NFL Divisional Playoff Picks Against the Spread

Wild Card Weekend rung in the NFL playoffs with a whimper rather than a bang. However, the divisional round has arrived and the general consensus is at least three of the four games should be highly contested. I was 2-2 against the spread last week and 3-1 straight up. My system remains the same with my picks being in bold and outright upsets having an asterisk. Hut hut, hike!

*Seahawks at Falcons (-5) – This is your classic defense versus offense matchup. Games like this are a yearly occurrence for the Seahawks. The same cannot be said for the Falcons. Thus, I just trust Seattle more here. Playing Detroit last week was a good way to prepare for Atlanta. The Seahawks defense finally seemed to figure out how to play without Earl Thomas. If Thomas Rawls can run the ball anywhere close to the way he did last week, Seattle becomes even more difficult to deal with.

The Falcons have had a fantastic season. However, I am just not sure how they will handle this occasion. They are about as anonymous a playoff team as you will ever come across. Their only primetime appearances this year were a Thursday night game and a Monday night game that went opposite a presidential debate. Even though the Falcons defense has vastly improved from a year ago, Matt Ryan and company are still having to put up 28-30 points to feel comfortable. Seattle will not allow that to happen. Sea 24 Atl 20

Texans at Patriots (-15) – 15 points in a playoff game? No one disputes that New England is a much better team, but I will take 15 points every day of the week and twice on Sundays. It becomes all the more enticing when one considers that the Texans have the NFL’s top defense. The Patriots could very easily go out and win this game by a ridiculous margin. However, Houston’s defense and coaching staff are good enough to make anyone sweat. Jadeveon Clowney is finally staying healthy and being the game wrecker everyone knew he was capable of being. Brady and Belichick will find a way like they always seem to do this time of year, but it will not be the bloodbath that most people are anticipating. NE 27 Hou 17

Photo courtesy of espn.com

Steelers at Chiefs (-1.5) – I genuinely believe Kansas City is the more balanced and complete football team. The early-season 43-14 Steelers blowout in this matchup is hard to ignore though. Teams do change a lot throughout the season. The emergence of Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s now healthy pass rushers, and a dinged up Ben Roethlisberger are enough to nudge me toward the home team in my least favorite pick of the week. KC 23 Pit 20

*Packers at Cowboys (-4.5) – I would have picked the Giants had they reached this spot as well. Dallas has not played a truly meaningful game in roughly a month. That worries me. As good as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been, this is still uncharted territory for them as well as most of the Cowboys roster.

Photo courtesy of sportdfw.com

On the other side, the universe is running out of words to describe how hot Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense are. I am not sure if the health of Jordy Nelson even matters in terms of who wins this game. Rodgers is playing well enough to carry whoever is out there with him to win right now. Also, the Packers have been in “do or die” situations since about week 11. Let another offseason full of drama begin in Dallas. GB 34 Dal 30

 

 

 

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Divisional Round)

(http://thebiglead.com/2017/01/07/video-paul-richardson-made-an-insane-one-handed-td-grab/)

Talk about a major dud! The wildcard round of the playoffs was a major snoozefest. There were some great highlights, such as the Paul Richardson touchdown catch, or the amazing performances by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. By and large, though it was blowout city. The closest game was decided by 13 points. All home teams won and the average margin of victory was by 19 points. Now there are only eight teams remaining in the playoffs. Every game in the divisional round is a rematch from the regular season. This round should be more exciting than the last and the games should be closer as well. Here are this week’s Hagan’s Haus NFL picks.

Last Week: 3-1

Regular Season: 148-103-2

Playoffs: 3-1

Overall: 151-104-2

AFC

Saturday

(https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/tom-brady-records/)

Houston 10 @ New England 27: This game is most likely to be the least entertaining of the four games. The Patriots beat the Texans 27-0 in September. Brock Osweiler played well last week, but Jadeveon Clowney was the one to spark the team and lead the Texans in the wild-card round. New England has a great offense led by the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Their defense is playing great as well. In the month of December, the Patriots defense only gave up 10.6 points per game. The Texans must hope their defense shuts down Brady, but that won’t happen. The Patriots will be heading to another AFC Championship game.

Sunday

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh 20 @ Kansas City 19: This was one of the most difficult games to pick. Pittsburgh is on fire right now. Le’Veon Bell is having a career season. Big Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are also playing great football. This offense is a juggernaut. These two teams met early in the season and it was a blowout. The Steelers won that game at home 43-14. This game will be much more competitive at Arrowhead as the Chiefs have improved since that early season matchup. It won’t be enough though and the Steelers will edge by the Chiefs to meet Tom Brady in the AFC Championship.

NFC

Saturday

(http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/news/seahawks-falcons-picks-predictions-spread-odds-vegas-divisional-playoffs-2017/1tm3kxvdhv0781xfllb4b2nmtd)

Seattle 27 @ Atlanta 24: There is talk that Matt Ryan will end up winning the MVP, but the quarterback has much to prove in the postseason. Seattle has heard so much talk about how great and prolific this offense is. One of the interesting storylines in this game is that Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn was the former defensive coordinator for the Seahawks. He knows this defense and it may help Matt Ryan prepare for it. Atlanta is at home, but they aren’t used to this stage in the same way the Seahawks are. Russell Wilson is going to have a huge game and the Seahawks will find themselves back in the NFC Championship.

Sunday

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Green Bay 27 @ Dallas 28: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in all of football right now. They completely dismantled the Giants last week and have won seven straight games. They look unbeatable and picking against them might be considered crazy. They were originally the team who I thought would win this game, but there is a reason to hesitate. The Cowboys have been the best team in football all season. Why would they stop now? Jordy Nelson may not play in this game, making the Packers less dangerous on offense. Dallas is going to have a lot of pressure, but if they run the ball and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field they will win this game. That is precisely what the Cowboys will do and they will be heading to the NFC Championship.

 

 

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Keys to the NFL Divisional Playoffs

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

 

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

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

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

Texans at Patriots – Houston needs some kind of early break

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

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

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

Steelers at Chiefs – Steelers pass protection

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

Photo Courtesy of steelersdepot.com

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

 

 

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

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

Photo Courtesy of thelandryhat.com

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

 

 

 

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Reid it and Weep: Andy Reid is a Top Coach of His Era

Good coaching is hard to come by. When a team gets a good coach, they need to hold onto them as long as possible even if they have a down year or two at some point. Many owners and general managers are highly inconsistent when it comes to firing or retaining a head coach. Society is trigger happy when it comes to sports. Teams must win now and if they don’t, the course of the ship must change immediately, but is that the right move?

Most times, it’s not one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. However, the Kansas City Chiefs know it best this isn’t always the case. Kansas City took advantage of the Eagles getting rid of a great coach after two subpar seasons. That coach is Andy Reid, and he is the most underrated, underappreciated coach in the NFL. Reid is a hall of fame coach only missing one thing from his resume, a Super Bowl win.

Philly with Andy Reid

Andy Reid

(Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Andy Reid was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 NFL seasons. Before Andy Reid was named the head coach of the Eagles in 1999, the Eagles did not have a coach last more than 80 games since Dick Vermeil was the coach from 1976-1982. Reid would coach over 200 games with the Eagles and lead them to the best success the franchise had ever seen.

Andy Reid’s first season was an abysmal 5-11. After that, Reid went on a tear throughout the NFL. In his next five seasons, he made the playoffs and had a regular season record of 59-21. The first year of that five-year playoff run, the Eagles lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

What Reid did in the next four seasons with the Eagles was rare. He led them to four straight NFC Championship berths. They lost the first three before winning the NFC Championship in January of 2005.

Andy Reid

(http://sportige.com/quarterback-head-coach-duos-with-most-wins-in-nfl-history-05-2013/)

The Eagles had finally gotten over the hump of the NFC Championship but had to face the great Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Eagles lost the Super Bowl XXXIX 24-21. It was the Eagles second Super Bowl loss franchise history.

After the Super Bowl loss, there was a hangover and the Eagles finished the 2005 season 6-10. In the seven seasons from 2006-2012, the Eagles never reached the same kind of success but were still a playoff contender.

Overall in Andy Reid’s 14 seasons with the Eagles, he finished with a regular season record of 130-93-1. He made the playoffs nine out of his 14 seasons. Reid was fired after a 4-12 season in 2012 and two consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance.

Philly Since Reid’s Departure

Andy Reid

(http://www.phillyvoice.com/philadelphia-eagles-chip-kelly-era-in-gifs/)

Since Reid was fired in 2012, the Eagles have had two head coaches and an interim head coach. Reid has been with the Chiefs during that entire time.

As an organization, the Eagles have gone 34-30 and only made the playoffs once in those four seasons. They lost their only playoff game at home to the Saints 26-24.

Personally, Andy Reid in those four seasons has gone 43-21 and made the playoffs three times. The Eagles felt life without Reid would be better, but the truth of the matter is because of two subpar seasons by Reid’s standards, the Eagles went in a different direction. It is speculation but had the Eagles kept Reid their franchise might be still one of the best in the NFL.

Kansas City Before Reid

Andy Reid

(Photo: Charlie Riedel, AP)

The Chiefs were the worst team in the NFL the year before Andy Reid was hired to take over. In the 14 seasons Reid was with the Eagles, the Chiefs had a 99-126 record and had made the playoffs only three times. The Chiefs did not win a single postseason game in the three playoff appearances and hadn’t won a playoff game since 1993.

They also had a total of five different head coaches during Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia. There was very little stability and even less success. When the Chiefs fired Romeo Crennel, they were looking for stability more than anything. Reid was the perfect candidate for the job in providing both success and stability.

 

Chiefs With Reid

Andy Reid

(https://arrowheadaddict.com/2013/10/21/andy-reid-wasnt-dancing-really-just-fun/)

Andy Reid and the Chiefs have been a match made in heaven. In his four years as the head coach, he has posted a better wining percentage than his time in Philly. His win percentage with the Chiefs is 67 percent and with the Eagles, it was 58 percent.

What was most remarkable about his first season in Kansas City was that the Chiefs went from 2-14 to 11-5 and made the playoffs. They lost the playoff game 45-44 to the Colts but the turnaround had the franchise and its fans optimistic.

Reid’s second year was not as successful as the Chiefs went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. The front office still believed Reid was the best man for the job.

His third season was vital in proving he could still lead an NFL team. After coming off a 9-7 season he was expected to improve and get them back to the playoffs as he did in his first year. The problems started in that third season when the Chiefs started the season 1-5 and Reid was officially on the hot seat.

Then everything changed. Kansas City finished that season on a 10-game winning streak and finished with an 11-5 record. Since that 1-5 start, the Chiefs are an unbelievable 22-4. He also led the Chiefs to their first playoff victory since 1993. His encore was finishing this season 12-4 with the Chiefs first AFC West title since 2010. The Chiefs also finished as the second seed and are contenders to make it to the Superbowl.

Hall of Famer?

Andy Reid

(Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports)

It remains to be seen how this season will play out for the Chiefs but one thing is certain- Andy Reid sure can coach. Overall in his 18 years as a head coach, he has a 173-114-1 record in the NFL.

He has made the playoffs 11 out of 18 seasons and has gone 11-11 in the playoffs. He has yet to win the Super Bowl but there are always legendary players who don’t win a Super Bowl. It doesn’t take away from their greatness.

Regardless of how his career ends, Andy Reid will be a Hall of Famer one day. The Eagles thought they needed a new voice but the fans of Philly miss having a team in the playoffs nearly every season. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and the fans who pour into Arrowhead to see the Chiefs have been given a treasure when Andy Reid become the head coach.

 

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Top 10 Snow Games

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOFnUYZrUKo)

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOFnUYZrUKo)

As a kid, snow games were rare growing up in Vegas, but in 2008 there was an amazing snow storm. It was a rare opportunity to play snow football for all who lived in the city of sin. As a football player, I had access to the game field. A bunch of the guys on the team went to the field and played the greatest football game ever.

Everyone loves to watch a snowy football game from the warmth of their couch. Fans stay covered up under blankets with hot chocolate in hand. Players start falling all over the place, face masks get covered in snow, and crazy plays and games happen. A few weeks ago, there were some really great snow games that got me thinking about the best snow games of all time. There have been hundreds of snow games in NFL history and most of them have been fun to watch. These 10 were the absolute best.

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Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 15)

There are just three weeks remaining in the NFL season and the playoff races are tight. Six teams in total have been officially eliminated, with three coming from from each conference. In the AFC it is the Jets, Jaguars and Browns. In the NFC the three teams that have been eliminated are the Rams, Bears and 49ers. If you’re a fan of one of these teams check out a mock draft here.

Only one team has officially clinched a spot and that happens to be the Dallas Cowboys. Six teams have a chance to clinch a playoff berth in week 15, but most of the scenarios require a lot and won’t list them until next week. For now the focus will be on picking the games and last week was a great week for picks. Here are Hagan’s Haus week 15 NFL picks.

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 120-84-2

Thursday Night

(https://news.sportsinteraction.com/sports/nfl-football/rams-vs-seahawks-point-spread-thursday-night-football-12516/)

(https://news.sportsinteraction.com/sports/nfl-football/rams-vs-seahawks-point-spread-thursday-night-football-12516/)

Los Angeles (4-9) 10 @ Seattle (8-4-1) 23: The Rams have finally made the right decision and fired Jeff Fisher. It only took them three years too long. Seattle is coming off of their worst loss with Russell Wilson who threw a career high five interceptions. A win by the Seahawks or a loss by the Cardinals will clinch a playoff berth for the Seahawks and with that much on the line they will win.

Sunday Morning

Miami (8-5) 23 @ New York (J) (4-9) 16: Ryan Tannehill is out for this game and the Dolphins allowed the Cardinals to come back once Tannehill went down. The Jets have looked very bad the past two weeks against the Colts and the 49ers. If Miami can run the ball and Matt Moore keeps the turnovers down they can still win this game. The Jets have given up an average of 193.5 rushing yards the past two games. The Dolphins run their way to victory.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Image)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Image)

Indianapolis (6-7) 22 @ Minnesota (7-6) 24: This is a big game for both teams as each still have a shot to win their division to make the playoffs. The Vikings offense has learned how to move the ball consistently, but can’t finish drives with touchdowns. Their defense is still stellar and can create havoc. Luck won’t have enough time to drop back in this one and the Vikings will keep their playoff hopes alive.

Green Bay (7-6) 41 @ Chicago (3-10) 24: Aaron Rodgers said the Packers would run the table and he might be right. The Bears do not have much to play for other than pride and hopes of ruining their biggest rivals chances at the playoffs. Matt Barkley has faired well so far, but the Packers are too hot and Aaron Rodgers is too good.

Jacksonville (2-11) 17 @ Houston (7-6) 27: Houston is a great team at home and Jacksonville is bad anywhere they step onto a field. Blake Bortles has regressed and he will struggle against a strong Texans defense. Lamar Miller is quietly having a great year with 1,010 yards rushing. This shouldn’t be a difficult game for the Texans, but anything is possible in a divisional matchup.

(http://www.chachaandspoons.com/2015/12/11/50-things-worse-than-being-a-browns-fan/)

(http://www.chachaandspoons.com/2015/12/11/50-things-worse-than-being-a-browns-fan/)

Cleveland (0-13) 24 @ Buffalo (6-7) 27: Keep an eye on this game. The Browns have a chance to steal this game if Buffalo doesn’t come to play. The closer the Browns get to a winless season, the harder they will be to beat. No player wants a winless season on their resume. The Bills still have an outside shot at the playoffs and should win this game.

Philadelphia (5-8) 27 @ Baltimore (7-6) 26: Philly is a decent team that will put up a fight against anyone and Baltimore looked pretty good against the Patriots. Both offenses are mediocre as the Eagles rank 19th with 22.3 points per game and the Ravens rank 21st with 21.5 points per game. All signs point to the Ravens winning this game, but usually in the NFL when that is the case the other team wins. Philly steals one on the road.

Tennessee (7-6) 13 @ Kansas City (10-3) 17: This is going to be a great defensive game. Tennessee is underrated and their defense is carrying them in their fight towards the divisional crown. Kansas City is a legit Super Bowl contender and is virtually unbeatable at Arrowhead. The Titans are good, but they are young and won’t win this difficult game on the road.

 (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Detroit (9-4) 31 @ New York (G) (9-4) 34: This could be the game of the week in the NFL. The Lions love to put on a comeback, but the Giants defense is too good to let that happen. Detroit has a tough stretch of games coming up and this will be the first. Because this game is at the Meadowlands, the Giants hold on for the win.

Pittsburgh (8-5) 23 @ Cincinnati (5-7-1) 20: For so many years this was a great rivalry game with playoff implications. The Bengals haven’t been officially eliminated, but it is only a matter of time. Pittsburgh has a one game lead over the Ravens for the division title and needs to win to stay ahead. The Steelers need it more and that will be the difference as the Bengals will put up a valiant fight.

Sunday Afternoon

New Orleans (5-8) 21 @ Arizona (5-7-1) 37: Oh when the Saints, go marching in, they get beat by the Cardinals. The Saints defense is giving up the most points per game in the NFL and the Cardinals have an explosive offense. David Johnson is going to have over 200 all-purpose yards as the Saints stink it up in the desert.

(https://www.profootballfocus.com/matt-ryan-fantasy-bounce-back/)

(https://www.profootballfocus.com/matt-ryan-fantasy-bounce-back/)

San Fransisco (1-12) 17 @ Atlanta (8-5) 41: Atlanta is catching a break playing the 49ers this week as the playoff races heat up. Atlanta’s passing attack is going to light up the scoreboard for about 40 points. San Fransisco’s offense will not be able to keep up.

New England (11-2) 22 @ Denver (8-5) 20: Tom Brady doesn’t typically play well in the Mile High City, which would typically suggest picking Denver would be the right choice. The issue is Denver’s offense won’t be able to win this game for them and Tom Brady will throw his name atop the MVP race after this game.

Oakland (10-3) 34 @ San Diego (5-8) 27: If the Raiders win, they will have officially clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2002 in which they made it to Super Bowl XXXVII. Their playoff drought is at 14 seasons and it is going to end. The Chargers aren’t good enough to win this game and Derek Carr will throw for 400 yards to finally put the Raiders into the playoffs.

Sunday Night

(Photo: Matthew Emmons)

(Photo: Matthew Emmons)

Tampa Bay (8-5) 23 @ Dallas (11-2) 27: Dallas is coming off their second loss of the season, but both have been to the Giants. The Bucs defense has gotten hot as of late and in their last five games they are only giving up 12.8 points per game. One of the issues with their defense is they are giving up 110 yards rushing per game on the year and it is well known that the Cowboys strength is running the ball. Zeke will have a big game and the Cowboys will win a dogfight.

Monday Night

Carolina (5-8) 34 @ Washington (7-5-1) 31: The Panthers looked great against the Chargers, but that doesn’t say a lot. Both teams are fighting to make the playoffs. Cam loves the spotlight and Monday night football is the time to shine. Kirk Cousins has the Redskins as the eighth highest scoring team in the NFL. Carolina can score if they have to and Monday night they will need to. NFL teams are all about the same caliber and are mostly separated by quarterback play. Cam is the better quarterback and will lead his team to a close win.

