Julio Jones fantasy

Julio Jones breaks through in fantasy with monster game

We all know how good Julio Jones is. He is one of the best receivers in the league. He has had his struggles this season, with only one touchdown and two 100-yard games through the Falcons’ first 10 games. However, through those 10 games, he has only had three games under 70 yards, which isn’t all that bad in fantasy, but not what you expect from Jones. In fantasy, he only had three double-digit games.

But Jones has reminded us all why he is still the best receiver in the game. He had a breakout game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with season highs in catches (12), receiving yards (253) and two touchdowns.

Jones is back! Now with the performance fantasy owners have been waiting for, along with the Atlanta Falcons getting hot, Jones could be the key getting your team in the playoffs.

His breakout game

For much of the game, Jones had more total yards than the entire Tampa Bay offense. He ended with 253 receiving yards, while Tampa Bay had 283 receiving yards as a team and just as many scores.

The first big play for Jones was out of the wildcat on a 51-yard touchdown pass from receiver Mohamed Sanu. The other, just around five minutes later, showcased a double move so deadly that it left Buccaneers defensive back Ryan Smith on his backside. Jones dove over the pylon for his second score. In standard scoring, he had 38.8 points and in PPR he had 50.8 points.

Julio Jones fantasy

Julio Jones (Photo from bostonherald.com)

On a side note, Jones had some accomplishments after the game against the Bucs. His 253 yards was the most allowed by the Buccaneers in franchise history. He also passed Hall of Fame receiver Lance Alworth with most receiving yards through 90 games in NFL history.

Coming into this game, Jones had just one touchdown and his yards per game (78.6) were the third-worst of his career. In fantasy coming into Sunday, he had 84.6 fantasy points, averaging 8.5 per week, which ranked 23rd among receiving in standard scoring.

As said before, it’s just not been the best season for Jones, but not all that bad. He just hasn’t put up the fantasy stats that he usually does since he is lacking touchdowns. After this game, it looks as if Jones could be back on track, having big games down the stretch with the Falcons finding some luck.

What to expect at this point

The big question that comes to Jones is will he find the end zone on a consistent basis. We all know he’s capable because of how good he is, and now he’s getting some confidence in his game. He does have a tough hill to climb in three of his next four. He plays Minnesota next week, followed by New Orleans, Tampa Bay and New Orleans again.

Julio Jones fantasy

Julio Jones and Justin Hardy (Photo from usatoday.com)

His most difficult in terms of matchups is probably against the Vikings and Xavier Rhodes. Minnesota has an outstanding defense, but in terms of fantasy performance against opposing receivers, the Vikings haven’t been as dominant and have struggled in the past couple of weeks. Three weeks ago, Minnesota gave up 181 yards and a score to Redskins wide receivers. On Thanksgiving, Lions receivers caught 12 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Most of the damage on Thanksgiving came from Marvin Jones Jr., who resembles to how the Falcons use Jones. Jones Jr. had six catches for 109 yards and two scores.

The matchup against the Saints could go either way. The biggest question is if rookie Marshon Lattimore will play. He was injured last week against Washington, and the Saints struggled against Washington’s receivers. He was also absent for the Saints’ Week 12 matchup with the Rams. Lattimore is a big reason for the improvement of the Saints secondary. If he plays, he could pose a challenge against Jones.

As for Tampa Bay, read the opening paragraph. Hint, pray you don’t play against him in fantasy that week.

Biggest Takeaway: Falcons are hot

The big takeaway of this is the Falcons are hot. After struggling to finish games earlier in the season, they have gained some momentum similar to last year.

In fantasy, they could have key players down the road if they keep playing like they have. Players like Sanu, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman when he comes back and other offensive weapons could become a threat for fantasy players these next four weeks. If you have any Falcons players, use them accordingly, because this could be the time they have their best fantasy performances of 2017.

 

Featured image from si.com.

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Julio Jones fantasy

Is Week 12 a new start for Julio Jones?

Julio Jones has been one of the most productive and reliable wide receivers in fantasy football since he entered the league. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 220 pounds, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. He is usually a solid first-round pick in fantasy football too. However, this year hasn’t been the same.

Through ten games of the 2017 NFL season, Julio Jones had 786 receiving yards and only one touchdown. Through ten games in 2016, Jones had 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. There is clear regression in his play, and injuries and regression of quarterback play are clearly the reasons behind it.

Struggles

Through this season, Jones has had nagging injuries that have caused him to miss practices and snaps during games. In Week 4, Jones had to leave the game against the Buffalo Bills due to a hip flexor injury that caused him to miss extended time. Jones had offseason surgery to remove a bunion from his right foot after his 2016 season ended on a negative note due to turf toe, which kept him limited through the end of the season into the playoffs.

Other than injury, a cause of his decline may be the result of Matt Ryan’s play. After a terrific 2016 season capped off by a trip to the Super Bowl and an MVP award, Ryan has seen his play regress from last year, which is warranted. Through 11 games, he’s already thrown one more interception than he did all of last season and is on pace for a worse completion percentage. Last season marked Jones’ lowest reception per game stats since 2012. This season has been just the same.

Ryan has also gotten used to spreading the ball to his other receivers and running backs, causing a lack of receptions for Jones, who is on pace for 96 receptions this season. The emergence of Mohamed Sanu as a legitimate No. 2 receiver also has an effect on Jones. Sanu has already matched his touchdown receptions from last year and is on pace to top his yards and receptions from last year.

Bounce back

Julio Jones fantasy

(Photo by Matt Patterson/AP Photo)

Week 12 may be a bounce-back week for Julio Jones, and fantasy owners can rejoice. Jones exploded for 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He doubled his receptions per game and touchdowns and more than doubled his yards per game. Before this week, Jones was only the 23rd ranked receiver in standard leagues. Jones now outscored every other receiver while having his third career game over 250 receiving yards.

