Miami Dolphins fantasy football: Jay Cutler’s impact

On Aug. 6, quarterback Jay Cutler came out of retirement to sign with the Miami Dolphins. This signing indicates that Ryan Tannehill is likely out for the season and Cutler will take over as the starter. On paper this could be a good signing for the Dolphins, but how will Cutler fair to fantasy owners?

Adam Gase Reunion

Miami Dolphins fantasy football: Jay Cutlers impact

Jay Cutler and Adam Gase (Photo by: sportsmockery.com)

It’s hard to project players that go to new teams and new schemes but that’s not the case here. We have seen Cutler in this offense before. He and head coach Adam Gase reunite from the days of the Chicago Bears where Gase was the offensive coordinator in 2015.

While Chicago was at the bottom half of the league in both yards and points scored, Cutler had one his most productive seasons. In 15 games, Cutler completed 64.4 percent of his passes and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. He threw for 3,659 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Even though Chicago didn’t thrive, it is safe to say Cutler had a solid season at age 32 with Gase.

The numbers under Gase

Most of us want to wonder how, if anything, Gase’s offense has changed since becoming a head coach. Fantasypros.com gives us a look at the 14 games Cutler played in 2015, and compare it to how Gase has coordinated his offenses throughout the years.

Att/gm RB Tgt % WR Tgt % TE Tgt %
2015 (Cutler) 32.2 22.0% 57.0% 15.0%
2016 (Tannehill) 29.8 18.0% 67.0% 15.0%
2014 (Manning) 37.9 16.0% 67.0% 16.0%
2013 (Manning) 42.2 17.0% 62.0% 20.0%

Besides Peyton Manning’s breakout 2013 season, Cutler’s numbers are consistent to the other years that Gase has ran the offense. But Cutler had only 57 percent of passes targeted to wide receivers the lowest of the four seasons. However, to Cutler’s credit, these are the receivers he threw to that season.

Player Games Targets
Alshon Jeffery 9 94
Marquess Wilson 11 51
Eddie Royal 9 50
Josh Bellamy 16 34
Marc Mariani 16 33
Cameron Meredith 11 16
Deonte Thompson 7 3

For starters he didn’t have Alshon Jeffrey for the nearly half the season as he missed seven games. The No. 1 and No. 2 receivers that season were Josh Bellamy and Marc Mariani for seven games. Cutler did not have Brandon Marshall as he was traded to the New York Jets that year.

You can’t criticize Cutler. In fact, he should be given an award for the miracle season he had throwing for 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. I see Cutler targeting the wide receivers in 2017 more like Tannehill last season.

Dolphins Pass Catchers

Miami Dolphins fantasy football: Jay Cutlers impact

Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker (Photo by: miamiherald.com)

It’s easy to say Cutler has better weapons than he did in Chicago. He has a good trio of receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills that can be argued as one of the better trios in the NFL. They also have tight end Julius Thomas who has been in the Gase offense in Denver from 2013 to 2014.

The one problem with Thomas is he needs to stay on the field, something he hasn’t done throughout the entirety of his career. Pass catchers will get more targets because Jay Ajayi isn’t known as a pass catcher like Matt Forte was in Chicago.

If we want to project how Cutler will fair in games, he should be throwing over 30 times a game and should be well over 500 passes for the season. I expect the wide receiver targets to double from what they have been in past Gase offenses. The targets to running backs and tight ends should be consistent with years past.

Which receivers will succeed

For starters, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills should be moving up draft boards. The difference between Cutler and Tannehill is that Cutler has one of the stronger arms in the league.

Parker has been labeled to have a great bounce back season. He struggled last year but Gase has praised him this year for his dedication to this offense. Fortunately for him, Cutler tends to favor the big body wide receivers and has the arm to get the ball downfield to them. Parker and Stills could each have 100 targets this year.

As for Jarvis Landry, he could see less targets because Cutler didn’t really take shots in the short, middle area of the field with Gase in Chicago, but personnel likely played a role in that. Eddie Royal was his slot receiver in Chicago. He has Landry this year and he won’t be ignored as he is the top target.

If anything, Landry is still a candidate for over 1,000 yards. Entering a contract year, it’s not exactly the best situation for Landry, though coach Adam Gase is known for feeding his playmakers. Landry is still a WR2 but Cutler at quarterback hurts his draft stock just a little bit.

Final verdict

It’s safe to say that Cutler has had his highs and is lows. Who hasn’t in Chicago lately? He does have a track record of getting hurt and also being unreliable as a fantasy passer for several years. But there is some potential for Cutler in this offense with better weapons surrounding him. He’s worth a look in a two-quarterback league and also as a backup in deeper leagues.

 

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Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

It’s been a rough training camp for the Miami Dolphins. Jay Ajayi has a concussion and now Ryan Tannehill has gone down and might be done for the season with a knee injury. The worst part of his injury is that it was the same knee he injured in week 14 and he wasn’t touched on the play where he was rolling out. There was no structural damage, however, reports Thursday night indicated Tannehill could need season-ending knee surgery.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Matt Moore (Photo by: heavy.com)

On Friday, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Matt Moore “is our quarterback” for the time being in a press conference. The Dolphins just signed former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler yesterday, meaning he’s likely the best bet to be Miami’s starter in week one.

Cutler worked with Gase in Chicago in 2015 and had his best career year with Gase in that season.

Now everyone is going to start to panic not just because of Tannehill but about the weapons in Miami as well. The Dolphins have three prominent receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills along with tight end Julius Thomas.

Now the big reason for this is to not panic. Landry and Parker shouldn’t lose any value with Tannehill gone. And Stills might benefit even without a familiar quarterback to catch passes from.

Jarvis Landry

Start with Landry, whose average draft position (ADP) on Fantasy Pros is currently in Round 4 in all leagues. He has been ranked around 18-25 as a wide receiver and our own Cameron Palikuca ranked him as the 23rd receiver in his rankings.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Jarvis Landry (Photo by: dailydolphin.blog.palmbeachpost.com)

In four games with Moore last year including the playoff game against the Steelers, Landry had 26 catches for 315 yards and two touchdowns on 33 targets. If you project his final four games over 16 games he would’ve had Landry would have finished with 104 catches for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns on 132 targets. The touchdowns and yards would be a career highs. And catches and targets would be the second best of his career. For 2017, I don’t see Landry matching these stats.

The final three games of the season he had two double digit outings. In the season finale, Landry caught nine passes on 12 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown from Moore. Then in the playoffs, he had 14 targets into 11 receptions for 102 yards. Things seemed to click after those two games.

I don’t expect Landry to suffer with Moore under center. I also expect with Landry in a contract year to play at a high level.

Devante Parker

Many believe that Parker could have a breakout season. His ADP is Round 8 in PPR as the No. 37 receiver, and he’s going as the No. 42 receiver in Round 9 in standard leagues. He is the 37th receiver by Palikuca but many believe he will play better then where he will be drafted.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Ryan Tannehill and DeVante Parker (Photo by: thedeependmiami.com)

Parker was a receiver that struggled with Moore. In their four games together last season, Parker only had 14 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown on 22 targets. Going back to the projections, he would’ve had 56 catches, 808 yards and four touchdowns on 88 targets over a full season, which is basically what he did in 2016 (56 catches, 744 yards and four touchdowns on 87 targets).

I think Parker can do better then his 2016 numbers. He has potential and could be Moore’s favorite weapon and I especially see him as a presence in the red zone at 6-3. Two of his touchdowns came within the 10-yard line. He will also be a valuable deep-threat in favorable matchups as he had two touchdowns of 40-yards plus.

Kenny Stills and Julius Thomas

First with Kenny Stills, he thrived with Moore. Stills had 13 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns on 23 targets. He scored at least eight fantasy points in a standard league in every game.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Kenny Stills (Photo by: sun-sentinel.com)

The projections over 16 games would’ve been 52 catches for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns on 92 targets. That would be an improvement on his actual stats from 2016 when he had 42 catches for 726 yards and nine touchdowns on 81 targets.

The problem that comes with Stills is that he’s likely the third or fourth target especially if Parker improves and Thomas makes an impact. But the chemistry can’t be ignored between him and Moore. Stills is definitely worth a late-round flier given his ADP, which is Round 15 in PPR and Round 18 in standard leagues.

As for Thomas, I predicted he would be a sleeper to watch before the Tannehill injury. There’s nothing to go on for Thomas as this his first season in Miami but he has played with Gase before in Denver. With Gase as the offensive coordinator in Denver, Thomas had 24 touchdowns combined in 2013-14 and was a top 10 Fantasy tight end both years. He’s worth a late-round flier in all leagues now that he’s back with Gase.

Final verdict

From a non-fantasy view, the Dolphins should be okay. From a fantasy perspective, no one should panic picking Dolphins players. One player that could thrive is Ajayi. His role will increase some especially with the Tannehill situation. He could sneak into the first round in some leagues due to concerns with the quarterback.

But the Dolphins should be ok with Moore and the good thing for him is that he has familiar faces he played with last season as well as the same system. He will keep Landry, Parker and Stills playing at a high level for fantasy owners this year.

As of Sunday August 6, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has reported that Cutler has come out of retirement and agreed to a contract with the Miami Dolphins.

 

Featured image from nflspinzone.com.

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Colin Kaepernick

The Miami Dolphins’ quarterback quandary

With head coach Adam Gase acknowledging that knee surgery is an a option for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a playoff team from last year is left with major question marks as far as who will be taking snaps this year.

Several solutions are being rumored. The Dolphins are a pretty solid football team. Thus, they cannot afford to knock on the wrong door here. If they do, their season could be over before it really starts.

That said, let’s dissect Miami’s quarterback situation and dive into the team’s options.

The safe bet: Matt Moore

Matt Moore is the perfect backup quarterback. That is exactly what he has been for most of his career. He has started 28 out of 46 career games played and posted a 15-13 record as a starter. This includes leading the Dolphins to a pair of wins that locked down last year’s playoff spot in relief of an injured Tannehill. Not many quarterbacks last a decade in the NFL, backup or otherwise.

Miami Dolphins quarterback quandary

Photo miami.cbsloacal.com

The Dolphins are in a tricky spot though. Unless they figure out time travel and bring back Dan Marino, they are not taking the AFC East from New England. However, they are suited to finish ahead of fellow division rivals Buffalo and the Jets, even with Moore. The 32-year-old can take care of the football well enough to keep Miami competitive.

It is difficult for me to get past Miami’s 30-12 playoff loss to Pittsburgh last year. More looked overwhelmed, as did the rest of the team. Sticking with Moore in Tannehill’s absence could get this franchise back to where it was last year, but certainly no further.

The bad idea: Jay Cutler

It makes perfect sense for Jay Cutler’s name to be thrown around when it comes to Miami’s quarterback situation. However, that does not mean it is a good idea.

The recently retired gunslinger had his best season as a pro in 2015. That year, current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was his offensive coordinator in Chicago. Even so, Cutler’s career best 92.3 passer rating was not good enough for the Bears to post a winning record.

To put it mildly, there have always been questions about Cutler’s passion for football. Now that he has shifted his focus to broadcasting, it is debatable as to whether or not he would be able to flip the switch back into competitive athlete mode. Worse yet, I am not even sure he truly wants to. The Dolphins have reportedly had casual conversations with Cutler and his representatives. That is as far as this flirtation should go.

High risk, high reward: Colin Kaepernick

Miami Dolphins quarterback quandary

Photo: boston.cbslocal.com

With all the controversy surrounding him, the fact that Colin Kaepernick still has it in him to be a very dynamic dual threat NFL quarterback is getting lost in the shuffle.

In 11 starts for an atrocious 49ers team last year, Kaepernick tossed 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Imagine what he is still capable of with real talent around him. Real talent is something the Dolphins definitely have.

We all know that his political activism is why Kaepernick remains unsigned. However, if dogfighting and domestic violence do not disqualify you from being on an NFL roster, voicing your opinion should not either.

Could signing Kaepernick alienate parts of the locker room and fan base? Of course. However, there is a very simple remedy to that: Be a productive player and deliver this franchise its first playoff win since the 2000 season.

Of the options on the table for Miami, Kaepernick is the only one who has shown that he may be capable of doing that. That is good enough for me. The Dolphins need to suck it up and sign him.

 

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 40-31

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 seventh installment, containing players 40-31.

40. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Jordan Howard (photo by sports.yahoo.com)

Howard had a great rookie season for the Bears that not a lot of people saw coming. He didn’t get to play in week one and got limited carries in weeks two and three before bursting onto the scene in week four with 111 rushing yards against Detroit. He finished 2016 with 1,313 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Year two will give Howard the opportunity of more reps in practice and more carries in games, which should both help his productivity. Howard goes into 2017 as the lead back and will get a chance at a full season as the starter. He has some good blockers up front in Cody Whitehair, Josh Sitton and Kyle Long (#57). Most teams will be focusing on trying to stop him because Alshon Jeffrey left in free agency and Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky are unproven.

