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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2017 week 3 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. You won’t find me in a church on Sunday because football is my religion and 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 on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score prediction, 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 Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 3 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-8

season: 16-15

Thursday Night

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) 20 @ San Francisco 49ers (0-2) 14: The Rams look like a really good team this year, good enough to possibly win the division over the Seahawks. If they are to take the step towards becoming a playoff team, this is the type of game they must win. San Francisco will be in the lottery.

Jared Goff is still going to go through some growing pains. If they run the ball well enough and continue playing great defense, then they can succeed despite their young quarterback. The 49ers have improved defensively, but can’t make up for the lack of offense. The Rams will win this game, but it will be a defensive dogfight.

Sunday Morning

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: https://www.si.com)

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) 13 @ Baltimore Ravens (2-0) 16: Something tells me to pick Jacksonville in this game, but then I think about how Blake Bortles has to go against a defense that is destroying quarterbacks. Jacksonville will be in the game because of their stout defense, but will ultimately fall because of Bortles’ turnovers.

Baltimore will start the season 3-0, but still won’t be a contender in the big picture.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) 20 vs Minnesota Vikings (1-1) 24: This game hinges on the health of Sam Bradford for the Vikings. If Bradford plays, then Minnesota will win this game at home. That is a big if though. With or without Bradford, Minnesota will play stellar defense as usual.

Tampa Bay completely shut down a great Bears rushing attack last week, holding them to 20 yards. Repeating this against Minnesota would guarantee a win. They won’t shut down the Vikings the same way they did the Bears, and Sam Bradford takes the field to lead the Vikings to a big win at home.

Denver Broncos (2-0) 27 @ Buffalo Bills (1-1) 13: Does there have to be actual thought here? Can I just say Broncos will win? No, that is probably not a good idea.

So, the Broncos will win because their defense is going to annihilate the Bills offense. Once the Broncos stop the run, the Bills will have no answer. Tyrod Taylor will look completely lost and inevitably throw a pick-six. Denver’s offense will run up and down all over the Bills for over 200 yards.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) 28 @ Chicago Bears (0-2) 10: This seems like a totally unfair matchup. The Bears resemble a baby cub more than an actual Bear. The defense has played lights out, but can only do so much with turnovers from the offense happening so often. Mike Glennon looks incapable of running an offense.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, looks like they are in midseason form. The offense is starting to click and the defense looks hungry. This game will be over early and the steel curtain will remain untangled.

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) 34 @ Detroit Lions (2-0) 38: This is one of the most difficult games to pick this week. Both teams have looked shaky at points this season, but in the end have gotten the job done.

Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan are going to put on a show in Detroit. This game will likely be a shootout that comes down to the wire. The Lions have been known to be the kings of comebacks. Detroit wins this game because of their home-field advantage and a late drive by Stafford.

Cleveland Browns (0-2) 24 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-2) 17: This game could be one of the lowest-rated games in NFL history. What is there to really watch in this game if you aren’t a fan of either team? Yes DeShone Kizer is a rookie that can maybe give some excitement, but the offense still doesn’t look fluid. Defensively, there is nothing eye-popping or exciting either.

The Colts are completely boring without Andrew Luck. So boring I’d rather watch a middle school basketball game. The Browns have looked like the better team of the two, so far so what the heck, go dog pound.

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: http://biginf.com/)

Houston Texans (1-1) 13 @ New England Patriots (1-1) 26: Tom Brady is back! Or he just lit up the worst defense and secondary in the NFL. This week, Brady will get a real test by facing Houston. If Brady looks good this week, then he is a robot who will play in the NFL until he’s 90.

On the other side, rookie Deshaun Watson will have to try and beat a Bill Belichick defense. Good luck with that. That is the sole reason New England wins this game. Watson won’t be ready for the Patriots’ defense.

Miami Dolphins (1-0) 37 @ New York Jets (0-2) 18: Miami escaped with a victory last week. Now they get to face the worst team in the NFL. The Jets don’t do anything well and won’t win more than two games this season.

Jay Cutler is going to look like a prime Brett Favre in this one. Dolphins are going to New York to dominate the Jets.

New York Giants (0-2) 16 @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) 19: The Giants are in some serious trouble. Their offense looks pretty horrible with the worst rushing attack in all of football. The offensive line is arguably the worst in the league and the nucleus of their problems offensively. There isn’t much they can do to fix it either.

The Eagles are going to exploit that offensive line to stifle the Giants offense. Carson Wentz is going to have a tough time against the Giants’ defense, but will outperform Eli. That will be the difference in the end.

New Orleans Saints (0-2) 17 @ Carolina Panthers (2-0) 31: The current issue with the Panthers is their offense. Losing Greg Olsen doesn’t help Cam Newton out, but he is still shaking off the rust.

A game against New Orleans is the perfect time to gain confidence offensively. The Saints rank 31st in scoring defense, giving up 32.5 points per game. Drew Brees won’t be able to put up many points against this defense. Newton shakes off the rust and Christian McCaffrey has his coming out party.

Sunday Afternoon

2017 week 3 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) 20 @ Tennessee Titans (1-1) 24: Seattle has looked average at best thus far, mostly because of their offensive line that can’t block anything. Tennessee has an underrated defense that will take advantage of this weakness.

The Seahawks still have a very good defense, but it won’t stop Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Titan offense.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) 10 @ Green Bay Packers (1-1) 20: This could be the game that gets Andy Dalton benched and catches Marvin Lewis’ seat on fire.

The Bengals are playing like crap on offense, but the defense is only giving up 16.5 points per game. They also rank first in pass defense, giving up just 104.5 yards per game through the air. Aaron Rodgers will more than double that while leading the Packers to win.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) 24 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-2) 21: The Chiefs look like the best team in the NFL. Their offense is rolling behind Alex Smith while the defense continues to be a force. The Chargers are two field goals away from possibly being 2-0. The first would have sent them to overtime while the second would have won the game.

Sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles. The cookie will continue to crumble that way for one more week at least. The Chiefs go into L.A. to push themselves to 3-0.

Sunday Night

Oakland Raiders (2-0) 34 @ Washington Redskins (1-1) 24: The Raiders are thriving thus far this season and haven’t even begun to tap into their potential. Their defense still hasn’t faced a quality offense that can make them prove themselves.

This week they get that chance. Washington ranks 15th in total offensive yards per game (324.5). Washington has been running the ball efficiently, but the passing game has been underwhelming. Expectations were high for Kirk Cousins heading into the season. Derek Carr is going to have a huge game in prime time. Oakland keeps up with Denver and Kansas City by getting to 3-0.

Monday Night

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) 27 @ Arizona Cardinals (1-1) 17: Dallas got embarrassed against Denver and will be looking to get that taste out of their mouth. The Cowboys are going to get back to running the ball well. Ezekiel Elliott will have over 20 carries for at least 125 yards.

Arizona won’t be able to keep pace with the Cowboys’ offense. Carson Palmer has lost it and can’t carry the offense without David Johnson. This will be a snoozefest of a Monday Night game.

 

Featured image from Sporting News 

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2017 NFL Power Rankings

2017 NFL power rankings: Week 3

There have been dozens of NFL power rankings released throughout the preseason and after the first week of the season. That is all fine and dandy, but people ranking teams that haven’t played or with one game is kind of silly to me. College football comes out with rankings before the season and they end up completely different at the end.

To truly rank teams, they must have played some games. Last week the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t play due to Hurricane Irma. Therefore, doing a power ranking after week 1 made no sense.

Now that all teams have seen action, it is time for Hagan’s Haus to bring you the first edition of this year’s NFL power rankings.

32. New York Jets (0-2)

2017 NFL Power rankings

(Photo Credit: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

After two games, the Jets look absolutely awful. The offense is only putting up 16 points per game and the defense is allowing 33. The Jets are going to have a top three pick in the draft this season. The only question is whether or not they win a game all year.

