2017 AFC East division preview

2017 AFC East division preview

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

4: New York Jets

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: JULIO CORTEZ/AP)

Last season: 5-11

Strength of schedule: 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

win: Jax

3: Miami Dolphins

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season: 10-6

Strength of schedule: 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2: Buffalo Bills

2017 AFC East division preview

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

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule: 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1: New England Patriots

2017 AFC East division preview

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

Last season: 14-2

Strength of schedule: 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

losses: ATL, @Oak

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Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

We continue our fantasy football bold predictions. This time we breakdown the AFC East. And don’t worry, it’s not all about the Patriots.

Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor Is Not a QB2

Tyrod Taylor enters as the 18th fantasy quarterback.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Tyrod Taylor (Photo by: espn.com)

Taylor surprised a lot of people coming back to Buffalo this season. More surprising is that Buffalo traded away their top receiver Sammy Watkins and acquired Jordan Matthews in a separate deal.

Taylor finished 2016 as the No. 18 fantasy quarterback. However, he did score at least 20 fantasy points in standard leagues in seven of 15 starts. He also had at least 17 fantasy points in three other games, so he only really struggled for five games on the year. But that’s 2016.

In 2017, his two receivers are Matthews and Zay Jones. Not the best tandem let alone they are new to Buffalo.

So far this preseason Taylor has struggled in the new offense. He had a two-interception outing in Buffalo’s preseason loss to the Eagles on Thursday.

A report from Joe Buscaglia of ABC 7 Buffalo stated that there was concern about who will start at quarterback in week 1. Head coach Sean McDermott said they will go with Taylor as the starter. That alone causes concern on how ready Taylor is.

He has success without Watkins but he’s relying on a rookie and a new receiver to the offense to act as his main targets. It’s risky to even draft Taylor. I also predict that Taylor will not finish the season as the starter.

Miami Dolphins: Julius Thomas will have double digit touchdowns

Julius Thomas was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Miami Dolphins this offseason. He currently ranks as the 18th tight end in fantasy.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Julius Thomas (Photo by: miamidolphins.com)

In a previous article, he is my tight end fantasy sleeper and I still believe that. His time in Jacksonville was dreadful but in Miami he rejoins Adam Gase from his playing days in Denver.

He only had nine total touchdowns with Jacksonville in two seasons. His big break in 2013, he had 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns. Even though his quarterback was some guy named Peyton Manning in Denver, Thomas excelled in Gase’s offense.

He was very efficent in the red zone. In 2013 from inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line. The year after, he was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine from the 20-yard line. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

Gase has had success helping his tight ends after Thomas. Even though he won’t have Ryan Tannehill, he will have Jay Cutler throwing the ball.

In 2015 when Gase coached Cutler in Chicago, tight end Zach Miller led the team with five touchdowns. With a better supporting cast, Thomas should be the top option in the red zone and should improve from the days in Jacksonville.

New England Patriots: Mike Gillislee becomes the next LeGarrette Blount

The Patriots signed Gillislee, a restricted free agent from the Buffalo Bills, after a season of 101 carries for 577 yards and eight touchdowns.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Mike Gillislee (Photo by: profootballweekly.com)

The Patriots are known to like their workhorse backs. Gillislee averaged more yards per carry (4.2) than LeGarrette Blount (3.3) against eight or more defenders in the box last season.

Gillislee now takes over as the starting back, a role that produced 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 from Blount. He produced nine total touchdowns as the backup to LeSean McCoy in Buffalo last year and being in the top offense in the NFL should only help him.

Now the Patriots do have a lot of running backs with Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis. New England backs can see a hefty market share in the offense. But that didn’t stop the starters for having good seasons.

Last year, Blount carried 62.03 percent of New England’s touches, good for the ninth-highest share in football. He saw a similar per-game rate in 2015 (he missed four games, but paced towards a 57 percent market share), and in 2012, Stevan Ridley ended the year with a 55.45 percent rushing attempt market share for the Pats. 

It’s not unreasonable to think Gillislee, who has a skillset that’s broader than Blount’s and has shown a ton of upside. He is currently the 24th running back in fantasy.

