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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A Glance at the AL East

We are almost at the 100-game mark for the MLB season, which leverages the rumors for October. Today, we take a look at the AL East, and the tight battle between Boston, Tampa Bay and New York. What will each team need to do to capture the division? What is Baltimore and Toronto failing at? Let’s take a look.

First Place: Boston Red Sox (54-42)

Chris Sale, after striking out the side (overthemonster.com)

It’s no surprise that Boston is in first place. Coming into this season, Boston added Chris Sale to its pitching rotation, which inevitably made the Sox one of the toughest rotations in the whole league.

In order to remain in first, the Red Sox pitchers need to continue to have great games on the mound. Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young award winner, needs to step up and finish strong for Farrell. Porcello is 4-12 in 20 games, with 20 home runs against him, the most homers allowed off any pitcher in the clubhouse.

Finally getting back from soreness in his elbow, David Price needs to go back to his usual dominant starts like he is capable of. Other than that, Sale and Pomeranz combine for 21 wins and a total of 299 strikeouts.

With Brock Holt finally back as well, you will see this lineup ramp up and get on a hot streak. Dustin Pedroia is dominating the AL since the All Star Break, batting .379 with 8 RBIs.

Second Place: Tampa Bay Rays (51-45)

Logan Morrison after he launches a ball (draysbay.com)

After the Rays finished last, and stood 25 games behind in the AL East, they strive for a full change this season. They currently sit in second place, being only three games behind Boston. What’s working for them this year that failed last year?

Pitching has been the Rays’ claim to fame this season. As a team itself, Tampa Bay sits in 5th out of 15 teams in ERA. Guys like Chris Archer and Alex Cobb have stepped up big time, and Matt Andriese has helped too.

On top of that, Tampa Bay is hitting the ball very well this season. They sit in third in homers with 140, and fourth in RBIs with 433.

Logan Morrison is on fire, and has 26 homers and 61 RBIs, leading the team in both categories. Corey Dickerson is having a dominant season, starting in the All Star Game last week, batting .310 which leads the team in average.

If the Rays continue to hit well, you could see them go from last place to first place from one season to the next. Archer and Cobb need to be consistent on the mound to gain first place.

Third Place: New York Yankees (48-45)

Aaron Judge: The leader of this team so far this year. Judge is leading the team in every hitting category, with the exception of one category: doubles. Yes, he leads the team in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging percent, hits, at-bats, RBIs, triples, home runs, runs and hits. All that for one player.

Aaron Judge hits a HR 450ft+ (nypost.com)

The Yankees have been in a weird position. You think they should be the best team in the AL East due to the crazy statistics that Judge is putting up, but they are descending in the standings game by game.

They are 4-6 in last 10, not to mention that Judge has three hits on 29 at-bats, batting a whopping .103 since the All Star Break.

The Yankees were in first place not that long ago.

In order to get back on top, they need more pitchers to do their job. Masahiro Tanaka is 7-9, with a 5.33 ERA and 27 homers against. Tanaka is letting up too many hits. Montgomery is 6-5 with a 4.09 ERA and a opponents batting average of .247.

As long as Judge does not slow down, this Yankees squad is capable of doing damage to any team in the AL.

fourth place: baltimore orioles (45-49)

Eight games behind Boston, the Baltimore Orioles need to pick things up, quickly. A wild card team that finished just four games behind first place last season is slipping away. What isn’t working for them?

Machado’s controversial slide into Pedroia (baltimoresun.com)

Simply, their pitching is at an all-time worst. They sit in 15th out of 15 teams in the AL for team ERA. Their ERA of 5.07 is good for second-worst in the MLB.

Honestly, there’s no hope in Baltimore making the playoffs this season. Kevin Gausman holds a 6-7 record with a 6.11 ERA, while Ubaldo Jimenez is 4-5 with a 7.01 ERA. It’s not been the best season for these starters. Baltimore sits in last in the MLB in BAA at .279.

It is also time for Machado to ramp his game up. He is currently batting .239 with 76 strikeouts, the fourth most on the team. Machado finished the 2016 season with a batting average of nearly .300. He was the leader on the team for hitting, alongside Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis.

This season could turn out to be a total bust for the Orioles.

Fifth Place: Toronto Blue Jays (43-51)

The Blue Jays stand 10 games behind Boston, and safe to say, they have little to no chance to capture the division. The Blue Jays finished with nearly 90 wins last season, and one year later they are on the outside looking in. What’s wrong with them?

Toronto’s hitting has been the biggest problem this season. Guys like Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson are not producing like in previous years. These guys are big-name players, and have a combined average of .233. It’s been nothing like other years where these guys have been the top hitters in the AL, and even the MLB.

Bautista walks back the dugout, after striking out (sportsnet.ca)

Troy Tulowitzki is not doing his best, but is still lights out at short stop. Bautista is probably the biggest disappointment for this ball club. He is batting .230 with 97 strikeouts. Not to mention, he had four strikeouts this past Monday against Boston.

The pitching is sub-par. They are fifth in the AL for strikeouts, with a total of 825. Marcus Stroman has been their most dominant pitcher. Stroman is 9-5 with a 3.10 ERA. Other than that, they have no other pitcher that has helped keep a consistent pitching rotation.

The Jays aren’t looking good for this season.

 

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

VIT wants to qualify for playoffs

How Roccat, NiP, Vitality and Monkeys make it into EU LCS playoffs

Each EU LCS team has five to seven series left to get into position for playoffs. Over the next five weeks, teams will jockey for a spot in the top three of their groups. If playoffs were to begin today, Fnatic, Misfits and G2 would represent Group A, and Unicorns of Love, H2K and Splyce would represent Group B. It would essentially be a repeat of the Spring Split.

But playoffs does not start today, lucky for Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team Vitality and Mysterious Monkeys. These squads still have a chance to muscle themselves into playoffs. The road ahead will be difficult, but not impossible. Here is the outlook for the rest of the split for these four EU LCS teams.


GROUP A

ROC

Record: 2-5 Schedule: MM, UOL, NIP, FNC, G2, MSF

ROC want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This is one of the most unpredictable teams. ROC served FNC their only loss in week three, but also lost a crucial 2-0 to VIT in week five. Their game record is 7-11 (38.9 percent win rate), but their series record is 2-5 (28.6 percent win rate).