Should fantasy owners be expecting a return of the Julio Jones we all have come to love? Yes, they should. Over the last five games of the season, the Falcons go up against the Buccaneers, Vikings, Panthers and the Saints twice. Jones should continue to see the most targets on the team and should succeed in a big way against the Buccaneers again, as well as the Panthers. He may struggle against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings secondary, but will continue to see more targets and more work in the red zone.

 

Featured image from bostonherald.com

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Devonta Freeman fantasy

Fantasy football Injury: Devonta Freeman

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman suffered a concussion on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. He did not return to the game after the injury.

That led to the speedster Tevin Coleman taking over for Freeman. Coleman could be in line for some production and become a fantasy asset should Freeman miss time.

Tevin Colman Outlook

Coleman set season highs with 20 rushing attempts and 83 rushing yards. He also found the end zone on a one-yard plunge in the last moments of the second quarter and caught a pass for five yards. In his first eight games this season, Coleman had just 63 carries with 316 yards, giving him an average of five yards per carry. He also had one rushing touchdown on the year, and has been a threat in the receiving game with two touchdowns.

Devonta Freeman fantasy

Tevin Coleman (Photo from thefalcoholic.com)

The former Indiana Hoosier star has an explosive presence out of the backfield to make himself a high-end RB2 with RB1 potential. It doesn’t matter how he does it whether it’s running, catching etc. He will make things happen. He proved that last season with 941 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage on 149 touches.

One thing with Coleman, along with the Falcons offense, is consistency. In Week 8 against the New York Jets, he had an impressive 104 total yards. The following week against the Carolina Panthers he had just 24 total yards. It happened earlier in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills when he had 142 total yards and in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins he had only 36 total yards. Some of that is due to the Falcons’ struggles in the past few weeks closing out games.

But Coleman will have tremendous value. As reported on Monday, it looks as if Freeman will miss the game next week on Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks following his second concussion.

Fantasy impact on The Falcons offense

To the concern of whether Coleman’s impact as the starter affects the Falcons’ surrounding offensive players, fantasy owners shouldn’t be too worried. However, don’t think this could impact the Falcons receivers.

Devonta Freeman fantasy

Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu (Photo from cbssports.com)

Coleman is a great receiving back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. There could be days where he has better receiving numbers then other Falcons players.

Now for Julio Jones owners, of course this means very little, even if Coleman has a better game. Others like Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper could have less targets because of Coleman playing more snaps. The Falcons should continue to use their weapons as frequent as they have all season though. For Matt Ryan, this gives him another weapon and possibly more fantasy points.

Overall, Coleman will be used in any way they need him on offense, but the Falcons will use everyone to move the ball downfield.

Conclusion

In the end, Coleman should have value even when Freeman comes back from injury. If he is not owned, now is the time to get him as he isn’t available in a lot of leagues.

Devonta Freeman fantasy

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman (Photo from si.com)

As for Freeman, he is expected to miss at least next week as mentioned before. When he comes back, he will be back to the role he had all season as the main back and split time with Coleman as long he doesn’t have any setbacks.

Expect the Falcons to ease Freeman back in form and use Coleman a little more.

 

 

 

 

Featured image from atlantafalcons.com. 

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week 7 DFS don'ts

Week 7 DFS don’ts: Wide receiver

In my opinion, this is the most important position group to predict correctly because of all the available players, and the volatility that comes with this position. To cash in almost any format, two of your three wide receivers need to hit. Let’s keep this week rolling with the wide receiver edition of week 7 DFS don’ts.

Julio Jones: FanDuel Price $8,500

Julio Jones is strictly a DFS don’ts for cash games. His production ceiling is among highest of any player; however, his floor is not worth his $8,500 price tag. On paper, Jones has a great matchup against one of the NFL’s worst defenses. The Patriots have given up 300 yards passing to every quarterback they’ve faced. But, the opposition’s number one receiver does not produce.

On the Suck My DFS Podcast, my co-host talks at length about New England’s track record this season against number one wide receivers. I won’t steal his thunder, but the results are not promising for Jones. I think New England will deploy Stephon Gilmore against Jones, and Malcolm Butler on the secondary receiving option.

Of course, Jones could overcome this individual matchup and score big. If he does, it won’t be on any of my cash lineups. Jones is great, but there’s too much risk for me this weekend.

Demaryius Thomas: FanDuel Price $7,100

week 7 DFS don'ts

Will Demaryius Thomas be able to produce at a consistent level with his matchup against Casey Hayward? (Courtesy of; SB Nation)

Yes, I was totally wrong on Demaryius Thomas last weekend. But, I’m not afraid of placing him back on my week 7 DFS don’ts. Why? Because Thomas will be seeing Casey Hayward for the majority of his routes. In week one Thomas was in Hayward’s coverage on 75 percent of his routes.

On those routes, Thomas turned six targets into four catches for 61 yards. It’s not a bad day by any means; however, that’s not enough to cash in a DFS contest from your second wide receiver. Also, Thomas will be playing without his running mate Emmanuel Sanders. This will allow the Chargers secondary to turn all of their attention to Thomas.

Given how bad the Chargers are against the run and the now shallow depth at wide receiver, I don’t think Thomas will have enough opportunities to double is value.

Rishard Matthews: FanDuel Price $5,500

Take advantage of what I’m about to tell you. After Monday night’s game and this weekend’s matchup against Cleveland, Rishard Matthews is going to be popular “pay down” play. However, you need to avoid him at all costs. Why? Because he has the toughest individual matchup in the NFL.

Matthews will face Jason McCourty. For those who don’t know, McCourty is playing the best football of his career. He is currently rated as the number one corner back by Pro Football Focus thus far. Last week, the Browns deployed McCourty in shadow coverage versus DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was only targeted three times as a result.

There are plenty of other ways to get exposure to this game. I’m begging you to please stay away from Rishard Matthews for your own good. Matthews joins Jones and Thomas on my week 7 DFS don’ts.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Sporting News

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Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Fantasy reaction: Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury

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

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

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

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

The Giants situation

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

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

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

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

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

Wavier Wire

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

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

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

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

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

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

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

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

Look at trades

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

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

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

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

Best bet: Look for the hot hand

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

 

Featured image from sportingnews.com.

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 10-1

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

This is the final installment, containing players 10-1.

10. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by nj.com)

Beckham Jr. gets a lot of press for his antics, but he produces at a Hall of Fame level so far in his career. His 2016 season was no different as he recorded 101 receptions for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Giants have other offensive weapons that should take off pressure from Beckham Jr. Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall were brought in this offseason and Sterling Sheppard had a solid season in 2016. With so many targets, Beckham will likely face a little bit less attention than in previous years.

He wants to be the most paid player in the NFL and with a good season in 2017, he can be the top paid wide receiver in the league at the least.

Comments: “Some love him, the rest hate him but what you can’t deny is that he is a stud on the field. He is also one of the most exciting players to watch. Ranked at 10 seems perfect for Odell and I can’t wait to see what he does this season as he has started to put together a career that could one day head to Canton.” -Matthew Hagan

9. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top 100

David Johnson (Photo by latimes.com)

He was little known of Norhtern Iowa and the Cardinals didn’t even want to draft him as they preferred other running backs. That hasn’t stopped Johnson from becoming one of the premier running backs and players in the NFL. In 2016 he rushed 1,239 yards had 879 receiving yards and finished with 20 total touchdowns.

Johnson can do it all and is entering his second full season as the top back in Arizona. The rest of the offense wasn’t particularly productive, but Johnson made the most of an average offensive line and a struggling quarterback. This season Johnson will continue his progression and have an impact on the game in a variety of ways.

Fantasy football shouldn’t be used to judge real football most of the time, but there is a reason he is going in the top three of most drafts.

Comments: “He is a complete back and has thrived behind a line that isn’t great. If he doesn’t pick up his yards on the ground he will get the ball thrown to him. He has a chance to have another good season as the focal point of the Cardinal offense.”-Joe DiTullio

8. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

NFL Top 100

Aaron Donald (Photo by masslive.com)

Donald is by far the best interior lineman in the NFL and has been the best player on a lackluster Rams’ team for years now. This is all despite being in the NFL for only three years. Last season he finished with 47 tackles, five passes defended and eight sacks.

His best asset is his quickness off of the snap. He continually is the first one to make his jump at the snap of the ball and that is not something that will diminish in 2017. One thing to be weary of is that Donald will play more defensive end this season in the Rams’ new 3-4 defense. With Donald’s skill he should be able to make the adjustment and continue to be one of the top ten players in the league.

The 2017 season may not be too kind to the Rams, but Donald will continue to perform.

Comments: “Aaron Donald is unblockable just put on the tape. He hasn’t gotten the love because the Rams have been horrible. Donald is a top 3-5 player and once the Rams become relevant, people will soon realize that ranking him eighth is just not good enough.” -Matthew Hagan

7. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Ezekiel Elliot (Photo by wfaa.com)

Elliot does benefit from a great offensive line, but he had a great season for a rookie in 2016. He rushed for 1,631 yards and had 16 total touchdowns. Those stats are especially impressive when taking into account that he only played 15 games because Dallas rested their starters for their season finale to stay healthy for the playoffs.

The thing that will hold Elliot back is his off the field issues. This list was compiled before rumors had started about a possible suspension. If he is on the field Elliot is going to be one of the most productive backs in the league. He has a great offensive line and enough natural talent that he will be shine. Even if he has a sophomore slump and does a little worse than 2016, he is still going to have an excellent season.

If Elliot is suspended it may hinder his rating on this list, but he will still be a great player for the games that he does play in.

Comments: “Elliot does benefit from a great offensive line, but most great running backs do. His vision and athletic ability make him elusive. Going into year two, he will have another big season if he can stay on the field.”-Joe DiTullio

6. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Von Miller (Photo by usatoday,com)

His ability to sack the quarterback is what makes Miller such a great player. 2016 was no different for Miller, as he finished the season with 13.5 sacks, 78 tackles, three passes defended and three forced fumbles.

If Miller plays at least 15 games in a season, the end product is 11 or more sacks. He constantly harasses quarterbacks and will do so again in 2017. The Bronco defense will be strong again in 2017, with the strengths being the secondary and the pass rush. The secondary will be helped by the pass rush getting after the quarterback, forcing him to make bad decisions. Miller and the pass rush will be aided and gifted with a few coverage sacks this season.

Miller will make his sixth Pro Bowl and be the best player on one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2017.

Comments: “Miller and Mack could easily be flip flopped. Miller is surrounded by better talent on defense, which elevates him. Despite that Miller would rack up double digit sacks for any team in the NFL”- Dylan Streibig

5. Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Khalil Mack (Photo by raiders.com)

Mack, like Miller, is this high on the list because of his ability to get after the quarterback. His ability to do so has landed him on two straight All-Pro first teams. Last season he recorded 11 sacks, 73 tackles, five forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, three passes defended, one interception and one touchdown.

He is entering his fourth season in the NFL and big things are expected of him, especially after he had 15 sacks in 2015. Mack doesn’t have the luxury of a good secondary, so he needs to get to the quarterback quickly for most sacks. The defense will likely not be too improved in 2017, which means Mack will need to continue to produce at an elite level.

He is entering his prime, so there is no reason not to expect Mack to have a great season in 2017.

Comments: “Khalil Mack is the best player in the NFL. That’s right, I said it. Mack is the only player in NFL history to be named an all-pro at two positions and that is enough proof for me. When you can split the time between two positions and be that great at both you are the elite of the elite. Mack is going to have a huge year. I expect close to 20 sacks this season.” -Matthew Hagan

4. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Antonio Brown (Photo by sbnation.com)

Like a lot of players in this top ten, Brown came from humble beginnings in the NFL and had to work his tail off to get this far in his career. He was a sixth round pick in the NFL Draft and has made the Steelers happy to have drafted him. In 2016 he had 1,284 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.

