NFL divisional playoffs picks

NFL divisional playoffs preview and picks

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

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

Postseason record- 3-1

Postseason record against the spread- 2-2

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Winner: Atlanta

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

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

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from USA Today

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

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

Winner: New England

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

Winner: Pittsburgh

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

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

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from si.com

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

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

Winner: New Orleans

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

 

Featured image from chiefs.com

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NFL Wild Card Weekend

NFL Wild Card weekend preview and picks

The NFL playoffs are here, and the road to Super Bowl LII kicks into overdrive this weekend. For the 12 teams who still have championship dreams, the slate is wiped clean and everyone is 0-0 again. The same goes for people like me who picked games throughout the regular season.

Throughout the playoffs, games will be picked against the spread as well as straight up. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Saturday

Titans at Chiefs – Even though these are both playoff teams, they are trending in opposite directions. After a bizarre midseason slump, Kansas City finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak to claim their second straight division title. Andy Reid’s team put up at least 26 points in all of those games.

The Chiefs finished the regular season looking like the team that dominated the league in the first month of the season. Alex Smith may have limitations as a quarterback, but this is an offense that has done a great job taking care the football all year long and knows that getting the ball to playmakers like rushing champion Kareem Hunt is the winning formula.

NFL Wild Card Weekend

(Photo from faketeams.com)

The Titans did just enough to squeak into the playoffs despite losing three of their last four games with the offense accounting for 15 points or less in two of those games. Defense does tend to win football games this time of year, and Tennessee has a good one.

But the offense has to be at least average. The Titans offense hasn’t been anywhere near average since November. For that reason, there are reports that head coach Mike Mularkey may still be on the hot seat despite the playoff berth.

Arrowhead Stadium is a very tough place to play. However, Kansas City’s home playoff track record is worrisome. They have not won a home playoff game since the early 90s. In order to continue that trend, the Titans defense will have to play a nearly perfect game. Given the quality of opponent, that is a tall order.

Winner: Kansas City

Good bet: Chiefs (-8.5) KC 28 Ten 17

Falcons at Rams – The scene of a late afternoon/early evening playoff game in Los Angeles will be a beautiful backdrop as two high-powered offenses battle it out. The Rams have been the more consistent team all year long, but this is uncharted territory for this mostly young football team, including coaching sensation Sean McVay.

This team has been in such a good rhythm all year long. Thus, the decision to rest most starters last week is a risky one. A rusty first half this week likely means the end of a magical season for Los Angeles.

Additionally, the kicking unit has struggled a bit since the injury to kicker Greg Zuerlein. Things like that often have a way of rearing their head when it really matters.

Atlanta is one of few teams that can keep up with the Rams top ranked scoring offense. Additionally, the Falcons have been in must win situations for weeks. So, playoff pressure should not change much for them. Most of the Falcons’ main pieces were a part of last year’s playoff run, which was very good, other than the ending. The playoffs are a different animal and experience is invaluable.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: *Falcons (+6.5) Atl 34 LAR 31

Sunday

Bills at Jaguars – It has not always been pretty for these two teams, but they both deserve a ton of credit for getting here and breaking long playoff droughts. This is the simplest game of the week to size up.

As much heat as Blake Bortles gets, the Jacksonville offense ranks fifth in scoring. The scoreboard is all that matters. That is one of few offensive stats worth paying attention to. Make no mistake, Jacksonville’s identity is running the ball with Leonard Fournette and playing defense, but the quarterback is not a major liability.

As for Buffalo, they needed a huge assist from the lowly Bengals to reach the playoffs. Their best offensive weapon is running back LeSean McCoy. Even if the six-time Pro Bowler can somehow go from being carted off to playing in a playoff game in the span of a week, it is impossible for him to be 100 percent.

The Buffalo offense ranks 22nd in scoring with a healthy McCoy. How in the world can this team go on the road and compete against a defense that has been the best in football in several categories all year long? The short answer is that they probably can’t.

NFL Wild Card Weekend

(Photo from zambio.com)

Winner: Jacksonville

Good Bet: Jaguars (-8.5) Jac 24 Buf 10

Panthers at Saints – On a rare occasion, division rivals meet for the third time in one season in the playoffs. It is tough to predict a winner. These teams know each other so well, and there is nothing one team can do to surprise the other.

If quarterback play is as important as it is often made out to be, the Saints will reach the Super Bowl. Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFC playoffs by far. Brees is the future Hall of Famer. The fact that New Orleans found a legal two-headed monster at running back and a solid defense to pair up with him this year is almost unfair.

Carolina is similar to New Orleans. Cam Newton has been nowhere near his MVP form of two years ago, but he has played good complementary football to go with a versatile group of running backs and a good defense all year long.

It is very hard to beat the same NFL team three times in the same season. The opportunity does not present itself all that often. New Orleans has won both matchups with Carolina this year fairly convincingly. Even so, Carolina is here for a reason and this meeting will be much closer.

