2017 AFC South division preview

2017 AFC South division preview

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

4: Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season: 3-13

Strength of schedule: 30

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

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

2017 AFC South division preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3: Indianapolis Colts

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 30

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

2017 AFC South division preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2: Houston Texans

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 25

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

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

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

1: Tennessee Titans

2017 AFC South division preview

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

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Featured image https://calvinayre.com/2014/08/06/sports/afc-south-preview/

MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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Tommy Haas

Old (Tennis) Things New

From injuries, to match fixing allegations, to doping, 2016 was not a great year for the sport of tennis. However, the early part of 2017 has provided a narrative that is easy to embrace and get behind.

The success of players in their mid-to-late 30s has been simply incredible. There are some cases of players even stretching beyond that age barrier. Not long ago, players were retired by their 30th birthday.

While the late career renaissances of Venus Williams and Roger Federer have been well documented, there are a few other older players doing amazing things.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni:

At 17, this big hitting Croatian took the world by storm by reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon and playing Steffi Graf to the wire. After 1999, Lucic was forced off the tour due to injuries, an abusive father and financial problems.

Lucic eventually put her problems behind her and got married. After a few stop and start comeback attempts, she became a fixture on the main tour again by 2008. That alone is a massive accomplishment. Unfortunately, despite winning her first tour title in 15 years in 2014, Lucic was not able to regain her past success and was stuck ranked at the backend of the top 100.

This year, she produced a string of upsets at the Australian Open and returned to a Grand Slam semifinal 18 years after her initial breakthrough. She has reached the quarterfinals or better at four events on the young season. At 35, she now sits at a career-high ranking of 21 in the world. If you are not overly familiar with it, her story is worth an even deeper look.

Lucic Baroni

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Kimiko Date:

Date was a top five player and three-time Grand Slam semifinalist in the mid-90s. After retiring in 1996, she announced an unexpected comeback in 2008. A year later, she became the second oldest WTA Tour title winner ever. Her comeback also included a win over Maria Sharapova at her home event in Japan and a memorable match with Venus Williams at Wimbledon.

Kimiko Date

Photo: Getty Images

Most assumed, she would retire again after taking time off for knee surgery last year. They assumed wrong. A newly divorced Date announced her intentions for another comeback late last month. At age 46, Date will return to pro tennis at an ITF event in Japan later this month. She has said that she hopes to resume playing on the WTA Tour.

Date is old enough to be the mother of most of her fellow competitors. Her commitment to the game alone is beyond admirable. The fact that she has had at least some level of singles success at her age is a marvel. A marvel the likes of which we will never see again given the physicality of the modern game.

            Tommy Haas:

            The former World No. 2 has had too many injuries and comebacks to list. Following a toe surgery that brought his career total to 15, Haas announced that 2017 would be his final year on tour. The German said he wanted his young daughter to see him compete.

Tommy Haas

Photo: menstennisforum.com

Haas has crossed over into administrative roles with the ATP while continuing to play this year. This week in Houston, the 39 year old became the oldest man to win an ATP World Tour match since Jimmy Connors in 1995.

These three players are among the many proving that age truly is just a number in 2017. Their days of lifting trophies are likely over, but their passion for the game keeps them going. More than anything, that is what they should be remembered for.

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Franchise Relocation

Franchise Relocation Roulette

The NFL has seen three franchises relocate in the past year. The St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers both moved to Los Angeles. Two days ago, the NFL owners voted 31-1 in favor of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas.

One of the main reasons teams end up relocating is stadium troubles. The Raiders could not work out a solution with the city of Oakland which led to them looking for greener pastures. Sports is still a business and owners will do whatever is necessary to keep their business successful.

Another reason a team might locate is attendance. Owners are willing to move if they believe there is more money to be made elsewhere.

There are other franchises who may be looking to relocate their team across all major sports and this article will take a look at which franchises may be relocating sooner rather than later.

NHL

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have been rumored to be relocating a few times. Before Las Vegas was awarded an expansion team the Coyotes were considering moving to Vegas. Arizona has the second worst attendance average in the NHL with 13,020 fans per game.

The Gila River Arena in which they play in was built in 2003. 2003 wasn’t that long ago but with the attendance issue, the Coyotes could find more success in other another city.

The Coyotes have had little success on the ice as well, finishing ninth or worse in the Western Conference going on five straight years. The Coyotes could use a fresh start.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are in the same boat as the Coyotes. They rank last in the NHL in attendance with an average of 11,778 fans per home game. Their arena was built in 1999 and they definitely need a new one. The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs for eight straight seasons and only once in the last 11 seasons. A change of scenery is something the Hurricanes franchise needs.

Both the Hurricanes and Coyotes could be open to moving to the following cities: Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Hamilton and Indianapolis. If the NHL decides to relocate these are the two most likely franchises to move.

MLB

Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay is a city where a lot of people move to retire. The Rays attendance is the worst in the majors, based on average, with just 15,878 fans per game. The franchise has had the worst attendance in the majors since 2012 and the attendance has dropped significantly every year.

