Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line

In 2016, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line was historically bad. The Vikings ranked dead last in rushing yards per attempt and yards per game. The Vikings also ranked in the bottom ten in sacks allowed (38) and quarterback hits allowed (104). Inconsistent offensive line play was the main reason why the Vikings fell flat after a 5-0 start two years ago.

Last season, however, the offensive line vastly improved. Under second-year line coach Tony Sporano, Minnesota became one of the best rushing teams in the NFL, ranking seventh. The Vikings also improved in pass protection, allowing only 27 sacks in 2017.

Although improved, the offensive line is still the Minnesota Vikings’ weakest position group and should be one of the team’s main focuses this offseason. Here’s a rundown of the Vikings’ offensive line from last season and how they can continue to improve.

Riley Reiff

Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Riley Reiff works out with a coach during Vikings’ minicamp. (Photo by Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)

The Vikings signed Reiff to a five-year, $58 million contract last March during free agency. Reiff started all but one game in 2017 and was a solid starter at left tackle. The former Detroit Lion helped improve the Vikings’ run and passing game and is the favorite to be the team’s starting left tackle in 2018.

Although an improvement from 2016 starter Matt Kalil, Reiff was ranked as the 59th best tackle by Pro Football Focus.

Due to his massive contract and six years of NFL experience, the Vikings are very unlikely to move on from Reiff until his contract expires in 2022.

Mike Remmers

Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Vikings right tackle Mike Remmers drops back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo by Carlos Gonzalez/ startribune.com)

Along with Reiff, the Vikings also signed right tackle Mike Remmers to a five-year deal last spring. Reiff was also a solid starter along the offensive line, replacing a struggling T.J. Clemmings. Remmers is a strong run blocker that helped clear running lanes for both Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, allowing them both to put up career years.

At times, Remmers struggled against elite pass rushers, allowing the most sacks on the team.

Remmers is the favorite to start at tackle again next season, though there will likely be added competition next summer.

Nick Easton

Nick Easton was brought into the Vikings organization in 2015 and has slowly worked himself in as the team’s starting left guard. Easton ended his season early by fracturing his right ankle in a 16-0 win against the Green Bay Packers.

The second-year guard played below average this season, leaving his future in Minnesota in doubt.

Easton will be a restricted free agent in March, meaning that other teams are free to negotiate contracts with him.

Joe Berger

Joe Berger has enjoyed a productive 13-year career in the NFL, playing at both the center and guard positions. Prior to the 2017 season, Berger had announced that this season would be his last before retiring.

This season, Berger was one of the bright spots along the Vikings’ offensive line as an extremely effective run blocker.

Berger has been extremely durable throughout his tenure with Minnesota, only missing two starts in the last three years. Berger’s run blocking and experience will be sorely missed by the Minnesota Vikings, and his replacement will most likely be found in either free agency or in April’s draft.

Pat Elflein

Minnesota Vikings offensive line

Pat Elflein prepares to snap a pass to quarterback Case Keenum. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Pat Elflein was also a new face in Minnesota after being selected in the third-round of last year’s draft. The center out of Ohio State started 14 games in 2017 and impressed many with his run and pass-blocking skills.

An ankle injury in the NFC Championship Game ended Elflein’s season, and he is expected to receive surgery this offseason. After a very promising rookie season, Elflein is expected to be the Vikings’ starting center for many years to come.

What to Expect

With the Minnesota Vikings being such a deep team at every other position, it seems very likely that improving the offensive line will be the priority this season (after figuring out their quarterback situation, of course). Finding a replacement for the retiring Joe Berger at right guard will be key, as well as adding depth to the tackle positions.

Although the Vikings’ offensive line improved mightily in 2017, there is still much more work to be done at the guard and tackle positions.

 

Featured image by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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Minnesota Vikings receivers

Roster Breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ pass catchers

We’re now halfway through the month of February, and the celebration in Philadelphia has finally died down. The 2017 season ended only a few weeks ago, but front offices throughout the league are already preparing for next season.

Organizations are frantically trying to free up cap space and lock down their key players with long-term contracts. An important part of this preparation process is to identify any major weaknesses on the team’s roster.

For the Minnesota Vikings, this means evaluating every single position from top to bottom. So far, we have discussed the Vikings’ needs at the quarterback and running back positions, and now we move on to assess their deep group of pass catchers.

Stefon Diggs

Minnesota Vikings receivers

Stefon Diggs catches a sideline catch that would soon be remembered as the “Minneapolis Miracle.” (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Stefon Diggs quietly enjoyed another productive season despite being outshined by fellow receiver Adam Thielen. Last season, Diggs caught 64 passes for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers don’t jump off of the page, but Diggs did just enough to keep the Vikings’ offense clicking. Diggs averaged over 13 yards per catch, displaying impressive speed and quickness.

Diggs ended his season with an exclamation point with the “Minneapolis Miracle” in a playoff matchup against the New Orleans Saints. The former fifth-round pick will only be under contract through the 2018 season. This likely means that Diggs is due for a big payday this time next year.

Adam Thielen

Aside from quarterback Case Keenum, wide receiver Adam Thielen was the talk of the town in Minnesota during the 2017 season. After spending his first two years in Minnesota on special teams, Thielen impressed many in 2016.

To follow up his impressive third season, Thielen caught 91 passes for 1,276 yards, earning himself a Pro Bowl nod. Thielen demonstrated his shifty route running ability, allowing himself to consistently get open, as well as relieving pressure from Diggs.

The Vikings’ front office is extremely fortunate to have re-signed him prior to his career year in 2017. Thielen and the Vikings agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal last March, allowing him to stay in his home state through the 2020 season.

Kyle Rudolph

Minnesota Vikings receivers

Kyle Rudolph runs after a catch in the Pro Bowl. (Photo by AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Along with Thielen, Kyle Rudolph was the Minnesota Vikings’ second Pro Bowler from the offensive side of the ball. Rudolph has consistently been a solid starting tight end for the Vikings throughout his seven years in the league. The tight end out of Notre Dame has started every game in the last three seasons for the Vikings. During that span, Rudolph also has gained over 500 receiving yards twice.

Rudolph is currently under contract through the 2019 season and will earn nearly $8 million throughout those seasons.

Notable backups

If there is one thing that the Vikings’ offense struggled with in 2017, it would be spreading the ball. Diggs, Thielen and Rudolph accounted for 77 percent of the Vikings’ receptions by wide receivers or tight ends.

Minnesota Vikings receivers

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, runs a pattern during rookie minicamp. (Photo by AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Not including these three, the Vikings’ top pass catcher would have been Laquon Treadwell. Treadwell was a first-round pick in the 2016 Draft who has struggled to find playing time so far in his career. In 2017, Treadwell only caught 20 passes for a meager 200 yards and no touchdowns.

Also on the depth chart are wide receivers Jarius Wright and Michael Floyd, as well as tight end David Morgan. These three combined for 38 receptions and 371 yards.

Floyd is the only one of these four players that will not return to the Vikings in 2018, and will be an unrestricted free agent in March.

What to Expect

The Minnesota Vikings have one of the most underrated receiving corps in the NFL. Although they don’t have a true No. 1 wide receiver, it is unlikely that the Vikings will target a wide receiver in either free agency or high in the draft.

The one-two punch of Thielen and Diggs is one of the best duos in the NFL. This, along with Rudolph as a safety blanket, forms a very solid group of pass catchers.

If the Vikings do decide to make a change with this position, they will most likely release Wright. Releasing Wright would save the Minnesota Vikings over $4 million in cap space.

 

Featured image by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

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Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs

Over the last few years, the running back position has changed drastically. The NFL has transitioned from hard-nosed power backs like Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore to shifty, quick backs with good receiving skills. Although the days of true run-first teams are long gone, a successful running game can make or break a football team’s season. This is very evident with the Seattle Seahawks, who have struggled to make a deep playoff run since the loss of Marshawn Lynch.

This was also the case for the Minnesota Vikings prior to this season. In 2016, the Vikings ranked last in both rushing yards per game and yards per attempt, due to a porous offensive line and inconsistent running back play. The Vikings bounced back this season, thanks to the emergence of rookie running back Dalvin Cook and former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

With Shurmur leaving for the New York Giants’ head coaching job, new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will hope to build from last year’s success. Let’s look at the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs, and how they could continue to improve in 2018.

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook carries the ball in the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Dalvin Cook impressed many in the beginning of the 2017 season. The rookie from Florida State gained over 400 yards from scrimmage during his first four games. Cook also averaged over five yards per carry in three of those games, with the exception being a 169-yard performance against Tampa Bay. Cook looked like a true three-down back, showing good speed, vision, and ball skills.

Unfortunately, Cook’s promising rookie season was cut short in Week 4 by an ACL tear in his left knee. The injury sidelined Cook for the remainder of the season and may limit his availability during the Vikings’ offseason programs. However, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings are anticipating the knee to be fully healed by the start of training camp next August. Assuming he is fully healthy, Cook will be the starting running back in Minnesota and will be vital to the team’s success in 2018.

Latavius Murray

After Dalvin Cook’s season-ending injury, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon split reps as the Vikings’ starting running back. The Minnesota Vikings signed Murray last offseason to a three-year, $15 million deal. When Murray signed with the Vikings, he was expected to be the starting running back. However, the emergence of Cook forced Murray into a backup role.

After Week 4, Murray was mainly used on first and second down as a true running back, while Jerick McKinnon was utilized on third down passing situations. As the season progressed, however, Murray slowly began to get more snaps, averaging nearly 20 carries a game in the last six games of the regular season.

In total, Murray gained 842 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Murray will be entering his second year on his contract signed last March and is expected to make around $6.3 million, with a base salary of $5.1 million. This means the Vikings could potentially release Murray to clear up cap space, although this is unlikely.

Jerick McKinnon

In 2017, Jerick McKinnon split reps with teammate Latavius Murray as the Vikings’ starting running back after a Week 4 injury to Dalvin Cook. In that time, McKinnon enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of his career, gaining nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

Jerick McKinnon runs for a first down in a game against the Green Bay Packers. Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, McKinnon’s production in 2017 also went through several highs and lows. McKinnon followed up 100-yard games with unproductive ones, and was eventually outperformed by Latavius Murray. By the end of the season, McKinnon was mainly used as a receiver out of the backfield on third downs. Since 2017 was the last year on McKinnon’s rookie contract and Dalvin Cook will be returning in 2018, McKinnon will most likely become an unrestricted free agent on March 14th.

C.J Ham, Bishop Sankey & Mack Brown

C.J Ham played every game for the Minnesota Vikings this season as their starting fullback. The converted running back helped pave the way for Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon in 2017, helping the Vikings rank as the NFL’s 7th-best rushing offense. Fullbacks rarely get to carry the football, and Ham only ran seven times in 2017 for 13 yards and a touchdown. Ham is currently under contract through next season and is expected to compete as the team’s starting fullback again during the offseason.

Neither Bishop Sankey or Mack Brown played during the 2017 season, and both players’ contracts expire this offseason. Sankey was a former second-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2014 draft, and has not been able to live up to expectations so far in his career.

Mack Brown is a former undrafted free agent that has played in small stints for the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins. So far in his career, he has rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, all with the Redskins.

