2017 fantasy football notes: Cram session

One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling unprepared. You forgot to study for a quiz and have as much knowledge about the subject as Alex Smith has on not being average. You’ve got an important presentation at work but forgot your briefcase at home.

Worst of all, your fantasy draft is tonight, yet you’ve spent the last six months watching baseball and catching up on your favorite guilty pleasure on Netflix. Your pulse reaches an unhealthy level as your heart races trying to think about how to prepare a draft plan good enough to beat your friends, yet you rank Adrian Peterson as your No. 6 running back because you think he’s poised for a great year with the Vikings.

But Adrian Peterson doesn’t play for the Vikings, and you’re screwed.

Fear not, lazy fantasy football player, I’ve got just the article for you. Let’s talk about all the big news and notes you missed so you can have a fighting chance to compete in your league this season.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: QUARTERBACKS

Marcus Mariota is undervalued

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: titansonline.com

Marcus Mariota is among the top 25 most attractive players in the NFL, and it turns out he’s pretty good at football too. Mariota was good enough to earn spot starts last season, and finished as the No. 13 scoring quarterback. He’s especially suited for fantasy football thanks to his rushing ability, and he’s gotten some upgraded toys to play with for 2017.

No shade at Rishard Matthews or Tajae Sharpe, but Mariota didn’t have the greatest receivers to throw to last season. The Titans signed Eric Decker during the offseason and drafted top wide receiver prospect Corey Davis with their first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. On top of that, Mariota plays with an elite offensive line and DeMarco Murray, who got back to his usual RB1 self last season.

Entering his third season, the myth of a sophomore slump cannot affect Mariota. Mariota was the top scoring quarterback from weeks five through week 12 of last season, which shows his upside is through the roof this season.

Mariota is being drafted as a fringe QB1 this season, which is way too low. Sit back and wait for Mariota as others grab overvalued quarterbacks, and then grab him once you’ve filled out your starting lineup and part of your bench.

Blake Bortles sucks at throwing footballs, but don’t overlook his volume

Sure, you may’ve spit up in your mouth a little due to reading the name Blake Bortles, and that’s fine. Bortles ruined Allen Robinson last season and made some of the worst throws of the season in 2016. However, while Bortles gets roasted by Twitter everyday, he could make for a good backup for your team.

Before you click the “x” in the upper right corner of your device, hear me out.

Bortles had the fourth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2015, and followed that with the tenth-most points among quarterbacks last season. Even with all the hate Bortles gets, he’s still been a QB1 in each of the past two seasons.

I’m not saying you need to draft him as your QB1 this season, but you should at least consider the volume he’ll see. Leonard Fournette will suck in Jacksonville’s system unless they plan on taking less snaps out of the shotgun this season. Jacksonville started plays out of the gun more than every single team in the NFL except one last season, so don’t expect Fournette to be successful in his current system.

This paves way for Bortles to continue to see a bunch of pass attempts, and at some point they have to turn into touchdowns and 250-yard games. Bortles will most likely embarrass himself this season, and you’ll get heckled for taking him, but if quarterbacks are thin, take him as your QB2.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: RUNNING BACKS

Don’t be that guy who drafts Adrian Peterson

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: Associated Press

You thought I was kidding about Adrian Peterson no longer being a Viking, didn’t you? Well, I’m no Photoshop wizard, so the picture to your left with Peterson doning New Orleans Saints getup proves Peterson is a Saint this season.

I have no clue why the Saints signed Peterson this offseason. Mark Ingram was productive enough last season to be the eighth-best fantasy running back in PPR leagues. Drew Brees is still under center, so expect the Saints to continue to air it out this season, especially with Michael Thomas playing on the outside.

Ingram will most likely be the starter come Week 1, and even though Peterson will see touches this season, it won’t be enough to sustain any kind of success. Peterson managed just three games last season, and averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. He’s also topped 40 catches in a season just once in his career, compared to Ingram doing that in each of his past two seasons.