There is not much that separates these two teams. The defenses are both easily in the top half of the league in most categories. Also, although they accomplish it differently, both teams rely heavily on the ground game. The one thing that jumps out is that Brees has half the number of interceptions Newton does. Turnovers decide the vast majority of football games from preseason to the playoffs. Moreover, New Orleans has the most basic advantage of all, which is playing at home.

Winner: New Orleans

Good bet: Panthers (+6.5) NO 27 Car 24

 

Featured image from nflodysseyonline.com

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Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 17

Week 16 Review (2-1) OVERALL: 31-15-2

Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) @ San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers 44 Jacksonville Jaguars 33

Against the number one defense in the NFL, Jimmy Jesus and the 49ers came to play. Garoppolo had three total touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 102.4. The Niners, led by Matt Breida and Carlos Hyde, ran for 131 yards on Jacksonville. Amazingly, San Francisco went 10-15 on third down conversions. Their defense held Jacksonville to just 92 total rushing yards. Leonard Fournette managed just 48 yards on 18 carries. San Francisco also picked off Blake Bortles three times. Bortles looks to have finally come back down to Earth after playing really good football for the last few weeks.

(USA Today)

Jimmy Garoppolo has won his first four games in San Francisco and looks like the real deal. Don’t be surprised if San Francisco makes the playoffs next year. This guy already looks like a top-10 quarterback in this league for years to come.

 

 

 

 

Seattle Seahawks (+4.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

Seattle Seahawks 21 Dallas Cowboys 12

The Seahawks were extra motivated because Eric Dickerson, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, leaked the story of Ezekiel Elliott telling him he was going to run for 200 yards when he plays Seattle. Elliott had a solid game, rushing for 97 yards, but unfortunately, his quarterback continues to regress. Dak Prescott threw for just 181 yards, and a pair of interceptions.

The Seahawks forced three total turnovers, which ended up being the reason for victory. Seattle rushed for just 76 yards and had only 136 total yards, but a win is a win. If they wish to continue their season, Seattle needs to cut down on the penalties, as they had 11, which cost them 142 yards. The Seahawks can clinch a wild-card berth with a win over the Cardinals and a Falcons loss to the Panthers.

 

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (-6)

New Orleans Saints 23 Atlanta Falcons 13

New Orleans’ defense proved to be the difference maker in this one. They forced two turnovers and held the Falcons to just 67 rushing yards. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense went a pitiful 2-13 on third down conversions. On the other side, Drew Brees continued to be insanely efficient, as he completed 75 percent of his throws and had a quarterback rating of 97.2. Alvin Kamara looks to be the run-away candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year, as the former Tennessee standout ran for only 32 yards, but caught seven passes for 58 more yards.

Right now, Atlanta is the sixth seed in the NFC. If the season ended today, they would face the Rams in the wild-card round. To qualify for the playoffs, Atlanta needs to beat Carolina. However, even if they lose, the Falcons will move on if the Seahawks fall to the Cardinals.

 

WEEK 17 PICKS

Washington Redskins (-3) @ New York Giants

PICK: REDSKINS TO COVER

Davis Webb will be in uniform so you have to imagine he will get some reps at some point in this meaningless game. If Webb plays, a Redskins win is almost a guarantee. Anyways, the Redskins are up against a Giants team that ranks 31st in points per game, 30th in third down conversion percentage, and 23rd in yards per game. Not much to worry about here.

(CNBC.com)

Washington is pretty average on offense, ranking 14th in points per game, 13th in yards per play, and 15th in yards per game. Luckily, they are up against one of the worst defenses in the league. New York ranks 29th in opposing points per game, 32nd in opposing yards per game, and 26th in opposing third down conversion percentage. The Giants cannot move the chains on offense, and have a hard time getting off the field on defense. This team has already thrown in the towel, so look for Washington to win easy.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (+4) @ Denver Broncos

PICK: CHIEFS TO COVER

Patrick Mahomes will be making his first NFL start, so it is hard to not bet on this kid. Michael Kopech, baseball’s No. 10 prospect according to MLB.com and former high school rival of Mahomes, says, of the Kansas City QB, “He was just a bulldog. To be honest, I think anyone who ever played with or against Patrick would’ve assumed he would’ve been a pro in any sport he played.” If you’re wondering about Mahomes as a baseball player, well, he was scouted by teams as both a pitcher and an outfielder. Mahomes was considered a third or fourth round pick as a pitcher out of high school.

This kid is the ultimate competitor and I fully expect him to light it up on Sunday. He will be up against a Denver defense that ranks 22nd in opposing points per game, and 26th in opposing red zone opportunities ending in a touchdown.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5) @ Tennessee Titans

PICK: JAGUARS TO COVER

If the Titans win, they will secure a wild-card spot. If they happen to lose, they need the Bills and Chargers to lose in order to keep playing. Since the Jaguars played so poorly last week against the 49ers, look for Jacksonville to get some momentum back and stomp all over the Titans.

The Jaguars have rushed for over 135 yards in all but four of their contests. When the Titans allow over 100 yards on the ground, they are 0-5. The Titans also allow the 20th most points per game, and rank 25th in opposing passing yards per game. Look for Blake Bortles to get back on track in this one.

