Brian Rice

Jimmy Hyams blog: Biancardi thinks Vols got a game changer in Phillips

Jimmy Hyams blog: Biancardi thinks Vols got a game changer in Phillips

By Jimmy Hyams

Paul Biancardi, ESPN national recruiting analyst, thinks Tennessee struck it rich by signing 5-star, 6-foot-8 forward Julian Phillips.

“He’s a game-changer because he can put points on the board,’’ Biancardi said during a Wednesday interview on SportsTalk WNML Radio 99.1 FM. “He’s long, athletic, highly skilled on the perimeter. He can go to the mid-post.

“He’s not a great ballhandler. He can shoot the 3 and get on the glass. He can create his own shot inside the circle with one dribble. He can finish (at the rim) with his touch or athleticism.

“He’s coachable and competitive.’’

Biancardi said Phillips has “a lot to learn about defense,’’ but UT coach Rick Barnes will teach him that.

“You’ve got talent that can get his own shot and a talent you can get a shot for,’’ he said. “He can put the ball in the basket with his natural ability.

“He blends in well with other guys. He understands at times he needs to be the star, but he also knows when to defer. … He has a teachable spirit that will accelerate his growth under coach Barnes.’’

Tennessee has appeared at No. 10 in at least one preseason poll. Biancardi thinks it is deserved, especially with Phillips, an LSU de-commit, now on the roster.

“It’s spot on,’’ Biancardi said. “They’re somewhere between 10 and 15, but you have to put in the coaching factor, the coaching hat. (Barnes) gets talent to play hard and play together and defend hard. Everybody says, `I’d love to have that talent,’ but try to get that talent to defend and play hard and play together on offense.’’

Biancardi thinks sophomore Zakai Ziegler is ready to take over the point and freshman B.J. Edwards along with Santiago Vescovi and Indiana State transfer Tyreke Key give the Vols plenty of depth and options at the point.

Biancardi said adding Iowa State point guard transfer Tyrese Hunter would be huge.

“That’s a real game changer,’’ Biancardi said, “because he’s battle tested, a Big 12 all-league player, plays with great speed. If they get Hunter, they could easily go into the top five.’’

Biancardi thinks the Vols will miss point guard Kennedy Chandler, a one-and-down who helped himself at the recent NBA combine with the No. 1 vertical jump (41 ½ inches) and the second-best shuttle drill (10.73 seconds). He measured a 6-foot-5 ¼-inch wing span..

“He’s a team guy,’’ Biancardi said of Chandler. “He’s got the float game when he gets into the paint. He makes other people better. Good to solid 3-point shooter. I thought he shot the ball real well for Tennessee the last five games of the season. He’s got to brush up on the open 3-point shot. He finds other people. He gets into the paint. He brings a franchise a lot. He understands how to win.’’

Biancardi thinks a great fit for Chandler would be with his hometown Memphis Grizzles to team up with Ja Morant, or the Spurs.

Biacardi complimented the play of VFL Grant Williams, the former SEC Player of the Year who, at 6-foot-7, has been forced to become a 3-point shooter in the NBA. In a semifinal game against defending champion Milwaukee, Williams tied a Game 7 record with seven made 3s for the Boston Celtics.

Williams missed his first 25 3-point tries in the NBA but his outside shot has improved greatly.

“He shot fakes into the 3-point shot now,’’ Biancardi said. “He’s beautiful from the outside. He’s got a lot of confidence right now.’’

Biancardi has followed Williams since he was in high school.

“One of the smartest players I’ve ever seen at the high school level,’’ Biancardi said. “Tough, physically imposing at 6-5-plus. It’s the brains and strength that make him the player he is.’’

Biancardi likes the most recent UT commit, 6-8 forward Awaka of Bronx, N.Y. Biancardi expects Awaka to reclassify to the Class of 2022.

“This is a big, strong, physically imposing guy.’’ Biancardi said. “ The kind of guy Rick Barnes thrives with at the low post. He’s a monster inside. What you’ll love about him is his personality, great hands, good foot work. He’ll score with angles around the basket and drop steps. He can make a 3-point shot when he’s left wide open. You’ll see him mostly on the pick-and-role and dash to basket.’’

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all

Full list of 31 Vols in NFL after rookie minicamps, 20 more with local ties; see 7 recent roster moves & VFL rookie news

Full list of 31 Vols in NFL after rookie minicamps, 20 more with local ties; see 7 recent roster moves & VFL rookie news

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Here’s an updated list of University of Tennessee players in the National Football League after the 2022 NFL Draft and early undrafted free agent signings.

You’ll also see a list of players that were once at UT as well as other Knoxville area players that played at other schools.

That’s all below now, and often, here on my blog “Vince’s View.”

Recent Transactions, News & Notes
*UDFA Kenneth George Jr. signed with the Titans after a minicamp tryout (5/16)
*VFL TE Ethan Wolf was added to the Reserve/Injured list from the Waived/Injured list by the Saints and is not on the 90-player active roster (5/16)
*One-time Vol and rookie UDFA OL Marcus Tatum was waived by the Jaguars (5/16)
*One-time Vol TE Daniel Helm was waived by the Falcons (5/16)
*One-time Vol QB Quentin Dormady received a tryout from the Titans but has not signed (5/13)
*One-time Vol TE Eli Wolf was released by the Colts (5/10) then signed by Packers (5/11)
*One-time Vol QB Nathan Peterman signed with the Bears (5/11)
*UT’s 31 players in the NFL ranks 7th among SEC teams (SEC in the NFL Blog)
*There are 10 ex-Vols that finished college at others schools currently on NFL teams
*There are 10 Knoxville-area players that did not attend UT currently on NFL teams

Here’s a look at some of the Vols rookies in minicamp.

Tennessee Volunteers On Expanded NFL Rosters as of 5/16/22 (31)
x = rookie
AFC East (0)
NONE – Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets

AFC North (5)
OT – Ja’Wuan James (71) Baltimore Ravens
DT – Kahlil McKenzie (69) Baltimore Ravens
QB – Joshua Dobbs (15) Cleveland Browns
RB – John Kelly (41) Cleveland Browns
DB – Cameron Sutton (20) Pittsburgh Steelers
NONE – Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South (5)
LB – Jalen Reeves-Maybin (34) Houston Texans
WR – Josh Malone (86) Tennessee Titans
LS – Morgan Cox (46) Tennessee Titans
DB – Theo Jackson (29) Tennessee Titans-x
DB – Kenneth George Jr. (–) Tennessee Titans-x
NONE – Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West (6)
DE – Jonathan Kongbo (90) Denver Broncos
OL – Trey Smith (65) Kansas City Chiefs
DT – Kendal Vickers (95) Las Vegas Raiders
FB – Jakob Johnson (45) Las Vegas Raiders
DL – Matthew Butler (73) Las Vegas Raiders-x
WR – Joshua Palmer (5) Los Angeles Chargers
NONE – 0

NFC East (1)
DE – Derek Barnett (96) Philadelphia Eagles
NONE – Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Commanders

NFC North (1)
WR – Velus Jones Jr. (12) Chicago Bears-x
NONE – Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings

NFC South (7)
WR – Cordarrelle Patterson (84) Atlanta Falcons
OL – Cade Mays (64) Carolina Panthers-x
RB – Alvin Kamara (41) New Orleans Saints
DT – Shy Tuttle (99) New Orleans Saints
WR – Marquez Callaway (1) New Orleans Saints
CB – Bryce Thompson (32) New Orleans Saints
CB – Alontae Taylor (27) New Orleans Saints-x
NONE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West (6)
TE – Alex Ellis (36) Arizona Cardinals
WR – JaVonta Payton (32) Arizona Cardinals-x
CB – Emmanuel Moseley (4) San Francisco 49ers
WR – Jauan Jennings (15) San Francisco 49ers
DE – Darrell Taylor (52) Seattle Seahawks
CB – Justin Coleman (24) Seattle Seahawks
NONE – Los Angeles Rams

Injured Reserve List (Not on 90-Player Roster)
TE – Ethan Wolf (Saints)

VFL Free Agents – Recently in NFL
TE – Jason Croom
DT – Malik Jackson
P – Michael Palardy
DE – Kyle Phillips
DB – Nigel Warrior
LB – Alexander Johnson
P – Dustin Colquitt
TE – Luke Stocker

One-Time Vols That Transferred To Other Schools On NFL Rosters (10)
QB – Jarrett Guarantano (16) Arizona Cardinals (U. of Tennessee/Washington)-x
QB – Nathan Peterman (14) Chicago Bears (U. of Tennessee/Pitt)
WR – Brandon Johnson (89) Denver Broncos (U. of Tennessee/UCF)-x
OL – Jahmir Johnson (68) Green Bay Packers (U. of Tennessee/Texas A&M)-x
TE – Eli Wolf (48) Green Bay Packers (U. of Tennessee/Georgia)
P – Tommy Townsend (5) Kansas City Chiefs (U. of Tennessee/Florida)
WR – Preston Williams (18) Miami Dolphins (U. of Tennessee/Colorado St)
DL – DeAndre Johnson (56) Miami Dolphins (U. of Tennessee/Miami)-x
RB – Ty Chandler (32) Minnesota Vikings (U. of Tennessee/North Carolina)-x
DL – Savion Williams (75) New York Jets (U. of Tennessee/Florida A&M)-x

Active Knoxville Area Players That Didn’t Play At UT on NFL Rosters (10)
WR – Tee Higgins (85) Cincinnati Bengals (Oak Ridge HS/Clemson)
LB – Devin Harper (50) Dallas Cowboys (Karns HS/Oklahoma St.)-x
WR – Amari Rodgers (8) Green Bay Packers (Catholic HS/Clemson)
WR – Randall Cobb (18) Green Bay Packers (Alcoa HS/Kentucky)
QB – Trevor Lawrence (16) Jacksonville Jaguars (Born in Knoxville, did not go to HS locally/Clemson)
RB – Nathan Cottrell (31) Jacksonville Jaguars (West HS/Georgia Tech)
OL – Darian Kinnard (75) Kansas City Chiefs (Grew up in Knoxville, did not go to HS locally/Kentucky)-x
S – Harrison Smith (22) Minnesota Vikings (Catholic HS/Notre Dame)
OG – Cole Strange (–) New England Patriots (Farragut HS/Chattanooga)-x
OG – Nathan Gilliam (62) Pittsburgh Steelers (Farragut HS/Wake Forest)

Non-VFL Free Agents Recently In NFL
WR – Jalen Hurd (U. of Tennessee/Baylor)
TE – Daniel Helm (U. of Tennessee/Duke)
OL – Marcus Tatum (U. of Tennessee/UCF)-x

Check back, here on my blog, for updates as roster moves are made.

Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net

Velus Jones Jr. – Bears WR / Credit: 99.1 The Sports Animal
509 SEC players on NFL rosters; Listings by NFL teams and SEC schools plus teams with most players from one school

509 SEC players on NFL rosters; Listings by NFL teams and SEC schools plus teams with most players from one school

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Updated 5/13/22 – The Titans added a 24th player from Texas A&M to their official roster and the Lions released two players from Notre Dame that I had previously noted.

As we enter most of the rookie mini-camps in the NFL, I decided to dive into each team’s roster.

Below is a ranking of SEC players for each NFL team, as well as the 14 SEC teams listed based on number of players on active rosters. I also list the teams that have the most players from any college team on their current roster, which is an interesting group.

Obviously, there are roster changes daily and not every team shows players the same way on rosters at the same time in the off-season of expanded rosters. Rosters from team websites were used.

I included undrafted free agents that were added to rosters. I did not include players on reserve lists, exclusive rights free agents or unrestricted free agents.

SEC Players On NFL Rosters (509)
Alabama 71 (28 teams)
LSU 68 (27 teams)
Georgia 58 (28 teams)
Florida 43 (25 teams)
Auburn 36 (24 teams)
Texas A&M 35 (23 teams)
Tennessee 31 (17 teams)
Ole Miss 28 (19 teams)
South Carolina 27 (18 teams)
Mississippi State 27 (15 teams)
Missouri 24 (18 teams)
Kentucky 23 (15 teams)
Arkansas 23 (14 teams)
Vanderbilt 15 (12 teams)

NFL Teams With SEC Players (509)
Tennessee Titans 24
Cleveland Browns 22
Jacksonville Jaguars 21
New England Patriots 21
Carolina Panthers 20
Las Vegas Raiders 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Green Bay Packers 19
Miami Dolphins 19
Pittsburgh Steelers 19
Baltimore Ravens 18
New York Jets 18
Detroit Lions 17
New Orleans Saints 17
Houston Texans 16
Kansas City Chiefs 16
Minnesota Vikings 16
Cincinnati Bengals 15
Washington Commanders 15
Atlanta Falcons 14
Denver Broncos 14
Philadelphia Eagles 14
Dallas Cowboys 13
New York Giants 13
Seattle Seahawks 13
Arizona Cardinals 12
Los Angeles Chargers 12
Los Angeles Rams 12
San Francisco 49ers 11
Buffalo Bills 10
Chicago Bears 9
Indianapolis Colts 9

Colleges Most Represented On NFL Teams
6 Players
Tennessee (Saints)
Ohio State (Saints)
Alabama (Patriots)
Michigan (Patriots)
LSU (Buccaneers)

5 Players
Alabama (Steelers)
Texas A&M (Steelers)
Michigan (Steelers)
Alabama (Raiders)
UCLA (Raiders)
LSU (Bengals)
Ohio State (Bengals)
Washington (Seahawks)
Miami (Seahawks)
LSU (Browns)
Alabama (Commanders)
UCLA (Packers)
Notre Dame (Lions)

With NFL teams allowed to carry as many as 90 players on their off-season active rosters (appx. 2,880 players,) the SEC (508 players,) makes up approximately 17.6 % of the league right now. On average, each team has 16 (15.9) SEC players per team.

You can theorize that the numbers of SEC players in the NFL are simply inflated because of expanded rosters. However, in my years of tracking SEC players in the National Football League, the percentages will be very similar once teams get down to the final 53 or even when you included practice squads.

College football’s most successful, talent-laden conference continues to make-up the biggest chunk of the NFL. It’s no different this season, and likely won’t be different any time soon.

Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net

Las Vegas, NV – November 21, 2021 – Allegiant Stadium: Joe Burrow (9) of the Cincinnati Bengals during a regular season game. (Photo by Al Powers / ESPN Images)
Analyzing NFL landing spots for 5 Vols drafted plus each player’s meeting with team media & more

Analyzing NFL landing spots for 5 Vols drafted plus each player’s meeting with team media & more

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

See how each of the 5 Vols selected in the 2022 NFL Draft fit with their new teams. Plus, you’ll find draft announcements, draft analyst breakdowns, team scout perspectives, first interviews with the media and more.

See the full list of Vols in the NFL HERE!

Alontae Taylor

Vince’s View on Taylor’s fit with the Saints:

Taylor was already in a great spot with playing time opportunity in New Orleans. Now he gets to learn from one of the best, “The Honey Badger” Tyrann Mathieu, who signed with the Saints this week. Taylor is the second highest Saints draft pick among all the DBs. Only Marshon Lattimore (1st Rd in 2017) was a higher selection. Taylor’s versatility to play outside corner, slot CB or safety will be huge. The fact that he’s a 2nd Round pick helps him as well in what they’ve invested in him. I think he’d be in a great position to play each week regardless, including on special teams. The three starting spots outside are probably secure with Lattimore and last season’s 3rd Round pick, Paulson Adebo. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is the likely slot CB. Taylor’s quickest path to playing time I believe is there and backup left cornerback where he’ll compete with his former Vols teammate Bryce Thompson. With PJ Williams, Bradley Roby and Daniel Sorensen bringing veteran depth at safety, that may be tougher to break through. Then again, vets will get cut in the off-season all around the league, so this group could reshape by Week 1.
Projection for early 2022 season: Backup on roster of 53

VIDEO: Taylor’s draft announcement and instant analysis

VIDEO: Taylor’s first meeting with the Saints media

Velus Jones Jr.

Vince’s View on Jones Jr.’s fit with the Bears:

Velus, arguably, landed where he’s needed and will be relied-upon the most. Despite adding wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown (GB) and Byron Pringle (KC) to go with top returning receiver Darnell Mooney, the Bears had to upgrade overall. Plus, Slot WR was a big void. His competition there is 2021 6th round pick Dazz Newsome, Nsimba Webster and Kevin Shaa. I would expect Jones to be a big factor in the return game. However, on this Chicago team, he’s going to be so relied-upon on offense, they may go with one of the speedy backups to return kicks. It’s an interesting thing to track considering how much we talked about his return skills being so big. I personally think it would be foolish to not use him there. I just wanted to point out that some NFL coaches are reluctant to use starters regularly in the return game. It could be a based on the situation deal as well, like the Chiefs did with Hill, Saints with Kamara and others.
Projection for early 2022 season: Starting Slot WR & Part-Time KR/PR

From ESPN.com…
Here’s what Todd McShay wrote about the Bears’ 3rd-round pick:

“I love Jones’ upside. He’s a tad under 6-foot and is still refining his route running, but look at his speed and contact balance. He is a threat any time the ball is in his hands, with instincts and elusiveness in the open field and the breakaway speed to take the top off the defense. Jones’ 4.31 in the 40 ranked fourth among all participants at the combine and second among receivers, and he’s built like a running back.

Chicago can get the ball in his hands on quick slants and let him pick up extra yards. They can target him on deep shots. They can get him involved on sweeps. And they can use him in the return game, where he averaged 24.4 yards per kickoff return and 15.1 per punt return during his college career.

The Bears signed Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown this offseason, but they lost Allen Robinson II. This WR group is probably worse than it was last year, and it only had 176 catches from receivers then (No. 27). How is quarterback Justin Fields going to take the next step if the Bears can’t land him some reliable weapons in the passing game? Without a first-rounder, Chicago had to get creative, and the upside here is immense.

VIDEO: Jones Jr. emotional when getting the draft phone call from the Bears

VIDEO: Bears area scout Sam Summerville breaks down Jones Jr.

VIDEO: Jones Jr.’s first meeting with the Bears media

Matthew Butler

Vince’s View on Butler’s fit with the Raiders:

Butler to the Raiders was one of my top team fits for him. He has, and will, show a great appreciation for the history and tradition of the franchise. His aggressive, get-up field style he showed at Tennessee last season will fit perfectly. He was effective at UT without elite edge pass rushers. Now, if he gets into the rotation, he’ll have two of the best pas rushers in the league drawing attention in Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. There is some competition there at DT, at the moment, in the Raiders’ 4-3 front. Neil Farrell Jr. (LSU) was drafted in the 4th round. Former Bills DT Vernon Buter, VFL Kendal Vickers, former Titans DR Kyle Peko and Andrew Billings provide the roster competition for Big Matt. He’s tough, durable, extremely intelligent, highly motivated and a great leader. It’ll be quite nice to have a no-nonsense guy that doesn’t go out and party playing for you and avoiding the temptations of the home city. They’ll love him in Vegas.
Projection for early 2022 season: Backup on roster of 53

From ESPN.com…
Here’s what Todd McShay wrote about the Raiders’ 5th-round pick:

The host city’s team didn’t pick until the end of Round 3 (due to the Davante Adams trade, which I’m sure it will be OK with), but the fifth-round selection jumped out to me when looking back at the Raiders’ class. Butler fits with Vegas as a 3-technique (or perhaps 1-technique at 6-foot-4 and 297 pounds). He is sudden and shows quick feet against the run, but he will get home as an occasional pass-rusher on the interior, too. Butler isn’t overly explosive, but he did have five sacks last season and can be disruptive.

I had Butler at No. 144 on my board, so it was pretty solid value. And with Johnathan Hankins and Vernon Butler each entering the final year of their contracts, the Raiders could have a spot open on the interior of the line. For now, the Tennessee product could contribute in a situational role before developing into a full-time starter. Same goes for LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr., one of Las Vegas’ fourth-round picks.

VIDEO: Butler’s draft announcement and instant analysis

VIDEO: Butler’s first meeting with the Raiders media

Here’s Josh and Swain’s interview with Matthew Butler this week after being drafted:

Cade Mays

Vince’s View on Mays’ fit with the Panthers:

Mays’ versatility to play guard, center or tackle will help his case to either make the 53-player roster or at least be n the practice squad. With the limitations NFL teams have of just being able to carry maybe two backup OLs on a game-day roster, this would give Mays an edge, if he’s ready. Carolina has three past 6th Round draft picks on the roster, including guard Deonte Brown. The starting 5 is fairly solid with 1st Rd draft pick Ikem Ekwonu and returning starting Taylor Moton as the tackles with Pat Elflein, Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett in the interior. Cade’s biggest competition in the interior of the offensive line will come from Brown, former Bengals guard Michael Jordan (no, not that MJ,) Dennis Daley, Sam Tecklenburg and Mike Horton. A motivated, mature Cade Mays can have a long career. Cade taking responsibility to set the NFL example for his younger brother Cooper (Vols starting center) would help his drive to be great. Cade staying healthy, with all the injuries the dealt with at Tennessee, will also go a long way in shaping what type of career he ends up having.
Projection for early 2022 season: Backup on roster of 53

VIDEO: Mays gets the draft call from the Panthers

VIDEO: Mays’ draft announcement and instant analysis

VIDEO: One-on-one interview with Mays by Panthers.com

VIDEO: Mays’ first meeting with the Panthers media

Theo Jackson

Vince’s View on Jackson’s fit with the Titans:

Jackson goes home to Nashville, which was so cool to see. I was told by a scout that he had a chance to be drafted and he had really grown to like Jackson more and more through the process. There are plenty of bodies right now in the secondary, but Jackson has a chance to play a role for this team because of his leadership, intelligence, and versatility. Jackson is the 8th Titans DB draft pick on the current roster. 6 of them have come in the last three drafts. Jackson’s best avenues to playing time are either SS competing with Jamal Carter to backup Amani Hooker or Slot CB competing with veteran Buster Skrine to backup Elijah Molden. Titans play-by-play voice Mike Keith told SportsTalk on 99.1 The Sports Animal that he thinks Jackson can have a role on this defense. I agree totally. Theo, like all the non-linemen UT guys, brings special teams ability to his resume.
Projection for early 2022 season: Backup on roster of 53

VIDEO: Jackson’s draft announcement and instant analysis

VIDEO: GM Jon Robinson talks about what they liked about Theo Jackson (two questions start at 15:50-ish mark

VIDEO: Jackson’s first meeting with the Titans media

Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net

LEXINGTON, KY – November 06, 2021 – Defensive back Alontae Taylor #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field in Lexington, KY. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
31 Vols, 21 More With Knoxville Ties On Expanded NFL Rosters After 2022 Draft & UDFA Signings: Full List

31 Vols, 21 More With Knoxville Ties On Expanded NFL Rosters After 2022 Draft & UDFA Signings: Full List

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Here’s an updated list of University of Tennessee players in the National Football League after the 2022 NFL Draft and early undrafted free agent signings.

You’ll also see the fast-growing list of players that were once at UT as well as other Knoxville area players.

That’s all below now, and often, here on my blog “Vince’s View.”

KNOXVILLE, TN – September 11, 2021 – Offensive lineman Cade Mays #68 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee Volunteers On Expanded NFL Rosters as of 5/2/22 (31)
AFC East (0)
NONE – Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets

AFC North (5)
OT – Ja’Wuan James (71) Baltimore Ravens
DT – Kahlil McKenzie (69) Baltimore Ravens
QB – Joshua Dobbs (–) Cleveland Browns
RB – John Kelly (41) Cleveland Browns
DB – Cameron Sutton (20) Pittsburgh Steelers
NONE – Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South (4)
LB – Jalen Reeves-Maybin (34) Houston Texans
WR – Josh Malone (–) Tennessee Titans
LS – Morgan Cox (46) Tennessee Titans
DB – Theo Jackson (–) Tennessee Titans *Drafted in 6th Rd, not yet signed
NONE – Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West (6)
DE – Jonathan Kongbo (90) Denver Broncos
OL – Trey Smith (65) Kansas City Chiefs
DT – Kendal Vickers (95) Las Vegas Raiders
FB – Jakob Johnson (45) Las Vegas Raiders
DL – Matthew Butler (–) Las Vegas Raiders *Drafted in 5th Rd, not yet signed
WR – Joshua Palmer (5) Los Angeles Chargers
NONE – 0

NFC East (1)
DE – Derek Barnett (96) Philadelphia Eagles
NONE – Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Commanders

NFC North (1)
WR – Velus Jones Jr. (–) Chicago Bears *Drafted in 3rd Rd, not yet signed
NONE – Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings

NFC South (8)
WR – Cordarrelle Patterson (84) Atlanta Falcons
OL – Cade Mays (–) Carolina Panthers *Drafted in 6th Rd, not yet signed
RB – Alvin Kamara (41) New Orleans Saints
DT – Shy Tuttle (99) New Orleans Saints
WR – Marquez Callaway (1) New Orleans Saints
TE – Ethan Wolf (86) New Orleans Saints
CB – Bryce Thompson (32) New Orleans Saints
CB – Alontae Taylor (–) New Orleans Saints *Drafted in 2nd Rd, not yet signed
NONE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West (6)
TE – Alex Ellis (36) Arizona Cardinals
WR – JaVonta Payton (–) Arizona Cardinals *UDFA rookie signed
CB – Emmanuel Moseley (4) San Francisco 49ers
WR – Jauan Jennings (15) San Francisco 49ers
DE – Darrell Taylor (52) Seattle Seahawks
CB – Justin Coleman (24) Seattle Seahawks
NONE – Los Angeles Rams

VFL Free Agents – Recently in NFL
TE – Jason Croom
DT – Malik Jackson
P – Michael Palardy
DE – Kyle Phillips
DB – Nigel Warrior
LB – Alexander Johnson
P – Dustin Colquitt

One-Time Vols That Transferred To Other Schools On NFL Rosters (11)
QB – Jarrett Guarantano (–) Arizona Cardinals (U. of Tennessee/Washington) *UDFA rookie signed
TE – Daniel Helm (85) Atlanta Falcons (U. of Tennessee/Duke)
WR – Brandon Johnson (–) Denver Broncos (U. of Tennessee/UCF) *UDFA rookie signed
OL – Jahmir Johnson (–) Green Bay Packers (U. of Tennessee/Texas A&M) *UDFA rookie signed
TE – Eli Wolf (85) Indianapolis Colts (U. of Tennessee/Georgia)
OL – Marcus Tatum (–) Jacksonville Jaguars (U. of Tennessee/UCF) *UDFA rookie signed
P – Tommy Townsend (5) Kansas City Chiefs (U. of Tennessee/Florida)
WR – Preston Williams (18) Miami Dolphins (U. of Tennessee/Colorado St)
DL – DeAndre Johnson (–) Miami Dolphins (U. of Tennessee/Miami) *UDFA rookie signed
RB – Ty Chandler (–) Minnesota Vikings (U. of Tennessee/North Carolina) *Drafted in 5th Rd, not yet signed
DL – Savion Williams (–) New York Jets (U. of Tennessee/Florida A&M) *UDFA rookie signed

Active Knoxville Area Players That Didn’t Play At UT on NFL Rosters (10)
WR – Tee Higgins (85) Cincinnati Bengals (Oak Ridge HS/Clemson)
LB – Devin Harper (–) Dallas Cowboys (Karns HS/Oklahoma St.) *Drafted in 6th Rd, not yet signed
WR – Amari Rodgers (8) Green Bay Packers (Catholic HS/Clemson)
WR – Randall Cobb (18) Green Bay Packers (Alcoa HS/Kentucky)
QB – Trevor Lawrence (16) Jacksonville Jaguars (Born in Knoxville, did not go to HS locally/Clemson)
RB – Nathan Cottrell (31) Jacksonville Jaguars (West HS/Georgia Tech)
OL – Darian Kinnard (–) Kansas City Chiefs (Grew up in Knoxville, did not go to HS locally/Kentucky) *Drafted in 5th Rd, not yet signed
S – Harrison Smith (22) Minnesota Vikings (Catholic HS/Notre Dame)
OG – Cole Strange (–) New England Patriots (Farragut HS/Chattanooga) *Drafted in 1st Rd, not yet signed
OG – Nathan Gilliam (65) Pittsburgh Steelers (Farragut HS/Wake Forest)

Non-VFL Free Agents Recently In NFL
WR – Jalen Hurd (U. of Tennessee/Baylor)
QB – Nathan Peterman (U. of Tennessee/Pitt)

Check back for updates as roster moves are made.

Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net

25 Vols On Expanded NFL Rosters After 1st Rd of 2022 Draft, Plus 11 Non-UT With Local Ties; Full List

25 Vols On Expanded NFL Rosters After 1st Rd of 2022 Draft, Plus 11 Non-UT With Local Ties; Full List

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Here’s an updated list of University of Tennessee players in the National Football League after the 1st Round of the 2022 NFL Draft, as well as players that were once at UT and other Knoxville area players here on my blog “Vince’s View.”

49ers WR Jauan Jennings / Credit: UT Athletics

Tennessee Volunteers On Expanded NFL Rosters as of 4/29/22 (25)
AFC East (0)
NONE – Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets

AFC North (5)
OT – Ja’Wuan James (71) Baltimore Ravens
DT – Kahlil McKenzie (69) Baltimore Ravens
QB – Joshua Dobbs (–) Cleveland Browns
RB – John Kelly (41) Cleveland Browns
DB – Cameron Sutton (20) Pittsburgh Steelers
NONE – Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South (3)
LB – Jalen Reeves-Maybin (34) Houston Texans
WR – Josh Malone (–) Tennessee Titans
LS – Morgan Cox (46) Tennessee Titans
NONE – Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West (5)
DE – Jonathan Kongbo (90) Denver Broncos
OL – Trey Smith (65) Kansas City Chiefs
DT – Kendal Vickers (95) Las Vegas Raiders
FB – Jakob Johnson (45) Las Vegas Raiders
WR – Joshua Palmer (5) Los Angeles Chargers
NONE – 0

NFC East (1)
DE – Derek Barnett (96) Philadelphia Eagles
NONE – Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Commanders

NFC North (0)
NONE – Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings

NFC South (6)
WR – Cordarrelle Patterson (84) Atlanta Falcons
RB – Alvin Kamara (41) New Orleans Saints
DT – Shy Tuttle (99) New Orleans Saints
WR – Marquez Callaway (1) New Orleans Saints
TE – Ethan Wolf (86) New Orleans Saints
CB – Bryce Thompson (32) New Orleans Saints
NONE – Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West (5)
TE – Alex Ellis (36) Arizona Cardinals
CB – Emmanuel Moseley (4) San Francisco 49ers
WR – Jauan Jennings (15) San Francisco 49ers
DE – Darrell Taylor (52) Seattle Seahawks
CB – Justin Coleman (24) Seattle Seahawks
NONE – Los Angeles Rams

VFL Free Agents – Recently in NFL
TE – Jason Croom
DT – Malik Jackson
P – Michael Palardy
DE – Kyle Phillips
DB – Nigel Warrior
LB – Alexander Johnson
P – Dustin Colquitt

One-Time Vols That Transferred To Other Schools On NFL Rosters (4)
TE – Daniel Helm (85) Atlanta Falcons (U. of Tennessee/Duke)
TE – Eli Wolf (85) Indianapolis Colts (U. of Tennessee/Georgia)
P – Tommy Townsend (5) Kansas City Chiefs (U. of Tennessee/Florida)
WR – Preston Williams (18) Miami Dolphins (U. of Tennessee/Colorado St)

Active Knoxville Area Players That Didn’t Play At UT on NFL Rosters (7)
WR – Tee Higgins (85) Cincinnati Bengals (Oak Ridge HS/Clemson)
WR – Amari Rodgers (8) Green Bay Packers (Catholic HS/Clemson)
WR – Randall Cobb (18) Green Bay Packers (Alcoa HS/Kentucky)
RB – Nathan Cottrell (31) Jacksonville Jaguars (West HS/Georgia Tech)
S – Harrison Smith (22) Minnesota Vikings (Catholic HS/Notre Dame)
OG – Nathan Gilliam (65) Pittsburgh Steelers (Farragut HS/Wake Forest)
OG – Cole Strange (–) New England Patriots (Farragut HS/Chattanooga) *Drafted #29 overall, not yet signed

Non-VFL Free Agents Recently In NFL
WR – Jalen Hurd (U. of Tennessee/Baylor)
QB – Nathan Peterman (U. of Tennessee/Pitt)

Check back for an update after the NFL Draft and Undrafted Free Agent signings.

Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net

Ferrara’s Five Fits For Football Vols On NFL Teams Ahead of Draft

Ferrara’s Five Fits For Football Vols On NFL Teams Ahead of Draft

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

There are four University of Tennessee players expected to be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas.

After talking to scouts, compiling feedback from player visits, interest from teams in the UT players, evaluating team needs and digging into scheme fits for the VFLs, I’ve come up with the five best team fits for each player. That list with analysis and round range for each is below here in my blog, “Vince’s View,” on 991TheSportsAnimal.com.

LEXINGTON, KY – November 06, 2021 – Defensive lineman Matthew Butler #94 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field in Lexington, KY. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

There are more than five fits for each player of course, especially when considering these players have all talked to dozens of teams at some point through the draft process of all-star games, NFL Combine, Pro Day and private visits.

Some teams will show-up multiple times in my fits because plenty of teams need DLs, OLs, DBs and the hot position group in football today, WRs.

This was a fun exercise I spent some time on. Hope you enjoy it and will follow along with my list as you enjoy the NFL Draft Thursday through Saturday.

DL – Matthew Butler

Most Likely Round Range: 3 to 5
5 Fits: Kansas City, Tennessee, New Orleans, Dallas, Las Vegas

Summary: Butler projects as a DT in a 4-3 or DE in a 3-4. I think the tape of him playing his best football last season in a 4-3 will steer him more to those teams, but his versatility has drawn interest from (at one point) all but one NFL team, so that may not be a big factor. He played the second-most snaps in the country last season among interior defensive linemen. He’s stayed healthy, fights-off double-teams, attacks up-field with an excellent first step, loves the game and is a leader of men. I’ve said on 99.1 The Sports Animal often that I think he’ll be the first Vol selected. It’s close though, with all four guys in the same general round range. The Chiefs like him a lot, need to upgrade their d-line depth and KC is tied with Jacksonville with the most draft picks. Kansas City has 12 selections (two in 3rd/two in 4th/four in 7th) which also means draft capital to move around to secure who they want. Butler has Mike Vrabel kind of player written all over him. He’s also met with them and visited them, so there’s certainly interest there. The Saints want to upgrade their depth inside and he could compete with VFL vet Shy Tuttle for playing time. I can see Butler landing with a historic franchise and having great appreciation for that, so that was a separator with Dallas and Vegas to go with their DT needs.

DB – Alontae Taylor

Most Likely Round Range: 3 to 5
5 Fits: Tennessee, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Houston

Summary: Taylor projects at outside cornerback, slot cornerback and safety, depending on who you talk to. I’ve heard all of them from different very smart football people. Bottom line is, that versatility, ability to play and star on special teams and his 4.36 forty yard dash at the NFL Combine have been big pluses on his side. I think the Titans really like Taylor. They have young draft picks from the last two drafts as their three starters, but they need quality depth with today’s passing league. He fits the Titans competitive culture as well. Taylor also has visited all the listed teams. The Steelers like tough, chip on their shoulder, versatile players and he certainly is that. He’d join VFL Cameron Sutton in the secondary. There are lots of other team candidates for Taylor.

WR – Velus Jones Jr.

Most Likely Round Range: 4 to 6
5 Fits: Green Bay, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Carolina, Tennessee

Summary: Jones projects as a Slot WR and return specialist with the likelihood that he’ll be on other special teams units as well. His speed (4.31 at the NFL Combine) was eye-opening, but there’s still some that wonder if he’s a natural catcher of the football. He’s tough, has great character and brings coveted yards after the catch. The wide receiver position’s importance is hot right now, so there’s a long list of good team fits. He’s met with all those teams listed and many more. He could join Knoxville’s Amari Rodgers and Randall Cobb as slot WRs catching balls from Aaron Rodgers with the Packers. He would join the WR room in San Fran with VFL Jauan Jennings. 5 of the 7 Titans’ picks are in his round range. The Titans need slot depth, so I could see Jon Robinson turning in the card with his name.

OL – Cade Mays

Most Likely Round Range: 4 to 6
5 Fits: Pittsburgh, Dallas, Tennessee, Baltimore, Green Bay

Summary: Mays projects as a guard, with the ability to play all five positions. He visited with the Steelers, Cowboys and the Titans. The Steelers have bodies they’ve added in free agency, but they could use Mays’ nasty disposition and versatility. The Packers have zero reserve guards signed at the moment, so they will likely spend multiple picks at that position with their 11 picks. Mays fits the Ravens’ heavy two-tight and two-back heavy run sets, especially when they use gap scheme blocking. The Titans’ power run game matches Mays also with a depth need there also.

NASHVILLE, TN – December 30, 2021 – Wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the TransPerfect Music City Bowl game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

A few other Vols on the draft range as outside possibilities or undrafted free agent candidates are: DB Theo Jackson, DL Ja’Quain Blakely and WR JaVonta Payton.

Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net

Jimmy’s blog: NBA scout likes Chandler’s quickness but concerned about height

Jimmy’s blog: NBA scout likes Chandler’s quickness but concerned about height

By Jimmy Hyams

To few people’s surprise, Tennessee freshman Kennedy Chandler became the Vols’ third one-and-done player in the past two years.

After an outstanding freshman season, in which he averaged 13.9 points and ranked among the SEC leaders in steals, the 6-foot point guard declared for the NBA draft.

He is projected on many mock drafts to be selected between Nos. 20-25 on June 23 in Brooklyn.

How does Chandler rate as an NBA prospect?

“He has elite quickness, a good feel for the game, he can get to spots on the floor, which is important in today’s game,’’ said one NBA scout, who asked not to be identified. “He needs to get stronger, because he gets knocked off his line, knocked off the basket. He struggles to play through contact.

“And he needs to improve his decision making in the pick-and-roll.’’

Chandler’s stock might be a hurt by his lack of height. There aren’t many 6-foot point guards in the NBA.

“He’s not very tall,’’ the scout said. “You’d like your guards to be taller. He needs to be a more consistent shooter. I think he can. He needs to be more consistent because guys at the next level, everybody’s quick. If he’s a more consistent shooter, you can’t play off him.’’

Chandler was not a good free throw shooter at Tennessee. He went from about 90% in high school – his stat — to 60.6% in college. He was prone to slumps. He started his UT career making his first 10 foul shots, but had a three-game stretch where he was 10 of 22. His best game was a 6-for-6 effort.

Is free-throw shooting a concern at the next level?

“Some,’’ the scout said. “But his stroke is fine. In the NBA, that’s all they do (is practice shooting). He has a chance to be a good shooter in the NBA, but I don’t know if he has a chance to be a great shooter.’’

The scout said Chandler’s 6-foot-7 wing span can compensate some for his lack of height, “but at the end of the day, he’s not 6-3 or 6-4.’’

The scout said Chandler needs to improve as a rim finisher.

“I don’t think he finishes very good because he’s not strong enough to play through contact,’’ the scout said. “He didn’t show it a lot, but he has a good floater or runner. When goes to the basket, he sometimes struggles to finish through contact. He’s not strong enough to play through it.’’

Oddly, Chandler was more productive on the road than at home. He averaged 16.1 points on the road, 12.6 at home. He shot 51.4% on the road, 43% at home. He averaged 2.9 steals on the road, 1.7 at home. And his best scoring game was 27 points at Colorado.

But he was a better free-throw shooter at home: 67.2% to 48.4%.

The scout expects UT 6-foot-3 junior guard Santiago Vescovi, who is testing the NBA waters, to return.

“He needs to improve his ball skills so he can create his own shot,’’ the scout said. “He’s gotten better. He’s improved as a defender. At end of the day, he’s a small two guard. Chandler at least has some positional size. For a two guard, Vescovi is very small.’’

Another Tennessee junior, Jordan-Josiah James, is contemplating turning pro. But, like Vescovi, he should return to UT, the scout said.

“I think he’s a really good player, a jack of all trades and a master of none,’’ the scout said. “In time he can possibly make an NBA team because he’s a great kid. He’ll defend and do all the right things. He has intangibles.’’

Do many jack-of-all-trade players make it in the NBA?

“Each team may have one,’’ the scout said, noting PJ Tucker, who played for Vols coach Rick Barnes at Texas. Tucker was on Milwaukee’s NBA title team last year.

“Tucker was a junkyard dog, a defender,’’ the scout said. “He’s stronger and more athletic than James.’’

The scout said James could fit the bill of what a team is seeking.

“James doesn’t check the boxes in terms of off-the-chart athleticism, great ball skills, great shooter,’’ the scout said. “But he does things coaches like, like he can defend multiple positions. He’s smart, has a good basketball IQ.’’

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Jimmy’s blog: Vols explosive offense leads to 9-3 season

Jimmy’s blog: Vols explosive offense leads to 9-3 season

By Jimmy Hyams

Oddsmakers didn’t buy into the Tennessee team before 2021.

A six-win season was on the high end of the probability meter.

But after the Vols surprised many by going 7-5 in the regular season and reaching the Music City Bowl, expectations are much higher. In fact, one Vegas book has projected a nine-win season for UT.

Tennessee is projected to beat each team on the schedule except Alabama, Georgia and LSU – the past three national champions.

So what are those exact expectations from Vegas?

Tennessee is picked to win three games by at least 21 points, win at Pitt by eight points, beat Florida for the second time since 2004 and lose by double digits to Alabama and Georgia.

Here is the forecast for each Tennessee game and how we see it on this date.

Ball State (-21.5)

Shouldn’t be a problem for the Vols, who averaged 48.8 points against four non-SEC opponents last year. Expect more of the same. Tennessee 50-10.

At Pitt (-8). The Panthers don’t have Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett at quarterback, but they do have USC transfer Kedon Slovis, who was terrific in 2019, good in 2020 and average in 2021, thanks in part to injuries. How will he do at Pitt? It’s anybody’s guess, but he does have one of the nation’s top receivers to target, Jordan Addison, who led the nation with 17 receiving touchdowns. UT 30-24.

Akron (-28.5). The Zips have been one of the worst FBS teams over the past decade. Don’t expect much different. UT 52-13.

Florida (-5.5). Many have said they wouldn’t pick UT again against Florida until the Vols beat the Gators. I think I was one of those. But I do have the right to change my mind. Florida has uncertainly at quarterback, doubts on defense and a first-year coach thrown into the Swamp. He won’t find solid footing right away. UT 34-27.

At LSU (+3). I’m not sure LSU should be favored in this one, unless the Tigers get the edge simply by being the home team. Quarterback Myles Brennan has talent but he’s injury prone. Arizona State transfer QB Jayden Daniels might win the hob. Coach Brian Kelly won at lot at Notre Dame but can he win a lot in the SEC? That remains to be seen. One thing we do know: Kelly can’t dance. LSU doesn’t lack for talent but it has lacked for depth, given the many early NFL departures the program has faced in recent years. This is a tough call. LSU 27-24.

Alabama (+13.5). Tennessee trailed Alabama by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter last season before being outscored 21-0 the rest of the game. UT is gaining on the Tide but it hasn’t caught up. Nick Saban has a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Bryce Young, and plenty of five-star talent to contend for another national title. Alabama 38-30.

UT-Martin (-30). Another easy win for the Vols. UT 56-7.

Kentucky (-5). The Vols held on last year to beat Kentucky by a field goal. Mark Stoops has done a great job with the UK program and he figures to be a tough out again. But know that Kentucky has beaten UT only three times since 1984. UT’s winning ways against the Wildcats continues. UT 34-27.

At Georgia (+14.5). No way Georgia’s defense will be as good as it was last year. But the offense could be better with a bevy of running backs, an improved receiving corps and arguably the best tight end and collection of tight ends in college football. Georgia 30-23.

Missouri (-9.5). Tennessee led Missouri 28-3 in the first quarter last year and took its foot off the gas in the second half while coasting to a 62-24 victory. Nobody else beat the Tigers that badly last year. And I don’t expect UT to beat Missouri that badly this year. But I also can’t see the Tigers stopping UT’s attack. UT 44-24.

At South Carolina (-7.5). UT also ran roughshod over South Carolina, leading 28-0 in the first quarter. I anticipated an easy UT win but this was easier than I thought. And those that thought it was a 50-50 game were wrong.  This one is closer to being 50-50 with Spencer Rattler, the Oklahoma transfer, at quarterback. Still, the Gamecocks won’t be able to stop Hendon Hooker and Co. UT 41-27.

At Vanderbilt (-17.5). The Vols beat Vandy by 24 last season and likely will again this season. The Commodores are not equipped to deal with Tennessee’s fast-pace offense and they don’t have enough offensive weapons to scare many teams. UT 45-21 (again).

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Jimmy’s blog: Defense scores 3 touchdowns in UT’s final major scrimmage of spring

Jimmy’s blog: Defense scores 3 touchdowns in UT’s final major scrimmage of spring

By Jimmy Hyams

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow could interrupt Tennessee’s last major scrimmage of spring practice before a bundled up crowd of recruits and their parents Saturday at Haslam Field.

Tennessee went about 70 minutes in what served as a defacto spring game, since Nayland Stadium was unavailable due to renovations.

Rain, sleet and snow contributed to some fumbles and dropped passes along the way, and about a dozen players were held out, including receiver Cedric Tillman, running back Jabari Small, center Cooper Mays and tight end Princeton Fant.

With VFLs like Heath Shuler and Joey Kent watching, coach Josh Heupel seemed pleased with the progress he saw from his team.

The Vols will have two more practices before ending spring drills April 14.

The media was stationed in the West end zone of the practice field, so some of the actual yardage gains are an estimate. Here are some of the highlights.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker only got two series. He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bardon Warren on one lengthy drive.

With the offense backed up near its goal-line, receiver Jimmy Callaway took a flare pass to the left from quarterback Joe Milton, dodged a defender in the end zone, reversed field, and scampered 93 yards for a touchdown, with Milton throwing a block about 60 yards downfield. Heupel said Callaway’s best day of the spring was the scrimmage.

The defense scored three times late in the scrimmage. Defensive tackle Omari Thomas went about 20 yards with a scoop-and-score fumble return. Defensive back Will Brooks sprinted 20 yards for a pick six off walk-on quarterback Navy Shuler. And freshman Elijah Herring returned an interception 20 yards off a tipped pass.

Each defender was mopped by his teammates in the North end zone and Heupel expressed pleasure with the energy displayed by the unit.

The defense also recorded about four safeties, mostly on errant snaps from true freshman center Addison Nichols. Heupel said he wasn’t worried about the high snaps by Nichols, playing center for the first time. Heupel said Nichols will be a “great, not good’’ player for the Vols.

Milton made a couple of terrific throws, hitting Jack Jancek, son of former UT defensive coordinator John Jancek, with about a 50-yard scoring toss, and finding Ramel Keyton in stride on a perfectly thrown route up the left sideline for a gain of about 30 yards.

Len’Neth Whitehead ripped off a 30-yard run.

Running back Justin Williams-Thomas looks like a natural and displayed good balance, vision and power.

Tennessee’s starting offensive line was, front left to right, Jeremiah Crawford, Ollie Lane, Jerome Carvin, Javontez Spraggins and Darnell Wright, who played left tackle last season.

The second team offensive line: Florida transfer Gerald Mincey, James Robinson, Parker Ball, Jackson Lampley and RJ Perry.

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Jimmy’s blog: Tennessee in midst of banner all-around sports season

Jimmy’s blog: Tennessee in midst of banner all-around sports season

By Jimmy Hyams

Tennessee sports teams are experiencing a resurgence this season.

An athletic department that consistently competed for the SEC’s all-sports trophy in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s fell on hard times for most the past two decades when it came to overall excellence.

But this year, Tennessee baseball, which made the College World Series last year for the first time since 2005, has been ranked No. 1 in the nation by all six polls for two weeks in a row.

The men’s tennis team was ranked No. 1 earlier this season and is now ranked in the top five.

The men’s basketball team won the SEC Tournament for the first time since 1979, finished No. 5 in the final AP poll and sold out its last three SEC home games.

The women’s basketball team won 25 games and made the Sweet 16 for the first time in five years despite having to overcome an array of key injuries.

The men’s indoor track team placed third in the nation at nationals.

The softball team is ranked No. 11 despite not having its best returning pitcher for three weeks. It lost in extra innings to two of the nation’s top five teams, and nine of the 10 losses have been to ranked opponents.

The men’s swimming team placed second in the SEC Championships, the best finish since 2001.

The women’s swim team won the SEC for the second time in three years and placed in the top 10 at nationals for the fourth year in a row.

The women’s soccer team won the SEC Tournament last fall.

Men’s golf is ranked in the top 10.

The football team, 3-7 last year, went a surprising 7-6 and set a school-record for points scored in a single season.

And it’s worth mentioning that when point guard Zakai Ziegler’s family lost its apartment in Brooklyn to a fire, a GoFundMe campaign raised over $$360,000.

The beneficiary of all this success is second-year athletic Danny White.

And White hired exactly one of those coaches who is having success: Josh Heupel in football.

In an odd twist, the tip five highest profile sports at UT have coaches hired by five different athletic directors.

Dave Hart hired Rick Barnes in men’s hoops.

Phillip Fulmer hired Kellie Harper in women’s basketball

John Currie hired Tony Vitello in baseball.

And Joan Cronan hired softball coach Karen Weekly (and her since retired husband Ralph) 20 years ago.

Furthermore, Currie hired Chris Woodruff in men’s tennis, Cronan hired Matt Kredich in swimming, Hart hired Beth Alford-Sullivan in track and Brian Pensky in soccer, and Fulmer hired Brennan Webb in men’s golf. Each of those coaches has had a high degree of achievement.

Five coaches have won an SEC championship: Barnes, Pensky, Woodruff, Kredich, Weekly

White is not oblivious to fact that UT’s successful coaches have been hired by an array of athletic directors. But rather than take the position, “I’ve got to hire my guy,’’ White has embraced each of the coaches who have taken their programs to high heights.

“We don’t have time for egos,’’ White said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with SportsTalk on The Sports Animal WNML. “We’ve got too much work to do. It doesn’t matter who hired them. We have great coaches. My job is to get in the fox hole with them and help identify competitive advantages to help them continue to build the program and get us where we want to be, which is competing for championships.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know a lot of coaches already here. … I think we have some really talented people, some great leaders across the board.’’

White said his job is to give each coach all the tools necessary to succeed.

“You can take the same individual, the same coach, and he can be successful or not successful depending on how we as an administration, as a community, as a fan base at the University, how we support them or don’t support them,’’ White said.

 `We need to make sure we’re putting them in position to be highly, highly successful. And that’s exactly what my focus is and everyone here is working hard every day to make sure we’re doing all the right things in terms of focusing on things that matter, and create a competitive advantage for our coaches.’’

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LISTEN: John Wilkerson’s epic end-of-game call of UT’s completed sweep at Ole Miss

LISTEN: John Wilkerson’s epic end-of-game call of UT’s completed sweep at Ole Miss

“Vince’s View” By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Here’s my Tennessee Baseball broadcast partner and longtime voice of the Vols, John Wilkerson, with another epic end of game call of Tennessee Baseball on the Vol Network. This is the final out in Sunday’s Game 3 and his bursting through the seems excitement after Tennessee beat Ole Miss 4-3 Sunday.

The Vols swept the Rebels in Oxford, MS to move to 6-0 and sit atop the SEC overall standings for the first time since Week 8 in 2005.

It’s UT’s best start in SEC play since 1966.

The Vols have now won 7 straight SEC road series dating back to 2019.

This should be the #1 team in the country in all six college baseball polls. If not, they aren’t watching or don’t want to admit being wrong about UT and/or other teams.

Enjoy the audio and thanks for tuning into Tennessee Baseball on 99.1 The Sports Animal and the Vol Network!

Vols HC Tony Vitello / Credit: UT Athletics
Jimmy’s blog: Cold-shooting Vols fall to Michigan in Second Round

Jimmy’s blog: Cold-shooting Vols fall to Michigan in Second Round

By Jimmy Hyams

Tennessee winning the SEC men’s basketball tournament is rare.

Advancing to the Elite Eight is even rarer.

The Vols accomplished the former this season. But it won’t have a chance at the latter.

Thanks to a brilliant performance by 7-foot-1 center Hunter Dickinson, Michigan rallied from a five-point deficit in the second half to upset six-point favorite Tennessee 76-68 and spoil what had been a wonderful two-month run for the Vols (27-8).

Dickinson had 27 points and 11 rebounds to spark Michigan (19-14) to a fifth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance before a reunion of the Fab Five at Indianapolis. With Chris Webber and Ray Jackson and Jalen Rose and Jimmy King in attendance, the Wolverines made clutch shots and defensive stops to subdue Tennessee, which had won 16 of 18.

Tennessee led 60-54 with but got outscored 22-8 in the final eight minutes.

It marked the first time since Feb. 8 and 10 that Michigan won back-to-back games.

Tennessee, which last week won its second conference title in 43 years, was hoping to make it to a second Elite Eight in program history.

Instead, the Vols fell short of the Sweet 16 – again.

A Tennessee team that shot 67% in the first half and 14 of 24 from 3-point range in a first-round victory over outmanned Longwood, went ice cold from the perimeter. The Vols made just 2 of 18 (11.1%) compared to 6 of 16 from beyond the arc by Michigan.

In simple terms, that was the difference in the game.

Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler was dynamic in defeat. He scored 19 points and had nine assists, looking every bit like the NBA point guard he likely will become next season.

Josiah-Jordan James had another solid effort: 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. But he went quite after a strong start. He scored eight of UT’s first 12 points in the first 7:10 of the game.

Uros Plavsic had nine points and nine rebounds.

Santiago Vescovi, arguably UT’s most consistent player this season, had an off game, with just five points on 2 of 7 shooting. It was only the second time in 13 games and third time in 22 games he failed to reach double figures.

Tennessee has now lost to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament three times since 2011.

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Jimmy’s blog: Vols’ blistering shooting laps the Lancers

Jimmy’s blog: Vols’ blistering shooting laps the Lancers

By Jimmy Hyams

After Tennessee won its first SEC Tournament title since 1979, Coach Rick Barnes declared during the celebration in Tampa: “Four more.’’

One down, three more to go.

Thanks to a brilliant shooting effort and balanced scoring, third-seed Tennessee (27-7) routed No. 14 seed Longwood (26-7) 88-56 Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Four more, of course, means a trip to the Final Four.

For Tennessee’s program, the Final Four is the Holy Grail.

It’s not for Duke or Kentucky or North Carolina or Kansas or UCLA.

Those blue bloods have combined for 86 Final Four appearances.

Kentucky (17) has more Final Fours than the rest of the SEC combined (14). (Arkansas has made two Final Fours as an SEC school, six overall.)

But for a UT program that has never tasted Final Four success, making it to New Orleans would be a crowning achievement.

Tennessee, an 18-point favorite, was terrific against the Lancers.

After taking a slim 16-14 lead, Tennessee went on a 13-2 run and claimed a 54-29 halftime lead. John Fulkerson keyed the early start with 11 points off the bench in the first 9 minutes.

The Vols led by as much as 36 against the outmanned Lancers.

Tennessee shot a blistering 67% in the first half, and had 18 assists to three turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

For the game, UT shot 60% and made 14 of 24 3-point tries.

Santiago Vescovi led the Vols with 18 points on 6 of 8 from 3-point range. He tied Chris Lofton’s record for most 3s in an NCAA tournament game. Vescovi added seven assists and four steals.

Josiah-Jordan James chipped in with 17 points and 9 rebounds.

Fulkerson had 15, 13 in the first half.

Kennedy Chandler added 13 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals.

Tennessee set several school NCAA tournament records: Most assists (29), most steals (13) and best field-goal percentage. The 32-point margin of victory was the second most ever.

Tennessee advances to face Michigan (18-14) in the second round Saturday. The 11th-seed Wolverines overcame a 15-point first half deficit to beat Colorado State 75-63 behind 54.2% shooting. Michigan also won the battle of the boards, 36-25.

It’s worth noting that Barnes, who has made one Final Four as a coach, told his team four more wins in Tampa.

It takes six to win a national championship.

If UT makes it to the Superdome, you can bet Barnes will change is goal.

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Jimmy’s blog: Trio sparks Vols to first SEC tourney title in 43 years

Jimmy’s blog: Trio sparks Vols to first SEC tourney title in 43 years

By Jimmy Hyams

After Tennessee beat Kentucky last month in Knoxville, Vols coach Rick Barnes told his team it was a national championship contender.

I didn’t buy.

I saw too many flaws in a team that was really good, but not elite.

I saw a team without inside scoring, without a rim protector, without consistent outside shooting, without the ability to maintain huge leads in the second half.

But after watching Tennessee beat four top five teams, win a rubber match against Kentucky in the Kentucky Invitational (also known as the SEC Tournament), and capture its first conference tournament title since 1979, I’ve changed my mind.

The SEC is one of the two toughest conferences in the country, yet the Vols, after a 2-3 conference start, earned the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament with a 14-4 league record. Then went 3-0 in the SEC tourney, knocking off No. 5 Kentucky and a red-hot Texas A&M team in the final. Remarkably, UT trailed by a grand total of 86 seconds in Tampa.

After getting blown out at Kentucky Jan. 15, UT has won 15 of 16 against SEC opponents.

That’s an incredible streak.

Yes, the Vols almost blew a 22-point lead against Arkansas, an 11-point lead against Auburn, a 14-point lead against Kentucky. But the key word in that sentence is almost.

Tennessee keeps finding a way to win, whether it’s Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi hitting 3s or Kennedy Chandler driving the lane or Zakai Ziegler making steals or a stifling defense – in particular a stifling defense.

An SEC tourney title, a 26-7 record, a No. 8 Net rating, 11 wins over Quadrant-1 opponents and the No. 2 strength of schedule should have earned Tennessee a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

UT’s resume is clearly better than Duke’s. it’s also better than Kentucky’s and Auburn’s.

Nonetheless, UT getting a 3-seed and opening the tournament Thursday against Longwood in Indianapolis with a potential second-round matchup against the Michigan-Colorado State winner is a favorable draw.

Tennessee’s victory over A&M was sparked by a trio of Vols. UT burst to a 14-0 lead. When the Aggies, playing their fourth game in four days, cut the margin to 34-29, Vescovi took over. He made a steal, hit three free throws, swished two 3s and before you could say Uruguay, the Vols were up 46-31. A&M never challenged again.

Vescovi had 17 points (he hit 4 of 9 3s), five assists, three rebounds and two steals in another stellar all-around game.

Chandler, who turned his ankle Friday against Mississippi State but was terrific against Kentucky, had 14 points (he made 4 of 7 3s), seven assistants and four rebounds with no turnovers.

James had 16 points (he was 3 of 7 on 3s), 10 rebounds, three blocks and two assists.

All three made the all-tournament team with Chandler being named the MVP.

But the MVP could easily have been Vescovi or James.

Tennessee got 15 points and 16 rebounds from its four bigs, with Fulkerson yanking down 12 rebounds.

While the inside production is still a concern, the guard play, James’ all-around play and 3-point shooting (UT was 12 of 28 from beyond the arc in the title game) have made UT a dangerous team. And a fun team to watch.

“They believe in each other,’’ said an ecstatic UT coach Rick Barnes, who won his second conference tournament title in 35 years.  “They’re very unselfish guys.’’

As usual, Barnes had a message for his team.

“I want them to enjoy this,’’ Barnes said. “But you know what next week is about. You want more.’’

Barnes has taken just one team to the Final Four.

Tennessee has never reached a Final Four. It has made only one Elite Eight in program history. It is 1-7 in Sweet 16 games.

When this team was 2-3 in SEC play, I gave it no chance to win the SEC Tournament and little chance to make the Sweet 16.

But when you’re good enough to win the school’s first league tournament title since 1979, you’re good enough to make a significant run in the NCAA Tournament.

But for now, the Vols have earned the right to celebrate an achievement 43 years in the making.

“Man, I can’t even describe it,’’ James said.

Chandler was also euphoric.

“I’m just so happy, honestly,’’ said the true freshman point guard. “We work hard every single day in practice. We push each other. We deserve this win.

“And we’re not done yet. We’re just getting started.’’

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Jimmy’s blog: Vols hold off Hogs despite shaky second half

Jimmy’s blog: Vols hold off Hogs despite shaky second half

By Jimmy Hyams

Tennessee gave fans plenty to cheer about Saturday afternoon.

Then the Vols gave fans plenty to be concerned about.

