Sunday Night Football

Denver at Indianapolis

peyton-manning-09292013Peyton Manning finally returns to Lucas Oil Stadium, aka the House that Manning Built, to take on the franchise that he pulled out of the gutter after being drafted #1 overall in 1998. We all know the story of how the Colts dumped Manning and took Andrew Luck #1 overall last year after their season tanked and Manning wondered if he would ever recover from his 4th neck surgery. The move has worked out well for both sides, with Denver and Indianapolis both making the playoffs last year. Manning has returned to rare form and remained his quiet, classy self throughout the whole affair, but Colts owner Jim Irsay has recently issued some inflammatory comments about franchise’s divorce from Manning. It’s no secret that Irsay likes to party and likes to make his opinions known, often taking to social media outlet Twitter. He’s generally been very respectful of Manning, but recently took a shot by saying the Colts “went in another direction” so that they could get more championships and focus less on individual stats. Peyton had no response to these comments, but you know it’s not sitting well with him. I expect his response to Jim Irsay’s comments to come in the form of a barrage of touchdown passes that falls on the Indy crowd like the rain that their dome protects them from… There’s no dome that can keep this imminent storm of Denver points at bay.

The Denver Broncos have maintained their undefeated status through this week 7 matchup, but they have looked a little more vulnerable in the past couple of weeks. They narrowly won a shootout with Dallas in week 5 thanks to a classic Tony Romo 4th-quarter interception. They also struggled mightily against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars last week, eventually taking care of business and finishing the game out 35-19. Manning has thrown one interception in each of the last two games, but they are the only interceptions he’s thrown all year. He still has ridiculous stat line of 2,179 yards-22TD-2INT with a sweet rushing touchdown on a naked bootleg that the Broncos ran against Dallas. Manning’s supporting cast has flourished this season. Denver’s three-wide attack has generated big numbers (D.Thomas 37-528-4, W.Welker 37-378-8, E.Decker 34-477-2) as expected, but tight end Julius Thomas(31-381-7) has also emerged as a big-time receiving threat in his third year.This plethora of receiving options is allowing Manning’s cerebral style of play to make a bigger impact than ever. He’s always been the king of the pre-snap read, but has had poorly equipped supporting casts around him at times. With all these quality receiving options and a solid offensive line, Manning is able to exploit the many mismatches created by Thomas/Decker’s speed and size on the outside, Welker’s quickness and savvy route-running underneath, and J. Thomas’s size and athleticism from the tight end position. Denver’s offensive line has protected Manning well this year despite losing Pro Bowl tackle Ryan Clady and backup-turned-starter C Dan Koppen for the year. Manning has only been sacked a handful of times and has had a couple of balls stripped by pass-rushers, but he has been comfortable in the pocket most of the time.

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Manning’s right hand(or in this case left-hand) man.

Another player who has really stepped up his game since Manning’s arrival in Denver is running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno was drafted in the top of the first round in 2009 but seemed to fall out of favor in Denver for a while. Upon Manning’s arrival last year, Moreno was afforded an opportunity when workhorse back Willis McGahee went down with injury. He performed well, and despite the club drafting Ronnie Hillman in the 3rd round last year and Montee Ball in the 2nd this year, Moreno remains atop the depth chart. Although he’s not the best in the league at any one thing, I’m truly inclined to believe that Moreno is one of the most well-rounded backs around. He might not be as effective in the confines of a more run-heavy offense, but this is a passing league, and his skills in pass protection and receiving are invaluable to Manning as he orchestrates the Broncos offense. Moreno’s skill set is very similar to former Colts RB Joseph Addai, who played with Manning in Indy for years. Moreno excels at blitz pickups and he is always right across that magic yellow line for clutch third-down completions. If it’s third-and-short, look for Moreno to run short out-routes out of the backfield. He is also a solid runner, and has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in games against the Giants(2) and Jaguars(3). In the week 5 shootout with the Dallas Cowboys, Moreno was instructed by Manning to convert a first down from the Dallas 2 without scoring, all in the name of proper clock management. Moreno somehow managed to get the yard necessary for the first without scoring, despite wading through the chaos of his offensive line clashing against Dallas’s goal-line defense. He’s just a clutch guy who seems to always be on the same page as Manning.

The Denver defense will get a big boost tonight from the return of Von Miller, last year’s runner-up for defensive player of the year. Miller is a Von_Miller_(Broncos)pass-rushing terror when he’s at full speed, but he’s missed the first six games of this season for a suspension. Miller has reportedly been working hard to be in “game-shape” when he returns, and he has been practicing fully with the team, so it’s expected that he’ll contribute a lot in his first game back. However, there’s no substitute for the real thing, and we’ll have to see Miller in action before we can truly know how well he’s kept in shape. He has reportedly “packed on” 16 pounds of muscle, so hopefully the extra weight won’t compromise the quickness and flexibility that makes Miller such a dominant pass-rusher. The Broncos will also benefit from having Champ Bailey back after he made his first start(injury) of the season. Bailey got some quality reps against the Jaguars last week and should be primed for a tough night against Andrew Luck and company.

The Indianapolis Colts are 4-2 this year behind second-year QB Andrew Luck, whose drafting last year prompted Indy’s dismissal of Manning. Indianapolis fans will finally get to see the former 13-year face of their franchise face off against his successor, toe-to-toe. Luck is certainly capable of handling himself in a shootout, but he’s a little more limited in the weapons at his disposal. WR Reggie Wayne is a talented veteran who played the majority of his career with Manning. His productivity hasn’t slowed down at all since Luck’s arrival, however. He’s been a reliable target for Luck while his younger cohorts develop. T.Y. Hilton is the foremost of these young talents. Despite his small stature, he’s an explosive playmaker who seems due for at least one long-yardage passing play a game. TE Coby Fleener, Luck’s old Stanford teammate, shows flashes but hasn’t produce at a consistent level yet. Fellow second year TE Dwayne Allen, a rising talent, is out with an injury. The Colts shocked the fanbases of both franchises when they traded a first round pick for Cleveland’s Trent Richardson, who was drafted third overall last year, two spots behind Luck. Richardson has contributed minimally so far, scoring a couple of short yardage touchdowns and posting modest per-carry averages behind lackluster offensive line play. Richardson is still learning the ins and outs of the Colt’s playbook, so there’s no reason to think his contributions won’t improve each week. Backup RB Donald Brown has also shown signs of life, after injuries have afforded him some opportunities. He has underwhelmed so far since being drafted in the first round a few years ago, but has given Richardson’s fantasy owners fits the past few weeks by vulturing carries and touchdowns. The Colts offensive line will be the first in the NFL tasked with corralling Von Miller this season. Luck has taken his share of hits this season, and has bailed the O-line out sometimes with his mobility and strength.

