Week three DFS don’ts: Quarterback

Week two for the quarterback position could be characterized as a return to normalcy. We saw the usual suspects at the top of the scoring charts like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Derek Carr. However, players like Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz were able to perform on par with or better than those previously mentioned. Will any of these players will wind up on the quarterback edition of my week three DFS don’ts?

Drew Brees: FanDuel Price $8,400

Drew Brees is almost matchup proof. Last year he produced even against the most elite pass defenses like Denver and Seattle. However, he played those games at home in the confines of the Superdome. This Sunday, Brees plays at Carolina in a pivotal division game.

One year of data does not constitute a trend. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider it. Brees had a staunch difference in production against the Panthers in 2016 depending on where he played. I’m not saying this is exactly what will happen this year, but Brees is not playing with the same team.

Brees will play against the fifth ranked defense in terms of DVOA. You can read more about DOVA here, but it’s a stat that evaluates how good a team or player is relative to the NFL average. Currently, the Panthers are 42 percent better than the average NFL defense, and is ranked by Football Outsiders as the second best defense.

Apart from playing on the road against a great defense, Brees will be less equipped to produce than in his past matchups. Why’s that? Well, last year he had Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead at his disposal. This Sunday, he’ll only have Michael Thomas. He’ll also enter the game with one of the least efficient running attacks in the NFL. They currently rank 26th in total rushing and only have 38 rushing attempts in two games.

As much as it pains me to say, I’m not willing to pay $8,400 for Drew Brees given this week’s matchup. Let’s hope his placement on my week three DFS don’ts will be his only time this season.

Russell Wilson: FanDuel Price $7,800

Can Russell Wilson overcome his terrible offensive line to keep the Seahawks from falling to 1-2? (Courtesy of; SI.com)

I feel so bad for Russell Wilson. His franchise is failing him the same way the Colts are failing Andrew Luck. They continue to devote resources away from their offensive line, and now they are paying for it. Seattle is currently tied for 20th in sacks allowed.

This offensive line is so incompetent that they allowed the 49ers to stay competitive in last Sunday’s game. Sadly, I don’t think the Seahawks offense will be able to sustain drives and give their defense ample time to recover between drives.

They will inevitably have multiple three and outs, and that will force the Seattle defense to get pounded by DeMarco Murray or Derrick Henry. This will force the offense to abandon the run, and force Wilson to continue to run for his life.

I hope the Seahawks find a way to correct their pitiful offensive line play. I love stacking Wilson with Doug Baldwin in my DFS lineups. But until further notice, I can’t take that chance. Wilson and company are firmly on my week three DFS don’ts.

 

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week two DFS Dont's

NFL Week two DFS don’ts: Report card

Week two turned out to be more predictable than week one. But that doesn’t mean that no one disappointed their seasonal or DFS owners. While my winning percentage wasn’t as good as week one, my volume of winnings was much better. So, let’s close up week two DFS don’ts with my report card.

Quarterback: 5/5

On the Suck My DFS Podcast, the three quarterbacks I liked were Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Phillip Rivers. I’m counting all three of these guys as wins since they produced just more than double their value. Palmer was the lowest with 16.88 points, then Rivers with 17.24 and then Brees with 22.24 points.

On the other hand, I nailed my quarterbacks on the week two DFS don’ts list. Kirk Cousins and Jay Cutler failed to produce given their value. Washington established the run which negated the Rams’ consistent pass rush and also limited his ability to throw the ball. Cutler looked good in his debut, and I’ll definitely consider him moving forward. But, I’m thankful I left him off my lineup this week.

Running Back: 2/6

I should do myself a favor and never talk about running backs who I think won’t succeed because inevitably they will. Todd Gurley, C.J. Andersen and Carlos freaking Hyde all had productive showings. I’ll leave it at that.

I also sadly loved Ezekiel Elliott against Denver. That was awful. Thankfully, my picks of Melvin Gordon and Ty Montgomery paid off as they scored 17.3 and 26 points respectively. So, if you’re following my articles and the podcast, just ignore who I pick at running back for the most part.

Wide Receiver: 2/6

It was rough predicting this position. I was right on with Antonio Brown, but was so wrong about Brandin Cooks. Similarly, I was right about DeVante Parker, but wrong about Adam Thielen.

The late Sam Bradford just crushed Thielen and Diggs’ values. I was totally wrong about Alshon Jefferey, and sadly, Kelvin Benjamin couldn’t find a way to get into the end zone.

Tight End: 2/4

I’m actually happy I was wrong about Jack Doyle this week. I drafted him everywhere in my seasonal fantasy leagues, so I don’t mind taking the loss this week. I’m also very happy to have picked Austin Hooper to bust completely, and he did.

Zach Ertz produced as usual. No real surprise there. Unfortunately, Jared Cook didn’t find a way to get into the end zone. Cook met everything we want from a tight end in a matchup. His team was a large home favorite, with a big implied team total, and he saw between 8-15 percent target market share in week one.

Kicker: 1/2

Pretty straight forward here. Adam Vinaetieri put up a whopping four points. And please, don’t tell me I shouldn’t have bothered to write about him this week because it was so obvious. Well, I saw him 9 percent ownership in one of my 50/50 leagues this weekend so clearly it wasn’t as obvious as you think. Blair Walsh, and Seattle in general, were bad, as Walsh only scored six points.

Defense: 2/3

The Rams were an easy pick to regress back towards the mean this week. I guess that’s what happens when you play a legitimate NFL quarterback as opposed to Scott Tolzien. Hopefully you listened and didn’t get stuck with a putrid two points.

I’m torn about Arizona. They only scored 10 points against the Colts. However, they were the one of eight defenses to score in double digits. So, I’m counting that as a win. Denver tied for the third highest scoring defense on Sunday, so that’s a loss for me.

Overall Score: 14/26

I’m not happy with 54 percent, but it’s much better than my week one score. Like most things, you get better the more you do it.

You can check out all of my week two DFS dont’s articles here. We’ll start with week three tomorrow as we break down what kicker and defenses you should avoid.

 

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NFL

Week 1 NFL picks against the spread

It is the most wonderful time of the year. While Hurricane Irma is putting a damper on things and reminding us all that football is secondary, the NFL season kicks off for real tonight. That means another year of picking games against the spread.

My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Here goes nothing.

Thursday Night

Chiefs at Patriots (-9) – Kansas City is extremely well coached. Andy Reid never allows his teams to beat themselves. This is a huge number to swallow in a matchup of two very good teams.

However, no matter the team, the defending champions always play inspired on opening night.  Alex Smith and company just do not have the firepower to keep up with a New England offense that somehow got even better by adding Brandin Cooks. No matter how stout the opposing defense is, the Patriots will score lots of points all year long. NE 31 KC 20

Sunday

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: inquisitr.com

Cardinals (-2) at *Lions – Here, we have two teams that must drive their fan bases insane. If last year is any indication, they both have high ceilings, low floors and no one knows what to expect from them week to week. Given that backdrop, I will take the home team with the better quarterback. Det 30 Ari 27

Falcons (-7) at Bears – It remains to be seen how the Falcons franchise will rebound from last year’s Super Bowl collapse. We won’t learn much here. The Bears organization is lost at sea right now and does not have talent on any level that is equal to the Falcons, at least on paper. Paper is really the only thing we have to go on for opening week. Atl 31 Chi 17

Ravens at Bengals (-3) – This game is pretty much a coin flip. If the game were in Baltimore, the line would probably be flipped. With home-field advantage and an offense that should be just a touch more balanced than that of the Ravens, the Bengals are the smart bet. Cin 28 Bal 24

Jags at Texans (-5.5) – This is my favorite pick of the week. Blake Bortles has yet another crack at being the quarterback of the future in Jacksonville. His numbers are always decent thanks to garbage time, but the franchise has won 11 total regular season games since Bortles was drafted. What more needs to be seen?

