Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

We continue our fantasy football bold predictions. This time we breakdown the AFC East. And don’t worry, it’s not all about the Patriots.

Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor Is Not a QB2

Tyrod Taylor enters as the 18th fantasy quarterback.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Tyrod Taylor (Photo by: espn.com)

Taylor surprised a lot of people coming back to Buffalo this season. More surprising is that Buffalo traded away their top receiver Sammy Watkins and acquired Jordan Matthews in a separate deal.

Taylor finished 2016 as the No. 18 fantasy quarterback. However, he did score at least 20 fantasy points in standard leagues in seven of 15 starts. He also had at least 17 fantasy points in three other games, so he only really struggled for five games on the year. But that’s 2016.

In 2017, his two receivers are Matthews and Zay Jones. Not the best tandem let alone they are new to Buffalo.

So far this preseason Taylor has struggled in the new offense. He had a two-interception outing in Buffalo’s preseason loss to the Eagles on Thursday.

A report from Joe Buscaglia of ABC 7 Buffalo stated that there was concern about who will start at quarterback in week 1. Head coach Sean McDermott said they will go with Taylor as the starter. That alone causes concern on how ready Taylor is.

He has success without Watkins but he’s relying on a rookie and a new receiver to the offense to act as his main targets. It’s risky to even draft Taylor. I also predict that Taylor will not finish the season as the starter.

Miami Dolphins: Julius Thomas will have double digit touchdowns

Julius Thomas was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Miami Dolphins this offseason. He currently ranks as the 18th tight end in fantasy.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Julius Thomas (Photo by: miamidolphins.com)

In a previous article, he is my tight end fantasy sleeper and I still believe that. His time in Jacksonville was dreadful but in Miami he rejoins Adam Gase from his playing days in Denver.

He only had nine total touchdowns with Jacksonville in two seasons. His big break in 2013, he had 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns. Even though his quarterback was some guy named Peyton Manning in Denver, Thomas excelled in Gase’s offense.

He was very efficent in the red zone. In 2013 from inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line. The year after, he was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine from the 20-yard line. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

Gase has had success helping his tight ends after Thomas. Even though he won’t have Ryan Tannehill, he will have Jay Cutler throwing the ball.

In 2015 when Gase coached Cutler in Chicago, tight end Zach Miller led the team with five touchdowns. With a better supporting cast, Thomas should be the top option in the red zone and should improve from the days in Jacksonville.

New England Patriots: Mike Gillislee becomes the next LeGarrette Blount

The Patriots signed Gillislee, a restricted free agent from the Buffalo Bills, after a season of 101 carries for 577 yards and eight touchdowns.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Mike Gillislee (Photo by: profootballweekly.com)

The Patriots are known to like their workhorse backs. Gillislee averaged more yards per carry (4.2) than LeGarrette Blount (3.3) against eight or more defenders in the box last season.

Gillislee now takes over as the starting back, a role that produced 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 from Blount. He produced nine total touchdowns as the backup to LeSean McCoy in Buffalo last year and being in the top offense in the NFL should only help him.

Now the Patriots do have a lot of running backs with Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis. New England backs can see a hefty market share in the offense. But that didn’t stop the starters for having good seasons.

Last year, Blount carried 62.03 percent of New England’s touches, good for the ninth-highest share in football. He saw a similar per-game rate in 2015 (he missed four games, but paced towards a 57 percent market share), and in 2012, Stevan Ridley ended the year with a 55.45 percent rushing attempt market share for the Pats. 

It’s not unreasonable to think Gillislee, who has a skillset that’s broader than Blount’s and has shown a ton of upside. He is currently the 24th running back in fantasy.

New York Jets: Bilal Powell will be a top-15 running back

Despite opening last season as the No. 2 running back for the Jets behind Matt Forte, Bilal Powell might have been the best running back in New York in 2016.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Bilal Powell (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

He finished as the No. 23 fantasy running back in standard leagues, which was just three spots behind Forte. He had 131 carries for 722 yards (5.51 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, and 58 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

Powell had career highs in rushing yards, yards per carry and receptions. He outperformed 31-year-old Forte, producing almost as many plays better than 15 yards (14) as Forte (16) despite 59 fewer touches. Powell had a higher average of yards per carry after contact and more missed tackles.

In his final seven games, Powell had at least 14 fantasy points in standard leagues in four of those outings. Powell becomes dual-threat running back this year as he will be a top target in the passing game with Quincy Enunwa out for the season.

Only David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and White garnered more targets in the passing game for running backs last season. The offense isn’t great, but Powell could get around 250 touches next season if he stays healthy.

He’s going to get his share of touches and he’s a solid No. 3 fantasy running back to target with a mid- to late-round pick, with his value higher in PPR.

 

Featured image from thesportsquotient.com.

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Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews fantasy value following trade

The Buffalo Bills had a busy Friday after trading their star wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E.J. Gaines and picks. They quickly found their replacement, trading for receiver Jordan Matthews from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby. After these trades, how will Watkins and Matthews fantasy values change with their new teams?

Sammy Watkins to the Rams

The Rams finally get their No.1 wide receiver they have been searching for. While this trade helps the Rams in getting a top target, it may not help Watkins’ fantasy value.

Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews Fantasy Value After Trade

Sammy Watkins (Photo by: billswire.usatoday.com)

He goes from catching passes from Tyrod Taylor, an excellent deep-ball thrower, to catching passes from Jared Goff.

While Goff was a rookie last year, he really struggled in the seven games he played. Last year, he completed a miserable 54.5 percent of his passes, had a 5-to-7 TD/INT ratio and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. Now he is learning a new offense under Sean McVay.