Featured image by ESPN.com

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NFL Week 16

Stack your money Sundays: Week 16

Week 15 Review (2-1) OVERALL: 29-14-2

Green Bay Packers (+2.5) @ Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers 31 Green Bay Packers 24

Unfortunately for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, this season did not go as planned. Rodgers’ three interceptions were costly, but had Geronimo Allison not coughed up the football late in the game, Green Bay would have had a real shot to send the game into overtime.

NFL Week 16

Four Touchdowns for the former MVP (Photo from Rolling Stone)

In last week’s article, we talked about how Cam Newton had thrown for less than 200 yards in five of his last six games. We also mentioned that, from last season to now, when a quarterback throws for less than 220 yards against Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are 7-0.

Fortunately for Newton, he played a flawless game. The former No. 1 overall pick threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 128. The Panthers also managed to run for 151 yards. Christian McCaffrey had a stellar game, rushing for 63 yards and catching six balls for 73 yards and a score.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (-3.5)

Buffalo Bills 24 Miami Dolphins 16

After three quarters, this game was a blowout. The Bills were up 24-6 and showed no signs of weakness against Jay Cutler and the Dolphins. However, a Kenyan Drake touchdown and a late Cody Parkey field goal made the game a bit more interesting. At the end of the day, it’s really tough to win if your quarterback throws zero touchdowns and three interceptions. I’m going to miss Jay Cutler next year.

It was a typical game for Tyrod Taylor. The former Virginia Tech standout threw one touchdown, rushed for another and did not turn the ball over. LeSean McCoy had a pair of touchdowns as well. The Bills have a legitimate shot to make the postseason, but that Nathan Peterman game against the Chargers could come back to haunt them if they end up with the same record as Los Angeles.

New England Patriots (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

New England Patriots 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Arguably the game of the year, New England just barely came out of this one with a win, as well as a cover. By rule, Jesse James did not catch that ball.

In all honesty, Pittsburgh outplayed the Patriots. They had almost double the rushing yards, and went 10-of-16 on third-down conversions. If the Steelers knew how to defend Rob Gronkowski, this game would have ended a bit differently.

Prayers up to Antonio Brown as he exited the game early on, but will hopefully be back for the playoffs. Had he not gotten injured, Brown would have a serious shot at winning MVP.

This probably will not matter, but keep an eye on Tom Brady, as he does not look like the same quarterback from a few weeks ago. He has now thrown five interceptions in his last four games.

WEEK 16 PICKS

Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) @ San Francisco 49ers

PICK: JAGUARS TO COVER

Although Jimmy Garoppolo looks likes the real deal, let’s pump the brakes a bit. He is stacked up against a Jaguars defense that is first in the league in points allowed, opposing yards per play and opposing red zone scoring in regards to touchdowns. They also rank third in both opposing third-down conversion percentage and opposing yards per game. Yes, as odd as it seems, the Jaguars defense is the real deal.

San Francisco’s defense ranks 28th in interceptions, and when Blake Bortles does not throw a pick, the Jaguars are a perfect 8-0. In his last three games, Bortles has been as good as anyone in the league. He has seven touchdowns, zero interceptions and passer ratings of 119.8, 123.7 and 143.7. Jacksonville currently ranks fifth in points per game, sixth in yards per game and fifth in percentage of red zone trips ending in a touchdown.

Leonard Fournette is good to go, which is huge news for the Jacksonville offense, which ranks first in rushing yards per game with 149.1. They are up against a 49ers defense that allows 119.1 yards per game on the ground. The entire NFL has been running all over San Francisco’s defense, so look for Fournette to have a monster game.

Seattle Seahawks (+4.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

PICK: SEAHAWKS TO COVER

NFL Week 16

Look for Russell Wilson to keep the Seahawks alive (Photo from Sports on Earth)

Seattle is coming off two straight losses, including a brutal 42-7 loss to the Rams a week ago. With that said, I don’t see Russell Wilson losing three in a row.

 

In his three games against the Cowboys, he is 2-1 and completing over 60 percent of his passes. Both teams are playing for their lives, so expect a thriller.

Luckily for Dallas, Ezekiel Elliott is back from his suspension and appears to be in even better shape than before. Seattle allows 112.9 rushing yards per game, which is subpar. But if they can hold Dallas to that much, they should be fine. This season, when the Cowboys rush for less than 120 yards, they are 1-4.

In an important matchup like this, pay most attention to the quarterbacks. Wilson is the far superior player to Dak Prescott. Prescott has Dallas ranked 24th in passing yards per game and has thrown seven interceptions in the last five games.

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (-6)

PICK: SAINTS TO COVER

After their Week 2 loss to the Patriots, New Orleans is a perfect 6-0 at home, outscoring opponents by about 11 points per game. Drew Brees is also playing elite football, as the Saints rank first in yards per game, second in touchdowns per game and third in points per game.

Their lethal backfield is averaging 135.1 rushing yards per game and rank first in rushing touchdowns per game. In the three games in which Atlanta has allowed over 136 rushing yards per game, they are 0-3.