New York Jets: Bilal Powell will be a top-15 running back

Despite opening last season as the No. 2 running back for the Jets behind Matt Forte, Bilal Powell might have been the best running back in New York in 2016.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Bilal Powell (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

He finished as the No. 23 fantasy running back in standard leagues, which was just three spots behind Forte. He had 131 carries for 722 yards (5.51 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, and 58 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

Powell had career highs in rushing yards, yards per carry and receptions. He outperformed 31-year-old Forte, producing almost as many plays better than 15 yards (14) as Forte (16) despite 59 fewer touches. Powell had a higher average of yards per carry after contact and more missed tackles.

In his final seven games, Powell had at least 14 fantasy points in standard leagues in four of those outings. Powell becomes dual-threat running back this year as he will be a top target in the passing game with Quincy Enunwa out for the season.

Only David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and White garnered more targets in the passing game for running backs last season. The offense isn’t great, but Powell could get around 250 touches next season if he stays healthy.

He’s going to get his share of touches and he’s a solid No. 3 fantasy running back to target with a mid- to late-round pick, with his value higher in PPR.

 

Featured image from thesportsquotient.com.

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Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews fantasy value following trade

The Buffalo Bills had a busy Friday after trading their star wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E.J. Gaines and picks. They quickly found their replacement, trading for receiver Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby. After these trades, how will Watkins and Matthews fantasy values change with their new teams?

Sammy Watkins to the Rams

The Rams finally get their No.1 wide receiver they have been searching for. While this trade helps the Rams in getting a top target, it may not help Watkins’ fantasy value.

Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews Fantasy Value After Trade

Sammy Watkins (Photo by: billswire.usatoday.com)

He goes from catching passes from Tyrod Taylor, an excellent deep-ball thrower, to catching passes from Jared Goff.

While Goff was a rookie last year, he really struggled in the seven games he played. Last year, he completed a miserable 54.5 percent of his passes, had a 5-to-7 TD/INT ratio and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. Now he is learning a new offense under Sean McVay.

But for fantasy players, they can’t ignore the talent that Watkins has. He has per-16 game averages of 66 receptions, 1,063 yards and seven touchdowns. He can create separation in the middle of the field, but he’s also a truly dangerous deep threat, as evidenced by his career average of 16.1 yards per catch.

Watkins has true talent, but his career has been plagued with injuries. Watkins has missed 11 games over his last two seasons including eight in 2016 because of a foot injury that required multiple surgeries. But this year he is finally healthy.

As mentioned before, he will be the clear first option for the Rams and for that he won’t drop to far in drafts because of his role. But when you combine his injury concerns, with the fact that he’ll be playing with an inexperienced starting quarterback along with a new offense, there is major risk mixed in with that upside.

Watkins becomes a high-end WR3 around the fourth or fifth round rather than a mid-range WR2 in Buffalo.

Jordan Matthews to the Bills

After trading Watkins, the Bills found their replacement in Jordan Matthews from Philadelphia. Matthews would’ve been the second to third option in the slot in Philadelphia, but here in Buffalo he will line up both in slot and the outside as the new No. 1 receiver. This trade should increase his fantasy value.

As mentioned in Philly, he would have seen a decrease in targets. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were both brought in during the offseason, Zach Ertz is a steady target at tight end, Nelson Agholor is still hanging on a thread and rookie Mack Hollins looks like a legitimate talent.

Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews Fantasy Value After Trade

Jordan Matthews (Photo by: phillysportsnetwork.com)

Even though Buffalo isn’t a pass-heavy offense, Matthews should find increased targets. He will be lining up with veteran Anquan Boldin and rookie Zay Jones who are both slot receivers.

From 2014-16, these are the percentages of routes from the slot: Jones at 68.1 percent at East Carolina, Boldin at 70.4 percent and Matthews at 84.5 percent. Matthews will have a great opportunity to get the ball from Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is an emerging talent at quarterback totaling 37 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 7.4 yards per attempt over the last two years.

