Joe Flacco

NFL training camp injuries: The walking wounded

With last night’s Hall of Fame game, NFL football is officially back in our lives. While that is a beautiful thing, the injury bug is running wild through NFL training camps as it does every year. It is impossible to cover them all, but here is a summary of some early NFL training camp injuries.

Quarterbacks

While Shane Ray and a few other notable defenders will miss some time, most of the early injuries have been on the offensive side of the ball. The league’s most important position is no exception.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a herniated disc in his back. That is really all anyone knows for sure. Reports have Flacco missing anywhere from a single week to six weeks.  The front office in Baltimore has said a lot while doing very little in regards to controversial former 49ers signal caller Colin Kaepernick.

Miami Dolphins

Photo: cbssports.com

The training camp reports on current backup Ryan Mallett have been far from glowing. Combine that with the fact the Kaepernick chatter has not exactly been squashed, and the whole situation becomes worth monitoring.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a non-contact injury to the same knee that was hurt at the end of last year. The results of his MRI showed no structural damage in the knee, however there’s no timetable for his return. Any sort of long term injury to Tannehill would be very difficult to overcome and a possible momentum killer for a franchise that surprised many by making the playoffs last year.

As far as backup quarterbacks go, Matt Moore is one of the best around. Even so, he is the backup for a reason.

Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are also not doing much early in training camp due to lingering effects from offseason surgeries.

Offensive lines

You cannot put offensive lineman on your fantasy football team. Thus, many people do not pay much attention to them. However, the offensive line is a key element to any great football team.

Quarterback is just the beginning of the issues in Baltimore. The group that will protect whoever is throwing the ball for the Ravens this year is already shuffling. Marshal Yanda has been one of the best offensive lineman in the game for the last handful of years, but he is also not fully healthy from offseason surgery.

Forrest Lamp

Photo: San Diego Union Tribune

Additionally, center/guard John Urschel suddenly retired a few days ago to further pursue his academic career. Also, rookie guard Nico Siragusa is already out for the year with a knee injury. John Harbaugh’s team may very well have to mix and match on the offensive line well into the regular season. That never turns out well.

Keeping Philip Rivers upright and away from the freakishly talented pass rushers of the AFC West has been a challenge for the Chargers in recent years. Rookie guard Forrest Lamp was supposed to help change that. However, the second-round pick is out for the year with a torn ACL.

The Ravens and Chargers already faced uphill battles in highly competitive divisions this year. Offensive line issues at the very beginning of training camp are a nightmare for any coaching staff to deal with.

Wide Receivers

The injuries are piling up elsewhere. Speedy Texans wideout Will Fuller is sidelined indefinitely with a broken collarbone. Chargers first-round pick Mike Williams may also miss extended time. The former favorite target of Deshaun Watson is dealing with a bad back.

The only thing coaches and fans should really hope for this time of year is for every player that goes down to get back up. We all know that it does not always happen that way. Training camp is our first yearly reminder of what a war of attrition the NFL can be.

 

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 50-41

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

This is the sixth installment, containing players 50-41.

50. Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins

NFL top 100 players 2017: 50-41

Trent Williams (CSN Mid Atlantic)

Williams has proven over his seven seasons that he is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He has made five straight Pro Bowls and helped give up just 23 sacks in 2016, good enough for fourth best in the NFL.

His blocking was a big component on the Redskins’ offense which had the third most yards in the NFL in 2016. Kirk Cousins will have his protection, but the Redskins’ offensive line will be tasked with opening up holes for the running backs, an area they could be better. Williams hasn’t played a full 16 games in the last three years but has still been effective enough to make Pro Bowls.

In 2017 Williams will be the best player for Washington and continue to be one of the best linemen in the NFL.

Comments: “Williams is one of the best offensive lineman in the league. He should be ranked higher as he is one of the top two or three tackles in the league and better than several players ahead of him on this list.”-Joe DiTullio

49. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

NFL top 100 players 2017: 50-41

T.Y. Hilton (spotrac.com)

In 2016 Hilton set new career bests in receptions and receiving yards. He made his third straight Pro Bowl with 91 receptions, 1,448 yards and six touchdowns. He was the NFL’s leading receiver in 2016 and will be looking to match that production in 2017.

Andrew Luck and Hilton have quite the connection and Luck relies on Hilton. Luck targeted Hilton 155 times in 2016 and while Hilton may not get that many targets in 2017, Luck will be looking to connect with Hilton often. Hilton will be entering his prime and with Luck throwing him passes, there is no reason to expect a drop in production.

Hilton may not be the most physically gifted receiver, but he produces and will continue to do so in 2017.

Comments: “One simple explanation on why T.Y. Hilton is too high is because he is ranked higher than Jordy Nelson but is not better than him. Nelson had more receptions and touchdowns the Hilton. Put Nelson higher than Hilton and I have no issues.” -Matthew Hagan

48. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

NFL top 100 players 2017: 50-41

Dak Prescott (Getty Images)

No one expected Prescott to do what he did in 2016. He made the most of his opportunity when Tony Romo got injured and led the Cowboys to a great season. Prescott spearheaded the Cowboys’ offense to a 13-3 record. He threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Going into 2017, Prescott has a lot going for him. The main thing is a great offensive line that will give him time to make good throws. He has great targets in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. The Cowboys do have issues with Ezekiel Elliot, who may be suspended for a few games for a variety of reasons, but Prescott should still be able to be successful with his line and receivers.

Prescott may not lead the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, but has all the tools to be successful in 2017.

Comments: “The kid is good, don’t get me wrong. He is absolutely a top 100 player. Is he a top 50 player? Not at all. His supporting staff is easily top five in the league. I want to see him grow on the throws he makes and see how he handles more pressure.”- Robert Hanes

47. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

NFL top 100 players 2017: 50-41

Andrew Luck (colts.com)

A lot has been made of Andrew Luck, but he is a very talented quarterback on an average at best team. Last year Luck threw for 4,240 yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 63.5% completion. If and when the Colts are successful, it is because of Luck.

Luck will still have his favorite target, T.Y. Hilton (#49), which will be a great combination once again. The offensive line has gotten better over the last couple of years and should help Luck have time to find open receivers and stay relatively healthy. In a division that is very winnable, Luck can lead the Colts to a division win.

In 2017 Luck will be the best player on the Colts and has a chance to elevate a pretty mundane team once again.

