NFL top 100 players 2017: 90-81

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the second installment, containing players 90-81.

90. Malcolm Butler, CB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Malcolm Butler (photo by twitter.com)

Butler has gone from unknown out of the University of West Alabama, to Super Bowl hero, to one of the best corners in the league. He put his talents on display last season with 63 total tackles, four interceptions, 16 passes defended, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a sack.

He will pair with number 97 on our list, Stephon Gilmore, to create a great cornerback tandem. The Patriots had the best scoring defense in the league and ranked 12th against the pass. That rank will only get better this season with Butler improving from year to year and Gilmore on the other side of the field.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get a lot of the praise, and deservedly so, but Butler and the defense are good enough to get some recognition too.

Comments: “I personally have Butler much higher on my list. Butler isn’t always asked to cover the elite receivers, but he’s proven to be excellent in coverage. Only 50 percent of the passes thrown his direction get completed. On average, he holds receivers well below their average in yards per game. He was essential to a Patriots secondary that played a major factor in getting New England a fifth Super Bowl ring.”-Blake Van Poucke

89. Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Josh Norman (Photo by washingtonpost.com)

It was a tumultuous, but effective first year in the nation’s capital for Norman. People criticized him for only playing one side of the field, not understanding what type of corner he is. He finished the season with 67 total tackles, three interceptions, 19 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

While Washington’s pass defense wasn’t good last year, ranking 25th in the NFL, Norman usually did a solid job of shutting down his side of the field. The rest of the Redskins’ secondary let the team down. In 2017, teams will still try to avoid throwing the ball to Norman’s side of the field because they can do so much damage throwing away from him.

Norman may get headlines for getting into scuffles with notable wide receivers, but he can play and it will show once again in 2017.

Comments: “Norman experienced maybe the biggest drop off from his first team all-pro 2015 with the Panthers after being moved to the Redskins. Nevertheless, he only experienced a small drop in production while taking on a smaller role on Washington’s secondary. He wasn’t the shutdown corner he was in 2015, but he was still very effective.”-Blake Van Poucke

88. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Sean Lee (Photo by nfl.com)

Lee had a phenomenal 2017 with 146 total tackles, one pass defended and one fumble recovery. There is a noticeable difference when he is on the field and healthy for the Cowboys as opposed to when he is not.

One of the things Lee is known for the most is that he is injury prone, as he has never played all 16 games in a season. Staying healthy is a key for him to stay on this list, but if he does and performs like previous years, he will deserve his slot. Last year Dallas had the fifth-best scoring defense in the league and with an emphasis on drafting defensive players and controlling the clock on offense, Lee should be able to have another great season.

Playing under Rod Marinelli, Lee has thrived and there is no reason, other than injury, to think he won’t continue to thrive for the Cowboys.

Comments: “Sean Lee is one of the best linebackers in the league. The Cowboys look so much better on the defensive side of the ball when Lee is healthy. He is a tackle machine and is the heart and soul of the defense. If Lee can stay healthy, his spot on this list is almost guaranteed.”-Joe DiTullio

87. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

NFL Top 100

Marcus Mariota (Photo by titansonline.com)

In his second season in the NFL, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 61% completion. His career is trending upward as he only won three games as a starter during his rookie season, but ended up winning eight in his sophomore campaign.

The Titans are starting to build a legitimate offensive threat around their franchise quarterback. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry provide two good running backs that keep each other fresh behind a good offensive line, which features Taylor Lewan. Tennessee selected Corey Davis with the fifth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and will pair him with Eric Decker, whom they have recently just signed, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker.

With more weapons and another year of experience under his belt, look for Mariota to have a very successful 2017.

Comments: “Marcus Mariota is not getting the respect he deserves and is a top 45 player. He got injured in the 15th game and still put up 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Had Mariota stayed healthy I fully believe the Titans would have won the division. Mariota will be a top-five quarterback by the end of this season.” -Matthew Hagan

 86. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by upi.com)

A guy who didn’t play last season makes the top 100. “Beast Mode” has given a lot of people reason to believe in him over the years, but had a disappointing and injury-plagued 2015 season before retiring. The 31-year-old has 9,112 rushing yards and will be looking to tack on as many yards as possible in his new silver and black uniform.

Live-game action is something that can’t be substituted, so Lynch may not have the greatest of starts, but he will have one thing that many running backs over the age of 30 don’t have, fresh legs. Another thing Lynch has going for him in 2017? His offensive line is among the best in the NFL and should be able to clear him a lot of space before he is contacted.

Lynch partially makes the list because of his great career, but also partially because of how great the guys in front of him will be.

Comments: “Similar to Brandon Marshall, Marshawn Lynch only made this list off of reputation. Lynch is 31 years old and didn’t even play last season. There will be some rust and he won’t be the every down back for the Raiders. I will be surprised if Lynch rushes for more than 700 yards.” -Matthew Hagan

“He lives up to his nickname Beast Mode. It seems impossible to tackle him. He can explode up the middle and have that big run like he had against the Saints that made him known as Beast Mode. With his new home with the Raiders I see him having the same success with the offensive line in Oakland. I think he could be a little higher on this list especially in front of Demaryius Thomas.”- Craig Stogdill

85. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Jerrell Freeman (Photo by chicagobears.com)

Freeman was suspended for his use of PED’s in 2016, but still put up impressive numbers. He was left off of the NFL’s top 100 player list, but because this list focuses on how well the players will do in 2017, he makes the cut. In 12 games in 2016, Freeman recorded 112 total tackles and four passes defended.

Assuming he can stay on the field, Freeman is by far the best player on the Bears’ defense. He is good at both stopping the run and in coverage, which makes him a three-down linebacker.

In 2017 Freeman will continue to be the best player on the Bears’ defense and make top 100 lists.

Comments: “Freeman didn’t make a lot of top 100 lists because of his PED suspension last season. In 2017 Freeman will return to form and have another great season. His ability to cover makes him a very valuable player.”-Joe DiTullio

84. Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Justin Houston (Photo by cbssports.com)

Injuries have derailed Houston’s last two seasons, but in 2014 he had 22 sacks. He has had knee injuries, but now says he is healthy and ready to play. If he can stay healthy an regain his form he is one of the most dominant players in the league, but that is a big if.

Kansas City ranked 28th in sacks in 2017, but if Houston is healthy he should be able to help improve that number drastically. While knee injuries are never a good thing, Houston will be 28 this season, meaning that he should still be able to bounce back.

If Houston plays a healthy season, he will be on this list at season’s end, but if he gets hurt again, his best years are probably behind him.

Comments: “It’s a shame that Houston has only been able to play 16 games in the last two seasons. A fully healthy Justin Houston is still a top-five player in this league. 2013 is considered by many to be one of the greatest single seasons ever from a defensive end. He was still around a sack per game in 2016, but only got five games in. For the sake of entertainment, please stay healthy Justin Houston.”-Blake Van Poucke

83. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Demaryius Thomas (Photo by denverpost.com)

Thomas has made five straight Pro Bowls but saw his production dip last season. He had 1,083 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 90 receptions. These are all the lowest these stats have been since his second season in the league.

Most of this isn’t Thomas’ fault. He is still a good talent but has been playing with young quarterbacks who aren’t the most talented, yet. Evidence of this is his 62.5% catch percentage in 2016, which is the third highest in his career. Ultimately Thomas’ fate rests in the hands of the developing young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

While Thomas is a player anyone would want on their team, his production and ranking in 2017 may not match his actual talent.

Comments: “Demaryius Thomas is a really good player but the quarterback situation in Denver hurts him. Neither Paxton Lynch nor Trevor Siemian will be good enough to keep Thomas as a top 100 player. Unfortunately for receivers, being a top player is somewhat out of their hands.” -Matthew Hagan

“Last year was rough for DT. He didn’t have Peyton Manning to throw him the ball and played injured last season. But Thomas is still a big target with great speed for his size. He has the size of a tight end with the speed, agility and ball skills of a wide receiver. He can get up there and make that acrobatic catch. I think DT is ranked way too high only because of his situation and that 2017 won’t look any better”- Craig Stogdill 

82. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Top 100

Gerald McCoy (Photo by tampabay.com)

The Bucs have been lucky enough to have a consistently good player like McCoy on their team for seven seasons. Last year he continued his good production with 34 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered.

As a defensive tackle, his pass rushing numbers stand out with 42 career sacks in his seven seasons. In a division that features Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton, getting after the quarterback is a must. McCoy will have to be a great player once again to give the Bucs a chance to leap into the playoffs.

This season McCoy will be a top 100 player once again.

Comments: “This guy has been a stalwart on defense for the Bucs for a long time. He could be ranked higher just due to consistency. I expect that with his team finally in a real playoff push (last year a lot of things needed to happen for them to get in) he will exceed expectations, which are already pretty high.”- Robert Hanes

81. Phillip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL Top 100

Phillip Rivers (Photo by espn.com)

In the Chargers’ last season in San Diego, Rivers had a solid season, despite not having the best talent around him. He threw for 4,386 yards on 60.4% completion, with 38 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

That might not be the best stat-line, but he was throwing to Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman for the most part, who were virtual unknowns before the season. In 2017 the Chargers will have Keenan Allen back (pending his ability to stay healthy), rookie Mike Williams, a reliable Antonio Gates and an up and coming Hunter Henry to go along with Williams, Inman and Travis Benjamin.