The yards were down last season, but the touchdowns were up, which still made him very productive. Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to play this season after contemplating retirement, will help Brown greatly. A good offensive line and Le’Veon Bell will help keep the offense balanced. Martavis Bryant is coming off of suspension and should draw some attention away from Brown. Brown’s touchdowns may go down as a result, but he should have more yards.

Brown’s work ethic is great so unless quarterback play drops off completely, expect him to be a top receiver in the NFL.

Comments: ” Four straight seasons with 100+ catches says it all. Opponents know the ball is going to Brown and still can’t stop him”- Dylan Streibig 

3. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Julio Jones (Photo by atlantafalcons.com)

Jones is the ultimate matchup problem in the NFL and is the reason why the Falcons’ offense is so dynamic. He makes Matt Ryan a better quarterback. Last season he not only helped the Falcons get to the Super Bowl, but had 1,409 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

The 2017 season should be another great one for Jones. Ryan is back at quarterback coming off of his best season yet. The offensive line is also good and two good running backs are running behind it. Mohammed Sanu and Austin Hooper provide decent targets to take the pressure off of Jones. Even if all these things weren’t in place for Jones, he would still be a great player in the NFL.

With Jones on an offense, a defense has to make him the main focal point of their game plan because he is so talented and productive.

Comments: “Jones is the ultimate mismatch. He could be higher on his list and it wouldn’t be too surprising. He makes the Falcons’ offense so good. He makes Matt Ryan a better quarterback. If you are picking players in a schoolyard draft, Jones is going to be one of the top picks no question.”-Joe DiTullio

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

NFL Top 100

Aaron Rodgers (Photo by nytimes.com)

For some reason Rodgers has gotten a lot of criticism over the last few years, but he is still an elite quarterback. In 2016 he threw for 4,428 yards and a league best 40 touchdowns. Rodgers is very reliable, while still putting up big numbers with an interception percentage of just 1.1% last season.

Rodgers has had to undergo a lot of changes with his offensive personnel the last few years. Ty Montgomery has had to switch from wide receiver to running back which has gone decently well. Offensive lineman have come and gone, but the unit is still good. Jordy Nelson has dealt with injuries, but is back to form, while Randall Cobb has regressed. Davante Adams stepped up last season, which is encouraging. The Packers also signed Martellus Bennet to give Rodgers a very good tight end target. He has done a lot more with a lot less in past years and will put up good numbers in 2017.

Rodgers ranks second on this list, but with another good season and a possible retirement/regression from the person at the top spot, he can claim the best player in the league title.

Comments: “Rodgers would make an uninterested person, interested in football. He is that good. He buys time with his legs and has the accuracy down the field to make unbelievable throws. He only has one Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a couple more before retiring.”- Joe DiTullio

1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Tom Brady (Photo by wbur.com)

Brady is 40 years old, but still is at the top of his game and the top of this list. He has showed no signs yet of taking a step backwards. His 2016 season was shortened by the “Deflategate” suspension, but he still had a great season. In the truncated season he threw for 3,554 yards and just two interceptions on his way to leading New England to its fifth Super Bowl Championship.

Protecting the football is also one of Brady’s strengths as he only threw two in the 2016 regular season. This season, the offense got better. They added Brandin Cooks to their receiving corps, to go with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. Rob Gronkowski also figures to come back and be dynamic if he can stay healthy. The offensive line has played well only allowed Brady to be sacked 15 times in 2016.

With no signs of regression and more talent on the team, Brady holds on to the number one spot on this list.

Comments: “I have a problem with Brady at one. Yes, he has accomplished amazing things and has been the best quarterback of all-time, but this list is suppose to be predicting the upcoming season. At his age, Brady will not be the best player in the NFL in 2017.” -Matthew Hagan

NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 20-11

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Top five 2017 fantasy wide receivers

In fantasy football, the deepest position is wide receiver. Teams have a plethora of different receivers and many of them have different skillsets. Some are the dominant number one options, some are the big red zone threats and others the speedy slot receivers.

But these five receivers separate themselves from the rest and these are the top five fantasy wide receivers in 2017.

No. 5 A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

A.J. Green (Photo by:www.sbnation.com)

Green has been dominant ever since he came into the league in 2011. In his first five seasons, he posted over 1,000 yards every year. He joins only Randy Moss in that category.

Twice he has finished as a top-five receiver in fantasy and once in the top-10 in those five seasons. He has also been Andy Dalton’s favorite target as he has seen over 100 targets in each of those five seasons.

In PPR leagues, he has finished in the top-nine at the position during three of the past five seasons.

However, in 2016 Green struggled with injuries and missed out on 1,000 yards. He averaged 96.4 yards per game on 6.6 catches per game (both personal bests) before a hamstring injury sidelined him for six games. He still managed to have 100 targets and caught 66 passes for 964 yards and four scores in 10 games. Green still ranked in the top-30 in standard leagues.

Green is finally healthy and expect him to still be a target machine for Dalton. There is a little concern due to Tyler Eifert finally being healthy taking away some targets from Green. That shouldn’t be enough to shy away from Green as a roster asset. Green is a no-brainer No. 1 receiver that is a high second-round pick if not a end of the first round.

No. 4 Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

The best fantasy wide receiver last year, Jordy Nelson ranks fourth on my list for 2017.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson (Photo by: chicago.cbslocal.com)

The Comeback Player of the Year recipient also deserves the nod for fantasy comeback player of the year. He led fantasy scoring over 16 games and posted 10-plus points in nine of them. A lot of that last year was because the Green Bay Packers threw the ball 62.7 percent of the time thanks to a depleted run game.

He finished the 2016 campaign with a career-high in targets (152), and caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and league-high 14 touchdowns.

But what puts Nelson on this list is his play in the red zone. He led all receivers from inside the 20-yard line with 29 targets, 19 catches, 127 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also led receivers inside the 10-yard line in targets (15), catches (11), yards (45) and touchdowns (9).

Nelson has been known to have very good hands and in the red zone he seems unstoppable. Some of that credit goes to Aaron Rodgers, but Nelson was on a mission in 2016 after missing 2015 with a torn ACL.

I don’t expect Nelson to have the dominant year he had in 2016 due to the improvement of their ground game in the draft and the signing of tight end Martellus Bennett taking some targets away especially in the red zone. I do believe Nelson will have a solid season still racking up over 1,000 yards, over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns.

When drafting Nelson, he is a No. 1 receiver and should be drafted by the second round.

No. 3 Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

When it comes to being a big play highlight reel, Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t disappoint. The New York Giants’ star ranks third for wide receivers in fantasy.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

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

In 2016, Beckham had a slow start compared to what he did in 2015. But Beckham finished strong and had career bests in both targets (169) and receptions (101). He still maintained well over 1,300 yards and double digits in touchdowns.

In a three-year average he has 96 receptions for 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s finished as a top-seven fantasy wide receiver in each of those three years. He also ranked seventh in the NFL with 15 end zone targets last season (up from 11 in 2015) and led the league target percentage in the red zone from inside the 20-yard line.

The numbers and records he has at age 24 is historic and he is just getting started.

This coming season, Beckham should only improve and the ceiling for him is high. Even though the Giants signed Brandon Marshall, have second year receiver Sterling Shepard and drafted tight end Evan Engram, this should benefit Beckham in the long run. With the plethora of weapons for opposing defenses to cover, Beckham should get his reps and my bold statement is that he very well could finish the year as the best fantasy player in 2017. He is a definite middle pick in the first round.

No. 2 Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Even though his numbers were down in 2016, Julio Jones is still a top two fantasy receiver.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Julio Jones (Photo by:thefalconswire.usatoday.com)

When you compare Jones’ stats from 2015 to 2016, you can’t expect him to repeat those numbers especially the way the Atlanta Falcons offense played in 2016. His targets dropped by over 30 percent, his receptions by nearly 40 percent and his yards by nearly 25 percent. He also missed two games with a toe injury.

But it was the evolution of the Falcons’ offense that really dropped Jones’ stats. Players on the Falcons stepped up and helped Matt Ryan to not force the ball in Jones’ direction.

Jones was the league leader in 100-plus yard games at the receiver position with seven. He still managed to thrive in this offense as the sixth fantasy wide receiver. Jones has finished as a top-11 fantasy receiver during four of the past five seasons.

There is some concern though that comes with Jones. The first is his durability as he’s missed at least one game during four of his six NFL seasons. The other is former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

The team hired Steve Sarkisian, a former college head coach who hasn’t been in the NFL since 2004. Sarkisian saw success as the Oakland Raiders quarterback’s coach, compiling more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams in passing yardage.

Jones should continue to be a no-brainer as a reliable fantasy receiver as a middle pick of the first round pick.

No. 1 Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

You don’t have to be an expert in fantasy to know that the number one receiver is Antonio Brown.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown (Photo by: linkedin.com)

Compare his numbers from 2015 to last year and you will see that his numbers went down. He had 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even with the missed game he had, he still topped wide receivers in fantasy points for the third consecutive season.

He finished top-five in targets, receptions and receiving yards for the fourth straight year and Brown has delivered 10-plus fantasy points in 70.2 percent of his games over the past four seasons.

Brown should have another great season with Martavis Bryant back from a year suspension on the other side of him. With his addition, along with other targets, it will be impossible to double-team Brown all the time.

He’s averaged over 11 targets per game over the past four years and should repeat this stat again in 2017, even with the Steelers’ deep receiving corps and Le’Veon Bell at running back. He will remain Ben Roethlisberger’s top target and fantasy’s most consistently dominant wide receiver. He is worth taking in the top four picks and potentially the number one pick in PPR leagues.

 

Featured image from nj.com.

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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 10-1

Here it is, my final and most important list of receivers. These receivers will fill up the first and second round of most drafts and will fill the void of your number one receiver.

2017 fantasy football wide receivers

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10. Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks): After a breakout season in 2015 with 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns, Baldwin had another 1,000-yard season with seven touchdowns. Regression was expected from Baldwin last season, but I don’t expect that trend to continue this season.

Russell Wilson didn’t target Baldwin as much as he should’ve in the red zone last year. He found success there but he found it using his other receivers.

Where Baldwin did succeed was in his productivity. Baldwin ranked seventh in receptions and seventh in yards after the catch with 447. Another season as Wilson’s number one target, Baldwin should finish as a WR1 this year.

9. Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders): Amari Cooper has been the receiver that the Raiders hoped he would become after selecting him fourth in the 2015 NFL Draft. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Cooper has the ability to take the next step in 2017.

In the touchdown category, Cooper only has the opportunity to go up after seasons with six and five touchdowns. Now with Marshawn Lynch in the mix, Cooper will find trouble in the red zone but the volume will be there. The Raiders want to get Cooper the ball more and if that happens, he’s a lock for top 10 production.

8. T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis Colts): The receiving leader in 2016 wasn’t Antonio Brown, Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. It was, however, T.Y. Hilton. Hilton and Andrew Luck were on another level last season. After four straight 1,000-yard seasons, T.Y. can upgrade his touchdowns and be a top five receiver easily.

He’s as productive as productive gets after ranking first in receiving yards and second in air yards. T.Y. Hilton also ranked eighth in fantasy points per game. The only way Hilton does the same thing as last season is if Andrew Luck can stay healthy. If that happens, Hilton will be a better receiver than he was last year.

7. Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints): In a rookie class highlighted by stud running backs and Dak Prescott, Michael Thomas slid under the radar as one of the league’s best receivers. He was productive in the red zone, ranking fifth in red zone receptions and ninth in receptions overall.

Now Brandin Cooks is gone and Michael Thomas is stepping into the number one receiver role with the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees. Thomas starts the season in a tough spot facing the Vikings, Patriots and Panthers in his first three matchups. Defenses now know what to expect, but I’m still on the Michael Thomas bandwagon, as he’s a late first to early second round pick.

