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It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2017, Athlon asked coaches in the American Athletic Conference to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: American Athletic Conference 2017 Predictions

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

American Athletic Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

Cincinnati

 

“Tommy Tuberville never really fit the Ohio culture, so that played a big part with [Luke] Fickell. They’re already recruiting better in Southern Ohio because of it.”

 

“The roster is in pretty good shape, they just didn’t really have an identity on offense last year. They looked they were trying to do too much on film and the Gunner Kiel experiment went bust.”

 

“So many coaches have proven you can win there, Fickell will too, but maybe he sticks around and wins for a while if they get the local support Brian Kelly had going.”

 

UConn

 

“Everyone saying Randy Edsall is plug and play for UConn to go back to winning seasons but a lot has changed since he was there. He’s an upgrade over Bob Diaco, no one argues that.”

 

“They’ll score touchdowns because Diaco isn’t there. But this is a conference with a core group of teams really striving to be as good or better than a lot of Power 5 teams.

 

“UConn is going to be solid again but they have a lot of ground to make up with our without Edsall."

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

 

East Carolina

 

“They need to clean up a lot on both sides of the ball.”

 

“They turn the ball over a lot, it was easy to rattle them last season.”

 

“This is the year you start really looking at what Scottie Montgomery can do, because the roster wasn’t great when he got there. They lose their quarterback and they’re going to overhaul their defensive scheme. I think they’re still working out what they want to do while a lot of their competitors are already building past them."

 

Houston

 

“Ed Oliver isn’t gone. Those skill position guys aren’t gone. Everyone’s talking about Houston being easier or less effective because Tom Herman left for Texas, but he’s leaving them stocked, the same Tony Levine did for his staff.”

 

“Major Applewhite won’t miss a beat with those guys, even restocking the offense.”

 

“Kyle Allen will be better than Greg Ward.”

 

“It’s a program that tells you to win 10 games or else. You don’t see many of those at this level. They operate like a Power 5 team.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Breakout Quarterbacks for 2017

 

Memphis

 

“If there’s a sleeper program in this conference I think these guys are it.”

 

“Riley Ferguson in that offense will be really good.”

 

“The recruiting didn’t fall off from Justin Fuente to Mike Norvell. You can find the guys in the local radius same as you can in the Texas and Florida schools.”

 

“They replace some guys on defense and that might keep them from being one of the conference’s elite. But imagine if this school wakes up and decides to be a consistent football program. That’s scary.”

 

Navy

 

“You can probably say the same thing every season about these guys now. They’ll run your ass off and beat you up, and you’re a bad break on scheduling from losing to these guys. Ask Houston. How does that happen to Houston? Where is Navy better one on one? They work up to the talent level they face. I know they lost to Army but conference play is a different type of game, and they were on a third string quarterback.

 

“You don’t know a name on their roster but they’re the last team you want a play on a short week or after a road trip.”

 

Related: American Athletic Conference 2017 Predictions

 

SMU

 

“Chad Morris is a QB away from a breakout season.”

 

“The wide receiver group is good, the line is good. You put a competent QB in there and they’ll light you up.”

 

“He’s really built out that program with his Texas connections. He looked silly running his offense with virtually no talent in that first season but he could see the long play, now they’re starting to turn heads recruiting. This year is ‘next year’ for that roster.”

 

Temple

 

“Geoff Collins is a very close friend to Matt Rhule, who filled him in on exactly how you work at a place like Temple.”

 

“Rhule proved it’s possible to win there but you have a lot working against you.”

 

“Collins is a great defensive guy who can adjust schemes so he’ll probably find something that fits for them. Perception will still be that Rhule was a unique case until Collins can win a division title at least.”

 

Tulane

 

“Probably another long year for them but they’ll be better in conference play, at least on offense.”

 

“That offense is great at providing matchup problems if you’re not disciplined and smart with your front seven. It’s like an option but they do some zone stuff that throws you off and evens the talent gap.”

 

“[Willie] Fritz is a good coach but the staff is going to have to find a way to recruit better athletes to a Stanford/Northwestern type school in Louisiana. That’s damn hard."

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

Tulsa

 

“Philip Montgomery has turned them into a Baylor style attack and they’re expanding on the concepts more than any other ex-Briles guy is right now.”

 

“This is the most important position battle to watch in the AAC because if they find the right guy to replace Dane Evans they’re good to compete for the conference title again this year.”

 

“Their liability is still on defense, which is what separates them from the Group of 5 schools who get national attention.”

 

UCF  

 

“A team that got better on film week by week last season. You saw a much more disciplined group by November.”

 

“Scott Frost is recruiting the hell out of that state and has a head start on the other first-year guys at the directionals.”

 

“They’ll be back at the top of the conference very soon and could challenge this season if they identify a quarterback early in the offseason.”

 

Related: American Athletic Conference 2017 Predictions

 

USF

 

“Quinton Flowers is probably the best player in the conference. He could really explode in the offense. Charlie [Strong] had his [Terry] Bridgewater at Louisville and he [Bridgewater] is friends with Flowers. Sterlin Gilbert can make that work really well.”

 

“If Charlie can get a few things sorted out on defense he could have a conference title in his first year.”

 

“They have real athletes in that program, and they can get them, but the school has to step up and look at UCF’s level of commitment.”

 

Teaser:
American Athletic Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017
Post date: Monday, August 7, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Falcons, NFC, NFC South, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/atlanta-falcons-2017-team-preview-and-prediction
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What if you had told quarterback Matt Ryan, head coach Dan Quinn and owner Arthur Blank that the second year of Atlanta’s Seattle-inspired “Brotherhood” rebuild would net an MVP award for Ryan, record-setting stats for Kyle Shanahan’s explosive offense, a division title and two playoff wins? What if you told them that Devonta Freeman would emerge as an elite running back and assumed draft bust Vic Beasley would lead the NFL in sacks?

 

If you stop the story on Feb. 4, 2017, this year’s Falcons are without a doubt one of the hottest teams in the NFL come September. The problem is: 28-3.

 

Atlanta suffered the biggest blown lead in Super Bowl history to the New England Patriots, an unforgettable collapse. Shanahan, feted as a genius during an 11-5 regular season, became the Super Bowl scapegoat when Atlanta couldn’t run out the clock in the fourth quarter. He’s gone, and how well former USC head coach and brief Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian replaces him is more important than any on-field position battle.

 

The blown lead will live forever in sports. What the Falcons do to combat that psychology in 2017 will determine their future more than any single play call or draft pick. 

 

Buy Athlon Sports' 2017 NFL Preview Magazine

 

OFFENSE

Sarkisian steps into a rare situation: The new coordinator has absolutely nothing to fix in the Falcons’ offense. Atlanta finished 2016 first in points scored, offensive touchdowns, points per drive and total offensive DVOA at Football Outsiders.

 

The Coaches
Head Coach Dan Quinn
Record With Team 19-13
Career Record 19-13
Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers Raheem Morris
Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian
Defensive Coordinator Marquand Manuel
Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
Quarterbacks Bush Hamdan
Running Backs Keith Carter
Tight Ends Wade Harman
Offensive Line Chris Morgan
Defensive Line Bryant Young
Linebackers Jeff Ulbrich
Defensive Backs Doug Mallory

After Sarkisian’s hire, the team’s messaging stressed that Atlanta wouldn’t overhaul anything — the zone-blocking scheme, the passing attack that earned Ryan the league MVP award, or the “relentless attack” mindset that ultimately cost them a title.

 

The argument surrounding Ryan’s “eliteness” ended in 2016. The veteran was both statistically impressive (4,944 yards, 38 TDs, seven INTs) and a commanding force in two playoff wins. Sarkisian’s play-calling tendencies in the college game promoted play-action and no huddle, which jibes with the aspects of Shanahan’s system that elevated Ryan’s game. Ryan hasn’t missed a start since the 2009 season, but Atlanta extended the agreement of backup Matt Schaub, the most reliable No. 2 option the Falcons have had in years.

 

Freeman was the breakout star of Atlanta’s offense last season. Julio Jones is arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver if not its most physically impressive. Perhaps more important for Jones (and Ryan) was that the big free-agency price paid for Mohamed Sanu was worth it (59 catches on 81 targets). Jones and Sanu thrived when Ryan consistently hit supporting targets (Freeman, tight end Austin Hooper and breakout sensation Taylor Gabriel), forcing defenses to avoid bracket and double coverage.

 

Sarkisian’s burden will be to continue to spread out targets in his play calls as well as Shanahan did. Sanu and Jones are known quantities, but Gabriel, Hooper, Justin Hardy and re-signed tight end Levine Toilolo have to prove they weren’t merely system successes.

 

Of all the gaudy stats during the Super Bowl run, the most important might’ve been that Atlanta was the only team in the NFL to have all five offensive linemen start in all 16 regular season games. That’s seemingly unlikely to happen again in 2017. Right guard Chris Chester retired, and depth in the interior could be an issue as the year wears on. 

 

DEFENSE

Quinn fired defensive coordinator Richard Smith and promoted Marquand Manuel after the Super Bowl collapse.

 

Nowhere has the Quinn era created more change than in the front seven. Atlanta again shed old bodies during the offseason and again drafted with a focus on defensive speed and versatility. First-round pick Takkarist McKinley will become a pass-rushing complement to Vic Beasley, who led the league in sacks (15.5) last season. Run stuffer Dontari Poe was a literally massive signing in free agency. The emergence of rookie tackle Grady Jarrett was a surprise in ’16.

 

The Falcons must continue to develop a pass rush beyond Beasley and contend with a division that’s spent 2017 trying to balance its elite quarterbacks with big runners (Adrian Peterson to New Orleans, Christian McCaffery to Carolina). McKinley will almost certainly start if veteran Dwight Freeney doesn’t re-sign late in the offseason.

 

The Atlanta linebacker corps was most in need of Seattle-ization three years ago, and the project continues. Gone are workmanlike Paul Worrilow and the oft-injured Sean Weatherspoon. Deion Jones became a breakout playmaker as a rookie, and he and fellow 2016 rookie De’Vondre Campbell will anchor a much faster, more versatile unit than anything the Falcons have fielded in the Ryan era. Campbell and Jones were exposed at times last season transitioning from run to pass. Now they’ll be joined by Kemal Ishmael, moving to linebacker from safety. In the variety of packages Quinn’s system employs, Ishmael could become an ideal tweener in the open field.

 

Desmond Trufant signed a $68.75 million contract extension in April, and before a Week 9 pectoral injury sidelined him for the season, the 2013 first-round pick was emerging as one of the NFL’s best shutdown corners. The hope was that Jalen Collins would flourish as a complementary corner, but he is suspended the first 10 games of the season due to another violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Keanu Neal, a 2016 first-round pick, emerged as a huge hitter, living up to comparisons to Earl Thomas and embodying Quinn’s Seattle ethos. Brian Poole was an undrafted free agent who became a starter at nickel back, where he’ll likely stay and compete with converted receiver C.J. Goodwin.

 

The Falcons’ fourth quarter vs. New England was a snapshot of what this very young defense must improve upon — depth and disruption. Another year has allowed Quinn to stock personnel better suited to his signature Cover 3, but the Falcons lived and ultimately died by the variety of pressures they could create up front. The Super Bowl Seahawks are still the blueprint, and Quinn is a little bit closer to replicating that personnel.

 

SPECIALISTS

For the second consecutive season, the Falcons will have to find a new return specialist after losing Eric Weems to the Titans in free agency. Weems handled every punt and most kick returns last season, replacing the ageless Devin Hester. The Falcons have a few existing options in second-year wideout Devin Fuller and receiver Justin Hardy, but they also signed receiver Andre Roberts to a one-year deal. Roberts was a rotation player in Detroit’s offense but mainly saw work on special teams, scoring two touchdowns on 20 punt returns and gaining 747 yards on 33 kickoff returns, good for fourth best in the league. Roberts will likely take over both kicks and punts with Hardy as a second option.

 

The 42-year-old Matt Bryant is as automatic of a placekicker as a pro franchise can ask for. A 58-yard miss in a loss to San Diego may have cost the team a win, but Bryant seems impervious to age. He finished 2016 by connecting on 91.9 percent of his field goals, and he was 6-of-8 on attempts of 50 or more yards. Punter Matt Bosher notched a career-best 41.6-yard net average in 2016.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS

Had an overachieving offense and very young defense not made it to Houston in Quinn’s second season, 2017’s narrative would be a total positive: the league’s best offense and an improving, aggressive defense set to open a billion-dollar stadium with an engaging, explosive brand of football. Instead, Atlanta flew too close to the sun, and its flaws were exposed in the most noticeable manner possible. Now Quinn has to assume that Shanahan’s record-setting offense will logically regress to some degree, and to compensate, the defense will have improve its consistency.

 

If the Falcons can move past February’s devastation, they’ll discover they’re still in the hunt for a Super Bowl win. If they make it back to the final Sunday, it will almost certainly happen thanks to a slightly less explosive offense and a considerably improved defense.

 

Prediction: 1st in NFC South

Teaser:
Atlanta Falcons 2017 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, August 6, 2017 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Miami Dolphins, syndicated, NFL, News, Magazines
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-2017-team-preview-and-prediction
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Long-time Miami fans know all about one-year NFL wonders — those teams that overachieve one season only to fall back the next. That’s because the 2008 Dolphins fall in that category, plummeting from an 11–5 record and playoff appearance that year into a seven-season playoff drought that finally ended last season.

 

There is legitimate reason to believe the 2017 Dolphins can avoid the same fate thanks to the culture built by second-year head coach Adam Gase and a front office that has assembled Miami’s most talented roster since the days of perennial postseason contention. However, one player the team will likely be without this season is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who re-injured his knee early in training camp.

 

The Dolphins hope that continuity elsewhere is the key to success. Miami retained its two priority free agents in wide receiver Kenny Stills and defensive end Andre Branch. Defensive end Cameron Wake, linebacker Kiko Alonso and safety Reshad Jones all earned lucrative contract extensions. Miami added projected starters at middle linebacker (Lawrence Timmons), tight end (Julius Thomas), left guard (Ted Larsen) and safety (Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald) via trade and free agency. The draft yielded immediate contributors as well. The key now is whether all this can help Miami push New England for the AFC East crown.

 

Buy the 2016 Athlon Sports NFL Preview Magazine

 

Offense

When quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s season ended in Week 14, Miami’s hopes for a deep playoff run were dashed as well. After a rough start partially caused by growing pains in Gase’s system, Tannehill rebounded to enjoy the best season of his career. Tannehill’s biggest improvement came on the deep ball. He tied for the NFL lead with seven completions of 50-plus yards, and his 7.7 yards-per-completion average was a personal best.

 

The Coaches
Head Coach  Adam Gase
Record With Team  10-6
Career Record  10-6
Offensive Coordinator  Clyde Christiansen
Defensive Coordinator  Matt Burke
Asst. Head Coach/Special Teams Coord.  Darren Rizzi
Asst. Head Coach/Linebackers  Frank Bush
Quarterbacks  Bo Hardegree
Running Backs  Danny Barrett
Wide Receivers  Shawn Jefferson
Tight Ends  Shane Day
Offensive Line  Chris Foerster
Defensive Line  Terrell Williams
Defensive Backs  Lou Anarumo

The Dolphins and Tannehill opted against surgery on his partially torn ACL under the belief that rehabilitation and strengthening the muscles around his knee could prevent further damage. But Tannehill reinjured the knee early in training camp and is likely done for the season. Instead of opting for backup Matt Moore, Gase reached out to Jay Cutler, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal on Aug. 6 to delay his broadcasting career and take Tannehill’s place as Miami’s starting quarterback. Gase was Cutler’s offensive coordinator in 2015 when both were with the Bears.

 

As for the rest of the offense, Gase pushed heavily behind the scenes for Dolphins management to re-sign Stills. Those words carried heavy weight. Stills caught a career-high nine touchdown passes and averaged 17.3 yards per reception, which ranked third in the league. Jarvis Landry should be the next Dolphins wideout to cash in. Heading into a contract year, Landry remains the primary target. He was among the league leaders in third-down grabs while becoming the sixth receiver in Dolphins history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Miami is counting on DeVante Parker to make more of an impact entering his third NFL season. If he doesn’t, the Dolphins may pass on exercising the fifth-year option in his rookie contract.

 

At tight end, Thomas should provide a boost in the passing game provided he avoids the injury problems that made him a high-priced free-agent bust in Jacksonville. Anthony Fasano, who played in Miami from 2008-12, returns primarily as a blocker with Dion Sims having left for Chicago.

 

The running game progressed from a concern in the preseason to a strength by the end of the year. Jay Ajayi, who was left at home for the Week 1 opener because of a bad attitude, changed his tune and quickly surpassed Arian Foster as Miami’s lead back. Ajayi finished with 1,272 yards. The next step for Ajayi is consistency. He finished with 79 or fewer yards in 12 games, including Miami’s first-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

 

Ajayi should benefit from what the Dolphins believe will be an improved offensive line. Miami could have stuck with Branden Albert at left tackle but instead traded him to Jacksonville under the belief 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil is ready to man the spot. To his credit, Tunsil has avoided the off-field problems that caused him to slide from being a potential top-five pick to No. 13 in his draft class. The Dolphins hope a stem-cell procedure on Mike Pouncey’s hip can help keep their oft-injured center on the field. Although one of the league’s most talented players at his position, Pouncey has missed 19 games the past four seasons, and his days with the Dolphins are numbered if he can’t stay healthy. Larsen (left) and Jermon Bushrod (right) are expected to man the guard spots, but both could have competition from 2017 fifth-round pick Isaac Asiata. The Dolphins picked up the fifth-year option on right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who appears primed for a breakthrough.

 

Defense

Some of Miami’s defensive struggles in 2016 — the Dolphins ranked 29th in yards allowed and were gouged for an average of 140.4 rushing yards per game — came from personnel deficiencies in the back seven and growing pains adjusting to a Wide-Nine scheme. The Dolphins are hopeful new coordinator Matt Burke, who was promoted from linebackers coach after Vance Joseph left to become Denver’s head coach, can maintain continuity while adding his own wrinkles to the attack. The Dolphins also have given Burke better pieces to work with than Joseph had. Timmons’ signing means Alonso can shift from middle to weak-side linebacker, where he could make an even bigger impact. Finally overcoming the injuries that ruined his previous two NFL seasons, Alonso led Dolphins in tackles (115) and spearheaded a seven-game stretch in which Miami forced 19 turnovers. The Dolphins expect Koa Misi to rebound from a neck injury to man the strong-side linebacker spot, although he could face a challenge for that starting role from 2017 second-round pick Raekwon McMillian.

 

The Wide-Nine did bring out the best in Wake and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Wake recovered from a torn Achilles tendon and dispelled the early season notion among Dolphins coaches that he should be a role player in his mid-30s, notching 10.5 of his 11.5 sacks after returning to the starting lineup in Week 6. On the opposite side, the mistake of overpaying for end Mario Williams was mitigated by the emergence of Branch, who had 5.5 sacks. Charles Harris, the team’s 2017 first-round pick, will quickly be worked into the pass-rush rotation. One year after Miami made him the highest-paid defensive tackle in NFL history, Suh finally started to show why thanks to a change in scheme that allowed him to play more aggressively rather than read and react. Suh’s 72 tackles ranked third among all interior linemen. The Dolphins now want upgraded play next to him. 


Miami’s starting cornerbacks are a far cry from the days of Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain, but Byron Maxwell did pick up his game considerably after an early season benching. Maxwell led all NFL cornerbacks with four forced fumbles. Xavien Howard showed promise as a rookie with the steady Tony Lippett playing in nickel situations. Jones was enjoying a brilliant season at strong safety before getting hurt in Week 6 and landing on injured reserve. He will likely play alongside Allen until at least midseason, which is when newcomer McDonald’s drug suspension ends.

 

Specialists

Andrew Franks must improve his 76.2 field goal percentage, but the second-year kicker came through in the clutch last December with game-winners against Arizona and Buffalo. Matt Darr ranks among the NFL’s best young punters despite a 3.3-yard dip in net average last season. The coverage units led by safety Michael Thomas are sound, while the return game should continue receiving a lift from Landry and 2016 draft picks Kenyan Drake and Jakeem Grant.

 

Final Analysis

During an offseason trip to London, Landry boldly proclaimed Miami would sweep the Patriots in 2017. Doing so for the first time since 2000 might be the only way the Dolphins can end New England’s quest for a ninth straight division crown. A second straight wild-card berth is a more realistic expectation, but only if Cutler can make a smooth transition wtih his new team.

 

Prediction: 2nd AFC East

Teaser:
Miami Dolphins 2017 Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, August 6, 2017 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/i-love-new-york-355-glen-preview-fantasy-nascar-predictions-2017
Body:

In a season full of unpredictable winners, NASCAR’s race in Watkins Glen this weekend offers perhaps one last chance for a Cinderella. With five regular season races left on the schedule, this winding road course has a history of surprise endings, late-race contact, and pit strategy dictating the outcome.

 

No wonder why it’s a race where attendance is rarely a problem. Sellout crowds the last two seasons have seen Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin earn their first road course victories. Before that, surprises like AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, and Juan Pablo Montoya slipped through for their lone highlight in otherwise invisible seasons.

 

As the playoff pressure heats up, men like Allmendinger know that Sunday provides their last, best chance to make the postseason. Meanwhile, Logano has seen his year go off the rails, an encumbered win at Richmond in April putting a potentially fatal knife into championship potential. With making the postseason on points near impossible, can he drum up the magic that got him to Watkins Glen Victory Lane two short years ago?

 

There are other strong road course drivers who could use the “win and you’re in” lock the playoffs provide. Clint Bowyer has won at Sonoma in the past and has put together a quiet, consistent season with Stewart-Haas Racing. Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth, while never winning on a road course have shown great improvement at right-turn racing here as of late. And who can ever forget the looming presence of Dale Earnhardt Jr.? As Twitter might say, “It’s the final chance to see Dale Jr. run a road course in his full-time Cup career. Let that sink in.”

 

(Earnhardt has never won at a road course in a Cup car).

 

Bottom line is this unpredictability makes the Glen one of the can’t-miss races every season. That mix of driver diversity, quality competition, and pit strategy keeping the “boring” parts interesting is a formula the sport wishes it could replicate too many other places in the Cup Series these days.

 

I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen

 

Time: 3 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: Watkins Glen International (Watkins Glen, NY)

TV: NBCSN

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Joe Gibbs Racing

After an ugly start to the season, Toyota’s top outfit is heating up. JGR chassis took six of the top nine spots at Pocono Raceway in a race dominated by Kyle Busch. Busch finally cashed in on a season of near misses, winning his first race of the year and first ever at Pocono. That finally validates his 1,114 laps led, second on the Cup circuit to Martin Truex Jr.

 

But the strength of JGR runs deeper than Busch and the satellite team of Truex, rookie Erik Jones and Furniture Row Racing. Daniel Suarez now has seven top-10 finishes, leading all freshmen and is the top candidate for Rookie of the Year. Matt Kenseth, while still winless, looks poised to lead the No. 20 Toyota into the playoffs and Denny Hamlin has five finishes of fourth or better in the past seven races. They’re peaking at the right time.

 

Who’s at the Back: Kyle Larson

Through the first 15 races this season, Larson had just one finish outside the top 25. Over the past six weeks? He’s got four. No wonder why Truex took back the points lead and is pulling away. A disappointing 33rd at Pocono after mechanical issues was the latest in a long string of setbacks for this Chip Ganassi Racing driver. Sure, there’s two runner-up finishes in here but in those races, Larson led a grand total of just one lap. There have been two DNFs for wrecks, at Daytona and Indianapolis, and more problems with NASCAR inspection which can’t help but catch up to the No. 42 team over time.

 

News Briefs

 

Is Kurt Busch a free agent or not? Reports this week detailed that Stewart-Haas Racing is not picking up their option on Busch for the 2018 season. That would make the former Cup champion a free agent in what’s become a crazy game of driver musical chairs in this garage. But after those reports went viral, SHR sent out a tweet saying they expect Busch to still be in their car for the 2018 season. The future of Monster Energy as the primary sponsor for the program remains uncertain as well. Busch, who won the Daytona 500 in February, has had a difficult season since in which the No. 41 Ford has led only six laps all year.

 

Small team BK Racing and Gray Gaulding were in the news this week with a special report that detailed their contract dispute. BK claims Gaulding, despite being their driver, owes them $1.36 million due to a deal Gaulding’s company, GGR Enterprises, had to bring the team sponsorship. Owner Ron Devine’s nickname “Gauldashian” went viral while other, more negative storylines surrounded the team started circling. A report by NBC Sports later in the week claimed a tax lien had been filed on BK Racing which muddied the financial waters of the organization even more.

 

Tragedy struck NASCAR nation this week when former Cup Series owner Harry Scott died at the age of 51. Scott’s teams made 189 starts at the sport’s top level, posting four top-10 finishes and hosted Clint Bowyer last season before his move over to Stewart-Haas Racing. Scott suspended operations following the 2016 season.

 

NASCAR by the Numbers

 

223

The most laps led by anyone (Matt Kenseth) this season without cashing in on Victory Lane.

 

8.0

Average start for Jamie McMurray this season, by far the best of his career. While McMurray hasn’t won a pole, those qualifying efforts have translated into 11 top-10 finishes, on pace for his highest total in that category since 2004.

 

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

Top Tier

 

There aren’t many “must starts” in road course racing these days. Veterans like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Marcos Ambrose have either retired or moved on to other forms of racing. That’s what makes Kyle Busch all the more important for your roster. Busch, who has four career road course victories, has 10 top-10 finishes and two wins in 12 career Watkins Glen starts. It’s an astounding top-10 ratio of 83.3 percent with a large enough sample size that ensures last week’s winner is a sure bet to contend.

 

Looking for a dark horse? Don’t stray far from Joey Logano (still top tier in some leagues despite a difficult season). Logano needs that victory to make the playoffs and his last four starts at the Glen have produced an average finish of 4.0.

 

Related: DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks for I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen

 

Middle Tier

 

Jamie McMurray has quietly become much better at road racing. He was eighth at the Glen last year, much better than his average finish of 19.7 there, and then was 10th at Sonoma back in June. While issues at Pocono last week brought him closer to the playoff bubble on points than he’d like to be, expect the No. 1 Chevy team to fight back strong over the course of this weekend.

 

Don’t sleep on Matt Kenseth either. His career road course woes could make him a cheap price in certain DraftKings or salary leagues. But Kenseth was 10th at Watkins Glen last year, has the support of JGR road course experts around him, and is feeling that final push to make the postseason.

 

Underdog Tier

 

It’s now or never to start AJ Allmendinger despite his boom-or-bust history at the Glen. The 2014 winner of this race has run 24th and fourth since; aggression could make him a little risky. But overall, an average finish of 9.4 in eight career starts make you feel like he’ll recover just enough for your team if he swings and misses on a win.

 

Meanwhile, how about Michael McDowell? Like the little engine that could, his underfunded single-car effort has pulled together four top-20 finishes in six races. He’s run 20th and 17th at the Glen the last two years and the Leavine Family Racing team has learned to make the best of what they have.

 

What Vegas Thinks

Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch have 4/1 odds to win Sunday’s race. Brad Keselowski is next up at 8/1.

 

What I Think

In a season full of surprises, I’m going to go way off the grid. Jamie McMurray, using track position and late-race pit strategy, shocks NASCAR Nation and picks up a first career road course win.

 

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

Teaser:
I Love New York 355 at The Glen Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
Post date: Saturday, August 5, 2017 - 12:30
Path: /nascar/draftkings-nascar-lineup-picks-i-love-new-york-355-2017
Body:

The DraftKings daily fantasy NASCAR game goes road racing in New York this weekend as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen International for the I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at the Glen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.

 

Cars hit the track Saturday morning for first practice. After that, Watkins Glen marks the second weekend where Cup Series qualifying will be held on race day. Drivers battle for the Coors Light Pole Award at 12:05 p.m. Sunday before coverage shifts to the race on NBCSN.

 

Here are eight drivers to look out for during the upcoming race weekend as you set your DraftKings lineup, courtesy of Frontstretch.com's Corey Brewer.

 

ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up

 

Kyle Busch ($10,300)

Watkins Glen: 12 starts, two wins, five top fives (41.7 percent), 10 top 10s (83.3 percent)

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 10.1

 

Busch is officially locked into the playoffs following his first win of the season at Pocono last weekend. He was head and shoulders above the rest of the field in car performance; everyone else really wasn’t close.

 

Busch’s average running position of 11.2 at The Glen leads all active drivers while his average finish of 10.1 is second best. Busch has finished inside the top 10 in 10 of his 12 career starts at the track. That’s the best percentage out of all Cup drivers. He also has the series' fastest average green-flag speed and the most quality passes. With four career road course wins, Busch stands out with a slight edge over a NASCAR grid that has more parity on road courses than ever.

 

Kurt Busch ($9,600)

Watkins Glen: 16 starts, three top fives (18.8 percent), seven top 10s (43.8 percent)

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 17.3

 

Busch has not had the greatest season. Other than his Daytona 500 win, he is on pace to set career lows in top-five and top-10 finishes. The DraftKings price is still pretty high, which means that we will need a good qualifying outcome in order to start him.

 

But the elder Busch's success at Watkins Glen should not be overlooked. He has the third-most fastest laps run at this road course, which shows that he can muscle his way around the track better than most drivers. He also sits right behind his brother in quality passes.

 

Busch has four straight finishes of 11th or better at Watkins Glen, dating back to his season with Furniture Row Racing. If Busch practices within the top 10, qualifying mid-pack, he will deserve a look.

 

Clint Bowyer ($9,500)

Watkins Glen: 11 starts, one top five (9.1% percent), four top 10s (36.4 percent)

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 15.1

 

Bowyer is on the outside looking in at the final playoff spot. He is 10th in series points, but due to the number of different winners throughout the season, he has been bumped outside the top 16. That's despite another solid top-10 finish last weekend at Pocono, a track where Bowyer also picked up the stage two win.

 

The Kansas native has three top-10 finishes in his last five races at Watkins Glen while an average finish of 15.1 ranks 10th best in the series. He also finished second at Sonoma earlier this year, the only other road course on the schedule. With the playoff window rapidly closing, expect aggressive strategy from Bowyer both on the track and in the pits.

 

ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,400

 

Kyle Larson ($9,000)

Watkins Glen: Three starts, one top five, one top 10

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 15.0

 

Larson’s average finish of 15.0 at Watkins Glen is skewed by his 29th-place result last season. Larson was battling for a top-five finish with AJ Allmendinger heading to the checkered flag before Allmendinger dumped him around the final corner. What was going to be a great finish quickly devolved into a career worst.

 

In his debut at The Glen, Larson started 23rd and finished fourth. The next season, he ran a respectable 12th. Larson has 172 laps run inside the top 15 at Watkins Glen, which is the sixth-most total in the series among active drivers.

 

Long locked into the playoffs, Larson has fallen off the past few weeks. But the No. 42 team has great bounce back potential this weekend.

 

AJ Allmendinger ($8,800)

Watkins Glen: Eight starts, one win, three top fives, five top 10s

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 9.4

 

There are two races that 'Dinger fans circle on the calendar, and one of them is Watkins Glen. He has the best average finish through eight races of any active driver. He also has the second fastest green-flag average speed.

 

Watkins Glen is the home to 'Dinger’s only Cup Series win. He is priced surprisingly low, then for a driver who is the best in the field at this track. Expect the veteran to be the talk of the weekend, especially in a season featuring so many different winners.

 

Joey Logano ($8,600)

Watkins Glen: Eight starts, one win, three top fives, five top 10s

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 12.8

 

Logano had another disappointing weekend with a 27th-place finish at Pocono. The No. 22 Penske team has underperformed since the encumbered win at Richmond in week nine and is not locked into the playoffs. At this point, Logano needs a win to make it in.

 

But the Glen, one of his best racetracks is a place this top-tier driver could cash in. He has two straight top-two finishes at Watkins Glen, including a win in 2015. Logano has also finished inside the top 10 in five of the last six races run at this track. Running 12th at Sonoma in June, a similar run here won't be good enough. It's crunch time for this Team Penske operation so expect a boom-or-bust race on Sunday.

 

BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,900

 

Michael McDowell ($7,100)

Watkins Glen: Eight starts, two top 20s

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 32.8

 

McDowell is having a career year so far in 2017. He is averaging a finishing position of 21.8 through 20 races, improving his career best from 2016 by three positions. He also recorded his first top-five Cup Series finish at Daytona last month.

 

McDowell has only finished outside the top 25 once in the past 11 races, and that was a 26th-place result at New Hampshire. He has two straight 18th-place finishes the past two weeks. McDowell, part of a satellite operation at Leavine Family Racing has been running more consistently than most of his other Richard Childress Racing psuedo-teammates.

 

McDowell finished 14th at Sonoma and is known for his road course expertise. If he qualifies outside the top 20 at Watkins Glen, McDowell will be a great back of the lineup guy on DraftKings.

 

Danica Patrick ($5,900)

Watkins Glen: Four starts, two top 20s

Average finish at Watkins Glen: 19.8

 

Patrick is on a low key streak right now. She has four straight top-15 finishes, the first run of consistency of its kind in her career. In all four races, her best qualifying position was 20th at Kentucky. She is passing cars on the track while the team is not making mistakes on pit road.

 

At Watkins Glen, Patrick sneaks under the radar. She has been a consistent top-20 car through her four starts at the track, earning finishes of 20th, 21st, 17th, and 21st. She also led 11 laps in this race last season, a surprise contender as pit strategies took center stage.

 

In a 2017 season of Cinderella finishes, anything is possible. This weekend could be Danica’s.

 

Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup:

 

(Top photo by ASP Inc.)

Teaser:
DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks: I Love New York 355 at The Glen
Post date: Saturday, August 5, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/cardale-jones-vows-match-donations-fund-young-ohio-state-fans-funeral
Body:

College players inevitably leave for the NFL, but their hearts remain with their college teams.

 

Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, now with the Chargers, met a Buckeye fan who touched his heart a few weeks ago and wants to do something to help her family. In a tweet, Jones mentioned that 17-year-old Nautica Ussury was a huge Ohio State fan from Michigan and you just don't see that everyday. When Ussury passed away from sickle cell anemia, he put a plan in motion to help her family with funeral costs.

 

"Energetic and outgoing, Nautica was determined that her worst days were behind her," Jones wrote. "Sad to say, Nautica lost her battle to sickle cell Tuesday night. Her family has started a go fund me account to help put Nautica to rest. I will personally MATCH whatever my family and friends donate to Nautica's "GoFundMe" account. To my social media friends/followers, feel free to donate as well."

 

 

Awesome gesture from one Buckeye to an honorary Buckeye.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, August 4, 2017 - 10:47
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/sports-fans-five-trashiest-behaviors
Body:

For sports fans, these are true dog days of summer. We have passed baseball’s All-Star break and have to wait until late August before football starts and MLB’s division races truly heat up.

 

And with each passing autumn, we see the best in sports and at times, the worst of fans. So as we gear up for another fall full of football, postseason baseball as well as the return of the NBA and NHL, among other events, I make this plea to all of you to try to avoid the trashy behavior we have come to see in stadiums across the country. If you can avoid doing these five things, the sports world will be better off.

 

5. The Wave

Just because you can get people to stand up and wave their arms in succession throughout a stadium doesn’t mean you should. For the players, nothing shows support like a bunch of spectators saying, “This game is so boring, I need to stand up every 15 seconds to entertain myself.” For the actual fans, it is simply annoying trying to watch a game while a bunch of jackasses keep blocking your view while reveling in their gooberish glee. If you get the urge to start a wave or participate in one, it’s time to go home.

 

4. Booing Injured Players

This often happens in football games where fans think a player is faking injury to slow a team’s offensive momentum. While that may happen on occasion, it’s not like Montgomery Burns is sitting in the owner’s box, saying, “Smithers, tell (#)76 to fake a knee injury on third down.” There may be instances where your booing is shaming a player for compromising his integrity, but there will be others where it precludes the stretcher coming onto the field. Either way, you’re the one who looks like a jerk.

 

3. Screaming Profanity at Games

Whether you’re emphasizing your anger with an occasional “damn,” or you are channeling Andrew Dice Clay and Amy Schumer in a cuss-off, no one wants to hear you. And if a mom or dad tells you to watch your language, you deserve it.

 

2. Wearing Shirts with Profanity

Last year, T-shirts in college football towns across the country with the template [City], F----n’ [State] swept the nation. If you got a few beers in you and decided to buy one of these witty shirts outside the stadium, I can excuse your poor judgment. But if you actually decide to wear it – or any shirt with profanity on it – in public, you might as well get a naked lady tattooed on your forearm. There’s no going back.

 

1. Chucking Items into the Crowd

This is the absolute trashiest of trashy behaviors. Whether it’s a cup of urine, binoculars or a seat cushion, if you're sitting in the stands and toss it towards the people below you, then you are a rotten human being who should go home and do some soul searching.

 

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

Teaser:
Sports Fans’ 5 Trashiest Behaviors
Post date: Friday, August 4, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-team-names-atlanta-falcons
Body:

What are the best fantasy football team names for Atlanta Falcons fans with the 2017 season closing in? Look no further. Whether you're looking for great, funny, clever, old, new or crazy fantasy football team names to match your favorite team — the Atlanta Falcons — we've got it right here. But hurry, the Falcons' season opens Sept. 10 in Chicago. 

 

The best fantasy football team names are often created by looking at the team's top players. For the Falcons, that's quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Devonta Freeman, and wide receiver Julio Jones. You can also look to draft pick Takkarist McKinley and Falcons legend Mike Vick for your team name, as well as head coach Dan Quinn and backup quarterback Matt Schaub.

 

Here's our list of Falcons fantasy football team names:

 

  • All I Do is Quinn
  • Six Pack of Matty Ice
  • Ain't Falcon Around
  • Orange Julio and Matty Ice
  • The Falcoholics
  • Tak’s Picture Frames
  • The Great CornJulio
  • Julio Think You Are?
  • Julio Let the Dogs Out?
  • Game of Jones
  • Millennium Falcons
  • Falcoholics Anonymous
  • You're Falcon Right!
  • Devonta’s Inferno
  • Nothing in life is Free, Man
  • Armed Schaubbery
  • Highway Schaubbery
  • I’m Falcon Awesome
  • The second half doesn’t count
  • All Choking Aside
  • Stairway to Tevin
  • Mike Vick in a Box

 

Fantasy Football/Fantasy Football Magazine Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football magazine delivers rankings, projections, cheat sheets, sleepers and everything you need to win your league in 2017. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

Want more NFL team-related fantasy football names? Check out the rest of the list below: 

 

Arizona Cardinals Fantasy Football Team Names
Baltimore Ravens Fantasy Football Team Names
Buffalo Bills Fantasy Football Team Names
Carolina Panthers Fantasy Football Team Names
Chicago Bears Fantasy Football Team Names
Cincinnati Bengals Fantasy Football Team Names
Cleveland Browns Fantasy Football Team Names
Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Football Team Names
Denver Broncos Fantasy Football Team Names
Detroit Lions Fantasy Football Team Names
Green Bay Packers Fantasy Football Team Names
Houston Texans Fantasy Football Team Names
Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Football Team Names
Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football Team Names
Kansas City Chiefs Fantasy Football Team Names
Los Angeles Chargers Fantasy Football Team Names
Los Angeles Rams Fantasy Football Team Names
Miami Dolphins Fantasy Football Team Names
Minnesota Vikings Fantasy Football Team Names
New England Patriots Fantasy Football Team Names
New Orleans Saints Fantasy Football Team Names
New York Giants Fantasy Football Team Names
New York Jets Fantasy Football Team Names
Oakland Raiders Fantasy Football Team Names
Philadelphia Eagles Fantasy Football Team Names
Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Football Team Names
San Francisco 49ers Fantasy Football Team Names
Seattle Seahawks Fantasy Football Team Names
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fantasy Football Team Names
Tennessee Titans Fantasy Football Team Names
Washington Redskins Fantasy Football Team Names

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, August 4, 2017 - 10:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-ole-miss-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

Ole Miss’ outlook for the upcoming college football season changed dramatically following former head coach Hugh Freeze’s sudden resignation on July 20 amid allegations he used his work-issued phone to call a Florida-based escort service. Under Freeze, the Rebels had gone 39-25 in five seasons, including two wins over Alabama, a Sugar Bowl victory and the school's first top-10 finish in four decades.

