NFL Thanksgiving reactions

Thanksgiving Day football is a tradition like none other. A bunch of NFC teams battle it out while we stuff our faces with turkey and stuffing while hiding in the TV room with all the uncles and cousins.

These three games gave fans a lot of insight on these teams, like who is in and who is out, the contenders and pretenders of the NFC. While some fans could celebrate, some were crying into their gravy, and that’s what we love about the NFL.

The Cowboys Are Dead

NFL Thanksgiving reactions

(Philly.com)

Cowboys fans left home disappointed once again after Dak Prescott found the Chargers DB’s more than the endzone. The turkey day loss brings the losing streak to three games for the Boys and it dosen’t look like they can stop the bleeding.

The injury report for the Cowboys has been another issue, as the defense is decimated. With both linebackers Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens out, the middle of the field has been wide open for opposing offenses.

The offense has stagnated since the loss of Eziekel Elliott, only scoring one touchdown in three weeks. The opposing defenses have not been giving the Dallas run game any respect and have sacked Prescott 14 times in three weeks.

With Zeke not retuning until week 16, the Cowboys’ playoffs hope are slipping away. With no chance of catching the Eagles in the NFC East, the wild card spots are also slowly slipping away.

All the hype surrounding the Cowboys at the beginning of the season had died away with the most recent loss and fans should set their sights on next year. All they need to do is get the offensive line healthy and add some depth on defense and they can make a serious run in 2018-19.

Minnesota is for Real

NFL Thanksgiving reactions

(Daily Norseman)

The Vikings stuffed their faces on Thanksgiving against the Lions in a battle for NFC North supremacy. If the Lions could have beat out the Vikings they would have the gap for first place by one game.

But Lions fans left Ford Field with a bitter taste in their mouth as the Vikings slowed down the Detroit come back in the second half winning the game 30-23.

Case Keenum has been on fire in recent weeks, boasting a 70 percent completion percentage over the last three weeks while racking up seven touchdowns.

The Vikings are on an impressive seven-game win streak and the last loss coming in week 4 to the same Lions that they just beat in Detroit.

The quarterback situation in Minnesota is strange to say the least, with Teddy Bridgewater dressed and presumably ready to go when do the Viking pull the trigger and send him in. How long are they planning on riding the hot hand of Keenum?

Whoever the Vikings go with moving forward it seems like the whole team is firing on all cylinders and finding ways to win close games. With so many teams in the NFC battling injuries it’s safe to say the Vikings are a lock for the post season.

 

Featured Photo By The Viking Age

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NFL Week 8 preview

NFL Week 8: The big games

What a season so far in the NFL with so many upsets and shockers. It’s safe to say everyone gambling this year has already lost their 401K, just like half the teams lost their quarterback. We have the Rams leading their division, The Packers in shambles and Ezekiel Elliott’s playing status is still up in the air. Here are the three big games that will make or break these teams’ seasons.

Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints

Mitch Trubisky threw the ball all over the field… going 4-of-7 to lead the Bears to a clutch victory over the Panthers. The defense for the Bears shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers offense holding, them to only three points.

The Saints are marching with a four-game win streak with wins over the Panthers, Dolphins, Lions and Packers. The Saints have been a high-scoring team all season, averaging 28.5 points per game.

This game is extremely important for both teams. Now with Aaron Rogers out for the year, the Bears have a legitimate shot to win the division depending on how well the Vikings play. The Saints need this to stay at least tied for the NFC South division if the Panthers manage to win as well.

The spread is currently at Saints -9, which I think is way too high after we saw what the Chicago defense is capable of last week. I still think the Saints will take this one home, but if your betting the spread, I’m taking the Bears +9 easy.

Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cam Newton vs. Jameis Winston will be a must-see game this weekend. Both teams are coming off consecutive losses that should have been wins. These two teams need to bounce back if they hope to make the playoffs. With the Buccaneers down to 2-4, this is essentially a must-win game.

The Buccaneers had so much momentum going into the season with what seemed like one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. However, the ship sunk early with devastating losses to the Bills, Patriots and Cardinals with victory in grasp, but came up short. All of these games were one-score games where the Bucs seemed to hand the game away in the last quarter.

The Panthers are in the tightest divisional race in all of football between the Saints and Falcons. With the offense struggling and no solution in sight, the Carolina defense needs to step up and take control of the game. The Panthers only managed to score three points last week against the Bears, so we will see if they can get something going in Tampa this week.

Right now, Tampa is favored -2.5, and I really want to believe they beat the Panthers at home this week. After all these close games, I think they finally figure out how to close one out. I’m picking Tampa 21-17

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions seemed to be on track this season, starting 2-0, but in recent weeks, the Lions have fallen back into mediocrity once again. They have lost back-to-back games heading into this week despite high scoring by the offense in both games. The defense couldn’t stop anything.

