Fantasy football quarterback sleeper: Eli Manning

Last year, Eli Manning had a decent season. He threw 26 touchdown passes and had 4,027 passing yards. He was considered a top 10 fantasy quarterback. However, he finished well outside the top ten in points. But in 2017, there’s a lot of promise for Manning in fantasy and this year he is my quarterback sleeper.

The “ELI-te” Manning

For fantasy owners, Manning might not be on your list given his struggles last season when he finished as the No. 20 fantasy quarterback in standard leagues. There has only been one other time Manning has finished in the 20’s at quarterback which was in 2013.  But let’s not forget the past years of Manning such as 2014 and 2015 when he was a top 12 fantasy quarterback.

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by:cbssports.com)

In that two-year span, he was excellent in fantasy football. In 2014, he threw for 4,410 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The following year improved as he had 35 touchdowns and 4,436 passing yards and matched his interception total in 2014. He also had a six-touchdown game that year.

After having one of the worst seasons of his career in 2013, we saw Manning having maybe the best two seasons of his career. We have seen him rebound from a bad season and have a great season. Time and time again we saw Manning do well with less around him.

Manning in those two seasons had something he hadn’t had since 2012. He had a healthy No. 1 target in Odell Beckham Jr. His fantasy numbers started to improve when Beckham broke onto the scene. Beckham was the only reliable option when many parts of the Giants offense were inconsistent. Another part of his success was the change in offense with new plays and sets with new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

2016

In 2016, Manning didn’t have a bad year, he just didn’t have the success he had the previous two seasons. Even though the head coaching change put McAdoo in charge, the offense was still the same. He still had Beckham. Victor Cruz was finally healthy. They drafted another weapon in rookie Sterling Shepard. What was so different for Manning in 2016?

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Eli Manning (Photo by:giantswire.usatoday.com)

One major factor of his decline to some was the success of the defensive side of the ball. In the offseason, the Giants were spenders in free agency adding Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. They also brought back Jason Pierre-Paul. The defense was it’s best since 2011 when they reached the Super Bowl.

Parts of the defense came to life as these signings panned out in addition to Landon Collins improving to be a top safety in the league that season. Unlike 2014 and 2015, Manning didn’t have to come back in games forcing him to throw the football many times more then they would have liked to.

Another factor is the offensive line. The Giants have struggled protecting Manning. Ereck Flowers has been a bust, struggling at the left tackle position. He had a new right side in 2015 with Jon Jerry at guard and Bobby Hart at tackle. The offensive line struggled in the run game, something the Giants hadn’t had to worry about for a long time.

Some of his decline could be because of his age. He entered in his 12th season at age 35 and for some quarterbacks the strength and accuracy go away. Sure his numbers declined, but not drastically. I don’t think age was a factor for Manning. We have seen him have his best seasons over the age of 30 and his best seasons came when he was in his 10th and 11th seasons. 2016 may have not been his best but he led the Giants to the playoffs and he still produced a solid year.

optimism in 2017

There is reason to be excited about Manning in 2017. The Giants looked to offense in the offseason like they did last year on the defensive side.

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Brandon Marshall (Photo by:giants.com)

The Giants gave him a new weapon in free agency after signing Brandon Marshall. The positive about Marshall is that Manning hasn’t had a big receiver like him since Plaxico Burress.

In the past two seasons, Marshall has been in the top 10 in targets inside the 20-yard line. In 2015 he had a great fantasy year finishing third in points with 109 catches, 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also finished sixth in yards (97) and fifth in touchdowns (9) inside the 20-yard line.

Marshall could have the same success with Manning throwing him the ball becoming a new red zone target and sometimes taking coverage to open up other receivers.

Along with Marshall, the Giants also have Beckham and Shepard at receiver. This is probably their strongest group of receivers since their Super Bowl XLVI championship season with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham.

He will also have an offensive weapon at tight end in rookie Evan Engram. Manning will have Shane Vereen back and Paul Perkins progressing in his sophomore year. Assuming that the offensive line holds up and the plethora of weapons pan out, Manning could have the potential to having a breakout fantasy year.

I expect Manning to have a bounce back seasons with all these additions. Although at 36 years old, one thing every fantasy owner can expect from Manning is consistency. He hasn’t missed a start in his 12-year career. He will also throw in the range of 25-30 touchdowns and have over 4,000 passing yards.

You should be able to get Eli Manning late in your fantasy drafts. You won’t have to reach for him, and you will enjoy the late-round rewards. Manning should rebound as a No. 1 fantasy quarterback in all formats.

 

Featured image from marketwatch.com

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Brandon Marshall

Impact pass catchers with new homes in 2017

Wide receivers and tight ends are tough positions to evaluate in the NFL. Over the years, top-level quarterback play has turned guys like Austin Collie, Deion Branch, Jacob Tamme and Willie Snead into solid pass-catching targets.

It is pretty rare to find a guy who is productive in every situation he is put in. However, this offseason has seen three players who fit that bill change teams. If healthy, they could help their new teams get to the next level.

Brandon Marshall, New York Giants

This is possibly the most impactful move of the entire offseason. In terms of raw talent, Marshall is one of the best of his era. He was a victim of the Jets’ dysfunction last year and posted an underwhelming 59 catches.

Prior to last year, he had just one full season as a starter with under 80 catches. Even at age 33, anyone who can make plays like the ones featured below on the NFL YouTube channel less than two years ago has a lot left in the tank.

