John Fox

NFL preseason coaching heat check

NFL coaches on the hot seat is a topic that fans and media alike never seem to stop talking about. NFL preseason is a good time to take an inventory of coaches that could be in trouble if the upcoming season goes poorly.

The NFL never stops surprising us. Thus, the coaches mentioned here are by no means the only ones that might be relocating in 2018. These are just the situations that jump off the page immediately.

Dead men walking

John Fox

John Fox is a hugely underrated coach who has engineered massive turnarounds and deep playoffs runs everywhere he has been. Everywhere except Chicago, that is, as he is just 9-23 in two seasons with the Bears. These days, coaches rarely get more than three seasons to be awful in the same spot.

Unfortunately for Fox, the front office has given him his worst Bears roster yet. The already murky quarterback situation was only made messier by the surprise drafting of rookie Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick. Outside of running back Jordan Howard, there just is not much talent on this roster.

There are a lot of projects. Fox does not have time for projects. Despite going 3-13 last year, Chicago did not make much of an impact in free agency and only ended up with five draft picks.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: nydailynews

It is not entirely his fault, but this is not the recipe for the kind of turnaround Fox needs to keep his job. Right or wrong, the head coach is always the first to go.

Todd Bowles

Minus the established track record, Fox and Todd Bowles are in very similar spots. Bowles is 15-17 in two seasons with the Jets.

With a quarterback race that features Bryce Petty, Josh McCown and Christian Hackenberg and a receiving group in which no one has caught 60 career passes, a winless season is very realistic for the Jets. No coach survives that. Bowles will likely land on his feet as defensive coordinator somewhere in 2018.

Not likely, but not impossible

Mike Zimmer

Mike Zimmer is one of the most respected coaches in the game. He had the back story of assistant coach who paid his dues in the NFL for almost two decades before getting a shot to be a head coach.

However, the reality is that Zimmer is slowly becoming Rex Ryan without the brash and bold guarantees. The defense has always been elite during Zimmer’s time in Minnesota. It even carried them to a 6-0 start last year.

Much like Rex Ryan’s teams though, the offensive side of the ball just is not very good. They have never ranked inside the top 20 in total offense under Zimmer. Even in 2015 when Zimmer’s Vikings reached the playoffs, they were 31st in passing offense.

Rex Ryan has a 61-66 record with four playoff wins as an NFL head coach. He’s now a commentator for ESPN. Zimmer is 26-22 without a playoff win. If Zimmer does not figure out the offensive side of the ball this year, his record will creep closer to .500 and he could join Ryan at ESPN.

Adam Gase

Two weeks ago, Gase would not have been in any article like this. He did an outstanding job in leading the Dolphins to the playoffs last year in his first season.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: espn.com

However, bringing his favorite pupil Jay Cutler out of retirement to save the day after the injury to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is pretty bold. Yes, Cutler had his best statistical season when Gase was his offensive coordinator with the Bears in 2015, but that team still managed only six wins. Last year, Cutler only started five games due to injury and poor performance.

Cutler’s lack of passion for the game of football has always been painfully apparent. Despite a wealth of natural talent, he is only led a team the playoffs once and has losing record as a starter.

He will no doubt fill the stat sheet with touchdowns and interceptions in Miami. Even so, there is nothing to suggest that he will fare any better than original backup quarterback Matt Moore in terms of winning games.

Gaze really stuck his neck out for Cutler. It is only a one-year deal. Even so, if the experiment blows up in his face and muddies the future of the quarterback position in Miami, ownership having a quick hook would not be all that surprising.

Unique Situations:

In addition to the four coaches mentioned above, 2017 is also a big year for several coaches that have been with their current teams for many years. Marvin Lewis, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano have all experienced significant success in their current coaching stops. However, they all missed the playoffs last year.

Some of them are on a streak of unsuccessful seasons. They have all done great things for their respective franchises over the years and have immense respect of ownership. Thus, I cannot see any of them getting fired. If the upcoming season goes poorly though, a mutual parting of ways is certainly possible.

 

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Buffalo Bills 2017 NFL Draft Profile

On the 10th day of Draftmas The Game Haus gave to me, a Buffalo Bills Draft Profile!

Summary

Buffalo is an interesting team for many reasons. They went 7-9 last year and ended the year going 1-4 in their last five games. While 6-5 was not a great record it was at least in contention for a Wild Card spot.

They are a team that cannot seem to make that final push. After all of the hope of signing Rex Ryan he was ultimately let go. They have brought in Sean McDermott, one of the many new youth movement coaches as a change of pace. He had done wonders with the Panthers defense and they feel he can only help their stout unit as well.

The Bills surprised everyone by bringing back Tyrod Taylor. He has been a very controversial quarterback for Buffalo. He has been a very mediocre quarterback at best during his time in Buffalo. There are times where he can spark the team and then a drive will stall and he loses his rhythm. If he can play more consistently this Bills team will be much better.

Unfortunately they lost some pieces on offense and could only sign Corey Brown. Even after losing Stephon Gilmore the defensive unit is expected to be tough as ever. A healthy Reggie Ragland should plug the hole left by the most likely departure of possibly last years biggest surprise in Zach Brown.

Lastly their biggest addition this offseason has arguably been Steven Hauschka. A very consistent kicker and probably one of the best in the NFL but, not necessarily someone who signifies the Bills are heading in the right direction.

Picks and Needs

Buffalo has 6 picks in this years draft. Having their first 3 rounds of picks will be crucial for them as they try to get pieces they need to fight for a playoff spot.

First round: (1) No. 10

Second round: (1) No. 44

Third round: (1) No. 75

Fourth round: (0)

Fifth round: (2) No. 156, No. 171

Sixth round: (1) No. 195

Seventh round: (0)

I expect they will be used to try to find players who will get a lot of minutes and their last 3 will be more for depth. Because they were so close last year I expect them to try and get their offense sorted out. Is Tyrod Taylor really the answer at Quarterback? Are they really willing to go with Cardale Jones? Personally I say no to both but, I think Tyrod is their only real option as I am not a huge fan of any of these quarterbacks in the draft.

If they can find players who can give them high minutes in the first 3 rounds then you can expect this to be considered a very successful draft.