Comments: “Andrew Luck is the only reason the Colts are relevant and it is because of his stellar play. If you give Luck a better defense and a better running game, he will be a top 30 player in the NFL.” -Matthew Hagan

46. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL top 100 players 2017: 50-41

Tyreek Hill (CBS Sports)

Hill burst onto the scene last season after being relatively unknown. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and not much was expected of him. As a very versatile player for the Chiefs, Hill had 860 yards from scrimmage, 976 return yards and 12 total touchdowns.

The Chiefs have moved on from Jeremy Maclin and are looking to make Hill and Travis Kelce the focal point of their offense. With Alex Smith at quarterback, the offense is usually mundane, but because Hill is so electric with the ball in his hands, the offense can be dynamic. With his return ability added to his skills on offense Hill can be a game-changer.

After a successful first season in the league, it should be expected that Hill will improve in year two with more reps.

Comments: “There is too much hype on Hill. He is extremely fast and explosive. With Maclin gone he will have to prove he can be the number one threat and this season it will prove to be too much and that he is more suited for a role as a number two.” -Matthew Hagan

“Hill had a first good season and can change the game in many ways, but this is way too high.He is ranked higher than T.Y. Hilton and Jordy Nelson on this list. Some of our staff is drinking too much of the Tyreek Hill Kool-Aid.”-Joe DiTullio

45. Jadeveon Clowney, OLB, Houston Texans

Brett Coomer

Jadevon Clowney (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle)

His first season was injury plagued, but since then he has progressed into a really good player. In 2016 Clowney had 52 tackles, six sacks, two passes defended and one forced fumble. With J.J. Watt injured, Clowney stepped up and became an impact player.

Clowney and Whitney Mercilus have combined to be a good duo at outside linebacker and having Watt back in 2017 should free them up to get after the quarterback more. Opposing offensive lines will not be able to block all three consistently and Clowney will benefit.

He has just scratched the surface of his potential, but Clowney should have a very good 2017.

Comments: Clowney helps anchor one of the best front sevens in the NFL. After a lackluster start to his career, Clowney broke out towards the end of the 2016 season. Clowney received the third-highest grade from PFF among edge defenders in run stopping with an 89.1, and has improved his pass rushing abilities as well. Clowney produced 58 quarterback pressures last season coupled with 38 defensive stops. As long as he can stay healthy, expect Clowney to continue to bolster a scary defense in Houston.” –Tim Miller

44. Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers

nfl top 100 players 2017: 50-41

Joey Bosa (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

His rookie year did not get off to a great start as he was in a contract holdout, but once he took the field Bosa was a great player. In his first season, he played in 12 games, had 31 tackles and 10.5 sacks.

Bosa will benefit from an entire offseason to work out and learn, something he didn’t have the privilege of doing in 2016. With this, he should be ready to play a full season, which puts a reasonable expectation that his stats will increase in 2017. The Chargers’ defense was much improved in 2016 and will likely get better again this season.

In 2016 Bosa had a great rookie year, which has fans excited to see what he can do in 2017.

Comments: “A product of The Ohio State University, Bosa’s dominant play in college translated quickly to the NFL. Bosa played in 12 games last season, yet he still racked up 59 total quarterback pressures, including 11 sacks. Bosa has played both defensive end and outside linebacker with the Chargers, which further helps his claim as a top edge defender in the NFL.

“The reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, expect Bosa to put up another incredible season and become one of the best defensive players of his generation.” –Tim Miller

43. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills

nfl top 100 players 2017: 50-41

LeSean McCoy (Getty Images)

McCoy is entering into the end of his prime years at age 29 but hasn’t slowed down yet. Last season he rushed for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is a threat every time the ball is in his hands and defenses always have to try to stop the run when they play Buffalo.

If McCoy stays healthy, he is a sure thing to give you 1,000 yards on the ground. This is something he has done every season with at least 15 games played since his rookie season. McCoy runs behind a good offensive line that features Eric Wood, Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn.

The Bills may not have the best offense, but they can always rely on handing the ball to McCoy.

Comments: “McCoy is the quickest cutter in the league and continually puts defenders on skates. His 1,267 yards aren’t eye-popping stats, but he did average 5.8 yards per carry. McCoy will produce in 2017 again.”-Joe DiTullio

42. Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos

Aqib Talib (USA Today)

While Talib is going to be 31 this season, he is still playing at an elite level on a very good Denver defense. In 2016 Talib was an All-Pro, had 43 tackles, 12 passes defended, three interceptions and a touchdown. 2016 marked his first appearance on the All-Pro team, but he has made four Pro Bowls.

Talib returns to Denver and has a lot of good players around him. It is hard for teams to find a defensive back to pick on when the Broncos have Talib, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. (#52). With the help of his teammates, Talib helped the Broncos have the best pass defense in the NFL by far in 2016, allowing just 185 yards per game through the air.

With everyone back for another year, Talib and the Broncos’ secondary will prove why they are one of the best in the NFL.

Comments: “Talib is part of the best cornerback tandem in the entire NFL. Talib was the only player in the NFL to play in over 500 snaps yet not give up a touchdown reception last season, proving he was toughest in the clutch. Allowing just a 49.5 passer rating on balls thrown his way was good enough for second-best in the NFL among qualified players last year. Talib is getting older for sure, but he still has enough talent to keep him on this list going into next season.” –Tim Miller

41. Demarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans

NFL top 100 players 2017: 50-41

DeMarco Murray (George Walker IV/The Tennessean)

Murray was a good player for the Dallas Cowboys, then slumped with the Philadelphia Eagles before reviving his career in Nashville. Last season he rushed for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns to bring some life to the Titans’ rushing attack.

He partnered with Derrick Henry to help Tennessee average the third most rushing yards in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game. Murray will again split carries with Henry, but the former Cowboy has proven that he deserves the lion’s share. The offensive line in front of him was tremendous and will continue to create big holes for him in 2017.

With guys like Taylor Lewan (#53) and Jack Conklin blocking for Murray, he is going to have another productive season.

Comments: “Murray has benefited from some good offensive lines, first in Dallas now in Tennessee. He is a very good running back, but he did have a bad season with Philadelphia. He will have a good season in 2017, partly because of his talent and partly because his offensive line.”-Joe DiTullio

 

NFL top 100 players: 60-51

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Top 5 2017 fantasy quarterbacks

When it comes to fantasy football, quarterbacks are a premium. There are many different types of quarterbacks in the NFL. There’s those who are elite passers and ones that are mobile quarterbacks. Some can do both. But these five quarterbacks are the top tier who you should eye for your team in 2017.

