2017 Fantasy football season

Halfway point in fantasy season

We are about the halfway point of the fantasy season. We have seen it all this season, from rookie success to injured superstars and everything in between. Here are the big headlines at the halfway point of the fantasy season.

Ezekiel Elliott may not be available down the stretch

Ouch! The first big headline we have to get out of the way here. On Thursday, a federal appeals court overturned a district court’s decision in the Ezekiel Elliott case. This means the Dallas Cowboys running back’s six-game suspension has been reinstated.

The worse part is it happened on the bye week, which means his suspension will start next week and he will miss weeks 7-12. This a big blow to fantasy owners of Elliott because he may not be available down the stretch to the playoffs especially with how many running backs are out there. This opens the door for Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden.

The top two quarterbacks are Alex Smith and Deshaun Watson

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson are the top two quarterbacks in fantasy. What’s even more surprising is both of them are the top players in fantasy. Both were on fire against each other last week, combining for eight passing touchdowns and 62.4 fantasy points.

2017 Fantasy football season

Alex Smith (Photo by: profootballweekly.com)

Not to say Smith is a bad quarterback because he isn’t, but he’s not been known to be a reliable fantasy quarterback. Last year he finished as the 22nd best quarterback in fantasy.

This year he and the Chiefs have turned it around. He’s averaging 23.3 fantasy points per game, which is best in 2017. He is also playing at a MVP caliber and is leading the NFL in both passer rating and completion percentage. Smith has proven to be a legitimate QB1 at this point of the season.

Watson on the other hand has surprised a lot of people. It wasn’t surprising he would be taking over the Texans at quarterback, but not at this level.

After his week 5 performance against the Chiefs, he has proven he can play in this league. He threw for five touchdowns and had a 35 point performance. Through four weeks plus a half of a game in week 1, he’s taken over. He’s has 1,072 passing yards, 7.39 yards per attempt, 12 touchdowns, 179 rushing yards and two scores on the ground. He still may be a QB2, but like Smith, he has proven he can be relied on in good matchups.

The top defense is the JAcksonville JagUars

Jacksonville Jaguars fans finally have something they can cheer for. Their defense is leading all defenses in fantasy points with 82. They have finally had some luck with good draft picks, good free agents signings and a good coaching staff.

2017 Fantasy football season

(Photo by: sports.yahoo.com)

Last week against the Steelers they picked off Ben Roethlisberger five times and returned two of them for touchdowns. That doesn’t happen very often.

The Jags are built around their defense. They have one of the best cornerback tandems in the league with A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey combining for four interceptions. With that in their defensive backfield, along with safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson, they rank fourth in passing yards allowed. They also lead the league in interceptions and total turnovers and are third in fumbles.

The Jags may have some flaws in the run game, but their defensive line sure does get to the quarterbacks. They lead the league in sacks with 20, led by newcomer Calais Campbell along with Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue. They really don’t have a weak spot in that defense. Expect them to continue to play well.

Two rookie running backs are top three in points at the position

Through five weeks, we have seen a couple of rookie running backs playing at a high level. Jacksonville Jaguar Leonard Fournette’s success may not surprise you especially with his role. But the big name leading all running backs is third-round pick Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs’ back has dominated since the opening week.

Let’s start with Hunt, who has dominated at the point of attack. He is in the top three in fantasy points overall and No. 1 among running backs. Hunt has rushed over 100 yards in four of the five games and is averaging 121.8 yards per game. He also leads running backs in yards and runs over 20 yards.

He’s averaging 22.3 fantasy points per game. The Chiefs overall are playing as the best team in the league and expect Hunt to still be the emphasis of their offense both running and passing.

Fournette is a big back and the staple of the Jaguars’ offense. He ranks third among running backs in fantasy and 10th in overall players. Fournette leads the league in touchdowns and rushing attempts. He also has the longest run this year by a running back. Fournette is in the top two in rushing yards and yards per game as well.

It may not be surprising that he’s doing this well, but in the Jag uniform, it surprises a lot of people that a player on that team is finding this much success. Fournette continues to be a top RB option in fantasy. That won’t change going forward.

Key Player Injuries

Some other big headlines this year are big names that have been injured. David Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr., J.J. Watt, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr and Allen Robinson are all hurt. Luck hasn’t played yet and Johnson has been hurt since week 1. Carr could come back this week, but could miss more time. Beckham, Watt and Robinson are all out for the year.

2017 Fantasy football season

David Johnson (Photo by: azcentral.com)

Beckham and Johnson were the top players in fantasy at the start of the season. They were the key part of every team. Now fantasy owners are scrambling each week to find replacements.

Owners of Luck are also trying to find patience for his return after he was rumored to possibly start week 1. The Watt injury is a reflection of last year when the Texans were the No. 1 defense. It’s definitely a big injury, but the Texans have proved they can play without him.

Carr is risky to the end of the season with the possibility of coming back or possibly missing a few more weeks. Robinson has been a big injury as the Jags’ passing game has struggled since his injury.

Conclusion

It’s been an interesting first five weeks of the season. Key players haven’t been relied on and the lower tier players have made an impact. We’ve seen surprising players reach top fantasy status and rookies continuing to pound the running game. We still have six to seven weeks left in the regular season, and it shouldn’t disappoint.

 

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NFL week 6 picks

NFL week 6 picks against the spread

It was another solid effort last week. I went 7-7 against the spread and called three outright upsets. My record for the year is now 32-42-3. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. The beat goes on.

Thursday Night

Eagles at Panthers (-3) – What a way to kick off the week. Both teams are exceeding expectations. We could see this matchup again in January. These teams win by dominating up front on both sides of the ball and letting their franchise quarterbacks make plays.

This is a close call. The only logic I have is that Thursday night games are set up for the home teams to perform better. Car 28 Phi 24

Sunday

Bears at Ravens (-6) – Mitch Trubisky made some plays and kept Chicago in the game during his NFL debut. The Ravens’ offense still leaves a lot to be desired. Even so, any rookie quarterback going on the road to face the Baltimore defense is in deep trouble. Bal 24 Chi 13

Browns at Texans (-10) – So far, Deshaun Watson has not been special. I said it. His best performance was in a loss to New England. Last week, his offense was ran out of the stadium before Kansas City backed off in the fourth quarter. He also guided Houston to a dominant victory over a Titans team that faced Houston’s elite defense primarily with a backup quarterback.

NFL week 6 picks

Photo: express.co.uk

There is a difference between being special and just being better than anything the Texans franchise has ever had at quarterback. Don’t be fooled.

The Browns played their best half of football when Kevin Hogan finally replaced an ineffective DeShone Kizer last week. With Houston now missing several key pieces on defense, Hogan is set up to perform well again. The winless Browns will remain that way, but not by much. Hou 24 Cle 21

Lions at Saints (-6) – Despite their traditional late rally, Detroit was beaten soundly by Carolina last week. New Orleans comes in off a bye and with its defense playing pretty well for a change.

This game will be the true test to see if the Saints recent defensive uptick has staying power. If it does, the rest of the league is in trouble. Drew Brees at home is always a solid bet, especially if he gets any kind of help from the defense. NO 30 Det 20

Packers (-3.5) at Vikings – The Packers are rolling right now. Aaron Rodgers continues to amaze. For the Vikings, quarterback issues and the loss of rookie workhorse running back Dalvin Cook are making life on offense look really tough at the moment. Minnesota’s defense is good enough to keep this respectable, but it is tough to see how the offense can be productive enough to win this one. GB 27 Min 17

NFL week 6 picks

Photo: theringer.com

Patriots (-9.5) at Jets – One of these teams was predicted by many to go undefeated this year. The other was bound to go winless in the minds of a lot of folks. Yet, here they are battling for first place six weeks into the season. Sports are amazing.

Obviously, the reigning Super Bowl champions have more offensive firepower. However, every opponent has been able to find some level of offensive success against the Patriots defense this year. The Jets have a top ten rushing offense that should be able to do some damage here. Additionally, this game is always close, even when the Jets are playing for nothing but pride. They played New England to the wire late last year.

As they so often do, New England will find a way to win. However, with the Jets at home, anything over a touchdown in this matchup feels like easy money. NE 28 NYJ 20

Dolphins at Falcons (-11.5) – Miami got back on track last week. However, the outlook remains bleak for the Dolphins. Jay Cutler did not even throw for 100 yards last week. This week’s opponent is quarterbacked by Matt Ryan, not Matt Cassel and is going to put up a whole lot more than 10 points. At home, the Falcons have been held to 17 or fewer points just twice since November 2015.

Meanwhile, Miami has scored just 41 total points in four games this season. That includes a defensive touchdown from last week. With that kind of scoring, it is a miracle this team is .500 rather than winless. This game has the potential to be a blowout. Atl 35 Mia 13

49ers at Redskins (-10) – The winless 49ers have lost four consecutive games by three points or fewer. The Redskins’ offense is prolific and productive and coming off a bye. The 49ers will lose this one by a lot more than three points. A team from out west traveling east is often a component of a blowout as well. Was 31 SF 17

*Rams at Jaguars (-2.5) – Jacksonville’s defense might be the biggest surprise of the entire season to this point. However, in two of their three wins, Blake Bortles has failed to complete 15 passes. In the modern NFL, you cannot hide your quarterback to that extent and be a real threat. The Jags’ nice start is nothing more than a statistical anomaly for now.

Despite last week’s loss to division rival Seattle, the Rams are the much more complete football team here. This line shows you that even professional bookies overreact from time to time. LAR 24 Jac 14

Buccaneers (-2.5) at Cardinals – Anyone who tells you they know what is coming here is lying. Tampa Bay is a talented young football team that still makes a lot of silly mistakes and mental errors.

Arizona has the oldest roster in the league. After getting blown out by the Eagles last week, that roster looks ready to be put out to pasture. This is not 2009. Adrian Peterson will not change their fortunes. Tampa has more weapons to work with, but their two losses this year have been the kind that make a team tough to trust. I will nervously do so here. TB 23 Ari 17

*Steelers at Chiefs (-4.5) – This upset pick will probably raise some eyebrows. Often times though, when a team gets embarrassed like the Steelers did, they come back strong the next week.

Pittsburgh has been a model of stability for well over 30 years. Throw in the talent on the roster, and they have earned the benefit of the doubt for one more week. Moreover, Kansas City’s offense is off to an unbelievable start, but unless they are all-time great, they will come back down to earth very soon.

Even if this is not that week, Pittsburgh’s “Killer Bs” are more than capable of matching Kansas City in a shootout. Also, the Steelers are the far more desperate football team. Pit 34 KC 30    

*Chargers at Raiders (-4) – The Chargers finally finished a game and broke in to the win column last week. Oakland seems intent on rushing Derek Carr back from injury. After watching EJ Manuel last week, it is not hard to see why.

Even before the Carr injury, the Raiders’ offense had suddenly started to struggle in a big way. As long as Philip Rivers is around, the Chargers will always put up points. It is hard to have that same confidence in the Raiders right now. LAC 21 Oak 20

Giants at Broncos (-11.5) – Denver is fairly healthy and at home coming off a bye. The Broncos are a top 10 team in both rushing and stopping the run. The disastrous state of the Giants is well-documented. They are winless and their top three wide receivers are all down with injuries.

No one giving New York a chance here is understandable. However, the Giants still have a decent defense. Denver’s offense is pretty pedestrian. Blowouts are rare in the NFL, especially when the public expects them to happen. The Giants will keep this close, but ultimately find another way to lose. Den 22 NYG 14

Monday Night:

*Colts at Titans (-3) – With Marcus Mariota’s status still unclear, this is a tough game to find a line on at the moment. It will be another week of Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for the Colts. Brissett’s mobility helps hide the offensive line’s short comings and create something when nothing is there.

No matter who has been at quarterback for the Titans, they have struggled to score as of late. Indy’s offense is a bit more explosive and trustworthy at the moment. Ind 23 Ten 20

           

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Fantasy football: Week five quarterbacks to pick up

If you owned and had high hopes for, Derek Carr this season, you just took a hit. Maybe you own Drew Brees or Matt Ryan and need to find a quick and effective fill in. If that’s the case, this list is for you. Here are three streaming options at quarterback in week five.

Case Keenum/Sam Bradford (Minnesota Vikings)

fantasy football: week five quarterbacks

billypenn.com

Usually I’m against taking a Vikings quarterback for fantasy reasons. They’re a team who usually stays in games with their defense and run game, while not relying heavily on the passing attack. Now they go up against a Chicago defense who has allowed 15.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

Sam Bradford looked sharp in the season opener, backing up his chemistry with Stefon Diggs. On track to return in week five, Sam Bradford could be big for the Vikings this week. An ineffective run game may help his case.

With Dalvin Cook out for the season and Latavius Murray still nursing an ankle injury that required surgery, the Vikings run game will not be as effective as it has been so far this season.

The Vikings may have to resort to more of a passing game against the Bears, and with weapons like Kyle Rudolph, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, whoever starts for the Vikings has the opportunity to put up big numbers and should be a solid streaming option at quarterback.

Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

Wow, what a game from rookie Deshaun Watson. I don’t think anyone expected him to go off against a good Titans defense like he did in week four. With 283 passing yards and five total touchdowns while leading the Texans to a franchise-record 57 points scored, Deshaun Watson was a top the player rankings last week.

Now the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs come into town looking to knock off the surging Texans. The Chiefs have been stout against opposing quarterbacks giving up only 14 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

I definitely think that Deshaun Watson is worth a start after coming off of the week he had, but this pickup is also for the future. In week six, the Browns travel to play the Texans and they’ve given up a whopping 21 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, including 27 to Jacoby Brissett.

Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)

fantasy football: week five quarterbacks

azcardinals.co

Carson Palmer is an interesting fantasy quarterback. He isn’t the most consistent player but he still seems to put up 15+ fantasy points per week. The Cardinals travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles and their thin secondary. Palmer doesn’t have the greatest weapons but he can always rely on the age-less Larry Fitzgerald.

Palmer has a 5:5 touchdown to interception ratio so he does make a lot of mistakes, and he’s missing one of his top pass catchers in David Johnson. However, he has thrown for 300+ yards in each of his last three games and threw three of his five interceptions in the first game of the season.

The Eagles have allowed almost 17 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and are definitely a team that Carson Palmer can torch if put in your lineup this week.

 

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Feature Image courtesy of (Photo by: chron.com)

Deshaun Watson fantasy

Don’t believe the Deshaun Watson fantasy hype

The name Deshaun Watson related to fantasy has been synonymous. After nearly pulling off an upset victory in week 3 against the New England Patriots with 301 passing yards, 41 rush yards and a couple touchdowns, he did even more in week 4.

Watson threw four touchdown passes and ran for another against the Tennessee Titans. He had over 300 total yards for the second consecutive week. He is now ranked fifth among fantasy quarterbacks. The impressive thing about this is he didn’t start week 1.

I will say he becomes a top-10 fantasy quarterback from this point on. However, don’t get too comfortable.

The Hype is real

After his decent performance in week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals, he has followed up with two great performances.

Against Tennessee last week, he was in the driver seat. He hit a 35-yard pass between two defenders to Bruce Ellington after stepping up in the pocket, a play that set up a Lamar Miller read-option rushing touchdown. Then he got his first scoring touchdown on a dart to DeAndre Hopkins, and it didn’t stop there.

Deshaun Watson fantasy

Deshaun Watson (Photo by: chron.com)

He threw to Will Fuller V, who was a second option, for a 16-yard score. Then he had a rushing touchdown and had a 31-14 lead in the first half.

Watson then poured it on in the second half, connecting with Fuller on a fade route from 10 yards out. Then lobbed a red-zone flare pass to Miller for six more. He has done things that rookies usually struggle with. He has had some miscues, but has dominated the past two games.

He had two great weeks in fantasy. Why he has had this hype is because top quarterbacks have struggled. Quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton haven’t had the start they were hoping for, and Andrew Luck hasn’t even played yet. This has made fantasy owners desperate, especially those who had Luck and had a struggling backup quarterback.

Watson was a playmaker in college and has adapted to the pros quickly using his arm and his legs. He has also made the Texans one of the most exciting teams to watch.

But heres Why I Don’t believe in the hype

Do I think Watson can be a good NFL quarterback? I do. What he has done on the field early in his career has surprised me, especially against the Patriots. You can’t take that away from him, and I give credit where it’s due.

However, here are the numbers for the defenses he played the last two weeks. They rank 32nd and 28th in terms of yards allowed per game through the air. They are also the only two teams that have already allowed double-digit passing touchdowns.

Deshaun Watson fantasy

Watson (Photo by: si.com)

Again, I’m not taking away what he did or his talent, but Newton struggled the first three weeks and torched the Patriots last week. Alex Smith isn’t known for his fantasy numbers and had a career day against them in week 1. Derek Carr and Russell Wilson had their best fantasy days against the Titans.

Numbers don’t lie. Quarterbacks against these two defenses are must starts every week.

The next test for Watson is next week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Even though they rank near the bottom in passing defense in fantasy, they are right now the best team in the league. They have been know for their defense. If Watson can play like he has against this defense, then my opinion will change.

How to handle Watson this point on

Right now, I don’t view him as a must start every week. As I said, if he plays well against the Chiefs, he could be depending your quarterback options. He’s gonna be a streamable option in the right matchups.

Deshaun Watson fantasy

Watson (Photo by: chron.com)

He has the Chiefs, who are 25th in passing yards per game and the Cleveland Browns (23rd) before his bye. After his bye week, he has some tough matchups. He plays Seattle (fourth), Indianapolis (29th), the Los Angeles Rams (13th), Arizona (12th), Baltimore (16th) and then Tennessee, where he dominated. The problem with some of these games is that two of these eight opponents are in the top-10 in rushing defense.

If these teams stop the run, Watson could be pressured to throw the ball and could make rookie mistakes. Carson Wentz is a good example from last year. He was great in his first three games, but was up and down the rest of the year. That’s how I see Watson from this point.

A lot could change after this week, but play Watson in favorable matchups. He’s home for the Chiefs, which could give him confidence. With how the Chiefs are playing, I might bench him this week. His performance the last two weeks could give you reason to start him.

Do I think Watson could have a good game? I do. I think he could have a solid game. I do think he will have his moments though where he will make mistakes and will continue to throughout the game with the Chiefs pressuring him to throw the ball.

 

Featured image from chron.com.

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2017 week 3 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. You won’t find me in a church on Sunday because football is my religion and the number one priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself in studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right, but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score prediction, but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it’s by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-8

season: 16-15

Thursday Night

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) 20 @ San Francisco 49ers (0-2) 14: The Rams look like a really good team this year, good enough to possibly win the division over the Seahawks. If they are to take the step towards becoming a playoff team, this is the type of game they must win. San Francisco will be in the lottery.

Jared Goff is still going to go through some growing pains. If they run the ball well enough and continue playing great defense, then they can succeed despite their young quarterback. The 49ers have improved defensively, but can’t make up for the lack of offense. The Rams will win this game, but it will be a defensive dogfight.

Sunday Morning

2017 week 3 NFL picks

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

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) 13 @ Baltimore Ravens (2-0) 16: Something tells me to pick Jacksonville in this game, but then I think about how Blake Bortles has to go against a defense that is destroying quarterbacks. Jacksonville will be in the game because of their stout defense, but will ultimately fall because of Bortles’ turnovers.

Baltimore will start the season 3-0, but still won’t be a contender in the big picture.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) 20 vs Minnesota Vikings (1-1) 24: This game hinges on the health of Sam Bradford for the Vikings. If Bradford plays, then Minnesota will win this game at home. That is a big if though. With or without Bradford, Minnesota will play stellar defense as usual.

Tampa Bay completely shut down a great Bears rushing attack last week, holding them to 20 yards. Repeating this against Minnesota would guarantee a win. They won’t shut down the Vikings the same way they did the Bears, and Sam Bradford takes the field to lead the Vikings to a big win at home.

Denver Broncos (2-0) 27 @ Buffalo Bills (1-1) 13: Does there have to be actual thought here? Can I just say Broncos will win? No, that is probably not a good idea.

So, the Broncos will win because their defense is going to annihilate the Bills offense. Once the Broncos stop the run, the Bills will have no answer. Tyrod Taylor will look completely lost and inevitably throw a pick-six. Denver’s offense will run up and down all over the Bills for over 200 yards.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) 28 @ Chicago Bears (0-2) 10: This seems like a totally unfair matchup. The Bears resemble a baby cub more than an actual Bear. The defense has played lights out, but can only do so much with turnovers from the offense happening so often. Mike Glennon looks incapable of running an offense.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, looks like they are in midseason form. The offense is starting to click and the defense looks hungry. This game will be over early and the steel curtain will remain untangled.

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) 34 @ Detroit Lions (2-0) 38: This is one of the most difficult games to pick this week. Both teams have looked shaky at points this season, but in the end have gotten the job done.

Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan are going to put on a show in Detroit. This game will likely be a shootout that comes down to the wire. The Lions have been known to be the kings of comebacks. Detroit wins this game because of their home-field advantage and a late drive by Stafford.

Cleveland Browns (0-2) 24 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2) 17: This game could be one of the lowest-rated games in NFL history. What is there to really watch in this game if you aren’t a fan of either team? Yes DeShone Kizer is a rookie that can maybe give some excitement, but the offense still doesn’t look fluid. Defensively, there is nothing eye-popping or exciting either.

The Colts are completely boring without Andrew Luck. So boring I’d rather watch a middle school basketball game. The Browns have looked like the better team of the two, so far so what the heck, go dog pound.

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: http://biginf.com/)

Houston Texans (1-1) 13 @ New England Patriots (1-1) 26: Tom Brady is back! Or he just lit up the worst defense and secondary in the NFL. This week, Brady will get a real test by facing Houston. If Brady looks good this week, then he is a robot who will play in the NFL until he’s 90.

On the other side, rookie Deshaun Watson will have to try and beat a Bill Belichick defense. Good luck with that. That is the sole reason New England wins this game. Watson won’t be ready for the Patriots’ defense.

Miami Dolphins (1-0) 37 @ New York Jets (0-2) 18: Miami escaped with a victory last week. Now they get to face the worst team in the NFL. The Jets don’t do anything well and won’t win more than two games this season.

Jay Cutler is going to look like a prime Brett Favre in this one. Dolphins are going to New York to dominate the Jets.

New York Giants (0-2) 16 @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) 19: The Giants are in some serious trouble. Their offense looks pretty horrible with the worst rushing attack in all of football. The offensive line is arguably the worst in the league and the nucleus of their problems offensively. There isn’t much they can do to fix it either.

The Eagles are going to exploit that offensive line to stifle the Giants offense. Carson Wentz is going to have a tough time against the Giants’ defense, but will outperform Eli. That will be the difference in the end.

New Orleans Saints (0-2) 17 @ Carolina Panthers (2-0) 31: The current issue with the Panthers is their offense. Losing Greg Olsen doesn’t help Cam Newton out, but he is still shaking off the rust.

A game against New Orleans is the perfect time to gain confidence offensively. The Saints rank 31st in scoring defense, giving up 32.5 points per game. Drew Brees won’t be able to put up many points against this defense. Newton shakes off the rust and Christian McCaffrey has his coming out party.

Sunday Afternoon

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) 20 @ Tennessee Titans (1-1) 24: Seattle has looked average at best thus far, mostly because of their offensive line that can’t block anything. Tennessee has an underrated defense that will take advantage of this weakness.

The Seahawks still have a very good defense, but it won’t stop Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Titan offense.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) 10 @ Green Bay Packers (1-1) 20: This could be the game that gets Andy Dalton benched and catches Marvin Lewis’ seat on fire.

The Bengals are playing like crap on offense, but the defense is only giving up 16.5 points per game. They also rank first in pass defense, giving up just 104.5 yards per game through the air. Aaron Rodgers will more than double that while leading the Packers to win.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) 24 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-2) 21: The Chiefs look like the best team in the NFL. Their offense is rolling behind Alex Smith while the defense continues to be a force. The Chargers are two field goals away from possibly being 2-0. The first would have sent them to overtime while the second would have won the game.

Sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles. The cookie will continue to crumble that way for one more week at least. The Chiefs go into L.A. to push themselves to 3-0.

Sunday Night

Oakland Raiders (2-0) 34 @ Washington Redskins (1-1) 24: The Raiders are thriving thus far this season and haven’t even begun to tap into their potential. Their defense still hasn’t faced a quality offense that can make them prove themselves.

This week they get that chance. Washington ranks 15th in total offensive yards per game (324.5). Washington has been running the ball efficiently, but the passing game has been underwhelming. Expectations were high for Kirk Cousins heading into the season. Derek Carr is going to have a huge game in prime time. Oakland keeps up with Denver and Kansas City by getting to 3-0.

Monday Night

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) 27 @ Arizona Cardinals (1-1) 17: Dallas got embarrassed against Denver and will be looking to get that taste out of their mouth. The Cowboys are going to get back to running the ball well. Ezekiel Elliott will have over 20 carries for at least 125 yards.

Arizona won’t be able to keep pace with the Cowboys’ offense. Carson Palmer has lost it and can’t carry the offense without David Johnson. This will be a snoozefest of a Monday Night game.

 

Featured image from Sporting News 

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Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. Sundays you won’t find me in a church because Football is my religion and the number one priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself in studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score predictions but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it’s by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-7

Season: 8-7

Thursday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Houston Texans (0-1) 20 @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) 21: It is only week two but this is a vital game for both the Texans and the Bengals. Teams that go 0-2 hardly ever make the playoffs. Andy Dalton must overcome a four interception game. If he plays like that again, Bengals fans will be chanting McCarron’s name. DeShaun Watson has officially been named the starter for Houston. With a short week of preparation, Watson will be behind the eight ball. With McCarron breathing down Dalton’s shoulder and the first start for DeShaun Watson, the Bengals find a way to win.

Sunday Morning

Arizona Cardinals (0-1) 31 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1) 14: Similar to the teams participating in the Thursday night game, the Cardinals and Colts are sort of in a must win situation. The Colts looked God-awful against the Rams and the Cardinals blew a lead while losing swiss army knife David Johnson. Even though the Cardinals will need Palmer to shoulder the load, Indianapolis is a bad team. Chuck Pagano will be the first coach fired this season. Arizona wins this week but only because Indianapolis is incompetent.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) 24 @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) 27: This is a game many could consider the game of the week after the performance these two teams put on in week one. Alex Smith looked like a guy who was drafted number one overall ahead of Aaron Rodgers. He lit up the Patriots defense with some spectacular throws. Carson Wentz didn’t look too shabby either. This is going to be a competitive, back and forth game that will come down to the wire. It is hard to pick a winner in this game so the edge goes to the home team.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Hannah Foslien)

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) 27 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) 23: For all the hype surrounding the Steelers this offseason their opening performance was a bit lackluster. Le’Veon Bell didn’t get enough touches and it looked like Pittsburgh was trying to punish him for missing training camp. The defense seemed improved behind rookie T.J. Watt but they still only managed a three point victory against the Browns who started a rookie quarterback. Minnesota however, looked like a juggernaut. Their defense completely shut down Drew Brees and the Saints offense holding them to 19 points. The touchdown came in garbage time. Sam Bradford led an aerial assault that nobody saw coming and rookie Dalvin Cook made all Vikings fans say Adrian who? Minnesota looked like the better team in week one. They upset Pittsburgh in week two to put the NFL on notice.

New England Patriots (0-1) 38 @ New Orleans Saints (0-1) 24: The Patriots did look a bit un-patriot-like last week but every time New England has started 0-1 with Bill Belichick they have gone on to win the Super Bowl. This isn’t the time to overreact. The Saints secondary still looks anemic. Sam Bradford torched them with his best game of his career. Tom Brady will dissect them even worse with over 400 yards passing. New England will cruise to a victory in the Superdome.

Chicago Bears (0-1) 24 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) 31: It is hard to determine if the Bears looked good or if the Falcons played bad but was probably a mix of the two. Mike Glennon put the ball where it needed to be on the final drive but his teammates let him down. This week the Bears head to Florida to take on the Bucs who will be playing their first game of the season because of Hurricane Irma. Tampa Bay is going to play with a lot of emotion and with the support of the fans, they will win their home opener.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw)

Buffalo Bills (1-0) 22 @ Carolina Panthers (1-0) 29: Both teams head into this game with a win in week one. Both also played against some really bad opponents. The Bills look like a team that is still going to run the ball well but their passing attack may still be weak. Cam Newton also looked a bit rusty as his accuracy was hit and miss. Another big story line to follow is Sean McDermott returning to Carolina. He may know exactly what the Panthers are doing but it won’t be enough to stop them. Cam plays big and leads his team to a 2-0 start.

Tennessee Titans (0-1) 23 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) 21: The Jaguars are above .500 for the first time in a long time. Their defense completely dominated Houston. Jacksonville also ran the ball very well with rookie Leonard Fournette. Taking the ball out of Blake Bortle’s hands seems to be the key to success. Tennessee must bounce back after looking a bit underprepared for Oakland. The offense didn’t light it up as many expected and it resulted in an underwhelming performance. Week one usually has a ton fluke results and this week the Titans will prove it by outplaying Jacksonville on the road.

Cleveland Browns (1-0) 23 @ Baltimore Ravens (1-0) 22: Baltimore has been a franchise that is built on defense and showcased that again last week. Joe Flacco didn’t do much on offense but that isn’t anything new. This team will be an average team because of the offense but if the defense plays like that all season then maybe they will sneak up on people. Cleveland played pretty well last week after they had a punt blocked for a touchdown. Without that play, they probably upset the Steelers. Cleveland is heading in the right direction and a win on the road this week will prove as much.

Sunday Afternoon

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Photo: Wesley Hitt, Getty Images)

New York Jets (0-1) 17 @ Oakland Raiders (1-0) 45: New York will be lucky to win a single game this season. They are tanking whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is a tank. Oakland opened the season by flying across the country and beating up on a team many predicted to win their division. The offense is loaded and Marshawn Lynch is back to being “Beast Mode”. The defense looked much improved from last season. Everything seems to be falling into place perfectly. Oakland defends the Black Hole in a complete annihilation.

Miami Dolphins (0-0) 20 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) 27: The Chargers almost had the upset but almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Los Angeles’ defense is going to be elite and the offense seems to have chosen the run as its identity. They will be a good team this season. Miami will be playing its first game of the season due to Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins won’t be ready and Los Angeles gets a much-needed win.

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) 32 @ Denver Broncos (1-0) 22: Denver was lucky to sneak away with a win in week one. They might not be so lucky this week. Trevor Siemian played well but the problem is his inconsistency. One week he looks like an NFL starter and the next he looks like a backup. He will look like a backup against Dallas. The Cowboys, on the other hand, looked amazing against the Giants. Dak Prescott seems to have more control of the offense and Ezekiel Elliot is back to his old ways. Dallas goes into the Mile High City and stops on the Broncos.

Washington Redskins (1-0) 10 @ Los Angeles Rams (1-0) 21: Was that the Los Angeles Rams or the 2015 Denver Broncos defense on the field last week? The answer is the Rams, but it’s because former Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is now running the defense of the Rams. Defensively, they played lights out and still get to add Aaron Donald to the mix. The offense looked NFL worthy as Jared Goff had a spectacular game. It was against the Colts thought. This week they matchup with the Washington Redskins who dropped their game to their division rival Eagles. Kirk Cousins will not play well in this game. Los Angeles puts out another championship caliber defensive performance to start 2-0.

San Fransisco 49ers (1-0) 6 @ Seattle Seahawks (0-1) 28: Russell Wilson was running for his life against the Packers. Seattle still hasn’t fixed their offensive line issues and it may spell doom for them this season. The defense is still elite but can only do so much. Although they may be in for a difficult season they won’t struggle against the 49ers. San Fransisco will be good in a few years but right now there isn’t enough talent in the locker room to do any damage. Seahawks will win this one, easily.

Sunday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Unknown)

Green Bay (1-0) 41 @ Atlanta Falcons (1-0) 38: A rematch of the NFC Championship game in which Atlanta ran Green Bay off the field. Green Bay’s secondary will be tested yet again in this game but will hold up better. Atlanta looked bad in Chicago and a hangover is lingering. Matt Ryan will put up a lot of points in this game but Aaron Rodgers will put up more. The Packers offense may need 40 to win but the opportunity for revenge will cause them to do so. Packers will upset Atlanta because Aaron Rodgers has a 350 yard, four touchdown game.

Monday Night

Detroit Lions (1-0) 31 @ New York Giants (0-1) 34: The Lions are still the comeback kids after last week’s comeback against the Arizona Cardinals. Matthew Stafford shook off the pick six to have a pretty stellar game. Detroit doesn’t have the defense to be a playoff team but Stafford will carry this team to a few unexpected wins. The Giants looked shell shocked against Dallas. There is no run game whatsoever. They should have drafted a running back from this amazing class but felt Paul Perkins was the answer. He is not. If they can’t run the ball they can’t open up the passing game. Odell should be back in action in this game and Eli Manning will be the happiest about it. Odell makes the difference and the Giants get in the win column, barely

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Featured image courtesy of http://www.definearevolution.com/2016/09/dar-sports-nfl-week-2-preview.html

Joe Flacco

NFL training camp injuries: The walking wounded

With last night’s Hall of Fame game, NFL football is officially back in our lives. While that is a beautiful thing, the injury bug is running wild through NFL training camps as it does every year. It is impossible to cover them all, but here is a summary of some early NFL training camp injuries.

Quarterbacks

While Shane Ray and a few other notable defenders will miss some time, most of the early injuries have been on the offensive side of the ball. The league’s most important position is no exception.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a herniated disc in his back. That is really all anyone knows for sure. Reports have Flacco missing anywhere from a single week to six weeks.  The front office in Baltimore has said a lot while doing very little in regards to controversial former 49ers signal caller Colin Kaepernick.

Miami Dolphins

Photo: cbssports.com

The training camp reports on current backup Ryan Mallett have been far from glowing. Combine that with the fact the Kaepernick chatter has not exactly been squashed, and the whole situation becomes worth monitoring.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a non-contact injury to the same knee that was hurt at the end of last year. The results of his MRI showed no structural damage in the knee, however there’s no timetable for his return. Any sort of long term injury to Tannehill would be very difficult to overcome and a possible momentum killer for a franchise that surprised many by making the playoffs last year.

As far as backup quarterbacks go, Matt Moore is one of the best around. Even so, he is the backup for a reason.

Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are also not doing much early in training camp due to lingering effects from offseason surgeries.

Offensive lines

You cannot put offensive lineman on your fantasy football team. Thus, many people do not pay much attention to them. However, the offensive line is a key element to any great football team.

Quarterback is just the beginning of the issues in Baltimore. The group that will protect whoever is throwing the ball for the Ravens this year is already shuffling. Marshal Yanda has been one of the best offensive lineman in the game for the last handful of years, but he is also not fully healthy from offseason surgery.

Forrest Lamp

Photo: San Diego Union Tribune

Additionally, center/guard John Urschel suddenly retired a few days ago to further pursue his academic career. Also, rookie guard Nico Siragusa is already out for the year with a knee injury. John Harbaugh’s team may very well have to mix and match on the offensive line well into the regular season. That never turns out well.

Keeping Philip Rivers upright and away from the freakishly talented pass rushers of the AFC West has been a challenge for the Chargers in recent years. Rookie guard Forrest Lamp was supposed to help change that. However, the second-round pick is out for the year with a torn ACL.

The Ravens and Chargers already faced uphill battles in highly competitive divisions this year. Offensive line issues at the very beginning of training camp are a nightmare for any coaching staff to deal with.

Wide Receivers

The injuries are piling up elsewhere. Speedy Texans wideout Will Fuller is sidelined indefinitely with a broken collarbone. Chargers first-round pick Mike Williams may also miss extended time. The former favorite target of Deshaun Watson is dealing with a bad back.

The only thing coaches and fans should really hope for this time of year is for every player that goes down to get back up. We all know that it does not always happen that way. Training camp is our first yearly reminder of what a war of attrition the NFL can be.

 

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Houston Texans

Predicting the 2017 NFL quarterback battles

If you do not have a quarterback, you don’t have anything in the NFL. Like any other year, quarterback battles are sprinkled throughout training camps. Here is a look at the top battles to keep an eye on during the preseason.

Houston Texans

The players: Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson

Context: These first two situations are different from most quarterback battles. Whoever wins them will be inheriting a team that has realistic aspirations of playing meaningful games when the weather gets cold.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: Houston Chronicle

Houston’s top-ranked defense carried them to the playoffs last year, but quarterback play was perhaps the only real weakness all year long. Brock Osweiler was the main source of that and is now in Cleveland.

Tom Savage was pretty ordinary in spot duty last year. In three games played, he completed just 46 of 73 passes while not throwing a touchdown. He was forced back to the bench for the playoffs due to injury.

Meanwhile, Watson comes in with all the hype and the glitzy college numbers. The first-round pick led Clemson to consecutive national title games and was named the MVP of last year’s comeback win over Alabama.

While back to back seasons of double digit interceptions scare me, the winning is hard to ignore. Throw in his mobility and the recent success we have seen by other NFL rookie quarterbacks, and his upside becomes very intriguing. The roster in Houston is loaded with talent. Thus, Watson presents the highest risk, but also the highest reward and may be able to take this team to the next level.

Winner: Watson

Denver Broncos

The players: Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch

Context: Even though the players themselves are saying as much, the notion that the Broncos had some kind of massive Super Bowl hangover last year is simply not accurate. They went 9-7, meaning a couple different bounces of the ball would have resulted in at least a return to the playoffs.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: denverpoast.com

Surprise starter Trevor Siemian was by no means a disappointment in 2016. Throwing for 3,400 yards and eight more touchdowns than interceptions is nothing to sneeze at. Siemian also dealt with a shoulder injury for most of the year that required offseason surgery.

Despite winning one, Lynch was pretty bad as he started two games for an injured Siemian. He posted just 327 combined passing yards and struggled to complete half his throws. His numbers are somewhat skewed due to playing well in garbage time.

Lynch was drafted in the first round to be the franchise quarterback, but it is no secret that he was a project coming out of Memphis where he simply let it fly and never lined up under center.

Quite frankly, the project is probably coming along slower than the Broncos would like. Even so, whoever wins the job will have the benefit of playing behind a revamped offensive line, two top-notch wide receivers, a crowded but talented backfield and a defense that remains one of the best in football.

New head coach Vance Joseph has spoken very highly of Lynch this offseason, but Siemian has done nothing to lose the job. Until that happens, he is the present, even if Lynch or late-round draft pick Chad Kelly end up being the future.

Winner: Siemian

New York Jets

The players: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg

Context: The Jets seemingly endless search for a franchise quarterback rolls on. McCown is what he is. That is a 38-year-old journeyman who has never been healthy (or good) enough to start for an entire 16-game season. He was clearly brought in to be a one-year bridge to one of the younger guys.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: nydailynews.com

A brief late-season glimpse of Bryce Petty last year was nothing to write home about. Hackenberg is where all the intrigue lies here. The former Penn State star did not see the field in his rookie year. However, he is the only guy on the current roster who could be the future at quarterback.

No matter how little offensive talent they have around him, the Jets have to explore that possibility.

Winner: Hackenberg

Cleveland Browns

The players: Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer

Context: Hue Jackson and company have done an outstanding job adding talent to a roster that won just a single game last year. Additions like Kenny Britt, Kevin Zietler and Myles Garrett, among others have set the table for vast improvement in 2017.

2017 nfl quarterback battles

Photo: cleveland.com

Quarterback remains a major question mark though. Cody Kessler went winless in eight starts last year. DeShone Kizer was given the project label coming out of Notre Dame. The Browns say he is ahead of schedule, but it would be a surprise for him to start a game this year. Even so, his long-term upside has some folks salivating.

Despite posting a winning record as a starter in Houston, Brock Osweiler struggled in a big way after signing the big contract last year, completing just 59 percent of his throws and accounting for more turnovers than touchdowns.

Osweiler was just a bad fit from the start in Houston. He spent most of his time in the shotgun, which was not a strong point when he held down the fort quite well for the 2015 Broncos.

It has never been a work of art, but there is something to be said for going 13-8 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Supporting casts are not created equal, but no other quarterback in this competition has ever won an NFL game. If Osweiler has anything to give, Jackson is the kind of offensive mind that will get it out of him.

Winner: Osweiler

Chicago and San Francisco

Two other shaky quarterback situations reside in Chicago and San Francisco. However, those organizations continue to articulate their commitment to Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer respectively. As much as we all like to speculate this time of year, a quarterback competition can only exist if management says there is one.

 

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Super Bowl 52

If not the Patriots, then who in the AFC?

To call the Patriots heavy favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LLI is a gross understatement. Additions like Brandin Cooks have made a team that already ran roughshod over the conference last year even better on paper heading into 2017. However, sports are a funny thing.

What if the Patriots are finally derailed by the injury bug or just simply pick a bad day to have a bad day in the playoffs? Here are four teams ready to pounce.

Kansas City Chiefs

Ever since Andy Reid came to town, the Chiefs run the ball, play solid defense and do not beat themselves. This is a good formula for winning. However, when that formula comes up against a buzz saw like New England, it is also easy to end up in too deep of an early hole.

Tyreek Hill

Photo: kansascity.com

The divisional playoff matchup between the two teams following the 2015 season was a perfect example of this. Despite holding New England to just 14 points in the first half, Kansas City managed just two field goals and never got caught up.

While Tyreek Hill has provided a much needed boost to KC’s ability to strike quickly, half of their scoring drives in last year’s playoff loss to Pittsburgh were over ten plays. While those are nice, striking quickly is almost a must against the Patriots.

Hope for the Chiefs in a matchup with New England lies in Hill and their pass rushers, led by Justin Houston. With three double digit sack seasons under his belt, Houston is more than capable of wrecking a game for Brady and company, similar to what Von Miller did on Denver’s Super Bowl 50 run.

Kansas City’s opening night matchup with the Super Bowl LI champs will be a nice measuring stick for them.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have questions at quarterback. Ordinarily, that would disqualify them from an article like this, but the Broncos happen to be the only team Tom Brady has a losing record against.

Von Miller

Photo: dailysnark.com

Denver has beaten New England with Jake Plummer, Brock Osweiler and an aging Peyton Manning at quarterback over the years. Knowing that, why not Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch?

Denver invested most of its offseason resources into bolstering the backfield and offensive and defensive lines Thus, the two biggest weaknesses on this team have been addressed.

If the additions help Denver run the ball and stop the run consistently, Miller, Shane Ray and the rest of the defense will keep Denver in almost every game like they have for the better part of the last two seasons. Against New England, that is half the battle.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have not given the Patriots any trouble in recent years. If last year’s AFC title game was a boxing match, it would have been stopped early. The last Steelers’ victory against New England was in 2011.

However, any team that has Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and flirts with putting up 30-plus points every time out is always dangerous. The bad news for Steeler fans is that the Steel Curtain has been made of feathers in recent meetings with the Pats. Twenty-seven points is the fewest New England has scored during its ongoing four game winning streak against Mike Tomlin’s crew.

With the cast of characters basically the same on defense, the only way Pittsburgh beats New England this year is in a shootout. It is unlikely, but not impossible. They are one of very few teams with the firepower to beat New England in that way.

Indianapolis Colts

This inclusion to the list might surprise some, but the AFC is nowhere near as deep as the NFC. Something has been off in terms of the head coach/management dynamic in Indianapolis for the last two years. General manager Ryan Grigson is gone. With former players tweeting in response to the move, one can only assume that Grigson was a significant part of the problem.

One guy who is not part of the problem is quarterback Andrew Luck. Despite near constant drama in the front office and a flawed roster, the Colts have never posted a losing record under his on-field leadership. However, they have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

Staying healthy has been a challenge for Luck, but 132 touchdowns to just 68 interceptions in almost five full years as a starter are the numbers of a quarterback who can carry a team on his back. The roster still lacks elite players outside of Luck. Also, Indianapolis has been obliterated by the Patriots in two fairly recent playoff meetings.

Even so, the Colts finally fall on the right side of one of a precious few things that is always true in the NFL. If you have a stable front office and a top-notch quarterback, you have a chance every single time you take the field.

Texans and Raiders miss the cut

Two teams that many people would have expected to see in this article are the Texans and the Raiders. They were each left out for very specific reasons. Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson battling for the starting quarterback job means that the Texans will not even be able to spell Super Bowl, much less get there.

Las Vegas Raiders

Photo: USA Today

Anyone who tries to lump Denver’s quarterback situation into the same category as Houston should watch what Trevor Siemian was able to do on the road in Cincinnati and New Orleans last year. The home game against Kansas City also speaks volumes about Siemian’s potential.

As for the Raiders, it is also fairly simple. Derek Carr is no doubt a special quarterback. Despite that, Oakland’s ongoing stadium and relocation drama is worthy of its own article. It is hard not to see it dragging down the on-field product.

Also, even when they were the talk of the league last year, the Raiders still led the world in penalties and got shredded by the opposing quarterback almost every week.

 

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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

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

Houston Texans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: http://cover32.com)

The Houston Texans have finished 9-7 for three straight years. Last season, it was enough to win the division but the Texans should be striving for better.

Houston has been led by its defense and has been a quarterback away from being one of the best teams in the NFL. That is why they took a shot on Deshaun Watson in this year’s draft. Houston is very close to winning a Super Bowl so explaining how they can win it this season will be relatively simple.

Houston’s defense is nothing short of elite. J.J. Watt only played in three games last season which may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Watt’s injury allowed Jadeveon Clowney to finally show signs of stardom. Clowney made some amazing plays against the Raiders in the playoffs, to the point where it looked like he was taking over the game. With Watt returning, the combination of these two great defenders may push Houston’s defense to legendary status.

The Texans gave up the fewest yards per game last season, allowing teams to just over 300 yards per game. Unfortunately, that didn’t always stop teams from scoring on them. Houston gave up 20.5 points per game last season, which ranked 11th in the NFL. They also struggled closing out halves giving up 7.4 points per second quarter and seven points per fourth quarter.

If the Texans can do a better job at closing out halves, their defense will take the next step. They must also replace nose tackle Vince Wilfork, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Quinton Demps in order to continue being an elite defense. Houston must also do a better job at creating turnovers. They only had 1.1 takeaways per game.

Houston’s offense is the part of the team that needs the most work. The offensive unit 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). The lack of success from the offense resulted in the Texans drafting Watson and trading Brock Osweiler.

If it wasn’t for Houston’s run game, its offense would have been one of the worst of all time. The Texans ran for 116.2 yards per game on the 28.5 attempts per game. Lamar Miller was a bright spot on this offense as he ran for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on just 268 carries. He needs to build on this season to help whoever lines up under center. This may be difficult with the loss of right tackle Derek Newton who is out for the season with patellar tendon tears.

If the Texans can go from one of the league’s worst offenses to being one of the top 15, then this defense will be able to carry Houston to a Super Bowl LII victory.

Tennessee Titans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Titans finished the season tied with the Texans at 9-7 but lost the division on tiebreakers. Marcus Mariota broke his leg in week 15 and the Titans lost to the Jaguars 38-17 in that contest. Had the Titans won that game, they would have won the division. Mariota is young but the Titans can go as far as he will lead them.

Marcus Mariota is becoming the face of the franchise but part of his success is due to the sustainable running game of the Titans. Tennessee ranked third in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game on the ground. They also ran the ball often, averaging 28.5 attempts per game. This effective running game has taken the pressure off of their young quarterback which has given him the opportunity to succeed.

Taking the next step means giving Mariota receivers that will allow him to improve on the Titans 25th-ranked passing attack. Tennessee drafted Corey Davis and signed Eric Decker to be that help. The Titans’ coaching staff must now open the playbook and allow Mariota to take charge of the offense.

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 also has helped the Titans to a 72 percent conversion rate in red zone scoring while never throwing a red zone interception in his career.

Aside from continuing to dominate the run game and opening up the passing attack for Mariota, Tennessee needs to do a much better job of scoring in the second half. The Titans ranked 23rd in second half scoring, averaging 9.7 points. Shoring up these loose ends will turn the Titans’ offense into a playoff-caliber offense.

Defensively, the Titans are much closer to Super Bowl caliber. Tennesse only gave up 23.6 points per game which may seem impressive considering its defense got off to such slow starts. The Titans ranked 29th in first quarter points allowed. Getting off to quicker starts will bring that 23.6 point total down and result in more wins.

Tennessee had a horrible secondary last season. Their pass defense was the third-worst in the NFL. The Titans addressed this problem in the offseason. They let go of Jason McCourty but drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson and signed defensive backs Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The combination of these three players can help the Titans catch up to their second-ranked rush defense.

If the Titans allow Mariota to sling the rock more then the offense can become more balanced. Defensively, the Titans secondary must give up less than 250 yards a game through the air. Simply doing these two things, in addition to what the Titans already do well, will push Tennessee from fringe playoff team to Super Bowl contender.

Indianapolis Colts

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

The story of the Colts’ failures are well documented. Their defense is pathetic and they are contributing to wasting away Andrew Luck’s career. Indianapolis went 8-8 last season and has missed the playoffs for two consecutive years. In order for the Colts to really have a shot at winning Super Bowl LII, they need this defense to become much better.

The Colts have finally begun to realize they need to address the defense. In the draft, the Colts selected safety Malik Hooker who many believe is the next Ed Reed and cornerback Quincy Wilson.

During free agency, the Colts signed numerous defenders that will fit in with the new 3-4 scheme. These players include defensive ends Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard and John Simon along with linebackers Sean Spence and Jon Bostic.

This complete change in scheme and personnel is what is supposed to cure a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed. Indianapolis’ defense didn’t have a strength. They ranked 27th against the pass (269.2 yards per game) and 25th against the run (120.4 yards per game) for a total of 382.9 yards allowed per game. The unit as a whole must improve if the Colts are to have a shot at making the playoffs.

On the other side of the ball, the Colts are led by a great quarterback. Andrew Luck has put up impressive numbers so far, with 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions but needs more balance. Indianapolis only ran the ball 39 percent of the time for an average of 101.8 yards per game. Frank Gore did rush for over 1,000 yards last season but he is 34 years old. The Colts drafted running back Marlon Mack as a possible spell or replacement for Gore.

Even with their unbalanced offense, the Colts managed to put up 25.7 points per game last season, good for eighth best in the league. Adding a rushing attack will only improve the offense, thus the team’s chances at a Lombardi Trophy. If the defense comes around to being a top 15 defense, you can guarantee that Andrew Luck will win Super Bowl LII.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

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

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been so bad that they have picked in the top five of the NFL Draft for six years running, which is an NFL record. Jacksonville is far from competing for a Super Bowl, or so it seems. It is going to be difficult for the Jaguars to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl, but it is possible.

Jacksonville has a very good and underrated defense. Although they gave up 25 points per game, they ranked sixth in yards allowed at 321.7. The Jaguars offense put them in bad situations often as displayed in Jacksonville’s amount of giveaways per game.

Jacksonville had 1.8 turnovers per game, tied for 26th in the NFL. Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air.

Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air. They lost defensive backs John Cyprien and Prince Amukamara but signed A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, both of which are upgrades over their counterpart.

To improve this defense even more, the Jags signed defensive end Calais Campbell. The Jacksonville defense will be elite and as long as their offense doesn’t make crucial mistakes, they can lead this team to the playoffs.

Getting to the playoffs is one thing, but getting to the Super Bowl is an entirely different beast. Jacksonville is going to need a complete resurgence from its offense. They signed tackle Brandon Albert and drafted tackle Cam Robinson to bolster their offensive line. If this unit plays well, they can open up running lanes for one of the most dynamic running backs to enter the league since Adrian Peterson.

Leonard Fournette, the man to be the best running back since Adrian Peterson, will be asked to be a workhorse and improve the 22nd-ranked rushing game. Jacksonville must also run the ball more than 37 percent of the time if Fournette is going to become a threat on the offense.

Generating a solid running game will help in a multitude of areas for Jacksonville. The Jaguars ranked 28th in third down conversion percentage at 35.3 percent. Shortening the chains will go a long way in fixing this problem. Converting more on third down can lead to more points as well.

Jacksonville scored 19.9 points per game last season. By now you can see the pattern starting to form. Running the ball leads to shorter third downs, which leads to more points, which all leads to taking the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands. Bortles has shown flashes of brilliance but the entire weight of the offense is too much for him. If Leonard Fournette can make an immediate impact, then this offense can become really good.

Being better on defense and offense simply aren’t enough. Jacksonville must become more disciplined as well. The Jaguars gave up 8.1 penalties per game for an average of 74.2 yards per game. Both ranked 31st in the NFL. Improving on this is a must if the Jaguars want to start drafting outside of the top five.

Defending home field is also vital in acquiring success in the NFL. In the past four years, the Jaguars are 9-29 at home. Playing in such a humid and hot climate should provide a better home field advantage.

If Jacksonville can put all these things together, then it is possible for them to win Super Bowl LII. The odds of that happening though are the about as equivalent of the Patriots going 0-16.

 

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

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