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

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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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Fantasy football: Players to avoid Week 1.

Fantasy football: Three players to avoid in week 1

Finally! Football is almost here. We are two days away from football and that means we’re two days away from fantasy football as well. Now everyone knows that the most important part in fantasy football is selecting the right lineup each week. Here I have one quarterback, one running back and one wide receiver to avoid in week 1.

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Fantasy football: Three players avoid Week 1

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Matthew Stafford just got paid. But did he deserve it? Yes, he is a franchise quarterback for the Lions but he has yet to win a playoff game.

Stafford is coming off of his best season as a pro but we don’t know if it’ll translate into this season. I’m not saying that Matt Stafford is a bad quarterback this season for fantasy, I’d just stay away from him week one against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals pass defense is coming off of a big 2016 where they ranked fourth in the NFL, allowing 210 passing yards per game. Now the Cardinals come into 2017 with a healthy Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals did lose Tony Jefferson to free agency but replaced him with the veteran Antoine Bethea.

Stafford is pretty consistent both home and away so that doesn’t really make a difference, plus the Cardinals play just as well away as they do at home. With a healthy Arizona defense looking to prove something from last year, I’d avoid Matthew Stafford week one.

Running back: Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts

If anyone can beat Father Time, it’s Frank Gore. Gore showed that he still has some gas left in the tank after finishing as the No. 12 fantasy running back in standard leagues in 2016. Now he’s 34 and faces some real problems week 1. Andrew Luck is officially out so that means Scott Tolzien is under center for the Colts on Sunday.

Fantasy football: Three players avoid Week 1

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There’s a big problem right there. Now with Luck out, the Colts’ passing game is a lot weaker than it was last year. The Rams will stack the box and provide problems for Frank Gore and the Colts’ offensive line.

The Rams ranked 16th in the NFL last year in terms of yards given up per game and were 10th in yards per attempt given up.

The Rams also added Connor Barwin in the offseason which should help put pressure on opposing NFL offenses. Now Frank Gore does play a little bit better on the road, but with the fierce Rams defense and a backup quarterback leading the way, Frank Gore should be on your bench week 1.

Wide Receiver: Deandre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Deandre Hopkins fell off last year, and that’s an understatement. With Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage under center for the Texans last season, Hopkins saw his numbers dramatically decrease. Now Hopkins opens the season with Tom Savage under center full time and I don’t believe that is the solution to Hopkins’ problems.

Fantasy football: Three players avoid Week 1

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When Tom Savage played last season, Deandre Hopkins didn’t put up huge numbers. In fact, in three games he failed to catch a touchdown pass with Savage throwing to him. Hopkins has nearly identical stats away and home so the fact that this game will be played in Houston doesn’t make much of a difference.

The part that causes me to avoid Hopkins is the fact that he’ll be playing against one of the best young secondaries in the NFL. Both A.J Bouye and Jalen Ramsey have the chance to be lockdown corners this year and for that reason I’d wait to play Deandre Hopkins.

 

Feature image courtesy of http://www.khou.com

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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

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

Houston Texans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

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The Houston Texans have finished 9-7 for three straight years. Last season, it was enough to win the division but the Texans should be striving for better.

Houston has been led by its defense and has been a quarterback away from being one of the best teams in the NFL. That is why they took a shot on Deshaun Watson in this year’s draft. Houston is very close to winning a Super Bowl so explaining how they can win it this season will be relatively simple.

Houston’s defense is nothing short of elite. J.J. Watt only played in three games last season which may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Watt’s injury allowed Jadeveon Clowney to finally show signs of stardom. Clowney made some amazing plays against the Raiders in the playoffs, to the point where it looked like he was taking over the game. With Watt returning, the combination of these two great defenders may push Houston’s defense to legendary status.

The Texans gave up the fewest yards per game last season, allowing teams to just over 300 yards per game. Unfortunately, that didn’t always stop teams from scoring on them. Houston gave up 20.5 points per game last season, which ranked 11th in the NFL. They also struggled closing out halves giving up 7.4 points per second quarter and seven points per fourth quarter.

If the Texans can do a better job at closing out halves, their defense will take the next step. They must also replace nose tackle Vince Wilfork, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Quinton Demps in order to continue being an elite defense. Houston must also do a better job at creating turnovers. They only had 1.1 takeaways per game.

Houston’s offense is the part of the team that needs the most work. The offensive unit 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). The lack of success from the offense resulted in the Texans drafting Watson and trading Brock Osweiler.

If it wasn’t for Houston’s run game, its offense would have been one of the worst of all time. The Texans ran for 116.2 yards per game on the 28.5 attempts per game. Lamar Miller was a bright spot on this offense as he ran for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on just 268 carries. He needs to build on this season to help whoever lines up under center. This may be difficult with the loss of right tackle Derek Newton who is out for the season with patellar tendon tears.

If the Texans can go from one of the league’s worst offenses to being one of the top 15, then this defense will be able to carry Houston to a Super Bowl LII victory.

Tennessee Titans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Titans finished the season tied with the Texans at 9-7 but lost the division on tiebreakers. Marcus Mariota broke his leg in week 15 and the Titans lost to the Jaguars 38-17 in that contest. Had the Titans won that game, they would have won the division. Mariota is young but the Titans can go as far as he will lead them.

Marcus Mariota is becoming the face of the franchise but part of his success is due to the sustainable running game of the Titans. Tennessee ranked third in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game on the ground. They also ran the ball often, averaging 28.5 attempts per game. This effective running game has taken the pressure off of their young quarterback which has given him the opportunity to succeed.

Taking the next step means giving Mariota receivers that will allow him to improve on the Titans 25th-ranked passing attack. Tennessee drafted Corey Davis and signed Eric Decker to be that help. The Titans’ coaching staff must now open the playbook and allow Mariota to take charge of the offense.

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 also has helped the Titans to a 72 percent conversion rate in red zone scoring while never throwing a red zone interception in his career.

Aside from continuing to dominate the run game and opening up the passing attack for Mariota, Tennessee needs to do a much better job of scoring in the second half. The Titans ranked 23rd in second half scoring, averaging 9.7 points. Shoring up these loose ends will turn the Titans’ offense into a playoff-caliber offense.

Defensively, the Titans are much closer to Super Bowl caliber. Tennesse only gave up 23.6 points per game which may seem impressive considering its defense got off to such slow starts. The Titans ranked 29th in first quarter points allowed. Getting off to quicker starts will bring that 23.6 point total down and result in more wins.

Tennessee had a horrible secondary last season. Their pass defense was the third-worst in the NFL. The Titans addressed this problem in the offseason. They let go of Jason McCourty but drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson and signed defensive backs Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The combination of these three players can help the Titans catch up to their second-ranked rush defense.

If the Titans allow Mariota to sling the rock more then the offense can become more balanced. Defensively, the Titans secondary must give up less than 250 yards a game through the air. Simply doing these two things, in addition to what the Titans already do well, will push Tennessee from fringe playoff team to Super Bowl contender.

Indianapolis Colts

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

The story of the Colts’ failures are well documented. Their defense is pathetic and they are contributing to wasting away Andrew Luck’s career. Indianapolis went 8-8 last season and has missed the playoffs for two consecutive years. In order for the Colts to really have a shot at winning Super Bowl LII, they need this defense to become much better.

The Colts have finally begun to realize they need to address the defense. In the draft, the Colts selected safety Malik Hooker who many believe is the next Ed Reed and cornerback Quincy Wilson.

During free agency, the Colts signed numerous defenders that will fit in with the new 3-4 scheme. These players include defensive ends Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard and John Simon along with linebackers Sean Spence and Jon Bostic.

This complete change in scheme and personnel is what is supposed to cure a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed. Indianapolis’ defense didn’t have a strength. They ranked 27th against the pass (269.2 yards per game) and 25th against the run (120.4 yards per game) for a total of 382.9 yards allowed per game. The unit as a whole must improve if the Colts are to have a shot at making the playoffs.

On the other side of the ball, the Colts are led by a great quarterback. Andrew Luck has put up impressive numbers so far, with 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions but needs more balance. Indianapolis only ran the ball 39 percent of the time for an average of 101.8 yards per game. Frank Gore did rush for over 1,000 yards last season but he is 34 years old. The Colts drafted running back Marlon Mack as a possible spell or replacement for Gore.

