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The San Francisco 49ers host the Minnesota Vikings in the late matchup of ESPN's "Monday Night Football" doubleheader to conclude Week 1. Minnesota is coming off a 7-9 record and third-place NFC North finish in 2014. But the team expects to improve in Year Two of the Mike Zimmer regime with second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a talented defense and the return of former MVP Adrian Peterson.
San Francisco went 8-8 last season and mutually agreed to part ways with former head coach Jim Harbaugh. The team also lost several key members of its roster including guard Mike Iupati and running back Frank Gore to free agency as well as offensive tackle Anthony Davis and linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement.
Minnesota at San Francisco
Kickoff: 10:15 p.m. ET (Monday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Minnesota -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Return of Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson makes his return after a nearly season-long suspension and a tumultuous offseason. But after claiming that his relationship with the Vikings was "permanently damaged" the two parties reconciled. Peterson now joins an offense that has a capable, young quarterback, an underrated group of wide receivers and a solid offensive line that should provide enough holes for one of the league's best running backs to make a successful return.
2. Teddy Bridgewater in Year Two
Bridgewater enjoyed a solid rookie campaign as the Vikings' starting quarterback. He threw for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on 259-of-402 passing. Bridgewater started in 12 games and led Minnesota to a 6-6 record. With Peterson back in the fold, as well as having a year of NFL experience, many expect the former Louisville standout to improve in Year Two. Bridgewater should find success in Minnesota's offense with the addition of Mike Wallace and several other capable targets.
3. 49ers Bounce Back After Tough Offseason
San Francisco had the worst offseason in NFL history. The infamous breakup with Harbaugh was a sign of bad things to come for the 49ers. The team lost the majority of its key players to free agency, retirement and — in Aldon Smith's case — breaking the law multiple times. There's also the fact that many expect Vernon Davis to continue to see a decline in production after a disappointing 2014 campaign and the jury is still out on whether Colin Kaepernick is an "elite quarterback." San Francisco needs a strong performance Monday to reassure its fans that the franchise is still moving in the right direction.
Monday's game is the perfect example of two franchises going in different directions. Minnesota is on the rise with a young, talented roster that is expected to be a dark horse in a tough NFC North division. San Francisco is on the decline and should struggle after a horrendous offseason. This should be a big win for the Vikings, who need as many wins as possible to compete with Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago.
Prediction: Vikings 28, 49ers 14
— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.
Apparently no question is off limits at the Miss America Pageant.
During the Q&A segment, Miss Georgia was asked if what Tom Brady did is considered cheating. Her response was priceless.
Miss Georgia of course went on to win the pageant, solidifying Brady's winning powers.
After offseasons filled with dramatic changes, Philadelphia and Atlanta make their debuts Monday night, with one looking to make a run at the Super Bowl, and the other hoping to erase some of the problems that prevented it from contending in the fetid NFC South last year.
After consolidating his power during an early 2015 coup, Eagles coach Chip Kelly continued to stock the team with “his guys.” In are quarterback Sam Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray, linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell — among others. After two 10-win seasons and zero playoff victories, Kelly has a team more suited for his high-speed, outscore-‘em-all approach. It’s time to see if his radical methods can produce big success.
Atlanta, meanwhile, jettisoned long-time boss Mike Smith in favor for former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is charged with helping the Falcons stop somebody, a big problem in last year’s 6-10 disappointment. He’ll also have to find a way to run the football successfully, in order to take pressure off quarterback Matt Ryan.
Philadelphia at Atlanta
Kickoff: 7:10 p.m. ET
Spread: Eagles -2.5
Three Things To Watch
1. Sam I Am
New Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford may be working on his third ACL, but he looked razor sharp during the preseason, particularly in the third game at Green Bay, when he completed all 10 of his passing attempts. Bradford’s ability to make quick decisions and release the ball at a rapid pace is perfect for Kelly’s dragster offensive style, which seeks to apply consistent pressure on opposing defenses. “Our biggest thing is: Are we ready to play when the ball is put back into play?” Kelly says. “That’s kind of the big thing, and I think we’ve been like that for a while.”
2. Defensive Stance
The Falcons ranked dead last in the NFL last year in yards per game allowed (398.2), a big reason Quinn is in Atlanta right now. He’ll be charged with creating a push along the front four, the better to protect his secondary, which was last in the league last year against the pass. Quinn will make use of sizeable tackles Paul Soliai and Ra’Shede Hagemen. But perhaps most important is first-round pick Vic Beasley, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end with great speed and the ability to create trouble off the edge.
3. Julio Jones vs. Byron Maxwell
Maxwell spent the last few years as the Other Guy in the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom defensive backfield, listening to the praise heaped upon Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Signed to a hefty free-agent contract by Philadelphia in the offseason, Maxwell is now the featured cover man for the Eagles and will get the chance to show his skills against Atlanta’s Jones, one of the league’s best. Jones caught 104 passes last year and scored six times. It should be a great matchup and could have a huge impact on the game. “[Maxwell] has a terrific mindset for going after the ball — the poke-out, the interception, the forced fumbles; that part of his game is really in tune,” said Quinn, who coached Maxwell in Seattle.
There is excitement in Atlanta about Quinn’s hiring, and it will be interesting to see if he makes an immediate impact on the rotten Falcon defense. If that happens, the Falcons should be in good shape, since Ryan was strong last year and looked particularly sharp during the preseason while completing 72.2 percent of his passes. Ryan also is 7-0 in home openers during his career.
It has taken three years for Kelly to get the Eagles roster the way he wants it, and there are only 12 holdovers from the Andy Reid era, which ended after the 2012 season. Philadelphia should be able to play faster than ever with Bradford at the helm, and the presence of Murray should help resurrect the ground game, which wasn’t as effective in 2014 as it was the year before. Murray is a plant-and-go runner well suited for Kelly’s philosophy. The Eagles want to score as much as possible, and with a defense that remains a bit shaky, they’ll need as many points as they can muster to win.
Prediction: Eagles 34, Falcons 23
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.
For Notre Dame it never seems to end. After a 2014 season riddled with injury after injury, decimating the defense beyond recognition at the end of the year, Irish fans hoped this fall would be different.
Unfortunately, it’s been more of the same. Notre Dame lost defensive tackle Jarron Jones to a freak injury before the season even started. In the first game, running back Tarean Folston’s season ended with a torn ACL. This week the Irish suffered their biggest injury to date when quarterback Malik Zaire broke his ankle.
DeShone Kizer came in and after a slow start rallied the Irish to victory, dropping a perfect 39-yard strike on Will Fuller for the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left against Virginia. Kizer finished the game 8-of-12 passing for 92 yards and two touchdowns, the other being a shovel pass to Durham Smythe on the fake field goal in the first quarter.
College Football Podcast: Week 2 Recap
Kizer was a heavily recruited prospect coming out of Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio. He had offers from Alabama, LSU, Penn State, Tennessee, Nebraska, Michigan State and many others, so he has talent.
