NFL Week 11

Stack your money Sundays: Week 11

Week 10 Review (3-0) OVERALL: 19-9-2

Minnesota Vikings (-1) @ Washington Redskins

Minnesota Vikings 38 Washington Redskins 30

In an emotional return to the sidelines for Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum could not be stopped. Did Bridgewater’s return spark Keenum to play big, knowing that his job is on the line? Maybe, but whatever it was, keep it up Case!

The former Houston standout threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. He was extremely efficient, completing 21 of his 29 passes and was also never sacked in the contest. Adam Thielen had a monster day, hauling in eight receptions for 166 yards and a score.

Minnesota was also able to rush for over 100 yards, while limiting the Redskins to just 81 rushing yards on 27 carries. In the article leading up to this game, we talked about how the Vikings were ranked sixth in third-down conversions, while the Redskins ranked 19th in opposing third-down conversions. As expected, Minnesota went 8-12 on third-down conversions.

The Redskins put up a fight, as Kirk Cousins threw for 327 yards while Vernon Davis and Jamison Crowder each had 76 receiving yards. Unfortunately, their poor defense and lack of run game left them just short. They now sit at 4-5 while the Vikings are looking great at 7-2.

New York Jets @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 15 New York Jets 10

This was one of the ugliest games of the season. It was a double revenge game, as both quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown, faced off against their former teams. It literally took until 6:05 left in the fourth quarter for a touchdown to occur. Imagine paying to sit through this disaster.

Both teams were unable to rush for over 100 yards, and the Bucs won while throwing for only 187 yards and scoring one touchdown. Since 2007, teams that threw for under 190 yards, rushed for less than 100 and scored only one touchdown have a .129 winning percentage. Shout out to the Bucs for beating the odds.

New England Patriots (-7.5) @ Denver Broncos

New England Patriots 41 Denver Broncos 16

NFL Week 11

The GOAT (Photo from Boston Herald)

The Broncos have fallen so hard, and it’s honestly sad. After stopping Brady and the Patriots on the opening drive, Denver muffed the punt and gave the ball right back. From that point on, the game was over. Tom Brady continues to defy odds as he had a miraculous three-touchdown, 125.4 quarterback rating performance.

Brock Osweiler continued to do Brock Osweiler things. He was inefficient with his throws and unable to make any big plays.

To Osweiler’s defense, Denver’s D did not help him at all. They have now allowed the fourth most points in the NFL, and are second to last in defensive turnovers. So yeah, Brock isn’t great, but Denver’s defense is playing at an all-time low. They should be able to rebound this week against the Bengals.

 

WEEK 11 PICKS

Buffalo Bills @ Los Angeles Chargers (-4)

PICK: CHARGERS TO COVER

So a rookie quarterback is going on the road against a Philip Rivers team, and Rivers only has to win by four? Sign me up. Luckily, Rivers was a full participant in practice and looks ready to go.

To much surprise, Tyrod Taylor was benched in favor of Nathan Peterman, the former Pitt quarterback. As crazy as this move seems, it kind of makes sense. Under Taylor, the Bills were 30th in passing yards, 27th in first downs, 28th in total yards and 24th in passing touchdowns. Peterman, who played well in garbage time against the Saints, will most likely be handing the ball off over 30 times to a running back.

San Diego’s defense, although shaky against the run, has done a pretty solid job as far as keeping teams off the scoreboard. The Chargers rank ninth in opponent points per game and third in opponent points per play. As far as the red zone goes, they are the No. 1 defense in terms of percentage of red zone trips that end in touchdowns.

Rivers has won 60 percent of his home games in November, which is absolutely respectable. He is clearly the better quarterback, and his defense, which does a great job of not allowing points, is going up against one of the weakest offenses in the league. In their last 18 road games during the months of November-January, the Bills are 4-14. Not a good road team this late into the season.

Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

PICK: EAGLES TO COVER

No Sean Lee means major problems for Dallas. The Cowboys fear that their star linebacker could miss several games due to his hamstring injury. Without Lee in the lineup, Dallas is a completely different defense. In Lee’s first six starts of the season, the Cowboys held opposing teams to just 80.3 rushing yards per game. In the two games he missed in October, the Cowboys allowed 164 rushing yards per game.

NFL Week 11

The favorite for MVP, Carson Wentz (Photo from The Undefeated)

When Lee was in against Atlanta, the Falcons had four carries for negative two yards. Even without Devonta Freeman for a majority of the game, Atlanta ended up with 132 yards on 34 carries.

The Eagles are arguably the best team in the NFL, and are also coming off a bye. Carson Wentz looks like the MVP of the league, as his Eagles are fourth in yards per game, second in points per play, third in third-down conversion percentage and first in red zone scoring efficiency on touchdown drives.

Not only is their offense second in the league in points per game, but Philly’s defense is tenth in the league in regards to fewest points allowed. They also do an exceptional job of defending on third down, ranking third in opposing third down percentage. When it comes to defending the run, the Eagles are first in opposing rushing yards per game, as well as opposing rushing first downs per game.

No Ezekiel Elliott and no Sean Lee might be too much for Dallas to overcome, especially against the hottest team in the league, who is fresh off a bye.

Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks (-3)

PICK: SEAHAWKS TO COVER

Not only have you been stacking your money on Sundays, but now you should invest and stack some more on Monday.

Seattle, coming off a Thursday night win, has had an extended amount of time to prepare for this one. The Richard Sherman injury will sting, but it won’t kill this potent defense.

Matt Ryan has been shaky all year, and will most likely continue this trend on his way to Seattle. The Seahawks are allowing the fifth fewest points per game and the fourth fewest points per play. This team defends the red zone well and ranks sixth in opposing touchdowns per game. Atlanta has been an average offense that turns the ball over too much.

In his career at home in November, Russell Wilson is 11-2. Contrary to this, Ryan is 8-9 on the road in the month of November. The Seahawks offense is seventh in total yards and second in terms of total passing yards. Wilson has only thrown six interceptions and ranks in the top 10 in yards per pass.

Atlanta turns the ball over more, is on the road and has the weaker quarterback. This should be a solid win for Wilson and the Seahawks.

 

Featured image from Zimbio.com

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first-year NFL head coaches

Checking in on the first-year NFL head coaches

We are far enough into the NFL season that it is now fair to evaluate how all the head coaches are doing. While there are 32, the coaches who took new jobs prior to this season are always of particular interest. So, let’s see who is making the grade.

Sean McVay

What the former Redskins offensive coordinator has done defies logic and description. At the time of his hiring, he was the youngest head coach in league history. Also, he took over a mess.

The Rams were the worst scoring offense in the league in 2016 and limped to a 4-12 mark in their first year back in Los Angeles. Much of the offensive personnel has remained the same under McVay, including second-year quarterback Jared Goff, who was totally overwhelmed as a rookie.

The Rams are now the top scoring offense in the NFL and sit atop the NFC West. It is impossible to be sure whether McVay is brilliant or his predecessor Jeff Fisher was grossly incompetent. The answer is likely a little bit of both. The Rams defense was pretty good all along.

There is a lot of football left to be played, and it is hard to imagine any team averaging 32.9 points per game for an entire season. That puts you in the conversation with some of the greatest offenses ever.

For now though, McVay is the runaway winner for coach of the year. Turnarounds like this simply do not happen this quickly in pro football.

Grade: A+

Vance Joseph

When Gary Kubiak stepped down due to health concerns after the 2016 season, the former Dolphins defensive coordinator took over an organization that won a Super Bowl less than two years ago.

first-year NFL head coaches

(Photo from Denver Post)

However, the Broncos have regressed under Joseph. Trevor Siemian was at least serviceable last year. That cannot be said of Siemian or any other Broncos quarterback this year. Despite the team being very good for most of his tenure, John Elway has had to hire three head coaches during his relatively short time in the Denver front office.

With a workable schedule down the stretch, Joseph could still salvage the season if he can lead an upset over the Patriots Sunday night, but that is unlikely at best.

No individual is responsible for anything in the NFL. Even so, with the Broncos among the league leaders in penalties and turnovers and on a four-game losing streak, it is starting to look like Elway will be finding another head coach sooner than he would like.

Grade: D+

Anthony Lynn

The former Bills offensive coordinator took over a franchise that was relocating to a city where it has virtually no fan base. That is an unenviable position for any coach to be in.

However, Lynn did inherit Philip Rivers as his quarterback. This is something even some established coaches in this league would kill for. Early in the season, the seemingly never-ending trend of the Chargers finding ways to lose close games continued.

Lynn’s team showed some impressive toughness by winning three in a row after an 0-4 start. The defense is also much improved thanks mostly to the hiring of former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator.

3-5 is not where any coach wants to be through eight games. All things considered though, Lynn has done an okay job. Remember, this is also a team that is essentially playing 16 road games this year and potentially beyond.

Grade: C+

Sean McDermott

This is the toughest one for me. The former Panthers defensive coordinator has the Bills in the mix to end a 17-year playoff drought. The best thing this team has going for it is a defense that is allowing less than 19 points per game.

Getting blown out by the Jets on Thursday night in Week 9 was a big blow. They still have to play division rival New England twice, as well as New Orleans and Kansas City. They will be underdogs in every one of those games.

McDermott would not be the first Bills coach as of late to lead Buffalo to a hot start only to fade late in the season. He has done well to this point, but his job is about to get a lot tougher.

Grade: B-

Kyle Shanahan

The mastermind behind last year’s electric Falcons offense is still searching for his first win as a head coach in San Francisco. Shanahan is well aware that he is bringing the less talented roster into almost every game this season.

Despite that, the 49ers are playing hard and have been in almost every game. The best thing the young head coach has done is oversee or possibly facilitate the acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo from New England before the trade deadline.

Shanahan is certainly taking his lumps as a first-time head coach this year, but if Garoppolo turns out to be the star that many people believe he will be, the wins are not far behind.

Grade: C+

 

Featured image from espn.com

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Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 6

WEEK FIVE REVIEW (3-0) OVERALL: 12-3

Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ Oakland Raiders

Baltimore Ravens 30 Oakland Raiders 17

I’ll never understand E.J. Manuel being favored in an NFL football game, but anyways, this game was rather predictable. Ravens had no problem scoring early against a weak Raiders defense, as Baltimore scored 24 of their 30 points in the first half. Manuel did not turn the ball over, but only managed to throw for 159 yards, and completed half of his passes.

On the other hand, Joe Flacco was rather efficient, and let the running backs control most of the offense. Justin Tucker had a perfect day, notching three field goals, and went a perfect three for three on extra points. With this win, the Ravens are now tied with the Steelers for best record in the AFC North.

 

Seattle Seahawks (+1.5) @ Los Angeles Rams

Seattle Seahawks 16 Los Angeles Rams 10

The Rams were a Cooper Kupp catch away from beating Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. Luckily, had Kupp hauled in the last minute touchdown, the Seahawks still would have covered. Nonetheless, great win for Seattle, as they often struggle visiting the Rams.

The Seahawks defense came up big and made Jared Goff look like the rookie version of himself. Goff threw a pair of interceptions, and had a quarterback rating 48.9. He also had an abysmal completion percentage of 46.81.

Although Seattle now sits at a comfortable 3-2, the offense still has a lot of work to do. The Seahawks had a real hard time running the football against a weak Rams run defense, and Russell Wilson did not look great. The Rams had over 100 more total yards, so if it weren’t for their five turnovers, Seattle would have gotten blown out.

 

Green Bay Packers (+3) @ Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers 35 Dallas Cowboys 31

For a second, it looked like Dallas was going to win this one, but then I realized if you give Aaron Rodgers a minute and a timeout, you might as well quit. Rodgers was absolutely sensational, throwing three touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 122.9. The sneakiest, elite performance was Aaron Jones. A rookie from UTEP, Jones rushed for 125 yards and scored his second touchdown in as many weeks.

The unsung hero of last week, Aaron Jones (Lombardi Ave)

Dallas had more first downs, total yards, third downs converted, and more time with the football than Green Bay, but it’s hard to beat Aaron Rodgers when you turn the ball over three times. Through five weeks, Dallas already has tied their loss total from last season. Not to mention they have Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension starting next game.

 

WEEK 6 PICKS

Green Bay Packers (-3) @ Minnesota Vikings

PICK: PACKERS TO COVER

As you can tell, this is now the second week in a row betting on the Packers, hence, Aaron Rodgers is really good and I would trust him with my life. Listen, the guy is 12-6 in his career vs. Minnesota, and has a quarterback rating north of 112. He’s completing 68% of his passes in these games and has 39 touchdowns.

The Vikings barely squeaked by against the Bears, who started a rookie quarterback for the first time, and are one of the most injured teams in the league. Last year, Minnesota ranked third in fewest passing yards allowed. Today, they are 20th. However, they do defend the run well, so it will be interesting to see if they will be able to slow down Aaron Jones, who looks to be the next Ahman Green.

The Packers are forcing a bunch of turnovers, and sit fifth in the league in that department. Their offense also stays on the field. Green Bay is 27th in three and outs, and also are arguably the most efficient team when it comes to scoring in the red zone. The Pack are first in the league in points per red zone trip, as well as first in touchdowns per red zone trip.

Sam Bradford will not play this Sunday, so this game could be over in a hurry. Minnesota is firth worst in touchdowns per drive, and are currently punting on 50 percent of their drives. Look for Aaron Rodgers to throw all over this team, and for Case Keenum to struggle moving the chains for Minnesota.

 

Los Angeles Rams @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5)

PICK: JAGUARS TO COVER

Betting for the Jaguars to cover just sounds like a fun time. Honestly though, Jacksonville is one of the big surprises of the year. They are fifth in scoring and are first in rushing. The Jags defense is insanely elite. That sounds crazy, but they are one of four teams in NFL history with 20+ sacks, 10+ interceptions and 4+ defensive touchdowns through five games in a season. The Jaguars have allowed the second fewest points in the league, rank first in turnovers in created, first in interceptions, and third in fewest passing yards allowed. Jacksonville also allows the fewest points per drive.

We saw what Jared Goff looks like against a good defense last week, so expect more of the same this week. Also, the Rams are allowing the sixth most rushing yards, and the most rushing touchdowns in the league. Jacksonville loves to run the football, as we saw last week against the Steelers. Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory combined for 222 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Bortles doesn’t look great, but the Jaguars are doing a wonderful job of masking his flaws. He is throwing less and they are winning more. In last week’s slaughtering off the Steelers, Bortles only threw a total of 14 passes. The Rams are 23rd in points allowed, and it is highly doubtful Jared Goff starts out 3-0 on the road. Have to believe in Post Marrone and the Jaguars squad to get another W.

 

Los Angeles Chargers @ Oakland Raiders (-3)

PICK: RAIDERS TO COVER

During our weekly podcast, the Raiders were a one-point favorite, and now that it is three, I am not even remotely worried. Derek Carr is playing, and his Raiders have won their last four matchups against the Chargers. The Raiders have lost three in a row, so this is essentially a must win. They cannot drop to 2-4 in a division with the Chiefs and Broncos.

Derek Carr and the Raiders look to remain hot against the Chargers (Raiders.com)

Because of Carr’s injury, Oakland will most likely run the ball a lot. This would make sense because the Chargers have allowed the most rushing yards in the league. They are literally allowing five yards per carry to opposing backs. LeGarrette Blount ran wild against them, so expect a big game from Marshawn Lynch.

With Carr healthy, this is a totally different team. Philip Rivers has already thrown five interceptions and their defense has not been great. Los Angeles is 25th in yards allowed per drive. They are allowing the fourth most points per drive and are the 31st rank defense in terms of time of possession per drive. The Chargers defense cannot get off the field, and will struggle mightily against Carr and the Raiders offense.

Featured image by Jacksonville.com

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NFL

Week 1 NFL picks against the spread

It is the most wonderful time of the year. While Hurricane Irma is putting a damper on things and reminding us all that football is secondary, the NFL season kicks off for real tonight. That means another year of picking games against the spread.

My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Here goes nothing.

Thursday Night

Chiefs at Patriots (-9) – Kansas City is extremely well coached. Andy Reid never allows his teams to beat themselves. This is a huge number to swallow in a matchup of two very good teams.

However, no matter the team, the defending champions always play inspired on opening night.  Alex Smith and company just do not have the firepower to keep up with a New England offense that somehow got even better by adding Brandin Cooks. No matter how stout the opposing defense is, the Patriots will score lots of points all year long. NE 31 KC 20

Sunday

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: inquisitr.com

Cardinals (-2) at *Lions – Here, we have two teams that must drive their fan bases insane. If last year is any indication, they both have high ceilings, low floors and no one knows what to expect from them week to week. Given that backdrop, I will take the home team with the better quarterback. Det 30 Ari 27

Falcons (-7) at Bears – It remains to be seen how the Falcons franchise will rebound from last year’s Super Bowl collapse. We won’t learn much here. The Bears organization is lost at sea right now and does not have talent on any level that is equal to the Falcons, at least on paper. Paper is really the only thing we have to go on for opening week. Atl 31 Chi 17

Ravens at Bengals (-3) – This game is pretty much a coin flip. If the game were in Baltimore, the line would probably be flipped. With home-field advantage and an offense that should be just a touch more balanced than that of the Ravens, the Bengals are the smart bet. Cin 28 Bal 24

Jags at Texans (-5.5) – This is my favorite pick of the week. Blake Bortles has yet another crack at being the quarterback of the future in Jacksonville. His numbers are always decent thanks to garbage time, but the franchise has won 11 total regular season games since Bortles was drafted. What more needs to be seen?

Houston’s quarterback situation is not much better, but they are playing to lift the spirits of an entire city and have most of last year’s playoff roster intact. Hou 24 Jac 13

Jets at Bills (-9.5) – The Jets are going to stink, Buffalo is probably going to stink a little less. Outside of the defensive line, everything on the Jets’ roster is well below average. Buffalo has made some head scratching roster moves in recent weeks and is clearly hesitant to commit to quarterback Tyrod Taylor long term. This is a value pick more than anything else. Buffalo is not 9.5 points better than anyone in this league. Buf 27 NYJ 20

Raiders at Titans (-2) – These teams handle their business differently, but are pretty evenly matched. The team that does not lead the world in penalties every year and has the better defense is a good bet. Ten 24 Oak 20

Eagles (-1) at *Redskins– Here is another game that could go either way. Carson Wentz exceeded expectations last year and the Eagles have made a lot of new acquisitions that have people excited. But the Redskins are the known commodity here.

Even with the drama that seems to constantly surround the organization, the Redskins offense put up a ton of first downs and yards last year. If they can turn some more of those numbers into points this year, they will be back in the playoffs for the first time in a handful of years. This is a rivalry game, Washington is at home and I know what I am getting with them. That is good enough for me. Was 24 Phi 21

Steelers (-9) at Browns – The Browns will not be a punchline this year. From Jabrill Peppers to Kenny Britt, they have done a fantastic job of adding talent on both sides of the ball. The raw athleticism of DeShone Kizer with Hue Jackson coaching him is intriguing. Keeping up with a Pittsburgh offense that has all of its key contributors on the field at the same time is probably too much to ask, but they can make a statement here, even in defeat. Pit 28 Cle 20

*Colts at Rams (-3.5) – Watch this one at your own risk. The Colts will be led by Scott Tolzien, not Andrew Luck. For the Rams, Jared Goff showed improvement in the preseason, but that only means so much. Even without Luck, Indy’s offensive personnel may still be better. They won’t score much as the Rams front seven is really good, but they won’t need to. Ind 13 LAR 10

Panthers (-5.5) at 49ers- The number here is surprisingly low. Apparently, I am not the only one who likes what the 49ers are doing. Given the vast differences between their last two seasons, Carolina is one of the toughest teams to predict this year, but Christian McCaffrey might be exactly what this offense needs to get back on track. The Panthers should get through this one on talent alone. Car 28 SF 21

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: Panthers.com

*Seahawks at Packers (-3) – Like always, this matchup is about Seattle’s great defense and Green Bay’s great offense. These two teams could very well see each other again in the playoffs. We all have certain theories when we look at these games. One of mine is that great defense usually trumps great offense.

If there were any full proof theories about predicting NFL games, Vegas would be broke and us common folk would be rich. Obviously, it does not work that way. However, I will almost always ride the better defense in a matchup like this. Sea 21 GB 20

*Giants at Cowboys (-4) – Apparently, Ezekiel Elliott will play in this game. However, that did not matter much when these teams got together twice last year. With additions like Brandon Marshall, the Giants only got better in the offseason. Even if Odell Beckham Jr. does not suit up because of his knee injury, New York is well-equipped for that circumstance.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league has now had enough time to figure out how to stop a Cowboys offense that was a young juggernaut last year. Things will not be nearly as easy for Dallas this year. NYG 23 Dal 20

Monday Night

*Saints at Vikings (-3.5) – New Orleans is primed for a big year. The one-two punch of Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson will finally give that offense the balance it so desperately needs. Drew Brees still has a couple years to be his Hall-of-Fame-caliber self. All the defense needs to do is go from atrocious to just plain bad. This is not a very difficult leap to make.

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: espn.com

As good as Minnesota’s defense is, their offense simply lacks playmakers. It will not take nearly as long for that to catch up with them this year. Too much is being expected by rookie running back Delvin Cook, Sam Bradford has never led a team to a winning record as a starting quarterback and their receivers max out at about 80 catches.

The Vikings have not managed to put together an offense that has ranked in the top 20 since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach. Unless the defense turns out to be the 1985 bears or 2015 Broncos, this team is going nowhere. NO 24 Min 17

Chargers at Broncos (-3.5) – The Chargers were in almost every game last year, but lost most of them.

The relocated Chargers will win a few more games this year, but this one will follow that familiar script. Philip Rivers is still being asked to do way too much. If the quarterbacks changed teams in this matchup, Denver would make this look like a homecoming game. The Broncos were smart enough to realize that Trevor Siemian was not the problem last year. Denver’s front lines were pushed around on both sides of the ball.

Thus, this year they come back with revamped offensive and defensive lines, as well as a monster of at least three heads in the backfield. The defense remains one of the best on the planet. The Broncos are attempting to take the physical approach to winning football games this year. If done well, it is a tough approach for any opponent to deal with. Den 20 LAC 14

 

Featured image from sportlogos.com

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Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Trevor Siemian’s fantasy impact on the Broncos skilled players

On Monday August 21, Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph named Trevor Siemian the starting quarterback for the regular season over Paxton Lynch.

What to expect from Siemian

When Siemian took over in 2016 after the retirement of Peyton Manning, he completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,410 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and ran for 57 yards in 14 starts. He did miss time and had surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder in January. Siemian only had four games with at least 20 Fantasy points. Needless to say he won’t entice fantasy players to pick him in only one QB starting leagues.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Trevor Siemian (Photo by: chicagotribune.com)

But Siemian won this job with great reason. He’s more experienced. Siemian looked sharp through two preseason games, completing 14 of 18 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. And this is a new year for the Broncos with a new head coach in Joseph and a new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who was the OC in Denver from 2009 to 2012. He helped the Broncos offense rank second in total offense in 2012. His passing offense ranked in the top-10 twice in that span. During his time as head coach for the San Diego, now Los Angeles Chargers, his passing offense ranked no worse then 12th. Granted most of the time they had to throw the ball coming from behind and he also had Philip Rivers. But this could benefit Siemian with the coaching changes.

Granted Siemian isn’t Manning or Rivers, but he proved last season he can move the offense when given protection. He doesn’t have a cannon, but he can make all the throws, get through his progression, and isn’t afraid to test defensive backs down the seam. But is this enough to trust him to help the other skill players in Denver?

Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders

The Broncos passed for an average of 230.3 yards per game last season, tying them for the 11th least passing yards per game in the league. While this news isn’t the greatest for the whole offense, it’s “good” news for both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders (Photo by: numberfire.com)

First with Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had 90 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns on 145 targets in 2016.  Thomas only had seven games with double digit fantasy points. He had career lows in receptions and yards per game at 5.6 receptions and 67 yards since becoming a full time starter in Denver.

Emmanuel Sanders had 73 passes for 1,032 yards and five touchdowns. on 139 targets. While these numbers are average, they weren’t standouts like they were in 2014. He only had four games with double digits. Sanders had eight games where he had less then five points.  Sanders also had his lowest stats, receptions and yards per game, at 4.9 receptions and 64.5 yards.

It isn’t like Thomas and Sanders are inconsistent. Thomas is working on five years in a row of at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards. Sanders went to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and had his third season in a row with at least 75 catches, 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. The main reason for the decline has been due to bad quarterback play. Now granted not all of it was bad quarterback play. Thomas dealt with a hip injury all season and the Broncos had a very inconsistent running game. Plus this was Siemian’s first year as a starter so it was expected they might struggle.

While this may all still to be true from a fantasy standpoint, there is reason for hope. Denver doesn’t really have any other viable receiving threats. These two could see an a rise in production as they develop more chemistry with Siemian.

The running backs

The 2016 Denver Broncos running game still proved to be irrelevant. C.J. Anderson struggled, only playing in seven games before an injury. He was off to a good start. Anderson had four games with at least 10 Fantasy points in a standard league in the seven games he was healthy, with five total touchdowns and three outings with at least 90 total yards. He will enter 2017 as the no.1 back and there’s good opportunity for him. Devontae Booker is on the shelf due to a wrist injury. Anderson was likely going to split carrries but now he can solidify his job. He could actually get more of a workload especially with the QB situation. But don’t expect a boost in Anderson’s rankings with the news of Siemian as the starter. Anderson is still a RB2 or a high flex option. The main thing to keep in mind is Anderson’s health.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

CJ Anderson, Devonetae Booker, Jamaal Charles and Terrell Davis (Photo by: denverpost.com)

As for Jamaal Charles, his role is likely to work in a part-time role behind Anderson. He will enter behind him with Booker’s injury. He will get his touches and could get extended reps if Anderson has another injury. Charles will be a guy to look at on third downs for Siemian to dump the ball to.

Conclusion

Overall, Siemian’ only worth a late-round pick in two-quarterback leagues this year. But for the skilled players it helps their rankings a little bit having Siemian as the starter. While most fantasy players know this, Siemian, out of all the quarterback battles, has the best players and coaches around him. He could have a surprising season with these weapons. However, with new coaches and a new offense, I still think Siemian will have his tough outings. Don’t over reach for the skill players in Denver as inconsistent QB play is still in the air.

 

Featured image from denverbroncos.com.

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AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

We continue our eye test predictions with some of the average to above average AFC teams. Here’s my AFC eye test predictions: 9-5.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

The fact that Andy Dalton does not turn the ball over nearly as much as he used to is obviously a plus, but he’ll never be more than average. If he wasn’t a red head, would we look at him differently? Probably, but he’s only had one season with at least 30 passing touchdowns, and that came with 20 interceptions. It seems like the window has closed for the Red Rocket and this Bengals team after only winning six games last year.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

Has the window closed for Andy Dalton and the Bengals? (cbssports.com)

Let’s start with some positives. A.J. Green is elite and will continue his big time play. Tyler Eifert has shown that he is a top-tier tight end. The addition of John Ross is cool, even though there is no way he ran a faster 40 time than CJ2K.

As far as the running game, Jeremy Hill isn’t great, and Giovani Bernard, a wannabe Darren Sproles, is coming off a torn ACL. Drafting Joe Mixon is interesting because he could turn into a quality running back.

Hill and Mixon could be a nice 1-2 punch, knocking out defenses and making head coaches lose sleep. Although these backs have potential, they won’t have enough offensive line help. Losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zietler is a devastating blow to the offense.

The Bengals defense could keep this team afloat. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are studs. Vontaze Burfict is really good, but we all know he will find a way to get suspended with an illegal hit. As far as the secondary, if it’s 2017 and Pacman Jones is your best corner, there is a clear problem. Dre Kirkpatrick got paid this offseason, so it is time to deliver.

Cincinnati is travelling the second lowest amount of miles this year, which is a good sign, but this team won’t win more than eight games. In a tough division with an average quarterback, a bad offensive line and a weak secondary, the Bengals will continue to be the Bengals.

8. Baltimore Ravens

Is Joe Flacco elite? Well, he was during that one Super Bowl run, but besides that, he is just a decent quarterback. With Flacco set to be back by week one, the Ravens should be in decent shape, but do they have enough on offense?

Marshall Yanda is one of the best guards this game has seen, but losing starting offensive tackle Ricky Wagner is a shot to the heart. Terrance West told fantasy owners to scoop him, so maybe we should trust him? Danny Woodhead is the king of grit, but recent injuries are obviously concerning.