No. 5 Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Luck bounced back last season from an injury-shortened 2015 to surpass 4,000 yards passing for the third time in his career and 30 touchdowns for the second time.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Andrew Luck (Photo by: profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

When healthy, Luck is one of the best passers in the game. In 38 games since 2014, Luck has posted 20-plus fantasy points 76.3 percent of the time. Only Tom Brady is close to that mark at 70.4 percent.

He has finished as a top-four fantasy quarterback in three of the past four seasons. Last season, he ranked eighth in passing yards, fifth in passing touchdowns and seventh in rushing yards among quarterbacks. He averaged 7.8 yards per attempt, which was fifth in the league.

Luck hasn’t had luck on his side with injuries. In 2015, he only played seven games with multiple injuries that included an injured shoulder, lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle.

Last season, he missed one game with a concussion. In the past two seasons he has missed 10 games. The Colts are hopeful that Luck will be ready for training camp after offseason shoulder surgery. If not, then there will be concerns about his availability come week 1.

Luck should be the fourth or fifth quarterback taken around the fourth to fifth round if he’s healthy. Luck himself should come out firing, partially because the Colts’ defense isn’t expected to be great and partially because the Colts run game isn’t expected to be great.

No. 4 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

A career year that led to an MVP award at age 32, Matt Ryan ranks fourth on my list.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan (Photo: twitter.com)

Ryan enjoyed a career-best season in 2016, ranking second in passing yards, passing touchdowns and fantasy points. He averaged an absurd 9.26 yards per attempt, which is the best we’ve seen in the NFL since Kurt Warner’s 9.88 in 2000.

Ryan benefited from the league’s most yards after the catch (6.2 RAC) and second-lowest drop rate (2.8 percent). His offensive line protected him well, as he had a ton of help in the passing game from a number of role players, not to mention some excellent work from stud receiver Julio Jones.

Most of that success was because of Kyle Shanahan. But Shanahan has moved on as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. The Falcons hired former USC coach Steve Sarkisian, a first-year NFL playcaller.

Sarkisian did coach in Oakland in 2004 as the quarterbacks coach. In that season, he helped Oakland compile more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams.

Ryan won’t post his monster 2016 stats in 2017 but if the offense holds up and his star receiver stays healthy, Ryan should have another strong season. Ryan is in the mix as a top 5 fantasy passer worth a pick in round 4 or 5.

No. 3 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Consistency is the best word to describe number three quarterback Drew Brees. At age 38 this season, he is still one of the best passers in the game.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Drew Brees (Photo by:denverpost.com)

He’s finished as a top 6 quarterback in fantasy for 11 straight seasons, landing at the No. 3 spot in 2016.

When it comes to passing the ball, Brees has a cannon. He’s ranked top-two in the NFL in attempts, completions, yardage and completion percentage during six of the past seven seasons.

He’s thrown for at least 4,850 yards in each of his last six campaigns, topping 5,000 yards in four of them. As for touchdowns, Brees has thrown at least 32 in nine straight seasons. Most quarterbacks at his age start to lose some production, but Brees isn’t slowing down.

Some concern with Brees is his age but the big question comes with who his new number one target will be. The loss of Brandin Cooks hurts, but the Saints brought in Ted Ginn Jr. to replace Cooks’ deep speed. Brees’ success has been built on spreading the ball around so the loss of Cooks should be minimal.

Expect Brees to have another top-five fantasy campaign and he should be the second or third quarterback taken.

No. 2 Tom Brady, New England Patriots

A four-game suspension for Brady last season, yet he still had one of the most dominant seasons of his career. The ageless Tom Brady ranks second on this list.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Tom Brady (Photo by:nj.com)

Like Brees, Brady is still at the top of his game as he turns 40 on Aug. 3. Brady was absolutely dominant upon his return, ranking fifth in completion percentage (67 percent) and second in yards per attempt (8.2), while throwing only two interceptions.

He still managed to toss 28 touchdowns. Even though he finished as the No. 15 quarterback in 2016, as he averaged just under 26 fantasy points a game in the 12 games he was active.

This year fantasy owners don’t have to debate where to draft Brady with deflategate behind him. He should be even better with the healthy return of Rob Gronkowski, as well as the addition of Cooks from the Saints and Dwayne Allen from the Colts to replace Martellus Bennett.

Brady also has other targets such as Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and running backs in Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and James White. Brady’s success, like Brees, is spreading the ball around and he has a ton of weapons to throw to.

Brady will be one of the first three quarterbacks taken along with Brees and Rodgers. He will likely be taken after Rodgers but target him about round 3.

No. 1 Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

When it comes to fantasy football, there wasn’t a better quarterback better last season than Aaron Rodgers. The fantasy’s reigning top-scoring quarterback is coming off a season in which he threw for 4,428 yards, ran for a career-high 369 yards and had a hand in 44 touchdowns.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (Photo by:ftw.usatoday.com)

Rodgers finished in the top five of the league in pass attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdowns. He averaged 27.8 fantasy points per game. That is in thanks to a career-high in pass attempts (610), a five-year high in passing yards and and a league-best 40 passing touchdowns.

Part of this success is simply because the Packers couldn’t run the ball effectively at times. Ty Montgomery became a huge threat in the running game last year, but he’s still a natural wide receiver and it’s tough to sat how he’ll fare this season.

The Packers tried to address their run game in the draft, but there’s actually no guarantee they’ll be any better on the ground than they were last year, when they finished 20th in run offense and 29th in rush attempts.

Rodgers got an upgrade at the tight end position with Martellus Bennett and still has his favorite number one target Jordy Nelson along with Randall Cobb and Devante Adams. Rodgers has finished as a top-two fantasy quarterback during seven of the past nine seasons.

There’s no question Rodgers will be the first quarterback off the board. You should expect Rodgers to go in round two in standard leagues and round three in PPR leagues.

 

Featured image from espn.com.

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Super Bowl 52

If not the Patriots, then who in the AFC?

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

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

Kansas City Chiefs

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

Tyreek Hill

Photo: kansascity.com

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

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

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

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

Denver Broncos

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

Von Miller

Photo: dailysnark.com

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

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

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

Pittsburgh Steelers

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

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

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

Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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

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

Texans and Raiders miss the cut

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

Las Vegas Raiders

Photo: USA Today

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

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

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

 

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Quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 10-1

Here’s the list you’ve all been waiting for… Quarterback Rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 10-1. This is the group of quarterbacks that most of you will have on your teams, especially if you’re in a 10-team league or an 8-team league. Many people have their own opinions concerning the top 3 quarterbacks that are on this list, but believe me if you can snag one of hose guys, don’t hesitate.
10. Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)- Jameis is only going to get better. New targets such as OJ Howard, and Desean Jackson will team up with Mike Evans for the new look Tampa Bay offense this year. You might have to take him early, but Jameis is worth it.