 

Freeze also leaves Oxford in the midst of an ongoing NCAA investigation, as college athletics' governing body leveled two separate notices of allegations on Freeze and Ole Miss, including a lack of institutional control charge. Although Freeze is no longer employed by Ole Miss, the Rebels are hardly in the clear.

 

In Freeze’s place, offensive coordinator/ offensive line coach Matt Luke has been named interim head coach. Luke is an Ole Miss alumnus who joined Freeze’s staff when he took over the Rebels following the 2011 season.

 

The Rebels not only enter the 2017 season under the cloud of the looming NCAA decision, they also do so with a new head coach. Here is how the Rebels’ schedule stacks up this season.

 

12. Sept. 9 vs. UT Martin

The Skyhawks from the FCS ranks went 7-5 overall last season, finishing second in the Ohio Valley Conference. SEC > Ohio Valley Conference, no offense, but Ole Miss needs all the easy wins it can get.

 

11. Nov. 11 vs. Louisiana

This year marks the sixth consecutive year the Ragin’ Cajuns have played an SEC opponent. These two teams last met in 2014, a 56-15 Ole Miss victory. Louisiana will lean on a seasoned defense to carry its green offense. The Rebels will get a good test but should notch the W at home.

 

10. Sept. 2 vs. South Alabama

Ole Miss fans gave Mississippi State a lot of grief after the Bulldogs were defeated by South Alabama last year. The Rebels could find themselves in the same position if they look past the Jaguars. Ole Miss and sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson will tussle against a South Alabama defense that returns six starters from a unit that ranked ninth nationally against the pass (174.6 ypg) last year.

 

9. Sept. 16 at California

After going 3-9 last year, Cal hired head coach Justin Wilcox to revive the program. With four returning starters on offense, Wilcox won’t have much to work with. Six starters return on defense, but the unit ranked no higher near the bottom of FBS teams in both yards and points allowed per game. Traveling to the West Coast could affect Ole Miss’ start, but the Rebels shouldn’t have too much of a problem dispatching Cal.

 

8. Oct. 14 vs. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb dashed for 123 yards and three scores last year as the Commodores tallied 481 yards of total offense in their 38-17 win against Ole Miss. Webb, along with seven other offensive starters, returns to go along with seven back on defense. Ole Miss draws Vanderbilt after a three-game road trip that includes stops in California and games at Alabama and Auburn – ouch.

 

7. Nov. 4 at Kentucky

Ole Miss last played Kentucky in 2011, and the Wildcats walked away with a 30-13 win. Eight returning starters on both offense and defense will prove a formidable challenge against a largely inexperienced Ole Miss squad. Considering the Rebels gave up more than 300 rushing yards to four different SEC opponents last year, Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. – who ran for 1,091 yards as a freshman — is probably salivating at this opportunity.

 

6. Oct. 28 vs. Arkansas

The Razorbacks pulled out a four-point win in Fayetteville last year thanks to a go-ahead touchdown pass with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game. Arkansas’ defense has been its Achilles heel and has a new look (from a 4-3 to 3-4) and new coordinator. This should be another competitive game between evenly matched teams.

 

5. Nov. 23 at Mississippi State

The Egg Bowl this year might as well double as Ole Miss' bowl game, as the school imposed a postseason in hopes of currying favor with the NCAA. Nick Fitzgerald accumulated 367 yards of total offense, and the Bulldogs’ defense shut out the Rebels in the second half as Mississippi State cruised to a 55-20 win. The Bulldogs are looking for their first winning streak over their archrivals since 2009-11.

 

4. Nov. 19 vs. Texas A&M

A week after the Aggies lost to Mississippi State last year, the Rebels did their part to contribute to a Magnolia State sweep. Patterson made his debut on the road against Texas A&M and led Ole Miss to 29-28 victory behind 338 passing yards and two touchdowns. The second to last game in the regular season for both teams, it’s possible that the Aggies’ Kevin Sumlin could be coaching for his job, if he still has one.

 

3. Oct. 21 vs. LSU

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron returns to Oxford. Orgeron, who went 10-25 overall and 3-21 in SEC play in three years at Ole Miss, brings a loaded Tigers team into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss was horrendous against the run at times last season, including surrendering 284 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries to Leonard Fournette in last season’s 38-21 loss at LSU. Derrius Guice takes over as lead running back for the Tigers and he could help make his case as a Heisman Trophy contender if he enjoys similar success in Oxford.

 

2. Oct. 7 at Auburn

Ole Miss travels to Auburn a week after a road trip to Tuscaloosa, which doesn't exactly bode well for the Rebels. If the Tigers can remain healthy – unlike last season – a win against Ole Miss will put them in a good position as they enter the heart of their SEC West schedule.

 

1. Sept. 30 at Alabama

Ole Miss held a 21-3 lead over the Crimson Tide in the second quarter of their game last season before 'Bama showed why it's 'Bama. Unfortunately for Rebels fans, key players from last year's team such as quarterback Chad Kelly and tight end Evan Engram have departed for the NFL. Ole Miss lacks the experience and playmakers to pose a similar challenge to the Tide this year. This could get ugly quickly.

 

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Ole Miss' College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Friday, August 4, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-quarterbacks-2017
Body:

A year after the ACC featured one of its deepest quarterback groups in recent memory, the conference enters 2017 with turnover at several programs. Gone are standouts like Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya, Jerod Evans, Mitch Trubisky and Nathan Peterman. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson – the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner – and Florida State’s Deondre Francois are the top two quarterbacks, but question marks remain this fall at Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Miami. How quickly can these programs reload under center? 

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2017. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, previous production, 2017 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the ACC for 2017.

 

Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2017

 

14. Darius Wade, Boston College

In each of coach Steve Addazio’s four years in Chestnut Hill, four different players have led the team in passing yardage. Patrick Towles was the team’s No. 1 quarterback last fall and expired his eligibility following the Quick Lane Bowl victory over Maryland. The battle to replace Towles and bring some stability to the position is set to continue in fall practices with Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown. Wade started three games in 2015 but suffered a season-ending injury in a 14-0 loss to Florida State on Sept. 18. Can Wade’s previous experience propel him to the starting spot? Or will Brown win the job this fall?

 

13. Kendall Hinton, Wake Forest

Hinton was poised to take over the starting job for the Demon Deacons last year but a knee injury ended his 2016 campaign in September. In three appearances last season, Hinton completed 11 of 19 passes for 174 yards and rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries. The North Carolina native has three career starts and brings more of a dual-threat or-big play element to the offense than John Wolford. Can Hinton stay healthy and put together a breakout season for coach Dave Clawson?

 

Related: College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

 

12. Kurt Benkert, Virginia

With a full offseason to work under coordinator Robert Anae, Benkert should be more comfortable in his second year as Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback. After transferring to Charlottesville from East Carolina, Benkert threw for 2,552 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2016. The senior did not eclipse 200 passing yards in four out of his final five appearances.

 

11. Brandon Harris, North Carolina

With Mitch Trubisky taking snaps with the Chicago Bears, coach Larry Fedora looked to the graduate transfer ranks for immediate help. Harris arrives in Chapel Hill after spending three years with the Tar Heels. Over 25 games (with 15 starts), Harris threw for 2,756 yards and 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. The Louisiana native also added 370 yards and seven scores on the ground. Harris was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2014 signing class but never quite reached his potential in Baton Rouge. Can Fedora get the most out his talent in 2017?

 

10. Matthew Jordan, Georgia Tech

Jordan is expected to take over the starting job for coach Paul Johnson after working as a backup to Justin Thomas last season. The Alabama native made one start in 2016, rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 victory at Virginia Tech. Over the last two years, Jordan has played in 14 games and completed 8 of 18 throws for 205 yards and rushed for 404 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior TaQuon Marshall is expected to claim the No. 2 job.

 

Related: Ranking the ACC Running Back Tandems for 2017

 

9. N’Kosi Perry, Miami

The Hurricanes opened fall camp with Perry, Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs and Cade Weldon competing for the starting job. Rosier has the edge in experience with 13 career appearances and one previous start (2015). Over his two seasons of snaps, Rosier has completed 31 of 61 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 63 yards. While Rosier is the most experienced option, that may not be enough to hold off Perry. The true freshman from Ocala ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2017 signing class and is the future at this position for coach Mark Richt. If Perry starts all 12 regular season games, it’s safe to assume he will outperform this ranking.

 

8. Joshua Jackson, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente is one of the nation’s best coaches when it comes to finding and developing starting quarterbacks. While Fuente was at TCU, he was instrumental in the development of Andy Dalton and Casey Pachall and transformed Paxton Lynch into a first-round pick at Memphis. Fuente’s magic continued last season in his debut at Virginia Tech, as Jerod Evans averaged 314.1 total yards per game in his first year from the junior college ranks. With Evans departing Blacksburg for the NFL, Fuente has a three-man battle to replace Evans this offseason. True freshman Hendon Hooker and junior college recruit A.J. Bush are vying with redshirt freshman Josh Jackson for the starting nod. Jackson likely has an edge over the other two quarterbacks since he spent 2016 as a redshirt learning the offense. The Michigan native is a dual-threat option and ranked as a three-star recruit in the 2016 signing class. Even though Jackson is inexperienced, Fuente’s track record suggests the winner of the quarterback battle will have a productive (and breakout) 2017 season.

 

Related: ACC Football Predictions for 2017

 

7. Max Browne, Pitt

Will the Panthers have success with a transfer quarterback for the second year in a row? Under the watch of former coordinator Matt Canada, Nathan Peterman closed out his Pitt career by throwing for 27 touchdowns and 2,855 yards last season. Browne transferred to the Steel City as a graduate transfer after the emergence of Sam Darnold at USC in 2016. The former five-star prospect completed 69 passes for 650 yards and two touchdowns during his career with the Trojans. New coordinator Shawn Watson is tasked with helping Browne reach his potential in his final year in college.

 

6. Kelly Bryant, Clemson

Deshaun Watson is going to be missed, but Clemson has three talented quarterbacks vying for the starting job this offseason. Bryant has the inside track over Zerrick Copper and true freshman Hunter Johnson for the No. 1 spot after spending 2016 as the backup to Watson. The South Carolina native has appeared in 12 games, completing 13 of 22 passes for 75 yards and adding 178 yards on the ground. Johnson holds the edge in overall talent, but the guess here is Bryant starts the first week of 2017.

 

Related: ACC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017

 

5. Ryan Finley, NC State

Finley claimed the starting job in Raleigh after arriving from Boise State as a graduate transfer prior to fall practice. Under the direction of former Boise State assistant (and first-year NC State play-caller) Eliah Drinkwitz, Finley threw for 3,055 yards and 18 touchdowns and completed 60.4 percent of his throws last year. With a solid group of receivers and one of the ACC’s best offensive lines at his disposal, Finley could push for all-conference honors by December.  

 

4. Daniel Jones, Duke

David Cutcliffe is no stranger to developing standouts at quarterback. And after one season as Duke’s No. 1 quarterback, Jones appears to be the next star pupil for Cutcliffe. The Charlotte native wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school and considered Princeton before choosing to head to Durham. After a redshirt year in 2015 and an injury to starter Thomas Sirk, Jones assumed the top spot on the depth chart. As expected, Jones had his share of ups and downs last fall but still finished with 2,836 yards and 16 touchdown passes. Jones tossed three touchdowns in a road win over Notre Dame and threw for 240 yards in an upset over rival North Carolina. Jones also possesses good mobility, as he recorded 486 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Look for Jones to be even better in his second year as the starter.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

 

3. Eric Dungey, Syracuse

Injuries have derailed Dungey’s 2015 and 2016 campaigns, but if he can stay healthy in 2017, the junior should contend for All-ACC honors in coach Dino Babers’ high-powered offense. In nine games last fall, Dungey completed 64.8 percent of his throws for 2,679 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also added 293 yards and six scores on the ground. In 17 career appearances at Syracuse, Dungey has passed for 3,977 yards and 26 touchdowns.

 

2. Deondre Francois, Florida State

Francois was one of college football’s top freshmen last fall, as he started all 13 games for coach Jimbo Fisher and threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Orlando native never tossed more than one interception in a game last year and was named the ACC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in December. Francois needs to get rid of the ball quicker and raise his completion percentage (58.8 last season), but both of those factors should get better with more snaps in 2017.   

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

After winning the Heisman Trophy and accounting for 51 touchdowns and 5,114 total yards last season, what can Jackson do for an encore in 2017? The No. 1 goal for Louisville is to beat Florida State and Clemson on a path to the ACC Atlantic title and contend for a CFB Playoff spot. Even though the Cardinals have a few holes to fill on both sides of the ball, Jackson’s return at quarterback will ensure Louisville’s offense won’t miss a beat. And here’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC: Jackson is likely to improve as a passer after an offseason of work with coach Bobby Petrino.  

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Quarterbacks for 2017
Post date: Friday, August 4, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/big-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2017
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2017, Athlon asked coaches in the Big 12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Big 12 2017 Predictions

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

Baylor

 

“I was very surprised they didn’t hire a guy with Texas ties, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing."

 

"They just hired a good football coach plain and simple. It will be different for the fans, but probably the best thing in the long run. The culture there just was all about offense and scoring as fast as you can, and Art (Briles) didn’t care much about defense as long as it wasn’t horrible. They were good enough to win games because Phil Bennett built a system and they were very good up front. Now they’ll try to win a different way and they’ll have to win a different way, being real fundamentally sound and trying to control the ball and play good defense."

 

"Their defensive coordinator (Phil Snow) is really well respected, and I’ve heard good things. He’s pretty basic but very structurally sound, and I think that will be good for them."

 

"Quarterback, I’m not sure what they’re going to do. The kid that came in last year (Zach Smith), they never really gave him a chance to do much. He didn’t perform well in his first start, and after that I thought they really held the reins back on him and didn’t give him much chance to do things, but they were in some heavy disarray. The transfer from Arizona (Anu Solomon) will probably get every chance to play; he’s solid if he’s healthy."

 

"Their talent level as you look at their roster has really decreased."

 

"Defensively they don’t have those dominating guys up front, and their offensive line isn’t as strong. I think it’s going to take them some time to build a new style of play and a roster to fit what they want to do.”

 

Related: Ranking the Big 12 RB Tandems for 2017

 

Iowa State

 

“I saw some good creativity on offense, a system and style that they were trying to stay true to, and then on defense I saw a solid structure trying to play the even front stuff and play Cover 4 and just be sound and not allow a lot of big plays."

 

"(Matt Campbell’s) biggest thing is how well he can recruit to Iowa State. I think he can do a decent job there — it’s just going to take some time. The thing about the fans there is they’re super patient, probably the most patient group in the Big 12 because they come every Saturday, the place is always full. I know everybody’s so hard on coaches these days, but there’s probably a lot less pressure there than anywhere in the league. I think he’s got a good plan for improving their program. He’s a really sharp guy and I can see them getting competitive and having some good things come their way in a couple years. You can get some kids out of the central states from the heartland, good kids, and build a solid culture there. But you have to evaluate kids correctly like Dan McCarney did."

 

"They’re not talented at all on defense. Where they’ve struggled recently is to get those big guys up front. They used to have those 270-, 290-pound guys to play the two inside tackles, and they were hard to move around. Then they’d hit you with a couple guys coming off the edge. They just don’t have that right now — none of it, and you look at them in warmups and they don’t look like a Big 12 team. He has to change that, but he coached them as well as he could.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Breakout QBs for 2017

 

Kansas

 

“They’re really not bad defensively because the end, (Dorance) Armstrong, and (Daniel) Wise at tackle are good players. The safety, Mike Lee, is very solid. So they’ve got three good players in the middle front of their defense who could play for just about anyone in the conference."

 

"I think David (Beaty) is doing a really good job there of taking a terrible situation and making it better incrementally. There aren’t any quick fixes, but I think there will be some improvement again this year. If they can win some non-conference games, get their confidence going, maybe they could take a step up to four or five wins and beat a couple teams in the league. Their talent level is getting better, they’re recruiting well for what they have to work with reputation-wise. They have a good location and good facilities, and he’s done a nice job kind of building a mentality there that they can get it done. That wasn’t a fluke when they beat Texas. You can’t just show up anymore and think you’re going to win." 

 

"If there’s one negative, he’s had too much turnover on his staff, which is hard when you’re trying to turn it around. Maybe some guys left because he wanted them to leave. (Offensive coordinator Doug) Meacham is a great fit there. He’ll definitely be a good addition. He’ll have some ideas and do some neat things creatively and do the best he can do with his talent level."

 

"I don’t think they have a great QB situation right now. (Carter) Stanley played late last year and was scrappy and competitive and tough, but he was not a great quarterback.”

 

Related: Big 12 2017 All-Conference Team

 

Kansas State

 

“They just keep chugging along being a pain in the ass."

 

"They do just enough to reinvent themselves every year based on their personnel to get the most out of what they have. They were a totally different team in the second half of the season and that momentum should carry over for this year."

 

"They’ve got everybody coming back on offense, so they’ll be pretty salty."

 

"Typically they’re not a team with a lot of depth and when they lose a guy or two up front that can really hurt them, but if they stay relatively healthy they’re a problem because of how well-structured and disciplined they are in the running game."

 

"I think their receivers got better as the year went on, and they found some solid backs, but I was surprised how well (Jesse) Ertz played by the end of the season. He’s not going to beat you throwing downfield very often, but he’s much better as a passer and the way they involve him in the running game is difficult to defend."

 

"I think they’ll have some issues on defense because of how many guys they lost. Jordan Willis is a big loss up front, he was a really disruptive guy that you always felt like you had to give your tackle some help, and I don’t think they have anyone with that kind of ability behind him."

 

"It’s an interesting situation because Coach Snyder had health problems this year and people are going to think they may fall off because of the long-term uncertainty, but his coordinators do most of the actual coaching, and they’ve got a quality staff. I don’t see that really being an issue.”

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017

 

Oklahoma

 

“I don’t see a whole lot of changes with that group."

 

"Obviously they’re a team that has a chance to get into the Playoff if they win the games they’re supposed to win. They’ve got a big game at Ohio State early, so we’ll see how they come out of that. Even if they don’t win, it makes them better for the conference run."

 

"I think they’re definitely the team to beat. They have most of their O-line coming back plus even one of the guys who got hurt last year, so they’ll be good up front, and the quarterback is a known commodity. (Baker Mayfield) just makes plays."

 

"Receiver is probably going to be their biggest issue, and of course replacing the two running backs will be a problem. It will be interesting to see who steps up there, but they have a pretty good track record of finding guys who can produce."  

 

"I see them being much better on defense — much, much better. They got better as they went along last year, and I’ve heard Mike (Stoops) is thinking about switching back to an even front from the odd system. We’ve heard that through the grapevine and are preparing for that. Mike has a way better understanding of the even stuff because that’s what they’ve always done. They switched over to the 3-4 when they had (defensive line coach) Jerry Montgomery, who was really good at coaching the odd stuff up front, and when he left to go to the NFL they really fell off. That’ll be the big change, and I think it will help them."

 

"Their biggest issue is replacing their linebackers and just getting their secondary to play the way they want, especially at corner. That’s been a huge issue.”

 

Related: The Big 12's Top 10 Non-Conference Games for 2017

 

Oklahoma State

 

“They’re the second-best team on paper."

 

"They showed me a lot of moxie last year in the teams they beat and how they won games. There have been a number of years where they’ve been good, but you just didn’t feel like they had the character to go on the road and win a tough game against a team that was playing well. They showed me more gumption than what they normally have coming back from losing to Central Michigan in that fashion to finish the way they did."

 

"Winning 10 is a huge statement about where that program is and with what they’ve got coming back offensively and playing Oklahoma at home this year, it lines up for them to maybe sneak in there."

