The Jacksonville Jaguars are for real

The Jacksonville Jaguars just beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by 21 points. Who would have known that a team that just lost to the New York Jets in overtime would turn around to knock off one of the preseason top contenders in the AFC.

The Jaguars are a possession away from being 4-1 and as of Oct. 8, sit on top of the AFC South at 3-2.

The Jaguars have lost their number one wide receiver (Allen Robinson) and still have proven people wrong through the first five weeks of this season. Leonard Fournette has hit the ground running and is the front runner for Rookie of the Year.

Their offense hasn’t been spectacular but their defense has proven that they are here to stay. Is this the year for the Jaguars to get through the AFC South and make the playoffs?

Defense

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars defense, Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports.

In five games this season, the Jaguars have given up 83 points, which comes out to slightly under 17 points per game.

In those same five games, they have scored four defensive touchdowns. They are only allowing 147 yards per game through the air and have been getting timely turnovers to help the defense get off the field.

In total the Jaguars have generated 10 turnovers, and four of them have led to scores.

At the end of week five the Jaguars defense gave an elite quarterback absolute fits. Ben Roethlisberger completed 60 percent of his passes on his way to 312 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions, leaving his final QBR at 37.8.

They also managed to jumble up one of the league’s best running backs. Le’veon Bell finished with 15 carries for 41 yards, totally 3.1 yards per carry.

For a team defense in recent history has been a joke in the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars have come and long way.

Rushing game

Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

Now let’s talk about the guy who is putting the offense on his shoulders. Leonard Fournette has five rushing touchdowns in the first five games and has 466 yards in those games.

He is averaging over four yards per carry and has 13 catches for 128 receiving yards and a touchdown as well. Fournette has been extremely impressive thus far for the Jaguars. Many were asking questions about Blake Bortles and his production, and Leonard Fournette has lightened the work load.

Bortles is averaging under 200 yards passing but the key for the offense has been limiting mistakes. The offense doesn’t need to be spectacular when the defense has been this good. Sometimes the best thing for the offense is to punt it deep and let the defense do their thing.

With the defense playing so well, opposing offenses having to go 10+ plays on them is extremely difficult. If the Jaguars offense can limit mistakes and protect their defense, it makes it extremely difficult for opposing teams.

AFC South

The AFC South a month ago looked like it was going to be a dog fight. With Marcus Mariota banged up, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to take advantage.

With their rookie running back and strong defense leading the way, the Jags should be competing heavily for the AFC South title down the stretch. If they can minimize turnovers on offense and maximize them on defense they will be a tough team to stop.

Bold prediction: They finish at 12-4 and win the AFC South.

 

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Stack your Money Sunday’s: Week 5

Week Four Review (3-0) Overall: 9-3

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ Baltimore Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers 29 Baltimore Ravens 9

Like stated in the previous week, you can never rely too much on numbers. Big Ben was 2-7 in his career in Baltimore before this game. The Steelers were also coming off a loss to Mike Glennon and the Chicago Bears. All that did not matter.

In last week’s article, I stated that Le’Veon Bell was bound to have a big game. Bell rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while also hauling in four catches for 42 yards. We also expected Joe Flacco to struggle, as he had a quarterback rating of 64.6 and threw a pair of interceptions.

Cincinnati Bengals (-3) @ Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals 31 Cleveland Browns 7

Andy Dalton moves to 10-3 in his career against Cleveland, and was practically flawless in this blowout. Dalton threw four touchdowns, and had a quarterback rating of 146. The Bengals had more time of possession, first downs, third downs converted and total yards. Usually when this happens, you win the game.

A.J. Green continued his success against Cleveland, hauling in one touchdown on five catches. DeShone Kizer continued his poor play, and does not look like a starter in this league. Maybe it is because he is on the Browns, but not a great start to his professional career.

New York Giants (+3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 New York Giants 23

Good teams win, great teams cover (SNY)

The Giants really have yet to win a game, but at least they covered. Shoutout to Nick Folk. Not only was he terrible on Thursday against New England, but he also missed an extra point and two field goals in this one.

