2017 AFC North division preview

2017 AFC North division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC North division preview.

4: Cleveland Browns

2017 AFC North division preview

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

Last season: 1-15

Strength of schedule: 21

The Cleveland Browns had an atrocious 2016 NFL season but that has become the norm in Cleveland. In the last 10 seasons, the Browns have had more the seven wins only twice. It has been even longer since the Browns have made the playoffs which last occurred in 2002. The struggle has been real but the Browns seem to be moving in the right direction finally.

It isn’t hard to improve on a 1-15 season and the truth is the Browns have nowhere to go but up. Improvement started with the draft and Cleveland did a tremendous job in the draft this year. The selections of Myles Garrett, David Njoku, Jabrill Peppers, DeShone Kizer, Caleb Brantley and Larry Ogunjobi show just how much the Browns are moving in the right direction. All these players will be key pieces for the Browns moving forward.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns will be much better than last years 31st ranking. Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant will do a solid job plugging the middle allowing Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey to make a lot of tackles. In the secondary, Joe Haden is the veteran star who will attempt to lead this secondary’s improvement in defending the pass which gave up 249.8 passing yards per game.

Offensively, the Browns will need to be committed to running the football. Their upgrades along the offensive line will create a solid foundation for improving an offense that only managed to score 16.5 points per game. The quarterback situation is still unfolding but having a solid offensive line will allow them to run the ball well with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. This will make life easier for whoever ends up under center over the course of the season.

No matter who starts, or eventually plays, at quarterback they will have really good receivers to connect with. Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt are capable of having big years and both could find their way to 1,000 yards. Duke Johnson Jr. will also see some time at wideout and with his speed could turn any touch into a house call.

Although the Browns seem to be heading in the right direction, they won’t see a ton of wins this season. Cleveland plays in a tough division and just doesn’t have enough talent to win it. The Browns will be more competitive but are a year or two away from really competing for the division crown.

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

losses: Pit, @Bal, @Ind, @Hou, Ten, Min, @Det, @Cin, @LAC, GB, @Pit, @Chi

3: Baltimore Ravens

2017 AFC North division preview

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

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 24

Baltimore has struggled since winning Super Bowl XLVII, missing the playoffs three of the last four seasons. The defense hasn’t been as elite and the offense doesn’t seem to have a true identity. The Ravens are in for another tough season and John Harbaugh may be on the hot seat by the end of this season.

As previously mentioned, the Ravens do not have a true identity. Despite having Marshal Yanda on the offensive line, the unit as a whole is a weak spot and Pro Football Focus ranks the unit 23rd out of 32 teams. The offensive line is going to face some tough defenses, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice, Jacksonville, Minnesota, and Tennessee are teams capable of dominating the Ravens front.

With a below average offensive line, the running game is going to struggle as it did last season averaging just 91.4 yards per game. There is also a three man committee at running back between Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West and Danny Woodhead. Each has their own specialty, but with three running backs splitting time, none will be able to get into a good enough rhythm to lead the running game to succeed.

Because of this, the running game will not open up the passing game which is a must for Joe Flacco to have success. Aside from an amazing playoff run in 2013, Flacco is rather average. His QBR shows just how average he is at 58.4 last season. In Flacco’s nine year career he has averaged 3,626 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions per season. These numbers scream average. Flacco is also 11-19 in his last 30 starts. His career seems to be trending down and the Ravens are going to hurt this season because of it.

The receiving group has a lot of experience and speed. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace will cause nightmares for defensive backs but can the offensive line hold up enough for Flacco to get them the ball, that is the question. Breshad Perriman is another speedster that can become a dangerous deep threat.

Defensive has been the strength of this franchise for a long time. Last season was no different as the Ravens ranked ninth in points allowed. Baltimore gave up the seventh fewest yards during the season which was due to their outstanding rush defense. Teams only ran for 89.4 yards per game against the Ravens. The defense will remain good but not good enough to carry a team with a bad offense to the playoffs.

The Ravens really struggled on the road last season going 2-6 and it is likely that the road woes continue. Pair this with an offense that will struggle to score and you get a team that ends up with only a handful of wins.

Prediction: 6-10 (3-3), miss the playoffs

losses: @Cin, @Jax, @Oak, @Min, Mia, @Ten, @GB, Det, @Pit, @Cle

2: Cincinnati Bengals

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Last season: 6-9-1

Strength of schedule: 29

After making the playoffs for five straight seasons the Bengals took a step back and only won six games last year. Marvin Lewis is entering his 15th season as the head coach and has gone 0-7 in the playoffs. If he does not win a playoff game this season he will be fired. 15 years is plenty of time to prove you can win a playoff game and if the Bengals don’t do so there needs to be a new voice in the locker room.

The Bengals offense was nothing spectacular last season. Cincinnati ranked 24th in scoring at just 20.3 points per game. The Bengals offense will need to score more points this season. Rushing the ball seems to be easy for the Bengals as they averaged 110.6 rushing yards per game. Joe Mixon will improve the running game even more as long as the replacements along the offensive line create running lanes.

The passing attack will also be better this season. A.J. Green will still be a beast on the outside but a healthy Tyler Eifert will open up the middle of the field. Speedy receiver John Ross will complement these two players and create mismatches for opposing defenses. Andy Dalton just needs to get the ball out of his hands and into these playmakers hands as quickly as possible to make up for the below average offensive line.

Losing offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler is going to be huge blows to this offense. Cincinnati is hoping they can soften this blow by reacquiring Andre Smith. If the offensive line can replace these losses and hold up, then the Bengals will easily have a top 15 offense in the NFL.

Similar to the Ravens, the strength of the Bengals is on the defensive side of the ball. Cincinnati gave up the seventh fewest points last season at just 19.7 per game. The front four is led by studs Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Vontaze Burfict returns at linebacker and the Bengals upgraded their middle linebacker from Rey Maualuga to Kevin Minter. The secondary is also not to be messed with as the Bengals return Adam “Pacman” Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and George Iloka.

The success of this season depends on the offense. Defensively, there is little to no concern. If the offensive line can create success then the Bengals will be in the hunt for the playoffs.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), wildcard candidate

losses: Hou, @GB, @Cle, @Pit, @Ten, @Den, @Min, @Bal

1: Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 AFC North division preview

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

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 27

How did a team that finished 11-5 and made it to the AFC Championship, get such an easy schedule? Pittsburgh has the fifth easiest schedule in the NFL and returns a plethora of talent. The Steelers have plenty of experience on their side and should be one of the best teams in the NFL and a Super Bowl contender.

The Steelers quietly had a very good defense but the offense gets all the recognition. Pittsburgh did rank 10th in points allowed and total yards. The high total yards ranking was because of their rush defense which only gave up 93.2 rush yards per game, ranking eighth.

The biggest area the Steelers need to show improvement in is in third down defense. Pittsburgh could not get off the field and spent an average of 62 plays per game on the field. Opposing offenses converted 41.1 percent of their third downs. The Steelers added rookie T.J. Watt in the draft to get some more pressure thus helping them get off the field more on.

Supringingly Pittsburgh is all about the offense though. The Steelers have a three headed monster on offense that led them to having one of the leagues best offenses. The oldest of the three, Ben Roethlisberger, had another great year. Big Ben threw for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Even at his age, he will still throw for close to 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns as long as he remains healthy.

Le’Veon Bell is who this offense is built around so this hold out is alarming. As long as Bell can play the entire season, the Steelers will have an unstoppable offense. Bell is the first player to ever average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving for a season. He is a key piece to the Steelers success.

The remaining star, Antonio Brown,  contributed 106 receptions, 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns to the high powered offense. Brown consistently dominates the league and with him passing success is easy to come by. These three superstars are the reason the Steelers are going to have another year in which they score a ton of points.

The Steelers have an easy schedule, tough defense and explosive offense. Pittsburgh will win the division and contend for the Super Bowl

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

losses: @Bal, @KC, NE, @Hou

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Featured image courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uY9XhulFyM

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

I’m continuing my rankings with the top 50 fantasy wide receivers for the upcoming season. Here’s the first list 2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41.

 

50. Rishard Matthews (Tennessee Titans)- Rishard Matthews was quietly a solid option for fantasy last season. He had 950 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and was ranked the No. 15 ranked receiver in standard leagues.

Matthews really kicked it into gear in the second half of the season. His targets per game increased from 4.9 to 8.0 during the second half of the season and became a reliable play in most fantasy leagues. It is unlikely that he’s going to put up similar numbers to last year with the additions of Corey Davis and Eric Decker, however he is a nice late round target.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

https://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/35/files/2016/10/9612339-rishard-matthews-nfl-cleveland-browns-tennessee-titans-850×560.jpg

49. Tyrell Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)- Talk about a break out year for Tyrell Williams. At the beginning of the season, he was fighting for the No, 3 wide receiver spot on the team, but by the end of the year he had 1,059 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns.

He’s a reliable pass catcher, as he only dropped five percent of the balls that came his way, and was one of the most productive receivers in the league last year after the catch. He had 439 yards after the catch, which was good enough for eighth best in the league last year.

I’d like to put Williams higher on this list, but because of the Chargers getting Keenan Allen back, and the addition of Mike Williams, he’s no more than a late round pick.

48. Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions)- Marvin Jones was nothing more than mediocre last year. He had his big moments early on in the season but after that he was nothing special. Jones started off the season strong putting up 83 fantasy points in the first seven games, but after that he had a mere 27 fantasy points in the last nine matchups. H

e wasn’t great in terms of efficiency or production, but the reason he cracks the top fifty is because of his opportunities. Last season, he ranked 10th in team pass plays and 11th in terms of how often he was on the field. We’ve seen that he has the ability to put up big numbers, so take him as a late round sleeper.

47. John Brown (Arizona Cardinals)- John Brown was a fantasy disaster last season. He only had 39 receptions due to illness and when he was on the field, he didn’t produce like he did in 2015. After having 1,003 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2015, things were looking good for John Brown in the NFL. The speedy receiver had a 64 percent catch rate and averaged 67 yards per game. He had a poor 2016 but don’t let that deter you from drafting him in fantasy this year, as he’s a strong bounce back candidate.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/b4d18ab1702eed52d60bd7dfa9c8ab0a60e505e5/c=72-0-3079-2261&r=x513&c=680×510/local/-/media/Phoenix/None/2014/10/27/635500162067407390-awinners01.jpg

46. Corey Coleman (Cleveland Browns)- Limited by injuries in his rookie year, Corey Coleman showed promise but didn’t put up big numbers. Coleman had 414 receiving yards and three touchdowns with the poor quarterback situation in Cleveland.

However, there’s still hope for Coleman. He has a high ceiling and tons of talent, plus the opportunities will be there this year. With the departure of Terrelle Pryor, and the only notable acquisition at wide receiver being Kenny Britt, Coleman should see tons of targets and enjoy a nice sophomore year.

45. Jordan Matthews (Philadelphia Eagles)- Playing in 14 games last season, Jordan Matthews had 804 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He has been a nice option for fantasy teams but hasn’t broken out in the way everyone has hoped he would.

He isn’t the most efficient receiver but does rank in the top half of the league in terms of productivity. Matthews ranked 24th in receptions with 73 and ranked 46th in yards after the catch with 235.

With the addition of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, don’t expect much more next season from Jordan Matthews.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

Corey Davis (Photo by: titansonline.com)

44. Corey Davis (Tennessee Titans)- The Titans have put together a nice receiving core for the 2017 season. Corey Davis is by far my favorite rookie receiver and here’s why: He’s the second receiver on a high-powered offense, he’s working with one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and that quarterback has never thrown an interception in the red zone in the NFL.

Standing at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, Davis has a great shot to get some red zone looks this season. Expect a solid rookie year from Corey Davis.

43. Mike Wallace (Baltimore Ravens)- Mike Wallace had a great 2016 season. Wallace had 1,017 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He is one of the most productive receivers in the league ranking in the top 26 in receptions, receiving yards and yards after catch.

Mike Wallace was the No. 1 ranked receiver in terms of team pass plays. There are signs of regression for Mike Wallace however. The Ravens recently signed Danny Woodhead and Jeremy Maclin who are candidates to take targets from Wallace this year.

42. Cameron Meredith (Chicago Bears)- Cameron Meredith had a nice 2016 season. He had 888 receiving yards and four touchdowns for the Bears and fans can expect more of that this year. With the departure of Alshon Jeffrey, Meredith has a chance to go into the season as the lead receiver for Chicago.

He was one of the most efficient wide receivers last season ranking 22nd in catch rate and 12th in yards per target. Overall, Meredith is a great receiver for the Bears, and more is expected for him next season.

41. Kenny Britt (Cleveland Browns)- Kenny Britt finally had a 1,000-yard receiving season. After being drafted in 2009, this is his first season with 1,000 yards and it made me excited for his production next year, until he joined the Browns. Making the decision to go to Cleveland didn’t help Britt’s status for the upcoming season.

It is a shame because he was a very productive receiver for the Rams last season. He was 23rd in receiving yards, 31st in receptions and 29th in yards after the catch with 303. I’m not saying Britt is going to just fall off the map completely, but he has the ability to put up big numbers, its just a matter of who’s throwing him the ball.

 

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Cleveland Browns 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Welcome to the first day and piece of this years TGH Draftmas! A merry time where we will be breaking down the draft profiles for every team for the next 32 days until draft day! So buckle up because we are starting with a fun one in the Cleveland Browns!