Offensive Needs:

Quarterback

Wide Receiver

Right Tackle

Defensive Needs:

Inside Linebacker

Free Safety

Cornerback

Targets and Thoughts

I will pick who I think is best for the team just as I did in my other draft profile. There will be no trades and I will be looking at just the first three rounds.

First Round:

Courtesy of: USA Today

Pick #10: Mike Williams WR, Clemson 

Could this pick be any more perfect? Sammy Watkins leaves Clemson and Williams takes over and does phenomenally. As teammates they could be some of the biggest and most dynamic wideout cores in the league.

Second Round:

Pick #44: Jalen ‘Teez’ Tabor CB, Florida

With Gilmore leaving this is an obvious area of concern for the Bills. He is a little undersized but makes up for it with his athleticism. Teez should be able to hold down the second corner back spot across from Ronald Darby well.

Third Round:

Pick #75: Marcus Williams FS, Utah

Free Safety is an area that could be improved upon. Williams is a play-maker and in a defense that is already solid having that extra ball-hawking safety can make a huge difference. I like Williams to go around here if not earlier.

Conclusion

If Taylor can be the Quarterback the Bills believe in then this team has playoff potential written all over. Adding Williams just gives him another great option next to Watkins. Adding Teez and Williams will solidify a secondary on an already extremely scary defense.

Thank you for joining us on our tenth day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the New Orleans Saints!

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

Draftmas Day 1: Carolina Panthers

Draftmas Day 2: Cincinnati Bengals

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Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo needs stability to end their longtime playoff drought. 1999. What is the significance of 1999? It was the last year the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs. 17 NFL seasons have passed without the Bills having a chance at the Lombardi Trophy. The Bills were one of the greatest teams in the 90’s. From 1990 to 1999 the Bills made the playoffs eight out of 10 seasons.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: nfl.com)

They also appeared in four straight Super Bowls and even though they didn’t win any, it is a phenomenal accomplishment. Since the new century started, there hasn’t been much to cheer for. The franchise went from glory and one of the most successful, to a team who could be in the same category as the Jaguars, Browns or Lions.

Since their last playoff appearance in 1999, the Bills have had eight head coaches in 17 seasons. On average that is a new head coach every 2.1 years. Stability is on of the biggest keys to success. The proof is in the pudding. Look at the most successful franchise in the NFL.

New England has had Bill Belichick for 16 seasons. Green Bay has had Mike McCarthy 11 seasons. Pittsburgh has had three coaches in the last 50 years. All three of these examples are teams with a shot every year to win the Super Bowl. All three of these franchise have also won a Super Bowl in this time. This proves that stability and longevity mean success. The Bills are giving up too easily on their coaching hires.

Coaching Roulette

Wade Phillips was the head coach the last time the Bills made the playoffs. He lasted three seasons but made the playoffs in his first two years with the team. Phillips was fired after a subpar 8-8 season in 2000. Rumors say he was fired for failing to dismiss his special team’s coordinator.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: buffalobills,com)

Then came the Gregg Williams era and that lasted only three seasons. Williams went 17-31 in his time as the head coach. Three years is considered enough time to turn a franchise around, but this is where the Bills became impatient because at this point they have gone four straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Gregg Williams eventually went on to win a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator for the Saints. There was controversy about his coaching and was suspended from the NFL for his role in bounty gate.

The Bills brought in Mike Mularkey for the 2004 season. Mularkey would only last two seasons going 9-7 in his first season and 5-11 in his second season. Yes, he had a less successful second season, but two years is not enough time to evaluate a coach’s ability to improve a franchise. Mularkey is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans where he went 2-7 as the interim coach but followed it up with a 9-7 season this past year. The future in Tennessee looks bright with Mularkey at the helm and had the Bills rode it out they might have become a playoff team by now.

So after a two-year experiment with Mularkey, the Bills hired Dick Jauron. Jauron was the coach they were the most patient with but still could have tried him out a little longer. Dick Jauron finished three consecutive seasons with a 7-9 record. In his fourth season, he started 3-6 and was fired midseason. Interim coach Perry Fewell went 3-4 but was not hired to replace Jauron.

Chan Gailey was hired as the Bills coach in 2010 and he also got a three-year trial period. He went 16-32 in those three years. Now after allowing two coaches to have three years to prove they could do the job the Bills went back to a two-year window. At this point, it had been 13 seasons without a playoff appearance.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://giphy.com/search/rex-ryan)

In 2013 the Bills took a chance on Doug Marrone who went 6-10 in his first season. He followed that 6-10 season with a nine-win season. He had shown signs of improvement from year one to year two and there was a chance that he would lead the Bills to the playoffs in his third year. Marrone unexpectedly opted out of his contract and left Buffalo.

This time the Bills were searching for a new head coach after one left them before they cut him loose. That coach was none other than Rex Ryan. Rex didn’t even get to coach the end of his second season and was fired after compiling a 15-16 record with the team. Impatient management means failure and the struggling Bills franchise will need to give their new head coach, Sean McDermott, at least four years to build the team. They need a coach who can create stability within the franchise. If they cut him loose early Buffalo will continue to miss the playoffs and the drought will continue to grow.

A Franchise Quarterback

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://www.buffalobillsalumni.com/Jim_Kelly_Buffalo_Bills_s/73.htm)

The success of a franchise is directly connected to having a franchise quarterback. The Bills haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. Buffalo have started 16 different quarterbacks since Kelly was the man. They have had no luck finding a quarterback to lead the team and now that they have, they aren’t fully committed to him.

Some will argue that Doug Flutie could have been a franchise quarterback but the truth is that Flutie was a bit of a journeyman. He played for five teams in 11 NFL seasons. He had some talent and was the last Bills quarterback to lead them to the playoffs, but there is a reason he didn’t stay with teams longer.

As mentioned above, the Bills have had 16 different starting quarterbacks before they stumbled upon Tyrod Taylor. Taylor spent his first four seasons in the NFL as a backup to Super Bowl Champion quarterback Joe Flacco. He learned the ropes from the sideline. It allowed him to develop and grow before throwing him to the wolves like most young quarterbacks in today’s day and age.

