Five takeaways from the Overwatch League Preseason

Entering the first week of preseason, the competitive Overwatch landscape changed as the balance of power shifted to new teams and players. The 12 initial matchups gave fans a serious look at their new home teams and what to expect for this upcoming season. Here are five takeaways from the preseason:

Pine. Photo via Overwatch League

1. The Widowmaker meta is here to stay

Widowmaker is becoming a standard pick in the Overwatch League, based off the preseason compositions. Pick-off potential and burst damage make her such a threat on the back-line. Clearly, the way in which teams positioned their Widow and how much emphasis attacking teams put on shutting her down shows her importance.

On nearly every hybrid, payload, assault and some control points, Widowmaker has good enough sight lines to be a nuisance. If teams don’t focus her down, each push will be staggered by a respawning support player that’s a quick one-shot.

It also helps that the players in the Overwatch League have unbelievable aim. Kim “Pine” Hyuk-do, Fleta, Taimou, Babybay, Tviq and many other players are too lethal to be left unaccounted for on the Widowmaker. It looks like she’ll be a mainstay in the meta game for the start of the regular season.

2. Korean teams aren’t unstoppable

Seoul Dynasty. Photo via Overwatch League

Los Angeles Gladiators quickly thumped the myth with the first major upset over the London Spitfire. In a grueling 3-2 match, Lane “Surefour” and the DPS-heavy Gladiators lineup featuring both Asher and Hydration, held off the consensus favorite heading into week one.

In the end, they not only held them off, but won in rather impressive fashion. Gladiators were heavy underdogs in this fight, and despite not having as deep of a roster, still managed to take advantage of a Spitfire team still trying to find its bearings. A loss on Junkertown and Numbani sealed their fate with strong Genji and Tracer play.

However, the Korean-filled rosters still ended up victorious in every other match during the preseason. The important thing to remember is that these juggernaut Korean teams are mortal and these games proved it this weekend. As fans watched at the Overwatch World Cup, the rest of the world is catching up. It’ll take time but the foreign talent is there to be developed.

3. London Spitfire and Seoul Dynasty still the favorites

London Spitfire. Photo via Overwatch League

At the end of the day, the two uber-talented rosters of the former Apex champion GC Busan and Lunatic-Hai will be tough to beat in season one. Despite one measly loss, the Spitefire went on to put a beating on the San Francisco Shock in their second game. The Dynasty struggled through a win over the Excelsior, but still flashed moments of brilliance throughout and won.

Each team has that building block player, who will be the centerpiece moving forward. Only the Dynasty and Spitfire have that at nearly every position. So, while the skill gap is closing, the Korean teams will start this season as heavy favorites to win it all. The preseason showed that it’s not going to be a walkover to the finals.

4. Uprising, Dragons and Mayhem need roster help

Shanghai’s dragons. Photo via Overwatch League

It’s hard to gather anything from the best teams during the preseason because they may not have been playing their hardest. The Dynasty looked suspect at times, but there’s instances where they’re forced to play Kuki over Miro or Weeked over Munchkin that muck up our understanding of this team. With the bottom three teams, it’s much more plain to see.

Continuity for the Mayhem roster seemed to be a strength, but just being familiar with your teammates doesn’t guarantee success. Mayhem ended the weekend with a 1-6 record, and despite strong play from Tviq and Logix, this team looked severely outmatched. The lack of real depth also reared its head as they had no answer for the Dallas Fuel’s conflicting styles or the Shock’s versatility.

As for the Uprising and Dragons, two teams that have flashes of strong play, didn’t play their best through the entire two preseason matches. Diya gave us a show against the Dynasty, but the support and tank lines were badly outplayed. Uprising had zero answers for NYXL’s Pine on Widowmaker and diving on Genji.

It’s too early to say these teams can’t turn it around, but the lack of big names on the bottom three rosters gives fans reason to question the roster decisions. If things stay this way, look for these teams to tryout new players.

5. Lesser known players showing talent

The most promising aspect of the preseason was the fact that it wasn’t just the superstar players impressing the crowd. It was a variety of lesser known players implementing lesser known strategies.