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

9. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)- Russell Wilson may be the most talented quarterback in the NFL. He just doesn’t have the wide receivers or offensive line to crack the top 5. Looking to run the ball more this season, the Seahawks brought in Eddie Lacy but didn’t do too much to address the problem at wideout. Other than Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin, Wilson is lacking targets. He’s never a risky pick so if you want to go safe go with Wilson.

8. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)- Did Matt Stafford hit his peak last year? I sure think so. He’s a great player don’t get me wrong, and having Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick at full health will help, but I don’t see Stafford doing much better than last year. If you want to grab a elite level QB for the price of a second tier guy, Stafford is your man.

7. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)- I know what everyone is thinking, “Drew Brees deserves to be in the top 5!” Not this year. I can’t say anything bad about Brees except that he might hurt from the loss of Brandin Cooks. Michael Thomas will be great once again but it won’t be enough. I love Brees this year, I just believe that the other 6 quarterbacks will outplay him.

(http://sacrificefly.blogspot.com)

6. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)- Matt Ryan is an elite QB in the NFL. Mark my words because he will not be as good as he was last year. The dreaded super bowl hangover will haunt him and it will be hard to regain MVP status without Kyle Shanahan as his play caller. There’s nothing wrong with taking Matt Ryan this year, just don’t expect him to be a carbon copy of last year.

5. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)- Here is a prime example of a Super Bowl hangover. The combination of the big loss and the fact that he had to deal with a torn rotator cuff for the majority of the season, caused Cam to have the worst season of his career. Expect a bounce back year however. With new additions of Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel, the Panthers have the ability to have the most explosive offense in the NFL. The most important thing is if his offensive line can hold up.

4. Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)- My way too early pick for MVP this year is Derek Carr. He’s young and hungry and looking for revenge from his early exit last year. Pair that with the receiving corps of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and the addition of Marshawn Lynch, Carr is in for a huge year.

3. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)- Another player who could easily be number one on this list if he could stay healthy. Andrew Luck has the size, arm strength, and arm accuracy to be successful in the NFL. He just needs more targets. Get him those targets and he is my number one quarterback.

(Foxboro, MA, 01/18/15) New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 18, 2015. Staff Photo by Matt Stone

2. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)- This was by far the toughest decision I had to make. If you told me that Aaron Rodgers is the number one fantasy quarterback I’d have no problem with that, I just believe Brady is better. Rodgers has all the targets and a consistent offensive line, give him a legitimate running back and he’s my number one quarterback.

1. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)- Isn’t life just great for Tom Brady? Coming off his fifth super bowl win, he gets Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Rex Burkhead, all of whom will help out Brady immensely. Give the already best quarterback in the league a great offensive line and an influx of great receivers and running backs, he’s only going to get better.

 

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Draftmas Colts

Indianapolis Colts 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Day 14 of TGH’s Draftmas takes us to the Indianapolis Colts. What will the Colts do in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Summary

After posting another 8-8 season, frustrations in Indianapolis are beginning to boil. With a legitimate franchise quarterback in place, the Colts still couldn’t make the leap with Andrew Luck in 2016. Plagued by inconsistency, the Colts could never get things going in 2016, winning back to back games only once.

But fans have hope for 2017 with the firing of General Manager Ryan Grigson. He will be replaced by former Kansas City Director of Football Operations Chris Ballard. After seeing the success of the Chiefs, fans are hopeful Jim Irsay made the right hire. And Chris Ballard has certainly given Colts fans hope.

Ballard has signed 10 free agents since he became the GM of the Colts. That is the most in team history, and certainly shows he’s willing to do whatever necessary to return the Colts to contention. But with most of the signings being more about depth and less about immediate impact, Ballard will have to make some savvy moves come draft day.

Colts Picks and Needs

The Colts have seven picks in April’s draft. With the opportunity to find some solid players throughout the draft, Indianapolis will need to make good use of each of the following picks.

1st Round: 15th Overall

2nd Round: 46th Overall

3rd Round: 80th Overall

4th Round: 122th Overall

4th Round: 137th Overall

4th Round: 144th Overall

5th Round: 158th Overall

The Colts have a solid offense, finishing 10th in the NFL in yards per game in 2016. But the offensive line is one of the glaring weaknesses of the Colts offense. After the offensive line gave up 40 sacks in the first 13 games of the 2016 season, they could use an influx of talent. But after finishing 30th in the NFL in yards per game allowed, the defense definitely needs some attention in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here are the needs for both offense and defense.

Offense

Right Guard

Right Tackle

Running Back

Defense

Defensive End

Defensive Tackle

Inside Linebacker

 

Cornerback

Colts Targets and Thoughts

As with the previous Draftmas profiles, we will examine the first three rounds and there will be no trades.

Draftmas Colts

We will be seeing a lot of this from Derek Barnett in the NFL (Larry McCormack/The Tennessean).

First Round:

15th pick: Derek Barnett DE, Tennessee

After starting three years at Tennessee, Derek Barnett would be an excellent pick for the Colts at 14th overall. He would give Head Coach Chuck Pagano a legitimate pass rusher on the outside, one that could put his hand in the dirt and also play standing up. Pro Football Focus had Barnett pressuring the quarterback on 20% of his rushes in 2016, so he is a more than able pass rusher. Barnett was also a solid run stopper in his time at Tennessee, giving him an edge over other outside pass rushers. If Barnett lasts to the 14th pick, the Colts would be wise to grab him.

Second Round:

46th pick: Dan Feeney G, Indiana

While Dan Feeney isn’t the top rated guard in the 2017 draft class, he would be a good pick up for Chris Ballard. Feeney had an up and down 2016 at Indiana, missing some games due to injury. But when he has been on the field, Feeney has been a wall in pass protection. Over 1,239 pass block attempts in the past three seasons, Feeney has only allowed two sacks and four hits on Indiana quarterbacks. He has also logged some time at right tackle, giving him the ability to play at right tackle if need be. But with his innate pass blocking skills on the inside of the offensive line, Feeney could help put Andrew Luck’s mind at ease.