But for fantasy players, they can’t ignore the talent that Watkins has. He has per-16 game averages of 66 receptions, 1,063 yards and seven touchdowns. He can create separation in the middle of the field, but he’s also a truly dangerous deep threat, as evidenced by his career average of 16.1 yards per catch.

Watkins has true talent, but his career has been plagued with injuries. Watkins has missed 11 games over his last two seasons including eight in 2016 because of a foot injury that required multiple surgeries. But this year he is finally healthy.

As mentioned before, he will be the clear first option for the Rams and for that he won’t drop to far in drafts because of his role. But when you combine his injury concerns, with the fact that he’ll be playing with an inexperienced starting quarterback along with a new offense, there is major risk mixed in with that upside.

Watkins becomes a high-end WR3 around the fourth or fifth round rather than a mid-range WR2 in Buffalo.

Jordan Matthews to the Bills

After trading Watkins, the Bills found their replacement in Jordan Matthews from Philadelphia. Matthews would’ve been the second to third option in the slot in Philadelphia, but here in Buffalo he will line up both in slot and the outside as the new No. 1 receiver. This trade should increase his fantasy value.

As mentioned in Philly, he would have seen a decrease in targets. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were both brought in during the offseason, Zach Ertz is a steady target at tight end, Nelson Agholor is still hanging on a thread and rookie Mack Hollins looks like a legitimate talent.

Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews Fantasy Value After Trade

Jordan Matthews (Photo by: phillysportsnetwork.com)

Even though Buffalo isn’t a pass-heavy offense, Matthews should find increased targets. He will be lining up with veteran Anquan Boldin and rookie Zay Jones who are both slot receivers.

From 2014-16, these are the percentages of routes from the slot: Jones at 68.1 percent at East Carolina, Boldin at 70.4 percent and Matthews at 84.5 percent. Matthews will have a great opportunity to get the ball from Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is an emerging talent at quarterback totaling 37 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 7.4 yards per attempt over the last two years.

One problem that comes with any trade is how quick he can learn the offense. Like Watkins with the Rams, Matthews is in a new offense and where will he be lined up in the offense. I think he will be all over, especially with the receivers they have in Buffalo.

There is a lot of potential for Matthews. He is an interesting sleeper that will be taken around the eighth or ninth round. He will have a better situation from a fantasy perspective.

Who will do better in 2017?

Watkins is a young talent who was taken with the fourth pick back in 2014. Matthews is entering the prime of his career. With a better situation, Matthews will have the better fantasy season.

Watkins will have his moments, but an inexperienced quarterback and a very new offense for the young quarterback will cause problems. Where Watkins has thrived is catching passes over 20-yards. Goff isn’t known as a terrific deep-ball thrower. Goff completed 8/23 passes which traveled 15+ in the air last season, out of 205 attempts.

Matthews has the same issue with a new offense, but has an established quarterback with experience. This is a player who has per-16 game averages of 78 receptions, 930 yards and seven touchdowns through three seasons. Matthews has had at least 800 receiving yards in all three seasons, and he scored eight touchdowns in his first two campaigns and I expect him now to repeat this in Buffalo.

 

Featured image from wday.com

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week one DFS

Three ideal week one DFS quarterbacks

If you’re like me, you’ve been counting down the days until week one of the NFL season since championship Sunday. Now, with the NFL preseason looming, it’s never too early to look ahead and start planning. In order to finish in the money, you can’t whiff on your quarterback selection. So without further adieu, here are three quarterbacks to build your week one DFS lineup around.

Matt Ryan Average 2016 Salary: $8,268

Week one DFS has some interesting matchups. If you’re looking for a tier-one quarterback to roster, it can’t be Tom Brady, since he plays on Thursday night. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees play tough defenses in Seattle and Minnesota. And finally, Andrew Luck and Derek Carr will be returning from major injuries. These factors make the 2016 NFL MVP, Matt Ryan, the ideal tier-one quarterback.

NFL week one DFS quarterbacks

Matt Ryan has a history of delivering for week one DFS players (Photo by usatoday.com).

Ryan has a history of producing on opening day. According to Rotoguru, Ryan has scored at least 18 points in every week one game including three 20-point and two 30-point performances since 2012. While none of these have come versus Chicago, his week one opponent, they show Ryan’s ability to deliver on day one.

Yes, I’m aware Ryan will have new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who’s never called a play in the NFL. However, weapons like Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will more than compensate for Sark’s lack of experience.

Ryan’s past aside, the Bears don’t look like a top 10 defense. Their status as a top seven pass defense last year had more to do with their inability to stop the run, as they finished 27th in rushing yards allowed.

According to NFL.com, Ryan is set to average just under 18 points per game. It makes sense. The 2015 NFL MVP, Cam Newton, regressed to the mean this past season. Ryan will not have such a dramatic drop off, but it is likely he will not produce at the same MVP caliber level.

Matt Ryan will be the premiere tier-one quarterback given his health and his match up compared to players like Rodgers, Brees, Luck and Carr for week one.

Jameis Winston Average 2016 salary: $7,606

Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers have quietly assembled one of the most complete teams in the NFC. While they are not without flaws, they have the ability to quickly move up a division notorious for parity at the top spot. To compete with Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton, Winston will have to increase his production while maintaining his growing efficiency.

NFL week one DFS quarterbacks

Jameis Winston (left) and Mike Evans (right) look to ascend to the top of the NFC South in 2017 (Photo by lockerdome.com).

