NFL week 3 picks

Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 3

Week Two Review (3-0) Overall: 5-1

Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)

Final: Chiefs 27 Eagles 20

Andy Reid remains perfect against his former team. Kareem Hunt continues to amaze everyone with two more scores, and 109 yards of total offense. Alex Smith for MVP? The veteran completed 75 percent of his passes and rushed for 21 yards. Even without Eric Berry, Kansas City’s defense forced three fumbles, had an interception and sacked Carson Wentz six times. Could this finally be the year that Reid captures it all?

New England Patriots (-6.5) @ New Orleans Saints

Final: Patriots 36 Saints 20

The Saints’ defense is absolutely atrocious. Not only did they allow Sam Bradford to have a field day, but Tom Brady and the Patriots marched all over them. Brady scored not one, not two but three first quarter touchdowns. He ended the game throwing for 447 yards.

Drew Brees had a solid game, throwing for 356 yards with no turnovers, but New Orleans’ defense continues to hold them back.

Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram both had only eight carries. Peterson only managed to get 28 yards. Can someone say washed up? You have to wonder if AP will even be a member of the Saints at the end of the season.

Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos (+2.5)

Final: Broncos 42 Cowboys 17

I loved every second of this game, from Dak Prescott’s poor performance, to everyone freaking out at Ezekiel Elliott over nothing. DeAngelo Williams was right when he said “Dak is a clock manager. When you go down 14 to 21 points, he can’t bring you back from that.” The offense moves as Zeke moves.

NFL week 3 picks

Elite? (Denver Broncos)

Props to the entire Broncos team. Holding Elliott to 8 yards is insane, and 42 points is the most the Cowboys have allowed in the regular season since December 9, 2013 when the Bears defeated them 45-28. Josh McCown was the starting quarterback for the Bears and had five total touchdowns. Wow, that’s hard to believe.

Trevor Siemian might actually be good enough to bring this team into the playoffs. Through the first two games, Siemian has six touchdowns, along with a 65 percent completion percentage. C.J. Anderson playing like Terrell Davis is also pretty cool for Denver.

 

Week 3 Picks

Atlanta Falcons (-3) @ Detroit Lions

Pick: FALCONS TO COVER

Tough to go against the 2-0 Lions, but Matt Ryan is 2-0 in his two career games in Detroit. The Falcons just beat a tough Packers team and Detroit had one less day to prepare because of their Monday night game. That actually matters.

The Lions are 21st in passing yards allowed, and now they have to match up against Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper. They are undefeated, but they played a washed up Carson Palmer, and a New York Giants team that needs an entire new offensive line.

I expect Detroit to defend the run well, but in the battle of Matt’s, I’ll take Ryan in this one.  In three career games against Atlanta, Stafford is 1-2 with only three passing touchdowns. He is 5-46 against above .500 teams, and Atlanta, barring an epic collapse, will finish with more than eight wins this year. Odds are, Stafford will continue his struggles against good opponents.

Miami Dolphins (-6) @ New York Jets

Pick: DOLPHINS TO COVER

The Jets will historically be one of the worst football teams this league has ever seen. They are currently the worst ranked defense, 28th in passing yards, and 28th in first downs. They can’t stop anybody, and they can’t move the chains on offense. This is actually extremely disrespectful that Vegas thinks Miami only wins by six, especially after their strong victory over the Chargers and the fact that the Jets lost by nine to the Bills and 25 to the Raiders.

Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry are both dealing with knee injuries, and DeVante Parker’s ankle has been bothering him. Miami is a tad banged up, but all three of these offensive weapons expect to play. If Ajayi only had one knee, he would probably still find a way to dominate New York, who currently sits dead last in rushing yards allowed. Expect Miami to run all day.

It should be noted that Jay Cutler has never lost to the Jets, as he currently sits at 3-0 in his career. Two of these wins actually came in New York. He looked great against the Chargers and should light up the scoreboard against this Jets team.

Oakland Raiders (-3) @ Washington Redskins

PICK: RAIDERS TO COVER

The Raiders look like one of the best teams in the NFL. Oakland has the top scoring offense, and are currently fourth in total yards. On the other hand, the Redskins defense is 27th in points allowed and 26th in total yards.

NFL week 3 picks

Carr and the Raiders look to jump to 3-0 (Bleacher Report)

Kirk Cousins was .500 at home last year, so it’s not intimidating to go into Washington and play. Derek Carr was 6-1 on the road last year, with 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He is an absolute baller on the road.

Washington’s offense is off to a slow start, and their defense is no match for Carr’s Raiders. The Redskins are historically one of the worst primetime teams, and are 2-6 in their last eight Sunday night games.

 

 

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2017 week 3 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. You won’t find me in a church on Sunday because football is my religion and the number one priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself in studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right, but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score prediction, but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it’s by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-8

season: 16-15

Thursday Night

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) 20 @ San Francisco 49ers (0-2) 14: The Rams look like a really good team this year, good enough to possibly win the division over the Seahawks. If they are to take the step towards becoming a playoff team, this is the type of game they must win. San Francisco will be in the lottery.

Jared Goff is still going to go through some growing pains. If they run the ball well enough and continue playing great defense, then they can succeed despite their young quarterback. The 49ers have improved defensively, but can’t make up for the lack of offense. The Rams will win this game, but it will be a defensive dogfight.

Sunday Morning

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: https://www.si.com)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) 13 @ Baltimore Ravens (2-0) 16: Something tells me to pick Jacksonville in this game, but then I think about how Blake Bortles has to go against a defense that is destroying quarterbacks. Jacksonville will be in the game because of their stout defense, but will ultimately fall because of Bortles’ turnovers.

Baltimore will start the season 3-0, but still won’t be a contender in the big picture.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) 20 vs Minnesota Vikings (1-1) 24: This game hinges on the health of Sam Bradford for the Vikings. If Bradford plays, then Minnesota will win this game at home. That is a big if though. With or without Bradford, Minnesota will play stellar defense as usual.

Tampa Bay completely shut down a great Bears rushing attack last week, holding them to 20 yards. Repeating this against Minnesota would guarantee a win. They won’t shut down the Vikings the same way they did the Bears, and Sam Bradford takes the field to lead the Vikings to a big win at home.