On paper, ROC does not have much going for them. The team averages 1,059 gold behind at 15 minutes. They have the lowest First Blood rate in the LCS. ROC also sits in bottom two of the league for first turret rate, first three turrets rate, Rift Herald control and Elemental Drake control. According to OraclesElixir.com, ROCs early game and mid-late game ratings are ninth and eighth, respectively.

The only areas ROC relatively exceeds in are Elder Drake control and Baron control. They take 67 percent of Elder Drakes and 44 percent of Barons. Pridestalker has been instrumental in ROC’s objective control. The jungle, especially late game, has been ROC’s biggest strength.

For ROC to qualify for playoffs, the solo laners will need to improve. Betsy only looks comfortable with his pocket pick Vladimir. Although he puts out decent damage (445 dpm, 29.1 percent share), Betsy only participates in 60.9 percent of ROC’s kills, second lowest among mid laners. He is also one of three mid laners to be at a deficit in gold, XP and CS at 10 minutes.

Phaxi is in a similar, yet opposite position. He averages some of the lowest damage statistics of all top laners (313 dpm, 20.8 percent share), but does not start as far behind at 10 minutes. Phaxi is only involved in 57.6 percent of ROC’s kills, second lowest among top laners. He and Betsy will need to be more involved if ROC are to pick up wins against other EU LCS teams.

NIP and MM should not be too hard for ROC to overcome in weeks six and eight. Their series against G2 in week 10 will be critical. If G2 and ROC go 2-4 in all other match-ups, then this will be the edge ROC needs to force a tiebreaker based on game wins. Since ROC has proven they can even sneak series wins against FNC, they can reasonably take games off of any team. And if teams from Group B continue to beat Group A teams above them, then that benefits ROC.


NIP

Record: 0-8 Schedule: SPY, G2, ROC, MSF, FNC

NIP want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

NIP is at the largest series deficit in the EU LCS, but it is not too late for them to turn it around. The squad lost to MM at the beginning of week five, but then they came back to take UOL to three games on Sunday. NIP’s early game is their strength. They average 232 gold ahead at 15 minutes, fifth highest in the league. They have a 78 percent First Blood rate, which is second highest in the EU LCS, and a 50 percent first turret rate, fifth in the league.

All three of NIP’s carries average ahead at 10 minutes. Shook is the only one behind in CS and XP, but his 61 percent First Blood rate (fourth overall) more than makes up for it. NIP secures Rift Herald in 72 percent of games, second in the league. This early aggression is a great place to start building winning strategies.

NIP’s issues surround mid-late game. Despite taking first turret in half of their games, NIP are middle-of-the-pack for taking the first three turrets (44 percent), first dragon (44 percent), and overall dragon control (49 percent). Worse yet, they are last in the league for first Baron rate (17 percent) and overall Baron control (21 percent). This is a glaring issue that will inhibit NIP’s ability to win unless it is addressed. EU LCS matches are so often won and lost around a Baron call.

Vision control is another area where NIP needs to improve. While they have high wards per minute (3.76), they have an abysmal wards cleared rate (1.11 per minute). NIP clears the lowest percentage of enemy visible wards in the league (52.1 percent), and only clears 10.4 percent of non-visible wards. This gameplay aspect is crucial to mid-late game, especially strategy surrounding neutral objectives.

Luckily, NIP is in Group A with other struggling teams. In week eight, they face a G2 squad that is heavily underperforming. ROC is the other opponent that week, who has one of the worst early games in the EU LCS. In week 10, NIP will battle FNC, who also disappointed at Rift Rivals. Unfortunately, NIP lost this week’s less intimidating VIT match-up 2-1, losing any momentum from week five. If ROC, G2 and FNC falter, then it may just be NIP’s opportunity to climb into third place within their group and qualify for playoffs.


GROUP B

VIT

Record: 3-4 Schedule: FNC, G2, MM, H2K, UOL, SPY

VIT want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

VIT are a team that came out of week five trending upwards. They put up a decisive 2-0 victory over ROC by utilizing mid lane Corki and Kog’Maw. VIT mid laner, Nukeduck, has been a topic of conversation since Caps shared his EU LCS mid laner rankings and put him at number two.

The VIT solo laners generally hold things together for this team. Nukeduck and Cabochard average ahead of opponents in gold, XP, and CS at 10 minutes. Together they make up 54.7 percent of VIT’s total damage, the second highest top-mid duo in the league. There is a reason these two players have been on the team the longest.

The jungle is problematic, though. This is Djoko’s second split in the EU LCS, and he has not been able to make a name for himself just yet. While he contributes a decent first blood rate (44 percent), gold differential at 10 minutes (+123) and XP differential at 10 minutes (+59), Djoko’s kill participation is very low for a jungler (66.7 percent) and his death share is high (24.9 percent). On top of that, VIT’s worst metrics surround jungle control (46.2 percent), Baron control (42 percent) and dragon control (37 percent).

Part of the poor dragon control starts with VIT’s bottom lane duo. Steeelback has been criticized for “playing for KDA” in the past, and that argument could be made currently. He has a 3.5 KDA, which is highest on the team, but he falls behind by 10 minutes, offers the third lowest damage of AD carries in the league (434) and the second lowest share of damage (24.2 percent). As for support, Vander has the second lowest kill participation (64.8 percent) and low wards placed and cleared per minute (1.42, 0.27).

VIT has potential if they can resolve their jungle-bottom issues. As North America taught Europe at Rift Rivals, early dragon control can hugely benefit a team. Nukeduck and Cabochard are reliable in holding their lanes against other talented top-mid duos, but they cannot carry games alone. Steelback will need to contribute more damage, even if it results in more deaths. Vander and Djoko need to improve in the vision game.

The series against NIP and MM should be expected wins. SPY and G2 are certainly beatable opponents. FNC, H2K, and UOL will probably be the most difficult for VIT, but they only need to overtake SPY in the standings to make playoffs. It may just come down to their week 10 match-up.


MM

Record: 1-6 Schedule: ROC, MSF, VIT, UOL, SPY, H2K

MM wants to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MM secured their first series win in week five in a 2-0 victory over NIP. The addition of Kikis and Amazing has certainly improved MM’s overall performance. However, they still lost 2-0 to FNC and G2 since their arrival. This team has plenty to improve while working towards third place within Group B.

Kikis is the best individual performer during laning phase, coming out ahead 51 gold and one XP at 10 minutes, but two CS behind. Every other member falls behind in the early game. The bottom lane is the biggest offender, averaging a deficit of 230 gold, 232 XP and five CS by 10 minutes, lowest in the EU LCS. Altogether, MM’s early game amounts to 1,360 gold behind at 15 minutes, a 36 percent first turret rate and 21 percent first three turrets rate (all lowest overall).

MM is also in the strange position of having the fourth highest combined kills per minute (0.77), yet the lowest kill:death ratio (0.52). These numbers indicate that they like to fight, but often lose. CozQ sacrifices the third highest death share among mid laners at 22.3 percent. At the same time, he only participates in 58.6 percent of MM’s kills, fourth lowest overall. This lack of positive contribution in the mid lane will continue to hurt MM’s chances of winning unless it is addressed.

If MM are to rise through the ranks, they will need to focus less on skirmishing and team-fighting. Being overly proactive can be just as harmful as being overly passive. ROC and VIT are not out of this team’s reach. More of MM’s placement in Group B will depend on how teams above them play against each other. If H2K, SPY, and UOL can beat VIT, then MM have a better shot of moving up to third place. It may be the longest stretch of the bottom four teams.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir, Games of Legends

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Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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 fifth edition, Super Bowl series: NFC South.

Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

(Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Falcons are going to have to bounce back from one of the worst Super Bowl collapses of all time. After finishing the season 11-5, the Falcons marched through the playoffs with ease. They beat the Seahawks by 16 and the Packers by 23 to earn the crown of NFC Champions.

Atlanta then blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. In order to win Super Bowl LII, the Falcons must avoid one of the worst hangovers ever.

The key to the Falcons’ success last season was their offense. Getting back to the Super Bowl will require their offense to repeat last year’s performance. The Falcons ranked first in all of the following categories: points per game (34.1), points per play (0.55), points per second quarter (11.1), points per third quarter (8.5) and points per first half (18.9).

The reason their offense was so great was due to balance in yardage. Atlanta ranked second in yards per game with 416.4. The Falcons were second in passing yards per game (298.9) and fifth in rushing yards per game (117.5). Atlanta only ran the ball 42 percent of the time and in order to return to the big game, the Falcons should get their play selection closer to 50-50.

Their two-headed monster in the backfield, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman, will continue to take pressure off of Matt Ryan. Julio Jones will also continue to dominate defensive backs. Offensively, the Falcons shouldn’t be too concerned and their defense is where this team will really need to pick it up to make a return to the Super Bowl.

Atlanta’s defense got off to a slow start last season and finished 27th in points allowed per game with 25.3. That improved to just 20.3 points allowed per game in their final three games which ranked 10th during that time. If the Falcons can duplicate that final stretch over the course of the entire season, then the Falcons could easily become the best team in the NFL.

Bringing down that 25.3 points per game total begins with being better in the fourth quarter. In the final period of games, the Falcons gave up an average of 9.9 points, which was 31st in the NFL.

It isn’t difficult to see why the Falcons were so bad defensively in the fourth quarter. They played an average of 66.8 snaps per game. That was fourth-most in the league. The biggest reason they were on the field for so many plays was that the Falcons struggled to get off the field on third down as they allowed teams to convert 42.2 percent of the time.

The Falcons defense must improve against the pass in order to fix all of these problems. Giving up 272.9 yards passing per game is not a formula for success.

In order to make it back to the Super Bowl, the Falcons defense must improve and become a middle of the pack defense. Signing Dontari Poe should provide some help up front. Their offense is so good that the defense doesn’t have to be anything more than average.

If the Falcons are able to duplicate last season’s offensive numbers and become an average defense, they will easily get back to the Super Bowl.

Getting back is one story, winning it is another. If the Falcons do make it back, they need better play calling. Being up 28-3 in a Super Bowl should guarantee a victory. Atlanta must learn from their previous mistakes and run the ball more. If they avoid the hangover and do this, the Falcons will redeem one of the worst choke jobs ever and win the franchise’s first-ever Lombardi Trophy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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

Tampa Bay was very close to making the playoffs last season, finishing 9-7. The Bucs were a middle of the pack team both offensively and defensively and if they want to take the next step to make the playoffs, they must improve on both sides.

Defensively, Tampa Bay struggled in both pass and run defense. They ranked 22nd in both categories giving up 117.2 rushing yards per game and 250.8 yards per game through the air. Tampa Bay acquired defensive tackle Chris Baker to help them up front alongside Gerald McCoy. Defensive end Noah Spence tallied 5.5 sacks as a rookie and with an expanded role, should provide more pressure off the edge this season.

To help the struggling secondary, the Bucs acquired safety, J.J. Wilcox. Vernon Hargraves will need to have a big second season in order for the Buccaneers to improve defensively as well.

The defense has made changes but they won’t likely make a huge improvement. They gave up 25.3 points per game last season with 12 points per game coming in the first half. The offense is going to need to be on the field often to help this defense bring down a number of points they gave up.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs have lots of room for growth. Tampa Bay averaged 22.1 points per game last season.

The strength of their offense was in the passing game. Tampa averaged 245.4 yards per game and Winston improved in a lot of areas. He improved his completion percentage by 2.5 percent, had 48 more yards and six more passing touchdowns. The addition of DeSean Jackson and drafting tight end O.J. Howard could allow Winston to make a bigger leap in his third season.

The running game must also improve on its 101 yards per game. In five seasons, Doug Martin has only played a full 16 game season twice. In both years, he ran for over 1,400 yards. With the growth of Winston and Martin staying healthy, the Buccaneers could become a top 10 offense in the NFL.

In order to make the playoffs and win Super Bowl LII, the offense needs to carry this team. They also need to start defending their home field. Since 2009, the Buccaneers are 21-42 at home and went 4-4 last season. Tampa has to win at least six games at home this season. If the Bucs defense can be average and the offense moves into the top 10, then the Buccaneers can win Super Bowl LII.

New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

(Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org

The Saints went marching into free agency and got the best running back of this generation. New Orleans’ offense was one of the best in the NFL last season and they added Adrian Peterson. The Saints needed a lot of help on defense and did well to address that in free agency and the draft as well. They’ve set themselves up nicely for a run to the Super Bowl.

New Orleans has been held back by its defense over the past couple of seasons. Last year they were awful, giving up the second-most points at 28.4 per game. They struggled closing out halves giving up 11.3 points in the second quarter and 7.2 points in the fourth quarter per game.

What makes the Saints defense even worse is that despite only playing the 11th least amount of plays per game (63) they ranked 14th in rushing yards (101.6) and 31st in passing yards (273.8). New Orleans didn’t spend much time on the field defensively but got torched during that time.

