GrimesHOUvs. NE
46Brandon BoldenNEat HOU
47Orleans DarkwaNYGat MIA (Mon.)
48Joique BellDETvs. STL
49David CobbTENat NYJ
50Andre EllingtonARIvs. MIN (Thurs.)

— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-tight-end-rankings-week-14
Body:

The big question fantasy owners want to know this week is whether or not Rob Gronkowski will play. If he does, he’s obviously a must-start, even though he probably won’t be 100 percent. But what about guys like Delanie Walker and Antonio Gates? Where do they rank this week?

 

If Gronk can't go, can you trust his replacement, Scott Chandler? He did catch four passes (on 7 targets) for 61 yards and a TD last week. Another injury situation to keep an eye on is Tyler Eifert. He leads the NFL with 12 TD catches, but he missed last week because of a neck injury. Also Zach Miller could be in for more targets with the Bears now that Martellus Bennett (rib) has been placed on injured reserve.

 

Don't forget about Richard Rodgers, who led all tight ends in fantasy scoring last week with his eight catches for 146 yards. Of course the biggest grab was the 61-yard Hail Mary he hauled in to help the Packers beat the Lions on the last play of the game. Rodgers has six TDs on the season, but he's been inconsistent. Can he make it two great games in a row?

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Greg OlsenCARvs. ATL
2Travis KelceKCvs. SD
3Tyler Eifert*CINvs. PIT
4Delanie WalkerTENat NYJ
5Gary BarnidgeCLEvs. SF
6Scott ChandlerNEat HOU
7Jordan ReedWASat CHI
8Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBvs. NO
9Ben WatsonNOat TB
10Julius ThomasJACvs. IND
11Richard RodgersGBvs. DAL
12Charles ClayBUFat PHI
13Crockett GillmoreBALvs. SEA
14Will TyeNYGat MIA (Mon.)
15Antonio GatesSDat KC
16Jason WittenDALat GB
17Jacob TammeATLat CAR
18Zach ErtzPHIvs. BUF
19Owen DanielsDENvs. OAK
20Jordan CameronMIAvs. NYG (Mon.)
21Kyle RudolphMINat ARI (Thurs.)
22Jared CookSTLvs. DET
23Coby FleenerINDat JAC
24Eric EbronDETat STL
25Zach MillerCHIvs. WAS
26Luke WillsonSEAat BAL
27Vance McDonaldSFat CLE
28Ladarius GreenSDat KC
29Cooper HelfetSEAat BAL
30Ryan GriffinHOUvs. NE

*Missed last week with a neck injury. Monitor practice reports closely.

 

— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Tight End Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-wide-receiver-rankings-week-14
Body:

After a three-touchdown performance in Week 13 (yes, one was a return TD), it's hard to recommend any other wide receiver but Antonio Brown as No. 1 in Week 14. Brown scored a touchdown against Cincinnati the last time these two teams met (Week 8) and has been back on track ever since Ben Roethlisberger returned to the lineup. In the first week of fantasy playoffs, Brown should help fantasy owners sail onto Week 15.

 

As big a game as Brown had last week, Allen Robinson posted even more impressive numbers. The Jaguars' No. 1 target snagged a franchise-record three touchdowns, catching a total of 10 passes for 153 yards in the close loss to the Titans. Robinson is performing like the breakout star many had him pegged as entering this season and he should continue to produce for his fantasy owners this week against the Colts. Allen Hurns' likely return from a concussion should only make it easier for Robinson to find room to operate. 

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

For the rest of the Week 14 wide receiver rankings, see below:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-quarterback-rankings-week-14
Body:

It's close, but for Week 14, Tom Brady has taken a fall from grace and dropped to the second-ranked fantasy quarterback for the week. Cam Newton takes his turn at the top after throwing for five touchdowns in two of the past three games. While some of that can be attributed to the opponent, Newton has proven he is matchup proof.

 

The test this week comes against Atlanta, who has not allowed more than two passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks this season. However, they have allowed two rushing touchdowns by an opposing quarterback (Jameis Winston, in two different games). Look for Newton to find the end zone in Week 14, one way or another. Brady and Russell Wilson round out the top three, and fantasy owners should feel confident if their quarterback is any of those three.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

For the rest of the Week 14 quarterback rankings, see below:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Quarterback Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-kicker-rankings-week-14
Body:

Kickers have been the bane of the fantasy existence this season. When Shayne Graham and Chris Boswell (both less than 10 percent owned) are the top two fantasy kickers in Week 13, it's a rough time trying to predict how kickers will do. Cairo Santos, fantasy kicker darling of the 2015 season, had two points in Week 13.

 

However, the general rule of thumb for kickers is to pick a kicker on the team that you think will win. It's hard to win without your kicker getting a piece of the action (it is possible, but it is hard). While the Patriots have lost their last two games, they still are putting up points, and the odds of them losing three in a row? Not good. Therefore, Stephen Gostkowski is the top-ranked kicker once again for this week.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

For the rest of the Week 14 kickers, see below:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Kicker Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-14
Body:

The top options for fantasy defense/special teams (DST) are fairly consistent with what they've been all season. Seattle, Denver and Arizona are the top three, with Carolina peeking in at No. 4.

 

A sneaky DST to play this week is actually the Detroit Lions, who are the seventh-ranked DST on this list. They play the Rams, who give up the fifth-most points to opposing DSTs. The Cardinals only forced one turnover against the Rams in Week 13, but they did hold St. Louis to just three points. Depending on the scoring in your league, that may provide a solid defensive outing.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

For the rest of the Week 14 DSTs, see below:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-flex-rankings-week-14
Body:

Welcome to the first week of the fantasy playoffs (for most leagues). Now more than ever, the flex position is key to success. You know you need to start a certain number of running backs and wide receivers, but when it comes to the flex, it comes down to matchups and your scoring system.

 

By now, you should continue to go with what works in your league. In most PPR leagues, starting a wide receiver in the flex spot is usually the best bet, unless you also have a pass-catching running back you're also debating.