What to Expect

Heading into the 2018 NFL season, the priority for the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs group will be the health of Dalvin Cook. In his limited playing time in 2017, Cook was a dynamic playmaker out of the backfield as a modern three-down running back. Given that he is fully healthy and has returned to his pre-injury form, Cook will be the bona-fide starter in Minnesota.

The Vikings have several possible moves they can make in the running backs room. Releasing Latavius Murray would save the Vikings over $5 million in cap space, but this is very unlikely, since the team already has over $40 million in cap space. The Vikings may also re-sign Mack Brown to a one-year deal to allow him to compete for a backup role with the team.

 

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Josh Allen - via CBS Sports

2018 NFL Draft: What quarterback should the Browns take?

Even people who do not like football know, the Cleveland Browns are bad. Nearly, all of these same people know that they need a quarterback. They have drafted an absurd amount of quarterbacks who have not panned out and chose these quarterbacks over others who have been considered NFL MVP candidates and offensive rookies of the year. Though I would like to see them offer Kirk Cousins an absurd amount of money and use the two picks for other positions, lets assume that they do not real in one of the veteran quarterbacks on the free agent market. Who should they take in the draft?

Potential Candidates

There are four quarterbacks who are being considered as potential top-ten picks. These include Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield. I have done film study four all four of these quarterbacks and they are all very different. In the following I will compare these candidates and come to a conclusion based on my evaluations in which I will briefly describe.

Sam Darnold

Darnold has a high ceiling and the ideal body size. His arm strength and athleticism are evident. He makes throws throughout a course of the game that will have you thinking he can compete for a MVP in three seasons. At other times, you will be wondering why he was drafted at all. Some will point to the awful offensive line that he was behind this season and say that’s why he turned over the ball too much and had accuracy issues. This is true to some extent, but his post snap reads have a bigger affect on it.

 

 

Sam Darnold

Via: LA Times

 

Several times this season Darnold tried to make throws this season that left you scratching your head. This is because he tends to look down his first receiver, rather than going through all of his reads. An example of this was a throw that he attempted to make against Western Michigan. With the Trojans running the two minute drill, they were facing a 2nd and 15 with only 22 seconds left in the half. Darnold took the ball out of the shotgun and saw his tight end running a small hitch route over the middle against the cover-2 zone that the defense was running. Rather than moving to his next read, Sam tries to force the ball over the middle where there are three linebackers hovering within the area. The ball is tipped by one linebacker and is intercepted by another.

Plays like this are avoidable and post-snap reads can be taught, but many scouts will tell you that accuracy is much harder to learn. Darnold has a lot of potential and if he can improve in these two areas he can be a starter for several years in the NFL.

Josh Rosen

I will not elaborate too much on Rosen for this particular article due to the fact that he ultimately doesn’t want to play for the Browns (Pretty Simple). According to ESPN’s Adam Shefter, Rosen doesn’t want to be drafted by Cleveland because of the inconsistency in management and the quarterback position. I have two opinions about this that are nearly the exact opposite. First: He’s got a point, I don’t know if I would want to either. Second: Cleveland is looking for someone to fill this void and bring consistency to their franchise, why not you?

Now to the brief evaluation. Rosen shows off the his arm strength and accuracy on a consistent basis, but only when the pocket is clean. For example, Josh carved up Hawaii in one half with and 88% completion percentage, 5 touchdowns, and over 300 yards and he was rarely pressured in this game. Compare this to his stat-line against Washington (yes, I know he was injured 5 minutes into the third quarter) where he had 93 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, and a 57% completion percentage.

Josh Rosen

CBS Sports

In both of these games he played at most part of the third quarter and was pressured often in the Washington game. Though the offensive line didn’t fair well against Washington, it was not only their fault. Rosen has shown time and time again that he struggles to get the ball out in a quick manner and often holds on to the ball too long.

Despite this, he is the ideal quarterback on the field. The accuracy is there, arm strength is present, size, and IQ are evident. But the last concerning thing that one must take into consideration is how much he cares about the sport of football. Rosen has perked up the ears of scouts with his off-the-field conversations about the reason he wants to play football in the future. Many do not thing that he is the ideal leader or role model for a franchise, so I would not recommend a team taking him if they have a lack of leadership in the locker room.

 

Josh Allen

 The quarterback with the best potential is Josh Allen. The quarterback with the lowest floor and highest bust potential . . . yep, still Josh Allen. He has the best arm strength that I have seen out of a draftable quarterback within the last five years (at least) and his athleticism is evident. There are several reasons to compare him to Sam Darnold, but he tends to be less accurate then him, has a stronger arm, and needs to improve his footwork more. Josh is not a quarterback who I would want to draft and start in week one of the 2018 season. He is a developmental project who needs to improve his footwork and consistency of pre-snap and post-snap reads. If he can do this, along with improving his accuracy, he can be an elite NFL quarterback. There was one throw in Wyoming’s bowl game that literally (I’m using this term in it’s legitimate definition) made my jaw drop.

Josh Allen

Via: CBS Sports

 

The offense starts in a 1-2-2 set in the I-formation, on Central Michigan’s 24 yard line. Allen play-actions left and steps back to throw and begins to look left towards his receiver his is running a deep post route. Josh launches the ball (he probably required a permit to throw it) over the linebackers covering the middle of field and split two defenders. The ball was placed into the receiver’s hands without forcing him to break stride and was put in a position where the defenders had no chance to touch it. This throw is one that I would assume that only a handful of quarterbacks could actually make. The issue is that he can not consistently make plays like this.

 

Baker Mayfield

 Mayfield is perhaps the most controversial off the field when compared to these other three quarterbacks and he is often compared to Johnny Manziel. His comparison to Manziel is because of his size, mobility, and the number of issues you hear about Baker off the field. However, these two are much different players and people in life, and this comparison is ridiculous.

Baker Mayfield’s ability as a quarterback is just as good as some of the other quarterbacks I have mentioned. He is the most accurate of the quarterback group and he consistently wins games. There is a reason he won the Heisman Trophy in 2017, and the  statistical evidence backs it up. He racked up nearly 5000 total yards and 48 total touchdowns with only 6 interceptions. Mayfield has had two consecutive seasons with over a 70% completion percentage. He is not perfect of course, as his inconsistent footwork and arm strength are an issue. It has led to turnovers and he several instances where an errant pass was dropped by a defender. The Oklahoma quarterback has his issues, but the good heavily outweigh the bad.

Baker Mayfield

Via: USA Today

Not only does Baker show his off his accuracy in the pocket but he shows it off on the run too. One example of this came in the big matchup against Ohio State on the road in the second game of the season. The Sooners are 4-0-1 set with the running back to the right of Mayfield. He takes the snap and play-actions to the left and begins to roll right. The wide receiver who started the play wide to the left runs a deep crossing to the right and sneaks behind a deep safety. Mayfield finds him and releases the ball quickly and floats the ball over a defender. The ball is placed in the receiver’s hands without forcing him to break stride and it allows the receiver to gain nearly 20 yards after the catch.

Mayfield has a lot of pro level skills but these tend to be overshadowed by the other athletic and mobile quarterbacks that have failed in the past. However, he has NFL starter accuracy and his leadership on the field is something every locker room wants. His off the field antics are something to keep an eye out for, but the on the field antics are seen as competitive in many circles rather than arrogant. I am one of those people.

The Best QB for the Browns is …

The Browns are not in the position to develop a quarterback for a year and then to start him the following year (Look at Kizer). They need a quarterback that can come in and play competent enough to not bring the team down but someone who is coachable and is willing to be the leader of the team. This rules out Allen and Rosen. As interesting as it would be to see Mayfield in a Browns jersey, management and fans would be to scared to draft Mayfield at this point and the amount of potential for Mayfield is lower than the other top quarterbacks. This leaves them with one option, Sam Darnold.

I believe Darnold has enough potential to be a consistent starter for the Browns for several years and has the talent to compete right now. Though it hasn’t been evident yet, Hue Jackson is known for being a quarterbacks’ coach and he should be able to groom Sam to pro-bowl level.

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Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks

Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterbacks

In case you haven’t heard, the NFL is a quarterback league. The quarterback position is by far the most valuable across all 32 teams, and the lack of a franchise quarterback can severely handicap any team, regardless of how much talent is on either side of the ball.

The Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers are very aware of this fact. The losses of Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers sent their respective teams spiraling towards losing seasons.

This is why organizations are willing to dish out big bucks for starting quarterbacks, like the San Francisco 49ers’ recent deal with Jimmy Garoppolo, which was worth a whopping $137.5 million over five years.

The Minnesota Vikings are also aware of the desperate need for a franchise quarterback. In the years after Brett Favre’s (final) retirement, the Vikings have started eight different players at the position, including an aged Donovan McNabb and draft bust Christian Ponder.

This offseason, however, the Vikings have a rather unusual situation. They have three solid quarterbacks that all deserve to be a starter, and their contracts all expire this year. This leaves the Vikings’ front office in an extremely difficult three-way choice.

Should they go with Teddy Bridgewater, the young fan-favorite coming back from a gruesome knee injury? Or should they choose Case Keenum, the underdog that led the Vikings to the NFC championship? Maybe they role with Sam Bradford, the extremely talented gunslinger who has dealt with multiple injuries.

Let’s take a look at all of the Vikings’ quarterbacks and where the team could possibly go heading into the 2018 season.

Case Keenum

Keenum was one of the greatest stories of the 2017 season, going from an unwanted free agent to a franchise hero. He helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game.

Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum runs between two defenders to earn a first down. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

In his 15 regular season games, Case Keenum threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions while posting an impressive 98.3 passer rating. After a knee injury sidelined Bradford in Week 2, Keenum took the starting job and never looked back.

Including the playoffs, Keenum led the Vikings to a 13-4 record. During that time, Keenum showed incredible poise and accuracy from the pocket, taking advantage of speedy wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Despite continued controversy over losing his job to Bradford throughout the regular season, the pressure never bothered Keenum. He consistently silenced any doubts about his playing ability.

What’s possibly more impressive is that Keenum wasn’t even signed by the Vikings until the later part of free agency. Keenum signed a one-year, $2 million deal to be the team’s backup. Keenum’s rags-to-riches story of an underdog fighting his way to the top inspired football fans across the country. Now he has an opportunity to cash in.

Sam Bradford

The Sam Bradford situation is a complicated one to say the least. After an injury-plagued start to his career with the Rams, Bradford was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played a rather uninspiring single season. He was then traded again to the Minnesota Vikings with only a few weeks before the start of the 2016 season after a gruesome knee injury to former starter Teddy Bridgewater.

Bradford went on to exceed all expectations in 2016, throwing for 3,877 yards and setting a new single-season record for completion percentage at 71.6 percent. He then followed up this campaign with an outstanding season debut against the New Orleans Saints, throwing for 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Bradford appeared to be a way-too-early MVP candidate before injuries derailed yet another season, forcing him to miss the remainder of the 2017 season. Bradford’s injuries cast doubt over his ability to play an entire season, and it is uncertain if another team will be willing to give him another opportunity to start.

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater is one of the biggest wildcards to watch during the 2018 offseason. The 25-year-old has not thrown a meaningful pass in two full years, and many wonder if his catastrophic knee injury before the 2016 season could severely alter his playing style in the future.

Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks

Sam Bradford looks on as Teddy Bridgewater attempts a throw during a Vikings practice. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

During his first two years as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, Bridgewater slowly improved his play by reducing his interceptions and increasing his completion percentage. Bridgewater did throw two passes this season, although one was intercepted by Cincinnati Bengals safety Shawn Williams.

Although many expect Bridgewater to become an unrestricted free agent this March, there is a scenario in which Bridgewater is retained by the Vikings without negotiating a new contract. Since Bridgewater was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list until Week 6 of this season, a clause in his rookie contract may allow his rights to be “rolled over” into the 2018 season.

Although unlikely, this process would require a legal battle between the NFL and NFLPA to settle on whether this clause applies to Bridgewater’s situation.

Kyle Sloter

Kyle Sloter went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft before being signed by the Denver Broncos. After an impressive preseason outing, he was then signed off the Broncos’ practice squad by the Minnesota Vikings last September.

Sloter did not play at any point during the 2017 season and is expected to compete as the Vikings’ backup quarterback. In his senior year at the University of Northern Colorado, Sloter threw for 2,656 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

What to Expect

On the surface, it seems that Bradford is the odd man out in Minnesota. Ideally, the Vikings would like to re-sign both Bridgewater and Keenum on short-term contracts and allow them to compete for the starting quarterback position during the 2018 offseason.

However, the Vikings reportedly have interest in soon-to-be free agent Kirk Cousins. The Vikings have plenty of cap space and a solid supporting cast, making it an ideal fit for Cousins should they go that route.

If the team must choose between Keenum and Bridgewater, the best option would most likely be Bridgewater. Despite questions about his surgically-repaired knee, Bridgewater is still very young and has the most potential out of all of the quarterbacks on the Vikings’ roster. If his knee is fully recovered, Bridgewater could have a breakout season in 2018.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

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A Tale of the Tape: New England Patriots

The Pittsburgh Steelers… The Dallas Cowboys… The San Francisco 49ers… are some of the most storied franchises in the NFL. However, on February 4, 2018, the New England Patriots have a chance to surpass them. They hone one the most impressive dynasties in professional sports. Last year, critics raved as Tom Brady surpassed the great Joe Montana in Super Bowl wins when he helped his team defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

After a playoff run that raised some eyebrows, the Patriots look to climb the mountain once again. This season came with its up and downs, but looked like another great season of the past. Led by arguably the greatest coach of all time, they finished a season that bloomed from a questionable start.

This year, Tom Brady separated himself from the doubters and set the bar to the highest its ever been. Coming into the season as the favorite to return and win the Super Bowl, the Patriots started off unusually bad. After a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, critics were quoted stipulating that the Patriots had taken a step backwards. Turning forty in August, Tom Brady’s abilities were questioned if he could lead his team back to the Super Bowl.

The defense faced strong criticism also. After allowing an astonishing 537 yards with almost 150 yards in rushing. Blinded by a facade of the championship prior to the season, the team went through a bit of a search for its identity.

But of course the team rallied behind the veteran presence of Brady, who led by example. In his seventeenth season, Brady put up 4,577 passing yards and 32 touchdowns as the 2x MVP look as dominant as ever.

The defense also followed him. After an abysmal showing in the beginning of the season, the defense grew immensely. After only allowing 366 yards per game this year, the defense became an anchor for the team. Last week, the anchors came up again. The high ranked defense stopped one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL and set up a signature fourth quarter comeback from Brady.

The Patriots have looked as dominant as they did at the beginning of their reigning dynasty. Thirteen years ago, they edged the Eagles in a score 24-21. If history repeats itself, the Patriots are looking good once again.

Tom Brady walks into this game as the greatest quarterback that ever lived, but could possibly walk out the greatest player to play in the NFL. For him, he has a legendary coach behind him. One could mention without Bill Belichick behind his sails, Tom Brady might not have made it this far, but that’s not a knock on Brady.

If anything, it’s in his favor. You can’t separate the greatness from Noll and Bradshaw, Walsh and Montana or Johnson and Aikman, so why separate the dynamic duo of Belichick and Brady? It is said, “Greatness is measured through repetitions of consistency”.

Time will tell how Belichick and Brady measure among the great ones. Till then, the time to witness their greatness is now. Super Bowl LII will be a testament to that. If the Patriots have anything going for them, it is a resume and laundry list of teams by the years that failed to stop them. On that list, the Eagles have shown up once but after February 4th, they might show up twice.

 

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2017 NFL power rankings week 14

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Four teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and the New York Giants. There is also a few playoff-clinching scenarios in play during week 14. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win over Miami or a Buffalo loss. Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East title with a win over the Los Angeles Rams, or with a New York Giants win over Dallas. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North with a win over Carolina or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. With all that being said, here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 14.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Green Bay

There is little to say about Cleveland that hasn’t already been said. They are four games away from an infamous 0-16 season. All Cleveland can focus on is the draft. This year they must find the quarterback that can change the franchise. They have gone too long without a true leader to play under center. In the last two seasons, they have missed out on Carson Wentz, DeShaun Watson, Dak Prescott and other. In 2018, they need to find a way to take Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield.

31. New York Giants (2-10)

Last week: 30 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Dallas

Giant fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Mustache man, Ben McAdoo is gone and can no longer hurt your team. New York is having a disastrous season but at 2-10, they have a lot of talent still. The defense is a couple of players away from being elite. The offense has Odell Beckham Jr. and Evan Engram to build around. Their focus needs to be solidifying their offensive line and finding a workhorse running back. If they do that they can still win with Eli Manning at quarterback. He does not have to be replaced yet.

30. Denver Broncos (3-9)

Last week: 29 (-1)

Next game: home vs. New York Jets

Getting blown out by Miami has shown just how far the Broncos have fallen this season.  Nothing is going right and they need to hit the reset button. The Jets will be coming to town to put a beatdown on the Broncos. This once feared defense is now 31st in scoring defense giving up 26.2 points per game. Going forward they will need to fix this defense or find a new identity.

29. Chicago Bears (3-9)

Last week: 28 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Bears might not be a playoff contender but man does their future look exciting with players like Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky. Their defensive play has gone under the radar because they are eliminated from the playoffs. The only thing the Bears can do for the remainder of this season is build momentum for the future.

28. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

Last week: 31 (+3)

Next game: away vs. Houston

Jimmy Garoppolo has generated a buzz in San Francisco. It appears that he will be the franchise quarterback moving forward. This is good news for the 49ers who will have another top-five pick to build their team. As they continue to build their defense Garoppolo can provide the consistency needed from a signal caller. If the defense steps up next season and the front office gets Jimmy G some weapons on the outside, then the 49ers will be one of the surprise playoff teams as early as next year.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-9)

Last week: 27 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Buffalo

The Colts defense has kept them in most of their games but it usually breaks in the second half. One thing to keep an eye on for the remainder of the Colts’ season is Frank Gore. Gore is only 368 yards from another 1,000 yard and at age 34 which is remarkable. He is also just 404 yards away from passing Curtis Martin for fourth on the all-time rushing list. If he can reach that mark in the final four games it would be the highlight of the Colts’ season.

26. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Last week: 26 (no change)

Next game: home vs. New England

Miami blew out the Broncos to end their five-game losing streak. Jay Cutler threw for 235 yards and Kenyan Drake ran for 120 yards on just 23 carries. Drake is proving he could be the feature back moving forward. This week the Dolphins will host the Patriots and Miami have lost three straight to New England and four of the last five.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

Last week: 24 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

Fixing the defense should be the number one priority this offseason. Jameis Winston is a really good young quarterback but the Bucs could end up wasting his talents. The offense around Winston is very solid as well with O.J. Howard, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Doug Martin could be replaced with a more reliable back but overall the offense is solid. The defense must step it up but they can’t salvage this season.

24. New York Jets (5-7)

Last week: 25 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Denver

Somehow, someway the Jets have won five games and continue to be the most unpredictable team in the NFL. They are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt but don’t get it twisted, they are not a playoff caliber team. They should find themselves in the win column again with a road trip to Denver on the schedule. But then again, if anybody could lose to Denver at this point in the season, don’t be surprised if it is the Jets.

23. Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

Last week: 22 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Tennessee

Bruce Arians is a damn good coach who has kept the Cardinals very competitive despite losing David Johnson and Carson Palmer this season. Arizona is struggling to score points but if they had Johnson and Palmer they would be fairing much better. After dropping a game to the Rams the Cardinals get to host the playoff-bound Titans and it will be a tough test.

22. Houston Texans (4-8)

Last week: 23 (+1)

Next game: home vs. San Francisco

For some reason, the Texans threw the ball 49 times with Tom Savage. Anybody who knows anything about football knows that a team can not win with Savage throwing that ball that often. Houston needs to run the ball more and 22 attempts are not enough. It is no surprise they lost to the Titans because of this formula. If they have a similar gameplan against the 49ers they will lose to them as well.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

Last week: 19 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Chicago

Cincinnati had a 17 point lead at home against their rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Blowing that game may have cost them a shot at the playoffs. Looking back at that game, it summarizes Marvin Lewis’ time in Cincinnati. In the beginning, it looked great and there have been multiple displays of greatness. At the end though, they always come up short. Cincinnati needs a change of culture and Marvin Lewis needs to be fired.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

Last week: 14 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Oakland

Losing to the Jets is the last straw. This team will miss the playoffs and be a footnote in history of the teams that got off to a hot start but eventually folded. Andy Reid finally got back to airing it out and opening the offense for Alex Smith but then the defense decided to go missing. Kansas City has a virtual playoff game this week but the way their season has gone recently they will probably lose again for the seventh time in eight games.

19. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Last week: 13 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis Colts

Buffalo only managed to score three points against the Patriots. LeSean McCoy was held to just 93 yards and as a team, they only threw for 115 yards. The Bills are still in the hunt in the AFC wildcard picture but their schedule doesn’t look favorable. Buffalo should beat Indy this week but then they have to face Miami twice and New England one more time. The benching of Tyrod Taylor against the Chargers might end up being the difference when it is all said and done.

18. Oakland Raiders (6-6)

Last week: 18 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Kansas City

The Raiders control their own destiny in the AFC West as the Chiefs and Chargers are both 6-6 as well. If they win their next four games they will win the division title but they have Kansas City this week followed by Dallas, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers. It will not be easy to accomplish but if they run the table it would be well earned.

17. Washington Redskins (5-7)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: AP Photo)

Last week: 16 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Washington got completely manhandled by the Cowboys and that is a disturbing outcome. The Redskins will not make the playoffs and still have to worry about Kirk Cousins walking away from them this offseason. If that happens Washington will no longer have an identity and will have to start yet another rebuild. They must travel to Los Angeles to face the scorching hot Chargers.

16. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Last week: 20 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Cleveland

Green Bay got a much needed, momentum building, win against the Buccaneers. All they have to do is beat Cleveland and then they get Aaron Rodgers back for the final three games. 10 wins are typically the benchmark to make the playoffs and with Aaron Rodgers returning it is very possible they reach that benchmark. Cleveland should present an easy opportunity for a win. The rest of the NFC should be on the lookout for the Packers.

15. Detroit Lions (6-6)

Last week: 15 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Tampa Bay

The Lions have lost back to back important games and must finish the season on a four-game win streak to have a shot at making the playoffs. Detroit’s final four games include the Buccaneers, Bears, Bengals and Packers. All their remaining games are winnable. One thing the Lions must do is play better defense as they are giving up 25.7 points per game which is sixth worst in the NFL. Matthew Stafford can’t do it all himself and if the defense doesn’t lend a hand then Detroit will miss the playoffs.

14. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

Last week: 17 (+3)

Next game: away vs. New York Giants

The Cowboys season may have changed for the better after a huge win against their biggest rival, the Redskins, 38-14. Dallas got back to running the ball. Alfred Morris had 27 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown. Dallas sits at 6-6 and is on the outside looking in of the playoffs. if they can win four straight, like many other teams, they will find themselves in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they still have games against the Raiders, Seahawks and Eagles so the playoffs do not look likely.

13. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

Last week: 21 (+8)

Next game: away vs. Pittsburgh

For a while now I have not given the Ravens the credit that they have earned. Their defense has been recognized but their inept offense gave a cause for pause. After thrashing the Lions, it is clear that the Ravens will likely be a playoff team. Now, they probably won’t go too deep into the playoffs but this a good team. If they get an upset win on the road this week, they are all but a lock for a playoff berth and could even have a shot at winning the division.

12. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Last week: 12 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Tennessee is an old-school football team that pounds the rock behind two really good running backs. Derek Henry is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and a total of 629 yards while DeMarco Murray has racked up 518 yards. As a team, Tennessee is averaging 122 yards per game on the ground. Marcus Mariota has the ability to get hot at any moment and if he does then the Titans become a darkhorse in the AFC.

11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

Last week: 8 (-3)

Next game: home vs. New Orleans

How many times have these Atlanta Falcons been held to under 10 points and no touchdowns at home? Not very often. The loss at home to the Vikings dampers their chance of returning to the playoffs. However, if they can find some of that old offensive magic this week against the Saints, then they still have a shot at winning the division.

10. Carolina Panthers (8-4)

Last week: 7 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Carolina does not match up well with the Saints. New Orleans swept Carolina and holds all the tiebreakers against them. The Panthers don’t get much of a chance to catch their breath either because the first seeded Vikings are coming to town to finish their road trip. The Panthers are going to have to control the clock. If they can win the time of possession they will tire out Minnesota’s stellar defense and have a shot at winning.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

Last week: 9 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Washington

Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning six of their last eight. That is why they are ranked in the top ten of these rankings. The Chargers have caught up to the Chiefs. Nobody wants to play the Chargers because they can get after the quarterback and create havoc for opposing offense. On the other side of the ball, they have an experienced quarterback and a young running back to rely on. Los Angeles will continue to win games and just like the Titans, be a darkhorse to challenge in the AFC.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

Last week: 10 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Seattle

Jacksonville’s defense is Super Bowl caliber and can lead them deep into the playoffs as long as Blake Bortles doesn’t mess it up. The Jaguars rank first in total defense (282.5 yards allowed per game), passing defense (167.1 passing yards allowed per game), sacks (45) and second in takeaways (27). Seattle will be a difficult challenge but Jacksonville has the luxury of playing this one at home.

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: JONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Last week: 11 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

Just how good is Russell Wilson?  He has the Seahawks winning games with a horrible offensive line and half of the Legion of Boom missing. Wilson should be the favorite to win the MVP award because without him the Seahawks would be lucky to have three wins. Wilson has thrown for 3,256, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Beating the Eagles was a statement to the rest of the NFC that the Seahawks are not to be overlooked.

6. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

Last week: 6 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

There is no better running back duo in the NFL than Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. This duo is doing so well they need a nickname. Ingram likes Boom and Zoom but I am sure they can find a better one. New Orleans has swept Carolina because of these awesome backs that have led the way. If they can repeat that success against Atlanta this week they will put a nice hold on the division.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)

Last week: 2 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Rams

Philly had their long win streak snapped and it wasn’t a huge surprise. Winning in Seattle is tough and the Eagles had not been in many close games against good teams. The defense was a bit exposed and may struggle to shut down the Rams explosive offense. Carson Wentz will need to play great to keep the Eagles soaring.

4. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week: 5 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Philadelphia

Los Angeles has been on a scheduling gauntlet lately. The recently played the Vikings and Saints and now they have to face the Eagles. This is a big game for both teams as they are fighting for a possible first-round bye and possibly home-field advantage. Their recent win against the Cardinals was a tune-up for this showdown. There should be fireworks as the teams are tied for first in scoring offense averaging 30.1 points per game.

3. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

Last week: 4 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Carolina

The Vikings are a win away from clinching the division title. All they have to do is win one game against the Panthers, Bengals, Packers and Bears. That should be easy enough for a team with a defense as strong as theirs. Case Keenum continues his MVP-level play completing 25 of 30 pass attempts against the Falcons. He didn’t throw a single incompletion in the second half. Minnesota has a third straight road game this week against the Panthers. It will be impressive if they can pull off another win.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Last week: 3 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Baltimore

The Steelers keep catching flack for winning close games against inferior teams but wins are hard to come by in the NFL. A win is good no matter if it is by one or 100 and Pittsburgh just keeps winning. They are earning a lot of experience for close battles they will encounter in the playoffs. When the playoffs start the Steelers will find themselves prepared for anything and everything.

1. New England Patriots (10-2)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Miami

New England continues to win games and look like champions while doing it. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL because they have the greatest coach and quarterback of all-time. Their defense is coming off a great performance against the Bills allowing just three points. New England has nothing to worry about and are gearing up for their favorite time of the year.

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Hagan's Haus 2017 NFL pick week 13

Hagan’s Haus 2017 NFL picks Week 13

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 No. 1 priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself on 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 is 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 13 NFL picks.

