Category Archives: Football

The College Football Playoffs Are Finally Set

For the first time in the history of college football, there will be a four team college playoff to decide who hoists the National Championship Trophy will come January 10th, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The teams that made the final cut are The Ohio State Buckeyes, The Alabama Crimson Tide, The Ducks from the University of Oregon, and The Florida State Seminoles.

The request for a new playoff system has been requested for quite some time now. A lot of the sports world did not like the fact the BCS bowl selection took place.

Now more people than not are for the playoff system. The system is still flawed for some but better from where it was from previous years.

For the most part there was no movement between the first and second placed teams. The Alabama Crimson Tide, and the Ducks from the University of Oregon. They never strayed far from their positions.

The final two spots were a different story. The Seminoles from Florida State did the most movement. Even though, they did not lose one game during the season.

The top two teams have one loss each. The Buckeyes are also undefeated.

The reasoning for the placement is the toughness of the schedule and the conference each team is in respectively. The #1 team is Alabama, coming out of the powerhouse that is the SEC.

Oregon is coming out of another powerhouse from the west the PAC 12 conference, Florida State comes out of the ACC, and finally Ohio State coming out of the BIG 10 (but the conference has 13 teams, different conversation for a different day).

Other notable mentions were the Baylor Bears, and the TCU Horned Frogs. At one point TCU was ranked third a week prior to the final announcement, before Ohio State took the final spot in the last announcement.

With that said the teams are set, and there will be two games played on the first day of the New Year. The first is the Rose Bowl where the #2 Oregon Ducks will face the #3 Florida State Seminoles.

The Seminoles were always in the top four teams, but they struggled the whole season to beat some clearly easy wins against unranked teams. Despite this they were able to overcome this and still remain undefeated.

The Seminoles are the defending National Champions after defeating the Auburn Tigers. They are also led by reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston. This year the Seminoles have struggled to say the least.

Yet they are still undefeated and share an undefeated record with the Buckeyes. This year Winston was not even nominated for a finalist in this year Heisman Trophy.

The Oregon Ducks on the other hand now have this years Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. Mariota was the clear winner gaining more than 90% of the total votes, second highest in the history of the Heisman voting.

This year Mariota was having a standout season. Leading into the bowl games he has 3,783 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.

His competition included another player that is in the College Football Playoff, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Also included in the list was University of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Gordon was coming off a FBS record for single game rushing yards, only to have his record beaten the next week.

The matchups should be action packed, with four different types of high powered offenses.

The first matchup is the Rose Bowl between the #2 Oregon and #3 Florida State. One team has no losses while the other has one loss. Yet the team with the one loss is actually ranked higher than the undefeated team.

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles look to power through the quick play running Oregon. Even though, the Seminoles have struggled their past few games, they have found a way to win each one of those games.

This game will be like no other. It will show off the last two Heisman winners. Two amazing quarterbacks showing off their arm and capabilities on the field.

If the regular college football season is any indication of what will happen on January 1st, then the play of the quarterbacks is quite important.

The way Oregon runs their offense they will be scoring and scoring fast. The Seminoles will have to combat this with Jameis Winston and his arm.

Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season. That against a high powered offense is definite trouble for the undefeated Seminoles.

The point is not to try to keep up with Oregon, but to combat them with smart offense, and even better defense.

The Florida State defense will probably not completely stop the Ducks, but they can at least slow it down enough for the Seminole offense to make the game competitive and try to come out victorious.

On the side of Oregon, they are already the favorite to win the game. They have their Heisman winner and a great overall offense as well as a defense.

Every game except the game they lost of course has been a dominant win for Oregon. That cannot be said for Florida State, who barely squeaked by in certain games, and in some cases needed overtime to carry them to a win.

In that case Oregon should probably prevail, but given the fight in the Seminoles it is easier said then done.

Next there is the Allstate Sugar Bowl between #1 Alabama and #4 Ohio State. The Crimson Tide has been in the first place spot for quite some time. They have not lost their ranking since they were ranked #1.

They are arguably the most difficult conference in the US next to the PAC 12. Alabama have been putting on clinics on their way to their wins.

They are led by head coach Nick Saban. Saban has four national championships under his belt, while at LSU he won one, at Alabama he has three (2009, 2011-12).

Along with a great coach at the helm they also have Amari Cooper who is having a stellar season and is leading all receivers in yards and points.

On the other side there is the Ohio State University. Leading them is a familiar name in Urban Meyer. Who left the Florida Gators, and tried his luck in his home state of Ohio.

Coach Meyer has led the Buckeyes to a 12 win season for the past three years, after they were not bowl eligible for the previous 2 years.

