Sports News - 10.24.14
► Glenville State vs. Notre Dame College
The Pioneers went on the road and took care of business as they defeated UVa-Wise 35-9 this past Saturday. This week GSC returns home as Norte Dame College travels to Glenville with kickoff at 1:00pm.
Rahmann Lee rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown and Sean Steele threw for four touchdowns to lead Glenville State past UVa-Wise, 35-9, at Carl Smith Stadium.
Glenville State, winners of three of its last four, improved to 3-4 overall and 3-4 in the MEC. UVa-Wise dropped to 0-7 overall and 0-6 inside the league.
Lee carried the ball 22 times and averaged 7.1 yards per carry for the Pioneers. Steele was 14-of-28 for 244 yards and hit four different receivers for his touchdown passes.
Gary Henderson led the Glenville State defense with 10 tackles, including a pair of sacks. Jordan Kesson added eight solo stops and a tackle for a loss.
Jeremy Eubank was 17-of-27 for 102 yards for the Cavs. Von Purvis had 70 yards rushing on 17 carries and a touchdown. UVa-Wise struggled on third downs converting on just 5-of-19 attempts. Zack Blair led UVa-Wise with nine tackles, including a game-high three for a loss.
Rahmann Lee is also just 378 yards from becoming GSC All-Time Leading Rusher.
Notre Dame comes into the match-up after defeating #8 Shepherd this past Saturday, 35-34.
Notre Dame (5-2, 5-1) was led by quarterback Ray Russ who threw for 459 yards on 22-of-44 passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Falcons rushed for just 34 yards in the game.
Last year’s match-up between the Pioneers and Falcons was a good one. GSC walked away with a 20-16 road win. Lee rushed for 88 yards in the win and had two touchdowns while Notre Dame QB Ray Russ threw for 155 yards and a touchdown.
► Week 9 High School Games in the Area
Gilmer County (3-4) at #5 Notre Dame (5-2)
Calhoun County (2-6) at Wirt County (0-7)
#5 Doddridge County (6-1) at #15 Valley - Wetzel (5-2)
#1 St. Marys (7-0) at South Harrison (4-3)
#8 Tyler Consolidated (5-2) at Magnolia (2-5)
Parkersburg Catholic (2-5) at #11 Williamstown (5-2)
Webster County (2-5) at Braxton County (2-6)
Ritchie County (3-5) BYE WEEK
Herbert Hoover (4-3 at Roane County (3-4)
#9 Ravenswood (6-1) at Clay County (4-3)
#11 Robert C. Byrd (5-2) at North Marion (0-7)
#1 Bridgeport (7-1) BYE WEEK
Sissonville (4-3) at #15 Liberty - Harrison (5-3)
Lincoln (2-6) at Grafton (3-4)
#6 Nicholas County (6-1) at Midland Trail - A (0-7)
Philip Barbour (1-7) BYE WEEK
#12 Lewis County (6-2) at Elkins (3-4)
#13 Fairmont Sr. - AA (5-2) at #14 Buckhannon-Upshur (5-2)
#10 Parkersburg South (5-2) at Greenbrier East (4-4)
Parkersburg (3-4) at George Washington (4-3)
► Gilmer County (3-4) at Notre Dame (5-2)
Gilmer County is coming off a bye week. Last time out, the Titans lost 29-28 on the road at Doddridge County back on October 10.
Three of the Titans four losses have come on the road.
It is an extremely young Gilmer County team with just four seniors among the 21 players listed on the roster.
The Irish ran their winning streak to five with a 49-21 win over Madonna last week.
“After that 0-2 start we had a heart to heart talk with all of our seniors,” said Notre Dame coach Sam Alvaro. “We had a week off as well which was at the perfect time. After that, our seniors decided to play and everyone just followed right along and we’ve played very well since then.”
Notre Dame started the season with five consecutive road games. Alvaro made a plea to his team going into a week three game against Bishop Donhue.
“I told them this was the most important game of our season,” Alvaro recounted. “It was huge. 0-3 would have pinned our backs against the wall. The players raised up and played very well.”
The Irish haven’t lost since.
Notre Dame and Gilmer County are meeting for the first time since 2009.
The teams split the last two meetings in ’08 and ’09.
► Lewis County (6-2) at Elkins (3-4)
The Lewis County defense continued to play well as the unit allowed just one touchdown in a 16-7 loss at University last week. The Minutemen finished that game without a couple of key players as linebacker/wingback Isaac Kemper and cornerback/receiver Ryan Watson were both injured in the UHS contest. Lewis County will try and lock down a playoff spot as it plays its final two games on the road at Elkins and Shady Spring.
Elkins has won two in a row following a four game losing streak. Mo Kelly had 239 yards rushing and four touchdowns during a 34-14 road win at Oak Hill last week. Kelly has nearly 13-hundred yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. Elkins has a deep offensive backfield as seven different backs say action in that game last week.
► Doddridge County (6-1) at Valley (5-2)
Both teams head down the stretch harboring playoff hopes.
Doddridge County has won five in a row and it played well on both sides of the ball in a 20-0 win over Philip Barbour last week. The Bulldogs got a combined 277 yards rushing from Wyatt Ford and Brandon Stewart. The defense came up with three interceptions while holding the Colts to 35 yards of total offense.
The path for Valley figures to be a little more difficult as the Lumberjacks last three opponents have a combined record of 14-7. Valley, has, however, surpassed its win total for the past two years combined.
► Herbert Hoover (4-3) at Roane County (3-4)
In a game they really needed to have, the Roane County Raiders fell one point short in a 7-6 loss to Tolsia on Friday. With a week one forfeit factored in, the Raiders are now 3-4 with games against Wirt County and Williamstown after this week’s meeting with the Huskies. Making the playoff isn’t an impossible task, but it would’ve been an easier one with a win against Tolsia.
So the Raiders go back to the drawing board this week to see what they can do against Herbert Hoover. After back-to-back losses, Herbert Hoover finds themselves needing to pile up as many wins as possible in an effort to reach the postseason themselves. Perhaps most impressively, Herbert Hoover stayed within 14 points of Wayne last week in a 28-14 loss to the Pioneers.
This game is another that could serve as an elimination game for the team that falls short this week. Homefield advantage may push the Raiders over the top in this one, but it won’t be easy.
► Parkersburg South (5-2) at Greenbrier East (4-4)
After scoring 14 points total in their last two games – with one of them being a win – Parkersburg South’s offense had quite the breakout in a 45-13 win last Friday against Brooke. The Patriots racked up 536 total yards with quarterback Garrett Gilkeson throwing for 331 of those – just five yards fewer than the number of total yards Brooke finished with all night.
Gilkeson fired four touchdown passes – two each to Cole Day and Brendan Schwendeman. Schwendeman added a rushing touchdown as well. To be fair, Parkersburg South’s last two games came against Point Pleasant’s stifling defense and John Marshall, a team jockeying for position themselves.
Even so, head coach Mike Eddy and staff have to be pleased with the effort. This week, the Patriots make their longest trip of the season – and their only remaining game to be played outside Wood County – when they visit Greenbrier East.
The Spartans come in off a 42-19 win against Logan last week. It was the first time in over a month that Greenbrier East eclipsed the 40-point mark and just the second time all season. After a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Spartans have back-to-back wins and are making a late-season surge.
If Greenbrier East wants any chance to make the postseason, Friday’s matchup with Parkersburg South is a must-win. Their biggest challenge will be to stop the Patriots’ passing attack, and if last week was any indication, that’s a passing attack that’s operating like a well-oiled machine at exactly the right time of the year to do so.
Parkersburg South has wins in four of their last five games and if they can survive the long road trip, they stand a good chance to pick up another.
► Parkersburg (3-4) at George Washington (4-3)
Parkersburg fell behind 27-0 before reaching the end zone in an eventual 41-6 loss to the Huntington Highlanders. The Big Reds piled up rather anemic offensive numbers in the loss with just five first downs and 85 total yards of offense. Defensively, the Big Reds surrendered more than 400 yards. 257 of those came on 50 carries, showing that the Highlanders had no trouble with the idea of running the Parkersburg into submission.
For Parkersburg, if a winning season or a playoff berth is a possibility, answers must come quickly. So maybe this isn’t such a horrible time to pay George Washington a visit. The Patriots have dropped back-to-back contests and at 4-3, George Washington needs a win to stay in the postseason hunt with Capital looming in Week 11.
Last week, the Patriots fell 49-7 to a Cabell Midland squad that’s piled up some prolific offensive numbers this year. The Big Reds will need to bring one of their best defensive efforts of the season, because there’s no margin for error this week. George Washington must control the pace of game and find the same weaknesses in the Parkersburg defense that others have exploited this season.
This is a winnable game for both sides and it may be decided by the kick or punt return teams from one of these schools. Either way, it could serve as an elimination game for whichever school finds themselves on the short end of the stick.
► Ravenswood (6-1) at Clay County (4-3)
Ravenswood played tough against one of the best Class AAA teams in the state before succumbing in the second half in a 37-20 loss to Point Pleasant. The Red Devils actually grabbed a lead in the middle of the second quarter on Rhys Jelich’s second touchdown run of the night. However, Point Pleasant’s Jon Peterson ran the ensuing kickoff to the house from 78 yards out to stem the tide of the visitors from Jackson County.
A two-point conversion tied things at 14 and Ravenswood would draw no closer. Point Pleasant outgained Ravenswood 447 to 254, but the 20 points Ravenswood scored are the most anyone has scored in a single game against the Big Blacks all year.
So with that as slight consolation, the Red Devils turn their focus to Clay County – a team with playoff hopes teetering on the brink after a 27-20 loss to Sissonville last week. The Panthers have struggled with consistency all season. With a Week One win coming as a result of a forfeit, Clay County has spent the rest of the year alternating wins and losses.