 

"Their biggest thing is the QB. Very talented kid, fits well with what they do on offense, and I’m impressed with how he leads their team."

 

"They’ve gotten so much better up front. They used to be really bad on the offensive line, but they’d still be good because they were creative and they’d find ways to circumvent it. Now they’re real solid up front, and that makes them a much more formidable football team."

 

"Defensively, they lost quite a few guys. I’d guess that personnel-wise they’re not as good as what they have been. When you go man-to-man and look at their D, there’s not enough impact-type players, so they’ve dropped off a little bit there."

 

"They don’t do too much defensively but enough to make them difficult to prepare for.

 

"It’s a salty team and the strengths are the quarterback and offensive line. The weaknesses are the defensive line and getting a couple new guys in the secondary.”

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

TCU

 

“Gary (Patterson) wasn’t happy with their defense or their offense last year, so I think you’ll see some changes, but you’re limited by your personnel. And I just don’t see them being back in the top half of the conference."

 

"They’ve always been so strong on defense, so it was real surprising to see what happened last year. I think they just lost some guys that were good players for them, and just weren’t as talented as what they have been up front."

 

"They always had so many good defensive linemen, especially the interior of their defense. A couple years ago, their linebackers were awesome. They just don’t have that kind of linebacker play anymore, that disruptive type of player they’re used to having, and because of that I just don’t think they’re as formidable."

 

"They’re good in the secondary but not great, so they’re just a step down personnel-wise overall on defense, and when you’re struggling on offense that’s not a great combination."

 

"They’re struggling to find a quarterback to re-create what they had with (Trevone) Boykin. With Kenny Hill it just hasn’t clicked yet, and I’m not sure it will. His supporting cast isn’t what it should be, and he’s struggling because of it and he’s losing confidence because he’s struggling."

 

"They don’t have those dynamic receivers who could really help him."

 

"It will be interesting to watch their running back (Kyle Hicks). He’s a talented kid.”

 

Related: College Football 2017 All-America Team

 

Texas

 

“It will be totally different offensively and defensively."

 

"The talent level there is always great, and it’s just about getting a coach that can get them to play to the level they need to play to."

 

"On defense, there’s no doubt in my mind they had more good players than they showed, but you’ve got to get them in the right system."

 

"Based on what they did at Houston, I think the coordinator (Todd Orlando) that (Tom) Herman brought with him is going to be a little more like they were at Texas back five, six years ago when they were doing more schematic stuff to try to create issues for people. Personally, I don’t know if you need that at Texas. My concern would be with all the stuff he does schematically, they might get themselves in the wrong gaps, run themselves out of position. That was the issue when Texas was trying to do the fancy stuff and then finally you see the coaches go, ‘Oh, we just need to play base defense,’ and it’s happened with the last two head coaches. Mack (Brown) did that and then Charlie (Strong) did it with his guys there too, and at the end he just tried to take over and play base stuff, but the culture wasn’t good by that point. To me, I don’t know if that’s the perfect fit for what they need defensively, but his schemes are pretty good, and they’ve got guys like (Malik) Jefferson and some guys up front like (Poona) Ford and the big end (Charles Omenihu) who you look and go, ‘Gosh, they should be better,’ so maybe they’ll figure it out. You just have to be careful at Texas and let them play the game.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

 

Texas Tech

 

“(Kliff) Kingsbury is a hard worker and super talented, but he wasn’t prepared to be a head coach when he got the job and just hasn’t put it all together at this point. He tries to do so much on offense."  

 

"There’s really no culture on their defense so they don’t get the results they want."

 

"They’ve been great on offense and still not been a good football team the last couple years. That’s ridiculous."

 

"The biggest issue is they just can’t tackle. Eventually (defensive coordinator David) Gibbs started playing Cover 1 or Cover 0 so he could line up guys in particular gaps, but if you cant tackle, it doesn’t matter because there’s no one at the third level to make a play if you miss. It’s not on Gibbs. I think a lot of it is because he doesn’t get enough time in practice or enough looks to practice against because they’re so gimmicky on offense. I’m not being critical because it’s a fantastic system, but they never get to see the split zones and isos and those things so as a defensive coach, your players don’t know how to get off blocks or fit runs. People just run it down their throat."

 

"If they go up against a solid defense they really struggle because they just can’t outscore you. If you get a couple stops, they’re done. The mentality just isn’t there, and it’s been that way a long time. They’re not great personnel-wise, but I really don’t think it’s the players — it’s just the culture and the lack of emphasis on getting better defensively."

 

"On offense, I give them a ton of credit. You just watch what they do schematically and you’re like, ‘Wow that’s sharp. That’s neat.’ So he does good stuff. He’s a sharp guy, and he’s probably the most creative guy in the Air Raid that I’ve seen with that system.”

 

Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

West Virginia

 

“I think there’s going to be a good synergy with (Jake) Spavital coming back (as offensive coordinator) to work with Dana (Holgorsen) on the offense. Dana does a great job with those kids and got a lot out of their offense last year without having a great quarterback. They’ll slide the kid from Florida (Will Grier) in there, and we’ll see how he adapts to a completely different kind of system. I haven’t watched much tape on him, but I assume he’s going to be an upgrade over the last guy."

 

"I think their defensive coaches do a super job. Tony Gibson is the best defensive coordinator in the conference, and I’m not the only one who thinks that. Their 3-3 package is flat-out difficult to prepare for. You just don’t face that defense all the time. No one else plays it, really, so it just gives you different angles you’re not used to seeing. You can try to flatten it out through formations and get it to be a 3-4, but if you line up in the conventional sets and don’t use two tight ends, you’re facing a type of front your offensive line isn’t used to targeting, and it’s a different look for the quarterback as he comes out of the huddle and sees things. It just has an odd skew to it, and you’re asking kids to make major adjustments with a week to prepare."

 

"From a personnel standpoint, they’ve got some question marks. They have lost a lot of good players. That probably catches up to you a little bit. They’re just not going to be what they have been defensively, and I don’t see a whole lot there to replace that talent.”

Teaser:
Big 12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017
Post date: Friday, August 4, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/gear-review-nima-sports-bluetooth-speaker
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NIMA SpeakersIn a sea of homogenized Bluetooth speakers that blend blandly into the background, NIMA has created one that's built to take center stage...especially for football fans. The company has licensing deals with all 32 NFL teams and dozens of college football's top teams to adorn their helmet-shaped speakers with logos and appropriate colors. And sure, there's the initial thought that these are more novelty than quality. But, in this case, you'd be wrong. The sound is fantastic. The highs are spot on, the lows have some heft and the mid-range is just where we like it. It syncs up to your phone’s Bluetooth quickly and the free downloadable app offers some extra bells and whistles (hello, audio equalizer). Better yet, you can sync up two speakers to blare your favorite pre-game hype songs with confidence at your next tailgating party. We tried two and were impressed with added audio dimension it brought to the music and space. The company claims eight hours of battery life between charges, and we've found it be accurate. Depending on your needs and budget, NIMA offers these quality speakers in varying sizes (S, M, L), with prices ranging from $120-$399. The combination of great looks and sound make them ideal for an office, man cave or tailgating party. Now, bring on football season so we crank them up! nimausa.com

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, August 4, 2017 - 06:49
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/donte-moncrief-fantasy-football-projection-2017
Body:

Donte Moncrief has caused many fantasy owners much grief in his short career. Thought to be a breakout candidate each of the last two seasons, injuries to himself and Andrew Luck ruined those hopes.

 

2016 Season Recap

 

When looking at Moncrief, while his overall statistics won’t jump off of the page, there is one thing that stands out: his touchdown numbers. Over his last two seasons, he's caught 13 touchdowns in 22 games in which he's seen at least three targets. Those touchdowns are responsible for Moncrief producing more fantasy points per target than teammate T.Y. Hilton over the same span. Of course, Hilton put up big numbers last season while Moncrief did not, but it does show a glimpse of Moncrief’s potential, if he can stay healthy.

 

Moncrief never topped 64 yards in 2016 despite scoring in each of the seven full games he played. One of the reasons for the low yardage (307 on 30 receptions) was that 10 of his 56 targets came in the red zone. He ended up catching eight of those for six touchdowns, while Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle combined for 27 targets in the red zone and the same number of touchdowns. There is no doubt that Moncrief has established himself as a legitimate red zone threat.

 

2017 Expectations

 

You shouldn’t value touchdowns more than other stats because they can fluctuate dramatically from year to year, but you also can’t ignore scoring potential. For Moncrief, it does seem that his touchdown numbers aren't fluky. Even in his rookie season in 2014, he had just eight games with three or more targets and still found the end zone three times. That's not a huge number, but it is pretty good for a player that was so far down the totem pole at the time.

 

In 2015, he started out with a touchdown in each of the first three games and five over the first six, but wasn’t as productive once Luck went down with an injury that caused him to miss nine games. Last season, Moncrief caught a TD pass in every game he played fully, but a litany of injuries (fractured scapula, hamstring, shoulder injuries) caused him to miss seven games and parts of two others.

 

Hilton remains Indianapolis’ No. 1 receiver, but that’s not the case once the Colts get into the red zone. In 32 games over the last two seasons, Hilton has seen 30 red-zone targets, which have produced five touchdown catches. In 25 games (with a few shortened by injury), Moncrief has seen 22 targets in the red zone and he’s turned those into 11 scores.

 

Where to Draft

 

Moncrief's metrics are all stellar, he has appealing size (6-2), and speed (4.4 40), and he’ll turn 24 in August as he enters his fourth season in the league. It looks like the Colts will be a pass-heavy offense again this year and if Moncrief (and Luck) can stay healthy, he will see more targets. That coupled with this touchdown potential could push him into the back end of WR2 territory, and should make him no worse than a solid WR3.

 

— 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.

 

And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.

Teaser:
Donte Moncrief: Fantasy Football Projection for 2017
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ranking-all-32-nfl-head-coaches-2017
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The NFL is very much a players’ league but there’s no mistaking that quality coaching is the difference between the razor-thin margin of a win and a loss in today’s game. While coaching staffs have ballooned to dozens of folks responsible for everything under the sun, the media and fan scrutiny is typically directed at just one individual leading the charge for each team.

 

With that in mind, here’s a look at how each head coach stacks up against their peers. The 2017 season is a month away from kicking off but the storylines are abound with coaches around the game, including six new faces joining the fold — five for the first time leading an NFL team. While the best of the best are easy to pick out of the crowd nowadays, things do get a bit harder the further down the list one goes.

 

1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

At this point, there’s really not much left to say about The Hoodie. He certainly has his detractors as a result of a handful of scandals but when it comes to wins, losses and rings, Belichick is in a class all by himself. Last season’s incredible Super Bowl comeback only helped add to his legend and it seems like an entire generation of NFL fans are conditioned to the Patriots being the team to beat year in and year out.

 

2. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Hard as it is to believe, but Carroll is the oldest head coach in the NFL and will turn 66 at the beginning of the season. Like a fine wine however, the veteran coach is as good as ever and consistently puts together one of the league’s best defenses. Many doubted whether the atmosphere of fun he had back in USC would translate to the NFL level but Seattle’s success has proven that it very clearly has.

 

3. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

Few will list Tomlin as one of the best X’s and O’s head coaches in the game but that would be a disservice to the Pittsburgh coach who has complete command of both sides of the ball and a Super Bowl ring to his name for an iconic franchise. He’s been around for more than a decade with the Steelers and has won at least 10 games seven times to go along with a tidy winning percentage (.644) in the regular season alone. Plus, with the likely exception of the top two names on this list, there are few coaches players would rather play for than Tomlin.

 

4. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

It’s hard for a Super Bowl winner to be overshadowed in his own family but that’s probably just the way the older Harbaugh brother likes things heading into 2017. Despite most of his experience coming on special teams, he’s developed one of the best all-around franchises during his tenure that consistently has a tough defense and a smash-mouth offense. Harbaugh has finished with a losing record just once and has won two thirds of his games in the playoffs (10-5) despite getting beat up each year in one of the toughest divisions in the league.

 

5. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

The drop-off from the top two or three coaches in the league to the next tier has some separation in the minds of many but McCarthy is firmly toward the tops of the latter group thanks to his remarkable consistency. The Packers have finished worse than second in the division just once during his tenure and have won the NFC North six times. Add in a Super Bowl ring and lofty win percentage (.651 in regular season, .556 in the playoffs) and it’s a pretty solid resume for Green Bay’s coach. The lone issue is some disappointing postseason results but getting there is half the battle.

 

6. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl XLIV is rapidly sliding further into the rearview mirror but Payton remains one of the top offensive-minded coaches around. The Achilles’ heel for the Saints has been the defense and it’s not like the front office has helped Payton out all that much in recent years as the team has slid to three straight 7-9 campaigns. Still, roughly 20 other teams would love to make a trade in order to install Payton as their head coach.

 

Related: NFL Head Coach Hot Seat Rankings Entering 2017 Season

 

7. Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders

Del Rio has helped transform the Raiders from a franchise that was down in the dumps to one that looks like it will be an annual Super Bowl contender for the next several seasons. He proved last year that he’s not afraid to gamble in a league designed to be conservative and he has really embraced the team’s ethos from the glory days. Add in a solid track record from his days in Jacksonville and his ability to coordinate a heck of a defense and Oakland is quite happy with their head coach.

 

8. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

A two-time NFL Coach of the Year, 2016 was a big reversal in the trend that Arians had been building out in the desert. Despite the 7-8-1 record, he still has quite the track record with Arizona and has done a masterful job in getting veterans and rookies alike to play at a high level.

 

9. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Being the head coach of the Cowboys is one of the more difficult jobs in sports and after being just average for several years early in his tenure, Garrett has finally started to hit his stride as a coach. He’s worked with the front office to develop a plan when it comes to personnel and did a masterful job bringing along the rookie backfield of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott last season. He smartly re-tooled the coaching staff to provide more support and about the only thing left to do is find some more postseason success.

 

10. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

Quinn has just two seasons under his belt but he’s been a breath of fresh air in Atlanta. The Super Bowl collapse will always be a part of his tenure but he’s left his mark on the franchise and the team reflects what he wants on the field. Despite the setback on the biggest stage in sports, Quinn smartly re-tooled his entire staff to bring in more new ideas — a sign of a coach who is much wiser than his record would indicate.

 

11. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

Riverboat Ron has collected a pair of Coach of the Year trophies and had some extraordinary success down in Carolina. While sustained success (no back-to-back winning seasons) has been a bit elusive, there’s no doubt that the highs have been incredible with Cam Newton and company even if they did fall short of a Super Bowl win. 

 

12. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

It took too long for him to get a head coaching gig but Zimmer has done a solid job turning around the fortunes of the Vikings. The defense has been what you expect for somebody with his X’s and O’s acumen and he’s managed the offense well enough despite lacking a ton of talent in the trenches and losing a starting quarterback on the eve of the 2016 season. Coaching in the NFL is in his blood and Zimmer has a chance to rise quickly on this list if he can stay healthy and have even more productive seasons.

 

13. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans

O’Brien did his best work as a head coach in guiding Penn State through the post-Joe Paterno era and the resulting scandal at the school but he has proven to be plenty capable back in the NFL with the Texans. He’s gone 9-7 for three straight years and won the division twice despite some incredibly bad, almost comical, quarterback play and the loss of the NFL’s best defensive player for a season. Fans in Houston may be a little frustrated over O’Brien’s inability to break through but he’s been better than many think.

 

14. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

This will be Reid’s 25th season in the league and 18th as a head coach. That kind of longevity brings a lot of success, including seven division titles and 11-plus wins in three of four seasons since moving to Kansas City. While winning a lot of games over a lot of years is nice, the mind-numbingly bad decisions when it comes to clock management and the lack of postseason success hampers the overall outlook on the coach.

 

15. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

Gruden is still below .500 overall during his stop in Washington but he’s helped re-tool the roster despite plenty of dysfunction in the franchise and managed to guide the franchise to its first back-to-back winning seasons in two decades. It will still take a lot more winning in order to move past brother Jon in the coaching community but the 50-year-old is doing his part so far.

 

16. Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins

Gase has worked with an impressive list of coaches over the years and made the most in his head coaching debut to jump start a turnaround in Miami and make a surprising appearance in the postseason. Folks around the league are high on him going forward and he’ll certainly be one to watch if he can develop Ryan Tannehill into a top-tier starting quarterback.

 

17. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Despite a lengthy resume filled with positives on the defensive side of the ball, Pagano has struggled to turn the Colts’ D around during his time in Indianapolis. Despite those issues, he’s still never finished below .500 over five seasons and has made it to the AFC title game not all that long ago. A lot of his success can be placed at having Andrew Luck at QB but Pagano deserves praise for navigating some murky waters when the signal-caller hasn’t been in the game due to injuries.

 

18. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Lewis is in a similar mold to Andy Reid in that he’s been around a long time and won a lot of games during the regular season. He’s taken the Bengals to the playoffs seven times over 14 seasons. The problem is he’s 0-fer when it comes to wins in the postseason and his teams have a reputation for lacking discipline.

 

19. Ben McAdoo, New York Giants

It’s rare nowadays for a team to elevate somebody internally when searching for a new head coach but that’s just what the Giants did in picking McAdoo to lead the franchise going forward. He has proven to be a steady hand in helping the offense rack up points and has gotten the most out of quarterback Eli Manning. He inherited a lot but going 11-5 and leading your team to the playoffs in a debut season is pretty good work.

 

20. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He made his name as a college coach but Koetter has fit in quite well since moving up to the NFL level and brought plenty of excitement on the offensive end. He’s played a big role in Jameis Winston’s development as a young signal-caller and nearly made the playoffs in his first season as the Bucs’ head coach. Tampa Bay has certainly been trending upward since he arrived in town and that looks to continue.

 

21. John Fox, Chicago Bears

To say things have been trending in the wrong direction with Fox is to understate things a bit. He does have two Super Bowl appearances to his credit and has developed some quality defenses over the years but he was run out of Denver just prior to the team getting a ring. The results in Chicago have been anything but inspiring and given the shape of the Bears’ roster, Fox has a ton of work to do going forward.

 

22. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

A sharp departure from predecessor Chip Kelly, Pederson had an up-and-down first season with the Eagles. Still, 7-9 isn’t a terrible debut as a first-time head coach with a rookie quarterback and there are several around the league who are excited over the prospect of Pederson developing the talented Carson Wentz.

 

23. Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans

Mularkey has developed some solid NFL offenses over the past 15 years but has only finished better than .500 twice as a head coach over three different stops. To be fair he’s inherited some really awful rosters but turned in his best work this past season by getting the most out of Marcus Mariota and turning around the fortunes of the Titans.

 

24. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns

Jackson developed a stellar reputation as an offensive coordinator in the league and had an impressive first year as a head coach back in 2011 when he guided Oakland to a then-surprising 8-8 mark. He took over the worst situation in the league over in Cleveland last year and it almost seems impressive he was able to coax out a single win from the team. Brighter days are ahead for the Browns under Jackson at least.

 

25. Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

While his last name no doubt opened plenty of doors in the NFL, Shanahan has put together some incredible offenses and managed to see just about everything during nearly a decade as a coordinator. He faces an uphill battle trying to turn around the 49ers but will have both patience and plenty of coaching acumen to guide him through things. Just don’t ask about the Super Bowl.

 

26. Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Things started out so well for Bowles upon arrival in New York, finishing with a shocking 10 wins and nearly making the playoffs. It’s been all downhill since then as high expectations were met with underwhelming results. He’s still a bright defensive mind but being saddled with one of the worst rosters in the league won’t help dig out of this hole with the Jets.

 

27. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

McVay became the youngest head coach in league history when the Rams hired him, just a decade removed from playing college football himself. The rapid rise has been the result of some top-tier offensive efforts though and he’s well regarded for the amount of prep work he puts in each week. It won’t be easy leading L.A. back to prominence but there’s plenty of upside when it comes to his future.

 

28. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

McDermott has a lengthy list of accomplishments as a defensive coordinator over the past several seasons and finally gets his head coaching opportunity up in Buffalo. He should bring a lot more structure to the team right away but will have to deal with high expectations and plenty of pressure from a fan base desperate to reach the postseason.