31. Indianapolis Colts (0-2)

The Colts almost won a game, which is why they aren’t as bad as the Jets. Indianapolis has played so poorly that Andrew Luck could be considered for MVP. Jacoby Brissett also looked like an improvement from Scott Tolzien, but it won’t result in wins.

On the other side, the Colts’ defense is horrible, giving up 31 points per game (29th) and 308 passing yards per game (29th). There is little to look forward to with this season for Indianapolis.

30. Chicago Bears (0-2)

In week 1, the Chicago Bears looked like a vastly improved team. They hung with the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. The Bears could have won that game if there wouldn’t have been three straight drops on the goal line before Mike Glennon was ultimately sacked.

Despite the loss, things were looking up. Then they ran into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who completely dominated them. Glennon looked like a backup, and the Mitch Trubisky era may soon be upon us.

29. Cleveland Browns (0-2)

Cleveland was in a similar situation as the Bears. They almost upset the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers in week 1, but DeShone Kizer took a step back in week 2, throwing three interceptions against Baltimore. There are signs of improvement with the Browns, but they are still a young team.

It will be a typical Browns season of losses, but it is because they are young and growing. Cleveland should be happy because there is some positive direction.

28. San Francisco 49ers (0-2)

Over the first two weeks of the season, the 49ers have shown improvement on defense. The 49ers rank 10th in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 17.5 points per game. That is 12.5 points less than last season.

The problem is the offense can’t get the job done, scoring an average of six points per game. This season will be a rough one for the 49ers, but they will be competitive.

27. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)

All signs point to the Bengals stinking this year, but they will turn this season around if they hand over the keys to AJ McCarron. The question is are they willing to make the move?

This week they are heading to Green Bay to face off against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. This is a must-win for the Bengals, but they won’t do so. Cincinnati could continue to fall in these rankings if Andy Dalton remains a turnover machine.

26. New Orleans Saints (0-2)

2017 NFL power rankings

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

Will a defense ever arrive in New Orleans? What makes it so bad is that 400-yard passing games are rare, but a certain someone called it in his predictions here.

It will sound like a broken record all season as the defense will continue to let down Drew Brees. The offense will win a few games in a shootout, but not many. The Saints should start preparing for the draft relatively soon this season.

25. Arizona Cardinals (1-1)

Many predicted that the Cardinals would have a playoff-caliber season. Throw that out the window because that will not happen. Yes, the Cardinals are 1-1 and it is extremely early in the season.

The problem is David Johnson’s injury makes the rest of the offense look below average. Carson Palmer is too old and has shown a decline in his play. He can’t carry an offense. The defense is talented, but nothing elite enough to lead this franchise to wins.

24. Buffalo Bills (1-1)

Who could have seen a 12 carry, nine-yard performance from LeSean McCoy? Not many.

The Bills defense kept them in the game, but as a lot of teams low in these rankings, the offense got nothing done. Tyrod Taylor played safe, completing 17 of his 25 passes for just 125 yards. The Bills are an average team, and they will sit somewhere between 16 to 26 in these rankings for the remainder of the season.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)

It is clear that the Jaguars must run the ball as much as possible to get it out of Blake Bortles’ hands. Bortles threw two interceptions against the Titans. 34 attempts are way too many, but happened because they were playing catch up. Leonard Fournette is a workhorse, who should easily get more than 14 carries no matter how the game is going.

The Jaguars “sacksonville” defense seemed to disappear, only sacking Marcus Mariota once. It remains to be seen how good, or bad, the Jaguars really are.

22. New York Giants (0-2)

The Giants are in danger of having a historically bad season. This team was supposed to have a Super Bowl defense with a high-powered ariel offense. The defense hasn’t lived up to expectations and the offensive line is so bad that Eli Manning can’t air the ball out.

It doesn’t help that the Giants have the worst rush offense in the NFL (48.5 yards per game). The Giants may turn it around, but if they fall to 0-3, they will fall much lower in the power rankings as well.

21. Houston Texans (1-1)

Deshaun Watson turned on the jets in Cincinnati to win his first career NFL start, on his birthday. With a defense as good as Houston’s, Watson needs to just protect the ball. If he can do that, his athleticism will force offenses to compensate for his running. This will open up the passing game.

Watson needs time to develop, but the Texans can still make the playoffs while he does so.

20. Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)

Could you imagine if the Chargers could just kick a field goal? Simply making two field goals could have this team at 2-0. The Chargers defense has played well enough to win games. The offense has been tailored around Melvin Gordon and is looking good.

There isn’t much to say other than make a field goal. If Los Angeles can improve in this area, then the Chargers might put up a fight for a Wild Card spot in the AFC.

19. Miami Dolphins (1-0)

The Miami Dolphins sit alone at the top of the AFC East, but don’t get used to it. Jay Cutler is going to get a bunch of love, but everyone needs to pump the breaks. Most have seen the play where DeVante Parker stole the ball away from Casey Hayward. Cutler made a horrible decision and throw, but was rewarded.

During this season, Cutler will give away a few games, and the Dolphin fans will begin to understand what it meant to be a Bears fan for the past few years.

18. Los Angeles Rams (1-1)

2017 NFL power rankings

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

It would have been fun to see Jared Goff pull of the two-minute offense to tie the game rather than seeing it be intercepted. It’s okay, he is young and will learn from that. Todd Gurley is showing signs of the greatness he displayed in his rookie season. The defense is elite under Wade Phillips and will perform much better the rest of this season.

This team will have a lot to say in the NFC West race. Don’t count them out of it.

17. Washington Redskins (1-1)

It is really hard to decipher what kind of team the Redskins are this year. Philly dominated them in week 1, but their win in week 2 changes every narrative on them. Their next two games are against the Raiders and Chiefs.

If they win either of these games, then the Redskins will earn a ton of respect. Over the course of the next two weeks, we will really find out if the Redskins are contenders or pretenders.

16. Seattle Seahawks (1-1)

There are two games of evidence that say the Seahawks are in some serious trouble. Seattle looked unprepared and overwhelmed against the Packers. Those same Packers got manhandled against the Falcons. That is not a good sign. To make it even worse, the 49ers fought hard and looked like a worthy opponent against Seattle.

The offensive line is a major concern. Seattle can’t run the ball, and Russell Wilson is forced to run for his life. Seattle will float somewhere between 8-11 wins, but a few more performances like their previous two would show that the Seahawks are no longer the cream of the crop.

15. Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

For the third time in the last four seasons, the Vikings have started a second quarterback in the month of September. It is the same sad story, the Vikings can’t get consistency under center. The defense is Super Bowl worthy and has played extremely well against some high-powered offenses.

If the Vikings have Sam Bradford, they are a top 10 team. If Bradford continues to miss time, then the Vikings are average at best and can only go as far as the defense can take them.

14. Green Bay Packers (1-1)

The hype train for Green Bay is always ridiculous, but this year it may be slowing down. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is godly at quarterback, but he can’t make up for the deficiencies the rest of the team has. The Packers won a tough game against the Seahawks, who haven’t looked all that impressive. Then they got run over by the Atlanta Falcons yet again.

With Aaron Rodgers, they will likely make the playoffs. After watching these first two weeks, it is hard to imagine them making a deep run.

13. Baltimore Ravens (2-0)

I see this year’s Raven’s team as last year’s Vikings. They will get off to a hot start, but by the end of the season miss the playoffs.

Baltimore’s defense is doing amazing things, averaging five takeaways per game. They can thank Andy Dalton, who has looked like an amateur this season and rookie DeShone Kizer for their gaudy takeaway numbers. This won’t hold up for the rest of the season.

12. Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

2017 NFL power rankings

(Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/dak)

This game against the Broncos was a huge wakeup call for the Cowboys. They need to get back to becoming a dominant run team and stop trying to prove that Dak Prescott can be a gunslinger.

