Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

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

Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor Is Not a QB2

Tyrod Taylor enters as the 18th fantasy quarterback.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Tyrod Taylor (Photo by: espn.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami Dolphins: Julius Thomas will have double digit touchdowns

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

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Julius Thomas (Photo by: miamidolphins.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

New England Patriots: Mike Gillislee becomes the next LeGarrette Blount

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

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Mike Gillislee (Photo by: profootballweekly.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Bilal Powell (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image from thesportsquotient.com.

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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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Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews fantasy value following trade

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

Sammy Watkins to the Rams

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

Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews Fantasy Value After Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Matthews to the Bills

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

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

Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews Fantasy Value After Trade

Jordan Matthews (Photo by: phillysportsnetwork.com)

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

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

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

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

Who will do better in 2017?

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

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

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

 

Featured image from wday.com

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2017 NFC East division

2017 NFC East 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. 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 adu, here is the 2017 NFC East division preview.

4. Washington Redskins

Last season: 8-7-1

Strength of Schedule: 7

Last season was an up and down one for the Redskins. This year the schedule makers didn’t make it any easier on them. Aside from playing in the tough NFC East, Washington must also play the AFC West. The AFC West is arguably the best division in football. As if the tough schedule wasn’t enough to deal with, the Redskins have glaring weaknesses on both sides of the ball.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Offensively, their line is average but consistent. The running back situation is somewhat of a mess. None of Washington’s running backs had more than 750 yards last season.

Rob Kelley, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson all got significant carries and return this season. Washington also drafted Samaje Perine from Oklahoma. Without a clear cut go-to running back, the offense will be one dimensional.

The strength of the offense is the passing attack, but it isn’t even all that great on paper. Kirk Cousins is an average NFL quarterback who will not lead a team to a Super Bowl. In their division, he won’t even be able to get them into the playoffs this season.

He doesn’t have the best of receivers either. His number one receiver is a converted quarterback. Cousins’ other viable offensive weapon is tight end Jordan Reed who has had nagging injuries keeping him out of the lineup.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins are going to struggle. The Redskins gave up 23.9 points per game last season because they couldn’t stop the run. Teams ran for an average of 119.8 yards per game. This problem wasn’t addressed in the draft or in free agency. Washington did draft Jonathan Allen, but are playing him at defensive end and his strength is against the pass.

With the lack of a running game and a defense that can’t stop the run, teams will control the flow of the game and the clock against the Redskins. Washington will be playing from behind and Kirk Cousins will have a higher interception total this season. Their seventh ranked schedule is also a major reason on why they will have a rough year.

Prediction: 5-11 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3. Philadelphia Eagles

Last season: 7-9

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

The Eagles made a lot of moves in the offseason to help out second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. They made it a point to do so because the second season is the most important in the development of a quarterback.

2017 NFC East division preview

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

Heading into the season the Eagles have the best ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus. That line should pave the way for a solid year by LeGarrette Blount, who led the league in rushing touchdowns last season.

Wentz was also given a new huge weapon at receiver in Alshon Jeffery. Jordan Mathews, who had 73 receptions in 2016, returns to play alongside Jeffery. Carson Wentz is also blessed with a really good tight end, Zach Ertz, who led the team in catches with 78.

The Eagles have a very talented defense that allowed 20.7 points per game last season. The defense hasn’t changed much and should play similar to the way they did last season.

Philly has road games outside the division against the Chiefs, Panthers and Seahawks. They also have home games against the Cardinals, Broncos and Raiders. A tough division and tough schedule are what may hold Philadelphia back this season.

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

2. New York Giants

Last season: 11-5

Strength of Schedule: 8

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: https://rukkus.com/)

New York’s season came to an abrupt end in the playoffs against the Packers after a 38-13 thrashing. It was just a bad game for the Giants and not a true indication of how good they really are. In reality, the Giants are a team capable of winning the Super Bowl and it starts with their defense.

Quietly, the Giants had one of the best defenses in the league last season. They gave up just 17.8 points per game, which was second best in the NFL. Their defensive line got lots of pressure and the amazing secondary put fear into opposing quarterbacks.

The weak spot of the defense is the linebacking corp and if they can just be average, then the Giants will have an elite defense yet again.

Offensively, the Giants can sleep easy knowing Eli Manning is still under center. He doesn’t get the shine like most Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, but he hasn’t missed a game since before Nov. 21, 2004. Manning is consistent and the team knows they will be able to get 4,000 yards and 25 or more touchdowns from him.

He has Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as targets for 2017. This is going to make his job easy.

The only question mark on the offense is at running back. Paul Perkins is the man but can he shoulder the load for an entire season? He only carried the ball 112 times for 456 yards last season and will be taking over for Rashad Jennings. If he can be the workhorse, the Giants will have a dangerous offense that can win them a lot of games.

New York has talent on both sides of the ball. They will continue to build off of last season’s success and have another solid campaign in 2017 but it won’t be good enough to knock off the Cowboys for the division title.

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

1. Dallas

Last season: 13-3

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

2016 was a great year for Dallas as they ran out to a 13-3 record and a first-round bye. Unfortunately, their defense let them down against one of the game’s best quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers. Dallas fell to the Packers 34-31 in the divisional round of the playoffs and their surprising season came to end. This year there are Super Bowl expectations for America’s team.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

The entire team is led by their running game. It is no secret how talented the offensive line is in Dallas and the Cowboys used it to their advantage. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,631 yards last season. The success of their running game took pressure off rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott should take a leap this year as the Cowboys will attempt to open up the playbook. Dak threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. The formula for success is still to run the ball, but with a better understanding of the offense and solid weapons around him, Dak could have an even better sophomore season.

The issue with the Cowboys is their defense but more specifically, their pass defense. Dallas addressed their defense by adding Taco Charlton to try and create quick pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They also drafted Jourdan Lewis out of Michigan, who was one of the best corners in the nation. To improve the secondary even further, they signed Nolan Carroll from the division rival Eagles.

All these moves should improve the defense but there is a potential superstar, who isn’t a new acquisition, waiting to be unleashed.

Jaylon Smith was a consensus top five pick last season before he blew his knee out in a bowl game. Smith sat out last season after the Cowboys drafted him in the second round. If Smith can stay healthy, he will be a Pro-Bowl caliber player. Adding him to this defense could be the difference in losing to Green Bay and heading to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII.

With all the talent the Cowboys have on offense, the defense just needs to be average. They will be better than average with the moves they made in the offseason and the Cowboys will be a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season.

Prediction: 12-4, division champion

 

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Top 5 NFL head coaches

Top 5 NFL head coaches

Football is back. Well, preseason football is back. Coaches across the NFL are scouring through rosters deciding on who will make the 53 man roster in the coming weeks. These decisions are strenuous to make and every organization wants top coaches making these choices. There are players who get cut but find a way to make an impact elsewhere making the previous coach look foolish. If your favorite team has one of these top 5 NFL head coaches, chances are they are making the right decisions.