Tropicana Field is also almost 30 years old as it was built in 1990. Fans are not going to watch the Rays and their field is getting old.

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu AP)

Oakland: The Athletics play on the same field as the Raiders. Golden State couldn’t get a stadium built in Oakland so they got one built in San Fransisco. The Athletics are now in the same boat. Oakland Coliseum opened in 1966 and players have mentioned water leaks in the locker rooms when it rains. It is clear this stadium is one of the worst in the country.

The Athletics have also had some of the worst attendance numbers in the past decade similar to the Rays. Due to the stadium issues in Oakland and the lack of attendance, the A’s may be on the move soon.

Possible relocation cities could include Las Vegas, Mexico City, Montreal, or Vancouver.

NFL

Buffalo Bills: There has been so much relocation as of late in the NFL it is hard to imagine anybody else moving cities. Buffalo is one franchise with a slim chance to relocate. Ralph Wilson Stadium was built in 1973 making it out of date. The city of Buffalo needs to handle this situation with the Bills better than Oakland did with the Raiders or the beloved Bills will find the best option for the franchise.

Possible relocation cities include Portland, St. Louis, Toronto, or Mexico City.

NBA

Milwaukee: The Bucks are usually in the bottom of the NBA when it comes to attendance. They have averaged 14,839 fans per game over the last five years. Their attendance has steadily improved as the team has improved but there is a chance owners think they do better elsewhere.

BMO Harris Bradley Center is 29 years old and needs to be upgraded for modern times. If another city gives the Bucks an offer they can’t refuse they will relocate.

With all that said the fans in the Milwaukee area are extremely passionate and it is hard to imagine them actually moving cities.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Sports Cities Power Rankings: January 2017

Everywhere you look, there’s power rankings available for every in-season sport. However, it can be hard to find rankings on the top sports cities in the nation. That being said, it’s time to break out a new top ten ranking, and that ranking is the top ten sports cities in the nation.

How are these rankings done? Well, because this will be a monthly installment, the cities will change based on each of its teams’ performances. Take a look at this handy dandy list on what goes into rankings, from most important to least important. Some changes have been made from last month after listening to our valued readers’ opinions. Only the four major sports in the United States are accounted for in the rankings.

  • In-season professional team performance, with the team with a higher percentage of its season played getting higher priority
  • Out-of-season performance of a team
  • Potential to be better or worse as season goes on
  • Amount of teams a city or region owns

For a city to be considered, it must have two or more of the major professional sports in its area. Sorry San Jose and Portland, but you guys don’t count.

Teams that are technically located outside of their city name will be claimed by their closest city. Boston claims the Patriots, New York City claims the Jets and Giants, and so on.

Scores are an average of all totals from each sport. The scale is from one to five, with five being the best.

Now, let’s begin. Go ahead and light me up in the comments and on social media. As a writer, I’m always begging for the approval and validation of my readers.

  1. Boston- 4

For the second straight month, Boston sits atop the rankings. The Patriots have won six games in a row, including a 41-3 thrashing of the Jets on Christmas Eve. Fans of the Pats have plenty to root for, and a Super Bowl is within reach. The Celtics have won seven of their last nine, and they’ve shot up to third in the Eastern Conference standings. In hockey, the Bruins are still sitting in a playoff spot, but they’ve cooled off as of late. Even so, the Bruins beat the Sabres twice to end the month, sending the team into the new year on a high note.

  1. Pittsburgh- 4

The city of Pittsburgh rises three spots from last month, and their score is just as high as Boston’s. Pittsburgh sits below Boston (barely), and the margin between the two is almost zero. When it comes to the NFL, the Patriots get the edge. Although the Steelers have also won six games in a row, the Patriots did beat the Steelers earlier in the season, 27-16. Pittsburgh also has no NBA team, which hurts the city’s score. When it comes to the NHL, Pittsburgh has the second most points in the league, one less than the Blue Jackets, who have won 15 straight. Each of the top two cities have one team that is better than the other in a sport (Pittsburgh owns NHL, Boston owns NFL). Since Boston had a better season in the MLB than Pittsburgh, Boston keeps the top spot for another month, but barely.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Kirk Cousins has helped lead the Redskins to a successful season. (Photo: Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

  1. Washington D.C.- 3.75

The capital of the United States is very close to being the capital of the sports world, too. The Washington Redskins are 8-6-1, and have had a very good year in a stacked division. In the NBA, John Wall is on fire, and has helped the Wizards to a 16-16 record, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals have the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and many believe the team is better than they’ve shown they are to start the season. D.C. sports are doing good for sure, but it doesn’t look like a deep playoff run will be made by any teams this season. A plethora of good but not great teams makes D.C. the most consistent city in the nation.

  1. Cleveland 3.67

When the Browns beat the Chargers on Christmas Eve, I became extremely hyped to write this article. The holiday season was awesome to Cleveland. On Christmas day, the Cavs defeated Golden State in their first meeting since winning the NBA Finals against them. The Browns still get the first pick in the draft. The Cavs look like they could still be better than the Warriors, even with Golden State’s acquisition of Kevin Durant.