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

 

For help on choosing your flex, consult the rankings below:

 

Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2015 Flex Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Utah Utes, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/utah-utes-2015-team-awards
Body:

Utah exceeded modest preseason expectations by putting together its best Pac-12 season yet. The Utes contended for a Pac-12 South title throughout the season and finished tied for first with USC in the division. Utah has collected nine wins for a second straight season and is on track for 10 wins and a top-25 finish with a victory over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.

 

With just the bowl game left, it's time to look back at Utah's 2015 season and hand out some awards:

 

Offensive MVP: Devontae Booker, RB

Booker had his season cut short with a knee injury against Arizona. Utah's offense hasn't been the same without him. He wasn't just a bruising runner. Booker also proved an excellent blocker and dynamic receiver out of the backfield. The senior running back amassed 1,579 all-purpose yards in 10 games. He ranked third among Pac-12 players in both rushing yardage (1,261 yards) and all-purpose yardage.

 

Defensive MVP: Gionni Paul, LB

On defense, Paul has mirrored the impact that Booker made on offense. In his two seasons with the Utes, the Miami transfer has carved out a reputation as a disruptive player. Paul finished the regular season with a team-best 109 tackles, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

 

Best Freshman: Britain Covey, WR/PR

No one could have anticipated that Covey would have such a dramatic impact in his first season. Covey turned out to be a game-changer at slot receiver and as a punt returner. He ranked as Utah's top receiver during the regular season with 518 yards on 41 receptions.

 

Best Newcomer: Joe Williams, RB

Williams only saw major playing time in the final three regular season games, but he offered hope that Utah's offense will survive Booker's absence next season. The junior totaled 386 yards on 79 carries during the regular season. In both starts against UCLA and Colorado, he crossed the 100-yard plateau.

 

Best Play of the Season: Boobie Hobbs' punt return against Oregon

In a season filled with crazy plays, Hobbs produced one of the most endearing highlights. He ripped off a 69-yard punt return in Utah's 62-20 rout of Oregon in the team's Pac-12 opener. Hobbs raced down the sideline untouched after Covey acted as a decoy and pretended to field the punt. His fake drew the bulk of the Ducks' defense, leaving Hobbs open to score.

 

Best Performance: Devontae Booker vs. California

Booker turned in his finest game of the season in Utah's 30-24 victory over California. The senior totaled 222 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. It represented the most carries and third-highest yardage in a single game by a Pac-12 running back this season.

 

Best Game: 62-20 rout of Oregon

Utah vaulted itself into the College Football Playoff picture for a time with a thorough dismantling of the 2014 Pac-12 champions on their home turf. The Utes piled up 530 yards and forced three turnovers in a 62-20 victory over the Ducks. It showed that Utah's successes in 2014 were no fluke, but a sign of things to come.

 

Defining Moment: Ending losing streaks

Utah showed it had staying power as a Pac-12 contender by ending several long losing streaks in 2015. The Utes won a Pac-12 opener for the first time. They beat Arizona State and Washington for the first time since joining the league. It's a positive sign for the Utes going into 2016 and beyond.

 

Biggest Surprise: Marcus Williams, S

Williams is one player who unexpectedly fueled Utah's effectiveness in gaining turnovers this season. The sophomore safety totaled just one career interception before the season. He has enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2015, entering the bowl game with a team-best five interceptions.

 

Biggest Disappointment: November finish

When the month of November began, Utah controlled its own destiny and seemed perfectly positioned to win the Pac-12 South title. Back-to-back losses to Arizona and UCLA cost the Utes a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Utah went from dreaming about securing a College Football Playoff spot to playing in the Las Vegas Bowl against BYU.

 

Senior That Will be Missed the Most: Jared Norris, LB

Norris (above, right) provided strong leadership on the defensive side of the ball. He acted like the quarterback of the defense and helped teammates find the right spots to make disruptive plays and create turnovers. Norris tallied 86 tackles and forced a pair of fumbles during the regular season.

 

Player to Watch in 2016: Troy Williams, QB

The former Washington quarterback will have a chance to step in to lead the offense right away with Travis Wilson graduating at the end of this season. Williams seems like he has the right skills to make a major impact from the start. He passed for 2,750 yards and 31 touchdowns as a sophomore at Santa Monica (Calif.) College this season.

 

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Offense

Utah will have to find players who can step up and replace key offensive playmakers Wilson, Booker, Covey and Kenneth Scott next season. The defense is always strong and the offensive line will return four starters in 2016. Inexperience at the offensive skill positions, however, could cause problems unless new playmakers emerge.

 

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

Teaser:
Utah Utes 2015 Team Awards
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/what-if-college-football-had-march-madness-68-team-tournament
Body:

College football’s four-team playoff and bowl system is the perfect blend of adding importance to the regular season and allowing teams to sort it out on the field in the postseason. While we wouldn’t advocate for college football to change from this current format anytime soon, there’s no harm in having some fun with a hypothetical 68-team playoff field. March Madness and college basketball’s postseason tournament is one of the most exciting moments of the year for any sports fan, as upsets knock out top seeds and the action is spread out over the course of three weekends.

 

What if college football decided to emulate college basketball and implement a 68-team tournament with four play-in games? To help answer that question, we used the College Football Playoff Committee’s for the top 25. For 26-68, we averaged the rankings from six sources: ESPN’s Football Power Index, Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders and SB Nation’s S&P and F+ rankings, Ed Feng’s The Power Rank and Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings.

 

After establishing the rankings, we seeded the teams by region and made a few tweaks to each bracket to eliminate having too many teams from the same conference in that region.