Rivers is aging and will be 36 this season, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. With a better cast around him in 2017, look for him to keep on climbing up in the record books and be a top 100 player yet again.

Comments:“Rivers had one of his worst seasons as a pro last year and being 35 years old doesn’t help. He threw 21 interceptions and was the leader of the offense that committed the most turnovers per game last season. As this year goes by, fans will start to realize that it is time for the Chargers to move on and look for their next franchise quarterback.” -Matthew Hagan

“What Rivers did last season with no offensive line and a crop of receivers that no one knew about is nothing short of amazing. Based on last year this ranking is justified, but looking ahead to this season, with his new weapons and a better team overall, Rivers is going to have a very good season and is better than a lot of players ahead of him on this list.”- Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players: 100-91

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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 20-11

A good wide receiver one is important for any fantasy team. Last article, I featured some solid WR2s with WR1 upside. This list contains some low WR1s and some great number one receivers for your team.

20. Brandin Cooks (New England Patriots): How is it possible that the defending Super Bowl champs got even better? In this offseason, the Patriots made the blockbuster deal to acquire Saints stud Brandin Cooks. After playing under Drew Brees for the last two seasons, Cooks has gotten at least 75 receptions and 1,100 yards.

fantasy football wide receivers

(Photo credit: https://www.profootballfocus.com/brandin-cooks-wins-his-routes/)

Cooks was reliable and productive for the Saints last season. He ranked sixth in the league in yards per target with an even 10.0 and ranked 14th in yards after the catch with 383. Now he is playing alongside arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady.

With the Patriots Cooks will primarily be used in the slot. We’ll have to see how he adjusts to the slot more often in New England. He has the ability to be a top five wide receiver if he pans out in New England.

19. Terrelle Pryor (Washington Redskins): The breakout story of 2016 now takes his talents to Washington to play with Kirk Cousins. Cousins has already said that he wants to get Pryor the ball.

One of the NFL’s Swiss army knives, Pryor can do it all. Last season he had 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. In 2013 with the Raiders, Pryor rushed for 567 yards on 83 attempts. Now with Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson out of Washington, Pryor is the No. 1 receiver and there are good things to come from it.

18. Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers)- Last year I had so much hope for Keenan Allen. I drafted him early and was sure he would finish as a top ten receiver. He then tore his ACL in the end of the first half of the first game of the season. He has all the talent to be a stud receiver in this league, if he can stay healthy. Since he’s been in the league, he hasn’t played a full season.

As a matter of fact, he’s only played nine games over the past two seasons. In 2015, he was very efficient ranking third in catch rate. Now hopefully he can play a full season with Phillip Rivers, who has the ability to throw for 5,000 yards. If that does happen, Allen can be a top 10 receiver easily.

17. Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars): Another case of a wide receiver with high hopes who didn’t amount to much last season. When Blake Bortles’ production decreased, so did Robinson’s. He had 600 less receiving yards and eight less touchdowns than the season before.

Bortles, the king of garbage time, threw most of his touchdowns when the team was trailing in 2015. Robinson thrived in the red zone, especially when the Jags were behind. His production comes down to whether or not Robinson can get his numbers from 2015 back.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 20-11

(Jim Steve-USA TODAY Sports)

16. Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers): Davante Adams finally lived up to his expectations in 2016. While he had 997 yards and 12 touchdowns, owners can’t be expecting the same numbers as last year.

Behind the scenes, Adams wasn’t very efficient but he ranked 12th in production and tenth in yards after the catch with 408 yards. Last season Adams had nine drops which is way too many for a player like him. If he can improve his catch rate his yardage will improve.

The double digit touchdowns aren’t a lock to repeat, however 7-8 is reasonable for a player like Adams. It also helps that he’s playing under Aaron Rodgers. Expect low WR1 numbers from Davante Adams.

15. Sammy Watkins (Buffalo Bills): Like Keenan Allen, Watkins has the talent and ability to be a top five wide receiver if he can stay healthy. Just a year removed from a 1,000 yard season, Sammy Watkins followed it up with a horrid 430 yards in eight games.

The thing that makes Watkins different from the rest of the receivers on this list is how he’s top dog in Buffalo. There are little to no targets around Sammy Watkins. He has Zay Jones and Marquise Goodwin as his supporting cast which is a little scary.

The targets will be there for Sammy Watkins but he won’t break the bank with his yardage numbers. Tyrod Taylor has the ability to throw for around 3,200 yards so it will be hard for Watkins to get 1,300 yards, but he’s worth it at the right price.

14. Alshon Jeffrey (Philadelphia Eagles): I’ve never been a big fan of Alshon Jeffrey, and supported drafting him as a WR1 except for this year. Jeffrey is playing under a young quarterback in Carson Wentz. People have said that Alshon Jeffrey has been a disappointment over the last two seasons, but he has still eclipsed 800 yards in both of those years.

Now Jeffrey just needs to work on his red zone production. Jeffrey only caught four of his 12 targets in the red zone for only three touchdowns. If Jeffrey can improve his catch rate inside of 20 yards, he’ll be the number one receiver we’ve all been waiting for.

13. Deandre Hopkins (Houston Texans): The Brock Osweiler experiment didn’t last long in Houston. DeAndre Hopkins also never benefited from Osweiler being there. With his big arm and love for targeting tight ends, Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins never clicked like people thought they would. After saying that, he still had 954 yards and four touchdowns.

Now DeAndre Hopkins has Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson throwing him the ball and it isn’t much different. Savage started the last three games of the season and didn’t throw a single touchdown which isn’t good for fantasy owners. Watson probably won’t get the start until midseason, and even then it isn’t likely he’ll have an amazing rookie year. The touchdowns are going to lack again for Hopkins, but he has a chance to top 1,100 yards.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 20-11

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

12. Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos): Even with the horrible quarterback situation in Denver, Demaryius Thomas provided a good season. Thomas had 1,083 yards and five touchdowns.

He’s been as reliable as anyone in the league, with 1,000 receiving yards in each of his seasons since 2012. Thomas has been consistent since he entered the league, averaging 2.29 yards per route which is far better than the NFL average of 1.54.

He’s shown that he can play under any quarterback and still succeed. If he can get more touchdowns this season, then Demaryius Thomas will be a top 10 or a top five receiver easily.

11. Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys): Dez Bryant should be a top five wide receiver in this league. But now with the run heavy scheme that the Cowboys have, it’s hard for Bryant to put up top WR1 numbers. Couple that with the fact that he hasn’t played a full season since 2014, I’m nervous about Dez this year.

After putting up 796 yards and eight touchdowns last year, Dez is in line for a similar season this year. If he can stay healthy, he could easily put up 200 more yards and another touchdown or two. Dez won’t put up the numbers he did in 2014 behind Prescott and Elliot but if Dak Prescott can play like he did last year, 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns isn’t out of reach.

 

 

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“From our Haus to Yours”

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much.

This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the first installment, containing players 100-91.

100. Jordan Hicks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Jordan Hicks (Photo by philly.com)

Hicks only has two seasons in the NFL so far but has impressed. After gaining starting status for all of last season, he blossomed. He finished with 86 tackles, five interceptions, 11 passes defended, a fumble recovery and a sack.

The Eagles have made a commitment to improving their defense through the draft this season. They drafted Derek Barnett, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas with their first three picks. Philadelphia ranked 12th in the league as a scoring defense and should improve this year.

With other talented players like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, Hicks may not be the best player on his defense but should get even better as he progresses.

Comments: “Jordan Hicks is one of the best players under 25. Hicks can defend both the run and the pass. He even has a knack for creating turnovers. When we look back on the 2017-18 NFL season, it will look asinine that Hicks wasn’t in the top 50.” -Matthew Hagan

“Hicks is a purpose linebacker that can play inside or outside. He has the ability to drop in coverage and can also fight off blocks at the point of attack to stop the run. He may be the most underrated linebacker in football. The only thing that is holding Hicks from being a top-10 linebacker is injuries. If he can stay healthy, he should be higher on this list.” – Craig Stogdill

99. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Kawann Short (Photo by scout.com)

Players who are on the interior of the defensive line sometimes get overlooked, but Short is a great player and deserves his spot on this list. He went from 11 sacks in 2015 to 6 in 2016, but that still is good enough to have him tie for eighth in the league among defensive tackles.

Short will have to play under a new defensive coordinator in 2017, Steve Wilks. Wilks has been around the team as a secondary coach, so players should be able to be familiar with everything Wilks wants them to do. Carolina’s defense slipped in 2017, but they still have enough talent to be a good NFL defense.

While the defense did get worse last season, Short was the second-best player on the defense last year. He played all 16 games, which was something the best player on the defense didn’t do (this player will be seen later on in our rankings). Short is entering his prime and is in store for another big season.