  1. Oakland 3.67

Oakland is thriving, but the city has fallen on tough times to close the month. The Raiders lost MVP candidate Derek Carr for the season after he broke his leg on Christmas Eve. To make matters worse, the Warriors continued to fumble away leads to the Cavs. This time they blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. Losing Carr is a huge hit to the Raiders’ playoff aspirations, and the Warriors losing to the Cavs really put a damper on the holiday season for the city.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

An All-NBA talent, James Harden has helped Houston become a darkhorse in the Western Conference. (Photo: Sporting News)

 

  1. Houston 3.67

For the second straight season, the Texans are going to the playoffs. For the second straight season, I don’t know how. This has helped propel the city into the rankings for the first time since the inaugural rankings were released. In the NBA, the Rockets are playing great basketball and have James Harden, who helps shape the face of the NBA. The Astros also had a pretty good season and have plenty of promise in the future.

  1. Chicago 3.5

The city of Chicago is enjoying its greatest success in the NHL. The Blackhawks are the best team in the Western Conference, and they won five games in a row during this month. The Bulls are barely in the playoffs, but they’ve got a chance to get hot to end January. Five of their final eight games are against teams under .500. The Bears are pitiful, but just like the Browns, at least they get a high draft pick. Of course, the Cubs will continue to get the city a boost after ending the city’s multiple baseball curses.

  1. Seattle 3.5

The final three spots in the rankings are the exact same as last month. Poised to make another Super Bowl quest, the city of Seattle is in the midst of a minor dynasty. The Seahawks are in the playoffs, but they’ve yet to get hot and string together multiple wins. With just one active team right now, Seattle’s overall score is hurt. The city’s only other team is the Mariners, who won a respectable 86 games.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Eric Berry has been a shutdown defensive back, one year after defeating cancer. (Photo: Sporting News)

  1. Kansas City 3.5

The Chiefs are one of the best teams in the AFC, and have a real shot to advance in the playoffs. Alex Smith is the third-best quarterback out of AFC playoff teams and could realistically lead the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game. Just like Seattle, Kansas City has one active team in the NFL and one out-of-season team in the MLB. Seattle’s MLB won more games than Kansas City’s Royals, which is why KC is one stop below.

  1. Baltimore 3.5

For the second month in a row, Baltimore sneaks into the rankings at number 10. Since last month, not much has changed in the city. The Ravens have been eliminated from playoff contention since last month, but they still had a much improved season from last year. The Ravens certainly have something to build off of for next season. The Orioles are the city’s only other team and they had another good season, even though the playoffs didn’t end beneficially for them. All in all, Baltimore fans are enjoying a lot more success than a lot of other cities.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Eliminate College Conferences

Change. It is a simply spelt and pronounced word, but becomes complex when people start to deal with change. People run away from change out of fear. People usually grimace at the thought of change. Change is often looked at as a bad thing, but change can also be viewed as a great thing. Change is needed for growth and knowledge. Society finds it hard to change things that are long standing traditions, even if they do not work, are outdated, or completely wrong.

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

Take a look at the national anthem controversy for instance. Rather than admit its flaws, people are back-lashing against Colin Kaepernick. Why can’t we admit our faults as people or as a society? Because people hate change, whether it’s for the betterment of society or not. It is so much easier to go with the flow rather than to adapt.

It is time for a change in college football by eliminating any and all conferences. They are unnecessary in this day and age. They serve no purpose other than to please tradition. This is a highly unpopular opinion but hear me out before you grab your pitchforks.

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-269730 ORIG FILE ID: 20160903_jla_sh5_731.jpg

(Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY)

The best teams need to play each other weekly regardless of their region or conference. Week one was one of the greatest weeks of college football ever. People are still glamorizing it because it was that epic. We saw great games all over such as (15) Houston defeating (3) Oklahoma. We saw Wisconsin upset (5) LSU. We saw unranked Texas A&M upset (16) UCLA. (18) Georgia beat (22) North Carolina. (2) Clemson had to sneak by unranked Auburn by six points. Fans saw Texas upset (10) Notre Dame in an overtime classic. On a Monday night game, (4) Florida State beat (11) Ole Miss.

Week two also saw some great programs matching up for exciting games. Arkansas was unranked and upset (15) TCU. (17) Tennessee beat Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in the most attended game in college football history with 156,990 in attendance.

(http://www.usatoday.com/videos/sports/ncaaf/2016/11/18/houston-dashes-louisville's-playoff-hopes-upset/94060980/)

(http://www.usatoday.com)

Since the first two weeks there still have been great non-conference games even as teams have gotten into conference scheduling. In week six, Navy upset (6) Houston 46-40 in one of the most exciting back and forth games of the year. Most recently in week 12, the same Houston team that was upset by Navy, and was unranked, ended (5) Louisville’s shot at making the playoffs. They upset the Cardinals 36-10.