Los Angeles Valiant’s Silkthread was a player that showed plenty of explosive play capabilities. Hydration, of the Gladiators, out-dueled one of the world’s best Pharah’s in Rascal. Uprising’s Note showed his aggressive D.Va play to matchup with the rest of the league’s tank lines. The list goes on-and-on of lesser known players that showed up big this past week that could be a factor moving forward.

 

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Featured photo from OverwatchLeague.com

MLG returns to Halo and the HCS

Competitive Halo has had a pretty rough ride. I can’t really say recently, since the franchise and community started hitting some speed bumps back around 2010 with the release of Halo: Reach. MLG and more specifically Adam Apicella, Sundance Giovanni and Chris Puckett, along with several other noteworthy contributors, grew the competitive scene since the release of Halo: Combat Evolved. During Halo 2, MLG brought competitive Halo to new heights, with the careers of many legendary players such as Mike “StrongSide” Cavanaugh and many other players launching with this title. During Halo 3, many viewed not only the competitive scene but the whole franchise as an unstoppable juggernaut in the gaming industry as well as the fledgling esports industry.

Turns out, we were a little off the mark with that assumption.

When Reach released, popularity plummeted and MLG dropped Halo from the Pro Circuit. Halo 4 ended up being even worse and the entire community practically nosedived into a presumed grave with its launch. The Master Chief Collection brought a lot of hope to fans who stayed with Halo and those who had moved on. Unfortunately, it ended up being a broken mess, which at the time of writing this, remains in an unacceptable state.

A bird’s-eye view of the MLG Columbus venue.

Halo 5: Guardians initially started off well, with HWC 2016 being a pretty resounding success. However, things started to once again slide pretty quickly. Settings were never touched despite community outrage, post-launch content from a competitive standpoint was practically nonexistent and event production, with only a few exceptions, was mediocre at best. We heard excuse after excuse, issue after issue, so much so that they have become living memes. The “250,000 cables” one, 343’s catchphrase of “Soon,” HWC 2017 looking like a child’s birthday party rather than a million dollar World Championship tournament. People lost interest and viewership continued to drop. Many people stopped paying attention. I didn’t bother to play Halo 5 more than once every few weeks. and many others didn’t play at all.

Clean Slate

Thursday’s announcement has scrubbed all that. We have a full schedule for HWC 2018, with the majority of details included.

HWC 2017’s unimpressive venue.

Oh, and Major League Gaming will now be taking over the running of HCS events, at least for this season. Now, I haven’t shied away from criticizing 343 Industries, ESL and their running of the Halo Championship Series. But to Tashi, along with the rest of the HCS team at 343 and everyone else involved, I gotta say, this was a hell of a move, giving the Halo competitive community a pulse once again. Things aren’t perfect, nor will they ever be. But with MLG and Halo paired up again, we can get pretty damn close.

Keep a tab opened up with The Game Haus on it, I’ll be back to regularly writing about the HCS soon.

It feels good to be home, see you all at the HWC 2018 Finals in Seattle!

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This article reflects the opinion of the author.

Images by Major League Gaming, Halo Waypoint and SportsGrid.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Should you start Cam Newton in fantasy football Week 14?

Cam Newton has enjoyed a bounce-back season from last year. After an abysmal season with 52.9 completion percentage, 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, Newton has been better in basically every category.

His fantasy status has jumped up as well. After finishing last season as the 17th ranked quarterback in standard leagues, Newton has bumped all the way up to the fifth in 2017.

Now he faces his toughest matchup of the year against the great Vikings defense. With fantasy football entering the postseason, it leaves fantasy owners wondering if Newton is worth a start in Week 14.

Case for starting him

Newton hasn’t been perfect for fantasy owners, but he has been good enough to start every week. Arguably the best rusher on the team with 515 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Newton always has a chance to break off a big run and score rushing touchdowns in the red zone.

This will be the key against the Vikings. The Minnesota defense has one of the best secondaries led by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, so the run game will be necessary for the offense to flow.

The part of Newton’s game that fantasy owners reap from the most is his ability to run the football. If he does in fact succeed in running the football against Minnesota, then he’ll rack up the fantasy points for sure.

As for throwing the football and utilizing his weapons, Newton has found much more success recently. Newton has increased his chemistry immensely with Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess, plus this week he’ll be getting Greg Olsen and Ryan Kalil back.