Taylor finally got his opportunity to start when he won the job in 2015. In his first season as an NFL starter, Tyrod Taylor played 14 games and went 7-6. Taylor completed 63.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He also added 568 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

In his second season, he started 15 games and went 7-8. In two seasons as a starter he has thrown for 6,257 yards, 37 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. He ran for 1,148 yards and 10 touchdowns. These are great numbers but the best thing is that he has gone 14-14. He is still growing and just about to enter his prime.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://onsmash.com/sports/sammy-watkins-44-yard-touchdown-bomb-from-tyrod-taylor/)

These numbers and wins are much better than the other quarterbacks the Bills have had recently. He has won 50 percent of his games while quarterbacks E.J. Manuel (6-11 won 36%), Thad Lewis (2-4 won 33%), Ryan Fitzpatrick (20-33 won 38%), Trent Edwards (14-18 won 44%), and J.P. Losman (10-23 won 30%) have all done much worse.

The Buffalo Bills have a franchise quarterback sitting in their lap and they need to stick with him. 17 seasons is a long time to not make the playoffs. The way to end that is to stick with McDermott for longer than three years to allow him enough time to build the program. They also need to stick by Tyrod Taylor. Finding a franchise quarterback is difficult and giving up on Tyrod Taylor will spell doom for Buffalo. If they move on from Taylor, McDermott will be fired after two years and the Bills will continue down the path they have been stuck on the past 17 seasons. It isn’t difficult Buffalo, let Tyrod Taylor lead you to the promised land.

 

 

Week 17 NFL Picks Against the Spread

How in the world is week 17 already upon us? It is always a tough week to pick games. No one really knows how motivated many teams are. While I understand that, winning is a hell of a lot better than losing. Thus, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a “meaningless” game. After posting a .500 mark against the spread last week, I now sit at 118-125-7 on the year. Not great, but not terrible. All spreads are from rtsports.com, my picks are bolded, and outright upsets have an asterisk. Here is to finishing the regular season strong.

*Ravens at Bengals (-2.5) – The Ravens (my preseason Super Bowl pick) tumbled out of the playoff picture last week. The Bengals were eliminated long ago. Despite calls for sweeping changes, I expect Cincinnati to resist the temptation, and rightly so. However, I struggle to see them doing much on offense. It is not sexy, but Baltimore’s edge in the kicking game will be the difference. Bal 16 Cin 13

Bills (-3.5) at Jets- Both teams are a dysfunctional mess. For reasons that depend on who you ask, EJ Manuel will get the start for Buffalo in the first game of the post Rex Ryan era. Nothing would surprise me in this game, but Buffalo’s ground game should be enough. Buf 21 NYJ 17

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

*Panthers at Bucs (-4) – Last week, the young Bucs fought for their playoff lives against a losing team loaded with talent and it didn’t go so well. This week, the situation is very similar. There is no reason to think it will go any differently. Another year of seasoning and Tampa Bay could be really special. Last week showed they are not quite ready. Car 27 TB 24

*Bears at Vikings (-6) – Many times season finales simply come down to who is playing harder. This matchup could be a classic case of that. The Vikings have more talent, but the Bears have been playing much harder for the last month or so. Chi 19 Min 16

Browns at Steelers (-5.5) – The Browns will not go winless, and they deserve credit for that as well as playing hard all year long. With Pittsburgh locked into playoff position and playing it coy about resting starters, the line is not as big as one might expect. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the Steelers backups are better than the Browns starters. After this game, the Browns will officially be on the clock. Pit 30 Cle 21

*Cowboys at Eagles (-4.5) – This line is a stunner. Dallas is making no secret of its plans to limit reps of starters, particularly quarterback Dak Prescott. Even so a 13-2 team getting points against a 6-9 team is eye popping and too good to pass up. Dallas has a surplus of solid running backs and Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo are not nearly as bad as the mainstream media would like you to believe. Dal 24 Phi 20

*Texans at Titans (-3)- Just like we all thought a few weeks ago, this game will feature a Tom Savage vs Matt Cassel quarterback duel and Houston, not Tennessee is locked into the playoffs. No telling what could happen here. When in doubt, go with the best unit. That would be the Texans defense. Hou 20 Ten 13

Jaguars at Colts (-4.5) – Jacksonville did a nice job of playing spoiler last week, but that does not change the fact that both of these teams had high expectations that ended in disaster this year. Something tells me Andrew Luck is too much of a pros pro not to finish the season really strong. Ind 28 Jac 17

Patriots (-9.5) at Dolphins – The Patriots need this game to lock down home field advantage in the playoffs. If last year taught them anything, it should be the importance of having home field. Miami has always been a tough place to play for Brady’s Bunch. The Dolphins will look to get backup quarterback Matt Moore as sharp as possible for the playoffs while Ryan Tannehill races to get healthy. This will not be a blowout. NE 27 Mia 21

Cardinals (-6.5) at Rams- The Rams are plain awful and the Cardinals are merely average. David Johnson is the only reason to watch this game. The coaching search in LA will be fascinating. Ari 27 LA 13

Chiefs (-4.5) at Chargers- Sadly, what is likely the Chargers final game in San Diego will end with a division rival celebrating a straightforward win. It quite possibly could be a division title along with a first round bye. KC 27 SD 13

Saints at Falcons (-7) – These two teams always play wacky games. Atlanta locks up a first round bye with a win. Even with Matt Ryan playing at an MVP level, the team as a whole should not scare anyone. There is something to be said for finding ways to win. Atlanta should continue that trend here, but do not expect Drew Brees and company to roll over and play dead. Atl 31 NO 28

Giants at Redskins (-7.5) – Playoff scenarios make my head hurt. According to everything I have read, the only way Washington wins this game and misses the playoffs is if the night game ends in a tie. Much like the Steelers, no one seems to know how the playoff bound Giants will approach this one. As dangerous as the Redskins could be in the playoffs, it is hard to see the Giants letting them coast. Was 30 NYG 24

Raiders at Broncos (-1.5) – The reigning champs have really struggled down the stretch and will not be going back to the playoffs. However, keeping a fierce rival like Oakland from the division title and the chance to finish with a winning record is plenty of incentive. Denver will take one last good look at both of its young quarterbacks. The Raiders fairytale season took a sad turn last week with the injury to MVP candidate Derek Carr. The Broncos defense is not an ideal one for backup Matt McGloin to face as he tries to rally the troops for a playoff run. Den 24 Oak 19

Seahawks (-9.5) at 49ers- The state of the Seahawks is worrisome. Getting pushed around for the majority of the game by Arizona just should not happen to this team. Thankfully for them, a first round bye could still happen and the 49ers are not much of a threat. Sea 30 SF 13

Packers (-3) at *Lions– The importance of this game may shift a bit depending on earlier results. Regardless, the winner of this Sunday Night showdown will take the division title and the loser may be headed home to watch the playoffs. Both offenses are rolling behind two very hot quarterbacks. There will not be many defensive stops on either side. It is more of a gut feeling than anything else, but Detroit’s defense uses the home crowd to get one more stop in the closing moments. Det 38 GB 34

Photo courtesy of zambio.com

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Keeping Marvin Lewis is not as Crazy as it Sounds

The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of their first truly disappointing season in many years. They will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. It is no surprise that many fans and analysts are calling for head coach Marvin Lewis to be removed. However, it was all but confirmed Tuesday that Lewis will be back for his 15th season next year.