But a couple of things have happened while he’s been at Notre Dame that have stunted his development. Kizer’s girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer and had a tumor removed from her neck last spring. While Kizer remained with the team, it had to affect his focus. Also, the Everett Golson situation did not exactly help Kizer's preparation. Because Golson and Zaire were both on campus through the end of the 2015 academic year, Kizer got third-team reps all spring. The primary focus for head coach Brian Kelly and the offensive staff was to get Zaire and Golson ready for action because those were the guys that were expected to play. But when Golson transferred, Kizer was bumped up a spot and those additional reps would have been beneficial.
From a game experience standpoint, Zaire has only started three games, so the drop off in actual playing time is not drastic. But Zaire has been in the program an extra year and knows the offense better. Plus, the running dimension that Zaire brings is gone. Kizer is mobile and can make things happen with his legs, but he is not Zaire running the football. Also, with true freshman Brandon Wimbush as the only scholarship quarterback behind Kizer, Kelly will probably want to protect his new starter. That, in turn, will change the way Kelly will put together his offensive game plan.
The Zaire injury is a massive blow to Notre Dame. You could tell by the team reaction after the injury and by Kelly’s dejectedness in his postgame press conference. Every facet of the team will have to take a step forward, especially the defense.
Kizer is a smart guy with ability. The Irish can still win a lot of games with him at quarterback, assuming other players at other positions rise to the challenge. How good this team can be has less to do with Kizer than it does the rest of the team, players and coaches alike.
Expectations remain high in South Bend. But they have to be somewhat tempered after the events in Charlottesville this past Saturday.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
Once again, Connecticut is an easy choice to take the women’s basketball national title. The Huskies will be aiming for their 11th championship, which would tie the fabled UCLA men’s program for the most all time.
There will be some talented teams pursuing the Huskies, but the crew from Storrs is an overwhelming favorite.
1. Connecticut (38-1)
The Huskies lost All-American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, but the program is so strong that it should only be a bump in the road. It starts with senior forward Breanna Stewart, who was the consensus 2015 National Player of the Year. UConn will also rely on returning double-digit scorers Moriah Jefferson, Morgan Tuck and Kia Nurse. Katie Lou Samuelson, the nation’s top-rated recruit according to the All Star Girls Report, could step into Mosqueda-Lewis’ spot.
2. Notre Dame (36-3)
Coach Muffet McGraw will have to replace standout Jewell Loyd, but the Fighting Irish have successfully replaced All-Americans before. Four proven starters are back, and a tremendous recruiting class will join the program. Sophomore Brianna Turner may be Notre Dame’s next All-American, and she will be joined in the starting lineup by Lindsay Allen, Taya Reimer and Michaela Mabrey. Arike Ogunbowale leads a freshman class that includes three top-20 recruits.
3. Tennessee (30-6)
Mercedes Russell and Diamond DeShields were two of the best freshmen in the country in 2013-14, and they both sat out last year. Now, Russell (who underwent surgery on both feet) and DeShields (who transferred from North Carolina) will be playing together for the Lady Vols. Add in returnees Bashaara Graves and Jasmine Jones, plus two outstanding recruits, and Tennessee could be the top team in the SEC.
4. South Carolina (34-3)
Tiffany Mitchell returns as the Gamecocks’ unquestioned leader, but the spotlight at USC may fall on sophomore A’ja Wilson and junior Alaina Coates. Those two delivered impressive numbers last year while coming off the bench. Can they move to another level as starters in 2015-16?
5. Ohio State (24-11)
The Buckeyes should top the Big Ten under third-year head coach Kevin McGuff. Ohio State will be powered by sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, who netted 24.9 points per game as a freshman. Backcourt partner Ameryst Alston will provide senior leadership, while forwards Shayla Cooper and Alexa Hart are also returning starters.
6. Mississippi State (27-7)
A very young Bulldogs team set the school record for wins last year, so expectations are soaring in Starkville. MSU’s nucleus will feature four returning starters: juniors Breanna Richardson and Dominique Dillingham, plus sophomores Victoria Vivians and Morgan William. Teaira McCowan, a 6'7" freshman center, should also make an impact this winter.
7. Baylor (33-4)
The talented tandem of junior forward Nina Davis and senior point guard Niya Johnson will make the Bears a serious Final Four contender. Juniors Imani Wright, Khadijiah Cave and Alexis Prince are proven veterans. The contributions of newcomers Alexis Jones (a Duke transfer) and freshman post players Kalani Brown and Beatrice Mompremier could be critical.
8. Louisville (27-7)
The Cardinals lost three starters, so they will be looking for help from one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Louisville, which has reached the Final Four two times over the last seven years, will be paced by the team’s top two scorers from 2014-15, sophomore forwards Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen. Asia Durr, who was listed as the No. 2 prospect in the country by the All Star Girls Report, leads an outstanding five-player recruiting class.
9. Texas A&M (23-10)
The Aggies should have strong senior leadership and an equally strong bench this year. Courtney Williams and Courtney Walker return after they both tallied over 14 points per game in 2014-15, and point guard Jordan Jones should be back after suffering a knee injury during the season.
10. Texas (24-11)
Heading into her fourth season in Austin, coach Karen Aston has done a tremendous job rebuilding the Longhorns. Eight players who saw significant minutes last year return, with 6'5" junior Kelsey Lang and 6'7" senior Imani McGee-Stafford forming an impressive baseline tandem. The development of freshman shooting guard Lashann Higgs could prove to be a key for Texas.
11. Oklahoma (21-12)
The Sooners used a balanced attack to cross the 20-win plateau last year, and they have four starters returning. A productive perimeter group features juniors Peyton Little and Gioya Carter, along with sophomore Gabbi Ortiz. Senior forward Kaylon Williams will need some help on the baseline.
12. Northwestern (23-9)
After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years, the experienced Wildcats should have their sights set even higher in 2015-16. Four starters return for coach Joe McKeown, and all four scored in double figures last year. That quartet includes seniors Maggie Lyon and Lauren Douglas, plus juniors Nia Coffey and Ashley Deary.
13. Duke (23-11)
Elizabeth Williams is gone, but Azurá Stevens appears to be the heir apparent to Williams’ All-American legacy. Stevens, a 6'6" sophomore wing, contributed 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a freshman. Rebecca Greenwell is another sophomore who is a proven scorer, and the Blue Devils will also rely on Amber Henson, Oderah Chidom and an outstanding recruiting class that features four top-50 prospects.
14. Arizona State (29-6) The Sun Devils were the surprise team of 2014-15, and they have a strong cast returning. Senior sharpshooter Katie Hempen is the top scoring threat, and junior Sophie Brunner is productive in the paint. Senior Elisha Davis will be back running the point, with junior Quinn Dornstauder returning in the post.
15. Florida State (32-5)
The Seminoles enjoyed a great run last year, and four the of the team’s five double-digit scorers will be back in Tallahassee. Senior center Adut Bulgak will lead the way after she averaged 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 2014-15. Bulgak should get plenty of help from junior center Leticia Romero, junior forward Ivey Slaughter and sophomore forward Shakayla Thomas.
16. Maryland (34-3)
The Terrapins have reached the past two Final Fours, but the graduation of Laurin Mincy and the late transfer of Lexie Brown created major voids. Senior Malina Howard and juniors Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones will form a solid foundation, but highly regarded freshmen Brianna Fraser and Kiah Gillespie will have to adapt to the college game quickly.