If the backs weren’t against the wall of the Buckeyes ranked 4th facing Alabama, they have to do it with their back up of the back up quarterback. That’s right they are facing the #1 team in the nation with their 3rd string quarterback Cardale Jones.

Yet with this same quarterback they were able to dismantle the Wisconsin Badgers in the BIG 10 championship. After the game they destroyed the Badgers 59-0.

In total Wisconsin only had 78 total yards on the ground, they held another Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon who was leading the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns to no touchdowns for the first time this season.

So the likelihood of this game being a great game is more than likely. Both of the games that will be played on New Years Day should be great and the championship January 10th.

No matter what the outcome of the Rose and Sugar Bowl, we are in for a treat when the four best teams in the nation face off against one another, and the final two will battle and claim the first ever College Football National Championship Final.

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Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Oregon 51 – No. 7 Arizona 13 (Pac-12 Championship)

By Ariel Bedford


The Ducks came into Santa Clara looking for revenge. Removing any doubt of their playoff worthiness as Kings of The West Coast, Oregon simply bottled up Arizona—claiming another Pac-12 football crown on a rainy Northern California night.

How Ducks Won: UO ran the ball with more effectiveness, especially from the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota finished the game with 313 yards passing and three rushing scores, including two key touchdown runs in the first half. Oregon’s Heisman front runner was looking to tuck and sprint much more often this time around, unlike early October in Eugene when he tallied only 1 yard on the ground versus the ‘Cats and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Scooby Wright.

X-Factor of Game: OLB Tony Washington, Oregon. The Senior from Rancho Cucamonga made up for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received after a sack on AZ QB Anu Solomon late in the regular season match that may have cost them a close victory. His sack on the aforementioned Solomon in the title game, with 4:03 left in the second quarter for a loss of 6 yards to the Arizona 35, was the signature example of constant pressure applied  by Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum’s unit throughout the battle.

Stat of the Contest: After three quarters of play, Arizona only amassed 45 rushing yards as a team.

Why It Matters: Besides securing a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff by beating a Top 10 opponent, Oregon put the nation on notice—the Ducks are ready to play physical, championship caliber football versus anyone the committee pits them up against. The defense stifled ‘Zona’s version of the zone read attack crafted by Head Coach Rich Rodriguez, forcing the ‘Cats into 3rd and long situations on a very consistent basis.

Offensively, it wasn’t a perfect outing for UO. With 10:16 left in the second quarter OL Doug Brenner committed a false start on 4th and goal from Arizona’s 1-yard line; another false start by DL Erik Armstead made the chip shot field goal try in wet Levi’s Stadium slightly more slippery, with kicker Aidan Schneider missing a 27-yard attempt.

Despite choppy play at times from the offensive line, Oregon washed over the Wildcats to make a legitimate case for the top overall seed. Depending on how the rest of Championship Weekend pans out, the Ducks might be hitting Bourbon Street instead of going back to Cali for the National Semifinals.

Featured Photo Credit: Image via seatvalet.com


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

SEC-ular Sacrament: The Week That Giants Will Fall?

By Ariel Bedford


 

“It’s… About… To go-DOWN!”—a rap phrase by one Jay-Z that has never resonated more than when used to describe this upcoming weekend’s slate of college football games within the Southeastern Conference.

       Photo via rockdalenews.com
                                     Photo via rockdalenews.com

Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa. Auburn heads to battle UGA “Between the Hedges” with a motivated monster of a running back in Todd Gurley returning as starter. SEC East defending champs Mizzou taking on a suddenly hot Texas A&M Aggies squad led by freshman QB Kyle Allen. Most of the six head-to-head SEC matchups have some meaning in one way or another.

The implications of these contests will be huge after the dust settles Saturday. Why, you ask? Because the cannibalization of the conference will truly become apparent for all to see. A best case scenario would probably be the Bulldogs squeaking by ‘Bama, and only LSU and Texas A&M falling out of the AP/Coaches Top 25 ranks after respective losses.

The worst case scenario could be the Bayou Bengals, Aggies, Bulldogs, and Auburn Tigers losing on the same day. This chain of events would cluster the entire conference and make for some potentially wild outcomes before two combatants are chosen to face off in the Georgia Dome come December.

Photo via athlonsports.com
                                      Photo via athlonsports.com

If you’re a fan of SEC football, be on alert for the next 60 hours. The results from this weekend’s games could jeopardize your beloved conference’s chance of getting ANY team into this year’s CFP format, let alone two…

Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

 

Heisman Watch 2014: Who’s In at Week 11

By Ashley Gulick


Although there is still a lot of football left to play, the 2014 Heisman Watch is beginning to finally take shape and produce a notable list of legitimate frontrunners. At Week 11 of the 2014 season, here are my thoughts as to which players are rising to the “cream of the crop.”