 

29. Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions

Ever since that loss to the Saints in the Super Bowl, Caldwell has failed to win a postseason game and is just a tick over .500 for his career as a head coach. He’s had some future Hall of Famers at quarterback to work with but never can seem to get over the hump and has a history of frustrating losses in the second half of the season.

 

30. Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

Marrone has shown flashes as a coach but closer examination of his record reveals a perfectly mediocre tenure leading a franchise. The way he left Buffalo still leaves a bad taste with some folks and there’s not a ton of faith being put in him to turn around things in Jacksonville. Still, if he can get the most out of quarterback Blake Bortles going forward then he can rise quite a bit on this list in future years.

 

31. Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos

Joseph inherits perhaps the best situation of any first-time head coach in 2017 given the amount of talent on the Denver roster. Still, he’s vastly inexperienced and only has one year of being a coordinator in the NFL prior to getting the job, which means there should be plenty of learning on the fly for him.

 

32. Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers

Amazingly, Lynn was just a running backs coach at this time last year in Buffalo but has risen quickly since then to take over in Los Angeles. He has less than a season’s worth of coordinator/head coaching experience though so despite a lot of respect at the way he runs things from those around the league, there still will be a learning curve with the Chargers. Add in dealing with the move from San Diego to L.A. and playing in a soccer stadium for the next few years and this isn’t the easiest of situations for Lynn to take over.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

Teaser:
Ranking All 32 NFL Head Coaches for 2017
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/why-alabama-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2017
Body:

Since the introduction of the College Football Playoff three seasons ago, there has been one constant – the Alabama Crimson Tide. Nick Saban’s team is the only one to appear in every installment of college football’s final four, yet another testament to the powerhouse he has built in Tuscaloosa.

 

And while critics can point to Alabama’s so-so 3-2 record in the playoff, including losing to Clemson in the most recent national championship game, the Tide won it all just two seasons ago and are the three-time defending champions in the SEC. So can Saban and company make it four-for-four in the playoff era this season?

 

Three Reasons Why Alabama Will Make it to the College Football Playoff in 2017

 

1. Winning consistently – on the field and off it
When it comes to the top programs over the last decade, the list starts with Alabama. Since 2008, Saban’s second season in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide are 112-13 overall with a 65-8 mark in SEC games. Alabama has won five SEC championships and four national titles during that time.

Over the last three seasons, also known as the College Football Playoff era, the record is 40-4 overall, 22-2 in the SEC with three straight conference championships, a national title and a runner-up finish. There’s not a fan base in the country that wouldn’t take those results in a heartbeat, and that includes Ohio State and Clemson.
 

The success on the field starts with the dominance Saban and his staff have established off of it. Alabama has landed the No. 1 recruiting class six straight years, per 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings. When looking at the last five recruiting cycles, Alabama is clearly No. 1 followed by Ohio State (3.6 average ranking). LSU (4.8) is next with Auburn (8.4, seventh) and Texas A&M (11.0, tied for eighth), the only other SEC teams in the top 10.
 

On the field or off, all Alabama has done under Saban is win and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change anytime soon.

 

2. Nick Saban doesn’t rebuild, he reloads
In this year’s NFL draft, 10 Alabama players heard their name called. Four went in the first round and the last was taken in the fourth (No. 112 overall). As a result, only 12 starters return from last season’s team. While this could be a problem for most FBS teams, the cupboard in Tuscaloosa is anything but bare.

In Athlon Sports’ unit rankings for 2017, the Crimson Tide not only land in the top 10 across the board, but three position groups (running back, offensive line, defensive backs) are No. 1 with linebackers (second) and defensive line (third) not too far behind. In fact, the position group that ranks the lowest is quarterback (10th), but keep in mind that Jalen Hurts is the first starting signal-caller to return for the Crimson Tide since AJ McCarron in 2013. Needless to say talent won’t be an issue for Alabama this season.

 

3. Easy “road” to Atlanta and the playoff
Between an opening showdown with Florida State and the always challenging SEC West slate, Alabama plays one of the more difficult schedules in the nation. However, this season the Crimson Tide catch a few breaks in how their games are laid out.

The Florida State game is on a neutral field, brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, a city Alabama knows well and usually plays well in. The Crimson Tide have just four true road games, the toughest being at Auburn to close out the regular season. The other three? At Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Colorado State, Fresno State and Mercer all come to Bryant-Denny Stadium. On top of that, Alabama’s bye comes prior to playing LSU and after hosting the Volunteers.

That’s not to say the Crimson Tide will waltz through the regular season, but even with an opening loss to the Seminoles, there’s a pretty clear path for them to win out, make a return trip to Atlanta and a strong case for a playoff spot. And it’s a road that will pass through Tuscaloosa quite a bit.

 

Three Reasons Why Alabama Will Not Make the College Football Playoff in 2017

 

1. Unproven passing game + new OC
Brian Daboll replaces Lane Kiffin (and don’t forget Steve Sarkisian) as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. A member of Bill Belichick’s coaching staff in New England the past four seasons, this is not only Daboll’s first opportunity to be a coordinator, but the 42-year-old hasn’t been a college coach since serving as a graduate assistant at Michigan State back in 1998-99. Daboll has plenty of experience as a coach, but he’s the new man on campus and you can’t help but wonder how long it will take him to settle in to his new surroundings.


And while Jalen Hurts gives Daboll an experienced quarterback to work with the receiving corps behind Calvin Ridley is unproven and tight end O.J. Howard is no longer on the roster either. Make no mistake, the Crimson Tide should be able to run the ball against any team, but as Clemson showed in January, having a passing game that can make plays when called upon and in critical moments doesn’t hurt either.

 

2. Dual-threat QBs = Alabama defense's Achilles heel?

Alabama fans don’t need to be reminded about Deshaun Watson’s success against the Crimson Tide’s vaunted defense in the past two national championship games. But Watson isn’t the only dual-threat quarterback that has had success against Saban’s defense either. Remember Johnny Manziel back in 2013? Or how about Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly?

This season, the Crimson Tide will face these dual threats: Florida State’s Deondre Francois, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, and the Rebels’ Shea Patterson. That’s not to say any of these guys are as special as Watson or Manziel, but Alabama’s recent track record against these types of quarterbacks is enough to give some pause. Yes, the Crimson Tide secondary is considered the best in the country entering this season, but it was just as talented (if not more) last year and yet Watson still threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns in the national championship game.

 

Two other potential areas of concern for Alabama’s pass defense is the fact that just two of the starting front seven are back and one of those, top linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, is coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in December.

 

3. Does talent trump experience?
As talented as Alabama’s roster is, it doesn’t change the fact that only 12 starters are returning, six on each side. The defense is arguably a little more unsettled considering that just two of the front seven are back. This doesn’t mean the Crimson Tide aren’t going to win a bunch of games. However, only four teams make the playoff and in the each of the first three editions, only one of those has come from the SEC.

 

With Auburn and LSU considered playoff contenders in their own right, the bulls-eye is squarely on Alabama’s back. In the SEC, particularly the West, the margin for error can be thin. One ill-timed loss could be enough to eliminate a team from consideration. With that in mind, as talented as the Crimson Tide are, this is not the ideal setting for on-the-job training.

 

Final Verdict

 

As disappointing and heartbreaking as January’s loss to Clemson was for Nick Saban, Alabama’s players, coaches and fans, it doesn’t change the fact that the Crimson Tide have been a fixture in the College Football Playoff since its inception. Even with the departure of 10 NFL draft picks and the introduction of a new offensive coordinator, there simply is no reason to not expect similar results from Saban and company. Alabama is about as safe as it gets when picking a favorite to make the four-team playoff field.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 1

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 12-1 (7-1 SEC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 10.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 10.5

 

Teaser:
Why Alabama Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2017
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 11:00
Path: /fantasy/arizona-cardinals-fantasy-football-team-names-updated
Body:

What are the best fantasy football team names for Arizona Cardinals fans with the 2017 season closing in? Look no further. Whether you're looking for great, funny, clever, old, new or stupid fantasy football team names to match your favorite team — the Arizona Cardinals — we've got it right here. So hurry, the Cardinals' season opener is Sept. 10 at Detroit. 

 

The best fantasy football team names are often created by looking at the team's top players. For the Cardinals, that's quarterback Carson Palmer, running back David Johnson, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, offensive lineman Mike Iupati, and safety Tyrann Mathieu. You can also include first round draft pick Haason Reddick in your team name, along with Head Coach Bruce Arians and backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

 

Here's our list of Arizona Cardinals fantasy football team names:

 

  • PalmersOnly.com
  • Hairy Palmers
  • My Johnson is Better Than yours
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Chronicles of Reddick
  • Giving opponents Fitz
  • The Arians Brotherhood
  • Blame Gabbert
  • Honey Badger don’t care
  • Tyrann, Tyrann So Far Away
  • Tyrann-osaurus
  • Iupati be kidding me
  • Sweaty Palmers
  • Fitz and the Touchdowns
  • Fitz Like a Glove
  • Puttin on the Fitz
  • House of Cards

 

Looking for more fantasy football team names? Find all NFL team-specific links below. 

Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Football Team Names
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Washington Redskins Fantasy Football Team Names

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 10:36
Path: /college-football/coaches-talk-anonymously-about-byu-2017
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used throughout the offseason or regular season.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2017, Athlon asked coaches around the nation to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Coaches Anonymously Scout BYU for 2017

 

“Tanner Mangum coming back is like having a returning starter even though they lost Taysom Hill. Under Bronco Mendenhall, Mangum looked great. He should be able to adjust to what Ty Detmer wants. It won’t be a spread attack, but Mangum can make the throws you need."

 

"It’s BYU so you know they’re going to be rough in the pile, so to speak. They play meaner than any team we see, we tell our guys that every year."

 

"They’ve done some big things with scheduling to look like a Power 5 school, but on tape this is a really good Mountain West team without that kind of top-level talent you’d see in the Pac-12 or Big 12."

 

"When you play them you study their schedule, because they’re a different team coming off back-to-back Power 5 games across the country than they are at home vs. local schools."

 

"The defense is going to start looking a lot more like Utah, more aggressive and attacking the run."

 

"The decision makers really like (Kalani) Sitake so don’t expect much to change in how they recruit or the culture, which is some of why Mendenhall got fed up there." 

 

"The expectations for BYU and the reality of what it takes to achieve those goals still doesn’t match up for them.”

 

"They’re going to be a well coached, really tough football team but they’re not Notre Dame, and they’re not a playoff contender as an independent. But they can win a lot of games, especially in Provo, if they get that offense going."

Teaser:
Coaches Talk Anonymously About BYU for 2017
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/pac-12-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2017
Body:

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2017, Athlon asked coaches in the Pac-12 to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Pac-12 Football 2017 Predictions

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Pac-12 Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

Arizona

 

“How do they bounce back? Obviously they’ve had their struggles, but Rich Rod has been known to be a very, very diverse offensive coach so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with."

 

"It’s a big year for him. The word that’s been out there is he maybe wasn’t going as hard on the (recruiting) trail as he used to, but they were completely decimated by injuries last year.  If you’re at Arizona and you’re playing your twos you’re barely going to keep your head above water in this league. If you’re playing your threes, you’re dead."

 

"It will help them tremendously to have basically their entire offensive line back, but I question whether they’re going to be good enough at quarterback. (Brandon) Dawkins is a good runner and has some tools, but he’s got to make more plays in the passing game and they’re just OK at receiver. Maybe it’s one of those deals where (Anu) Solomon leaving gives them some clarity at quarterback." 

 

"I can assure you if Nick Wilson stays healthy, they’ll have a chance to be explosive in the running game, but he’s been banged up the last two years." 

 

"I have a lot of respect for (defensive coordinator) Marcel Yates, but I’m not sure how much Rich Rod cares about defense.”

 

Arizona State

 

“I can’t get a read on that situation. They’re changing things up again with the coordinators, so it’s hard to know what they’ll look like." 

 

"Obviously the quarterback transfer in Blake Barnett is going to be interesting coming from Alabama. He’s got ability but he’s more of a drop-back kind of guy, which isn’t really what they’ve done offensively. So what are you going to run with him? They brought in (offensive coordinator) Billy Napier with him from Alabama. I know he’s been in that system, but he’s run some different systems before so I’m just wondering what they’re going to run. Will it be more pro-style or are they going to go up tempo and run the spread?" 

 

"Defensively, Graham likes to blitz you a lot, but last year it just seemed a little bit different. It was kind of like he was calling (blitzes), but they weren’t getting to us, so he got out of his comfort zone and backed off a little bit. I feel like if you can throw in a few wrinkles against their pressure and do a decent job running the ball, you can give them some issues. At the end of the day, Todd is going to do what Todd does. He’d bring pressure on every play if he could, but you just don’t know where it’s coming from.”

 

Related: Ranking the Pac-12's RB Tandems for 2017

 

California

 

“I’m interested to see if they can make some strides on defense. It’s kind of a 180 to go from a head coach who didn’t care about defense at all to a staff with some guys who have a long track record being good defensive coaches".

 

"I think Tim (DeRuyter) is probably back in his comfort zone being a coordinator, and obviously (Justin) Wilcox has done a great job at a number of places. Wilcox is really a 3-4 guy, but if you look at some of the stops he’s made he’s been flexible adjusting to the pieces they have so it’ll be interesting to see how they make that transition with a group that has really struggled to stop people."

 

"It would be hard for me to identify any standouts defensively. I remember they were not very big up front and their linebackers struggled to play in space."

 

"On offense, they’ll have to find a quarterback. I don’t have a clue what they’re going to look like. Obviously their coordinator (Beau Baldwin) is a good football coach who’s going to bring a system he’s developed and won a bunch of games with in FCS." 

 

"Demetris Robertson could have gone anywhere in the country and looked like he belonged from Day 1.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

 

Colorado

 

“They caught people by surprise last year, but they may be even better offensively and they were already pretty good."

 

"Steven Montez opened some people’s eyes when Sefo (Liufau) got hurt and played very well in a difficult situation. It’s tough to come in as a backup when you’re not getting the first-team reps, and he was a redshirt freshman with no real experience so I think he’ll get better and better. He’ll turn it over a little bit, but he’ll make a ton of plays."

 

"Offensively, they run some unique sets, very multiple. They can use tempo in interesting ways, and they’ll throw in some motions, some bunches. They do some neat stuff."

 

"(Phillip) Lindsay isn’t a big guy at all, but he’s a war horse type guy. Just a very solid running back that they use in the quick passing game."

 

"Defensively, I think it hurts them to lose (coordinator) Jim Leavitt, especially to a team in the league, but D.J. Eliot is a really smart guy and will do a good job there."

 

"They’re going to be hurting up front a little bit with the guys they lost, so we’ll see how they reinvent themselves. They’ll definitely have to win games with their offense.”

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Breakout QBs for 2017

 

Oregon

 

“They’re gonna be better than people think."

 

"I don’t know if they lost their edge a little bit with the last staff or something was going on behind the scenes, but they didn’t compete well on either side of the ball, and the crazy thing is I don’t think their talent is bad."

 

"I thought the freshman quarterback (Justin Herbert) did a good job last year, didn’t turn it over, played well enough to give them a chance. He’s more athletic than you think for a kid his size."

 

"Getting Royce Freeman to come back is like signing a five-star recruit. He’s probably got something to prove coming off a somewhat lackluster year, and they’ve still got speed all over the field."

 

"I know they ran a spread offense at South Florida and there are probably some similarities to what the kids are used to, but there are always quirks with blocking schemes and terminology that take some time to learn."

 

"There may be some bumps in the road on defense because their best players are going to be young guys, but mark my words: (Jim) Leavitt is going to turn that around just like he did at Colorado. Just basic stuff like tackling, filling gaps, where they really struggled last year, he’ll get that straightened out.”

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

 

Oregon State

 

“I respect the way they’re trying to build it. It’s kind of the Utah model where they want to be big and physical up front and establish their identity from the line of scrimmage out. They’re hitting their niches in recruiting with some jucos and Polynesian kids. The talent level has gotten better, but it doesn’t happen overnight. The hard part for those guys is everybody else on our side (of the league) is getting better, and Oregon won’t stay down for long so it’s hard to make up ground."

 

"They were OK on defense. They’ll rotate in a bunch of guys up front and they’ve got a 330-pound tackle you’ve got to block (Elu Aydon), but they don’t have anybody who really stood out as a pass rusher."

 

"Offensively, it’s all about No. 34 (Ryan Nall). He’s a big weapon. I know every team they played came into the game saying the first, second and third job for their defense was to stop the running back, and he was still productive even though they couldn’t throw it at all. He’s just a big, strong kid that can get you dirty yards but has enough wiggle to get outside on you."

 

"It’s tough to be consistent on offense when you struggle at quarterback.”

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

Stanford

 

“They’re good enough to beat anybody if they get good quarterback play, but I’m not sure if you can count on that every week. Just some inconsistency at that position has probably been the difference for them between being a top-10 team and getting into the playoff."

 

"They may have two or three games where they just struggle to move the football. But they’re always physical, always sound in what they do."

 

"There’s not a lot of mystery to it. They’re not trying to trick you or do anything gimmicky. They’ve just got really good players and they’re smart, really well-coached on both sides of the ball and they execute." 

 

"I don’t think losing Christian McCaffrey changes what they do very much. They’re going to be elite on the offensive line with all those guys coming back, really good at tight end, and Bryce Love showed people last year he’s capable of being the primary back. I think the question marks are playmaking on the perimeter and whether the quarterback is healthy."

 

"Defensively, they’re not the biggest front we face but they play with great leverage, and they’re hard to block."

 

"(Quenton) Meeks is a physical corner, long arms, and he knows when he can get away with some stuff.”

 

Related: Stanford vs. Washington: The Pac-12's Budding 10-Year War

 

UCLA

 

“They’re always scary because, hey, they’re UCLA and they have players."

 

"When they play well, they look like they can beat anyone in the country."

 

"They really got after our quarterback last year and made it tough with their pass rush, which is probably the strength of their team."

 

"I’m not sold on (Josh) Rosen yet. (Jim) Mora came out a couple years ago and said he’s the No. 1 pick in the draft, but I don’t know if that’s true anymore. Does he have the potential to be a big-time player? No question because when he’s healthy, he makes throws the elite college players make, but he’s got to put it all together."  

 

"It certainly doesn’t help that their offensive line play has been abysmal. What’s crazy about that is I know (Adrian) Klemm got a lot of the blame, but you have to have a philosophy of what you want to do offensively and stick with it, so I guess we’ll see with (new offensive coordinator) Jedd Fisch if it meshes better."

 

"They made some changes on the staff, and I think it’s kind of a make-or-break year."

 

"I do think they’re talented top to bottom, very talented at receiver, very good at running back. Their O-line doesn’t look terrible physically. We’ll just have to see.”

 

Related: College Football 2017 All-America Team

 

USC

 

“They’re the team to beat in the division."

 

"They’re loaded athletically, and they have one of the best quarterbacks in college football. (Sam) Darnold showed that last year in the Rose Bowl and how he played against teams down the stretch."

 

"They’re a force to be reckoned with, no question about that. Yeah, they lose some talented skill guys, and maybe you can pick them apart a little bit with their depth on the offensive line, but let’s be honest, they’re USC. They just reload."

 

"They’ll be solid in the run game. They’re probably looking for a couple guys to step up at receiver. I’m not sure anyone jumps off the page as a guy that’s going to draw the same kind of attention as (JuJu) Smith-Schuster."

 

"They’ll probably be a little young at corner, but you’ve got (Iman) Marshall back, who’s probably their top guy, and (Jack) Jones played a bunch as a freshman. They’ve got guys waiting in the wings." 

 

"I don’t really see them changing much from a philosophy standpoint on defense. They like to play a six-man box and see if you can beat them because they feel like they’re going to have enough speed to cover your guys and not let you get to the third level if you try to run the ball.”

 

Related: Sam Darnold is Leading USC's Return to Dominance 

 

Utah

 

“I think they’re going to be good."

 

"Defensively, they can play man-to-man. They bring pressures in interesting ways. Most of what they’re trying to do is force you to throw the ball and see if your quarterback can beat them on the outside. If you can make a couple big plays, maybe that forces them to change some things and can tilt the momentum of the game."