Unlike his performance against the Pats, Jameis Winston played well in this one. He threw three touchdowns and only took one sack. The Giants possessed the ball more, converted more third downs and had more first downs than Tampa Bay, but somehow found a way to lose. Only one team in NFL history, the 1992 Chargers, has made the playoffs after starting 0-4, so maybe there’s a chance?

WEEK 5 PICKS

Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ Oakland Raiders

PICK: RAVENS TO COVER

There is a super slim chance that Derek Carr suits up for Oakland, and Vegas still has the Raiders favored? You are telling me an E.J. Manuel led offense is favored in an NFL football game? This is absolutely insane. The Raiders are nothing without Carr.

Baltimore is coming off a tough home loss to Pittsburgh, so it’s hard to believe they would drop two straight, especially to a team starting a backup quarterback. Joe Flacco is struggling, but this guy won a Super Bowl. He may not be elite, but he has what it takes to cover in this situation. Flacco is 3-2 in his career vs Oakland.

As expected, Oakland’s defense has struggled. They can’t cause any turnovers, and are 22nd in yards allowed. Running backs are having no problem moving the ball against them, and this Baltimore team is top 10 in running. Look for Baltimore to have no issues moving the ball. By the way, in his one game against Baltimore, Manuel threw two picks and only completed 45 percent of his passes.

Seattle Seahawks (+1.5) @ Los Angeles Rams

PICK: SEAHAWKS TO COVER

The Rams have won last the last three meeting when playing Seattle at home. Russell Wilson is 1-4 in his career at STL/LA. This is just like the Steelers over the Ravens last week. Generally, Seattle plays poorly on the road vs Los Angeles, but this game just seems different.

Russell Wilson scoring with ease in a previous matchup vs Rams (CBS Sports)

Everybody loves the Rams, and you can essentially already pencil in Sean McVay for AP Coach of the Year, but I am not sold yet. They are still giving up a lot of yards on the ground, as they rank 30th in rushing yards allowed. Los Angeles has also given up seven rushing touchdowns. Seattle likes to pound the football, so this is a major advantage.

Russell Wilson always gets better and better as the season goes on, and in Jared Goff’s only game vs. Seattle, he completed only 52 percent of his passes for a measly 135 yards. The Legion of Boom will not let Goff get going, and Seattle will have no problem covering in this matchup.

Green Bay Packers (+3) @ Dallas Cowboys

PICK: PACKERS TO COVER

Las Vegas is really giving Aaron Rodgers three points against the team he destroyed in the postseason a year ago? The most talented quarterback of all time, Rodgers has played exceptionally well against the Cowboys. In eight career games, Rodgers has 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Although Green Bay’s defense is nothing special, they are somehow sixth in the league in terms of fewest yards allowed, and fifth in fewest passing yards. The Cowboys defense has been pretty weak, allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw all over them. Dallas ranks 27th in passing touchdowns allowed, and 26th in first downs allowed. Keep in mind they are playing Aaron Rodgers this week, who already has 10 passing touchdowns.

This Dallas offense is not what it was a season ago. Last year, Cowboys were fourth in first downs, and first in rushing attempts. Today, they rank 20th in first downs, and 22nd in rushing attempts. Dak is proving to be an average game manager at best. He is 14th in passing yards, and 18th in quarterback rating. Vegas absolutely has this one wrong.

 

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Deshaun Watson fantasy

Don’t believe the Deshaun Watson fantasy hype

The name Deshaun Watson related to fantasy has been synonymous. After nearly pulling off an upset victory in week 3 against the New England Patriots with 301 passing yards, 41 rush yards and a couple touchdowns, he did even more in week 4.

Watson threw four touchdown passes and ran for another against the Tennessee Titans. He had over 300 total yards for the second consecutive week. He is now ranked fifth among fantasy quarterbacks. The impressive thing about this is he didn’t start week 1.

