NFL Week 7 picks

Week 7 NFL picks against the spread

When taking point spreads into account, last week featured two of the biggest upsets in recent NFL history. Two double-digit underdogs won outright. My 6-8 record was okay, but not great. My season record now sits at 38-50-3.

The good news is the season is still fairly young. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Thursday Night

Chiefs (-3) at Raiders – Do not read too much into Kansas City’s first loss last week. Pittsburgh is just a bad matchup for them. The Chiefs won both meetings with Oakland pretty convincingly last year. The Chiefs are better than last year and the Raiders are worse. Why would this meeting be any different? KC 24 Oak 13

Sunday

Cardinals at Rams (-3.5) (London) – Adrian Peterson’s Cardinals debut wildly exceeded expectations. It appears he will make this team much more dangerous going forward. However, the NFC is now wide open, and it can be argued that the Rams are the most complete team in the conference. They can hurt you on the ground and through the air. Additionally, their defensive front seven is as good as you will find anywhere. LAR 28 Ari 21

Ravens at Vikings (-5.5) – Both these defenses are really good. Both offenses make my head hurt at times. Despite quarterback chaos, Minnesota has been finding ways to win lately.

For Baltimore, Joe Flacco has four touchdowns and eight interceptions. Everything is dink and dunk. They have no vertical passing game to speak of. It is hard to win that way. Min 20 Bal 13   

Panthers (-3) at *Bears – With Mitch Trubisky now at quarterback, Chicago seems to have simplified the offense. They ran Jordan Howard until his legs just about fell off last week, but did so effectively. If that continues, Trubisky is capable of making a few big throws to win some games. The Bears may become the most underrated team in the league before long.

Carolina is weird. Just when it looks like they are back to the 2015 version, they lay an egg like they did last week against Philadelphia. I have no clue what to expect from them here. However, I suddenly really like what Chicago is doing. Chi 24 Car 20

NFL Week 7 picks

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Jaguars (-3) at *Colts – Leonard Fournette is unbelievable, and the Jacksonville defense is playing its guts out. Even so, until the Jags show they can win a game because of Blake Bortles rather than in spite of him, putting any faith in them makes me nervous. Ind 24 Jac 21

*Jets at Dolphins (-3) – The Dolphins offense is still sputtering. To their credit, they have managed to win in spite of that the last two weeks.  The problems persist though. Jay Cutler has not even thrown for 300 combined yards in those games. Miami is also facing the same defense that dismantled them just a few weeks ago. Also, the Jets are a pretty good football team. Playing New England to the wire last week should erase any lingering doubts about that. NYJ 20 Mia 17

Buccaneers at Bills (Pick em) – Jameis Winston is a question mark with a shoulder injury. So a pick ‘em line is all you are going to find until that gets clearer. As a whole though, the Bucs just do not seem ready for the big time. The roster may just be too young or lack leadership.

Either way, something is missing. In two road games this year, they have been dominated by Minnesota and Arizona. The Bills are on par with those teams and a decent home team in September and October. Buf 28 TB 21

Titans (-5.5) at Browns – Marcus Mariota may still not be fully healthy, but the Browns are just awful. It felt like the organization had made strides this offseason. Sadly for Cleveland fans, it is more of the same. Ten 21 Cle 10

Saints (-5.5) at Packers – This line has moved ten points since the Aaron Rodgers injury. If it turns out that Brett Hundley can play, the NFC North is still there for the taking. Despite that, having to score enough to keep up with Drew Brees and deal with a Saints defense that is suddenly getting sacks and turnovers is a tall order for your first full game as the starter. NO 34 GB 20.

Cowboys (-6) at *49ers – The Cowboys defense has been torched for over 30 points in each of its last two games. The 49ers string of close losses continued last week. Dallas just isn’t playing that well right now. The spark of rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard gets the 49ers over the hump and in the win column. SF 27 Dal 21

Bengals at Steelers (-5.5) – After winning in Kansas City last week, it appears reports of the Steelers demise were greatly exaggerated.  Force-feeding Le’Veon Bell is the formula for this team. They finally got back to that.

The Bengals have played much better since changing offensive coordinators. However, the Steelers are 27-9 against Cincinnati since 2000. It is foolish to ignore that. Pit 27 Cin 20  

NFL Week 7 picks

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*Broncos at Chargers (-1.5) – This line is shocking to me. Denver was humbled last week, and the Chargers are on a two-game winning streak.

Even so, outside of quarterback, the Broncos can at least match Los Angeles at every position. Denver is an easy team to figure out. If they run the ball effectively they win. If they do not, they lose. The Chargers rank dead last in rush defense.

Also, it was not a coincidence that the Chargers got their first wins on the road. Bronco fans always travel well. Thus, playing in a 27,000 seat soccer stadium in a market where the fans have yet to embrace the home team is once again a disadvantage for the Chargers. The Broncos have issues, but Vegas was too quick to bail on them here. Den 24 LAR 17

Seahawks (-5.5) at Giants – The Giants scored a big upset last week, but they are still a banged up mess. Coming off a big divisional win and a bye, Seattle appears to be finding its groove. The Giants defense is good enough to keep this relatively close. Big Blue managed to move the ball on a great defense last week, but lightning will not strike twice. Sea 20 NYG 13

Falcons at Patriots (-3.5) – The Patriots are still not clicking on all cylinders. They were fortunate to escape the Jets last week. Meanwhile, the Falcons are coming off consecutive home losses to Miami and Buffalo. Given that, it is hard to imagine them keeping it close on the road in New England. This is just not the same team as last year, particularly on offense. The Pats continue to win while being a work in progress. NE 31 Atl 20

Monday Night:

*Redskins at Eagles (-4.5) – The Eagles are very good and will remain a factor all year long. However, they are still a relatively young football team. Once the public starts singing a team’s praises, they become vulnerable to getting tripped up.

Also, the Redskins offense will trouble any defense it faces. They have taken much better care of the football after Philadelphia held them to 17 points in the season opener. Washington’s ground game has been better this year, but the passing game is their strength. That is Philadelphia’s defensive weakness. Was 23 Phi 17

 

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NFL week 6 picks

NFL week 6 picks against the spread

It was another solid effort last week. I went 7-7 against the spread and called three outright upsets. My record for the year is now 32-42-3. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. The beat goes on.

Thursday Night

Eagles at Panthers (-3) – What a way to kick off the week. Both teams are exceeding expectations. We could see this matchup again in January. These teams win by dominating up front on both sides of the ball and letting their franchise quarterbacks make plays.

This is a close call. The only logic I have is that Thursday night games are set up for the home teams to perform better. Car 28 Phi 24

Sunday

Bears at Ravens (-6) – Mitch Trubisky made some plays and kept Chicago in the game during his NFL debut. The Ravens’ offense still leaves a lot to be desired. Even so, any rookie quarterback going on the road to face the Baltimore defense is in deep trouble. Bal 24 Chi 13

Browns at Texans (-10) – So far, Deshaun Watson has not been special. I said it. His best performance was in a loss to New England. Last week, his offense was ran out of the stadium before Kansas City backed off in the fourth quarter. He also guided Houston to a dominant victory over a Titans team that faced Houston’s elite defense primarily with a backup quarterback.

