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Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-vs-pittsburgh-steelers-preview-and-prediction-2015

With every victory this season, it seems as if the Pittsburgh Steelers are primed to be a dark horse in the AFC Playoffs. With every loss, it appears the Steelers won't make the playoffs.


So it stands after Pittsburgh's 39-30 loss to Seattle last week. If the season ended today, the Steelers would not make the playoffs.


Meanwhile the Indianapolis Colts come into Heinz Field on a three-game winning streak behind 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has thrown seven touchdown passes and two interceptions while compiling a 4-0 record as the Colts' starter in place of Andrew Luck.


Kind of funny, isn't it? After the Steelers played the same franchise they met in Super Bowl XL, now the two quarterbacks from that very game meet the next week.


Both teams are 6-5. Indianapolis needs a victory as they are in a tie with Houston for first place in the AFC South, while the Steelers simply can't afford to fall to 6-6 with division-leading Cincinnati and Denver awaiting them on the schedule the following two weeks.


Indianapolis at Pittsburgh


Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)


Spread: Pittsburgh -7


Three Things To Watch


1. Can the Steelers' front seven get to Hasselbeck?

Reports of the Steelers' secondary improving may have been greatly exaggerated after they allowed five touchdown passes and 345 yards to Russell Wilson last week. They are now ranked 30th in the entire NFL in pass defense.


When the Steelers have been successful, their pass rush has been effective. The Steelers' 30 sacks this season rank as the fifth-highest total in the NFL, and while they recorded two sacks at Seattle, one came from cornerback William Gay, who often comes in on blitzes in coordinator Keith Butler's defense. Who's going to be covering the receivers if that's the case?


The Steelers' front seven must start applying more pass pressure if they are to be a contender. It's that simple.


2. Who will be the better team in the fourth quarter?

The Colts have 10 players on their roster who are 32 or older. Okay, one of those is kicker Adam Vinatieri, but does that mean fatigue or wisdom come crunch time?


The same could be asked of the Steelers' greybeard, Ben Roethlisberger. He's 33, which would still seem to indicate he is in his prime, but only linebacker James Harrison is older among Pittsburgh's starting 22.


Furthermore, Roethlisberger has also thrown interceptions in five straight games and has left three of his six starts early this year.


Yes, it seems odd to wonder if Roethlisberger is getting long in the tooth after throwing for 456 yards. But Big Ben hasn't pulled out a game in the fourth quarter this season. If this game is close, will he be the Roethlisberger of old, pulling out Super Bowl XLIII in the final minute, or will it be the quarterback whose three fourth quarter interceptions since returning from injury have led directly to Pittsburgh's last two losses?


3. But Indianapolis hasn't stopped the pass much, either. Can the Colts improve?

For all we've talked about the Steelers' pass defense, the Colts rank 27th in the league in stopping opposing aerial attacks. At the end of October Indianapolis ranked dead last in total defense.


The Indianapolis press seemed to want to harp on the fact that because the offense was struggling under Andrew Luck, the Colts' defense was on the field too long, hence the ranking.


It should be mentioned last month the Colts collected nearly half of the sacks they have this season, nine of a total 19 on the season. The team that wins this game may very well be the team that most effectively blitzes.


Final Analysis


How's this for a statistic? In its entire history, dating back to Baltimore (or for that matter Dallas as the 1952 Texans), the Colts' franchise has won only two games in Pittsburgh: in 2008 and 1968. Lifetime they are 2-14.


They have a legitimate chance this week, but the Steelers' pass rush, even if it does come from the secondary, and running game behind DeAngelo Williams gives Pittsburgh the edge.


Prediction: Steelers 28, Colts 21


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

Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-vs-new-orleans-saints-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Panthers have rolled through their first 11 games. Six of those wins, including the last three, have been by double digits. They only need to win one of their five remaining games in order to clinch the NFC South Division title.


The Saints appeared to have picked themselves off the mat by evening their record at 4-4. Then they face-planted in the next three games. The chances of reaching the playoffs are at laughably low levels at this point.


Carolina leads the overall series 22-19. For games played in New Orleans, the Panthers hold an advantage of 10-9. Carolina has won five of the seven previous match-ups.


Carolina at New Orleans


Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)


Spread: Carolina -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Grounding the Saints' rushing attack

Carolina has held opponents to fewer than 150 rushing yards in all but one game. In seven of 10 games, the Panthers have held their foes to below 100 yards on the ground. A possible cause for concern is the absences of Nate Chandler, Arthur Miley, Frank Alexander and Wes Horton from the defensive line.


The Saints have struggled to maintain balance on offense. In only two games they have gained more than 150 yards on the ground. They have rushed for less than 100 yards in six games; five of those were defeats.


If Carolina maintains its dominance in opposing rushing attacks this Sunday while the Saints continue their meager efforts in running the ball, Carolina will suffocate New Orleans' offense.


2. Re-igniting the Panthers' passing attack

Carolina has been held under 200 passing yards in six games. The Panthers have only surpassed the 300 passing yard mark in one game this season. Fortunately for the Panthers, they face that same opponent this week. 


The Saints' defense has been very generous in terms of allowing opponents to throw the ball. Six opponents passed for more than 300 yards in a game against the Saints. Only one foe failed to gain at least 200 yards through the air.


Part of the explanation for the Saints' weakness is that two cornerbacks, P.J. Williams and Keenan Lewis, and a safety, Rafael Bush, are on injured reserve. Another CB, Damian Swann, is listed as questionable for Sunday.


3. Kickoff time an advantage for the Saints?

New Orleans has hosted five opponents so far, winning three of those. When the Saints have started their home games this season after the usual noon kickoff, they have won both. Might the Who Dat Nation show more enthusiasm for this game with its late afternoon start time? Could that translate into deafening noise to disrupt the Panthers on offense? The Saints upset the Falcons in October and ended that divisional rival's unbeaten streak. Are the Saints inspired to play spoiler once again?


Final Analysis


Carolina has had extra days of rest and recovery since its last game played on Thanksgiving Day. Last week, the Saints looked as lethargic as diners who had just engorged themselves at a Thanksgiving meal. That occurred in spite of having their bye-week before traveling to Houston. The Panthers are hotly pursuing the top seed in the NFC playoffs and a possibly perfect season. The Saints are already making post-season plans; those do not include the playoffs.


Prediction: Panthers 41, Saints 13


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

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-vs-new-england-patriots-preview-and-prediction-2015

The New England Patriots saw their undefeated season end last weekend with an overtime loss to the Denver Broncos, and now return home for their second-to-last home game of 2015. The Patriots' run of injuries continued in Denver, with Rob Gronkowski becoming the latest victim with a sprained/bruised knee. Luckily Gronkowski will be back at some point this season, but will likely be out against the Eagles, leaving the Pats scrambling to replace their biggest offensive piece.


The Eagles have lost three in a row, including the last two to the Buccaneers and Lions by a combined 59 points. Despite their 4-7 record, the Eagles remain just a game out of the division lead in the NFC East. The Eagles are a talented team, but time is running out and injuries have hurt them at a number of key spots. With their season hanging in the balance, along with Chip Kelly's job very much on the line, the Eagles will need to pull out all the stops and play their best game of the season to win in Foxborough.  


Philadelphia at New England


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


Line: Patriots -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Chandler for Gronk

Scott Chandler has been somewhat of a disappointment this season for the Pats, snagging just 19 catches and three touchdowns. Still, Chandler had a couple big grabs on New England's final drive of regulation against the Broncos that set up the game-tying field goal. No one can replace Rob Gronkowski, but Chandler is certainly a far better option that the Pats would've had in recent seasons. If he can finally find some synergy with Tom Brady playing a focal role in the offense, the Pats could be well set once Gronkowski does return. The Pats' offense will be a shell of itself if Chandler's inconsistencies continue.


2. Bradford or Sanchez?

Sam Bradford is expected to be available after an AC injury kept him out last week, but is he really a better option than Mark Sanchez? Let's not forget Sanchez played arguably his best game as a pro in New England, leading the Jets to the upset in the 2010 AFC Divisional playoff game. It might be too much to expect Sanchez to turn in that kind of game against a much better New England defense, but Sanchez won't be intimidated by the Patriots' mystique.


3. Patriot Defense Back to Full Strength?

The Patriots have been missing one of their most dynamic defensive players with Jamie Collins' extended sickness that has kept him out over a month. With both Collins and Dnt'a Hightower, who suffered a sprained MCL against the Broncos but has not missed practice, in the lineup, the Patriots' defense will be back at full power. The Pats were a different defense without Collins and Hightower against the Broncos, and if both are back in the lineup, they should keep the Eagles' offense in check, both on the ground and through the air.


Final Analysis


It likely won't take much for the Eagles to pack it in. If the Patriots get out to an early lead things could get ugly, so a fast start for Philadelphia is a big key. But regardless, the Patriots are nearly unbeatable at home and will be hungry to get the taste of last week's overtime loss to the the Broncos out of their mouths. They'll be shorthanded on offense, but with the offensive line finally settling in and the potential return of Danny Amendola, the Pats should have enough to put points on the board.


Prediction: Patriots 33, Eagles 14


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

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-vs-oakland-raiders-preview-and-prediction-2015

On Sunday, The Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders will meet for the 110th time with a lot at stake. Both teams come into their Week 13 matchup with playoff aspirations.


After beginning the season 1-5, the Chiefs have won five straight games and are currently in possession of one of the two wild card spots in the AFC. Last weekend, Kansas City (6-5) defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-22.


Oakland (5-6) needed some late heroics orchestrated by quarterback Derek Carr, as he led the Raiders on a nine-play, 90-yard game-winning touchdown drive to come from behind and defeat the Tennessee Titans 24-21.


Kansas City leads the all-time series over the Raiders 58-52-2. Last season, the teams split their two meetings with each team winning at home.


Kansas City at Oakland


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

TV: CBS                                                                      

Spread: Chiefs -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Dee Ford

On Friday, Kansas City's star pass rusher and last year's sack champion Justin Houston was ruled out of today’s game because of a hyperextended knee that’s been bothering him all week. Second-year linebacker Dee Ford will start in place of the All-Pro who led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014 and had 7.5 through 11 games this season.


“The opportunity is there now, and I don’t want to put too much emphasis on one game, but I’m excited,” Ford told the Kansas City Star. “I’m not going to lie to you. I’m very excited.”

Since being taken 23rd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Ford hasn’t seen much playing time because he has been behind Houston and Tamba Hali on the Chiefs' depth chart.