All these non conference match-ups with top programs facing off gave us excitement. Fans of football rejoiced over how fun it was to watch these teams play their hearts off to win these big time games. These games mean so much more with the rather new playoff system that determines a true champion in college football. Eliminating conferences would not eliminate rivalries because schools would be able to schedule 10-12 games completely how they want. The only thing each school would  have to do is make sure they schedule their rival schools annually.

(MARK ALMOND)

(MARK ALMOND)

These huge games are what the fans want to see. It doesn’t have to be just about the fans either. The college football playoff committee highly values a team’s strength of schedule. Nobody wants to see Alabama playing teams like Chattanooga or Kent State, teams in which they manhandled this year. Ohio State shouldn’t be playing teams like Rutgers, who happens to be in their conference, or Tulsa. Clemson games are boring when they play teams like South Carolina State or Syracuse. Imagine Clemson scheduling Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. If a team goes undefeated with a non-conference schedule as tough as this, there would be no question they deserve to be in the playoffs.

One of the biggest problems with the state of college football now is that great teams still get snubbed from making the playoffs. We need the best four teams in the country making the playoffs as long as it is a four team format. Maybe one day it will be a six or eight team format to eliminate more doubt, because there will always be a team or two on the bubble.

Currently the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Big 12 are known as the power five conferences. Most people can agree these are the top five conferences in the country, with each taking turns on where they rank within the power five.

In the current playoff system, one of the power five conferences will not be represented. A champion from one of these conferences will not have the chance to play in the playoffs and prove they are the best team in the country. This doesn’t account for a team without a conference, such as Notre Dame, who could go undefeated and cause two power five conferences to be left out of the playoffs. It also doesn’t account for a year like this one in which Ohio State and Michigan both look like teams capable of winning a national championship.

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

The first ever college football playoff left out TCU and/or Baylor in favor of Ohio State. The debate raged on about which of these teams should have gotten in. Ohio State then went on to win the National Championship as a four seed to quiet the debate, but how do we know, without a doubt, that TCU or Baylor would not have done the same? How do we know TCU or Baylor would’t have beat Ohio State? This is the problem with conferences. The Big Ten was assumed to be the better conference which is why the playoff committee chose to take Ohio State over one of the Big 12 teams. It was all because the Big 12 conference doesn’t have a conference championship game.

There is another issue at hand when it comes to conferences and the entire playoff format. There is always a talk of two teams getting into the playoffs from the same conference. If that were to happen, two conference champions from a power five conference would be left out. This was the problem with the BCS system that the playoffs were suppose to fix. The question that should be asked is how can you be a champion of the nation if you weren’t a champion of your conference? Essentially that is what happens if two SEC or two Big Ten teams get into a four team playoff. Eliminating conferences erases all the doubt. It makes teams schedule harder competition and creates more exciting games. If a school didn’t do it, they wouldn’t get into the playoffs.

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Conferences started mostly due to how difficult it was to travel when teams were still taking buses. Colleges can afford to fly their teams in today’s sports and traveling is not as hard as it use to be. What is the need for conferences then? The idea of no conferences at all is highly appealing in my eyes, but will not be popular to most. It would be revolutionary to eliminate conferences. The most remarkable changes in the world once were thought to be outlandish. Conferences are a tired idea that is outdated and the sport can become more exciting by eliminating them.

 

 

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Sports cities power rankings: November 2016

Everywhere you look, there’s power rankings available for every in-season sport. However, it can be hard to find rankings on the top sports cities in the nation. There’s always rankings on the top teams in the NFL during the winter, but what if we looked at the overall sports cities power rankings?

That being said, it’s time to break out a new top ten ranking, and that ranking is the top ten sports cities in the nation.

So, how are these rankings done? Well, because this will be a monthly installment, the cities will change based on each of its teams performance. Take a look at this handy dandy list on what goes into rankings, from most important to least important.

  • In-season professional team performance, with the team with a higher percentage of its season played getting higher priority
  • In-season college performance in football and basketball
  • Out-of-season performance of a team
  • Potential to be better or worse as season goes on
  • Amount of teams a city or region owns
  • Slight weightage for college teams in the area

For a city to be considered, it must have two or more of the major professional sports in its area. Sorry San Jose and Portland, but you guys don’t count.

Teams that are technically located outside of their city name will be claimed by their closest city. So, Boston claims the Patriots, New York City claims the Jets and Giants, and so on.

Scores are an average of all totals from each sport. The scale is from one to five, with five being the best.

Now, let’s begin. Go ahead and light me up in the comments and on social media. As a writer, I’m always begging for the approval and validation of my readers.

  1. Cleveland- 3.8- Fans in Cleveland are no longer deprived of rooting for a successful sports franchise. Bar the Browns, and Clevelanders get the privilege of rooting for the 2016 NBA champions, the 2016 AL Pennant winner, and, in some cases, the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s easy to complain about the Browns, but they are in line to get the number one pick of the NFL Draft. However, the Browns organization is about as successful with drafting as an umbrella is at peeling a banana. Overall, life isn’t too bad outside of Sundays in Cleveland, OH, and the Indians are on the verge of winning the World Series.
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Dak Prescott (4) and Ezekiel Elliott (21) could become one of the most dynamic duos in sports. (Photo: The Dallas Morning News)

  2. Dallas- 3.8- It’s surprising to see Dallas so high on the list, but the city has plenty to root for. The Cowboys are 6-1 and look poised to fight for a first-round bye all season. They also have an incredibly bright future. Although the playoff outcome wasn’t what the Rangers wanted, they still won 95 games and took the AL West crown. The Mavericks will need a new face of its franchise, but they still made the playoffs and won 42 games. In the NHL, it’s quite early, but the Stars are 3-4-1 and in position to fight in the Central Division. The state of Texas has multiple colleges to root for, and none of which are located in Dallas, so they don’t get much credit in collegiate athletics.
  1. Boston- 3.4 Boston was the city I expected to see at the top of the list prior to my evaluations. With the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins, Boston has enjoyed a lot of success recently. However, the city’s closest university, Boston College, had a combined 0-25 conference record in football and basketball in 2015. The football team is 4-4 this season, but that’s still nothing to get excited about. The Celtics are also popular picks to win a lot of games this season, but they haven’t done it yet. If it wasn’t for the minor scoring weightage for college sports, the city of Boston would have the highest score.
  1. Pittsburgh- 3.75
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Evgeni Malkin helps lead the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo: Pittsburgh Sporting News)

Another team I didn’t expect to be this high is Pittsburgh. However, when delving into the city’s sports, they root for a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Steelers, and the defending Stanley Cup champion in the Penguins. The Pirates weren’t terrible, but they did finish five games under .500 at 78-83. The Pirates could be going downhill with the demise of Andrew McCutchen, but hockey and football seems to always be a constant in the Steel City.

  1. Seattle- 3.7

Sitting atop the NFC West with a comfy 1.5 game lead over the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks look primed to make the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. On top of that, the Mariners won 86 games this season, just missing the final AL wild card spot. Fans of the Washington Huskies have plenty to root for as well. It’s not so bad in Seattle. On top of all that, Seattle seems to be the most popular city for relocation or expansion in the NBA – rightfully so.

  1. Detroit- 3.4

The city of Detroit is anchored by having no terrible teams right now, and by college sports. With Detroit being just 50 minutes away from Ann Arbor, Detroit fans get to root for one of the fastest-rising college football programs in the University of Michigan. Not only that, but the Tigers missed the playoffs by just three games, the Pistons made the playoffs last season, and the Red Wings are one of the best hockey franchises in the NHL.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Derek Carr is giving Oakland fans plenty of reasons to be happy. (Photo: AP)

  1. Oakland- 3.25

Luckily for Oakland, the city is carried by the Dubs. Blowing the first ever NBA Finals 3-1 lead is nothing short of embarrassing, but they’ve still got the most star power in the NBA. The Raiders are finally rising with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack commanding the offense and defense. Baseball is the only thing bringing the city down, as the A’s won just 69 games last season. By November, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oakland rise on the list.

  1. Houston/San Antonio-  3.25

These two cities had to be paired together, as San Antonio’s NBA organization cannot be left out, and Houston is the closest city to them. With the Spurs and Rockets carrying the city, there’s not much to be giddy about. The Texans are simply terrible, and overpaid a below-average in Brock Osweiler. With nearly no body of work, yet money that would make even Donald Trump squirm, Houston will regret their decision to pay him so much. The Astros are up-and-coming, but underperformed with 84 wins last season. If the two NBA franchises can produce playoff runs, look for this pair of cities to rise on the monthly.

  1. Chicago- 3.25

Other than the Cubs being in the World Series, the city of Chicago is somewhat average. Yes, they do get the Blackhawks, who sit at third in the Western Conference, but the Bears are bad, and the White Sox and Bulls leave much to be desired. In college sports, Chicago doesn’t have much going for them, however they have a very broad college spectrum. Overall, the Bears hold this city back from being ranked higher.

  1. Toronto- 3.2

Last, and technically least on the list is a city outside the United States. Toronto houses just two professional teams, but both of them are pretty solid. The Blue Jays took a wild card spot and snuck into the playoffs, only to be beaten by an eventual World Series team in the Indians. Their basketball team isn’t too shabby, with the best backcourt in the NBA, besides Golden State. In the NHL, the Maple Leafs sit towards the bottom of the basement in the Atlantic Divsion, but it’s too early to write off any team in the NHL yet.

 

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“From Our House to Yours”

Five Non-Power Five Teams to Watch for this Season

Everyone loves an underdog story, a David slaying a Goliath. Yet, there’s few non-power 5 teams that make it to a prestigious bowl, even with a solid record. And it seems that every year, there is at least one team from a non-power five conference that dominates their schedule with one loss or no losses, wins their conference title, and enters an esteemed bowl game with more to prove than any number of District Attorneys.

Cutting to the chase, here are, in my opinion the top five non-power five teams in terms of what they bring to the table — excluding Notre Dame, who is normally the quality of a power five school.

5. Marshall (Conference USA)

non power 5 college football teams

Chase Litton comes out of a stellar freshman season to lead the charge for the Thundering Herd. Thanks to tbo.com for the photo.

Marshall lost a lot and kept a lot from a team that finished 10-3 with a win in the St. Petersburg Bowl last year. Sophomore quarterback Chase Litton, pictured above, comes off a season where he threw for 2,608 yards and 24 touchdowns. Marshall has been a pass-based offense as of late (no one rushed for 600 yards or more for them last year) and they have their gunslinger to continue the aerial attack.

The question is who he will throw the ball to.

Marshall lost their top two receivers in Devonta Allen and Deandre Reaves, who reeled in 715 and 705 yards worth of catches, respectively.

Of course, those two don’t compare to the graduation of stud linebacker Evan McKelvey, who led the team with 121 tackles and was second with 9.0 tackles for loss. Also gone defensively is third leading tackler and starting safety Taj Letman (80 of them) who intercepted three passes. And the starter next to Letman and second leading tackler last year Tiquan Lang (91) faces a possible suspension after being arrested in late April.

Seems like quite a bit to overcome, doesn’t it? Until you hear that four of five starting offensive linemen for Marshall are returning from last year, and the one that isn’t a returning starter missed last year with injury and was first-team all-conference in 2014, Clint Van Horn. Litton will have a lot of time to find an open man.

And on defense stud defensive end Gary Thompson is back, who led the team in two categories defensively in 2015: sacks with 9.0 and tackles for loss with 12.5. At cornerback returning is Corey Tindal, who defended thirteen passes and intercepted two more.

In the end, Marshall needs contributors from two position groups to step forward: receivers and linebackers. Two starters are gone from both groups. The receiving corps gets some help from returning 400 yard receiving tight end Ryan Yurachek, but will need wideout production from a group that contains no one ever to have a season of at least 350 at that specific position. Justin Hunt, who has progressed steadily each year at Marshall and enters as a senior in 2016, and converted former tight end Deon-Tay McManus could look to try and get some production. And at linebacker the names appear to be Devontre’a Tyler and Shawn Petty.

My prediction: Marshall gets cake games against Morgan State and Akron, then wins one of their two tougher non-conferences either against Louisville or at Pitt. I see them tripping up against Western Kentucky and missing out on the conference championship, coming out mad in their bowl game and finishing 11-2 with a win in the New Mexico Bowl.

4. Appalachian State (Sun Belt)

non power 5 college football teams

The Mountaineers return the talent to climb to the top of the Sun Belt conference. Photo courtesy of 247sports.com.

Appalachian State used a balanced offensive attack and solid defense to earn an 11-2 record and a victory in the Camellia Bowl with a Sun Belt title. They bring back a lot of impact players from a team that was top-25 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

Those impact players include 2,300 yard passer Taylor Lamb, 1,400 yard rusher Marcus Cox, three starting offensive linemen, their top two tacklers on defense Eric Boggs and John Law with 104 and 72 tackles last year, respectively, and interception leader Latrell Gibbs who picked off seven passes — returning two of them for touchdowns.

Wow.

The only detrimental loss seems to be stud defensive end Ronald Blair, who led the team in TFLs and sacks while coming in third for total tackles.

One spot of bother for the Mountaineers could be the tough opening to their schedule, they head to Tennessee in the opening week and then have to host Miami (FL) following their week two match-up with Old Dominion. Get out of those two brawls healthy, and it could turn into another ten win season with a bowl win for the Mountaineers.

My prediction: Someone important goes down in either the Tennessee or Miami game, and Appalachian State drops one during their conference play. They manage to get out with title in the Sun Belt though, or at least a share of one, as no team runs the table in the conference. The finish is 9-4, the aforementioned Sun Belt title, and a loss in the New Orleans Bowl.

3. Western Kentucky (Conference USA)

non power 5 college football teams

Taywan Taylor is the featured player in this year’s Western Kentucky attack. Photo courtesy of youtube.com.

Losing a 5,000 yard passer (that number led the nation) is never going to be easy. But when you have two receivers who were both over 950 yards last season back, one of which is 1,400 yard man Taywan Taylor, it makes the adaptation for your knew starter a bit less demanding. That replacement will likely be one of three players: Junior USF transfer Mike White, who threw for 1,639 yards and 8 touchdowns with the Bulls last year, senior Nelson Fishback, who has attempted 8 passes in his Hilltopper career, or senior Louisville transfer Tyler Ferguson.

The rushing attack will have no issue complementing whomever is under center, however. Anthony Wales returns off a 1,000 yard season, behind an offensive line totalling 130 combined starts of experience. That line includes first-team all-conference left tackle Forrest Lamp. New O-line coach Dale Williams has been given the keys to a Porsche and told not to crash it.

A mid-tier defense last year for Western Kentucky will look to improve for this season, as they return leading tackler and backfield plug in linebacker T.J. McCollum (106 tackles, 12.0 TFLs) and second leading tackler Branden Leston (96). Top defensive lineman Derik Overstreet also returns.

But if that defense wants to make the necessary jump, and in turn bring this team from a conference leader to potential contender for a New Year’s Six bowl, they will need a boost in the secondary, specifically at corner. Both starters are gone, including the only player with more than three interceptions for that Hilltopper defensive backfield in Prince Iworah.

The most experienced pair are juniors Joe Brown and De’andre Simmons. Both intercepted one pass last year, and Brown may have asserted his role as the primary cornerback with 9 PBUs. Both will have assistance from senior safeties, the aforementioned Branden Leston and Marcus Ward. The pair combine for 291 tackles and four interceptions on their respective careers.

My prediction: In the end, I think it could really come together for the Hilltoppers, one of three teams on this list (the top three, of couse) that I think finishes ranked nationally. They open with a win over Florida International before falling by no more than 20 to Alabama, a moral victory that will allow them to run the table… including wins over Vanderbilt, Marshall, Louisiana Tech, their opponent in the Conference USA title game, and their opponent in the Boca Raton bowl.

That’s 13-1, for those of you counting at home.

2. San Diego State (Mountain West Conference)

non power 5 college football teams

The Aztecs’ defense makes them a force to be reckoned with in 2016. Photo form sandiegouniontribune.com.

San Diego State is going to defend their conference title from 2015.

Literally.

The biggest loss from a defense that was top ten nationally last year in scoring is fifth leading tackler Jake Fely (75, 8.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks). They return stud linebacker Calvin Munson, who led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks (98, 15.0, 10.5). Damontae Kazee (pictured above), returns and brings 8 interceptions with him. Defensive end Kyle Kelley, who had 7.5 sacks last year, will lead the defensive line. They return third leading tackler and second leading interceptor safety Malik Smith. And they return the centerpiece of their 3-3-5 defense, all-conference nose guard Alex Barrett. In other words, the offense won’t have to score all that much.

But they bring back the firepower to score a lot.

Sure they lost their leading passer. But when that quarterback barely cleared 1,500 yards, it doesn’t matter that much. Why? Because San Diego State is a running offense. And you know what they do return? A rusher of 1,653 yards and 17 touchdowns named Donnel Pumphrey. He runs behind three returning starters on his line, including all-conference offensive guard Nico Siragusa.

Needless to say, the Aztecs look incredible entering this season.

My prediction: SDSU upsets Cal early in the season and goes on a rampage. It is tough to go undefeated, but easier with a Mountain West schedule. They do it, win the conference title game, and head to the Cotton Bowl as the “group of five” representative. From there I can’t tell, depends on who faces them there.

So either 14-0 or 13-1 is what I predict dependant on who they play in that bowl game.

1. Houston (American Athletic)

non power 5 college football teams

Second-year coach Tom Herman looks to repeat the success of 2015. Photo from al.com.

Notice I put above that I believe San Diego State becomes the “group of five” representative that receives a berth into the Cotton Bowl. I think Houston is the better team, but they run into Oklahoma week one… a game I don’t see them winning. Hence, number one team but not the number one finish.

Why is Houston the number one team? They come off a Peach Bowl win and return their star player, leading passer and rusher (he and Deshaun Watson are the only two quarterbacks ever to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000) Greg Ward. While his favorite target in Demarcus Ayers left early for the NFL, man number, two Chance Allen, does return off a season of over 750 yards. The ground game will have to replace second leading rusher and top running back Kenneth Farrow, which they were looking to do with junior Javin Webb.

Until he was dismissed from the team in February.

With that and the graduation of Ryan Jackson, Houston has lost its next three rushers after Ward. No other running back posted even 100 yards last season, the only one even to gain positive yardage being upcoming sophomore Kaliq Kokuma, who ran 18 times for 92 yards. He should compete with fellow sophomore Tyreik Gray.

At the very least they do have four returning starters up front to pave the way for the inexperienced backs.

Flipping the coin to the defensive side, Houston’s 3-4 defense returns all-conference nose guard B.J. Singleton, backed by linebacker Steven Taylor who had 92 tackles with 18.5 TFLs and 10.0 sacks.

Houston should be able to cope fine with the loss of their leading takedown getter Elandon Roberts, as Taylor returns with fellow linebackers Tyus Bowser (35 games experience) and Matthew Adams (49 tackles in 2015). The real worry is the departures at safety, where the Cougars lost both starters in 2016. That includes Adrian Mcdonald, who intercepted 17 passes in a career that also included 299 tackles. The most senior player remaining is junior Khalil Williams, who registered 18 tackles and intercepted a pass last year.

The rest are a group of inexperienced sophomores including Garrett Davis, Michael Eke, and Darius Gilbert. One of them needs to fill some shoes.

As said at the beginning, Houston loses week one in a moderately close bout with Oklahoma, but wins out and goes to dominate the conference championship game and a dominating win in either the Hawaii Bowl or Armed Forces Bowl.