Ezekiel Elliott will get back into form in week 3. Once that happens, everything else will fall into place. Dak can get back to managing the game and keeping the defense off the field.

11. Tennessee Titans (1-1)

The Titans were many analysts’ pick to win the AFC South. Oakland played so well in week 1 that some were ready to backtrack on them winning the division. Others were willing to stick with them.

Those who stuck with them are the smart ones. Tennessee completely dominated Jacksonville. That amazing defense that shut down Houston seemed to be a product of the offense they were facing. Tennessee put up 37 points behind 179 yards on the ground. This is the Tennessee everyone was expecting this season.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)

Philadelphia continues to look rather impressive this season. Although they lost, they played a great game against one of the best teams in the NFL. The defense doesn’t get much love, but ranks 12th in total yards (304 yards per game). Philly is also averaging four sacks per game, which is fourth best in the league.

Offensively Carson Wentz has taken the next step. The Eagles will be a serious threat in the NFC East race.

9. Detroit Lions (2-0)

Matthew Stafford is doing everything in his power to prove he is worth the big contract he recently signed. This season he has led the Lions to a 2-0 start by defeating the Cardinals and Giants, who are a combined 1-3.

It remains to be seen if these are wins against good teams or wins against teams that actually stink. Before they move up higher on this list, they will have to beat a quality opponent.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0)

After everything the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went through in regards to Hurricane Irma, it is more impressive that they came out and dominated the Bears the way they did. Tampa won the game 29-7 and the Bears score came in the fourth quarter. The defense shut down the run game, allowing just 20 yards.

If they continue to play the run this well, they will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy. The offense looked balanced, and Jameis Winston will be in the MVP discussion by the end of the year. Watch out Atlanta, the Bucs are coming for you.

7. Carolina Panthers (2-0)

When speaking of elite defenses, the Carolina Panthers must be mentioned. It doesn’t matter who the opponents are because allowing just three points per game after two weeks in the NFL is unheard of. That obviously ranks first, but Carolina also ranks first in total yards allowed at 196.5 per game.

Cam Newton has looked rusty, and Greg Olson broke his leg. The offense may struggle, but Cam and the running game will still be enough while the defense leads them to wins.

6. Denver Broncos (2-0)

2017 NFL power rankings

(Photo Credit: http://rotoprofessor.com/football/?p=10988)

Denver is playing like they did during their Super Bowl run. During my Super Bowl Series: AFC West I mentioned that the Broncos need to get back to running the ball in order to win another championship. They have done just that, averaging the most yards on the ground per game at 159.

Pairing this with that fast, physical and world-class defense is a recipe for success. It will be fun to see how the Broncos do in their fight with the Raiders and Chiefs.

5. Atlanta Falcons (2-0)

Atlanta is off to a hot start, but a hangover is still coming. They struggled against the woeful Bears, then beat up on the overrated Packers.

Atlanta’s defense still isn’t all it is hyped up to be under Dan Quinn. Right now they have earned a top-five ranking, but in the coming weeks, it will fall as they still have to face Detroit, New England, Carolina, Dallas, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

4. New England Patriots (1-1)

Every time the Patriots have started 0-1 under Bill Belichick, they have won the Super Bowl. Tom Brady threw for the most yards ever by a 40-year-old quarterback. Granted it was the Saints defense, but still impressive. They are easily a top-five team in the NFL and will most likely make it to the Super Bowl.

Until Brady leaves or begins to fall off the cliff as Max Kellerman says, the Patriots will always deserve a high power ranking.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)

The killer B’s have led the Steelers to a 2-0 start. It wasn’t an easy outing for Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell against the Vikings defense, but it was enough to get the job done.

The defense is also doing a great job getting to the quarterback, averaging 4.5 sacks per game. T.J. Watt has been a major factor for the Steelers already. If the Steelers play like this the rest of the season, they may end up first in these rankings.

2. Oakland Raiders (2-0)

Marshawn Lynch must be instant energy. He fits with Oakland more than any other player in the history of the NFL on any team. He should have been a Raider for his entire career. Lynch has 121 yards this year while averaging four yards per carry. He creates a balance on the offense that is scaring every defensive coordinator that will face them.

Derek Carr continues to look like a future MVP and has outstanding chemistry with his receivers. The defense is holding up their end of the bargain thus far, but if they begin to falter, then so will the Raiders. Until then, they look like a candidate for the best team in the NFL.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)

2017 NFL power rankings

(Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Well, Alex Smith must have been absolutely sick of how people treat and talk about him. Through two games, Smith is completing 77.8 percent of his passing, thrown for 619 yards, five touchdowns and zero, I repeat, zero interceptions. He also leads the league in deep passing yards at 257. The next closest is Drew Brees with 216 yards.

Kareem Hunt looks to be the steal of the draft and frontrunner for offensive rookie of the year. The defense is doing what it always has in shutting down opposing offenses. The Chiefs are the clearcut best team in the NFL right now.

 

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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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Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. Sundays you won’t find me in a church because Football is my religion and 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 on 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 Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-7

Season: 8-7

Thursday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Houston Texans (0-1) 20 @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) 21: It is only week two but this is a vital game for both the Texans and the Bengals. Teams that go 0-2 hardly ever make the playoffs. Andy Dalton must overcome a four interception game. If he plays like that again, Bengals fans will be chanting McCarron’s name. DeShaun Watson has officially been named the starter for Houston. With a short week of preparation, Watson will be behind the eight ball. With McCarron breathing down Dalton’s shoulder and the first start for DeShaun Watson, the Bengals find a way to win.

Sunday Morning

Arizona Cardinals (0-1) 31 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1) 14: Similar to the teams participating in the Thursday night game, the Cardinals and Colts are sort of in a must win situation. The Colts looked God-awful against the Rams and the Cardinals blew a lead while losing swiss army knife David Johnson. Even though the Cardinals will need Palmer to shoulder the load, Indianapolis is a bad team. Chuck Pagano will be the first coach fired this season. Arizona wins this week but only because Indianapolis is incompetent.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) 24 @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) 27: This is a game many could consider the game of the week after the performance these two teams put on in week one. Alex Smith looked like a guy who was drafted number one overall ahead of Aaron Rodgers. He lit up the Patriots defense with some spectacular throws. Carson Wentz didn’t look too shabby either. This is going to be a competitive, back and forth game that will come down to the wire. It is hard to pick a winner in this game so the edge goes to the home team.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Hannah Foslien)

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) 27 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) 23: For all the hype surrounding the Steelers this offseason their opening performance was a bit lackluster. Le’Veon Bell didn’t get enough touches and it looked like Pittsburgh was trying to punish him for missing training camp. The defense seemed improved behind rookie T.J. Watt but they still only managed a three point victory against the Browns who started a rookie quarterback. Minnesota however, looked like a juggernaut. Their defense completely shut down Drew Brees and the Saints offense holding them to 19 points. The touchdown came in garbage time. Sam Bradford led an aerial assault that nobody saw coming and rookie Dalvin Cook made all Vikings fans say Adrian who? Minnesota looked like the better team in week one. They upset Pittsburgh in week two to put the NFL on notice.

New England Patriots (0-1) 38 @ New Orleans Saints (0-1) 24: The Patriots did look a bit un-patriot-like last week but every time New England has started 0-1 with Bill Belichick they have gone on to win the Super Bowl. This isn’t the time to overreact. The Saints secondary still looks anemic. Sam Bradford torched them with his best game of his career. Tom Brady will dissect them even worse with over 400 yards passing. New England will cruise to a victory in the Superdome.

Chicago Bears (0-1) 24 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) 31: It is hard to determine if the Bears looked good or if the Falcons played bad but was probably a mix of the two. Mike Glennon put the ball where it needed to be on the final drive but his teammates let him down. This week the Bears head to Florida to take on the Bucs who will be playing their first game of the season because of Hurricane Irma. Tampa Bay is going to play with a lot of emotion and with the support of the fans, they will win their home opener.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw)

Buffalo Bills (1-0) 22 @ Carolina Panthers (1-0) 29: Both teams head into this game with a win in week one. Both also played against some really bad opponents. The Bills look like a team that is still going to run the ball well but their passing attack may still be weak. Cam Newton also looked a bit rusty as his accuracy was hit and miss. Another big story line to follow is Sean McDermott returning to Carolina. He may know exactly what the Panthers are doing but it won’t be enough to stop them. Cam plays big and leads his team to a 2-0 start.

Tennessee Titans (0-1) 23 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) 21: The Jaguars are above .500 for the first time in a long time. Their defense completely dominated Houston. Jacksonville also ran the ball very well with rookie Leonard Fournette. Taking the ball out of Blake Bortle’s hands seems to be the key to success. Tennessee must bounce back after looking a bit underprepared for Oakland. The offense didn’t light it up as many expected and it resulted in an underwhelming performance. Week one usually has a ton fluke results and this week the Titans will prove it by outplaying Jacksonville on the road.

Cleveland Browns (1-0) 23 @ Baltimore Ravens (1-0) 22: Baltimore has been a franchise that is built on defense and showcased that again last week. Joe Flacco didn’t do much on offense but that isn’t anything new. This team will be an average team because of the offense but if the defense plays like that all season then maybe they will sneak up on people. Cleveland played pretty well last week after they had a punt blocked for a touchdown. Without that play, they probably upset the Steelers. Cleveland is heading in the right direction and a win on the road this week will prove as much.

Sunday Afternoon

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Photo: Wesley Hitt, Getty Images)

New York Jets (0-1) 17 @ Oakland Raiders (1-0) 45: New York will be lucky to win a single game this season. They are tanking whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is a tank. Oakland opened the season by flying across the country and beating up on a team many predicted to win their division. The offense is loaded and Marshawn Lynch is back to being “Beast Mode”. The defense looked much improved from last season. Everything seems to be falling into place perfectly. Oakland defends the Black Hole in a complete annihilation.

Miami Dolphins (0-0) 20 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) 27: The Chargers almost had the upset but almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Los Angeles’ defense is going to be elite and the offense seems to have chosen the run as its identity. They will be a good team this season. Miami will be playing its first game of the season due to Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins won’t be ready and Los Angeles gets a much-needed win.

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) 32 @ Denver Broncos (1-0) 22: Denver was lucky to sneak away with a win in week one. They might not be so lucky this week. Trevor Siemian played well but the problem is his inconsistency. One week he looks like an NFL starter and the next he looks like a backup. He will look like a backup against Dallas. The Cowboys, on the other hand, looked amazing against the Giants. Dak Prescott seems to have more control of the offense and Ezekiel Elliot is back to his old ways. Dallas goes into the Mile High City and stops on the Broncos.

Washington Redskins (1-0) 10 @ Los Angeles Rams (1-0) 21: Was that the Los Angeles Rams or the 2015 Denver Broncos defense on the field last week? The answer is the Rams, but it’s because former Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is now running the defense of the Rams. Defensively, they played lights out and still get to add Aaron Donald to the mix. The offense looked NFL worthy as Jared Goff had a spectacular game. It was against the Colts thought. This week they matchup with the Washington Redskins who dropped their game to their division rival Eagles. Kirk Cousins will not play well in this game. Los Angeles puts out another championship caliber defensive performance to start 2-0.

San Fransisco 49ers (1-0) 6 @ Seattle Seahawks (0-1) 28: Russell Wilson was running for his life against the Packers. Seattle still hasn’t fixed their offensive line issues and it may spell doom for them this season. The defense is still elite but can only do so much. Although they may be in for a difficult season they won’t struggle against the 49ers. San Fransisco will be good in a few years but right now there isn’t enough talent in the locker room to do any damage. Seahawks will win this one, easily.

Sunday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Unknown)

Green Bay (1-0) 41 @ Atlanta Falcons (1-0) 38: A rematch of the NFC Championship game in which Atlanta ran Green Bay off the field. Green Bay’s secondary will be tested yet again in this game but will hold up better. Atlanta looked bad in Chicago and a hangover is lingering. Matt Ryan will put up a lot of points in this game but Aaron Rodgers will put up more. The Packers offense may need 40 to win but the opportunity for revenge will cause them to do so. Packers will upset Atlanta because Aaron Rodgers has a 350 yard, four touchdown game.

Monday Night

Detroit Lions (1-0) 31 @ New York Giants (0-1) 34: The Lions are still the comeback kids after last week’s comeback against the Arizona Cardinals. Matthew Stafford shook off the pick six to have a pretty stellar game. Detroit doesn’t have the defense to be a playoff team but Stafford will carry this team to a few unexpected wins. The Giants looked shell shocked against Dallas. There is no run game whatsoever. They should have drafted a running back from this amazing class but felt Paul Perkins was the answer. He is not. If they can’t run the ball they can’t open up the passing game. Odell should be back in action in this game and Eli Manning will be the happiest about it. Odell makes the difference and the Giants get in the win column, barely

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Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 1 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. Sundays you won’t find me in a church because Football is my religion and 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 on 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 Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 1 NFL picks.

Last season: 155-107-2

Season Opener

Hagan's Haus 2017 week 1 NFL picks

(Photo Credit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZOIIVpifiw)

Kansas City (0-0) 21 @ New England (0-0) 27: The season opener is finally here and the Patriots are yet again opening as the defending Super Bowl champions. Tom Brady has already established himself as the greatest quarterback of all-time and has been given Brandin Cooks. Gronk is also healthy and will have a big impact in this game. The Chiefs won’t have enough offense to beat the Patriots in this one.

Sunday Morning

New York Jets (0-0) 6 @ Buffalo Bills (0-0) 24: The Jets will be lucky to win a game this season. Buffalo is opening a new season, under a new regime, at home. Nobody circles wagons like the Buffalo Bills. Tyrod Taylor is going to throw for 300 yards and LeSean McCoy will run for over 125. The Bills defense will also look much better than they did under Rex Ryan. Bills win this one easily.

Atlanta Falcons (0-0) 21 @ Chicago Bears (0-0) 22: After watching the preseason it was evident that the Bears will have a much better defense, especially if they remain healthy. The offense will have a running identity and Mike Glennon must protect the football. This is a trap game for the Falcons. Everyone expects them to beat the Bears easily but they still have a Super Bowl hangover. Previously this would never have been my pick, but the Bears find magic and upset the defending NFC champions.

Hagan's Haus 2017 week 1 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens (0-0) 21 @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) 24: Baltimore is heading into the season with no viable running back and a quarterback this is the definition of average. Flacco doesn’t have what it takes to be a gunslinger of an aerial offense. The defense will be forced to pick up the slack. The Bengals will capitalize in this one with a huge ground game.

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) 34 @ Cleveland Browns (0-0) 17: DeShone Kizer is going to get lit up by the Steelers. Their defense is going to create havoc and Joe Haden will get an interception against his former team. Le’Veon Bell will have over 200 yards from scrimmage to lead the Steelers to an easy week one victory.

Arizona Cardinals (0-0) 37 @ Detroit Lions (0-0) 28: Detroit has a bad defense and that is putting it mildly. Matthew Stafford has gotten his payday so look for a decrease in his play. The Lions are going to have a typical Lions season in which they win anywhere from three to six games. It starts this week with a huge game from David Johnson.

