week three DFS Dont's

Week three DFS don’ts: Report card

Well, this was my worst week in terms of DFS earnings. I simply could not overcome single digit performances from Ty Montgomery and Jay Ajayi, and a critical injury to Kelvin Benjamin. Not to mention incredibly underwhelming performance from Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree. I could go on, but let’s just get to my week three DFS don’ts report card.

Quarterback: 1/5

I guess I learned that I should never bet against Drew Brees. He dismantled the Panthers and seemingly got every receiver involved while doing so. And, of course, this was the weekend Russell Wilson broke out of his slump. I’m happy he finally started playing well, but, not so happy it was this particular weekend.

I’ll just call this whole position an “L” for week three. I don’t want to even try and justify Stafford as a good play, since he only scored 16.46 points. However, Andy Dalton did manage to more than double his value with 16.28 points. Dalton was my lone victory at this position. I’d rather not talk about Derek Car. He killed me.

Running Back: 3/6

My week three DFS don’ts at the running back position included LeSean McCoy, Christian McCaffrey and Ameer Abdullah. I was right on both McCoy and Abdullah, as both failed to at least double their price in value. McCaffrey finally had a good game; however, I wouldn’t count on him to get 100 yards receiving every game, so good luck if you keep playing him.

I showed Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery a lot of love on the Suck My DFS Podcast, and it backfired. Bell finally had a score, but 18.8 points isn’t good enough for Bell in my opinion. Montgomery was also disappointing. The only saving grace was Chris Carson managed to double his value in terms of production so that’s a win.

Wide Receiver: 4/6

I’m pleasantly surprised my wide receiver predictions. I nailed all of my week three DFS don’ts at this position. Those predictions included Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant. None of those players provided two times their production.

A.J. Green wasn’t a difficult prediction to make. He was in a great match up with a new coordinator that clearly wanted to feature him. Sadly, Keenan Allen and Kelvin Benjamin really came up short. Benjamin’s injury was the first straw that broke my cash game lineups.

Tight End: 2/3

As I stated in my tight end edition of week three DFS don’ts, the matchup for Delanie Walker was too difficult. He was still featured as a receiver, but the production just wasn’t there this week. Coby Fleener has returned to being absolutely useless as a tight end, no surprise there.

It was so frustrating to watch Eric Ebron drop every easy catch in that game. Stafford, to his credit, still wanted to target him, but Ebron insisted on destroying any trust he had in that passing game.

Kicker: 2/2

Kicker, like most weeks, was easy. Matt Prater was a must play. He’s proven to have a leg capable of making 50+ yard field goals, and, was playing at home in a dome. He delivered 19 points. On the other hand, Younghoe Koo was disappointing per usual.

Defense: 2/3

Both Seattle and Tampa Bay failed tremendously. One team surrendered almost 200 yards rushing, and the other allowed Case Keenum to throw for more than 300 yards. Sadly, the Eagles collapsed in the second half and allowed 24 second-half points.

Overall Score: 14/25

I’m not happy with week three. My DFS earnings took a hit, one of my seasonal teams got demolished, and I was only correct on 56% of my picks. Let’s just get to week four already. We’ll be back tomorrow with the kicker and defense edition of week four DFS don’ts.

 

Like what you read? Tune into the Suck My DFS Podcast this Friday and find out who TGH fantasy experts will be playing in their DFS lineups this week. You can find the link to our podcast on the Podcast page.

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week three DFS Dont's

Week One DFS Dont’s: Report Card

With the first Sunday in the books, it’s time to review week one and my predictions. I’ll be reviewing my picks from last week’s DFS Dont’s article series, as well as the picks I made on the Suck My DFS Podcast. Picks aside, I started off the year right by finishing in the money in all 36 of my FanDuel contests. Without further adieu, here is the report card edition of my week one DFS Dont’s.

Quarterback: 1/5

Last week, I stated that Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Stafford should stay off your DFS lineups. I was feeling great about my Stafford prediction after the first quarter, but that feeling quickly subsided. Stafford finished with 28.08 points. Roethlisberger didn’t set the world on fire, but I’ll chalk his 16.72 points up as a loss for me.

On the Suck My DFS Podcast, I chose three quarterbacks I liked in cash games and GPP’s: Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz and Brian Hoyer. Both Wilson and Hoyer scored single digit points. On the bright side, Wilson didn’t cost me in my cash games. Thankfully, Carson Wentz paid dividends on his $7,100 price tag, as he scored 19.88 points.

I ended up playing three quarterbacks in my cash lineups: Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and Carson Wentz. I couldn’t find a good combination for my GPP contests, so I decided to pull my money out this week and just play cash games. I’m not regretting that decision.

Running Back: 3/6

In my running back DFS Dont’s piece, I advised that you stay away from Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Marshawn Lynch. I had know idea the Jacksonville Jaguars would dominate the Houston Texans in such dramatic fashion. I look forward to cashing in on Fournette in the future as he scored 19.9 points in his debut. Elliott’s $8,700 price tag isn’t usually worth 16.5 points; however, I’ll mark it as a loss since that’s much better than how David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell produced. I told you to stay away from Lynch until we know exactly how his workload will look, hopefully you did, as he scored a whopping 9.7 points.

On the podcast, I gushed over LeSean McCoy and Todd Gurley. They scored 18.4 and 18.1 points each. Sadly, I also loved Bilal Powell, who produced a disappointing single digit performance. Once again, I lucked out with my Powell prediction since I didn’t partake in any GPP contests in week one.

Wide Receiver: 1/5

My week one DFS Dont’s at this position included Dez Bryant, Golden Tate and Jarvis Landry. I was dead on about Bryant and his personal match up against Janoris Jenkins, as he scored a disappointing 5.3 points. However, I was totally wrong about Golden Tate. He, unlike Dez, found a way to overcome a tough match up and produced 16.4 points. Jarvis Landry had an unexpected bye, so I won’t be counting that prediction at all.

In my podcast picks, I pounded the table on AJ Green, Doug Baldwin and Martavis Bryant. I was wrong on all three as they severely under produced.

Tight End: 3/5

Eric Ebron was awful, so that gives me a mark in the win column. Yet again, my other prediction was set to play in the rescheduled Miami vs Tampa Bay game, so throw out O.J. Howard this week.

The tight ends I liked were Delanie Walker, Zach Ertz, Jack Dolye and Zach Miller. Walker and Ertz finished in the top six among tight ends in week one. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough volume for Doyle or Miller to get a chance to be productive or else they would have hit as well. I’ll take the two losses on Doyle and Miller.