6. A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals): Do I need to talk about Green’s production or efficiency? His past numbers speak for themselves. From 2011-15, A.J. Green had 1,000-plus yards and double digit touchdowns every year but two. Last season, he didn’t have 1,000 yards but that’s only because he missed six games.

2017 fantasy football wide receivers

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Green still finished with 964 yards in just 10 games. Obviously Andy Dalton’s favorite target, Green is in line for another big season. Standing at 6-foot-4 210 pounds, Green has big play ability and he’ll produce big time for the Bengals again this year.

5. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers): After tearing his ACL in 2015, people wondered whether or not Jordy Nelson could bounce back to number one receiver status he once was. He not only removed doubt of being a number one receiver, he ended up as the number one receiver, in terms of fantasy that is.

Nelson formed a great duo with Davante Adams, creating terror for opposing defenses. Aaron Rodgers is destined to put up huge numbers in Green Bay, and will probably throw for 35 or more touchdowns.

The targets are there in the red zone, after last season, Nelson had 32 targets inside of the 20-yard line. Nelson is going to be a stud again in fantasy but expect a little regression in terms of touchdowns.

4. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Mike Evans started off last season with a bang. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Evans only had single digit weeks twice. He started to slow down a little after that however.

From week 10 on, Evans only had four double digit weeks. With the development of Jameis Winston, Mike Evans has the ability to be even better than last year. The only problem with Evans is how many targets may go to his fellow players.

With the addition of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, targets are going to be spread around the Tampa Bay offense. Evans should still see most of the targets and stay a solid WR1.

3. Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants): Definitely the most outspoken player on this list, Odell Beckham Jr. is a once in a generation player. After coming onto the scene in 2014, Beckham Jr. hasn’t had a season with less than ten touchdowns. Last season he had 1,367 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. And that was his worst year as a pro. Odell was arguably the most productive receiver in the league last year ranking within the top 5 at categories such as receptions, receiving yards, yards after catch, touchdowns and fantasy points per game. The category Beckham could improve in is minimizing his drops. He had nine last season, his most since entering the league. Now Brandon Marshall is added to the mix which is a good and bad thing. It’s good for Beckham because he’ll see less double teams but it may minimize his red zone targets.

2. Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons): The Falcons’ amazing season was helped out by Julio Jones and his play at wide receiver. After his third straight 1,000-plus yard season, is it possible that Julio could be even better than last year. The yardage won’t fall below 1,000 if he stays healthy for a full season.

However, that is a big if. Jones has only played two full seasons since entering the league in 2011. Other than health, Julio can improve in the red zone. He ranked 53rd in the league last season with five red zone receptions. If those numbers increase and the big bodied receiver gets more touchdowns, he’ll be the number one receiver in the league.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

1. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers): Business is boomin’ in Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown is in line for another big season with the Steelers. Since 2013, Antonio Brown has had at least 100 receptions, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in each season.

He ranked first in the most important fantasy candidate for wide receivers: fantasy points per game. Now Antonio Brown has Martavis Bryant back opposite of him for hopefully a full season which can lead to better things.

In two games where Antonio Brown was primarily double teamed, Sammie Coates was targeted a team-high 19 times. Now with Bryant back in the mix, those double teams should regress and Brown should be even better than last year.

 

Feature image courtesy of www.endzonescore.com

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Top 5 2017 fantasy quarterbacks

When it comes to fantasy football, quarterbacks are a premium. There are many different types of quarterbacks in the NFL. There’s those who are elite passers and ones that are mobile quarterbacks. Some can do both. But these five quarterbacks are the top tier who you should eye for your team in 2017.

No. 5 Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Luck bounced back last season from an injury-shortened 2015 to surpass 4,000 yards passing for the third time in his career and 30 touchdowns for the second time.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Andrew Luck (Photo by: profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

When healthy, Luck is one of the best passers in the game. In 38 games since 2014, Luck has posted 20-plus fantasy points 76.3 percent of the time. Only Tom Brady is close to that mark at 70.4 percent.

He has finished as a top-four fantasy quarterback in three of the past four seasons. Last season, he ranked eighth in passing yards, fifth in passing touchdowns and seventh in rushing yards among quarterbacks. He averaged 7.8 yards per attempt, which was fifth in the league.

Luck hasn’t had luck on his side with injuries. In 2015, he only played seven games with multiple injuries that included an injured shoulder, lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle.

Last season, he missed one game with a concussion. In the past two seasons he has missed 10 games. The Colts are hopeful that Luck will be ready for training camp after offseason shoulder surgery. If not, then there will be concerns about his availability come week 1.

Luck should be the fourth or fifth quarterback taken around the fourth to fifth round if he’s healthy. Luck himself should come out firing, partially because the Colts’ defense isn’t expected to be great and partially because the Colts run game isn’t expected to be great.

No. 4 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

A career year that led to an MVP award at age 32, Matt Ryan ranks fourth on my list.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan (Photo: twitter.com)

Ryan enjoyed a career-best season in 2016, ranking second in passing yards, passing touchdowns and fantasy points. He averaged an absurd 9.26 yards per attempt, which is the best we’ve seen in the NFL since Kurt Warner’s 9.88 in 2000.

Ryan benefited from the league’s most yards after the catch (6.2 RAC) and second-lowest drop rate (2.8 percent). His offensive line protected him well, as he had a ton of help in the passing game from a number of role players, not to mention some excellent work from stud receiver Julio Jones.

Most of that success was because of Kyle Shanahan. But Shanahan has moved on as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. The Falcons hired former USC coach Steve Sarkisian, a first-year NFL playcaller.

Sarkisian did coach in Oakland in 2004 as the quarterbacks coach. In that season, he helped Oakland compile more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams.

Ryan won’t post his monster 2016 stats in 2017 but if the offense holds up and his star receiver stays healthy, Ryan should have another strong season. Ryan is in the mix as a top 5 fantasy passer worth a pick in round 4 or 5.

No. 3 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Consistency is the best word to describe number three quarterback Drew Brees. At age 38 this season, he is still one of the best passers in the game.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Drew Brees (Photo by:denverpost.com)

He’s finished as a top 6 quarterback in fantasy for 11 straight seasons, landing at the No. 3 spot in 2016.

When it comes to passing the ball, Brees has a cannon. He’s ranked top-two in the NFL in attempts, completions, yardage and completion percentage during six of the past seven seasons.

He’s thrown for at least 4,850 yards in each of his last six campaigns, topping 5,000 yards in four of them. As for touchdowns, Brees has thrown at least 32 in nine straight seasons. Most quarterbacks at his age start to lose some production, but Brees isn’t slowing down.

Some concern with Brees is his age but the big question comes with who his new number one target will be. The loss of Brandin Cooks hurts, but the Saints brought in Ted Ginn Jr. to replace Cooks’ deep speed. Brees’ success has been built on spreading the ball around so the loss of Cooks should be minimal.

Expect Brees to have another top-five fantasy campaign and he should be the second or third quarterback taken.

No. 2 Tom Brady, New England Patriots

A four-game suspension for Brady last season, yet he still had one of the most dominant seasons of his career. The ageless Tom Brady ranks second on this list.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Tom Brady (Photo by:nj.com)

Like Brees, Brady is still at the top of his game as he turns 40 on Aug. 3. Brady was absolutely dominant upon his return, ranking fifth in completion percentage (67 percent) and second in yards per attempt (8.2), while throwing only two interceptions.

He still managed to toss 28 touchdowns. Even though he finished as the No. 15 quarterback in 2016, as he averaged just under 26 fantasy points a game in the 12 games he was active.

This year fantasy owners don’t have to debate where to draft Brady with deflategate behind him. He should be even better with the healthy return of Rob Gronkowski, as well as the addition of Cooks from the Saints and Dwayne Allen from the Colts to replace Martellus Bennett.

Brady also has other targets such as Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and running backs in Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and James White. Brady’s success, like Brees, is spreading the ball around and he has a ton of weapons to throw to.

Brady will be one of the first three quarterbacks taken along with Brees and Rodgers. He will likely be taken after Rodgers but target him about round 3.

No. 1 Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

When it comes to fantasy football, there wasn’t a better quarterback better last season than Aaron Rodgers. The fantasy’s reigning top-scoring quarterback is coming off a season in which he threw for 4,428 yards, ran for a career-high 369 yards and had a hand in 44 touchdowns.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers (Photo by:ftw.usatoday.com)

Rodgers finished in the top five of the league in pass attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdowns. He averaged 27.8 fantasy points per game. That is in thanks to a career-high in pass attempts (610), a five-year high in passing yards and and a league-best 40 passing touchdowns.

Part of this success is simply because the Packers couldn’t run the ball effectively at times. Ty Montgomery became a huge threat in the running game last year, but he’s still a natural wide receiver and it’s tough to sat how he’ll fare this season.

The Packers tried to address their run game in the draft, but there’s actually no guarantee they’ll be any better on the ground than they were last year, when they finished 20th in run offense and 29th in rush attempts.

Rodgers got an upgrade at the tight end position with Martellus Bennett and still has his favorite number one target Jordy Nelson along with Randall Cobb and Devante Adams. Rodgers has finished as a top-two fantasy quarterback during seven of the past nine seasons.

There’s no question Rodgers will be the first quarterback off the board. You should expect Rodgers to go in round two in standard leagues and round three in PPR leagues.

 

Featured image from espn.com.

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Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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

Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

(Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Falcons are going to have to bounce back from one of the worst Super Bowl collapses of all time. After finishing the season 11-5, the Falcons marched through the playoffs with ease. They beat the Seahawks by 16 and the Packers by 23 to earn the crown of NFC Champions.

Atlanta then blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. In order to win Super Bowl LII, the Falcons must avoid one of the worst hangovers ever.

The key to the Falcons’ success last season was their offense. Getting back to the Super Bowl will require their offense to repeat last year’s performance. The Falcons ranked first in all of the following categories: points per game (34.1), points per play (0.55), points per second quarter (11.1), points per third quarter (8.5) and points per first half (18.9).

The reason their offense was so great was due to balance in yardage. Atlanta ranked second in yards per game with 416.4. The Falcons were second in passing yards per game (298.9) and fifth in rushing yards per game (117.5). Atlanta only ran the ball 42 percent of the time and in order to return to the big game, the Falcons should get their play selection closer to 50-50.

Their two-headed monster in the backfield, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman, will continue to take pressure off of Matt Ryan. Julio Jones will also continue to dominate defensive backs. Offensively, the Falcons shouldn’t be too concerned and their defense is where this team will really need to pick it up to make a return to the Super Bowl.

Atlanta’s defense got off to a slow start last season and finished 27th in points allowed per game with 25.3. That improved to just 20.3 points allowed per game in their final three games which ranked 10th during that time. If the Falcons can duplicate that final stretch over the course of the entire season, then the Falcons could easily become the best team in the NFL.

Bringing down that 25.3 points per game total begins with being better in the fourth quarter. In the final period of games, the Falcons gave up an average of 9.9 points, which was 31st in the NFL.

It isn’t difficult to see why the Falcons were so bad defensively in the fourth quarter. They played an average of 66.8 snaps per game. That was fourth-most in the league. The biggest reason they were on the field for so many plays was that the Falcons struggled to get off the field on third down as they allowed teams to convert 42.2 percent of the time.

The Falcons defense must improve against the pass in order to fix all of these problems. Giving up 272.9 yards passing per game is not a formula for success.

In order to make it back to the Super Bowl, the Falcons defense must improve and become a middle of the pack defense. Signing Dontari Poe should provide some help up front. Their offense is so good that the defense doesn’t have to be anything more than average.

If the Falcons are able to duplicate last season’s offensive numbers and become an average defense, they will easily get back to the Super Bowl.

