The Summit 8

The Summit 8: Top competition

Ahh “The Summit”. A tournament beloved for its highly competitive games, yet relaxed and casual atmosphere. Casters sit on comfy couches in street clothes, while players not currently in a match wander around the kitchen looking for food in the background. It’s a fairly human look at the players and casters that tournaments don’t usually present to us. Of course, the casual atmosphere at this weekends “The Summit 8” tournament does not mean that the competition will be lacking. Thus, without further ado, lets take a look at the teams that have a chance at The Summit’s pool of Qualifying Points.

OG

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

Position 2 – Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok

Position 3 – Gustav “s4” Magnusson

Position 4 – Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka

Position 5 – Tal “Fly” Aizik

The year has not been kind to OG until very recently. Despite changing nothing about their roster, the four time Major winners have been plagued with disappointing finishes. That being said, they were finally able to put themselves on the board by taking first place at MDL Macau recently. It very well could be that it has just taken this group a bit longer to understand the new meta. With the gravity of the changes that occurred, no one would blame them. Regardless, they appear to be back in form now, and it will be exciting to see what they can manage this weekend. They still have a long way to go to secure a TI invite, but the season is yet young.

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open, ESL One, DreamLeague

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Position 2 – Sumail “Suma1l” Hassan

Position 3 – Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Aurora

Position 4 – Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Position 5 – Clinton “Fear” Loomis

 

Evil Geniuses’ 3rd place finish at Dream League is certainly not an achievement to scoff at. Of course they did it in typical EG fashion as well. After losing the first series, the boys in blue decimated every team they faced in the lower bracket 2-0. It is hard to blame them for losing their first set either, as their opponent, Team Secret, went on to win the whole tournament.

EG’s opponents were not easy ones either. Virtus.Pro is still looking strong after their recent Major victory, and Na’Vi fans are celebrating their team’s return to form this year. Say what you will about the SADBOYS, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with, and I reckon they will perform well in The Summit 8.

Team Kinguin

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

 

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Natan “Exotic_Deer” Michalewicz

Position 2 – Michał “Nisha” Jankowski

Position 3 – Paweł “Patos” Naruszewicz

Position 4 – Rafał “eL lisasH” Wójcik

Position 5 – Jakub “kacor” Kocjan

 

Team Kinguin started out on the right foot at Perfect World Masters by building a story-line worth following in the group stages. While Kinguin is a common gaming and esports brand, they only entered the DotA scene recently. As such, viewers really didn’t expect them to perform well. Kinguin immediately caught everyone’s attention when they took two quick games off of Team Secret during the group stage.

Unfortunately their group stage success did not translate into results in the playoffs. Regardless these players have shown that they can stand toe to toe with the best. I hope that this team can pull out a repeat performance if for no other reason than it makes for some darn good DotA watching.

LGD Gaming  

PGL Open

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Wang “Ame” Chunyu

Position 2 – Lu “Maybe” Yao

Position 3 – Xu “fy” Linsen

Position 4 – Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng

Position 5 – Chen “Victoria” Guanhong (Standin Yao “QQQ” Yi)

LGD have not improved their luck since the last time I covered them in one of these articles. Though they managed a 2nd place finish at PGL Open Bucharest, they’ve hardly been seen in a playoff series since. They were eliminated in the group stage of both Perfect World Masters and MDL Macau. There is however going to be a small change in their roster for this tournament. Victoria will be unable to attend, so the team’s coach QQQ will be standing in for the 5th position. At this point any change seems like it wouldn’t be a bad idea. We’ll have to wait and see how well they can represent Chinese DotA at The Summit 8.

Fnatic

ESL One, DreamLeague

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao

Position 2 – Abed “Abed” Yusop

Position 3 – Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin

Position 4 – Djardel “DJ” Mampusti

Position 5 – Johan “pieliedie” Åström

 

 

Here we have it. The first team on the list with a permanent roster change since the initial roster lock. Steve “Xcalibur” Ye has been moved to a Sub position, while Abed replaces him in the 2 position. As the first player to reach 10k MMR, it’s clear that he is an individually talented player. Whether he alone will be enough to pull the organization up from their current slump remains to be seen.

Sacred

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Benjamín “Benjaz” Lanaos

Position 2 – Leonardo “Leostyle” Sifuentes

Position 3 – Renato “Kingteka” Garcia

Position 4 – Farith “Matthew” Puente

Position 5 – Álex “Masoku” Dávila (Standin “DEMON”)

If this lineup looks familiar, it’s for good reason. Sacred is none other than the remnants of DC.SA, DC’s South American branch. Clearly these players were not ready to give up their pro careers yet. The team only formed in October of this year, so it is nigh impossible to guess how they will fare against these top teams. This is especially true considering they too will be playing with a stand-in player in the 5th position.

Virtus.Pro

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major, ESL One

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Roman “RAMZES666” Kuchnarev

Position 2 – Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Position 3 – Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Position 4 – Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk

Position 5 – Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Sub “Artstyle”)

Virtus.Pro showed us middling performances in both Dream League and MDL Macau recently. While they made it to the playoffs of MDL Macau, they were immediately eliminated by TNC. They did not fare much better at Dream League, where despite beating Na’Vi fairly handily, they ended the tournament in 5th-6th place. Despite these lackluster performances, it’s impossible for a single team to win every tournament. When VP’s drafts click, their momentum can feel impossible to stop. Though the Summit 8 may feel like a more casual tournament, there is still a lot at stake here, and VP will be sure to come at it with everything they have.

compLexity

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin

Position 2 – Linus “Limmp” Blomdin

Position 3 – David “Moo” Hull

Position 4 – Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman

Position 5 – Kyle “melonzz” Freedman

I will admit that compLexity is one of those teams I often root for despite overwhelming evidence that the odds are stacked against them. There is something unique about a team comprised of people that are literal family to each other. The fact that Kyle and Zfreek have played DotA together for so long without going the way of the Gallagher brothers shows their trust in each other as players and brothers.

But familial bonds do not win a DotA tournament, as shown by their single 3-4th place finishes at Star Ladder and Perfect World Masters. Though they always perform well in qualifiers and group stages, they have not been able to carry that momentum into a playoff scenario. I’ve seen nothing recently to indicate this will change, but that won’t stop me from hoping they will surprise me at The Summit 8.

OpTic Gaming

Optic Gaming Esports organisation

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Per Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille

Position 2 – Quinn “CC&C” Callahan

Position 3 – Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg

Position 4 – Martin “Saksa” Sazdov (Standin)

Position 5 – Peter “ppd” Dager

Given their pedigree, most people expected OpTic Gaming to be doing better than they have this season. PPD is TI winning captain and drafter, and the team he built around himself is full of talent both new and old. They’ve picked up the pace lately with a victory at Midas Mode, and a second place finish at ROG Masters. Unfortunately for them, neither of these tournaments yielded any Qualifying Points.

Saksa has been standing in for MiSeRy ever since his departure from the team, so maybe that has something to do with their recent upswing in momentum. Saksa has announced however that he’s not looking to get back into DotA for a while, so the chances of him becoming a permanent fixture on the team are low. Regardless, maybe they are in a better place than ever with their new teammate to take their first tournament and put some points on the board at The Summit 8.

The Summit 8 will take place in Los Angeles, CA from December 13th to December 17th.


Cover image from teamliquid.net

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Cam Newton fantasy football

Should you start Cam Newton in fantasy football Week 14?

Cam Newton has enjoyed a bounce-back season from last year. After an abysmal season with 52.9 completion percentage, 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, Newton has been better in basically every category.

His fantasy status has jumped up as well. After finishing last season as the 17th ranked quarterback in standard leagues, Newton has bumped all the way up to the fifth in 2017.

Now he faces his toughest matchup of the year against the great Vikings defense. With fantasy football entering the postseason, it leaves fantasy owners wondering if Newton is worth a start in Week 14.

Case for starting him

Newton hasn’t been perfect for fantasy owners, but he has been good enough to start every week. Arguably the best rusher on the team with 515 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Newton always has a chance to break off a big run and score rushing touchdowns in the red zone.

This will be the key against the Vikings. The Minnesota defense has one of the best secondaries led by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, so the run game will be necessary for the offense to flow.

The part of Newton’s game that fantasy owners reap from the most is his ability to run the football. If he does in fact succeed in running the football against Minnesota, then he’ll rack up the fantasy points for sure.

As for throwing the football and utilizing his weapons, Newton has found much more success recently. Newton has increased his chemistry immensely with Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess, plus this week he’ll be getting Greg Olsen and Ryan Kalil back.

Newton’s success depends on his receivers catch success and his offensive line. The drops have been plaguing Carolina as their inexperienced receiving corps is getting the best of them. With the return of Kalil, it will hopefully provide more stability for Newton and the Panthers offense.

There is a lot of big play ability with Newton, and his rushing ability makes him a viable start on Sunday. However, there is a reason to sit him.

Case for sitting him

Newton may be one of the most frustrating players for fantasy owners. He has the talent and the big play ability to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, but his inconsistency and attitude are holding him back.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Super Cam (Photo from IMG Academy)

As a passer, he has had inconsistencies in completion percentage and passing yards. Newton is averaging just 215 passing yards per game. If Newton struggles to run the ball, then his fantasy numbers may take a hit.

Going up against the strong Vikings defense, if Newton doesn’t play smart and use his weapons like he should, he may struggle on Sunday. His top target, Devin Funchess will be going up against Xavier Rhodes, who has locked down elite receivers all season because of his size and strength. Usually Newton and Funchess can connect with jump balls, but that may not be the case going up against Rhodes.