 

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NFL Round One Playoff Predictions ATS


Houston Texans (+3.5) over Kansas City Chiefs – First playoff game of the year and it’s a matchup between Alex Smith and Brian Hoyer. Who’s excited? The Chiefs finished the year on a 10 game win streak and are the hottest team in football. Unfortunately, they’ve lost six straight games in the postseason. Sounds like a low scoring game that will come down to a late field goal. Also, Andy Reid is due for a time management blunder to blow the game. Texans 22-20.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) over Cincinnati Bengals – The Steelers might be one of the best six seeds in recent memory. I honestly think the Bengals are better off with A.J. McCarron instead of Andy Dalton. Dalton hasn’t been ruled out yet, but I’d be surprised if he played. The Steelers defense is a little shaky and will let up points, but when your offense scores 28+ points a game then there’s no need to worry. Ben Roethlisberger is 10-2 in Cincinnati for his career.  Steelers 31-25.

 

Green Bay Packers (-1) over Washington Redskins – It’s hard to believe that Kirk Cousins is playing better than Aaron Rodgers right now. I’m convinced that the Packers tanked against the Vikings because they’d rather play Washington than Minnesota. As bad as the Packers have played, I can’t see them losing against a Redskin team that really hasn’t played anyone. A stat that sticks out: Washington hasn’t won against a team over .500 ALL YEAR. Aaron Rodgers likes that. Packers 27-23.

 

Minnesota Vikings (+6) over Seattle Seahawks – If the current weather forecasts hold true, the Seahawks’ wild-card playoff game Sunday at Minnesota is almost certain to set a record as the coldest in team history, and rank among the coldest in NFL history. The Seahawks dominated the Vikings in the regular season matchup, and I think the Vikes have a good chance to make this a close game. I just don’t believe in Teddy Bridgewater and the Seahawks are going to stack the box to stop Peterson. Seahawks 24-20.

 

SIDE NOTE:

Since 1980, home underdogs are 21-14 straight up and 21-12-2 against the spread in the playoffs. All home teams are underdogs this week.

 

 

Last week: 7-9

Regular Season ATS: 132-120-4

Playoffs ATS: 0-0

Teaser Pick of the Week Overall: 8-9

Teaser Pick of the Week (6 Points): Seattle Seahawks PK

Pittsburgh Steelers +3.5

 

 

AL Playoffs Feature No Front-Runner

(The Kansas City Royals own the number one seed for the AL Playoffs, Courtesy Kansas City Star)

The Houston Astros and New York Yankees led off the 2015 MLB Playoffs last night, with the Astros winning by a final tally of 3-0.

The Astros will now head to the epicenter of barbeque in Kansas City. The Royals finished with the best record in the AL, at 95-67.

In the other matchup in the AL, the Toronto Blue Jays (93-69) welcome the passport-bearing Texas Rangers (88-74) to town.

The AL is particularly clouded compared to the NL. While the NL possesses a front-runner (St. Louis), and a barrage of other capable teams, the AL doesn’t seem to have a favorite.

I will not predict an AL Champion, but I will give a rundown on the ALDS pairings and give a predicted winner.

American League Divisional Series 1:

#5 Houston Astros @ #1 Kansas City Royals

In one of the better parodies displayed in this year’s playoffs, America’s underdog from a year ago hosts America’s underdog for this year.

After winning their wild card game in dramatic fashion, the Royals proceeded to travel all the way to the World Series last season.

This season, the Astros (86-76)  won their wild card game, and are the darling of many playoff fans who don’t have their favorite team in the big dance.

In the playoffs, it often comes down to who has the best pitching staff. Both the Astros and Royals possess aces, so this series will be close.

Kansas City is 4-0 when Yordano Ventura starts in the playoffs, and he’s slated to take the hill in game one.

Houston will be throwing their number two pitcher in Collin McHugh.

(Houston will lean on Dallas Keuchel at least once during the series, Courtesy AP)

Houston owns a better starting pitcher ERA, but KC’s bullpen earns a slight edge. Royals star reliever Wade Davis virtually guarantees a scoreless performance whenever he’s called upon.

Houston’s bats provide a huge source of power, as five players have hit at least 20 home runs for the team.

Neither teams have players that hit for high average, as each squad rosters just one player who hit at least .300 over the course of the regular season.

For some reason, I just can’t see the Astros losing this series. That said, I have to pick Houston to win this matchup in five.

Prediction: Houston in five games, Carlos Correa is MVP

American League Divisional Series 2:

#3 Texas Rangers @ #2 Toronto Blue Jays

The high-flying Blue Jays have ended their 21-year playoff drought thanks to their AL East crown this season. The Texas Rangers are in the playoffs after a short hiatus dating back to 2012.

When the common fan thinks about the 2015 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays, one word comes to mind. That word is power. The Blue Jays have hit the most home runs (by far) in the MLB, and also lead all teams in runs scored.

(Josh Donaldson should be pivatol in Toronto’s quest for a title, Courtesy National Post)

I think this series will be pretty quick and clean. Toronto may let one game slip, but they’ll finish off Texas pretty quickly through their offensive juggernauts

Prediction: Toronto in four games, Josh Donaldson MVP