On the other hand, the Steelers are on a massive hot streak, taking out the Chiefs and Bengals in their last two games. The world was coming down on Big Ben after his five interceptions against the Jaguars. Too many people were hopping off the Steelers bandwagon much too early.

This may be the last chance for Detroit to make a move now that Aaron Rodgers is out with a shoulder injury. The Lions have never won the NFC North since it changed its name from the Central in 2002. The last time the Lions won a division was 1993. Will 2017 be the year???

The Steelers are the road favorite at -3 as they head into Ford Field on Sunday night. I don’t see the Steelers dropping this one and should take it handily. I’ll pick Pitt 35-17.

 

Featured Photo by USA Today

 

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Chi’s NFL betting guide: week 3 pt.1

It’s week three in the NFL and that means it only gets easier from here on out. I’m here to ruin your bookie’s life and win you money, so lets jump into week three.

Image result for mr krabs money

Color Rush Thursday:

 

L.A. Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers:

(Rams over 49ers -3 OU 40)

Another week and another sad pathetic excuse for a football game on Thursday night, but hey, they have pretty colors so there’s that. About the only reason I and i’m sure you, are watching this tonight is because we have action on it.

The Rams open up as three point favorites for probably the last time this season so I have a feeling they’re going to make it happen tonight. I don’t think it will be because Jared Goff and the offense, It’s going to be because the 49ers are one of the worst teams in the league and are going to get destroyed by Aaron Donald and the Rams D.

Chi’s Pick: Rams -3 under 40

 

The London Game:

 

London Jaguars vs. Baltimore Ravens:

(Ravens over Jaguars -3.5 OU 39)

Image result for The london Jaguars

(Photo courtesy of deadspin.com)

 

The NFL has had games in London for the last few seasons and almost everytime the Jaguars were there and this time is no diffrent. The London Jags are set to host the Ravens from Baltimore in what should be a a somewhat easy win for the Ravens. The reason I say somewhat is the familiarity factor of traveling all the way to London which the Ravens have not done yet ands the Jags do every year. Does this give the Jags some sort of advantage??

Whether or not the Jags have an advantage or not I’m looking for the Ravens to invade Wembley stadium and hunt down the Jags by 10 points. I do think the Jags will make it competitive for the first half, but Flacco and company will take the W.

Chi’s Pick: Ravens -3.5 Over 39

 

Sunday in America:

 

Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills: LOCK OF THE WEEK

(Denver over Buffalo -3 OU 40)

I have absolutely no idea why this line is so low but I love it. This might be the best pick of the week. I’m going to be hammering this with my life savings. After the Broncos showed the world they’re no joke against the Cowboys they will not let me down at New Era Field this weekend.

 

The Bills did put up a great showing against the Panthers last week, not allowing Cam Newton and the offense to get going and only letting up 9 points. With all this said I will still be throwing down my life savings on this one.

Chi’s Pick: Denver -3 Over 40

 

Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots:

(Patriots over Texans -13.5 OU 44)

The Texans roll into Gillette with their rookie QB DeShaun Watson and try to do the unthinkable by winning a a game in Foxborough with a rookie QB which has never happened in the Belichick era of the Patriots. I think this will be a semi low scoring game but one sided scoring from the Patriots.

This game has the largest line in the whole league this week, but I still think the Patriots will take care of business. The Texans defense is one of the top in the league but I don’t think they will have enough to stop the Pats from covering.

Chi’s Pick: Patriots -13.5 under 44

 

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears:

(Pittsburgh over Chicago -7.5 OU 44)

The Chicago Bears have had a tough season to say the least, after a solid performance against the Falcons in week one they got destroyed by the Buccaneers by 20 points. When will the Bears decide to start Mitch Trubisky and put an end to the sad era of Mike Glennon.

The season for the Bears is essentially already lost while the Steelers have Super Bowl aspirations for what could be Big Ben’s last year. This game should be a blowout, but they played really well in Soldier field vs. Atalanta so anything can happen. I’m still taking the Steelers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the game ends up being a close one.

Chi’s Pick: Steelers -7.5 Over 44

 

And that’s it for part one of my week 3 NFL betting guide, make sure you check out part 2 on Saturday morning!

 

Featured Photo By Getty Images

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2017 week 3 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks

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

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

Last week: 8-8

season: 16-15

Thursday Night

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

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

Sunday Morning

2017 week 3 NFL picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 week 3 NFL picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Afternoon

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Night

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

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

Monday Night

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

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

 

Featured image from Sporting News 

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Should the Colts move on from Andrew Luck?