No. 13 Tennessee led by 24 points in the first half against 14th-ranked Arkansas, thanks to blistering shooting from 3-point range.

UT led by 19 with eight minutes to play but then went into a tailspin due to turnovers, poor shot selection, lack of rebounding and losing focus.

Next thing you know, Arkansas had closed to gap to three points with two minutes left.

“We knew they would make a run,’’ UT coach Rick Barnes said.

The Vols made 5 of 8 free throws in the final 1:42 to finally put away the Hogs 75-72 in a microcosm of UT’s up-and-down season.

Tennessee has consistently won at home (16-0) but they’ve been inconsistent in doing so.

The Vols blew all but two points of a 24-point lead against Arkansas.

They trailed Auburn by 11, led by 11, then held on for another close win Feb. 26 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Within the same game, you see the good, the bad, the ugly for the Vols.

Yet, Tennessee (23-7, 14-4) finds itself as the No. 2 seed heading into the SEC Tournament this week. UT plays Friday night at 6 pm in Tampa, Fla.

The Vols are projected by bracketologist Joe Lunardi to be a N. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. One win in the SEC tournament could ensure a three seed.

But can you trust UT to win its first SEC tourney game?

Can you trust the Vols to make a run in the NCAA Tournament?

Can you even trust them to beat a much lower seed?

Tennessee ranks among the nation’s top three in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com ratings.

But they rank in the 50s in adjusted offensive efficiency.

The streak shooting and lack of a consistent inside scorer has led to numerous droughts that have proven costly – or near costly – in several games.

Tennessee’s second-half collapse against Arkansas wasn’t simply a matter of missed shots. In fact, UT outshot Arkansas in the last 20 minutes, making 41% from the field to the Hogs 38% and converting 3 of 6 on 3s to the Hogs 6 of 19.

The second-half difference was due to UT turnovers and Arkansas rebounding. The Hogs outscored UT 15-2 off turnovers in the second half, had a 24-14 rebound margin and outscored UT on fast break points 16-0.

That’s how Arkansas won the second half 45-28.

After the game, Barnes thanked the crowd for being “the best basketball fans in the country.’’

Then he led a chorus of “It’s great to be a Tennessee Vol.’’

That joy would not have existed had Arkansas completed the comeback, with an assist from UT.

It’s wonderful to build a 24-point lead over a quality opponent. And, yes, it can be hard to hold huge leads. But to be an elite team, a team that can make a run in the SEC Tournament or NCAA Tournament, you can’t have mounting turnovers, poor decisions, balky free-throw shooting and the inability to score around the rim.

Once again, UT shot poorly on two-point attempts: 11 of 32. They were 14 of 45 on 2s against Auburn. And in five of seven defeats this year, they have shot an average of 41% on their 2s.

In SEC play, UT is third in 3-point shooting at 34.5% but last in two-point shooting at 45.5%.

That’s a reflection of a lack of inside scoring and the inability of driving guards to consistently finish at the rim.

What was Barnes’ take on Arkansas’ second-half rally?

“Turnovers,’’ Barnes said. “Turnovers got us back on our heels. … But we’ll learn from it.’’

  Barnes also wanted to credit the opponent.

“Arkansas is an outstanding team,’’ Barnes said. “A great road team, too. They can beat anybody on any given night.’’

BARNES GETS 750

The victory was the 750th of Barnes’ storied career.

“That just means I’m old,’’ Barnes said. “I’ve had a lot of great players and a lot of great (assistant) coaches.’’

TALE OF TWO VOLS

Walk-on Brock Jancek, son of former UT defensive coordinator John Jancek, went through senior day but said he plans to transfer to another school so he can get playing time.

Victor Bailey, Jr., who began his college career five years ago at Oregon, did not go through senior day. He has another year of eligibility due to Covid.

Barnes said it was Bailey’s decision not to go through senior day. Barnes also said he would love for Bailey to stay at UT but that he does have the option to transfer.

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Jimmy’s blog: Vols rally to beat No. 3 Auburn before sellout crowd

Jimmy’s blog: Vols rally to beat No. 3 Auburn before sellout crowd

By Jimmy Hyams

A stranger approached Zakai Ziegler wearing his No. 5 jersey after Tennessee’s pulsating 67-62 victory Saturday over No. 3 Auburn at sold out Thompson-Boling Area.

“I just gave him a hug,’’ Ziegler said. “I didn’t know who he was.’’

It was Tony Vitello, Tennessee’s baseball coach.

Perhaps you can forgive the euphoric Ziegler for not knowing Vitello, for this was a moment of unbridled celebration.

It was a time to celebrate Tennessee’s third win over a top five team this season.

A time to celebrate moving into a three-way tie for second place in the SEC, just one game behind Auburn.

A time to celebrate the first win over former UT coach Bruce Pearl in seven outings.

A time to celebrate the emergence of five-star big man Brandon Huntley-Hatfield.

A time to celebrate a 15-0 home record in front of a raucous crowd that coach Rick Barnes called the best fans in the country.

When Ziegler met the media postgame, having scored 13 points and recording three steals, the true freshman from New York was wearing a grin from ear to ear.

“I’m gonna be smiling a lot,’’ Ziegler said, “because I’m super happy. I love winning.’’

Super senior John Fulkerson was so happy, he directed the pep band in the student section.

Several Vols made their way into the stands to celebrate with the joyous patrons, some of whom camped out the night before to ensure a good seat in the student section.

“They’re appreciative of our fan base,’’ Barnes said of his players.

Thompson-Boling Arena was a rocking scene, and anyone wearing orange and white was soaking it in.

“I do believe we’ve got the best home-court advantage (in the nation),’’ Barnes said. “I do.’’

That was hard to argue after Tennessee rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit, took an 11-point lead with four minutes left after Auburn missed 12 consecutive shots during one stretch, then held on for dear life after a few turnovers made the final score closer than it should have been.

Two late errors cut UT’s lead from 63-54 with 1:15 left to 63-60 with 58 seconds left.

Kennedy Chandler hit a floater that bounced four times on the rim and Santiago Vescovi swished two free throws to seal the deal.

“I knew we’d have to score again,’’ Barnes said after Auburn sliced UT’s lead to a nerve-wracking one possession.

Things got so hairy for UT late, Barnes went to true freshman Huntley-Hatfield to in-bounds the ball twice in the final minute, hoping his height and decision-making would at least allow UT to get the ball in play.

It worked. The 6-foot-10 Huntley-Hatfield found the 6-9 Fulkerson twice to avoid further mayhem.

That’s not all Huntley-Hatfield did. He scored five points, hitting a key three to ignite a 17-2 run in the second half.

“The 3-pointer felt good,’’ Huntley-Hatfield said. “I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t know we were down 11.’’

He also had eight rebounds and two blocks as UT’s four bigs helped offset Auburn’s brilliant Jabari Smith (27 points) and shot-blocking machine Walker Kessler (four swats).

Fulkerson, bothered by a hip pointer, had five points and nine rebounds.

Uros Plavsic had six points and seven rebounds.

And Jonas Aidoo had five rebounds.

In total, UT’s bigs had 17 points and 29 rebounds as the Vols dominated the boards 54-31.

Vescovi led UT with 14 points. He also had five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Chandler added 13 points. Josiah-Jordan James had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Tennessee (21-7, 12-4) has won 10 of its last 11 games and has two games left to catch Auburn (25-4, 13-3). UT visits Georgia on Tuesday then hosts Arkansas on Saturday.

Barnes said he did something he’d never done during the course of a game. He huddled his team and told them if they “turned it up on defense’’ it would “get the crowd into it.’’

While Tennessee’s victory was a moment to cherish, Barnes expressed his long-standing disdain for fans chanting “overrated,’’ which the UT faithful aimed at Auburn at the end of the game.

“I’ve never understood that,’’ Barnes said. “You have a great quality win over a team that is not overrated and your fans act like you beat nobody. We just beat a top five team and they’re not overrated. it’s diminishing a great win against an outstanding team. … Give us credit. We just beat an outstanding basketball team.’’

The players’ postgame celebration validated that.  

Jimmy’s blog: Refs take ‘charge’ as Vols fall at Arkansas

Jimmy’s blog: Refs take ‘charge’ as Vols fall at Arkansas

By Jimmy Hyams

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said he hopes when he watches tape that he will agree with all the charges called against his players Saturday at Arkansas.

“I hope they (officials) got them all right,’’ Barnes said after Tennessee suffered a 58-48 road loss. “I hope I feel differently after watching the tape because I know how I feel right now.’’

He won’t feel differently.

In a blatant display of incompetence, the crew of three alleged officials made a mockery of the block-charge call.

Arkansas big man Jaylin Williams drew five or six charges against Tennessee, bringing his total to 42 this year. He was moving on three or four against UT.

Barnes noticed. UT fans noticed. The media noticed.

Barnes had warned his team about Arkansas’ tactics before the game. It didn’t matter.

“From the referee standpoint,’’ Barnes said, “it’s one of the hardest calls. But that’s the one they’ve got to study, study, study. When a guy leaves his feet, he has to have a chance to come down.

“We told our guys (before the game) they (Hogs) do step in late. Floaters are going to be difficult. It’s tough when they come over and say, `Coach, I was in the air.’

“Does it affect them? Absolutely.’’

It affected Kennedy Chandler, who was called for four charges, and Santiago Vescovi, whose fourth foul was a charge, and Josiah-Jordan James, who fouled out. Chandler and Vescovi had four each and missed valuable minutes on the bench due to poor charging calls against them.

“You’ve got to protect a guy that leaves his feet,’’ Barnes said. “If a guy goes up, you’ve got to give him room to land. … A guy gets up in the air, you can’t slide under him at the very end.’’

But that’s exactly what Williams and some of his teammates did.

Yes, the block-charge call is tough. But if you have a trained eye and you know one team is known for sliding under players, you shouldn’t miss as many as the crew did Saturday.

“Did some frustration set it with our guys with some of those calls, absolutely they did,’’ Barnes said. “They felt like they were airborne and weren’t allowed to finish with guys sliding in.

“I hope I’m wrong. I hope they (refs) got them right. We did tell the guys that this is not a real shot-blocking team. They are going to try and slide in and take charges.

“It changed the entire game from our end. That is pretty much what got us in foul trouble and took points off and allowed them to get buckets.’’

Barnes’ post-game frustration was obvious.

“It’s a tough job,’’ Barnes said of officiating, “But at this time of year, we all have to be at our best. I have to be at my best coaching. Referees have to be at their best. Players have to be at their best. … The heat is on.’’

The block-charge calls weren’t the only misses. At one point in the first half, an Arkansas player took three steps out of bounds, then ricocheted the ball of James. The refs gave Arkansas the ball. Once the Arkansas player touched the ball while out of bounds, the ball goes to the other team. The ref that missed the call was standing within feet of the player out of bounds.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could blow that call.    

This isn’t to say Tennessee would have beaten Arkansas.

The Vols had a miserable day shooting: 27.1% from the field and 4-for-24 from 3-point range (16.7%). UT had a season-low five assists; it was averaging an SEC-best 16.1 in league play.

Arkansas wasn’t much better: 30.5% from the field and 5-for-22 on 3s (22.7%).

Tennessee had 15 turnovers, but at least a third were on charge calls.

While both teams played good defense, both teams also missed bunnies at the rim and wide open 3s.

The shooting was as miserable as the officiating.

While on the topic of shooting, I made the point recently that if UT has a poor night from beyond the arc, they don’t shoot well enough on two-pointers to overcome 3-point inaccuracy.

That proved true against Arkansas.

The Vols were 12-for-35 on 2-point tries. If you make six more twos, you likely beat the Hogs.

Tennessee got little from its four big men: nine points.

“We’ve got to get (an inside) presence,’’ Barnes said.

The loss kept the Vols from climbing within one game of Auburn in the SEC standings.

UT is now 10-4 in SEC play, same as Arkansas, which has won 11 of 12. Auburn is 12-2, Kentucky is 11-3.

Tennessee has games remaining against Arkansas and Auburn. A sweep is a must if the Vols want to win the SEC regular season.

While that is unlikely, the Vols should finish in the top four, thus ensuring a double-bye in the SEC Tournament.

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Jimmy’s blog: Balanced scoring propels Vols to rout of No. 4 Kentucky

Jimmy’s blog: Balanced scoring propels Vols to rout of No. 4 Kentucky

By Jimmy Hyams

Revenge is a dish best served at home.

After being treated rudely as guests at Rupp Arena a month ago, Tennessee returned the favor at Thompson-Boling Arena, dismantling fourth-ranked Kentucky 76-63 before a raucous crowd of over 20,000.

Tennessee lost by 28 at Rupp but won by 13 in Knoxville.

Tennessee had 20 turnovers which led to 32 UK points at Rupp. UT had eight Tuesday night that led to seven UK points.

Tennessee allowed Kentucky to shoot 68% at Rupp but only 34.3% in the rematch.

“We got manhandled,’’ said Kentucky coach John Calipari.

The Vols have now beaten Kentucky seven consecutive years, won five of seven at TBA and ran coach Rick Barnes’s record to 9-7 against Calipari’s Wildcats.

“We showed everybody who we truly are and what we’re capable of being,’’ said point guard Kennedy Chandler, who had 17 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals. “We showed the whole world what type team we could be.’’

Chandler had been upset with the one-sided loss at Rupp Arena in part Kentucky’s trio of guards scored 48 points. This time, UT’s guards scored 49; Kentucky’s had 18.

Vols Santiago Vescovi had 18 and Zakai Ziegler 14 to go with Chandler’s big night.

“This game was personal, honestly,’’ Chandler said.

Tennessee bid adieu to Kentucky in part because of Jonas Aidoo, a 6-foot-11, unheralded, unknown, seldom-used true freshman from Durham, N.C. Aidoo played in only eight of the first 24 games and battled an early season injury, but he gave UT a huge lift. He scored five points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots in 18 minutes while going against national player of the year candidate Oscar Tchiebwe.

Entering the game, Aidoo had eight points, five rebounds and no blocks in 30 minutes the entire season.

“I just stood my ground and did what the coaches told me to do,’’ Aidoo said.

While Tchiebwe had 13 points and 15 rebounds, he did not dominate inside.

“This game was a statement,’’ Aidoo said.

Aidoo wasn’t UT’s only big man that played well. John Fulkerson came off the bench to score 14 points and grab eight rebounds. Fulkerson rebuffed his coaches’ request to move into the starting lineup, saying he felt more comfortable in a reserve role.

Tennessee’s foursome of big men produced encouraging numbers: 21 points, 20 rebounds, four blocks, three assists. It’s the kind of center-by-committee the Vols will need to finish the season strong.

Tennessee, which led by as many as 20 points, shot 44.4% from the field, hit 8 of 17 from beyond the arc, made nine steals and blocked eight shots.

Tennessee’s eighth consecutive SEC win not only moved Tennessee (19-6, 10-3) into a tie with Kentucky (21-5, 10-3) for second place in the SEC, it established the Vols as a prime candidate to challenge for the regular-season title and perhaps make noise in the NCAA Tournament.

“It feels great,’’ Aidoo said of the win, “but we’re still not done. We’re not satisfied. The end game is the SEC Championship and the national championship.’’

Tennessee outplayed what many consider to be a national championship contender.

In perhaps UT’s most complete game of the season, balanced scoring was the order of the night. Four players scored at least 14 points while the defense held the SEC’s leader in field goal percentage to .15 points below its accuracy rate.

And when Kentucky pulled within eight in the second half, UT used a 12-0 run to basically salt the game away.

Barnes complimented the crowd, which was treated to a pregame light show from Bandit Lights. Many began lining up outside the arena four hours before tipoff.

“Everybody talks about the Blue Bloods,’’ said Barnes, now 14-0 at home this season. “The Orange Bloods are right there … and our players feed off it.’’

They certainly did.

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Jimmy’s blog: Vols seek revenge in hopes of chasing a ring

Jimmy’s blog: Vols seek revenge in hopes of chasing a ring

By Jimmy Hyams

Four years ago, the Tennessee Vols had a special basketball team.

They won 31 games. They were ranked No. 1 for more weeks than any team in program history. They beat heavyweights like Louisville, Gonzaga, Memphis and Kentucky.

But for all that team accomplished, it didn’t win a ring.

It didn’t win the SEC regular season. It didn’t win the SEC Tournament. It didn’t make it to the Final Four.

This Tennessee team isn’t as good as the 2018-19 version, but it could still do something that one didn’t – win a ring.

“At the beginning of the year, we wanted to win an SEC title, a regular-season title,’’ said junior guard Josiah-Jordan James. “And our fate is still in our hands.’’

Yes it is. Tennessee (18-6, 9-3) has won seven SEC games in a row for only the second time under Rick Barnes to move two games within first-place and No. 2 ranked Auburn (11-2) and one behind fourth-ranked Kentucky (10-2).

If the Vols beat the Wildcats in Thompson-Boling Arena tonight (9 p.m. ESPN), you’d have to consider UT a serious contender for the SEC championship.

Tennessee faces Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena Feb. 26 in what looms as a potential pivotal game – perhaps for both teams.

Kentucky had its way against Tennessee in the first meeting Jan. 15, a 107-89 rout. On the day in which former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall died, Kentucky honored Hall’s memory. They shot 78.6% from the field in the first half, 68% for the game, 61% on 3s (11 of 18), hit 20 of 21 free throw attempts and scored 32 points off 20 UT turnovers.

You could argue that nobody in the country would have beaten Kentucky that day. Well, maybe the Phoenix Suns.

Tennessee actually shot well in that game: 53.4% from the field, 11 of 23 on 3s.

Despite that blowout defeat, Tennessee has been installed as a one-point favorite over Kentucky. Perhaps someone had too many adult beverages at the casino bar.

Nonetheless, Tennessee has fared well against the Blue Bloods at home. UT won four in a row (2016-19) before dropping the last two at TBA. And UT has beaten Kentucky at least once six years in a row.

That bodes well for Tennessee’s odds.

So does the team’s improvement since that debacle in Rupp Arena. UT hasn’t lost an SEC game since.

“I feel like the team we have now is night and day (better) compared to the team then,’’ James said. “I think we have grown in all aspects and gotten better since that game.’’

James has been a spark during this recent Tennessee surge. He hit over 40% from 3-point range (19 of 45) during an eight-game stretch, not counting the four minutes he played at Vanderbilt due to an injury. He then hit just one of 7 against Vanderbilt but had 10 rebounds to help the cause.

It seems if James plays well, UT plays well.

Tennessee has also prospered using a smaller lineup: Kennedy Chandler, Santi Vescovi, Zakai Ziegler, James and a big man.

John Calipari has one of his best Kentucky teams outside of the 2012 national title squad.

Guard TyTy Washington, Kentucky’s second-leading scorer, torched the Vols for 28 points at Rupp. But Washington, who earlier set a school record with 17 assists in a game, suffered an injury against Florida on Saturday and is uncertain to play.

There’s nothing uncertain about 6-9 junior Oscar Tshiebwe. The West Virginia transfer is averaging 16.4 points and a nation’s-best 15.3 rebounds. He’s had five 20-rebound games.

When UK’s Anthony Davis won national player of the year and Final Four MVP in 2012, he averaged 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds.

“You can’t talk about the national player of the year without talking about him,’’ Barnes said.  “No one has found a way to slow him down.’’

In the first meeting, Tshiebwe had only nine points and 12 rebounds against the Vols. His rebound total was limited because neither team missed many shots.

For UT to have a chance against UK, the Vols must contain Tshiebwe. That means the foursome of John Fulkerson, Uros Plavsic, Brandon Hundley-Hatfield and Jonas Aidoo will have to produce.

They combined for 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists against Vanderbilt.

That might be enough to run Barnes’ record against Kentucky to 9-7.

And it might be good enough to keep UT in the SEC chase.

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Vince’s View: Super Bowl LVI prediction spread/straight-up and game notes; lots of history to be made in LA

Vince’s View: Super Bowl LVI prediction spread/straight-up and game notes; lots of history to be made in LA

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below is my Super Bowl prediction, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Conference Championship Round Straight-Up Record: 1-1 (50%)
Conference Championship Round Against The Spread Record: 2-0 (100%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 158-96 (62%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 139-115 (55%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Las Vegas, NV – November 21, 2021 – Allegiant Stadium: Joe Mixon (28) of the Cincinnati Bengals during a regular season game. (Photo by Al Powers / ESPN Images)

SUPER BOWL LVI:

LOS ANGELES RAMS vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS

My Game Prediction “V-Picks”: Bengals +4.5; Cincinnati wins 27-24

For 54 years, no team had played a Super Bowl in its home stadium. After the LOS ANGELES RAMS (15-5) earned the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVI, it’s now happened in consecutive seasons.

Those Rams will meet the AFC Champion CINCINNATI BENGALS (13-7) in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13 (6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT, NBC).

For 49 years, no starting quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall had met in a Super Bowl, until Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (1998 NFL Draft) and the Denver Broncos defeated Carolina’s CAM NEWTON (2011 NFL Draft) in Super Bowl 50. Now, it will have happened twice in seven seasons, after the Bengals’ JOE BURROW (2020 NFL Draft) meets the Rams’ MATTHEW STAFFORD (2009 NFL Draft) on Sunday.

The Bengals, who were founded by Pro Football Hall of Famer PAUL BROWN and began play in 1968, are looking for their first Super Bowl title, playing in the game for the first time since the 1988 season. The Rams, who began play in 1937, have won three NFL championships: 1945, 1951 and 1999, when they captured Super Bowl XXXIV led by Pro Football Hall of Famers ISAAC BRUCEMARSHALL FAULKORLANDO PACE and KURT WARNER.

The two head coaches on Sunday, Cincinnati’s ZAC TAYLOR (age 38) and the Rams’ SEAN MCVAY (age 36), will be a combined 74 years and 299 days old on Sunday, the youngest combined age for opposing head coaches in Super Bowl history. Previously, the youngest head-coaching matchup was Super Bowl XLIII with Pittsburgh’s MIKE TOMLIN (36 years, 323 days old) and Arizona’s KEN WHISENHUNT (46 years, 339 days old).

With a Rams win, McVay (36 years, 20 days on Sunday) would edge Tomlin (36 years, 323 days old in Super Bowl XLIII) as the youngest head coach to win the Super Bowl.

McVay, who was hired by the Rams in 2017 and led the team to a Super Bowl LIII appearance during the 2018 season, is the fifth individual in league history to advance to two Super Bowls within his first five seasons as an NFL head coach.

The individuals to advance to two Super Bowls within their first five seasons as a head coach in NFL history:

HEAD COACHTEAMSUPER BOWLS
Sean McVayL.A. RamsLIII, LVI
Mike TomlinPittsburghXLIII, XLV
Jimmy JohnsonHOFDallasXXVII, XXVIII
Joe GibbsHOFWashingtonXVII, XVIII
Tom FloresHOFOakland/L.A. RaidersXV, XVIII

Taylor served as an assistant on McVay’s coaching staff with the Rams from 2017-18, including a berth in Super Bowl LIII, prior to becoming the Bengals’ head coach in 2019. With wins in each of the first three rounds of the 2021 postseason, Taylor became the third individual over the last 13 years to win each of his first three postseason games as an NFL head coach, joining DOUG PEDERSON (2017-18) and KEN WHISENHUNT (2008). With a win on Super Bowl Sunday, Taylor would become the third individual over the last three decades (1991-2021) to win each of his first four postseason games as an NFL head coach, joining Pederson and BRIAN BILLICK (2000).

 For the Super Bowl LVI capsule, click here.

SEEDS OF HOPE: Each Super Bowl team entered the 2021 playoffs as the No. 4 seed in its respective conference. Since the NFL began seeding postseason teams in 1975, Super Bowl LVI is the first that does not include at least one team seeded No. 1 or No. 2. This marks the first Super Bowl in which both teams are seeded No. 4 or lower. The last No. 4 seed to win a Super Bowl was the 2012 BALTIMORE RAVENS (XLVII).

  • For a 17th consecutive season, the NFL will have a new Super Bowl champion, extending the longest streak without a repeat winner in league history. The last team to win consecutive Super Bowls was the 2003-04 New England Patriots.
  • Including Cincinnati on Sunday, five of the last 12 teams to appear in the Super Bowl missed the playoffs the previous season. Prior to the Bengals, the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2019 San Francisco 49ers, 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and 2016 Atlanta Falcons reached that pinnacle after missing the playoffs the prior season.
  • NFL teams have a remarkable record of resiliency. Since 2000, the Bengals are the fifth team to go from “worst to first” in their division and make the Super Bowl in the same season. Three of the four prior teams to do that – the 2017 Eagles, 2009 Saints and 2001 Patriots – won the Super Bowl.

The teams to appear in the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in their divisions since 2000:

SEASONTEAMSUPER BOWLPRIOR SEASON RECORD
2021CincinnatiLVI4-11-1
2017Philadelphia*LII7-9
2009New Orleans*XLIV8-8
2003CarolinaXXXVIII7-9
2001New England*XXXVI5-11
*Won Super Bowl   

NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOES: Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW guided LSU to a College Football Playoff national championship in 2019. With a win on Sunday, he would join Pro Football Hall of Famers JOE MONTANA and JOE NAMATH as the only starting quarterbacks to win both a consensus college football national title and a Super Bowl.

Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, is expected to become the first quarterback ever drafted first overall to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons. He is also the third quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (Super Bowl XIX) and BEN ROETHLISBERGER (Super Bowl XL).

FIRST YEAR WITH HIS TEAM: Only two quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl in their first years with their teams, the Ravens’ TRENT DILFER (2000, Super Bowl XXXV) and Tampa Bay’s TOM BRADY (2020, Super Bowl LV). The Rams’ MATTHEW STAFFORD, acquired by Los Angeles in an offseason trade, could join them on Sunday.

Stafford has at least two touchdown passes in each of the Rams’ three postseason games. With two touchdown passes on Sunday, he would join Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (2008), JOE FLACCO (2012) and TOM BRADY (2020) as the only players in NFL history with at least two touchdown passes in four postseason games within the same season.

JA’MARR CHASING A THIRD ROOKIE RECORD: Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE had 1,455 receiving yards in the regular season, most ever by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. He followed that accomplishment with an NFL rookie postseason record 279 receiving yards through the Bengals’ first three playoff games this season. The only rookie record he has left in the receiving-yards category is the single-game Super Bowl record, held by TORRY HOLT, who had 109 in the Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV victory.

SUPER COOPER: Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP led the NFL in each of the three major receiving categories –  receptions (145), yards (1,947) and touchdowns (16) – and is the first player in league history to lead the NFL in those three categories for a team that advanced to the Super Bowl. He is the third player to lead the league in receiving yards and appear in the Super Bowl in the same season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (1989 and 1994) and DREW PEARSON (1977).

Kupp has totaled 25 receptions for 386 yards and four touchdowns during the 2021 postseason. On Sunday, he can surpass TRAVIS KELCE (31 receptions during the 2020 postseason) for the most receptions in a single postseason all-time and become the second player ever to reach 500 receiving yards in a single playoff run, joining LARRY FITZGERALD (546 receiving yards in 2008).

HERE’S THE TAKEAWAY: Cincinnati has a plus-five turnover ratio this postseason, on the strength of six Bengals interceptions by six different players, including safety VONN BELL, whose overtime interception of PATRICK MAHOMES set up Cincinnati’s game-winning field goal in the AFC Championship Game.

  • Bengals defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON ranked fifth in the NFL with a career-high 14 sacks this season. He is one of two NFL players with at least 13 sacks in each of the past two seasons.
  • Linebacker LOGAN WILSON, who led the team this season with four interceptions, had an interception in Cincinnati’s win at No. 1-seeded Tennessee in the AFC Divisional Round. The second-year player also led the team with 98 tackles.

DEFENSIVE STALWARTS: Led by AARON DONALD, a three-time Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year who is seeking his first Super Bowl victory, the Rams ranked sixth in rushing defense (103.2 yards per game allowed) and third with 50 sacks.

  • Donald had 12.5 sacks in the regular season and became the fourth player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to register at least eight sacks in each of his first eight NFL seasons. He also has 1.5 sacks during the 2021 playoffs.
  • Linebacker VON MILLER makes his second Super Bowl appearance after registering 2.5 sacks to earn Super Bowl 50 MVP honors with Denver. Including the playoffs, Miller has a sack in six of his last seven games.

# # #

Jimmy’s blog: Lunardi thinks Vols are `regular’ good

Jimmy’s blog: Lunardi thinks Vols are `regular’ good

By Jimmy Hyams

Joe Lunardi likes Tennessee’s men’s basketball team, he just doesn’t love it.

But the long-time ESPN bracketologist does think the Vols have the potential to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

“I think Tennessee is regular good,’’ Lunardi said at the Big Orange Tipoff Club on Wednesday. “By that, I mean the kind of team that gets in the (NCAA) tournament and wins a game or two.  Special is the Elite Eight and beyond.

“Three years ago, that team – with Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone — was special. They were Final Four and beyond good. It didn’t break their way in the tournament.

“I don’t think this Tennessee team is at that level.’’

However, Lunardi cautioned not to count out the Vols.

“Most years there is a team in the Final Four from a power conference that flew under the radar with a profile like Tennessee, with really good metrics that suggest they haven’t played their best basketball yet. Do I think it’s going to be Tennessee? Would I bet on it being Tennessee? Probably not.

“All I know is what history tells me, that there will be a team like Tennessee playing very late in the tournament that’s kind of a down ballot in a great conference. So, if you’re a Vols fan, why not us?’’

The Vols have never reached the Final Four. They have made the Elite Eight only once. Their track record in the NCAA Tournament has not been sterling.

But in a given year, you never know.

One thing hurting Tennessee, according to Lundari, is the roster.

“You usually need a couple (of NBA players) to play in April,’’ Lunardi said.

Lunardi initially suggested UT doesn’t have any NBA players. When Kennedy Chandler’s name was mentioned, Lunardi conceded that, but he doesn’t see Chandler being a top 10 or lottery pick in the NBA draft.

On other topics, Lundari said:

*He thinks Gonzaga is the best team in the country, with Auburn a close second. He thinks this Auburn team is better than the 2019 Final Four team because of the inside presence of Walker Kessler and Jabari Smith and overall it is “more skilled, more versatile.’’

*He likes the NCAA NET ratings more than the RPI – the measuring tool that used to be used by the NCAA Selection Committee – because the NET is a “much better measure of how a team is playing.’’ He said the RPI put too much emphasis on strength of schedule and “not enough on how good you were on the court.’’ But, he added, none of the metrics are “flawless.’’

*With Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski retiring after this season. What will college basketball miss most the future hall of famer? “For the most part, a voice of reason,’’ Lunardi said. “By and large, he has been a force for the good of the game and college basketball is better for it. College basketball is beter when Duke is good. … We’re talking about a Mount Rushmore all-time great.’’

*He is very opposed to Loyola Chicago not being allowed to play in Missouri Valley Conference tournament because it is leaving the MVC for the Atlantic 10. He said he doesn’t think the Big 12 will do that to Texas and Oklahoma the year before they depart for SEC.

*Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, who seemed to always be in the cross hairs of the NCAA, did get have a great one liner, Lunardi said. When Tarkanian was asked why he recruited so many junior college players, he said: “Because their cars are already paid for.’’

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Vince’s View: Detailed Notes and Predictions on NFL Conference Championship Games

Vince’s View: Detailed Notes and Predictions on NFL Conference Championship Games

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Conference Championship Games predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Divisional Round Straight-Up Record: 0-4 (0%)
Divisional Round Against The Spread Record: 0-4 (0%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 157-95 (62%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 137-115 (54%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Las Vegas, NV – November 21, 2021 – Allegiant Stadium: Joe Burrow (9) of the Cincinnati Bengals during a regular season game. (Photo by Al Powers / ESPN Images)

The Championship schedule for Sunday, January 30:

GameVisitorHomeTime (ET)Network
AFC Championship
V-Picks:
Cincinnati Bengals (12-7)
Bengals +7
Kansas City Chiefs (14-5)
Kansas City wins
3:00 PM
KC VFL:
CBS/Paramount+
Trey Smith
NFC Championship
V-Picks:
San Francisco 49ers (12-7)
Rams -3.5
Los Angeles Rams (14-5)
Los Angeles wins
6:40 PM
SF VFLs:
FOX/FOX Deportes
Jauan Jennings &
Emmanuel Moseley

CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY FEATURES BATTLES FOR LAMAR HUNT, GEORGE HALAS TROPHIES, TRIP TO SUPER BOWL LVI

A grim reaper in a grim situation, a “Love of the Game” pass pattern, a trap handoff to a wide receiver on a snow-covered field, and a prophetic rookie kicker named Money Mac.

Four phenomenal Divisional playoff games, four games decided on the final play, all to decide the four teams remaining in contention for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.

Tinseltown could not have written a more exciting screenplay to get the NFL to this point.

Welcome to the Championship round of the 2021 playoffs.

FROM LAST PLACE TO CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP: NFL teams have a remarkable record of resiliency. Over the past 13 seasons (2009-21), five teams have gone from last place in their divisions to their conference Championship Games the following year.

  • This season, the CINCINNATI BENGALS can become the third team since 2003 to go from “worst to first” and make the Super Bowl in the same season, joining the 2017 Eagles and 2009 Saints. The 2017 Jaguars and 2006 Saints also followed a last-place finish with an appearance in the Championship Game.
  • In 2021, both the Bengals and SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS have answered a last-place finish with a conference Championship Game appearance, making 2021 the fifth year since the league merger in 1970 in which two teams have gone from last-place finishes to a berth in their conference Championship Games.

The seasons in which multiple teams advanced to their conference Championship Games the year after finishing last or tied for last place in their divisions since 1970:

SEASONTEAMS
2021Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers
2017Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles*
2008Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles
1996Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers
1991Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions
*Won Super Bowl

SUPER BOWL HOPE: With Cincinnati playing for a berth in Super Bowl LVI, 75 percent of the league (24 of 32 teams) has played for a trip to the Super Bowl in the past 12 seasons (2010-21).

For a 17th consecutive season, the NFL will have a new Super Bowl champion, extending the longest streak without a repeat winner in league history. The last team to win consecutive Super Bowls was the 2003-04 New England Patriots.

HOPE FOR TEAMS THAT MISS PLAYOFFS: The CINCINNATI BENGALS and SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS have advanced to their conference Championship Games the year after missing the playoffs. Last season, Tampa Bay not only reached the Championship Game but also won Super Bowl LV after missing the prior year’s playoffs. In 2019, three teams earned berths in the Championship Game after failing to qualify for the playoffs.

In fact, four of the last 10 teams that played in the Super Bowl – the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2019 San Francisco 49ers, 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and 2016 Atlanta Falcons – reached that pinnacle after missing the playoffs the prior season.

REMATCHES: Each Championship contest is a rematch of games that took place in the final two weeks of the regular season. The 49ers defeated the Rams in overtime, 27-24, in Week 18. The Bengals defeated the Chiefs, 34-31, in Week 17. San Francisco also earned a 31-10 win over Los Angeles at Levi’s Stadium in Week 10.

WILD-CARD WISDOM: Last week, San Francisco was the only non-division champion to win in the Divisional playoffs. For a third consecutive season, the NFL has a team in a Championship Game that did not win its division, including Tampa Bay in 2020 and Tennessee in 2019. Seven teams, including the Buccaneers last season, have won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team.

STELLAR CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTERBACKS: A glance at the starting quarterbacks for this weekend:  

  • Kansas City’s PATRICK MAHOMES will become the first quarterback in NFL history to start four conference Championship Games before turning 27 years old.
  • Cincinnati’s JOE BURROW will become the first quarterback drafted first overall to start a conference Championship Game within his first two seasons.
  • The Rams’ MATTHEW STAFFORD can become the seventh quarterback ever to start a Super Bowl in his first season with a new team and the fourth this century, joining TOM BRADY (Tampa Bay in 2020), JAKE DELHOMME (Carolina in 2003) and TRENT DILFER (Baltimore in 2000).
  • San Francisco’s JIMMY GAROPPOLO can join Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA (four) as the only 49ers starting quarterbacks to win multiple NFC Championship Games.

Championship Weekend also features starting quarterbacks with two of the highest winning percentages among players who began their careers in the Super Bowl era, including the postseason (minimum 50 starts). Kansas City’s PATRICK MAHOMES ranks first among those quarterbacks with a career 57-15 record (.792), including the postseason. San Francisco’s JIMMY GAROPPOLO (37-15, .712) ranks fifth.

The starting quarterbacks with the highest winning percentages, including the postseason, among players who began their careers in the Super Bowl era (minimum 50 starts):

QUARTERBACKWLTPCT
Patrick Mahomes57150.792
Tom Brady278840.768
Roger StaubachHOF96350.733
Lamar Jackson38150.717
Jimmy Garoppolo37150.712

SIGNIFICANT HOST SITES: The LOS ANGELES RAMS are the first team to host a conference Championship Game in a stadium that will also host the Super Bowl in the same postseason. Meanwhile, Kansas City is the first team ever to host four consecutive conference Championship Games.

A LOOK BACK ON THAT INCREDIBLE DIVISIONAL WEEKEND: A few significant notes from the most exciting Divisional playoff weekend in NFL history:

  • In the four games, the margin of victory was a combined 15 points, the lowest for a Divisional playoff weekend in league annals. The previous low was 18 points in 2006.
  • For the first time ever, all four Divisional games were decided by a winning score on the final play, the most in a single postseason all-time. During the regular season, the NFL had 34 games decided by a winning score on the final play, the most in a season in league history.
  • In Kansas City’s 42-36 overtime win over Buffalo, the Chiefs and Bills combined to score 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation, the second-most points in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter of any game in the Super Bowl era. Regular season or postseason, only one other contest produced more points in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter: The Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings combined for 28 points in the final minutes of the Ravens’ 29-26 win on Dec. 8, 2013.
  • For the first time since 2010, each No. 1 seed failed to advance to its conference Championship Game. This is also the first season since 2010 in which multiple teams seeded fourth or lower (the No. 4 CINCINNATI BENGALS and No. 6 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS) advanced to a Championship Game.
  • Three road teams won in the Divisional round for third time in NFL history (also 1971 and 2008).

RAMS IN RARE COMPANY: The Rams are hosting the Championship as the NFC’s No. 4 seed. Since 1990, when the NFL expanded the playoff field to six teams in each conference, only one other team has hosted a conference Championship Game as a No. 4 seed: The 2008 ARIZONA CARDINALS, who defeated Philadelphia in the NFC title game to advance to Super Bowl XLIII.

DON’T DISCOUNT LOWER-SEEDED TEAMS: Since the 2005 Steelers won Super Bowl XL, seven teams have advanced to their conference Championship Games as a No. 6 seed, including the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS this year. The list includes the 2008 Eagles, 2008 Ravens, 2010 Jets, 2019 Titans and Super Bowl XLV champion Packers in 2010.

SUPER BOWL PIPELINE: Since the 49ers advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII in the 2012 season, the NFC West has produced five of the previous nine NFC champions. After the 49ers or Rams win on Sunday, six NFC West teams will have advanced to the Super Bowl in 10 seasons, including three in the past four years (the Rams in 2018, 49ers in 2019 and Sunday’s winning team).

A look at the AFC and NFC Championship Games:

CINCINNATI BENGALS (12-7) at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (14-5) (Sunday, 3:00 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+ )

  • While the two franchises have never met in the postseason, they did meet only four weeks ago, in Week 17 at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat Kansas City, 34-31, and clinch the AFC North. Bengals quarterback JOE BURROW passed for 446 yards and four touchdowns while rookie wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE had 11 receptions for a franchise-record 266 yards and three touchdowns. Chase surpassed JERRY BUTLER (255 receiving yards on Sept. 23, 1979) for the most receiving yards in a game by a rookie ever.
  • The Bengals, who began as an expansion franchise in 1968, own the best record in AFC Championship Game history, 2-0 (1.000), minimum two games. Cincinnati advanced to the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1988, both times losing to the San Francisco 49ers. The Bengals (2-0) and New York Giants (5-0) are the NFL’s only teams in the Super Bowl era without a loss in a Championship Game (31 of the 32 teams have played in the contest).
  • The Chiefs with a win would advance to a third consecutive Super Bowl. Only the BUFFALO BILLS (four, 1990-93), MIAMI DOLPHINS (three, 1971-73) and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (three, 2016-18) have appeared in at least three consecutive Super Bowls.
  • Kansas City is the first team in NFL history to host a Championship Game in four straight seasons, and the seventh to play in the game in four consecutive years. The Chiefs are 2-2 all-time in AFC Championship Games, including victories in each of the past two seasons. The franchise was 3-0 in AFL Championship Games, with wins in 1962 (as the Dallas Texans), and 1966 and 1969 after moving to Kansas City.
  • The Chiefs’ ANDY REID has now guided two teams to four consecutive Championship Games, Philadelphia (2001-04) and Kansas City (2018-21). No other head coach in the Super Bowl era has made four straight appearances in the game with multiple teams. BILL BELICHICK (eight from 2011-18) and Pro Football Hall of Famers JOHN MADDEN (five from 1973-77), TOM LANDRY (four from 1970-73) and MARV LEVY (four from 1990-93) are the only other coaches with four-or-more consecutive Championship Game berths in the Super Bowl era.
  • Reid also has 252 career wins, including the postseason. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA (347), Pro Football Hall of Famer GEORGE HALAS (324), BILL BELICHICK (321) and Pro Football Hall of Famer TOM LANDRY (270) have more.
  • Cincinnati’s ZAC TAYLOR could become the sixth individual to win his first three postseason games as an NFL head coach, joining BRIAN BILLICK (2000), JEFF FISHER (1999), JOHN FOX (2003), DOUG PEDERSON (2017) and KEN WHISENHUNT (2008).
  • The Bengals are 2-1 (.667) against Kansas City since Reid took the reins of the Chiefs in 2013. Only the Titans (5-2, including the postseason) have a better record against the Chiefs in that span.
  • Kansas City’s PATRICK MAHOMES is expected to become the first quarterback in NFL history to start four conference Championship Games prior to turning 27 years old.
  • Mahomes is 7-1 in eight career postseason starts at Arrowhead Stadium, with 23 touchdown passes, one interception and a 120.5 passer rating.
  • Including the postseason, Mahomes owns a 4-1 career record against opponents to which he lost previously in the same season, including wins in the 2020 AFC Championship Game and last week’s victory, both over Buffalo. His only loss was to the New England Patriots in the 2018 AFC Championship.
  • The Bengals’ JA’MARR CHASE, who enters Sunday with 225 postseason receiving yards, needs 18 receiving yards against the Chiefs to break the NFL’s postseason rookie record held by TORRY HOLT (242 in 1999). Chase, who had 116 receiving yards in the Wild Card win against Las Vegas and 109 last week, is the first player in NFL history with multiple postseason games of 100-or-more receiving yards.
  • In 2021, five pairs of NFL teammates each reached 1,000 receiving yards and two of those duos are featured on Sunday: JA’MARR CHASE (1,455) and TEE HIGGINS (1,091) and the Chiefs’ TYREEK HILL (1,239) and TRAVIS KELCE (1,125).
  • Kelce, who had eight catches for 96 yards and the game-ending touchdown reception in last week’s win, has at least 90 receiving yards in five straight postseason games, the longest streak in the Super Bowl era. Kelce also joined Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE and ROB GRONKOWSKI as one of three players in NFL history with 90-or-more receptions and 10-plus touchdown catches in their postseason careers.
  • In NFL history, only Rice (151 postseason receptions), JULIAN EDELMAN (118) and Gronkowski (98) have more career postseason catches than Kelce (96).
  • Hill, who registered 172 receiving yards in the 2020 AFC Championship, had 11 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win. He joined LARRY FITZGERALDJULIO JONESSTEVE SMITH and Pro Football Hall of Famers FRED BILETNIKOFF and JERRY RICE as the only players in NFL history with multiple career postseason games of at least 150 receiving yards.
  • In last week’s Divisional win at Tennessee, quarterback JOE BURROW completed 28 of 37 attempts for 348 yards, while wide receiver TEE HIGGINS had seven receptions for 96 yards and wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE had five catches for 109 yards.
  • Burrow, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, became the first quarterback to win two playoff games in his second season since RUSSELL WILSON led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title in 2013.
  • Bengals rookie kicker EVAN MCPHERSON converted a game-winning, 52-yard field goal with no time remaining to send Cincinnati to the AFC Championship. McPherson, who kicked a 54-yard field goal earlier in last week’s win at Tennessee, tied the single-game NFL postseason record with two field goals of at least 50 yards.
  • McPherson, who converted all four field-goal attempts in both the Wild Card and Divisional victories, is the first kicker in NFL history with four-or-more field goals in multiple games of the same postseason. With eight field goals, he also has tied the NFL’s rookie postseason record, held by STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI (2006).

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-7) at LOS ANGELES RAMS (14-5) (Sunday, 6:40 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes)

  • The Rams are the first team in NFL history to host a conference Championship Game at the site of a Super Bowl in the same postseason. With a win, Los Angeles would become the second team ever to play a Super Bowl on its home field, joining last year’s Buccaneers. Prior to 2020, that had not happened over the first 54 Super Bowls.
  • The 49ers and Rams have met only once in the postseason: The 1989 NFC Championship, a 30-3 San Francisco win at Candlestick Park. San Francisco went on to defeat Denver in Super Bowl XXIV.
  • San Francisco, making its second appearance in the NFC Championship in three years, has reached a conference Championship Game for the 17th time, more than any franchise in the Super Bowl era. Since 2011, the 49ers are making their fifth appearance in the NFC Championship. San Francisco is 7-9 all-time in the NFC title game.
  • The Rams are making their 11th appearance in the NFC Championship Game, tied with the Packers for the third-most since the 1970 league merger. Only the 49ers (17 including this season) and Cowboys (16) have more appearances in the NFC Championship.
  • This season, beginning with their Week 10 win vs. the Rams, the 49ers have won nine of their last 11 games entering Sunday’s contest, including the postseason.
  • In 2021, the Rams have won seven of their past eight, including the regular season. Their only setback in that span was a loss to the 49ers in the Week 18 season finale, a game San Francisco had to win to clinch a playoff berth.
  • San Francisco has won three straight road games against the Rams and has been victorious in five of its last six trips to meet the Rams in Los Angeles. This season, the Rams lost five overall games and two were to San Francisco.
  • In that Week 18 victory, San Francisco overcame a 17-0 deficit to win, 27-24, in overtime, clinching a playoff berth for the second time under head coach KYLE SHANAHAN.
  • Last week, San Francisco blocked two kicks in a 13-10 win at Green Bay, becoming the first team to block a field goal and a punt in the same postseason game since Buffalo did it in a road win against the Houston Oilers in the 1988 AFC Divisional playoffs. San Francisco defensive back JIMMIE WARD blocked a Packers field-goal attempt at the end of the first half, while defensive lineman JORDAN WILLIS blocked a fourth-quarter punt that was returned 6 yards for a touchdown by safety TALANOA HUFANGA to tie the game, 10-10, with 4:50 remaining. Hufanga’s touchdown marked the second-latest game-tying or go-ahead special-teams touchdown in NFL postseason history. The only game-tying or go-ahead special-teams touchdown scored later in an NFL postseason contest was the Music City Miracle kickoff return with 13 seconds remaining to help Tennessee defeat Buffalo in a 1999 Wild Card game.
  • In the 49ers’ Divisional playoff win, wide receiver DEEBO SAMUEL had 39 rushing yards and converted a third-and-7 with a 9-yard run on San Francisco’s game-winning drive. In Samuel’s career, including the postseason, the 49ers are 8-1 when he has 35-or-more rushing yards.
  • Quarterback JIMMY GAROPPOLO has a 4-1 (.800) postseason record as a starting quarterback, and a 37-15 (.712) career record, including the postseason. His .712 career winning percentage, including the postseason, is the fifth-best mark among quarterbacks who began their careers in the Super Bowl era (minimum 50 starts). Only PATRICK MAHOMES (.792), TOM BRADY (.768), Pro Football Hall of Famer ROGER STAUBACH (.733) and LAMAR JACKSON (.717) have higher marks.
  • Garoppolo in his career is also 3-0 as a starting quarterback on the road against the Rams. He is bidding to become the second quarterback in 49ers history to win multiple NFC Championships, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA, who captured four NFC titles.
  • Last week, Rams linebacker VON MILLER had one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in Los Angeles’ 30-27 win at Tampa Bay. Miller has at least one sack in four consecutive postseason games, including 2.5 sacks to earn Super Bowl 50 MVP honors with Denver. He also had 2.5 sacks for the Broncos in his last conference Championship Game, against New England in the 2015 AFC Championship.
  • Los Angeles quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD orchestrated a five-play, 63-yard drive with 42 seconds remaining to advance the Rams to the NFC Championship. Since Stafford entered the league as the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, he has now engineered 43 game-winning drives, including the postseason, the most of any quarterback in that span.
  • In last week’s win, Stafford completed 28 of 38 attempts (73.7 percent) for 366 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 121.2 rating. He also scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Stafford, who ran for a touchdown in the Rams’ Wild Card win, joined TOM BRADY and AARON RODGERS as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards with two-or-more passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in multiple career postseason games.
  • Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP had nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win, including a 70-yard touchdown in the first half. His 20- and 44-yard receptions set up the game-winning field goal with less than a minute remaining.

SUPER TURNAROUNDS: On Championship Sunday, the Super Bowl LVI participants will be determined. In the AFC (3:00 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+), the CINCINNATI BENGALS (12-7) take on the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (14-5) while the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-7) travel to SoFi Stadium to face the LOS ANGELES RAMS (14-5) in the NFC (6:40 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes).

With Cincinnati and San Francisco, this marks the fifth year since 1970 in which multiple teams have advanced to their conference Championship Games the year after finishing in last or tied for last place in their divisions.

If either team wins this weekend, it will become the fifth team to advance to the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in its division since 2000.

The teams to appear in the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in their division since 2000:

SEASONTEAMSUPER BOWLPRIOR SEASON RECORD
2017Philadelphia*LII7-9
2009New Orleans*XLIV8-8
2003CarolinaXXXVIII7-9
2001New England*XXXVI5-11
*Won Super Bowl

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

CHAMPIONSHIP COACHES: Each of the four head coaches remaining in the 2021 postseason can cement themselves in NFL history with victories on Sunday.

In the AFC, Kansas City’s ANDY REID became the fifth head coach in league history to guide his team to at least four consecutive Championship Games. He is aiming to advance to his fourth Super Bowl as a head coach, and third with Kansas City. Overall, Reid has 19 postseason wins, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA for the third-most in league history.

With a win on Sunday, Reid will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer TOM LANDRY (20 wins) for the second-most postseason wins by a head coach all-time. Only BILL BELICHICK (31) has more.

The head coaches with the most career postseason wins in NFL history:

HEAD COACHTEAM(S)POSTSEASON WINS
Bill BelichickCleveland, New England31
Tom LandryHOFDallas20
Andy ReidPhiladelphia, Kansas City19
Don ShulaHOFBaltimore Colts, Miami19
Joe GibbsHOFWashington17


Cincinnati’s ZAC TAYLOR is looking to become the sixth individual in league history to win each of his first three career postseason games as an NFL head coach and the first since DOUG PEDERSON in 2017.

In the NFC, both San Francisco’s KYLE SHANAHAN, who brought the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV in 2019, and Los Angeles’ SEAN MCVAY, who took the Rams to Super Bowl LIII in 2018, are looking to advance to their second Super Bowls as a head coach.

Each coach was hired by his current club in 2017 and the winner of the NFC Championship on Sunday will become the fifth individual in league history to advance to two Super Bowls within his first five seasons as an NFL head coach.

The individuals to advance to two Super Bowls within their first five seasons as a head coach in NFL history:

HEAD COACHTEAMSUPER BOWLS
Mike TomlinPittsburghXLIII, XLV
Jimmy JohnsonHOFDallasXXVII, XXVIII
Joe GibbsHOFWashingtonXVII, XVIII
Tom FloresHOFOakland/L.A. RaidersXV, XVIII

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

KANSAS CITY OF CHAMPIONS: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS are the first team in league history to host four consecutive Championship Games. With a win on Sunday, they would become the fourth team all-time to advance to three-or-more consecutive Super Bowls.

The teams to appear in at least three consecutive Super Bowls in NFL history:

TEAMSEASONSSUPER BOWLS
New England3 (2016-18)LI – LIII
Buffalo4 (1990-93)XXV – XXVIII
Miami3 (1971-73)VI – VIII


Quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES led the Chiefs to each of the past two Super Bowls and with a win on Sunday can become the 13th quarterback all-time to start in three-or-more Super Bowls, and the sixth to do so before turning 30 years old. Mahomes, who will be 26 years and 149 days old on the day of Super Bowl LVI, would become the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start three Super Bowls.

Mahomes enters Championship Sunday after recording 378 passing yards and three touchdown passes in the Divisional Round against Buffalo, and 404 passing yards and five touchdown passes on Super Wild Card Weekend against Pittsburgh.

With at least 300 passing yards against Cincinnati, Mahomes would become the first player ever to record at least 300 passing yards in three games within a single postseason.

With three touchdown passes, he will become the fourth player ever to record at least three touchdown passes in three games within a single postseason, joining TOM BRADY (2014), JOE FLACCO (2012) and AARON RODGERS (2010). Each of the previous three players won Super Bowl MVP that same postseason.

The players with the most games with at least three touchdown passes in a single postseason in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMPOSTSEASONGAMES
Tom Brady*New England20143
Joe Flacco*Baltimore20123
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay20103
    
Patrick MahomesKansas City20212
*Won Super Bowl MVP

In Kansas City’s Divisional Round victory, tight end TRAVIS KELCE totaled eight catches for 96 yards and the game-winning touchdown reception in overtime. He has now recorded at least 95 receiving yards in five consecutive postseason games, the longest streak in NFL history. In his postseason career, Kelce has 96 receptions, 1,196 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions.

With four catches on Sunday, Kelce will become the third player in league history to record 100 career postseason receptions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (151 receptions) and JULIAN EDELMAN (118).

The players with the most postseason receptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)RECEPTIONS
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco, Oakland, Seattle151
Julian EdelmanNew England118
Rob GronkowskiNew England, Tampa Bay98
Travis KelceKansas City96
Reggie WayneIndianapolis93


Wide receiver TYREEK HILL led the team with 11 catches for 150 receiving yards and a touchdown last week. It marked his second-career postseason game with at least 150 receiving yards. Hill can join LARRY FITZGERALD as the only players ever to record at least 150 receiving yards in three career postseason games.

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

JOE & JA’MARR: Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW is expected to become the first quarterback ever drafted first overall to start a conference Championship Game within his first two seasons.

With a win, Burrow, who was selected with the first overall pick out of LSU in 2020, will become the third quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO and BEN ROETHLISBERGER.

Burrow enters Championship Sunday after completing 28 of 37 attempts (75.7 percent) for 348 yards in the Divisional Round against Tennessee. On Super Wild Card Weekend against Las Vegas, he completed 24 of 34 attempts (70.6 percent) for 244 yards and two touchdowns.

On Sunday, Burrow can become the first quarterback ever to record a completion percentage of 70-or-higher in each of his first three career postseason games (minimum 25 attempts).

Burrow’s top target this season has been wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE, who recorded 1,455 receiving yards in the regular season, the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. After recording 109 receiving yards last week and 116 in the Wild Card Round, Chase’s 225 postseason receiving yards are the third-most ever by a rookie.

With 18 receiving yards at Kansas City, Chase will surpass TORRY HOLT (242 receiving yards in 1999) for the most postseason receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history. 

The rookies with the most postseason receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Torry HoltSt. Louis Rams1999242
Austin CollieIndianapolis2009241
Ja’Marr ChaseCincinnati2021225


With at least 100 receiving yards on Sunday, Chase will join LARRY FITZGERALD (first four career postseason games) as the only players ever to record at least 100 receiving yards in each of their first three career playoff games.

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

BRING IT HOME: When the LOS ANGELES RAMS host the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, it will mark the first time in league history that a Championship Game will be played in the same stadium that will host that year’s Super Bowl.

With a win on Sunday, the Rams will become the second team ever to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium, joining the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, who won Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium last year.

Either the Rams or their opponent this week, the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, will become the sixth team ever to play in a Super Bowl that was hosted in its home state.  

The Super Bowls with a team playing in its home state:

SUPER BOWL SITEDATEWINNING TEAMLOSING TEAM
LV Tampa, FLFebruary 7, 2021Tampa BayKansas City
XXXVII San Diego, CAJanuary 26, 2003Tampa BayOakland Raiders
XIX Stanford, CAJanuary 20, 1985San FranciscoMiami
XIV Pasadena, CAJanuary 20, 1980PittsburghLos Angeles Rams
XI Pasadena, CAJanuary 9, 1977Oakland RaidersMinnesota


Los Angeles quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD is set to appear in his first-career Conference Championship. He ranked second in the league with 41 touchdown passes during the regular season in his first season as a Ram.

Stafford can become the fifth different quarterback in league history to record at least 40 regular-season touchdown passes and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.  

The quarterbacks to record at least 40 regular-season touchdown passes and reach the Super Bowl in the same season:

SEASONPLAYERTEAMTOUCHDOWN PASSESSUPER BOWL
2020Tom BradyTampa Bay40LV
2013Peyton ManningHOFDenver55XLVIII
2007Tom BradyNew England50XLII
1999Kurt WarnerHOFSt. Louis Rams41XXXIV
1984Dan MarinoHOFMiami48XIX


Stafford’s top target this season has been wide receiver COOPER KUPP, who led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and touchdown receptions (16). If Los Angeles wins on Sunday, Kupp will become the third different player ever to lead the league in receiving yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.

The players to lead the league in receiving yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDSSUPER BOWL
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19941,499XXIX
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19891,423XXIV
Drew PearsonHOFDallas1977870XII


Linebacker VON MILLER has recorded a sack in each of Los Angeles’ postseason games this year. Going back to his 2015 postseason with Denver, when he was named Super Bowl 50 MVP, Miller has recorded a sack in four consecutive postseason games.

With a sack on Sunday, Miller will become the fifth player since 2000 to record a sack in at least five consecutive postseason games.

The players with a sack in at least five consecutive postseason games since 2000:

PLAYERTEAM(S)GAMES (DATES)
Lamar WoodleyPittsburgh7 (Jan. 5, 2008 – Feb. 6, 2011)
Frank ClarkSeattle, Kansas City5 (Jan. 14, 2017 – Feb. 2, 2020)
Simeon RiceTampa Bay5 (Jan. 12, 2002 – Jan. 7, 2006)
Willie McGinestNew England5 (Jan. 27, 2002 – Feb. 1, 2004)
   
Von MillerDenver, L.A. Rams4* (Jan. 24, 2016 – Jan. 23, 2022)
*Active streak  

— CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS —

Vince’s View: NFL Divisional Round Weekend Game Notes and Predictions

Vince’s View: NFL Divisional Round Weekend Game Notes and Predictions

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Divisional Round Weekend predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Super Wildcard Weekend Straight-Up Record: 6-0 (50%)
Super Wildcard Weekend Against The Spread Record: 5-1 (83%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 157-91 (63%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 137-111 (55%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Nashville, TN – October 18, 2021 – Nissan Stadium: Julio Jones (2) of the Tennessee Titans during a Monday Night Football game. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

The Divisional playoff schedule:

Saturday, January 22

AFC:    4:30 PM (ET)     Cincinnati Bengals (11-7) at Tennessee Titans (12-5) (CBS/Paramount+)
V-Picks: Titans -4; Tennessee wins
VFLs: LS Morgan Cox (Titans)

NFC:    8:15 PM (ET)     San Francisco 49ers (11-7) at Green Bay Packers (13-4) (FOX/FOX Deportes)
V-Picks: Packers -5.5; Green Bay wins
VFLs: WR Jauan Jennings (49ers) & CB Emmanuel Moseley (49ers)

Sunday, January 23

NFC:    3:00 PM (ET)     Los Angeles Rams (13-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-4) (NBC/Peacock/Universo)
V-Picks: Buccaneers -3; Tampa Bay wins
VFLs: None

AFC:    6:40 PM (ET)     Buffalo Bills (12-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (13-5) (CBS/Paramount+)
V-Picks: Bills +1.5; Buffalo wins
VFLs: OG Trey Smith (Chiefs)

FANTASTIC FOOTBALL WEEKEND ON TAP AS NFL REACHES DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

Is there a better weekend every year in the National Football League?

This year’s NFL Divisional Playoffs might be the best yet, with a recipe to satisfy every palate. 

