The most disrespected NBA superstar: Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley was selected with the second pick in the 2008 NBA draft, yet he hasn’t averaged more than 20 minutes per game since he was with the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 season. Now a member of the New York Knicks, Beasley is poised to show the world what he is truly capable of doing.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN, Beasley was asked about how other players feel about him. He claimed “I’m your favorite player’s favorite player.”

Beasley also stated that he believes that the Knicks can finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference this season. When asked about the roster, Beasley told reporters that not only himself, but Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are all capable of putting up 25 points per game. Speaking of Melo, Beasley told reporters that “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that. I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

During the summer, Beasley told the New York Post that he is tired of getting disrespected. He claimed “Not being disrespectful. But I want my respect. For the last nine years, I’ve been a walking bucket, man. Anytime you want a point, I’ll give you a point, no matter what circumstances, who the player is defending me.”

In Beasley’s 509 career NBA games, he averages 12.6 points and 4.7 rebounds. So is he crazy to believe he is a “walking bucket” and can average 25 a game? After looking at the numbers, absolutely not. In fact, Michael Beasley is the most disrespected NBA superstar.

College Days

In 2007, Michael Beasley attended Kansas State for only one year, yet it was one of the best seasons we have seen at the collegiate level. Beasley averaged 26.2 points per game and led the nation with 12.4 rebounds per game. He did all this while shooting an incredible 53.7 percent from the field. His ridiculous numbers earned him first team All-America honors from the Association Press, as well as Big 12 Player of the Year.

One of the best NCAAB players of this generation (NBA.com)

Some other notable college achievements include:

  • 866 total points ranks third among all freshmen in NCAA history
  • Led the nation in double-doubles with 28
  • Had 13 games in which he scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds. (Led the NCAA)
  • Currently holds 30 Kansas State career, single season and freshman records.
  • Holds 17 Big 12 single-game and single-season records
  • Nominated National Freshman of the Year and First team All-American by multiple sources.

 

 

 

 

 

NCAA PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 25 PPG and 12 REBOUNDS WITH A 50 FG PERCENTAGE OR BETTER IN A SEASON (SINCE 1992)

NAME YEAR COLLEGE STATS
MICHAEL BEASLEY 2007-08 KANSAS STATE 26.2/12.4/.532
KURT THOMAS 1994-95 TCU 28.9/14.6/.548
JERVAUGHN SCALES 1993-94 SOUTHERN 27.1/14.2/.594

Since 1992, the only other freshmen to average at least 25 points and 10 boards was Kevin Durant in 2006-2007. This made declaring for the NBA an easy decision for Beasley.

NBA

After being selected second in the draft by the Miami Heat, Beasley was quick to find trouble. During that same summer, at the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, Beasley, along with some other rookies, were involved in a situation in which their hotel room fire alarm went off and police responded. Apparently, the room smelled like marijuana, which is a bad look if you are a player trying to make it in the association. Beasley was later fined by the Heat.

Beasley as a member of the Heat (TheSportsBank.net)

Still, Beasley found success on the court, averaging 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during his rookie campaign. In the summer before his second season, Beasley spent time in rehab for stress-related issues. During his sophomore season, Beasley started 78 games and scored close to 15 points per game. In July of 2010, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two draft picks. This allowed the Heat to clear cap space and create their big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Beasley’s first season with Minnesota was tremendous. In 73 starts, Beasley averaged 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Beasley was a top 20 scorer and played over 30 minutes a game. So at age 22, how did his numbers match up with the rest of the NBA?

Players, age 22 or younger, who have scored at least 3650 points, 120 3-point field goals, and 1300 rebounds (IN ORDER FROM TOTAL POINTS)

NAME TEAM(S)
LEBRON JAMES CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
KEVIN DURANT SEATTLE SUPERSONICS/OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
CARMELO ANTHONY DENVER NUGGETS
KOBE BRYANT LOS ANGELES LAKERS
TRACY MCGRADY TORONTO/ORLANDO
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNPO MILWAUKEE BUCKS
ANTOINE WALKER BOSTON CELTICS
MICHAEL BEASLEY MIAMI HEAT/ MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Michael Beasley was on pace to be up there with the greats. Following his breakout year, Beasley was pulled over for speeding, and the cop found some marijuana, which led to a small fine. Two months later, he was involved in an altercation in which he shoved a heckler. Because of these off-court issues and an injury to his foot, Beasley only started seven games in his second year with the Timberwolves.

FROM TEAM TO TEAM

The next five years were an absolute roller coaster ride for Beasley. In 2012, Beasley signed an $18 million dollar deal with the Phoenix Suns, but only started 20 games. In a game off the bench against the Lakers, Beasley erupted for 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. An arrest for marijuana ultimately led to Beasley being waived, one year into his three-year deal.

Beasley in a 59 point outing for the Sharks in China (The Hoop Doctors)

From 2013-16, Beasley went from the Suns, to the Heat, to the Shanghai Sharks, back to the Heat, back to China (except this time for the Shandong Golden Stars) and finally, to the Houston Rockets. In 18 minutes a game off the bench, Beasley averaged 12.8 points. He was one of seven players, minimum 20 games, to average 25 points per 36 minutes. This list included Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden and Damian Lillard.

Last September, Beasley was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He appeared in 56 games and averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. Again, if he was given more playing time, he would have excelled. The following table illustrates players who averaged at least 20 points, and 7 rebounds, on 50 percent shooting or better.

2016-17 Per 36 mins, players with at least 20 points and seven rebounds on 50 FG percentage or better (Minimum 50 games)

NAME TEAM
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans
Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors
Lebron James Cleveland Cavaliers
Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves
Enes Kanter Oklahoma City Thunder
Giannis Antetokounpo Milwaukee Bucks
Javale McGee Golden State Warriors
Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets
Michael Beasley Milwaukee Bucks

 

Do you still think he is a bust?

Can someone give this guy some minutes? People who think Beasley is a bust need to really look into his numbers. He is up there with the best players in the league when allotted the appropriate minutes. In case you are wondering what players in his draft look like compared to him:

CAREER PER 36: (In order of FG percentage)

BROOK LOPEZ 20.8/8 TRB/.506FG

MICHAEL BEASLEY 19.3/7.2 TRB/.458FG

RUSSELL WESTBROOK 23.9/8.4 A/.433FG

KEVIN LOVE 20.3/12.7 TRB/.442FG

As you can tell, it’s not a talent problem. In fact, he is actually proven to be more efficient than both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, while still scoring around the same amount of points per 36 minutes.

IS THIS THE YEAR?

Now with New York, Beasley just wants a chance. Can you blame him? At 22, he was on pace to be up there with the best players in our game. Off-court issues and mismanagement have led to him only starting nine games since the 2013-14 season.

By the way, if he is not getting minutes because of his defense, then James Harden shouldn’t play either. Offense outweighs defense and Beasley is an electric scorer. If Michael Beasley is on the court, he is going to get buckets. Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. Michael Beasley would be an All-Star in this league if he was given a legit shot.

At age 28, which most consider the prime of your athletic career, Beasley has lost 20 pounds by cutting out sugar and red meat. He concluded his recent ESPN interview by saying “I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

When diving into the numbers, it is obvious Michael Beasley has been extremely disrespected. This is a man who is capable of scoring on anyone, so let’s pray New York gives him that shot he not only has asked for, but deserves.

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NFL week two: Eight takeaways

1. New England looked great, but let’s pump the brakes

Tom Brady threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns, but did we forget who they played? That’s right, New Orleans. In the previous week, the Saints allowed 470 yards to the Minnesota Vikings, who are predominately relevant because of their defense.

This is a Saints team who, last year, finished second to last in total points allowed, and dead last in passing yards allowed. With that said, it is expected for Tom Brady and the New England offense to put up numbers.

Despite the big win however, New England is still banged up. Rob Gronkowski had to exit with a groin injury and Dont’a Hightower might be out another week or two. With Danny Amendola still sidelined, it was nice to see production from Chris Hogan and Philip Dorsett, but we will see how long these two can last as consistent playmakers. Especially when New England plays a legit defense.