1) Dak Prescott – QB Mississippi State

Although the Bulldogs scraped out a 17-10 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night, it certainly was not their prettiest win of the season by any means. But, enter quarterback Dak Prescott. Once again, Prescott proved his ability and efficiency as a leader under pressure, and that is why I have him at the top of my Heisman list.

After a 69-yard pass to Fred Ross for the go-ahead touchdown, Prescott was more than clutch in a game-winning moment. After going 18 of 27 for 331 yards and a TD, Prescott is now the first Mississippi State QB to throw for 300 yards since 2007. The Bulldogs are also on an 11-game win streak, which is the second longest in the country behind Florida State. If Prescott can continue to lead his team—and most importantly bring home a huge win in a couple of weeks against Alabama—then I think he will definitely be sitting in prime position to bring home the trophy.

For the season, Prescott is 132 of 216 for 2,025 yards, 16 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 137 carries for 725 yards and 10 TDs.

2) Marcus Mariota – QB Oregon

In true Mariota fashion, Oregon finally earned an impressive 45-16 win over Stanford to snap a two-series losing streak to the Cardinals. Finally getting the “monkey off of his back,” Mariota not only earned the plaguing victory, but also boosted the rankings for the Ducks and himself in the Heisman race.

This win was a huge confidence booster for the junior who threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also had nine rushes for 85 yards. Another interesting stat after Saturday’s win: Mariota now has a passing TD in 35 straight games, which is tied for the fourth longest streak in FBS history.

So far this season, Mariota is 169 of 248 for 2,541 yards, 26 TDs and 2 INTs. He has 71 carries for 410 yards and 7 TDs.

3) Amari Cooper – WR Alabama

Although the Tide had a bye this week, Cooper stays at No. 3 in my opinion, simply for his position as the true leader of this offense. With several key games coming up against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, his performance in those games will factor heavily into whether he stays in my top three.

Cooper’s stats for the year stand at 71 catches for 1,132 yards total and 9 TDs. In his last performance against Tennessee, Cooper had a career and school single-game best of 224 yards in the Tide’s 34-20 victory. Cooper only needs one more yard to match Alabama’s single-season record set by Julio Jones in 2010.

4) Melvin Gordon – RB Wisconsin

Even though the Heisman race is quarterback-heavy, do not count out Melvin Gordon, who is quickly making a name for himself behind his consistency week after week. Although their schedule may not carry the weight that most find important, his numbers are still just too good to keep him out of contention. After routing Rutgers 37-0, Gordon ended his night with 19 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Although he left the game with a knee injury, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he would be fine going forward. So far this season, the junior has 173 total carries for 1,296 yards and 18 TDs. Saturday also marked his sixth game in which he has rushed for at least 100 yards total. His performance against Nebraska in a couple of weeks will definitely be a determining factor in if he stays in this race or not.

5) Everett Golson – QB Notre Dame

Although their 49-39 win over Navy did not impress overall, it was not about the win as much as it was about what Golson did individually on the field. On Saturday, the senior QB became the first player in Notre Dame school history to throw for three touchdowns and also run for three scores. With the lack of defense for the Fighting Irish, they relied heavily on Golson’s performance to take home the win. Accounting for six TDs total, Golson was 18 of 25 for 315 yards. He also rushed nine times for 33 yards.

This season, Golson is currently 184 of 293 for 2,311 yards, 22 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 78 carries for 275 yards and 7 TDs.


Ashley Gulick is a staff writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow her on Twitter.

“Waivering” Hope, Week 9

By Jordan Jackson


Monday Night Football at Jerryworld capped off a great week of football in a great way. Just as people were beginning to proclaim the Dallas Cowboys as the best team in the NFL, America’s Team got upset by none other than Native America’s Team. But before you go hastily adding Colt McCoy to your fantasy team, here are some better options off the waiver wire this week.

If Carson Palmer has not been re-added in your league yet, he needs to be immediately. The Cardinals—not the Cowboys—are the best team in the NFC, and Carson Palmer is on fire. He is not lighting up the stat sheet like Luck, Rivers, Manning, or Rodgers, but he consistently throws two touchdowns per game, and does not turn the ball over. His yardage totals are a little less consistent, but he could drop 400 in any given game. He is a very solid QB2.

The job turnover rate among NFL running backs this season is astounding—so many injuries. The season-ending knee injuries sustained by Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, for instance, have opened the door for Jonas Gray, a rookie power back who led New England in carries against the Bears, racking up 86 rushing yards in the process. Gray will henceforth be taking over the carries once intended for Ridley, making him a good flex or even RB2 play.