With the Vikings secondary being as good as they are, and the front seven locking down against an inconsistent Panthers offensive line, Newton is a low tier QB1.

Look for other options, but he isn’t a must bench in Week 14.

 

Featured image from Wikipedia

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Silver Edge

Silver Edge: An argument to Break DotA 2

At its core, playing DotA is a sea of numbers and statistics that wail against each other until a winner is decided. Teams of players try to steer these numbers in their favor through the choices they make. Most players see mixed results, but that is expected. There is so much to keep track of in a single game of DotA that professional players are still learning optimal strategies. Infrequent major patches to the game don’t help that either. But this is not a discussion about all of the mechanics in DotA. Instead, I wanted to focus on a single, relatively new mechanic that, though it has its place, feels underutilized within the game. I’m talking about Silver Edge, and the “Break” mechanic.

An introduction

Valve introduced the Break mechanic in patch 6.84. Before then, there were inconsistencies with how passives were impacted by disables like Hex or Doom. Break became the mechanic that was responsible for disabling passive ability, and greatly expanded the number of passives impacted. It is important to note of course that only hero passives are affected by Break. Item passives like Butterfly evasion can only be disabled by a different debuff, and are unaffected by Break.

The number of abilities affected by break is impressive, and very damaging. Heroes like Slardar and Spirit Breaker lose their ability to bash. Phantom Assassin loses her ability to evade attacks and hide on the mini-map. Bristleback loses his eponymous skill “Bristleback” thus losing his damage reduction and automatic Quill Spray trigger. For these heroes, losing these abilities is a blow to their usefulness in combat, and can easily flip a fight on its head. If the ability is so unique and powerful, why then is it also so exceedingly rare?

Give me a break!

Though Break was introduced in 6.84, no hero was immediately able to apply the debuff until 7.00 when Valve re-worked Viper’s “Nethertoxin” ability. Even then, the small AoE skill only applies Break as long as enemies remain within its radius. You can argue that both Doom’s “Doom” and Shadow Demon’s “Demonic Purge” also apply Break, but only after purchasing an Aghanim’s Scepter, a 4200 gold item that is never seen until the late game.

As I mentioned earlier, the only item in the game that can apply this effect is the Silver Edge. However, at 5500 gold, the item is a massive investment for line-ups that require it. Despite granting +15 to all stats, it’s also not an item many heroes want to naturally build. Shadow Blade, Silver Edge’s precursor, is a sneaky engagement tool, or for squishy characters to escape from ganks. At 2700 gold though, it’s still not a casual pickup. It is also only a stepping stone on the way to Silver Edge.

Under-represented

Silver Edge

Courtesy of Youtube.com, from the Dueling Fates Trailer. See why people thought Pangolier would have Break?

It seems odd that an ability so recently re-defined would have such a minimal presence within the game. While its strength cannot be underestimated, Valve has shown us they know how to balance it with proper drawbacks. Viper is actually the poster child for how more heroes could incorporate Break into their abilities without bringing imbalance to the game. Many people even speculated that Pangolier would be the hero with a built in Break given his trailer. You’ll remember that the trailer showed him cutting the quills off of Bristleback’s bristleback, which seemed as clear a sign as any. His Heartpiercer ability by comparison has been disappointing to say the least.

I really do not believe it would take much to bring more Break into action. Plenty of heroes are primed with abilities that could add a Break effect in exchange for efficiency elsewhere. So far Viper possesses the only non-targeted Break in the game. Perhaps other AoE abilities could incorporate this? It would be great to see a targeted Break added to a non-ultimate ability as well. Maybe the Break wouldn’t take effect until the skill is level 4, effectively helping to balance it.

I do not claim to be a game designer, but I strongly believe that granting more heroes Break-like abilities would increase draft diversity and increase utility in certain compositions. Though it might sound like I’m advocating for adding more noise to the cacophony that is the DotA we all know and occasionally love, more options doubtless make drafting decisions more varied and interesting. If they took the time to create a new special mechanic, it should be more prevalent than it currently is.


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2017 NFL power rankings week 14

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Four teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and the New York Giants. There is also a few playoff-clinching scenarios in play during week 14. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win over Miami or a Buffalo loss. Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East title with a win over the Los Angeles Rams, or with a New York Giants win over Dallas. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North with a win over Carolina or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. With all that being said, here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 14.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Green Bay

There is little to say about Cleveland that hasn’t already been said. They are four games away from an infamous 0-16 season. All Cleveland can focus on is the draft. This year they must find the quarterback that can change the franchise. They have gone too long without a true leader to play under center. In the last two seasons, they have missed out on Carson Wentz, DeShaun Watson, Dak Prescott and other. In 2018, they need to find a way to take Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield.

31. New York Giants (2-10)

Last week: 30 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Dallas

Giant fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Mustache man, Ben McAdoo is gone and can no longer hurt your team. New York is having a disastrous season but at 2-10, they have a lot of talent still. The defense is a couple of players away from being elite. The offense has Odell Beckham Jr. and Evan Engram to build around. Their focus needs to be solidifying their offensive line and finding a workhorse running back. If they do that they can still win with Eli Manning at quarterback. He does not have to be replaced yet.

30. Denver Broncos (3-9)

Last week: 29 (-1)

Next game: home vs. New York Jets

Getting blown out by Miami has shown just how far the Broncos have fallen this season.  Nothing is going right and they need to hit the reset button. The Jets will be coming to town to put a beatdown on the Broncos. This once feared defense is now 31st in scoring defense giving up 26.2 points per game. Going forward they will need to fix this defense or find a new identity.

29. Chicago Bears (3-9)

Last week: 28 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Bears might not be a playoff contender but man does their future look exciting with players like Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky. Their defensive play has gone under the radar because they are eliminated from the playoffs. The only thing the Bears can do for the remainder of this season is build momentum for the future.

28. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

Last week: 31 (+3)

Next game: away vs. Houston

Jimmy Garoppolo has generated a buzz in San Francisco. It appears that he will be the franchise quarterback moving forward. This is good news for the 49ers who will have another top-five pick to build their team. As they continue to build their defense Garoppolo can provide the consistency needed from a signal caller. If the defense steps up next season and the front office gets Jimmy G some weapons on the outside, then the 49ers will be one of the surprise playoff teams as early as next year.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-9)

Last week: 27 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Buffalo

The Colts defense has kept them in most of their games but it usually breaks in the second half. One thing to keep an eye on for the remainder of the Colts’ season is Frank Gore. Gore is only 368 yards from another 1,000 yard and at age 34 which is remarkable. He is also just 404 yards away from passing Curtis Martin for fourth on the all-time rushing list. If he can reach that mark in the final four games it would be the highlight of the Colts’ season.

26. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Last week: 26 (no change)

Next game: home vs. New England

Miami blew out the Broncos to end their five-game losing streak. Jay Cutler threw for 235 yards and Kenyan Drake ran for 120 yards on just 23 carries. Drake is proving he could be the feature back moving forward. This week the Dolphins will host the Patriots and Miami have lost three straight to New England and four of the last five.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

Last week: 24 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

Fixing the defense should be the number one priority this offseason. Jameis Winston is a really good young quarterback but the Bucs could end up wasting his talents. The offense around Winston is very solid as well with O.J. Howard, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Doug Martin could be replaced with a more reliable back but overall the offense is solid. The defense must step it up but they can’t salvage this season.

24. New York Jets (5-7)

Last week: 25 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Denver

Somehow, someway the Jets have won five games and continue to be the most unpredictable team in the NFL. They are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt but don’t get it twisted, they are not a playoff caliber team. They should find themselves in the win column again with a road trip to Denver on the schedule. But then again, if anybody could lose to Denver at this point in the season, don’t be surprised if it is the Jets.

23. Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

Last week: 22 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Tennessee

Bruce Arians is a damn good coach who has kept the Cardinals very competitive despite losing David Johnson and Carson Palmer this season. Arizona is struggling to score points but if they had Johnson and Palmer they would be fairing much better. After dropping a game to the Rams the Cardinals get to host the playoff-bound Titans and it will be a tough test.

22. Houston Texans (4-8)

Last week: 23 (+1)

Next game: home vs. San Francisco

For some reason, the Texans threw the ball 49 times with Tom Savage. Anybody who knows anything about football knows that a team can not win with Savage throwing that ball that often. Houston needs to run the ball more and 22 attempts are not enough. It is no surprise they lost to the Titans because of this formula. If they have a similar gameplan against the 49ers they will lose to them as well.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

Last week: 19 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Chicago

Cincinnati had a 17 point lead at home against their rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Blowing that game may have cost them a shot at the playoffs. Looking back at that game, it summarizes Marvin Lewis’ time in Cincinnati. In the beginning, it looked great and there have been multiple displays of greatness. At the end though, they always come up short. Cincinnati needs a change of culture and Marvin Lewis needs to be fired.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

Last week: 14 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Oakland

Losing to the Jets is the last straw. This team will miss the playoffs and be a footnote in history of the teams that got off to a hot start but eventually folded. Andy Reid finally got back to airing it out and opening the offense for Alex Smith but then the defense decided to go missing. Kansas City has a virtual playoff game this week but the way their season has gone recently they will probably lose again for the seventh time in eight games.

19. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Last week: 13 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis Colts

Buffalo only managed to score three points against the Patriots. LeSean McCoy was held to just 93 yards and as a team, they only threw for 115 yards. The Bills are still in the hunt in the AFC wildcard picture but their schedule doesn’t look favorable. Buffalo should beat Indy this week but then they have to face Miami twice and New England one more time. The benching of Tyrod Taylor against the Chargers might end up being the difference when it is all said and done.

18. Oakland Raiders (6-6)

Last week: 18 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Kansas City

The Raiders control their own destiny in the AFC West as the Chiefs and Chargers are both 6-6 as well. If they win their next four games they will win the division title but they have Kansas City this week followed by Dallas, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers. It will not be easy to accomplish but if they run the table it would be well earned.

17. Washington Redskins (5-7)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: AP Photo)

Last week: 16 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Washington got completely manhandled by the Cowboys and that is a disturbing outcome. The Redskins will not make the playoffs and still have to worry about Kirk Cousins walking away from them this offseason. If that happens Washington will no longer have an identity and will have to start yet another rebuild. They must travel to Los Angeles to face the scorching hot Chargers.

16. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Last week: 20 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Cleveland

Green Bay got a much needed, momentum building, win against the Buccaneers. All they have to do is beat Cleveland and then they get Aaron Rodgers back for the final three games. 10 wins are typically the benchmark to make the playoffs and with Aaron Rodgers returning it is very possible they reach that benchmark. Cleveland should present an easy opportunity for a win. The rest of the NFC should be on the lookout for the Packers.

15. Detroit Lions (6-6)

Last week: 15 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Tampa Bay

The Lions have lost back to back important games and must finish the season on a four-game win streak to have a shot at making the playoffs. Detroit’s final four games include the Buccaneers, Bears, Bengals and Packers. All their remaining games are winnable. One thing the Lions must do is play better defense as they are giving up 25.7 points per game which is sixth worst in the NFL. Matthew Stafford can’t do it all himself and if the defense doesn’t lend a hand then Detroit will miss the playoffs.

14. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

Last week: 17 (+3)

Next game: away vs. New York Giants

The Cowboys season may have changed for the better after a huge win against their biggest rival, the Redskins, 38-14. Dallas got back to running the ball. Alfred Morris had 27 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown. Dallas sits at 6-6 and is on the outside looking in of the playoffs. if they can win four straight, like many other teams, they will find themselves in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they still have games against the Raiders, Seahawks and Eagles so the playoffs do not look likely.

13. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

Last week: 21 (+8)

Next game: away vs. Pittsburgh

For a while now I have not given the Ravens the credit that they have earned. Their defense has been recognized but their inept offense gave a cause for pause. After thrashing the Lions, it is clear that the Ravens will likely be a playoff team. Now, they probably won’t go too deep into the playoffs but this a good team. If they get an upset win on the road this week, they are all but a lock for a playoff berth and could even have a shot at winning the division.

12. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Last week: 12 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Tennessee is an old-school football team that pounds the rock behind two really good running backs. Derek Henry is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and a total of 629 yards while DeMarco Murray has racked up 518 yards. As a team, Tennessee is averaging 122 yards per game on the ground. Marcus Mariota has the ability to get hot at any moment and if he does then the Titans become a darkhorse in the AFC.

11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

Last week: 8 (-3)

Next game: home vs. New Orleans

How many times have these Atlanta Falcons been held to under 10 points and no touchdowns at home? Not very often. The loss at home to the Vikings dampers their chance of returning to the playoffs. However, if they can find some of that old offensive magic this week against the Saints, then they still have a shot at winning the division.

10. Carolina Panthers (8-4)

Last week: 7 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Carolina does not match up well with the Saints. New Orleans swept Carolina and holds all the tiebreakers against them. The Panthers don’t get much of a chance to catch their breath either because the first seeded Vikings are coming to town to finish their road trip. The Panthers are going to have to control the clock. If they can win the time of possession they will tire out Minnesota’s stellar defense and have a shot at winning.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

Last week: 9 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Washington

Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning six of their last eight. That is why they are ranked in the top ten of these rankings. The Chargers have caught up to the Chiefs. Nobody wants to play the Chargers because they can get after the quarterback and create havoc for opposing offense. On the other side of the ball, they have an experienced quarterback and a young running back to rely on. Los Angeles will continue to win games and just like the Titans, be a darkhorse to challenge in the AFC.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

Last week: 10 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Seattle

Jacksonville’s defense is Super Bowl caliber and can lead them deep into the playoffs as long as Blake Bortles doesn’t mess it up. The Jaguars rank first in total defense (282.5 yards allowed per game), passing defense (167.1 passing yards allowed per game), sacks (45) and second in takeaways (27). Seattle will be a difficult challenge but Jacksonville has the luxury of playing this one at home.

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: JONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Last week: 11 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

Just how good is Russell Wilson?  He has the Seahawks winning games with a horrible offensive line and half of the Legion of Boom missing. Wilson should be the favorite to win the MVP award because without him the Seahawks would be lucky to have three wins. Wilson has thrown for 3,256, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Beating the Eagles was a statement to the rest of the NFC that the Seahawks are not to be overlooked.

6. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

Last week: 6 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

There is no better running back duo in the NFL than Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. This duo is doing so well they need a nickname. Ingram likes Boom and Zoom but I am sure they can find a better one. New Orleans has swept Carolina because of these awesome backs that have led the way. If they can repeat that success against Atlanta this week they will put a nice hold on the division.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)

Last week: 2 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Rams

Philly had their long win streak snapped and it wasn’t a huge surprise. Winning in Seattle is tough and the Eagles had not been in many close games against good teams. The defense was a bit exposed and may struggle to shut down the Rams explosive offense. Carson Wentz will need to play great to keep the Eagles soaring.

4. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week: 5 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Philadelphia

Los Angeles has been on a scheduling gauntlet lately. The recently played the Vikings and Saints and now they have to face the Eagles. This is a big game for both teams as they are fighting for a possible first-round bye and possibly home-field advantage. Their recent win against the Cardinals was a tune-up for this showdown. There should be fireworks as the teams are tied for first in scoring offense averaging 30.1 points per game.

3. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

Last week: 4 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Carolina

The Vikings are a win away from clinching the division title. All they have to do is win one game against the Panthers, Bengals, Packers and Bears. That should be easy enough for a team with a defense as strong as theirs. Case Keenum continues his MVP-level play completing 25 of 30 pass attempts against the Falcons. He didn’t throw a single incompletion in the second half. Minnesota has a third straight road game this week against the Panthers. It will be impressive if they can pull off another win.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Last week: 3 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Baltimore

The Steelers keep catching flack for winning close games against inferior teams but wins are hard to come by in the NFL. A win is good no matter if it is by one or 100 and Pittsburgh just keeps winning. They are earning a lot of experience for close battles they will encounter in the playoffs. When the playoffs start the Steelers will find themselves prepared for anything and everything.

1. New England Patriots (10-2)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Miami

New England continues to win games and look like champions while doing it. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL because they have the greatest coach and quarterback of all-time. Their defense is coming off a great performance against the Bills allowing just three points. New England has nothing to worry about and are gearing up for their favorite time of the year.

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Hagan's Haus 2017 NFL pick week 13

Hagan’s Haus 2017 NFL picks Week 13

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 No. 1 priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself on 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 is 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 13 NFL picks.

Last week: 12-2 (85.7 percent)

Overall: 107-66 (61.8 percent)

Thursday Night

Sunday Morning

2017 NFL picks week 13

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

New England Patriots (9-2) 27 @ Buffalo Bills (6-5) 18: The Bills are 3-9 in their last 12 games against the Patriots. This one means a little more than it usually does with the Bills fighting for a possible playoff spot.

Unfortunately for Buffalo, that doesn’t really mean much against Tom Brady. There is a very small chance they win this game even though they are at home, but anything is possible. The Bills could pull off the upset, but New England’s defense will be too good.

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) 24 @ Chicago Bears (3-8) 20: Jimmy Garoppolo will finally make his first start in a 49er uniform. Garoppolo saw some action last week towards the end of the game, completing both of his passes for 18 yards and one touchdown.

There is no better game for him to make his first start with San Francisco than against the Bears. Chicago has made strides of improvement, but it hasn’t resulted in many wins. The 49ers will win this game just because Jimmy G will be the difference.

Minnesota Vikings (9-2) 27 @ Atlanta Falcons (7-4) 21: Minnesota is playing at a high level on both sides of the ball. Case Keenum is having an MVP-caliber season, but people still question the quarterback situation. Atlanta is playing well too, and a win at home puts them right back into all NFC races. Minnesota will get too much pressure and it will result in another win.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) 21 @ Green Bay Packers (5-6) 24: Green Bay is beginning to hear whispers that Aaron Rodgers is close to returning. That is scary for the rest of the league because if the Packers get hot at the right time, they could find themselves in the Super Bowl despite not having a Super Bowl caliber roster because Rodgers is that good.

Tampa is not going to make a run, and their only role now is to play spoiler. They will not spoil anything in Lambeau, and the Packers will get to .500 this week.

Houston Texans (4-7) 13 @ Tennessee Titans (7-4) 31: Tennessee would love to continue their good season with a win against the Texans. The Titans have to keep pace with the Jaguars, who are playing the Colts.

Marcus Mariota has yet to get on a hot streak this season, which probably means it is coming soon. With all the injuries the Texans are dealing with, it would make sense for the hot streak to get started this week. Mariota will have four total touchdowns in a blowout win over the Texans.