Jeremy Maclin looks to be the clear number one, and maybe Mike Wallace will continue to produce. But, is Breshad Perriman good? The former first-round pick is dealing with a hamstring injury and has been out of practice for a while. Dennis Pitta’s unfortunate injury and release from the team leaves a question mark at tight end.

Brandon Williams, the NFL’s highest-paid nose tackle, has shown his ability to perform, but besides him, the rest of the defensive line is sketchy. Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley are obviously dope, but the Ravens also lost Elvis Dumervil and Zach Orr.

The brightest spot on this roster is probably the secondary. Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson are arguably the best safety combo in the league, and the addition of Brandon Carr is massive.

Still, I don’t see this team making a playoff run. There are too many questions on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense lost some crucial names. The Ravens are in talks with bringing back Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah, but even with his addition, the offensive line is not too pretty. There is no way this team wins the division, but eight wins is definitely possible.

7. Miami Dolphins

Jay Cutler is back baby! Ryan Tannehill’s injury is obviously painful for Dolphins fans, but do we understand that he only threw 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and the team still won 10 games? Tannehill is basically just a worse version of Alex Smith. The only reason Miami should be upset is because we probably won’t be seeing Lauren Tannehill on television.

Real quick, just wanted to let everyone know that no one is getting disrespected more in this situation than Matt Moore. Moore is 15-13 as a starter and showed last year that he can win with this team. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins consider rolling with him after a few weeks.

Nonetheless, Miami has decided to go with Cutler. The mainstream media has told everyone hundreds of times that Cutler will be good since he is reuniting with Adam Gase. The problem is, Cutler has never really been that great. No one cares about how good his arm is and how he moves well outside of the pocket, the dude is 34 and has only made the playoffs once.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

Don’t sleep on Jarvis Landry emerging as a top receiver (billboard.com)

Still, Cutler is joining a really good roster. Jay Ajayi cleared concussion protocol and looks to be ready to go. Ajayi is coming off a huge year, in which he had over 1,200 rushing yards, including three games of at least 200 yards on the ground.

Jarvis Landry is probably the most underrated wide out in the game. Kenny Stills is a great deep target, and DeVante Parker has shown potential of being legit. Julius Thomas’ reunion with Adam Gase could be special.

The loss of Branden Albert hurts the line, but Laremy Tunsil’s move to left tackle could be a good one. Hopefully Mike Pouncey can stay healthy for the entire season as well.

Whether you respect him or not, Ndamukong Suh is a beast. Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes and first-rounder Charles Harris should all be key factors in slowing down the opposition’s running game. Byron Maxwell is a good fit in Miami, and Reshad Jones, who is coming off a major injury, looks to get back to his 2015 Pro-Bowl self. Veterans Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso will also be important in making sure the Dolphin’s don’t end up the 30th ranked defense again.

As you can see, this roster is full of talent. Unfortunately, Cutler and the Dolphins will fall just short. The most games Cutler has ever won is 10, which was done in his age 27 and 29 season. At 34, I can see Cutler helping this talented team to eight or nine wins, but nothing more.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

“GO CHARGERS GO” *Arnold Schwarzenegger voice*. Just like in the 2013-14 NFL season, the AFC West will be sending three teams into the playoffs. Philip Rivers is awesome and is going to be a Hall of Famer. Although he threw a lot of picks last year, River is a savvy vet and has never had back-to-back years with at least 16 interceptions.

After not scoring a single touchdown in his rookie season, Melvin Gordon decided to be good at football again. During his sophomore campaign, Gordon had 12 total touchdowns. Their offensive line isn’t great, but you should still expect Gordon to eclipse his first 1,000 yard rushing season.

The Chargers expect this year’s first-round pick, former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, to be back in October. Williams will join Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin, both guys who can make serious plays. Antonio Gates is somehow still in the league, and his successor, Hunter Henry, played really well last year.

Jason Verrett is back, and Casey Hayward sneaky led the league in interceptions last year. Coming off winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Joey Bosa will man possibly the best defensive line in football. Melvin Ingram’s conversion from linebacker will be electric, and Brandon Mebane is back working with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, which is a huge plus.

Look, the defense is good. Philip Rivers is still a top-tier quarterback, and once Williams is healthy, the offense could be special. Even with a relatively hard schedule and a lot of miles to travel, the Chargers will win nine games and sneak into the playoffs.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

If you don’t love Andy Reid, you probably don’t like football. Since taking over as head coach in 2013, Reid has led the Chiefs to four straight winning seasons, including a 12-win season a year ago. The year before Reid was the coach, the team managed to only win two games. What do you expect when Matt Cassel is your quarterback?

Since Alex Smith took over, the team is 43-21. Alex “The Game Manager” Smith, won’t wow you with his stats, but his ability to keep his team in games by not turning the ball over is good enough to generate wins. The last time Smith had double digit interceptions was seven years ago. He has yet to lead a team to a Super Bowl, but he deserves a bit more credit.

AFC eye test predictions: 9-5

The Tyreek Hill magic will continue in KC (kansascity.com)

Although their offensive line is young, they are good enough to help move the chains. Eric Fisher has shown improvements after many people were skeptical about the former number one overall pick.

As far as running the ball, we should see a mix of some solid backs. When Jamaal Charles went down last year, Spencer Ware was able to rush for almost 1,000 yards. Charcandrick West is a nice spark off the bench, and Kareem Hunt could be one of the biggest sleepers this year.

With these three heads, along with Tyreek Hill mixing in a few big runs, expect a productive rushing season for Kansas City.

With Maclin gone, Hill should step into that number one receiver spot. All this kid does is make big time plays. Travis Kelce, although somewhat of a diva, is one of the best tight ends in the game. When the Chiefs won 11 games in 2013, Jamaal Charles was their leading receiver, so don’t worry too much about losing Maclin.