 

Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 14)

images-4There are only four weeks remaining in the regular season, which means each game matters more. There are a lot of teams in the hunt for the playoffs. In the NFC, the Cowboys seem to be a lock for the number one seed and have a three game lead on the Giants for the division. The Seahawks also have a three game lead in NFC West, and look positioned for the number two seed. As for the NFC North, the Lions look like the favorite to win it, but the Vikings and Packers are both only two games back. The NFC South is still pretty open as all four teams are separated by just three games. The two NFC Wild Card slots are owned by the Buccaneers and the Giants, but the Redskins, Vikings, Packers, Cardinals, Saints, and Eagles all have a shot.

The AFC race is just as exciting as the playoff race in the NFC. The number one seed is still very much up for grabs between the Raiders, Patriots, Chiefs, and even the Broncos. The two wildcard spots in the AFC are held by the Chiefs and Broncos, but the Dolphins, Steelers, Colts, Bills, and Titans all have legitimate chances at getting a wild card spot.

This is the most fun part of the NFL season as teams battle it out for these playoff spots. Last week was the final week for bye weeks so every team will be in action this week. Hopefully the season ends strong. Here are Hagan’s Haus week 14 NFL picks.

Last Week: 9-6

Season: 109-78-2

Thursday Night

(D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press)

(D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press)

Oakland (10-2) 27 @ Kansas City (9-3) 24: This could be the best game of the week and there are a lot of great games. If the Raiders are able to go into Kansas City, of all places, and win, then Derek Carr should be a lock for the MVP. The Chiefs got the best of the Raiders in Oakland, winning 26 to 10. The hot Raiders offense is averaging 32 points per game over their last five. The Raiders win because Derek Carr leads a late fourth quarter touchdown drive.

Sunday Morning

Minnesota (6-6) 34 @ Jacksonville (2-10) 16: This is the beginning of the playoffs for the Minnesota Vikings. If this team wants to get in the playoffs, they must run the table and finish 10-6. The schedule is favorable with none of the teams they face currently above .500. The Jaguars are just preparing for another top five draft pick. Minnesota gets the win on the road to keep their playoff hopes alive.

(http://www.steelers.com/photos/photo-gallery/PHOTOS-Steelers-vs-Bills-Game-Highlights/7a94183a-1bf9-412a-b9db-dfaca6d28d46)

(http://www.steelers.com/photos/photo-gallery/PHOTOS-Steelers-vs-Bills-Game-Highlights/7a94183a-1bf9-412a-b9db-dfaca6d28d46)

Pittsburgh (7-5) 37 @ Buffalo (6-6) 24: Pittsburgh’s defense looked great against the Giants last week. If the Steelers defense plays like this for the remainder of the season, they could be the most dangerous team in the playoffs. Buffalo seems to be stuck in mediocrity. Tyrod Taylor has regressed a bit and that will be the Bills downfall.

Denver (8-4) 23 @ Tennessee (6-6) 24: Before the season, I had the Broncos in third place in the AFC West and missing the playoffs and a lot of people laughed. Their defense is good but their offense is holding them back. They need better quarterback play to make the playoffs and that just won’t happen. The Titans have surprised many this year and are in the race to win their division. Because this game is in Tennessee, I see them stealing it. Titans win in an upset most won’t dare to pick.

Washington (6-5-1) 24 @ Philadelphia (5-7) 27: This should be an interesting game. A division rivalry in which both teams are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Redskins won the first matchup 27 to 20 in a back and forth game. This game will be as close as the first and the home team will win.

Arizona (5-6-1) 27 @ Miami (7-5) 21: The Dolphins were taken to the woodshed last week against the Ravens and it ended their six-game winning streak. They are still in the playoff race, but each game is going to be important. The Cardinals are also in the playoff race, but their chances are much more slim. Miami is a good team, but a year away. The Cardinals are going to get the upset win and keep their chances alive.

(http://www.nflsuperbowllive.net/free-san-diego-chargers-vs-live-streaming-nfl/)

(http://www.nflsuperbowllive.net/free-san-diego-chargers-vs-live-streaming-nfl/)

San Diego (5-7) 31 @ Carolina (4-8) 34: It is still astonishing the Panthers are having this bad of a season after going 15-1 and going to the Super Bowl. The fact is their defense is pretty bad this year. The Chargers are a bit better than expected, but have no shot at the playoffs; at this point they are playing for pride. The Panthers still have a shot at their division title and are at home. Cam outplays Rivers in a shootout.

Cincinnati (4-7-1) 30 @ Cleveland (0-12) 19: Last week was the first week of the season the Browns didn’t lose and it was because they were on a bye week. Cincinnati looked like last year’s Bengals team against the Eagles last week. Nobody deserves to go winless, but the Browns are going to do it. Bengals win easily to send the Browns three games away from a winless season.