17. Stanford (26-10)
The Cardinal will rely on 3-point shooting and a strong junior class that features guard Lili Thompson, who led a balanced attack with 13.3 points per game last year. Thompson will be supported by classmates Erica McCall, Briana Roberson and Karlie Samuelson, and sophomore Kaylee Johnson is another proven performer.
18. Oregon State (27-5)
The Beavers are coming off their best season in school history, and expectations should be even higher in Corvallis for 2015-16. Four starters return, including three who piled up impressive numbers last year. Jamie Weisner (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Ruth Hamblin (12.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Sydney Wiese (12.7 ppg, 5.6 apg) will give Oregon State an outstanding core.
19. Kentucky (24-10)
The Wildcats were inconsistent last year, but a veteran backcourt should keep UK on target this winter. Senior point guard Janee Thompson will work with juniors Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper on the perimeter. Highly regarded newcomers Evelyn Akhator (the No. 1 junior college recruit in the nation) and freshman Batouly Camara will be counted on for immediate help.
20. North Carolina (26-9)
The Tar Heels have talent, but these are tumultuous times in Chapel Hill. After Diamond DeShields transferred following a tremendous 2013-14 freshman campaign, leading scorer Allisha Gray opted to transfer this summer. Stephanie Mavunga and Xylina McDaniel will give UNC two talented forwards, but freshmen Stephanie Watts and Destinee Walker will have to step up immediately in the backcourt.
21. George Washington (29-4)
The Colonials will have plenty of depth and plenty of size. The impressive George Washington frontline will be led by senior Jonquel Jones, who averaged a double-double in 2014-15. The 6'4" Jones will be joined on the baseline by 6'5" sophomore Kelli Prange and 6'2" junior Caira Washington. Junior Hannah Schaible will be the Colonials’ top perimeter threat.
22. Chattanooga (29-4)
The gaudy 2014-15 win total included victories over Tennessee and Stanford, and a strong nucleus returns for veteran coach Jim Foster. Junior forward Jasmine Joyner led the Mocs in scoring and rebounding last year, and senior point guard Alicia Payne is back to run the show. Junior Chelsey Shumpert and sophomore Keiana Gilbert are also reliable contributors.
23. South Florida (27-8)
All five starters return for the Bulls, including a pair of supremely talented seniors. Courtney Williams delivered 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last year, while Alisia Jenkins posted 12.8 points, 11. 3 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots.
24. Syracuse (22-10)
The Orange are another program with five returning starters. The backcourt combo of Alexis Peterson and Brianna Butler will lead the way after they combined for just under 30 points per game last year. The key performer may be center Briana Day, who contributed 9.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest as a sophomore.
25. Princeton (31-1)
The Tigers ripped off 31 straight wins before they fell to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Princeton lost the player on top of its scoring column, but the next six players on that list return. Most important, the Tigers will have five proven seniors — guards Michelle Miller and Amanda Berntsen, plus forwards Alex Wheatley, Annie Tarakchian and Taylor Williams.
It doesn't have to be playoff football for players to be amped.
During the Bengals-Raiders game, things got a little out of hand. Adam "Pacman" Jones let his emotions get the best of him and pushed receiver Amari Cooper's head into his helmet. Jones was given a personal foul, but surprisingly not ejected.
Nothing major, but a fine should be on its way.
As for #Bengals CB Adam Jones, the play where he knocked Amari Cooper’s helmet off will be reviewed. Expect a fine for Jones, no suspension— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 14, 2015
Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox break down the three biggest games of Week 2.
How good is Micigan State and what does this win mean for the both the Spartans and the Ducks? What can Tennessee learn from this loss and does this catapult Oklahoma into Big 12 contention? How bad really was Week 2 for the SEC? Can Notre Dame win big after losing its QB?
The guys also up their Top 4 Playoff teams as they do every week as well.
It's only Week 1 but the troll game is on strong.
Before the Seahawks-Rams game, Russell Wilson tweeted this out, letting everyone know what his team's record was about to be.
1-0. #GoHawks— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) September 12, 2015
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, their plans were foiled and ended up losing 34-31. Rams were not going to let that tweet go so easily. They must've favorited and kept it in their drafts folder. When Marshawn Lynch was stuff on fourth down in overtime, it was time to unleash the tweets.
This is peak Cleveland Browns.
In the game against the Jets, Josh McCown saw an opening and went for it. In retrospect, this is probably one he wants back because he got lit up like a Christmas tree and had to leave the game. Oh and he fumbled on top of it.
On a lighter note, it's Johnny Manziel time.
There's nothing wrong with planning ahead.
Due to the interesting quarterback situation the Redskins have going on over in D.C., one fan decided to get ready to cheer on anyone who gets a snap under center. Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy will have one guy rooting for all three of them equally.
Another video of a football player getting out of hand with a referee has surfaced.
St. Anthony's High School player, Zeke Cardenas, is seen shoving a referee after a fight was broken up between the two teams. The player gets caught in the moment, but it's a mistake that could cost him in the long run.
A suspension is likely coming for the Cardenas.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated, but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2
11: Total Yards Allowed by Boston College Against Howard
As expected, Boston College had no trouble with Howard in Week 2. The Eagles thoroughly dominated the Bison on both sides of the ball. The offense accumulated 76 points, averaged 8.8 yards per play and recorded 347 rushing yards. But the most impressive effort from Saturday’s game has to be the defense. Howard managed only 11 total yards of offense, with five drives in the first half resulting in negative yardage.
4: Key Notre Dame Players Out for the Year Due to Injury
The injury bug has hit Notre Dame hard this season. The Fighting Irish was considered by some to be a playoff contender, but coach Brian Kelly’s team has a lot to overcome if it wants to be one of the four teams playing for a national championship. Starting quarterback Malik Zaire was lost for the year with an ankle injury against Virginia, which means Notre Dame will enter Week 3 with a new starting backfield after running back Tarean Folston suffered a season-ending knee injury against Texas. Additionally, defensive tackle Jarron Jones and defensive back Shaun Crawford suffered season-ending knee injuries prior to the first game. That’s four key players missing from coach Brian Kelly’s team after two games.
22: Kentucky’s Road Losing Streak in SEC Play Ends in South Carolina
Kentucky’s rebuilding effort under third-year coach Mark Stoops and its bowl hopes for 2015 got a huge boost with a 26-22 win over South Carolina on Saturday night. The victory in Columbia snapped a 22-game losing streak for the Wildcats in SEC play. This will be an intriguing team to watch over the next few weeks, as the Wildcats host Florida and Missouri before a matchup against Eastern Kentucky, followed by a home date against Auburn on Oct. 15.
2: Touchdowns Scored by Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche on Offense in 2015
Who knows how much time Nkemdiche will spend on offense once the Rebels hit SEC play, but the defensive tackle already has two touchdowns through two games. Nkemdiche caught a 31-yard touchdown pass in the 76-3 win over UT Martin in the opener and scored on a one-yard plunge against Fresno State in Week 2. Nkemdiche’s two touchdowns are more than two teams – Akron and North Texas – have scored so far in 2015.