Peterson will be dropped halfway through the season by all active owners, so save yourself the trouble and keep Peterson off your team. You can score Terrance West, Robert Kelly, Tevin Coleman or even Danny Woodhead at Peterson’s price, and all of which offer much more upside and volume potential.

Eddie Lacy isn’t as fat as he used to be, but that doesn’t mean you should draft him

Eddie Lacy literally got paid this offseason to not be so chunky. Lacy’s always been overrated to me, but that hasn’t stopped others from clogging their arteries by drafting him. In case you missed it, Lacy is now a Seattle Seahawk, and he’ll be fighting off Thomas Rawls to get fed this season.

While the two were splitting time with the first team to open camp, it appears Thomas Rawls has taken over the bulk of the first team work, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times said on Aug. 9. For the near future, Rawls looks to be the starter.

Fantasy owners will draft Lacy for the same reason as Peterson, and that’s for name value alone. Rawls doesn’t have the name recognition, but he does have the advantage in terms his skillset. Rawls has much better lateral quickness and has forced more missed tackles over the course of his career. That ability is a necessity in a Seattle offense that has a terrible offensive line.

Marshawn Lynch is playing football again

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: raiders.com

At the end of the 2015-16 season, Marshawn Lynch called it quits even though it seemed he had more left in the tank. Well, Lynch okie-doked us all by coming out of retirement to join the Oakland Raiders.

With Latavius Murray now in Minnesota, Lynch will own the backfield for the Raiders. Oakland’s offense already owns one of the top one-two punches at wide receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in Derek Carr. The talent is no longer shifted to benefit only the passing game with the addition of Lynch.

Lynch is the No. 15 running back according to the consensus Fantasy Pros rankings for 2017. Expect Lynch to end up as a low RB1 by season’s end. He’s ranked lower than Leonard Fournette, Isaiah Crowell and Carlos Hyde in the rankings, which is odd to say the least. Lynch is in a better offense and will receive the same if not more volume as the aforementioned players.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: PASS CATCHERS

Brandin Cooks now plays for the Patriots, and that’s not fair

Tom Brady has made his money by throwing to a bunch of late round draft picks and one large tight end that seems to party more than he plays. That changes this season with the addition of Brandin Cooks. The Patriots traded for Cooks during the offseason, and with that addition and other moves, there’s been pundits saying New England could go undefeated this season.

Cooks’ most notable trait is his speed. His catch rate on deep passes last season was 45.8 percent, good for fourth in the NFL. He also had 544 deep receiving yards which was second in the NFL. Patriots beat writers have raved about Cooks to start camp, which further proves he has a great chance to one of the best receivers Brady’s ever had.

I’ve yet to take Cooks in any drafts at his ADP, as his ADP is a little too high for my taste. However, taking Cooks as your WR2 could pay huge dividends for your team. He resides in a pass-heavy offense with one of the best quarterbacks of all time. I’m not quite comfortable with Cooks as my WR1, but if you have him as a WR2, your receiving corps will be solid.

Terrelle Pryor used to be a bad quarterback but now is a good wide receiver

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: redskins.com

Terrelle Pryor made a cool one-handed catch in training camp, and for one day fantasy football Twitter anointed him as the next coming of Randy Moss. But that’s what happens during the start of training camp, as our football-thirsty brains need something to sip on. Even so, Pryor is in line to become the No. 1 option in a pass-heavy offense this season.

Kirk Cousins may be his generation’s Alex Smith, as he’s as average as Philadelphia fans are angry. However, the Redskins’ poor defense and questionable running attack could give Pryor the chance to see a lot of targets.

Pryor had 1,007 receiving yards last season with the Cleveland Browns, and that’s as impressive as ESPN ignoring the impulse to tweet about Tim Tebow smacking a double in a low-level minor league game. Pryor was a low end WR2 last season, and his situation this season should allow him to be a solid WR2 again this season.

Martellus Bennett will clown around in Green Bay’s offense

Martellus Bennett signed with the Packers this season, making him the first player to sign with Green Bay during free agency since Bart Starr (that’s called sarcasm, folks). Bennett had a better season last year as a backup in New England than half of the starting tight ends in the NFL. Moving to a pass-heavy offense and playing with a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers gives Bennett the chance to be a TE1 this season.

Bennett was fifth among tight ends in yards per route run last season at 1.96. This shows he took advantage of his time on the field better than nearly all tight ends. Bennett also dropped just two of his 57 catchable targets last season, which will please Aaron Rodgers (that’s a slight against Davante Adams, folks).

Bennett won’t have to battle anyone on the roster for snaps at tight end, so he has the upside to be a top tight end this season. He’s been drafted as a low end TE1 right now, but if you can get greedy and take him as a TE2, you’ll have a good problem on your hands midseason.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports and esports coverage. You should also follow Tim, as he’s gotten over 100 likes on a grand total of three different tweets, and sometimes offers lukewarm takes on things that don’t matter.

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.

You can Like The Game Haus on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Craig!

“From our Haus to Yours”

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Fantasy football tight end sleeper: Julius Thomas

The 2017 season is approaching and tight end Julius Thomas begins a new chapter with the Miami Dolphins. His two seasons in Jacksonville were a bust, but being reunited with former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, he is my pick as the top tight end sleeper.

Adam Gase Connection

Gase became the offensive coordinator in Denver under head coach John Fox in 2013. 2013 was also the year Thomas became the starting tight end with Peyton Manning and company. Thomas broke onto the scene with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

He also excelled as one of Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone. From inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line.

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:nfl.com)

The following season, Thomas slipped a little but still had another good season. Although his numbers in receptions (43) and yards (489) dropped from the previous season, Thomas recorded 12 touchdowns for the second straight season. Thomas still finished seventh in fantasy under tight ends.

He was efficient in the red zone especially inside the 20-yard line. He was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Down production in Jacksonville

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

In 2015, Thomas got his big pay day as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What people forget is that Thomas wasn’t going to have the same amount of success he had in Denver. Not having Manning was a a big factor to some for Thomas’ decline.

In the 2015 season, he had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. He finished with 46 catches, 455 yards but only had five touchdowns. Catching touchdowns was part of the popularity with Thomas in fantasy. Most of the targets went to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Players like Robinson, Blake Bortles and Allen Hurns improved in fantasy and this hurt Thomas’ production as an elite fantasy player.

The following season, Thomas caught four touchdowns from weeks 1-11 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. His four scores in that span were tied for second among all tight ends.

Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, but injuries plagued seasons (missing 11 games in two seasons) and limited him to 21 games with nine touchdowns and 35 yards per game.

2017 Outlook

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas and Adam Gase (Photo by:oregonlive.com)

The move to Miami could be the best situation for Thomas as he reunites with Gase. He was a fantasy stud in Denver, and Gase could be a big reason why, given his track record with tight ends.

In 2015 as the offensive coordinator in Chicago, Gase helped Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combine for 87 catches for 878 yards and eight touchdowns, which would have been the number seven Fantasy tight end in standard leagues.

Last year with the Dolphins, the combination of Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones had 55 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. It would’ve been good for the number 10 fantasy tight end. So there is some optimism for Thomas to bounce back.

However, there could be some problems for Thomas. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout season, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker along with re-signing Kenny Stills. Thomas will have a role in the offense, especially closer to the red zone, but he will likely be the third or fourth option in a balanced offense with a lot of guys to feed the ball to.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could reemerge as a top fantasy tight end. He’s worth a late-round flier as a second tight end. There’s little risk and plenty of reward with Thomas and Gase back together.

 

Featured image from miamidolphins.com.

You can Like The Game Haus on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Craig!

“From our Haus to Yours”

Brandon Marshall

Impact pass catchers with new homes in 2017

Wide receivers and tight ends are tough positions to evaluate in the NFL. Over the years, top-level quarterback play has turned guys like Austin Collie, Deion Branch, Jacob Tamme and Willie Snead into solid pass-catching targets.

It is pretty rare to find a guy who is productive in every situation he is put in. However, this offseason has seen three players who fit that bill change teams. If healthy, they could help their new teams get to the next level.

Brandon Marshall, New York Giants

This is possibly the most impactful move of the entire offseason. In terms of raw talent, Marshall is one of the best of his era. He was a victim of the Jets’ dysfunction last year and posted an underwhelming 59 catches.

Prior to last year, he had just one full season as a starter with under 80 catches. Even at age 33, anyone who can make plays like the ones featured below on the NFL YouTube channel less than two years ago has a lot left in the tank.

The Giants are a perfect fit for Marshall. A quarterback like Eli Manning and young talent like Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram should be plenty to keep the occasionally temperamental Marshall motivated. These factors also mean he has a chance at two things he has never seen before: single coverage and the playoffs.

Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans

impact pass catchers new teams 2017

Photo: YouTube.com

Here we have another escapee from the barren wasteland that is the New York Jets. Decker missed all but three games last year due to a shoulder injury. Before that, he had become one of the most consistent pass-catchers around. This included hauling in 44 balls on the Tim Tebow-led Broncos that were allergic to throwing the ball.

He also tallied 87 catches from Peyton Manning in 2013 and 80 from Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015. Those numbers in those situations say a lot. You will be hard pressed to find a more versatile pass catcher.

Bringing in such a reliable target was very wise of the Titans. Young quarterback Marcus Mariota is completing only about 61 percent of his throws and still trying to figure out how to be a consistently accurate NFL passer. When that is the case, you can never have enough guys like Decker around. Lastly, he is an above average blocker who should slide right into Tennessee’s run heavy offense and be a big help.

Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers

Free agent signings are almost as rare as unicorns in Green Bay, but this is a great one.

Aaron Rodgers has not had all that many physically imposing receiving targets over the years. However, he got a taste of it last year with Jared Cook and is no doubt happy with this replacement.

impact pass catchers new teams 2017

Photo: host.madison.com

Bennett is on a streak of 50-plus catch seasons that dates back to 2012. He has never been the top guy in an offense, but he is someone that always needs to be accounted for.

Adding him to an offense that already has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb among others will make that difficult for defenses. At well over 6-feet tall, he can run like a wide receiver and is matchup nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs alike.

Make no mistake, the entire Packers organization is well aware of what Bennett did for Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Patriots last year, averaging 13 yards a catch and grabbing seven touchdowns. His addition to the Packers significantly strengthens their already realistic chances of doing what New England did last year.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Dylan!

 

Super Bowl series: NFC North

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC North

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 third edition, Super Bowl Series: NFC North.

Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Green Bay was awfully close to winning the Super Bowl last season but lost in the NFC Championship game. Atlanta completely dominated the game and won 44-21. The Packers offense is good enough to propel the team to consistent runs at the Super Bowl but if the Packers want to recapture the magic of 2011, the defense must improve.

Calling the Packers offense good is somewhat of an understatement. Green Bay was fourth is scoring last season averaging 27 points per game. The Packers offense scored a lot of points but was very one-dimensional. The passing attack ranked seventh (262.4 yards per game) and the running game ranked 20th (106.3 yards per game). Packer fans can thank Aaron Rodgers for how much he has carried this franchise.

Rodgers has been historically amazing. He has the best touchdown to interception ratio of all time at 4.12. The next closest is Tom Brady with 3.0. He also had 4,428 yards, 40 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season.

If the Packers want to win Super Bowl LII, Aaron Rodgers must continue to put up these gaudy numbers. The impressive stats include 4,000 or more yards in six of the past nine seasons, 30 or more touchdowns in six of the last eight seasons and a career record of 90-45. If you take out 2013 in which Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken collarbone, it looks even more magnificent.