Comments: Kawann Short is way too low on this list for my taste. His 11 sacks in 2015 to six sacks in 2016 drop off is not a big deal as an interior lineman. Short was third in quarterback hurries by a defensive tackle with 46 despite playing fewer snaps than the two players ranked higher than him. He is just as effective against the run as he is the pass. Short is just as important to the Panthers defense as Luke Kuechly and should be much higher than 99.” -Matthew Hagan

98. Janoris Jenkins, CB, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Janoris Jenkins (photo by giants.com)

Jenkins is a part of a defense that last season was second in the league in points allowed. He had his best season yet as a Giant and finished with three interceptions, 18 passes defended and a forced fumble. Although he doesn’t have a lot of interceptions he does a great job in coverage.

The Giants have better talent this season with Landon Collins going into his third season and Eli Apple entering his sophomore campaign. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had a good season last year, making their secondary one to watch. Dalvin Tomlinson was drafted to help an already good defensive line.

With all the talent on the Giants’ defense, Jenkins may not be the first name that comes to mind, but he will do his job effectively.

Comments: “After signing a massive free agent contract, critics believed he would have a down year in 2016. That was not the case. In fact, he had his best year in the NFL and proved he’s worthy to be a teams shutdown corner. He held quarterbacks to a passer rating of 65 on balls thrown his way and his completion percentage dropped from 61 percent to 50 percent on the potent Giants defense.”-Blake Van Poucke

“Jenkins is one of the best shutdown corners in the game. He plays his best game against the best receivers. He held Dez Bryant to a single catch in each meeting (Jenkins forced him to fumble on one of them) in 2016. Jenkins made his first Pro Bowl and I expect another one next season if he plays like last year. He is the best corner on his team he should be in front of DRC and Gilmore. “- Craig Stogdill

97. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Stephon Gilmore (Photo by cbssports.com)

The Patriots got another good corner when they signed Gilmore this offseason. Last year with the Bills, Gilmore had a career high in interceptions with five. He also added 12 passes defended and 48 total tackles.

Gilmore now bolsters the best scoring defense last year. He and Malcolm Butler are one of, if not the best corner tandems in the league. Look for Gilmore to be a reason the Patriots are one of the best defenses against the pass in 2017.

After winning the Super Bowl and acquiring players like Brandin Cooks and Gilmore, the Patriots don’t look like they will be slowing down any time soon.

Comments: Gilmore had a down year in terms of his man coverage, allowing 17.9 yards per pass thrown at him through the first nine weeks. He was slated to make a jump in 2016 to a top five cornerback. But, despite a few terrible games, he accounted for five interceptions in 2016 which is a career high. He will now play in a more sound defensive system with the Patriots and should return to a highly productive cornerback.”-Blake Van Poucke

96. Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Brandon Marshall (Photo by giants.com)

Full disclosure: Marshall had a bad 2016 season, but he was playing on the Jets. He only has three seasons of less than 1,000 receiving yards. Two years ago he had 1,502 receiving yards with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback. So, although he is aging, he should rebound for the Giants.

Marshall will be on an offense that should feature a good passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. will get his touches, but the rest of the receiving core, including Sterling Shepard, will have to fight for their touches. When Beckham Jr. is double-teamed, Marshall will be able to win his matchups and produce. Having Eli Manning throw the ball to him is a significant upgrade over what he has had for the last two seasons and most of his career.

If this list was based solely on how players were last year, Marshall wouldn’t be on this list. This season though, Marshall has a chance to reestablish himself and make a big impact for a playoff contender.

Comments: “Brandon Marshall should be nowhere close to being ranked on this list. Marshall made this list on reputation alone. Although he is getting a major improvement at quarterback, Marshall is going to be on an offense that features Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and rookie Evan Engram. These players are much younger and will take away receptions and yards from him. He will be more of a mentor than an actual threat. Marshall won’t even be a top 150 player this season.” -Matthew Hagan

 Even at 33, few have more natural talent than Marshall who had 109 catches just two years ago. Being around so much young talent and a real shot at a playoff run for the first time in his career will rejuvenate him in 2017.”- Dylan Streibig  

95. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Domique Roders-Cromartie (photo by sny.com)

Rodgers-Cromartie was already mentioned as being part of the good Giants’ defense. Last season he finished with six interceptions, 21 passes defended, one forced fumble and 49 total tackles.

Although Rodgers-Cromartie is now 30 years old, he showed last year that he isn’t wearing down. With Jenkins, Apple and him as their corners and Collins at safety, the Giants will be hard to throw on this season.

In 2017 Rodgers-Cromartie will be one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Comments: “Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the top corners in the NFL last season. Rodgers-Cromartie earned the second-best grade of his career last season from Pro Football Focus, and for good reason. His 16 total pass breakups last season were the fourth-most in the league, and he had the second-lowest QBR-against among corners last season at 56.6.” –Tim Miller

“DRC is a solid size corner at 6-2. He has a knack of being a ballhawk. He led his team in interceptions twice for the Giants. DRC helped improve the Giants when he moved to the inside to the slot. I wouldn’t put him in front of Gilmore or Jenkins.”- Craig Stogdill

94. Kelechi Osemele, OG, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Kelechi Osemele (photo by sfgate.com)

The Raiders had one of the best offensive lines in 2016 and Osemele was a huge reason why. Oakland ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and gave up the fewest sacks in the league, 18.

Derek Carr’s injury may have caused the Raiders’ season to end prematurely, but with him recovering well from his broken leg, Oakland can have a high-powered offense once again. Carr may get a lot of the love, and a lot of the money in his new deal, but their offense starts because of the offensive line.

Osemele will help lead the charge on a great offense for the 2017 season by continuing to clear way in the running game and protecting Carr.

Comments: “Offensive linemen rarely get the love or recognition they deserve. Osemele earned second-team all-pro from Pro Football Focus last season and was only edged out for the first team by Marshal Yanda. Last season he gave up zero sacks and that is good enough to deserve a much higher ranking.” -Matthew Hagan

“Quite possibly the biggest free agent signing of 2015 was Osemele moving to the Raiders. In his first season in Oakland, he was a force. He was one of the most productive interior lineman in football with his brutal punch and overwhelming physical style. He helped change the complexion of the Raiders offense and was a big reason for their 2016 success.”-Blake Van Poucke

93. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Michael Thomas (Photo by upi.com)

Thomas had such a good rookie season that the Saints felt comfortable enough to trade Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. After being the sixth receiver selected, Thomas built a great rapport with Drew Brees. He finished last year with 1,197 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

People have thought that Brees would be slowing down for the last few seasons, but he delivered yet another 5,000 yard passing season last year. Thomas will benefit from Brees’ continued production, especially now that he is the clear number one receiver.

With the other defenses in the NFC South giving up a lot of passing yards, all ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, Thomas will have every opportunity to have an even better season.

Comments: Michael Thomas was the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL last season. Thomas blew all other rookies out of the water in receptions (92 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 67) and receiving yards (981 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 653). Thomas dominated in every facet among rookie wideouts, but this list isn’t all about rookies.

“What makes Thomas special is that he’s already playing with an elite quarterback in Drew Brees in a pass-heavy offense. The Saints threw the ball on 63 percent of their plays last season, good for fourth-most in the league. Thomas has reportedly added ten pounds of muscle, and with his size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and explosiveness (20 tackles broken/avoided, ninth in NFL in 20-plus yard catches last season), expect Thomas to become an elite receiver in the NFL.” – Tim Miller

92. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Jameis Winston (Photo by nytimes.com)

Two straight 4,000 yard passing seasons have gotten Jameis Winston’s career off to a hot start. Winston had 4,090 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2016. He has gotten more accurate from season one to season two and will need to continue to do so.

While the stats are encouraging, Winston has also improved the Bucs win total from six to nine from his rookie season to last. Continuing to help improve the Bucs’ record will be a way to raise his stock around the league. He will have more help this season on the offensive side of the ball, as Tampa Bay signed Desean Jackson and drafted O.J. Howard.

Winston is the franchise quarterback for the Bucs and with the added help on offense, should be able to take his game to another level.

Comments: If this list was based on what Winston did last season, he would deserve this spot, but he should be ranked higher. This list is supposed to look ahead to 2017 and Winston will be better with all of the incoming help and his natural progression he has shown in his first two years. With weapons like Desean Jackson, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, Winston will be higher on this list come next year.”- Joe DiTullio

91. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Carlos Dunlap (Photo by bengals.com)

Dunlap had a good 2015 season with 13.5 sacks, but his production dipped to 8 sacks last year, which tied for 22nd in the NFL. He also added three forced fumbles and 49 combined tackles.

Last season Dunlap had help rushing the quarterback from Geno Atkins, but not much else. Michael Johnson, who started all 16 games at the other defensive end spot, finished with 3.5 sacks. The Bengals added Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson in the draft to help in this area, which will help take double teams away from Dunlap.

Production wasn’t great for Dunlap last season, but since he has been the starting defensive end for Cincinnati, he has never had fewer than 7.5 sacks in a season. Dunlap will be looking to up his sack total and be more productive in 2017.