Newton’s success depends on his receivers catch success and his offensive line. The drops have been plaguing Carolina as their inexperienced receiving corps is getting the best of them. With the return of Kalil, it will hopefully provide more stability for Newton and the Panthers offense.

There is a lot of big play ability with Newton, and his rushing ability makes him a viable start on Sunday. However, there is a reason to sit him.

Case for sitting him

Newton may be one of the most frustrating players for fantasy owners. He has the talent and the big play ability to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, but his inconsistency and attitude are holding him back.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Super Cam (Photo from IMG Academy)

As a passer, he has had inconsistencies in completion percentage and passing yards. Newton is averaging just 215 passing yards per game. If Newton struggles to run the ball, then his fantasy numbers may take a hit.

Going up against the strong Vikings defense, if Newton doesn’t play smart and use his weapons like he should, he may struggle on Sunday. His top target, Devin Funchess will be going up against Xavier Rhodes, who has locked down elite receivers all season because of his size and strength. Usually Newton and Funchess can connect with jump balls, but that may not be the case going up against Rhodes.

With the Vikings secondary being as good as they are, and the front seven locking down against an inconsistent Panthers offensive line, Newton is a low tier QB1.

Look for other options, but he isn’t a must bench in Week 14.

 

Featured image from Wikipedia

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KnC Banner

Kobolds and Catacombs Day 1 Deck Theorycrafting

The next Hearthstone expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs, has finally been released. In the reveal season, we saw many powerful and fun cards that are coming out with the set. But, which of these cards fit into existing decks? What new decks are coming into the meta?

The Meta

Dragon Priest

KnC Dragon Priest

Dragon Priest Decklist

In past expansions, Dragon Priest has been an archetype that many people have toyed around with and played on ladder. In this expansion, we may see the rise of a Dragon-oriented Priest build similar to the Dragon Priest deck that was viable during the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion last year. The iteration I have theory-crafted includes a much more value-orientated game plan by including cards such as Lyra the Sunshard, Drakonid Operative, and the new Priest weapon, Dragon Soul. The deck can also be built to take on a more minion heavy route by taking out cards like Dragon Soul, Lyra the Sunshard, and Shadow Word: Death and replacing them with Cabal Shadow Priest, which synergises with Twilight Acolyte, and Twilight Drake.

 

The inclusion of Duskbreaker in this expansion really helps Dragon Priest’s historically bad matchup versus aggressive decks, which makes the new iteration of Dragon Priest that much scarier. On ladder, this deck seems like a solid choice for climbing at a high pace. In tournaments, players may elect to bring Highlander Priest instead because of its favorable win-rates versus slower decks.

 

 Zoo Warlock

KnC Zoo Warlock

Zoolock Decklist

In the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion, we once again saw the rise of an old friend: Zoo Warlock. The early game minion package combined with Prince Keleseth proved to be the kick this deck needed to get back into the meta, and topping off with Bonemare and Bloodreaver Gul’Dan made Zoo Warlock scary in the late-game as well. This time around, Blizzard has given Zoo Warlock even better tools for taking the board early game and keeping it. The addition of Kobold Librarian helps keep your hand full, which is extremely important when having so many low mana cost minions in your deck. The main difference with this Zoo Warlock compared to the previous deck is that it cuts Prince Keleseth for the new 2-drop, Vulgar Homunculus.

 

With this iteration of the deck, I decided to add the Demon synergy package in the form of Demonfire, Bloodfury potion, and Crystalweaver. We have seen quite a lot of play with Bloodfury Potion and Crystalweaver in the past Zoo Warlock decks, but the addition of the Vulgar Homunculus makes these cards coming down on curve extremely threatening. Hooked Reaver also makes an appearance in this deck because of how solid its stats are when the Battlecry goes off, as well as its ability to synergise with the rest of the demon synergy in the deck.

 

The addition of higher-health minions and buff cards will help Zoo Warlock in the next meta mainly because of the predicted prevalence of Duskbreaker on the ranked ladder. In tournament play, this deck will likely be chosen for inclusion in aggressive lineups.