In 2016, Winston experienced an increase in the following categories: attempts, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and passer rating. Most of these increases were marginal, but Winston ascended above the critical 60 percent completion threshold.

Previous number one quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Matt Stafford all had breakout performances in their third season as a starter. Specifically, they all saw increases in touchdowns, completion percentage, and QBR, including some career highs in those areas.

Another great reason to roster Winston for week one DFS are the weapons at his disposal. Mike Evans has established himself as a premiere receiver, in fantasy as well as reality. The Buccaneers additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard only make this offense more explosive in the passing game.

While I don’t see Howard overtaking Cameron Brate, he will absolutely play a role in their red zone offense as another big target for Winston.

Winston also provides a low floor, high ceiling option in his tier-two price range. He’ll likely fall into the $7,400-$7,800 price range for week one, which is completely fair. Hopefully, the oddsmakers at DraftKings and FanDuel set his price at the lower end of the range in his week one DFS match up against the Dolphins.

Tyrod Taylor – Average 2016 Salary: $7,481

In all honesty, I don’t think I rostered Tyrod Taylor more than two or three times last season. Sometimes that worked out well, and other times it didn’t. In 2017, I plan to capitalize on Taylor, especially in week one. Taylor and the Bills will be hosting the bumbling, incompetent New York Jets. While Taylor’s sample size vs New York is small, it’s also promising.

NFL week one DFS quarterbacks

According to Scout Fantasy, Tyrod Taylor has been successful in his limited opportunities against the Jets (Photo by fftoolbox.scout.com).

While Taylor can be inconsistent in season-long leagues, he has performances that merit selection in DFS. In particular, his week one match up against the Jets. Multiple media outlets have claimed the Jets are in full on rebuild mode in hopes to acquire a top quarterback prospect. Given this information, it’s likely that Taylor, along with LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, will face minimal resistance come Sunday, Sep. 10.

Apart from his matchup and ability to run the ball, I love Taylor’s price tag. It’s likely his week one DFS price will be inflated. However, it is safe to say he won’t cost more than $7,600. Taylor was most expensive in week six of 2016 with a price of $7,800 against the 49ers. So, against a historically bad defense, Taylor didn’t even scratch the $8,000 range. It is likely he will be priced in the $7,300-$7,600 range, which will allow you great flexibility at other spots of your lineup.

 

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Quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 32-21

In the NFL today, quarterbacks are easily the most important position on the field. With an elite quarterback, winning comes easily (just look at the Patriots). But in fantasy, the demand for the position just isn’t what it used to be. Today, we’ll take a look at my 2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings, starting with numbers 32-21.

These quarterback rankings are unlike the others you’ll find. They are based on a variety of things: athletic ability, arm accuracy, arm strength, strength of receivers and strength of offensive line.

Here’s the start to my early quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season.

32. Josh McCown (New York Jets)

What happened to the Josh McCown we saw four years ago? In 2013, McCown threw for 13 touchdowns and one interception with the Chicago Bears. Do I think that he still has the ability to put up decent numbers in the NFL? Yes, just not with the broken, receiver-less Jets.

31. Cody Kessler (Cleveland Browns)

I have hope for Cody Kessler or any starting quarterback for the Browns, as they have an improved offensive line and still have some decent weapons on the team. Kessler showed signs of improvement and potential last year, but doesn’t have enough experience to be higher on this list. Plus four fumbles in nine games. I’ll take my chances with a different quarterback in fantasy this year.

30. Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams)

I still believe that Jared Goff has the potential to be something great in the NFL, but is this year his year? I’m gonna have to say no. In an offense centered around young stud Todd Gurley, with minimal receiving help, Goff is just waiting for his time to come. I’m gonna say pass on Goff this year but keep him on your radar for the future.

29. Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)

2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings

(Photo: USA Today)

I was big on Blake Bortles last year, but clearly things didn’t pan out. I know this is pretty low for a guy that finished in the top five for fantasy quarterbacks just two years ago, but I don’t believe what the Jaguars did this offseason is going to help Bortles. They brought in Leonard Fournette which makes me think they’re ready to go run-heavy, especially in the red zone. Be cautious with Bortles this year.

28. Brian Hoyer (San Francisco 49ers)

I like Brian Hoyer this year, just in fantasy football. Under Kyle Shanahan, I actually think Hoyer can make some noise in this league, as he’s got some big targets like Vance McDonald and Pierre Garcon. I just don’t believe that a quarterback leading a team to probably around four wins can do well in fantasy.

27. Mike Glennon (Chicago Bears)

The Bears were a little risky giving Glennon this much money after only a few career starts. With some nice weapons at his disposal, like Jordan Howard, Victor Cruz and Kevin White, I’d suggest keeping Glennon on your radar and picking him up on a top tier quarterback’s bye week depending on the matchup.

26. Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos)

If I had one word to describe Trevor Siemian, it would probably be mediocre. He’s an average quarterback who will throw for 250 yards, a touchdown and a pick per game, letting the dirty Broncos defense do their work. Draft another quarterback, but consider Siemian on bye weeks due to his copious amounts of targets.

25. Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)

I don’t really understand the big hype around Tyrod Taylor this year. How will Taylor succeed so well in a run-first system? Coming off his huge year, Lesean McCoy will continue to get a majority of the touches while in the red zone the Bills will use their newly signed fullbacks. I see Tyrod Taylor being nothing special again this year, so keep him off your team.

24. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)

2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings

(Photo: cincinnativseveryone.com)

Alright, I’ll be the first to say it: Carson Palmer is no longer a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. Going into this season with arguably the best running back in the NFL, Bruce Arians will probably focus on the running game this year. To make a long story short, stay away from Carson Palmer.

23. Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

I really want to put Watson higher on this list but how can I do that when he has never thrown an NFL pass? With weapons like Lamar Miller, Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller IV, Watson is in the perfect position to succeed. Stash Watson on your team and wait for him to breakout midway through the season.

22. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)

I believe Andy Dalton is a good quarterback in the NFL and can be great. This year won’t be his year though. He has two huge targets in A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but his offensive line took a hit this offseason. Losing two starters is hard to replace and I believe Dalton will feel the pressure this season and it will affect his numbers in a negative way.

21. Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)

Smith is the go to guy if your quarterback is on his bye week and you want to know you’ll get at least 12 points out of your fill-in. He’s not flashy and he doesn’t make big plays, but he’s safe with the ball and he makes the right decisions. If you want to wait to pick a quarterback late in your draft, Alex Smith is your guy.

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Buffalo Bills 2017 NFL Draft Profile

On the 10th day of Draftmas The Game Haus gave to me, a Buffalo Bills Draft Profile!

Summary

Buffalo is an interesting team for many reasons. They went 7-9 last year and ended the year going 1-4 in their last five games. While 6-5 was not a great record it was at least in contention for a Wild Card spot.

They are a team that cannot seem to make that final push. After all of the hope of signing Rex Ryan he was ultimately let go. They have brought in Sean McDermott, one of the many new youth movement coaches as a change of pace. He had done wonders with the Panthers defense and they feel he can only help their stout unit as well.

The Bills surprised everyone by bringing back Tyrod Taylor. He has been a very controversial quarterback for Buffalo. He has been a very mediocre quarterback at best during his time in Buffalo. There are times where he can spark the team and then a drive will stall and he loses his rhythm. If he can play more consistently this Bills team will be much better.

Unfortunately they lost some pieces on offense and could only sign Corey Brown. Even after losing Stephon Gilmore the defensive unit is expected to be tough as ever. A healthy Reggie Ragland should plug the hole left by the most likely departure of possibly last years biggest surprise in Zach Brown.

Lastly their biggest addition this offseason has arguably been Steven Hauschka. A very consistent kicker and probably one of the best in the NFL but, not necessarily someone who signifies the Bills are heading in the right direction.

Picks and Needs

Buffalo has 6 picks in this years draft. Having their first 3 rounds of picks will be crucial for them as they try to get pieces they need to fight for a playoff spot.

First round: (1) No. 10

Second round: (1) No. 44

Third round: (1) No. 75

Fourth round: (0)

Fifth round: (2) No. 156, No. 171

Sixth round: (1) No. 195

Seventh round: (0)

I expect they will be used to try to find players who will get a lot of minutes and their last 3 will be more for depth. Because they were so close last year I expect them to try and get their offense sorted out. Is Tyrod Taylor really the answer at Quarterback? Are they really willing to go with Cardale Jones? Personally I say no to both but, I think Tyrod is their only real option as I am not a huge fan of any of these quarterbacks in the draft.

If they can find players who can give them high minutes in the first 3 rounds then you can expect this to be considered a very successful draft.

Offensive Needs:

Quarterback

Wide Receiver

Right Tackle

Defensive Needs:

Inside Linebacker

Free Safety

Cornerback

Targets and Thoughts

I will pick who I think is best for the team just as I did in my other draft profile. There will be no trades and I will be looking at just the first three rounds.

First Round:

Courtesy of: USA Today

Pick #10: Mike Williams WR, Clemson 

Could this pick be any more perfect? Sammy Watkins leaves Clemson and Williams takes over and does phenomenally. As teammates they could be some of the biggest and most dynamic wideout cores in the league.

Second Round:

Pick #44: Jalen ‘Teez’ Tabor CB, Florida

With Gilmore leaving this is an obvious area of concern for the Bills. He is a little undersized but makes up for it with his athleticism. Teez should be able to hold down the second corner back spot across from Ronald Darby well.

Third Round:

Pick #75: Marcus Williams FS, Utah

Free Safety is an area that could be improved upon. Williams is a play-maker and in a defense that is already solid having that extra ball-hawking safety can make a huge difference. I like Williams to go around here if not earlier.

Conclusion

If Taylor can be the Quarterback the Bills believe in then this team has playoff potential written all over. Adding Williams just gives him another great option next to Watkins. Adding Teez and Williams will solidify a secondary on an already extremely scary defense.

Thank you for joining us on our tenth day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the New Orleans Saints!

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

Draftmas Day 1: Carolina Panthers

Draftmas Day 2: Cincinnati Bengals

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Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo needs stability to end their longtime playoff drought. 1999. What is the significance of 1999? It was the last year the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs. 17 NFL seasons have passed without the Bills having a chance at the Lombardi Trophy. The Bills were one of the greatest teams in the 90’s. From 1990 to 1999 the Bills made the playoffs eight out of 10 seasons.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: nfl.com)

They also appeared in four straight Super Bowls and even though they didn’t win any, it is a phenomenal accomplishment. Since the new century started, there hasn’t been much to cheer for. The franchise went from glory and one of the most successful, to a team who could be in the same category as the Jaguars, Browns or Lions.

Since their last playoff appearance in 1999, the Bills have had eight head coaches in 17 seasons. On average that is a new head coach every 2.1 years. Stability is on of the biggest keys to success. The proof is in the pudding. Look at the most successful franchise in the NFL.

New England has had Bill Belichick for 16 seasons. Green Bay has had Mike McCarthy 11 seasons. Pittsburgh has had three coaches in the last 50 years. All three of these examples are teams with a shot every year to win the Super Bowl. All three of these franchise have also won a Super Bowl in this time. This proves that stability and longevity mean success. The Bills are giving up too easily on their coaching hires.

Coaching Roulette

Wade Phillips was the head coach the last time the Bills made the playoffs. He lasted three seasons but made the playoffs in his first two years with the team. Phillips was fired after a subpar 8-8 season in 2000. Rumors say he was fired for failing to dismiss his special team’s coordinator.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: buffalobills,com)

Then came the Gregg Williams era and that lasted only three seasons. Williams went 17-31 in his time as the head coach. Three years is considered enough time to turn a franchise around, but this is where the Bills became impatient because at this point they have gone four straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Gregg Williams eventually went on to win a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator for the Saints. There was controversy about his coaching and was suspended from the NFL for his role in bounty gate.

The Bills brought in Mike Mularkey for the 2004 season. Mularkey would only last two seasons going 9-7 in his first season and 5-11 in his second season. Yes, he had a less successful second season, but two years is not enough time to evaluate a coach’s ability to improve a franchise. Mularkey is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans where he went 2-7 as the interim coach but followed it up with a 9-7 season this past year. The future in Tennessee looks bright with Mularkey at the helm and had the Bills rode it out they might have become a playoff team by now.

So after a two-year experiment with Mularkey, the Bills hired Dick Jauron. Jauron was the coach they were the most patient with but still could have tried him out a little longer. Dick Jauron finished three consecutive seasons with a 7-9 record. In his fourth season, he started 3-6 and was fired midseason. Interim coach Perry Fewell went 3-4 but was not hired to replace Jauron.

Chan Gailey was hired as the Bills coach in 2010 and he also got a three-year trial period. He went 16-32 in those three years. Now after allowing two coaches to have three years to prove they could do the job the Bills went back to a two-year window. At this point, it had been 13 seasons without a playoff appearance.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://giphy.com/search/rex-ryan)

In 2013 the Bills took a chance on Doug Marrone who went 6-10 in his first season. He followed that 6-10 season with a nine-win season. He had shown signs of improvement from year one to year two and there was a chance that he would lead the Bills to the playoffs in his third year. Marrone unexpectedly opted out of his contract and left Buffalo.

This time the Bills were searching for a new head coach after one left them before they cut him loose. That coach was none other than Rex Ryan. Rex didn’t even get to coach the end of his second season and was fired after compiling a 15-16 record with the team. Impatient management means failure and the struggling Bills franchise will need to give their new head coach, Sean McDermott, at least four years to build the team. They need a coach who can create stability within the franchise. If they cut him loose early Buffalo will continue to miss the playoffs and the drought will continue to grow.

A Franchise Quarterback

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://www.buffalobillsalumni.com/Jim_Kelly_Buffalo_Bills_s/73.htm)

The success of a franchise is directly connected to having a franchise quarterback. The Bills haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. Buffalo have started 16 different quarterbacks since Kelly was the man. They have had no luck finding a quarterback to lead the team and now that they have, they aren’t fully committed to him.

Some will argue that Doug Flutie could have been a franchise quarterback but the truth is that Flutie was a bit of a journeyman. He played for five teams in 11 NFL seasons. He had some talent and was the last Bills quarterback to lead them to the playoffs, but there is a reason he didn’t stay with teams longer.

As mentioned above, the Bills have had 16 different starting quarterbacks before they stumbled upon Tyrod Taylor. Taylor spent his first four seasons in the NFL as a backup to Super Bowl Champion quarterback Joe Flacco. He learned the ropes from the sideline. It allowed him to develop and grow before throwing him to the wolves like most young quarterbacks in today’s day and age.

Taylor finally got his opportunity to start when he won the job in 2015. In his first season as an NFL starter, Tyrod Taylor played 14 games and went 7-6. Taylor completed 63.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He also added 568 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

In his second season, he started 15 games and went 7-8. In two seasons as a starter he has thrown for 6,257 yards, 37 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. He ran for 1,148 yards and 10 touchdowns. These are great numbers but the best thing is that he has gone 14-14. He is still growing and just about to enter his prime.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://onsmash.com/sports/sammy-watkins-44-yard-touchdown-bomb-from-tyrod-taylor/)

These numbers and wins are much better than the other quarterbacks the Bills have had recently. He has won 50 percent of his games while quarterbacks E.J. Manuel (6-11 won 36%), Thad Lewis (2-4 won 33%), Ryan Fitzpatrick (20-33 won 38%), Trent Edwards (14-18 won 44%), and J.P. Losman (10-23 won 30%) have all done much worse.

The Buffalo Bills have a franchise quarterback sitting in their lap and they need to stick with him. 17 seasons is a long time to not make the playoffs. The way to end that is to stick with McDermott for longer than three years to allow him enough time to build the program. They also need to stick by Tyrod Taylor. Finding a franchise quarterback is difficult and giving up on Tyrod Taylor will spell doom for Buffalo. If they move on from Taylor, McDermott will be fired after two years and the Bills will continue down the path they have been stuck on the past 17 seasons. It isn’t difficult Buffalo, let Tyrod Taylor lead you to the promised land.

 

 

Week 14 NFL Picks Against the Spread

Well, my hot streak only lasted a week. I fell back to a very mediocre 7-8 against the spread last week. The Lions made me look smart, the Jets not so much. With the Chiefs win Thursday night, I am a game to the good for this week as we head in to Sunday. My season record now sits at 95-100-6. It is nice to still have so many meaningful games this late in the season. Outright upsets have an asterisk. Spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s roll.

Cardinals (-2) at*Dolphins- Miami got whitewashed last week, but that happens. They are the better team here. The Dolphins big weakness is stopping the run. David Johnson of Arizona is a true workhorse back, a rarity in today’s NFL. Miami’s Jay Ajayi is no slouch though. He, along with the rest of Miami’s offense should be able to keep Johnson on the sidelines just enough. Arizona’s lack of consistency and depth on offense has hurt them all year and will continue to do so here. Mia 21 Ari 20

Bears at Lions (-7) – Matthew Stafford is a legit MVP candidate and the Lions are going to make the playoffs. However, there is something about this matchup. Despite being atrocious, the Bears play well in their division, notching two of their three wins on the season in such games. This includes knocking off the Lions. That will not happen again. The Lions have too much to play for, but I refuse to believe they can blowout consecutive opponents. Also, Chicago is playing its best football of the season (relatively speaking) behind third string quarterback Matt Barkley. Det 30 Chi 27

Bengals (-5) at Browns- This is one of a precious few games that have absolutely no playoff implications this week, but it is not lacking a story. Robert Griffin III is now healthy. He will get a chance to resurrect his career down the stretch and save the Browns from going winless beginning with this game. Cincinnati’s season has been a total bust when you consider preseason expectations. Strangely, the Browns have much more to play for here. Thus, an upset would not shock me. However, the gap in roster talent is just too large for me to call it. Cin 24 Cle 16

photo from ooyuz.com

photo from ooyuz.com

*Broncos at Titans (-1) – This could wind up being an elimination game in terms of the playoffs. As presently constructed, these teams are pretty much even. Tennessee has an edge just about everywhere on offense, but the same can be said for Denver on defense. When it is this close in terms of personnel, track record comes into play. Denver has spent the last half decade playing games like this, and usually winning. This is uncharted territory for the Titans. Denver finds a way to get it done and stay very relevant in the hotly contested AFC West race. Den 17 Ten 13

Texans at Colts (-6.5) – Credit Houston for being in the race in December despite horrendous quarterback play, but it has finally caught up with them. The better quarterbacks win games and divisions more often than not. Andrew Luck > Brock Osweiler. Ind 31 Hou 17

Vikings (-3) at Jaguars- Here you have two offenses that have not been able to do much all year. The Vikings remain alive in the playoff race thanks to their defense and special teams. Jacksonville is not so fortunate. Minnesota seemed to find something in a losing effort last week against Dallas. They are a little bit better than Jacksonville across the board. Quite frankly, the pregame legends of wrestling event may be more entertaining than the actual game. I wish I lived in Jacksonville so I could see some of my childhood heroes like Ric Flair in action. Oh well, the Vikings are a strong bet here. Min 20 Jac 12

Steelers (-2) at *Bills – The Steelers secondary is prone to giving up the big play. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor can extend plays with is legs. Both teams are scraping to reach the playoffs. As a whole, the Steelers are probably a tick better. However, the big play potential is enough for me to take a flyer on the upset. Buf 27 Pit 21

Chargers at Panthers (-1.5) – These are possibly the two most talented teams with bad records I have ever seen. Everything that could go wrong for these teams has. To me there is nothing that says Carolina will win, especially with all the drama that has gone on this week. However, I have been burned enough by that thought process this year. I will go the other way. Car 24 SD 21

Redskins (-2) at Eagles- It took a while, but the Eagles are finally starting to look as bad as we all thought they would before the season started. Meanwhile, the Redskins are desperate to keep their hopes for a wild-card playoff spot alive. With that offense, they are still very dangerous. If they do somehow sneak in to the playoffs, they will not be a comfortable matchup for anyone. Was 31 Phi 20

*Jets at 49ers (-2.5) – No doubt this is a terrible game between two awful teams, but I will add some spice to it. This is my favorite NFL pick of the year. I do not care that the Jets decided not to show up last week and are now starting Bryce Petty at quarterback. The 49ers should not be a favorite over anybody. NYJ 14 SF 10

Rams at Falcons (-6.5) – Watching the Rams play offense is just painful. They are averaging 12 points a game and have not reached the playoffs since their glory days in St. Louis. Yet, everyone in leadership positions just got new contracts. By no means am I crazy about the Falcons, but they will probably win their division by default and I have zero faith in the Rams. Atl 21 LA 9

*Saints at Bucs (-2.5) – The young Bucs continue to impress, but I continue to expect a letdown at some point. The Saints remain dangerous as long as Drew Brees is taking snaps. The Bucs hot streak has really come from nowhere. This is a whole new ballgame for most of their key guys. It is reasonable to speculate that they will eventually be overwhelmed by the occasion of big-time December football. NO 28 TB 27

Seahawks (-3) at Packers- Depending on other results, the Seahawks could lock up a division title here. Last week, they did what they always do, follow up the occasional clunker that they are somewhat known for with a dominant performance. If running back Thomas Rawls can finally stay healthy and give them the ground game they thought he would at the start of the year, this team becomes all the more dangerous, if that is possible. Even with Aaron Rodgers suddenly doing a much better job of carrying the Packers franchise again, a great football team always beats a great quarterback surrounded by 52 other random dudes. Sea 27 GB 17

photo from profootballfocus.com

photo from profootballfocus.com

Cowboys (-3.5) at Giants – The half-point makes me nervous here. This game is always close. The Giants remain the lone blemish on the season for the Cowboys. I am nowhere near as down on Eli Manning as the rest of the world after his shaky performance last week in Pittsburgh, but there is not a single thing the Giants do better than Dallas on a consistent basis. The only chance they have is Manning playing at his very best. This is always possible, but not likely. Dal 27 NYG 23