Oakland Raiders (0-0) 33 @ Tennessee Titans (0-0) 31: This is one of the games of the week. Marcus Mariota versus Derek Carr is going to be fireworks. The Raiders have a little bit more experience and that will be the difference. Marshawn Lynch will be a bit rusty. The difference in this game will be a late sack by Khalil Mack to seal a victory for the silver and black.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) @ Miami Dolphins (0-0):  This game is being rescheduled for week 11 due to Hurricane Irma. Best wishes to all those dealing with this historically bad storm.

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) 30 @ Washington Redskins (0-0) 22: Washington is not ready for the soaring Eagles. Their defense is going to be legit this season thanks to Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins. They will be too much for Kirk Cousins who will throw at least two interceptions in this game. Carson Wentz will have a big game to lead the Eagles to a huge week one divisional win.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) 13 @ Houston Texans (0-0) 17: Until Blake Bortles begins to look like an NFL quarterback there is no reason to pick the Jaguars. Houston’s defense is going to put on a show this week. They will not only be playing with the hype of the season opener, but the fans will be looking to escape the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey. Watt and Clowney have two sacks each and the defense leads the way for a Texans’ victory.

Sunday Afternoon

Hagan's Haus 2017 week 1 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Indianapolis Colts (0-0) 13 @ Los Angeles Rams (0-0) 24: The Rams are going to be a better team this season. They will be able to run the ball well and Todd Gurley is going to look more like the rookie version than the second year version. Goff has been blessed with Sammy Watkins thanks to a trade and it will really help his development. The Rams defense will be nasty under Wade Phillips and without Andrew Luck, the Colts have to turn to Scott Tolzein. This could get really ugly rather quickly.

Seattle Seahawks (0-0) 27 @ Green Bay Packers (0-0) 24: In another game that could be considered the game of the week the Packers and Seahawks meet again in what seems to be a brewing rivalry. These two teams seem to meet every year and it is always a slobber knocker. Aaron Rodgers will have a big game like he usually does but the Seahawks are the better team. Green Bay drops the season opener at home because their defense won’t be able to hang.

Carolina Panthers (0-0) 41 @ San Francisco 49ers (0-0) 21: Cam Newton is on a mission to prove that last year’s let down was a fluke. His new weapon, Christian McCaffery will take enormous pressure off of the rest of the offense. Greg Olson and Kelvin Benjamin will each find the end zone once and the 49er rebuild will continue.

Sunday Night

New York Giants (0-0) 30 @ Dallas Cowboys (0-0) 27: Odell Beckham will be healthy for this game. He will have a huge game under the spotlight as Brandon Marshall garners respect on the opposite side. Eli Manning usually has good games against the Cowboys and with these two big targets he can just get the ball in the area and they will make a play. Dallas is going to miss Ezekiel Elliot. Dak Prescott gets a chance to show what he is made of without his stud back. Cowboys fall in this one.

Monday Night

Hagan's Haus 2017 week 1 NFL picks

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

New Orleans Saints (0-0) 17 @ Minnesota Vikings (0-0) 20: Adrian Peterson is dead set on showing the Vikings he has more left in the tank. The issue is the Saints never stick with a workhorse. Peterson won’t get more than 12 carries. Minnesota also has a world class defense. Their defense will carry them to a win. Drew Brees will also show signs of regression thanks to father time. Vikings defend U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday Night Football.

Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) 21 @ Denver Broncos (0-0) 24: The final game of the season opening week will see the Chargers take on the Broncos. This could be a low scoring game as both defenses are pretty good. Philip Rivers will make some big plays but won’t do so on the final drive of the game. Rivers throws an interception while trying to win the game to give the Broncos a 1-0 start to the season.

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NFC predictions

NFC eye test predictions: 16-10

The preseason really sucks. Julian Edelman and Spencer Ware both look to be done for the year. Can you believe Blake Bortles was named the starter in Jacksonville?

Anyways, after wrapping up the AFC eye test predictions, we now move over to the NFC.

16. Chicago Bears 

Mike Glennon has looked absolutely horrendous in the preseason. There is a real possibility that Mitchy Touchdowns (Trubisky) will be the starter week 1.

In March, Glennon signed a 3-year deal with Chicago, worth up to $45 million. This reminds me a lot of when Russell Wilson swooped in and stole the job from Matt Flynn after Flynn signed a hefty deal with Seattle. Let’s hope Trubisky can have a similar effect.

NFC predictions

Is it already Mitchy Touchdowns time? (Photo from USA Today)

If you happen to accidentally flip the channel to a Bears game, at least look for Jordan Howard. As a rookie last year, Howard rushed for over 1,300 yards in 15 games. He could have another monster year if the quarterback can at least keep the defense honest.

Unfortunately, if Trubisky or Glennon have trouble moving the chains, then we could see what we saw last year with Todd Gurley and the Rams. Defenses knew the Rams couldn’t pass, so they would stack the box and make it nearly impossible for Gurley to be effective. Howard will be relying heavily on the passing game, in order to have another solid year.

Side note: the Bears offensive line is actually really good. Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long are quite the trio.

As far as targets, the Bears signed Victor Cruz, who is totally out of his prime. Kevin White looks to be their top option, and he is a major question mark. I am a believer in White, but let’s see if he can stay on the field for the entirety of the season. Did you know that Zach Miller and Cameron Meredith led all Chicago pass catchers with four touchdowns last year? Yeah, this will be one of the worst receiving teams in football, especially after Meredith’s injury.

If only Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman were still on the team. Fortunately, there are a few bright spots. Akiem Hicks is pretty reliable on the line. Leonard Floyd is coming off a nice seven-sack rookie season. Jerrell Freeman looked solid last year at inside linebacker.

Bringing in Quintin Demps is nice, but the secondary will continue to struggle. Did you know that the last time the Bears held opposing quarterbacks to a collective passer rating less than 93.5 for an entire season was back in 2013? That is terrible.

We know Glennon is awful, and we have no idea what to expect from Trubisky. There are no reliable targets, and anyone can pass all over this team. I’m rooting for Mitchy Touchdowns and Chicago, but this looks to be a 3-13 season.

 

15. San Francisco 49ers

The Niners may not be good, but they are at least headed in the right direction. Obviously if Brian Hoyer is your quarterback, you won’t win too many games, but they made some nice upgrades on the defense. After being the 32nd ranked defense a year ago, it made sense to beef up this side of the ball.

Carlos Hyde is solid at the running back position, but the offensive line is pretty pathetic. Pierre Garcon is a decent No. 1 receiver, and Marquise Goodwin is a pretty quick dude. Kyle Shanahan can maybe draw up some nice plays to utilize his speed.

Not only did the 49ers bring in a new coach, but also brought in Robert Saleh as the new defensive coordinator. The defensive line is young, but could blossom into something special. In the last three drafts, San Francisco has picked a defensive lineman with their top pick, including Solomon Thomas, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead all have serious potential. Last season, the 49ers allowed over 150 rushing yards on 10 different occasions so let’s hope these young bucks can figure it out fast.

Reuben Foster could be the steal of the draft, after the Alabama linebacker fell to the 31th pick. He probably won’t start right away, as former Super Bowl MVP, Malcolm Smith, will man the weakside. NaVorro Bowman is coming off another achilles tear, so let’s hope the 29-year-old can bounce back.

Not much to say about the secondary. Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward don’t play like former first-round players, and the corners are weak. Hopefully Saleh can turn this secondary around.

Shanahan has been in this league since 2008 and just took part in the Super Bowl. With that said, he knows how to win games. The defense is on the come up, and Brian Hoyer is decent enough to win a few games. This team won’t win more than five games, but they will continue to improve.

 

14. Los Angeles Rams

Thank the NFL gods that Mr. 8-8 (Jeff Fisher) is not running this team anymore. I don’t care what anyone says, that guy is a scrub. Yes, Sean McVay is only 31, but they got Wade Phillips controlling the defense, who has been in the NFL since 1976. I love the face lift for this squad, and it is time to believe in Jared Goff.

Goff looks like he will do just fine in the NFL. To help protect him, LA brought in Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan. These guys will also play major roles in making sure Todd Gurley has a bounce-back year. If you’re a fantasy guy, Gurley is a fantastic pick. He is slipping in drafts due to last year’s skid, but the new o-line will boost Gurley back to the top.

NFC predictions

Expect a monster comeback season for Gurley. (Photo from Los Angeles Times)

If Sammy Watkins is healthy, he is a top talent in this league. He will immediately become Goff’s favorite target, mostly because there is no one else to throw to. Robert Woods is decent, but paying Tavon Austin was a horrible decision, as he is in the scrub category with Fisher.

The Rams need Aaron Donald to end his holdout, ASAP. Donald is one of the best players in the NFL, so they might want to figure this whole thing out. Donald carries the three-man front, but Michael Brockers is a nice nose tackle.

The names at linebacker should scare some teams. Connor Barwin will fit in nicely with Phillips’ scheme, but Robert Quinn needs to get back to his 2013 self when he recorded 19 sacks. Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree need to improve defending the run, but overall, both are solid.

Trumaine Johnson is a nice talent at corner, but the rest of the secondary is a bit suspect. Overall, this defense has some nice names and should keep the Rams in a lot of games.

With a young head coach and a young quarterback, the Rams will be exciting to watch. Don’t be surprised if Goff takes a major leap, but this looks to be a six-win team.

 

13. Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins deserved a long-term deal, but nonetheless, here we are again with the franchise tag on the above average quarterback.

Even with the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, Washington still has some nice weapons. Terrelle Pryor Sr. will have a monster year, you heard it here first. Jordan Reed will continue to do Jordan Reed things. Jamison Crowder is also a legit target and coming off a seven-touchdown season.

Washington has built a top-notch offensive line with Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses. Rob Kelley is coming off a decent rookie season, so you never know what to expect from him. Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine will also be playing key roles in the run game.

The defense is not too pretty. Drafting Jonathan Allen with the 17th pick was a great selection, but this is one of the worst defensive lines in football. Ryan Kerrigan is a force to be reckoned with, but Trent Murphy’s four-game suspension puts Washington in a tough spot.

In his first year with the Redskins, Josh Norman did not play up to his hefty contract. The addition of D.J. Swearinger will be interesting, and Su’a Cravens strictly playing safety could be something to keep an eye on.

Cousins and the Redskins are good, but they are the fourth-best team in their division. They lost some key pieces to the offense and have major question marks on the defensive line. You got to love anyone related to Jon Gruden, but Jay’s team will have a hard time rattling off more than six wins.

 

12. Detroit Lions

Detroit has won at least seven games in each of the past four years. They will keep this trend going in 2017. Did Calvin Johnson make Matt Stafford look better than he actually is? Perhaps, but Stafford is still a really solid quarterback.

The Lions rarely run the ball, but if they choose to up the carries, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are a stable duo. The additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang will help with protection, but Taylor Decker’s injury hurts a lot.

NFC predictions

Does Matt Stafford have enough support to win? (Photo from Sporting News)

After Golden Tate, the remainder of the weapons are questionable. Marvin Jones Jr. got off to a hot start last year, but was inconsistent the rest of the way. Eric Ebron is another player who cannot be depended on.

Detroit’s weak pass defense can be credited to their below-average defensive line. Ziggy Ansah was battling injures all of last year and will hopefully be ready to go to by week 1. Kerry Hyder had eight sacks last year, so maybe he will keep up his nice play.

The linebacker play has been extremely weak of recent, so the Lions took Jarrad Davis with their first pick. This is a young position for Detroit, so expect a few blunders.

It doesn’t get any prettier in the secondary, but hopefully Glover Quin and Darius Slay can be effective pass defenders for this Lions’ defense.

Somehow, this team manages to always float around .500. Stafford is good, and the offense has potential, but the defense will keep this team from postseason play. Just like in 2013 and 2015, Detroit will win seven games.

 

11. Philadelphia Eagles 

This might irk some people, but let’s be honest. Ginger quarterbacks do not lead teams to titles. It just doesn’t happen.

The Carson Wentz hype train is completely full, but I am not riding it. The dude only threw 16 touchdowns last year, along with a hefty 14 interceptions. The Eagles were 22nd in total yards. Do we just expect these numbers to sky rocket all of a sudden? Absolutely not.

LaGarrette Blount thrived in New England, but so does everyone. No chance he does as well, even with their elite offensive line headlined by Lane Johnson and Jason Peters. Alshon Jeffery is good, not great. Torrey Smith is washed up. Nelson Agholor is nothing special. Zach Ertz is a decent tight end, but Wentz isn’t going to wake up tomorrow and turn into Donovan McNabb. This kid still has a lot of growing to do.

Like their offensive line, the Eagles defensive line is also very good. Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are problems at the end positions, and Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive tackles in the game.

Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham man a pretty solid linebacker core, but other than Malcolm Jenkins, the secondary is abysmal.

Both offensive and defensive lines are elite, but lack of skill at quarterback and secondary positions is concerning. Just like last year, the Eagles will finish 7-9.

 

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you’re watching Hard Knocks, then you know this isn’t a playoff team. In all honesty, Jameis Winston looks like the most lovable dude ever. I would legit run through a wall for him, but he’s not there yet. He needs to buy into football more instead of being such a clown. Less turnovers and more studying of the playbook.

NFC predictions

DYNAMIC DUO. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

The Adderall Hamster, Doug Martin, is out the first three games, which leaves Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims in charge of running the football. Yeah, not too confident, especially with a bad offensive line.

Actually though, might as well show some love to this squad. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will eat, and O.J. Howard could have a nice rookie year. Let’s hope Winston can get them the ball.

Gerald McCoy and Chris Baker are not only stars of Hard Knocks, but also big-time NFL linemen. These two man a very solid defensive line, along with Robert Ayers and William Gholston.

Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will hold down the linebacker position, and Brent Grimes will lead a younger secondary. Vernon Hargreaves III could turn into something after a decent rookie season.

Still, this team plays in a tough division. The targets on offense are nice, and their defensive line is special. But the offensive line is weak, and Jameis turns the ball over too much. This team has potential, but won’t win more than eight games.

 

Featured image by fanragsports.com

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2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NFC South division preview.

4: New Orleans Saints

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule:15

Oh when the Saints go marching in, they bring with them no defense. The Saints are hoping the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o will improve a defense that gave up 28.4 points per game last season. They also drafted defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve one of the league’s worst secondaries.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo credit: Matthew Hinton)

Although New Orleans has made an effort to improve their defense, it won’t become great overnight. Despite ranking 11th in fewest plays per game, the Saints ranked 14th in rushing and 31st in passing. Until this unit shows on-field improvement, there is no way the Saints can win the division or earn a wild card berth.

Offensively, the Saints are absolutely loaded. They have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. New Orleans has committed to Michael Thomas as the go-to guy on the outside in just his second season. Coby Fleener is more than a reliable tight end to compliment Thomas in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

The Saints are also blessed in the backfield with Mark Ingram, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This trio of running backs will give defensive coordinators nightmares.

New Orleans has a pretty easy schedule this season and the offensive side of the ball is going to be straight fireworks. As is the story every season with Saints, can the defense be good enough to help them win games? The answer is no. Every game will be a shootout and opposing defenses are going to make more game winning plays. The Saints will be competitive because of their offense, but the defense will be their downfall yet again.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 13

I am a firm believer in Super Bowl hangovers. Just look at how the Panthers’ season went last year after losing Super Bowl 50.

The Falcons’ players are saying all the right things about moving on and using the humiliating let down as motivation for this season but when push comes to shove that loss will be in the back of their mind. The first team to start coming back on them will bring out those painful memories.