Comments: “Dunlap has been one of the most consistent pieces on a Bengals’ defense that has been very good for the last six years. He is constantly in the quarterback’s face and even though his numbers dropped off a bit, he is still able to be a playmaker and change the game at any time. With the help of Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Andrew Billings and obviously Geno Atkins, this defensive line should have a great year and so should Dunlap.”- Robert Hanes

 

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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC West

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the eighth, and final edition, Super Bowl series: AFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are entirely overlooked and it is egregious. Andy Reid has done incredibly well so far in Kansas City. Reid has gone 43-21 and the Chiefs have made the playoffs in three of his four seasons.

The only thing missing is the playoff success and thus a Super Bowl victory. Kansas City is just 1-3 in the playoffs during the Reid era. That can change this season as the Chiefs look to make a run at Super Bowl LII.

Kansas City is a team that wades in the water like a shark and out of nowhere will sneak up and attack you. Alex Smith gets the hate while the defense gets all the love but the Chiefs averaged 24.3 points per game last season, which was 13th best in the NFL. The Chiefs were able to get out in front of teams early, scoring the eighth most first half points with 12.8 per game.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit:http://www.kansascity.com/)

The Chiefs weren’t special on offense but they were consistent. They ranked 18th in third down conversion percentage (38 percent), 15th in rushing yards (109.2 per game) and 19th in passing yards (233.8 per game). Again, the offense wasn’t spectacular but they are wrongfully accused of costing this team successful playoff runs.

There is still room for growth. The offense can help the defense out even more by running more plays to keep that stellar defense rested. The Chiefs ranked 27th last season averaging 61.9 plays per game. An effective rushing attack is one of the best ways to run more plays.

Kansas City has added veteran running back C.J. Spiller and rookie running back Kareem Hunt in hopes of improving the offense, but Spencer Ware should be the feature back. This offense has been consistent and as long as they improve just a tiny bit, the Chiefs can remain Super Bowl contenders.

In the Reid era, the Chiefs have averaged 27.5 points per game in the playoffs. They also lost a playoff game to the Colts, 45-44. Anytime a team scores 44 points, they should win. As much blame as this offense gets, they have performed well enough to win games in the postseason.

Stepping away from the offense, the Chiefs are truly Super Bowl contenders because of their defense. Despite losing Justin Houston after five games and Derrick Johnson after 13, the Chiefs were able to rank seventh in points allowed per game at 19.4.

The reason the Chiefs were good on defense wasn’t that they held teams to low amounts of yardage; they actually were bad at allowing yards. They ranked 24th in total yards (368.5 per game), 26th in rushing (121.1 per game) and 18th in passing (247.4 per game).

What Kansas City really excelled at was red zone defense and forcing turnovers. The Chiefs only allowed points in the red zone 49.1 percent of the time. They also led the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. There can be improvements made in how much yardage allowed but if the Chiefs can continue forcing turnovers along with getting stops in the red zone, then the Chiefs can remain a top-tier defensive team.

In order to win the Super Bowl, Kansas City must get home-field advantage. They are 18-7 at home in the past three seasons. They must also get over the tough schedule that includes New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas outside of the division, plus Oakland and Denver twice each.

If the Chiefs can navigate this schedule and make the playoffs, the offense needs to continue averaging 27.5 points per game and the defense must remain elite. Doing all of this will mean that Arrowhead will be home to the Super Bowl LII champions.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders were legitimate Super Bowl contenders last season but the injury bug bit at the worst time. Derek Carr broke his leg in week 16 and just like his leg, the Raiders playoff chances were shattered.

Offensive tackle Donald Penn also went down and if the Raiders can remain healthy at their key positions, then they have one of the best shots in the league to win Super Bowl LII.

In order to win the Super Bowl, the Raiders must improve defensively along with remaining healthy. The Raiders gave up 24.1 points per game and the problem was that they struggled in the second half of games.

Oakland ranked 29th in second half points, allowing 13.4 per game. The Raiders struggled in yardage as well, ranking 26th in total yards (375.1 per game), 23rd rushing yards (117.6 per game) and 24th in passing yards (257.5 per game). The Raiders spent their first three picks on the defensive side of the ball to address these defensive woes.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: http://www.sportsworldreport.com)

Part of the reason they struggled so much defensively was that they couldn’t get off the field on third down. Opponents converted 39.4 percent of the time against the Raiders on third down. If they can fix this, it will improve their entire defense.

Fixing their third down defense starts with getting to the quarterback which the Raiders were the worst at. Oakland ranked 32nd in the NFL in sacks, accumulating just 25 for the season. Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and newly acquired Jelani Jenkins must make a bigger impact in rushing the quarterback.

Oakland must also find some discipline. The Raiders ranked dead last in both penalties (9.2 per game) and penalty yardage (77.9 per game). Without these improvements, the Raiders won’t be capable of making deep postseason runs.

The strength of the Raiders is, without question, their offense which averaged 26 points per game. Oakland seemed to get better as the game went on, averaging the fifth most points in the second half with 13.6. The Raiders had no trouble racking up the yardage either, averaging 373.3 yards per game.

They can thank their surprisingly good rushing attack. Oakland ran for the sixth most yards in the NFL last season with 120.1 per game. Adding Marshawn Lynch to the mix should improve this number and make the entire offense even better.

Oakland had the 13th best aerial attack in the NFL, throwing for 253.2 yards per game. Derek Carr has been exceptional and has also been given solid targets to throw to. His two main targets, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, combined for 176 receptions, 2,156 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

The Raiders decided Carr needed more and added talented receiving tight end Jared Cook and explosive wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

Cook has struggled to remain healthy but has been effective when on the field. Patterson has been to the Pro Bowl as a returner but had a solid season catching 74.3 percent of the balls thrown his way last season. These two weapons could really push Oakland’s passing attack to the next level.

The only improvements the Raiders need to make on offense is on third down and in the red zone. Oakland only converted 38.1 percent on third down. Extending drives can help the defense get rest and therefore, perform better.

Although the Raiders averaged 26 points, they only scored in the red zone 58.6 percent of the time. If they can improve this percentage, then the Raiders could easily average 30 or more points per game. If the Raiders do that, then the Lombardi Trophy is going back to the bay, baby.

Denver Broncos

There weren’t many who believed the Broncos would struggle last season but Denver stumbled to 9-7. Similar to recent years, Denver’s defense was spectacular but the offense was just too far behind. The loss of Peyton Manning was more painful than fans care to realize. Denver might have a Super Bowl defense, but without a quarterback to make big plays, the offense is going to hold this team back.

Let’s start off with what this team is known for, and that’s defense. The Broncos have a reputation for beating up quarterbacks. Denver ranked third in the NFL last season with 42 sacks. This helped them get off the field on third down as they forced a third down stop 63.6 percent of the time. Getting to the quarterback often, and quickly, helped the secondary allow just 185.8 yards passing per game. That was the best mark in the NFL.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Despite all the success against the pass, the Broncos did struggle against the run. Denver had the fifth worst rush defense in the league, allowing 130.3 yards per game. Altogether, Denver only allowed 316.1 yards per game and that resulted in allowing the fourth fewest points per game at 18.6.

In order to get back to the Super Bowl, Denver must clog up the running lanes. The Broncos have added Domata Peko at defensive tackle to help their run defense. Denver cannot depend on the play of the quarterback and therefore the defense must become elite in all facets of the game. All that is left to conquer is the run.

Offensively, the Broncos need to run the ball more often to make up for their quarterback play. Denver only ran the ball 40.2 percent of the time. This resulted in an average of 92.8 rush yards per game, sixth worst in the NFL. C.J. Anderson is a great back but has yet to play a full season in his career. Speaking of injury prone, the Broncos did add Jamaal Charles to the mix in the backfield as well. While neither can remain healthy on their own, maybe being paired together can help them stay healthy and turn Denver into a good running football team once again.

None of that will be possible without good offensive line play though. Losing Russell Okung isn’t a crushing blow because he had health problems anyway. This is why Denver drafted Garrett Bolles. Also, Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the league and if he can lead the rest of the unit then Denver can improve their offense.

The Broncos’ passing attack was abysmal as well, ranking 21st. Because of the deficiencies on offense, Denver only managed to score 20.8 points per game. Either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch need to grab ahold of the quarterback spot with force and prove they can be the franchise quarterback.

If neither of them can, rookie Chad Kelly could sneak in and become the man. No matter how the cookie crumbles, one of these quarterbacks needs to have a great season to help get the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

For everything to fall into place the Broncos, offensive line play must improve which in turn will help the running game improve. Denver needs a quarterback to solidify their spot as the franchise quarterback and lastly, the Denver defense needs to stop the run. If the Broncos can solve all these problems, they can win Super Bowl LII.

Los Angeles Chargers

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: http://eastvillagetimes.com)

The Chargers have left San Diego and are embarking on the journey to run Los Angeles. Due to a slew of injuries and a sub-par defense, the Chargers finished last season 5-11. That record didn’t indicate how good the team really was. The Chargers went 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less. Los Angeles can become a contender simply by winning these close games.