There is certainly a case to be made that it is time for a change, but it is a case that has been made a thousand times over. While nothing will be certain until after Sunday’s season finale, it certainly does not look like a change is coming. That is not a bad thing for the Bengals organization, and here is why.

Perspective

Bengals fans and media outlets are so quick to forget how bad things were before Lewis arrived in Cincinnati back in 2003. From 1991-2002, the franchise was the epitome of a laughingstock. The Bengals record in that span was an astonishing 55-137. Everything was wrong with the franchise. Bad coaching hires, horrible drafts, and the cheap ownership of Mike Brown were all problems.

The last of those deficiencies have not changed. As a native of Cincinnati, going to games back then was still fun, but mostly sad. To this day, mikebrownsucks.com is still running. Games were just a sobering reminder of how far behind Cincinnati was from the rest of the NFL.

Worst of all, the Bengals lost a significant chunk of fans in the younger generation. Many kids (including myself) became lifelong fans of other teams. It is impossible to overstate the amount of work Lewis had to do when he took the job.

Photo courtesy of mikebrownsucks.com

Photo courtesy of mikebrownsucks.com

Mike Brown is infamous for having a Jerry Jones level of control over the franchise, but Jones has been very successful despite down years. There are many stories as to just how little power Bengals head coaches had before Lewis.

In 1998, the Saints offered their entire draft to the Bengals in order to trade up to take running back Ricky Williams. Brown overruled his coaching staff and held firm to select quarterback Akili Smith. Smith played in just 22 NFL games.

Somehow, Lewis immediately seemed to have more power than his predecessors. Starting with Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, the Bengals drafts immediately improved. Thus, the on-field product was not far behind. Cincinnati went from 2-14 to the playoffs in just three years.

Given what he walked into, Lewis took the Bengals to the playoffs seven times during his tenure. That is nothing short of remarkable, regardless of what his team does when it reaches the playoffs.

The Playoff Failures Are Mostly Not His Fault

Speaking of the playoffs, the big knock on Lewis is his 0-7 playoff record. No denying that is bad, but here is my question- Of his seven playoff games, which ones was Lewis supposed to win? I came up with one, maybe two.

I was unable to find the betting lines for those seven games, but I did look at the rosters at the time those games were played. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same. In almost every case, the Bengals have the weaker roster. The loss to San Diego following the 2013 season is the only real shocker. Even that one does not bother me much. No team is immune to having a bad day at the worst possible time.

The Bengals may have won the 2005 wild-card game against Pittsburgh had Carson Palmer not gotten injured, but that is debatable. It takes a special coach to win playoff games with the less talented roster. A coach deserves no blame whatsoever for losing to better players. Make no mistake, while Brown values the input of Lewis, Brown still has the final say over player personnel decisions.

You Cannot Coach Common Sense

Photo courtesy of si.mmqb.com

Photo courtesy of si.mmqb.com

Cincinnati’s most recent playoff loss deserves its own section. Anyone reading this remembers the shocking fumble and ensuing drive that was aided by 30 yards of penalties on a single play. This allowed Pittsburgh to kick a chip shot field goal to extend Cincinnati’s playoff heartbreak.

To blame Lewis for this particular meltdown has always been amusing to me. Lewis is a football coach, not a babysitter. There is not a coach in this league that should have to tell their players not to head hunt or make contact with the opposing coaching staff in the final minute of a one possession playoff game. No coach makes a point of saying that, the assumption is that it is obvious. Unfortunately for Lewis, some players are just dumb.

Lack of suitable replacements

Unlike most NFL job openings, if Cincinnati were to become open, the pantry is not bare. Meaning, the Bengals are just a few tweaks away from winning in a big way. I simply don’t believe that a young first-time head coach like Matt Patricia or somebody else is more qualified for this situation than Marvin Lewis.

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

Several teams have made coaching changes in hopes of going from good to great. While transitions like Jon Fox to Gary Kubiak do happen, they are more of the exception. Situations like Rex Ryan to Todd Bowles are far more common. If Cincinnati could lure in a proven winner like Jon Gruden, that is a whole different ballgame, but that is about as likely as me becoming the next pope.

Additionally, the Bengals have hired names like Bruce Coslet and Dave Shula in the past. Considering all roads still lead back to Mike Brown, can this franchise be trusted not to botch another head-coaching search? I am not so sure.

While the frustration regarding Lewis is understandable, the risk in removing him far outweighs the reward. He has been able to win on a relativity consistent basis with the Bengals. Not many coaches can say that.

If he keeps putting his team in the mix most years, the Bengals will eventually get over the hump. Replace him with the wrong guy, and they could fall off a cliff… Again.

 

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Cubs Victory Should Give NFL Fans Everywhere Hope

We are over a week removed from the Cubs ending their 108 year drought and winning the World Series. The sports world is still buzzing. It is nice to see this country captivated by baseball again. If the Cubs drought can end, so will every other big-time drought in sports, including those of the NFL. Here is a look at a few of the longest suffering NFL fan bases and reasons for each to be hopeful. For the record, I do not believe in curses. I believe in being poorly run and poor executing.

Buffalo Bills

Very few fan bases in all of sports have experienced more heartbreak than that of the Bills. They have been so close so many times. While losing a playoff game on the “Music City Miracle” kick return had to hurt, it is the four straight Super Bowl losses in the early 90s that stand out. In fairness, only one was close. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47 yard field goal as time expired in Super Bowl XXV that would have given the heavily favored Bills their first Super Bowl. “Wide right” are forever cuss words in the city of Buffalo. Those of you who are not Bills fans can relive the kick below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel.