And those wins have come by the narrowest of margins in some cases. They include two shutouts by scores of 8-0 and 14-0 and a one-point victory against Fayetteville two weeks ago. Defensively, Clay County has slipped in the last three weeks, allowing 82 total points in a 1-2 stretch.
Ravenswood is a team that can score points aplenty and expect the Red Devils to do so as they get things readjusted heading down the stretch.
► St. Marys (7-0) at South Harrison (4-3)
Addison O’Brien helped spark a St. Marys team that trailed at halftime for the first time all year in a win against Magnolia on Friday. O’Brien hauled in a pass that led to a 60-yard touchdown play to tie things early in the third quarter. Then, O’Brien’s 55-yard punt return on the final play of the third quarter gave St. Marys a lead they wouldn’t lose in a 27-7 win against the Blue Eagles – a win that all but sank Magnolia’s playoff hopes.
Corey Stewart would add a pair of fourth quarter rushing touchdowns to put things out of reach for the Blue Devils. It was a grind it out effort last week for St. Marys, picking up 184 rushing yards on 42 carries. But a win is what St. Marys needed in their toughest road test of the year, aside from Williamstown. And with that, the Blue Devils play what they hope is their final road game in a very long time, if not the rest of the season, with a trip to Lost Creek to face the South Harrison Hawks.
Brad Jett’s Hawks have won three of their last four and moved above .500 on the season with a 28-0 win over Webster County last Friday. Three of South Harrison’s four wins this year have been shutouts and two of their three losses have come by six points or fewer. So while this is an improved team from where things were a year ago, it’s still a South Harrison team on the cusp of so much more.
They’ll face what is without question their toughest test of the year this week. And for a team known for racking up some big numbers in the run game, St. Marys will be looking to top their 184 rushing yards from last week. And against a Blue Devil defense that’s allowed just 58 points through seven games, they’ll need a big night offensively and to slow the game to a crawl to get past St. Marys.
Expect St. Marys to take their peerless record back home for what will be a HUGE showdown on Halloween Night against the Ravenswood Red Devils.
► Tyler Consolidated (5-2) at Magnolia (2-5)
In the middle of their second year under head coach Ryan Walton, the Tyler Consolidated Silver Knights are 10-7 since Walton became head coach of the Silver Knights. Off to their best start in years, there will be no greater measuring stick for this program than Friday’s game at Magnolia.
Though the Blue Eagles have five losses, the losses have been close – with the exception of last week’s 20-point setback to St. Marys – and they’ve come against very good teams. Tyler Consolidated had last week off after a 6-0 win against South Harrison and is poised to prove that they’ve arrived as a program on the Class A scene in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Playoff fever is in the air around Tyler County. If Tyler Consolidated’s two-headed offensive monster of Jordan Baker and Jace Reed can get things going against the Blue Eagles’ defense, then the Silver Knights could pull away with a victory. But remember, Magnolia held the dominant St. Marys running game scoreless in the first half last week.
The Blue Eagles stand a very solid chance to get a victory in a game that would only be a big upset on paper if Magnolia can pull off the win. If Tyler Consolidated plays like it’s record indicates they’re capable of, then the Silver Knights will show they’ve arrived – at least in some measure – as a legitimate contender in the area.
► Parkersburg Catholic (2-5) at Williamstown (5-2)
It’s almost like Dakota Watson decided to make up for the offensive output he didn’t put forth during a bye week in Williamstown’s 72-8 win over Wirt County. After having the previous week off, Watson made up for lost time with a five-touchdown performance against the Tigers. He ran for two scores, threw for two more and even returned an interception 69 yards for a score late in the first quarter.
Mason Adkins ran for three second-half touchdowns for the Yellowjackets as well. All told, it was a Williamstown offensive effort that tallied 438 yards of total offense and spurred the Yellowjackets to a 50-0 halftime lead. With two losses coming before that bye week, Williamstown needed a big effort to drive a late-season push. That’s exactly what they got.
This week, the Yellowjackets face a talented, but overmatched Parkersburg Catholic squad in a battle of Wood County’s two Class A teams. The Crusaders are talented, but lack depth. On Saturday, they dropped a 33-14 decision to a Belpre, Ohio team that boasts one of the area’s best running games.
It’ll be a matchup of Williamstown’s defense versus the speed of Parkersburg Catholic on the perimeter. And when you factor in the lack of depth that Parkersburg Catholic has, that’ll swing the pendulum in favor of the Yellowjackets in what has always been an intensely-fought game.
► Fairmont Senior (5-2) at Buckhannon-Upshur (5-2)
The Polar Bears came off a bye week to beat Braxton County 35-15 last week. Joseph Toothman scored three touchdowns including one on a return of a blocked punt.
Buckhannon led Lincoln County 12-7 at the end of one quarter last week despite not running a single offensive play from scrimmage in the first quarter. Brandon Mallett had a 78 yard interception return for a touchdown and an 71-yard kickoff return for a score in that first quarter. Mallett finished with four touchdowns on five touches of the ball in the Bucs 46-21 victory. Defensive leader Marcus Lofton intercepted his sixth pass of the season in the win.
The Fairmont/Buckhannon series was resumed last year following a one year hiatus. Fairmont Senior won the game 49-7 at Buckhannon. The Polar Bears have won seven in a row in the series with Buckhannon’s last victory coming back in 2005.
► Robert C. Byrd (5-2) at North Marion (0-7)
RCB has outscored its last three opponents 155-7 following a September 19 loss to Bridgeport. The Eagles defense has posted back to back shutouts. RCB rolled up seven sacks as it held Lincoln to under 100 yards of total offense last week.
The Huskies have three opportunities remaining to try and get that first win. This one will be a tough matchup as the Huskies offense has struggled. North Marion has scored seven points or fewer in five of their seven games so far.
► MSAC commissioner: “The blame goes on me. I messed up.“
Mountain State Athletic Conference Commissioner Fred Aldridge took responsibility on Wednesday’s MetroNews High School Sportsline for the unscheduled officials last week in Beckley for Woodrow Wilson-Capital, a game that has since been cancelled.
“The buck stops with me, I messed up. I missed the game. I did not assign the officials,” Aldridge said. “It bothers me deeply that the situation occurred because there were so many people involved. Apologies need to go out to Capital High School and to Woodrow Wilson, the student athletes, the bands and what have you.”
Ultimately, a system of checks and balances fell through after Aldridge initially failed to schedule the game back in the winter.
“When I meet with the principals and athletic directors, I always give them the schedule and assignments, I ask them to check all the games on the list so I can make the adjustments so we don’t have a situation like we had this weekend,” he said. “But it would have never happened and this game would have been played if I would have scheduled (the officials) back in February when I do those things.”
Aldridge said his office worked to reschedule the game on either Saturday afternoon, Saturday night or on Monday night with the MSAC covering the expenses. Saturday was thrown out because both schools had athletes visiting colleges.
“For some reason, it couldn’t be worked out,” Aldridge said. “No reasons were given to me (for playing the game on Monday). I said that we must play this game, but the two principals talked with their coaches and decided to cancel the game completely. I did not want the game to be cancelled and I still don’t understand why the game was cancelled.
“But again, the person at fault and the person to blame is me, because when I was assigning officials, I missed that game,” he continued. “It slipped through our check and balances. A lot of people were affected. Woodrow Wilson lost that gate and it was homecoming. I did everything in my power to still get that game to be played.”
Capital was No. 1 in the Class AAA WVSSAC rankings released this week and the missed game likely won’t have an impact on the Cougars’ seeding if they win out. A loss for Woodrow Wilson, however, would have put the Flying Eagles in a difficult spot to make the playoffs.
Beckley is at No. 18 this week with a 3-3 record and games remaining against Princeton, Oak Hill and Hedgesville. The Flying Eagles would likely make it into the playoff field if they win out – something that could have an impact on several other teams vying for the final few playoff slots.
One of those teams is Musselman. The Applemen enter this week at No. 16 in Class AAA with a 5-3 record and have games remaining against Washington and then at Martinsburg.
“It’s kind of frustrating in a way,” Musselman coach Brian Thomas said. “I put myself in those shoes and I know if something happened with us and Martinsburg like that, I’m doing everything in my power to play on a Saturday. If we can’t play on a Saturday, I’m going to play on a Monday. We’ll try to play wherever we can.
“I would try to play a game at all costs,” he continued. “I would think at the same time that our kids would want to know why we weren’t playing. I just know if I was in that situation, I would do everything under my power to play a game and anything to help our kids out.”
► Holgorsen insists ‘We’re not satisfied’
Dana Holgorsen sees value in his team returning to the top 25 rankings for the first time in 23 months. He just doesn’t want players accepting the additional exposure as a milestone.
West Virginia entered the AP poll at No. 22 this week, buoyed by a 41-27 win over then-No. 4 Baylor. In the coaches poll, the Mountaineers debuted at No. 25.
“It’s positive for the program, it’s good for national recognition. All that is good, and I’m not going to deny that,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “It probably gets us talked about more … but it doesn’t adjust anything that we do.
“We’re not satisfied with where we’re at. We’re not interested with people telling us that we’re good or any of that. We’ve got to just keep doing our job.”
The job, and West Virginia’s road to a potential Big 12 championship, remains thorny starting with Saturday’s trip to Stillwater, where Boone Pickens Stadium now encompasses one of the nation’s biggest home-field advantages. Oklahoma State has gone 22-2 there during the past four seasons, with both losses decided in the final 27 seconds.
Holgorsen has lived the Stillwater experience from both sides. He made four trips there as a Texas Tech assistant before serving one year as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator—a stint he leveraged into the West Virginia job in 2010.
During the 2012 season, Holgorsen led West Virginia back into Boone Pickens and lost 55-34, dropping his record as a visiting coach to 1-4.
This time around the Cowboys and Mountaineers own identical 5-2 overall records and 3-1 conference marks, but OSU is trying to rebound from a spotty two-game stretch that sent it tumbling out of the top 25. First came a 27-20 scare at Kansas before last weekend’s 42-9 humiliation at TCU.