The Giants are a perfect fit for Marshall. A quarterback like Eli Manning and young talent like Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram should be plenty to keep the occasionally temperamental Marshall motivated. These factors also mean he has a chance at two things he has never seen before: single coverage and the playoffs.

Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans

impact pass catchers new teams 2017

Photo: YouTube.com

Here we have another escapee from the barren wasteland that is the New York Jets. Decker missed all but three games last year due to a shoulder injury. Before that, he had become one of the most consistent pass-catchers around. This included hauling in 44 balls on the Tim Tebow-led Broncos that were allergic to throwing the ball.

He also tallied 87 catches from Peyton Manning in 2013 and 80 from Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015. Those numbers in those situations say a lot. You will be hard pressed to find a more versatile pass catcher.

Bringing in such a reliable target was very wise of the Titans. Young quarterback Marcus Mariota is completing only about 61 percent of his throws and still trying to figure out how to be a consistently accurate NFL passer. When that is the case, you can never have enough guys like Decker around. Lastly, he is an above average blocker who should slide right into Tennessee’s run heavy offense and be a big help.

Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers

Free agent signings are almost as rare as unicorns in Green Bay, but this is a great one.

Aaron Rodgers has not had all that many physically imposing receiving targets over the years. However, he got a taste of it last year with Jared Cook and is no doubt happy with this replacement.

impact pass catchers new teams 2017

Photo: host.madison.com

Bennett is on a streak of 50-plus catch seasons that dates back to 2012. He has never been the top guy in an offense, but he is someone that always needs to be accounted for.

Adding him to an offense that already has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb among others will make that difficult for defenses. At well over 6-feet tall, he can run like a wide receiver and is matchup nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs alike.

Make no mistake, the entire Packers organization is well aware of what Bennett did for Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Patriots last year, averaging 13 yards a catch and grabbing seven touchdowns. His addition to the Packers significantly strengthens their already realistic chances of doing what New England did last year.

 

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Super Bowl Series: NFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC East

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

Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s not going out on a limb to say the Dallas Cowboys can win the Super Bowl. Last season, Dallas earned the number one seed in the NFC but lost to Green Bay 34-31 in the divisional round. The experience was valuable for a relatively young team.

The Cowboys are a talented offensive team. Dallas’ offensive line ranked second in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. This allowed rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot to lead the league in rushing with 1,631 yards. Fellow rookie Dak Prescott was named Rookie of the Year after throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

The second-ranked offensive line paved the way for the NFL’s leading rusher and they only gave up 25 sacks on the season.

To win the Super Bowl, the offense just needs to do what they did last season. If Elliot leads the NFL in rushing and Prescott protects the football, this offense will continue to be one of the best.

Winning the Super Bowl for the Cowboys comes down to their defense. Dallas gave up the fifth-fewest points last year (19.1) but a lot of that is due to a running game that kept them off the field.

Breaking down the Cowboys defense shows that they must improve their passing defense. The Cowboys ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense giving up only 83.5 yards per game. Dallas gave up 260.4 yards passing per game which ranked 26th.

In summary, the Cowboys offense needs to replicate their success from last season. Defensively, the Cowboys must continue to stop the run and bring down the passing yards allowed per game. This is what it will take for the Dallas Cowboys to win their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

New York Giants

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun)

Similar to the Cowboys, it is not far-fetched to say the New York Giants can win Super Bowl LII. The Giants went 11-5 and earned a wild card berth. New York lost their wild card game to Green Bay 38-13.

Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and champion and the leader of this offense. For the Giants to win the Super Bowl this season, Eli Manning will have to have a minimum of 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards which he is capable of.

From that 4,000 plus passing yards, Odell Beckham needs at least 1,300. If Odell adds 10 touchdowns as well, then the Giants’ offense will be good enough to make the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl.

As surprising as it is, the Giants will be led by their very talented defense. The front four is loaded and led by players like Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison. These guys will need to continue improve their pressure on opposing quarterbacks. New York ranked 14th with 35 sacks and that must improve to take that step towards a Super Bowl victory.

The weakest unit of the defense is the linebacking corp. If the linebackers are average they can still help the Giants have a top 10 defense.

New York’s secondary is one of the best in the league. Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie combined for 14 interceptions. Continuing that kind of success will only help the Giants’ chances.

The Giants strength will be the defense and if the offense can keep up the Giants can win the Super Bowl.

Washington Redskins

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

The Washington Redskins finished last season 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs. Making the playoffs is going to be a difficult task considering how good the NFC East is. It is going to take a lot for the Redskins to win the Super Bowl.

Washington will need Kirk Cousins to take the next step as a quarterback. That next step is becoming a Pro-Bowl and MVP-caliber quarterback which is asking too much of him. Last season he had 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Those numbers need to be 30-plus touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions.

Washington also has a running back by committee backfield and that must change. One of these running backs needs to step up and have a 1,200-yard season. There must be that go-to guy in crunch time.

The receiving corp is not going to blow your socks off. These guys will have to play over their head and take some of the pressure off of Jordan Reed to help this offense succeed.

Washington is going to be a project defensively. The Redskins don’t have starters listed on their depth chart at either defensive end spot or at strong safety. Josh Norman and Ryan Kerrigan are going to have to lead by example and carry this defense to a top-five ranking if the Redskins want to win the Super Bowl.

In short, for the Redskins to win Super Bowl LII, Kirk Cousins will need to be in the MVP discussion and the defense needs to play out of their mind as a top-five defense.

Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

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

Philly finished fourth in the NFC East with a record of 7-9 last season. Considering the Eagles had a rookie quarterback, it was a pretty good season. Philadelphia made a lot of moves to try and build a playoff team.