Denver Broncos (3-8) 17 @ Miami Dolphins (4-7) 19: There might be one television in the country tuned into this snooze fest. The Broncos are having a horrible season, and the Dolphins aren’t doing much better. Miami has lost five straight games, and the Broncos have lost seven straight. Miami will end their losing streak based on home field advantage.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) 31 @ New York Jets (4-7) 24: The free-falling Chiefs are desperate as the Chargers have climbed up the standings and only trail by a game for the AFC West division lead. Kansas City must find their offensive magic they had early in the season during their 5-0 start. Kareem Hunt has to be the workhorse, and the offensive play-calling must allow Alex Smith to air out the ball. They will recapture the magic this week in New York to end the losing streak.

Indianapolis Colts (3-8) 10 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4) 34: The only way the Colts win this game is if Blake Bortles throws three or more interceptions. Jacksonville’s defense is going to wreak havoc on Jacoby Brissett and the rest of the offense. A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey will both get an interception, and defensive player of the year candidate, Calais Campbell, will have three sacks.

Detroit Lions (6-5) 30 @ Baltimore Ravens (6-5) 20: Baltimore does not look like a six-win team when you watch them play. The offense looks confused at times and is only scoring 21.5 points per game.

Their defense, on the other hand, ranks second in points allowed per game. Matthew Stafford is going to change that by lighting them up for 30 this week.

Sunday Afternoon

2017 NFL picks week 13

(Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Cleveland Browns (0-11) 12 @ Los Angeles Chargers (5-6) 24: Los Angeles has gotten hot and is only one game out of first place in their division. Cleveland comes in winless and will not put up a fight against the Chargers’ stout defense.

Melvin Gordon has also been fantastic this season and is getting little shine. Gordon will have 150 all-purpose yards to lead the Chargers to another win.

New York Giants (2-9) 7 @ Oakland Raiders (5-6) 34: The amount of disrespect the Giants have shown Eli Manning is absolutely ridiculous. Ben McAdoo is benching Manning for Geno Smith. Smith has had many opportunities to prove he is capable of being a starting quarterback and has disappointed every time. Oakland is going to look like a defensive powerhouse against Smith. Raiders win easily and in blowout fashion.

Carolina Panthers (8-3) 27 @ New Orleans Saints (8-3) 24: This is the game of the week, and first place is on the line. In their first meeting, the Saints smacked Carolina in Charlotte 34-13.

This game will be much different, and the Panthers defense will step up. Cam Newton will also have a big game, and Carolina will find their way into first place in the NFC South.

Los Angeles Rams (8-3) 32 @ Arizona Cardinals (5-6) 23: Arizona is rolling with Blaine Gabbert under center, and this Rams defense is going to bother him big time. Arizona’s defense will not be able to slow down the No. 2 scoring offense in the league.

Jared Goff has been great, but Todd Gurley is the real reason the Rams are dangerous. He will lead them to their ninth win of the season against the Cardinals.

Sunday Night

Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) 21 @ Seattle Seahawks (7-4) 22: Philly is without question the better team, but my gut is telling me to pick the Seahawks. Playing in Seattle is a tough task. Russell Wilson is quietly having a great season, throwing for 3,029 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Wilson will outplay Carson Wentz to get his team a much-needed win.

Monday Night

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) 23  @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) 24: Pittsburgh has not dominated this season and has actually pulled out a lot of close games, and the Bengals are desperate. A desperate home team in a rivalry game is dangerous. The Bengals will play great defense and slow down the Killer B’s. Andy Dalton will have a big day to squeeze by the Steelers to pull back into the thick of the playoff race.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Bob Leverone

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2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

2017 NFL power rankings: Week 13

December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Three teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco and the New York Giants. New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota have comfortable leads in their division, but will be fighting for first-round byes and home-field advantage over the coming weeks. There is a lot of football left to be played, and a lot can change. Here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 13.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-11)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers

There is no surprise here as the Browns are dead last in the NFL. Cleveland continues to lose games and is only five losses away from going 0-16 just one season after going 1-15. The Browns’ remaining schedule is pretty tough, and 0-16 seems like a certainty.

It is hard to find any bright spot for this franchise, but going 1-31 over the course of two seasons is likely as bad as it can get. The only way to go is up, and that is the only good thing to look forward to if you’re a Browns fan.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-10)

Last week 31 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Chicago

The 49ers played tough against Seattle, but are still preparing for a top three pick in next year’s draft. San Francisco could mess that up this week by traveling to Chicago to take on the Bears. This is a winnable game for the 49ers, but should they try to win it?

It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Garoppolo finally starts after going two for two for 18 yards and a touchdown. Or the 49ers may just tank this year and roll with him as a backup.

30. New York Giants (2-9)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

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

Last week: 30 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Oakland

New York has officially been eliminated from the playoffs after many expected them to be a playoff team. It has been a lost season to say the least, and they must determine which direction they need to go for the future.

Eli Manning shouldn’t be going through a rebuild this late into his career. The defense is loaded with talent, and if they can retool the offensive line, then they may be closer to being more competitive than they have been in this season.

29. Denver Broncos (3-8)

Last week: 28 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Miami

Denver has had a surprising downfall this season, but what can you expect with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch as your quarterbacks? Yes, Peyton Manning wasn’t the same during their Super Bowl run, but was still 10 times better than what they have now and was still vital to their success. Denver needs to finish the rest of the season without earning another win so they can draft a new signal caller to lead them into the future.

28. Chicago Bears (3-8)

Last week: 25 (-3)

Next game: home vs. San Francisco

Chicago was beaten so badly they had to complain about the dancing the Eagles were doing. John Fox has done a pretty good job building this team, and more specifically the defense.

However, their lack of competitive spirit this past week is concerning. If the Bears look this bad at home against San Francisco, then it should be time to fire Fox and bring in an offensive mind that can make sure the decision to trade up for Mitch Trubisky doesn’t haunt this franchise for the next 10 years.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-8)

Last week: 29 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

Indianapolis is still extremely competitive despite their treacherous record. Two weeks ago, they fought the Steelers in a 20-17 loss.

This past Sunday, they fought another playoff contender, the Tennessee Titans, to a 20-16 loss. The defense has improved as of late and is giving up just 18 points per game over the last three games.

Jacoby Brissett is playing the role of game manager well on the offensive side of the ball. If the defense can play like this when Andrew Luck returns, along with having a high draft pick, it will go a long way in helping them reach the postseason next year. For now, the Colts are going to enjoy playing spoiler for the rest of this season.

26. Miami Dolphins (4-7)

Last week: 27 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Denver

Miami got after Tom Brady and hit him numerous times, but it wasn’t enough. The Dolphins fell 35-17 as Brady threw for four touchdowns against them.

Miami is stuck in the middle with issues all over their offense. The only bright spot is Jarvis Landry, who puts up consistent numbers despite never having an elite quarterback to get him the ball. The defense is also underperforming, giving up 36.7 points per game over their last three.

They might be able to get a win this week against the Broncos, but in the end, it won’t mean anything but a lower draft pick.

25. New York Jets (4-7)

Last week: 26 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Kansas City

The Jets are still competing in games, but won’t make the playoffs and won’t get a chance to have a top three pick either. They are stuck in the middle and in mediocrity.

New York fell to the Panthers and now they get to face the free-falling Kansas City Chiefs. A win is possible for the Jets this week, but winning this game won’t accomplish much.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)

Last week: 19 (-5)

Next game: away vs. Green Bay

Tampa Bay was undefeated with Ryan Fitzpatrick until this past week when they lost to the Falcons. Jameis Winston is close to being healthy, but should the Bucs put him back in the lineup? The Buccaneers are a long shot to make the playoffs, which is why they should protect their franchise quarterback for the long term. They should ride with Fitzpatrick the rest of the season because it is over.

23. Houston Texans (4-7)

Last week: 20 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Tennessee

Tom Savage should not be in the NFL. When I think of Tom Savage and the comparison to other professional athletes that looked completely lost in the pros, I think of Smush Parker of the Los Angeles Lakers back in the mid-2000s. Savage can’t get the job done, and the fact that he has a job and Colin Kaepernick doesn’t is just blasphemous.

Either way, the Texans travel to Tennessee this week with a chance to play spoiler to a divisional foe.

22. Arizona Cardinals (5-6)

Last week: 24 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Los Angeles Rams

Who is this Blaine Gabbert that the Cardinals have found? Gabbert has thrown for 498 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in limited action this season, but head coach Bruce Arians thinks he is the future at the quarterback position after Carson Palmer retires.

That is pretty bold after all the issues he had in Jacksonville. Let’s see how he does against the Rams this week now that he has the support behind him.

21. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Last week: 22 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

One of the most unexplainable things of the NFL season is how the Ravens sit at 6-5. This team has no offense whatsoever, but have still won six games.They are 18th in scoring, 11th in rushing and 32nd in passing. Baltimore’s defense has done the majority of the work, holding teams to just 17 points per game, which is the second best mark in the NFL.

Baltimore does not look like a playoff team and will more than likely miss the playoffs. If they do find a way to hold Detroit under 20 points and pull out a win, then maybe I’ll begin to change my mind and hop on the Ravens’ playoff bandwagon.