Even with their unbalanced offense, the Colts managed to put up 25.7 points per game last season, good for eighth best in the league. Adding a rushing attack will only improve the offense, thus the team’s chances at a Lombardi Trophy. If the defense comes around to being a top 15 defense, you can guarantee that Andrew Luck will win Super Bowl LII.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

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The Jacksonville Jaguars have been so bad that they have picked in the top five of the NFL Draft for six years running, which is an NFL record. Jacksonville is far from competing for a Super Bowl, or so it seems. It is going to be difficult for the Jaguars to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl, but it is possible.

Jacksonville has a very good and underrated defense. Although they gave up 25 points per game, they ranked sixth in yards allowed at 321.7. The Jaguars offense put them in bad situations often as displayed in Jacksonville’s amount of giveaways per game.

Jacksonville had 1.8 turnovers per game, tied for 26th in the NFL. Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air.

Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air. They lost defensive backs John Cyprien and Prince Amukamara but signed A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, both of which are upgrades over their counterpart.

To improve this defense even more, the Jags signed defensive end Calais Campbell. The Jacksonville defense will be elite and as long as their offense doesn’t make crucial mistakes, they can lead this team to the playoffs.

Getting to the playoffs is one thing, but getting to the Super Bowl is an entirely different beast. Jacksonville is going to need a complete resurgence from its offense. They signed tackle Brandon Albert and drafted tackle Cam Robinson to bolster their offensive line. If this unit plays well, they can open up running lanes for one of the most dynamic running backs to enter the league since Adrian Peterson.

Leonard Fournette, the man to be the best running back since Adrian Peterson, will be asked to be a workhorse and improve the 22nd-ranked rushing game. Jacksonville must also run the ball more than 37 percent of the time if Fournette is going to become a threat on the offense.

Generating a solid running game will help in a multitude of areas for Jacksonville. The Jaguars ranked 28th in third down conversion percentage at 35.3 percent. Shortening the chains will go a long way in fixing this problem. Converting more on third down can lead to more points as well.

Jacksonville scored 19.9 points per game last season. By now you can see the pattern starting to form. Running the ball leads to shorter third downs, which leads to more points, which all leads to taking the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands. Bortles has shown flashes of brilliance but the entire weight of the offense is too much for him. If Leonard Fournette can make an immediate impact, then this offense can become really good.

Being better on defense and offense simply aren’t enough. Jacksonville must become more disciplined as well. The Jaguars gave up 8.1 penalties per game for an average of 74.2 yards per game. Both ranked 31st in the NFL. Improving on this is a must if the Jaguars want to start drafting outside of the top five.

Defending home field is also vital in acquiring success in the NFL. In the past four years, the Jaguars are 9-29 at home. Playing in such a humid and hot climate should provide a better home field advantage.

If Jacksonville can put all these things together, then it is possible for them to win Super Bowl LII. The odds of that happening though are the about as equivalent of the Patriots going 0-16.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC South. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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Fantasy football: Players to avoid Week 1.

2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 30-21

Here’s a continuation of my fantasy football rankings, this list consists of running back rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 30-21.

30. Danny Woodhead (Baltimore Ravens)– Standing at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, Woodhead has put together a nice career with the Jets, Patriots and Chargers. Woodhead has been a reliable receiving option out of the backfield for quarterbacks such as Philip Rivers and Tom Brady, and now he travels to Baltimore to play with Joe Flacco. The thing it comes down to with Woodhead is health. Two years ago, playing 16 games, Woodhead rushed for 336 yards, caught for 755 yards and had a total of nine touchdowns. The production is there if the health is so it is a risky pick, but it could pay off big time.

29. Paul Perkins (New York Giants)- Paul Perkins enjoyed a nice rookie season rushing for 456 yards on 112 attempts behind Rashad Jennings. Now that Jennings is gone, and the Giants didn’t make a move in the offseason acquiring another running back, Perkins is the lead back for New York.