One problem that comes with any trade is how quick he can learn the offense. Like Watkins with the Rams, Matthews is in a new offense and where will he be lined up in the offense. I think he will be all over, especially with the receivers they have in Buffalo.

There is a lot of potential for Matthews. He is an interesting sleeper that will be taken around the eighth or ninth round. He will have a better situation from a fantasy perspective.

Who will do better in 2017?

Watkins is a young talent who was taken with the fourth pick back in 2014. Matthews is entering the prime of his career. With a better situation, Matthews will have the better fantasy season.

Watkins will have his moments, but an inexperienced quarterback and a very new offense for the young quarterback will cause problems. Where Watkins has thrived is catching passes over 20-yards. Goff isn’t known as a terrific deep-ball thrower. Goff completed 8/23 passes which traveled 15+ in the air last season, out of 205 attempts.

Matthews has the same issue with a new offense, but has an established quarterback with experience. This is a player who has per-16 game averages of 78 receptions, 930 yards and seven touchdowns through three seasons. Matthews has had at least 800 receiving yards in all three seasons, and he scored eight touchdowns in his first two campaigns and I expect him now to repeat this in Buffalo.

 

Featured image from wday.com

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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

I’m continuing my rankings with the top 50 fantasy wide receivers for the upcoming season. Here’s the first list 2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41.

 

50. Rishard Matthews (Tennessee Titans)- Rishard Matthews was quietly a solid option for fantasy last season. He had 950 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and was ranked the No. 15 ranked receiver in standard leagues.

Matthews really kicked it into gear in the second half of the season. His targets per game increased from 4.9 to 8.0 during the second half of the season and became a reliable play in most fantasy leagues. It is unlikely that he’s going to put up similar numbers to last year with the additions of Corey Davis and Eric Decker, however he is a nice late round target.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

https://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/35/files/2016/10/9612339-rishard-matthews-nfl-cleveland-browns-tennessee-titans-850×560.jpg

49. Tyrell Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)- Talk about a break out year for Tyrell Williams. At the beginning of the season, he was fighting for the No, 3 wide receiver spot on the team, but by the end of the year he had 1,059 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns.

He’s a reliable pass catcher, as he only dropped five percent of the balls that came his way, and was one of the most productive receivers in the league last year after the catch. He had 439 yards after the catch, which was good enough for eighth best in the league last year.

I’d like to put Williams higher on this list, but because of the Chargers getting Keenan Allen back, and the addition of Mike Williams, he’s no more than a late round pick.

48. Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions)- Marvin Jones was nothing more than mediocre last year. He had his big moments early on in the season but after that he was nothing special. Jones started off the season strong putting up 83 fantasy points in the first seven games, but after that he had a mere 27 fantasy points in the last nine matchups. H

e wasn’t great in terms of efficiency or production, but the reason he cracks the top fifty is because of his opportunities. Last season, he ranked 10th in team pass plays and 11th in terms of how often he was on the field. We’ve seen that he has the ability to put up big numbers, so take him as a late round sleeper.

47. John Brown (Arizona Cardinals)- John Brown was a fantasy disaster last season. He only had 39 receptions due to illness and when he was on the field, he didn’t produce like he did in 2015. After having 1,003 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2015, things were looking good for John Brown in the NFL. The speedy receiver had a 64 percent catch rate and averaged 67 yards per game. He had a poor 2016 but don’t let that deter you from drafting him in fantasy this year, as he’s a strong bounce back candidate.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

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46. Corey Coleman (Cleveland Browns)- Limited by injuries in his rookie year, Corey Coleman showed promise but didn’t put up big numbers. Coleman had 414 receiving yards and three touchdowns with the poor quarterback situation in Cleveland.

However, there’s still hope for Coleman. He has a high ceiling and tons of talent, plus the opportunities will be there this year. With the departure of Terrelle Pryor, and the only notable acquisition at wide receiver being Kenny Britt, Coleman should see tons of targets and enjoy a nice sophomore year.

45. Jordan Matthews (Philadelphia Eagles)- Playing in 14 games last season, Jordan Matthews had 804 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He has been a nice option for fantasy teams but hasn’t broken out in the way everyone has hoped he would.