20. Green Bay Packers (5-6)

Last week: 23 (+3)

Next game: home vs. Tampa Bay

It has to be disheartening for the Packers to get a career game from Brett Hundley and still lose. After the performance he put on against the Steelers, it is clear to see that no matter how well Hundley plays, the Packers are doomed. At 5-6 they aren’t completely out of the playoff race, but climbing back into it will take a miracle considering the level of competition they have remaining.

In their final five games, Green Bay must face the Panthers, Vikings and Lions. The chances of them winning all these games are very low, and the Packers will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

19. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

Last week: 21 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Pittsburgh

The Bengals looked dead in the water at 0-3, but have managed to go 5-3 since then. Their defense is still playing at a high level, ranking 10th in scoring defense. Cincinnati gives up a lot of yards, but keeping people off the scoreboard is what really matters. The offense finally got some help in the ground game last week as Joe Mixon ran for a career-high 114 yards.

If they can keep this up against the Steelers, it will keep the Killer B’s off the field and possibly lead to an upset. This upset would put the Bengals back in the thick of the Wild Card hunt.

18. Oakland Raiders (5-6)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

(Photo from http://www.businessinsider.com)

Last week: 17 (-1)

Next game: home vs. New York Giants

The Raiders were able to get a win, but barely won against a bad Denver team. On a somewhat positive note, the Raiders seem to have the fighting spirit a team needs to beat adversity.

How do I know that they have this fighting spirit? Well, they are literally getting into fights. Michael Crabtree will be suspended one game for his role in the fight, and that really hurts Oakland as Amari Cooper went down with a concussion.

Oakland has an easy opponent this week, but will really need to pick it up to save their season.

17. Dallas Cowboys (5-6)

Last week: 12 (-5)

Next game: home vs. Washington

There was nothing to be thankful for in Dallas as the Cowboys got completely railed by Philip Rivers and the Chargers on Thanksgiving. Dak Prescott and the rest of the Cowboys offense is struggling without Ezekiel Elliott.

If the Cowboys don’t right the ship this week, their season is likely over. To turn their season around, they need Dak to channel some of the greatness he displayed last season. But that may be asking too much.

16. Washington Redskins (5-6)

Last week: 15 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Dallas

Washington’s season has been an up and down roller coaster. One week they look like a legitimate contender and the next they are blowing double-digit fourth-quarter leads.

Washington is not out of the Wild Card race as their final five games are against the Cowboys, Chargers, Cardinals, Broncos and Giants. If the Redskins get hot at the right time, they could make a run in the playoffs. It all starts this week with their biggest rival.

15. Detroit Lions (6-5)

Last week: 14 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Baltimore

Detroit fought valiantly against the Vikings, but they were outmatched by a better team. In a recent press conference, head coach Jim Caldwell said to not count them out, and he was spot on. This team is sitting on the outside looking in, but at 6-5, they are all but out of it.

Their schedule is extremely favorable too. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 23-32. All five of their games are winnable, and they can even lose one and finish 10-6. 10-6 should get them into the playoffs.

14. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)

Last week: 9 (-5)

Next game: away vs. New York Jets

Two years ago, it was the Falcons that started out 5-0 but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Last year, it was the Vikings who started out 5-0 but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

It seems like the team to continue this trend will be the Chiefs. They started this season out 5-0 and looked completely unstoppable. They even beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since then, they have gone 1-5, and the wheels have fallen off. Andy Reid can’t avoid the constant barrage of questions involving Patrick Mahomes, but he has shot down any idea of the rookie replacing Alex Smith.

Kansas City needs to find their explosiveness to turn the ship around before it is too late. The Jets are the perfect opponent for that.

13. Buffalo Bills (6-5)

Last week: 18 (+5)

Next game: home vs. New England

After a failed experiment to bring in rookie Nathan Peterman, the Bills wised up and started Tyrod Taylor again, and it resulted in a win over the Chiefs. The win put Buffalo right back into the thick of the Wild Card race in the AFC.

Buffalo should have never benched Taylor because the loss to the Chargers could hurt in the long run. Now the Bills must face the hated Patriots this week, and it will likely result in a loss and further make the playoff race even more jam-packed.

12. Tennessee Titans (7-4)

Last week: 11 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Houston

Tennessee won this week, but didn’t look great against the Colts. It was their first ever win in Lucas Oil Stadium, but nevertheless, it should have come much easier.

The Titans sit comfortably in a playoff spot, but if they can’t get Marcus Mariota playing at the level he was at last year, then they will have a short stint in the playoffs. Tennessee also needs to make sure they stay committed to the run in order to succeed. The Titans will be facing a banged up Texans team, but all divisional games are difficult.

11. Seattle Seahawks (7-4)

Last week: 13 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Philadelphia

Seattle found a way to beat the 49ers, which wasn’t hard for them to do. For the first time in his career, Russell Wilson has to carry the team on his back. The offensive line is weak and the defense had been decimated with injuries.

Wilson has been up to the task thus far, throwing for 3,029 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He has also added three rushing touchdowns.

The Eagles will be their toughest test this season, and winning it will vault them right in the conversation of teams to beat in the NFC.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)

Last week: 7 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis

This week was a perfect example of why some are so skeptical of the Jaguars. They lost a game in which they should have won because Blake Bortles threw a late interception. The only way this team can succeed is if they run the ball over 30 times a game and play legendary defense. They are capable of this and should pick up another win against the Colts thanks to that amazing defense.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)

Last week: 16 (+7)

Next game: home vs. Cleveland

At 5-6, some may see the Chargers at nine and lose their mind, but they are one of the top 10 teams in the NFL regardless of what their record says.

In Week 1, the Chargers had a potential game-tying field goal blocked. In Week 2, Younghoe Koo missed a field goal that would have won them a game against the Dolphins. Their other close losses include a two-point loss to Philadelphia, an eight-point loss to the Patriots and a three-point overtime loss to the Jaguars.

Thanks to the decline of the Chiefs, the Chargers can still win the division. At 5-6, they can also earn a Wild Card berth. The Chargers could very well end up in the playoffs because they have won five of their last seven.

This week they get the winless Browns for a shot to get to .500. Do not sleep on the Chargers as their defense has them streaking.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

Last week: 10 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Atlanta can thank Julio Jones for their win against the Buccaneers. Jones had his third career game of 250 or more receiving yards. This week, getting 100 yards will be tough as he will see Xavier Rhodes. If the Falcons win this game, it will prove to the rest of the league that they are back in the thick of this NFC race. If they lose, then they will fall closer to missing the playoffs.

7. Carolina Panthers (8-3)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

(Photo Credit by Getty Images/Abbie Parr)

Last week: 8 (+1)

Next game: away vs. New Orleans

Carolina just keeps racking up wins, and nobody is talking about them. Their most impressive accomplishment of the season nobody seems to talk about either. They beat New England in Foxborough back in Week 4. People would rather remember their loss to the Bears though it seems.

Cam Newton seems to get trashed more than he gets praised, but at the end of the day, he wins games. Newton has led the Panthers to a 29-14 record in his last three seasons.

Carolina has a chance to beat New Orleans and take over first place in the NFC South this week. It is going to be tough to do on the road. The Panthers just keep on pounding, and they shouldn’t be overlooked.

6. New Orleans Saints (8-3)

Last week: 5 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Carolina

New Orleans is not helping their case for any tiebreakers when it comes to first-round byes. They have lost to the Vikings and Rams within the conference. Their win earlier in the season against the Panthers has them in first in the division, but a loss to the Panthers this upcoming week will change that.

The Saints can’t allow the injuries to derail them. New Orleans does have the pleasure of playing at home this week, and it could be the difference maker.

5. Los Angeles Rams (8-3)

Last week: 6 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Los Angeles responded nicely after a loss in Minnesota. The Rams bounced back to beat a popular and streaking Saints team. Los Angeles did it with defense by holding the Saints to just 20 points, which is nine points less than their season average. They were able to do so well because they kept the ball away from the Saints by holding the ball for over 35 minutes.

Going forward, the Rams will be looking to lock up the division, but need to hold off the Seahawks who are right on their tail.

4. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)

Last week: 4 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

The Minnesota Vikings ate the Lions up on the Thanksgiving to get to 9-2. Their defense is one of, if not the best in the NFL. Their defensive front is stout and talented. Defensive end Danielle Hunter has six sacks and a forced fumble while his counterpart Everson Griffen leads the NFL with 12 sacks.

The Vikings also rank second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at just 75.5 yards per game. Their linebackers are fast and athletic enough to play both the run and the pass. The secondary is led by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, who are both Pro Bowlers. There is no weakness on this defense, which makes them hard to beat.

With all that said, it is the offense that helps this team really win games. They run the ball well, and it opens up everything for Case Keenum, who is slinging the ball to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. The true success comes from the offensive line, which has paved the way for the sixth-ranked rushing attack and only given up 12 sacks in 11 games. Minnesota is a team nobody wants to play come January.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)

Last week: 3 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Steelers got the job done, but it wasn’t pretty against the Packers. A defense that had been great all season let Brett Hundley have a career game. Hundley threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Pittsburgh had to edge it out with a 53-yard game-winning field goal by Chris Boswell. Pittsburgh will need to iron out the kinks before the playoffs start to avoid an early exit.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)

Last week: 2 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Seattle

Philly continues to roll, but won’t be No. 1 in these rankings until they get some quality wins. Beating Chicago isn’t a quality win. Nine of their 10 wins have come against teams below .500. Their only impressive win has come against the Carolina Panthers.

This week, they have a chance to build their resume by traveling to Seattle. A win on the road in Seattle would show that the Eagles are truly the team to beat in the NFC.