17-0: Tennessee’s Largest Blown Lead in a Home Loss in School History
With a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, everything pointed to a Tennessee victory against Oklahoma. However, the Sooners rallied in the second half and clinched a win after Zack Sanchez intercepted Joshua Dobbs’ pass in the second overtime. The 17-point comeback by Oklahoma was the largest blown lead in a home loss in school history for the Volunteers.
2: Wins by MAC Teams Against Power 5 Opponents
MACtion was in full effect on Saturday, as two teams – Bowling Green and Toledo – scored upset wins over Power 5 opponents. The Falcons’ explosive offense accumulated 692 total yards against the Terrapins, while quarterback Matt Johnson passed for 491 yards and six scores in the upset. Toledo contained Arkansas’ powerful ground attack to just 103 yards and limited the Razorbacks to just three points in four red zone trips in the second half.
1988: Eastern Michigan’s Last Non-Conference Road Win
Eastern Michigan is one of the toughest jobs in the nation, but second-year coach Chris Creighton seems to have the program on the right track. After a close loss to Old Dominion in the opener, the Eagles won 48-29 at Wyoming on Saturday, which was the program’s first non-conference road victory since 1988.
0-10: Mountain West’s Non-Conference Record in Week 2
It was a forgettable weekend of action for the Mountain West. Air Force – in a conference matchup against San Jose State – was the league’s only winner, as the Mountain West went 0-10 in non-conference games. The losses weren’t unexpected according to the Vegas spreads, but the conference missed an opportunity to score key victories. Boise State’s 35-24 loss to BYU is a small setback for the Broncos’ hopes of being the top Group of 5 team this season, while Nevada and Colorado State were unable to take advantage of a home matchup against a Power 5 opponent.
2: Last-Minute Wins on Fourth Down Touchdown Passes by BYU
Two games, two last-minute wins by Hail Mary touchdown passes. That’s quite a way for BYU to open the season. After Tanner Mangum hit Mitch Mathews for a 42-yard score on the final play of the opener against Nebraska, the Cougars’ offense delivered once again versus Boise State on Saturday night. Mangum connected with Mitchell Juergens for a 35-yard score on fourth down with less than a minute remaining to give BYU a 28-24 lead over the Broncos. The Cougars later added an interception return to win 35-24.
412: Combined Rushing Yards by Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby
Cook and Yearby were former high school teammates at Miami Central, and this duo had two of the top rushing performances in the ACC in Week 2. Cook carried the Florida State offense against USF by recording 266 yards and three touchdowns on 30 attempts. Yearby rushed for 146 yards and a score in Miami’s 44-20 victory over FAU. Both players averaged at least eight yards per carry and are two of the nation’s biggest rising stars at running back.
The Arkansas Razorbacks may still be a Top 25 team at some point during the year or by the time the last regular season game has been played, but after Week 2 the Hogs are no longer worthy of the consideration needing to fine tune several aspects of the basics quickly.
In Week 1, Arkansas warmed up against UTEP racking up 490 yards of total offense. In Week 2 against Toledo, same kind of story, 513 total yards of offense except one thing was missing in both contests by the Hogs, a running game.
The stat line was deceiving against UTEP. The Hogs had 182 rushing yards against the Miners but one rush before halftime by Alex Collins covered 70 yards. The final rushing numbers show a 5.4 yard per carry average. Right where most college football team would want to be. Take away Collins long rush that did not go for a score or set up a score, thus was truly meaningless, the Hogs actually averaged 3.39 yards per carry.
Against Toledo the Arkansas rushing attack was finally exposed. The Rockets held Arkansas to 104 yards on the ground off 31 attempts for an average of 3.4 yards per carry. Collins had 54 rushing yards leading the way against Toledo off 20 carries, a 2.7 yard per carry average. The skewed stats in Week 1 had Collins averaging 11.2 yards per carry totaling 127 yards off 12 totes with one score.
In 2014 Arkansas was No. 24 in the nation in total rushing yards averaging 218 per game. Collins had a 5.4 yard per carry average and now injured tailback Jonathan Williams sported a 5.6 yard per carry average.
What Went Wrong?
In theory Arkansas should have picked up where they left off on the ground game. The Hogs returned four starters up front losing only right tackle Brey Cook to graduation. The reality is there are several differences but hopefully not all is lost with a little bit of tinkering.
With Cook gone Denver Kirkland slid over from right guard to left tackle pushing Dan Skipper to right tackle from left tackle. Mitch Smothers is still holding down the center position, and Sebastian Tretola is still at left guard. Frank Ragnow has taken over the right guard spot. Due to the lack of push up front in between the tackles maybe moving Kirkland back to guard would help the Hogs get better push off the ball in the middle? However, the trouble with a potential move is Kirkland left the Toledo contest in the fourth quarter with an unspecified arm injury.
The other glaring problem is not having Jonathan Williams on the field creating a one-two punch to help wear down the opposing defense by the second half. Junior tailback Kody Walker got five carries against Toledo, and third-team running back Rawleigh Williams recorded one rush. More help is needed to keep Collins fresh for late in the game.
In 2014 when Arkansas was running all over everyone in the SEC, one thing they were not doing is passing the ball, at least not well. Brandon Allen was the victim of a lack of creativity and common sense with former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Now Dan Enos is the offensive coordinator and has brought his offensive bag of tricks with him.
In the past two games Allen, a third-year senior starter, has set career-highs in consecutive games passing for 308 yards against UTEP and 412 against Toledo. Against the Miners the 14-for-18 performance translated into four touchdowns. Against the Rockets, Allen completed 32-of-53 passes with a nice 60 percent completing percentage but could not find the end zone when it counted overthrowing tight end Hunter Henry on the would-be game winning drive on third down and clanking the final pass of the game on fourth down off the crossbar.
Allen has thrown for 720 yards in the first two games of the season, an Arkansas opening two-game record. The Hogs do not have the talent on the outside for Allen to keep up a 360 yard per game passing average through SEC play.
In Allen’s defense, Arkansas, unofficially but easily, had at least five dropped passes. Two other plays changed the complexion of the game dramatically against Toledo, a called back punt return for a touchdown and a called back Alex Collins run for a touchdown. Both plays were negated by penalties, another problem area for the Razorbacks but both plays would have offered a different outcome, more than likely, to the game, but the problems still persist.
The Hogs are young up and down the roster but have enough talent to have an 8-4 kind of season if a few things are corrected. If Brandon Allen is called upon to win games by himself in the SEC, the Hogs will be in for a long season.
Entering his third year in Fayetteville, head coach Bret Bielema has not won a SEC road game. Allen has also not won a SEC road game as the team’s starting quarterback. Arkansas has road games against Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU this year making 8-4 a tough go as things currently stand for the Razorbacks.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.
The Cowboys and Giants have spent the entire offseason making headlines. Dallas decided to make questionable moves in free agency and in the draft. Free agent defensive end Greg Hardy was brought in from Carolina, to help take the Cowboy defense to another level, despite his incredibly controversial past. If that wasn't enough, the Cowboys backed that up with an equally questionable draft pick in defensive end Randy Gregory. If these two players produce what their talent says they can produce, then the Cowboys' defense will be one of the nastiest in the league. The Cowboys also avoided having to deal with the challenge of a holdout from star wide receiver Dez Bryant. With a healthy Tony Romo, and possibly the most dominant offensive line in the NFL, the Dallas is poised to make a deep run into the playoffs toward Super Bowl 50.
