Catfight in the Meadowlands: Niners jump the Jets with their own gimmick

30 Sep
by in General

Jim Harbaugh won't be content simply to beat the Jets this week. He wants to beat them and mock them at the same time. He's halfway there on both counts, holding a 10-0 head at intermission.

We've seen a little Cat Scratch Fever at the Meadowlands, as Colin Kaepernick and the Niners threw an early curve at the Jets. The San Francisco backup QB took a few snaps as a change of pace, putting two rushes for 24 yards on the board (including a very easy seven-yard touchdown stroll). Kaepernick also has a strong arm, but his judgment was lacking on his only pass attempt; a deep throw to a triple-covered Randy Moss was swatted away.

The Jets weren't going to let the Niners have all the gimmicky fun; Tim Tebow eventually found his way onto the field (cape sold separately). A Tebow jump-pass on third down resulted in a nine-yard gain - and a lost fumble from Dedrick Epps. Tebow also rushed once for two yards.

The starting quarterbacks are having modest days, as most fantasy owners expected. Alex Smith at least has been efficient (9-for-13, 100 yards, 7.7 YPA), though he's taken a couple of sacks. Mark Sanchez is just 5-for-10 for 52 yards, with three sacks and one lost fumble. While the Jets offensive line has struggled to control the Niners pass rush, Sanchez held the ball too long on his one turnover - basically he was waiting for the defense to get home on that play. Here's hoping Sanchez has pocket awareness on his holiday gift list. (And put a rush order on that: Sanchez just threw a third-period pick as I was hitting the "publish" button here.)

Fantasy takeaway to all this? Kaepernick could be a fantasy gold mine if Smith ever ran into injury problems. Meanwhile, the Jets still haven't figured out what to do with Tebow.

Tags: Catfight, , curve, , intermission, , , Meadowlands, , pace, , the Jets,
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Flacco throws for 356 yds, TD; adds rush TD – Joe Flacco | BAL

28 Sep
Joe Flacco completed 28-of-46 passes for 356 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in Thursday night's Week 4, 23-16 win over the Browns.
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MEAC Preview: Rush of publicity from Missouri win has long-lasting impact at Norfolk State

25 Sep

Before his team's stunning 86-84 upset of second-seeded Missouri in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last March, Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans often received puzzled stares from recruits he approached for the first time.

College Hoops Countdown, No. 30: MEAC

• Rush of publicity from Missouri win has long-lasting impact at Norfolk State
• MEAC capsule preview: Savannah State seeks NCAA bid to cap remarkable turnaround

"Quite often we'd be asked if we were Division I or Division II," Evans recalled. "I think people know who we are now."

Indeed, Norfolk State no longer is such an unfamiliar name in basketball circles since it became one of only six No. 15 seeds to win an NCAA tournament game. Between SportsCenter highlights, TV and radio appearances and coverage in newspapers across the nation, the Spartans received such a rush of publicity after that victory that numerous facets of the university have benefited.

Undergraduate applications to Norfolk State have spiked. Donations from alumni and attendance at athletic pep rallies and home football games have too. And Evans received a longterm contract extension, an invite to the ESPYs and a greater appreciation for how life-changing one victory can be.

When Evans was in New Orleans last April for the Final Four, everyone from fellow coaches, to administrators to everyday basketball fans approached him to offer congratulations on the landmark upset. Athletic director Marty Miller experienced the same phenomenon traveling throughout the country this summer.

"If someone saw me with my Norfolk State apparel on at a hotel, they'd come up to me and say they saw that game," Miller said. "That's when it started hitting me the tremendous impact it had not just for our fans but for people throughout the country. I even had people in the military say they watched that game. So evidently, not only was it locally or nationally, it was internationally."

What helped Norfolk State's victory resonate with fans was how unlikely it was.

Whereas Missouri had a case for a No. 1 seed after capping a 30-win regular season with the Big 12 tournament title, Norfolk State finished second to Savannah State in the MEAC in the regular season and sustained losses to Illinois State by 32, Delaware State by 17 and Division II Elizabeth City by 12. Only 1.2 percent of fans who filled out a bracket on predicted the Spartans to win — and surely most of them did it because they liked the school colors better or found their mascot to be more ferocious.

Privately, however, Norfolk State's coaching staff celebrated the matchup as soon as it popped up on their TV screens on Selection Sunday. Even though Missouri boasted a talented backcourt, the Spartans had defended against four-guard alignments much of the season and felt better equipped to handle that than a high-major opponent capable of punishing them with size and strength in the paint.

"At the high-major level, Missouri was a mismatch for a lot of teams, but we played a lot of teams who used four guards," Evans said. "We faced Marquette twice and a lot of teams in our conference were guard-heavy. So we thought we could defend. It was just a matter of being able to put the ball in the basket on that stage."

Norfolk State's new challenge six months later is building on its momentum with sustained success.

Other victorious No. 15 seeds like Hampton and Coppin State have faded from the hoops spotlight in a hurry, but Evans believes the Spartans can have a longer shelf life. He sees next year's team as a potential MEAC contender despite the loss of three of its four leading scorers including center Kyle O'Quinn, who averaged 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds last season and recently signed a three-year contract with the Orlando Magic.

To make Evans' vision come true, Norfolk State will have to rely on Pendarvis Williams, a 6-foot-6 junior who tallied 11.9 points per game last season and shot 38.6 percent from behind the arc. Among the former role players Evans expects to assume a greater role next season is 6-11 big man Brandon Goode, O'Quinn's seldom-used backup at center a year ago.

"His progress over the summer has been tremendous," Evans said. "When we were in the Bahamas, you could see his growth. When he was on the floor, everything was different. The game became easier for us both offensively and defensively. He's not a guy who's going to give us 20 points a game, but his presence on the floor gives us a different dimension."

It probably won't be until the 2013 class that Norfolk State experiences a recruiting boost from the Missouri win. Evans landed a transfer from Fresno State this spring and hopes to add some promising high schoolers to the fold soon too.

In the past, Evans' sales pitch probably would have included reiterating that Norfolk State is in Division I. Now, six months removed from one of greatest upsets in NCAA tournament history, recruits and their families are well aware the Spartans compete on college basketball's highest level

For more news on MEAC teams, check out

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Tags: , , MEAC, Missouri, , Norfolk State, Preview, , ,
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Rangers rally past A’s 5-4 for 5-game AL West lead (Yahoo! Sports)

24 Sep

Oakland Athletics first baseman Daric Barton (10) heads to the dugout as Texas Rangers' Adrian Beltre, second from left, is mobbed by Mike Napoli, top left, Elvis Andrus (1), Michael Young, right, and Martin Perez, center rear, following his walk-off single that scored Craig Gentry in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 5-4. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Adrian Beltre slowed down as he rounded first base, folded his arms and bent over to protect himself from the oncoming rush of Texas Rangers teammates.

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Aaron Rodgers sacks himself (VIDEO)

24 Sep
by Maggie Hendricks in Fantasy Football, General

Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times by the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night during the Green Bay Packers' bizarre loss. Most of the sacks were due to an impressive Seattle pass rush, but one was all Rodgers.

There has to be a reason why Rodgers found himself on the ground. Shutdown Corner investigated and found out the possible causes of his sack unaided by an opponent.

1. Invisible gophers ran through the field with the mission of tripping up Rodgers.
2. He was stunned by how much money he would save on a discount double-check.
3. Brett Favre's voodoo doll finally started working.
4. He wanted to make sure he was the league leader in something, so why not sacks?

Tags: , , Corner, , ground, , , , , sacks, , Shutdown, Shutdown Corner
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The best example of the passion of Kentucky basketball fans occurs every year on a Wednesday morning in late September.

Hundreds of Wildcats supporters line up on one side of Avenue of Champions before dawn, sprint across the street at 7 a.m. and set up tents for a three-day camp-out on the grass next to Memorial Coliseum.

The reward isn't courtside seats to a big game or a favorable number in a lottery for Final Four seats. All spending 72 hours bundled up in a tent does is earn fans choice tickets to Big Blue Madness, the school's annual Midnight Madness event that celebrates the start of basketball practice.