Their biggest area of concern was getting off the field on third down. Opposing offenses converted 43 percent of their third downs against the Saints.

In order to get back to the Super Bowl, the Saints must improve in all areas defensively. New Orleans added linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o to provide this help. They also drafted cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Marcus Williams to deepen the secondary. These additions should go a long way in restoring the defense in New Orleans and get them back to the playoffs.

As mentioned earlier, the Saints had an unbelievable offense last season. They scored the second-most points in the NFL with 29.3 per game. The bulk of that scoring came in the second half. New Orleans averaged 15.2 points in the second half last season, ranking first in the NFL. The Saints were first in yards per game (426), first downs per game (24.7) and passing yards per game (317.1).

Trading Brandin Cooks was OK because of the stellar rookie season Michael Thomas had. The rookie had 92 receptions, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns emerging as Drew Brees’ favorite weapon. The addition of Ted Ginn will help replace Cooks but Brees has made a career of turning receivers into stars. The passing game will not suffer from the loss of Cooks.

The offense just needs to continue doing what they have been doing. They already help keep the defense off the field by holding the ball for an average of 31 minutes per game. The Saints offense also averaged 108.9 yards rushing last season. They can’t do much more to help the team win.

All of New Orleans’ hopes and dreams rest on the defense. Drew Brees and the rest of this offense have carried the team on their shoulders for far too long. If the defense can improve just a little bit, then the Saints can become Super Bowl contenders.

Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC South

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

Cam Newton and the Panthers had a major Super Bowl hangover last season. They went from 15-1 to 6-10 and looked like a completely different team. With Cam Newton on your team, you always have a shot to make it to the Super Bowl again. It won’t take much for the Panthers to capture the magic they had in 2015.

The Panthers averaged 343.7 yards per game which were a 24-yard dropoff from 2015. They also went from rushing for 141.9 yards per game to 113.4 yards per game. In order for the Panthers to get to the Super Bowl, they must get back to the numbers they put up in 2015.

Carolina averaged 23.1 points per game and they were pretty consistent putting up points throughout the course of the game. The Panthers scored an average of 12 points in the first half and 11.1 points in the second half. They could improve on their scoring if they improve their third down conversion rate of 37 percent.

The Panthers must begin to run more like they did in 2015 in order to get back to the big game. They called a running play only 43 percent of the time. Along with this, the Panthers must cash out in the red zone. Carolina only scored on 59 percent of their red zone trips. Improving in these areas can turn the Panthers back into an elite team.

On the defensive side of the ball, it starts with the secondary. The Panthers ranked 28th in passing, giving up 268.2 yards per game. The defense also went from giving up 19.5 points per game in 2015 to 25.1 points per game last season. Part of the problem was the amount of time the Panthers spent of the field. Carolina ranked 22nd in plays with 64.7 per game. This caused them to give up the most fourth quarter points in the NFL last season at 10.7.

Stopping the pass and giving up fewer points will go a long way in making the Panthers Super Bowl contenders again. Offensively, the addition of Matt Kalil, Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel will help Cam Newton become an MVP candidate once again. If the Panthers mirror the team they were in 2015, then not only will they get back to the Super Bowl, but this time they will win it.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC South. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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Does cash rule everything? An in-depth look at the relationship between spending and winning in the MLB

As money continues to play a major role in professional sports, I decided to examine if cash really rules everything in regards to winning the World Series in Major League Baseball.

THE BASICS 

To understand spending in baseball, one must consider all the different ways that a team can create income. To keep it simple, there are four main ways a team can get money. One way, the sport, is the (according to Forbes) “portion of a team’s value attributable to revenue shared among all teams.”

Another is the market. In baseball, it is common for teams to be split up into two categories: big-market teams and small-market teams. Big-market teams are those who play in the nation’s consolidated statistical metropolitan areas (CSMA). Small-market is the opposite, as teams that play in smaller CSMA’s.

An example of big-market teams are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees/Mets and Chicago Cubs/White Sox. Small-market teams are squads like the Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers.

The big-market teams usually attract more fans, which leads to higher ticket prices. This usually leads to big-market teams spending more on players because they can afford to. All in all, Forbes explains how “larger ticket sales and higher ticket prices together increase a team’s revenue, allowing team owners to reinvest more money into their organization while still turning a profit.”

Tampa Bay Rays empty stadium. (Rays Index)

It is important to note that, just like in anything, there are exceptions. Sometimes, big-market teams cut payroll, while small-market teams increase theirs, in hopes of drawing more fans.

The third way a franchise can receive money is through their stadium. This includes their home games, premium seating and any non-baseball events that the stadium hosts.

Lastly, the team’s brand is of course a major cash cow. With all this being said, it is clear that certain teams will have way more income, in which they can spend on payroll to create a better team.

Unlike all other major sports, the MLB does not have a salary cap. This means that as long as a team can afford it, they can buy whatever and whoever they want. No matter what, the Yankees will always be able to afford anyone, unlike the Royals, who must intelligently create a winning roster with limited cash.

Let’s use the Royals and Yankees as an example to show the massive differential in payroll. In 2011, the Yankees payroll exceeded $200 million dollars. The Royals that year? A little over $38 million. Yankees star third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, made $31 million that year. One player made almost more than an entire roster.

nEW RULES

Some rules were created in the past to try to create a competitive balance. A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was created as a way to share revenue.  In this CBA, all 30 teams are, by definition,  “required to deposit a percentage of their local revenues into a pot at the end of the season. Luxury tax funds and a portion of the league’s “Central Fund”- comprised of monies from television contracts- are also put into the pot.”

The luxury tax is a specific amount of money chosen at the start of each year, and the teams cannot go over that said amount. If they do, they receive penalties.

First time offenders must pay 22.5 percent of salaries above the threshold. Second time offenders must pay 30 percent, third time offenders must pay 40 percent and fourth time offenders (and anything after that) must pay 50 percent of salaries above the threshold.

Then, the poorer teams receive the majority of the pot.

Sure, it redistributes the wealth, but it still allows the big-market teams to spend away. The Yankees have been number one in payroll 13 times from 2001-2016, while being taxed over $300 million dollars.

QUICK FACTS

  • Of the ten World Series winners from 2001-2010, six ranked in the top 10 in payroll.
  • During the 2001-2010 seasons, 61.5 percent of the league’s playoff teams were among the top 10 biggest spenders. 23.1 percent ranked 11th-20th in total end-of-year payroll and 15.4 percent were among the league’s poorest 10 teams.
  • In the 2016 season, nine out of the 10 playoff teams were in the top half of highest payroll spending. Of the top half of spending teams, only one team (Angels) were not in contention to make the playoffs in the last week.

TABLES

YEAR WORLD SERIES WINNER OPENING DAY PAYROLL RANKING END OF SEASON PAYROLL RANKING
2000 Yankees 1st 1st
2001 Diamondbacks 8th 8th
2002 Angels 15th 15th
2003 Marlins 25th 20th
2004 Red Sox 2nd 2nd
2005 White Sox 13th 13th
2006 Cardinals 11th 10th
2007 Red Sox 2nd 2nd
2008 Phillies 12th 10th
2009 Yankees 1st 1st
2010 Giants 10th 11th
2011 Cardinals 11th 11th
2012 Giants 8th 6th
2013 Red Sox 4th 3rd
2014 Giants 7th 6th
2015 Royals 16th 13th
2016 Cubs 14th 4th

 

YEAR TEAM WITH LOWEST PAYROLL IN PLAYOFFS (OPENING DAY RANKING) FINISH
2000 White Sox (26th) Lost in ALDS
2001 Athletics (29th) Lost in ALDS
2002 Athletics (28th) Lost in ALDS
2003 Marlins (25th) WON WORLD SERIES
2004 Twins (19th) Lost in ALDS
2005 Padres (17th) Lost in NLDS
2006 Athletics (21st) Lost in ALCS
2007 Diamondbacks (26th) Lost in NLCS
2008 Rays (29th) Lost in World Series
2009 Twins (24th) Lost in ALDS
2010 Rangers (27th) Lost in World Series
2011 Diamondbacks (25th) Lost in NLDS
2012 Athletics (29th) Lost in ALDS
2013 Rays (28th) Lost in ALDS
2014 Pirates (27th) Lost in NL Wild Card Game
2015 Astros (29th) Lost in ALDS
2016 Indians (24th) Lost in World Series

 

ANALYSIS

The first table consists of each season’s World Series winner, as well as their payroll ranking. The most striking statistic is the fact that 16 out of 17 winners finished the season in the top half in league payroll. Nine of these 17 winners finished in the top 10.

What does this tell us? It is clear that the World Series winner is almost always a rich, big market team. Since 2000, 94 percent of the World Series winners have been in the top half in payroll to end the year.

The second table shows us the less fortunate teams, who were able to advance into the postseason. I went back and looked at the last 17 postseasons and found that low payroll teams are still finding success. Of the last 17 postseasons, 15 of 17 have featured a team in the bottom 1/3 in payroll.

HOW THE 2016 CUBS (4TH IN YEAR-END PAYROLL) BUILT A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM

  • The 2016 NL Most Valuable Player happened to be Cubs third basemen, Kris Bryant. Bryant was drafted three years earlier by the Cubs. The first 3-4 years of a rookie contract are considered the pre-arbitration years in which the team decides what the player’s salary will be. This is usually around league minimum. Since Bryant falls under this, his 2016 salary was less than 700k. An MVP who hit 39 home runs made under a million dollars.

    Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (The Fanatics View)

  • Their All-Star first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with the San Diego Padres. The Cubs were able to acquire Rizzo and one other player, for Andrew Cashner.
  • Jake Arrieta was acquired by the Cubs for Steve Clevinger and Scott Feldman. Clevinger and Feldman are two below average players at their respected positions. Jake Arrieta finished top 10 in NL CY Young voting in each of the last three years.
  • 2015 offseason: Signed Ben Zobrist (2016 World Series MVP) and Dexter Fowler, and both would go on to be All-Stars in 2016.
  • 2016 MLB trade deadline: Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman. Chapman went on to post a ridiculous 1.01 ERA in 26.2 innings in the regular season.

HOW THE 2003 FLORIDA MARLINS (25TH IN PAYROLL) BUILT A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM

  • 2002 Offseason: The Marlins signed Ivan Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame, was signed to just a one-year deal. He hit .297 with 16 home runs and 85 RBIs in the 2003 season, which was good for 23rd in MVP voting. He hit .313 in 2003 playoffs, and was named NLCS MVP.

    Josh Beckett during the 2003 World Series (PBS)

  • Acquired rookie Dontrelle Willis in March 2002. In his first major league season, making under $300K, he was able to win the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year with 14 wins and an ERA of 3.30.
  • In the 1999 MLB June Amateur Draft, the Florida Marlins drafted Josh Beckett second. Beckett would go on to win the 2003 World Series MVP. On the biggest stage, in 16.1 innings, the 23-year-old allowed only two runs and struck out 19.
  • Acquiring infielders like Mike Lowell and Luis Castillo in previous years played a big role in defeating the Yankees. Lowell and Castillo, who both were All-Stars in 2003, made a combined $7.7M in that year. Two star infielders for the Yankees, Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter, made a combined whopping $27M.

CONCLUSION

As we can see, money plays a huge role in the MLB.  The teams with more money clearly have a better shot to win the World Series. Buying the best players will usually lead to success, but so will smart moves and good drafting. The latter part of that sentence proves that all 30 MLB teams have a chance to create a winning team. That being said, cash rules almost everything in the MLB.

 

Featured image by Zimbio.com

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Ones to Watch – CWL Stage 1 Playoffs

The playoffs of Call of Duty’s first ever LAN league are upon us. With only eight teams remaining every matchup has the potential to be a thriller. While some games may be more clear-cut than others, in this article, I’m going to be looking at my players to watch for each match if the underdogs are going to emerge victoriously.

James “Clayster” Eubanks

Call of Duty’s longest standing rivalry goes head to head again in the first match between OpTic and FaZe. It’s a shame this game isn’t deeper in the bracket, making the action that much more intense. While it’s no secret that OpTic Gaming is the world number one right now, Clayster could be the catalyst for a FaZe win.

This FaZe roster has been competing together since Advanced Warfare. [Source: Gfinity]

Although the chances of beating such an incredibly dominant team are slim, if anyone is going to reignite the FaZe of old it has to be their captain. Clayster has won all types of championships ranging from Gold Medals to World Championships. A player like that only stays down for so long. We’ve seen him dust himself off after being dropped from Complexity in favor of now OpTic player Damon “Karma” Barlow, and later being kicked from OpTic themselves. There’s no reason why he can’t do it now.