 

Reasons to hope – Most important, after a few years of chatter, it looks like the franchise is staying in Buffalo. Rex Ryan has this team competitive again on a week in, week out basis. They have a ton of playmakers on offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor continues to come in to his own. His performance in Seattle Monday night was mighty impressive, despite the loss. A trip back to the Super Bowl is likely a long way off, but the end of a 16 year playoff drought is not.

Minnesota Vikings

In terms of the “can’t win the big one” stigma, the NFC version of the Buffalo Bills resides in Minnesota. Behind the “Purple People Eaters” defense and legendary head coach Bud Grant, they reached the playoffs in all but two years from 1968-1980. They could never close the deal, including losing in two of the first 11 Super Bowl’s. As bad as that had to hurt, the most devastating blow came in 1998. Minnesota raced to a 15-1 regular season record. The offense, spearheaded by then rookie Randy Moss, set a record for points scored. Vikings kicker Gary Anderson did not miss a kick all year. However, in the NFC championship game he missed a relatively short field goal that would have extended the Minnesota lead to ten late in the fourth quarter. The upstart Falcons drove down and tied the game and ultimately won in overtime. The video below from the Mauer EssPee YouTube channel sums the whole situation up very nicely. As crushing as last year’s playoff loss to Seattle had to be, that team probably was not winning a Super Bowl anyway. The 1998 team had a chance to go down as one of the greatest ever.

Reasons to hope – In Vikings country, it is all about that young defense right now. The trick is finding the right quarterback. I am also in the minority that thinks Mike Zimmer is not the right coach to get this team where it wants to go. He was the right guy to get them turned around, but I think his expertise is too limited to one side of the ball to win a Super Bowl. Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, and Everson Griffen could easily be the building blocks of a championship defense. Everything else is a question mark in Minnesota. Despite this season falling apart at the seams, the Vikings are not that far away. However, the jump from good to great is the hardest one to make.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Quite frankly, it is difficult to pick a single moment that hurts the most for fans in my hometown. They have been around since 1968 and have been a shipwreck for the vast majority of the time. They did have a brief run of AFC dominance in the 1980s that resulted in a pair of narrow Super Bowl defeats to Joe Montana and the 49ers. The second of those defeats was a real heartbreaker. As you can see below thanks to the Charles Surette YouTube channel, Montana led a 92 yard drive in the game’s final minutes that culminated in a game-winning touchdown pass to the often overlooked John Taylor with under 30 seconds to go. Apart from that, this franchise has been almost comically bad. They have not won a playoff game since 1990 and have only played in seven. Keep in mind, the Bengals are currently on a streak of five consecutive playoff appearances.

 

Reasons to hope – The Bengals are currently enjoying their most successful run in franchise history. Until he does it or is let go, questions will continue to linger about whether Marvin Lewis is the right coach for this franchise to finally win a playoff game again, and ultimately a Super Bowl. Those questions are fair, but making the playoffs five straight years is no small accomplishment for what may have been the sorriest franchise in professional sports prior to the last five years.

 

Cleveland Browns

No fan base has suffered more than the Cleveland Browns. Believe it or not, they were the NFL’s gold standard at one point. They won four NFL titles in the pre-Super Bowl era. I highly encourage young people reading this to Google the name Otto Graham. After the 50s and 60s, the Browns fell off a cliff and have not been back. As painful as moments like “The Drive” and “The Fumble ” were, the toughest blow for fans started in 1995. The Browns moved to Baltimore following that season and became the Ravens. The scenes from their final home game that year are surreal. Check them out in the video below from the lock18 YouTube channel. The Ravens won a Super Bowl just five years after leaving Cleveland. The Browns reentered the NFL in 1999, but have only made one playoff appearance and have posted just two winning seasons in that time.

 

Reasons to hope – Candidly, there are not many right now. The Browns sit at 0-10 with a real shot at going winless this year, but it cannot get much worse… Can it?

 

The Eagles, Lions, Chiefs, and Jets have also put fans through their fair share of suffering. However, the fact still remains that if the Cubs can finally finish the job after 108 years, then every dog will have its day in the sporting sun… Someday. However, seeing the joy on the faces of those Cubs fans had to give other suffering fan bases everywhere plenty of incentive to hang in there.

photo from timesleader.com

photo from timesleader.com

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After Slow Start, Bills Suddenly Have Clear Path Back to Playoffs

Every year in the NFL, a handful of teams are written off, dead and buried after slow starts. Quite frankly, most stay that way. This year though, there is one team that has risen from the ashes in spectacular fashion and is in prime position to end a 15+ year playoff drought.

 

The Buffalo Bills dropped their first two games in ugly fashion. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was let go. Considering The Bills put up 31 points in a Week two loss to the Jets and that Buffalo ranked inside the top half of the league in offense in 2015, most (including myself) did not think Roman was the problem. From the outside looking in, it seemed to be defensive coordinator Rob Ryan who just happens to be the head coach’s brother.

 

Say what you will about Rex Ryan, there is no denying ever since he made the move to promote Anthony Lynn to offensive coordinator, Buffalo is a different football team. They have reeled off three straight wins including a shutout of the Patriots on the road. The Bills are firmly entrenched in second place in the AFC East. LeSean McCoy has spearheaded a ground attack that has posted 100+ yards in each game during the winning streak. This has helped dual threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor take better care of the football. It is also helped Buffalo get out to early leads in games, which makes the job of the defense much easier. Thus, that unit is getting better every week as well. Guys like Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin have stepped up nicely since top receiving threat Sammy Watkins was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.

photo from Getty Images

photo from Getty Images

 

The biggest reason the Bills are looking good for a playoff spot is their schedule and competition. If one assumes that New England and resurgent Tom Brady are going to win the division again, the Bills are left gunning for one of the two wildcard spots. There is a massive drop-off in the AFC once you get past New England, Pittsburgh and Denver. Nine wins should be enough to secure a playoff berth. Buffalo is going to be battling it out with teams like Baltimore, Oakland, Kansas City and Cincinnati. Buffalo already has three wins as well as a total of three games left with the division rival Jets and Dolphins. Both of those teams flat out stink. There is no other way to say it. So, that should get the Bills to six wins. Throw in two additional bad teams in the 49ers and Browns, and Buffalo is up to eight wins. New England, Seattle and. Pittsburgh are tough match-ups for anyone. That leaves three “coin flip” games against the Jaguars, Raiders and Bengals. A win in any one of those three games gets them to nine.