Kicker: 2/2

It’s pretty straight forward, stop paying up for kickers. The position is way too dependent on coaching decisions, weather and offensive competency. Nine kickers scored double digit points in week one, and Justin Tucker was not one of them.

On the other hand, my podcast pick clicked, Ryan Succop. It wasn’t rocket science. Here’s the criteria for which I pick my kicker. Is he less than $4,800? Is he at home? Is he favored? Is the weather good? Succop met all of these requirements.

Defense: 2/4

In my first ever DFS Dont’s piece, I made the case not to play the Pittsburgh or Buffalo defense. Neither one of them paid off like most had hoped, but, neither imploded like I had hoped. Given your defense starts with 10 points, I’ll say I was wrong about the Steelers, since they scored 12, and was right about the Bills, since they only scored nine.

We crushed our defensive picks to click. Both Will and I were all in on Los Angeles in week one and they did not disappoint. On the other hand, I offered the Arizona defense as a potential GPP pivot from the Rams, and they only scored eight points.

Week One DFS Dont’s Report Card: 12/27

On a percentage basis, I was not good. I only connected on 44% of my picks in week one. By my standards, and at almost any academic institution, 44% is a failure. Now, no one gets 100% of their predictions right, but, I need to operate in the 60-70 percentile to feel like it was a good week. You can check out all of my week one DFS Dont’s articles here. We’ll start with week two tomorrow as we break down what kicker and defenses you should avoid.

 

Like what you read? Tune into the Suck My DFS Podcast this Friday and find out who TGH fantasy experts will be playing in their DFS lineups this week. You can find the link to our podcast on the Podcast page.

 

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2017 AFC North division preview

2017 AFC North division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC North division preview.

4: Cleveland Browns

2017 AFC North division preview

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

Last season: 1-15

Strength of schedule: 21

The Cleveland Browns had an atrocious 2016 NFL season but that has become the norm in Cleveland. In the last 10 seasons, the Browns have had more the seven wins only twice. It has been even longer since the Browns have made the playoffs which last occurred in 2002. The struggle has been real but the Browns seem to be moving in the right direction finally.

It isn’t hard to improve on a 1-15 season and the truth is the Browns have nowhere to go but up. Improvement started with the draft and Cleveland did a tremendous job in the draft this year. The selections of Myles Garrett, David Njoku, Jabrill Peppers, DeShone Kizer, Caleb Brantley and Larry Ogunjobi show just how much the Browns are moving in the right direction. All these players will be key pieces for the Browns moving forward.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns will be much better than last years 31st ranking. Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant will do a solid job plugging the middle allowing Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey to make a lot of tackles. In the secondary, Joe Haden is the veteran star who will attempt to lead this secondary’s improvement in defending the pass which gave up 249.8 passing yards per game.

Offensively, the Browns will need to be committed to running the football. Their upgrades along the offensive line will create a solid foundation for improving an offense that only managed to score 16.5 points per game. The quarterback situation is still unfolding but having a solid offensive line will allow them to run the ball well with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. This will make life easier for whoever ends up under center over the course of the season.

No matter who starts, or eventually plays, at quarterback they will have really good receivers to connect with. Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt are capable of having big years and both could find their way to 1,000 yards. Duke Johnson Jr. will also see some time at wideout and with his speed could turn any touch into a house call.

Although the Browns seem to be heading in the right direction, they won’t see a ton of wins this season. Cleveland plays in a tough division and just doesn’t have enough talent to win it. The Browns will be more competitive but are a year or two away from really competing for the division crown.

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

losses: Pit, @Bal, @Ind, @Hou, Ten, Min, @Det, @Cin, @LAC, GB, @Pit, @Chi

3: Baltimore Ravens

2017 AFC North division preview

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

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 24

Baltimore has struggled since winning Super Bowl XLVII, missing the playoffs three of the last four seasons. The defense hasn’t been as elite and the offense doesn’t seem to have a true identity. The Ravens are in for another tough season and John Harbaugh may be on the hot seat by the end of this season.

As previously mentioned, the Ravens do not have a true identity. Despite having Marshal Yanda on the offensive line, the unit as a whole is a weak spot and Pro Football Focus ranks the unit 23rd out of 32 teams. The offensive line is going to face some tough defenses, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice, Jacksonville, Minnesota, and Tennessee are teams capable of dominating the Ravens front.

With a below average offensive line, the running game is going to struggle as it did last season averaging just 91.4 yards per game. There is also a three man committee at running back between Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West and Danny Woodhead. Each has their own specialty, but with three running backs splitting time, none will be able to get into a good enough rhythm to lead the running game to succeed.

Because of this, the running game will not open up the passing game which is a must for Joe Flacco to have success. Aside from an amazing playoff run in 2013, Flacco is rather average. His QBR shows just how average he is at 58.4 last season. In Flacco’s nine year career he has averaged 3,626 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions per season. These numbers scream average. Flacco is also 11-19 in his last 30 starts. His career seems to be trending down and the Ravens are going to hurt this season because of it.

The receiving group has a lot of experience and speed. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace will cause nightmares for defensive backs but can the offensive line hold up enough for Flacco to get them the ball, that is the question. Breshad Perriman is another speedster that can become a dangerous deep threat.

Defensive has been the strength of this franchise for a long time. Last season was no different as the Ravens ranked ninth in points allowed. Baltimore gave up the seventh fewest yards during the season which was due to their outstanding rush defense. Teams only ran for 89.4 yards per game against the Ravens. The defense will remain good but not good enough to carry a team with a bad offense to the playoffs.

The Ravens really struggled on the road last season going 2-6 and it is likely that the road woes continue. Pair this with an offense that will struggle to score and you get a team that ends up with only a handful of wins.

Prediction: 6-10 (3-3), miss the playoffs

losses: @Cin, @Jax, @Oak, @Min, Mia, @Ten, @GB, Det, @Pit, @Cle

2: Cincinnati Bengals

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Last season: 6-9-1

Strength of schedule: 29

After making the playoffs for five straight seasons the Bengals took a step back and only won six games last year. Marvin Lewis is entering his 15th season as the head coach and has gone 0-7 in the playoffs. If he does not win a playoff game this season he will be fired. 15 years is plenty of time to prove you can win a playoff game and if the Bengals don’t do so there needs to be a new voice in the locker room.

The Bengals offense was nothing spectacular last season. Cincinnati ranked 24th in scoring at just 20.3 points per game. The Bengals offense will need to score more points this season. Rushing the ball seems to be easy for the Bengals as they averaged 110.6 rushing yards per game. Joe Mixon will improve the running game even more as long as the replacements along the offensive line create running lanes.

