oil change

This vehicle needs an oil change

We witnessed a change in culture and an entire revamping of an organization last season in Edmonton. The savior of hockey in a particular community in Alberta named Connor McDavid was the culprit. It still appears to be this way; however, we see a group of individuals just five points ahead of the lowly Arizona Coyotes entering Thanksgiving. What is going on in Oil Country?

There’s never one reason why a club struggles the way they do. A hockey team has 20 pieces to a very complex puzzle. This includes a coaching staff, fans and front office members. Everyone plays a role (like we have discussed before) where one act or one decision can have a huge snowball effect. Are the problems initiated on the ice, in the crowd or in the front offices?

My guess would be everything including the media that’s causing this mayhem. The players on the ice are their own worst enemy. A team’s psyche and mental toughness reigns supreme in their ability to win hockey games. This Oilers team is not entirely different from last season where they made a postseason appearance for the first time in a decade. Nevertheless, this current Oiler squad needs an oil change fast…and in a hurry.

The “Savior of Hockey” in Northern Alberta??

oil change

Photo: Sportsnet

I’m not buying it as of right now, no matter how angry any Edmonton fan gets. Yes, Connor McDavid is the reigning MVP and maybe the most skilled young NHLer since Crosby, Ovi and Wayne; however, he is the captain of the Edmonton Oilers hockey club. He is also 20 years old. Has that responsibility, or that 100 million dollar contract been weighing on him?

28 points in the first 22 games of an NHL season sounds nice for him. What about 18 points in 22 games for the team? That doesn’t sound very good for a preseason pick with the 2nd best odds to win it all coming into the season. Are his leadership skills in question? They say actions speak louder than words. A captain’s notoriety typically goes beyond stats and highlight reel plays.

Wayne Gretzky said he was ‘truly amazed’ (The Globe and Mail) by what McDavid began to create last season. I myself was truly amazed to see him make just one play finally in a game this past Tuesday in St. Louis. Unfortunately for the Edmonton faithful, that one play was made after the Oilers were enduring a 4-0 deficit in the third period.

The Oilers surrendered a season-high eight goals to the Blues that night. We later find out McDavid had ‘flu-like symptoms’ and head coach Todd McLellan described his team’s play as ‘lazy’ (STLToday.com) on that particular evening. Oh well..just another loss in a long 82-game season, right? No need to panic.

That dreaded media that won’t go away..’sorry’

oil change

Photo: National Post

The Edmonton Journal posted an article two hours before I started typing bashing the Oilers’ player development system. Clearly I’m not the only one with harsh remarks for this hockey team. Yes, Mr. Gretzky it’s “hockey 365 days a year in Edmonton”. This is why you came back to the team you helped raise four Stanley Cups. However, that also means the Oilers have to (at the very least) meet expectations.

The article went on to say that “there is a feeling too many of their prospects are not panning out” (Edmonton Journal). There is this youth movement that we have discussed going on in the league. This doesn’t mean the youngest of young players have to be “leading” the charge (McDavid/Matthews/Laine). You have players in their primes leading the way (Pietrangelo/Toews/Crosby/Ovechkin). However, again, these are not the sole reasons the Oilers are struggling.

The media is going to nitpick every little speck of an organization to make stories about how a team is doing. This cannot affect how the players play on the ice. Maybe if the “home” media halted their badgering questions that clearly annoy their team’s players things could change. I have no idea what’s going on in the minds of the entire Oiler community. I just know after that game in early October against the rival Flames, I did not expect these results 22 games into the season.

the entertainment “business”

oil change

Photo. NHL.com

The folks in Edmonton will still fill up Rogers Place to capacity no matter what. If the Oilers play the Florida Panthers on a Sunday afternoon, they will be there. Entertainment value is never the issue; therefore, there is no excuse for the Oiler front office to not piece together a quality hockey team. I mean look at the roster..

Money can buy you a star-studded hockey club. Money cannot buy you wins and points in this parity-filled NHL. This has caught up to teams like the Capitals, Blackhawks and seemingly now with the Oilers. There are “must-have players” up and down each roster that deserve their money. However, is it the most sensible thing for a 22-year old Leon Draisaitl to be making nine million dollars right now?

You have all these ridiculously young players with fat contracts that may or may not be deserving at this point in time. Whether the Hawks had to or not, they realized they couldn’t keep an Artemi Panarin long-term giving him six million right away. Furthermore, you have the Oilers with 27 million in salary between five players that are not yet 30.

McDavid’s rookie contract is up at the end of this season where his 100-million dollar deal will begin. If the playoffs are not in this Oiler team’s future, we could see some real (oil) changes in 2018.

If it’s broke, fix it.

What’s going on in Edmonton isn’t working right now. The organization has multiple big contracts for players either very young or in their prime. Do these “young guns” feel safe and untouchable with all this money?

Connor McDavid is going to put up great numbers. He knows he has great players around him. The “next one” may know in his mind things will turn around naturally, which it could. Although, nothing ever just happens in professional sports. Is McDavid not worried because $15 million is coming his way by the end of next season?

I’m not saying they don’t care. I’m not saying they won’t get it together. I’m saying they are one of the two worst teams in the West right now. This should not be the case. Figure it out.

 

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Hosmer

Eric Hosmer free agency: Best landing spots

With all of the talk surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani, some free agents have been lost in the mix. Eric Hosmer is an intriguing name on the market and could prove to be helpful for many teams. Here are the top destinations for the All-Star first baseman.

Boston Red Sox

Eric Hosmer free agency: Best landing spots

Boston has emerged as a favorite to land Eric Hosmer (Photo by ESPN.com)

First base was not a strong spot for Boston in 2017. Mitch Moreland was serviceable, but not much else. He was able to mash 22 home runs and brought in a 2.0 WAR. He was a plus fielder, however he is a free agent now and it does not look like he will be returning to Boston.

Eric Hosmer would make a lot of sense for the Red Sox. With the hole they have at first base and a need to bolster their lineup, Hosmer could provide a more reliable bat in that lineup. He is a guy Boston could count on to drive in 100 runs and knock 20 home runs along with a .280+ average.

The Red Sox GM, Dave Dombrowski, is also known for bringing in big name free agents. He is currently focused on trading for Giancarlo Stanton, but the first backup he should look at is Hosmer. A splash like Hosmer could really energize Boston and have them competing with the Yankees for AL East supremacy yet again.

The one caveat to signing Hosmer is his price. Hosmer is only 28 years old, so he still has a good amount of time left of being in a batter’s prime. He will be looking to sign a long term contract though, potentially around $100 million. Hosmer has shown he deserves that kind of money, the problem with the Red Sox is that they are only $9 million under the luxury tax. It would be ideal to stay under that figure, but Dombrowski and the Red Sox are serious about competing with the Yankees and Astros. It would not be absurd to see Hosmer in Fenway next year.

