Cam Newton fantasy football

Should you start Cam Newton in fantasy football Week 14?

Cam Newton has enjoyed a bounce-back season from last year. After an abysmal season with 52.9 completion percentage, 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, Newton has been better in basically every category.

His fantasy status has jumped up as well. After finishing last season as the 17th ranked quarterback in standard leagues, Newton has bumped all the way up to the fifth in 2017.

Now he faces his toughest matchup of the year against the great Vikings defense. With fantasy football entering the postseason, it leaves fantasy owners wondering if Newton is worth a start in Week 14.

Case for starting him

Newton hasn’t been perfect for fantasy owners, but he has been good enough to start every week. Arguably the best rusher on the team with 515 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Newton always has a chance to break off a big run and score rushing touchdowns in the red zone.

This will be the key against the Vikings. The Minnesota defense has one of the best secondaries led by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, so the run game will be necessary for the offense to flow.

The part of Newton’s game that fantasy owners reap from the most is his ability to run the football. If he does in fact succeed in running the football against Minnesota, then he’ll rack up the fantasy points for sure.

As for throwing the football and utilizing his weapons, Newton has found much more success recently. Newton has increased his chemistry immensely with Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess, plus this week he’ll be getting Greg Olsen and Ryan Kalil back.

Newton’s success depends on his receivers catch success and his offensive line. The drops have been plaguing Carolina as their inexperienced receiving corps is getting the best of them. With the return of Kalil, it will hopefully provide more stability for Newton and the Panthers offense.

There is a lot of big play ability with Newton, and his rushing ability makes him a viable start on Sunday. However, there is a reason to sit him.

Case for sitting him

Newton may be one of the most frustrating players for fantasy owners. He has the talent and the big play ability to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, but his inconsistency and attitude are holding him back.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Super Cam (Photo from IMG Academy)

As a passer, he has had inconsistencies in completion percentage and passing yards. Newton is averaging just 215 passing yards per game. If Newton struggles to run the ball, then his fantasy numbers may take a hit.

Going up against the strong Vikings defense, if Newton doesn’t play smart and use his weapons like he should, he may struggle on Sunday. His top target, Devin Funchess will be going up against Xavier Rhodes, who has locked down elite receivers all season because of his size and strength. Usually Newton and Funchess can connect with jump balls, but that may not be the case going up against Rhodes.

With the Vikings secondary being as good as they are, and the front seven locking down against an inconsistent Panthers offensive line, Newton is a low tier QB1.

Look for other options, but he isn’t a must bench in Week 14.

 

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Fantasy football: Three injuries to watch for in week 12

The 2017 NFL season has seen key players all around the league go down with season-ending injuries. Like many other years, fantasy owners just have to adapt to injuries and move on with hopes of the backups play just as well. However, the hardest injuries to handle are the ones that linger with your players and cause them to be inactive some weeks and active but not one hundred percent other weeks. Here are three injuries to watch for week 12.

Jameis Winston (tampa bay buccaneers)

The shoulder injury has been nagging Winston since a week six loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously a shoulder injury is something to watch for a quarterback and when Winston missed the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints. After that game, head coach of the Buccaneers Dirk Koetter, told the media that he would be shutting down his sat quarterback for several weeks to let his shoulder heal.

Now the Buccaneers travel to Atlanta to face off against division rival Falcons. Winston has officially been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons which means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be under center for the Buccaneers. Last week without Jameis Winston we saw the Buccaneers beat the Dolphins 30-20 with “Fitzmagic” throwing for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick is merely a desperation start if need be, but otherwise he should stay out of your lineup.

Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons)

Three injuries to watch for week 12.

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

In the first quarter of a 27-7 win against the Dallas Cowboys, Devonta Freeman took a helmet-to-helmet hit and endured his second concussion of his career. Freeman sat out last week’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks as Tevin Coleman took over lead back duties and struggled. Coleman rushed for 43 yards and one touchdown on 20 rushes against the very solid Seahawks defense.

 

Freeman didn’t practice Wednesday and was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice which is a good step but it seems like he won’t be suiting up in Sunday’s contest against Tampa Bay.

If he does in fact sit out Sunday’s game, it will be Tevin Coleman taking over lead back duties once again as he looks to bounce back against the weaker Buccaneers defense. Plug in Coleman as a steady RB2 and if you’re desperate, pick up Terron Ward to fill a void in your lineup.

Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers)

Cam Newton’s favorite target looks like he’s about to make a return to the field in week 12 against the New York Jets. This is a necessity as the Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin and lost Curtis Samuel for the year due to injury. Olsen has participated in practice Monday and Wednesday this week and Ron Rivera has said that Olsen is looking good for Sunday’s matchup against the New York Jets.

The Panthers receivers have struggled with drops, other than Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess, so the addition of Greg Olsen to their lineup should give Cam Newton more consistency in the passing game.

Olsen is going to have to fight for targets from Funchess and McCaffrey but he will definitely see his fair share as outside of those three guys, there isn’t many more reliable receivers fighting for targets on the Panthers. Greg Olsen is a TE1 this week and should be started in all formats.

 

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Chris Thompson fantasy

Fantasy options to replace Chris Thompson

Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson was carted off with an air cast on his leg after he got rolled up on at an awkward angle against the Saints. It was reported after the game that he suffered a fractured fibula and will miss the rest of the season.

Thompson has emerged as a quality running back this season, especially in fantasy. He was 10th in fantasy points in standard scoring at his position as well as 11th in PPR with his ability to both run and catch out of the backfield.

This comes at a big point of the fantasy season with the playoffs coming up because of his versatility as a fantasy running back. It’s time to look at the next man up for Washington to fill the void for both the Redskins and your fantasy team.

The next man up: Samaje Perine

The Redskins will now be on their third running back due to injuries to Thompson and the original starter Rob Kelley (ankle). They will now run with rookie Samaje Perine.

Chris Thompson fantasy

Samaje Perine (Photo from NFL.com)

Perine becomes a priority pickup after the injury to Thompson. The rookie out of Oklahoma had a lot of hype early in the preseason as a candidate to take the starting job, but struggled early on with fumbles and lack of production.

But he has turned the page in the second half of the season. On Sunday, he had a career day against the Saints in relief, as he ran for 117 yards and a score on 23 carries.

Perine will mostly get his opportunities on the ground as he is more of a power back at 236 pounds, which is his strength. He can be in passing situations, but he will mostly be pounding the ball on the ground, especially on the goal line.

They will also mix in rookie Byron Marshall, who they picked up from the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.

Flex option: Josh Doctson

From the passing game perspective, Redskins receiver Josh Doctson could be someone to look at to replace both Thompson and Terrelle Pryor.

Chris Thompson fantasy

Josh Doctson (Photo from detroitnews.com)

He is finally showing the production the Redskins had hoped for from their 2016 first-round pick. With Jordan Reed struggling with injuries and Pryor now out for the season, it has led to an increase in targets to Doctson. He tied his career high with seven in each of the past two weeks. This also included a solid game against the Saints as he caught four passes for 81 yards. He brought in several 50-50 balls, and Kirk Cousins seems comfortable passing to him.

Doctson’s upside and big-play ability have expanded his role as a top option in their offense.

Other options

This is a big blow, especially at this point of the fantasy season with a guy like Thompson. With the amount of injuries this season, there aren’t a lot of big names out there that are consistently producing. But there are a couple of options for the playoff push.

Fantasy owners in need of a running back should look to Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers and Danny Woodhead of the Baltimore Ravens. As for the flex position, Corey Coleman has been a big name in the wavier wire as well as Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who could return from his broken foot.

 

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Is Devin Funchess a number one fantasy wide receiver?

Is Devin Funchess a No. 1 fantasy wide receiver?

At the trade deadline, the Carolina Panthers made the surprising move of trading away No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Nobody expected the Panthers to make this move, and some people highly disagreed with the decision. This left Devin Funchess as the new No. 1 receiver on the roster, but the question for fantasy owners remains: Is Devin Funchess a No. 1 fantasy wide receiver?

The case for Funchess as a No. 1

Fantasy owners who have rostered Funchess saw exactly what they wanted to see Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. In his first game as the top receiver, Funchess had five receptions for 92 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The thing that stands out is the touchdowns that Funchess has.

He’s been consistent all season with his receiving yards, but without Benjamin on the outside, those numbers should increase. He didn’t get as many targets as fantasy owners would’ve liked, but he proved his reliability by catching five of his six targets as Cam Newton looked to spread the ball.

With many unproven receivers on the roster, who have been dropping passes the last few weeks, Newton may look to increase his targets to Funchess to ensure passes are caught. With the probable return of Greg Olsen and emergence of Christian McCaffrey, don’t expect Funchess to et double-teamed too much.

The Panthers may not have many credible receivers on the roster, but they have two tight ends who are very capable of catching passes and a rookie running back who is emerging as one of, if not the best, receiver from his draft class. This is going to draw defenses away from doubling Funchess, which will allow him to flourish to his best capability with a one-on-one matchup along the outside.

The case against Funchess as a no. 1

Now let’s not move to fast and call Funchess a top ten fantasy receiver every week. He had a great game Monday night, but it was against a poor Dolphins secondary.

As the games get harder and the competition increases, these numbers won’t sustain. The Panthers still have to go up against the stout defenses of the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. This may cause matchup problems for Funchess.

Devin Funchess fantasy

Photo from http://img.bleacherreport.net

Nothing is guaranteed for Funchess, as Benjamin played two and a half seasons as the No. 1 receiver in Carolina and at best was a low-tier WR1. Benjamin never found the fantasy success that fantasy owners hoped he would, but that doesn’t exactly mean the same for Funchess. It seems through one week without Benjamin that Funchess has had great chemistry with Newton and great things may come.

Funchess also requires Newton to be on top of his game to succeed for fantasy owners. If Newton can continue his strong play as of late, then that bodes well for Funchess and fantasy owners. He is always a risky play because of how Newton’s play can fluctuate week to week. Funchess needs to make a name for himself in the red zone to become that No. 1 fantasy receiver. Against the Dolphins, we saw the Panthers utilize Ed Dickson and McCaffrey more than Funchess.

Funchess probably won’t boost right to a No. 1 receiver for fantasy owners quite yet. However, if more targets are sent his way over time, then he’ll be more likely to put up WR1 numbers.

 

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Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Fantasy reaction: Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury

The New York Giants had a rough week 5 on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Not only did they not get their first win, but they also suffered multiple injuries at one position.

The team lost four receivers on Sunday. They lost Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard to ankle injuries within a span of four plays in the second quarter. Then they lost Dwayne Harris to a foot fracture and is out for the remainder of the 2017 season.

But the bigger name is their star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants announced after the game that Beckham fractured his ankle and is expected to miss the rest of the season. This is of course a big blow to the Giants offense and to fantasy owners.

Fantasy players know that they can fix this, even if it’s a high-caliber player like Beckham.

The Giants situation

Granted the Giants had other options, but they don’t have someone to replace a talent like Beckham. Now they face the problem of who will replace the other receivers. According to ESPN, Shapard could miss a couple of weeks, and Marshall’s injury is unknown, but being carted off isn’t a good sign.

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by: nytimes.com)

The only wide receiver healthy as of Sunday on the roster is Roger Lewis Jr., who had a 29-yard touchdown catch on Sunday. The Giants made a couple of moves on Monday, promoting Travis Rudolph from their practice squad and re-signing Tavarres King, who played the last three seasons with the Giants. They also have tight end Evan Engram, who is more of a receiver tight end and will likely become Eli Manning’s top target. Also expect running back Shane Vereen to have a bigger role in the passing game.

It will be hard to be rely on these new faces especially with their matchup this week against the Broncos at Denver. Even with a poor offensive line, don’t expect the Giants’ offense to offer reliable fantasy options.  The only players to give a look at especially in deeper leagues are Lewis and Engram and then Vereen only in PPR.

Wavier Wire

The first option is to look at the wavier wire and look at streamable players from this point on. Of course none of these receivers are anything close to Beckham, but they could help you week-in and week-out especially if you need players with good matchups.

The first is to look at Lewis of the Giants. He’s the next man up after the Giants lost four receivers on Sunday. He had a 29-yard touchdown catch. It may not look like much, but with Beckham out and Marshall and Shepard expected to miss time, he could be the new No. 1 receiver for Big Blue. However, his next two matchups are Denver and Seattle, who will both be coming off byes. He might not be the first choice, but shouldn’t be ignored if you’re desperate.

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Roger Lewis Jr. (Photo by: sanluisobispo.com)

A streamable receiver to look at is Carolina Panthers receiver Devin Funchess. Since they lost tight end Greg Olsen in week 2, he has seen 27 targets over the last three weeks. Funchess also has crossed the goal line on three occasions over the last two games.

Part of his success is his quarterback Cam Newton playing sensational the past two games. His 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame makes him a natural red-zone target.

The Panthers face the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the next three weeks. These three teams are ranked inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Funchess also missed practice on Monday with a knee injury, and should be watched closely if he doesn’t play on Thursday.

Other receivers to look at are Jermaine Kearse of the Jets, Mike Wallace of the Ravens, Nelson Agholor of the Eagles and Kendall Wright of the Bears.

Look at trades

If no one in free agency interests you, maybe it’s time to find a trade. Personally I’m not a big fan of trades unless I’m the one receiving the trade, but if times are desperate, then a trade could be in the cards.

One big name that is having a good start to the season is New England Patriots receiver Chris Hogan. Sure he may cost you, but if you have assets, he’s worth it. He may be 31st in the league in targets, but he is a touchdown machine. Hogan has turned four of his last 26 targets into trips to the end zone. They may have lots of mouths to feed in New England, but he has been consistent since week 2 and is continuing to play at a high pace.

Now there’s players to look at who are having down years. Names like Amari Cooper, Terrelle Pryor, Sammy Watkins and Golden Tate could be valuable down the stretch if they turn it around. Some fantasy owners might give up these players for the right price, and it might not take much to land these players. Even with their struggles, they are top receivers on their teams. Their targets will remain consistent, and the plan here is to hope for a bounce back.

Now if you’re one of those players that want to land a star to replace a star then look at Julio Jones. He has struggled out of the gate with no touchdowns, but coming off a bye could be what Jones needs to get going. If you have assets and want to make the swing to the fences, this a trade you want to try.

Best bet: Look for the hot hand

In the end, the best bet is to look at players that are hot. Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends that are playing consistent are the best way to replace Beckham without getting rid of your whole team. There’s no clear way to replace Beckham, but we all can relate to losing the star of your team. Hopefully to most they can overcome this, but continue to make moves for the hot hand if there’s no clear long-term replacement.

 

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Cam Newton Fantasy Struggles

The fantasy struggles of Cam Newton

Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton struggled again, and this time it was against the New Orleans Saints at home. He played the league’s worst defense at home and still didn’t look like the 2015 MVP. This was the game where he was supposed to rebound after struggling the past two weeks with his offseason shoulder surgery.

To make matters worse, he couldn’t have a better situation. The Saints were without cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Sterling Moore. This has to be a concern not just to the Panthers, but to fantasy owners as Newton was drafted as a QB1 to most teams.

Cam’s performance

In three weeks, this is what Newton’s points were according to Fantasypros: 13.1 against the 49ers, 11.8 against the Bills and 8.3 this week. The first game was expected of Newton as he played only one series all preseason after the surgery. Even though he was rusty, he still completed 14 of his 25 passes for 171 yards, threw two touchdowns and one interception and rushed for three yards with a fumble. Many expected a better performance since they played a 49er defense that gave up 400 yards of offense per game last year.

Cam Newton Fantasy Struggles

Cam Newton (Photo by: wkbw.com)

In week 2, he took a pounding, but improved from his week 1 performance. He went 20-of-32 for 228 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was brought down on six occasions and per Craig Reed of the Associated Press, finished the contest with a twisted ankle.

He looked solid connecting with seven pass catchers and gained a strong rapport with both Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, who logged 10 completions for 145 yards on 14 targets.

Even though he improved in his game play in week 2, his fantasy performance was still pedestrian. He still didn’t look comfortable in the pocket and still looked rusty in his mechanics. Newton has barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes and missed some opportunities badly over the first two weeks this year. He had Christian McCaffrey for an easy touchdown last week and overthrew him.

Along with that, he has barely run the ball, which is his strength. Ron Rivera has said they will limit his running and make him more of a passer. If he doesn’t continue to run, he won’t be a top-end QB1.

Week 3

Week 3 continued the woes for Newton. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 167 yards and three interceptions in Sunday’s 34-13 loss to the Saints. He also rushed three times for 16 yards and scored the lone touchdown for the Panthers.
Newton had his hand full the entire time against the Saints. He finished with a 43.8 rating, which was the third-worst passing performance of his career and his worst in three years.
Cam Newton Fantasy Struggles

Newton (Photo by: pantherswire.usatoday.com)

But not all of it was his fault. To start the game, he was out with his favorite target Greg Olsen to a broken foot against the Bills last week. He also lost his second target Kelvin Benjamin in the game to a knee injury during the first half. His next targets Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey were really a non-factor the entire game.

Besides the circumstances, Newton still looked to have trouble with throwing the ball. There were few passes that Newton tried to really fire the ball. It’s tough not to believe that his arm isn’t the same as it was in the last two seasons. His highest velocity attempts have come out inaccurate.
Part of his struggles are due to the lack of practice he has had. He was limited all week. I wrote a piece on not to believe in the criticism Newton has had all preseason, saying Newton would come out better than he did in 2016.
But he looks far from it. Maybe the injuries have a big role, but if this continues, it will be a long road.

What to do now

As Newton said, it’s gut check time. For fantasy owners, the thread is dwindling to rely on him as a starter week in and week out. Newton would agree with some fantasy owners as he’s frustrated with his performance.

The team will play road games in four of the next five weeks. He starts with trips to New England and Detroit. If his struggles continue, it may come time to look for a better option and actually cut Newton. It’s hard to cut him, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Featured image from espn.com

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Cam Newton facing fantasy criticism

Cam Newton fantasy football: Why the criticism?

Has the time come to consider Cam Newton a potential bust? That’s how many fantasy football writers have labeled Newton this offseason. In 2016 he did struggle after a season where he was MVP and went to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. But why is Cam Newton facing criticism in fantasy?

Why The criticism

Newton had one of the worst seasons of his career last season. He had career low numbers in completion percentage (52.9 percent) and yards per attempt (6.9), along with his third season of less than 20 passing touchdowns.

One year after posting 45 more fantasy points than any other player, Newton fell to 17th at the position. He posted just five top-10 fantasy weeks, and only three after Week 2. And he had Kelvin Benjamin back, along with Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn who was a deep threat machine for Newton.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Cam Newton (Photo by: pantherswire.usatoday.com)

But Newton isn’t known for his passing. The major factor of the criticism is running the football.

The concern of his dwindling rushing totals are real. He had career lows in attempts (90), yards (359) and touchdowns (five). The worst part is that his head coach doesn’t want him to run as much. That’s where Newton excelled.

Granted it’s smart to change the offense to protect their franchise quarterback from shoulder injuries and concussions. But if we’re to rely on Newton for fantasy, and if the Carolina Panthers don’t want to rely on him as much as a runner, then he’ll have to seriously improve as a passer.

The other concern is a torn rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder that he had repaired in March. With the coaching staff wanting him to throw the ball more, many are worried that he might do more damage.

Give Cam the Rock

The Panthers really need to reconsider decreasing Newton’s rushing attempts.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Newton (Photo by: si.com)

Throughout his first six seasons in the NFL, he’s totaled 3,566 rushing yards with 48 touchdowns. That’s insane for a quarterback. In fact, in three of Newton’s six years (2011, 2012 and 2015), the Carolina quarterback has topped 120 fantasy points on rushing alone.

In his best rushing season (2011 rookie year), Newton had 154.2 fantasy points on the ground. In short, he would have been the No. 21 running back. In his first five seasons, he never dipped below 539 yards on the ground.

Besides the numbers, look at the man himself. The man is a freak athlete. He’s 6 feet, 5 inches at 245 pounds. And he can run the football. There aren’t many quarterbacks like him, that big, that can run like him.

2017 Outlook

The ceiling is high for Newton. But what he is expected to do is risky.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Newton (Photo by: nydailynews.com)

As before, they want him to pass the ball more. But that’s not his game. I don’t see him improving as a passer. I think when they see the issue he will run the ball himself more.

But there’s other reasons to be optimistic of Newton. The Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey. His ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well as split out wide when needed is going to be a welcomed sight for Newton’s fantasy value.

He may not see a heavy workload while splitting carries with Jonathan Stewart, as he’s the perfect third-down running back for Newton. He still has Olsen and Benjamin along with rookie Curtis Samuel and Devin Funchess. Not the best receivers but he has options though he lost his favorite deep target in Ginn.

Final Verdict

With all the hate, I still believe in Newton. Though there are risks. I wouldn’t draft him as high only because of the situation of him throwing the ball more.

He’s been getting a round eight draft position. In that case, there’ll be an opportunity to already have a loaded fantasy roster and just need to add a quarterback like Newton who can help you win it all. Newton’s ability to take over games and do special things, this can be second to none in the NFL when he’s on.

 

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2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 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 NFC South division preview.

4: New Orleans Saints

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule:15

Oh when the Saints go marching in, they bring with them no defense. The Saints are hoping the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o will improve a defense that gave up 28.4 points per game last season. They also drafted defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve one of the league’s worst secondaries.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo credit: Matthew Hinton)

Although New Orleans has made an effort to improve their defense, it won’t become great overnight. Despite ranking 11th in fewest plays per game, the Saints ranked 14th in rushing and 31st in passing. Until this unit shows on-field improvement, there is no way the Saints can win the division or earn a wild card berth.

Offensively, the Saints are absolutely loaded. They have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. New Orleans has committed to Michael Thomas as the go-to guy on the outside in just his second season. Coby Fleener is more than a reliable tight end to compliment Thomas in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

The Saints are also blessed in the backfield with Mark Ingram, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This trio of running backs will give defensive coordinators nightmares.

New Orleans has a pretty easy schedule this season and the offensive side of the ball is going to be straight fireworks. As is the story every season with Saints, can the defense be good enough to help them win games? The answer is no. Every game will be a shootout and opposing defenses are going to make more game winning plays. The Saints will be competitive because of their offense, but the defense will be their downfall yet again.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 13

I am a firm believer in Super Bowl hangovers. Just look at how the Panthers’ season went last year after losing Super Bowl 50.

The Falcons’ players are saying all the right things about moving on and using the humiliating let down as motivation for this season but when push comes to shove that loss will be in the back of their mind. The first team to start coming back on them will bring out those painful memories.

Atlanta is also the defending NFC champions and they will get every team’s best shot. Their division is one of the toughest in the NFL and the Buccaneers and Panthers did a lot to improve.

Besides the hangover and their schedule, Atlanta has to prove they can play great defense for an entire season. The first half of last season was abysmal defensively. The Falcons finished the season ranked 27th in points, giving up 25.3 per game. Atlanta saw such a high volume of points scored in the fourth quarter. They ranked 31st in fourth quarter scoring giving up 9.9 points per fourth quarter. If that trend continues they will struggle to win games.

Offensively, the Falcons are loaded. Matt Ryan had a career year that led to him being named league MVP. It is unlikely that he has a second consecutive MVP caliber season as very few players have ever won back to back MVPs. Only four players have done so: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Ryan will have a slight drop off in production but not enough to warrant concern. The offense will put up plenty of points and still be electrifying but as mentioned earlier, they will be given the best shot from every team and it will cause them to come up short a few more times than most can expect.

Atlanta’s defense must improve and play to the ability they did in the second half of the season in order to get back to the postseason. Due to a massive Super Bowl hangover, an improved division all-around and a defense that will likely be mediocre, the Falcons come up short and miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 14

Tampa Bay had a solid season last year but missed the playoffs. This season they should take the next step and make the playoffs behind a very solid offense that has improved. The upgrades on offense include the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Both of which will turn this offense from good to great.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Buccaneers were led by their passing game, averaging 245.4 yards per game. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the league and the combination of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will cause defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans leaving Mike Evans with more one on one looks.

The running game only averaged 101 yards per game but Doug Martin only played eight games last season. Martin will start out the season suspended but is eligible to play in week four.

Once Martin returns the running game will start to get rolling, making it even easier for Jameis Winston to air it out. Everything will finally come together for the Bucs offense this season. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 Buccaneers finish with a top 10 offense.

Tampa Bay must become a better defensive team to truly take the step and make the playoffs. The Bucs ranked 22nd in both rush and pass defense giving up a total of 367.9 yards per game. Gerald McCoy will have a Chris Baker next to him to improve the rush defense but it will take more than just one new defensive tackle.

The Bucs should have a better pass defense because the defensive line will get tons of pressure from the trio of Robert Ayers, William Gholston and Noah Spence. Spence had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. With an entire year in the Bucs system, Spence could improve and show the ability he displayed at Ohio State.

In total, this defense gave up 25.3 points per game. If the Bucs can improve that but just four points the offense should easily score more than 21 points per game with all the talent they have.

Tampa Bay will have a balanced offense capable of big play ability. Their defense will also be improved and with an easy schedule, the Bucs should have a solid shot at a playoff berth.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1: Carolina Panthers

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 6-10

Strength of schedule: 16

Carolina had a Super Bowl hangover but this year they are locked and loaded. Cam Newton is determined to correct last seasons mistake and retake his MVP form. The front office also made quality moves to get this team back to the big game.

The Panthers added key playmakers in the draft to help Cam. Christian McCaffery has already put Panther defenders on skates based off of leaked practice videos. That includes Panthers defenders such as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Curtis Samuel, out of Ohio State, was also a key piece the Panthers picked up in the draft but has yet to practice due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Even without Samuel, Cam has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin back. With all these weapons and an upgraded offensive line, the Panthers can become one of the premier offenses in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are still as dangerous as ever. The front four have some studs at defensive tackle in Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short. Off the edge, the Panthers bring back Mario Addison and Charles Johnson. This front four is fierce and to beef it up, even more, Panthers legend Julius Peppers has returned to finish his career in Carolina.

The linebacking corp is arguably the best in all of football with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. This front seven is going to cause major havoc to opposing offenses.

The Panthers secondary is where their defense struggled last season. To improve this unit, the Panthers signed Mike Adams, a safety, who had 12 interceptions in his three seasons with the Colts. Carolina also brought back Captain Munnerlyn, who is one of the best nickel corners in the league. These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

 

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 70-61

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the fourth installment, containing players 70-61.

70. Casey Hayward, CB, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL Top 100

Casey Hayward (Photo by boltbeat.com)

Hayward may not be as known as he should be, but has had five solid seasons in the NFL. Last year, his first season playing for the Chargers, Hayward 57 total tackles, seven interceptions, 20 passes defended and one touchdown.

In 2016 Hayward made his first Pro Bowl as he starts to enter his prime. The Chargers’ team will be markedly better this season, including their defense. With Hayward and Jason Verrett as corners and Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram getting pressure on the quarterback, it’s hard to imagine the Chargers’ defense not getting better.

Hayward should benefit from the players around him and be a top 100 player again.

Comments: The Chargers’ defense is becoming a sneaky good unit, and Casey Hayward is a huge part of that. Last season, Hayward clowned around to the tune of a passer rating of 53.4 when he was targeted. Hayward also allowed just one touchdown last season and led the NFL in picks last season with seven. Hayward enters his age 28 season in 2017, and expect him to fight for the crown of best corner in the NFL this season.” –Tim Miller

69. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Los Angeles Rams

NFL Top 100

Andrew Whitworth (Photo by ocregister.com)

After playing for the Bengals for the first 11 years of his career, Whitworth will now be a Ram after signing with Los Angeles in free agency. At age 36, Whitworth made the third Pro Bowl of his career and is aging well.

Now Whitworth’s job is going to be protecting Jared Goff’s blindside and clearing holes for Todd Gurley. The offense may not be the greatest in 2017, but Whitworth will turn in a good campaign. Age is a concern and Whitworth will show signs of aging, but he is still good enough to turn in a solid season.

Whitworth brings a ton of experience to a young offense and could be the piece that helps them grow and get better.

Comments: “This guy ages like fine wine. Unless age finally catches up with him, I could actually see him being ranked higher. Left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line and he is easily one of the best”- Robert Hanes

“Whitworth will always be criminally underrated as one of the consistently best tackles in football. The numbers speak for themselves: 14 pressures given up in 570 offensive snaps in 2016. I’m not sure why he constantly gets overlooked, but he’s maybe the most steady offensive tackle behind the great Joe Thomas.”-Blake Van Poucke

68. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami Dolphins

NFL Top 100

Ndamukong Suh (Photo by cbssports.com)

Suh may not be racking up the stats like he did earlier in his career, but he is still playing solidly in Miami. In 2017 he finished with 72 total tackles, five sacks, six passes defended and one fumble recovery.

The Dolphins chose Charles Harris Jr. with their first round pick. Putting him with the likes of Suh, Cameron Wake, William Hayes and others should create more threats for opponents’ offensive lines. The defensive front will be strong and Suh will get more one on one looks in 2017.

He does more than the numbers show you and will continue to do so in 2017.

Comments: “Suh is the forgotten superstar after he signed in Miami. Even with the second least amount of sacks in his career, he was still as productive as he’s been in years past. He’s vastly improved the Dolphins run game and has been the linchpin of one of the most improved defensive units in 2016. As his sack numbers drop, his effectiveness in other areas rises.”-Blake Van Poucke

67. Michael Bennett, DE/DT, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Michael Bennett (Photo by sportspressnw.com)

Although he had only five sacks in 2016, his lowest total since 2011, Bennett still played solidly. He missed five games last season, which severely hindered the amount of stats he was able to total.

If he can stay healthy in 2017, Bennett will return to be a force on the field. He has the added value of playing defensive end on running downs and sliding into defensive tackle on passing downs. He matches up with several different types of linemen and uses whatever competitive advantage he has over them to get to the quarterback.

With Bennett fully back in 2017, he will be a top 100 player yet again.

Comments: Michael Bennett is a character off the field, and he channels his minor case of the crazies onto the field. Bennett was the best run stopper in the NFL last season, earning a grade of 93.0 last year against the run. He played 354 of his 689 snaps as a tackle last season, further adding to his value as a versatile lineman. The Texas A&M product tallied 16 tackles for loss, which was good for tied second in the NFL last season. Bennett will continue to okie-doke sorry offensive linemen this season and help lead a perennially stout Seahawks defense.” –Tim Miller

66. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

NFL Top 100

Greg Olsen (photo by nj.com)

Greg Olsen has gotten better as he has gotten older. The last three seasons he has had over 1,000 receiving yards each year. Last season he had 80 receptions for 1,073 yards and three touchdowns.

He may have found it hard to get in the endzone in 2016, but he still had the second most receiving yards of a tight end. Cam Newton had a down year and he still found Olsen often. In 2017 it should be expected that Newton will bounce back and still be looking to find his favorite target, Olsen.

The Panthers will continue to feature Olsen and he will perform well in a division not known for playing great defense.

Comments: “The fact that this man is still overlooked baffles me. He will go down as one of the best tight ends to play the game.”- Robert Hanes

Olsen could be considered the most important player, outside of Newton, for the Panthers. He’s been such a reliable target for Cam Newton and a guy that seems to make every play. He eclipsed the 1,000 yard receding mark for the third straight season and continues to improve his hands and route running as a tight end. The Panthers passing game without him is a giant mess.”-Blake Van Poucke

65. Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Top 100

Brandon Graham (photo by philly.com)

The Eagles’ defense has been much better since getting rid of Chip Kelly. Without having to be on the field for what seems like an eternity, players have stepped up. One such player is Brandon Graham. He finished 2016 with 59 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, one pass defended, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovered.

Graham will be coming off his best all around season as a pro and will be looking to add to it in 2017. Philadelphia was a good defense in 2016, allowing just 20.7 points per game, but they have added some key pieces to the mix. Derek Barnett, Chris Long and Sidney Jones were all acquired in the offseason and will make the Eagles’ defense better. A lot of attention will still be paid to Graham, but the other quality players on the defense will take some pressure off of him.

Graham will continue to create a good tandem with Fletcher Cox on the Philadelphia defensive line in 2017.

Comments: “Brandon Graham is a solid edge player but Fletcher Cox takes huge pressure off of him. Graham has never had more than 6.5 sacks in a season and it looks like that is his ceiling. There are many players better than Graham and he should be in the 90’s” -Matthew Hagan

“Graham deserves to be much higher on this list. His effectiveness doesn’t necessarily show up on stat sheets, but he gets QB pressures more than nearly every player in football. 83 in 2016 is an insane number. Only Khalil Mack had more last year. The guy makes it incredibly difficult to get anything going against that Eagles defensive front.”-Blake Van Poucke

64. Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings

NFL Top 100

Danielle Hunter (photo by sportingsota.com)

Hunter is the only player on this list that played in the NFL last season and did not record one start. How did he do it? He put up solid numbers and got after the quarterback. His future looks very bright. In 2016 he recorded 12.5 sacks, 54 tackles, one pass defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovered and one touchdown.

He still has his fair share of improvement to do in stopping the run, but Hunter has made the most of his opportunities to rush the passer. The 2017 Vikings’ defense should have another good year and Hunter will get more snaps, meaning the potential is there for him to have even more of a breakout year.

The 2017 season will tell us a lot about the third year man out of LSU, but if his first two seasons indicate anything, it is that he is on the right track to be one of the best defensive ends in the league.

Comments: “Danielle Hunter had 12.5 sacks without a single start and only played 57 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Hunter is going to be the sack champion as he and Brian Robison switch roles. By the end of the 2017-18 season, NFL fans will be debating if Hunter is the best defensive end in the NFL.” -Matthew Hagan

63. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top 100

Larry Fitzgerald (photo by si.com)

This will be the 14th season for Larry Fitzgerald in the NFL, but he is still producing.The ageless wonder has remodeled his entire game to be able to stay productive in the NFL for as long as possible. Last season he had 107 receptions for 1,023 yards and six touchdowns.

Fitzgerald isn’t just putting up numbers, he has also been a great run blocker, which is an underappreciated trait in a wide receiver. Carson Palmer didn’t have a great season last year and Fitzgerald still had a big season. If the quarterback play is similar or better, Fitzgerald will be able to put up another 1,000 yard receiving season and justify his spot on this list.

Father time may work against Fitzgerald, but he has done a great job of doing everything he can to produce at a high level, so that should be expected again in 2017.

Comments: “Every year, football nerds try to paint Larry Fitzgerald as old and feeble. Fitzgerald, however, does not care about the haters. Fitzgerald dropped just seven of his 223 targets in the past two seasons, good for the second best catch rate in the NFL (97.9 percent). He was graded as the No. 9 wide receiver in the NFL last season, and will continue to be one of the best wide receivers in the league until he hangs it up, which seems like it won’t come until he’s 45. Father Time waits for no man, sans Larry Fitzgerald.” –Tim Miller

62. Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Dont’a Hightower (photo by bostonglobe.com)

Everyone talks about the Patriots’ offense, but they also had the best defense in the NFL last season. Hightower is a player that doesn’t get a lot of recognition, but has been an anchor in the middle of the New England defense. In 2016 Hightower totaled 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one safety in 13 games played.

The Patriots have added Stephon Gilmore and rookie Derek Rivers to the mix, which should make them a top NFL defense once again. Hightower won’t always have the most eye-popping stats, but if you watch the games he has an impact beyond that of his stats.

With more talent around him in 2017, Hightower will be in a good position to have an even better year in 2017.

Comments: “Hightower’s value is incredibly high as one of the leaders on that Patriots defense. In terms of absolute value (AV), he had the highest of any Patriot on defense. The guy flies around the field and has ridiculous closing speed. Patriots try and use him in many different ways but still outline his strengths by rushing the passer 30% of his snaps. He causes plenty of problems for opposing quarterbacks.”-Blake Van Poucke

61. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Dez Bryant (photo by wfaa.com)

Bryant is another player that didn’t put up video-game level stats last season, but is still a great talent. In 13 games Bryant recorded 50 receptions for 796 yards and eight touchdowns.

A lot was made out of Dak Prescott’s favorite receiver being Cole Beasley, but Bryant had a decent season. He has also had to fight off a lot of injuries in his career, but when he is healthy, he is dynamic. A full offseason with Prescott should help improve his 52.1% catch percentage. Even if Prescott has a sophomore slump, Bryant should be able to put up enough numbers and draw enough attention to help the rest of the offense.

The connection between Prescott and Bryant is expected to be much better in 2017 and if it is, Bryant should have another great season.

Comments: “Bryant is on a team that is built to run the ball and that hurts him. He also has missed 10 games over the past two seasons. If Dak takes a big leap, and Dez can stay healthy, then he will prove to be better than this rank.” -Matthew Hagan

“Based on talent, Bryant should be higher, but he hasn’t meshed with Prescottt enough yet. His production will go up and he will have a better season in 2017. With Ezekiel Elliot facing a possible suspension, Bryant will be what opponents want to stop the most.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players: 80-71

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Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

The tight end position is known for big targets that can create space and are touchdown machines in the red zone. Tight ends can sometimes be nerve racking because there aren’t many that are elite. When its draft time it’s all about patience especially for tight ends as you don’t want to reach too high or wait to long for your starting TE.

Here are the top-5 fantasy tight ends you should consider for your fantasy team in 2017.

No.5 Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

To start, my number five tight end is Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2016 he was the most heavily targeted tight end in the league. This was due in part to Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in early November. Tight ends have accounted for a 24 percent target share during Shurmur’s 122 games as a head coach or coordinator since 2009 according to ESPN.

In 2016, Rudolph  paced all tight ends with 128 targets and ranked in the top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). In the past, Rudolph would average around three receptions and 27.8 yards per game, basically becoming a touchdown-or-bust tight end. Rudolph flipped the switch in 2016 and put up 5.2 grabs and 52.5 yards per game. This helped him finish second at the position in fantasy points, his best ranking since he landed 11th in 2012.

In 2017, Rudolph should continue to be a featured option in the Viking offense as Shurmur is still around. He’s not a top-tier option but he’s much better than the tight ends you’ll find at the end of your draft.

No.4 Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed has proven to be a valuable target in Washington. In 2016 he ranked in the top 10 tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite only playing 12 games.

Reed has posted a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons in the past two seasons. In 2015, he had his best season to date with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, which allowed him to finish as the No. 3 fantasy tight end in standard leagues. In 2016 he still produced at a high level with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns but finished as just the No. 8 tight end in standard formats. An impressive stat is that Reed has caught at least three-quarters of his targets during each of his four NFL seasons. That’s scary good.

The one issue with Reed is injuries. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his career. Last year he missed two games with a shoulder injury and one with a concussion. But these injuries haven’t prevented Reed’s numbers to drastically decline. However in 2017 he should become the number one option in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both moving on.

No.3 Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

My number three tight end is Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. He may not be the flashiest player, but without a doubt he’s the most consistent tight end in the NFL.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Greg Olsen (Photo by: nj.com)

Olsen finished third in fantasy points and in the top-seven at the position in targets, completions and receiving yards each of the past five years. In 2016 he had seven games with eight-plus fantasy points. He did, however, only have three touchdowns, his fewest since 2007. Olsen is still the main piece in the Panthers passing game especially in the red zone . He had another 1,000 yard season for the third year in a row and maintains consistency in targets and receptions.

The thing that Olsen excels in is durability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He is always a reliable TE1 and expect him to bounce back in touchdowns and being consistent.

No.2 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by: washingtontimes.com)

I know I will have some hate mail, but if it weren’t for injuries Gronkowski would be my number one tight end. The three-time top fantasy tight end has missed at least one game during each of the past five years and a total of 24 during that span. However, outside of fantasy he is the best tight end in the NFL and always a top two in fantasy.

In 2016 he appeared in eight games and finished with 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on 38 targets. He still finished as the No. 20 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues which goes to show how good he is. From weeks 6-10 he was the top fantasy tight end in fantasy points. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games. In fact he has double digit touchdowns in all but two seasons of his seven year career and they were due to injuries.

Again, people will not agree with this ranking but I fear Gronkowski will again have injury issues. He hasn’t seen a full 16 games since his first two seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he only missed a total of two games and had top fantasy seasons. We hope he plays at least 13 games because when he’s healthy he’s easily the best fantasy tight end in any format. If he can do that he will be the Gronkowski that we can rely on. I do expect him to be ready and also to be the first tight end off the board in Rounds 2 or 3.

No.1 Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone might question this but I’m going with Travis Kelce as my number one tight end for fantasy in 2017. The first thing is why is he in front of Gronkowski? . Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Kelce has played in 16 games three of his four seasons and has started 42 of his 49 career games.

But other then durability Kelce had a breakout 2016 season. He led almost every category at the tight end position including yards, yards per game, catches for 20 and 40 plus yards, and had the longest catch among tight ends. The Chiefs tight end was also second in receptions. Kelce finished as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns on 117 targets. Another interesting stat about Kelce is that he was second among receivers with 100 plus yard games behind only Julio Jones with six. He had a span where he had four 100 plus yards game towards the time of the fantasy playoffs.

Kelce if anything he should see an increase in usage this year with the release of Jeremy Maclin.  Even though he will be picked as the second tight end behind Gronk, Kelce is a good option and is valuable in both standard and PPR leagues. Look for him around the 4th to 5th round to be off the board as he has become a top tier tight end in fantasy.

 

Featured image from arrowheadaddict.com.

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