The Colts defense is adjusting to their second year of transitioning to a 3-4 defense from the 4-3 that they traditionally ran during Manning’s tenure. Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea are two of the few holdovers from the Manning days who are still hanging around in Indy. Mathis has transitioned well from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, recording 9.5 sacks in just 6 games this season. Manning won’t have that red practice jersey on anymore, and Mathis will finally get a shot at tackling the guy he chased around the practice field his first 9 years in the league. The Colts defense has been stingy so far this season, twice holding opponents to single-digit point totals. They haven’y allowed more than 28 points in any game this season, but the Broncos haven’t scored less than 35 in any of their six contests, and have three times scored 49 or more. Something’s got to give.

The Colts have only played one team this year that fielded a veteran quarterback with more than 2 year’s starting experience. That team, the Chargers, beat the Colts. Phillip Rivers is playing his arse off this year, but he’s nowhere near Manning’s level. The other quarterbacks that the Colts have faced this year (Pryor, Tannehill, Kaepernick, Wilson, Gabbert) are young and still inconsistent in their performances. Manning has as many years experience as those last five guys combined. Also, the majority of teams that Indy has played this year do not have nearly the talent in the receiving core that the Broncos do(Oakland, San Diego, San Fran, Jacksonville sans-Blackmon).  It’s going to be a long night at home for the Indy defense. Luck can certainly hold his own in a shootout, but this is Peyton Manning we’re talking about here, returning to the franchise that cast him aside for a young replacement. Manning keeps his personal feelings to himself, but you know this game means as much to him as any has since his return to football.

Prediction Denver 49 Indianapolis 34

Fantasy Heroes

Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne… expect this to be a shootout, so there’s going to be lots of opportunities for fantasy points.

Fantasy Zeros

Either defense. Coby Fleener. Knowshon Moreno- He’ll get his fair share of touches, but Manning gave Moreno three rushing touchdowns last week so that he can unload on the Colts with the passing game this week.

Fantasy Sleeper

Jacob Tamme is a former Colt who followed Manning to Denver in free agency after Indianapolis’s huge roster shakeup at the end of Manning’s tenure. Julius Thomas has seized the role of starting tight end, and last year’s starter Joel Dreesen is recently back from injury, but Tamme is still a viable receiving option. Maybe Manning gets Tamme in there for a touchdown to honor their Indy days.

 

 I have no idea why Irsay wasn’t cast as Kenny Powers dad in the third season of Eastbound and Down, they favor each other quite a bit.

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WTF: Week 8 SEC 6-pack

Chase w/ WTF —  October 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Guest Column by Big L

1. As many of the “experts” including yours truly had predicted, the Missouri Tigers were able to get their first big win in the SEC over Georgia’s JV squad. Turnovers wrote the story in this one, as they usually do in upsets. Georgia had no choice but to put the entire game on Aaron Murray’s shoulders, and it was too much for the newly appointed “big-game QB” to handle. Murray committed 3 costly turnovers at key points in the game. After a Marcus Murphy rushing TD put Missou up 21-10 with 5 min left in the half, Murray was blindsided in the pocket resulting in a scoop and score for Michael Sam. On the ensuing UGA possession, Brendan Douglas, the true freshman starting RB, coughed up the rock on the Missou 4-yd line, ending a 10-play and 70-yd drive. The two-star recruit gave us his best Jacob Hester impersonation and actually had a pretty good day with 130 total yds and a TD, but the redzone turnover (very un-Hester-like) killed Georgia right before the half, keeping the deficit 28-10. In the 4th quarter, trailing at home and seeing his national titles hopes once again fade away, Murray pressed with his scout team group of WRs and threw picks on the final two Bulldog possessions. Can’t blame Murray too much for this loss though. A couple of his WRs were just happy to see some playing time before their careers in Athens were over. And once again, the Bulldog defense failed to make an appearance. This one was over before last week’s game against Tennessee ended.

Although the Tigers did nothing individually that impressive on the field, a win on the road in the SEC against a top-10 team, albeit without many of its stars, is impressive. They did exactly what they had to do, playing mistake-free football and forcing turnovers. Jumping up 11 spots to #14 in the rankings, the red-headed step-daughter of the SEC has finally garnered some attention away from the traditional conference powers. However, losing their leader and star QB James Franklin to a separated shoulder will be a huge road block to Atlanta. Franklin is rumored to be out anywhere from 3 weeks to the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see if Maty Mauk can hold serve until Franklin recovers, if he even does. Hard to imagine with Florida and South Carolina next up on the schedule.

2. Johnny Football… unstoppable, unreal, must-watch, clutch, dramatic (even his injuries), cocky, hated, respected, electrifying, slick, paid, playmaker, Heisman, future NFL bust, braggadocious, feared, and just filthy on the field. What else can be said? He gave us another Heisman performance while leading his team on a 4th quarter comeback on the road against Ole Miss, 41-38. Another performance like that in Death Valley at the end of the year and even his biggest critics won’t be able to vote against him for a Heisman repeat.