 

The hypothetical and potentially entertaining postseason tournament looks like this:  

 

College Football's 68-Team Playoff Bracket for 2015

 

East Region

 

 

 

South Region

 

 

Midwest Region

 

 

West Region

 

Teaser:
What if College Football Had a March Madness 68-Team Tournament?
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 11:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-2015-team-awards
Body:

The 2015 college football season started out as one for the ages for the LSU Tigers. The Baton Rouge squad opened the season with moderate expectations receiving an AP Top 25 preseason ranking of No. 14 but soared to No. 2 in the nation after posting a 7-0 overall record. It should have been 8-0 but the Tigers' Week 1 contest against McNeese State was called due to weather. LSU had early-season wins over then- No. 25 Mississippi State (21-19), No. 18 Auburn (45-21), Syracuse (34-24) in non-conference action, and No. 8 Florida (35-28) as the Tigers worked their way up the polls.

 

Despite fans, writers, and opposing coaches knowing LSU was one-dimensional on offense, all were in awe of the Tigers' rushing attack spearheaded by sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette jumped out as the early-season Heisman Trophy favorite after three consecutive games over at least 228 yards rushing. LSU was playing so well that its 45-24 thumping of South Carolina in Week 6 helped contribute to legendary head coach Steve Spurrier’s early retirement, as he stepped down the day after the loss to the Tigers.

 

LSU’s highs and renewed expectations contributed greatly to a late-season fall that included three consecutive losses to then- No. 4 Alabama (30-16), Arkansas (31-14), and No. 22 Mississippi (38-17). The commonality of all three opponents handing LSU a loss was strong run defenses. LSU’s inability to throw the ball consistently downfield helped contribute to a fall out of the rankings and uncertainty of where the program was headed next. The rumor mill quickly spread that LSU’s final regular season game against Texas A&M would determine the fate of head coach Les Miles. The Tigers took down the visiting Aggies 19-7 with the Mad Hatter getting a what at the time was thought to be a victorious send off with his players carrying their head coach off the field.

 

Immediately following the Aggies win, Miles was told he would return next season. Now the focus shifts to the LSU's upcoming Dec. 29 appearance in the Texas Bowl against Texas Tech. The Tigers finished the regular season 8-3, 5-3 in SEC play, and ranked No. 20 in the final College Football Selection Committee Playoff Rankings.

 

Offensive MVP: Leonard Fournette, RB

Easily one of the top college football players in the nation during the 2015 season. Fournette ended the regular season with 1,741 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns on the ground, and finished third on the team in receptions (18) and receiving yards (209).

 

Defensive MVP: Deion Jones, LB

Kendell Beckwith got a lot of well-deserved preseason hype but Jones had a standout campaign at linebacker, tallying 92 tackles with 11.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, two interceptions, and six quarterback hurries. Jones left Senior Day at Death Valley in style coming up with 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, and a half-sack earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

 

Best Freshman: Arden Key, DE

The Tigers' roster is full of contributing underclassmen but a handful of true freshmen turned in big performances. Key was arguably the best of this group of impressive first-year players. Key finished fifth on the Tigers in total tackles with 38 while coming up with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, and nine quarterback hurries.

 

Key came up big from the onset of the season, getting a critical sack of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 2. Key stayed strong throughout the season seemingly not wearing down as much as most true freshmen. Against the Aggies, Key was awarded SEC Freshman of the Week honors after collecting a career-high eight tackles with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries.

 

Best Play of the Season: Leonard Fournette's 40-yard Touchdown Run vs. Auburn

Pick any number of Fournette’s touchdown runs in 2015 and a case can be made for it as play of the year. But on Sept. 19, Fournette proved that anywhere on the field is the red zone. His 40-yard touchdown run against Auburn featured him dragging Tigers linebacker Derrick Moncrief in the red zone for about five years before shaking lose and crossing the goal line untouched.

 

Best Performance by a Player in 2015: Leonard Fournette, RB

There is a reason Fournette was a mid-season Heisman Trophy contender, as he is one of the best in the nation regardless of position. Fournette ended the season fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards despite the cancelation of the season opener against McNeese State game and not playing in the SEC Championship Game. If Fournette had played in two more games before the bowl, his 158 rushing yards per game average would have given him 2,058 yards on the season or 72 yards more than Derrick Henry, Alabama’s Heisman finalist.

 

Best Game: Beating Then-No. 8 Florida

Everything seemed to click for the Tigers against Florida’s vaulted defense. Brandon Harris completed 68 percent of his passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. The offensive line did not allow a sack and Fournette rushed for 180 yards on 31 carries with two scores. Florida scored 28 points but the Tigers’ defense only allowed 326 total yards of offense in the big win.

 

Defining Moment: Mississippi State's Missed Field Goal

As tough as the season got for the Tigers during their three-game skid, Les Miles can thank Mississippi State kicker Devon Bell for missing a 52-yard field goal as the game clock expired, giving LSU a 21-19 win in Week 2. Had the Bulldogs won, Miles might not still be in Baton Rouge today. The win helped label the Tigers as an early contender for the SEC West Division title and put Leonard Fournette into the Heisman Trophy discussion.

 

Biggest Surprise: Lewis Neal, DL

Neal had 13 games played under his belt without a start entering the 2015 season. He had 10 total tackles for his career with, two tackles for a loss, and a half-sack. When the season ended, the junior had started all 11 games finishing fourth on the squad in total tackles with 48, second in tackles for a loss with 9.5, and led the team with eight sacks.

 

Biggest Disappointment: Brandon Harris, QB

Harris had a slightly above average season, but maybe too much was expected of the sophomore? The Tigers have a deep wide receiver corps, one of the best in the nation in terms of athleticism and certainly in untapped talent. Harris threw for 1,904 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. The trouble is that compared to his freshman season, Harris did not develop as much as some had thought, hoped or expected. In limited action last season, Harris completed 56 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and just two picks. His TD-to-INT ratio this season was just a little better than 2:! while he completed just 53 percent of his passes. He also was sacked 17 times, giving up 152 yards in the process.

 

Senior That Will be Missed the Most Next Season: Jalen Mills, S

Mills has been a playmaker for the Tigers since his freshman days when he started 13 games at cornerback in 2012. He started 13 games in 2013 and another 13 in '14 helping LSU earn the “DBU” title. The Tigers' pass defense slipped some in 2015 in large part due to Mills’ injury issues. Mills was limited to six games played with five starts but made his presence felt in those games coming up with 30 tackles. The 30 tackles was a far cry from the 62 netted in 2014 and 67 added from '13.