I will say he becomes a top-10 fantasy quarterback from this point on. However, don’t get too comfortable.

The Hype is real

After his decent performance in week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals, he has followed up with two great performances.

Against Tennessee last week, he was in the driver seat. He hit a 35-yard pass between two defenders to Bruce Ellington after stepping up in the pocket, a play that set up a Lamar Miller read-option rushing touchdown. Then he got his first scoring touchdown on a dart to DeAndre Hopkins, and it didn’t stop there.

Deshaun Watson fantasy

Deshaun Watson (Photo by: chron.com)

He threw to Will Fuller V, who was a second option, for a 16-yard score. Then he had a rushing touchdown and had a 31-14 lead in the first half.

Watson then poured it on in the second half, connecting with Fuller on a fade route from 10 yards out. Then lobbed a red-zone flare pass to Miller for six more. He has done things that rookies usually struggle with. He has had some miscues, but has dominated the past two games.

He had two great weeks in fantasy. Why he has had this hype is because top quarterbacks have struggled. Quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton haven’t had the start they were hoping for, and Andrew Luck hasn’t even played yet. This has made fantasy owners desperate, especially those who had Luck and had a struggling backup quarterback.

Watson was a playmaker in college and has adapted to the pros quickly using his arm and his legs. He has also made the Texans one of the most exciting teams to watch.

But heres Why I Don’t believe in the hype

Do I think Watson can be a good NFL quarterback? I do. What he has done on the field early in his career has surprised me, especially against the Patriots. You can’t take that away from him, and I give credit where it’s due.

However, here are the numbers for the defenses he played the last two weeks. They rank 32nd and 28th in terms of yards allowed per game through the air. They are also the only two teams that have already allowed double-digit passing touchdowns.

Deshaun Watson fantasy

Watson (Photo by: si.com)

Again, I’m not taking away what he did or his talent, but Newton struggled the first three weeks and torched the Patriots last week. Alex Smith isn’t known for his fantasy numbers and had a career day against them in week 1. Derek Carr and Russell Wilson had their best fantasy days against the Titans.

Numbers don’t lie. Quarterbacks against these two defenses are must starts every week.

The next test for Watson is next week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Even though they rank near the bottom in passing defense in fantasy, they are right now the best team in the league. They have been know for their defense. If Watson can play like he has against this defense, then my opinion will change.

How to handle Watson this point on

Right now, I don’t view him as a must start every week. As I said, if he plays well against the Chiefs, he could be depending your quarterback options. He’s gonna be a streamable option in the right matchups.

Deshaun Watson fantasy

Watson (Photo by: chron.com)

He has the Chiefs, who are 25th in passing yards per game and the Cleveland Browns (23rd) before his bye. After his bye week, he has some tough matchups. He plays Seattle (fourth), Indianapolis (29th), the Los Angeles Rams (13th), Arizona (12th), Baltimore (16th) and then Tennessee, where he dominated. The problem with some of these games is that two of these eight opponents are in the top-10 in rushing defense.

If these teams stop the run, Watson could be pressured to throw the ball and could make rookie mistakes. Carson Wentz is a good example from last year. He was great in his first three games, but was up and down the rest of the year. That’s how I see Watson from this point.

A lot could change after this week, but play Watson in favorable matchups. He’s home for the Chiefs, which could give him confidence. With how the Chiefs are playing, I might bench him this week. His performance the last two weeks could give you reason to start him.

Do I think Watson could have a good game? I do. I think he could have a solid game. I do think he will have his moments though where he will make mistakes and will continue to throughout the game with the Chiefs pressuring him to throw the ball.

 

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Stack your money Sundays: Week 4

Week three review (1-2) overall: 6-3

Atlanta Falcons (-3) @ Detroit Lions

Final: Atlanta Falcons 30, Detroit Lions 26

Wow, this one was lucky. Golden Tate appeared to have won the game when Matthew Stafford hit him with eight seconds left. After the scoring review, it was clear that Tate was actually stopped short of the goal line and because of a mandatory 10-second runoff, the game was over.