As an appetizer, how about a game filled with compelling reasons why the league’s future is brighter than it’s ever been? The CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-7) travel to meet the TENNESSEE TITANS (12-5) on Saturday (4:30 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+) in a contest that could include the return of running back DERRICK HENRY, only the third player since the league merger to lead the NFL in rushing yards per game for three straight seasons (minimum eight games each season). On the opposite sideline, 25-year-old JOE BURROW had two touchdown passes with a 110.4 rating in his first career postseason start and 21-year-old JA’MARR CHASE, who compiled the most receiving yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era (1,455), had 116 receiving yards in his playoff debut last week as the Bengals’ earned their first postseason win in 31 years.

For a Saturday nightcap, how about a taste of NFL teams that have met most frequently in the playoffs over the last 26 years? The SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-7) and GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-4) will match up that night (8:15 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes) at Lambeau Field, where the early forecast calls for kickoff temperatures of 13 degrees and dropping to single digits during the second half. The dynamic 49ers feature one of the game’s most electrifying players in DEEBO SAMUEL, who last week became the second wide receiver to post 50-or-more rushing yards (72) and at least one rushing touchdown (one) in a postseason game since 1950, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JAMES LOFTON. Consistently dangerous Green Bay, which earned the NFC’s only first-round bye as its No. 1 seed, became the first team in NFL history to reach 13 regular-season wins in three consecutive seasons.

Over brunch on Sunday, savor this: The NFC home teams this weekend, Green Bay and AARON RODGERS and Tampa Bay and TOM BRADY, feature quarterbacks who have combined for six league MVP awards and six Super Bowl MVP honors. Then, when those TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (14-4) host the LOS ANGELES RAMS (13-5) on Sunday afternoon (3:00 PM, NBC/Peacock/Universo), be sure to enjoy a matchup of two of the league’s top-five passing offenses, the Buccaneers (307.6 passing yards per game, first) and the Rams (273.1, fifth).

And for the main course, get ready for the BUFFALO BILLS (12-6) and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (13-5) at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night (6:40 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+). For the first time ever in a single postseason, multiple players have thrown for at least five touchdown passes in a game, and both games took place last week. Those two players – Buffalo’s JOSH ALLEN and Kansas City’s PATRICK MAHOMES – will square off to conclude the weekend. During the regular season, Buffalo’s offense ranked third in the NFL with 28.4 points per game while Kansas City ranked fourth with 28.2.

The NFL has reached the Divisional stage of the 2021 playoffs, and the menu is set. What’s your order?

FROM LAST PLACE TO CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP: This week, the CINCINNATI BENGALS are bidding to become the fourth team in 13 seasons to advance to a conference Championship Game the year after finishing last or tied for last in their division. With a win on Saturday at Tennessee (4:30 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+), Cincinnati would join the 2017 Jaguars and two clubs that won the Super Bowl, the 2017 Eagles and 2009 Saints, to follow a last-place season with a berth in their conference Championship Game. Cincinnati completed the “worst-to-first” turnaround, winning the AFC North this season after finishing in last place in 2020. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 17 of the past 19 seasons (2003-21).

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME ASPIRATIONS: With Cincinnati playing for a berth in the AFC Championship Game, approximately 60 percent of the league (19 of 32 teams) will have played for a berth in a conference Championship Game the past four seasons (2018-21).

CHIEFS EYE FOURTH STRAIGHT BERTH IN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, PACKERS THIRD: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, who host Buffalo on Sunday night (6:40 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+), have hosted three consecutive AFC Championship Games (2018-20). Should the Bengals defeat the No. 1-seed Titans on Saturday and the Chiefs win Sunday, Kansas City would become the first team in NFL history to host a conference Championship Game in four straight seasons, and the seventh to play in the game in four consecutive years.

The most consecutive Championship Game appearances since the 1970 league merger:

TEAMSEASONSTOTAL
New England Patriots2011-188
Oakland Raiders1973-775
Philadelphia Eagles2001-044
Dallas Cowboys1992-954
Buffalo Bills1990-934
Dallas Cowboys1970-734

Meanwhile, the No. 1-seed GREEN BAY PACKERS with a win against the 49ers on Saturday (8:15 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), would become the first NFC team since San Francisco from 2011-13 to advance to three consecutive NFC Championship Games.

SIX SEEDS HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL: A No. 6 seed in the NFL playoffs has now advanced to the Divisional round in five straight seasons (2017-21) and seven of the past eight. The SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS joined that group with last week’s win.

  • Since the 2005 Steelers won Super Bowl XL, six teams have advanced to their conference Championship Games as a No. 6 seed, including the 2008 Eagles, 2008 Ravens, 2010 Jets, 2019 Titans and Super Bowl XLV champion Packers in 2010. San Francisco looks to become the seventh.

THE CONFERENCE FINALIST SPRINGBOARD: History may shine on Buffalo and Green Bay this weekend. Each of those teams lost its conference Championship Game last year. Over the past quarter century, losing in the Championship Game has often resulted in good fortune the following season. Since Pro Football Hall of Famer STEVE YOUNG and the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS lost in the 1993 NFC Championship before winning Super Bowl XXIX, 12 teams in that span have advanced to the Super Bowl the year after losing a Championship Game. That list includes the 2019 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, who topped the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV two years ago.

SUPER BOWL HARBINGERS: The BUFFALO BILLS and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS wrap up the Divisional round on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium (6:40 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+). The Bills and Chiefs have each won two of their four all-time postseason meetings. The winner of each of those four meetings has gone on to the Super Bowl: Kansas City in 1966 and 2020 and Buffalo in 1991 and 1993.

  • The GREEN BAY PACKERS and SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, who match up on Saturday night at Lambeau Field (8:15 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), have met eight times in the playoffs, all since the 1995 season. The winner of a Green Bay-San Francisco playoff game has advanced to the Super Bowl four times.
  • Including their 23-17 win at AT&T Stadium in the Wild Card round last week, the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS have now played the DALLAS COWBOYS in the postseason seven times. The last last four winners of a San Francisco-Dallas playoff game have advanced to win the Super Bowl. Overall, in six of their seven playoff matchups, the winner has earned a berth in the Super Bowl, including five total Super Bowl victories.

A look at the four games in the Divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs:

CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-7) at TENNESSEE TITANS (12-5)

Saturday, CBS/Paramount+, 4:30 PM ET      

  • Last week, the Bengals earned their first postseason victory since the 1990 season, when they defeated the Houston Oilers in an AFC Wild Card game at Riverfront Stadium. That meeting with the Oilers, who relocated to Tennessee in 1997, marks the only postseason matchup between the franchises prior to Saturday.
  • In 2021, the Bengals tied for seventh in the NFL by scoring 27.1 points per game. The Titans finished sixth in the league in scoring defense, allowing 20.8 points per game.
  • Tennessee, the AFC’s No. 1 seed, earned a first-round bye after winning the AFC South for the second straight season. The Titans’ 12 regular-season wins were their most since winning 13 in 2008.
  • In the Wild Card win last week, Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW completed 24 of 34 attempts (70.6 percent) for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 110.4 passer rating. Burrow became the third quarterback in the last 30 years to complete at least 70 percent of his passes and post a rating of 100-or-higher in his first NFL postseason start, joining DREW BREES and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER.
  • Also last week, Bengals wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE had nine receptions for 116 receiving yards, breaking the single-game franchise postseason record held by CRIS COLLINSWORTH (107 receiving yards in Super Bowl XVI).
  • The Titans overcame adversity to secure homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2008. Tennessee became the first team to earn its conference’s top seed without a 1,000-yard rusher or 1,000-yard receiver since the 2017 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, three of the last four teams to earn their conference’s top seed without a 1,000-yard rusher or 1,000-yard receiver have won the Super Bowl, including the 2003 New England Patriots and 1996 Green Bay Packers.
  • Tennessee quarterback RYAN TANNEHILL, who has guided the Titans to consecutive AFC South division titles (2020-21), is set to make his fifth career postseason start. He recorded 3,734 passing yards and 21 touchdown passes in 2021 and is the only quarterback with at least seven rushing touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.
  • Running back DERRICK HENRY is hopeful to return from an injury that has sidelined him since Week 8. Henry still led NFL players with 117.1 rushing yards per game (937 rushing yards, eight games) for a third consecutive season. Since the NFL moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978, Henry is one of three players to have led the league in rushing yards per game in three straight seasons (minimum eight games played each year), joining Pro Football Hall of Famer EARL CAMPBELL (1978-80) and EZEKIEL ELLIOTT (2016-18).

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-7) at GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-4)

Saturday, FOX/FOX Deportes, 8:15 PM ET

  • San Francisco and Green Bay are meeting in the playoffs for a ninth time, all in the last 26 years. Since the Packers defeated the 49ers at Candlestick Park in the 1995 postseason, no other pairings have met more than five times in the playoffs. Green Bay and San Francisco have split their eight playoff games, 4-4. The winner of a 49ers-Packers playoff game has gone on to the Super Bowl on four occasions: 1996, 1997, 2012 and 2019.
  • The franchises have combined for nine Super Bowl titles and 18 NFL championships.
  • They also own two of the top three postseason records in NFL history. The New England Patriots (37-22, .627) have the best postseason winning percentage in NFL history, while the 49ers (33-21, .611) and Packers (36-24, .600), rank second and third, respectively. The Packers (36) with a win on Saturday would match the Patriots (37) for the most postseason victories in league annals.  
  • Green Bay’s MATT LAFLEUR is the first individual since the league merger in 1970 to win at least 13 games in each of his first three years as an NFL head coach. With a win on Saturday, LaFleur would join JIM HARBAUGH as the only individuals since the league merger in 1970 to lead teams to their conference Championship Games in each of their first three seasons as an NFL head coach.
  • LaFleur and 49ers head coach KYLE SHANAHAN have served on the same NFL staffs for eight total seasons.
  • Shanahan, including a 1-0 record against the Packers (2019 NFC Championship Game), is 3-1 career in the postseason, with his only loss coming in Super Bowl LIV.
  • Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS, who is expected to make his 21st career playoff start in the Divisional round, can tie Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHN ELWAY (21 starts) for the sixth-most in NFL history. Rodgers led the NFL with a 111.9 passer rating and became the fourth quarterback since 1970 to lead the league in the category in at least four different seasons. In 20 career postseason starts, he has 5,669 passing yards (283.4 per game) with 49 touchdowns (45 passing, four rushing) and 13 interceptions for a 100.5 rating. Rodgers earned Super Bowl MVP honors when he led the Packers to a Super Bowl XLV championship in 2010.
  • Rodgers, who grew up a 49ers fan and played college football in the Bay Area at the University of California, is 3-1 in the Divisional round following a first-round bye. Rodgers is 6-3 in the regular season against the 49ers, including a Week 3 victory at Levi’s Stadium this season, and 0-3 in the postseason.
  • Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS, who had 12 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ Week 3 win at San Francisco, ranked second in the league this season with 123 receptions, third with 1,553 receiving yards and fifth with 11 touchdown catches. Since 2016, Adams leads all NFL players in both receptions (581) and touchdown catches (69).
  • San Francisco’s JIMMY GAROPPOLO is 3-1 career as a starting quarterback in the postseason.
  • In last week’s Wild Card win at Dallas, 49ers wide receiver DEEBO SAMUEL had 110 scrimmage yards (72 rushing, 38 receiving) and a rushing touchdown. Over his last nine games, including the Wild Card victory, Samuel has averaged 6.6 yards per carry and scored 10 scrimmage touchdowns (eight rushing, two receiving).

LOS ANGELES RAMS (13-5) at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (14-4)

Sunday, NBC/Peacock/Universo, 3:00 PM ET

  • The NFC’s Super Bowl team has come from the NFC West or NFC South in eight of the past nine seasons, including appearances by the Rams in 2018 and Buccaneers last season.
  • Tampa Bay has scored at least 30 points in five consecutive postseason games, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only the 2009-11 New Orleans Saints (six) had a longer streak, a stretch the Buccaneers can match on Sunday.
  • The Rams have defeated the Buccaneers in both of their two all-time playoff meetings, each by unique scores. In their last meeting, the 1999 NFC Championship, Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER threw a 30-yard touchdown to RICKY PROEHL with less than five minutes remaining to help the Rams to an 11-6 win. The team went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV. In their first meeting, the Rams earned a 9-0 victory in the 1979 NFC title game before losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.
  • Los Angeles also has won each of the past two regular-season meetings against Brady and the Bucs, including a 34-24 victory at SoFi Stadium in Week 3 this season. Last year, Los Angeles traveled to Raymond James Stadium and won, 27-24.
  • While the Rams have been successful in the postseason against the Bucs, Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY has personally been successful against the Rams. Brady defeated the Rams in two of his Super Bowls with the Patriots, in 2001 and 2018. Only four other quarterbacks in NFL history have defeated the same opponent in multiple Super Bowls, including ELI MANNING and Pro Football Hall of Famers TROY AIKMANTERRY BRADSHAW and JOE MONTANA.
  • With last week’s win on Super Wild Card Weekend, Brady became the second starting quarterback in NFL history to lead multiple franchises to at least five postseason wins, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING.
  • In Tampa Bay’s Wild Card victory last week, wide receiver MIKE EVANS had nine receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown. Evans established an NFL record this season by reaching 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first eight seasons.
  • Brady (43) and Los Angeles quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD (41) ranked first and second, respectively, in touchdown passes this season.
  • Last week, Stafford threw two touchdown passes to lead the Rams to a 34-11 Wild Card victory over Arizona.
  • Rams wide receiver ODELL BECKHAM JR. had four receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown, and also completed a 40-yard pass to running back CAM AKERS. Beckham became the first player in the Super Bowl era to complete a pass of at least 40 yards and catch a touchdown in the same postseason game.
  • In the Wild Card win, Los Angeles cornerback DAVID LONG returned an interception 3 yards for a touchdown, the shortest interception returned for a score in NFL postseason history.
  • Last week, Rams linebacker VON MILLER recorded his first postseason sack since earning MVP honors in Super Bowl 50 with Denver to conclude the 2015 season.

BUFFALO BILLS (12-6) at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (13-5)

Sunday, CBS/Paramount+, 6:40 PM ET

  • Buffalo and Kansas City meet in a rematch of the 2020 AFC Championship, won by the Chiefs, 38-24. Each franchise has four Super Bowl appearances.
  • Kansas City’s PATRICK MAHOMES and Buffalo’s JOSH ALLEN, who each threw five touchdowns last week, combined to make the 2021 playoffs the first postseason ever in which multiple players threw five-or-more touchdowns in a game.
  • Buffalo advanced last week with a 47-17 victory over New England, who had allowed the NFL’s second-fewest points per game (17.8) during the regular season. The last team to score 47-or-more points in a postseason game against an opponent that had allowed fewer than 18 points per game during the regular season was the 1992 Dallas Cowboys, who defeated Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII.
  • In last week’s win, the Bills scored touchdowns on each of their first seven possessions, becoming the first team to accomplish that feat in any NFL game since the Patriots did it in Week 11 of the 2007 season.
  • The Chiefs have won six of their past seven postseason games, with their only loss in Super Bowl LV.
  • Since Allen entered the league as Buffalo’s first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, he ranks third with 10 postseason touchdown passes, trailing only Mahomes (22) and TOM BRADY (14).
  • Last week, Mahomes completed 30 of 39 attempts (76.9 percent) for 404 yards and five touchdowns with one interception for a 138.2 rating. He joined DARYLE LAMONICA and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER as the only players ever to throw for five-or-more touchdowns in multiple postseason games. Mahomes also threw five touchdowns in a 2019 Divisional-round win vs. the Texans.
  • Chiefs tight end TRAVIS KELCE, who had five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in last week’s Wild Card win, can establish an NFL postseason record by reaching 100 yards again this week. Kelce enters with four straight postseason games with at least 100 receiving yards, tied with LARRY FITZGERALD (2018) and ANTONIO BROWN (2014-16) for the longest streak in league annals.
  • Kelce also threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver BYRON PRINGLE and became the first player in NFL history with a touchdown pass, touchdown reception and at least 100 receiving yards in a postseason game.
  • Buffalo’s JOSH ALLEN, who during the regular season became the first quarterback in NFL history to surpass both 4,000 passing yards and 750 rushing yards in the same season, has led the Bills to wins in three of their last four playoff games.
  • Last week, Allen completed 21 of 25 attempts (84.0 percent) for 308 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions for a 157.6 rating. He also added 66 rushing yards. Allen became the third player in NFL history to throw five-or-more touchdowns with no interceptions and fewer than five incompletions in a postseason game, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers PEYTON MANNING (2003) and KURT WARNER (2009).

PLAYOFF TITANS: After securing the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2008, the TENNESSEE TITANS (12-5) will be making their 2021 postseason debut when they host the CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-7) on Saturday (4:30 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+).

Running back DERRICK HENRY is expected to return to the field for the first time since Week 8. In eight games this season, he totaled 937 rushing yards (league-best 117.1 per game) and 10 rushing touchdowns. He is the only player in the league with at least 10 rushing touchdowns in each of the past four seasons.

In three of Henry’s six career postseason games, he has surpassed 150 rushing yards. His three career postseason games with at least 150 rushing yards are the second-most in NFL history, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer TERRELL DAVIS (four games).

Henry is also one of three players all-time with at least 200 scrimmage yards in multiple postseason games, along with Pro Football Hall of Famers MARCUS ALLEN (two games) and THURMAN THOMAS (two).

In his postseason career, Henry has totaled 758 scrimmage yards (670 rushing, 88 receiving) and three rushing touchdowns. His 111.7 rushing yards per game in the postseason are the second-most since 1970, minimum five games played.

The players with the most rushing yards per game in the postseason since 1970, minimum five games played:

PLAYERTEAMRUSHING YARDS PER GAME
Terrell DavisHOFDenver142.5
Derrick HenryTennessee111.7
John RigginsHOFWashington110.7


Tennessee wide receiver JULIO JONES is expected to appear in his ninth-career postseason game this weekend, and first as a Titan. In each of his previous eight playoff games, all with Atlanta, Jones surpassed 50 receiving yards.

With at least 50 receiving yards on Saturday, Jones will become the fifth player ever to record at least 50 receiving yards in nine consecutive postseason games. He can also join WES WELKER as the only players to surpass 50 receiving yards in each of their first nine career postseason games.

The players with at least 50 receiving yards in the most consecutive postseason games in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMGAMES (DATES)
Julian EdelmanNew England13 (Jan. 11, 2014 – Feb. 3, 2019)
Gary ClarkWashington10 (Jan. 10, 1988 – Jan. 9, 1993)
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco10 (Jan. 1, 1989 – Jan. 17, 1993)
Wes WelkerNew England9 (Jan. 12, 2008 – Jan. 20, 2013)
   
Julio JonesAtlanta8* (Jan. 8, 2012 – Jan. 13, 2018)
*Active streak  

 — DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

BENGALS BREAKING THROUGH: Last week, the CINCINNATI BENGALS earned their first postseason victory since 1990 and on Saturday, will be looking to advance to their first AFC Championship Game since the 1988 season.

In their Wild Card victory, quarterback JOE BURROW completed 24 of 34 attempts (70.6 percent) for 244 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 110.4 rating in his postseason debut.

Burrow’s top target was rookie wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE, who recorded nine receptions for 116 receiving yards. It marked his sixth game this season with at least 100 receiving yards.

With at least 100 receiving yards on Saturday, Chase can become the first rookie in NFL history to record at least 100 receiving yards in multiple postseason games.

Defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON recorded a sack and forced fumble in last week’s victory. It marked his 13th game this season in which he had a full sack. With a sack on Saturday, he can become the third player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to record a sack in 14 games within a season, including the postseason.

The players with the most games with a sack in a season since 1982, including the postseason:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
Robert MathisIndianapolis201314
DeMarcus WareDallas200814
    
Trey HendricksonCincinnati202113*
*Entering Divisional Round

— DIVISONAL PLAYOFFS —

POSTSEASON HEAVYWEIGHTS MEET: When the GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-4) host the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (11-7) on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), two of the most successful postseason teams in league history will meet.

San Francisco has a 33-21 (.611) all-time postseason record, the second-highest postseason winning percentage in NFL history. Green Bay ranks third with a .600 (36-24) postseason winning percentage.

The teams with the highest postseason winning percentages:

TEAMWINSLOSSESPCT.
New England Patriots3722.627
San Francisco 49ers3321.611
Green Bay Packers3624.600


Additionally, both teams rank among the top-five in all-time postseason wins. With a victory this weekend, the Packers (36 wins) will tie the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (37) for the most postseason wins ever. 

The teams with the most postseason wins:

TEAMWINSSUPER BOWL TITLES
New England376
Green Bay364
Pittsburgh366
Dallas355
San Francisco335


Green Bay head coach MATT LAFLEUR can join JIM HARBAUGH as the only individuals since the league merger in 1970 to lead teams to their conference Championship Games in each of their first three seasons as an NFL head coach.

Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS led the league this season with a 111.9 passer rating and ranked tied for fourth with 37 touchdown passes. In 21 career postseason games, Rodgers has posted a 100.5 rating with 45 touchdown passes, tied for the second-most in NFL history.

With a touchdown pass on Saturday night, Rodgers will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA (45 touchdown passes) for the second-most postseason touchdown passes in league history. Only TOM BRADY (85) has more.

The quarterbacks with the most postseason touchdown passes in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)PASSING TOUCHDOWNS
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay85
Joe MontanaHOFSan Francisco, Kansas City45
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay45
*Active in 2021 postseason

Dating back to the 2015 playoffs, Rodgers has recorded at least two touchdown passes in nine consecutive postseason games, the longest streak in NFL history.

Rodgers’ top target this season has been wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS, who ranked second in the NFL with 123 receptions, third with 1,553 receiving yards and fifth with 11 touchdown receptions. In 10 career postseason games, Adams has recorded 63 receptions for 820 yards (82 per game) and eight touchdown receptions.

Dating back to the 2019 postseason, Adams has recorded at least eight catches in each of his past four postseason games. With at least eight catches on Saturday night, Adams will become the second player ever to record at least eight receptions in five consecutive postseason games, joining JULIAN EDELMAN (five consecutive postseason games from 2013-15).

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

PASSING LEADERS SQUARE OFF: When the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (14-4) host the LOS ANGELES RAMS (13-5) on Sunday (3:00 PM ET, NBC/Peacock/Universo), it will mark a meeting of the top-two leaders in touchdown passes this season.

Tampa Bay’s TOM BRADY led the league with 43 touchdown passes, becoming the second player ever with three career seasons with at least 40 touchdown passes. Los Angeles’ MATTHEW STAFFORD tied a franchise record with a career-high 41 touchdown passes this season.

Sunday’s matchup will mark the third postseason game ever featuring two starting quarterbacks that each recorded at least 40 touchdown passes in the regular season. Both of the previous two games also featured either Brady or Stafford.

The postseason games featuring starting quarterbacks that each recorded at least 40 touchdown passes in the regular season in NFL history:

DATEGAMEQUARTERBACKS (REG. SEASON TD PASSES)RESULT
Jan. 23, 2022L.A. Rams at Tampa BayMatthew Stafford (41) & Tom Brady (43)???
Jan. 24, 2021Tampa Bay at Green BayTom Brady (40) & Aaron Rodgers (48)TB 31, GB 26
Jan. 7, 2012Detroit at New OrleansMatthew Stafford (41) & Drew Brees (46)NO 45, DET 28


With their 31-15 victory over Philadelphia last week, Tampa Bay has now scored at least 30 points in five consecutive postseason games, tied for the second-longest such streak in NFL history. With at least 30 points on Sunday, the Buccaneers will become the second team ever to score at least 30 points in six consecutive postseason games, joining the NEW ORELANS SAINTS (Jan. 16, 2010 – Jan. 14, 2012).

The teams to score at least 30 points in the most consecutive postseason games in NFL history:

TEAMGAMES (DATES)
New Orleans Saints6 (Jan. 16, 2010 – Jan. 14, 2012)
Kansas City Chiefs5 (Jan. 12, 2019 – Feb. 2, 2020)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers5* (Jan. 9, 2021 – Jan. 16, 2022)
*Active streak 

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

ALLEN, MAHOMES MEET AGAIN: The Divisional Playoffs conclude with a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game, as the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (13-5) host the BUFFALO BILLS (12-6) on Sunday night (6:40 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+). 

Quarterbacks PATRICK MAHOMES and JOSH ALLEN, who each recorded five touchdown passes last week, will be the fourth pair of starting quarterbacks to have multiple playoff meetings within their first five seasons in NFL history.

The pairs of quarterbacks to meet in multiple playoff meetings within their first five seasons in NFL history:

QUARTERBACKS (TEAMS)GAMES
Josh Allen (Buffalo) & Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City)2020 AFC Champ., 2021 AFC Divisional*
Cam Newton (Carolina) & Russell Wilson (Seattle)2014 NFC Divisional, 2015 NFC Divisional
John ElwayHOF (Denver) & Bernie Kosar (Cleveland)1986 AFC Champ., 1987 AFC Champ.
Dan MarinoHOF (Miami) & Dave Krieg (Seattle)1983 AFC Divisional, 1984 AFC Divisional
*On Sunday 

In nine career postseason starts, Mahomes has totaled 2,728 passing yards (303.1 per game) and 22 touchdown passes with a 105.1 rating. With two touchdown passes on Sunday, Mahomes will surpass DREW BREES (23 touchdown passes) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (23) for the most ever by a quarterback in his first 10 postseason starts.

The players with the most touchdown passes in their first 10 career postseason games in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)TD PASSES
Drew BreesSan Diego Chargers, New Orleans23
Kurt WarnerHOFSt. Louis Rams, Arizona23
Patrick MahomesKansas City22*
Dan MarinoHOFMiami22
*In nine career postseason games

In last week’s victory, Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE recorded five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, marking his fourth-consecutive postseason game with at least 100 receiving yards. Kelce can become the first player ever to record at least 100 receiving yards in five consecutive postseason games.

In total, Kelce has seven career postseason games with at least 100 receiving yards, the second-most ever. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (eight games) has more.

Kansas City wide receiver TYREEK HILL recorded 57 receiving yards and a touchdown reception last week and in 11 career postseason games, has totaled 853 receiving yards (77.5 per game).

Kelce and Hill have combined for 1,802 postseason receiving yards, the sixth-most ever among teammates.

The teammates with the most combined receiving yards in NFL postseason history:

PLAYERSTEAMCOMBINED REC. YARDS
Brent Jones & Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco2,338
Jerry RiceHOF & John TaylorSan Francisco2,297
Dallas Clark & Reggie WayneHOFIndianapolis1,957
Andre ReedHOF & Thurman ThomasHOFBuffalo1,901
Michael IrvinHOF & Jay NovacekDallas1,803
Tyreek Hill & Travis KelceKansas City1,802

— DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS —

Jimmy’s blog: 5 highlights of UT’s first year under Heupel

Jimmy’s blog: 5 highlights of UT’s first year under Heupel

By Jimmy Hyams

(This is the first in a two-part series about the highs and lows of Josh Heupel’s first season as Tennessee’s football coach. First, the highs.)

Many fans and media predicted Tennessee would win only four games this past season.

The optimistic ones ventured out and forecast six wins. I was one of the optimists.

Several factors were taken into account: The eventual loss of 45 players that could have been on the roster; the hiring of a head coach without head coaching experience on the Power 5 level; uncertainty at quarterback.

Then there was the dark cloud of the NCAA investigation that hung over the program’s head like a rotten tomato.

Tennessee managed a 7-5 regular season, confounding the oddsmakers.

Here are the five highlights of Tennessee’s 2021 season, focusing mainly on players.

Hendon Hooker

Many considered Hendon Hooker an afterthought when it came to the quarterback battle.

The Virginia Tech transfer had not distinguished himself in 15 starts for the Hookies, except to record two 150-yard rushing games.

Hooker lost the UT battle to Michigan transfer Joe Milton, an athletic, physically gifted player with a huge arm but questionable decision making.

When Milton was injured against Pitt, it opened the door for Hooker. And he shined.

Hooker ended the season ranked in the top five nationally in pass efficiency rating (182.0). He completed 68% of his passes for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns with only three interceptions while rushing for 620 yards and five scores.

He was one of the SEC’s top five quarterbacks (along with Bryce Young, Matt Corral, Will Rogers and KJ Jefferson) after starting the season on the bench.

In retrospect, it was a mistake for UT coaches to not start Hooker from the beginning. And while I’ve heard many in the media suggest the camp competition between Milton and Hooker wasn’t close, Vol Network analyst and former NFL quarterback Pat Ryan told me two weeks in to practice he would start Hooker.

With Hooker back there’s no reason to think Tennessee’s offense won’t be among the SEC’s best – if not the nation’s best.

Cedric Tillman

In an age of instant gratification and the transfer portal and quitting when things don’t go your way, Cedric Tillman is a refreshing story.

The Las Vegas native had eight catches in three seasons at Tennessee. Despite having a nice spring, there was no reason to think he was ready to make a quantum leap.

After all, as receivers coach Kodi Burns said, he’s seen receivers make a huge jump from year one to year two, but from year three to year four.

But Tillman was incredible. He registered 64 catches for 1,081 yards and 12  touchdowns. He had a seven-game stretch in which he averaged 6.7 catches and 111.4 yards per game.

It’s possible that next season, he could shatter the UT single-season record for receptions (76, Marcus Nash) receiving yards (1,298 Robert Meachem) and receiving touchdowns (13, Nash).

Credit the system for Tillman’s breakout season.

Credit the coaches.

Credit the quarterback.

But most of all, credit Tillman.

Velus Jones Jr.

Jones transferred from USC before the 2020 season, mainly because Tee Martin was UT’s receivers coach and Martin had coached Jones at USC. Martin is from Mobile, Ala., Jones is from the suburb of Saraland.

Jones was known for his kickoff return abilities, but not for his receiving exploits.

Until this season. Jones caught 62 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns.

He also was the only player in the nation to have over 700 receiving yards, 500 kick return yards (628) and 200 punt return yards (272). He led the SEC in punt returns at 15.1 and was second in kick returns at 27.3.

Jones was the SEC co-special teams player of the year.

So how did Jones do in 2020? He had 22 catches for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Against Vanderbilt, he had seven catches for 125 yards and two scores – a sign of things to come.

He had 398 kick return yards and was second in the SEC with a 22.1 average.

But few saw his emergence in 2021.

While Tillman without a doubt is UT’s most improved player, Jones can claim second.

Theo Jackson

Jackson was to UT’s defense was Tillman was to the offense – a journeyman who seldom showed flashes that he could make a difference on an SEC defense.

Then came 2021. Then came secondary coach Willie Martinez.

Martinez saw a skill set in Jackson that Jackson probably didn’t. In 70 previous games covering four years, he had 112 tackles and two interceptions.

But when converted to full-time nickelback, Jackson excelled. He had 78 tackles, nine tackles for loss (he had three the previous four years) and a pick six. He broke up 11 passes after breaking up eight in four years.

Jackson become a dependable defensive back and arguably UT’s best secondary player.

Upset at Kentucky

Last year, Tennessee suffered its most embarrassing defeat of the season at the hands of the Wildcats at Neyland Stadium, 34-7. Two pick sixes stifled any energy the Vols had entering the game.  

So when the Vols traveled to Lexington as an underdog, UT had revenge on its mind.

Two touchdowns in four plays staked the Vols to a 14-7 lead. And Tennessee held on for a 45-42 victory over the No. 17 Wildcats despite having the ball for only 13:52.

Has a team ever won a game with less than 14 minutes time of possession?

Maybe, but I can’t think of one.

UT’s offense generated 461 yards. The defense surrendered 612 yards but made a crucial stop late in the game after allowing a fourth-and-24 conversion in the final minutes.

It was a testament to the team’s character and cohesiveness.

And it helped the Vols break even in SEC play (4-4).

UT has lost to Kentucky just three times since 1984.

HONORABLE MENTION: The home atmosphere for the Ole Miss game in which fans checkerboarded the stands. … Scoring 28 first-quarter points in routs over Missouri and South Carolina. … Averaging 39.3 points after averaging 21.3 the year before. … Tennessee set a school record for points scored in a season (511).

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all

Vince’s View: Super Wildcard Weekend Game Notes and Predictions

Vince’s View: Super Wildcard Weekend Game Notes and Predictions

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Super Wildcard Weekend predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 18 Straight-Up Record: 8-8 (50%)
Week 18 Against The Spread Record: 7-9 (44%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 151-91 (62%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 132-110 (55%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Glendale, AZ – December 14, 2021 – State Farm Stadium: Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams during a Monday Night Football game. (Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
Saturday, January 15
AFCLas Vegas at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Bengals -6; Cincinnati wins
4:35 PM ETNBC, Peacock, Universo
AFCNew England at Buffalo
V-Picks: Patriots +4.5; Buffalo wins
8:15 PM ETCBS, Paramount+
Sunday, January 16
NFCPhiladelphia at Tampa Bay
V-Picks: Buccaneers -8.5; Tampa Bay wins
1:05 PM ETFOX, FOX Deportes
NFCSan Francisco at Dallas
V-Picks: 49ers +3; San Francisco wins
4:40 PM ETCBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon
Amazon Prime Video
AFCPittsburgh at Kansas City
V-Picks: Chiefs -12.5; Kansas City wins
8:15 PM ETNBC, Peacock, Telemundo
Monday, January 17
NFCArizona at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams -4; Los Angeles wins
8:15 PM ETESPN/ABC, ESPN2
ESPN+, ESPN Deportes

NFL PLAYOFFS KICK OFF WITH THREE DAYS OF SUPER WILD CARD ACTION, INCLUDING MONDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN

Get ready for a three-day weekend unlike any other.

Super Wild Card Weekend begins with two games Saturday, continues with a tripleheader on Sunday and finishes with the debut of a Monday night Wild Card game.

The 2021 postseason kicks off Saturday on the heels of the most exciting regular season in NFL history. NFL teams combined to pack into the 2021 season:

  • 34 games that featured a winning score on the final play, the most ever;
  • 49 game-winning scores in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, tied for the most in a season all-time;
  • 57 game-winning scores in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime, also tied for the most in NFL history.

Super Wild Card Weekend features steady, quality teams led by consistent veterans, and young and on-the-rise clubs guided by sensational newcomers.

Each of the last six NFL Drafts have contributed a starting quarterback to this weekend’s games: The Patriots’ MAC JONES (first round, 2021), the Bengals’ JOE BURROW (first round, 2020), the Eagles’ JALEN HURTS (second round, 2020), the Cardinals’ KYLER MURRAY (first round, 2019), the Bills’ JOSH ALLEN (first round, 2018), the Chiefs’ PATRICK MAHOMES (first round, 2017) and the Cowboys’ DAK PRESCOTT (fourth round, 2016),

And, with six starting quarterbacks not yet 27 years old, the 2021 playoff field is expected to tie for the second-most such quarterbacks in league history. Only the 2020 postseason, with seven, had more.

The weekend also features TOM BRADY guiding a Tampa Bay team challenging to snap the NFL’s 17-year stretch without a repeat Super Bowl champion, the longest streak in league history. Not since Brady and the Patriots won consecutive Super Bowl titles in 2003 and 2004 has an NFL team repeated as world champion.

SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles awaits. For 14 teams, the journey toward that dream continues this weekend. 

The NFL Super Wild Card Weekend schedule with kickoff times:

The 14 teams in contention for the Vince Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles:

American Football ConferenceNational Football Conference
1.Tennessee Titans (12-5), AFC South champion*1.Green Bay Packers (13-4), NFC North champion*
2.Kansas City Chiefs (12-5), AFC West champion2.Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4), NFC South champion
3.Buffalo Bills (11-6), AFC East champion3.Dallas Cowboys (12-5), NFC East champion
4.Cincinnati Bengals (10-7), AFC North champion4.Los Angeles Rams (12-5), NFC West champion
5.Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)5.Arizona Cardinals (11-6)
6.New England Patriots (10-7)6.San Francisco 49ers (10-7)
7.Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)7.Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)
*Earned conference’s only first-round bye

WILD-CARD SUPER BOWL WINNERS: The Buccaneers last year took their first postseason step toward an eventual Super Bowl title by winning a Wild Card game as a Wild Card team (non-division winner). Since the inception of Wild Card playoff entries in 1978, Tampa Bay became the seventh Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl. Will another Wild Card team playing this weekend join that group at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles?

The seven Wild Card teams to win the Super Bowl:

WILD CARD TEAMSEASONOPPONENTSUPER BOWL
Tampa Bay Buccaneers2020Kansas City ChiefsLV
Green Bay Packers2010Pittsburgh SteelersXLV
New York Giants2007New England PatriotsXLI
Pittsburgh Steelers2005Seattle SeahawksXL
Baltimore Ravens2000New York GiantsXXXV
Denver Broncos1997Green Bay PackersXXXII
Oakland Raiders1980Philadelphia EaglesXV

REMATCHES: Five of the six games on Super Wild Card Weekend are rematches of 2021 regular-season games. No other Wild Card round in league history has had as many rematches.

The five rematches in the Wild Card round of the 2021 playoffs:

WILD CARD GAMEIN REGULAR SEASON
Arizona at L.A. RamsCardinals, 37-20 (Week 4 at Rams); Rams, 30-23 (Week 14 at Cardinals)
Las Vegas at CincinnatiBengals, 32-13 (Week 11, at Raiders)
New England at BuffaloPatriots, 14-10 (Week 13 at Bills); Bills, 33-21 (Week 16 at Patriots)
Philadelphia at Tampa BayBuccaneers, 28-22 (Week 6, at Eagles)
Pittsburgh at Kansas CityChiefs, 36-10 (Week 16, at Chiefs)

Don’t expect the team that won the regular-season matchup to automatically follow with a Wild Card win. Eight teams in the previous five years have rebounded from at least one regular-season loss against an opponent to avenge that loss with a win in the Wild Card round.

  • Last season alone, the BALTIMORE RAVENS knocked off Tennessee while the CLEVELAND BROWNS defeated Pittsburgh and the LOS ANGELES RAMS beat Seattle after each splitting their regular-season series.

ENCORE PERFORMANCES FOR MONDAY NIGHT WINNERSThe Rams host the Cardinals in the NFL’s first Monday postseason contest since the Rams lost to the Minnesota Vikings in a Wild Card game on Dec. 26, 1988. The winner of Monday’s game will have history on its side in the Divisional round.

  • During the 2021 regular season, teams that won on a Monday went 13-2-1 on the following Sunday.
  • Over a longer stretch, dating to Week 14 of the 2020 season, clubs that won a Monday game have gone 16-2-1 on the following Sunday.

WATCH OUT FOR ROAD TEAMS: The road club has won 10 of the last 14 NFL Wild Card games over the past three seasons, including four of the six Wild Card games last year. Since the 2017 playoffs, road teams are 12-6. And, in eight of the past nine seasons, at least one road team has won a Wild Card game.

A look at the six games on Super Wild Card Weekend:

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (10-7) at CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-7)

Saturday, NBC/Peacock/Universo, 4:35 PM ET

  • Cincinnati has captured its first division title since 2015 and looks for its first postseason win since Jan. 6, 1991, when the Bengals won a Wild Card game over the Houston Oilers before traveling to the Los Angeles Coliseum, where they lost to the Raiders, 20-10, in the last postseason meeting between the clubs.
  • This season, Bengals head coach ZAC TAYLOR guided a team that became the first in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer (JOE BURROW), a 1,000-yard rusher (JOE MIXON) and two 1,000-yard receivers (JA’MARR CHASE and TEE HIGGINS) all under the age of 26 in the same season. Chase and Higgins, who are each under the age of 23, became the youngest pair of 1,000-yard receivers in NFL annals.
  • Burrow makes his postseason debut after setting single-season franchise records with 4,611 passing yards and 34 touchdown passes and ranking second in the NFL with a 108.3 passer rating.
  • Chase led the AFC with 1,455 receiving yards, the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era.
  • Mixon finished third in the league with a career-best 1,205 rushing yards. He joined AUSTIN EKELER and JONATHAN TAYLOR as the only players with at least 1,500 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns (16) this season.
  • Cincinnati also had the fifth-stingiest rushing defense in the NFL (102.5 rushing yards per game).
  • Bengals defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON is one of two NFL players with 13-or-more sacks in each of the past two seasons, joining T.J. WATT.
  • Raiders head coach RICH BISACCIA and quarterback DEREK CARR have led the franchise to its first postseason appearance since 2016 and the first since the team moved to Las Vegas.
  • Carr, who was injured and could not play in the team’s last postseason game, is expected to make his postseason debut after ranking fifth in the NFL with a franchise-record 4,804 yards this season. Carr is one of four quarterbacks in league history with at least 3,000 passing yards in each of his first eight seasons.
  • Las Vegas wide receiver HUNTER RENFROW led the team with career bests in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,038) and touchdown catches (nine), joining Pro Football Hall of Famer TIM BROWN (104 in 1997) as the only wide receivers in franchise history to reach 100 catches in a season.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-7) at BUFFALO BILLS (11-6)

Saturday, CBS/Paramount +, 8:15 PM ET      

  • Buffalo and New England will meet for a third time in 2021, having split the regular-season series. The road team has won each of the past three meetings.
  • On defense, the Bills (17.0 points allowed per game) and the Patriots (17.8) ranked first and second, respectively, in the NFL. Each team also had 30 takeaways this season, tied for third in the NFL.
  • The Patriots secured their 11th postseason berth in the past 12 seasons. Head coach BILL BELICHICK has 31 postseason wins in 43 postseason games as a head coach, both the most in NFL history.
  • New England’s MAC JONES became the first rookie quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs since DAK PRESCOTT in 2016. Jones led all rookies this season in completion percentage (67.6), passing yards (3,801), touchdown passes (22) and passer rating (92.5). He is bidding to become just the fourth rookie quarterback since 2000 and first since RUSSELL WILSON in 2012 to go on the road and win his first NFL postseason start.
  • The Patriots ranked second in the league with 24 rushing touchdowns this season, including 15 rushing touchdowns from running back DAMIEN HARRIS, tied for the second-most in the NFL this season.
  • New England defensive back J.C. JACKSON led the NFL with a career-high 23 passes defensed, including eight interceptions. Jackson, who has 25 career interceptions, became the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to record 25-or-more interceptions in his first four seasons.
  • Buffalo’s SEAN MCDERMOTT has led the Bills to playoff appearances in four of his five seasons as an NFL head coach, including consecutive AFC East titles, the team’s first division crowns since 1995. His 2021 club was the only team in the NFL to finish in the top five in both total offense (381.9 yards per game, fifth) and total defense (272.8 yards allowed per game, first).
  • Bills quarterback JOSH ALLEN became the first player in franchise history to pass for 4,000 yards in consecutive seasons. With six rushing touchdowns this season, he also became the first quarterback ever with six-or-more rushing touchdowns in each of his first four seasons.
  • Buffalo wide receiver STEFON DIGGS is one of two NFL players with 1,000-or-more receiving yards and at least six touchdown catches in each of the past four seasons, joining MIKE EVANS.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-8) at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (13-4)

Sunday, FOX/FOX Deportes, 1:05 PM ET

  • Answering the team’s first Super Bowl victory since 2002, Tampa Bay won its division for the first time since 2007. The Buccaneers are bidding to become the first team since the 2004 Patriots and the eighth overall to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
  • Under head coach BRUCE ARIANS, who owns a 5-2 career postseason record, the Buccaneers in 2021 ranked second among NFL teams in both scoring offense (30.1 points per game) and total offense (405.9 yards per game), and led the NFC by allowing only 92.5 rushing yards per game on defense.
  • Reigning Super Bowl MVP TOM BRADY paced the NFL in passing touchdowns (43) and passing yards (career-high 5,316, the third-most passing yards in a season in NFL history). His 485 completions this year were a single-season NFL record. Brady this season joined DREW BREES as one of two players all-time with multiple 5,000-yard passing seasons, and joined AARON RODGERS as one of two quarterbacks ever with three seasons of 40-or-more touchdown passes.
  • Buccaneers wide receiver MIKE EVANS, who ranked second in the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns in 2021, became the first player in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons.
  • First-year head coach NICK SIRIANNI returned the Eagles to the playoffs. Philadelphia has now advanced to the postseason in four of the past five years, including a Super Bowl LII title in 2017.
  • In 2021, no other team had more rushing yards than the Eagles (159.7 yards per game). Philadelphia became the first team since the 1985 CHICAGO BEARS to record at least 175 rushing yards in seven consecutive games (Week 8-15 this season).
  • Eagles quarterback JALEN HURTS makes his playoff debut after leading NFL quarterbacks with 784 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in 2021. His five career games with two-or-more rushing touchdowns are the most by a quarterback in his first two NFL seasons during the Super Bowl era.
  • Wide receiver DEVONTA SMITH established the Eagles’ rookie franchise record with 916 receiving yards.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (10-7) at DALLAS COWBOYS (12-5)

Sunday, CBS/Paramount+/Nickelodeon/Amazon Prime Video, 4:40 PM ET

  • San Francisco is playoff-bound for the second time in the past three seasons, after advancing to Super Bowl LIV in 2019.
  • Head coach KYLE SHANAHAN guided his team to top-five rankings in the conference in both total offense (375.7 yards per game, third) and total defense (310.0 yards allowed per game, second,) this season.
  • Quarterback JIMMY GAROPPOLO, who is 2-1 in three career postseason starts, has a 103.2 passer rating since Week 9, the third-highest mark in the league over that span.
  • Wide receiver DEEBO SAMUEL led the 49ers and ranked third in the NFL with 1,770 scrimmage yards. He was one of two NFL players this season with six-or-more rushing touchdowns and six-or-more receiving touchdowns, joining AUSTIN EKELER. Samuel’s eight rushing touchdowns this season were the most ever by a wide receiver. He also became the first player in NFL history with at least 1,400 receiving yards (1,405) and at least 300 rushing yards (365) in a season.
  • Defensive lineman NICK BOSA rebounded from a 2020 injury to tie for first in the NFL with a career-best 21 tackles for loss. He also finished fourth with 15.5 sacks this season.
  • Head coach MIKE MCCARTHY has now guided two franchises to the postseason, including nine playoff berths and a Super Bowl XLV crown with the Packers. Dallas captured the NFC East for the first time since 2018 and led the league in both scoring offense (31.2 points per game) and total offense (407.0 yards per game). The Cowboys also led the NFL with 34 takeaways.
  • Like Bosa, Cowboys quarterback DAK PRESCOTT rebounded in strong fashion from a 2020 season-ending injury, throwing for a franchise-record 37 touchdown passes this season and ranking third in the NFL with a 104.2 passer rating.
  • Running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT led the Cowboys with 1,002 rushing yards and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer LADAINIAN TOMLINSON as the only players in NFL annals with at least 1,250 scrimmage yards and at least eight touchdowns in each of their first six seasons.
  • Dallas cornerback TREVON DIGGS led the NFL with 11 interceptions, the most by an NFL player since 1981.
  • Linebacker MICAH PARSONS led the Cowboys with 13 sacks, tied for the third-most by an NFL rookie since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7-1) at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-5)

Sunday, NBC/Telemundo/Peacock, 8:15 PM ET

  • Pittsburgh clinched its second straight postseason berth. The Steelers are seeking their first playoff win since beating the Chiefs, 18-16, at Arrowhead Stadium in the 2016 Divisional Playoffs.
  • MIKE TOMLIN has guided Pittsburgh to a .500-or-better record in each of his 15 seasons as an NFL head coach (2007-21) and makes his 10th postseason appearance at the reins of the franchise.
  • Kansas City extended its streak of AFC West division titles to six (2016-21). The Chiefs’ ANDY REID last week became just the fifth head coach in NFL history to reach 250 career wins. Including the postseason, Reid is 250-150-1 (.625) in 23 seasons.
  • Steelers quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER is expected to make his 23rd career postseason start and tie Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA for the fourth-most by a quarterback in NFL history. Roethlisberger has at least 450 passing yards and four-or-more touchdown passes in each of his last two postseason starts.
  • Pittsburgh running back NAJEE HARRIS led NFL rookies with 1,667 scrimmage yards (1,200 rushing, 467 receiving) this season.
  • Steelers linebacker T.J. WATT had 22.5 sacks and matched the single-season NFL record held by Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL STRAHAN (2001).
  • Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES, who has a 100.4 passer rating in eight career postseason games, ranked fourth in the NFL with 4,839 passing yards and tied for fourth with 37 touchdown passes this season.
  • Kansas City’s PATRICK KELCE became the first tight end ever with to top 1,000 receiving yards in six NFL seasons, and also the first ever at his position to reach 80 receptions in six consecutive years.
  • Wide receiver TYREEK HILL led the Chiefs and ranked third in the NFL with a career-best 111 receptions.

ARIZONA CARDINALS (11-6) at LOS ANGELES RAMS (12-5)

Monday, ESPN/ABC/ESPN2/ESPN+/ESPN Deportes, 8:15 PM ET    

  • The Rams make their fourth trip to the playoffs in six seasons since returning to Los Angeles in 2016.
  • Under head coach SEAN MCVAY (2017-21), the Rams clinched their third NFC West title and fourth playoff berth.
  • Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP led the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and receiving touchdowns (16) in 2021, becoming the fourth player since the league merger in 1970 to lead the league in all three categories. His 145 receptions and 1,947 receiving yards were each the second-most by a player in a season all-time.
  • Los Angeles quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD finished second in the league with 41 touchdown passes and third with 4,886 passing yards in 2021.
  • Defensive lineman AARON DONALD led the Rams with 12.5 sacks this season and became the fourth player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official NFL statistic, to record at least eight sacks in each of his first eight NFL seasons.
  • Arizona makes its first playoff appearance since advancing to the NFC Championship Game in 2015. Head coach KLIFF KINGSBURY and quarterback KYLER MURRAY make their postseason debuts.
  • The Cardinals in 2021 became one of just three teams ever to win seven consecutive road games, each by double digits, including a 37-20 triumph over the Rams at SoFi Stadium in Week 4.
  • Murray, who has 70 career touchdown passes and 20 career rushing touchdowns, became the first quarterback in NFL history to reach those two marks in his first three NFL seasons. He also distinguished himself as the only quarterback in league annals to reach 3,500 passing yards, and 400 rushing yards in each of his first three NFL seasons.
  • Arizona running back JAMES CONNER ranked third in the NFL with a career-high 18 touchdowns (15 rushing, three receiving). In each of the Cardinals’ two games against the Rams in 2021, Conner had two rushing touchdowns.

# # #

MORE TEAMS, MORE GAMES, MORE WILD: The addition of a third Wild Card team in each conference and the subsequent expansion of the playoffs last year has resulted in a Super Wild Card Weekend of NFL action. For the second consecutive season, there will be six games, with two on Saturday, January 15, three on Sunday, January 16, and for the first time since 1988, an NFL postseason game will be played on a Monday (January 17).

Seven of the 12 teams in action this weekend are new to the postseason in 2021, having missed the playoffs a year ago: ARIZONACINCINNATIDALLASLAS VEGASNEW ENGLANDPHILADELPHIA and SAN FRANCISCO. Two of those teams – Cincinnati (AFC North) and Dallas (NFC East) – won their divisions.

Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before. Additionally, at least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years, including 2021.

Each of the 12 teams playing this weekend hope to earn their first of four wins needed to capture the Lombardi Trophy. Winners in the Wild Card round have won the Super Bowl 10 times, including the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS last season.

The Wild Card round participants to win the Super Bowl:

SEASONTEAMSUPER BOWL RESULT
1980Oakland RaidersDefeated Philadelphia in Super Bowl XV, 27-10
1997Denver BroncosDefeated Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII, 31-24
2000Baltimore RavensDefeated New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7
2005Pittsburgh SteelersDefeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL, 21-10
2006Indianapolis Colts*Defeated Chicago in Super Bowl XLI, 29-17
2007New York GiantsDefeated New England in Super Bowl XLII, 17-14
2010Green Bay PackersDefeated Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, 31-25
2011New York Giants*Defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17
2012Baltimore Ravens*Defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31
2020Tampa BayDefeated Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, 31-9
*Won division  

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

POSTSEASON ALL-TIME LEADING PASSERS: Three of the top seven most prolific postseason quarterbacks are a part of the 2021 playoff field vying for the Super Bowl LVI title.

Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY enters the 2021 postseason as the league’s all-time playoff leader in games started by a quarterback (45), wins by a starting quarterback (34), passing yards (12,449), touchdown passes (83), Super Bowl titles (seven) and Super Bowl MVPs (five). He led the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl LV title last season and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING as the only starting quarterbacks to win Super Bowls with multiple franchises.

Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS, who will make his 2021 playoff debut in the NFC Divisional playoffs, ranks tied for second in postseason touchdown passes (45), sixth in postseason passing yards (5,669) and seventh in postseason games started (20) among quarterbacks all-time.

Pittsburgh quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER enters the 2021 postseason ranking fifth all-time in passing yards (5,757), fifth in quarterback starts (22) and seventh in touchdown passes (34) in playoff history.

This postseason, both Rodgers and Roethlisberger can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famers BRETT FAVRE (5,855 passing yards, third-most) and JOE MONTANA (5,772, fourth-most) on the all-time postseason passing yards list.

With a Pittsburgh victory against Kansas City on Sunday night (8:15 PM ET, NBC/Peacock/Telemundo), Roethlisberger would tie Pro Football Hall of Famers TERRY BRADSHAW (14 wins), JOHN ELWAY (14) and PEYTON MANNING (14) for the third-most playoff wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history.

The quarterbacks with the most career postseason passing yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)PASSING YARDS
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay12,449
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver7,339
Brett FavreHOFGreen Bay, Minnesota5,855
Joe MontanaHOFSan Francisco, Kansas City5,772
Ben Roethlisberger*Pittsburgh5,757
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay5,669
*Active in 2021 postseason

The quarterbacks with the most career postseason passing touchdowns in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)PASSING TOUCHDOWNS
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay83
Joe MontanaHOFSan Francisco, Kansas City45
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay45
Brett FavreHOFGreen Bay, Minnesota44
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver40
Drew BreesSan Diego Chargers, New Orleans37
Ben Roethlisberger*Pittsburgh34
*Active in 2021 postseason

The quarterbacks with the most career postseason starts in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)POSTSEASON STARTS
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay45
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver27
Brett FavreHOFGreen Bay, Minnesota24
Joe MontanaHOFSan Francisco, Kansas City23
Ben Roethlisberger*Pittsburgh22
John ElwayHOFDenver21
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay20
*Active in 2021 postseason

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

CHAMPS ARE HERE: The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS enter the 2021 postseason aiming to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since New England in 2004. Last year, they became the first team in NFL history to score at least 30 points in four consecutive playoff games within a single postseason in route to a Super Bowl LV championship.

If Tampa Bay scores at least 30 points against Philadelphia on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, FOX/FOX Deportes), it will become the third team ever to score at least 30 points in five-or-more consecutive postseason games.

The teams to score at least 30 points in the most consecutive postseason games in NFL history:

TEAMGAMES (DATES)
New Orleans Saints6 (Jan. 16, 2010 – Jan. 14, 2012)
Kansas City Chiefs5 (Jan. 12, 2019 – Feb. 2, 2020)
  
Tampa Bay Buccaneers4* (Jan. 9, 2021 – Feb. 7, 2021)
*Active streak 

Tampa Bay running back LEONARD FOURNETTE totaled 448 scrimmage yards (112 per game) in the Buccaneers’ four playoff games last year and scored a touchdown in each contest. Going back to his 2017 postseason with Jacksonville, Fournette has scored a touchdown in six consecutive playoff games.

With a touchdown against Philadelphia, Fournette would become the sixth running back all-time to score a touchdown in seven-or-more consecutive postseason games.

The running backs with the most consecutive postseason games with a touchdown in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)GAMES (DATES)
Thurman ThomasHOFBuffalo9 (Jan. 17, 1993 – Jan. 2, 1999)
Emmitt SmithHOFDallas8 (Jan. 23, 1994 – Dec. 28, 1996)
Marcus AllenHOFL.A. Raiders7 (Jan. 8, 1983 – Jan. 5, 1986)
Terrell DavisHOFDenver7 (Jan. 4, 1997 – Jan. 17, 1999)
John RigginsHOFWashington7 (Jan. 15, 1983 – Dec. 30, 1984)
   
Leonard FournetteJacksonville, Tampa Bay6* (Jan. 14, 2018 – Feb. 7, 2021)
*Active streak  

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

KANSAS CITY STARS: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS enter the 2021 postseason aiming to become the fourth team ever to advance to three consecutive Super Bowls, joining Miami (1971-73), Buffalo (1990-93) and New England (2016-18). 

Quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES is expected to make his ninth-career postseason start, having surpassed 250 passing yards in each of his previous eight playoff starts. With at least 250 passing yards against Pittsburgh on Sunday night (8:15 PM ET, NBC/Telemundo/Peacock), Mahomes will tie DREW BREES (nine consecutive games from Feb. 7, 2010 to Jan. 13, 2019) for the second-most consecutive postseason games with at least 250 passing yards NFL history. Only TOM BRADY (12 from Feb. 1, 2015 to Feb. 3, 2019) has more.

The players with at least 250 passing yards in the most consecutive postseason games in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMCONSECUTIVE GAMES
Tom BradyNew England12 (Feb. 1, 2015 – Feb. 3, 2019)
Drew BreesNew Orleans9 (Feb. 7, 2010 – Jan. 13, 2019)
Patrick MahomesKansas City8* (Jan. 12, 2019 – Feb. 7, 2021)
*Active streak

Mahomes has guided the Chiefs to a playoff win each of the past three years and with a victory on Sunday night will become the fourth quarterback ever to win at least one postseason game in four of his first five seasons, joining JOE FLACCODONOVAN MCNABB and RUSSELL WILSON.

Mahomes could also become the sixth quarterback with at least one victory in each of his first four postseason appearances.

Tight end TRAVIS KELCE surpassed 100 receiving yards in each of Kansas City’s three playoff games last season and can join ANTONIO BROWN (four consecutive games from Jan. 3, 2015 to Jan. 15, 2017) and LARRY FITZGERALD (four consecutive games from Jan. 3, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2009) as the only players ever to record at least 100 receiving yards in four consecutive postseason games.

In his career, Kelce has recorded at least 100 receiving yards in six postseason games, tied for the second-most ever. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (eight games) has more.

The players with the most 100-yard receiving games in NFL postseason history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)GAMES WITH 100+ REC. YARDS
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco, Oakland Raiders8
Julian EdelmanNew England6
Michael IrvinHOFDallas6
Travis KelceKansas City6


Kelce also recorded at least 10 receptions in both the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LV last year and can become the first player ever to register at least 10 catches in three consecutive postseason games and the first player in postseason history to record four games with at least 10 receptions.

Kelce has 992 receiving yards in 12 career postseason games and can join ROB GRONKOWSKI (1,273 receiving yards) as the only tight ends with at least 1,000 receiving yards in postseason history.

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

TOP OF THE CHARTS: The BUFFALO BILLS finished the regular season with the top-ranked scoring defense (17.0 points per game allowed), while the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ranked second (17.8 points per game allowed).

After splitting their regular-season series, the teams will meet for a third time on Saturday night in Buffalo (8:15 PM ET, CBS/Paramount+). Since 2000, this will mark the sixth postseason matchup to feature the top-two scoring defenses.

The playoff games to feature the top-two scoring defenses since 2000:

NO. 1 DEFENSENO. 2 DEFENSESEASONROUNDRESULT
BuffaloNew England2021AFC Wild Card???
PittsburghGreen Bay2010Super Bowl XLVGB 31, PIT 25
PittsburghNew England2004AFC Championship NE 41, PIT 27
Tampa BayPhiladelphia2002NFC ChampionshipTB 27, PHI 10
ChicagoPhiladelphia2001NFC DivisionalPHI 33, CHI 19
BaltimoreTennessee2000AFC DivisionalBAL 24, TEN 10


If New England rookie quarterback MAC JONES makes the start on Saturday, he would become the third rookie quarterback to start a playoff game against the top-ranked scoring defense in the Super Bowl era, joining JOE FLACCO (2008 AFC Championship Game) and ROBERT GRIFFIN III (2012 NFC Wild Card round).

The rookie quarterbacks to start a postseason game against the top-ranked scoring defense in the Super Bowl era:

ROOKIE QBTEAMSEASONROUNDOPPONENTRESULT
Mac Jones*New England2021AFC Wild Cardat Buffalo???
Robert Griffin IIIWashington2012NFC Wild CardSeattleSEA 24, WAS 14
Joe FlaccoBaltimore2008AFC Championshipat PittsburghPIT 23, BAL 14
*Expected to start

The Bills led the league in point differential (+194) while the Patriots ranked third (+159). The meeting between Buffalo and New England marks the first Wild Card game since 1978 and third postseason game since 1970 to occur in the first round of the playoffs to feature two teams that each had a +150-point differential.