The acquisitions of LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery will go a long way to helping Carson Wentz avoid a sophomore slump. For the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, Wentz must have a huge year. What would that huge year look like? Wentz would have to double his touchdowns from 16 to at least 32 and cut down on his 14 interceptions.

Alshon Jeffery will simply have to stay healthy. Jeffery is elite when healthy but he has missed 11 games over the past two seasons. Torrey Smith will have to turn back the clock and mirror his 2013 season in which he caught 65 balls for 1,128 yards. Jordan Matthews will also have to step up his game.

The running game will need to take some pressure off the passing game. Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season (18) with the Patriots and repeating that will push the Eagles to a higher plateau. Ryan Mathews needs to stay healthy which may be impossible because he has never played a full season in his seven years in the NFL.

The Eagles defense is full of playmakers and stars like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins. Last year Philadelphia ranked 12th in points allowed at 20.7 points per game. If the Eagles want to make the playoffs and win Super Bowl LII they must improve on that to alleviate pressure off of Carson Wentz and the rest of the offense.

If the Eagles remain healthy, get a huge jump in play from Carson Wentz and the defense allows fewer points than they did last season then the Philadelphia Eagles can win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC East. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl Series.

Super Bowl Series: AFC East

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Quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 20-11

This wasn’t an easy list to come up with and this was probably the hardest part of writing it. The quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season numbers 20-11 mainly consist of the veterans and up and comers who aren’t quite ready to crack the top ten yet. These are the ideal quarterbacks that you would want to take if you like to wait to pick a QB, but the consistency does vary from player to player. This is arguably the most important group of quarterbacks for fantasy so read closely.

(Aug 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

20. Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)- Flacco is just frustrating. He’s got all the athletic ability to be great in this league but he plays a sloppy game and doesn’t have the greatest targets in the world. Danny Woodhead is a great pickup and will definitely help him out this year but unless you’re desperate, avoid Flacco.

19. Sam Bradford (Minnesota Vikings)- Don’t sleep on Sam Bradford, he’s a former number one overall pick and he is stacked with weapons this year and a brand new offensive line. He’ll get some help from players like Stefon Diggs, Adam Theilan, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, and Latavius Murray. Need I say more? This Vikings offense could be scary this year.

18. Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)- Carson Wentz is the next great quarterback in the NFL, with weapons like Alshon Jeffery and Legarette Blount, Wentz is goning to be great, just not this year. He’s learning and that takes time so pass on Wentz in drafts this year but keep him on your radar.

17. Phillip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers)- Rivers is the model of consistency in the NFL. He’s a good player and he has succeeded in the past but I think this is the turning point for Rivers. He’s 35 and his body can’t withstand the hits anymore. If he’s there for the right price, take him but don’t jump the gun on Phillip Rivers this year.

16. Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)- Tannehill had the best year of his career and I only expect him to get better. Adding new weapons like TE Julius Thomas will make him a better player. If you like him, I know I do, then take him late in your drafts, but just expect some hiccups along the way.

15. Eli Manning (New York Giants)- Let me just say that I am scared of the New York Giants. They have one of the best defenses in the league, and a 2x Super Bowl champion at QB…. who’s in for a big year. Bring him more targets like Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram and he will succeed, mark my words and take Eli when the time is right.

(http://muzul.com/style/eli-manning/)

14. Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)- I’ll stay in the NFC East with this pick. Dak Prescott is a great NFL player, but I don’t think he deserves to be above other proven vets. You need constant reliable production out of your quarterback and I don’t believe that Dak Prescott will give that to you. If you’re the type of player to wait to pick a QB, Prescott may be your guy. Just don’t take him before the eighth round.

13. Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins)- Kirk Cousins and Tyrelle Pryor? Yes please. Team him up with Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed, this Redskins offense looks dangerous. I’d like to put him higher on this list but if the injury prone receivers he works with go down, so does Cousins.

12. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)- If Big Ben stays healthy, he’s a top 10, maybe top five quarterback. But that’s a big if. He’s too risky for his ADP (Average draft position). The weapons pull me in but the injuries keep me away. Obviously if you’re at the point where you’re desperate for a quarterback, take Big Ben but don’t jump too early.

11. Marcus Mariota (Tennesse Titans)- I love Marcus Mariota. He’s one of the best redzone QB’s and is starting to develop some good chemistry with his targets like Delanie Walker, Demarco Murray, and Derrick Henry. Give him 2 more years and he’ll probably be in my top 5, just not yet. I’d fully advise taking Mariota this year.

 

Quarterbacks 32-21

Come back to see the top ten quarterbacks.

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NFL Draft Quarterback

Contenders Who Should Take a Quarterback Early in the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is upon us. More so than any other year in recent memory, there is a wide range of opinions on the quarterback class.

Whether it is the small sample size of Mitchell Trubisky, the turnovers of Deshaun Watson, the college system that Patrick Mahomes played in or something else with another prospect, they all seem to have at least one thing that makes them very risky propositions in the NFL.

There isn’t a true first-round prospect at quarterback in this draft. Moreover, there is not a rookie that will be ready to play from day one. However, we all know how important the quarterback position is and how desperate teams like the Jets and Browns are for a good one.

So, these rookies will probably get drafted earlier than their talents merit and inherit bad situations where they are set up to fail.

In a perfect world, the ideal scenario would be for the youngsters to sit and learn behind a veteran quarterback on a contending team for a year or two. However, the NFL landscape has changed so much in recent years when it comes to quarterbacks.