Andrew Luck seems to be disgruntled with the situation in Indianapolis, so much so that their are reports he actually requested a trade. Luck is reported to be in practice, but the timetable or his return could be 3-4 more weeks.

With all that being said, what is the Colts’ best course of action, both long and short term? Let’s look at some options the Colts have for this season and the seasons to come.

Roll With Luck

In the most likely scenario, the Colts would wait for Luck’s injury to pass and reinsert him into the starting lineup. However, a few things need to happen in order for this to be reality. The Colts have the easiest upcoming seven games possible with the Browns, Seahawks, 49ers, Titans, Jaguars, Bengals and the Texans.

The only game where they’re almost certain to lose without Luck would be the Seahawks, but all the other games are possible for the Colts to win. In this scenario, I would say the Colts need at least two wins by week 5 for them to consider using Luck this season. If they can’t manage to win any of the games before Luck returns, assuming it’s the 3-4 weeks that was reported, then would it be worth risking another injury?

I could actually see the Colts going 3-1 in the next four games, which would put them in a prime position to challenge for the dreadfully sad AFC South. They managed to play decent against the Cardinals in a close OT loss. Look for Jacoby Brissett to improve in the games to come.

Trade Luck?

If the Colts have a rough couple of games and lose two out of three against the Browns, 49ers and Titans, the front office will have some tough decisions to make regarding Luck and the future of the franchise.

Image result for andrew luck sad

(Courtesy ign.com)

In this extremely possible scenario, what would be the point of starting Luck after a 1-5 or even 0-6 start? Yes, Luck would win a couple of games, but it wouldn’t be enough to make the playoffs, and it would be just enough to not get one of the best draft picks.

By trading Luck, the Colts will be able to obtain a first-round pick or even a package of picks. The Colts would continue to lose this season for a high first rounder at the end of the year. If this were to happen, there is a real chance the Colts could end up with two top five picks in the same year and begin to rebuild.

It is true that they may not get exactly what they would except in terms of trade value because of Luck’s inability to stay on the field, but he has proven to be a competent quarterback when healthy. The Jaguars are a team I could see making a push for Luck. He’d definitely be an upgrade from Blake Bortles.

Jacoby Brissett

Image result for jacoby brissett colts

(Photo By Pats Pulpit)

The Colts traded for Jacoby Brissett, who showed promise in the first half against the Cardinals in a game they would eventually lose in overtime. If the Colts end up moving on from Luck, they will have to see what Brissett has or inevitably tank and regroup. They can either draft a real quarterback, or if Brissett proves himself, then begin to build around him.

Brissett finished the game with 216 yards and one interception in his first start for a team he’s been around for about two weeks. He also drove the ball down the field and helped the Colts to a 10-0 lead in the first.

The Colts struggled to find any offense in the second half and allowed Carson Palmer to get it going late in the game and win it in overtime. The Colts were blowing it in all aspects of the game late in the fourth and especially in the play calling.

The Choice

Overall, the NFL is a business and there is lucrative sides to each face of this coin. For the Colts, keeping Luck would keep you slightly competitive this year, even though the defense looks pathetic at times. There is also a possible playoff birth. From this point of view, you would keep your fans happy this year and at least fill up Lucas Oil Stadium.

Trading Luck may be the best option the Colts have. With Luck’s value declining with every missed game, the best time to trade him may have already passed, but better to get something rather than nothing.

Image result for jim irsay ??

(Courtesy of indystar.com)

The season wouldn’t be all lost. I for one love Jacoby Brissett and would love to see him finish out the year and see what he’s really made of.

If I was the general manager and the Colts go 0-6 or 1-5, then I would ship him off to the highest bidder, start Brissett for the year and tank. Take the picks and hope you hit a home run in this year’s draft and build for the future. Luck already wants to be traded. There is nothing worse than being forced to stay somewhere so tensions will only rise.

 

Featured Photo by Boston.com

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Chi’s NFL Betting Guide: Week 2 Pt.1

Week 2 Betting Guide Pt.1

 

Thursday Night: Houston vs. Cincinnati

(Cincinnati -5 38OU)

Image result for dumpster fire

Nothing like a dumpster fire to kick off week two of the NFL and that’s exactly what’s happening. In the battle of the defeated, we have Andy Dalton who is starting the year off great with 4 interceptions and no touchdowns in the shutout loss to the Ravens. He will be playing opposite rookie Deshaun Watson who came in relief of the not so Savage, Tom and led them to their only score of the game in their 7-29 loss to the Jags.

It will be interesting to see how Watson handles his first start coming off a short week. I’m looking for a win by the Bengals at home but in a close one where they barley manage to cover.

Chi’s Pick: Cincinnati -5. Over 38

Sunday:

 

New England vs. New Orleans:

(New England -6.5 OU 54.5)

Winter is coming for the Saints this week with the defending champs marching to the Big Easy to claim their first win and that they will. The Saints defense looked helpless against the Vikings and Sam Bradford tore them up for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns…. So what do you think Brady’s going to get?

The only thing i’m worried about in this game is who the Saints bounty is on. Patriots in a blow out, but Saints won’t score enough to get the over.

Chi’s Pick: New England -6.5 Under 54.5

Tennesse vs. Jacksonville:

(Tennesse -1.5  OU 43.5)

Jacksonville coming off a huge blow out win against the Texans to start off the season looking like a dark horse playoff team. This game is huge because it really sets the pace of the AFC South and I actually believe whoever wins this game will win the division.

NFL week 2 picks against the spread

Photo by bigcountry.com)

The Titans had a tough loss at home against the Raiders but did show some potential to score the football. DeMarco Murray had a weak performance and struggled to get past the line of scrimmage but I except him to pull it together in this one.

This will be TIGHT but I think the Jags will scheme out the win at home.

Chi’s Pick: Jacksonville +1.5 Under 43.5

 

Cleveland vs. Baltimore:

(Baltimore -7.5 OU 40.5)

Last week Cleveland shocked the world when they actually put up a fight and covered the spread against the Steelers in week one. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer dropped 222 yards with 2 touchdowns against the Steelers and made the game competitive. There may be something in this Cleveland team that nobody expected.

The defense of Baltimore suffocated Andy Dalton and the Bengals in week one in the 20-0 shutout in Cincinnati. Causing four interceptions, the Ravens look poised to challenge the Steelers for the AFC North. I don’t think the rookie will be ready for the defensive assault of the Ravens and we might see another shutout.

Chi’s Pick: Baltimore -7.5 Under 40.5

 

Buffalo vs. Carolina:

(Carolina -7.5 OU 42.5)

Both teams are coming off convincing wins against lackluster teams, but now it’s time to see them stack up against a capable team. I think this will be one of the better games to watch for the week, and Vegas definitely is overrating Carolina by giving them that many points against the exciting Bills.

NFL picks against the spread week 2

Photo by buffalobills.com

I’m almost certain that Carolina will win the game but think it will be much closer than the spread predicts. I would take Buffalo with the points in a high scoring contest.

Chi’s Pick: Buffalo +7.5 Over 42.5

 

Arizona vs. Indianpolis:

(Arizona -7.5 OU 44)

Big Bruce Arians and the Cardinals are going to destroy the Colts. This game will be over by the second quarter and Carson Palmer will make up for the sketchy performance he had in week one gathering three picks and only one touchdown.

I feel like this line will go up as it gets closer to kickoff, I have the Cardinals winning this one by 14+.

Chi’s Pick: Arizona -7.5 Over 44

 

Featured Photo By Bleacher Report

 

All lines are provided by the Westgate Superbook

 

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2017 AFC South division preview

2017 AFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. The season opener is just one day away and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-18 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC South division preview.

4: Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season: 3-13

Strength of schedule: 30

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

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

2017 AFC South division preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3: Indianapolis Colts

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 30

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

2017 AFC South division preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2: Houston Texans

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 25

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

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

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

1: Tennessee Titans

2017 AFC South division preview

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

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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2017 AFC East division preview

2017 AFC East division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. The Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season this week. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC East division preview.

4: New York Jets

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: JULIO CORTEZ/AP)

Last season: 5-11

Strength of schedule: 8

Is it worth it to do a preview on the Jets? Let’s just stick a fork in them right now and put them on the clock. New York had an underwhelming season last year and seemed to completely blow up the roster and start a rebuild. There is little to look forward to this season so Jet fans start watching college football and look for your next quarterback.

Josh McCown will be under center for an offense who will have two really solid running backs, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. This duo combined to lead the Jets to 112.6 rush yards per game. That was the only true positive from the offense as they ranked 30th in points. This season they won’t have Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall and their starting receivers will be Jalin Marshall and Robby Anderson. There won’t be much of a passing attack, making the Jets one dimensional and predictable.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets have plenty of talent to be a good unit. The issue is that the offense is going to hurt them by keeping them on the field often. Up front, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson will be a handful for any offensive line. The two combined for 126 tackles and 11.5 sacks.

The play of the defensive line should make life easy for the linebackers. With a good defensive front, linebackers Daren Lee, Demario Davis and Jordan Jenkins should be free to fly around and make plays.

Cornerback play will be suspect with Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne but the secondary will be led by a fantastic safety duo. Marcus Maye and rookie Jamal Adams, the fantastic duo, have turned heads in both practices and in the preseason. These two will be feared and are the future of the New York Jets’ defense.

The entire defense should be very improved and part of the reason is the only way to go is up from a defense that gave up 25.6 points per game. They also ranked 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Todd Bowles is known for his defense but left it in Arizona.

With a rebuild going on in New York, the Jets will be difficult to watch. The defense will be talented but an offense with no playmakers and no big play ability will bring the team down. It doesn’t help that they have the eighth toughest schedule. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, are now on the clock.

Prediction: 1-15 (0-6), miss the playoffs

win: Jax

3: Miami Dolphins

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season: 10-6

Strength of schedule: 6

Miami lost their quarterback for the season so they went to the broadcast booth and pulled out Jay Cutler. Cutler is no franchise savior. He wasn’t even in shape because according to him, quarterbacks don’t need to be in great cardiovascular shape. With that being said, his best season came under Adam Gase so this move is intriguing. In that season, Cutler had 3,659 yards 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a career high 92.3 quarterback rating.

The Dolphins offensive line is one of the worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus. In the past, bad offensive lines have brought out the worst in Cutler. Aside from the offensive line, Cutler will have some really solid weapons around him. At running back, Jay Ajaya is poised to have another big season. Ajaya rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Dolphins on the ground.

The receiving corp is one of the most talented in the league. Jarvis Landry is the headliner with 288 receptions, 3,051 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Alongside the stud Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills create mismatches while teams focus on the running game and Landry. Parker and Stills combined for 98 receptions, 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns. These weapons should make life easy for Cutler but he has had many weapons in the past and still found ways to mess up.

Cutler used to have Matt Forte in the backfield. He also has had receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall but still had rough seasons. Cutler may make some great throws over the course of the season but when push comes to shove he will also do something boneheaded and cost his team dearly.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins are going to struggle. Last season they gave up 23.8 points per game, ranking 18th. The defensive line couldn’t stop the run, giving up 140.4 yards per game nor could they get pressure on the quarterback accumulating just 33 sacks. Cameron Wake is 35 years old and has lost a step over the past few seasons.

With an at best average defensive line, the linebacking corps and defensive backs will struggle to succeed. This defense was ranked at the bottom of the league last season and are in a worse position this season. As Jay Cutler begins to turn the ball over, the defense will be in bad situations making the numbers worse. Miami is in for a rough season.

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

losses: TB, @LAC, NO, Ten, @ATL, Oak, @Car, @NE, Den, NE, @Buf, @KC

2: Buffalo Bills

2017 AFC East division preview

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

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule: 5

Buffalo is under a new regime and fans are hoping this group of coaches will finally end the playoff drought which has lasted since 1999. Sean McDermott was hired to improve the defense and get the Bills back to the promised land.

In order for the Bills to have a good season, and make the playoffs, they must ride LeSean McCoy there. Buffalo led the NFL in rushing yards last season at 164.4 yards per game. Their fantastic ground game led the Bills to the 10th best scoring offense, averaging 24.9 points per game. The rushing attack will still be one of the leagues best behind a top 10 offensive line.

The big improvement the Bills will see this season will be in the passing game. Buffalo averaged a dreadful 189.8 passing yards last season. They drafted Zay Jones and traded for Jordan Matthews to give Tyrod Taylor more reliable weapons. Sammy Watkins was shipped out because of his inability to stay healthy. Jones and Matthews will be a solid duo barring any injuries.

As mentioned, McDermott was hired to fix a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game and a rush defense that gave up 133.1 yards per game. The defensive line is very talented and will improve the rush defense under the tutelage of McDermott. His defenses have had a reputation for doing so while in Carolina. In his last four seasons as defensive coordinator, McDermotts’ defenses ranked second, 16th, fourth and sixth in rush defense.

Buffalo will be an improved football team and will fight for a wild card spot but the tough schedule will make it difficult. The Bills may not end the drought this season but are heading in the right direction.

Prediction: 8-8 (4-2), wildcard candidate

losses: @Car, Den, @Cin, TB, @KC, NE, Ind, @NE

1: New England Patriots

2017 AFC East division preview

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

Last season: 14-2

Strength of schedule: 12

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the best quarterback and head coach duo of all-time. Both are the G.O.A.T’s and as long as these two are around, the Patriots will be in contention. New England has won eight straight division titles and 14 of the last 17. Blah blah blah, we know all this already and we know that the Patriots are going to be damn good this season. This preview is a typical preview of the Patriots.

The Patriots’ offseason was the rich just getting richer. New England acquired Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Stephon Gillmore. Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis will also be returning from their injuries. Brady will have plenty of weapons to have another legendary season.

There is nothing to worry about with the offense and as long as father time doesn’t sack Tom Brady, the Patriots will have one of the best offenses in the NFL.

What will really make the Patriots great again is their defense. Last season New England ranked first in points allowed at 15.6 per game. The front four of Lawerence Guy, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown and Trey Flowers aren’t superstars but will do their job sufficiently enough that the rest of the defense will be able to make plays.

The Patriots’ secondary is going to be close to unstoppable. It may even be the best secondary in the NFL. Stephon Gillmore and Malcolm Butler are going to lock down both sides of the field. Safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will patrol the middle of the field against the run and the pass. It is scary that Belichick will have this much talent to work with.

The Patriots are a world class organization that knows how to win. Until they show signs of falling off the map, they are the prohibitive favorites to not only win the division but the conference as well.

Prediction: 14-2 (6-0), division champion

losses: ATL, @Oak

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should the the nfl eliminate preseason

Why the NFL needs preseason

NFL preseason is well underway now. The top rookies are starting to make a name for themselves, quarterback battles are beginning to show who should be starting and injuries are also beginning to appear.

Perhaps the most noteworthy injury to date was the ankle sprain suffered by Odell Beckham Jr. in the Giants’ Monday night loss to the Browns.

On the play, Beckham jumped in the air to make a first-down catch. When he was in the air, Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun hit Beckham in the legs when he went up for the catch. You could tell Beckham was frustrated after the play based on his reaction to flipping the ball and crouching down in pain.

NFL needs preseason

Odell Beckham Jr. got lucky after a scary play, but other players haven’t. (Photo by Getty Images)

Giants fans and fantasy owners everywhere rejoiced after finding out he only suffered an ankle sprain and not any significant leg injury or concussion.

I am not going to debate whether or not the hit by Boddy-Calhoun was clean or dirty, although I do think it is a valid question to ask if they can’t hit high or low, where are they supposed to hit?

I am also not going to debate whether or not Odell Beckham Jr. is a diva and his reaction was just him trying to draw a lot of attention to himself. Other analysts can debate that.

What I want to talk about is based on a scary play like this, should the NFL eliminate its preseason entirely?

Injuries happen all the time in preseason. Some happen to star players and some to third-string linemen. Some injuries knock these guys out for a short amount of time, a week at the most maybe. But others have suffered much longer time off, including season-ending injuries.

Beckham isn’t the only big name to get injured this preseason. Seahawks left tackle George Fant suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and will miss the entire season. Seattle was counting on Fant, who started 10 games last season, to help elevate their line play.

Bengals starting safety Shawn Williams also dislocated his right elbow this preseason. It will not require surgery, but he will miss four to six weeks.

With injuries like these, why should the NFL have a preseason? The players don’t really get paid for it. The owners don’t need the extra money preseason can generate since they are already filthy rich. Why risk a star player like Beckham’s health?

The purpose of preseason

Let’s remember what the preseason is for.

We know how good the stars are, so it is not really for them. Preseason can help the starters get back in the swing of things. It gets them playing in full pads against other talent around the league. It also usually lasts for a quarter, more or less.

NFL needs preseason

Preseason gives players like Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer an opportunity to show what he can do. (Photo by Ron Schwane/AP Images)

The main reason for preseason is to evaluate your backups. Some teams have legit battles at different positions. The Browns are one of those teams that have a quarterback battle. Will it be Brock Osweiler or DeShone Kizer? The preseason can help coaches see how well these guys can play in a game situation.

There are also other battles within the depth chart. It gives free agents an opportunity to get game snaps with their new team in a new system. New coaches also get the benefit of seeing their new team on the field and if their strategy is working. Rookies also get a taste of the NFL action so they aren’t just thrown in on week 1.

With all the changes that occur in an NFL roster from year to year, preseason is an opportunity for teams to enter the season more smoothly. It gives current players an opportunity to shake the rust off and new players an opportunity to learn and transition.

Preparation can help eliminate injuries

As crazy as this sounds, the preseason can also help prevent injuries along the way. Workouts, training camp and preseason are all in place to get the players back in shape and ready to go for the actual season. The MLB does this with spring training and the NBA also does this with summer league and their own preseason.

Let’s flashback to the 2011 NFL lockout. During this time, players did not get the preparation they needed due to the lockout. There was a boost in injuries during the start of the season.

There were 10 players who suffered ruptures to their achilles tendon before the first preseason game even was played. At the time, an average of eight achilles ruptures occurred in a full season.