Atlanta is also the defending NFC champions and they will get every team’s best shot. Their division is one of the toughest in the NFL and the Buccaneers and Panthers did a lot to improve.

Besides the hangover and their schedule, Atlanta has to prove they can play great defense for an entire season. The first half of last season was abysmal defensively. The Falcons finished the season ranked 27th in points, giving up 25.3 per game. Atlanta saw such a high volume of points scored in the fourth quarter. They ranked 31st in fourth quarter scoring giving up 9.9 points per fourth quarter. If that trend continues they will struggle to win games.

Offensively, the Falcons are loaded. Matt Ryan had a career year that led to him being named league MVP. It is unlikely that he has a second consecutive MVP caliber season as very few players have ever won back to back MVPs. Only four players have done so: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Ryan will have a slight drop off in production but not enough to warrant concern. The offense will put up plenty of points and still be electrifying but as mentioned earlier, they will be given the best shot from every team and it will cause them to come up short a few more times than most can expect.

Atlanta’s defense must improve and play to the ability they did in the second half of the season in order to get back to the postseason. Due to a massive Super Bowl hangover, an improved division all-around and a defense that will likely be mediocre, the Falcons come up short and miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 14

Tampa Bay had a solid season last year but missed the playoffs. This season they should take the next step and make the playoffs behind a very solid offense that has improved. The upgrades on offense include the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Both of which will turn this offense from good to great.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Buccaneers were led by their passing game, averaging 245.4 yards per game. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the league and the combination of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will cause defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans leaving Mike Evans with more one on one looks.

The running game only averaged 101 yards per game but Doug Martin only played eight games last season. Martin will start out the season suspended but is eligible to play in week four.

Once Martin returns the running game will start to get rolling, making it even easier for Jameis Winston to air it out. Everything will finally come together for the Bucs offense this season. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 Buccaneers finish with a top 10 offense.

Tampa Bay must become a better defensive team to truly take the step and make the playoffs. The Bucs ranked 22nd in both rush and pass defense giving up a total of 367.9 yards per game. Gerald McCoy will have a Chris Baker next to him to improve the rush defense but it will take more than just one new defensive tackle.

The Bucs should have a better pass defense because the defensive line will get tons of pressure from the trio of Robert Ayers, William Gholston and Noah Spence. Spence had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. With an entire year in the Bucs system, Spence could improve and show the ability he displayed at Ohio State.

In total, this defense gave up 25.3 points per game. If the Bucs can improve that but just four points the offense should easily score more than 21 points per game with all the talent they have.

Tampa Bay will have a balanced offense capable of big play ability. Their defense will also be improved and with an easy schedule, the Bucs should have a solid shot at a playoff berth.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1: Carolina Panthers

2017 NFC South division preview

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

Last season: 6-10

Strength of schedule: 16

Carolina had a Super Bowl hangover but this year they are locked and loaded. Cam Newton is determined to correct last seasons mistake and retake his MVP form. The front office also made quality moves to get this team back to the big game.

The Panthers added key playmakers in the draft to help Cam. Christian McCaffery has already put Panther defenders on skates based off of leaked practice videos. That includes Panthers defenders such as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Curtis Samuel, out of Ohio State, was also a key piece the Panthers picked up in the draft but has yet to practice due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Even without Samuel, Cam has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin back. With all these weapons and an upgraded offensive line, the Panthers can become one of the premier offenses in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are still as dangerous as ever. The front four have some studs at defensive tackle in Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short. Off the edge, the Panthers bring back Mario Addison and Charles Johnson. This front four is fierce and to beef it up, even more, Panthers legend Julius Peppers has returned to finish his career in Carolina.

The linebacking corp is arguably the best in all of football with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. This front seven is going to cause major havoc to opposing offenses.

The Panthers secondary is where their defense struggled last season. To improve this unit, the Panthers signed Mike Adams, a safety, who had 12 interceptions in his three seasons with the Colts. Carolina also brought back Captain Munnerlyn, who is one of the best nickel corners in the league. These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

 

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Cam Newton

NFL early season games to watch: Gut check games

As nice as it is to have NFL football back on our television sets, preseason games are often a tough watch. However, it is now more than fashionable to look ahead to the regular season.

Teams can change a lot over 16-plus weeks. Even so, early fall games frequently foreshadow the future. Here is a single game from each of the first four weeks of the season that will tell us a great deal about the teams involved.

Week 1: Bucs at Dolphins

Patriots/Chiefs, Seahawks/Packers and Giants/Cowboys will get all the opening week headlines. This battle of Florida teams is a solid undercard that should not be overlooked.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: zambio.com

The hype train has been rolling all offseason for Tampa Bay. With Jameis Winston only getting better, it is easy to see why. The charismatic signal caller has tossed 50 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

Also, new additions DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard should help free up top pass catcher Mike Evans. Toss in a young defense that had some really nice moments last year, and the end of a long playoff drought becomes realistic. Opening up against a playoff team from last season will serve as a nice measuring stick.

For Miami, the season hinges on the play of retiree-turned-knight in shining armor Jay Cutler who is back to play for his biggest supporter in head coach Adam Gase. If Cutler is healthy and motivated, he can still throw for over 3,500 yards like he did under the direction of Gase in Chicago.

However, if something is not right with the Cutler experiment, the Bucs are certainly good enough to exploit it and begin what will be a long year for the Dolphins.

Week 2: Cowboys at Broncos

Regardless of the outcome of Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, the Cowboys are in for a dogfight with the Giants in the opener. However, the rubber will really meet the road here. As long as all members of the “No Fly Zone” are around, the only way to move the ball on a consistent basis against Denver is on the ground.

The Broncos got pushed around at the point of attack in 2016, finishing 28th against the run. If Dallas cannot run the ball here, they will likely struggle in a big way in Elliott’s absence. Conversely, going up against what is widely regarded as the best offensive line in football will be a fantastic gauge of improvement (if any) against the run for Denver.

Week 3: Seahawks at Titans:

Much like Tampa Bay, there’s lots of talk about Tennessee ending a lengthy playoff drought this year after exceeding expectations in 2016.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: larrybrownsports.com

The Titans are a rarity in the modern NFL. They run the ball as much or more than they throw it. Games are rarely placed squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota does a great job fulfilling his role and taking care of the football. He put up 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions last year.

No team has mastered the physical brand of football that the Titans are trying to build a powerhouse with better than Seattle over the last half decade. Barring key injuries, Seattle will be in the mix again this year.

However, if the Titans want to sit at the big kid table of the NFL, this is their chance to prove they belong.

Week 4: Panthers at Patriots:

With the exception of Josh Norman departing, many of the main cogs for the Panthers are the same as they were when Carolina reached the Super Bowl just two years ago. However, a similar cast of characters also posted a losing record last year.

The Patriots are the gold standard in the NFL. That will likely remain the case as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around. While talk of them going undefeated is ridiculous, they will certainly be the toughest team in the league to beat.

Make no mistake that Cam Newton and the Panthers still have the talent to play with any opponent in any location. Their performance against the reigning Super Bowl champions will speak volumes about whether their true identity is the team that reached the Super Bowl, or the team that fell off a cliff last year.

 

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 30-21

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

This is the eighth installment, containing players 30-21.

30. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Top 100

Mike Evans (Photo by buccaneers.com)

Jameis Winston has developed into a good quarterback, but has a lot of help from Mike Evans, who has turned into an elite receiver. In 2016 he had a great season that resulted in a Pro Bowl appearance. He finished last season with 96 receptions for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Evans is a matchup nightmare at 6’5″ and 231 pounds. In 2017 Evans can continue to move up the ranks of the receivers in the NFL. The emergence and continual progression of Winston will help, but the offense will have some new weapons that might take away some of the double teams. Desean Jackson and O.J. Howard were both added this offseason and the hope for the Buccaneers is that opponents will have to pick and choose, if and who, they decide to double team.