Kansas City Royals

Eric Hosmer has called Kansas City home since 2011. He has solidified himself as a above average first baseman there as well. Hosmer won a World Series with the Royals in 2015, so he would have no problem sticking around. The problem is that the old Royals core is starting to fade. Hosmer may be on the move, and Lorenzo Cain may be on the move as well.

The Royals have made it clear they want to bring Hosmer back as they do not have a good replacement for him at first base. He is their number one target, and they are hoping that he may be okay with a discount for the team that drafted him.

Hosmer is still likely to go where he is going to make the most money, but it will be interesting to see how much he would really like to stay in Kansas City. His leadership is forefront in their clubhouse. If the Royals were to go into rebuild mode, Hosmer would have a long enough contract to stick around and play well while leading the young new talent into the majors.

St. Louis Cardinals

Eric Hosmer free agency: Best landing spots

Carpenter was solid at first in 2017, but he is capable of playing almost anywhere on the field too (SI.com)

The cross-state rivals of the Royals are looking for a big name bat in the middle of their lineup. They already have Matt Carpenter manning the first base position, but the front office has already approached him about being an “everyday utility man”. This means he will basically be playing a different position everyday. This would free up room for Hosmer hypothetically, as they have been looking for a solidified first baseman since Albert Pujols left in 2011.

St. Louis has plenty of money to spend, so Hosmer would be very affordable compared to trading for Stanton or signing J.D. Martinez. That is why this move would make sense.

The one thing that may be holding them back is that Carpenter can still play first base, but even if he is not there, they can plug in Jose Martinez. Martinez broke out at the end of last year as one of the best rookies in the league. Martinez is already 29 years old, but he was still able to hit 14 home runs and had a .309 average despite only playing in 106 games.

New York Yankees

The Yankees, much like the Red Sox, have a luxury tax problem at the moment. However, first base may be their weakest position in their lineup at the moment. Nobody was able to really solidify themselves as the Yankees first baseman in 2017. Brian Cashman says Greg Bird is the future at fist base, but if they want to compete for a championship, they may have to look elsewhere for help.

New York is not shy to bring in veteran free agents. Not to mention, it is always a perk to keep them from their rival in Boston. Hosmer would serve as an excellent compliment to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, as well as provide stability at first base for the next five to seven years.

The Yankees do have a young core in Severino, Judge, Sanchez, and Gregorius. That is what may make them more likely to wait out for Bryce Harper potentially as he will hit the market next year. 2018 will be an impressive draft class, so it may be worth to wait.

Where will he go?

Hosmer will likely stay in the state of Missouri. The Cardinals would be a likely destination if they are not able to get Martinez or Stanton, so him going there is contingent on those players as well. In all though, it is most likely that he will stay in Kansas City. As stated earlier, it is a top priority for the Royals to keep Hosmer on. They are not close to the luxury tax either, unlike the Yankees and Red Sox.

New York is need for a first baseman the most, but they ought to stick it out with Bird for at least one more year. Brandon Moss would likely take over the roll in KC if Hosmer is to leave, but the Royals don’t necessarily want that. The Royals will have to pay up though as Hosmer may look for this contract to play out for the duration of his career.

 

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Five things to be thankful for in the NBA

Everyone has something to be thankful for come holiday season. With Thanksgiving passing yesterday it’s time to reflect on the things we are thankful for in sports.

The NBA season has been filled with twists and turns. Many teams and players have created a different narrative to this year’s NBA. The teams that have dominated both conferences are not the ones on top. Players have both emerged and fallen from last season. However we are thankful for many things that make the NBA entertaining. Here are five of the things that have made the NBA the most interesting this season.

The 76ers’ young guys

If you haven’t watched Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington play you should. The three of them are making the 76ers more than exciting to watch. They are something to be thankful for due to the elevated play in the East. Having a team emerge with great young talent to compete every night with the top teams in the East is definitely something to be thankful for.

Simmons is averaging 19, 9 and 7 and Joel Embiid is averaging a double-double. Covington is shooting 46 percent from three while shooting just under eight a game. The 76ers are 10-7 and are sitting in the sixth spot in the East. Simmons has been terrific, taking defensive rebounds and turning them into points.

The Sixers have been off to a good start and are just a couple games back in the East. They should continue their pace and be a tough out for a top team in the East come playoff time.

The Gordon Hayward-less Boston Celtics

Well now the Cavaliers don’t like the superior team in the East. Gordon Hayward went down in the first quarter of the season and the Celtics rallied around that. They have the best record in basketball and have beaten the Warriors already this season.

Many thought the season was lost for the Boston Celtics without Gordon Hayward. Instead, they are continually proving they belong. They have the best defensive unit in the league right now and previously held the best offense in the NBA to 88 points. Finally the best team in the East doesn’t look like the Cavaliers, it only took a few years.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

Everyone loves a little conflict and soap opera. What Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have created is flat out chippy and fans can’t take their eyes off of it. Many cheer against Kevin Durant for his choice to join the Golden State Warriors and Russ has “poked the bear” in a sense.

Russell Westbrook has felt disrespected due to Kevin Durant’s decision and has made it an on the court conflict. It has made games that are normally not as interesting and turned it into prime time television.

A new villain has been created

NBA

Lonzo Ball, (Thewinningtake.com).

Lonzo Ball is a villain. Like it or not LaVar Ball has made fans not like his son but in a way it has made the NBA better. Teams look forward to playing the Lakers to watch the opposing point guard play him tough.

This is exactly what his dad wanted to do by making a below average Lakers team relevant and putting his son in the forefront because of it. People now are drawing attention to an 8-11 team with a point guard who is shooting under 32 percent.

I still find myself thinking about how thankful we are to have a person to cheer against every night. It’s like fantasy sports because it makes fans care about games that they wouldn’t normally. So in a way, LaVar deserves a thank you.

The Timberwolves in playoff position

Obviously it’s very early in the season but the Timberwolves look very good. They have a big three in Karl Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. They are competitive every night and look poised to finally make the playoffs. We always cheer for things that don’t happen often right? Well the Timberwolves have been absent from the playoffs for a while.

It would be good for basketball to have a shake up in playoff teams. It gets boring seeing the same teams make the playoffs year in and year out. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. This could be the season that they finally break that extremely long drought. The Timberwolves round out the Thanksgiving list because they are finally relevant and create a tough playoff opponent for anyone they face.

 

Featured Image Hoopnations.com.

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Fantasy football: Three injuries to watch for in week 12

The 2017 NFL season has seen key players all around the league go down with season-ending injuries. Like many other years, fantasy owners just have to adapt to injuries and move on with hopes of the backups play just as well. However, the hardest injuries to handle are the ones that linger with your players and cause them to be inactive some weeks and active but not one hundred percent other weeks. Here are three injuries to watch for week 12.

Jameis Winston (tampa bay buccaneers)

The shoulder injury has been nagging Winston since a week six loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously a shoulder injury is something to watch for a quarterback and when Winston missed the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints. After that game, head coach of the Buccaneers Dirk Koetter, told the media that he would be shutting down his sat quarterback for several weeks to let his shoulder heal.