Denver Broncos (2-0) 27 @ Buffalo Bills (1-1) 13: Does there have to be actual thought here? Can I just say Broncos will win? No, that is probably not a good idea.

So, the Broncos will win because their defense is going to annihilate the Bills offense. Once the Broncos stop the run, the Bills will have no answer. Tyrod Taylor will look completely lost and inevitably throw a pick-six. Denver’s offense will run up and down all over the Bills for over 200 yards.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) 28 @ Chicago Bears (0-2) 10: This seems like a totally unfair matchup. The Bears resemble a baby cub more than an actual Bear. The defense has played lights out, but can only do so much with turnovers from the offense happening so often. Mike Glennon looks incapable of running an offense.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, looks like they are in midseason form. The offense is starting to click and the defense looks hungry. This game will be over early and the steel curtain will remain untangled.

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) 34 @ Detroit Lions (2-0) 38: This is one of the most difficult games to pick this week. Both teams have looked shaky at points this season, but in the end have gotten the job done.

Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan are going to put on a show in Detroit. This game will likely be a shootout that comes down to the wire. The Lions have been known to be the kings of comebacks. Detroit wins this game because of their home-field advantage and a late drive by Stafford.

Cleveland Browns (0-2) 24 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2) 17: This game could be one of the lowest-rated games in NFL history. What is there to really watch in this game if you aren’t a fan of either team? Yes DeShone Kizer is a rookie that can maybe give some excitement, but the offense still doesn’t look fluid. Defensively, there is nothing eye-popping or exciting either.

The Colts are completely boring without Andrew Luck. So boring I’d rather watch a middle school basketball game. The Browns have looked like the better team of the two, so far so what the heck, go dog pound.

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: http://biginf.com/)

Houston Texans (1-1) 13 @ New England Patriots (1-1) 26: Tom Brady is back! Or he just lit up the worst defense and secondary in the NFL. This week, Brady will get a real test by facing Houston. If Brady looks good this week, then he is a robot who will play in the NFL until he’s 90.

On the other side, rookie Deshaun Watson will have to try and beat a Bill Belichick defense. Good luck with that. That is the sole reason New England wins this game. Watson won’t be ready for the Patriots’ defense.

Miami Dolphins (1-0) 37 @ New York Jets (0-2) 18: Miami escaped with a victory last week. Now they get to face the worst team in the NFL. The Jets don’t do anything well and won’t win more than two games this season.

Jay Cutler is going to look like a prime Brett Favre in this one. Dolphins are going to New York to dominate the Jets.

New York Giants (0-2) 16 @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) 19: The Giants are in some serious trouble. Their offense looks pretty horrible with the worst rushing attack in all of football. The offensive line is arguably the worst in the league and the nucleus of their problems offensively. There isn’t much they can do to fix it either.

The Eagles are going to exploit that offensive line to stifle the Giants offense. Carson Wentz is going to have a tough time against the Giants’ defense, but will outperform Eli. That will be the difference in the end.

New Orleans Saints (0-2) 17 @ Carolina Panthers (2-0) 31: The current issue with the Panthers is their offense. Losing Greg Olsen doesn’t help Cam Newton out, but he is still shaking off the rust.

A game against New Orleans is the perfect time to gain confidence offensively. The Saints rank 31st in scoring defense, giving up 32.5 points per game. Drew Brees won’t be able to put up many points against this defense. Newton shakes off the rust and Christian McCaffrey has his coming out party.

Sunday Afternoon

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) 20 @ Tennessee Titans (1-1) 24: Seattle has looked average at best thus far, mostly because of their offensive line that can’t block anything. Tennessee has an underrated defense that will take advantage of this weakness.

The Seahawks still have a very good defense, but it won’t stop Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Titan offense.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) 10 @ Green Bay Packers (1-1) 20: This could be the game that gets Andy Dalton benched and catches Marvin Lewis’ seat on fire.

The Bengals are playing like crap on offense, but the defense is only giving up 16.5 points per game. They also rank first in pass defense, giving up just 104.5 yards per game through the air. Aaron Rodgers will more than double that while leading the Packers to win.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) 24 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-2) 21: The Chiefs look like the best team in the NFL. Their offense is rolling behind Alex Smith while the defense continues to be a force. The Chargers are two field goals away from possibly being 2-0. The first would have sent them to overtime while the second would have won the game.

Sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles. The cookie will continue to crumble that way for one more week at least. The Chiefs go into L.A. to push themselves to 3-0.

Sunday Night

Oakland Raiders (2-0) 34 @ Washington Redskins (1-1) 24: The Raiders are thriving thus far this season and haven’t even begun to tap into their potential. Their defense still hasn’t faced a quality offense that can make them prove themselves.

This week they get that chance. Washington ranks 15th in total offensive yards per game (324.5). Washington has been running the ball efficiently, but the passing game has been underwhelming. Expectations were high for Kirk Cousins heading into the season. Derek Carr is going to have a huge game in prime time. Oakland keeps up with Denver and Kansas City by getting to 3-0.

Monday Night

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) 27 @ Arizona Cardinals (1-1) 17: Dallas got embarrassed against Denver and will be looking to get that taste out of their mouth. The Cowboys are going to get back to running the ball well. Ezekiel Elliott will have over 20 carries for at least 125 yards.

Arizona won’t be able to keep pace with the Cowboys’ offense. Carson Palmer has lost it and can’t carry the offense without David Johnson. This will be a snoozefest of a Monday Night game.

 

Featured image from Sporting News 

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San Francisco 49ers

Bay Area hope: The Rebuilding San Francisco 49ers

The preseason is not a reliable indicator of regular season success in the NFL. The 2008 Lions went undefeated in the preseason, then went on to be the first team to go winless in a 16 game regular season.

However, sometimes little snippets of games can give viewers both good and bad indicators about a team. This preseason, there is a team whose rebuilding process may not take as long as some people think.

Ever since Richard Sherman tipped away San Francisco’s Super Bowl hopes a few years ago, the 49ers franchise has cratered. They are coming off a pair seasons with just seven combined wins.

Richard Sherman

Photo:: sbnation.com

Rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch certainly have their work cut out for them, but they have made tremendous strides.

The third preseason game is the so-called “dress rehearsal.” San Francisco traveled to Minnesota last week. The 49ers starters ran the Vikings out of the building for a half.

Brian Hoyer was brought in to stabilize the quarterback situation while the 49ers look for the next young guy. Only time will tell if rookie C. J. Beathard can be that guy. For now though, Hoyer has a chance to guide this team to being very competitive very quickly.

Hoyer is not the kind of guy that a fan base is going to rally behind and buy his jersey, but he can get the job done under the right circumstances. He has been around for almost a decade, has a winning record as a starter and 18 more career touchdown passes than interceptions. There is zero pressure on Beathard to go out and resurrect this franchise right now. That is a beautiful thing.

Also, the 49ers have done a better job putting talent around Hoyer than people realize. Running back Carlos Hyde seems healthy and rejuvenated after getting lost in the shuffle last year. He has managed to put up almost 1800 total rushing yards in his first three seasons despite injuries and organizational dysfunction.

Wide receiver Pierre Garçon was also brought in via free agency and had his best statistical season in 2013 in a Redskins offense that was coordinated by Kyle Shanahan. Garçon also has not missed a game since 2012. Staying healthy and being productive is a rare but great combination to have for any wide receiver.

Honestly, it does not take much to turn an offense from laughable to decent in the NFL. At minimum, you need a serviceable quarterback, a running game that can take some pressure off the quarterback, and a reliable pass catcher or two. For the first time in a handful of years, the 49ers have all of those things in place.

Brian Hoyer

Photo: nfl.com

On defense, the 49ers lack big names outside of linebacker Navarro Bowman, but that unit punctuated the relevant part of its preseason by shutting out Minnesota in the first half. Thanks to the ineffectiveness of Chip Kelly’s offense, they spent more time on the field than any other defense last year. That will not happen again this year. That alone should make for a significant improvement.

The brilliance of Kyle Shanahan cannot be overlooked, he has elevated every healthy quarterback he has ever worked with. He is a big reason for Matt Ryan’s MVP campaign last year and the rookie of the year campaign of Robert Griffin III in 2012. Much like his father who is a Super Bowl winning head coach, he knows how to put his players in the best position possible to succeed.

The playoffs might be a stretch for San Francisco this year, but they could flirt with .500. That would be quite an accomplishment considering where they were just a few months ago. The 49ers fan base has two things it has not had for a while, hope and optimism.

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NFC eye test predictions: 9-5

 

We continue with our NFC eye test predictions.

9. New Orleans Saints

Some people might think this team is ranked too high, but they have managed to win seven games in each of the last three seasons. Sean Payton is not the problem, and Drew Brees is still a top quarterback, but the defense keeps this team from getting over the hump.

Even with the loss of Brandin Cooks, the Saints still have some nice targets. Michael Thomas is coming off a monster rookie season, and looks to be a legit number one target for years to come. Ted Ginn Jr can be effective if he can keep his eye on the ball, and Willie Snead is good for a few big plays here and there. Even Coby Fleener has turned into a reliable option at tight end.

Lethal Backfield. (4for4.com)

Not only do they have the super talented Mark Ingram in the backfield, but New Orleans brought in Adrian Peterson, and drafted Alvin Kamara out of Tennessee. While AP is a little out of his prime, he is still very elusive and looks to be in great shape. This three headed monster of a backfield could take some pressure off Brees if they can stay healthy.

Brees and this Saints offense should have no problem lighting up the scoreboard, especially with their talented offensive line. Terrod Armstead is ahead of schedule after shoulder surgery, and we know Max Unger, Zach Strief, and Larry Warford are skilled vets.

The loss of Nick Fairley puts this already abysmal defense in an even deeper hole. Defensive end Cam Jordan is still there, and hopefully 2016 first round pick defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins can slide right in as a starter.

This could arguably be the worst linebacker and secondary core in the league. Manti Te’o needs his fake girlfriend back because that is the last time he was actually good at football. There’s not much to expect from the rest, and as far as the secondary goes, this team allowed more passing yards than anyone in the league last year.

After reading about this defense, you would think this team wouldn’t win more than three games, but soon to be Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, still has the abilities to carry the load. They won’t get into the playoffs, but the offense is too good to not win at least seven or eight games.

 

8. Arizona Cardinals

Let’s be honest, the window for this team to make a run has closed. Bruce Arians is still an awesome coach, but Carson Palmer is so washed up. After three straight double digit win seasons, the Cardinals fell to 7-8-1. In the 13 games Palmer played in, he threw 18 interceptions. I used to love this guy at USC, and in Cincinnati, but that was eons ago.

David Johnson is clearly one of the best, if not, the best running back this game has to offer. D.J Humphries and Jared Veldheer are switching sides on the line, so let’s see if that helps Johnson get even better. Larry Fitzgerald has yet to lose a step, but father time is undefeated. So if he goes down or looks a bit slower, can Arizona trust John or Jaron Brown to step up? Probably not.

With Calais Campbell now in Jacksonville, the Cardinals have one of the worst defensive lines in football. Arizona fans better hope former first round pick, Robert Nkemdiche, can fill Campbell’s shoes.

Now to the fun part of Arizona. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden combined for 23.5 sacks last year. Haason Riddck on the inside could be problem for offenses, and former Bengal Karlos Dansby is one of the most reliable players in the game.

The return of the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu, when healthy, is in the arguement for best defensive player in the league. His mentor, Patrick Peterson, continues to play at an elite level. The loss of Tony Jefferson stings a bit, but Antoine Bethea is a nice replacement.

This team has shown in the past they are capable of big things, but besides David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, it is hard to trust the offense with 37-year-old Carson Palmer running the show. This is an eight-win team.

 

7. Dallas Cowboys

This team is not missing the playoffs just because Ezekiel Elliot is going to be suspended. The fact of the matter is this, Dak Prescott is overrated. Not counting the last game of the regular season, since he barely played, Prescott had eight games in which he either did not throw for a touchdown, or threw for one. He’s just not that good, and this year, he will get exposed.

Overrated? (star-telegram.com)

Whether Elliot gets suspended or not, the running game will not falter. The offensive line is still top notch, and Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris both can still move. Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are a good receiving core, and Jason Witten still looks like good ol’ Jason Witten.

However, Dallas’ defensive line is awful. Randy Gregory needs serious help, as he will most likely never suit up again. As far as the linebackers, Sean Lee is obviously a monster, and Anthony Hitchens can play, but will Jaylon Smith ever be the same player after his devastating injury?

Did anyone lose more secondary players than the Cowboys? Brandon Carr? Ravens. Barry Church? Jaguars. Morris Claiborne? Jets. J.J Wilcox? Bucs. A lot of question marks on this side of the field.

Dak is overrated, and the defense is bad. Dallas will fall back to Earth and go back to being a .500 team.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons

The Super Bowl hangover is coming straight for Atlanta. Now I don’t think they will miss the playoffs, but I don’t see the Falcons winning the division this year.

What we saw of Matt Ryan last year is the best we will ever see of him. Before last season, Ryan and the Falcons had three straight seasons of eight wins or less. He’s also had double digit interception seasons in seven of his nine years. Ryan has only had two 30+ passing touchdown seasons. He’s good, but Matt Ryan is no superstar.

Ryan is extremely blessed that he has Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in his backfield, as well as an elite offensive line led by Alex Mack. It must be nice to throw the ball to Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. No wonder this was the number one offense a year ago.

The defensive line is rather weak, but the linebacker core, led by the young studs Vic Beasley and Deion Jones, is among the best in the league. Don’t sleep on Duke Riley making an immediate impact as well.

Desmond Trufant and Keanu Neal lead a solid secondary, but let’s not forget that this team’s defense, last year, was among the worst in points allowed (27th) and yards allowed (25th).

The defense isn’t great, and Matt Ryan will go back to being Matt Ryan. However, the offense is so talented that they will muster off 9-10 wins.

 

5. Minnesota Vikings

The Teddy Bridgewater injury is incredibly sad, but let’s not sleep on Sam Bradford. In fifteen games last year, Bradford went for 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He is still only 29 years of age. Injuries have plagued most of his career, but this season could be Bradford’s best.

Secondary Swag: Rhodes and Smith (Star Tribune)

Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have turned into extremely dependable receivers, and Kyle Rudolph racked up seven touchdowns last season. The backfield is packed with some sneaky talent. Dalvin Cook looks to be the guy, and could be a true sleeper, after falling to the second round. The other backs, Latavius Murray, and Jerick McKinnon, have shown that they can excel at this level.

The reason this team is ranked so high is because of their defense. Good luck to opposing offenses with Everson Griffin, Danielle Hunter, Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph manning the line for Minnesota.

Chad Greenway’s retirement hurts the linebacker core, but Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks should be just fine.

Safety Harrison Smith, when healthy, is as elite as they come, and Xavier Rhodes is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection.

Bradford is poised to have a great year with his offensive weapons, and the defense will continue to be among the best. The Vikings will win 10 games and get back in the playoffs, and, thankfully, Blair Walsh won’t be there to blow it this time.

Featured image by DailySnark.com

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2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NFC South division preview.

4: New Orleans Saints

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule:15

Oh when the Saints go marching in, they bring with them no defense. The Saints are hoping the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o will improve a defense that gave up 28.4 points per game last season. They also drafted defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve one of the league’s worst secondaries.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo credit: Matthew Hinton)

Although New Orleans has made an effort to improve their defense, it won’t become great overnight. Despite ranking 11th in fewest plays per game, the Saints ranked 14th in rushing and 31st in passing. Until this unit shows on-field improvement, there is no way the Saints can win the division or earn a wild card berth.

Offensively, the Saints are absolutely loaded. They have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. New Orleans has committed to Michael Thomas as the go-to guy on the outside in just his second season. Coby Fleener is more than a reliable tight end to compliment Thomas in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

The Saints are also blessed in the backfield with Mark Ingram, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This trio of running backs will give defensive coordinators nightmares.

New Orleans has a pretty easy schedule this season and the offensive side of the ball is going to be straight fireworks. As is the story every season with Saints, can the defense be good enough to help them win games? The answer is no. Every game will be a shootout and opposing defenses are going to make more game winning plays. The Saints will be competitive because of their offense, but the defense will be their downfall yet again.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 13

I am a firm believer in Super Bowl hangovers. Just look at how the Panthers’ season went last year after losing Super Bowl 50.

The Falcons’ players are saying all the right things about moving on and using the humiliating let down as motivation for this season but when push comes to shove that loss will be in the back of their mind. The first team to start coming back on them will bring out those painful memories.

Atlanta is also the defending NFC champions and they will get every team’s best shot. Their division is one of the toughest in the NFL and the Buccaneers and Panthers did a lot to improve.

Besides the hangover and their schedule, Atlanta has to prove they can play great defense for an entire season. The first half of last season was abysmal defensively. The Falcons finished the season ranked 27th in points, giving up 25.3 per game. Atlanta saw such a high volume of points scored in the fourth quarter. They ranked 31st in fourth quarter scoring giving up 9.9 points per fourth quarter. If that trend continues they will struggle to win games.

Offensively, the Falcons are loaded. Matt Ryan had a career year that led to him being named league MVP. It is unlikely that he has a second consecutive MVP caliber season as very few players have ever won back to back MVPs. Only four players have done so: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Ryan will have a slight drop off in production but not enough to warrant concern. The offense will put up plenty of points and still be electrifying but as mentioned earlier, they will be given the best shot from every team and it will cause them to come up short a few more times than most can expect.

Atlanta’s defense must improve and play to the ability they did in the second half of the season in order to get back to the postseason. Due to a massive Super Bowl hangover, an improved division all-around and a defense that will likely be mediocre, the Falcons come up short and miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 14

Tampa Bay had a solid season last year but missed the playoffs. This season they should take the next step and make the playoffs behind a very solid offense that has improved. The upgrades on offense include the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Both of which will turn this offense from good to great.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Buccaneers were led by their passing game, averaging 245.4 yards per game. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the league and the combination of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will cause defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans leaving Mike Evans with more one on one looks.

The running game only averaged 101 yards per game but Doug Martin only played eight games last season. Martin will start out the season suspended but is eligible to play in week four.

Once Martin returns the running game will start to get rolling, making it even easier for Jameis Winston to air it out. Everything will finally come together for the Bucs offense this season. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 Buccaneers finish with a top 10 offense.

Tampa Bay must become a better defensive team to truly take the step and make the playoffs. The Bucs ranked 22nd in both rush and pass defense giving up a total of 367.9 yards per game. Gerald McCoy will have a Chris Baker next to him to improve the rush defense but it will take more than just one new defensive tackle.

The Bucs should have a better pass defense because the defensive line will get tons of pressure from the trio of Robert Ayers, William Gholston and Noah Spence. Spence had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. With an entire year in the Bucs system, Spence could improve and show the ability he displayed at Ohio State.

In total, this defense gave up 25.3 points per game. If the Bucs can improve that but just four points the offense should easily score more than 21 points per game with all the talent they have.

Tampa Bay will have a balanced offense capable of big play ability. Their defense will also be improved and with an easy schedule, the Bucs should have a solid shot at a playoff berth.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1: Carolina Panthers

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 6-10

Strength of schedule: 16

Carolina had a Super Bowl hangover but this year they are locked and loaded. Cam Newton is determined to correct last seasons mistake and retake his MVP form. The front office also made quality moves to get this team back to the big game.

The Panthers added key playmakers in the draft to help Cam. Christian McCaffery has already put Panther defenders on skates based off of leaked practice videos. That includes Panthers defenders such as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Curtis Samuel, out of Ohio State, was also a key piece the Panthers picked up in the draft but has yet to practice due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Even without Samuel, Cam has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin back. With all these weapons and an upgraded offensive line, the Panthers can become one of the premier offenses in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are still as dangerous as ever. The front four have some studs at defensive tackle in Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short. Off the edge, the Panthers bring back Mario Addison and Charles Johnson. This front four is fierce and to beef it up, even more, Panthers legend Julius Peppers has returned to finish his career in Carolina.

The linebacking corp is arguably the best in all of football with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. This front seven is going to cause major havoc to opposing offenses.

The Panthers secondary is where their defense struggled last season. To improve this unit, the Panthers signed Mike Adams, a safety, who had 12 interceptions in his three seasons with the Colts. Carolina also brought back Captain Munnerlyn, who is one of the best nickel corners in the league. These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

 

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NFL super teams: Could it work?

Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors have ruined the NBA for the foreseeable future thanks to their new super team. The Warriors will dominate for years to come and will have the greatest dynasty in sports history when it’s all said and done. That said, the question of whether or not NFL super teams could be formed is an intriguing one to address.

The New England Patriots are the closest thing in the NFL to a super team, as the 2017 edition of the squad is the frontrunner to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and some even think they could go 16-0.

But the fact is that the NFL does not truly have a super team. Sure, the Patriots are most likely the best team on paper going into 2017, but there’s still no guarantee that they’ll even win the conference championship game.

We’ve seen this issue talked about before, so why not join in on the fun and give a hot #take myself?

There’s a couple different aspects to dissect when looking into NFL super teams. First, and most crucial, is the money. Even though the NFL is the most popular sport in the United States, the 53-man roster leaves less money for each player compared to the NBA. When forming a super team, every single star player would have to take a pay cut in order to allow other stars on the team. NFL players have already complained about the the discrepancy between NFL and NBA contracts, so taking even less could be a tough pill to swallow for many players.

The next concept to consider is that NFL teams have very specific schemes. The offense ran in New England was much different from the one that the Dallas Cowboys ran last season, yet each were top-five offenses in the league. Not only would NFL super teams need stars at every position, but it would also need the right personnel to fit the scheme.

Finally, we must ask if there’s even enough time for NFL super teams to form a dynasty. The shelf life of a running back is already limited, and the prime of many players in the NFL can be shorter than that of an NBA player. Even if it all came together for an NFL team, would there be enough time for them to win multiple Super Bowls with the same core?

Money talks

Every year, NFL players holdout and skip training camp in order to get leverage in earning more money. There can’t be an argument made that NFL players are more greedy than NBA players, but it does go to show that the top talents in the NFL will put their team and preparation at risk in order to get a couple more million dollars.

What a hard life NFL stars live.

NFL super teams

Photo: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Le’Veon Bell is at least the No. 2 running back in the NFL, if not the best (David Johnson may have something to say about that). He’s putting his team’s success in jeopardy this offseason by deciding to holdout. The most significant problem for NFL super teams is whether or not players will put their pride aside to take pay cuts, even though they may be the most elite at their position.

Every elite NFL player will do his best to suck all the money out of his organization he can. Heck, even players that aren’t elite, like Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco, have tried this (and been successful) in the past.

This poses a threat to NFL super teams when trying to get the best of the best in one uniform. But this is only the start of the problem.

NFL super teams’ Schemes make for an even more complex problem

Dak Prescott and Drew Brees are two very different quarterbacks. Prescott resided in a run-heavy offense in Dallas, as the Cowboys ran the ball more than any other team last season (48.7 percent of plays). The Cowboys’ offense was built by its powerful line which counteracted its lack of skill players on the outside. This allowed Ezekiel Elliott to run all over (and away) from defenses in his rookie campaign.

The Saints’ offensive attack was much different from the Cowboys. Drew Brees had great weapons on the outside in former Saint Brandin Cooks, who used his deep-threat abilities to become Brees’ best downfield target. Rookie Michael Thomas managed to put together one of the best rookie seasons a wide receiver has ever produced, and was Brees’ possession target to look to.

Even Willie Snead, Coby Fleener and Josh Hill were utilized in the pass-first offense that allowed Brees to air it out on 63.4 percent of plays, good for fifth-most in the NFL last season.

The point is that NFL super teams need the perfect combination for an offense to work. The offensive coordinator, quarterback, skill players and offensive line must all be in sync and comfortable with the system in order to reach optimal success. And it’s the same way with the defense.

Not only do the star players at each position need to take pay cuts to form a super team, but they also have to fit with the scheme of whichever side of the ball they play on.

The player pool for a super team continues to shrink with these requirements.

Father Time waits for no man, not even NFL super teams

Barring a select few, most NFL stars are only elite for a couple years. Injuries cut their time of stardom even shorter (Jamaal Charles knows about that), which makes it even harder to field a star team.

Sure, the best of the best can sometimes manage to be stars for over half their career, but remember the requirements already talked about. Finding a star who is willing to take a pay cut and fits in the scheme is hard enough, so the pool of players has already dwindled.

NFL super teams

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tom Brady may play until he’s 50, but top players at other positions have missed time in the past couple seasons. If Le’Veon Bell could stop smoking weed and quit getting injured by the Bengals, he’d have a chance to be on Tom Brady’s list.

Antonio Brown missed three games last season, Julio Jones has played in 16 games in a season once in his six years and A.J. Green has missed ten games in his six-year career while finding his way on the mid-week injury report seemingly every week.

This goes to show that even the most elite players can’t escape the injury bug.

And if the top players earn as much money as they want on a theoretical super team, the bench will be filled with aging veterans who are ring-chasing and don’t have enough talent to suffice the loss of a star.

This continues to prove that forming NFL super teams may be nearly impossible.

NFL super teams: Making one is #hard

The San Francisco 49ers currently have the most cap space in the NFL. A lot will change come March 2018, but one thing that will most likely remain is that the 49ers will suck this season. They won’t be the most attractive franchise to build a super team with.

However, the team with the fifth-most cap space is the Houston Texans. Houston has $24.3 million in free cap space, and made the playoffs last season. The Texans seem to be just a few pieces away from being a Super Bowl contender, so we’ll use them as a possible super team.

There’s been a lot of changes to the NFL landscape from last season, and that trend will continue in each offseason. Let’s try to make the Texans a super team through 2018 free agency.

Finding a quarterback

The Texans’ most glaring need is at the quarterback position. Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins and Matt Stafford are the only notable names that will be free agents come 2018.

Photo: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins can be taken off the list right away, as it seems he’s been fighting to get a huge contract from Washington since he was in diapers.

Drew Brees and Matt Stafford both make sense due to the fact that they’ve had great years, yet Brees has just one ring, and Stafford has no playoff wins. It comes down to who would be the best fit in Bill O’Brien’s offense, assuming he stays on staff next season.

O’Brien’s scheme is based around the power-run game and using two tight end sets. The formations used in O’Brien’s system forces the quarterback to make crucial and complicated pre-snap reads. That said, Brees would be the better fit in Houston. His ability to run multiple formations in New Orleans could quite possibly translate to Houston.

If Brees were to make this move, he’d have to be fine with a pay cut since he’d be ring chasing and forming a super team. Let’s say he cuts his salary in half and earns $12 million with Houston.

Receiving a pass catcher

That only leaves $12 million and change in the bank for Houston. Houston has Lamar Miller, who should be an above average back for now. At wideout, the Texans have an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, but could use some help on the receiving end. The wide receiver market is grim in 2018, but a familiar face for Drew Brees will be on the market in 2018 at tight end.

The Drew Brees-Jimmy Graham love affair in New Orleans was art. Graham will be on the market in 2018, and even though he’s had a history of wanting money, let’s assume he wants a ring and to play with Drew Brees more.

We’ll assume Graham will settle for a mere $8 million a year with Houston, which is only $2 million less than he got in Seattle. I for one hope that in this theoretical world, Jimmy Graham makes it in this tough world with only $8 million a year to come home to.

Room for one more player

With $4 left, the Texans could grab a proven veteran for cheap, or a lesser-tier asset. The Texans need help on the offensive line, specifically at tackle. The best player on the market in 2018 is Donald Penn, but he’s currently holding out of Raiders’ camp, so he has to be off the list. Nate Solder could be an option, but the likelihood that he takes a paycut to leave New England is as likely as Johnny Manziel not drinking tonight.

Allen Barber was the No. 16 guard last season according to Pro Football Focus. Although he’s mostly played left guard in the past two seasons, he’s seen time at tackle with the Eagles early in his career.

Barber wouldn’t be a blockbuster move at all, but he could end up being a nice find for Houston to help what’s been a bad offensive line.

NFL super teams: Could it work?

The idea of NFL super teams is far-fetched and there’s too many hoops to jump through for it to work. There’s too many stipulations not seen in the NBA like a much larger roster, less time to be in the peak of a career and scheme fits.

Although the NBA has made it work before, the Golden State Warriors’ mega-team and soon to be dynasty will only work in the NBA. NFL front offices have far too many hoops to jump through.

For now, let’s just enjoy hating the New England Patriots for being better than all of our teams and speculate other things, like how Bill Belichick can pull a homeless man off the street and turn him into a heroic wide receiver or cornerback in a Super Bowl.

 

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 20-11

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

This is the ninth installment, containing players 20-11.

20. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Eric Berry (Photo by youtube.com)

Berry is a winner in every sense of the word and his ability to come back after beating cancer and still being one of the best safeties in the NFL, is incredible. In 2016 Berry totaled 77 tackles, nine passes defended, four interceptions, a forced fumble and two touchdowns.

With other players on the Chiefs’ defense getting hurt the last few years, Berry has been the best player on the defense. This season, Kansas City should have a good defense once again with a lot of their players healthy. They employ the bend don’t break mentality, so they give up a lot of yards (5,896), but not a lot of points (19.4). With Berry coming off one of his best seasons as a pro and a good defense returning, he will prove once again how good of a safety he is .

The Chiefs are fighting to make it to an AFC Championship Game or Super Bowl and if they get there, Berry will be a major reason why.

Comments: “This man can do it all. Beating cancer and beating down his opponents. This Chiefs defense has been great and will continue to be great while he is roaming the field.”- Robert Hanes

19. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

NFL Top 100

Drew Brees (Photo by denverpost.com)

There are a lot of quarterbacks on this list, but they may not be as important to their teams as Brees is to the Saints. He was 37 in 2016 when he threw for 5,208 yards, 37 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on 70% completion and will be 38 going into this season.

People have predicted that Brees would fall off for years now, but he keeps producing. He had his fifth 5,000 yard passing season last year and also recorded his second highest passing yards per game in his career. The Saints do lose Brandin Cooks, who they traded to the Patriots, but Brees still has Michael Thomas, who shows some real potential. Brees has done a lot more with a lot less.

Brees might start slowing down a little bit, but even if he does, his stats will still blow other quarterbacks out of the water.

Comments: “There is nothing bad I can say about Dree Brees other than he is aging. The fact of the matter is he is still producing. He should be higher on this list just because I think he is a better quarterback than Matt Ryan. He will have another season in which he passes for 5,000 yards and become closer to being the all-time passing leader. -Matthew Hagan

18. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Top 100

A.J. Green (Photo by cbssports.com)

Because of injury, Green had his first season of under 1,000 receiving yards in 2016. He only played ten games and still amassed 964 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Had he played a full 16 games and kept up his average receiving yards per game, he would have finished with a whopping 1,542 receiving yards.