NFL week 6 picks

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There is a difference between being special and just being better than anything the Texans franchise has ever had at quarterback. Don’t be fooled.

The Browns played their best half of football when Kevin Hogan finally replaced an ineffective DeShone Kizer last week. With Houston now missing several key pieces on defense, Hogan is set up to perform well again. The winless Browns will remain that way, but not by much. Hou 24 Cle 21

Lions at Saints (-6) – Despite their traditional late rally, Detroit was beaten soundly by Carolina last week. New Orleans comes in off a bye and with its defense playing pretty well for a change.

This game will be the true test to see if the Saints recent defensive uptick has staying power. If it does, the rest of the league is in trouble. Drew Brees at home is always a solid bet, especially if he gets any kind of help from the defense. NO 30 Det 20

Packers (-3.5) at Vikings – The Packers are rolling right now. Aaron Rodgers continues to amaze. For the Vikings, quarterback issues and the loss of rookie workhorse running back Dalvin Cook are making life on offense look really tough at the moment. Minnesota’s defense is good enough to keep this respectable, but it is tough to see how the offense can be productive enough to win this one. GB 27 Min 17

NFL week 6 picks

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Patriots (-9.5) at Jets – One of these teams was predicted by many to go undefeated this year. The other was bound to go winless in the minds of a lot of folks. Yet, here they are battling for first place six weeks into the season. Sports are amazing.

Obviously, the reigning Super Bowl champions have more offensive firepower. However, every opponent has been able to find some level of offensive success against the Patriots defense this year. The Jets have a top ten rushing offense that should be able to do some damage here. Additionally, this game is always close, even when the Jets are playing for nothing but pride. They played New England to the wire late last year.

As they so often do, New England will find a way to win. However, with the Jets at home, anything over a touchdown in this matchup feels like easy money. NE 28 NYJ 20

Dolphins at Falcons (-11.5) – Miami got back on track last week. However, the outlook remains bleak for the Dolphins. Jay Cutler did not even throw for 100 yards last week. This week’s opponent is quarterbacked by Matt Ryan, not Matt Cassel and is going to put up a whole lot more than 10 points. At home, the Falcons have been held to 17 or fewer points just twice since November 2015.

Meanwhile, Miami has scored just 41 total points in four games this season. That includes a defensive touchdown from last week. With that kind of scoring, it is a miracle this team is .500 rather than winless. This game has the potential to be a blowout. Atl 35 Mia 13

49ers at Redskins (-10) – The winless 49ers have lost four consecutive games by three points or fewer. The Redskins’ offense is prolific and productive and coming off a bye. The 49ers will lose this one by a lot more than three points. A team from out west traveling east is often a component of a blowout as well. Was 31 SF 17

*Rams at Jaguars (-2.5) – Jacksonville’s defense might be the biggest surprise of the entire season to this point. However, in two of their three wins, Blake Bortles has failed to complete 15 passes. In the modern NFL, you cannot hide your quarterback to that extent and be a real threat. The Jags’ nice start is nothing more than a statistical anomaly for now.

Despite last week’s loss to division rival Seattle, the Rams are the much more complete football team here. This line shows you that even professional bookies overreact from time to time. LAR 24 Jac 14

Buccaneers (-2.5) at Cardinals – Anyone who tells you they know what is coming here is lying. Tampa Bay is a talented young football team that still makes a lot of silly mistakes and mental errors.

Arizona has the oldest roster in the league. After getting blown out by the Eagles last week, that roster looks ready to be put out to pasture. This is not 2009. Adrian Peterson will not change their fortunes. Tampa has more weapons to work with, but their two losses this year have been the kind that make a team tough to trust. I will nervously do so here. TB 23 Ari 17

*Steelers at Chiefs (-4.5) – This upset pick will probably raise some eyebrows. Often times though, when a team gets embarrassed like the Steelers did, they come back strong the next week.

Pittsburgh has been a model of stability for well over 30 years. Throw in the talent on the roster, and they have earned the benefit of the doubt for one more week. Moreover, Kansas City’s offense is off to an unbelievable start, but unless they are all-time great, they will come back down to earth very soon.

Even if this is not that week, Pittsburgh’s “Killer Bs” are more than capable of matching Kansas City in a shootout. Also, the Steelers are the far more desperate football team. Pit 34 KC 30    

*Chargers at Raiders (-4) – The Chargers finally finished a game and broke in to the win column last week. Oakland seems intent on rushing Derek Carr back from injury. After watching EJ Manuel last week, it is not hard to see why.

Even before the Carr injury, the Raiders’ offense had suddenly started to struggle in a big way. As long as Philip Rivers is around, the Chargers will always put up points. It is hard to have that same confidence in the Raiders right now. LAC 21 Oak 20

Giants at Broncos (-11.5) – Denver is fairly healthy and at home coming off a bye. The Broncos are a top 10 team in both rushing and stopping the run. The disastrous state of the Giants is well-documented. They are winless and their top three wide receivers are all down with injuries.

No one giving New York a chance here is understandable. However, the Giants still have a decent defense. Denver’s offense is pretty pedestrian. Blowouts are rare in the NFL, especially when the public expects them to happen. The Giants will keep this close, but ultimately find another way to lose. Den 22 NYG 14

Monday Night:

*Colts at Titans (-3) – With Marcus Mariota’s status still unclear, this is a tough game to find a line on at the moment. It will be another week of Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for the Colts. Brissett’s mobility helps hide the offensive line’s short comings and create something when nothing is there.

No matter who has been at quarterback for the Titans, they have struggled to score as of late. Indy’s offense is a bit more explosive and trustworthy at the moment. Ind 23 Ten 20

           

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NFL

NFL week 5 picks against the spread

Finally, a winning week. I was 11-5 against the spread last week and called the Jets’ upset over Jacksonville. The goal this week is to improve on a season record of 25-35-3. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let the second quarter of the season begin.

Thursday Night:

Patriots (-5.5) at Bucs – Relax. The Patriots are fine. A .500 record through four games is not a death sentence. In fact, in most NFL cities it is pretty good. Tom Brady is still among league leaders in touchdown passes. The defense is not going to give up 32 points a game all year long. Even if the defense does not improve, Brady and the rest of the offense will still outscore most opponents.

Meanwhile in Tampa Bay, the Bucs were very fortunate to escape the winless Giants last week. Prior to that, they were taken to the woodshed by Case Keenum in Minnesota. Jameis Winston still has a bright future. However, the more this team plays the more obvious it becomes that the hype train pulled into the station a year early. NE 34 TB 20

Sunday:

Cardinals at Eagles (-6.5) – Whether the Eagles are for real or not remains to be seen. Arizona’s roster continues to age in dog years. They have been fortunate to notch comeback wins over San Francisco and Indianapolis to this point.