2. Maybe the Titans will be as good as we thought?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Derrick Henry could take over as the RB1 (Tennessee Titans)

Going into the season, people were high on Tennessee. For good reason of course, since they do have Marcus Mariota behind center.

Unfortunately, Mariota hasn’t looked great in his first two games of 2017. Through two games, Mariota has only thrown one touchdown, and has a quarterback rating of 78.7. In his previous two seasons, Mariota’s quarterback ratings were 91.5, and 95.6.

Still, the Titans put up 37 points. Granted it was against Jacksonville, but up until this point in his career, Blake Bortles had been undefeated against Tennessee when he plays at home.

A main reason for the big victory was Tennessee’s ability to run the football. They racked up 179 yards on the ground, mostly from Derrick Henry, who ran for 94 yards, on 6.57 yards per carry.  The Titans defense was also able to force three turnovers, which is a given against Bortles, but they still count. If Mariota can improve, this team could easily win the division.

3. The Panthers are 2-0, but they are overrated

What a blessing it is to start your season against the 49ers and the Bills. Look, the defense has been spectacular, only allowing six total points through two games, but Cam Newton and the offense looks pitiful. It’s understood that Newton is playing banged up, but maybe they need to check for a concussion, because this guy looks lost on the field.

If you watched the game, then you know that your grandmother would have completed the “would be” touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, instead of sailing it four feet over his head like Newton did.

Greg Olsen will also 6-8 weeks of the season due to his broken foot, so expect more mediocre play from Carolina’s offense. Carolina is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry is something to keep an eye on as well.

4. The Chiefs look really good

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Kareem Hunt’s debut was no fluke (Sporting News)

After two weeks, Kansas City looks like the best team in football. Not only did they smack the Patriots, but they also beat a good Eagles team. Alex Smith has five touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception, and Kareem Hunt might be able to sit out the rest of the year and still win Rookie of the Year.

In his first two career games, Hunt has 229 yards rushing, along with five total touchdowns. Kansas City is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, which is good for first in the NFL.

The pass rush looks great, as Chris Jones had three of their six sacks against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. If they can slow down the run, this team could be dangerous.

5. Thank God for the Honey Badger, but the Cardinals’ season is over

Without a clutch, game-sealing interception by Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals could easily be 0-2. With David Johnson scheduled to miss a serious amount of time, the Cardinals need all the luck they can get, and Mathieu helped them stay relevant for another week.

Carson Palmer has been just awful, with four interceptions and a QBR below 66, his career looks to be done. He turned it around late in the game, but that’s expected against a garbage Colts team. The Cardinals can’t run the ball, and for some reason, are having a hard time defending the pass, so kudos to Mathieu, but it is safe to already write off Arizona.

6. Jay Cutler and the Dolphins might be a perfect match

The Dolphins might be the most underrated team in football, and we might see the best version of Jay Cutler. Yes, it was only one game, but Cutler completed 72.7 percent of his passes, and had a QBR of 101.8.

Jay Ajayi showed that last year was no fluke, rushing for 122 yards. Jarvis Landry led Miami with 13 catches, and the Fins defense held Melvin Gordon to 13 yards on nine attempts. Watch out for Miami.

7. The Raiders are dope

The Raiders home opener was everything you could have hoped for. In a 45-25 win over the Jets, we saw Marshawn Lynch dancing, Michael Crabtree with three touchdowns and Derek Carr looking like a real MVP. Carr has yet to commit a turnover and the Raiders are fifth in the league in rushing.

The defense, who at times, holds this team back, has already recovered two fumbles and is doing a decent job of defending the run. If the defense gets better, the Raiders could be looking at an easy route to home field advantage.

8. Cowboys in trouble?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Has Dak been exposed? (FanSided)

As someone who does not think Dak Prescott is a franchise quarterback, Sunday’s performance was beautiful to watch. Without Ezekiel Elliott, Dak is nothing. Elliott was held to eight yards on nine attempts, which caused Prescott to actually have to make plays. This resulted in a pair of interceptions.

Denver’s D is top notch, but the Cowboys should be concerned. If the run game is not there, this team is unable to produce, especially with a washed up Dez Bryant. Yeah, he caught a touchdown, but with all those targets, he should have been much better.

 

 

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Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 2

Week One Review (2-1) Overall: 2-1                   

Indianapolis Colts @ Los Angeles Rams (-4.5)

Final: Rams 46 Colts 9

Going into this game, the Rams were 3-13 against the spread (ATS) in their last 16 Week 1 matchups. They were also 1-10-1 ATS in their last 12 games overall. This just shows that you can’t value past numbers too much. They brought in a new coaching staff, upgraded the offensive line, and have a quarterback, in Jared Goff, that finally looks comfortable. The Rams defense looked elite, but then again, they did play against Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett. Nonetheless, great start to the season for Los Angeles.

Carolina Panthers (-5) @ San Francisco 49ers

Final: Panthers 23 49ers 3

Cam Newton didn’t look great, but most of the time, your quarterback doesn’t need to be on his “A” game against San Francisco. Carolina’s defense played well, only allowing 217 total yards of offense, while also forcing two turnovers.

What happened to Eli and the rest of the New York offense?

New York Giants (+4.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

Final: Giants 3 Cowboys 19

A disappointing start to the season for Eli and the Giants (CSNPhilly)

Clearly, without Odell Beckham Jr, this offense is a nightmare. Holding the potent Dallas offense to 19 points is a plus, but when you only muster off 13 first downs, it’s hard to win a football game. The Giants offensive line is clearly an issue, as well as the running game, as New York only rushed for 35 yards. With OBJ most likely suiting up on Monday, look for the Giants to bounce back against Detroit.

WEEK 2 PICKS

Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)

Pick: CHIEFS TO COVER

This will be the second time Chiefs coach Andy Reid swaures off against his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles. In their previous matchup, dating back to 2013, The Chiefs beat the Eagles by 10. It’s important to mention that game was played in Philly. This contest will be at Arrowhead, where the Chiefs are 18-6 in their last three seasons. Kansas City looks like the best team in the AFC, but the loss of Eric Berry is devastating.

The Eagles defensive line is no joke, so don’t expect Kareem Hunt to put up numbers like he did in his debut. Still, this could be the best season we have ever seen from Alex Smith. With Mahomes right on his tail, Smith knows this season could potentially be his last with Kansas City. Pressure can truly bring the best out of certain players, and last week, it looked like Alex Smith is not giving up his job anytime soon. Philly’s weak run game will cause Carson Wentz to throw a lot, which is never a good idea against the Chiefs secondary. Look for Wentz to force a few bad throws and for Kansas City to continue winning.

New England Patriots (-6.5) @ New Orleans Saints

Pick: PATRIOTS TO COVER

This is a lot of points to give Drew Brees and the Saints, but New England just doesn’t lose back to back games. In fact, in the next game after a loss (since 2003), the Patriots are 41-7. During these 48 games, they are 34-13-1 ATS.

Brandin Cooks looking to have a monster game against his former team (Patriots Wire)

It should be noted that Drew Brees is 3-1 in his career vs Brady, but this year’s Saints defense is no match for the Patriots lethal offense. Even though it was a disappointing start to the season, New England still put 27 points and rushed for over 120 yards in their loss to Kansas City.

The Saints allowed 470 yards to Minnesota, and gave up 23 first downs. Drew Brees is still great, but his defense is absolutely atrocious. New England simply has too many weapons, and will have a field day against the Saints.

Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos (+2.5)

Pick: BRONCOS TO WIN

Dak Prescott continues to be the luckiest quarterback in all of football. This was yet another game in which he only threw for one touchdown. If Eli didn’t forget how to play football, the Cowboys could have easily been 0-1. This is Dak’s first time in Denver, as well as his first real AFC road test. Last year, the two AFC teams that Dallas visited were the Steelers and Browns. Pittsburgh and Cleveland are two of the worst defenses in football, and don’t even compare to Denver’s. The “No Fly Zone” will have no problem shutting down Prescott.

The Broncos ran the ball extremely effective in their opener versus the Chargers, so look for CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles to have good games against Dallas, as the Cowboys defense is banged up and not that great to begin with. Trevor Siemian isn’t great, but he looks like he could play the part.