Having watched Mike Gundy average nearly 10 wins during the past six seasons, Holgorsen expects a strong bounce-back effort from Oklahoma State.
“They’re going to be ready to play,” he said. “It’s homecoming. It’s going to be sold-out. It’s going to be loud.”
After beating a top-five opponent for the first time since 2003, West Virginia could be hardpressed to match last week’s enthusiasm. Holgorsen understands the psychological pitfall and senses his team is equipped to guard against it.
“I think if we had a very young and immature team, then that would be a huge challenge,” he said. “But we have a very experienced, older team that likes each other, plays hard for each other and understands what we’re trying to accomplish. Really, what we’re trying to accomplish is to win the next game.
“I basically asked the guys if they were satisfied with the (Baylor) win, and it was a unanimous ‘not satisfied.’”
► Marshall ready for athletic Owls
Doc Holliday has long had the reputation of plucking athletes from Florida and building around them, see Rakeem Cato, Tommy Shuler and about two dozen other players on Marshall’s roster. He better understands how deep the talent pool in Florida is than most and that’s the reason he expecting a very athletic FAU football team in Huntington on Saturday.
“They have athletes everywhere,” said Holliday. “They won six games a year ago and were bowl-eligible and most of those guys are back. I have said many times, anytime you’re located in Boca or Miami and all the players around them, they are going to have really good players. They are athletic and can run. We are going to have our hands full.”
Marshall pulled out a 24-23 win over the Owls last year in Boca Raton. Justin Haig booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to keep Marshall in contention for the C-USA East Division title.
“I was on the sideline with my head backward and not looking,” recalled center Chris Jasperse.
Marshall produced a season-low 355 yards of total offense and Rakeem Cato was limited to 216 yards passing, 70 of which came on the final game winning drive. FAU held on to the ball for 35:11and outgained Marshall 395-355.
“That was a great game and something that we weren’t expecting to go down to the wire like that,” admitted tight end Eric Frohnapfel. “We made the plays when we needed to. It was a rollercoaster of emotions type game.”
And while the FAU program has gone through numerous changes, including a new head coach, since last year’s game, many of the same players are back with a year of development under their belt. That includes quarterback Jaquez Johnson who is the first FAU quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000. Johnson rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Herd last year.
“Their quarterback, Jaquez Johnson, he is a pain in the neck. He can run it, he can throw it,” said Holliday. “Not only can he run it but he does a good job at keeping his eyes down the field on the open receivers. We have to make sure our guys do a great job of, number one, containing him and, number two, when you tackle him you better wrap him up. He is bigger now than he was a year ago, to be honest. He ran through us a year ago when we were trying to get him on the ground. I’ve seen him running through people this year. He hasn’t changed.”
Johnson accounted for 420 yards of total offense in a comeback win last week against Western Kentucky. Johnson threw for 325 yards and ran for 95 more.
Johnson’s top target is senior receiver Lucky Whitehead. He leads Conference USA in receptions per game and all-purpose yards. He’s also No. 1 in the country in combined return yards.
“They make an effort to get the ball in his hands and, after seeing him play, I can see why,” said Holliday. “They just try to find ways to make sure that he gets touches throughout the game. They do a good job of giving him the ball. We have to make sure we do a great job of getting him on the ground when he gets the ball in his hands.”
Much like FIU last week, FAU has speed and talented athletes but matching up play for play with Marshall is another story.
► Manning leads Broncos past Chargers
Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest NFL record for career touchdown passes, but he added to that record on Thursday night.
Manning threw three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders in the Denver Broncos’ 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
The reigning and five-time NFL MVP broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes in a 42-17 rout of the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. On Thursday, Manning completed 25-of-35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns to bring his career TD total to 513.
Manning was not happy with the scoreboard operator late in the fourth quarter.
“I have no problem with our fans. Our fans are great. I’ve got a problem with our scoreboard operator,“ Manning said. “I’m gonna have a little talk with him. I’m not sure what he’s doing.
“He was playing music, showing people—showing players dancing, getting the crowd fired up while we had the ball. I don’t think we should be doing that. I don’t think we should be showing their quarterback on the sideline. I thought that was kind of disrespectful. Our fans are great, our fans are loud, so the scoreboard operators ... it wasn’t his best night.“
Sanders caught nine passes for 120 yards for the Broncos (6-1), who have won four in a row. Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 105 yards.
“Every week we don’t know where the ball is going to go,“ Sanders said. “The defense really dictates that and what Peyton is seeing. And tonight was just my night.“
Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 20 times for 109 yards and Juwan Thompson rushed for 24 yards and two scores on seven carries.
Philip Rivers connected on 30-of-41 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Chargers (5-3), who have lost two straight since a five-game winning streak.
Keenan Allen caught nine passes for 73 yards and a score for San Diego. Antonio Gates became the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving yards after catching five passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Last season in week 15, San Diego came away with a 27-20 win in Denver. However, the Broncos eliminated the Chargers from the playoffs a month later.
After each team punted twice to start the game, the Broncos started from their own 31-yard line. Sanders and Thomas caught passes of 38 and 16 yards to move the ball to the San Diego 2-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal, Manning rolled to his right and found Sanders in the back of the end zone with 13:35 remaining in the second quarter.
The Chargers answered with a touchdown of their own following a punt from each team. A defensive pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-6 allowed San Diego to pick up a first down. Allen caught two passes to account for 23 yards before Eddie Royal made a 15-yard catch. Gates moved the chains with a 31-yard grab on 3rd-and-20, and Allen capped the 13-play series with a 2-yard TD catch.
San Diego almost got the ball right back when Andre Caldwell lost control of the football on the ensuing kickoff. Replay showed Caldwell’s elbow hit the ground first and the initial call of a fumble was reversed. Denver found the end zone eight plays later, as Manning hooked up with Sanders for a 31-yard score.
Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. picked off Rivers on the opening possession of the second half. The Broncos quickly moved the ball to the San Diego 30- yard line thanks to linebacker Donald Butler being called for unnecessary roughness. Hillman’s 16-yard catch ended with him stepping out at the 3-yard line. Sanders followed with his third touchdown catch of the game to make it 21-7 with 10:53 left in the third stanza.
“We can’t give a good football team like the Denver Broncos the opportunities we gave them,“ Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “That span there of a big touchdown at the end of the half, turnover to start the second half and then points for them. Once we settled down we got back in rhythm a little bit. But that’s a good football team and we gave them too many opportunities.“
The home team scored another touchdown on its next possession to essentially seal the game. After Hillman had a 33-yard TD run called back due to offensive holding, the Chargers were called for defensive pass interference. Thompson rumbled into the end zone from two yards out with 7:34 to go in the third.
San Diego responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that Gates capped with a 4- yard score. After a defensive holding call nullified Eric Weddle’s interception of Manning, Thompson scored from one yard out to make it 35-14 with 13:29 to play.
Gates kept the Chargers alive with a 10-yard TD catch. After Denver kicker Brandon McManus missed a 53-yard field goal, Rahim Moore picked off Rivers to secure the victory for the Broncos.
Denver leads the all-time series by a 59-49-1 margin ... Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers (concussion) missed the game ... Broncos linebacker Von Miller extended his NFL-best sack streak to six games ... Branden Oliver carried the ball 13 times for 36 yards for San Diego, with 23 yards coming on the final play of the game.
► NFL Game Result - Week 8
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23
Final Score: Denver 35, San Diego 21
Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest NFL record for career touchdown passes, but he added to that record on Thursday night. Manning threw three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders in the Denver Broncos’ 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers. The reigning and five-time NFL MVP broke Brett Favre’s record for most career touchdown passes in a 42-17 rout of the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. On Thursday, Manning completed 25-of-35 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns to bring his career TD total to 513. Sanders caught nine passes for 120 yards for the Broncos (6-1), who have won four in a row. Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 105 yards. Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 20 times for 109 yards and Juwan Thompson rushed for 24 yards and two scores on seven carries. Philip Rivers connected on 30-of-41 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for the Chargers (5-3), who have lost two straight since a five-game winning streak.
► Nothin’ but Net: Season Preview Part II
On Tuesday, I documented the 14 teams destined to miss the postseason (http://tinyurl.com/ca6jmnp), although I believe three teams - Pelicans, Nuggets and Rockets - are better than some Eastern Conference playoff-bound squads.
Part II - it’ll be as good as “Back to the Future II,“ but not quite “The Godfather: Part II.“
16. BROOKLYN NETS
One season ago, I bought big time on the Nets. My bad.
The team actually advanced to the second round of the playoffs as Jason Kidd improved as a coach. Then, he lost his mind, tried to outflank general manager Billy King, ended up as head man of the Milwaukee Bucks. That move, like his failed coup de tat in Brooklyn, was shady and duplicitous because Larry Drew was already the coach.
The Nets shed themselves of a potential headache in the form of Kidd. However, Paul Pierce also bolted Brooklyn for a better deal with the Washington Wizards.
That doesn’t leave the cupboard bare for the Nets. Brook Lopez is back after his second major foot surgery in a few years, but, stop traffic, he already sprained his foot in the preseason. Lopez was playing at an All-Star level until the injury and he’ll be needed.
Speaking of lower appendages, Deron Williams’ ankles are apparently in working shape. Joe Johnson is still wildly overpaid, but still contributes. It’s very hard for shooting guards to stop someone as strong as Johnson.
Then there’s Kevin Garnett. Most (me, actually) assumed he’d retire when Pierce left town, but he’s still around. There’s actually a strong group of veterans in Brooklyn.
And I like Lionel Hollins a lot. He left Memphis after guiding the Grizz to the Western Conference Finals mostly because of his dispute with management over analytics. He’s a strong coach with great defensive principles.
Problem in Brooklyn is this group hasn’t fit well in one season. Lopez should be the man here, but Williams and Johnson make obscene money and have the ball in their hands. It should be better with a second camp under their collective belt and a better leader in Hollins, but this group makes the postseason because a.) eight do in the East, and b.) there’s enough offensive talent.
15. ATLANTA HAWKS
If people forgot about Lopez, Al Horford is like that wonderful ‘80s song you hear during a random trip to the grocery store.
Horford missed 53 games last season and 55 three seasons ago, both because of torn pectoral muscles. What you forgot is that a healthy Horford is a wonderful two-way big man. He can score inside, has a decent mid-range game, plus he’s a strong interior defender and decent rim protector. Getting him back is a gigantic improvement.
And Atlanta could use some good news. The Hawks’ summer was dominated by racism from the owner (“too many blacks on the kiss cam”) and general manager Danny Ferry, who inexplicably read a scouting report of Luol Deng which claimed he had some “African in him.“ Ferry is still away from the team, so there’s disarray.
On the court, the Hawks have been mired in the eternal purgatory known as a subpar, but good enough to make the playoffs, Eastern Conference team. That’s never good.
The Hawks have Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll in the starting lineup. There bench consists of solid pieces like Thabo Sefalosha, Elton Brand, Pero Antic and Mike Scott, a personal favorite of mine. I loved Adreian Payne, their first-round pick.
Horford will help, but the Hawks are still stuck in no man’s land out East. They are postseason-worthy, but have little chance of advancement unless they get a fifth or sixth seed, which seems high.
14. PHOENIX SUNS
Last season, I ranked them 29th, ahead of only the 76ers. What a doofus.
The Suns narrowly missed a playoff berth in the loaded Western Conference, but they will get over that hump this season. Isaiah Thomas was their big free- agent move, which made sense to hedge their bet if Eric Bledsoe didn’t return. He did, so Phoenix has the best backcourt depth in the league.
They also ooze athleticism, but in a good way. They ranked in the top 10 in scoring, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Offensively, the Suns are very good.
Defensively, Phoenix was 21st in opponents’ scoring, but 14th in opponents’ field-goal percentage and second in opponents’ 3-point percentage. That’s sort of a weird balance.
So, the Suns can play defense. What makes them different than say a Mike D’Antoni team that would run up and down the floor is, this Suns squad does it because no one can match up with their athletes.
Thomas, Goran Dragic, Bledsoe, the Morris twins, P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green, Zoran Dragic, T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, even Miles Plumlee is a decent enough athlete. This team is put together to compete and run and defend.
Their style will win some ball games, but isn’t built to compete in the postseason. Jeff Hornacek was great last season at maximizing his roster’s talents and it should be more of the same. They have some interesting pieces to possibly move if a star became available because that’s the only thing separating Phoenix from being a fringe contender.
This team may not lead the league in opponents’ scoring, but they’ll lead in the league in most times getting an opponent to vomit on the bench due to sheer exhaustion.
13. CHARLOTTE HORNETS
They have a gritty defensive team, anchored offensively by a great low-post scorer, a throwback in a sense, named Al Jefferson. They feature a woefully underrated point guard in Kemba Walker, then some other pieces.
Until Lance Stephenson came to town.
Stephenson is a stat sheet marvel, who is also a defensive presence and a big- game performer. He played on winning teams with the Indiana Pacers and can teach these Hornets how to take a step forward.
Also, worth mentioning, he is, as Liz Lemon from “30 Rock” once said, “staunchly in favor of Coco-Puffs.“
That on-going internal battle for Stephenson’s mind and soul determines the Hornets’ fate this season. Good crazy is fine. That’s intensity and passion. Bad crazy is not. Stephenson has been bad crazy at times, including last season’s East Finals against the Miami Heat. Remember when he blew on LeBron’s face? You do. But you don’t remember his pressure defense that turned games in Indiana’s favor.
Stephenson can be the next piece in the Hornets’ puzzle. A nucleus of Jefferson/Stephenson/Walker/Gerald Henderson/Noah Vonleh/Cody Zeller/Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/Marvin Williams/Gary Neal/P.J. Hairston is very good. It’s not a championship contender, but it’s good enough to contend for a home playoff series.
There are a few things that need to happen for Charlotte.
Stephenson has to be smart about his craziness. Kidd-Gilchrist needs to develop a jump shot, or possibly lose rotation minutes. Jefferson needs to stay healthy. Same for Walker. The bench needs to produce. Zeller and Vonleh, who will miss time at the start of the season and could be in danger of never getting his spot back, need to help out.
Enough should happen to make Charlotte a tough team every night.
12. MIAMI HEAT
Losing LeBron James is like getting punched in the solar plexus by an elephant. Then it’s like getting stomped in the nether region by same elephant.
But Pat Riley did a nice job in rebuilding the roster with James gone.
Luol Deng is LeBron-lite. He scores in a variety of ways, rebounds and defends. He just doesn’t do them at the same level James does, nor is a quarter of the playmaker James is.
Josh McRoberts has a niche and can shoot.
After that, Riley brought most of the same players back.
Chris Bosh is overpaid. We can all agree on that, although I defend him more than most because I think he completely changed his game to benefit the Heat. Do I think Bosh wants to bang on the blocks with bigger guys every night? Heck no. Do I think he can still be a No. 1 scorer on a good team? Yes, a good team, not a great one.
And that’s what Miami is now in the absence of LeBron. They’ll be good. They’ll make the playoffs and I see a little of the Boston Celtics when the Big Three was dying in this Heat incarnation. They’ll be the team no one really wants to face in the postseason with their experience and pedigree.
It all hinges on Dwyane Wade.
He missed 28 games during the regular season in 2013-14 and still didn’t look great in the postseason with all of that down time. Wade can’t miss that kind of time this go-around or Miami will sink. James isn’t there to bail the franchise out and, without any knowledge, I believe that wore on James. If I could inject James with truth serum, or Jagermeister, I think he’d say that not only playing every game, but having to carry the entire load, was enough.
Wade won’t play a full season, so if he misses 12-15 games, the Heat should be fine.
11. TORONTO RAPTORS
The Toronto Raptors are a very good team. They play defense, score in various ways and have a top three backcourt in the league with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. They have underrated parts like Amir Johnson and Lou Williams.
They are good and could advance in the postseason. Also, they have a lot of expiring contracts at their disposal, so they could be players at the deadline.
It’s a star league. DeRozan was an All-Star last season and is blossoming into a bona fide leader and star. Lowry should’ve made the All-Star team, but didn’t. He stayed on a reasonable contract, however, the old Lowry could have reverted back into a mild headache once he became happy.
Jonas Valanciunas is the biggest key to Toronto’s improvement. He can score on the low post and is a very underrated athlete and strong man. His defense will need to improve, but his career arc is trending upward. Valanciunas will become the third star and that’s a necessary component for serious success.
The Atlantic Division is the weakest in basketball. Toronto should cruise to a second consecutive title, but the Raptors need to guard against that feeling that the division will be their’s no matter what. They aren’t quite that good.
10. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Bradley Beal’s wrist injury hurts this team early. When healthy and complete, the Wizards could be really strong.
Beal made the claim he and Wall are the best backcourt in the league. It’s debatable and I for one don’t agree. Golden State and Toronto have a better claim, but this pair of guards are dynamic. Wall is the fastest player in the league and Beal might become the best shooter in the NBA.
The rest of the roster is built for the long haul.
Paul Pierce was a magnificent signing. He can still score, especially in crunch time and he can teach this group a thing or 12 about winning. That’s his main role.
Nene and Marcin Gortat are fantastic big men with swagger and skill. The bench has been bolstered with the signing of Kris Humphries (who is hurt) and the acquisition of DeJuan Blair. Couple those two with Martell Webster and Andre Miller and that’s a very solid bench.
Washington is going to have a very good season. Randy Wittman isn’t exactly John Wooden, but this roster is built for a season-long trek. It’s a very good team, but not one that’s better than the Cleveland Cavaliers or Chicago Bulls.
9. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
I admit, I can’t be objective about the Grizzlies. I love them.
I love Marc Gasol. He changes games defensively, is one of the two best passing big men in the sport and his basketball IQ is astronomical. To me, Gasol is the best center in the league when healthy. His game is complete.
I love Zach Randolph. He can score inside and out, rebounds ferociously and has come to grips, to an extent, with things he can’t control.
I love Mike Conley. He’s a top defensive point guard, good facilitator, improved long-range shooter, a wonderful gamer and emerging big-stage performer.
I love Vince Carter. He’s been robbed in NBA Sixth Man Award voting in recent seasons as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, but he can still score and shoot from deep.
I love Tony Allen. Who couldn’t love the best defensive wing player in the league?
I love Quincy Pondexter. He got hurt early last season right when he was on the precipice of breaking out a bit. He’s a shooter. Memphis needs them.
I semi-love Dave Joerger. His public dustup with the organization, then public flirting with the Minnesota Timberwolves job, was unnecessary, but he stayed. He won 50 games his first season with the Grizz and that came with Gasol missing a huge chunk of the schedule. In the Western Conference, that’s impressive.
It’s not all glorious in Memphis. Courtney Lee needs to prove he’s a starting shooting guard in the league and Tayshaun Prince is done. All in all, this is once again a strong group built on reliable means to win games.
8. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
This was a last-second audible. Originally, my crush, the Grizzlies were ahead of the Warriors. Talent is key and Golden State is loaded with talent.
Steph Curry is elite. He’s the league’s best shooter and his assist number rocketed up to 8.5 per game last season, a full 1.5 per game higher than his previous best season.
Klay Thompson is the key. The Warriors wouldn’t part with him in a prospective deal for Kevin Love. That’s high praise and it may bit them in the fanny. Love and Curry running pick and pops would be diabolical.
But Thompson, along with Denver’s Kenneth Faried, really emerged as pleasant surprises on the grand scale of this summer’s World Cup. Thompson was largely regarded as a shooter with decent playmaking skills. His defense is top-notch and that should be used by new head coach Steve Kerr.
He, too, is something of a wild card. Kerr has no previous head coaching experience. He did play significant periods of his career under Phil Jackson, who he jilted very publicly when he turned down his offer to coach the New York Knicks, and Gregg Popovich, who he probably didn’t jilt at all.
Kerr inherited a strong, but incomplete roster. The first five - Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and David Lee - is talented. Thompson, Iguodala and Bogut are great defenders and the Warriors were one of the league’s best defensive squads. Lee and Curry can score easily.
Depth is a little bit of an issue, but the Shaun Livingston signing was smart. He can provide much-needed relief at either backcourt spot. Livingston is tough and with Draymond Green (a top-five agitator in the league), Marreese Speights (a top-five chucker in the league) and Festus Ezeli, the group is not horrid.
The other big bench piece is Harrison Barnes. Former coach Mark Jackson dropped him from the starting lineup when the team signed Iguodala before last season. Kerr needs to keep Barnes engaged.
If Kerr is great immediately, the Warriors will be tough. They still seem to miss something come playoff time. It might be intensity or toughness, but Golden State is still loaded and its sneaky-good defense, assuming Kerr emphasizes it, should be enough to flirt with a top-four seed out west.
7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
The Blazers seemingly came out of nowhere last season. They advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs and have two big-time studs, a great start for any team.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are both All-Stars. They’re also not afraid of the stage. A contending team can be built around this pair.
Wesley Matthews is very good. Niclas Batum might be better than very good and Robin Lopez is a serviceable big.
Problem for Portland is, this starting unit is excellent, but the bench stinks. Aldridge, Lillard and Batum finished in the top 20 in minutes played last season. The Blazers’ bench finished dead last in points per game and minutes per game.
Add here’s why Portland can’t be ranked any higher - the Blazers didn’t significantly improve the unit. Chris Kaman and Steve Blake are pros, but not enough of an upgrade to matter.
At some point, the Blazers’ second unit is going to kill them, or one of the starting five will collapse from exhaustion.
6. DALLAS MAVERICKS
This team had the best offseason short of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Acquiring Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons will help this team tremendously in different ways.
Chandler will be the defensive anchor, like he was on the Dallas title team of 2011. He still can protect the rim and run the defense from inside the lane.
Parsons will get a lot of looks from the perimeter. He was a underrated playmaker in Houston and he’ll get a chance to be great under a great coach like Rick Carlisle.
Dirk Nowitzki is still a stud. Last season, he averaged 21.7 points per game, and he’s indicated he was working on quickening his release, which is terrifying considering he’s a 7-footer who shoots the ball from so high up already.
Carlisle is a genius. He got so much more out of Monta Ellis last season than other coaches ever did. Can Carlisle get as much out of Jameer Nelson, who looked decent last season in Orlando? Tough call, but Raymond Felton is also with the Mavericks and Devin Harris can still play some point. He might be the one who’s out there in the fourth quarter.
Depth might be an issue for Dallas. Harris, Brandan Wright, Felton, Jae Crowder and Al-Farouq Aminu is not exactly the best second unit in the sport, but in Dirk and Rick we trust.
5. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Kevin Durant’s injury is potentially crippling in several ways.
Long story short, if the Thunder struggle badly in Durant’s absence, they could slip to sixth or seventh in the Western Conference. Yeah, the conference is that good.
That’s not to say OKC can’t win in that slot in the postseason, but it’ll be much harder.
I’m firmly in the camp that believes Oklahoma City will be in trouble without Durant. If you can get past the obvious nature of that statement, I’ll elaborate.
Russell Westbrook will be the primary scorer, a role he’ll have no qualms about embracing. He’s going to shoot the ball a lot. A whole lot. That’s going to be tough to get out of his system once Durant returns.
Once Durant does come back, OKC should be just fine. The Thunder will win a lot of games because Durant is just that good. He’s not as complete as James, but he’s the league’s best scorer and his overall game improved during his MVP campaign of last season.
The real problem for the Thunder this season might be that they didn’t improve much from last season. Oklahoma City lost out on the Pau Gasol sweepstakes and their big move in the offseason was the signing of Anthony Morrow. He’s most likely the starting shooting guard because Sefolosha left for Atlanta.
Reggie Jackson is still going to be the primary two when a game matters, but Kendrick Perkins is on the decline. He’s still the starting center. Andre Roberson, Perry Jones or Lance Thomas will replace Durant in the starting lineup.
The Thunder weren’t good enough last season and didn’t improve. Durant’s injury makes them slightly worse this season.
4. CHICAGO BULLS
A healthy Derrick Rose makes the Bulls a title contender. The Derrick Rose of the last two seasons makes the Bulls the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
He looks good on the court. If that is the case, the Bulls are going to be tough every night. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is the best defensive mind in the sport, so you’re always going to get a tough draw against Chicago.
There’s a reason why I like the Bulls more this season, again, assuming Rose is healthy. They improved.
The Bulls were a mess offensively, especially late in games. Rose will help that, but Chicago also desperately needed more skill on that side of the court and, if a shooter came along, that would be great.
Enter Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.
Gasol will replace Carlos Boozer and that’s a win for the Bulls. Gasol may be oldish, but he put up some decent numbers last season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Plus, he’s probably over the moon to not have to deal with D’Antoni’s system which did not maximize his talents a little bit.
McDermott was acquired in a draft-night trade. He has incredible range. Will he play a lot in the rotation? That remains to be seen, but I hope he does. Great shooters should have a role no matter how bad he is defensively.
Mirotic came from overseas and is a highly skilled big man with handle. Again, does Thibs trust him out of the gate? Hopefully, because if both these men play, the Bulls are legit 10 deep.
Joakim Noah is one of the best defensive players in the league, an incredibly gifted passer and the possessor of the worst-looking jump shot outside my two- year-old.
The Bulls have the correct mix for a championship run. Again, if Rose stays healthy.
3. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The Clippers have to be excited about this upcoming season. Not only are they loaded, they don’t have the burden of the Donald Sterling nonsense to deal with DURING THE PLAYOFFS, like last season.
Steve Ballmer is the owner and he’d get me excited to eat sushi. The team loves him and, most of all, the fan base is going to love him. They’re also going to love this team, but the roster is packed to the gills with talent.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are MVP candidates in a LeBron-less world. They might cancel each other out in voting, but both are deserving.
Paul is the best point guard in the world, an underrated defensive force and angry about how the postseason ended (his mistake).
Griffin is a freak tornado that comes through town. He’s improved his range, which was long my problem with his game, and vows to handle things better when other teams push him around to get a rise out of him.
The other biggest problem the Clippers faced last season was a lack of depth behind Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who is in a contract year. Spencer Hawes was signed and he’s going to be really effective. He’s a great passer and shooter for a big man and he’ll back up both players and see a lot of playing time.
Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Jordan Farmar round out the roster. They’re a little thin at small forward, but Crawford will play at the end of games.
Doc Rivers is a top-two coach in the league and now that everything is good in Clipper-ville, this team has a very real chance of winning the NBA title.
2. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
LeBron James decided to put the city of Cleveland on his shoulders. He indicated it would take longer than in Miami to win a title, but that was before Kevin Love came to town.
James, Love and Kyrie Irving make the best trio in the league. Defending this team will be a nightmare. Any combination of the three in a pick-and-pop scenario will be impossible to stop.
Imagine Love throwing those amazing outlet passes to a streaking LeBron. Oof.
The Cavs aren’t perfect. Love and Irving have never been in the spotlight, nor have they ever been in the playoffs. Those are both reasonable concerns. Thank goodness LeBron is there to lead them.
Also, depth is an issue in Cleveland. Anderson Varejao is the starting center, but hasn’t played near a full season since 2009-10. Dion Waiters has been a combustible element for his whole career. Mike Miller is so-so.
I loved the Shawn Marion signing and maybe he could play in a small lineup with Love and James.
There’s also the fact that David Blatt has never been a head coach in the NBA. His first gig is with the traveling circus and expectations are staggering in Cleveland.
But the Cavs have earned the preseason adulation. They are extremely potent on offense. They will have issues on defense because James, Marion and maybe Tristan Thompson are good defensively.
It all won’t matter since James is so clearly at the top of his game. No matter what team he signed with would have become a contender, except for Philadelphia. The team bolstered the roster with the Love trade and should be the best team in the East.
For a team with so many mild question marks, having James as the leader means the world. He makes everything better. He’s handled everything in his career, from mild adversity, inexperienced head coach and suffocating expectations.
1. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Take the defending champions, who embarrassed the Big Three in stunning fashion, add very little, take away nothing, and you have the best team in the sport.
The Spurs’ biggest summer move was Tim Duncan staying active. Tony Parker signed a contract extension. Manu Ginobili skipped the World Cup to heal a stress fracture in his leg.
Kawhi Leonard is fresh off a Finals MVP and ready for a max deal. Boris Diaw, the revelation of the Finals with his passing skills, re-upped.
The only bad thing is that Patty Mills, the electrifying guard off the bench, will miss a few months with a shoulder injury. Other than that, nothing hideous happened to the defending champs.
Admittedly, motivation might be hard for a group that won five titles in 16 years. The spark for last season’s title came from the heart-wrenching loss in the previous Finals.
The motivation comes from Gregg Popovich - the master and commander.
Pop is the best in the world. He’s the best professional coach in sports. He tweaked the starting lineup in the Finals and pummeled the Heat. He gave Leonard a pep talk and he won MVP. If motivating this self-starting group was ever to be an issue, Pop would make sure it wasn’t.
When you don’t mess with greatness, you stay great. The Spurs are greatness. ~~ Jim Brighters ~~
► Rounding Third: Royals follow familiar script to even series
The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants are in the World Series because of their bullpens.
In Game 2 on Wednesday one of those units delivered, the other did not and now the best-of-seven set will head to the Bay Area tied at a game apiece.