The Falcons have done a nice job of turning their season around, but at this point, you have to give the edge to the home team, especially when they have the better quarterback. In Brees’ career against Atlanta, he is 15-9 with a completion percentage of 67.8 and 45 touchdowns. Look for him to have a very efficient game as Atlanta ranks 28th in opposing completion percentage.

 

Featured image from Twitter.com

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Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 13

Week 12 Review (3-0) OVERALL: 24-10-2

Tennessee Titans (-3.5) @ Indianapolis Colts

Tennessee Titans 20 Indianapolis Colts 16

Late in the third quarter, it looked as if the Colts were going to continue their dominance against the Titans at home. Down 16-6, Marcus Mariota found Delanie Walker for a 2-yard touchdown to cut the lead to three. A Demarco Murray touchdown with under six minutes to play made it a four-point game. Luckily, Tennessee’s defense stepped up and prevented Indianapolis from getting anything going on offense.

It was an ugly win, but nonetheless, a cover is a cover. Mariota threw two interceptions and continued to look shaky, as his interception total is up to 12 on the year. They ran for 92 yards, including 79 from Derrick Henry, who looks like he deserves to be the lead back. Tennessee played solid red-zone defense, but that is expected against the Colts.

The Titans sit at 7-4, yet are getting outscored by 27 points for the season, including two blowout losses by 23+ points. Most of their wins are one possession games, and inconsistent play from Mariota makes it hard to buy into this team.

Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles (-13)

Philadelphia Eagles 31 Chicago Bears 3

Blount rushed for 97 yards in the win against Chicago. (SBNation)

At first, I was a tad skeptical of a spread this large, but then again, the Eagles are the most complete football team in the NFL. This game was over from the jump, as Carson Wentz threw three touchdowns in the first half. Philadelphia continued to excel in the run game, as they rushed for 176 yards on 33 carries, including 97 yards from LeGarrette Blount.

Speaking of the run, the Bears ran for a grand total of six yards on 14 carries. Mitch Trubisky continued to look like a rookie, throwing two interceptions and completed only 51.5 percent of his passes. His 38.3 quarterback rating was his worst of the season.

The Bears had the ball for less than 23 total minutes, and were 3-13 on third down conversion attempts. The Eagles had three times more first downs than Chicago. Simply put, Chicago was overmatched and looked the part.

Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) @ San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks 24 San Francisco 49ers 13

As banged up as they are, Seattle still has Russell Wilson, which means they will always have a shot. Wilson had a solid game, throwing for two touchdowns, while also picking up his third rushing touchdown of the season. He is carrying this team, and arguably the most valuable player in the sport. Without him, the Seahawks would be a disaster.

Although it is unfortunate C.J. Beathard was injured in the game, the 49ers fan got a glimpse of what the future could look like. Jimmy Garappolo went in late in the fourth quarter and threw 10-yard touchdown to Louis Murphy. Garappolo will start this week against Chicago, in hopes of picking up his first win as a Niner, and giving the fan base something to cheer about.

WEEK 13 PICKS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers (-2.5)

PICK: PACKERS TO COVER

Brett Hundley had a career game last week against the Steelers. The 24-year-old from UCLA threw three touchdowns, no interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 134.3. While it hasn’t been all that pretty for Hundley and the Packers, who are 1-4 in their last five, this week should be a breeze.

Jameis Winston has returned to practice and will be playing on Sunday. Last year, Winston’s average kickoff temperature was right around 75 degrees. On Sunday, the temperature will be in the 40s, which is new to Jameis. Counting both his collegiate and professional careers, Winston has never played in anything under 45 degrees. The Bucs are also without starting center Ali Marpet, and right tackle Demar Dotson. Running back Doug Martin is still in the concussion protocol.

The Bucs are 23rd in both points and third down conversion percentage. Their run game has been a disaster all year, and they also have had incontinent kicking. Look for Hundley to have a solid game against a Tampa Bay defense that gives up 395.5 yards per game, and 6.1 yards per play, which both rank dead last in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (-4.5)

PICK: SAINTS TO COVER

Although they lost last week to the Rams, the Saints remain one of the best football teams in the NFL. Both teams sit at 8-3, so this will be a battle for first place in the NFC South. It will be interesting to see if the stellar Panthers defense will have an answer for Alvin Kamara. Kamara, who looks to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year, is averaging 7.1 yards per carry, which is first in the NFL. He also has 55 receptions including at least five in six of the last eight games.

Front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Alvin Kamara (SI.com)

Following a loss, Drew Brees is 52-32-2 ATS. Brees is having another impressive season, with 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions, and currently leads the league with a completion percentage of 71.3. The Saints have just one loss at home this year, which came all the way back in Week Two against New England. New Orleans has been excellent in the red zone, sitting fifth in the league in percentage of red zone opportunities ending with a touchdown.