The first-round playoff meetings between clubs each with a +150-point differential since 1970:

HOME TEAMAWAY TEAMSEASONROUNDRESULT
Buffalo (+194)New England (+159)2021AFC Wild Card???
Baltimore Colts (+171)Pittsburgh (+204)1976AFC DivisionalPIT 40, BAL 14
Dallas (+179)L.A. Rams (+210)1973NFC DivisionalDAL 27, LAR 16


— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

MONDAY NIGHT HISTORY: When the LOS ANGELES RAMS host the ARIZONA CARDINALS on Monday night, (8:15 PM ET, (ESPN/ABC/ESPN2/ESPN+/ESPN Deportes), it will mark the fifth postseason game played on a Monday in the Super Bowl era and first since the 1988 season. Each of the previous three games have also featured the Rams.

The Monday playoff games in the Super Bowl era:

ROUNDDATEGAMERESULT
2021 NFC Wild CardJan. 17, 2022Arizona at L.A. Rams???
1988 NFC Wild CardDec. 26, 1988L.A. Rams at MinnesotaMIN 28, LAR 17
1983 NFC Wild CardDec. 26, 1983L.A. Rams at DallasLAR 24, DAL 17
1977 NFC DivisionalDec. 26, 1977Minnesota at L.A. RamsMIN 14, LAR 7
1977 NFC DivisionalDec, 26, 1977Chicago at DallasDAL 37, CHI 7

Each team enters the game with a starting quarterback that was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Arizona’s KYLER MURRAY was selected first overall in 2019 and Los Angeles’ MATTHEW STAFFORD was chosen with the first pick by Detroit in 2009. Monday’s meeting will mark the fourth-ever first-round playoff game featuring two starting quarterbacks each selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.

The first-round postseason games featuring two starting quarterbacks each selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft:

DATEGAMEQUARTERBACKS (DRAFT YEARS)RESULT
Jan. 17, 2022Arizona at L.A. RamsKyler Murray (2019) & Matthew Stafford (2009)???
Jan. 4, 2014Kansas City at IndianapolisAlex Smith (2005) & Andrew Luck (2012)IND 45, KC 44
Jan. 9, 2000Dallas at MinnesotaTroy AikmanHOF (1989) & Jeff George (1990)MIN 27, DAL 10
Jan. 1, 1995New England at ClevelandDrew Bledsoe (1993) & Vinny Testaverde (1987)CLE 20, NE 13

Stafford will be making his fourth-career postseason start (first with Los Angeles), while Murray will be making his postseason debut. With a victory, Murray would become the fourth quarterback that was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft to win his first career postseason start since 2000.

The quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft to win their first career postseason start since 2000:

PLAYER (DRAFT YEAR)TEAMFIRST POSTSEASON START
Baker Mayfield (2018)Cleveland2020 AFC Wild Card at Pittsburgh
Alex Smith (2005)San Francisco2011 NFC Divisional vs. New Orleans
Michael Vick (2000)Atlanta2002 NFC Wild Card at Green Bay

With Arizona’s KLIFF KINGSBURY (42 years old) and Los Angeles’ SEAN MCVAY (35), Monday’s game will also feature the fourth-youngest combined age between two opposing head coaches in a postseason game since 1970.

The youngest combined age of head coaches in postseason games since 1970:

ROUNDGAMECOACHESCOMBINED AGE
1970 DivisionalMiami at Oakland RaidersDon ShulaHOF & John MaddenHOF75 years, 253 days
2020 DivisionalL.A. Rams at Green BaySean McVay & Matt LaFleur76 years, 67 days
1972 DivisionalOakland Raiders at PittsburghJohn MaddenHOF & Chuck NollHOF77 years, 245 days
2021 Wild CardArizona at L.A. RamsKliff Kingsbury & Sean McVay78 years, 154 days


Arizona running back JAMES CONNER rushed for two touchdowns in each of the two meetings against the Rams this season. With two rushing touchdowns on Monday, he would become the first player ever to record two rushing touchdowns against one team, three times in a single season.

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

HEY, ROOKIE: Several top rookies from the 2021 season are expected to make their postseason debuts this weekend.

New England quarterback MAC JONES led all rookies in completion percentage (67.6), passing yards (3,801), touchdown passes (22) and passer rating (92.5). He is bidding to become just the fourth rookie quarterback since 2000 and first since RUSSELL WILSON in 2012 to go on the road and win his first NFL postseason start.

Jones became the third rookie quarterback to ever win six regular-season road games, joining DAK PRESCOTT (2016) and BEN ROETHLISBERGER (2004). With a victory at Buffalo on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, CBS, Paramount+), Jones would join JOE FLACCO (seven road wins in 2008) as the only rookie quarterbacks ever to win seven road games, including the postseason.

Jones surpassed 250 passing yards in seven games this season, the most among all rookies.

The rookies with the most passing yards ever in their first career postseason start:

PLAYERTEAM ROUNDPASSING YARDS
Dak PrescottDallas 2016 NFC Divisional vs. Green Bay302
Andrew LuckIndianapolis 2012 AFC Wild Card at Baltimore288
Andy DaltonCincinnati 2011 AFC Wild Card at Houston257


Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE is making his postseason debut against Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon (4:35 PM ET, NBC/Peacock/Universo). Chase ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,455 receiving yards this season, the most-ever by a rookie in the Super Bowl era.

He surpassed 100 receiving yards in five games and became the first rookie ever and the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to record multiple games with at least 200 receiving yards in a single season. Philadelphia’s DEVONTA SMITH (935 receiving yards this season) is also expected to make his postseason debut this weekend at Tampa Bay.

The rookies with the most receiving yards ever in their first career postseason game:

PLAYERTEAM ROUNDRECEIVING YARDS
DK MetcalfSeattle 2019 NFC Wild Card at Philadelphia160
Jeremy MaclinPhiladelphia 2009 NFC Wild Card at Dallas146
Keith JacksonPhiladelphia 1988 NFC Divisional at Chicago142

 
Pittsburgh running back NAJEE HARRIS is making his postseason debut on Sunday night at Kansas City (8:15 PM ET, NBC/Telemundo/Peacock). During the regular season, Harris led all rookies and ranked fourth in the league with 1,667 scrimmage yards (1,200 rushing, 467 receiving). He surpassed 100 scrimmage yards in nine games, including in Week 16 against the Chiefs (110 scrimmage yards).

The rookies with the most scrimmage yards ever in their first career postseason game:

PLAYERTEAM ROUNDSCRIMMAGE YARDS
Billy CannonHouston Oilers 1960 AFL Championship178
Cam AkersL.A. Rams 2020 NFC Wild Card at Seattle176
Paul LoweL.A. Chargers 1960 AFL Championship170


San Francisco rookie running back ELIJAH MITCHELL (963 rushing yards this season) and New England rookie running back RHAMONDRE STEVENSON (606) are also each expected to make their postseason debuts this weekend. In last year’s postseason, Los Angeles Rams running back CAM AKERS (131 rushing yards against Seattle in the Wild Card round) was the only rookie to surpass 100 rushing yards in a game.

— SUPER WILD CARD WEEKEND —

Vince’s View: National championship score prediction and analysis

Vince’s View: National championship score prediction and analysis

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below is my prediction for the all-SEC College Football Playoff National Championship Game with notes from the SEC Communications Office.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

SEC Bowls Straight-Up Record: 6-6 (50%)
SEC Bowls vs. Spread Record: 7-5 (58%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 92-33 (74%)
2021 Season Spread Record: 63-62 (51%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

12/28/21 MFB Practice Alabama defensive back Kool-Aid Mckinstry (1) Photo by Kent Gidley

CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia
Monday, January 10, 2022 • 8 p.m. ET
Indianapolis, Ind. • Lucas Oil Stadium (70,000)
ESPN
Point Spread: Georgia -3

THE TEAMS: Alabama (13-1, 7-1 SEC) is the SEC Champion and will face SEC runner-up (13-1, 8-0 SEC) in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Alabama is looking is looking to win its seventh national championship since 2009 under Nick Saban, while Georgia is looking for its first national title since 1980.

NATIONAL RANKINGS:  Alabama is the No. 1-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings, while Georgia is ranked No. 3 by the CFP. In the last two seasons, LSU and Alabama became the first No. 1-ranked teams in the CFP rankings to win the national championship in the College Football Playoff era.

SEC IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: This will mark the 15th time in the last 16 seasons, and 17th overall since 1998, a team from the SEC has advanced to the national championship game. Eleven times (12 after Monday night) since 2006 the SEC has won the college football national championship. Overall, the SEC has won 13 of the previous 23 national championship games since the 1998 season, while appearing in 16 prior to this season. This will mark the third consecutive national championship for the SEC, with three different programs appearing in the game the last three seasons.

TELEVISION: ESPN will televise the game nationally for the ninth straight year (Chris Fowler, Play-by-Play; Kirk Herbstreit, Analyst; Molly McGrath and Holly Rowe, Sidelines). ESPN has aired the game nationally since the 2011 BCS National Championship Game when Auburn defeated Oregon. ABC carried the game 1999-2006, and 2010, with Fox Sports owning broadcast rights in 2007-09.

RADIO: ESPN Radio will broadcast the game (ESPN Radio: Sean McDonough, Play-by-Play; Todd Blackledge, Analyst; Ian Fitzsimmons, Sidelines). The game is available on SiriusXM Channel 80, with the Georgia broadcast on Channel 81 and the Alabama broadcast airing on Channel 84. ESPN Radio has carried the game since 1999.

SERIES: This is the second time Alabama and Georgia have squared off in the CFP National Championship Game. Alabama won 26-23 in overtime in January 2018. The two teams met in Atlanta earlier this season for the SEC Championship on Dec. 4, and the Crimson Tide won 41-24. Alabama has won the last two meetings by the same score and has won the seven previous meetings overall in the series dating back to 2008. Georgia’s last win came in an overtime win in 2007, which was Nick Saban’s first season at Alabama.

SEC IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF: The SEC is 11-4 all-time in College Football Playoff games, now playing in seven of the eight CFP National Championship Games, while winning four (now five). The SEC is 9-1 in CFP Semifinals, and 11-3 overall in CFP games not versus each other. The SEC leads the nation with ten teams advancing to the Playoff since its inception in 2014. Three different programs (Alabama, Georgia, LSU) have made Playoff appearances in the SEC. The league also leads the nation in the CFP era with championship game appearances (9). The SEC is the only league that has placed at least one of its members in the College Football Playoff each season since its inception.

Vince’s View: Georgia will win if…It can be explosive and dominant running the ball throughout. I won’t really say outrush Alabama because that wasn’t UA’s game plan in the SEC Championship Game, but maybe surpass 200 yards rushing and move the chains with it throughout the game. If so, it will mean Georgia’s likely in the game or ahead, maybe bossing the game and likely staying balanced on offense. The Bulldogs aren’t rallying down big throwing the ball every down. Alabama probably could.

Alabama will win if…the offensive line plays close to as well as it did in the SEC title game, which was, by far, the unit’s best performance all season. The Bulldogs weren’t able to get home to Bryce Young, negatively affect him enough and help their defensive backs that got torched for over 400 yards passing. UGA isn’t elite enough in the secondary to not get major pressure from the front seven. That o-line (and scheme) keyed a victory in Atlanta. It needs to be excellent in this one as well.

I think the psychological element of this game plays a role. Georgia, including Kirby Smart, have dealt with so many heartbreakers to Alabama on the biggest of stages. It has to be on the minds of the veteran players and coaches to some degree. It may only take one missed assignment or one coaching decision out of desperation that ends up being the difference in the game. I think it will be much closer and more competitive throughout in Indy vs. Atlanta. However, the history of the series, championship experience, coaching and quarterback play all favor the Crimson Tide.

Georgia’s roster can go toe-to-toe with Alabama’s roster. I think the game will play out that way for the most part as well. I just believe with those advantages and needing to see Smart get over the hump against Saban before I can believe it (yes I know Jimbo finally did it this season,) I’m going with Alabama in a photo finish.

Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama +3
Score Prediction: Alabama 28 Georgia 27

Jimmy’s blog: Barnes addresses postgame comments about Fulkerson

Jimmy’s blog: Barnes addresses postgame comments about Fulkerson

By Jimmy Hyams

For one of the few times during his seven-year tenure as Tennessee’s men’s basketball coach, Rick Barnes got some pushback from media and fans over a comment he made about the popular John Fulkerson.

Fulkerson had a second consecutive ineffective game as he managed just three points, five rebounds and took just one field-goal attempt in a loss at LSU on Saturday night.

Fulkerson contacted Covid about two weeks ago and didn’t make the trip to Alabama Dec. 29.

In his first game back from Covid, he didn’t produce against Ole Miss on Wednesday and he didn’t start against LSU.

“We need John to help us,’’ Barnes said after the LSU defeat. “If not, he needs to step aside. I’m telling you, we need him.’’

They need the Fulkerson who had 24 points and 10 rebounds against Arizona, not the lethargic non-producer that UT saw against Ole Miss and LSU.

Barnes said Fulkerson struggled with energy last year after getting Covid.

“We’re hoping it’s not like that,’’ Barnes said Saturday. “If it is, we’re going to have some make some changes because we’ve got to have energy. We’ve got to have guys out there … bringing energy.

“I just think it gets down to where he’s got to play tougher, harder.’’

Many interpreted Barnes remarks as unsympathetic and criticized Barnes for calling out the 6th-year senior who has battled through multiple injuries and Covid fatigue to help the Vols.

At his Monday press conference, Barnes expanded on his rationale.

“We have a standard that got set here a couple of years ago and we can’t let up on that standard,’’ Barnes said.

Barnes said he was “shocked’’ at how poorly Fulkerson played against Ole Miss “because we hadn’t seen any of that in practice.’’

Barnes said he told associate head coach Mike Schwartz to talk to Fulkerson about coming off the bench, that maybe that would help the 6-foot-9 forward.

“I don’t know if he has lingering effects from Covid, because we hadn’t seen it in practice,’’ Barnes said.

Barnes said Fulkerson told Schwartz he was fine.

But then Fulkerson “didn’t have energy’’ against LSU, Barnes said.

“My comment after the game about him, was, look, if he is sick, he needs to let us know that so we can get help him back to where he needs to be,’’ Barnes said. “We need John playing at the level we saw against Arizona.’’

 `… We have to know what guys are feeling, especially this time of year and where we are with Covid. If you’re not feeling well and you don’t have the energy, we’ve got to know that, because we can adjust. We can make some changes that help maybe here or there.

“But there is standard we have that we expect everybody to play up to.’’

Barnes as then asked if he’d talked to Fulkerson since the LSU game. Barnes didn’t appear happy with what he felt the question insinuated.

“You guys need to know this: I will never say anything in this (media) room I haven’t already said to my team. Ever. Ever,’’ Barnes said. “Because if you guys think I’m going to talk (or) use you guys to get a message to my players, you’re crazy; you guys are nuts if you think that is going to happen.

“But I want to be as honest and transparent as I can because I do know people love our basketball team. They want to know what’s going on with it.

“I don’t know (how) anybody else took it (his postgame remarks about Fulkerson), but he knew exactly where I was coming from in terms of, if he’s not up to 100% from having to deal with Covid – because he had a tough time with it a year ago when he went through it.

“John knows we need him. We all appreciate what he’s done, but I also know that if you’re not feeling well and you’re wanting to fight through it, it can also have a reverse effect on you, where you’re like, `Man, I’m trying to do this, but I can’t.’’’

“John’s never been one to make excuses, either. He’s not a guy that does that. But … if you think I come in here (to a press conference) and tell you guys (something to get a message to players) you’re way off.’’


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Vince’s View: NFL Predictions for Week 18 with playoff spots and positions up for grabs

Vince’s View: NFL Predictions for Week 18 with playoff spots and positions up for grabs

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 18 predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 17 Straight-Up Record: 13-3 (81%)
Week 17 Against The Spread Record: 11-5 (69%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 143-83 (63%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 125-101 (55%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) during a NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns on September 26, 2021 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 26-6.

WEEK 18 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, January 8Kansas City at Denver
V-Picks: Broncos +11.5; Kansas City wins
ESPN/ABC4:30
Dallas at Philadelphia
V-Picks: Eagles +3.5; Philadelphia wins
ESPN/ABC8:15
Sunday, January 9Pittsburgh at Baltimore
V-Picks: Ravens -3.5; Baltimore wins
CBS1:00
Cincinnati at Cleveland
V-Picks: Bengals +6; Cleveland wins
FOX1:00
 Green Bay at Detroit
V-Picks: Packers -3; Green Bay wins
FOX1:00
 Tennessee at Houston
V-Picks: Titans =10; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
 Indianapolis at Jacksonville
V-Picks: Colts -14.5; Indianapolis wins
CBS1:00
 Chicago at Minnesota
V-Picks: Vikings -4; Minnesota wins
FOX1:00
 Washington at New York Giants
V-Picks: Football Team -7; Washington wins
FOX1:00
 Seattle at Arizona
V-Picks: Cardinals -5.5; Arizona wins
FOX4:25
 New Orleans at Atlanta
V-Picks: Saints -3.5; New Orleans wins
FOX4:25
 New York Jets at Buffalo
V-Picks: Bills -16.5; Buffalo wins
CBS4:25
 San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams -3.5; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:25
 New England at Miami
V-Picks: Patriots -6; New England wins
CBS4:25
 Carolina at Tampa Bay
V-Picks: Buccaneers -8.5; Tampa Bay wins
CBS4:25
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas
V-Picks: Chargers -3; Los Angeles wins
NBC8:20

NFL’S SEASON FINALE TO DECIDE FINAL THREE PLAYOFF BERTHS

Welcome to Week 18, the NFL’s Season Finale.

The music stops playing this weekend and there are only three remaining chairs – three final postseason berths. With one week to play, 18 teams are in Super Bowl contention. The last time there were more entering the final week of the regular season was 15 years ago (20 in 2006).

The 2021 regular season concludes with 14 of 16 games featuring at least one team either in the playoffs or in playoff contention.

In the AFC, five teams are fighting for the final two playoff invitations. In the NFC, two clubs have a shot at the final playoff reservation. Only the GREEN BAY PACKERS have secured their playoff seeding, clinching the NFC’s No. 1 seed and only first-round bye.

The Season Finale kicks off on Saturday with a doubleheader on ESPN and ABC: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5) visit the DENVER BRONCOS (7-9) at 4:30 PM ET and the DALLAS COWBOYS (11-5) travel to meet the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7) at 8:15 PM ET.

For the 12th consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for the final week are division contests. The last matchup on the 2021 regular-season schedule features the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7) at the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (9-7) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC). The winner will earn the final spot in the NFL Playoffs.

FOUR TEAMS FIGHTING FOR NO. 1 SEED IN AFC: Only one team in each conference gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

In the AFC, four teams enter the final weekend with an opportunity to earn that right, which includes homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

The TENNESSEE TITANS (11-5) have the most direct path to that coveted No. 1 seed, win at HOUSTON (4-12) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). But don’t sleep on the Texans, who have won two of their past three and defeated Tennessee in Week 11.

The Chiefs can secure the AFC’s No. 1 seed for a second straight season, but they need to first win at Denver on Saturday and hope for a Titans loss the next day. And if Houston defeats Tennessee in the early window on Sunday, and the Broncos defeat the Chiefs, the door opens for both the CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6) and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6).

For the full Week 18 playoff scenarios, click here.

BRADY CAN ADD TO HISTORIC RESUME: When the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (12-4) host the CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-11) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), quarterback TOM BRADY has an opportunity to accomplish something only two players have done in 31 years.

Brady leads the NFL in passing attempts (682), completions (456), passing yards (4,990) and touchdown passes (40). Only DREW BREES (2008) and Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (2013) have led the league in all four categories since 1991.

  • In last week’s win, Brady passed for 410 yards and three touchdowns while tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI recorded 115 receiving yards.
  • Brady has 13 career games with at least 400 passing yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (13) for the third-most such games all-time. Only DREW BREES (16 games) and Manning (14) have more.
  • Brady, who had 40 touchdown passes in 2020 and 50 touchdown passes in 2007, has reached 40 touchdown passes for the third time in his career, joining AARON RODGERS as the only quarterback ever with three career seasons with at least 40 touchdown passes. Brady also joined DREW BREES (2011-12) as the only quarterbacks all-time with at least 40 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons.
  • Gronkowski registered his 31st career game with at least 100 receiving yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer TONY GONZALEZ (31) for the most such games by a tight end in league annals.

ANOTHER WORST-TO-FIRST TURNAROUND: In last week’s win, the CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6) overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat Kansas City and earn the AFC North division title for the first time since 2015.

Cincinnati completed a worst-to-first turnaround, winning its division the year after finishing in last place. In 17 of the past 19 seasons (2003-21), at least one NFL team has finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last place.

This week, quarterback JOE BURROW leads the Bengals on the road at the CLEVELAND BROWNS (7-9), the latest installment in the Battle of Ohio series (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • In the Week 17 win, Burrow passed for 446 yards and four touchdowns while rookie wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE had 11 receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the Bengals’ Week 17 win over Kansas City.
  • Burrow, who had 525 passing yards and four touchdown passes in Week 16, is the second quarterback all-time with at least 450 passing yards and four touchdown passes in consecutive games, joining JAMEIS WINSTON (Weeks 14-15, 2019).
  • Burrow has 971 passing yards in his past two games, surpassing PHIL SIMMS (945 in Weeks 5-6, 1985) for the second-most passing yards by a quarterback in a two-game span ever. Only DAK PRESCOTT (974 in Weeks 3-4, 2020) had more.
  • With 266 receiving yards last week, Chase broke the NFL’s single-game rookie record, previously held by JERRY BUTLER (255 on Sept. 23, 1979).
  • Chase also established the league’s single-season rookie record last week. With 1,429 receiving yards this season, he surpassed JUSTIN JEFFERSON (1,400 in 2020).
  • Chase, who also had 201 receiving yards in Week 7, is also the first rookie ever and the fifth overall player in the Super Bowl era to record multiple games with at least 200 receiving yards in a season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers CALVIN JOHNSON (2011 and 2012) and DON MAYNARD (1968) as well as JOSH GORDON (2013) and ALSHON JEFFERY (2013).
  • Chase leads all qualifying NFL players with 18.1 yards per reception and can become the first rookie to lead the league in that category since KENNY STILLS (20.0 yards per reception) in 2013.

PATRIOTS CAN JOIN BOUNCE-BACK DIVISION WINNERS: Both Cincinnati and Dallas have clinched division titles after missing the postseason in 2020. At least two NFL teams have now won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years.

The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6), who visit the MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), can join that group this week. The Patriots would win the AFC East with a win and a Buffalo loss.

  • Last week, New England’s BILL BELICHICK became the second head coach all-time with 20 seasons of 10-or-more wins, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA (20 seasons).
  • The Patriots, who scored 54 points in Week 7 and 50 last week, are the first team since the 2014 GREEN BAY PACKERS to score at least 50 points twice in season.
  • Also in last week’s win, New England rookie quarterback MAC JONES completed 22 of 30 attempts (73.3 percent) for 227 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a 128.1 rating. Meanwhile, defensive back J.C. JACKSON recorded his eighth interception of the season.
  • Jones has nine games with a completion percentage of 70-or-higher, tied with DAK PRESCOTT (nine games in 2016) for the most such games by a rookie quarterback all-time.
  • Jackson has 25 interceptions since entering the NFL in 2018 and is the fourth player in the Super Bowl era with at least 25 interceptions in his first four seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer LEM BARNEY (32), LESTER HAYES (25) and EVERSON WALLS (25). 

CARDINALS ONE OF FIVE TEAMS TO REBOUND INTO POSTSEASON: So far this season, five teams have clinched playoff berths after missing the postseason in 2020 – Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas, New England and Philadelphia. Since 1990 – a streak of 32 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

The Cardinals finish their regular season at home against the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-10) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX). Arizona can also join the group of new division winners that missed the playoffs last season with a win and a Los Angeles Rams loss.

  • Last week, Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON passed for four touchdowns with no interceptions and a 133.0 rating in the Seahawks’ win. Including the postseason, Wilson now has 112 career wins, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (112) for the most wins, including the postseason, by a quarterback in his first 10 seasons in league annals.
  • Wilson has 17 career games with at least four touchdown passes, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famers PEYTON MANNING (17) and DAN MARINO (17) for the most such games by a player in his first 10 seasons in NFL history.

ST. BROWN BROTHERS MEET IN DETROIT: Brother wide receivers EQUANIMEOUS and AMON-RA ST. BROWN will square off when the GREEN BAY PACKERS (13-3) close the regular season at the DETROIT LIONS (2-13-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • AMON-RA ST. BROWN, the league’s December Offensive Rookie of the Month, is the first rookie in NFL history to string together five games of eight-or-more receptions, a streak he brings into the season finale.
  • Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS leads the NFL with a 111.1 passer rating this season. Rodgers, who also led the league with a 121.5 rating in 2020, can become the first player to lead the NFL in that category in consecutive seasons since Rodgers did it from 2011-12.
  • Last week, Green Bay’s MATT LAFLEUR became the first individual ever to win 39 regular-season games in his first three seasons as an NFL head coach, surpassing GEORGE SEIFERT, who had 38 from 1989-91.

TAYLOR GUIDES COLTS INTO JACKSONVILLE: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-7) look to keep their playoff hopes alive on the road against the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-14) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).

  • Last week, Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR totaled 114 scrimmage yards (108 rushing, six receiving) and one rushing touchdown. He now has 2,076 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns (18 rushing, two receiving) this season.
  • Taylor last week, at 22 years and 348 days old, became the youngest player with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in a season all-time.
  • Taylor, who was selected in the second round (41st overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (1983) and DAVID JOHNSON (2016) as the only players with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in one of their first two career seasons in NFL history.

CLUTCH CARLSON KEEPS RAIDERS IN CONTENTION: On 32 occasions this year, more than any season in NFL history, a game-winning score on the final play has decided a game. Last week, Cincinnati rookie EVAN MCPHERSON and the Raiders’ DANIEL CARLSON each kicked game-winning field goals with no time remaining in the fourth quarter.

This week, Carlson and the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (9-7) host the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7) in a win-or-go-home 2021 NFL regular-season finale on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC).

RAMS EYE NFC WEST TITLE, NEED WIN OVER RIVAL 49ERS: So far this season, 46 games have been decided with a winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, the fifth-most in a season all-time. Only 2013 (49), 2015 (49), 2003 (48) and 2002 (47) had more. In addition to Cincinnati and Las Vegas, the LOS ANGELES RAMS and TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS each scored go-ahead game-winning touchdowns in the final minute of regulation in Week 17.

  • This week, those Rams (12-4) can capture the NFC West division title with a victory over the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (9-7) at SoFi Stadium (4:25 PM ET, FOX). The 49ers with a win would return to the playoffs.
  • Last week, Los Angeles wide receiver COOPER KUPP registered six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown while defensive lineman AARON DONALD recorded half a sack in the team’s road win.
  • Kupp has 138 receptions this season and surpassed ANTONIO BROWN (136 receptions in 2015) and JULIO JONES (136 in 2015) for the third-most receptions in a season in NFL history. Only MICHAEL THOMAS (149 in 2019) and Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (143 in 2002) had more.
  • Kupp has 1,829 receiving yards in 2021 and became the fifth player with at least 1,800 in a season in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers CALVIN JOHNSON (1,964 in 2012) and JERRY RICE (1,848 in 1995), as well as ANTONIO BROWN (1,834 in 2015) and JULIO JONES (1,871 in 2015).
  • With at least five receptions in 20 consecutive games, Kupp has tied with JARVIS LANDRY (20 games from 2017-18) and MICHAEL THOMAS (20 from 2018-19) for the third-longest such streak in NFL history. Only ANTONIO BROWN (36 from 2013-15) and DEANDRE HOPKINS (23 from 2018-20) have longer streaks.
  • Donald has 98 career sacks since entering the NFL in 2014, tied with teammate VON MILLER (98) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DERRICK THOMAS (98) for the fourth-most sacks by a player in his first eight NFL seasons since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (124 sacks), DEMARCUS WARE (111) and JARED ALLEN (105) have more.

PITTS FINISHING SEASON IN REMARKABLE FASHION: Atlanta rookie tight end KYLE PITTS has 1,018 receiving yards this season. Last week, he joined Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 in 1961) as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards.

  • Pitts, whose ATLANTA FALCONS (7-9) host the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8-8) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), also has 66 receptions in 2021. He is the third rookie tight end all-time with at least 65 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 in 1988) and JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002).
  • New Orleans can clinch a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season with a win over Atlanta in combination with a San Francisco loss.

BUFFALO HEADING TO PLAYOFFS ON ARM, LEGS OF ALLEN: Quarterback JOSH ALLEN rushed for two touchdowns last week to help the BUFFALO BILLS (10-6) clinch a playoff berth for the third consecutive season.

  • Allen, whose club hosts the NEW YORK JETS on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), has five games with at least two rushing touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2018, tied with JALEN HURTS (five) for the most such games by a quarterback in his first four seasons in the Super Bowl era.
  • Allen also has six rushing touchdowns this season and joined CAM NEWTON as the only quarterbacks ever with at least five rushing touchdowns in each of their first four seasons.
  • With 101 touchdown passes and 31 rushing touchdowns, Allen is the first player in NFL history with at least 100 touchdown passes and 30 rushing touchdowns in his first four seasons.

PLAYOFF PUSH: All 16 games are divisional contests in Week 18 and there are still 18 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl LVI. There hasn’t been more teams still alive for postseason berths entering the league’s final week since 2006 (20 teams).

Six division titles have been secured, three of which feature a team that did not win their division in 2020 – the AFC North  (CINCINNATI BENGALS), NFC East (DALLAS COWBOYS) and NFC South (TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS).

The NFC West, coming down to the ARIZONA CARDINALS or LOS ANGELES RAMS, is also guaranteed to have a new winner in 2021, while the AFC East could have a new winner if the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS clinch the division this weekend.

This would be the second-consecutive season in which there are five new division winners.

Additionally, both Cincinnati and Dallas won their division after missing the postseason in 2020, while both the AFC East (New England) and NFC West (Arizona) can also have a division winner that missed the postseason last year. At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 years.

Cincinnati clinched the AFC North after finishing in last place in the division in 2020. In 17 of the past 19 seasons, at least one team finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last.

The PHILADELPHIA EAGLES also clinched a postseason berth this year after finishing in last place in their division last season.

Since 1990, at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before.

For the Week 18 playoff scenarios, click here.

— NFL —

PASSING THROUGH THE RECORD BOOKS: Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY enters the final week of the season leading the league in completions (456), passing yards (4,990) and touchdown passes (40). This would be his fourth season leading the league in passing yards (2017, 2007, 2005) and his fifth season leading the league in touchdown passes (2015, 2010, 2007, 2002). 2007 was the only other season in which he led in both categories.

Brady is also within striking distance of the all-time single-season records for both passing yards and completions.

The players with the most passing yards in a season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONPASSING YARDS
Peyton ManningHOFDenver20135,477
Drew BreesNew Orleans20115,476
Tom BradyNew England20115,235
    
Tom BradyTampa Bay20214,990*
*Entering Week 18

The players with the most completions in a season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONCOMPLETIONS
Drew BreesNew Orleans2016471
Drew BreesNew Orleans2011468
Tom BradyTampa Bay2021456*
Drew BreesNew Orleans2014456
*Entering Week 18

Brady, who had a career-high 5,235 passing yards in 2011, can join DREW BREES (five seasons) as the only players in league history with at least 5,000 passing yards in multiple seasons.

Second-year quarterbacks JOE BURROW – the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft – and JUSTIN HERBERT – the No. 6 overall selection last year – can also reach the 5,000-yard milestone on Sunday.

In Week 18, they can join PATRICK MAHOMES (5,097 in 2018) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (5,084 in 1984) as the only players ever to record at least 5,000 passing yards in one of their first two seasons.

The players with at least 5,000 passing yards in one of their first two seasons in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONPASSING YARDS
Patrick MahomesKansas City20185,097
Dan MarinoHOFMiami19845,084
    
Justin HerbertL.A. Chargers20214,631*
Joe BurrowCincinnati20214,611*
*Entering Week 18

A sampling of other notable quarterback milestones that can be accomplished in Week 18:

  • Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS enters this week with 3,977 passing yards this season. With 23 passing yards at Detroit on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Rodgers will become the sixth quarterback ever to record at least 4,000 passing yards in 10 different seasons.
  • Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON has 2,875 passing yards in 2021. With 125 passing yards at Arizona on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Wilson will become the second quarterback ever to record at least 3,000 passing yards in each of his first 10 seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING.
  • Indianapolis quarterback CARSON WENTZ has 10 touchdown passes against zero interceptions in seven road starts this season. With no interceptions at Jacksonville on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Wentz will become the first quarterback ever to start eight road games in a season without throwing an interception.  

— NFL —

CATCHING HISTORY: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP leads the NFL in receptions (138), receiving yards (1,829) and touchdown receptions (15) this season and is within striking distance of the all-time single season record for most receptions and receiving yards.

The players with the most receptions in a season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Michael ThomasNew Orleans2019149
Marvin HarrisonHOFIndianapolis2002143
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams2021138*
*Entering Week 18

The players with the most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Calvin JohnsonHOFDetroit20121,964
Julio JonesAtlanta20151,871
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19951,848
Antonio BrownPittsburgh20151,834
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams20211,829*
*Entering Week 18

A sampling of other notable wide receiver records that can be accomplished in Week 18:

  • Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS ranks second in the league with 117 receptions, third with 1,498 receiving yards and fifth with 11 touchdown receptions. With a touchdown reception at Detroit on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Adams will become the sixth player ever with at least 12 touchdown receptions in four of his first eight seasons. 
  • Tampa Bay wide receiver MIKE EVANS enters this week with 946 receiving yards this season. With 54 receiving yards against Carolina on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), Evans will become the first player ever with at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first eight seasons.
  • Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON ranks second in the league with 1,509 receiving yards and fourth with 103 receptions. His 2,909 career receiving yards are the most-ever by a player in his first two seasons, while his 191 career receptions are the third-most. With 91 receiving yards against Chicago on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Jefferson will become the third-fastest player ever (33 games) to reach 3,000 receiving yards. Only ODELL BECKHAM JR. (30) and CHARLIE HENNIGAN (31) reached the mark in fewer games.

    With nine receptions, Jefferson can also tie JARVIS LANDRY (33 games) as the third-fastest player to reach 200 receptions. Only Beckham Jr. (30) and MICHAEL THOMAS (32) reached the mark the fewer games.

— NFL —

RECORD-BREAKING BACKS: Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR leads the league with 2,076 scrimmage yards, 1,734 rushing yards, 20 scrimmage touchdowns and 18 rushing touchdowns. He is the first player in league history to record 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 scrimmage touchdowns in a season prior to turning 23.

Last week marked Taylor’s ninth game this season with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, the most in the league. If he accomplishes the feat again at Jacksonville on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Taylor will become the fourth player ever to record at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in 10 games within a single season.

The players with the most games with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
Shaun AlexanderSeattle200511
Emmitt SmithHOFDallas199511
Jamal AndersonAtlanta199810
    
Jonathan TaylorIndianapolis20219*
*Entering Week 18

Los Angeles Chargers running back AUSTIN EKELER ranks second in the league with a career-high 18 touchdowns (11 rushing, seven receiving) this season.

With a touchdown at Las Vegas on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Ekeler – who went undrafted out of Western State in 2017 – can surpass LEGARRETTE BLOUNT (18 touchdowns in 2016) and ARIAN FOSTER (18 in 2010) for the third-most touchdowns in a single season by an undrafted player in the common-draft era. Only PRIEST HOLMES (27 in 2003 and 24 in 2002) has more.

The undrafted players with the most touchdowns in a single season in the common-draft era:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONTOUCHDOWNS
Priest HolmesKansas City200327
Priest HolmesKansas City200224
Austin EkelerL.A. Chargers202118*
LeGarrette BlountNew England201618
Arian FosterHouston201018
*Entering Week 18

Ekeler also enters the season’s final week ranking fourth among running backs with 1,459 scrimmage yards (847 rushing, 612 receiving). With 41 scrimmage yards on Sunday night, Ekeler – who had a career-high 1,550 scrimmage yards in 2019 – can become the third undrafted player in the common-draft era with at least 1,500 scrimmage yards in multiple seasons, joining Foster (four seasons) and Holmes (three).

— NFL —

ROOKIE TAKEOVER: Last week, Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE recorded 266 receiving yards, the most in a single game by a rookie in NFL history. He now has 1,429 receiving yards on the season, surpassing JUSTIN JEFFERSON (1,400 in 2020) for the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era.

With 45 receiving yards at Cleveland on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Chase will surpass BILL GROMAN (1,473 in 1960) for the most receiving yards by a rookie all-time.

The rookies with the most receiving yards in a single season all-time:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Bill GromanHouston Oilers19601,473
Ja’Marr ChaseCincinnati20211,429*
Justin JeffersonMinnesota20201,400
*Entering Week 18

Four rookies – Miami wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE (99 receptions), Detroit wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN (82), Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE (79) and Pittsburgh running back NAJEE HARRIS (70) – each have at least 70 receptions this season. The 2021 season is the first with four-or-more rookies reaching 70 receptions, surpassing the 2014 season (three players).

Waddle’s 99 receptions are the second-most receptions by a rookie in league annals. With three receptions against New England on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS), he would surpass ANQUAN BOLDIN (101 receptions in 2003) for the most receptions by a rookie all-time.
The rookies with the most receptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Anquan BoldinArizona2003101
Jaylen WaddleMiami202199*
Michael ThomasNew Orleans201692
*Entering Week 18   

Harris leads all rookies with 1,612 scrimmage yards (1,172 rushing, 440 receiving) this season and can become the fifth rookie in NFL history with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.

The rookies with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRUSHING YARDSRECEIVING YARDS
Saquon BarkleyN.Y. Giants20181,307721
Marshall FaulkHOFIndianapolis19941,282522
Edgerrin JamesHOFIndianapolis19991,553586
Billy SimsDetroit19801,303621
     
Najee HarrisPittsburgh20211,172*440*
*Entering Week 18   

Atlanta rookie tight end KYLE PITTS ranks third among all tight ends with 1,018 receiving yards this season and with at least 59 receiving yards against New Orleans on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 receiving yards in 1961) for the most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in NFL history.

Pitts has 66 receptions in 2021 and with four receptions, can become the third rookie tight end all-time with at least 70 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 receptions in 1988) and JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002).

— NFL —

SACK ATTACK: Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. WATT leads the league with 21.5 sacks in 2021, followed by Chicago’s ROBERT QUINN (18 sacks), San Francisco’s NICK BOSA (15) and Cleveland’s MYLES GARRETT (15). Cincinnati’s TREY HENDRICKSON (14) and Dallas rookie MICAH PARSONS (13) also have at least 13 sacks with one week to play.

The 2021 season has a chance to become the seventh season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, and first since 1998 to feature five-or-more players with at least 15 sacks. 

The seasons with the most players with at least 15 sacks since 1982:

SEASONPLAYERS WTH 15+ SACKS
19897
19866
19985
19925
19845
19835
  
20214*
*Entering Week 18 

With a sack at Baltimore on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Watt will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL STRAHAN (22.5 sacks in 2001) for the most sacks by a player in a single season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The players with the most sacks in a season since 1982:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMESSACKS
Michael StrahanHOFN.Y. Giants20011622.5
Jared AllenMinnesota20111622
Mark GastineauN.Y. Jets19841622
Justin HoustonKansas City20141622
T.J. WattPittsburgh20211421.5*
*Entering Week 18 

Both Quinn and Hendrickson enter this week having recorded a sack in 12 games this season. If either player records a sack in Week 18, they will join DEMARCUS WARE (14 games in 2008), JUSTIN HOUSTON (13 in 2014) and CHANDLER JONES (13 in 2017) as the only players since 1982 to record a sack in 13 games within a single season.

The players with the most games with a sack in a single season since 1982:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
DeMarcus WareDallas200814
Justin HoustonKansas City201413
Chandler JonesArizona201713
    
Trey HendricksonCincinnati202112*
Robert QuinnChicago202112*
*Entering Week 18

With two sacks at Philadelphia on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, ESPN/FOX), Parsons can surpass JEVON KEARSE (14.5 sacks in 1999) for the most sacks by a rookie since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The rookies with the most sacks since 1982:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONSACKS
Jevon KearseTennessee199914.5
Aldon SmithSan Francisco201114
Dwight FreeneyIndianapolis200213
Micah ParsonsDallas202113*
*Entering Week 18

In addition to Parsons, two other rookies have at least eight sacks this season – Miami linebacker JAELAN PHILLIPS (8.5 sacks) and New York Giants linebacker AZEEZ OJULARI (eight). This season can become the first season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, in which three rookies recorded 10-or-more sacks.

— NFL —

Jimmy’s blog: Vols prove productive when manage a first down during a possession

Jimmy’s blog: Vols prove productive when manage a first down during a possession

By Jimmy Hyams

Around midseason, Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said the Vols offense is very productive once it gets rolling by making a first down on a possession.

He was right.

We charted every UT possession this year that resulted in a first down, and the proficiency is prolific.

My unofficial count: Tennessee got a first down on 119 possessions.

Here’s how they fared:

60 touchdowns

10 field goals

24 punts

8 turnovers

11 failed fourth-down tries

4 missed field goals

2 end of game plays

To score a touchdown more than 50% of the time when you get a first down on a possession seems like a high success rate, although I don’t know how that would compare to Alabama or Ohio State or Ole Miss or other high-powered offenses around the nation.

Several of those failed fourth downs were on short-yardage situations, an area where UT’s offense must improve.

Tennessee was also terrific in the first quarter, outscoring opponents 190-51, including a 21-7 advantage over Purdue. UT scored at least 21 points in the first quarter in three games and at least 14 points five times.  It scored at least 10 twice. It got just 9 against Ole Miss and 7 against Florida and Vanderbilt.

At the Music City Bowl, I asked both head coach Josh Heupel and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh why UT was so proficient offensively in the first quarter. They gave a similar answer: It takes a while for the opposing defense to adjust to the Vols’ up-tempo attack.

UT also might do a really good job of scripting the first 20 to 25 plays.

On the flip side, the Vols weren’t so good in the second quarter, being outscored 143-109. Purdue had a 16-0 edge.

Why the change?

It makes sense that defenses adjusted to UT’s speed of the game, but UT must also adjust. Whether it was lack of adjusting or lack of execution is debatable. But if UT wants to take that next step in the win column and get to nine next year, the second quarter performance must improve.

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Jimmy’s blog: Shaw expects rules change to help curb fake injuries

Jimmy’s blog: Shaw expects rules change to help curb fake injuries

By Jimmy Hyams

Purdue needed 4 hours and 38 minutes to dispatch of Tennessee 48-45 in overtime in the when-will-this-ever-end Music City Bowl game last week in Nashville.

Several factors contributed to what might have been the longest college football game ever played.

Among them: 93 points, 56 first downs, 19 penalties, 10 touchdown passes and more than half-a-dozen fake injuries.

Fake injuries – mainly by the defense – have become an epidemic in college football, thanks to the increasing number of up-tempo offenses.

Purdue must have had six apparent fake injuries.

Earlier in the season, Ole Miss must have had about 10 in a win at Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee isn’t exempt from this unethical practice. About six times this year – including once in the Music City Bowl – Tennessee had a player go down with an injury on an extra-point attempt.

In my 37 years of covering Tennessee football, I don’t recall a player being injured on an extra point – until this year.

And during that Ole Miss game, a Tennessee assistant was caught on camera signaling an offensive lineman to flop after his helmet was dislodged and he was jogging off the field. UT didn’t have a sub ready so the lineman hit the deck to avoid a timeout and to allow for a replacement.

All these fake injuries have drawn the ire of many a coach.

It has also caught the attention of Steve Shaw, the national coordinator of college football officials who used to be the head of SEC officials.

Shaw has called the practice a “bad look’’ for the game and questioned the “integrity’’ of such antics.

He’s right.

Shaw said during an interview last month on SportsTalk, 99.1 The Sports Animal, that the NCAA rules committee two years ago asked coaches to monitor the situation because it wasn’t fair to ask officials to discern whether a player was really hurt.

“It’s an integrity issue,’’ Shaw said. “We needed, from a coaching perspective, to see if the coaches could take care of it. That didn’t seem to get it done.’’

No, it didn’t.

“It’s a bad look,’’ Shaw said. “It’s  not the life-lesson we want to teach players, so we’re going to keep working to get it out of our game.’’

Shaw said that this year, the rules committee allowed schools to appeal to Shaw for video review of fake injuries, which, in turn, would be relayed to the offending school’s athletic director.

Shaw said he received six official claims.

“Each of those six was pretty obvious and straight forward,’’ Shaw said. “We turned it back to the athletic director to take a further look. In conversation with those athletic directors, they were embarrassed and they assured us they would take care of it. A few of them probably helped.’’

But as Shaw noted: “We still have an issue.’’

Said Shaw: “I think we’re probably going to have to do something `next step.’ The rules committee doesn’t want to go there, but `next step’ probably includes additional playing time for the player injured to sit out.’’

Some have suggested the injured player sit for three or four plays, or for the rest of the possession.

But some coaches have argued that what if a key player gets the wind knocked out of him; does he have to sit for four plays when he could return after one?

Shaw said one suggestion has been to allow a coach to call a timeout so the injured player doesn’t miss any plays “assuming the medical staff’’ clears the player to return. “That would be an expensive way for a coach to get a guy back in the game,’’ Shaw said.

Another idea: Allow the team with the injured player to only sub for that player. Also, don’t allow teams to huddle as if a timeout had been called.

Shaw said another thought is to allow a defense to make a substitution the first 10 seconds of the play clock so the offense can’t run a play until at least :30 remains before the snap.

“With the up-tempo coaches,’’ Shaw said, “that is highly unpopular.’’

Shaw said the fake injury phenomenon has made it difficult on officials who already have a difficult job.

“From an officiating standpoint, we have to honor the injury,’’ Shaw said. “There’s no way our officials can make a judgment on if a player is injured or not. If they (players) are down, we have to stop the game.’’

But Shaw said if you make that player sit for several plays, that could get the attention of the player – and the coach.

“What we’ve learned is, if you take playing time away from players,’’ Shaw said, “that is there most precious commodity. That really has an impact.’’

Shaw expects some rule with some teeth to be implemented this offseason.

“We’ve got to find a way to take care of this because it’s a bad look for the game,’’ Shaw said. “It’s a difficult (issue) but the rules committee will have to take a next step. We’ll just have to see what the next step will be. But based on the outcome of the last two seasons, I don’t think we’ll do nothing.’’


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NFL Week 17 predictions, game notes and more with 8 playoff berths open & 24 teams still in contention

NFL Week 17 predictions, game notes and more with 8 playoff berths open & 24 teams still in contention

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 17 predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 16 Straight-Up Record: 13-3 (82%)
Week 16 Against The Spread Record: 11-5 (69%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 143-83 (63%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 125-101 (55%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

An image from December 8, 2019 regular season home game against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings won 37-30.

NFL ANNOUNCES SCHEDULE UPDATES FOR WEEK 17

The NFL announced today an updated schedule for Week 17.

On Sunday, January 2:

  • The Los Angeles Rams-Baltimore game has moved to 1:00 PM ET and remains on FOX.
  • The Carolina-New Orleans game has moved to 4:25 PM ET and remains on FOX.

The following is the updated Week 17 schedule (all times ET):

Sunday, January 2Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore
V-Picks: Rams -5.5; Los Angeles wins
FOX1:00
 Atlanta at Buffalo
V-Picks: Falcons +14.5; Buffalo wins
FOX1:00
New York Giants at Chicago
V-Picks: Bears -6.5; Chicago wins
CBS1:00
Kansas City at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Bengals +4.5; Cincinnati wins
CBS1:00
Las Vegas at Indianapolis
V-Picks: Colts -7.5; Indianapolis wins
FOX1:00
Jacksonville at New England
V-Picks: Patriots -16.5; New England wins
CBS1:00
Tampa Bay at New York Jets
V-Picks: Buccaneers -13.5; Tampa Bay wins
FOX1:00
Miami at Tennessee
V-Picks: Titans -3.5; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
Philadelphia at Washington
V-Picks: Eagles -4.5; Philadelphia wins
FOX1:00
Denver at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chargers -7.5; Los Angeles wins
CBS4:05
Houston at San Francisco
V-Picks: 49ers -12.5; San Francisco wins
CBS4:05
Arizona at Dallas
V-Picks: Cowboys -6; Dallas wins
FOX4:25
 Carolina at New Orleans
V-Picks: Saints -6.5; New Orleans wins
FOX4:25
Detroit at Seattle
V-Picks: Lions +7.5; Detroit wins
FOX4:25
Minnesota at Green Bay
V-Picks: Packers -13; Green Bay wins
NBC8:20
Monday, January 3Cleveland at Pittsburgh
V-Picks: Steelers +3.5; Pittsburgh wins
ESPN8:15

NFL RINGS IN WEEK 17 WITH 24 TEAMS STILL IN CONTENTION FOR SUPER BOWL LVI

Six down, eight to go.

Eight playoff berths remain up for grabs and 24 teams enter Week 17 still in contention for Super Bowl LVI. It’s the most teams remaining in contention with two weeks to play in 15 years, tying the 2006 season. Six teams have reached the postseason:

  • The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS won their sixth consecutive AFC West title.
  • The DALLAS COWBOYS locked down the NFC East for the first time since 2018.
  • The GREEN BAY PACKERS clinched their third straight NFC North title.
  • The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS clinched the NFC South division title for the first time since 2007 and will look to become the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX) to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
  • The ARIZONA CARDINALS secured their first playoff berth since 2015.
  • The LOS ANGELES RAMS punched their playoff ticket for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

In the AFC, six of seven playoff berths remain underdetermined. In the NFC, six teams are fighting for the final two playoff invitations.

The race for the playoffs continues on Sunday.

DATELINE PAUL BROWN STADIUM: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4), who own the league’s longest active winning streak (eight), are in the driver’s seat for the AFC’s only first-round bye. The CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-6) are looking to nail down their first playoff berth and AFC North division title since 2015. Those teams clash on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).

  • The Bengals are in first place after finishing last in the AFC North in 2020. In 16 of the past 18 seasons, at least one NFL team has finished in first place the season after finishing in last or tied for last.
  • Last week, Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW passed for 525 yards – the fourth most in a game all-time – with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 143.2 rating.

The players with the most passing yards in a game in NFL history:

PLAYERDATEPASSING YARDS
Norm Van BrocklinHOFSept. 28, 1951554
Warren MoonHOFDec. 16, 1990527
Matt SchaubNov. 18, 2012527
Joe BurrowDec. 26, 2021525
  • Burrow now has three career games with at least 400 passing yards and three touchdown passes, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO as the only quarterbacks with three such games in their first two career seasons all-time. Plus, Burrow registered his 10th career game with at least 300 passing yards since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft; he is the fourth quarterback in NFL history to have 10-or-more games with at least 300 passing yards in his first two seasons, joining JUSTIN HERBERT (16 games with at least 300 passing yards), PATRICK MAHOMES (10) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (10).
  • The 2021 Bengals are the first team in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers all under the age of 26. Burrow, 25, has 4,165 passing yards and running back JOE MIXON, 25, has 1,159 rushing yards, while wide receivers JA’MARR CHASE, 21, and TEE HIGGINS, 22, have 1,163 and 1,029 receiving yards, respectively.
  • Chase and Higgins also make the 2021 Bengals the first team ever with two players under the age of 23 with at least 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
  • Bengals defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON, who has a career-high 14 sacks this season, became the second player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to register at least half of a sack in 11 consecutive games within a single season, joining CHRIS JONES (11 consecutive games from Oct. 7, 2018, to Dec. 23, 2018).
  • Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES has won at least 11 games as a starting quarterback for a fourth straight season. 
  • The Chiefs, who close the regular season with a pair of road games, have won a sixth consecutive AFC West title, one of the longest stretches of division championships since the inception of the AFC and NFC in 1970.

The teams with the most consecutive division titles since 1970:

TEAMYEARSSTREAK
New England Patriots2009-1911
Los Angeles Rams1973-797
Kansas City Chiefs2016-216
Pittsburgh Steelers1974-796
Minnesota Vikings1973-786

COWBOYS LATEST TO WEAR NFC EAST CROWN: While the Chiefs have dominated the AFC West, the NFC East has seen a new division champion in 17 consecutive years, the longest streak without a repeat division winner in NFL history. The DALLAS COWBOYS (11-4), who clinched the division last week, prepare to host the ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-5), who own the league’s best road record (7-1). The teams clash at AT&T Stadium on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).

  • The Cowboys lead the NFL in scoring offense (30.5 points per game) and takeaways (33). Only five NFL teams have led the league in each category since 1970: Carolina in 2015, Green Bay in 2011, Washington in 1983, Buffalo in 1975 and Dallas in 1971.  
  • The Cowboys’ 56 points last week were their most since scoring 59 in a victory over San Francisco in 1980.
  • On defense, Dallas linebacker MICAH PARSONS leads NFL rookies with 13 sacks while teammate TREVON DIGGS leads all NFL players with 11 interceptions.
  • Dallas is the first team in NFL history to have a player with more than 10 interceptions and a player with more than 10 sacks in the same season.
  • Diggs’ 11 interceptions are the most by any NFL player in a season since EVERSON WALLS also had 11 in 1981. Diggs enters Week 17 two shy of tying the single-season league record.

The players with the most interceptions in a single season in the Super Bowl era:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONINTERCEPTIONS
Lester HayesOakland Raiders198013
Mike ReinfeldtHouston Oilers197912
Emmitt ThomasHOFKansas City197412
Trevon DiggsDallas202111
Everson WallsDallas198111
Mel BlountHOFPittsburgh197511
Bill BradleyPhiladelphia197111

ALL-AROUND EXCELLENCE: In each season, the rich history of the NFL has been dotted by individuals performing at exceptional levels in assorted areas of play. But never before have so many players performed at those exceptional levels across all areas of play.

In the same season, this is the first time in NFL history in which an individual has reached each of these landmarks:

  • 1,600 rushing yards – Indianapolis’ JONATHAN TAYLOR (1,626)
  • 4,500 passing yards – Tampa Bay’s TOM BRADY (4,580)
  • 1,600 receiving yards – The Los Angeles Rams’ COOPER KUPP (1,734)
  • 16 sacks – Pittsburgh’s T.J. WATT (17.5) and Chicago’s ROBERT QUINN (17)
  • 10 interceptions – Dallas’ TREVON DIGGS (11)
  • 50-yard gross punting average – Las Vegas’ AJ COLE (50.3)
  • 135 points – New England’s NICK FOLK (136) and the Los Angeles Rams’ MATT GAY (136)

Taylor leads the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-6) into a key intraconference battle against the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (8-7) on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • Taylor (1,626) needs 84 rushing yards to surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer EDGERRIN JAMES (1,709 in 2000) for the franchise’s single-season rushing record.
  • Taylor – who turns 23 on Jan. 19 – leads the league with 1,962 scrimmage yards and 19 scrimmage touchdowns and can become the first player under the age of 23 with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in a single season all-time.
  • Indianapolis has won nine of its last 12 games, after opening the season 0-3. One of the most significant factors in that rebound has been points off turnovers. The Colts have turned 31 takeaways into 115 points, the most such points in the NFL.

FINAL INTERCONFERENCE GAMES THIS WEEK: In each of the past eight seasons (2013-20), the best interconference record has changed hands between the AFC and NFC. Last season, the AFC finished with the better record in interconference play (35-28-1) while the NFC held the advantage in 2019 (33-31).

This week marks the final 2021 interconference games until Super Bowl LVI. Next week, the regular season will conclude on Saturday, Jan. 8, and Sunday, Jan. 9. For the 12th consecutive year, all 16 games scheduled for the final week of the season are division contests, enhancing the potential for more games with playoff ramifications.

The interconference tally entering Week 17 stands at 38-37-1, in favor of the AFC.

One of those interconference battles this week has the ATLANTA FALCONS (7-8) traveling to meet the BUFFALO BILLS (9-6) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX). Each team is 3-1 this season against the other conference.

  • In last week’s win, Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns with a 104.4 rating and added 64 rushing yards. Allen, who has 101 touchdown passes and 29 rushing touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2018, is the first player with at least 100 touchdown passes and 20 rushing touchdowns in his first four seasons in NFL history.
  • Allen also has five career games with at least 300 passing yards and 50 rushing yards, surpassing MICHAEL VICK (four games) and RUSSELL WILSON (four) for the second-most such games all-time. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer STEVE YOUNG (eight games) has more.
  • Meanwhile last week, Atlanta rookie tight end KYLE PITTS registered six receptions for 102 yards in the Falcons’  win. Pitts has 949 receiving yards this season and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 receiving yards in 1961) as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history with at least 900 receiving yards.
  • Pitts also has 64 receptions in 2021 and is the fourth rookie tight end all-time with at least 60 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 receptions in 1988), JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002) and EVAN ENGRAM (64 in 2017).
  • Pitts, who recorded 119 receiving yards in Week 5 and 163 receiving yards in Week 7, is the third rookie tight end in league history with 100 receiving yards in at least three games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (five games in 1961) and CHARLE YOUNG (four games in 1973).

KUPP EYES ELUSIVE RECEIVING TRIPLE CROWN: When the LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-4) make the cross-country trek to face the BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-7) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP can progress toward one of the game’s more remarkable achievements.

  • Kupp leads the NFL in receptions (132), receiving yards (1,734) and receiving touchdowns (14). Since the 1970 league merger, only three players have finished a season leading the NFL in all three categories: Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (1990), STERLING SHARPE (1992) and STEVE SMITH (2005).
  • Kupp’s 132 receptions are fifth on the league’s all-time single-season list. Only MICHAEL THOMAS (149 in 2019), Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (143 in 2002), ANTONIO BROWN (136 in 2015) and JULIO JONES (136 in 2015) had more.
  • What’s more, Kupp has at least 90 receiving yards in 14 games this season and has surpassed ANTONIO BROWN (13 games in 2014) and Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (13 in 1995) for the most such games in a season all-time.
  • Meanwhile, Baltimore tight end MARK ANDREWS recorded eight receptions for 125 yards and one touchdown last week. Andrews, who had 115 receiving yards with one touchdown in Week 14 and 136 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Week 15, is the second tight end in NFL history to record at least 100 receiving yards and one touchdown reception in three consecutive games, joining JIMMY GRAHAM (Weeks 2-4, 2013).

BRADY IN THE BIG APPLE: Quarterback TOM BRADY is 17-4 in his career in combined starts at Giants Stadium and MetLife Stadium. He makes another trip to the New York area when the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (11-4) meet the NEW YORK JETS (4-11) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • Brady and Jets rookie quarterback ZACH WILSON were each born on Aug. 3, although their birthdays are 22 years apart.
  • Brady leads the league with 4,580 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes. With three touchdown passes, he would join AARON RODGERS as the only players with three career seasons of 40-or-more touchdown passes in league annals and join DREW BREES (2011-12) as the only players with at least 40 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons all-time.
  • In last week’s win, Wilson registered a 52-yard rushing touchdown and became the fourth rookie quarterback since 1950 to record a rushing touchdown of at least 50 yards, joining MARCUS MARIOTA (87-yard run on Dec. 6, 2015), ROBERT GRIFFIN III (76-yard run on Oct. 14, 2012) and Pro Football Hall of Famer FRAN TARKENTON (52-yard run on Nov. 5, 1961).
  • Also last week, Tampa Bay wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN registered 10 receptions for 101 yards. Brown has 23 career games with at least 10 receptions, surpassing ANDRE JOHNSON (22 games) for the most games with at least 10 receptions in NFL history.

MIAMI REBOUND IS UNPRECEDENTED: Hope springs eternal in the NFL. The latest example is the MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-7), who last week became the first team in league history to win seven straight games and lose seven straight games in the same season.

  • This week, in a potential preview of an AFC Wild Card game, the Dolphins visit the TENNESSEE TITANS (10-5) on Sunday at Nissan Stadium (1:00 PM ET, CBS).
  • Since BRIAN FLORES became Dolphins head coach in 2019, Miami is 19-7 (.731) in games played in November, December and January. Only two other teams since the beginning of 2019 have better regular-season winning percentages during those months: Kansas City (23-2, .920) and Green Bay (19-6, .760).
  • Dolphins quarterback TUA TAGOVAILOA leads qualifying players in completion percentage (70.1) this season.
  • In last week’s win, Titans wide receiver A.J. BROWN had 145 receiving yards and one touchdown on a career-high 11 receptions.