There is no doubt that FaZe is a talented squad which they have demonstrated in the past; they are just missing that level of coordinated teamwork that OpTic and eUnited have. If Clayster can open up the series well, it could give the rest of the team the confidence they need to win. In OpTic’s YouTube series Vision, Karma stated that FaZe was the easiest matchup they could have gotten. It’s up to Clayster and the rest of FaZe to prove them wrong.

Josiah “Slacked” Berry

The match between Team EnVyUs and Luminosity is somewhat murky. Probably the least predictable of the lot, EnVy looked seemingly stronger in the group stage. However, they played worse opposition in Cloud9 and Mindfreaks. I believe that LG will take this series, but if they are to beat consistent players like Apathy and JKap, then it will be through youngster Slacked.

Slacked showed his potential playing for UNiTE Gaming back in Black Ops 2. Since then he has had a number of top finishes under Most Wanted, Elevate, and Rise Nation.
Since joining the organization Luminosity Gaming, the team has been unable to replicate the results from the previous year. They have flown just under the radar finishing 5th – 6th, 4th and 7th – 8th at the premiere events in Infinite Warfare.

Slacked won two tournaments under Rise Nation [Source: CWL]

However, LG made waves in group stages of the Global Pro League after claiming the second seed and taking a series off of eUnited. Their much-improved Search and Destroy was a reason for their boost in success.

Slacked had the highest KD ratio across all members of his team topping the board in that very game type, whilst competing for the top spot with the likes of Octane and Saints in Hardpoint and Uplink. If that slaying continues into the playoffs, it’s likely they will best rocky reigning World Champions Team EnVyUs.

Jordon “General” General

Since bursting onto the scene in Advanced Warfare, General has been hailed for his deadly Assault Rifle play. If his team Enigma 6 is to overcome giant-killers eUnited, then he will have to be at his best to beat his counterpart Alec “Arcitys” Sanderson.

General created the organization Enigma6. [Source: Dexerto]

Enigma6’s best game type in the group stage was Uplink in which they only lost once to OpTic Gaming. It’s no surprise that General led the fragging in that game type, controlling large portions of the map with his assault rifle.

At CWL Las Vegas, E6 took down OpTic Gaming in the group stage showing that when the pressure is off they can perform. In this quarter-final, they will have to defeat a team of similar caliber with much more on the line if they are to earn that place in the semi-finals.

Anthony “NAMELESS” Wheeler

NAMELESS proved to be a big threat in the group stages. [Source: CWL]

By now everyone is aware of the shocking feat Evil Geniuses achieved in the group stage. NAMELESS’ KBAR wreaked havoc in the latter half of group blue. However, their opponents, Europe’s final hope, Splyce has seen much more consistent results than their group stage opposition. If Evil Geniuses are to continue the Cinderella story NAMELESS will have to carry his form from the groups over into the playoffs.

Similarly to the other leaders in Clayster and General if NAMELESS can lead the team from the top of the scoreboard it will likely spur the rest of his team on to reach their heights.

An interesting note about EG is that they are a team capable of performing under pressure. This can be seen from how they qualified for the GPL in the first place and from how they bounced back in the group stages.

Splyce will be a formidable opponent with most people pegging them to take the victory. An intriguing stat on the Europeans is that they won 83% of their games despite being out slain in the majority of them. This shows that NAMELESS will need more than just raw skill to take them down, but I’m sure such a storied veteran is up to the task.

 

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Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day three of NBA Draftmas is here to trust the process. Philadelphia fans are itching for their team to become contenders. This year they take another step closer to becoming a playoff team.

Summary

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: ohn Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia has not made the playoffs since 2012. Their overall record since then is 109-301. The future is beginning to look bright despite the recent failure. The 76ers improved their win total by 18 from last season, showing that the process is indeed working.

Not all signs are pointing in the right direction though. Last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, did not play a single game due to injury. Their franchise center, Joel Embiid, also dealt with injuries. Embiid was looking like the hands down rookie of the year until he went down with a foot injury. This is his third major injury, and it is never a good sign when big men have multiple knee or foot injuries. If he can remain healthy, he is going to be a top-three big in the NBA.

The 76ers struggled offensively, averaging 102.4 points per game, which ranked 25th in the NBA. They shot 44.2 percent from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc. Those percentages ranked 27th and 25th, respectively. They also turned the ball over at an alarming rate with 16 per game, ranking dead last.

Defensively, the Sixers gave up 108.1 points per game. Opponents shot 46.1 percent against the Sixers. Philly needs to improve both offensively and defensively.

Like many teams drafting early, youth and inexperience plagued the 76ers. To develop into a playoff team, the talent inside the organization needs time on the court together. Simmons and Embiid must remain healthy for this team to start pushing for the playoffs. If they remain healthy and this year’s pick pans out, the 76ers should be geared to dominate the East relatively soon.

Picks & Needs

The 76ers have five picks in the draft, four of which are in the second round. This gives Philly wiggle room to possibly move up for a second first round pick.

First Round: No. 3 (via Sacramento)

Second Round: No. 36 (via New York), No. 39 (via Dallas), No. 46 (via Miami), No. 50 (via Atlanta)

The Sixers have a very solid frontcourt made up of Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Brett Brown has publicly stated that Simmons will play point guard. The Sixers still need a very reliable shooting guard who can get buckets.

They could also use some depth at the small forward position. Robert Covington is average at best and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is still young and developing. It will be highly unlikely that the 76ers draft five players. One of their late second-round picks could be used on a foreign player who may stay overseas for a few seasons, but five rookies would be too much on an already extremely young team.

Targets & Thoughts

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Pick #3: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Sixers need scoring help from the guard position badly, and Malik Monk is a scoring machine. The SEC Player of the Year averaged 19.8 points per game in his freshman season at Kentucky. Monk shot 45 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from behind the arc.

Every now and then Monk would go off with impressive scoring games. Monk scored 47 against North Carolina, 34 at Ole Miss, 37 versus Georgia and 33 against Florida. He showed just how great of a scorer he is. At his age, he can develop into an ever better scorer in the NBA.

Pick #36: Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson

Jaron Blossomgame is one of the oldest players in this draft. He will have maturity and experience that a lot of draftees won’t have. Blossomgame will be a solid scorer off the bench. He has nice length and size to be a quality NBA defender as well, but will need development in that area.

Pick #39: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

Frank Mason III could become one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. Mason has a natural ability to push the ball and creates quick offense. He isn’t afraid to attack the rim to get to the free throw line. Mason will be able to come in and play anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes per game and be a solid role player.