He isn’t the most efficient receiver but does rank in the top half of the league in terms of productivity. Matthews ranked 24th in receptions with 73 and ranked 46th in yards after the catch with 235.

With the addition of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, don’t expect much more next season from Jordan Matthews.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

Corey Davis (Photo by: titansonline.com)

44. Corey Davis (Tennessee Titans)- The Titans have put together a nice receiving core for the 2017 season. Corey Davis is by far my favorite rookie receiver and here’s why: He’s the second receiver on a high-powered offense, he’s working with one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and that quarterback has never thrown an interception in the red zone in the NFL.

Standing at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, Davis has a great shot to get some red zone looks this season. Expect a solid rookie year from Corey Davis.

43. Mike Wallace (Baltimore Ravens)- Mike Wallace had a great 2016 season. Wallace had 1,017 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He is one of the most productive receivers in the league ranking in the top 26 in receptions, receiving yards and yards after catch.

Mike Wallace was the No. 1 ranked receiver in terms of team pass plays. There are signs of regression for Mike Wallace however. The Ravens recently signed Danny Woodhead and Jeremy Maclin who are candidates to take targets from Wallace this year.

42. Cameron Meredith (Chicago Bears)- Cameron Meredith had a nice 2016 season. He had 888 receiving yards and four touchdowns for the Bears and fans can expect more of that this year. With the departure of Alshon Jeffrey, Meredith has a chance to go into the season as the lead receiver for Chicago.

He was one of the most efficient wide receivers last season ranking 22nd in catch rate and 12th in yards per target. Overall, Meredith is a great receiver for the Bears, and more is expected for him next season.

41. Kenny Britt (Cleveland Browns)- Kenny Britt finally had a 1,000-yard receiving season. After being drafted in 2009, this is his first season with 1,000 yards and it made me excited for his production next year, until he joined the Browns. Making the decision to go to Cleveland didn’t help Britt’s status for the upcoming season.

It is a shame because he was a very productive receiver for the Rams last season. He was 23rd in receiving yards, 31st in receptions and 29th in yards after the catch with 303. I’m not saying Britt is going to just fall off the map completely, but he has the ability to put up big numbers, its just a matter of who’s throwing him the ball.

 

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Super Bowl Series: NFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC East

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

Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s not going out on a limb to say the Dallas Cowboys can win the Super Bowl. Last season, Dallas earned the number one seed in the NFC but lost to Green Bay 34-31 in the divisional round. The experience was valuable for a relatively young team.

The Cowboys are a talented offensive team. Dallas’ offensive line ranked second in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. This allowed rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot to lead the league in rushing with 1,631 yards. Fellow rookie Dak Prescott was named Rookie of the Year after throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

The second-ranked offensive line paved the way for the NFL’s leading rusher and they only gave up 25 sacks on the season.

To win the Super Bowl, the offense just needs to do what they did last season. If Elliot leads the NFL in rushing and Prescott protects the football, this offense will continue to be one of the best.

Winning the Super Bowl for the Cowboys comes down to their defense. Dallas gave up the fifth-fewest points last year (19.1) but a lot of that is due to a running game that kept them off the field.

Breaking down the Cowboys defense shows that they must improve their passing defense. The Cowboys ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense giving up only 83.5 yards per game. Dallas gave up 260.4 yards passing per game which ranked 26th.

In summary, the Cowboys offense needs to replicate their success from last season. Defensively, the Cowboys must continue to stop the run and bring down the passing yards allowed per game. This is what it will take for the Dallas Cowboys to win their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

New York Giants

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun)

Similar to the Cowboys, it is not far-fetched to say the New York Giants can win Super Bowl LII. The Giants went 11-5 and earned a wild card berth. New York lost their wild card game to Green Bay 38-13.

Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and champion and the leader of this offense. For the Giants to win the Super Bowl this season, Eli Manning will have to have a minimum of 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards which he is capable of.