Kansas City’s bullpen was once again phenomenal, while San Francisco’s relief corps imploded, as the Royals scored five times in a wild sixth inning en route to a 7-2 win.
Ladies and gentlemen ... we have a series.
The Royals’ historic triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland came into this matchup having pitched to a 0.61 ERA this postseason. It was more of the same in Game 2 for the group some are saying might be the best of all-time.
They certainly looked the part on Wednesday, tossing 3 2/3 more masterful innings, recording six of the 11 outs via strikeout.
With the score tied at 2-2, Herrera came on in relief of young Yordano Ventura with one out and two on in the sixth. He quickly got out of the jam and had to work out of another one in the seventh, as he walked a pair of batters. But Davis struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth and Holland closed it out by striking out three in the ninth.
As good as Kansas City’s bullpen was, San Francisco’s was just as bad, particularly flamethrower Hunter Strickland, who served up a postseason record-tying fifth home run. He then embarrassed himself even further by yelling at Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who had scored on Omar Infante’s two-run homer.
San Francisco tied a World Series record by using five pitchers in the sixth.
Statistically, the Giants’ pen entered the Series with better numbers than the Royals’ group. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, though, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d argue they were the better unit.
Maybe the bigger story was the fact that the Royals were able to find some offense after managing just five runs in their previous three games and looking absolutely lost against Madison Bumgarner in Game 1.
On Wednesday, though, they stuck to the script that got them here. They got timely hits, Lorenzo Cain was involved, they used their speed to their advantage, and, of course, hit a home run.
They even flashed a little leather.
It was the type of win we’ve become accustomed to this postseason from the Royals.
As much momentum as the Giants had after Bumgarner’s marvelous effort, you almost get the feeling that they might not win again until the next time he takes the hill.
By that time they could be facing elimination.
The bullpens played such a big role in Game 2 because neither starter was able to get out of the sixth inning.
Ventura gave up a leadoff home run to Gregor Blanco, but settled down until that sixth frame. He came into the series with questions surrounding his shoulder, but he hit 100 mph on the radar gun in the first inning.
Something worth noting going forward, the 23-year-old rookie has now thrown over 200 innings this season.
As for San Francisco starter Jake Peavy, well, he looked as if he wouldn’t last two innings, but the former NL Cy Young winner managed to gut his way through five-plus innings and was charged with four runs and six hits
Peavy’s numbers in eight postseason starts: 29 ER, 47 hits, 37 innings, 7.05 ERA.
You have to wonder if he gets another shot in this series.
GAME 2 WINNERS
This marks the 57th time that the Fall Classic has been knotted at one game apiece.
Of the previous 56 times it has happened, the winner of Game 2 has gone on to capture the Series on 29 occasions. However, that has been the case on just two of nine occasions since 1993, those being Anaheim in 2002 and the New York Yankees in 2009. The 1993 Phillies, 1997 Indians, 2003 Yankees, 2006 Tigers, 2008 Rays, 2011 Rangers and 2013 Cardinals all won Game 2 to square the Fall Classic but went on to lose the Series.
The team winning Game 3 in a 1-1 series, though, has gone on to win the title in four of the last five and 11 of the last 13 instances.
PANDA CONTINUES TO ADD TO POSTSEASON LEGACY
With his double in the fourth inning, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval has now reached base safely in a franchise-record 25 consecutive playoff games dating back to Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS.
The only players with longer postseason on-base streaks are Miguel Cabrera (31) and Chase Utley (27).
► Diagnosing the need for a blockbuster trade
To decide whether or not to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade might be one of the hardest decisions in fantasy football.
As great as some waiver wire acquisitions are, they often only help keep the status quo. Making a splash with the right trade will give many teams that missing championship piece.
Before even thinking about trades, owners have to do heavy analysis of their team. There are four major ways I evaluate my teams: overall record, points scored, the median score, and position-by-position.
No explanation is needed for the importance of record, but it often does not tell the whole story.
Points is probably the best indication of how well a team is really performing. Even if a team is sitting at 4-3 or 3-4 going into Week 8, there is no need to worry if that team is ranked in the top half of the league in scoring. As long as the team can maintain that pace for points scored, the record should begin to reflect the points.
Points, though, also does not tell the whole story. Some teams may be 5-2, have the second most points scored, thus giving that team also the second best mean average. But perhaps two monster point totals the first two weeks of the season is keeping that average high.
That’s why the median score is also important. The median average, or three middle scores out of seven, will give owners an even better idea of their team’s expected production every week.
But when it comes down to it, when diagnosing trades, an owner has to go with his gut. Even though there are no locker rooms in fantasy football, an owner needs to have the pulse of his team and react on instinct.
My instinct told me my 4-3 team, even ranked second in points and not far behind in median score, needed a lift.
I have a plethora of running back depth with Le’Veon Bell, Andre Ellington, Branden Oliver, Ben Tate, Joique Bell and Ronnie Hillman. Before you send compliments my way, it’s an eight-team league. Philip Rivers has been my everyday quarterback, but with Tony Romo joining the squad this week, I expect to run the classic Jim Leyland platoon at quarterback.
Demaryius Thomas, Kelvin Benjamin, Michael Floyd, Keenan Allen, and Kendall Wright are my wideouts. Dwayne Allen is my replacement at tight end until Jimmy Graham is healthy again.
The depth of this team is its strength, but my instincts told me it needed something to put it over the top. Trading for Arian Foster took me to the summit in 2010, and acquiring Antonio Brown did the same last season. Sitting at 4-3 but with the second most points scored, I felt like my team needed a jolt.
Dez Bryant is the type of player that will give your team a jolt.
I had to give up some depth in Oliver and Floyd, and normally I like to wait a few more weeks to make sure my team is not hit with the injury bug before shedding depth. Running Thomas and Bryant out on the fantasy field as my two wide receivers, however, was too tough to pass up.
There is one other form of evaluation I mentioned above: position-by-position. WR2 has been the weakness position on my team.
Bryant averages 11.9 points per game and has an even higher median. My WR2 in seven games, a combination of Cordarrelle Patterson, who has since been dropped, Allen, and Benjamin, averaged 5.01 points. Bryant’s lowest score of the year is higher than that.
Two of my three losses this season were by eight or fewer points. Bryant would have likely won me those games.
As great as the Chargers offense has been, the move also allows my team to not be so San Diego centric. It is hard for me to part ways with Oliver. He has averaged 18.8 points in the last three games, which is excellent production for a FLEX, but he is not going to win me a championship.
Ryan Mathews plans to return Week 11, so Oliver may see a reduction in carries. Even if Oliver maintains his production, our league’s playoffs are Weeks 15 and 16. San Diego takes on Denver and San Francisco those Sundays. With a championship on the line, I want no part of those running defenses.
As for Floyd, he is a viable WR2 option even in a eight-team league, but with his quarterback issues this year, he hasn’t been able to crack my starting lineup. Meanwhile, Bryant gives me the best wide receiver tandem in the league.
Final analysis, Bryant is a huge upgrade at WR2 while Bell and Tate should fill in sufficiently at the FLEX and provide enough depth in case of injury. With a championship or bust mind set, it is the best move.
After careful evaluation of the statistics and pulse of my team, my football intellect and gut told me to go for the big splash trade.
► Week 8 player fantasy rankings - quarterbacks
It doesn’t take a lot of inside information or studying to select Peyton Manning as your top quarterback most weekends.
It’s even easier when he’s playing as well as he has been over the past year and a half. Add in that his opponent, San Diego, is likely missing two pieces of their secondary (Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett) and you can’t select anyone other than Manning as the top choice in Week 8.
Manning and his Broncos will start the week off on Thursday night hosting the Chargers.
The Green Bay Packers will face off in New Orleans on Sunday for a battle between two elite quarterbacks and fantasy owners need to be involved in this one.
Smart fantasy owners will have one of the two quarterbacks in their lineup, or failing that, a top receiver as this game figures to light up the scoreboard (O/U is 56) and fill up the box score.
Aaron Rodgers has thrown 17 touchdown passes in his last six games without a single interception. He’s thrown for at least three scores in his last four contests. The only thing fantasy owners can complain about is that Rodgers has earned the 300-yard passing bonus just two times this season. He’s our No. 2 choice in Week 8.
On the other sideline from Rodgers will be Drew Brees, who has thrown for 340 yards or more in three consecutive games. He’s also thrown two touchdowns passes in five straight games. In five career games versus the Packers, Brees is averaging 380.8 ypg with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’ll come in at No. 4.
Andrew Luck has been the best fantasy quarterback in the league over the first seven weeks, cracking the 300-yard mark in six of seven games. With the Pittsburgh Steelers defense not up to it’s usual standards and a short work week off the Monday night game in Week 7, Luck should continue to roll.
This might not be the week to start Jay Cutler. The Bears locker room doesn’t appear to be a happy place after a Brandon Marshall blowup following a 27-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 7. Rumors have angry words between Marshall and his favorite quarterback. Marshall will in all likelihood be lined up against Darrelle Revis and after his tongue lashing, Cutler figures to try harder than usual to get him the ball. Challenging Revis is rarely a good idea. That’s why Cutler is ranked all the way down at No. 13 this weekend.
Top-25 Quarterback Rankings
1) Peyton Manning, Denver
2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
3) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
4) Drew Brees, New Orleans
5) Tom Brady, New England
6) Tony Romo, Dallas
7) Russell Wilson, Seattle
8) Nick Foles, Philadelphia
9) Philip Rivers, San Diego
10) Joe Flacco, Baltimore
11) Matt Ryan, Atlanta
12) Matt Stafford, Detroit
13) Jay Cutler, Chicago
14) Cam Newton, Carolina
15) Ryan Tannehill, Miami
16) Carson Palmer, Arizona
17) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
18) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
19) Brian Hoyer, Cleveland
20) Alex Smith, Kansas City
21) Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay
22) Colt McCoy, Washington
23) Derek Carr, Oakland
24) Austin Davis, St. Louis
25) Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota
► Week 8 player fantasy rankings - wide receivers
Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is the hottest player in fantasy football. Not the hottest receiver. The hottest of anyone, anywhere, including his well-publicized, record-setting quarterback.