Third Round:

80th pick: Sidney Jones CB, Washington

After tearing his Achilles at Washington’s Pro Day, Sidney Jones has seen his draft stock plummet. Once a first round talent, many are predicting him outside the first three rounds. But if Chris Ballard and Chuck Pagano are willing to wait to let Jones heal, he could be a major steal in the third round. Jones didn’t allow a single touchdown in 2016, and Pro Football Focus gave him an impressive 86.1 coverage grade. He would be an excellent addition to a depleted secondary, and would play well across the field from Vontae Davis. The Colts could get a potential top flight corner back in the third round, but Ballard and Pagano will have to be comfortable with using an early round pick on a player who might not play in 2017.

Conclusion

The Colts have some major holes to fill on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If they can land some solid players in the early rounds, don’t sleep on the Colts to make some noise in 2017. And with a franchise quarterback already in place, all the Colts need are the pieces to help carry Andrew Luck and the Colts back to the playoffs.

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Week 17 NFL Picks Against the Spread

How in the world is week 17 already upon us? It is always a tough week to pick games. No one really knows how motivated many teams are. While I understand that, winning is a hell of a lot better than losing. Thus, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a “meaningless” game. After posting a .500 mark against the spread last week, I now sit at 118-125-7 on the year. Not great, but not terrible. All spreads are from rtsports.com, my picks are bolded, and outright upsets have an asterisk. Here is to finishing the regular season strong.

*Ravens at Bengals (-2.5) – The Ravens (my preseason Super Bowl pick) tumbled out of the playoff picture last week. The Bengals were eliminated long ago. Despite calls for sweeping changes, I expect Cincinnati to resist the temptation, and rightly so. However, I struggle to see them doing much on offense. It is not sexy, but Baltimore’s edge in the kicking game will be the difference. Bal 16 Cin 13

Bills (-3.5) at Jets- Both teams are a dysfunctional mess. For reasons that depend on who you ask, EJ Manuel will get the start for Buffalo in the first game of the post Rex Ryan era. Nothing would surprise me in this game, but Buffalo’s ground game should be enough. Buf 21 NYJ 17

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

*Panthers at Bucs (-4) – Last week, the young Bucs fought for their playoff lives against a losing team loaded with talent and it didn’t go so well. This week, the situation is very similar. There is no reason to think it will go any differently. Another year of seasoning and Tampa Bay could be really special. Last week showed they are not quite ready. Car 27 TB 24

*Bears at Vikings (-6) – Many times season finales simply come down to who is playing harder. This matchup could be a classic case of that. The Vikings have more talent, but the Bears have been playing much harder for the last month or so. Chi 19 Min 16

Browns at Steelers (-5.5) – The Browns will not go winless, and they deserve credit for that as well as playing hard all year long. With Pittsburgh locked into playoff position and playing it coy about resting starters, the line is not as big as one might expect. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the Steelers backups are better than the Browns starters. After this game, the Browns will officially be on the clock. Pit 30 Cle 21

*Cowboys at Eagles (-4.5) – This line is a stunner. Dallas is making no secret of its plans to limit reps of starters, particularly quarterback Dak Prescott. Even so a 13-2 team getting points against a 6-9 team is eye popping and too good to pass up. Dallas has a surplus of solid running backs and Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo are not nearly as bad as the mainstream media would like you to believe. Dal 24 Phi 20

*Texans at Titans (-3)- Just like we all thought a few weeks ago, this game will feature a Tom Savage vs Matt Cassel quarterback duel and Houston, not Tennessee is locked into the playoffs. No telling what could happen here. When in doubt, go with the best unit. That would be the Texans defense. Hou 20 Ten 13

Jaguars at Colts (-4.5) – Jacksonville did a nice job of playing spoiler last week, but that does not change the fact that both of these teams had high expectations that ended in disaster this year. Something tells me Andrew Luck is too much of a pros pro not to finish the season really strong. Ind 28 Jac 17

Patriots (-9.5) at Dolphins – The Patriots need this game to lock down home field advantage in the playoffs. If last year taught them anything, it should be the importance of having home field. Miami has always been a tough place to play for Brady’s Bunch. The Dolphins will look to get backup quarterback Matt Moore as sharp as possible for the playoffs while Ryan Tannehill races to get healthy. This will not be a blowout. NE 27 Mia 21

Cardinals (-6.5) at Rams- The Rams are plain awful and the Cardinals are merely average. David Johnson is the only reason to watch this game. The coaching search in LA will be fascinating. Ari 27 LA 13

Chiefs (-4.5) at Chargers- Sadly, what is likely the Chargers final game in San Diego will end with a division rival celebrating a straightforward win. It quite possibly could be a division title along with a first round bye. KC 27 SD 13

Saints at Falcons (-7) – These two teams always play wacky games. Atlanta locks up a first round bye with a win. Even with Matt Ryan playing at an MVP level, the team as a whole should not scare anyone. There is something to be said for finding ways to win. Atlanta should continue that trend here, but do not expect Drew Brees and company to roll over and play dead. Atl 31 NO 28

Giants at Redskins (-7.5) – Playoff scenarios make my head hurt. According to everything I have read, the only way Washington wins this game and misses the playoffs is if the night game ends in a tie. Much like the Steelers, no one seems to know how the playoff bound Giants will approach this one. As dangerous as the Redskins could be in the playoffs, it is hard to see the Giants letting them coast. Was 30 NYG 24

Raiders at Broncos (-1.5) – The reigning champs have really struggled down the stretch and will not be going back to the playoffs. However, keeping a fierce rival like Oakland from the division title and the chance to finish with a winning record is plenty of incentive. Denver will take one last good look at both of its young quarterbacks. The Raiders fairytale season took a sad turn last week with the injury to MVP candidate Derek Carr. The Broncos defense is not an ideal one for backup Matt McGloin to face as he tries to rally the troops for a playoff run. Den 24 Oak 19

Seahawks (-9.5) at 49ers- The state of the Seahawks is worrisome. Getting pushed around for the majority of the game by Arizona just should not happen to this team. Thankfully for them, a first round bye could still happen and the 49ers are not much of a threat. Sea 30 SF 13

Packers (-3) at *Lions– The importance of this game may shift a bit depending on earlier results. Regardless, the winner of this Sunday Night showdown will take the division title and the loser may be headed home to watch the playoffs. Both offenses are rolling behind two very hot quarterbacks. There will not be many defensive stops on either side. It is more of a gut feeling than anything else, but Detroit’s defense uses the home crowd to get one more stop in the closing moments. Det 38 GB 34

Photo courtesy of zambio.com

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 17)

(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

The final week of the NFL season is already here. Hopefully everyone had a great Christmas and is ready to welcome in the new year. It seems like the season just started yesterday but after this week the 12 teams participating in the playoffs will become official.