5: Andy Reid: Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Reid is without question, one of the best coaches in the National Football League. Reid has endured an 18-year career thus far and has found a plethora of success. He has won 173 out of the 288 games he has coached. That is good enough for a 60.2 percent win percentage.

That win percentage is brought down because of his time in Philadelphia, surprisingly. In Philly, Reid went 130-90-1 while leading the Eagles to four straight NFC Championship Games. They won the fourth game, reaching Super Bowl XXXIX but fell to the Patriots 24-21. Despite all that success, he has actually improved his win percentage while in Kansas City.

Kansas City was the worst team in the NFL the season before Reid took over. He led them to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance in his first season. After four seasons he has led the Chiefs to a 43-21 record, which is a 67.2 percent win percentage. That is up seven percent from his time in Philadelphia and if you look at the past two seasons, he has gone 23-9. That is a 71.8 percent win percentage.

Reid has proven that he can win with multiple teams and different quarterbacks. The only thing missing from Reid’s resume is a Super Bowl victory. If he can manage to someday win the big game it will push him up higher on this list.

4: Mike McCarthy: Green Bay Packers

Is it Mike McCarthy or is it Aaron Rodgers? Who truly deserves the credit for Green Bay’s success over the past decade? That is hard to answer but the fact of the matter is Mike McCarthy is a winner regardless. In his 11 seasons at the helm in Green Bay, the Packers have only missed the playoffs twice, both were within his first three seasons. He has made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons.

McCarthy has also amassed 114 wins and just 61 losses. He has a winning playoff record too, going 10-8 over his 11 seasons. McCarthy is rarely given a defense that is even considered adequate yet is a lock to make the playoffs. That shows the makings of a good coach.

His crowning achievement though is leading the Packers to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Because of his consistency and the Super Bowl victory, McCarthy has earned this spot on the rankings.

3: Pete Carroll: Seattle Seahawks

Top 5 NFL head coaches

(Photo Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports)

Pete Carroll is a superb football coach who has found success both at the collegiate and pro levels. If a list was made of best football coaches regardless of the level he might be higher on this list due to that success in multiple areas. The issue with him being higher on the list of top NFL coaches is his first couple attempts.

Carroll first tried coaching in the NFL in 1994 with the New York Jets. He only won six games that season. That was the only year he coached New York.

Carroll then got a second shot in 1997 with the New England Patriots. His overall record wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t all that impressive either. Carroll went 27-21 with the Patriots. A winning record looks good but his win total decreased each year from 10 to nine down to eight in his final year. Carroll then left the NFL for the University of Southern California.

Carroll had monumental success while at the USC but the itch to succeed in the NFL was still there. He then became the coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. In his seven seasons with Seattle, the Seahawks have made the playoffs six times. He hasn’t had less than 10 wins since 2011. Carroll also led the Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl XLVIII and losing Super Bowl XLIX on one of the most controversial play calls in the history of the game.

Leading the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowl appearances, while winning one, and consistently fielding a championship team is the reason Pete Carroll is third on this list.

2: Mike Tomlin: Pittsburgh Steelers

There is a theme in this ranking. That theme is winning lots of games and getting to the Super Bowl. Mike Tomlin fits this theme in his 10 seasons as an NFL head coach. Tomlin is 103-57 so far in his career, winning 64.4 percent of the games which is pretty impressive. He has won games with different strengths as well.

Early in his coaching career with the Steelers, he had teams led by an elite defense. Lately, he has been winning games with an elite offense. Being able to win with that kind of flexibility and versatility should be rewarded. Similar to Pete Carroll, Tomlin has led the Steelers to two Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl XLIII and losing Super Bowl XLV.

The reason Tomlin is ranked higher than Carroll is because of consistency. Mike Tomlin has never lost more than eight games in a season while Carroll has lost more than eight games three times. They both have a Super Bowl win and loss. They each have won 103 games but Tomlin has won the same amount in 16 fewer games. Mike Tomlin is the second best coach in the NFL today.

1: Bill Belichick: New England Patriots

Top 5 NFL head coaches

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

Number one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Bill Belichick has 14 straight seasons with 10 or more wins. In his 17 seasons as head coach, he has won 15 division titles, including eight straight. He has a 67.3 percent win percentage, going 237-115 in the regular season. Those regular season numbers are impressive but he improves upon that in the postseason.

In the postseason, his win percentage improves to 72.2 percent, going an unbelievable 26-10. In his tenure, he has reached the AFC Championship game 11 times winning the game seven of those times. The last instance in which the Patriots did not make it to the AFC Championship was when Cam Newton was at Auburn. These accomplishments are unprecedented but it doesn’t end there.

Belichick has seven Super Bowl appearances with five Super Bowl wins. In this era of talent and with free agency, Bill Belichick is not only the best coach in the game today but possibly the best of all-time.

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 40-31

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 seventh installment, containing players 40-31.

40. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Jordan Howard (photo by sports.yahoo.com)

Howard had a great rookie season for the Bears that not a lot of people saw coming. He didn’t get to play in week one and got limited carries in weeks two and three before bursting onto the scene in week four with 111 rushing yards against Detroit. He finished 2016 with 1,313 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Year two will give Howard the opportunity of more reps in practice and more carries in games, which should both help his productivity. Howard goes into 2017 as the lead back and will get a chance at a full season as the starter. He has some good blockers up front in Cody Whitehair, Josh Sitton and Kyle Long (#57). Most teams will be focusing on trying to stop him because Alshon Jeffrey left in free agency and Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky are unproven.

The focal point of the offense will be Howard and after a good rookie season, he will have to carry the load for the Bears’ offense.

Comments: “If he was on a better team his ranking might be higher. That being said he had a great rookie year. If he can repeat it expect to see him climb up quickly.”- Robert Hanes

39. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Top 100

Fletcher Cox (photo by mcall.com)

After making his second straight Pro Bowl in 2016, Cox will be looking to have another good year in 2017. He finished the 2016 season with 43 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Cox isn’t one of the first guys who come to mind when thinking of the best defensive players in the NFL, but not everything he does shows up on the stat sheet. He is good against the run and he tag-teams with Brandon Graham (#65) to give the Eagles a very formidable pass rush. The Philadelphia defense has gotten much better since Chip Kelly left, but Cox was even productive when he was the head coach.

There are a lot of uncertainties in the NFL, but if Fletcher Cox is on your team, you feel confident that there will be a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line.

Comments: “It doesn’t always show up in his numbers, but Cox is a player that makes the rest of the defense better due to how much chaos he causes. He could be ranked higher and it would be justified.”-Joe DiTullio

38. Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

NFL Top 100

Matthew Stafford (Photo by nypost.com)

Stafford takes some heat for being a gunslinger, but he had a very good year in 2016, without his favorite target Calvin Johnson, who elected to retire rather than play for the Lions. His 2016 campaign led him into some MVP discussions, which should have Lions’ fans optimistic about 2017. Last season he threw for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

Although he doesn’t have Johnson anymore, Stafford does have some unique weapons. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. provide two good targets, albeit not great. His running backs, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah can both catch passes out of the backfield to help Stafford out. The offensive line didn’t stand out last season, but the Lions did sign T.J. Lang to help bolster it.

The post-Calvin Johnson era started off with a playoff berth and a good season from Stafford, so more good things should be expected in year two.

Comments: “Stafford had an MVP type season in 2016. He showed better decision making without Calvin Johnson on the field. How the Lions made the playoffs last year is beyond me. Stafford was a magician for Detroit and elevated their level of play. The Lions probably won’t make the playoffs in 2017, but Stafford will be a good quarterback once again.”-Joe DiTullio

37. Marshall Yanda, OG, Baltimore Ravens

NFL Top 100

Marshall Yanda (Photo by baltimoresun.com)

Interior offensive linemen are often forgotten, but Yanda has been very good for a long time. He only played in 13 games, but still made his sixth Pro Bowl team. Yanda has moved all over the offensive line during his career but has been dominant since settling in at guard.

While the rushing offense hasn’t been good the last few seasons, it isn’t because of Yanda’s blocking. He helped Baltimore rank in the top half of the league in sacks allowed. The passing offense will be good once again, but the Ravens will likely struggle on the ground in 2017.

Yanda will once again be fighting an uphill battle on the interior of the offensive line trying to get the run offense going, but he will do his job well.

Comments: “Offensive lineman never truly get the love or recognition they deserve. Yanda is right up there with Zach Martin as the best guard in all of football. He deserves to be in the top 15 and maybe even the top 10.” -Matthew Hagan

36. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Travis Kelce (photo by chiefs.com)

Kelce has turned into one of the best tight ends in the NFL over the last few seasons. In 2016 Kelce led all tight ends in receiving yards with 1,125 on 85 receptions and four touchdowns. On an offense that isn’t seen as the most dynamic, Kelce has helped make it productive.

The Chiefs’ offense is going to look different in 2017 without Jeremy Maclin and Jamal Charles, which will mean Kelce, along with Tyreek Hill, will be the focal points of the offense. Alex Smith is known for liking to check down and Kelce is able to get open and get yards after the catch, making it a perfect fit. If the Chiefs are successful on offense in 2017, Kelce will be a main reason why.

He is entering his fifth season in the league and has already made two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team, but he isn’t done yet.

Comments: “I would pay a lot of money to see Kelce with Brady, Rodgers, Brees or any other top quarterbacks in the game. He is a beast and it is unbelievable that he puts up these numbers with Alex Smith. He is rated pretty well although I do think with a better quarterback he could be even better.” -Matthew Hagan

35. Vic Beasley Jr., OLB, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Vic Beasley Jr. (photo by si.com)

In his second year in the pros, Beasley developed into a great player that helped lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl. He led the NFL in sacks with 15.5 and added 39 total tackles, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.

Beasley improved a lot from year one to year two and a lot should be expected of him in year three. He does have a lot of areas of his game to improve, but Beasley is great at the main thing he was drafted to do: sacking the quarterback. His ability to do that made the Falcons a much better team in 2016.

He has a lot to build on in 2017 and if he continues to get to the quarterback, he will rise up this list.

Comments: “The single biggest reason for Atlanta’s run to a near Super Bowl win last year was an improved pass rush. Beasley will have to lead the defensive charge again this year for the Falcons to go one step further” -Dylan Streibig

34. Zack Martin, OG, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Zack Martin (Photo by dallascowboys.com)

Martin has been a great player from day one in the NFL. In his three seasons he has made the Pro Bowl each year and has been an All-Pro twice. He has been a key part on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL since his rookie season in 2014.

Dallas had the second most rushing yards in the NFL in 2016, in large part thanks to Martin. In addition to blocking for a great rushing offense, Marting helped the Dallas offensive line give up just 28 sacks, which tied for seventh in the NFL in 2016.

He hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career thus far and in 2017 he will continue to open up gaping holes for the Cowboys.

Comments: “Martin is the best guard in the game and could even be ranked higher than this, but interior offensive line play isn’t appreciated. He hasn’t missed a start in his three seasons and has helped make the ground game explosive for the Cowboys.”-Joe DiTullio

33. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Travis Frederick (Photo by insidethepylon.com)

Back to back Cowboys’ offensive linemen make the list. He has been in the league for four seasons, made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. During his first four seasons Frederick has evolved into one of, if not the best center in the NFL.

While he similarly helped the Dallas rush offense, Frederick really helped get rookie quarterback Dak Prescott acclimated to the NFL. He made all of the checks for the offensive line and no doubt helped take a lot off of Prescott’s plate. A center’s biggest job is to make checks and to be the smartest offensive lineman in the unit and Frederick has that down.

Frederick will continue to make good checks and block well in 2017.

Comments: “Frederick was seen as a reach by the Cowboys when they selected him, but he has been superb so far in his career. He is the best center in the game and even Dak Prescott has made comments about how smart Frederick is. He anchors one of the best offensive lines in football.”-Joe DiTullio

32. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

NFL Top 100

Cam Newton (Photo by nydailytimes.com)

If this list were based on 2016, then Newton may not be as high. The 2017 season gives Newton an opportunity to rebound from his lackluster season. He finished 2016 with 3,509 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 touchdowns on 52% completion. While his passing numbers were bad, Newton’s rushing numbers were the lowest in his career as well.

He should be helped by new members of the offense in 2017: Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Greg Olsen will continue to be a threat at tight end, but there are some concerns about Kelvin Benjamin, who is trying to cut weight. The new weapons, along with the old ones, should help Newton get better, but he will need to play like he did in 2015 to be considered one of the best in the league again.

Newton and his new weapons will get on the same page and make the Panthers’ offense return to its 2015 form.

Comments: “I am sick of all the Cam Newton haters. Newton came into the NFL shattering passing records for young quarterbacks. He has changed the Panthers organization, won an MVP and led his team to a Super Bowl appearance all in just six seasons. Cam is better and deserves to be much higher on this list” -Matthew Hagan

31. Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Kam Chancellor (Photo by bleacherreport.com)

He only played in 12 games in 2016, but Chancellor still had a huge impact. In 2016 he had 81 total tackles, eight passes defended and two interceptions.