As a rookie last season, Ford only recorded eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. He is still transitioning from a 4-3 defense he played in college to the 3-4 the Chiefs run. With Houston out of the lineup, Kansas City will need Ford and help from others to get pressure on Carr.


2. Chiefs' running game against the Raiders' defense
Not too long ago the Raiders had the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL, but that has changed immensely the last few weeks. Coming into their game against the Chiefs, the Raiders are now ranked 18th against the run. And next up? One of the best ground games in the NFL.


After running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL, many expected the Chiefs' offense to be one-dimensional, but that hasn’t been the case.


Kansas City is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging 124.3 yards on the ground. In recent weeks, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have done an excellent job picking up the slack. Against the Bills last week with West sidelined by a hamstring injury, Ware ran for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. 


Last week, Oakland held Tennessee to 44 yards rushing, but the Titans are ranked 25th in rushing.


3. Khalil Mack

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is threatening a record set by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Smith has thrown 283 passes since his last interception, which is the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. Brady has the record for passes thrown without an interception, 358, a mark he set in 2010.


If the Raiders hope to end Smith's impressive streak, Khalil Mack will have to be a constant presence in the Chiefs’ backfield.


On the season, Mack has 45 tackles and seven sacks in 11 games. Smith will have to be aware of where Mack is at all times


“Really good player that can rush the passer,” Smith told “certainly a guy, just through film study - he kind of demands respect, you see that. Really good player — I think you just see him being able to just do more, like anything – he can do more, you can move him around and he’s dropping into coverage a little bit here and there and things like that.”


Final Analysis


Kansas City is surging, but injuries have started to take their toll. Losing Justin Houston's pass-rushing presence on defense is tough, especially since the Chiefs will be facing Oakland's Derek Carr.


The second-year quarterback has put together a fine season and he should have enough time in the pocket to find an open target in the Chiefs' defense. Carr will need to minimize his mistakes since the Chiefs have not turned over the ball on offense in five games.


Smith and the Chiefs' offense shouldn’t have any trouble scoring against a subpar Raiders secondary. Sunday’s game could be a shootout and it should be one of the better games of the weekend.


Prediction: Raiders 31, Chiefs 27


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

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 08:15
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-san-diego-chargers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The San Diego Chargers (3-8) were finally able to end a six-game losing skid with a 31-25 victory over Jacksonville in Week 12. It was the Chargers' first win since Week 4 and should provide some much-needed momentum. San Diego will try to get its first AFC West victory of the season, making it two wins in a row in the process. It will be a tall order though as the surging Broncos come to town.


Denver (9-2) will attempt to avoid a major let down following a monster win over the previously undefeated Patriots. Head coach Gary Kubiak will be tasked with keeping his Broncos focused on a favorable matchup against the Chargers on the road. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler will look to make it three wins in a row as the Broncos' starting quarterback.


Sunday’s matchup will be the 112th meeting between these AFC West rivals, a series that dates back to 1960. The Broncos hold the all-time edge at 61-49-1 and have won seven of their last eight games against the Chargers. A win Sunday would Denver's fourth in a row over San Diego.


Denver at San Diego


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


Spread: Denver - 4


Three Things to Watch


1. C.J. Anderson and the Emergence of the Broncos' Run Game

The Broncos' rushing attack, which struggled mightily throughout the first half of the season, has suddenly come alive, averaging over 170 yards per game over the last two weeks. The ability to run more of the offense from under center with Brock Osweiler, along with improved run blocking from the offensive line, has been credited with much of the recent success. However, C.J. Anderson’s return to 2014 form may just be the biggest factor in the sudden surge in Denver’s rushing attack.


Anderson has gone from averaging 2.7 yards per carry in Denver’s first six contests to 6.32 over the last five games. He was even named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in last week’s victory over the Patriots, rushing for 113 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning jaunt to pay dirt in overtime. The more consistent Ronnie Hillman remains the starter at running back, but Anderson’s recent emergence should earn him more carries moving forward.


The best news for the Bronco rushing attack this week is the opposition. San Diego's defense has proven to be one of the worst in the NFL against the run, having allowed 12 rushing touchdowns in 11 games, while giving up close to five yards per carry. Denver should have every opportunity to keep the momentum going on the ground this afternoon.


2. The Red-Hot Philip Rivers vs. a Greedy Bronco Defense

Philip Rivers may be in the midst of his finest season ever. In addition to completing close to 69 percent of his passes, he is averaging 319 yards per game. With five games to go, Rivers already has more 300-yard games (7) than he has had at any other point in his previous 11 seasons. Rivers’ banner season becomes even more impressive when you consider that his accomplishments have come playing behind a patchwork offensive line, with virtually no complimentary run game, and throwing to a receiving corps that has been hampered by injuries throughout the season.


While Rivers has had mixed results against the Denver in previous years, he may be in for his biggest challenge to date. The current edition of the Broncos' defense ranks tops in the NFL against the pass, giving up just 197 yards per game, with almost as many interceptions (10) to its credit as touchdown passes allowed (11). To make matters worse, the Bronco pass rush leads the NFL with 37 sacks.


3. An Anemic San Diego Rushing Attack

Melvin Gordon, the rookie phenom from Wisconsin, was brought in to give the Chargers' running game a much-needed boost. Unfortunately, the first-round pick has not been able to live up to the billing. Gordon has yet to score his first NFL touchdown, while rushing for just over 500 yards in 11 games.


Fellow back Danny Woodhead has been paramount to the Chargers' success in the passing game, but he has brought little to the table as a rusher. As a whole, the San Diego run game has sputtered its way to the worst yards per carry average in the NFL at just 3.4. The Chargers also have just two rushing touchdowns to their credit in 11 games, both of which were scored by the undersized Woodhead.


In all fairness, much of the Chargers' struggles on the ground this season can be attributed to an offensive line decimated by injury. An issue that persists heading into this game is compounded by facing off against a Broncos defense that is almost as stingy against the run as the pass. Denver ranks second in the NFL against the run (88.7 ypg). It would be an understatement to say that San Diego will have a very difficult time finding running room on Sunday afternoon.


Final Analysis


Philip Rivers is a worthy adversary, but the Chargers' largely one-dimensional offense will have a difficult time moving the football against the NFL’s best and most complete defense. If the Chargers stand any chance of beating the Broncos, they will need a sputtering rushing attack to have an unprecedented huge day. The Chargers also will need a big performance from their underachieving defense.


The Broncos' defense will bring their A-game as usual. The Denver offense will need C.J. Anderson and the rest of the run game, to continue playing at a high level. That shouldn’t be a problem against a generous San Diego defense. What is concerning is the lack of chemistry between Brock Osweiler and star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Thomas has just four catches for 21 yards in Osweiler’s two starts since replacing Peyton Manning. If Osweiler and Thomas can finally get on the same page this week, the Broncos' offense should be firing on all cylinders. Even if that doesn’t materialize, Denver still has more than enough firepower to get past San Diego.


Prediction: Broncos 27, Chargers 13


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

Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-13-fantasy-football-injury-updates-tyler-eifert-rob-gronkowski-austin-seferian-jenkins-heath-miller

In Week 13, while the list of fantasy-relevant wide receivers on the injury reports is long, there are no quarterbacks that are in serious doubt to play this week. So that makes the usual quarterback/tight end injury report a tight end/kicker list only. Yes, kickers count in fantasy too.


The reason for this is that names like Tony Romo, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck won’t play this week, but they were ruled out days ago and their being inaction isn’t a surprise to anyone. Other quarterbacks are banged up, nursing injuries, but guys like Brock Osweiler, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Sam Bradford, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick are all listed as Probable and will play.


The tight end picture is a little different, however. Zach Ertz, Martuellus Bennett, Ladarius Green, Travis Kelce (and Jason Myers for those who care about kickers) are all listed as Probable and have been practicing in full. These guys are fully expected to play, so start them as you would. What you will find below are those who statuses are more uncertain.


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


And as always, be sure to check out the running back and wide receiver injuries to get the complete Week 13 picture.


Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.


Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Out – Knee
Fantasy owners all panicked when Gronkowski went down in Week 12. The news at the beginning of the week was that he suffered a bruised/sprained knee and he would be day-to-day. It was a long shot for him to play in Week 13, and he has already been ruled out. If he can practice in a limited fashion this week, he may be able to play in Week 14. However, the Patriots will also want to see how much they need him depending on the real-life potential playoff standings, so keep an eye out on that as well. Scott Chandler will fill in, and he is a high-end TE2. One thing to keep in mind though is that the Eagles have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.


Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

Doubtful – Neck
After not practicing all week with a nerve injury in his back/neck that he suffered in Week 12, Eifert is most likely not going to play in Week 13. It is possible that fantasy owners will have him back for Week 14, so don't drop him. For now, A.J. Green will be the main beneficiary of Eifert being out. Don't look for a backup tight end from Cincinnati to start for your fantasy team, however.


Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons

Questionable – Shoulder
It seems possible that Seferian-Jenkins actually plays this week. After missing over two months with a shoulder injury, he has been cleared for contact. While it isn't clear what kind of role he will have or if the Buccaneers will ease him in, if he is on the waiver wire, he's worth adding. Fantasy owners of Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski or Heath Miller can add ASJ and hope for the best. In the first game of the season, he had five receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns.


Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Questionable – Rib
The reports out of Pittsburgh are that Miller is not going to play Sunday night. Fantasy owners should be making other plans if they were relying on Miller. The backup in Pittsburgh is Jesse James, but he is not a fantasy option. Don't wait until Sunday night to try to find a tight end; look for a replacement now as Miller won't be able to help you this week.


Owen Daniels, TE, Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Probable – Knee
Daniels is fully expected to play, but he is a TE2 as he isn't being used that much, even in a Gary Kubiak offense. The Chargers do allow the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, including five touchdowns to the position in the past five games. It's a great matchup, but Daniels only has three touchdowns on the year. There is always a chance he gets in the end zone, but it's hard to count on that.


Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers

Questionable – Ribs
With Martellus Bennett likely back this week, Miller isn't on the fantasy radar as it is. He does have four touchdowns in the past four games, but after Bennett vocally expressed his displeasure about the lack of targets, look for him to get fed this week, leaving Miller as a low-end TE2.


Larry Donnell, TE, New York Giants vs. New York Jets

Out – Neck
Donnell is out again, and at this point, fantasy owner that have been holding on to him can safely drop him. It is unclear if he will play again this season, but it's too much of a long shot to keep him on your bench. Will Tye will be the starting tight end on the Giants. In the past two weeks, he's had 11 receptions for 130 yards. He's on the TE2 radar.