3. The Hammer and The Nail, a phrase a reporter used to describe the past 2 LSU/Florida games to Les Miles. As you can tell, the Mad Hatter didn’t take too kindly to being called a nail. However, outside of the unabashed typical (plus some rare adult language) Les Miles coach speak, it is a quite fitting term for the ugly games we have witnessed these two teams play recently. Last year, Florida hammered LSU’s defense with monotonous long drives in the second half of nothing but smash mouth running plays. LSU couldn’t get anything going on offense. Final result, 14-6 Florida. This year LSU came in to the game with a rejuvenated high-powered offense featuring the top WR duo in country, the resurrected Mettsiah at QB, and a hard hitting backfield (on and off the field). Many expected a different game than the bore from last year because of LSU’s new wide open offense as well as wide open defense. However, Shorter Distance went back to his old M.O. and hammered Florida all day, racking up 175 yds and 2 TDs on the ground. The dominant duo at WR was mainly left out of the game plan with Florida possessing two of the best DBs in the country in Vernon Hargreaves III and Loucheiz Purifoy. Even with those great DBs, Florida’s top-10 defense was out done by the unveiling of LSU’s defense. The D-line, full of top recruits, finally decided to use some of that talent to make plays on the field. They were the anchor to holding Florida to only 240 total yds of offense, reminiscent of past LSU defenses. Final result, 17-6 LSU.

However, don’t take too much away from either team’s performance Saturday. Florida’s offense is terrible, especially its passing game, and played right into LSU’s advantages on defense. The Tigers still have issues in the secondary that they need to get fixed before the Game of the Century (4? 5? 6?) against AJ McCarron and his crew of WRs. For Florida, this was Tyler Murphy’s first game in Tiger Stadium; not an easy place to come in and excel at for any opposing QB, especially one that is starting only the third game of his career. That being said, both teams still control their destinies in the SEC and have a chance to meet again in Atlanta (let’s hope not).

Side Note: Over 50 of the nation’s top recruits were in Tiger Stadium to watch the game Saturday, including several in-state products regarded as the top players at their respective positions: Leonard Fournette – #1 RB #1 Overall; Speedy Noil – #1 ATH #8 Overall; Malachi Dupre – #1 WR #26 Overall; Gerald Willis III – #1 DT #29 Overall; and Trey Quinn – #3 WR #37 Overall. Louisiana is loaded with high school talent this year, and it is crucial for Miles and his staff to keep these guys at home. Still undecided on their commitments, many of these players have both LSU and Florida at the top of their list of potential schools. Miles may have won more than just one W over the Gators last weekend.

4. Most of you didn’t watch the beat down (62-3) Auburn put on the Western Carolina Catamounts. Neither did I, but I did listen to most of the first half on the radio. Yes, I know, a game on the radio is unheard of nowadays to most. But I was intrigued enough to hear how the highly touted true freshman QB Jeremy Johnson would play in his first career start. Malzahn’s decision to start the freshman and burn his redshirt was a risky and questionable move, IMO. We still aren’t sure how injured Nick Marshall really is; although, he is expected to start this week against A&M. Marshall just led Auburn to a victory over the then ranked Ole Miss Rebels all while sacrificing his body for the team. And you reward him by preparing the young-gun to take his place? Why not ride out the season with Jonathan Wallace, a QB you trust enough to use sparingly in games, and a hobbled Marshall? The win over Ole Miss insured a bowl game for the Tigers, and they most likely aren’t heading to a BCS game this year. So what’s the difference between 6-9 wins on the season? Not much besides the bowl game destination. One of Auburn’s recent struggles has been player development, or lack thereof. Marshall may not have the best arm but his athleticism gives Auburn a shot to win almost any game. His play this season should be good enough to give Johnson the opportunity to learn and mature for 2 years and then be fully prepared to be the main man in 2015, surrounded by Malzhan’s own recruits. Nonetheless, the star recruit performed as expected Saturday going 17/24, 201 yds, 4 TDs, and 1 INT. Auburn used 10 players to account for a meager 511 yards and 5 TDs of rushing on the day. A very impressive showing by the Tigers’ offense even against a FCS opponent. With Johnson’s performance, will there be a QB controversy on the Plains? If Marshall remains the starter as expected, how much playing time will Johnson see with a healthy Marshall on campus for the remainder of this season and the next?

5. Alabama finally put a decent game together. After a 1st quarter of drops and two redzone fumbles, the Tide turned on the offensive switch for the first time this year piling up 489 yds and 48 points in just 3 quarters. The defense did its job as usual and held the under matched Wildcats to just 170 total yds. Without the usual amount of big name stars, this year’s defense hasn’t missed a step. Even after getting shredded by JFF and Mike Evans, Saban’s D is allowing only 11.3 PPG which is good enough for 2nd in the country behind only the Louisville Cardinals (if you count them). Saban has nothing to worry about on defense, but he should be concerned about his players’ new found love for putting the ball on the ground. Since the beginning of last season, the Tide’s top playmakers have coughed it up 24 times, losing 13 of those. Turnovers are quite often the key to winning or losing a big game. As explosive as Yeldon is at running back, his lack of ball protection, especially in big games, could keep Bama from 3-peating.

6. At the beginning of the season, most were expecting a repeat of last year’s SEC championship of Alabama vs Georgia. We are halfway through the season, and a plague of injuries in the SEC East has left that division up in the air. Georgia sure didn’t look like a championship team against Missouri. Missouri looked good, but lost its starting QB. Florida already didn’t have an offense and then lost its starting RB Matt Jones for the season this week. South Carolina has remained to stay somewhat healthy besides Clowney’s bruised ego, but they are still South Carolina and can’t be trusted. The West looks must stronger, as usual, and healthier. Alabama will be the leader in the clubhouse until otherwise noted. LSU is improving on defense and will be able to write its own story in Tuscaloosa. A&M will be rooting on the Bayou Bengals the rest of the way until their matchup in late November. Hell, if Auburn can upset A&M in College Station this weekend, even the Tigers could ride the Gus Bus all the way down I-85 to Atlanta. With the season flying by, we can still look forward to these top-notch matchups that will decide who will meet in the Georgia Dome and eventually win the final BCS championship:

Guest column by BIg L

 

 

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THE SEC SIX-PACK:

1. The final scores of the Bama games continue to not reflect the true performance of the Crimson Tide. Yes, shutting out the “high-powered” Ole Miss offense is deserving of respect. Yet, Hugh Freeze forfeited 3 field goals opportunities and played Alabama’s game instead of his own. The top-ranked Tide should have had this game at 25-0 by halftime. I have yet to be impressed with the Crimson Tide; a team that was supposed to cruise to a 3-peat, with McCarron collecting a Heisman along the way. None of that is happening this year. Sorry Gumps, this year you won’t get to see that purdy glass football at Walmart or learn what number comes after 15.