The Giants also were positioned to get back to their contending ways, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Then they their star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was seriously injured in a July 4 fireworks accident, and everything changed. Now, the Giants' defense, despite bringing back defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, is very much in question. The offense, however, seems ready for a breakout season, as the Giants are expected to get back productive wide receiver Victor Cruz, who should form quite the duo with the dynamic Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants also added a third-down specialist, running back Shane Vereen, fresh off his Super Bowl season with the Patriots. There are weapons everywhere and Eli Manning, who was also able to cash in big right before the season, seems ready to spread the ball around to all of his new teammates.
Sunday night should be very fun.
New York at Dallas
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Dallas -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Defense Wins Championships
The Giants understand this better than anyone, which explains why they brought back Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator on for the 2007 team that won Super Bowl XLII. Personnel-wise, the team parted ways with older players and decided to opt for a youth movement, which included drafting safety Landon Collins, and going with second-year defensive end Kerry Wynn, in replacement of the injured JPP. However, the Giants need JPP to return and be the force he has been to help this unit rediscover its nasty defensive swagger. If the Giants can get key stops and get the ball back into the hands off its offense, they will be a tough team to beat. The Cowboys' defense also is counting on being able to fill key positions with young players, in the absence of its veterans. The rookie Gregory will be asked to fulfill his potential early in the absence of the suspended Hardy, who will miss the first four games. Cornerback Morris Claiborne also will be tasked with the tough assignment of covering Beckham in the absence of Orlando Scandrick, who is out for the season. The defense that can slow the opposing offense down will win.
2. Romo vs. Manning
Tony Romo had a monster season last year, putting himself in the MVP conversation. If it were not for a back injury, many feel like he would have won it. Romo also made tremendous leaps in the postseason, playing at an elite level, and putting the Cowboys in position to make the plays needed to win. Coming up short last year has seemed to motivate Romo and he looks anxious to finish what the Cowboys started last year. Manning spent the first part of the year running for his life behind a make-shift offensive line that was decimated by injuries. In addition, Manning also was forced to learn a brand new offense and was without Cruz, his previous go-to target, and only had Beckham for 12 games. The Giants redeemed last year and made lemonade out of its lemons, developing an electric playmaker in Beckham as well as tight end Larry Donnell. Now Manning should get Cruz back, and adds Vereen, who is one of the better pass-catching running backs in the league. Manning has all kinds of weapons now, and it should be interesting to see what he does with them.
3. Dez vs. ODB
Arguably, the best wide receiver in the NFL will be on the field Sunday night. The question is will that be Bryant or Beckham? Bryant is older, more established, and his coming off of a season in which he recorded 1,320 yards receiving, averaged 15 yards per catch and led the NFL with 16 TD catches. Beckham also went over 1,300 yards and scored 12 TDs, but he did all of his damage in just 12 games after a lingering hamstring injury delayed his debut by a month. He also was responsible for quite possibly the greatest catch ever in a professional football game, which happened to come against the Cowboys the last time these two teams met. How these two receivers dominate will be in direct result to how their counterparts play. If Bryant has a great game, it will be in equal parts due to the complementary play of Terrance Williams and Jason Witten. For Beckham to have a great game, Cruz (if he plays) or Rueben Randle must become threats as well. I predict we will see a show from both No. 1 receivers on Sunday night.
This game will be a track meet. With so many defensive components missing from both teams, The Cowboys and Giants should put up huge points on Sunday night. I expect huge games from Bryant and Beckham, with significant contributions from the receiver role players as well. This game will come down to the running game. If the young Giants team can take big steps forward and add running depth to their offense, they will win this game. However, it seems more likely that the Cowboys' offensive line is ready to continue its dominating ways and do just enough to push Dallas over the top. But this won't be a blowout. This one will come down to a field goal and home-field advantage.
Prediction: Cowboys 34, Giants 31
— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s Rivals.com, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.
Two of the best teams in the AFC face off Sunday, in a rematch of the 2013 NFL opener that saw the Broncos score seemingly at will in a 49-27 victory. Both teams have gone through significant evolution since then, but both also remain Super Bowl contenders and this game could very well have an impact on playoff positioning down the line.
New Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, who was the Ravens' offensive coordinator last season, will be looking to protect Peyton Manning by re-dedicating to the ground game, a similar tactic the Broncos used to win two Super Bowls in John Elway's final two seasons. Manning's body might no longer be what it once was, but his mind is sharp as ever and that still makes him a potent player. The Broncos' young offensive line will be a critical area of focus in protecting Manning and keeping him healthy this season.
The Ravens blew two 14-point leads in the AFC Divisional Round to the Patriots last season and many are picking them as a Super Bowl favorite this season. The Ravens aren't afraid of any team out there, beating both Manning's Broncos and Tom Brady's Patriots on the road in the playoffs the last few seasons. New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman takes over for Kubiak but with Torrey Smith's departure and rookie Breshad Perriman already ruled out because of a knee injury, Joe Flacco will have to rely on 36-year-old Steve Smith and journeyman Kamar Aiken as his top two targets.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Broncos -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Protecting Manning
The Broncos are starting a rookie at left tackle and a second-year player at center. New addition Evan Mathis was brought it to settle the line, but protecting Manning is about more than when he drops back to pass. The key to the Broncos now will be getting the running game going with Kubiak's tried-and-true zone-running scheme. If C.J. Anderson can find running lanes against Baltimore's physical front, it will set the table for Manning. Not only will down-and-distance be more manageable and help Manning avoid the long throws when he doesn't quite have the same zip he used to, but it will also put the Ravens' pass rush on their heels a bit.
2. Denver's Defensive Front Seven
The Broncos feature one of the best front sevens in all of football and with Von Miller entering a contract year it's a safe bet he's due for a monster season. The Ravens' offensive line is no slouch either, so these battles in the trenches will likely be where the game is decided. If the Broncos' defense plays up to its talent level this unit could single handedly take this game over, but it will start with stopping the run.
3. Ravens' Ground Game
With departures and injuries limiting the Ravens' options at wide receiver it puts even more focus on their ground game. We know how potent Denver's pass rush can be, so the Ravens must be able to run the ball to get their offense rolling. Justin Forsett had a breakout season in 2014 with 1,266 yards rushing and he must pick up right where he left off. If the Ravens can put together sustained drives powered by moving the ball on the ground, it will keep the clock running and Manning off the field. It also will force less defenders in coverage, making it a bit easier for Baltimore's receivers to get open.
Denver didn't lose a game at home last season until the playoff clunker against the Colts, but there's little reason to think the Broncos will repeat that kind of performance again in Week 1. First games are generally sloppy, but the Broncos are simply the more healthy and more talented team at this point. For the Ravens to have a chance they must exploit the youth on Denver's offensive line and make Manning uncomfortable early and often. Kubiak has inside knowledge of the Ravens and will have a good plan to attack them. Whether or not Baltimore can move the ball on the ground could be what decides the game.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Ravens 14
Week 1 of the NFL season is finally here with the Detroit Lions starting the post-Ndamukong Suh era with a trip out west to visit the San Diego Chargers where they have not won in four meetings. Meanwhile, the Chargers are looking for a rare quick start in their attempt to make the playoffs for just the second time in the last six seasons.
Detroit at San Diego
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Chargers -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Second-year step
All offseason, Lions players have emphasized how much more comfortable they are being in the second year of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system. Progress was made with the number of turnovers seeing a drastic decrease, and a breakout season from Golden Tate, but far too often the offense became stagnant. Much of that was due to a porous offensive line that surrendered 45 sacks a season ago that resulted in the offseason moves to bring in a first-round guard in Laken Tomlinson and the disposal of long-time veterans Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims. With a rebooted line, key playmakers back at every skill position and another year of experience in the system, expectations are sky-high that this offense can rebound from a down season.
2. Rookie Running Backs
The last time Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah were on the same field together, we saw history. Gordon set the FBS single-game rushing record held by former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson with 408 yards and four touchdowns against Nebraska. Abdullah played second fiddle in the matchup of star backs, rushing for just 69 yards. Both were high selections in the NFL Draft with the idea that each would revitalize their respective team’s rushing attacks — Detroit finishing 28th and San Diego 30th in 2014. Gordon and Abdullah are likely to split carries in a rotation to start, but expect to see glimpses right off the bat of why both were so highly coveted coming out of college.
3. Key Players Out on Both Sides
Future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates will miss the first four games of the season after being suspended due to using a banned substance. Backup tight end Ladarius Green, who is listed as questionable for Sunday, is expected to start in Gates’ absence. Green practiced on Friday for the first time this week — a positive indication that he will be available.
For Detroit, three starters are expected to miss Sunday’s matchup: starting linebacker DeAndre Levy, reserve defensive tackle Caraun Reid and starting guard Larry Warford. Levy has not been officially listed as out, but Detroit’s leading tackler from a year ago has not practiced in nearly two weeks due to a lingering hip injury. The seventh-year linebacker is the Lions' best defender and the team’s top linebacker in coverage. The middle of the field will be a place the Chargers will look to exploit if Levy is out. That could mean a very big day for Danny Woodhead out of the backfield.
This one has all the makings of a shootout with two high-powered offenses playing in the pristine San Diego weather. After not playing in the preseason, All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson will finally take the field for the Lions and has a decided height advantage over both San Diego starting cornerbacks who both measure up at just 5-9. For the Chargers, quarterback Philip Rivers could have a field day throwing between the hashes with Detroit’s best coverage linebacker likely to out of the lineup. If the game comes down to which team makes enough stops, take Detroit and the league's second-ranked defense from a season ago.
Prediction: Lions 30, Chargers 27
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.
On opening weekend of the NFL's 2015 regular season, New Orleans travels to Arizona to face the Cardinals. Last season, the Saints could confidently score on any team and in bunches in most cases. In only four games did they score fewer than 20 points. Unfortunately, they had to do so in order to have any chance of winning. The defense fluctuated between mediocre and putrid for most of the season. The Black and Gold defense allowed 30 or more points in seven games; in 13 games, the opponent scored 20 or more points.
The Cardinals lead the series history between the franchises, 14-13. However, the Saints have a superior record versus the Cardinals in games played in Arizona, 4-3.
New Orleans at Arizona
Kickoff: 3:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Arizona -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Carson Palmer vs. Saints' defensive line
The Saints' front four will need to put consistent pressure on the Cardinals' quarterback. Only four of New Orleans' starters from Opening Day 2014 will do the same for this first game. Two of those returning starters, Akiem Hicks and Cam Jordan, are on the defensive line. With two rookies starting at linebacker, the big guys up front have to apply more pressure and disrupt Palmer's passing attempts. Fortunately for them, he is not a threat to run, especially after recovering from a torn ACL last season. The Saints' linemen cannot let Palmer stand in the pocket with enough time to pick apart the defensive backs.
2. Drew Brees and Sean Payton's symbiosis versus the novelty of Arizona's director of defense
Payton, the Saints' de facto offensive coordinator, and Brees, the keystone of the offense, have teamed for 86 wins, three divisional titles and a Super Bowl victory. The Cardinals' defensive coordinator, James Bettcher, is coaching in only his fourth year in the NFL. In that particular role, it is his first time at any level of football. At least all of Bettcher's defensive backs have at least two years of experience in the NFL.
3. Saints' revamped secondary vs. Cardinals vaunted wide receivers
The Cardinals have two former first-round draft picks as starting wide receivers. One of them, Larry Fitzgerald is perennially chosen for the Pro Bowl. Among the Saints' secondary, there is an injured starter on the sideline (Keenan Lewis) and another (Jairus Byrd) who has gone into hiding. In their place, the Saints will substitute Delvin Breaux, a former player in the Canadian Football League starting his first NFL game ever, and Rafael Bush, who served as an injured Byrd's replacement Byrd for more than half of last season. Can new Saint Brandon Browner's six years of experience, including two Super Bowl championships, bolster the overall lackluster level of skill and effort displayed by the defensive backs last season?
The Saints' potent offensive attack will test the Cardinals' stout defense, Brees has multiple skillful players as options to drive downfield and pile up points. The Saints also have a defense short on time playing as a unified squad and NFL experience in general. Viewers should expect a scoring fest that will go down to the final minute, if not into overtime.
Prediction: Cardinals 38, Saints 34
— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.
For the first time in a long time, fans are getting excited to watch the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football — even if it is against one another. It is amazing how drafting a first-round quarterback can re-energize an NFL franchise unlike any other sport on earth. Both the Titans and Bucs have drafted their quarterbacks of the future in Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, and both franchises are looking to take the first steps back towards relevance and out of the basement of their respective divisions.
The development of both Mariota and Winston are going to be the key storylines for both teams in 2015, and the first page of that story starts right here in Week 1.
Tennessee at Tampa Bay
Kickoff: 3:25 p.m.ET
Spread: Tampa Bay -3.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Winston and Mariota Debuts
The obvious storyline is the co-debut of the last two Heisman Trophy winners and this year’s No. 1 and No. 2 overall draft picks. Winston is more of a pro-style quarterback compared to Mariota, but he might not be as NFL-ready. Winston had an up-and-down camp and preseason. There is no doubting his arm ability, but the decision making is Winston’s biggest learning curve. Buccaneer coaches have been preaching “one day at a time” with Winston, but with a shaky-at-best offensive line and star wide receiver Mike Evans’ health in question, Winston may be forced to grow up faster than he is ready for.
Reports on Mariota this summer have been nothing but positive. The term “poised” has been thrown around a lot at Titans’ camp, as Mariota improved with every preseason game. Like Winston, protection up front could be an issue, but unlike Winston, Mariota will have his full complement of weapons available to him. Mariota will certainly have a learning curve as the season progresses, especially transitioning to a more pro-style offense, but surely the heady rookie can improve on the Titans’ dismal offensive numbers of 2014 in which they only scored 15.8 points per game and succeeded only 30.1 percent of the time on third down.