The passing attack will also be better this season. A.J. Green will still be a beast on the outside but a healthy Tyler Eifert will open up the middle of the field. Speedy receiver John Ross will complement these two players and create mismatches for opposing defenses. Andy Dalton just needs to get the ball out of his hands and into these playmakers hands as quickly as possible to make up for the below average offensive line.

Losing offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler is going to be huge blows to this offense. Cincinnati is hoping they can soften this blow by reacquiring Andre Smith. If the offensive line can replace these losses and hold up, then the Bengals will easily have a top 15 offense in the NFL.

Similar to the Ravens, the strength of the Bengals is on the defensive side of the ball. Cincinnati gave up the seventh fewest points last season at just 19.7 per game. The front four is led by studs Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Vontaze Burfict returns at linebacker and the Bengals upgraded their middle linebacker from Rey Maualuga to Kevin Minter. The secondary is also not to be messed with as the Bengals return Adam “Pacman” Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and George Iloka.

The success of this season depends on the offense. Defensively, there is little to no concern. If the offensive line can create success then the Bengals will be in the hunt for the playoffs.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), wildcard candidate

losses: Hou, @GB, @Cle, @Pit, @Ten, @Den, @Min, @Bal

1: Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 AFC North division preview

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

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 27

How did a team that finished 11-5 and made it to the AFC Championship, get such an easy schedule? Pittsburgh has the fifth easiest schedule in the NFL and returns a plethora of talent. The Steelers have plenty of experience on their side and should be one of the best teams in the NFL and a Super Bowl contender.

The Steelers quietly had a very good defense but the offense gets all the recognition. Pittsburgh did rank 10th in points allowed and total yards. The high total yards ranking was because of their rush defense which only gave up 93.2 rush yards per game, ranking eighth.

The biggest area the Steelers need to show improvement in is in third down defense. Pittsburgh could not get off the field and spent an average of 62 plays per game on the field. Opposing offenses converted 41.1 percent of their third downs. The Steelers added rookie T.J. Watt in the draft to get some more pressure thus helping them get off the field more on.

Supringingly Pittsburgh is all about the offense though. The Steelers have a three headed monster on offense that led them to having one of the leagues best offenses. The oldest of the three, Ben Roethlisberger, had another great year. Big Ben threw for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Even at his age, he will still throw for close to 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns as long as he remains healthy.

Le’Veon Bell is who this offense is built around so this hold out is alarming. As long as Bell can play the entire season, the Steelers will have an unstoppable offense. Bell is the first player to ever average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving for a season. He is a key piece to the Steelers success.

The remaining star, Antonio Brown,  contributed 106 receptions, 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns to the high powered offense. Brown consistently dominates the league and with him passing success is easy to come by. These three superstars are the reason the Steelers are going to have another year in which they score a ton of points.

The Steelers have an easy schedule, tough defense and explosive offense. Pittsburgh will win the division and contend for the Super Bowl

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

losses: @Bal, @KC, NE, @Hou

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AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

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

9. Cincinnati Bengals

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

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Baltimore Ravens

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Miami Dolphins

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

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

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

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Los Angeles Chargers

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

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

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

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

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

5. Kansas City Chiefs

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

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

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image by arrowheadpride.com

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Top five 2017 fantasy wide receivers

In fantasy football, the deepest position is wide receiver. Teams have a plethora of different receivers and many of them have different skillsets. Some are the dominant number one options, some are the big red zone threats and others the speedy slot receivers.

But these five receivers separate themselves from the rest and these are the top five fantasy wide receivers in 2017.

No. 5 A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

A.J. Green (Photo by:www.sbnation.com)

Green has been dominant ever since he came into the league in 2011. In his first five seasons, he posted over 1,000 yards every year. He joins only Randy Moss in that category.

Twice he has finished as a top-five receiver in fantasy and once in the top-10 in those five seasons. He has also been Andy Dalton’s favorite target as he has seen over 100 targets in each of those five seasons.

In PPR leagues, he has finished in the top-nine at the position during three of the past five seasons.

However, in 2016 Green struggled with injuries and missed out on 1,000 yards. He averaged 96.4 yards per game on 6.6 catches per game (both personal bests) before a hamstring injury sidelined him for six games. He still managed to have 100 targets and caught 66 passes for 964 yards and four scores in 10 games. Green still ranked in the top-30 in standard leagues.

Green is finally healthy and expect him to still be a target machine for Dalton. There is a little concern due to Tyler Eifert finally being healthy taking away some targets from Green. That shouldn’t be enough to shy away from Green as a roster asset. Green is a no-brainer No. 1 receiver that is a high second-round pick if not a end of the first round.

No. 4 Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

The best fantasy wide receiver last year, Jordy Nelson ranks fourth on my list for 2017.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson (Photo by: chicago.cbslocal.com)

The Comeback Player of the Year recipient also deserves the nod for fantasy comeback player of the year. He led fantasy scoring over 16 games and posted 10-plus points in nine of them. A lot of that last year was because the Green Bay Packers threw the ball 62.7 percent of the time thanks to a depleted run game.

He finished the 2016 campaign with a career-high in targets (152), and caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and league-high 14 touchdowns.

But what puts Nelson on this list is his play in the red zone. He led all receivers from inside the 20-yard line with 29 targets, 19 catches, 127 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also led receivers inside the 10-yard line in targets (15), catches (11), yards (45) and touchdowns (9).

Nelson has been known to have very good hands and in the red zone he seems unstoppable. Some of that credit goes to Aaron Rodgers, but Nelson was on a mission in 2016 after missing 2015 with a torn ACL.

I don’t expect Nelson to have the dominant year he had in 2016 due to the improvement of their ground game in the draft and the signing of tight end Martellus Bennett taking some targets away especially in the red zone. I do believe Nelson will have a solid season still racking up over 1,000 yards, over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns.

When drafting Nelson, he is a No. 1 receiver and should be drafted by the second round.

No. 3 Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

When it comes to being a big play highlight reel, Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t disappoint. The New York Giants’ star ranks third for wide receivers in fantasy.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by: giants.com)

In 2016, Beckham had a slow start compared to what he did in 2015. But Beckham finished strong and had career bests in both targets (169) and receptions (101). He still maintained well over 1,300 yards and double digits in touchdowns.

In a three-year average he has 96 receptions for 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s finished as a top-seven fantasy wide receiver in each of those three years. He also ranked seventh in the NFL with 15 end zone targets last season (up from 11 in 2015) and led the league target percentage in the red zone from inside the 20-yard line.

The numbers and records he has at age 24 is historic and he is just getting started.