There were legitimate questions as to whether or not Rex Ryan would make it through season in Buffalo after the first two weeks. Despite his antics and brash personality, it is becoming clearer each week that his players love playing for him and are buying what he is selling. Despite an above average tenure with the Jets, bringing playoff football back to Buffalo for the first time since the 1999 season would be the greatest achievement of his coaching career. Nothing is a given in this league. However, at this point, all he has to do to make that happen is make sure his team beats the teams that they are supposed to beat.

photo from keepclam-o-matic.co.uk

photo from keepclam-o-matic.co.uk

 

Week 5 NFL Picks Against the Spread

It is time for my fifth week of NFL picks against the spread. I am coming off a second consecutive 8-7 week. I called outright upsets the Bills and Saints. However, I foolishly put my faith in the Browns while continuing to doubt the Vikings. I am off to another good start this week with Arizona’s blowout win Thursday night. For the year, I am now 29-33-2. When picking against the spread anything close to .500 is respectable. So, I am happy. My picks for this week are in bold and outright upsets have asterisk.

Bears at Colts (-4.5) – You will not find a game all year between two teams with more issues. The Colts are on the verge of the season that would see everybody in the organization lose their jobs with the exception of quarterback Andrew Luck and owner Jim Irsay if it continues this way. The Bears picked up a surprising win with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer against Detroit last week. Make no mistake, they are still banged up and not doing anything well. If the Bears can somehow get this win, John Fox may have something to think about when Jay Cutler gets healthy. However, I just do not think the Colts are as bad as a home loss to Chicago would make them. Ind 24 Chi 13

Texans at Vikings (-6.5) – I am finally picking the Vikings this week. They are very good, but the lack of any kind of sustained offensive rhythm still makes it hard for me to accept this team as one of the best in the league. Unless this defense is truly great, which is entirely possible, they will eventually break down from carrying the rest of the team. It will be interesting to see who picks up the slack in terms of catches for Minnesota with top threat Stefon Diggs likely out. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler and the Texans offense just do not have anything they can trouble an elite defense like the Vikings. Min 20 Hou 9

Patriots (-10.5) at Browns- Yes, Tom Brady is back, but he is also human and Cleveland continues to play people tough in losses. I expect Brady to be a little rusty. Thus, the Browns find a way to keep this within such a massive spread. NE 24 Cle 15

Jets at Steelers (-7.5) – Is there a team that has regressed more from last year than the Jets? It really does not make much sense. They were above the .500 and made no significant personnel changes, at least none that were clearly for the worse. They are turning the ball over at an alarming rate Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown nine interceptions in the last two games. If you have issues that need fixing, Pittsburgh is a terrible place to go. This will get ugly. Pit 34 NYJ 13

Eagles (-3.5) at *Lions – The Eagles are one of two teams in this league I cannot figure out. This team being undefeated with a rookie head coach and quarterback as well as very few established play-makers on either side of the ball defies logic. I expect the Lions high-powered offense to come out firing after laying an egg last week in Chicago. The Eagles remind me a little bit of the 2011 Bengals who made the playoffs behind then rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. That team also had its share of surprising losses. With that is my logic, I will take the Lions here. I still think this team is one of the most dangerous in the league. A 1-3 record is not indicative of the talent they have, particularly on offense. Det 31 Phi 27

Titans at Dolphins (-3.5) – This game will go on as scheduled despite Hurricane Matthew. There are much more important things going on in Florida right now than a football game between two lousy teams, but the Dolphins are my favorite bet of the week. As you may know by now, I love teens that were humiliated on national TV the following week. I was at the Dolphins game last Thursday in Cincinnati. They cannot possibly be any worse, and Tennessee skinks to begin with. I expect Miami to come out like gangbusters here. Mia 31 Ten 17.

Redskins at Ravens (-3.5) – Despite last week’s loss, I am still a charter member of the Ravens bandwagon. They found that nice little running game last week with Terrace West. That will only help Joe Flacco going forward. Also, for the first time in his career, he has about five legitimate pass catching targets at his disposal. The defense is work in progress, but it does not need to be great. Washington is banged up in the secondary and their win over Cleveland last week was not exactly convincing. They are a team that has not terrible at anything, but also not particularly good at anything. The Ravens will put up some huge offensive numbers here. Bal 34 Was 20

photo from associated press

photo from associated press

Falcons at Broncos (-4.5) – I keep looking for a week to pick against my Broncos. This isn’t it. Paxton Lynch will make his first career start for Denver here for a mildly injured Trevor Siemian. The formula is the same. He is driving a Ferrari, all he has to do is not strip the gears. Atlanta has been a pleasant surprise. I am very aware of what Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are capable of. However, it is almost impossible to pick against this defense at home. Den 28 Atl 20

*Bills at Rams (PK) – The Rams are the other team that is mystifying to me. After an embarrassing Monday night shutout start year, they have rattled off three straight behind a tremendous pass rush. However, they can only make up for the team’s offensive deficiencies for so long. They just do not have anything on the offensive side of the ball that makes me think that this start is anything more than a fun mirage. Even Todd Gurley has struggled to find running room, which makes their start all the more inexplicable. Do not ask me how this team is 3-1. I have no clue, but credit to them. Despite everybody burying him after two weeks, Rex Ryan has the Bills playing really well. Both these teams go about their business in the same way, physical, smart, and conservative. It is not flashy, but has proven effective for both teams as of late. I think the Bills do it just a little better. Buf 16 LA 14

Bengals (-2) at Cowboys- Both teams struggle in the red zone. Cincinnati has their star receiver, Dallas is missing theirs. I think this game will come down to who can make one big-play and avoid the red zone altogether to score a late touchdown. With Dez Bryant out again, the Bengals are far better equipped to do that. Cin 28 Dal 24

photo from talk-sports.net

photo from talk-sports.net

*Chargers at Raiders (-3.5) – For me, this is the most interesting game of the week. For the second time this year the public has fallen in love with the Raiders after an impressive road victory. The first time that happened, they went home and got their doors kicked in by Atlanta. If the Raiders want to sit at the big kid table, they have to win games like this. Until they show me they can, I will pick against them every time in this spot. Also, San Diego’s 1-3 record is a little misleading. They have led at the two minute warning in every game this season. SD 24 Oak 20