Now the Buccaneers travel to Atlanta to face off against division rival Falcons. Winston has officially been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons which means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be under center for the Buccaneers. Last week without Jameis Winston we saw the Buccaneers beat the Dolphins 30-20 with “Fitzmagic” throwing for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick is merely a desperation start if need be, but otherwise he should stay out of your lineup.

Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons)

Three injuries to watch for week 12.

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

In the first quarter of a 27-7 win against the Dallas Cowboys, Devonta Freeman took a helmet-to-helmet hit and endured his second concussion of his career. Freeman sat out last week’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks as Tevin Coleman took over lead back duties and struggled. Coleman rushed for 43 yards and one touchdown on 20 rushes against the very solid Seahawks defense.

 

Freeman didn’t practice Wednesday and was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice which is a good step but it seems like he won’t be suiting up in Sunday’s contest against Tampa Bay.

If he does in fact sit out Sunday’s game, it will be Tevin Coleman taking over lead back duties once again as he looks to bounce back against the weaker Buccaneers defense. Plug in Coleman as a steady RB2 and if you’re desperate, pick up Terron Ward to fill a void in your lineup.

Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers)

Cam Newton’s favorite target looks like he’s about to make a return to the field in week 12 against the New York Jets. This is a necessity as the Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin and lost Curtis Samuel for the year due to injury. Olsen has participated in practice Monday and Wednesday this week and Ron Rivera has said that Olsen is looking good for Sunday’s matchup against the New York Jets.

The Panthers receivers have struggled with drops, other than Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess, so the addition of Greg Olsen to their lineup should give Cam Newton more consistency in the passing game.

Olsen is going to have to fight for targets from Funchess and McCaffrey but he will definitely see his fair share as outside of those three guys, there isn’t many more reliable receivers fighting for targets on the Panthers. Greg Olsen is a TE1 this week and should be started in all formats.

 

Feature Image courtesy of Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

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Josh Gordon

What the Browns can expect from Josh Gordon

Browns fans got something to be thankful for yesterday as wide receiver Josh Gordon returned to practice. It’s not much, but with the season the Browns have had, this may call for a celebration.

With all of Gordon’s struggles with substance abuse, some fans may have forgotten just how good Gordon was as he has not played a game since 2014. In 2013, his last full season in the NFL, Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,646 while catching 87 passes and scoring nine touchdowns.

The following season, Gordon only played in five games and caught 24 passes for 303 yards. Nothing special, but it was probably hard for Gordon to get in rhythm after missing the team’s first 10 games of the season. He just didn’t seem like himself that season.

Gordon was originally suspended for the entire 2014 season, but his suspension was reduced to 10 games due to the NFL’s new drug policy. He was later suspended for the final game of the season by the Browns for violating team rules.

Gordon was later suspended for the entire 2015 season and the first four games of the 2016 season. Just before the end of his 2016 suspension, Gordon entered a rehabilitation center and now appears to have his life together after struggling with drug and alcohol abuse for so long. An interview with Uninterrupted has fans believing Gordon is past his struggles with addiction for real this time.

But what can fans honestly expect to get from Gordon? He hasn’t played in an NFL game in almost three years. Sure, he may be in shape, but playing in a game and working out are not the same.

Let’s look into where Gordon is right now and see if he can provide some spark and hope for the Cleveland Browns.

First practice

It was Gordon’s first time practicing with the team since training camp in 2016. It was also his first regular season team practice since Dec. 26, 2014. He worked on some drills with the receivers and also did some work with the team despite not playing this week.

How did he look? According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, he looked trim, fit and agile. He caught short and deep balls and the only one he misses was when he slipped. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network that he looks like Josh Gordon again.

There aren’t too many players on the team that really know him since he has been out so long, but that hasn’t hindered their excitement in any way.

“It’s like Christmas,” Hue Jackson told the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday. “I get to open a new toy. I know what’s in that box, but I just want to see how good it is. It’s exciting that he’ll be back out there.”

After watching Gordon in practice, Jackson’s thoughts are still the same.

“He’s something. It was a good first day,” he said according to the Cleveland Browns Twitter. “He’s what I thought he was.”

Gordon’s shape

Nobody is going to debate whether Gordon ever had it in him or not. He led the league in receiving yards with Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer throwing to him. We have only seen production like that with poor quarterback play come from DeAndre Hopkins as of lately.

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon hasn’t lost a step based on looks. (Photo from Josh Gordon’s Instagram account @flash)

However, three years is a long time to be out of the league. Marshawn Lynch at 31 years old is struggling after only being removed from the league for a year. Plaxico Burress also struggled in a comeback attempt after missing two seasons. He was older at age 34 when he returned, but he was not the same player he was with the New York Giants.

Luckily for Gordon, he is still just 26 years old. It is also important to note that he is completely sober now. Gordon said in his interview that he was probably on something in every game he has played.

If he can do that while high or drunk, imagine what he can do sober and in the prime of his career. Gordon has been training with former Olympic gold medalist Tim Montgomery. Montgomery said Gordon has come a long way from when they first started working together according to Cleveland.com. He also told Uninterrupted that Gordon could be an olympic champion in the 400 meters if he trained for it.

You can look at Gordon and know he is in shape. He didn’t let himself go in rehab. He has still been working out and doing what he can to make his return to the NFL the best it can possibly be.

Can he help the Browns?

It is tough to blame head coach Hue Jackson or rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer for all the offensive problems. The Browns might have the lowest amount of talent on offense in the NFL right now. Backup running back Duke Johnson Jr. currently leads the team in receiving yards with 414. That says it all right there.

Other offensive “talent” includes Isaiah Crowell, Ricardo Louis, Kenny Britt, Rashard Higgins, Seth DeValve and David Njoku. Former first-round pick Corey Coleman is finally healthy now as well.

Gordon will no doubt be the top target on this team, which isn’t very hard to do. However, it is hard for receivers to make an impact on a team. Of course Gordon has succeeded with poor quarterback play before, but bringing wins to a bad team is another story. Even the great Randy Moss couldn’t make the Raiders a winner in his short stint in Oakland.

We have seen quarterbacks like Tom Brady make stars out of receivers like Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. You just don’t see it too much the other way around. Receivers only get so many targets a game, and under 10 plays a game to make an impact. The Browns went 4-12 despite Gordon’s great play

It is going to be a process in Cleveland. Even if Gordon ends up playing like he did, it is going to take a lot more to fix this team than a wide receiver. Fans who are worried about the Browns losing the first overall pick in the draft can rest easy.

 

Featured image by Joshua Gunter

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Thanksgiving fantasy football

Thanksgiving games week 12 fantasy turducken MVPs

Thanksgiving is now here. It’s time for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie and most importantly, football.