The Los Angeles Chargers are going be a much improved defensive team. For starters, Joey Bosa will be ready at the start of the season and he had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games as a rookie. They also added safety Tre Boston to help out in a secondary that gave up 242.9 yards per game through the air.

The defense also includes Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, Melvin Ingram, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. These are some really good players but they must play together to improve last year’s bad season.

Last year, the Chargers ranked 29th in the NFL in points, allowing 26.4 per game. It was so high because they really stunk in the second half of games. The Chargers gave up a total of 14.6 points per second half last season with 8.3 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers defense partly struggled just because the offense gave up 2.2 turnovers per game, which was worst in the NFL. The defense is really talented and if they don’t get put into bad situations due to turnovers, they will easily bring down that amount of points they give up.

Last year’s offense was really good aside from the turnovers. They averaged the ninth most points in the NFL with 25.6 per game. Philip Rivers’ aerial assault led the way. They averaged 262.4 yards through the air despite losing their best receiver Keenan Allen. A healthy Allen could allow Rivers to have a better 2017-18 campaign.

In order to really improve the offense, the Chargers must run the ball more effectively. They averaged 94.4 yards per game but a banged-up offensive line hurt their potential. The Chargers know that a better offensive line will improve everything. Los Angeles snatched offensive tackle Russell Okung from the division rival Broncos. They also drafted guard Forrest Lamp.

Improvement for the Chargers starts with the offense. Running the ball more and simply staying healthy will accomplish that. The defense will then be able to bring down a number of points they allow due to rest. Lastly, the Chargers special teams must stop shooting themselves in the foot with bad punts, missed field goals, botched snaps and just horrible coverage.

It will not be easy for the Chargers to make the playoffs, especially in their division. If they can make the improvements listed, then they will have a puncher’s chance. Once they get into the playoffs it is anybody’s trophy.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC West. This was the final edition of the Super Bowl series and you can find the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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Featured image courtesy of https://ryutorasthoughts.wordpress.com/tag/afc-west/

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 30-21

Running backs are going to go quick and early in fantasy drafts this year, so this list of receivers can fall to you later than they should.

30. Jamison Crowder (Washington Redskins): Jamison Crowder broke out in a big way in 2016. He had 847 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as the number two receiver for the Washington Redskins. Now that DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon left and the Redskins only added Terrelle Pryor, Crowder is in line for more targets and a bigger workload. Last season lining up in the slot, Crowder found tons of success. He lined up in the slot on 56 percent of snaps per game. In a bigger role, expect Crowder to have more production and a better season.

29. Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals): If anyone can beat father time its Larry Fitz. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, it doesn’t look like Fitzgerald is slowing down any time soon. Injuries haven’t been a problem for Larry Fitzgerald as he’s played in all 16 games in every season since 2008 except 2014 when he played in 14. Fitzgerald is also still consistent in terms of yards after catch. Over the last two seasons, he had at least 350 yards after the catch and there’s no reason why that number should decrease. Without Michael Floyd in the mix, Fitzgerald should be even better than last year.

28. Golden Tate (Detroit Lions): Golden Tate had a bounce back season for the Detroit Lions last year. In his first season as the number one receiver for the Lions, Tate lived up to expectations. He had 1,077 yards and four touchdowns. What people don’t know is how Golden Tate was a top-tier receiver in terms of production.

Tate ranked first in yards after the catch with 676 and tenth in receptions with 91. With Anquan Boldin still a free agent, it looks like Tate could be in line for more targets. Don’t be surprised if Tate ends up a top-15 wide receiver this year.

2017 wide receiver rankings: 30-21

http://jp2hs.org

27. Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis Colts): The hype that surrounded Moncrief last offseason ended when he only played in nine games. In a disappointing season, Moncrief only had 307 receiving yards. What was a nice surprise was how he ended his season with seven touchdowns.

Playing alongside Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton, Moncrief still has great upside. Currently being drafted as the 29th receiver and 67th player overall, Moncrief is going after he should be. He’s currently being drafted as a WR3 but has WR2 upside.

26. Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs): Rookie sensation Tyreek Hill put on a show for fans last season in Kansas City. With a combined 860 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, Hill had an impressive season as a running back, receiver and a kick returner. He has big shoes to fill this season however.

With the departure of Jeremy Maclin, Hill is stepping into the lead receiver role for the Chiefs. An interesting quality of Hill was that he was the second best receiver in terms of fantasy points per target with 2.42. Now with the added targets and more experience in the NFL, Hill has the chance to be a legit WR2 this year.

25. Julian Edelman (New England Patriots): Reigning Super Bowl champ Julian Edelman is an interesting fantasy candidate this year. The yardage is consistently there for Edelman (1,106 yards last season), but the touchdowns are irrelevant. Last season he had three touchdowns which turns a lot of fantasy owners off.

One of the most productive receivers, Edelman ranked fourth in receptions, fourth in yards after catch and 12th in receiving yards. With the addition of Brandin Cooks, expect a decrease in yards but still a lot of production as a WR2.

2017 wide receiver rankings: 30-21

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com

 

24. Martavis Bryant (Pittsburgh Steelers)- There’s not much to write about surrounding last season for Bryant considering he didn’t play at all. The talent and skillset that Bryant has is rare in the league today. His off the field actions is the only thing that is holding him back.

Standing at 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Martavis Bryant has the size and catching ability to be a WR1 for the Steelers this season. If he can stay on the field and out of trouble, him and Antonio Brown will form a killer duo in this league.

23. Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins): Juice is loose in Miami. Landry enjoyed another outstanding season for the Dolphins in 2016. In back-to-back years, Jarvis Landry had 1,100-plus yards and four touchdowns.

Jarvis Landry was more productive than we expected in the slot. He ranked third in slot rate, seventh in receptions and second in yards after catch. Juice has the talent and surrounding cast to continue to succeed in this league. If he can produce more in the red zone, he’ll be a WR1.

22. Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos): The quarterback situation in Denver is the only reason Sanders isn’t higher on this list. Even with that, Sanders has eclipsed 1,000 yards every season he’s been in Denver even with a hobbled Peyton Manning and Trevor Siemian.

Last season, Sanders ranked 17th in fantasy points per game, receptions and receiving yards. Lining up in the slot and on the outside, Sanders has been as reliable as anyone recently and we should expect that to continue. If the quarterback play increases, then Sanders can be a fringe WR1.

2017 wide receiver rankings: 30-21

http://content.newsinc.com

21. Michael Crabtree (Oakland Raiders): Crabtree is in a perfect situation to succeed again for Oakland this season. He is the second receiver on a high-powered offense in Oakland. After eclipsing 1,000 yards and catching eight touchdowns, Crabtree can take the next step this season.

Playing alongside Amari Cooper, Crabtree ranked 14th in fantasy points per game and 13th in receptions. Currently being drafted as the 21st ranked wide receiver, Crabtree is right where he should be. Don’t draft him too early but if he falls to you he’s a solid WR2.

 

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Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Fantasy football tight end sleeper: Julius Thomas

The 2017 season is approaching and tight end Julius Thomas begins a new chapter with the Miami Dolphins. His two seasons in Jacksonville were a bust, but being reunited with former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, he is my pick as the top tight end sleeper.

Adam Gase Connection

Gase became the offensive coordinator in Denver under head coach John Fox in 2013. 2013 was also the year Thomas became the starting tight end with Peyton Manning and company. Thomas broke onto the scene with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

He also excelled as one of Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone. From inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line.

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:nfl.com)

The following season, Thomas slipped a little but still had another good season. Although his numbers in receptions (43) and yards (489) dropped from the previous season, Thomas recorded 12 touchdowns for the second straight season. Thomas still finished seventh in fantasy under tight ends.

He was efficient in the red zone especially inside the 20-yard line. He was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Down production in Jacksonville

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

In 2015, Thomas got his big pay day as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What people forget is that Thomas wasn’t going to have the same amount of success he had in Denver. Not having Manning was a a big factor to some for Thomas’ decline.

In the 2015 season, he had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. He finished with 46 catches, 455 yards but only had five touchdowns. Catching touchdowns was part of the popularity with Thomas in fantasy. Most of the targets went to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Players like Robinson, Blake Bortles and Allen Hurns improved in fantasy and this hurt Thomas’ production as an elite fantasy player.

The following season, Thomas caught four touchdowns from weeks 1-11 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. His four scores in that span were tied for second among all tight ends.

Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, but injuries plagued seasons (missing 11 games in two seasons) and limited him to 21 games with nine touchdowns and 35 yards per game.

2017 Outlook

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas and Adam Gase (Photo by:oregonlive.com)

The move to Miami could be the best situation for Thomas as he reunites with Gase. He was a fantasy stud in Denver, and Gase could be a big reason why, given his track record with tight ends.

In 2015 as the offensive coordinator in Chicago, Gase helped Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combine for 87 catches for 878 yards and eight touchdowns, which would have been the number seven Fantasy tight end in standard leagues.

Last year with the Dolphins, the combination of Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones had 55 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. It would’ve been good for the number 10 fantasy tight end. So there is some optimism for Thomas to bounce back.