 

"Everyone talks about how good they are up front (on defense), but I thought we had a harder time playing against some other teams in the league."

 

"They try to take away what you do best, and they’re very, very mentally tough."

 

"I think Coach (Kyle) Whittingham does an unbelievable job getting them ready to play every Saturday. You can tell they’re tough kids who are coached hard, and I respect a coach like that."

 

"Offensively, I suspect they’re going to be improved with (Troy Taylor) coming over from Eastern Washington, but there is some risk bringing in a guy whose background is totally different from what they’re used to doing there. How much are they really going to open things up, and do they have a QB who can run his system? And then, if they’re playing at a different pace offensively, does that impact their defense?”

 

Related: Utah Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017

 

Washington

 

“I know people talked about the Pac-12 being down last year, but in my mind those guys showed against Alabama they were the real deal on defense. They gave up the one big play that killed ’em, but they were right there. Common sense says they’ll take a step back because of how many guys they lose, but I wouldn’t bet against that staff. They’ll figure some things out and get their guys where they need to be by the end of the year."

 

"They were a little bit like USC last year in that they were so dominant up front they didn’t put extra guys in the box. The big nose tackle (Vita Vea) eats up a lot of space in the 3-4 and their linebackers are very good. In passing situations, they’re not afraid to drop everybody into coverage and see if their guys can win one-on-one matchups. We’ll see if they change it up a little bit this year to try to help their young guys on the back end."

 

"They don’t blow you away offensively, but the quarterback doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and they don’t give him more than he can handle. He was playing with a dinged-up shoulder at the end of last season, but he’s very accurate with the ball and he’s only going to get better coming into his junior year.”

 

Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

Washington State

 

“They’ll be right in the mix again."

 

"They get so much attention for the Air Raid stuff, they’re probably a little bit underrated for how well they run the ball. A couple years ago (Mike) Leach started putting in those wide splits up front, which really opened up the outside zone play for them and they do a really good job blocking it."

 

"It’s a pretty complete offense. It’s hard to pressure them because they’ll get the ball out quick and tunnel screen you to death, and if you’re playing zone those receivers will recognize it and try to get underneath somewhere they can get five or six yards. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, but they execute because the quarterback (Luke Falk) is able to orchestrate everything at the line of scrimmage and deliver the ball where it needs to go. We were hoping he’d turn pro, obviously, but he probably made a good decision to come back."  

 

"They’ve continued to make strides defensively. They’re solid across the board, good linebackers, good safeties. They’re not quite as strong on their defensive front outside of Hercules (Mata’afa), and I think there’s a big drop-off between their ones and twos, but it’s not like a few years ago where their offense had to put up 45 points to win.”

Teaser:
Pac-12 Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-quarterbacks-2017
Body:

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Penn State’s Trace McSorley lead the way in the Big Ten quarterback rankings for 2017. Barrett should benefit from the arrival of play-caller Kevin Wilson, while McSorley will continue to develop under the watchful eye of second-year coordinator Joe Moorhead. While the top two in the conference is clear, the rest of the Big Ten quarterback rankings are a bit of a mystery. Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson and Michigan’s Wilton Speight headline the next tier, followed by Purdue’s David Blough and Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook. Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland and Iowa opened fall practice with an ongoing battle at quarterback.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2017. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, previous production, 2017 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big Ten for 2017.

 

Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2017

 

14. Giovanni Rescigno, Rutgers

New coordinator Jerry Kill is looking for ways to spark an offense that averaged only 15.7 points per game and was shut out four times in 2016. Rescigno led the Scarlet Knights with 889 passing yards and tied for the team lead with five touchdown tosses. Needless to say, the offense has to get more production and consistency out of its quarterbacks in 2017. Rescigno opened fall camp with a lead over true freshman Jonathan Lewis and graduate transfer Kyle Bolin for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

 

13. Demry Croft, Minnesota

Croft is listed as the starter here, but there’s an ongoing battle in fall camp to claim the top spot on the depth chart. Senior Conor Rhoda isn’t far behind Croft, with freshmen Seth Green and Tanner Morgan also vying for snaps. Rhoda played in three games (with one start) last fall, completing 8 of 16 passes for 88 yards and one score. Croft is the name to watch in fall camp, as the sophomore has the edge in upside and overall talent or fit for new coach P.J. Fleck’s offense. He played in seven games in 2015 and took a redshirt year in 2016.

 

12. Chayce Crouch, Illinois

With junior college recruit Dwayne Lawson unable to join the team in time for the 2017 season, Crouch is the clear No. 1 quarterback for coach Lovie Smith. Before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in his first career start, Crouch threw for 249 yards on 18 completions and one score over four appearances. Additionally, Crouch showed good mobility by averaging 6.1 yards per carry over 29 attempts. Crouch is inexperienced, but there’s upside for coordinator Garrick McGee to build around, especially with a solid group of receivers to target on the outside.

 

Related: Big Ten Football 2017 Predictions

 

11. Caleb Henderson, Maryland

The Terrapins opened fall practices with Henderson and sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome locked into a tight battle for the No. 1 spot. Henderson – a North Carolina transfer – is eligible after sitting out 2016 due to NCAA rules. He made just two appearances in his time with the Tar Heels and attempted only one pass. Henderson ranked as a four-star recruit in the 2014 signing class. Pigrome showcased his mobility (254 yards) as a freshman backup last fall but completed 52.1 percent of his passes.

 

10. Nathan Stanley, Iowa

New play-caller Brian Ferentz is tasked with finding ways to jumpstart a passing attack that managed only 13 plays of 30 or more yards last fall. Injuries and other personnel concerns at receiver hindered the performance of former quarterback C.J. Beathard. The same concerns remain at receiver this fall, with Stanley and junior Tyler Wiegers in competition to replace Beathard. Stanley was the No. 2 quarterback as a true freshman in 2016 and completed 5 of 9 passes for 62 yards.

 

9. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State

The Spartans aren’t without concerns on defense for 2017, but the offense has to take a significant step forward in order to return to a winning record and bowl game after a 3-9 finish last year. Lewerke received two starts in 2016 and showed promise before a season-ending leg injury. In four appearances (with two starts), Lewerke completed 31 of 57 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 149 yards on 21 carries. Lewerke’s development is crucial to Michigan State’s hopes of a rebound in 2017.  

 

Related: Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017

 

8. Richard Lagow, Indiana

Kevin Wilson is no longer in Bloomington, but the Hoosiers won’t make drastic changes on offense. Veteran coordinator Mike DeBord takes over the play-calling duties for new head coach Tom Allen and inherits an offense with five returning starters, including one of the Big Ten’s best receiving corps. DeBord’s is tasked with getting Lagow to play with more week-to-week consistency. In his first year as the starter last fall, Lagow ranked second among Big Ten quarterbacks by throwing for 3,362 yards but also tossed 17 interceptions. He also ranked second in the conference by completing 24 passes of 30 or more yards.

 

7. Tanner Lee, Nebraska

Intrigue surrounds Nebraska’s offense for 2017. In addition to the need to establish the ground game and fill out the receiving targets, Lee takes over as the starting quarterback after Tommy Armstrong expired his eligibility. The Louisiana native is a better fit than Armstrong for coach Mike Riley’s offense and is eligible after sitting out 2016 due to transfer rules. Lee previously started at Tulane, throwing for 3,601 yards and 23 touchdowns from 2014-15. The junior is surrounded by a better supporting cast than his tenure with the Green Wave and had a strong spring to stake his claim for the top spot on the depth chart.

 

6. Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin

Coach Paul Chryst isn’t going to change Wisconsin’s formula for success. The Badgers are going to pound away with the ground attack and lean on one of the Big Ten’s top defenses to return to Indianapolis for the conference title in December. However, Chryst could open up the pass a little more with Hornibrook entrenched as the starter. The Pennsylvania native started nine games as a redshirt freshman last year, throwing for 1,262 yards and nine touchdowns. The lefty is primed to take a step forward in his first full season as Wisconsin’s No. 1 quarterback.

 

Related: College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

 

5. David Blough, Purdue

New coach Jeff Brohm engineered some of the nation’s top offenses during his three-year stint at WKU. The Hilltoppers averaged over 40 points a game in all three seasons, while the starting quarterback for those teams posted at least 37 touchdown tosses every year. Brohm’s first offense at Purdue probably won’t equal those totals, but it’s safe to assume there will be improvement. Blough should benefit the most from Brohm’s arrival, as the junior returns under center after throwing for 3,352 yards and 25 scores last fall. Cutting down on the interceptions (21) and raising the completion percentage (57.1) are two priorities for Blough in 2017. 

 

4. Wilton Speight, Michigan

Even though Speight started 12 games and earned third-team All-Big Ten honors last fall, he’s not entrenched as Michigan’s No. 1 quarterback. Coach Jim Harbaugh is promoting an open competition this fall, with John O’Korn and redshirt freshman Brandon Peters vying for the top spot. Speight threw for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall and is still the favorite to take the first snap for the Wolverines in 2017. However, the development of Peters – a former four-star recruit – is worth watching this fall.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

3. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

Thorson took a step forward in his second year as Northwestern’s starting quarterback last fall. After throwing for 1,522 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2015, Thorson threw for 3,182 yards and 22 scores last season and added five rushing scores. Thorson’s completion percentage also jumped from 50.8 to 58.6. Top target Austin Carr must be replaced, but Thorson is poised for his best all-around season as the No. 1 quarterback for coach Pat Fitzgerald.

 

2. Trace McSorley, Penn State

McSorley was one of the nation’s top breakout quarterbacks from 2016. In addition to guiding Penn State to the Big Ten Championship and an 11-win season, McSorley threw for 3,614 yards and 29 touchdowns and added 365 yards and seven scores on the ground. Look for McSorley to benefit from another offseason with coordinator Joe Moorhead, and he should be even better in his second year as the starter.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

 

1. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Even though Ohio State’s offense averaged 39.4 points per game last season, coach Urban Meyer wasn’t going to sit idle after losing 31-0 to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, Meyer brought in former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to take over the play-calling duties and bring back a big-play element to the Buckeyes’ offense. The main benefactor of this move should be Barrett. After a dynamic freshman season in 2014, Barrett shared the job with Cardale Jones in 2015 and accounted for 3,275 yards and 33 overall scores last fall. With Wilson at the controls, Barrett should take his production up a notch and contend for the Heisman Trophy.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Quarterbacks for 2017
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Louisville Cardinals
Path: /college-football/louisville-football-game-game-predictions-2017
Body:

There will be a lot of assumptions that the Louisville Cardinals football team will take a step back this season.

 

After all, a Heisman Trophy winner tends to see a bit of a drop-off if he returns the following year, and quarterback Lamar Jackson comes back as a junior with otherworldly expectations he can't possibly fulfill.

 

On top of that, the sour taste of the end of last season sticks in the mouths of some, where the Cards lost to Houston, Kentucky and LSU to close out what was otherwise a stellar year.

 

Then, of course, there are the personnel losses, where Jackson's top three receivers and leading rusher have moved on. The defense also lost key pieces in the front seven.

 

You also can point to the fact that Jackson's offensive line last year was never really good at all, and the only hope of improvement is that head coach Bobby Petrino changed coaches for that position unit.

 

So it's entirely possible the Cards drop a notch or two this season.

 

But, that schedule… have you looked at that schedule?

 

Louisville should be favored heavily in most of their games this season. Barring another late-season collapse, it's actually more realistic that – even with those aforementioned holes – the Cardinals finish with a better record than last year and make a run at the College Football Playoff again.

 

Athlon polled a few writers to get a better grip on what to expect from the Cardinals this season from a win/loss projection.

 

Louisville Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017

 

Adam Kurkjian (@AdamKurkjian)

The concerns for the Cards are real, but it would be a mistake to sort of swipe away any thought of another run at the College Football Playoff.

 

Lamar Jackson probably won't put up the type of numbers he did last year, but there is room for growth. Although he did combine for 51 touchdowns rushing and passing last season, he only completed 56.2 percent of his passes. Under the tutelage of head coach Bobby Petrino, who is about as good of a quarterback coach as it gets, that number should get closer to 60 percent, even with the loss of his top receivers.

 

The key stretches in this schedule come in the beginning and middle, for obvious reasons. The opening three-game stretch includes a trip to a rebuilding North Carolina and home game with reloading Clemson. The Tigers are clearly the team to worry about with a defensive line stacked with NFL talent, but that was a winnable game for the Cardinals last year in Death Valley and will be again this time at Papa John's Stadium.

 

The showdown at Doak Campbell Stadium against Florida State could make or break the season, but don't look past the Thursday night road game in Raleigh against an underrated NC State team.

 

It's not the toughest schedule, but we'll know exactly how good Louisville is by the end of October.

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

With Lamar Jackson back under center, Louisville has the firepower to win every game on its regular season schedule. But in order for the Cardinals to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff, the offensive line has to take a step forward. This group surrendered 47 sacks last year and struggled against athletic and physical fronts like LSU and Houston in November. The progress of this group is critical, especially in a division that features three of the nation’s best defensive lines in Clemson, Florida State and NC State. Outside of the offensive line, the performance of Louisville’s defense is worth monitoring. Todd Grantham departed for Mississippi State, with Peter Sirmon taking over as the defensive play-caller. Sirmon’s defense at Mississippi State struggled last year, but he’s inheriting a solid foundation with cornerback Jaire Alexander and linebacker Stacy Thomas anchoring a unit that returns seven starters. I’m taking 9-3 for Louisville’s projection, but 10-2 wouldn’t be a surprise. 

 

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)

The thud of an ending to last season contributed quite a bit but it's still surprising how little buzz there is about the Cardinals and returning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. As good as the quarterback was in 2016, expect him to be even better this year – especially as a passer – despite his rushing numbers coming a bit more down to Earth. There are defensive concerns in terms of personnel but the coordinator change on that side of the ball is a positive and the schedule really only has two tough contests against the big Atlantic Division powers Clemson and Florida State. Bobby Petrino's squad still seems a tick behind those two teams but a double-digit win total still seems very likely at the end of the year.

 

Mike Ferguson (@MikeWFerguson)

With Lamar Jackson returning, Louisville should again be explosive on offense, but the skill players around him aren't as proven. Brandon Radcliffe, James Quick, Jamari Staples and Cole Hikutini are all gone and Jackson will have to rely on less proven players to help key opposing defenses from keying in on the resigning Heisman winner. Toward the end of last season, opposing teams got much better at figuring Jackson and the Louisville offense out.

 

On the defensive side of the ball, Louisville has a decent corps returning, a group that’s headlined by linebackers James Hearns and Stacy Thomas as well as stud cornerback Jaire Alexander.

 

The slate for Louisville however, is not an easy one. Opening up with Purdue, at North Carolina and then hosting reigning national champion Clemson isn't a calm September. In October, the Cardinals will have to travel to NC State on a short week and visit ACC favorite Florida State. If Louisville can survive the first two months, things cool down in November.

 

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)

Lamar Jackson is back and his return means that Louisville will be a dangerous team.  But with so many of the skill positions turning over, Jackson will have to develop new bonds with new players. Also, the offensive line, which was dismal at the end of last year, must improve greatly if Louisville is going to challenge in the Atlantic.  Defensively, the secondary should be strong and there are two quality ends. But the interior of the line is a question as is the depth all along the front. And in a trade of defensive coordinators with Mississippi State, the Cardinals got a guy that led the nation’s 110th-ranked unit while the guy that guided a No. 14 defense is going to Starkville. The Cardinals have plenty of winnable games, but I can’t see them being a real contender in the Atlantic this season.

 

Teaser:
Louisville Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017
Post date: Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/vontaze-burfict-bengals-cheap-shot-during-training-camp-causes-scuffle
Body:

Vontaze Burfict has an interesting history of what some may call "cheap shots" in the NFL.

 

During the Bengals' training camp, the linebacker went low on running back Giovani Bernard's knees during a drill. In a game that would definitely be worth another look, but during the first week of training camp against his own teammate it's a real head-scratcher.

 

 

 

Something tells us that won't be last questionable play we hear about from Burfict this season.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 12:39
Path: /fantasy/2017-fantasy-football-idp-mock-draft
Body:

Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine

The calendar reads August, NFL training camps are in full swing and preseason games are just around the corner, which means the fantasy football season is upon us! For diehard fantasy players, preparation for the upcoming season probably started as soon as the Super Bowl ended, but don’t worry there’s still plenty of time to catch up.

 

For hands-on practice, nothing beats a mock draft, which is exactly what 12 Athlon Sports editors and fantasy contributors did in early May. Of course, plenty of things have happened since then so keep that in mind when analyzing this mock draft. For example, Jeremy Maclin was still in Kansas City and Eric Decker was a Jet when this mock draft took place, among many other developments. And as the start to training camps have shown, injuries can and will happen, and will continue to right up until Week 1.

 

Below is a complete breakdown of the 12-team, 20-round IDP mock draft we conducted, along with some analysis of my own. This mock draft also can be found in Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, which is available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere. And for those who enjoy mock drafts, be sure to check out FantasyPros’ Mock Draft Simulator.

 

12-team, 20-round serpentine-style mock draft based on Athlon Sports standard scoring and with the following starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR), 1 K, 1 DEF/ST, 1 DL, 1 LB, 1 DB, 1 Flex IDP (DL/LB/DB), 6 bench spots

 

Round 1
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter Affiliation
1 1 David Johnson RB ARI Mark Ross Athlon Sports
2 2 Le'Veon Bell RB PIT Michael Horvath AthlonSports.com contributor
3 3 Antonio Brown WR PIT Sarah Lewis AthlonSports.com contributor
4 4 Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL John Gworek Athlon Sports
5 5 Odell Beckham Jr. WR NYG John Hansen FantasyGuru.com
6 6 LeSean McCoy RB BUF David Gonos FNTSY.com
7 7 Julio Jones WR ATL Mike Clay ESPN
8 8 Mike Evans WR TB Chris Meyers AthlonSports.com contributor
9 9 Jordan Howard RB CHI Rivers McCown Football Outsiders
10 10 Melvin Gordon RB LAC Jamey Eisenberg CBSSports.com
11 11 A.J. Green WR CIN Matt Schauf DraftSharks.com
12 12 Jordy Nelson WR GB Corby Yarbrough Athlon Sports contributor

Round 1 Analysis: When it comes to the “Who’s No. 1” debate, I took David Johnson with Ezekiel Elliott slipping to fourth behind Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Between the three running backs it really comes down to personal preference as I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them at the top of the draft, even if Elliott ends up sitting a game or two to start the season. Otherwise, it’s a lot of familiar faces in the first round with a few new additions – Jordan Howard and Melvin Gordon. Once again there are no quarterbacks to be found, and looking ahead I don’t expect this trend to change.

 

Round 2
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 13 DeMarco Murray RB TEN Corby Yarbrough
2 14 Dez Bryant WR DAL Matt Schauf
3 15 T.Y. Hilton WR IND Jamey Eisenberg
4 16 Amari Cooper WR OAK Rivers McCown
5 17 Michael Thomas WR NO Chris Meyers
6 18 Devonta Freeman RB ATL Mike Clay
7 19 Rob Gronkowski TE NE David Gonos
8 20 DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU John Hansen
9 21 Jay Ajayi RB MIA John Gworek
10 22 Todd Gurley RB LAR Sarah Lewis
11 23 Leonard Fournette RB JAC Michael Horvath
12 24 Lamar Miller RB HOU Mark Ross

Round 2 Analysis: All RBs and WRs except for Rob Gronkowski, which is not a direction I would have gone with my second pick. We all know what Gronk can do when healthy, but here’s the number to keep in mind – 24. That’s the total number of games Gronk has missed over the past five seasons combined. Not exactly a small sample size. Too much risk this early when there are some other TEs who have established themselves as more reliable and especially with the scarcity of legitimate workhorse RBs.