2. Not much changes at Florida after having to replace Driskel and Easley. Driskel was nothing special at QB; almost any QB on scholarship in the SEC could do a comparable job (besides Kiehl Frazier). The bigger blow to Florida fans was the season ending injury to Dominique Easley, a leader and NFL talent on that defense. But Muschamp’s D is solid and full of talent. They will replace Easley with another 5-star recruit and not miss a beat. The Gators cruised past Kentucky, 24-7, Saturday and showed us that they will be fine by relying on their running game and top-10 defense.

3. LSU and UGA still control their own destinies. Georgia’s road to Atlanta is pretty easy from here out. LSU has to manage Florida, Texas A&M, and Bama. The LSU vs Bama game is setting up to be another epic battle. Both teams should be much improved by November 9th, especially giventhe fact that their bye weeks fall on the Saturday before the game giving Miles and Saban 2 weeks of preparation. This game will decide which rematch we will see come December in the Georgia Dome; last year’s thrilling goal-line stand of Murray and UGA by Alabama or this past Saturday’s Roommate Rivalry shootout. Either matchup should be a great game, and as we all know, it will determine the BCS champion.

4. Arkansas isn’t embarrassing this year. Although the A&M defense is garbage, they were able to hold their own against Johnny Football. Bielema has the Razorbacks moving in the right direction in his first year. He knows how to get everything out of his running backs, and he has a great one in true freshman Alex Collins. Watch out for this kid in the years to come.

5. South Carolina survived two big injuries to get past a good UCF team, 28-25. Connor Shaw is about as tough as QBs come but was forced out of the game Saturday when he suffered a shoulder injury in the 1st qtr. Dylan Thompson replaced Shaw as he has done numerous times throughout his career (I said Shaw was tough, not intelligent). Thompson is a serviceable QB but not near the talent of Shaw. The Gamecocks also lost running back Brandon Wilds to an elbow strain. This paved the way for sophomore RB, Mike Davis, to take the game over and that he did with 167 yds and 3 TDs. Replacing the great Marcus Lattimore, Davis has become the real deal and is only going to get better. That being said, the ‘Cocks season is pretty much over with Georgia winning Saturday, unless Florida miraculously upsets Georgia in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party.

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Pinky out! Something tells us that isn’t Sprite in the can.

So what if the ‘Ole Ball Coach had a few too many cold ones after a rough game and did his Coaches’ Show a little sloshed. Why is this a surprise to anyone? The coaches should be allowed a bottle of bourbon while filming these shows that no one watches. Think about the answers an angry and hammered Saban would give after a loss like the one last year to A&M. Hell, even after a shutout like the one last weekend. I know I wouldn’t want to host that show, but I’d sure watch it. What about the gold the Mad Hatter would give us? That would be must-watch television. James Franklin and Bret Bielema seem like guys that would shotgun beers after each question. We know Gary Pinkel would be all about this set up. And of course, Mark Richt would be they only one to not participate and drink a water on his show. Get on this SEC Network.

6. Missouri is 4-0. No one cares.

                                                                                                                       

POP-WARNER NEWS(College Football Outside the SEC):

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Pat Haden finally realized what we all knew; Lane Kiffin is not a head coach. Probation hindered Kiffin from filling out his squad with the typical USC talent and depth. However, that is no excuse for a 28-15 record at the former football powerhouse. He has been nothing but a failure in the NFL, SEC, and PAC 12. He is one hell of a recruiter though, so I’d imagine he won’t be unemployed long. Hopefully all ADs will take note of his lack of head coaching ability, with exception to Bill Battle. With his confidence, connections to the NFL, and recruiting prowess; he seems like a perfect fit to replace Saban after he moves onto Texas. If only….

TOP CANDIDATES:

1. Kevin Sumlin – He has it rolling now at A&M with JFF. What about next year when he loses Manziel, Evans, and Malena? That defense blows. With Mack Brown bringing down UT and last year’s win over Bama, expectations are through the roof now in College Station. Sumlin loves the spotlight almost as much as his famous QB. I’ve never been to either city, but I’m guessing L.A. has a little bit more going on than College Station. His offense doesn’t fit USC’s traditionally pro style, but that is becoming outdated, especially in the PAC-12.

2. Greg Roman – Coached with Harbaugh at Stanford. A proven recruiter by getting top talent to a school with tough academic restrictions. Think about the recruits he could get with a USC checkbook. Does he want to continue to be second fiddle to Harbaugh? Is he waiting for a NFL gig?

3. Steve Sarkisian – Part of the gang during the Carroll era. He has quickly turned around a terrible Washington program. Most likely, he has been eagerly waiting for his pal Lane Kiffin to get the axe.   Would Haden want another coach from the staff that led to the current probation?

4. Jack Del Rio – He played football and linebacker at USC. Thought about taking the job a couple years ago. Most people’s top candidate for the job. I just don’t think he wants to be a college guy and deal with kids.

Shot in the Dark: His son was a top QB recruit last year, but chose to walk-on at Alabama. What if he is setting himself up to replace Saban (at some point he has to leave)? Alabama has become a much better program than USC. No pressure of coaching your alma mater. Not many coaches would excite the trailer parks of Alabama, but I think Del Rio would with his NFL background and defensive mind. Just a thought…

5. James Franklin – He has become the new hot name in coaching searches, replacing Chris Petersen after he has turned down job after job. Franklin has turned the Vandy football program into something worth watching in the highly competitive SEC.  He would bring enthusiasm and hype to a program that hasn’t done anything exciting since Matt Barkley announced his return in front of a bunch of those fantastic USC cheerleaders. Coming from a program like Vandy, could he manage a powerhouse like USC and the pressures that come with it?

                                                                                                                        

Even with USC being horrible, the PAC-12 is legit this year. Oregon hasn’t missed Chip Kelly at all, but they may miss De’Anthony Thomas if his ankle sprain is serious. Stanford finally put it all together this week vs Washington State. They face a really good Washington team and RB Bishop Sankey this weekend on The Farm. UCLA and Brett Hundley have been very impressive so far. Oregon State, Arizona State, and Arizona are all solid teams as well. This is by far the second best conference in the country, but the SEC will remain on top until proven otherwise.

                                                                                                                         

Urban Meyer doesn’t care what your opinion is of his two Buckeye QBs. Yeah, Kenny Guiton looked like a Heisman candidate against cupcakes Florida A&M, Cal, and San Diego St. Think about it though, the guy got a scholarship to play QB at THE Ohio State University; they don’t recruit scrubs. That being said, Braxton Miller is a bona fide stud at QB, and Urban knows this. There was never a QB controversy in his mind. Miller led OSU to a big win over Wisconsin, 31-24, with 200 yds and 4 TDs through the air and another 90 yds on the ground.

 

Guest Column by Big L

COLLEGE GAME OF THE WEEK:

LSU at Georgia 

Georgia outlasted LSU, 44-41, between The Hedges in what was another SEC classic. In April, these two teams combined to have 15 defensive players drafted into the NFL. The holes left by these players quickly became apparent with both teams starting many inexperienced defenders against these high powered offenses that combined for 85 points and 943 yards. Oddly enough, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger may have both finally shut up their critics in the same game. The former roommates played near flawless games, although the nonexistent defenses made the game seem more like a 7-on-7 scrimmage instead of the stalemates LSU and its opponents are accustomed to playing. LSU, self-proclaimed “DBU” with 11 defensive backs currently on NFL rosters, had DBs confused and out of position all afternoon. Future first rounder, Anthony Johnson showed us why his teammates appropriately call him “Freak” when he made an extremely athletic interception for a 6’3 and 300lbs DT, but this was absolutely the only highlight of the day for LSU’s front line. The Tigers’ usual dominate and menacing D-line has been MIA this season. They failed to make any push into the backfield which gave Murray ample time to scan downfield for wide open WRs and large gaps for the “Gur-shall” combo to run through with ease. Without two of his tops weapons in Malcolm Mitchell and Todd Gurley (sprained ankle in 1st half), Murray was still able to take advantage of the Bayou Bengals weak defense.

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Gurley, who had torched LSU for 87 yards on just 8 carries, came out of the locker room after halftime without his pads, done for the day. Luckily for Bulldog fans, the latter part of the Gurshall 1-2 punch, Keith Marshall, is a damn good RB in his own right and picked up right where Gurley left off, gaining almost 100 yards on the ground. No matter who you pull for in college football, you hate to see a talent like Gurley sidelined for any amount of time. On Saturday, Georgia seemed to err on the side of caution when it came to the injury of arguably the best RB in the country, so hopefully we will see Gurley back on the field sooner than later.

Georgia’s defense did nothing to help the Bulldogs win on Saturday and needs much improvement if they want to achieve their goal of a BCS championship (NOT HAPPENING). Mettenberger and his arsenal of WRs shredded the UGA defense for 375 yds and 3 TDs. I believe this team is loaded with NFL talent. Jarvis Landry is a beast and will be a force to be reckoned with at the next level. He reminds me a lot of Anquan Boldin; about the same size, doesn’t have breakaway speed, but will out man everyone on the field. Landry plays big and tough and will do whatever it takes to help his team win (see decapitation of Onterio McCalebb in 2011, or one of the best catches made last year vs Arkansas). Jeremy Hill and J.C. Copeland will find roles in NFL backfields; that is, if they can stay out of trouble. Sure-handed Odell Beckham Jr made the deciding play of the game in the 4th qtr when he took his eyes off the ball and muffed the UGA punt. The turnover was a huge momentum swing in the game; LSU had finally gotten a stop on defense and then instantly handed UGA the ball right back in excellent field position. Beckham has NFL talent, especially in the return game, but he needs to grasp the mental aspect of the game. It is the mental errors like the one Saturday that will get keep him on the sideline. If you question his mitts, watch this catch on a kickoff return he made in the same game, something he has made his routine this year on touchbacks. The “Mettsiah” is now showing why the Cajun Prophets rejoiced when he chose Baton Rouge as the destination of his second coming to the SEC. With his size and arm strength, he could become the next Locker, Ponder, or Manuel and sneak up the draft boards this April. He had his chance to write the perfect ending to his own redemption story. Lead his team down the field with 1:37 left and no timeouts against the team that rejected him and in the stadium that he has dreamed of throwing game-winning TDs in his entire life. How do you write a story better than that? Maybe his “longtime internet girlfriend” just died?  Nevertheless, it was not to be for Mettenberger as the Georgia pass rush was just enough to disrupt LSU’s 2 minute offense. Todd Grantham dialed up blitzes and a heavy pass rush to stop LSU from scoring the final touchdown. John Chavis chose to defend Georgia’s final drive with a prevent defense that gave a huge cushion to UGA’s WRs and put no pressure on Murray. So in the end, for two defenses that were scorched all game, the pass rush by UGA ended up getting the last laugh.

Richt Miles

Thursday Night Football

Buffalo at Cleveland

Bills at Browns…probably not the matchup you were hoping for when you paid that extra money to get the NFL Network and the Thursday night games. On the bright side, both squads have shown some spark this year behind new quarterbacks. Could be a decent game!

The Browns have won both games since trading last year’s first round pick Trent Richardson to the Colts and promoting third-string QB Brian Hoyer to the starting position. The passing game is clicking well since the return of receiver Josh Gordon in week 3 from suspension. Tight end Jordan Cameron is having a breakout year, snagging 5 touchdowns in the first 4 games. The offensive line is playing well, led by Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. They’ll have a difficult task tonight against the Bill’s stout defensive line. It’s still unclear how the Brown’s backfield is going to shake out. They signed Willis McGahee after trading away Richardson, but Chris Ogbonnaya is also pushing for carries and recorded a receiving touchdown last week.