However, there could be some problems for Thomas. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout season, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker along with re-signing Kenny Stills. Thomas will have a role in the offense, especially closer to the red zone, but he will likely be the third or fourth option in a balanced offense with a lot of guys to feed the ball to.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could reemerge as a top fantasy tight end. He’s worth a late-round flier as a second tight end. There’s little risk and plenty of reward with Thomas and Gase back together.

 

Featured image from miamidolphins.com.

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Super Bowl 52

If not the Patriots, then who in the AFC?

To call the Patriots heavy favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LLI is a gross understatement. Additions like Brandin Cooks have made a team that already ran roughshod over the conference last year even better on paper heading into 2017. However, sports are a funny thing.

What if the Patriots are finally derailed by the injury bug or just simply pick a bad day to have a bad day in the playoffs? Here are four teams ready to pounce.

Kansas City Chiefs

Ever since Andy Reid came to town, the Chiefs run the ball, play solid defense and do not beat themselves. This is a good formula for winning. However, when that formula comes up against a buzz saw like New England, it is also easy to end up in too deep of an early hole.

Tyreek Hill

Photo: kansascity.com

The divisional playoff matchup between the two teams following the 2015 season was a perfect example of this. Despite holding New England to just 14 points in the first half, Kansas City managed just two field goals and never got caught up.

While Tyreek Hill has provided a much needed boost to KC’s ability to strike quickly, half of their scoring drives in last year’s playoff loss to Pittsburgh were over ten plays. While those are nice, striking quickly is almost a must against the Patriots.

Hope for the Chiefs in a matchup with New England lies in Hill and their pass rushers, led by Justin Houston. With three double digit sack seasons under his belt, Houston is more than capable of wrecking a game for Brady and company, similar to what Von Miller did on Denver’s Super Bowl 50 run.

Kansas City’s opening night matchup with the Super Bowl LI champs will be a nice measuring stick for them.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have questions at quarterback. Ordinarily, that would disqualify them from an article like this, but the Broncos happen to be the only team Tom Brady has a losing record against.

Von Miller

Photo: dailysnark.com

Denver has beaten New England with Jake Plummer, Brock Osweiler and an aging Peyton Manning at quarterback over the years. Knowing that, why not Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch?

Denver invested most of its offseason resources into bolstering the backfield and offensive and defensive lines Thus, the two biggest weaknesses on this team have been addressed.

If the additions help Denver run the ball and stop the run consistently, Miller, Shane Ray and the rest of the defense will keep Denver in almost every game like they have for the better part of the last two seasons. Against New England, that is half the battle.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have not given the Patriots any trouble in recent years. If last year’s AFC title game was a boxing match, it would have been stopped early. The last Steelers’ victory against New England was in 2011.

However, any team that has Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and flirts with putting up 30-plus points every time out is always dangerous. The bad news for Steeler fans is that the Steel Curtain has been made of feathers in recent meetings with the Pats. Twenty-seven points is the fewest New England has scored during its ongoing four game winning streak against Mike Tomlin’s crew.

With the cast of characters basically the same on defense, the only way Pittsburgh beats New England this year is in a shootout. It is unlikely, but not impossible. They are one of very few teams with the firepower to beat New England in that way.

Indianapolis Colts

This inclusion to the list might surprise some, but the AFC is nowhere near as deep as the NFC. Something has been off in terms of the head coach/management dynamic in Indianapolis for the last two years. General manager Ryan Grigson is gone. With former players tweeting in response to the move, one can only assume that Grigson was a significant part of the problem.

One guy who is not part of the problem is quarterback Andrew Luck. Despite near constant drama in the front office and a flawed roster, the Colts have never posted a losing record under his on-field leadership. However, they have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

Staying healthy has been a challenge for Luck, but 132 touchdowns to just 68 interceptions in almost five full years as a starter are the numbers of a quarterback who can carry a team on his back. The roster still lacks elite players outside of Luck. Also, Indianapolis has been obliterated by the Patriots in two fairly recent playoff meetings.

Even so, the Colts finally fall on the right side of one of a precious few things that is always true in the NFL. If you have a stable front office and a top-notch quarterback, you have a chance every single time you take the field.

Texans and Raiders miss the cut

Two teams that many people would have expected to see in this article are the Texans and the Raiders. They were each left out for very specific reasons. Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson battling for the starting quarterback job means that the Texans will not even be able to spell Super Bowl, much less get there.

Las Vegas Raiders

Photo: USA Today

Anyone who tries to lump Denver’s quarterback situation into the same category as Houston should watch what Trevor Siemian was able to do on the road in Cincinnati and New Orleans last year. The home game against Kansas City also speaks volumes about Siemian’s potential.

As for the Raiders, it is also fairly simple. Derek Carr is no doubt a special quarterback. Despite that, Oakland’s ongoing stadium and relocation drama is worthy of its own article. It is hard not to see it dragging down the on-field product.

Also, even when they were the talk of the league last year, the Raiders still led the world in penalties and got shredded by the opposing quarterback almost every week.

 

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It’s on the Haus: Carmelo Anthony, Red Sox release Pablo Sandoval, Bartolo Colon could retire and most popular NFL jerseys

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program or come to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports happenings all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus. The SEO focus keyphrase for your viewing pleasure: Carmelo Anthony Red Sox release Pablo Sandoval Bartolo Colon retire

Yesterday’s edition: J.D. Martinez trade, Carlos Correa on the shelf, Julian Edelman has one less #hater and Kyrie’s incredibly low 2K rating

Carmelo Anthony just wants to be loved

The struggle is real for Carmelo Anthony. His boisterous contract has disrupted a New York Knicks franchise that already is dealing with turbulence which has caused the $32 million man to be surrounded by trade rumors.

Carmelo Anthony Red Sox release Pablo Sandoval Bartolo Colon retire

No one will take the plunge with Carmelo Anthony, and he is sad. (Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports).

Cleveland confessed its love to Melo, but the love wasn’t enough as no trade was made. The Rockets have also admitted Melo makes their heart go pitter-patter, but there’s still been no deal.

If there’s anything Carmelo Anthony knows better than any of us, it’s that actions speak louder than words. Sure, some franchises say they want Anthony, but no one has followed through yet.

That all could change as yet another party is interested in Anthony’s services. Trail Blazers’ guards Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum are vying for the small forward’s talents, and it’s clear Anthony will not be playing with New York to open the season.

Rumors mean basically nothing this offseason. We heard the Rockets were on the “2-yard line” in a trade for Anthony, but it appears that has fallen through. Just because some Trail Blazers players want Anthony means nothing, because every team wants Anthony.

No one loves Carmelo enough to trade for him, and that’s just a shame. I truly hope Anthony’s psyche won’t take too much of a hit during this time.

Boston Red Sox dump a panda

Pablo Sandoval (better known as Kung Fu Panda) was officially released by the Boston Red Sox yesterday. Sandoval hit .212 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in just 32 games with the Red Sox this season.

Carmelo Anthony Red Sox release Pablo Sandoval Bartolo Colon retire

Boston isn’t the only thing giving up on Sandoval this season (see: his belt). Photo: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

This is really only news because of how good Sandoval was with San Francisco. He peaked early in his career, with his best season in terms of WAR (6.1) coming in 2011.

Sandoval was good, but then he got fat.

Boston asked him to lose weight upon arrival in 2015, and Sandoval did, for at least a little while. However, all good things must come to an end, and Kung Fu Panda got chubby again.

The Giants plan on signing Sandoval to a minor league contract, so if this really is the last time we see Sandoval in a major league uniform, we might as well remember him at his peak.

Big Bart may call it quits

Carmelo Anthony Red Sox release Pablo Sandoval Bartolo Colon retire

Big Sexy is a walking masterpiece of art (Photo: Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports).

While yesterday’s article focused on #haters, today’s article is apparently all about extra-large MLB players.

Bartolo Colon was released by the Atlanta Braves on July 6, and the Minnesota Twins nabbed him three days later. Colon threw just four innings of mediocre baseball in his debut with the Twins, and now Big Bart is mulling retirement.

Colon is 44 years old and nearing the end of the road in his time in the MLB. It looks like Colon may call it quits before MLB teams can decide his fate for him, so who can get mad at him for that?

I’ve always been a big fan of Big Sexy. He’s brought life to every stadium he’s pitched in an unconventional way. His clumsiness at the plate has been well-documented. Colon has kinda sucked this year, but I sure hope his time in the MLB isn’t over.

I propose Colon do his best to pitch for every single team in the MLB before retirement. He’s already played for 10 teams, and there’s almost enough time to pitch for a different team every fifth day before the season ends. Big Sexy may have bigger (ha, see what I did there) things to worry about, but I hope he’ll at least consider my proposition.

A report on who gets their jersey bought the most

NFLshop.com released this fancy graphic yesterday that displayed each state’s highest-purchased jersey. Marshawn Lynch has dominated sales on the west coast, while apparently the state of Ohio has a secret Greg Olsen fan club that I’m unaware of.