That’s right, it’s time for the tradition of the Thanksgiving games.The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions will host their NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings, and the Cowboys will play the Los Angeles Chargers. Then the late game is an NFC East battle where the New York Giants head to play the Washington Redskins.

One part about the Thanksgiving games that I miss is John Madden and the turducken award. So for this article, it’s time to bring the turducken award back and predict who will have big fantasy days in each game.

Vikings-Lions MVP: Adam Thielen

The Vikings have been red hot, winning their last six games. That is partially due to their players stepping up with injuries, like Case Keenum playing well and the run game executing without rookie Dalvin Cook. One guy that has been having a surprise season and dominating the last two weeks is receiver Adam Thielen, who is my pick to be the first fantasy turducken winner against the Lions.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Adam Thielen (Photo from vikings.com)

Over the last two games, Thielen has caught 14 passes for 289 yards. He has caught a touchdown in the last three. The last time the Vikings played the Lions, they lost 14-7, and Stefon Diggs was the better receiver. This time it’s a different Vikings team, and I also expect Thielen to outperform Diggs with the possibility of having Darius Slay on him for the entire game.

Thielen is second in the NFL, only behind Antonio Brown, in receiving yards. He is also tied for fifth in receptions. Thielen is currently on a three-game streak of scoring over 20 points. He’s also only one of five wide receivers with at least four fantasy games in the 20s or higher.

The Lions have allowed the ninth most passing yards to the slot since Week 4. Expect the Vikings to throw some deep shots to Thielen as he’s tied with Brandin Cooks for the most deep (15-plus yards) receptions.

At this point, Thielen is a must-start receiver every week as he has become a favorable target for Keenum.

Chargers-Cowboys MVP: Alfred Morris

The Cowboys have struggled the past two games without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith. They played the desperate Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, possibly the best team in the NFC. This week is the time for them to turn it around against an inconsistent Chargers team. For this game, this is when the run game will pay off, and Alfred Morris will have a monster game.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Alfred Morris (Photo from cbssports.com)

Last week, Morris ran for 91 yards on 17 carries. In fact, Morris had more rushing yards than Dak Prescott had passing yards before the fourth quarter. His performance was especially impressive since the Eagles entered the game having allowed just 3.6 yards per attempt.

Morris has gotten better as he has seen more carries and is only getting better. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry in the two games since Elliott got suspended. With Darren McFadden a healthy scratch and Rod Smith not performing, Morris should only get more carries until Elliott comes back.

Dallas is at home against a Chargers team that is allowing a league-high 138.9 rushing yards per game and the second-most yards per carry (4.93). Playing against the 30th ranked team against running backs means Morris will be getting the ball a ton early in the game.

Giants-Redskins MVP: Vernon Davis

Even with injuries to Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor, the Redskins should still be efficient on offense. The turducken award in this game goes to tight end Vernon Davis.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Vernon Davis (Photo from sports.yahoo.com)

When it comes to the tight end against the Giants defense, it’s the worst in fantasy. They have given up a touchdown every game but last week. However, they still gave up 120 yards to the position.

During Jordan Reed’s three-week absence, Davis has averaged 8.7 targets, 5.3 catches and 71.7 receiving yards. Last week he had six targets and 67 receiving yards. Dating back to Week 6, Davis leads the Redskins in receiving yards (367), is tied for second in receptions (25) and is second in targets (38). With Reed missing practice, it’s likely Davis will get the start again against the Giants.

The Giants have yielded a league-high 19.6 PPR points per game to this position. With this matchup, he has to be a must-start, even at the flex position.

 

Featured image from sbnation.com.

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Week 12 NFL picks

Week 12 NFL picks against the spread

The last two weeks have made finishing the year with a winning record seem like a pipe dream. I was just 4-9-1 against the spread last week and now sit at 68-84-7 on the year, but there is still lots of football left to be played.

My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Thursday

Vikings (-3) at Lions – These teams are tough to wrap your arms around, but this Thanksgiving Day tilt is dripping with playoff implications. The Lions continue to get away with slow starts more often than they should. Matthew Stafford is the only reason for that. They have no balance whatsoever and have not had a 100-yard rusher in four years.

Case Keenum is playing way above his head. He has given the Vikings enough cushion so that they are almost certainly a playoff team. Even so, it is hard to think that he will not eventually come back to earth. For now though, the Vikings play better defense and run the ball better than this week’s opponent. Holding the Rams to seven points was the most impressive outing from a defense all year. Min 24 Det 17

Chargers (-1) at *Cowboys – The Cowboys’ season is on the line here. They have been physically dominated the last two weeks. With the AFC growing more mediocre by the week, the Chargers are also very much in the playoff mix, but they have to travel a fairly long way on a short week. Dallas tends to play well in their traditional Thanksgiving time slot, so they will find a way to win here. Dal 24 LAC 23

*Giants at Redskins (-7) – Washington has been the better team this year, but they lost their best running back last week in addition to their late-game collapse. Whatever playoff hopes they had probably went by the boards too. Given all that, they may check out on the season.

New York’s upset of Kansas City last week should provide incentive for them to keep playing hard. Timing is everything in this matchup and the timing is right for an upset. NYG 23 Was 20

Sunday

Bills at Chiefs (-10) – This is the first of many large spreads this week. Both of these teams are struggling in a big way. They each look miles away from the teams that got off to two of the best starts in the league.

Kansas City is still in firm control of the AFC West despite losing four out of five games. Andy Reid has earned the benefit of the doubt and will likely get his team back on track before long. Alex Smith has regressed from being an MVP candidate in the first part of the season back to being the average Alex Smith that everyone should be used to. The Chiefs still have playmakers all over the field though.

It is hard to have that same confidence in Buffalo right now. Mercifully, the Nathan Peterman experiment ended after one disastrous half against the Chargers last week. The Bills are still very much in the AFC Wild Card mix. However, even with Tyrod Taylor back under center, Sean McDermott may have already lost this team.

Buffalo has given up 135 combined points during its current losing streak. Yet, they tinkered with the quarterback rather than the defense? It is absolutely mystifying, and it must feel that way for some of the players too. The walls are closing in on Buffalo. A trip to Kansas City will not make it any better. KC 24 Buf 13

Panthers (-4.5) at Jets – After being picked to go winless by many before the season, the Jets have fought the good fight all year long. But at 4-6, reality is starting to set in. Carolina has won three in a row and are finally figuring out how to use the young talent they drafted to help Cam Newton, who is also finding consistency. These two teams are headed in opposite directions. The Panthers keep rolling. The Jets keep fading. Car 28 NYJ 20

Bears at Eagles (-13.5) – The Eagles are showing no signs of slowing down. Carson Wentz is really good, and it seems like he gets help from different offensive weapons every week.