Lions rookie running back Mikel Lashoure missed his whole season due to a ruptured achilles. Panthers linebacker Jon Beason only played in one game that season due to the same injury. Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles also went down due to torn knee ligaments.

Now not all of these injuries happened in preseason, but the principle still remains. If you do not prepare, you are only going to hurt yourself. Preseason helps players get in rhythm for the actual season.

Conclusion

Teams benefit from the preseason a lot.

Financially, they each host two games. Die-hard fans go to these games after not watching football since last winter. They are eager to get their fix after such a long wait. These games also get on TV, bringing in more money and publicity for the league.

Based on all of this, the NFL won’t be eliminating preseason anytime soon. Teams and players just benefit from it too much. If players are worried about injuries, maybe they should just play limited time like Tom Brady.

Honestly, if injuries are such a big concern, why even play football? Injuries don’t stop after preseason. They continue on. You never know what is going to happen on the football field.

 

Featured Image by AP Photo/Ron Schwane

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

College football preseason 2017 top 25: 10-6

The football season is right around the corner so let’s dive into more rankings. This installment will go over top ten teams that will be vying for a title. For a spot on this list, teams need to have a lot of talent on their rosters.

To look at the previous list of teams, go here.

10. Georgia Bulldogs

College football top 25

Jacob Eason (Photo by 247sports.com)

Kirby Smart had a decent first season as head coach of the Bulldogs and helped them finish 8-5. They won the Liberty Bowl to finish last season, beating TCU 31-23. Smart will have 15 returning starters to work with, which includes 10 on the defensive side of the ball. This season the Bulldogs look to take a step forward and win the SEC East.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are set in the backfield. Jacob Eason will be entering his second season and there are high hopes for his career. He was a highly-touted prospect that threw for 2,430 yards as a freshman. He will have two good running backs in Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel. They will get the bulk of the carries and have amassed almost 6,000 yards on the ground during their time in Athens. Chubb is the lead man and averages 6.4 yards per carry over his career.

The offensive line returns two starters and will be the key to the Georgia attack. There isn’t too much experience returning at the receiver position, but tight end Isaac Nauta is getting a lot of hype. At 6’4″ 246 pounds he provides a good target for Eason, while the receiving unit as a whole needs to step up.

There may not be a weak point on the defense with how much experience they have returning. John Atkins returns in the middle of the defensive line, while Trenton Thompson returns at defensive end. Thompson had five sacks last season. The linebackers might be the most talented unit on the defense. Lorenzo Carter is a good pass rusher from outside linebacker, while Roquan Smith is a good run stopper from his inside linebacker position.

Dominick Sanders is the most talented out of the secondary players and has the most interceptions returning to the team from last year with three. Georgia’s defense was good last year and now must take the step forward to become elite.

Tough non-conference games will be had against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Their games that could give them trouble in conference are Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. Georgia has the talent on their roster to win every game on the schedule. They will likely drop two of the tough games on the schedule and go 10-2 on the season, with a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

9. Clemson Tigers

College football top 25

Christian Wilkins (Photo by si.com)

The Tigers lost a lot from the team that won the National Championship last season, but some respect has to be shown to the fantastic job Dabo Swinney has done recruiting. They do still return 12 starters from last year’s team and will be looking to get back to the College Football Playoff.

Clemson will win a lot of games because of the play of their offensive line, which returns four starters. This includes Mitch Hyatt, who is a 2018 NFL Draft Prospect. The running backs getting carries behind this offensive line will change a lot, but C.J. Fuller looks to be the lead man.

Kelly Bryant has to fill some big shoes that were left by Deshaun Watson. The junior was a good prospect himself out of high school and has all the tools to be successful. If he does end up struggling, Clemson has recruited freshman Hunter Johnson to step in. Deon Cain is a good receiver that now gets his chance to shine without Mike Williams on the team. Hunter Renfroe will continue to do work and make clutch plays from the slot.

The defensive line will be stacked with talent, with Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence returning. All three were highly productive for the team last year, with Ferrell leading them all with six sacks. Kendall Joseph leads the linebackers now after the departure of Ben Boulware, but is pretty accomplished himself with 124 tackles last season.

Van Smith is the leader of the secondary from his safety position and has the most interceptions returning with two. The pass defense will likely take a slight step back, while the run defense will stay about the same.

The schedule is tough and will be tougher with the fact that now Clemson will have a target on their back. They have games that will challenge them in Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. For the most part Clemson should be able to manage these tough games, but will likely drop two or three of them.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

College football top 25

Baker Mayfield (photo by usatoday.com)

Oklahoma’s ranking would’ve been higher had Bob Stoops still been the head coach. Lincoln Reilly takes over now and will have a good team to work with. They went 11-2 last season and beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. With a lot of talent returning, the Sooners will be looking to make the College Football Playoff.