The Giants, however, ran the ball on 61 percent of their plays last season and added Brandon Marshall to their wide receiver corps this offseason, so they will mainly throw the ball. But because of the situation of the Giants backfield, I expect him to get more touchdowns and enjoy a better sophomore season.

2017 Fantasy Football running back rankings

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28. Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions)- The other half of the Lions backfield is Theo Riddick. Again, Riddick is primarily a receiving back, but he found success when Ameer Abdullah went down early in the season.

He rushed for 357 and had 371 receiving yards with a combined six touchdowns in only 10 games. Currently being drafted as the 36th running back, Riddick can be a huge steal for your team if he stays healthy,

27. Mike Gillislee (New England Patriots)- Gillislee is an interesting fantasy candidate this year. He is unproven as a starter, (only started one game last season) but found success backing up Lesean McCoy in Buffalo last year.

He rushed for 577 yards and eight touchdowns, gaining 116.7 fantasy points. Now Gillislee has an opportunity to be the lead back for the Patriots who turned 30-year-old LeGarette Blount into a fantasy monster. Draft Gillislee as an RB3 and don’t be surprised if he’s your number one by the end of the season.

26. Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons)- The two-headed monster of Coleman and Devonta Freeman is a big reason for the success of the Atlanta Falcons offense. In 2016, Coleman rushed for 520 yards and eight touchdowns while he had 421 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

He isn’t the main back on the Falcons roster, but he is the best second running back in the NFL today. He is a must own, if you plan on taking Devonta Freeman, but if you don’t own Devonta, take Coleman anyway for trade bait or just enjoy him as a flex play.

2017 Fantasy Football running back rankings

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25. Eddie Lacy (Seattle Seahawks)- Feastmode has found a new home. When the Seahawks signed Lacy, it just made things more complicated to read in Seattle’s backfield. It is starting to look like Lacy will be the lead back in Seattle, but he’ll probably be on a short leash with C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls behind him.

Lacy found success early in his career with back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons, but he hasn’t eclipsed 800 yards since. Lacy is a high-risk, high-reward pick, so take him only if the price is right.

24. C.J. Anderson (Denver Broncos)- C.J. Anderson got bit by the injury bug last season, only playing in seven games. In the games he played in, however he found some success.

He rushed for 437 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Jamaal Charles is in the mix now in Denver, but expect Anderson to still have lead back duties. If he stays healthy, he’ll have a nice season. He probably won’t be a number one because of the other running backs in the mix, but draft him as a low RB2 to a good RB3.

23. Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals)- Joe Mixon has all the tools to be a complete and successful back in the NFL. That’s if, and only if, he stays out of trouble off the field. Mixon has been caught in a serious domestic violence incident in the past. However, he was once the number one running back recruit and has the opportunity in Cincinnati and the ability to be a great pro runner.

2017 Fantasy Football running back rankings

Joe Mixon (Photo by: cincinnati.com)

22. Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts)- If anyone can beat father time, it’s Frank Gore. After finishing as the 12th-best fantasy running back in 2016, Gore is still looking fresh. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and four touchdowns, and also had four receiving touchdowns. Gore, however, is 34 years old and it could be his time for a down year. Draft Gore with caution.

21. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings)- The Vikings found their replacement for Adrian Peterson. Arguably the most talented running back coming out of the NFL Draft, Cook found himself in a position to succeed immediately.

After bulking up their offensive line by adding Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff, Dalvin Cook has almost nothing in his way, except for the fact that Minnesota gave Latavius Murray an offseason deal and he’ll be splitting carries. My one word of advice is to not jump too early on Dalvin Cook, but draft him for the right price.

 

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“From our Haus to Yours”

The 5 Best Underpriced Players for Week 9

What we know

As we approach the back nine of the NFL regular season, there are a few things we know for sure. The London series is awful, Tom Brady is worth every penny, and you can’t trust Blake Bortles. We have also identified players who are routinely underpriced and roster them without hesitation. Here are the best underpriced players for week 9.