 

Round 3
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 25 Alshon Jeffery WR PHI Mark Ross
2 26 Brandin Cooks WR NE Michael Horvath
3 27 Jarvis Landry WR MIA Sarah Lewis
4 28 Allen Robinson WR JAC John Gworek
5 29 Christian McCaffrey RB CAR John Hansen
6 30 Doug Baldwin WR SEA David Gonos
7 31 Demaryius Thomas WR DEN Mike Clay
8 32 Carlos Hyde RB SF Chris Meyers
9 33 Davante Adams WR GB Rivers McCown
10 34 Sammy Watkins WR BUF Jamey Eisenberg
11 35 Keenan Allen WR LAC Matt Schauf
12 36 Dalvin Cook RB MIN Corby Yarbrough

Round 3 Analysis: This round leads off with two No. 1 WRs that landed with new teams in the offseason. Alshon Jeffery could have a nice bounce-back season in Philadelphia while Brandin Cooks’ fit in New England is a little harder to define right now, although the potential for him to post WR1-worthy numbers remains. Among the other wideouts taken in this round, I’m not sure I can trust Allen Robinson as my WR1 after last season’s disappointment, while Sammy Watkins and Keenan Allen both represent significant injury risks. Christian McCaffrey is already getting rave reviews in training camp, so it wouldn’t surprise me if his ADP continues to rise to where he and Leonard Fournette (taken six picks earlier in this mock) battle each other for the distinction of being the first rookie taken in drafts.

 

Round 4 
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 37 Aaron Rodgers QB GB Corby Yarbrough
2 38 Golden Tate WR DET Matt Schauf
3 39 Terrelle Pryor WR WAS Jamey Eisenberg
4 40 Spencer Ware RB KC Rivers McCown
5 41 Stefon Diggs WR MIN Chris Meyers
6 42 Jordan Reed TE WAS Mike Clay
7 43 Michael Crabtree WR OAK David Gonos
8 44 C.J. Anderson RB DEN John Hansen
9 45 Andrew Luck QB IND John Gworek
10 46 Mark Ingram RB NO Sarah Lewis
11 47 Kelvin Benjamin WR CAR Michael Horvath
12 48 Travis Kelce TE KC Mark Ross

Round 4 Analysis: We have our first quarterback! It makes complete sense that it’s Aaron Rodgers with Andrew Luck the only other one going in this round. Terrelle Pryor is a popular breakout pick now that he’s in Washington and with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon elsewhere, the opportunity is clearly there. Jackson's new teammate, Jordan Reed, remains a risk-reward player, so just be sure you have a solid backup TE if you draft him. C.J. Anderson also could be a bounce-back performer or a waste of an early-round pick because of his injury history. And even though Adrian Peterson is now in New Orleans, the Saints RB I want on my roster is Mark Ingram.

 

Round 5
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 49 Corey Davis WR TEN Mark Ross
2 50 Corey Coleman WR CLE Michael Horvath
3 51 Joe Mixon RB CIN Sarah Lewis
4 52 Tyreek Hill WR KC John Gworek
5 53 Ameer Abdullah RB DET John Hansen
6 54 Tevin Coleman RB ATL David Gonos
7 55 Julian Edelman WR NE Mike Clay
8 56 Russell Wilson QB SEA Chris Meyers
9 57 Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN Rivers McCown
10 58 Isaiah Crowell RB CLE Jamey Eisenberg
11 59 Ty Montgomery RB GB Matt Schauf
12 60 Donte Moncrief WR IND Corby Yarbrough

Round 5 Analysis: I may have reached a little for Corey Davis, but I am enamored with his potential in Tennessee. The same can be said for Joe Mixon, but it’s too early to discount Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard (see Round 11) in Cincinnati’s backfield plans at this point. It wouldn’t surprise me if Isaiah Crowell continues to rise in the rankings as we get closer to the season as I think he’s an underrated fantasy RB. I certainly would prefer him over Ty Montgomery, the converted wide receiver who is Green Bay’s top running back. But that doesn’t mean he will provide RB1 production.

 

Round 6
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 61 Greg Olsen TE CAR Corby Yarbrough
2 62 Martavis Bryant WR PIT Matt Schauf
3 63 Tom Brady QB NE Jamey Eisenberg
4 64 Marshawn Lynch RB OAK Rivers McCown
5 65 Latavius Murray RB MIN Chris Meyers
6 66 Jamison Crowder WR WAS Mike Clay
7 67 Eddie Lacy RB SEA David Gonos
8 68 Brandon Marshall WR NYG John Hansen
9 69 Mike Williams WR LAC John Gworek
10 70 Tyler Eifert TE CIN Sarah Lewis
11 71 Derrick Henry RB TEN Michael Horvath
12 72 Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI Mark Ross

Round 6 Analysis: Marshawn Lynch, Latavius Murray and Eddie Lacy are three other running backs on new teams this season. Which one should you trust? Lynch is probably the popular choice, but let’s not forget he didn’t play at all last season. Murray has Dalvin Cook breathing down his neck and is coming off of ankle surgery, which is impacting his training camp participation. And then there’s Lacy, whose weight has already made its share of headlines. For me, I would rather take my chances with Lacy, who could be Lynch 2.0 in Seattle, provided he stays healthy and in good shape. Also this mock was done before news of Mike Williams’ back issues came to light. Considering there’s a chance he could miss the entire season, it may be safest to just remove San Diego's first-round pick from your draft board altogether.

 

Round 7
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 73 Drew Brees QB NO Mark Ross
2 74 Jimmy Graham TE SEA Michael Horvath
3 75 Jordan Matthews WR PHI Sarah Lewis
4 76 Rob Kelley RB WAS John Gworek
5 77 Cameron Meredith WR CHI John Hansen
6 78 Matt Ryan QB ATL David Gonos
7 79 Bilal Powell RB NYJ Mike Clay
8 80 Theo Riddick RB DET Chris Meyers
9 81 Willie Snead WR NO Rivers McCown
10 82 Mike Gillislee RB NE Jamey Eisenberg
11 83 Paul Perkins RB NYG Matt Schauf
12 84 Kareem Hunt RB KC Corby Yarbrough

Round 7 Analysis: The back end of this round sees a trio of intriguing running backs taken. Mike Gillislee could be a touchdown machine like LeGarrette Blount was in 2016 or he could become Bill Belichick’s latest fantasy casualty at RB. Paul Perkins could break out in his second season with the Giants or he may not get enough carries to be fantasy revelant because Eli Manning has so many weapons to throw to. Kareem Hunt could emerge as Kansas City’s top backfield option or he could be part of a committee approach. This just goes to show the risk-reward factor that seems to be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the running back position.

 

Round 8
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 85 DeSean Jackson WR TB Corby Yarbrough
2 86 Doug Martin RB TB Matt Schauf
3 87 Pierre Garcon WR SF Jamey Eisenberg
4 88 Frank Gore RB IND Rivers McCown
5 89 DeVante Parker WR MIA Chris Meyers
6 90 Eric Decker WR TEN Mike Clay
7 91 Randall Cobb WR GB David Gonos
8 92 C.J. Prosise RB SEA John Hansen
9 93 Zach Ertz TE PHI John Gworek
10 94 Rishard Matthews WR TEN Sarah Lewis
11 95 Derek Carr QB OAK Michael Horvath
12 96 Jonathan Stewart RB CAR Mark Ross

Round 8 Analysis: Doug Martin appears to be on shaky ground in Tampa Bay, while DeSean Jackson’s arrival has many excited about Jameis Winston’s outlook for 2017. Even though Corey Davis is the hot commodity in Tennessee, don’t overlook Eric Decker’s potential with the Titans considering Rishard Matthews was the team's top WR last season. And just because Christian McCaffrey is making all the headlines in Panthers’ training camp that doesn’t make Jonathan Stewart irrelevant, at least not yet.

 

Round 9
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 97 Zay Jones WR BUF Mark Ross
2 98 Kenneth Dixon RB BAL Michael Horvath
3 99 Cam Newton QB CAR Sarah Lewis
4 100 Landon Collins DB NYG John Gworek
5 101 Delanie Walker TE TEN John Hansen
6 102 Marvin Jones WR DET David Gonos
7 103 Luke Kuechly LB CAR Mike Clay
8 104 Kyle Rudolph TE MIN Chris Meyers
9 105 Khalil Mack DL OAK Rivers McCown
10 106 Hunter Henry TE LAC Jamey Eisenberg
11 107 J.J. Watt DL HOU Matt Schauf
12 108 Danny Woodhead RB BAL Corby Yarbrough

Round 9 Analysis: We finally have our first IDPs to come off of the board, and the first one taken wasn’t J.J. Watt or Khalil Mack. It was Giants CB Landon Collins, who was huge as a rookie, although it may be risky to expect a repeat performance, especially at this point in the draft. Even though I didn’t take an IDP in this round, if I had it would have been the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year (Mack) over the guy who had won it the previous two seasons. Watt is a stud when he’s healthy, but that’s becoming more of an issue. Luke Kuechly also has some risk associated with him after suffering a concussion that caused him to miss the final six games. Also, you can forget about Kenneth Dixon since he’s done for the season after having surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus. This increases Terrance West’s and Danny Woodhead’s fantasy appeal.

 

Round 10
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 109 Matt Forte RB NYJ Corby Yarbrough
2 110 Samaje Perine RB WAS Matt Schauf
3 111 Jamaal Williams RB GB Jamey Eisenberg
4 112 John Brown WR ARI Rivers McCown
5 113 Adrian Peterson RB MIN Chris Meyers
6 114 Joey Bosa DL LAC Mike Clay
7 115 Kwon Alexander LB TB David Gonos
8 116 Keanu Neal DB ATL John Hansen
9 117 Sterling Shepard WR NYG John Gworek
10 118 Alec Ogletree LB LAR Sarah Lewis
11 119 Adam Thielen WR MIN Michael Horvath
12 120 Thomas Rawls RB SEA Mark Ross

Round 10 Analysis: Would you rather have a veteran RB like Matt Forte or Adrian Peterson or take a chance on a rookie like Samaje Perine or Jamaal Williams? Those are the types of questions one will have to weigh once you get into the middle rounds. Among these options, I would prefer Peterson, but only if I am set with my top two starters. Both Perine and Williams are in situations where they could see significant touches, but unless either is anointed the starter before the season starts you will have to be in a position where you can afford to have them bide their time on your bench.

 

Round 11
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 121 Jamie Collins LB CLE Mark Ross
2 122 Reshad Jones DB MIA Michael Horvath
3 123 Darren Sproles RB PHI Sarah Lewis
4 124 Jeremy Hill RB CIN John Gworek
5 125 Philip Rivers QB LAC John Hansen
6 126 Giovani Bernard RB CIN David Gonos
7 127 Bobby Wagner LB SEA Mike Clay
8 128 Martellus Bennett TE GB Chris Meyers
9 129 Aaron Donald DL LAR Rivers McCown
10 130 Lavonte David LB TB Jamey Eisenberg
11 131 Eric Ebron TE DET Matt Schauf
12 132 Mike Wallace WR BAL Corby Yarbrough

Round 11 Analysis: So what does Joe Mixon’s arrival in Cincinnati mean for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard moving forward? Barring a trade or injury, both figure to get touches. It’s just a matter of how many. Bernard would appear to be the safer bet because of his pass-catching abilities, but he’s also coming back from a torn ACL. This is definitely a situation that bears watching as the preseason progresses. I’m not ready to completely give up on Hill, but it’s not like he hasn’t let his owners down before either. This may end up being one backfield I avoid entirely come draft day.

 

Round 12
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 133 Kenny Britt WR CLE Corby Yarbrough
2 134 Jameis Winston QB TB Matt Schauf
3 135 Jason Pierre-Paul DL NYG Jamey Eisenberg
4 136 Marcus Mariota QB TEN Rivers McCown
5 137 Von Miller LB DEN Chris Meyers
6 138 Duke Johnson RB CLE Mike Clay
7 139 Josh Gordon WR CLE David Gonos
8 140 Jeremy Maclin WR BAL John Hansen
9 141 Telvin Smith LB JAC John Gworek
10 142 Carlos Dunlap DL CIN Sarah Lewis
11 143 Will Fuller WR HOU Michael Horvath
12 144 Calais Campbell DL JAC Mark Ross

Round 12 Analysis: So how deep is quarterback? Deep enough that in this mock Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, two guys many expect to emerge as top-10 fantasy options this season, go in Round 12. And why anyone is even willing to waste a draft pick on Josh Gordon is beyond me.

 

Round 13 
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 145 Ryan Shazier LB PIT Mark Ross
2 146 Kirk Cousins QB WAS Michael Horvath
3 147 Kevin White WR CHI Sarah Lewis
4 148 Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT John Gworek
5 149 Sean Lee LB DAL John Hansen
6 150 Jack Doyle TE IND David Gonos
7 151 Dak Prescott QB DAL Mike Clay
8 152 Breshad Perriman WR BAL Chris Meyers
9 153 John Ross WR CIN Rivers McCown
10 154 J.J. Nelson WR ARI Jamey Eisenberg
11 155 Alvin Kamara RB NO Matt Schauf
12 156 Ezekiel Ansah DL DET Corby Yarbrough

 

Round 14
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 157 C.J. Mosley LB BAL Corby Yarbrough
2 158 NaVorro Bowman LB SF Matt Schauf
3 159 Terrance West RB BAL Jamey Eisenberg
4 160 Tyrann Mathieu DB ARI Rivers McCown
5 161 Denver DST DEN Chris Meyers
6 162 Josh Doctson WR WAS Mike Clay
7 163 Olivier Vernon DL NYG David Gonos
8 164 Jamaal Charles RB DEN John Hansen
9 165 D'Onta Foreman RB HOU John Gworek
10 166 Morgan Burnett DB GB Sarah Lewis
11 167 Jatavis Brown LB LAC Michael Horvath
12 168 Tyrell Williams WR LAC Mark Ross

Rounds 13 and 14 Analysis: I think anyone would be thrilled to get Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger or Dak Prescott this late. I wouldn’t count on this holding true by the time your draft rolls around, even in an IDP league. While there are plenty of intriguing rookie RBs, I’m not sure I would put Alvin Kamara in that category just yet with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson clearly ahead of him on the depth chart. John Ross also may be not be a surefire reliable contributor as a rookie with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and even Tyler Boyd (as well as the RBs) also in the mix for targets for Cincinnati. Even though Kenneth Dixon’s injury helps Terrance West’s fantasy stock, he still could be a potential steal on draft day depending on how others in your league view him. I would take my chances with West rather than Jamaal Charles, who is trying to revive his career in Denver.

 

Round 15 
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 169 Seattle DST SEA Mark Ross
2 170 Cameron Jordan DL NO Michael Horvath
3 171 Carson Wentz QB PHI Sarah Lewis
4 172 Kenny Stills WR MIA John Gworek
5 173 Coby Fleener TE NO John Hansen
6 174 Dion Lewis RB NE David Gonos
7 175 James White RB NE Mike Clay
8 176 Matthew Stafford QB DET Chris Meyers
9 177 Houston DST HOU Rivers McCown
10 178 Marlon Mack RB IND Jamey Eisenberg
11 179 Vontaze Burfict LB CIN Matt Schauf
12 180 Tyrod Taylor QB BUF Corby Yarbrough

 

Round 16 
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 181 Deion Jones LB ATL Corby Yarbrough
2 182 Eli Manning QB NYG Matt Schauf
3 183 Harrison Smith DB MIN Jamey Eisenberg
4 184 Derrick Johnson LB KC Rivers McCown
5 185 Everson Griffen DL MIN Chris Meyers
6 186 Kansas City DST KC Mike Clay
7 187 Tavon Austin WR LAR David Gonos
8 188 Danielle Hunter DL MIN John Hansen
9 189 Vic Beasley LB ATL John Gworek
10 190 Jordan Hicks LB PHI Sarah Lewis
11 191 Charles Clay TE BUF Michael Horvath
12 192 Andy Dalton QB CIN Mark Ross

Rounds 15 and 16 Analysis: While the additions of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram don’t guarantee Eli Manning will put up big numbers this season, I fully expect him to rise in the QB pecking order between now and when the season starts. I love the breakout potential of Carson Wentz now that he has a year under his belt and new weapons to throw to, but I’ll defer to Manning over him and the others taken in these two rounds, as well as a few guys that were picked earlier.

 

Round 17
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 193 Jamal Adams DB NYJ Mark Ross
2 194 Arizona DST ARI Michael Horvath
3 195 O.J. Howard TE TB Sarah Lewis
4 196 Minnesota DST MIN John Gworek
5 197 LeGarrette Blount RB PHI John Hansen
6 198 Johnathan Cyprien DB TEN David Gonos
7 199 Wendell Smallwood RB PHI Mike Clay
8 200 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix DB GB Chris Meyers
9 201 Charles Sims RB TB Rivers McCown
10 202 Carson Palmer QB ARI Jamey Eisenberg
11 203 Ted Ginn Jr. WR NO Matt Schauf
12 204 New England DST NE Corby Yarbrough

 

Round 18
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 205 Kurt Coleman DB CAR Corby Yarbrough
2 206 Karl Joseph DB OAK Matt Schauf
3 207 Benardrick McKinney LB HOU Jamey Eisenberg
4 208 Evan Engram TE NYG Rivers McCown
5 209 David Njoku TE CLE Chris Meyers
6 210 Blake Bortles QB JAC Mike Clay
7 211 Leonard Williams DL NYJ David Gonos
8 212 Ryan Tannehill QB MIA John Hansen
9 213 DeForest Buckner DL SF John Gworek
10 214 Atlanta DST ATL Sarah Lewis
11 215 Christian Kirksey LB CLE Michael Horvath
12 216 Quincy Enunwa WR NYJ Mark Ross

Rounds 17 and 18 Analysis: Spoiler alert – this mock draft was completed just prior to LeGarrette Blount signing a one-year deal with Philadelphia, so what initially was a flyer pick paid off even before the season started. Don’t expect Blount to last near this long in your draft, although it’s also not wise to expect similar production (especially the TDs) with the Eagles. Blount’s arrival does cloud Wendell Smallwood’s outlook, but I would still take him over Darren Sproles if those were the options.

 

Round 19
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 217 James Conner RB PIT Mark Ross
2 218 Jonathan Williams RB BUF Michael Horvath
3 219 Curtis Samuel WR CAR Sarah Lewis
4 220 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PHI John Gworek
5 221 New York Giants DST NYG John Hansen
6 222 Los Angeles Rams DST LAR David Gonos
7 223 Justin Tucker K BAL Mike Clay
8 224 Rex Burkhead RB NE Chris Meyers
9 225 Stephen Gostkowski K NE Rivers McCown
10 226 Philadelphia DST PHI Jamey Eisenberg
11 227 Dan Bailey K DAL Matt Schauf
12 228 Deshaun Watson QB HOU Corby Yarbrough

 

Round 20
Pick Overall Player POS Team Drafter
1 229 Matt Bryant K ATL Corby Yarbrough
2 230 Los Angeles Chargers DST LAC Matt Schauf
3 231 Adam Vinatieri K IND Jamey Eisenberg
4 232 Tyler Lockett WR SEA Rivers McCown
5 233 Mason Crosby K GB Chris Meyers
6 234 Tony Jefferson DB BAL Mike Clay
7 235 Cairo Santos K KC David Gonos
8 236 Phil Dawson K ARI John Hansen
9 237 Brandon McManus K DEN John Gworek
10 238 Connor Barth K CHI Sarah Lewis
11 239 Chris Boswell K PIT Michael Horvath
12 240 Will Lutz K NO Mark Ross

Rounds 19 and 20 Analysis: I have no problem whatsoever taking a flyer on a rookie like James Conner or Curtis Samuel at this point in the draft or even a veteran like Tyler Lockett. Just make sure you have all your positions covered and there’s not a better/safer option available before doing so. That’s especially the case when it comes to quarterback. If Deshaun Watson is your No. 3 QB, then by all means take a chance on him. I just don’t know how comfortable I would feel if he was my backup entering the season, even if Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Drew Brees was my QB1.

 

Positional Breakdown          
QB RB WR TE DL LB DB DST K
23 60 68 18 14 20 13 12 12
Teaser:
2017 Fantasy Football IDP Mock Draft
Post date: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/five-reasons-why-new-england-dominated-nfl
Body:

Athlon Sports’ 2017 Pro Football MagazineAfter last season’s come-from-behind Super Bowl win, there’s no doubting that the New England Patriots are the NFL’s model franchise. Yes, it feels awkward to say that given the number of “-gates” they’ve been involved in, but the results don’t allow us to see it any other way.