Denver’s secondary will shut down the Cowboy’s wide receivers’. Dez Bryant, as much as I love him, is washed. It’s possible Ezekiel Elliot will have a monster game, but Dak will look lost against Denver’s defense. Trevor Siemian has enough playmakers around him to lead this team to victory on Sunday.

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2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak: Today’s Moneyballers

The Cleveland Indians have now won 21 consecutive games, which is tied for the longest winning streak in MLB history. The last time this happened, a gallon of gas was 10 cents, a loaf of bread was eight cents and the average cost of a new house was $3,450. Yeah, the only other team to win 21 games in a row was the 1935 Chicago Cubs.

2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak

The last time a team won 21 straight, this was in the papers. (Old Car Advertising)

Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers moved the Indians past the 2002 “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics for the American League’s all-time consecutive win streak record.

In certain ways, the 2002 Athletics and 2017 Indians are similar. Both were among the bottom half in payroll, but when it comes to statistics, the 2017 Indians have a clear advantage.

In fact, as of today, the Indians are among the top two in the AL in on base percentage, slugging percentage, weighted runs created plus, adjusted ERA, adjusted FIP, wins above replacement and winning percentage. Among those statistics, winning percentage was the only one that the Athletics were first or second in. This is a dangerous team who can clearly do it all.

So how does a team that ranked 17th in payroll on Opening Day appear virtually unstoppable? Well, in previous articles, we have talked about the keys to building a championship team. Among these holy keys are drafting/signing young studs, smart free agent additions, good trades, a strong starting rotation and a lockdown bullpen. Based on these qualifications, the 2017 Indians look ready to capture their first World Series since 1948.

It is important to note three of their top five paid players, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Andrew Miller. They have spent a lot of time on the DL, which makes the win streak even crazier. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why the Indians are the hottest team in baseball.

Young Studs for not so big bucks

Francisco Lindor, SS

2017 Salary: $579,300 (34th highest paid SS)

.276BA 86R 30HR 78RBI 13SB

Lindor was taken eighth overall by Cleveland in the 2011 MLB June amateur draft. After a somewhat slow start to his 2017 campaign, Lindor has been on a tear. During this outlandish 21-game win streak, Lindor is slashing .364 with a 1.229 OPS, along with nine home runs and 19 RBIs. In only his third season, Lindor is turning into a superstar, and one of the best all-around players this game has to offer.

Lucky for the Indians, drafting Lindor could turn out to be one of the best moves this team has made in years. Since he is still in the pre-arbitration part of his career, Lindor is making less than $600K. Here are a few players at his position, and their statistics, who are a tad wealthier.

Troy Tulowitski SS, Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Salary: 20,000,000

In 66 games: .249BA 16R 7HR 26RBI

Brandon Crawford SS, San Francisco Giants

2017 Salary: 8,200,000

 

2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak

All Smiles for Jose Ramirez (USA Today)

In 129 Games: .247BA .297OBP 13 HR

 

Jose Ramirez, 2B, 3B

2017 Salary: $571,400 with a $400,000 signing bonus (28th highest paid 3B)

In 138 Games: .309BA 94R 26HR 73RBI 15SB

As a Red Sox fan, I am patiently waiting for this guy to get caught with some sort of HGH. But seriously, Jose Ramirez is a legit MVP threat. He leads the Indians in batting average, slugging percentage and runs, as well as leading all of baseball in doubles with 47. Ramirez is also extremely versatile, starting 88 games at third, and 57 at second. In his second season as an everyday player, the 24-year-old has shown that he is deserving of his five-year contract extension that he signed in March.

Comparisons:

Todd Frazier, 3B, New York Yankees

2017 Salary: 12,000,000

In 131 Games: .209BA .337OBP

Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Salary: 13,000,000

In 142 Games: .264BA .318OBP

Elite Starting Pitching

Carlos Carrasco– 15-6 201K 3.41ERA (2017 Salary: $6,500,00)

Mike Clevinger– 10-5 3.21ERA (2017 Salary: $535,000)

Trevor Bauer– (last 30 days) 6-0 2.87ERA 10.51K/9 (2017 Salary: $3,550,000)

The total 2017 salary of these three Indians pitchers is $10,585,000. Johnny Cueto (4.58 ERA), Rick Porcello (4.64 ERA) and James Shields (5.40 ERA) are all making over $20,000,000 this year.

Corey Kluber– Frontrunner for the AL CY Young

Did I mention the Klubot? Yes, Corey Kluber is more like a robot than he is a human. In 2017, Kluber is 16-4 with a 2.44 ERA, 243 strikeouts and an insane .191 BAA. Not only does he lead the league in wins and ERA, Kluber is also first in complete games, shutouts, ERA+ and WHIP.

Lockdown Bullpen

Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Zach McAllister, Andrew Miller and Nick Goody are all holding opposing hitters to a .240 BA or below. In the last 30 days, Dan Otero has an ERA of 0.71. During that same span, Bryan Shaw has a .229 BAA and a K/9 of 13.5. This bullpen is just filthy right now, and with Andrew Miller coming back in the near future, the Indians may never lose again.

Key Signings/Trades

Edwin Encarnacion: Signed this past offseason

2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak

EDWING (BleacherReport)

In 141 Games: 87R 34HR 88RBI

Encarnacion has been everything that the Indians hoped for. In the last 15 days, Encarnacion is hitting .327 with 12RBI.

Jay Bruce: 8/9/17 Traded by the New York Mets to the Cleveland Indians for Ryder Ryan

2017 Season: 33HR 90RBI

In 26 games with the Indians, Bruce has hit four home runs, and driven in 15. With major injuries to the outfield, Bruce will play a key role down the stretch.

Conclusion

No one is really overpaid on this team, and the players are playing out of their minds. With smart drafting, outstanding pitching and good offseason/in-season moves, it is no surprise the Indians are in first place. Today, Cleveland looks to make it 22 straight against Jake Junis and the Kansas City Royals.

 

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Stack your money Sundays: Week one

The nine-point underdog, Kansas City Chiefs, shocked the world Thursday with a 42-27 win over the New England Patriots. Football is back baby! The best time to gamble starts now.

For the next 17 Sundays, we will be choosing three games that you should put money on. Rather than taking the over/under, I will mainly be focusing on betting against spreads. Want some new shoes? Bet these games. Need money to take your date out on a fancy dinner? Bet these games.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ LOS ANGELES RAMS (-4.5)

PICK: RAMS TO COVER

Without Andrew Luck, the Colts are arguably the worst team in the NFL. A year ago, this is a defense that allowed the third most yards in the league. Scott Tolzien has only started three NFL games, and has yet to record a victory.

In those three starts, Tolzien has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions. The Rams finished ninth in passing yards allowed per game last season, which is solid, so Tolzien will have a hard time moving the chains.

Yes, the Rams had the worst offense in the league last year, but with an entire new coaching staff and Jared Goff getting his first opening day start, it is really unfair to bring up last season’s debacle. What do you expect with Jeff Fisher running the show? Now, with 31-year-old Sean McVay, as well as 124-year-old Wade Phillips, the Rams have a good mix of quality leadership.

stack your money Sundays: week one

Gurley will have no issues running the ball against Indy (Huffington Post)

Todd Gurley is bound to have a good year. The sophomore slump was due to the fact that Los Angeles couldn’t throw the ball, so the opposition would stack the box and be all over Gurley.

With upgrades at offensive line (Andrew Whitworth, John Sullivan), Goff should have better protection, and Gurley will have more time to make moves. The Colts allowed the third most rushing yards per attempt last season, so look for Gurley to have a monster game.

Jared Goff completed 75 percent of his passes in the preseason. The new coaching staff is already proving to be a success. Against a terrible defense, Goff and the Rams offense’ should shine at home. The Colts won’t be able to stop Gurley, and Tolzien will continue to be Tolzien.

This is probably the only time someone should bet on the Los Angeles Rams. This is an ideal game for Jared Goff to dominate and scoop up his first career win. Even with Aaron Donald most likely continuing his holdout, take the Rams to cover the 4.5 spread at home.