From that 4,000 plus passing yards, Odell Beckham needs at least 1,300. If Odell adds 10 touchdowns as well, then the Giants’ offense will be good enough to make the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl.

As surprising as it is, the Giants will be led by their very talented defense. The front four is loaded and led by players like Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison. These guys will need to continue improve their pressure on opposing quarterbacks. New York ranked 14th with 35 sacks and that must improve to take that step towards a Super Bowl victory.

The weakest unit of the defense is the linebacking corp. If the linebackers are average they can still help the Giants have a top 10 defense.

New York’s secondary is one of the best in the league. Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie combined for 14 interceptions. Continuing that kind of success will only help the Giants’ chances.

The Giants strength will be the defense and if the offense can keep up the Giants can win the Super Bowl.

Washington Redskins

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

The Washington Redskins finished last season 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs. Making the playoffs is going to be a difficult task considering how good the NFC East is. It is going to take a lot for the Redskins to win the Super Bowl.

Washington will need Kirk Cousins to take the next step as a quarterback. That next step is becoming a Pro-Bowl and MVP-caliber quarterback which is asking too much of him. Last season he had 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Those numbers need to be 30-plus touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions.

Washington also has a running back by committee backfield and that must change. One of these running backs needs to step up and have a 1,200-yard season. There must be that go-to guy in crunch time.

The receiving corp is not going to blow your socks off. These guys will have to play over their head and take some of the pressure off of Jordan Reed to help this offense succeed.

Washington is going to be a project defensively. The Redskins don’t have starters listed on their depth chart at either defensive end spot or at strong safety. Josh Norman and Ryan Kerrigan are going to have to lead by example and carry this defense to a top-five ranking if the Redskins want to win the Super Bowl.

In short, for the Redskins to win Super Bowl LII, Kirk Cousins will need to be in the MVP discussion and the defense needs to play out of their mind as a top-five defense.

Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

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

Philly finished fourth in the NFC East with a record of 7-9 last season. Considering the Eagles had a rookie quarterback, it was a pretty good season. Philadelphia made a lot of moves to try and build a playoff team.

The acquisitions of LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery will go a long way to helping Carson Wentz avoid a sophomore slump. For the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, Wentz must have a huge year. What would that huge year look like? Wentz would have to double his touchdowns from 16 to at least 32 and cut down on his 14 interceptions.

Alshon Jeffery will simply have to stay healthy. Jeffery is elite when healthy but he has missed 11 games over the past two seasons. Torrey Smith will have to turn back the clock and mirror his 2013 season in which he caught 65 balls for 1,128 yards. Jordan Matthews will also have to step up his game.

The running game will need to take some pressure off the passing game. Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last season (18) with the Patriots and repeating that will push the Eagles to a higher plateau. Ryan Mathews needs to stay healthy which may be impossible because he has never played a full season in his seven years in the NFL.

The Eagles defense is full of playmakers and stars like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins. Last year Philadelphia ranked 12th in points allowed at 20.7 points per game. If the Eagles want to make the playoffs and win Super Bowl LII they must improve on that to alleviate pressure off of Carson Wentz and the rest of the offense.

If the Eagles remain healthy, get a huge jump in play from Carson Wentz and the defense allows fewer points than they did last season then the Philadelphia Eagles can win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC East. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl Series.

Super Bowl Series: AFC East

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Mark Few and Crew Working toward First Final Four Appearance

Few coaches have been as dominant in their conference as Mark Few. Few entered the year with the highest winning percentage among active coaches. With Gonzaga at 10-0, Few has done nothing to hurt that. Currently at 475 career wins, sometime at the end of this season or the beginning of next he will reach 500. There has only been one season in Few’s tenure that the Bulldogs did not win the West Coast Conference regular season or tournament title. Additionally, he will reach 18 consecutive tournament appearances barring a titanic implosion.

Those are all great stats, but there is one glaring accomplishment missing: A Final Four Appearance. Under Few the West Coast juggernaut has been to six Sweet Sixteens, one of those turning into an Elite Eight appearance. Despite all of the tournament appearances and wins he has amassed, none have begotten a Final Four.