Garrett Celek, TE, San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears

Out – Ankle
Celek became the starting tight end once Vernon Davis left, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 12 and won’t play today. Vance McDonald filled in for him, and caught six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. McDonald is a solid fill-in for Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski or Heath Miller owners that need someone for this week. The Bears have only allowed two touchdowns to opposing tight ends, but Celek should maintain value as a TE2 option once he’s able to return to the field.


Greg Zuerlein, K, St. Louis Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals

Doubtful – Hip
After missing Week 12, Zuerlein is likely to miss Week 13 as well. Some reports call it a groin injury, but he is listed on the official injury report with a hip injury. Either way, Zach Hocker will fill in again, but he is not a viable fantasy kicking option.


Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Out – Quadriceps
For the second week in a row, Bryant is out. Shayne Graham will fill in again for the Falcons. He made the one field goal that he attempted and the one extra point that he kicked in Week 12. While it is possible that the Falcons may have more opportunities for scoring in Week 13 than they did last week, Graham is just a fill-in for those that play in two-kicker leagues (yes, they exist).


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

Week 13 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Heath Miller
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/week-13-fantasy-football-injury-updates-alfred-blue-andre-ellington-ryan-mathews-karlos-williams

Like previous weeks, the running backs list for the Week 13 fantasy injury report is considerably shorter than the wide receivers (and actually, the tight ends this week as well). There are plenty of ailing running backs listed on the injury report but are expected to play. Ball carriers that fall into that category are Devonta Freeman, Charcandrick West, Mark Ingram, Spencer Ware, Ronnie Hillman and Jay Ajayi. Marshawn Lynch is out, but that isn't a surprise.


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


Please also check out the tight end (plus kickers!) and wide receiver injury updates before setting your Week 13 lineups.


Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.


Alfred Blue, RB, Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills

Probable – Back

Fantasy owners shouldn’t worry about Blue playing this week. He has the Probable tag, so he'll be on the field on Sunday. The Texans have been using him when they run the ball, but he's still a low-end RB2 with a low floor and not a lot of upside. Even with double-digit carries, he hasn't had more than 77 yards (and as few as 39). It's a good matchup against the Bills, but Blue just hasn't been a solid fantasy option even with Arian Foster out.


Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

Out – Toe

With Chris Johnson already on injured reserve (he may return, but not in time for fantasy owners), and now Ellington ruled out as he deals with turf toe, the Arizona backfield belongs to David Johnson. The Rams’ defense isn't anything to be afraid of, and Johnson is a RB1 this week. The Cardinals have said he will be their every-down back. The rookie has looked good in the opportunities he has been given, so enter him in your lineups with confidence.


Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Out – Concussion

Mathews suffered a concussion in Week 10 and still hasn't been cleared to play. He hasn't been practicing either, which doesn't bode well for his Week 14 availability. Fantasy owners should continue to hold onto him as he still may be on the field before the fantasy season is over, but it's hard to count on him from week to week. DeMarco Murray will be the lead back against the Patriots, and Darren Sproles will mix in as well on passing downs.


Karlos Williams, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans

Out – Shoulder

After injuring his shoulder in Week 12, Williams has been ruled out for Week 13. He is simply a LeSean McCoy handcuff at this point. Fantasy owners that were hanging onto him can safely drop him unless they also own McCoy.


Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears

Out – Foot

Still dealing with a stress fracture, Hyde has once again been ruled out for this week's game. He hasn't played since Week 7, and he was playing through the injury then. It's surprising that he hasn't been placed on injured reserve, but for fantasy purposes, he can be dropped at this point. Even if he does come back, it's too hard to trust that he'll be in game shape and still be the lead back. Shaun Draughn will be the No. 1 running back and is a RB2 option this week.


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

Week 13 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Alfred Blue, Andre Ellington, Ryan Mathews, Karlos Williams
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-week-13-injury-updates-danny-amendola-brandon-marshall-jarvis-landry-martavis-bryant

Per usual, the list of fantasy-relevant wide receivers on the Week 13 injury report is the longest. Plenty of guys banged up, including a few with Questionable tags that could leave fantasy owners with some tough decisions to make.


Some players who have a Probable tag and practiced in full on Friday that are fully expected to play include DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Emmanuel Sanders, Vincent Jackson, Eric Decker, Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff. We also know that Julian Edelman is still out, but what about the rest? Don’t forget to study up on the running back and tight end (plus kicker!) injury updates. 


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


Note: All games are at 1 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.


Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets at New York Giants

Probable – Toe

Marshall is going to play. He had limited practices throughout the week, but this is the point of the season where veteran players dealing with minor injuries don't practice in full. Marshall is a WR1 against a terrible Giants secondary this week. He is coming off a nine-reception, 131-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 12. Start him with confidence.


Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Questionable – Knee

This is the biggest injury concern and question of the week. Amendola missed Week 12 with a knee injury, but the initial projection was that he might only miss one week. After Rob Gronkowski (out for Week 13) hurt his knee, it's hard to say which way the Patriots are leaning. Do they hold Amendola out to make sure he's healthy for the playoff run (and they're pretty sure they can beat the Eagles, at home, without him)? Or do they throw him back out there because they need to win and they need someone to catch passes from Tom Brady? Because the game is later in the afternoon, fantasy owners won't know Amendola's official status until after the 1 p.m. ET games have kicked off. If he's active, he's a borderline WR1. The sense is that Amendola will play, so fantasy owners should try to find a way to get him in their lineup, but have a backup plan in place just in case.


Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens

Probable – Knee

Despite being limited in practice, Landry will be good to go this week in a great matchup against the Ravens. While he only has four TD catches on the year, he's averaged almost nine receptions per game over the past four. Landry has had more than 50 receiving yards in the past six games, and is a high-end WR2 for Week 13.


Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Probable – Hip

After missing practice on Wednesday, Bryant returned on Thursday in a limited fashion. While this seems to be cause for concern, no one on the Steelers seemed worried. Given that he has a Probable tag, fantasy owners shouldn't be worried either. Bryant has two 100-yard games and six touchdowns in the six that he's played in this year. In what could easily be a shootout on Sunday night, Bryant is a WR2.


John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

Probable – Hamstring

Brown has been dealing with hamstring injuries for weeks, and has been able to play the past two games. He had five receptions for 99 yards in Week 12, and he should be fine for Week 13. He does have a tough matchup against the Rams, who allow the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. This is tougher than the 49ers, last week’s opponent. Brown is a WR3 with upside for Week 13.


Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

Questionable – Hamstring

After being limited in practice, Floyd is Questionable for Week 13, however, he is fully expected to play. He injured his hamstring in Week 10, missed Week 11, and returned in Week 12, but caught only one pass for 14 yards. The matchup is tough, and it's unclear how healthy Floyd is. He'll likely play, but is a WR3.


Eddie Royal, WR, Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers

Questionable – Knee

Royal has been given a Questionable tag, but it does look unlikely that he will play. However, given that in past weeks he's been ruled out at this point, the door is still open. With Marquess Wilson already ruled out, the Bears may see if Royal is able to go to get another pass catcher with experience on the field. He still isn't worth starting in fantasy leagues, as this whole season has been a disappointment for Royal.


Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens

Questionable – Ankle

With Rishard Matthews out, it is possible that Stills does see some more targets heading his way, especially with the matchup. The way to beat the Ravens is through the air, so look for Ryan Tannehill to throw it early and often (not that the Dolphins have shown much desire to run the ball in the first place). However, keep in mind that Stills is banged up. He hurt his ankle on Thursday and didn't practice Friday, so his Sunday status is Questionable. Reports from Miami indicate that he'll play, but Stills is a desperation option for fantasy.


Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

Doubtful – Calf

After Snead's big game in Week 5, he hasn't done a lot for fantasy owners since. He had two touchdowns in Week 8, when many had already given up on him. Since then, it's been hit or miss (kind of like the entire New Orleans offense). With Snead likely to miss the game, it's hard to trust any other New Orleans pass catcher. Brandin Cooks will see a lot of Josh Norman, the Panthers’ shutdown cornerback. Tight end Ben Watson may be the best fantasy option among the Saints’ pass catchers.


Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans

Out – Concussion

Hurns has been banged up all season, but he will miss his first game in Week 13 with a concussion that he suffered last week. Hurns actually has struggled, in terms of fantasy numbers, over the past two games because he didn't find the end zone. Rather than looking at Marqise Lee or Bryan Walters for fantasy purposes, upgrade both Allen Robinson (a low WR1 this week) and Julius Thomas (a TE1). Both should expect to see more targets against a defense that surrendered three touchdowns to Oakland wide receivers in Week 12.


Marquess Wilson, WR, Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers

Out – Foot

Wilson hurt his foot in practice on Wednesday and was unable to return to the field the rest of the week. The Bears have ruled him out already, which means that the next WR up is Josh Bellamy. Fantasy owners can safely ignore him in all formats. Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett are in for huge days as the primary targets (although look for the running backs to also be involved in the passing game).


Rishard Matthews, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens

Out – Ribs

When Matthews was injured in Week 12, it opened the door for DeVante Parker. The Dolphins’ first-round pick had four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown in garbage time. However, Parker will likely be even more involved in the offense moving forward, especially with Matthews out. Parker spent most of his rookie season injured, but this week he has a chance to shine. The Ravens allow the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and have given up 21 TD receptions this season. Parker is a WR3 in season-long leagues but an interesting play in daily.


Leonard Hankerson, WR, Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Out – Hamstring

Hankerson is not only out for Week 13, but he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. That leaves Julio Jones and Roddy White. While White doesn't really get a boost in value, the player to keep an eye on is tight end Jacob Tamme. When Hankerson has been out, Tamme has been flirting with TE1 status. He had five receptions for 56 yards in Week 12, and fantasy owners can expect more of the same in Week 13.


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

Fantasy Football Week 13 Injury Updates: Danny Amendola, Brandon Marshall, Jarvis Landry, Martavis Bryant
Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/connor-cook-receives-backlash-disrespecting-archie-griffin-michigan-state-iowa

After Michigan State won the Big Ten Championship, Connor Cook sent Twitter into a frenzy with the way he accepted the MVP Award.


The legendary Archie Griffin, two-time Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner and the award's namesake, attempted to hand Cook the award and was kind of booted to the back. Cook came and grabbed the trophy without a proper handshake, which many saw as disrespectful.



Upon seeing the way the trophy was grabbed and Griffin was treated, Twitter reacted.





The Spartans quarterback made sure to clear things up, simply stating that it came off wrong.