It’s no surprise to see Lynch leading sales in many states thanks to his coming out of retirement. The biggest shock on this list is the fact that the state that I reside in, Ohio, is apparently full of Greg Olsen lovers.

Now, I’ve gushed over Olsen plenty in my life. His durability and charisma is charming. However, I have never once seen a person in my state wearing a Greg Olsen jersey. Now, I don’t get out much, but still.

This is also completely random. My guess for Ohio’s most-purchased jersey would be A.J. Green. If it’s not a Bengal, it certainly not a Brown, so it’d have to be one of the more popular players in the league. From there, my thought process trends towards either Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.

But Greg Olsen? How many of our fun-loving but heaven help us clueless mothers could name Tom Brady? Probably most if they live in a house that watches sports like mine. However, there’s no way near as many mothers (or people in general) have heard of Greg Olsen.

There has to be a conspiracy here, and I’m using my interns to launch an in-depth investigation. This is my promise to you: We will get to the bottom of this conspiracy that I’m dubbing #OlsenJerseyInOhio-Gate.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports and esports coverage. You should also follow Tim, as he’s gotten over 100 likes on a grand total of three different tweets, and sometimes offers lukewarm takes on things that don’t matter.

11 Ways to Improve Your Fantasy Football League

Fantasy football is one of the greatest new pastimes in America. In just ten years, the activity has grown from 18 million players in 2006, to 57.4 million players in 2015 according to the FSTA. That said, with more players comes more ideas of ways to improve their fantasy football leagues. As self-proclaimed best fantasy football commissioner of all time, I’ll let you in on how to improve your leagues to be as good as mine.

There’s clearly no waning interest in fantasy football, but there’s been an explosion of articles on how to improve fantasy football leagues. Well, here’s the thing. All those articles say the same things, and steal from one another. I admit, some of my improvements are similar to other writers’, but I came up with mine all by myself, so leave your pitchforks at the door.

All of these 11 ways to improve your fantasy football league are imperative to making your league as successful as possible, so make sure you implement them all. If you’re wondering why I’m giving 11 ways, it’s because most other sites give ten, and I like to one-up others. Take that, other fantasy sites.

11. Have the right people

Your fantasy league starts with the players inside it. For me, the hardest part of making my league the success it’s been today has been finding players who actually want to play. In the league’s inaugural year, we only had six players. At the end of year three, we are up to ten players, just three of which (including myself) staying from year one.

In order to have a fun league, you must be able to have fun with your opponents. Gather up some good friends who have knowledge of the game, and start a league. It’s about quality, not quantity. If your league starts with just six people, that’s fine. It’s better to have a league of six best friends than having a twelve-player league with just seven people actually taking it serious.

10. Enjoy a live draft

fantasy football

This was my league’s first draft board. It doesn’t make sense because we didn’t know how to do it with keepers, get over it.

You will read this in any article that gives ways to improve your fantasy football league. Live drafts are by far one of the most fun things you will do all year. Getting a bunch of your friends together to eat food and be merry while heckling each other about draft picks is a great time.

Put some money together to buy a draft board. Trade draft picks with each other. Make it a great time by just showing up. By having a live draft, you won’t have to worry about getting people to make it to their draft. Instead of having to do it via their computer, your friends will have to show up thanks to the added allure a live draft provides.

9. Simple scoring (PPR)

One of the most annoying things about standard scoring leagues is the scoring system for quarterbacks. One point for every 25 yards? If you’re away from your computer or app and see that Cam Newton has thrown for 198 yards, rushed for 45 yards, and rushed and thrown for a score, can you tell me how many points he has? I didn’t think so.

Give your quarterbacks one point for every 10 yards passed. This makes it identical to running backs and receivers. The problem comes when you find out this means a great outing from your quarterback can heavily sway your team’s chances of a win. In order to help that out, give your other players one point for every reception (also known as PPR). If you don’t think that’s enough to level the playing field (pun intended?), give players three or five points for each catch. Trust me, the quarterbacks won’t have as much of an impact as you might think.

This will keep all players in the know of how their team is doing. It’s so much more easy to add up in your head, and removes a lot of confusion in scoring systems.

8. Make it worth something (money, belt, trophy)

There’s a few huge advantages to putting money into your league. Collecting league fees is a pain, but the benefits are substantial.

By collecting league fees, your league can now make enough money to grab a reward for the champion. Whether it be a trophy, a belt, or simply paying the winner cash, money can be a huge driving force for all players to participate.

7. Make your league a dynasty (draft pick trading, more strategy)

By adding keepers to your league, there’s a whole lot more strategy that goes into playing. People must now think about their team’s future, rather than just looking at one season. Now, if you can’t decide who to pick between two players, picking the younger one can be the tie breaker. This also makes trades a lot more interesting. It’s a lot easier to let go of Demaryius Thomas the week of the trade deadline if there’s no ramifications, but if Thomas turns into a viable keeper option for you ailing team, you’ll have to think twice.

This feature turns your league into as close as a real franchise as it gets. Don’t be soft about it either. One or two keepers seems pointless. Move on up to five or six keepers, and see who is really the best at managing their roster. You can really understand how to buy and sell just like the real teams do by turning your fantasy football league into a dynasty.

6. Make your championship two weeks

I say this because I’m still salty about losing in my league’s championship last season. Go ahead and give into the click bait. Read the article and look at my starting lineup for week 16 of last season. My team was stacked, stacked I tell you! Yet because of one bad week at the worst time possible, my team that dominated from the opening week to the semifinals, lost in the championship. In order to remove flukes, simply make your championship two weeks long. If that were the case for my league, I’d have two championship trophies in three years.

This idea is completely biased and filled with agony and despair. Do yourself and the world a favor, and #BanChampionshipWeekFlukes2016.

5. Weekly updates by commish

I’m aware that a lot of leagues do this, but if you don’t you’re missing out. Every week, I gave an update on how the last week went. As the season went on, I wrote out all playoff scenerios, from first-round byes, to being eliminated, and everything in between. A simple post on Tuesday morning can keep your fantasy football league’s members arguing until Thursday.

fantasy football

Yes, it’s meant to be blurred. Only our coveted league members deserve to know what is entailed in our weekly updates.

You can also consider doing a press conference. Pick one owner a week to be the one getting asked the questions, and let all other members submit questions. This keeps all players engaged, and allows members to get underneath the interviewee’s skin, which is really what fantasy football is all about.

4. Vote on trades

In the first season of my league’s existence, we witnessed one of the worst trades of all time. Aaron Rodgers, DeMarco Murray and the owner’s left arm went to another team for $5. The team that gave away its studs was terrible and didn’t care, while the team receiving the stars was put in prime position to win it all. I hadn’t instituted vetoing trades or even voting on them, so once the accept button was pressed, all heck broke loose in the league.

To prevent terrible trades to go through, allow all members to vote within two days of the trade’s acceptance. Make sure your commish is level-headed, so if a fair trade goes through and it gets denied by other players because it makes a good team better, the commish should still allow the trade to go through.

3. Make a constitution

Is this over zealous? Probably. But take your hating “you take your fantasy football league too serious” takes back to where they belong, which is somewhere that isn’t this article.

A constitution allows all members to agree to rules that aren’t necessarily in the online settings. For instance, two parties agreed to a trade, but one member then got cold feet before accepting. Our league now has an amendment that if you shake on or verbally agree to a trade, it is binding.

This simply keeps border line cheating instances from coming to be. By writing out unwritten rules and signing on the bottom of the page, there’s no longer an excuse for disgruntled players who feel cheated.

2. Give your league a social media account

If your league is like mine, even people who aren’t in the league are interested in how things are going. In order to keep everyone in the loop, make the league an account on Facebook or Twitter.

Now, your league is exposed to the world. With this fact known, it should keep everyone in the league interested, and excited to have their name in a tweet belonging to the champion. People also won’t want to be known as the worst in the league, and a few friends seeing a tweet about the last place finisher could be enough motivation to keep all players involved.

1. Punish the worst team

Sometimes being made fun of isn’t enough to scare the last place team into trying to crawl out of the basement. It may take a little more motivation, like forcing the worst team in the league to pay more than everyone else in the league for next season. Bottom feeders can no longer check out of the league by the end of week nine. Now, they must try their best in hopes of not being shamed into paying more money when fees are collected the next season.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports and esports coverage. You should also follow Tim, as he’s gotten over 100 likes on a grand total of three different tweets, and sometimes offers lukewarm takes on things that don’t matter.

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the seventh edition, Super Bowl series: NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are coming off a 10-5-1 season in which they lost in the playoffs to the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. This franchise has become one of the most consistent in the NFL, making the playoffs for five straight seasons and six of the last seven.

Winning Super Bowl LII is not as daunting of a task as it may be for other teams. There are some issues the Seahawks need to fix though in order to win the Super Bowl.

Seattle is led by its defense and everyone knows it. The Seahawks finished the season giving up just 18.2 points per game, which ranked third in the NFL. They also finished in the top 10 in rush defense (seventh, 92.9 yards per game), pass defense (eighth, 225.8 yards per game) and total defense (fifth, 319.6 yards per game).