Cam Newton continues to be one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the league. When the Panthers beat New England and Detroit, Newton threw for three touchdowns and over 300 yards in both contests. Last week against the New York Jets, Newton completed 39.3 percent of his passes, with no touchdowns and just 168 passing yards. Carolina’s offense currently ranks 20th in yards per play.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals

PICK: STEELERS TO COVER

The Steelers looked bad on National TV last week against the Packers, which means a big performance is looming in the air. According to SportsInsights.com, “Pittsburgh’s offense and defense both rank second in Adjusted Sack Rate. Cincy’s offense and defense both rank 26th in Adjusted Sack Rate.”

Le’Veon Bell should carve up this Bengals defense, who allow 126.6 rushing yards per game. In the last 16 games in which Pittsburgh has rushed for at least 100 yards, the Steelers are 15-1. During their Week Six matchup, Bell rushed for 134 yards. In the six games he has played against Cincinnati, the Steelers are 5-1. Over the course of Ben Roethlisberger’s career against the Bengals, he is 20-7.

Andy Dalton looks really bad this year, and has his Bengals sitting at 32nd in yards per game. Cincinnati only scores about 18 points per game, and are 29th in third down conversion percentage. Although last week they had a solid running game against the Browns, Cincinnati is still 31st in yards per rush. They can’t pass, or run, and their rush defense is among the worst in the league. Look for Pittsburgh to continue to dominate this inner-division rivalry.

 

Featured image by Bleacher Report

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Chicago Bears

The one NFL team no playoff contender wants to play

With the ninth week of regular season play already started, separation is starting to take place  in the NFL when it comes to who will be fighting for a playoff spot late in the season and who will just be playing for pride. There is one team out there that no playoff contender should want to deal with.

While stranger things have certainly happened, the playoffs are probably out of reach for the Chicago Bears who sit at 3-5 as they enjoy their bye week. However, this team is among the most improved since the start of the season. Here is why they are poised to at the very least play spoiler as we roll towards this season’s stretch run.

They finally have an identity on offense:

Are the Bears limited on offense with rookie Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback? Of course. The second overall pick has not completed more than 14 passes in any of his four starts. Despite that, knowing your limitations and playing to your strengths can count for a lot in this league. Bears head coach John Fox knows this better than most coaches. He won a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback.

The best thing about the Bears offense was always the Jordan Howard led ground game. Turning to a rookie quarterback, forced Chicago to become more reliant on that. For some reason, the Bears were intent on throwing the ball all over the place with Mike Glennon under center to start the season. Granted, the Bears were trailing a lot, but averaging 35 pass attempts per game with a quarterback like Glennon is not a formula for consistent winning. A quarterback change caused a light bulb to come on for the entire organization,

Howard has had fewer than 20 carries just once in Trubisky’s four starts. Rookie Tarik Cohen has come from nowhere to give the Bears one of the best backfield combos in football. Chicago now has the fourth ranked rushing offense in the NFL.

It is also important to remember that the modern NFL is a pass happy league where even average quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins throw for 4,000 yards. Thus, when a run based team like the Bears comes along, it is a difficult style for defenses to adapt to. Jacksonville is having some success this year with a similar formula. This style is not flashy, some may even call it boring, but it has given opponents fits for the last month.

Another thing a run heavy offense has allowed the Bears to do is limit turnovers. Looking at just the quarterback position, Glennon was responsible for six turnovers in the first four games of the year. In the last four, Trubisky has accounted for just two.

Turnovers are not the only negative plays Trubisky is helping to avoid, he is far more mobile than the much older and taller Glennon. He has been able to create something out of nothing and scamper to avoid sacks. Sometimes, an incomplete pass is not so bad. Apart from a terrible throw at the end of the game in his first start, the added element of Trubisky’s mobility has served him and the team well.

Having played only a handful of games in college, Trubisky is still prone to rookie mistakes, but there are things like bootlegs in the clip below from the NFL YouTube channel. Those were not in the playbook with Glennon.

 

The defense is playing well:

When healthy, the Bears defense has played well the last three years under Fox, but that has been rare. So far so good for the Bears defense in 2017. They rank 12th in rush defense. Over the last two games, Drew Brees and Cam Newton led offenses have been held to 23 combined points. In fact, Chicago defeated the Panthers on the strength of two defensive touchdowns by rookie Eddie Jackson.

Eddie Jackson

Photo: Chicago Tribune

There are very few things that are always true when it comes to NFL football. However, if you run the football, stop the run on defense, and limit turnovers, you will always have a chance to win. The Bears have a .500 record in Trubisky’s four starts. The two losses are by one possession. All but two of Chicago’s remaining games feature opponents that are realistically in the playoff hunt. As long as the Bears keep doing the three things mentioned in this paragraph well, contending teams should be very worried about playing them.

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week 8 DFS don'ts

Week 8 DFS don’ts: Report Card

Week eight couldn’t have come fast enough. After two consecutive weeks of losing, my lineups bounced back in a big way. My cash lineups featured LeSean McCoy and Mark Ingram, while my tournament entries were carried by Russell Wilson and Paul Richardson. Thankfully, I’m able to get back to writing these report card pieces. So let’s review my picks on the Suck My DFS Podcast and my week 8 DFS don’ts.

