NFL week two: Eight takeaways

1. New England looked great, but let’s pump the brakes

Tom Brady threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns, but did we forget who they played? That’s right, New Orleans. In the previous week, the Saints allowed 470 yards to the Minnesota Vikings, who are predominately relevant because of their defense.

This is a Saints team who, last year, finished second to last in total points allowed, and dead last in passing yards allowed. With that said, it is expected for Tom Brady and the New England offense to put up numbers.

Despite the big win however, New England is still banged up. Rob Gronkowski had to exit with a groin injury and Dont’a Hightower might be out another week or two. With Danny Amendola still sidelined, it was nice to see production from Chris Hogan and Philip Dorsett, but we will see how long these two can last as consistent playmakers. Especially when New England plays a legit defense.

2. Maybe the Titans will be as good as we thought?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Derrick Henry could take over as the RB1 (Tennessee Titans)

Going into the season, people were high on Tennessee. For good reason of course, since they do have Marcus Mariota behind center.

Unfortunately, Mariota hasn’t looked great in his first two games of 2017. Through two games, Mariota has only thrown one touchdown, and has a quarterback rating of 78.7. In his previous two seasons, Mariota’s quarterback ratings were 91.5, and 95.6.

Still, the Titans put up 37 points. Granted it was against Jacksonville, but up until this point in his career, Blake Bortles had been undefeated against Tennessee when he plays at home.

A main reason for the big victory was Tennessee’s ability to run the football. They racked up 179 yards on the ground, mostly from Derrick Henry, who ran for 94 yards, on 6.57 yards per carry.  The Titans defense was also able to force three turnovers, which is a given against Bortles, but they still count. If Mariota can improve, this team could easily win the division.

3. The Panthers are 2-0, but they are overrated

What a blessing it is to start your season against the 49ers and the Bills. Look, the defense has been spectacular, only allowing six total points through two games, but Cam Newton and the offense looks pitiful. It’s understood that Newton is playing banged up, but maybe they need to check for a concussion, because this guy looks lost on the field.

If you watched the game, then you know that your grandmother would have completed the “would be” touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, instead of sailing it four feet over his head like Newton did.

Greg Olsen will also 6-8 weeks of the season due to his broken foot, so expect more mediocre play from Carolina’s offense. Carolina is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry is something to keep an eye on as well.

4. The Chiefs look really good

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Kareem Hunt’s debut was no fluke (Sporting News)

After two weeks, Kansas City looks like the best team in football. Not only did they smack the Patriots, but they also beat a good Eagles team. Alex Smith has five touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception, and Kareem Hunt might be able to sit out the rest of the year and still win Rookie of the Year.

In his first two career games, Hunt has 229 yards rushing, along with five total touchdowns. Kansas City is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, which is good for first in the NFL.

The pass rush looks great, as Chris Jones had three of their six sacks against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. If they can slow down the run, this team could be dangerous.

5. Thank God for the Honey Badger, but the Cardinals’ season is over

Without a clutch, game-sealing interception by Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals could easily be 0-2. With David Johnson scheduled to miss a serious amount of time, the Cardinals need all the luck they can get, and Mathieu helped them stay relevant for another week.

Carson Palmer has been just awful, with four interceptions and a QBR below 66, his career looks to be done. He turned it around late in the game, but that’s expected against a garbage Colts team. The Cardinals can’t run the ball, and for some reason, are having a hard time defending the pass, so kudos to Mathieu, but it is safe to already write off Arizona.

6. Jay Cutler and the Dolphins might be a perfect match

The Dolphins might be the most underrated team in football, and we might see the best version of Jay Cutler. Yes, it was only one game, but Cutler completed 72.7 percent of his passes, and had a QBR of 101.8.

Jay Ajayi showed that last year was no fluke, rushing for 122 yards. Jarvis Landry led Miami with 13 catches, and the Fins defense held Melvin Gordon to 13 yards on nine attempts. Watch out for Miami.

7. The Raiders are dope

The Raiders home opener was everything you could have hoped for. In a 45-25 win over the Jets, we saw Marshawn Lynch dancing, Michael Crabtree with three touchdowns and Derek Carr looking like a real MVP. Carr has yet to commit a turnover and the Raiders are fifth in the league in rushing.

The defense, who at times, holds this team back, has already recovered two fumbles and is doing a decent job of defending the run. If the defense gets better, the Raiders could be looking at an easy route to home field advantage.

8. Cowboys in trouble?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Has Dak been exposed? (FanSided)

As someone who does not think Dak Prescott is a franchise quarterback, Sunday’s performance was beautiful to watch. Without Ezekiel Elliott, Dak is nothing. Elliott was held to eight yards on nine attempts, which caused Prescott to actually have to make plays. This resulted in a pair of interceptions.

Denver’s D is top notch, but the Cowboys should be concerned. If the run game is not there, this team is unable to produce, especially with a washed up Dez Bryant. Yeah, he caught a touchdown, but with all those targets, he should have been much better.

 

 

Featured image by Washington Post

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Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

What we learned about the Chiefs and Patriots in fantasy

We saw the unexpected on the opening night of the NFL season. The Kansas City Chiefs exploded in the second half and won 42-27 against the defending champion New England Patriots.

From a fantasy football perspective, we saw quarterback Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt go out on a tear along with wide receiver Tyreek Hill. While this gives hope for fantasy owners to start Chiefs offensive players more then they did in the preseason, I warn those owners not to expect this on a weekly basis. For those who are worried about the Patriots offense, don’t panic.

Patriots Defense most of the Blame

As I say again, the Patriots were looking like the typical Patriots in the first half. Then things changed in the second half. Part of that is because of the Patriots defense.

Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

Tom Brady (Photo by: usatoday.com)

Their defense isn’t anything special, unlike their offense. They finished 19th in fantasy points in 2016.

They added cornerback Stephon Gilmore this offseason to play alongside Malcolm Butler. They also have Dont’a Hightower at linebacker. It’s not a great defense, it’s a good defense.

They were liked by many this week because of the matchup. The Chiefs aren’t known for an explosive offense, especially in the passing game, which finished 19th in yards per game.

They had a rookie running back starting the game. The Pats made defensive plays in the first half getting a fumble recovery. Then the Chiefs made big plays, including two deep passes for touchdowns. This made the offense play catch up with a group Brady hasn’t played with much.

Don’t panic about the patriots offensive players

I don’t think the Patriots playing catch up is the reason for some of the struggles. They did it down 28-3 in the Super Bowl. I think some of it is because of Brady having different targets he’s not used to yet.

He didn’t have Julian Edelman, someone he relies on. Brady did have Rob Gronkowski, who was a non-factor with two catches for 33 yards. He did do well with Danny Amendola, who had six catches for 100 yards and Brandin Cooks caught three passes for 88 yards. Cooks proved he can be a dependable WR1. As for Amendola, he suffered a concussion, which seems repetitive because he does well and gets hurt all the time.

Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

Mike Gillislee (Photo by: bostonherald.com)

As for the running backs, Mike Gillislee was the man, scoring three times on 45 yards. Rex Burkhead got the first two snaps, but he only played eight more snaps the rest of the game. James White had a decent performance, rushing the ball 10 times for 38 yards while hauling in three of his five targets for 30 yards.

All in all, four running backs combined for 34 touches in Week 1, and that could be reality all season. Gillislee is the one to own, but White should be a must-own too, especially after getting 10 rushing attempts.

Keep in mind they have a guy named Bill Belichick. The genius will find a way for this not to happen again. I also stress the fact they did play a defense who finished second in fantasy points for defense/special teams.

Don’t expect this from the Chiefs offensive fantasy players every week

I think this is understood, saying the Chiefs won’t play like this every week. But let’s give credit where it’s due. Smith, Hunt and Hill were dominant this week. Again, don’t expect this week in and week out.

Smith may have had the best game I’ve seen a quarterback have against the Patriots in a while. He completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns in Thursday’s win. He also completed two 70-plus-yard touchdown passes and rarely seemed flustered the entire night.

This doesn’t make Smith a must-start every week, so don’t get your hopes up. All you need from players is one good week and he gets more looks. This makes receivers like Hill and Travis Kelce more dependable given Smith’s play. Given the right matchup, he could be a start for teams with quarterback troubles.

Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

Kareem Hunt (Photo by: sbnation.com)

Hunt owners were frighted when he fumbled on his first run, something he didn’t do at all in college. He didn’t let that rattle him like many other rookies though. He went on a tear and racked up 246 yards of total offense: 148 rushing yards on 17 carries with a touchdown and 98 receiving yards with two more scores on five receptions.

It’s safe to say running back by committee is toned down a bit. This is his job now. Though this might end up Hunt’s best game of the season, so we shouldn’t overreact and expect him to be an elite back just yet. Hunt should be a high flex play or RB2 play for weeks to come.

Hill had seven receptions on eight targets for 133 yards and a touchdown on Thursday. He also carried the ball twice for five yards. It’s safe to say Hill exploded in the first game. He looked impressive, burning corners to get open deep down the field and hauling in passes in traffic. Hill is a solid WR1 for now as he has silenced his critics for the time being.

It’s just Week 1

In conclusion, it’s just week 1. We see players who we expect to do well struggle and the unexpected from some players. Don’t read too much into what you saw from Thursday’s game. There’s many weeks still to go.

There’s many things still to come for the 2017 fantasy season. One bit of advice that I can give is enjoy it.

 

Featured image from si.com.

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2017 AFC East division preview

2017 AFC East division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. The Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season this week. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC East division preview.

4: New York Jets

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: JULIO CORTEZ/AP)

Last season: 5-11

Strength of schedule: 8

Is it worth it to do a preview on the Jets? Let’s just stick a fork in them right now and put them on the clock. New York had an underwhelming season last year and seemed to completely blow up the roster and start a rebuild. There is little to look forward to this season so Jet fans start watching college football and look for your next quarterback.

Josh McCown will be under center for an offense who will have two really solid running backs, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. This duo combined to lead the Jets to 112.6 rush yards per game. That was the only true positive from the offense as they ranked 30th in points. This season they won’t have Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall and their starting receivers will be Jalin Marshall and Robby Anderson. There won’t be much of a passing attack, making the Jets one dimensional and predictable.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets have plenty of talent to be a good unit. The issue is that the offense is going to hurt them by keeping them on the field often. Up front, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson will be a handful for any offensive line. The two combined for 126 tackles and 11.5 sacks.

The play of the defensive line should make life easy for the linebackers. With a good defensive front, linebackers Daren Lee, Demario Davis and Jordan Jenkins should be free to fly around and make plays.

Cornerback play will be suspect with Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne but the secondary will be led by a fantastic safety duo. Marcus Maye and rookie Jamal Adams, the fantastic duo, have turned heads in both practices and in the preseason. These two will be feared and are the future of the New York Jets’ defense.

The entire defense should be very improved and part of the reason is the only way to go is up from a defense that gave up 25.6 points per game. They also ranked 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Todd Bowles is known for his defense but left it in Arizona.

With a rebuild going on in New York, the Jets will be difficult to watch. The defense will be talented but an offense with no playmakers and no big play ability will bring the team down. It doesn’t help that they have the eighth toughest schedule. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, are now on the clock.

Prediction: 1-15 (0-6), miss the playoffs

win: Jax

3: Miami Dolphins

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season: 10-6

Strength of schedule: 6

Miami lost their quarterback for the season so they went to the broadcast booth and pulled out Jay Cutler. Cutler is no franchise savior. He wasn’t even in shape because according to him, quarterbacks don’t need to be in great cardiovascular shape. With that being said, his best season came under Adam Gase so this move is intriguing. In that season, Cutler had 3,659 yards 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a career high 92.3 quarterback rating.

The Dolphins offensive line is one of the worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus. In the past, bad offensive lines have brought out the worst in Cutler. Aside from the offensive line, Cutler will have some really solid weapons around him. At running back, Jay Ajaya is poised to have another big season. Ajaya rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Dolphins on the ground.

The receiving corp is one of the most talented in the league. Jarvis Landry is the headliner with 288 receptions, 3,051 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Alongside the stud Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills create mismatches while teams focus on the running game and Landry. Parker and Stills combined for 98 receptions, 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns. These weapons should make life easy for Cutler but he has had many weapons in the past and still found ways to mess up.

Cutler used to have Matt Forte in the backfield. He also has had receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall but still had rough seasons. Cutler may make some great throws over the course of the season but when push comes to shove he will also do something boneheaded and cost his team dearly.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins are going to struggle. Last season they gave up 23.8 points per game, ranking 18th. The defensive line couldn’t stop the run, giving up 140.4 yards per game nor could they get pressure on the quarterback accumulating just 33 sacks. Cameron Wake is 35 years old and has lost a step over the past few seasons.

With an at best average defensive line, the linebacking corps and defensive backs will struggle to succeed. This defense was ranked at the bottom of the league last season and are in a worse position this season. As Jay Cutler begins to turn the ball over, the defense will be in bad situations making the numbers worse. Miami is in for a rough season.

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

losses: TB, @LAC, NO, Ten, @ATL, Oak, @Car, @NE, Den, NE, @Buf, @KC

2: Buffalo Bills

2017 AFC East division preview

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

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule: 5

Buffalo is under a new regime and fans are hoping this group of coaches will finally end the playoff drought which has lasted since 1999. Sean McDermott was hired to improve the defense and get the Bills back to the promised land.

In order for the Bills to have a good season, and make the playoffs, they must ride LeSean McCoy there. Buffalo led the NFL in rushing yards last season at 164.4 yards per game. Their fantastic ground game led the Bills to the 10th best scoring offense, averaging 24.9 points per game. The rushing attack will still be one of the leagues best behind a top 10 offensive line.

The big improvement the Bills will see this season will be in the passing game. Buffalo averaged a dreadful 189.8 passing yards last season. They drafted Zay Jones and traded for Jordan Matthews to give Tyrod Taylor more reliable weapons. Sammy Watkins was shipped out because of his inability to stay healthy. Jones and Matthews will be a solid duo barring any injuries.

As mentioned, McDermott was hired to fix a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game and a rush defense that gave up 133.1 yards per game. The defensive line is very talented and will improve the rush defense under the tutelage of McDermott. His defenses have had a reputation for doing so while in Carolina. In his last four seasons as defensive coordinator, McDermotts’ defenses ranked second, 16th, fourth and sixth in rush defense.

Buffalo will be an improved football team and will fight for a wild card spot but the tough schedule will make it difficult. The Bills may not end the drought this season but are heading in the right direction.

Prediction: 8-8 (4-2), wildcard candidate

losses: @Car, Den, @Cin, TB, @KC, NE, Ind, @NE

1: New England Patriots

2017 AFC East division preview

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

Last season: 14-2

Strength of schedule: 12

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the best quarterback and head coach duo of all-time. Both are the G.O.A.T’s and as long as these two are around, the Patriots will be in contention. New England has won eight straight division titles and 14 of the last 17. Blah blah blah, we know all this already and we know that the Patriots are going to be damn good this season. This preview is a typical preview of the Patriots.

The Patriots’ offseason was the rich just getting richer. New England acquired Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Stephon Gillmore. Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis will also be returning from their injuries. Brady will have plenty of weapons to have another legendary season.

There is nothing to worry about with the offense and as long as father time doesn’t sack Tom Brady, the Patriots will have one of the best offenses in the NFL.

What will really make the Patriots great again is their defense. Last season New England ranked first in points allowed at 15.6 per game. The front four of Lawerence Guy, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown and Trey Flowers aren’t superstars but will do their job sufficiently enough that the rest of the defense will be able to make plays.

The Patriots’ secondary is going to be close to unstoppable. It may even be the best secondary in the NFL. Stephon Gillmore and Malcolm Butler are going to lock down both sides of the field. Safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will patrol the middle of the field against the run and the pass. It is scary that Belichick will have this much talent to work with.

The Patriots are a world class organization that knows how to win. Until they show signs of falling off the map, they are the prohibitive favorites to not only win the division but the conference as well.

Prediction: 14-2 (6-0), division champion

losses: ATL, @Oak

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NFL awards predictions

 

After last week’s Hall of Fame Game, between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL is officially back. Get hype!

What a time to be alive. This week, HBO’s Hard Knocks returns. Jay Cutler finessed his way out of the first two weeks of training camp, and agreed to a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins. The New York Giants put out another electric dance video.

With all that said, it is time for my 2017-18 NFL awards predictions.

AP MOST VALUABLE PLAYER+ AP OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Derek Carr, qb (oakland raiders)

I absolutely love this kid. His 81 passing TD’s in his first three seasons are good for 4th most in NFL history. Last year, Carr led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before breaking his fibula in week 16. He threw for 3,937 yards with 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

The guy doesn’t even curse. He has a mamba mentality and is the hardest worker on the field. He ranked 7th in completion percentage for quarterbacks who threw at least 560 passes. That number will only go up, with the addition of Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson. Adding Marshawn Lynch to the backfield will keep this offense clicking.

Oakland is also up against a plethora of teams who do not defend the pass well. Nine of their matchups will be against teams who, last year, ranked in the bottom half for passing defense. The NFL’s highest paid player is about to have a monster year.

AP COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ROB GRONKOWSKI, TE (NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS)

While only starting six games last year, Gronk still finished 4th in 20+ yard receptions among all TE’s. After getting his third surgery to repair a herniated disc, Gronkowski looks to be 100 percent, and quite possibly in the best shape of his life. He is now working with Alex Guerrero, the man in charge of Tom Brady’s TB12 Sports Therapy Center.

Healthy Gronk= Nightmare for all defenses (si.com)

Just how dedicated is Gronk to staying healthy? For every alcoholic beverage he consumes, Gronk has to drink three glasses of water.

The addition of Brandin Cooks makes Gronkowski even harder to defend. Cooks’s speed makes him a legit threat over the top, which defenders will have to monitor. This will lead to less double teams for Gronk, which means even more Gronk spikes. The 4x Pro Bowl TE could possibly have his best year.

 

AP DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JADEVEON CLOWNEY, DE (HOUSTON TEXANS)

Ever since that epic hit during the 2013 Outback Bowl, Clowney has been a force, when healthy. Coming off a breakout year in which he collected six sacks and 40 tackles, Clowney was selected to his first Pro Bowl. In just 14 games, Clowney earned 2nd team AP All Pro honors.

With JJ Watt healthy, the Texans defense will be up there with the best. Their early preseason depth chart has Clowney listed as an outside linebacker. A freak athlete who cannot be blocked, Clowney’s versatility will be key in order for Houston to make a deep run.

AP OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: LEONARD FOURNETTE, rb (jacksonville jaguars)

The Jaguars have been in need of a good running back since Maurice Jones-Drew. I know it sounds crazy to give an award to a Jaguars player. Not only a Jags player, but a running back who will have to go up against the Titans and Texans, both division rivals, who defend the run extremely well. But let’s be real, this kid is special.

To be honest, I’m usually not even a fan of LSU running backs in the NFL. They give us too many Joseph Addai’s and Jeremy Hill’s, but Fournette is a different breed. He is an absolute house, with great speed. Former Jaguar Fred Taylor called him, “an absolute beast” and “a man amongst boys.” Taylor knows a thing or two about running the ball so I’ll take his word for it.

The Jaguars will be relying heavily on Fournette (Saturday Down South)

Fournette will be the focal point of Jacksonville’s offense. Last year, the Jags ranked 24th in rushing attempts, 22nd in rushing yards, and 29th in rushing touchdowns. With Fournette, they will be able to rush the ball 30 times a game. More rushing attempts means less of a chance for a Bortles’ interception. Look for Fournette to be used like Ezekiel Elliot in Dallas.

AP DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: SOLOMON THOMAS, DE (SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS)

After recently signing a four-year deal worth up to $28 million, the defensive linemen from Stanford is already standing out at Niners camp, due to his size and speed. Elvis Dumervil told reporters that Thomas “will be a dominant player in this league.”

Thomas will be joining the worst defense in the NFL. Last year, the 49ers ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed, rushing touchdowns, and rushing attempts. Teams could run with ease all over them. Thomas will be an immediate factor, as someone who can attack the QB and get in the backfield. During his last year at Stanford, Thomas recorded 8.5 sacks. Over his last two years, he had 24.5 tackles for loss.

Because of Stanford’s spring schedule, Thomas was unable to participate in team activities, but this did not stop him from getting better. During this time, he worked out with Warren Sapp, Demarcus Ware and Von Miller.

Yes, the Niners suck, but that actually helps Thomas, who will for sure slide right in as a starter. He will have more chances than anyone to be successful, as teams will most likely continue to run heavily against San Francisco.

AP COACH OF THE YEAR: BILL BELICHICK, HC, (NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS)

The GOAT. Not much has to be said in this section. His team is favored in every game. Coming off last year’s Super Bowl, they only got better on offense with the additions of Dwayne Allen, Brandin Cooks and Mike Gillelsie. The number one defense last year, the Patriots also beefed up that side of the ball by adding Stephon Gilmore, Kony Ealy and David Harris.

Will the Patriots repeat? (ESPN.com)

With a healthy and not suspended Tom Brady, who went 11-1 during last year’s regular season, don’t sleep on 19-0.

Featured image by The Fresno Bee

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 20-11

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the ninth installment, containing players 20-11.

20. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Eric Berry (Photo by youtube.com)

Berry is a winner in every sense of the word and his ability to come back after beating cancer and still being one of the best safeties in the NFL, is incredible. In 2016 Berry totaled 77 tackles, nine passes defended, four interceptions, a forced fumble and two touchdowns.

With other players on the Chiefs’ defense getting hurt the last few years, Berry has been the best player on the defense. This season, Kansas City should have a good defense once again with a lot of their players healthy. They employ the bend don’t break mentality, so they give up a lot of yards (5,896), but not a lot of points (19.4). With Berry coming off one of his best seasons as a pro and a good defense returning, he will prove once again how good of a safety he is .

The Chiefs are fighting to make it to an AFC Championship Game or Super Bowl and if they get there, Berry will be a major reason why.

Comments: “This man can do it all. Beating cancer and beating down his opponents. This Chiefs defense has been great and will continue to be great while he is roaming the field.”- Robert Hanes

19. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

NFL Top 100

Drew Brees (Photo by denverpost.com)

There are a lot of quarterbacks on this list, but they may not be as important to their teams as Brees is to the Saints. He was 37 in 2016 when he threw for 5,208 yards, 37 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on 70% completion and will be 38 going into this season.

People have predicted that Brees would fall off for years now, but he keeps producing. He had his fifth 5,000 yard passing season last year and also recorded his second highest passing yards per game in his career. The Saints do lose Brandin Cooks, who they traded to the Patriots, but Brees still has Michael Thomas, who shows some real potential. Brees has done a lot more with a lot less.

Brees might start slowing down a little bit, but even if he does, his stats will still blow other quarterbacks out of the water.

Comments: “There is nothing bad I can say about Dree Brees other than he is aging. The fact of the matter is he is still producing. He should be higher on this list just because I think he is a better quarterback than Matt Ryan. He will have another season in which he passes for 5,000 yards and become closer to being the all-time passing leader. -Matthew Hagan

18. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Top 100

A.J. Green (Photo by cbssports.com)

Because of injury, Green had his first season of under 1,000 receiving yards in 2016. He only played ten games and still amassed 964 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Had he played a full 16 games and kept up his average receiving yards per game, he would have finished with a whopping 1,542 receiving yards.

The Bengals had a down year and only had Green on their offense as a dynamic playmaker. For the 2017 season, they have added John Ross and Joe Mixon to bring some life to the offense. Tyler Boyd had an impressive rookie year and will try to build on that in his second season. If Andy Dalton has time behind a shaky at best offensive line, he will find Green, much like he has since their rookie seasons in 2011.With a speedster in Ross on the other side of the field, Boyd in the slot and Tyler Eifert in the middle, Green should see more single coverage than last season with Brandon LaFell as the second leading receiver on the team.

Green has some offensive reinforcements this year, which should really open up the offense and allow him to have a great year.

Comments: “When healthy Green is a lock to put up great numbers, even though he sees double coverage most of the time” – Dylan Streibig

17. Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns

NFL Top 100

Joe Thomas (Photo by sportingsorta.com)

It is unfortunate that Thomas has played on the Browns his whole career and hasn’t had an opportunity to win anything. He is one of the most consistent players in the NFL. In his first ten years in the league, he has never missed the Pro Bowl and has six All-Pro team appearances.

The Browns won’t be expected to win the division this year, but they should be much improved. Thomas will continue blocking for Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson and hope that the passing attack that ranked 28th in the league improves. The starting quarterback may change, but they will have Kenny Britt, Corey Coleman and David Njoku as their main targets.

Thomas will continue to do his job at an elite level, but it once again will not result in a good win total for the Browns.

Comments: “This man is extremely loyal and I hope that Browns fans truly appreciate that. He has been a top 3 LT for years and has done it with bad everything else around him. Cleveland finally has good o-line pieces around him which could put them as a top offensive line for the first time in Thomas’ storied career”- Robert Hanes

16. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

NFL Top 100

Patrick Peterson (Photo by patrickpeterson21.com)

Peterson made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season of 2011 and hasn’t looked back. He has six straight Pro Bowls and has made the All-Pro team three times. Last season he recorded 50 total tackles, six passes defended, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The Cardinals defense gave up the fourth least passing yards per game in 2016 and Peterson was a big reason why. They will be without Tony Jefferson, who signed with the Ravens, so a lot will fall on the shoulders of Peterson and Tyran Mathieu. Peterson will be required to shut down opponents’ best receivers and will do a great job once again.

At age 28 Peterson will be in his prime and ready to roll for the 2017 season.

Comments: “Peterson is consistently one of the best corners in the NFL. He shuts down opponents’ best receivers and is a ball hawk when the ball is thrown his way. This season Peterson will once again prove to be a premier talent at corner.”-Joe DiTullio 

15. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Le’Veon Bell (Photo by espn.com)

The only problem with Bell is his ability to stay on the field, as he has only played 18 games in the last two seasons. Part of the reason he misses games is injury, the other being a suspension. In his 12 games, last season Bell had 105.7 rushing yards per game and nine total touchdowns.

Pittsburgh’s offense is going to be a juggernaut once again with the talent they have returning. Ben Roethlisberger will be back after contemplating retirement. He will have Antonio Brown, who will be ranked in one of the next 14 spots, and a few other good targets to throw to, helping keep the offense balanced. The offensive line has been solid the past few years and will open up holes for Bell.

Adversaries can’t stack the box against Bell because of how talented the rest of the offense is, meaning that he has a chance to put up a lot of big numbers in 2017.

Comments: “It is comical that Bell is ranked this low. Bell is clearly the best running back in the NFL and a top five player. He was the first player in NFL history to average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards passing. Averaging 150 yards from scrimmage is straight stupid. If this was my list he would be much higher.” -Matthew Hagan

14. Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Derek Carr (Photo by twitter.com)

Carr will have to recover from his broken leg that knocked him out of last season, but he has had an impressive first three years as a pro. If he can keep on progressing and help the Raiders win some meaningful games, the sky is the limit. In 2016 he threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions in 15 games.

The biggest thing Carr has done since arriving in Oakland is help increase the win total. In his first year the Raiders won three games, seven the second year and they won 12 of the 15 games he started last year. The offense should continue to be dynamic with one of the best offensive lines in football. They also have Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as good targets for Carr. The offensive line will block well for Marshawn Lynch and any other back Oakland plans on using, which will help create the balance that offensive coordinators love.

The Raiders will have a great offense once again and Carr will be the trigger man making things happen in 2017.

Comments: “Let me get this out of the way, Derek Carr is a stud. But, is he a top 15 player in the league right now? No, he still has to prove that he can do this consistently. He has plenty of potential and showed last year he can get the job done. If he can do that again this year, then he will be deserving of a top 15 spot.”-Robert Hanes

13. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by washingtontimes.com)

Injuries are the only thing holding one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game back. He hasn’t played a full 16 games since his second year in the NFL, but did play 15 games in 2015. He had eight games played in 2016. In those eight games he had 540 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

If Gronk is healthy he can have a big year in 2017. The Patriots added Brandin Cooks, another outside threat. Defenses will have to make up their minds about double covering Gronk, or one of the other productive receivers. The defenses will likely choose to double cover Gronk most of the time and he will still make them pay. If they focus their attention on one of the receivers, Gronk might have a career day.

Health is the biggest concern with this ranking, but when he is healthy Gronkowski is one of the best players in the NFL.

Comments: “One can only wonder how much higher Gronk would be on this list if he could stay healthy. If he can for the rest of his career he will easily go down as a top 5 TE of all time.”- Robert Hanes

12. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Matt Ryan (Photo by twitter.com)

Ryan had the best season of his career in 2016 and it really isn’t even close. He took the Falcons to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1990s and won the MVP award. On top of that, he threw for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Falcons’ offense will be dynamic again in 2017. Julio Jones, who will be ranked within the next 11 players, is one of the biggest matchup problems in the league. Mohammed Sanu also provides a good option. The offensive line is good and will protect Ryan well enough for him to survey the field. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman do a good job running the football and Freeman adds the ability to catch out of the backfield.

He may not win the MVP in 2017, but Ryan will be the man in charge on one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL.

Comments: “I’m of the minority that Matt Ryan gets too much love. I am not a believer in him as much as others. He has been gifted with talent around him. He is a solid quarterback but  I think he is a fringe top 25 player.” -Matthew Hagan

11. Luke Keuchly, LB, Carolina Panthers

NFL Top 100

Luke Keuchly (Photo by si.com)

It is unfortunate that Keuchly had concussion problems and missed six games, but he still had a good year that resulted in his fourth Pro Bowl. He also has three appearances on the All-Pro first team. In ten games last season Keuchly had 102 tackles, two sacks, six passes defended and an interception.

Keuchly’s versatility makes him great. He has great instincts that allow him to play the run and is one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL. Carolina’s defense wasn’t good last season, ranking 25th in scoring. Having Keuchly for a full year will drastically change that number for the better. They allowed 24.6 points in games he played and gave up 27.8 points per game without him. With all key players back and healthy and Julius Peppers on board, the Carolina defense can vastly improve.

If Keuchly is able to play he will be a top player in the NFL without a doubt.

Comments: “Luke Keuchly is the best pure linebacker in the NFL. He has great athletic ability and instincts, which he uses to his advantage. His instincts help him near the lead in tackles in the NFL every year he is healthy. The athletic ability helps him cover. He is also a very cerebral player that raises the level of play of the entire defense when he is on the field.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 30-21

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Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

The tight end position is known for big targets that can create space and are touchdown machines in the red zone. Tight ends can sometimes be nerve racking because there aren’t many that are elite. When its draft time it’s all about patience especially for tight ends as you don’t want to reach too high or wait to long for your starting TE.

Here are the top-5 fantasy tight ends you should consider for your fantasy team in 2017.

No.5 Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

To start, my number five tight end is Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2016 he was the most heavily targeted tight end in the league. This was due in part to Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in early November. Tight ends have accounted for a 24 percent target share during Shurmur’s 122 games as a head coach or coordinator since 2009 according to ESPN.

In 2016, Rudolph  paced all tight ends with 128 targets and ranked in the top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). In the past, Rudolph would average around three receptions and 27.8 yards per game, basically becoming a touchdown-or-bust tight end. Rudolph flipped the switch in 2016 and put up 5.2 grabs and 52.5 yards per game. This helped him finish second at the position in fantasy points, his best ranking since he landed 11th in 2012.

In 2017, Rudolph should continue to be a featured option in the Viking offense as Shurmur is still around. He’s not a top-tier option but he’s much better than the tight ends you’ll find at the end of your draft.

No.4 Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed has proven to be a valuable target in Washington. In 2016 he ranked in the top 10 tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite only playing 12 games.

Reed has posted a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons in the past two seasons. In 2015, he had his best season to date with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, which allowed him to finish as the No. 3 fantasy tight end in standard leagues. In 2016 he still produced at a high level with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns but finished as just the No. 8 tight end in standard formats. An impressive stat is that Reed has caught at least three-quarters of his targets during each of his four NFL seasons. That’s scary good.

The one issue with Reed is injuries. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his career. Last year he missed two games with a shoulder injury and one with a concussion. But these injuries haven’t prevented Reed’s numbers to drastically decline. However in 2017 he should become the number one option in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both moving on.

No.3 Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

My number three tight end is Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. He may not be the flashiest player, but without a doubt he’s the most consistent tight end in the NFL.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Greg Olsen (Photo by: nj.com)

Olsen finished third in fantasy points and in the top-seven at the position in targets, completions and receiving yards each of the past five years. In 2016 he had seven games with eight-plus fantasy points. He did, however, only have three touchdowns, his fewest since 2007. Olsen is still the main piece in the Panthers passing game especially in the red zone . He had another 1,000 yard season for the third year in a row and maintains consistency in targets and receptions.

The thing that Olsen excels in is durability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He is always a reliable TE1 and expect him to bounce back in touchdowns and being consistent.

No.2 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by: washingtontimes.com)

I know I will have some hate mail, but if it weren’t for injuries Gronkowski would be my number one tight end. The three-time top fantasy tight end has missed at least one game during each of the past five years and a total of 24 during that span. However, outside of fantasy he is the best tight end in the NFL and always a top two in fantasy.

In 2016 he appeared in eight games and finished with 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on 38 targets. He still finished as the No. 20 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues which goes to show how good he is. From weeks 6-10 he was the top fantasy tight end in fantasy points. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games. In fact he has double digit touchdowns in all but two seasons of his seven year career and they were due to injuries.