Meanwhile, we are waiting to see what becomes of Buccaneers one-season wonder Doug Martin. He has had injury trouble in his young career, but even when healthy, Martin has been terribly ineffective. Part of this could be due to Tampa’s woeful offensive line. Whatever the cause, Lovie Smith’s coaching regime has no use for Martin, and I am expecting him to be traded before today’s deadline. When/if this happens, Charles Sims needs to be added to your fantasy roster, as he will immediately become the Bucs’ No. 1 back coming off of short-term IR.

I’ve got a couple of rookie wide receivers for you. First, Martavis Bryant of Pittsburgh. Bryant has pretty much supplanted the awful Markus Wheaton as Pittsburgh’s starting wideout opposite Antonio Brown. In two games, he has hauled in seven passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. With the way Pittsburgh is suddenly passing the ball, Bryant’s skill set makes him impossible to ignore for fantasy purposes.

To a lesser extent, I also like the Colts’ Donte Moncrief. Leading up to Week 8, Moncrief’s sparse use had increased proportionately to the decreasing usage of Hakeem Nicks, then, with Reggie Wayne out with an elbow injury against Pittsburgh, Moncrief finally assumed a starring role. In that role, Moncrief exploded for 7-113-1. After a performance like that, he is bound to factor into the Colts’ prolific passing game even when Wayne returns.

At tight end, you can do no better than a couple shot-in-the-dark bye-week replacements.

First is Tim Wright, who finally got a full serving of targets against Chicago this past Sunday. This came on the heels of a big, fat goose egg against New York in Week 7, so it goes without saying that Wright’s production is unpredictable—or, as they say in Fantasyland, “boom or bust.” Wright has drawn an intriguing amount of red-zone targets since being added to the offensive gameplan a few weeks ago, but he is still way behind Rob Gronkowski in most situations. It is also notable that Tim Wright’s best game came in garbage time against Chicago. Like I said, boom or bust.

Heath Miller is another boom-or-bust bye-week replacement at tight end. Miller has mostly been a bust this whole season, but has had two “booms” at totally unpredictable intervals: against Tampa Bay and then last week against Indianapolis. Analyze that. Miller’s status transcends “boom-or-bust”; Miller is an “add-and-pray.”

Kicker streamer of the week: Shayne Graham of New Orleans. He has had three big games in a row and it appears that the Saints offense is finally starting to click. That’s enough for me.

Your defense streamer is the Washington Redskins. Washington’s next game is against Minnesota. Minnesota managed only 13 points on offense against Tampa Bay! Tampa Bay cannot do anything right! The Redskins are coming off of arguably their finest defensive performance of the season. Allowing only 17 points to DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, and the Cowboys offense is a spectacular feat, indeed.

I’ve got to give a shoutout to Bashaud Breeland for his shutdown performance against Bryant. That was truly amazing to watch, as Breeland had Bryant on an island for most of the night, and more than held his own against the all pro. Another guy deserving of mention is inside ‘backer Keenan Robinson, not because he almost broke Tony Romo, but because he has been a sideline-to-sideline beast in recent weeks. If these guys play half as well against Minnesota as they did versus Dallas, they will be a great fantasy D for Week 9.


Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1.

I’m Here to Help You, the Florida Football Program

By Murphy Powell


Will Muschamp isn’t out yet. He probably will be soon, but not yet.

The University of Florida released a statement following the Gators’ 42-13 home loss to Missouri, which—and this won’t surprise you—fans didn’t really love. The statement essentially said the administration will wait until the end of the season before making a decision on Muschamp’s future, which doesn’t look promising.

If a team or university makes a statement like that, it often means someone is about to lose their job. So that’s not great. If last year’s 4-8 campaign didn’t signal the end of Muschamp’s reign, Saturday’s loss probably did.

Of course, if Florida wins out and finishes 8-3, which would include wins against Georgia and Florida State, Muschamp might stick around. But I’ve watched this Florida team play football, and while there are no guarantees in sports, I can nearly guarantee you that Florida won’t win out.

I can do that because—again—I’ve watched the Gators play.

So the question is starting to become about who Florida will hire next. And I’ve got two tips for the group that will pick the new head football coach.

  • Get an offensive-minded coach

Florida has won three national championships in school history—in 1996, 2006 and 2008. Steve Spurrier was the coach in ’96, and Urban Meyer was the head man in 2006 and 2008. Both of them are or were considered strong offensive minds, as far as coaching goes. And the Gators were ranked every year one of those two guys were coaching, with the exception of 2010—Meyer’s last year.

But the idea here is that Florida has had sustained success when an offensive-minded coach has been at the helm. Meyer brought the spread offense into the SEC, and Spurrier just had his team throw the ball all the time, and it worked. I’m not sure if there is a great offense-oriented coach out there willing to come to Florida right now, but athletic director Jeremy Foley should at least give it a look.