MNF: *Ravens at Patriots (-7) – The Ravens have had more success than anybody in New England over the years. Additionally, I would suggest Baltimore is at least equal to the Patriots at every position apart from quarterback right now. The gap at that position is not wide enough to prevent me from calling for the upset. Bal 28 NE 27

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Cubs Victory Should Give NFL Fans Everywhere Hope

We are over a week removed from the Cubs ending their 108 year drought and winning the World Series. The sports world is still buzzing. It is nice to see this country captivated by baseball again. If the Cubs drought can end, so will every other big-time drought in sports, including those of the NFL. Here is a look at a few of the longest suffering NFL fan bases and reasons for each to be hopeful. For the record, I do not believe in curses. I believe in being poorly run and poor executing.

Buffalo Bills

Very few fan bases in all of sports have experienced more heartbreak than that of the Bills. They have been so close so many times. While losing a playoff game on the “Music City Miracle” kick return had to hurt, it is the four straight Super Bowl losses in the early 90s that stand out. In fairness, only one was close. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47 yard field goal as time expired in Super Bowl XXV that would have given the heavily favored Bills their first Super Bowl. “Wide right” are forever cuss words in the city of Buffalo. Those of you who are not Bills fans can relive the kick below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel.

 

Reasons to hope – Most important, after a few years of chatter, it looks like the franchise is staying in Buffalo. Rex Ryan has this team competitive again on a week in, week out basis. They have a ton of playmakers on offense. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor continues to come in to his own. His performance in Seattle Monday night was mighty impressive, despite the loss. A trip back to the Super Bowl is likely a long way off, but the end of a 16 year playoff drought is not.

Minnesota Vikings

In terms of the “can’t win the big one” stigma, the NFC version of the Buffalo Bills resides in Minnesota. Behind the “Purple People Eaters” defense and legendary head coach Bud Grant, they reached the playoffs in all but two years from 1968-1980. They could never close the deal, including losing in two of the first 11 Super Bowl’s. As bad as that had to hurt, the most devastating blow came in 1998. Minnesota raced to a 15-1 regular season record. The offense, spearheaded by then rookie Randy Moss, set a record for points scored. Vikings kicker Gary Anderson did not miss a kick all year. However, in the NFC championship game he missed a relatively short field goal that would have extended the Minnesota lead to ten late in the fourth quarter. The upstart Falcons drove down and tied the game and ultimately won in overtime. The video below from the Mauer EssPee YouTube channel sums the whole situation up very nicely. As crushing as last year’s playoff loss to Seattle had to be, that team probably was not winning a Super Bowl anyway. The 1998 team had a chance to go down as one of the greatest ever.

Reasons to hope – In Vikings country, it is all about that young defense right now. The trick is finding the right quarterback. I am also in the minority that thinks Mike Zimmer is not the right coach to get this team where it wants to go. He was the right guy to get them turned around, but I think his expertise is too limited to one side of the ball to win a Super Bowl. Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, and Everson Griffen could easily be the building blocks of a championship defense. Everything else is a question mark in Minnesota. Despite this season falling apart at the seams, the Vikings are not that far away. However, the jump from good to great is the hardest one to make.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Quite frankly, it is difficult to pick a single moment that hurts the most for fans in my hometown. They have been around since 1968 and have been a shipwreck for the vast majority of the time. They did have a brief run of AFC dominance in the 1980s that resulted in a pair of narrow Super Bowl defeats to Joe Montana and the 49ers. The second of those defeats was a real heartbreaker. As you can see below thanks to the Charles Surette YouTube channel, Montana led a 92 yard drive in the game’s final minutes that culminated in a game-winning touchdown pass to the often overlooked John Taylor with under 30 seconds to go. Apart from that, this franchise has been almost comically bad. They have not won a playoff game since 1990 and have only played in seven. Keep in mind, the Bengals are currently on a streak of five consecutive playoff appearances.

 

Reasons to hope – The Bengals are currently enjoying their most successful run in franchise history. Until he does it or is let go, questions will continue to linger about whether Marvin Lewis is the right coach for this franchise to finally win a playoff game again, and ultimately a Super Bowl. Those questions are fair, but making the playoffs five straight years is no small accomplishment for what may have been the sorriest franchise in professional sports prior to the last five years.

 

Cleveland Browns

No fan base has suffered more than the Cleveland Browns. Believe it or not, they were the NFL’s gold standard at one point. They won four NFL titles in the pre-Super Bowl era. I highly encourage young people reading this to Google the name Otto Graham. After the 50s and 60s, the Browns fell off a cliff and have not been back. As painful as moments like “The Drive” and “The Fumble ” were, the toughest blow for fans started in 1995. The Browns moved to Baltimore following that season and became the Ravens. The scenes from their final home game that year are surreal. Check them out in the video below from the lock18 YouTube channel. The Ravens won a Super Bowl just five years after leaving Cleveland. The Browns reentered the NFL in 1999, but have only made one playoff appearance and have posted just two winning seasons in that time.

 

Reasons to hope – Candidly, there are not many right now. The Browns sit at 0-10 with a real shot at going winless this year, but it cannot get much worse… Can it?