Chancellor has had continued success at strong safety for the “Legion of Boom”. He helped Seattle rank eighth in passing yards allowed. He can cover tight ends well and help stop the run. Receivers are conscious of where Chancellor is at all times so they don’t get hit by one of the most powerful tacklers in the league. The key for Chancellor is staying healthy as he missed the four games in 2016 and missed five in 2015.

In 2017 Chancellor will once again be making receivers aware of his presence with his big hits and his good cover skills.

Comments:His defensive backfield teammates are flashier, but Chancellor is the heart and soul of “The Legion of Boom” – Dylan Streibig

Top 100 NFL Players 50-41

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 70-61

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 fourth installment, containing players 70-61.

70. Casey Hayward, CB, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL Top 100

Casey Hayward (Photo by boltbeat.com)

Hayward may not be as known as he should be, but has had five solid seasons in the NFL. Last year, his first season playing for the Chargers, Hayward 57 total tackles, seven interceptions, 20 passes defended and one touchdown.

In 2016 Hayward made his first Pro Bowl as he starts to enter his prime. The Chargers’ team will be markedly better this season, including their defense. With Hayward and Jason Verrett as corners and Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram getting pressure on the quarterback, it’s hard to imagine the Chargers’ defense not getting better.

Hayward should benefit from the players around him and be a top 100 player again.

Comments: The Chargers’ defense is becoming a sneaky good unit, and Casey Hayward is a huge part of that. Last season, Hayward clowned around to the tune of a passer rating of 53.4 when he was targeted. Hayward also allowed just one touchdown last season and led the NFL in picks last season with seven. Hayward enters his age 28 season in 2017, and expect him to fight for the crown of best corner in the NFL this season.” –Tim Miller

69. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Los Angeles Rams

NFL Top 100

Andrew Whitworth (Photo by ocregister.com)

After playing for the Bengals for the first 11 years of his career, Whitworth will now be a Ram after signing with Los Angeles in free agency. At age 36, Whitworth made the third Pro Bowl of his career and is aging well.

Now Whitworth’s job is going to be protecting Jared Goff’s blindside and clearing holes for Todd Gurley. The offense may not be the greatest in 2017, but Whitworth will turn in a good campaign. Age is a concern and Whitworth will show signs of aging, but he is still good enough to turn in a solid season.

Whitworth brings a ton of experience to a young offense and could be the piece that helps them grow and get better.

Comments: “This guy ages like fine wine. Unless age finally catches up with him, I could actually see him being ranked higher. Left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line and he is easily one of the best”- Robert Hanes

“Whitworth will always be criminally underrated as one of the consistently best tackles in football. The numbers speak for themselves: 14 pressures given up in 570 offensive snaps in 2016. I’m not sure why he constantly gets overlooked, but he’s maybe the most steady offensive tackle behind the great Joe Thomas.”-Blake Van Poucke

68. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami Dolphins

NFL Top 100

Ndamukong Suh (Photo by cbssports.com)

Suh may not be racking up the stats like he did earlier in his career, but he is still playing solidly in Miami. In 2017 he finished with 72 total tackles, five sacks, six passes defended and one fumble recovery.

The Dolphins chose Charles Harris Jr. with their first round pick. Putting him with the likes of Suh, Cameron Wake, William Hayes and others should create more threats for opponents’ offensive lines. The defensive front will be strong and Suh will get more one on one looks in 2017.

He does more than the numbers show you and will continue to do so in 2017.

Comments: “Suh is the forgotten superstar after he signed in Miami. Even with the second least amount of sacks in his career, he was still as productive as he’s been in years past. He’s vastly improved the Dolphins run game and has been the linchpin of one of the most improved defensive units in 2016. As his sack numbers drop, his effectiveness in other areas rises.”-Blake Van Poucke

67. Michael Bennett, DE/DT, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Michael Bennett (Photo by sportspressnw.com)

Although he had only five sacks in 2016, his lowest total since 2011, Bennett still played solidly. He missed five games last season, which severely hindered the amount of stats he was able to total.

If he can stay healthy in 2017, Bennett will return to be a force on the field. He has the added value of playing defensive end on running downs and sliding into defensive tackle on passing downs. He matches up with several different types of linemen and uses whatever competitive advantage he has over them to get to the quarterback.

With Bennett fully back in 2017, he will be a top 100 player yet again.

Comments: Michael Bennett is a character off the field, and he channels his minor case of the crazies onto the field. Bennett was the best run stopper in the NFL last season, earning a grade of 93.0 last year against the run. He played 354 of his 689 snaps as a tackle last season, further adding to his value as a versatile lineman. The Texas A&M product tallied 16 tackles for loss, which was good for tied second in the NFL last season. Bennett will continue to okie-doke sorry offensive linemen this season and help lead a perennially stout Seahawks defense.” –Tim Miller

66. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

NFL Top 100

Greg Olsen (photo by nj.com)

Greg Olsen has gotten better as he has gotten older. The last three seasons he has had over 1,000 receiving yards each year. Last season he had 80 receptions for 1,073 yards and three touchdowns.

He may have found it hard to get in the endzone in 2016, but he still had the second most receiving yards of a tight end. Cam Newton had a down year and he still found Olsen often. In 2017 it should be expected that Newton will bounce back and still be looking to find his favorite target, Olsen.

The Panthers will continue to feature Olsen and he will perform well in a division not known for playing great defense.

Comments: “The fact that this man is still overlooked baffles me. He will go down as one of the best tight ends to play the game.”- Robert Hanes

Olsen could be considered the most important player, outside of Newton, for the Panthers. He’s been such a reliable target for Cam Newton and a guy that seems to make every play. He eclipsed the 1,000 yard receding mark for the third straight season and continues to improve his hands and route running as a tight end. The Panthers passing game without him is a giant mess.”-Blake Van Poucke

65. Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Top 100

Brandon Graham (photo by philly.com)

The Eagles’ defense has been much better since getting rid of Chip Kelly. Without having to be on the field for what seems like an eternity, players have stepped up. One such player is Brandon Graham. He finished 2016 with 59 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, one pass defended, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovered.

Graham will be coming off his best all around season as a pro and will be looking to add to it in 2017. Philadelphia was a good defense in 2016, allowing just 20.7 points per game, but they have added some key pieces to the mix. Derek Barnett, Chris Long and Sidney Jones were all acquired in the offseason and will make the Eagles’ defense better. A lot of attention will still be paid to Graham, but the other quality players on the defense will take some pressure off of him.

Graham will continue to create a good tandem with Fletcher Cox on the Philadelphia defensive line in 2017.