5. Dak Prescott – $7,600

The Cowboys Quarterback has taken the NFL by storm and deserves all the credit in the world for his on field success.  On the other hand, his fantasy production is often overlooked. Since his second game against the Redskins, Prescott has scored at least 17.5 points in every game he’s played, including two games in which he scored over 23 points. This level of consistent play is usually exclusive to the most expensive Quarterbacks. But not even Brees, Rodgers, or Newton can say they have scored at least 17.5 points in every game since week one.

Dak Prescott looks to extend his great play against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.

Dak Prescott looks to extend his great play against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.

This week’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns could be another monster day for Prescott. The Cowboys will have no trouble moving the football against a bottom eight rush and pass defense. Inside the Red Zone, expect the Browns to do everything they can to stop Ezekiel Elliot and Jason Witten. Their focus on stopping Elliot and Witten will create huge running lanes that Dak will take advantage of inside the 10 yard line. Also, Prescott’s underpriced value allows for great player stacks like Dez Bryant or Ezekiel Elliot.

 

4. Kyle Rudolph – $5,000

The Vikings, specifically their offense, were exposed these past two weeks versus Philadelphia and Chicago. The element that both of these defenses share is the ability to rush the passer. Both the Eagles and Bears rank among the top 10 teams in sacks. Luckily, the Lions are not a top 10 team in terms of sacks. This means that Sam Bradford will have slightly more time to deliver the ball to the largest target on the field, Kyle Rudolph.

While he hasn’t scored a touchdown in three games, expect that to change this Sunday. The Detroit Lions have been incredibly inept when it comes to covering Tight Ends this season.

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How is this possible? Well, the Detroit Lions continually used Outside Linebacker Kyle Van Noy to cover the opposition’s Tight End. Van Noy was so brutal in coverage that the Lions traded him to the Patriots, so clearly he’ll find a way to excel in New England’s system, because that’s what they do. Even though he wasn’t covering CJ Fiedorowicz Sunday, the defense proved to still be vulnerable to the Tight End position.

Rudolph’s $5,000 price tag gives great flexibility to any DFS lineup. But this week, it’s more about the Lions inability to cover Tight Ends than the underpriced Kyle Rudolph.

3. Emmanuel Sanders – $6,800

Emmanuel Sanders will play a pivotal role in the Bronco’s game plan Sunday night. Sanders has one of the most fantasy friendly matchups of the week as he faces off versus the 27th ranked pass defense, but the matchup is even more favorable than expected. Non-number one receivers have had great success against Oakland. This includes Russell Shepard of Tampa Bay (9.4 points),  Marqise Lee of Jacsksonville (14.2 points), and Travis Benjamin of San Diego (15.2 points). Sanders is no doubt more talented than all of those receivers and has seen a minimum of six targets in every game this season, including two games with 13 targets.

On the other hand, Sanders hasn’t scored a touchdown in four games. But, the Raiders have allowed other pass catchers to break out of their End Zone slump including Steve Smith (3 games), Julius Thomas (3 games), and Cameron Brate (3 games). While this isn’t the greatest stat ever, it does breed more confidence in starting the underpriced Sanders, who is due for a touchdown given the volume of targets he is getting on a weekly basis.

2. Frank Gore – $6,300

Even at 33 years old, Frank Gore still finds a way to be a productive DFS player. This is the lowest price tag for a starting Running Back that does not operate in a committee situation. Gore has scored a touchdown in five of his eight games and has accumulated over 63 all-purpose yards in each of his games.

Other Running Backs in this price range include Terrence West, Jonathan Stewart, and Jerick McKinnon. All of these Running Backs combined only have eight all-purpose touchdowns compared to Gore’s five. Gore has also produced against top defenses. He scored at least 11 points against Denver, Houston, and Tennessee, all of which are in the top 10 FanDuel defenses. Meaning, Green Bay’s seventh ranked defense shouldn’t scare people away from using Frank Gore this weekend.

At this point, Gore hasn’t shown a propensity to record a performance with more than 20 points, but that is a result of the Colts always playing catch up. While I don’t see Gore getting his first 20 point performance this Sunday, I absolutely see him getting his usual 13-17 points which is a bargain for his underpriced value.