Florida also had some success from 1909-11 with George Pyle at the helm, and I can only assume he was a mastermind as well. Charley Pell was successful for a few years in the early ‘80s, and he was a defensive-minded guy—an outlier, in a sense.

And having a coach who can run an offense that scores touchdowns would be a nice change of pace. Sure, defense wins a lot of games, but it’s asking a lot out of the defense to pitch shutouts every week.

  • This next person needs head coaching experience

The idea of Will Muschamp as a head coach is a great one. He has a ton of energy, which is super exciting to watch. And he takes a defense-first mentality, which isn’t so much fun to watch, but it can lead to wins, which are fun.

The issue—I think—with Muschamp right now is that he takes a little too much control of all aspects of his team. I also think he does this because he’s never been a head coach before. By doing that, if the ship sinks, it’s because of him and he’s fine with that, probably. In short, he’s trying to control his destiny all by himself.

But he’s had Brent Pease from Boise State—where there was a ton of offense—and Kurt Roper—who helped Duke (Duke) set a bunch of ACC records—the last two years. With them, Florida should be able to score. If they had a little more control of things, the Gators probably would.

And it seems like coaches learn from their past mistakes and successes, so Muschamp might give up a little control on offense for his next team. I hope he does, because I like Will Muschamp an awful lot. Of course, he could just do that now and stick with Florida. But that probably won’t happen.

I think Will Muschamp will probably be a really good head coach somewhere down the line, and it will probably be because he relinquishes a little control on offense and lets his coordinators do what they’re supposed to do.

For that reason, Florida needs someone with head coaching experience. The Gators need someone who has learned from their prior mistakes and successes. Hopefully that leads to more than four wins.


Murphy Powell is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to.

NFL Week 8 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson


MVP Race: Andrew Luck, DeMarco Murray, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt.  Am I forgetting someone?

Ah, yes! The quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning. You know, the guy who came after Tebow.

As he races by the all-time touchdown mark set by Brett Favre—a mark they said would never be surpassed when Dan Marino set it in 1984—Manning continues to not only survive past his athletic prime, but thrive; he continues to school men 10 and 15 years younger than he.

Before Thursday’s game, I would have said Philip Rivers was the frontrunner in the 2014 MVP race. Even if Manning did not straight-up pass him, Rivers’ two good-not-great performances in a row set him back a little.

Moving on to the rest of Week 8:

Sure Bet: This is a bad week for survivor pools. The number of lopsided matchups is few. After looking at the odds and over the schedule several times, the best I can come up with for a “sure bet” is the Cleveland Browns in Oakland. I know I choose Oakland’s opponent almost every week (hey, it’s worked so far, hasn’t it?), but there simply are not better options. Seriously, what are the chances that Cleveland allows Jacksonville and Oakland their first wins in consecutive weeks? Pretty low, I would say.

I understand, however, if you are not comfortable putting your survival hopes in the Browns after their atrocious outing a week ago. Maybe you would prefer the Texans in Tennessee, or the Patriots at home against the Bears. We don’t know what to expect from Zach Mettenberger, or when/if the Bears will show up, but otherwise the Texans and Pats are probably pretty safe bets.

Not So Fast: I am not bold enough to choose the Bears in their aforementioned matchup, but I will take Zach Mettenberger and the Titans to win in the rookie QB’s first career start. They are playing the Texans, who are riding a three-game losing streak, in which their turnover-proneness has reared its ugly head. The Texans seem to looooove fumbling the ball, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s inability to win close games is all the more apparent in recent weeks. The Texans simply aren’t good enough to have a game-manager as their quarterback; they need a hero with a square chin, not Grizzly Adams with a bearded one.

Whereas I struggled to uncover a “sure bet,” upsets abound this week.

I like the Panthers to hand the defending champs their third-straight loss. Carolina’s defense is eventually going to get it together, and Seattle is clearly fallible on not only offense and defense, but perhaps more so than either, special teams, as proved by Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Johnny Hekker.

I also like Jacksonville to win a second game in a row. They host Miami. I like Pittsburgh at home against the Colts. And, finally, if it can even be considered a true “upset,” the Ravens to win in Cincinnati.

Surprise Performer: Larry Fitzgerald has come a long way from the glory days of 2008 and 2009, in which he could be a shoo-in for a score every week. In 2014, the future Hall of Famer has found the end zone only once and been largely underwhelming most weeks, including last week against Oakland’s porous secondary, against whom Fitzgerald recorded only 21 receiving yards.