Matt Ryan had three interceptions and was very fortunate to squeak out of Detroit with a victory. The Falcons did a good job of defending the run, as well as stopping the Lions on third down. Detroit only converted three of their 13 third down attempts.

Where we went wrong 

Miami Dolphins (-6) @ New York Jets

Final: New York Jets 20 Miami Dolphins 6

This game was a clear example of how past numbers cannot tell the whole story. Going into this game, the Jets were the worst ranked defense. They were also 28th in passing yards and 28th in first downs. New York ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed, so it seemed like Jay Ajayi would run all over this team, and Cutler would have no problem moving the ball, right?

Ajayi rushed 11 times for 16 yards. The Dolphins racked up a total of 225 yards. Cutler was sacked twice, and they converted one third down in 12 attempts. Not to mention Miami went 0/3 on fourth down as well. Josh McCown decided to complete 78 percent of his passes and did not turn the ball over. Good for the Jets, who people thought would fail to win a single game this year.

Oakland Raiders (-3) @ Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins 27 Oakland Raiders 10

Stack money Sundays: week 4

Redskins D held Lynch to just 18 yards. (YouTube)

After not turning the ball over through the first two games, Oakland had three turnovers, including two interceptions from Derek Carr. The Raiders were only able to muster off 128 yards of offense, while the Redskins had 472. Marshawn Lynch had only 18 yards rushing, and the offense failed to convert once on third down. That’s right, Oakland was 0/11 on third down conversions.

Oakland played bad, but the Redskins defense is no joke. They have allowed the fifth fewest total yards, second fewest rushing yards, and are fourth in the NFL in takeaways. If Kirk Cousins can play how he did last Monday, then the Redskins could seriously win the NFC East.

 

Week 4 picks

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ Baltimore Ravens

PICK: STEELERS TO COVER

Both of these teams are coming off disappointing losses. Baltimore just went into London and got demolished by the Jags, and the Steelers took an L to Mike Glennon and the Chicago Bears. Yes, the Steelers are not that good on the road, and I understand that Ben Roethlisberger is 2-7 in his career against Baltimore, but like stated before, numbers can’t tell the full story. The Steelers are just a flat out better team than Baltimore. The Ravens are last in total yards, and Joe Flacco looks horrible, so bad that Ryan Mallett got some snaps last week.

Le’Veon Bell is bound to have a big game. The holdout has clearly effected his play, but after three games, Bell should be ready to breakout. Last time these two teams squared off, Bell ran for 122 yards. Look for Flacco to continue to struggle and the Steelers to get back on track.

Cincinnati Benglas (-3) @ Cleveland Browns

PICK: BENGALS TO COVER

This is the battle of 0-3 teams. In all honesty, the Bengals should have beaten Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week, but for some odd reason, Cincinnati could not get in the red zone during the entire second half.

Andy Dalton is 9-3 in his career against Cleveland, including 3-0 in his last three games at FirstEnergy Stadium. Dalton looks to be back on track after completing 77 percent of his passes against Green Bay. A.J. Green had a monster 10-catch, 111-yard performance, which was beautiful for fantasy owners. Green will continue his nice play as he has owned Cleveland in the past. In the last two games against the Browns, Green has a pair of touchdowns and 297 receiving yards.

DeShone Kizer is not the answer at quarterback for Cleveland. This was evident after his three-interception game against the Colts. How do you only complete 46 percent of your passes against Indianapolis? Anyways, the Browns are first in turnovers and will not be able to defend Dalton and the Benglas.

New York Giants (+3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PICK: GIANTS TO COVER

Stack money Sundays: week 4

Eli Manning has never lost to Tampa Bay (Sportige.com)

There is no chance the Giants start 0-4 after many people thought they would win the NFC East and possibly reach the Super Bowl. While those two feats seem unlikely, they will at least beat Tampa Bay. In the final half against Philadelphia, it was clear Eli and the offense remembered how to play football.