Houston’s quarterback situation is not much better, but they are playing to lift the spirits of an entire city and have most of last year’s playoff roster intact. Hou 24 Jac 13

Jets at Bills (-9.5) – The Jets are going to stink, Buffalo is probably going to stink a little less. Outside of the defensive line, everything on the Jets’ roster is well below average. Buffalo has made some head scratching roster moves in recent weeks and is clearly hesitant to commit to quarterback Tyrod Taylor long term. This is a value pick more than anything else. Buffalo is not 9.5 points better than anyone in this league. Buf 27 NYJ 20

Raiders at Titans (-2) – These teams handle their business differently, but are pretty evenly matched. The team that does not lead the world in penalties every year and has the better defense is a good bet. Ten 24 Oak 20

Eagles (-1) at *Redskins– Here is another game that could go either way. Carson Wentz exceeded expectations last year and the Eagles have made a lot of new acquisitions that have people excited. But the Redskins are the known commodity here.

Even with the drama that seems to constantly surround the organization, the Redskins offense put up a ton of first downs and yards last year. If they can turn some more of those numbers into points this year, they will be back in the playoffs for the first time in a handful of years. This is a rivalry game, Washington is at home and I know what I am getting with them. That is good enough for me. Was 24 Phi 21

Steelers (-9) at Browns – The Browns will not be a punchline this year. From Jabrill Peppers to Kenny Britt, they have done a fantastic job of adding talent on both sides of the ball. The raw athleticism of DeShone Kizer with Hue Jackson coaching him is intriguing. Keeping up with a Pittsburgh offense that has all of its key contributors on the field at the same time is probably too much to ask, but they can make a statement here, even in defeat. Pit 28 Cle 20

*Colts at Rams (-3.5) – Watch this one at your own risk. The Colts will be led by Scott Tolzien, not Andrew Luck. For the Rams, Jared Goff showed improvement in the preseason, but that only means so much. Even without Luck, Indy’s offensive personnel may still be better. They won’t score much as the Rams front seven is really good, but they won’t need to. Ind 13 LAR 10

Panthers (-5.5) at 49ers- The number here is surprisingly low. Apparently, I am not the only one who likes what the 49ers are doing. Given the vast differences between their last two seasons, Carolina is one of the toughest teams to predict this year, but Christian McCaffrey might be exactly what this offense needs to get back on track. The Panthers should get through this one on talent alone. Car 28 SF 21

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: Panthers.com

*Seahawks at Packers (-3) – Like always, this matchup is about Seattle’s great defense and Green Bay’s great offense. These two teams could very well see each other again in the playoffs. We all have certain theories when we look at these games. One of mine is that great defense usually trumps great offense.

If there were any full proof theories about predicting NFL games, Vegas would be broke and us common folk would be rich. Obviously, it does not work that way. However, I will almost always ride the better defense in a matchup like this. Sea 21 GB 20

*Giants at Cowboys (-4) – Apparently, Ezekiel Elliott will play in this game. However, that did not matter much when these teams got together twice last year. With additions like Brandon Marshall, the Giants only got better in the offseason. Even if Odell Beckham Jr. does not suit up because of his knee injury, New York is well-equipped for that circumstance.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league has now had enough time to figure out how to stop a Cowboys offense that was a young juggernaut last year. Things will not be nearly as easy for Dallas this year. NYG 23 Dal 20

Monday Night

*Saints at Vikings (-3.5) – New Orleans is primed for a big year. The one-two punch of Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson will finally give that offense the balance it so desperately needs. Drew Brees still has a couple years to be his Hall-of-Fame-caliber self. All the defense needs to do is go from atrocious to just plain bad. This is not a very difficult leap to make.

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: espn.com

As good as Minnesota’s defense is, their offense simply lacks playmakers. It will not take nearly as long for that to catch up with them this year. Too much is being expected by rookie running back Delvin Cook, Sam Bradford has never led a team to a winning record as a starting quarterback and their receivers max out at about 80 catches.

The Vikings have not managed to put together an offense that has ranked in the top 20 since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach. Unless the defense turns out to be the 1985 bears or 2015 Broncos, this team is going nowhere. NO 24 Min 17

Chargers at Broncos (-3.5) – The Chargers were in almost every game last year, but lost most of them.

The relocated Chargers will win a few more games this year, but this one will follow that familiar script. Philip Rivers is still being asked to do way too much. If the quarterbacks changed teams in this matchup, Denver would make this look like a homecoming game. The Broncos were smart enough to realize that Trevor Siemian was not the problem last year. Denver’s front lines were pushed around on both sides of the ball.

Thus, this year they come back with revamped offensive and defensive lines, as well as a monster of at least three heads in the backfield. The defense remains one of the best on the planet. The Broncos are attempting to take the physical approach to winning football games this year. If done well, it is a tough approach for any opponent to deal with. Den 20 LAC 14

 

Featured image from sportlogos.com

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NFC eye test predictions: 9-5

 

We continue with our NFC eye test predictions.

9. New Orleans Saints

Some people might think this team is ranked too high, but they have managed to win seven games in each of the last three seasons. Sean Payton is not the problem, and Drew Brees is still a top quarterback, but the defense keeps this team from getting over the hump.

Even with the loss of Brandin Cooks, the Saints still have some nice targets. Michael Thomas is coming off a monster rookie season, and looks to be a legit number one target for years to come. Ted Ginn Jr can be effective if he can keep his eye on the ball, and Willie Snead is good for a few big plays here and there. Even Coby Fleener has turned into a reliable option at tight end.

Lethal Backfield. (4for4.com)

Not only do they have the super talented Mark Ingram in the backfield, but New Orleans brought in Adrian Peterson, and drafted Alvin Kamara out of Tennessee. While AP is a little out of his prime, he is still very elusive and looks to be in great shape. This three headed monster of a backfield could take some pressure off Brees if they can stay healthy.

Brees and this Saints offense should have no problem lighting up the scoreboard, especially with their talented offensive line. Terrod Armstead is ahead of schedule after shoulder surgery, and we know Max Unger, Zach Strief, and Larry Warford are skilled vets.

The loss of Nick Fairley puts this already abysmal defense in an even deeper hole. Defensive end Cam Jordan is still there, and hopefully 2016 first round pick defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins can slide right in as a starter.

This could arguably be the worst linebacker and secondary core in the league. Manti Te’o needs his fake girlfriend back because that is the last time he was actually good at football. There’s not much to expect from the rest, and as far as the secondary goes, this team allowed more passing yards than anyone in the league last year.

After reading about this defense, you would think this team wouldn’t win more than three games, but soon to be Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, still has the abilities to carry the load. They won’t get into the playoffs, but the offense is too good to not win at least seven or eight games.

 

8. Arizona Cardinals

Let’s be honest, the window for this team to make a run has closed. Bruce Arians is still an awesome coach, but Carson Palmer is so washed up. After three straight double digit win seasons, the Cardinals fell to 7-8-1. In the 13 games Palmer played in, he threw 18 interceptions. I used to love this guy at USC, and in Cincinnati, but that was eons ago.

David Johnson is clearly one of the best, if not, the best running back this game has to offer. D.J Humphries and Jared Veldheer are switching sides on the line, so let’s see if that helps Johnson get even better. Larry Fitzgerald has yet to lose a step, but father time is undefeated. So if he goes down or looks a bit slower, can Arizona trust John or Jaron Brown to step up? Probably not.

With Calais Campbell now in Jacksonville, the Cardinals have one of the worst defensive lines in football. Arizona fans better hope former first round pick, Robert Nkemdiche, can fill Campbell’s shoes.

Now to the fun part of Arizona. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden combined for 23.5 sacks last year. Haason Riddck on the inside could be problem for offenses, and former Bengal Karlos Dansby is one of the most reliable players in the game.

The return of the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu, when healthy, is in the arguement for best defensive player in the league. His mentor, Patrick Peterson, continues to play at an elite level. The loss of Tony Jefferson stings a bit, but Antoine Bethea is a nice replacement.

This team has shown in the past they are capable of big things, but besides David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, it is hard to trust the offense with 37-year-old Carson Palmer running the show. This is an eight-win team.

 

7. Dallas Cowboys

This team is not missing the playoffs just because Ezekiel Elliot is going to be suspended. The fact of the matter is this, Dak Prescott is overrated. Not counting the last game of the regular season, since he barely played, Prescott had eight games in which he either did not throw for a touchdown, or threw for one. He’s just not that good, and this year, he will get exposed.

Overrated? (star-telegram.com)

Whether Elliot gets suspended or not, the running game will not falter. The offensive line is still top notch, and Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris both can still move. Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are a good receiving core, and Jason Witten still looks like good ol’ Jason Witten.

However, Dallas’ defensive line is awful. Randy Gregory needs serious help, as he will most likely never suit up again. As far as the linebackers, Sean Lee is obviously a monster, and Anthony Hitchens can play, but will Jaylon Smith ever be the same player after his devastating injury?

Did anyone lose more secondary players than the Cowboys? Brandon Carr? Ravens. Barry Church? Jaguars. Morris Claiborne? Jets. J.J Wilcox? Bucs. A lot of question marks on this side of the field.

Dak is overrated, and the defense is bad. Dallas will fall back to Earth and go back to being a .500 team.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons

The Super Bowl hangover is coming straight for Atlanta. Now I don’t think they will miss the playoffs, but I don’t see the Falcons winning the division this year.

What we saw of Matt Ryan last year is the best we will ever see of him. Before last season, Ryan and the Falcons had three straight seasons of eight wins or less. He’s also had double digit interception seasons in seven of his nine years. Ryan has only had two 30+ passing touchdown seasons. He’s good, but Matt Ryan is no superstar.

Ryan is extremely blessed that he has Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in his backfield, as well as an elite offensive line led by Alex Mack. It must be nice to throw the ball to Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. No wonder this was the number one offense a year ago.

The defensive line is rather weak, but the linebacker core, led by the young studs Vic Beasley and Deion Jones, is among the best in the league. Don’t sleep on Duke Riley making an immediate impact as well.

Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal lead a solid secondary, but let’s not forget that this team’s defense, last year, was among the worst in points allowed (27th) and yards allowed (25th).

The defense isn’t great, and Matt Ryan will go back to being Matt Ryan. However, the offense is so talented that they will muster off 9-10 wins.

 

5. Minnesota Vikings

The Teddy Bridgewater injury is incredibly sad, but let’s not sleep on Sam Bradford. In fifteen games last year, Bradford went for 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He is still only 29 years of age. Injuries have plagued most of his career, but this season could be Bradford’s best.

Secondary Swag: Rhodes and Smith (Star Tribune)

Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have turned into extremely dependable receivers, and Kyle Rudolph racked up seven touchdowns last season. The backfield is packed with some sneaky talent. Dalvin Cook looks to be the guy, and could be a true sleeper, after falling to the second round. The other backs, Latavius Murray, and Jerick McKinnon, have shown that they can excel at this level.

The reason this team is ranked so high is because of their defense. Good luck to opposing offenses with Everson Griffin, Danielle Hunter, Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph manning the line for Minnesota.

Chad Greenway’s retirement hurts the linebacker core, but Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks should be just fine.

Safety Harrison Smith, when healthy, is as elite as they come, and Xavier Rhodes is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection.

Bradford is poised to have a great year with his offensive weapons, and the defense will continue to be among the best. The Vikings will win 10 games and get back in the playoffs, and, thankfully, Blair Walsh won’t be there to blow it this time.

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2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC South division preview

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

4: New Orleans Saints

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule:15

Oh when the Saints go marching in, they bring with them no defense. The Saints are hoping the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o will improve a defense that gave up 28.4 points per game last season. They also drafted defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve one of the league’s worst secondaries.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo credit: Matthew Hinton)

Although New Orleans has made an effort to improve their defense, it won’t become great overnight. Despite ranking 11th in fewest plays per game, the Saints ranked 14th in rushing and 31st in passing. Until this unit shows on-field improvement, there is no way the Saints can win the division or earn a wild card berth.

Offensively, the Saints are absolutely loaded. They have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. New Orleans has committed to Michael Thomas as the go-to guy on the outside in just his second season. Coby Fleener is more than a reliable tight end to compliment Thomas in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

The Saints are also blessed in the backfield with Mark Ingram, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This trio of running backs will give defensive coordinators nightmares.

New Orleans has a pretty easy schedule this season and the offensive side of the ball is going to be straight fireworks. As is the story every season with Saints, can the defense be good enough to help them win games? The answer is no. Every game will be a shootout and opposing defenses are going to make more game winning plays. The Saints will be competitive because of their offense, but the defense will be their downfall yet again.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 13

I am a firm believer in Super Bowl hangovers. Just look at how the Panthers’ season went last year after losing Super Bowl 50.

The Falcons’ players are saying all the right things about moving on and using the humiliating let down as motivation for this season but when push comes to shove that loss will be in the back of their mind. The first team to start coming back on them will bring out those painful memories.

Atlanta is also the defending NFC champions and they will get every team’s best shot. Their division is one of the toughest in the NFL and the Buccaneers and Panthers did a lot to improve.

Besides the hangover and their schedule, Atlanta has to prove they can play great defense for an entire season. The first half of last season was abysmal defensively. The Falcons finished the season ranked 27th in points, giving up 25.3 per game. Atlanta saw such a high volume of points scored in the fourth quarter. They ranked 31st in fourth quarter scoring giving up 9.9 points per fourth quarter. If that trend continues they will struggle to win games.

Offensively, the Falcons are loaded. Matt Ryan had a career year that led to him being named league MVP. It is unlikely that he has a second consecutive MVP caliber season as very few players have ever won back to back MVPs. Only four players have done so: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Ryan will have a slight drop off in production but not enough to warrant concern. The offense will put up plenty of points and still be electrifying but as mentioned earlier, they will be given the best shot from every team and it will cause them to come up short a few more times than most can expect.

Atlanta’s defense must improve and play to the ability they did in the second half of the season in order to get back to the postseason. Due to a massive Super Bowl hangover, an improved division all-around and a defense that will likely be mediocre, the Falcons come up short and miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 14

Tampa Bay had a solid season last year but missed the playoffs. This season they should take the next step and make the playoffs behind a very solid offense that has improved. The upgrades on offense include the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Both of which will turn this offense from good to great.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Buccaneers were led by their passing game, averaging 245.4 yards per game. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the league and the combination of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will cause defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans leaving Mike Evans with more one on one looks.

The running game only averaged 101 yards per game but Doug Martin only played eight games last season. Martin will start out the season suspended but is eligible to play in week four.

Once Martin returns the running game will start to get rolling, making it even easier for Jameis Winston to air it out. Everything will finally come together for the Bucs offense this season. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 Buccaneers finish with a top 10 offense.

Tampa Bay must become a better defensive team to truly take the step and make the playoffs. The Bucs ranked 22nd in both rush and pass defense giving up a total of 367.9 yards per game. Gerald McCoy will have a Chris Baker next to him to improve the rush defense but it will take more than just one new defensive tackle.

The Bucs should have a better pass defense because the defensive line will get tons of pressure from the trio of Robert Ayers, William Gholston and Noah Spence. Spence had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. With an entire year in the Bucs system, Spence could improve and show the ability he displayed at Ohio State.

In total, this defense gave up 25.3 points per game. If the Bucs can improve that but just four points the offense should easily score more than 21 points per game with all the talent they have.

Tampa Bay will have a balanced offense capable of big play ability. Their defense will also be improved and with an easy schedule, the Bucs should have a solid shot at a playoff berth.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1: Carolina Panthers

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 6-10

Strength of schedule: 16

Carolina had a Super Bowl hangover but this year they are locked and loaded. Cam Newton is determined to correct last seasons mistake and retake his MVP form. The front office also made quality moves to get this team back to the big game.

