Cincinnati Bengals 2017 NFL Draft Profile

The ninth day of TGH Draftmas brings us to the Cincinnati Bengals’ draft profile.

Summary

The Bengals finished 6-9-1 last season, snapping a streak of five consecutive playoff appearances for the Bengals. This also marks the first time the team has missed the playoffs in the Andy Dalton era.  Fans are hoping this down year was due to injuries to stars like Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green, as well as the suspension of Vontez Burfict. However the disappointing season seems to have been more likely caused by decline after the loss of key free agents the previous offseason.

Cincinnati has had a quiet offseason so far as has been the trend in recent years. The coaching staff remains largely intact and the team has focused on trying to resign their own free agents as usual. Unfortunately, this trend of focusing on retaining their own players and signing veterans to team-friendly deals has backfired this offseason. The offensive line has been left in shambles with the departures of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler. The Bengals attempted to stop the bleeding with the signing of former right tackle Andre Smith, who is a marginal starter at best in this point of his career.

The only silver linings for the Bengals’ free agency were the resigning of Dre Kirkpatrick and the signing of Cardinals’ linebacker Kevin Minter. Resigning Dre Kirkpatrick was an absolute priority and he will return to lead a young secondary after finally putting together a strong season in 2016. The signing of Kevin Minter allowed the Bengals to finally part ways with Rey Maualuga and will help anchor the middle of the defense after the former 2nd round pick had a strong year for the Cardinals last year.

The Bengals have been one of the biggest losers of the offseason thus far. However the team has always made building through the draft a priority, a strategy that had seemed to work quite well until this year.

 

PICKS AND NEEDS

 The Bengals have 11 picks in the 2017 draft. Four of these picks are compensatory picks coming from the losses in last year’s free agency. With 11 picks the Bengals have some flexibility to move up or trade down. The Bengals have never been a team known to make moves on draft day and usually take the conservative route.

First Round: (1) No. 9

Second Round: (1) No. 41

Third Round: (1) No. 73

Fourth Round: (2) No. 116, No. 138

Fifth Round: (2) No. 153, No. 176

Sixth Round: (2) No. 193, No. 217

Seventh Round: (2) No. 227, No. 251

The Bengals will try to use these picks to help shore up a team who has lost a couple key players in the last two years and try to make another playoff run. I see the Bengals using a lot of their picks in the trenches this year, focusing on strengthening the offensive and defensive lines, with a receiver or safety taken at some point in the mid rounds.

Offensive Needs:

Offensive Tackles- The Bengals lost the anchor of their line with Whitworth’s departure. This need will probably not be addressed early on with a weak tackle class. The Bengals also signed Andre Smith and will probably give Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher one more year to figure things out after being their 2015 1st and 2nd round picks.

Right Guard– Kevin Zeitler left another huge hole on the line and will be hard to replace. Pro Football Focus has reported that Andre Smith could be moving to guard. This would fill the need, but it is to early to tell if he won’t be needed more at tackle.

Center– Russell Bodine has been one of the worst starting centers in the NFL over the last few seasons. With other good lineman no longer there to help him, an upgrade is needed to protect Andy Dalton.

Wide Receiver– Tyler Boyd showed a few flashes in his rookie year, but Brandon Lafell should not be a starter. Also it could not hurt to have more depth in case A.J. Green goes down again.

Defensive Needs:

Defensive End: The Bengals need another pass rusher to pair with Carlos Dunlap. Michael Johnson is a shell of the player he was before leaving for Tampa Bay.

Safety: The loss of Reggie Nelson could be felt last year as the have some problems on the back end

Defensive Tackle: Andrew Billings could be a good player coming back from an injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie year. However a little depth is still needed with the departure of Domata Peko.

 

Targets and Thoughts:

 Assuming there are no trades, these are the players the Bengals should target in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL draft.

 

First Round Pick 9: Taco Charlton DE, Michigan

Taco Charlton is a very talented defensive end with great size and athleticism that many scouts see as a top ten talent. Many scouts have even compared him to the Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap, so who better to be across from for the next few years. I debated between Charlton and Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett for this pick, but chose Charlton ultimately due to his better size.

Second Round Pick 41: Forrest Lamp OG/C, Western Kentucky

There is a good chance Lamp could slip into the second round, especially if the Falcons don’t take him a 31 overall. Lamp played left tackle in college, but projects as a guard or center in the NFL due to his lack of size. Lamp had great performances at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine, showing power at the point of attack and good feet in pass protection. His versatility would also good for a team that has many question marks going into the season on the offensive line. If Lamp is gone, Dan Feeney a guard from Indiana would also be good choice to fill a big need at this juncture.

Third Round Pick No. 73: Josh Jones S, NC State

Josh Jones is the type of big safety the Bengals need to pair with George Iloka. Jones comes in at 6’1” and runs a blazing 4.41 40 time. Strong safety is his natural position and would be a natural complement to Iloka at free safety.

Conclusion:

The Bengals should have a win now mentality when it comes to this draft and will select players that address immediate needs. The Bengals hope this years draft will help propel them back into the playoffs. However, after the loses of many veterans and leaders on both sides of the ball over the last two seasons, has the window of opportunity for the Bengals already closed?

 

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You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas below!

Draftmas Day 7: Los Angeles Chargers

Draftmas Day 8: Carolina Panthers

Silverdome

Motor City Memories: So Long Silverdome

It was announced earlier this week that the Pontiac Silverdome would be demolished later this year. The former home of the Detroit Lions and Pistons has not had a major sports tenant since 2001. Time marches on and business is business. However, it is always a bit sad to see these sports and entertainment landmarks go.

Before it meets the dynamite, here is a look back at some memories from the former jewel of the Motor City.

The Birth of “The Bad Boys”

Bad boys Pistons

Photo: nba.com

The Pistons called the Silverdome home from 1978-1988. The franchise never won much of anything prior to the hiring of Chuck Daly as head coach in 1983.

 

Daly had some players to work with. The shining star among them was Isiah Thomas. Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson were also there. Rick Mahorn, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, John Salley and Adrian Dantley soon followed through the draft and trades. Their physical brand of basketball and defense earned them the nickname “The Bad Boys.” They were never afraid to trash talk or commit a hard foul.

The Silverdome played host as the Pistons reached their inaugural Eastern Conference Finals in 1987 and the NBA Finals a year later. They would lose in seven games to Pat Riley’s Lakers.

The Pistons moved to their current home, The Palace of Auburn Hills, following the 1988 season. They christened that building by winning back-to-back NBA championships. The Palace may have seen the culmination of a mini dynasty, but the seeds were planted at the Silverdome.

Super Bowl XVI

Super Bowl XVI

Photo: 49ers.com

The most important pro football game ever played in the Silverdome, given the infamous history of the Lions, was Super Bowl XVI. The San Francisco 49ers, lead by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, held off a late rally by the Cincinnati Bengals to win 26-21.

The NFC title game is more remembered because of “The Catch.” However, if the 49ers don’t win it all, that moment is diminished significantly. This Super Bowl was the true beginning of the 49ers’ 80s dynasty and the first of four Super Bowls for the Montana/Walsh combo.

           

The Career of Barry Sanders

The Lions called the Silverdome home from 1975-2001. The building saw just a single playoff win. However, the one thing Lions fans could always hang their hat on was Barry Sanders.

Sanders played home games in the Silverdome for his entire career. Sanders ranks third all-time in rushing yards and also made ten trips to the Pro Bowl. The home fans saw Sanders rush for 184 yards two days after Christmas in 1997 to cap off one of only seven 2000-yard rushing seasons in NFL history.

Sanders had so many breathtaking runs at the Silverdome that it is hard to pick just one. So, enjoy the montage below from the NFL’s YouTube channel.

 

WrestleMania III 

WrestleMania 3

Photo: pintrest.com

While pro wrestling stretches the definition of the word “sport,” you cannot talk about the Silverdome without talking about WrestleMania III.  The 1987 version of WWE’s biggest annual event packed the Silverdome with over 93,000 fans. It was an indoor sporting event attendance record that stood until 2010.

Most were there to see Hulk Hogan battle Andre the Giant in the main event. Hogan’s slam of the 520 pound mammoth is one of the most iconic moments in the history of American pop culture. At the time, wrestling was as mainstream as it has ever been. For many of today’s millennials, the Silverdome is forever known as where Hulk slammed Andre.

If buildings could talk, the Silverdome would have quite a tale to tell.

 

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NFL Free Agency

Early NFL Free Agency: Sneaky Good Moves

The game of quarterback musical chairs is snagging the headlines early in NFL free agency like every year. If you do not have a quarterback who is at least competent, you have no chance in this league. However, every position matters. Here is a look at some sneaky good moves in the beginnings of the free agent frenzy.

Phil Dawson: Arizona Cardinals

Phil Dawson

Photo: sportsoutwest.com

Yes folks, a kicker. Arizona lost five games by one possession and tied another during last year’s seven-win campaign. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed 11 combined field goals and extra points. These things are not entirely unrelated.

Meanwhile, 42-year-old Phil Dawson missed just four total kicks for the 49ers. As crazy as it sounds, this may be a pivotal move in Arizona’s quest to return to the postseason in 2017.

 

 

 

Ronald Leary: Denver Broncos

Ronald Leary

Photo: hngn.com

Whoever winds up taking snaps for the Broncos next year will have much more protection. This is a heck of a start. Leary did not allow a sack while starting 13 games in Dallas last year. He has been a stalwart on the best offensive line in football since 2014.

Denver’s ability to sack the opposing quarterback in recent years is well documented. In 2016, the Broncos had just two more total sacks than their opponents. That is crazy considering the Broncos have both Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.

Poor offensive line play is also one of the reasons Denver struggled to break 50 rushing yards in a game for parts of 2016. Do not be surprised if center Matt Paradis is the only starting offensive lineman that returns in 2017. Last year’s free agent offensive line signings of Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung proved to be disastrous for Denver.

To become legitimate Super Bowl contenders again, the Leary signing needs to be the first step in another massive offensive line overhaul in Denver. The Broncos have also added former Raiders offensive tackle Menelik Watson to the fold.

A.J. Klein: New Orleans Saints

A.J .Klein

Photo: zambio.com

As long as Drew Brees is in town, the Saints will always be able to score. However, they have finished outside the top 25 in total defense for three straight years. While a single player will not change that, Klein is a step in the right direction.

Playing behind Luke Kuechly limited Klein’s snaps in Carolina. When he did see the field, he was reasonably productive. Klein took part in 137 tackles in Carolina despite starting just 23 games in four seasons. Additionally, three years and $15 million is a fairly cheap price to pay a 25-year-old contributor from a division rival.

           

 

Kevin Zietler: Cleveland Browns

Kevin Zeitler

Photo: stripehype.com

It is no secret that the Browns need work everywhere, and the offensive line is no exception. Zietler was one of three early moves the Browns made up front. The former Bengal is now the highest-paid guard in NFL history.

While the contract numbers are eye-popping and the Browns have an alarming tendency to screw things up, signing a guard from a division rival who has given up just 11 total sacks in five seasons is never a bad move.

March is all about basketball. However, the NFL’s version of March Madness is certainly worth continuing to keep an eye on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FC Cincinnati Officially Running For MLS Expansion

FC Cincinnati owner and CEO, Carl Linder III, delivered Cincinnati’s proposal to MLS headquarters Tuesday. Joining 11 other cities in announcing their intention for one of the four expansion slots. This was a widely expected move for FC Cincinnati and many of the other cities.

One of the two big surprises were Phoenix, who currently have the newly re-branded Phoenix Rising FC in the USL. The other was Indianapolis, Indiana who is currently the home of the Indy Eleven in the NASL and also the Indy Eleven II in the NPSL. Phoenix was added to the running last week and Indianapolis was a shock addition on Monday night Jan. 30 (one day before the deadline).

A new soccer-specific stadium is most likely what will hinge on Cincinnati being awarded a MLS team. The biggest way to get a stadium passed would be to have it all privately funded due to the taxpayers already paying off stadiums for the Bengals and Reds. Also a list of potential sites was supposed to be provided to the Cincinnati City Council before the end of January, but most likely won’t be released to the public.

Even though Nippert Stadium has a large capacity and FC Cincinnati has spent $2 million to widen the playing surface to the FIFA regulations, it is still controlled by its main tenants the University of Cincinnati Football team.

Coming off a fantastic season on and off the field FC Cincinnati is considered to be a front-runner for a call up to the MLS. On the field, it ended prematurely in the first round of the playoffs, after a third place finish in the Eastern Conference, in front of USL playoff record 30,187.

In the stands it was an incredible season with a total attendance of 259,457, 17.3% of the league total. They averaged 17,296 in league games and setting a league attendance record in their second home game with 20,497 and breaking that mark two more times later in the year, capping the record at 24,376.

The crown jewel of the season was the friendly match against English Premier League club Crystal Palace where a sold out 35,061 crowd witnessed a Palace 2-0 win.

Image courtesy of Tana Weingartner of WVXU

The blueprint that FC Cincinnati seems to be following is that of Orlando City SC who played in the USL from 2010-2014 and set attendance records along with solid average attendances over their four years in the league before moving to MLS in 2015. Solid ownership and a plan for a stadium in a soccer crazy environment was able to get a team to the MLS, Cincinnati can repeat this process.

Assuming FC Cincinnati gets a stadium, there is a decent shot that the MLS could come to Cincinnati but it will be very tough. St. Louis and San Diego both had their NFL franchises leave and have a large hole in their market of the professional sports world.

Also, the close proximity to the Columbus Crew won’t help.

Due to the outstanding ownership group and rabid fan support last year, with having already sold 9,000 season tickets for the season, it doesn’t look like FC Cincinnati going anywhere soon. But like most things in US professional sports, things will be decided behind the scenes instead of on the field.

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Spectacular Super Bowl Blunders

The Super Bowl has many great plays throughout its history. James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return, John Elway’s helicopter run, and David Tyree’s helmet catch all spring to mind. There are several others, but this piece is not about those plays. Here are some of the most spectacular single play blunders in America’s biggest sporting event.

First, there is one blunder you will not see here. Even though it makes every other list like this, Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXV is not really a blunder by him. Shady clock management and play calling by the Bills down the stretch left Norwood facing a career long outdoor field goal attempt. How one could have expected Norwood to suddenly do something he had never done before on the biggest stage the sport has to offer has always baffled me. Anyway, let’s get down to business.

Rocket Screen- Super Bowl XVIII:

Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs and quarterback Joe Theismann did not expect to find themselves trailing the Los Angeles Raiders by 11 in the final seconds of the first half. The Redskins put up 541 points in the 1983 season, an NFL record at the time. Even so, the smart money was on the Redskins taking a knee deep in their own territory and heading to the half.

Instead, Gibbs called “rocket screen,” a play Washington had ran with great success when the two teams met in the regular season. This time, the result was disastrous. LA linebacker Jack Squirek picked off the pass and walked in to the end zone with 12 seconds left in the half. The play kicked a Raiders blowout into overdrive. You can watch the play below on the NFL’s YouTube channel.

Garo Yepremian- Super Bowl VII:

When kickers have to throw, bad things tend to happen. Here is the earliest evidence of that. Trying to finish off an undefeated season, the Dolphins sent out Garo Yepremian to attempt a field goal that would have made it a three possession game with just over two minutes to go. The kick was blocked.

After a subsequent comedy of errors, the Redskins ended up scoring a touchdown on the play to make it a 14-7 game. Fortunately for Yepremian, Miami held on to complete their perfect season. Fear not, the NFL’s YouTube channel has us covered on Yepremian’s misery.

Lewis Billups- Super Bowl XXIII:

This is a nod to the pain of my family and Bengals fans everywhere. It may not have directly decided the outcome of the game, but it sure was big. Leading Joe Montana’s 49ers early in the fourth quarter, Bengals defensive back Lewis Billups dropped an easy an interception a player could ever come across. The 49ers got the game-tying score on the next play and mounted another fourth quarter scoring drive to win the game and championship in come-from-behind fashion. This play is the ultimate sports “what if” in Cincinnati. See it below from Michael Schiefer on YouTube.

Leon Lett- Super Bowl XXVII:

Leon Lett was actually a borderline Hall of Fame player. Unfortunately for him, that is rarely remembered. What is remembered is Lett costing Dallas a Thanksgiving game in 1993 by gifting Miami another shot at a game winning field goal. However, this mishap from about a year earlier happened on the grandest stage of all.

Lett recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter of a Cowboys blowout and there was nothing but green grass between Lett and the dream of every defensive linemen. Bills wideout Don Beebe had other ideas while Lett rumbled and showboated down the sideline. The result is one of the most recognizable pieces of video in NFL history. See it below on the NFL YouTube channel. For the sake of the players involved, let’s hope nothing is added to this list in Super Bowl LI.

 

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Keeping Marvin Lewis is not as Crazy as it Sounds

The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of their first truly disappointing season in many years. They will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. It is no surprise that many fans and analysts are calling for head coach Marvin Lewis to be removed. However, it was all but confirmed Tuesday that Lewis will be back for his 15th season next year.

There is certainly a case to be made that it is time for a change, but it is a case that has been made a thousand times over. While nothing will be certain until after Sunday’s season finale, it certainly does not look like a change is coming. That is not a bad thing for the Bengals organization, and here is why.

Perspective

Bengals fans and media outlets are so quick to forget how bad things were before Lewis arrived in Cincinnati back in 2003. From 1991-2002, the franchise was the epitome of a laughingstock. The Bengals record in that span was an astonishing 55-137. Everything was wrong with the franchise. Bad coaching hires, horrible drafts, and the cheap ownership of Mike Brown were all problems.

The last of those deficiencies have not changed. As a native of Cincinnati, going to games back then was still fun, but mostly sad. To this day, mikebrownsucks.com is still running. Games were just a sobering reminder of how far behind Cincinnati was from the rest of the NFL.

Worst of all, the Bengals lost a significant chunk of fans in the younger generation. Many kids (including myself) became lifelong fans of other teams. It is impossible to overstate the amount of work Lewis had to do when he took the job.

Photo courtesy of mikebrownsucks.com

Photo courtesy of mikebrownsucks.com

Mike Brown is infamous for having a Jerry Jones level of control over the franchise, but Jones has been very successful despite down years. There are many stories as to just how little power Bengals head coaches had before Lewis.

In 1998, the Saints offered their entire draft to the Bengals in order to trade up to take running back Ricky Williams. Brown overruled his coaching staff and held firm to select quarterback Akili Smith. Smith played in just 22 NFL games.

Somehow, Lewis immediately seemed to have more power than his predecessors. Starting with Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, the Bengals drafts immediately improved. Thus, the on-field product was not far behind. Cincinnati went from 2-14 to the playoffs in just three years.

Given what he walked into, Lewis took the Bengals to the playoffs seven times during his tenure. That is nothing short of remarkable, regardless of what his team does when it reaches the playoffs.

The Playoff Failures Are Mostly Not His Fault

Speaking of the playoffs, the big knock on Lewis is his 0-7 playoff record. No denying that is bad, but here is my question- Of his seven playoff games, which ones was Lewis supposed to win? I came up with one, maybe two.

I was unable to find the betting lines for those seven games, but I did look at the rosters at the time those games were played. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same. In almost every case, the Bengals have the weaker roster. The loss to San Diego following the 2013 season is the only real shocker. Even that one does not bother me much. No team is immune to having a bad day at the worst possible time.

The Bengals may have won the 2005 wild-card game against Pittsburgh had Carson Palmer not gotten injured, but that is debatable. It takes a special coach to win playoff games with the less talented roster. A coach deserves no blame whatsoever for losing to better players. Make no mistake, while Brown values the input of Lewis, Brown still has the final say over player personnel decisions.

You Cannot Coach Common Sense

Photo courtesy of si.mmqb.com

Photo courtesy of si.mmqb.com

Cincinnati’s most recent playoff loss deserves its own section. Anyone reading this remembers the shocking fumble and ensuing drive that was aided by 30 yards of penalties on a single play. This allowed Pittsburgh to kick a chip shot field goal to extend Cincinnati’s playoff heartbreak.

To blame Lewis for this particular meltdown has always been amusing to me. Lewis is a football coach, not a babysitter. There is not a coach in this league that should have to tell their players not to head hunt or make contact with the opposing coaching staff in the final minute of a one possession playoff game. No coach makes a point of saying that, the assumption is that it is obvious. Unfortunately for Lewis, some players are just dumb.

Lack of suitable replacements

Unlike most NFL job openings, if Cincinnati were to become open, the pantry is not bare. Meaning, the Bengals are just a few tweaks away from winning in a big way. I simply don’t believe that a young first-time head coach like Matt Patricia or somebody else is more qualified for this situation than Marvin Lewis.

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

Several teams have made coaching changes in hopes of going from good to great. While transitions like Jon Fox to Gary Kubiak do happen, they are more of the exception. Situations like Rex Ryan to Todd Bowles are far more common. If Cincinnati could lure in a proven winner like Jon Gruden, that is a whole different ballgame, but that is about as likely as me becoming the next pope.

Additionally, the Bengals have hired names like Bruce Coslet and Dave Shula in the past. Considering all roads still lead back to Mike Brown, can this franchise be trusted not to botch another head-coaching search? I am not so sure.

While the frustration regarding Lewis is understandable, the risk in removing him far outweighs the reward. He has been able to win on a relativity consistent basis with the Bengals. Not many coaches can say that.

If he keeps putting his team in the mix most years, the Bengals will eventually get over the hump. Replace him with the wrong guy, and they could fall off a cliff… Again.

 

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 17)

(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

(Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

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

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

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

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

Last Week: 7-9

Season: 139-97-2

Sunday Morning

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

usa-today-8928097-0

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

Sunday Night

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

 

 

 

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The Third and The Don NFL Picks Week 16

Cecil Walker (The Third) and Joe DiTullio (The Don) make their week 16 NFL picks. Regular picks are worth one point, weekend prime-time games are two points and upset picks (will be marked) are worth three points.

Away Team Home Team Joe Cecil
New York Giants Philadelphia Eagles Giants Giants
Miami Dolphins Buffalo Bills Dolphins Bills
New York Jets New England Patriots Patriots Patriots
Tennessee Titans Jacksonville Jaguars Titans Titans
Minnesota Vikings Green Bay Packers Packers Packers
San Diego Chargers Cleveland Browns Chargers Chargers
Washington Redskins Chicago Bears Bears Bears
Atlanta Falcons Carolina Panthers Panthers Falcons
Indianapolis Colts Oakland Raiders Raiders Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers New Orleans Saints Saints Bucs
Arizona Cardinals Seattle Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers Los Angeles Rams Buccaneers 49ers
Cincinnati Bengals Houston Texans Bengals Bengals
Baltimore Ravens Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers Steelers
Denver Broncos Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs
Detroit Lions Dallas Cowboys Cowboys Cowboys
Season Total 140 132

Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 16)

Week 15 was wild in the NFL and there were surprises all over. It was another great week of football. The playoffs are just two weeks away and there is still much to be decided. Before getting into week 16, to everyone who celebrates Christmas, merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then happy holidays.

(http://insidethepylon.com/category/nfl/nfl-playoffs/)

(http://insidethepylon.com/category/nfl/nfl-playoffs/)

Four teams have officially clinched playoff spots: The Patriots, Raiders, Cowboys, and Seahawks. Pittsburgh clinches a division title with a win against the Ravens this week. Kansas City can clinch one of two ways:(1) a win and they are in, or (2) a loss by the Ravens. Houston can clinch the division with a win and a Titans loss. The last team in the AFC with a chance to clinch a playoff birth is the Dolphins. They have three scenarios: (1) a win and a loss by Denver, and the other two scenarios involve a Dolphins tie so let’s not dig too deep into a tie since the chances of a tie are unlikely.

In the NFC the Giants have the most scenarios to clinch, with five. The Giants can clinch if (1) they win or tie, (2) a loss or tie from Detroit, (3) a loss or a tie from Green Bay, (4) a loss or a tie from Tampa Bay, and lastly (5) a loss by Atlanta. The Lions can clinch the division by winning and a loss by the Packers. Detroit also clinches a playoff birth with losses by both the Redskins and Buccaneers along with a Falcons win.

The Falcons can win the AFC South with a win and a loss by the Bucs. They can also clinch a playoff spot by just winning or a loss by both the Redskins and Packers. Green Bay has one scenario in which they can clinch and that scenario is a win plus a loss by Washington and Tampa Bay and Atlanta would have to win as well. The last team with a chance to clinch is the Buccaneers. For the Bucs to clinch they would need a win and a loss by the Packers, Lions and Redskins.

Last Week: 12-4

Season: 132-88-2

Thursday Night

(http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/healthy-giants-offense-pace-brees-saints-article-1.2791122)

(http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/healthy-giants-offense-pace-brees-saints-article-1.2791122)

New York (G) (10-4) 27 @ Philadelphia (5-9) 24: New York has a Super Bowl contending team yet again and Eli Manning still doesn’t get the respect that most top quarterbacks get. He is having a great season with 3,491 yards passing, 25 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions in 14 games. Divisional games are always tough no matter what the records are. This will be a close one. Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard will both have big games and the Giants stay alive for the NFC East crown.

Christmas Eve Morning

(http://sports.yahoo.com/news/game-recap-minnesota-vikings-vs-231110765.html)

(http://sports.yahoo.com/news/game-recap-minnesota-vikings-vs-231110765.html)

Minnesota (7-7) 16 @ Green Bay (8-6) 20: This game has major playoff implications. The Packers are hot and still in a position to win the division. Minnesota has no shot at winning the division but can still sneak in the backdoor with a wildcard birth. These two teams met in week two in the first ever game in the Vikings new stadium in which the Vikings won 17-14. In Lambeau, the Packers will have the edge and the Vikings will be all but dead in the water.

Miami (9-5) 24 @ Buffalo (7-7) 27: Matt Moore looked amazing against the Jets, but so has everyone else this season. Buffalo is holding onto slim chances for the playoffs.  The Dolphins won the first matchup of these teams 28-25. Buffalo is more desperate and Miami still doesn’t feel like a legit playoff team yet. Bills return the favor in Buffalo and win by three.

New York (J) (4-10) 17 @ New England (12-2) 37: Tom Brady is going to have at least four touchdowns in this game and the Jets will have no chance. Brady and the Patriots are looking to make sure the path to the Super Bowl runs through New England as usual. One more win will get them closer to that this week.

(JOHN SLEEZER)

(JOHN SLEEZER)

Tennessee (8-6) 27 @ Jacksonville (2-12) 23: Marcus Mariota and the Titans got a huge road win last week to prove their legitimacy and in my mind became the favorites in the AFC South. The Titans need to win a road game against an underwhelming divisional opponent. Sometimes these games are the hardest to win. Jacksonville will be well prepared and scare Tennessee, but it will be just a scare and nothing more.

San Diego (5-9) 24 @ Cleveland (0-14) 25: The Browns will not be the second team to go 0-16. Traveling across country from comfortable San Diego to cold and frigid Cleveland will be a difficult task. The Chargers will be the one team incapable of beating the Browns. Cleveland has had enough go wrong and 0-16 won’t be added to that list of laughable failure.

Washington (7-6-1) 27 @ Chicago (3-11) 31: Matt Barkley has been playing great and the Bears have been competitive in their recent games. If it wasn’t for one deep pass to Jordy Nelson they might have upset the Packers. The Redskins have been faltering lately and it is because they are not a real playoff team, The Bears have been playing so hard it has to result in a win at some point. It hasn’t been a great year for Bears fans, but they will get a Christmas win.

Atlanta (9-5) 24 @ Carolina (6-8) 27: Atlanta has a chance to propel themselves to the playoffs with a win, but the Falcons are running into Cam and the Panthers. There is still a small chance the Panthers make the playoffs, which means they will do anything they can to win. Cam won’t let the Falcons win in his house.

Christmas Eve Afternoon

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Indianapolis (7-7) 31 @ Oakland (11-3) 38: If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed the performance the Colts put on last week. Their defense played as if they were the best of all time, which is uncharacteristic of the Colts. Two of the Raiders three losses are to the Chiefs and usually only struggle against teams with great defenses. The Colts performance on defense last week was one of a kind and it won’t happen again.

Tampa Bay (8-6) 27 @ New Orleans (6-8) 24: The Bucs need a win and a loss from the Falcons to get one step closer to winning the division. Winning at the Super Dome is no easy task, but the Bucs are more than capable. If Tampa wants to make the playoffs they will win this game. The Saints won’t be able to spoil the Bucs hopes.

Arizona (5-8-1) 13 @ Seattle (9-4-1) 16: These two teams played to a tie in their first matchup. That will not happen again. The Seahawks have secured the division and are just preparing to be ready for the playoffs. This may be another defensive battle, but the 12th man in Seattle will give the Seahawks the edge in this NFC West showdown.

San Fransisco (1-13) 20 @ Los Angeles (4-10) 24: In what could be considered the most boring game of the week, the Rams get a chance to avenge an early season loss. The 49ers beat the Rams 28-0 week one and haven’t won since. The 49ers rush defense ranks dead last in the NFL, giving up 176.3 rush yards a game. Todd Gurley should have his biggest game of the year to give the Rams their fifth win of the year.

Christmas Eve Night Game

( Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle )

( Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle )

Cincinnati (5-8-1) 24 @ Houston (8-6) 21: Tom Savage went from unknown backup to most of the world to Texan superstar. Brock Osweiler was signed for $72 million with $37 million guaranteed this offseason. He was benched in favor of Savage, who came in and dominated. Tom Savage has since been named the starter and looks to help the Texans forge on towards a divisional title. Cincinnati will be ready for Savage and this game will end in an upset.

Christmas Day

Baltimore (8-6) 16 @ Pittsburgh (9-5) 19: This is the biggest game of the week in terms of division races. The winner of this game will end up becoming the AFC North division champions. The Ravens won the last matchup 21-14 on November 6th. The Steelers are on a five game winning streak and playing well. These two teams play great games and this will be no different. The Steelers get the three point edge at home to win the AFC North.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images )

(Rob Carr/Getty Images )

Denver (8-6) 14 @ Kansas City (10-4) 17: The Chiefs are coming off a tough home loss to the Titans last week. Denver ran into mighty Tom Brady and New England. The Broncos will be fighting for their playoff lives this week, but Arrowhead is a tough place to play. Kansas City knows a win puts them in the playoffs and they will get the job done.

Monday Night

Detroit (9-5) 24 @ Dallas (12-2) 28: Monday Night football will be going out with a bang this season as the Lions travel to Jerry World. The Lions are looking to secure a playoff spot, but are running into the best team in the NFL. As usual, the Cowboys will run the ball down the Lions throats. If Detroit finds a way to stop Zeke, then Dak will light them up through the air. It is a lose lose for the Lions and they will lose.

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 15)

There are just three weeks remaining in the NFL season and the playoff races are tight. Six teams in total have been officially eliminated, with three coming from from each conference. In the AFC it is the Jets, Jaguars and Browns. In the NFC the three teams that have been eliminated are the Rams, Bears and 49ers. If you’re a fan of one of these teams check out a mock draft here.

Only one team has officially clinched a spot and that happens to be the Dallas Cowboys. Six teams have a chance to clinch a playoff berth in week 15, but most of the scenarios require a lot and won’t list them until next week. For now the focus will be on picking the games and last week was a great week for picks. Here are Hagan’s Haus week 15 NFL picks.

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 120-84-2

Thursday Night

(https://news.sportsinteraction.com/sports/nfl-football/rams-vs-seahawks-point-spread-thursday-night-football-12516/)

(https://news.sportsinteraction.com/sports/nfl-football/rams-vs-seahawks-point-spread-thursday-night-football-12516/)

Los Angeles (4-9) 10 @ Seattle (8-4-1) 23: The Rams have finally made the right decision and fired Jeff Fisher. It only took them three years too long. Seattle is coming off of their worst loss with Russell Wilson who threw a career high five interceptions. A win by the Seahawks or a loss by the Cardinals will clinch a playoff berth for the Seahawks and with that much on the line they will win.

Sunday Morning

Miami (8-5) 23 @ New York (J) (4-9) 16: Ryan Tannehill is out for this game and the Dolphins allowed the Cardinals to come back once Tannehill went down. The Jets have looked very bad the past two weeks against the Colts and the 49ers. If Miami can run the ball and Matt Moore keeps the turnovers down they can still win this game. The Jets have given up an average of 193.5 rushing yards the past two games. The Dolphins run their way to victory.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Image)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Image)

Indianapolis (6-7) 22 @ Minnesota (7-6) 24: This is a big game for both teams as each still have a shot to win their division to make the playoffs. The Vikings offense has learned how to move the ball consistently, but can’t finish drives with touchdowns. Their defense is still stellar and can create havoc. Luck won’t have enough time to drop back in this one and the Vikings will keep their playoff hopes alive.

Green Bay (7-6) 41 @ Chicago (3-10) 24: Aaron Rodgers said the Packers would run the table and he might be right. The Bears do not have much to play for other than pride and hopes of ruining their biggest rivals chances at the playoffs. Matt Barkley has faired well so far, but the Packers are too hot and Aaron Rodgers is too good.