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: https://www.richardsherman25.com)

In the 2017-18 season, Seattle’s defense should be even better. Up front, they drafted defensive tackle Malik McDowell from Michigan State to play along side Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and even Frank Clark. Seattle also has one of the best linebacking corps led by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. The Seahawks’ front seven will be extremely talented which will allow the Legion of Boom to continue their dominance.

Speaking of the Legion of Boom, the unit will get some much-needed help back at safety. Earl Thomas will be returning from his leg injury and that couldn’t be better news for this secondary. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor have proven to be great players, but Earl Thomas may just be the heart and soul of this defense.

Before Thomas went down with a broken leg, the Seahawks were only allowing 16.2 points per game. After Thomas went down, that number jumped to 23.3, an entire touchdown more per game. As long as this secondary can remain healthy, it will be safe to assume that Seattle will have a top five defense capable of leading this team to a Super Bowl berth.

The offensive side of the ball is where fans should worry. Getting back to the Super Bowl is going to require going back to their original identity. The Seahawks were known as a defensive team that could run the ball. Last season, that changed dramatically.

Seattle only ran the ball 40.7 percent of the time. They also ranked 20th in rushing attempts per game at 25.2. That number dropped from 2014 when they averaged 31.8 attempts per game, and from 2015 in which they averaged 31.2 attempts per game. Running the ball less resulted in the 21st ranked rushing attack in the NFL at just 103.8 yards per game.

The Seahawks made many moves to address their running game. Seattle’s offensive line was pretty awful last season in both run and pass protection. This led to the signing of Luke Joeckel and the selection of center/guard Ethan Pocic from LSU in the NFL Draft. They also signed running back Eddie Lacy from Green Bay.

The Seahawks hope these additions will bring back the identity that led them to two straight Super Bowl appearances.

If Seattle can become a dominant rushing team again, then they will continue making deep playoff runs. The Seahawks also need to earn home-field advantage. Over the past five seasons, Seattle has gone 39-6 at home, including the playoffs. They must also become more disciplined as a team. Seattle had the seventh most penalties per game at 7.3. As long as Seattle does these things, then the Seahawks can once again become Super Bowl champions.

Arizona Cardinals

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Cardinals may be the most overlooked team in the NFL. They did finish second in the NFC West last season at 7-8-1 but missed the playoffs. Carson Palmer looked old, yet the offense was still able to be successful. Defensively, the Cardinals dropped off a bit from previous years. So, what is it going to take to see Arizona win its first Lombardi Trophy?

Answering that question takes us back to the saying that defense wins championships. Carson Palmer can’t lead this team to a Super Bowl at the age of 37, but the defense can. Arizona’s defense is going to hurt from the losses of Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson.

They are hoping that rookies Haason Reddick and Budda Baker can fill these holes, but that will be a tough task. Rookies don’t always make immediate impacts so the Cardinals made moves in free agency to help with these departures as well. Arizona signed Jarvis Jones, Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea.

In order to win a Super Bowl, these roster changes must improve on the 22.6 points allowed per game last season. Arizona struggled to stop opponents mostly in the second half of games, allowing the 21st most points per second half at 11.8 per game. Not every area of the Cardinals defense was bad. They only gave up 305.2 total yards per game last season which was second-best in the NFL.

If Arizona’s defense can turn these small yardage totals into fewer point totals, then they can easily make the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl. But as is the case for every team, they need some help from their counterpart.

Arizona must balance out their offense. The Cardinals only ran the ball 36.7 percent of the time last season. They have to put the ball in David Johnson’s hands and take it out of Carson Palmer’s in order to make a deep playoff run. 24.9 rushing attempts for 108.2 rushing yards per game will not be enough in the NFL. The best teams in the NFL still run the ball well even though it is a passing league.

Although they pass the ball too frequently, it has led to a lot of points. Arizona averaged the sixth-most points in the NFL at 26.1 per game. The offense has been really good but balance will be the key. If the Cardinals do this and can improve on allowing fewer points per game, then Arizona will be the next Super Bowl champions.

Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

The Los Angeles Rams are going to need a miracle season to win Super Bowl LII. After going 4-12, there have been many changes within the organization.

Head coach Jeff Fisher was rightfully fired in favor of Sean McVay. McVay has brought in new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and well-known defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. There is optimism in L.A. that a new coaching staff can send this team in the right direction and it all starts with that loaded defense.

Wade Phillips will be taking over a defense that was much better than it looked on paper. The Rams gave up 24.6 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. Despite giving up so many points, they only gave up an average of 337 yards per game which was ninth-best.

The defense was constantly in tough situations. Los Angeles tied for 26th in the NFL with 1.8 giveaways per game. Despite all this, the Rams defense can become elite.

The reason this defense has a chance to become the best in the NFL is the combination of talent and their new coordinator. The defensive line is headlined by superstar Aaron Donald and defensive end Robert Quinn. Other top defenders on this team include Connor Barwin, Michael Brockers, Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner.

Phillips will transition the Rams to a 3-4 scheme and his track record as a coordinator is impressive. Since 2011, Phillips’ defenses have ranked eighth, 24th and fourth (twice) in points allowed. They have also ranked second, seventh (twice), first and fourth since 2011 in yards. Phillips and the Rams are a match made in heaven that will turn this already talented defense into being Super Bowl elite.

The biggest question mark for the Rams is their offense and how Jared Goff will fair in his first season as full-time starter. Goff looked bad in his minimal action during his rookie campaign. He had a 54.6 completion percentage and threw for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven games.

Overall, the Rams ranked in the bottom of almost every offensive category. They ranked 31st in all of the following: points in third quarter (1.6 per game), points in first half (7.8 per game), points in second half (6.2 per game), plays (60 per game), rushing yards (78.2 per game) and passing yards (184.4 per game).

They also ranked 32nd in the following: points (14 per game), second quarter points (3.3 per game), total yards (262.7 per game), yard per play (4.4), third down conversion (31.5 percent) and first downs per game (15).

As you can see, the offense was horrible. The good news is Goff can’t get any worse. Los Angeles also signed center John Sullivan and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth to help their struggling offensive line. The Rams hope these additions will allow talented running back Todd Gurley to run for more than 3.2 yards per carry like he did last year.

The Rams also did plenty to help their passing game in the offseason. They signed Robert Woods and drafted other receivers in Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds. Los Angeles also drafted tight end Gerald Everett. There is nowhere to go but up and these additions should help improve the Rams’ offense.

It is going to take everything falling into place perfectly for the Rams to bring a Super Bowl victory to L.A. Wade Phillips must turn this defense into an elite defense similar to the ones he had in Houston and Denver. Todd Gurley is going to have to win the rushing title as well. If the Rams do both of these things and Jared Goff begins to show the talent of a number one overall pick, then the Rams can miraculously win Super Bowl LII, just don’t bet on it.

San FRANCISCO 49ers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: http://www.49ers.com/)

It was hard trying to find reasons the Rams could win the Super Bowl so finding reasons for the 49ers is like asking a dog to meow, but this is what the Super Bowl series is all about.

San Francisco had a horrible season, finishing 2-14. It was one of the worst seasons in franchise history. This year they will be looking to bounce back under new general manager John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Finding themselves in the playoffs means fixing the worst rush defense in the NFL. San Fransisco gave up 165.9 rushing yards per game last season. Running backs would see the 49ers on their schedule and smile as if it was Christmas. This caused Lynch to focus hard on the defensive side of the ball this offseason.

San Francisco added defensive end Elvis Dumervill and linebacker Malcolm Smith in free agency. They also used their first two picks of the draft on defense. The 49ers selected defensive end Soloman Thomas and linebacker Rueben Foster.

The 49ers weren’t just bad against the run, they were just bad all around. San Francisco ranked 32nd in points allowing 30 per game. The bulk of the points came at the end of halves. They allowed 9.5 points per second quarter and 8.2 points per fourth quarter. These numbers will have to come down drastically if the 49ers are to make a run towards the playoffs. Their pass defense was average, giving up 240.5 yards through the air per game, which ranked 14th.

Similar to the Rams offense, the 49ers’ defense can’t get much worse. Improving over time will happen but becoming a top 15 defense is what it will take to get to the Super Bowl.

Offensively, the 49ers did have an identity under Chip Kelly and that was running the ball. Since Chip Kelly is no longer around, it will be interesting to see if Shanahan will continue to build off that foundation. The 49ers averaged 126.4 yards on the ground, which was fourth in the NFL.

Despite running the ball well, the 49ers struggled to open up the passing attack and converting on third down. San Francisco only managed to throw for 181.9 yards per game. They also only converted on third down 35 percent of the time. Struggling in these two areas caused the Niners to average 19.3 points per game.

Adding to their offensive woes, the Niners only managed to convert points in the red zone 68 percent of the time. All of these handicaps must improve in order for the 49ers to win the Super Bowl. That and hoping the rest of the league forfeits their season but hey, this was worth a shot.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: NFC West. Stay tuned the final edition of the Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/2016/09/09/2016-nfl-predictions-nfc-west/

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