Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers: Contenders Now

The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves 3.5 games behind Chicago Cubs in race for the NL Central division crown with 12 to play; also gain on idle Colorado.

In most seasons, it is with little fanfare the weeks of September pass lazily by for the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans. But wait! Hold on! To quote the fictitious Lou Brown “We’re contenders now.” Please allow me to gush about a team none of us saw coming.

Hell, I thought the Brewers last meaningful game would be on or around the first of May! I bet you did too.

Millennials Don’t Understand

Milwaukee Brewers

Legendary fictitious manager, Lou Brown. (Photo courtesy of: bloguin.com)

Many of the younger Brewers fans can’t recall how terrible this club has historically performed. They can’t wrap their heads around how brutal the dual division format was. There was a time when winning 100 games and missing the playoffs actually happened. Yes, really. They can’t feel the disappointment of finishing with 91 wins and being shut out of the playoffs.

The American League East was a meat-grinder in the 1980s. Millennials just don’t remember how hard losing out to the Red Sox by 2 games in 1988 was. This youngest generation of Brewers fans has been spoiled in comparison to us who are getting a little long in tooth these days.

I have to just shake my head at those who are overly pessimistic about the prospects of seeing meaningful October baseball in Milwaukee. Look alive out there! The Brewers are still in this thing!

Sure, at 3.5 games back they have their work cut out for them. But with 12 games left to play and with four at home against the Cubbies, all bets are off. Sure, they need to be almost perfect to take the NL Central crown but what would you rather be doing right now? Talking about the postseason? Or having a round table debate on how fast the Brewers will move Keston Hiura through the farm system? I know what I pick.

The Beermakers have had fairly consistent playoff baseball to look forward to since they slump busted their way to the 2008 postseason. Granted, they lost out in five to the Phillies in the NLDS but nobody will ever take away that lone series win for Dave Bush. Put that one in your pocket Dave, it’s yours to keep forever.

Ok, so the Milwaukee Brewers have not exactly been perennial playoff contenders like St. Louis and the New York Yankees. What the Brewers have done in the last decade however, is double their playoff appearances from two to four. This was all a long time coming too, 26 years between postseason berths is far too long.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s were the decade of bad music (disco) and horrendous Brewers baseball. From 1970, the Brewers’ inaugural season in Milwaukee, through 1977 they won an average of 69 ballgames. Over that span they put up an atrocious (.427) win percentage. Yikes!

Milwaukee Brewers

Unlikely playoff winner Dave Bush floats one in there. (Photo courtesy of: NY Daily News)

The only thing golden about this period of Milwaukee Brewers team history is George Scott’s five consecutive gold glove seasons manning first base.

After the 1977 season concluded Harry Dalton was hired as GM. This keen hire would ultimately change the hard luck fortunes of Milwaukee’s annual celebration of futility when Dalton wasted no time in hiring new manager George Bamberger.

The change in Milwaukee was sudden. In 1978 the upstart Brewers would post not only their first winning season, but suddenly found themselves in the thick of the AL East pennant race. They would romp to a franchise high 93 wins. However, Bambi’s Bombers would fail to bring the pennant home, finishing in third place behind Boston and soon to be World Champion New York.

As suddenly as this renaissance had taken place however, it appeared to be over when Bamberger suffered a heart attack at spring training in 1980. Bamberger would return after having surgery to repair his condition but he would not finish the season at the helm, resigning his post September 7, 1980.

Oh No! We Suck Again!

While it must have been a thrilling time in the early 1980s for Milwaukee Brewers fans, the period from 1993-2006 was anything but.

After the Brewers won 92 games in 1992 to finish four games off the pace of eventual world champion Toronto,

Milwaukee Brewers

The inspiring Davy Lopes. (Photo courtesy of: Reuters)

an era of 12 uninterrupted losing seasons ensued.

If you’re too young to remember much of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1990s, you aren’t missing much. Those teams left scars, man.

Perhaps no scar is uglier and more painful than the 2002 season.

This was the era of Davy Lopes. I’m sure Davy is a good guy in person, I wouldn’t know I’ve never met him. But his teams were a dumpster fire and of course, the front office had plenty to do with that too. I swear Davy Lopes was sleeping in the dugout during most games. And why not? After all, Glendon Rusch doesn’t really inspire anyone but the opposing fans dreaming of catching a home run ball. My god, their odds of catching one had to be about 50-50 when he took the hill, the bleacher seats were more like an artillery practice range.

We Brewer fans didn’t bring gloves to those games. Hell no. You wouldn’t dare. You brought your hard hat or didn’t come back. That’s just how it was.

Oh 2002, how I loathe you. It’s like a bad ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. The memory always there, haunting you, laughing at you. Reminding you just how bad things were. That’s how it feels to witness a 106-loss season finally cave in on itself, forever buried in the past. No grave marker, no eulogy. Just gone. Dust to dust baby, dust to dust.

Milwaukee Brewers Contenders Now

The Milwaukee Brewers are contenders, so don’t be sad. Definitely don’t be that guy. Nobody thought they would be here right now 3.5 behind the Cubs with a fateful four game series on tap for the weekend but only the most delusional among us (don’t worry we love your foresight). Yet, here we are and you’re going to have to deal with the Brewers if you want the NL Central.

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee’s first playoff team stands for the national anthem in 1981. (Photo courtesy of: onmilwaukee.com)

The Brewers right now are surviving in Pittsburgh hoping to keep pace with Chicago after taking two of three from Miami on the “road” at Miller Park. If that is a bone of contention for you, I urge you to please, contact the MLB office. I’m sure you’ll be the first knucklehead they’ve heard from too! Get over it, it’s done. I mean, it’s not like a hurricane was threatening to sink Miami or anything.

Losing Jimmy Nelson has hurt, he was just starting to get locked in and it’s an absolute shame that we’ve lost him. You know this guy wants nothing more than to be on that mound, trusting in his grind. I feel bad for him. But be that as it may the Brewers are not done, they are contenders now.

And you know what? I am not even going to hide my homerism here. How can I? It took 26 years at one point in my life already to suckle the sweet, sweet nectar of glorious October baseball. And let’s get real, postseason baseball is a white unicorn for anyone rocking the hottest gear in sports. The ball and glove logo of the Milwaukee Brewers is by far the best logo in MLB for sure, hands down.

And for the love of god, please don’t be like Randy Quaid’s rendition of “angry Indians fan” from Major League II.

Milwaukee historically doesn’t play many meaningful games this late in the year, and winter is coming folks. The long frigid winter. It chills my bones just thinking about it because we very rarely get to warm ourselves by the hot stove either. I urge you all to put aside the speculation on who the next Eric Thames-esque signing is going to be next January. That’s seriously about as much fun to think about as getting a root canal by a meth-head dentist who has since graduated to PCP. Sounds fun doesn’t it?

Let’s hold on to our boys of summer just a little bit longer! I’m headed over to Milwaukee this Saturday and I don’t even have a ticket yet.

What’s your excuse?

 

(feature photo courtesy of: gorillabaseball.com)

 

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports content from writers like Mark!

“From our Haus to yours!”

Unicorns of Love entered the EU LCS in 2015

A brief, heart-breaking history of Unicorns of Love

With the 2017 EU LCS Regional Qualifiers finished, Europe has chosen three teams to represent them at the League of Legends World Championships, and the Unicorns of Love is not one of them. This seems to be their destiny. UOL is always good enough to be a contender, but never good enough to be the champion. They have always had a shot at Worlds, but never reached it. They have made it into the gauntlet thrice, and lost out all three times. Here is a brief look at how the Unicorns got here, and why it is so heart-breaking.