Big Druid

KnC Big Druid

Big Druid Decklist

The ‘Big’ archetype saw large amounts of play during the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion as a whole, especially during the later half of the set’s meta. Kobolds and Catacombs has not given Big Druid many other tools, but the core of the deck is strong enough to still see play. The only change I have made to the current Big Druid list is taking out Innervate and adding Arcane Tyrants. Innervate, once a staple in most Druid decks, took a huge hit from the nerfs that occured in the middle of the last expansion. It was included in Big Druid, but it was arguably one of the weaker cards within the deck. Two different cards were shown from the new expansion that could find a home in Big Druid: Greedy Sprite and Arcane Tyrant. I chose to include Arcane Tyrant instead of the Sprite because it is very similar to Kun the Forgotten King in the way that it makes your power turns even more powerful. A common way Kun has been used during the meta was playing it as a big free body to pair with Ultimate Infestation. Arcane Tyrant acts in a similar way when paired with Nourish, Spreading Plague, and Ultimate Infestation as well. Greedy Sprite could be included instead of the Tyrant, but the ramp effect is rather slow and your opponent can choose to ignore it. Although this is the case, ramp is powerful enough that Greedy Sprite might see play over Arcane Tyrant.

 

Big Druid seems to be the new go-to Druid deck. In the past, Jade Druid has held this spot, but Big Druid is able to make bigger minions faster and still keep aggression at bay, which may see the ‘Big’ archetype overtaking the Jade mechanic this expansion. Because of this, it is a solid choice for both ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

Tempo Rogue

KnC Tempo Rogue

Tempo Rogue Decklist

Tempo Rogue swept the meta in dominant fashion when it was first discovered to be a powerhouse of a deck. With Kobolds and Catacombs, this deck gets even stronger with the inclusion of some slower yet highly valuable cards. One of these cards is the Rogue Legendary of the set, Sonya Shadowdancer. Sonya replaces the rather weak card of Shaku, the Collector as a card generation engine. Most of the minions in Tempo Rogue have such good effects or Battlecries that Shadowcaster saw a decent amount of experimentation and success during the expansion. Sonya is much cheaper than Shadowcaster, which makes its effect easier to pull off. The second card I have added to the deck is Fal’dorei Strider. Admittingly, a 4 mana 4/4 is rather weak as a tempo play. But, the potential for that minion to pull one, two, or even three additional 4/4 bodies is so powerful that it is worth the initial tempo loss. Even if only 1 additional body is pulled, paying 4 mana for 8/8 worth of stats is crazy powerful. There is also the potential to high-roll by creating a 4/4 on turn 7 to be able to play Bonemare onto after your opponent cleared your board the previous turn.

 

Fal’dorei Strider takes the place of Saronite Chain Gang, mainly because of Chain Gang’s vulnerability to an on-curve Duskbreaker. Overall, Tempo Rogue looks to still be a powerhouse deck next expansion, and I expect to see it played both on the ranked ladder and in tournaments.

 

Highlander Priest

KnC Highlander Priest

Highlander Priest Decklist

Highlander Priest has been at the top of the meta throughout Knights of the Frozen Throne, and it seems to still remain at the top during Kobolds and Catacombs. The Priest list I have selected to showcase only adds one card: Psychic Scream. In order to include the new Priest board clear, I chose to cut Mass Dispel from the deck. Mass Dispel is often times weak, so it made sense to take it out for one of the best cards of the upcoming expansion. This decision shows how good of a deck Highlander Priest already is. Another take on Highlander Priest is to go for a more minion-focused route by including a Dragon package with Duskbreaker. While this seems like a good idea, I feel the current version of the deck is much better. In the past, more value-oriented decks were tested. These decks included cards such as Elise the Trailblazer and Free from Amber. It was ultimately found that the faster and more burst-oriented Priest build was better. Therefore, I feel it is appropriate to stick with the tried-and-true burst style.

 

Once again, Highlander Priest seems to be at the top of the meta. Expect to see a large amount on ladder and as a staple deck in many tournament lineups.

 

The Non-Meta

Combo Hunter

KnC Combo Hunter

Combo Hunter Decklist

For the past few expansions, Hunter has been struggling as a class. Blizzard keeps pushing control tools and weird cards for the Hunter arsenal, which leaves the class in an awkward position in terms of deck building because of how weak each of the archetypes are. With the new Hunter legendary minion, Kathrena Winterwisp, I thought it would be really interesting to build a combo-oriented deck using Kathrena, Charged Devilsaur, and King Krush. It is often not a combo that will instantly kill your opponent, but the amount of stats that the combo provides are truly ridiculous. This deck runs the Secret package to help fend off aggro, the Candleshot and Hunter’s Mark combo to deal with large threats, and Deathstalker Rexxar to create even more value in a late game scenario.