This year is a game changer for him. Better yet, a tournament changer. His team has the ability to go deep into the tournament. A strong combination of new faces and returnees has made this team as balanced as ever.

Przemek Karnowski is more than a big body, he also has grace for the Bulldogs. (Photo courtesy of bustingbrackets.com)

Przemek Karnowski is more than a big body, he also has grace for the Bulldogs. (Photo courtesy of bustingbrackets.com)

Przemek Karnowski’s return to the floor is the biggest impact for the team thus far.  The stand out center played 5 games in 2015-16 before being sidelined with a back issue. Listed at 7-1 and 288 pounds, he is definitely a big body but there is more to him. He is one of the most graceful passers in the WCC.

This year has been no exception as he has done much more than be the team’s second leading scorer at 12.4 points per game. He has added on 6.2 rebounds per contest as well as 2.0 assists thus far. Not to mention he has accomplished everything with a highly efficient 27.7 PER. The numbers, however, do not reflect the precision with which he finds the open man cross court from the low post. Karnowski sends defenses into a tizzy by beginning his approach to the basket then flipping the ball with ease 15 feet away to a teammate.

Other significant returning players include Josh Perkins and Silas Melson.  Perkins averaged double figures for the Bulldogs in 2015-16. With the departures of Domantas Sabonas, Kyle Wiltjer and Eric McClellan he became the team’s leading returning scorer. So far he has 11.7 points per game, but shows versatility by adding in 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest. Perkins very much buys into Few’s offense that moves the ball frequently, but he has the ability to hit the shot that the team needs when necessary.  Perkins currently sits at a 53.7% mark from three point land. Silas Melson, on the other hand, averages 7.9 points per game, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He is doing this as the Bulldogs seventh leading scorer. The team legitimately plays eight players. Their depth and balance is one of their main strengths.

Gonzaga would be in a different place without Nigel Williams-Goss (Photo courtesy of emeraldcityswagger.com)

Gonzaga would be in a different place without Nigel Williams-Goss (Photo courtesy of emeraldcityswagger.com)

Much of that depth comes from the plethora of transfers that Mark Few has coaxed over to his Spokane. Starting from the top, there is leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss had a productive year for the Washington Huskies but decided to bolt for greener tournament pastures. The guard has put up numbers across the board with 13.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Williams-Goss’ defensive numbers have improved as well, allowing 88.8 points per 100 possessions dropping from 104.8 with Washington.

 Jonathan Williams and Jordan Matthews are two additional transfers that have had an impact thus far. Matthews came over from California while Williams came from Missouri. Both players have seen a dip in their production from their previous locations. This does not mean that they are any less important. Each have had their respective impacts. Matthews has reached double figures in five games. This included a season high 17 points and three of five from deep in a trouncing of the Washington Huskies. For Williams it was a 16 point showing against Florida in which he made his mark. He has had a few other gems this year including 20 points against Bryant.

The balance of Few’s team reaches new heights when two freshman enter the discussion. Zach Collins is only playing 16.7 minutes per game, but is still the team’s fourth leading scorer at 10.0 points. Collins is currently shooting 69.4% from the field and has a PER of 30.5.  That is a dangerous weapon for Few to have off his bench. Killian Tillie provided more at the beginning of the year, but he currently is playing 14.7 minutes per game. In his short stints he has provided 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds. The scary figure is the six foot ten forward’s three point percentage: 46.7%. Few can insert him at any point in the game and spread the floor. Bigger players will be made uncomfortable playing outside the paint.

Their major strength is their ability to move the ball with extreme accuracy. The Bulldogs love to get out in transition and score quickly. They also possess the ability to slow the game down offensively and create in the half court. The West Coast team also has been efficient on defense, allowing 63.1 points per game to their opponents.

Gonzaga’s diversity and versatility under Mark Few has led to several key wins already. Early in the season they have already beaten the likes of Florida, San Diego State, Arizona and Iowa State. This has led the Bulldogs to a top ten ranking by the Associated Press. This is one of the teams in the country most worth tuning in to see and come April they will be in the mix with the giant programs.