2015

Unicorns of Love qualified for the EU LCS in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love entered the LCS in 2015 by defeating Millenium in the 2015 Spring Promotion tournament. UOL was promoted, while Millenium was relegated. Their roster included Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás top, Berk “Gilius” Demir jungle, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage mid, Pontus “Vardags” Dahlblom AD carry and Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov support. After Millenium took a 2-0 lead, the Unicorns were able to reverse sweep the series, winning 3-2. This was the beginning of the Unicorns’ legacy as wildcards in the EU LCS.

Coming into the 2015 Spring Split, UOL replaced Gilius with a new jungler, Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek. Kikis was known for his pocket picks in the jungle, such as Sion, Gnar or Shaco. In their debut split, UOL finished with a 9-9 record to secure fifth place and qualify for playoffs. PowerOfEvil was the only player in the league to be the weekly MVP more than once (weeks four and eight).

In Spring Playoffs, the Unicorns had to face fourth place, Gambit Gaming. UOL took them down 3-1, moving them into semifinals against number one seed SK Gaming. In a massive upset, UOL won that best-of-five 3-2. This win brought them to their first playoff finals within their first split, facing second seed Fnatic. The Unicorns took it all the way to five games, but fell short to finish in second place and tally 70 championship points.

UOL came into the 2015 Summer Split carrying momentum. They swapped Gilius back into the jungle role, while Kikis went to G2 (then Gamers2). In almost identical fashion, the Unicorns finished the split 9-9, but placed fourth. Gilius left the team going into playoffs, leaving Cho “H0R0” Jae-hwan as their starting jungler.

Summer Playoffs put UOL against Roccat first, who they defeated 3-2. The victory pushed them into an even tougher semifinals match-up versus an undefeated Fnatic. Getting skunked 3-0, UOL was forced into the third place match with H2K. A win here would send UOL to Worlds as Europe’s second seed, assuming Fnatic won in the finals. However, H2K crushed UOL in another 3-0, and Fnatic won the finals, sending UOL to their first EU LCS gauntlet.

Luckily, UOL’s 110 total championship points entitled them to a full bye in the Regional Qualifiers. Giants, Roccat and Origen would have to fight each other before meeting UOL in the final. Origen, a line-up that would go on to finish top four at the 2015 World Championships, made it to the gauntlet finals and took down UOL in a final 3-0. The Unicorns’ 2015 season would end there.

2016

Unicorns of Love replaced three starters for 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coming into 2016, Unicorns of Love decided to replace three of their five starters. Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi signed as their jungler and AD carry, previously of Gambit. Hampus “Fox” Myhre stepped into the mid lane from SK Gaming. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang remained UOL’s top and support.

UOL went through the 2016 Spring Split like past splits. They finished with a 10-8 record, showing strength against teams below them and weakness against teams above them. Most of their problems revolved around the jungle position. Starting in week three, Diamondprox had to leave Europe, due to visa issues. UOL borrowed Millenium’s jungler, Charly “Djoko” Guillard, as a temporary replacement. In week four UOL brought in Rudy “Rudy” Beltran, an unknown player, who was replaced in week seven by ex-H2K Jean-Victor “Loulex” Burgevin. These jungle player rotations hindered UOL’s ability to compete against more stable rosters.

This inconsistency came to a head in the Spring Playoffs when fourth seed Origen defeated the Unicorns 3-0 in the quarterfinals. UOL’s split ended in fifth-sixth, granting only 10 championship points. It was a disappointing placement that demanded change for the Summer Split.

In the mid-season, Unicorns of Love brought in two Korean imports to play jungle and AD carry. Kang “Move” Min-su came into the EU LCS after most recently playing for Gravity in North America. Kim “Veritas” Kyoung-min had played for Vortex, a North American Challenger team. UOL also signed Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, a mid laner with history on several European Challenger teams. Riot also changed the EU LCS regular season to a best-of-two format.

These changes did not seem to affect Unicorns’ consistency much. If anything, it hindered their performance. UOL finished the regular season Summer Split in sixth place with a 6-5-7 record. This line-up was clearly better than tenth through seventh places, but also a step below first through fifth. The Unicorns would go into playoffs as underdogs.

Once there, UOL was able to take down third seed Giants 3-1. Moving into semifinals, UOL had to face an undefeated G2. The Unicorns lost 3-1, which sent them into their second third place match against H2K. Winning 3-1, H2K pushed UOL into the Regional Qualifiers for the second year in a row.

With only 50 championship points, Unicorns of Love found themselves in a difficult position. Giants, Fnatic and Splyce stood in their way of going to Worlds. UOL defeated Giants and Fnatic 3-0, propelling them forward into the gauntlet finals again. 2016 looked like UOL’s redemption. Sadly, Splyce took the series 3-2, keeping the Unicorns out of Worlds for another year.

2017

Unicorns of Love signed Xerxe and Samux for 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This third year has been Unicorns of Love’s third opportunity to go to Worlds. In an off-season full of roster swaps, UOL made some questionable changes. Bringing in European veterans in Spring 2016 did not bring the success they wanted. Korean imports in Summer 2016 was not fruitful, either. For Spring 2017, the Unicorns brought in two low-profile Europeans, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort. Xerxe had played for Dark Passage in the TCL, but could not participate in the International Wildcard Qualifiers, due to his age. Samux had played once in the LCS in 2012, but was quickly relegated. He only played in the Challenger Series after that.

Riot further changed the EU LCS format to have two groups that play best-of-threes each week. This format seemed to suit UOL, as they finished the Spring Split in first place for Group B with an 11-2 record. Topping their group afforded UOL a first round bye in the playoffs. They were met by Group A’s second seed, Misfits, who the Unicorns defeated 3-1 to qualify for the finals. This was their first playoff finals over five EU LCS splits. They met defending champions G2 and lost 3-1. UOL was granted 70 championship points.

For the first time since entering the LCS, Unicorns of Love did not change their roster between splits. The team seemed confident coming into the Summer Split with Vizicsacsi, Xerxe, Exileh, Samux and Hylissang. But the summer regular season was slightly worse than spring, mostly due to problems surrounding Exileh and the mid lane. UOL put up a 9-4 record, placing second in Group B behind H2K, based on game score.

Quarterfinals did not look to be much of a problem, as the Unicorns would face Group A’s third seed, Misfits. Unfortunately, UOL could not take a single game, and lost 0-3, ending their playoff run earlier than expected. UOL’s 90 total championship points put them behind Misfits and Fnatic. Unicorns would go to their third straight regional gauntlet.

The Unicorns sat in the second notch of the Regional Qualifiers, after H2K versus Splyce, but before Fnatic. H2K took the victory over Splyce, which meant they could face UOL in a critical moment, once again. In a nail-biter series, H2K secured the 3-2 win, spoiling the Unicorns’ chances of representing Europe at Worlds this year.

2018

 

What will Unicorns of Love do in 2018?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What will Unicorns of Love do between now and the 2018 season? Every member of this roster has shown promise in 2017. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang have been with this team since their induction in 2015. Coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant and manager-mascot Romain Bigeard have been staples, as well. Xerxe and Samux have solidified themselves as LCS talents. Exileh may have had a rough Summer Split, but his high points are unquestionable.

Like splits past, Riot has already announced major changes to the EU LCS format for 2018. The LCS will be split into four domestic leagues with a greater league running parallel. UOL has claimed their slot in Berlin, as reported by ESPN, with Roccat and Schalke 04. The current two-group format has treated the Unicorns well during the regular season. Maybe this update will too.

Regardless, the pink-and-white have made their mark on the EU LCS since joining in 2015. Despite falling short of Worlds year after year, UOL has cemented itself as a top contender in the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet. European teams fear this organization as a competitor, because they know that UOL is destined for greatness. 2015 may not have been their year. 2016 may have been rocky. 2017 may have been heart-breaking. But who knows what 2018 may bring? Will falling short remain Unicorns of Love’s legacy, or will Love finally conquer?


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. 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 Thomas!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Misfits and G2 face off in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Finals

EU LCS Summer Finals positional breakdown

Sunday, September 3, G2 will face off against Misfits for the title of Europe’s top team. The winner receives the honor of hanging their banner in the rafters, and representing Europe at Worlds as the number one seed. The loser misses out on an EU LCS title, but will still travel to China as Europe’s second seed. This best-of-five will be a battle for glory, and it is shaping up to be a showdown.

G2 finished the regular season with an 8-5 record, good enough to secure second place within Group A. Fnatic took two series off of them, while Unicorns of Love, Misfits and Roccat each took one. G2 won their quarterfinals match-up versus Splyce 3-2, much closer than fans expected. They moved on to slaughter H2K 3-0 in the semifinals. This will be G2’s fourth finals in their four splits. If they win, it will extend their reign in the EU LCS to four splits, two years straight.

Misfits actually finished the regular season with a 6-7 series record. They were able to place third in Group A, one spot below G2. Misfits’ only win over a top six team came against G2 in week three. Fnatic, H2K, Splyce and Unicorns of Love did not lose series to this team. Misfits has upset their way into the finals by skunking Unicorns of Love 3-0 in the quarterfinals, then dominating Fnatic in semifinals 3-1. This is Misfits’ first appearance in the finals in their first two EU LCS splits.

Hussain is Misfits' coach at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Both of these teams have earned their way into the ultimate showdown by stepping up in the playoffs. G2 has had ups and downs throughout this split. They came into the summer season as heavy favorites, since they had no roster changes, and they made it into the finals of Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational.

However, G2 held a 3-3 EU LCS record going into Rift Rivals, proceeded to perform worst at Rift Rivals with a 1-5 record, then returned to Europe to close the season 5-2. These last two weeks of play have shown G2 return closer to form. They had secured wins against Splyce and H2K during the cross-group play, so G2 was not necessarily unfavored in their playoff match-ups. Splyce pushed them to the limit of their five-game series, and a successful Baron steal in game one tilted H2K beyond repair.

Youngbuck is G2's coach at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits has had a more extreme path to this summer’s finals. They came into the split surrounded by questions about their choice to replace KaKAO with Maxlore in the jungle. Misfits had finished second in Group A last spring, and finished fourth place in playoffs. This seemed to be a suitable finish for the newcomers, at the time.

Summer Split has actually been worse on paper. Misfits’ dropped to third place in Group A, finishing with a losing record. They had not beaten Unicorns of Love or Fnatic during the regular season. Misfits came into playoffs as severe underdogs, but they have silenced critics so far. This summers playoffs have shown tremendous improvement over their spring run.

In the end, someone has to lose. One of these teams will lose momentum in this final series. In the final stretch, either G2 or Misfits will slip up and create an opening for their opponent to take the series. Heading into their bout this weekend, here is how these finalists match up, lane by lane.

TOP

Expect is G2's top laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Expect

KDA: 3.5, 4.9           (reg. season, playoffs)

CSD15: +5, -1

DMG%: 23.7, 20.0

KP%: 69.7, 69.7

Alphari is Misfits top laner in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Alphari

KDA: 3.2, 9.1

CSD15: -3, +13

DMG%: 20.4, 23.8

KP%: 62.8, 70.2

Alphari has made much more tangible improvements coming into playoffs. Considering he faced off against UOL’s Vizicsacsi in quarterfinals and FNC’s Soaz in semifinals (first and third All-Pro), Alphari’s statistics are impressive. He had been much more pro-active in joining the rest of his team for fights; but, more importantly, his split-pushing has been crucial. Alphari’s strength so far during playoffs has been denying his opponent’s opportunities to join fights, pulling them into the side lane to answer his push.

Expect and G2 have had a slightly different top lane experience. In their series versus Splyce, G2 was unable to contain Wunder in the side lanes. The two top laners went back and forth with their pressure throughout five games. H2K’s Odoamne was held down, though. Expect dominated all three of those games.

Both players look comfortable on Gnar and Jarvan IV. These champions include damage and tank items, hard engage, level six power-spikes and decent wave clear for splitting. Alphari had a monster game on Rumble against UOL, while Expect has won all three of his Cho’Gath games during playoffs. On the flip side, Expect’s Renekton fell flat in game four against Splyce.

During the finals, G2 could try to corner Alphari off of Gnar and Jarvan. He has not shown a single Cho’Gath game this summer. Alphari has also shown a tendency to pull out Kennen, Camille or Kled, but he never quite played to their potential. Sure, Alphari could play Renekton or Rumble, but these picks are currently exploitable in the tankier meta.

Expect has a similar champion pool, except he has had success on the Cho’Gath pick. He is a slightly better Renekton, but a slightly worse Rumble, based on the regular season. Expect also prefers Jayce to Kennen, but did not win either of his two games. Finally, Expect’s Galio had a huge impact in G2’s game against Ninjas in Pyjamas, but that was back in June.

If Alphari is able to take a Gnar or Jarvan pick, then Misfits will have an advantage. Their playoffs have looked much more substantial than their regular season, and much of it has to do with Alphari’s denying his enemy’s ability to join skirmishes. Expect is a player who loves to move around the map to enable his carries, whereas Alphari’s teammates tend to not need him as frequently. If G2 draft the Cho’Gath, it may play right into Misfits’ current strengths, as demonstrated by Fnatic’s prioritization for Soaz last week.

JUNGLE

Trick is G2's jungler in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Trick

KDA: 3.4, 4.8

XPD15: +465, +278

DMG%: 14.0, 14.5

KP%: 71.7, 68.9

Maxlore is Misfits' jungler in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Maxlore

KDA: 3.7, 9.6

XPD15: -107, +194

DMG%: 14.3, 11.6

KP%: 68.0, 74.0

Misfits and G2 play somewhat differently around their junglers. Trick loves to farm. He has always had a knack for taking camps quicker and more frequently than his opponents, while his lanes remain self-sufficient. Maxlore is more likely to attempt to make an impact in his early levels by ganking.

Trick used Sejuani to full effect in G2’s win over H2K, and Jankos could not effectively answer. Maxlore had a similar effect with his Zac in Misfits’ win over UOL. Expect these two champions to be picked or banned in the finals. Trick has not looked comfortable in his four Zac games, and Maxlore lost his only regular season Sejuani game. Both junglers are willing to pull out Gragas.

Maxlore is widely considered more of a carry jungler than Trick, but do not forget that Trick was five for five on Kha’Zix during the regular season. Otherwise, Maxlore has won games on Kayn and Rengar during playoffs, so far. His most picked champion in the regular season was Lee Sin. While both of these junglers have drafted Elise when she was not banned, neither looked effective with her. Trick’s playoff Elise was game five versus Splyce, which went over 50 minutes. Maxlore ended the regular season one for three with the Spider Queen.