There is consistent evidence that the passing attack in Green Bay will flourish and the Packers added tight end Martellus Bennett to help Rodgers even more. Last season Green Bay’s tight ends combined for 64 receptions, 683 yards and three touchdowns.

Bennett had 55 receptions, 701 yards and seven touchdowns with the Patriots, and that was while sharing time with Rob Gronkowski. Bennett is a major upgrade that can help the Packers in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

Improving the running game will also be key in the Packers winning Super Bowl LII. Green Bay was ranked 20th, as mentioned earlier, and they lost two starting offensive lineman from last season, TJ.. Lang and JC Tretter. Losing Lang may not be as a big of a blow as most would think. The Packers struggled running to the right and ranked 25th in the NFL with 18 negative run plays to his side.

Green Bay also drafted running back Jamaal Williams out of BYU. Williams had a quietly outstanding senior season, rushing for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 234 carries. If the right side of the line improves at run blocking and Jamaal Williams can make an immediate impact, then the offense can become unpredictable and lead the Packers to a Super Bowl victory.

The Packers offense can’t do it completely alone. Green Bay was really good at stopping the run and getting sacks last season. The run defense ranked eighth, allowing 91.7 yards per game and sixth in sacks with 40.

Green Bay’s ability to stop the run is a bit deceiving though. Opposing teams only ran the ball 39.7 percent of the time on Green Bay because it was so easy to pass on them. The Packers ranked 31st in pass defense giving up 269.2 yards per game. This must improve if the Packers want to get to the Super Bowl.

Let’s face it, with Aaron Rodgers on your team a Super Bowl is always within reach. If Green Bay can have an unpredictable offense and improve its pass defense, then the Packers can get over the hump and win Super Bowl LII.

Detroit Lions

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Detroit had what most would say was a surprising season last year. They finished 9-7 but had they beat Green Bay in week 17, then the Lions would have won the division.

The Lions got bounced out of the playoffs by Seattle 26-6. Matthew Stafford has yet to win a playoff game in his career but there is a small possibility they could win their first ever Super Bowl this season.

The Detroit defense was nothing spectacular but not horrible either last season. They ranked 13th in points allowed per game (22.4), 19th in passing yards allowed per game (269.2) and 18th in rushing yards allowed (106.3). If the Lions want to contend for a Super Bowl title, they must win the division and earn home playoff games.

Accomplishing a division title means beating Green Bay and shutting down Aaron Rodgers. Detroit needs to become a top-five pass defense and improve on their 10 interceptions from last season in order to become the kings of the North. Creating turnovers will make it easier for Matthew Stafford and the offense. Detroit should embrace bringing back the pain of the black and blue division.

Offensively, the Lions struggled to finish with points. They had the 11th ranked passing attack with 259.9 yards per game but ranked 20th in points scored per game (21.6). Stafford threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns but it wasn’t enough scoring. The running game held the team back averaging 81.9 yards per game, which was third-worst in the NFL.

Similar to Green Bay, Detroit needs to stop being one-dimensional. The additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang should provide some assistance to the running game but Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick must also step up. If these two backs can combine for a minimum of 1,500 yards, there is a good chance the Lions will be good enough to win the division.

With the 18th-easiest strength of schedule heading into the season, the Lions can steal a few wins on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford. If they want to really become Super Bowl contenders, they must stop the pass and create more turnovers. Along with improving defensively, the Lions need to run their way to a division title.

Minnesota Vikings

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Minnesota was looking like a serious Super Bowl contender through five games last season. The Vikings started 5-0 before the wheels eventually flew off. Minnesota then went 3-8 to stumble to an 8-8 record. Interestingly enough, the Vikings are much closer to winning a Super Bowl than most would care to admit.

The Vikings are a true defensive beast in the black and blue division behind defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. Despite having a historically bad offense, the Vikings defense still had an impressive 2016-17 campaign.