2. Improving Both Teams’ Defenses
Lovie Smith has been widely known in the NFL for a long time as a defensive mastermind. Last year that wasn’t the case, however, as the Bucs ranked 25th in yards allowed per game. The Bucs spent the offseason bringing in players familiar with Smith’s Tampa Cover 2 defense (CB Tim Jennings, DL Bruce Carter, LB Henry Melton), but did not add the edge pass rusher they desperately needed. While none of the new additions are going to be game-breakers, they should at least help the Bucs become a more respectable unit.
As bad as the Bucs’ defense was in 2014, the Titans’ might have been worse. Tennessee ranked 31st against the run last season, an issue the front office tried to address by adding LB Brian Orakpo and S Da’Norris Searcy, in addition to the return of LB Zach Brown. The Titans also added CB Parrish Cox to help a secondary that had its fair share of issues in 2014. But the biggest defensive addition is on the sideline in assistant head coach Dick LeBeau. LeBeau is a Hall of Fame coach and a defensive innovator who will be able to offer his unique blitz packages and add an edge to Titans unit that desperately needs one.
3. Coaches Feeling the Heat
Smith and Ken Whisenhunt are no strangers to the NFL hot seat. Both find themselves in similar situations at their current respective head coaching jobs. Both coaches enter their second season at the helm of their teams, both are coming off 2-14 showings, and both have their futures invested in rookie quarterbacks. Both Smith and Whisenhunt inherited teams that were in shambles and in desperate need of revamping, but last season’s failures have put pressure on both coaches in 2015 — rookie quarterbacks or not. Whisenhunt and the Titans appear to have a better chance of improving this season thanks to added depth on both sides of the ball and a weak AFC South. On the other hand, the Bucs don’t seem to be much improved from the 2014 debacle on offense or defense.
The difference between these two squads is small, but big enough that the Titans should win. Mariota has better stable of talent to spread the ball around to. Unless the Bucs can control the clock with RB Doug Martin on the ground, the Titans improved defense could prove to be a problem that the inexperienced Winston might not be able to handle.
Prediction: Titans 20, Buccaneers 10
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.
Heading into Week 1 of the NFL season, the injury report should be small, right? Hardly. Because of all of the injuries in the preseason, many players are carrying the Questionable tag as Week 1 approaches. While some injuries are straightforward and coaches are forthcoming with information, other teams and players are still question marks. Two wide receivers that most fantasy owners are following closely are Mike Evans and Alshon Jeffery. Both are listed as Questionable for Sunday's games and both may end up being a game-time decision. Fantasy owners know those are the most frustrating words anyone wants to hear, but let's take a look at the injured wideouts and breakdown what their outlook is for Week 1. Check here for the latest on the running back and tight end front.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Tennessee Titans
Questionable - Hamstring
This is going to be the toughest injury to handle. Evans did practice on Friday and the reports said he looked good and was able to run at full speed. He was given the Questionable tag and will likely be a game-time decision. The Bucs will probably allow him to warm up and see how his hamstring responds. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the Buccaneers play in the late round of games on Sunday, so a lineup decision will have to be made earlier in the day. Based on the practice reports, it seems like Evans will play, however, anything can change when he starts warming up for the game. Hopefully you have another receiver you can play from the later games in case he is ruled out. If he does play, don't hesitate to put him in your lineup as the upside outweighs the risk, but if you have to make a decision early in the day, the safest option is to leave him on your bench and hope he doesn't have a career day.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
Questionable - Calf
Jeffery suffered a calf injury in the middle of August. He had crutches and a walking boot, but only used them for a few days. He missed the key third preseason game, and put in limited practice sessions this past week. While the Bears did not offer any real injury updates on Jeffery, the word out of Chicago is that Jeffery will play. The concern with this is the possibility of re-injuring the calf during the game. The Bears will want to make sure he is as healthy as possible after losing rookie Kevin White. Look for Eddie Royal to have more targets while Jeffery returns to 100 percent.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Probable - Shoulder
Cobb hurt his shoulder in the preseason, but he is Probable for Week 1. While he won't be playing at 100 percent, as long as he doesn't land awkwardly on the shoulder, he should be fine for fantasy purposes. He's a clear WR1, as the top option for Aaron Rodgers, especially this week against division Chicago.
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints
Questionable - Hand
Floyd was given the Questionable tag heading into Week 1. He's put in limited practices this week, but the reports are indicating that he will end up playing on Sunday. However, Floyd's fantasy owners shouldn't be counting on a big game from the receiver that has missed a significant amount of practice in the preseason. John Brown has emerged as one of Carson Palmer's favorite targets. Floyd is a WR4 for Week 1.
DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins
Probable - Foot
The potential sleeper has been cleared to play, but don't be eager to get him in your lineups for Week 1. While Parker has been practicing and did play in the preseason finale, the Dolphins may not use him fully in Week 1. With Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings on the roster and healthy, Miami has no reason to rush Parker into full game action, especially against Washington. He is promising, but don't be too eager for Week 1.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Probable - Elbow
White is coming off elbow surgery, but has been practicing this past week, so should be good to play in Week 1. The Falcons play Monday night, but all signs point to him being active. While White is the No. 2 passing option for Atlanta, he is only a WR3 for fantasy purposes.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Out - Calf
After injuring his calf in practice, Cruz missed the last two preseason games. The Giants were optimistic he would play in Week 1, however, that was before he missed practice leading up to the Sunday night game. At this point, Cruz has been ruled Out for Week 1, and unless the Giants provide a timetable for his return, look for Rueben Randle to be the No. 2 receiver.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
As we head into the first football Sunday of the year, we need to look at players that are battling injuries already. Most of these players had injuries that forced them to miss some (or all) of the preseason, and they were hoping to play in Week 1. LeSean McCoy is the biggest name on this list, and the good news is that he should play in Week 1. Other running backs and some tight ends are facing Questionable tags, meaning their playing status is 50/50. Be sure to check your fantasy lineups to ensure that everyone that is starting for you is playing this weekend. Here are the latest updates to running backs and tight ends. Don't forget to check on the wide receiver injury update as well.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts
Probable - Hamstring
McCoy pulled his hamstring in the middle of August and has said all along that he would be ready for Week 1. He did practice in full Wednesday and Thursday this past week, so he will play in Week 1. However, he has admitted that he is not 100 percent. As long as he doesn't suffer a setback in the game, he will be a solid RB1.
C.J. Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals
Out - Knee
Spiller has been ruled Out for Week 1 as he recovers from his knee scope. It is possible he will be ready for Week 2, but fantasy owners will have to watch the practice reports this coming week to get a feel for his status. In the meantime, Mark Ingram will be the primary running back and Khiry Robinson will likely handle some of the passing downs. Ingram is a RB1, and Robinson is worth a flyer as a RB3 in PPR leagues.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Mon.)
Questionable - Hamstring
The Falcons play on Monday night, so lineup decisions are going to have to be made before any word is made officially on Freeman's status. He's been battling a hamstring injury for over a month now. Freeman did not play in the last preseason game, although had it been a regular season game, he likely would have played. Reports from practice this week revealed that the hamstring still isn't 100 percent. Freeman will likely play Monday night, but look for Tevin Coleman to have the majority of the carries. Between the late game and the possibility of a setback, avoid Freeman for fantasy.
Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks
Questionable - Hamstring
After pulling his hamstring in the third preseason game, Mason has not been practicing. Mason had a hamstring injury earlier in the summer and this was an aggravation that he still has not recovered from. With Todd Gurley already ruled out, the third running back on the roster is Benny Cunningham. The matchup against the Seahawks is going to be a tough one regardless of who plays, so it may be in the best interest of the Rams to hold Mason out until he fully heals. They are going to slowly ease Gurley in, but they also don't need to rush an injured Mason out on the field.
Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns at New York Jets
Probable - Hamstring/Concussion
While Johnson may end up being the starting running back for Cleveland, he's likely going to be eased into game action this weekend. He's been cleared to play, but the role he will have is still up in the air. Johnson is more of a pass catcher than Isaiah Crowell, so he should be in for passing downs. Unfortunately for the Browns, they are playing the Jets in Week 1, who had a stout run defense in 2014. The upside of Johnson is that he and Crowell are the two healthy running backs on the Browns roster. However, that's not a reason to start him unless you have to.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons (Mon.)
Questionable - Groin
As a reminder, the Eagles play on Monday night, so hopefully you have better options at tight end. While Ertz has been a trendy sleeper in the past, this preseason has been marred by groin surgery and the recovery from surgery. He will likely be a game-time decision for Monday's game, so don’t hold out for him.
Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers vs. Detroit Lions
Questionable - Concussion
With Antonio Gates already suspended for the first four games, it was Green's chance to earn a role in the offense. However, Green suffered a concussion in practice this week and is Questionable for Week 1. He did practice on Friday, but has not cleared through the concussion protocol. If he can be cleared, he will play and is a TE2. However, the Chargers play in the late games on Sunday as well, so if you have another tight end to plug in, use him. Don't look for the third tight end on the Chargers depth chart to fill in your roster. Find another option.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
After a game that could’ve done a tremendous amount of damage to Nebraska’s psyche in their loss to BYU, there were plenty of questions this week. Would Tommy Armstrong continue to look the part? Would the running game finally show up? Would the Huskers simply tank?
Here’s your rundown:
- Armstrong looked excellent again, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns, distributing the ball to six different receivers. The number of throws off of his back foot seems to be decreasing.
- Don’t let anyone tell you quarterbacks can’t block. Armstrong was throwing them effectively left and right to make room for his teammates.
- Not only did the running game return to Lincoln, but the back-by-committee system got tossed out the window. Terrell Newby toted the rock 28 times for 198 times and two touchdowns.
Perhaps what was most impressive about Newby’s day is that every carry looked like his first. He appeared very fresh.
- Looking at the offensive line, there were positives and negatives as the left side looked to slack off yet again. For whatever reason, senior Alex Lewis doesn’t engage for the entirety of plays.
I’m not sure if he’s actually injured or just lazy. Either way, if he doesn’t shore his play up, someone on offense is going to get hurt.
- The defensive line played well despite Jack Gangwish being on the sideline. I was very impressed with Freedom Akinmoladun. I’m not ready to call him No. 95’s full-time replacement just yet, but his work next week in Miami should tell us a lot.
- Not having Josh Banderas or Dedrick Young available at linebacker made for an interesting storyline going into the game. That said, Michael Rose-Ivey came to play while Luke Gifford and Chris Weber were serviceable. Against South Alabama, serviceable was enough.
- The question’s officially out there: Should Daniel Davie have his Blackshirt yanked? He was beaten repeatedly on long fade routes, had to get penalty calls from being burned and essentially gave up a touchdown until a South Alabama penalty brought it back.
This is a deep secondary and we saw Chris Jones step up and take his place. It’s safe to say that whoever manages to cover a deep fade well likely has the inside track to wear the Black at corner opposite Jonathan Rose.
- Not only did Drew Brown nail two field goals, one was a 42-yarder. That ain’t bad.
- If Nebraska can keep the need for punts down to three per game, things should be fine. Otherwise, get well soon, Sam Foltz.
Bottom Line: a great rebound that shows Mike Riley can run a balanced system. Defensively, there were errors (specifically Davie, but he’s been raked over the coals enough).
However, considering two starting linebackers were out and Nebraska ended up with a positive turnover margin, that’s an overall victory.
Don’t worry about Miami for now, Huskers. Just enjoy a very satisfying win.
Oklahoma staged a furious second-half rally against Tennessee on Saturday, as the Sooners defeated the Volunteers 31-24 in Knoxville. But the on-field action wasn't the only part of Saturday's game that was noteworthy.
Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker is one of the Sooners’ top defenders and attracted plenty of interest from Tennessee and coach Butch Jones for his comments about the SEC earlier in the week. The Volunteers reportedly used those comments as motivation.
Considering how Saturday night’s game ended (overtime) and the second-half comeback, there was plenty of celebrating on the Sooners’ part. And needless to say, Jones had a few choice words for Striker (as Oklahoma was celebrating on the field) after the game:
Eric Striker said Butch Jones approached him during the post game celebration and said, "You're a helluva player, but have some damn class."— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) September 13, 2015
Striker said he thinks Jones' comments were about his postgame celebrating, not his comments earlier this week— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) September 13, 2015
More context from Eric Striker's comments about what Butch Jones said to him postgame. pic.twitter.com/0FYfMBhg4p— Nate Hodges (@FOXSportsNate) September 13, 2015
Penalties or mental errors drive coaches crazy. On Saturday night, Florida coach Jim McElwain exploded on Kelvin Taylor after he was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a throat-slash gesture against East Carolina.
Here’s McElwain’s reaction on the sidelines after the penalty:
HE MAD pic.twitter.com/c27VIOhPKs— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 13, 2015
Southern Mississippi is in the middle of a rebuilding effort under third-year coach Todd Monken. However, Monken made it clear after Saturday’s win over Austin Peay: He is not happy with the fanbase.
As expected, the Golden Eagles had an easy win over Austin Peay, but the program only drew around 23,000 in attendance.
After the game, Monken went on a rant to let fans he was not happy with the attendance:
Todd Monken quite displeased with 23K turnout for today's 52-6 win over Austin Peay. pic.twitter.com/apnoibjRTa— Jason Munz (@munzly) September 12, 2015
Earlier this week Bret Bielema, for reasons still unknown, talked about Ohio State's somewhat easy schedule. The Arkansas coach then compared it to the difficult schedule of his team who will face eight ranked opponents this season.
After Arkansas' 16-12 loss to Toledo, who is not ranked by the way, Twitter emptied those drafted tweets to lay into Bielema.
And that's why you should worry about your own damn sched and stop crying about someone else's— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) September 12, 2015
Bielema talking bad about the Bucks schedule,then losing to an unranked school from Ohio is the most karma thing ever pic.twitter.com/xQE7ErZhrs— Buckeye Humor (@BuckeyeHumor) September 12, 2015
Hey Bret Bielema remember when you knocked Ohio State's schedule strength and then turned around and lost to Toledo?? pic.twitter.com/PHsTKjQRwD— Ian Tumey (@Ian_Tumey) September 12, 2015
After complaining about OSU's SOS earlier this week, Bret Bielema's Arkansas Razorbacks lost to Toledo (yes, that Toledo) today, 16-12.— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) September 12, 2015
We all knew those words would come back to Bielema with a vengeance, we just didn't think it would be this soon.