If Justin Houston can stay healthy, this defense will be an absolute force. Veterans Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are getting up there in age, but will still remain productive. Losing Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard hurts, but the emergence of Chris Jones should give this team one of the best front seven units in all of football.

Eric Berry is a legend, both on and off the field, and Marcus Peters is among the top corners in the sport, but after these two stars, there is a slight drop-off. Still, these guys are good enough to keep teams from testing them. The last time the Chiefs weren’t a top 10 defense, in regards to points allowed, was back in 2012, before Reid took over.

The defense is legit, Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the game, and Alex Smith keeps the offense on the field. This is at least a 10-win team.

 

Featured image by arrowheadpride.com

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Joe Flacco

NFL training camp injuries: The walking wounded

With last night’s Hall of Fame game, NFL football is officially back in our lives. While that is a beautiful thing, the injury bug is running wild through NFL training camps as it does every year. It is impossible to cover them all, but here is a summary of some early NFL training camp injuries.

Quarterbacks

While Shane Ray and a few other notable defenders will miss some time, most of the early injuries have been on the offensive side of the ball. The league’s most important position is no exception.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a herniated disc in his back. That is really all anyone knows for sure. Reports have Flacco missing anywhere from a single week to six weeks.  The front office in Baltimore has said a lot while doing very little in regards to controversial former 49ers signal caller Colin Kaepernick.

Miami Dolphins

Photo: cbssports.com

The training camp reports on current backup Ryan Mallett have been far from glowing. Combine that with the fact the Kaepernick chatter has not exactly been squashed, and the whole situation becomes worth monitoring.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a non-contact injury to the same knee that was hurt at the end of last year. The results of his MRI showed no structural damage in the knee, however there’s no timetable for his return. Any sort of long term injury to Tannehill would be very difficult to overcome and a possible momentum killer for a franchise that surprised many by making the playoffs last year.

As far as backup quarterbacks go, Matt Moore is one of the best around. Even so, he is the backup for a reason.

Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are also not doing much early in training camp due to lingering effects from offseason surgeries.

Offensive lines

You cannot put offensive lineman on your fantasy football team. Thus, many people do not pay much attention to them. However, the offensive line is a key element to any great football team.

Quarterback is just the beginning of the issues in Baltimore. The group that will protect whoever is throwing the ball for the Ravens this year is already shuffling. Marshal Yanda has been one of the best offensive lineman in the game for the last handful of years, but he is also not fully healthy from offseason surgery.

Forrest Lamp

Photo: San Diego Union Tribune

Additionally, center/guard John Urschel suddenly retired a few days ago to further pursue his academic career. Also, rookie guard Nico Siragusa is already out for the year with a knee injury. John Harbaugh’s team may very well have to mix and match on the offensive line well into the regular season. That never turns out well.

Keeping Philip Rivers upright and away from the freakishly talented pass rushers of the AFC West has been a challenge for the Chargers in recent years. Rookie guard Forrest Lamp was supposed to help change that. However, the second-round pick is out for the year with a torn ACL.

The Ravens and Chargers already faced uphill battles in highly competitive divisions this year. Offensive line issues at the very beginning of training camp are a nightmare for any coaching staff to deal with.

Wide Receivers

The injuries are piling up elsewhere. Speedy Texans wideout Will Fuller is sidelined indefinitely with a broken collarbone. Chargers first-round pick Mike Williams may also miss extended time. The former favorite target of Deshaun Watson is dealing with a bad back.

The only thing coaches and fans should really hope for this time of year is for every player that goes down to get back up. We all know that it does not always happen that way. Training camp is our first yearly reminder of what a war of attrition the NFL can be.

 

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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.

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Houston Texans

How The Houston Texans Can Win The Super Bowl

The AFC South has been one of the worst divisions in football for two years now. The Houston Texans have won the AFC South both seasons with back-to-back 9-7 records.

The biggest problem for the Texans is the lack of consistent quarterback play. The Texans started four different quarterbacks in 2015: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden. They started two more quarterbacks last season: Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage.

Starting six quarterbacks in two years is not the formula to winning the Super Bowl, but they are really close.

Super Bowl Defense

Houston Texans

(Photo Credit: Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )

Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. The Seahawks’ defense was so dominant four years ago that it led them to a 43-8 Super Bowl victory. The Patriots came up with a goal-line interception three years ago to the win the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos had one of the best defenses in the NFL two seasons ago and shut down the top scoring offense to beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. The Patriots came back down from 28-3 this past February to win the Super Bowl. That could not have happened if their defense didn’t shut down the high-flying Falcons offense.

The Texans have a defense capable of playing to the level of all these other defenses. Houston allowed the fewest yards in the NFL last season at 301 per game. They also allowed the second-fewest passing yards.

Houston also has the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. He only played in three games last season, which makes what Houston’s defense did more impressive.

Watt is a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, which is tied for most all-time with Lawerence Taylor. Adding him back to the mix makes them an elite defense.

The Texans also finally saw the emergence of former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who had six sacks last season. Clowney’s amazing play doesn’t show up in the stats. He constantly received double teams without Watt in the lineup, but still made plays. In the Wild Card game against the Raiders, he made an incredible interception that took over the game.

These two great defenders will make one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. The Texans also have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, headlined by Brian Cushing and Whitney Mercilus. If the secondary can make up for the loss of A.J. Bouye, they could contend for the best defense in the NFL.

What Is Missing?

It is no secret that the Texans need to improve offensively. Houston’s offensive line ranked 18th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. They must improve both guard positions if they want to improve the overall line play.

Running back is not an issue of concern. Lamar Miller finished 10th in the NFL with 1,073 yards in just 14 games. Alfred Blue is also a solid backup to Miller.

The receiving corp is solid with Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller, but headlined by DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 189 receptions, 2,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Those stats are impressive with six different quarterbacks over two years.