Odell Beckham Jr. is back and he is clearly unstoppable. He had two amazing touchdowns last week and one legendary celebration. In his only game against Tampa Bay, OBJ had nine catches for 105 yards.

Eli is 4-0 in his career vs. the Bucs, including 2-0 in Tampa. Jameis Winston is still growing and is not consistent enough to be trusted. His three interceptions last week against Minnesota show that he still has a lot of work to do.

Eli will have a nice game, the Giants defense will be all over Winston, and OBJ will entertain the crowd with at least one cool celebration.

 

 

Featured image by CincyJungle

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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.

 

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week one DFS Dont's

Week One DFS Dont’s: Quarterback

The hardest position to play in sports is surprisingly one of the easiest positions to pick in DFS. Sure, you could pay up for Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers and lock in 20 points. Or, you could go with cheaper options like a Philip Rivers or Jameis Winston and distribute that salary elsewhere. Let’s examine who you should leave off your lineup in our quarterback addition of week one DFS Dont’s.

Ben Roethlisberger: FanDuel Price $8,200

Yes, you’re about to read another piece about Ben Roethlisberger’s home/road splits. It’s real people, this trend dates all the way back to the 2014 season.

week one DFS Dont's: quarterback

As you can see, his regression has been incremental over time. Each year the dropoff gets more disparaging and therefore cannot be discounted. Now, do not take these stats as gospel. Roethlisberger could easily torch the Browns this weekend, but he won’t be doing it on my roster.

The large spread in favor of Pittsburgh is a great indicator of running back production. Meaning, if you choose to roster him, Roethlisberger may only produce for 2.5 or three quarters if they blow out the Browns. I don’t know about you, but I’m not playing the third-most expensive quarterback on the main slate who has a history of mediocre play on the road.

Apart from his road issues, Roethlisberger is perennially one of the highest injury risks at his position. He routinely misses games at this stage of his career. I’m not saying don’t ever play him on the road, but don’t play him at his current price. If you really want to pay up at quarterback, take Aaron Rodgers for $100 more, or, Russell Wilson for $200 less. Like most players, Roethlisberger’s price and circumstances land him on my week one DFS Dont’s.

Matt Stafford: Fandule Price $7,600

If you’ve been reading this series regularly, you know I hate the Lions this week. It’s more about their matchup than the individual player. I generally like Stafford. He plays on a team with no discernible run game and has above average receivers. However, the Arizona Cardinals defense is not one to take lightly.

week one DFS Dont's: quarterback

I don’t like to put too much stock in what a team or unit did last year. But, when that unit returns almost their entire starting unit, I do. Here’s what I don’t like, the Cardinals were incredibly stingy in yards allowed. Detroit uses their pass game to run the ball. Stafford throws short, precise passes as a substitute for a 3-yard run. Obviously, that will limit the amount of sack opportunities for this defense. Conversely, if they refuse to stretch the field, it won’t matter if they record sacks. They’ll simply make the Lions punt after three 3-yard passes.

Looking beyond Stafford, where do the Lions have an offensive advantage? Patrick Peterson vs. Marvin Jones, I’ll take Peterson. Tyrann Matheiu vs. Golden Tate in the slot, I’ll take Mathieu. Deone Buchanon vs. Eric Ebron, give me Buchanon. Maybe they have an edge with Theo Riddick out of the backfield, but, that means short precise passes. They won’t be able to stretch the field. Thus, Stafford joins Roethlisberger on my week one DFS Dont’s.

 

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Five Fantasy Quarterbacks love Week 1

Five quarterbacks I love for fantasy week 1

Week 1 is here and everyone is excited for the NFL season and fantasy football. Now it’s time to figure out who to start and who to sit.

Looking at all the matchups and analysis from fantasy football experts, I’ve decided to give the five quarterbacks I love for week 1.