CAROLINA PANTHERS (-5) @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

PICK: PANTHERS TO COVER

When these two teams played last year, the Panthers won 46-27. Carolina has only gotten better since then. Although the Niners had a nice draft, Brian Hoyer will be trotting out on the field and playing behind center. Hoyer really is not that bad, but it is impossible to trust this offense, let alone their 32nd ranked defense a year ago.

San Francisco got run all over last year. No one allowed more rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns than the 49ers. DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead should provide a lot of help. Solomon Thomas will also be there to slow down the run, but he is just a rookie so we aren’t sure what to expect in his debut. Not to mention the fact that Carolina now has some fresh legs, in Christian McCaffrey, who averaged seven yards per carry in the preseason.

stack your money Sundays: week one

With Kuechly healthy, watch out for this defense (Panthers.com)

This will be a nice debut for McCaffrey, who will split time with Jonathan Stewart as they attempt to stomp over this 49ers defense. Carolina had the seventh most rushing attempts last season, and that was without McCaffrey. Look for them to pound the rock this week, because last season, the 49ers allowed over 150 rushing yards on 10 different occasions.

Cam Newton is poised to have a huge year after a disappointing past season. Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olson both look great. The defense, led by Luke Kuechly, is extremely solid.

Is there a better way to start your season than facing the worst defense in the NFL? After winning by 19 in last year’s contest, the improved Panthers will have no problem on the ground, or in the air, against this young defense and weak 49ers offense.

NEW YORK GIANTS (+4.5) @ DALLAS COWBOYS

PICK: GIANTS TO WIN

This is the real money maker. The Giants, an underdog on the road, beat the Cowboys in both matchups last season. If you aren’t into taking big risks, then just take the Giants at +4.5, but there is no way they lose this game, so you might as well earn some extra dough.

Last season, Dak Prescott had eight games in which he either did not throw for a touchdown, or threw for one. In the two games against New York, Prescott had only one touchdown, and quarterback ratings of 69.4 and a dreadful 45.4. He completed less than 53 percent of his passes during these two losses.

stack your money Sundays: week one

Evan Engram could turn into one of the top TE’s in the NFL (Giants.com)

Ezekiel Elliott is expected to play, but in the first matchup last season, Elliott only rushed for 51 yards on 21 carries. Although Elliott was able to rush for over 100 yards in the later matchup, he was still prevented from scoring.

Odell Beckham Jr., who is listed as questionable, will hopefully play. Even without Beckham, this is an offense who added Brandon Marshall in free agency, and a great tight end, Evan Engram, in this past draft. Last year, the Cowboys finished 26th in passing yards allowed, so look for Eli Manning to exploit this weak secondary.

The Giants also have one of the best defenses in the entire NFL. This is a team who finished second in points allowed, and third in rushing yards allowed. You cannot pass or run with efficiency against a defense with names like Jason Pierre Paul, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins.

Prescott will continue his struggles against New York, and Elliott will have a hard time finding holes against this elite Giants defense. If Odell plays, this game could be over quick.

 

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NFC eye test predictions: 4-1

The best of the best in the NFC.

4. Carolina Panthers

For some odd reason, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are good every other year. After going 7-9 in the 2012 season, the Panthers won the division and finished 12-4 in 2013. The following year, they managed to win the division, despite only winning seven games. In 2015, Newton’s MVP season, Carolina was one game away from a perfect regular season. Last year, due to a Super Bowl hangover, the Panthers won only six games. This means a big season is coming up for Carolina.

The Panthers brought in Matt Kalil, who will play alongside his brother, Ryan, a top notch center. Still, this offensive line is pretty poor, and is the main reason Cam Newton struggled last year.

NEW ERA (CBS Sports)

To take some pressure off Newton, Carolina beefed up the run game by drafting Christian McCaffrey with the eighth pick in this year’s draft. McCaffrey is pure grit, the people’s champ, the ultimate teammate. He must have been using an agility ladder right out the womb, and starting lifting since age six. McCaffrey looks to be an immediate impact in Carolina’s backfield, but don’t forget about Jonathan Stewart. The 30-year-old had over 800 yards, and nine touchdowns in 13 games during last year’s regular season.

Though not great, the receiving core could turn into something special. Obviously Greg Olsen is one of the best tight ends in the game, and Kelvin Benjamin, who looked way out of shape at the beginning of the offseason, looks to be just fine. Benjamin has been a consistent player who could take off and become a top 10 receiver. Let’s hope Devin Funchess can make a giant leap as he heads into his third season.

The experienced trio of Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, and Mario Addison, should continue to get after the opponent on the ends. Kawann Short, who signed a new deal worth $80 million, is a monster at defensive tackle. Barring injury, this is a top 10 defensive line.

The linebacker combination of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson, is arguably the best linebacker core in the NFL. If Kuechly stays healthy, he is easily one of the top defensive players in the league.

When Josh Norman left after the Super Bowl season, the secondary took a major hit. Fortunately, James Bradberry and Daryl Worley now have some experience under their belt. Look for this pass defense to bounce back, after finishing 29th in passing yards allowed a season ago.

Cam Newton is good, and will not have two down seasons in a row. They added a serious playmaker in McCaffrey, and the young receivers continue to grow. The defense is extremely solid, and if they can figure out defending the pass, the Panthers will be a serious threat come postseason play. This is an 11-win team.

 

3. New York Giants 

The Giants will be playing in this year’s Super Bowl, but they won’t end up with the best record. In their last two Super Bowl victories, New York finished 9-7 and 10-6 during their respected regular seasons. Coming off an 11-win season a year ago, the New York Football Giants are back.

It’s hard to make a case for Eli being an elite quarterback, but he has lowered the turnovers and has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in the previous three seasons. The offensive line isn’t too good, which is why Eli forces throws, as well as why there is lack of success in the run game. Paul Perkins played well in his last preseason game, which is huge because if the Giants can run the ball, they could easily finish as the number one offense in the NFL.

Scary Trio (SNY)

Even if the running game is subpar, the Giants have the best targets in all of football. Odell Beckham Jr is the most talented player in the NFL, and Brandon Marshall can still do big things. New York desperately needs these guys to get to 100 percent, because of how much sauce and talent they bring. Second year WR Sterling Shepard looks to keep rolling after 8 touchdowns during his rookie year. The Giants selected Evan Engram with the 23rd overall pick in this year’s draft, and he is already a player to watch.

This is one scary defensive line. Jason Pierre Paul and Olivier Vernon both got paid, and deserved every penny. DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison not only has a legendary nickname, but is quite the player.

Not a lot of talent at linebacker, but the secondary is elite. Last year, Landon Collins finished third in defensive player of the year voting. Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie are all extremely skilled corners.

The offense will be scary good, and the defense is full of studs. The Giants will win the division with 11-12 wins, and playoff Eli will get them back to the Super Bowl.

 

2. Seattle Seahawks

Love or hate the rowdy, excessive gum chewing coach, Pete Carroll has changed the culture in Seattle. Did drafting Russell Wilson help with the success? You bet.

All he does is win. (Grantland.com)

Russell Wilson took over in 2012. The Seahawks have won double digit games each year since 2012. This guy is a winner. Even with their pathetic offensive line, Wilson is able to keep plays going with his elusiveness and super power arm.

After finishing 25th in rushing yards, the Seahawks brought in Eddie Lacy to help bolster the run game. Not really too sure what to expect from him, Thomas Rawls, or CJ Prosise.

Jimmy Graham is the most talented of these pass catchers, but Doug Baldwin is still Wilson’s favorite target. Jermaine Kearse looks like he might get traded, but Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson will both play big roles. To be honest, it seems like Seattle has a new hero every week at wide out.

The defense is still incredible. DE’s Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Frank Clark combined for 26.5 sacks last year. Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright are right up there with the best of them, when it comes to linebacker duos. And, The Legion of Boom, headlined by Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas, is still the best secondary in the land.

This team will continue to do win because that’s all Russell Wilson does. Judging by their schedule, this looks like a 12-win season and a first round bye for Seattle.

 

1. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is just too talented. It’s not even like this roster “wow’s” anyone. The fact that Rodgers is the quarterback is all that needs to be said.

After back to back 10-6 seasons, the Packers are in dire need for more success. Rodgers is, without question, one of the most talented quarterbacks ever. However, only one Super Bowl victory has his legacy at a standstill.