Currently, the AFC teams are all clinched and the only thing that remains is the seeding. In the AFC, the division winners are the Patriots, Steelers, and Texans. The Dolphins are one of the wildcard teams. The two remaining teams that have clinched a playoff spot are the Raiders and Chiefs, but depending on how week 17 goes one will win the division and the other will be a wildcard team.

The NFC is much more complicated than the AFC. In the NFC, three teams have already won their division: The Cowboys, Seahawks, and Falcons. The Giants have clinched one of the two wildcard spots. The NFC North title is on the line when the Lions and Packers face off. The Redskins and Buccaneers are not in the playoffs at the moment but depending on how the week plays out they are two teams that still have a shot at getting a wildcard spot.

Last week was rough and there were a lot of games that surprised the NFL world. All of the week 17 games are on Sunday for the only time of the season. It is important to end the season with a good week and without further ado, here are Hagan’s Haus week 17 NFL picks.

Last Week: 7-9

Season: 139-97-2

Sunday Morning

(http://thevikingage.com/2016/12/21/adam-thielen-minnesota-vikings-packers-week-16/)

(http://thevikingage.com/2016/12/21/adam-thielen-minnesota-vikings-packers-week-16/)

Chicago (3-12) 24 @ Minnesota (7-8) 31: Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs so this game is about pride. Earlier this season the Bears beat the Vikings on Halloween on Monday Night Football. The Vikings wish they had that game back and they might have made the playoffs. This game is in Minnesota and their offense is playing much better than it was during their last meeting. The Vikings’ season was littered with injuries and was a disappointment, but they will end it on a positive note.

Baltimore (8-7) 23 @ Cincinnati (5-9-1) 20: This is another meaningless divisional matchup with pride being the only thing on the line. The Ravens were a much better team than I had anticipated this season. Although they can’t make the playoffs, they should win this game.

Houston (9-6) 20 @ Tennessee (8-7) 14: Tennessee suffered a heartbreaking blow last week when Marcus Mariota broke his leg, but there is promise for the future. They have an upcoming defense that has enjoyed some success so far. Their two-headed monster in the backfield is one of the best in the NFL. If they can continue to grow next season, they will be in the playoffs. Houston will be using this game as a tune-up for the playoffs and should win this game on the road.

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Carolina (6-9) 17 @ Tampa Bay (8-7) 20: This game is meaningful for the Bucs who still have a shot at making the playoffs. Having this game at home will help their chances and they already beat the Panthers 17 to 14 earlier this season, which should make them confident. The Panthers had an extremely disappointing season after a Super Bowl appearance last year. Carolina would love to go out with a win on the year along with ruining the chances of a divisional rival. The Bucs will get the win and hope for help in making the playoffs.

Jacksonville (3-12) 24 @ Indianapolis (7-8) 27: Andrew Luck worked wonders this season to keep the Colts around .500. If this team wants to become a playoff contender, they need to build their offensive line and defense. Jacksonville got an upset win against the Titans after they fired their head coach. The Jags have a lot of talent on their roster and with the right coach they can make major leaps next season. Only one team can end the season on a high note and Luck will be the difference.

(http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-tom-brady-and-the-patriots-wont-cheat-for-a-while-20150903-story.html)

(http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-tom-brady-and-the-patriots-wont-cheat-for-a-while-20150903-story.html)

New England (13-2) 27 @ Miami (10-5) 17: This game features two teams who are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. New England is looking to solidify home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have something to play for. The Dolphins really don’t benefit from a win and they may rest their players to stay healthy for a playoff run. Pats will win this game in Miami.

Buffalo (7-8) 31 @ New York (J) (4-11) 29: The Bills thought this would be the year they ended their playoff drought but it did not come to an end. The Jets had a bad year as well and seem to have no direction. The Jets run defense has given up 100 yards per game over the season and the Bills are on of the best rushing teams. Bills should win to finish the season 8-8.

Dallas (13-2) 24 @ Philadelphia (6-9) 23: This is the game that the Cowboys will create whispers in. The Cowboys do not want their players to get hurt and thus they should rest them. This means Tony Romo may get a chance to start. If Romo starts and plays well, Jerry Jones won’t know what to do with himself. The Cowboys will still win this game and it may be because of Tony Romo.

Sunday Afternoon

(http://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2016/09/27/falcons-saints-matt-ryan-block-video)

(http://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2016/09/27/falcons-saints-matt-ryan-block-video)

New Orleans (7-8) 31 @ Atlanta (10-5) 30: The Falcons have wrapped up the NFC South but are still looking to earn a first-round bye. A win and they will clinch that bye. The Saints are a divisional opponent who will be looking to spoil their rival in any way possible. The Saints defense has played much better than earlier in the season and there is an opportunity to pull off an upset.

New York (G) (10-5) 21 @ Washington (8-6-1) 23: The Giants are locked into a wildcard spot and there isn’t much room for movement in terms of seeding. The Redskins need a win and some help to get the final wildcard spot in the NFC but it is possible. The Giants may want to rest some of their stars to make sure they are ready for the playoffs and that will be the reason the Redskins win.

Arizona (6-8-1) 24 @ Los Angeles (4-11) 20: The Rams got swept by the 49ers and that in itself tells you how bad this team is. They finally fired Jeff Fisher and need a new head coach to set the team in the right direction. Arizona was not as good as most expected but their defense is still one of the best in the NFL. They will shut down the middle school offense that is the Rams to secure a win.

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/16593/matt-mcgloin)

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/16593/matt-mcgloin)

Oakland (12-3) 17 @ Denver (8-7) 20: Oakland is the most unfortunate team to be guaranteed a playoff spot. The loss of Derek Carr is monumental and they will not be able to recover from it. The Raiders will lose this game and in all likelihood will be one in done in the playoffs. The Broncos would rather be in the playoffs but they will settle for ending the season on a high note.

Kansas City (11-4) 31 @ San Diego (5-10) 10: The Chiefs can still win the division and get a first-round bye with a win and a Raiders loss. With the injury to Derek Carr, the Chiefs have found some luck. They play great defense and do not turnover the football. Explosive rookie Tyreek Hill has been a great addition to the offensive and he provides big plays. The Chiefs will win this game, and get help from the Raiders to win the AFC West.