Jacksonville (2-11) 17 @ Houston (7-6) 27: Houston is a great team at home and Jacksonville is bad anywhere they step onto a field. Blake Bortles has regressed and he will struggle against a strong Texans defense. Lamar Miller is quietly having a great year with 1,010 yards rushing. This shouldn’t be a difficult game for the Texans, but anything is possible in a divisional matchup.

(http://www.chachaandspoons.com/2015/12/11/50-things-worse-than-being-a-browns-fan/)

(http://www.chachaandspoons.com/2015/12/11/50-things-worse-than-being-a-browns-fan/)

Cleveland (0-13) 24 @ Buffalo (6-7) 27: Keep an eye on this game. The Browns have a chance to steal this game if Buffalo doesn’t come to play. The closer the Browns get to a winless season, the harder they will be to beat. No player wants a winless season on their resume. The Bills still have an outside shot at the playoffs and should win this game.

Philadelphia (5-8) 27 @ Baltimore (7-6) 26: Philly is a decent team that will put up a fight against anyone and Baltimore looked pretty good against the Patriots. Both offenses are mediocre as the Eagles rank 19th with 22.3 points per game and the Ravens rank 21st with 21.5 points per game. All signs point to the Ravens winning this game, but usually in the NFL when that is the case the other team wins. Philly steals one on the road.

Tennessee (7-6) 13 @ Kansas City (10-3) 17: This is going to be a great defensive game. Tennessee is underrated and their defense is carrying them in their fight towards the divisional crown. Kansas City is a legit Super Bowl contender and is virtually unbeatable at Arrowhead. The Titans are good, but they are young and won’t win this difficult game on the road.

 (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Detroit (9-4) 31 @ New York (G) (9-4) 34: This could be the game of the week in the NFL. The Lions love to put on a comeback, but the Giants defense is too good to let that happen. Detroit has a tough stretch of games coming up and this will be the first. Because this game is at the Meadowlands, the Giants hold on for the win.

Pittsburgh (8-5) 23 @ Cincinnati (5-7-1) 20: For so many years this was a great rivalry game with playoff implications. The Bengals haven’t been officially eliminated, but it is only a matter of time. Pittsburgh has a one game lead over the Ravens for the division title and needs to win to stay ahead. The Steelers need it more and that will be the difference as the Bengals will put up a valiant fight.

Sunday Afternoon

New Orleans (5-8) 21 @ Arizona (5-7-1) 37: Oh when the Saints, go marching in, they get beat by the Cardinals. The Saints defense is giving up the most points per game in the NFL and the Cardinals have an explosive offense. David Johnson is going to have over 200 all-purpose yards as the Saints stink it up in the desert.

(https://www.profootballfocus.com/matt-ryan-fantasy-bounce-back/)

(https://www.profootballfocus.com/matt-ryan-fantasy-bounce-back/)

San Fransisco (1-12) 17 @ Atlanta (8-5) 41: Atlanta is catching a break playing the 49ers this week as the playoff races heat up. Atlanta’s passing attack is going to light up the scoreboard for about 40 points. San Fransisco’s offense will not be able to keep up.

New England (11-2) 22 @ Denver (8-5) 20: Tom Brady doesn’t typically play well in the Mile High City, which would typically suggest picking Denver would be the right choice. The issue is Denver’s offense won’t be able to win this game for them and Tom Brady will throw his name atop the MVP race after this game.

Oakland (10-3) 34 @ San Diego (5-8) 27: If the Raiders win, they will have officially clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2002 in which they made it to Super Bowl XXXVII. Their playoff drought is at 14 seasons and it is going to end. The Chargers aren’t good enough to win this game and Derek Carr will throw for 400 yards to finally put the Raiders into the playoffs.

Sunday Night

(Photo: Matthew Emmons)

(Photo: Matthew Emmons)

Tampa Bay (8-5) 23 @ Dallas (11-2) 27: Dallas is coming off their second loss of the season, but both have been to the Giants. The Bucs defense has gotten hot as of late and in their last five games they are only giving up 12.8 points per game. One of the issues with their defense is they are giving up 110 yards rushing per game on the year and it is well known that the Cowboys strength is running the ball. Zeke will have a big game and the Cowboys will win a dogfight.

Monday Night

Carolina (5-8) 34 @ Washington (7-5-1) 31: The Panthers looked great against the Chargers, but that doesn’t say a lot. Both teams are fighting to make the playoffs. Cam loves the spotlight and Monday night football is the time to shine. Kirk Cousins has the Redskins as the eighth highest scoring team in the NFL. Carolina can score if they have to and Monday night they will need to. NFL teams are all about the same caliber and are mostly separated by quarterback play. Cam is the better quarterback and will lead his team to a close win.

 

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