Again, people will not agree with this ranking but I fear Gronkowski will again have injury issues. He hasn’t seen a full 16 games since his first two seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he only missed a total of two games and had top fantasy seasons. We hope he plays at least 13 games because when he’s healthy he’s easily the best fantasy tight end in any format. If he can do that he will be the Gronkowski that we can rely on. I do expect him to be ready and also to be the first tight end off the board in Rounds 2 or 3.

No.1 Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone might question this but I’m going with Travis Kelce as my number one tight end for fantasy in 2017. The first thing is why is he in front of Gronkowski? . Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Kelce has played in 16 games three of his four seasons and has started 42 of his 49 career games.

But other then durability Kelce had a breakout 2016 season. He led almost every category at the tight end position including yards, yards per game, catches for 20 and 40 plus yards, and had the longest catch among tight ends. The Chiefs tight end was also second in receptions. Kelce finished as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns on 117 targets. Another interesting stat about Kelce is that he was second among receivers with 100 plus yard games behind only Julio Jones with six. He had a span where he had four 100 plus yards game towards the time of the fantasy playoffs.

Kelce if anything he should see an increase in usage this year with the release of Jeremy Maclin.  Even though he will be picked as the second tight end behind Gronk, Kelce is a good option and is valuable in both standard and PPR leagues. Look for him around the 4th to 5th round to be off the board as he has become a top tier tight end in fantasy.

 

Featured image from arrowheadaddict.com.

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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

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

New England Patriots

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The defending Super Bowl champions are the easiest team in the NFL to dissect during the Super Bowl series. If you had to bet your life on a team winning the division then your safest bet would be the Patriots. Since 2000, the Patriots have won 14 out of the 17 division titles, including eight straight. New England’s dominance within the division shouldn’t change this season.

The old adage says defense wins championships. Defensively, the Patriots are going to be stacked. Last season, the Patriots ranked first in points allowed per game at 15.6. They were also eighth in yards allowed per game (326.4) and ranked seventh in opponents third down conversion percentage (37 percent). The Patriots also added defensive end Kony Ealy and cornerback Stephon Gilmore to improve.

To win Super Bowl LII, New England must put up defensive numbers in the same ballpark as last seasons. If the Patriots allow under 20 points per game, the chances of making it back to the Super Bowl increase exponentially.

One area of concern from the Patriots’ offense comes from the offensive line. Pro Football Focus recently released its projected 2017 offensive line rankings in which New England was surprisingly ranked 19th. Tom Brady can make up for a poor offensive line with his quick release which averages between 2.1 to 2.5 seconds.

The Patriots will improve as they get Rob Gronkowski back from injury. New England also traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks who will help stretch the field vertically.

The only thing stopping the Patriots from winning Super Bowl LII is injuries to key players, and even then, Bill Belichick could still pull a rabbit out of his hat and win the big game.

Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Miami was a surprise playoff team last year, especially after its 1-4 start. The Dolphins finished the season with a 10-6 record to earn a wild card berth. They lost that wild card game in Pittsburgh, 30-12.

In order to win the Super Bowl, the Dolphins must improve vastly on defense. Miami ranked 18th in points allowed per game (23.8), 15th in passing yards allowed per game (242.2), 19th in sacks (33) and 30th in rushing yards allowing 140.4 yards per game.

Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips must stuff the run this season to help Miami improve their rush defense.

Rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillian was a tackling machine at Ohio State, racking up 275 total tackles in three years and his immediate impact should help the Dolphins stop the run better in 2017.

On the offensive side of the ball, Miami must continue to dominate up front. The Dolphins ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 114 yards per game. Miami needs to stay in the top 10 in rushing to help Ryan Tannehill succeed in the passing game.

Running the ball consistently will help Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense improve their 26th-ranked passing attack. If the Dolphins can progress their passing game to a similar level of their running game, then the offense can average more than 22.7 points per game which ranked 17th last season.

Miami must improve its rushing defense, passing offense and upset New England in the regular season to earn some home playoff games. If the Dolphins are able to do this then they will have a shot at hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy.

Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo is starting off fresh with new head coach Sean McDermott. McDermott will emphasize defense with the Bills and that could turn them into contenders very quickly. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and taking the leap from 7-9 to Super Bowl champs is going to be difficult.

Last season, the Bills were the best rushing team in the NFL averaging 164.4 yards per game. Staying first in rushing will be the first step towards making the playoffs. Buffalo did not have trouble scoring points either as they averaged 24.9 points per game which was 10th best in the NFL.

The major area that needs improvement on offense is in the passing game. Buffalo only threw for 189.8 yards per game last season. In this era of football, passing for less than 200 yards is somewhat pitiful. Buffalo needs to jump that number up past 230 yards or more to become a dangerous offensive juggernaut.

Defensively, Buffalo was average last season. The Bills gave up 23.6 points per game which ranked 16th. Buffalo should try to become a top-10 scoring defense to improve its chances of making the playoffs. The secondary was the best unit on defense as they only gave up 223.9 yards passing per game.

The rush defense was a different story. Buffalo ranked 29th, giving up 133.1 yards per game. If Buffalo’s rush defense can move into the middle of the pack, then its defense can really become great.

For the Buffalo Bills to end their long playoff drought and win the Super Bowl, they must improve their passing attack on offense and stop the run on defense. Also, just like Miami, the Bills must split with the Patriots. Splitting with New England gives the Bills a shot at winning the division and home games in the playoffs make all the difference.

New York Jets

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC East

(Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

The New York Jets are going to need a miracle to win Super Bowl LII. Coming off a 5-11 season, the Jets seemed to have gotten worse with the moves they have made. New York let go of Eric Decker, David Harris, Marcus Gilchrist, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Folk and Nick Mangold. The roster is going to look completely different from last year.

Making the playoffs is going to be hard and winning the Super Bowl is going to be close to impossible. If the Jets are going to win the Super Bowl, then Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg are going to have to have an unbelievable year. The Jets ranked 27th in passing yards per game with 216.6. Whoever earns the starting job at quarterback will need to take a big leap to improve this number.

New York ranked 30th in points scored last season, averaging only 17.2 points per game. That must also improve drastically. The Jets did have a solid running game averaging 112.6 yards per game last year. Matt Forte is getting old for a running back but Bilal Powell will spell Forte enough that the Jets can continue to be a solid running team.

Head coach Todd Bowles is known for his defense but last season the Jets had no defense. They ranked 28th in points (25.6), 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Bowles must turn the Jets into a top five defense if the Jets want to win games this season.

The most important thing the Jets must do is find their starting quarterback. Improving the passing game and putting more points on the board is key in the Jets pursuit of a Super Bowl. If they manage to do this along with becoming a top five defense under Bowles, then the Jets can win Super Bowl LII.

 

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

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC North

 

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Marshawn Lynch is Going Home

Marshawn Lynch is going home to play for the Oakland Raiders. According to Michael Silver, the source who broke the news, Lynch and the Raiders have agreed to terms on a deal for the 30-year-old running back. Lynch is a native of Oakland, California.

Silver said the Seahawks were shocked and unaware the two parties were in agreement. The Raiders now must put together a trade with the Seahawks to officially finish the deal.

Trading for a 30-year-old running back should be relatively easily. The trade will likely come in the form of conditional draft picks, meaning the pick they get depends on how Lynch performs. The picks will likely come from either the third or fourth round with the possibility of being an earlier round if Lynch has a certain amount of carries.

 

Raiders Favorites?

What does this mean for the Raiders, The AFC, and the rest of the NFL? The Raiders aren’t going to be the favorites in the AFC by solely acquiring Marshawn Lynch. New England is still the favorite but the gap has closed significantly.

Lynch’s last full season as a full-time starter came in 2014 in which he had 280 carries for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns. Lynch played in 2015 but only appeared in seven games due to injuries. He has spent the last season retired from the game, meaning he has fresh legs.

Marshawn Lynch Oakland Raiders

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

This gives the Raiders an offense with no weaknesses at all. Derek Carr is entering the top five of quarterbacks in the NFL. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are one of the best receiver duos in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders line as fourth best in the NFL. All that was missing was a workhorse running back.

Because their offense will be so potent, they will be able to score with any offense in the league, including New England’s. Not to mention they traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks as well.

This move allows the Raiders to focus completely on their defense in the draft to try and close the gap even more. If the Raiders can make moves to build the depth of their defense, they will have just as much as a shot at winning the AFC as the Patriots.

Buckle up Oakland, the last few years in the city may lead to parades.

 

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Week 13 NFL Picks Against the Spread

I am coming off my best week in a long while. I was 10-6 against the spread last week. After taking a narrow defeat Thursday night, 87-92-6 is where I sit for the year. The black is ever so close as December football begins in earnest. This football season is moving way too fast for me. There are several tough games to call this week.

Broncos (-3.5) at Jaguars- For the first time in about two years, Denver’s defense could not close out a game last week. That loss could really hurt, but the defense is still easily the best part of this football team. Jacksonville just is not very good. Denver needs this win and will get it behind rookie backup quarterback Paxton Lynch, but it will not be pretty. Jacksonville does not have the pass rush to rattle a young quarterback that will be playing behind a shaky offensive line. Den 20 Jac 14

photo from Denver.cbslocal.com

photo from Denver.cbslocal.com

*Lions at Saints (-6) – The Lions keep finding ways to win. New Orleans has found ways to lose its share of big games this year. This will be fun to watch. Two of the hottest quarterbacks on the planet facing off. Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees know that they will have to lead their offenses to a ton of points. The Lions have a little defense, the Saints have none. I am not sure this would be considered that much of an upset. Det 35 NO 31

Texans at Packers (-6.5) – Are the Packers finally back after their season saving win last week? Honestly, we will not find out much here. Despite still controlling their division, Houston has a negative point differential and more turnovers than touchdowns on offense this year. It is hard picking a team like that to win any week. It is impossible to do so when they are traveling to Lambeau Field to play Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. GB 34 HOU 21

Chiefs at Falcons (-5.5)- The Chiefs are riding high after a big win in Denver last week, but Atlanta is a nightmare matchup for them. As solid as Kansas City is on defense, Atlanta has proven it can score on anybody this year. Kansas City has played one similar opponent this year in terms of offensive firepower. They traveled to Pittsburgh on a Sunday night and the game was over after the first quarter. Atlanta has not given anyone any reason to think their offense will not be hot again on Sunday. If it is, there is nothing Kansas City and their methodical offense can do to keep up with them. ATL 31 KC 20

Rams at Patriots (-13) – In a week where I do not feel strongly about much, this game is an exception. The Rams are not all that dissimilar to the Jets, the offense is a tick worse, the defense a tick better. The Jets gave the Patriots fits last week, the Rams will do the same, but Bill Belichick toys with young quarterbacks. Jared Goff does not have much help around him. The Rams are a good team for New England to play while they find their way without Rob Gronkowski on offense. NE 21 LA 12

Dolphins at Ravens (-3.5) – This is the toughest call of the week for me. I have been high on the Ravens all year, and have fallen in love with the Dolphins over the last month. The Ravens are at home and their defense is the best unit in this game. Ryan Tannehill could be in for a long afternoon. This is possibly the best defense he will see all year. No one runs the ball on Baltimore either. That has been Tannehill’s security blanket as of late, but the Dolphins defense is pretty good too. Miami keeps it close, but not close enough. Bal 23 Mia 17

Eagles at Bengals (-1.5) – Here, we have two teams that are absolutely sinking. Both teams had playoff aspirations at one point. That feels like a distant memory. It really is a coin flip, but the Bengals are a little more experienced. In a game where there is not much to play for, I think the young Eagles may come out flat. Cin 23 Phi 14

49ers at Bears (-3) – They both stink in a big way. Chicago stinks a little less… I think. Chi 21 SF 17

*Giants at Steelers (-6) – This is a very similar matchup to Detroit and New Orleans. The two crowned jewels of the 2004 quarterback draft class take center stage here. The Giants have gutted out some really tough wins to get to their 8-3 mark. It has not always been pretty. So, I understand the spread here. However, I struggle to trust that Steelers defense against any upper echelon quarterback. Eli Manning certainly falls into that group. NYG 30 Pit 24

photo from associated press

photo from associated press

Bucs at Chargers (-4) – This is a classic letdown game for a young team like the Bucs. After consecutive big wins against really good opponents to put themselves in the playoff race, they travel west to take on the most talented last-place team in league history. The other notable member of that 2004 quarterback draft class is Philip Rivers. Despite never having the coaching or supporting casts that Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were blessed with, he continues to play great football. The Chargers will lose sleep over all those close losses early in the year, but no one wants to play them right now. SD 28 TB 21

* Redskins at Cardinals (-2.5) – This is the strangest line I have seen in a long time. Washington might have the best offense in football at the moment. They have the fewest three and outs in the league, and Arizona is a big disappointment this year. They just are not as good as they look on paper. The Redskins feel like easy money. It is too good to pass up. A word of warning though, Vegas is always smarter than average folks like me. Was 27 Ari 19

Bills at Raiders (-3) – Finally, I am reluctantly buying into the Raiders. They still commit too many penalties for my liking and the defense is still atrocious. However, they are winning games, despite being dead to rights almost every week before miraculously pulling out a victory. Buffalo is the top rushing team in the NFL. They will have some success with that in this matchup, but the biggest weakness on this Raiders defense is the secondary. The banged up Buffalo receivers will struggle to exploit that. Another Raiders nail biter, another win. Oak 31 Buf 27

Panthers at Seahawks (-7) – Seattle’s offense throws in about three clunkers a year. Last week in Tampa certainly qualifies, but they always end up playing in January and February, they will be fine. Meanwhile, Carolina is desperate for wins to keep their fading playoff hopes afloat. Seattle is the wrong place to go to get that done. However, the Panthers are one of few teams that have the talent to go into Seattle and compete, even though they are underachieving this year. Expect a tight one. Sea 23 Car 20

MNF: *Jets at Colts (-1.5) – As awful as this matchup is, it is still very relevant for the Colts who are hanging around in the below par AFC South. However, the Jets defense is really good, despite the team’s 3-8 record. Rushing the quarterback is their strong suit. Whether it is a dinged up Andrew Luck or backup Scott Tolzien at quarterback, they will be playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. This is just a bad matchup for Indianapolis. NYJ 17 Ind 13

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Week Twelve NFL Picks Against the Spread

It was another middle-of-the-road effort by me last week. I went just 6-8 against the spread. I am now 77-85-6 on the year. A hot stretch is absolutely necessary for me to finish the year in the black. Hopefully, this weekend is the start of that. My picks are bolded. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. With not one, but three games on Thursday for Thanksgiving, I am at it early. Here we go.