Will Rodgers and the Packers get back to the Super Bowl? (Sporting News)

Not a major run team, the Packers finished 29th in rushing attempts last year. No need to run that much when you have Aaron Rodgers, but Ty Montgomery showed he is very capable of moving the chains, after rushing for 5.9 yards per carry last year. Granted it was only 77 attempts, we don’t know how Montgomery will do as the number one, but Jamaal Williams, more of a pure running back, could slide in and have a major role. These backs should have good protection with Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari manning the edges.

The receiving core is among the best in the NFL. Jordy Nelson is arguably a top 5 receiver, and Davante Adams took a major leap in his third season, hauling in 12 touchdowns. Randall Cobb has slightly regressed, but is still a valid option. The tight end trio of Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, and Richard Rodgers, could cause serious matchup problems for defenses.

A decent defensive line, a below average linebacker core, and essentially no help at corner, the defense is a bit lackluster. However, no problem at safety, with Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Nick Perry, who is dealing with an ankle injury, recorded 11 sacks last year. So there is some talent on this side of the ball, but it’s hard to forget that this team allowed the second most passing yards, and the fourth most passing touchdowns, a season ago.

A monster regular season is coming for Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. 13-3 is very in reach. Lack of passing defense will deter this team from going to the Super Bowl, but the Packers should cruise in the regular season.

 

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NFC eye test predictions: 9-5

 

We continue with our NFC eye test predictions.

9. New Orleans Saints

Some people might think this team is ranked too high, but they have managed to win seven games in each of the last three seasons. Sean Payton is not the problem, and Drew Brees is still a top quarterback, but the defense keeps this team from getting over the hump.

Even with the loss of Brandin Cooks, the Saints still have some nice targets. Michael Thomas is coming off a monster rookie season, and looks to be a legit number one target for years to come. Ted Ginn Jr can be effective if he can keep his eye on the ball, and Willie Snead is good for a few big plays here and there. Even Coby Fleener has turned into a reliable option at tight end.

Lethal Backfield. (4for4.com)

Not only do they have the super talented Mark Ingram in the backfield, but New Orleans brought in Adrian Peterson, and drafted Alvin Kamara out of Tennessee. While AP is a little out of his prime, he is still very elusive and looks to be in great shape. This three headed monster of a backfield could take some pressure off Brees if they can stay healthy.

Brees and this Saints offense should have no problem lighting up the scoreboard, especially with their talented offensive line. Terrod Armstead is ahead of schedule after shoulder surgery, and we know Max Unger, Zach Strief, and Larry Warford are skilled vets.

The loss of Nick Fairley puts this already abysmal defense in an even deeper hole. Defensive end Cam Jordan is still there, and hopefully 2016 first round pick defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins can slide right in as a starter.

This could arguably be the worst linebacker and secondary core in the league. Manti Te’o needs his fake girlfriend back because that is the last time he was actually good at football. There’s not much to expect from the rest, and as far as the secondary goes, this team allowed more passing yards than anyone in the league last year.

After reading about this defense, you would think this team wouldn’t win more than three games, but soon to be Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, still has the abilities to carry the load. They won’t get into the playoffs, but the offense is too good to not win at least seven or eight games.

 

8. Arizona Cardinals

Let’s be honest, the window for this team to make a run has closed. Bruce Arians is still an awesome coach, but Carson Palmer is so washed up. After three straight double digit win seasons, the Cardinals fell to 7-8-1. In the 13 games Palmer played in, he threw 18 interceptions. I used to love this guy at USC, and in Cincinnati, but that was eons ago.

David Johnson is clearly one of the best, if not, the best running back this game has to offer. D.J Humphries and Jared Veldheer are switching sides on the line, so let’s see if that helps Johnson get even better. Larry Fitzgerald has yet to lose a step, but father time is undefeated. So if he goes down or looks a bit slower, can Arizona trust John or Jaron Brown to step up? Probably not.

With Calais Campbell now in Jacksonville, the Cardinals have one of the worst defensive lines in football. Arizona fans better hope former first round pick, Robert Nkemdiche, can fill Campbell’s shoes.

Now to the fun part of Arizona. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden combined for 23.5 sacks last year. Haason Riddck on the inside could be problem for offenses, and former Bengal Karlos Dansby is one of the most reliable players in the game.

The return of the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu, when healthy, is in the arguement for best defensive player in the league. His mentor, Patrick Peterson, continues to play at an elite level. The loss of Tony Jefferson stings a bit, but Antoine Bethea is a nice replacement.

This team has shown in the past they are capable of big things, but besides David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, it is hard to trust the offense with 37-year-old Carson Palmer running the show. This is an eight-win team.

 

7. Dallas Cowboys

This team is not missing the playoffs just because Ezekiel Elliot is going to be suspended. The fact of the matter is this, Dak Prescott is overrated. Not counting the last game of the regular season, since he barely played, Prescott had eight games in which he either did not throw for a touchdown, or threw for one. He’s just not that good, and this year, he will get exposed.

Overrated? (star-telegram.com)

Whether Elliot gets suspended or not, the running game will not falter. The offensive line is still top notch, and Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris both can still move. Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are a good receiving core, and Jason Witten still looks like good ol’ Jason Witten.

However, Dallas’ defensive line is awful. Randy Gregory needs serious help, as he will most likely never suit up again. As far as the linebackers, Sean Lee is obviously a monster, and Anthony Hitchens can play, but will Jaylon Smith ever be the same player after his devastating injury?

Did anyone lose more secondary players than the Cowboys? Brandon Carr? Ravens. Barry Church? Jaguars. Morris Claiborne? Jets. J.J Wilcox? Bucs. A lot of question marks on this side of the field.

Dak is overrated, and the defense is bad. Dallas will fall back to Earth and go back to being a .500 team.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons

The Super Bowl hangover is coming straight for Atlanta. Now I don’t think they will miss the playoffs, but I don’t see the Falcons winning the division this year.

What we saw of Matt Ryan last year is the best we will ever see of him. Before last season, Ryan and the Falcons had three straight seasons of eight wins or less. He’s also had double digit interception seasons in seven of his nine years. Ryan has only had two 30+ passing touchdown seasons. He’s good, but Matt Ryan is no superstar.

Ryan is extremely blessed that he has Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in his backfield, as well as an elite offensive line led by Alex Mack. It must be nice to throw the ball to Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. No wonder this was the number one offense a year ago.

The defensive line is rather weak, but the linebacker core, led by the young studs Vic Beasley and Deion Jones, is among the best in the league. Don’t sleep on Duke Riley making an immediate impact as well.

Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal lead a solid secondary, but let’s not forget that this team’s defense, last year, was among the worst in points allowed (27th) and yards allowed (25th).

The defense isn’t great, and Matt Ryan will go back to being Matt Ryan. However, the offense is so talented that they will muster off 9-10 wins.

 

5. Minnesota Vikings

The Teddy Bridgewater injury is incredibly sad, but let’s not sleep on Sam Bradford. In fifteen games last year, Bradford went for 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He is still only 29 years of age. Injuries have plagued most of his career, but this season could be Bradford’s best.

Secondary Swag: Rhodes and Smith (Star Tribune)

Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have turned into extremely dependable receivers, and Kyle Rudolph racked up seven touchdowns last season. The backfield is packed with some sneaky talent. Dalvin Cook looks to be the guy, and could be a true sleeper, after falling to the second round. The other backs, Latavius Murray, and Jerick McKinnon, have shown that they can excel at this level.

The reason this team is ranked so high is because of their defense. Good luck to opposing offenses with Everson Griffin, Danielle Hunter, Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph manning the line for Minnesota.

Chad Greenway’s retirement hurts the linebacker core, but Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks should be just fine.

Safety Harrison Smith, when healthy, is as elite as they come, and Xavier Rhodes is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection.

Bradford is poised to have a great year with his offensive weapons, and the defense will continue to be among the best. The Vikings will win 10 games and get back in the playoffs, and, thankfully, Blair Walsh won’t be there to blow it this time.

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NFC predictions

NFC eye test predictions: 16-10

The preseason really sucks. Julian Edelman and Spencer Ware both look to be done for the year. Can you believe Blake Bortles was named the starter in Jacksonville?