 

While the deck might not be top-tier, it seems extremely fun to play. Personally, I will be testing this deck in tournament play in a lineup that is attempting to target control decks. On ranked ladder, Combo hunter still seems weak to aggro decks and Highlander Priest, which makes it not extremely viable in the upcoming meta.

Conclusion

Overall, Kobolds and Catacombs sees both powerful and fun cards added to the game. While it may not be the best expansion of the year in terms of player attitude and hype, it will likely lead to a diverse and healthy meta both in terms of ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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Top 5 fantasy TE

Three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14

In week 13, Rob Gronkowski had a late hit on Tre’Davious White after he intercepted one of Tom Brady’s passes. This hit caused White to endure a concussion and gave him a one week suspension. This doesn’t only hit the Patriots hard, but it also is a huge loss for fantasy owners either already in their playoffs or trying to get into their playoffs.

Now fantasy owners have to try and replace Gronk and the waiver wire is the place to find viable options. Tight ends on the waiver wire won’t always get you points like Gronk does, but here are three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14.

O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a rough 2017 season, but one of their bright spots has been rookie tight end O.J. Howard. In his first 12 games, he has hauled in 21 receptions for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Howard has found success in the end zone and has amassed more yards than people thought he would have by now. Also if need be, he’s a great fill in at tight end in fantasy.

The Buccaneers face the Detroit Lions in week 14, a team who is struggling to defend against the tight end in recent weeks. Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, the Lions gave up three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown and gave up two touchdowns to Kyle Rudolph the week before. O.J. Howard is facing some competition playing alongside Cameron Brate, but here’s why Howard should see your starting lineup instead.

In weeks nine through twelve, Howard out snapped Brate and put up two good weeks with three receptions for fifty yards in both. Even though Brate had a better game than Howard, it seems that Howard is the go to guy in Tampa Bay and he is a good fill in in week 14.

Three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14.

(Courtesy of; AL.com).

Julius Thomas (Miami Dolphins)

Julius Thomas has had a bounce back season in Miami in 2017. He’s had 37 receptions for 362 yards and three touchdowns, all of which have come within the last five weeks. Thomas has had a great stretch over his last five weeks with 20 receptions for 194 yards and three touchdowns. A trend which should continue in week 14 against the Patriots.

The Patriots have been mediocre against tight ends this season averaging an opposing 6.5 fantasy points per game against opposing tight ends. Julius Thomas found success against the Patriots already this year in week 12 when he caught five passes for 52 yards. The Dolphins are coming off of a huge week against the stout Denver defense exploding for 35 points.

They’ll look to continue this trend against New England, as will Julius Thomas if you decide to put him in your lineup week 14.

Three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14.

Julius Thomas (Photo by: miamidolphins.com)

Dwayne Allen (New England Patriots)

The first name that comes to mind when replacing Rob Gronkowski is none other than his backup, Dwayne Allen. Allen hasn’t had a great start to his Patriots career, however he has been better as of late. When Gronk sat out week five against the Buccaneers, Allen played a season high 50 snaps. He also has been getting used much more in the passing game as of late.

In the last four weeks Allen has had five receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. Before week 10, Allen hadn’t caught a pass all year so those numbers may not seem very strong, but compared to his early season struggles, he’s on the up and up. Allen isn’t the strongest candidate to replace Rob Gronkowski, but given that he’s in the same system and playing with Tom Brady, he deserves some consideration in replacing Gronk this week.

Feature Image courtesy of washingtontimes.com

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Josh Gordon fantasy

Is Josh Gordon worth starting in fantasy football Week 13?

The big news that has surfaced in the NFL is the return of star wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon, who hasn’t played since 2014, was one of the NFL’s best receivers and has all the talent that still makes him a threat in the league today. The question that fantasy owners have is whether or not Josh Gordon is worth starting in fantasy football Week 13.

The case for starting gordon

The Browns have been waiting for a star offensive weapon in their lineup to spark this team to contend for a win this year. The last time Gordon played a full season was in 2013 and had a great year. Four seasons ago, Gordon caught 87 balls for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. There is hope that he can replicate those statistics this year.