1. New England Patriots (9-2)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Buffalo

It may sound boring, or like a broken record, but the Patriots are the best team in the NFL. That shouldn’t even be a debate.

Eagles fans won’t like this, but the truth is the Patriots are experienced and have the greatest coach and quarterback of all time. Oh, and by the way, they have a defense that is playing at a very high level, allowing just 20 points per game this season.

At the end of the year, the Patriots will be in the AFC Championship game at the very least and most likely the Super Bowl.

 

Featured image from nj.com 

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Tournaments

DotA needs more non-traditional tournaments

I was incredibly surprised when I discovered that Captain’s Draft was an official DotA 2 Minor with qualifying points on the line. For ages, Captain’s mode has been not just the preferred tournament game mode, but the only one. To be fair, Captain’s Draft and Captain’s mode are very similar. The only major difference is the fact that Captain’s Draft has a significantly smaller hero pool. For those that don’t know, Captain’s draft reduces the hero pool down to nine each of strength, agility and intelligence heroes. For a brief stint this game mode was actually available for Ranked play. Due to the increased segmentation of the ranked player user base, Valve permanently relocated it to the unranked playlist.

But then we have the Midas Mode tournament that is currently going on. While it is not a Minor itself, it is considerably more unique than Captain’s Draft. In the tournament, each hero costs a certain number of currency to draft, and teams start with a certain amount of this currency. A hero’s cost correlates with their current popularity and win rate. Teams can earn currency back by choosing to random or by completing a set of community created challenges. Teams can even bet their currency on games that they are not participating in. While this is more than unorthodox, there are merits to tournaments like these granting Qualifying Points. I hope to explain why through this article.

It challenges teams

Captain’s Draft challenges teams to make the best out of what is likely a poor situation. Of course if top tier heroes happen to be in the pool, teams will immediately pick or ban them. Other than that, the mode generally pushes both captains and players outside of their comfort zones. Teams can actually use this opportunity to try off-the-wall strategies, or sub-optimal synergies. Maybe a player is trying to add a hero to their hero pool but their not comfortable with it in a tournament setting. Well, in Captains Draft, the enemy team might be at the same disadvantage. This makes it the perfect time to try a new hero in a more high pressure situation outside of pub games or scrims.

I know that teams play their fair share of pubs to test new strategies. I also know that they occasionally have practice matches against each other. Unfortunately neither of these really reflect the atmosphere of a major tournament. In pubs, a professional team may very well find themselves against a team that has not played together as often, ensuring an easier victory. In scrimmages against other teams, players may not wish to reveal pocket strategies that they hope to use in future tournaments.

Midas Mode further challenges teams by giving teams a limited amount of currency to deal with throughout the whole tournament. Each decision the team makes is determined by the amount of currency the team has at their disposal. While the economical balance of the mode can be called into question, it IS the first tournament of it’s kind. It will undoubtedly be improved in the future as they work out the kinks.

They are viewer friendly

Say what you want about the staged performances between matches, but the actual games and drafts themselves are a blast to watch for viewers. One of the major reasons that fans become tired or professional matches is that everyone fights for the same heroes in every draft. New draft? Well we can expect that W/X/Y/Z heroes are going to be picked or banned in the first phase. With much of the variety taken out, matches become much less interesting. These non-traditional formats take care of that.  In Captain’s Draft, a limited hero pool means that viewers will almost always see meta-unfriendly strategies and drafts. This prevents the games viewer from getting bored, and keeps the games much more exciting.

Tournaments

Image from twitch.tv/moonducktv

Midas Mode takes it to the next level by introducing a popularity based cost system to drafting as well as a community driven challenge system for players to participate in. The cost system requires players to carefully choose whether they pick the expensive meta-popular hero or a less expensive underdog during the draft. The mode even rewards teams for randoming or skipping a ban. All of these mechanics result in some of the most exciting drafts I’ve seen in recent memory.

But the fun extends to the main game as well. Tournament organizers collect challenge suggestions from fans on a daily basis, and use those suggestions to inform their decisions for the tournament. Challenges can be simple and predictable, such as “Kill Roshan at level 1”. They can also be completely absurd and specific, such as “Announce that you are doing a “360 NO SCOPE” in all chat. Within 10 seconds that player must perform a 360 spin and then kill an enemy player. Can only be attempted once per game by each team”. If that last challenges sounds too far fetched to actually work, OG claimed that bounty during one of their games. These challenges ensure that the viewer base is always entertained in new and exciting ways.

Why we need more tournaments like these

While these are just two examples of the possibilities afforded by new game modes, I do not thing the creativity should stop there. I have no suggestions for my own, but these kind of tournaments tick all of the boxes. Players are challenged in new and interesting ways, while viewers have something new and different to watch. These types of tournaments could break up the monotony of professional DotA that had fans crying out for a patch mere weeks ago. Though Midas Mode is in it’s testing phase now, it could be become a Minor in time. My argument is that it should be so. These kind of tournaments add a much needed layer of unpredictability to the DotA 2 competitive scene. We should be welcoming them with open arms into the DotA Pro Circuit.


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2017 NFL power rankings week 12

2017 NFL power rankings week 12

There are only six weeks remaining in the regular season and teams are beginning to take their place in the standings. Only one team has officially been eliminated, and you guessed it, the Browns are that team. There are a ton of questions still left to answer but here are how the teams rank currently.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-10)

Last ranking: 32 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Browns are heading toward a 0-16 season which has only been done once before by the Detroit Lions. Looking at their schedule, there are two games in which they have a shot at winning. December 17th versus Baltimore and on Christmas Eve at Chicago. Now just because they are winnable doesn’t mean the Browns will pull off the win, everything about the Browns this season is totally embarrassing. No matter what happens the rest of the season it is hard to envision a scenario where they ever move out of this spot.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

Last ranking: 31 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Seattle

Since the rankings were done the 49ers have won a game but they didn’t move up because the Giants won another game as well. The 49ers are in prime position for a top three pick but if they start Jimmy Garoppolo they have a better shot to win more games. Because he could win them some games, it makes sense that they haven’t started him yet.

San Francisco is looking toward the future and adding another top three pick to this roster could give them the talent to be competitive for the next 10 years with the other moves they have made. This season though they are stuck in this spot in the rankings.

30. New York Giants (2-8)

2017 NFL power rankings week 12

(Photo Credit: BILL KOSTROUN/AP)

Last ranking: 30 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Washington

In a big surprise, the New York Giants upset the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. It was only the second win of the season for the Giants. The win doesn’t do much for the Giants other than pushing them from the second overall pick to the third. It could have been the win that forces the Giants to keep Ben McAdoo which would be disastrous for the future of New York.

29. Indianapolis Colts (3-7)

Last ranking: 29 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Tennessee

The last time we saw the Colts play they blew a chance to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their next game is a divisional contest against the Tennessee Titans. The game will likely be close because divisional games are always more difficult. Jacoby Brissett is doing a solid job since being traded but he is struggling to put points up as the Colts are only averaging 17.9 points per game. Indianapolis will remain competitive but they too are preparing for the NFL draft.

28. Denver Broncos (3-7)

Last ranking: 28 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Oakland

At one point the Denver Broncos were 3-1 and looked like a formidable team. Since then the Broncos have lost six straight games and have fallen into the top five of the draft. The quarterback situation is a mess and can be considered the worst in the NFL. The defense is no longer fearsome and elite. Everything is crumbling in Denver and it may be time for a complete rebuild.

27. Miami Dolphins (4-6)

Last ranking: 27 (no change)

Next game: away vs. New England

Similar to the Broncos, the Dolphins were once in a great position in the standings. Miami was sitting at 4-2 but has lost four straight games. The Jay Cutler experiment has been a total failure as he has only thrown for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has also been in and out of the lineup because of injury. Miami has also traded away their starting running back. The season is going to continue to nosedive and the season is all but over.

26. New York Jets (4-6)

Last ranking: 19 (-7)

Next game: home vs. Carolina

The New York Jets are stuck completely in the middle of mediocrity. They win just enough games to not get a top three pick and lose enough games to not make the playoffs. This week they get the Carolina Panthers who are one of the top teams in the NFL. They will have trouble scoring as they average just 20.1 points per game and the Panthers are giving up 18 points per game. The Jets will likely lose this game to remain mediocre.

25. Chicago Bears (3-7)

Last ranking: 24 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Philadelphia

Chicago was a missed field goal away from playing in overtime against the Lions. It led to a kicking change that might make a difference throughout the rest of the season. At worst the Bears are competitive but still a few pieces away from becoming a legitimate contender. This season they are playing for the development of their players and pride. Chicago will end up with a top 10 pick to continue their rebuild.

24. Arizona Cardinals (4-6)

Last ranking: 25 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Jacksonville

Despite the major injuries, and using their third quarterback of the season, the Cardinals are still fighting. Arizona is sitting at 4-6 and still have a slim possibility of making the playoffs. Blaine Gabbert got his first start in the last game throwing for 257 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He will be starting this week against the Jaguars in what will be his chance at revenge. It will likely hurt the Cardinals and possibly push them lower in the rankings.

23. Green Bay Packers (5-5)

Last ranking: 20 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Pittsburgh

The Packers are hanging around at 5-5 but a shutout loss at home to the Ravens doesn’t look promising. Aaron Rodgers is truly the only reason the Packers have been good in recent years and without him, the entire offense is lost.