The thing is, Arizona had little need for Fitzgerald’s pass-catching abilities as Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor found a lot of success via the ground. That won’t happen this week against Philadelphia, as the Eagles look to get their starting middle linebacker, Mychal Kendrick, back on the field. This game could be a shootout, which would greatly benefit Fitzgerald and his fantasy owners. Carson Palmer (as opposed to Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas), seems to be more inclined to getting Fitzgerald involved. I like Fitz to finally put a good game together this weekend

Disaster Waiting to Happen: My “disaster” comes from the same game and team as my surprise performer, and that is Andre Ellington. I expect the Cards/Eagles game to be a shootout, and for the return of Mychal Kendricks to give the Eagles run defense a boost. But, hey, you knew that already.

Furthermore, we saw last week that Ellington has a touchdown vulture over his head in Stepfan Taylor. Ellington claims that he voluntarily exited the game against Oakland in red-zone situations because he felt Taylor “deserved” the reps. I don’t buy it. Even if there is some truth to that, Taylor was great in the red zone, and it might establish a longstanding trend, much to the chagrin of Ellington’s fantasy owners.

Best of luck in all your football endeavors, and enjoy the games.


Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1

“Waivering” Hope, Week 8

By Jordan Jackson


This edition of “Waivering” Hope is going to feature some familiar names, as most of the following players have been featured on the series before but somehow have still not been picked up in most fantasy leagues.

Beginning, as usual, with the quarterbacks, the usual names still float around the top of the free agent list: Eli Manning and Joe Flacco, notably. Then there is Mike Glennon. I really like Glennon because of his immediate schedule: Minnesota, Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Cincinnati—six weeks in which you can expect reasonably good fantasy numbers from the Bucs QB—especially since they will often be playing from behind (that is, passing).

At running back, again, I advise you to pick up Jerick McKinnon of the Vikings. He dropped 100 rushing yards on a top-five run defense this past Sunday in Buffalo, and has firmly overtaken Matt Asiata as Minnesota’s No. 1 tailback.

Also keep an eye on the Bills’ running back situation. In a matter of minutes, the Bills lost Fred Jackson for up to four weeks with a groin injury, and C.J. Spiller with a broken clavicle on Sunday.

The third back in the rotation was Anthony Dixon, a bruiser of 49ers fame, who said in light of the injuries that he will now be in the “workhorse” role in Buffalo. That might be a little bit hasty. Though he has been a weekly scratch so far this season, it is possible that Bryce Brown could get early-down work with Dixon in more of a big-back role a la LeGarrette Blount in Pittsburgh. Wait for clarity on the situation before you add either.

Before you wonder why I haven’t said anything about Tre Mason, the Rams have a brutal schedule coming up, Mason is in a three-way committee, and, if I know Jeff Fisher, Mason’s almost game-losing fumble might cost him some carries going forward. It’s too soon, and the schedule is too tough. He is a trendy add, but I say stay away for now.

Add Odell Beckham right now. Don’t make me tell you again. Right now, Beckham is touchdown-dependent, as he still has a hard-time getting open between the 20s, but he has been Eli Manning’s favorite red-zone target for the past three weeks with Victor Cruz lost to injury and Larry Donnell suddenly declining. He has three touchdowns in three weeks to show for it, and a better touchdown celebration than Victor Cruz.

Keep an eye on Doug Baldwin and Steve Johnson. I am not sold on either yet. At first glance, one would expect Baldwin’s looks to go up after the trade of Percy Harvin, but the fact is that Harvin was only playing on something like 60 percent of snaps anyway, with Baldwin (and Jermaine Kearse) firmly ahead of him on the depth chart. I attribute Baldwin’s suddenly stellar performance against the Rams on Sunday not to the Harvin trade, but to the fact that, for once, Seattle was playing from behind, forcing Russell Wilson to throw rather than rely on the ground game. I don’t expect Seattle to be playing from behind all that much going forward, so I am still hesitant to add Baldwin.

As for Steve Johnson, he has scored in three of four weeks, but had not really done much in terms of yardage until Sunday night against Denver—in garbage time. The scores are promising, yes, but as long as San Francisco is still competitive in their games, Johnson will be behind Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis in the passing game. It is unusual for the 49ers to get beat so drastically so early (as they did in Denver), so to expect similar performances from Johnson in the future would be foolish. Hold off on adding him for now, too.

Finally, I have another great strategy at kicker. See, no one wants to carry two kickers, so a lot of really good kickers get released when their bye weeks come around. Case in point: Cody Parkey. His bye is behind him now, and he is still a top-ten fantasy kicker. Playing behind a good offense, Parkey is an awesome add. Snatch him up while/if you can.


Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @jordanrjackson1

NFL Week 7 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson


For the second time in five days, an upset bid in the NFL was denied by a blocked field-goal attempt in the waning seconds of the contest. The ends of the Jaguars/Titans and Jets/Patriots games were strikingly similar, but in the end, the favored team won in both instances.