Contending teams do not have high enough draft picks to get their hands on a coveted quarterback. If that is not true, many teams are simply afraid of wasting a draft pick on a signal caller who will not play right away.

With the stage set, here are three teams who should (but probably will not) take quarterback early in the draft.

Alex Smith Andy Reid

Photo: CBS Sports

Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith is a fine quarterback. However, last year proved once again that there is a ceiling as to how far Kansas City can go with him taking snaps. With a rock solid defense and the emergence of Tyreek Hill at wide receiver, Kansas City does not have a ton of needs.

Thus, snagging whoever the organization feels is the best available quarterback with pick number 27 would make sense. The Chiefs can remain competitive with Smith while grooming his replacement.

In an astonishing statistic, the last quarterback the Chiefs drafted to start and win a game for the franchise was Todd Blackledge in 1987. It is time to draft and develop a young quarterback.

New York Giants

Despite an uneven career, Eli Manning has given the Giants two Super Bowl titles, but he is 36 now. The organization has spoken openly about the need to find his successor. Free agent signing Geno Smith appears to be getting the latest crack at that gig and the Giants are clearly in win now mode. Even so, finding a way to snag a raw talent like Deshone Kizer wouldn’t hurt.

With the improvement of the defense last year and the addition of Brandon Marshall on offense, the Giants can afford such a move. The ownership of the Mara family always ensures this franchise has its act together. Any young quarterback has every chance to eventually thrive.

Arizona Cardinals

deshone kizer

Photo: Scout.com

Like the other two teams, Arizona has enough talent on the roster to win now. However, at 37 and with two major knee injuries under his belt, Carson Palmer is on his last leg.

Bruce Arians has rightly earned a reputation as one of the best quarterback coaches in the business. Patrick Mahomes would be an interesting project for him to work with.

While rumors of these teams addressing their long term quarterback needs are increasing, they are more likely to address short term needs that will get them from good to great. If I am a quarterback prospect, I would give up my non-throwing arm to go to one of these situations as opposed to one like the Jets, Browns or 49ers.

 

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Arizona Cardinals

Despite New Hall of Fame Status, Warner Still Criminally Underrated

When people debate the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history the same names always come up. Brady, Montana, Elway and Peyton Manning. The next series of names is usually led by Favre and Marino. Aaron Rodgers is starting to get thrown in there as well.

There is one name that does not come up nearly as much as it should, newly minted Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

The mere fact that Hall of Famer now precedes his name means there are plenty of folks out there who think Warner was great. Even so, few people realize how great he was.

Context:

            The beginnings of Warner’s journey are well documented. Undrafted out of Northern Iowa, he went from grocery store stock boy to NFL and Super Bowl MVP in 1999 following a preseason injury to starter Trent Green.

Warner spearheaded a then St. Louis Rams offense that scored 30 points on a dozen separate occasions in 1999. The nickname “Greatest Show on Turf” was shockingly accurate. It is almost impossible to put in to words how good Warner and that offense as a whole were that year. Warner, Marshall Faulk and the rest of the offense took their rightful place as one of the best in NFL history by notching the narrowest of victories in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Kurt Warner

Photo: kurtwarner.org

After a close playoff loss to the Saints in 2000, Warner and the Rams returned to top form in 2001. Warner bagged another league MVP and the Rams returned to the Super Bowl. However, they fell victim to Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri and the rest of the Cinderella Patriots as time expired.

From 1999-2001, Warner threw for over 11,000 yards, 98 touchdowns and 53 interceptions while reaching two Super Bowls. Despite missing five games in 2000 due to injury, Warner tallied a regular season win loss record of 35-8 as a starter over this three year span. That is as good a three year stretch as any quarterback has ever had.

Injuries caused Warner’s career to bottom out from 2002-2004. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns, won just five games as a starter and only appeared in 19. Following a 2004 campaign that saw the Giants bench him for Eli Manning, Warner’s career looked to be done.

The Cardinals took a flyer on Warner signing him to a one year deal in 2005. Warner always seemed to be in competition for the starting job in the land of the sun, but the Cardinals kept bringing him back. By 2008, Warner was healthy and firmly entrenched as the starter.

That season, Warner guided Arizona to a 9-7 record and a playoff spot. To say Warner and the Cards got hot would be a gross understatement. Behind Warner’s 112 passer rating, the Cardinals franchise won its first playoff game since 1947. In Super Bowl XLIII, Arizona lost by the length of Santonio Holmes’ toenail.

Santonio Holmes

Photo: ftiznews.com

Playoff Success and Place Among All Time Greats:

            Warner led two different franchises to the Super Bowl. He is one of just three quarterbacks to do that. Moreover, unless you count the Rams Los Angeles glory days, both franchises have struggled to spell Super Bowl before and after Warner, much less get there.

Warner ranks second all-time in postseason passer rating. At one point, Warner owned the top three performances in Super Bowl history in terms of passing yards.

Warner retired after leading the Cardinals back to the playoffs in 2009. It is reasonable to speculate that being a part of two narrow Super Bowl defeats keeps him from being mentioned with the usual suspects of all-time great quarterbacks. His mid-career nosedive does not help matters either.

