NFL Conference Championship Picks Against the Spread

The NFL’s version of the Final Four is here. We have two solid matchups featuring incredibly hot and gifted quarterbacks. This will be my last week of picks against the spread. Expect something different for the Super Bowl. I was 2-2 straight up last week and just 1-3 against the spread. Given the year I have had, fans should be begging me not to pick their team, but here it goes anyway.

Atlanta (-5) at Green Bay- Aaron Rodgers is incredible. Up until his current hot streak, I always thought he was a lot closer to Joe Flacco than Joe Montana. Him carrying a below average defense and an offense with injuries everywhere except for the offensive line to this point is the football equivalent of what LeBron did with some of his Cavs teams.

Photo Courtesy of bloggingdirty.com

Regardless of what wide receivers Rodgers ends up having to throw to, he will keep his team in the game. The dilemma for Rodgers is a familiar one. Matt Ryan and the opposing offense will have no problem scoring on the Packers defense. At the end of the day, Atlanta is just a more complete football team. Their late-season defensive emergence is what made them a legitimate Super Bowl contender. NFL sack leader Vic Beasley has slowly developed into a monster and even seldom used elder statesman Dwight Freeney was making plays last week. As good as Rodgers and his offensive line are, I trust Atlanta’s defense to get a late stop more than Green Bay’s.

 

The Packers cover, but the Falcons send the Georgia Dome out in style with a trip to the Super Bowl. Atl 34 GB 31

Pittsburgh at New England (-6) – Let’s review a few of the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not give Bill Belichick and the Patriots bulletin-board material the week before a big game. No matter his intentions, that is exactly what Antonio Brown did. Anyone who thinks New England is not using Brown’s Facebook live gaffe as a little extra motivational fuel is kidding themselves.

Photo Courtesy of pittsburghpostgazette.com

As talented as the Steelers are on offense, Belichick and his staff will make Pittsburgh beat them without Le’Veon Bell running wild. Also, do not be fooled by the Steelers success. Mike Tomlin is a few steps behind coaches like Belichick when it comes to X’s and O’s. He is mostly successful because he handles the emotional and motivational aspects of the game so well. Never forget that Tim Tebow lit up a Tomlin coached team in the playoffs. Even at 39 and coming off a clunker, I will take my chances with Tom Brady.

The Steelers were probably going to lose this game no matter what, but the Brown situation ensures a bloodbath. NE 34 Pit 20.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Divisional Round)

(http://thebiglead.com/2017/01/07/video-paul-richardson-made-an-insane-one-handed-td-grab/)

Talk about a major dud! The wildcard round of the playoffs was a major snoozefest. There were some great highlights, such as the Paul Richardson touchdown catch, or the amazing performances by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. By and large, though it was blowout city. The closest game was decided by 13 points. All home teams won and the average margin of victory was by 19 points. Now there are only eight teams remaining in the playoffs. Every game in the divisional round is a rematch from the regular season. This round should be more exciting than the last and the games should be closer as well. Here are this week’s Hagan’s Haus NFL picks.

Last Week: 3-1

Regular Season: 148-103-2

Playoffs: 3-1

Overall: 151-104-2

AFC

Saturday

(https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/tom-brady-records/)

Houston 10 @ New England 27: This game is most likely to be the least entertaining of the four games. The Patriots beat the Texans 27-0 in September. Brock Osweiler played well last week, but Jadeveon Clowney was the one to spark the team and lead the Texans in the wild-card round. New England has a great offense led by the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Their defense is playing great as well. In the month of December, the Patriots defense only gave up 10.6 points per game. The Texans must hope their defense shuts down Brady, but that won’t happen. The Patriots will be heading to another AFC Championship game.

Sunday

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh 20 @ Kansas City 19: This was one of the most difficult games to pick. Pittsburgh is on fire right now. Le’Veon Bell is having a career season. Big Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are also playing great football. This offense is a juggernaut. These two teams met early in the season and it was a blowout. The Steelers won that game at home 43-14. This game will be much more competitive at Arrowhead as the Chiefs have improved since that early season matchup. It won’t be enough though and the Steelers will edge by the Chiefs to meet Tom Brady in the AFC Championship.

NFC

Saturday

(http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/news/seahawks-falcons-picks-predictions-spread-odds-vegas-divisional-playoffs-2017/1tm3kxvdhv0781xfllb4b2nmtd)

Seattle 27 @ Atlanta 24: There is talk that Matt Ryan will end up winning the MVP, but the quarterback has much to prove in the postseason. Seattle has heard so much talk about how great and prolific this offense is. One of the interesting storylines in this game is that Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn was the former defensive coordinator for the Seahawks. He knows this defense and it may help Matt Ryan prepare for it. Atlanta is at home, but they aren’t used to this stage in the same way the Seahawks are. Russell Wilson is going to have a huge game and the Seahawks will find themselves back in the NFC Championship.

Sunday

(https://www.google.com/search?q=cowboys+vs+packers&client=safari&rls=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwip69vmkLvRAhUF_4MKHaf1Ag0Q_AUICigD&biw=1308&bih=611#imgrc=VzPSCzWZBFm1-M%3A)

Green Bay 27 @ Dallas 28: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in all of football right now. They completely dismantled the Giants last week and have won seven straight games. They look unbeatable and picking against them might be considered crazy. They were originally the team who I thought would win this game, but there is a reason to hesitate. The Cowboys have been the best team in football all season. Why would they stop now? Jordy Nelson may not play in this game, making the Packers less dangerous on offense. Dallas is going to have a lot of pressure, but if they run the ball and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field they will win this game. That is precisely what the Cowboys will do and they will be heading to the NFC Championship.

 

 

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Keys to the NFL Divisional Playoffs

NFL fans and media rarely agree on much. However, I think we can all agree that Wild Card weekend did not produce much excitement or competitive football. While it is a little early in the week to pick the divisional playoff matchups, here is a key to each.

 

Seahawks at Falcons- Are the Falcons ready for the big time?

Seattle should have zero concerns about being ready for a game like this. They have played in dozens of them over the last handful of years. Like always, the defense will limit scoring opportunities and the Seahawks will ask Russell Wilson to make a few key throws to get the win.

Atlanta is a different story. Despite Matt Ryan having an MVP worthy season, the Falcons have flown mostly under the radar and have not been placed in the glamorous national TV windows very often. A scenario where Atlanta’s offense simply scores too much for Seattle to keep up is conceivable. However, a scenario where Atlanta folds under newfound spotlight is just as conceivable. With Earl Thomas out, Seattle’s defense is a tad more vulnerable. Given what the Falcons are capable of on offense and their much improved defense, it is now or never for Atlanta.

Texans at Patriots – Houston needs some kind of early break

The Texans are 15.5 point underdogs for a reason. New England shut them out early in the year with a third-string quarterback. Fast forward a few months and now Tom Brady is back in the fold for New England. As ominous as that may sound for Houston, anything is possible. If that was not the case, games like this would never be played.

There are a few things that work in Houston’s favor. First, the coaching staff has numerous ties to New England. There isn’t much the Patriots can do that would surprise the AFC South champs. Also, much-maligned quarterback Brock Osweiler had the best game of his young career last year in Denver against the Patriots defense.

The Texans are here because of its defense. As atrocious as the quarterback play has been, the top-ranked defense has been that good. It will be up to that unit to force a turnover that leads to easy points early in the game and give the massive underdogs some belief. A big play on special teams would also serve the same purpose. Houston cannot fall in a big hole early if they want any chance at all.

Steelers at Chiefs – Steelers pass protection

No matter how good he is at sandbagging his injuries, there is no way Ben Roethlisberger goes from a walking boot to fully healthy in a week. Thus, those trademark Roethlisberger scrambles under pressure to extend plays are likely off the table. It is up to Pittsburgh’s offensive line to keep Kansas City’s pass rushers away from their franchise quarterback.

Photo Courtesy of steelersdepot.com

This will not be an easy task. The Chiefs have three or four guys that are capable of chasing down any quarterback in this league. Their defense is led by a healthy Justin Houston. Le’Veon Bell will not run wild against the Chiefs like he did against Miami last week, but he will need to run well enough to take some heat off of the offensive line as well. Looking back on it, Pittsburgh’s 43-14 early-season blowout of Kansas City is one of the true oddities of the NFL season. This game will be a lot closer one way or the other.

 

 

Packers at Cowboys – Green Bay’s third-down defense

This may be the toughest game of the weekend to call, but it is the easiest to size up. The only way anyone is going to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers right now is by keeping their offense on the sideline. Dallas has been near the top of the league in time of possession and third-down conversions all year long.

Photo Courtesy of thelandryhat.com

The Packers defense has struggled to get off the field on third down, raking just 22nd in that category. Dallas will dance with what brought them here. They need to stay in manageable down and distance scenarios with a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott. It is up to Clay Matthews and company to ensure that Rodgers gets enough opportunities to work his magic. Here is to hoping at least one of these games is half as good as Monday’s national championship game I fell asleep during.

 

 

 

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It’s on the Haus: Steelers Sting Dolphins, Odell Beckham Punches Inanimate Object, Manny Ramirez Wants To Be Relevant

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports and esports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program, or come to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports and esports happenings, all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus.

You missed yesterday’s edition? You need one article that contains the NFL Playoffs, Army All-American Bowl, Kyle Korver, and Grayson Allen? You’re in luck. Find it by clicking on any of these words.

Killer B’s Do Their Thing

The Pittsburgh Steelers throttled the Miami Dolphins in the third NFL Wild Card game, 30-12, on Sunday afternoon. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown were on the field together in a playoff game for the first time.

Roethlisberger was 13/18 for 197 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went into the hands of Antonio Brown. Le’Veon Bell(cow) carried the ball 29 times for 167 yards and two scores, and added two catches for seven yards. Antonio Brown had five catches for 124 yards.

The game was a blowout, just as many expected it to be. The Dolphins had no business being in the playoffs with Matt Moore starting at quarterback, but there’s a lot of optimism for the ‘Phins for next season. I’m not sure why though, as the only way Miami makes it back to the playoffs is as a wild card, as long as Bill Belichick continues to work his straight-faced sorcery in Foxborough.

Player Gets Angry, Punches Wall

In the final game of Wild Card Weekend, the Green Bay Packers toppled the New York Giants, 38-13. The game was close for a bit, but Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers’d, and the Packers pulled away in the third quarter.

Steelers Dolphins Odell Beckham Manny Ramirez

Odell Beckham Jr. had just four catches for 28 yards in the Giant’s first round loss to the Packers. (Photo: Getty Images)

The real story came after the ball game finished. Odell Beckham Jr. is accused of punching a wall in the locker room after the loss, and I’m not surprised. Odell already got KO’d by a kicking net earlier this year, and it appears it’s better to be a human than an inanimate object when OBJ rages.

I’ve never been a fan of Beckham Jr., as I don’t trust him due to his on-field rage fits and his hair. It looks like OBJ cooked some ramen noodles and glued them to his head. Sure, he’s a good receiver, but he needs help in what kids call the “swag” department. Just watch this cringeworthy video of him dancing, and you’ll catch my drift.

Manny Ramirez is a Fighting Dog

Snazzy subheading, eh? You read that right, former MLB slugger and possible future Hall of Famer Manny Ramirez is now a Fighting Dog. The DH/OF has signed a contract to play for the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League Plus, giving the age 44 year-old his first job playing baseball since 2014.

I’m not here to cast judgement, but this move is down right stupid, all due respect. Look, Manny, I doubt you know Japanese, and you’re not Jamie Moyer, so I don’t know what the point of this is.