 

Player to Watch in 2016: Kevin Toliver II, CB

Toliver was a 5-star recruit coming out of Trinity Christian High School in Jacksonville, Fla., and lived up to the hype during his true freshman season. Toliver played in all 11 games, receiving seven starts and collecting 30 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one interception, and four passes defended.

 

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Passing Game

Les Miles came close to losing his job this season with one of the biggest complaints being the Tigers' lack of a passing game. If Miles retains offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who is in the last year of his contract, can the Tiger faithful truly expect different results in 2016 when LSU is forced to pass on third-and-long? 

 

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

Teaser:
LSU Tigers 2015 Team Awards
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/five-biggest-landslides-heisman-voting-history
Body:

This year’s Heisman Trophy voting will likely be close. In fact, even though Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson are each a deserving finalist, a case could have been made to invite another player or two to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City for the announcement.

 

In some years, one candidate simply stands out and wins by a landslide. Here are the five that won by the biggest margin (in terms of total points).

 

NOTE: Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner in 1974 and ’75 is the only player to win the award twice and each time he was clear of the runner-up by more than 1,100 votes.

 

5. Ricky Williams, Texas, 1998

The finalists that year were Williams and four quarterbacks –Kansas State’s Michael Bishop, UCLA’s Cade McNown, Kentucky’s Tim Couch and Syracuse’s Donovan McNabb. All had excellent seasons, but Williams rushed for 2,124 yards, averaging nearly six yards a carry, and racked up 28 touchdowns. At the time, it was the sixth-best rushing season in college football history. Most importantly, he broke Tony Dorsett’s 22-year-old career rushing record on a 60-yard touchdown run in an upset of Texas A&M on Thanksgiving weekend. Williams received 714 first-place votes and a total of 2,355 points, 1,563 more than runner-up Bishop.

 

4. Desmond Howard, Michigan, 1991

As his team was spanking Ohio State, Howard returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown and did the Heisman pose in the end zone. He would have looked like a first-rate boob if he had not actually won the stiff-armed trophy, but like a good politician, he knew he had the votes. Howard led the nation in touchdown receptions and finished with 23 total scores (19 receiving, 2 rushing, 1 kickoff return and 1 punt return). He received 640 first-place votes and a total of 2,077 points, which were 1,574 more than Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon, who came in second.

 

3. Charlie Ward, Florida State, 1993

Ward was ahead of his time in many ways. If he played in the NFL today, the dual-threat quarterback would likely be mentioned in the same breath as Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. In 1993, Ward’s options for pro football were limited and he chose to play point guard for 10 seasons in the NBA instead. However, in college football, he was sensational. Ward powered Florida State’s fast-break offense, which averaged 43 points a game, and led the team to the school’s first national title. He garnered 740 first-place votes for a total of 2,310 points. Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler finished a distant second, with just 10 first-place votes and 1,622 points behind Smith.

 

2. Troy Smith, Ohio State, 2006

Ohio State was ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll and held the top spot through the entire regular season. The Buckeyes won all but two of their regular season games by double digits and their final one was a 42-39 victory over No. 2 Michigan in one of the most hyped contests in college football history. Ohio State had many weapons, but the heart and soul of the team was its quarterback. Smith threw for 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions and led the Big Ten in passing efficiency. Smith dominated the voting, picking up 801 first-place votes and a total of 2,540 points. Arkansas running back Darren McFadden finished second with 45 first-place votes and 878 points. That’s a difference of 1,662 points or nearly double McFadden’s total.

 

1. O.J. Simpson, USC, 1968

Yes, the top spot on this list belongs to someone who doesn’t even own his trophy anymore. After finishing second to UCLA quarterback Gary Beban in 1967, Simpson had an even better season in 1968. He blistered defenses by rushing for 1,880 yards and 23 touchdowns as USC won the Pac-10 and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl. Simpson received 855 first-place votes and 2,853 total points, 1,750 more than the runner-up, Purdue halfback Leroy Keyes. To put it another way, Keyes and the other eight players that received votes that year had a total of 147 first-place votes combined.

 

In 1997, a civil court jury ruled ordered Simpson to pay $33.5 million in damages to the families of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. His assets, including his Heisman trophy, were seized and auctioned. In 1999, Triad Metals International owner Tom Kreissman purchased the trophy for $230,000 and a 15 percent sales commission. It now sits in a safety deposit box in a Philadelphia bank.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

Teaser:
The Five Biggest Landslides in Heisman Voting History
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-2015-team-awards
Body:

Brian Kelly and his squad have to be a little down after flirting with a College Football Playoff spot all November and then coming up a bit short. But earning a Fiesta Bowl bid following a season that was riddled with injuries has to be considered a success.

 

The Irish had some great performances and major surprises in 2015 with some disappointments mixed in as well. Here are some awards for the 2015 Notre Dame football team.

 

Offensive MVP: DeShone Kizer, QB

When Malik Zaire broke his ankle in the second game against Virginia, most thought the season was lost. But Kizer, who was the third-string quarterback in the spring, stepped in and the Irish didn’t miss a beat. The sophomore from Toledo ranks in the top 25 nationally in passer rating and has a 63.4 percent completion rate with a 19:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Without Kizer’s ascension, Notre Dame would not be playing on New Year’s Day.

 

Defensive MVP: Jaylon Smith, LB

The junior All-American led the Irish in tackles with 113, which is 48 stops more than Joe Schmidt, who is second on the team in that department. Sheldon Day had a great year and Romeo Okwara came on strong, but Smith is the best player on the Irish defense.

 

Best Freshman: Josh Adams, RB

In the middle of the season, Kelly said several times that he wanted to get Adams some carries to ease the burden on running back C.J. Prosise. When Prosise was injured, Adams stepped forward to carry the load. More than half (495 of 757) his rushing yards came in November when the Irish needed him to fill in for Prosise. Expect Adams to be a big part of the Fiesta Bowl game plan.