Comments: “Brandon Graham is a solid edge player but Fletcher Cox takes huge pressure off of him. Graham has never had more than 6.5 sacks in a season and it looks like that is his ceiling. There are many players better than Graham and he should be in the 90’s” -Matthew Hagan

“Graham deserves to be much higher on this list. His effectiveness doesn’t necessarily show up on stat sheets, but he gets QB pressures more than nearly every player in football. 83 in 2016 is an insane number. Only Khalil Mack had more last year. The guy makes it incredibly difficult to get anything going against that Eagles defensive front.”-Blake Van Poucke

64. Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings

NFL Top 100

Danielle Hunter (photo by sportingsota.com)

Hunter is the only player on this list that played in the NFL last season and did not record one start. How did he do it? He put up solid numbers and got after the quarterback. His future looks very bright. In 2016 he recorded 12.5 sacks, 54 tackles, one pass defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovered and one touchdown.

He still has his fair share of improvement to do in stopping the run, but Hunter has made the most of his opportunities to rush the passer. The 2017 Vikings’ defense should have another good year and Hunter will get more snaps, meaning the potential is there for him to have even more of a breakout year.

The 2017 season will tell us a lot about the third year man out of LSU, but if his first two seasons indicate anything, it is that he is on the right track to be one of the best defensive ends in the league.

Comments: “Danielle Hunter had 12.5 sacks without a single start and only played 57 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Hunter is going to be the sack champion as he and Brian Robison switch roles. By the end of the 2017-18 season, NFL fans will be debating if Hunter is the best defensive end in the NFL.” -Matthew Hagan

63. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top 100

Larry Fitzgerald (photo by si.com)

This will be the 14th season for Larry Fitzgerald in the NFL, but he is still producing.The ageless wonder has remodeled his entire game to be able to stay productive in the NFL for as long as possible. Last season he had 107 receptions for 1,023 yards and six touchdowns.

Fitzgerald isn’t just putting up numbers, he has also been a great run blocker, which is an underappreciated trait in a wide receiver. Carson Palmer didn’t have a great season last year and Fitzgerald still had a big season. If the quarterback play is similar or better, Fitzgerald will be able to put up another 1,000 yard receiving season and justify his spot on this list.

Father time may work against Fitzgerald, but he has done a great job of doing everything he can to produce at a high level, so that should be expected again in 2017.

Comments: “Every year, football nerds try to paint Larry Fitzgerald as old and feeble. Fitzgerald, however, does not care about the haters. Fitzgerald dropped just seven of his 223 targets in the past two seasons, good for the second best catch rate in the NFL (97.9 percent). He was graded as the No. 9 wide receiver in the NFL last season, and will continue to be one of the best wide receivers in the league until he hangs it up, which seems like it won’t come until he’s 45. Father Time waits for no man, sans Larry Fitzgerald.” –Tim Miller

62. Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Dont’a Hightower (photo by bostonglobe.com)

Everyone talks about the Patriots’ offense, but they also had the best defense in the NFL last season. Hightower is a player that doesn’t get a lot of recognition, but has been an anchor in the middle of the New England defense. In 2016 Hightower totaled 65 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one safety in 13 games played.

The Patriots have added Stephon Gilmore and rookie Derek Rivers to the mix, which should make them a top NFL defense once again. Hightower won’t always have the most eye-popping stats, but if you watch the games he has an impact beyond that of his stats.

With more talent around him in 2017, Hightower will be in a good position to have an even better year in 2017.

Comments: “Hightower’s value is incredibly high as one of the leaders on that Patriots defense. In terms of absolute value (AV), he had the highest of any Patriot on defense. The guy flies around the field and has ridiculous closing speed. Patriots try and use him in many different ways but still outline his strengths by rushing the passer 30% of his snaps. He causes plenty of problems for opposing quarterbacks.”-Blake Van Poucke

61. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Dez Bryant (photo by wfaa.com)

Bryant is another player that didn’t put up video-game level stats last season, but is still a great talent. In 13 games Bryant recorded 50 receptions for 796 yards and eight touchdowns.

A lot was made out of Dak Prescott’s favorite receiver being Cole Beasley, but Bryant had a decent season. He has also had to fight off a lot of injuries in his career, but when he is healthy, he is dynamic. A full offseason with Prescott should help improve his 52.1% catch percentage. Even if Prescott has a sophomore slump, Bryant should be able to put up enough numbers and draw enough attention to help the rest of the offense.

The connection between Prescott and Bryant is expected to be much better in 2017 and if it is, Bryant should have another great season.

Comments: “Bryant is on a team that is built to run the ball and that hurts him. He also has missed 10 games over the past two seasons. If Dak takes a big leap, and Dez can stay healthy, then he will prove to be better than this rank.” -Matthew Hagan

“Based on talent, Bryant should be higher, but he hasn’t meshed with Prescottt enough yet. His production will go up and he will have a better season in 2017. With Ezekiel Elliot facing a possible suspension, Bryant will be what opponents want to stop the most.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players: 80-71

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2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

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 first installment, containing players 100-91.

100. Jordan Hicks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Jordan Hicks (Photo by philly.com)

Hicks only has two seasons in the NFL so far but has impressed. After gaining starting status for all of last season, he blossomed. He finished with 86 tackles, five interceptions, 11 passes defended, a fumble recovery and a sack.

The Eagles have made a commitment to improving their defense through the draft this season. They drafted Derek Barnett, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas with their first three picks. Philadelphia ranked 12th in the league as a scoring defense and should improve this year.

With other talented players like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, Hicks may not be the best player on his defense but should get even better as he progresses.

Comments: “Jordan Hicks is one of the best players under 25. Hicks can defend both the run and the pass. He even has a knack for creating turnovers. When we look back on the 2017-18 NFL season, it will look asinine that Hicks wasn’t in the top 50.” -Matthew Hagan

“Hicks is a purpose linebacker that can play inside or outside. He has the ability to drop in coverage and can also fight off blocks at the point of attack to stop the run. He may be the most underrated linebacker in football. The only thing that is holding Hicks from being a top-10 linebacker is injuries. If he can stay healthy, he should be higher on this list.” – Craig Stogdill

99. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Kawann Short (Photo by scout.com)

Players who are on the interior of the defensive line sometimes get overlooked, but Short is a great player and deserves his spot on this list. He went from 11 sacks in 2015 to 6 in 2016, but that still is good enough to have him tie for eighth in the league among defensive tackles.

Short will have to play under a new defensive coordinator in 2017, Steve Wilks. Wilks has been around the team as a secondary coach, so players should be able to be familiar with everything Wilks wants them to do. Carolina’s defense slipped in 2017, but they still have enough talent to be a good NFL defense.

While the defense did get worse last season, Short was the second-best player on the defense last year. He played all 16 games, which was something the best player on the defense didn’t do (this player will be seen later on in our rankings). Short is entering his prime and is in store for another big season.

