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Gay teen grateful for NFL players taking a stand

Eagles players get racist threats. Week 3 notes: Game of the week, fantasy tips, hot player of the week.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Eagles’ Ron Brooks (33), Malcolm Jenkins (27) and Steven Means (51) during the playing of the National Anthem Monday night.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

As a gay teenager who faces inequality, I cannot be more grateful NFL players who use their platform to improve our country. The latest example came Monday night.

During the National Anthem prior to the Bears-Eagles game, Malcolm Jenkins, Ron Brooks, and Steven Means, all defensive players for the Philadelphia Eagles, raised their fists in protest of , racial tensions in our country.

A college freshman from Belmont University in Tennessee took a picture of the protesters on Snapchat, calling the players racial slurs (“piece of shit n-word”) and saying they needed a bullet in the head. This sparked controversy, and Belmont acted quickly.

First it released a statement: “This morning, we were made aware of a racist social media post by a freshman student at Belmont. We reject comments rooted in racism or bigotry. This is not free speech -- this is hate speech. The University is investigating and will take immediate action. As a Christian institution, it is our goal to build a diverse and inclusive community where all members feel accepted, safe and valued.”

The school then kicked out the student, saying that “as a Christian institution, it is our goal to build a diverse and inclusive community where all members feel accepted, safe, and valued.”

As a college freshman myself, this story connected with me. Even though I don’t know what it is like to be called a racial slur, I do know what it is like to be called a homophobic slur.

I attend the University of Central Florida in Orlando, home to 63,000 students, second-most in the nation. There is a very inclusive environment here and it is my second home. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I probably have a racist or homophobic student in the same student body as me. In a school of 63,000, there is bound to be at least a few who agree with this racist student from Belmont.

These people are everywhere, scattered across the United States and the world, and the protests from the NFL are continuing this conversation and bringing awareness to the inequalities so many face in this country.

Here are some Week 3 bits:

Game of the Week
Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers

Two playoff teams from last season will meet up for Week 3’s top matchup. The Panthers bounced back from a heartbreaking last-second loss in Week 1 with a victory against the Niners. Meanwhile, the Vikings have started two below-average quarterbacks but have two quality wins to show for it.

Both teams lost their starting running backs to injury last week, but it is arguable that the loss of Adrian Peterson hurts the Vikings more than the loss of Jonathan Stewart hurts the Panthers. However, this shouldn’t be a battle between the two running games, but rather the two defenses.

The Panthers played a stifling defense in their Week 1 matchup against Denver, but came up one point short. Their defense was less effective in Week 2 against San Francisco, but when a team puts up 46 points, it is hard to lose. If the Panthers want to win this week, they are going to need a better balance between their offense and defense.

The Vikings won in Week 1 with two defensive scores, and held one of the league’s best offenses, the Green Bay Packers, to 14 points in Week 2. If Minnesota is to win this week, they will need their defense to continue to be one of the league’s best, and will need their league-leading receiver Stefon Diggs to have another stellar game.

This game will be close, and if it were in Minnesota, I might give the Vikings the win, but the Panthers have not lost at home since November 2014, and they don’t plan on losing at Bank of America Stadium this week either. The home field advantage will help Carolina and they will keep pounding.

Panthers 24, Vikings 20

Upset of the Week
San Francisco 49ers over Seattle Seahawks

Oh, how the tables have turned! I’m picking the 49ers over the Seahawks this week. This game is in Seattle and the 49ers will walk away with a victory.

Seattle consistently boasts one of the league’s best defenses, and they are allowing 9.5 PPG. However, the offense is averaging a mere 7.5 PPG. The offensive line is the root of the problem, and it affects the rest of the offense. The offense cannot protect Russell Wilson and the backfield, and Doug Baldwin left Sunday’s game injured. Meanwhile, the 49ers were able to blank the Rams and they’ve averaged 27.5 PPG in the first two games. If the high octane San Francisco offense can score 14 points or more against this Seahawks team, they will have a very good chance to win this game.

The Seahawks will need to have a massive revamp from their offense if they want to win this game. However, with all of the injuries currently decimating their offense, the Seahawks will drop another divisional game and Seattle will move a little closer into panic mode.

Fantasy Start of the Week
Chargers RB Melvin Gordon

Gordon has been one of the early surprises of the season, and the lone bright spot in San Diego’s offense that has lost two offensive weapons to torn ACL’s. Gordon had zero touchdowns all of last season, and after two games, he already has three. As he is facing one of the worst rush defenses in the league this week in Indianapolis, Gordon has the chance to add to that touchdown total on Sunday. Look for the Chargers to call plays for him early and often and he should score big for your team this week.

Fantasy Sit of the Week
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders has two 1,000+ yard seasons in Denver, but it isn’t looking like he’s going to get his third this year at the pace he’s going. 88 yards in two games does not warrant a solid fantasy season, and in a game against Cincinnati this week, it may not be best to keep him in your starting lineup. Players like Tyrell Williams and Quincy Enunwa were virtually unheard of, but they are more likely to put up points this week than Sanders. Sanders needs to vault himself back into fantasy relevance if he wants to garner a start.

Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Vikings RB Matt Asiata

With Adrian Peterson out for the year, his primary running back Jerick McKinnon should be first off the waiver wire. Therefore, he is probably already claimed. But check to see if Asiata got picked up as well. When Peterson was suspended in 2014, Asiata outgained and outscored McKinnon by scoring nine touchdowns. There is a very good chance that Asiata is the goal-line back and he could match his touchdown total from two years ago. Take a flier on Asiata and see where things go.

Lock of the Week
Dallas Cowboys over Chicago Bears

The Bears look like a team without direction, and with Jay Cutler out with an injury, things don’t look good for Chicago. Cutler hasn’t played well, but Brian Hoyer will be called in to start for Sunday Night Football this week against the Cowboys. And that isn’t a recipe to win.

Dallas is by no means a spectacular NFL team, but a home game against a struggling Bears team on a short week has to bode well for them. The defense came up clutch for them in their road win against Washington, and the offense is starting to pick up steam with Dak Prescott under center.

I also expect Ezekiel Elliott to have a big game. The Bears gave up big games to Lamar Miller and Ryan Mathews, and with Dallas’ offensive line, I could see the Cowboys running it down the Bears’ throats and ending this game early.

Cowboys 35, Bears 14

Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.

Steelers minus 3.5 at Eagles. Pick: Steelers

Rookie QB Carson Wentz has looked great for the Eagles so far, but beating the Browns and Bears is nothing to get too excited about. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 2-0 with wins over two 2015 playoff teams. Class wins out. Steelers 26, Eagles 14.

Last week: 1-0. Season: 1-1.

Hot Player of the Week
Vikings WR Stefon Diggs

He’s leading the league in receiving yards, and he’s doing it with flare. He’s got speed that kills and muscles to die for. Here’s to hoping Diggs can continue his strong season.

Jeremy Brener is a student at the University of Central Florida who writes a weekly NFL column for Outsports. He can be reached via email (jeremybrenerchs@gmail.com) and followed on Twitter.

Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports