Keys to the NFL Divisional Playoffs

NFL fans and media rarely agree on much. However, I think we can all agree that Wild Card weekend did not produce much excitement or competitive football. While it is a little early in the week to pick the divisional playoff matchups, here is a key to each.

 

Seahawks at Falcons- Are the Falcons ready for the big time?

Seattle should have zero concerns about being ready for a game like this. They have played in dozens of them over the last handful of years. Like always, the defense will limit scoring opportunities and the Seahawks will ask Russell Wilson to make a few key throws to get the win.

Atlanta is a different story. Despite Matt Ryan having an MVP worthy season, the Falcons have flown mostly under the radar and have not been placed in the glamorous national TV windows very often. A scenario where Atlanta’s offense simply scores too much for Seattle to keep up is conceivable. However, a scenario where Atlanta folds under newfound spotlight is just as conceivable. With Earl Thomas out, Seattle’s defense is a tad more vulnerable. Given what the Falcons are capable of on offense and their much improved defense, it is now or never for Atlanta.

Texans at Patriots – Houston needs some kind of early break

The Texans are 15.5 point underdogs for a reason. New England shut them out early in the year with a third-string quarterback. Fast forward a few months and now Tom Brady is back in the fold for New England. As ominous as that may sound for Houston, anything is possible. If that was not the case, games like this would never be played.

There are a few things that work in Houston’s favor. First, the coaching staff has numerous ties to New England. There isn’t much the Patriots can do that would surprise the AFC South champs. Also, much-maligned quarterback Brock Osweiler had the best game of his young career last year in Denver against the Patriots defense.

The Texans are here because of its defense. As atrocious as the quarterback play has been, the top-ranked defense has been that good. It will be up to that unit to force a turnover that leads to easy points early in the game and give the massive underdogs some belief. A big play on special teams would also serve the same purpose. Houston cannot fall in a big hole early if they want any chance at all.

Steelers at Chiefs – Steelers pass protection

No matter how good he is at sandbagging his injuries, there is no way Ben Roethlisberger goes from a walking boot to fully healthy in a week. Thus, those trademark Roethlisberger scrambles under pressure to extend plays are likely off the table. It is up to Pittsburgh’s offensive line to keep Kansas City’s pass rushers away from their franchise quarterback.

Photo Courtesy of steelersdepot.com

This will not be an easy task. The Chiefs have three or four guys that are capable of chasing down any quarterback in this league. Their defense is led by a healthy Justin Houston. Le’Veon Bell will not run wild against the Chiefs like he did against Miami last week, but he will need to run well enough to take some heat off of the offensive line as well. Looking back on it, Pittsburgh’s 43-14 early-season blowout of Kansas City is one of the true oddities of the NFL season. This game will be a lot closer one way or the other.

 

 

Packers at Cowboys – Green Bay’s third-down defense

This may be the toughest game of the weekend to call, but it is the easiest to size up. The only way anyone is going to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers right now is by keeping their offense on the sideline. Dallas has been near the top of the league in time of possession and third-down conversions all year long.

Photo Courtesy of thelandryhat.com

The Packers defense has struggled to get off the field on third down, raking just 22nd in that category. Dallas will dance with what brought them here. They need to stay in manageable down and distance scenarios with a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott. It is up to Clay Matthews and company to ensure that Rodgers gets enough opportunities to work his magic. Here is to hoping at least one of these games is half as good as Monday’s national championship game I fell asleep during.

 

 

 

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Week Eleven NFL Picks Against the Spread

Week 11 in the NFL started with a familiar script, special teams dooming the Saints and me being on the wrong side of a Thursday night spread, even though it was by just a half point. I posted a 7-7 mark last week. Highlights were calling the Broncos’ and Seahawks’ upset wins. 71-77-6 is where I start the week. My picks are bolded, upsets have an asterisk and all spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s go.

*Cardinals at Vikings (-2.5) – I have no feel for this game at all. Despite their four game losing streak, the Vikings defense is still giving up just 17 points a game. Again, they are on a four game losing streak. So, what that really means is the offense cannot move the ball against anyone at the moment, including the hot and cold Cardinals… I think. Ari 17 Min 12

*Ravens at Cowboys (-7.5) – This is one of two games I feel very strongly about this week. Folks, I have been saying it all year as well as before the season. The Ravens are a really dangerous team that will be around in January. The offense has come alive after two divisional wins. With Joe Flacco and those receivers, it was just a matter of time. On the other side of the ball, gone are names like Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister and Ed Reed, but they have finally been suitably replaced by names like CJ Mosley, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. This is easily the best defense the Cowboys have seen all year. They are top-ranked against the rush.

 

As a general rule, great defense stops great offense. As good as Dak Prescott has been, Ezekiel Elliott will be at least somewhat neutralized here. I do not think Prescott can do it all on his own. The Cowboys are a good football team, but other good football teams should be able to exploit their flaws. They finally run into one of those here. Bal 31 Dal 20

Bills at Bengals (-2.5) – I am excited to be going to this game. It is a coin flip. These teams are similar. Both are loaded with firepower, particularly on offense, but they find themselves fading in the AFC playoff race. This is an elimination game. Buffalo’s back may already be broken. They really outplayed Seattle last time out, but have nothing to show for it. Given preseason expectations, the Bengals should be more desperate and play well. As a native Cincinnatian (who is by no means a fan), that is terrible logic to use when evaluating the Bengals, but it is all I have got. Cin 27 Buf 23

Bears at Giants (-7.5) – We are getting late enough into the season that it is not a bad idea to start looking at trends. There is one that made me change my pick here. This season, all but one of New York’s games have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Bears are awful and after getting annihilated last week in Tampa Bay, the resurgence of Jay Cutler appears to have only lasted one week, but a trend like that should never be ignored. NYG 23 Chi 17

Jaguars at Lions (-6.5) – With division rivals Green Bay and Minnesota limping along at the moment, this may be Detroit’s year to make a real run at the big time. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing at an MVP level. I have seen nothing from Jacksonville this year that makes me think this will be close. Det 40 Jac 21

Steelers (-7.5) at BrownsFor the first time in my almost 24 years of life, the Steelers are flat out bad on defense. Giving up 380+ yards per game including well over 100 yards per game on the ground will not get you in the playoffs. It does not matter how good the offense is. There are major issues that need correcting in Steelers country. Fortunately for them, the Browns are all that is on tap this week. The Steelers are still plenty good enough to handle that task. Pit 34 Cle 24

Bucs at Chiefs (-7.5)- Boy, there are certainly easier places to go than Arrowhead Stadium if you are trying to build off a win last week the way the Bucs are. Kansas City continues to win games by playing mistake free football, having an opportunistic defense, and doing just enough on offense. As always, that style may have a ceiling on it come playoff time, but it will do the trick for now. KC 20 TB 10

Titans at Colts (-3)- It has been a very long time since I whiffed on a football game as bad as I did be Tennessee/Green Bay game last week. The Titans are a legitimate contender in that division and a lot better than I thought. Also, it is so nice to see running back DeMarco Murray back in a system that suits his skill set. However, much like the Titans, the Colts may have really found something their last time out, which was also against Green Bay. In what could be a shootout between two young and hot quarterbacks, I trust Andrew Luck a bit more than Marcus Mariota. Ind 30 Ten 24

Dolphins (-1) at Rams- This is the other game I feel very strongly about. In my house, we call this a “Nova game.” A game my dad and I would bet our beloved dog, Nova on. Thankfully, this is only hypothetical. We would have lost her many times by now. In all seriousness, Miami is rolling behind Jay Ajayi. Conversely, while his debut does add a layer of intrigue here, one can only assume that there is a good reason why Jeff Fisher and the Rams had to be dragged, kicking, and screaming to start top draft pick Jared Goff at quarterback. Mia 35 LA 17

photo from oddshark.com

photo from oddshark.com

Patriots (-13) at 49ers- As good as the Patriots are, the 49ers are that bad. However, the match-up is not terrible for them here. Without Rob Gronkowski, none of New England’s pass catchers are to be feared. The extra attention defenses must pay to Gronk creates more favorable match-ups for everyone else. Chip Kelly’s Eagles gave Bill Belichick’s Pats fits last year. These two things are enough to make this much closer than most people think. NE 35 SF 30

Eagles at Seahawks (-6.5) – The NFL’s surprise of the year is the way the Eagles have played. With a rookie head coach and quarterback, they are right there in the playoff race, but this is a tall order for Carson Wentz and company. With Russell Wilson finally healthy and the defense playing up to their capabilities, Seattle gets my vote for the best team in football right now. I am not sure how much the opponent matters to the Seahawks at the moment. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they get a rookie quarterback in their building. This week will be the start of Seattle catching Dallas for the number one seed in the NFC. Sea 31 Phi 17.

*Packers at Redskins (-3) – I am giving the Packers one more week before I bail on them. The good news is Aaron Rodgers and the offense were not the problem last week. If you give up 47 points, you are not going to win. The Redskins always put up huge yardage numbers, but really struggle in the red zone. They will lose by kicking one too many field goals Sunday night. GB 35 Was 32

MNF from Mexico City: Texans at Raiders (-5.5) – If the NFL is insistent on playing games outside our borders, this is how it should be done, in Mexico featuring two teams from cities with significant Mexican populations. As for the game itself, I struggle to buy into both these first place clubs long term. The Raiders are still committing way too many penalties. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler is the weak link in Houston. You can’t hide the quarterback forever in this league. Houston’ defense is carrying them and the Raiders offense is doing the same in Oakland. This will be really close. The team with the MVP candidate at quarterback will do just enough to get over the finish line, but taking the points is smart here. Oak 24 Hou 21

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

photofromamericanfootballinternational.com

 

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Week 10 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Week 10 is off and running in the NFL. I was on the wrong side of a ten point spread Thursday night, picking the Browns is rarely a good idea. Last week, I was a pedestrian 6-5-2 and am now 64-69-6 on the year. All spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. My picks are bolded and outright upsets have an asterisk. Here goes nothing.

*Falcons at Eagles (PK) – For any site to have three pick ‘em games in one week is quite rare. The first of those match ups features two pleasant surprises. I struggle to see either team making a real playoff run, but Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is playing at an MVP level for now and the Falcons offense is by far the best unit in this game. That is good enough for me. Atl 30 Phi 24

*Bears at Bucs (PK) – I like the Bucs on paper, but something is missing. I am not sure what. Their young offensive talent is still too inconsistent. Meanwhile, I had the bears in the playoffs this year. I am never afraid to own up to a horrible prediction. Right now, Tampa Bay has a home-field disadvantage. They are 3-17 in their last 20 home games. On the other end, Chicago seemed reenergized on both sides of the ball in support of returning quarterback Jay Cutler last time out. I expect both trends to continue. Chi 21 TB 17

*Broncos at Saints (-2.5) – This is the kind of game I would feel much more comfortable betting five minutes in, but that is frowned upon. Last week was a humbling experience for the Broncos and their fans, myself included. However, the much-maligned Saints defense could be just the thing Denver needs to get the running game going. If that happens, everything else follows suit for the Broncos, including the play of first-year starter Trevor Siemian. However, Drew Brees and the Saints are always going to score points and the Broncos defense is banged up at every position level. Yet, it is still better than anything the Saints have on defense. Either the Saints roll here or Denver’s superiority in two of the three phases is just enough to get the job done. I will go with the latter. Den 31 NO 28

Packers (-2.5) at Titans- Yes, the Packers are struggling on offense, but the lack of respect here is stunning. On their worst day they are significantly better than anything Tennessee has to offer. The Titans are hanging around in a bad division, but continue to turn the football over at an alarming rate. A pair of defensive scores led to their demise last week in San Diego. It should surprise no one if that happens again here. Like the rest of the AFC South, Tennessee has really struggled outside the division the last couple years. They are improving, but not ready for a team that is capable of playing like Green Bay can, even if they are struggling. GB 31 Ten 20

Texans at Jaguars (PK) – With the way Brock Osweiler has played, I am not sure how the Texans are 5-3 and in first place, but they are. That same bad division referenced above certainly helps. They stay inside the division and notch another win this week. Hou 24 Jac 13

Chiefs at Panthers (-3) – Carolina is starting to wake up. They are nowhere close to where they were last year and it may be too little too late for the playoffs, but I certainly would not want to play them. This is just a bad matchup for Kansas City. Alex Smith, who is returning from injury relies on taking what the defense gives him. Based on the last two weeks, the Panthers defense will give him nothing. Kansas City is not built to play against flashy teams with offensive firepower. Make no mistake, the Panthers have that even though they have struggled this year. Car 27 KC 19

Rams at Jets (-2) – Good God what an awful game. In terms of quarterback play, these might be the two worst teams in football right now. Yet, both are resistant to playing the young quarterbacks they have on the bench. No one seems to understand why. The only reasonable explanation I can offer is holding on to miniscule playoff hopes. The Jets have a little more talent at the skill positions. Veteran running back Matt Forte is still a big time playmaker. He will be the difference in an ugly game. NYJ 16 LA 10

Vikings at Redskins (-3) – Remember when the Vikings were undefeated and Mike Zimmer was the second coming of Vince Lombardi? Yeah, me neither. Due to a mix of injuries and players simply coming back down to earth, Minnesota’s season is slowly falling apart. The defense is still very good, but the patchwork offensive line is dragging the entire other side of the ball down the drain. The Redskins should have just enough offensive juice behind Kirk Cousins to pull out a tight game. Was 20 Min 14

Dolphins at Chargers (-3.5) – Here is your sneaky good game of the week. What Jay Ajayi has done for the Dolphins is incredible. His 500+ yards rushing combined in the last three games has taken the Dolphins from dead in the water to a team that could fight for a playoff spot. Unfortunately for them, San Diego is the best last-place team anyone has ever seen. They are just in the wrong division in the wrong year. If games were 58 minutes rather than 60 they would have just a single defeat, but they have closed games much better in the last month. Philip Rivers is white-hot and running back Melvin Gordon has finally found his NFL sea legs. Should be a fun one, I will take San Diego pulling away late. SD 32 Mia 21

Cowboys at Steelers (-2.5) – While last week’s loss may really hurt the Steelers down the road, in the short term, it means nothing. Ben Roethlisberger had no business being out there last week. The coaching staff should have saved him from himself. Of course he said he was okay to play. He is a competitor. In theory, he will only get healthier going forward. As good as Dak Prescott has been, he really has not been forced to keep up with an elite quarterback in a shootout. That is exactly what this game will turn in to. Until I see it, I will have my doubts. Pit 35 Dal 28.

photo from timesunion.com

photo from timesunion.com

49ers at Cardinals (-13.5) – This pick has nothing to do with Xs and Os and everything to do with value. The 49ers are dreadful in every way you can imagine, particularly on defense. Chip Kelly is a college coach, and there is nothing wrong with that. Apparently, he is the only one who does not realize it. Despite all that, the Cardinals are not 13.5 points better than anyone in this league. AZ 33 SF 24

*Seahawks at Patriots (-7.5) – Russell Wilson is finally starting to look like himself and Seattle’s defense will always travel well, even to New England. Believe it or not, the Patriots are made up of humans just like every other team. The only style that occasionally disrupts Tom Brady and the offense are fast, physical defenses who can rush the passer. See Seattle. So, why not go out on a limb? Sea 24 NE 20

photo from espn.com

photo from espn.com

MNF: *Bengals at Giants (-2.5) – Two teams with very high ceilings and very low floors in terms of their level of play. The Giants as a home favorite scare me. The Bengals in primetime scare me. I wouldn’t advise putting a nickel on this game, but the Bengals are a little more balanced on offense. Cin 27 NYG 23

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Week Nine NFL Picks Against the Spread

It is time for another week of NFL picks against the spread. I was just 5-8 last week, but did call the Bears upset of the Vikings. This week, I whiffed on the Thursday night game again and will start from behind the eight ball. 58-63-4 is my record for the year. My picks are bolded. Outright upsets have an asterisk. Read ‘em and weep.

Cowboys (-7) at Browns- With everyone continuing to sing the praises of Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, the gritty Browns are tempting here, but I just cannot do it. They are bringing a plastic knife to a gun fight each week. I expect Dallas to scrape by, but we could view the quarterback situation very differently come Monday morning. Dal 19 Cle 9

Lions at Vikings (-6) – Toughest pick of the week. After a hot start, the Vikings are slowly revealing their true selves. With zero production in the run game and an offensive line that has struggled to block a barstool the last two weeks, there are many nervous people in Minnesota. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s sudden resignation won’t help things in the short term. However, the defense will carry them to a win here. The Lions had a really bad performance on offense last week in Houston. A trip to Minnesota will not fix those issues. The Vikings are better equipped to win an ugly game. Min 17 Det 15

Jaguars at Chiefs (-7.5) – Jacksonville’s young talent on offense just has not come around, it seems to be time for yet another round of major changes there. Unlike the Raiders, the Chiefs play smart, disciplined, and complete football to win their games. Nick Foles is a more than capable replacement for dinged up quarterback Alex Smith.   This is the week the Chiefs emerge as the only real threat to Denver in the AFC West. KC 26 Jac 14

Jets at Dolphins (-3.5) – When was the last time a single player changed a team’s fortunes the way Jay Ajayi has for the Dolphins? He was not even active for the season opener. All he has done since getting a shot, is post back to back 200 yard rushing games. Most important, he has taken some heat off quarterback Ryan Tannehill who is not good enough to carry an offense. Miami has gone from dead in the water to a team that may get on a real roll. The Jets beat the Browns last week, yay. They still stink. Mia 27 NYJ 17

photo from espn.com

photo from espn.com

 

Eagles at Giants (-2.5) – Both these rivals are unpredictable and they tend to produce nutty games against each other. When in doubt look at the quarterbacks. Eli Manning > Carson Wentz. NYG 28 Phi 24.

Steelers at Ravens (-1) – These division foes always play fantastic games, no matter their records. This will be no different. Despite the Steelers having much better team results in recent years, the Ravens have won four out of the last five head to head matchups. If Ben Roethlisberger does play, how could he possibly be 100% about three weeks removed from knee surgery? The AFC North turns into a mess at the top with a Ravens win. Bal 24 Pit 21

Panthers (-3) at Rams – The Panthers may have finally gotten their mojo back last week. It may be too little too late for the playoffs, but the offensively inept Rams should not be an issue. Car 21 LA 10

Saints (-3.5) at 49ers – A win here gets the Saints back to .500, plenty could enough to be a factor in the NFC wild card race. The defense has gone from God awful to just bad. Despite splitting their last two games they have held opponents to under 30 points. Most times, that is going to be more than enough for Drew Brees and the offense. The 49ers are just dreadful in every phase of the game. The defense is spent by halftime because the offense cannot stay on the field. If I am Chip Kelly, I jump back to the college game as soon as I can. He is a college coach. There is nothing wrong with that. NO 38 SF 17

photo from cbssports.com

photo from cbssports.com

Colts at Packers (-7.5) – Andrew Luck is still forced to do it all on his own for the Colts. Much like last week, he is up against a pretty solid opponent. The offense in Green Bay finally returned to normal last week, and they are not facing the high powered Falcons offense this week. No drama here. GB 31 Ind 21

Titans at Chargers (-4) – The Titans are the worst .500 team I have ever seen. Meanwhile, the Chargers are the best below .500 team I have ever seen. Tennessee has a negative point differential. Conversely, if games were 58 minutes rather than 60, the Chargers would be 7-1. San Diego has closed games better lately. Expect them to roll here. SD 31 Ten 17

*Broncos at Raiders (-2)- My only outright upset pick of the week should surprise no one who knows me or reads my stuff. Even if I thought Oakland was going to win, it is not in me as a human being to pick the Raiders to beat the Broncos. This used to be a great rivalry, it is awesome to have the game be so meaningful again.

In this matchup, Denver will be able to do whatever it wants on offense, just like every other Raiders opponent this year. Oakland is allowing six yards a play on defense. Oakland’s offense has had to put up video game numbers to win games, including 600+ yards to get by in overtime last week against Tampa. If anyone thinks something like that will happen against the Broncos defense, they are sadly mistaken. The Raiders deserve a ton of credit for being where they are, but play time is over. Den 34 Oak 24

MNF: Bills at Seahawks (-7) – The Seahawks offense is just plain bad right now. Only Russell Wilson knows if he is truly healthy. Despite last week’s loss, any doubt about the defense is unfounded. Holding the Saints to 25 points in their building is nothing to sneeze at. Buffalo’s run first style keeps this close, but Seattle finds a way as they so often do. Sea 26 Buf 20

 

 

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.

Week 3 NFL Picks Against the Spread

I am back with my third week of NFL picks against the spread. I am struggling to get a handle on the league. I was just 6-10 last week. The highlight was calling the Falcons upset of the Raiders. I am now 13-19-1 for the year. As usual, the minus sign denotes the favorite, my pics are in bold, and outright upsets have an asterisk next to them. I was on the right side of a Patriots pick ‘em Thursday night. Hopefully, that is a sign that I am starting to turn things around.

Cardinals (-3.5) at Bills- This reeks of a trap game. Knowing that, I’m going to take the bait anyway. Buffalo is off to a disastrous start in every way imaginable. However, desperate teams are dangerous. Throw in the fact that they are at home in facing a west coast opponent coming east, and conditions for the upset become all the more ripe. In spite of me basically predicting my own demise here, Arizona is too superior of a team on paper for me not to swallow such a small amount of points. AZ 23 Buf 17

photo from nyupstate.com

photo from nyupstate.com

Redskins at Giants (-3) -The Giants as a home favorite always scares me. However, Eli Manning is still Eli Manning and he now has three dynamic pass catchers were healthy. Additionally, with all the reports of infighting within the Redskins this week, their season could turn ugly quickly. They are winless and desperate, but I am not sure they are capable. Nyg 30 Was 14

Ravens (-1.5) at Jaguars- This line shows that the rest of the world is still not on the Ravens bandwagon that I have been on since well before the season started. I will swallow 1.5 points to take an undefeated team over a winless team that did not bother to show up last week every single time. Much like Buffalo though, Jacksonville is desperate to live up to lofty preseason expectations for their young talent. Thus, I do not expect Blake Bortles and company to be an easy out. Bal 24 Jac 15

Browns at Dolphins (-10) – This is a pretty simple one for me. The Browns are terrible and on their third quarterback in his many weeks due to injuries. Additionally, I highly doubt Cody Kessler is anywhere close to ready to start an NFL game. Despite all that, I am not convinced Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins are ten points better than anyone in this league. Watch this game at your own risk. It will not be pretty on either side. Mia 17 Cle 12

Broncos* at Bengals (-3.5) – Take anything I say about this game with a grain of salt. I was born and raised in Cincinnati and come from a family of Bengals season-ticket holders. However, somehow I became a lifelong Denver fan. I will be in attendance for this one. Moreover, I will be the family black sheep all day Sunday. In reality, these two teams are very even matchup with each other well. Cincinnati will be tough first road test for young Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian who has handled himself very well to this point. The key to this game will be the Bengals ability (or lack thereof) to protect quarterback Andy Dalton. For me though, family bragging rights are on the line. So, of course I’m taking the Broncos. Den 27 Cin 21

Lions at Packers (-7) -I would not be shocked at all if we see a push here. However, since that is no fun, I will go with Green Bay for a couple reasons. First, the media has been throwing dirt on them all week, particularly quarterback Aaron Rodgers. When that is the case, they always seem to respond. Also, Detroit really struggles at Lambeau Field. They play there every year. Last year marked their first win there since 1991. GB 30 Det 22

Vikings at Panthers (-7) – The Vikings have also proven me wrong at every turn in this young season. Rejoice Vikings fans! I am doubting them again. Cam Newton and the Panthers really found their swagger last week against San Francisco. Everything went a little too well for Sam Bradford in his Minnesota debut last week. The injuries must catch up with this team at some point. Car 31 Min 17

Raiders* at Titans (-1.5) – This may be my favorite pick of the week. Tennessee showed some impressive grit in a comeback win on the road last week. However, there is a trend here that cannot be ignored. The Titans are an embarrassing 3-20 in their last 23 home games. It is a safe bet that the Raiders would probably be a favorite on a neutral field. They have more playmakers on both sides of the ball. Tennessee would die for a single player anywhere near Raiders linebacker Kahlil Mack’s level. Oak 31 Ten 20

Rams at Bucs (-5) – The Rams still have not found the end zone. Tampa Bay is much better than their 33 point loss to the Cardinals last week would indicate, and will be eager to show it. The Rams finally score a touchdown, but the Bucs cover. TB 20 LA 10

Steelers (-3.5) at Eagles- I am still far from sold on the Steelers, particularly on defense. However, I am selling all of my Eagles stock right now. I see no possible way it can go any higher in 2016. However, they have proven me wrong for two weeks. So, I suppose stranger things have happened. Carson Wentz falls back down to earth in a big way. Pit 28 Phi 10

Jets at Chiefs (-3) – Evenly matched teams that play a similar “smash mouth” style. This is my kind of game. Both run games and defenses will make a few plays. The Arrowhead Stadium home-field advantage is the difference here. KC 20 NYJ 14

Chargers at Colts (-2.5) – If I could stay away from this game, I would. I have no clue here. You have two teams with really high ceilings and really low floors. I hope everyone understands that metaphor. When that is the case go with the home team… I guess. Ind 34 SD 31

49ers at Seahawks (-10) – San Francisco continued to exceed expectations on offense last week, but they are still working progress in all phases of the game Seattle is just not the dominant team that they have been in years past, at least not yet. Hopefully, Russell Wilson is healthy, but I don’t think anyone really knows the answer there. I will be stunned if Seattle finds a way to lose to a second straight vastly inferior opponent, but they will have to sweat this one out. Sea 19 SF 14

Bears at Cowboys (-6.5) – Another tough one here. Credit to Vegas, this is right about where I would have set the line had anyone asked. The Bears are a beat up mess. They will go into this game with the NFL’s most recycled quarterback, Brian Hoyer as their starter. However, I am just not sure if Dak Prescott and Dallas are really capable of blowing any opponent out of the water. They will cover, but barely Dal 27 Chi 20

photo from sportingnews.com

photo from sportingnews.com

MNF: Falcons at Saints (-2.5) – Here is another pick I really like this week. Often times, I think emotions are overhyped when trying to determine the outcome of football game, but not here. Monday marks the 10 year anniversary of the Saints return to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. They are facing the same opponent as they were that night too. That night also produced the iconic image of reserve Saints defender Steve Gleason seen below. Gleason is now battling ALS. There is no way New Orleans is losing this football game in that building on that night. NO 28 Atl 20

What to Make of Early NFL Surprises?

We are two weeks into the NFL season. As usual a lot of people who think they know a lot about the league have been proven foolish, myself included. There is still a ton of football to be played, but here are my thoughts on some early season surprises. These are surprises to me. They may not necessarily be surprises to you.

Carson Wentz and the Eagles- Anyone who tells you they saw their 2-0 start coming is lying. Granted they have only played the hapless Browns and hugely disappointing Bears, but I am still stunned. For Carson Wentz to go from North Dakota State, to just six preseason drives, to winning his first two NFL starts without committing a single turnover is nothing short of incredible. All this has happened in under a year. I had them winning maybe two games all year. Do I think they will come down to Earth eventually? Yes, but there are a hell of a lot better than anyone expected. For now, Doug Pederson and his staff deserve a lot of credit.

The Vikings- Much of what I said about the Eagles is true of the Vikings. In fact, Sam Bradford was shipped

photo from denverpost.com

photo from denverpost.com

from Philly to Minnesota on the eve of the regular season when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down. Given the fact that Bradford had been in Minnesota for roughly two weeks, him outplaying Aaron Rodgers Sunday night is quite a feat. Bradford gives the Vikings a consistent vertical passing threat. They have not had this since Daunte Culpepper. Life is about to get harder for the Vikings. It looks like running back Adrian Peterson will miss at least a few months with knee injury. Even though Bradford and the rest of the offense were impressive Sunday night, make no mistake. Peterson is the only top-level player they have at the skill positions. Despite that, the defense is loaded with young talent. I am comfortable saying I grossly underestimated this team prior to the season, but I still do not view them as a playoff team.

Seattle’s offensive issues- Without a doubt, the most shocking result of the young season was Seattle losing to the Rams in their LA opener. The Rams looked like a bad high school offense in their season-opening shutout loss. They scored just nine points in week two, but only gave up three. A win is a win. The Rams will struggle on offense all year long. The story here is Seattle. Despite splitting their first two games, they have only scored 13 points on the year. I cannot figure this team out. No one is ever going to mistake them for an offensive juggernaut, but the first two weeks have been really bad. My gut says they will get it corrected quickly. Russell Wilson is too good of a leader as a quarterback for them not to. They are having a much more difficult time replacing former All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch than I thought they would. Lynch is now retired at just 30 years old, if no one steps up in Seattle in the next couple weeks, I would not be surprised at all if Seattle at least gives him a phone call. This team must run the football effectively to be successful.

The AFC South- Thus far, I have whiffed on two divisions, the NFC North (as noted above with the Vikings) and the AFC South. In that division, Indy’s offensive line issues are not better and may not be fixable this year. At this rate, Andrew Luck will get hurt again before long. Someone needs to tell Jacksonville that the season has started. Tennessee

photo from indystar.com

photo from indystar.com

is improving, but they are too young to really contend this year. That leaves Brock Osweiler and the Texans as the only undefeated team in the division. I am still not sold on Osweiler as anyone’s long term quarterback answer, but Houston is far and away the best team in this division right now. Baring something crazy, they should win it.

There are my early season surprises. Some will prove to be a flash in the pan, others have some staying power. What has surprised you in the early season NFL action?

 

Week 2 NFL Picks Against the Spread

I am back with my second week of NFL picks against the spread. I was not great last week. I was just 6-9-1. I hit on a few outright upsets, and missed some others. I was handed a tie when the Giants were made a one point favorite just before kickoff in Dallas. The game had been a pick ‘em. The crazy thing is 6-9-1 won my weekly pool. Again, the spreads I use are from rtsports.com. My picks are in bold and outright upsets have an asterisk next to them. The minus sign denotes the favorite. Let’s see how I do in week two. I was all over Buffalo Thursday. So, I am already 0-1.

Ravens (-7) at Browns- RGIII’s injury was a massive gut punch to the Browns, as if they needed another one. Despite what the “experts” and fans are saying now, they had a shot to at least be competitive with him. Josh McCown is what he is, a career journeyman who needs a perfect situation to succeed, this isn’t it. The Ravens have not found their sea legs yet, but I still really like them. They are catching Cleveland at a great time. Bal 20 Cle 9

Bengals* at Steelers (-3) – I am setting the over under for ejections at three. I am still not buying the Steelers’ defense, mainly the secondary. Also, this is not the Redskins. Big Ben and his supporting cast are not putting up 38 points on this defense. I was really impressed with Cincy last week. They made a ton of mistakes and still beat a decent opponent on the road. The Steelers were flawless Monday. Look for them to start making a few mistakes and the Bengals to clean up theirs. Cin 24 Pit 20

Chiefs* at Texans (-2.5) – This line is a classic overreaction from opening week. Am I really supposed to believe that Brock Osweiler makes Houston so much better that they can now beat a team that beat them by 30 in a playoff game in January? Well I don’t. KC 27 Hou 16

Cowboys* at Redskins (-2.5) – Dak Prescott gave the Cowboys a chance to win last week. He made some really nice in game adjustments. The rest of the team could not close the deal. I think Dez Bryant rebounds from a lackluster opener and makes a big late against a Redskins secondary that was torched last week. Dal 23 Was 20

Dolphins at Patriots (-6.5) – Dolphins fans should punch whoever decided that their team would open against Seattle and New England back to back. Another home divisional game another route for the Pats, even without Tom Brady. NE 31 Mia 13

Saints at Giants (-4.5) – The scoreboard may burn out in this one. These kind of games seem to come down to field goals by whoever has the ball last. We have two fantastic offenses and God awful defenses. The Giants will make what may be literally the only stop in this game. NYG 41 NO 38

49ers at Panthers (-13.5) – This is just too many points in the NFL. The 49ers showed that they may have more punch on offense than we all thought Monday night. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has never looked better. Due to his injuries, I forgot how effective running back Carlos Hyde can be. Despite all that Cam Newton and company have much more horsepower and will be anxious to rebound from a mistake filled opening night loss. Car 21 SF 13

Titans at Lions (-5.5) – Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford looked rejuvenated last week under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Okay, maybe I was just looking for a way to work that name in there, but it is the truth. Tennessee is running too much options stuff with Marcus Mariota. Given his mobility, I understand it. However, is caused too many turnovers last year and a pair of game changers last week. Det 34 Ten 21

Falcons* at Raiders (-4.5) – Atl 27 Oak 24- What a great comeback win for Oakland last week. However, the 141 penalty yards mean there are still the Raiders. They need to clean that up before I start putting faith in them. Atlanta’s comeback fell just short last week, but I expect their strong finish to carry over into this one. Atl 28 Oak 24

Seahawks (-7) at Rams- Most sites have taken this game off the board due to questions about Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s ankle. This was the only line I could find. Considering the Rams barely crossed the 50 in San Francisco Monday night, Seattle is the likely the last opponent embattled head coach Jeff Fisher wants to see right now. No matter who is playing quarterback for Seattle, the Rams offense will continue to struggle in a big way. Sea 17 LA 6.

Bucs at Cardinals (-6.5) – The half point is key here from a betting perspective. I really like both teams this year, even with Arizona’s Sunday night stumble against New England’s preseason all-star squad. They will be just desperate enough to avoid a 0-2 start, but Jameis Winston will make them sweat. The Bucs are a feisty bunch. Ari 26 TB 20

Colts at Broncos (-6) – I told anyone who would listen that Denver would win a lot of games with a run game defense this year. The opening night game was a perfect showcase of that. Trevor Siemian can make all the throws this offense requires of him. Andrew Luck and the Colts have been a tough matchup for Denver in recent years, but a slow start doomed them last week at home. This week, the competition steps up in a big way and they are on the road. A slow start may make this game ugly. Den 24 Ind 12.

Jaguars* at Chargers (-3) – This line is strange. Jacksonville played Green Bay right to the wire last week. This was enough to get me to buy into them. Meanwhile, the Chargers suffered the kind of loss that can ruin a season before it even gets going, blowing a three score lead in Kansas City. Whatever faint hopes the Chargers had of surprising people this year died last week. Keep an eye the Jags and their young offense going forward. Jac 31 SD 24

Packers (-2) at Vikings- I think this is almost too good to be true. It makes me wonder what Vegas knows that I do not. The Vikings needed two defensive scores to get by the Titans last week. Assuming that does not happen again this week, all you have to do is look at the quarterback match-up. Aaron Rodgers vs. Sam Bradford and/or Shaun Hill. Enough said. GB 31 Min 17

MNF: Eagles at Bears (-3) – I was pleasantly surprised with Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz last week. On the other hand, the Bears let me down last week, but the defense did show improvement. I will go with the theory that the Bears will keep getting better and the Eagles will come back down to earth a bit. Chi 21 Phi 14

 

 

 

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.

The Forgotten Quarterback

Quarterback is such a polarizing position. It is the position most talked about in football. It is the position that is most scrutinized.  If you are successful it brings about fame and fortune. 20 out of the 25 highest paid players in the NFL are quarterbacks. Quarterbacks are considered the “Face of the Franchise”. We go out and buy their jerseys. They end up on video game covers. We turn on our televisions and they are all over our commercials. Endorsement deals are not hard to find for a NFL quarterback who is successful.

There are four different tiers of quarterbacks in my opinion. The first tier are the elite quarterbacks which are the top five or six in the NFL. This group is the group that can get a team to a Super Bowl or are MVP’s. Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethisburger and Cam Newton are the names that come to mind.

Then there is the second tier of the next five to ten who have the ability to be pro bowlers or have consistently done great in the NFL. Quarterbacks like Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Andy Dalton to name a few. The third tier is the quarterbacks who have shown great flashes but struggle with consistency such as, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan or Carson Palmer. The last tier is the players fighting to keep their job year in and year out.

(Ben Liebenberg via AP)

(Ben Liebenberg via AP)

Finding a quarterback is no easy task. Every year teams draft quarterbacks in the first and second round hoping he can be their savior. They hope he can be the franchise quarterback for the next 10 to 15 years. A lot of them turn out as busts but every once in a while there is a guy who lives up to or exceeds the expectations and becomes a franchise quarterback.

There is one quarterback that comes to mind that is hard to place in one of the four tiers of NFL quarterbacks. It is hard to place him because he is young. The thing that bothers me is that even though we can’t place him into one of the tiers so easily and even though he is young, he is a franchise quarterback. I consider him to be sometimes overlooked or forgotten. I consider him to even be disrespected at times, but he may be close to winning a Super Bowl within the next three years.

Who is the quarterback I am speaking of and why is he so overlooked? Why is he forgotten at times? How is he disrespected?

It is because he doesn’t have the flash. He isn’t loud and in your face. He fails to boast about his accomplishments and stays extremely humble. Sometimes you even forget he’s the starting quarterback of a team that will be defending a division championship this season. They call him a game manager, but he is better than you or anyone else cares to admit or realize. This season will be his third, and only second season as a starter. You forget about him because of the market he plays in.

You forget because he’s so quiet and reserved. He is forgotten because he goes about his business without telling the world of his every move. In this day and age with Twitter, Instagram and every other social media outlet, that is just unheard of. He doesn’t care to post all the time talking about “the grind” or how much work he is putting in to get better. He just does it. You forget because at his young age his stats don’t say 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns yet. But they will, because he plays a game similar to one of the all time greats. Who is this under appreciated, overlooked and sometimes disrespected quarterback?

His name is Teddy Bridgewater.

Teddy is only 23 years old and has gained valuable experience as a NFL quarterback. You may be asking yourself why are am I focusing on a quarterback that is only in his third year? How can he be forgotten already? I am focusing on him because Teddy deserves recognition and respect. He is under appreciated and disrespected by football fans outside of Minnesota.

What kind of things come to mind when you hear the name Teddy Bridgewater? I usually hear things like game manager or he doesn’t throw a good deep ball. All he does is throw to his check downs. He only dinks and dumps. His touchdown numbers are too low. This is all disrespectful and somewhat untrue. I would rather hear the truth about Teddy.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The truth is, he makes great decisions for a 23 year old quarterback. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He only threw nine interceptions and committed three fumbles last season. Teddy takes what the defense gives him. If you watch Teddy Bridgewater play you can’t help but realize how closely his game resembles the greatest quarterback of all time. Tom Brady.

Calm down. I am in no way saying Teddy is on Brady’s level or will be as good as him. All I am saying is that the way they play the game is extremely similar. As Teddy continues to develop he will show the similarities more and more. There is a reason Adrian Peterson was quoted saying, “He reminds me of a Tom Brady because Tom Brady is great at those mediocre passes. Those short passes and midrange passes and that’s exactly what Teddy does as well. He’s the type of guy that needs the receiver that runs routes and that’s at a specific location that you’re practicing.”

If you sit down and take the time to watch the two quarterbacks play you will notice their similarities. Eye tests can tell a lot and my eyes show me that Teddy Bridgewater can be great. If you look at his career statistics you will notice it as well. Teddy has a career completion percentage of 64.9 percent. He has an average per attempted pass of 7.2 yards. Compare that to Tom Brady who has career completion percentage of 63.6 percent and an average per attempted pass of 7.4 yards. Those numbers are very smiliar, almost identical, yet Teddy gets no respect. I understand that Tom Brady has won four Super Bowls and has been around much longer than Teddy.

One of the most important things Teddy does is win. In his first 28 career starts he is 17-11. Last year was only his second season and first year he was the starter for all 16 games. He led the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a division title. It may not be pretty or flashy. Teddy may not put up the best fantasy numbers in the NFL, but he is on his way to greatness. Lately we have been losing legends like Peyton Manning to retirement. Soon we will lose Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Teddy will be one of the quarterbacks to help with that transition. You may not see it now, but Teddy will be one of the faces of the NFL in the coming years.

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