If he misses competition, Manny can go be Manny in his Sunday beer league whiffleball association. I know nothing about Japanese culture, but I hear it’s weird over there. I’m not sure how well-received his antics will be, and I don’t think he’ll be able to club 30 dingers with the filth those pitchers throw.

 

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Hagan Haus NFL Picks (Wildcard Weekend)

The regular season has come to an end and the 12 playoff teams are officially set and seeded. Playoff football is the most exciting time of the year. If you’re a fan of one of the teams in the playoffs, good luck because everyone has a shot. If your favorite team did not get in, I am sorry. I share in your misery.

Picking in the regular season can sometimes be challenging due to injuries and major upsets. Now that the playoffs are here, it is time to up my picks as well. It is time for Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks, Wildcard edition.

Last Week: 9-6

Regular Season: 148-103-2

Playoffs: 0-0

 

AFC

Saturday

(http://www.westword.com/news/top-20-tweets-dropping-f-bombs-and-more-on-brock-osweiler-for-houston-move-7688345)

Oakland 14 @ Houston 20: Raider fans have some bad luck. They have waited a long time for their team to make the playoffs. Just as the Raiders become a legitimate Super Bowl threat, their franchise quarterback breaks his leg. In the final week of the regular season, the Raiders lost to the Broncos. They also lost the top spot in the AFC West and dropped to a wild card team. The Raiders have yet to announce a starter for the game, but against the Texans defense, who finished the season first in total defense, their chances look unfavorable.

Houston has decided to start their 72 million dollar man, Brock Osweiler, at quarterback for their playoff matchup. Osweiler finished the season with more interceptions than touchdowns (16 interceptions, 15 touchdowns). If it wasn’t for Derek Carr getting hurt, this would be an easy win for the Raiders. It is unfortunate injuries will effect this outcome, but Houston’s defense will lead them to a playoff victory.

Sunday

(Dec 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) celebrates a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports)

Miami 28 @ Pittsburgh 34: Not many people are giving the Dolphins a chance to win this game. The odds makers say that the Steelers are 10 point favorites. It should be much closer than that, but the Steelers should win. Le’Veon Bell is having an MVP-caliber season while only appearing in 12 games this season. Big Ben Roethlisberger is still as dangerous as ever under center and Antonio Brown is a handful.

The only way the Dolphins can win this game is by running the ball and controlling time of possession. Miami had the ninth-best rushing attack in all of football with 114 yards per game. Ryan Tannehill may make his return in this game. If he can’t go, Matt Moore is a veteran back-up capable of leading this team to a win. Usually, the difference in winning and losing is quarterback play and Ben Roethlisberger has been in these moments and performed at a high level. The Dolphins quarterbacks just haven’t and that will be the difference in this ball game.

NFC

Saturday

(Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Detroit 20 @ Seattle 24: All year the Detroit Lions have been a fantastic story. Nobody gave them a chance to make the playoffs and they snuck in as a wildcard team. This team also has the most fourth quarter comebacks in a single season in NFL history. However, this Cinderella story is about to come to an end.

Playoff football and the Seattle Seahawks have become synonymous over the past couple of years. The Dallas Cowboys have had two amazing rookies and the Green Bay Packers have run the table since starting 4-6 to take away all the headlines from the Seahawks. This is exactly where Seattle wants to be: an afterthought. Seattle has a great shot at making their third Super Bowl appearance in four years and nobody is talking about them. Pete Carroll is unbeatable at home in the playoffs. Since Carroll was hired as the head coach in 2010, the Seahawks are 5-0 at home in the playoffs. The Seahawks will not lose at home and the rest of the NFC better look out because they are coming for another Lombardi Trophy.

 Sunday

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York (G) 37 @ Green Bay 31: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers may be the hottest team in the league right now, but history favors the Giants. When the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007, they went into Lambeau and won the NFC Championship game 23-20. When the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011, they went into Lambeau again for the divisional round of the NFC playoffs and won 37-20.

The Giants are extremely talented on offense, but they win their games behind their defense. Both offenses have the capability to put up points in bunches, but which defense can make the big stop in the fourth quarter? The Packers ranked 31st in pass defense, which is what will end up being the difference in this one. The Giants have been the Packers kryptonite in the past, and history will repeat itself once more.

 

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Fluke or For Real – Rostering Players the Week After

Whether it’s DFS or season long leagues, everyone has been burned by that fantasy fluke or flop. If you played against Le’Veon Bell last week, you have my most sincere condolences. He posted the best fantasy performance of the year; however, you can’t be angry. Everyone knows that any given week, Bell can accumulate upwards of 25 points. On the other hand, if you played against Bilal Powell, you have every right to complain. The perfect storm of circumstances came together to create a career fantasy day for Powell. Given their performances, you’ll likely consider them for your lineups this week. The trick is to know when someone’s production is sustainable or fluky. Here are two ways you can determine if a player’s increased or lack of production was fleeting or for real.

Previous Performance

It’s a simple idea. Examine a player’s history to determine their future. This process is different for each position. At wide receiver, you want to look at a player’s targets, specifically when they were productive. For example, Dontrelle Inman finished as the fifth best Wide Receiver in Week 4 as he posted 21.5 points against the Saints. As I said earlier, you’ll want to look at his targets to determine if the points he scored are worth chasing the following week. Leading up to that game, Inman was never targeted more than four times; he was targeted 11 times against the Saints. Inman’s performance can clearly be characterized as a fluke.

inman

Dontrelle Inman got off to a rocky start, but has proven to be a staple in this Chargers passing attack. (Courtesy of; Chargers.com)

This should automatically be a red flag. While you can keep him on your fantasy radar, the massive increase in targets is not sustainable. The week after his top-five performance, Inman scored less than one point and was only targeted three times. Other cases like Inman include Sammie Coates in Week 5, JJ Nelson in Week 8, and Rishard Matthews in Week 9.

There are players like Kenny Britt and Davante Adams who could be thrown into this group, but only at first glance. Britt exploded in Week 6, but it was not because of an unexplained increase in targets. Leading up to that game, he had been targeted at least six times in all but one of his games. That included a game where he was targeted 10 times.

Thus, playing Britt after his big game would be okay based on his track record. It would still be foolish to think he can post the same number of points. However, he received the same amount of targets the following week. The opportunities were there for Britt, he just didn’t make the most of them. Britt finding the end zone twice could be labeled as a fluke, but not the targets he received.

Game Flow

Also referred to as game script, game flow is when the play calling or game plan is altered based on what has already happened. For example, the Rams fumbled their opening kickoff and then threw an interception on their next possession. After quickly being down 14 points, the Rams would no longer be able to pound Todd Gurley 15-25 times. This kind of situation would obviously hurt running backs, but it would help quarterbacks and wide receivers.

Similar to examining previous production, look at the game flow of a player who over or underproduced. Did a running back have decreased attempts because of a blow out? Did a wide receiver or quarterback rack up points in garbage time? These are important questions that can help determine wether or not you should roster a player with irregular production.

Using Bell as an example, he tremendously benefited from game flow. With 5:28 left in the third quarter, the Steelers took a 21-7 lead. This was positive game flow for Bell, as the Steelers wanted to keep the clock running and the ball in Bell’s hands. This allowed Bell to fill up the stat sheet and rack up fantasy points. This week against the Bengals, I expect a more competitive game and better weather. Therefore, Bell won’t be able to duplicate his effort on the ground. As talented as Bell is, accumulating over 200 rushing yards was a fluke and should not be expected for the rest of the year.

Conversely, a large deficit in the third or fourth quarter is beneficial to wide receivers and quarterbacks. If the weather had been better, there’s no doubt Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins would have scored more points. Because of the snow, LeSean McCoy had a more involved role in the passing game.

One Step Ahead

Yes, I’m aware how simple both these strategies are. However, it must be talked about because inexperienced DFS players fall into this trap weekly. How do I know? Ownership percentages of a player increase the week after they do well. Sometimes it’s justified like Jamison Crowder, and other times it isn’t, like Cameron Meredith. As long as you do your homework, you won’t fall victim to a fluke performance by an unknown player. Now as the DFS season comes to a close, here are three players you can be a week early on, and take advantage of their great performance.

3. Alex Smith – $6,800

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Orchard Park, New York. Kansas City won 23-13. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Alex Smith has one of the best Fantasy match ups of the week vs. Tennessee.(Courtesy of; Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

  • With only one game above 15 points in his last six starts, Smith is due for a big game.
  • He faces one of the worst pass defenses in Tennessee, who allowed Trevor Siemian to score 17.4 points.
  • For once, Smith has targets to throw to. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have both scored at least eight points in their last four games.

2. Jermaine Gresham – $4,500 

  • Gresham has received an enlarged role in the Cardinals’ passing game, seeing at least six targets and scoring at least seven points in his last three games.
  • With Michael Floyd’s DUI, there will be more targets to go around, and no doubt Gresham will benefit in the intermediate passing game.
  • Gresham faces the Saints secondary at home this week, one that is in the bottom third in the NFL.

1. Sammy Watkins – $6,100

  • For those who have taken the wait and see approach, we’ve seen everything we’ve needed to, as Watkins was on the field for virtually every snap versus the Steelers.
  • The weather held Watkins back from breaking out last week, as he was only targeted six times.
  • Watkins gets to play the 0-13 Browns this Sunday…I’m predicting that Watkins will finish as a top five Wide Receiver this week and eclipse 15 points for the first time this season.

 

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Running Back Brutality

If you’ve paid any attention to the fantasy production of NFL running backs, you’ll know it’s been a rough few weeks. Whether it’s injuries, committees, or underperforming, the running back position proves to be the most volatile position in Daily Fantasy Football.

Injuries:

The argument that injuries are a part of the game and subsequently, Daily Fantasy, is correct; however, the situation is far worse than anything we’ve seen in recent years. After just four weeks, the following running backs have been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season: Adrian Peterson, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Oliver, along with twelve others. At the end of the 2015 season, a total of thirty-nine running backs were placed on injured reserve. This means we are almost halfway to matching that number at only four weeks into the season.

Now, lets include every running back who has missed at least one game this season thus far: Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Langford, Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Doug Martin, Ryan Matthews and Thomas Rawls. This means that over one-third of NFL franchises have been severely impacted by the injury bug, thus, so are Daily Fantasy players. Yes, I’m well aware that Le’Veon has missed three games due to suspension, not injury.

Committees:

Onto the bane of Daily Fantasy players everywhere, running back committees. In some cases I would argue this is far worse than an injury. At least an injury completely eliminates a potential ball carrier. The trade-off is that the next man up is often less talented or experienced. With a running back committee, touches can be distributed seemingly at random, with no real explanation or pattern.

The following teams unfortunately subscribe to the running back by committee philosophy: Oakland, Atlanta, Detroit, Carolina, Philadelphia and Kansas City. The situation could improve if Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Matthews, and Jamaal Charles return healthy. But for the moment, stay away from Latavius Murray. Don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a viable Daily Fantasy running back. His touches have steadily decreased since week one of this season.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-9-51-18-pm

The only saving grace to Murray’s production is that he has managed to score a touchdown in three of the first four games. If Oakland is a do not enter sign, then Atlanta is a flashing yellow: proceed with caution. Outside of the Steelers, the Falcons have the two most talented running backs on any team in the league. So, there is reason to play Freeman or Coleman, but only if the price is right.

I believe Coleman is the play moving forward. Not only does he have twice as many touchdowns as his counterpart, but also has played a larger role in the passing game thus far. If you’re looking for a value play in your second running back spot, Coleman is decent, but against a stout Broncos D this week, Frank Gore and Terrence West will prove to be the better options.

I would love to write about how I completely understand the usage of the Philadelphia running backs in the absence of Ryan Matthews, but I have no clue. Darren Sproles, Kenton Barner and Wendell, freaking, Smallwood, all managed to find the end zone and all had a minimum of eight touches. Maybe Matthews will return this week, or one of these running backs will emerge as the leader of this trio versus an anemic Lions defense this Sunday.

Underperforming:

Possibly the most frustrating aspect of Daily Fantasy Football: underperforming. Whether it’s negative game flow that takes your running back out of the game plan, or John Kuhn stealing touchdowns from Mark Ingram, no one is immune from a classic dud. Trust me, I paid top dollar for David Johnson against my former franchise, and almost on cue, he had his worst fantasy outing of the year. There isn’t a concrete way to avoid a dud, but here are the running backs that are least likely to burn out this week.

1. DeMarco Murray: Fanduel Price $8,400

  • The Titans have clearly established themselves as a run first team
  • Murray is currently averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 16.5 attempts per game and in his most recent outing had 25 carries
  • Murray has played an unexpectedly high role in the passing game, catching 19 of his 21 targets, meaning these are not catches of high difficulty. Rather, they are designed screens or check downs
  • The Titans square off against the 29th ranked rush defense this weekend in Miami

2. Melvin Gordon: Fanduel Price $7,700

  • Gordon has remained a staple in the Chargers offense regardless of game flow, which is rare, so if Sunday’s matchup against the Raiders turns into a shoot-out you won’t have to worry
  • Gordon is literally the only viable back on that roster since the departure of Danny Woodhead due to injury
  • Like Murray, Gordon has caught almost all (13) of his 17 targets, so his involvement in the pass game will remain consistent
  • Gordon is playing against the absolutely awful Raiders run defense, who allowed over 100 yards and a touchdown to Terrence West in his first start this year

3. Terrence West: Fanduel Price $6,400

  • Justin Forsett was a healthy scratch this past Sunday, so you don’t need to worry about another running back detracting from West’s production
  • As stated earlier, West had a productive first start, getting over 20 carries and averaging over 5 yards per carry
  • If you’re still reading, you might notice that I like running backs playing against bad run defenses, so this play should not come as a surprise because West is set to run through the 30th ranked Washington defense
  • West is by far the riskiest of these options, but his price tag is too attractive to pass up this week given his favorable matchup

4. LeGarrette Blount: Fanduel Price $7,500

  • Brady is back…Blount will no doubt benefit from the return of a legitimate passing attack, and will not continually see eight or nine man fronts
  • New England is being favored by ten points; such a large spread usually indicates a positive game flow for the running back of the favorite
  • Blount is averaging over 20 carries per game, even with this past Sunday’s unusually low carry amount of 13
  • Like West, Blount’s value is too good this week, given his matchup against the 24th ranked Browns run defense, and Brady’s return

5. Le’Veon Bell: Fanduel Price $8,600

  • One of the most talented running backs on the most explosive offense in the NFL, yes, just yes
  • Bell’s usage on Sunday night was unique in that he had five catches on six targets, most of which occurred when he lined up at wide receiver
  • Bell was able to eclipse the 100 yard mark, including an explosive run for 44 yards down to the goal line, which was then vultured by DeAngelo Williams
  • His price tag and matchup against the 3rd ranked Jets run defense makes him too rich for my blood this week, but I would not be shocked if he had a 25 five plus point game

 

If you’re looking to lock yourself in a room and comb through a seemingly endless amount of statistics I would recommend these sites, which I also used for the content of this article.

  • http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/injured-reserve/
  • https://fantasyfootballers.org/rb-running-back-nfl-stats/
  • http://rotoguru1.com/cgi-bin/fyday.pl?game=fd

Week 4 NFL Picks Against the Spread

I am back with my fourth week of NFL picks against the spread. I was a very respectable 8-7-1 last week. I was all over the Broncos and Raiders upsets, while the Eagles and Vikings continued to make me look stupid. With the Bengals covering a 7.5 point spread last night, I am now 21-26-2 on the year. I am inching ever so close to “the black” as they would say in Vegas. As usual, my picks are in bold and outright upsets have will have an asterisk.

Colts (-2.5) at Jaguars (London) – I expect the Colts to carry the momentum from last week’s comeback win across the pond. They still are not playing well. In fact, I just do not think they are very good, but I like the matchup. Jacksonville is dead in the water. A 0-4 start may be the end for Gus Bradley. Ind 24 Jac 13

Bills* at Patriots (PK) – This is my gutsiest pick of year. My logic? Rex Ryan coached teams have always played the Pats well, even with Tom Brady. The line is the way it is because no one knows who will be playing quarterback for New England, but it won’t be Brady. I still have enough respect for Rex Ryan as a defensive coach to think he can fluster Garoppolo, Brissett, or Edelman. Buf 17 NE 16

Panthers (-3) at Falcons- The Falcons are better than I thought, but I think time will show that Cam Newton and the Panthers are a better football team. Moreover, in this case, they are desperate. 1-3 is a tough hole to dig out of, even for a team as talented as Carolina. Car 30 Atl 22

Browns* at Redskins (-7.5) – The Browns controlled much of the game against Miami last week. Rookie quarterback Cody Kessler protected the football well. Yet, they managed to lose in typical Cleveland fashion. I predict they will get out of their own way this week against the Washington team that really isn’t doing much well on offense despite a road upset of the Giants last week. Cle 28 Was 24

Lions (-3) at Bears- This Lions offense is no joke. Matt Stafford has almost a four to one touchdown to interception ratio since week 10 last year. Marvin Jones suddenly looks like an elite wide receiver. I do expect professional pride to kick in for Chicago at some point. They are the worst team in football three weeks in and a banged up mess. However, they will keep this closer than it should be. Det 30 Chi 20

photo from zambio.com

photo from zambio.com

Raiders at Ravens (-3.5) – I like where both teams are headed. However, I have been on the Ravens bandwagon since before the season started. It is a bandwagon that not nearly enough people are on. This will be a shootout between two quarterbacks that are really playing well right now. Get with the program folks. Baltimore is as good as anybody in this league right now. I also like the fact that they have played and won a few close games already this year. Bal 35 Oak 28