Comments: Kawann Short is way too low on this list for my taste. His 11 sacks in 2015 to six sacks in 2016 drop off is not a big deal as an interior lineman. Short was third in quarterback hurries by a defensive tackle with 46 despite playing fewer snaps than the two players ranked higher than him. He is just as effective against the run as he is the pass. Short is just as important to the Panthers defense as Luke Kuechly and should be much higher than 99.” -Matthew Hagan

98. Janoris Jenkins, CB, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Janoris Jenkins (photo by giants.com)

Jenkins is a part of a defense that last season was second in the league in points allowed. He had his best season yet as a Giant and finished with three interceptions, 18 passes defended and a forced fumble. Although he doesn’t have a lot of interceptions he does a great job in coverage.

The Giants have better talent this season with Landon Collins going into his third season and Eli Apple entering his sophomore campaign. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had a good season last year, making their secondary one to watch. Dalvin Tomlinson was drafted to help an already good defensive line.

With all the talent on the Giants’ defense, Jenkins may not be the first name that comes to mind, but he will do his job effectively.

Comments: “After signing a massive free agent contract, critics believed he would have a down year in 2016. That was not the case. In fact, he had his best year in the NFL and proved he’s worthy to be a teams shutdown corner. He held quarterbacks to a passer rating of 65 on balls thrown his way and his completion percentage dropped from 61 percent to 50 percent on the potent Giants defense.”-Blake Van Poucke

“Jenkins is one of the best shutdown corners in the game. He plays his best game against the best receivers. He held Dez Bryant to a single catch in each meeting (Jenkins forced him to fumble on one of them) in 2016. Jenkins made his first Pro Bowl and I expect another one next season if he plays like last year. He is the best corner on his team he should be in front of DRC and Gilmore. “- Craig Stogdill

97. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Stephon Gilmore (Photo by cbssports.com)

The Patriots got another good corner when they signed Gilmore this offseason. Last year with the Bills, Gilmore had a career high in interceptions with five. He also added 12 passes defended and 48 total tackles.

Gilmore now bolsters the best scoring defense last year. He and Malcolm Butler are one of, if not the best corner tandems in the league. Look for Gilmore to be a reason the Patriots are one of the best defenses against the pass in 2017.

After winning the Super Bowl and acquiring players like Brandin Cooks and Gilmore, the Patriots don’t look like they will be slowing down any time soon.

Comments: Gilmore had a down year in terms of his man coverage, allowing 17.9 yards per pass thrown at him through the first nine weeks. He was slated to make a jump in 2016 to a top five cornerback. But, despite a few terrible games, he accounted for five interceptions in 2016 which is a career high. He will now play in a more sound defensive system with the Patriots and should return to a highly productive cornerback.”-Blake Van Poucke

96. Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Brandon Marshall (Photo by giants.com)

Full disclosure: Marshall had a bad 2016 season, but he was playing on the Jets. He only has three seasons of less than 1,000 receiving yards. Two years ago he had 1,502 receiving yards with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback. So, although he is aging, he should rebound for the Giants.

Marshall will be on an offense that should feature a good passing attack. Odell Beckham Jr. will get his touches, but the rest of the receiving core, including Sterling Shepard, will have to fight for their touches. When Beckham Jr. is double-teamed, Marshall will be able to win his matchups and produce. Having Eli Manning throw the ball to him is a significant upgrade over what he has had for the last two seasons and most of his career.

If this list was based solely on how players were last year, Marshall wouldn’t be on this list. This season though, Marshall has a chance to reestablish himself and make a big impact for a playoff contender.

Comments: “Brandon Marshall should be nowhere close to being ranked on this list. Marshall made this list on reputation alone. Although he is getting a major improvement at quarterback, Marshall is going to be on an offense that features Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and rookie Evan Engram. These players are much younger and will take away receptions and yards from him. He will be more of a mentor than an actual threat. Marshall won’t even be a top 150 player this season.” -Matthew Hagan

 Even at 33, few have more natural talent than Marshall who had 109 catches just two years ago. Being around so much young talent and a real shot at a playoff run for the first time in his career will rejuvenate him in 2017.”- Dylan Streibig  

95. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Domique Roders-Cromartie (photo by sny.com)

Rodgers-Cromartie was already mentioned as being part of the good Giants’ defense. Last season he finished with six interceptions, 21 passes defended, one forced fumble and 49 total tackles.

Although Rodgers-Cromartie is now 30 years old, he showed last year that he isn’t wearing down. With Jenkins, Apple and him as their corners and Collins at safety, the Giants will be hard to throw on this season.

In 2017 Rodgers-Cromartie will be one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Comments: “Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the top corners in the NFL last season. Rodgers-Cromartie earned the second-best grade of his career last season from Pro Football Focus, and for good reason. His 16 total pass breakups last season were the fourth-most in the league, and he had the second-lowest QBR-against among corners last season at 56.6.” –Tim Miller

“DRC is a solid size corner at 6-2. He has a knack of being a ballhawk. He led his team in interceptions twice for the Giants. DRC helped improve the Giants when he moved to the inside to the slot. I wouldn’t put him in front of Gilmore or Jenkins.”- Craig Stogdill

94. Kelechi Osemele, OG, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Kelechi Osemele (photo by sfgate.com)

The Raiders had one of the best offensive lines in 2016 and Osemele was a huge reason why. Oakland ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and gave up the fewest sacks in the league, 18.

Derek Carr’s injury may have caused the Raiders’ season to end prematurely, but with him recovering well from his broken leg, Oakland can have a high-powered offense once again. Carr may get a lot of the love, and a lot of the money in his new deal, but their offense starts because of the offensive line.

Osemele will help lead the charge on a great offense for the 2017 season by continuing to clear way in the running game and protecting Carr.

Comments: “Offensive linemen rarely get the love or recognition they deserve. Osemele earned second-team all-pro from Pro Football Focus last season and was only edged out for the first team by Marshal Yanda. Last season he gave up zero sacks and that is good enough to deserve a much higher ranking.” -Matthew Hagan

“Quite possibly the biggest free agent signing of 2015 was Osemele moving to the Raiders. In his first season in Oakland, he was a force. He was one of the most productive interior lineman in football with his brutal punch and overwhelming physical style. He helped change the complexion of the Raiders offense and was a big reason for their 2016 success.”-Blake Van Poucke

93. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Michael Thomas (Photo by upi.com)

Thomas had such a good rookie season that the Saints felt comfortable enough to trade Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. After being the sixth receiver selected, Thomas built a great rapport with Drew Brees. He finished last year with 1,197 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

People have thought that Brees would be slowing down for the last few seasons, but he delivered yet another 5,000 yard passing season last year. Thomas will benefit from Brees’ continued production, especially now that he is the clear number one receiver.

With the other defenses in the NFC South giving up a lot of passing yards, all ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, Thomas will have every opportunity to have an even better season.