ROOKIES CATCHING HISTORY: Detroit rookie wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN, whose DETROIT LIONS (2-12-1) travel to face the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (5-10) on Sunday at Lumen Field (4:25 PM ET, FOX), had nine receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown last week. Miami rookie wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE recorded 10 receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown in the Dolphins’ Week 16 victory.

  • Waddle has 96 receptions this season, second-most by a rookie in NFL history. Waddle needs six catches on Sunday to break the NFL’s single-season rookie record, established by ANQUAN BOLDIN (101) in 2003.
  • St. Brown and Waddle are the third and fourth rookies all-time with at least eight receptions and a touchdown catch in three-or-more games, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (five games in 2014) and ANQUAN BOLDIN (four games in 2003).
  • Waddle and St. Brown also each have at least eight receptions in four consecutive games, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (four consecutive games in 2014) as the only rookies with at least eight receptions in four consecutive games all-time.

NEMESIS OF THE NFC NORTH: The GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-3) host the MINNESOTA VIKINGS (7-8) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC). Over their last 25 regular-season games, the Packers are 0-2 against the Vikings and 20-3 against the rest of the NFL.

  • Green Bay enters with a streak of 31 wins when leading in turnover ratio. The next-closest active streak belongs to Tampa Bay, which brings a 19-game stretch into Week 17.
  • Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS threw three touchdown passes in last week’s win to break a tie with Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (442) for the most in Packers history. Rodgers now has 445 career touchdown passes, the fifth-most in NFL history. Favre, who finished his career with 508, ranks fourth on the NFL’s all-time list.
  • Green Bay wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS had 10 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win. Adams now has nine career games with at least 10 receptions and two-or-more receiving touchdowns, the most by an NFL player all-time.
  • Adams has a touchdown reception in 11 consecutive Sunday Night Football games, the longest such streak ever.
  • Last week, Minnesota wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON had eight receptions for 116 yards. Jefferson has 2,851 receiving yards since entering the NFL in 2020 and surpassed ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2,755) for the most receiving yards by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history.

ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS SQUARE OFF IN NEW ENGLAND, BAY AREA: Rookie quarterback TREY LANCE could make his second career start when the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (8-7) host fellow rookie DAVIS MILLS and the HOUSTON TEXANS (4-11) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS). It’s one of two games on the Week 17 docket expected to feature rookie starting quarterbacks on opposite sidelines.

  • The Texans, who entered last week with a record of 3-11, earned a win over the Chargers (8-6 entering Week 16). It marked the 12th game won by a team over an opponent with at least four more victories this season, tied for the fifth-most through Week 16 in league annals.
  • Mills completed 21 of 27 attempts (77.8 percent) for 254 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 130.6 rating in the victory. Mills, who passed for 312 yards with three touchdowns and a 141.7 rating in Week 5, is the third rookie quarterback all-time with at least 250 passing yards, two touchdown passes and a rating of 130-or-higher in multiple games, joining ROBERT GRIFFIN III (2012) and JUSTIN HERBERT (2020).

Earlier on Sunday, the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-13) meet the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-6) at Gillette Stadium (1:00 PM ET, CBS), in a faceoff of first-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft. Jacksonville’s TREVOR LAWRENCE led his Clemson team to the College Football Playoff National Championship to finish the 2018 season, while New England’s MAC JONES guided Alabama to the title last season.

THICK SIXES: In Week 16, NFL teams designed plays that produced three touchdowns by offensive tackles: Philadelphia’s LANE JOHNSON caught a 5-yard pass from JALEN HURTS, the Jets’ CONOR MCDERMOTT scored on a 1-yard pass from ZACH WILSON and the Cowboys’ TERENCE STEELE hauled in a 1-yard reception from DAK PRESCOTT. Since the 1970 league merger, the most offensive linemen to score touchdowns on designed plays in one week had been two. Johnson, Hurts and the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-7) go on the road to face the WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (6-9) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

CONSISTENT WINNERS IN THE AFC: The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4) – who clinched their sixth-consecutive AFC West division title – have a winning record in each of their nine seasons under head coach ANDY REID, including at least 12 wins in each of the previous three seasons.

With a win on Sunday against Cincinnati (1:00 PM ET, CBS), the Chiefs would become the fifth team in NFL history to record at least 12 victories in four consecutive seasons.

The teams with the most consecutive seasons with at least 12 wins in NFL history:

TEAMCONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH 12+ WINS
New England Patriots8 (2010-17)
Indianapolis Colts7 (2003-09)
Denver Broncos4 (2012-15)
Dallas Cowboys4 (1992-95)
  
Kansas City Chiefs3* (2018-20)
*Active streak

The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-6), who enter Week 17 as the No. 6 seed in the AFC and are looking to return to the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2020, have won at least 10 games in 18 of their 22 seasons under head coach BILL BELICHICK.

Belichick, who also won 11 games as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 1994, can become the second head coach all-time with 20 seasons of 10-or-more wins, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DON SHULA (20 seasons).

The head coaches with the most seasons with at least 10 wins in NFL history:

HEAD COACHTEAM(S)SEASONS WITH 10+ WINS
Don ShulaHOFBaltimore Colts, Miami20
Bill BelichickCleveland, New England19*
Tom LandryHOFDallas16
Andy ReidPhiladelphia, Kansas City16
*Has nine wins in 2021

The PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-7-1) have finished with a .500-or-better winning percentage in 17 consecutive seasons, including each of their previous 14 years, since MIKE TOMLIN became head coach in 2007.
With one more victory this season, the Steelers can surpass the 1957-73 CLEVELAND BROWNS (17 consecutive seasons) for the third-longest streak of seasons with a .500-or-better winning percentage in league annals.

The teams with the most consecutive seasons finishing with a .500-or-better record in NFL history:

TEAMCONSECUTIVE .500-OR-BETTER SEASONS
Dallas Cowboys21 (1965-85)
New England Patriots19 (2001-19)
Cleveland Browns17 (1957-73)
Pittsburgh Steelers17* (2004-20)
*Active streak

— NFL —

MAHOMES MAGIC: Since taking over as the Kansas City starting quarterback in 2018, PATRICK MAHOMES has led the Chiefs to four-consecutive division titles. This season, he ranks tied for fourth in the league with 33 touchdown passes and fifth with 4,310 passing yards and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING as the only quarterbacks ever with at least 4,000 passing yards in four of their first five seasons.

With at least 190 passing yards on at Cincinnati on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Mahomes will join MATTHEW STAFFORD as the only quarterbacks ever with at least 4,500 passing yards in three of their first five seasons.  

Additionally, Mahomes needs two touchdown passes to become the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 35 touchdown passes in three of his first five seasons.

Mahomes has totaled 147 touchdown passes in 61 career games. With three touchdown passes on Sunday, Mahomes will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (62 games) as the fastest player to reach 150 career touchdown passes in NFL history.

The players to reach 150 touchdown passes in the fewest games in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMGAMES 
Dan MarinoHOFMiami62 
Aaron RodgersGreen Bay76 
Andrew LuckIndianapolis77 
    
Patrick MahomesKansas City61* 
*Has 147 touchdown passes in 61 games  

— NFL —

GO PACK GO: Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS enters Week 17 with 3,689 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes this season and can become the sixth player ever to record at least 4,000 passing yards in 10 different seasons.  

Since Week 11, Rodgers has recorded 16 touchdown passes with zero interceptions and has recorded at least two touchdown passes in each of the five games during that span.

Against Minnesota on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Rodgers can become the third player ever with at least two touchdown passes and no interceptions in six-or-more consecutive games, joining TOM BRADY (nine consecutive games in 2010) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DON MEREDITH (six from 1965-66). Rodgers can join Brady as the only ones to do so within a single season.

The players with the most consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes and no interceptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASON(S)GAMES
Tom BradyNew England20109
Don MeredithHOFDallas1965-666
    
Aaron RodgersGreen Bay20215*
*Active streak   

Rodgers’ top target this season has once again been wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS, who ranks second in the league with 106 receptions and third with 1,362 receiving yards and is one of five players with at least 10 touchdown receptions (10) this season.

With at least four receptions, Adams – who also had 115 receptions in 2020 and 111 receptions in 2018 – can become the fourth player all-time with at least three career seasons with 110-or-more receptions.

The players with the most seasons with at least 110 receptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)SEASONS
Wes WelkerNew England5 (2007-09, 2011-12)
Antonio BrownPittsburgh3 (2013-15)
DeAndre HopkinsHouston, Arizona3 (2015, 2018, 2020)
   
Davante AdamsGreen Bay2* (2018, 2020)
*Has 106 receptions in 2021

With two touchdown receptions, Adams – who had 18 touchdown receptions in 2020, 13 in 2018 and 12 in 2016 – would become the fifth player ever with at least 12 touchdown receptions in four of his first eight career seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers JERRY RICE (five seasons), CALVIN JOHNSON (four), RANDY MOSS (four) and TERRELL OWENS (four).

Adams, who has 652 receptions for 7,930 receiving yards and 72 touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2014, can become the sixth player in league annals with at least 600 receptions, 8,000 receiving yards and 70 touchdown receptions in his first eight seasons.

The players with at least 600 receptions, 8,000 receiving yards and 70 touchdown receptions in their first eight seasons in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)RECEPTIONSREC. YARDSREC. TDs
Larry FitzgeraldArizona6939,61573
Marvin HarrisonHOFIndianapolis75910,07283
Calvin JohnsonHOFDetroit64310,40574
Randy MossHOFMinnesota, Oakland Raiders63410,14798
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco61010,273103
     
Davante AdamsGreen Bay652*7,930*72*
*In eighth season 

 — NFL —

SECOND-YEAR STATEMENTS: Los Angeles Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT ranks second in the league with 4,394 passing yards and tied for fourth with 33 touchdown passes. In 30 career games, Herbert has totaled 8,730 passing yards, the most by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history.

With at least 270 passing yards against Denver on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS), Herbert will become the second-fastest player ever to reach 9,000 passing yards, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (32 games). Only PATRICK MAHOMES (30) reached the mark in fewer games

The players to reach 9,000 passing yards in the fewest games in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMGAMES
Patrick MahomesKansas City30
Kurt WarnerHOFSt. Louis Rams32
Matthew StaffordDetroit33
   
Justin HerbertL.A. Chargers30*
*Has 8,730 passing yards in 30 games  

Last week, Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW passed for 525 yards and four touchdowns for a 143.2 rating, the fourth-most passing yards by a player in a single game in NFL history. Burrow ranks second in the league with a 105.0 rating this season and ranks sixth with a career-high 4,165 passing yards. In 25 career games, Burrow has totaled 6,853 passing yards.

With at least 147 passing yards against Kansas City on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Burrow will become the fourth-fastest player ever to reach 7,000 career passing yards, surpassing MARC BULGER (27 games) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (27).

The players to reach 7,000 passing yards in the fewest games in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMGAMES
Patrick MahomesKansas City23
Justin HerbertL.A. Chargers25
Kurt WarnerHOFSt. Louis Rams25
Marc BulgerSt. Louis Rams27
Dan MarinoHOFMiami27
   
Joe BurrowCincinnati25*
*Has 6,853 passing yards in 25 games  

Miami quarterback TUA TAGOVAILOA enters Week 17 leading all qualified passers with a 70.1 completion percentage (230 of 328) this season. Since entering the league last season, Tagovailoa has recorded a completion percentage of 70-or-higher (minimum 20 attempts) in nine games. 

With a completion percentage of 70-or-higher (minimum 20 attempts) at Tennessee on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Tagovailoa – making his 20th career start – will become the first player ever with a completion percentage of 70-or higher (miniumum 20 attempts) in 10 of his first 20 career starts.

The players with the most games with a completion percentage of 70-or-higher (minimum 20 attempts) in their first 20 career starts in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)GAMES
Jimmy GaroppoloNew England, San Francisco9
Patrick MahomesKansas City9
Dak PrescottDallas9
Tua TagovailoaMiami9*
*Making 20th start on Sunday  

— NFL —

HISTORY IN HOLLYWOOD: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP leads the NFL with 132 receptions, the fifth-most in a single season all-time, for 1,734 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

With five receptions at Baltimore on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Kupp would surpass ANTONIO BROWN (136 receptions in 2015) and JULIO JONES (136 in 2015) for the third-most receptions in a single season in NFL history.

The players with the most receptions in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Michael ThomasNew Orleans2019149
Marvin HarrisonHOFIndianapolis2002143
Antonio BrownPittsburgh2015136
Julio JonesAtlanta2015136
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams2021132*
*Entering Week 17

Kupp’s 1,734 receiving yards are the seventh-most in a season all-time and with at least 48 receiving yards, would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer ISAAC BRUCE (1,781 receiving yards in 1995) for the fifth-most in a season all-time.

The players with the most receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Calvin JohnsonHOFDetroit20121,964
Julio JonesAtlanta20151,871
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco19951,848
Antonio BrownPittsburgh20151,834
Isaac BruceHOFSt. Louis Rams19951,781
Charlie HenniganHOFHouston Oilers19611,746
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams20211,734*
*Entering Week 17

Dating back to Week 13 of the 2020 season, Kupp has recorded at least five receptions in 19 consecutive games and can become the fifth player all-time with at least five catches in 20 consecutive games.

The players with the most consecutive games with at least five receptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)SEASONSGAMES
Antonio BrownPittsburgh2013-1536
DeAndre HopkinsHouston, Arizona2018-2023
Michael ThomasNew Orleans2018-1920
Jarvis LandryMiami, Cleveland2017-1820
Laveranues ColesN.Y. Jets, Washington2002-0319
Cooper KuppL.A. Rams2020-2119*
*Active streak

Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman AARON DONALD leads the team with 12 sacks this season and is the only player in the league with at least 11 sacks in each of the past five seasons. In his eight-year career, Donald has totaled 97.5 sacks.

With a sack on Sunday, Donald will surpass teammate VON MILLER (98 sacks) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DERRICK THOMAS (98) for the fourth-most sacks by a player in his first eight seasons since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The players with the most sacks in their first eight seasons since 1982:

PLAYERTEAM(S)SACKS
Reggie WhiteHOFPhiladelphia124
DeMarcus WareDallas111
Jared AllenKansas City, Minnesota105
Von MillerDenver98
Derrick ThomasHOFKansas City98
Aaron DonaldSt. Louis/L.A. Rams97.5*
*In eighth season  

— NFL —

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE SUCCESS: Five rookies – Miami wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE (96 receptions), Detroit wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN (74), Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE (68), Pittsburgh running back NAJEE HARRIS (67) and Atlanta tight end KYLE PITTS (64) – each have at least 60 receptions this season. The 2021 season can become the first with four-or-more rookies reaching 70 receptions, surpassing the 2014 season (three players).

Waddle enters Week 17 tied for the sixth in the league with 96 receptions, the second-most receptions by a rookie in league annals. With six receptions at Tennessee (1:00 PM ET, CBS), he would surpass ANQUAN BOLDIN (101 receptions in 2003) for the most receptions by a rookie all-time.
The rookies with the most receptions in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEPTIONS
Anquan BoldinArizona2003101
Jaylen WaddleMiami202196*
Michael ThomasNew Orleans201692

Waddle and St. Brown each have at least eight receptions in four consecutive games and in Week 17, can surpass ODELL BECKHAM JR. (four consecutive games in 2014) for the most consecutive games with at least eight receptions by a rookie all-time.

Chase, who also has 1,163 receiving yards and 10 touchdown receptions this season, needs seven receptions to join ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2014) as the only rookies with at least 75 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdown receptions in NFL history.

With at least 47 receiving yards, Chase can become the fifth rookie with at least 1,200 receiving yards in the Super Bowl era.

The rookies with at least 1,200 receiving yards in the Super Bowl era:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRECEIVING YARDS
Justin JeffersonMinnesota20201,400
Anquan BoldinArizona20031,377
Randy MossHOFMinnesota19981,313
Odell Beckham Jr.N.Y. Giants20141,305
    
Ja’Marr ChaseCincinnati20211,163*
*Entering Week 17

Harris leads all rookies with 1,406 scrimmage yards (984 rushing, 422 receiving) this season and can become the fifth rookie in NFL history with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.

The rookies with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONRUSHING YARDSRECEIVING YARDS
Saquon BarkleyN.Y. Giants20181,307721
Marshall FaulkHOFIndianapolis19941,282522
Edgerrin JamesHOFIndianapolis19991,553586
Billy SimsDetroit19801,303621
     
Najee HarrisPittsburgh2021984*422*

Pitts ranks third among all tight ends with 949 receiving yards this season and with at least 51 receiving yards against Buffalo (1:00 PM ET, FOX), can join Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1,076 receiving yards in 1961) as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards.

Pitts has 64 receptions in 2021 and with six receptions, can become the third rookie tight end all-time with at least 70 receptions, joining KEITH JACKSON (81 receptions in 1988) and JEREMY SHOCKEY (74 in 2002).

— NFL —

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE SUCCESS: Dallas linebacker MICAH PARSONS leads all rookies with 13 sacks this season, followed by Miami linebacker JAELAN PHILLIPS (8.5 sacks) and New York Giants linebacker AZEEZ OJULARI (eight). This season can become the first season since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, in which three rookies recorded 10-or-more sacks.

With two sacks against Arizona (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Parsons can surpass JEVON KEARSE (14.5 sacks in 1999) for the most sacks by a rookie since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic.

The rookies with the most sacks since 1982:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONSACKS
Jevon KearseTennessee199914.5
Aldon SmithSan Francisco201114
Dwight FreeneyIndianapolis200213
Micah ParsonsDallas202113*
*Entering Week 17

— NFL —

Vince’s View: SEC Bowl & College Football Playoff Predictions

Vince’s View: SEC Bowl & College Football Playoff Predictions

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my predictions bowl games with SEC teams and the college football playoff. I shared these picks previously on-air, but had not been able to post them while off the last few weeks.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

SEC Championship Game Straight-Up Record: 0-1 (0%)
SEC Championship Game vs. Spread Record: 0-1 (0%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 86-27 (76%)
2021 Season Spread Record: 56-57 (49%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

KNOXVILLE, TN – November 27, 2021 – Running back Jaylen Wright #20 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

2021-22 SEC BOWL SCHEDULE

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Dec. 22/ 8 p.m./ESPN
Amon G. Carter Stadium (45,000) / Fort Worth, Texas
Missouri (6-6, 3-5 SEC) vs. Army (8-4)
Point Spread: Army -7
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Army -7
Score Prediction: Army 26 Missouri 17

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl
Dec. 23/ 7 p.m./ESPN
Raymond James Stadium (65,657) / Tampa, Fla.
Florida (6-6, 2-6 SEC) vs. Central Florida (8-4)
Series History: UF leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: UF, 42-0 (2006 at Gainesville)
Point Spread: Florida -7
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: UCF +7
Score Prediction: UCF 31 Florida 28

TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
Dec. 28/ Noon/ESPN
Protective Stadium (41,811)/ Birmingham, Ala.
Auburn (6-6, 3-5 SEC) vs. 20 Houston (11-2)
Point Spread: Houston -1.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Auburn +1.5
Score Prediction: Auburn 27 Houston 24

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Dec. 28 / 6:45 p.m./ESPN
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (57,266) / Memphis, Tenn.
Mississippi State (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs. Texas Tech (6-6)
Series History: Mississippi State leads, 4-2-1
Last Meeting: MSU, 20-16 (1970 at Jackson, Miss.)
Point Spread: Miss State -10
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Miss State -10
Score Prediction: Miss State 41 Texas Tech 28

Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Dec. 30 / 11:30 a.m./ESPN
Bank of America Stadium (75,412) / Charlotte, N.C.
South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 SEC) vs. North Carolina (6-6)
Series History: North Carolina leads, 35-19-4
Last Meeting: UNC, 24-20 (2019 at Charlotte)
Point Spread: North Carolina -12.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: South Carolina +12.5
Score Prediction: North Carolina 28 South Carolina 20

TransPerfect Music City Bowl
Dec. 30 / 3 p.m./ESPN
Nissan Stadium (69,143) / Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs Purdue (8-4)
Series History: Purdue leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: PU, 27-22 (1979 at Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston)
Point Spread: Tennessee -7.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee -7.5
Score Prediction: Tennessee 42 Purdue 24

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Dec. 31 / 11 a.m./ESPN
TIAA Bank Field (65,000) / Jacksonville, Fla.
25 Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. 17 Wake Forest (10-3)
Series History: Wake Forest leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: WF, 55-52 (2017 at Belk Bowl in Charlotte)
Point Spread: Texas A&M -7
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Texas A&M -7
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 38 Wake Forest 30

CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Dec. 31/ 3:30 p.m./ESPN
AT&T Stadium (72,088) / Arlington, Texas
1 Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. 4 Cincinnati (12-0)
Series History: Alabama leads, 5-0
Last Meeting: UA, 45-7 (1990 at Birmingham, Ala.)
Point Spread: Alabama -13
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -13
Score Prediction: Alabama 35 Cincinnati 7

CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl
Dec. 31/ 7:30 p.m./ESPN
Hard Rock Stadium (66,500) / Miami Gardens, Fla.
3 Georgia (12-1, 8-0 SEC) vs. 2 Michigan (12-1)
Series History: Tied, 1-1
Last Meeting: UGA, 15-7 (1965 at Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Point Spread: Georgia -7.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Georgia -7.5
Score Prediction: Georgia 24 Michigan 13

Outback Bowl
Jan. 1 / Noon/ESPN2
Raymond James Stadium (65,657) / Tampa, Fla.
21 Arkansas (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. Penn State (7-5)
Series History: First Meeting
Point Spread: Arkansas -3.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Arkansas -3.5
Score Prediction: Arkansas 35 Penn State 27

Vrbo Citrus Bowl
Jan. 1 / 1 p.m./ABC
Camping World Stadium (65,000) / Orlando, Fla.
22 Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 SEC) vs. 15 Iowa (10-3)
Series History: First Meeting
Point Spread: Kentucky -3
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Kentucky -3
Score Prediction: Kentucky 27 Iowa 21

Allstate Sugar Bowl
Jan. 1 / 8:45 p.m./ESPN
Caesar’s Superdome (68,400) / New Orleans, La.
8 Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2 SEC) vs. 7 Baylor (11-2)
Series History: Baylor leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: BU, 20-10 (1975 at Waco)
Point Spread: Pick’em
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss PK
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 38 Baylor 17

TaxAct Texas Bowl
Jan. 4 / 9 p.m./ESPN
NRG Stadium (70,000) / Houston, Texas
LSU (6-6, 3-5 SEC) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Series History: LSU leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: LSU, 21-0 (1980 at Baton Rouge)
Point Spread: Kansas State -4.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: LSU +4.5
Score Prediction: LSU 35 Kansas State 31

  • – CFP Poll Final Rank (Final Poll – Dec. 5, 2021)
NFL Week 16 picks with plenty of playoffs spots still up in the air

NFL Week 16 picks with plenty of playoffs spots still up in the air

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 16 predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 15 Straight-Up Record: 13-3 (82%)
Week 15 Against The Spread Record: 11-5 (69%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 130-80 (62%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 114-96 (54%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Miami Dolphins WR Preston Williams / Credit: Miami Dolphins Media Site

WEEK 16 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, December 23San Francisco at Tennessee
V-Picks: Titans +3.5; Titans win
NFLN8:20
    
Saturday, December 25Cleveland at Green Bay
V-Picks: Packers -7.5; Green Bay wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
4:30
Indianapolis at Arizona
V-Picks: Colts +3; Indianapolis wins
NFLN8:15
    
Sunday, December 26Detroit at Atlanta
V-Picks: Falcons -7.5; Atlanta wins
FOX1:00
Tampa Bay at Carolina
V-Picks: Buccaneers -10.5; Tampa Bay wins
FOX1:00
Baltimore at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Bengals -7.5; Cincinnati wins
CBS1:00
Los Angeles Chargers at Houston
V-Picks: Chargers -13; Los Angeles wins
CBS1:00
Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota
V-Picks: Rams -3; Los Angeles wins
FOX1:00
Buffalo at New England
V-Picks: Patriots -1; New England wins
CBS1:00
Jacksonville at New York Jets
V-Picks: Jets -2.5; New York wins
CBS1:00
New York Giants at Philadelphia
V-Picks: Eagles -11; Philadelphia wins
FOX1:00
Chicago at Seattle
V-Picks: Seahawks -7; Seattle wins
FOX4:05
Pittsburgh at Kansas City
V-Picks: Chiefs -10; Kansas City wins
CBS4:25
Denver at Las Vegas
V-Picks: Raiders PK; Las Vegas wins
CBS4:25
Washington at Dallas
V-Picks: Cowboys -10; Dallas wins
NBC8:20
    
Monday, December 27Miami at New Orleans
V-Picks: Dolphins -3; Miami wins
ESPN8:15
Jimmy’s blog: Was ruling on Wright the wrong call?

Jimmy’s blog: Was ruling on Wright the wrong call?

By Jimmy Hyams

NASHVILLE – Did he score or didn’t he?

That was the burning question after Purdue rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Tennessee 48-45 in overtime Thursday in a wild, will-this-game-ever-end battle between the SEC and the Big Ten in the Music City bowl.

After both teams scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of regulation, Tennessee got the ball first at the 25-yard line in overtime after Purdue won the toss and deferred.

The Vols drove the ball to the Purdue 1-yard line when, on fourth-and-1, Vols coach Josh Heupel decided he needed a touchdown, not a field goal.

The handoff went to true freshman Jaylen Wright behind a jumbo set that featured defensive tackle Omari Thomas as one of the lead blockers. Wright was hit hard at the 1, struggled to stay on his feet, then reached the ball across the goal line.

The line judge rushed in, waving Wright down at the 1 due to forward progress.

It was evident that Wright’s knee had not touched the ground.

It was not so evident that his forward progress had been stopped.

The referee, Jerry Magallanes of the ACC, said the forward progress ruling was under review.

One problem: Forward progress is not a reviewable play.

Someone must have whispered to Magallanes that you can’t review forward progress, because he then came back and announced the call was confirmed.

“It sounded like the whistle blew after he extended the football,’’ said Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, clearly unhappy with the call.  

“Initially, I was excited,’’ said UT quarterback Hendon Hooker of Wright’s run. “I thought he scored.’’

Without a point to its name in overtime, Tennessee (7-6) had to rely on its defense to stop a team that had racked up over 600 yards of total offense in regulation.

Purdue (9-4) didn’t force the issue, gaining 4 yards to set up the game-winning 38-yard field goal by Mitchell Fineran to set off a wild celebration by Boilermaker players and fans alike before a record bowl crowd at Nissan Stadium of 69,489 (90 percent of whom were UT fans).

“Disappointed in the outcome,’’ Heupel said.

Heupel was second-guessed for not kicking a field goal in overtime, but considering your defense wasn’t having much luck stopping the Boilermakers, you can defend the desire to try to score a touchdown.

Another decision you could second guess: Why was Wright in the game in overtime and not Jabari Small, who had rushed for a career-high 180 yards and is more powerful than Wright?

Heupel said Small had been “fighting through some things all night,’’ presumably meaning Small wasn’t healthy enough to play in overtime.

Tennessee had a chance to win in regulation when it got the ball at its 40-yard line with 44 seconds left. The Vols got just one first down and elected to try a 56-yard field goal with 2 seconds left rather than toss a Hail Mary into the end zone.

Chase McGrath’s kick was short and to the right.

“We were right on the edge,’’ Heupel of McGrath’s field-goal range. “Coach (Mike) Ekeler (special teams coach) believed in Chase and Chase had a look, too. He gave it a helluva run.’’

After the game, Heupel gave a “special thanks’’ to the seniors who “competed and fought and led’’ under difficult circumstances and said the “journey has been unbelievable.’’

This was a group of seniors that saw a mass exodus of teammates through the transfer portal and saw the coach that recruited them fired in January and watched with concern the possible penalties from a lengthy NCAA investigation into recruiting violations.

Senior Theo Jackson said the program was “falling apart’’ when Heupel and his staff saved the day with positive encouragement and a fast-pace offense that set a school record for points in a season.

That offense led the nation in first-quarter scoring, putting up 190 points to the opponent’s 51.

That was evident again against Purdue when UT bolted to a 21-7 first-quarter lead.

But then the offense bogged down. The Vols scored just 10 points on its next 10 possessions – from the second quarter until late in the fourth quarter. Part of the problem was not converting on short-yardage situations. And part of the problem was Hooker’s inaccuracy; he misfired on several long and intermediate throws.

And Tennessee’s short-handed secondary was torched by Purdue quarterback Aiden O’Connell, a former walk-on who doesn’t have a strong arm and isn’t mobile, but is very accurate. He completed 26 of 47 passes for 534 yards and a bowl-record-tying five touchdowns.

O’Connell did throw three picks, two in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to put Tennessee in the winners’ circle.

Hooker was 26 of 41 for 378 yards and five touchdowns – three to Cedric Tillman, who had seven catches for 150 yards.

The Vols were without cornerback Alontae Taylor, who opted out to focus on the NFL draft, and two other defensive backs: Kenneth George and Brandon Turnage. Purdue smartly picked on the backups and drew several pass interference calls against Warren Burrell, as UT committed 14 penalties for 128 yards.

Tennessee allowed a whopping 627 total yards on 81 snaps.

Tennessee gained 666 yards on 104 snaps.

All the scoring and first downs combined with more than a dozen fake injuries by both teams – mostly by Purdue – caused the game to last about 4 hours and 40 minutes.

Heupel said afterwards the officials told him they’d like to see a rule change regarding fake injuries.

But that’s a topic for another day.

Tennessee lost a bowl game it thought it should win.

It blew a 14-point lead.

It committed too many penalties.

It gave up too many big pass plays.

But one bowl game shouldn’t detract from an outstanding season under dire circumstances.

And with many key offensive players coming back, you can expect more fireworks next season.

As Hooker said after the defeat: “I see this as motivation. – something we can build on.’’

———

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all  

Jimmy’s blog: Jackson believed in Heupel offense before season

Jimmy’s blog: Jackson believed in Heupel offense before season

By Jimmy Hyams

Quarterback Tayven Jackson has an adjustment to make.

The Tennessee signee will soon be operating in a hurry-up offense that ranks among the fastest in the nation.

In high school, that wasn’t the case.

“I probably ran the slowest offense in high school history,’’ Jackson said. ‘’It’s a really old, old offense. It’s the Wing-T offense.

“But I’m very capable of doing that because I play basketball and run track. That’s all fast.’’

Jackson watched Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker operate the Vols’ up-tempo attack with great effectiveness and envisioned himself in a similar role.

“I kind of just put myself in his shoes,’’ Jackson said. “I feel like I have the skill set, almost the same as Hendon Hooker. We can both run, we can both pass. I can’t wait to meet him and learn from him next year. … I couldn’t ask for anyone else to come in and model my game after.’’

While some incoming quarterbacks might prefer that the veteran depart so the competition is open, Jackson doesn’t see it that way.

“I was very excited (when Hooker said he was returning,),’’ Jackson said. “He brings great energy and he is a leader. I’m excited to see how much better he’ll get in the offseason and come out next season and light it up and hopefully he gets the Heisman.’’

Jackson said it was “awesome’’ to watch UT’s offense this past season. The Vols averaged 38.8 points per game, over 450 total yards, and scored 28 first-quarter points against Missouri and South Carolina.

“It was crazy because everything coach (Josh) Heup (Heupel) told me they would do, they did it, and they did it very well. They had a great scheme every game.

“You don’t want a coach that tells you something and does something difference. But that’s not coach Heup. He’s very real and truthful.’’

Jackson committed to Tennessee in April, four months before the Vols teed it up in the fall. The quarterback from Greenwood, Indiana, had a belief in the system.

“I trusted coach Heup the minute I talked to him,’’ Jackson said. “And I knew he was always about love. I knew he would do this (have a good season) just by talking to him. It was great to watch them play this year. I believed in him.’’

Jackson will be joined at Tennessee by what he called “the best receiving class in ’22.’’

It includes Cam Miller, Squirrel White, Chas Nimrod and Kaleb Webb.

“These guys are fast,’’ Jackson said. “They play hard, run crisp routes. I can’t wait to get out there throwing the ball to them. They’ll make (No.) 15 look really good. … They’ll be a great asset to the offense.’’

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: the wings that changed it all

Jimmy’s Blog: Aiden aides Purdue passing attack

Jimmy’s Blog: Aiden aides Purdue passing attack

By Jimmy Hyams

NASHVILLE – Purdue has played musical chairs at quarterback each of the past two seasons.

Aiden O’Connell and Jake Plummer alternated starts before the tune stopped with O’Connell earlier this season.

O’Connell responded by completing 289 of 393 passes (73.5%) for 3,178 yards and 23 touchdowns with eight interceptions in eight starts (6-2 record). That includes two wins over top five teams.

Interestingly, Plummer was benched despite competing 68.5% of his passes for 864 yards and seven touchdowns with zero interceptions.

But the offense was stagnant, scoring just 13 points in four of five games during one stretch.

Few teams in the country pass more than Jeff Brohm’s offense. The Boilermakers attempted 528 passes and actually completed more passes (381) than they had rush attempts (359). Of course, when you average 2.8 yards per run, you’re more tempted to throw.

You’re also more tempted to air it out when you have a brilliant receiver like David Bell, who had 93 catches for 1,286 yards – including two 200-yard games against top-five opponents. In 2019, he had 86 catches for 1,035 yards. In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, he had 53 catches for 626 yards and a career season-high eight scores.

Fortunately for Tennessee, Bell has opted to sit out Thursday’s Music City Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.

Still, don’t expect Purdue (8-4) to rely on a ground game against Tennessee. Receiver Milton Weight had 57 catches for 732 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. Jackson Anthrop had 48 catches and Nashville’s TJ Sheffield had 33.

Tight ends figure prominently in the Purdue passing attack. Payne Dunham had 40 catches and three other tight ends combined for 26 catches, giving the position 66 receptions.

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, who knows a thing or two about the passing game, is impressed with Purdue’s air game.

“They’ve got playmakers out on the perimeter,’’ Heupel said. “They do a great job of getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. He (O’Connell) is a good decision maker, accurate with it, does a good job of taking care of it.

“You’ve got to do a great job (on) the perimeter screen game, defeat blocks and go make plays in space.

“Defensively for us, we’ve got to do a great job affecting the quarterback. If we can get them into third-and-long, and put some pressure on them, that’s going to be critical. At the same time, with some of their quick game, we’ve got to find a way to cause some issues with windows and them being able to deliver the football.’’

Tennessee has recorded 32 sacks and Purdue has allowed 27 sacks, which means putting pressure on the Purdue passer is doable.

Tennessee must face Purdue without its best cover corner, Alontae Taylor, who was bothered late in the season by an ankle injury and has opted out to focus on the Senior Bowl.

“I believe in the guys that will play there when we get to game day,’’ Heupel said. “It won’t be just one guy, I don’t think, throughout the entire 60 minutes. But (I’m) excited to see those guys go compete.’’  

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all

NFL Week 15 picks and game notes including Titans/Steelers, end of bye weeks

NFL Week 15 picks and game notes including Titans/Steelers, end of bye weeks

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 15 predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 14 Straight-Up Record: 9-5 (64%)
Week 14 Against The Spread Record: 9-5 (64%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 117-77 (60%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 103-91 (53%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

An image from December 15, 2019 regular season away game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Vikings won 39-10.

WEEK 15 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, December 16Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chiefs -3; Kansas City wins
FOX/NFLN/Amazon8:20
Saturday, December 18Las Vegas at Cleveland
V-Picks: Raiders -1.5; Las Vegas wins
NFLN4:30
New England at Indianapolis
V-Picks: Patriots +2.5; New England wins
NFLN8:15
Sunday, December 19Carolina at Buffalo 
V-Picks: Bills -10.5; Buffalo wins
FOX1:00
Arizona at Detroit 
V-Picks: Cardinals -13: Arizona wins
FOX1:00
Houston at Jacksonville 
V-Picks: Texans +3.5; Houston wins
CBS1:00
New York Jets at Miami
V-Picks: Dolphins -10; Miami wins
CBS1:00
Dallas at New York Giants
V-Picks: Cowboys -10.5; Dallas wins
FOX1:00
Washington at Philadelphia 
V-Picks: Eagles -7; Philadelphia wins
FOX1:00
Tennessee at Pittsburgh 
V-Picks: Steelers +1.5; Pittsburgh wins
CBS1:00
Cincinnati at Denver  
V-Picks: Bengals +2.5; Cincinnati wins
CBS4:05
Atlanta at San Francisco 
V-Picks: 49ers -9; San Francisco wins
CBS4:05
 Green Bay at Baltimore  
V-Picks: Packers -5.5; Green Bay wins
FOX4:25
Seattle at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams -4.5; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:25
New Orleans at Tampa Bay 
V-Picks: Buccaneers -11; Tampa Bay wins
NBC8:20
Monday, December 20Minnesota at Chicago  
V-Picks: Vikings -3.5; Minnesota wins
ESPN8:15

FIRST PLACE ON LINE IN THREE DIVISIONS, SATURDAY GAMES ON TAP, RECORDS READY TO FALL IN WEEK 15

The journey is closing in on the destination, but the intrigue is especially exciting.

For only the third time since 1990, the league enters Week 15 without a team having clinched a playoff berth (also 1993 and 2014). With four weeks to play, 28 teams remain in playoff contention.

No question, the competitiveness of the NFL is as good as it’s ever been. The logjam of clubs with six, seven, eight or nine wins – 21 teams – is unprecedented. Previously, the most such teams through 14 weeks was 19 in 1995. The group of 24 teams with at least six wins is the largest entering Week 15 in NFL history.

MOST TEAMS WITH SIX-PLUS WINS THROUGH 14 WEEKS, NFL HISTORY
SEASONTEAMS
202124
200622
198322

STREAK SPEAK: Four NFL teams – NEW ENGLAND (seven consecutive wins), KANSAS CITY (six), MIAMI (five) and TAMPA BAY (four) – have winning streaks of four-or-more games. The last time the league entered Week 15 with as many winning streaks of that length was 2016.

  • The Dolphins (6-7), who host the NEW YORK JETS (3-10) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), are attempting to become the first team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after winning one of their first eight games. Miami is also just the second team in league annals to win five consecutive games following a seven-game losing streak, joining the 1994 NEW YORK GIANTS.
  • In Miami’s last game, wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE registered nine receptions for 90 yards. Waddle has six games this season with at least eight receptions, tied with ODELL BECKHAM JR. (six in 2014) for the most games with at least eight by a rookie in NFL history. Waddle also has at least eight in three consecutive games, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (four consecutive games in 2014) and SAQUON BARKLEY (three consecutive games in 2018) as the only rookies with at least eight receptions in three consecutive games all-time.

A DOZEN BOUNCEBACK TEAMS AND COUNTING: With four weeks remaining, 12 teams already have improved their win totals from last season, including the CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-6), who have three more wins than all of 2020. Four of those teams – ATLANTA (6-7), CINCINNATI (7-6), DENVER (7-6) and SAN FRANCISCO (7-6) – have rebounded from last-place finishes in 2020 and enter Week 15 either in playoff position or well within reach.

  • Since 1990 – a streak of 31 consecutive seasons – at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before.
  • The DENVER BRONCOS (7-6) have already improved by two wins over their record from last year. They meet the Bengals on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High (4:05 PM ET, CBS).
  • Sunday’s contest features a pair of top-10 selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE (selected fifth overall) and Denver cornerback PAT SURTAIN II (ninth).
  • Chase, who had five receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns last week, now has 1,035 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in 2021. He is the fifth rookie in the Super Bowl era with at least 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdown receptions, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (1998), ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2014), MIKE EVANS (2014) and JOHN JEFFERSON (1978).
  • Surtain, a key cog on a defense that ranks second in the NFL by allowing just 17.5 points per game, leads all rookies this season with four interceptions. Over his past three games, he has three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
  • In last week’s win, Denver running back MELVIN GORDON rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Gordon, who has seven rushing touchdowns this season, became the sixth player in league annals with at least seven rushing TDs in six consecutive seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers JIM BROWN (nine consecutive seasons), LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (nine) and EMMITT SMITH (seven), as well as ADRIAN PETERSON (seven) and SHAUN ALEXANDER (six).
  • Bengals defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON has a sack in nine straight games, joining CHRIS JONES (11 straight in 2018) as the only players with a sack in at least nine consecutive games within a season since 1982.

NINERS JOIN LAST-PLAY CLUB: This season in the NFL, a game-winning score on the final play has decided 28 games, the most through Week 14 all-time. Last week, the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (7-6) earned a last-play victory when JIMMY GAROPPOLO connected with BRANDON AIYUK on a game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass in overtime. This week, the 49ers host the ATLANTA FALCONS (6-7), who have won four of their past five on the road, on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS).

  • In last week’s win, 49ers tight end GEORGE KITTLE recorded 13 receptions for 151 yards and one touchdown.
  • Kittle, who had 181 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in Week 13, is the first tight end in NFL history to record at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in consecutive games.
  • Kittle also became the fourth tight end ever with at least 13 receptions in three career games, joining ZACH ERTZ (four games), JASON WITTEN (four) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KELLEN WINSLOW SR. (three). Previously, Kittle had 15 receptions in Week 4 of the 2020 season and 13 receptions in Week 15 of 2019.
  • In Atlanta’s win last week, rookie tight end KYLE PITTS registered five receptions for 61 yards. Pitts now has 54 receptions for 770 yards this season and is the fifth rookie tight end all-time with at least 50 receptions and 750 receiving yards, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (1961), KEITH JACKSON (1988), JEREMY SHOCKEY (2002) and CHARLE YOUNG (1973).
  • Both San Francisco’s DEEBO SAMUEL (six rushing, five receiving) and Atlanta’s CORARRELLE PATTERSON (five rushing, five receiving) are among three NFL players this season with at least five rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns. The Chargers’ AUSTIN EKELER (nine rushing, seven receiving) is the other.

JONES, PATRIOTS IN RARIFIED AIR: On Saturday night, the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-4) will put the league’s longest active winning streak on the line in a key intraconference battle against the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (7-6) at Lucas Oil Stadium (8:20 PM ET, NFLN). Both teams are coming off Week 14 byes.

  • Over the past five games, the Patriots have surrendered only three second-half points. New England’s 15.4 points allowed per game this season leads the league. The Patriots also rank third with 310.0 yards allowed per game.
  • Patriots linebacker MATTHEW JUDON has 12.5 sacks this season, tied for fifth in the NFL. Under head coach BILL BELICHICK (2000-21), Judon’s 12.5-sack effort is also tied for the most in a single season, matching the 2007 total of MIKE VRABEL and the 2015 total of CHANDLER JONES.
  • New England quarterback MAC JONES can become the first rookie in NFL history to win his first seven road starts within a season. With a 6-0 record on the road this season, Jones is tied with DAK PRESCOTT (six in 2016) and BEN ROETHLISBERGER (six in 2004). 
  • Also, only three rookie quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era have led their teams on winning streaks of at least eight games, a group Jones can join on Saturday.

The rookie starting quarterbacks with the most consecutive wins in the Super Bowl era:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONSTREAK
Ben RoethlisbergerPittsburgh200413
Dak PrescottDallas201611
Kyle OrtonChicago20058
Mac JonesNew England20217*
*Active streak

In the Colts’ Week 13 win, Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He became the fifth player all-time with a rushing touchdown in at least 10 consecutive games within a single season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers JOHN RIGGINS (12 consecutive games in 1983), LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (12 consecutive games in 2004) and EMMITT SMITH (11 consecutive games in 1995), as well as PRIEST HOLMES (11 consecutive games in 2002).

  • Taylor now has 30 touchdowns (27 rushing, three receiving) in 28 career games and has tied Pro Football Hall of Famer EARL CAMPBELL (28 games) and BILLY SIMS (28) as the third-fastest player to reach 30 touchdowns in the Super Bowl era. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers EDGERRIN JAMES (25) and CURTIS MARTIN (27) reached the mark in fewer games.

PARSONS AUTHORING PHENOMENAL ROOKIE CAMPAIGN: The DALLAS COWBOYS (9-4) are one of five teams that can reach 10 wins this week when they travel to meet the NEW YORK GIANTS (4-9) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • In the Cowboys’ win last week, rookie linebacker MICAH PARSONS had two sacks and a forced fumble. Parsons, who has recorded a sack in each of his past six games, is the third rookie with a sack in at least six straight games since 1982, joining JEVON KEARSE (eight-game streak in 1999) and MIKE CROEL (six in 1991).
  • Parsons, who has 12 sacks and three forced fumbles this season, is the fifth rookie with at least 12 sacks and three forced fumbles since 2000, joining MARK ANDERSON (2006), DWIGHT FREENEY (2002), JULIUS PEPPERS (2002) and TERRELL SUGGS (2003).
  • His 12 sacks are tied for the fourth-most by a player in his first 13 NFL games since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. Only JULIUS PEPPERS (13), Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (13) and LESLIE O’NEAL (12.5) had more over their first 13 league games.

PACKERS FACE TOUGH TEST IN CLASH OF DIVISION LEADERS: The GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-3) begin a stretch of two games in six days against AFC North opponents, beginning with the division-leading BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-5) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).

  • Green Bay’s MATT LAFLEUR aims to lead his team to 11-or-more wins in each of his first three seasons as an NFL head coach. Since the 1970 league merger, only JIM HARBAUGH (San Francisco, 2011-13) and former Ravens defensive coordinator CHUCK PAGANO (Indianapolis, 2012-14) have accomplished that.
  • Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS, who played in his second NFL game exactly 16 years ago Sunday at Baltimore, has now won 10-or-more starts in 10 seasons.

The starting quarterbacks with the most seasons of 10-or-more wins in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSSEASONS
Tom BradyNew England, Tampa Bay19
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver14
Aaron RodgersGreen Bay10
Brett FavreHOFGreen Bay, Minnesota10
  • Green Bay cornerback RASUL DOUGLAS returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown last week, after returning an interception 33 yards for another score in Week 13. Douglas is the first Packers player with interception-return TDs in consecutive games since Pro Football Hall of Famer HERB ADDERLEY in 1965.
  • Last week, Baltimore tight end MARK ANDREWS had 11 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Andrews leads NFL tight ends and paces the Ravens in both receptions (75) and receiving yards (926).

MAN IN THE ARENATOM BRADY currently leads the NFL in completions (378), attempts (554), passing yards (4,134) and touchdown passes (36). He has never led the league in all four categories during any of his previous 21 seasons.

  • This week, Brady and the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (10-3) square off with their NFC South nemesis, the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-7), on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC). Since Brady joined the team prior to the 2020 season, the Buccaneers are 0-3 in regular-season games against New Orleans and 21-5 (.808) against the rest of the NFL. Tampa Bay did defeat New Orleans in an NFC Divisional playoff game last season.
  • Last week, Brady passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 105.6 rating and added a rushing touchdown in the Buccaneers’ overtime victory. Brady, the league’s all-time leader in passing yards (83,338) and passing touchdowns (617), now has 7,156 career completions and surpassed DREW BREES (7,142) for the most completions in NFL history.
  • Brady has 4,134 passing yards in 2021, his 13th career season with at least 4,000 passing yards. He surpassed DREW BREES (12 seasons) and PHILIP RIVERS (12) for the second-most such seasons all-time. Only Pro Football Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (14 seasons) has more.
  • Wide receiver BRESHAD PERRIMAN, who scored on a game-ending 58-yard touchdown reception in overtime last week, became the 91st individual to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, including the postseason. The touchdown pass also marked the 700th of Brady’s career, including the postseason.
  • Buccaneers wide receiver MIKE EVANS, who enters Sunday’s game with 885 receiving yards this season, needs 115 receiving yards to become the first player with 1,000 in each of his first eight NFL seasons in league history.
  • Tampa Bay tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI, who has 8,982 career receiving yards, needs 18 to become just the fifth tight end in NFL history with at least 9,000 career receiving yards.
  • New Orleans running back ALVIN KAMARA had four receptions, 145 scrimmage yards (120 rushing, 25 receiving) and a rushing touchdown in the Saints’ win last week.
  • Kamara, who has 362 receptions since entering the NFL in 2017, surpassed ROGER CRAIG (358) for the most receptions by a running back in his first five seasons in NFL history.
  • Kamara also has 67 career touchdowns (47 rushing, 19 receiving, one kickoff return), tied with ADRIAN PETERSON (67) for the fifth-most touchdowns by a running back in his first five seasons all-time. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (80) and EMMITT SMITH (75), as well as SHAUN ALEXANDER (72) and TODD GURLEY (70) have more.

RAMS WITHIN ONE GAME OF FIRST PLACE IN NFC WEST: Fresh off an impressive Monday night victory at Arizona, the LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-4) need a win against another divisional foe, the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (5-8), to improve their NFC West record, a key tiebreaker. The Rams host the Seahawks on Sunday at SoFi Stadium (4:25 PM ET, FOX).

  • Since Week 13 of last season, NFL teams that win on Monday are a combined 16-0-1 in their following games.
  • Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP, who had 123 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 13 receptions last week, leads the NFL in receptions (113), receiving yards (1,489) and receiving touchdowns (12). Kupp also leads the league with eight 100-yard games. Kupp has at least 90 receiving yards in nine consecutive games, tied for the longest streak in NFL history.

The players with the most consecutive games with at least 90 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAMSEASONGAMES
Odell Beckham Jr.New York Giants20149
Michael IrvinHOFDallas19959
Cooper KuppLos Angeles Rams20219*
*Active streak
  • Defensive lineman AARON DONALD had three sacks last week and became the fourth player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to record at least eight sacks in each of his first eight seasons. Donald is the only player in the NFL with at least 10 sacks in each of the past five seasons.
  • Last week, Rams quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD completed 23 of 30 attempts for 287 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a 139.2 rating. He ranks second in the NFL with a 108.4 passer rating.
  • Meanwhile, Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON passed for 260 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 115.2 rating in the Seahawks’ win last week. Wilson now has 89 career games with at least two touchdown passes and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (88 games) for the second-most such games by a quarterback in his first 10 seasons in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (92 games) has more.

HERBERT TARGETS NFL RECORD: Quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT and the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (8-5) have an opportunity to take first place in the AFC West when they host the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-4) on Thursday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, FOX/NFLN/Amazon).

  • Herbert (8,158) needs 39 passing yards to break the NFL record held by ANDREW LUCK (8,196) for the most passing yards through a player’s first two seasons. Herbert also needs 178 passing yards to join JAMEIS WINSTON as one of two players ever to reach 4,000 in each of their first two seasons.
  • Kansas City can secure its seventh consecutive season with at least 10 wins and become the fifth team in NFL history with seven straight 10-win seasons, joining the 2003-19 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (17 consecutive 10- win seasons), 1983-98 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (16), 2002-10 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (nine) and 1975-81 DALLAS COWBOYS (seven).
  • PATRICK MAHOMES enters Week 15 ranking fourth in the league with 3,642 passing yards and can join Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING as the only players in NFL history with at least 4,000 passing yards in four of their first five seasons.

JEFFERSON ALSO AIMS FOR NFL RECORD The MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-7) travel to face the CHICAGO BEARS (4-9) on Monday Night Football this week (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).

  • Vikings wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON, who had seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown last week, needs 68 receiving yards to establish the most receiving yards ever by a player in his first two seasons. Jefferson enters Monday’s game with 2,688 career receiving yards and can surpass both Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (2,726) and ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2,755) this week.

The most receiving yards ever by a player in his first two seasons:

PLAYERTEAMYEARSREC. YARDS
Odell Beckham Jr.New York Giants2014-152,755
Randy MossHOFMinnesota1998-992,726
Justin JeffersonMinnesota2020-212,688*
Bill GromanHouston Oilers1960-612,648
Jerry RiceHOFSan Francisco1985-862,497
*Entering Week 15

BIG BEN CLIMBING LADDER: When the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-6-1) host the TENNESSEE TITANS (9-4) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER can reach another significant career milestone. Roethlisberger has 63,414 passing yards and needs 27 to surpass PHILIP RIVERS (63,440) for fifth in NFL history.

  • The Steelers’ T.J. WATT, who has a career-high 16 sacks this season, has joined Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (1985-88; 1990-93) as the only players with at least 13 sacks in four consecutive seasons since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. Watt had 13 sacks in 2018, 14.5 sacks in 2019 and 15 sacks in 2020.

RAIDERS-BROWNS KICK OFF SATURDAY DOUBLEHEADER: The NFL occupies the Saturday television listings in three of the next four weekends, starting this week with a pair of AFC matchups exclusively on NFL Network.

  • On Saturday afternoon, the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (6-7) visit the CLEVELAND BROWNS (7-6) at FirstEnergy Stadium (4:30 PM ET, NFLN).
  • The Browns, bidding for their first division title since 1989, sit just a game out of first in the AFC North.
  • Browns defensive end MYLES GARRETT, who returned a fumble 15 yards for a touchdown in last week’s win, ranks second in the NFL with a franchise-record 15 sacks this season.

ARIZONA CARRIES IMPRESSIVE ROAD STREAK INTO DETROIT: The ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-3) travel to meet the DETROIT LIONS (1-11-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX) with an opportunity to improve to 8-0 on the road. Should they win by at least 10 points, the Cardinals would become the second team in NFL history to win eight straight road games by 10-or-more points, joining the CHICAGO BEARS, who won nine straight road games by 10-or-more points from 1941-42.

NFL Week 14 Picks, Notes & Schedule of 14 games including Titans/Jaguars, playoff positioning tilts

NFL Week 14 Picks, Notes & Schedule of 14 games including Titans/Jaguars, playoff positioning tilts

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 14 predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 13 Straight-Up Record: 9-5 (64%)
Week 13 Against The Spread Record: 8-6 (57%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 108-72 (60%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 94-86 (52%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) during a NFL football game between the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns on October 17, 2021 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns lost 14 – 37.

WEEK 14 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, December 9Pittsburgh at Minnesota
V-Picks: Vikings -3.5; Minnesota wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
8:20
  
Sunday, December 12Atlanta at Carolina
V-Picks: Panthers -2.5; Carolina wins
FOX1:00
Baltimore at Cleveland
V-Picks: Ravens +3; Baltimore wins
CBS1:00
Seattle at Houston
V-Picks: Seahawks -8.5; Seattle wins
FOX1:00
Las Vegas at Kansas City
V-Picks: Chiefs -10; Kansas City wins
CBS1:00
New Orleans at New York Jets
V-Picks: Saints -5.5; New Orleans wins
CBS1:00
Jacksonville at Tennessee
V-Picks: Titans -8.5; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
Dallas at Washington
V-Picks: WFT +4.5; Washington wins
FOX1:00
Detroit at Denver
V-Picks: Broncos -11; Denver wins
FOX4:05
New York Giants at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chargers -9.5; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:05
 San Francisco at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Bengals +1.5; Cincinnati wins
CBS4:25
Buffalo at Tampa Bay
V-Picks: Buccaneers -3.5; Tampa Bay wins
CBS4:25
Chicago at Green Bay
V-Picks: Packers -12; Green Bay wins
NBC8:20
    
Monday, December 13Los Angeles Rams at Arizona
V-Picks: Cardinals -2.5; Arizona wins
ESPN8:15
Byes: Indianapolis, Miami, New England, Philadelphia

PLAYOFF FIELD WIDE OPEN AS NFL APPROACHES

FINAL QUARTER OF 2021 SEASON

The train to the NFL Playoffs leaves in 33 days and there are only 14 tickets.

This week, the first teams can reserve seats but most of that postseason manifest is anyone’s guess.

Every AFC team has at least four losses. The last time either conference entered Week 14 with every team having lost four-or-more games was 2002 in the AFC.

In the NFC, WASHINGTON (6-6) and SAN FRANCISCO (6-6) hold the final two playoff berths but five teams behind them are within one game.

And overall, 19 teams have a .500-or-better winning percentage. Eight of those 19 were not in the playoffs last season, including the current top seeds in each conference: ARIZONA (10-2) and NEW ENGLAND (9-4). Should the Cardinals and Patriots clinch the No. 1 seeds in the NFC and AFC, two teams that were not in the playoffs the prior year will have secured home-field advantage for the first time since 1992 (San Francisco and Pittsburgh).

Since 1990 – a streak of 31 years – at least four teams every season have qualified for the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the year before.

But it’s only Week 14, so stay tuned and buckle up. The next five weeks are shaping up to be a memorable ride.

GOODBYE TO THE BYES, HELLO FOURTH QUARTER: This week, the last four teams get their scheduled byes. After this week, every team will have played 13 games, with four games remaining. The league also will reach Game 205 of 272 this weekend, meaning 75 percent of the 2021 season will be in the books.

PLAYING THEIR CARDS RIGHT: The ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-2) with a win this week would clinch their first playoff berth since 2015, when they advanced to the NFC Championship Game. They also have an opportunity to sweep the LOS ANGELES RAMS (8-4) for the first time since 2014 when the teams meet on Monday Night Football at State Farm Stadium (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).

  • In franchise history, the Cardinals have reached 11-or-more wins in an NFL season on five prior occasions (1925, 1948, 1975, 2014 and 2015). They won the NFL Championship in 1925, lost the NFL title game in 1948 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game in 2015.
  • The NFC West is home to the team with the NFL’s best record through 13 weeks. Five of the past nine NFC Champions have come from the NFC West, representing the conference in the Super Bowl, including two of the prior three seasons.
  • In last week’s win, Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY totaled four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). Murray now has 10,092 career passing yards and became the fourth-youngest player (24 years, 120 days old) to reach 10,000 in NFL history, surpassing CAM NEWTON (24 years, 191 days). Only DREW BLEDSOE (23 years, 299 days), JAMEIS WINSTON (23 years, 303 days) and Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (24 years, 63 days) reached the mark at a younger age.
  • Murray has 13 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown since entering the NFL as the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, tied with DAK PRESCOTT (13 games) for the third-most such games by a quarterback in his first three seasons all-time. Only CAM NEWTON (20 games) and JOSH ALLEN (16) have more.
  • Plus, Murray now has 20 career rushing touchdowns and has joined CAM NEWTON (28) and JOSH ALLEN (25) as the only quarterbacks with at least 20 in their first three seasons in the Super Bowl era. 
  • Meanwhile, Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP had eight receptions for 129 yards and one touchdown in his team’s win last week. Kupp leads the NFL in receptions (100), receiving yards (1,366) and receiving touchdowns (11) this season.
  • Kupp is just the fourth player with at least 100 receptions in his team’s first 12 games of a season in NFL history, joining MICHAEL THOMAS (110 receptions in 2019), Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (109 in 2002) and JULIO JONES (102 in 2015). However, Kupp is the only player ever with at least 100 receptions and 10-or-more touchdown receptions in his team’s first 12 games of a season.
  • Kupp is the third player with at least 1,350 receiving yards in his team’s first 12 games of a season in the Super Bowl era, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer CALVIN JOHNSON (1,428 receiving yards in 2012) and TORRY HOLT (1,387 in 2003).
  • And, Kupp is the sixth player to record at least 90 receiving yards in eight-or-more consecutive games in the Super Bowl era, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (nine consecutive games in 2014), Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (nine in 1995), Pro Football Hall of Famer CALVIN JOHNSON (eight in 2012), DWIGHT CLARK (eight in 1982) and ADAM THIELEN (eight in 2018).

TOP-FIVE OFFENSES FACE OFF IN TAMPA: Another team with an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth this week is the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-3), who host the BUFFALO BILLS (7-4) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS). The Buccaneers (31.4 points per game) and the Bills (28.0) rank first and fifth, respectively, in scoring offense.

  • The Buccaneers are attempting to snap the longest streak without a repeat Super Bowl champion in NFL history. The last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS in 2003-04.
  • Tampa Bay’s TOM BRADY, the quarterback of those Patriots teams, passed for 368 yards and four touchdowns while tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI had two touchdown receptions in the Buccaneers’ win last week.
  • Brady and Gronkowski have now connected for 90 regular-season touchdowns and surpassed PHILIP RIVERS and ANTONIO GATES (89) for the second-most regular-season touchdowns by a pairing in NFL history. Only the Pro Football Hall of Fame combination of PEYTON MANNING and MARVIN HARRISON (112) have more.
  • The league leader with 3,771 passing yards, Brady needs 229 more to reach 4,000 and join Peyton Manning (14) as the only players with at least 4,000 passing yards in 13 career seasons.
  • Last week, Gronkowski recorded his 20th-career game with at least two touchdown receptions and joined ANTONIO GATES (21) as the only tight ends with at least 20 career games with two-or-more touchdown receptions in NFL history.