Anyways, after wrapping up the AFC eye test predictions, we now move over to the NFC.

16. Chicago Bears 

Mike Glennon has looked absolutely horrendous in the preseason. There is a real possibility that Mitchy Touchdowns (Trubisky) will be the starter week 1.

In March, Glennon signed a 3-year deal with Chicago, worth up to $45 million. This reminds me a lot of when Russell Wilson swooped in and stole the job from Matt Flynn after Flynn signed a hefty deal with Seattle. Let’s hope Trubisky can have a similar effect.

NFC predictions

Is it already Mitchy Touchdowns time? (Photo from USA Today)

If you happen to accidentally flip the channel to a Bears game, at least look for Jordan Howard. As a rookie last year, Howard rushed for over 1,300 yards in 15 games. He could have another monster year if the quarterback can at least keep the defense honest.

Unfortunately, if Trubisky or Glennon have trouble moving the chains, then we could see what we saw last year with Todd Gurley and the Rams. Defenses knew the Rams couldn’t pass, so they would stack the box and make it nearly impossible for Gurley to be effective. Howard will be relying heavily on the passing game, in order to have another solid year.

Side note: the Bears offensive line is actually really good. Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long are quite the trio.

As far as targets, the Bears signed Victor Cruz, who is totally out of his prime. Kevin White looks to be their top option, and he is a major question mark. I am a believer in White, but let’s see if he can stay on the field for the entirety of the season. Did you know that Zach Miller and Cameron Meredith led all Chicago pass catchers with four touchdowns last year? Yeah, this will be one of the worst receiving teams in football, especially after Meredith’s injury.

If only Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman were still on the team. Fortunately, there are a few bright spots. Akiem Hicks is pretty reliable on the line. Leonard Floyd is coming off a nice seven-sack rookie season. Jerrell Freeman looked solid last year at inside linebacker.

Bringing in Quintin Demps is nice, but the secondary will continue to struggle. Did you know that the last time the Bears held opposing quarterbacks to a collective passer rating less than 93.5 for an entire season was back in 2013? That is terrible.

We know Glennon is awful, and we have no idea what to expect from Trubisky. There are no reliable targets, and anyone can pass all over this team. I’m rooting for Mitchy Touchdowns and Chicago, but this looks to be a 3-13 season.

 

15. San Francisco 49ers

The Niners may not be good, but they are at least headed in the right direction. Obviously if Brian Hoyer is your quarterback, you won’t win too many games, but they made some nice upgrades on the defense. After being the 32nd ranked defense a year ago, it made sense to beef up this side of the ball.

Carlos Hyde is solid at the running back position, but the offensive line is pretty pathetic. Pierre Garcon is a decent No. 1 receiver, and Marquise Goodwin is a pretty quick dude. Kyle Shanahan can maybe draw up some nice plays to utilize his speed.

Not only did the 49ers bring in a new coach, but also brought in Robert Saleh as the new defensive coordinator. The defensive line is young, but could blossom into something special. In the last three drafts, San Francisco has picked a defensive lineman with their top pick, including Solomon Thomas, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead all have serious potential. Last season, the 49ers allowed over 150 rushing yards on 10 different occasions so let’s hope these young bucks can figure it out fast.

Reuben Foster could be the steal of the draft, after the Alabama linebacker fell to the 31th pick. He probably won’t start right away, as former Super Bowl MVP, Malcolm Smith, will man the weakside. NaVorro Bowman is coming off another achilles tear, so let’s hope the 29-year-old can bounce back.

Not much to say about the secondary. Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward don’t play like former first-round players, and the corners are weak. Hopefully Saleh can turn this secondary around.

Shanahan has been in this league since 2008 and just took part in the Super Bowl. With that said, he knows how to win games. The defense is on the come up, and Brian Hoyer is decent enough to win a few games. This team won’t win more than five games, but they will continue to improve.

 

14. Los Angeles Rams

Thank the NFL gods that Mr. 8-8 (Jeff Fisher) is not running this team anymore. I don’t care what anyone says, that guy is a scrub. Yes, Sean McVay is only 31, but they got Wade Phillips controlling the defense, who has been in the NFL since 1976. I love the face lift for this squad, and it is time to believe in Jared Goff.

Goff looks like he will do just fine in the NFL. To help protect him, LA brought in Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan. These guys will also play major roles in making sure Todd Gurley has a bounce-back year. If you’re a fantasy guy, Gurley is a fantastic pick. He is slipping in drafts due to last year’s skid, but the new o-line will boost Gurley back to the top.

NFC predictions

Expect a monster comeback season for Gurley. (Photo from Los Angeles Times)

If Sammy Watkins is healthy, he is a top talent in this league. He will immediately become Goff’s favorite target, mostly because there is no one else to throw to. Robert Woods is decent, but paying Tavon Austin was a horrible decision, as he is in the scrub category with Fisher.

The Rams need Aaron Donald to end his holdout, ASAP. Donald is one of the best players in the NFL, so they might want to figure this whole thing out. Donald carries the three-man front, but Michael Brockers is a nice nose tackle.

The names at linebacker should scare some teams. Connor Barwin will fit in nicely with Phillips’ scheme, but Robert Quinn needs to get back to his 2013 self when he recorded 19 sacks. Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree need to improve defending the run, but overall, both are solid.

Trumaine Johnson is a nice talent at corner, but the rest of the secondary is a bit suspect. Overall, this defense has some nice names and should keep the Rams in a lot of games.

With a young head coach and a young quarterback, the Rams will be exciting to watch. Don’t be surprised if Goff takes a major leap, but this looks to be a six-win team.

 

13. Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins deserved a long-term deal, but nonetheless, here we are again with the franchise tag on the above average quarterback.

Even with the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, Washington still has some nice weapons. Terrelle Pryor Sr. will have a monster year, you heard it here first. Jordan Reed will continue to do Jordan Reed things. Jamison Crowder is also a legit target and coming off a seven-touchdown season.

Washington has built a top-notch offensive line with Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses. Rob Kelley is coming off a decent rookie season, so you never know what to expect from him. Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine will also be playing key roles in the run game.

The defense is not too pretty. Drafting Jonathan Allen with the 17th pick was a great selection, but this is one of the worst defensive lines in football. Ryan Kerrigan is a force to be reckoned with, but Trent Murphy’s four-game suspension puts Washington in a tough spot.

In his first year with the Redskins, Josh Norman did not play up to his hefty contract. The addition of D.J. Swearinger will be interesting, and Su’a Cravens strictly playing safety could be something to keep an eye on.

Cousins and the Redskins are good, but they are the fourth-best team in their division. They lost some key pieces to the offense and have major question marks on the defensive line. You got to love anyone related to Jon Gruden, but Jay’s team will have a hard time rattling off more than six wins.

 

12. Detroit Lions

Detroit has won at least seven games in each of the past four years. They will keep this trend going in 2017. Did Calvin Johnson make Matt Stafford look better than he actually is? Perhaps, but Stafford is still a really solid quarterback.

The Lions rarely run the ball, but if they choose to up the carries, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are a stable duo. The additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang will help with protection, but Taylor Decker’s injury hurts a lot.

NFC predictions

Does Matt Stafford have enough support to win? (Photo from Sporting News)

After Golden Tate, the remainder of the weapons are questionable. Marvin Jones Jr. got off to a hot start last year, but was inconsistent the rest of the way. Eric Ebron is another player who cannot be depended on.

Detroit’s weak pass defense can be credited to their below-average defensive line. Ziggy Ansah was battling injures all of last year and will hopefully be ready to go to by week 1. Kerry Hyder had eight sacks last year, so maybe he will keep up his nice play.

The linebacker play has been extremely weak of recent, so the Lions took Jarrad Davis with their first pick. This is a young position for Detroit, so expect a few blunders.

It doesn’t get any prettier in the secondary, but hopefully Glover Quin and Darius Slay can be effective pass defenders for this Lions’ defense.

Somehow, this team manages to always float around .500. Stafford is good, and the offense has potential, but the defense will keep this team from postseason play. Just like in 2013 and 2015, Detroit will win seven games.