If you chose New England in your survivor pool this week (which I would have certainly said was a sure bet), you’re safe—by the skin of your teeth.

Sure Bet: If you’ve yet to make your selection, I suggest going with the Cardinals over the Raiders.

Both of these teams came to life on offense this past week, but Oakland proved that, even on good days, they are still prone to committing crucial errors. Judging by their performance against the Chargers last week, it appears that Oakland has put the worst days of this season behind them, but they are still perhaps the worst team in the NFL.

Carson Palmer is back for the Redbirds, and with him comes a very timely wake-up slap for the Arizona offense. Palmer showed no ill effects from the nerve injury that cost him three games, as he lit up the Washington secondary in Week 6, and Oakland allows the highest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks in the NFL. This one should be a cakewalk for AZ.

Another decent option is Seattle. The Seahawks visit the Edward Jones Dome to take on the Rams in Week 7. St. Louis has flashed promise with Austin Davis at quarterback, but against a truly formidable defense (San Francisco), the Rams’ inexperience showed. Things aren’t going to get easier against the Legion of Boom—even if they have looked more like the Legion of Bum recently.

Not So Fast: This, as always, is a tough one, but I’m going to take the Giants to upset the NFL’s hottest team, the Dallas Cowboys.

The way to beat Dallas is simply to stop the run; get DeMarco Murray off the field, wear out the defense, and make Tony Romo beat you through the air. So it’s a tall order, but it is one that the G-Men can accomplish.

The Cowboys have won the past five games on the strength of their offensive line. Until now, the unit has stayed completely healthy; now, right tackle Doug Free is set to miss a few weeks, and left tackle Tyron Smith will be playing on a suspect ankle. The absence of Free, especially, will play into Dallas’ ability to run the ball effectively, as he is one of the best run-blocking tackles in football.

Yes, New York got shutout in embarrassing fashion this past Sunday night. Yes, they lost their No. 1 wideout for the season. But remember: After the Patriots got stomped on primetime by Kansas City, they responded to resounding effect by slaughtering a hot Cincinnati team the very next week. The Giants, too, are capable of such a turnaround.

Surprise Performer: All this week, I listened to the “experts” on ESPN and NFL Network announce that it was time to drop C.J. Spiller from fantasy rosters. Spiller, in most leagues, turned in negative points last week against New England, rushing for 19 yards and losing a fumble on only six carries. It was the latest in a series of worsening fantasy performances. So if Spiller turns in a good performance this week, it will unquestionably be a surprise.

The reason I like Spiller this week is solely because of his opponent: the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are currently ranking 19th against the run, but they have had that statistic aided by facing toothless ground games like Detroit and Atlanta. Against teams with decent backs, the Vikings have routinely been gashed. Think back to the New England and Green Bay games in particular.

If Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway returns to the lineup this week, Spiller’s chances of “surprising” anyone decrease a bit, but, even in the timeshare he occupies with Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon, Spiller will get big-play opportunities against Minnesota’s susceptible defense. Look for him to break a big one. He ain’t dead yet, folks.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: Last week, I bet against the 49ers defense and I was totally RIGHT… for one quarter. After the first quarter, San Francisco’s defense shut down St. Louis for the remainder of the game. This week, I am justly rolling with the Niners.

Everybody is just assuming that this will be the week that Peyton Manning breaks Brett Favre’s career touchdown passes record. Hello? Have you people considered Manning’s opponent? This ain’t the Raiders or the Jets. This is San Francisco. If there is a team in the league that can hold Manning under three touchdowns it is the 49ers.

San Francisco is second in the league in total defense, and second in defending the pass. They have allowed fewer than three touchdown passes in every game this season. Therefore, the Denver receiving corps is my “Disaster Waiting to Happen.” You cannot possibly sit Demaryius Thomas or Julius Thomas, I know, but if you can replace Emmanuel Sanders, I suggest you do it. Wes Welker should not even be a consideration this week.

I also think the Colts offense is in for a letdown this week. That is, I like Cincinnati’s ravaged defense to finally bounce back to its former formidable self. You cannot sit Andrew Luck, but bench his receivers if you can afford to do so.


Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1.

Fantasy Football Trimester Review: AFC, NFC West

By Matt Graber


Who’s been getting it done out West? Part 3 of our trimester review. 

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Stud: Andre Ellington is finally healthy, and he’s beginning to really produce for fantasy owners. He’s getting the vast majority of the team’s carries, including in the red zone, and his involvement in the passing game makes him a deadly dual-threat, especially in PPR leagues.

Dud: In what’s becoming a theme in these reviews, Larry Fitzgerald is yet another former stud receiver who seems to be on a bit of a decline. He finally had a strong outing last week against the Redskins (another theme), but he’s more of a WR3 or flex at this point, and the emergence of Ellington means the Cardinals will likely throw a bit less than before.