With more help on the offensive side of the ball, Evans should find himself open more and he will capitalize.

Comments: “Mike Evans is a bad man, he makes cornerbacks look like children. The crazy thing is I can see him getting even better.”-Robert Hanes

29. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Ben Roethlisberger (Photo by denverpost.com)

The Steelers have a really good offense because of the “Killer B’s” of Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger is aging, but is still leading a very good offensive unit that ranked sixth in total yards in 2016. His 2016 campaign saw him throw for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Roethlisberger is now 35, but still has proven to make good throws. With Brown and Bell back, the offense should be balanced and dynamic. The Steelers also get Martavis Bryant back from suspension this year, giving Roethlisberger a plethora of weapons to use. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is very good and will have to try to keep Roethlisberger healthy, as he hasn’t played in a full 16 games since 2016.

With the weapons and talent he has, Roethlisberger is destined to put up great offensive numbers again in 2017.

Comments: “The only thing holding Roethlisberger back is injury and the contemplation of retirement. On a great offense with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger will be a top 30 player in the NFL. His ability is what is going to make the Steelers a contender in the AFC once again.”-Joe DiTullio

28. Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Marcus Peters (Photo by mercurynews.com)

Peters has only been in the NFL for two seasons so far and has cemented himself as one of the best corners and players in the NFL already. In 2016 he had 45 tackles, six interceptions, 20 passes defended, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.

Kansas City’s pass defense is average, but Peters does his part. He covers really well and has success against the best of receivers. In his two seasons, he has 14 interceptions already and is getting the reputation of being a ball-hawk. His productivity will continue because of his great instincts for the ball.

In 2017 a lot of quarterbacks will try to shy away from Peters and throw in a different direction, which is the ultimate sign of a great corner.

Comments: “Ever since Peters has come into the NFL he has been a magnet for the football. The Chiefs don’t always utilize his talents the correct way but he is a great young corner. This is the perfect spot for Peters.” -Matthew Hagan

27. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Russell Wilson (Photo by sportsonearth.com)

Seattle doesn’t do a great job of protecting Wilson, but he is still productive. In 2016 he threw for 4,219 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The stats are good, but the most impressive thing about Wilson is that he has never had a season of lower than 10 wins.

The Seahawks looked primed for another great season. Wilson will still not have great protection, but the Seahawks tried to improve by drafting Ethan Pocic and signing Luke Joeckel. If Wilson has been good the last few years, he will do fine with this offensive line as well. He still has Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham to throw to and the running game should take a little bit off of his plate with a few options to carry the ball.

Wilson will have to make plays on the run like he has his whole career, but he has thrived before and will again in 2017.

Comments: “He is a winner plain and simple. His offensive line was atrocious last season and he barely had a running game. Yet, he still put up big numbers.”- Robert Hanes 

26. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Bobby Wagner (Photo by seahawks.com)

Wagner can sometimes be overlooked for people giving adoration to Russell Wilson, the “Legion of Boom” and the pass rush, but he is one of the league’s best linebackers himself. He led the NFL in tackles in 2016 with 167. He added 4.5 sacks, one interception, three fumbles forced and one fumble recovered.

With the “Legion of Boom” behind him and a good defensive line in front of him, Wagner has the freedom to go run after the football knowing everyone else is doing their jobs. In 2017 Wagner will once again be flying to the football and amass a lot of tackles. He has a knack for doing everything well, which makes him a top 100 player in 2017.

Other people on the Seahawks might get more attention, but Wagner is a great defender that will be near the ball on a lot of plays this season.

Comments: “Wagner is rated a bit too high for my taste. Seahawk linebackers benefit from a good defensive line and a great secondary. Wagner is talented but on any other team he wouldn’t be a top 50 player.” -Matthew Hagan

25. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Richard Sherman (Photo by richardsherman25.com)

Three Seahawks in a row and there are more coming. Sherman has been one of the best corners in the NFL for what seems like forever. In 2016 he recorded 58 tackles, four interceptions, 13 passes defended and one fumble recovery.

Sherman gets some heat for only covering one side of the field instead of trailing the other team’s best receiver, but he does his job phenomenally. With the other members of the “Legion of Boom”, Sherman will return once again to do his job and create one of the best secondaries in football.

In 2017 Sherman is going to try to keep his status as one of the best corners in the NFL and will likely come away successful.

Comments: “Sherman is the best corner in the NFL. He locks down an entire side of the field. He is on his way to a hall of fame career and is truly one of the best players in the league.” -Matthew Hagan

24. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Earl Thomas (Photo by youtube.com)

His season was cut short after he broke his leg in the Seahawks eleventh game, but Thomas still had a good season in that time. He finished his 2016 season with 46 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defended and a fumble recovery.

The Seahawks defense was significantly worse after Thomas’ injury, which showed how good of a player he truly is. When he was on the field Seattle allowed just 16 points per game, but when he wasn’t they allowed 23 points per game. This season he will help restore the Seahawks’ defense to elite status with his big-hitting, ball-hawking nature.

Thomas is coming back from an injury, but his natural instincts will still be sharp, making him one of the best players in the NFL.

Comments: “When Thomas went down with injury, the entire Seahawks’ defense changed for the worse. Thomas could be higher on this list with the big impact he has. If he can recover from his injury he is in no doubt a top 25 player in the NFL.”-Joe DiTullio

23. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

NFL Top 100

J.J. Watt (photo by jjwfoundation.com)

Watt only played three games in 2016 due to injury, but if he can recover, he will be a great player once again. In his three games he had eight tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. When he was healthy in 2015 he led the league with 17.5 sacks.

Houston ranked tenth in the NFL as a scoring defense last season without Watt, but they needed more pass rushing. They had just 31 sacks, which tied for 24th in the NFL. Watt will rejoin Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, which will help. Watt will be one more problem for opponents’ offensive lines to worry about and will produce in 2017.

There is no reason to believe that Watt won’t be a great, physical force in 2017 if he recovers from his injury.

Comments: “Health is the only concern with Watt. If not for last year’s injury, he would be in the top ten”- Dylan Streibig 

22. Landon Collins, S, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Landon Collins (Photo by giants.com)

The Giants hit the jackpot by selecting Collins with the first pick of the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Ever since he came into the NFL, he has produced. Last season he had 125 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, 13 passes defended, one touchdown and one fumble recovery.

With Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie taking care of shutting down receivers, Collins is free to play instinctive football. He flies to the football and usually makes a play. Collins is so effective because he can do so many different things. He can cover, blitz and provide good run support.

Collins has been extraordinary in his first two seasons and will continue to improve in the coming years.

Comments: “This man is basically a whole defense by himself. Not to say he doesn’t have good pieces around him but, I think he will be a top 20 players by the end of the season.”-Robert Hanes

21. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Tyron Smith (Photo by insidethestar.com)

Smith has been one of the best tackles in the NFL and is entering his prime years. The Cowboys have two other offensive linemen on this list: Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, showing how good of an offensive line they have. Smith is ranked the highest out of all of them. He made his fourth straight Pro Bowl in 2016 and added his second appearance as a first team All-Pro.

Like the other linemen from Dallas on this list, he helped Ezekiel Elliot have a great first season in the NFL, as he rushed for 1,631 yards. Most impressively for Smith though was his pass protection, as he allowed just two sacks all season. As the left tackle who goes up against a lot of effective pass rushers, that is an outstanding output.

Dak Prescott has to feel comfortable with how good his offensive line is going to be in 2017, especially with Smith protecting his blindside.

Comments: “Smith is clearly one of the best offensive linemen in the league and deserves this spot. He will keep Dak Prescott upright in 2017 and also help the Cowboys have a good ground game. Smith will make his fifth Pro Bowl in 2017 and is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players:40-31

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