 

Best Play of the Season: Kizer to Fuller to Beat Virginia

With 20 seconds remaining and the Irish trailing the Cavaliers 27-26, Kizer hit Will Fuller down the left sideline and Notre Dame escaped Charlottesville with a 34-27 victory. After losing Zaire earlier in the game, the Notre Dame spirits needed a lift and the game-winning score was the perfect medicine. That one play may have changed the entire course of Notre Dame's season.

 

Best Performance by a Player in 2015: C.J. Prosise vs. Georgia Tech

Coming into the game, many wondered if Notre Dame would be able to stop the Yellow Jackets' rushing attack. The story ended up being Georgia Tech’s inability to contain the Irish running back. Prosise ran for 198 yards and three scores, including a then-Notre Dame Stadium record 91-yard touchdown run. It was the best game in a breakout season for the senior from Petersburg, Va.

 

Best Game: Season-opening Win Over Texas

The Irish destroyed the Longhorns from beginning to end in the season-opening 38-3 victory. Zaire was 19-of-22 for 313 yards and three touchdowns while the Prosise-led running game churned out 214 yards. The defense was nasty as the Irish held Texas to 163 total yards and eight first downs. The ease of victory was an indication that the Irish could have a pretty good season.

 

Defining Moment: Clemson Response

When Clemson stopped Notre Dame’s two-point conversion attempt, the Irish knew a big opportunity had been lost. Some Notre Dame teams of the past may have lost focus and struggled the following week against Navy. Actually, that is exactly what happened in 2014 following the difficult-to-swallow Florida State defeat. But this Irish unit played a very solid game against an eventual top 25 Navy team and then put away USC the following week to climb back into the Playoff mix. Their resiliency was proven in the way they played after the Clemson heartbreak.

 

Biggest Surprise: DeShone Kizer, QB

A case could be made for Prosise since he was a first-time running back after splitting time between defensive back and wide receiver during his first three years on campus. And Romeo Okwara’s development also must be noted. But Kizer was behind Everett Golson and Zaire in the spring and the reports coming out of those practices on the sophomore were not glowing. Saying that his performance was a surprise is a huge understatement.

 

Biggest Disappointment: The Secondary

It was supposed to be a team strength. KeiVarae Russell returned from his suspension to join fellow cornerback Cole Luke, who was more than solid in 2014. Max Redfield was expected to fulfill his five-star promise at free safety and Elijah Shumate was poised to have a big year at strong safety. But the corners regressed and we are still waiting on Redfield. Shumate had some good moments, but as a group they allowed too many big plays in both the passing and running games. The defensive front seven was outstanding for much of the year, so it is unfortunate that the back end could not do its part.

 

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Sheldon Day, DT

The defensive tackle from Indianapolis was more than just a stalwart on the defensive line. He was the unquestioned leader of the defense, the guy that got the entire team ready to play. He was a mentor to many of the younger players, including freshman Jerry Tillery. Day’s production on the field will certainly be missed, but his departure may have an even bigger impact off the field.

 

Player to Watch in 2016: Alize Jones, TE

The tight end from Las Vegas was one of the jewels of the 2015 recruiting class. However, he had difficulty adapting to the college game his freshman year and has caught just 11 passes for 166 yards entering the bowl game. Look for those numbers to skyrocket in 2016 as Jones adds strength and becomes more comfortable with the offense.

 

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Defense

The offense returns many of its playmakers and there are younger players ready to make an impact on that side of the ball. On defense, the secondary has to be fixed and replacements have to be found for Day, Schmidt, and most likely Smith, who is expected to declare for the NFL Draft.

 

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

Teaser:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2015 Team Awards
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/strangest-title-sponsors-college-football-bowl-games-2015
Body:

If you've watched college football bowl games during the 21st century, you've probably cocked your head to the side like a confused dog trying to understand what some of the games' corporate sponsors do. Sometimes, even if you know, you're still left asking, "What does this company have to do with college football, or even the area the bowl is being played in?" Sometimes, I'm just surprised that the business can throw away money by slapping its name on a bowl game nobody is going to watch.

 

Related: Ranking All 41 College Football Bowls for 2015: From Must-See to Must-Miss

 

With that in mind, here are the 10 strangest title sponsors for college football bowl games in 2015.

 

10. Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

I have no beef with the Air Force. I gave the best years of my life to the Air Force and am forever grateful. That said, I also know the Department of Defense — like the rest of the government — is strapped for cash. The Air Force is kicking people out before their contracts are up and the military is reworking its retirement system all in the name of cutting costs. So how much sense does it make to toss a bag of cash at an obscure bowl game? Seems weird to me. And what are the players going to get for swag? "Aim High" t-shirts? An enlistment contract? I do like that they added the word "celebration." I've been deployed with and in training with plenty of reservists. They do know how to celebrate.

 

9. Autonation Cure Bowl

I'm going to tip-toe around a bit here, mostly because the "cure" in this case refers to finding a cure for breast cancer. Obviously, that's a great cause. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Autonation is the sponsor. It's as if the message is "Hey, let's find a cure for this terrible disease, but while we're at it, don't forget to shop for your next car online!" Yikes, right? And this thing is in Orlando! Where you at, Disney? But again, at the end of the day, this is a bowl for a good cause, and you can help by clicking here to donate.

 

8. National University Holiday Bowl

Does anyone else find it strange that a college would sponsor a bowl game? You are going to be bombarded with commercials touting this college that specializes in continuing education. In the meantime, two football teams will be battling it out on the field, wearing the uniforms of two colleges that in all likelihood provide the same programs and method of delivery. It's like Notre Dame sponsoring a bowl. Oh no. Did I say that out loud?

