2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

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 first installment, containing players 100-91.

100. Jordan Hicks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Jordan Hicks (Photo by philly.com)

Hicks only has two seasons in the NFL so far but has impressed. After gaining starting status for all of last season, he blossomed. He finished with 86 tackles, five interceptions, 11 passes defended, a fumble recovery and a sack.

The Eagles have made a commitment to improving their defense through the draft this season. They drafted Derek Barnett, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas with their first three picks. Philadelphia ranked 12th in the league as a scoring defense and should improve this year.

With other talented players like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, Hicks may not be the best player on his defense but should get even better as he progresses.

Comments: “Jordan Hicks is one of the best players under 25. Hicks can defend both the run and the pass. He even has a knack for creating turnovers. When we look back on the 2017-18 NFL season, it will look asinine that Hicks wasn’t in the top 50.” -Matthew Hagan

“Hicks is a purpose linebacker that can play inside or outside. He has the ability to drop in coverage and can also fight off blocks at the point of attack to stop the run. He may be the most underrated linebacker in football. The only thing that is holding Hicks from being a top-10 linebacker is injuries. If he can stay healthy, he should be higher on this list.” – Craig Stogdill

99. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Kawann Short (Photo by scout.com)

Players who are on the interior of the defensive line sometimes get overlooked, but Short is a great player and deserves his spot on this list. He went from 11 sacks in 2015 to 6 in 2016, but that still is good enough to have him tie for eighth in the league among defensive tackles.

Short will have to play under a new defensive coordinator in 2017, Steve Wilks. Wilks has been around the team as a secondary coach, so players should be able to be familiar with everything Wilks wants them to do. Carolina’s defense slipped in 2017, but they still have enough talent to be a good NFL defense.

While the defense did get worse last season, Short was the second-best player on the defense last year. He played all 16 games, which was something the best player on the defense didn’t do (this player will be seen later on in our rankings). Short is entering his prime and is in store for another big season.

Comments: Kawann Short is way too low on this list for my taste. His 11 sacks in 2015 to six sacks in 2016 drop off is not a big deal as an interior lineman. Short was third in quarterback hurries by a defensive tackle with 46 despite playing fewer snaps than the two players ranked higher than him. He is just as effective against the run as he is the pass. Short is just as important to the Panthers defense as Luke Kuechly and should be much higher than 99.” -Matthew Hagan

98. Janoris Jenkins, CB, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Janoris Jenkins (photo by giants.com)

Jenkins is a part of a defense that last season was second in the league in points allowed. He had his best season yet as a Giant and finished with three interceptions, 18 passes defended and a forced fumble. Although he doesn’t have a lot of interceptions he does a great job in coverage.

The Giants have better talent this season with Landon Collins going into his third season and Eli Apple entering his sophomore campaign. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had a good season last year, making their secondary one to watch. Dalvin Tomlinson was drafted to help an already good defensive line.

With all the talent on the Giants’ defense, Jenkins may not be the first name that comes to mind, but he will do his job effectively.

Comments: “After signing a massive free agent contract, critics believed he would have a down year in 2016. That was not the case. In fact, he had his best year in the NFL and proved he’s worthy to be a teams shutdown corner. He held quarterbacks to a passer rating of 65 on balls thrown his way and his completion percentage dropped from 61 percent to 50 percent on the potent Giants defense.”-Blake Van Poucke

“Jenkins is one of the best shutdown corners in the game. He plays his best game against the best receivers. He held Dez Bryant to a single catch in each meeting (Jenkins forced him to fumble on one of them) in 2016. Jenkins made his first Pro Bowl and I expect another one next season if he plays like last year. He is the best corner on his team he should be in front of DRC and Gilmore. “- Craig Stogdill

97. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Stephon Gilmore (Photo by cbssports.com)

The Patriots got another good corner when they signed Gilmore this offseason. Last year with the Bills, Gilmore had a career high in interceptions with five. He also added 12 passes defended and 48 total tackles.

Gilmore now bolsters the best scoring defense last year. He and Malcolm Butler are one of, if not the best corner tandems in the league. Look for Gilmore to be a reason the Patriots are one of the best defenses against the pass in 2017.

After winning the Super Bowl and acquiring players like Brandin Cooks and Gilmore, the Patriots don’t look like they will be slowing down any time soon.

Comments: Gilmore had a down year in terms of his man coverage, allowing 17.9 yards per pass thrown at him through the first nine weeks. He was slated to make a jump in 2016 to a top five cornerback. But, despite a few terrible games, he accounted for five interceptions in 2016 which is a career high. He will now play in a more sound defensive system with the Patriots and should return to a highly productive cornerback.”-Blake Van Poucke

96. Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Brandon Marshall (Photo by giants.com)

Full disclosure: Marshall had a bad 2016 season, but he was playing on the Jets. He only has three seasons of less than 1,000 receiving yards. Two years ago he had 1,502 receiving yards with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback. So, although he is aging, he should rebound for the Giants.

Marshall will be on an offense that should feature a good passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. will get his touches, but the rest of the receiving core, including Sterling Shepard, will have to fight for their touches. When Beckham Jr. is double-teamed, Marshall will be able to win his matchups and produce. Having Eli Manning throw the ball to him is a significant upgrade over what he has had for the last two seasons and most of his career.

If this list was based solely on how players were last year, Marshall wouldn’t be on this list. This season though, Marshall has a chance to reestablish himself and make a big impact for a playoff contender.

Comments: “Brandon Marshall should be nowhere close to being ranked on this list. Marshall made this list on reputation alone. Although he is getting a major improvement at quarterback, Marshall is going to be on an offense that features Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and rookie Evan Engram. These players are much younger and will take away receptions and yards from him. He will be more of a mentor than an actual threat. Marshall won’t even be a top 150 player this season.” -Matthew Hagan

 Even at 33, few have more natural talent than Marshall who had 109 catches just two years ago. Being around so much young talent and a real shot at a playoff run for the first time in his career will rejuvenate him in 2017.”- Dylan Streibig  

95. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Domique Roders-Cromartie (photo by sny.com)

Rodgers-Cromartie was already mentioned as being part of the good Giants’ defense. Last season he finished with six interceptions, 21 passes defended, one forced fumble and 49 total tackles.

Although Rodgers-Cromartie is now 30 years old, he showed last year that he isn’t wearing down. With Jenkins, Apple and him as their corners and Collins at safety, the Giants will be hard to throw on this season.

In 2017 Rodgers-Cromartie will be one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Comments: “Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the top corners in the NFL last season. Rodgers-Cromartie earned the second-best grade of his career last season from Pro Football Focus, and for good reason. His 16 total pass breakups last season were the fourth-most in the league, and he had the second-lowest QBR-against among corners last season at 56.6.” –Tim Miller

“DRC is a solid size corner at 6-2. He has a knack of being a ballhawk. He led his team in interceptions twice for the Giants. DRC helped improve the Giants when he moved to the inside to the slot. I wouldn’t put him in front of Gilmore or Jenkins.”- Craig Stogdill

94. Kelechi Osemele, OG, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Kelechi Osemele (photo by sfgate.com)

The Raiders had one of the best offensive lines in 2016 and Osemele was a huge reason why. Oakland ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and gave up the fewest sacks in the league, 18.

Derek Carr’s injury may have caused the Raiders’ season to end prematurely, but with him recovering well from his broken leg, Oakland can have a high-powered offense once again. Carr may get a lot of the love, and a lot of the money in his new deal, but their offense starts because of the offensive line.

Osemele will help lead the charge on a great offense for the 2017 season by continuing to clear way in the running game and protecting Carr.

Comments: “Offensive linemen rarely get the love or recognition they deserve. Osemele earned second-team all-pro from Pro Football Focus last season and was only edged out for the first team by Marshal Yanda. Last season he gave up zero sacks and that is good enough to deserve a much higher ranking.” -Matthew Hagan

“Quite possibly the biggest free agent signing of 2015 was Osemele moving to the Raiders. In his first season in Oakland, he was a force. He was one of the most productive interior lineman in football with his brutal punch and overwhelming physical style. He helped change the complexion of the Raiders offense and was a big reason for their 2016 success.”-Blake Van Poucke

93. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Michael Thomas (Photo by upi.com)

Thomas had such a good rookie season that the Saints felt comfortable enough to trade Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. After being the sixth receiver selected, Thomas built a great rapport with Drew Brees. He finished last year with 1,197 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

People have thought that Brees would be slowing down for the last few seasons, but he delivered yet another 5,000 yard passing season last year. Thomas will benefit from Brees’ continued production, especially now that he is the clear number one receiver.

With the other defenses in the NFC South giving up a lot of passing yards, all ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, Thomas will have every opportunity to have an even better season.

Comments: Michael Thomas was the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL last season. Thomas blew all other rookies out of the water in receptions (92 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 67) and receiving yards (981 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 653). Thomas dominated in every facet among rookie wideouts, but this list isn’t all about rookies.

“What makes Thomas special is that he’s already playing with an elite quarterback in Drew Brees in a pass-heavy offense. The Saints threw the ball on 63 percent of their plays last season, good for fourth-most in the league. Thomas has reportedly added ten pounds of muscle, and with his size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and explosiveness (20 tackles broken/avoided, ninth in NFL in 20-plus yard catches last season), expect Thomas to become an elite receiver in the NFL.” – Tim Miller

92. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Jameis Winston (Photo by nytimes.com)

Two straight 4,000 yard passing seasons have gotten Jameis Winston’s career off to a hot start. Winston had 4,090 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2016. He has gotten more accurate from season one to season two and will need to continue to do so.

While the stats are encouraging, Winston has also improved the Bucs win total from six to nine from his rookie season to last. Continuing to help improve the Bucs’ record will be a way to raise his stock around the league. He will have more help this season on the offensive side of the ball, as Tampa Bay signed Desean Jackson and drafted O.J. Howard.

Winston is the franchise quarterback for the Bucs and with the added help on offense, should be able to take his game to another level.

Comments: If this list was based on what Winston did last season, he would deserve this spot, but he should be ranked higher. This list is supposed to look ahead to 2017 and Winston will be better with all of the incoming help and his natural progression he has shown in his first two years. With weapons like Desean Jackson, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, Winston will be higher on this list come next year.”- Joe DiTullio

91. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Carlos Dunlap (Photo by bengals.com)

Dunlap had a good 2015 season with 13.5 sacks, but his production dipped to 8 sacks last year, which tied for 22nd in the NFL. He also added three forced fumbles and 49 combined tackles.

Last season Dunlap had help rushing the quarterback from Geno Atkins, but not much else. Michael Johnson, who started all 16 games at the other defensive end spot, finished with 3.5 sacks. The Bengals added Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson in the draft to help in this area, which will help take double teams away from Dunlap.

Production wasn’t great for Dunlap last season, but since he has been the starting defensive end for Cincinnati, he has never had fewer than 7.5 sacks in a season. Dunlap will be looking to up his sack total and be more productive in 2017.

Comments: “Dunlap has been one of the most consistent pieces on a Bengals’ defense that has been very good for the last six years. He is constantly in the quarterback’s face and even though his numbers dropped off a bit, he is still able to be a playmaker and change the game at any time. With the help of Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Andrew Billings and obviously Geno Atkins, this defensive line should have a great year and so should Dunlap.”- Robert Hanes

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

It’s on the Haus: Ezekiel Elliott in trouble, Carolina Panthers fire GM, NBA Summer League championship and Jeremy Lin’s comments

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program or come to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports happenings all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus. Today’s SEO focus keyword for your viewing pleasure: Ezekiel Elliott Carolina Panthers GM NBA Summer League Jeremy Lin

Last edition: Spurs win, Trail Blazers’ new logo, LaVar Ball talked again and Matt Harvey

Ezekiel Elliott was #Wildin at a club

Ezekiel Elliott Carolina Panthers GM nba summer league Jeremy Lin

Will Ezekiel Elliott be able to hurdle the NFL’s punishments? Well, it’s hard to say (Photo: ESPN.com).

Reports surfaced yesterday morning that Ezekiel Elliott was straight getting after it in a Dallas night club on Sunday night. A 30-year-old man was reportedly assaulted in the club and suffered severe enough injuries to earn him a trip to the hospital. Although the man could not identify who assaulted him, Elliott is suspected to be part of the incident.

No arrests were made in connection to the incident, but the NFL is looking into if Elliott deserves to be reprimanded.

Although we’re yet to see a report that Elliott was in fact part of the altercation, every news outlet is treating the situation like he was. Elliott is already under fire for a domestic violence incident that the NFL still hasn’t ruled on, and he’s also been spotted in a marijuana dispensery and had too much fun in New Orleans (Google it if you aren’t learned).

This new situation won’t bode well for the man who finished third in MVP voting and second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting last season. If I were a betting man (let the record show I am not), I’d put money on Elliott missing time in 2017.

But at least Dez Bryant, a standup citizen in his own right, came to bat for Elliott yesterday afternoon. Bryant became a proud keyboard warrior and lit up a troll on his Twitter account, causing the troll to delete the tweet that sparked the outburst from Bryant.

This is quite a hairy situation, and Elliott most likely will not come out unscathed.

NFL players React to carolina panthers firing gm dave gettleman

The Carolina Panthers fired former general manager Dave Gettleman on Monday morning, and no one knows why. Gettleman took Carolina to its first Super Bowl since 2004 just two seasons ago.

Former Panthers running back and current NFL free agent DeAngelo Williams crossed Carolina off his list of teams he wouldn’t play for next season thanks to the firing, per his personal Twitter account.

Steve Smith, who spent the first 13 of his 16 NFL seasons with the Panthers, shunned the organization for letting go Gettleman. Although Smith rallying around his former general manager is respectable, he needs to work on his Twitter game. Hashtagging your own name, Steve? Really? And fix your grammar while you’re at it.

Former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman used emojis to convey his message like any self-aware millennial would.


The overwhelming majority of keyboard warriors on Twitter were surprised that Gettleman had been let go, and even though the Panthers just went 6-10 last season, Carolina still reached the Super Bowl with a 15-1 record in 2015.

Adam Schefter expects Titans director of player personnel Ryan Cowden and Panthers director of personnel Don Gregory to be in the running for the now vacant position.

NBA Summer League Results

The NBA Summer League sucks. It causes people to overreact about rookies and scrubs who will never make an NBA roster for more than 10 days as fans vulture for any news they can during the offseason. The summer league is filled with lackluster play and lacks any noteworthy talent. You don’t believe me? Look at this tweet from a very handsome man:

However, it’s my job to report to you that the Los Angeles Lakers have the least scrubby of all the scrubs in the NBA Summer League. The Lakers won the summer league final last night, 110-98.

Good for Los Angeles, I guess. The majority of the players that played in last night’s final will never see NBA minutes that mean anything, so I really don’t care that Jayson Tatum lit up players that wouldn’t make my intramural basketball team during the summer league.

We’re reaching for news about Lonzo Ball’s freaking shoes, folks. Let’s put the summer league behind us and never ever look back.

Jeremy Lin to be drug tested today

Jeremy Lin and his Brooklyn Nets went 20-62 last season, good for dead last in the entire NBA. Clearly all that losing has gone to his head.

Ezekiel Elliott Carolina Panthers GM nba summer league Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin probably doesn’t know up from down after making asinine comments about the Nets yesterday (Photo: Charles Wenzelberg).

In an Instagram Live post yesterday (follow me on my new Insta account, btw), Lin declared his Nets would make the playoffs this season.

“We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else tells me,” Lin said according to Kyle Boone of CBS Sports.

Lin said himself and newly acquired D’Angelo Williams would do some “serious damage” in Brooklyn, and because of Lin’s claims, I’m gravely concerned for his mental health. Lin has played in 17 playoff games in his entire seven-year career, so his experience in getting past the regular season is about as much as Floyd Mayweather’s in quantum physics.

The Nets lost their leading scorer and best player in Brook Lopez in a trade to the Lakers, but have acquired the aforementioned Russell and DeMarre Carroll, among others. In short, there’s virtually no playoff-caliber talent on this roster. There’s no way the Nets make the playoffs this season, and Lin thinks he can blatantly lie in Taiwan and get away with it.

Lin may be off the hook for now, but he shouldn’t be surprised when the NBA asks him to urinate in a cup for his puzzled thoughts.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports and esports coverage. You should also follow Tim, as he’s gotten over 100 likes on a grand total of three different tweets, and sometimes offers lukewarm takes on things that don’t matter.

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the fifth edition, Super Bowl series: NFC South.

Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

(Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Falcons are going to have to bounce back from one of the worst Super Bowl collapses of all time. After finishing the season 11-5, the Falcons marched through the playoffs with ease. They beat the Seahawks by 16 and the Packers by 23 to earn the crown of NFC Champions.

Atlanta then blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. In order to win Super Bowl LII, the Falcons must avoid one of the worst hangovers ever.

The key to the Falcons’ success last season was their offense. Getting back to the Super Bowl will require their offense to repeat last year’s performance. The Falcons ranked first in all of the following categories: points per game (34.1), points per play (0.55), points per second quarter (11.1), points per third quarter (8.5) and points per first half (18.9).

The reason their offense was so great was due to balance in yardage. Atlanta ranked second in yards per game with 416.4. The Falcons were second in passing yards per game (298.9) and fifth in rushing yards per game (117.5). Atlanta only ran the ball 42 percent of the time and in order to return to the big game, the Falcons should get their play selection closer to 50-50.

Their two-headed monster in the backfield, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman, will continue to take pressure off of Matt Ryan. Julio Jones will also continue to dominate defensive backs. Offensively, the Falcons shouldn’t be too concerned and their defense is where this team will really need to pick it up to make a return to the Super Bowl.

Atlanta’s defense got off to a slow start last season and finished 27th in points allowed per game with 25.3. That improved to just 20.3 points allowed per game in their final three games which ranked 10th during that time. If the Falcons can duplicate that final stretch over the course of the entire season, then the Falcons could easily become the best team in the NFL.

Bringing down that 25.3 points per game total begins with being better in the fourth quarter. In the final period of games, the Falcons gave up an average of 9.9 points, which was 31st in the NFL.

It isn’t difficult to see why the Falcons were so bad defensively in the fourth quarter. They played an average of 66.8 snaps per game. That was fourth-most in the league. The biggest reason they were on the field for so many plays was that the Falcons struggled to get off the field on third down as they allowed teams to convert 42.2 percent of the time.

The Falcons defense must improve against the pass in order to fix all of these problems. Giving up 272.9 yards passing per game is not a formula for success.

In order to make it back to the Super Bowl, the Falcons defense must improve and become a middle of the pack defense. Signing Dontari Poe should provide some help up front. Their offense is so good that the defense doesn’t have to be anything more than average.

If the Falcons are able to duplicate last season’s offensive numbers and become an average defense, they will easily get back to the Super Bowl.

Getting back is one story, winning it is another. If the Falcons do make it back, they need better play calling. Being up 28-3 in a Super Bowl should guarantee a victory. Atlanta must learn from their previous mistakes and run the ball more. If they avoid the hangover and do this, the Falcons will redeem one of the worst choke jobs ever and win the franchise’s first-ever Lombardi Trophy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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

Tampa Bay was very close to making the playoffs last season, finishing 9-7. The Bucs were a middle of the pack team both offensively and defensively and if they want to take the next step to make the playoffs, they must improve on both sides.

Defensively, Tampa Bay struggled in both pass and run defense. They ranked 22nd in both categories giving up 117.2 rushing yards per game and 250.8 yards per game through the air. Tampa Bay acquired defensive tackle Chris Baker to help them up front alongside Gerald McCoy. Defensive end Noah Spence tallied 5.5 sacks as a rookie and with an expanded role, should provide more pressure off the edge this season.

To help the struggling secondary, the Bucs acquired safety, J.J. Wilcox. Vernon Hargraves will need to have a big second season in order for the Buccaneers to improve defensively as well.

The defense has made changes but they won’t likely make a huge improvement. They gave up 25.3 points per game last season with 12 points per game coming in the first half. The offense is going to need to be on the field often to help this defense bring down a number of points they gave up.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs have lots of room for growth. Tampa Bay averaged 22.1 points per game last season.

The strength of their offense was in the passing game. Tampa averaged 245.4 yards per game and Winston improved in a lot of areas. He improved his completion percentage by 2.5 percent, had 48 more yards and six more passing touchdowns. The addition of DeSean Jackson and drafting tight end O.J. Howard could allow Winston to make a bigger leap in his third season.

The running game must also improve on its 101 yards per game. In five seasons, Doug Martin has only played a full 16 game season twice. In both years, he ran for over 1,400 yards. With the growth of Winston and Martin staying healthy, the Buccaneers could become a top 10 offense in the NFL.

In order to make the playoffs and win Super Bowl LII, the offense needs to carry this team. They also need to start defending their home field. Since 2009, the Buccaneers are 21-42 at home and went 4-4 last season. Tampa has to win at least six games at home this season. If the Bucs defense can be average and the offense moves into the top 10, then the Buccaneers can win Super Bowl LII.

New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

The Saints went marching into free agency and got the best running back of this generation. New Orleans’ offense was one of the best in the NFL last season and they added Adrian Peterson. The Saints needed a lot of help on defense and did well to address that in free agency and the draft as well. They’ve set themselves up nicely for a run to the Super Bowl.

New Orleans has been held back by its defense over the past couple of seasons. Last year they were awful, giving up the second-most points at 28.4 per game. They struggled closing out halves giving up 11.3 points in the second quarter and 7.2 points in the fourth quarter per game.

What makes the Saints defense even worse is that despite only playing the 11th least amount of plays per game (63) they ranked 14th in rushing yards (101.6) and 31st in passing yards (273.8). New Orleans didn’t spend much time on the field defensively but got torched during that time.

Their biggest area of concern was getting off the field on third down. Opposing offenses converted 43 percent of their third downs against the Saints.

In order to get back to the Super Bowl, the Saints must improve in all areas defensively. New Orleans added linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o to provide this help. They also drafted cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Marcus Williams to deepen the secondary. These additions should go a long way in restoring the defense in New Orleans and get them back to the playoffs.

As mentioned earlier, the Saints had an unbelievable offense last season. They scored the second-most points in the NFL with 29.3 per game. The bulk of that scoring came in the second half. New Orleans averaged 15.2 points in the second half last season, ranking first in the NFL. The Saints were first in yards per game (426), first downs per game (24.7) and passing yards per game (317.1).

Trading Brandin Cooks was OK because of the stellar rookie season Michael Thomas had. The rookie had 92 receptions, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns emerging as Drew Brees’ favorite weapon. The addition of Ted Ginn will help replace Cooks but Brees has made a career of turning receivers into stars. The passing game will not suffer from the loss of Cooks.

The offense just needs to continue doing what they have been doing. They already help keep the defense off the field by holding the ball for an average of 31 minutes per game. The Saints offense also averaged 108.9 yards rushing last season. They can’t do much more to help the team win.

All of New Orleans’ hopes and dreams rest on the defense. Drew Brees and the rest of this offense have carried the team on their shoulders for far too long. If the defense can improve just a little bit, then the Saints can become Super Bowl contenders.

Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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

Cam Newton and the Panthers had a major Super Bowl hangover last season. They went from 15-1 to 6-10 and looked like a completely different team. With Cam Newton on your team, you always have a shot to make it to the Super Bowl again. It won’t take much for the Panthers to capture the magic they had in 2015.

The Panthers averaged 343.7 yards per game which were a 24-yard dropoff from 2015. They also went from rushing for 141.9 yards per game to 113.4 yards per game. In order for the Panthers to get to the Super Bowl, they must get back to the numbers they put up in 2015.

Carolina averaged 23.1 points per game and they were pretty consistent putting up points throughout the course of the game. The Panthers scored an average of 12 points in the first half and 11.1 points in the second half. They could improve on their scoring if they improve their third down conversion rate of 37 percent.

The Panthers must begin to run more like they did in 2015 in order to get back to the big game. They called a running play only 43 percent of the time. Along with this, the Panthers must cash out in the red zone. Carolina only scored on 59 percent of their red zone trips. Improving in these areas can turn the Panthers back into an elite team.

On the defensive side of the ball, it starts with the secondary. The Panthers ranked 28th in passing, giving up 268.2 yards per game. The defense also went from giving up 19.5 points per game in 2015 to 25.1 points per game last season. Part of the problem was the amount of time the Panthers spent of the field. Carolina ranked 22nd in plays with 64.7 per game. This caused them to give up the most fourth quarter points in the NFL last season at 10.7.

Stopping the pass and giving up fewer points will go a long way in making the Panthers Super Bowl contenders again. Offensively, the addition of Matt Kalil, Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel will help Cam Newton become an MVP candidate once again. If the Panthers mirror the team they were in 2015, then not only will they get back to the Super Bowl, but this time they will win it.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC South. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

The tight end position is known for big targets that can create space and are touchdown machines in the red zone. Tight ends can sometimes be nerve racking because there aren’t many that are elite. When its draft time it’s all about patience especially for tight ends as you don’t want to reach too high or wait to long for your starting TE.

Here are the top-5 fantasy tight ends you should consider for your fantasy team in 2017.

No.5 Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

To start, my number five tight end is Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2016 he was the most heavily targeted tight end in the league. This was due in part to Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in early November. Tight ends have accounted for a 24 percent target share during Shurmur’s 122 games as a head coach or coordinator since 2009 according to ESPN.

In 2016, Rudolph  paced all tight ends with 128 targets and ranked in the top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). In the past, Rudolph would average around three receptions and 27.8 yards per game, basically becoming a touchdown-or-bust tight end. Rudolph flipped the switch in 2016 and put up 5.2 grabs and 52.5 yards per game. This helped him finish second at the position in fantasy points, his best ranking since he landed 11th in 2012.

In 2017, Rudolph should continue to be a featured option in the Viking offense as Shurmur is still around. He’s not a top-tier option but he’s much better than the tight ends you’ll find at the end of your draft.

No.4 Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed has proven to be a valuable target in Washington. In 2016 he ranked in the top 10 tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite only playing 12 games.

Reed has posted a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons in the past two seasons. In 2015, he had his best season to date with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, which allowed him to finish as the No. 3 fantasy tight end in standard leagues. In 2016 he still produced at a high level with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns but finished as just the No. 8 tight end in standard formats. An impressive stat is that Reed has caught at least three-quarters of his targets during each of his four NFL seasons. That’s scary good.

The one issue with Reed is injuries. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his career. Last year he missed two games with a shoulder injury and one with a concussion. But these injuries haven’t prevented Reed’s numbers to drastically decline. However in 2017 he should become the number one option in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both moving on.

No.3 Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

My number three tight end is Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. He may not be the flashiest player, but without a doubt he’s the most consistent tight end in the NFL.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Greg Olsen (Photo by: nj.com)

Olsen finished third in fantasy points and in the top-seven at the position in targets, completions and receiving yards each of the past five years. In 2016 he had seven games with eight-plus fantasy points. He did, however, only have three touchdowns, his fewest since 2007. Olsen is still the main piece in the Panthers passing game especially in the red zone . He had another 1,000 yard season for the third year in a row and maintains consistency in targets and receptions.

The thing that Olsen excels in is durability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He is always a reliable TE1 and expect him to bounce back in touchdowns and being consistent.

No.2 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by: washingtontimes.com)

I know I will have some hate mail, but if it weren’t for injuries Gronkowski would be my number one tight end. The three-time top fantasy tight end has missed at least one game during each of the past five years and a total of 24 during that span. However, outside of fantasy he is the best tight end in the NFL and always a top two in fantasy.

In 2016 he appeared in eight games and finished with 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on 38 targets. He still finished as the No. 20 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues which goes to show how good he is. From weeks 6-10 he was the top fantasy tight end in fantasy points. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games. In fact he has double digit touchdowns in all but two seasons of his seven year career and they were due to injuries.

Again, people will not agree with this ranking but I fear Gronkowski will again have injury issues. He hasn’t seen a full 16 games since his first two seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he only missed a total of two games and had top fantasy seasons. We hope he plays at least 13 games because when he’s healthy he’s easily the best fantasy tight end in any format. If he can do that he will be the Gronkowski that we can rely on. I do expect him to be ready and also to be the first tight end off the board in Rounds 2 or 3.

No.1 Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone might question this but I’m going with Travis Kelce as my number one tight end for fantasy in 2017. The first thing is why is he in front of Gronkowski? . Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Kelce has played in 16 games three of his four seasons and has started 42 of his 49 career games.

But other then durability Kelce had a breakout 2016 season. He led almost every category at the tight end position including yards, yards per game, catches for 20 and 40 plus yards, and had the longest catch among tight ends. The Chiefs tight end was also second in receptions. Kelce finished as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns on 117 targets. Another interesting stat about Kelce is that he was second among receivers with 100 plus yard games behind only Julio Jones with six. He had a span where he had four 100 plus yards game towards the time of the fantasy playoffs.

Kelce if anything he should see an increase in usage this year with the release of Jeremy Maclin.  Even though he will be picked as the second tight end behind Gronk, Kelce is a good option and is valuable in both standard and PPR leagues. Look for him around the 4th to 5th round to be off the board as he has become a top tier tight end in fantasy.

 

Featured image from arrowheadaddict.com.

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Super Bowl series: NFC North

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC North

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the third edition, Super Bowl Series: NFC North.

Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Green Bay was awfully close to winning the Super Bowl last season but lost in the NFC Championship game. Atlanta completely dominated the game and won 44-21. The Packers offense is good enough to propel the team to consistent runs at the Super Bowl but if the Packers want to recapture the magic of 2011, the defense must improve.

Calling the Packers offense good is somewhat of an understatement. Green Bay was fourth is scoring last season averaging 27 points per game. The Packers offense scored a lot of points but was very one-dimensional. The passing attack ranked seventh (262.4 yards per game) and the running game ranked 20th (106.3 yards per game). Packer fans can thank Aaron Rodgers for how much he has carried this franchise.

Rodgers has been historically amazing. He has the best touchdown to interception ratio of all time at 4.12. The next closest is Tom Brady with 3.0. He also had 4,428 yards, 40 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season.

If the Packers want to win Super Bowl LII, Aaron Rodgers must continue to put up these gaudy numbers. The impressive stats include 4,000 or more yards in six of the past nine seasons, 30 or more touchdowns in six of the last eight seasons and a career record of 90-45. If you take out 2013 in which Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken collarbone, it looks even more magnificent.

There is consistent evidence that the passing attack in Green Bay will flourish and the Packers added tight end Martellus Bennett to help Rodgers even more. Last season Green Bay’s tight ends combined for 64 receptions, 683 yards and three touchdowns.

Bennett had 55 receptions, 701 yards and seven touchdowns with the Patriots, and that was while sharing time with Rob Gronkowski. Bennett is a major upgrade that can help the Packers in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

Improving the running game will also be key in the Packers winning Super Bowl LII. Green Bay was ranked 20th, as mentioned earlier, and they lost two starting offensive lineman from last season, TJ.. Lang and JC Tretter. Losing Lang may not be as a big of a blow as most would think. The Packers struggled running to the right and ranked 25th in the NFL with 18 negative run plays to his side.

Green Bay also drafted running back Jamaal Williams out of BYU. Williams had a quietly outstanding senior season, rushing for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 234 carries. If the right side of the line improves at run blocking and Jamaal Williams can make an immediate impact, then the offense can become unpredictable and lead the Packers to a Super Bowl victory.

The Packers offense can’t do it completely alone. Green Bay was really good at stopping the run and getting sacks last season. The run defense ranked eighth, allowing 91.7 yards per game and sixth in sacks with 40.

Green Bay’s ability to stop the run is a bit deceiving though. Opposing teams only ran the ball 39.7 percent of the time on Green Bay because it was so easy to pass on them. The Packers ranked 31st in pass defense giving up 269.2 yards per game. This must improve if the Packers want to get to the Super Bowl.

Let’s face it, with Aaron Rodgers on your team a Super Bowl is always within reach. If Green Bay can have an unpredictable offense and improve its pass defense, then the Packers can get over the hump and win Super Bowl LII.

Detroit Lions

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Detroit had what most would say was a surprising season last year. They finished 9-7 but had they beat Green Bay in week 17, then the Lions would have won the division.

The Lions got bounced out of the playoffs by Seattle 26-6. Matthew Stafford has yet to win a playoff game in his career but there is a small possibility they could win their first ever Super Bowl this season.

The Detroit defense was nothing spectacular but not horrible either last season. They ranked 13th in points allowed per game (22.4), 19th in passing yards allowed per game (269.2) and 18th in rushing yards allowed (106.3). If the Lions want to contend for a Super Bowl title, they must win the division and earn home playoff games.

Accomplishing a division title means beating Green Bay and shutting down Aaron Rodgers. Detroit needs to become a top-five pass defense and improve on their 10 interceptions from last season in order to become the kings of the North. Creating turnovers will make it easier for Matthew Stafford and the offense. Detroit should embrace bringing back the pain of the black and blue division.

Offensively, the Lions struggled to finish with points. They had the 11th ranked passing attack with 259.9 yards per game but ranked 20th in points scored per game (21.6). Stafford threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns but it wasn’t enough scoring. The running game held the team back averaging 81.9 yards per game, which was third-worst in the NFL.

Similar to Green Bay, Detroit needs to stop being one-dimensional. The additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang should provide some assistance to the running game but Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick must also step up. If these two backs can combine for a minimum of 1,500 yards, there is a good chance the Lions will be good enough to win the division.

With the 18th-easiest strength of schedule heading into the season, the Lions can steal a few wins on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford. If they want to really become Super Bowl contenders, they must stop the pass and create more turnovers. Along with improving defensively, the Lions need to run their way to a division title.

Minnesota Vikings

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Minnesota was looking like a serious Super Bowl contender through five games last season. The Vikings started 5-0 before the wheels eventually flew off. Minnesota then went 3-8 to stumble to an 8-8 record. Interestingly enough, the Vikings are much closer to winning a Super Bowl than most would care to admit.

The Vikings are a true defensive beast in the black and blue division behind defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. Despite having a historically bad offense, the Vikings defense still had an impressive 2016-17 campaign.

Minnesota ranked sixth in points allowed per game (19.2), third in pass yards allowed (207.9), fifth in sacks (41) and third in total yards allowed despite ranking 20th in rush defense (106.9).

There isn’t much the Vikings need to improve on defensively. Replacing nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn is the biggest concern. Mike Zimmer has a long history of success with secondaries, so Vikes fans need not to worry on who Zimmer chooses. The Vikings could improve their run defense as well, but most of the issues come from defensive tackles like Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joesph dealing with on and off injuries.

The offensive side of the ball is where the Vikings need to step up. The offensive line was one of the most injured in the NFL and the Vikings lost both Matt Kalil and Andre Smith in free agency. Minnesota signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to compensate for those losses. The running game was the worst in the NFL at 75.3 yards per game. The Vikings didn’t have a single run go for over 40 yards.

Minnesota wasn’t that great passing the ball either. The Vikings ranked 18th with 239.8 passing yards per game. Due to the bad offensive production, the Vikings struggled to put up points averaging just 20.4 per game.

Not everything about the Vikings offense was miserable. There was flashes of greatness last season. Sam Bradford broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a single season by completing 71.6 percent of his passes.

The offense also improved after Norv Turner resigned midseason. Before Turner resigned as offensive coordinator, the Vikings were averaging 221.4 passing yards and 71.8 rushing yards per game. In the nine games with Pat Shurmur in charge of the offense, the Vikings averaged 254 passing yards and 78 rushing yards per game. Shurmur knows how to play to Sam Bradford’s strength and that bodes well for the Vikings moving forward.

Minnesota already has a championship-caliber defense. The defense can carry them to a lot of victories but to get to a Super Bowl the Vikings must improve their offense in all phases. If the Vikings can break the top 15 in both rushing and passing, along with staying healthy, then not only can the Vikings win their first Super Bowl, but they can win it in their home stadium.

Chicago Bears

Super Bowl series: NFC North

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

The 2016-17 Chicago Bears lost 13 games for the first time since 1969 when they went 1-13. It was a nightmare year in which the Bears were ravaged by injuries. Chicago placed 19 players on injured reserve which was the most in the NFL.

The Bears also were 1-7 in games decided by seven points or less. The 3-13 record didn’t truly reflect the team’s talent.

John Fox is ready to take the Bears to the next level. In his second season with Carolina, he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. In his third season with Denver, he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. As he enters his third season with the Bears, he could do the same.

The Bears can’t win a Super Bowl behind Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky. They can, however, win a Super Bowl behind their defense and running game. With an entirely new roster of quarterbacks, it will be hard to predict how good the Bears offense can be.

The running game should be their bread and butter. Jordan Howard ran for 1,313 yards on 252 carries in just 12 starts as a rookie. The Bears are projected to have the fifth-best offensive line this season according to Pro Football Focus. If it pans out, the Bears will be able to run the ball with success thus taking the pressure off whoever ends up playing under center.

The passing game will remain a mystery. Mike Glennon has only started 18 games in his three-year career and has a record of 5-13 in those games. Rookie quarterback and second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky is likely to see some action this season as well.

The receiving corp is full of potential with Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Kendell Wright. It is unlikely all of them make the roster but aside from Kevin White, all have shown optimistic flashes of skill throughout their career.

If the Bears want to win Super Bowl LII, it is going to be because of their defense. Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Leonard Floyd will create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. The secondary should improve with the additions of Quinton Demps and Prince Amukamara. Amukamara loves to play aggressively and in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense he will be able to.

It is going to take a lot for the Bears to make the Super Bowl. The chances are small but there is always a chance. Chicago’s defense needs to become a Monsters of the Midway defense again for them to get there. They also need Jordan Howard to improve his performance from last season. Lastly, Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky need to be spectacular. If the Bears can do all of this, they can win Super Bowl LII.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC North. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC East

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Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/2016/09/10/2016-nfl-predictions-nfc-north/

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the second edition, Super Bowl Series: AFC East.

New England Patriots

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The defending Super Bowl champions are the easiest team in the NFL to dissect during the Super Bowl series. If you had to bet your life on a team winning the division then your safest bet would be the Patriots. Since 2000, the Patriots have won 14 out of the 17 division titles, including eight straight. New England’s dominance within the division shouldn’t change this season.

The old adage says defense wins championships. Defensively, the Patriots are going to be stacked. Last season, the Patriots ranked first in points allowed per game at 15.6. They were also eighth in yards allowed per game (326.4) and ranked seventh in opponents third down conversion percentage (37 percent). The Patriots also added defensive end Kony Ealy and cornerback Stephon Gilmore to improve.

To win Super Bowl LII, New England must put up defensive numbers in the same ballpark as last seasons. If the Patriots allow under 20 points per game, the chances of making it back to the Super Bowl increase exponentially.

One area of concern from the Patriots’ offense comes from the offensive line. Pro Football Focus recently released its projected 2017 offensive line rankings in which New England was surprisingly ranked 19th. Tom Brady can make up for a poor offensive line with his quick release which averages between 2.1 to 2.5 seconds.

The Patriots will improve as they get Rob Gronkowski back from injury. New England also traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks who will help stretch the field vertically.

The only thing stopping the Patriots from winning Super Bowl LII is injuries to key players, and even then, Bill Belichick could still pull a rabbit out of his hat and win the big game.

Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Miami was a surprise playoff team last year, especially after its 1-4 start. The Dolphins finished the season with a 10-6 record to earn a wild card berth. They lost that wild card game in Pittsburgh, 30-12.

In order to win the Super Bowl, the Dolphins must improve vastly on defense. Miami ranked 18th in points allowed per game (23.8), 15th in passing yards allowed per game (242.2), 19th in sacks (33) and 30th in rushing yards allowing 140.4 yards per game.

Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips must stuff the run this season to help Miami improve their rush defense.

Rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillian was a tackling machine at Ohio State, racking up 275 total tackles in three years and his immediate impact should help the Dolphins stop the run better in 2017.

On the offensive side of the ball, Miami must continue to dominate up front. The Dolphins ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 114 yards per game. Miami needs to stay in the top 10 in rushing to help Ryan Tannehill succeed in the passing game.

Running the ball consistently will help Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense improve their 26th-ranked passing attack. If the Dolphins can progress their passing game to a similar level of their running game, then the offense can average more than 22.7 points per game which ranked 17th last season.

Miami must improve its rushing defense, passing offense and upset New England in the regular season to earn some home playoff games. If the Dolphins are able to do this then they will have a shot at hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy.

Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo is starting off fresh with new head coach Sean McDermott. McDermott will emphasize defense with the Bills and that could turn them into contenders very quickly. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and taking the leap from 7-9 to Super Bowl champs is going to be difficult.

Last season, the Bills were the best rushing team in the NFL averaging 164.4 yards per game. Staying first in rushing will be the first step towards making the playoffs. Buffalo did not have trouble scoring points either as they averaged 24.9 points per game which was 10th best in the NFL.

The major area that needs improvement on offense is in the passing game. Buffalo only threw for 189.8 yards per game last season. In this era of football, passing for less than 200 yards is somewhat pitiful. Buffalo needs to jump that number up past 230 yards or more to become a dangerous offensive juggernaut.

Defensively, Buffalo was average last season. The Bills gave up 23.6 points per game which ranked 16th. Buffalo should try to become a top-10 scoring defense to improve its chances of making the playoffs. The secondary was the best unit on defense as they only gave up 223.9 yards passing per game.

The rush defense was a different story. Buffalo ranked 29th, giving up 133.1 yards per game. If Buffalo’s rush defense can move into the middle of the pack, then its defense can really become great.

For the Buffalo Bills to end their long playoff drought and win the Super Bowl, they must improve their passing attack on offense and stop the run on defense. Also, just like Miami, the Bills must split with the Patriots. Splitting with New England gives the Bills a shot at winning the division and home games in the playoffs make all the difference.

New York Jets

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Jets are going to need a miracle to win Super Bowl LII. Coming off a 5-11 season, the Jets seemed to have gotten worse with the moves they have made. New York let go of Eric Decker, David Harris, Marcus Gilchrist, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Folk and Nick Mangold. The roster is going to look completely different from last year.

Making the playoffs is going to be hard and winning the Super Bowl is going to be close to impossible. If the Jets are going to win the Super Bowl, then Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg are going to have to have an unbelievable year. The Jets ranked 27th in passing yards per game with 216.6. Whoever earns the starting job at quarterback will need to take a big leap to improve this number.

New York ranked 30th in points scored last season, averaging only 17.2 points per game. That must also improve drastically. The Jets did have a solid running game averaging 112.6 yards per game last year. Matt Forte is getting old for a running back but Bilal Powell will spell Forte enough that the Jets can continue to be a solid running team.

Head coach Todd Bowles is known for his defense but last season the Jets had no defense. They ranked 28th in points (25.6), 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Bowles must turn the Jets into a top five defense if the Jets want to win games this season.

The most important thing the Jets must do is find their starting quarterback. Improving the passing game and putting more points on the board is key in the Jets pursuit of a Super Bowl. If they manage to do this along with becoming a top five defense under Bowles, then the Jets can win Super Bowl LII.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: AFC East. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC North

 

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Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 50-41

Probably the most coveted position in fantasy football, we are in the era of the running back. If you had players like Le’veon Bell, David Johnson, or Ezekiel Elliot on your team last year, you were probably in the playoffs and maybe even won your championship. These rankings can help you win your league and avoid some bad choices in your draft. Here are the Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 50-41.

50. Robert Kelley (Washington Redskins)- 

Questions come into training camp, as to whether or not Kelley can remain the lead back in Washington. Last season he averaged 4.2 yards per attempt while he rushed for 704 yards and six touchdowns. It is known that Washington will go with a running back by committee approach, and there’s a lot of running backs in Washington gunning for those touches. I’d stay away from Kelley until the later rounds of drafts.

49. Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals)

For the past couple of years, Jeremy Hill has always been the guy who’s supposed to have a great year. After his breakout season in 2014 with 1,124 yards and 9 touchdowns, he hasn’t been the same.

http://rotoviz.com/2016/03/jeremy-hill-fantasy-3/?hvid=57gwhW

The touchdowns have been there (11 in 2015 and 9 last season) but he hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rushing season since. With the addition of Joe Mixon, Giovanni Bernard coming back and the depleted offensive line, I would avoid Jeremy Hill in drafts this year.

48. Latavius Murray (Minnesota Vikings)

Before the draft, Latavius Murray joined the Minnesota Vikings and I was intrigued. Once Dalvin Cook was drafted, Murray’s stocked dropped and Cook became the front runner to start for the Vikings.

He hit the injury bug a little bit last year when he missed two games but he still recorded 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He split carries last year behind a great offensive line and now he’ll be splitting carries behind a worse offensive line. Murray is a good RB3 but nothing more.

47. Derrick Henry (Tennesse Titans)

I really like Derrick Henry this year. In the last 5 games of the season, Henry ran for more than 40 yards 3 times on minimal carries. His workload will increase this year and given Demarco Murray’s injury history, I’d stash Henry on your bench and wait it out.

http://titansized.com/2017/03/21/derrick-henry-needs-a-new-role-in-the-tennessee-titans-offense/

46. Samaje Perine (Washington Redskins)

I absolutely love Perine this year. After rushing for over 1700 yards and 21 touchdowns at Oklahoma this past season, the Washington Redskins drafted Perine with the 114th overall pick.

After running a 4.65 40 yard dash, scouts saw that he was a tough runner who could handle a big workload, which just may happen for him in Washington. The Redskins are trying to deal Matt Jones, and will use a Running back by committee, but Perine is that running back to own.

45. Jacquizz Rodgers (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Rodgers in an interesting fantasy candidate this year. Doug Martin is suspended four games and Charles Sims coming off of a torn pectoral. Rodgers will be the lead back for the start of the season. When Rodgers got at least 15 carries a game last season, he always got more than 60 yards. I would draft Rodgers for the first four games while Martin is suspended and then keep him on your bench for the rest of the season.

44. Wendall Smallwood (Philadelphia Eagles)

Smallwood reminds me a lot of his teammate Darren Sproles. Last year Sproles had a career resurgence but I think this year Smallwood will fill his shoes. After averaging 4.05 yards a carry as the 3rd running back theres no reason why he shouldn’t be able to do that in a bigger workload as the consistent third town back. He won’t get you many touchdowns but the yards will be there.

43. LaGarrette Blount (Philadelphia Eagles)

Back to back Eagles running backs, just this time I’m talking about the workhorse back. After winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, Blount rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns. The free agent market for the aging running back was slim but i think the powerful runner still has something left in the tank. The Eagles ran the ball on 40% of their plays last season without a feature back. Now Doug Pederson has his running back and good things will come from it.

Legarrette Blount racked up 69 yards rushing and three touchdowns in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

42. Terrence West (Baltimore Ravens)

After a nice year with the Ravens, rushing for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns, West should have a bit of a fall in 2017. With the addition of Danny Woodhead and the emergence of Kenneth Dixon, I don’t see West being anything special this season. Dixon is suspended however so West could be good for four games but after that I wouldn’t keep West on your team.

41. Matt Forte (New York Jets)

Running backs may be the only good thing that the New York Jets have on they team anymore. Forte and Bilal Powel provide a strong one-two punch but in this case, Forte is the worse choice of the two. A former first round pick in fantasy football, Forte is still a good running back, but with his age and his injury history (hasn’t played a full season since 2014), I’d stay away from him this year.

 

 

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Dak Prescott

NFL quarterbacks under the most pressure in 2017

In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that quarterback is the most important position in NFL football. While the goal of leading the team to wins is the same for all 32 starters in the league, the circumstances and context under which they play are all very different. Here are some NFL quarterbacks under pressure to produce heading into the 2017 season.

Andy Dalton– Dalton’s impact on the Bengals franchise has been largely positive. Last year, he and the Bengals missed the playoffs for the first time in Dalton’s still relatively young career. He has thrown almost twice as many touchdowns as interceptions.

However, the reality is until he delivers this franchise a long-awaited playoff win, he will show up on any list like this. There is one additional detail that complicates Dalton’s situation for the upcoming season. Backup quarterback A.J. McCarron’s contract situation is murky, but he may be available via free agency after the 2017 season.

NFL quarterbacks under pressure

Photo: cincyjungle.com

The former Alabama signal caller has proven to be very capable when filling in for Dalton. He got closer than Dalton ever did to a playoff win two years ago against the Steelers. Several quarterback-needy teams would be interested should he become available.

As a native Cincinnatian, I can tell you that the Bengals’ resistance to making coach and player changes is the subject of a lot of comedy around town.

Even so, should Dalton and the team struggle again like they did last year, the threat of McCarron leaving may force Cincinnati into choosing one of the two quarterbacks. If Cincinnati gets off to a rough start, the coaching staff taking an extended look at McCarron as the starter is not unrealistic.

Jared Goff- You can pick whatever metric you want. The fact is Goff was flat-out atrocious when finally given the chance to start during his rookie season. While it is very true he did not have much talent around him, a completion percentage of under 55 and more interceptions than touchdowns speaks for itself.

NFL quarterbacks under pressure

Photo: turfshowtimes.com

In some cases, those numbers for a rookie quarterback on a bad team might not be too worrisome. However, virtually the entire front office and coaching regime that traded up to pick Goff first overall has been fired.

The new management has no attachment to Goff and is well aware that the Rams must show significant improvement in their second year back in Los Angeles. The franchise is struggling to become relevant again in the crowded Los Angeles sports scene.

With Wade Phillips now coordinating what was already a playoff-caliber defense, Goff must step up to the plate and at least be a serviceable quarterback this year.

Life is not always fair in the NFL. If Goff does not improve dramatically this year, he is likely headed down the path of guys like David Carr and JaMarcus Russell.

Goff still does not have much to work with on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Todd Gurley was neutralized last year because the Rams had no passing offense to speak of. The addition of young offensive guru Sean McVay as head coach is a wildcard. It will be up to him to turn this offense into something that looks like it belongs on an NFL field. It all starts and ends with Goff, one way or the other.

Cam Newton– Is he the MVP that ran rough shot over the league until running into the 2015 Broncos in Super Bowl 50? Or is he the inaccurate turnover machine that became a bit of a problem child late last season? 2017 is a big swing year for Cam Newton.

NFL quarterbacks under pressure

Photo: charlottestories.com

It should be noted that Newton had surgery to repair a partial rotator cuff tear following last season. Only he knows how much that affected him, but it certainly could not have helped matters.

The versatility of rookie running back Christian McCaffrey should be a big help to the charismatic signal caller. Improvement in the secondary will also be key to the Panthers ability to bounce back from last year’s hugely disappointing six-win campaign.

Much like every other quarterback on this list though, Newton will get all the credit or all blame. That is just the way it works in the NFL today.

Dak Prescott– Prescott was the inspiration for this article. The pressure on him for 2017 almost cannot be put into words. He is now the unquestioned starter for one of the most recognizable franchises in sports. His spectacular rookie season is perhaps the single biggest reason why borderline Hall of Famer Tony Romo is now a broadcaster.

We know the Ezekiel Elliott led running game and offensive line are fantastic, but Prescott in year two is a massive question mark. From Robert Griffin III to the option and wildcat offenses, we have seen so many things set the league on fire one year only to fade away the next. The defensive coaches in this league usually adapt over time.

Only time will tell if Prescott is different. For me, it is the most fascinating story of the upcoming season. There are two other factors to keep in mind for Prescott and the Cowboys. First, because of winning the division they will play a much tougher schedule than last year. Also, even in a year where he could seemingly do no wrong, Prescott was unable to get the Cowboys any closer to a Super Bowl than Romo ever did.

 

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The NFL's Hardwood Roster

The NFL’s Hardwood Roster

The NFL offseason is a difficult time for the fans. Once June starts people can feel the season inching closer and closer to the point where they can’t take it anymore. The fans just need some football and that is where we are at currently. Thankfully, the NBA Finals have been keeping our attention with a clash of titans in the Finals. There is still a need and want for football to be here. Many players in the NFL have played basketball before so naturally, the thought arose as to what players in the NFL would make up the best basketball team? The NFL doesn’t have many players taller than 6-foot-6 so this lineup will be the best possible considering it may be a small ball lineup. Hagan’s Haus has your answer on which players would make up the NFL’s hardwood roster.

Point Guard

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

(Photo Credit:http://www.chronicle.pitt.edu)

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers, 5′ 10″ 181 LBS: 

A point guard has to be quick and athletic. He also has to be capable of leading a team. Antonio Brown seems to be the best match to be the point guard of the NFL’s basketball team.

Antonio Brown has so much speed and explosion he would be able to attack the rim with ease. Brown had a 40-yard dash of 4.47 seconds. With that speed, it would be hard for opposing point guards to slow him down.

Brown also has a vertical jump of 33.5 inches giving him the ability to not only get the rim but finish at the rim as well. Antonio Brown would be a perfect point guard for the NFL’s basketball team.

 

Backup: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants, 5′ 11″ 198 LBS:

Odell is very similar to Antonio Brown. He is quick, fast, athletic and can jump out of the gym. There are videos of him doing some pretty sick dunks on YouTube.

O.B.J. has shown issues with maturity and handling his emotions so he may not be the best of leaders. Most point guards are the leaders of basketball teams because they run the offense. Odell’s skills and talents make him a good option, but his emotions and immaturity don’t make him the best option.

Honorable Mention: LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills, 5′ 11″ 208 LBS

Shooting Guard

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

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

Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Cleveland Browns, 6′ 4″ 223 LBS:

Terrelle Pryor is probably the best basketball player in the NFL today. If we form a basketball team from NFL players then Pryor is the Kobe or M.J. of the team. Coming out of high school Pryor was ranked 39th in ESPN’s top 100 for basketball. He was ranked 14 spots ahead of Klay Thompson! Nobody in the NFL was close to being ranked as high as Pryor was.

Scouting reports said Pryor was able to score both inside and behind the arc. They also said he was one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. Pryor was a legitimate basketball prospect who played both sides of the ball. Knowing all this, Terrelle Pryor would be the best player on the team.

Backup: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons, 6′ 3″ 220 LBS:

In high school, Julio Jones was a beast of a hooper along with being a great football player. There is audio and reports of him dunking on NBA center DeMarcus Cousins in a high school playoff game. Jones was even called an exceptional shot blocker by his high school football coach.

Julio is a scorer in the NFL and would be as a basketball player as well. His leaping ability and athleticism would allow him to be a solid defender and rebounder to back up Pryor.

Honorable Mention: Dez Bryant WR, Dallas Cowboys, 6′ 2″ 220 LBS:

Small Forward

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

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

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers, 6′ 5″ 245 LBS:

Everyone knows that Cam Newton is an athletic freak of nature. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, he is almost impossible to tackle one on one. Picture trying to stop Cam Newton driving to the rim. That would be a scary sight.

Cam has shown his athletism as a quarterback by breaking the record for most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 48. He has done that in just six NFL season. Cam would be hard to stop, especially as he worked his way into the paint. Defensively, he has the size to frustrate opponents. Cam is athletic enough to be a really good basketball player.

Backup: Jadeveon Clowney, DE/LB, Houston Texans, 6′ 5″ 270 LBS:

Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most athletic players in the NFL. At his massive size, he still managed to run a 4.53-second 40-yard dash. Clowney has shown world class quickness while trying to get past offensive lineman.

Clowney is a defender at heart and on the court that would be no different. His lateral quickness paired with his massive size would help him become a lockdown defender.

Honorable Mention: Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings, 6′ 5″ 252 LBS

Power Forward

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

(Photo Credit: Steve Cannon/Associated Press)

Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks, 6′ 7″ 265 LBS:

It is no secret that Jimmy Graham played basketball at the University of Miami. Graham averaged 4.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in his four-year career. Although those numbers don’t blow your socks off he has proven to be one of the best at going up and coming down with the football in the NFL.

That trait came from his rebounding skill and if the NFL were to build the best possible basketball team, Graham would have to be in the front court to pull down some boards. He would be an undersized power forward in the NBA but is one of the tallest players in the NFL.

Backup: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs, 6′ 5″ 260 LBS:

Travis Kelce would be even more undersized than Jimmy Graham is but would still be able to be the NFL’s backup power forward. Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the NFL because he can use his body to gain position against defenders to make the catch.

That ability would translate well to the hardwood as a rebounder. Kelce has the quickness to be a decent defender but as long as he knew his role was to get boards he would be good. Would you really want to get in the way of Travis Kelce going for a massive throwdown? He would be a great backup to Jimmy Graham.

Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots,  6′ 6″ 265 LBS

Center

Rico Gathers, TE, Dallas Cowboys, 6′ 8″ 275 LBS:

Rico Gathers is not only one of the tallest players in the NFL, but he has basketball experience. Gathers would have to play center on the NFL’s basketball team but he played power forward at Baylor. He averaged 8.6 points and 8 rebounds per game in his four years at Baylor.

Backup: Dan Skipper, OL, Dallas Cowboys, 6′ 10″ 320 LBS:

Basketball requires height, and Dan Skipper of the Dallas Cowboys is 6-foot-10. He may not have the skill set of a basketball player but sometimes you just need those bigs to be in the way. Skipper could be a rotation player capable of picking up some fouls and defending the rim. At the very least he should be able to get some rebounds. This is definitely reaching, but hey, this article was meant to be fun.

Honorable Mention: Demar Dotson, OL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6′ 9″ 315 LBS

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Houston Texans

How The Houston Texans Can Win The Super Bowl

The AFC South has been one of the worst divisions in football for two years now. The Houston Texans have won the AFC South both seasons with back-to-back 9-7 records.

The biggest problem for the Texans is the lack of consistent quarterback play. The Texans started four different quarterbacks in 2015: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden. They started two more quarterbacks last season: Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage.

Starting six quarterbacks in two years is not the formula to winning the Super Bowl, but they are really close.

Super Bowl Defense

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. The Seahawks’ defense was so dominant four years ago that it led them to a 43-8 Super Bowl victory. The Patriots came up with a goal-line interception three years ago to the win the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos had one of the best defenses in the NFL two seasons ago and shut down the top scoring offense to beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. The Patriots came back down from 28-3 this past February to win the Super Bowl. That could not have happened if their defense didn’t shut down the high-flying Falcons offense.

The Texans have a defense capable of playing to the level of all these other defenses. Houston allowed the fewest yards in the NFL last season at 301 per game. They also allowed the second-fewest passing yards.

Houston also has the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. He only played in three games last season, which makes what Houston’s defense did more impressive.

Watt is a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, which is tied for most all-time with Lawerence Taylor. Adding him back to the mix makes them an elite defense.

The Texans also finally saw the emergence of former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who had six sacks last season. Clowney’s amazing play doesn’t show up in the stats. He constantly received double teams without Watt in the lineup, but still made plays. In the Wild Card game against the Raiders, he made an incredible interception that took over the game.

These two great defenders will make one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. The Texans also have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, headlined by Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus. If the secondary can make up for the loss of A.J. Bouye, they could contend for the best defense in the NFL.

What Is Missing?

It is no secret that the Texans need to improve offensively. Houston’s offensive line ranked 18th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. They must improve both guard positions if they want to improve the overall line play.

Running back is not an issue of concern. Lamar Miller finished 10th in the NFL with 1,073 yards in just 14 games. Alfred Blue is also a solid backup to Miller.

The receiving corp is solid with Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller, but headlined by DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 189 receptions, 2,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Those stats are impressive with six different quarterbacks over two years.

It all comes back to quarterback play. The Texans are a quarterback away from being the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC. There is one quarterback perfect for the Texans that they need to get.

The Missing Piece

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: http://boltbeat.com)

Houston threw millions at an unproven Brock Osweiler and it failed miserably. Osweiler has since been traded to the Browns and the only quarterbacks on the Texans’ roster are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. These quarterbacks won’t even win the division, let alone a Super Bowl. So what should the Texans do?

The Texans could find a quarterback in the draft, but most analysts feel there are no NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft. Free agency is always an option and Houston was hoping to get Tony Romo, but he retired. Jay Cutler is available, but that option could be just as bad or worse than what they already have.

That leaves only one option, a trade. The Houston Texans should go all in for a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers for Philip Rivers. The Chargers are nowhere close to contending for a championship and Rivers is 35 years old.

Rivers has accomplished a lot in his time in the NFL. His career record is 97-79. Rivers has 314 touchdowns, 156 interceptions and 45,833 yards.

By most comparisons, he is the AFC’s Tony Romo. Everything he has done of significance has come in the regular season. His playoff record is 4-5 and couldn’t get to the Super Bowl with Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates.

This narrative could change with a trade to Houston. His career would be revitalized and he would have a three to four years to win the Super Bowl. He would have the necessary weapons to succeed; such as a running game and a top 10 receiver in the NFL. The Texans would have a top five defense and an offense capable of keeping pace on the scoreboard with any team in the NFL.

Houston, if you want to win the Lombardi Trophy, trade for Phillip Rivers.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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