The Browns go up against a Chargers defense that has been great against the pass this year. They are ranked 12th in the NFL in terms of opposing fantasy points per game, averaging only 17.4 fantasy points to wide receivers they’ve gone up against.

Because Gordon’s first taste of gameplay comes against a defense as good as Los Angeles’, it causes some concern. However, the raw talent that he possesses and the ability to play with any quarterback gives fantasy owners a reason to rejoice.

Gordon put up great numbers in 2014 with the likes of Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw. Those quarterbacks combined for a 7-9 record while throwing for less than 4,000 yards, 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Now Gordon has the rookie DeShone Kizer throwing to him, who has looked good in some parts of the season, especially last week against Cincinnati. Kizer didn’t commit a turnover and threw for 268 yards and rushed for 39 more yards and a touchdown.

Kizer now gets his top target back and is going to look to continue this trend of playing well against the Chargers in Week 13. Gordon has also looked very sharp in practice, has stayed in shape over his time off, is expected to play a key role on Sunday and won’t have a reduced snap count.

The case against starting gordon

Now let’s not move too fast. Gordon hasn’t played a snap in the NFL since 2014. Three years without going up against an opponent at game speed. That is going to be very difficult to come back from in one game, especially going up against the Chargers’ secondary. Gordon still has the ability to play in the NFL and succeed, but this week will not be the amazing week that some people may be expecting.

Casey Hayward and the Chargers’ secondary will prepare to shut down Josh gordon in Week 13 as he is the Browns’ top playmaker on offense, even after sitting out the time he has. The Chargers’ secondary is coming off of a great week, holding the Dallas Cowboy receivers to only 115 yards on ten receptions. Now going up against a much worse offensive line, run game and quarterback, it seems this trend may continue.

The lack of gameplay is the most concerning thing about Gordon’s return. It is very rare for a player to come off of a long break and succeed immediately. Marshawn Lynch took only one year off and hasn’t looked nearly the same since he retired in 2016.

It will take time for Josh Gordon to reintroduce himself to the competition of elite cornerbacks and safeties. Keep Gordon out of your lineup in Week 13, but look to play him late in the season when the Browns face the Packers and Bears.

 

Featured image from AP Photo/David Richard

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Julio Jones fantasy

Is Week 12 a new start for Julio Jones?

Julio Jones has been one of the most productive and reliable wide receivers in fantasy football since he entered the league. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 220 pounds, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. He is usually a solid first-round pick in fantasy football too. However, this year hasn’t been the same.

Through ten games of the 2017 NFL season, Julio Jones had 786 receiving yards and only one touchdown. Through ten games in 2016, Jones had 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. There is clear regression in his play, and injuries and regression of quarterback play are clearly the reasons behind it.

Struggles

Through this season, Jones has had nagging injuries that have caused him to miss practices and snaps during games. In Week 4, Jones had to leave the game against the Buffalo Bills due to a hip flexor injury that caused him to miss extended time. Jones had offseason surgery to remove a bunion from his right foot after his 2016 season ended on a negative note due to turf toe, which kept him limited through the end of the season into the playoffs.

Other than injury, a cause of his decline may be the result of Matt Ryan’s play. After a terrific 2016 season capped off by a trip to the Super Bowl and an MVP award, Ryan has seen his play regress from last year, which is warranted. Through 11 games, he’s already thrown one more interception than he did all of last season and is on pace for a worse completion percentage. Last season marked Jones’ lowest reception per game stats since 2012. This season has been just the same.

Ryan has also gotten used to spreading the ball to his other receivers and running backs, causing a lack of receptions for Jones, who is on pace for 96 receptions this season. The emergence of Mohamed Sanu as a legitimate No. 2 receiver also has an effect on Jones. Sanu has already matched his touchdown receptions from last year and is on pace to top his yards and receptions from last year.

Bounce back

Julio Jones fantasy

(Photo by Matt Patterson/AP Photo)

Week 12 may be a bounce-back week for Julio Jones, and fantasy owners can rejoice. Jones exploded for 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He doubled his receptions per game and touchdowns and more than doubled his yards per game. Before this week, Jones was only the 23rd ranked receiver in standard leagues. Jones now outscored every other receiver while having his third career game over 250 receiving yards.