Minnesota ranked sixth in points allowed per game (19.2), third in pass yards allowed (207.9), fifth in sacks (41) and third in total yards allowed despite ranking 20th in rush defense (106.9).

There isn’t much the Vikings need to improve on defensively. Replacing nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn is the biggest concern. Mike Zimmer has a long history of success with secondaries, so Vikes fans need not to worry on who Zimmer chooses. The Vikings could improve their run defense as well, but most of the issues come from defensive tackles like Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joesph dealing with on and off injuries.

The offensive side of the ball is where the Vikings need to step up. The offensive line was one of the most injured in the NFL and the Vikings lost both Matt Kalil and Andre Smith in free agency. Minnesota signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to compensate for those losses. The running game was the worst in the NFL at 75.3 yards per game. The Vikings didn’t have a single run go for over 40 yards.

Minnesota wasn’t that great passing the ball either. The Vikings ranked 18th with 239.8 passing yards per game. Due to the bad offensive production, the Vikings struggled to put up points averaging just 20.4 per game.

Not everything about the Vikings offense was miserable. There was flashes of greatness last season. Sam Bradford broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a single season by completing 71.6 percent of his passes.

The offense also improved after Norv Turner resigned midseason. Before Turner resigned as offensive coordinator, the Vikings were averaging 221.4 passing yards and 71.8 rushing yards per game. In the nine games with Pat Shurmur in charge of the offense, the Vikings averaged 254 passing yards and 78 rushing yards per game. Shurmur knows how to play to Sam Bradford’s strength and that bodes well for the Vikings moving forward.

Minnesota already has a championship-caliber defense. The defense can carry them to a lot of victories but to get to a Super Bowl the Vikings must improve their offense in all phases. If the Vikings can break the top 15 in both rushing and passing, along with staying healthy, then not only can the Vikings win their first Super Bowl, but they can win it in their home stadium.

Chicago Bears

Super Bowl series: NFC North

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

The 2016-17 Chicago Bears lost 13 games for the first time since 1969 when they went 1-13. It was a nightmare year in which the Bears were ravaged by injuries. Chicago placed 19 players on injured reserve which was the most in the NFL.

The Bears also were 1-7 in games decided by seven points or less. The 3-13 record didn’t truly reflect the team’s talent.

John Fox is ready to take the Bears to the next level. In his second season with Carolina, he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. In his third season with Denver, he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. As he enters his third season with the Bears, he could do the same.

The Bears can’t win a Super Bowl behind Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky. They can, however, win a Super Bowl behind their defense and running game. With an entirely new roster of quarterbacks, it will be hard to predict how good the Bears offense can be.

The running game should be their bread and butter. Jordan Howard ran for 1,313 yards on 252 carries in just 12 starts as a rookie. The Bears are projected to have the fifth-best offensive line this season according to Pro Football Focus. If it pans out, the Bears will be able to run the ball with success thus taking the pressure off whoever ends up playing under center.

The passing game will remain a mystery. Mike Glennon has only started 18 games in his three-year career and has a record of 5-13 in those games. Rookie quarterback and second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky is likely to see some action this season as well.

The receiving corp is full of potential with Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Kendell Wright. It is unlikely all of them make the roster but aside from Kevin White, all have shown optimistic flashes of skill throughout their career.

If the Bears want to win Super Bowl LII, it is going to be because of their defense. Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Leonard Floyd will create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. The secondary should improve with the additions of Quinton Demps and Prince Amukamara. Amukamara loves to play aggressively and in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense he will be able to.

It is going to take a lot for the Bears to make the Super Bowl. The chances are small but there is always a chance. Chicago’s defense needs to become a Monsters of the Midway defense again for them to get there. They also need Jordan Howard to improve his performance from last season. Lastly, Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky need to be spectacular. If the Bears can do all of this, they can win Super Bowl LII.

 

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

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC East

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/2016/09/10/2016-nfl-predictions-nfc-north/

Under the Radar Moves That Will Pay Off Big in 2016

With the draft and most of free agency done, NFL rosters are starting to take shape. Here are five under the radar moves that were really smart.