Seahawks (-1) at Jets- This is the toughest pick of the week for me. Russell Wilson is banged up and Seattle is coming east. However, this is a big early-season game for two teams that have legitimate playoff aspirations. Given Seattle’s track record in spots like this and the Jets horrid red zone performance lately, I will take Seattle in a low-scoring fistfight. Sea 13 NYJ 10

Titans at Texans (-4.5) – Houston was embarrassed last week in New England. I am not crazy about them, but they are much better than last week would indicate, particularly on defense, even without J.J. Watt. Throw in the fact that Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the league in turnovers and I see a blowout. Hou 31 Ten 13

Broncos (-3) at Bucs- I thought this might be the week I would be forced to pick against my beloved Broncos. However, I thought they would be an eight point favorite here. Tampa is coming off a dreadful home loss to the Rams. Denver is riding high after a fourth quarter offensive explosion put away Cincinnati last week. I am very wary of Tampa’s talented young offense, but a field goal is simply too few points to give up with a way Denver is playing right now. Den 26 TB 20

Cowboys (-2) at 49ers- I am stunned the number is so small here. The Cowboys have settled in to a nice “hold the fort down” type rhythm on offense with Dak Prescott while Tony Romo recovers. Everyone is making plays. The defense has not been great, but just good enough. San Francisco’s stellar opening-night performance has proven to be an admiration. It will not be long before Blaine Gabbert hears Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps at the quarterback position. Dal 24 SF 9.

Rams at Cardinals (-7.5) – You have a 1-2 team that is favorite by more than a touchdown over a 2-1 team. It is just strange to look at, but I understand it. Despite not being nearly as bad as most folks thought after their season-opening shutout loss, the Rams lack the firepower to keep up with the Cardinals offense. Much like the Panthers, the Cardinals are desperate to get dialed in this week. AZ 31 LA 17

Saints* at Chargers (-4) – Anytime a team gets humiliated on national television, I like them the next week, especially when Drew Brees is the quarterback. The difference between these two is not that much to begin with. NO 34 SD 31

Chiefs at Steelers (-4.5) – This is pretty straightforward. Kansas City is a really solid football team, but they do not have the horses to keep up with Pittsburgh on the road. Not many teams do. I am anxious to see Le’veon Bell reenter the fold for the Steelers this week. Pit 35 KC 24

photo from newsbake.com

photo from newsbake.com

 

MNF: Giants* at Vikings (-5) – Another week and another pick against the Vikings for me, but this has less to do with them and more to do with the opponent. If this Giants’ offense cannot score on this Vikings defense, I do not know who can. They have three pass catchers who would be the top wideout on any other team in this league. Also, the Vikings are still in the bottom five of almost every major offensive statistical category. The defense has scored almost as many points as the offense. That just is not a sustainable winning model in this league. Additionally, Eli Manning typically follows a bad performance with a great one. NYG 21 Min 17.

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

2016 Quarterback Rankings: Where does Tom Brady fall?

All rankings are PPR rankings. Although some of my colleagues here at The Game Haus disagree, PPR is the way to go. I believe it, and you, the fans, believe it too (according to a Twitter poll). Here’s your 2016 fantasy football running back rankings.

1. Adrian Peterson

From Surefire Running Backs: “Adrian Peterson is about as steady as running backs come. Peterson’s worst finish among running backs is eighth, which occurred in 2011. Obviously this doesn’t include 2014, when he played just one game. Other than two eighth place finishes, Peterson has never finished worse than third in fantasy points in his career. A complete breakdown can be seen below:

2007 3rd
2008 3rd
2008 2nd
2009 3rd
2010 8th
2012 1st
2013 8th
2015 2nd
2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

AP will consistently put up great numbers. (Photo: Sporting News)

We all wondered how Peterson would respond to a year off at the start of last season. He finished with 231 points, and was the second-best rusher last season. All Day isn’t a PPR stud, but in standard scoring, he’s been incredibly dependable.

There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to the Oklahoma product losing touches. The Vikings did spend their first pick of the draft on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, but the Vikings are still a run-first offense.

Teddy Bridgewater threw just 14 touchdowns last season, and 9 of which came in the redzone. There’s no running back that will vulcher away redzone touches from Peterson. With just a 41 percent completion percentage in the redzone, Bridgewater wasn’t a valuable asset when it counted most.

This all paves way for Peterson to dominate redzone touches this season.

Entering his age 31 season, Peterson isn’t a guy to take early in a dynasty league. However, if you’re in a re-draft league, drafting him will be an all-too-easy pick for your RB1 this season.”

2. Devonta Freeman

After winning the starting running back job in Atlanta by a hair, Devonta Freeman took the fantasy football world by storm by scoring 146.5 points in weeks 3-6 last season. Freeman had just three games last season in which he scored less than 15 points. He also enjoyed 30+ point games four times last season.

Freeman is a PPR stud with the fourth-best offensive line in football according to Pro Football Focus. He is the perfect fit to the zone-run scheme, and there’s no signs of slowing for the 24 year-old. Freeman will be an elite running back once again in 2016.

3. Todd Gurley

From Surefire Running Backs: “In his rookie season, Todd Gurley scored 189 fantasy points, good for fifth among running backs. Gurley also did this after missing the first two games of the season. Questions arose about whether Gurley would be as explosive as he was prior to his ACL injury, but Gurley swiftly hushed the nay-sayers.

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Todd Gurley could be the best second-year back in the NFL this season. (Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Gurley could be the next superstar in the NFL, but the only concern is his durability. Gurley missed the final game of the 2015 season due to a foot injury. He played in 13 games, which isn’t bad, and his injury history isn’t exactly extensive. However, an ACL injury is the most scary of them all. Even so, Gurley averaged 18 carries per game, and topped out at 30 last season.

If you’re looking for big time games, this is your guy. Five times last season Gurley rushed for 100 yards or more. He scored ten rushing touchdowns last season, which is about 0.8 scores per game. Gurley also had double-digit point totals ten times last season.

Gurley, like Peterson, is not a huge PPR get. He caught just 21 balls last season, good for 29th among running backs. He also had zero touchdown catches.

Nevertheless, Gurley could be the best running back in the league this season. His injury risk should be in the back of all fantasy owners’ minds. Other than that, drafting Gurley with your first pick should keep you giddy all season.”

4. Ezekiel Elliott

Running behind the best offensive line in the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott is poised to become an elite rusher in this year’s NFL. Owners passed on Todd Gurley last season, simply because he was a rookie. Don’t make that mistake this season. People who don’t believe in Elliott as a pass-catcher are flat wrong.  Of all rookie running backs this season, Elliott averaged the most targets per route in college, earning a target in 65% of routes ran in college (per rotoworld.com). Elliott is a great pass protector, which means he won’t lose snaps on passing situations. He allowed just one pressure on 17 chances at Ohio State.

All this adds up to a great all-around running back, playing with the best offensive line in football. Elliott will be a star in Dallas, there’s no question. My boldest prediction I’ve ever documented comes in this paragraph: Ezekiel Elliott is the next Emmitt Smith.

So draft Elliott as your RB1, take him at his ADP, or let him fall to your lap in the second round if possible.

5. David Johnson

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Fantasy owners hope David Johnson’s second season is just as good as his first. (Photo: Getty Images)

From Surefire Running Backs: “I’m all in on David Johnson for 2016. In just five games started last season, Johnson accounted for 658 yards. He’s also managed to find paydirt five times during that stretch. Catching 17 passes in that time also proved Johnson has potential to become a great pass catcher.

What’s more is that Johnson will run behind one of the best offensive lines in football. Pro Football Focus ranks Arizona as having the ninth-best o-line in 2015. That ranking will improve with the addition of All-Pro guard Evan Mathis. Mathis had the best run blocking grade last season according to PFF. With Mike Iupati anchoring the line, Johnson should have plenty of room in the trenches this season.

The UNI product looks reliable as a middling RB1 this season. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington will battle for backup carries, but don’t be afraid of them luring away touches from Johnson. Head coach Bruce Arians gave just about the highest praise you can give a second-year running back, saying he’s on track to be “one of the all-time best” at running back. That should be plenty reason to take Johnson as your first running back this season.”

6. Le’Veon Bell

From Surefire Running Backs: “Believe it or not, 2016 will be Le’Veon Bell’s fourth season in the league. He’s seems older than that to me, and that’s probably because of how quickly he became a prominent player in fantasy football.

Bell played in just six games last season thanks to another injury against the bitter rival Cincinnati Bengals. In those six games, however, Bell ran for 4.9 yards per carry (career best) and 3 rushing scores. He also caught 24 passes for 136 yards.

Barring injuries, Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in football. He’s a spectacular runner and possesses great hands and route running abilities for a running back. Bell was the second-highest scoring running back in fantasy in 2014. Had DeMarco Murray not blown up behind the strong Dallas o-line, Bell would’ve finished in first place by 23 points in standard leagues.

We say this far too often with running backs, but as long as Bell can stay healthy, he’ll be a fantastic player in fantasy. The Michigan State product can put up 20 points in any given week. In 2014 PPR leagues, he scored at least 20 points seven times. He also eclipsed 20 points in three of his six games last season.

Bell is an explosion on your fantasy waiting to happen. Week in and week out, expect him to be a top-five running back. Draft Bell on your team, and handcuff him with DeAngelo Williams. If Bell doesn’t start one week, roll with Williams, who will produce just as much as Bell.”

Even with Bell being suspended four games, I still trust him to be one of the best running backs in football after week four. Drafting DeAngelo Williams is a must for all fantasy owners, and especially if you draft Bell. Williams was spectacular replacing Bell last season, and there’s nothing indicating that will change this season.

7. Jamaal Charles

Coming off his second ACL surgery since entering the NFL, Jamaal Charles isn’t a favorite running back for fantasy owners. In the four full games he played last season, Charles’ lowest finish was 18.7 points. He also scored 31.2 points against Green Bay in week 3.

I understand the fear of another Jamaal Charles injury, as he hasn’t been the most durable running back since entering the NFL. However, he’s been a great fantasy asset since becoming a starter in 2008. He’s finished in the top-12 among running backs in every season in which he’s played in 15 games, other than his rookie year. He’s also got two first-place finishes under his belt. Take Charles as an RB1, and pending good health, he’ll be a top running back.

8. Mark Ingram

Mark Ingram has had a lot of hype for all of his seasons in the NFL, but he finally lived up to it in 2014. Ingram has finished as the RB15 in each of the past two seasons. To add to that, Ingram caught 50 passes last season, nearly doubling his totals from 2014.

When it comes to red zone opportunities, Ingram’s numbers are deceiving. He rushed the ball inside the red zone on 33% of all Saints opportunities, which doesn’t look good. However, take just the games Ingram played in, and his red zone carries skyrocket to 71% of carries. When the Alabama product is healthy, he’ll hog all the carries when they matter.

Ingram doesn’t have superstar upside, but he also doesn’t carry a lot of risk. He just missed out on getting the Surefire Stamp of Approval, so draft Ingram as an RB1, and that’s what he’ll be.

9. Matt Forte

From Surefire Running Backs: “Matt Forte is the only player to join a new team for 2016 on this list. Although I’m usually leery of jumping on players who are on new teams, I’m excited for Forte this season.