The Bengals had a down year and only had Green on their offense as a dynamic playmaker. For the 2017 season, they have added John Ross and Joe Mixon to bring some life to the offense. Tyler Boyd had an impressive rookie year and will try to build on that in his second season. If Andy Dalton has time behind a shaky at best offensive line, he will find Green, much like he has since their rookie seasons in 2011.With a speedster in Ross on the other side of the field, Boyd in the slot and Tyler Eifert in the middle, Green should see more single coverage than last season with Brandon LaFell as the second leading receiver on the team.

Green has some offensive reinforcements this year, which should really open up the offense and allow him to have a great year.

Comments: “When healthy Green is a lock to put up great numbers, even though he sees double coverage most of the time” – Dylan Streibig

17. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns

NFL Top 100

Joe Thomas (Photo by sportingsorta.com)

It is unfortunate that Thomas has played on the Browns his whole career and hasn’t had an opportunity to win anything. He is one of the most consistent players in the NFL. In his first ten years in the league, he has never missed the Pro Bowl and has six All-Pro team appearances.

The Browns won’t be expected to win the division this year, but they should be much improved. Thomas will continue blocking for Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and hope that the passing attack that ranked 28th in the league improves. The starting quarterback may change, but they will have Kenny Britt, Corey Coleman and David Njoku as their main targets.

Thomas will continue to do his job at an elite level, but it once again will not result in a good win total for the Browns.

Comments: “This man is extremely loyal and I hope that Browns fans truly appreciate that. He has been a top 3 LT for years and has done it with bad everything else around him. Cleveland finally has good o-line pieces around him which could put them as a top offensive line for the first time in Thomas’ storied career”- Robert Hanes

16. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top 100

Patrick Peterson (Photo by patrickpeterson21.com)

Peterson made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season of 2011 and hasn’t looked back. He has six straight Pro Bowls and has made the All-Pro team three times. Last season he recorded 50 total tackles, six passes defended, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The Cardinals defense gave up the fourth least passing yards per game in 2016 and Peterson was a big reason why. They will be without Tony Jefferson, who signed with the Ravens, so a lot will fall on the shoulders of Peterson and Tyran Mathieu. Peterson will be required to shut down opponents’ best receivers and will do a great job once again.

At age 28 Peterson will be in his prime and ready to roll for the 2017 season.

Comments: “Peterson is consistently one of the best corners in the NFL. He shuts down opponents’ best receivers and is a ball hawk when the ball is thrown his way. This season Peterson will once again prove to be a premier talent at corner.”-Joe DiTullio 

15. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Le’Veon Bell (Photo by espn.com)

The only problem with Bell is his ability to stay on the field, as he has only played 18 games in the last two seasons. Part of the reason he misses games is injury, the other being a suspension. In his 12 games, last season Bell had 105.7 rushing yards per game and nine total touchdowns.

Pittsburgh’s offense is going to be a juggernaut once again with the talent they have returning. Ben Roethlisberger will be back after contemplating retirement. He will have Antonio Brown, who will be ranked in one of the next 14 spots, and a few other good targets to throw to, helping keep the offense balanced. The offensive line has been solid the past few years and will open up holes for Bell.

Adversaries can’t stack the box against Bell because of how talented the rest of the offense is, meaning that he has a chance to put up a lot of big numbers in 2017.

Comments: “It is comical that Bell is ranked this low. Bell is clearly the best running back in the NFL and a top five player. He was the first player in NFL history to average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards passing. Averaging 150 yards from scrimmage is straight stupid. If this was my list he would be much higher.” -Matthew Hagan

14. Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Derek Carr (Photo by twitter.com)

Carr will have to recover from his broken leg that knocked him out of last season, but he has had an impressive first three years as a pro. If he can keep on progressing and help the Raiders win some meaningful games, the sky is the limit. In 2016 he threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions in 15 games.

The biggest thing Carr has done since arriving in Oakland is help increase the win total. In his first year the Raiders won three games, seven the second year and they won 12 of the 15 games he started last year. The offense should continue to be dynamic with one of the best offensive lines in football. They also have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as good targets for Carr. The offensive line will block well for Marshawn Lynch and any other back Oakland plans on using, which will help create the balance that offensive coordinators love.

The Raiders will have a great offense once again and Carr will be the trigger man making things happen in 2017.

Comments: “Let me get this out of the way, Derek Carr is a stud. But, is he a top 15 player in the league right now? No, he still has to prove that he can do this consistently. He has plenty of potential and showed last year he can get the job done. If he can do that again this year, then he will be deserving of a top 15 spot.”-Robert Hanes

13. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by washingtontimes.com)

Injuries are the only thing holding one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game back. He hasn’t played a full 16 games since his second year in the NFL, but did play 15 games in 2015. He had eight games played in 2016. In those eight games he had 540 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

If Gronk is healthy he can have a big year in 2017. The Patriots added Brandin Cooks, another outside threat. Defenses will have to make up their minds about double covering Gronk, or one of the other productive receivers. The defenses will likely choose to double cover Gronk most of the time and he will still make them pay. If they focus their attention on one of the receivers, Gronk might have a career day.

Health is the biggest concern with this ranking, but when he is healthy Gronkowski is one of the best players in the NFL.

Comments: “One can only wonder how much higher Gronk would be on this list if he could stay healthy. If he can for the rest of his career he will easily go down as a top 5 TE of all time.”- Robert Hanes

12. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Matt Ryan (Photo by twitter.com)

Ryan had the best season of his career in 2016 and it really isn’t even close. He took the Falcons to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1990s and won the MVP award. On top of that, he threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Falcons’ offense will be dynamic again in 2017. Julio Jones, who will be ranked within the next 11 players, is one of the biggest matchup problems in the league. Mohammed Sanu also provides a good option. The offensive line is good and will protect Ryan well enough for him to survey the field. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman do a good job running the football and Freeman adds the ability to catch out of the backfield.

He may not win the MVP in 2017, but Ryan will be the man in charge on one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL.