HERBERT EYES MARINO: Quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT and the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (7-5) continue in the bid for their first playoff berth since 2018 when they host the NEW YORK GIANTS (4-8) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, FOX).

  • In last week’s win, Herbert passed for 317 yards with three touchdowns. He now has 27 touchdown passes this season after recording the most touchdown passes (31) by a rookie in NFL history last year and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING and RUSSELL WILSON as the only quarterbacks all-time with at least 25 touchdown passes in each of their first two seasons.
  • Herbert now has 11 career games with at least two touchdown passes, surpassing PATRICK MAHOMES (10 games) for the second-most such games by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (13 games) has more.
  • And, Herbert now has 18 career games with at least two touchdown passes, surpassing DEREK CARR (17 games) for the second-most such games by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history. Only Marino (22 games) has more.

EDGE RUSHERS CLASH IN CINCY: Two of the league’s top pass rushers will square off when the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-6) travel to meet the CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-5) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS) in a rematch of Super Bowls XVI and XXIII. Each team enters Week 14 in good position for a playoff spot after missing the postseason in 2020.

  • The 49ers’ NICK BOSA ranks fourth in the NFL with a career-best 12 sacks and enters this week with at least one sack in four straight games.
  • Bengals defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON, who has at least one sack in eight consecutive games, ranks fifth in the league with 11.5 sacks.

ROUND-NUMBER WEEK: This week, several players can reach statistical landmarks.

  • In Cincinnati, wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE ranks first among rookies and fifth overall with 958 receiving yards, just 42 from 1,000. Bengals running back JOE MIXON ranks second in the league with 978 rushing yards, just 22 from 1,000. Last week, quarterback JOE BURROW (3,135) surpassed 3,000 passing yards. All three players are under the age of 26.
  • Elsewhere, three players are nearing 1,000 receiving yards: Kansas City’s TYREEK HILL (954), Tampa Bay’s CHRIS GODWIN (949), KEENAN ALLEN (929) and Pittsburgh’s DIONTAE JOHNSON (914).

SOLID GROUND: Both the BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-4) and CLEVELAND BROWNS (6-6) have rushed for 1,765 yards this season. The AFC North rivals, tied for third in the NFL with 147.1 rushing yards per game, meet on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium (1:00 PM ET, CBS).

  • Last week, Baltimore’s LAMAR JACKSON rushed for 55 yards and currently leads all quarterbacks with 762 rushing yards. He’s also one of five NFL players (and the only quarterback) with at least 750 rushing yards in each of the past three seasons (2019-21).
  • Cleveland’s NICK CHUBB (six) and KAREEN HUNT (five) are the only pair of running-back teammates each with at least five rushing touchdowns this season.
  • The Browns and Chubb, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 867 rushing yards this season, will be challenged by a Baltimore defense that has allowed the NFL’s fewest rushing yards per game (84.25).

The Browns are playing consecutive games against the Ravens – Weeks 12 and 14 – sandwiched around their Week 13 bye. It’s the first time in 30 years during an NFL regular season that a team has played consecutive games against the same opponent, since Seattle (then a member of the AFC West) met the San Diego Chargers in Weeks 9 and 11 of the 1991 season. Both the Seahawks and Chargers had a Week 10 bye that season.

AFC NORTH, AFC WEST UP FOR GRABS: All four teams in both the AFC North and AFC West are .500 or better. The last time every team in multiple divisions had .500 winning percentages in Week 14 or later was 2008. That year, three divisions (AFC East, NFC East and NFC South) each featured four teams with .500-or-better records entering Week 14.

  • Two of those AFC West teams, the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (6-6) and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (8-4) are paired up at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). Kansas City enters with a five-game winning streak.
  • Both the Raiders’ DEREK CARR (3,663, second) and the Chiefs’ PATRICK MAHOMES (3,384, fifth) rank among the league leaders in passing yards this season.

CLUBS STRIVING FOR CONSISTENCY: So far this season, teams that win the turnover margin are 118-29-1 (.801). Teams that lose the turnover margin are 29-118-1 (.199).

  • Entering this week, nine teams have four-or-fewer losses. And for most of those clubs, winning turnover margins has consistently foreshadowed winning games.

The teams with four-or-fewer losses and their records with a positive and even/negative turnover margin this season:

POSITIVE MARGINEVEN/NEGATIVE MARGIN
TEAM (OVERALL)RECORDPCTRECORDPCT
Green Bay (9-3)9-01.0000-3.000
New England (9-4)7-01.000 2-4.333
Arizona (10-2)6-01.0004-2.667
Tampa Bay (9-3)6-01.0003-3.500
L.A. Rams (8-4)6-01.0002-4.333
Kansas City (8-4)5-01.0003-4.429
Tennessee (8-4)5-1.8333-3.500
Dallas (8-4)5-1.8333-3.500
Baltimore (8-4)1-1.5007-3.700

SIGNIFICANT STRETCH IN NFC EAST: Only two games separate the division-leading DALLAS COWBOYS (8-4) and WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (6-6) atop the NFC East. Those teams meet twice in the next three weeks, starting with Sunday’s contest at FedExField (1:00 PM ET, FOX).  

The PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (6-7), who are on a bye this week, also finish the season with four divisional games. Only two teams in the previous 20 years have finished a regular season with four straight divisional games: the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles and 2017 Atlanta Falcons. Each of those teams reached the playoffs.

DON’T COUNT OUT FIVE-WIN TEAMS: Four NFC teams are 5-7, but don’t expect all of them to stay on the outside looking in. Seven teams in the prior eight seasons (2013-20) have rebounded from 5-7 starts to finish in the playoffs. In the last two seasons alone, three teams have done it: Philadelphia in 2019 and Chicago and Washington in 2020.

On Sunday, two of those 5-7 teams – the ATLANTA FALCONS and CAROLINA PANTHERS – clash at Bank of America Stadium (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

PACKERS CAN CLINCH PLAYOFFS AGAINST BEARS SUNDAY: On Sunday Night Football at Lambeau Field (8:20 PM ET, NBC), the CHICAGO BEARS (4-8) and GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-3) meet for the 204th time, including a split of their two postseason contests (the Bears captured a world championship 80 years ago this week over Green Bay, Dec. 14, 1941; the Packers earned a trip to Super Bowl XLV with an NFC Championship victory on Jan. 23, 2011).

  • The rich rivalry has extra incentive this week as the Packers can clinch a playoff berth with a win and help from other teams.
  • Green Bay owns a 102-95-6 advantage in all-time series. The franchises rank first and second, respectively, in all-time world championships, with Green Bay winning 13 and Chicago winning nine. The Bears (30) also have the most Pro Football Hall of Famers among NFL franchises, with the Packers (26) tied for second with the Steelers (26).
  • In Week 12, Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS passed for 307 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 97.2 rating and rushed for a touchdown in the Packers’ win.
  • Rodgers recorded his 60th career game with at least 300 passing yards and two touchdown passes and joined DREW BREES (97 games), TOM BRADY (84) and Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (70) as the only players all-time with at least 60 such career games.

DETROIT VICTORY AMONG 26 LAST-PLAY TRIUMPHS: Including Detroit’s dramatic win last week, a winning score on the final play has decided 26 games this season, the most through Week 13 all-time. Detroit earned its first win of the season, as quarterback JARED GOFF threw an 11-yard touchdown to wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN with no time remaining in the fourth quarter.

  • Last week, St. Brown had a season-high 10 receptions for 86 yards, including his first career touchdown.
  • The Lions’ opponent this week, the DENVER BRONCOS (6-6) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, FOX), is no stranger to game-winning touchdown receptions by rookies. St. Brown became the third rookie to record his first career touchdown reception with no time remaining in the fourth quarter since 2000, joining the Broncos’ K.J. HAMLER (Week 8, 2020) and the Jaguars’ ERNEST WILFORD (Week 1, 2004).
Vince’s View: SEC Championship score prediction, strategy & notes

Vince’s View: SEC Championship score prediction, strategy & notes

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below is my 2021 SEC Championship game prediction.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 13 Straight-Up Record: 7-2 (78%)
Week 13 vs. Spread Record: 5-4 (56%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 86-26 (77%)
2021 Season Spread Record: 51-51 (50%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

Georgia at Tennessee – 2021 / Credit: UT Athletics

THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#1 Georgia (12-0, 8-0 SEC) vs.  #3 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
Atlanta, Ga. • Mercedes-Benz Stadium (75,000)
4 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: UA leads, 41-25-4
Last: UA, 41-24 (2020 at Tuscaloosa)
Sirius: 81/84 • XM: 81/84
Radio: AM 990 THE Sports Animal in Knoxville

THE TEAMS:  Georgia (12-0, 8-0 SEC) is the Eastern Division Champion and the visiting team.  Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) is the Western Division Champion and the home team.

NATIONAL RANKINGS:  Georgia comes into the game as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in the Associated Press, USA Today Coaches and College Football Playoff polls. Alabama is the No. 2-ranked team in the nation by the USA Today Coaches, while ranked No. 4 in AP and No. 3 in CFP. This is the fifth consecutive season the SEC Championship Game has featured a Top-10 matchup.

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:  Only once since 2006 (2014) has the winner of the SEC Championship Game failed to advance to the national championship game. The game, which started in 1992, is in its 30th year.  It was a result of conference expansion, which saw Arkansas and South Carolina become the first members added in SEC history.   Over 1.8 million fans have witnessed the pageantry of the game first-hand, with 27 sellouts in its history, including the last 26 consecutive contests. (Only 1993 and 1995 were not). The first two games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham and the game was played at the Georgia Dome from 1994-2016. This will mark the fifth SEC Championship Game played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

SEC CHAMPIONS:  Alabama will be vying for its 29th SEC Championship and third in the last four seasons. Georgia is aiming for its 14th SEC Championship and first since 2017.

TELEVISION:  CBS Sports will televise the game nationally for the 20th straight year (BRAD NESSLER, Play-by-Play; GARY DANIELSON, Analyst; JAMIE ERDAHL, Sidelines; CRAIG SILVER, Producer).  CBS has aired the game nationally since 2001.  ABC Sports televised the game from 1992-2000.

TV RATINGS:  The 2018 SEC Championship Game was the most-watched and highest-rated regular-season college football game on any network in seven years with a 10.1/23 rating/share and 17.5 million viewers. It also marked the second most-watched SEC Championship ever in 26 years since the game debuted in 1992. Nearly 14 million viewers watched the 2019 contest. Shifting to primetime, the Alabama-Florida SEC Championship in 2020 averaged a 4.9 and 8.92 million viewers on CBS. It was the first primetime SEC Championship since the 2006 game. The 2009 SEC Championship Game earned an 11.8 rating and a 24 share, marking the highest-rated SEC Championship Game in history. The game matched the No. 1 Florida Gators (12-0) vs. the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-0).

RADIO:  Managed by Learfield IMG College, the SEC Radio Network will broadcast the game on a syndicated basis to the 11-state SEC region and around the nation via satellite radio on SiriusXM. (SEC Radio Network:  DAVE NEAL, Play-by-Play; DAVE ARCHER, Analyst; STEPHEN HARTZELL, Sidelines).  The broadcast can be heard on Sirius 158, XM 190.  The Alabama Radio Network is on Sirius 84 XM 84 and the Georgia Radio Network is on Sirius 81, XM 81.

SERIES: Alabama and Georgia will meet for the 71st time in series history and the third time in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide holds a 41-25-4 series advantage and is currently riding a six-game winning streak against the Bulldogs. That six-game streak includes two SEC Championship wins, one College Football Playoff victory and last season’s 41-24 win in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 17. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is 8-2 all-time against Georgia, including a 6-1 mark leading the Tide. Kirby Smart is 0-3 in his career against Alabama.

IN THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:  Alabama and Georgia are meeting in the SEC championship game for the third time, with the previous two matchups in 2012 and 2018, both being won by Alabama, being two of the most memorable in SEC Championship Game history. For Alabama, it will be their 14th overall appearance, the most in SEC history by a single school. The Tide are a SEC-best 9-4 in those games, with their last loss coming in 2008 versus Florida. The Bulldogs are 3-5 in their previous SEC Championship appearances, with their last SEC title coming in 2017. This will be UGA’s first appearance since 2018. Alabama currently has a seven-game winning streak in the SEC Championship Game.

POINT SPREAD:  Georgia -6.5

VINCE’S VIEW: There are so many intriguing aspects of this game. How will Georgia respond if it’s finally challenged and in a tight game or behind in the second half? Will there be a fork-in-road critical coach’s decision by Kirby Smart that would send the Bulldogs off track into the wilderness instead of on the right road to the finish line?

The Saban assistant streak is over now, but you know Smart wants to notch against the G.O.A.T. and finally get over that massive, heartbreaking hurdle.

Georgia’s front seven has a huge advantage over the Tide offensive line, especially on the right side of the Bama line. I think Alabama will pass to set-up the run, even if it’s in the quick game. No one has been able to run against that elite Georgia defense, especially with the questionable status of RB Brian Robinson. I also would anticipate more designed run attempts from Heisman Trophy candidate QB Bryce Young, who largely is a pocket passer that keeps plays alive with his legs. I believe those things will help Alabama, but ultimately the athleticism and defensive talent will win out for Georgia.

Watching the Bulldogs defense, in person, adjust quickly to Tennessee’s tempo and then move on a string together pre-snap was so telling about how connected and well coached that team is this season.

As long as Georgia isn’t playing from way behind on offense and they can maintain balance, that group will have success against the Tide defense.

This game features two of college football’s best defensive players: Alabama LB Will Anderson and Georgia DT Jordan Davis.

VINCE’S PICK VS. THE LINE:  Georgia -6.5

MY SCORE PREDICTION:  Georgia 31 Alabama 21

NFL Week 13 Picks, Notes & Schedule of 14 games including the best late-game team & matchup of top 2 defenses

NFL Week 13 Picks, Notes & Schedule of 14 games including the best late-game team & matchup of top 2 defenses

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 13 predictions, straight-up and against the spread. You’ll also see the full schedule of games and some tremendous notes on the games, teams and players provided by NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 12 Straight-Up Record: 7-8 (47%)
Week 12 Against The Spread Record: 7-8 (47%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 99-67 (60%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 86-80 (52%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Defensive end Myles Garrett (95) during a NFL divisional round playoff football game between the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs on January 17, 2021 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Browns lost 17-22. / Credit: Cleveland Browns Media Site

WEEK 13 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, December 2Dallas at New Orleans 
V-Picks: Cowboys -6.5; Dallas wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
8:20
Sunday, December 5Tampa Bay at Atlanta
V-Picks: Buccaneers -11; Tampa Bay wins
FOX1:00
Arizona at Chicago 
V-Picks: Cardinals -7.5; Arizona wins
FOX1:00
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Bengals -3; Cincinnati wins
CBS1:00
Minnesota at Detroit
V-Picks: Vikings -7; Minnesota wins
CBS1:00
Indianapolis at Houston
V-Picks: Colts -10; Indianapolis wins
CBS1:00
New York Giants at Miami 
V-Picks: Dolphins -4; Miami wins
FOX1:00
Philadelphia at New York Jets
V-Picks: Eagles -6.5; Philadelphia wins
CBS1:00
Washington at Las Vegas 
V-Picks: Raiders -2.5; Las Vegas wins
FOX4:05
Jacksonville at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Jaguars +13; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:05
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
V-Picks: Ravens -4.5; Baltimore wins
CBS4:25
San Francisco at Seattle
V-Picks: 49ers -3.5; San Francisco wins
CBS4:25
Denver at Kansas City 
V-Picks: Chiefs -9.5; Kansas City wins
NBC8:20
Monday, December 6New England at Buffalo
V-Picks: Patriots +2.5; New England wins
ESPN8:15
Byes: Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, Tennessee

NFL ENTERS WEEK 13 AS PLAYOFF PUSH INTENSIFIES

As the calendar turns to December, welcome to rush hour in the National Football League.

Overall, 25 teams have at least five wins through 12 weeks, the most at this point of a season in league history. In the AFC, 13 teams have five-or-more wins, the most in a conference through Week 12 since 2002, when 14 AFC teams entered Week 13 in that category.

Only six weekends remain to determine 14 playoff teams, and there’s peak volume on the highways in each conference.

Out in front, the races for the only first-round bye in both the AFC and NFC are separated by just half a game. BALTIMORE (8-3) and ARIZONA (9-2) enter play with hair-thin leads over NEW ENGLAND (8-4) and GREEN BAY (9-3), respectively.

In the middle of the bottleneck, in the race for the final playoff berth, each conference has nine teams within one game of the No. 7 seed.

Which teams will separate themselves from the traffic?

JANUARY HOPE: Don’t count out a team below .500 at this point in the season. In 15 of the past 17 seasons, at least one club with a sub-.500 record after 11 games has made the playoffs. Two teams did it last season.

Since 1990, 24 teams have been below .500 after 11 games and made the playoffs. Three of those clubs — the 2016 Packers (5-6 after 11 games), the 2009 Jets (5-6) and the 1996 Jaguars (4-7) – advanced to their conference championship games.

At the front of the standings, three division leaders entering this week, ARIZONADALLAS and NEW ENGLAND, were not in the playoffs last season. At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 years.

SPEAKING OF DIVISIONS: On this week’s docket, seven of 14 games are between opponents from the same division. Looking ahead, of the remaining 92 games on the regular-season schedule, 49 will have division foes on opposite sidelines (including every game in the final week).

This week features the top two teams in the AFC East as the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-4) visit the BUFFALO BILLS (7-4) on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).

In a matchup of two of the league’s top defenses, points and first downs should be at a premium. New England has allowed the NFL’s fewest points per game (15.8) while Buffalo ranks second (16.5). The Bills, meanwhile, have allowed the NFL’s fewest yards per game (275.2) and New England ranks fourth (316.7).

In Week 13 or later, Monday’s game marks just the fifth contest in the last 30 years involving a team ranking first in scoring defense against a team ranking first in fewest total yards allowed. In each of those games, a team advanced to at least its conference championship, including two Super Bowl champions: Denver in 2015 and Washington in 1991.

The NFL’s last four games involving opponents leading the league in fewest points and yards allowed in Week 13 or later:

SEASONWEEKTEAMS, RESULTNOTES
201516Denver 20, Cincinnati 17 (OT)Denver won Super Bowl 50
200414Pittsburgh 17, N.Y. Jets 6Pittsburgh advanced to AFC Championship
199416Pittsburgh 17, Cleveland 7Pittsburgh advanced to AFC Championship
199117Philadelphia 24, Washington 22Washington won Super Bowl XXVI

Both New England and Buffalo also rank among NFL leaders in takeaways (the clubs are tied for second with 25) and turnover margin (New England is second at plus-10 and Buffalo is tied for third at plus-nine).

Buffalo has not lost a game in its division since the 2019 season finale. The Bills’ nine-game divisional winning streak is the longest active stretch in the league, five games better than the next-longest streak, Arizona (four).

  • Last week, quarterback JOSH ALLEN completed 23 of 28 attempts (82.1 percent) for 260 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions and a 115.2 rating in the Bills’ Thanksgiving night win. Allen now has six games of four-or-more touchdown passes since the beginning of the 2020 season. Only TOM BRADY and AARON RODGERS (each with nine) have more such games in that span.
  • New England cornerback J.C. JACKSON registered his seventh interception of the season and one forced fumble in the Patriots’ win last week. Jackson has 24 career interceptions, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer KENNY EASLEY (24 interceptions) and RICHARD SHERMAN (24) for the third-most by a player in his first four seasons since 1970. Only LESTER HAYES (25 interceptions) and EVERSON WALLS (25) have more. Jackson, who ranked second in the NFL with nine interceptions last season, is the first player since Sherman (2012-13) to record at least seven interceptions in consecutive seasons.
  • Also in the win, Patriots rookie MAC JONES completed 23 of 32 attempts (71.9 percent) for a career-best 310 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 123.2 rating. Jones capped a 4-0 November, joining DAK PRESCOTT (4-0 in November 2016), KYLE ORTON (4-0 in November 2005) and BEN ROETHLISBERGER (4-0 in November 2004) as the only rookie quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to start and win all of their team’s games in the month. Each of the previous three rookies to do it led their teams to division titles, including Prescott, the last rookie quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs.

STAY IN YOUR SEATS, ESPECIALLY IN BALTIMORE: Through 12 weeks this season, a game-winning score on the final play has decided 25 contests, the most at this point of a season in NFL annals.

Also in 2021, a game-winning score in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime has decided 40 games, the third most through Week 12 all-time. Only 2003 (45) and 2015 (42) had more.

The BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-3), who travel to meet the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-5-1) on Sunday at Heinz Field (4:25 PM ET, CBS), have excelled in each of those late-game categories.

The teams with the best records* in games decided by a winning score in the final two minutes or in overtime, 2021:The teams with the best records* in games decided by a winning score on the final play, 2021:
TEAMGAMESRECORDPCTTEAMGAMESRECORDPCT
Baltimore54-1.800Baltimore43-1.750
Dallas53-2.600Minnesota53-2.600
Minnesota63-3.500Several tied3
*minimum five games *minimum three games

The Baltimore defense has led the way, with the NFL’s lowest red-zone touchdown percentage (42.9 percent) and stingiest third-down conversion rate (30.5 percent).

Including the postseason, Sunday’s game also marks the 30th meeting between head coaches JOHN HARBAUGH and MIKE TOMLIN. In NFL history, only two sets of opposing head coaches have met more often.

The head coaches with the most meetings, including the postseason, in NFL history:

HEAD COACHHEAD COACHMEETINGSHEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
George HalasHOFEarl (Curly) LambeauHOF49Halas, 30-16-3
Steve OwenHOFEarl (Curly) LambeauHOF31Owen, 15-14-2
Mike TomlinJohn Harbaugh29*Tomlin, 15-14
*30th meeting on Sunday

Since Week 3, Steelers rookie running back NAJEE HARRIS has 929 yards from scrimmage. Only JONATHAN TAYLOR and COOPER KUPP, the NFL’s respective leaders in rushing and receiving yards, have more yards from scrimmage in that span.

YOUNG BENGALS, CHARGERS STARS ON MARQUEE IN AFC BATTLE: The CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-4) stay home this week to host the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (6-5) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).

  • In last week’s win, Cincinnati running back JOE MIXON rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Mixon has two touchdowns (rushing or receiving) in four consecutive games and is the first player since STEVEN JACKSON in 2006 (Weeks 14-17) with at least two touchdowns in four straight games within a season.
  • Also last week, Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT completed 28 of 44 attempts (63.6 percent) for 303 yards and two touchdowns. Herbert, who has 55 career touchdown passes, surpassed DEREK CARR (53) for the second-most touchdown passes by a player in his first two seasons. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (68) has more. Herbert also has 685 career completions and surpassed ANDREW LUCK (682) for the third most ever by a player in his first two seasons. Only KYLER MURRAY (724) and DEREK CARR (698) had more.
  • Chargers wide receiver KEENAN ALLEN had seven catches for 85 yards last week, in his 111th career game. Allen now has 705 career receptions and tied ANTONIO BROWN (111 games) as the fastest player to reach 700 in NFL history.
  • Los Angeles running back AUSTIN EKELER had 99 scrimmage yards (68 receiving, 31 rushing) and a touchdown reception last week. Ekeler, who has 5,057 career scrimmage yards, became the third undrafted player to reach 5,000 in his first five seasons in the common-draft era, joining ARIAN FOSTER and WILLIE PARKER.

Chargers linebacker JOEY BOSA leads the team with 7.5 sacks and joins his brother, San Francisco defensive lineman NICK BOSA (tied for fourth in the NFL with 11 sacks), to form one of the most dominant pass-rushing families in league history (their father, John, had seven career sacks). This season, the brothers have combined for 18.5 sacks entering Week 13.

The brother tandems with the most combined sacks in a season, since 1982:

BROTHER, TEAMBROTHER, TEAMSEASONCOMBINED SACKS
J.J. Watt, HoustonT.J. Watt, Pittsburgh201829
Doug Martin, MinnesotaGeorge Martin, N.Y. Giants198322
Joey Bosa, L.A. ChargersNick Bosa, San Francisco201920.5

KANSAS CITY, PHILADELPHIA PUT STREAKS ON THE LINE: The PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-7) have won all 11 games they’ve played against the NEW YORK JETS (3-8), their opponent at MetLife Stadium on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). Meanwhile, the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (7-4) have defeated the DENVER BRONCOS (6-5) in 11 consecutive games, prior to their Sunday Night Football matchup at Arrowhead Stadium (8:20 PM ET, NBC).

The NFL’s longest active winning streaks against a single opponent, including the postseason:

TEAMOPPONENTSTREAK
New EnglandN.Y. Jets12
Kansas CityDenver11
PhiladelphiaN.Y. Jets11
Several tied8

This week, Kansas City faces a Denver defense allowing the NFL’s third-fewest points per game (17.8).

  • In last week’s win, Denver rookie cornerback PAT SURTAIN II recorded two interceptions, including a 70-yard touchdown return. Surtain, who had his first-career interception return for a touchdown in Week 12, joined his father and former Chiefs defensive back PATRICK SURTAIN, who had two career interception returns for touchdowns during his 11-year NFL career, as one of four known father-son combinations each with an interception return for a touchdown. The Surtains joined GIL BYRD and his son JAIRUS BYRDDAVE GRAYSON and his son DAVID GRAYSON, and CLAY MATTHEWS and his son CLAY MATTHEWS.

THIELEN, NWANGWU PROVE VALUE OF NFL SCOUTS: When the MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-6) visit the DETROIT LIONS (0-10-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), the homework done by the Vikings’ personnel department will be on display.

  • Last week, wide receiver ADAM THIELEN had two touchdown receptions and running back KENE NWANGWU returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Minnesota signed Thielen out of Minnesota State as a non-drafted free agent in 2014 and selected Nwangwu on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft in the fourth round out of Iowa State.
  • Thielen, who has 50 career touchdowns (49 receiving, one rushing), is the fourth undrafted wide receiver with at least 50 career touchdowns in the common-draft era, joining ROD SMITH (69), GARY CLARK (65) and WES WELKER (50). Thielen also is tied for the league lead with 10 touchdown receptions this season and, along with his 14 touchdown catches in 2020, is the fourth undrafted player to record at least 10 touchdown receptions in multiple seasons, joining ANTONIO GATES (four), STEPHONE PAIGE (two) and ROD SMITH (two).
  • Nwangwu, who also returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in Week 9, is the first rookie with two kickoff-return touchdowns in a season since CORDARRELLE PATTERSON in 2013.

ROOKIES PROMINENT FOR GIANTS, DOLPHINS: Rookies for the NEW YORK GIANTS (4-7) and MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-7) are leading their teams in both receiving and sacks. The two clubs meet on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • Miami wide receiver JAYLEN WADDLE paces the Dolphins in both receptions (77) and receiving yards (759), while linebacker JAELAN PHILLIPS leads the club with 6.5 sacks. New York wide receiver KADARIUS TONEY leads his club in both receptions (35) and receiving yards (392), while rookie linebacker AZEEZ OJULARI is tied with veteran teammate LEONARD WILLIAMS for the team lead with 5.5 sacks.
  • In last week’s win, Waddle had nine receptions for a career-high 137 yards and one touchdown. His 77 receptions this season are the second most by a player in his first 12 career games in NFL history. Only ODELL BECKHAM JR. (91) had more.
  • Also in Week 12, Miami quarterback TUA TAGOVAILOA completed 27 of 31 attempts (87.1 percent) for 230 yards and one touchdown with a 108.3 rating, while cornerback XAVIEN HOWARD recorded his third interception of the season.
  • At 23 years and 271 days old, Tagovailoa joined DAK PRESCOTT (88.9 completion percentage on 32 of 36 attempts, Dec. 18, 2016, at 23 years, 142 days old) as the only quarterbacks under the age of 24 with a completion percentage of 85-or-higher (minimum 30 attempts) in a single game all-time. Tagovailoa, who completed 27 of 33 attempts (81.8 percent) in Week 11, is the fourth player in NFL history with a completion percentage of 80-or-higher (minimum 30 attempts) in consecutive games, joining DREW BREES (Weeks 1-2, 2018), Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (Weeks 3-4, 2013) and KYLER MURRAY (Weeks 2-3, 2021).
  • Howard, appearing in his 67th game, registered his 25th career interception and surpassed MARCUS PETERS (68 games) as the fastest player to reach 25 interceptions since 1990.

FOURNETTE, BUCS FACE DIVISION TEST AT FALCONS: The TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (8-3), bidding to become the first repeat Super Bowl champion since 2004, continue their journey on Sunday against the ATLANTA FALCONS (5-6) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • In last week’s win, Tampa Bay running back LEONARD FOURNETTE totaled a career-best four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving). After Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR had five touchdowns and Los Angeles Chargers running back AUSTIN EKELER had four in Week 11, Fournette’s performance gave the league consecutive weeks in which a running back reached the end zone four-or-more times. That hasn’t happened since Weeks 10-11 of the 2014 season, when MARSHAWN LYNCH and JONAS GRAY each had four touchdowns, respectively.
  • Buccaneers tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI had seven receptions for 123 yards last week, his 30th career game with at least 100 receiving yards. Gronkowski joined Pro Football Hall of Famer TONY GONZALEZ (31) as the only tight ends with at least 30 games with 100-or-more receiving yards all-time.
  • Also in the win, quarterback TOM BRADY reached 30 touchdown passes, his ninth career season with at least 30 touchdown passes. Brady tied Pro Football Hall of Famers BRETT FAVRE (nine) and PEYTON MANNING (nine) for the second-most seasons ever with at least 30 touchdown passes. Only DREW BREES (10) has more.

JACKSON FACES ANOTHER FORMER NFC EAST FOE: Wide receiver DESEAN JACKSON will see a familiar opponent Sunday when the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (6-5) host the WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (5-6) at Allegiant Stadium (4:05 PM ET, FOX).

  • Washington has won three straight games this season to climb into the NFC’s No. 7 playoff seed.
  • In last week’s overtime win at Dallas, Jackson caught three passes for 102 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown, the 34th time Jackson has scored on a touchdown of at least 50 yards, including returns. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (36) has more touchdowns of 50-or-more yards in NFL history. Jackson spent eight seasons with the Eagles and three with Washington.
Vince’s View: SEC Week 13 score predictions with 9 games including Vols vs. Commodores

Vince’s View: SEC Week 13 score predictions with 9 games including Vols vs. Commodores

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 13 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 12 Straight-Up Record: 9-1 (90%)
Week 12 vs. Spread Record: 5-5 (50%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 79-24 (77%)
2021 Season Spread Record: 46-47 (49%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

KNOXVILLE, TN – November 20, 2021 – Wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the South Alabama Jaguars and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

RIVALRY WEEK IN THE SEC – NOVEMBER 25-27

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 25
9 Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2 SEC) at Mississippi State (7-4, 4-3 SEC)
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (61,337)
7:30 ET • ESPN
Series: UM leads, 63-46-6
Last: UM, 31-24 (2020 at Oxford)
Sirius: 84/138 • XM: 84/191
ESPN: Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy, Katie George
Point Spread: Miss State -2
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss +2
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 24 Miss State 20

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26
Missouri (6-5, 3-4 SEC) at #25 Arkansas (7-4, 3-4 SEC)
Fayetteville, Ark. • Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: MIZ leads, 9-3
Last: MIZ, 50-48 (2020 at Columbia)
Sirius: 84 • XM: 192/84
CBS: Noah Eagle, Aaron Murray, Rick Neuheisel, Jenny Dell
Point Spread: Arkansas -14.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Arkansas -14.5
Score Prediction: Arkansas 38 Missouri 17

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 27
Florida State (5-6) at Florida (5-6, 2-6 SEC)
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Spurrier-Florida Field (88,548) Noon ET • ESPN
Series: UF leads, 36-26-2
Last: UF, 40-17 (2019 at Gainesville)
Sirius: 137 • XM: 190
ESPN: Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III, Quint Kessenich
Point Spread: Florida -2.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: FSU +2.5
Score Prediction: FSU 17 Florida 14

1 Georgia (11-0, 8-0 SEC) at Georgia Tech (3-8)
Atlanta, Ga. • Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000)
Noon ET • ABC
Series: UGA leads, 68-41-5
Last: UGA, 52-7 (2019 at Atlanta)
Sirius: 81 • XM: 81
ABC: Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Kris Budden
Point Spread: Georgia -35
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Georgia -35
Score Prediction: Georgia 38 Georgia Tech 0

3 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) at Auburn (6-5, 3-4 SEC)
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: ALA leads, 47-37-1
Last: ALA, 42-13 (2020 at Tuscaloosa)
Sirius: 81/137 • XM: 81/190
CBS: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl
Touchdown Radio: J.P. Shadrick, Gino Torretta
Point Spread: Alabama -19.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -19.5
Score Prediction: Alabama 35 Auburn 7

Vanderbilt (2-9, 0-7 SEC) at Tennessee (6-5, 3-4 SEC)
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (102,455)
3:45 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: UT leads, 77-33-5
Last: UT, 42-17 (2020 at Nashville)
Sirius: 136/135 • XM: 192/191
SECN: Bob Kesling, Pat Ryan, Brent Hubbs, Kasey Funderburg
Point Spread: Tennessee -32
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee -32
Score Prediction: Tennessee 52 Vanderbilt 10

15 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC) at LSU (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)
7 p.m. ET • ESPN
Series: LSU leads, 34-22-3
Last: TAMU, 20-7 (2020 at College Station)
Sirius: 81/136 • XM: 81/192
ESPN: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic
ESPN Radio: Sean Kelley, Barrett Jones, Ian Fitzsimmons
Point Spread: Texas A&M -6.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Texas A&M -6.5
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 28 LSU 17

23 Clemson (8-3) at South Carolina (6-5, 3-5 SEC)
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559)
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: CU leads, 71-42-4
Last: CU, 38-3 (2019 at Columbia)
Sirius: 137 • XM: 190
SECN: Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang
Point Spread: Clemson -11.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Clemson -11.5
Score Prediction: Clemson 28 South Carolina 14

Kentucky (8-3, 5-3 SEC) at Louisville (6-5)
Louisville, Ky. • Cardinal Stadium (65,000)
7:30 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Series: UK leads, 17-15
Last: UK, 45-13 (2019 at Lexington)
Sirius: 135 • XM: 191
ESPN2: Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, Jalyn Johnson
Point Spread: Louisville -3
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Kentucky +3
Score Prediction: Kentucky 31 Louisville 27

NFL Week 12 Picks & Schedule including Titans vs. Patriots, 3 Thanksgiving games

NFL Week 12 Picks & Schedule including Titans vs. Patriots, 3 Thanksgiving games

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 12 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 11 Straight-Up Record: 11-4 (73%)
Week 11 Against The Spread Record: 10-5 (67%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 92-59 (61%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 79-72 (52%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

WEEK 12 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, November 25Chicago at Detroit
V-Picks: Lions +3; Chicago wins
FOX12:30
   (Thanksgiving)Las Vegas at Dallas
V-Picks: Cowboys -7; Dallas wins
CBS4:30
Buffalo at New Orleans
V-Picks: Bills -6; Buffalo wins
NBC8:20
    
Sunday, November 28Pittsburgh at Cincinnati 
V-Picks: Bengals -4.5; Cincinnati wins
CBS1:00
New York Jets at Houston
V-Picks: Texans -2.5; Houston wins
CBS1:00
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis 
V-Picks: Buccaneers -3; Tampa Bay wins
FOX1:00
Atlanta at Jacksonville 
V-Picks: Falcons -2.5; Atlanta wins
FOX1:00
Carolina at Miami  
V-Picks: Panthers -2; Carolina wins
FOX1:00
Tennessee at New England  
V-Picks: Patriots -7: New England wins
CBS1:00
Philadelphia at New York Giants
V-Picks: Eagles -3.5; Philadelphia wins
FOX1:00
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver
V-Picks: Chargers -3.5; Los Angeles wins
CBS4:05
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay
V-Picks: Rams -1; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:25
Minnesota at San Francisco 
V-Picks: Vikings +3; Minnesota wins
FOX4:25
Cleveland at Baltimore
V-Picks: Ravens -3.5; Baltimore wins
NBC8:20
    
Monday, November 29Seattle at Washington  
V-Picks: Seahawks +1; Seattle wins
ESPN8:15
Byes: Arizona, Kansas City
An image from October 14, 2018 regular season home game against the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings won 27-17.

Jimmy’s Blog: Banks makes plea to top-ranked recruit

Jimmy’s Blog: Banks makes plea to top-ranked recruit

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks was speaking Monday at the Knoxville Quarterback Club when the perfect softball question was tossed his way.

“How have you enjoyed working with the greatest defensive line coach in America,’’ Banks was asked.

Sitting a few yards from Banks at another table was the nation’s top-ranked recruit, defensive tackle Walter Nolen, who had been honored as the defensive player of the week by the Club.

Banks didn’t swing and miss as he spoke about defensive line coach Rodney Garner.

“He’s very consistent, no matter where he’s been,’’ Banks said, while Nolen, the Powell High School product, peered as his cellphone, not looking up.

“Whether he’s at UT or some of the lesser programs he was at in the SEC (Auburn and Georgia), he has a way of getting the potential out of those guys. … He’s done a great job with our front, getting those guys to reach their potential. …

“I think he’s definitely a guy that gets the best out of each and every one of his players. That’s not just me saying it. I think if you look at his resume, it speaks for itself.’’

Then came the hammer: “By far, he’s the best in the country and you would be a fool not to want to come play for him,’’ Banks said. “If you want to play in the NFL, this is a good starting place.’’

Nolen had to hear the comment, but he never looked up from his phone.

The audience laughed, even cheered.

But Nolen seemed undeterred.

Nolen, of course, is committed to Texas A&M. He has visited the Aggies multiple times.

He has also visited UT.

Prying Nolen away from A&M would be a major coup for the Vols.

And in the game of recruiting, you never say never.

The early signing period starts Dec. 15.

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all

Jimmy’s Blog: Vols don’t overlook underdogs

Jimmy’s Blog: Vols don’t overlook underdogs

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Entering last weekend’s games, 44 unranked teams had defeated ranked teams, including 12 against top 10 teams.

More than a dozen FCS teams have upset FBS teams.

Double digit underdogs have won a surprisingly large number of games.

Some favorites have struggled to get up for lesser opponents.

Tennessee is not one of them.

The Vols’ focus and intensity have been prevalent in every game this season.

That’s reflected in the fact Tennessee has outscored opponents 162-44 in the first quarter, leads the nation in first-quarter scoring and has covered the spread most of the time when favored.

Saturday’s 60-14 victory over South Alabama was another example that the Vols don’t overlook anyone.

Tennessee led 14-0 after the first quarter, scored touchdowns on their first seven full possessions and converted their first six third downs.

Hendon Hooker was again the catalyst. He completed 17 of 20 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns, scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-11 on the third drive, and moved into the top four in the nation in pass efficiency. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is an eye-popping 24 to 3. Not bad for a guy that started the season as a backup.

Tennessee’s focus was illustrated by receiver/returner Velus Jones, Jr., who had to ask Hooker after the South Alabama win if the Vols were indeed bowl eligible.

Tennessee has proven that if you have an average to below average defense, its offense will demolish you, especially early.

How about these first quarter scores: 28-0 over South Carolina, 28-3 over Missouri, 14-0 over Bowling Green, Tennessee Tech and South Alabama, 10-0 over Pitt.

The Vols even led three ranked opponents after the first quarter: 10-7 over Georgia, 14-7 over Alabama and Kentucky.

Scripting plays has helped. A high-octane attack has helped. Being ready to play has helped.

And having fun has helped. There’s no doubt this team enjoys playing the game more than during the Jeremy Pruitt Era. It’s as obvious as the points on the scoreboard.

While Tennessee is only 5-6 against the spread this season, a deeper dive shows UT isn’t likely to be upset by a lesser opponent.

Tennessee was favored by 37 against Bowling Green and won by 32.

It was favored by 38 against Tennessee Tech and won by 56.

It was favored by 10.5 against South Carolina and won by 25 (and led 38-7 at halftime).

It was favored by 28 against South Alabama and won by 46.

It was a 2.5-point underdog to Missouri and won by 38 (it was 45-10 at halftime).

Tennessee (6-5) is favored by 31 against Vanderbilt (2-9).

There’s no reason to think the Vols won’t get off to a lightning fast start and take care of business against a decided underdog.

They’ve done it all season.

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all

NFL Week 11 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans vs. Texans

NFL Week 11 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans vs. Texans

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 11 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 10 Straight-Up Record: 6-8 (43%)
Week 10 Against The Spread Record: 5-9 (36%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 81-55 (60%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 69-67 (51%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns on August 8, 2019 in the preseason at FirstEnergy Stadium.

WEEK 11 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, November 18New England at Atlanta
V-Picks: Patriots -7; New England wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
8:20
    
Sunday, November 21Indianapolis at Buffalo
V-Picks: Colts +7; Buffalo wins
CBS1:00
Washington at Carolina
V-Picks: Panthers -3.5; Carolina wins
FOX1:00
Baltimore at Chicago 
V-Picks: Ravens -5; Baltimore wins
CBS1:00
Detroit at Cleveland 
V-Picks: Detroit +10; Cleveland wins
FOX1:00
San Francisco at Jacksonville
V-Picks: 49ers -6.5; San Francisco wins
FOX1:00
Green Bay at Minnesota
V-Picks: Packers -2.5; Green Bay wins
FOX1:00
Miami at New York Jets
V-Picks: Dolphins -3; Miami wins
CBS1:00
New Orleans at Philadelphia
V-Picks: Eagles -2; Philadelphia wins
FOX1:00
Houston at Tennessee
V-Picks: Titans -10; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
Cincinnati at Las Vegas 
V-Picks: Bengals -1; Cincinnati wins
CBS4:05
Dallas at Kansas City
V-Picks: Chiefs -2.5; Kansas City wins
FOX4:25
Arizona at Seattle
V-Picks: Cardinals -2.5; Arizona wins
FOX4:25
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chargers -5.5; Los Angeles wins
NBC8:20
   
Monday, November 22New York Giants at Tampa Bay
V-Picks: Buccaneers -11; Tampa Bay wins
ESPN8:15
Byes: Denver, Los Angeles Rams
Vince’s View: SEC Week 12 score predictions with 10 games including Vols vs. South Alabama

Vince’s View: SEC Week 12 score predictions with 10 games including Vols vs. South Alabama

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 12 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 11 Straight-Up Record: 5-3 (63%)
Week 11 vs. Spread Record: 3-5 (38%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 70-23 (75%)
2021 Season Spread Record: 46-47 (49%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

Georgia vs Tennessee / Credit: UT Athletics

FINAL TWO WEEKS OF THE REGULAR SEASON

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Charleston Southern (4-5) at Georgia (10-0, 8-0 SEC)
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Noon ET • SEC+ / ESPN+
Series: UGA leads, 1-0
Sirius: 137 • XM: 190
ESPN+: Mike Morgan, Charles Arbuckle, Alex Chappell
Point Spread: Georgia -52
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Georgia -52
Score Prediction: Georgia 59 Charleston Southern 0

New Mexico State (1-9) at Kentucky (7-3, 5-3 SEC)
Lexington, Ky. • Kroger Field (61,000)
Noon ET • SEC Network
Series: UK leads, 1-0
Sirius: 81 • XM: 81
SECN: Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Tera Talmadge
Point Spread: Kentucky -36
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Kentucky -36
Score Prediction: Kentucky 45 New Mexico State 0

Tennessee State (5-5) at Mississippi State (6-4, 4-3 SEC)
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (61,337)
Noon ET • SEC+ / ESPN+
Series: First Meeting
Sirius: 135 • XM: 192
SEC+: Mike Couzens, Dustin Fox
Point Spread: Miss State -44.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Miss State -44.5
Score Prediction: Miss State 56 Tennessee State 7

Prairie View (7-2) at Texas A&M (7-3, 4-3 SEC)
College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,733)
Noon ET • SEC+ / ESPN+
Series: TAMU leads, 1-0
Sirius: 133 • XM: 191
ESPN+: Mike Corey, Dave Steckel
Point Spread: Texas A&M -42
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Texas A&M -42
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 49 Prairie View 3

Arkansas (7-3, 3-3 SEC) at Alabama (9-1, 5-1 SEC)
Tuscaloosa Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (100,077)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: ALA leads, 21-8
Last: ALA, 52-3 (2020 at Fayetteville)
Sirius: 81 • XM: 383/81
CBS: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl
Learfield: Kate Scott, Mike Golic
Point Spread: Alabama -21
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -21
Score Prediction: Alabama 42 Arkansas 17

Florida (5-5, 2-5 SEC) at Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC)
Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field
4 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: Tied, 5-5
Last: UF, 41-17 (2020 at Gainesville)
Sirius: 137 • XM: 384/190
SECN: Dave Neal, Deuce McAllister, Andraya Carter
Point Spread: Florida -8.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Missouri +8.5
Score Prediction: Missouri 38 Florida 37

Auburn (6-4, 3-3 SEC) at South Carolina (5-5, 2-5 SEC)
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559)
7 p.m. ET • ESPN
Series: AU leads, 10-2-1
Last: SC, 30-22 (2020 at Columbia)
Sirius: 84/135 • XM: 84/192
ESPN: Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III, Quint Kessenich
Point Spread: Auburn -7.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Auburn -7.5
Score Prediction: Auburn 21 South Carolina 13

Vanderbilt (2-8, 0-6 SEC) at Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2 SEC)
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: UM leads, 51-40-2
Last: UM, 54-21 (2020 at Nashville)
Sirius: 81 • XM: 383/81
SECN: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic
Point Spread: Ole Miss -36
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss -36
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 49 Vanderbilt 0

South Alabama (5-5) at Tennessee (5-5, 3-4 SEC)
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (102,455)
7:30 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Series: UT leads, 1-0
Sirius: 137 • XM: 190
ESPNU: Clay Matvick, Rocky Boiman, Tiffany Blackmon
Point Spread: Tennessee -28
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee -28
Score Prediction: Tennessee 45 South Alabama 14

Louisiana-Monroe (4-6) at LSU (4-6, 2-5 SEC)
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)
9 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Series: LSU leads, 3-0
Sirius: 133 • XM: 191
ESPN2: Brian Custer, Kelly Stouffer, Lauren Sisler
Point Spread: LSU -29
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: LSU -29
Score Prediction: LSU 38 Louisiana-Monroe 7

Jimmy’s Blog: Three takeaways after top-ranked Georgia defeated Tennessee 41-17 Saturday night at Neyland Stadium

Jimmy’s Blog: Three takeaways after top-ranked Georgia defeated Tennessee 41-17 Saturday night at Neyland Stadium

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Cedric Tillman is the real deal.

Tillman, who caught eight passes in three seasons at Tennessee, had 10 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown against the best defense in the nation. The redshirt junior is not only a candidate for SEC Breakout Player of the Year but a candidate for All-SEC.

Tillman has 46 catches for 725 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games. And he’s a poster-child for player development at UT.

UT coaches can point to Tillman when recruiting receivers.

You wanna catch a ton of passes? Look at Tillman.

You wanna grow as a wideout? Look at Tillman.

You wanna boost your NFL stock? Look at Tillman.

Tillman has not only earned respect from his teammates for his commitment and hard work, he’s earned the respect of defenses which have had difficulty dealing with No. 4.

Lack of team speed on defense an issue 

Tennessee’s inability to contain running quarterbacks reared its head again against Georgia.

Stetson Bennett ran for 40 yards against the Vols, 1 shy of his career high. Florida’s Emory Jones (144) Alabama’s Bryce Young (42) and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral (195) had career rushing days against UT.

Many of those QB conversions have been on third-and-5 or more?

Is that a scheme issue?

Perhaps.

Is that a team speed issue?

Definitely.

Tennessee doesn’t have the team speed to react to quarterbacks who take off from the pocket. UT doesn’t seem to have a linebacker with 4.7 speed or better. And it only has one defensive lineman, Bryan Young, that appears capable of chasing down a quarterback.

And surely you noiced the difference in defensive team speed between Georgia and Tennessee.

While Tennessee has many holes to fill in recruiting, garnering speed on defense should be a top priority.

Top-ranked teams tame Tennessee

Tennessee once again lost the No. 1 team in the nation, and once again, the final score wasn’t close.

Georgia’s 41-17 victory marked UT’s 12th straight loss to a top-ranked team and ran the Vols’ record to 2-15 in such games.

Tennessee beat LSU in 1959 and Auburn in 1985.

Of the 15 losses to a No. 1 team, only two were one possession games: Notre Dame 34-29 in 1990 and Alabama 12-10 in 2009. Tennessee quarterback Andy Kelly was intercepted in the end zone late in the fourth quarter of the Notre Dame loss. Alabama’s Terrence “Mount’’ Cody blocked a last-season field goal attempt by the Vols 12 years ago.

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all

NFL Week 10 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans vs. Saints

NFL Week 10 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans vs. Saints

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 10 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 9 Straight-Up Record: 7-7 (50%)
Week 9 Against The Spread Record: 6-8 (53%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 81-55 (60%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 69-67 (51%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

An image from September 15, 2019 regular season away game against the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings loss 16-21.

WEEK 10 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, November 11Baltimore at Miami 
V-Picks: Ravens -8.5; Baltimore wins
FOX/NFLN/
Amazon
8:20
Sunday, November 14Atlanta at Dallas
V-Picks: Falcons +9.5; Dallas wins
FOX1:00
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
V-Picks: Colts -9.5; Indianapolis wins
CBS1:00
Cleveland at New England 
V-Picks: Patriots -2.5; New England wins
CBS1:00
Buffalo at New York Jets
V-Picks: Bills -12; Buffalo wins
CBS1:00
Detroit at Pittsburgh
V-Picks: Lions +8; Pittsburgh wins
FOX1:00
New Orleans at Tennessee
V-Picks: Titans -3; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
Tampa Bay at Washington 
V-Picks: Bucs -9.5; Tampa Bay wins
FOX1:00
Carolina at Arizona
V-Picks: Cardinals -10.5; Arizona wins
FOX4:05
Minnesota at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chargers -3; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:05
Philadelphia at Denver 
V-Picks: Broncos -2.5; Denver wins
CBS4:25
Seattle at Green Bay 
V-Picks; Packers -3; Green Bay wins
CBS4:25
Kansas City at Las Vegas 
V-Picks; Raiders +2.5; Las Vegas wins
NBC8:20
Monday, November 15Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco
V-Picks: Rams -4; Los Angeles -4
ESPN8:15
Byes: Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, N.Y. Giants
Vince’s View: SEC Week 11 score predictions with 8 league games including Vols vs. #1 Georgia

Vince’s View: SEC Week 11 score predictions with 8 league games including Vols vs. #1 Georgia

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 11 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 10 Straight-Up Record: 5-2 (71%)
Week 10 vs. Spread Record: 3-4 (43%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 65-20 (76%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 43-42 (51%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

LEXINGTON, KY – November 06, 2021 – Defensive lineman Omari Thomas #21 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field in Lexington, KY. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

WEEK 11 IN THE SEC

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13
New Mexico State (1-8) at Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC)
Series: UA leads, 1-0
Noon ET • SEC Network
Tuscaloosa Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (100,077)
Sirius: 137 • XM: 190
Point Spread: Alabama -50.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -50.5
Score Prediction: Alabama 56 New Mexico State 3

Mississippi State (5-4, 3-3 SEC) at Auburn (6-3, 3-2 SEC)
Series: AU leads, 65-27-2
Noon ET • ESPN
Last: AU, 24-10 (2020 at Starkville)
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
Sirius: 111/138 • XM: 192/191
Point Spread: Auburn -4
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Auburn -4
Score Prediction: Auburn 31 Miss State 17

Samford (4-5) at Florida (4-5, 2-5 SEC)
Series: UF leads, 2-0
Noon ET • SEC+ / ESPN+
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Spurrier-Florida Field (88,548) Sirius: 113 • XM: 203
Point Spread: Florida -36
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Samford +36
Score Prediction: Florida 49 Samford 24

Georgia (9-0, 7-0 SEC) at Tennessee (5-4, 3-3 SEC)
Series: UGA leads, 25-23-2
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Last: UGA, 44-21 (2020 at Athens)
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (102,455)
Sirius: 81/138 • XM: 81/191
Point Spread: Georgia -20
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee +20
Score Prediction: Georgia 38 Tennessee 24

South Carolina (5-4, 2-4 SEC) at Missouri (4-5, 1-4 SEC)
Series: MIZ leads, 6-5
4 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Last: MIZ, 17-10 (2020 at Columbia, S.C.)
Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field (62,621)
Sirius: 137 • XM: 385/190
Point Spread: South Carolina -1.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: South Carolina -1.5
Score Prediction: South Carolina 28 Missouri 23

Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC) at Ole Miss (7-2, 3-2 SEC)
Series: TAMU leads, 9-1
7 p.m. ET • ESPN Last: TAMU, 24-17 (2019 at Oxford)
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
Sirius: 81/111 • XM: 81/192
Point Spread: Texas A&M -2.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Texas A&M -2.5
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 27 Ole Miss 21

Kentucky (6-3, 4-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt (2-7, 0-5 SEC)
Series: UK leads, 47-42-4
7 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Last: UK, 38-35 (2020 at Lexington)
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
Sirius: 138/113 • XM: 191/203
Point Spread: Kentucky -21.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Kentucky -21.5
Score Prediction: Kentucky 31 Vanderbilt 0

Arkansas (6-3, 2-3 SEC) at LSU (4-5, 2-4 SEC)
Series: LSU leads, 42-22-2
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Last: LSU, 27-24 (2020 at Fayetteville)
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)
Sirius: 137 • XM: 385/190
Point Spread: Arkansas -3
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Arkansas -3
Score Prediction: Arkansas 41 LSU 28

Jimmy’s Blog: What are UT’s chances against Georgia?

Jimmy’s Blog: What are UT’s chances against Georgia?

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Top-ranked Georgia leads the nation in scoring defense and ranks second in run defense.

It hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 14 points in a game this season.

It has the best defense the SEC has seen since Alabama in 2011.

So does Tennessee, with the No. 3 scoring offense in the SEC, have a puncher’s chance against the modern version of the Junkyard Dawgs?

“They have chances because they can create some unscheduled plays,’’ Neuheisel said. “You’re right about the Georgia defense. It’s like waves crashing on a beach: they just keep coming, right?

“There are so many names and so many very talented players who don’t seem to mind they’re not getting all the playing time, and none of them are getting real individual attention, which they probably could if they were elsewhere.’’

You might differ from Neuheisel on that one. Defensive tackle Jordan Davis has been touted by some as the SEC Player of the Year and linebacker Nakobi Dean is projected as a first-round draft pick with All-American ability.

If the Vols can put a few touchdowns on the board, Neuheisel thinks UT could pull a major upset – UT is a 21-point under-dawg – since Georgia isn’t prolific on offense.

Neuheisel noted that Georgia rushed for only 168 yards against a Missouri defense that allows 280 per game and yielded 458 on the ground to Tennessee.

“For those reasons,’’ Neuheisel said, “I think Tennessee has a chance. Plus you’ve got 100,000 people wearing Orange. Anything can happen.’’

Neuheisel also thinks Georgia could face a distraction. Star linebacker Adam Anderson has been suspended pending an investigation into rape. Anderson’s attorney has requested Georgia reinstate his client since no charges have been filed.

“I’m interested if that might not have some residual impact, if they’re looking towards their teammate (and saying) is he being treated fairly.’’

As of Wednesday night, the UT-Georgia game was not a sellout.

About 2,700 tickets remain.

Georgia purchased its allotment of 5,000 and likely will pick up more tickets on the open market.

Is Time of Possession Overrated?

Neuheisel was impressed that Tennessee won against Kentucky with just 13:52 minutes time of possession.

Neuheisel said Wake Forest did that to Army in a 70-56 win, but actually, Wake had the ball for 17:17, which, in Tennessee’s offense, might be a dozen more plays.

“To do it against Kentucky (and defensive minded coach Mark Stoops) I think speaks volumes for the job Josh Heupel’s offense is doing,’’ Neuheisel said.

“`And also, salute the defense. To be out there for 99 plays and get the stop when you had to, that was big time.’’

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Jimmy’s Blog: Is Hooker an NFL prospect?

Jimmy’s Blog: Is Hooker an NFL prospect?

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker has been terrific this season.

The Virginia Tech transfer is arguably the third best signal-caller in the SEC, behind Matt Corral at Ole Miss and Bryce Young at Alabama.

Taylor continues to lead the SEC in pass efficiency (190) while completing 69.4% of his passes for 1,894 yards, 21 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He’s thrown one pick as a starter.

Hooker has also rushed for 458 yards and four touchdowns. And just think, he started this season as UT’s No. 2 quarterback.

Hooker has one more year of eligibility remaining, but could he declare for the NFL this offseason? Is he an NFL caliber quarterback?

“Boy, I’d want him to prove he wasn’t,’’ Neuheisel said. “If I was an NFL executive, I’d want him on my team.

“He’s found ways to win. He’s found ways to blossom in an offense that was unfamiliar to him. He’s a 70% passer. He’s averaging over 10 yards per attempt. Those numbers speak for themselves, and he can get you out of trouble on unscheduled plays with his legs.

“When he’s healthy and everything is going Hendon’s way, he’s exactly who you want playing quarterback.’’

Neuheisel agreed with my comparison of Hooker to Tyron Taylor, who has started for three different NFL teams.

“Tyrod Taylor would be a perfect match,’’ Neuheisel said. “Listen, there’s always room for athletic guys who understand the quarterback position and are accurate enough to complete close to 70% of your passes. That number (completion percentage) has gone way up because the rules have changed.

“The thing in the NFL, people (receivers) don’t stay open as long (on pass routes) — so it’s going to come down to his ability to anticipate throws as to whether or not he has the same kind of experience in the NFL that he’s enjoying right now.’’

NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN recently had Hooker rated among the top 10 pro prospects among quarterbacks. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be picked in the top two rounds of the NFL draft.

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Jimmy’s Blog: Neuheisel likes Heupel as SEC Coach of the Year

Jimmy’s Blog: Neuheisel likes Heupel as SEC Coach of the Year

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

The Georgia Bulldogs are 9-0, ranked No. 1 by the AP during a season for the first time since 1982 and they have the best defense the SEC has seen since Alabama in 2011.

For all that Kirby Smart has done for the program, he could not get the SEC Coach of the Year vote from CBS’ Rick Neuheisel.

His ballot would feature Josh Heupel.

The hype for Heupel is real,’’ Neuheisel told me in a one-on-one interview.I think he’s the coach of the year.

“Kirby Smart is going to get a lot of that attention because he deserves it. Because he has so many good players and you’ve got to remember, now, he got them all there. The recruiting job is part of the deal as well.

“But for Josh Heupel to come into the situation he found himself in and to deliver in the way he has delivered, not only wins and losses, but with the way the kids are playing and the way the fans have bought in, it is has been absolutely fun to watch the energy that has been at Neyland Stadium.

“The energy is back, the passion is back and he did it with a roster that had to be completely retooled in a very short period of time. So my hat’s off to him and the entire staff, and he’d get my vote for coach of the year in the SEC.’’

Since the start of last season, UT has lost 45 players that could be on the roster: 39 transfers, two that retired for medical reasons, four that were let out of their National Letter of Intent.

UT now has 77 on scholarship (counting super seniors).

The Vols have gone from averaging 21.5 points (111th in the nation) to 38.2 (15th).

They’ve gone from averaging 141.5 rush yards per game (88th) to 217.1 (18th).

They’ve gone from averaging 346.2 total yards per game to 457.7 (21st).

And they’re doing it with a quarterback that didn’t start the first two games, two running backs that have been banged up much of this season and a piecemeal offensive line that has incurred multiple injuries.

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Jimmy’s Blog: Garner says UT can’t ‘cower down’ to Georgia

Jimmy’s Blog: Garner says UT can’t ‘cower down’ to Georgia

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

No coach on the Tennessee staff has a better understanding of the Georgia football program than Rodney Garner.

The Vols’ defensive line coach worked at Georgia from 1998-2012. He coached there when Kirby Smart was a player. He coached there when Kirby Smart was an assistant.

“I spent a lot of time there,’’ said Garner, who was Georgia’s assistant head coach for eight years. “I know Kirby well.’’

He also knows that the top-ranked Bulldogs have one of the best defenses the SEC has seen in a decade, and that Georgia’s overlooked offense averages over 38 points per game.