Comments: Michael Thomas was the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL last season. Thomas blew all other rookies out of the water in receptions (92 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 67) and receiving yards (981 compared to Sterling Shepard’s second-best 653). Thomas dominated in every facet among rookie wideouts, but this list isn’t all about rookies.

“What makes Thomas special is that he’s already playing with an elite quarterback in Drew Brees in a pass-heavy offense. The Saints threw the ball on 63 percent of their plays last season, good for fourth-most in the league. Thomas has reportedly added ten pounds of muscle, and with his size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and explosiveness (20 tackles broken/avoided, ninth in NFL in 20-plus yard catches last season), expect Thomas to become an elite receiver in the NFL.” – Tim Miller

92. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Jameis Winston (Photo by nytimes.com)

Two straight 4,000 yard passing seasons have gotten Jameis Winston’s career off to a hot start. Winston had 4,090 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2016. He has gotten more accurate from season one to season two and will need to continue to do so.

While the stats are encouraging, Winston has also improved the Bucs win total from six to nine from his rookie season to last. Continuing to help improve the Bucs’ record will be a way to raise his stock around the league. He will have more help this season on the offensive side of the ball, as Tampa Bay signed Desean Jackson and drafted O.J. Howard.

Winston is the franchise quarterback for the Bucs and with the added help on offense, should be able to take his game to another level.

Comments: If this list was based on what Winston did last season, he would deserve this spot, but he should be ranked higher. This list is supposed to look ahead to 2017 and Winston will be better with all of the incoming help and his natural progression he has shown in his first two years. With weapons like Desean Jackson, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, Winston will be higher on this list come next year.”- Joe DiTullio

91. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals

2017 NFL top 100 players: 100-91

Carlos Dunlap (Photo by bengals.com)

Dunlap had a good 2015 season with 13.5 sacks, but his production dipped to 8 sacks last year, which tied for 22nd in the NFL. He also added three forced fumbles and 49 combined tackles.

Last season Dunlap had help rushing the quarterback from Geno Atkins, but not much else. Michael Johnson, who started all 16 games at the other defensive end spot, finished with 3.5 sacks. The Bengals added Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson in the draft to help in this area, which will help take double teams away from Dunlap.

Production wasn’t great for Dunlap last season, but since he has been the starting defensive end for Cincinnati, he has never had fewer than 7.5 sacks in a season. Dunlap will be looking to up his sack total and be more productive in 2017.

Comments: “Dunlap has been one of the most consistent pieces on a Bengals’ defense that has been very good for the last six years. He is constantly in the quarterback’s face and even though his numbers dropped off a bit, he is still able to be a playmaker and change the game at any time. With the help of Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Andrew Billings and obviously Geno Atkins, this defensive line should have a great year and so should Dunlap.”- Robert Hanes

 

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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC West

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 eighth, and final edition, Super Bowl series: AFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are entirely overlooked and it is egregious. Andy Reid has done incredibly well so far in Kansas City. Reid has gone 43-21 and the Chiefs have made the playoffs in three of his four seasons.

The only thing missing is the playoff success and thus a Super Bowl victory. Kansas City is just 1-3 in the playoffs during the Reid era. That can change this season as the Chiefs look to make a run at Super Bowl LII.

Kansas City is a team that wades in the water like a shark and out of nowhere will sneak up and attack you. Alex Smith gets the hate while the defense gets all the love but the Chiefs averaged 24.3 points per game last season, which was 13th best in the NFL. The Chiefs were able to get out in front of teams early, scoring the eighth most first half points with 12.8 per game.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

The Chiefs weren’t special on offense but they were consistent. They ranked 18th in third down conversion percentage (38 percent), 15th in rushing yards (109.2 per game) and 19th in passing yards (233.8 per game). Again, the offense wasn’t spectacular but they are wrongfully accused of costing this team successful playoff runs.

There is still room for growth. The offense can help the defense out even more by running more plays to keep that stellar defense rested. The Chiefs ranked 27th last season averaging 61.9 plays per game. An effective rushing attack is one of the best ways to run more plays.

Kansas City has added veteran running back C.J. Spiller and rookie running back Kareem Hunt in hopes of improving the offense, but Spencer Ware should be the feature back. This offense has been consistent and as long as they improve just a tiny bit, the Chiefs can remain Super Bowl contenders.

In the Reid era, the Chiefs have averaged 27.5 points per game in the playoffs. They also lost a playoff game to the Colts, 45-44. Anytime a team scores 44 points, they should win. As much blame as this offense gets, they have performed well enough to win games in the postseason.

Stepping away from the offense, the Chiefs are truly Super Bowl contenders because of their defense. Despite losing Justin Houston after five games and Derrick Johnson after 13, the Chiefs were able to rank seventh in points allowed per game at 19.4.

The reason the Chiefs were good on defense wasn’t that they held teams to low amounts of yardage; they actually were bad at allowing yards. They ranked 24th in total yards (368.5 per game), 26th in rushing (121.1 per game) and 18th in passing (247.4 per game).

What Kansas City really excelled at was red zone defense and forcing turnovers. The Chiefs only allowed points in the red zone 49.1 percent of the time. They also led the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. There can be improvements made in how much yardage allowed but if the Chiefs can continue forcing turnovers along with getting stops in the red zone, then the Chiefs can remain a top-tier defensive team.

In order to win the Super Bowl, Kansas City must get home-field advantage. They are 18-7 at home in the past three seasons. They must also get over the tough schedule that includes New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas outside of the division, plus Oakland and Denver twice each.

If the Chiefs can navigate this schedule and make the playoffs, the offense needs to continue averaging 27.5 points per game and the defense must remain elite. Doing all of this will mean that Arrowhead will be home to the Super Bowl LII champions.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders were legitimate Super Bowl contenders last season but the injury bug bit at the worst time. Derek Carr broke his leg in week 16 and just like his leg, the Raiders playoff chances were shattered.

Offensive tackle Donald Penn also went down and if the Raiders can remain healthy at their key positions, then they have one of the best shots in the league to win Super Bowl LII.

In order to win the Super Bowl, the Raiders must improve defensively along with remaining healthy. The Raiders gave up 24.1 points per game and the problem was that they struggled in the second half of games.

Oakland ranked 29th in second half points, allowing 13.4 per game. The Raiders struggled in yardage as well, ranking 26th in total yards (375.1 per game), 23rd rushing yards (117.6 per game) and 24th in passing yards (257.5 per game). The Raiders spent their first three picks on the defensive side of the ball to address these defensive woes.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

Part of the reason they struggled so much defensively was that they couldn’t get off the field on third down. Opponents converted 39.4 percent of the time against the Raiders on third down. If they can fix this, it will improve their entire defense.