The Panthers added key playmakers in the draft to help Cam. Christian McCaffery has already put Panther defenders on skates based off of leaked practice videos. That includes Panthers defenders such as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Curtis Samuel, out of Ohio State, was also a key piece the Panthers picked up in the draft but has yet to practice due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Even without Samuel, Cam has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin back. With all these weapons and an upgraded offensive line, the Panthers can become one of the premier offenses in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are still as dangerous as ever. The front four have some studs at defensive tackle in Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short. Off the edge, the Panthers bring back Mario Addison and Charles Johnson. This front four is fierce and to beef it up, even more, Panthers legend Julius Peppers has returned to finish his career in Carolina.

The linebacking corp is arguably the best in all of football with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. This front seven is going to cause major havoc to opposing offenses.

The Panthers secondary is where their defense struggled last season. To improve this unit, the Panthers signed Mike Adams, a safety, who had 12 interceptions in his three seasons with the Colts. Carolina also brought back Captain Munnerlyn, who is one of the best nickel corners in the league. These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

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

 

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NFL super teams: Could it work?

Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors have ruined the NBA for the foreseeable future thanks to their new super team. The Warriors will dominate for years to come and will have the greatest dynasty in sports history when it’s all said and done. That said, the question of whether or not NFL super teams could be formed is an intriguing one to address.

The New England Patriots are the closest thing in the NFL to a super team, as the 2017 edition of the squad is the frontrunner to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and some even think they could go 16-0.

But the fact is that the NFL does not truly have a super team. Sure, the Patriots are most likely the best team on paper going into 2017, but there’s still no guarantee that they’ll even win the conference championship game.

We’ve seen this issue talked about before, so why not join in on the fun and give a hot #take myself?

There’s a couple different aspects to dissect when looking into NFL super teams. First, and most crucial, is the money. Even though the NFL is the most popular sport in the United States, the 53-man roster leaves less money for each player compared to the NBA. When forming a super team, every single star player would have to take a pay cut in order to allow other stars on the team. NFL players have already complained about the the discrepancy between NFL and NBA contracts, so taking even less could be a tough pill to swallow for many players.

The next concept to consider is that NFL teams have very specific schemes. The offense ran in New England was much different from the one that the Dallas Cowboys ran last season, yet each were top-five offenses in the league. Not only would NFL super teams need stars at every position, but it would also need the right personnel to fit the scheme.

Finally, we must ask if there’s even enough time for NFL super teams to form a dynasty. The shelf life of a running back is already limited, and the prime of many players in the NFL can be shorter than that of an NBA player. Even if it all came together for an NFL team, would there be enough time for them to win multiple Super Bowls with the same core?

Money talks

Every year, NFL players holdout and skip training camp in order to get leverage in earning more money. There can’t be an argument made that NFL players are more greedy than NBA players, but it does go to show that the top talents in the NFL will put their team and preparation at risk in order to get a couple more million dollars.

What a hard life NFL stars live.

NFL super teams

Photo: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Le’Veon Bell is at least the No. 2 running back in the NFL, if not the best (David Johnson may have something to say about that). He’s putting his team’s success in jeopardy this offseason by deciding to holdout. The most significant problem for NFL super teams is whether or not players will put their pride aside to take pay cuts, even though they may be the most elite at their position.

Every elite NFL player will do his best to suck all the money out of his organization he can. Heck, even players that aren’t elite, like Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco, have tried this (and been successful) in the past.

This poses a threat to NFL super teams when trying to get the best of the best in one uniform. But this is only the start of the problem.

NFL super teams’ Schemes make for an even more complex problem

Dak Prescott and Drew Brees are two very different quarterbacks. Prescott resided in a run-heavy offense in Dallas, as the Cowboys ran the ball more than any other team last season (48.7 percent of plays). The Cowboys’ offense was built by its powerful line which counteracted its lack of skill players on the outside. This allowed Ezekiel Elliott to run all over (and away) from defenses in his rookie campaign.

The Saints’ offensive attack was much different from the Cowboys. Drew Brees had great weapons on the outside in former Saint Brandin Cooks, who used his deep-threat abilities to become Brees’ best downfield target. Rookie Michael Thomas managed to put together one of the best rookie seasons a wide receiver has ever produced, and was Brees’ possession target to look to.

Even Willie Snead, Coby Fleener and Josh Hill were utilized in the pass-first offense that allowed Brees to air it out on 63.4 percent of plays, good for fifth-most in the NFL last season.

The point is that NFL super teams need the perfect combination for an offense to work. The offensive coordinator, quarterback, skill players and offensive line must all be in sync and comfortable with the system in order to reach optimal success. And it’s the same way with the defense.

Not only do the star players at each position need to take pay cuts to form a super team, but they also have to fit with the scheme of whichever side of the ball they play on.

The player pool for a super team continues to shrink with these requirements.

Father Time waits for no man, not even NFL super teams

Barring a select few, most NFL stars are only elite for a couple years. Injuries cut their time of stardom even shorter (Jamaal Charles knows about that), which makes it even harder to field a star team.

Sure, the best of the best can sometimes manage to be stars for over half their career, but remember the requirements already talked about. Finding a star who is willing to take a pay cut and fits in the scheme is hard enough, so the pool of players has already dwindled.

NFL super teams

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tom Brady may play until he’s 50, but top players at other positions have missed time in the past couple seasons. If Le’Veon Bell could stop smoking weed and quit getting injured by the Bengals, he’d have a chance to be on Tom Brady’s list.

Antonio Brown missed three games last season, Julio Jones has played in 16 games in a season once in his six years and A.J. Green has missed ten games in his six-year career while finding his way on the mid-week injury report seemingly every week.

This goes to show that even the most elite players can’t escape the injury bug.

And if the top players earn as much money as they want on a theoretical super team, the bench will be filled with aging veterans who are ring-chasing and don’t have enough talent to suffice the loss of a star.

This continues to prove that forming NFL super teams may be nearly impossible.

NFL super teams: Making one is #hard

The San Francisco 49ers currently have the most cap space in the NFL. A lot will change come March 2018, but one thing that will most likely remain is that the 49ers will suck this season. They won’t be the most attractive franchise to build a super team with.

However, the team with the fifth-most cap space is the Houston Texans. Houston has $24.3 million in free cap space, and made the playoffs last season. The Texans seem to be just a few pieces away from being a Super Bowl contender, so we’ll use them as a possible super team.

There’s been a lot of changes to the NFL landscape from last season, and that trend will continue in each offseason. Let’s try to make the Texans a super team through 2018 free agency.

Finding a quarterback

The Texans’ most glaring need is at the quarterback position. Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins and Matt Stafford are the only notable names that will be free agents come 2018.

Photo: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins can be taken off the list right away, as it seems he’s been fighting to get a huge contract from Washington since he was in diapers.

Drew Brees and Matt Stafford both make sense due to the fact that they’ve had great years, yet Brees has just one ring, and Stafford has no playoff wins. It comes down to who would be the best fit in Bill O’Brien’s offense, assuming he stays on staff next season.

O’Brien’s scheme is based around the power-run game and using two tight end sets. The formations used in O’Brien’s system forces the quarterback to make crucial and complicated pre-snap reads. That said, Brees would be the better fit in Houston. His ability to run multiple formations in New Orleans could quite possibly translate to Houston.

If Brees were to make this move, he’d have to be fine with a pay cut since he’d be ring chasing and forming a super team. Let’s say he cuts his salary in half and earns $12 million with Houston.

Receiving a pass catcher

That only leaves $12 million and change in the bank for Houston. Houston has Lamar Miller, who should be an above average back for now. At wideout, the Texans have an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, but could use some help on the receiving end. The wide receiver market is grim in 2018, but a familiar face for Drew Brees will be on the market in 2018 at tight end.

The Drew Brees-Jimmy Graham love affair in New Orleans was art. Graham will be on the market in 2018, and even though he’s had a history of wanting money, let’s assume he wants a ring and to play with Drew Brees more.

We’ll assume Graham will settle for a mere $8 million a year with Houston, which is only $2 million less than he got in Seattle. I for one hope that in this theoretical world, Jimmy Graham makes it in this tough world with only $8 million a year to come home to.

Room for one more player

With $4 left, the Texans could grab a proven veteran for cheap, or a lesser-tier asset. The Texans need help on the offensive line, specifically at tackle. The best player on the market in 2018 is Donald Penn, but he’s currently holding out of Raiders’ camp, so he has to be off the list. Nate Solder could be an option, but the likelihood that he takes a paycut to leave New England is as likely as Johnny Manziel not drinking tonight.

Allen Barber was the No. 16 guard last season according to Pro Football Focus. Although he’s mostly played left guard in the past two seasons, he’s seen time at tackle with the Eagles early in his career.

Barber wouldn’t be a blockbuster move at all, but he could end up being a nice find for Houston to help what’s been a bad offensive line.

NFL super teams: Could it work?

The idea of NFL super teams is far-fetched and there’s too many hoops to jump through for it to work. There’s too many stipulations not seen in the NBA like a much larger roster, less time to be in the peak of a career and scheme fits.

Although the NBA has made it work before, the Golden State Warriors’ mega-team and soon to be dynasty will only work in the NBA. NFL front offices have far too many hoops to jump through.

For now, let’s just enjoy hating the New England Patriots for being better than all of our teams and speculate other things, like how Bill Belichick can pull a homeless man off the street and turn him into a heroic wide receiver or cornerback in a Super Bowl.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports and esports coverage. You should also follow Tim, as he’s gotten over 100 likes on a grand total of three different tweets, and sometimes offers lukewarm takes on things that don’t matter.

2017 fantasy football notes: Cram session

One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling unprepared. You forgot to study for a quiz and have as much knowledge about the subject as Alex Smith has on not being average. You’ve got an important presentation at work but forgot your briefcase at home.

Worst of all, your fantasy draft is tonight, yet you’ve spent the last six months watching baseball and catching up on your favorite guilty pleasure on Netflix. Your pulse reaches an unhealthy level as your heart races trying to think about how to prepare a draft plan good enough to beat your friends, yet you rank Adrian Peterson as your No. 6 running back because you think he’s poised for a great year with the Vikings.

But Adrian Peterson doesn’t play for the Vikings, and you’re screwed.

Fear not, lazy fantasy football player, I’ve got just the article for you. Let’s talk about all the big news and notes you missed so you can have a fighting chance to compete in your league this season.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: QUARTERBACKS

Marcus Mariota is undervalued

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: titansonline.com

Marcus Mariota is among the top 25 most attractive players in the NFL, and it turns out he’s pretty good at football too. Mariota was good enough to earn spot starts last season, and finished as the No. 13 scoring quarterback. He’s especially suited for fantasy football thanks to his rushing ability, and he’s gotten some upgraded toys to play with for 2017.

No shade at Rishard Matthews or Tajae Sharpe, but Mariota didn’t have the greatest receivers to throw to last season. The Titans signed Eric Decker during the offseason and drafted top wide receiver prospect Corey Davis with their first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. On top of that, Mariota plays with an elite offensive line and DeMarco Murray, who got back to his usual RB1 self last season.

Entering his third season, the myth of a sophomore slump cannot affect Mariota. Mariota was the top scoring quarterback from weeks five through week 12 of last season, which shows his upside is through the roof this season.

Mariota is being drafted as a fringe QB1 this season, which is way too low. Sit back and wait for Mariota as others grab overvalued quarterbacks, and then grab him once you’ve filled out your starting lineup and part of your bench.

Blake Bortles sucks at throwing footballs, but don’t overlook his volume

Sure, you may’ve spit up in your mouth a little due to reading the name Blake Bortles, and that’s fine. Bortles ruined Allen Robinson last season and made some of the worst throws of the season in 2016. However, while Bortles gets roasted by Twitter everyday, he could make for a good backup for your team.

Before you click the “x” in the upper right corner of your device, hear me out.

Bortles had the fourth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2015, and followed that with the tenth-most points among quarterbacks last season. Even with all the hate Bortles gets, he’s still been a QB1 in each of the past two seasons.

I’m not saying you need to draft him as your QB1 this season, but you should at least consider the volume he’ll see. Leonard Fournette will suck in Jacksonville’s system unless they plan on taking less snaps out of the shotgun this season. Jacksonville started plays out of the gun more than every single team in the NFL except one last season, so don’t expect Fournette to be successful in his current system.

This paves way for Bortles to continue to see a bunch of pass attempts, and at some point they have to turn into touchdowns and 250-yard games. Bortles will most likely embarrass himself this season, and you’ll get heckled for taking him, but if quarterbacks are thin, take him as your QB2.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: RUNNING BACKS

Don’t be that guy who drafts Adrian Peterson

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: Associated Press

You thought I was kidding about Adrian Peterson no longer being a Viking, didn’t you? Well, I’m no Photoshop wizard, so the picture to your left with Peterson doning New Orleans Saints getup proves Peterson is a Saint this season.

I have no clue why the Saints signed Peterson this offseason. Mark Ingram was productive enough last season to be the eighth-best fantasy running back in PPR leagues. Drew Brees is still under center, so expect the Saints to continue to air it out this season, especially with Michael Thomas playing on the outside.

Ingram will most likely be the starter come Week 1, and even though Peterson will see touches this season, it won’t be enough to sustain any kind of success. Peterson managed just three games last season, and averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. He’s also topped 40 catches in a season just once in his career, compared to Ingram doing that in each of his past two seasons.

Peterson will be dropped halfway through the season by all active owners, so save yourself the trouble and keep Peterson off your team. You can score Terrance West, Robert Kelly, Tevin Coleman or even Danny Woodhead at Peterson’s price, and all of which offer much more upside and volume potential.

Eddie Lacy isn’t as fat as he used to be, but that doesn’t mean you should draft him

Eddie Lacy literally got paid this offseason to not be so chunky. Lacy’s always been overrated to me, but that hasn’t stopped others from clogging their arteries by drafting him. In case you missed it, Lacy is now a Seattle Seahawk, and he’ll be fighting off Thomas Rawls to get fed this season.

While the two were splitting time with the first team to open camp, it appears Thomas Rawls has taken over the bulk of the first team work, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times said on Aug. 9. For the near future, Rawls looks to be the starter.

Fantasy owners will draft Lacy for the same reason as Peterson, and that’s for name value alone. Rawls doesn’t have the name recognition, but he does have the advantage in terms his skillset. Rawls has much better lateral quickness and has forced more missed tackles over the course of his career. That ability is a necessity in a Seattle offense that has a terrible offensive line.

Marshawn Lynch is playing football again

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: raiders.com

At the end of the 2015-16 season, Marshawn Lynch called it quits even though it seemed he had more left in the tank. Well, Lynch okie-doked us all by coming out of retirement to join the Oakland Raiders.

With Latavius Murray now in Minnesota, Lynch will own the backfield for the Raiders. Oakland’s offense already owns one of the top one-two punches at wide receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in Derek Carr. The talent is no longer shifted to benefit only the passing game with the addition of Lynch.

Lynch is the No. 15 running back according to the consensus Fantasy Pros rankings for 2017. Expect Lynch to end up as a low RB1 by season’s end. He’s ranked lower than Leonard Fournette, Isaiah Crowell and Carlos Hyde in the rankings, which is odd to say the least. Lynch is in a better offense and will receive the same if not more volume as the aforementioned players.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: PASS CATCHERS

Brandin Cooks now plays for the Patriots, and that’s not fair

Tom Brady has made his money by throwing to a bunch of late round draft picks and one large tight end that seems to party more than he plays. That changes this season with the addition of Brandin Cooks. The Patriots traded for Cooks during the offseason, and with that addition and other moves, there’s been pundits saying New England could go undefeated this season.