Considering that many prominent basketball schools don't even hold Midnight Madness out of fear there will be too many empty seats and it will look bad to recruits, the level of enthusiasm among Kentucky fans is all the more amazing. There were 425 tents as of 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, suggesting this will likely be the fourth consecutive year Big Blue Madness tickets sellout in less than an hour once they go on sale on Saturday morning.

There's plenty of reason for Kentucky supporters to be excited again this year even though the top six players from last year's national title team have since turned pro. Returner Kyle Wiltjer, NC State transfer Ryan Harrow and another decorated freshman class figure to have the Wildcats in contention for another SEC title and a third straight Final Four.

The players, of course, were impressed — even awed — by the dedication of their fans when they saw the tents set up Wednesday morning.

"BBN has got to has the best fans!!" tweeted freshman Alex Poythress. "I mean who else would camp out in the cold for tickets for a practice?!!"

Added fellow freshman Willie Cauley-Stein, "I have so much respect for Big Blue #toocoldtobecamping"

The person who deserves the most admiration? The poor guy trying to set up the yellow tent in the time-lapse video above. Anyone willing to spend a couple hours futilely trying to get his tent to stand up just for tickets to a glorified practice is definitely a devoted fan.

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by in General

Atlanta's Monday night win over Denver featured another strong performance by Matt Ryan (219 pass, 2 TDs), a vintage line from Willis McGahee (113 rush, 2 TDs), several odd officiating moments, and a sloppy, scattershot effort by Peyton Manning, who tossed three first-quarter picks.

Falcons running back Michael Turner gained 42 yards — most of them ugly — on 17 carries, and he punched in an early one-yard score. Then, a few hours later, Turner apparently decided to celebrate his 10-point fantasy night. He was reportedly arrested early Tuesday morning, charged with speeding and DUI, and released around 7 am. So his season is not off to a great start.

(This is where I'm tempted to make a joke about Turner failing his field sobriety test because he can't walk more than two yards without falling. But maybe that's inappropriate, considering the seriousness of the charge. Thus, I'm gonna go with the parenthetical aside.)

There's no immediate suspension threat here, we believe, so the fantasy impact is minimal. The greater worry facing Turner owners is that Atlanta's ground game has been pathetic, and not just when the Burner has the ball in his hands. Jacquizz Rodgers has only gained 25 yards on 10 carries (2.5 YPC). Turner has 74 on 28 (2.6). For Jason Snelling, it's seven yards on three attempts (2.3). Not great.

And the Chargers are up next, a team that's allowed just 83 total rushing yards over two games.

Turner still owns the goal line role for the Falcons, the key to his ongoing fantasy relevance. He broke off a 15-yard clock-killing run on his final carry on Monday, making his final stats seem less terrible.

I'll remind you of Turner's advice to fantasy owners following his 32-yard performance in Atlanta's opener...

"Not after one game," Turner said when asked if fans should be concerned with his production. "If it's a couple weeks down the road and I'm still looking like that, then trade me off your fantasy team."

He's obviously not familiar with the sell-high concept.

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More than ever, the pressure is on Tony Romo to prevail over the Giants

05 Sep

The narrative is easy and longstanding, but not necessarily accurate these days -- Tony Romo has the stats; Eli Manning has the rings. In 2011, Manning made that a moot point by not only grabbing his second Super Bowl MVP award, but also finally entrenching himself in the statistical pantheon of elite quarterbacks. Manning outdid Romo in passing yards (4,933 to 4,184), and held serve in many other numbers. Manning did especially well in his two games against the Dallas Cowboys in 2011, totaling 51 of 80 for 746 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

Meanwhile, Romo is just trying to gain some ground -- any ground -- back when facing the Giants. From 2006 through 2008, Cowboys teams quarterbacked by Romo were 4-0 against the G-Men, and that included the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl championship season. From 2009 through 2011, the 'Boys are 0-5 against their division rivals with Romo under center, and the stats tell the story. Romo's passing yards per game have plummeted during that losing streak (233.6, down from 273.3), and his yards per attempt totals (7.4, down from 9.4) are even more worrisome.