Vikings at Lions (-2.5) – First place in the NFC North is at stake here. Both teams have taken strange paths to their 6-4 records. The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season. Minnesota is relying almost exclusively on their defense and special teams to win games. It is hard to sustain the kind of winning both these teams are doing. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford continues his rise to becoming an elite quarterback every week. The gap between the two offenses is just too great to not swallow the points. Det 31 Min 20

Redskins at Cowboys (-7) – This game sells itself. Two of the hottest teams in football facing off in a holiday rivalry game. I have been wrong on Dallas all year. Amazingly, so has Vegas. Dallas is 9-0-1 against the spread this year. However, I am foolishly going to take the Redskins here. Rivalry games are always closer than they should be anyway. Washington’s offense is a problem for any opponent, especially if undrafted rookie Robert Kelley continues to spark the run game. Dallas and their freakishly talented rookies will get the job done, but will be made to work. Dal 28 Was 24.

photo from nfl.com

photo from nfl.com

Colts at Steelers (-7.5) – With Andrew Luck likely out due to a concussion, this number will probably continue to grow until game time, and rightfully so. Pittsburgh can score on anybody, and while their defense is still bad, Colts backup quarterback Scott Tolzien is the backup for a reason. He will not be able to exploit their defensive deficiencies. Pit 38 Ind 17

Sunday:

Cardinals at Falcons (-4) – This could go either way. Atlanta got off to a white-hot start, particularly on offense, but has struggled since. Arizona has struggled from the start, but we have seen flashes of why they reached the NFC championship game last year. Due to their division, Atlanta is in much stronger playoff position and they are at home. That is good enough for me. Atl 31 Ari 24

Bengals at Ravens (-4) – I have been high on the Ravens all year with mixed results. This week, they are catching the Bengals at a perfect time. Cincinnati’s relevant season may have ended with last week’s loss to Buffalo. Additionally, they will be without two of their main offensive weapons, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovanni Bernard. The Ravens appear to be one of the strongest bets of the week. Bal 31 Cin 17

Jaguars at Bills (-7.5) – A streaky team like Buffalo as this big of a favorite makes me nervous, but the Jags played the Lions to the wire last week and still could not manage to cover. So… Buf 28 Jac 17

Rams at Saints (-7.5) – The Rams offense was cute last week in Jared Goff’s debut. He made no mistakes, but was not asked to do much. You can count on one hand the number of times he threw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. The “training wheels” approach won’t lead to enough points to keep up with Drew Brees and the Saints. NO 34 LA 17

Giants (-7) at Browns – As I noted last week, the Giants always keep it close. Despite rarely looking impressive, a 7-3 record is a 7-3 record. Also, this is the Browns we are talking about here. Between the injuries and general lack of talent on the roster, they may be unable to keep it close with anyone right now. NYG 30 Cle 17

Chargers (-1.5) at Texans – Here you have a last-place team favored over first place team. You just do not see that very often. The fact is San Diego is better by just about every statistical measure, except the important one. The Texans do have a slight edge on defense, but the difference between quarterbacks is too vast for me to pass up. SD 30 Hou 23

49ers at Dolphins (-7.5) – Miami keeps winning. Last week was closer than it should have been, but this isn’t college football. Style points are irrelevant. When everything around him is functioning well, Ryan Tannehill is just fine as an NFL quarterback. That is the case right now and San Francisco is not good enough on defense to expose his limitations. Mia 23 SF 13

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

Titans (-5.5) at Bears – It has probably been a few years since the Titans have been this significant of a road favorite. They showed their immaturity last week against the Colts after roughing up Green Bay. If the Titans stay the course, they will be really good in about two years. However, this is another spot where their youth and inexperience could hurt them. Also, the Bears have played people tough all year. It is hard for me to imagine them winning this game with third stringer Matt Barkley at quarterback, but I will take the points. Ten 24 Chi 21

Seahawks (-5.5) at Bucs – Seattle continued their recent great form by pushing around the Eagles last week. I would take them to cover against anyone right now. Even though I am impressed with the way Jameis Winston and the young Bucs have put themselves right in the middle of the playoff race, they are no exception. Sea 27 TB 17

*Panthers at Raiders (-3) – I am still not a believer in the Raiders. Yes, the defense has gotten better lately. However, the inevitable will happen at some point. Derek Carr will struggle and the hole the offense finds itself in will be too deep. As for Carolina, they are still very dangerous. The struggles of their division rivals leaves them with plenty to still play for. The Panthers are due to catch a break, and all the mistakes and penalties are due to catch up to Oakland. Car 27 Oak 20

Patriots (-7.5) at Jets – Again, rivalry games are always close. The Patriots will likely be without Rob Gronkowski for another week. They struggled for three quarters with the 49ers last week. The Jets beat the Patriots last year. The main parts of each roster are basically the same. Lastly, the Jets pass rush is a problem for any opponent, even if they are quarterbacked by Tom Brady. An outright upset with shock everyone but me here. NE 24 NYJ 20

 

 

Chiefs at Broncos (-3.5) – This is a huge game for both teams. It becomes even bigger if Carolina does indeed knock off Oakland. Despite current records, I would still argue that these two teams will eventually finish ahead of the error prone and one-dimensional Raiders. Given, that Denver is finally healthy off a bye week, I would have thought they would be a bigger favorite here. Kansas City found a very creative way to lose to Tampa Bay at home last week. I have too much respect for Kansas City to call for a blowout, but with Denver rested, healthy and at home 3.5 points feels like a steal. Den 24 KC 17

NNF: Packers at Eagles (-4) – I am officially out on the Packers, but I will tell you one thing. The problem is not Aaron Rodgers. Anyone who tosses 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions through 10 games is not the problem. The problem is that it looks like the defense is playing with about six guys on the field, the last two weeks have been particularly brutal. Any team with the kind of quarterback play the Packers are getting can turn around at any moment, but you will not see me predicting it. The Eagles are really solid along the offensive and defensive lines and should be able to manhandle the lifeless Packers here. Phi 34 GB 23. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving everyone!

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