This coming season, Beckham should only improve and the ceiling for him is high. Even though the Giants signed Brandon Marshall, have second year receiver Sterling Shepard and drafted tight end Evan Engram, this should benefit Beckham in the long run. With the plethora of weapons for opposing defenses to cover, Beckham should get his reps and my bold statement is that he very well could finish the year as the best fantasy player in 2017. He is a definite middle pick in the first round.

No. 2 Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Even though his numbers were down in 2016, Julio Jones is still a top two fantasy receiver.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Julio Jones (Photo by:thefalconswire.usatoday.com)

When you compare Jones’ stats from 2015 to 2016, you can’t expect him to repeat those numbers especially the way the Atlanta Falcons offense played in 2016. His targets dropped by over 30 percent, his receptions by nearly 40 percent and his yards by nearly 25 percent. He also missed two games with a toe injury.

But it was the evolution of the Falcons’ offense that really dropped Jones’ stats. Players on the Falcons stepped up and helped Matt Ryan to not force the ball in Jones’ direction.

Jones was the league leader in 100-plus yard games at the receiver position with seven. He still managed to thrive in this offense as the sixth fantasy wide receiver. Jones has finished as a top-11 fantasy receiver during four of the past five seasons.

There is some concern though that comes with Jones. The first is his durability as he’s missed at least one game during four of his six NFL seasons. The other is former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

The team hired Steve Sarkisian, a former college head coach who hasn’t been in the NFL since 2004. Sarkisian saw success as the Oakland Raiders quarterback’s coach, compiling more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams in passing yardage.

Jones should continue to be a no-brainer as a reliable fantasy receiver as a middle pick of the first round pick.

No. 1 Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

You don’t have to be an expert in fantasy to know that the number one receiver is Antonio Brown.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown (Photo by: linkedin.com)

Compare his numbers from 2015 to last year and you will see that his numbers went down. He had 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even with the missed game he had, he still topped wide receivers in fantasy points for the third consecutive season.

He finished top-five in targets, receptions and receiving yards for the fourth straight year and Brown has delivered 10-plus fantasy points in 70.2 percent of his games over the past four seasons.

Brown should have another great season with Martavis Bryant back from a year suspension on the other side of him. With his addition, along with other targets, it will be impossible to double-team Brown all the time.

He’s averaged over 11 targets per game over the past four years and should repeat this stat again in 2017, even with the Steelers’ deep receiving corps and Le’Veon Bell at running back. He will remain Ben Roethlisberger’s top target and fantasy’s most consistently dominant wide receiver. He is worth taking in the top four picks and potentially the number one pick in PPR leagues.

 

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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 10-1

Here it is, my final and most important list of receivers. These receivers will fill up the first and second round of most drafts and will fill the void of your number one receiver.

2017 fantasy football wide receivers

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10. Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks): After a breakout season in 2015 with 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns, Baldwin had another 1,000-yard season with seven touchdowns. Regression was expected from Baldwin last season, but I don’t expect that trend to continue this season.

Russell Wilson didn’t target Baldwin as much as he should’ve in the red zone last year. He found success there but he found it using his other receivers.

Where Baldwin did succeed was in his productivity. Baldwin ranked seventh in receptions and seventh in yards after the catch with 447. Another season as Wilson’s number one target, Baldwin should finish as a WR1 this year.

9. Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders): Amari Cooper has been the receiver that the Raiders hoped he would become after selecting him fourth in the 2015 NFL Draft. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Cooper has the ability to take the next step in 2017.

In the touchdown category, Cooper only has the opportunity to go up after seasons with six and five touchdowns. Now with Marshawn Lynch in the mix, Cooper will find trouble in the red zone but the volume will be there. The Raiders want to get Cooper the ball more and if that happens, he’s a lock for top 10 production.

8. T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis Colts): The receiving leader in 2016 wasn’t Antonio Brown, Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. It was, however, T.Y. Hilton. Hilton and Andrew Luck were on another level last season. After four straight 1,000-yard seasons, T.Y. can upgrade his touchdowns and be a top five receiver easily.

He’s as productive as productive gets after ranking first in receiving yards and second in air yards. T.Y. Hilton also ranked eighth in fantasy points per game. The only way Hilton does the same thing as last season is if Andrew Luck can stay healthy. If that happens, Hilton will be a better receiver than he was last year.

7. Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints): In a rookie class highlighted by stud running backs and Dak Prescott, Michael Thomas slid under the radar as one of the league’s best receivers. He was productive in the red zone, ranking fifth in red zone receptions and ninth in receptions overall.

Now Brandin Cooks is gone and Michael Thomas is stepping into the number one receiver role with the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees. Thomas starts the season in a tough spot facing the Vikings, Patriots and Panthers in his first three matchups. Defenses now know what to expect, but I’m still on the Michael Thomas bandwagon, as he’s a late first to early second round pick.

6. A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals): Do I need to talk about Green’s production or efficiency? His past numbers speak for themselves. From 2011-15, A.J. Green had 1,000-plus yards and double digit touchdowns every year but two. Last season, he didn’t have 1,000 yards but that’s only because he missed six games.

2017 fantasy football wide receivers

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Green still finished with 964 yards in just 10 games. Obviously Andy Dalton’s favorite target, Green is in line for another big season. Standing at 6-foot-4 210 pounds, Green has big play ability and he’ll produce big time for the Bengals again this year.

5. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers): After tearing his ACL in 2015, people wondered whether or not Jordy Nelson could bounce back to number one receiver status he once was. He not only removed doubt of being a number one receiver, he ended up as the number one receiver, in terms of fantasy that is.

Nelson formed a great duo with Davante Adams, creating terror for opposing defenses. Aaron Rodgers is destined to put up huge numbers in Green Bay, and will probably throw for 35 or more touchdowns.

The targets are there in the red zone, after last season, Nelson had 32 targets inside of the 20-yard line. Nelson is going to be a stud again in fantasy but expect a little regression in terms of touchdowns.

4. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Mike Evans started off last season with a bang. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Evans only had single digit weeks twice. He started to slow down a little after that however.

From week 10 on, Evans only had four double digit weeks. With the development of Jameis Winston, Mike Evans has the ability to be even better than last year. The only problem with Evans is how many targets may go to his fellow players.

With the addition of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, targets are going to be spread around the Tampa Bay offense. Evans should still see most of the targets and stay a solid WR1.

3. Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants): Definitely the most outspoken player on this list, Odell Beckham Jr. is a once in a generation player. After coming onto the scene in 2014, Beckham Jr. hasn’t had a season with less than ten touchdowns. Last season he had 1,367 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. And that was his worst year as a pro. Odell was arguably the most productive receiver in the league last year ranking within the top 5 at categories such as receptions, receiving yards, yards after catch, touchdowns and fantasy points per game. The category Beckham could improve in is minimizing his drops. He had nine last season, his most since entering the league. Now Brandon Marshall is added to the mix which is a good and bad thing. It’s good for Beckham because he’ll see less double teams but it may minimize his red zone targets.

2. Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons): The Falcons’ amazing season was helped out by Julio Jones and his play at wide receiver. After his third straight 1,000-plus yard season, is it possible that Julio could be even better than last year. The yardage won’t fall below 1,000 if he stays healthy for a full season.

However, that is a big if. Jones has only played two full seasons since entering the league in 2011. Other than health, Julio can improve in the red zone. He ranked 53rd in the league last season with five red zone receptions. If those numbers increase and the big bodied receiver gets more touchdowns, he’ll be the number one receiver in the league.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

1. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers): Business is boomin’ in Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown is in line for another big season with the Steelers. Since 2013, Antonio Brown has had at least 100 receptions, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in each season.

He ranked first in the most important fantasy candidate for wide receivers: fantasy points per game. Now Antonio Brown has Martavis Bryant back opposite of him for hopefully a full season which can lead to better things.

In two games where Antonio Brown was primarily double teamed, Sammie Coates was targeted a team-high 19 times. Now with Bryant back in the mix, those double teams should regress and Brown should be even better than last year.

 

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Is Dez Bryant a top fantasy option?

Dez Bryant has struggled with injuries and in-season battles in the past two years. Bryant was once a top five receiver in fantasy. From 2012-14, he finished in the top five in fantasy points in the receiver group. But with struggles with injuries and a transition to a new Dallas offense and quarterback, will Bryant return to being the elite fantasy player that he was early in his career?

Throw up the X: 2011-14

After his rookie season, Bryant came to life. In 2011, Bryant became a top option for Tony Romo behind Jason Witten. He finished with 63 receptions, 928 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished in the top 20 that year in fantasy for receivers.

The following season, Bryant broke onto the scene. He had his first season over 1,000 yards and had over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns. He finished in the top 10 in receptions (92), yards (1,382) and receiving yards per game (86.4). His 12 touchdowns were top-three. Bryant finished third in fantasy that season.

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant and Tony Romo (Photo by: zimbio.com)

In 2013, he had another solid season. He saw his targets spike from 138 to 160. He finished in the top five in fantasy again under receivers and his 93 receptions ranked eighth. His 13 touchdowns again ranked third.

Bryant did see a small decline in receiving yards with 1,233 and his receiving yards per game (77.1) that both ranked outside the top 10.

However, Bryant did perform in the top two inside the 10-yard line of the red zone. He led the league in targets (16), receptions (11) and touchdowns (9). He finished second in yards (38) and target percentage (43.2).

Bryant developed into a red zone weapon and also ranked in the top 10 in receptions (13) and target percentage (29.9) inside the 20-yard line. He was also second in touchdowns with 10 inside the 20.

2014 was probably Bryant’s best fantasy season to date. He finished third in fantasy points among receivers, his third top five finish in a row. He led the league in receiving touchdowns with 16. Bryant also improved his receiving yards (1,320) and receiving yards per game (82.5), which ranked eighth and 10th respectively.

He did have less receptions (88) but averaged 14.3 fantasy points per game, a career-best that season which ranked third. He also had his best PPR fantasy points per game at 19.8. Bryant also doubled his catches of 20-plus yards with 22 that ranked fifth in 2014.

In those four seasons, Bryant totaled 4,863 yards and 50 touchdowns. During that time, just Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green had more yards than he did. His touchdowns were the most during that timeframe, and no other receiver had more than 43 touchdowns.

Injuries and quarterback issues: 2015-16

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: whatthebuc.net)

Before the season, Bryant resigned with the Cowboys on a five-year, $70 million contract that included $45 million of guaranteed money and a $20 million signing bonus.

In a game against the Giants on Sep. 13, 2015, Bryant had a foot injury. The x-ray revealed a fracture in the foot that required surgery. He returned in week eight and struggled, getting two receptions for 12 yards.

In a season in which he struggled with health issues, he caught 31 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns. Before the injury, part of Bryant’s success was having Tony Romo as the quarterback. They only played three games together in 2015 as Romo had a back injury.

Bryant played with two other quarterbacks (Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore) that season. All of his three touchdowns came from a different quarterback. On Jan. 6, 2016, he underwent foot and ankle surgeries.

In 2016, his favorite quarterback in the preseason went down with another back injury and rookie Dak Prescott became the starter. It proved again that Bryant missed Romo as the quarterback as he and Prescott only connected on 16 of their first 41 targets in their first five games together.

This led to inconsistent fantasy numbers, as Bryant had just three games with 10 or more points, but two games with less than two points. He also missed three games with a knee injury. However, removing week 17 where they played only one series, Bryant and Prescott came to life.

In the final eight games including the playoffs, Bryant had 66 targets, 43 receptions, 646 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s a 65.2 percent completion rate. It seemed that Bryant came back to being the receiver he once was.

2017 outlook

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: sbnation.com)

In 2017, there is some concern regarding Bryant. Besides adding no receiver help to complement him, Bryant will face Janoris Jenkins twice, Josh Norman twice, Aqib Talib/Chris Harris Jr., Patrick Peterson, Marcus Peters, Desmond Trufant, Jason Verrett/Casey Hayward and Richard Sherman.

In the two matchups with the Giants last year, he was held to just two catches for 18 yards on 14 targets and fumbled once that clinched the Giants win in the second meeting.

The last time he played against Sherman, he totaled just two catches for 12 yards on six targets.

And expect Norman to shadow Bryant this year after not doing so in 2016. In the first three games for Bryant, he plays the Giants at home and then goes to Denver and Arizona on the road. We could see again early season struggles for him.

He has missed 22 games in two seasons. He is also in a run-heavy offense with a great offensive line and a premier running back. The defense in Dallas hasn’t improved, especially in the backfield which could lead to Prescott throwing the ball more if they have to play catch up. That would benefit Bryant but the game plan will be to run the ball to protect Prescott.

But how good will Prescott be if he has to throw to win? That’s a question for another article.

Bryant is a top-10 fantasy receiver that should be drafted somewhere in the third round. Be cautious with his durability, and Prescott worries me this year as he is my top bust for quarterbacks. In some leagues he will be a top receiver for most teams, but he’s a high-end WR2 with a ceiling as a middling WR1.

 

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Week 16 NFL Picks Against the Spread

My run of alternating good weeks and bad continued last week as I slipped back to 5-10-1 against the spread. Throw in another loss Thursday night and I now sit at 110-117-7 on the year. The bulk of the action takes place on Saturday this week. Happy Holidays everyone!