Post date: Sunday, December 6, 2015 - 01:42
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/sidelines-clear-texas-baylor-game-fight-brawl

Things got a little heated during the Texas-Baylor game. 


After a Texas interception, things seemed to get a little out of hand. There was a little extra play after the whistle and that led to players from both sides heading onto the field in what can only be described as melee. 



The teams were eventually separated but the tension in this game is far from over. 

Post date: Saturday, December 5, 2015 - 12:58
Path: /college-football/6-coaching-candidates-replace-bronco-mendenhall-byu

Since 1972, BYU football has only had three head coaches in that span. After Friday afternoon’s shocking announcement that Bronco Mendenhall would be leaving BYU to become the head coach at Virginia, the Cougars will now begin the national search to hire their fourth headman in the last 43 years, and the 14th in program history.


BYU is a unique job, a job that requires the head coach to be an active member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS/Mormon). That right there limits the pool of candidates that BYU could pick from significantly. There are a few outliers in the LDS coaching pool like Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, but Reid isn’t coming through BYU’s door to lead his alma mater.


On top of the LDS member requirement, BYU doesn’t have the money to give a coach $3.25 million a year like Mendenhall will be receiving in Charlottesville. People close to BYU’s program believe that the $3.25 million salary Mendenhall will receive at Virginia is double what Bronco was making per year with the Cougars.


Oh, don’t forget, BYU is currently a football independent with no Power 5 conference likely calling anytime soon. The lack of stability from independence was something that concerned Mendenhall and it could be something that turns away potential candidates.


The BYU job is a tough one, arguably the toughest one in major college football. Some Power 5 coaches would already agree with that sentiment. 


Who is ready to tackle this job? Who are the names? Here are six coaches that people need to keep an eye on as potential replacements for Bronco Mendenhall at BYU.


6 Coaching Candidates to Replace Bronco Mendenhall at BYU


Ken Niumatalolo, head coach, Navy

Niumatalolo has had tremendous success as the head coach at Navy.  Since taking over the job in 2007, Niumatalolo has posted a record of 66-37. This season has arguably been Niumatalolo’s best with the Midshipmen leading them to a 9-2 record thus far. The question with Niumatalolo is what offense would he run?  BYU is known for their strong history of passing the football; Niumatalolo however, is well versed in running the triple option, even dating back to his playing days at one of BYU’s old WAC rivals, Hawaii (1987-1989). Niumatalolo is also familiar with running an independent program. Prior to this season’s move to the American Athletic Conference, the Midshipmen navigated the uncertain waters of football independence.


Kalani Sitake, defensive coordinator, Oregon State

Sitake played at BYU (1994, 1997-2000) when legendary head coach LaVell Edwards was roaming the sidelines for the Cougars. Sitake is a link to the past, and he’s gained his coaching chops from successful head coaches in Kyle Whittingham and Gary Andersen. BYU wants their program to be a destination spot for top LDS recruits again, and one of Sitake’s biggest selling points is his ability to recruit, particularly in the trenches.


Robert Anae, offensive coordinator, BYU

Anae is deep-rooted in BYU football from his playing days on the 1984 national championship team, to being the offensive coordinator. Anae knows BYU football, and he knows how to pass the football. His systematic approach to play calling has received many criticisms from BYU fans, but he has consistently put out offenses that have produced a lot of points. The question on Anae, is this a hire that would generate excitement and momentum?


Kyle Whittingham, head coach, Utah

BYU’s AD Tom Holmoe made it clear on Friday night’s press conference addressing the departure of Mendenhall that the Cougars financially are not on the same playing field as Power 5 programs which makes it tough to put up a name like Kyle Whittingham on this list as candidates for the vacant BYU job. But there’s so many connections and history with BYU and Whittingham that it’s hard to ignore. Especially when you consider Holmoe and Whittingham once were roommates during their playing days at BYU  There’s a relationship and a connection. But if Whittingham was upset with the lack of a financial commitment to the football program and the coaches on staff last year from his current boss, Utah AD Chris Hill, he won’t be thrilled with the financial numbers that BYU would be throwing around.


Lance Anderson, defensive coordinator, Stanford

Anderson is now in his second year as the defensive coordinator at Stanford. Anderson was one of the architects of Stanford’s tough and physical style of play on the defensive side of the ball as he came to Palo Alto with former Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh from their days at San Diego. Anderson is a very good recruiter, particularly with LDS kids as he has lured away many LDS prospects from the state of Utah to come play on the farm.


Jay Hill, head coach, Weber State

Jay Hill is a dark horse in this race as he is currently the head coach at Weber State from the FCS ranks. Hill was a longtime assistant at the University of Utah under Ron McBride, Urban Meyer, and Kyle Whittingham. Hill is a good recruiter, and was a coach that was receiving interest in Utah’s defensive coordinator job after Kalani Sitake left for Oregon State last season. Hill led Weber State to a 6-5 record in only his second season with the Wildcats.

6 Coaching Candidates to Replace Bronco Mendenhall at BYU
Post date: Saturday, December 5, 2015 - 12:46
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/espn-makes-bill-simmons-joke-sportscenter-neil-everett-cousin-sal

So often we hear a jab here or there about ESPN. More often than not those jabs are coming from former employees.


This time ESPN is handing out subtle jokes about Bill Simmons. You all remember him right? It's ok, apparently neither does anyone that works at the worldwide leader.


As Cousin Sal was about to mention a podcast with "good buddy" Simmons, ESPN cut to a different image so viewers at home wouldn't have to hear that name that must never be spoken in Bristol.

Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 13:56
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-vs-minnesota-vikings-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Minnesota Vikings (8-3) look to prove their legitimacy as a contender in the NFC when they host the reigning conference champion Seattle Seahawks (6-5) on Sunday. The Vikings have won six of their last seven games including a 20-10 win at Atlanta last week to reclaim sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

Seattle has won four of its last five games after a disappointing 1-2 start. But the Seahawks need to battle through crucial injuries — including those to running back Marshawn Lynch and tight end Jimmy Graham — in order to overcome Arizona's three-game lead in the NFC West.

Seattle at Minnesota


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Seattle -1


Three Things to Watch


1. Adrian Peterson vs. Seattle rushing defense
Peterson had another monster performance in Week 12, piling up 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while also catching two passes for 29 yards.


He was also named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for November after recording an NFL-best 634 yards and five touchdowns on 117 carries. Peterson leads the league with 1,164 yards rushing, which is even more remarkable considering his nearly year-long absence from NFL action heading into the season.


But he may face his toughest test against a Seattle defense that has allowed a combined 117 rushing yards against San Francisco and Pittsburgh in its last two games — albeit with both teams missing their starting running backs.


2. Will Seattle's offense continue to shine despite crucial injuries?

Seattle's offense has seen a recent resurgence with 100 points scored in its last three games. The Seahawks recorded a season-best 336 passing yards and 39 points against Pittsburgh in Week 12.


But Seattle must overcome a rash of injuries on offense, including Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham (out for the season) in an already difficult matchup against a Minnesota defense that intercepted Matt Ryan twice and recovered a fumble in last week's win. It was the Vikings' fifth game this season with at least one takeaway.


3. Teddy Bridgewater vs. Legion of Boom

It was Seattle that traded its first-round pick (No. 32 overall) to Minnesota in the 2014 NFL draft as part of the deal that brought Percy Harvin to the Seahawks. The Vikings used that pick to select Bridgewater, their quarterback of the present and the future. Bridgewater has been a solid game manager through his first two seasons and continues to develop.


Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defensive backs haven't been as dominant as they were during the team's Super Bowl run in 2013 since losing defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — now head coach of the Atlanta Falcons — as well as Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond in free agency. Seattle allowed 480 passing yards in Week 12 and has been exposed throughout the season.


Can Bridgewater provide a strong performance to take some pressure off Peterson and the Minnesota rushing attack?


Final Analysis


The Vikings look more like the complete team Seattle was during its back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Head coach Mike Zimmer has turned Minnesota's defense into one of the best in the league while Adrian Peterson remains the NFL's best running back and a potential MVP candidate.


Seattle may have improved in recent weeks but still has several holes in its defense and has too many crucial injuries on offense.


Prediction: Vikings 17, Seahawks 10


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

Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, NFC, NFC West, St. Louis Rams, NFL
Path: /nfl/arizona-cardinals-vs-st-louis-rams-preview-and-prediction-2015

Arizona sure didn’t gain any style points in last week’s 19-13 victory over San Francisco, but the Cardinals did make it five in a row and were able to keep a three-game cushion over Seattle in the NFC West, while still holding onto a first-round bye  in the playoff derby. It doesn’t get much better than that, even if fans had to deal with more uncertainty than they should have against the fetid 49ers. The reward is a trip to St. Louis for a matchup against the Rams, one of only two teams to subdue ‘Zona this year.


As for the Rams, it’s hard to say what’s going on. They have lost four in a row and have some serious quarterback problems, since starter Case Keenum remains a question mark, thanks to a concussion suffered late last month. St. Louis was supposed to be a playoff contender, but the losing streak — which peaked with a 31-7 disaster in Cincinnati last week – has ended those hopes. Although nobody in the mediocre NFC is really eliminated from postseason contention, the Rams sure don’t look to be in very good shape.


Arizona at St. Louis


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)


Spread: Arizona -5.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Got Your Back

The only way Arizona fans are going to see Chris Johnson, the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher, back on the field this year is if the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl. Even then there is no guarantee his tibia fracture will be completely healed. But ‘Zona doesn’t seem too worried that it will be rookie David Johnson as the featured back. Johnson leads the team with eight total touchdowns and is averaging 4.0 yards per carry. In an offense that relies so heavily on QB Carson Palmer and the passing game, the ground attack shouldn’t be a problem in the first-year player’s hands. “It’s not like I haven’t been here throughout practice, in the game and preparing each week,” Johnson said. “It’s nothing different. The only thing is that I’m playing a little bit more.”


2. Maximum Effort

St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher had quite a colorful response to reporter who questioned his team’s effort after last week’s blowout loss to the Bengals, telling them they could kiss a certain fleshy part of his hindquarters. The Rams’ losing streak started out with some tough losses and some bad luck (Case Keenum’s injury), but things went terribly wrong last week. Fisher has rarely had to worry about whether his players want to work hard for him, and it’s unlikely that’s the case right now. He has said he doesn’t feel as if his job is on the line and that he’s focused on trying to remain perfect in the division (St. Louis is 3-0 in the NFC West). He has always been a popular coach, and if his players want to show management that they believe he should remain with the team, they need to have a strong showing Sunday.