Quarterback: 1/3

While Drew Brees was solid, he failed to double his production against a stingy Chicago defense. The Saints commitment to running the ball is severely cutting into Brees’ upside. Russell Wilson came up big as usual. We talked on the Suck My DFS Podcast  about Wilson’s perceived tough matchup against the Texans. Since losing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, they played Cleveland and had their bye. We knew Wilson would play well. Phillip Rivers didn’t look right. Maybe he’s dealing with an injury or his unorthodox release is taking a toll on him at his age. Whatever it is, he’s off my radar moving forward.

Running Back: 4/6

I was bullish on Le’Veon Bell against the Lions. He was incredibly disappointing given his $9,400 price tag when you could have played Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy for a huge discount. Mark Ingram, despite his two fumbles, made value and counts as a win this week. Joe Mixon would also have counted as a win if he can freaking fall forward into the end zone on a 67 yard screen pass; however, he came up 1.4 points short of making value.

Conversely, I nailed my week 8 DFS don’ts at this position. Devonta Freeman, Jordan Howard, and Chris Thompson all failed to make value. Howard and Thompson weren’t complete failures, but, they came up short as a cash game play.

Wide Receiver: 3/6

I was really nervous about my Antonio Brown call this week. The guy is almost matchup proof. Thankfully, the Lions secondary held him in check. Amari Cooper followed up his great performance with an absolute dud against the Bills. Will Fuller…I’ll take the huge “L” on that call. I still think his success is completely unsustainable, but he came through for a lot of DFS players this week.

The weather absolutely crushed my picks at wide receiver. Dez Bryant and Josh Doctson were in great positions to produce, but they had to play in a monsoon. Doctson failed to make value despite his late touchdown. On the other hand, Marvin Jones produced in a tough matchup and put me over the top in all of my cash contests with his 15.8 points.

Tight End: 2/4

I’ll never complain about splitting on tight ends. Unfortunately, I wish the split would have come in favor of my DFS do’s, not my DFS don’ts. I nailed both tight ends on my DFS don’ts list, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and O.J. Howard. Both players had an anemic fantasy game and weather had a larger impact on their production than I anticipated.

Even though Zach Ertz caught a touchdown, he failed to double his expensive $7,900 price tag. I also thought that Hunter Henry was in position to have a great game. If someone could explain to me why the Chargers continue to use Antonio Gates over Hunter Henry I would really appreciate it.

Kicker: 1/2

I should never doubt Matt Prater when he plays at home. He finished as the highest scoring kicker on the slate. Jake Elliott was a win though. Even in the rain, he came through with 10 points, which was enough for him to make value.

Defense: 1/2

I coincidentally had both the Saints and the Bears in my write ups this week. The Bears failed do produce, even though they were only $4,200 and were saved by two late fumbles by Mark Ingram. On the other side, the Saints also failed to produce given their value. I guess they were surprised that the Bears attempted to throw the ball more than

Overall Score: 12/23

I operated just over the 50% line with my podcast picks and week 8 DFS don’ts. My preliminary thoughts on week 9 aren’t great. The pricing will be tight as there are fewer and fewer value plays at the running back and wide receiver position.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Grizzly Bear Blues

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

New Orleans Saints fantasy: Which receiver can players trust?

One of the most frustrating fantasy situations is Drew Brees and his wide receiver corps. It seems like every week there is a new player who comes up big for New Orleans. The question for fantasy owners is which Saints receiver can be trusted?

Michael Thomas

Going into the 2017 season, Michael Thomas was looking to continue his red hot career with Drew Brees. He hasn’t quite performed like the WR1 people drafted him as. Coming off of his bye week, Thomas struggled against a good Lions secondary but bounced back against the Packers this week.

It seems that every week we see Michael Thomas with at least five receptions for 80 yards. A model of consistency that most owners would like to see out of their wide receivers, just not their number one. There was some hope that Thomas would blossom into a full-time WR1 with multiple weeks of eight points, 14 points, and 14 points again.

The touchdowns are what’s key for Michael Thomas. If he can be consistently targeted in the red zone and come away with more touchdowns, then we can see more double digit games from the Saints stud.

Ted Ginn Jr.

New Orleans Saints fantasy: Which receiver can players trust?

http://cover32.com

If you played Ted Ginn Jr. in week seven against the Packers, then you got a steal. One of the most frustrating fantasy players has had back to back double digit weeks and is turning into a big target for Drew Brees. Unlike Michael Thomas, Ginn has come off of the bye week playing better than he has all season.

Now when I say that he is a frustrating fantasy player, it’s just because he has been inconsistent so far this season putting up three double digit weeks and three weeks of five points or lower. Owners can never tell if they need to put him in their lineup but he should be owned in every league for sure.

It seems like we can only depend on matchups for Ginn Jr. from here on out. With Michael Thomas drawing most of the coverage from opposing secondaries, it allows Ginn to find gaps in the defense and breakaway for long receptions. From now on if that matchup proves to be good for the Saints, and you need to fill someone in due to bye weeks, play Ginn Jr. and hope for a big game.