Summary

In case you were living under a rock, let me shock you by saying the Browns went 1-15 last year. Hue Jackson is a good coach that has been given a team that needs a lot of work. One can only hope that he will be able to stick around long enough to see his project all the way through to the end. The Browns have trade away many players and traded for (Brock Osweiler) draft picks in order to stock pile them to try and get the best values they can from young players. They are doing what teams like the 76ers and Cubs have done most recently in the NBA and MLB respectively.

For the first time in many years the Browns have been very active in trying to grab Free Agents that they value. This includes Kenny Britt, Kevin Zietler, JC Tretter and more. These are major improvements for a team that has struggled for a long time, but they are starting in the right spots. Grabbing a deep threat in Britt was much needed with the departure of last years biggest surprise in Terrelle Pryor. Also building in the trenches at guard and center with Zietler and Tretter are the start to what should be a solid line for the Browns.

Alas, their biggest problem is they have no one to captain the ship at Quarterback. While Cody Kessler showed flashes many do not believe he is a franchise Quarterback. They also trade for Brock Osweiler. The rumor has been that they are trying to flip him, I honestly do not know if he has even flown up to Cleveland yet or ever plans to.

The defense also has seen improvements in their recent draft picks. Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib were all nice pieces added in recent years. Also do not forget about Jamie Collins. Joe Hayden is slowing down but is still solid.

Picks and Needs

Next we will look into the 11 draft picks the Browns have stock piled.

First round: (2) No. 1, No. 12

Second round: (2) No. 33, No. 52

Third round: (1) No. 65

Fourth round: (1) No. 108.

Fifth round: (3) No. 145, No. 175 No. 181

Sixth round: (2) No. 185, No. 188

Seventh round: No picks.

As one can see, they have a lot of picks in the first 5 rounds, 8 to be exact. This is generally a good sign for rebuilding teams, IF, they are able to hit on their picks.

In my opinion there are many needs for the team overall but, definitely less than last year. I will start with the Offense.

I see the major needs in no particular order as:

Quarterback

Wide Receiver (Preferably one with great hands)

Tackle

Tight End

Now on to the Defense:

Edge Rusher at Defensive End or Linebacker

Linebackers in General (Specifically Outside)

Cornerback

Both Safety Positions 

Targets and Thoughts

I will pick who I believe the Browns will be targeting in their first three rounds. This will be without trades since they are so unpredictable although, I will say that I think the Browns trade the first overall pick.

First Round:

Pick #1: Myles Garrett DE, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett (Photo courtesy: 12thman.com)

If they do make this pick I believe it will be Garrett along with basically everyone else. Do you really need me to go into why? Everyone else has so I will spare you.

Pick #12: Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State

While I do think they will end up picking a Quarterback in the real draft, I personally would pick Lattimore if he’s still available. He is an explosive athlete and in a passing league I believe the Browns need to target DB’s early and often in this draft. I also am not a huge fan of this Quarterback class and believe that the Browns are much more than a Quarterback away from contending.

Second Round:

Pick #33: JuJu Smith-Schuster WR, USC

While Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman are great options they can be a little inconsistent. Terrelle Pryor was a major contributor to the team last year due to his size and play-making ability. JuJu is a similar player. He will body up smaller DBs and make them work to make a play on the ball. He may not be the flashiest pick but, at 33 I think hes the best WR still available.

Pick #52: Josh Jones SS, NC State

Safety was another position the Browns got little production out of last season. They need an upgrade and Jones should be a solid answer for that. He is a tough kid with great closing speed and can tackle well in the open field.

Third Round:

Pick #65: Brad Kaaya QB, Miami (FL)

Yes, I am finally addressing the elephant in the room. Again I am not a huge fan of any of the Quarterbacks in this class mostly due to their draft value. I do not believe any of them can start day one. I believe this is true of Kaaya but, Kessler will need a back up and at this point I think Kaaya might be worth it. He has the arm and is the all-time passing leader at a storied program like Miami. He has things to work on but, if given time (which the Browns have) I believe he could develop into something special.

Conclusion

The Browns have an opportunity to really have an incredible draft. This is one that they can pass on the Quarterbacks and get great value in their first two rounds of picks. I believe that this team is on the up and drafting for the best talent at positions they desperately need it at is the smartest decision.

Thank you for joining us on our first day of Draftmas! Please make sure to check back tomorrow for our look at the San Francisco 49ers!

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December 29 Bowl Preview

December 29 Bowl Preview

Armed Forces Bowl: California Golden Bears (7-5) vs. Air Force Falcons (8-5), 2:00 P.M.

Cal has arguably the best quarterback in the country and still only managed to get seven wins. Quarterback Jared Goff is a potential first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and threw for 4252 yards and 37 touchdowns. Goff’s arm has been the reason the Golden Bears were able to average 36.5 points per game, because they didn’t have much of arunning game. Cal’s defense has been the reason that they lost five games on the season. They allow 30.8 points pergame, due to a lackluster rush defense, which allows over 200 yards per game.

Air Force lost in the Mountain West Championship to San Diego State, but still had a successful season. Their 321.8 rushing yards per game is the second best in the country because of their triple option offense. The Falcons defense has been very complimentary to their offense by allowing just 190 passing yards per game and 23 points per game.

This game pits strength against strength with Goff going up against the good pass defense of Air Force. Goff has only had one bad game all year, and that won’t repeat itself in this game. Cal will put up too many points for Air Force to keep up.

Final Score: California 43 Air Force 29

Courtesy of, www.cbssports.com

Courtesy of, www.cbssports.com

Russell Athletic Bowl: #10 North Carolina Tarheels (10-2) at #17 Baylor Bears (9-3), 5:30 P.M.

North Carolina had a chance to be in the College Football Playoff had they beaten Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, but lost to finish their regular season with ten wins. Quarterback Marquise Williams had two bad games in the team’s two losses making him the key for the Tar Heels. He had a successful season by running and throwing the ball to help North Carolina average 40.9 points per game. The Tarheel defense was improved this season under defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. They allow fewer than 200 passing yards, but more than 200 rushing yards per game.

Baylor was so desperate for a healthy quarterback at the end of the season, that they were moving wide receivers to quarterback. The third string quarterback Chris Johnson will start the game, because he is the best quarterback healthy. He was the reason that Baylor beat Oklahoma State, which was a big win. To go along with Johnson, they have a great running back, Shock Linwood, and the best wide receiver in college football, Corey Coleman. Even with a third string quarterback, the offense will play fine. Baylor’s defense was average this season, but does have two stars on the defensive line. Defensive end Shawn Oakman is athletically gifted and great at getting to the quarterback. Defensive tackle Andrew Billings has a quick burst after the snap and is very disruptive.

This game will come down to the best offense as there will be a lot of points scored. Baylor’s run game will be able to exploit the North Carolina rush defense. Billings and Oakman will force Williams to make bad decisions and have his third bad game of the season.

Final Score: Baylor 55 UNC 39

Courtesy of, bleacherreport.com

Courtesy of, bleacherreport.com

Arizona Bowl: Nevada Wolfpack (6-6) vs. Colorado State Rams (7-5), 7:30 P.M.

Nevada had six wins with two games to play, but lost their last two games. They have a good rushing offense which averages 205 yards per game. The Wolfpack offense doesn’t put a lot of points on the board, but running back James Butler racked up 1156 rushing yards and does move the chains. Nevada’s defense is average, but is vulnerableto good running offenses.

Colorado State has one of the most talented receivers in the country in Rashard Higgins, who had 933 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns. The Rams boasted an offense that was balanced, averaging around 200 yardspassing and rushing. Colorado State on defense is vulnerable to the rush more so than the pass.

The Rams will win the game because of their balanced offense creating problems for the Wolfpack.

Final Score: Colorado State 32 Nevada 23

Courtesy of, www.csurams.com

Courtesy of, www.csurams.com

Texas Bowl: #20 LSU Tigers (8-3) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5), 9:00 P.M.

LSU started off the season hot, but didn’t finish it off well by losing three of their last four games. Running back Leonard Fournette is one of the most talented players in the country and finished the season with 1741 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. Their offense is very bland at times, but quarterback Brandon Harris did a good job of protecting the football, only throwing five interceptions on the year. The Tiger defense wasn’t the best they have ever had, but they were solid, allowing just 24 points per game.

Texas Tech has a great offense this season using the air raid offense. Running back Deandre Washington rushed for 1455 yards and quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 4283 yards. Their tempo is a factor that a lot of teams can’t handle as they snap the ball very quickly. The Red Raiders are very bad on defense, giving up 42 points per game, which is the fourth worst scoring defense in the country. They give up 271 rushing yards per game, which is also makes them one of the worst rush defenses in the country.

Fournette will have one of the best performances of the bowl season by going up against such a bad defense. He will gain more than 200 yards rushing and the Tigers will win.

Final Score: LSU 38 Texas Tech 31

Courtesy of, www.cbssports.com

                        Courtesy of, www.cbssports.com