Meanwhile, Chicago has not been winning games consistently since rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky took over. They have been playing teams like Detroit, New Orleans and Minnesota right to the wire though. The Bears run the ball and play defense well enough to hang around with anybody in this league. Additionally, they do not even have to keep this one all that close to be a winning bet here. Phi 28 Chi 17

Browns at Bengals (-8) – Believe it or not, the Bengals are just a single game out of an AFC playoff spot. The winless Browns are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot as well. Take your pick as to which of those two facts is more unbelievable.

Week 12 NFL picks

Photo from USA Today

The Browns keep losing, but have played well in patches over the last handful of weeks. Moreover, the Bengals never blow anyone out, especially when they are supposed to. Look no further than the Indianapolis game from about a month ago. A.J. Green will make a big play late to help Cincinnati avoid disaster. Cin 16 Cle 13

Dolphins at Patriots (-16.5) – As usual, New England is the class of the AFC and Miami is far from it. Even so, 16.5 points in any NFL game is too many to give up. In a game between division rivals, it feels like stealing. NE 31 Mia 17

Buccaneers at Falcons (-10) – The Falcons are getting a little too much credit here. The win in Seattle was massive and impressive. Even so, Atlanta has been chasing consistency all year. After dismantling the Aaron Rodgers led Packers, they lost home games to Buffalo and Miami. Thus, it is hard to see them blowing out a Tampa Bay team that is suddenly playing much better with veteran backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the controls. Falcon fans will have to bite their nails late in this game. Atl 27 TB 24

Titans (-3) at *Colts – Indianapolis is not very good, but Jacoby Brissett has had them in almost every game since taking over the starting quarterback job. This includes a meeting earlier this year with Tennessee where the Colts led heading into the fourth quarter before collapsing.

The Titans offense has just become stagnant in recent weeks. They are either in a low-scoring battle or getting blown out every week. It is fair to wonder whether or not Mike Mullarkey is the right coach to get Marcus Mariota to the next level. Brissett makes a play late, Mariota does not. Ind 28 Ten 24

Seahawks (-7) at 49ers – It is foolish to sell your Seahawks stock. Yes, the defense is injured and aging. However, in their last two losses, they have missed four combined field goals and had a bizarre attempt at a fake. If even one of those plays is different, no one is panicking about the Seahawks right now.

As long as Russell Wilson stays healthy, this team will be in every game and win most of them. San Francisco is scrappy, but undermanned here. They are the perfect team for Seattle to play right now. Sea 27 SF 13

Broncos at Raiders (-5) – These bitter AFC West rivals had legitimate playoff aspirations at the start of the year and are now a mess. They almost seem to be trying to match each other’s dysfunction. Denver fired its offensive coordinator this week. The Raiders sent their defensive coordinator packing.

Week 12 NFL picks

Photo from clutchpoints.com

Paxton Lynch will finally get a legitimate crack at being the long-term quarterback answer in Denver starting with this game. With everything going on, this had to be a tough game for Vegas to put a line on. Anything could happen here. Even though Denver already shut him down once this year, Derek Carr is still better than anything the Broncos have on offense at the moment. Oak 21 Den 14

Jaguars (-4.5) at Cardinals – Jacksonville is a lot like Minnesota. They have a really good defense and some nice skill players, but their limitations at quarterback will eventually doom them in or before the playoffs. They are fortunate to be playing against quarterback Blaine Gabbert this week. Despite playing well in defeat last week, the former Jaguars first-round pick is just the kind of quarterback that Jacksonville’s sack and turnover happy defense has feasted on all year long. Jac 24 Ari 14

*Saints at Rams (-2.5) – The Rams are still very much a factor in the NFC, but they were humbled by a very good Vikings defense last week. This week is just a bad matchup. No one has ran the ball better than New Orleans over the last month. The Rams are in the bottom third of the league in rush defense. The new style of the Saints does not revolve solely around Drew Brees, and it travels very well. NO 24 LAR 21

Packers at Steelers (-14) – Swallowing this many points in an NFL game is normally foolish, but there is no reason not to do it here. The Pittsburgh offense is almost always going to produce regardless of the opponent.

It is the defense that has been a fairly well kept secret on their current five-game winning streak. They have not allowed more than 17 points in any game during the streak. The Packers have scored more than 20 points just once since Brett Hundley stepped in for injured Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay was shutout last week. It is hard to see a much different scenario in this one. Pit 35 GB 17

Monday Night

Texans at Ravens (-7) – The Texans were finally able to scrape together a win with Tom Savage at quarterback last week. It was more than likely too little too late though. Sometimes all you have to do is say it out loud. Savage is going on the road to face Baltimore defense that has shutout two of its last three opponents. This is going to get ugly. Bal 24 Hou 10

 

Featured image from forbes.com

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College football week 13 picks

Joe DiTullio and Rob Doerger make their picks for every single FBS college football game for week 13. With it being rivalry week, and the last week of the regular season for most conferences, they have some fun with the coaching carousel too. Here are the picks for week 13 in college football:

Away Home Location Rob Joe
Ole Miss #14 Mississippi State Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS Miss State Miss St
Western Michigan Toledo Glass Bowl, Toledo, OH Toledo Toledo
#2 Miami Pittsburgh Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA Miami Miami
Baylor #12 TCU Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX TCU TCU
Northern Illinois Central Michigan Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, MI NIU CMU
Navy Houston TDECU Stadium, Houston, TX Navy Houston
Ohio Buffalo UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY Ohio Ohio
Missouri Arkansas Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR Mizzou Missouri
South Florida #15 UCF Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL UCF UCF
New Mexico San Diego State SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA SDSU SDSU
Texas State Troy Veterans Memorial Stadium , Troy, AL Troy Troy
Iowa Nebraska Memorial Stadium , Lincoln, NE Iowa Iowa
Western Kentucky Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL FIU FIU
#25 Virginia Tech Virginia Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA VT VT
Texas Tech Texas Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX Texas Texas
California UCLA Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA UCLA UCLA
#7 Georgia Georgia Tech Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA Georgia Georgia
#9 Ohio State Michigan Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI OSU OSU
Kansas #19 Oklahoma State Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK OK State Ok State
East Carolina #20 Memphis Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN Memphis Memphis
Florida State Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL FSU FSU
Louisville Kentucky Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY Kentucky Louisville
Indiana Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN Purdue Indiana
Connecticut Cincinnati Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH Cincy UC
Tulane SMU Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX SMU SMU
Boston College Syracuse Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY BC BC
Duke Wake Forest BB&T Field, Winston-salem, NC Wake Wake
North Texas Rice Rice Stadium, Houston, TX UNT UNT
UTEP UAB Legion Field , Birmingham, AL UAB UAB
Appalachian State Georgia State Georgia State Stadium, Atlanta, GA App St App St
Florida Atlantic Charlotte McColl-Richardson Field, Charlotte, NC FAU FAU
Southern Mississippi Marshall Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, WV So Miss USM
Old Dominion Middle Tennessee Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN MTSU MTSU
Arkansas State Louisiana Monroe Malone Stadium, Monroe, LA Ark St Ark St
UNLV Nevada Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV UNLV UNLV
#1 Alabama #6 Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL Auburn Alabama
#5 Wisconsin Minnesota TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN Wisconsin Wisconsin
#10 Penn State Maryland Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD Penn St PSU
#23 Boise State Fresno State Bulldog Stadium , Fresno, CA Boise Boise
North Carolina NC State Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC NC State NC State
Iowa State Kansas State Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS Kansas St Iowa State
West Virginia #4 Oklahoma Memorial Stadium , Norman, OK Oklahoma Oklahoma
#16 Michigan State Rutgers High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ Mich St MSU
#22 Northwestern Illinois Memorial Stadium , Champaign, IL NW NW
Vanderbilt Tennessee Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN Vandy Vandy
Temple Tulsa Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK Temple Temple
Idaho New Mexico State Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM Idaho Idaho
Arizona Arizona State Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ Arizona Zona
Georgia Southern Louisiana Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA ULL ULL
Wyoming San Jose State CEFCU Stadium – Home of the Spartans, San Jose, CA Wyoming Wyoming
Oregon State Oregon Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR Ducks Oregon
#3 Clemson #24 South Carolina Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC Clemson Clemson
Texas A&M #18 LSU Tiger Stadium , Baton Rouge, LA LSU LSU
UT San Antonio Louisiana Tech Joe Aillet Stadium, Ruston, LA La Tech LA Tech
#8 Notre Dame #21 Stanford Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA Stanford Notre Dame
#13 Washington St #17 Washington Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA Wash St Wazzu
BYU Hawai’i Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI Hawai’i Hawaii
Colorado Utah Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT Utah Utah
Utah State Air Force Falcon Stadium, Usaf Academy, AFA AFA
Gameday Guest Picker (Auburn) Charles Barkley Charles Barkley
# of coaches fired/resigning  by midnight Sunday 7 6