The offense will start with Heisman Trophy Finalist Baker Mayfield. He has had a storied career so far for Oklahoma and will continue to put up big numbers this season. The problem is that he doesn’t have all the weapons he had in previous years. Jeff Badet transferred in from Kentucky and should provide a spark to a receiving core that only returns one starter, Jeffrey Mead.

There is good news for Oklahoma fans: The offensive line returns every starter. Orlando Brown is getting looks from the NFL and is a dominant force. The bad news is that there isn’t much experience returning at running back and Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson will fight for carries.

Defense for the Sooners was average at best in 2016. The secondary gave up a lot of passing yards, but does return some good players. Jordan Thomas is a good college corner, but teams find a way to throw around him and pick up a lot of yardage.

Ogbonnia Okronkwo returns at linebacker and leads the pass rush with nine sacks last season. The Sooners will be inexperienced up front, with no returning starters on the defensive line.

Oklahoma gets to play Ohio State, Texas (neutral), Kansas State and Oklahoma State all away from home. West Virginia travels to Norman to give them plenty to focus on for this year. The Sooners’ offense will be high-powered enough to get them 10 wins this season and a spot in the new Big 12 Championship Game.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys

College football top 25

Mason Rudolph (Photo by ncaa.com)

The Cowboys finished 10-3 last season and blew Colorado out in the Alamo Bowl. Mike Gundy has one of his most talented teams ever. His team is good enough to win the Big 12 and get to the College Football Playoff, but they have a long road a head and a lot of history to overcome.

Mason Rudolph returns at quarterback, after flirting with the idea of going pro. He will put up big numbers while protecting the football, which makes him an elite college quarterback. The good news for him was that his teammate and top target James Washington also chose to return to school. Tyron Johnson, an LSU transfer, will be eligible to play this season and will provide another good target for Rudolph.

Three offensive linemen return, but the unit will be more than capable of protecting Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State found their running back of the future last season in Justice Hill. Hill ran for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman last season. He will be asked to put up similar numbers in 2017.

In terms of scoring defense, Oklahoma State ranked third in the Big 12, but that isn’t saying too much. Essentially they were an average defense. Five starters return including two in the secondary. Ramon Richards and Tre Flowers will be starting again at safety, while new corners are broken in.

Chad Whittener returns to the linebackers and will be asked to step up his production this season after finishing with 71 tackles a year ago. The Cowboys don’t have much returning in the middle of the defensive line, but do have a lot of experience at defensive end. Both starters return as well as Trelund Webber, who comes off the bench to rush the passer. He returns as the team leader in sacks in 2016 with six.

The schedule features games against Pittsburgh, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma State will win at least nine games, but probably finish at 10-2, getting them a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.

6. USC Trojans

College football top 25

Sam Darnold (photo by dailynews.com)

The Trojans went on a magical run to the Rose Bowl last season and beat Penn State in a thriller. Clay Helton did a fine job last year as head coach, but has a new challenge this year. Only 10 starters return, meaning a lot of players will need to step up to help USC win the Pac-12.

Sam Darnold is the potential number one overall pick in the 2018 draft. He still has a lot to prove, but finished the season with 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t start the first few games of last season. Darnold won’t have an elite receiver to throw to this season, unless someone really improves, but Deontay Burnett is the leading returning receiver with 670 yards in 2016.

Ronald Jones II is overlooked because of how well Darnold played last year, but he can flat out run the football. His 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns will be improved upon this season. Just two offensive linemen return this season. If the newcomers don’t step in and do their jobs the whole offense will suffer.

The linebackers return the most experience, with three of four starters returning. Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith are both playmakers. Smith had 83 tackles last season. Only one of three returns on the defensive line, Rasheem Green. Green had six sacks last season and will need to improve production to lead the pass rush.

Iman Marshall returns at corner and will now be asked to shut down the other teams’ best receivers, as Adoree Jackson is now in the NFL. He has a chance to be drafted early, like Jackson was, in the 2018 NFL Draft. Marveil Tell is back at safety and Chris Hawkins will be solid at the other starting safety spot in 2017. The defense was good last year and if they want to get to the College Football Playoff, need to improve this year.

USC has a tough schedule, which includes games against Stanford, Texas, Washington State, Notre Dame and UCLA. While they should have their fair share of struggles, they will have at least 10 wins entering the Pac-12 Championship Game. At that point it may be a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

 

Featured image by usatoday.com.

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