Chicago (3-9) 31 @ Detroit (8-4) 30: Snow games are always exciting and the Bears looked good in it against the 49ers. Granted it was the 49ers, but Matt Barkley has looked good in his two starts. If his receivers stop dropping the football, his stats may start showing how well he has been playing. The Lions are more lucky than good and there is a chance for an upset here. The Bears have nothing to lose and would love to hurt a division opponent.

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Houston (6-6) 24 @ Indianapolis (6-6) 28: Two of the three teams tied for first in the AFC South are facing off for a chance at first place. The Texans are 1-5 on the road and their offense is incapable of scaring anyone, even a Colts defense giving up 25.9 points per game. The Colts offensive line played great against the Jets. With that momentum, the Colts take the lead in the AFC North.

Sunday Afternoon

New York (J) (3-8) 19 @ San Fransisco (1-11) 17: The 49ers versus the Bears was predicted to be a snooze fest, but this game may be even worse. The Jets flat out quit against the Colts and the 49ers have lost 11 straight with no end in sight. It is really hard to pick who is going to win this game. After the Jets got embarrassed on national television, they will bounce back and get a win.

(http://www.ratpacksports.com/single-post/2015/09/23/The-Post-Game-Review-Bucs-vs-Saints)

(http://www.ratpacksports.com/single-post/2015/09/23/The-Post-Game-Review-Bucs-vs-Saints)

New Orleans (5-7) 27 @ Tampa Bay (7-5) 28: There seems to be plenty of divisional matchups this week, which means important football games. This is a huge game for the Bucs and their playoff hopes. The Saints had a chance to take a step towards the divisional race, but dropped the ball against the Lions. The Bucs are at home and Jameis Winston will shine at home and push the Bucs closer to a division title.

Atlanta (7-5) 36 @ Los Angeles (4-8) 22: For weeks I have been saying the Falcons would falter at some point in the season and miss the playoffs. That time is coming, but it won’t come this week. The Rams offense is incapable of keeping up with the high-powered Falcons air attack. Matt Ryan has a big game to keep the hope alive for another week.

Seattle (8-3-1) 34 @ Green Bay (6-6) 27: Aaron Rodgers said he thinks the Packers could run the table and since then they have a two-game win streak. It is definitely possible when you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. The problem is the Seahawks are on their mission and destroying anyone in their path. Seahawks will continue the push towards the Super Bowl and send Aaron Rodgers and the Packers a loss closer to the offseason.

Sunday Night

(http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/myers-giants-early-test-open-cowboys-article-1.2349892)

(http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/myers-giants-early-test-open-cowboys-article-1.2349892)

Dallas (11-1) 24 @ New York (G) (8-4) 27: New York got caught looking forward to this game and dropped one to the Steelers. The Cowboys only have one loss on the season and it is to these Giants. The Giants matchup well against the Cowboys. The Giants receiving corp will give the Cowboys defensive backs fits and it will be the difference in the game. Also, the Giants defense will rise to the occasion and slow down a tough Cowboys offense.

Monday Night

(http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bs-sp-ravens-patriots-0106-20150105-story.html)

(http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bs-sp-ravens-patriots-0106-20150105-story.html)

Baltimore (7-5) 31 @ New England (10-2) 34: Monday Night Football was a snoozer last week, but this week it gets a major upgrade. The Ravens are fighting with the Steelers for the AFC North crown. Baltimore has been impressive this season, and by most accounts, have overachieved. Bill Belichick has the Patriots doing the usual and fighting for home-field advantage. Baltimore also has a great defense, but it won’t be enough to slow down the great Tom Brady.

Reviewing The Roller Coaster 2001 NFL Season

15 years ago, the NFL was a very different kind of league than it is today. Instant replay was low quality. You could hit with your head and not get flagged. You could touch the quarterback in the head and not be penalized for a personal foul. But, on top of all the rule changes, there were some very interesting, dramatic stories that took place in 2001.

The 2001 season started off in somber fashion with the death of Vikings tackle, Korey Stringer. A former 1st round draft pick, Stringer passed away from complications to a heat stroke he suffered in practice on August 1st, 2001. It was a 91 degree day in Minnesota and Stringer’s temperature was over 108 degrees. On this day, Stringer just collapsed on the practice field. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Related image

Korey Stringer during his final practice on August 1st, 2001.

Korey Stringer’s death brought a lot of attention to the vital importance of hydration.  Practices were required to have more frequent water breaks so that nothing so tragic (and preventable) would ever happen again. Water at practices should have always been a top priority. If the players are pushed too hard and don’t take several water breaks, Korey Stringer’s story might have very well repeated. But, as history will show us, sometimes it takes a travesty to improve the status quo. Indoor practice facilities are much more common today too, which avoid the sun completely.

Stringer was 27 years old with a wife and a three-year old son at the time of his passing.

The season went from bad to worse when the September 11th terrorist attacks shocked the nation.  NFL players appeared just as distraught as everyone else, expressing their desire to be with family and loved ones. Players and fans alike came together in a way that the league has never seen. It didn’t matter where you were from or what team you cheered for, if you were an American citizen, you stood in silence with those around you to honor those lost on 9/11.  The league rescheduled the week two games to be played after week 17.