Forte has never finished worse than an RB2 in his career. He’s also finished as an RB1 five times in his eight year career. Now with the Jets, Forte will be relied on heavily due to the quarterback situation in the Big Apple. Although the quarterback may be a walking question mark, Forte will hold down the fort as a consistent running back and pass catcher. Each of Forte’s finishes among running backs is listed below:

2008 4th
2009 18th
2010 9th
2011 15th
2012 12th
2013 3rd
2014 4th
2015 8th

Now with the New York Jets, Forte will play under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey has coached Emmitt Smith, Jerome Bettis, Lamar Smith (in his best career season), Larry Johnson, and C.J. Spiller (also in his best season). Although Smith and Spiller are nothing close to big names in the NFL, they even had their best seasons while under Gailey.

Chan Gailey seems to be a running back whisperer, and Forte will be the number one source of offence for the Jets. Entering his age 31 season, Forte, like Peterson, is not a huge dynasty pick, but he will produce for at least a couple more seasons. Draft Forte as an RB1, especially in PPR leagues.”

10. Lamar Miller

Finishing ninth and sixth among running backs in 2014 and 2015 respectively, Lamar Miller’s career is on the upswing. He’s rushed for eight touchdowns and accounted for 1,000 yards or more in each of the past two seasons. Now a Texan, Miller hopes to pick up where Arian Foster left off. Once Foster went down for the year, the vulnerability of Houston’s o-line was showcased. Miller has enough talent to produce even behind a subpar line. Expect Lamar Miller to be a great addition in Houston, and a borderline RB1.

11. Doug Martin

Doug Martin is a muscle hamster, and that’s the best combination of two words in the history of speech. Since bursting onto the scene in his rookie season in 2012, Martin has only been able to replicate his success once. He totaled 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, helping him to be the second best running back in fantasy football.

After two seasons filled with injuries and no production, Martin came back into his 2012 form last season. His 1,402 rushing yards was second most in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson, and nearly 300 more yards than the next best rusher. Martin was the third highest scoring running back last season, and he’ll be just as good this season. Expect him to be a high RB2, but closer to a middling RB1 this season, pending he plays 14 games or more.

2016 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

Turns out P90X actually works. (Photo: Tony Horton Twitter)

12. Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy used to be chunky. Eddie Lacy is now not chunky. When the Alabama product is in NFL running back condition, he is good. In his each of his first two seasons in the NFL, Lacy finished as the RB6 in fantasy football. Last season, Lacy finished with the 25th most points in fantasy football. Lacy is in great shape, and that’s what held him back last season. Expect another 1,100 yard, 9 touchdown campaign from the Alabama product.Displaying IMG_1645.jpg

13. LeSean McCoy

LeSean McCoy has been all over the place in terms of fantasy football production. He’s finished in the top seven of running backs three times (two second place finishes), while finishing 12th and 17th in the past two seasons. Running behind Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked offensive line while be solid, and Karlos Williams being suspended helps McCoy’s case even more. Yes, the Bills did sign Reggie Bush, but he’s no threat to take McCoy’s production. The Pitt product will be a RB2 throughout the season, with bursts of RB1 showcases.

14. Carlos Hyde

Contrary to popular belief, Chip Kelly operates on a run-first basis. Although he did call plays at a record-breaking pace last season, he prefers to establish the run first. With Kelly controlling the Eagles last season, he saw his team attempt 442 rushes, 11th in the NFL. Kelly brings that scheme to San Francisco, and it will benefit Carlos Hyde. The Ohio State product was on pace to rush for 1,072 yards last season, so as long as he stays healthy, Hyde is in good position to have a solid season for fantasy owners.

15. Dion Lewis

The grim reaper of running backs afflicted many stars last season, and Dion Lewis was one of them. Through seven games, Lewis ran for just 234 yards, but added 388 receiving yards on 36 catches. Lewis will be a PPR magnet for both Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Brady, and should enjoy the featured back role in New England. However, Bill Belichick and his shenanigans are always in full swing. I refuse to trust any running back in New England as long as the Belitricks affect rushers, so be cautious but optimistic with Lewis this season.

16. Latavius Murray

After rushing for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns last season, Latavius Murray is on the fantasy radar for all owners. With 41 catches for 232 yards, Murray also proved to be more than a one-dimensional back. Murray plays in one of the most talented offenses for its age, and will at worst make up for an average rushing game with a few catches. Murray will most likely finish as a hard RB2, and I’m more than okay with him as my second running back this season.

17. C.J. Anderson

C.J. Anderson is yet to put together a full season of consistent production. Anderson had just two games of 100 yards rushing or more last season. He also totaled nine games in which he didn’t even record 70 all-purpose yards. Add that to just five total touchdowns and only 25 receptions, and you have a consistently average running back. On the upside, Anderson ran for 4.7 yards per carry, and could be leaned on heavily due to the passing game in Denver being in question. I still don’t understand all the hype for Anderson, and see him as nothing more than a RB2 who only produces good games on occasion.

18. Thomas Rawls

After barely making the roster after training camp, Thomas Rawls was just happy to be on the team when the season started. After Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch went down with injuries, Rawls quickly had to step up to the starting gig. Rawls hit the ground running, rushing for 100 yards four times, including a 209 yard performance. The risk with Rawls is his running behind a terrible offensive line, and the questions about whether or not he’ll be able to replicate his high clip in 2016. I’m more comfortable with Rawls as my flex player, but a low RB2 to start isn’t too bad of expectations for him.

19. Ryan Mathews

It seems like there was more running backs getting playing time in Philly last season than there was Browns starting quarterbacks since they moved to Cleveland. Mathews was the only consistent runner last season for the Eagles, and with DeMarco Murray gone, it’s going to be all Ryan Mathews this season. As the featured back, I like Mathews as a low RB2 with upside to be a high RB2.

20. Jonathan Stewart

The Carolina Panthers have the second-best offensive line in football (PFF). That said, Jonathan Stewart has never been, and will never be, an elite running back. He is a good running back, but reigning MVP Cam Newton will get his touches, and so will Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. Stewart was 11 yards away from his second 1,000 yard rushing season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get there this season. Stewart will be good enough to be an RB2, but his lack of touches hurts his ceiling.

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