Brandon Coleman

Brandon Coleman is the least likely out of the Saints wide receiver trio to be put in your fantasy lineup. I’d like to put Willie Snead on this list but because of the time he’s missed, I’m going to have to defer to Brandon Coleman.

Coleman, like Ted Ginn Jr., has been inconsistent throughout this season. We’ve seen him have big weeks with nine, seven and 14 points, but he has also put together three lackluster performances with one, two and three points.

Now that Willie Snead has made his return, in future weeks he should be on every team and is a viable fantasy option under Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints. But Coleman has been a threat in the red zone in the first seven weeks. As a matter of fact, three out of his 12 receptions have ended up as touchdowns.

Basically with Brandon Coleman, it’s boom or bust. If he can find a way to score a touchdown, then he’s valuable, but we haven’t seen enough of that to promote starting him in fantasy lineups.

It’s tough to decide which receiver to play if you have all three but to play it safe, Michael Thomas is the best, and most consistent receiver on that team and should get our team the most points out of all the Saints wide receivers.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Hagan's Haus 2017 NFL picks (week 6)

Hagan’s Haus 2017 NFL picks week 6

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 6 NFL picks.

Last week: 5-8

Overall: 37-39

Teams on byes: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas, Seattle

Thursday Night

Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) @ Carolina Panthers (4-1):

Sunday Morning

Miami Dolphins (2-2) 13 @ Atlanta Falcons (3-1) 28: The Dolphins are trending in the wrong direction and maybe people will finally see that Jay Cutler is no solution to a problem under center. Miami averages just 251.3 yards per game resulting in just 10.3 points per game. It is going to take three times as many points to beat Atlanta who is averaging 26 points per game themselves. Matt Ryan is going to thoroughly outperform Jay Cutler to push Atlanta to 4-1.

Detroit Lions (3-2) 35 @ New Orleans Saints (2-2) 37: Detroit is coming off a home loss to the Panthers in which the game wasn’t as close as the score was. The Lions looked really good in the first three weeks but haven’t looked as good in the last two games. The Saints, on the other hand, have a two-game win streak and are coming off of a bye. This game has the feeling of a shootout and Drew Brees is a hard man to outscore. The Saints are favored by five points. They won’t cover the spread, but they will win sending the Lions to .500.

Hagan's Haus 2017 NFL picks (week 6)

(Photo Credit: Matt Blewett/The Minnesota Sports Report)

Green Bay Packers (4-1) 20 @ Minnesota (3-2) 24: Very few football minds will be picking the Vikings in this game, but this is really a 50-50 game, especially in Minnesota. The Vikings have a defense that has, at times, caused fits for Aaron Rodgers. They have held Rodgers under 15 points in two of the last three matchups. The one thing that could be tough for the Vikings is scoring. Their offense is missing key pieces and interchanging quarterbacks like socks. The defense must dominate for Minnesota to have a chance. They will be dominant and get the upset at home.

New England Patriots (3-2) 45 @ New York Jets (3-2) 17: New York was supposed to be winless but instead find themselves with three wins. It is extremely surprising that they are in this position but the surprises end here. New England is going to make a massive statement in this game. They will go to New York and put up 40 points behind a 350-yard performance from the great Tom Brady. This will be a blowout.

San Francisco 49ers (0-5) 20 @ Washington Redskins (2-2) 24: Personally, I don’t think the Redskins are all that good of a team this season but are 2-2 and get a chance to play a winless team at home which favors Washington. There will be a heavy dose of running from Washington clash as the Redskins have the seventh-ranked rushing attack and the 49ers give up 116.6 yards per game. San Francisco won’t be able to stop them and Washington will control the clock. This will be a close game on the scoreboard but the Redskins will dominate.

Chicago Bears (1-4) 24 @ Baltimore Ravens (3-2) 21: Bears fans should be smiling after last week. Mitchell Trubisky didn’t set the world on fire but showed tons of potential. Over time he will develop into a solid NFL quarterback. This week he has to face a good, stingy Raven defense. On the other side, the Ravens offense is one of the worst in the league which gives the Bears a chance. Due to the Ravens woeful offense, the Bears have a chance to win. Chicago is going to fly to Baltimore and get an upset behind a big game from Trubisky.

Cleveland Browns (0-5) 24 @ Houston Texans (2-3) 34: This is a great opportunity for DeShaun Watson to step on the field against the Browns and make them miserable for not selecting him in the draft. Watson is second in the NFL in touchdown passes and has looked really good. Sometimes the accuracy isn’t there but that is tolerable with his playmaking ability. Watson has another four-touchdown performance to make Brown fans puke.

Sunday Afternoon

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) 34 @ Arizona Cardinals (2-3) 38: Arizona made huge waves this week trading for Adrian Peterson but will it help them on the field? Probably not in his first game. He has to learn the offense and the Bucs only give up 87.3 yards per game. There will be a lot of passing in this game as both teams struggle to run the ball and both are good at stopping the run. Jameis Winston has a younger arm and a better supporting cast so the Bucs will go to Arizona and get a big road win.