3. Tough Stretch

If the Cardinals hold onto their bye in the NFC playoff race, they will certainly earn it. Sunday’s game begins a challenging five-game, season-ending section of the schedule that includes dates with Minnesota, Green Bay and Seattle, all of whom would be playoff teams right now. Although the Rams are a bit mixed up right now, playing them on the road is never easy. This stretch will determine if the Cards have a real shot at the Super Bowl, or if they will end up scrapping with the rest of the conference for a chance to unseat Carolina.


Final Analysis


The Cardinals head into this game on a great roll and are well positioned for the home stretch, when they can secure a first-round playoff bye and second-round home game. They have won five straight and own one of the league’s most dynamic players in Carson Palmer. They shouldn’t have much trouble with the Rams.


That’s exactly why things could be dangerous for Arizona. Even though Nick Foles may be under center again, and he hasn’t played well this year, St. Louis is dangerous at home, confident against division foes and no doubt eager to show that it isn’t loafing. This one has upset written all over it.


Prediction: Rams 23, Cardinals 21


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

Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, NFL
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-vs-buffalo-bills-preview-and-prediction-2015

A month ago, Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans were in shambles. The Texans were sitting at 2-5 after getting absolutely dismantled by the now corroded Miami Dolphins. What was supposed to be the Texans’ backbone, the defense, surrendered 509 total yards and 44 points to Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. 


Yes, that Ryan Tannehill — you know, the one that has only been playing quarterback since Johnny Football's freshman year at Texas A&M. In that blowout win, the Texans allowed Tannehill to have a career day, completing 18 of 19 pass attempts and throwing for four touchdown passes.


Since that loss to Miami, the Texans (6-5) have done a complete 180-degree turnaround and possibly put O’Brien in the driver’s seat for Coach of the Year. The Texans have won four straight games, thanks in large part to reliable quarterback play from Brian Hoyer (that was weird to type) and the resurgence of JJ Watt and the Texan defense. What once looked like a lost season, has turned into a fantastic opportunity at a playoff run. 


Two weeks ago, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills were sitting at 5-4 and in the thick of the AFC Wild Card hunt. Times have changed as the Bills (5-6), hampered by injuries, have dropped two straight and are desperately seeking a defensive identity from a defense that came into 2015 as the most talked about in the NFL. So far, the Bills' defense has been one thing: over-hyped.


Houston at Buffalo


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)


Spread: Buffalo -3


Three Things to Watch


1. The Turnover Battle

The last time the Bills won was two weeks ago against Rex Ryan’s former team, the New York Jets, thanks in large part to winning the turnover battle. In that game, the Bills forced four Jets turnovers and never gave up the ball once. In the last two games, both losses, the Bills have forced just one turnover, while they’ve given the ball away three times. 


Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor has done a great job of protecting the ball as a passer so far this season, having not thrown a pick since Week 4 against the Giants and throwing just four interceptions all season compared to 14 touchdown passes. When Taylor takes off running outside the pocket is when he is the most vulnerable, having fumbled six times so far this season. 


On the flip side, the Texans have a plus-five turnover margin during their four game win streak. Hoyer has thrown just three picks compared to seven touchdown passes during the run, while Texan running backs have lost just one fumble all season long. The Texans’ defense has forced eight turnovers over the course of the last four games, a trend that must continue for the Texans to win their fifth in a row.


2. Banged-Up Bills Defense

The mega contracts of Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus and the addition of Rex Ryan calling the shots may have placed lofty expectations on the Bills’ defense. This season has been nothing short of a disappointment on the defensive end. Last week the Bills came close to rock bottom, surrendering 413 yards of total offense to Alex Smith and the mundane Kansas City Chiefs' offense.


But last week wasn’t an anomaly. The Bills rank 19th in total defense (355.9 ypg), 13th in penalties (79) and takeaways (17), and 29th in sacks (16). That last stat seems to be inexcusable for a front seven that features three players (Williams, Dareus, and Jerry Hughes) that are guaranteed a combined $113 million. 


One reason for the disappointing performance of the Bills' defense is the constant cycle of players coming on and off the injury report. The Bills will likely be without DT Kyle Williams, LB Nigel Bradham, S Aaron Williams, Williams’ back up, Alex Carrington, and perhaps even Mario Williams against Houston. 


The combination of injuries and poor play could spell disaster for a third straight week for the Bills, possibly knocking them out of playoff contention for good. 


3. Resurgent Texans D

Over the past five weeks, J.J. Watt has reminded the football world why he is the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Watt only posted four sacks through the first four weeks of the season, but since has nine and a half sacks. The rest of the Houston defense has followed Watt’s lead. During their four game win streak, the Texans have allowed only six points three times for an average of 8.8 points-per-game, and are only surrendering 250 yards per game. The Texans have also won their turnover battles. Before the win streak, the Texans were even in turnover margin, but since the Miami loss, they are plus-five. 


With four of their last five games against teams that struggle offensively (Bills, Colts, Titans, and Jaguars), the Houston defense could be the driving force behind what seemed like an impossible playoff run just a month ago.


Final Analysis


This game between two middle of the road teams flirting with .500 records may not seem like much to the untrained eye, but it has major playoff implications. If the Bills lose, their season reaches desperation mode at 5-7. If the Texans win, they are in direct control of their own destiny with all four remaining games against AFC opponents, three of which are AFC South rivals. 


With the way the Texans' defense is shutting down opposing offenses, and the balanced efficiency of their own offense over the course of the past month, it's hard to bet against them as they face a reeling Bills squad.


Prediction: Texans 20, Bills 17


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

Houston Texans vs. Buffalo Bills Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/baltimore-ravens-vs-miami-dolphins-preview-and-prediction-2015

Both the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins have a record of 4-7 but are entering Sunday's game on different paths.


Despite being a team that’s been decimated by injuries this season, the Ravens are riding a two-game winning streak. In their last game against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night, the Ravens won the game 33-27 on a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown on the last play of regulation.


After winning their first two games under interim head coach Dan Campbell, the Dolphins have lost four out of their last five. The New York Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20 in Week 12 to drop Miami to 0-5 against AFC East opponents.


Since 2008, the Ravens have won their last four games (including playoffs) at Sun Life Stadium. In 2014, Baltimore defeated Miami 28-13 behind 269 yards and two touchdowns from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who won't play in this one after tearing two ligaments in his knee in the Week 11 win over the Rams.


Baltimore at Miami

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Miami -4


Three Things to Watch


1. Dolphins' offense

On Monday, the Dolphins fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor as the team's attack failed to produce much recently. In the last five games, Miami has averaged 15.6 points per contest. Currently, the team ranks 27th in yards per game with 335.9.


“I don’t think we scare anybody in the AFC East and that bothers me,” said Campbell. “We need to find a way, even if it is two yards and a cloud of dust.”


Campbell has been frustrated by the lack of production in the Dolphins' running game. Last week against the Jets, Miami rushed the ball just nine times for 12 yards on the day.


Quarterbacks coach and new Dolphins play caller Zac Taylor emphasized that the team is making a commitment to running the football.


“I can’t sit here and say that we’re going to run the ball 10 straight times,” said Taylor. “But it’s important to have the mindset that you’re going to establish the run.”


Baltimore ranks eighth in rushing defense, so gaining yards on the ground will not be easy for the Dolphins on Sunday.


2. Matt Schaub

On Monday night, Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub won his first game since September 2013. He threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Browns. But Schaub also threw two interceptions, including a 52-yard pick-six to Karlos Dansby.


With Schaub not playing in a full game in over two years, it is understandable why the 34-year-old was a bit shaky at times. Overall, Schaub played a decent game.


Miami gives up 253 yards a game through the air on average, which ranks 21st in the NFL. A veteran quarterback like Schaub should be able to find success against Miami's questionable secondary.


Schaub is 5-0 as a starter against the Dolphins in his career.


3. DeVante Parker

One of the few bright spots in last week’s loss to the Jets was the play of rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker. The No. 14 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in his first extended action of the season.


With Rishard Matthews expected to miss this game with a cracked rib, Parker is expected to make his first start of the season.


“It’s time for him to step up and take on a bigger role,” Campbell said.


Parker missed Dolphins OTAs and a number of training camp practices last summer as he was recovering from offseason foot surgery. Because Parker was so far behind, he was listed as the fourth receiver on the Dolphins' depth chart.


Despite the Dolphins not having a lot to play for with five games left, getting Parker more snaps could give him a lot of confidence heading into the 2016 season.


“I’m feeling very comfortable with the offense,” Parker said.


Miami has preached that they plan on running the football a lot on Sunday, but with the Ravens ranking 24th in passing defense, the Dolphins should make an effort to get Parker involved in the passing game. 


Final Analysis


The eighth loss for either the Ravens or Dolphins will officially eliminate them for playoff contention. This game is virtually a toss up with the fact that the Dolphins made a key coaching change earlier in the week.


The Ravens are battle tested and despite their extensive injury issues, they have continuity, something the Dolphins have lacked for years.


It is hard to make such a sudden coaching change in the hopes of getting more out of the offense, particularly in the running game and with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This is a decision that Dan Campbell should have made during the bye week after he was named interim head coach.


Baltimore will likely make some mistakes, but Matt Schaub is playing better than Tannehill right now and he should be enough to guide the Ravens to a close victory on the road.


Prediction: Ravens 27, Dolphins 24


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

Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-ryan-fitzpatrick-david-johnson-brandin-cooks-charcandrick-west-week-13

After taking a week off to eat turkey (and plenty of other things) in Week 12, the Five Up/Five Down is back to help you settle on your starting lineup for your fantasy team. Now, to be fair, some of the picks in this column have been, well, off (c'mon we all thought DeAndre Hopkins was going to be a bust in Week 11).


But remember, this is not a start/sit column. Rather, this is a list of guys that we like more than usual this week or less than usual. This is based on matchup, injury and past performance. By this point of the season, we have a lot of data on opposing defenses, targets and other metrics that go into deciding who to start and why.


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


Five Up


Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, New York Jets

The New York Giants give up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. They've allowed every opposing quarterback except for Jameis Winston to throw at least one TD pass (and they let Winston rush one in himself). They've allowed all opposing quarterbacks to throw for more than 225 yards. It's not going to be an amazing game for Fitzpatrick, but he looks to be a solid start in Week 13. His floor is around 250 yards and two touchdowns, which is usually good enough to be a low-end QB1.


David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

In the preseason, it looked like Johnson might be a sleeper that could play dividends for fantasy owners down the stretch. Then the Cardinals signed Chris Johnson because they didn't trust the rookie to be their lead back with Andre Ellington out. However, now that Chris Johnson is out for the rest of the regular season and Ellington is dealing with turf toe, the Cardinals are going to use David Johnson. He hasn't been given double-digit carries this season, but that should change in Week 13. He has found the end zone, and while St. Louis' defense is tough, the Rams certainly can be beat. If fantasy owners picked Johnson up on waivers this week, start him as a RB1. He's our 11th-ranked running back this week.


Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins

The targets that Landry has been seeing have been through the roof. He had 16 targets in Week 12, and he caught 13 of them for 165 yards and a touchdown. He had tweaked his knee in practice before the Week 12 game, but it didn't seem to slow him down at all. While he has been limited in practice this week, it is likely just an extra bit of rest for Landry. By this point of the season, most players are banged up and any chance for some rest is welcome. The Dolphins face the Ravens, who allow the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, including 90 yards and a touchdown to Travis Benjamin in Week 12. Landry is the 10th-ranked wide receiver this week and is a WR1.


Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

It's been a tough season for Kelce owners. Since Week 1, he's scored two touchdowns and hasn't had more than 88 yards in a game, with five of the 10 games he's played with less than 50 yards. However, in Week 13, he gets to play the Raiders. While the Raiders have been giving up a ton of points and yards to tight ends, a trend has been that the No. 2 tight end has been taking advantage of the matchup, rather than the guy that most fantasy owners are starting. At the end of the day, the facts are that the Raiders are weak against tight ends, and Kelce should have a solid game and find the end zone in Week 13.


Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

Rob Gronkowski is out for Week 13? Check. The Panthers are playing the New Orleans Saints? Check. Olsen as the No. 1 tight end for the week? Check. While Olsen has clearly been a top tight end all season, if there is ever a week to be excited about starting him, this is it. The New Orleans Saints' defense as a whole has been terrible, but they are especially terrible against tight ends. They've given up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. In the past three games, they've given up six touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Fire up Olsen as the No. 1 tight end for Week 13.


Five Down


Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

For fantasy purposes, Ryan actually hasn't been terrible. For real-life football purposes, he has put the Falcons' playoff hopes in jeopardy. However, fantasy owners just care about points at the end of the day. Looking at just the numbers, Ryan had his best game of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8. However, that game was in Atlanta, where Ryan historically plays better than on the road. Ryan also doesn't perform well under pressure and this is a must-win divisional game for him. Sure, he could have another big game, but the way he's been playing, he's a QB2 this week. (Also note: this is the call that may be the one to be really wrong).


Charcandrick West, RB, Kansas City

After missing Week 12 with a hamstring injury, West has practiced in full this week. He had a three-game stretch where he had 20 or more carries and a touchdown in each contest. However, he got injured in Week 11 and Spencer Ware came in and looked like a top-tier running back. In Week 12, Ware put in another great performance, making the Kansas City backfield picture a bit of a mess. While the Chiefs do like to just use one running back, it appears that this will be a committee between Ware and West. Until fantasy owners see what this will look like, both backs are RB3s.


Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

When can you trust Watkins? In the eight games that he's played, he's had two games with more than 100 yards and he's had five games with fewer than 50 yards. Prior to last week's explosion (10 rec. 158 yds., TDs) the last time he had a big game (Week 9), Watkins followed it up with a three-reception, 14-yard day. Houston's defense has been really good since its bye (Week 9). The Texans have only allowed one touchdown to a wide receiver in that span and they shut down A.J. Green in Week 10. Watkins keeps demanding more targets and if the Bills give him more targets, he might do well. However, he's hard to count on as anything higher than a WR3.


Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

Josh Norman. For those unfamiliar with the name, he is arguably one of the best cornerbacks in the league. And he plays for Carolina, who the Saints face in Week 13. He's shut down No. 1 wide receivers and is expected to shadow Cooks this week. When the Saints played the Panthers in Week 3, Cooks did have seven receptions for 79 yards. However, Drew Brees has been struggling and the Panthers have been on fire. The game is in New Orleans, which helps Brees, but it's just a very tough matchup for Cooks, and he hasn't shown that he is matchup-proof. He's a low WR2 in PPR leagues; WR3 in standard leagues.


Scott Chandler, TE, New England Patriots

Let's get something straight: Chandler is not Rob Gronkowski. Just because he's filling that role in the Patriots' offense does not mean he'll step right into Gronk's shoes. Chandler is not nearly as good of a player as Gronkowski. While Tom Brady will attempt to get him the ball, the Patriots' game plan is likely not going to revolve around Scott Chandler. If Danny Amendola is able to play (which it looks like he might be), he will take away some targets. Philadelphia has only allowed two touchdowns to tight ends this season, so it isn't a good matchup for Chandler. If you're starting him, you're hoping Brady targets him in the end zone and he gets you a touchdown. It's a risk/reward play.


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

Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Ryan Fitzpatrick, David Johnson Up; Brandin Cooks, Charcandrick West Down for Week 13
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-air-force-vs-san-diego-state-2015

Nobody who follows Mountain West football expected to see this matchup between Air Force and San Diego State in the conference championship game. San Diego State, sure, as the Aztecs were a preseason favorite in one of the weakest divisions in college football, the MW West. But Air Force? The Falcons were picked to finish fourth in the Mountain division, well behind odds-on favorite Boise State.


Air Force defeated Boise State two weeks ago on the blue turf to clinch its spot in the MW Championship Game. San Diego State on the other hand has been rolling at a record pace. The Aztecs are undefeated in league play this season, and have defeated all their conference foes by double digits. If the Aztecs defeat Air Force on Saturday night by 10 or more, SDSU will become only the sixth team in the last 20 years to run through their conference undefeated and defeat everyone by at least 10 points in the process.


College Football Podcast: Championship Week Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Air Force at San Diego State


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: San Diego State -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Two programs looking end long conference championship droughts

Air Force and San Diego State aren’t two programs known for their championship pedigrees over the years. It has been a long time since either one of these schools won an outright conference championship. The last time Air Force won an outright conference title was in 1998, their last season in the now-defunct Western Athletic Conference (WAC).


On Montezuma Mesa, the wait has been even longer. The last time San Diego State came away with an outright conference championship was when Todd Santos was setting NCAA records through the air back in 1986.


Both programs are looking to cap off special seasons with that coveted conference championship.


2. Fantastic rushing attacks

You’ve grown to expect Air Force that always produces a prolific ground attack with its difficult-to-defend triple option attack. So it’s no surprise that the Falcons are third in the country in rushing yards per game with 323.2. But don’t sleep on San Diego State’s rushing attack that ranks 15th in the country (235.5 ypg) led by junior Donnel Pumphrey.


It’s a cliché term in the world of college football, but Pumphrey is one of the best players you probably haven’t watched play live this season.


Pumphrey has run for 1,464 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, in a year where he was trying to follow up 2014’s 1,867-yard campaign. If you haven’t seen Pumphrey yet, you’re in for a treat.


3. Turnover margin
In championship games, winning the turnover battle is critical. San Diego State is tops in the country at 1.67 takeaways a game, which has been a big reason the Aztecs are currently on an eight-game winning streak. The Aztec defense’s unique 3-3-5 alignment is built to create confusion for opposing offenses and short fields for their own offense.


Air Force is currently on the other side of the turnover ratio (-0.33 per game) and surprisingly, a lot of Air Force’s giveaways this season have come through the air. The last two games Falcons QB Karson Roberts has thrown six interceptions, but head coach Troy Calhoun still trusts his passing attack more than he has since taking over the reigns at the Academy in 2007. Roberts has the ability to keep defenses on their heels, which will be critical against the Aztecs’ physical front.


Final Analysis


Air Force really surprised me when it went to Boise State and came away with a win in a game on the blue turf in which the Falcons lost the turnover battle (-4). Like most teams that come through Air Force, these Falcons are a gritty group. But some of the goodwill that was built from the Boise win was lost in a lackluster effort against New Mexico to cap off the regular season.


San Diego State is excited to host this game for a chance to take home its first conference championship in 29 years. The Aztecs have better athletes on the edges, and the best overall player on the field in Donnel Pumphrey. Expect the Aztecs to wear down the cadets in the second half.


Prediction: San Diego State 31, Air Force 21


— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

Mountain West Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Air Force vs. San Diego State
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: videos, NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/find-out-what-tony-romo-slumber-party-dallas-cowboys-james-corden-late-show

Ever wonder what spending a night at Tony Romo's house is like? Me neither, but now we have proof.


The Cowboys quarterback and "Late Late Show" host James Corden had a good old-fashion sleepover and the results were hilarious. The two enjoyed marsh mellows, patty-cake, and it was literally fun for all ages.


Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 10:34
Path: /college-football/boe-wilson-shoved-under-armour-all-america-game-husker-voting-machine

It’s no secret, it’s irked Kirk Herbstreit and the only way to keep it at bay is by turning to computer coding professionals. It’s Nebraska's Husker Voting Machine and it is ruthless.


Nebraska offensive lineman commit Boe Wilson of Lee’s Summit, Mo., was surprised when the Under Armour All-American Game wanted to plug him into its first-ever Fan Vote for a chance to win one of two remaining spots in their all-star game.


“I was completely shocked. My coach and athletic director came up to me during school and asked me if I wanted to do it and I said ‘yeah.’ It’d be great for this school and the community. I’ve always wanted to play in an All-American game, so that’ll be fun as well.”


Wilson began his campaign by writing the voting link on every chalkboard in his seven classes. He told family, friends and utilized social media to the best of his ability, but he had no idea what the HVM was capable of.



Once word of Wilson potentially getting into the Under Armour All-American Game got out, it spread like wildfire across Husker Nation. He recalls his father bringing him conversations between Big Red backers about the contest.


My dad found them and showed them to me and there were just pages on pages of people telling each other to vote and other Huskers talking to each other, so it didn’t go unnoticed. I’m thankful for that.”


Once the contest was over and he had won a spot, it didn’t take Wilson long to start drawing up an acceptance speech. “I just started thinking of my Husker family. Just happy to have so many people up there voting and the strong support system behind me. I owe a big part of this to them.”


He was a little miffed that the opening round had him facing fellow Nebraska commit Jack Stoll. “If they would’ve had us on two sides of the bracket, we’d probably have two Huskers in the All-American Bowl."


How right he likely is.



As for his final words for the Husker Voting Machine, Wilson kept things short and sweet. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all the Huskers. I firmly believe that I would not be an All-American right now if it were not for them, so thank you.”