Should fantasy owners be expecting a return of the Julio Jones we all have come to love? Yes, they should. Over the last five games of the season, the Falcons go up against the Buccaneers, Vikings, Panthers and the Saints twice. Jones should continue to see the most targets on the team and should succeed in a big way against the Buccaneers again, as well as the Panthers. He may struggle against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings secondary, but will continue to see more targets and more work in the red zone.

 

Featured image from bostonherald.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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Arizona Fall League season awards

Arizona Fall League season awards

The Peoria Javelinas claimed the Arizona Fall League title on Nov. 18. Powered by league MVP and Braves top prospect, Ronald Acuna, Peoria dispatched the Mesa Solar Sox 8-2 in the season finale. For the Javelinas, this marks their sixth AFL title since the league was founded in 1992. But while the AFL recognizes a league MVP, there are no Cy Young award equivalents for the league’s best pitcher. If there were such an award, it would have most likely been a clean sweep for the Braves in the Arizona Fall League season awards in 2017.

League MVP, CF Ronald Acuna

AFL Season slash line: .325/.414/.639/1.053

Arizona Fall League season awards

Seattle prospect Eric Filia won the AFL batting title, but lost out to Ronald Acuna in the MVP race. (Photo: Baseball America)

Much has been written about the season that Ronald Acuna posted in 2017. At 19 years of age, soon to be 20 in December, Acuna has risen through the Braves system this year like a man on fire. Starting the season in Advanced-A with the Florida Fire Frogs, Acuna would reach the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Braves, by season’s end. What’s more, his numbers got better at each level he played at this year.

The young Venezuelan native played at three levels this year, four if you include his inclusion in the AFL. And, quite frankly, it is reasonable to consider the AFL “another level” on the prospect ladder, to be fair. It is, after all, the proving ground for elite talent in MLB’s prospect pipeline. And Acuna wasn’t just good he was dominant in Arizona this fall, leading Peoria to the AFL championship.

Though Acuna didn’t lead the league in batting, on-base percentage, slugging, or even OPS for that matter, he was the league’s best player when you look at the sum of the whole. This young center fielder finished second in OPS, 12th in batting, second in slugging and sixth in on-base percentage, respectively.

This future star was a league leader though, make no mistake about it. Acuna led the AFL in home runs with seven, and total bases with 53. On top of that, he drove in 16 runs, good enough for fifth in the AFL in 2017.

There is no way this kid doesn’t break camp with the big club next spring. Acuna has absolutely nothing left to prove in the minors. He’s ready for his call to the big leagues right now.

AFL Cy Young, LHP Max Fried

AFL Season pitching line: (3-1) 1.73 ERA, 26 IP, 32 K’s, 0.88 WHIP

The AFL’s “Cy Young” award, if one were given out, would’ve been a trickier call than league MVP. Four pitchers could’ve easily walked away with this award. In no certain order, the New York Yankees’ Cody Carroll, Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller, Philadelphia’s J.D. Hammer and Atlanta’s Max Fried all pitched well enough to be considered the best pitcher in Arizona this fall.

Arizona Fall League season awards

Max Fried was the best pitcher in the AFL in 2017. (Photo courtesy of: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports)

At the end of the day, however, only one can player can take top honors. And this year, Atlanta’s Max Fried would have to be the guy to get the nod. Over his six starts for eventual AFL champions, Peoria, Fried was as dominant as they come. The Braves’ young southpaw was second among all starting pitchers in WHIP (0.88), only bested Yankee’s prospect Justus Sheffield (0.84).

Fried was also the AFL’s strikeout champion for 2017 as well. He finished with 32 strikeouts in his 26 innings of work, good enough for an outstanding ratio of 11 K’s per nine innings. Making Fried’s case even better, he also showed good control walking only 2.77 batters per nine innings. Even though Fried wasn’t as efficient as Mitch Keller in this category (1.9 BB/per 9), he outpaced Keller’s (4.9 K/per 9).

In the cases of Hammer and Carroll, however, both pitchers were closers. This isn’t to slight these two future big leaguers, but generally it’s a rarity that a reliever will win an award for league’s best pitcher. It’s happened only nine times at baseball’s top level, with the last occurrence being Eric Gagne’s 2003 Cy Young season. While Hammer and Carroll both had outstanding seasons in Arizona, the volume of work by Fried must be the deciding factor here.