Marcus Mariota (TEN) vs Oakland Raiders

Five Fantasy Quarterbacks love Week 1

Marcus Mariota (Photo by:dailymail.co.uk)

The Titans and Raiders might be the highest scoring game in week 1. Tennessee’s defense ranked 30th in passing defense and Oakland finished 24th. Marcus Mariota struggled last year against Oakland, throwing for 214 yards with 2 interceptions and a fumble along with 22 rushing yards.

However, this Titans team is different than last year. They have new additions at receiver with Eric Decker and fifth-overall pick Corey Davis, along with Rishard Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker to compliment their run game.

Mariota can thrive in this matchup as a runner. The Raiders’ defense tied for most rushing touchdowns allowed to quarterbacks last season.

Derek Carr (OAK) vs Tennessee Titans

Five Quarterbacks love Fantasy Week 1

Derek Carr (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

As I mentioned with Mariota, you have to like Derek Carr as well in this matchup. Carr also struggled fantasy wise in this matchup last year, throwing for 249 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Both teams have questionable secondaries and both teams have solid offenses. The Titans were awful against the pass, allowing 269 yards per game last year

Carr has weapons and is coming off a good 2016 campaign and back from injury. He should thrive in this week 1 matchup.

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs Cleveland Browns

Five Fantasy Quarterbacks love Week 1

Ben Roethlisberger (Photo by:deadspin.com)

Some people say this is obvious. In all seriousness, The Browns’ defense allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last year (19.4 points per game in standard scoring). They also ranked 21st in pass defense.

Roethlisberger had a decent game in his only start against Cleveland with 167 passing yards. That game was dominated by Le’Veon Bell on the ground. To top that, Roethlisberger has Antonio Brown and Bell back after his holdout with contract issues. Martavis Bryant also returns after his year-long suspension.

Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense should start out hot against the Browns.

Sam Bradford (MIN) vs New Orleans Saints

Five Fantasy Quarterbacks love Week 1

Sam Bradford (Photo by:billypenn.com)

When we look at 2016 for Sam Bradford, his season was up and down. However, he finished with the highest completion percentage (71.6 percent) and 15th highest in passing yards per game (258 yards). That’s remarkable, especially being traded days before the opening week last year with little preparation.

But back to his matchup the New Orleans Saints. He faces the worst passing defense a year ago, which allowed 274 passing yards per game. It’s a no brainer to look at him if you have quarterback issues.

Now that Bradford won’t have distractions with being traded and is now used to the playbook, expect Bradford to have top-10 potential in week 1.

Carson Palmer (ARI) vs Detroit Lions

Five Fantasy Quarterbacks love Week 1

Carson Palmer (Photo by: azcardinals.com)

After a dominating 2015 campaign, Carson Palmer struggled in 2016. Once viewed as a QB1, he’s now regarded as a QB2. But for week 1 Palmer is a good QB1.

Detroit’s pass rush is a big question mark with Ziggy Ansah just now beginning to practice and have no one truly dangerous playing alongside him.

This helps Palmer. Last year’s touchdown-per-attempt rate when pressured last season was just 2.7 percent, yet that leapt to 4.7 percent in a clean pocket. That is a rate well ahead of the league average (4.2).

The Lions also really only have one good cornerback with Darius Slay, which opens the deep ball on favorable matchups. Palmer was third in air yards per attempt last season, a stat that supports big-play upside. The Cardinals offense is poised for a strong showing this week.

 

Featured image from fantasypros.com

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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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NFL top 100 players 2017: 30-21

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 eighth installment, containing players 30-21.

30. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Top 100

Mike Evans (Photo by buccaneers.com)

Jameis Winston has developed into a good quarterback, but has a lot of help from Mike Evans, who has turned into an elite receiver. In 2016 he had a great season that resulted in a Pro Bowl appearance. He finished last season with 96 receptions for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Evans is a matchup nightmare at 6’5″ and 231 pounds. In 2017 Evans can continue to move up the ranks of the receivers in the NFL. The emergence and continual progression of Winston will help, but the offense will have some new weapons that might take away some of the double teams. Desean Jackson and O.J. Howard were both added this offseason and the hope for the Buccaneers is that opponents will have to pick and choose, if and who, they decide to double team.

With more help on the offensive side of the ball, Evans should find himself open more and he will capitalize.

Comments: “Mike Evans is a bad man, he makes cornerbacks look like children. The crazy thing is I can see him getting even better.”-Robert Hanes

29. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Ben Roethlisberger (Photo by denverpost.com)

The Steelers have a really good offense because of the “Killer B’s” of Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger is aging, but is still leading a very good offensive unit that ranked sixth in total yards in 2016. His 2016 campaign saw him throw for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Roethlisberger is now 35, but still has proven to make good throws. With Brown and Bell back, the offense should be balanced and dynamic. The Steelers also get Martavis Bryant back from suspension this year, giving Roethlisberger a plethora of weapons to use. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is very good and will have to try to keep Roethlisberger healthy, as he hasn’t played in a full 16 games since 2016.

With the weapons and talent he has, Roethlisberger is destined to put up great offensive numbers again in 2017.

Comments: “The only thing holding Roethlisberger back is injury and the contemplation of retirement. On a great offense with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger will be a top 30 player in the NFL. His ability is what is going to make the Steelers a contender in the AFC once again.”-Joe DiTullio

28. Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Marcus Peters (Photo by mercurynews.com)

Peters has only been in the NFL for two seasons so far and has cemented himself as one of the best corners and players in the NFL already. In 2016 he had 45 tackles, six interceptions, 20 passes defended, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.

Kansas City’s pass defense is average, but Peters does his part. He covers really well and has success against the best of receivers. In his two seasons, he has 14 interceptions already and is getting the reputation of being a ball-hawk. His productivity will continue because of his great instincts for the ball.

In 2017 a lot of quarterbacks will try to shy away from Peters and throw in a different direction, which is the ultimate sign of a great corner.

Comments: “Ever since Peters has come into the NFL he has been a magnet for the football. The Chiefs don’t always utilize his talents the correct way but he is a great young corner. This is the perfect spot for Peters.” -Matthew Hagan

27. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Russell Wilson (Photo by sportsonearth.com)

Seattle doesn’t do a great job of protecting Wilson, but he is still productive. In 2016 he threw for 4,219 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The stats are good, but the most impressive thing about Wilson is that he has never had a season of lower than 10 wins.

The Seahawks looked primed for another great season. Wilson will still not have great protection, but the Seahawks tried to improve by drafting Ethan Pocic and signing Luke Joeckel. If Wilson has been good the last few years, he will do fine with this offensive line as well. He still has Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham to throw to and the running game should take a little bit off of his plate with a few options to carry the ball.

Wilson will have to make plays on the run like he has his whole career, but he has thrived before and will again in 2017.

Comments: “He is a winner plain and simple. His offensive line was atrocious last season and he barely had a running game. Yet, he still put up big numbers.”- Robert Hanes 

26. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Bobby Wagner (Photo by seahawks.com)

Wagner can sometimes be overlooked for people giving adoration to Russell Wilson, the “Legion of Boom” and the pass rush, but he is one of the league’s best linebackers himself. He led the NFL in tackles in 2016 with 167. He added 4.5 sacks, one interception, three fumbles forced and one fumble recovered.

With the “Legion of Boom” behind him and a good defensive line in front of him, Wagner has the freedom to go run after the football knowing everyone else is doing their jobs. In 2017 Wagner will once again be flying to the football and amass a lot of tackles. He has a knack for doing everything well, which makes him a top 100 player in 2017.

Other people on the Seahawks might get more attention, but Wagner is a great defender that will be near the ball on a lot of plays this season.

Comments: “Wagner is rated a bit too high for my taste. Seahawk linebackers benefit from a good defensive line and a great secondary. Wagner is talented but on any other team he wouldn’t be a top 50 player.” -Matthew Hagan

25. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Richard Sherman (Photo by richardsherman25.com)

Three Seahawks in a row and there are more coming. Sherman has been one of the best corners in the NFL for what seems like forever. In 2016 he recorded 58 tackles, four interceptions, 13 passes defended and one fumble recovery.