Thomas has put together three monster games in a row, beginning with a 226- yard, two-touchdown performance against Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals. He then caught 10 balls for 124 yards and a score in New York against the Jets. Finally, last Sunday night he toasted the 49ers secondary for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
That’s a total of 521 yards and five touchdown in three games worth 105.1 fantasy points (35 ppg).
He’ll be facing a San Diego secondary minus two pieces, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett and on a short work week, which makes them particularly vulnerable to a Peyton Manning air assault.
Green Bay’s top receiver this season is Jordy Nelson and the Packers’ receiver should put up big number down in New Orleans Sunday night. His quarterback, Aaron Rodgers has been spectacular of late with four consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes. Nelson has caught at least one of those scores and cracked the 100-yard mark in every “even-numbered week.“ In what should be the highest scoring game of Week 8, Nelson should be it’s top receiver.
What can’t Antonio Brown do. So far this season he’s proven to the best fantasy receiver, he’s also a top punt returner and last Monday night he threw a touchdown pass to Lance Moore. Sunday his Steelers with have to put up a big point total if they want to stay with the Indianapolis Colts and their fantasy star Andrew Luck.
The Week 8 ranking does not include Calvin Johnson, who is in London with his Detroit Lions teammates, but still questionable and likely a game-time decision. At least the good news is that you will know whether he is playing or sitting before any other Sunday game due to the 9:30 AM ET start and can adjust your lineup accordingly. As of Thursday, we do not expect him to start as Detroit (5-2 and leading the NFC North) has a bye in Week 9 and can afford to wait until he is completely healed when the Lions return to the field for a Week 10 matchup against Miami.
With Johnson expected to sit again, Golden Tate will continue to be a top-10 fantasy wideout. He has posted three 100-yard plus receiving totals in the last four games.
Two guys who were expected to produce in a big way in 2014, Keenan Allen and Percy Harvin, continue their downward slide.
Allen was a pleasant surprise last season as a rookie, posting 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, defenses have adapted to him by using press coverage and he’s struggled over the first seven games. He probably won’t come out of it Thursday either, as the Broncos huge pass rush is likely to force Philip Rivers into a short-passing game.
The Jets’ newly-acquired Harvin will play his first game for his third team in two seasons. He has as much talent as anyone, but hasn’t been able to turn that into points for fantasy owners on a consistent basis. Given the short time to learn the Jets offense, he’ll likely be limited to just a few plays this weekend. You will find Harvin at No. 44 for Week 8.
Top-50 Wide Receiver Rankings
1) Demaryius Thomas, Denver
2) Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
3) Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
4) Julio Jones, Atlanta
5) Brandon Marshall, Chicago
6) Dez Bryant, Dallas
7) Randall Cobb, Green Bay
8) T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis
9) Golden Tate, Detroit
10) A.J.Green, Cincinnati
11) Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia
12) Mike Wallace, Miami
13) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago
14) Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore
15) Emmanuel Sanders, Denver
16) Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina
17) Michael Floyd, Arizona
18) Sammy Watkins, Buffalo
19) Doug Baldwin, Seattle
20) Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay
21) Pierre Garcon, Washington
22) Julian Edelman, New England
23) Andre Johnson, Houston
24) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
25) Terrance Williams, Dallas
26) DeSean Jackson, Washington
27) Roddy White, Atlanta
28) Wes Welker, Denver
29) DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
30) Marques Colston, New Orleans
31) Keenan Allen, San Diego
32) Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati
33) Eric Decker, New York Jets
34) Malcolm Floyd, San Diego
35) Kendall Wright, Tennessee
36) Brandin Cooks, New Orleans
37) Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland
38) Andre Holmes, Oakland
39) Torrey Smith, Baltimore
40) Brian Quick, St. Louis
41) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay
42) Davante Adams, Green Bay
43) Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville
44) Percy Harvin, New York Jets
45) Justin Hunter, Tennessee
46) Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota
47) Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City
48) James Jones, Oakland
49) Eddie Royal, San Diego
50) Miles Austin, Cleveland
► Week 8 player fantasy rankings - running backs
It really is not a tough decision in deciding who our No. 1 running back for Week 8 is, yet again.
After rushing for at least 100 yards in each game, through the first seven weeks of the NFL season, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray finds himself not only in the league MVP chatter, but also atop our running back rankings.
Owners do need to be aware that Dallas’ opponent, the Washington Redskins are fifth best in points against running backs (12.68 fantasy points per game), according to Yahoo. However, with the way the Cowboys’ offensive line is playing, we have confidence that Murray will be able to put up another big total.
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte continues to be as steady as they come, and as a result, he comes in as our second-ranked tailback of the week. Believe it or not, Forte has rushed for over 100 yards just once this season, yet he still has compiled the second-most fantasy points amongst halfbacks, with 116.4, behind only Murray.
The reason why Forte is able to produce at such a high level is because he excels in the passing game, having compiled 52 receptions for 436 yards and two scores. That ranks 21st in the NFL in receiving yards, among all players, while no other running back is in the top-45.
Boy, oh boy, do we love Marshawn Lynch heading into Week 8. He has a juicy matchup against the Carolina Panthers, who give up the second-most fantasy points to running backs (24 points per game), and with the Seahawks on a two- game losing streak, we feel it is time for the team to get back to what has made them so successful over the past few years. That’s pounding the ball on the ground with Lynch. He has not rushed for a 100 yards since Week 1, and owners should expect that trend to come to an end this week in Carolina.
There are a few high-risk, high-reward players ranked in the area from No 10 through No. 20 in our rankings this week.
The first guy to take note of is Denver running back Ronnie Hillman. He has started the past two games for the Broncos, and has produced admirably, with a total of 174 rushing yards and two touchdowns. To go along with his success on the ground, Hillman has also contributed in the passing game, catching seven balls for 45 yards, during that span. As long as he is able to hang onto the football, he’s had fumbling problems in the past, we feel that Hillman will continue to climb up the chart, while Montee Ball is sidelined. And even when Ball returns, we are not convinced that he will regain the starting job. As a result, owners should continue to start Hillman with confidence.
The New England Patriots continue to frustrate fantasy owners. Coming into Week 7, almost everybody felt that Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen would be the benefactors of the unfortunate injury to Stevan Ridley.
While Vereen produced his best game of the season with 23.4 fantasy points, Bolden barely even saw the field. Rookie Jonas Gray took on the role that Bolden was expected the receive, but nevertheless the Patriots’ backfield continues to be a mystery, as Gray still only saw three total carries. So, even after a breakout performance by Vereen, and while we feel he will continue to put up numbers for the duration of the season, we cannot put him in our top-15 until we see more of what New England’s plan of attack is. Coach Bill Belichick is as unpredictable as they come, making it necessary for owners to keep one eye on New England’s rushing strategy every Sunday.
Top-50 Running Back Rankings
1) DeMarco Murray, Dallas
2) Matt Forte, Chicago
3) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle
4) Arian Foster, Houston
5) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
6) Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
7) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia
8) Andre Ellington, Arizona
9) Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati
10) Ben Tate, Cleveland
11) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay
12) Lamar Miller, Miami
13) Branden Oliver, San Diego
14) Ronnie Hillman, Denver
15) Alfred Morris, Washington
16) Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota
17) Shane Vereen, New England
18) Justin Forsett, Baltimore
19) Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis
20) Joique Bell, Detroit
21) Denard Robinson, Jacksonville
22) Reggie Bush, Detroit
23) Trent Richardson, Indianapolis
24) Doug Martin, Tampa Bay
25) Darren McFadden, Oakland
26) Chris Ivory, New York Jets
27) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee
28) Mark Ingram, New Orleans
29) Jonathan Stewart, Carolina
30) Bryce Brown, Buffalo
31) Khiry Robinson, New Orleans
32) Tre Mason, St. Louis
33) Jonas Gray, New England
34) Antone Smith, Atlanta
35) Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati
36) Steven Jackson, Atlanta
37) Anthony Dixon, Buffalo
38) Darren Sproles, Philadelphia
39) Benny Cunningham, St. Louis
40) Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland
41) Chris Johnson, New York Jets
42) Bernard Pierce, Baltimore
43) Zac Stacy, St. Louis
44) James Starks, Green Bay
45) LeGarrette Blount, Pittsburgh
46) Matt Asiata, Minnesota
47) Storm Johnson, Jacksonville
48) Alfred Blue, Houston
49) Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay
50) Darrin Reaves, Carolina
► Week 8 player fantasy rankings - tight ends
It is hard not to like any member of the Denver Broncos’ offense, and the guy who starts at tight end for this team, is no exception.
Julius Thomas comes in as our top-ranked tight end, which should come as no surprise, since he leads the NFL with nine touchdown receptions. He is clearly one of Peyton Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone, and with how dynamic the offense really is, Thomas continues to see favorable matchups throughout each game. Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers should be no different, as we expect Thomas to find the end zone at least one more time.
Greg Olsen has quietly put together an impressive season, thus far, and according to Yahoo, he is second in fantasy points among tight ends, with 79.3 points, trailing only Thomas (84.4). He leads all tight ends with 493 receiving yards on 41 receptions (tied with Martellus Bennett), and combined with scoring five touchdowns, Olsen is an easy choice for us to rank in our top-two. With Carolina facing off against Seattle at home, Olsen has an enticing matchup, as the Seahawks have given up the third most fantasy points, to opposing tight ends, allowing 12.68 points per game. Owners have no reason to keep Olsen out of their lineups, not only for Week 8, but also for the rest of the season.