It all comes back to quarterback play. The Texans are a quarterback away from being the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC. There is one quarterback perfect for the Texans that they need to get.

The Missing Piece

Houston Texans

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

Houston threw millions at an unproven Brock Osweiler and it failed miserably. Osweiler has since been traded to the Browns and the only quarterbacks on the Texans’ roster are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. These quarterbacks won’t even win the division, let alone a Super Bowl. So what should the Texans do?

The Texans could find a quarterback in the draft, but most analysts feel there are no NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft. Free agency is always an option and Houston was hoping to get Tony Romo, but he retired. Jay Cutler is available, but that option could be just as bad or worse than what they already have.

That leaves only one option, a trade. The Houston Texans should go all in for a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers for Philip Rivers. The Chargers are nowhere close to contending for a championship and Rivers is 35 years old.

Rivers has accomplished a lot in his time in the NFL. His career record is 97-79. Rivers has 314 touchdowns, 156 interceptions and 45,833 yards.

By most comparisons, he is the AFC’s Tony Romo. Everything he has done of significance has come in the regular season. His playoff record is 4-5 and couldn’t get to the Super Bowl with Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and future Hall-of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates.

This narrative could change with a trade to Houston. His career would be revitalized and he would have a three to four years to win the Super Bowl. He would have the necessary weapons to succeed; such as a running game and a top 10 receiver in the NFL. The Texans would have a top five defense and an offense capable of keeping pace on the scoreboard with any team in the NFL.

Houston, if you want to win the Lombardi Trophy, trade for Phillip Rivers.

 

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Los Angeles Chargers NFL 2017 Draft Profile

Los Angeles Chargers 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Welcome to day seven of TGH Draftmas. Today we look at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Chargers Summary

2017 will be a big year for the Los Angeles Chargers. To start, they are moving from 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium to 27,000-seat StubHub Center. They will be hoping that the move to Los Angeles will leave behind the disappointment of the 2016 season. Finishing with a 5-11 record and 1-5 against teams in their division, the Bolts will looking to rewrite the wrongs of 2016.

Gus Bradley Los Angeles Chargers

Chargers new Defensive Coach Gus Bradley during his time at Jacksonville. Courtesy of Jaguars.com

The main area of need will be solidifying the defense. The Chargers finished up with the fourth-worst defense in the NFL, giving up a whopping 26.4 points per game.

The Bolts have started to address these issues by picking up former Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley to be their defensive coordinator. Bradley will likely look to change the Chargers’ defense to a 4-3 set up, as oppose to their previous 3-4 set up.

As expected it has been a quiet free agency for Los Angeles, with a focus on resigning players rather than making any dramatic moves.

Having resigned Melvin Ingram, Jahleel Addae, Kellen Clemens and Damion Square, it seems as if the Chargers will focus on the draft to fill some holes.

The one move they have made is signing left tackle Russell Okung. The former Broncos man is a welcome addition to the Chargers offensive line and a nice upgrade over King Dunlap.

With sell-out crowds expected at the StubHub Center all season, fans will be hoping that they can get some game changers in the draft to propel them to victory.

Chargers Picks and Needs

The Chargers have seven picks in this draft. They will be hoping that they can use these to add some much-needed depth.

First round: (1) No. 7

Second Round: (1) No. 38

Third Round: (1) No. 71

Fourth Round: (1) No. 113

Fifth Round: (1) No. 151

Sixth Round: (1) No. 190

Seventh Round: (1) No. 225

With seven picks, Los Angeles will be hoping to lay the foundations for a strong season. The Chargers have a strong front four defensively, so they will likely look to solidify in the back field. On the offensive side, a long-term replacement for 35-year-old Philip Rivers may be picked up in the later rounds.

The situation with Keenan Allen still remains a concern as he has suffered major injuries in the last two seasons. A decision will need to be made on whether the Chargers still feel he is fit enough to be their number one receiver.

With this in mind, I will say the biggest needs in no particular order are:

Offense

Offensive Tackle

Quarterback – A long-term replacement for the aging Philip Rivers

Wide Receiver – A strong receiver could be a consideration depending on the fitness of Keenan Allen

Defense

Safety

Cornerback

Chargers Targets and Thoughts

Let’s take a look at the first three rounds. As with the other Draftmas profiles, there will be no trades.

First Round:

Malik Hooker Chargers Draft

Courtesy of Cleveland.com

Pick #7: Malik Hooker S, Ohio State

The Chargers need a safety, and Hooker is the best safety in the draft, so it’s a match made in heaven. Hooker provides a combination of athleticism, range and ball skills which will see him go early in the draft. If Hooker is picked up early by another team, expect to see Los Angeles turn to Jamal Adams from LSU.

Second Round:

Pick #38: DeShone Kizer QB, Notre Dame

Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger. This would be the perfect time for the Bolts to pick up a future starter. Combine this with a weak class in terms of QB’s and the stage seems set for the Chargers to pick DeShone Kizer in the second round. If he is taken, Los Angeles may decide to abandon the quarterback selection and solidify the offensive line with options such as Cam Robinson and Roderick Johnson likely to be considered.

Third Round:

Pick #71: Taywan Taylor WR, Western Kentucky

Losing Keenan Allen to injury in the first game of last season left Los Angeles struggling with passing options. Considering they recently gave Allen a contract extension, it is likely that Los Angeles will look for a partner for Allen and Taywan Taylor seems like a good fit. With an impressive 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, Taylor seems like a perfect fit at the number two receiver spot.

Conclusion

2017 looks to be a year of rebuilding for the Los Angeles Chargers, as they try to win over the hearts and minds of the people of Los Angeles. They will likely look to lay the foundations for a strong 2018 by focusing more on depth than making any superstar additions.

Thank you for joining us on our seventh day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the Carolina Panthers!

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Joe!

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas below!

Draftmas Day 5: Tennessee Titans

Draftmas Day 6: New York Jets

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