Sports Moments You Can Expect to See This Fall

  • De’Anthony Thomas
    De'Anthony Thomas becomes a highlight reel

    The former Oregon playmaker is a blur. Yeah, he ran a weird 4.5 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine — way too slow for anyone who’s seen him play. But we’ve all seen him in pads and seen him break open plays to know he was maybe the fastest guy in college football last year. When he ran a 4.34 at Oregon’s Pro Day earlier this year, it was almost like he was righting a wrong.

    Now with the Chiefs, Thomas already returned one punt for a touchdown during the preseason, and while he probably won’t make much impact as a runner or receiver, the 5-9 speedster is going to see his number called all over special teams. And every time he touches the ball, you won’t want to stop watching.

    It’s ironic that he ended up in Kansas City as this guy is going to be the next Dante Hall. The new Black Mamba’ll become a highlight reel before Christmas.

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  • You'll Forget About Emmanuel Mudiay ... Then Remember Him

    Anyone remember Jeremy Tyler? No? How about Brandon Jennings? Jennings missed out on college basketball after skipping out on Arizona to sign with an Italian team for $1.65 million guaranteed. Everyone made a huge deal out of it, and we subsequently forgot about him for a while. He wasn’t playing for ‘Zona in the tournament, he wasn’t in our faces every night, Dicky V was screaming his name.

    The same thing is going to happen to Mudiay, who’s traveling abroad to play in much the same fashion as Jennings. The 6-5 point guard was perhaps the best player in high school ball this year, and would’ve easily been a top-three pick next June. Instead, after signing on for $1.2 million in China, Mudiay’s situation is much murkier.

    Our bet? You’ll forget about him for months until something happens, something extraordinary that brings him back into focus. He’s going to be a star. We won’t be able to forget about him forever.

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  • Bryce Harper
    Bryce Harper will surprise everyone...

    … with an impact play.

    We all know Harper has talent. At 17 years old, Harper was so good that he was already being hailed as the Second Coming, and many predicted he’d end up as the best player on the planet. Watching him hit was like watching a genius at work. He was a 6-3 manchild who carried 225 pounds of muscle. He could run, could hit, could throw. He could do it all.

    But four years later, and the dude is hitting in the No. 6 hole on the Nationals, a .269 average for the team with the best record in the National League.

    Still, it’s not like you can call him a bust. He’s been good, just not as good as we thought. Think O.J. Mayo. But with Washington fighting with the Dodgers for the top seed in the playoffs, Harper is going to be important, and at some point we wouldn’t be surprised if he came up huge in a big moment. In fact, we already sort of predicted it. Just watch.

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  • Jeff Samardzija
    Oakland A's will win the World Series

    Since we proclaimed them the best team in baseball and the favorites to win it all, the A’s surrendered their lead in the AL West to the Angels. Yet even despite that, their run differential (plus-165) dwarfs every other team. No one else is even close. Normally, a division lead might not matter, but if Oakland ends up losing the division, they’ll be faced with a one-game playoff for the right to advance. If all falls in line, the best team in baseball all year could be playing one game, with their season on the line, and they could be facing a pitcher like Felix Hernandez, Max Scherzer, or David Price. Ouch.

    The good news for Oakland fans is that the Angels can’t pitch, so all of that power they have in their lineup doesn’t matter as much. The A’s played .500 ball in August, but their revamped bullpen and pitching has been much, much better. That’ll get them over the hump in the fall and it’ll eventually lead to a ring.

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  • Aaron Rodgers
    Aaron Rodgers will light up the NFL

    Amid all the hoopla surrounding Peyton Manning‘s historic season last year, and the infatuation with duel-threat quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton, everyone’s forgetting about Aaron Rodgers. You probably know him — he has the league’s lowest interception percentage ever and is the NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating at 104.9. He’s also the guy who returned from injury last year to lead Green Bay to an incredible win over Chicago and a trip to the playoffs.

    Now he’s back and healthy, rebounding from the broken collarbone that caused him to miss seven games last year, and the Packers are ready to reaffirm their status atop the NFC with Seattle and San Francisco. And Rodgers is right in the middle of that.

    How could NFL players ever vote this dude as only the 11th-best player in the league? That’s insane. Rodgers is going to exact revenge this season, and he is going to tear up the NFL beside playmakers like Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy, and a healthy Randall Cobb.

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  • Kyrie Irving
    Kyrie Irving: Don't call it a comeback

    The man with the nicest handles in the league is due for a comeback season. Last season, amid Cleveland’s depressing 33-49 year, Irving’s game probably regressed. He didn’t play much defense. His numbers dropped from the prior year. And the team failed to make the playoffs. Yet despite all of that, Irving was still good enough to win the MVP of the NBA All-Star Game, and you have to be ridiculously talented to do that.

    Now he’ll be playing off of LeBron and Kevin Love, and that’ll do nothing but open up the game for Irving. Add in his Team USA experience, where he regained his defensive intensity to become an important perimeter factor on that end — and won an MVP — and Irving is due for his second breakout season in three years. (Remember, he’s still only 22 years old.)

    By the time December rolls around, Cleveland will be sitting in first place in the East and everyone will be sitting there talking like “Yo, Kyrie is nasty! He’s gotten so much better.”

    I don’t know — maybe he was that good all along?

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  • EJ Manuel
    The Bills will surprise the s@%& out of everyone

    It’s been a long time since Buffalo made the playoffs — not since 1999 to be exact. That’s the longest drought in the NFL.

    “It hurts. It hurts everyone, physically. I mean, it hurts the fans, the region,” head coach Doug Marrone told NFL.com over the summer. “The expectation going (into this coming season) is, you know, we’re going to make the playoffs. That’s what our expectations are, and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to get there, knowing that it’s going to be extremely hard, as far as the work — that’s what we’re explaining to our players. So that’s the league we’re in, and we have to win football games — there’s no doubt about it. We have to do it and do it the right way.”

    Most fans won’t take Buffalo seriously, even after they went into Chicago and beat the Bears on their own field in Week 1. But this team is very, very close to crashing the playoff party. They have an improving quarterback (EJ Manuel) who isn’t being asked to do too much. They have three (!) starter-worthy running backs (C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown). They have a future star at wide receiver (Sammy Watkins). And their defense has always been solid. In a division that isn’t exactly flooded with Super Bowl contenders, the Bills have the chance to be the surprise team of the season.

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  • Zach LaVine
    Minnesota loses, wins SportsCenter

    Minnesota gave up — statistically — the third-best player in the NBA from last season, and yet we can’t really be mad at them. Considering any trade of a superstar almost always yields shallow returns, the T’Wolves coup of Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, a trade exception, and a 2015 protected first-round pick for Kevin Love looks pretty good. It also secured the team’s spot atop our unofficial League Pass Rankings.

    Ricky Rubio is probably overrated at this point, with his sub-37 percent career shooting. But he’s always been a talented player, a showman, with a flair for fancy passes and slick dribble moves. Before this year, however, Minnesota left him with people like Derrick Williams and Corey Brewer as finishes. Even the world’s greatest painter needs a canvas to work with, and now Rubio has that.

    Between rookies Zach LaVine, Glenn Robinson III, and Wiggins, the Timberwolves are going to own SportsCenter’s top 10. Own it. They’ll likely own perhaps 20 victories on the year as well, but those Target Center rims will take plenty of beatings. GR3 is a smooth, high-jumping swingman who’s basically in the league because he offers intriguing athletic potential. Then LaVine, even if nobody knows what he is at this point, possesses next-level jumping and finishing ability.

    And of course, we all know Wiggins has a chance to be an All-Star and potentially the next Slam Dunk Contest champ. This’ll be a show, whether they win 15 games or 25.

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  • Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel
    Johnny Football will return

    Let’s see. Brian Hoyer has looked pretty ordinary so far in the preseason and during the year’s first two games, completing just half of his passes. Josh Gordon is still suspended for the year. You don’t have much hope of a playoff spot. And the fans only want one thing.

    To watch Johnny Football.

    We can’t be the only “unbiased” followers who also want to see Money Manziel behind center. He’s actually performed decently well throughout the preseason, avoiding big hits, and running around for touchdowns. What he doesn’t have in experience he makes up for in moxie and leadership. He’s a sideline clipboard-holder for now, and probably will be for at least the first four weeks. But once we hit October, don’t be surprised to see Money out making moves.

    Hoyer won the job for now, but we get the feeling this QB competition is far from over and will probably be pretty flexible all year.

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  • Marcus Mariota
    A race for the Heisman

    Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are two of college football’s most electrifying players. They play quarterback, on great teams, in high-profile systems, and both will be lacing ’em up on Sundays before too long. Winston proved it last year when he won this stage’s biggest individual award while leading the Seminoles to a national championship: The Heisman ingredients here are strong.

    Winston started slow in Florida State’s uncomfortably close win over Oklahoma State, throwing two picks. However, he showed that clutch gene again, leading his squad back and winning with a 28-yard touchdown in the second half as well as 370 yards passing. Mariota, however, had no such problems against South Dakota, piling up 267 total yards and four touchdowns in an easy 49-point win for the No. 3-ranked Ducks.

    Earlier this summer, Bovada.lv released their Heisman odds and it wasn’t surprising to see Winston (at 9/2 odds) and Mariota (6/1) leading the way. With Braxton Miller now out for the season after shoulder surgery, there’s really only one other player who could get in the way: Georgia’s Todd Gurley, a 14/1 favorite coming off a school-record 293 all-purpose yards against Clemson (including a 100-yard kickoff return). But unless Gurley plays like that all season, it’s going to come down to Mariota and Winston.

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  • De’Anthony Thomas
  • Bryce Harper
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Kyrie Irving
  • EJ Manuel
  • Zach LaVine
  • Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel
  • Marcus Mariota

Seven games.

That’s all it took for all of us to forget about how good Aaron Rodgers is. He missed seven games last season with a collarbone injury and suddenly, it was omg Manning! Brady is a beast! Drew Brees is a machine! … Oh yeah, Rodgers is cool, too.

Huh?

Rodgers is arguably the best player in football, and when we heard that the players had rated him just the 11th-best player in the league right now — and some of the responses to that were just downright mind-boggling — we didn’t know what to say. When was the last time something like this happened to the best player in a sport? Ten years, perhaps. After “pushing” Shaq out of Los Angeles and then piloting the Lakers to the lottery in 2005, Kobe Bryant got only a Third Team All-NBA nod, which was a disgrace at the time.

Rodgers’ reputation didn’t plummet nearly that far, but it is arguable he’s an even greater QB than Bryant is a basketball player. Rodgers is the league’s most deadly accurate quarterback. He instantly makes Green Bay a title contender. He never throws picks. He leads by example, playing hurt and without regard for his body. And he can run, too, even if you wouldn’t exactly label him a duel-threat signal-caller.

The return of the NFL’s ultimate field general will be just one of a number of moments you can expect to see happen this fall. From Heisman races to wild card races, everything in sports is heating up right now even as the weather gets colder.

It’s going to be a fun fall season for sports fans. Here are some Sports Moments You Can Expect to See This Fall.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney