week three DFS don'ts

Week three DFS don’ts: Running back

The fastest way a running back can land on my DFS don’ts list is to be part of a committee. That word might be one of the worst things a fantasy player can hear. Why? Because it means no one player is guaranteed a substantial workload. That’s why players like Le’Veon Bell and Jay Ajayi are so valuble. Let’s find out which players landed on the running back edition of my week three DFS don’ts.

LeSean McCoy: FanDuel Price $8,100

LeSean McCoy is not on this list because of his workload. McCoy has proven to be the featured back with the Bills. The problem is that the offense isn’t good. The Bills could only generate 125 passing yards on 25 attempts in week 2. No receiver could accumulate more than 30 yards, except for LeSean McCoy. His volume is there without question, but there won’t be production from that volume.

We saw what Denver did to Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. They dominated their offensive line and locked down the perimeter players. Buffalo does not have any pass catcher of Dez Bryant’s caliber. Charles Clay on his best day isn’t Jason Witten. As good as LeSean McCoy is, he can’t do it on his own.

The only hope McCoy has is if Tyrod Taylor can hurt Denver early with his arm. Then, they establish a run game using the option. This will force Denver to play a more vanilla defense against Buffalo, allowing Taylor and McCoy to have a chance of succeeding. There will be other spots to play McCoy, but not this week.

Christian McCaffrey: FanDuel Price $6,800

week three DFS don'ts: running back

Will Christian McCaffrey ever live up to his pre-draft hype and produce on the field? (Courtesy of; Headline Sports News)

Unlike McCoy, Christian McCaffrey does fall on my week three DFS don’ts list because he’s part of a committee. McCaffrey is dominating his counter-part Johnathan Stewart in snaps played with 47 and 43 compared to Stewart’s 29 and 25. Sadly, Stewart has more total rushes, 33, compared to McCaffrey’s 21 total rushes.

The rushing disparity is concerning. I don’t care how talented McCaffrey is, running backs have to be rush-first threats. Clearly, that isn’t the case. McCaffrey’s production is dependent on Cam Newton being an efficient, accurate passer, which is something Newton has never been.

Even in a great matchup this week against New Orleans, I can’t touch McCaffrey. Until they start increasing his rushing workload, and prove that Newton can deliver the ball to him, I’m off McCaffrey. His lack of production and unpredictable usage has him squarely on my week three DFS don’ts list.

Ameer Abdullah: FanDuel Price $6,100

Another member of a running back by committee is Ameer Abdullah. We saw on Monday night that even in the most ideal gameflow, Abdullah is relatively useless from a fantasy perspective. Abdullah is known as a between the 20’s running back. He’s great at getting you to the red zone, but gets replaced once there. In this case, that would be Dwayne Washington.

How about when the Lions are down and need to roar back? Well, the Lions trot out Theo Riddick to aid in the passing attack. So, Adbullah doesn’t get catches out of the backfield. He doesn’t get the goal line carries. And he only scores if it’s from a distance outside of 20 yards.

It’s obvious, yes. And it’s highly unlikely you ever imagined playing Abdullah in DFS in the first place. But, it’s worth spelling out exactly how bleak the situation is for him in Detroit. Now you know not to use Abdullah for the rest of the year, unless there’s an injury to one of those backs. Running backs by committee are easy placements on my week three DFS don’ts.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of TMZ

2017 week 3 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. You won’t find me in a church on Sunday because football is my religion and the number one priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself in studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right, but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score prediction, but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it’s by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-8

season: 16-15

Thursday Night

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) 20 @ San Francisco 49ers (0-2) 14: The Rams look like a really good team this year, good enough to possibly win the division over the Seahawks. If they are to take the step towards becoming a playoff team, this is the type of game they must win. San Francisco will be in the lottery.

Jared Goff is still going to go through some growing pains. If they run the ball well enough and continue playing great defense, then they can succeed despite their young quarterback. The 49ers have improved defensively, but can’t make up for the lack of offense. The Rams will win this game, but it will be a defensive dogfight.

Sunday Morning

2017 week 3 NFL picks

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

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) 13 @ Baltimore Ravens (2-0) 16: Something tells me to pick Jacksonville in this game, but then I think about how Blake Bortles has to go against a defense that is destroying quarterbacks. Jacksonville will be in the game because of their stout defense, but will ultimately fall because of Bortles’ turnovers.

Baltimore will start the season 3-0, but still won’t be a contender in the big picture.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) 20 vs Minnesota Vikings (1-1) 24: This game hinges on the health of Sam Bradford for the Vikings. If Bradford plays, then Minnesota will win this game at home. That is a big if though. With or without Bradford, Minnesota will play stellar defense as usual.

Tampa Bay completely shut down a great Bears rushing attack last week, holding them to 20 yards. Repeating this against Minnesota would guarantee a win. They won’t shut down the Vikings the same way they did the Bears, and Sam Bradford takes the field to lead the Vikings to a big win at home.

Denver Broncos (2-0) 27 @ Buffalo Bills (1-1) 13: Does there have to be actual thought here? Can I just say Broncos will win? No, that is probably not a good idea.

So, the Broncos will win because their defense is going to annihilate the Bills offense. Once the Broncos stop the run, the Bills will have no answer. Tyrod Taylor will look completely lost and inevitably throw a pick-six. Denver’s offense will run up and down all over the Bills for over 200 yards.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) 28 @ Chicago Bears (0-2) 10: This seems like a totally unfair matchup. The Bears resemble a baby cub more than an actual Bear. The defense has played lights out, but can only do so much with turnovers from the offense happening so often. Mike Glennon looks incapable of running an offense.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, looks like they are in midseason form. The offense is starting to click and the defense looks hungry. This game will be over early and the steel curtain will remain untangled.

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) 34 @ Detroit Lions (2-0) 38: This is one of the most difficult games to pick this week. Both teams have looked shaky at points this season, but in the end have gotten the job done.

Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan are going to put on a show in Detroit. This game will likely be a shootout that comes down to the wire. The Lions have been known to be the kings of comebacks. Detroit wins this game because of their home-field advantage and a late drive by Stafford.

Cleveland Browns (0-2) 24 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2) 17: This game could be one of the lowest-rated games in NFL history. What is there to really watch in this game if you aren’t a fan of either team? Yes DeShone Kizer is a rookie that can maybe give some excitement, but the offense still doesn’t look fluid. Defensively, there is nothing eye-popping or exciting either.

The Colts are completely boring without Andrew Luck. So boring I’d rather watch a middle school basketball game. The Browns have looked like the better team of the two, so far so what the heck, go dog pound.

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: http://biginf.com/)

Houston Texans (1-1) 13 @ New England Patriots (1-1) 26: Tom Brady is back! Or he just lit up the worst defense and secondary in the NFL. This week, Brady will get a real test by facing Houston. If Brady looks good this week, then he is a robot who will play in the NFL until he’s 90.

On the other side, rookie Deshaun Watson will have to try and beat a Bill Belichick defense. Good luck with that. That is the sole reason New England wins this game. Watson won’t be ready for the Patriots’ defense.

Miami Dolphins (1-0) 37 @ New York Jets (0-2) 18: Miami escaped with a victory last week. Now they get to face the worst team in the NFL. The Jets don’t do anything well and won’t win more than two games this season.

Jay Cutler is going to look like a prime Brett Favre in this one. Dolphins are going to New York to dominate the Jets.

New York Giants (0-2) 16 @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) 19: The Giants are in some serious trouble. Their offense looks pretty horrible with the worst rushing attack in all of football. The offensive line is arguably the worst in the league and the nucleus of their problems offensively. There isn’t much they can do to fix it either.

The Eagles are going to exploit that offensive line to stifle the Giants offense. Carson Wentz is going to have a tough time against the Giants’ defense, but will outperform Eli. That will be the difference in the end.

New Orleans Saints (0-2) 17 @ Carolina Panthers (2-0) 31: The current issue with the Panthers is their offense. Losing Greg Olsen doesn’t help Cam Newton out, but he is still shaking off the rust.

A game against New Orleans is the perfect time to gain confidence offensively. The Saints rank 31st in scoring defense, giving up 32.5 points per game. Drew Brees won’t be able to put up many points against this defense. Newton shakes off the rust and Christian McCaffrey has his coming out party.

Sunday Afternoon

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) 20 @ Tennessee Titans (1-1) 24: Seattle has looked average at best thus far, mostly because of their offensive line that can’t block anything. Tennessee has an underrated defense that will take advantage of this weakness.

The Seahawks still have a very good defense, but it won’t stop Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Titan offense.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) 10 @ Green Bay Packers (1-1) 20: This could be the game that gets Andy Dalton benched and catches Marvin Lewis’ seat on fire.

The Bengals are playing like crap on offense, but the defense is only giving up 16.5 points per game. They also rank first in pass defense, giving up just 104.5 yards per game through the air. Aaron Rodgers will more than double that while leading the Packers to win.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) 24 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-2) 21: The Chiefs look like the best team in the NFL. Their offense is rolling behind Alex Smith while the defense continues to be a force. The Chargers are two field goals away from possibly being 2-0. The first would have sent them to overtime while the second would have won the game.

Sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles. The cookie will continue to crumble that way for one more week at least. The Chiefs go into L.A. to push themselves to 3-0.

Sunday Night

Oakland Raiders (2-0) 34 @ Washington Redskins (1-1) 24: The Raiders are thriving thus far this season and haven’t even begun to tap into their potential. Their defense still hasn’t faced a quality offense that can make them prove themselves.

This week they get that chance. Washington ranks 15th in total offensive yards per game (324.5). Washington has been running the ball efficiently, but the passing game has been underwhelming. Expectations were high for Kirk Cousins heading into the season. Derek Carr is going to have a huge game in prime time. Oakland keeps up with Denver and Kansas City by getting to 3-0.

Monday Night

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) 27 @ Arizona Cardinals (1-1) 17: Dallas got embarrassed against Denver and will be looking to get that taste out of their mouth. The Cowboys are going to get back to running the ball well. Ezekiel Elliott will have over 20 carries for at least 125 yards.

Arizona won’t be able to keep pace with the Cowboys’ offense. Carson Palmer has lost it and can’t carry the offense without David Johnson. This will be a snoozefest of a Monday Night game.

 

Featured image from Sporting News 

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NFL week two: Eight takeaways

1. New England looked great, but let’s pump the brakes

Tom Brady threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns, but did we forget who they played? That’s right, New Orleans. In the previous week, the Saints allowed 470 yards to the Minnesota Vikings, who are predominately relevant because of their defense.

This is a Saints team who, last year, finished second to last in total points allowed, and dead last in passing yards allowed. With that said, it is expected for Tom Brady and the New England offense to put up numbers.

Despite the big win however, New England is still banged up. Rob Gronkowski had to exit with a groin injury and Dont’a Hightower might be out another week or two. With Danny Amendola still sidelined, it was nice to see production from Chris Hogan and Philip Dorsett, but we will see how long these two can last as consistent playmakers. Especially when New England plays a legit defense.

2. Maybe the Titans will be as good as we thought?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Derrick Henry could take over as the RB1 (Tennessee Titans)

Going into the season, people were high on Tennessee. For good reason of course, since they do have Marcus Mariota behind center.

Unfortunately, Mariota hasn’t looked great in his first two games of 2017. Through two games, Mariota has only thrown one touchdown, and has a quarterback rating of 78.7. In his previous two seasons, Mariota’s quarterback ratings were 91.5, and 95.6.

Still, the Titans put up 37 points. Granted it was against Jacksonville, but up until this point in his career, Blake Bortles had been undefeated against Tennessee when he plays at home.

A main reason for the big victory was Tennessee’s ability to run the football. They racked up 179 yards on the ground, mostly from Derrick Henry, who ran for 94 yards, on 6.57 yards per carry.  The Titans defense was also able to force three turnovers, which is a given against Bortles, but they still count. If Mariota can improve, this team could easily win the division.

3. The Panthers are 2-0, but they are overrated

What a blessing it is to start your season against the 49ers and the Bills. Look, the defense has been spectacular, only allowing six total points through two games, but Cam Newton and the offense looks pitiful. It’s understood that Newton is playing banged up, but maybe they need to check for a concussion, because this guy looks lost on the field.

If you watched the game, then you know that your grandmother would have completed the “would be” touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, instead of sailing it four feet over his head like Newton did.

Greg Olsen will also 6-8 weeks of the season due to his broken foot, so expect more mediocre play from Carolina’s offense. Carolina is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry is something to keep an eye on as well.

4. The Chiefs look really good

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Kareem Hunt’s debut was no fluke (Sporting News)

After two weeks, Kansas City looks like the best team in football. Not only did they smack the Patriots, but they also beat a good Eagles team. Alex Smith has five touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception, and Kareem Hunt might be able to sit out the rest of the year and still win Rookie of the Year.

In his first two career games, Hunt has 229 yards rushing, along with five total touchdowns. Kansas City is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, which is good for first in the NFL.

The pass rush looks great, as Chris Jones had three of their six sacks against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. If they can slow down the run, this team could be dangerous.

5. Thank God for the Honey Badger, but the Cardinals’ season is over

Without a clutch, game-sealing interception by Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals could easily be 0-2. With David Johnson scheduled to miss a serious amount of time, the Cardinals need all the luck they can get, and Mathieu helped them stay relevant for another week.

Carson Palmer has been just awful, with four interceptions and a QBR below 66, his career looks to be done. He turned it around late in the game, but that’s expected against a garbage Colts team. The Cardinals can’t run the ball, and for some reason, are having a hard time defending the pass, so kudos to Mathieu, but it is safe to already write off Arizona.

6. Jay Cutler and the Dolphins might be a perfect match

The Dolphins might be the most underrated team in football, and we might see the best version of Jay Cutler. Yes, it was only one game, but Cutler completed 72.7 percent of his passes, and had a QBR of 101.8.

Jay Ajayi showed that last year was no fluke, rushing for 122 yards. Jarvis Landry led Miami with 13 catches, and the Fins defense held Melvin Gordon to 13 yards on nine attempts. Watch out for Miami.

7. The Raiders are dope

The Raiders home opener was everything you could have hoped for. In a 45-25 win over the Jets, we saw Marshawn Lynch dancing, Michael Crabtree with three touchdowns and Derek Carr looking like a real MVP. Carr has yet to commit a turnover and the Raiders are fifth in the league in rushing.

The defense, who at times, holds this team back, has already recovered two fumbles and is doing a decent job of defending the run. If the defense gets better, the Raiders could be looking at an easy route to home field advantage.

8. Cowboys in trouble?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Has Dak been exposed? (FanSided)

As someone who does not think Dak Prescott is a franchise quarterback, Sunday’s performance was beautiful to watch. Without Ezekiel Elliott, Dak is nothing. Elliott was held to eight yards on nine attempts, which caused Prescott to actually have to make plays. This resulted in a pair of interceptions.

Denver’s D is top notch, but the Cowboys should be concerned. If the run game is not there, this team is unable to produce, especially with a washed up Dez Bryant. Yeah, he caught a touchdown, but with all those targets, he should have been much better.

 

 

Featured image by Washington Post

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Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 2

Week One Review (2-1) Overall: 2-1                   

Indianapolis Colts @ Los Angeles Rams (-4.5)

Final: Rams 46 Colts 9

Going into this game, the Rams were 3-13 against the spread (ATS) in their last 16 Week 1 matchups. They were also 1-10-1 ATS in their last 12 games overall. This just shows that you can’t value past numbers too much. They brought in a new coaching staff, upgraded the offensive line, and have a quarterback, in Jared Goff, that finally looks comfortable. The Rams defense looked elite, but then again, they did play against Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett. Nonetheless, great start to the season for Los Angeles.

Carolina Panthers (-5) @ San Francisco 49ers

Final: Panthers 23 49ers 3

Cam Newton didn’t look great, but most of the time, your quarterback doesn’t need to be on his “A” game against San Francisco. Carolina’s defense played well, only allowing 217 total yards of offense, while also forcing two turnovers.

What happened to Eli and the rest of the New York offense?

New York Giants (+4.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

Final: Giants 3 Cowboys 19

A disappointing start to the season for Eli and the Giants (CSNPhilly)

Clearly, without Odell Beckham Jr, this offense is a nightmare. Holding the potent Dallas offense to 19 points is a plus, but when you only muster off 13 first downs, it’s hard to win a football game. The Giants offensive line is clearly an issue, as well as the running game, as New York only rushed for 35 yards. With OBJ most likely suiting up on Monday, look for the Giants to bounce back against Detroit.

WEEK 2 PICKS

Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)

Pick: CHIEFS TO COVER

This will be the second time Chiefs coach Andy Reid swaures off against his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles. In their previous matchup, dating back to 2013, The Chiefs beat the Eagles by 10. It’s important to mention that game was played in Philly. This contest will be at Arrowhead, where the Chiefs are 18-6 in their last three seasons. Kansas City looks like the best team in the AFC, but the loss of Eric Berry is devastating.

The Eagles defensive line is no joke, so don’t expect Kareem Hunt to put up numbers like he did in his debut. Still, this could be the best season we have ever seen from Alex Smith. With Mahomes right on his tail, Smith knows this season could potentially be his last with Kansas City. Pressure can truly bring the best out of certain players, and last week, it looked like Alex Smith is not giving up his job anytime soon. Philly’s weak run game will cause Carson Wentz to throw a lot, which is never a good idea against the Chiefs secondary. Look for Wentz to force a few bad throws and for Kansas City to continue winning.

New England Patriots (-6.5) @ New Orleans Saints

Pick: PATRIOTS TO COVER

This is a lot of points to give Drew Brees and the Saints, but New England just doesn’t lose back to back games. In fact, in the next game after a loss (since 2003), the Patriots are 41-7. During these 48 games, they are 34-13-1 ATS.

Brandin Cooks looking to have a monster game against his former team (Patriots Wire)

It should be noted that Drew Brees is 3-1 in his career vs Brady, but this year’s Saints defense is no match for the Patriots lethal offense. Even though it was a disappointing start to the season, New England still put 27 points and rushed for over 120 yards in their loss to Kansas City.

The Saints allowed 470 yards to Minnesota, and gave up 23 first downs. Drew Brees is still great, but his defense is absolutely atrocious. New England simply has too many weapons, and will have a field day against the Saints.

Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos (+2.5)

Pick: BRONCOS TO WIN

Dak Prescott continues to be the luckiest quarterback in all of football. This was yet another game in which he only threw for one touchdown. If Eli didn’t forget how to play football, the Cowboys could have easily been 0-1. This is Dak’s first time in Denver, as well as his first real AFC road test. Last year, the two AFC teams that Dallas visited were the Steelers and Browns. Pittsburgh and Cleveland are two of the worst defenses in football, and don’t even compare to Denver’s. The “No Fly Zone” will have no problem shutting down Prescott.

The Broncos ran the ball extremely effective in their opener versus the Chargers, so look for CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles to have good games against Dallas, as the Cowboys defense is banged up and not that great to begin with. Trevor Siemian isn’t great, but he looks like he could play the part.

Denver’s secondary will shut down the Cowboy’s wide receivers’. Dez Bryant, as much as I love him, is washed. It’s possible Ezekiel Elliot will have a monster game, but Dak will look lost against Denver’s defense. Trevor Siemian has enough playmakers around him to lead this team to victory on Sunday.

Featured image by Yahoo Sports

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Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. Sundays you won’t find me in a church because Football is my religion and the number one priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself in studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score predictions but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it’s by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-7

Season: 8-7

Thursday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Houston Texans (0-1) 20 @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) 21: It is only week two but this is a vital game for both the Texans and the Bengals. Teams that go 0-2 hardly ever make the playoffs. Andy Dalton must overcome a four interception game. If he plays like that again, Bengals fans will be chanting McCarron’s name. DeShaun Watson has officially been named the starter for Houston. With a short week of preparation, Watson will be behind the eight ball. With McCarron breathing down Dalton’s shoulder and the first start for DeShaun Watson, the Bengals find a way to win.

Sunday Morning

Arizona Cardinals (0-1) 31 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1) 14: Similar to the teams participating in the Thursday night game, the Cardinals and Colts are sort of in a must win situation. The Colts looked God-awful against the Rams and the Cardinals blew a lead while losing swiss army knife David Johnson. Even though the Cardinals will need Palmer to shoulder the load, Indianapolis is a bad team. Chuck Pagano will be the first coach fired this season. Arizona wins this week but only because Indianapolis is incompetent.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) 24 @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) 27: This is a game many could consider the game of the week after the performance these two teams put on in week one. Alex Smith looked like a guy who was drafted number one overall ahead of Aaron Rodgers. He lit up the Patriots defense with some spectacular throws. Carson Wentz didn’t look too shabby either. This is going to be a competitive, back and forth game that will come down to the wire. It is hard to pick a winner in this game so the edge goes to the home team.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Hannah Foslien)

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) 27 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) 23: For all the hype surrounding the Steelers this offseason their opening performance was a bit lackluster. Le’Veon Bell didn’t get enough touches and it looked like Pittsburgh was trying to punish him for missing training camp. The defense seemed improved behind rookie T.J. Watt but they still only managed a three point victory against the Browns who started a rookie quarterback. Minnesota however, looked like a juggernaut. Their defense completely shut down Drew Brees and the Saints offense holding them to 19 points. The touchdown came in garbage time. Sam Bradford led an aerial assault that nobody saw coming and rookie Dalvin Cook made all Vikings fans say Adrian who? Minnesota looked like the better team in week one. They upset Pittsburgh in week two to put the NFL on notice.

New England Patriots (0-1) 38 @ New Orleans Saints (0-1) 24: The Patriots did look a bit un-patriot-like last week but every time New England has started 0-1 with Bill Belichick they have gone on to win the Super Bowl. This isn’t the time to overreact. The Saints secondary still looks anemic. Sam Bradford torched them with his best game of his career. Tom Brady will dissect them even worse with over 400 yards passing. New England will cruise to a victory in the Superdome.

Chicago Bears (0-1) 24 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) 31: It is hard to determine if the Bears looked good or if the Falcons played bad but was probably a mix of the two. Mike Glennon put the ball where it needed to be on the final drive but his teammates let him down. This week the Bears head to Florida to take on the Bucs who will be playing their first game of the season because of Hurricane Irma. Tampa Bay is going to play with a lot of emotion and with the support of the fans, they will win their home opener.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw)

Buffalo Bills (1-0) 22 @ Carolina Panthers (1-0) 29: Both teams head into this game with a win in week one. Both also played against some really bad opponents. The Bills look like a team that is still going to run the ball well but their passing attack may still be weak. Cam Newton also looked a bit rusty as his accuracy was hit and miss. Another big story line to follow is Sean McDermott returning to Carolina. He may know exactly what the Panthers are doing but it won’t be enough to stop them. Cam plays big and leads his team to a 2-0 start.

Tennessee Titans (0-1) 23 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) 21: The Jaguars are above .500 for the first time in a long time. Their defense completely dominated Houston. Jacksonville also ran the ball very well with rookie Leonard Fournette. Taking the ball out of Blake Bortle’s hands seems to be the key to success. Tennessee must bounce back after looking a bit underprepared for Oakland. The offense didn’t light it up as many expected and it resulted in an underwhelming performance. Week one usually has a ton fluke results and this week the Titans will prove it by outplaying Jacksonville on the road.

Cleveland Browns (1-0) 23 @ Baltimore Ravens (1-0) 22: Baltimore has been a franchise that is built on defense and showcased that again last week. Joe Flacco didn’t do much on offense but that isn’t anything new. This team will be an average team because of the offense but if the defense plays like that all season then maybe they will sneak up on people. Cleveland played pretty well last week after they had a punt blocked for a touchdown. Without that play, they probably upset the Steelers. Cleveland is heading in the right direction and a win on the road this week will prove as much.

Sunday Afternoon

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Photo: Wesley Hitt, Getty Images)

New York Jets (0-1) 17 @ Oakland Raiders (1-0) 45: New York will be lucky to win a single game this season. They are tanking whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is a tank. Oakland opened the season by flying across the country and beating up on a team many predicted to win their division. The offense is loaded and Marshawn Lynch is back to being “Beast Mode”. The defense looked much improved from last season. Everything seems to be falling into place perfectly. Oakland defends the Black Hole in a complete annihilation.

Miami Dolphins (0-0) 20 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) 27: The Chargers almost had the upset but almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Los Angeles’ defense is going to be elite and the offense seems to have chosen the run as its identity. They will be a good team this season. Miami will be playing its first game of the season due to Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins won’t be ready and Los Angeles gets a much-needed win.

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) 32 @ Denver Broncos (1-0) 22: Denver was lucky to sneak away with a win in week one. They might not be so lucky this week. Trevor Siemian played well but the problem is his inconsistency. One week he looks like an NFL starter and the next he looks like a backup. He will look like a backup against Dallas. The Cowboys, on the other hand, looked amazing against the Giants. Dak Prescott seems to have more control of the offense and Ezekiel Elliot is back to his old ways. Dallas goes into the Mile High City and stops on the Broncos.

Washington Redskins (1-0) 10 @ Los Angeles Rams (1-0) 21: Was that the Los Angeles Rams or the 2015 Denver Broncos defense on the field last week? The answer is the Rams, but it’s because former Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is now running the defense of the Rams. Defensively, they played lights out and still get to add Aaron Donald to the mix. The offense looked NFL worthy as Jared Goff had a spectacular game. It was against the Colts thought. This week they matchup with the Washington Redskins who dropped their game to their division rival Eagles. Kirk Cousins will not play well in this game. Los Angeles puts out another championship caliber defensive performance to start 2-0.

San Fransisco 49ers (1-0) 6 @ Seattle Seahawks (0-1) 28: Russell Wilson was running for his life against the Packers. Seattle still hasn’t fixed their offensive line issues and it may spell doom for them this season. The defense is still elite but can only do so much. Although they may be in for a difficult season they won’t struggle against the 49ers. San Fransisco will be good in a few years but right now there isn’t enough talent in the locker room to do any damage. Seahawks will win this one, easily.

Sunday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Unknown)

Green Bay (1-0) 41 @ Atlanta Falcons (1-0) 38: A rematch of the NFC Championship game in which Atlanta ran Green Bay off the field. Green Bay’s secondary will be tested yet again in this game but will hold up better. Atlanta looked bad in Chicago and a hangover is lingering. Matt Ryan will put up a lot of points in this game but Aaron Rodgers will put up more. The Packers offense may need 40 to win but the opportunity for revenge will cause them to do so. Packers will upset Atlanta because Aaron Rodgers has a 350 yard, four touchdown game.

Monday Night

Detroit Lions (1-0) 31 @ New York Giants (0-1) 34: The Lions are still the comeback kids after last week’s comeback against the Arizona Cardinals. Matthew Stafford shook off the pick six to have a pretty stellar game. Detroit doesn’t have the defense to be a playoff team but Stafford will carry this team to a few unexpected wins. The Giants looked shell shocked against Dallas. There is no run game whatsoever. They should have drafted a running back from this amazing class but felt Paul Perkins was the answer. He is not. If they can’t run the ball they can’t open up the passing game. Odell should be back in action in this game and Eli Manning will be the happiest about it. Odell makes the difference and the Giants get in the win column, barely

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NFC eye test predictions: 4-1

The best of the best in the NFC.

4. Carolina Panthers

For some odd reason, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are good every other year. After going 7-9 in the 2012 season, the Panthers won the division and finished 12-4 in 2013. The following year, they managed to win the division, despite only winning seven games. In 2015, Newton’s MVP season, Carolina was one game away from a perfect regular season. Last year, due to a Super Bowl hangover, the Panthers won only six games. This means a big season is coming up for Carolina.

The Panthers brought in Matt Kalil, who will play alongside his brother, Ryan, a top notch center. Still, this offensive line is pretty poor, and is the main reason Cam Newton struggled last year.

NEW ERA (CBS Sports)

To take some pressure off Newton, Carolina beefed up the run game by drafting Christian McCaffrey with the eighth pick in this year’s draft. McCaffrey is pure grit, the people’s champ, the ultimate teammate. He must have been using an agility ladder right out the womb, and starting lifting since age six. McCaffrey looks to be an immediate impact in Carolina’s backfield, but don’t forget about Jonathan Stewart. The 30-year-old had over 800 yards, and nine touchdowns in 13 games during last year’s regular season.

Though not great, the receiving core could turn into something special. Obviously Greg Olsen is one of the best tight ends in the game, and Kelvin Benjamin, who looked way out of shape at the beginning of the offseason, looks to be just fine. Benjamin has been a consistent player who could take off and become a top 10 receiver. Let’s hope Devin Funchess can make a giant leap as he heads into his third season.

The experienced trio of Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson, and Mario Addison, should continue to get after the opponent on the ends. Kawann Short, who signed a new deal worth $80 million, is a monster at defensive tackle. Barring injury, this is a top 10 defensive line.

The linebacker combination of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson, is arguably the best linebacker core in the NFL. If Kuechly stays healthy, he is easily one of the top defensive players in the league.

When Josh Norman left after the Super Bowl season, the secondary took a major hit. Fortunately, James Bradberry and Daryl Worley now have some experience under their belt. Look for this pass defense to bounce back, after finishing 29th in passing yards allowed a season ago.

Cam Newton is good, and will not have two down seasons in a row. They added a serious playmaker in McCaffrey, and the young receivers continue to grow. The defense is extremely solid, and if they can figure out defending the pass, the Panthers will be a serious threat come postseason play. This is an 11-win team.

 

3. New York Giants 

The Giants will be playing in this year’s Super Bowl, but they won’t end up with the best record. In their last two Super Bowl victories, New York finished 9-7 and 10-6 during their respected regular seasons. Coming off an 11-win season a year ago, the New York Football Giants are back.

It’s hard to make a case for Eli being an elite quarterback, but he has lowered the turnovers and has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in the previous three seasons. The offensive line isn’t too good, which is why Eli forces throws, as well as why there is lack of success in the run game. Paul Perkins played well in his last preseason game, which is huge because if the Giants can run the ball, they could easily finish as the number one offense in the NFL.

Scary Trio (SNY)

Even if the running game is subpar, the Giants have the best targets in all of football. Odell Beckham Jr is the most talented player in the NFL, and Brandon Marshall can still do big things. New York desperately needs these guys to get to 100 percent, because of how much sauce and talent they bring. Second year WR Sterling Shepard looks to keep rolling after 8 touchdowns during his rookie year. The Giants selected Evan Engram with the 23rd overall pick in this year’s draft, and he is already a player to watch.

This is one scary defensive line. Jason Pierre Paul and Olivier Vernon both got paid, and deserved every penny. DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison not only has a legendary nickname, but is quite the player.

Not a lot of talent at linebacker, but the secondary is elite. Last year, Landon Collins finished third in defensive player of the year voting. Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie are all extremely skilled corners.

The offense will be scary good, and the defense is full of studs. The Giants will win the division with 11-12 wins, and playoff Eli will get them back to the Super Bowl.

 

2. Seattle Seahawks

Love or hate the rowdy, excessive gum chewing coach, Pete Carroll has changed the culture in Seattle. Did drafting Russell Wilson help with the success? You bet.

All he does is win. (Grantland.com)

Russell Wilson took over in 2012. The Seahawks have won double digit games each year since 2012. This guy is a winner. Even with their pathetic offensive line, Wilson is able to keep plays going with his elusiveness and super power arm.

After finishing 25th in rushing yards, the Seahawks brought in Eddie Lacy to help bolster the run game. Not really too sure what to expect from him, Thomas Rawls, or CJ Prosise.

Jimmy Graham is the most talented of these pass catchers, but Doug Baldwin is still Wilson’s favorite target. Jermaine Kearse looks like he might get traded, but Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson will both play big roles. To be honest, it seems like Seattle has a new hero every week at wide out.

The defense is still incredible. DE’s Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Frank Clark combined for 26.5 sacks last year. Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright are right up there with the best of them, when it comes to linebacker duos. And, The Legion of Boom, headlined by Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas, is still the best secondary in the land.

This team will continue to do win because that’s all Russell Wilson does. Judging by their schedule, this looks like a 12-win season and a first round bye for Seattle.

 

1. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is just too talented. It’s not even like this roster “wow’s” anyone. The fact that Rodgers is the quarterback is all that needs to be said.

After back to back 10-6 seasons, the Packers are in dire need for more success. Rodgers is, without question, one of the most talented quarterbacks ever. However, only one Super Bowl victory has his legacy at a standstill.

Will Rodgers and the Packers get back to the Super Bowl? (Sporting News)

Not a major run team, the Packers finished 29th in rushing attempts last year. No need to run that much when you have Aaron Rodgers, but Ty Montgomery showed he is very capable of moving the chains, after rushing for 5.9 yards per carry last year. Granted it was only 77 attempts, we don’t know how Montgomery will do as the number one, but Jamaal Williams, more of a pure running back, could slide in and have a major role. These backs should have good protection with Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari manning the edges.

The receiving core is among the best in the NFL. Jordy Nelson is arguably a top 5 receiver, and Davante Adams took a major leap in his third season, hauling in 12 touchdowns. Randall Cobb has slightly regressed, but is still a valid option. The tight end trio of Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, and Richard Rodgers, could cause serious matchup problems for defenses.

A decent defensive line, a below average linebacker core, and essentially no help at corner, the defense is a bit lackluster. However, no problem at safety, with Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Nick Perry, who is dealing with an ankle injury, recorded 11 sacks last year. So there is some talent on this side of the ball, but it’s hard to forget that this team allowed the second most passing yards, and the fourth most passing touchdowns, a season ago.

A monster regular season is coming for Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. 13-3 is very in reach. Lack of passing defense will deter this team from going to the Super Bowl, but the Packers should cruise in the regular season.

 

Featured image by SI.com

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Cam Newton facing fantasy criticism

Cam Newton fantasy football: Why the criticism?

Has the time come to consider Cam Newton a potential bust? That’s how many fantasy football writers have labeled Newton this offseason. In 2016 he did struggle after a season where he was MVP and went to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. But why is Cam Newton facing criticism in fantasy?

Why The criticism

Newton had one of the worst seasons of his career last season. He had career low numbers in completion percentage (52.9 percent) and yards per attempt (6.9), along with his third season of less than 20 passing touchdowns.

One year after posting 45 more fantasy points than any other player, Newton fell to 17th at the position. He posted just five top-10 fantasy weeks, and only three after Week 2. And he had Kelvin Benjamin back, along with Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn who was a deep threat machine for Newton.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Cam Newton (Photo by: pantherswire.usatoday.com)

But Newton isn’t known for his passing. The major factor of the criticism is running the football.

The concern of his dwindling rushing totals are real. He had career lows in attempts (90), yards (359) and touchdowns (five). The worst part is that his head coach doesn’t want him to run as much. That’s where Newton excelled.

Granted it’s smart to change the offense to protect their franchise quarterback from shoulder injuries and concussions. But if we’re to rely on Newton for fantasy, and if the Carolina Panthers don’t want to rely on him as much as a runner, then he’ll have to seriously improve as a passer.

The other concern is a torn rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder that he had repaired in March. With the coaching staff wanting him to throw the ball more, many are worried that he might do more damage.

Give Cam the Rock

The Panthers really need to reconsider decreasing Newton’s rushing attempts.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Newton (Photo by: si.com)

Throughout his first six seasons in the NFL, he’s totaled 3,566 rushing yards with 48 touchdowns. That’s insane for a quarterback. In fact, in three of Newton’s six years (2011, 2012 and 2015), the Carolina quarterback has topped 120 fantasy points on rushing alone.

In his best rushing season (2011 rookie year), Newton had 154.2 fantasy points on the ground. In short, he would have been the No. 21 running back. In his first five seasons, he never dipped below 539 yards on the ground.

Besides the numbers, look at the man himself. The man is a freak athlete. He’s 6 feet, 5 inches at 245 pounds. And he can run the football. There aren’t many quarterbacks like him, that big, that can run like him.

2017 Outlook

The ceiling is high for Newton. But what he is expected to do is risky.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Newton (Photo by: nydailynews.com)

As before, they want him to pass the ball more. But that’s not his game. I don’t see him improving as a passer. I think when they see the issue he will run the ball himself more.

But there’s other reasons to be optimistic of Newton. The Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey. His ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well as split out wide when needed is going to be a welcomed sight for Newton’s fantasy value.

He may not see a heavy workload while splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart, as he’s the perfect third-down running back for Newton. He still has Olsen and Benjamin along with rookie Curtis Samuel and Devin Funchess. Not the best receivers but he has options though he lost his favorite deep target in Ginn.

Final Verdict

With all the hate, I still believe in Newton. Though there are risks. I wouldn’t draft him as high only because of the situation of him throwing the ball more.

He’s been getting a round eight draft position. In that case, there’ll be an opportunity to already have a loaded fantasy roster and just need to add a quarterback like Newton who can help you win it all. Newton’s ability to take over games and do special things, this can be second to none in the NFL when he’s on.

 

Featured image from sportingnews.com.

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“From our Haus to Yours”

2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC South 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 NFC South division preview.

4: New Orleans Saints

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule:15

Oh when the Saints go marching in, they bring with them no defense. The Saints are hoping the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o will improve a defense that gave up 28.4 points per game last season. They also drafted defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve one of the league’s worst secondaries.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo credit: Matthew Hinton)

Although New Orleans has made an effort to improve their defense, it won’t become great overnight. Despite ranking 11th in fewest plays per game, the Saints ranked 14th in rushing and 31st in passing. Until this unit shows on-field improvement, there is no way the Saints can win the division or earn a wild card berth.

Offensively, the Saints are absolutely loaded. They have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. New Orleans has committed to Michael Thomas as the go-to guy on the outside in just his second season. Coby Fleener is more than a reliable tight end to compliment Thomas in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

The Saints are also blessed in the backfield with Mark Ingram, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This trio of running backs will give defensive coordinators nightmares.

New Orleans has a pretty easy schedule this season and the offensive side of the ball is going to be straight fireworks. As is the story every season with Saints, can the defense be good enough to help them win games? The answer is no. Every game will be a shootout and opposing defenses are going to make more game winning plays. The Saints will be competitive because of their offense, but the defense will be their downfall yet again.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 13

I am a firm believer in Super Bowl hangovers. Just look at how the Panthers’ season went last year after losing Super Bowl 50.

The Falcons’ players are saying all the right things about moving on and using the humiliating let down as motivation for this season but when push comes to shove that loss will be in the back of their mind. The first team to start coming back on them will bring out those painful memories.

Atlanta is also the defending NFC champions and they will get every team’s best shot. Their division is one of the toughest in the NFL and the Buccaneers and Panthers did a lot to improve.

Besides the hangover and their schedule, Atlanta has to prove they can play great defense for an entire season. The first half of last season was abysmal defensively. The Falcons finished the season ranked 27th in points, giving up 25.3 per game. Atlanta saw such a high volume of points scored in the fourth quarter. They ranked 31st in fourth quarter scoring giving up 9.9 points per fourth quarter. If that trend continues they will struggle to win games.

Offensively, the Falcons are loaded. Matt Ryan had a career year that led to him being named league MVP. It is unlikely that he has a second consecutive MVP caliber season as very few players have ever won back to back MVPs. Only four players have done so: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Ryan will have a slight drop off in production but not enough to warrant concern. The offense will put up plenty of points and still be electrifying but as mentioned earlier, they will be given the best shot from every team and it will cause them to come up short a few more times than most can expect.

Atlanta’s defense must improve and play to the ability they did in the second half of the season in order to get back to the postseason. Due to a massive Super Bowl hangover, an improved division all-around and a defense that will likely be mediocre, the Falcons come up short and miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 14

Tampa Bay had a solid season last year but missed the playoffs. This season they should take the next step and make the playoffs behind a very solid offense that has improved. The upgrades on offense include the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Both of which will turn this offense from good to great.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Buccaneers were led by their passing game, averaging 245.4 yards per game. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the league and the combination of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will cause defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans leaving Mike Evans with more one on one looks.

The running game only averaged 101 yards per game but Doug Martin only played eight games last season. Martin will start out the season suspended but is eligible to play in week four.

Once Martin returns the running game will start to get rolling, making it even easier for Jameis Winston to air it out. Everything will finally come together for the Bucs offense this season. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 Buccaneers finish with a top 10 offense.

Tampa Bay must become a better defensive team to truly take the step and make the playoffs. The Bucs ranked 22nd in both rush and pass defense giving up a total of 367.9 yards per game. Gerald McCoy will have a Chris Baker next to him to improve the rush defense but it will take more than just one new defensive tackle.

The Bucs should have a better pass defense because the defensive line will get tons of pressure from the trio of Robert Ayers, William Gholston and Noah Spence. Spence had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. With an entire year in the Bucs system, Spence could improve and show the ability he displayed at Ohio State.

In total, this defense gave up 25.3 points per game. If the Bucs can improve that but just four points the offense should easily score more than 21 points per game with all the talent they have.

Tampa Bay will have a balanced offense capable of big play ability. Their defense will also be improved and with an easy schedule, the Bucs should have a solid shot at a playoff berth.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1: Carolina Panthers

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 6-10

Strength of schedule: 16

Carolina had a Super Bowl hangover but this year they are locked and loaded. Cam Newton is determined to correct last seasons mistake and retake his MVP form. The front office also made quality moves to get this team back to the big game.

The Panthers added key playmakers in the draft to help Cam. Christian McCaffery has already put Panther defenders on skates based off of leaked practice videos. That includes Panthers defenders such as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Curtis Samuel, out of Ohio State, was also a key piece the Panthers picked up in the draft but has yet to practice due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Even without Samuel, Cam has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin back. With all these weapons and an upgraded offensive line, the Panthers can become one of the premier offenses in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are still as dangerous as ever. The front four have some studs at defensive tackle in Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short. Off the edge, the Panthers bring back Mario Addison and Charles Johnson. This front four is fierce and to beef it up, even more, Panthers legend Julius Peppers has returned to finish his career in Carolina.

The linebacking corp is arguably the best in all of football with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. This front seven is going to cause major havoc to opposing offenses.

The Panthers secondary is where their defense struggled last season. To improve this unit, the Panthers signed Mike Adams, a safety, who had 12 interceptions in his three seasons with the Colts. Carolina also brought back Captain Munnerlyn, who is one of the best nickel corners in the league. These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

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

 

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Cam Newton

NFL early season games to watch: Gut check games

As nice as it is to have NFL football back on our television sets, preseason games are often a tough watch. However, it is now more than fashionable to look ahead to the regular season.

Teams can change a lot over 16-plus weeks. Even so, early fall games frequently foreshadow the future. Here is a single game from each of the first four weeks of the season that will tell us a great deal about the teams involved.

Week 1: Bucs at Dolphins

Patriots/Chiefs, Seahawks/Packers and Giants/Cowboys will get all the opening week headlines. This battle of Florida teams is a solid undercard that should not be overlooked.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: zambio.com

The hype train has been rolling all offseason for Tampa Bay. With Jameis Winston only getting better, it is easy to see why. The charismatic signal caller has tossed 50 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

Also, new additions DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard should help free up top pass catcher Mike Evans. Toss in a young defense that had some really nice moments last year, and the end of a long playoff drought becomes realistic. Opening up against a playoff team from last season will serve as a nice measuring stick.

For Miami, the season hinges on the play of retiree-turned-knight in shining armor Jay Cutler who is back to play for his biggest supporter in head coach Adam Gase. If Cutler is healthy and motivated, he can still throw for over 3,500 yards like he did under the direction of Gase in Chicago.

However, if something is not right with the Cutler experiment, the Bucs are certainly good enough to exploit it and begin what will be a long year for the Dolphins.

Week 2: Cowboys at Broncos

Regardless of the outcome of Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, the Cowboys are in for a dogfight with the Giants in the opener. However, the rubber will really meet the road here. As long as all members of the “No Fly Zone” are around, the only way to move the ball on a consistent basis against Denver is on the ground.

The Broncos got pushed around at the point of attack in 2016, finishing 28th against the run. If Dallas cannot run the ball here, they will likely struggle in a big way in Elliott’s absence. Conversely, going up against what is widely regarded as the best offensive line in football will be a fantastic gauge of improvement (if any) against the run for Denver.

Week 3: Seahawks at Titans:

Much like Tampa Bay, there’s lots of talk about Tennessee ending a lengthy playoff drought this year after exceeding expectations in 2016.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: larrybrownsports.com

The Titans are a rarity in the modern NFL. They run the ball as much or more than they throw it. Games are rarely placed squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota does a great job fulfilling his role and taking care of the football. He put up 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions last year.

No team has mastered the physical brand of football that the Titans are trying to build a powerhouse with better than Seattle over the last half decade. Barring key injuries, Seattle will be in the mix again this year.

However, if the Titans want to sit at the big kid table of the NFL, this is their chance to prove they belong.

Week 4: Panthers at Patriots:

With the exception of Josh Norman departing, many of the main cogs for the Panthers are the same as they were when Carolina reached the Super Bowl just two years ago. However, a similar cast of characters also posted a losing record last year.

The Patriots are the gold standard in the NFL. That will likely remain the case as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around. While talk of them going undefeated is ridiculous, they will certainly be the toughest team in the league to beat.

Make no mistake that Cam Newton and the Panthers still have the talent to play with any opponent in any location. Their performance against the reigning Super Bowl champions will speak volumes about whether their true identity is the team that reached the Super Bowl, or the team that fell off a cliff last year.

 

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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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