Even with those two negatives on his résumé, Warner has far more postseason success than guys like Favre amd Marino. When one considers the franchises he led to the promised land, his career becomes all the more impressive. For all these reasons, Warner belongs in the single digits when it comes to the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

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NFL Wild Card Weekend Picks Against the Spread

The playoffs are here. 12 teams still have dreams of a trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI. Now the phrase “win or go home” becomes real. I will continue picking games against the spread throughout the playoffs. I simply find it more fun and challenging than picking games straight up. As usual, my picks are bolded with an asterisk denoting an outright upset. I finished the regular season with a less than stellar 124-135-7 record. However, my record starts all over again at 0-0 for the playoffs as well. Here it goes.

Saturday:

Raiders at Texans (-3.5) – Somehow, the record will show that Brock Osweiler started a playoff game in Houston this year, while the Broncos did not qualify. While I have great respect for Connor Cook’s college track record and his ability to win a lot of games at Michigan State, this is not college. Houston’s defense is one of the best in the playoffs and Oakland is also banged up on the offensive line. What a tall task for Cook in his first career start. It is truly a shame that we will never know what this year’s Raiders could have achieved with a healthy Derek Carr. Houston has its own issues on offense, but will do enough to win an eyesore of a football game. Hou 17 Oak 6

Lions at Seahawks (-8) – The Lions have played in really close games almost every week this season. That is all this pick is based on. Many of Matthew Stafford’s passes have been sailing high on him since he injured his finger. He had been playing at an MVP level. Without Earl Thomas, the Seahawks defense is not the buzzsaw we are used to seeing. The offense continues to be consistently inconsistent. Despite all this, the Seahawks have been here before and know how to win games like this. Expect them to find a way to win. There is still time for Seattle to put it all together as well. Sea 27 Det 21

Sunday:

Dolphins at Steelers (-10) – Swallowing ten points in a playoff game is foolish, but I am going to do it. The Steelers finally have their entire “big three” healthy for a playoff game. Meanwhile, Miami is on the road, in the cold, and starting a backup quarterback with a beat up offensive line. Also, the Steelers defense has really stepped it up since Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins ran wild on them in October. Adam Gase gets my surprise vote for Coach of the Year for getting a Miami team with middle of the road talent this far. However, this is the wrong matchup at the wrong time. Pit 34 Mia 17

Photo courtesy of upi.com

*Giants at Packers (-4.5)- This Sunday afternoon tilt is no doubt the crown jewel of the weekend on paper. I have gone back and forth about four times this week. The Packers have played as well as anyone since most folks (including me) buried them. It has been a long time since any quarterback has been as hot as Aaron Rodgers is right now. However, I generally believe the better defense wins cold weather playoff games. That belongs to New York by a long ways. Combine that with Eli Manning’s tendency to get hot on the road in the playoffs and the Giants will do just enough for the upset. NYG 24 GB 21

Photo courtesy of newsday.com

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Week 14 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Well, my hot streak only lasted a week. I fell back to a very mediocre 7-8 against the spread last week. The Lions made me look smart, the Jets not so much. With the Chiefs win Thursday night, I am a game to the good for this week as we head in to Sunday. My season record now sits at 95-100-6. It is nice to still have so many meaningful games this late in the season. Outright upsets have an asterisk. Spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s roll.

Cardinals (-2) at*Dolphins- Miami got whitewashed last week, but that happens. They are the better team here. The Dolphins big weakness is stopping the run. David Johnson of Arizona is a true workhorse back, a rarity in today’s NFL. Miami’s Jay Ajayi is no slouch though. He, along with the rest of Miami’s offense should be able to keep Johnson on the sidelines just enough. Arizona’s lack of consistency and depth on offense has hurt them all year and will continue to do so here. Mia 21 Ari 20

Bears at Lions (-7) – Matthew Stafford is a legit MVP candidate and the Lions are going to make the playoffs. However, there is something about this matchup. Despite being atrocious, the Bears play well in their division, notching two of their three wins on the season in such games. This includes knocking off the Lions. That will not happen again. The Lions have too much to play for, but I refuse to believe they can blowout consecutive opponents. Also, Chicago is playing its best football of the season (relatively speaking) behind third string quarterback Matt Barkley. Det 30 Chi 27

Bengals (-5) at Browns- This is one of a precious few games that have absolutely no playoff implications this week, but it is not lacking a story. Robert Griffin III is now healthy. He will get a chance to resurrect his career down the stretch and save the Browns from going winless beginning with this game. Cincinnati’s season has been a total bust when you consider preseason expectations. Strangely, the Browns have much more to play for here. Thus, an upset would not shock me. However, the gap in roster talent is just too large for me to call it. Cin 24 Cle 16

photo from ooyuz.com

photo from ooyuz.com

*Broncos at Titans (-1) – This could wind up being an elimination game in terms of the playoffs. As presently constructed, these teams are pretty much even. Tennessee has an edge just about everywhere on offense, but the same can be said for Denver on defense. When it is this close in terms of personnel, track record comes into play. Denver has spent the last half decade playing games like this, and usually winning. This is uncharted territory for the Titans. Denver finds a way to get it done and stay very relevant in the hotly contested AFC West race. Den 17 Ten 13

Texans at Colts (-6.5) – Credit Houston for being in the race in December despite horrendous quarterback play, but it has finally caught up with them. The better quarterbacks win games and divisions more often than not. Andrew Luck > Brock Osweiler. Ind 31 Hou 17

Vikings (-3) at Jaguars- Here you have two offenses that have not been able to do much all year. The Vikings remain alive in the playoff race thanks to their defense and special teams. Jacksonville is not so fortunate. Minnesota seemed to find something in a losing effort last week against Dallas. They are a little bit better than Jacksonville across the board. Quite frankly, the pregame legends of wrestling event may be more entertaining than the actual game. I wish I lived in Jacksonville so I could see some of my childhood heroes like Ric Flair in action. Oh well, the Vikings are a strong bet here. Min 20 Jac 12