Based on his body of work, Fried is the AFL’s best pitcher of 2017.

Atlanta’s prospects ready to contribute

Both Fried and Acuna progressed along the prospect ladder in leaps this year. The Braves have moved these young men up the ladder quickly, and they have responded by showing a maturity beyond their years. There is little doubt that both players will more than likely be on the opening day roster come 2018.

It is worth noting that Fried has already made the jump to MLB in 2017. His performance in the AFL this year should solidify his place in next year’s Braves rotation. Especially when you look at his performance in his limited exposure at the major league level. While it is a very small sample, it is apparent that the lights aren’t too bright for this future staff ace.

Moving onto Acuna, now, here’s a player that has absolutely no need to take another swing in the minor leagues. The Braves’ top prospect, and fifth ranked prospect in all of MLB, has shown he’s ready for the call. When the Braves break camp next spring, Acuna should be the man roaming center field in Atlanta every day.

This young man, at 20 years old, will most likely become the youngest player in the majors in 2018 and it’s exciting to speculate how he will handle the jump to MLB. If 2017 is anything to go by, we might be talking about the NL Rookie of the Year here. He will almost certainly be a training camp favorite for the award, no doubt about it.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: sportsnewsinstant.com)

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Oakland Raiders fantasy football

Which Raiders can find consistency in fantasy football?

One of the major storylines of this NFL season has been the disappointing Oakland Raiders. Coming in with high hopes after a great 2016 season and a rested Marshawn Lynch, people saw the Raiders going all the way to the AFC championship game. That won’t happen unless the team can start playing its best, and soon.

The more important question to ask, at least for fantasy owners, is which Raiders can find consistency in fantasy football?

Michael Crabtree (Wide receiver)

One of the bright spots for the Raiders has been the play of Michael Crabtree. He’s enjoying another great year under Jack Del Rio. With 42 catches for 502 yards and six touchdowns, Crabtree has emerged as the top target in Oakland. He shows no signs of losing production, and with the upcoming schedule, regression isn’t on the agenda.

In three of the last six matchups of the year, Crabtree plays against the Giants, Cowboys and the Chargers. All these defenses are favorable matchups if Derek Carr can continue his play as of late. The No. 13 wide receiver in standard leagues, averaging 8.8 points per game, has found success recently without finding the end zone.

Being a huge red zone target has been the reason that Crabtree has had fantasy value in recent years. But in the past four weeks, Crabtree has gotten steady volume while producing at a WR2 level. If Crabtree can regain his red zone presence and provide touchdowns, then he will continue to produce consistency and be a valuable fantasy asset.

Derek Carr (Quarterback)

It’s been an up and down season for Derek Carr. He experienced a back injury that kept him sidelined for a week and made him play at a subpar level. Before that happened, the Raiders offense failed to find the chemistry to succeed and win games in the NFL. As of late, Carr has picked it up and produced at a QB1 level.

Oakland Raiders fantasy football

Photo from http://www.sportsworldreport.com

Carr had three straight weeks with over 300 passing yards and at least one touchdown, including an outburst of 417 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs. That made fantasy owners realize that he still has something to prove this year, and the Raiders are still fighting to try and win a Wild Card spot in the AFC.

He obviously has the same schedule as Crabtree, which means he has three games against an easier opponent and three games that could give him some matchup problems. Then again, he did go off against Kansas City once this year.

Look for Carr to continue being a QB1 option in fantasy and start him with confidence from here on out.

 

Marshawn Lynch (Running back)

Oakland Raiders fantasy football

Photo from Daily Snark

The return of “Beast Mode” hasn’t been quite like everyone thought it would be. People expected Lynch to come back with a vengeance and take the league by storm behind the Raiders’ stud offensive line.

Actually, quite the opposite has occurred. Lynch has yet to have a 100-yard game and has only eclipsed 52 fantasy points over nine games. The volume has been there for Lynch, with double-digit carries in six of his nine games, but the production isn’t quite there.

Lynch is one of the players on the roster that I don’t see performing quite well in the end of the season. The defensive fronts of the Giants, Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Eagles are all above average and may cause Beast Mode to have less than average games to end his season.

Avoid starting Lynch in fantasy from here on out.

 

 

 

Feature image from bleacherreport.com

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