Comments: “I’m of the minority that Matt Ryan gets too much love. I am not a believer in him as much as others. He has been gifted with talent around him. He is a solid quarterback but  I think he is a fringe top 25 player.” -Matthew Hagan

11. Luke Keuchly, LB, Carolina Panthers

NFL Top 100

Luke Keuchly (Photo by si.com)

It is unfortunate that Keuchly had concussion problems and missed six games, but he still had a good year that resulted in his fourth Pro Bowl. He also has three appearances on the All-Pro first team. In ten games last season Keuchly had 102 tackles, two sacks, six passes defended and an interception.

Keuchly’s versatility makes him great. He has great instincts that allow him to play the run and is one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL. Carolina’s defense wasn’t good last season, ranking 25th in scoring. Having Keuchly for a full year will drastically change that number for the better. They allowed 24.6 points in games he played and gave up 27.8 points per game without him. With all key players back and healthy and Julius Peppers on board, the Carolina defense can vastly improve.

If Keuchly is able to play he will be a top player in the NFL without a doubt.

Comments: “Luke Keuchly is the best pure linebacker in the NFL. He has great athletic ability and instincts, which he uses to his advantage. His instincts help him near the lead in tackles in the NFL every year he is healthy. The athletic ability helps him cover. He is also a very cerebral player that raises the level of play of the entire defense when he is on the field.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 30-21

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Top five 2017 fantasy wide receivers

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

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

No. 5 A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 4 Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 3 Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

No. 2 Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 1 Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown (Photo by: linkedin.com)

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image from nj.com.

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week one DFS

Three ideal week one DFS quarterbacks

If you’re like me, you’ve been counting down the days until week one of the NFL season since championship Sunday. Now, with the NFL preseason looming, it’s never too early to look ahead and start planning. In order to finish in the money, you can’t whiff on your quarterback selection. So without further adieu, here are three quarterbacks to build your week one DFS lineup around.

Matt Ryan Average 2016 Salary: $8,268

Week one DFS has some interesting matchups. If you’re looking for a tier-one quarterback to roster, it can’t be Tom Brady, since he plays on Thursday night. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees play tough defenses in Seattle and Minnesota. And finally, Andrew Luck and Derek Carr will be returning from major injuries. These factors make the 2016 NFL MVP, Matt Ryan, the ideal tier-one quarterback.

NFL week one DFS quarterbacks

Matt Ryan has a history of delivering for week one DFS players (Photo by usatoday.com).

Ryan has a history of producing on opening day. According to Rotoguru, Ryan has scored at least 18 points in every week one game including three 20-point and two 30-point performances since 2012. While none of these have come versus Chicago, his week one opponent, they show Ryan’s ability to deliver on day one.

Yes, I’m aware Ryan will have new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who’s never called a play in the NFL. However, weapons like Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will more than compensate for Sark’s lack of experience.

Ryan’s past aside, the Bears don’t look like a top 10 defense. Their status as a top seven pass defense last year had more to do with their inability to stop the run, as they finished 27th in rushing yards allowed.

According to NFL.com, Ryan is set to average just under 18 points per game. It makes sense. The 2015 NFL MVP, Cam Newton, regressed to the mean this past season. Ryan will not have such a dramatic drop off, but it is likely he will not produce at the same MVP caliber level.

Matt Ryan will be the premiere tier-one quarterback given his health and his match up compared to players like Rodgers, Brees, Luck and Carr for week one.

Jameis Winston Average 2016 salary: $7,606

Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers have quietly assembled one of the most complete teams in the NFC. While they are not without flaws, they have the ability to quickly move up a division notorious for parity at the top spot. To compete with Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton, Winston will have to increase his production while maintaining his growing efficiency.

NFL week one DFS quarterbacks

Jameis Winston (left) and Mike Evans (right) look to ascend to the top of the NFC South in 2017 (Photo by lockerdome.com).

In 2016, Winston experienced an increase in the following categories: attempts, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and passer rating. Most of these increases were marginal, but Winston ascended above the critical 60 percent completion threshold.

Previous number one quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Matt Stafford all had breakout performances in their third season as a starter. Specifically, they all saw increases in touchdowns, completion percentage, and QBR, including some career highs in those areas.

Another great reason to roster Winston for week one DFS are the weapons at his disposal. Mike Evans has established himself as a premiere receiver, in fantasy as well as reality. The Buccaneers additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard only make this offense more explosive in the passing game.

While I don’t see Howard overtaking Cameron Brate, he will absolutely play a role in their red zone offense as another big target for Winston.

Winston also provides a low floor, high ceiling option in his tier-two price range. He’ll likely fall into the $7,400-$7,800 price range for week one, which is completely fair. Hopefully, the oddsmakers at DraftKings and FanDuel set his price at the lower end of the range in his week one DFS match up against the Dolphins.

Tyrod Taylor – Average 2016 Salary: $7,481

In all honesty, I don’t think I rostered Tyrod Taylor more than two or three times last season. Sometimes that worked out well, and other times it didn’t. In 2017, I plan to capitalize on Taylor, especially in week one. Taylor and the Bills will be hosting the bumbling, incompetent New York Jets. While Taylor’s sample size vs New York is small, it’s also promising.

NFL week one DFS quarterbacks

According to Scout Fantasy, Tyrod Taylor has been successful in his limited opportunities against the Jets (Photo by fftoolbox.scout.com).

While Taylor can be inconsistent in season-long leagues, he has performances that merit selection in DFS. In particular, his week one match up against the Jets. Multiple media outlets have claimed the Jets are in full on rebuild mode in hopes to acquire a top quarterback prospect. Given this information, it’s likely that Taylor, along with LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, will face minimal resistance come Sunday, Sep. 10.

Apart from his matchup and ability to run the ball, I love Taylor’s price tag. It’s likely his week one DFS price will be inflated. However, it is safe to say he won’t cost more than $7,600. Taylor was most expensive in week six of 2016 with a price of $7,800 against the 49ers. So, against a historically bad defense, Taylor didn’t even scratch the $8,000 range. It is likely he will be priced in the $7,300-$7,600 range, which will allow you great flexibility at other spots of your lineup.

 

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Top 5 2017 fantasy quarterbacks

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

No. 5 Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 4 Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan (Photo: twitter.com)

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

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

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

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

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

No. 3 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Drew Brees (Photo by:denverpost.com)

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

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

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

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

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

No. 2 Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

Tom Brady (Photo by:nj.com)

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

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

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

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

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

No. 1 Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image from espn.com.

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