Georgia (9-0) is a 21-point favorite over Tennessee (5-4).

“Obviously, they’ve done a great job recruiting, coaching,’’ Garner said. “I told my group this is why you came to UT, for moments like this, for this stage.

“We’re not going to cower down, we’re not going to back down. We’ve got to bow our necks up and go out there and play with passion and play hard, but we’ve got to play smart. One thing I have been proud of (for) our young men this year, they have played extremely hard. Sometimes we haven’t played as smart as we need to play.’’

Garner said his unit must “compete and leave everything we’ve got on the field for 60 minutes. We can’t bring anything back into the locker-room.’’

Garner’s defensive line competed hard for 60 minutes and 99 plays (actually 103 when you count plays nullified by penalty) in a scintillating, ulcer-inducing, head-scratching 45-42 victory at Kentucky last Saturday.

How do you lose time of possession 46:08 minutes to 13:52 and still win?

How do you allow an opponent to gain 612 yards and still win?

How do you give up 12 of 17 conversions on third down and still win?  

Garner said he got a plethora of texts proclaiming UT’s win was an exciting game to watch.

“I can’t say it was an exciting game to coach,’’ Garner said. “It was a special game to coach, but I would prefer to have less excitement.’’

Garner added: “It was good to watch those guys never give up and continue to fight and band together as one and not worry about who got the credit, who got the glory. That, at the end of the day, it was about Tennessee winning the game. For us to win a game like that, late, end the game like that, overcome adversity, I think we grew. And that’s what it’s all about, it’s about growth and I definitely think we took step in right direction with that victory.’’

Garner was asked how tired his defensive linemen were after the exhausting contest.

“They could have made some stops,’’ Garner said, not showing much sympathy. “Obviously, if you want to get off the field, all you got to do is stop them on third down, then we get off the field.’’

Garner said the defense played 103 gradable snaps.

“It’s a lot of snaps,’’ Garner said, “but at the same time all we’ve got to do is make some stops and get the offense the ball back because we have a prolific offense that’s very explosive and every time they got the ball, they’re a danger to score points.

“We’ve got to correct some things defensively … so we can play better on third down and be better on third-down efficiency.’’

Tennessee’s third-down defense has been disastrous the last three games. Kentucky (12 of 17), Alabama (15 of 20) and Ole Miss (11 of 21) have combined to convert 38 of 58 third downs.

If Georgia is able to convert 65% on third down, UT doesn’t have a chance this Saturday (CBS, 3:30).

Garner applauds no bowl-ban decision

Tennessee’s administration announced last week it would not impose a bowl ban for this season despite the NCAA violations committed by the football program, a story we broke.

Were the players excited?

“I think everybody was excited,’’ Garner said. “I don’t think it was just the players; the coaches, I hope the fan base.

“I came here in February I think there was probably a lot of distrust (among the players). There were a lot of questions about a lot of things. Obviously, there were a lot of young men that left the program for whatever reasons. And for these guys who have stuck through it and gone through what we’re asking them to do to try to change culture and get this thing back on the track it belongs — these guys deserve this opportunity. I’m extremely grateful to the administration for their stance on that.’’

What bowl does Garner prefer?

“I just want to go to a bowl,’’ he said. “That’s the one thing I told the guys: I am spoiled. My career as a player and as a coach, I think I’ve been bowl eligible except for the year we were on probation (Auburn, 1993) and couldn’t go to a bowl. So, I’m real spoiled.

“I expect to go to a bowl. My kids expect to go to a bowl and so it’s good. I really don’t care (which bowl). I just want to see them be able to get the fruit of their labor. That’s what it’s really all about.’’

Garner sees no problem recruiting defensive players

There’s a perception that it will be easier for Tennessee to recruit elite offensive players due to the fast-pace style of play, than defensive players who might not want to be on the field for 99 snaps.

Garner disagrees.

“I think we play an exciting brand of defense to try to complement our offense,’’ said Garner of a defense that has recorded 73 tackles for loss and 24 sacks in nine games.

“Obviously, we’ve got to get more difference makers on our side of the ball so we can be more effective. (But) I don’t foresee that (recruiting on defense) being an issue. When you look at Knoxville, you look at this University, you look at our facilities, man, we’ve got a lot to sell. We’ve got a lot to be proud of. We’ve just got to do it the right way and get kids that want to be a part of it. And want to come to UT for some of the right reasons. And they feel like they’re going to be developed athletically, academically, socially, spiritually. We’re approaching it from a wholistic approach.

“I really don’t see that being a hinderance. I think it’s going to be an exciting brand of football.’’

While UT played 99 official snaps against Kentucky, Garner said he rotated eight or nine defensive linemen.

“We try to keep them fresh,’’ Garner said. “Our goal is to try to play the fourth quarter like we played the first quarter. That’s the mindset behind it. And also try to keep wear and tear off the body. It’s like a tire. You’ve only got so much tread life. And when that tread count gets low, you’ve got to change the tire.’’

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Vince’s View: SEC Week 10 score predictions with 6 league matchups including Vols at Wildcats

Vince’s View: SEC Week 10 score predictions with 6 league matchups including Vols at Wildcats

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 9 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 9 Straight-Up Record: 3-1 (75%)
Week 9 vs. Spread Record: 2-2 (50%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 60-18 (77%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 40-38 (51%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

Auburn Ole Miss on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 6
Liberty (7-2) at Ole Miss (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
Noon ET • ESPN
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
Sirius: 134 • XM: 190
Point Spread: Ole Miss -7.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss 7.5
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 41 Liberty 14

Missouri (4-4, 1-3 SEC) at Georgia (8-0, 6-0 SEC)
Series: UGA leads, 9-1
Noon ET • ESPN
Last: UGA, 49-14 (2020 at Columbia)
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Sirius: 135 • XM: 380/191
Point Spread: Georgia -40
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Missouri +40
Score Prediction: Georgia 35 Missouri 0

Auburn (6-2, 3-1 SEC) at Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
Series: TAMU leads, 6-5
3:30pm ET • CBS
Last: TAMU, 31-20 (2020 at Auburn)
College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,733)
Sirius: 85/134 • XM: 85/190
Point Spread: Texas A&M -4.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Auburn +4.5
Score Prediction: Auburn 20 Texas A&M 17

Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2 SEC) at Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC)
Series: ARK leads, 17-12-1
4pm ET • ESPN
Last: ARK, 21-14 (2020 at Starkville)
Fayetteville, Ark. • Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Sirius: 135 • XM: 380/191
Point Spread: Arkansas -4.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Arkansas -4.5
Score Prediction: Arkansas 31 Miss State 24

LSU (4-4, 2-3 SEC) at Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
Series: UA leads, 54-26-5
7pm ET • ESPN
Last: UA, 55-17 (2020 at Baton Rouge)
Tuscaloosa Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (100,077)
Sirius: 134 • XM: 387/190
Point Spread: Alabama -28.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -28.5
Score Prediction: Alabama 45 LSU 14

Tennessee (4-4, 2-3 SEC) at Kentucky (6-2, 4-2 SEC)
Series: UT leads, 81-26-9
7 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Last: UK, 34-7 (2020 at Knoxville)
Lexington, Ky. • Kroger Field (61,000)
Sirius: 99 • XM: 386/192
Point Spread: Tennessee -1
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee -1
Score Prediction: Tennessee 38 Kentucky 24

Florida (4-4, 2-4 SEC) at South Carolina (4-4, 1-4 SEC)
Series: UF leads, 29-9-3
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Last: UF, 38-24 (2020 at Gainesville)
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559)
Sirius: 135 • XM: 380/191
Point Spread: Florida -20.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Florida -20.5
Score Prediction: Florida 31 South Carolina 3

NFL Week 9 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans at Rams

NFL Week 9 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans at Rams

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 9 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 8 Straight-Up Record: 8-7 (53%)
Week 7 Against The Spread Record: 8-7 (53%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 74-48 (61%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 63-59 (52%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) during the eleventh day of training camp on August 10, 2021.

WEEK 9 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, November 4New York Jets at Indianapolis
V-Picks: Colts -10.5; Indianapolis wins
FOX/NFLN/Amazon8:20
    
Sunday, November 7Minnesota at Baltimore
V-Picks: Ravens -6: Baltimore wins
FOX1:00
New England at Carolina
V-Picks: Patriots -3.5; New England wins
CBS1:00
Cleveland at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Bengals -2.5; Cincinnati wins
CBS1:00
Denver at Dallas
V-Picks: Cowboys -9.5; Dallas wins
FOX1:00
Buffalo at Jacksonville
V-Picks: Bills -14.5; Buffalo wins
CBS1:00
Houston at Miami
V-Picks: Dolphins -6.5; Miami wins
FOX1:00
Atlanta at New Orleans
V-Picks: Saints -6; New Orleans wins
FOX1:00
Las Vegas at New York Giants
V-Picks: Giants +3; New York wins
CBS1:00
Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia
V-Picks: Chargers -1.5; Los Angeles wins
CBS4:05
Green Bay at Kansas City
V-Picks: Packers +7; Green Bay wins
FOX4:25
Arizona at San Francisco
V-Picks: 49ers +2.5; San Francisco wins
FOX4:25
Tennessee at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams -7.5; Los Angeles wins
NBC*8:20
    
Monday, November 8Chicago at Pittsburgh
V-Picks: Steelers -6.5; Pittsburgh wins
ESPN8:15
Byes: Detroit, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington
Jimmy’s Blog: Will Kentucky run QB against vulnerable UT defense?

Jimmy’s Blog: Will Kentucky run QB against vulnerable UT defense?

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

When Alontae Taylor arrived at Tennessee, he was told one thing by those inside the Vol program: “You don’t lose to Kentucky.’’

Tennessee has won 33 of the past 36 meetings with the Wildcats, but coach Mike Stoops team has won two of the last four. That includes last year’s 34-7 rout when Kentucky bolted to a 17-0 second quarter lead thanks to a pair of pick sixes.

Tennessee (4-4) has not lost back-to-back games to Kentucky (6-2, ranked 17th) since 1976-77.

Here are several keys to Saturday’s 7 pm battle in the sold out Commonwealth.  

The Levis Factor

Will Levis was a running quarterback at Penn State.

Kentucky fired offensive coordinator Eddie Gran after last season to open up its passing attack.

So, Levis wins the starting job over a couple of other candidates. Go figure.

Kentucky also hired Liam Coen from the NFL to install and more prolific pass game.

It took shape in Game One as Levis passed for 367 yards, including splash plays of 58, 62 and 57 yards. But the pass game has slowly declined since. Levis has gone five games in a row without reaching 200 passing yards and he was picked three times in a 31-17 loss last Saturday at Mississippi State.

Levis has had four games with 22 or fewer pass attempts. He’s had three games with a pass efficiency rating of less that 100 (compared to 230.9 in the opener and 212.2 against LSU). He had 189 combined pass yards against Florida and South Carolina. And he leads the SEC with nine interceptions (compared to 14 touchdown passes).

“He’s had some ups and downs,’’ Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said on the SEC teleconference when I asked him how Levis has progressed from Game One. “Even last week, he did some good things and some things you can’t do. You can’t win on the road with certain decisions he made.

“But I’m extremely confident in Will. We need him to put it together and for the players around him to play well.’’

Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks is very familiar with Levis. Banks was on the Penn State staff when Levis was the backup quarterback.

“Levis is a tremendous young man, really enjoyed my time around him,’’ Banks said. “Tremendous athlete, big, can run, super strong arm.

“He seems like he’s a lot more comfortable, in terms of throwing the ball. He’s always had a strong arm, but he seems to show more poise. I think that just comes with maturity in the more reps he’s gotten, but I’ve also thought he had a chance to be a really good player, an elite player.’’

Levis hasn’t run a great deal this season. He had 75 yards on 11 carries in a win over LSU. But his next best run games were 30 yards, then 25, then 21, then 18, then 12. He’s carried 53 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Considering Tennessee’s vulnerability against running quarterbacks, Levis might attack the Vols with his legs. UT gave up 144 rush yards to Florida quarterback Emory Jones, 195 to Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and 42 to Alabama’s Bryce Young.

Does Banks expect Levis to run more against the Vols?

“It wouldn’t surprise me,’’ Banks said. “Typically, if you struggle with anything on tape, the offense the following week finds a way to put it in their scheme. We’re aware of it, and like I said, I know he (Levis) can run it.

“They haven’t run him a ton all year, but he has scrambled and made some guys miss, and guys have fell off of him. Our guys are very aware of how strong he is and that he can run. We’ve worked very hard during the bye week and this week to try to shore up some things, but obviously we have to do it in a game.”

Tennessee tops nation in TFLs

With rare exception, Tennessee’s run defense against opposing running backs has been exceptional.

Tennessee has held four teams to less than 100 rush yards.

Florida got 283, but 144 came from the quarterback. Ole Miss got 279 but 195 came from the quarterback. Alabama got 203 with 42 from the quarterback.

Only one opposing running back has rushed for more than 62 yards. Brian Robinson of Alabama had 107. Missouri’s Tyler Badie, the SEC’s leading rusher, was held to 41 yards.

Much of the credit goes to the defensive line, which has helped UT lead the nation in tackles for loss (70). Twenty-six players have contributed to the TFLs.

Is that scheme or player development?

Banks indicated it’s both, but he gave most of the praise to the players.

“I think, obviously, you try to play to the strengths of your players,’’ Banks said. “So, we pride ourselves on trying to minimize their weaknesses and putting those guys in the best possible position to be successful.

“It’s more of a credit to them, how hard they’re playing and giving the scheme a chance. It’s really all about the kids and how hard they’re playing. Those are the guys out there making the plays. … So, hat’s off to those guys.”

Tennessee will be challenged by Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez, who ranks second in the SEC in rushing at 101.1 yards per game. But against Mississippi State, Rodriguez was held to 34 yards on eight carries and UK was limited to 66 yards on 20 runs.

Where There’s a Will …

Mississippi State sophomore quarterback Will Rogers leads the SEC with 361.3 passing yards per game. So you know he’s capable of going off.

But what he did against Kentucky last Saturday was historic.

Rogers was 36 of 39 for 344 yards. His completion rate of 92.3 set an SEC record.

This season, Rogers is 327 of 435 for 2,890 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Stoops was asked if there were holes in the secondary or did the Wildcats just face a hot quarterback.

“A little bit of both,’’ Stoops said.

Stoops said State tries to be patient and take the underneath throws in Mike Leach’s system. That’s easier to do when you’re ahead. It’s also easier to get ahead when the opponent turns the ball over four times, like UK did.

“They were able to play the way they (want),’’ Leach said. “Give them credit. They took control. Having a hot quarterback was part of it.’’

You wonder if Tennessee saw anything in the Kentucky secondary that will lead to the Vols hitting short passes to move the chains.

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Jimmy’s Blog: Hooker impresses UK coach with decision making

Jimmy’s Blog: Hooker impresses UK coach with decision making

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has gone against Hendon Hooker while the Tennessee quarterback was on another team, at another venue, at another time.

It was the 2019 Belk Bowl in Charlotte; the Wildcats faced Virginia Tech.

Hooker completed 12 of 22 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns and ran 12 times for 50 yards in a 37-30 defeat to Kentucky.

Stoops remembers Hooker’s performance. Stoops also sees a better version of Hooker, one that leads the SEC in passing efficiency and directs the No. 4 scoring offense in the SEC.

“He’s making unbelievably quick decisions,’’ Stoops said on the SEC Teleconference earlier this week, when I asked the UK coach what impresses him most about Hooker.

Stoops said Hooker is “very confident’’ and doesn’t commit many turnovers considering how fast the Vols play.

“Very impressive,’’ said Stoops, whose Wildcats (6-2) host the Vols (4-4) Saturday at 7 p.m.

Hooker has been impressive. He took over as UT’s starter in Game 3 and has played like one of the SEC’s top five quarterbacks. His passer rating of 179.9 leads the SEC, just ahead of Alabama’s Bryce Young (177.1).

He has completed 114 of 166 passes (68.7%) for 1,578 yards and 17 touchdowns with just two interceptions. It’s hard to fathom he got beat out in fall camp by Joe Milton, who possess a strong arm and athletic ability, but lacks touch, accuracy and decision making.

Hooker has thrown for at least 220 yards in each of his five starts against power 5 teams. He’s also been an efficient and effective runner.

What has Hooker meant to the UT offense?

“The world,” said running back Jabari Small. “He’s a great player, great leader. He’s playing very great right now. We just want to continue that, and we’re locked in behind him. He’s a great leader.”

Part of Hooker’s arsenal is his running ability. He’s had a 100-yard game at UT and four others with at least 49 yards. He had two games of over 150 rush yards at Virginia Tech.

But given UT’s lack of depth at quarterback — the erratic Milton is the only other scholarship QB – the Vols, and Hooker, must be judicious with his runs. He doesn’t need to carry it 23 times a game, like he did against Ole Miss, when he got hurt late in the fourth quarter.

Offensive coordinator Alex Golesh is well aware of Hooker’s value and the necessity to keep him upright.

“The quarterback run is part of what Hendon is and is part of his game’’ Golesh said. “I have always looked at it as run when you feel like you need the extra hat in the run game.’’

But that can come with a price. In the rugged SEC, quarterbacks can take some vicious hits and Golesh admitted that Hooker runs “absolutely reckless in a lot of ways.’’

Despite Hooker’s toughness, he needs to run “smart,’’ Golesh said.

And UT needs to be smart with it’s play calling. Hooker doesn’t need to run a dozen times in the first half, especially when you want him fresh late with a game on the line.

I want the ball in his hands at the end of the game,’’ Golesh said.I think it gives us the best chance to win. You are going to get it to the guys who give you the best chance to win. I am extremely confident, and our offense is extremely confident with him having the ball in his hands.’’

That means in the fourth quarter against Kentucky, you can expect UT to ask Hooker to make winning plays.

Based on what Hooker has done so far, it would be hard to bet against him.

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NFL Week 8 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans at Colts

NFL Week 8 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans at Colts

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 7 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 7 Straight-Up Record: 9-4 (69%)
Week 7 Against The Spread Record: 8-5 (62%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 66-41 (62%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 55-52 (51%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

An image from November 10, 2019 regular season away game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Vikings won 28-24.

WEEK 8 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, October 28Green Bay at Arizona
V-Picks: Packers +6.5; Arizona wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
8:20
Sunday, October 31Carolina at Atlanta
V-Picks: Falcons -2; Atlanta wins
FOX1:00
Miami at Buffalo
V-Picks: Bills -15; Buffalo wins
CBS1:00
San Francisco at Chicago 
V-Picks: 49ers -4.5; San Francisco wins
FOX1:00
Pittsburgh at Cleveland 
V-Picks: Steelers +5; Pittsburgh wins
CBS1:00
Philadelphia at Detroit
V-Picks: Eagles -3; Philadelphia wins
FOX1:00
Los Angeles Rams at Houston
V-Picks: Rams -16.5; Rams win
FOX1:00
Tennessee at Indianapolis
V-Picks: Colts -3: Indianapolis wins
CBS1:00
Cincinnati at New York Jets
V-Picks: Bengals -11.5; Cincinnati wins
CBS1:00
New England at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chargers -3.5; Los Angeles wins
CBS4:05
Jacksonville at Seattle
V-Picks: Seahawks -4; Seattle wins
CBS4:05
Washington at Denver 
V-Picks: Broncos -4; Denver wins
FOX4:25
Tampa Bay at New Orleans 
V-Picks: Saints +4; Tampa Bay wins
FOX4:25
Dallas at Minnesota
V-Picks: Vikings -2.5; Minnesota wins
NBC8:20
Monday, November 1New York Giants at Kansas City 
V-Picks: Giants +10; Kansas City wins
ESPN8:15
  Byes: Baltimore, Las Vegas  
Vince’s View: SEC Week 9 score predictions with 4 league games; spread & straight winners

Vince’s View: SEC Week 9 score predictions with 4 league games; spread & straight winners

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 9 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 8 Straight-Up Record: 4-1 (80%)
Week 6 vs. Spread Record: 3-2 (60%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 57-17 (77%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 38-36 (51%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

Auburn football orange facemask on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

CLOSING OUT OCTOBER IN THE SEC

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30
Missouri (3-4, 0-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-4 SEC)
Series: MIZ leads, 8-4-1
3 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Last: MIZ, 41-0 (2020 at Columbia)
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
Sirius: 113/111 • XM: 190/191
Point Spread: Missouri -16
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Missouri -16
Score Prediction: Missouri 24 Vanderbilt 6

Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) vs. Georgia (7-0, 5-0 SEC)
Series: UGA leads, 52-44-2
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Last: UF, 44-28 (2020 at Jacksonville)
Jacksonville, Fla. • TIAA Bank Field (82,871)
Sirius: 132/81 • XM: 192/81
Point Spread: Georgia -14
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Georgia -14
Score Prediction: Georgia 31 Florida 14

Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1 SEC) at Auburn (5-2, 2-1 SEC)
Series: AU leads, 34-10
7 p.m. ET • ESPN
Last: AU, 35-28 (2020 at Oxford)
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
Sirius: 81/132 • XM: 81/192
Point Spread: Auburn -3
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss +3
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 35 Auburn 28

Kentucky (6-1, 4-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (4-3, 2-2 SEC)
Series: Tied, 24-24
7 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Last: UK, 24-2 (2020 at Lexington)
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (61,337)
Sirius: 113/111 • XM: 190/191
Point Spread: Miss State -1.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Miss State -1.5
Score Prediction: Miss State 20 Kentucky 17

OPEN: Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC); Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC); LSU (4-4, 2-3 SEC); South Carolina (4-4, 1-4 SEC); Tennessee (4-4, 2-3 SEC); Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC).

NFL Week 7 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans/Chiefs

NFL Week 7 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Titans/Chiefs

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 7 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 6 Straight-Up Record: 7-7 (50%)
Week 6 Against The Spread Record: 8-6 (57%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 57-37 (61%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 47-47 (50%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

49ers CB Emmanuel Moseley / Credit: UT Athletics

WEEK 7 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, October 21Denver at Cleveland
V-Picks: Browns -2; Cleveland wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
8:20
Sunday, October 24Cincinnati at Baltimore
V-Picks: Bengals +6.5; Baltimore wins
CBS1:00
Washington at Green Bay
V-Picks: Packers -8.5; Green Bay wins
FOX1:00
Atlanta at Miami
V-Picks: Falcons -2.5; Atlanta wins
FOX1:00
New York Jets at New England
V-Picks: Patriots -7; New England wins
CBS1:00
Carolina at New York Giants
V-Picks: Panthers -3; Carolina wins
FOX1:00
Kansas City at Tennessee
V-Picks: Titans +5.5; Kansas City wins
CBS1:00
Detroit at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams -15; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:05
Philadelphia at Las Vegas
V-Picks: Raiders -3; Las Vegas wins
FOX4:05
Houston at Arizona
V-Picks: Cardinals -18.5; Arizona wins
CBS4:25
Chicago at Tampa Bay
V-Picks: Buccaneers -12.5; Tampa Bay wins
CBS4:25
Indianapolis at San Francisco
V-Picks: 49ers -4; San Francisco wins
NBC8:20
Monday, October 25New Orleans at Seattle
V-Picks: Saints -4.5; New Orleans wins
ESPN8:15
Byes: Buffalo, Dallas, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, Pittsburgh
Vince’s View: SEC Week 8 score predictions including Vols at Crimson Tide with analysis

Vince’s View: SEC Week 8 score predictions including Vols at Crimson Tide with analysis

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 8 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 7 Straight-Up Record: 5-2 (71%)
Week 7 vs. Spread Record: 3-4 (43%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 53-16 (77%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 35-34 (51%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

KNOXVILLE, TN – October 16, 2021 – Defensive back Trevon Flowers #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Ole Miss Rebels and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

WEEK 8 IN THE SEC

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23
Arkansas Pine-Bluff (1-5) at Arkansas (4-3, 1-3 SEC)
Little Rock, Ark. • War Memorial Stadium (54,120)
Noon ET • SEC Network
Series: First Meeting
Sirius: 134 • XM: 190
Point Spread: Arkansas -50.5
Vince’s View: None needed
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Arkansas -50.5
Score Prediction: Arkansas 56 Arkansas Pine Bluff 0

LSU (4-3, 2-2 SEC) at Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: LSU leads, 64-40-4
Last: LSU, 53-48 (2020 at Baton Rouge)
Sirius: 98/121 • XM: 207/191
Point Spread: Ole Miss -9
Vince’s View: Part ways with Coach O and he goes on a run? I can see it, at least for a few weeks. LSU’s newly found running game could have another big day. Questions on Matt Corral’s availability and health a factor too.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: LSU +9
Score Prediction: LSU 42 Ole Miss 38

Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2 SEC) at Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-3 SEC)
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
4 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: MSU leads, 14-7-2
Last: MSU, 24-17 (2020 at Starkville)
Sirius: 134/108 • XM: 190/192
Point Spread: Miss State -20.5
Vince’s View: Vandy kept it close last week in a heart-breaking loss to South Carolina, but the Bulldogs shouldn’t mess around this week.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Miss State -20.5
Score Prediction: Miss State 31 Vanderbilt 7

Tennessee (4-3, 2-2 SEC) at Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
Tuscaloosa Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (100,077)
7 p.m. ET • ESPN
Series: UA leads, 58-38-7
Last: UA 48-17 (2020 at Knoxville)
Sirius: 108/121 • XM: 192/191
Point Spread: Alabama -25
Vince’s View: Obviously, 14 straight losses to Alabama for Tennessee in this rivalry is a painful annual reminder of the state of the two programs. The Vols have shown to be better coached, playing harder and bringing some ability on offense that it has lacked in recent years on Rocky Top. Mobile quarterbacks, whether they run often (Corral-OM or Jones-UF) or keep plays alive to throw (Pickett-Pitt) have been difficult for this banged-up but still overall improved Vols defense to handle. Alabama QB Bryce Young falls in that Pickett category. If Hendon Hooker and others that are banged-up don’t play, then the Crimson Tide should win big, as has usually been the case in the Nick Saban era. See more of my view of the game in this short video podcast visit with TJ Rives, Buccaneers Sideline Reporter and multi-outlet play-by-play announcer. Listen to the full podcast here.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -25
Score Prediction: Alabama 42 Tennessee 16

South Carolina (4-3, 1-3 SEC) at Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC)
College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,733)
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: TAMU leads, 7-0
Last: TAMU, 48-3 (2020 at Columbia)
Sirius: 98/134 • XM: 207/190
Point Spread: Texas A&M -19.5
Vince’s View: The Aggies proved to me last week that it’s handling success well since the upset of Alabama. No reason for SC to threaten TAM in College Station.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Texas A&M -19.5
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 38 South Carolina 10

OPEN: Auburn (5-2, 2-1 SEC); Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC); Georgia (7-0, 5-0 SEC); Kentucky (6-1, 4-1 SEC); Missouri (3-4, 0-3 SEC)

NFL Week 6 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Bills at Titans on MNF

NFL Week 6 Picks, Notes & Schedule including Bills at Titans on MNF

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 6 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 5 Straight-Up Record: -13-3 (81%)
Week 5 Against The Spread Record: 10-6 (63%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 50-30 (63%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 39-41 (49%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Vikings safety Harrison Smith / Credit: Minnesota Vikings Media Site

WEEK 6 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, October 14Tampa Bay at Philadelphia 
V-Picks: Bucs -7; Tampa Bay wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
8:20
Sunday, October 17Miami at Jacksonville (London)
V-Picks: Dolphins -3.5; Miami wins
CBS9:30 AM
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore
V-Picks: Chargers +3; Los Angeles wins
CBS1:00
Minnesota at Carolina 
V-Picks: Panthers +1.5; Carolina wins
FOX1:00
Green Bay at Chicago  
V-Picks: Packers -5; Green Bay wins
FOX1:00
Cincinnati at Detroit 
V-Picks: Bengals -3.5; Cincinnati wins
FOX1:00
Houston at Indianapolis 
V-Picks: Colts -10; Indianapolis wins
CBS1:00
Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
V-Picks: Rams -9.5; Los Angeles wins
FOX1:00
Kansas City at Washington  
V-Picks: Chiefs -6.5; Kansas City wins
CBS1:00
Arizona at Cleveland  
V-Picks: Browns -3; Cleveland wins
FOX4:05
Las Vegas at Denver  
V-Picks: Broncos -3.5; Denver wins
CBS4:25
Dallas at New England  
V-Picks: Cowboys -3.5; Dallas wins
CBS4:25
Seattle at Pittsburgh 
V-Picks: Seahawks +5; Seattle wins
NBC8:20
Monday, October 18Buffalo at Tennessee 
V-Picks: Titans +5.5; Buffalo wins
ESPN8:15
   

Byes: Atlanta, New Orleans, New York Jets, San Francisco

Vince’s View: SEC Week 7 score predictions including Vols vs. Rebels with analysis

Vince’s View: SEC Week 7 score predictions including Vols vs. Rebels with analysis

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 7 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 5 Straight-Up Record: 6-1 (86%)
Week 5 vs. Spread Record: 5-2 (71%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 48-14 (77%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 32-30 (52%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

KNOXVILLE, TN – October 09, 2021 – Quarterback Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

FULL SLATE OF CONFERENCE GAMES IN WEEK 7

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16
Auburn (4-2, 1-1 SEC) at Arkansas (4-2, 1-2 SEC)
Fayetteville, Ark. • Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Noon ET • CBS
Series: AU leads, 18-11-1
Last: AU, 30-28 (2020 at Auburn)
CBS: Noah Eagle, Aaron Murray, Rick Neuheisel, Jenny Dell
Sirius: 111/81 • XM: 192/81
Point Spread: Arkansas -4
Vince’s View: KJ Jefferson is really playing well and gives Arkansas the QB advantage at home.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Arkansas -4
Score Prediction: Arkansas 35 Auburn 28

Florida (4-2, 2-2 SEC) at LSU (3-3, 1-2 SEC)
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)
Noon ET • ESPN
Series: UF leads, 33-31-3
Last: LSU, 37-34 (2020 at Gainesville)
ESPN: Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Molly McGrath
ESPN Radio: Sean Kelley, Barrett Jones, Ian Fitzsimmons
Sirius: 85/138 • XM: 85/191
Point Spread: Florida -12
Vince’s View: The LSU body language in the whoopin’ it took at Kentucky was concerning. The Florida rushing attack should have a field day, even on the road.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Florida -12
Score Prediction: Florida 41 LSU 21

Texas A&M (4-2, 1-2 SEC) at Missouri (3-3, 0-2 SEC)
Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field (62,621)
Noon ET • SEC Network
Series: TAMU leads, 8-7
Last: MIZ, 34-27 (2014 at College Station)
SECN: Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang
Sirius: 119/137 • XM: 202/190
Point Spread: Texas A&M -9
Vince’s View: Missouri is flawed, but there’s a huge concern of a letdown for the Aggies after upsetting. This will be a huge test for A&M having truly turned the season around.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Missouri +9
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 27 Missouri 20

Kentucky (6-0, 4-0 SEC) at Georgia (6-0, 4-0 SEC)
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: UGA leads, 60-12-2
Last: UGA, 14-3 (2020 at Lexington)
CBS: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl
Sirius: 138/81 • XM: 191/81
Point Spread: Georgia -23
Vince’s View: I think Kentucky will come back down to earth against the nation’s top-ranked team. Yes, Georgia’s handling the #1 ranking is a thing, but I believe that’s more of a fan concern than a team concern. I do think the number is a touch too big though, but we’ll know the better team throughout.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Kentucky +23
Score Prediction: Georgia 38 Kentucky 17

Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-2 SEC) at South Carolina (3-3, 0-3 SEC)
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559)
4 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: SC leads, 26-4
Last: SC, 41-7 (2020 at Nashville)
SECN: Dave Neal, Deuce McAllister, Andraya Carter
Sirius: 111/137 • XM: 192/190
Point Spread: South Carolina -18.5
Vince’s View: That’s a lot of points for a struggling, low-scoring South Carolina team to cover. Then again, how do you have any belief in Vanderbilt, who hasn’t scored in two SEC massacres?
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: South Carolina -18.5
Score Prediction: South Carolina 24 Vanderbilt 0

Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC)
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (61,337)
7 p.m. ET • ESPN
Series: UA leads, 83-18-3
Last: UA, 41-0 (2020 at Tuscaloosa)
ESPN: Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy, Katie George
Sirius: 84/138 • XM: 84/191
Point Spread: Alabama -17
Vince’s View: This is clearly a get-focused game for Alabama. I think you’re see a dominant Tide team. If not, the flaws we’ve seen in this team will be real.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -17
Score Prediction: Alabama 42 Miss State 17

Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1 SEC) at Tennessee (4-2, 2-1 SEC)
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (102,455)
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: UT leads, 44-19-1
Last: UM, 34-3 (2014 at Oxford)
SECN: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic
Sirius: 81/137 • XM: 81/190
Point Spread: Ole Miss -2.5
Vince’s View: So many storylines in this one with Lane Kiffin returning for the first time as a head coach, Checker Neyland, orange britches and the opportunity to elevate the season potential after two dominant SEC wins. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker has been tremendous and the catalyst to the two game win streak. Hooker is #1 in the SEC and #5 in the nation in passing efficiency. One thing to watch is the possibility for Hooker to pass for 300 yards, which has been a rare mark since 2012. UT has only had 10 passing games of over 300 yards in the last 104 games. That’s only happened 5 times in the last 54 games. To keep-up with Ole Miss, that may need to happen today, especially if UT isn’t healthy at running back. I think this could be the game where injuries catch-up with the Vols. UT needs RB Tiyon Evans. These are the top two teams in plays per minutes in the country, so be ready. My concern with Ole Miss is that the Rebels defense has looked like last season’s D the last two games. Offense galore in Knoxville. A key stop or two and turnovers should swing a close game.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss -2.5
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 45 Tennessee 41

Jimmy’s Blog: Kiffin still moves the needle in Knoxville

Jimmy’s Blog: Kiffin still moves the needle in Knoxville

By Jimmy Hyams

Lane Kiffin has coached twice in Neyland Stadium since his awkward departure for USC in January 2010.

But this is the first time the former Tennessee coach has come with a team as the head coach.

Love him or not, Lane Kiffin still moves the needle in Knoxville.

If you don’t believe it, how else do you explain Tennessee announcing a sellout of 102,455 on Tuesday when the Vols hadn’t sold 90,000 to a home game this year?

Tennessee has yet to have an actual attendance crowd of 70,000. You can bet it will be close to 100,000 Saturday night.

Ole Miss has helped with the sellout, buying 3,300 of its allotment from UT and fans buying thousands more on the open market. Don’t be surprised if about 10,000 Rebels fans are in the stands.

Kiffin did a good job at Tennessee in 2009. He guided the Vols to a 7-5 record, almost upset Alabama, blew out Georgia and South Carolina and earned a trip to the Chick-fil-A bowl. He also did a nice job resurrecting the career of quarterback Jonathan Crompton..

The narrative that he inherited a weak roster isn’t true. The Vols had two first-round draft choices (Eric Berry and Dan Williams) a second-round pick (Montario Hardesty) and three others drafted no later than the fifth round. That roster also included two others taken by the fifth round the next year: tight end Luke Stocker, receiver Denarius Moore.

The only game Kiffin lost that he shouldn’t have: UCLA.

Still, he was a fan favorite. That’s the reason there was a near riot on campus when it was learned he was leaving UT for USC.

Fans wouldn’t have been upset about him leaving if they didn’t like him. They certainly weren’t upset when Derek Dooley, Butch Jones and Jeremy Pruitt were fired.

Kiffin has proven to be an excellent offensive coordinator and play caller since leaving UT. His abilities as a head coach are yet to be determined.

If he can become a consistent eight-game winner at Ole Miss, my hat’s off to him.

Regarding Saturday’s night, here are some observations:

Is UT a top 25 team?

Kiffin says he believes Tennessee is a top 25 team and said he voted that way in the coaches’ poll.

“Two blowout SEC wins are hard to come by,’’ Kiffin said.

They have been for Tennessee in recent years. Yet, the Vols haven’t done enough to be ranked. They lost to two good teams: Pitt and Florida. They haven’t beaten decent opponent yet.

A win over No. 13 Ole Miss could put the Vols in the polls.

It would also ingratiate the Vol Nation even more to Josh Heupel, who has done a wonderful job maximizing UT’s roster. The Vols’ offense, run defense, effort and chemistry are to be applauded, especially when 44 different players could be on this team (UT lost 38 in transfer portal since start of last season, two took medical leaves and four asked out of their National Letter of Intent).

And a Heupel win in Year One at Tennessee would win over even more fans if he could beat Kiffin, who is in Year Two.

Both teams like to run

Tennessee is averaging 253.7 rush yards per game behind a make-shift offensive line and with multiple injuries to running backs. Tiyan Evans has been a surprise, as he ranks 4 th in the SEC in rushing.

Ole Miss averages 259.6 rush yards per game. They have a trio of fine backs, led by Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Connor (seven touchdowns) and Henry Parrish. And Matt Corral is an excellent runner; he already has eight rushing touchdowns.

If I voted today on the Heisman Trophy, Corral would get my nod.

As much as I like UT quarterback Hendon Hooker (275.75 total yards per game, 14 touchdowns accounted for in four starts) I have to give the edge to Corral.

Playing the `what if’ game

Kiffin was asked if he made a mistake leaving UT for USC in 2010.

He didn’t say yes, but he said he was told by USC officials that the Trojans would only get a slap on the wrist for the Reggie Bush debacle.

They got a two-year bowl ban, a 30-scholarship reduction and all juniors and seniors could transfer without having to sit out. That, Kiffin said, was as close to the death penalty as you can get.

Kiffin was famously fired on the airport tarmac during his fourth season at USC.

Would he have fared better without the NCAA sanctions? Certainly.

Would UT have done better in the decade after Kiffin departed if Kiffin had stayed? Absolutely. But how much better, no one knows for sure. He would have recruited well and been a thrown in the side to Georgia and Florida and Alabama.

But would he have ever won the East Division?

There’s no way to know.

Prediction

Tennessee’s defense is better than I expected. The run defense has been outstanding, for the most part, against teams without a really good running quarterback, like Florida.

One problem: Corral is a really good running quarterback.

Corral also has 12 touchdown passes against 0 interceptions. He threw 14 picks last year, 11 in two games (six against Arkansas, five against LSU).

Tennessee’s offense is also better than I thought: 41.5 points per game, No. 7 in the nation in rushing, No. 19 in total offense.

One problem: Ole Miss’ offense is even better. The Rebels average 46.2 points per game, and rank No. 5 in rushing, and No. 2 in total offense.

Several keys for Tennessee: Coral Corral; if he escapes the pocket, you’re in trouble. Also, third-and-fourth downs. Tennessee must win those conversion rates. And UT must avoid sacks. UT has been sacked an SEC-leading 20 times. And sacks on three straight second-half possessions helped kill drives against South Carolina.

Tennessee has been able to overcome quite a few injuries on offense and defense.

But I don’t think they can overcome not having Evans against Ole Miss.

I’m not 100% sure Evans won’t play, but if he does, I don’t think he’ll be 100%.

Score: Ole Miss 45 Tennessee 38

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WATCH: Interview with Bellator MMA on Showtime Analyst Big John McCarthy on living in Knoxville, Vols & show 268

WATCH: Interview with Bellator MMA on Showtime Analyst Big John McCarthy on living in Knoxville, Vols & show 268

Here on my blog “Vince’s View” I bring you interviews as well as predictions and written posts.

I caught-up with legendary referee from the UFC and now terrific analyst for Bellator MMA on Showtime, Big John McCarthy, to preview this weekend’s show, Bellator MMA 268, at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Watch that interview below.

Follow me on Twitter @VinceSports and see more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net. Thanks!

Big John McCarthy & Vince Ferrara / Credit: 99.1 The Sports Animal

Jimmy’s Blog: Tennessee’s fast starts have been impressive

Jimmy’s Blog: Tennessee’s fast starts have been impressive

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Five things we learned about Tennessee after 45-20 rout of South Carolina.

*The Vols are fast starters.

UT has outscored South Carolina and Missouri 56-3 in the first quarter. It has also outscored those two SEC foes 83-17 in the first half. It has outscored six opponents 101-13 in the first quarter.

That might be the widest first-quarter margin of any team in the NCAA this season.

Why the fast starts?

Scripting plays has helped. The scouting report has helped. The efficiency of quarterback Hendon Hooker has helped. And being ready to play has helped.

Coach Josh Heupel has complained at times that his team doesn’t prepare properly in the 48 hours before kickoff. He couldn’t have any complaints about the last two games.

*The Vols can overcome a plethora of injuries.

Against South Carolina, Tennessee was without three defensive backs (Theo Jackson, Christian Charles, Deneiko Slaughter) two running backs (Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright) two defensive linemen (Elijah Simmons, Latrell Bumphus), two offensive linemen (Cooper Mays, Kingston Harris) a linebacker (Juwan Mitchell) and a few others.

Yet, Brandon Turnage, the Alabama transfer, replaced Jackson at nickelback and led the team in tackles with 14. The Vols ran for 247 yards against South Carolina while having to use a fourth-team running back. And the patched-up defense held the Gamecocks to one touchdown in the first half.

Also, during the South Carolina game, running back Tiyan Evans and offensive linemen Dayne Davis and Jackson Lampley went down with injuries.

Heupel and his staff had done a remarkable job implementing the “next-man up theory,’’ especially when you consider that UT is down 44 players from the start of last season that could be on the roster: 38 in the transfer portal, two that took medical leaves and four that were let out of their National Letter of Intent.

Even with all that attrition, UT still has 78 on scholarship, although Heupel lists 71 because he does not count the seven super seniors who are, indeed, on scholarship.

*The Vols need Tiyan Evans to beat Ole Miss.

Ole Miss has the best quarterback in the SEC in Matt Corral. It is averaging over 45 points per game. It scored 52 against Arkansas.

The Rebels, a four-point favorite, might score close to 50 against Tennessee’s better-than-expected defense.

That means UT has to score a ton of points. But the Vols can’t do it without a healthy Evans, who has emerged as one of the SEC’s top five running backs. He is averaging 97.2 rush yards per game and has had three 100-yard games. He has power, speed, balance and vision.

Evans could have a field day against Ole Miss’ defense, which surrendered 51 points and 324 rush yards to Arkansas. And it’s evident that UT’s run game drops off quite a bit without Evans in the backfield.

Evans left the South Carolina game in the second half with an undisclosed injury. Heupel said Evans could have returned but wasn’t needed. He will be needed against Ole Miss.

*Tennessee must play a clean game.

In losses to Pitt and Florida, the Vols had double digit penalties and lost the turnover battle to Pitt, 3-0.

In the past two SEC games, the Vols had no turnovers and four combined penalties.

That is a winning formula as UT outscored Missouri and South Carolina 107-44.

*Tennessee must avoid sacks.

The Vols scored touchdowns on their first four possessions against the Gamecocks. Counting the Missouri game, UT scored on 14 of 15 possessions with 12 touchdowns. That is mind-blowing.

That streak ended abruptly in the second half against South Carolina as UT punted on its first four possessions. The first drive was stopped on third-and-1. The other three were thwarted due to sacks.

Hendon Hooker was sacked six times. That’s far too many.

Sacks are usually drive killers, and UT can’t afford sacks if it wants to keep pace with Ole Miss’ high-powered offense.

Along those lines, first-down production could be a key. In the first half against South Carolina, UT gained 180 yards on 21 first-down snaps with 11 gains of 5 or more yards. In the second half, UT got 38 yards on 11 first downs with just four plays of 5 or more yards.

First-down efficiency can keep you out of third-and-long, which can lead to sacks.

Sponsored by Big Kahuna Wings: The wings that changed it all

Vince’s View: SEC Week 6 score predictions including Vols vs. Gamecocks with analysis

Vince’s View: SEC Week 6 score predictions including Vols vs. Gamecocks with analysis

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 6 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 4 Straight-Up Record: 4-4 (50%)
Week 4 vs. Spread Record: 2-6 (25%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 42-13 (76%)

2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 27-28 (49%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

KNOXVILLE, TN – October 05, 2021 – Dark Mode Power T helmet taken in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

WEEK 6 IN THE SEC INCLUDES CBS DOUBLEHEADER

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9

13 Arkansas (4-1, 1-1 SEC) at #17 Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
Noon ET • ESPN
Series: ARK leads, 37-28-1
Last: ARK, 33-21 (2020 at Fayetteville)
Sirius: 133/81 • XM: 191/81
Point Spread: Ole Miss -6
Vince’s View: The battle of the two not-ready-for-primetime previously undefeated SEC teams meet to get one team on track and the other in a losing streak. QB is the difference with Matt Corral over a banged-up KJ Jefferson.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss -6
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 35 Arkansas 21

Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-1 SEC) at #20 Florida (3-2, 1-2 SEC)
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Spurrier-Florida Field (88,548)
Noon ET • SEC Network
Series: UF leads, 42-10-2
Last: UF, 38-17 (2020 at Nashville)
Sirius: 119/138 • XM: 235/190
Point Spread: Florida -38.5
Vince’s View: It’s so hard to lay all those points in a conference game. It’s even harder to believe in Vanderbilt, as bad as that team has been. Florida should be on-point coming off the loss at Kentucky.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Florida -38.5
Score Prediction: Florida 45 Vanderbilt 3

South Carolina (3-2, 0-2 SEC) at Tennessee (3-2, 1-1 SEC)
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (102,455)
Noon ET • ESPN2
Series: UT leads, 27-10-2
Last: UT, 31-27 (2020 at Columbia)
Sirius: 137/135 • XM: 201/192
Point Spread: Tennessee -10.5
Vince’s View: This will be another gauge of how connected the team is to each other and the coaching staff, if the Vols handle this game with maturity. A loss would cancel out all the earned positivity. UT doesn’t want that for many reasons, including future ticket sales, desperately needed donations and recruiting. Hendon Hooker has been one of the most efficient QBs in the country. SC has been stingy on defense. The Gamecocks are one of the best in the country at creating turnovers. The Vols should be locked-in on keeping the South Carolina run game from finally busting out with a big game. They have several backs that have that potential and we’ve seen numerous SC backs have career performances vs. UT. I think Tennessee handles business well enough and takes care of business.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee -10.5
Score Prediction: Tennessee 31 South Carolina 13

2 Georgia (5-0, 3-0) at #18 Auburn (4-1, 1-1 SEC)
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: UGA leads, 61-56-8
Last: UGA, 27-6 (2020 at Athens)
Sirius: 133/81 • XM: 191/81
Point Spread: Georgia -15.5
Vince’s View: Bo Nix’s heroics of last week won’t work against that dominant Georgia defense that’s allowed 13 points in 3 conference games. This will be a little more of a test for the Bulldogs offense. I think they pass that test easily.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Georgia -15.5
Score Prediction: Georgia 35 Auburn 10

North Texas (1-3) at Missouri (1-3, 2-3 SEC)
Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field (62,621)
4 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: MIZ leads, 1-0
Sirius: 138 • XM: 190
Point Spread: Missouri -19
Vince’s View: North Texas can run the ball and they’ve created some turnover, but they rest has been a struggle bus for the Mean Green from Denton, Texas. Mizzou fired it’s DL coach after a pathetic overall team performance in the home rout at the hands of the Volunteers. It should be better today, even if it’s not pretty.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: North Texas +19
Score Prediction: Missouri 28 North Texas 24

LSU (3-2, 1-1 SEC) at #16 Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC)
Lexington, Ky. • Kroger Field (61,000)
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: LSU leads, 40-16-1
Last: LSU, 41-3 (2014 at Baton Rouge)
Sirius: 138/135 • XM: 190/192
Point Spread: Kentucky -3.5
Vince’s View: What to make of the LSU Tigers. Who knows. You see individual wow plays and talent, but the disappointing stretches continue. LSU is 128th in the country in rushing offense. QB Max Johnson had played well until last week. Too much is on his shoulders and UK’s defense should be too tough.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Kentucky -3.5
Score Prediction: Kentucky 27 LSU 20

1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0) at Texas A&M (3-2, 0-2 SEC)
College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,733)
8 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: UA leads, 11-2
Last: UA, 52-24 (2020 at Tuscaloosa)
Sirius: 81/133 • XM: 81/191
Point Spread: Alabama -18
Vince’s View: Alabama’s continued ability to adjust and improve is underrated impressive. Road wins in the SEC are hard. Florida played the Tide tight earlier this season. A&M doesn’t have the QB run threat and it isn’t played well on offense. This game will be easier than it should be, considering what the Aggies were expected to be this season.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -18
Score Prediction: Alabama 45 Texas A&M 14

OPEN: Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC)

NFL Week 5 Picks, Notes & Schedule: Record number of late-game heroics; two games featuring 3-1 teams

NFL Week 5 Picks, Notes & Schedule: Record number of late-game heroics; two games featuring 3-1 teams

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 5 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 4 Straight-Up Record: -9-7 (56%)
Week 3 Against The Spread Record: 6-10 (38%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 37-27 (58%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 29-35 (45%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts on August 17, 2019 in the preseason at Lucas Oil Stadium / Credit: Cleveland Browns Media Site

WEEK 5 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, Oct. 7Los Angeles Rams at Seattle
V-Picks: Rams -2.5; Los Angeles wins
FOX/NFLN
/Amazon
8:20
   
Sunday, Oct. 10New York Jets vs. Atlanta (London)
V-Picks: Falcons -3; Atlanta wins
NFLN9:30 AM
Philadelphia at Carolina
V-Picks: Panthers -3; Carolina wins
FOX1:00
Green Bay at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Packers -3; Green Bay wins
FOX1:00
New England at Houston
V-Picks: Patriots -9; New England wins
CBS1:00
Tennessee at Jacksonville
V-Picks: Titans -4.5; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
Detroit at Minnesota
V-Picks: Vikings -10; Minnesota wins
FOX1:00
Denver at Pittsburgh
V-Picks: Steelers PK; Pittsburgh wins
FOX1:00
Miami at Tampa Bay
V-Picks: Buccaneers -10; Tampa Bay wins
CBS1:00
New Orleans at Washington
V-Picks: Saints -2.5; New Orleans wins
CBS1:00
Cleveland at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chargers -2; Los Angeles wins
CBS4:05
Chicago at Las Vegas
V-Picks: Raiders -5.5; Las Vegas wins
CBS4:05
San Francisco at Arizona
V-Picks: Cardinals -5.5; Arizona wins
FOX4:25
New York Giants at Dallas
V-Picks: Cowboys -7; Dallas wins
FOX4:25
Buffalo at Kansas City
V-Picks: Chiefs -2.5; Kansas City wins
NBC8:20
    
Monday, Oct. 11Indianapolis at Baltimore
V-Picks: Ravens -7; Baltimore wins
ESPN8:15

NFL CONTINUES UNPRECEDENTED LAST-MINUTE EXCITEMENT; TWO GAMES FEATURE A PAIR OF 3-1 TEAMS & LEAGUE RETURNS TO LONDON IN WEEK 5

Week in and week out, the NFL never disappoints.

The first four weeks of the 2021 schedule have produced more late-game drama than any other season to this point. Road teams are winning more than home teams. A quarterback leads the league in rushing touchdowns. And seven teams that missed the 2020 playoffs have at least a share of their division leads, including the ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-0), who enter play as the league’s only remaining undefeated team for the first time since 1974.

The Week 5 forecast calls for more of the same, with occasional waves of double-digit comeback wins, including a good chance of games decided by a field goal or less. Games ending on the last play are likely, so prepare accordingly. And set your alarm to wake up early on Sunday, because the NFL is back in London.

EDGE-OF-SEAT DRAMATICS: This season has already seen 15 games decided on a game-winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, the most such games through the first four weeks of a season since at least the 1970 merger.

Twelve of those contests have been won on the last play of the game.

The most games decided on a game-winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime through Week 4, since 1970:

SEASONGAMES
202115
201214
201313
200313

Including two Week 4 overtime games, which gave both the NEW YORK GIANTS and NEW YORK JETS their first wins, at least one game has gone to overtime in each of the first four weeks of the season. This marks the fifth instance ever in which at least one game has gone to OT in each of the first four weeks. It also happened in 1979, 1983, 2002 and 2018.

CLOSE SHAVES: Through four weeks, 17 of 64 NFL games (26.6 percent) have been decided by three points or fewer. At this point in a season, that’s tied for the fourth-most in league history.

The most games decided by three points or fewer through four weeks in NFL history:

SEASONGAMES
201119
201818
199918
202117
201217
198817

BACK TO LONDON: This week, the NFL continues an important initiative by returning to international play. Sunday’s schedule starts early with the first of two international games on the 2021 schedule when the NEW YORK JETS (1-3) meet the ATLANTA FALCONS (1-3) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London (9:30 AM ET/2:30 PM in the UK, NFL Network). Both the Falcons (2014) and Jets (2015) are making their second London appearances.

The NFL had played 28 regular-season games over 13 years (2007-19) until the pandemic kept all league contests in the United States last season.

BOUNCEBACK TEAMS: Through the first four weeks, 12 teams have at least three wins and seven of those teams were not in the postseason last year: ARIZONA (4-0), CAROLINA (3-1), CINCINNATI (3-1), DALLAS (3-1), DENVER (3-1), LAS VEGAS (3-1) and the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (3-1).

  • Five teams that lost their season-openers – BALTIMORE (3-1), BUFFALO (3-1), CLEVELAND (3-1), DALLAS (3-1) and GREEN BAY (3-1) – have rebounded to win three straight games entering this week.

HOLDING ALL THE CARDS: The ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-0) can mark their best start in 47 years, since 1974, with a victory on Sunday against the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-2) at State Farm Stadium (4:25 PM ET, FOX). The club enters this week as the NFL’s lone remaining undefeated team for the first time since Week 8 of that 1974 season, when the franchise, then based in St. Louis, started 7-0.

  • Arizona’s offense leads the NFL in both total yards per game (440.5) and points per game (35.0).
  • The Cardinals this season have opened 4-0 and scored at least 30 points with 400-or-more yards of offense in each of their first four games. Prior to this season, only three teams had done that, and each went to the Super Bowl: the 2013 Denver Broncos, 2007 New England Patriots and 2002 Oakland Raiders.
  • Three of Arizona’s wins this season have come on the road, and all have been by at least 12 points, including an impressive 37-20 triumph last week against the previously undefeated Rams.
  • The Cardinals have joined the 1980 San Diego Chargers as one of only two undefeated teams over the last 60 years to register three road wins in their first four games and win each by 12-or-more points.
  • This week, Arizona wide receiver DEANDRE HOPKINS (764 career receptions) needs one catch to surpass LARRY FITZGERALD (764) for the most receptions ever by a player prior to his 30th birthday. Hopkins will be 29 years and 126 days old on Sunday.
  • The 49ers, meanwhile, could start third-overall selection TREY LANCE at quarterback. If that happens, all five rookie quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft will have made their starting debuts.
  • San Francisco’s DEEBO SAMUEL leads the NFL with 490 receiving yards. In franchise history, only Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (522 in 1995) collected more through the first four games of a season.

CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCHES: The BUFFALO BILLS (3-1) travel to play the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-2) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC). It’s the ninth time in 10 seasons that teams who played in the most recent AFC Championship are meeting the following year. Over the previous eight rematches, the winner of the rematch game has gone on to the Super Bowl five times, winning the Lombardi Trophy in four of those seasons. And in that span, the only time the winner of the rematch did not make the playoffs, in 2018, the losing team in the rematch went on to win the Super Bowl.

The winners of the last eight rematches of the prior season’s AFC Championship Game:

SEASONREMATCHWINNING TEAM’S SEASON RESULT
2019Kansas City 23, New England 16KC won Super Bowl
2018Jacksonville 31, +New England 20JAX missed playoffs
2017New England 27, Pittsburgh 24NE Advanced to Super Bowl
2016New England 16, Denver 3NE won Super Bowl
2015New England 34, Indianapolis 27NE advanced to AFC Championship
2014New England 43, Denver 21NE won Super Bowl
2013New England 41, Baltimore 7NE advanced to AFC Championship
2012*Baltimore 28, New England 13BAL won Super Bowl
*Postseason game; +Went on to win Super Bowl

This week’s game also pits Buffalo’s No. 1-ranked defense in both points allowed per game (11.0) and yards allowed per game (216.8) against Kansas City’s top-ranked offense in yards per play (6.9). The Chiefs also rank second on offense in total yards per game (427.5) and tied for second (with Buffalo’s offense) in points per game (33.5).

Buffalo has scored at least 35 points in three consecutive games. The Bills, who registered shutouts in Weeks 2 and 4, are the third team since 1990 to record two shutouts in their first four games of a season, joining the Ravens in 2000 and Washington in 1991.

Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES made his 50th career start last week and recorded five touchdown passes while wide receiver TYREEK HILL totaled 11 receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs’ win.

  • Mahomes has a 40-10 record (.800) as a starting quarterback and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer KEN STABLER (40-9-1) as the only quarterbacks whose career began in the Super Bowl era to win 40 of their first 50 career starts.
  • With five touchdown passes in Week 4, Mahomes became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to register at least three touchdown passes in each of his first four games of a season, joining TOM BRADY (first 10 games in 2007) and Pro Football Hall of Famers STEVE YOUNG (first five games in 1998), DAN MARINO (first four games in 1987) and KURT WARNER (first four games in 1999).
  • Mahomes became the first player with four games of at least five touchdown passes in his first 50 career starts and tied Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (four games) for the most such games by a player in his first five seasons all-time.
  • Mahomes has 25 career games with at least three touchdown passes and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (33 games) as the only players with at least 25 such games in their first five seasons in NFL history.
  • Hill, who recorded his fifth-career game with at least 180 receiving yards, is the fifth player with five games with at least 180 receiving yards in his first six seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer LANCE ALWORTH (eight games), CHARLEY HENNIGAN (seven), Pro Football Hall of Famer ISAAC BRUCE (six) and ANTONIO BROWN (five).

ROAD SWEET HOME: NFL teams in road games this season are 33-31 (.516), continuing a trend of road-team success that began in 2019. Since the beginning of 2019, road teams are 284-290-2 (.495).

The seasons with the highest winning percentage by road teams through four weeks, since 1970:

SEASONWLTPCT
198333230.589
201935271.563
197830260.536
1971*26233.531
197226242.519
202133310.516
*Tie games did not count in winning percentage prior to 1972

Six clubs this season have at least two road wins through four weeks, including the DENVER BRONCOS (3-1), who put their 2-0 road record on the line this week against the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-3) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • Last week, Pittsburgh quarterback BEN ROETHLISBERGER threw his 400th career touchdown pass and became the eighth quarterback all-time to reach that milestone. Roethlisberger, who had 232 passing yards in Week 4, now has 61,381 career passing yards and also surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (61,361) for the sixth-most passing yards in NFL history.

SOFI HOSTS ANOTHER SPOTLIGHT GAME: Another week, another big game at SoFi Stadium. Next up is a clash of three-win teams when the CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-1) face the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (3-1) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, CBS).

  • Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT is 7-1 over his last eight starts, dating back to Week 14 last season.
  • Herbert needs 300 passing yards this week to register the 11th 300-yard passing game of his young career and surpass PATRICK MAHOMES (10 games) and Pro Football of Famer DAN MARINO (10) for the most by a player in his first two seasons.
  • Last week, Los Angeles running back AUSTIN EKELER recorded his 18th career touchdown reception to surpass DANNY WOODHEAD (17) for the most by an undrafted running back in the common-draft era.
  • Cleveland’s NICK CHUBB ranks second in the NFL with 362 rushing yards, playing the lead role in an offense that leads the NFL in rushing (177.0 yards per game).
  • On defense, Cleveland’s MYLES GARRETT leads the NFL with six sacks.

ESTABLISHED, BURGEONING STARS FACE OFF IN CINCY: In another battle of one-loss teams, the GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-1) head south to face the CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

Last week, Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS recorded three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) with no interceptions. He now has 420 career touchdown passes, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (420) for the sixth-most all time.

Sunday is an intriguing matchup of Rodgers, the reigning league MVP, and Cincinnati’s JOE BURROW, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Burrow last week led the Bengals back from 14-point halftime deficit, finishing with 348 passing yards and two touchdowns. He has at least two touchdown passes in each of his first four games this season.

The first 14 NFL starts in the careers of Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow:

RODGERS, 2008BURROW, 2020-21
5-9-0Record5-8-1
63.5Completion Pct.66.9
3,470Passing Yards3,676
23Passing TD22
12Interceptions9
91.8Rating94.8

RAVENS HOST COLTS IN PRIMETIME: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (1-3) return to their franchise’s former home this week to face the BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-1) on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).