Over 15 EU LCS playoff games, Elise and Jarvan IV have been the most banned jungle champions (nine and five, respectively). Jarvan IV can be flexed into the top lane, which contributes to his 87 percent presence in playoffs. With these two gone, Gragas has been the most picked (11), followed by Zac (five) and Sejuani (five).

Since so many AD carries and mid laners are seeing bans, the draft may not see much jungle diversity, especially since Maxlore is not afraid to pocket pick. If Trick and his team can properly track, counter-jungle and counter-gank Maxlore, that may be a key to taking down Misfits.

MID

Perkz is G2's mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Perkz

KDA: 4.0, 3.9

CSD15: +2, -7

DPM: 579, 663

KP%: 70.8, 71.4

PowerOfEvil is Misfits' mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF PowerOfEvil

KDA: 4.2, 12.1

CSD15: +4, +8

DPM: 622, 587

KP%: 75.5, 81.7

PowerOfEvil has had an incredible playoff performance. He has had huge impacts on every single game. Perkz was a bit shakier in G2’s series against Splyce, but completely ravaged H2K over three games. This mid lane match-up is sure to be intense.

Perkz does seem a bit more aggressive in the laning phase, which can help or hinder G2 in this series. It will depend on how well his team members support him. Champions like Cassiopeia and Leblanc are perfect for Perkz’s playstyle. PowerOfEvil feels more calculated with trades and farming, but truly shines when he can roam and support his teammates. This is one of the main reasons that Orianna is by far his best champion this summer.

These two have played a combined 17 Orianna games, averaging a 17.6 KDA. Cassiopeia has been picked eight games, banned four games, so far in playoffs (80 percent presence). Both Perkz and PowerOfEvil recently crushed UOL’s Exileh with mid lane Lucian. PowerOfEvil has a worse summer record on Syndra (three wins over eight games), but two of those wins have come in two playoff games.

Throughout playoffs, Leblanc, Cassiopeia, Lucian and Orianna have each been banned four to five times over 15 games. G2 and Misfits could try to pinch the mid lane champion pool beyond that, but they would sacrifice crucial bans for the bottom lane. There are four marksmen, four supports, two junglers and four top laners (including Galio and Jarvan) with higher ban rates than the first mid lane champion.

Therefore, this mid lane match-up will mostly come down to execution. Will Misfits give Perkz enough room to play aggressively on Cassiopeia or Leblanc? Could G2 give over PowerOfEvil’s cherished Orianna? Will either of them have the guts to draft Lucian, or will they be willing to whip out an unexpected pocket pick?

BOTTOM

Zven is G2's bottom laner in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Zven

KDA: 5.2, 7.1

CSD15: +4, +1

DPM: 556, 659

KP%: 61.7, 71.4

Hans sama is Misfits' bottom laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Hans sama

KDA: 4.3, 11.3

CSD15: -1, -2

DPM: 469, 575

KP%: 70.0, 76.0

During the regular season, this bottom lane would be a completely one-sided match-up. But this is playoffs, and Hans sama has stepped up in a major way. Almost all of his statistics have improved, mostly with respect to team fighting. Hans sama has been much less of a clean-up AD carry, but much more of a damage-per-second threat.

Zven, on the other hand, has always been a threat. During the regular season, he was named second All-Pro for his heavy damage contributions in G2’s team fights. Historically, G2’s bottom lane gained larger advantages during laning phase. But, with the current state of the meta, scaling marksmen dominate the space. Zven is happy to assume that position.

AD carry champions are receiving multiple bans every game. Kalista has been 100 percent banned (15 bans over 15 games). Tristana has been 100 percent pick or ban (10 bans and five picks). Xayah has been third priority with seven picks and three bans (67 percent presence). Both Zven and Hans sama have shown strong Tristana performances throughout the Summer Split.

Splyce and H2K targeted Zven much heavier than UOL or Fnatic pressured Hans sama in the draft phase. So far, G2’s bottom lane has locked in Ashe, Caitlyn, Varus, Tristana and Sivir over eight games. Misfits has picked Tristana three times, Xayah three times and Ashe once.

This could be a weak spot for Misfits if G2 decides to pinch the marksman role. Hans sama has not played a single game of Kog’Maw, Sivir or Twitch this summer, while Zven has shown them at various points. For example, if Kalista, Tristana, Xayah and Caitlyn are banned, and G2 picks Ashe, what would Hans sama play? Varus was his most played champion in the regular season with 11 games and a 63.6 percent win rate.

At the end of the day, the power of these two will come down to team fight execution. Do not expect Zven or Hans sama to break open some huge lead in the laning phase. It will more likely revolve around how they position with regard to enemy crowd control. With champions such as Jarvan IV, Gragas, Sejuani, Alistar, Rakan, Thresh and Elise being such high priorities, the AD carry position is a huge liability. They need to shred down tanks, kite safely and output as much damage as possible.

SUPPORT

Mithy is G2's support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Mithy

KDA: 5.1, 5.1

KP%: 69.2, 73.1

WPM: 1.43, 1.56

WCPM: 0.37, 0.34

Ignar is Misfits' support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Ignar

KDA: 3.9, 6.1

KP%: 70.0, 76.0

WPM: 1.56, 1.32

WCPM: 0.47, 0.31

The Summer Split first All-Pro support faces off against the Spring Split first All-Pro support. Ignar has had a quiet split, following his explosive performance in spring. Known for his surprise roams and play-making, Ignar has returned closer to form since Misfits entered playoffs. His Blitzcrank has earned bans, and Thresh and Rakan are among his top-picked champions.

Mithy, on the other hand, has maintained a steady presence within the EU LCS. His performances allow G2’s carries, Zven in particular, to stay safe and dish damage. For this reason, two of his most played supports are Tahm Kench and Lulu. However, Mithy has come up huge on Alistar, Trundle and Braum in playoffs. G2 was able to take down Splyce in quarterfinals off the back of an expert flank executed by Mithy.

The gameplay dynamic between these two should be interesting. Ignar may be torn between babysitting Hans sama through a tough laning phase and roaming with Maxlore to impact the map. Mithy may decide to answer the roams, leaving Zven vulnerable in the bottom lane. It will heavily depend on the drafts.

So many bans could be targeted towards carry roles that picks like Rakan, Thresh and Alistar may be left on the table. That being said, Ignar and Mithy have both shown strong recent performances on enchanter supports, such as Janna and Morgana. G2 did find more success against H2K by giving Trick and Expect the primary engage tools, while Mithy played protectors, such as Tahm Kench and Braum. However, Misfits tend to rotate their players’ roles more frequently.

This finals match-up could actually be heavily influenced by the support role. A pivotal Blitzcrank or Thresh hook, a crucial Morgana Black Shield, an Alistar Headbutt-Pulverize; any of these could be a season-winning moment. This is not just another series to put under a team’s belt. This is the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Finals, and it could be one for the League of Legends history books.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com, OraclesElixir.com

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. 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 Thomas!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Misfits have qualified for the 2017 World Championships

Misfits: Europe’s newest international contenders

The EU LCS will be sending a new team to the League of Legends World Championship this year. Misfits are automatically qualified, since they made it into the EU LCS playoff finals. If they win the whole thing, Misfits would be Europe’s first seed team. If they lose the series to G2, then they would be second seed.

Misfits would finish the year with 120 championship points. Fnatic could tie that total by winning the third place match, but, as stated in Riot’s EU LCS rules, “In the event that multiple teams are tied in the standings at the conclusion of the Summer Split, then the team that gained the most points in the Summer Split will be considered the holder of the tiebreaker.”

Misfits’ qualification may come as a surprise to some, as they only managed to finish third in Group A in the Summer Split. However, they have blazed through the quarterfinals and semifinals. Misfits took down Group B’s second seed, Unicorns of Love, 3-0. They also upset Group A’s first seed, Fnatic, 3-1. This squad has certainly been turning heads, and G2 will be their last opponent for the Summer Split.

SPRING SPLIT RECAP

PowerOfEvil is Misfits' mid laner

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits came into the Summer Split with 30 championship points, since they finished fourth place in the spring playoffs. During the regular season, Misfits had solidified themselves as second seed of Group A, between G2 and Fnatic. This finish caused Misfits to play Group B’s Splyce in the quarterfinals, who they beat 3-2. Unicorns of Love booted Misfits in semifinals by winning 3-1. Finally, Fnatic skunked Misfits 3-0 in the third place match, forcing them to finish fourth and to earn 30 championship points.

During the spring regular season, Misfits’ losses came at the hands of G2, H2K, Fnatic, and Roccat. Misfits lost both of their series to a G2 that only gave up one loss that split. They also lost their one cross-group match-up to H2K. Fnatic and Roccat were both teams in Group A that traded wins and losses with Misfits.

On the other hand, Misfits won both of their series against fellow Group A team, Giants. They also took down all of the other Group B teams: Unicorns of Love, Vitality, Splyce, and Origen. That is why it was a bit of surprise when Splyce took Misfits to five games in the quarterfinals, and Unicorns of Love beat them outright in four games. Fnatic had really come into their element in the playoffs, so few were as surprised with their victory over Misfits.

CHANGES IN THE MID-SEASON

Maxlore replaced KaKAO in the mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

These shortcomings in spring playoffs must have been part of the reasoning behind the Misfits’ mid-season roster change. They added Nubar “Maxlore” Safarian as their starting jungler, dropping Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon. There was an official announcement from Misfits’ website, which cited “despite his fantastic individual performance, KaKAO had trouble contributing to communication.”

Throughout the regular season of the Summer Split, this change had not shown to be as impactful as anticipated. It was unclear whether or not Maxlore was a clear upgrade from KaKAO. Maxlore finished Spring Split with a lower KDA, an even damage share, lower XP difference at 15 minutes and a lower first blood rate than KaKAO. To be fair, Maxlore was playing jungler on a highly inconsistent Roccat squad, and he did show moments of brilliance. Also, if communication in and out of the game were of primary concern, then it is difficult as an outsider to judge how much that improved after the switch.

However, Misfits are feeling Maxlore’s impact in the playoffs this summer. Comparing his regular season statistics and performance with those of playoffs shows major improvement. His KDA is 160 percent higher (3.7 to 9.6), his warding has shot up from .82 wards per minute to .97. And he has flipped from starting 107 XP behind at 15 minutes to being 194 ahead. Finally, Misfits’ gameplay around Baron has felt much more calm and calculated during playoffs. This shift cannot be fully contributed to Maxlore, but his presence in playoffs has allowed Misfits’ Baron control to rise from 53 percent (2017 Spring playoffs) to 58 percent (2017 Summer regular season) to 78.6 percent (2017 Summer playoffs).

CHALLENGER SERIES TO WORLDS QUALIFIERS

Hans sama is Misfits' AD carry

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

All in all, Misfits’ 2017 season will culminate in their joining the short list of European teams participating in the World Championship. They will be the 15th team to represent Europe at the event. This is an amazing honor.

Some may not remember that this is Misfits’ inaugural year in the EU LCS. Misfits follow in the path of other European teams that have qualified for Worlds within their first year of joining from the Challenger series. Last year, Splyce and G2 both qualified for Worlds, and they had just been promoted into the LCS that spring. Origen qualified for the 2015 World Championship by winning Europe’s regional gauntlet, despite that summer being their first LCS split.

While Origen has since been relegated from the LCS, G2 and Splyce have maintained a strong presence. G2 continues to stay at the top of the tables and Splyce has remained a playoff contender in Spring and Summer Splits. Hopefully, Misfits will join their ranks to remain a consistent top European team. They will be looking to prove themselves in the EU LCS finals against G2. Then Misfits will travel to China to further build their legacy.


 

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. 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 Thomas!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Recognizing the MVPs of the NA LCS quarterfinals losers

The North American LCS Summer Split playoffs began last week with two quarterfinal match-ups. Cloud9 faced off against Dignitas. Counter Logic Gaming took on Envyus. Each of these teams had clear ups and downs during the split, so it was difficult to peg the favorites going in, except maybe CLG should beat NV.

However, things did not really go as planned. DIG took down C9 convincingly, finishing with a 3-1 series. Dignitas’ bottom lane, in particular, was able to shine. Although, every member of the team performed well. Cloud9 looked shaky in all but game three.

The CLG-NV match-up was even closer, with CLG barely edging out NV 3-2. Various members on both teams had highlight moments, as each adaptation came through. Rookies and veterans faced off in an exciting five game series, but CLG did close out game five, thanks mostly to Darshan’s success with Camille.

Cloud9 and NV left the arena disappointed. C9 has a long history of playoff success within the North American region, including the finals of the Spring Split this year. NV pulled themselves up from 10th place last split to a spot in playoffs. Even though they were so close to pushing through into semifinals, it fell just beyond their grasp.

There is a specific player from each team that deserves recognition for stepping up in quarterfinals. These are players who put their carry pants on, and did what was needed for their teams. Here are two players that proved to be most valuable to Cloud9 and Envy during the first round of playoffs. Each should feel proud of their contributions.

C9 Jensen

Jensen is C9's MVP of quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Jensen found himself in a central position with Cloud9 during quarterfinals. Many of C9’s compositions revolved around Jensen and Sneaky dishing damage, while Impact, Contractz and Smoothie acted as utility tanks. Jensen held up his end of the deal. The rest of the team did not.

On Cassiopeia, Jensen prioritized farming over early skirmishes. In game one, C9’s top lane, jungler and bottom lane had ceded kills before 17 minutes, while only securing one in exchange. In game two, the early game was a bit less lop-sided, but still in DIG’s favor. Jensen did get caught out at Baron around 29 minutes, which swung the game heavily to C9’s disadvantage. However, he followed it up with a crucial four-man Petrifying Gaze at 34:20 to completely deflate DIG’s pressure.

In game three, Jensen completely dominated. His mid lane Lucian was 5-0-2 around 25 minutes, and never really got shut down. Contractz looked much better on Elise, bringing more early game pressure. Of course, part of their advantage came from Shrimp’s curveball Nocturne pick, which did not have a large influence on the game. The Lucian was locked in again in game four, but did not have as strong an effect, due to the low effectiveness of Impact’s Galio and the losing bottom lane. Jensen was still able to finish with a 3-2-7 scoreline.

Considering how threatening Ssumday’s Maokai was throughout this series, it is impressive how many fights Jensen came out alive in. Despite losing the series 3-1, Jensen’s statistics were still powerful. He averaged 19 CS ahead of Keane at 15 minutes. He did 33 percent of Cloud9’s damage. 81.7 percent kill participation and a 5.5 KDA are strong on a winning line-up, let alone one that lost.

NV Nisqy

Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the more one-sided series going into the quarterfinals, Counter Logic Gaming versus Envy was much closer than expected. CLG took game one, NV responded with two wins of their own, and then CLG closed out the final two games, finishing 3-2. In all but the final game, NV actually had the lead at 20 minutes. However, CLG’s mid-late game fighting proved more effective, particularly around Baron.

Despite the series loss, NV’s mid laner, Nisqy, truly proved himself. He showed a wide range of champions and playstyles, locking in Cassiopeia, Corki, Galio and Kog’Maw throughout the match-up. Nisqy finished the best-of-five with a 5.2 overall KDA, going deathless in NV’s victories.

Nisqy came out of the gate in game one with an aggressive play in CLG’s jungle to pick up two kills, evening out an invade gone wrong. CLG responded with a mid lane gank to shut him down. After Omargod stole the Baron from NV afterwards, there was very little they could do. Every member of CLG got ahead, and the long distance engage of Zac made NV’s carries easy targets.

In games two and three, Nisqy had a huge impact. His Galio ultimates at eight minutes and 25 minutes were crucial for turning around teamfights targeting Apollo. Nisqy expertly utilized Galio’s zoning and crowd control to split up CLG’s carries and tanks. His Corki roam around 16 minutes resulted in a triple kill, and every teamfight for game three he dished out massive damage.

NV’s game four loss could be mostly attributed to their lack of reliable engage. Seraph’s Cho’Gath, LiRa’s Rek’Sai and Hakuho’s Nautilus could never pull off the necessary initial engagement to set up Nisqy’s Hero’s Entrance. Without the proper team-wide execution, the Galio fell flat.

They switched up their composition in game five by drafting Kog’Maw in the mid lane. Nisqy’s damage output came up huge, particularly in the 32:30 teamfight. Unfortunately, Seraph’s Gnar could not overcome Darshan’s Camille counterpick, and NV’s dual-marksman composition had difficulty surviving CLG’s engages long enough to compete, damage-wise. Nonetheless, Nisqy’s heavy contributions throughout this entire series were apparent, which deserves recognition.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. 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 Thomas!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

SPY Trashy is an MVP of EU LCS quarterfinals

Recognizing the MVPs of the EU LCS quarterfinals losers

This year’s LCS playoffs have officially kicked off, with the quarterfinals in the books. This first stage of the tournament has turned out much different than anticipated in Europe. Misfits dominated Unicorns of Love Saturday morning, finishing the series 3-0. G2 closed out their series with Splyce 3-2, grinding it out every inch of the way.

Many of these games were in favor of the underdogs at some point. UOL did not take a single game off of Misfits. G2 was one bad call away from giving their semifinals spot to Splyce. Most expectations involved Unicorns of Love easily qualifying for semifinals, while G2 would put up a solid fight against Splyce.

Misfits and Splyce brought their A-games in a major way, which has made playoffs that much less predictable. Fnatic and H2K should be a bit more nervous about their semifinals opponents. Misfits and G2 have tested their mettle and made it through to the next stage. They deserve every bit of praise for their performances.

However, there is a player from each team that deserves recognition for stepping up in quarterfinals. These are players who kept their cool, and helped their teams out the most, despite everything going south in the end. Here are two players that proved to be most valuable to Unicorns of Love and Splyce during the first round of playoffs.

UOL Samux

UOL Samux is an MVP of EU LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While none of Unicorns of Love’s players looked spectacular, Samux was the only player that performed remotely close to expectations. Despite other members of the team practically feeding kills to Misfits, Samux did his best to damage from a distance.

In game one, Samux was extremely limited from the start. UOL drafted Trundle, which ended up going to Hylissang as support. Misfits answered with a Blitzcrank for IgNar. This pickup ended up being crucial, as several picks came from IgNar’s hooks and Hylissang’s inability to affect fights. Samux was drafted Xayah, and was constantly zoned by the threat of Blitzcrank and Maxlore’s Zac. 

In game two, UOL re-drafted Xayah for Samux against Hans sama’s Tristana. He even got an early kill in the bottom lane without jungler attention. However, Exileh sacrificed four deaths to PowerOfEvil’s Lucian within the first 17 minutes, which allowed Misfits to snowball very fast. IgNar and Maxlore heavily pressured Samux again this game, with the crowd control combination of Rakan and Poppy. Hylissang and Vizicsacsi drafted Braum and Shen, picks with more utility, but it was not enough to keep Samux safe.

Finally, in game three, UOL switched Samux onto Sivir with a Tahm Kench for Hylissang. The movement speed and utility of these champions’ kits should have helped Samux stay safe. However, similar issues plagued UOL. Xerxe was unable to pull off the engages necessary for a successful Zac. Exileh tunneled in on the back line, despite IgNar, Hans sama and PowerOfEvil’s peel potential. Vizicsacsi barely influenced the game, fighting off Alphari’s split-pushing with Jarvan IV.

In almost every situation, Samux is completely dependent on the engage, peel, and reliability of his teammates. Since his teammates, particularly Xerxe, Exileh and Hylissang, were unable to fulfill their roles, it made it virtually impossible for Samux to output damage on short range AD carries. That being said, he did his best to remain safe when fights turned south. Samux only sacrificed 13.3 percent, 15 percent, and 15.8 percent of UOL’s deaths in games one, two and three, respectively.

SPY Trashy

SPY Trashy is an MVP of EU LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Splyce’s jungler looked much more effective during quarterfinals against G2 than virtually all of the regular season. His pressure around the map, especially in the early game, is a primary reason that Splyce was able to take G2 all the way to the bitter end of their best-of-five series. Trashy deserves recognition for stepping up in playoffs.

For example, 12 minutes into game one, Trashy had 100 percent kill participation, including two kills each for Wunder and Sencux. He is partially to blame for Trick’s Smite-steal at Baron around 27 minutes, but his play around objectives for the rest of the game was great. Trashy excelled at teamfights, though, where he helped fully lock down Zven and Perkz with Wunder’s Camille and Sencux’s Galio. He even finished the game with 95 percent kill participation and only 17.6 percent of Splyce’s deaths.

Trashy’s early game ganks backfired twice in a row in game two. Trick was able to effectively counter-gank for Expect to secure kills. Perkz was also able to snowball on Leblanc. Mikyx and Wunder accounted for 12 of Splyce’s 18 deaths, equal to 66.7 percent, while Trashy only contributed two of 18, or 11.1 percent. Game three was not as impactful in the early game, for better or for worse. Trashy’s Elise did not contribute much until post-20 minutes, and it took a few completed items before he could really teamfight at all. And even then, Elise has a hard time if she does not get ahead from the start, especially without a high-economy tank.

Once back on Sejuani in game four and Gragas in game five, Trashy brought the heat. He finished the last two games with 18 and 8 KDAs, respectively. These champions’ combination of crowd control and tankiness were perfect for assisting Splyce’s carries to survive G2’s engagements, while enabling them to melt down G2’s tankier members. Their game five loss amounted to two lost teamfights around Baron, which is not entirely Trashy’s fault. Most of it chalked up to G2’s players outplaying Splyce as a team, rather than any individual mess-ups. Trashy only sacrificed one death in the whole fifth game, which is only 6.3 percent.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. 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 Thomas!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Playoffs

NA LCS Playoffs team breakdown

It’s time for that special time of the year. Where every team puts it all on the line for the championship. Teams have finally finished the battle of the summer split and have either qualified or fallen short of a playoff berth. The teams that have qualified each have a chance to take home the trophy as this playoff tournament shapes up to be the most competitive in recent history. This year a team that has never won may claim the title of NA LCS champion.

 

I’ll speak to each team’s recent results and the matchup they’ll have, then I’ll highlight both one key strength and one key weakness for each team.

 

Team NV

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Team NV has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the sixth seed. They will be facing CLG in the quarter finals on the 19th. Though Team NV is the lowest seed, and coming off of an 0-4 run they shouldn’t be discounted. Team NV earlier in the season have proven they can take a series win off of top tier teams such as C9, DIG, and IMT.

 

Strength

Team NV’s clear strength comes from the jungle. Lira has been a dominant force for team NV since he joined the team last split. Despite finishing as a 10th place team Lira was voted as All NA LCS first team jungler. This year he has proved his dominance with 71% KP and strong performances on Elise, Lee Sin, and Nidalee. A great recent example being game 2 versus TSM in week 8.

 

Weakness

NV’s biggest weakness is their top laner Seraph. With a combined score in week 9 of 2-25-10 Seraph is clearly the weak link on NV. With a solid mid and bot lane, it seems as if Lira needs to babysit Seraph in order to prevent the opponent from snowballing. He is sitting on an abysmal 2.31 KDA across the season and has the highest deaths of any top laner in the league.

 

Team Dignitas

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

DIG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fifth seed. They will be facing C9 in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off a 3-1 last two weeks with only a close loss to CLG dampening their final few games. With plenty of momentum and thoughts of the mid-season slump long behind them DIG looks good going into the quarters.

 

Strengths

Team DIG’s strength is certainly their top laner Ssumday.  His wide champion pool featured 16 unique champions this split featuring tanks, fighters, and even the occasional marksman. Ssumday is the backbone of DIG and has carried more than his fair share of games for DIG

 

Weakness

In that strength, there is a weakness. Ssumday is easily targeted for frequent ganks and roams, because DIG love to play through him. When that’s the case, and the other laners aren’t able to generate leads despite DIG losses. This was the issue in the mid-season, DIG’s bot lane wasn’t able to hold their own without constant jungle pressure, but with the addition of Altec and Adrian, the team has found much more success.

 

Cloud 9

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

C9 has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fourth seed. They will be facing DIG in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off an easy last two weeks going 4-0, playing only one other playoff team, NV. This will have only built their confidence and given them opportunity to work on their team play. C9 has a long history of deep playoff runs and there is lots of experience on the roster of high pressure games.

 

Strength

Jensen’s midlane play has been next level since week two. Despite struggling in the beginning and middle of the season as a team Cloud 9’s midlaner has been putting up some incredible numbers. He broke the split record for kills, a record he already held. He has a disgusting 8.70 KDA across the split and has five champions with KDA averages 6+.

 

Weakness

Despite Jensen’s strong performance, Cloud 9 has, at times, seemed lost. Cloud 9’s macro play has not matched their micro. Some games the communication just isn’t there. Either Contractz will gank late or early and they will trade one for one when it could have been a clean gank, or they will lose a fight and surrender an objective while they’re 2k gold up in the mid game.

 

Counter Logic Gaming

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

CLG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the third seed. They will be facing NV in the quarter finals on the 19th. They are coming off of a 2-2 last two weeks, with an upset from P1 in week 8 and a rough loss to rivals TSM to wrap up their split. They’ll be looking to seek vengeance on their longtime rivals and seek retribution for being upset in last split’s quarter final’s series against Flyquest.

 

Strength

The CLG bottom lane has been a rock for them this split. Both Stixxay and Aphromoo have had great splits. Stixxay has showed competence on a wide range of ADCs, pulling out nine unique champions this split with an impressive 4.33 KDA. Aphromoo, while maybe not in peak performance, is still having a great split. CLG is able to rely on their bot lane duo to either play well and stay even as a weak side, or focus resources to them and have them carry games.

 

Weakness

They’ve elected in their final weeks to replace their jungler with a rookie. While it may help in the long run, there has been signs of a lack of communication from the rookie. Their loss to P1 is an example of this. In game 2 Omargod looked lost on Elise, unable to engage or gank successfully at any point in the game and the team just fell apart in the mid game. This isn’t to say that Omargod is a bad player, only that he lacks the experience on stage to be consistent and that will hurt CLG’s chances in playoffs.

 

 

Immortals

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Immortals rounded out the split with a 3-1 record in the final two weeks. The loss they did suffer was to DIG. This doesn’t bode well headed into the playoffs, but with a bye they won’t have to face anyone until the semis. Immortals has a lot to prove in this season’s playoffs, having had a rough history in the post season and look to make their first worlds appearance.

 

Strength

Immortal’s strength lies with two players, both in contention for MVP this season. Xmithie in the jungle and Olleh their support. Each player has found a way to control their part of the map, both with vision and pressure. Olleh has really stepped up this year and improved. His laning phase is much better, providing both pressure for Cody Sun and roaming mid for Pobelter. Xmithie has found his stride on IMT after leaving CLG. He plays with a lot of confidence and often chokes out the enemy junglers with invades and frequent ganks.

 

Weakness

Immortals main weakness is their inability to hold onto early game leads against top teams. For example against DIG in game 1 week 8 IMT had an early lead, yet were unable to push that lead to a victory. Same thing happened against TSM in week five. In game one IMT came out to an early lead, yet were unable to stop giving up objectives and going even or less one kill in team fights until eventually they lost their lead and the game.

 

Team Solo Mid

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

TSM has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the first seed and have a bye into the semifinals. They have taken a clean 4-0 in the final two weeks with a big win over CLG. TSM has a lot of experience with this roster, and a lot of experience in high pressure games. They’ve yet to miss an NA LCS finals match, and expect to find themselves in the finals this year.

 

Strength

Their strength is certainly their individual play. Each player as an individual has great play. Bjergsen is always arguably, if not definitively, the best midlaner in NA and this split has been no different. The same can be said for Doublelift in the ADC role. Hauntzer has played a great split as well as Sven and Biofrost. Each player as an individual has made great plays.

 

Weakness

When TSM losses, it’s because of team play. When TSM’s team play is on point, domestically they are unbeatable. Take their series in week seven against DIG for an example. A botched team fight in game one at around the ten minute mark lost them their gold lead and led to DIG getting first tower and a cloud drake. If they are all focused together they are unstoppable, but have shown that their team play and macro isn’t as consistent as their individual play.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

You can ‘Like The Game Haus on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers.

Why do you follow Zack on Twitter? Because you told me too!

Top 5 NFL head coaches

Top 5 NFL head coaches

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

5: Andy Reid: Kansas City Chiefs

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

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

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

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

4: Mike McCarthy: Green Bay Packers

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

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

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

3: Pete Carroll: Seattle Seahawks

Top 5 NFL head coaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

2: Mike Tomlin: Pittsburgh Steelers

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

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

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

1: Bill Belichick: New England Patriots

Top 5 NFL head coaches

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image courtesy of http://archive.boston.com

Deadline

Dodgers, Cubs, others make big moves at trade deadline

One hour before the 4 P.M. MLB trade deadline, nothing was happening. There were rumors and whispers here and there. Some decent names had been moved but nothing that we have been looking for over the past few weeks. All of a sudden news broke that the Yankees would be acquiring Sonny Gray from the Athletics. Would this be the first domino to fall?

As the hour went on nothing else seemed to be happen. Everyone was expecting the Dodgers to make the big move they needed but nothing was coming. Is Los Angeles really going to stay put with the roster they have? Every World Series champion in recent memory had made moves at the deadline to bolster their team. Are the Dodgers really that good that they don’t have to go out and get anyone?

When 4 P.M. hit it seemed like that was the case. After about 20 minutes the news started to break however. The Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish from the Rangers in the blockbuster trade we were expecting. This trade also punctuated a trading season that emphasized pitching and had very little movement with hitters.

This was a very interesting deadline to track. There were some surprises as well as moves that we expected. Here are some of the notable teams that were making moves at the deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Acquisitions: Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson

Los Angeles bolstered its bullpen with two solid left-handed relievers in Watson and Cingrani. These guys are a great compliment to Kenley Jansen and it takes a lot of pressure off of the starting rotation, especially seeing that Kershaw will be out for the coming weeks.

Yu Darvish has been expected to go to Los Angeles for the last month. Most were surprised that no news had broke when the 4 P.M. deadline approached. I was ready to criticize the Dodgers for their lack of improvement. When the news was announced, it immediately became World Series or bust for this team.

Darvish provides the same sort of punch to the rotation that Zach Greinke provided when he was in LA with Kershaw. These pitching acquisitions may make the Dodgers the most complete team in the majors now. They filled their pitching needs and left their offense alone which has been fantastic. What might be the one of the biggest upsides from this trade season is that the Dodgers did not give up any of their top three prospects for Yu Darvish.

The Dodgers know that they will be making the postseason. These trades were specifically for October because they know that it is now or never if they want to break their 30-year championship drought.

Houston Astros

Acquisitions: Francisco Liriano

The Astros currently have the best record in the American League. Going into the deadline, it was obvious that Houston needed to bolster its pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel has been dealing with injury issues and may not be the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young. Lance McCullers has also not been consistent. On top of that, the Astros are in much need of bullpen help.

Houston acquired Liriano from Toronto, but this was not the attractive pitcher that many were looking for them to go out and get. They needed a pitcher to fill into a rotation that looks a bit shaky. However, Liriano will not be in the starting rotation and will be filling in the bullpen.

This had to be disappointing for Houston fans because they did not make the improvements that other contenders made. Even though they are sitting comfortably in first place in the West and are a sure thing for the playoffs, they may be sweating a bit.

Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and George Springer are all on the DL right now. The Astros must be comfortable with the injuries since they didn’t make any moves. However, the gap seems to be closing between them and the Yankees and Indians.

New York Yankees

Acquisitions: Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson

The Yankees made a big move a couple weeks ago acquiring Todd Frazier and David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox. Robertson really helps out a bullpen that needed some help and Frazier is a bat the Yankees needed to fill a hole in the lineup.

Deadline

The Yankees got one of the most valuable pitchers at the deadline in Gray (Getty Images)

The big news from Monday was the Yankees acquiring Sonny Gray from Oakland. This was a trade that made a lot of sense for the Yankees because it helps answer questions in their rotation for 2018 and 2019 as well.

The Yankees may lose the majority of their rotation after this year so getting this deal done is a big deal for New York. For this year though, Gray provides a big punch in the rotation for October seeing that the young pitcher already has postseason experience.

Starting pitching was one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees. Boston made a solid move in getting Addison Reed, but the excellent job at the deadline by Brian Cashman may make the Yankees the better team.

Look for the Yankees to separate themselves from Boston and give Houston some trouble in the postseason potentially.

Chicago Cubs

Acquisitions: Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila

The Chicago Cubs did exactly what they needed to do in order to finally separate themselves from the rest of the NL Central. They addressed a rotation issue, a bullpen issue and a catching issue.

Deadline

Quintana is the highlight of the deadline for the Cubs (Sporting News)

Quintana was a get for the Cubs that was way ahead of the rest of the field at the deadline. Chicago knew what they needed and got a pitcher in the prime of his career that will be under team control for the future.

The rotation has been underperforming for the most part and Quintana provides a spark that has gotten the rest of the team going. With the potential this team has, they may be one of the best teams built for the postseason after the acquisition of Quintana.

Alex Avila adds experience at the catching position that the Cubs really needed. Miguel Montero was sent to Toronto after he ragged on the pitching staff for the Cubs’ shortcomings. He was the veteran presence that the pitchers need behind the plate.

Wilson Contreras has been very productive with a bat in his hands but he does not have the skills needed to call a good game in the playoffs. He is a converted infielder that is still learning the craft, so Avila provides the presence that the Cubs needed.

Theo Epstein went out and addressed the exact problems that needed addressing. Cubs fans should be happy with how he approached the deadline. The only downside is that the Cubs now have no prospects in the MLB Top 100. Much of their talent is at the big league level so that is a big reason for that. However, their talent has been underperforming this year.

The Cubs are hoping that their players play to their potential. If they do, then they are as good as anybody in the league.

Washington Nationals

Acquisitions: Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle

The Nationals’ bullpen has pretty much been a joke this year. It is by far their biggest weakness, so much so that a fan ripped on the bullpen in his obituary.

Deadline

Scherzer got the bullpen help the rotation desperately needed (Getty Images)

Washington has one of the best hitting trios in baseball with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. They also may have the best starting pitcher in the game in Max Scherzer.

However, they were not taken as seriously to compete with the Dodgers in the postseason because of how important relief pitching is these days.

Sean Doolittle has been struggling this year, but he is still a step in the right direction for Washington. However, Ryan Madson has been a very reliable reliever and Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star this year. Kintzler has converted 28 of 32 saves this season and also provides reliability at the back end of the bullpen.

Relievers were a hot commodity at the deadline this year. The Nationals knew that relievers are what they needed in order to win their first playoff series in franchise history. Mike Rizzo did a good job of getting these guys in order to be a threat in October.

Chicago White Sox

Deadline

Jimenez is the 7th ranked prospect in the majors (Baseball America)

Acquisitions: Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford, AJ Puckett, Andre Davis, Tito Polo, Ian Clarkin, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, Byrant Flete, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez

As you can tell, the White Sox had a busy trade season. They traded away many major leagues such as Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera. Even though it is pretty apparent that you could say the White Sox are tanking, fans have to be happy with general manager Rick Hahn’s job this past month.

The White Sox now have two of the top 10 prospects in MLB, and eight in the top 70 according to MLB.com. Chicago is the only team on this list that are not contenders this season but they may have had one of the best months in the league.

The benefits from the past month will not show this season or next season. In a few years though the success of the front office will be apparent.

This may be a slight overreaction, but there is a possibility that we could see a Cubs-White Sox World Series down the road. That may be a bit dramatic but wouldn’t it be exciting to see a Chicago championship series? The only thing I would be concerned about is whether or not the city would still be standing in the aftermath.

Final thoughts on the deadline

The most glaring detail of this trade deadline was the emphasis of pitching. Outside of J.D Martinez, there were no major position players that were moved this year. Yes, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were moved as well. However, all of the big trades were centered around pitching.

It seems that many teams are content with the hitting they have. It may not be a coincidence that major league players are hitting home runs at one of the highest rates in history. Bullpen and rotation help is the attractive thing these days. Especially considering how difficult it is to close out a game in today’s game.

By no means is the 2017 season decided already. There is still a long way to go in the season and anything can happen in October. Championship teams do look back to the trade deadline though to see what they did right at that time. Monday was a pivotal point in the season, but baseball is a crazy game so it will be fun to see how these moves pan out.

 

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 Andrew!

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC West

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

Kansas City Chiefs

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

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

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

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland Raiders

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

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

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

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

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denver Broncos

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

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

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Chargers

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Featured image courtesy of https://ryutorasthoughts.wordpress.com/tag/afc-west/

Page 1 of 512345