Sherman gets some heat for only covering one side of the field instead of trailing the other team’s best receiver, but he does his job phenomenally. With the other members of the “Legion of Boom”, Sherman will return once again to do his job and create one of the best secondaries in football.

In 2017 Sherman is going to try to keep his status as one of the best corners in the NFL and will likely come away successful.

Comments: “Sherman is the best corner in the NFL. He locks down an entire side of the field. He is on his way to a hall of fame career and is truly one of the best players in the league.” -Matthew Hagan

24. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Earl Thomas (Photo by youtube.com)

His season was cut short after he broke his leg in the Seahawks eleventh game, but Thomas still had a good season in that time. He finished his 2016 season with 46 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defended and a fumble recovery.

The Seahawks defense was significantly worse after Thomas’ injury, which showed how good of a player he truly is. When he was on the field Seattle allowed just 16 points per game, but when he wasn’t they allowed 23 points per game. This season he will help restore the Seahawks’ defense to elite status with his big-hitting, ball-hawking nature.

Thomas is coming back from an injury, but his natural instincts will still be sharp, making him one of the best players in the NFL.

Comments: “When Thomas went down with injury, the entire Seahawks’ defense changed for the worse. Thomas could be higher on this list with the big impact he has. If he can recover from his injury he is in no doubt a top 25 player in the NFL.”-Joe DiTullio

23. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

NFL Top 100

J.J. Watt (photo by jjwfoundation.com)

Watt only played three games in 2016 due to injury, but if he can recover, he will be a great player once again. In his three games he had eight tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. When he was healthy in 2015 he led the league with 17.5 sacks.

Houston ranked tenth in the NFL as a scoring defense last season without Watt, but they needed more pass rushing. They had just 31 sacks, which tied for 24th in the NFL. Watt will rejoin Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, which will help. Watt will be one more problem for opponents’ offensive lines to worry about and will produce in 2017.

There is no reason to believe that Watt won’t be a great, physical force in 2017 if he recovers from his injury.

Comments: “Health is the only concern with Watt. If not for last year’s injury, he would be in the top ten”- Dylan Streibig 

22. Landon Collins, S, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Landon Collins (Photo by giants.com)

The Giants hit the jackpot by selecting Collins with the first pick of the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Ever since he came into the NFL, he has produced. Last season he had 125 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, 13 passes defended, one touchdown and one fumble recovery.

With Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie taking care of shutting down receivers, Collins is free to play instinctive football. He flies to the football and usually makes a play. Collins is so effective because he can do so many different things. He can cover, blitz and provide good run support.

Collins has been extraordinary in his first two seasons and will continue to improve in the coming years.

Comments: “This man is basically a whole defense by himself. Not to say he doesn’t have good pieces around him but, I think he will be a top 20 players by the end of the season.”-Robert Hanes

21. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Tyron Smith (Photo by insidethestar.com)

Smith has been one of the best tackles in the NFL and is entering his prime years. The Cowboys have two other offensive linemen on this list: Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, showing how good of an offensive line they have. Smith is ranked the highest out of all of them. He made his fourth straight Pro Bowl in 2016 and added his second appearance as a first team All-Pro.

Like the other linemen from Dallas on this list, he helped Ezekiel Elliot have a great first season in the NFL, as he rushed for 1,631 yards. Most impressively for Smith though was his pass protection, as he allowed just two sacks all season. As the left tackle who goes up against a lot of effective pass rushers, that is an outstanding output.

Dak Prescott has to feel comfortable with how good his offensive line is going to be in 2017, especially with Smith protecting his blindside.

Comments: “Smith is clearly one of the best offensive linemen in the league and deserves this spot. He will keep Dak Prescott upright in 2017 and also help the Cowboys have a good ground game. Smith will make his fifth Pro Bowl in 2017 and is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players:40-31

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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.

 

Featured image from nj.com.

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