Fixing their third down defense starts with getting to the quarterback which the Raiders were the worst at. Oakland ranked 32nd in the NFL in sacks, accumulating just 25 for the season. Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and newly acquired Jelani Jenkins must make a bigger impact in rushing the quarterback.

Oakland must also find some discipline. The Raiders ranked dead last in both penalties (9.2 per game) and penalty yardage (77.9 per game). Without these improvements, the Raiders won’t be capable of making deep postseason runs.

The strength of the Raiders is, without question, their offense which averaged 26 points per game. Oakland seemed to get better as the game went on, averaging the fifth most points in the second half with 13.6. The Raiders had no trouble racking up the yardage either, averaging 373.3 yards per game.

They can thank their surprisingly good rushing attack. Oakland ran for the sixth most yards in the NFL last season with 120.1 per game. Adding Marshawn Lynch to the mix should improve this number and make the entire offense even better.

Oakland had the 13th best aerial attack in the NFL, throwing for 253.2 yards per game. Derek Carr has been exceptional and has also been given solid targets to throw to. His two main targets, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, combined for 176 receptions, 2,156 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

The Raiders decided Carr needed more and added talented receiving tight end Jared Cook and explosive wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

Cook has struggled to remain healthy but has been effective when on the field. Patterson has been to the Pro Bowl as a returner but had a solid season catching 74.3 percent of the balls thrown his way last season. These two weapons could really push Oakland’s passing attack to the next level.

The only improvements the Raiders need to make on offense is on third down and in the red zone. Oakland only converted 38.1 percent on third down. Extending drives can help the defense get rest and therefore, perform better.

Although the Raiders averaged 26 points, they only scored in the red zone 58.6 percent of the time. If they can improve this percentage, then the Raiders could easily average 30 or more points per game. If the Raiders do that, then the Lombardi Trophy is going back to the bay, baby.

Denver Broncos

There weren’t many who believed the Broncos would struggle last season but Denver stumbled to 9-7. Similar to recent years, Denver’s defense was spectacular but the offense was just too far behind. The loss of Peyton Manning was more painful than fans care to realize. Denver might have a Super Bowl defense, but without a quarterback to make big plays, the offense is going to hold this team back.

Let’s start off with what this team is known for, and that’s defense. The Broncos have a reputation for beating up quarterbacks. Denver ranked third in the NFL last season with 42 sacks. This helped them get off the field on third down as they forced a third down stop 63.6 percent of the time. Getting to the quarterback often, and quickly, helped the secondary allow just 185.8 yards passing per game. That was the best mark in the NFL.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Despite all the success against the pass, the Broncos did struggle against the run. Denver had the fifth worst rush defense in the league, allowing 130.3 yards per game. Altogether, Denver only allowed 316.1 yards per game and that resulted in allowing the fourth fewest points per game at 18.6.

In order to get back to the Super Bowl, Denver must clog up the running lanes. The Broncos have added Domata Peko at defensive tackle to help their run defense. Denver cannot depend on the play of the quarterback and therefore the defense must become elite in all facets of the game. All that is left to conquer is the run.

Offensively, the Broncos need to run the ball more often to make up for their quarterback play. Denver only ran the ball 40.2 percent of the time. This resulted in an average of 92.8 rush yards per game, sixth worst in the NFL. C.J. Anderson is a great back but has yet to play a full season in his career. Speaking of injury prone, the Broncos did add Jamaal Charles to the mix in the backfield as well. While neither can remain healthy on their own, maybe being paired together can help them stay healthy and turn Denver into a good running football team once again.

None of that will be possible without good offensive line play though. Losing Russell Okung isn’t a crushing blow because he had health problems anyway. This is why Denver drafted Garrett Bolles. Also, Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the league and if he can lead the rest of the unit then Denver can improve their offense.

The Broncos’ passing attack was abysmal as well, ranking 21st. Because of the deficiencies on offense, Denver only managed to score 20.8 points per game. Either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch need to grab ahold of the quarterback spot with force and prove they can be the franchise quarterback.

If neither of them can, rookie Chad Kelly could sneak in and become the man. No matter how the cookie crumbles, one of these quarterbacks needs to have a great season to help get the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

For everything to fall into place the Broncos, offensive line play must improve which in turn will help the running game improve. Denver needs a quarterback to solidify their spot as the franchise quarterback and lastly, the Denver defense needs to stop the run. If the Broncos can solve all these problems, they can win Super Bowl LII.

Los Angeles Chargers

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: http://eastvillagetimes.com)

The Chargers have left San Diego and are embarking on the journey to run Los Angeles. Due to a slew of injuries and a sub-par defense, the Chargers finished last season 5-11. That record didn’t indicate how good the team really was. The Chargers went 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less. Los Angeles can become a contender simply by winning these close games.

The Los Angeles Chargers are going be a much improved defensive team. For starters, Joey Bosa will be ready at the start of the season and he had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games as a rookie. They also added safety Tre Boston to help out in a secondary that gave up 242.9 yards per game through the air.

The defense also includes Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, Melvin Ingram, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. These are some really good players but they must play together to improve last year’s bad season.

Last year, the Chargers ranked 29th in the NFL in points, allowing 26.4 per game. It was so high because they really stunk in the second half of games. The Chargers gave up a total of 14.6 points per second half last season with 8.3 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers defense partly struggled just because the offense gave up 2.2 turnovers per game, which was worst in the NFL. The defense is really talented and if they don’t get put into bad situations due to turnovers, they will easily bring down that amount of points they give up.

Last year’s offense was really good aside from the turnovers. They averaged the ninth most points in the NFL with 25.6 per game. Philip Rivers’ aerial assault led the way. They averaged 262.4 yards through the air despite losing their best receiver Keenan Allen. A healthy Allen could allow Rivers to have a better 2017-18 campaign.

In order to really improve the offense, the Chargers must run the ball more effectively. They averaged 94.4 yards per game but a banged-up offensive line hurt their potential. The Chargers know that a better offensive line will improve everything. Los Angeles snatched offensive tackle Russell Okung from the division rival Broncos. They also drafted guard Forrest Lamp.

Improvement for the Chargers starts with the offense. Running the ball more and simply staying healthy will accomplish that. The defense will then be able to bring down a number of points they allow due to rest. Lastly, the Chargers special teams must stop shooting themselves in the foot with bad punts, missed field goals, botched snaps and just horrible coverage.

It will not be easy for the Chargers to make the playoffs, especially in their division. If they can make the improvements listed, then they will have a puncher’s chance. Once they get into the playoffs it is anybody’s trophy.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC West. This was the final edition of the Super Bowl series and you can find the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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!

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Super Bowl Series: NFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC East

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

Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Giants

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Redskins

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

(Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl Series: NFC East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Super Bowl Series: AFC East

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