Sleeper: John Brown has cooled off after a solid start, but he still has more fantasy points then Fitzgerald so far, and the return of Carson Palmer should improve the team’s passing attack.

Seattle Seahawks

Stud: Marshawn Lynch has been getting it done in the receiving game as of late, with 3 TDs in his last four games, adding another facet to his game to complement his typically solid rushing stats. He’s by far the Seahawks’ most reliable producer.

Dud: Percy Harvin hasn’t been the versatile weapons that the Seahawks were hoping for, and his fantasy value has plummeted despite solid efforts to get him the ball. The big plays just aren’t happening.

Sleeper: Ricardo Lockette won’t get a lot of targets in this offense, but he does have a couple of touchdowns, and he’s arguably been the teams best deep threat so far, with big plays in wins against the Packers and Seahawks.

San Francisco 49ers

Stud: Colin Kaepernick isn’t the most consistent fantasy option at QB, but his 343-yard, 3-TD performance against the Rams was yet another example of his tantalizing potential. He has weapons in Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd, and he’s one of the best dual-threats at his position.

Dud: Vernon Davis has been a non-factor aside from a two-TD performance in the team’s opener. With questionable health and inconsistent production, he’s a risky tight end option at this point.

Sleeper: Carlos Hyde is behind Frank Gore on the depth chart, but Gore is hardly injury-proof. Hyde has been solid when given carries and is one of the better handcuffs at RB.

St. Louis Rams

Stud: Brian Quick has quietly put together a productive season, with 22 catches and 3 TDs in five games. He’s Austin Davis’ favorite receiver, so the targets will be there.

Dud: Zac Stacy is ceding a lot of carries to Benny Cunningham and has struggled with nagging injuries throughout the season. With Tre Mason starting to emerge in the backfield, he’s not in a great fantasy situation.

Sleeper: Mason looked like the Rams’ best back against the 49ers, with 62 yards on 7 touches in only 9 snaps. The former Heisman finalist has the talent to surpass Stacy and Cunningham eventually.

 

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Stud: Julius Thomas has been historically great this season, and he’s on pace to shatter Randy Moss’ single-season receiving TD record. Whether he’ll get there or not remains to be seen, but as Peyton Manning’s go-to guy in the red zone, he’s one of the best players in fantasy football, regardless of position.

Dud: Montee Ball was disappointing even before his groin injury forced him out for a few weeks, as he didn’t look like the top-5 fantasy back owners were hoping he could become.

Sleeper: The Broncos like Juwan Thompson a lot, and he’s a good fit for their offense. Look for him to get more work alongside Ronnie Hilman with Ball Out.

San Diego Chargers

Stud: Philip Rivers is orchestrating the Chargers passing attack to perfection, spreading the ball around and playing with a rare blend of production and efficiency. He’s proven to be a top-5 QB regardless of the matchup, as evidenced by his performance against the vaunted Seahawks secondary.

Dud: Keenan Allen has failed to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign, as he’s only had one great game so far. He isn’t getting as many targets as last year and he’s been bothered by a bum quad, but there’s a good chance he can turn things around.

Sleeper: A popular preseason breakout candidate, Ladarius Green hasn’t really gotten his shot with Antonio Gates playing so well, but he has freakish speed and athleticism for his position, and with the way Rivers is playing, anyone on the team seems capable of a breakout.

Kansas City Chiefs

Stud: Now that he’s healthy, Jamaal Charles is staring to remind fans of the ridiculous talent that made him a top-5 fantasy pick. He has legitimate big-play ability, he’s a big factor in the passing game, and it doesn’t look like Knile Davis will cut into his carries.

Dud: Dwayne Bowe is getting targets, he’s just not getting any big plays or touchdowns. He’ll get you a few catches but not much else, and he doesn’t seem a likely breakout candidate due to the  Chiefs’ conservative passing game.

Sleeper: DeAnthony Thomas won’t get more than a couple of touches in any given game, but if your league gives points for kick or punt returns, then this dangerous return man is worth consideration for desperate owners.

Oakland Raiders

Stud: Derek Carr has probably been the most impressive rookie signal caller this season, and he’s coming off a four-TD performance. He seems more confident now, and more importantly, the team seems more confident in him, so he should have plenty of opportunities to air it out.

Dud: Maurice Jones-Drew has been virtually nonexistent so far and is well behind Darren McFadden in terms of carries and production. He’s not worth owning at this point.

Sleeper: He may not qualify as a true sleeper at this point, but if Andre Holmes is still out their in your league, he’s definitely worth a look. His size and big-play ability give him massive upside.


Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley and Air Alamo and an editor at Wizards 101. Follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber