NFL divisional playoffs picks

NFL divisional playoffs preview and picks

We were fortunate enough to get four reasonably competitive games to kick off the NFL playoffs last week. You can check out last week’s picks here.

For this week’s divisional playoffs, games will be picked both straight up and against the spread. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Postseason record- 3-1

Postseason record against the spread- 2-2

Saturday

Falcons at Eagles – For the first time since the NFL adopted its current playoff format, a sixth seed is favorite over a home standing top seed. This is not without merit though. Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles are just another average to below-average football team. In the final two games of the regular season, Philadelphia’s offense accounted for a grand total of 13 points, and the team as a whole was pushed around for long stretches by the non-playoff bound Cowboys and Raiders.

The above paragraph is not a good recipe for taking on the Falcons at the moment. Atlanta needed to win as much as humanly possible late in the regular season to keep its playoff hopes alive. The sudden death nature of the NFL playoffs changed nothing for them last week. They have been in that situation for almost 2 months.

Reigning MVP Matt Ryan and the offense are not quite the juggernaut they were last year, but they are still very good. What has sparked Atlanta’s late-season run as much as anything is defense. The Falcons have not surrendered more than 24 points in a game since Week 11. This includes holding the top-ranked scoring offense to just 13 points last week. If all the offense has to do is score in the high 20s, this team is tough to beat.

Apart from winning a shootout with the lowly Giants, the Eagles offense has not gotten anywhere close to the high 20s with backup quarterbacks since the injury to Wentz. Philadelphia’s defense is pretty good and has stood on its head in recent weeks to keep the Eagles in games. Thus, this will not be a blowout.

However, one of these teams is quarterbacked by Matt Ryan and the other by Nick Foles. Sometimes, it is just that simple.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: Falcons (-3) Atl 21 Phi 13

Titans at Patriots – Tennessee did a great job of making a few plays to pull off the big upset in Kansas City last week. However, that result had more to do with Kansas City’s collapse. If New England has a double-digit lead, whoever is playing running back will get the ball a lot more than 11 or 12 times.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from USA Today

You can’t help but be impressed with the resilience and toughness of Tennessee. That roster is not good enough to get to this point on talent alone. Different guys have stepped up for them all year long. Last week, it was Marcus Mariota playing with his head on a swivel to complete a touchdown pass to himself and Derrick Henry rushing for 156 yards in the absence of backfield mate DeMarco Murray that made the difference.

However, the Titans lack the firepower to really make the Patriots nervous in a playoff game. At this point, nothing more can be said about the greatness of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They are 25-9 in playoff games. Moreover, only three of those nine losses have been at home. Tennessee will keep this close for a while with solid fundamental football, but New England will pull away late.

Winner: New England

Good bet: Patriots (-13) NE 34 Ten 20

Sunday

Jaguars at Steelers – Vegas is showing great restraint by making the Steelers only a seven-point favorite here. With the way the Jacksonville passing offense has looked for the last month, a double-digit spread would have been perfectly reasonable.

However, the Jacksonville defense has shut down some very good offenses this year. The Jaguars went in to Pittsburgh early in the year and intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times in a route.

Also, there is more than one way to look at the performance of Blake Bortles last week. It is easy to say he threw for just 87 yards and therefore was completely awful, or you can commend him for his 88 rushing yards and ability to make enough plays for his team to win, even though he did not play very well.

Not very many people have subscribed to the second school of thought leading up to this game, but I am one of them. With a great supporting cast around him, Bortles is fine. Other than one or two games, Jacksonville has had no problem scoring points this year. Almost every offense is going to get shut down at least once or twice a year, no matter who the quarterback is.

Jacksonville is too good to get blown out. Any team that leads the league in rushing offense, as well as several defensive categories, is capable of going anywhere and beating anyone. However, Roethlisberger getting Antonio Brown back will be the difference in this one. Even if Brown is not fully healthy, his presence alone gives the vaunted Jacksonville defense another thing to worry about on a loaded Steelers offense.

Winner: Pittsburgh

Good Bet: Jaguars (+7) Pit 27 Jac 24

Saints at Vikings – No team was more impressive than New Orleans last week. All year, the Saints had done most of their damage by running the ball with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Carolina held that duo to under 50 combined rushing yards. The Saints still managed to win. Drew Brees showed us all why he is going to the Hall of Fame someday.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from si.com

Unless there is a truly dominant team, whoever wins the Super Bowl has to find a way to win a game or two where its best stuff is not working. There is no dominant NFL team this year, and that is exactly what the Saints did last week.

This week, the task is a little bit tougher as New Orleans goes on the road to face another very stout defensive unit in Minnesota. The vast majority of Minnesota’s success this year has come from backups, castoffs and other spare parts. Mike Zimmer and his staff have done an incredible job of getting the most out of Case Keenum. Keenum has nearly doubled his career touchdown passes this season. However, much like the other NFC matchup this weekend, it is foolish not to take the established star quarterback over the journeyman in playoff football.

Winner: New Orleans

Good Bet: *Saints (+ 5.5) NO 27 Min 20

 

Featured image from chiefs.com

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NFL Week 9

Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 9

Teams against the spread through Week 8

Buffalo 5-1-1

Kansas City 6-2

Philadelphia 6-2

NY Jets 5-2-1

Houston 5-2

New Orleans 5-2

Houston 5-2

Chicago 5-3

Minnesota 5-3

Pittsburgh 5-3

Jacksonville 4-3

Dallas 4-3

LA Rams 4-3

Indianapolis 4-4

San Francisco 4-4

Miami 3-3-1

Carolina 4-4

New England 4-4

Baltimore 4-4

NY Giants 3-4

Seattle 3-4

Cincinnati 3-4

LA Chargers 3-4-1

Green Bay 3-4

Tennessee 3-4

Detroit 3-4

Oakland 3-5

Denver 2-4-1

Atlanta 2-5

Washington 2-5

Cleveland 2-6

Tampa Bay 1-5-1

Arizona 1-6

 

Week 8 Review (1-2) Overall: 15-8-1

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ Detroit Lions

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Detroit Lions 15

NFL Week 9

The Steelers sit atop the AFC. (Photo from FanRag Sports)

JuJu on that beat! With Martavis Bryant suspended, Smith-Schuster, the wideout from USC, had seven receptions for 193 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger during the third quarter. Pittsburgh’s defense was phenomenal, forcing two turnovers and not allowing Detroit to score a touchdown.