Cooks’ most notable trait is his speed. His catch rate on deep passes last season was 45.8 percent, good for fourth in the NFL. He also had 544 deep receiving yards which was second in the NFL. Patriots beat writers have raved about Cooks to start camp, which further proves he has a great chance to one of the best receivers Brady’s ever had.

I’ve yet to take Cooks in any drafts at his ADP, as his ADP is a little too high for my taste. However, taking Cooks as your WR2 could pay huge dividends for your team. He resides in a pass-heavy offense with one of the best quarterbacks of all time. I’m not quite comfortable with Cooks as my WR1, but if you have him as a WR2, your receiving corps will be solid.

Terrelle Pryor used to be a bad quarterback but now is a good wide receiver

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: redskins.com

Terrelle Pryor made a cool one-handed catch in training camp, and for one day fantasy football Twitter anointed him as the next coming of Randy Moss. But that’s what happens during the start of training camp, as our football-thirsty brains need something to sip on. Even so, Pryor is in line to become the No. 1 option in a pass-heavy offense this season.

Kirk Cousins may be his generation’s Alex Smith, as he’s as average as Philadelphia fans are angry. However, the Redskins’ poor defense and questionable running attack could give Pryor the chance to see a lot of targets.

Pryor had 1,007 receiving yards last season with the Cleveland Browns, and that’s as impressive as ESPN ignoring the impulse to tweet about Tim Tebow smacking a double in a low-level minor league game. Pryor was a low end WR2 last season, and his situation this season should allow him to be a solid WR2 again this season.

Martellus Bennett will clown around in Green Bay’s offense

Martellus Bennett signed with the Packers this season, making him the first player to sign with Green Bay during free agency since Bart Starr (that’s called sarcasm, folks). Bennett had a better season last year as a backup in New England than half of the starting tight ends in the NFL. Moving to a pass-heavy offense and playing with a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers gives Bennett the chance to be a TE1 this season.

Bennett was fifth among tight ends in yards per route run last season at 1.96. This shows he took advantage of his time on the field better than nearly all tight ends. Bennett also dropped just two of his 57 catchable targets last season, which will please Aaron Rodgers (that’s a slight against Davante Adams, folks).

Bennett won’t have to battle anyone on the roster for snaps at tight end, so he has the upside to be a top tight end this season. He’s been drafted as a low end TE1 right now, but if you can get greedy and take him as a TE2, you’ll have a good problem on your hands midseason.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports and esports coverage. You should also follow Tim, as he’s gotten over 100 likes on a grand total of three different tweets, and sometimes offers lukewarm takes on things that don’t matter.

NFL top 100 players 2017: 20-11

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the ninth installment, containing players 20-11.

20. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Eric Berry (Photo by youtube.com)

Berry is a winner in every sense of the word and his ability to come back after beating cancer and still being one of the best safeties in the NFL, is incredible. In 2016 Berry totaled 77 tackles, nine passes defended, four interceptions, a forced fumble and two touchdowns.

With other players on the Chiefs’ defense getting hurt the last few years, Berry has been the best player on the defense. This season, Kansas City should have a good defense once again with a lot of their players healthy. They employ the bend don’t break mentality, so they give up a lot of yards (5,896), but not a lot of points (19.4). With Berry coming off one of his best seasons as a pro and a good defense returning, he will prove once again how good of a safety he is .

The Chiefs are fighting to make it to an AFC Championship Game or Super Bowl and if they get there, Berry will be a major reason why.

Comments: “This man can do it all. Beating cancer and beating down his opponents. This Chiefs defense has been great and will continue to be great while he is roaming the field.”- Robert Hanes

19. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

NFL Top 100

Drew Brees (Photo by denverpost.com)

There are a lot of quarterbacks on this list, but they may not be as important to their teams as Brees is to the Saints. He was 37 in 2016 when he threw for 5,208 yards, 37 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on 70% completion and will be 38 going into this season.

People have predicted that Brees would fall off for years now, but he keeps producing. He had his fifth 5,000 yard passing season last year and also recorded his second highest passing yards per game in his career. The Saints do lose Brandin Cooks, who they traded to the Patriots, but Brees still has Michael Thomas, who shows some real potential. Brees has done a lot more with a lot less.

Brees might start slowing down a little bit, but even if he does, his stats will still blow other quarterbacks out of the water.

Comments: “There is nothing bad I can say about Dree Brees other than he is aging. The fact of the matter is he is still producing. He should be higher on this list just because I think he is a better quarterback than Matt Ryan. He will have another season in which he passes for 5,000 yards and become closer to being the all-time passing leader. -Matthew Hagan

18. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Top 100

A.J. Green (Photo by cbssports.com)

Because of injury, Green had his first season of under 1,000 receiving yards in 2016. He only played ten games and still amassed 964 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Had he played a full 16 games and kept up his average receiving yards per game, he would have finished with a whopping 1,542 receiving yards.

The Bengals had a down year and only had Green on their offense as a dynamic playmaker. For the 2017 season, they have added John Ross and Joe Mixon to bring some life to the offense. Tyler Boyd had an impressive rookie year and will try to build on that in his second season. If Andy Dalton has time behind a shaky at best offensive line, he will find Green, much like he has since their rookie seasons in 2011.With a speedster in Ross on the other side of the field, Boyd in the slot and Tyler Eifert in the middle, Green should see more single coverage than last season with Brandon LaFell as the second leading receiver on the team.

Green has some offensive reinforcements this year, which should really open up the offense and allow him to have a great year.

Comments: “When healthy Green is a lock to put up great numbers, even though he sees double coverage most of the time” – Dylan Streibig

17. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns

NFL Top 100

Joe Thomas (Photo by sportingsorta.com)

It is unfortunate that Thomas has played on the Browns his whole career and hasn’t had an opportunity to win anything. He is one of the most consistent players in the NFL. In his first ten years in the league, he has never missed the Pro Bowl and has six All-Pro team appearances.

The Browns won’t be expected to win the division this year, but they should be much improved. Thomas will continue blocking for Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and hope that the passing attack that ranked 28th in the league improves. The starting quarterback may change, but they will have Kenny Britt, Corey Coleman and David Njoku as their main targets.

Thomas will continue to do his job at an elite level, but it once again will not result in a good win total for the Browns.

Comments: “This man is extremely loyal and I hope that Browns fans truly appreciate that. He has been a top 3 LT for years and has done it with bad everything else around him. Cleveland finally has good o-line pieces around him which could put them as a top offensive line for the first time in Thomas’ storied career”- Robert Hanes

16. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top 100

Patrick Peterson (Photo by patrickpeterson21.com)

Peterson made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season of 2011 and hasn’t looked back. He has six straight Pro Bowls and has made the All-Pro team three times. Last season he recorded 50 total tackles, six passes defended, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The Cardinals defense gave up the fourth least passing yards per game in 2016 and Peterson was a big reason why. They will be without Tony Jefferson, who signed with the Ravens, so a lot will fall on the shoulders of Peterson and Tyran Mathieu. Peterson will be required to shut down opponents’ best receivers and will do a great job once again.

At age 28 Peterson will be in his prime and ready to roll for the 2017 season.

Comments: “Peterson is consistently one of the best corners in the NFL. He shuts down opponents’ best receivers and is a ball hawk when the ball is thrown his way. This season Peterson will once again prove to be a premier talent at corner.”-Joe DiTullio 

15. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Le’Veon Bell (Photo by espn.com)

The only problem with Bell is his ability to stay on the field, as he has only played 18 games in the last two seasons. Part of the reason he misses games is injury, the other being a suspension. In his 12 games, last season Bell had 105.7 rushing yards per game and nine total touchdowns.