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2017 NFL power rankings week 12

2017 NFL power rankings week 12

There are only six weeks remaining in the regular season and teams are beginning to take their place in the standings. Only one team has officially been eliminated, and you guessed it, the Browns are that team. There are a ton of questions still left to answer but here are how the teams rank currently.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-10)

Last ranking: 32 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Browns are heading toward a 0-16 season which has only been done once before by the Detroit Lions. Looking at their schedule, there are two games in which they have a shot at winning. December 17th versus Baltimore and on Christmas Eve at Chicago. Now just because they are winnable doesn’t mean the Browns will pull off the win, everything about the Browns this season is totally embarrassing. No matter what happens the rest of the season it is hard to envision a scenario where they ever move out of this spot.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

Last ranking: 31 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Seattle

Since the rankings were done the 49ers have won a game but they didn’t move up because the Giants won another game as well. The 49ers are in prime position for a top three pick but if they start Jimmy Garoppolo they have a better shot to win more games. Because he could win them some games, it makes sense that they haven’t started him yet.

San Francisco is looking toward the future and adding another top three pick to this roster could give them the talent to be competitive for the next 10 years with the other moves they have made. This season though they are stuck in this spot in the rankings.

30. New York Giants (2-8)

2017 NFL power rankings week 12

(Photo Credit: BILL KOSTROUN/AP)

Last ranking: 30 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Washington

In a big surprise, the New York Giants upset the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. It was only the second win of the season for the Giants. The win doesn’t do much for the Giants other than pushing them from the second overall pick to the third. It could have been the win that forces the Giants to keep Ben McAdoo which would be disastrous for the future of New York.

29. Indianapolis Colts (3-7)

Last ranking: 29 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Tennessee

The last time we saw the Colts play they blew a chance to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their next game is a divisional contest against the Tennessee Titans. The game will likely be close because divisional games are always more difficult. Jacoby Brissett is doing a solid job since being traded but he is struggling to put points up as the Colts are only averaging 17.9 points per game. Indianapolis will remain competitive but they too are preparing for the NFL draft.

28. Denver Broncos (3-7)

Last ranking: 28 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Oakland

At one point the Denver Broncos were 3-1 and looked like a formidable team. Since then the Broncos have lost six straight games and have fallen into the top five of the draft. The quarterback situation is a mess and can be considered the worst in the NFL. The defense is no longer fearsome and elite. Everything is crumbling in Denver and it may be time for a complete rebuild.

27. Miami Dolphins (4-6)

Last ranking: 27 (no change)

Next game: away vs. New England

Similar to the Broncos, the Dolphins were once in a great position in the standings. Miami was sitting at 4-2 but has lost four straight games. The Jay Cutler experiment has been a total failure as he has only thrown for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has also been in and out of the lineup because of injury. Miami has also traded away their starting running back. The season is going to continue to nosedive and the season is all but over.

26. New York Jets (4-6)

Last ranking: 19 (-7)

Next game: home vs. Carolina

The New York Jets are stuck completely in the middle of mediocrity. They win just enough games to not get a top three pick and lose enough games to not make the playoffs. This week they get the Carolina Panthers who are one of the top teams in the NFL. They will have trouble scoring as they average just 20.1 points per game and the Panthers are giving up 18 points per game. The Jets will likely lose this game to remain mediocre.

25. Chicago Bears (3-7)

Last ranking: 24 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Philadelphia

Chicago was a missed field goal away from playing in overtime against the Lions. It led to a kicking change that might make a difference throughout the rest of the season. At worst the Bears are competitive but still a few pieces away from becoming a legitimate contender. This season they are playing for the development of their players and pride. Chicago will end up with a top 10 pick to continue their rebuild.

24. Arizona Cardinals (4-6)

Last ranking: 25 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Jacksonville

Despite the major injuries, and using their third quarterback of the season, the Cardinals are still fighting. Arizona is sitting at 4-6 and still have a slim possibility of making the playoffs. Blaine Gabbert got his first start in the last game throwing for 257 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He will be starting this week against the Jaguars in what will be his chance at revenge. It will likely hurt the Cardinals and possibly push them lower in the rankings.

23. Green Bay Packers (5-5)

Last ranking: 20 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Pittsburgh

The Packers are hanging around at 5-5 but a shutout loss at home to the Ravens doesn’t look promising. Aaron Rodgers is truly the only reason the Packers have been good in recent years and without him, the entire offense is lost.

The Packers’ brass needs to really think about finding a new general manager and coach that can build the rest of this team so that losing Rodgers doesn’t mean they get shutout. The season doesn’t get any easier this week with Pittsburgh on the schedule next.

22. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

Last ranking: 26 (+4)

Next game: home vs. Houston

Baltimore is fresh off a 23-0 win in Lambeau and now have positioned themselves for a run at a wildcard spot. The Ravens continue to do it with defense. Baltimore ranks third in points allowed per game with 17.1. They also rank second in pass defense allowing 185.2 yards per game. If they are able to put up 20 points in the rest of their games they should have a great shot at one of the two wildcard spots.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (4-6)

Last ranking: 22 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Cleveland

Just like Baltimore, Cincinnati is still fighting for a berth in one of the wildcard spots. The Bengals are fresh off a 20-17 win against Denver. Their remaining schedule has three divisional games and three games against the NFC North, the Packers not one of them. The schedule will be tough but winning five of these six games will give them a chance. Will the Bengals step up to the plate or miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season? My money is on the latter.