Safety Eric Weddle to Ravens- The Ravens defense was uncharacteristically bad last year, particularly at the back-end. They were not just plain bad though. They just seemed to give up big plays at the worst possible time. I went back and counted at least four games where they blew a fourth quarter leads and lost. Weddle and the Chargers had a messy falling out last year, he didn’t see the field much due injuries. When the five time All-Pro was ready to go, the Chargers opted not to play him. It was just plain odd. He headed to the Ravens via free agency after the season wrapped up. When he is on the field, he is always around the ball and among league leaders for tackles in the secondary. A smart player who almost never gets beat in coverage and can tackle, Weddle solves lots of issues for Baltimore.

Photo from rantsports.com

Photo from rantsports.com

Wide receiver Brandon LaFell to Bengals- This may be the sneakiest good off-season move in the entire league. After an underwhelming start to his career in Carolina, LaFell spent the last couple years as Tom Brady’s favorite target not named Gronkowski in New England. Brady seemed to really trust him. He had 74 catches during New England’s Super Bowl winning season in 2014. If the best quarterback on the planet trusts him, then so should everyone else. He was let go by the Pats after the 2015 season as a salary cap move. He caught 37 balls in an injury plagued season, but is now healthy. With the inconsistent and often injured Marvin Jones off to Detroit, LaFell will be Cincinnati’s number two receiver opposite A.J. Green. He should draw enough coverage to free up Green just a little bit. Throw in tight end Tyler Eifert and the Bengals have the makings for one heck of a passing offense in 2016.

Photo from profootballfocus.com

Photo from profootballfocus.com

 

Wide receiver Mike Wallace to Ravens- The Ravens may have had the best off-season in all of football. Weddle will immediately shore up the defense and Mike Wallace is their new big-play threat on offense. However, the word new implies that they had big-play threat last year, that was not the case. Future Hall of Famer Steve Smith was injured, but isn’t winning any foot races even when healthy. Wallace is among the NFL’s all-time leaders in yards per catch. His lowest yards per catch in his seven-year career is a shade over 12. That is still a first down and then some. Hampered by below average quarterbacks in Miami and Minnesota since leaving the Steelers, I say the 29-year-old still has plenty in the tank. Joe Flacco’s flawless deep ball will be just the thing to revive him.

Photo from baltimoreravens.com

Photo from baltimoreravens.com

 

Linebacker Danny Trevathan to Bears- Von Miller got all the publicity on last year’s Broncos championship defense, but the guy who was next to him for most of it can flat out play. He is always around the ball. He had eight tackles and two key fumble recoveries in the Super Bowl. As a Denver fan, this is the one guy we lost, that I am bummed we could not find a way to keep. I encourage you to find any highlight video of the Broncos defense from last year and watch how many times number 59 is doing something positive, big or small. Former Broncos coach John Fox is no dummy and knows that this is the kind of player his rebuilding Bears defense needs. He is smart, tackles well, rarely is out of position, and covers the pass better than most linebackers.

photo from usatoday.com

photo from usatoday.com

Tight End Martellus Bennett to Patriots for a fourth round draft pick- When will the rest of the league learn to stop giving Bill Belichick really good players for next to nothing? Bennett is coming off three straight 50+ catch seasons for the Bears, including last year, when he missed five games. When he was healthy, he was among the top options for Jay Cutler. After contract issues, he was shipped to the Pats for mid-round draft picks in March. Belichick used similar trades to acquire Randy Moss and Wes Welker a few years back. Those deals resulted in arguably the best offense ever and a near perfect season. While the Bennett deal does not rise to that level, they have looked for a second tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski ever since the Arron Hernandez debacle. Bennett is an incredible fit to fill that role.

 

There you have it. My five favorite under the radar off-season moves. I chose not to include contract details because I feel all of these players will end up looking like bargains for their new teams.