Seattle (9-5-1) 34 @ San Fransisco (2-13) 14: The 49ers are having an abysmal year and unless it is against the Rams they can’t get a win. Seattle is preparing for yet another run at a Lombardi Trophy. Even with this game on the road, the Seahawks can control this game.

usa-today-8928097-0

(http://packersguru.com/2016/09/25/packers-vs-lions-the-good-bad-and-ok-from-week-3/

Sunday Night

Green Bay (9-6) 31 @ Detroit (9-6) 28: The biggest game of the week is between these two teams. The division title is on the line and the winner will be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Since Aaron Rodgers said the Packers could run the table they have gone 5-0. One more win will make him a prophet. The Lions are in the midst of a losing streak and it won’t end this week. The Packers have a legend behind center and he will lead them to the playoffs.

 

 

 

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Week 14 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Well, my hot streak only lasted a week. I fell back to a very mediocre 7-8 against the spread last week. The Lions made me look smart, the Jets not so much. With the Chiefs win Thursday night, I am a game to the good for this week as we head in to Sunday. My season record now sits at 95-100-6. It is nice to still have so many meaningful games this late in the season. Outright upsets have an asterisk. Spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s roll.

Cardinals (-2) at*Dolphins- Miami got whitewashed last week, but that happens. They are the better team here. The Dolphins big weakness is stopping the run. David Johnson of Arizona is a true workhorse back, a rarity in today’s NFL. Miami’s Jay Ajayi is no slouch though. He, along with the rest of Miami’s offense should be able to keep Johnson on the sidelines just enough. Arizona’s lack of consistency and depth on offense has hurt them all year and will continue to do so here. Mia 21 Ari 20

Bears at Lions (-7) – Matthew Stafford is a legit MVP candidate and the Lions are going to make the playoffs. However, there is something about this matchup. Despite being atrocious, the Bears play well in their division, notching two of their three wins on the season in such games. This includes knocking off the Lions. That will not happen again. The Lions have too much to play for, but I refuse to believe they can blowout consecutive opponents. Also, Chicago is playing its best football of the season (relatively speaking) behind third string quarterback Matt Barkley. Det 30 Chi 27

Bengals (-5) at Browns- This is one of a precious few games that have absolutely no playoff implications this week, but it is not lacking a story. Robert Griffin III is now healthy. He will get a chance to resurrect his career down the stretch and save the Browns from going winless beginning with this game. Cincinnati’s season has been a total bust when you consider preseason expectations. Strangely, the Browns have much more to play for here. Thus, an upset would not shock me. However, the gap in roster talent is just too large for me to call it. Cin 24 Cle 16

photo from ooyuz.com

photo from ooyuz.com

*Broncos at Titans (-1) – This could wind up being an elimination game in terms of the playoffs. As presently constructed, these teams are pretty much even. Tennessee has an edge just about everywhere on offense, but the same can be said for Denver on defense. When it is this close in terms of personnel, track record comes into play. Denver has spent the last half decade playing games like this, and usually winning. This is uncharted territory for the Titans. Denver finds a way to get it done and stay very relevant in the hotly contested AFC West race. Den 17 Ten 13

Texans at Colts (-6.5) – Credit Houston for being in the race in December despite horrendous quarterback play, but it has finally caught up with them. The better quarterbacks win games and divisions more often than not. Andrew Luck > Brock Osweiler. Ind 31 Hou 17

Vikings (-3) at Jaguars- Here you have two offenses that have not been able to do much all year. The Vikings remain alive in the playoff race thanks to their defense and special teams. Jacksonville is not so fortunate. Minnesota seemed to find something in a losing effort last week against Dallas. They are a little bit better than Jacksonville across the board. Quite frankly, the pregame legends of wrestling event may be more entertaining than the actual game. I wish I lived in Jacksonville so I could see some of my childhood heroes like Ric Flair in action. Oh well, the Vikings are a strong bet here. Min 20 Jac 12

Steelers (-2) at *Bills – The Steelers secondary is prone to giving up the big play. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor can extend plays with is legs. Both teams are scraping to reach the playoffs. As a whole, the Steelers are probably a tick better. However, the big play potential is enough for me to take a flyer on the upset. Buf 27 Pit 21

Chargers at Panthers (-1.5) – These are possibly the two most talented teams with bad records I have ever seen. Everything that could go wrong for these teams has. To me there is nothing that says Carolina will win, especially with all the drama that has gone on this week. However, I have been burned enough by that thought process this year. I will go the other way. Car 24 SD 21

Redskins (-2) at Eagles- It took a while, but the Eagles are finally starting to look as bad as we all thought they would before the season started. Meanwhile, the Redskins are desperate to keep their hopes for a wild-card playoff spot alive. With that offense, they are still very dangerous. If they do somehow sneak in to the playoffs, they will not be a comfortable matchup for anyone. Was 31 Phi 20

*Jets at 49ers (-2.5) – No doubt this is a terrible game between two awful teams, but I will add some spice to it. This is my favorite NFL pick of the year. I do not care that the Jets decided not to show up last week and are now starting Bryce Petty at quarterback. The 49ers should not be a favorite over anybody. NYJ 14 SF 10

Rams at Falcons (-6.5) – Watching the Rams play offense is just painful. They are averaging 12 points a game and have not reached the playoffs since their glory days in St. Louis. Yet, everyone in leadership positions just got new contracts. By no means am I crazy about the Falcons, but they will probably win their division by default and I have zero faith in the Rams. Atl 21 LA 9

*Saints at Bucs (-2.5) – The young Bucs continue to impress, but I continue to expect a letdown at some point. The Saints remain dangerous as long as Drew Brees is taking snaps. The Bucs hot streak has really come from nowhere. This is a whole new ballgame for most of their key guys. It is reasonable to speculate that they will eventually be overwhelmed by the occasion of big-time December football. NO 28 TB 27

Seahawks (-3) at Packers- Depending on other results, the Seahawks could lock up a division title here. Last week, they did what they always do, follow up the occasional clunker that they are somewhat known for with a dominant performance. If running back Thomas Rawls can finally stay healthy and give them the ground game they thought he would at the start of the year, this team becomes all the more dangerous, if that is possible. Even with Aaron Rodgers suddenly doing a much better job of carrying the Packers franchise again, a great football team always beats a great quarterback surrounded by 52 other random dudes. Sea 27 GB 17

photo from profootballfocus.com

photo from profootballfocus.com

Cowboys (-3.5) at Giants – The half-point makes me nervous here. This game is always close. The Giants remain the lone blemish on the season for the Cowboys. I am nowhere near as down on Eli Manning as the rest of the world after his shaky performance last week in Pittsburgh, but there is not a single thing the Giants do better than Dallas on a consistent basis. The only chance they have is Manning playing at his very best. This is always possible, but not likely. Dal 27 NYG 23

MNF: *Ravens at Patriots (-7) – The Ravens have had more success than anybody in New England over the years. Additionally, I would suggest Baltimore is at least equal to the Patriots at every position apart from quarterback right now. The gap at that position is not wide enough to prevent me from calling for the upset. Bal 28 NE 27

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Week Eleven NFL Picks Against the Spread

Week 11 in the NFL started with a familiar script, special teams dooming the Saints and me being on the wrong side of a Thursday night spread, even though it was by just a half point. I posted a 7-7 mark last week. Highlights were calling the Broncos’ and Seahawks’ upset wins. 71-77-6 is where I start the week. My picks are bolded, upsets have an asterisk and all spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s go.