Then, there’s the Tom Brady story that we’re all at least a little familiar with.  Drew Bledsoe just signed a monster ten-year deal with the New England Patriots. Unfortunately for him, he also suffered a monster injury against the Jets in week two.  You know the rest, but I’ll summarize it anyway. Tom Brady came in after the Patriots 0-2 start and lead his team to an 11-5 record, including a 6-0 finish. And of course, they were Super Bowl champions, defeating the Rams 20-17 with a clutch field goal from Adam Vinatieri on the final play of the game.

Image result for tom brady drew bledsoe 2001

Photo from boston.com.

Bledsoe did the right thing opting out of the Patriots franchise. He was too talented to be a backup.

The 2001 season was the catalyst for the Patriots 2000s dynasty lead by Belichick and Brady.

Speaking of the Rams, however, how can we overlook the Greatest Show on Turf?  Don’t some of us miss the days when the NFL was more lenient on celebrations and teams coming up with their own nicknames? The Rams went 14-2 in 2001, riding the arm of a young Kurt Warner, the legs of the versatile Marshall Faulk and the hands of Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Ricky Proehl and Az-Zahir Hakim.

Perhaps the most overlooked statistic is the fact that the Redskins became the first team to start a season 0-5 then go 5-0.  The Redskins had the worst start of any team in over 50 years, being outscored in their first five games, 32-144. The team would finish 8-8 in Marty Schottenheimer’s only season coaching in Washington.

Let’s not forget that 2001 was also the last year where each conference had only three divisions, each one composed of five teams. There was just an East, Central, and West divison.  No North and South yet. The Houston Texans would arrive on the scene a year later, splitting the conferences into the four divisions that they are today.

Lastly, remember Doug Flutie?  He was starting for the Chargers in 2001. He was taking over for the disastrous Ryan Leaf and actually on the roster with rookie Drew Brees.

Image result for doug flutie drew brees

Photo from gettyimages.

Was there anything Flutie couldn’t do? At just 5’9”, Flutie played for the Bears and Patriots in the 1980s, then returned in 1998 to play pretty well for the Bills.  But it’s so frequently forgotten that Flutie started all 16 games in 2001, his only season to do so, under coach Norv Turner and with rookie LaDainian Tomlinson.

There’s a lot to acknowledge and learn from the 2001 season.  That year featured so many stark news stories, both for the NFL and for our country.

Hagan’s Haus NFL Picks (Week 13)

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week! Picking games didn’t go so smoothly, but eating Thanksgiving Dinner sure did. As cold weather starts to cool down the country, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Week 12 shook up some of the standings. There are a lot of top headlines from the week as well. The Cowboys are the best team in the NFL and show no signs of slowing down. The Titans have a legitimate shot at winning their division. Atlanta has developed a pass rush and might have finally figured out how to finish a game and a season. Cleveland is still winless, and the AFC West is the best division in football.

unknownPlenty happened last week and this week could be just as fun. This will finally be the last week with teams on a bye and those two teams are Cleveland and Tennessee. Starting next week everyone will have played the same amount of games and the playoff picture will become more clear. The regular season is nearing its end so it is time to get this win total up. Here are Hagan’s Haus NFL picks for week 13.

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 100-72-2

Thursday Night

(http://wallpapersdsc.net/sports/dez-bryant-776.html)

(http://wallpapersdsc.net/sports/dez-bryant-776.html)

Dallas (10-1) 23 @ Minnesota (6-5) 21: Dallas is clearly the best team in the NFL, which is why this is a trap game. The Vikings defense is not going to let the Cowboys run down their throat. Many times teams are upset on these Thursday night games, especially when going on the road. Minnesota is a desperate team and desperate teams are dangerous. Although this is a trap game, the Cowboys will just barely pull off the road win.

Sunday Morning

Kansas City (8-3) 26 @ Atlanta (7-4) 24: The Falcons better hope the Bucs lose because the Falcons are heading towards a loss with the Chiefs coming to town. The Chiefs are a good team with a great defense. The offense just needs to put up some points and take care of the football. Atlanta is a good team and they have finally found a pass rush, but the Chiefs are just better.

(US Presswire)

(US Presswire)

Detroit (7-4) 38 @ New Orleans (5-6) 41: The Saints defense has trouble stopping a nosebleed let alone a defense. Their offense can score on anyone. Last season the Lions went into New Orleans and won 35-27. The Saints can’t let the Lions win another one in the Superdome, especially when the Saints need to win out to make the playoffs. Drew Brees outplays Matthew Stafford in a shootout.

Los Angeles (4-7) 21 @ New England (9-2) 37: Since the Browns have the week off, NFL fans need someone to feel bad for this week. Everyone needs to feel bad for Jared Goff because Bill Belichick always gets the best of rookie quarterbacks. The Rams defense gets pressure, but Tom Brady will get the ball out too fast for the Rams defense. Tom Brady and the Patriots will continue to roll towards the playoffs.