 

They’ve won two of the last three Super Bowls. They’ve won five Super Bowls over the last 16 years and appeared in two others. No other NFL franchise over this span of time has won even three titles. The only team that’s won two — the New York Giants — have a large part of their current identity tied up in being the thorn in New England’s side.

 

But what lessons can we learn from New England’s dominance on a broader analytical scale? There are a couple that are pretty obvious, and there are some that are maybe a little more subtle. 

 

1. Having an established star quarterback is the easiest path to contention in the NFL

Let’s start with the easy one. There are a lot of ways a team can actually win a Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos won with a dominating defense and essentially no passing game. The Baltimore Ravens won with a downfield passing attack that clicked at the right time. As long as your team is good enough to make the playoffs, the natural variance of football means that there are matchups to win. Win enough of them in any given game, and an inferior team can pull an upset. The important thing is simply making the dance in the first place.

 

But there is no easier path to year-to-year relevance in the current, pass-happy NFL than having a star quarterback. Tom Brady, New England’s future Hall of Famer, developed from good to great over the first few years of his career. Since then, the cogs around him have changed. Whether the offense is running through Deion Branch, Corey Dillon, Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman, the one constant is Brady.

 

You see similar lessons from Brady’s best quarterback contemporaries. Peyton Manning in the AFC South was essentially a cheat code to 10-plus wins and the playoffs. When Ben Roethlisberger has started for the Steelers, they’re 69 games over .500. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are 48 games over .500. Having Drew Brees is an annual reason that the Saints are on the fringes of the playoffs despite fielding perhaps the worst defense in the NFL over the last five years. Russell Wilson and a good defense have made Seattle one of the surest bets for 10 wins in the NFL today despite the worst offensive line in the league.

 

NFL teams can win without a great quarterback. Great quarterbacks can falter in a one-game sample. But over a long period of time, nothing is a better barometer of consistent winning than having one.

 

2. Trade down in the draft

The classic problem an NFL team has is believing they are one player away from a championship. One draft pick can swing a whole franchise, but the odds of that happening over the long haul are pretty rare. Atlanta trading up for Julio Jones in the draft, for instance, was an exception rather than a likely outcome.

 

While some teams — such as San Francisco in the Jim Harbaugh era — have emulated Bill Belichick’s aggressive strategy of trading down in the draft, nobody is as good at it as the master. One Grantland article in 2015 noted that Belichick had made 48 trades in his New England tenure solely involving draft picks. One way to determine the value of draft picks is a chart from pro-football-reference.com that measures the average “AV,” or approximate value, the pick has over five seasons. By that measure — as the Grantland story notes — Belichick added 80.6 points in AV to the Patriots with those trades, a number that is equivalent to the first overall pick, second overall pick, and nineteenth overall pick put together.

 

And over the last two drafts, the trend continued. Belichick found a fourth-rounder in the 2017 draft by giving away a fifth-rounder in 2016. In 2015, the Pats added fourth-, fifth- and seventh-rounders from the Browns for a third and a seventh. By taking advantage of over-confident bets from other teams, the Patriots come out ahead.

 

3. Rehabilitating players for the compensation picks

As of 2016, New England has made 31 compensatory picks under Belichick. To explain compensation picks briefly: They are part of a competitive balance measure to compensate teams that lose free agents with picks. They are awarded based on a complicated formula that the NFL hasn’t made public, but they mostly involve players leaving during free agency and the dollar amounts that they get. That creates an interesting cycle for New England.

 

The Patriots lost some free agents in the 2015 offseason. Darrelle Revis left, as did long-time Patriots Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Vince Wilfork. But the Pats also made a couple of pick-for-player and pick trades during the 2014 season. One of those was for linebacker Jonathan Casillas, and another was for linebacker Akeem Ayers. The Pats got four sacks out of Ayers after the Titans had left him for dead, then immediately let him walk as a free agent. Ayers’ redemption season cost the Pats almost nothing, and he was part of the exodus that allowed New England four extra picks in the 2016 draft.

 

The Patriots often take on these sorts of rehab projects based on pure athleticism and see what happens. They acquired a pair of former second-round picks last season — linebacker Kyle Van Noy and corner Eric Rowe — for basically nothing. If the Pats only get sub-standard play, well, compensation picks make it a win-win chance for them. If they happen to run into a breakout star while giving the former hot prospects a chance — something like what happened with Dion Lewis in 2015 — all the better.

 

4. Excellence on special teams

Football Outsiders uses a statistic called DVOA — Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average — that basically offers a schedule-adjusted measurement of how far above average a unit is. DVOA splits into three sections: offense, defense and special teams. Under Belichick, the Patriots have finished in the top 10 in special teams DVOA in every season since 2010. They’ve been above average at special teams in every single year of Belichick’s tenure.

 

While special teams are largely overlooked by football fans because of the relative lack of impact the kicking game has compared to offense and defense, they absolutely matter. On kickoffs and in punt coverage, the Patriots made up so many points off of field position in 2016 that it didn’t even matter that they endured the worst season of Stephen Gostkowski’s career on field goals and extra point attempts. The unit as a whole was making the difference in close games on a weekly basis, giving the Pats just another little edge on the competition.

 

5. Taking advantage of the win-now window

And, finally, one edge the Patriots have over every other team in the league is that they are the only team in the NFL that seems to both a) have a win-now mindset that appeals to veterans and b) still embraces the talent so much that it’s willing to integrate a few eccentric personalities. Simply put, the Patriots are where players go when they’re sick of their careers being about pointless stat accumulation and want to get serious about winning. That is the brand that the Patriots have built over the years.

 

The best example of this is probably Randy Moss, a future Hall of Famer whom New England acquired for a fourth-round pick after he wore out his welcome in Oakland. Moss helped the New England offense set records and brought his play up to the level he was always capable of after a few lackadaisical years with the Raiders.

 

Last year’s example was Martellus Bennett, the former Bears star tight end who can both catch and block. Acquiring him gave the Patriots the same kind of dynamic two-tight-end set they had in the early 2010s, before we all learned who Aaron Hernandez really was. Bennett had a decent season for the Patriots on paper, reeling in 55 catches for 701 yards and seven scores. But he was limited by a bum ankle and had problems blocking and pushing off all year.

 

Bennett, of course, was perceived as an “attitude problem” by the no-nonsense Bears staff. The Patriots acquired him by swapping the 127th overall pick for the 204th overall pick. Even though it didn’t work out as ideally as it appeared on paper, the Pats covered for another devastating Rob Gronkowski injury, and Bennett caught five balls in the Super Bowl.

 

To be clear, sometimes this doesn’t work out, and the Patriots wind up with Chad Ochocinco, but that doesn’t stop them from taking a small risk that could potentially improve the team. The worst-case scenario is that they are out a lower-round draft pick.

 

Revis, Dillon, Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount — the names could roll on. Teams that are this good often get very arrogant about their evaluations. They don’t want to mess up team chemistry, and they assume that available players are unwanted for a good reason. The Patriots didn’t care about Bennett’s or Moss’ potential for sulking, or about Harrison’s and Seau’s advanced age. They simply saw opportunities to pick up the kind of player normally unavailable to them and pounced all over them before anyone else did.

 

— Written by Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) for Athlon Sports. This feature appears in Athlon Sports’ 2017 Pro Football Magazine, which is available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.

Teaser:
5 Reasons Why New England Has Dominated the NFL
Post date: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12
Path: /college-football/texas-football-game-game-predictions-2017
Body:

When it comes to coaching pedigree, it’s easy to see why new head coach Tom Herman has Texas fans so excited about the program’s future. An Urban Meyer disciple who made a big splash in two years at Houston sounds like the kind of guy to lead the Longhorns out of the doldrums that have plagued them for the better part of a decade.

 

That doesn’t guarantee success in the short run, of course. A bridge year in Austin shouldn’t shock anyone.

 

So, will Herman hit the ground running, or will he stumble out of the gate? Athlon Sports polled a few writers to get their take on Texas’ realistic 2017 win/loss projection.

 

Texas Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017

 

Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism)

Herman inherited a squad that is probably in worse shape than most people around Austin would care to admit. Defensively, Texas fell off a cliff in Charlie Strong’s final two years. The offense was more hit than miss for three years, and now the players are essentially learning their fourth scheme in four years.

 

Overall, the roster has some nice pieces to it, but the signs all point to a rocky first year for Herman.

 

A three-week stretch of Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State doesn’t help, although none of those three is being played on the opposing team’s home field. A road trip to USC also raises UT’s degree of difficulty significantly.

 

Herman proved at Houston that he can round a team into shape in a hurry, as the Cougars went 13-1 in his first season on the job. To have anything resembling that kind of immediate success at Texas, he has to figure out how his preferred offensive scheme fits around quarterback Shane Buechele. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has to clean up rampant sloppiness on his side of the ball while acclimating his players to a new scheme.

 

Put it all together, and this starts to sound like a season in which the ‘Horns will show promise and confusion in equal measure. For Herman, building for the future will likely be his top priority.

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

The Longhorns are an interesting team to watch in 2017. There’s no doubt Texas has more talent in the program than the three consecutive losing records would suggest, and new coach Tom Herman was the top hire this offseason. Herman’s impact should be felt right away on an offense that finished sixth in the Big 12 in scoring last fall. Quarterback Shane Buechele is a rising star, and the Longhorns own one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines. New coordinator Todd Orlando should provide an instant spark for a defense that surrendered 31.5 points per game last fall. With Oklahoma State and Kansas State visiting Austin, there’s a path to finish second in the Big 12. However, road games at TCU and West Virginia won’t be easy.

 

Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)

Charlie Strong had high hopes for the Longhorns in 2017, forecasting a massive jump in the Big 12 standings given what the cupboard was stocked with. Unfortunately for Strong, he won't be around Austin to see that jump but the flip side for Texas fans is that Tom Herman is the new head coach. The staff changeover is one reason to be optimistic about this team and it's not hard to see UT building toward being back in the national consciousness (in a good way this time) late this season. I'd expect a big jump defensively for a team that has struggled on that side of the ball and the offense will be tougher mentally and physically than it has been in a decade. UT isn't quite ready to break into the upper echelon of the conference just yet but the Horns will be a tick behind the Oklahoma schools and still manage to get back on track in a big way this season.

 

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)

Tom Herman will get Texas to play better, but there is still some room for catching up to the top Big 12 contenders. The Longhorns will give USC a good battle in the Coliseum and learn some valuable lessons in the loss that will pay off down the line, like when Texas pulls an upset at home against Oklahoma State a week after losing to the rival Sooners. Games against TCU and West Virginia will be toss-ups, but the Longhorns will start to look like a program that is ready to go somewhere by the end of the year. Good times are coming back to Texas soon, and the glimmer of hope will be seen this fall in Austin.

 

J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)

Tom Herman is a great coach, but he inherits a relatively bare cupboard in terms of talent. He faces arguably more of an uphill battle personnel-wise than Charlie Strong did in terms of getting the Longhorns back to relevance. Although there is some experience at the skill positions and at linebacker, this team is in trouble in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Texas will be a better football team than last year just based on coaching alone, but the record is not likely to reflect a vast improvement.

 

Teaser:
Texas Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017
Post date: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/examining-overunder-2017-win-totals-mac
Body:

The MAC rounds out my conference-by-conference win totals preview for the upcoming college football season. This is the conference that you watch on most days other than Saturday and are quite thankful for those mid-week games. Coaching changes and personnel turnover have given us the potential for some fresh blood to make it to the title game. But then again, things are always interesting in the MAC.

 

Note: Over/under odds courtesy of the South Point sports book

 

MAC East

 

Akron Zips

(Over 5 -110...Under 5 -110)

 

Thomas Woodson is back at quarterback and he's one of seven starters returning on offense. The offensive line is pretty much intact and ready to open holes for Warren Ball and Van Edwards. Out wide you've got several options as the team tries to replace Jerome Lane and JoJo Natson. The defense could be an issue with just four starters back, but one of those is linebacker Ulysees Gilbert, who had 122 tackles and four sacks in 2016. The Zips get a home game with Iowa State in week three and have four road games over a five-week span. I think five is a good number so no play here.

 

Bowling Green Falcons

(Over 4 -120...Under 4 EVEN)

 

The defense was pretty awful last year allowing nearly 40 points per contest. This unit returns five starters and figures to be a little stronger on the back end with more experience there. On offense, the Falcons hope that James Morgan is the answer under center. Morgan had 16 touchdown passes compared to 15 interceptions last season. The wide receiver group features Scott Miller, Teo Redding and Hunter Folkertsma. Miller nearly had 1,000 receiving yards last season. The offensive line only has two starters back so that will be a factor. Road trips to Michigan State, Northwestern and Middle Tennessee figure to hurt this team early. I kind of like the under because I think Bowling Green will struggle at home in conference with the likes of Ohio, Northern Illinois and Toledo.

 

Buffalo Bulls

(Over 3.5 -110...Under 3.5 -110)

 

Year two with Tyree Jackson at quarterback should be a lot better as the sophomore accounted for more than 2,000 yards of total offense as a redshirt freshman. His problem will be finding weapons to connect with. The run game has Jonathan Hawkins, Theo Anderson and Kamerion Pickett. The defense figures to be a strength at least early on. Eight starters return, a group that’s headlined by second-team All-MAC linebacker Khalil Hodge. The Bulls open up the season with back-to-back road games at Minnesota and Army before two straight at home. Small lean to the under, but don't really love it.

 

Kent State Golden Flashes

(Over 3.5 -120...Under 3.5 EVEN)

 

Last year, some (including me) were optimistic about Kent State but the Golden Flashes only managed three wins. The offense struggled to score, averaging just 20.6 points per game. Nick Holley is back for his senior season under center and the hope is that the converted wide receiver who started as a running back can bounce back from a late-season knee injury. The passing game was non-existent for Kent State last season but senior wide receiver Kris White could provide a boost, if he’s healthy. After being dominant in 2015, the defense was solid last season, but could take another step back with just five starters returning. Jon Cunningham, a 300-pound, all-conference tackle anchors the front. The Flashes play at Clemson, Louisville and Northern Illinois in the first half of their schedule. I agree with the line move on the over. I think four or five wins is possible.

 

Miami RedHawks

(Over 8 +105...Under 8 -125)

 

This is the class of the MAC East and you can see why with eight starters back on both sides of the ball. The team has all the momentum in the world after closing out the regular season with six straight wins and nearly beating Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl. The secondary is going to be very good while the defensive line should be able to put pressure on the quarterback. The offense took off once Gus Ragland was installed as quarterback midway through last season. He threw just one interception in 179 passes and has wide receivers Jared Murphy and James Gardner back along with four starters up front. A seemingly weak division should benefit the RedHawks, who even have a shot at upsetting Cincinnati in week three at home. I think eight is a good number so no play here.

 

Ohio Bobcats

(Over 7.5 -125...Under 7.5 +105)

 

The Bobcats are the biggest threat to the RedHawks. Frank Solich has done some great things at the school and has the coaching advantage over most of the other MAC teams. Quarterback Quinton Maxwell was up and down as a freshman so we'll see if he can improve in 2017. He's got A.J. Ouellette in the backfield, who missed all but four plays last season with a foot injury. The Bobcats don't have a ton of playmakers on offense. Linebackers Quenton Poling and Chad Moore will quarterback the defense as seniors. Only five starters are back from the group that was fifth nationally against the run in 2016. Ohio beat Kansas on the road last year and now get the Jayhawks at home in week three. At this price, the under is worth a look.

 

MAC West

 

Ball State Cardinals

(Over 4.5 -115...Under 4.5 -105)

 

Riley Neal had some growing pains last year, but will be under center once again. He didn't participate in spring ball because of offseason shoulder surgery, but is expected to start in the opener at Illinois. His wide receiver corps is unsettled entering the season, but he has running back James Gilbert and a solid offensive line to work with. The defense forced just 14 turnovers last season and is breaking in a new coordinator. Only four starters are back, but Anthony Winbush is one of the best defensive linemen in the conference. The special teams are pretty solid. Besides the Fighting Illini, the Cardinals play UAB, Tennessee Tech and Western Kentucky out of conference. There’s potential for at least two wins there and the MAC East isn’t that strong overall, so small lean to the over.

 

Central Michigan Chippewas

(Over 6.5 +105...Under 6.5 -125)

 

The quarterback job will either go to Michigan graduate transfer Shane Morris or Tony Poljan, a promising 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman. Running back is pretty deep with Devon Spalding leading the way and 1,000-yard receiver Corey Willis returns as well. If a quarterback can be found, this offense could surprise behind an offensive line that returns entirely intact. After two strong showings, the defense slipped some last season, but six starters return. The biggest area of concern is up front as the Chippewas have struggled getting to the quarterback in recent seasons. Even with the uncertainty at quarterback, Central Michigan has enough pieces to get back to a bowl, but a win at either Kansas or Syracuse may be required. The under is probably the right side because of the depth of the MAC West and questions at QB.

 

Eastern Michigan Eagles

(Over 4.5 -120...Under 4.5 EVEN)

 

Eastern Michigan is riding some momentum after going 7-6 and playing in its first bowl game in 29 years. Brogan Roback is back after doing a good job protecting the football (18 TDs, 7 INTs). He's got the solid running back duo of Shaq Vann and Ian Eriksen, but the offensive line is being rebuilt. The defense returns most of its pieces, but the production of Pat O’Connor (8.5 sacks, 14.5 TFL) must be replaced. Special teams shouldn’t be a concern. The Eagles play Charlotte, Rutgers, Kentucky and Army out of conference. No real opinion here.

 

Northern Illinois Huskies

(Over 6 +110...Under 6 -130)

 

Usually it's NIU that's in the spotlight in the MAC and now the Huskies find themselves flying a little under the radar. Some stability at quarterback would be a nice change, after starting five over the past two seasons. It will either be Ryan Graham, Marcus Childers or Daniel Santacaterina under center for the opener against Boston College. Jordan Huff and Marcus Jones should be able to replace Joel Bouagnon’s production at running back. The offensive line allowed just eight sacks last year and returns three starters. On defense, the secondary is in great shape with Shawun Lurry, Albert Smalls and Jalen Embry at cornerback. Besides the Eagles from ACC, NIU plays FCS Eastern Illinois at home but then takes on Nebraska and San Diego State on the road. That’s the start of a seven-game stretch in which the Huskies play just two at home. Six is a good number so no play here.

 

Toledo Rockets

(Over 8.5 EVEN...Under 8.5 -120)

 

Toledo hasn't been known for its defense, but the 2017 version should be pretty good. Defensive tackle Marquise Moore is a great place to start while three of four starters in the secondary are back. But the offense is what will get the most attention with quarterback Logan Woodside, running back Terry Swanson and wide receiver Cody Thompson leading the way. Woodside threw 45 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions last season. Tulsa comes to the Glass Bowl in week three and the Rockets will have a shot at a signature win the following week in Miami. I actually think the under is at least worth a look. In the past, Toledo has had trouble winning the big game. The Rockets went 10-4 last season, but came up short at BYU, at home against Ohio, in the MAC title game against Western Michigan, and Camellia Bowl vs. Appalachian State.

 

Western Michigan Broncos

(Over 8.5 -110...Under 8.5 -110)

 

My how things have changed. Not only is P.J. Fleck is no longer rowing the boat in Kalamazoo, but QB Zach Terrell and WR Corey Davis are gone too. The offense figures to be run-heavy with LeVante Bellamy, Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan the options out of the backfield. The offensive line also returns three starters. Tom Flacco, Baltimore Ravens QB Joe’s younger brother, announced that he was leaving the program, so the starting job will either go to Jon Wassink or Alex Mussat. The defense will have to carry the load early with a strong secondary leading the way. The front seven is unsettled and may take some time to figure out. Road trips to USC and Michigan State to open the season will be tough, but then the Broncos have three straight at home. The under is the play here. Western Michigan better get wins early because its closes out the regular season slate on the road at Northern Illinois and Toledo.

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Toledo Rockets Facebook page)

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2017 Win Totals for the MAC
Post date: Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 10:15

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