Last week: 12-2 (85.7 percent)

Overall: 107-66 (61.8 percent)

Thursday Night

Sunday Morning

2017 NFL picks week 13

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

New England Patriots (9-2) 27 @ Buffalo Bills (6-5) 18: The Bills are 3-9 in their last 12 games against the Patriots. This one means a little more than it usually does with the Bills fighting for a possible playoff spot.

Unfortunately for Buffalo, that doesn’t really mean much against Tom Brady. There is a very small chance they win this game even though they are at home, but anything is possible. The Bills could pull off the upset, but New England’s defense will be too good.

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) 24 @ Chicago Bears (3-8) 20: Jimmy Garoppolo will finally make his first start in a 49er uniform. Garoppolo saw some action last week towards the end of the game, completing both of his passes for 18 yards and one touchdown.

There is no better game for him to make his first start with San Francisco than against the Bears. Chicago has made strides of improvement, but it hasn’t resulted in many wins. The 49ers will win this game just because Jimmy G will be the difference.

Minnesota Vikings (9-2) 27 @ Atlanta Falcons (7-4) 21: Minnesota is playing at a high level on both sides of the ball. Case Keenum is having an MVP-caliber season, but people still question the quarterback situation. Atlanta is playing well too, and a win at home puts them right back into all NFC races. Minnesota will get too much pressure and it will result in another win.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) 21 @ Green Bay Packers (5-6) 24: Green Bay is beginning to hear whispers that Aaron Rodgers is close to returning. That is scary for the rest of the league because if the Packers get hot at the right time, they could find themselves in the Super Bowl despite not having a Super Bowl caliber roster because Rodgers is that good.

Tampa is not going to make a run, and their only role now is to play spoiler. They will not spoil anything in Lambeau, and the Packers will get to .500 this week.

Houston Texans (4-7) 13 @ Tennessee Titans (7-4) 31: Tennessee would love to continue their good season with a win against the Texans. The Titans have to keep pace with the Jaguars, who are playing the Colts.

Marcus Mariota has yet to get on a hot streak this season, which probably means it is coming soon. With all the injuries the Texans are dealing with, it would make sense for the hot streak to get started this week. Mariota will have four total touchdowns in a blowout win over the Texans.

Denver Broncos (3-8) 17 @ Miami Dolphins (4-7) 19: There might be one television in the country tuned into this snooze fest. The Broncos are having a horrible season, and the Dolphins aren’t doing much better. Miami has lost five straight games, and the Broncos have lost seven straight. Miami will end their losing streak based on home field advantage.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) 31 @ New York Jets (4-7) 24: The free-falling Chiefs are desperate as the Chargers have climbed up the standings and only trail by a game for the AFC West division lead. Kansas City must find their offensive magic they had early in the season during their 5-0 start. Kareem Hunt has to be the workhorse, and the offensive play-calling must allow Alex Smith to air out the ball. They will recapture the magic this week in New York to end the losing streak.

Indianapolis Colts (3-8) 10 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4) 34: The only way the Colts win this game is if Blake Bortles throws three or more interceptions. Jacksonville’s defense is going to wreak havoc on Jacoby Brissett and the rest of the offense. A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey will both get an interception, and defensive player of the year candidate, Calais Campbell, will have three sacks.

Detroit Lions (6-5) 30 @ Baltimore Ravens (6-5) 20: Baltimore does not look like a six-win team when you watch them play. The offense looks confused at times and is only scoring 21.5 points per game.

Their defense, on the other hand, ranks second in points allowed per game. Matthew Stafford is going to change that by lighting them up for 30 this week.

Sunday Afternoon

2017 NFL picks week 13

(Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Cleveland Browns (0-11) 12 @ Los Angeles Chargers (5-6) 24: Los Angeles has gotten hot and is only one game out of first place in their division. Cleveland comes in winless and will not put up a fight against the Chargers’ stout defense.

Melvin Gordon has also been fantastic this season and is getting little shine. Gordon will have 150 all-purpose yards to lead the Chargers to another win.

New York Giants (2-9) 7 @ Oakland Raiders (5-6) 34: The amount of disrespect the Giants have shown Eli Manning is absolutely ridiculous. Ben McAdoo is benching Manning for Geno Smith. Smith has had many opportunities to prove he is capable of being a starting quarterback and has disappointed every time. Oakland is going to look like a defensive powerhouse against Smith. Raiders win easily and in blowout fashion.

Carolina Panthers (8-3) 27 @ New Orleans Saints (8-3) 24: This is the game of the week, and first place is on the line. In their first meeting, the Saints smacked Carolina in Charlotte 34-13.

This game will be much different, and the Panthers defense will step up. Cam Newton will also have a big game, and Carolina will find their way into first place in the NFC South.

Los Angeles Rams (8-3) 32 @ Arizona Cardinals (5-6) 23: Arizona is rolling with Blaine Gabbert under center, and this Rams defense is going to bother him big time. Arizona’s defense will not be able to slow down the No. 2 scoring offense in the league.

Jared Goff has been great, but Todd Gurley is the real reason the Rams are dangerous. He will lead them to their ninth win of the season against the Cardinals.

Sunday Night

Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) 21 @ Seattle Seahawks (7-4) 22: Philly is without question the better team, but my gut is telling me to pick the Seahawks. Playing in Seattle is a tough task. Russell Wilson is quietly having a great season, throwing for 3,029 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Wilson will outplay Carson Wentz to get his team a much-needed win.

Monday Night

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) 23  @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) 24: Pittsburgh has not dominated this season and has actually pulled out a lot of close games, and the Bengals are desperate. A desperate home team in a rivalry game is dangerous. The Bengals will play great defense and slow down the Killer B’s. Andy Dalton will have a big day to squeeze by the Steelers to pull back into the thick of the playoff race.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Bob Leverone

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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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