Falcons (-3) at Panthers- The Panthers are absolutely maddening. While their inconsistency will in all likelihood cost them a playoff spot, they can still show up any given week and play like the team that reached the Super Bowl last year. Last week against a Redskins team that had everything to play for is a perfect example. The Falcons are trying to hold off the upstart Buccaneers to lock down the division title. The Panthers are very dangerous, but have not been able to put together two good games in a row all year. Luckily for MVP candidate Matt Ryan and the rest of the playoff hungry Falcons, Carolina played its best game of the year last week. Atl 31 Car 24

Photo courtesy of mcall.com

Photo courtesy of mcall.com

Dolphins at Bills (-4.5) – The playoff hopes of many teams in the AFC ride on Miami losing one or both of its final two games. Given the matchups, Miami’s history of struggling in bad weather, and the fact that they are playing with a backup quarterback, it is a virtual certainty. It is no accident that they are the underdog here. Buffalo is trying to protect slim playoff hopes of its own. The Bills offense can run on just about anybody. Also, offensive line injuries have lessened the effect of the Dolphins rushing attack, which was their strength. LeSean McCoy runs wild as the AFC playoff picture goes haywire. Buf 24 Mia 17

Vikings at Packers (-7) – The Packers and Aaron Rodgers continue to feverishly dig themselves out of the early-season hole they created. The playoffs are by no means a certainty, but are realistic again. They play a perfect opponent here. The Vikings showed us all last week just how dead in the water they are. GB 34 Min 17

Jets at Patriots (-16.5) – Much like I said a few weeks ago when these two teams locked horns, the Jets always keep this game competitive. That week, the Jets controlled the game for 58 minutes. That will not happen here. New England has gotten much better since then and the Jets have gotten much worse. 16.5 points is still way too many. NE 31 NYJ 20

Chargers (-5.5) at Browns- Cleveland is running out of chances to avoid going winless. Unless your team is playing the Browns or you are just plain mean, you have to be pulling for them. San Diego is coming east, eliminated from playoff contention, and it is fair to assume the conditions in Cleveland will not be ideal. However, Cleveland’s last best chance to win a game will go by the boards. The Browns played okay last week and still lost by 20 to the streaky Bills. That is how far away they are from competing with the mediocre teams in this league so forget about the good ones. Thus, it is impossible to pick them this or any other week. SD 30 Cle 17

Titans (-5) at Jaguars- This is probably my bravest pick of the week. I stopped just short of picking the outright upset. Despite its record, Jacksonville does have some talent on both sides of the ball. Also, an in season coaching change usually results in at least a brief spark for a team. Meanwhile, the Titans are coming off two straight massive wins over fellow playoff contenders. Moreover, it looks like next week’s game against Houston will be for all the marbles. This just screams trap game. The Titans have more firepower and will get it done, but be very careful with this game. Ten 24 Jac 21

Redskins (-3) at Bears- The Redskins were the biggest disappointment of last week. With a chance to take control of their playoff fate, they laid an egg at home. Thus, there season is on the line this week. The scrappy Bears have been giving contending teams all they can handle, but do not have many wins to show for it. Vegas has clearly been paying attention to Chicago. A three-point spread against a playoff contender like Washington is a sign of respect. The number is too small for me not to swallow. Was 28 Chi 24

*Colts at Raiders (-3.5) – The Raiders are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, but they still drive me nuts. Last week they overcame yet another slow start to knock off San Diego. Just think about how good this team could be if it actually played well on a consistent basis. Granted finding ways to win while leading the world in penalties, giving up over six yards per play, and falling behind every single week is much more fun to watch. However, it is very difficult to pick a team like that to win.

Additionally, Derek Carr’s finger is still a big concern. He just has not thrown the ball nearly as well since the injury. The Raiders are going to the playoffs, but they will not be there long. Indy still has a faint playoff pulse of its own and has played really well on the road lately. That is good enough for me. Ind 27 Oak 21

Cardinals at Seahawks (-7.5) – Arizona really started to look like a team that was ready for the offseason last week. It is hard to put up 34 points and still get dominated. If the Cardinals just go through the motions this week, the Seahawks will bring the pain. A date with the Rams last week was just what they needed. Look for them to keep rolling towards the playoffs. Sea 24 Ari 13

49ers at Rams (-4) – Yikes! This may be the worst NFL game of the year, but it is a fairly simple one to pick. The Rams pass rush is as good as any in the league. I cannot come up with a single thing San Francisco does well. This game may send offensive football back to the 1800s. LA 17 SF 9

Bucs at Saints (-3) – This is one of those lines where the assumption has to be that Vegas knows something that us mere mortals do not. It is a fairly even match-up. The Bucs are still in the thick of the playoff race, the Saints are not. However, that offense makes them a threat every single week. That being said, it still surprises me that a team with nothing to play for is favored against a team with everything to play for. Again, it is so surprising that I have to think the bookies are on to something. NO 38 TB 31

Bengals at Texans (-2.5) – Tom Savage has become an overnight sensation in Houston. The largely unknown quarterback may well have saved the season last week. He gave them a spark that had been missing all year with Brock Osweiler running the offense. The Bengals are still playing hard and will get A.J. Green back, but momentum can be a powerful thing. It should be enough to get the Texans over the line here. Hou 27 Cin 16

Sunday: *Ravens at Steelers (-5.5) – Kudos to the NFL for putting two competitive and important games on Christmas day. If I am getting anything more than field goal, I will always take the underdog in this match-up. The Steelers still worry me. Getting pushed around for a half in Cincinnati last week did not help that. As good as their offense is, the Ravens are a more complete team when taking into account all three phases. Bal 23 Pit 20

Broncos at Chiefs (-3.5) – While Denver’s defense is too good for the team to get blown out, Kansas City is not a defense that Denver can get right up against with their patchwork offensive line. While the reigning world champions may still have playoff hopes even with a loss here, they are not in a position to take advantage. They can expect no slack from Kansas City, who still has the division title to play for. KC 19 Den 12

MNF: *Lions at Cowboys (-6.5) – What a fun matchup to close out the Monday Night Football slate. Dak Prescott returned to form last week after two rough games, but Dallas still had its hands full with Tampa Bay. The defense is starting to leak some oil. Everybody on that unit has played above their heads all year long. It was just a matter of time. The secondary has given up a few big plays in the last couple weeks. Prescott is a concern too. Despite just four incompletions against the Bucs, it still felt like Ezekiel Elliott was doing most of the heavy lifting. Translation: I think the Cowboys as a whole peeked about a month too early. Also, with the Eagles upset win on Thursday, Dallas has nothing to play for here.

 

Detroit is desperately trying to hold off Green Bay in the NFC North. Differing from the usual, the Lions have played their best football in the biggest spots all year long. It does not get much bigger than this. With three MVP candidates in the same game, I expect Matthew Stafford to separate himself and solidify the Lions playoff position. Det 34 Dal 31.

Happy Holidays to all and to all a good week of picking football games.

Photo courtesy of sidelion.com

Photo courtesy of sidelion.com

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Week Twelve NFL Picks Against the Spread

It was another middle-of-the-road effort by me last week. I went just 6-8 against the spread. I am now 77-85-6 on the year. A hot stretch is absolutely necessary for me to finish the year in the black. Hopefully, this weekend is the start of that. My picks are bolded. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. With not one, but three games on Thursday for Thanksgiving, I am at it early. Here we go.

Vikings at Lions (-2.5) – First place in the NFC North is at stake here. Both teams have taken strange paths to their 6-4 records. The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season. Minnesota is relying almost exclusively on their defense and special teams to win games. It is hard to sustain the kind of winning both these teams are doing. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford continues his rise to becoming an elite quarterback every week. The gap between the two offenses is just too great to not swallow the points. Det 31 Min 20

Redskins at Cowboys (-7) – This game sells itself. Two of the hottest teams in football facing off in a holiday rivalry game. I have been wrong on Dallas all year. Amazingly, so has Vegas. Dallas is 9-0-1 against the spread this year. However, I am foolishly going to take the Redskins here. Rivalry games are always closer than they should be anyway. Washington’s offense is a problem for any opponent, especially if undrafted rookie Robert Kelley continues to spark the run game. Dallas and their freakishly talented rookies will get the job done, but will be made to work. Dal 28 Was 24.

photo from nfl.com

photo from nfl.com

Colts at Steelers (-7.5) – With Andrew Luck likely out due to a concussion, this number will probably continue to grow until game time, and rightfully so. Pittsburgh can score on anybody, and while their defense is still bad, Colts backup quarterback Scott Tolzien is the backup for a reason. He will not be able to exploit their defensive deficiencies. Pit 38 Ind 17

Sunday:

Cardinals at Falcons (-4) – This could go either way. Atlanta got off to a white-hot start, particularly on offense, but has struggled since. Arizona has struggled from the start, but we have seen flashes of why they reached the NFC championship game last year. Due to their division, Atlanta is in much stronger playoff position and they are at home. That is good enough for me. Atl 31 Ari 24

Bengals at Ravens (-4) – I have been high on the Ravens all year with mixed results. This week, they are catching the Bengals at a perfect time. Cincinnati’s relevant season may have ended with last week’s loss to Buffalo. Additionally, they will be without two of their main offensive weapons, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovanni Bernard. The Ravens appear to be one of the strongest bets of the week. Bal 31 Cin 17

Jaguars at Bills (-7.5) – A streaky team like Buffalo as this big of a favorite makes me nervous, but the Jags played the Lions to the wire last week and still could not manage to cover. So… Buf 28 Jac 17

Rams at Saints (-7.5) – The Rams offense was cute last week in Jared Goff’s debut. He made no mistakes, but was not asked to do much. You can count on one hand the number of times he threw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. The “training wheels” approach won’t lead to enough points to keep up with Drew Brees and the Saints. NO 34 LA 17

Giants (-7) at Browns – As I noted last week, the Giants always keep it close. Despite rarely looking impressive, a 7-3 record is a 7-3 record. Also, this is the Browns we are talking about here. Between the injuries and general lack of talent on the roster, they may be unable to keep it close with anyone right now. NYG 30 Cle 17

Chargers (-1.5) at Texans – Here you have a last-place team favored over first place team. You just do not see that very often. The fact is San Diego is better by just about every statistical measure, except the important one. The Texans do have a slight edge on defense, but the difference between quarterbacks is too vast for me to pass up. SD 30 Hou 23

49ers at Dolphins (-7.5) – Miami keeps winning. Last week was closer than it should have been, but this isn’t college football. Style points are irrelevant. When everything around him is functioning well, Ryan Tannehill is just fine as an NFL quarterback. That is the case right now and San Francisco is not good enough on defense to expose his limitations. Mia 23 SF 13

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

Titans (-5.5) at Bears – It has probably been a few years since the Titans have been this significant of a road favorite. They showed their immaturity last week against the Colts after roughing up Green Bay. If the Titans stay the course, they will be really good in about two years. However, this is another spot where their youth and inexperience could hurt them. Also, the Bears have played people tough all year. It is hard for me to imagine them winning this game with third stringer Matt Barkley at quarterback, but I will take the points. Ten 24 Chi 21

Seahawks (-5.5) at Bucs – Seattle continued their recent great form by pushing around the Eagles last week. I would take them to cover against anyone right now. Even though I am impressed with the way Jameis Winston and the young Bucs have put themselves right in the middle of the playoff race, they are no exception. Sea 27 TB 17

*Panthers at Raiders (-3) – I am still not a believer in the Raiders. Yes, the defense has gotten better lately. However, the inevitable will happen at some point. Derek Carr will struggle and the hole the offense finds itself in will be too deep. As for Carolina, they are still very dangerous. The struggles of their division rivals leaves them with plenty to still play for. The Panthers are due to catch a break, and all the mistakes and penalties are due to catch up to Oakland. Car 27 Oak 20

Patriots (-7.5) at Jets – Again, rivalry games are always close. The Patriots will likely be without Rob Gronkowski for another week. They struggled for three quarters with the 49ers last week. The Jets beat the Patriots last year. The main parts of each roster are basically the same. Lastly, the Jets pass rush is a problem for any opponent, even if they are quarterbacked by Tom Brady. An outright upset with shock everyone but me here. NE 24 NYJ 20

 

 

Chiefs at Broncos (-3.5) – This is a huge game for both teams. It becomes even bigger if Carolina does indeed knock off Oakland. Despite current records, I would still argue that these two teams will eventually finish ahead of the error prone and one-dimensional Raiders. Given, that Denver is finally healthy off a bye week, I would have thought they would be a bigger favorite here. Kansas City found a very creative way to lose to Tampa Bay at home last week. I have too much respect for Kansas City to call for a blowout, but with Denver rested, healthy and at home 3.5 points feels like a steal. Den 24 KC 17

NNF: Packers at Eagles (-4) – I am officially out on the Packers, but I will tell you one thing. The problem is not Aaron Rodgers. Anyone who tosses 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions through 10 games is not the problem. The problem is that it looks like the defense is playing with about six guys on the field, the last two weeks have been particularly brutal. Any team with the kind of quarterback play the Packers are getting can turn around at any moment, but you will not see me predicting it. The Eagles are really solid along the offensive and defensive lines and should be able to manhandle the lifeless Packers here. Phi 34 GB 23. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving everyone!