Pick #46: Alpha Kaba, PF, France

Alpha Kaba already has connections on the Sixers. Kaba played with current 76er Timothe-Luwawu-Cabarrot in France. Kaba is able to stretch the floor, something the Sixers could use from a big. Alpha Kaba would not come to the NBA this season and the Sixers could allow him to continue his development for a few seasons overseas.

Pick #50: Aleksandar Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

Aleksandar Vezenkov is a raw European prospect who is capable of some good outside shooting. Philly will keep Vezenkov overseas until they need him. He has the talent to play in the NBA one day.

Conclusion

The Sixers have another top-three pick that will help them continue the process. Drafting Malik Monk would push the Sixers into playoff contention next season. It isn’t going out on a limb to say Philadelphia will be a seven or eight seed in the East next season. Getting to the playoffs would be the first step. They need that valuable playoff experience for their young core.

In the second round, the Sixers have four more picks that would allow them to be flexible in the draft. They will draft a few players who will stay overseas. Philadelphia is not far from contending for a championship and this draft will push them much closer.

Thanks for checking out the Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day four of NBA Draftmas to see what the Phoenix Suns are going to do.

Day 1 Draftmas: Boston Celtics

Day 2 Draftmas: Los Angeles Lakers

 

Featured Image by Fadeaway World

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The Magic of Playoff LeBron

Last week the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards battled it out in a tough seven game series. On both sides of the court the players looked gassed by the end of the series. It was a toughly fought series that culminated with the exhausted Celtics barely getting a win.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers had 9 days of rest. Rumor has it LeBron James was channeling Rocky Balboa and climbing mountains in Russia during that time, but those rumors could be unsubstantiated.

We don’t often get the opportunity to see something like Playoff LeBron in sports. A player that has the unique ability to hit this type of gear in the playoffs is truly a joy to watch.

We’ve seen players in the past turn it up in the playoffs occasionally. Michael Jordan certainly hit another level in the playoffs, we saw Shaq do it in the early 2000s and Kobe had an undeniable killer instinct. But this is different.

LeBron James has not only been historically dominant in the playoffs, but he has done so for a ridiculously long period of time. LeBron is in his fourteenth season. Players aren’t supposed to be dominating in their fourteenth season, let alone performing at one of the highest levels of their career.

LeBron is encroaching on the territory of going beyond comparison. He continues to play at an incredibly high level with such longevity that his GOAT status may soon be undeniable.

This year proved to be yet another notch in LeBron’s illustrious belt. After leading the league in minutes through the first half of the year, LeBron seemed to coast through the second half of the season.

Sports media went crazy, and a narrative began to emerge about whether LeBron may have met his match with father time. Would his reign of dominate in the Eastern Conference come to an end?

The first round of the playoffs put those doubts to rest pretty quickly. LeBron is having what is likely the best playoff run of his career. He has put up insane efficiency numbers while shooting a high volume of shots, something that is incredibly hard to do.

The question of who is the greatest basketball player of all time may never have a definitive answer. Guys like Jordan, LeBron, Kareem and Wilt have put together such amazing careers in different eras that it is hard to compare.

But LeBron is reaching a special territory. Because there is nobody like LeBron. And there probably never will be anyone like LeBron. All we can do now is sit back and watch the greatest player of this generation dominate like nothing we’ve ever seen before. All we can do is sit back and enjoy.

(Photo by: LA Times)

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The Evil Geniuses – Lost and Found

The most shocking result of the inaugural CWL Global Pro League has to be Evil Geniuses topping their group last weekend. The squad consisting of Jeremy “StuDyy” Astacio, Anthony “NAMELESS” Wheeler, Jared “Nagafen” Harrell and Colt “Havok” McLendon not only surprised the majority of the community and analysts by qualifying for the playoffs but also in the fashion that they did it. Despite being the last team to secure their spot in the Pro League, alongside starting their weekend with a 0-6 map count, they would turn the tide in their favor with a string or remarkable results.

However, since this Evil Geniuses line up was conceived, the team has finish eighth at best on LAN, leaving newer viewers wondering where this new form came from. Even though these players have only just regained the limelight, Evil Geniuses consists of a few of our most storied Call of Duty professionals. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the history of these players.

Anthony “NAMELESS” Wheeler

NAMELESS is the captain of this team, and rightly so. The man is a veteran player with his competitive history starting further back than Modern Warfare 3. Known for his aggressive assault rifle play, he has attained a championship in nearly every single iteration of Call of Duty. His most successful year was with Team EnVyUs during Call of Duty: Ghosts, where he had two first place finishes alongside second at the Call of Duty World Championship. Back in Ghosts, on maps such as Freight, he was able to apply pressure across the map using the Remington R5, the strongest assault rifle, so it’s no surprise that when he picked up the KBAR this past weekend the team started to gain more success. The weapon enabled him to play still play outside the hill but also in and around it where he can, as the leader, more easily affect the flow of the game.

NAMELESS built this roster for Evil Geniuses’ return to Call of Duty. [Source: Evil Geniuses]

Experience is a must have for any leader to succeed and it was on show in the Global Pro League. There’s no way a team comes back from such a defeating first day without a leader capable of calming his players’ emotions. It is clear that NAMELESS was a huge determining factor in his team’s comeback the following day.

Jeremy “StuDyy” Astacio

StuDyy first broke out in Call of Duty: Ghosts and quickly became a highly sought after player. This landed him a spot on Team EnVyUs where he would first join forces with NAMELESS. The then star player was a contributing factor in nV’s second place finish at the World Championship, only falling to the demigod compLexity roster. During the same season, he would take his only first place finish at UMG Dallas with a Denial squad packed with youngsters. The man has been gunning for a championship ever since.

Originally being a star player, StuDyy has become an inconsistent player who could reach incredible highs or simply not do enough. However, now that he has Havok on his team, he can take on a more consistent role. This means that he does not feel as if he has to be a playmaker and can play as a second star who will turn up when needed.

One of StuDyy’s all-time peaks was at MLG Anaheim in Black Ops 3 where he almost single headedly took down FaZe Clan in a shock result. It was a true display of skill and I hope that in Infinite Warfare he can give us more moments like these.

Jared “Nagafen” Harrell

A piece of the near Cinderella story at the Call of Duty Championship 2015, Nagafen seems to have been unlucky in love with his lineups since the humongous feat. Team Revenge broke up after being unable to qualify for the MLG Pro League and Nagafen has not been on a stable roster until now. He has had notable placings, but the championships still elude him. The exceptionally strong Search and Destroy player is well aware of his ability to outplay his opponents.

Within the Evil Geniuses team, as long as he performs in the SnD, Nagafen should be able to play a kind of support off-role in the respawns to attain his team the victory. This type of player needs time within a team to find his footing, and maybe that time is now.

Nagafen competing with Prophecy at Gfinity Masters where he placed second. [Source: Gfinity]

Colt “Havok” McLendon

The last puzzle piece is one of Call of Duty’s only premier Twitch streamers. Havok has come under flak before due to showcasing his talents on stream and not being able to translate it onto the stage. However, this is something that takes time and, similarly to Nagafen, is more likely to build up on a stable roster. Havok is a player that can do it all – Search and Destroy, Hardpoint and Uplink – he is so skilled that just his ability to out-aim can carry him through matches.

After winning smaller LANs with iSolation eSports in Advanced Warfare, Havok earned his big shot on Cloud9 in Black Ops 3, only for the team to continuously fight in relegation. Hopefully, by being in Evil Geniuses since the start of Infinite Warfare eventually, he can be a consistent player that can be relied on in big moments.

Havok was ecstatic to make it into the Pro League. Watch Evil Geniuses’ video below about their crucial qualifying match.

Conclusion

This Evil Genius team has always had potential. They have tier one players, it’s just that they were left out of the roster shuffle at the start of the season. It’s quite obvious that the likes of StuDyy and NAMELESS have never played with the style of Nagafen or Havok, and so it has taken them a lengthy amount of time to band together. After such a long time, and due to earning the first seed, it’s likely we’ll see a strong playoff run from this squad. These guys are never far from the top and there might even be a championship for them just around the corner.


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LCK Finals: Telecom Wars Review

The Telecom Slaughter

Not even SKT1 fans wanted to see the blowout that occurred during the 2017 LCK Spring Split Finals this past weekend. SKT1 beat kt Rolster in a 3-0 sweep, with the last two games in the series being pitifully one-sided.

Game 1: SKT Victory at 36 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Elise, Syndra, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Shen, Lee Sin, Fizz, Varus, Lulu

Giving Han “Peanut” Wang-ho Lee Sin, a champion he was 9-0 on, was kt Rolster’s first mistake this series. But despite Peanut’s Lee Sin play, kt Rolster was able to take an early lead through clean rotations, opting for towers over kills. Kt Rolster was up in gold by 20 minutes, with Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho having five kills to his name. Kt Rolster lost their lead when Heo “Pawn” Won-seok got caught out around Baron pit. The next few skirmishes followed the same way, with Pawn going down before anyone else, oftentimes with his cooldowns still up. This eventually led to a 28 minute Baron, followed by another eight minutes of consistent tower taking.

Game 2: SKT Victory at 31 minutes

Kt Rolster: Fiora, Graves, LeBlanc, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Camille, Lee Sin, Karma, Twitch, Lulu

Again, Peanut picked Lee Sin, but this time he was able to snowball two early kills leading to a more one-sided victory than the first game. With SKT’s mega-Twitch comp, they only needed one lane to win. However, by 20 minutes SKT had decisively won every lane with exception of bot, which was ahead of kt’s bot lane, but not by much. The shielding from Karma and Lulu led to an ae at 27 minutes giving SKT an uncontested Baron that they efficiently transferred into a victory three minutes later.

Game 3: SKT Victory at 30 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Rengar, LeBlanc, Ashe, Karma

SKT: Gragas, Graves, Lulu, Twitch, Nami

SKT Peanut awarded MVP for LCK Spring Split Playoffs. Courtesy of SKT Twitter

Kt Rolster finally banned Lee Sin from Peanut, but it was too little too late. An SKT tower dive gone wrong left each team at two kills, but seconds later Faker was able to solo kill Pawn as Lulu into Pawn’s LeBlanc. This embarrassment was furthered as Pawn was given his fifth death at the 20 minute mark. You can ban Lee Sin, but Peanut will still take over games; Peanut’s Graves finished game three 11/1/9, earning MVP for the playoffs.

Just Faker Things

Being announced in the bonjwa throne, an armchair that has seated only three other outstanding esports players in Korea, Faker took the stage with as much force as he took the series. The bonjwa throne was originally intended for professional Starcraft players, who were dominate and unrivaled in their era as the title bonjwa suggests. Faker had taken the throne only once since this opening ceremony, during a 2015 World Champions preview video.

Watching Faker play is always a learning experience. Even playing against some of the League’s best players, he looks leaps and bounds better than them. Even the most subtle of maneuvers speaks to his skill level. At one point in game one, Faker’s Fizz was ganked by Elise, creating a two versus one that he managed to escape using a Control Ward he was keeping in his inventory. Faker throws the Control Ward into the brush along mid lane with the intent to disable enemy wards allowing him to juke enemy skillshots without the opponent having vision of him. While this foresight illustrates Faker’s ability to think about different future scenarios in the game, the enemy did not have wards in the brush he juked into. Not knowing this, Faker chose wisely in placing this Control Ward, as it could have been the difference between a kt Rolster first blood or just another failed gank.

Faker shows his mastery on Fizz by using his ultimate to initiate team fights every time it is up. While this led to a lot of whiffed sharks, the constant pressure allotted by Faker’s cooldown reduction heavy build, led to the skirmish after skirmish that eventually paved the way to SKT’s 28 minute Baron in game one. On top of this constant pressure, Faker input buffered his ultimate ability by casting it during the gap closing element of his Urchin Strike, making it the ability harder to predict and subsequently juke.

Faker showed his flexibility in the next two games, playing supportive mages, Karma and Lulu, and allowing his teammates to carry. Despite taking a support into lane against Pawn’s LeBlanc, Faker was able to get a solo kill as Lulu, taking full advantage of kt Rolster’s tilt in game three. Even at the highest caliber of play, Faker can appear to be on a completely different level than his opponents.

 

SKT to MSI

With SKT’s victory over kt Rolster, the team has earned their ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational. As the team stated after their quick defeat of kt, they are looking to train their hardest in an effort to take the international stage by force. We at The Game Haus look forward to seeing the competition at MSI happening in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from April 28 – May 21. For more Faker on the bonjwa throne check the video below, and for more League of Legends, check back on The Game Haus soon.

Image: Courtesy of Yong Woo ‘Kenzi’

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