Steelers (-2) at *Bills – The Steelers secondary is prone to giving up the big play. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor can extend plays with is legs. Both teams are scraping to reach the playoffs. As a whole, the Steelers are probably a tick better. However, the big play potential is enough for me to take a flyer on the upset. Buf 27 Pit 21

Chargers at Panthers (-1.5) – These are possibly the two most talented teams with bad records I have ever seen. Everything that could go wrong for these teams has. To me there is nothing that says Carolina will win, especially with all the drama that has gone on this week. However, I have been burned enough by that thought process this year. I will go the other way. Car 24 SD 21

Redskins (-2) at Eagles- It took a while, but the Eagles are finally starting to look as bad as we all thought they would before the season started. Meanwhile, the Redskins are desperate to keep their hopes for a wild-card playoff spot alive. With that offense, they are still very dangerous. If they do somehow sneak in to the playoffs, they will not be a comfortable matchup for anyone. Was 31 Phi 20

*Jets at 49ers (-2.5) – No doubt this is a terrible game between two awful teams, but I will add some spice to it. This is my favorite NFL pick of the year. I do not care that the Jets decided not to show up last week and are now starting Bryce Petty at quarterback. The 49ers should not be a favorite over anybody. NYJ 14 SF 10

Rams at Falcons (-6.5) – Watching the Rams play offense is just painful. They are averaging 12 points a game and have not reached the playoffs since their glory days in St. Louis. Yet, everyone in leadership positions just got new contracts. By no means am I crazy about the Falcons, but they will probably win their division by default and I have zero faith in the Rams. Atl 21 LA 9

*Saints at Bucs (-2.5) – The young Bucs continue to impress, but I continue to expect a letdown at some point. The Saints remain dangerous as long as Drew Brees is taking snaps. The Bucs hot streak has really come from nowhere. This is a whole new ballgame for most of their key guys. It is reasonable to speculate that they will eventually be overwhelmed by the occasion of big-time December football. NO 28 TB 27

Seahawks (-3) at Packers- Depending on other results, the Seahawks could lock up a division title here. Last week, they did what they always do, follow up the occasional clunker that they are somewhat known for with a dominant performance. If running back Thomas Rawls can finally stay healthy and give them the ground game they thought he would at the start of the year, this team becomes all the more dangerous, if that is possible. Even with Aaron Rodgers suddenly doing a much better job of carrying the Packers franchise again, a great football team always beats a great quarterback surrounded by 52 other random dudes. Sea 27 GB 17

photo from profootballfocus.com

photo from profootballfocus.com

Cowboys (-3.5) at Giants – The half-point makes me nervous here. This game is always close. The Giants remain the lone blemish on the season for the Cowboys. I am nowhere near as down on Eli Manning as the rest of the world after his shaky performance last week in Pittsburgh, but there is not a single thing the Giants do better than Dallas on a consistent basis. The only chance they have is Manning playing at his very best. This is always possible, but not likely. Dal 27 NYG 23

MNF: *Ravens at Patriots (-7) – The Ravens have had more success than anybody in New England over the years. Additionally, I would suggest Baltimore is at least equal to the Patriots at every position apart from quarterback right now. The gap at that position is not wide enough to prevent me from calling for the upset. Bal 28 NE 27

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Week 13 NFL Picks Against the Spread

I am coming off my best week in a long while. I was 10-6 against the spread last week. After taking a narrow defeat Thursday night, 87-92-6 is where I sit for the year. The black is ever so close as December football begins in earnest. This football season is moving way too fast for me. There are several tough games to call this week.

Broncos (-3.5) at Jaguars- For the first time in about two years, Denver’s defense could not close out a game last week. That loss could really hurt, but the defense is still easily the best part of this football team. Jacksonville just is not very good. Denver needs this win and will get it behind rookie backup quarterback Paxton Lynch, but it will not be pretty. Jacksonville does not have the pass rush to rattle a young quarterback that will be playing behind a shaky offensive line. Den 20 Jac 14

photo from Denver.cbslocal.com

photo from Denver.cbslocal.com

*Lions at Saints (-6) – The Lions keep finding ways to win. New Orleans has found ways to lose its share of big games this year. This will be fun to watch. Two of the hottest quarterbacks on the planet facing off. Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees know that they will have to lead their offenses to a ton of points. The Lions have a little defense, the Saints have none. I am not sure this would be considered that much of an upset. Det 35 NO 31

Texans at Packers (-6.5) – Are the Packers finally back after their season saving win last week? Honestly, we will not find out much here. Despite still controlling their division, Houston has a negative point differential and more turnovers than touchdowns on offense this year. It is hard picking a team like that to win any week. It is impossible to do so when they are traveling to Lambeau Field to play Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. GB 34 HOU 21

Chiefs at Falcons (-5.5)- The Chiefs are riding high after a big win in Denver last week, but Atlanta is a nightmare matchup for them. As solid as Kansas City is on defense, Atlanta has proven it can score on anybody this year. Kansas City has played one similar opponent this year in terms of offensive firepower. They traveled to Pittsburgh on a Sunday night and the game was over after the first quarter. Atlanta has not given anyone any reason to think their offense will not be hot again on Sunday. If it is, there is nothing Kansas City and their methodical offense can do to keep up with them. ATL 31 KC 20