Pittsburgh’s offense is going to be a juggernaut once again with the talent they have returning. Ben Roethlisberger will be back after contemplating retirement. He will have Antonio Brown, who will be ranked in one of the next 14 spots, and a few other good targets to throw to, helping keep the offense balanced. The offensive line has been solid the past few years and will open up holes for Bell.

Adversaries can’t stack the box against Bell because of how talented the rest of the offense is, meaning that he has a chance to put up a lot of big numbers in 2017.

Comments: “It is comical that Bell is ranked this low. Bell is clearly the best running back in the NFL and a top five player. He was the first player in NFL history to average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards passing. Averaging 150 yards from scrimmage is straight stupid. If this was my list he would be much higher.” -Matthew Hagan

14. Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Derek Carr (Photo by twitter.com)

Carr will have to recover from his broken leg that knocked him out of last season, but he has had an impressive first three years as a pro. If he can keep on progressing and help the Raiders win some meaningful games, the sky is the limit. In 2016 he threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions in 15 games.

The biggest thing Carr has done since arriving in Oakland is help increase the win total. In his first year the Raiders won three games, seven the second year and they won 12 of the 15 games he started last year. The offense should continue to be dynamic with one of the best offensive lines in football. They also have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as good targets for Carr. The offensive line will block well for Marshawn Lynch and any other back Oakland plans on using, which will help create the balance that offensive coordinators love.

The Raiders will have a great offense once again and Carr will be the trigger man making things happen in 2017.

Comments: “Let me get this out of the way, Derek Carr is a stud. But, is he a top 15 player in the league right now? No, he still has to prove that he can do this consistently. He has plenty of potential and showed last year he can get the job done. If he can do that again this year, then he will be deserving of a top 15 spot.”-Robert Hanes

13. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by washingtontimes.com)

Injuries are the only thing holding one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game back. He hasn’t played a full 16 games since his second year in the NFL, but did play 15 games in 2015. He had eight games played in 2016. In those eight games he had 540 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

If Gronk is healthy he can have a big year in 2017. The Patriots added Brandin Cooks, another outside threat. Defenses will have to make up their minds about double covering Gronk, or one of the other productive receivers. The defenses will likely choose to double cover Gronk most of the time and he will still make them pay. If they focus their attention on one of the receivers, Gronk might have a career day.

Health is the biggest concern with this ranking, but when he is healthy Gronkowski is one of the best players in the NFL.

Comments: “One can only wonder how much higher Gronk would be on this list if he could stay healthy. If he can for the rest of his career he will easily go down as a top 5 TE of all time.”- Robert Hanes

12. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Matt Ryan (Photo by twitter.com)

Ryan had the best season of his career in 2016 and it really isn’t even close. He took the Falcons to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1990s and won the MVP award. On top of that, he threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Falcons’ offense will be dynamic again in 2017. Julio Jones, who will be ranked within the next 11 players, is one of the biggest matchup problems in the league. Mohammed Sanu also provides a good option. The offensive line is good and will protect Ryan well enough for him to survey the field. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman do a good job running the football and Freeman adds the ability to catch out of the backfield.

He may not win the MVP in 2017, but Ryan will be the man in charge on one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL.

Comments: “I’m of the minority that Matt Ryan gets too much love. I am not a believer in him as much as others. He has been gifted with talent around him. He is a solid quarterback but  I think he is a fringe top 25 player.” -Matthew Hagan

11. Luke Keuchly, LB, Carolina Panthers

NFL Top 100

Luke Keuchly (Photo by si.com)

It is unfortunate that Keuchly had concussion problems and missed six games, but he still had a good year that resulted in his fourth Pro Bowl. He also has three appearances on the All-Pro first team. In ten games last season Keuchly had 102 tackles, two sacks, six passes defended and an interception.

Keuchly’s versatility makes him great. He has great instincts that allow him to play the run and is one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL. Carolina’s defense wasn’t good last season, ranking 25th in scoring. Having Keuchly for a full year will drastically change that number for the better. They allowed 24.6 points in games he played and gave up 27.8 points per game without him. With all key players back and healthy and Julius Peppers on board, the Carolina defense can vastly improve.

If Keuchly is able to play he will be a top player in the NFL without a doubt.

Comments: “Luke Keuchly is the best pure linebacker in the NFL. He has great athletic ability and instincts, which he uses to his advantage. His instincts help him near the lead in tackles in the NFL every year he is healthy. The athletic ability helps him cover. He is also a very cerebral player that raises the level of play of the entire defense when he is on the field.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 30-21

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Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

The quarterback position is the most iconic position in all of sports. Football fans watch and discuss the position as if it was a soap opera on ABC. If your team has a franchise quarterback then you know you have a shot at the playoffs. If your team doesn’t then you are constantly searching for that guy. Not finding a franchise quarterback will put a team in a situation similar to that of the Browns or Jaguars.

Why does this matter? Just the other day a father and son were simply talking football like many do. One topic that came up was could the Jaguars sign Johnny Manziel as a backup plan to Blake Bortles. Bortles struggled mightily last season and if he regresses again, Jacksonville will more than likely look for a new candidate as the franchise quarterback. The topic of conversation then evolved to who and where could either Manziel or Kaepernick end up this season. Here are some possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick, the two controversial quarterbacks.

Johnny Manziel

The quarterback known as Johnny Football has had an infamous journey thus far. Recently Jon Machota of Dallas News tweeted a quote from Manziel that said, “I know the situation I put myself in. I know the year I took off and obviously the mistakes that I made. Right now, I’m hopeful. I think that I made some progress in that regard. But we’ll see. Whenever I get a call, I’ll do what I can to make the most of it.”

Reports have come out that Manziel is fighting hard to make a return to the NFL. He is still only 24 years old and if he is given the chance, can prove that he can still lead a franchise, so what teams are even a possibility?

Jacksonville

Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

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

This whole idea started because of the question if the Jags could or should sign Johnny Manziel. Blake Bortles has gone 11-34 in his first three seasons in the NFL. He also struggles with protecting the football and hasn’t had a season with less than 16 interceptions yet. This season is truly a make or break season for Bortles who will have a workhorse at running back, Leonard Fournette. The Jags also have a very talented defense that can succeed if the offense isn’t putting them in bad situations routinely.

This opportunity would allow Manziel to serve as the backup, which is the first step he will have to take in order to get back into the NFL. Depending on how things play out in Jacksonville, he may get a shot to take over a struggling Bortles. With the pieces in place, Manziel would have little to no pressure thus improving his chances of becoming the franchise quarterback they are looking for.

New Orleans

Back in March, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton met with Johnny Manziel for breakfast. Payton was rather coy on why they met but did say he was a fan of the talent Manziel possessed. The Saints are only a possibility because of Drew Brees age. He hasn’t shown signs of regression but quarterbacks don’t get better at 38. Even if he plays for two years, he could be an amazing mentor to Johnny Football.

Another reason this could work is that they are practically the same size. The knock on both Brees and Manziel coming out of college was their height. Both are six foot tall and around 208 pounds. Brees has proven, at his size, that even short quarterbacks can throw for 5,000 yards and win a Super Bowl.

Considering how respected of a quarterback and a person Brees is, he could really be the perfect role model for Manziel as Brees’ career comes to an end. Sean Payton would have his quarterback in waiting and the Saints could be set for the next ten years.

New York Giants

The big apple could be dangerous, yet the perfect destination for Johnny Football. Eli Manning is 36 and although hasn’t hinted at retirement, he could be done with football soon. Similar to the situation in New Orleans, Manziel could come in and sit behind Manning for two to three years. The Giants have a good defense and great receiving weapons on offense. Sitting behind Manning could allow Manziel to come in at the right time to be the man in the city so nice they named it twice. This isn’t insider information, just speculation but could you imagine the media frenzy if Manziel went to the Giants?

Colin Kaepernick

Pittsburgh

Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Ben Roethlisberger has already struggled with the idea of retirement but decided to come back this season. If the season is long and tough on Big Ben then it is very likely this is his last season. Pittsburgh will need a new man under center. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell could carry the offense and let Colin Kaepernick manage the game. Kap has experience going deep in the playoffs and can jump straight into the fire with the Steelers. Mike Tomlin could be the coach to take that shot on Kaepernick.