Giants at Packers (-7) – I thought this line would be closer. I know the Giants were terrible on Monday night against the Vikings, but that offense packs enough punch to scare anyone. Conversely, the last time we saw the Packers they did their very best to blow a 31- 3 lead against Detroit two weeks ago. Both teams are much better on offense than they are on defense. I think scoring will come easy for both Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers. So, it is hard for me to see this game getting out of hand. That being said, the home team will still win it. GB 38 NYG 34

MNF: Bucs at Panthers (-5) – Derrick Anderson will start for the injured Cam Newton here. He is one of the league’s most capable backups. This game of two 1-3 teams features one team that is struggling, but has proven it knows how to win, and another that is still learning how to win. I am going to assume that anyone who reads this will know which is which. Car 24 TB 14

Week 4 NFL Picks Against the Spread

I am back with my fourth week of NFL picks against the spread. I was a very respectable 8-7-1 last week. I was all over the Broncos and Raiders upsets, while the Eagles and Vikings continued to make me look stupid. With the Bengals covering a 7.5 point spread last night, I am now 21-26-2 on the year. I am inching ever so close to “the black” as they would say in Vegas. As usual, my picks are in bold and outright upsets have will have an asterisk.

Colts (-2.5) at Jaguars (London) – I expect the Colts to carry the momentum from last week’s comeback win across the pond. They still are not playing well. In fact, I just do not think they are very good, but I like the matchup. Jacksonville is dead in the water. A 0-4 start may be the end for Gus Bradley. Ind 24 Jac 13

Bills* at Patriots (PK) – This is my gutsiest pick of year. My logic? Rex Ryan coached teams have always played the Pats well, even with Tom Brady. The line is the way it is because no one knows who will be playing quarterback for New England, but it won’t be Brady. I still have enough respect for Rex Ryan as a defensive coach to think he can fluster Garoppolo, Brissett, or Edelman. Buf 17 NE 16

Panthers (-3) at Falcons- The Falcons are better than I thought, but I think time will show that Cam Newton and the Panthers are a better football team. Moreover, in this case, they are desperate. 1-3 is a tough hole to dig out of, even for a team as talented as Carolina. Car 30 Atl 22

Browns* at Redskins (-7.5) – The Browns controlled much of the game against Miami last week. Rookie quarterback Cody Kessler protected the football well. Yet, they managed to lose in typical Cleveland fashion. I predict they will get out of their own way this week against the Washington team that really isn’t doing much well on offense despite a road upset of the Giants last week. Cle 28 Was 24

Lions (-3) at Bears- This Lions offense is no joke. Matt Stafford has almost a four to one touchdown to interception ratio since week 10 last year. Marvin Jones suddenly looks like an elite wide receiver. I do expect professional pride to kick in for Chicago at some point. They are the worst team in football three weeks in and a banged up mess. However, they will keep this closer than it should be. Det 30 Chi 20

photo from zambio.com

photo from zambio.com

Raiders at Ravens (-3.5) – I like where both teams are headed. However, I have been on the Ravens bandwagon since before the season started. It is a bandwagon that not nearly enough people are on. This will be a shootout between two quarterbacks that are really playing well right now. Get with the program folks. Baltimore is as good as anybody in this league right now. I also like the fact that they have played and won a few close games already this year. Bal 35 Oak 28

Seahawks (-1) at Jets- This is the toughest pick of the week for me. Russell Wilson is banged up and Seattle is coming east. However, this is a big early-season game for two teams that have legitimate playoff aspirations. Given Seattle’s track record in spots like this and the Jets horrid red zone performance lately, I will take Seattle in a low-scoring fistfight. Sea 13 NYJ 10

Titans at Texans (-4.5) – Houston was embarrassed last week in New England. I am not crazy about them, but they are much better than last week would indicate, particularly on defense, even without J.J. Watt. Throw in the fact that Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the league in turnovers and I see a blowout. Hou 31 Ten 13

Broncos (-3) at Bucs- I thought this might be the week I would be forced to pick against my beloved Broncos. However, I thought they would be an eight point favorite here. Tampa is coming off a dreadful home loss to the Rams. Denver is riding high after a fourth quarter offensive explosion put away Cincinnati last week. I am very wary of Tampa’s talented young offense, but a field goal is simply too few points to give up with a way Denver is playing right now. Den 26 TB 20

Cowboys (-2) at 49ers- I am stunned the number is so small here. The Cowboys have settled in to a nice “hold the fort down” type rhythm on offense with Dak Prescott while Tony Romo recovers. Everyone is making plays. The defense has not been great, but just good enough. San Francisco’s stellar opening-night performance has proven to be an admiration. It will not be long before Blaine Gabbert hears Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps at the quarterback position. Dal 24 SF 9.

Rams at Cardinals (-7.5) – You have a 1-2 team that is favorite by more than a touchdown over a 2-1 team. It is just strange to look at, but I understand it. Despite not being nearly as bad as most folks thought after their season-opening shutout loss, the Rams lack the firepower to keep up with the Cardinals offense. Much like the Panthers, the Cardinals are desperate to get dialed in this week. AZ 31 LA 17

Saints* at Chargers (-4) – Anytime a team gets humiliated on national television, I like them the next week, especially when Drew Brees is the quarterback. The difference between these two is not that much to begin with. NO 34 SD 31

Chiefs at Steelers (-4.5) – This is pretty straightforward. Kansas City is a really solid football team, but they do not have the horses to keep up with Pittsburgh on the road. Not many teams do. I am anxious to see Le’veon Bell reenter the fold for the Steelers this week. Pit 35 KC 24

photo from newsbake.com

photo from newsbake.com

 

MNF: Giants* at Vikings (-5) – Another week and another pick against the Vikings for me, but this has less to do with them and more to do with the opponent. If this Giants’ offense cannot score on this Vikings defense, I do not know who can. They have three pass catchers who would be the top wideout on any other team in this league. Also, the Vikings are still in the bottom five of almost every major offensive statistical category. The defense has scored almost as many points as the offense. That just is not a sustainable winning model in this league. Additionally, Eli Manning typically follows a bad performance with a great one. NYG 21 Min 17.

Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 1)

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

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

Sunday Morning

(CARLOS GONZALEZ • CGONZALEZ@STARTRIBUNE.COM)

(CARLOS GONZALEZ • CGONZALEZ@STARTRIBUNE.COM)

Minnesota 24 @ Tennesse 17: Shaun Hill will be starting in this game. Hill does not have to do anything spectacular for this team to win. All that needs to be done is handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson and let the defense carry you. He just can’t turn the ball over. Tennesse is not good enough on offense to beat this Vikings team. Vikings win this game due to their talented defense.

Tampa Bay 31 @ Atlanta 27: I really like Tampa Bay in this one. Jameis Winston should have a big day against a very average defense. Matt Ryan throws at least one interception in this game and the Buccaneers start the season off with a big divisional win.

Buffalo 20 @ Baltimore 17: It feels scary to pick three road teams so far but I really believe Buffalo is the better team. Nothing I see from Baltimore excites me. Joe Flacco had one great playoff run but otherwise he had never produced anything special. They should have a good running game but Rex Ryan is a defensive wizard who will have the Bills ready. Tyrod Taylor will have a great year and it will start this week against the Ravens.

Chicago 16 @ Houston 17: This game is a toss up to me and I am picking the Texans because they are at home. Both teams are fairly even on paper. Chicago will have an improved defense from last year but that isn’t saying much. Houston already has a great defense that will force Jay Cutler into a couple of turnovers. That will be the difference in this game.

(http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/american-sports/jacksonville-34-31-buffalo-5-6703088)

(http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/american-sports/jacksonville-34-31-buffalo-5-6703088)

Green Bay 28 @ Jacksonville 31: My biggest upset of the week goes to the Jaguars. Aaron Rodgers thinks highly of himself and his team but he is going to be shocked down in Florida. It is going to be a hot game. The Jags will have a decent home field advantage from practicing in the conditions. The Jaguars also have an offense that will be explosive this season and it will be enough to upset the Packers.

San Diego 10 @ Kansas City 24: I really believe the Chargers are going to flat out stink it up this year. They play in a tough division with three really good teams that are capable of making the playoffs. The Chiefs have been consistently good under Andy Reid. Alex Smith doesn’t light up the scoreboard but makes the right decisions and gets the wins. The Chiefs have a great defense and will wreck havoc on Philip Rivers.

Oakland 38 @ New Orleans 31: I expect a shootout in the Superdome. It will be fun to see Derek Carr and Drew Brees go back and forth in this game. The reason I think Oakland pulls out this shootout is because they are much better defensively than the Saints. Khalil Mack is going to have a minimum of two sacks and he may even force a Brees fumble. A few extra defensive stops is why the Raiders come out of New Orleans with a win.

(http://nflspinzone.com/2016/03/19/cincinnati-bengals-could-corey-coleman-be-the-best-fit/)

(http://nflspinzone.com/2016/03/19/cincinnati-bengals-could-corey-coleman-be-the-best-fit/)

Cincinnati 24 @ New York (J) 14: This game is pretty simple to me. The Bengals are clearly the better team. They are better defensively. They have a better quarterback, running back and receiving corp. The only thing the Jets have going for them is being at home. It won’t be enough and the Bengals will start the season off 1-0.

Cleveland 24 @ Philadelphia 20: Philadelphia is starting a rookie quarterback that played in the FCS. Wentz also missed most of the preseason due to injury. He will not be ready for the speed of the NFL even if it is the Browns. Robert Griffin III also looked really good in the preseason, especially when connecting with Terrell Pryor Sr. I think the Browns have enough to beat an Eagles team that is going to be in for a long year.

Sunday Afternoon

Miami 17 @ Seattle 28: How can Miami beat Seattle? There is no answer to that question. They can’t and won’t. The Seahawks are just one of those teams we know is going to be good. They have had the top scoring defense for four years in a row. This is a legendary defense. Offensively, Russell Wilson got on a hot streak when Marshawn Lynch went down last year. He will build off of that and the Dolphins have no chance in one of the toughest stadiums in the world to play in.

New York (G) 24 @ Dallas 27: This is going to be a typical Giants vs. Cowboys game. Back and forth. Big plays. Huge momentum swings. It will also come down to the wire. In these divisional games it is hard to choose winners. Ezekiel Elliot will have a huge opening game behind the best offensive line in football and Dak Prescott will make a few key plays that will win it for Dallas at home.

Detroit 17 @ Indianapolis 31: Andrew Luck has something to prove this season. He needs to show the world that he can cut down on the turnovers and lead the Colts to a Super Bowl. Coming out of college, experts claimed he was the best prospect ever. It is time to show that. This week he will easily do so against a Lions team that doesn’t have much to look forward too. Luck will throw three touchdowns in this one and the Lions will realize how much they miss Megatron.

Sunday Night Football

New England 27 @ Arizona 24: Next man up- that is what the Patriots are all about. Jimmy Garoppolo is going to get his first career start against an extremely tough, physical Cardinals defense. The good thing for Jimmy is that he has weapons all around him. Tight end Martellus Bennett will provide a big option in the passing game, even with no Rob Gronkowski. Julian Edelman will find the soft spots in the defense. The Patriots will be playing this game to prove that the next man up motto includes the quarterback position.

Monday Night Football

(Justin K. Aller)

(Justin K. Aller)

Pittsburgh 37 @ Washington 21: Big Ben is going to have a field day in this game throwing to Antonio Brown. I firmly believe Antonio Brown may have a 200 yard game. The Steelers have a dangerous offense even without Le’Veon Bell. Washington will not be able to run the ball which means the game will be in Kirk Cousisn’s hands. That will spell disaster for the Redskins on Monday Night Football.

Los Angeles 20 @ San Fransisco 23: In Chip I trust. Chip Kelly is going to coach the 49ers to a win in this game somehow, someway. I am not sure what we are going to see in this game because I am not totally sure where these teams finish this season. Although, one thing I do know is Todd Gurley will have some big runs but I just don’t think it will be enough to pull out the road win.

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