  • Last week, the Ravens rushed for 102 yards and now have at least 100 yards in 43 consecutive regular-season games, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers (43 from 1974-77) for the longest such streak in NFL history.
  • Baltimore quarterback LAMAR JACKSON in four career starts on Monday Night Football has passed for 664 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions for a 111.9 passer rating. In those four starts, he’s also rushed for 388 yards on 38 carries (10.2 average) with two touchdowns.
  • Indianapolis has been stout against the run since the beginning of the 2020 season. The Colts rank third in rushing defense (95.2 yards per game) over that span. Over a longer stretch, since the beginning of 2018, the Colts have allowed a 100-yard rusher in only four of their past 52 games (DERRICK HENRY in all four games).

COMEBACK PLAYERS: The annual Comeback Player of the Year Award is meaningful because it’s the manifestation of a player’s ability to overcome personal adversity and return to contribute to his team’s on-field success. Two candidates for that award, running back SAQUON BARKLEY and quarterback DAK PRESCOTT, will be on the same field when the NEW YORK GIANTS (1-3) return to AT&T Stadium to face the DALLAS COWBOYS (3-1) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX).

  • Prescott last week threw four touchdown passes in the Cowboys’ win, his fifth career game with four-or-more touchdown passes.
  • Barkley, meanwhile, scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime last week. He finished with 126 scrimmage yards (74 receiving, 52 rushing), including a 54-yard touchdown reception that sparked an 11-point comeback in the fourth quarter.
  • Two rookie linebackers – New York’s AZEEZ OJULARI (3) and Dallas’ MICAH PARSONS (2.5) – are leading their respective teams in sacks. Last month, Ojulari became the first NFL rookie with at least one sack in each of his team’s first three games since TERRELL SUGGS in 2003.
  • Dallas cornerback TREVON DIGGS leads the NFL with five interceptions. Diggs is the fourth player since 1990 to record an interception in each of his team’s first four games of a season, joining DEVIN MCCOURTY (2019), BRIAN RUSSELL (2003) and OTIS SMITH (1995).
  • Giants quarterback DANIEL JONES leads the league among qualified players with 7.0 yards per carry (27 attempts, 188 yards, two touchdowns).

DUAL-THREAT QUARTERBACKS ON DISPLAY IN CAROLINA: Week 5 features five potential matchups of starting quarterbacks under the age of 27. One of those game is in Charlotte, where the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (1-3) and JALEN HURTS square off with the CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-1) and SAM DARNOLD (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • Darnold leads all NFL players with five rushing touchdowns.
  • Last week, Darnold passed for 301 yards and totaled four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). He became the first quarterback in NFL history to record five rushing touchdowns in his team’s first four games of a season.
  • Darnold, who also had two rushing touchdowns in Week 3, is the sixth quarterback since 1970 to record multiple rushing touchdowns in consecutive games.
  • Hurts, meanwhile, has 226 rushing yards, second among quarterbacks this season behind Baltimore’s LAMAR JACKSON (279).
WATCH: Xs & Os breakdown of Tiyon Evans’ 92-yd TD run & specifics on why Vols run game was so improved

WATCH: Xs & Os breakdown of Tiyon Evans’ 92-yd TD run & specifics on why Vols run game was so improved

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Longtime college football assistant coach Don Mahoney, a former University of Tennessee assistant coach from 2013 to 2016, broke down Tennessee’s win over Missouri with me. He went to the dry erase “wipey” board for an Xs & Os analysis of the 92-yard TD run by Tiyon Evans. He also shared whether the Vols improved offense or Missouri’s bad defense should be the biggest takeaway from UT’s 62-24 win at Mizzou.

Don is a great football mind. He’s my color analyst for the KOC High School Football Game of the Week each Friday night on The Sports Animal, AM 990. Listen to all our completed game calls, commercial free HERE.

Highlights of the touchdown are from the University of Tennessee’s game highlights on YouTube. You can watch those full game highlights from the Tennessee win below as well.

Don Mahoney and Vince Ferrara – 99.1 The Sports Animal / Credit: 99.1 The Sports Animal

Jimmy’s blog: 5 things we learned about Tennessee

Jimmy’s blog: 5 things we learned about Tennessee

By Jimmy Hyams

Here are five things we learned about Tennessee after the 62-24 massacre at Missouri.  

  1. Hendon Hooker is clearly UT’s best quarterback

Hooker, who didn’t start until Joe Milton was hurt in Game 2, was outstanding against Missouri. The Virginia Tech transfer was 15 of 19 passing (one was dropped and one was a throwaway) for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 14 times for 74 yards and a score. Coming off an injury at Florida, Hooker wasn’t cleared to play until late in the week. But he led the Vols on scoring drives on nine of 10 possessions and it would have been 10 for 10 if not for a questionable call on a Tiyan Evans run. Hooker’s accuracy, running ability, decision making and coolness under fired have convinced me UT can score 30 points on every team it plays the rest of the season not named Alabama or Georgia. I rank him as the No. 7 QB in the SEC now – and he could move up the ladder.   

  1. UT’s run defense is really good, with one caveat.

Run defense was a concern entering this season. The Vols had allowed over 141.6 rush yards per game last year, surrendered at least 165 rush yards to six opponents and wasn’t sure after a coaching change which players would return. Turns out, several six-year seniors re-invested in the program and, turns out, the hire of defensive line coach Rodney Garner was critical. When not facing a team with a standout running quarterback, UT’s run defense has been outstanding. The Vols held Missouri to 74 yards – less than half the Tigers’ average. And against the four teams that didn’t have Emory Jones at quarterback, the Vols are allowing 59.3 rush yards per game and 1.88 yards per carry. Those numbers would rank first in the SEC – ahead of even Georgia — if you could take out the Florida game. UT faces only one other quarterback likely to run a dozen times in a game – Matt Corral at Ole Miss. That’s a good sign for UT’s run defense.      

  1. Tiyan Evans is a big-time SEC running back.

The junior college transfer made a huge splash in his Tennessee debut, rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown against lowly Bowling Green. He missed the Pitt game for a non-injury reason, then didn’t run hard in gaining just 41 yards against Tennessee Tech. After being called out by his position coach, Evans responded with 121 yards from the line of scrimmage at Florida and 156 yards and three touchdowns (almost four) on 15 carries against Missouri. He spearheaded a run game that mauled Missouri for 452 yards. Evans has speed, power, cutting ability, vision and toughness. And he now ranks third in the SEC in rushing per game (91.75) behind only Chris Rodriguez of Kentucky (122.4) and Brian Robinson at Alabama (94.75).  Even behind an average-at-best offensive line, Evans should rush for over 1,000 yards this season. He was the No. 1 rated junior college back in the country, and at Hartsville (S.C.) High School (home of Albert Haynesworth), he rushed for over 2,000 yards as a sophomore and junior and 1,400 more when moved to quarterback as a senior. He’s the real deal.   

  1. Velus Jones Jr. is effective in the slot

  Tennessee moved Jones to the slot against Missouri and made a concerted effort to get him the ball. It worked. Jones led the Vols with seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Jones is dynamic in space, as evidenced by the fact he has more career kickoff return yards than any other active player on the FBS level. Look for Jones, a fifth-year senior who has never caught more than 24 passes in a season (USC in 2018) to emerge as UT’s leading receiver.   

  1. You can run the clock even if your base offense is high octane

  Tennessee went up-tempo in building a 45-10 halftime lead against Missouri. At one point UT had five touchdowns in about five minutes time of possession. But in the second half, there was no reason to go high octane. Milking the clock, keeping your defense off the field and limiting Missouri possessions was all that was needed to score a one-sided win. And that’s what UT did.   While still going no-huddle, UT ran the clock before snapping the ball. Instead of running 3.1 plays per minute, UT ran about 1.5 plays per minute. As a result, Tennessee had just four second-half possessions and Missouri had three (including one at the end of the game when the clock ran out). You can’t rally from 35 down if you only get three possessions. That was textbook clock management by the Vols.

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Vince’s View: SEC Week 5 score predictions including Vols at Tigers with analysis

Vince’s View: SEC Week 5 score predictions including Vols at Tigers with analysis

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 5 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 4 Straight-Up Record: 6-2 (75%)
Week 4 vs. Spread Record: 4-4 (50%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 38-9 (81%)

2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 25-22 (53%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

GAINESVILLE, FL – September 25, 2021 – Quarterback Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Florida Gators and the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

SEC OPENS OCTOBER WITH SIX CONFERENCE GAMES

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2
#8 Arkansas (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at #2 Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC)
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Noon ET • ESPN
Series: UGA leads, 11-4
Last: UGA, 37-10 (2020 at Fayetteville)
ESPN: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe
Touchdown Radio: Brett Dolan, Gino Torretta
Sirius: 121/81 • XM: 191/81
Point Spread: Georgia -16.5
Vince’s View: I’ve been so impressed by how hard Arkansas plays and how well coached that team is in all phases, getting the most of their roster. Georgia’s defense is too good and that team is a new level of talent.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Arkansas +16.5
Score Prediction: Georgia 30 Arkansas 14

Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at Missouri (2-2, 0-1 SEC)
Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field (62,621)
Noon ET • SEC Network
Series: MIZ leads, 5-4
Last: UT, 35-12 (2020 at Knoxville)
SECN: Dave Neal, Deuce McAllister, Andraya Carter
Sirius: 103/132 • XM: 192/190
Point Spread: Missouri -2.5
Vince’s View: Hendon Hooker is expected to start for the Vols. The offense has been better with him. Will he be limited in the run game coming off of the injury that forced him out of the Florida game last week? Running the ball is going to be necessarily for UT, probably needing over 250 rush yards. Mizzou gives up an average of 270 yards per game on the ground. It should not just be yards, but attempts with the commitment to the run.

The Vols defense needs to be aware of where RB Tyler Badie is at all times. He’s Mizzou’s leading rusher and receiver. Badie is 5 receiving yards away from being the first player in program history with 1,000 career rushing and receiving yards. He averages 150 all-purpose yards per game, which is about 1/3 of Mizzou’s 483 yards of offense per game.

I think this game will be wild and high-scoring. This is a game where we will learn more about this coaching staff’s ability to scheme their way around deficiencies, weaknesses and injuries to find a way to get the most out of this team.

This game is also a culture test. If it’s as good as the players say it is this year, then the players will clean-up the penalties, the drops and the lack of focus that some of the players mentioned from the loss to the Gators. This roster isn’t good enough to keep having to overcome piles of mistakes.

Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee +2.5
Score Prediction: Tennessee 34 Missouri 31

#12 Ole Miss (3-0, 0-0 SEC) at #1 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Tuscaloosa Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Series: UA leads, 52-10-2
Last: UA, 63-48 (2020 in Oxford)
CBS: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson
Compass Media Radio: T.J. Rives, Steve Beuerlein
Sirius: 121/81 • XM: 191/81
Point Spread: Alabama -14.5
Vince’s View: I’m going with Ole Miss to shock the world in a season of big upsets. I realize former Saban assistants are 0-for-23 against him. Ole Miss is 0-for-13 vs. AP #1 teams. I get all the numbers. Lane Kiffin knows Alabama so well and has an extra week (and I’m sure much more than that) to prepare.

Matt Corral is the best QB in the country. Dual threat QBs are the ones that at times give the Tide some issues. The Rebels have weapons in so many different skill spots.

The Rebels defense is improved from last season led by MLB Chance Campbell and DE Sam Williams.

A high scoring game where Alabama doesn’t have balance on offense will put a lot on Bryce Young’s shoulders.

The few times Alabama loses in the regular season, those more often come at home to teams with great quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong, I think Alabama will the best team at season’s end. This is a one week perfect storm pick.

Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Ole Miss +14.5
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 42 Alabama 38

Troy (2-2) at South Carolina (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559)
3:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: SC leads, 3-0
SECN: Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang
Sirius: 132 • XM: 190
Point Spread: South Carolina -6.5
Vince’s View: The Gamecocks don’t have the roster to win many SEC games, but SC should have enough to beat the Trojans.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: South Carolina -6.5
Score Prediction: South Carolina 20 Troy 10

#10 Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at Kentucky (4-0, 2-0 SEC)
Lexington, Ky. • Kroger Field (61,000)
6 p.m. ET • ESPN
Series: UF leads, 53-18
Last: UF, 34-10 (2020 at Gainesville)
ESPN: Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Kris Budden
Sirius: 106/103 • XM: 235/182
Point Spread: Florida -7.5
Vince’s View: I think Kentucky will do the best job against the Florida run game this season, but the Gators will still get points and pull away late.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Florida -7.5
Score Prediction: Florida 31 Kentucky 21

Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at #15 Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,733)
7 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Series: Tied 7-7
Last: TAMU, 28-14 (2020 at Starkville)
SECN: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic
Sirius: 81 • XM: 388/81
Point Spread: Texas A&M -7.5
Vince’s View: Miss State is inconsistent and Texas A&M has underachieved. The Aggies should be refocused and committed to the run game coming off the loss to Arkansas.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Texas A&M -7.5
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 28 Mississippi State 14

UConn (0-5) at Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
7:30 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Series: VU leads, 2-1
ESPNU: Brian Custer, Kelly Stouffer
Sirius: 121 • XM: 191
Point Spread: Vanderbilt -14.5
Vince’s View: This is ugly. You’re welcome.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Vanderbilt -14.5
Score Prediction: Vanderbilt 31 UConn 14

#22 Auburn (3-1, 0-0 SEC at LSU (3-1, 1-0 SEC)
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)
9 p.m. ET • ESPN
Series: LSU leads, 31-23-1
Last: AU, 48-11 (2020 at Auburn)
ESPN: Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy, Katie George
ESPN Radio: Sean Kelley, Barrett Jones, Ian Fitzsimmons
Sirius: 138/132 • XM: 202/190
Point Spread: LSU -3
Vince’s View: The quarterback position is the difference in this one. Max Johnson has been excellent. Auburn’s QB situation is up in the air and not great.
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: LSU -3
Score Prediction: LSU 35 Auburn 17

NFL Week 4 Picks & Notes: Dramatic endings, resurgent teams & young QBs

NFL Week 4 Picks & Notes: Dramatic endings, resurgent teams & young QBs

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 4 predictions, straight and spread, with the full schedule of games. Plus, you’ll find some notes on this week’s games and the season courtesy of NFL Communications.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.

Week 3 Straight-Up Record: 10-6 (63%)
Week 3 Against The Spread Record: 8-8 (50%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 28-20 (58%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 23-25 (48%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)

AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX / Credit: Dallas Cowboys Media Website

WEEK 4 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Odds are via WynnBet when available or VegasInsider’s consensus

Thursday, September 30Jacksonville at Cincinnati
V-Picks: Bengals -7.5; Cincinnati wins
NFLN8:20
   
Sunday, October 3Washington at Atlanta
V-Picks: Falcons +1.5; Atlanta wins
FOX1:00
Houston at Buffalo
V-Picks: Bills -17; Buffalo wins
CBS1:00
Detroit at Chicago
V-Picks: Lions +2.5; Detroit wins
FOX1:00
Carolina at Dallas
V-Picks: Panthers +4; Dallas wins
FOX1:00
Indianapolis at Miami
V-Picks: Colts +1.5; Indianapolis wins
CBS1:00
Cleveland at Minnesota
V-Picks: Browns -2; Cleveland wins
CBS1:00
New York Giants at New Orleans
V-Picks: Saints -7; New Orleans wins
FOX1:00
Tennessee at New York Jets
V-Picks: Titans -6.5; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
Kansas City at Philadelphia
V-Picks: Chiefs -7; Kansas City wins
CBS1:00
Arizona at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams -4; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:05
Seattle at San Francisco
V-Picks: 49ers -2.5: San Francisco wins
FOX4:05
Baltimore at Denver
V-Picks: Ravens +1; Baltimore wins
CBS4:25
Pittsburgh at Green Bay
V-Picks: Packers -6.5; Green Bay wins
CBS4:25
Tampa Bay at New England
V-Picks: Buccaneers -7; Tampa Bay wins
NBC8:20
    
Monday, October 4Las Vegas at Los Angeles Chargers
V-Picks: Chargers -3; Los Angeles wins
ESPN8:15

Like a poem written by Steve Sabol and narrated by John Facenda, complete with a score composed by Sam Spence, the 2021 NFL season somehow continues to get better as it rolls along.

Week 3 featured five games decided in the final minute of regulation or overtime. One of those contests ended with the longest field goal in NFL history, JUSTIN TUCKER’s 66-yarder to lift Baltimore. Eleven of 16 games in Week 3 were within one score (eight points) in the final quarter.

What’s in store for Week 4? Take a deep breath.

For starters, this week features a clash of undefeated NFC West rivals in Los Angeles, and TOM BRADY and ROB GRONKOWSKI returning to New England, where Brady needs 68 passing yards to break the NFL’s career record. ANDY REID returns to Philadelphia with an opportunity to become the first coach in NFL annals to win 100 games with one franchise and 100 with another.

If that’s not enough, how about a pair of resurgent division leaders, the CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-0) and DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1), at AT&T Stadium, or two of the most prolific passers in league history, BEN ROETHLISBERGER and AARON RODGERS, at Lambeau Field?

The week begins Thursday night with a primetime matchup of the last two No. 1 overall selections in the NFL Draft, JOE BURROW and TREVOR LAWRENCE, and it ends on Monday night when the head-turning LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-1) host the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (3-0), off to their best start in 19 years.

Intermission is over, so get to your seats. Dim the house lights and cue the orchestra. Here comes Week 4.

LATE-GAME DRAMA: Through Week 3, NFL teams have scored the winning points in the final minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime on 11 occasions. Just one other year has produced more such games at this point of a season.

The seasons with the most games in which the winning points were scored in the final minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime through three weeks:

SEASONGAMES
201312
202111
201211
200311
199711

WORKING OVERTIME: For the first time since 2018, at least one NFL game has gone to overtime in each of the season’s first three weeks. The league has had overtime games in each of the first four weeks of a season on only four occasions: 2018, 2002, 1983 and 1979.

WILD, WILD NFC WEST: Five teams, including four that missed the playoffs last year (Arizona, Carolina, Denver and Las Vegas) are 3-0. Two of the undefeated teams are NFC West rivals that will meet at SoFi Stadium, where the ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-0) travel to clash with the LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-0) on Sunday (4:05 PM ET, FOX). Arizona is tied for the league lead with 34.3 points per game, while the Rams rank third with 31.7.

  • With a rushing touchdown on Sunday, Arizona quarterback KYLER MURRAY would become the first quarterback in NFL history to run for a touchdown in each of his team’s first four games of a season. Murray has rushed for a touchdown in each of his team’s first three games for the second season in a row. The only other quarterbacks with a rushing touchdown in each of their team’s first three games of a season since 1970 are Pro Football Hall of Famer TERRY BRADSHAW (1972) and CHARLIE FRYE (2006).
  • Murray, who passed for 316 yards in last week’s win at Jacksonville, aims to lead the Cardinals to their best start in nine years, when they opened 4-0 in 2012. The last time Arizona began 3-0 was 2015, when the Cardinals advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
  • The Rams’ COOPER KUPP leads the NFL in both receiving yards (367) and touchdown catches (five). He’s also tied for the league lead with 25 receptions.
  • Last week, Rams wide receiver DESEAN JACKSON recorded a 75-yard touchdown reception in the team’s win over Tampa Bay. He became the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to register 10 career touchdowns of at least 75 yards, joining DEVIN HESTER (14 touchdowns), DANTE HALL (11), JOSH CRIBBS (10) and TYREEK HILL (10).
  • Rams quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD has established a blistering pace through his first three games with the Rams, ranking second in the league with a 129.8 passer rating and tied for second with nine touchdown passes. He’s only the sixth player since 1950 to throw nine-or-more touchdown passes in his first three starts with a team. If he throws for three more touchdowns on Sunday against the Cardinals, he would join elite company.

The players with the most touchdown passes in their first four starts with a franchise since 1950:

PLAYERTEAMYEAR(S)TD PASSES
Kurt WarnerHOFSt. Louis Rams199914
Patrick MahomesKansas City2017-1813
Brett FavreHOFN.Y. Jets200812
Mark RypienWashington198812
    
Matthew StaffordL.A. Rams20219*
*Entering Week 4

REUNION GAMES: Three notable individuals come back to their former NFL homes this week. Chiefs head coach ANDY REID makes a return to Philadelphia, where the Eagles (1-2) host Kansas City (1-2) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). Meanwhile, Tampa Bay (2-1) is at New England (1-2), where the Buccaneers’ tandem of TOM BRADY and ROB GRONKOWSKI make a return to Foxboro on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC).

  • For Reid, head coach of the Eagles from 1999-2012, it’s a second return trip, following his first game at Lincoln Financial Field with the Chiefs in 2013. Reid has won each of his two games against the Eagles, including a 2017 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. This week, Reid can become the first head coach in NFL history to win 100 games, including the postseason, with multiple franchises. He’s 99-45-0 in nine years with the Chiefs and was 140-102-1 in 14 years with the Eagles, including the postseason. Overall, Reid’s 239 career victories rank fifth all-time.
  • Reid is also one of just seven coaches to take multiple teams to the Super Bowl.

The seven head coaches to lead multiple franchises to Super Bowl appearances:

HEAD COACHTEAM, SUPER BOWL SEASON(S)TEAM, SUPER BOWL SEASON(S)
Don ShulaHOFBaltimore Colts, 1968Miami Dolphins, 1971-73, 1982, 1984
Bill ParcellsHOFNew York Giants, 1986, 1990New England Patriots, 1996
Dan ReevesDenver Broncos, 1986-87, 1989Atlanta Falcons, 1998
Dick VermeilPhiladelphia Eagles, 1980St. Louis Rams, 1999
Mike HolmgrenGreen Bay Packers, 1996-97Seattle Seahawks, 2005
John FoxCarolina Panthers, 2003Denver Broncos, 2013
Andy ReidPhiladelphia Eagles, 2004Kansas City Chiefs, 2019-20

For Brady, selected by the Patriots in the sixth round (199th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft, his first return trip to New England figures to be historic. Brady, who enters the week with 80,291 career passing yards, needs just 68 more to break the NFL’s career record, held by DREW BREES (80,358).

The players with the most career passing yards in NFL history:

PLAYERTEAM(S)SEASONSPASSING YARDS
Drew BreesSan Diego Chargers, New Orleans2001-2080,358
Tom Brady*New England, Tampa Bay2000-2180,291
Peyton ManningHOFIndianapolis, Denver1998-201571,940
Brett FavreHOFAtlanta, Green Bay, N.Y. Jets, Minnesota1991-201071,838
Philip RiversSan Diego Chargers, Indianapolis2004-2063,440
Dan MarinoHOFMiami1983-9961,361
Ben Roethlisberger*Pittsburgh2004-2161,149
Eli ManningN.Y. Giants2004-1957,023
Matt Ryan*Atlanta2008-2156,474
Aaron Rodgers*Green Bay2005-2151,894
*Active   

Brady’s former head coach, the Patriots’ BILL BELICHICK, has not lost to the Buccaneers since Sept. 3, 2000. Brady and Belichick in 20 years with the Patriots (2000-19) won six Super Bowls and 17 division titles. Their combined 249 wins, including postseason, is the most ever by a coach and starting quarterback duo.

Quarterbacks in their first starts against head coaches with whom they won a Super Bowl in NFL history:

DATEQUARTERBACK, TEAMCOACH, TEAMYDSTDINTRATINGRESULT
09/11/1994Joe Montana,HOF Kansas CityGeorge Seifert, San Francisco20320101.0KC, 24-17
10/09/1994Jeff Hostetler, L.A. RaidersBill Parcells,HOF New England2501352.6LAR, 21-17
10/27/1996Troy Aikman,HOF DallasJimmy Johnson,HOF Miami36330127.0DAL, 29-10
11/01/1999Brett Favre,HOF Green BayMike Holmgren, Seattle1801426.8SEA, 27-7
10/16/2005Trent Dilfer, ClevelandBrian Billick, Baltimore1470153.1BAL, 16-3
10/26/2008Brad Johnson, DallasJon Gruden, Tampa Bay1221075.6DAL, 13-9
10/03/2021Tom Brady, Tampa BayBill Belichick, New England    ???

Gronkowski, selected by the Patriots in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft, ranks first in New England history with 79 touchdown receptions, second with 7,861 receiving yards and fifth with 521 career receptions.

AFC WEST SHOWDOWN TO CLOSE WEEKEND: Last week, the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (3-0) overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat Miami, 31-28, in overtime and became the fourth team to win two overtime games within its first three games of a season, joining the 1995 Atlanta Falcons, 1995 Kansas City Chiefs and 1994 Detroit Lions. This week, the Raiders battle the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-1) on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).

  • In the Raiders’ overtime win against Miami, quarterback DEREK CARR passed for 386 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for a 95.7 rating, leading the team to its first 3-0 start since 2002, when they advanced to the Super Bowl. Carr, who enters Week 4 with an NFL-best 1,203 passing yards, is the fourth player with at least 1,200 passing yards through his team’s first three games of a season in NFL history, joining TOM BRADY (1,327 passing yards in 2011), RYAN FITZPATRICK (1,230 in 2018) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (1,221 in 2000).
  • Dating back to Week 16 of last season, Carr has recorded at least 325 passing yards in five consecutive games, joining RICH GANNON (six games with the Raiders in 2002), DREW BREES (five games with the Saints in 2011) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (five games with the Rams in 2000 and five games with the Cardinals in 2008) as the only players to pass for 325 yards in five straight games in NFL history.
  • The Raiders lead the NFL with 471.0 total yards of offense per game.
  • Last week in a win at Kansas City, Chargers quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT passed for 281 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 125.0 rating, including the game-winning touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining. Herbert became the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to record five games with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his first two seasons, joining LAMAR JACKSON (six games), Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (six), PATRICK MAHOMES (five) and DAK PRESCOTT (five).

STIFF TEST ON TAP FOR COWBOYS: Four games this week feature two teams with at least two wins, including the CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-0) at the DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).

  • The Panthers are 3-0 for the first time since they opened 14-0 in 2015 en route to a berth in Super Bowl 50. Carolina’s defense leads the NFL in fewest total yards allowed per game (191.0) and ranks second in fewest points allowed per game (10.0).
  • Panthers quarterback SAM DARNOLD is 8-2 in 10 career starts when passing for at least 270 yards, including 3-0 this season.
  • Carolina linebacker HAASON REDDICK has 12 sacks over his past seven games, dating back to Week 14 of last season. Prior to Reddick, the last player with that many sacks over a seven-game span was Rams defensive lineman AARON DONALD, who registered 12.5 over a seven-game stretch in 2018.
  • Last week, Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT completed 21 of 26 passes for 238 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 143.3 rating. He now has 20 career games with three-or-more touchdown passes.
  • The Cowboys, who lead the NFL with eight takeaways and are tied for first with a plus-five turnover margin, have at least two takeaways in seven straight games (dating to Week 14 of last season), the longest active streak in the league.
  • Dallas cornerback TREVON DIGGS is tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions, while two Cowboys rookies, linebacker MICAH PARSONS and defensive tackle OSA ODIGHIZUWA, are tied for the team lead with 1.5 sacks.

DERBY CITY PIPELINE: Starting quarterbacks from the University of Louisville, both first-round draft choices selected 32nd overall, will lead their teams when the BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1) meet the DENVER BRONCOS (3-0) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, CBS). Baltimore’s LAMAR JACKSON, selected at the end of the first round by the Ravens in 2018, and Denver’s TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, taken by the Vikings to close the first round in 2014, both hail from South Florida.

  • In 40 career starts, Jackson now has 90 touchdowns (70 passing, 20 rushing) and joined PATRICK MAHOMES (107 touchdowns) and Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (95) and KURT WARNER (91) as the only quarterbacks with at least 90 combined passing and rushing touchdowns in their first 40 career starts.
  • Last week as time expired in Detroit, Baltimore kicker JUSTIN TUCKER converted a game-winning 66-yard field goal, the longest field goal in NFL history. Tucker, who also converted a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter last week, has seven career games with multiple 50-yard field goals, tied with BRANDON MCMANUS (seven games) and MATT PRATER (seven) for the most such games in NFL history.
  • Tucker is now 20-for-20 on career field goals attempted either in overtime or the final minute of the fourth quarter.
  • In the league rankings, Baltimore is first with 185.3 rushing yards per game while Denver’s defense is second against the run, allowing just 59.3 rushing yards per game.
  • Denver, which also leads the NFL in fewest points allowed per game (8.7), is off to its best start since opening 4-0 in 2016.
  • Sunday’s game is a rematch of a thrilling 2012 AFC Divisional playoff in Denver, won by the Ravens, 38-35, on JUSTIN TUCKER’s 47-yard field goal in double overtime. With 31 seconds remaining in regulation, Tucker’s extra point knotted the game, following Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones. Baltimore used the win as a springboard to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII three weeks later.

LEGENDS AT LAMBEAU: Sunday’s game between the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-2) and the GREEN BAY PACKERS (2-1) at Lambeau Field (4:25 PM ET, CBS) is significant because it comes more than a decade after starting quarterbacks BEN ROETHLISBERGER and AARON RODGERS met in Super Bowl XLV. This week’s contest will mark the first time two starting quarterbacks have met 11-or-more seasons after a Super Bowl matchup. Prior to this week, the longest stretch was 10 years, when Roethlisberger and MATT HASSELBECK met on Dec. 6, 2015, 10 years after they squared off in Super Bowl XL.

  • Rodgers ranks seventh in NFL history with 418 career touchdown passes and this week can advance to No. 5 on the all-time list. Against Pittsburgh, he can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (420) and PHILIP RIVERS (421). Rodgers also ranks 10th all-time in passing yards (51,894) entering Week 4.
  • Roethlisberger has 399 career touchdown passes and can become the eighth quarterback all-time to reach 400. He also has 61,149 career passing yards and can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (61,361) for the sixth-most passing yards in NFL history.
  • Last week, Pittsburgh rookie running back NAJEE HARRIS totaled 14 receptions for 102 yards. Harris’ 14 catches tied SAQUON BARKLEY (Sept. 16, 2018) and ROY HELU (Nov. 6, 2011) for the most single-game receptions by a rookie running back in NFL history.

ALLEN WRENCH: The BUFFALO BILLS (2-1) host the HOUSTON TEXANS (1-2) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) in a rematch of an exciting 2019 Wild Card playoff. In that contest, Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN put the Bills on the board by catching a 16-yard touchdown pass and wound up with 92 rushing yards and 264 passing yards, but Houston stormed back with timely plays, including a fourth-quarter sack and forced fumble by the Texans’ WHITNEY MERCILUS, and Houston prevailed in overtime, 22-19.

  • Since that game, Allen has led the Bills to a 17-5 record, including the postseason.
  • Last week, Allen passed for 358 yards and four touchdowns, and added one rushing touchdown in the Bills’ win over Washington. Allen became the fourth player in NFL history to record multiple career games with at least 300 passing yards, four touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown, joining DREW BREES (four games), AARON RODGERS (three) and Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (two). Allen’s first such game was Week 3 of the 2020 season, when he registered 311 passing yards with four touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown.
  • Plus, among players in their first four NFL seasons, Allen is the fifth player ever to record five games with at least 300 passing yards and four touchdown passes. Only PATRICK MAHOMES (nine games), Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (nine) and KURT WARNER (six), and ANDREW LUCK (six) have accomplished the feat during their first four years in the league.
Jimmy’s Blog: Two projects will reduce Neyland Stadium capacity next year

Jimmy’s Blog: Two projects will reduce Neyland Stadium capacity next year

By Jimmy Hyams

Tennessee still lists Neyland Stadium’s capacity at 102,455, but there is a good chance it could dip into five figures for next season.

Tennessee is going to eliminate an untold amount of seats when it installs a party deck in the North end zone and club seats in the lower West end.

Tennessee athletic director Danny White said during a Tuesday appearance on SportsTalk on 99.1 The Sports Animal, that those two projects will reduce stadium capacity.

One of the things I keep saying in our meetings, ” White said, I don’t want to be the person that determines how important being over or under 100,000 is. That’s going to be a topic of conversation as we engage in survey work and focus groups with football season-ticket holders.

“I’d like to know what our fans think about that. I need more analysis of what attendance looked like when we were good. We certainly don’t want to reduce too much and wish we had more seats when we get good again because we have every intention of doing that and competing for SEC and national championships.

“But there’s kind of a give and take there for the types of amenities we know fans want. The North end zone party deck and lower West club, there is seat reduction there. How much … is something we’ll be working on in coming months.’’

White said the two projects will start after the season concludes, but he isn’t sure how much capacity will be reduced.

“For this year, it’s 102,455,’’ White said.

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Jimmy’s Blog: White explains opt out with Army

Jimmy’s Blog: White explains opt out with Army

By Jimmy Hyams

Tennessee athletic director Danny White said he concurred with the decision for the Vols to drop Army from the 2022 football schedule, but he said that agreement was in place well before he was hired.

Under former athletic Dave Hart, UT signed a contract in 2016 to play the Cadets in 2022. Army would get paid $1.4 million. The buyout fee would be $500,000.

Former athletic director Phillip Fulmer and then football coach Jeremy Pruitt began discussing opting out in 2018, White said, because Army runs a triple-option offense, unlike any other SEC team.

“It was all about style of play,’’ White said Tuesday on SportsTalk on 99.1 The Sports Animal during his every-other-week appearance.

“I agree with the thinking. … Nobody (in the SEC) plays that style of play with the option. … It doesn’t make sense for a program that’s trying to rebuild like we are to play that game at that time. Army understands that. I’ve had correspondence with their athletic director. We’ve been transparent with them. They’re in a great place. We’re in a great place.

“Verbally the game had already changed long before I ever stepped foot in Knoxville.

“I rubber stamped it. We executed the contract this past spring. I think it’s the right thing to do for our football program as we continue to rebuild it and get back where we want to be.’’

White said he doesn’t recall if he discussed the issue with head coach Josh Heupel.

Rather than face Army next year, Tennessee will play Akron, which will be paid $1 million. Thus, UT will lose $100,00 in the transaction.

White said not signing the opt-out contract with Army would have made scheduling harder because “all the other games had been arranged.’’

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Vince’s View: SEC Week 4 picks including Vols at Gators with analysis

Vince’s View: SEC Week 4 picks including Vols at Gators with analysis

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 4 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Week 3 Straight-Up Record: 11-1 (92%)
Week 3 vs. Spread Record: 7-5 (58%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 32-7 (82%)

2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 21-18 (54%)
2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

KNOXVILLE, TN – September 18, 2021 – Quarterback Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
LSU (2-1, 0-0 SEC) at Mississippi State (2-1, 0-0 SEC)
Series: LSU leads, 75-36-3
Noon ET • ESPN
Last: MSU, 44-34 (2020 at Baton Rouge)
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (61,337)
Sirius: 99/136• XM: 192/191
Point Spread: LSU -1.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: LSU -1.5
Score Prediction: LSU 31 Miss State 13

Missouri (2-1, 0-1 SEC) at Boston College (3-0)
Series: First Meeting
Noon ET • ESPN2
Chestnut Hill, Mass. • Alumni Stadium (44,500)
Sirius: 133 • XM: 207
Point Spread: Boston College -1
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Missouri +1
Score Prediction: Missouri 34 Boston College 31

Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-0 SEC)
Series: UGA leads, 58-20-2
Noon ET • SEC Network
Last: UGA, 30-6 (2019 in Nashville)
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
Sirius: 81/135 • XM: 81/190
Point Spread: Georgia -37
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Georgia -37
Score Prediction: Georgia 45 Vanderbilt 0

Texas A&M (3-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. Arkansas (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: ARK leads, 41-33-3
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Last: TAMU, 42-31 (2020 at College Station)
Arlington, Texas • AT&T Stadium (86,798)
Sirius: 136/135 • XM: 191/190
Point Spread: Texas A&M -4.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Texas A&M -4.5
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 27 Arkansas 21

Georgia State (2-2) at Auburn (2-1, 0-0 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
4 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
Sirius: 81 • XM: 81
Point Spread: Auburn -27
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Auburn -27
Score Prediction: Auburn 49 Georgia State 10

Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC) at Florida (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Series: UF leads, 30-20
7 p.m. ET • ESPN
Last: UF, 31-19 (2020 at Knoxville)
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Spurrier-Florida Field (88,548)
Sirius: 99/84 • XM: 192/84
Point Spread: Florida -19
Vince’s View: On defense, Star DB Theo Jackson, LEO Byron Young and LEO Tyler Baron on UT’s edges at the line of scrimmage are going to be important if the Vols are going to have a chance in this game. They have to sure tacklers, aggressive getting vertical and know what they are seeing with Florida’s effective rushing attack. Florida’s offensive line has been one of the big surprises for the Gators. QB Emory Jones, despite the 2 TDs and 5 INTs, has still played better than many expected. Getting Anthony Richardson back as a second QB will add to the difficult task for Tennessee’s defense. UT’s rush stats have been great against the run this season, but that’s versus bad running teams. This game will prove a lot in that area and for where the program is overall in Heupel’s first year.

Tennessee has had more life in the offense with Hooker at quarterback. I think Hendon Hooker will start with previous starter Joe Milton III not seemingly full-go at practice. Hooker is a more willing runner than Milton and has seemed to be more decisive. The problem is, despite the experience and the positives, Hooker has been more prone to turn the ball over. If that continues, and Milton is available/ready to play, I think you may see a short leash back to Milton, especially if UT is behind.

UT has got to find a way to get the non-QB run game going again. In addition, the Vols have to make plays in the passing game against an improved, but not dominant, Florida defense.

Here’s how rare big passing days by Tennessee quarterbacks have been in recent years, courtesy of ESPN, SEC Network and 99.1 The Sports Animal statistician, Jeff Muir.

UT had 6 300-yard passing games in 2012 (12 games), all by Tyler Bray. It has 10 from 2013-20 (8 years & 3 games in 9th year, 101 games) and five in the last 51 games.

There have been 8 individual 300-yard passing games in that span (5-Joshua Dobbs, 3-Jarrett Guarantano) along with two combined 300-yard passing games:

VU 2020 – 328 yards (Harrison Bailey 207, J.T. Shrout 90, Paxton Brooks 31) & SC 2019 – 351 yards (Jarrett Guarantano 229, J.T. Shrout 122)

The bottom line is, Tennessee absolutely must play better than it has at any point in the first three games and sustain that play. Anything less than a Florida disinterested effort or a gators in-game meltdown, it will take the best version of the Vols, that we haven’t seen yet, for the Vols to pull the upset. With so much health, QB and handling road environment uncertainty with Tennessee, I think Florida wins by a couple of scores. I do expect UT to fight and playing hard.

Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Tennessee +19
Score Prediction: Florida 35 Tennessee 17

Kentucky (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at South Carolina (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Series: SC leads, 18-13-1
7 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Last: UK, 41-18 (2020 at Kentucky)
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559)
Sirius: 136/135 • XM: 191/190
Point Spread: Kentucky -4.5
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Kentucky -4.5
Score Prediction: Kentucky 23 South Carolina 13

Southern Miss (1-2) at Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Series: UA leads, 35-6-2
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Tuscaloosa Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
Sirius: 81 • XM: 81
Point Spread: Alabama -45
Vince’s Pick vs. the line: Alabama -45
Score Prediction: Alabama 56 Southern Miss 3

Open: Ole Miss (3-0, 0-0 SEC)

Vince’s View: NFL Week 3 Picks

Vince’s View: NFL Week 3 Picks

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 3 predictions, straight and spread, with the schedule

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.


Dolphins WR Preston Williams / Credit: Miami Dolphins media site

Week 2 Straight-Up Record: 9-7 (56%)
Week 2 Against The Spread Record: 8-8 (50%)

2021 Season Straight-Up: 18-14 (56%)
2021 Season Against The Spread: 15-17 (47%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)


WEEK 3 NFL SCHEDULE

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, September 23Carolina at Houston
V-Picks: Panthers -8; Carolina wins
NFLN8:20
    
Sunday, September 26Washington at Buffalo
V-Picks: Bills -7.5; Buffalo wins
FOX1:00
Chicago at Cleveland
V-Picks: Bears +7; Cleveland wins
FOX1:00
Baltimore at Detroit
V-Picks: Ravens -8.5; Baltimore wins
CBS1:00
Arizona at Jacksonville
V-Picks: Cardinals -7; Arizona wins
FOX1:00
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City
V-Picks: Chiefs -6.5; Kansas City wins
CBS1:00
New Orleans at New England
V-Picks: Patriots -3; New England wins
FOX1:00
Atlanta at New York Giants
V-Picks: Falcons +3; Atlanta wins
FOX1:00
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
V-Picks: Steelers -3; Pittsburgh wins
CBS1:00
Indianapolis at Tennessee
V-Picks: Titans -5.5; Tennessee wins
CBS1:00
New York Jets at Denver
V-Picks: Broncos -10.5; Denver wins
CBS4:05
Miami at Las Vegas
V-Picks: Raiders -4; Las Vegas wins
CBS4:05
Tampa Bay at Los Angeles Rams
V-Picks: Rams +1; Los Angeles wins
FOX4:25
Seattle at Minnesota
V-Picks: Seahawks -1.5; Seattle wins
FOX4:25
Green Bay at San Francisco
V-Picks: 49ers -3.5; San Francisco wins
NBC8:20
    
Monday, September 27Philadelphia at Dallas
V-Picks: Cowboys -4; Dallas wins
ESPN8:15
Jimmy’s blog: Garner issues warning: Big men can’t run out of gas

Jimmy’s blog: Garner issues warning: Big men can’t run out of gas

By Jimmy Hyams

Tennessee has already played 14 defensive linemen in three games.

Whether that’s a testament to the Vols’ depth or strictly a fresh-body philosophy is debatable.

Perhaps it’s both.

But one thing is clear: Defensive line coach Rodney Garner believes big men need a break during a game, because if the battery runs low, there is no re-charging.

“The one thing about big men,’’ Garner said, “if you let them get out of gas, there is no refueling them in the game. I mean, it’s over, you better get ready for the next week. So, our plan is to try and keep those guys from running out of gas so we can play the fourth quarter like we played the first quarter.

“We’ve got to keep fuel in the tank, there’s no refueling. If we let them gas out, it’s over, so just trying to develop that quality depth.’’

Tennessee’s run defense has been extraordinary this season, allowing just 54.3 yards per game and 1.7 yards per rush.

But that was against three teams not exactly adept at running the ball.

The Gators are a different animal. They rank second in the nation in rush offense (335.7) and churned out 245 yards against a stout Alabama defense.

What makes Florida’s run game so problematic are the quarterbacks. Backup Anthony Richardson is averaging 25 yards per carry in two games (11 for 275) with two runs of over 70 yards.

Starter Emory Jones has 231 yards on 42 carries, 5.5 per attempt.

The leader among running backs is Malik Davis at 212 yards.

“They’re a two-headed monster,’’ Garner said. “They’re both very good. They’re both dynamic runners. Actually 15 (Richardson), may be more dynamic, as far as pure elite speed. But Emory is a seasoned veteran, he’s got three years in that system, so he totally understands what (coach Dan) Mullen is trying to do. They do a great job with power, the counter reads, and they don’t put them in situations for them to beat them.

“They give them situations that are conducive to them being successful, via the RPO’s off the run. Then you throw in the quarterback run, which now they’ve got an extra guy we can’t account for with hats. So, it makes us have to make sure that we’re being really dialed in and detailed to doing all of the little things correctly.”
You would think Garner would be elated with UT’s run defense and tackles for loss (29). Not so.

“When you sit there and look at the film, you see a lot of plays that you leave out there every game, missed tackles, missed sack opportunities,’’ Garner said.

“We’ve got to keep straining. We’ve got to strain harder and we’ve got to be able to finish plays. There are many missed sack opportunities where we could have had sacks. There are many more TFL opportunities where we should have made the tackle, instead of having missed tackles. … I think when you look at the film there is a lot of stuff every week that we can do to get better.’’

Garner wants maximum effort whether UT is playing a contender or a pretender.

He was fuming at times during Tennessee’s 56-0 rout of Tennessee Tech last Saturday.

“I was spasming out on the sideline in that game,’’ he said, “but I just didn’t think they played with an edge, weren’t razor sharp. I don’t want to just go through the motions, you know what I mean? We’re trying to sharpen our blade every time we go out there. Our reputation is on the line, that’s what I try to tell them. We walk on that field, our reputation is on the line.”

While there is plenty of room for improvement, defensive end Ja’Quain Blakely believes the Vols are immensely better along the front four than a year ago.

“There’s a tremendous difference in the d-line this year than it was last year,’’ Blakely said. “I think it’s just because we’re all buying into the program. Coach Garner is a guy that expects the best out of you and is going to get the best out of you no matter how you feel.”

Blakely said UT’s run defense is playing “vertical’’ with “relentless pursuit, just playing strong up front is the key.’’

Even Garner admits his unit has made strides since the spring.

“I think we’re moving the needle in the right direction,’’ Garner said. “But every week, it’s a new challenge. And the challenge is, are we going to be better this week than we were last week? That’s what we said when we started on this journey, that we want to be better each day of practice. Each game, we want to see improvement and making strides to get where we want to be.

“It’s like climbing Mount Everest, we’re not going to be there overnight. We know it’s a process, but we’ve got to embrace the process.’’

What’s been the key to UT’s run defense so far?

“I think we got the kids playing hard,’’ Garner said. “They’re playing for one another. We’re playing vertically for the most part. We’re trying to create knockbacks. When you’re getting 10 and 11 hats to the ball, you have an opportunity to be successful.

“Just playing with more of an edge, even improving our fundamentals with our hat placement, hand placement and our pad level. Just disengaging and tearing off our blocks, just doing all the little things that it is going to take when you get in conference play.’’

Tennessee is now in conference play.

And it will take a Sampson-like effort to slay the Gators.

And they’re at it, they better not run out of gas.


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Jimmy’s blog: UT coach hopes Vols can `shock the world’ at Florida

Jimmy’s blog: UT coach hopes Vols can `shock the world’ at Florida

By Jimmy Hyams

Having played in the SEC, Kodi Burns knows the difference in intensity between playing Bowling Green and a bowl-bound team from the SEC.

And this Saturday, it doesn’t get any more intense than playing at Gainesville.

“Obviously, you come to Tennessee to play in games like Florida, right?’’ said Burns, Tennessee’s first-year wide receivers coach.

No. 11 Florida, which has won 15 of the last 16 meetings in this series, is favored by between 16 and 22 points.

“Florida is a really good opponent, a really good team,’’ Burns told the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday.

“It’s our job to go out there and really compete, and not only compete, but try to … win the game and shock the world, because outside of this room, not a lot of people give us a chance. But as long as we believe within our team and our coaches, we’ve got a chance to go shock the world.’’

Burns said he likes his receiver room, but his unit can get better as he cited several drops.

He said Velus Jones Jr. is “a really good player with the ball in his hands’’ as evidence by his kick and punt returns against Tennessee Tech and 45-yard scoring reception.

He said Jimmy Callaway is “really special’’ with the ball in his hands and “with his ability to make people miss out in space.’’

He said Jalin Hyatt, knocked out of the Pitt game due to a concussion, has great speed but must “grow and develop’’ to become a “wholistic receiver.’’

Burns said his receivers read a lot when running routes. While some schools have pre-called go routes or slants or fades, UT react s to the defense.

“In this system, just about every single play, they have the option on what route they run based on the defensive look,’’ Burns said. “That chemistry (between quarterback and receiver) is still not there. That’s why I think you’ll see us get better every single week because the timing and chemistry will come along.’’

Burns said having pass-catching tight ends “100 percent’’ helps the receivers. “It takes a lot of stress off the receivers when you do have a tight end as a threat to catch the ball. That will really help out the passing game.’’

Burns said UT does ask receivers to block, but not very often since so many plays are run-pass options.

One person in the audience tried to trip Burns up by asking which quarterback the receivers prefer.

Head coach Josh Heupel has been coy about announcing a starter for each game.

Burns chuckled, then said: “I tell my guys, `I do not care who is playing quarterback. We’ve got to make sure we’re right, we’ve got to make sure what we do is crisp and clean … to take stress off that guy’’’

Tennessee has misfired on a number of long balls, whether it’s an overthrow by the quarterback or a drop by the receivers. Burns thinks the Vols will get that corrected.

“We’re going to get there,’’ Burns vowed. “If we can connect on a few of those balls … it’s a different season already.

“Eventually they’re going to hit. We plan on that being this week.’’


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Jimmy’s Blog: What did we learn about UT in a rout? More than you’d think

Jimmy’s Blog: What did we learn about UT in a rout? More than you’d think

By Jimmy Hyams

So what did we learn about Tennessee after the Vols dismantled outmanned Tennessee Tech 56-0 Saturday at Neyland Stadium before about 55,000 fans?

*We learned that coach Josh Heupel wants to run the offense at an even faster pace.

“Our pace is not anywhere near where it’s capable,’’ Heupel said after the Vols ran 79 snaps against the
Golden Eagles and 66 the week before against Pitt.

Tennessee gained just 417 yards – 5.3 yards per play. That’s far below what Heupel wants against a good defense, much less Tennessee Tech.

*We learned that Heupel isn’t crazy about UT’s game prep 48 hours before kickoff.

He mentioned last week it wasn’t good before the Pitt game. He said it was better before the Tech game, but when asked for specifics, Heupel pointed to the “mental approach’’ and added “that’s as specific as I’ll get right now.’’

*We learned Tennessee’s defense can actually force turnovers.

After getting zero in the first two games, the Vols had four interceptions, including a 31-yard pick six by linebacker Soon Page. Jalen McCullough, Alontae Taylor and Tamarion McDonald had the others against a poor passing team.

*We learned that Tennessee’s run defense is stout.

Yes Tech doesn’t have much of a run game or offensive line, but the Vols still managed to hold the Golden Eagles to 35 yards on 28 carries. UT entered the contest allowing 64 yards per game and 1.88 yards per carry. Those numbers have been inflated by two inferior opponents, but the run defense has, nonetheless, been very impressive thus far.

*We learned that Hendon Hooker is an efficient quarterback.

Hooker isn’t going to make All-SEC. He might not even start against Florida. But he accounted for four touchdowns against Tech, hitting 17 of 25 passes for 199 yards and three scores. He also led the team with 64 rushing yards and a touchdown. He did miss a couple of throws and he had a fumble, but he’s been, in my opinion, UT’s most consistent and reliable quarterback.

*We learned that UT is better on fourth down than third down – at least against Tech.

The Vols were a paltry 4 of 13 on third-down conversions but managed four of five on fourth down. The combined number of 8 for 18 isn’t bad, but you’re not going to be rolling the dice and going for fourth down that often against SEC foes, much less Florida. Better to convert on third down than risk a fourth-down snap.

*We learned that Tennessee can avoid penalties.

After having 13 accepted infractions against Pitt, UT had just three against Tech, although one wiped out an 87-yard opening kickoff return by Velus Jones.

*We learned that Tennessee is struggling to run the football.

The Vols has 202 rushing yards against Tech, but starter Tiyan Evans had just 41 yards on 15 carries (2.7 per run) and Jaylen Wright had just 43 on 9 carries (4.8 per run). That’s not good enough against an FCS opponent that had been outscored 78-14 in its first two games against FCS foes. UT did not get the push it needs. It also has had poor play out of the guard spots for the second game in a row.

UT needs center Cooper Mays back in the lineup to solidify the group and also allow Jerome Carvin, who has done OK at center, to return to his natural guard position.

*We learned that UT can get receivers open.

Once again, UT quarterbacks misfired on several deep throws to open receivers.

“You guys could see that, too,’’ Heupel joked with the media.

Yes, indeed. The Vols can get away with missed opportunities against Bowling Green and Tennessee Tech, but not against Florida or most other SEC opponents.

Heupel took no delight in the schemes that got receivers open, saying it matters not if you don’t connect.

Although Heupel obviously wasn’t pleased with several aspects of UT’s lack of execution, he did say:

“It’s really important that the players enjoy every win.’’

It sure is. Because if UT doesn’t perform at a higher level, there might not be many more.


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SEC Week 3 score predictions and picks ATS of 12 games including Tennessee/TN Tech

SEC Week 3 score predictions and picks ATS of 12 games including Tennessee/TN Tech

KNOXVILLE, TN – September 11, 2021 – Quarterback Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my Week 3 SEC football predictions.

This season, I’m sharing my picks both against the spread and straight-up.

Week 2 Straight-Up Record: 10-3 (77%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 21-6 (78%)
Week 2 vs. Spread Record: 6-7 (46%)
2021 Season Straight-Up Record: 14-13 (52%)

2020 SEC Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 66-12 (85%)

Check back on my “Vince’s View” blog page for future posts including weekly SEC football and NFL game predictions. Bookmark my blog page and check back often.


WEEK THREE IN THE SEC

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
SEMO (0-2) at Missouri (1-1, 1-0 SEC)
Series: MIZ leads, 4-0
Noon ET • SECN+/ ESPN+
Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field (62,621)
Sirius: 98 • XM: 192
Spread: Missouri -34 ½
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Missouri -34 ½
Score Prediction: Missouri 49 SEMO 6

New Mexico (2-0) at Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: TAMU leads, 4-0
Noon ET • SEC Network
College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (102,733)
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190
Spread: Texas A&M -29 ½
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: New Mexico +29 ½
Score Prediction: Texas A&M 35 New Mexico 7

Chattanooga (1-1) at Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
Noon ET • SECN+/ ESPN+
Lexington, Ky. • Kroger Field (61,000)
Sirius: 104 • XM: 191
Spread: Kentucky -32
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Chattanooga +32
Score Prediction: Kentucky 37 Chattanooga 10

Tennessee Tech (0-2) at Tennessee (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Series: UT leads, 6-0
Noon ET • SECN+/ ESPN+
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (102,455)
Sirius: 81 • XM: 81
Spread: Tennessee -40
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Tennessee -40
Score Prediction: Tennessee 52 TN Tech 7

Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC) at Florida (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: UA leads, 26-14
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS
Last: UA, 52-46 (2020 at SEC Championship Game)
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Spurrier-Florida Field (88,548) Sirius: 104/81 • XM: 191/81
Spread: Alabama -14 ½
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Alabama -14 ½
Score Prediction: Alabama 42 Florida 21

Georgia Southern (1-1) at Arkansas (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
4 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Fayetteville, Ark. • Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190
Spread: Arkansas -23 ½
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Arkansas -23 ½
Score Prediction: Arkansas 38 Georgia Southern 14

Mississippi State (2-0, 0-0 SEC) at Memphis (2-0)
Series: MSU leads, 33-11
4 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Memphis, Tenn. • Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (58,325)
Sirius: 98 • XM: 192
Spread: Miss State -3 ½
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Miss State -3 ½
Score Prediction: Miss State 26 Memphis 21

South Carolina (2-0, 0-0 SEC) at Georgia (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: UG leads, 52-19-2
7 p.m. ET • ESPN
Last: UG, 45-16 (2020 at Columbia)
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Sirius: 135/81 • XM: 201/81
Spread: Georgia -32
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: South Carolina +32
Score Prediction: Georgia 35 South Carolina 6

Auburn (2-0, 0-0 SEC) at Penn State (2-0)
Series: Tied, 1-1
7:30 p.m. ET • ABC
University Park, Pa. • Beaver Stadium (106,572)
Sirius: 113 • XM: 202
Spread: Penn State -6
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Auburn +6
Score Prediction: Penn State 24 Auburn 23

Central Michigan (1-1) at LSU (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
7:30 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)
Sirius: 108 • XM: 190
Spread: LSU -19 ½
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: LSU -19 ½
Score Prediction: LSU 38 Central Michigan 14

Tulane (1-1) at Ole Miss (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
Series: UM leads, 41-28
8 p.m. ET • ESPN2
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
Sirius: 104 • XM: 191
Spread: Ole Miss -14
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Ole Miss -14
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 49 Tulane 21

Stanford (1-1) at Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Series: First Meeting
8 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
Sirius: 98 • XM: 192
Spread: Stanford -12
Vince’s Pick vs. the Line: Stanford -12
Score Prediction: Stanford 31 Vanderbilt 10


Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net

Vince’s View: Week 2 NFL predictions, game info, notes, schedule & more

Vince’s View: Week 2 NFL predictions, game info, notes, schedule & more

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa / Credit: Miami Dolphins Media Portal

By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports

Below are my NFL Week 2 predictions along with some great notes and stats directly from the National Football League Communications Department.

Look for weekly predictions with the spread and straight-up this season, as well as frequent VFL in the NFL updates here on my blog “Vince’s View.” Bookmark my blog page and check back often.

Listen to The NFL Report with John Wilkerson and two rotating Sports Animal hosts, including myself, every Sunday, 10am to 12:30pm ET on 99.1 The Sports Animal here in Knoxville and streaming here at 991TheSportsAnimal.com, the WNML app or on your smart speakers.


Week 1 Straight-Up Record: 9-7 (56%)
Week 1 Against The Spread: 7-9 (44%)
2020 Season Prediction Record Straight-Up: 181-88 (67%)


This season I will pick games both straight-up and versus the spread. I will show my record both for me and for you, if you’re interested. Both of my picks for each game are listed next to them.

WEEK 2 NFL SCHEDULE
(All times Eastern)

Thursday, September 16
8:20pm
New York Giants at Washington, NFLN (V-Picks: Wash Foot. Team -4, WFT win)

Sunday, September 19
1:00pm
New Orleans at Carolina, FOX (V-Picks: Saints -3.5, Saints win)
Cincinnati at Chicago, FOX (V-Picks: Bengals +2.5, Bengals win)
Houston at Cleveland, CBS (V-Picks: Browns -12.5, Browns win)
Los Angeles Rams at Indianapolis, FOX (V-Picks: Rams -3.5, Rams win)
Denver at Jacksonville, CBS (V-Picks: Broncos -6, Broncos win)
Buffalo at Miami, FOX (V-Picks: Bills -3. Bills win)
New England at New York Jets, CBS (V-Picks: Patriots -6, Patriots win)
San Francisco at Philadelphia, FOX (V-Picks: 49ers -3, 49ers win
Las Vegas at Pittsburgh, CBS (V-Picks: Raiders +6, Steelers win)
4:05pm
Minnesota at Arizona, FOX (V-Picks: Cardinals -3.5, Cardinals win)
Atlanta at Tampa Bay, FOX (V-Picks: Buccaneers -12.5, Buccaneers win)
Dallas at Los Angeles Chargers, CBS (V-Picks: Chargers -3.5, Chargers win)
4:25pm
Tennessee at Seattle, CBS (V-Picks: Titans +6, Seahawks win)
8:20pm
Kansas City at Baltimore, NBC (V-Picks: Chiefs -3.5, Chiefs win)

Monday, September 20
8:15pm
Detroit at Green Bay, ESPN (V-Picks: Packers -11, Packers win)


KAMARA-MCCAFFREY, PRESCOTT-HERBERT, JACKSON-MAHOMES ON TAP IN ENCORE TO THRILLING KICKOFF WEEKEND

The only certain aspect of the National Football League might be its electrifying uncertainty.

Just ask the LAS VEGAS RAIDERS, who overcame a 14-point deficit to beat Baltimore, 33-27, in just the second Week 1 overtime game in the history of Monday Night Football. After tying the game three times in the fourth quarter, including a 55-yard DANIEL CARLSON field goal at the end of regulation, the Raiders did not hold an official lead until ZAY JONES caught a 31-yard touchdown from DEREK CARR to stamp an exclamation point on one of the most thrilling kickoff weekends in league annals.

Or ask the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-0), who host the Raiders (1-0) on Sunday at Heinz Field (1:00 PM ET, CBS). At Buffalo last week, the Steelers clawed back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to win, 23-16.

And ask the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, who trailed by 12 at halftime before storming back to win, 33-29, over Cleveland.

So, amid that uncertainty, also be certain of this: NFL teams are never out of games and no lead is safe.

On Kickoff Weekend, nine games were within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter, including the CINCINNATI BENGALS’ dramatic win over Minnesota, the first regular-season game in NFL history with a game-tying score with no time remaining in regulation and a game-winning score with no time remaining in overtime.

The excitement is palpable. Stay tuned for the encore. Here comes Week 2.

MVP vs. MVP: Two of the past three NFL MVPs – PATRICK MAHOMES (2018) and LAMAR JACKSON (2019) — will battle on Sunday Night Football when the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (1-0) travel to play the BALTIMORE RAVENS (0-1) at M&T Bank Stadium (8:20 PM ET, NBC). The perennial AFC playoff teams are meeting for a fourth straight season, with Kansas City winning each of the past three.

  • Sunday’s game along with Jackson and Mah