One of the only sure things on the New England Patriots’ offense, is Rob Gronkowski. While he is not on pace for a 20-touchdown season, Gronkowski has been solid in 2014. He is fifth among tight ends with 64.9 fantasy points, and is fourth in receiving yards (409). Owners would like to see Gronk’s touchdown total go up, as he has only four. However, we feel that those numbers could be coming at any moment because he seems to be fully healthy, and with Tom Brady finding his groove, New England’s quarterback trusts nobody more in the red zone, than Gronkowski.
One player that is trending down is Titans’ tight end Delanie Walker. He has not scored a touchdown since Week 4, and has also failed to produce more than 5.7 fantasy points in a game since that week as well. With the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position in Tennessee, all of the playmakers have been clearly affected, and Walker is simply part of the crew. The Titans face off against the Houston Texans, who let up only 6.52 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and while we still have Walker ranked in our top-10, if owners have other options, it may be time to consider them.
A guy who could be a potential sleeper this week is Miami tight end Charles Clay. He is coming off his best game of the season, as he had four receptions for 58 yards and his first touchdown. While those numbers are nothing to write home about, Clay is coming off a 2013 season where he had a solid 69 catches for 759 yards and six scores. Those numbers prove Clay can produce in the NFL and with a plus matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who give up the fourth most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (12.12 points per game), we feel that Clay is clearly on the rise.
Top-25 Tight End Rankings
1) Julius Thomas, Denver
2) Greg Olsen, Carolina
3) Rob Gronkowski, New England
4) Martellus Bennett, Chicago
5) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
6) Jordan Reed, Washington
7) Antonio Gates, San Diego
8) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland
9) Delanie Walker, Tennessee
10) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
11) Jason Witten, Dallas
12) Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis
13) Owen Daniels, Baltimore
14) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
15) Coby Fleener, Indianapolis
16) Charles Clay, Miami
17) Travis Kelce, Kansas City
18) Jared Cook, St. Louis
19) Clay Harbor, Jacksonville
20) Jace Amaro, New York Jets
21) Ben Watson, New Orleans
22) Andrew Quarless, Green Bay
23) Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
24) Eric Ebron, Detroit
25) Tim Wright, New England
► Week 8 player fantasy rankings - kickers
Round up all the usual suspects at place-kicker for Week 8.
Stephen Gostkowski, Dan Bailey, Adam Vinatieri, Caleb Sturgis and Blair Walsh all face teams that rank in the top 10 most fantasy points allowed to kickers. Each one should have big weeks.
Cody Parkey, Chandler Catanzaro and Justin Tucker also find themselves in the top 10 this week due to recent hot streaks. Parkey had a bye last week, but had back-to-back double-digit fantasy totals in Weeks 5 and 6.
Tucker has posted at least nine fantasy points the last three weeks and Catanzaro, the Cardinals rookie, has not scored lower than seven fantasy points in any game this season.
Catanzaro is 15-for-15 kicking field goals with a long of 51 yards to start his career.
Nick Folk lands just outside the top 10 for Week 8 only because of his team. The New York Jets offense averages just 17.3 points per game, which is tied for fifth lowest in the league.
If there are owners that believe Folk can continue to have fantasy success, like he did in New England, despite the Jets offense, Folk is definitely a top-10 kicker. We, however, do not have faith in Geno Smith.
Folk was 4-for-5 with an extra point against the Patriots in Week 7. His only miss was blocked on a 58-yard desperation try in the final seconds to win the game.
Brandon McManus, Nick Novak and Matt Bryant all average seven fantasy points per game, but they each have tough matchups this Sunday. It would be wise to stay away from them in standard 12-team leagues.
Top-25 Kicker Rankings
1) Stephen Gostkowski, New England
2) Dan Bailey, Dallas
3) Cody Parkey, Philadelphia
4) Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis
5) Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona
6) Justin Tucker, Baltimore
7) Steven Hauschka, Seattle
8) Caleb Sturgis, Miami
9) Mason Crosby, Green Bay
10) Blair Walsh, Minnesota
11) Matt Prater, Detroit
12) Billy Cundiff, Cleveland
13) Nick Folk, New York Jets
14) Shayne Graham, New Orleans
15) Brandon McManus, Denver
16) Nick Novak, San Diego
17) Matt Bryant, Atlanta
18) Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis
19) Randy Bullock, Houston
20) Cairo Santos, Kansas City
21) Graham Gano, Carolina
22) Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh
23) Dan Carpenter, Buffalo
24) Robbie Gould, Chicago
25) Mike Nugent, Cincinnati
► Week 8 player fantasy rankings - defense
The top defense for Week 8 is only owned in about half of all Yahoo leagues and that is after a 37 percent increase on Tuesday.
The Miami Dolphins will head up I-95 to visit Jacksonville on Sunday. Even in the Jaguars victory last week, Jacksonville allowed eight fantasy points against Cleveland. In the previous six games, all losses, Jacksonville allowed double-digit points.
Miami had double-digit points on the road versus the Bears last Sunday, so stick with the Dolphins another week.
Detroit has been the second-best fantasy defense this season. Keep in mind, the Lions are playing in London in an unprecedented 9:30 AM ET start, but that should not prevent Detroit from putting pressure on Matt Ryan. The Falcons will be starting an undrafted rookie center, a beat up left tackle, a veteran left guard coming off a back injury and a struggling right tackle.
Actual real-life Lions at The London Zoo do not have easier feeding times.
Seattle falls out of the top-10 even against the average Carolina offense due to the lack of big plays for the Seattle defense this season. The Seahawks have just five turnovers this season and are in the bottom 10 in fantasy points. They haven’t scored double-digit points since Week 1 and have two games with negative points.
The Buccaneers, Jets and Redskins defenses all have favorable matchups, but we would still rather start the Cardinals, Broncos and Chargers defenses in bad matchups. Don’t overanalyze the matchup, start the better defense.
Top-25 Defense/Special Teams Rankings
1) Miami Dolphins
2) Detroit Lions
3) Houston Texans
4) Buffalo Bills
5) New England Patriots
6) Philadelphia Eagles
7) Indianapolis Colts
8) Dallas Cowboys
9) Kansas City Chiefs
10) Green Bay Packers
11) Cleveland Browns
12) Seattle Seahawks
13) Baltimore Ravens
14) Minnesota Vikings
15) Tennessee Titans
16) Arizona Cardinals
17) San Diego Chargers
18) Denver Broncos
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
20) New York Jets
21) Washington Redskins
22) Jacksonville Jaguars
23) Cincinnati Bengals
24) Atlanta Falcons
25) Pittsburgh Steelers
|Gilmer County (3-4) at #5 Notre Dame (5-2)|
|Calhoun County (2-6) at Wirt County (0-7)|
|#5 Doddridge County (6-1) at #15 Valley - Wetzel (5-2)|
|#1 St. Marys (7-0) at South Harrison (4-3)|
|#8 Tyler Consolidated (5-2) at Magnolia (2-5)|
|Parkersburg Catholic (2-5) at #11 Williamstown (5-2)|
|Webster County (2-5) at Braxton County (2-6)|
|Ritchie County (3-5) BYE WEEK|
|Herbert Hoover (4-3 at Roane County (3-4)|
|#9 Ravenswood (6-1) at Clay County (4-3)|
|#11 Robert C. Byrd (5-2) at North Marion (0-7)|
|#1 Bridgeport (7-1) BYE WEEK|
|Sissonville (4-3) at #15 Liberty - Harrison (5-3)|
|Lincoln (2-6) at Grafton (3-4)|
|#6 Nicholas County (6-1) at Midland Trail - A (0-7)|
|Philip Barbour (1-7) BYE WEEK|
|#12 Lewis County (6-2) at Elkins (3-4)|
|#13 Fairmont Sr. - AA (5-2) at #14 Buckhannon-Upshur (5-2)|
|#10 Parkersburg South (5-2) at Greenbrier East (4-4)|
|Major League Baseball - World Series|
|Kansas City at San Francisco, 8:07 PM - FOX|
|National Basketball Association - Preseason|
|New York at Toronto, 7:30 PM - MSG, TSN2|
|Minnesota at Chicago, 8:00 PM - CSN-Chicago|
|San Antonio at Houston, 8:00 PM - CSN-Houston, NBA TV|
|Miami at Memphis, 8:00 PM - SunSports|
|Sacramento at LA Lakers, 10:00 PM - Time Warner Cable|
|Portland at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, NBA TV|
|National Hockey League|
|Dallas at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest, MSG+, DSS|
|Tampa Bay at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - SunSports, TSN3, DSS|
|Vancouver at Colorado, 9:00 PM - SNET, Altitude, DSS|
|Carolina at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - SportSouth, SNET-West, DSS|
|Columbus at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Prime Ticket, DSS|
|Canadian Football League|
|Montreal at Ottawa, 6:30 PM - TSN, RDS, ESPN3.com|
|Saskatchewan at Calgary, 9:30 PM - TSN, ESPN3.com|
|So Florida at Cincinnati, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2|
|Troy at South Alabama, 7:30 PM - ESPN U|
|BYU at Boise State, 9:00 PM - ESPN|
|Oregon at California, 10:00 PM - FS1|
|Michigan at Massachusetts-Lowell, 7:15 PM - NESN|
|Bemidji State at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network|
|Major League Soccer|
|Houston at Chicago, 8:00 PM - NBCSN|
|Fulham FC vs. Charlton Athletic FC, 2:40 PM - beIN Sport|
|CONCACAF Semifinal (Women’s), 7:30 PM - FS1|
|PGA - McGladrey Classic, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel|
|CHAMPIONS - AT&T Championship, 5:00 PM - Golf Channel|
|LPGA - Blue Bay LPGA, 11:30 PM - Golf Channel|
|SPRINT CUP - Goody’s Headache Relief 500 practice, 12:00 PM - FS1|
|CAMPING WORLD - Kroger 200 practice, 1:30 PM - FS1|
|CAMPING WORLD - Kroger 200 practice, 3:00 PM - FS1|
|SPRINT CUP - Goody’s Headache Relief 500 qualifying, 4:30 PM - FS1|