 

11. Philadelphia Eagles 

This might irk some people, but let’s be honest. Ginger quarterbacks do not lead teams to titles. It just doesn’t happen.

The Carson Wentz hype train is completely full, but I am not riding it. The dude only threw 16 touchdowns last year, along with a hefty 14 interceptions. The Eagles were 22nd in total yards. Do we just expect these numbers to sky rocket all of a sudden? Absolutely not.

LaGarrette Blount thrived in New England, but so does everyone. No chance he does as well, even with their elite offensive line headlined by Lane Johnson and Jason Peters. Alshon Jeffery is good, not great. Torrey Smith is washed up. Nelson Agholor is nothing special. Zach Ertz is a decent tight end, but Wentz isn’t going to wake up tomorrow and turn into Donovan McNabb. This kid still has a lot of growing to do.

Like their offensive line, the Eagles defensive line is also very good. Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are problems at the end positions, and Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive tackles in the game.

Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham man a pretty solid linebacker core, but other than Malcolm Jenkins, the secondary is abysmal.

Both offensive and defensive lines are elite, but lack of skill at quarterback and secondary positions is concerning. Just like last year, the Eagles will finish 7-9.

 

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you’re watching Hard Knocks, then you know this isn’t a playoff team. In all honesty, Jameis Winston looks like the most lovable dude ever. I would legit run through a wall for him, but he’s not there yet. He needs to buy into football more instead of being such a clown. Less turnovers and more studying of the playbook.

NFC predictions

DYNAMIC DUO. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

The Adderall Hamster, Doug Martin, is out the first three games, which leaves Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims in charge of running the football. Yeah, not too confident, especially with a bad offensive line.

Actually though, might as well show some love to this squad. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will eat, and O.J. Howard could have a nice rookie year. Let’s hope Winston can get them the ball.

Gerald McCoy and Chris Baker are not only stars of Hard Knocks, but also big-time NFL linemen. These two man a very solid defensive line, along with Robert Ayers and William Gholston.

Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will hold down the linebacker position, and Brent Grimes will lead a younger secondary. Vernon Hargreaves III could turn into something after a decent rookie season.

Still, this team plays in a tough division. The targets on offense are nice, and their defensive line is special. But the offensive line is weak, and Jameis turns the ball over too much. This team has potential, but won’t win more than eight games.

 

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AFC eye test predictions: 4-1

It’s week 3 of the preseason. Will Mike Glennon continue his poor play and hand the job off to Mitchy Touchdowns? Is “The Scott Rocket” Tolzien ready to go incase Andrew Luck is unable to start the season? Is it time to sit Blake Bortles and pour the (Chad) Henne? Will Brock Osweiler make a statement and become the obvious choice for the Browns?

Does any of this even matter since all of these teams are trash? To be honest, not really. So wrapping up our AFC eye test predictions, we have the four best teams from the conference.

4. Tennessee Titans

The week 1 quarterbacks in the AFC South will most likely be Marcus Mariota, Scott Tolzien, Blake Bortles and Tom Savage. Do any of these guys seem like a threat to the Titans? Absolutely not.

The Jaguars can’t move the chains, the Texans are only good on one side of the ball, and the Colts are so terrible that even when Luck returns, they still won’t have enough pieces to consistently win games.

AFC eye test predictions: 4-1

Mariota continues to impress. (titans online.com)

Let’s start with the leader behind center, Marcus Mariota. An absolute workhorse, Mariota has gained all of his teammates’ respect, on and off the field. The humble 23-year-old is coming off a sophomore campaign that included 28 total touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. This kid is good, and all has the physical talent in the world.

The Titans love to run the ball, and who wouldn’t if you had DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in your backfield? Last year, Murray ran for over 1,200 yards, and Henry averaged 4.5 yards per carry. A lethal backfield, expect more big numbers from these two, especially with Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin headlining one of the best offensive lines.

Tennessee ran heavily last year, mostly because of the lack of targets in the passing game. This year will be much different. The Titans drafted Western Michigan’s Corey Davis with the fifth pick in this year’s draft. Davis has drawn a lot of comparisons to Terrell Owens. They also brought in Eric Decker, who arguably has the most beautiful wife in the game. Delanie Walker is sneakily of the best tight ends in the NFL, and Rishard Matthews had a really solid season during his first year with the Titans.

Is the defense a tad sketchy? Maybe, but bringing in Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cybrien are huge pickups. Jurrell Casey is really good, and Daquan Jones isn’t bad, but the defensive line isn’t too strong.

The linebacker duo of Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo should be solid, and Avery Williamson defends the run extremely well.

Based off offseason additions, a weak division and growth from Mariota, the Titans should get to 11 wins.

3. Oakland Raiders

It’s still Oakland right? Look, last year, before Derek Carr’s injury, this team was a legit threat to New England.

Derek Carr has turned into a franchise quarterback, and the addition of Marshawn Lynch will only help their strong run game. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are two of the better receivers this game has to offer. Oakland even added Cordarelle Patterson and Jared Cook, to help build a premier offense.

AFC eye test predictions: 4-1

Boys Club. Marshawn Lynch and Derek Carr (reviewjournal.com)

The Raiders offensive line allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL. Huge news: Donald Penn is ending his holdout. Along with Penn, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Kelechi Osemele, Oakland, much like Tennessee, has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

We all know about Khalil Mack being one of the best pure talents this game has, but besides Mack and Bruce Irvin, the rest of the defense is a bit unreliable.

They have constantly been trying to fix the secondary, with Karl Joseph, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson, but they still have work to do. This year, in the first two rounds, they drafted cornerback Gareon Conley and defensive back Obi Melifonwu. Both could step in if needed.

Carr won 12 of his 15 games last year, and I expect similar results for Oakland. Although in a tough division, the Raiders should have no problem rattling off 11-12 wins.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Hate Mike Tomlin all you want, but the guy has won double digit games in seven of his ten seasons as head coach of the Steelers.

While Big Ben is getting up there in age, he is still a top five quarterback. They have the best running back in football, Le’Veon Bell, who will hopefully return soon from his holdout. Nonetheless, James Connor’s story is super inspirational, and the guy has shown that he can ball at this level.

AFC eye test predictions: 4-1

The return of Martinis Bryant only helps Antonio Brown and the rest of the Steelers offense (behindthesteelcurtain.com)

They also have one of the best wide receivers in football, Antonio Brown. The return of Martavis Bryant means business will be booming for this offense. The Steelers have scored 30 or more points in almost half of the games in which Bryant is a part of. Let’s hope he can pass all of his drug tests, or at least find ways to get around them.

The only thing stopping this team from beating New England is the defense. The secondary is abysmal. Cam Heyward’s return is nice, but besides him and Tuitt, the rest of the line is debatable. James Harrison continues to do insane workouts, which means he will be ready to go, even at 39. Ryan Shazier is coming off his first Pro Bowl, so the linebacker core should be solid.

Great coach, elite quarterback, elite weapons. This is another double digit win season for the Steelers. They are traveling the least amount of miles in the NFL. Expect 12 wins.

1. New England Patriots

Bill Belichick is the coach. Tom Brady is the quarterback. They added Brandin Cooks to ball with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

AFC eye test predictions: 4-1

New England’s mood all year (washingtontimes.com)

Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead will beef up the running game, which includes Dion Lewis and Super Bowl hero James White.

Trey Flowers showed that he can perform on the highest stage, sacking Matt Ryan on multiple occasions during last year’s Super Bowl. Malcom Brown and Alan Branch are extremely dependable.

Dont’a Hightower and David Harris are monsters. Malcolm Butler is now paired up with Stephon Gilmore. Devin McCourty is lockdown, and Patrick Chung’s versatility is nice to have.

This team is favored in every game. They have the best coach, and best quarterback ever. Arguably the best roster Tom Brady has ever had, it seems like 19-0 is easily attainable. To be fair to some of the other teams, I have them at 14-2.