*Cardinals at Vikings (-2.5) – I have no feel for this game at all. Despite their four game losing streak, the Vikings defense is still giving up just 17 points a game. Again, they are on a four game losing streak. So, what that really means is the offense cannot move the ball against anyone at the moment, including the hot and cold Cardinals… I think. Ari 17 Min 12

*Ravens at Cowboys (-7.5) – This is one of two games I feel very strongly about this week. Folks, I have been saying it all year as well as before the season. The Ravens are a really dangerous team that will be around in January. The offense has come alive after two divisional wins. With Joe Flacco and those receivers, it was just a matter of time. On the other side of the ball, gone are names like Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister and Ed Reed, but they have finally been suitably replaced by names like CJ Mosley, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. This is easily the best defense the Cowboys have seen all year. They are top-ranked against the rush.

 

As a general rule, great defense stops great offense. As good as Dak Prescott has been, Ezekiel Elliott will be at least somewhat neutralized here. I do not think Prescott can do it all on his own. The Cowboys are a good football team, but other good football teams should be able to exploit their flaws. They finally run into one of those here. Bal 31 Dal 20

Bills at Bengals (-2.5) – I am excited to be going to this game. It is a coin flip. These teams are similar. Both are loaded with firepower, particularly on offense, but they find themselves fading in the AFC playoff race. This is an elimination game. Buffalo’s back may already be broken. They really outplayed Seattle last time out, but have nothing to show for it. Given preseason expectations, the Bengals should be more desperate and play well. As a native Cincinnatian (who is by no means a fan), that is terrible logic to use when evaluating the Bengals, but it is all I have got. Cin 27 Buf 23

Bears at Giants (-7.5) – We are getting late enough into the season that it is not a bad idea to start looking at trends. There is one that made me change my pick here. This season, all but one of New York’s games have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Bears are awful and after getting annihilated last week in Tampa Bay, the resurgence of Jay Cutler appears to have only lasted one week, but a trend like that should never be ignored. NYG 23 Chi 17

Jaguars at Lions (-6.5) – With division rivals Green Bay and Minnesota limping along at the moment, this may be Detroit’s year to make a real run at the big time. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing at an MVP level. I have seen nothing from Jacksonville this year that makes me think this will be close. Det 40 Jac 21

Steelers (-7.5) at BrownsFor the first time in my almost 24 years of life, the Steelers are flat out bad on defense. Giving up 380+ yards per game including well over 100 yards per game on the ground will not get you in the playoffs. It does not matter how good the offense is. There are major issues that need correcting in Steelers country. Fortunately for them, the Browns are all that is on tap this week. The Steelers are still plenty good enough to handle that task. Pit 34 Cle 24

Bucs at Chiefs (-7.5)- Boy, there are certainly easier places to go than Arrowhead Stadium if you are trying to build off a win last week the way the Bucs are. Kansas City continues to win games by playing mistake free football, having an opportunistic defense, and doing just enough on offense. As always, that style may have a ceiling on it come playoff time, but it will do the trick for now. KC 20 TB 10

Titans at Colts (-3)- It has been a very long time since I whiffed on a football game as bad as I did be Tennessee/Green Bay game last week. The Titans are a legitimate contender in that division and a lot better than I thought. Also, it is so nice to see running back DeMarco Murray back in a system that suits his skill set. However, much like the Titans, the Colts may have really found something their last time out, which was also against Green Bay. In what could be a shootout between two young and hot quarterbacks, I trust Andrew Luck a bit more than Marcus Mariota. Ind 30 Ten 24

Dolphins (-1) at Rams- This is the other game I feel very strongly about. In my house, we call this a “Nova game.” A game my dad and I would bet our beloved dog, Nova on. Thankfully, this is only hypothetical. We would have lost her many times by now. In all seriousness, Miami is rolling behind Jay Ajayi. Conversely, while his debut does add a layer of intrigue here, one can only assume that there is a good reason why Jeff Fisher and the Rams had to be dragged, kicking, and screaming to start top draft pick Jared Goff at quarterback. Mia 35 LA 17

photo from oddshark.com

photo from oddshark.com

Patriots (-13) at 49ers- As good as the Patriots are, the 49ers are that bad. However, the match-up is not terrible for them here. Without Rob Gronkowski, none of New England’s pass catchers are to be feared. The extra attention defenses must pay to Gronk creates more favorable match-ups for everyone else. Chip Kelly’s Eagles gave Bill Belichick’s Pats fits last year. These two things are enough to make this much closer than most people think. NE 35 SF 30

Eagles at Seahawks (-6.5) – The NFL’s surprise of the year is the way the Eagles have played. With a rookie head coach and quarterback, they are right there in the playoff race, but this is a tall order for Carson Wentz and company. With Russell Wilson finally healthy and the defense playing up to their capabilities, Seattle gets my vote for the best team in football right now. I am not sure how much the opponent matters to the Seahawks at the moment. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they get a rookie quarterback in their building. This week will be the start of Seattle catching Dallas for the number one seed in the NFC. Sea 31 Phi 17.

*Packers at Redskins (-3) – I am giving the Packers one more week before I bail on them. The good news is Aaron Rodgers and the offense were not the problem last week. If you give up 47 points, you are not going to win. The Redskins always put up huge yardage numbers, but really struggle in the red zone. They will lose by kicking one too many field goals Sunday night. GB 35 Was 32

MNF from Mexico City: Texans at Raiders (-5.5) – If the NFL is insistent on playing games outside our borders, this is how it should be done, in Mexico featuring two teams from cities with significant Mexican populations. As for the game itself, I struggle to buy into both these first place clubs long term. The Raiders are still committing way too many penalties. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler is the weak link in Houston. You can’t hide the quarterback forever in this league. Houston’ defense is carrying them and the Raiders offense is doing the same in Oakland. This will be really close. The team with the MVP candidate at quarterback will do just enough to get over the finish line, but taking the points is smart here. Oak 24 Hou 21

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

 

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