Rams at Patriots (-13) – In a week where I do not feel strongly about much, this game is an exception. The Rams are not all that dissimilar to the Jets, the offense is a tick worse, the defense a tick better. The Jets gave the Patriots fits last week, the Rams will do the same, but Bill Belichick toys with young quarterbacks. Jared Goff does not have much help around him. The Rams are a good team for New England to play while they find their way without Rob Gronkowski on offense. NE 21 LA 12

Dolphins at Ravens (-3.5) – This is the toughest call of the week for me. I have been high on the Ravens all year, and have fallen in love with the Dolphins over the last month. The Ravens are at home and their defense is the best unit in this game. Ryan Tannehill could be in for a long afternoon. This is possibly the best defense he will see all year. No one runs the ball on Baltimore either. That has been Tannehill’s security blanket as of late, but the Dolphins defense is pretty good too. Miami keeps it close, but not close enough. Bal 23 Mia 17

Eagles at Bengals (-1.5) – Here, we have two teams that are absolutely sinking. Both teams had playoff aspirations at one point. That feels like a distant memory. It really is a coin flip, but the Bengals are a little more experienced. In a game where there is not much to play for, I think the young Eagles may come out flat. Cin 23 Phi 14

49ers at Bears (-3) – They both stink in a big way. Chicago stinks a little less… I think. Chi 21 SF 17

*Giants at Steelers (-6) – This is a very similar matchup to Detroit and New Orleans. The two crowned jewels of the 2004 quarterback draft class take center stage here. The Giants have gutted out some really tough wins to get to their 8-3 mark. It has not always been pretty. So, I understand the spread here. However, I struggle to trust that Steelers defense against any upper echelon quarterback. Eli Manning certainly falls into that group. NYG 30 Pit 24

photo from associated press

photo from associated press

Bucs at Chargers (-4) – This is a classic letdown game for a young team like the Bucs. After consecutive big wins against really good opponents to put themselves in the playoff race, they travel west to take on the most talented last-place team in league history. The other notable member of that 2004 quarterback draft class is Philip Rivers. Despite never having the coaching or supporting casts that Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were blessed with, he continues to play great football. The Chargers will lose sleep over all those close losses early in the year, but no one wants to play them right now. SD 28 TB 21

* Redskins at Cardinals (-2.5) – This is the strangest line I have seen in a long time. Washington might have the best offense in football at the moment. They have the fewest three and outs in the league, and Arizona is a big disappointment this year. They just are not as good as they look on paper. The Redskins feel like easy money. It is too good to pass up. A word of warning though, Vegas is always smarter than average folks like me. Was 27 Ari 19

Bills at Raiders (-3) – Finally, I am reluctantly buying into the Raiders. They still commit too many penalties for my liking and the defense is still atrocious. However, they are winning games, despite being dead to rights almost every week before miraculously pulling out a victory. Buffalo is the top rushing team in the NFL. They will have some success with that in this matchup, but the biggest weakness on this Raiders defense is the secondary. The banged up Buffalo receivers will struggle to exploit that. Another Raiders nail biter, another win. Oak 31 Buf 27

Panthers at Seahawks (-7) – Seattle’s offense throws in about three clunkers a year. Last week in Tampa certainly qualifies, but they always end up playing in January and February, they will be fine. Meanwhile, Carolina is desperate for wins to keep their fading playoff hopes afloat. Seattle is the wrong place to go to get that done. However, the Panthers are one of few teams that have the talent to go into Seattle and compete, even though they are underachieving this year. Expect a tight one. Sea 23 Car 20

MNF: *Jets at Colts (-1.5) – As awful as this matchup is, it is still very relevant for the Colts who are hanging around in the below par AFC South. However, the Jets defense is really good, despite the team’s 3-8 record. Rushing the quarterback is their strong suit. Whether it is a dinged up Andrew Luck or backup Scott Tolzien at quarterback, they will be playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. This is just a bad matchup for Indianapolis. NYJ 17 Ind 13

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 13)

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week! Picking games didn’t go so smoothly, but eating Thanksgiving Dinner sure did. As cold weather starts to cool down the country, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Week 12 shook up some of the standings. There are a lot of top headlines from the week as well. The Cowboys are the best team in the NFL and show no signs of slowing down. The Titans have a legitimate shot at winning their division. Atlanta has developed a pass rush and might have finally figured out how to finish a game and a season. Cleveland is still winless, and the AFC West is the best division in football.

unknownPlenty happened last week and this week could be just as fun. This will finally be the last week with teams on a bye and those two teams are Cleveland and Tennessee. Starting next week everyone will have played the same amount of games and the playoff picture will become more clear. The regular season is nearing its end so it is time to get this win total up. Here are Hagan’s Haus NFL picks for week 13.

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 100-72-2

Thursday Night

(http://wallpapersdsc.net/sports/dez-bryant-776.html)

(http://wallpapersdsc.net/sports/dez-bryant-776.html)

Dallas (10-1) 23 @ Minnesota (6-5) 21: Dallas is clearly the best team in the NFL, which is why this is a trap game. The Vikings defense is not going to let the Cowboys run down their throat. Many times teams are upset on these Thursday night games, especially when going on the road. Minnesota is a desperate team and desperate teams are dangerous. Although this is a trap game, the Cowboys will just barely pull off the road win.

Sunday Morning

Kansas City (8-3) 26 @ Atlanta (7-4) 24: The Falcons better hope the Bucs lose because the Falcons are heading towards a loss with the Chiefs coming to town. The Chiefs are a good team with a great defense. The offense just needs to put up some points and take care of the football. Atlanta is a good team and they have finally found a pass rush, but the Chiefs are just better.