Denver (7-4) 31 @ Jacksonville (2-9) 17: Denver is coming off a heartbreaking loss. They blew an eight-point lead and lost on a field goal in overtime that bounced off the post and somehow went in. The Jaguars are looking to solidify yet another top-five pick. This game will be competitive for a while, but eventually the Broncos pull away.

(Credit: Rick Wood)

(Credit: Rick Wood)

Houston (6-5) 14 @ Green Bay (5-6) 27: All season I’ve been saying the Packers would eventually find their mojo. Last week I conceded that this may be the year in which they don’t find that mojo. Then what do the Packers go out and do? Play one of their best games of the year and get right back into the thick of the playoff race. Houston is pathetic on the road and the Packers are about to get hot. Green Bay wins this one easily.

Philadelphia (5-6) 24 @ Cincinnati (3-7-1) 17: Cincinnati is bad and it is time for the Bengals to fire Marvin Lewis. A new voice is needed. Philly is still a decent football team that is young and still learning. The Eagles defense ranks fifth in points given up and the Bengals offense ranks 27th in points scored. The Bengals won’t score enough to win this game.

Miami (7-4) 24 @ Baltimore (6-5) 21: The Dolphins are the hottest team in the AFC and have a six-game win streak. Ryan Tannehill is getting no credit for how well he has played. He has seven touchdowns to just one interception during the win streak. All year I have been saying the Ravens are a .500 team and they won’t make the playoffs. They will lose this week to get to .500 and they will slowly fall behind the Steelers in the division. Miami needs a big win to stay in the wild card race and they will get it to win their seventh straight game.

San Fransisco (1-10) 32 @ Chicago (2-9) 31: There may be about 20 total people watching this game, but it is an important game. The loser of this game will be in prime position for the second overall pick in the draft. This is a game that neither team should want to win to solidify that draft pick. It is hard to pick a game in which two horrible teams are playing. Because of a flip of a coin, the 49ers end their 10-game losing streak and get a win in the Windy City.

Sunday Afternoon

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/12514/lesean-mccoy)

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/12514/lesean-mccoy)

Buffalo (6-5) 34 @ Oakland (9-2) 31: The Raiders look poised for a run at the Lombardi Trophy, but the injury to Derek Carr’s finger on his throwing hand will halt their progress a bit. The Bills are hard to figure out, but their offense is exciting. LeSean McCoy had a huge game last week. The Raiders have the seventh worst rush defense in the NFL and that will be their demise this week.

New York (G) (8-3) 34 @ Pittsburgh (6-5) 36: This is the best game of the week. Eli Manning and the Giants are playing great football at this point of the season and have a six game winning streak. Pittsburgh is fighting to win their division. This game could be an aerial display as the Steelers rank eighth in passing yards (263.9 yards per game) and the Giants rank 12th (256.5 yards per game). This game will be a dogfight and Big Ben will make one more big play to Antonio Brown than Eli will make to Odell Beckham.

Washington (6-4-1) 21 @ Arizona (4-6-1) 24: The Redskins have an impressive offense. Washington is second in passing yards (314.8), 11th in rushing yards (111.5), and ninth in points (25.5). The Cardinals are giving up the least amount of yards in the NFL (294). The Cardinals need Carson Palmer to take care of the football. This will be an upset and the Cardinals will get one game away from .500.

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay (6-5) 27 @ San Diego (5-6) 24: The Bucs still have a chance to win the division, but they seem to lose games they are expected to win and win games they are expected to lose. If the Bucs are serious about winning the division and making the playoffs, they have to beat the Chargers. The Bucs are going to do what they need to and put pressure on the Falcons.

 

Sunday Night

(http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nfl/carolina-panthers/article40474167.html)

(http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nfl/carolina-panthers/article40474167.html)

Carolina (4-7) 20 @ Seattle (7-3-1) 24: The Panthers are struggling this year and it is hard to figure out why.  Seattle took a shocking loss on the road to the Buccaneers. The Seahawks have a good record, but they will not get to the Super Bowl if they continue to struggle along the offensive line. The Seahawks are still playing the best defense in the NFL by leading the league in points given up per game(17 points per game). Their defense will get to Cam and hit him hard to send Carolina to a surprising 4-8.

 

Monday Night

Indianapolis (5-6) 24 @ New York (J) (3-8) 27: The Colts versus the Jets may be the worst Monday night game of the year. The Jets have nothing to play for but pride. Indianapolis is still fighting for a chance to win the division. The Colts have the fifth-worst scoring defense in the NFL and have trouble stopping anybody. It is hard to pick a team to win this game, but the Jets are at home which is why they will win.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Week Twelve NFL Picks Against the Spread

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

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

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

photo from nfl.com

photo from nfl.com

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

Sunday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

photo from dolphinswire.usatoday.com

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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