Hagan's Haus 2017 NFL picks (week 6)

(Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Rams (3-2) 24 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) 21: This game isn’t getting a ton of publicity but will be one of the best games of the week. The Rams have the fifth-ranked passing attack and the Jaguars have the third-ranked rush defense. If Los Angeles comes into the game planning to run they will win the game. Jacksonville gives up 146.4 rush yards per game, the second-worst in the NFL. Todd Gurley will have a career game and lead the Rams to a victory.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) 27 @ Kansas City (5-0) 31: The struggling Steelers are heading into Arrowhead to face the best team in the NFL. Big Ben said he may not have it anymore which means he will probably light it up to prove a point. Even if Big Ben does so, the Chiefs offense is just way too explosive to shut down. At some point, Kareem Hunt will hit a wall and have a bad game but it won’t be this week.

Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) 21 @ Oakland Raiders (2-3) 24: The site of the game may change with the crazy wildfires burning in California. That type of uncertainty can affect both teams.  It is still up in the air if Derek Carr will play but the Raiders should win regardless. They are the better team. Oakland will finally get their running game going as the Chargers have the worst rush defense in the league, allowing 161.2 yards per game.

Sunday Night

New York Giants (0-5) 0 @ Denver Broncos (3-1) 24: There is not much of a summary needed on why the Broncos will the game. Denver will run all over the Giants defense in a game that shouldn’t be televised nationally. They are coming off a bye and have had two weeks to prepare for a Giants offense that can’t run the ball and has lost their receiving threats. Denver may even pull off a shutout in this game so that will be the prediction. A shutout.

Monday Night

Indianapolis Colts (2-3) 17 @ Tennessee Titans (2-3) 28: This is a must-win for both teams in order to stay in the divisional and playoff races. The Colts are trying to fight through the season until Andrew Luck can return to lead them. The Titans need to keep pace with Houston and Jacksonville to fulfill their preseason expectations of being a playoff team. Marcus Mariota is expected to play which will be the difference in the game. Titans move to .500 to keep pace in the AFC South.

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Drew Brees

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Week 5 of the NFL season is upon us. It marks the first official week of byes. The bye week is always a good time to evaluate the teams who have the week off. So, here it goes.

Denver Broncos, 3-1

Biggest positives: We knew the defense would be really good, and it is. However, Denver is third in rush yards per game so far this year. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles have managed to stay healthy. The revamped offensive line has also exceeded expectations.

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Photo: denverpost.com

It was not uncommon for Trevor Siemian to have to throw 40-45 times a game last year. Siemian is better than most people think, but he is not built to do that. If the Broncos keep running the ball anywhere near their current clip, they will be back in the playoffs again and well-equipped to do damage.

Areas of concern: Winning on the road in the NFL is hard. Denver’s first road game of the year in Buffalo was a failure. Coming off the bye, the Broncos will be on the road seven of the next ten weeks. The AFC West is absolutely loaded. One or two bad games could sink any one of the three contenders. With that many road games coming up, Denver will have several landmines to avoid.

New Orleans Saints, 2-2

Biggest positive: The Saints have not quite figured out their running back rotation yet, but the offense continues to be very productive. Averaging 370 yards per game and putting up 23 points per game will give you a fighting chance every single week. Drew Brees may be 38, but he is still a premier player. He has yet to throw an interception this year.

Area of concern: The book on the Saints has been the same for several years now. As good as the offense is, the defense is that bad. Even after giving up 13 combined points in two games leading into the bye, they still rank 28th in total defense. The Saints got themselves back in the mix after an 0-2 start. However, the defense must continue its recent upswing for this team to be a true contender going forward.

Washington Redskins, 2-2

Biggest positives: Despite losing its two top pass catchers from last year, quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense continue to produce. A three-headed monster has created a top ten rushing attack thus far. Washington remains hesitant to commit to Cousins long term. With 77 touchdowns to just 43 career interceptions, he has a long-term future as a starter, even if it is not with the Redskins.

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Photo: si.com

For now though. Cousins is averaging almost eight fewer pass attempts per game this year than last. A legitimate ground game is a huge help to any quarterback. Jay Gruden is doing a great job of putting his offense in positions to be successful each week.

Areas of concern: The defense is middle of the pack in almost every category. Also, this division is another that is very strong. The Eagles are leading it at the moment and getting better each week. The Redskins have already lost to Philadelphia. With five division games left, a lot can change. However, Washington is already behind the eight ball for tiebreakers in what promises to be a tight race.

Atlanta Falcons, 3-1

Biggest positives: The defending NFC champions have found ways to win. That counts for a lot. This is not college football. Style points do not matter. With three of four games decided by one possession, their record could easily be flipped.

NFL bye week check: Week 5

Photo: thefalconholic.com

Areas of concern: They have found ways to win, but the offense just is not as good as it was last year. It was unrealistic to expect them to put up 33 points a game again. The defense was not special last year and is not this year. The Falcons are scoring a touchdown less per game this year under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Unless the defense improves, that will show up in the win/loss column before long.

 

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