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Why You Didn’t Win Your DFS League

You just woke up after the best night’s sleep you had all week and let out a magnificent yawn as your body adjusts to the light. After going downstairs, open up FanDuel, turn to your favorite NFL pregame show, and look to adjust your DFS lineup. But this morning is different. You wake up to find that the Giants and Rams are tied at 10 during the third quarter.

Depending on your dedication you either woke up early to check your lineup, or, did not play in a league that included the 9:30 AM EST game. Whether you overslept or not isn’t the point. The point is, the London series is a back breaker to the average DFS player. As players, we already have to deal with Monday and Thursday night games detracting from the 1 PM EST main event pool.

This past Sunday, we lost access to players like Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham Jr., and Eli Manning. While they may not be playing well at the moment, these players have posted gaudy numbers in the past and have been critical to many people’s success in DFS.

Discovering Diamonds in the Rough 

With the number of options decreasing further from the 1 PM EST main event, finding an optimal lineup becomes even more challenging. Moreover, this makes finding key sleepers borderline impossible, for example, Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers was owned by 42.23% of all FanDuel players this weekend (NumberFire). This means without the ability to pay up for backs like Lamar Miller or CJ Anderson, you’re sleeper play becomes chalk. Thus, you lose your competitive edge in large tournaments.

Jacquizz Rodgers runs through a putrid Niners rush defense

Jacquizz Rodgers ran through the 32nd ranked Niners rush defense to accumulate 16.8 points

If you did play Rodgers, you’re ecstatic about the 16.8 points he produced. Given his low price tag, you no doubt were able to pay up for players like Julio Jones and AJ Green, right? Well, so was everyone else.

Jones and Green were the two highest owned players in all of FanDuel this past weekend. The two elite receivers were owned at 47.84% and 45.81% respectively (NumberFire). Once again, even though the decision to play them both was correct, you lost your tournament edge.

The first reason why you didn’t win your DFS League is that your lineups weren’t unique enough, and it wasn’t your fault. Blame our friends across the pond for the inability to roster Odell Beckham Jr. and dilute the ownership of Jones and Green.

 

Chalk vs. ChAnce

Since you, and many others, will have to keep dealing with these ridiculous London games, let’s look at ways to sift through the chalk plays and regain our competitive advantage. The best place to start is by examining player matchups. Jacquizz Rodgers was so widely owned not because he was a starter, but because the 49ers had the worst ranked run defense in the NFL. So, given his price tag, his volume, and his opponent, Rodgers became a no brainer.

On the other hand, Melvin Gordon was facing a top 10 rush defense in Atlanta, and a bottom third pass defense. Gordon’s price tag was also high at $8,000 given his unfavorable matchup. These factors contributed to a crazy low ownership of Gordon, 5.01% in fact (NumberFire). While both Rodgers and Gordon has successful outings, Gordon had a monster game and accumulated 33.1 points, more than doubling the production of Rodgers.

What’s the point? Understand the way other players are picking lineups, and counter their way of thinking. Now, let’s look at one player at each core position this week to be considered chalk and one to be considered chance.

Quarterback:

Chalk: This week’s chalk play at quarterback is none other than the golden boy, Tom Brady. Not only is he projected to be the highest scoring Quarterback, but also his DFS floor is outstanding. This past week versus the Steelers was his lowest scoring game to date with 18.18 points. Look for the Patriots to establish the run and come over the top with play action. If Ryan Tannehill can score 16.26 points and find receivers running free throughout the secondary, then no doubt Brady can as well.

Chance: While he may never seem like a chance play, Drew Brees will have an ownership under 5% this week. Why? Because the Saints play the Seahawks, who have a top-10 rush and pass defense. But here’s the key: The Saints are playing at home, which means, play Drew Brees. In each of his three home games, Brees has scored at least 25 points and topped 30 points twice. If you think I’m crazy about Brees’ ownership, he was only owned by 2.58% of players this past Sunday against the Chiefs, where he scored 25.68 points (NumberFire).

Running Back:

Chalk: Jacquizz Rodges will no doubt be another popular play this week. His price of $6,600 and his matchup vs. the 28th ranked Raiders rush defense makes him prime for another successful fantasy outing. Once again, you can play Rodgers again this week, just understand that you’ll need to differentiate your lineup at other positions. Also, be careful about the emergence of Peyton Barber. Barber had 12 carries for 84 yards and stole a touchdown from Rodgers against the 49ers.

Chance: Ty Montgomery will prove to have a big day against the Falcons. While he’s nowhere near the runner that Melvin Gordon is, Montgomery is going to be extremely effective out of the backfield. With 20 catches on 25 targets over the past two weeks, his role in the passing game will remain large. He also doesn’t have to be an efficient runner to score points, as Gordon only accumulated 68 yards on 22 carries last week versus Atlanta.

Wide Receiver:

Chalk: For the second week in a row, Mike Evans will have an ownership percentage over 25% across all FanDuel contests. With players Like Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, and Odell Beckham Jr. unavailable, Evans is the second most expensive receiver at $7,900 and has a great matchup against the Oakland Raiders, who has the worst ranked pass defense. In five of Evans’ last six outings he only scored less than 16 points once and scored more than 20 points twice.

Chance: Justin Hunter is starting to gain a lot of traction. While his outing against Miami was not impressive, he got the start in place of Robert Woods and played 53 of the 57 offensive snaps. This past Sunday was the first time since Hunter joined the Bills that he didn’t have a touchdown. Expect Hunter to have a high volume of touches as the Bills will likely be playing from behind and with a price of $5,200, he gives any lineup great flexibility.

Tight End:

Chalk: Do I really need a whole paragraph to talk about why Rob Gronkowski is chalk this week? Since Brady’s return, Gronkowski hasn’t had a game in which he scored less than 13.4 points. Expect Gronkowski to do major damage on play action deep down the middle of the field.

Chance: If you are looking to take advantage of the Raiders defense this weekend, look to Cameron Brate. The emergence of Russell Shepard against the 49ers cut into Brate’s production, but the only player to score a touchdown against the Raiders last week was Julius Thomas. Since the Buccaneers are not playing the 49ers, expect the game to be much closer and force them to throw the ball more often, leading to a higher volume for Brate.

I just want to be clear, I am not suggesting that rostering any of these chalk players is foolish. Tom Brady and Mike Evans are going to produce. Just know that if you decide to roster one of these players, you’ll need to find another area of your roster to regain your competitive edge when it comes to ownership.

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