Baltimore

This won’t make much sense at first glance because Joe Flacco doesn’t seem likely to be going anywhere soon. But every team needs a backup and what better place for Kaepernick than to join the team whose head coach is the brother of the coach you had the most success with? Colin Kaepernick may not want to be a backup but at this point, he must take what he can get. John Harbaugh faced Kaepernick in the Super Bowl and knows what he is capable of. It may not be what Kap wants but needs instead.

Jacksonville

Every reason on why Johnny Manziel could play for the Jaguars is why Colin Kaepernick could as well. Last season Bortles threw a touchdown on 3.7 percent and interceptions on 2.6 percent of his throws. That was horrible compared to Kaepernick who threw touchdowns on 4.8 percent and interceptions on 1.2 percent of his throws. Kaepernick would be an improvement over Bortles. If Bortles continues to struggle not only will Manziel be an option but Kaepernick would be the best option.

Other

Both teams in Los Angeles are a possibility. Jared Goff could prove to be a bust for the Rams and if they don’t want to keep trying to find a franchise quarterback through the draft then Manziel or Kaepernick could be worth a shot. The Chargers are a young team with lots of talent aside from Philip Rivers. Rivers is 35 years of age and is coming off of one of his worst seasons as a pro. If he duplicates last years performance, the Chargers may decide to move on.

The Cardinals are another team with an aging quarterback. Arizona also has an offensive minded genius at head coach. Manziel or Kaepernick could be the replacement for Carson Palmer.

Three other teams, the New York Jets, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins may also be looking for a quarterback after this season ends and it is possible one of these teams throw either of these guys an opportunity.

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Top 5 2017 fantasy quarterbacks

When it comes to fantasy football, quarterbacks are a premium. There are many different types of quarterbacks in the NFL. There’s those who are elite passers and ones that are mobile quarterbacks. Some can do both. But these five quarterbacks are the top tier who you should eye for your team in 2017.

No. 5 Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Luck bounced back last season from an injury-shortened 2015 to surpass 4,000 yards passing for the third time in his career and 30 touchdowns for the second time.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Andrew Luck (Photo by: profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

When healthy, Luck is one of the best passers in the game. In 38 games since 2014, Luck has posted 20-plus fantasy points 76.3 percent of the time. Only Tom Brady is close to that mark at 70.4 percent.

He has finished as a top-four fantasy quarterback in three of the past four seasons. Last season, he ranked eighth in passing yards, fifth in passing touchdowns and seventh in rushing yards among quarterbacks. He averaged 7.8 yards per attempt, which was fifth in the league.

Luck hasn’t had luck on his side with injuries. In 2015, he only played seven games with multiple injuries that included an injured shoulder, lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle.

Last season, he missed one game with a concussion. In the past two seasons he has missed 10 games. The Colts are hopeful that Luck will be ready for training camp after offseason shoulder surgery. If not, then there will be concerns about his availability come week 1.

Luck should be the fourth or fifth quarterback taken around the fourth to fifth round if he’s healthy. Luck himself should come out firing, partially because the Colts’ defense isn’t expected to be great and partially because the Colts run game isn’t expected to be great.

No. 4 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

A career year that led to an MVP award at age 32, Matt Ryan ranks fourth on my list.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan (Photo: twitter.com)

Ryan enjoyed a career-best season in 2016, ranking second in passing yards, passing touchdowns and fantasy points. He averaged an absurd 9.26 yards per attempt, which is the best we’ve seen in the NFL since Kurt Warner’s 9.88 in 2000.

Ryan benefited from the league’s most yards after the catch (6.2 RAC) and second-lowest drop rate (2.8 percent). His offensive line protected him well, as he had a ton of help in the passing game from a number of role players, not to mention some excellent work from stud receiver Julio Jones.

Most of that success was because of Kyle Shanahan. But Shanahan has moved on as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. The Falcons hired former USC coach Steve Sarkisian, a first-year NFL playcaller.

Sarkisian did coach in Oakland in 2004 as the quarterbacks coach. In that season, he helped Oakland compile more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams.

Ryan won’t post his monster 2016 stats in 2017 but if the offense holds up and his star receiver stays healthy, Ryan should have another strong season. Ryan is in the mix as a top 5 fantasy passer worth a pick in round 4 or 5.

No. 3 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Consistency is the best word to describe number three quarterback Drew Brees. At age 38 this season, he is still one of the best passers in the game.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Drew Brees (Photo by:denverpost.com)

He’s finished as a top 6 quarterback in fantasy for 11 straight seasons, landing at the No. 3 spot in 2016.

When it comes to passing the ball, Brees has a cannon. He’s ranked top-two in the NFL in attempts, completions, yardage and completion percentage during six of the past seven seasons.

He’s thrown for at least 4,850 yards in each of his last six campaigns, topping 5,000 yards in four of them. As for touchdowns, Brees has thrown at least 32 in nine straight seasons. Most quarterbacks at his age start to lose some production, but Brees isn’t slowing down.

Some concern with Brees is his age but the big question comes with who his new number one target will be. The loss of Brandin Cooks hurts, but the Saints brought in Ted Ginn Jr. to replace Cooks’ deep speed. Brees’ success has been built on spreading the ball around so the loss of Cooks should be minimal.

Expect Brees to have another top-five fantasy campaign and he should be the second or third quarterback taken.

No. 2 Tom Brady, New England Patriots

A four-game suspension for Brady last season, yet he still had one of the most dominant seasons of his career. The ageless Tom Brady ranks second on this list.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Tom Brady (Photo by:nj.com)

Like Brees, Brady is still at the top of his game as he turns 40 on Aug. 3. Brady was absolutely dominant upon his return, ranking fifth in completion percentage (67 percent) and second in yards per attempt (8.2), while throwing only two interceptions.

He still managed to toss 28 touchdowns. Even though he finished as the No. 15 quarterback in 2016, as he averaged just under 26 fantasy points a game in the 12 games he was active.

This year fantasy owners don’t have to debate where to draft Brady with deflategate behind him. He should be even better with the healthy return of Rob Gronkowski, as well as the addition of Cooks from the Saints and Dwayne Allen from the Colts to replace Martellus Bennett.

Brady also has other targets such as Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and running backs in Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and James White. Brady’s success, like Brees, is spreading the ball around and he has a ton of weapons to throw to.

Brady will be one of the first three quarterbacks taken along with Brees and Rodgers. He will likely be taken after Rodgers but target him about round 3.

No. 1 Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

When it comes to fantasy football, there wasn’t a better quarterback better last season than Aaron Rodgers. The fantasy’s reigning top-scoring quarterback is coming off a season in which he threw for 4,428 yards, ran for a career-high 369 yards and had a hand in 44 touchdowns.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (Photo by:ftw.usatoday.com)

Rodgers finished in the top five of the league in pass attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdowns. He averaged 27.8 fantasy points per game. That is in thanks to a career-high in pass attempts (610), a five-year high in passing yards and and a league-best 40 passing touchdowns.

Part of this success is simply because the Packers couldn’t run the ball effectively at times. Ty Montgomery became a huge threat in the running game last year, but he’s still a natural wide receiver and it’s tough to sat how he’ll fare this season.

The Packers tried to address their run game in the draft, but there’s actually no guarantee they’ll be any better on the ground than they were last year, when they finished 20th in run offense and 29th in rush attempts.

Rodgers got an upgrade at the tight end position with Martellus Bennett and still has his favorite number one target Jordy Nelson along with Randall Cobb and Devante Adams. Rodgers has finished as a top-two fantasy quarterback during seven of the past nine seasons.

There’s no question Rodgers will be the first quarterback off the board. You should expect Rodgers to go in round two in standard leagues and round three in PPR leagues.

 

Featured image from espn.com.

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