The Cleveland defense has played well behind new coordinator Ray Horton. Players are adjusting to a new 3-4 scheme, but they’ve got good pieces for the scheme and Horton is a defensive guru. Pro Bowl corner Joe Hayden will probably be tasked with shutting down Stevie Johnson tonight. He’s quietly become one of the NFL’s best shutdown cornerbacks, so don’t be surprised if Manuel has to look elsewhere for someone to throw to. The Browns have a stout front seven that will be tasked with corralling running backs Spiller and Jackson, who have both been effective this year but are battling injuries.

The 2-2 Bills gave the Patriots all they wanted in week 1 and also played the Jets close in their week 3 loss. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel has surprised a lot of people and done a great job of leading the team after questions were raised about whether he was drafted too highly. WR Stevie Johnson will have a tough night against the coverage of Joe Hayden, and Manuel could be looking towards fellow rookie Robert Woods often. Talented tailbacks CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are both banged up but active for the game. They could be spelled often by third stringer Tashard Choice, who has shown flashes in the past when given opportunities. The Bills ran over 50 times last week in a win, so look for them to continue that trend tonight with a young QB on a short week. It could be a tough night for the Bills against an underrated Cleveland defense.

The Bills defense recorded 5 interceptions last week against the Ravens, despite having a secondary that was ravaged with injury. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso leads the NFL with 4 interceptions. They’ll still be without the services of safety Jairus Byrd and corner Stephon Gilmore, and they’ll have a tough time with receiver Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron. They have a stout defensive line that includes Mario Williams, Kevin Williams, and Marcel Dareus and should be a great matchup to watch against Cleveland’s O-line.

Prediction- Buffalo’s offense struggles against Cleveland’s defense on a short week with some key guys banged up. The Browns lean on Hoyer and the passing game again, and Cleveland wins their third in a row.

Browns 31 Bills 21

Fantasy Heroes

Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Robert Woods

Fantasy Zeros

EJ Manuel, Stevie Johnson, CJ Spiller, Willis McGahee

Fantasy Sleeper

Tashard Choice is the obvious sleeper pick, with tailbacks Spiller and Jackson both nursing leg injuries. Either or both could go down, delegating carries to Choice.

Highlighting those rare white guys who overcome inferior athleticism and slower 40 times to make an impact at skill positions in the NFL. (Olinemen and QB’s don’t count, except in special circumstances)

Whitey of the Week

Sean Lee

Lee had a monster day, recording 18 tackles(15 solo), a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and a 52 yard interception return for a touchdown in a losing effort by Dallas. He was all over the place, showing he’s worth every cent of the recent contract extension he received from the Cowboys.

Honorable Mentions

Danny Woodhead

Woodhead is a one of the rarest breed of whitey skill-guys, the white tailback. The only thing rarer is a white cornerback(currently extinct at the pro level, last sighted in the early 2000′s). Woodhead, one of two diminutive Patriot castoffs to make the list this week, split for San Diego in the offseason after receiving a reportedly “insultingly low” offer from New England. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers has always loved to throw to ‘backs and Woodheads receiving talents were on display this Sunday as he hauled in two touchdown passes in a Chargers win.

Wes Welker

Welker continues to make a big time impact despite sharing targets with fellow stud receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and TE Julius Thomas. In Denver’s week 4 contest with Philly, Welker posted a 7-76-2 line. He’s been a dangerous weapon in the red-zone, scoring Sunday from 4 and 6 yards out.

WTF: MNF Fins @ Saints

Jarett w/ WTF —  September 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

Some bad teams got worse yesterday (Steelers, Bucs, Jaguars, Giants, Jets) and some bad teams made progress (Bills, Browns). Washington played awful against the Matt Flynn led Raiders and still managed a win, but I won’t call that much progress. The Eagles got destroyed in every facet of the game. Peyton Manning is a freak. Geno Smith is putting together a solid bloopers reel in NY. “Matty Ice” turned into “Matty Overthrow” in Atlanta…and Blaine Gabbert…seriously, dude?

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Lauren for Heisman

One thing is for certain after Sunday’s games were played…there are some BAD teams in the NFL right now. That leads us to tonight, with two undefeated 3-0 squads teeing off against each other. Gruden’s love fest with nearly every NFL player will surely be on display tonight and he’ll probably have Lauren Tannehill (pictured right, what a hottie) getting a bit jealous with the relentless praise he’ll be sending her husbands way.

Monday Night Football – Dolphins @ Saints

The Ryan Tannehill led Dolphins stroll into the dome tonight with a shiny 3-0 record. That record includes wins over Indy and Atlanta…pretty strong. They have been outgained in at least two of those games, but have managed to generate some turnovers and put together some savvy comebacks. The defense is strong and Brent Grimes is playing out of his mind. Lamar Miller is starting to get warm. Brandon Gibson is making plays out of the slot. The o-line is still a concern, though, and that unit must play better if they have a shot to down the Saints tonight. Rob Ryan will be dialing up some nasty looks along the Saints defensive front to disrupt the Dolphins offensive attack.

The Saints have won some tight games, showing some early season fight. Last week they opened up a can on Arizona, which was overdue. Brees and company struggled against Tampa’s stingy defense a couple weeks ago and I’m sure the Dolphins watched that tape a few times this week. Cameron Wake can present some real problems for Brees. Brent Grimes can near about shutdown one side of the field. I think it comes down to the safety play of the Dolphins. Who is gonna stop Jimmy Graham?

I can see the Dolphins getting to Brees a bit and at least making him work for his yards. I think the Saints defense will keep Tannehill out of sync. The dome will be LOUD. That, in my book, is gonna equal a Saints win.

Prediction- Saints 27 Dolphins 17

Fantasy Heroes

Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Mike Wallce (one deep ball), Lamar Miller

Fantasy Zeros

Tannehill, Colston

Fantasy Sleeper

Pierre Thomas

Sunday Night Football

 New England at Atlanta

 

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“Hey Ryan, I point ‘em out and you holler at ‘em…look at this chick…Ah hell, that’s Gisel.”