The focal point of the offense will be Howard and after a good rookie season, he will have to carry the load for the Bears’ offense.

Comments: “If he was on a better team his ranking might be higher. That being said he had a great rookie year. If he can repeat it expect to see him climb up quickly.”- Robert Hanes

39. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Top 100

Fletcher Cox (photo by mcall.com)

After making his second straight Pro Bowl in 2016, Cox will be looking to have another good year in 2017. He finished the 2016 season with 43 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Cox isn’t one of the first guys who come to mind when thinking of the best defensive players in the NFL, but not everything he does shows up on the stat sheet. He is good against the run and he tag-teams with Brandon Graham (#65) to give the Eagles a very formidable pass rush. The Philadelphia defense has gotten much better since Chip Kelly left, but Cox was even productive when he was the head coach.

There are a lot of uncertainties in the NFL, but if Fletcher Cox is on your team, you feel confident that there will be a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line.

Comments: “It doesn’t always show up in his numbers, but Cox is a player that makes the rest of the defense better due to how much chaos he causes. He could be ranked higher and it would be justified.”-Joe DiTullio

38. Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

NFL Top 100

Matthew Stafford (Photo by nypost.com)

Stafford takes some heat for being a gunslinger, but he had a very good year in 2016, without his favorite target Calvin Johnson, who elected to retire rather than play for the Lions. His 2016 campaign led him into some MVP discussions, which should have Lions’ fans optimistic about 2017. Last season he threw for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

Although he doesn’t have Johnson anymore, Stafford does have some unique weapons. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. provide two good targets, albeit not great. His running backs, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah can both catch passes out of the backfield to help Stafford out. The offensive line didn’t stand out last season, but the Lions did sign T.J. Lang to help bolster it.

The post-Calvin Johnson era started off with a playoff berth and a good season from Stafford, so more good things should be expected in year two.

Comments: “Stafford had an MVP type season in 2016. He showed better decision making without Calvin Johnson on the field. How the Lions made the playoffs last year is beyond me. Stafford was a magician for Detroit and elevated their level of play. The Lions probably won’t make the playoffs in 2017, but Stafford will be a good quarterback once again.”-Joe DiTullio

37. Marshall Yanda, OG, Baltimore Ravens

NFL Top 100

Marshall Yanda (Photo by baltimoresun.com)

Interior offensive linemen are often forgotten, but Yanda has been very good for a long time. He only played in 13 games, but still made his sixth Pro Bowl team. Yanda has moved all over the offensive line during his career but has been dominant since settling in at guard.

While the rushing offense hasn’t been good the last few seasons, it isn’t because of Yanda’s blocking. He helped Baltimore rank in the top half of the league in sacks allowed. The passing offense will be good once again, but the Ravens will likely struggle on the ground in 2017.

Yanda will once again be fighting an uphill battle on the interior of the offensive line trying to get the run offense going, but he will do his job well.

Comments: “Offensive lineman never truly get the love or recognition they deserve. Yanda is right up there with Zach Martin as the best guard in all of football. He deserves to be in the top 15 and maybe even the top 10.” -Matthew Hagan

36. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Travis Kelce (photo by chiefs.com)

Kelce has turned into one of the best tight ends in the NFL over the last few seasons. In 2016 Kelce led all tight ends in receiving yards with 1,125 on 85 receptions and four touchdowns. On an offense that isn’t seen as the most dynamic, Kelce has helped make it productive.

The Chiefs’ offense is going to look different in 2017 without Jeremy Maclin and Jamal Charles, which will mean Kelce, along with Tyreek Hill, will be the focal points of the offense. Alex Smith is known for liking to check down and Kelce is able to get open and get yards after the catch, making it a perfect fit. If the Chiefs are successful on offense in 2017, Kelce will be a main reason why.

He is entering his fifth season in the league and has already made two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team, but he isn’t done yet.

Comments: “I would pay a lot of money to see Kelce with Brady, Rodgers, Brees or any other top quarterbacks in the game. He is a beast and it is unbelievable that he puts up these numbers with Alex Smith. He is rated pretty well although I do think with a better quarterback he could be even better.” -Matthew Hagan

35. Vic Beasley Jr., OLB, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Vic Beasley Jr. (photo by si.com)

In his second year in the pros, Beasley developed into a great player that helped lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl. He led the NFL in sacks with 15.5 and added 39 total tackles, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.

Beasley improved a lot from year one to year two and a lot should be expected of him in year three. He does have a lot of areas of his game to improve, but Beasley is great at the main thing he was drafted to do: sacking the quarterback. His ability to do that made the Falcons a much better team in 2016.

He has a lot to build on in 2017 and if he continues to get to the quarterback, he will rise up this list.

Comments: “The single biggest reason for Atlanta’s run to a near Super Bowl win last year was an improved pass rush. Beasley will have to lead the defensive charge again this year for the Falcons to go one step further” -Dylan Streibig

34. Zack Martin, OG, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Zack Martin (Photo by dallascowboys.com)

Martin has been a great player from day one in the NFL. In his three seasons he has made the Pro Bowl each year and has been an All-Pro twice. He has been a key part on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL since his rookie season in 2014.

Dallas had the second most rushing yards in the NFL in 2016, in large part thanks to Martin. In addition to blocking for a great rushing offense, Marting helped the Dallas offensive line give up just 28 sacks, which tied for seventh in the NFL in 2016.

He hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career thus far and in 2017 he will continue to open up gaping holes for the Cowboys.

Comments: “Martin is the best guard in the game and could even be ranked higher than this, but interior offensive line play isn’t appreciated. He hasn’t missed a start in his three seasons and has helped make the ground game explosive for the Cowboys.”-Joe DiTullio

33. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Travis Frederick (Photo by insidethepylon.com)

Back to back Cowboys’ offensive linemen make the list. He has been in the league for four seasons, made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. During his first four seasons Frederick has evolved into one of, if not the best center in the NFL.

While he similarly helped the Dallas rush offense, Frederick really helped get rookie quarterback Dak Prescott acclimated to the NFL. He made all of the checks for the offensive line and no doubt helped take a lot off of Prescott’s plate. A center’s biggest job is to make checks and to be the smartest offensive lineman in the unit and Frederick has that down.

Frederick will continue to make good checks and block well in 2017.

Comments: “Frederick was seen as a reach by the Cowboys when they selected him, but he has been superb so far in his career. He is the best center in the game and even Dak Prescott has made comments about how smart Frederick is. He anchors one of the best offensive lines in football.”-Joe DiTullio

32. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

NFL Top 100

Cam Newton (Photo by nydailytimes.com)

If this list were based on 2016, then Newton may not be as high. The 2017 season gives Newton an opportunity to rebound from his lackluster season. He finished 2016 with 3,509 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 touchdowns on 52% completion. While his passing numbers were bad, Newton’s rushing numbers were the lowest in his career as well.

He should be helped by new members of the offense in 2017: Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Greg Olsen will continue to be a threat at tight end, but there are some concerns about Kelvin Benjamin, who is trying to cut weight. The new weapons, along with the old ones, should help Newton get better, but he will need to play like he did in 2015 to be considered one of the best in the league again.

Newton and his new weapons will get on the same page and make the Panthers’ offense return to its 2015 form.

Comments: “I am sick of all the Cam Newton haters. Newton came into the NFL shattering passing records for young quarterbacks. He has changed the Panthers organization, won an MVP and led his team to a Super Bowl appearance all in just six seasons. Cam is better and deserves to be much higher on this list” -Matthew Hagan

31. Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Kam Chancellor (Photo by bleacherreport.com)

He only played in 12 games in 2016, but Chancellor still had a huge impact. In 2016 he had 81 total tackles, eight passes defended and two interceptions.

Chancellor has had continued success at strong safety for the “Legion of Boom”. He helped Seattle rank eighth in passing yards allowed. He can cover tight ends well and help stop the run. Receivers are conscious of where Chancellor is at all times so they don’t get hit by one of the most powerful tacklers in the league. The key for Chancellor is staying healthy as he missed the four games in 2016 and missed five in 2015.

In 2017 Chancellor will once again be making receivers aware of his presence with his big hits and his good cover skills.

Comments:His defensive backfield teammates are flashier, but Chancellor is the heart and soul of “The Legion of Boom” – Dylan Streibig

Top 100 NFL Players 50-41

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NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 60-51

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 fifth installment, containing players 60-51.

60. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Top 100

Geno Atkins (Photo by bengals.com)

Atkins has been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL for years now and is a five time Pro Bowler that should be making his sixth appearance in 2017. In 2016, his latest Pro Bowl season, Atkins had 32 total tackles and 9 sacks and was the best player on the Bengals’ defense yet again.

The Bengals’ defensive line has been thinning out in the talent department the last few years, but the two players who made this list, Atkins and Carlos Dunlap (#91), have done their parts. Cincinnati has added Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson via the NFL Draft to help out in the pass rushing department. If they can get to the quarterback, it should free up Atkins (and Dunlap) from facing a lot of double teams.

In 2017 Atkins will continue to be one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL as well as be good against the run.

Comments: “You watch him play and tell me he doesn’t deserve to be higher.”- Robert Hanes

59. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota Vikings

NFL Top 100

Xavier Rhodes (photo by twincities.com)

The Vikings have a great, young corner in Rhodes, who has shown flashes of how good he can be in his first four seasons in the NFL. Rhodes went to his first Pro Bowl in 2016 while totaling 52 tackles, five interceptions, one touchdown, 10 passes defended and one forced fumble.

Rhodes often does a great job against an opponent’s best receiver, which often times means the ball isn’t thrown his way very much. He was a big reason why Minnesota was the third best defense against the pass in 2016, which is no small feat being in the same division as Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.

In 2017 Rhodes will again be called upon to shut down great receivers and doing so could move him up in next year’s list.

Comments:  “This is asinine. Rhodes allowed 3.1 yards per pass attempt which was best in the NFL. He had five interceptions and a touchdown in 14 games. Rhodes locked Odell Beckham down so bad that Odell was saying football wasn’t fun anymore after the game. Rhodes is a top three corner and that is a fact.” -Matthew Hagan

58. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Jordan Reed (Photo by espn.com)

Reed has been phenomenal in his NFL career, when healthy. Unfortunately, he has been often injured. When he is healthy, he produces and is Kirk Cousins’ favorite target. In 2016 he played in 12 games and started eight. He still managed to record 66 receptions for 686 yard and six touchdowns.

While he was an average tight end in his first two years in the league, he has blossomed with Cousins over the last few seasons. Cousins will be under center, for at least one more season, so there is no reason to expect Reed to stop producing, unless he gets injured once again in 2017.

He is one of the best tight ends in the league and a dynamic offensive weapon. If Reed can stay healthy his presence will elevate the level of play on the Washington offense.

Comments: “Jordan Reed is a great tight end when he is healthy. He is a pure receiver that makes Kirk Cousins a better quarterback when he is on the field. With Desean Jackson and Pierrre Garcon gone, Reed will be even more of a go-to-guy for Cousins.”-Joe DiTullio

57. Kyle Long, OG, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Kyle Long (photo by philly.com)

In his first four seasons in the NFL, Long has made three Pro Bowls. He missed the Pro Bowl in 2016, but only played in eight games. The most impressive thing for Long, and the Bears is that he was great at opening up holes for rookie running back Jordan Howard, who had four of his seven 100 yard rushing games when Long was in the lineup.

After an ankle injury ended Long’s 2016 season prematurely, he will be looking forward to having a good 2017 season. He will have to continue to open up holes for Howard and block for a new quarterback (Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky). The Bears’ offense won’t be great in 2017, but it won’t be because of Long.

If Long is able to come back healthy in 2017, he will reclaim his status as one of the NFL’s best guards.

Comments: “The Bears were bad which is the only reason Kyle Long doesn’t get the love he deserves. Long helped rookie Jordan Howard finish second in the NFL in rushing yards. Without Long, the Bears would be even worse,” -Matthew Hagan

56. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Kirk Cousins (photo by cbssports.com)

He may not have a long-term contract, but Cousins has been turning heads in his two full seasons as a starting quarterback. Cousins had the third most passing yards in the NFL last season. In 2016 he finished with 4,917 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

A lot of Cousins’ receivers have left, but Washington has signed Terrelle Pryor to help fill the void. With him Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed (#58), Cousins will have enough weapons to be successful. He will also have one of the NFL’s best linemen, Trent Williams, protecting his blind-side.

If Cousins wants to have a long term deal, whether it’s from Washington or not, he will have to put up more good numbers in 2017.

Comments: “Yes the Redskins are an incompetent franchise but there is a reason they won’t commit to him long term. Kirk Cousins is an average quarterback that will not lead a franchise to a Super Bowl which is why I believe he should be lower.” -Matthew Hagan

“Numbers don’t lie. While I do not necessarily think he should be a lot higher I think this man can play Quarterback and do it well. Haters need to back off. Imagine if Jay Gruden wasn’t his coach?”- Robert Hanes

55. Alex Mack, OC, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Alex Mack (photo by usatoday.com)

Mack endured playing on a bad Cleveland Browns team for the first seven years of his career but made the Super Bowl in his first year on the Falcons. He has made four Pro Bowls in his career and is one of the best centers in the NFL.

The Falcons had one of the best offenses in the NFL in 2016 thanks in large part to a good offensive line, which was led by Mack. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman all coming back the Falcons’ offense should be great once again.

If Atlanta wants to make it back to the Super Bowl they are going to need good offensive line play, with Mack taking charge once again.

Comments: “Easily one of the top three if not number one center in the league. He is finally not playing for the Browns, isn’t it about time he gets some love?”- Robert Hanes

54. Calais Campbell, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Top 100

Calais Campbell (Photo by jacksonville.com)

The Jaguars made a great offseason move by acquiring Campbell in free agency. While he has been in the NFL since 2008, Jacksonville will be just his second team. In 2016 Campbell was all over the field with 53 combined tackles, eight sacks, six passes defended, two forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, an interception and a safety.

At 6-8 and 282 pounds, Campbell is a disruptive force and he isn’t slowing down. He will be age 31 in the 2017 season and will be flanked by a lot of talent that the Jaguars acquired in the offseason. Campbell has a chance to take the Jaguars defense to the next level in 2017 and will likely be the best player on the much-improved defense.

Jacksonville made a statement by going after a lot of defensive players and in Campbell, they get a disruptive lineman who has been consistently good over his career.

Comments: “Campbell is a beast. He has been a gem in the desert, but will now help the Jags defense take it to the next level. With some new players also joining him, Campbell has the chance to be the best player on a good defense.”-Joe DiTullio

53. Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee Titans

 

NFL Top 100

Taylor Lewan (Photo by titansonline.com)

2016 was Lewan’s first Pro Bowl season, which looks like it will be the first of many. Lewan was a big part of the Titans rushing for the third most yards in the NFL and giving up 28 sacks as a team, which is one of the best in the league.

Lewan will be entering his fourth season in 2017 and the Titans’ offense is improving each year. Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray will lead the rushing attack and Marcus Mariota will continue to develop especially with new weapon Corey Davis. The offense is trending upwards and Lewan will be a big reason why the skill position players are successful.

After a solid first three seasons in the league, Lewan is cementing himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL and 2017 will be the next step to proving it.

Comments: “Lewan has had a great start to his career and by year’s end could even be ranked higher than this. Not only has he done a good job of protecting Marcus Mariota, but he has also cleared holes for Henry and Murray. 2017 will bring another Pro Bowl.”-Joe DiTullio

52. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Chris Harris Jr. (Photo by denverpost.com)

Harris Jr. has been a stalwart on the Broncos defense for years and is one of the best corners in the NFL. Last season he recorded 63 total tackles, 11 passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered.

In 2016 Harris Jr. made his third straight Pro Bowl as he helped the Broncos be the best defense against the pass in the NFL. Harris Jr. will continue to have Bradley Robey and Aqib Talib flanking him as the other corners, which allows him to move inside to the slot at times. He is a very versatile player that will continue playing well in 2017.

With Harris Jr. and Talib at the corner spots, the Broncos will have one of the best tandems in the NFL once again in 2017.

Comments: “He may be forgotten behind Miller and Talib, but Harris has made himself into one of the NFL’s best corners himself. He shuts down good wide receivers and helps this defense be the best against the pass in the NFL.”-Joe DiTullio

51. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers

NFL Top 100

Jordy Nelson (Photo by packers.com)

The Packers have come on strong at the end of seasons for the past two seasons and Nelson came on strong at the end of 2016. In the last eight games, he had four of his five 100 receiving yard games. Overall Nelson had 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Nelson is undoubtedly Aaron Rodgers’ number one target once again in 2017 and will put up some big numbers. He will be 32 this season which isn’t ideal for a receiver who relies on his speed, but he still has a lot left in the tank. In the past three seasons, Nelson has set a new career high in targets each year and he should get his fair share again in 2017.

The Rodgers to Nelson connection may not be able to happen for too much longer, but they have a few more seasons together.

Comments: “Jordy Nelson is a silent assassin. He has had over 1,200 yards in three straight seasons. Nelson has also accumulated 27 touchdowns over that past two seasons. Aaron Rodgers has struggled at times without Nelson. Jordy is a top five receiver in the NFL but doesn’t have the flash required to be ranked higher.” -Matthew Hagan

NFL Top 100 Players: 70-61

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 90-81

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 second installment, containing players 90-81.

90. Malcolm Butler, CB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Malcolm Butler (photo by twitter.com)

Butler has gone from unknown out of the University of West Alabama, to Super Bowl hero, to one of the best corners in the league. He put his talents on display last season with 63 total tackles, four interceptions, 16 passes defended, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a sack.

He will pair with number 97 on our list, Stephon Gilmore, to create a great cornerback tandem. The Patriots had the best scoring defense in the league and ranked 12th against the pass. That rank will only get better this season with Butler improving from year to year and Gilmore on the other side of the field.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get a lot of the praise, and deservedly so, but Butler and the defense are good enough to get some recognition too.

Comments: “I personally have Butler much higher on my list. Butler isn’t always asked to cover the elite receivers, but he’s proven to be excellent in coverage. Only 50 percent of the passes thrown his direction get completed. On average, he holds receivers well below their average in yards per game. He was essential to a Patriots secondary that played a major factor in getting New England a fifth Super Bowl ring.”-Blake Van Poucke

89. Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Josh Norman (Photo by washingtonpost.com)

It was a tumultuous, but effective first year in the nation’s capital for Norman. People criticized him for only playing one side of the field, not understanding what type of corner he is. He finished the season with 67 total tackles, three interceptions, 19 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

While Washington’s pass defense wasn’t good last year, ranking 25th in the NFL, Norman usually did a solid job of shutting down his side of the field. The rest of the Redskins’ secondary let the team down. In 2017, teams will still try to avoid throwing the ball to Norman’s side of the field because they can do so much damage throwing away from him.

Norman may get headlines for getting into scuffles with notable wide receivers, but he can play and it will show once again in 2017.

Comments: “Norman experienced maybe the biggest drop off from his first team all-pro 2015 with the Panthers after being moved to the Redskins. Nevertheless, he only experienced a small drop in production while taking on a smaller role on Washington’s secondary. He wasn’t the shutdown corner he was in 2015, but he was still very effective.”-Blake Van Poucke

88. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Sean Lee (Photo by nfl.com)

Lee had a phenomenal 2017 with 146 total tackles, one pass defended and one fumble recovery. There is a noticeable difference when he is on the field and healthy for the Cowboys as opposed to when he is not.

One of the things Lee is known for the most is that he is injury prone, as he has never played all 16 games in a season. Staying healthy is a key for him to stay on this list, but if he does and performs like previous years, he will deserve his slot. Last year Dallas had the fifth-best scoring defense in the league and with an emphasis on drafting defensive players and controlling the clock on offense, Lee should be able to have another great season.

Playing under Rod Marinelli, Lee has thrived and there is no reason, other than injury, to think he won’t continue to thrive for the Cowboys.

Comments: “Sean Lee is one of the best linebackers in the league. The Cowboys look so much better on the defensive side of the ball when Lee is healthy. He is a tackle machine and is the heart and soul of the defense. If Lee can stay healthy, his spot on this list is almost guaranteed.”-Joe DiTullio

87. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

NFL Top 100

Marcus Mariota (Photo by titansonline.com)

In his second season in the NFL, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 61% completion. His career is trending upward as he only won three games as a starter during his rookie season, but ended up winning eight in his sophomore campaign.

The Titans are starting to build a legitimate offensive threat around their franchise quarterback. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry provide two good running backs that keep each other fresh behind a good offensive line, which features Taylor Lewan. Tennessee selected Corey Davis with the fifth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and will pair him with Eric Decker, whom they have recently just signed, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker.

With more weapons and another year of experience under his belt, look for Mariota to have a very successful 2017.

Comments: “Marcus Mariota is not getting the respect he deserves and is a top 45 player. He got injured in the 15th game and still put up 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Had Mariota stayed healthy I fully believe the Titans would have won the division. Mariota will be a top-five quarterback by the end of this season.” -Matthew Hagan

 86. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by upi.com)

A guy who didn’t play last season makes the top 100. “Beast Mode” has given a lot of people reason to believe in him over the years, but had a disappointing and injury-plagued 2015 season before retiring. The 31-year-old has 9,112 rushing yards and will be looking to tack on as many yards as possible in his new silver and black uniform.

Live-game action is something that can’t be substituted, so Lynch may not have the greatest of starts, but he will have one thing that many running backs over the age of 30 don’t have, fresh legs. Another thing Lynch has going for him in 2017? His offensive line is among the best in the NFL and should be able to clear him a lot of space before he is contacted.

Lynch partially makes the list because of his great career, but also partially because of how great the guys in front of him will be.

Comments: “Similar to Brandon Marshall, Marshawn Lynch only made this list off of reputation. Lynch is 31 years old and didn’t even play last season. There will be some rust and he won’t be the every down back for the Raiders. I will be surprised if Lynch rushes for more than 700 yards.” -Matthew Hagan

“He lives up to his nickname Beast Mode. It seems impossible to tackle him. He can explode up the middle and have that big run like he had against the Saints that made him known as Beast Mode. With his new home with the Raiders I see him having the same success with the offensive line in Oakland. I think he could be a little higher on this list especially in front of Demaryius Thomas.”- Craig Stogdill

85. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Jerrell Freeman (Photo by chicagobears.com)

Freeman was suspended for his use of PED’s in 2016, but still put up impressive numbers. He was left off of the NFL’s top 100 player list, but because this list focuses on how well the players will do in 2017, he makes the cut. In 12 games in 2016, Freeman recorded 112 total tackles and four passes defended.

Assuming he can stay on the field, Freeman is by far the best player on the Bears’ defense. He is good at both stopping the run and in coverage, which makes him a three-down linebacker.

In 2017 Freeman will continue to be the best player on the Bears’ defense and make top 100 lists.

Comments: “Freeman didn’t make a lot of top 100 lists because of his PED suspension last season. In 2017 Freeman will return to form and have another great season. His ability to cover makes him a very valuable player.”-Joe DiTullio

84. Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Justin Houston (Photo by cbssports.com)

Injuries have derailed Houston’s last two seasons, but in 2014 he had 22 sacks. He has had knee injuries, but now says he is healthy and ready to play. If he can stay healthy an regain his form he is one of the most dominant players in the league, but that is a big if.

Kansas City ranked 28th in sacks in 2017, but if Houston is healthy he should be able to help improve that number drastically. While knee injuries are never a good thing, Houston will be 28 this season, meaning that he should still be able to bounce back.

If Houston plays a healthy season, he will be on this list at season’s end, but if he gets hurt again, his best years are probably behind him.

Comments: “It’s a shame that Houston has only been able to play 16 games in the last two seasons. A fully healthy Justin Houston is still a top-five player in this league. 2013 is considered by many to be one of the greatest single seasons ever from a defensive end. He was still around a sack per game in 2016, but only got five games in. For the sake of entertainment, please stay healthy Justin Houston.”-Blake Van Poucke

83. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Demaryius Thomas (Photo by denverpost.com)

Thomas has made five straight Pro Bowls but saw his production dip last season. He had 1,083 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 90 receptions. These are all the lowest these stats have been since his second season in the league.

Most of this isn’t Thomas’ fault. He is still a good talent but has been playing with young quarterbacks who aren’t the most talented, yet. Evidence of this is his 62.5% catch percentage in 2016, which is the third highest in his career. Ultimately Thomas’ fate rests in the hands of the developing young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

While Thomas is a player anyone would want on their team, his production and ranking in 2017 may not match his actual talent.

Comments: “Demaryius Thomas is a really good player but the quarterback situation in Denver hurts him. Neither Paxton Lynch nor Trevor Siemian will be good enough to keep Thomas as a top 100 player. Unfortunately for receivers, being a top player is somewhat out of their hands.” -Matthew Hagan

“Last year was rough for DT. He didn’t have Peyton Manning to throw him the ball and played injured last season. But Thomas is still a big target with great speed for his size. He has the size of a tight end with the speed, agility and ball skills of a wide receiver. He can get up there and make that acrobatic catch. I think DT is ranked way too high only because of his situation and that 2017 won’t look any better”- Craig Stogdill 

82. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Top 100

Gerald McCoy (Photo by tampabay.com)

The Bucs have been lucky enough to have a consistently good player like McCoy on their team for seven seasons. Last year he continued his good production with 34 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered.

As a defensive tackle, his pass rushing numbers stand out with 42 career sacks in his seven seasons. In a division that features Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton, getting after the quarterback is a must. McCoy will have to be a great player once again to give the Bucs a chance to leap into the playoffs.

This season McCoy will be a top 100 player once again.

Comments: “This guy has been a stalwart on defense for the Bucs for a long time. He could be ranked higher just due to consistency. I expect that with his team finally in a real playoff push (last year a lot of things needed to happen for them to get in) he will exceed expectations, which are already pretty high.”- Robert Hanes

81. Phillip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL Top 100

Phillip Rivers (Photo by espn.com)

In the Chargers’ last season in San Diego, Rivers had a solid season, despite not having the best talent around him. He threw for 4,386 yards on 60.4% completion, with 38 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

That might not be the best stat-line, but he was throwing to Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman for the most part, who were virtual unknowns before the season. In 2017 the Chargers will have Keenan Allen back (pending his ability to stay healthy), rookie Mike Williams, a reliable Antonio Gates and an up and coming Hunter Henry to go along with Williams, Inman and Travis Benjamin.

Rivers is aging and will be 36 this season, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. With a better cast around him in 2017, look for him to keep on climbing up in the record books and be a top 100 player yet again.

Comments:“Rivers had one of his worst seasons as a pro last year and being 35 years old doesn’t help. He threw 21 interceptions and was the leader of the offense that committed the most turnovers per game last season. As this year goes by, fans will start to realize that it is time for the Chargers to move on and look for their next franchise quarterback.” -Matthew Hagan

“What Rivers did last season with no offensive line and a crop of receivers that no one knew about is nothing short of amazing. Based on last year this ranking is justified, but looking ahead to this season, with his new weapons and a better team overall, Rivers is going to have a very good season and is better than a lot of players ahead of him on this list.”- Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players: 100-91

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Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Fantasy football tight end sleeper: Julius Thomas

The 2017 season is approaching and tight end Julius Thomas begins a new chapter with the Miami Dolphins. His two seasons in Jacksonville were a bust, but being reunited with former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, he is my pick as the top tight end sleeper.

Adam Gase Connection

Gase became the offensive coordinator in Denver under head coach John Fox in 2013. 2013 was also the year Thomas became the starting tight end with Peyton Manning and company. Thomas broke onto the scene with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

He also excelled as one of Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone. From inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line.

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:nfl.com)

The following season, Thomas slipped a little but still had another good season. Although his numbers in receptions (43) and yards (489) dropped from the previous season, Thomas recorded 12 touchdowns for the second straight season. Thomas still finished seventh in fantasy under tight ends.

He was efficient in the red zone especially inside the 20-yard line. He was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Down production in Jacksonville

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

In 2015, Thomas got his big pay day as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What people forget is that Thomas wasn’t going to have the same amount of success he had in Denver. Not having Manning was a a big factor to some for Thomas’ decline.

In the 2015 season, he had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. He finished with 46 catches, 455 yards but only had five touchdowns. Catching touchdowns was part of the popularity with Thomas in fantasy. Most of the targets went to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Players like Robinson, Blake Bortles and Allen Hurns improved in fantasy and this hurt Thomas’ production as an elite fantasy player.

The following season, Thomas caught four touchdowns from weeks 1-11 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. His four scores in that span were tied for second among all tight ends.

Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, but injuries plagued seasons (missing 11 games in two seasons) and limited him to 21 games with nine touchdowns and 35 yards per game.

2017 Outlook

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas and Adam Gase (Photo by:oregonlive.com)

The move to Miami could be the best situation for Thomas as he reunites with Gase. He was a fantasy stud in Denver, and Gase could be a big reason why, given his track record with tight ends.

In 2015 as the offensive coordinator in Chicago, Gase helped Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combine for 87 catches for 878 yards and eight touchdowns, which would have been the number seven Fantasy tight end in standard leagues.

Last year with the Dolphins, the combination of Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones had 55 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. It would’ve been good for the number 10 fantasy tight end. So there is some optimism for Thomas to bounce back.

However, there could be some problems for Thomas. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout season, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker along with re-signing Kenny Stills. Thomas will have a role in the offense, especially closer to the red zone, but he will likely be the third or fourth option in a balanced offense with a lot of guys to feed the ball to.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could reemerge as a top fantasy tight end. He’s worth a late-round flier as a second tight end. There’s little risk and plenty of reward with Thomas and Gase back together.

 

Featured image from miamidolphins.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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Under the Radar Fantasy Running Backs

Under the radar fantasy running backs to watch

This season there are fantasy running backs worth watching. These five running backs may not be the biggest names in the NFL, but they can be valuable assets for your team this upcoming season.

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

Under the Radar Fantasy Running Backs

Jordan Howard (Photo by: chicagobears.com)

The first running back that everyone should keep an eye on is Jordan Howard. When starter Jeremy Langford got hurt last season, Howard took the starting job and didn’t look back. Not only was he good, he was dominant.

As a rookie, Howard rushed for the second-most yards in 2016 with 1,313, behind another rookie in Ezekiel Elliot. Howard also finished second in yards per carry with a 5.2 average. Howard averaged 87.5 rushing yards per game that ranked third in the league and just outside the top 10 in attempts (252).

Howard only scored six touchdowns, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Howard is on a team in which they have to come from behind which leads to passing situations on almost every down. This means that Howard doesn’t get the ball late in games to improve on some of his numbers.

Howard’s numbers will improve, especially in touchdowns. I also don’t expect Howard to have that sophomore slump. Howard will be a first round pick and could still rise to a top-five pick.

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins

After Arian Foster retired early in the 2016 season, Ajayi had his chance to play and went all in. Three times did he have a 200-yard or more rushing game, including back-to-back weeks. Miami did rank 18th in rushing attempts, but in those attempts Ajayi ran the ball with intensity and purpose.

Ajayi’s 1,272 rushing yards ranked fourth among rushers in the league. Ajayi also ranked fifth in yards per game at 84.8, ninth in rushing attempts with 260, seventh in rushing yards per attempt (4.9) and just outside the top 10 in touchdowns with eight.

Although the Dolphins ranked 18th in rushing attempts, they did rank ninth in rushing yards which means Ajayi has an effective offensive line that should help deliver a repeat performance in 2017. Ajayi’s ADP (average draft position) is around the eighth to ninth running back picked, which means look for him second or third round.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound bruiser known as Leonard Fournette will be the new man in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield. Fournette is a running back who can punish defenses with power and get chunks of yardage with speed. He’s not the most agile running back, but when he has a running lane, he accelerates quickly and can hit a home run.

Fournette won’t give you many catches, that’s not his game. His backups T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory don’t pose any threat other than a carry here and there to give Fournette a blow. Yeldon will be the pass-catcher and Ivory is the same type of back Fournette is. Although the Jaguars ranked 17th or lower in every rushing category, Fourette should help those numbers because of the ability he has.

I see Fournette as a guy like Ezekiel Elliot. A physical, breaking tackles and hit the home run guy once in open space back. The Jaguars will use the fourth overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft to protect quarterback Blake Bortles from having to drop back 40 times a game. I would rate Fournette a high-end RB2 with the potential to be a solid RB1. He will be a second round pick in most fantasy drafts.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

under the radar fantasy running backs

Joe Mixon (Photo by: cincinnati.com)

The good part about the Cincinnati Bengals running game is that they have ranked top-ten in the NFL in both rushing attempts and red-zone carries in each of the past three seasons. However, the Bengals running game for yards and consistency has been dreadful ever since Jeremy Hill’s rookie season in 2014.

Hill has declined and has delivered fewer than 60 rushing yards per game. Hill doesn’t catch the ball either. Giovani Bernard is working back from a torn ACL and will mostly be used in the passing game.

Fans should be excited to see Joe Mixon from a fantasy perspective rather than his off-the-field issues. Mixon has the potential to be a better runner than Hill, and a solid pass-catcher like Bernard. I look at Mixon and I see a David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell type player who has great ability to run and catch the ball.

Hill will probably be the starter and end up getting a good number of touches. Mixon will eventually take over somewhere in the middle of the season but don’t count him out to take the job sooner. If he’s there by the fourth to fifth round he could be a steal as he has the potential to be a RB1 but will start likely as a RB3 if he is the backup.

Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots

My dark horse running back is Mike Gillislee of the New England Patriots. With the departure of LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots signed Rex Burkhead to a one-year contract and still have James White and Dion Lewis. What separates Gillislee from the others is that he can pound the ball between the tackles.

He will fill the shoes that Blount filled last year. He was LeSean McCoy’s backup in Buffalo last year and finished with only 101 carries but ran for 576 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. His 5.7 yards per carry ranked first among all running backs with at least 100 carries.

The Bills didn’t have a great offensive line as it ranked 16th in run blocking but Gillislee’s 3.34 yards after contact per attempt was third best in the NFL. He was also a machine within the 10-yard line as seven of his eight touchdowns came from within that range.

We know Gillislee can be valuable for touchdowns, but be cautious because of the other running backs the Patriots have around him. Gillislee will get his touches as the Patriots ranked third in rushing attempts in 2016. Gillislee’s ADP right now is around the fourth to fifth round as a RB3 mostly because he enters as the starter.

 

Featured image from bigcatcountry.com

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 32-21

In the NFL today, quarterbacks are easily the most important position on the field. With an elite quarterback, winning comes easily (just look at the Patriots). But in fantasy, the demand for the position just isn’t what it used to be. Today, we’ll take a look at my 2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings, starting with numbers 32-21.

These quarterback rankings are unlike the others you’ll find. They are based on a variety of things: athletic ability, arm accuracy, arm strength, strength of receivers and strength of offensive line.

Here’s the start to my early quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season.

32. Josh McCown (New York Jets)

What happened to the Josh McCown we saw four years ago? In 2013, McCown threw for 13 touchdowns and one interception with the Chicago Bears. Do I think that he still has the ability to put up decent numbers in the NFL? Yes, just not with the broken, receiver-less Jets.

31. Cody Kessler (Cleveland Browns)

I have hope for Cody Kessler or any starting quarterback for the Browns, as they have an improved offensive line and still have some decent weapons on the team. Kessler showed signs of improvement and potential last year, but doesn’t have enough experience to be higher on this list. Plus four fumbles in nine games. I’ll take my chances with a different quarterback in fantasy this year.

30. Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams)

I still believe that Jared Goff has the potential to be something great in the NFL, but is this year his year? I’m gonna have to say no. In an offense centered around young stud Todd Gurley, with minimal receiving help, Goff is just waiting for his time to come. I’m gonna say pass on Goff this year but keep him on your radar for the future.

29. Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)

2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings

(Photo: USA Today)

I was big on Blake Bortles last year, but clearly things didn’t pan out. I know this is pretty low for a guy that finished in the top five for fantasy quarterbacks just two years ago, but I don’t believe what the Jaguars did this offseason is going to help Bortles. They brought in Leonard Fournette which makes me think they’re ready to go run-heavy, especially in the red zone. Be cautious with Bortles this year.

28. Brian Hoyer (San Francisco 49ers)

I like Brian Hoyer this year, just in fantasy football. Under Kyle Shanahan, I actually think Hoyer can make some noise in this league, as he’s got some big targets like Vance McDonald and Pierre Garcon. I just don’t believe that a quarterback leading a team to probably around four wins can do well in fantasy.

27. Mike Glennon (Chicago Bears)

The Bears were a little risky giving Glennon this much money after only a few career starts. With some nice weapons at his disposal, like Jordan Howard, Victor Cruz and Kevin White, I’d suggest keeping Glennon on your radar and picking him up on a top tier quarterback’s bye week depending on the matchup.

26. Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos)

If I had one word to describe Trevor Siemian, it would probably be mediocre. He’s an average quarterback who will throw for 250 yards, a touchdown and a pick per game, letting the dirty Broncos defense do their work. Draft another quarterback, but consider Siemian on bye weeks due to his copious amounts of targets.

25. Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)

I don’t really understand the big hype around Tyrod Taylor this year. How will Taylor succeed so well in a run-first system? Coming off his huge year, Lesean McCoy will continue to get a majority of the touches while in the red zone the Bills will use their newly signed fullbacks. I see Tyrod Taylor being nothing special again this year, so keep him off your team.

24. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)

2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings

(Photo: cincinnativseveryone.com)

Alright, I’ll be the first to say it: Carson Palmer is no longer a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. Going into this season with arguably the best running back in the NFL, Bruce Arians will probably focus on the running game this year. To make a long story short, stay away from Carson Palmer.

23. Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

I really want to put Watson higher on this list but how can I do that when he has never thrown an NFL pass? With weapons like Lamar Miller, Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller IV, Watson is in the perfect position to succeed. Stash Watson on your team and wait for him to breakout midway through the season.

22. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)

I believe Andy Dalton is a good quarterback in the NFL and can be great. This year won’t be his year though. He has two huge targets in A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but his offensive line took a hit this offseason. Losing two starters is hard to replace and I believe Dalton will feel the pressure this season and it will affect his numbers in a negative way.

21. Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)

Smith is the go to guy if your quarterback is on his bye week and you want to know you’ll get at least 12 points out of your fill-in. He’s not flashy and he doesn’t make big plays, but he’s safe with the ball and he makes the right decisions. If you want to wait to pick a quarterback late in your draft, Alex Smith is your guy.

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