It could very well be so again when the Cowboys welcome the Giants to their stadium Wednesday night to kick off the 2012 NFL season.

Perhaps the primary reason Romo has struggled against the Giants in recent years is that while the Cowboys' offensive line has regressed due to a lack of organizational focus on the position, New York's pass rush -- particularly the Giants' ability to bring pressure with four linemen and minimal blitz pressure -- puts the burden on quarterbacks while also relieving the team's somewhat suspect secondary.

"It's right near the top," Romo said on Monday when asked about New York's pass rush. "They're one or two, and probably the other one is in our division too. They're good. They can attack you with a lot of different guys and each one has an uniqueness to his move or the way he approaches rushing the quarterback. You've got to dig in, grind out the week with the offensive linemen and some of the other guys and figure out what they like to do, each guy, try to use that to your advantage."

But with 2011 first-round pick Tyron Smith and veteran Doug Free moving to different slots -- Smith to left tackle and Free to the right side -- continuity has been tough to find. Newbie guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings will help on the inside, but the days of Dallas' stout lines seem a thing of the past, at least in the short term. Injuries through the preseason prevented the projected starters from practicing together once this past week, and that's a scary thought given the fact that most great lines grow from repetition and consistency.

"We signed these guys for a reason," head coach Jason Garrett told the media this week. "When they've been healthy, they've done a real nice job for us," coach Jason Garrett said. "It's our good fortune they've been healthy the last couple of weeks. The offensive line we have is fairly experienced. They've played a lot of games in this league. We're going to put a plan together and we're going to go play football ... So we're excited to see them play against a really, really formidable defensive line the Giants have. It'll be a great challenge for us and we're excited about it."

Team owner Jerry Jones is typically unconcerned about the shaky front five and its potential effect on Romo. "The interior of the line -- I think we're more physical, we've got more anchor, which gives your quarterback more confidence that we can be a united front in there and Tony can handle it as far as beating the right side rush," Jones told 105.3 the Fan in Dallas on Wednesday. "He has complete confidence on his back side and I feel we are better there."

Problem is, on his backside is where Romo has spent an unusual amount of time when facing the Giants of late. In their two losses to New York last season, Romo was sacked nine times in his two games against the Giants, and though he managed to transcend his almost complete lack of effective pressure and still put up good numbers (50 of 68 for 610 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception), one has to wonder just how long Romo will stay upright against a Giants front four that, if anything, looks more formidable than ever. Smith will be going up against Jason Pierre-Paul, and well ... good luck with that.

Most importantly, and to whatever degree "quarterback wins" is a meaningful stat (hint: none), the pressure's on Romo to pull this one out and start the Cowboys off right. Tight end Jason Witten will most likely miss the season opener with a lacerated spleen, and primary receiver Dez Bryant defines "unpredictable" both on and off the field. Romo will have to hold it together and raise the level of his offense.

You see, it's what "elite" quarterbacks do.

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Manning makes his Denver debut at Chicago (Yahoo! Sports)

08 Aug

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws during NFL football training camp on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Peyton Manning is about to face his first pass rush in 579 days.

Tags: , Colo., , ENGLEWOOD, , , , , ,
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The Fantasy Freak Show Podcast: MJD, Mike Wallace and British cliches

27 Jul
by in General

Trenches dug. Guns loaded. Ranks deep.

A no-show when Jaguars camp opened Thursday, last year's rush king, Maurice Jones-Drew, appears fully prepared to sit out the long haul if necessary. It's no secret the three-time Pro Bowler, though with two years remaining on his current deal, wants more cash. For now, Jacksonville owner Shad Khan is unwilling to renegotiate.

On this week's heart-pumping program, Brad Evans and Brandon Funston decided whether it's time to officially hit the panic button on MoJo. We'll also previewed the most interesting training camp battles for fantasy interests. And  is Jamaal Charles overrated or underrated? We explained. Plus, much, much more.

Too busy watching James Bond jump out of a plane? No sweat. Listen to the replays below:



Tags: , , MJD, , Podcast, ,
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