 

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AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

We continue our eye test predictions with some of the average to above average AFC teams. Here’s my AFC eye test predictions: 9-5.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

The fact that Andy Dalton does not turn the ball over nearly as much as he used to is obviously a plus, but he’ll never be more than average. If he wasn’t a red head, would we look at him differently? Probably, but he’s only had one season with at least 30 passing touchdowns, and that came with 20 interceptions. It seems like the window has closed for the Red Rocket and this Bengals team after only winning six games last year.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

Has the window closed for Andy Dalton and the Bengals? (cbssports.com)

Let’s start with some positives. A.J. Green is elite and will continue his big time play. Tyler Eifert has shown that he is a top-tier tight end. The addition of John Ross is cool, even though there is no way he ran a faster 40 time than CJ2K.

As far as the running game, Jeremy Hill isn’t great, and Giovani Bernard, a wannabe Darren Sproles, is coming off a torn ACL. Drafting Joe Mixon is interesting because he could turn into a quality running back.

Hill and Mixon could be a nice 1-2 punch, knocking out defenses and making head coaches lose sleep. Although these backs have potential, they won’t have enough offensive line help. Losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zietler is a devastating blow to the offense.

The Bengals defense could keep this team afloat. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are studs. Vontaze Burfict is really good, but we all know he will find a way to get suspended with an illegal hit. As far as the secondary, if it’s 2017 and Pacman Jones is your best corner, there is a clear problem. Dre Kirkpatrick got paid this offseason, so it is time to deliver.

Cincinnati is travelling the second lowest amount of miles this year, which is a good sign, but this team won’t win more than eight games. In a tough division with an average quarterback, a bad offensive line and a weak secondary, the Bengals will continue to be the Bengals.

8. Baltimore Ravens

Is Joe Flacco elite? Well, he was during that one Super Bowl run, but besides that, he is just a decent quarterback. With Flacco set to be back by week one, the Ravens should be in decent shape, but do they have enough on offense?

Marshall Yanda is one of the best guards this game has seen, but losing starting offensive tackle Ricky Wagner is a shot to the heart. Terrance West told fantasy owners to scoop him, so maybe we should trust him? Danny Woodhead is the king of grit, but recent injuries are obviously concerning.

Jeremy Maclin looks to be the clear number one, and maybe Mike Wallace will continue to produce. But, is Breshad Perriman good? The former first-round pick is dealing with a hamstring injury and has been out of practice for a while. Dennis Pitta’s unfortunate injury and release from the team leaves a question mark at tight end.

Brandon Williams, the NFL’s highest-paid nose tackle, has shown his ability to perform, but besides him, the rest of the defensive line is sketchy. Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley are obviously dope, but the Ravens also lost Elvis Dumervil and Zach Orr.

The brightest spot on this roster is probably the secondary. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are arguably the best safety combo in the league, and the addition of Brandon Carr is massive.

Still, I don’t see this team making a playoff run. There are too many questions on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense lost some crucial names. The Ravens are in talks with bringing back Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah, but even with his addition, the offensive line is not too pretty. There is no way this team wins the division, but eight wins is definitely possible.

7. Miami Dolphins

Jay Cutler is back baby! Ryan Tannehill’s injury is obviously painful for Dolphins fans, but do we understand that he only threw 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and the team still won 10 games? Tannehill is basically just a worse version of Alex Smith. The only reason Miami should be upset is because we probably won’t be seeing Lauren Tannehill on television.

Real quick, just wanted to let everyone know that no one is getting disrespected more in this situation than Matt Moore. Moore is 15-13 as a starter and showed last year that he can win with this team. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins consider rolling with him after a few weeks.

Nonetheless, Miami has decided to go with Cutler. The mainstream media has told everyone hundreds of times that Cutler will be good since he is reuniting with Adam Gase. The problem is, Cutler has never really been that great. No one cares about how good his arm is and how he moves well outside of the pocket, the dude is 34 and has only made the playoffs once.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

Don’t sleep on Jarvis Landry emerging as a top receiver (billboard.com)

Still, Cutler is joining a really good roster. Jay Ajayi cleared concussion protocol and looks to be ready to go. Ajayi is coming off a huge year, in which he had over 1,200 rushing yards, including three games of at least 200 yards on the ground.

Jarvis Landry is probably the most underrated wide out in the game. Kenny Stills is a great deep target, and DeVante Parker has shown potential of being legit. Julius Thomas’ reunion with Adam Gase could be special.

The loss of Branden Albert hurts the line, but Laremy Tunsil’s move to left tackle could be a good one. Hopefully Mike Pouncey can stay healthy for the entire season as well.

Whether you respect him or not, Ndamukong Suh is a beast. Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes and first-rounder Charles Harris should all be key factors in slowing down the opposition’s running game. Byron Maxwell is a good fit in Miami, and Reshad Jones, who is coming off a major injury, looks to get back to his 2015 Pro-Bowl self. Veterans Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso will also be important in making sure the Dolphin’s don’t end up the 30th ranked defense again.

As you can see, this roster is full of talent. Unfortunately, Cutler and the Dolphins will fall just short. The most games Cutler has ever won is 10, which was done in his age 27 and 29 season. At 34, I can see Cutler helping this talented team to eight or nine wins, but nothing more.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

“GO CHARGERS GO” *Arnold Schwarzenegger voice*. Just like in the 2013-14 NFL season, the AFC West will be sending three teams into the playoffs. Philip Rivers is awesome and is going to be a Hall of Famer. Although he threw a lot of picks last year, River is a savvy vet and has never had back-to-back years with at least 16 interceptions.

After not scoring a single touchdown in his rookie season, Melvin Gordon decided to be good at football again. During his sophomore campaign, Gordon had 12 total touchdowns. Their offensive line isn’t great, but you should still expect Gordon to eclipse his first 1,000 yard rushing season.

The Chargers expect this year’s first-round pick, former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, to be back in October. Williams will join Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin, both guys who can make serious plays. Antonio Gates is somehow still in the league, and his successor, Hunter Henry, played really well last year.

Jason Verrett is back, and Casey Hayward sneaky led the league in interceptions last year. Coming off winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Joey Bosa will man possibly the best defensive line in football. Melvin Ingram’s conversion from linebacker will be electric, and Brandon Mebane is back working with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, which is a huge plus.

Look, the defense is good. Philip Rivers is still a top-tier quarterback, and once Williams is healthy, the offense could be special. Even with a relatively hard schedule and a lot of miles to travel, the Chargers will win nine games and sneak into the playoffs.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

If you don’t love Andy Reid, you probably don’t like football. Since taking over as head coach in 2013, Reid has led the Chiefs to four straight winning seasons, including a 12-win season a year ago. The year before Reid was the coach, the team managed to only win two games. What do you expect when Matt Cassel is your quarterback?

Since Alex Smith took over, the team is 43-21. Alex “The Game Manager” Smith, won’t wow you with his stats, but his ability to keep his team in games by not turning the ball over is good enough to generate wins. The last time Smith had double digit interceptions was seven years ago. He has yet to lead a team to a Super Bowl, but he deserves a bit more credit.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

The Tyreek Hill magic will continue in KC (kansascity.com)

Although their offensive line is young, they are good enough to help move the chains. Eric Fisher has shown improvements after many people were skeptical about the former number one overall pick.

As far as running the ball, we should see a mix of some solid backs. When Jamaal Charles went down last year, Spencer Ware was able to rush for almost 1,000 yards. Charcandrick West is a nice spark off the bench, and Kareem Hunt could be one of the biggest sleepers this year.

With these three heads, along with Tyreek Hill mixing in a few big runs, expect a productive rushing season for Kansas City.

With Maclin gone, Hill should step into that number one receiver spot. All this kid does is make big time plays. Travis Kelce, although somewhat of a diva, is one of the best tight ends in the game. When the Chiefs won 11 games in 2013, Jamaal Charles was their leading receiver, so don’t worry too much about losing Maclin.

If Justin Houston can stay healthy, this defense will be an absolute force. Veterans Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are getting up there in age, but will still remain productive. Losing Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard hurts, but the emergence of Chris Jones should give this team one of the best front seven units in all of football.

Eric Berry is a legend, both on and off the field, and Marcus Peters is among the top corners in the sport, but after these two stars, there is a slight drop-off. Still, these guys are good enough to keep teams from testing them. The last time the Chiefs weren’t a top 10 defense, in regards to points allowed, was back in 2012, before Reid took over.

The defense is legit, Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the game, and Alex Smith keeps the offense on the field. This is at least a 10-win team.

 

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