It appeared the Lions still had a shot when they were down one in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Matt Stafford was sacked on fourth down. On third and fourth down, the Lions were a combined 2-14. The turnover on downs led to the big JuJu touchdown.

Matt Prater did not disappoint fantasy teams, as he knocked in a total of five field goals.

Atlanta Falcons (-6) @ New York Jets

Atlanta Falcons 25 New York Jets 20

Two points away from covering. Close but no cigar. The Jets looked like they were going to pull off the upset heading into halftime with a 17-13 lead.

A Matt Bryant field goal and a Mohamed Sanu touchdown put the Falcons ahead with less than 13 minutes to play. The Jets were unable to score a touchdown in the second half, and Atlanta squeaked out a close one.

The Falcons, who have an average run defense, shutdown New York, allowing only 43 yards on 22 carries. They also limited the Jets to a mere 15 first downs, which is tied for their best performance of the year.

Atlanta looks to continue their success this week, going on the road to face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Oakland Raiders (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills 34 Oakland Raiders 14

The Raiders are truly the most unpredictable team in the league. They went into this game following an emotional win over Kansas City, and appeared to be the better team. That was until the game actually started. Oakland turned the ball over not once, twice, or even three times, but four times, including a pair of interceptions by Derek Carr. They have now lost five games, which is already more than last season.

Give credit to the Bills, who look like a legitimate playoff team, even though they just got smacked by the Jets. Tyrod Taylor continues to not turn the ball over, and LeSean McCoy is playing like vintage Shady McCoy. McCoy had a 48-yard touchdown run and added a little spice, holding the ball out from 10 yards out to taunt the pitiful Oakland defense.

At this point, I think it is safe to say the Bills are more likely to play in the playoffs than the Raiders.

WEEK 9 PICKS

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) @ New York Giants

PICK: RAMS TO COVER

The Rams are coming off a bye, which means they had an extra week to prepare for this one-win Giants team. Quite frankly, the Rams are just the better team. They are second in scoring, sixth in yards per play and eighth in first downs. Their defense also ranks ninth against the pass.

On the other hand, the Giants, on both sides of the ball, have been a mess. New York ranks 24th in yards per play on both offense and defense. Eli Manning has his team at 29th in plays per drive and last in first downs. Their defense ranks 23rd in rushing yards allowed, which is not great considering the Rams are the sixth best rushing team, largely due to Todd Gurley.

New York just isn’t scoring, as they rank 29th in percentage of offensive drives ending in a score. The Rams rank third in that department, which is clearly a major difference.

This game could end up in a double-digit victory for the Rams. The Giants cannot run the football, so if Eli struggles, watch out.

Also, the Rams love to score right off the bat, ranking fourth in first quarter points per game. On the flip side, the Giants are 31st. As for third down conversions, the Rams are first in the league, while New York ranks 29th.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but I think it’s clear that the Giants are not very good at the moment. Keep in mind Janoris Jenkins will not be playing this week either.

Atlanta Falcons (-2) @ Carolina Panthers

PICK: FALCONS TO COVER

Not only did Cam Newton lose his best friend on the team, Kelvin Benjamin, but he lost his best receiver. Newton has publicly expressed that he is not a fan of the move, so expect a shaky start for the former MVP.

Carolina has lost two out of their last three games, and currently rank 23rd in points. Newton is not playing like an MVP, as he already has 11 interceptions.

Although it is somewhat of a disappointing start for Atlanta, they are still very solid. Their offense ranks fifth in yards, fourth in yards per rushing attempt, and fifth in first downs. Atlanta has the 11th ranked defense, which is the second best defense the Panthers have seen this year. The Falcons also rank second in yards per drive, while Carolina is 20th.

Matt Ryan has been somewhat average and has thrown more interceptions than usual. Luckily, the Panthers do not force many turnovers, as they rank 27th in that department.

If it comes down to the wire, Carolina is 27th in fourth quarter points per game, which cannot be trusted. Take the Falcons on the road.

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans (-3)

PICK: TITANS TO COVER

NFL Week 9

Expect big numbers from the Titans’ backfield. (Photo from Titans Online)

Like the Rams, the Titans are also coming off of a bye week. They sit atop the AFC South, tied with the Jags for a share of first place, so a home game like this is a must win.

When the Titans rush the ball for over 100 yards, they are 3-0. Baltimore ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, letting up almost 133 yards per contest.

As long as the Titans stick to the run, they will be fine. Even after the Ravens 40-0 win over Miami, they still rank dead last in passing yards, and second to last in overall yards. Their running game has been decent, but Tennessee defends the run well, and sits fifth in opponent rushing yards per attempt.

Expect Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry to run wild, and for Joe Flacco to continue to look bad, especially after nearly being concussed a week ago.

 

Featured image by myAJC.com

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DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry fantasy situation

Is DeMarco Murray in danger of losing his job to Derrick Henry?

How to Handle the situation at this moment

DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry fantasy situation

DeMarco Murray (Photo by: apexfantasyleagues.com)

In the first two games, Murray had 60 total yards on 14 touches and then 28 total yards on 10 touches before his injury. Again it may seem normal, but after this injury this could become the end of Murray as the lead back.

If Murray isn’t a go for the week 3 game against Seattle, this opens the door for Henry to show his ability. Henry could have a good week with the Seattle’s run defense has allowed 10-plus fantasy points to a running back in each of the first two weeks.

This could cause Murray to lose some touches. Vice versa, then fantasy owners won’t have to worry as Murray then could get his touches back when he heals.

If you Have Derrick Henry or both

If you’re a Derrick Henry owner, you could be in the driver’s seat.

DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry fantasy situation

Derrick Henry (Photo by: titansonline.com)

As I mentioned above, with a chance Murray won’t be available, this could be Henry’s big chance to take over. Even if Murray plays, he’s in for a decent workload. With Seattle’s run defense struggling, he has a good offensive line to run behind.

Tennessee finished the 2016 season as a top-graded run blocking unit, and the Titans brought back all of last year’s starters and have begun the year healthy up front. Henry’s 5.8 yards per carry in two games is No. 12 among running backs.

This could mean with a solid performance, that Henry’s name will be around for people to trade for in fantasy. Expect Henry to be the lead running back by season’s end. The Titans did not use a high draft pick on the running back to not want him to get more involved in the offense.

If you have both then you can relax. Keep tabs over the next week then you can make the determination who to start. But in this case I still start the healthier back in Henry.

What Happens if Henry dominates

If the situation whether Murray plays or not with Henry dominates, then it will be time for panic.

One thing not to do is trade him or cut him. Trading him isn’t an answer because no one will give you anything good for him, not even the owner who has Henry. Cutting him won’t do better because there is no one better. What’s next?

Murray was a second or third-round pick in most leagues. And having to say this it will take really his ability to get healthy and hoping Henry doesn’t do well. But this definitely means Murray and Henry will split reps more.

While the worst hasn’t happened, be prepared for a bumpy ride Murray owners. You could be heading for a disappointing road.

 

Featured image from tennessean.com.

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NFL week two: Eight takeaways

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

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

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

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

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

NFL week two: eight takeaways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. The Chiefs look really good

NFL week two: eight takeaways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. The Raiders are dope

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

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

8. Cowboys in trouble?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Has Dak been exposed? (FanSided)

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

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

 

 

Featured image by Washington Post

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2017 AFC South division preview

2017 AFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. The season opener is just one day away and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-18 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 South division preview.

4: Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season: 3-13

Strength of schedule: 30

Cleveland is the one organization that gets joked about the most in terms of putrid franchises but Jacksonville is arguably just as pathetic. The Jaguars have picked in the top five of the NFL Draft for six years running, which is an NFL record. It is safe to assume the Jaguars will finish fourth in this division given this tragic recent history.

Jacksonville has not won more than eight games in a season since 2007. Over these past nine seasons, they have averaged just 4.6 wins per year. The prediction will be somewhere right around that number until they can prove to win more or until they find a quarterback that is actually decent.

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

The Jaguars offense has been abysmal. Jacksonville only managed to score 19.9 points per game last season. This stems from the lack of a two-dimensional offense. The Jags are always behind the chains, making life much more difficult for Bortles. Jacksonville drafted Leonard Fournette to fix its 22nd ranked rushing attack.

An improved rushing attack could improve their 35.3 percent third down conversion percentage. Running the ball efficiently will lead to shorter third downs which theoretically should lead to more points. This is the formula for success because it takes the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands.

A better offense can help the Jaguars under the radar defense look even better. Although the Jaguars defense gave up 25 points per game, they ranked sixth in yards allowed at 321.7 per game. The offense kept turning over the ball and putting the Jags’ defense in short fields.

Jacksonville also acquired A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, both are upgrades over the departed defensive backs John Cyprien and Prince Amukamara to improve their defense. Their secondary will likely improve on the 215.2 yards per game they gave up last season due to these additions.

It seems like the Jaguars have made the right moves to be a better team but they do not have history on their side. They also stink at home and defending homefield is crucial. In the past four years, the Jaguars are 9-29 at home. Playing in such a humid and hot climate should provide a better homefield advantage. Because of history, Blake Bortles or Chad Henne, the Titans and Texans, are all reasons the Jaguars draft in the top 10.

Prediction: 5-11 (2-4), miss the playoffs

Losses: @Hou, Ten, @NYJ, @Pit, @Ind, Cin, @Cle, @Ari, Sea, @SF, @Ten

3: Indianapolis Colts

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 30

The Indianapolis Colts only have one thing going for them and that is Andrew Luck. The problem is he will be out the first week of the season and possibly longer. Without Luck, the Colts are going to struggle and would be bottom feeders over the course of a 16-game season. Andrew Luck has been stellar in his career throwing for 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions.

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: http://rotoprofessor.com/football/?p=9227)

His weapons at receiver are T.Y. Hilton, who had a career high in receptions (91) and yards (1,448) last season and Donte Moncrief. These two receivers have tons of talent but will falter if Luck is unavailable. Aside from the wideouts, Jack Doyle will be the go to tight end. These options are all solid but the Colts must try and run the ball more or these players will be useless.

The Colts are too predictable. They only ran the ball 39 percent of the time for 101.8 yards per game. Frank Gore is 34 years old and his best days are far behind him. Indianapolis is hoping Marlon Mack can become the feature back as this season rolls forward. There are no signs that the Colts will run the ball more or efficiently this season and that will hold their offense back and in turn, the rest of the team as well.

Defensively, there has been a change in the scheme in an attempt to fix a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed. They also ranked 27th against the pass giving up 269.2 yards per game. The rush defense wasn’t much better as they ranked 25th against the run allowing 120.4 yards per game. The unit as a whole must improve if the Colts are to have a shot at making the playoffs.

There have been no moves that indicate this defense will show improvement. The Colts have an easy schedule and Andrew Luck, but aside from that, there is little to look forward to from this team this upcoming season. Indianapolis will struggle and this time next year the Colts will have a new head coach.

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

Losses: @LAR, @Sea, @Ten, @Cin, @Hou, Pit, @Jax, @Buf, Den, @Bal 

2: Houston Texans

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 25

Here is something you have probably heard before: The Texans have had three straight 9-7 seasons. That won’t happen this season though as the Texans continue to struggle in their pursuit of finding their franchise quarterback. The weakness of the Texans has consistently been their offense and it will continue to haunt them this season.

Houston only had a successful run game and without it, the entire offense would have been one of the worst the NFL had ever seen. Houston ran for an average of 116.2 yards per game on 28.5 attempts per game. Lamar Miller had 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on just 268 carries. Miller is going to be a workhorse as Tom Savage lines up under center.

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite the successful rushing attack, the fact of the matter is that the Texans’ offense ranked at the bottom of most offensive categories including points per game (17.4, ranking 29th), points per game in the first half (7.6, ranking 32nd), yards per game (314.7, ranking 29th), third down conversions (37.3 percent, ranking 22nd) and passing yards (198.5, ranking 29th). Every bad play this offense has in 2017 will have the fans clamoring for Deshaun Watson. That much distraction is going to take a toll on the team.

As mentioned previously, the Texans are led by their fantastic defense. Houston ranked 11th in scoring defense 20.5 points per game but first in yards allowed at just 301.3 yards per game. The Texans were led by their pass defense which ranked second allowing 201.6 yards per game. This may slip a bit with the loss of A.J. Bouye but as crazy as it sounds the secondary can improve even more with the return of J.J. Watt.

Watt paired with Jadeveon Clowney will create tons of mismatches. They will be completely unblockable causing teams to dump the ball off quickly so that the secondary won’t have to cover for too long. Whitney Mercilius, Brian Cushing and Bernardrick McKinney are great linebackers who will continue to light up opposing offenses making the Texans defense one of the top five yet again.

Houston is in the same situation it has been in recently. The offense is going to falter while the defense remains Super Bowl worthy. A bad offense and the rise of the Titans will cause the downfall of Houston.

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

Losses: @NE, @Sea, @LAR, @Bal, @Ten, @Jax, Pit, @Ind

1: Tennessee Titans

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qijh_Au8B0)

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 30

Tennessee is the darkhorse team to watch this season. Marcus Mariota is entering his third season and the organization has done well to build around him. There were flashes of greatness from this team last season and they might have made the playoffs had Mariota not broken his leg in the second to last game. This season they take that next step and win the division.

Tennessee ranked third in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game on the ground to lead the offense. DeMarco Murray led the way in the rushing attack averaging 80.4 yards per game. His counterpart, Derrick Henry averaged just 32.7 yards per game. That number should increase this year and this will be one of the best backfields in the entire league.

This top rushing attack is going to help take pressure off of Mariota and the passing game. Marcus Mariota has been phenomenal in his short career already. Mariota has completed 61.6 percent of his passes while throwing for 6,244 yards, 45 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions. He has shown to be a great decision maker already in his career. Mariota converted at the third-best rate in the NFL on third down last year. He has also never thrown a red zone interception in his career.

Mariota accomplished all of this with Delanie Walker being his leading receiver. The Titans drafted Corey Davis and signed Eric Decker to address this issue. Mariota will have legitimate receivers to sling the ball to, making the offense impossible to predict or defend. These two additions may seem small but will make all the difference on the offensive side of the ball.

For all the Titans have going for them on offense, it is their defense that makes this team a possible Super Bowl contender. Tennesse gave up 23.6 points per game which is actually impressive considering the slow starts they were accustomed to. The Titans ranked 29th in first quarter points allowed.

Tennessee’s’ horrible secondary last season has also been improved upon as they drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson and signed defensive backs Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The additions of these three players can help the Titans catch up to their superb rush defense which ranked second in the NFL, allowing 88.3 yards per game.

The secondary is much improved and Mariota has finally been blessed with some receiving threats. Pair that with a weak division and the third easiest schedule in the NFL means that the Tennessee Titans will finish the season as AFC South champions.

Prediction: 11-5 (4-2), division champion

Losses: Oak, Sea, @Hou, @Pit, @Ind

 

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Featured image https://calvinayre.com/2014/08/06/sports/afc-south-preview/

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

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

50. Robert Kelley (Washington Redskins)- 

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

49. Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals)

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

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

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

48. Latavius Murray (Minnesota Vikings)

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

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

47. Derrick Henry (Tennesse Titans)

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

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

46. Samaje Perine (Washington Redskins)

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

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

45. Jacquizz Rodgers (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

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

44. Wendall Smallwood (Philadelphia Eagles)

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

43. LaGarrette Blount (Philadelphia Eagles)

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

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

42. Terrence West (Baltimore Ravens)

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

41. Matt Forte (New York Jets)

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

 

 

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“From our Haus to Yours”

2016 NFL Mock Draft March 4

  1. Tennessee Titans- Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The Titans would prefer to take a defensive player, but would settle for Tunsil if they don’t find any takers to trade down. He would help protect Marcus Mariota, because the Titans allowed the most sacks in the NFL last season. Getting protection for Mariota is a priority for the Titans this offseason. Tunsil is as responsible as anyone for the success at Ole Miss the past few years. He did miss seven games this season due to a suspension for receiving extra benefits.

  1. Cleveland Browns- Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Cleveland is going to try to move on from Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown certainly isn’t the answer. Goff has been atop draft boards all year and is the best quarterback prospect. He has good arm strength and accuracy. Goff needs to improve his footwork in the pocket and polish his decision-making skills, but he is the most pro-ready quarterback.

3. San Diego Chargers- DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

The Chargers only had 32 sacks last year and will look to improve their pass rush. Joey Bosa was mocked here, but Buckner may fit the Charger’s defense better. He will be able to play that 3-4 defensive end role that will be perfect for San Diego.

Joey Bosa had similar combine numbers to J.J. Watt. Photo courtesy cheatsheet.com.

  1. Dallas Cowboys- Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The Cowboys don’t have a great pass rush or secondary. I see them taking either Jalen Ramsey or Joey Bosa, but because Bosa’s numbers at the combine were much like J.J. Watt’s I think the Cowboys take Bosa.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

The Jaguars have one of the worst pass defenses in the league. They need a better pass rush and secondary help. Optimally they would get Joey Bosa, but Ramsey had an impressive combine and would be a good fit for the Jaguars.

  1. Baltimore Ravens- Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Hargreaves was the best shut down corner back in college football last season and can start on a team from day one. The Ravens were absolutely terrible against the pass and need to upgrade the secondary by any means necessary. Corner Jimmy Smith and safety Matt Elam are solid, but the rest of the players in the secondary did not play well and the Ravens need secondary help to be successful.

  1. San Francisco 49ers- Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The 49ers need a quarterback unless Chip Kelly decides to go with Colin Kaepernick . Kelly has shown that he wants to prove that his system wins games, not the players in the system. Wentz is very talented and has shot up draft boards, but is from North Dakota State, an FCS school, and has a lot to prove. If Wentz succeeds in the NFL, Kelly can take the credit, which is all he really wants anyways.

Myles Jack played both ways at UCLA and can use his athletic ability in the pros. Photo courtesy NFL.com.

     8.Miami Dolphins- Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Myles Jack had a season ending injury at UCLA this year, but is an elite athlete and should be able to recover fully. Jack was athletic enough to play both ways in college, which means he will fit in with the other NFL athletes. The Dolphins need help at linebacker to improve an underachieving defense last season.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

The Buccaneers need a better pass rush and can get a strong defensive end in Emmanuel Ogbah. He was quick off of the ball for Oklahoma State last season and may have the ability to lead the Bucs in sacks next season. Ogbah had a great senior season, with only two games without a half-sack, and can provide a good pass rusher for the Giants.

10. New York Giants- Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia

The Giants will be looking to upgrade every level of the defense before next season. They only had 23 sacks so they will probably start rebuilding with the pass rush. Floyd is a very athletic player who can get to the quarterback, but is also athletic enough to cover tight ends.

11. Chicago Bears- Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Getting Stanley at 11 would be a steal for the Bears. He is capable of becoming a cornerstone at left tackle for years in the NFL. Notre Dame had a wide receiver playing running back last season, who played very well, mostly in part to Ronnie Stanley’s blocking ability. The Bears can use him instead of Charles Leno at left tackle this season and protect Jay Cutler.

Some feel like A’Shawn Robinson’s stock fell at the combine, but his on the field results will prevail. Photo courtesy chicagofootball.com.

  1. New Orleans Saints- A’Shawn Robinson, DT/DE, Alabama

Robinson was really good at stopping the run at Alabama and has great gap integrity. The Saints had one of the worst defenses in the league and need help everywhere so fixing the rush defense is a good start.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles- Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The Eagles are reportedly fine with keeping Sam Bradford for next season. Their next objective is to acquire talent at the skill positions because Chip Kelly depleted the talent at those positions. Treadwell is the top receiver in the class and has great hands and the quickness to get open at the pro level.

  1. Oakland Raiders- Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

Oakland finally has their offense on the right track. Now they need some defensive players to put with with Khalil Mack. Rankins can provide an inside pass rusher to go along side of Mack. The Raiders only need a little more help to reach the next level of making the playoffs and getting a good defensive tackle like Rankins helps them a lot.

 

  1. Los Angeles Rams-Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The Rams don’t have any good quarterbacks and may draft one here if they don’t believe they can find one in free agency. Lynch was at the top of some draft boards earlier in the year, but teams have doubts about his ability to handle pressure.

  1. Detroit Lions- Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Fuller would be a top 15 pick if he didn’t have a season ending knee injury and could be the best corner in the class when it is all said and done. The Lions go up against Aaron Rodgers every year so getting a corner would provide an upgrade and help the Lions in their division.

  1. Atlanta Falcons- Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Atlanta had a league low 19 sacks last season. They will be targeting pass rushers again this season. Lawson wasn’t really on anyone’s watch-list to be a first round pick, but had a terrific senior season at Clemson where he proved he can be a solid pass rusher at the NFL level. He will fit in well with former Clemson teammate Vic Beasley.

Darron Lee impressed at the combine and his stock is now rising. Photo courtesy espn.go.com.

  1. Indianapolis Colts- Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State

The Colts had a terrible defense last season and will want to get a play-maker on that side of the ball. Lee impressed at the combine with his speed, but he is also a good tackler and is able to provide a decent pass rusher for the Colts.

  1. Buffalo Bills- Noah Spence, DE/OLB, EKU

Spence has a lot of concerns about his character after failing numerous drug tests in college. This led him to finish his college career at Eastern Kentucky. He had a disappointing combine compared to other players fitting his build in previous years. Rex Ryan will know how to use him and won’t be afraid of the character concerns because he needs a pass rush.

  1. New York Jets- Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

The rumors are that the Jets won’t keep Chris Ivory and instead will let him walk in free agency. To replace him they will need to take the first running back in the draft. Elliot is the best player available at this point and fills a need, making this the obvious choice for the Jets.

  1. Washington Redskins- Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

If a suitable corner is available the Redskins will jump all over the opportunity and select the player. Alexander played really well for Clemson this season. His confidence is something that teams will love because he thinks he is the top corner in the class.

Derrik Henry showed good speed at the combine for his big size. Photo courtesy bleacherreport.com.

  1. Houston Texans- Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

The Texans will likely want to get Ezekiel Elliot, but with him gone they will have to settle with Derrick Henry. It would be most beneficial for the Texans to try to trade down and pick Henry a little later in the first or early second. Christian Hackenberg will be available in round two so no need to reach and draft him here. Henry is going to be the biggest running back in the NFL by listed weight, although Eddie Lacy may not be listed at the correct weight. Henry will provide a power run game for the Texans.

  1. Minnesota Vikings-Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

Teddy Bridgewater got sacked too many times for a team that primarily sticks to the run game. They need to protect their investment in Bridgewater, who has a chance to have a great year in the Viking’s new dome.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals- Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

The Bengals need to find a replacement for Domata Peko. He continues to get worse every season and the Bengals do nothing about it. Billings will be the steal of this draft. He is very quick off of the ball and reminds me of Aaron Donald. The Bengals can pair him next to Geno Atkins and have the best defensive line in the NFL.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers- Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

The Steelers desperately need secondary help and will probably pick a corner back if they decide they don’t want to stash another linebacker on their depth chart. Apple was the best corner for Ohio State last season and would get playing time from day one with the Steelers.

  1. Seattle Seahawks- Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State

The Seahawks don’t have too many needs. Thomas is a good receiver, but had a tendency to disappear at times this season. Russell Wilson will get the most out of Thomas.

  1. Green Bay Packers- Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

Clay Matthews is better at outside linebacker and the Packers have said they will move him back there next season. They will need to get a good inside linebacker this off-season and will hit the jackpot if they can get Ragland at 27. He will help the Packers stop the run next season.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs- Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Decker would be an upgrade over Eric Fisher at tackle, but could play guard if he was needed to. He has been part of the reason Ezekiel Elliot has been so successful with his tremendous run blocking, but he is also a decent pass blocker. The Chiefs need to make sure Alex Smith gets sacked less as he gets older.

29.Arizona Cardinals- Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

The Cardinals need to improve their defense, as their offense was outstanding in 2015. Many scouts believe that Nkemdiche has character issues, but he has the talent to make an immediate impact in the NFL.

William Jackson showed good speed and hands at the combine. Photo courtesy houstonchronicle.com.

30.Carolina Panthers- William Jackson, CB, Houston

The Panthers have a great defense, but could use someone to pair with Josh Norman. Jackson had a great combine, running a 4.3 second 40 yard dash and could make his way into the first round.

31. Denver Broncos- Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

The Broncos could use some interior defensive line depth and Reed is one of many talented defensive tackles available.

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2016 NFL Mock Draft February 26

  1. Tennessee Titans- Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The Titans would prefer to take a defensive player, but would settle for Tunsil if they don’t find any takers to trade down. He would help protect Marcus Mariota, because the Titans allowed the most sacks in the NFL last season. Getting protection for Mariota is a priority for the Titans this offseason. Tunsil is as responsible as anyone for the success at Ole Miss the past few years. He did miss seven games this season due to a suspension for receiving extra benefits.

  1. Cleveland Browns- Jared Goff, QB, Cal

Cleveland is going to try to move on from Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown certainly isn’t the answer. Goff has been atop draft boards all year and is the best quarterback prospect. He has good arm strength and accuracy. Goff needs to improve his footwork in the pocket and polish his decision-making skills, but he is the most pro-ready quarterback.

DeForest Buckner is starting to get some love from NFL scouts. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

  1. San Diego Chargers- DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

The Chargers only had 32 sacks last year and will look to improve their pass rush. Joey Bosa was mocked here, but Buckner may fit the Charger’s defense better. He will be able to play that 3-4 defensive end role that will be perfect for San Diego.

  1. Dallas Cowboys- Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

Dallas reportedly has Jalen Ramsey at the top of their board. He can help out their secondary immediately and can play multiple positions. The Cowboys don’t have a good pass rush, but could have a much improved secondary if they choose to select Ramsey.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The Jaguars have one of the worst pass defenses in the league. They need a better pass rush and secondary help. Bosa has been falling in mock drafts and Jacksonville will get a steal at pick number five. He only had 5 sacks this season at Ohio State, but was suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech and was double and triple teamed the rest of the season. He has a chance to get back into the top three with a good combine.

  1. Baltimore Ravens- Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Hargreaves was the best shut down corner back in college football last season and can start on a team from day one. The Ravens were absolutely terrible against the pass and need to upgrade the secondary by any means necessary. Corner Jimmy Smith and safety Matt Elam are solid, but the rest of the players in the secondary did not play well and the Ravens need secondary help to be successful.

  1. San Francisco 49ers- Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

The 49ers need a quarterback unless Chip Kelly decides to go with Colin Kaepernick . Kelly has shown that he wants to prove that his system wins games, not the players in the system. Wentz is very talented and has shot up draft boards, but is from North Dakota State, an FCS school, and has a lot to prove. If Wentz succeeds in the NFL, Kelly can take the credit, which is all he really wants anyways.

Myles Jack played both ways at UCLA and can use his athletic ability in the pros. Photo courtesy NFL.com.

     8.Miami Dolphins- Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Myles Jack had a season ending injury at UCLA this year, but is an elite athlete and should be able to recover fully. Jack was athletic enough to play both ways in college, which means he will fit in with the other NFL athletes. The Dolphins need help at linebacker to improve an underachieving defense last season.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky

The Buccaneers need a better pass rush and can get a great edge rusher with Noah Spence. Spence was a star at Ohio State before being kicked out of school for repeated failed drug tests. He wound up at Eastern Kentucky and now finds himself as a top edge rusher in the draft class. Spence will be able to improve his stock at the combine with good interviews.

10. New York Giants- Emmanuel Ogbah

The Giants will be looking to upgrade every level of the defense before next season. They only had 23 sacks so they will probably start rebuilding with the defensive line. Emmanuel Ogbah had a great senior season, with only two games without a half-sack, and can provide a good pass rusher for the Giants.

11. Chicago Bears- Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Jaylon Smith has the same potential as Myles Jack, making this a great linebacker class. Smith was a tackling machine at Notre Dame. He is also very athletic like Jack. The Bears could use help at linebacker making this a great pick.

  1. New Orleans Saints- A’Shawn Robinson, DT/DE, Alabama

Robinson was really good at stopping the run at Alabama and has great gap integrity. The Saints had one of the worst defenses in the league and need help everywhere so fixing the rush defense is a good start.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles- Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The Eagles are reportedly fine with keeping Sam Bradford for next season. Their next objective is to acquire talent at the skill positions because Chip Kelly depleted the talent at those positions. Treadwell is the top receiver in the class and has great hands and the quickness to get open at the pro level.

  1. Oakland Raiders- Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Stanley fell in my last mock draft due to concerns about his work ethic, but he is so talented that he most likely won’t drop too far into the first round. Notre Dame had a wide receiver playing running back last season, who played very well, mostly in part to Ronnie Stanley’s blocking ability. Stanley will also be able to protect Derek Carr, which will be a priority for the Raiders.

Paxton Lynch could be the new Los Angeles Rams’ quarterback. Photo courtesy nfl.com.

  1. Los Angeles Rams-Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The Rams don’t have any good quarterbacks and may draft one here if they don’t believe they can find one in free agency. Lynch was at the top of some draft boards earlier in the year, but teams have doubts about his ability to handle pressure.

  1. Detroit Lions-Sheldon Rankins, DE, Louisville

The Lions still need inside help after losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly last season. Rankins has been rising up draft boards and can start immediately for the Lions.

  1. Atlanta Falcons- Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Atlanta had a league low 19 sacks last season. They will be targeting pass rushers again this season. Lawson wasn’t really on anyone’s watch-list to be a first round pick, but had a terrific senior season at Clemson where he proved he can be a solid pass rusher at the NFL level. He will fit in well with former Clemson teammate Vic Beasley.

  1. Indianapolis Colts- Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

The Colts want to upgrade their offensive line and defense next season. Andrew Luck will have to be protected with his recent injuries. Conklin is used to blocking in a pro-style offense, which he did well at Michigan State last season.

Leonard Floyd is a very versatile player. Photo courtesy onlineathens.com.

  1. Buffalo Bills- Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia

Floyd is a very versatile player who can be a good pass rusher in the NFL as well as being a good cover linebacker. The Ryan brothers will want to improve the pass rush so that they can get the defense up to their standards.

  1. New York Jets- Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

The rumors are that the Jets won’t keep Chris Ivory and instead will let him walk in free agency. To replace him they will need to take the first running back in the draft. Elliot is the best player available at this point and fills a need, making this the obvious choice for the Jets.

  1. Washington Redskins- Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

If a suitable corner is available the Redskins will jump all over the opportunity and select the player. Fuller would be a top 15 pick if he didn’t have a season ending knee injury and could be the best corner in the class when it is all said and done.

  1. Houston Texans- Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

The Texans will likely want to get Ezekiel Elliot, but with him gone they will have to settle with Derrick Henry. It would be most beneficial for the Texans to try to trade down and pick Henry a little later in the first or early second. Christian Hackenberg will be available in round two so no need to reach and draft him here. Henry is going to be the biggest running back in the NFL by listed weight, although Eddie Lacy may not be listed at the correct weight. Henry will provide a power run game for the Texans.

  1. Minnesota Vikings-Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Chad Greenway has said he wants to play one more year and then retire. He hasn’t been playing all that great anyways, so the Vikings will want to get another talented linebacker.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals- Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

The Bengals need to find a replacement for Domata Peko. He continues to get worse every season and the Bengals do nothing about it. Billings will be the steal of this draft. He is very quick off of the ball and reminds me of Aaron Donald. The Bengals can pair him next to Geno Atkins and have the best defensive line in the NFL.

Makensie Alexander finished out the season strong, making him look good for the NFL draft. Photo courtesy tigernet.com.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers- Makensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

The Steelers desperately need to upgrade their entire secondary. Alexander is moving up draft boards and could be a steal for the Steelers, pun intended, because that is what they always do in the draft.

  1. Seattle Seahawks- Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State

The Seahawks don’t have too many needs. Thomas is a good receiver, but had a tendency to disappear at times this season. Russell Wilson will get the most out of Thomas.

  1. Green Bay Packers- Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

Clay Matthews is better at outside linebacker and the Packers have said they will move him back there next season. They will need to get a good inside linebacker this off-season and will hit the jackpot if they can get Ragland at 27. He will help the Packers stop the run next season.

Taylor Decker can be a steal at the end of the first round. Photo courtesy osu.edu.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs- Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Decker would be an upgrade over Eric Fisher at tackle, but could play guard if he was needed to. He has been part of the reason Ezekiel Elliot has been so successful with his tremendous run blocking, but he is also a decent pass blocker. The Chiefs need to make sure Alex Smith gets sacked less as he gets older.

29.Arizona Cardinals- Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

The Cardinals need to improve their defense, as their offense was outstanding in 2015. Many scouts believe that Nkemdiche has character issues, but he has the talent to make an immediate impact in the NFL.

30.Carolina Panthers- Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

The Panthers have a great defense, but could use someone to pair with Josh Norman. Apple was the best corner on Ohio State and can be a viable option opposite of Norman.

31. Denver Broncos- Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

The Broncos could use some interior defensive line depth and Reed is one of many talented defensive tackles available.

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National Signing Day

Courtesy of, cantonathletics.com

                           Courtesy of, cantonathletics.com

For most college football viewers, the college football season ends after the National Championship game. Some only watch on those fall Saturday afternoons, but the real reason why teams like Alabama and Clemson were in the championship game is because they perform well on every first Wednesday in February. The day where high school athletes choose the university they will play for.

National Signing Day is the 3rd biggest day on the College Football schedule. First being the Championship Game, second being Opening Day of the season, and third is National Signing Day. This year it is on Wednesday February 3rd.

Recruiting is a 365-day, year long process. Your favorite team’s recruiting team is vital to your team’s success on Saturdays. For example, from the 2011 recruiting class to the 2015 recruiting class Alabama has an average rating on ESPN of 1.2. They have been number 1 in recruiting 4 years in a row. In that same span of time, Clemson has ranked no lower than 13 and has an average ranking of 9.4, according to ESPN. As of the January 6th, ESPN Team Recruiting ranks Alabama 6th and Clemson 10th. I chose those two teams not because they just played for the National Championship but because they are the only two teams in the past 5 seasons to have 10+ wins.

It is not just being a 4-Star or 5-Star talent that everyone knows. We all know Derrick Henry, Alabama’s star running back, was a ESPN 5-Star RB from the 2013 class. We all know Clemson’s QB Deshaun Watson was an Elite 11 QB and the nation’s top Dual Threat QB in 2014 class. Saban and his recruiting team at Alabama wanted Henry because he is the right fit for Alabama. Swinney wanted Watson because he is the QB Clemson needed to push them to be where they are now. Along with Henry and Watson’s supreme talent, they are great human beings. They are hard workers. They have great tangibles and great intangible, which set them apart. This is something that can only be known after getting to know the prospect personally and not just on the field as a football player. If Henry and Watson were not humble and coachable. Good players have talent; great players are coachable. We know those two players could not be in any better hands than Saban and Swinney, respectively.

The 3 and below star recruits, walk-ons and transfer athletes always play a part into making a good college team, because one school can only get so many 4-Star and 5-Star players.

A little under the radar Rival’s 3-star QB from Austin Texas who only had 3 offers coming out of high school. Those offers were Washington State, Rice, and Florida Atlantic, so he wasn’t highly recruited. He took none of these offers. He instead went to Texas Tech and walked on to their football team and in that same year Baker Mayfield was Texas Tech’s starting QB in 2013. He then transfers to Oklahoma in 2015 and is the starting QB for them now. And he is one of the main reason Oklahoma was in the playoffs this year. Not only is he MVP of his team he is one of the best QBs in the nation.

So go ahead and call in sick on Wednesday, February 3rd and watch your school land that recruit that can change your team in 2016.

Stats Courtesy of: Yahoo Sports, ESPN, Tigernet.com

College Football National Championship Preview

Monday January 11, 2015

#1 Clemson (14-0) vs. #2 Alabama (13-1), 8:30 P.M.

Finally college football fans get to see a National Championship Game that they have most likely wanted to see from week eight on. For years people wanted to see Oregon’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense, but this match-up  will be just as good as that hypothetical one.

Clemson has an undefeated season so far, but obviously plays their toughest opponent in this game. The Tigers have avoided choking in big games this season, something they have been notorious for in previous seasons.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has been using his legs and arm to lead the undefeated Tigers.

The Tigers have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, Deshaun Watson, who used his dual threat abilities to make Clemson’s offense dynamic. He is definitely motivated by the fact that Alabama running back Derrick Henry beat him out for the Heisman Trophy. He has passed for 3,699 yards and also rushed for 1,032 yards. He has struggled to complete passes against good defenses,  like Notre Dame and Oklahoma, completing around 50% of his passes against them, but uses his legs to beat these teams. He runs the offense that Alabama has trouble stopping, but he needs to have a better completion percentage to do more damage.

Courtesy of TigerNet.com

Courtesy of TigeNet.com

Running back Wayne Gallman has had the greatest season of any Clemson running back ever, rushing for 1,482 yards. That is currently the tenth best season of any running back in the ACC since 1956. He is only a sophomore so he has a chance to be one of the all-time great running backs in the ACC. He is a very hard runner, who uses the spread offense to find gaps at the line of scrimmage thanks to a good offensive line. He is hard to tackle at the line of scrimmage and averages 5.5 yards per carry.

Wide receiver Artavis Scott is one of the remaining viable targets for Watson after injuries and suspensions. Courtesy of sportstalksc.com

The wide receiving corps has lost two receivers for this game. Mike Williams was lost for the season on the opening drive of the season with a neck injury. The second-leading receiver on the team, Deon Cain, was suspended from the Orange Bowl and the National Championship Game for a failed drug test. That leaves one productive receiver, Artavis Scott, who has 868 receiving yards on the season. He is very effective on catching screen passes and getting yards after the catch by eluding defenders. On top of that the Tigers don’t throw to their tight end, Jordan Leggett, who has just 447 receiving yards on the season.

Defensive end Shaq Lawson has been the greatest surprise for Clemson this season. Courtesy of thecrimsoninsider.com

Defensive end Shaq Lawson has been the greatest surprise for Clemson this season. Courtesy of thecrimsoninsider.com

Defensively it starts and stops with Clemson’s defensive line. Defensive end Shaq Lawson expects to play in this game, after getting injured in the Orange Bowl. His 10.5 sacks on the season lead the Tigers and went way above what was expected of him. He is versatile enough to play anywhere on the defensive line and has first round draft pick potential. He leads the pass rush, which makes their secondary look so good.

Linebacker Ben Boulware has had a knack for stepping up in big games. Courtesy of campusrush.com

Linebacker Ben Boulware has had a knack for stepping up in big games. Courtesy of campusrush.com

The linebackers on this team don’t get much praise, but they are very talented. The best linebacker is Ben Boulware, who had a sack and an interception in the Orange Bowl. He seems to step up in the biggest games and will need to play well in this game for the Tigers to win.

Jayron Kearse has been a key to helping in run support from the safety position. Courtesy of chatsports.com

Jayron Kearse has been a key to helping in run support from the safety position. Courtesy of chatsports.com

The Clemson secondary also gets a lot of attention for good reason. Corner back Makensie Alexander does not have an interception on the season, but has been a great shut down corner all season. Safety Jayron Kearse has also developed into a good pro prospect. He plays like Kam Chancellor of the Seattle Seahawks and has a similar build. He is six feet five inches tall and is great at helping with run support. He has limited range and can be a liability in pass coverage, but gets away with it because of the talented corners.

The Crimson Tide lost to Ole Miss early in the season, but have won every game since, blowing out a lot of teams. By making the National Championship Game, Alabama is seeking to win their fourth championship in seven years.

Jake Coker has improved all season long and has to play well for the Crimson Tide in the Championship Game. Courtesy of alabama.247sports.com

Jake Coker has improved all season long and has to play well for the Crimson Tide in the Championship Game. Courtesy of alabama.247sports.com

Alabama has a quarterback, Jake Coker, that has struggled all year, but stepped up big in the Cotton Bowl. He completed 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception in his past four games. He doesn’t have to be great, but he has to protect the football for the Crimson Tide to win.

Derrick Henry won the Heisman by running well against good defenses. Courtesy of CBSsports.com

Derrick Henry won the Heisman by running well against good defenses. Courtesy of CBSsports.com

At running back Derrick Henry has had the best season in SEC history by rushing for 2,061 yards. He is a big physical runner that thrives on the big holes that the Alabama offensive line provides for him. His success has been the reason why the Crimson Tide’s offense has been effective, because of Coker’s struggles.

Courtesy of foxsports.com

Courtesy of foxsports.com

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley is just a freshman, but had 1,031 receiving yards. In the Cotton Bowl Ridley had 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He is Alabama’s only big threat, but receiver ArDarius Stewart and tight end O.J. Howard are also threats to the Clemson Secondary.

A’Shawn Robinson has been productive for Alabama for years and is now an intriguing draft prospect.

The defensive line of Alabama is good and has a lot of depth. They are the key to holding opponents to 74 rushing yards per game, which is the best in the country. Defensive End A’shawn Robinson has great gap integrity, which has helped the whole team be able to stop the run. Jonathan Allen, who doesn’t play every down leads the team with twelve sacks to help Alabama lead the country with 50 sacks.

Reggie Ragland is the leader of the Alabama defense, which is one of the best in recent memory. Courtesy of bamahammer.com

Reggie Ragland is the leader of the Alabama defense, which is one of the best in recent memory. Courtesy of bamahammer.com

Alabama’s linebackers are very talented, but there is one that stands above the rest. Reggie Ragland is a great inside linebacker, who will be drafted early in the 2016 NFL draft. To go along with him the other linebackers have all stepped up at different points of the season, which causes problems for Clemson.

Cyrus Jones and Eddie Jackson have both been play-makers for the great Alabama secondary.

Defensive backs are players that Nick Saban has specialized in developing at Alabama. Eddie Jackson was having trouble at corner back last season and his move to safety has made him a better player. He is paired with Geno Matias-Smith, who has a lot of experience making plays at safety over his career. At the corners, Alabama has a very athletic play-maker in Cyrus Jones and a freshman who is still growing in Marlon Humphrey. One of their most surprising defensive players is the person that plays the “star” position in the secondary, Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is a ball hawk who had two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Texas A&M.

My pick: Alabama. The Crimson Tide have their best defense, and the best defense in the country, since their 2011 season, in which they won the National Championship. Watson is the type of quarterback that Alabama’s defense has had trouble with, but their defense is going to go down as one of the all time great defenses. With Watson not completing a lot of passes it will be hard to put up a lot of points, especially with their run defense being so stout. Henry has been running well against good defenses all season long for Alabama and all Coker has to do is protect the football, which he proved he could do in the past four games.

Final Score: Alabama 31 Clemson 22