 

7. Foster Farms Bowl

There you are, on the day after Christmas, busting open that bottle of scotch Uncle Dave bought you, smashing the rest of grandma's uneaten Christmas cookies — made with lard — into your face. You plop down on the couch with your leftover ham sandwich, oozing with mayo, and flip on the TV. Welcome to the Foster Farms Bowl, sponsored by a semi-healthy organic chicken company (they do make corndogs), attended by a crowd of people who live in an uber-healthy organic metro. Shame on you. Shame.

 

6. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Yes! It's the Las Vegas Bowl! Sin City! Sponsored by Royal Purple! Wait. What is Royal Purple? It's probably a hot new online poker site. Maybe it's a fancy new liquor they are selling at all the hottest Las Vegas clubs, sort of like Tom Haverford's Snake Juice.

 

Nope. It's motor oil.

 

5. Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Ah, New Mexico. One of the most naturally beautiful, scenic states. It's deserves it's own bowl. There are so many ways you could go in terms of a sponsor. Of course, the obvious choice is a high-volume t-shirt supply and printing company. So majestic.

 

4. Russell Athletic Bowl

Wait, wait, wait. Russell Athletic is still in business? And they have money to sponsor a bowl? Get out of town! Why not call it the throwback bowl and try to get Tab cola as the sponsor? What do they plan on giving out as gifts? Old worn-out sweatshirts your grandpa donated to the local thrift store?

 

3. Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Oh boy. Look, I get that Raycom Media has some cash. If they want to sponsor a bowl, that's cool. But trust me here, I've been to Montgomery, Alabama. No offense to the fine people of that town, but I don't care what flower you slap on the name and logo of any bowl game you are playing there, you're going to have a tough time convincing me or any of the players participating in the game that a trip to Montgomery is a reward for a fine season. I guess what I'm saying is, this is a case where a company's name is good enough. Don't try to decorate it with flowers.

 

2. Marmot Boca Raton Bowl

"Marmot" sounds a little like "varmint." That's cool, because Boca Raton is spanish for "Rat's Mouth." Good enough — except that this sponsor-location relationship makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! Boca Raton is a warm weather beach community. You vacation there for fun in the sun. There are no mountains. There are no forests. There most certainly is no snow. Now take a look at the Marmot website. I rest my case.

 

1. BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl

Huh? What's that now? Come again? BattleFrog. Is that like Angry Birds? It must be a hot new app that all the kids are downloading. Sounds awesome. Wait a minute — it's some sort of company that organizes those mud runs and other annoying fitness events that you hear your annoying co-workers brag about training for and participating in. Yup, forget Tostito's. No chips. No salsa. No guacamole. No cerveza. No margaritas. Nothing says "fiesta" like six months of training for a mud run. Meanwhile, most of the viewing audience will be more concerned with who is going on the next beer run.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Teaser:
Strangest Title Sponsors for College Football Bowl Games in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Stanford Cardinal, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/why-christian-mccaffrey-should-win-heisman-trophy-2015
Body:

Sixteen consecutive points had given USC the lead and considerable momentum in the third quarter of the Pac-12 Championship Game. Facing third down with its offense struggling, Stanford head coach David Shaw put the ball in the hands of Christian McCaffrey, and the sophomore did what he's done all year. 

 

McCaffrey beat USC linebacker Olajuwon Tucker on a drag route, catching a pass from quarterback Kevin Hogan for the first down — but McCaffrey went for so much more. He blazed down field, evaded safety Chris Hawkins with a hesitation, jab-stepped toward the middle of the field and a sharp cut back to the sideline. Only after cornerback Kevon Seymour caught him from behind 67 yards later was McCaffrey down. 

 

The question posed to McCaffrey after the game wasn't how he'd made such a remarkable play, which proved to be a game-changer — Hogan scored on a quarterback-keeper to give Stanford the lead for good immediately after. Rather, McCaffrey was asked why it hadn't been more spectacular, ending at the 5-yard line instead of in the end zone. 

 

"Me and you are wondering the same thing right now," McCaffrey laughed. 

 

Throughout his record-setting 2015 campaign, McCaffrey made the extraordinary seem ordinary, and he did so in multiple phases. Whether catching passes — like that tide-turning 67-yarder or his 28-yard touchdown reception later in the second half — or carrying the ball — as he did to the tune of 207 yards in the Pac-12 Championship Game — McCaffrey always found ways to impact the course of games. 

 

He finished the season with 1,847 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, 540 yards receiving and another four scores, 1,024 yards in kickoff returns with yet another touchdown, and he passed for two touchdowns. He very nearly returned a punt for a touchdown against USC, which would have put him in company with only two players in college football to score via rush, reception, pass, kickoff and punt return in the same season: C.J. Spiller in 2009, and Heisman winner Reggie Bush in '05. 

 

Indeed, no player in college football contributed more to his team in a more diverse manner than McCaffrey, hence the chants of "Heisman" his Stanford teammates broke out into during the Pac-12 title trophy presentation. 

 

Shaw refrained from politicking on behalf of McCaffrey's Heisman candidacy during the regular season. But after the running back amassed 461 all-purpose yards in the Pac-12 Championship Game, not counting his 11-yard touchdown pass to Hogan, Shaw gave an impassioned campaign pitch the coach's former Stanford teammate and current New Jersey Senator Cory Booker would have been proud of. 

 

"What Christian has done is phenomenal," Shaw said, remarking McCaffrey is "the best player in the nation." 

 

McCaffrey doesn't need mere rhetoric to make his case, however. The numbers speak volumes, and put him in league with Heisman contenders of years past. 

 

McCaffrey broke 2009 Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart's Stanford single-game rushing record in October, accruing 243 yards in a rout of UCLA. Not content etching his name into Cardinal history, McCaffrey broke one of college football's most hallowed individual marks when he surpassed Barry Sanders' mark of 3,250 all-purpose yards, gained in Sanders' epic 1988 season at Oklahoma State. 

 

Sanders ran away with the Heisman Trophy that season. 

 

McCaffrey downplayed the record somewhat, pointing out Sanders set the mark in 11 games.

 

"I know he did it in a couple less games," he said. "I don't know if you take that into consideration or not."

 

Consider it all you want, but bear in mind that Sanders' mark stood untouched for 27 years. Plenty of other Heisman winners and assorted college football legends had opportunities to set a new record with the benefit of additional games; none did so before McCaffrey. 

 

The only logical manner in which to recognize such a historic season is to cap it with the Heisman Trophy. 

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of CFBHuddle.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Teaser:
Why Christian McCaffrey Should Win the Heisman Trophy in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/why-deshaun-watson-should-win-heisman-trophy-2015
Body:

At this time last year, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s season was over. He showed incredible toughness by playing through a torn ACL in the Tigers' 35-17 victory over South Carolina. But surgery was required and Watson missed the Russell Athletic Bowl matchup with Oklahoma.

 

A year later, Watson is the leader of the nation’s No. 1 team and he is on his way to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. While he may not be the odds-on favorite to take home the prize, here are three reasons why he should win the award.

 

1. Quarterbacks Have a Greater Impact On Games Than Running Backs...

And Watson is the best quarterback in the country. Alabama's Derrick Henry has 2,083 total yards from scrimmage on 349 touches. Christian McCaffrey of Stanford has 2.387 yards from scrimmage on 360 chances and has another 1,109 yards in the return game for a total of 3,496 yards. Henry has 23 touchdowns while McCaffrey has 13. Watson received every meaningful snap for Clemson this season and is responsible for 4,404 yards and 41 touchdowns. The threat of Watson also made life easier for running back Wayne Gallman, who topped the 1,300-yard plateau. Yes, a good quarterback will have better numbers than a good running back. He’ll also have a bigger affect on the game.

 

2. Watson is the Best Player on the Best Team

The Heisman Trophy does not go to the most valuable college football player; it goes to the most outstanding. But take Watson off the Tigers and you’d see quickly how outstanding he really is. Every part of the Clemson offense revolved around the sophomore from Gainesville, Ga. Further, defensive coordinator Brent Venables could be more aggressive with his unit knowing that if a mistake was made and the opposition scored, Watson could get the points back in a hurry. Clemson has been the top-ranked team in the country since early November and Watson is the primary reason why.

 

3. Big Performances in Big Games

They say that to win the award you have to have Heisman moments. As the games got tougher and the lights shined brighter, Watson played his best. When challenged by NC State, he responded with 437 total yards and six touchdowns. The following week against Florida State, he threw for 297 yards with a touchdown and ran 107 more yards. In the Palmetto Bowl clash with South Carolina, he passed for 279, ran for 114, and had a part in four scores. Finally, this past Saturday in the ACC Championship Game, Watson torched North Carolina to the tune of 420 total yards and five touchdowns. When it mattered the most, Watson provided Heisman moments.

 

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

Teaser:
Why Deshaun Watson Should Win the Heisman Trophy in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/why-derrick-henry-should-win-heisman-trophy-2015
Body:

Running backs rarely win the Heisman Trophy these days. It's happened twice in the last 15 years, the last time coming in 2009 when Alabama's Mark Ingram hoisted the trophy.


Then again, running backs like Derrick Henry don't come around very often. In fact, there's never been a running back quite like Henry.

 

The guy is an anomaly. He's been called a freak. A machine. He's been compared to a runaway train. He's 6-foot-3 and weighs 242 pounds. He has the mind, the vision, the devastating stiff arm and the will of a running back, yet he's got the speed of a wide receiver. And it's all packaged into the body of a defensive end.

 

Slow him down once. And he keeps coming. And coming. And coming. Eventually, this tireless, relentless one-of-a-kind running back wins. He gets his yards. He gets to the end zone. And, more times than not, he gets his team a 'W'.

 

The former high school legend out of Yulee, Fla., showed flashes of greatness as a freshman at Alabama in 2013 and as a sophomore in '14 — breathtaking touchdown runs reminiscent of the runs he made as a prep star when he set the national high school career rushing record with 12,124 yards.

 

But they were mere flashes. Henry was not Alabama's feature back those two seasons. T.J. Yeldon was. This season, with Yeldon gone to the NFL, Henry became the guy for Alabama. Oh, and did he ever.

 

It's been a history-making season for Alabama's No. 2. The numbers tell much of the story. And they are eye-popping numbers that put him in the rare air of two legendary college football running backs, Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson -- both of whom won Heismans.

 

A lot of very good running backs have come through the SEC since the early 1980s when Walker starred at Georgia and the mid-80s when Jackson starred at Auburn. But none during these last three decades have been on par with those household names.

 

Well, none until this season. None until Alabama handed the ball to Henry in 2015 and rode him to a 12-1 record, an SEC championship and a No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff.

 

Henry's 1,986 yards rushing this season broke Walker's SEC single-season rushing record of 1,891 set back in 1981. And the four 200-yard rushing games Henry has had this season? The only two other SEC backs to pull off that feat were... yeah, you guessed it, Walker and Jackson.


How about finding the end zone? Henry has been a model of consistency in that department the past year-and-a-half. He's scored at least one touchdown in 18 straight games, currently the longest active streak in the nation and the longest streak by an SEC player in 20 years.

 

Oh, and as far as the 23 touchdowns Henry has this season? That's tied for the most all-time in the SEC for one season. Florida's Tim Tebow, like Walker and Jackson another Heisman winner, also had 23 in one season as did Auburn's Tre Mason.

 

It should be noted too that Henry has come up big when Alabama's needed him the most this season. Against ranked competition (No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 15 Ole Miss, No. 8 Georgia, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 2 LSU, No. 20 Mississippi State, No. 18 Florida), Henry is averaging 180.9 yards rushing per game. In fact, three of Henry's four 200-yard outings came against ranked foes.

 

And on the biggest stage of all this season, when the spotlight was brightest, when the entire college football world was watching and tuning in, Henry, with his 210-yard, three-TD performance, completely outshined the then-Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette and helped lead No. 4 Alabama to a 30-16 win over undefeated and No. 2-ranked LSU.

 

That was the game Fournette was supposed to seal the deal for the stiff-armed trophy, have his Heisman moment. Instead, that was the game the conversation drastically reversed course, with Henry emerging as the new front-runner. And he hasn't let go.

 

In Alabama's three conference games following the win over LSU, Henry rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi State, 271 yards and one touchdown against Auburn and 189 yards and one touchdown against Florida. One of the phrases in college football is: "They remember November." Henry, proving he's a finisher, too, has certainly provided some November — and December — efforts to remember.

 

Numbers, though, don't tell the whole story of Henry. When Ohio State and Oregon were playing for the national championship last January, Henry was in Alabama's weight room. Working out. Vowing to get Alabama back on track in 2015 after getting upset in the Playoff semifinals.

 

Henry hasn't stopped leading — and carrying — this team since. He does it more with his example and his work ethic than his words. And he does it without fanfare and without drawing attention to himself. Henry isn't one to strike the Heisman pose when he runs into the end zone. And when things don't go right, he isn't one to point fingers or become disgruntled. 

 

For Henry, it's all about this Alabama team. It's all about getting victories. Winning championships. When accolades or adulation come his way, he always deflects it to his coaches and teammates. Always.

 

To win a Heisman, you shouldn't have to be a quarterback. And you shouldn't have to be the most versatile guy on the field. You should just have to be the best. And in this 2015 college football season that's what Derrick Henry has been.

 

— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.

Teaser:
Why Derrick Henry Should Win the Heisman Trophy in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/week-14-nfl-picks-challenge-athlon-sports-experts
Body:

The NFL is in full swing, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.

 

The Athlon Sports Pro Football Experts Club presented by New Era gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.

 

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

 

Here are this week’s picks from Athlon Sports senior editor John Gworek:

 

Thursday's Game

 

Minnesota at Arizona

The Cards are the only team in the NFL in the top five in both offense and defense (first and fourth, respectively). The Vikings average 166 yards per game on the ground in their wins but just 77 in their losses.

Gworek's Pick: Arizona, 30–16.

 

Sunday’s Games

 

Buffalo at Philadelphia

The Eagles rank third in the NFL in takeaways, so the Bills must take care of the ball. Buffalo has 13 turnovers in its six losses but just one in its six wins.

Gworek's Pick: Buffalo, 27–23.

 

San Francisco at Cleveland

Johnny Manziel has four games to show the Browns that they don’t need to draft a quarterback with what is at the moment the first pick overall. The Niners are 2–2 since Blaine Gabbert took over at quarterback.

Gworek's Pick: Cleveland, 23–21.

 

Detroit at St. Louis

After scoring 10 points in the last two games, the Rams made a change at offensive coordinator. That same move sparked the Lions, who won three straight before Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary beat them last week.

Gworek's Pick: Detroit, 17–13.

 

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

The Bucs have won three of four to stay within a game of the last NFC Wild Card spot. Tampa Bay won in New Orleans in September. New Orleans has lost four straight after a three-game winning streak.

Gworek's Pick: Tampa Bay, 28–26.

 

Tennessee at N.Y. Jets    

The Jets must take care of business against the Titans to stay in playoff position in the AFC. Marcus Mariota accounted for 380 of the Titans’ 467 yards in a shootout win over Jacksonville last week.

Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Jets, 24–20.

 

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati   

The Bengals won the first meeting (16–10 in Pittsburgh), but that was Ben Roethlisberger’s first game back from a knee injury. Since that loss the Steelers are 3–1 and are averaging 529 yards of total offense.

Gworek's Pick: Pittsburgh, 31–28.

 

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

The Jaguars took the Colts to overtime in early October when Andrew Luck was healthy. Now Luck is out, and his replacement, Matt Hasselbeck, is also banged up.

Gworek's Pick: Jacksonville, 20–16.

 

San Diego at Kansas City

The Chiefs won 33–3 in San Diego just three weeks ago, and it’s hard to see this one going much differently. Kansas City has won six in a row, while the Chargers have lost seven of eight.

Gworek's Pick: Kansas City, 27–20.

 

Washington at Chicago

Since an 0–3 start, Chicago is 5–4. Two of the losses were in overtime, and the others were by two points to 10–2 Denver and three points to 8–4 Minnesota. Three of Washington’s last four are on the road.

Gworek's Pick: Chicago, 17–14.

 

Atlanta at Carolina

These teams will meet twice in the next three weeks. Atlanta started 5–0 thanks to a plus-6 turnover differential. The Falcons are 1–6 with a minus-7 differential since. And Carolina leads the NFL in takeaways.

Gworek's Pick: Carolina, 31–14.

 

Seattle at Baltimore

Seattle is 3–1 since its bye week and averages 34.5 points in those games. The Seahawks defense has risen to second in yards allowed and third in points allowed. That’s bad news for Matt Schaub and the Ravens.

Gworek's Pick: Seattle, 27–6.

 

Oakland at Denver

The Raiders had the red-hot Chiefs on the ropes before three fourth-quarter interceptions thrown by Derek Carr cost them. Brock Osweiler has won all three of his starts for the Broncos.

Gworek's Pick: Denver, 20–16.

 

Dallas at Green Bay

Dallas somehow managed to keep its slim playoff hopes alive in Washington on Monday night. The Packers need to hope that last week’s Hail Mary win over the Lions wakes them up.

Gworek's Pick: Green Bay, 24–14.

 

New England at Houston

Houston’s Wild Card hopes took a hit in a loss at Buffalo, but the AFC South title is still possible. The Patriots need to get healthy, but Tom Brady hasn’t lost three consecutive starts since 2002.

Gworek's Pick: New England, 27–21.

 

Monday’s Game

 

N.Y. Giants at Miami

Both of these teams are 5–7, but the Giants at least still have something to play for in the ugly NFC East. Unless they get hot in a hurry, Tom Coughlin will likely be out of a job after the season.

Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Giants, 30–24.

 

Week 13 Record: 10–6

Overall Record: 113–79

 

Teaser:
Week 14 NFL Picks: Challenge Athlon Sports Experts!
Post date: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 18:02

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