The 3-0 Patriots visit the 1-2 Falcons, who lost two tough road games. They’ll look to even their record out at home in hot ‘lanta. Both teams have a lot of injury concerns on offense. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and free agent WR pickup Danny Amendola are injured and will not play tonight. RB Shane Vereen is on temporary injured reserve. Falcons receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White are both battling leg injuries, and RB Steven Jackson is out with an ankle sprain. Both teams will look to strong leadership at the quarterback position in a matchup that some predicted for the Super Bowl this year.

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Julian Edelman caught two touchdown passes in week 1, but has been held scoreless since. He’ll look to get back into the endzone against Atlanta tonight.

The biggest question for the Patriots is the performance of rookie recievers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. They’ve been pressed into early service in the absence of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski. They will compliment slot-man Julian Edelman, who has played WR, CB, and PR/KR, and will be the Patriots top receiving option tonight. Defenses have been jamming Edelman up at the line of scrimmage with bigger defensive backs and double teaming him, forcing Brady to throw to the two youngs guys on the outside. After struggling in the first couple of weeks, the young guys seem to be coming around. Thompkins caught two touchdowns last week.  Some miscommunications in route-running have been apparent. The Patriots run a lot of option pass routes where receivers make decisions on the fly, and Brady and the rookies just don’t yet have the rapport that he and former receivers like Wes Welker have had. The Pats running game has struggled some as Stevan Ridley deals with fumble issues and Shane Vereen sits on  short-term IR with a wrist injury. Backups Brandon Bolden and Legarrete Blount will get some work alongside Ridley. The Patriots defense boasts a stout front seven anchored by veteran nose tackle VInce Wilfork. Versatile player Rob Ninkovich just got rewarded with a nice contract extension. He’s got a penchant for clutch sack-fumbles, and he could have a big day against a Falcons O-line that has struggled to protect Matt Ryan some this year. The Patriots secondary will be tasked with corralling the NFL’s leading receiver Jones, but he’s hobbled with a leg injury. The defense has looked good the past two weeks against weaker QB play from Geno Smith and Josh Freeman, but they got worked over pretty hard by EJ Manuel in week 1. Matt Ryan is easily a more proven commodity than any of the QB’s the Patriots have faced so far this year, so it could be a tough night for the defense.

The 1-2 Atlanta Falcons have lost close contests to the Saints and the Dolphins. They are one of the better 1-2 squads in the league and cannot afford to fall to 1-3. They are in an all-in, win-now mode and a 1-3 start would really hurt their playoff chances.  Matt Ryan has a difficult task ahead of him. His receiving core is banged up and Atlanta doesn’t have much of a running game in the absence of Steven Jackson. The lack of a run game compounds any issues that the offensive line has in protecting Ryan. The Patriots stout linebacking core, which consists of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Donta Hightower, should have no problem shutting running backs Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rogers down. That will leave it up to Matt Ryan to keep up with Tom Brady and company. Ryan has a healthy Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas to go along with his injured top options White and Jones, so it’s not like he’s working with nothing. Still, both quarterbacks will be a little outside of their comfort zone with so many injuries to their top receivers. The Falcons defense has given up big days to quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Drew Brees, and Ryan Tannehill didn’t look too shabby in the Dolphins victory over the Falcons, either. Brady should have a great day but the Falcons have their backs against the wall. I think Atlanta wins behind solid play from Matt Ryan

Prediction- Falcons 35 Patriots 32.

Fantasy Heroes 

Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Julian Edelman, Brandon Bolden, Tony Gonzalez

Fantasy Zeros

Jason Snelling, Aaron Dobson, Zach Sudfeld

Fantasy Sleeper

Legarette Blount

 

WTF: NFL Week 4

Chase w/ WTF —  September 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Yesterday was a great day of college football, especially down here in SEC country. Can’t beat a shootout like that Georgia-LSU contest. Here’s a look at some of the NFL action today.

Game of the Day- Philadelphia at Denver

Peyton Manning is on a mission to score more points than anyone ever thought possible. He’ll have a great opportunity to post big stats in week 4 as two of the NFL’s fastest, high-volume offenses meet in Denver. Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who has long been lauded for the speed and tempo of his college teams, will get a chance to test his mettle against the NFL’s best offensive team this year. QB Peyton Manning has been a master of the no-huddle, uptempo offense for years, so keeping pace with Kelly won’t be anything new to him.

The 3-0 Denver Broncos are off to the hottest start in the league and Manning has been a surgeon so far, even by his standards. The Denver front office has surrounded Manning with a plethora of weapons. On the outside he’s got two guys with speed and size in Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, and he has the leagues most prolific slot receiver in recent years in Wes Welker. Tight end Julius Thomas has been plagued by injuries for the first two years of his NFL career, but he’s been healthy this year and has quickly evolved into a huge(literally) weapon for Manning in the middle of the field. Veteran tailback Knowshon Moreno has built a nice rapport with Manning as a runner/receiver and has been a 3rd-down conversion machine. The Denver offensive line has had some injuries but backups are stepping up and filling in admirably. Manning was only sacked once last week. The Eagles defense has given up plenty of points so far this season, but they’ve kept the games close with good offensive play. This should bode well for fantasy owners who have Broncos. If Philly keeps it close, Manning should stay in the game and post another huge day, maybe even another 7 touchdown outing. The Broncos defense had trouble containing mobile quarterback Terrel Pryor at times last week, and Mike Vick is certainly a more proven commodity than the Raiders young QB. The absence of Von Miller continues to hurt the Broncos pass rush, but Manning has the defenses’ back, so they don’t have to play perfect.