— 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.

Boe Wilson Shoved Into Under Armour All-America Game by Husker Voting Machine
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/bold-fantasy-predictions-week-13-nfl

After taking some time off over the Thanksgiving holiday to rest, I have dusted off the magic crystal ball once again so we can take a look to see what amazing, unbelievable and insane things are going to happen this week in fantasy football.


For many of you this week is your last chance to make it into your league’s fantasy playoffs, where anything can happen. So let’s see what bold predictions I dare make this week.


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


Ryan Fitzpatrick Throws 5 TD Passes vs. the New York Giants

Every year, usually around this time, Fitzpatrick has one of those games where he plays like he’s Tom Brady. A game where he throws for five touchdowns and well over 300 yards and makes everyone who left him on their bench that week want to slam their heads against the wall. Well, if you were ever going to start Fitzpatrick, this is the week. First off, he’s coming off a game where he threw four TDs and he has one of the best wide receiver combos in the league in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Secondly, he’s playing the Giants this week, which is technically a road game for the Jets. The Giants’ defense is allowing 309 passing yards per game, by far the worst in the NFL and are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Be smart and start Fitzpatrick this week and watch him throw five scoring strikes.


Scott Chandler Makes Everyone Forget About Rob Gronkowski

Okay, so of course Chandler isn’t anywhere near the player that Gronkowski is. Now that we have that out of the way, Chandler is going to put up better numbers this week than Gronkowski has all season. The Patriots have been decimated by injuries, but they still have good old reliable Tom Brady behind center. That’s all the Patriots and Chandler need. This week the Eagles come to town and they actually defend tight ends really well, as they are currently allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to the position. That won’t matter this week, however, because Brady needs his tight to make plays and Chandler is very capable of doing so. Look for him to end the day with more than 100 yards and two touchdowns.


Doug Martin Runs for 200 Yards for the Second Time in Three Weeks

Two weeks ago Martin went off, rushing for an incredible 235 yards against the Eagles. While he didn’t rush for that many yards last week, he was still highly productive, rushing for 97 on only 14 carries against the Colts. This week the Buccaneers play host to the free-falling Atlanta Falcons in a game that the Bucs really need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Bucs know that they will need to lean heavily on Martin to control the clock and to move the ball. The Falcons have been decent against the run (96.8 ypg, 10th in NFL), but they have surrendered 13 touchdowns on the ground. Only one other team (Detroit, 15) has given up more and this is a big reason why Atlanta’s D is third in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs. Look for Martin to bust out once again and this time add a couple of TDs to pad his fantasy numbers.

Related: Why You Should Start Doug Martin and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 13


DeAndre Hopkins Has His Second Bad Game in a Row

Everyone and their mother was on the Brian Hoyer-to-DeAndre Hopkins bandwagon last week when the Texans took on the Saints. But since the Saints simply rolled over so easily, the game flow changed to the point that Hopkins wasn’t needed. That led to him catching only five balls for a measly 36 yards. This week the Texans travel to Buffalo to face Rex Ryan, who is going to do everything possible to not let Hopkins beat his team. Two weeks ago the Bills slowed down Tom Brady (even though they lost) and they will do the same thing to Hoyer this week, which limits Hopkins’ opportunities. Don’t be surprised if Hopkins finishes with less than 50 yards receiving this week.


Philip Rivers Single-handedly Beats the Denver Broncos

The Broncos are riding him right now with Brock Osweiler as their quarterback, but are coming off two wins that have taken a toll on their vaunted defense. Traveling to San Diego this week, the Broncos might think that they might be able to take a rest and still beat the lowly Chargers. That won’t be the case because as much as the Chargers suck this year, they still have super-competitive Rivers leading the way, and he is going to throw for 300-plus yards and four touchdowns Sunday afternoon and lead the home team to their biggest win of the season.


The Chicago Bears’ Defense/Special Teams (DST) Scores More Fantasy Points than Jay Cutler

This week the Bears welcome the San Francisco 49ers to town for a 1 p.m. ET game, which is 10 a.m. San Francisco time, that’s not a good thing for Blaine Gabbert. Also, the 49ers are a decent team at home, but on the road they are atrocious, being outscored by more than an average of 10 points this season. Gabbert has played surprisingly well since taking over for Colin Kaepernick, but this is the week when he falls apart. The Bears still have a shot at the playoffs and this week their defense is going to pick Gabbert off at least three times and return two for touchdowns. That means that the Bears won’t need Cutler and the offense to score many points, just to help take time off of the clock.


— 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.

Bold Fantasy Predictions for Week 13 in the NFL
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/week-14-college-football-picks-against-spread

I wrapped up one of my best seasons against the spread last week with a modest 3-2 mark. Betting against Les Miles was a mistake on so many levels.


However, after going 3-2 last week, I've finished the year 50-33. I, and every gambler on the planet, will take that in a heartbeat.


Wait, isn't there much more football to be played and more bets to be made? Not in my world. Not one of these championship game lines inspires me to play and betting on bowl games is one of the dumbest things anyone can do.


No, I will give you my picks from here on out for the big games but I'm doing so in protest. Aka, don't play this weekend.


Last Week: 3-2

Year-to-date: 50-33


Bowling Green (-12.5) vs. Northern Illinois

This number just feels way to high for a championship game at this level. The Huskies are very familiar with this game and the number may be skewed after an NIU loss to Ohio last week. Otherwise, this team averaged 440.7 yards and 34.6 points per game too and should be able to hang with the Falcons' great offense. Prediction: Northern Illinois +12.5


Temple (+5.5) at Houston

The Cougars have dominated Matt Rhule’s Owls the last two years helped by seven turnovers. And while Temple’s defense just dominated Memphis’ high-powered offense a few weeks ago, Greg Ward Jr. looks to be as healthy as he’s been of late. At home, give me Houston. Prediction: Houston -5.5


Southern Miss (+7.5) at Western Kentucky

Southern Miss has crushed the point spread all season, leading the nation at 10-2 ATS. The Golden Eagles just being in this game is a huge surprise and it could be the last game for both Western Kentucky’s All-American quarterback and rising star head coach. Look for WKU to roll. Prediction: Western Kentucky -7.5


Florida (+18) vs. Alabama

This is such a huge mismatch on one side of the ball (when Florida’s offense is on the field) that it’s hard seeing the Gators scoring more than seven points all game. Can Alabama, a team that’s averaged 31.9 points per game against Power 5 teams this year, get to 20 points? I’ll roll the dice on a virtual shutout from Bama. Prediction: Alabama -18

Stanford (-4.5) vs. USC

In Santa Clara, Stanford could have home-field advantage not only due to location but also because the Trojans don’t travel all that well. Having said that, USC’s offense has been surging and Stanford has given up huge chunks of yards of late (SEE: Oregon, Notre Dame). If there is an upset, I’d take USC. Prediction: USC +4.5


North Carolina (+4.5) vs. Clemson

I really want to take the Tar Heels here but the Tigers are just better at every position than North Carolina. DeShaun Watson is on a mission on offense, averaging over 400 yards per game over his last five, and the defense is easily the best UNC has faced all season. Prediction: Clemson -4.5


Michigan State (-3.5) vs. Iowa

Iowa is a great story and plays a team game. But Connor Cook, the Michigan State's offensive line and secondary are healthier than they’ve been all year. After its best defensive performance (Ohio State) and best offensive performance (Penn State) of the season, Sparty is rolling into the College Football Playoff. Prediction: Michigan State -3.5

Week 14 College Football Picks Against the Spread
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 09:45
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/alabama-make-history-second-straight-sec-championship

Lost somewhat this week amidst all the College Football Playoff speculation and news of coaching changes is what Alabama is on the doorstep of accomplishing Saturday afternoon in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.


Related: SEC Championship Preview and Prediction: Florida vs. Alabama


Alabama is seeking to become not just the SEC champion, but back-to-back SEC champs.


Last season, Alabama defeated Missouri, 42-13, in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. This year's Crimson Tide squad wrapped up the West Division last weekend and will face East champ Florida for ultimate conference bragging rights.


College Football Podcast: Championship Week Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Winning a conference title two straight seasons is no easy feat, especially in this day and age of unparalleled parity in the game. In fact, it's been quite a while since any SEC team has finished on top two consecutive seasons. And it's been even longer since Alabama was the team to do that.


So when is the last time an SEC team won back-to-back titles? Here are a few hints. Bill Clinton was President. "Shakespeare in Love" and "Saving Private Ryan" were the top new movie releases. And the Georgia Dome still had green-colored pavement — aka AstroTurf — for its playing surface.


Oh, and Derrick Henry? Yeah, this season's Heisman front-runner was a 4-year-old toddler probably spending most of his free time watching "Blue's Clues."


That's right. You have to go back to 1998. That's when Philip Fulmer-coached Tennessee won its second SEC title in a row. Tee Martin quarterbacked the Volunteers in 1998. A baby-faced college kid named Peyton Manning was Tennessee's signal-caller in '97.


Alabama as back-to-back SEC champs? Surely at some point during the Nick Saban dynasty, right? Nope. The Crimson Tide have come close, but it hasn't happened. Alabama's SEC titles under Saban have come in 2009, '12 and '14. The Tide won back-to-back BCS national titles in 2011 and '12, but for the first one Alabama didn't win the SEC — or even its division. LSU did, not that it mattered in the end when Saban and company shutout the Tigers 21-0 in the Superdome in New Orleans to claim the crystal football as national champs.


And what about the Mike Shula, Dennis Franchione or Mike DuBose years? Only one SEC title during that 10-year span, and it came in 1999. The Gene Stallings era? The Crimson Tide had a pretty good run during those seven years, right? Yes, but just one SEC title — in 1992, when Alabama also won the national championship.


A Bill Curry-coached Alabama team won a share of the SEC title in 1989, and the '81 Alabama team, coached by the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant, won a share of the conference title that season.


But back-to-back SEC titles for Alabama?


You have to go all the way back into the 1970s. Under the Bear, Alabama won the SEC three seasons in a row, 1977-79.


Yeah, go figure. Alabama, in light of all its recent success, is on the cusp of accomplishing something Saturday it hasn't accomplished since 1979. For a little perspective, Saban was a 28-year-old defensive assistant at West Virginia the last time Tuscaloosa was home to the back-to-back SEC champs.


There will be plenty of time to talk Playoff and coaching changes in the coming weeks. For now, though, with the SEC title game set for Saturday, maybe a little spotlight should be directed at the history this Alabama team could make.