1. Michael Thomas – $5,800

I’m not sure how Michael Thomas is still valued under $6,000 at this point in the season. Thomas has established himself as the number two Wide Receiver on the highest scoring offense in the NFL with a hall of fame Quarterback at the helm. In four of his seven games Thomas has scored at least 12 points and has been targeted at least five times in each of those four games.

The only other Wide Receivers with comparable numbers in this price range are Anquan Boldin and Tavon Austin. Boldin has only scored at least 12 points in two of his eight games and Austin has done the same three times in seven games. What makes Thomas underpriced is that his floor is much higher than Boldin and Austin.

Thomas’ least productive day was against the Giants, in which he scored 7.6 points. Boldin and Austin’s least productive games were 0.9 points against the Texans and 3.5 points against the Niners respectively. Thomas should be rostered whenever possible and is a must play if you are considering a New Orleans stack.

Michael Thomas has emerged as the Saints' go to Wide Receiver and is poised to to have a great day versus the 49ers.

Michael Thomas has emerged as the Saints’ go to Wide Receiver and is poised to have a great day versus the 49ers.

Despite New Contract, Colts in Danger of Wasting Luck

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck signed a new six-year $140 million contract to stay with the team that drafted him in 2012. I believe you are worth whatever someone will pay you in the NFL. Thus, I say good for him. However, an all-too-familiar script, is unfolding Indianapolis and it does not end well.

The Colts have had a few different general managers over the last 25 years or so. However, Jim Irsay’s family has always been among the most visible and outspoken owners in the league. So, the nature of the decision-making has not changed much.

Colts management had Peyton Manning for 13 years including all but one of his peak years. They won one Super Bowl against Rex Grossman and the Bears in a rainstorm. The quarterback is the most important position in the game of football, and when you have one of the all-time greats for 13 years, only winning one Super Bowl is a massive disappointment.

For some reason, Manning takes all the heat, the truth is they had no defense. I can name three defenders on all of the Manning led Colts teams. Safety Bob Sanders, who was always hurt, and pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. It seemed like every playoff game Manning was ever in with the Colts, and the offense had to put up 35 points to win. Heck, even in the AFC championship game against the Patriots the year they won the Super Bowl, they were down 21-3 late in the first half.

Perhaps the greatest proof of just how inept Colts management can be is what the Broncos did with Manning in just four years. He was past his prime in three of them. They went to two Super Bowls and won one this past year despite Manning leading the league in interceptions and missing a large chunk of the season. So, let’s review

Manning with Colts: 13 years, two Super Bowl apperences, one win, 9-10 playoff record

Manning with Broncos: four years, two Super Bowl apperences, one win. 5-3 playoff record.

Photo from seccountry.com

Photo from seccountry.com

Do you really think those numbers can all be attributed to Manning? I don’t think so. They are more of a reflection of the team around him than anything else. Luck has done a great job in carrying this team out of the ashes of the Peyton Manning era. What most thought was a four or five year rebuild, was not rebuild it all. The Colts were playoff team in Luck’s rookie season.

However, ever since then Luck and the Colts have hit the same playoff glass ceiling as they often did when Manning was there. Manning’s biggest obstacle in Indianapolis was his own team’s defense. Luck’s problem is the entire roster, apart from him. They tried to resurrect the 2008 Pro Bowl roster by bringing in running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Andre Johnson to bolster the offense last season. This was all fine and dandy, but it is 2016. Also, the offensive line could not block anyone. They gave up over two sacks per game in use four different starting quarterbacks due to injuries. It does not matter what kind of “skill position” players you have, you are not going to win many games that way. Actually, it is a wonder Indianapolis managed to finish .500. To their credit, the Colts did draft four offensive lineman.

photo from zambio.com

photo from zambio.com

The way I see it, Colts management is on the verge of wasting/not maximizing the potential of another once in a generation quarterback talent. Luck did get the better of Manning in their head-to-head meetings. Despite what that may suggest, Luck’s talent level is a notch below Manning’s. I am not sure he can carry a franchise to the Super Bowl the way “The Sheriff” did in Indianapolis. Unless Luck’s new record-breaking contract includes a younger and better supporting cast, it will not lead to any Super Bowl rings.