The Eagles are slowly finding their identity on offense. Arizona desperately needs a new one. Unfortunately for them, you can’t find a brand new offensive identity in the middle of the season. Philadelphia should dominate in the trenches here. Phi 28 Ari 17

Bills at Bengals (-3) – This is one of two lines that probably caught a lot of people by surprise. The Bills are the darlings of the league after back-to-back wins over the Broncos and Falcons. However, we have seen those starts from Buffalo in recent years. They currently possess the longest playoff drought in the league. Throw in an offense that lacks consistent playmakers outside of running back LeSean McCoy, and it is not hard to see why gamblers are skeptical.

The Bengals salvaged some pride by knocking off Cleveland last week. The offense has been much cleaner since Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator. The defense has played really well all year long without much fanfare.

People will look at this line and the team records and throw their life savings on Buffalo. In a situation like that, the other side is always the safe place to be. Buffalo cannot be taken seriously as a contender until the winning game like this. It is not all that difficult to catch a really good team by surprise on occasion. It is far more difficult to go out and keep that momentum going against a lesser opponent. Cin 27 Buf 20

*Panthers at Lions (-2.5) – This could go either way, but the Lions’ tendency to lollygag around for three quarters always makes me nervous. Both of these teams are the offensive firepower to light any opponent up on any given day, but the Panthers should be writing a bit higher after going in to New England and pulling off the upset. Car 27 Det 24

Jaguars at Steelers (-8.5) –  Antonio Brown’s sideline antics last week let us all know that things are not exactly harmonious in Pittsburgh at the moment. However, they do not need to be harmonious for an offense that kind of weaponry to score. The fact that they are playing an offense who struggles to score on a consistent basis for the second straight week does not her either. Pit 31 Jac 17

Chargers at Giants (-3.5) – Someone will be winless no more after this one. Looking at these teams rosters, it is hard to fathom that both are winless. A team from out west traveling east is always susceptible to getting jumped on early.

The Giants have one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL. The Chargers have one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. In so many ways, something has to give in this game. It is anyone’s guess as to exactly what will give, but the team that gets to sleep in their own beds is the smart bet. NYG 28 LAC 20

Jets at Browns (-2.5) – This is the other line that will surprise people. Again, the vast majority will throw their money on the Jets. Thus, go the other way. Even though the Jets are exceeding expectations at 2-2, they still have basically the same personnel that led to talk of going winless before the season. Also, whenever a team starts talking about not getting enough respect like the Jets did after beating Jacksonville, it is a slippery slope that can backfire.

Speaking of going winless, the Browns know that this is one of few realistic chances they have to avoid that fate this season. Combine that incentive with the fact Cleveland was playing well in defeat prior to last week’s blowout, and I say they get it done. Cle 17 NYJ 14

49ers at Colts (-1.5) – Jacoby Brissett has a chance to guide the Colts right back into the AFC South conversation with a win here. At the very least, his mobility has made the offense more dynamic than anyone thought possible in the absence of Andrew Luck. The 49ers lost their second heartbreaker of the year in Arizona last week. This is another winnable game for a winless team, but Brissett’s mobility and playmaking ability gives the Colts something the 49ers simply do not possess. Ind 24 SF 19

Titans (Pick ‘em) at Dolphins- With Marcus Mariota injured, Matt Cassel may start for the Titans. The quarterback questions create the uncertain line year. We do know that Jay Cutler will start for the Dolphins in this game, which is exactly why the Titans will win it.

NFL Week 5 picks against spread

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Miami is coming off being shut out by the Saints and putting up just six points against the Jets. It is over. Adam Gase outsmarted himself. The Cutler experiment is a failure. The Titans have major issues of their own, but they run the ball well. Miami’s lack of a passing game has even neutralized Jay Ajayi. Ten 19 Mia 10

Ravens at Raiders (-2.5) – This line tells you a lot about the Ravens offense. Baltimore possesses a defense that aside from a terrible performance in London, has held opponents to 12 points per game.

That defense is facing backup quarterback E.J. Manuel this week. Yet, the Ravens are underdogs here. That certainly is not because the defense will not be able to stop Manuel.

In fairness to the former first-round pick, he did give his team a much-needed spark after replacing an injured Derek Carr in Denver last week. This will not be a pretty one to watch, but the Raiders are slightly more capable of running the football effectively. That will be the difference in a battle of stagnant offenses. Oak 13 Bal 9

*Seahawks at Rams (-1) – This is the toughest pick of the week. The Rams have played Seattle as well as anyone in recent years. Moreover, I am officially a believer after their upset in Dallas last week. Their next big test is going to be winning a game where the offense will struggle to put up 20 points. Whether they are ready or not, that test is coming in this matchup.

It feels like Seattle is being sold short here though. Chris Carson is the latest Seattle running back who will miss extended time. However, the offensive line blocked much better last week. By the end of the game, Seattle looked like the physically dominating team that we have become accustomed to. In close games, there are not many guys who would be taken ahead of Russell Wilson. Ever since his college days, it is has been difficult to pick against his team. He will find a way here. Sea 24 Lar 20

*Packers at Cowboys (-2)- With the Cowboys sitting at just .500 through four games, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are each finding out that life is a bit harder in year two in the NFL. However, they are not the issue here. Aaron Rodgers is coming to town and the Cowboys have the 20th ranked passing defense. There is plenty of time for Dallas to steady themselves, but this is not the week. GB 31 Dal 24

Chiefs (-1.5) at Texans – Deshaun Watson has Texans fans salivating. While it is understandable, slow down a little. He has played in four games, had two great outings and two clunkers. While he probably is the future in Houston, at present he is no different than 95 percent of young quarterbacks. The Texans are not contenders to win anything other than their mediocre division.

NFL Week 5 picks against spread

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Kansas City is the last remaining undefeated team. They are not the kind of team that is ever going to blow people out, but it is going to take something special to beat them. They do everything well. If the Texans defense were a tick better or Watson a year older, Houston may be capable of producing that something special. For now though, the Chiefs keep rolling. KC 30 Hou 20

Monday Night:

Vikings (Pick ‘em) at Bears- With Mitchell Trubisky making his first career start for the Bears and Sam Bradford continuing to be a question mark for the Vikings, a pick ‘em line makes perfect sense. No one knows what to expect here.

Dalvin Cook’s injury was a back breaker for Minnesota. Even so, whoever plays quarterback for them here will not be overwhelmed. It is hard to have that same confidence in a rookie going up against a solid defense. Min 23 Chi 16

 

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Brett Favre

Week 4 NFL picks against the spread

Week three in the NFL was full of surprises. Given the crazy week, a 6-9-1 record against the spread is not terrible. My season record of 14-30-3 is still quite the eyesore though.

The good news is it only takes one great week to change that. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. For better or worse, here it goes.

Thursday Night

Bears at Packers (-7) – The Bears peskiness was finally rewarded last week against the Steelers. However, going on the road to face Aaron Rodgers on a short week is a tall order. Given Green Bay’s strong finish last week and Chicago’s subpar quarterback situation and secondary, this could get ugly. GB 34 Chi 20  

Sunday

Saints (-3) at Dolphins (London) – These London games are becoming impossible to predict. Anyone who says that they had Jacksonville winning by 37 last week is lying. With Drew Brees at the helm, the Saints are going to score anywhere against anyone. The trick is getting a few stops on defense, like they did last week.

The Jay Cutler experiment has not gone well for the Dolphins to this point. Miami was manhandled by the Jets last week. Thus, the Saints should be able to do what is needed on defense. NO 27 Mia 20

Bills at Falcons (-8) – This matchup is fairly simple. Atlanta is really good, especially at home. Buffalo is not very good on the road. Despite a 2-1 mark, Buffalo has yet to put up more than 26 points in a game this year. They will need a whole lot more than that if they want to keep this close. I don’t see that happening. Atl 41 Buf 21

Panthers at Patriots (-9) – The Patriots are the Patriots. They will be at the forefront of the conversation when winter rolls around. However, they are having more early-season issues then we are used to, particularly on defense.

Given that New England has not fully hit its stride yet, Carolina has enough talent to hang around here. Tom Brady won’t be going through the Carolina defense like a hot knife through butter. The linebackers in particular are too good to allow that.

After a lackluster start, Cam Newton’s offense should be able to get going against a Patriots defense that is just leaving too many people open right now. Ultimately though, the all-too-familiar turnovers and inconsistencies will doom the Panthers again. NE 30 Car 22

Bengals (-3) at Browns – As an Ohioan, I am grateful to have the NFL Sunday ticket package. Thus, this is not the only game I will have access to.

Despite another loss last week, the Bengals figured out how to get the ball to their playmakers thanks to new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They certainly have more of those than Cleveland does. What Hue Jackson is doing in Cleveland to build from the ground up is admirable, but if it does not pay off in the form of wins soon, he will not be around the seemingly never-ending rebuilding process in Cleveland for much longer. Cin 30 Cle 23

Lions (-2) at *Vikings – Much like the line for Minnesota’s game last week, this line will fluctuate wildly until Sam Bradford’s playing status becomes clearer. Case Keenum showed that he can get the job done in this league from time to time.

Detroit’s habit of relying on late comebacks finally caught up with them last week, even though it was literally by an inch. Against this defense on the road, the Lions cannot afford another slow start. The problem is that it seems they are incapable of avoiding one. Min 28 Det 27

Jaguars (-3) at *Jets – The Jets at .500 at the end of September? The defense has not lost all of its edge from a few years ago when Rex Ryan really had it cooking. Josh McCown sure is not flashy, but there is a reason he has been around as long as he has. To play quarterback in the NFL in your late 30s, you must be doing something right. The Jets ground game has also been adequate to this point.

Jacksonville is not in London or playing a team that can’t decide who its quarterback is. Based on recent history, that means they will lose. Start saving for those playoff tickets Jets fans!

Okay that might be a bit of a stretch, but .500 when the calendar flips to October is not. NYJ 14 Jac 13

Rams at Cowboys (-6) – When the Rams made Sean McVay the youngest head coach in league history, it raised more than a few eyebrows. However, what he has done with this offense is remarkable.

Sean McVay

Photo: turfshowtimes.com

Many of the same players that Jeff Fisher could not even get first downs with have helped contribute to 107 points through the first three games. Wade Phillips does not have the defense clicking yet, but the front seven is still one of the best in football. It is just a matter of time. The offense should also come back down to Earth before long, but this is a team that will cause problems for every opponent it faces.

The Cowboys had a nice bounce back win on the road last week and still have more firepower than their fast improving opposition. I think they get the win. However, if they are expecting anything less than a dogfight, they will get beat.  Dal 30 LAR 27

Steelers (-3) at Ravens – This is one of my favorite matchups in the NFL. No matter the records, it is always hard hitting and close. Neither team is playing particularly well at the moment. However, the Steelers’ offense is littered with playmakers. Baltimore’s offense makes my head hurt. Pit 21 Bal 17

Ravens Steelers

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Titans (-1.5) at Texans – From an outsider’s perspective, Tennessee must be an incredibly difficult team to prepare for. No one else plays like they do. Their physical, mistake free, run-first approach makes them feel like a team that belongs in the 80s.

Teams do not get a handle on how to play them defensively until it is too late. Houston is riding the roller coaster that is having a rookie quarterback. Deshaun Watson was brilliant last week, but horrible in the week before.

Watson has to play well for his team to have a chance here. Tennessee will be too solid for the inconsistent youngster. Ten 20 Hou 14

*Giants at Buccaneers (-3) – I was very high on both of these teams before the season. It has not panned out particularly well for them to this point. The Giants may be winless, but they showed signs of life last week and did some good things. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston folded and Tampa Bay made Case Keenum look like a top-tier quarterback.

Even if you are on the road, you have to win against backup quarterbacks in this league. The Bucs loss last week shows that they are a young football team that may not be anywhere near true contender status this year. NYG 23 TB 17

Eagles at Chargers (-1) – The Chargers have to catch a break at some point. Philip Rivers continues to compete his guts out for a city that is now indifferent to how good he is. Rivers had a tough one last week, and I expect him to bounce back.

If this matchup were taking place next year, Carson Wentz and the Eagles would probably have the edge. However, Rivers still has a bit of good left in him, and his coach is more committed to the run game than their opponent.  LAC 27 Phi 19

*49ers at Cardinals (-7) – The theme of last week was bad teams showing up, playing well and in some cases, coming out on top. The 49ers were on the wrong end of a shootout against the resurgent Rams, but there was a lot of positives from the offense. They did everything well after digging themselves an early hole. I expect that to carry over.

However, this pick has more to do with the Cardinals. In every game this year, their aging roster has come out strong only to fade or barely hang on down the stretch. The rebuild probably should have started already. Carson Palmer is on his last leg. The window is closed. A home upset by a winless division rival will establish that once and for all. SF 20 Ari 17

Raiders at Broncos (-2.5) – Both of these teams were given sobering reminders as to how hard it is to win on the road in the NFL last week. The Raiders’ offense has an endless wealth of talent. We have seen what Derek Carr and company are capable of, but something is missing early in the season.

Khalil Mack is great, but the Oakland defense as a whole is still well below average. The Broncos offense is still a work in progress, but has been more dynamic in the early part of 2017 than it was at any point last season. When it comes down to it, the Raiders could not move the ball at all against the Redskins. How in the world are they going to move the ball enough to beat the Broncos in Mile High? Den 24 Oak 17

Colts at Seahawks (-13) – Whatever ratings issues Sunday Night Football may or may not be facing, this matchup will not help. The Titans proved the Seahawks defense may not be what it once was last week, but Russell Wilson and the offense did get going and Seattle is back home this week. Despite recent improvement thanks to Jacoby Brissett, the Colts are still bringing a knife to a gunfight. Sea 27 Ind 12

Monday Night

Redskins at Chiefs (-7) – After watching the Redskins Sunday night, there is nothing they cannot do on offense. Kansas City might be the best team in football right now, and explosive offense is no longer a weakness.

However, defense is still where KC’s bread is buttered. That style does not lend itself to blowouts. The Redskins’ offense is easily the most balanced the Chiefs have faced this year. They will get theirs here. KC 31 Was 30

 

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Russell Wilson

NFL Week 3 picks against the spread

Last week was a little better, but not much. Despite correctly calling the Broncos upset of the Cowboys, I posted a record of just 5-11 last week and sit at 8-20-2 through two weeks. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. The quest for improvement continues.

Thursday Night:

Rams (-2) at 49ers- Taking a road team on Thursday night is always dangerous, but Jared Goff looks like a legitimate NFL quarterback two weeks in to his sophomore season. Despite being an offensive guru, Kyle Shanahan’s new 49ers offense has not really gotten off the ground yet. The Rams’ defense is among the last a struggling offense would like to face. Lar 20 SF 10

Sunday:

Ravens (-3.5) at Jaguars (London) – The number here is shockingly low. It makes me wonder if Vegas knows something the rest of the world does not. Baltimore is far from an offensive juggernaut, but they have not needed to be one thus far. The defense has carried them to an undefeated start by dominating bad teams. Jacksonville is most certainly a bad team. If they wait three quarters to show up like they did last week, Baltimore will eat them alive. Bal 27 Jac 15

Falcons (-3) at Lions- This has a chance to be really good. Two hot quarterbacks with lots of weapons. Atlanta passed its first true post Super Bowl meltdown test by throttling Green Bay last week. Detroit is white hot in the early going as well and showing more offensive balance than we are used to. It seems like every time the Lions have a chance for a big statement win, they come up short. Thus, Atlanta wins a shootout. Atl 35 Det 31   

Matt Ryan

Photo: nydailynews.com

Browns (-1) at Colts- Andrew Luck still is not walking through the door anytime soon to save the Colts. The good news is they occasionally looked like a real NFL team at times with Jacoby Brissett at the helm last week. Even so, the Browns are favorite to win a game for the first time since 2015.

With the youngest roster in the league, Cleveland is still overmatched most weeks. However, their talent on both sides of the ball is intriguing and they play hard. The Browns have been in both of their games so far before miscues turned the tide. Deshone Kizer should be able to limit those against a dreadful Colts defense. Cle 20 Ind 17

Broncos (-3) at Bills- This line is brilliant. The Broncos are the talk of the league after their performance last week and most folks have declared Buffalo terrible after struggling with the Jets for three quarters and putting up just three points in defeat last week.

I would have expected Denver to at least be a touchdown favorite, in which case Buffalo would have been my favorite pick of the week.  This just screams trap game. The Broncos are making a rare trip to the East Coast. Any team is susceptible to reading their own press clippings a little too much after a big win.

Lastly, Buffalo offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was in Denver last year. He knows Trevor Siemian’s strengths and weaknesses as well as anyone. You can bet he has been dropping in on defensive meetings this week.

Despite all that, the talent gap between the two rosters is too great on paper not to swallow a measly field goal. I am taking the sucker bet. Den 27 Buf 21

Texans at Patriots (-13) – A win is a win in the NFL. Despite playing pretty poorly in Cincinnati last week, the way Deshaun Watson competed and made a few big plays to help his team get the job done was impressive. However, the Texans are nowhere near ready to really compete with a Patriots team that seemed to get back on track last week. NE 31 Hou 13

Dolphins (-6) at Jets- As a general rule, always take home underdogs in a rivalry game. The Jets are not as bad as most thought they were going to be. Gang Green hung right with the Raiders until a muffed punt opened the floodgates late in the first half. Miami needed a lot of help to get by the Chargers last week. An outright upset would no doubt create some fantastic new Jay Cutler memes, but I will stop just short of calling it. Mia 24 Nyj 20

Saints at Panthers (-6) – Something has to give here. Carolina is really struggling on offense, but very good on defense. New Orleans is the polar opposite. Carolina’s offense should finally be able get their multilayered ground game going. The defense should be able to slow down Drew Brees just enough, but a touchdown is too much too give up. Car 34 NO 30

*Giants at Eagles (-6) – I am a fool for giving the Giants another week before I bury them. However, it is inconceivable to me how a team with so much talent on both sides of the ball can be as bad as they have been. The Giants are another team on the wrong side of the league wide shortage of decent offensive line play.

New York has been a strange team over the years. They play better when they are on the road and nothing is expected of them, both apply here. Odell Beckham Jr. will be a week healthier and we do not really know what the Eagles are yet. Betting on the Giants this week will be slightly more entertaining than setting your money on fire folks. NYG 24 Phi 20

Steelers (-7) at Bears- The Steelers have already shown us that they will ride that high-powered offense to the playoffs yet again this year. With Mike Glennon at quarterback, the Bears are much closer to the team that got picked apart in Tampa last week than the one that played the Falcons to the wire opening weekend. Pit 28 Chi 17

Bucs (-2.5) at Vikings- This line has been taken off most sites. It will continue to move dramatically until Sam Bradford’s playing status gets clearer. This was the only one I could find. If Bradford gets healthy, this line could very well flip. For now though, if Bradford does not answer the bell, the Bucs are a solid bet. Case Keenum certainly did not do much to inspire confidence last week. TB 20 Min 13

*Seahawks at Titans (-3) – It amazes me how people sometimes panic about a team, even after a win. Yes, Seattle struggled with San Francisco and their offensive line is atrocious. However, ever since Russell Wilson came to town, this franchise has had a knack for finding ways to win. They rarely look impressive, but usually get the job done.

Even though it was against an inferior opponent, sometimes pulling out a gutty win like that is all a team needs to get on track. The Seahawks defense always travels well and Tennessee may struggle with playing another team that plays the physical brand of football. It will be interesting to see how they react, but Seattle has earned the benefit of the doubt. Sea 17 Ten 14

Bengals at Packers (-8.5) – The whole world has been beating up on the Bengals this week, and rightly so. Scoring a grand total of nine points in two games will get you exactly where they are.

The good news is the defense is playing well and the Packers are banged up on both sides of the ball. Additionally, this is easily the worst defense Cincinnati has faced during the young season. The touchdown drought finally ends, but Aaron Rodgers pulls away late. GB 31 Cin 20

Aaron Rodgers

Photo: businessimsider.com

 

Chiefs (-3) at Chargers- New year, new city, same story for the Chargers. Again, they find themselves 0-2 by literally a few inches. The Chiefs offense is not going to look like the 99 Rams all year long and the Chargers are too good to get blown out by anyone. At the end of the day though, these teams will do what they have done for the better part of the last two years. The Chiefs will find a way to win, and the Chargers will find a way to lose. KC 21 Lac 17

Raiders (-3) at Redskins – The Redskins can move the ball on just about anyone, but Derek Carr makes the Raiders offense just a little better in this matchup. Washington has also struggled with turnovers early in the year. That is never a good thing when facing an offense that can make you pay for a short field. Oak 30 Was 20

Monday Night:

Cowboys (-3) at Cardinals- Dallas was humbled last week in Denver. Arizona continued to struggle in scrapping by Indianapolis. Arizona’s main cogs are aging very quickly, particularly quarterback Carson Palmer. Despite that, this team may still be capable of a great performance on occasion. That is what they will need Monday night, we have not seen it yet though. Dallas is not nearly as off track as many experts have suggested. Regardless, this is a good matchup for them to get their mojo back. Dal 27 Ari 17

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NFL

NFL Week 2 Picks against the spread

Last week, I got off to a dismal 3-10-2 record against the spread, but that leaves almost the entire season to improve. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s go.

Thursday Night:

Texans at Bengals (-6.5) – Well, you certainly won’t find two teams who looked worse in their openers. Despite that, this is a pretty simple game to size up. The Texans are banged up and traveling on a short week. Additionally, Andy Dalton is still Cincinnati’s quarterback for better or worse. He has proven he is capable of at least moderate success in this league. The same level of certainty cannot be applied to Houston’s quarterback situation. Cin 24 Hou 13

Sunday:

Cardinals (-7) at Colts- After last week’s embarrassment, there are not many reasons for Colts fans to be optimistic. The return of Andrew Luck is nowhere in sight. Whether it is Scott Tolzien or Jacoby Brissett who faces Arizona, it will be an uphill battle.

The Cardinals are not exactly a well-oiled machine at the moment, especially without David Johnson. Even so, Los Angeles hung 46 on Indy last week. The Jared Goff led Rams struggled to score 46 points in a month last year. Arizona should have enough firepower to get the job done. This strikes me as a game where professional pride may kick in for the Colts. After last week though, it is hard to see them keeping it close with any average team. Ari 31 Ind 17

Bills at Panthers (-7)- Christian McCaffery has certainly added something to a Panthers offense that already did a lot of exotic things with its running backs. Cam Newton missed some easy throws last week and appears to still be struggling with a bad shoulder, but he did not need to do much last week and won’t need to here either.

Yes, it was just the 49ers last week. Even so, the Panthers defense showed flashes of its great play from two years ago that helped the team reached the Super Bowl. The Bills struggled to put away the Jets last week. It is hard to imagine that going on the road against a much better opponent will help them. Car 27 Buf 17

Bears at Bucs (-7) – This game is tough to get a read on since Tampa Bay did not play last week. The theory of playing for an entire city after a hurricane certainly did not work when it came to Houston last week. However, the Bears are not very good and the Bucs have one of the better collections of offensive talent in the league. Thus, I will use the Houston theory again here. TB 31 Chi 21

Browns at Ravens (-8) – The Browns were one of the few things I had right last week. If there ever was a moral victory, that was it. The Ravens are benefiting too much from Cincinnati not showing up at all last week with this line. The offense didn’t look sharp. Granted, it didn’t need to. An outright upset would not shock me here. Bal 21 Cle 20

Vikings at Steelers (-5.5) – The Steelers are fantastic at home. Any team with their offensive weapons is a tall order for any opponent.  Before the Vikings can be taken seriously as a real contender, their offense has to show it can be productive against more than just the Saints defense. Pit 27 Min 19

Patriots (-6.5) at Saints- This will be a fun watch featuring two of the best quarterbacks of this era desperate to avoid 0-2 starts for their teams. If Kansas City can put up 40+ on the Pats in New England, the Saints will surely be able to score in the Superdome. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company won’t start 0-2, but they will be made to sweat. NE 34 NO 31

Eagles at Chiefs (-5.5)- Philadelphia did a nice job of going out and backing up the preseason hype that surrounded them last week, but this is a tough task. While the Kansas City hype train needs to slow down a bit, beating the Patriots in their building may be the most challenging thing to do in the NFL. Andy Reid coached teams almost never lose when given extra time to prepare. For young football team like the Eagles, Arrowhead Stadium combined with a physical Chiefs defense is more than likely going to be a case of too much, too soon. KC 28 Phi 21.

Titans (-2.5) at Jaguars- This is your classic Week 1 overreaction line. Yes, the Titans were soundly beaten by the Raiders, but the Jags are getting way too much credit for manhandling in the opener. While early returns on Leonard Fournette are good, the Texans helped Jacksonville out a lot. The Titans won’t be nearly as generous. Blake Bortles is not going to beat many teams completing 11 passes and barely breaking 100 yards. Ten 21 Jac 13

Leonard Fournette

Photo bigcatcountry.com

Dolphins at Chargers (-4.5) – After a one week hurricane delay, we finally get our first look at the Jay Cutler led Dolphins. The move did not make sense to me then and won’t until I see differently. Despite good individual members from time to time, having Cutler on your team has never meant winning football games on a consistent basis. In fact, it has usually meant just the opposite.

The Chargers finished last week’s loss against Denver really well. Their pass rushers will cause problems for every team they face this year. Also, the Bolts should be eager to open their time in LA with a win. Lac 30 Mia 21

Jets at Raiders (-14) – As bad as the Jets are, they hung around in Buffalo last week. The game would have been even closer had they not bungled an interception return. 14 points is just too many to swallow in the NFL unless the team that is favorite is angry or desperate. After last week’s win Oakland has no reason to be either. Oak 28 NYJ 17

Cowboys (-2) at *Broncos- Another week, another stiff test for Dak Prescott in his second year. He passed the first one with flying colors, but this one comes on the road at one of the toughest places to play in all of football.

This game is really a coin flip. Other than a rough few minutes in the fourth quarter, Denver dominated the Chargers last week. The balance they showed last week, a great defense that is already playing really well and playing at home will be enough for a minor upset. Den 21 Dal 17

49ers at Seahawks (-13.5) – Here, we have the same basic logic as the Jets/Raiders matchup. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Seattle has all the incentive in the world to be angry and desperate after being smothered by the Packers last week. Sea 24 SF 6

Redskins at Rams (-2.5)- Fortunately for Rams fans, the team that destroyed Indianapolis last week looked nothing like the disorganized mess that we saw last year. It is too early to say whether or not they are legitimate contenders, but this is a good matchup for them. Kirk Cousins was very pedestrian in the opener and committed a few big turnovers. The Rams defense will probably force him to do the same this week. Lar 23 Was 17

Kirk Cousins

Photo: bleacherreport.com

*Packers at Falcons (-2.5) – After barely escaping Chicago with a win last week, the Falcons seem to be missing something after the offensive coordinator change. Seattle may be the toughest defense Green Bay faces all year long. They scraped by them last week. I expect that confidence to help the Packers get on a nice early season roll. GB 31 Atl 24

Monday Night:

Lions at Giants (-3.5) – Desperation is a big theme this week. Teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs less than 15% of the time. The Giants were my preseason NFC Super Bowl representative. That looks shaky at best after last week, but the defense still did a solid job against Dallas.

Whether Odell Beckham Jr plays or not, the offense cannot be any worse. The Lions kept up with their 2016 theme of fourth quarter comeback wins last week against Arizona. They are loaded with talent, particularly on offense. However, their lack of a run game combined with their tendency to fall behind early make them tough to trust. NYG 27 Det 21

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NFL

Week 1 NFL picks against the spread

It is the most wonderful time of the year. While Hurricane Irma is putting a damper on things and reminding us all that football is secondary, the NFL season kicks off for real tonight. That means another year of picking games against the spread.

My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Here goes nothing.

Thursday Night

Chiefs at Patriots (-9) – Kansas City is extremely well coached. Andy Reid never allows his teams to beat themselves. This is a huge number to swallow in a matchup of two very good teams.

However, no matter the team, the defending champions always play inspired on opening night.  Alex Smith and company just do not have the firepower to keep up with a New England offense that somehow got even better by adding Brandin Cooks. No matter how stout the opposing defense is, the Patriots will score lots of points all year long. NE 31 KC 20

Sunday

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: inquisitr.com

Cardinals (-2) at *Lions – Here, we have two teams that must drive their fan bases insane. If last year is any indication, they both have high ceilings, low floors and no one knows what to expect from them week to week. Given that backdrop, I will take the home team with the better quarterback. Det 30 Ari 27

Falcons (-7) at Bears – It remains to be seen how the Falcons franchise will rebound from last year’s Super Bowl collapse. We won’t learn much here. The Bears organization is lost at sea right now and does not have talent on any level that is equal to the Falcons, at least on paper. Paper is really the only thing we have to go on for opening week. Atl 31 Chi 17

Ravens at Bengals (-3) – This game is pretty much a coin flip. If the game were in Baltimore, the line would probably be flipped. With home-field advantage and an offense that should be just a touch more balanced than that of the Ravens, the Bengals are the smart bet. Cin 28 Bal 24

Jags at Texans (-5.5) – This is my favorite pick of the week. Blake Bortles has yet another crack at being the quarterback of the future in Jacksonville. His numbers are always decent thanks to garbage time, but the franchise has won 11 total regular season games since Bortles was drafted. What more needs to be seen?

Houston’s quarterback situation is not much better, but they are playing to lift the spirits of an entire city and have most of last year’s playoff roster intact. Hou 24 Jac 13

Jets at Bills (-9.5) – The Jets are going to stink, Buffalo is probably going to stink a little less. Outside of the defensive line, everything on the Jets’ roster is well below average. Buffalo has made some head scratching roster moves in recent weeks and is clearly hesitant to commit to quarterback Tyrod Taylor long term. This is a value pick more than anything else. Buffalo is not 9.5 points better than anyone in this league. Buf 27 NYJ 20

Raiders at Titans (-2) – These teams handle their business differently, but are pretty evenly matched. The team that does not lead the world in penalties every year and has the better defense is a good bet. Ten 24 Oak 20

Eagles (-1) at *Redskins– Here is another game that could go either way. Carson Wentz exceeded expectations last year and the Eagles have made a lot of new acquisitions that have people excited. But the Redskins are the known commodity here.

Even with the drama that seems to constantly surround the organization, the Redskins offense put up a ton of first downs and yards last year. If they can turn some more of those numbers into points this year, they will be back in the playoffs for the first time in a handful of years. This is a rivalry game, Washington is at home and I know what I am getting with them. That is good enough for me. Was 24 Phi 21

Steelers (-9) at Browns – The Browns will not be a punchline this year. From Jabrill Peppers to Kenny Britt, they have done a fantastic job of adding talent on both sides of the ball. The raw athleticism of DeShone Kizer with Hue Jackson coaching him is intriguing. Keeping up with a Pittsburgh offense that has all of its key contributors on the field at the same time is probably too much to ask, but they can make a statement here, even in defeat. Pit 28 Cle 20

*Colts at Rams (-3.5) – Watch this one at your own risk. The Colts will be led by Scott Tolzien, not Andrew Luck. For the Rams, Jared Goff showed improvement in the preseason, but that only means so much. Even without Luck, Indy’s offensive personnel may still be better. They won’t score much as the Rams front seven is really good, but they won’t need to. Ind 13 LAR 10

Panthers (-5.5) at 49ers- The number here is surprisingly low. Apparently, I am not the only one who likes what the 49ers are doing. Given the vast differences between their last two seasons, Carolina is one of the toughest teams to predict this year, but Christian McCaffrey might be exactly what this offense needs to get back on track. The Panthers should get through this one on talent alone. Car 28 SF 21

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: Panthers.com

*Seahawks at Packers (-3) – Like always, this matchup is about Seattle’s great defense and Green Bay’s great offense. These two teams could very well see each other again in the playoffs. We all have certain theories when we look at these games. One of mine is that great defense usually trumps great offense.

If there were any full proof theories about predicting NFL games, Vegas would be broke and us common folk would be rich. Obviously, it does not work that way. However, I will almost always ride the better defense in a matchup like this. Sea 21 GB 20

*Giants at Cowboys (-4) – Apparently, Ezekiel Elliott will play in this game. However, that did not matter much when these teams got together twice last year. With additions like Brandon Marshall, the Giants only got better in the offseason. Even if Odell Beckham Jr. does not suit up because of his knee injury, New York is well-equipped for that circumstance.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league has now had enough time to figure out how to stop a Cowboys offense that was a young juggernaut last year. Things will not be nearly as easy for Dallas this year. NYG 23 Dal 20

Monday Night

*Saints at Vikings (-3.5) – New Orleans is primed for a big year. The one-two punch of Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson will finally give that offense the balance it so desperately needs. Drew Brees still has a couple years to be his Hall-of-Fame-caliber self. All the defense needs to do is go from atrocious to just plain bad. This is not a very difficult leap to make.

Week 1 NFL picks

Photo: espn.com

As good as Minnesota’s defense is, their offense simply lacks playmakers. It will not take nearly as long for that to catch up with them this year. Too much is being expected by rookie running back Delvin Cook, Sam Bradford has never led a team to a winning record as a starting quarterback and their receivers max out at about 80 catches.

The Vikings have not managed to put together an offense that has ranked in the top 20 since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach. Unless the defense turns out to be the 1985 bears or 2015 Broncos, this team is going nowhere. NO 24 Min 17

Chargers at Broncos (-3.5) – The Chargers were in almost every game last year, but lost most of them.

The relocated Chargers will win a few more games this year, but this one will follow that familiar script. Philip Rivers is still being asked to do way too much. If the quarterbacks changed teams in this matchup, Denver would make this look like a homecoming game. The Broncos were smart enough to realize that Trevor Siemian was not the problem last year. Denver’s front lines were pushed around on both sides of the ball.

Thus, this year they come back with revamped offensive and defensive lines, as well as a monster of at least three heads in the backfield. The defense remains one of the best on the planet. The Broncos are attempting to take the physical approach to winning football games this year. If done well, it is a tough approach for any opponent to deal with. Den 20 LAC 14

 

Featured image from sportlogos.com

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC West

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

Kansas City Chiefs

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

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

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

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland Raiders

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

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

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

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

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denver Broncos

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

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

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Chargers

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Los Angeles Chargers NFL 2017 Draft Profile

Los Angeles Chargers 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Welcome to day seven of TGH Draftmas. Today we look at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Chargers Summary

2017 will be a big year for the Los Angeles Chargers. To start, they are moving from 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium to 27,000-seat StubHub Center. They will be hoping that the move to Los Angeles will leave behind the disappointment of the 2016 season. Finishing with a 5-11 record and 1-5 against teams in their division, the Bolts will looking to rewrite the wrongs of 2016.

Gus Bradley Los Angeles Chargers

Chargers new Defensive Coach Gus Bradley during his time at Jacksonville. Courtesy of Jaguars.com

The main area of need will be solidifying the defense. The Chargers finished up with the fourth-worst defense in the NFL, giving up a whopping 26.4 points per game.

The Bolts have started to address these issues by picking up former Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley to be their defensive coordinator. Bradley will likely look to change the Chargers’ defense to a 4-3 set up, as oppose to their previous 3-4 set up.

As expected it has been a quiet free agency for Los Angeles, with a focus on resigning players rather than making any dramatic moves.

Having resigned Melvin Ingram, Jahleel Addae, Kellen Clemens and Damion Square, it seems as if the Chargers will focus on the draft to fill some holes.

The one move they have made is signing left tackle Russell Okung. The former Broncos man is a welcome addition to the Chargers offensive line and a nice upgrade over King Dunlap.

With sell-out crowds expected at the StubHub Center all season, fans will be hoping that they can get some game changers in the draft to propel them to victory.

Chargers Picks and Needs

The Chargers have seven picks in this draft. They will be hoping that they can use these to add some much-needed depth.

First round: (1) No. 7

Second Round: (1) No. 38

Third Round: (1) No. 71

Fourth Round: (1) No. 113

Fifth Round: (1) No. 151

Sixth Round: (1) No. 190

Seventh Round: (1) No. 225

With seven picks, Los Angeles will be hoping to lay the foundations for a strong season. The Chargers have a strong front four defensively, so they will likely look to solidify in the back field. On the offensive side, a long-term replacement for 35-year-old Philip Rivers may be picked up in the later rounds.

The situation with Keenan Allen still remains a concern as he has suffered major injuries in the last two seasons. A decision will need to be made on whether the Chargers still feel he is fit enough to be their number one receiver.

With this in mind, I will say the biggest needs in no particular order are:

Offense

Offensive Tackle

Quarterback – A long-term replacement for the aging Philip Rivers

Wide Receiver – A strong receiver could be a consideration depending on the fitness of Keenan Allen

Defense

Safety

Cornerback

Chargers Targets and Thoughts

Let’s take a look at the first three rounds. As with the other Draftmas profiles, there will be no trades.

First Round:

Malik Hooker Chargers Draft

Courtesy of Cleveland.com

Pick #7: Malik Hooker S, Ohio State

The Chargers need a safety, and Hooker is the best safety in the draft, so it’s a match made in heaven. Hooker provides a combination of athleticism, range and ball skills which will see him go early in the draft. If Hooker is picked up early by another team, expect to see Los Angeles turn to Jamal Adams from LSU.

Second Round:

Pick #38: DeShone Kizer QB, Notre Dame

Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger. This would be the perfect time for the Bolts to pick up a future starter. Combine this with a weak class in terms of QB’s and the stage seems set for the Chargers to pick DeShone Kizer in the second round. If he is taken, Los Angeles may decide to abandon the quarterback selection and solidify the offensive line with options such as Cam Robinson and Roderick Johnson likely to be considered.

Third Round:

Pick #71: Taywan Taylor WR, Western Kentucky

Losing Keenan Allen to injury in the first game of last season left Los Angeles struggling with passing options. Considering they recently gave Allen a contract extension, it is likely that Los Angeles will look for a partner for Allen and Taywan Taylor seems like a good fit. With an impressive 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, Taylor seems like a perfect fit at the number two receiver spot.

Conclusion

2017 looks to be a year of rebuilding for the Los Angeles Chargers, as they try to win over the hearts and minds of the people of Los Angeles. They will likely look to lay the foundations for a strong 2018 by focusing more on depth than making any superstar additions.

Thank you for joining us on our seventh day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the Carolina Panthers!

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Joe!

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

Draftmas Day 5: Tennessee Titans

Draftmas Day 6: New York Jets

Franchise Relocation

Franchise Relocation Roulette

The NFL has seen three franchises relocate in the past year. The St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers both moved to Los Angeles. Two days ago, the NFL owners voted 31-1 in favor of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas.

One of the main reasons teams end up relocating is stadium troubles. The Raiders could not work out a solution with the city of Oakland which led to them looking for greener pastures. Sports is still a business and owners will do whatever is necessary to keep their business successful.

Another reason a team might locate is attendance. Owners are willing to move if they believe there is more money to be made elsewhere.

There are other franchises who may be looking to relocate their team across all major sports and this article will take a look at which franchises may be relocating sooner rather than later.

NHL

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have been rumored to be relocating a few times. Before Las Vegas was awarded an expansion team the Coyotes were considering moving to Vegas. Arizona has the second worst attendance average in the NHL with 13,020 fans per game.

The Gila River Arena in which they play in was built in 2003. 2003 wasn’t that long ago but with the attendance issue, the Coyotes could find more success in other another city.

The Coyotes have had little success on the ice as well, finishing ninth or worse in the Western Conference going on five straight years. The Coyotes could use a fresh start.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are in the same boat as the Coyotes. They rank last in the NHL in attendance with an average of 11,778 fans per home game. Their arena was built in 1999 and they definitely need a new one. The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs for eight straight seasons and only once in the last 11 seasons. A change of scenery is something the Hurricanes franchise needs.

Both the Hurricanes and Coyotes could be open to moving to the following cities: Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Hamilton and Indianapolis. If the NHL decides to relocate these are the two most likely franchises to move.

MLB

Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay is a city where a lot of people move to retire. The Rays attendance is the worst in the majors, based on average, with just 15,878 fans per game. The franchise has had the worst attendance in the majors since 2012 and the attendance has dropped significantly every year.

Tropicana Field is also almost 30 years old as it was built in 1990. Fans are not going to watch the Rays and their field is getting old.

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu AP)

Oakland: The Athletics play on the same field as the Raiders. Golden State couldn’t get a stadium built in Oakland so they got one built in San Fransisco. The Athletics are now in the same boat. Oakland Coliseum opened in 1966 and players have mentioned water leaks in the locker rooms when it rains. It is clear this stadium is one of the worst in the country.

The Athletics have also had some of the worst attendance numbers in the past decade similar to the Rays. Due to the stadium issues in Oakland and the lack of attendance, the A’s may be on the move soon.

Possible relocation cities could include Las Vegas, Mexico City, Montreal, or Vancouver.

NFL

Buffalo Bills: There has been so much relocation as of late in the NFL it is hard to imagine anybody else moving cities. Buffalo is one franchise with a slim chance to relocate. Ralph Wilson Stadium was built in 1973 making it out of date. The city of Buffalo needs to handle this situation with the Bills better than Oakland did with the Raiders or the beloved Bills will find the best option for the franchise.

Possible relocation cities include Portland, St. Louis, Toronto, or Mexico City.

NBA

Milwaukee: The Bucks are usually in the bottom of the NBA when it comes to attendance. They have averaged 14,839 fans per game over the last five years. Their attendance has steadily improved as the team has improved but there is a chance owners think they do better elsewhere.

BMO Harris Bradley Center is 29 years old and needs to be upgraded for modern times. If another city gives the Bucks an offer they can’t refuse they will relocate.

With all that said the fans in the Milwaukee area are extremely passionate and it is hard to imagine them actually moving cities.

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