The Eagles are 1-2 and were close to winning their week one contest, losing to the Chargers in a shootout. The offense is moving the ball well and Michael Vick has been fairly effective in Chip Kelly’s new offense. LeSean McCoy is leading the NFL in rushing behind an offensive line that is much healthier than last year’s squad. “Shady” has also been an effective receiver out of the backfield and should be in for a big game tonight. The Eagles are missing Jeremy Maclin in the #2 receiver slot, as Kenny Chesney’s biggest fan Riley Cooper hasn’t been the most stellar #2 guy in the league. Top receiving option DeSean Jackson has looked good, though, and should have a big fantasy day as the Eagles try to keep up. The Eagles defense has been less than stellar. Their personnel has adapted to the 3-4 scheme shift better than some expected, but they are still a unit that’s lacking in talent in a lot of areas, especially the secondary. The Eagles secondary has given up gobs of fantasy points to #2 and slot receivers this year (Leonard Hankerson 5-80-2, Eddie Royal 7-90-3, Donnie Avery 7-147-0), and the Broncos have a lot more talent in the receiving core than these franchises. Fantasy points should be falling like rain.

The Eagles should put up points and make it a game, but in the end the Broncos offense should continue to roll at home for another big win.

Prediction- Broncos 52 Eagles 41

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Slot receivers have had huge days against the Eagles this year, and Wes Welker is one of the best of all time at working the slot position.

 

Fantasy Heroes

Peyton Manning and his top four receivers (Thomas, Thomas, Decker, Welker). If the recent success of slot guys Avery and Royal against the Eagles is any indication, Welker could be in for a career night. Mike Vick, Lesean McCoy, Brent Celek. 

Fantasy Zeros

Either defense. There’s going to be a lot of offense in this game

Fantasy Sleeper

James Casey hasn’t been used much yet this season after signing in free agency. He’s a versatile guy with great hands who can play FB or TE. Maybe Philly finally gets him involved today.

 

Steelers at Vikings

Both franchises are off to 0-3 starts and are looking for answers. The Vikings will be fielding quarterback Matt Cassel after a recent injury to starter Christian Ponder. Rumour is that Ponder was going to get pulled soon anyway. The Steelers looked like a team that still had some fight left last week. Their passing attack was rolling. Heath Miller will be stronger in his second week back from injury, and running back Leveon Bell will make his debut tonight. The Vikings are giving up big-time points to opposing tight ends this year. Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron scored three touchdowns against them last week, so Heath Miller could be a sneaky fantasy play.

Prediction Steelers 24 Vikings 14

Fantasy Heroes

Ben Roethlisberger, Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Heath Miller

Fantasy Zeros

Greg Jennings, Emmanuel Sanders

 

Seattle at Houston

The undefeated Seahawks roll into Houston(2-1) after stomping fellow AFC-Southers Jacksonville last week. Seattle dominated in every facet of the game last week. Starting QB Russel Wilson scored 4 TD’s and then tagged out for backup Tavaris Jackson, who promptly scored a couple of touchdowns of his own. The Seattle defense will have to stop Houston’s two-headed rushing attack of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The Texan’s top receiver Andre Johnson is working back from a leg injury and youngster Deandre Hopkins has been electrifying of late. TE Owen Daniels is another solid option for QB Matt Schaub, but the Seattle secondary will be the toughest that this Houston squad has faced yet. The Houston defense, led by JJ Watt and Brian Cushing, will have to contain beast RB Marshawn Lynch, who can take games over if he gets rolling. Houston will put up a fight but it won’t be enough against the crushing Seattle defense.

Prediction Seahawks 24 Texans 17

Fantasy Heroes

Ben Tate, Deandre Hopkins, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin

Fantasy Zeros

Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Sydney Rice

Fantasy Sleeper

Garret Graham

 

Cincinnati at Cleveland

Cleveland is coming off a surprise win over Minnesota. They stunned the Vikes a week after trading away offensive centerpiece Trent Richardson. Former third string QB Brian Hoyer will get another start after leading the Browns to their first win of the season. The 2-1 Bengals look solid and recently beat the Green Bay Packers and their potent offense in a shootout. Cincinnati is missing a few key pieces in their secondary this week, and Cleveland’s Josh Gordon should feast again after making his return from suspension in a big way last week. He and tight end Jordan Cameron, who scored 3 TD’s last week, should be in for big days receiving. Cincinnati’s start WR AJ Green will have a tough day facing former SEC opponent Joe Hayden. Rookie RB Gio Bernard looks to be taking hold of the starting job for the Bengals and continues to post impressive game tape. The Browns hang close with their new passing attack but lose to the Bengals in the end.

Prediction Bengals 31 Browns 28

Fantasy Heroes

Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert

Fantasy Zeros

Cleveland’s running game. AJ Green.

Fantasy Sleeper

Davone Bess

WTF: Whitey of the Week

Chase w/ WTF —  September 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

Highlighting those rare white guys who overcome inferior athleticism and slower 40 times to make an impact at skill positions in the NFL. (Olinemen and QB’s don’t count, except in special circumstances)

 

Whitey of the Week 

Jordan Cameron, Harrison Smith

Jordan Cameron posted a 6-66-3 line as the Browns shocked the Vikings less than a week after Cleveland traded  last year’s 3rd overall pick Trent Richardson to the Colts. Cameron was all over the place, catching one touchdown on a fake field goal in the second quarter and embarrassing fellow whitey skill-guy Harrison Smith on a corner route for the go-ahead touchdown late in the 4th. Sorry, Smith. Maybe you’ll have your day on this list. But not today.

Honorable Mentions

Eric Decker reeled in 8 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos shellacked the Raiders in a lopsided Monday Night contest. Decker outperformed fellow whitey Wes Welker for the second week in a row, though both are looking great thus far. Welker has the awesome Old Spice commercials, though.

Jordy Nelson caught 8 of 9 targets for 93 yards in a losing effort by the Packers. Nelson is looking fantastic so far this year, and is one of the NFL’s best at working the sidelines.

Jay Cutler gets an honorable mention for absolutely laying the wood to Steelers defensive back Robert Golden on a nice QB scramble for a first down. Cutler opted out of a safe slide and instead lowered his shoulder to ensure first down yardage, rocking Golden’s world in the process. Who’da thought it?! Jay put up 24 reps of 225 on the bench before being drafted, pretty impressive for a QB. Anyone who’s ever questioned Cutler’s toughness need only click on this gif for evidence to the contrary.

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