Hey, it's not like back-to-back SEC champs come around all the time. In the case of Alabama, should it win Saturday, it's feat that comes around oh, say about once every 36 years.


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

Alabama Can Make History With Second Straight SEC Championship
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 09:30
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Path: /college-football/ranking-watchability-college-footballs-2015-conference-championship-games

Conference championship games are a key part of every college football season. It’s the last chance for Heisman candidates to make an impression, there’s playoff implications among the Power 5 leagues, and these games also play a role in determining how the top 10-15 rank on Sunday for New Year’s Six bowl matchups.


Eight conference championship matchups are slated for Week 14, including two games directly impacting the playoff seeding. Clemson has ranked as the No. 1 team in the committee’s rankings since the first release in November. However, the Tigers must defeat an improving North Carolina team to secure their spot in the top four. Additionally, the showdown between Michigan State and Iowa is an elimination game for a spot in the College Football Playoff.


With eight championship games on tap for Week 14, it can be a little overwhelming deciding which games to watch and their impact on the national scene. To help with your weekend viewing and channel surfing, we ranked the conference championship games in terms of must-see value.


Ranking the Watchability and Importance of Conference Championship Games in 2015


1. Big Ten Championship: Iowa vs. Michigan State (Indianapolis)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Michigan State -3.5

This is essentially a play-in game for the College Football Playoff. The winner of this game is going to the four-team playoff, while the loser is off to the Rose, Fiesta or Chick-fil-A Peach Bowls. The Hawkeyes are college football’s biggest surprise this season. Behind a strong ground attack, the efficient play of quarterback C.J. Beathard and a solid defense, Iowa is off to its first 12-0 start in program history. But the Hawkeyes are facing their toughest obstacle of the season on Saturday. Michigan State lost on a questionable call to Nebraska and struggled to put away teams early in the season. However, coach Mark Dantonio’s team is finding his rhythm at the right time. The Spartans won 17-14 at Ohio State and defeated Penn State 55-16 last Saturday to clinch the Big Ten East title. Both teams have excelled in turnover margin this year (+14). In a tight game, one or two mistakes might be all that decides this playoff elimination game.


Related: Big Ten Championship Preview and Prediction


2. ACC Championship: North Carolina vs. Clemson (Charlotte)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Clemson -5


The stakes are high for both teams on Saturday night. With a win over North Carolina, Clemson would clinch a playoff spot. The Tigers would also earn their first conference championship since 2011, and this game is potentially a good showcase for quarterback Deshaun Watson and his Heisman resume. Clemson’s offense will be tested by an improved North Carolina defense under the direction of new play-caller Gene Chizik. Stopping Watson and the rest of the Tigers’ skill players won’t be easy, but the Tar Heels have allowed only 19 plays of 30 yards or more this season. A similar theme is set to play out when North Carolina has the ball. Quarterback Marquise Williams and running back Elijah Hood headline an explosive offense for coach Larry Fedora, while the Tigers quickly reloaded on defense after the departure of several key starters last season. If North Carolina pulls off the upset, how high will this team climb in the polls next week? 


Related: ACC Championship Preview and Prediction


3. Pac-12 Conference Championship: USC vs. Stanford (Santa Clara)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:45 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Stanford -4.5


Saturday night’s matchup in Santa Clara, Calif. is the second meeting between these two programs in 2015. Stanford and USC met during the regular season, with the Cardinal winning 41-31 in Los Angeles. Will get the Trojans get revenge and earn their first victory in the Pac-12 Championship Game? This is a huge opportunity for USC coach Clay Helton – promoted to the full-time gig this week – to make a statement on Saturday night. Both teams want to establish the run and control the battle in the trenches. The Cardinal have an edge on offense in that department, as well as one of the nation’s top all-around players in Christian McCaffrey.


Related: Pac-12 Championship Game Preview and Prediction


4. American Athletic Conference Championship: Temple at Houston

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Houston -6


The inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship features one of the league’s best offenses (Houston) against one of the conference’s top defenses (Temple). The Owls have allowed only three opponents to manage more than 25 points this season and limit opponents to just 4.85 yards per play. This defense will be challenged by Houston’s dynamic offense, which is led by quarterback Greg Ward (33 total touchdowns this year). Ward’s mobility is critical with a makeshift offensive line for the Cougars going against a Temple defensive front that generated 32 sacks in 2015. This game also features two of college football’s rising stars in the coaching ranks – Houston’s Tom Herman and Temple’s Matt Rhule. 


Related: American Athletic Conference Championship Preview and Prediction


5. Conference USA Championship: Southern Miss at WKU

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at Noon ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: WKU -7.5


If you like offense, this game is the one to check out on Saturday. The over/under of 74 in Vegas for this matchup is the highest of any Week 14 contest. WKU’s high-scoring offense is led by senior quarterback Brandon Doughty and ranks fourth nationally with an average of 44.2 points per game. The Golden Eagles aren’t far behind, averaging 41.7 per contest. Southern Miss is one of the most improved teams in the nation, increasing its win total by six games from 2014-15. Quarterback Nick Mullens is an underrated quarterback (35 TDs, 9 INTs), but the defense also made marked improvement (second in C-USA in points allowed). This one should be high in entertainment value.


Related: Conference USA Championship Game Preview and Prediction


6. SEC Championship: Florida vs. Alabama (Atlanta)

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -18


It may seem odd to list the SEC this low, but Alabama is nearly a three-touchdown favorite over Florida and there’s little to suggest this game will be close. The Gators have scored over 20 points just once in their last four games and have struggled to play with consistency on the offensive line. That’s a huge concern for coach Jim McElwain, as Alabama’s defensive line is the best in the nation and is adept at stopping the run, as well as getting to the quarterback on passing downs. A low-scoring affair would benefit Florida, and it’s not out of the question this team can hang around in the first half thanks to its defense. However, the combination of Alabama running back Derrick Henry, as well as the talent on the Crimson Tide roster is too much to overcome.


Related: SEC Championship Preview and Prediction


7. MAC Championship: Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (Detroit)

Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Bowling Green -12


There’s a lot of mystery sounding this game. Northern Illinois’ lost starting quarterback Drew Hare in early November to a ruptured Achilles, and backup Ryan Graham left last week’s game against Ohio with a leg injury. Freshman Tommy Fielder is poised to make his first career start on Friday night, which means the Huskies are going to lean on a heavy dose of running back Joel Bouagnon and one of the MAC’s top defenses (4.98 yards per play allowed). Bowling Green’s Dino Babers is reportedly the favorite to be Syracuse’s next coach, so this could be his final game with the Falcons. Babers’ offense is among the best in the nation, averaging 44.2 points per game behind quarterback Matt Johnson and a talented group of skill players. If Bowling Green jumps out to an early lead, it’s tough to see the Northern Illinois’ offense keeping up, especially with a quarterback making his first start. The Huskies want a low-scoring game. This is also the third-straight season these two teams have played in the MAC title game.


8. Mountain West Championship: Air Force at San Diego State

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: San Diego State -6.5


This game features one of the nation’s most underrated players in San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey. The junior averages 122 yards per game and has rushed for 100 yards in eight consecutive games. Pumphrey will be asked to carry the offense for San Diego State, especially with starting quarterback Maxwell Smith out with a knee injury. The formula for success isn’t going to change for the Aztecs in this game. Coach Rocky Long is one of the nation’s top defensive masterminds, and this team will lean on its defense and a strong ground game to win on Saturday night. Air Force will counter with an offense averaging 34.4 points per game and a unit that ranks first in the Mountain West by generating 38 plays of 30 yards or more. Can the Falcons stuff the run and force San Diego State to take to the air? Or will the Aztecs’ stout defense and ground attack win this one?


Ranking the Watchability of College Football's 2015 Conference Championship Games
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-vs-kansas-state-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2015

This game has lost a little of its luster given that Kansas State will be bowl eligible no matter the outcome on Saturday. The Wildcats are coming off two straight wins, one of which was a come-from-behind victory over Iowa State two weeks ago.


The Mountaineers are riding a four-game winning streak looking to finish the season 8-4 after having a record of 3-4 at the end of October.


While it seems West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen cooled any hot seat talk there is a possibility this may be Bill Snyder’s last regular season game as Kansas State's head coach. Snyder announced on Monday he will decide his future after the conclusion of this season.


West Virginia at Kansas State

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: West Virginia  -6


Three Things to Watch


1. It will be a slow game
Kansas State will undoubtedly try to slow the tempo of the game by staying on the ground. Likewise, West Virginia has established itself as a “ground and pound” offense over the month of November. You can expect scoring but if you are looking for fireworks this may not be the game for you.


2. Can Kansas State stop the Mountaineer run game?
The Wildcats are third in the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing only 158.8 rushing yards per game. The defense's ability to stop the run has kept this team in many contests.


However, the Mountaineers are averaging 241 yards per game on the ground and it is coming from more than one person. Skyler Howard has become a threat out of the backfield and Wendell Smallwood is having a record-breaking season. Add Elijah Wellman and Rushel Shell and the Wildcats will be faced with a rushing attack the likes of which they have not seen this season.


Iowa State attempted to force Howard to throw last weekend, stacking the box against the run. It did not work out so well for the Cyclones. The Wildcats though have been able to continue slow down opponents' running games. This could be the biggest matchup to watch, the West Virginia rushing attack vs. the Kansas State run defense.


3. Field position

In a game where moving the ball consistently could potentially be a change, field position is normally key to a team’s success. This game will feature the best punter in the Big 12, West Virginia’s Nick O’Toole, and the best punt returner, Kansas State’s Morgan Burns.


The Mountaineers will wear you down by consistently running right at you. If the Wildcats are going to be able to keep the score close it will depend greatly on field position, a part of the game in which the Wildcats may very well have the advantage.

Final Analysis


Both teams are heading into the postseason so the necessity of winning is for the sake of improving their bowl destination. Kansas State would love nothing more than to get out of the 5-7 eligibility discussion while the Mountaineers are looking to finish 8-4 and fifth in the Big 12.


The Mountaineers have never defeated the Wildcats as members of the Big 12. Both teams will look to establish a run game. Expect the Mountaineers to give the Wildcats a heavy dose of Wendell Smallwood, the second-leading rusher in the Big 12. Likewise, expect Kansas State to establish its ground game.


This game will be closer than the spread has predicted. Dana Holgorsen circled this game on his calendar for a reason: Bill Snyder is not an easily defeated coach.


Prediction: West Virginia 31, Kansas State 30


— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Kansas State Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 09:00