(US Presswire)

(US Presswire)

Detroit (7-4) 38 @ New Orleans (5-6) 41: The Saints defense has trouble stopping a nosebleed let alone a defense. Their offense can score on anyone. Last season the Lions went into New Orleans and won 35-27. The Saints can’t let the Lions win another one in the Superdome, especially when the Saints need to win out to make the playoffs. Drew Brees outplays Matthew Stafford in a shootout.

Los Angeles (4-7) 21 @ New England (9-2) 37: Since the Browns have the week off, NFL fans need someone to feel bad for this week. Everyone needs to feel bad for Jared Goff because Bill Belichick always gets the best of rookie quarterbacks. The Rams defense gets pressure, but Tom Brady will get the ball out too fast for the Rams defense. Tom Brady and the Patriots will continue to roll towards the playoffs.

Denver (7-4) 31 @ Jacksonville (2-9) 17: Denver is coming off a heartbreaking loss. They blew an eight-point lead and lost on a field goal in overtime that bounced off the post and somehow went in. The Jaguars are looking to solidify yet another top-five pick. This game will be competitive for a while, but eventually the Broncos pull away.

(Credit: Rick Wood)

(Credit: Rick Wood)

Houston (6-5) 14 @ Green Bay (5-6) 27: All season I’ve been saying the Packers would eventually find their mojo. Last week I conceded that this may be the year in which they don’t find that mojo. Then what do the Packers go out and do? Play one of their best games of the year and get right back into the thick of the playoff race. Houston is pathetic on the road and the Packers are about to get hot. Green Bay wins this one easily.

Philadelphia (5-6) 24 @ Cincinnati (3-7-1) 17: Cincinnati is bad and it is time for the Bengals to fire Marvin Lewis. A new voice is needed. Philly is still a decent football team that is young and still learning. The Eagles defense ranks fifth in points given up and the Bengals offense ranks 27th in points scored. The Bengals won’t score enough to win this game.

Miami (7-4) 24 @ Baltimore (6-5) 21: The Dolphins are the hottest team in the AFC and have a six-game win streak. Ryan Tannehill is getting no credit for how well he has played. He has seven touchdowns to just one interception during the win streak. All year I have been saying the Ravens are a .500 team and they won’t make the playoffs. They will lose this week to get to .500 and they will slowly fall behind the Steelers in the division. Miami needs a big win to stay in the wild card race and they will get it to win their seventh straight game.

San Fransisco (1-10) 32 @ Chicago (2-9) 31: There may be about 20 total people watching this game, but it is an important game. The loser of this game will be in prime position for the second overall pick in the draft. This is a game that neither team should want to win to solidify that draft pick. It is hard to pick a game in which two horrible teams are playing. Because of a flip of a coin, the 49ers end their 10-game losing streak and get a win in the Windy City.

Sunday Afternoon

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/12514/lesean-mccoy)

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/12514/lesean-mccoy)

Buffalo (6-5) 34 @ Oakland (9-2) 31: The Raiders look poised for a run at the Lombardi Trophy, but the injury to Derek Carr’s finger on his throwing hand will halt their progress a bit. The Bills are hard to figure out, but their offense is exciting. LeSean McCoy had a huge game last week. The Raiders have the seventh worst rush defense in the NFL and that will be their demise this week.

New York (G) (8-3) 34 @ Pittsburgh (6-5) 36: This is the best game of the week. Eli Manning and the Giants are playing great football at this point of the season and have a six game winning streak. Pittsburgh is fighting to win their division. This game could be an aerial display as the Steelers rank eighth in passing yards (263.9 yards per game) and the Giants rank 12th (256.5 yards per game). This game will be a dogfight and Big Ben will make one more big play to Antonio Brown than Eli will make to Odell Beckham.

Washington (6-4-1) 21 @ Arizona (4-6-1) 24: The Redskins have an impressive offense. Washington is second in passing yards (314.8), 11th in rushing yards (111.5), and ninth in points (25.5). The Cardinals are giving up the least amount of yards in the NFL (294). The Cardinals need Carson Palmer to take care of the football. This will be an upset and the Cardinals will get one game away from .500.

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay (6-5) 27 @ San Diego (5-6) 24: The Bucs still have a chance to win the division, but they seem to lose games they are expected to win and win games they are expected to lose. If the Bucs are serious about winning the division and making the playoffs, they have to beat the Chargers. The Bucs are going to do what they need to and put pressure on the Falcons.

 

Sunday Night

(http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nfl/carolina-panthers/article40474167.html)

(http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nfl/carolina-panthers/article40474167.html)

Carolina (4-7) 20 @ Seattle (7-3-1) 24: The Panthers are struggling this year and it is hard to figure out why.  Seattle took a shocking loss on the road to the Buccaneers. The Seahawks have a good record, but they will not get to the Super Bowl if they continue to struggle along the offensive line. The Seahawks are still playing the best defense in the NFL by leading the league in points given up per game(17 points per game). Their defense will get to Cam and hit him hard to send Carolina to a surprising 4-8.

 

Monday Night

Indianapolis (5-6) 24 @ New York (J) (3-8) 27: The Colts versus the Jets may be the worst Monday night game of the year. The Jets have nothing to play for but pride. Indianapolis is still fighting for a chance to win the division. The Colts have the fifth-worst scoring defense in the NFL and have trouble stopping anybody. It is hard to pick a team to win this game, but the Jets are at home which is why they will win.

 

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