The Packers’ brass needs to really think about finding a new general manager and coach that can build the rest of this team so that losing Rodgers doesn’t mean they get shutout. The season doesn’t get any easier this week with Pittsburgh on the schedule next.

22. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

Last ranking: 26 (+4)

Next game: home vs. Houston

Baltimore is fresh off a 23-0 win in Lambeau and now have positioned themselves for a run at a wildcard spot. The Ravens continue to do it with defense. Baltimore ranks third in points allowed per game with 17.1. They also rank second in pass defense allowing 185.2 yards per game. If they are able to put up 20 points in the rest of their games they should have a great shot at one of the two wildcard spots.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (4-6)

Last ranking: 22 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Cleveland

Just like Baltimore, Cincinnati is still fighting for a berth in one of the wildcard spots. The Bengals are fresh off a 20-17 win against Denver. Their remaining schedule has three divisional games and three games against the NFC North, the Packers not one of them. The schedule will be tough but winning five of these six games will give them a chance. Will the Bengals step up to the plate or miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season? My money is on the latter.

20. Houston Texans (4-6)

Last ranking: 21 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Baltimore

Poor Houston is just dealing with countless injuries or they would be one of the best teams in the AFC. Somehow they still managed to win last week against the Cardinals. Houston is still mathematically in the playoff race. The problem though is their remaining schedule is littered with tough tests including road games at Jacksonville, Baltimore and Tennesse. They also have to play the Steelers in Houston.

Houston will finish somewhere between five and seven wins which will leave them out of the playoffs. The good news is they will have a draft pick within the top 15 and therefore add talent to a team that is loaded with tons of talent already. The only thing that can stop the Texans in the future is bad health.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6)

Last ranking: 23 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

The Bucs have won two straight games with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center but the opponents have been the Jets and the Dolphins. This won’t keep up over the final six games with four divisional games still remaining. Tampa Bay has underperformed all season and it is unclear in which direction they are heading. They don’t have an identity. Dirk Koetter needs to use the rest of the season to form an identity to take into next year that way the Bucs can become a playoff team.

18. Buffalo Bills (5-5)

2017 NFL power rankings week 12

(Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Last ranking: 15 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Kansas City

A few weeks ago the Bills looked like one of the top 10 teams in the NFL. The butt whooping they just received from the Chargers, and their other recent losses show otherwise. In a head-scratching move, the Bills decided to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman from Pittsburgh. That didn’t turn out all too well as he threw five interceptions in the first half, more than Tyrod Taylor had on the entire season. Taylor finished the game but it was out of reach. This week they head to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs in a game that both teams desperately need.

17. Oakland Raiders (4-6)

Last ranking: 17 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Denver

It is somewhat puzzling to see how bad the Raiders are this year after such a successful 2016 campaign. The offense went from averaging 25.3 points per game down to 20.4 points per game this season. Derek Carr needs to step it up if the Raiders are to turn this season into a successful one. The defense also needs to pick it up, they are the only team without an interception yet this season. Oakland should have no trouble this week with Denver to pick up some confidence and momentum.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (4-6)

Last ranking: 18 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Dallas

Do not sleep on the Chargers in the AFC playoff picture. This team is a few close losses from having a much better record and the defense is beginning to play at a high level. Los Angeles is giving up less than 20 points per game this year and has the fourth most interceptions on the season. As long as Philip Rivers protects the ball and they continue to feed Melvin Gordon then the Chargers will win most of their remaining games.

15. Washington Redskins (4-6)

Last ranking: 12 (-3)

Next game: home vs. New York Giants

Washington was in two close games against in the past two weeks against the Vikings and Saints, both of which resulted in a loss for the Redskins. Washington is a tough out for whoever they play but they won’t make the playoffs. The defense needs to be loaded with more talent to help an offense that ranks 12th in scoring and ninth in yards. If they can commit to Kirk Cousins and improve the defense then the Redskins can be dangerous next season. Right now though they must focus on playing spoiler.

14. Detroit Lions (6-4)

Last ranking: 14 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Detroit has a massive test this week with the Vikings coming into town on Thanksgiving but the Lions already beat the Vikes in Minnesota, 14-7. This game will likely be different because the Vikings have a lot of momentum and confidence due to a six-game win streak. Detroit needs to win this week to keep the division title within reach. The Lion’s defense will be key like it was in the first matchup with Minnesota.

13. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

Last ranking: 13 (no change)

Next game: away vs. San Francisco

It is quite admirable how well the Seahawks performed despite losing two members of the Legion of Boom. If Blair Walsh could have put a little more power into his attempted game-tying field goal then the Seahawks might have gotten a win against the Falcons. With the injuries, the Seahawks are going through and their subpar offensive line, it will be a tough go for the Seahawks the rest of this season. Looking at their schedule though they should win around three more games putting them somewhere around 9-7. The Seahawks will not make the playoffs season.

12. Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

Last ranking: 8 (-4)

Next game: home vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Dallas is another team that shouldn’t be slept on in the playoff picture. Right now they are missing Ezekiel Elliot but if Sean Lee can get healthy then the defense becomes formidable. If the Cowboys can start playing solid defense they will make the playoffs. They can still run the ball effectively no matter who their back is. Once the offensive line becomes healthy again then Dak will feel more comfortable and play better. The Chargers will be a huge test and this is a must-win game.

11. Tennessee Titans (6-4)

Last ranking: 11 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Indianapolis

Not many people are talking about the Titans but they still have a shot to be a dangerous team. Marcus Mariota hasn’t fully hit his stride yet this season but the Titans have found a way to win six games stills. They run the ball well averaging 117.5 yards per game. Tennessee needs to unleash Mariota and let him sling the ball around. The Titan’s should get back in the win column this week against the Colts and would keep them in control of their destiny.

10. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

Last ranking: 16 (+5)

Next game: home vs. Tampa Bay

Currently, Atlanta sits in the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs with the Lions, Seahawks, Packers and Cowboys right on their tail. Getting to the playoffs is going to be extremely difficult with their remaining schedule. They still must face the Panthers, Vikings and both the Buccaneers and Saints twice. All six games will be battles and the Falcons will likely lose half of these games putting them somewhere around 9-7. It may or may not be enough to sneak into the playoffs.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

Last ranking: 6 (-4)

Next game: home vs. Buffalo

No team has cooled off quite like the Chiefs have. At one point they looked like the most dominant team in the NFL. They are the only team this season to hand the Eagles a loss who most view as the best team in the NFL. Kansas City has floundered offensively and that is why they are losing games. Over their last three games, they are scoring just 18.3 points per game, eight points less than their season average. If the offense can get rolling again then the Chiefs will become dangerous again.

8. Carolina Panthers (7-3)

Last ranking: 10 (+2)

Next game: away vs. New York Jets

The media loves to talk about the bad things that Cam Newton does but the fact of the matter is he has led the Panthers to a roughly quiet 7-3 start. A bad loss to the Bears is the difference in this team from being the second seed as opposed to their current fifth seed ranking. Carolina will continue to play stifling defense and Cam will lead the offense. The Panthers should easily get to 8-3 this week with a road game against the mediocre Jets.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3)

Last ranking: 9 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Jacksonville is the most dangerous team to the Patriots throne. Yes, you read that right. They have the defense that can actually cause problems in the postseason for the great Tom Brady. Playoff football becomes about who can punch who in the mouth defensively and who can run the ball. Well, the Jaguars can do both. Offensively the Jaguars average 160.6 yards per game, the best mark in the NFL. Defensively, Jacksonville is first in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense. Come January nobody is going to want to face the Jags and their elite defense.

6. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

Last ranking: 4 (-2)

Next game: home vs. New Orleans

There is no shame in losing to the Vikings on the road but the shame does come from being the number one offense in the league and being held scoreless for the final 55 minutes of the game. Minnesota bullied the Rams and that is why the Rams fell two spots in the rankings. The road remains diffcult with the Saints coming into town. A loss here would put the Rams even lower in the rankings and out of contention for a first-round bye.

5. New Orleans Saints (8-2)

Last ranking: 7 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Rams

With an eight-game win streak, many believe the Saints are the only threat to the Eagles in the NFC. They are ranked fifth though because they did lose to the Minnesota Vikings in week one. Many want to discredit that because of how early it was in the season and that the game would be much different if they played now. That may be the case but that fact is they still lost to the Vikings.

Even so, the Saints have the makings of a Super Bowl contender. A win against the Rams could vault them higher into the rankings even if the top four teams end up winning this week. The Saints are marching right now, but what happens when adversity strikes? We will have to wait and see.

4. Minnesota Vikings (8-2)

Last ranking: 5 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Detroit

Minnesota fans, the Vikings aren’t getting much love right now but don’ let that worry you. These Vikings are great and are a team nobody will want to play in the playoffs. Minnesota’s defense isn’t ranked first in scoring defense but alot of points against them have come in garbage time.

Case Keenum is also being overlooked and he is the most improved player in the NFL this season. If you look at his stats last year, in Los Angeles, they were atrocious. The Vikings have a big game this week in Detroit. They will be looking for revenge from an earlier loss, but more importantly, they are looking to strangle their hold on the divisional lead they own. Getting to 9-2 will be a huge checkpoint in the race for the division title and a possible first-round bye.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2)

Last ranking: 2 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Green Bay

Pittsburgh is winning but they don’t always win pretty. Two weeks ago they barely scraped by the Colts. The Steelers made everyone forget that performance with an annihilation of the Titans. The offense is rolling putting up 26.7 points and 352.3 yards per game in their last three. Pittsburgh is succeeding though because of their defense. The Steelers rank second in points allowed at 16.5 points per game. The Steelers are going to have a lot to say in the playoffs because of their play on both sides of the ball. This week they get the undermanned Packers.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

Last ranking: 1 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Chicago

Before you grab your pitchforks and attack me for putting the Eagles at two in the rankings hear me out. The Eagles are a great team with an explosive offense that is soaring but they haven’t played the hardest of schedules. Eight of their nine wins have come against teams with a .500 record or worse. Being 9-1 is still impressive but would you take them to beat the Patriots, I wouldn’t. The Eagles are a great team, but they aren’t the best.

1.New England Patriots (8-2)

Last ranking: 3 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Miami

New England is the best team in the NFL, not the Eagles. New England is on a roll winning six straight games by an average of 14.3 points. The defense has become extremely hot giving up just 12.5 points per game during this six-game winning streak. There is no reason to think they won’t keep this up under the direction of Brian Belichick. Because the defense is rolling and they have the great Tom Brady it is safe to assume the Patriots will end up in the AFC Championship game and most likely the Super Bowl. Boston is home to the best team in the NFL.

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Oakland Raiders fantasy football

Which Raiders can find consistency in fantasy football?

One of the major storylines of this NFL season has been the disappointing Oakland Raiders. Coming in with high hopes after a great 2016 season and a rested Marshawn Lynch, people saw the Raiders going all the way to the AFC championship game. That won’t happen unless the team can start playing its best, and soon.

The more important question to ask, at least for fantasy owners, is which Raiders can find consistency in fantasy football?

Michael Crabtree (Wide receiver)

One of the bright spots for the Raiders has been the play of Michael Crabtree. He’s enjoying another great year under Jack Del Rio. With 42 catches for 502 yards and six touchdowns, Crabtree has emerged as the top target in Oakland. He shows no signs of losing production, and with the upcoming schedule, regression isn’t on the agenda.

In three of the last six matchups of the year, Crabtree plays against the Giants, Cowboys and the Chargers. All these defenses are favorable matchups if Derek Carr can continue his play as of late. The No. 13 wide receiver in standard leagues, averaging 8.8 points per game, has found success recently without finding the end zone.

Being a huge red zone target has been the reason that Crabtree has had fantasy value in recent years. But in the past four weeks, Crabtree has gotten steady volume while producing at a WR2 level. If Crabtree can regain his red zone presence and provide touchdowns, then he will continue to produce consistency and be a valuable fantasy asset.

Derek Carr (Quarterback)

It’s been an up and down season for Derek Carr. He experienced a back injury that kept him sidelined for a week and made him play at a subpar level. Before that happened, the Raiders offense failed to find the chemistry to succeed and win games in the NFL. As of late, Carr has picked it up and produced at a QB1 level.

Oakland Raiders fantasy football

Photo from http://www.sportsworldreport.com

Carr had three straight weeks with over 300 passing yards and at least one touchdown, including an outburst of 417 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs. That made fantasy owners realize that he still has something to prove this year, and the Raiders are still fighting to try and win a Wild Card spot in the AFC.

He obviously has the same schedule as Crabtree, which means he has three games against an easier opponent and three games that could give him some matchup problems. Then again, he did go off against Kansas City once this year.

Look for Carr to continue being a QB1 option in fantasy and start him with confidence from here on out.

 

Marshawn Lynch (Running back)

Oakland Raiders fantasy football

Photo from Daily Snark

The return of “Beast Mode” hasn’t been quite like everyone thought it would be. People expected Lynch to come back with a vengeance and take the league by storm behind the Raiders’ stud offensive line.

Actually, quite the opposite has occurred. Lynch has yet to have a 100-yard game and has only eclipsed 52 fantasy points over nine games. The volume has been there for Lynch, with double-digit carries in six of his nine games, but the production isn’t quite there.

Lynch is one of the players on the roster that I don’t see performing quite well in the end of the season. The defensive fronts of the Giants, Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Eagles are all above average and may cause Beast Mode to have less than average games to end his season.

Avoid starting Lynch in fantasy from here on out.

 

 

 

Feature image from bleacherreport.com

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MLB unanimous rookie of the years

A look back at the MLB’s unanimous Rookie of the Year winners

On Nov. 13, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger were both unanimously selected as the 2017 American and National League Rookies of the Year respectively, a feat that has only been done on three other occasions. Judge set an MLB record for most home runs in a season by a rookie with 52, while Bellinger set a Los Angeles Dodger record with 39. Both finished in the top 10 in their respective MVP votes, with Judge finishing second and Bellinger ninth.

Baseball fans should consider themselves lucky to witness such incredible seasons by two rookies, as we may not see dual performances like this for another decade. With this in mind, let us take a look at the past pairs of unanimous Rookie of the Year winners.

1997: Scott Rolen (PHI) & Nomar Garciaparra (BOS)

MLB unanimous rookie of the years

Scott Rolen went on to play 17 seasons in the MLB, making seven All-Star teams, winning eight Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger and one World Series. (Photo from DickAllen15.com)

A second-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993, Scott Rolen was a young hulking third baseman who possessed power and premier defense. In 81 games in double-A, Rolen batted .343 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs.

Rolen made his MLB debut in 1996, although his first full season didn’t come until 1997 when he batted .283 with 21 home runs, 92 RBIs, 93 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.

Other National League rookies in his class included Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones and Livan Hernandez, but Rolen still managed to be unanimously selected NL Rookie of the Year. His 1997 campaign was a sign of things to come, as he went on to play 17 seasons in the MLB, making seven All-Star teams, winning eight Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger and one World Series.

You could say expectations out of the gate were high for Nomar Garciaparra, as the Boston Red Sox selected him with the twelfth overall pick in 1994. He had a cup of coffee in the MLB in 1996, although his first full season wasn’t until 1997. A then 23-year-old Garciaprra batted .306 with 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 122 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He not only was unanimously selected AL Rookie of the Year, but he placed eighth in the AL MVP vote and was voted an All-Star and Silver Slugger.

Aside from Garciaparra, the American League’s underwhelming 1997 rookie class was headlined by Jose Cruz and Deivi Cruz, Jason Dickson and Mike Cameron. Garciaparra’s career was majorly affected by injuries, although he still managed to bat .313 with 229 home runs and 936 RBIs in his 14-year-career. He most notably won back-to-back AL batting titles, batting .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 respectively.

1993: Mike Piazza (LAD) & Tim Salmon (CAL)

MLB unanimous rookie of the years

Piazza would go down as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, batting a career .308 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs. (Photo from Pintrest.com)

Mike Piazza, whose Los Angeles Dodgers rookie home run record of 35 was broken by Bellinger this season, was taken by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB draft. It has been said that Piazza was only selected because of head coach Tommy Lasorda’s personal relationship with Piazza’s father, Vince. Whatever the case may be, Piazza is arguably the biggest draft steal in MLB history.

Piazza’s rookie season in 1993 was incredible, as he batted .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBIs. The 24-year-old finished ninth in the NL MVP vote and was voted an All-Star and Silver Slugger to boot.

No rookies from the NL class of 1993 had a season that could compare with Piazza, although his fellow teammate and rookie, Pedro Martinez, also had a Hall of Fame career. Piazza would go down as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, batting a career .308 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs.

Tim Salmon, a California born kid, was drafted in the third round of the 1989 draft by the then California Angels. Salmon won the American Minor League Player of the Year Award in 1992, which was also the same season he made his major league debut.

In his official rookie year, Salmon batted .283 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs, which was good enough to be selected AL Rookie of the Year. Other rookies from his class include Aaron Sele, Jason Bere and Wayne Kirby, so it’s no surprise why Salmon dominated the AL ROY vote.

He went on to play 14 seasons in the MLB, driving in over 1,000 runs along the way, unfortunately falling just one home run short of 300.

1987: Benito Santiago (SD) & Mark McGwire (OAK)

Benito Santiago was signed as an amateur free agent by the San Diego Padres in 1982. His major league debut came in 1986, but his official rookie season came a year later. In 1997, Santiago batted .300 with 18 home runs and 79 RBIs. Pitchers Mike Dunne and Joe Magrane both had very respectable rookie campaigns, but Santiago was the clear choice for ROY in 1987.

MLB unanimous rookie of the years

McGwire, whose rookie home run record of 49 was broken by Judge, was the 10th overall selection in the 1984 draft by the Oakland Athletics. (Photo from TheGreedyPinstripes.com)

His rookie season was the beginning of a 20-year MLB career in which he was considered one of the premier catchers in the National League for nearly a decade. He would go on to make five All-Star appearances, win four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and one NLCS MVP.

Mark McGwire, whose rookie home run record of 49 was broken by Judge, was the 10th overall selection in the 1984 draft by the Oakland Athletics. His rookie season came in 1987, where a then 23-year-old McGwire put on a show for the ages, batting .289 with 49 home runs and 118 RBIs. McGwire finished sixth in the American League MVP vote and was selected an All-Star for the first time.

Fellow rookies Kevin Seitzer and Matt Nokes had solid rookie seasons, but McGwire’s was arguably the greatest rookie campaign of all-time up until that point. He went on to have a Hall of Fame caliber career, mashing 583 home runs and 1,414 RBIs. His admitted steroid use will likely keep him out Cooperstown, although the impact he left on the game will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image by ESPN.com

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