Getting back is one story, winning it is another. If the Falcons do make it back, they need better play calling. Being up 28-3 in a Super Bowl should guarantee a victory. Atlanta must learn from their previous mistakes and run the ball more. If they avoid the hangover and do this, the Falcons will redeem one of the worst choke jobs ever and win the franchise’s first-ever Lombardi Trophy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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

Tampa Bay was very close to making the playoffs last season, finishing 9-7. The Bucs were a middle of the pack team both offensively and defensively and if they want to take the next step to make the playoffs, they must improve on both sides.

Defensively, Tampa Bay struggled in both pass and run defense. They ranked 22nd in both categories giving up 117.2 rushing yards per game and 250.8 yards per game through the air. Tampa Bay acquired defensive tackle Chris Baker to help them up front alongside Gerald McCoy. Defensive end Noah Spence tallied 5.5 sacks as a rookie and with an expanded role, should provide more pressure off the edge this season.

To help the struggling secondary, the Bucs acquired safety, J.J. Wilcox. Vernon Hargraves will need to have a big second season in order for the Buccaneers to improve defensively as well.

The defense has made changes but they won’t likely make a huge improvement. They gave up 25.3 points per game last season with 12 points per game coming in the first half. The offense is going to need to be on the field often to help this defense bring down a number of points they gave up.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs have lots of room for growth. Tampa Bay averaged 22.1 points per game last season.

The strength of their offense was in the passing game. Tampa averaged 245.4 yards per game and Winston improved in a lot of areas. He improved his completion percentage by 2.5 percent, had 48 more yards and six more passing touchdowns. The addition of DeSean Jackson and drafting tight end O.J. Howard could allow Winston to make a bigger leap in his third season.

The running game must also improve on its 101 yards per game. In five seasons, Doug Martin has only played a full 16 game season twice. In both years, he ran for over 1,400 yards. With the growth of Winston and Martin staying healthy, the Buccaneers could become a top 10 offense in the NFL.

In order to make the playoffs and win Super Bowl LII, the offense needs to carry this team. They also need to start defending their home field. Since 2009, the Buccaneers are 21-42 at home and went 4-4 last season. Tampa has to win at least six games at home this season. If the Bucs defense can be average and the offense moves into the top 10, then the Buccaneers can win Super Bowl LII.

New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

The Saints went marching into free agency and got the best running back of this generation. New Orleans’ offense was one of the best in the NFL last season and they added Adrian Peterson. The Saints needed a lot of help on defense and did well to address that in free agency and the draft as well. They’ve set themselves up nicely for a run to the Super Bowl.

New Orleans has been held back by its defense over the past couple of seasons. Last year they were awful, giving up the second-most points at 28.4 per game. They struggled closing out halves giving up 11.3 points in the second quarter and 7.2 points in the fourth quarter per game.

What makes the Saints defense even worse is that despite only playing the 11th least amount of plays per game (63) they ranked 14th in rushing yards (101.6) and 31st in passing yards (273.8). New Orleans didn’t spend much time on the field defensively but got torched during that time.

Their biggest area of concern was getting off the field on third down. Opposing offenses converted 43 percent of their third downs against the Saints.

In order to get back to the Super Bowl, the Saints must improve in all areas defensively. New Orleans added linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o to provide this help. They also drafted cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Marcus Williams to deepen the secondary. These additions should go a long way in restoring the defense in New Orleans and get them back to the playoffs.

As mentioned earlier, the Saints had an unbelievable offense last season. They scored the second-most points in the NFL with 29.3 per game. The bulk of that scoring came in the second half. New Orleans averaged 15.2 points in the second half last season, ranking first in the NFL. The Saints were first in yards per game (426), first downs per game (24.7) and passing yards per game (317.1).

Trading Brandin Cooks was OK because of the stellar rookie season Michael Thomas had. The rookie had 92 receptions, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns emerging as Drew Brees’ favorite weapon. The addition of Ted Ginn will help replace Cooks but Brees has made a career of turning receivers into stars. The passing game will not suffer from the loss of Cooks.

The offense just needs to continue doing what they have been doing. They already help keep the defense off the field by holding the ball for an average of 31 minutes per game. The Saints offense also averaged 108.9 yards rushing last season. They can’t do much more to help the team win.

All of New Orleans’ hopes and dreams rest on the defense. Drew Brees and the rest of this offense have carried the team on their shoulders for far too long. If the defense can improve just a little bit, then the Saints can become Super Bowl contenders.

Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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

Cam Newton and the Panthers had a major Super Bowl hangover last season. They went from 15-1 to 6-10 and looked like a completely different team. With Cam Newton on your team, you always have a shot to make it to the Super Bowl again. It won’t take much for the Panthers to capture the magic they had in 2015.

The Panthers averaged 343.7 yards per game which were a 24-yard dropoff from 2015. They also went from rushing for 141.9 yards per game to 113.4 yards per game. In order for the Panthers to get to the Super Bowl, they must get back to the numbers they put up in 2015.

Carolina averaged 23.1 points per game and they were pretty consistent putting up points throughout the course of the game. The Panthers scored an average of 12 points in the first half and 11.1 points in the second half. They could improve on their scoring if they improve their third down conversion rate of 37 percent.

The Panthers must begin to run more like they did in 2015 in order to get back to the big game. They called a running play only 43 percent of the time. Along with this, the Panthers must cash out in the red zone. Carolina only scored on 59 percent of their red zone trips. Improving in these areas can turn the Panthers back into an elite team.

On the defensive side of the ball, it starts with the secondary. The Panthers ranked 28th in passing, giving up 268.2 yards per game. The defense also went from giving up 19.5 points per game in 2015 to 25.1 points per game last season. Part of the problem was the amount of time the Panthers spent of the field. Carolina ranked 22nd in plays with 64.7 per game. This caused them to give up the most fourth quarter points in the NFL last season at 10.7.

Stopping the pass and giving up fewer points will go a long way in making the Panthers Super Bowl contenders again. Offensively, the addition of Matt Kalil, Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel will help Cam Newton become an MVP candidate once again. If the Panthers mirror the team they were in 2015, then not only will they get back to the Super Bowl, but this time they will win it.

 

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

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