20. Houston Texans (4-6)

Last ranking: 21 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Baltimore

Poor Houston is just dealing with countless injuries or they would be one of the best teams in the AFC. Somehow they still managed to win last week against the Cardinals. Houston is still mathematically in the playoff race. The problem though is their remaining schedule is littered with tough tests including road games at Jacksonville, Baltimore and Tennesse. They also have to play the Steelers in Houston.

Houston will finish somewhere between five and seven wins which will leave them out of the playoffs. The good news is they will have a draft pick within the top 15 and therefore add talent to a team that is loaded with tons of talent already. The only thing that can stop the Texans in the future is bad health.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6)

Last ranking: 23 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

The Bucs have won two straight games with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center but the opponents have been the Jets and the Dolphins. This won’t keep up over the final six games with four divisional games still remaining. Tampa Bay has underperformed all season and it is unclear in which direction they are heading. They don’t have an identity. Dirk Koetter needs to use the rest of the season to form an identity to take into next year that way the Bucs can become a playoff team.

18. Buffalo Bills (5-5)

2017 NFL power rankings week 12

(Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Last ranking: 15 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Kansas City

A few weeks ago the Bills looked like one of the top 10 teams in the NFL. The butt whooping they just received from the Chargers, and their other recent losses show otherwise. In a head-scratching move, the Bills decided to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman from Pittsburgh. That didn’t turn out all too well as he threw five interceptions in the first half, more than Tyrod Taylor had on the entire season. Taylor finished the game but it was out of reach. This week they head to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs in a game that both teams desperately need.

17. Oakland Raiders (4-6)

Last ranking: 17 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Denver

It is somewhat puzzling to see how bad the Raiders are this year after such a successful 2016 campaign. The offense went from averaging 25.3 points per game down to 20.4 points per game this season. Derek Carr needs to step it up if the Raiders are to turn this season into a successful one. The defense also needs to pick it up, they are the only team without an interception yet this season. Oakland should have no trouble this week with Denver to pick up some confidence and momentum.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (4-6)

Last ranking: 18 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Dallas

Do not sleep on the Chargers in the AFC playoff picture. This team is a few close losses from having a much better record and the defense is beginning to play at a high level. Los Angeles is giving up less than 20 points per game this year and has the fourth most interceptions on the season. As long as Philip Rivers protects the ball and they continue to feed Melvin Gordon then the Chargers will win most of their remaining games.

15. Washington Redskins (4-6)

Last ranking: 12 (-3)

Next game: home vs. New York Giants

Washington was in two close games against in the past two weeks against the Vikings and Saints, both of which resulted in a loss for the Redskins. Washington is a tough out for whoever they play but they won’t make the playoffs. The defense needs to be loaded with more talent to help an offense that ranks 12th in scoring and ninth in yards. If they can commit to Kirk Cousins and improve the defense then the Redskins can be dangerous next season. Right now though they must focus on playing spoiler.

14. Detroit Lions (6-4)

Last ranking: 14 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Detroit has a massive test this week with the Vikings coming into town on Thanksgiving but the Lions already beat the Vikes in Minnesota, 14-7. This game will likely be different because the Vikings have a lot of momentum and confidence due to a six-game win streak. Detroit needs to win this week to keep the division title within reach. The Lion’s defense will be key like it was in the first matchup with Minnesota.

13. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

Last ranking: 13 (no change)

Next game: away vs. San Francisco

It is quite admirable how well the Seahawks performed despite losing two members of the Legion of Boom. If Blair Walsh could have put a little more power into his attempted game-tying field goal then the Seahawks might have gotten a win against the Falcons. With the injuries, the Seahawks are going through and their subpar offensive line, it will be a tough go for the Seahawks the rest of this season. Looking at their schedule though they should win around three more games putting them somewhere around 9-7. The Seahawks will not make the playoffs season.

12. Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

Last ranking: 8 (-4)

Next game: home vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Dallas is another team that shouldn’t be slept on in the playoff picture. Right now they are missing Ezekiel Elliot but if Sean Lee can get healthy then the defense becomes formidable. If the Cowboys can start playing solid defense they will make the playoffs. They can still run the ball effectively no matter who their back is. Once the offensive line becomes healthy again then Dak will feel more comfortable and play better. The Chargers will be a huge test and this is a must-win game.

11. Tennessee Titans (6-4)

Last ranking: 11 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Indianapolis

Not many people are talking about the Titans but they still have a shot to be a dangerous team. Marcus Mariota hasn’t fully hit his stride yet this season but the Titans have found a way to win six games stills. They run the ball well averaging 117.5 yards per game. Tennessee needs to unleash Mariota and let him sling the ball around. The Titan’s should get back in the win column this week against the Colts and would keep them in control of their destiny.

10. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

Last ranking: 16 (+5)

Next game: home vs. Tampa Bay

Currently, Atlanta sits in the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs with the Lions, Seahawks, Packers and Cowboys right on their tail. Getting to the playoffs is going to be extremely difficult with their remaining schedule. They still must face the Panthers, Vikings and both the Buccaneers and Saints twice. All six games will be battles and the Falcons will likely lose half of these games putting them somewhere around 9-7. It may or may not be enough to sneak into the playoffs.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

Last ranking: 6 (-4)

Next game: home vs. Buffalo

No team has cooled off quite like the Chiefs have. At one point they looked like the most dominant team in the NFL. They are the only team this season to hand the Eagles a loss who most view as the best team in the NFL. Kansas City has floundered offensively and that is why they are losing games. Over their last three games, they are scoring just 18.3 points per game, eight points less than their season average. If the offense can get rolling again then the Chiefs will become dangerous again.

8. Carolina Panthers (7-3)

Last ranking: 10 (+2)

Next game: away vs. New York Jets

The media loves to talk about the bad things that Cam Newton does but the fact of the matter is he has led the Panthers to a roughly quiet 7-3 start. A bad loss to the Bears is the difference in this team from being the second seed as opposed to their current fifth seed ranking. Carolina will continue to play stifling defense and Cam will lead the offense. The Panthers should easily get to 8-3 this week with a road game against the mediocre Jets.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3)

Last ranking: 9 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Jacksonville is the most dangerous team to the Patriots throne. Yes, you read that right. They have the defense that can actually cause problems in the postseason for the great Tom Brady. Playoff football becomes about who can punch who in the mouth defensively and who can run the ball. Well, the Jaguars can do both. Offensively the Jaguars average 160.6 yards per game, the best mark in the NFL. Defensively, Jacksonville is first in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense. Come January nobody is going to want to face the Jags and their elite defense.

6. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

Last ranking: 4 (-2)

Next game: home vs. New Orleans

There is no shame in losing to the Vikings on the road but the shame does come from being the number one offense in the league and being held scoreless for the final 55 minutes of the game. Minnesota bullied the Rams and that is why the Rams fell two spots in the rankings. The road remains diffcult with the Saints coming into town. A loss here would put the Rams even lower in the rankings and out of contention for a first-round bye.

5. New Orleans Saints (8-2)

Last ranking: 7 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Rams

With an eight-game win streak, many believe the Saints are the only threat to the Eagles in the NFC. They are ranked fifth though because they did lose to the Minnesota Vikings in week one. Many want to discredit that because of how early it was in the season and that the game would be much different if they played now. That may be the case but that fact is they still lost to the Vikings.

Even so, the Saints have the makings of a Super Bowl contender. A win against the Rams could vault them higher into the rankings even if the top four teams end up winning this week. The Saints are marching right now, but what happens when adversity strikes? We will have to wait and see.

4. Minnesota Vikings (8-2)

Last ranking: 5 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Detroit

Minnesota fans, the Vikings aren’t getting much love right now but don’ let that worry you. These Vikings are great and are a team nobody will want to play in the playoffs. Minnesota’s defense isn’t ranked first in scoring defense but alot of points against them have come in garbage time.

Case Keenum is also being overlooked and he is the most improved player in the NFL this season. If you look at his stats last year, in Los Angeles, they were atrocious. The Vikings have a big game this week in Detroit. They will be looking for revenge from an earlier loss, but more importantly, they are looking to strangle their hold on the divisional lead they own. Getting to 9-2 will be a huge checkpoint in the race for the division title and a possible first-round bye.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2)

Last ranking: 2 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Green Bay

Pittsburgh is winning but they don’t always win pretty. Two weeks ago they barely scraped by the Colts. The Steelers made everyone forget that performance with an annihilation of the Titans. The offense is rolling putting up 26.7 points and 352.3 yards per game in their last three. Pittsburgh is succeeding though because of their defense. The Steelers rank second in points allowed at 16.5 points per game. The Steelers are going to have a lot to say in the playoffs because of their play on both sides of the ball. This week they get the undermanned Packers.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

Last ranking: 1 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Chicago

Before you grab your pitchforks and attack me for putting the Eagles at two in the rankings hear me out. The Eagles are a great team with an explosive offense that is soaring but they haven’t played the hardest of schedules. Eight of their nine wins have come against teams with a .500 record or worse. Being 9-1 is still impressive but would you take them to beat the Patriots, I wouldn’t. The Eagles are a great team, but they aren’t the best.

1.New England Patriots (8-2)

Last ranking: 3 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Miami

New England is the best team in the NFL, not the Eagles. New England is on a roll winning six straight games by an average of 14.3 points. The defense has become extremely hot giving up just 12.5 points per game during this six-game winning streak. There is no reason to think they won’t keep this up under the direction of Brian Belichick. Because the defense is rolling and they have the great Tom Brady it is safe to assume the Patriots will end up in the AFC Championship game and most likely the Super Bowl. Boston is home to the best team in the NFL.

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Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies team profile

The Phillies turned in the third worst record in baseball in 2017. However, things don’t feel so lousy in the city of brotherly love. The Eagles are the best team in football, which is what most of the city is focusing on right now, but the Phillies don’t have such a bad outlook either.

The calvary is coming

After a couple of promising campaigns, Maikel Franco had a disappointing 2017. He still managed to knock 24 home runs, but his slash line of .230/.281/.409 is not what the Phillies wanted to see. There is definitely room to improve for the young third baseman.

Philadelphia Phillies

Maikel Franco will look to bounce back from a lackluster 2017 season. (Photo from Philly.com)

Although Franco was supposed to be breaking out as the face of the Phillies future, another man stepped in to make up for his struggles. Rhys Hoskins did not make his major league debut until August, but he did not waste any time getting acquainted with big league pitching. In 50 games, Hoskins managed to hit 18 home runs. If he kept up that pace through an entire season, he would have hit over 40.

Hoskins is only the beginning of the young prospects coming up in the Phillies system. They have six prospects in the MLB top 100, five of them being hitters. This means that Hoskins really is only the start of an offensive wave that will be coming into Citizens Bank Park. The process of all these hitters coming up will take about three seasons to develop.

What to expect this offseason

Philadelphia has been mentioned as one of the top teams in the race for Giancarlo Stanton, the hottest hitter on the trade market. The Phillies wouldn’t be trading for him for 2018 or 2019, but they would think he could be a big contributor for the 2020 season and beyond. The only catch is that they would have to be willing to give up some of their top prospects of the future.

The Phillies took Mickey Moniak with the first pick in 2016, a young outfielder with impressive plate discipline and can make solid contact. He is still developing as a ballplayer, but he is a very valuable tool for the future. He would be someone that the Phillies may have to give up in order to acquire Stanton.

Rumors have been fading away from the Phillies and Stanton though. Philadelphia does not have the pitching prospects that Miami would be interested in. The Giants, Cardinals and Red Sox have been more in the mix as of late. This makes the Phillies more of an outside contender for Stanton.

The Phillies ought to focus on pitching this offseason. They have been improving as a whole on offense and have some solid names coming up, but the pitching outlook is a little bleak. There are some intriguing names that hit free agency, such as Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.

One name that could stand out for the Phillies is Tyler Chatwood. He has managed to put up some modest numbers while playing in the mountains, so he may be a plus pitcher if he is in a better suited park. He will come much cheaper than some of the other pitchers on the market, and could be serviceable for the future as he is only 27.

What to expect in 2018

The Phillies are still in the middle of their rebuilding process, so don’t expect them to compete with the Nationals for the NL East crown just yet. However, they are showing signs of not being the bottom dwellers of years past.

Phillies

Scott Kingery may be cementing himself as the second baseman of the future (Photo Courtesy of Yong Kim)

Their No. 3 prospect, Scott Kingery, should be making his debut next year at second base. Kingery had a stellar year in Double and Triple-A. He managed to hit 26 homers and had a slash line of .304/.359/.530. He also possess great speed as he stole 29 bases. Expect for him to make a splash in Philly next year.

 

 

Jorge Alfaro is another name that could make a big impact in 2018. Alfaro is the fifth best prospect in their system, and got some time in the big leagues in 2017. He came from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal, and is showing to be worth it thus far. In 29 games he hit .318 with five home runs. He is looking to fill the hole left at the catchers spot since Carlos Ruiz in 2016.

The Phillies may not be bottom dwellers in the East next year, seeing that the Marlins are looking to go into rebuild mode. Their offense is already looking much better, and will only be getting better as time goes on. They are hoping that Franco looks more like his 2016 self rather than last year. If he does turn things around, it could be a threatening lineup with Hoskins, Franco and Kingery.

 

Featured image by Laurence Kesterson/AP

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