 

The Eagles, Lions, Chiefs, and Jets have also put fans through their fair share of suffering. However, the fact still remains that if the Cubs can finally finish the job after 108 years, then every dog will have its day in the sporting sun… Someday. However, seeing the joy on the faces of those Cubs fans had to give other suffering fan bases everywhere plenty of incentive to hang in there.

photo from timesleader.com

photo from timesleader.com

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After Slow Start, Bills Suddenly Have Clear Path Back to Playoffs

Every year in the NFL, a handful of teams are written off, dead and buried after slow starts. Quite frankly, most stay that way. This year though, there is one team that has risen from the ashes in spectacular fashion and is in prime position to end a 15+ year playoff drought.

 

The Buffalo Bills dropped their first two games in ugly fashion. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was let go. Considering The Bills put up 31 points in a Week two loss to the Jets and that Buffalo ranked inside the top half of the league in offense in 2015, most (including myself) did not think Roman was the problem. From the outside looking in, it seemed to be defensive coordinator Rob Ryan who just happens to be the head coach’s brother.

 

Say what you will about Rex Ryan, there is no denying ever since he made the move to promote Anthony Lynn to offensive coordinator, Buffalo is a different football team. They have reeled off three straight wins including a shutout of the Patriots on the road. The Bills are firmly entrenched in second place in the AFC East. LeSean McCoy has spearheaded a ground attack that has posted 100+ yards in each game during the winning streak. This has helped dual threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor take better care of the football. It is also helped Buffalo get out to early leads in games, which makes the job of the defense much easier. Thus, that unit is getting better every week as well. Guys like Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin have stepped up nicely since top receiving threat Sammy Watkins was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.

photo from Getty Images

photo from Getty Images

 

The biggest reason the Bills are looking good for a playoff spot is their schedule and competition. If one assumes that New England and resurgent Tom Brady are going to win the division again, the Bills are left gunning for one of the two wildcard spots. There is a massive drop-off in the AFC once you get past New England, Pittsburgh and Denver. Nine wins should be enough to secure a playoff berth. Buffalo is going to be battling it out with teams like Baltimore, Oakland, Kansas City and Cincinnati. Buffalo already has three wins as well as a total of three games left with the division rival Jets and Dolphins. Both of those teams flat out stink. There is no other way to say it. So, that should get the Bills to six wins. Throw in two additional bad teams in the 49ers and Browns, and Buffalo is up to eight wins. New England, Seattle and. Pittsburgh are tough match-ups for anyone. That leaves three “coin flip” games against the Jaguars, Raiders and Bengals. A win in any one of those three games gets them to nine.

There were legitimate questions as to whether or not Rex Ryan would make it through season in Buffalo after the first two weeks. Despite his antics and brash personality, it is becoming clearer each week that his players love playing for him and are buying what he is selling. Despite an above average tenure with the Jets, bringing playoff football back to Buffalo for the first time since the 1999 season would be the greatest achievement of his coaching career. Nothing is a given in this league. However, at this point, all he has to do to make that happen is make sure his team beats the teams that they are supposed to beat.

photo from keepclam-o-matic.co.uk

photo from keepclam-o-matic.co.uk

 

Year of the Bill?

Usually, the AFC East is won by the New England Patriots every year Tom Brady starts the season opener, but that will not happen this year. Tom Brady’s four-game suspension appeal was not upheld. He will miss the first four games of the season. The backup Quarterback for the Patriots is 24 year old Jimmy Garoppolo. And on the other side of the division, the NFL will not punish Buffalo Bills’ running back LeSean McCoy for his involvement in a brawl from February.

So who will take the AFC East crown? I think that this could be the best chance for the Bills to take the crown away from the Patriots.

John Bazemore/AP

John Bazemore/AP

The Buffalo Bills had a very good draft. They added former Clemson DE Shaq Lawson and former Alabama LB Reggie Ragland to an already stalwart defense coached by two of the greatest defensive minds in the NFL, Rex and Rob Ryan.

Another thing is their defense will be one of the tops in the league this year. Most Rex Ryan defenses are always great so a defense with his brother should be even better. And on the offense side, the Bills have one of the great backfields. They will return starting Pro Bowl QB Tyrod Taylor and Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy. Taylor has some great receivers to throw to this year. He will have a cast of receivers like, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Also I think rookie Kolby Listenbee will do a lot for the Bills in his first year.

The Bills themselves have a pretty favorable schedule. Outside of their divisional play the Bills will play four really hard teams: at the Seattle Seahawks, home to the Arizona Cardinals, at the Cincinnati Bengals, home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think that the Buffalo Bills could definitely win two of those game. Most likely the Bengals and home to the Arizona Cardinals. The Bills will even have a bye week before they play the Arizona Cardinals, giving the Ryan Brothers time to think of a plan to stop Carson Palmer and the Cardinals defense.

Courtesy of CSNNE.com

Courtesy of CSNNE.com

Ultimately, I think that this is the only chance any team in the AFC East has to finally overthrow the Patriots. That is, until Brady retires. And I think the Bills have the best chance to do so. In the Patriots first four games, they will have to play at the Arizona Cardinals, and will be home to the Miami Dolphins, the Houston Texans, and the Buffalo Bills.

The other teams in the division all have some kind of trouble coming into this season. The Dolphins still have Ryan Tannehill, so they are limited in how far they can go. Tannehill is a good young quarterback, but I just don’t think he has that killer instance. The New York Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick have not come to agreement on a contract yet and it’s the middle of July. This maybe the first time ever that a Rex Ryan team is the most stable team in a division.

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