2018 fantasy football composite rankings: WR

The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead.

Tiebreakers were decided by both Joe and Braxton.

For longer explanations, you can find their individual rankings here: Joe and Braxton.

Here are the composite wide receiver rankings:

Wide receiver rankings: 1-10

1. Antonio Brown- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank:1

Joe’s rank: 1

2. DeAndre Hopkins- Houston Texans

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

3. Odell Beckham Jr.- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank: 4

4. Julio Jones- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 3

5. Michael Thomas- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Keenan Allen- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 5

7. A.J. Green- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 7

8. Davante Adams- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 8

9. Mike Evans- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 9

10. Tyreek Hill- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank: 10

Wide receiver rankings: 11-20

11. Larry Fitzgerald- Arizona Cardinals

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank: 11

12. Alshon Jeffery- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 13

13. Adam Thielen- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 12

14. T.Y. Hilton- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 14

15. Doug Baldwin- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank: 15

16. Amari Cooper- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 16

17. Demaryius Thomas- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 17

18. Golden Tate- Detroit Lions

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 18

19. Pierre Garcon- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 24

20. Brandin Cooks- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: N/A

Wide receiver rankings: 21-30

 21. Marvin Jones- Detroit Lions

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 19

22. Jarvis Landry- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 21

23. Julian Edelman- New England Patriots

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 23

24. Allen Robinson- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 20

25. Josh Gordon- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank:21

Joe’s rank: 27

26. Robbie Anderson- New York Jets

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 25

27. JuJu Smith-Schuster- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 27

Joe’s rank: 26

28. Devin Funchess- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 30

29. Stefon Diggs- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: N/A

Joe’s rank: 22

30. Randall Cobb- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: N/A

 

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Premier League

The relegation zone: What’s next for the Premier League’s losers

The 2017/18 Premier League season wrapped up this past Sunday with as much fanfare here in the States as NBC/Universal could muster. Manchester City ran away with the league title, rampaging through the fixture list practically unopposed to finish with 100 points, 18 ahead of Man United. Most of the other drama had played out in the weeks beforehand, with only Chelsea’s spot in the top four (a spot that the Blues fumbled in spectacular fashion with a 3-0 loss to Newcastle,) and Swansea’s last desperate chance to catch Southampton at stake. Still, NBC pulled out all the stops, blanketing the cable dial with live coverage of every match to celebrate another season of the most popular league in the world.

Man City’s domination of the top of the table certainly drained some luster from the season, but there were still some great stories. Liverpool introduced the world to the Egyptian whirlwind Mohamed Salah, who led the league with 32 goals and will get one more chance to shine in the Champions League final against Real Madrid next Saturday.

The FA Cup saw a quarterfinal match between almost relegated Southampton and giant killer Wigan Athletic FC. In only their third ever Premier League season Burnley will be heading to Europe, their 7th place finish qualifying the Clarets for next year’s Europa League. And for the first time since 2012 all three of last year’s promoted teams, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Brighton Hove Albion hung on to top-flight status. Good news for them, bad news for three storied franchises who will compete next year for the Championship instead of the fancy Barclays trophy.

Swansea takes a dive

The Swans had a slim lifeline going into the weekend, needing to beat Stoke City by many goals whilst Southampton lost and surrendered many goals to Man City. Neither of those things happened, so the first Welsh team to compete in the Premier League will trade places with the second, Cardiff City. This ended a six-year run in the top flight for the Swans. Never really threatening to crack the top half of the table, the Swans limped to the finish with five straight losses. The high point of the season was a 3-1 February upset of Arsenal, then a 4-1 thrashing of West Ham in front of the home fans to begin March got hopes up. But the victory over the Hammers was the last time they would smell success.

Swansea heads into next year without their longest serving veteran, as Leon Britten hangs up his cleats after 16 seasons and 537 appearances for the club. Korean international Ki Sung-Yueng’s contract has expired and he has already announced his intention to move on. That still leaves exciting young forwards in Jordan and Andre Ayew, plus Tammy Abraham to build around. Keep two of those three and add some better recruiting and the Swans could get back to getting pummelled by Liverpool fairly quickly.

Stoke City Collapses

Premier League

Peter Crouch is tall/ Swansea City.com

Stoke City is in trouble. They have been in the Premier League since 2008, never finishing higher than ninth but acquitting themselves honorably for a mid-table team. This year the bottom fell out.

The Potters tied with West Ham for the most goals conceded despite keeper Jack Butland leading the league in saves. Butland and their best player, attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaquiri are too good to be playing in the Championship and are already drawing feelers from teams with bigger checkbooks. The best of the rest of the team is either on the wrong side of 30 like Mame Diouf or Big Bird impersonator Peter Crouch or are young and unproven like Spaniard Jese Rodriguez.

This team could have its entire identity stripped away when the transfer window opens this Thursday.

West Brom, too little too late

Premier League

Darren Moore/ BeIn Sports

The hottest team in the Premier League for the last 6 weeks of the year wasn’t inevitable champion Man City or Champions League contender Liverpool, it was the cellar-dwelling West Bromwich Albion Baggies. They finished on a tear, picking up 11 points in the standings over the last six matches after Darren Moore was tabbed to bring an end to the disastrous tenure of Alan Pardew, who was brought in after Tony Pulis was sacked in November.

Neither Pulis nor Pardew appeared to inspire the squad, and both were stultifyingly conservative. Forwards Solomon Rondon and Jay Rodriguez often found themselves with no support after chasing down long passes. Moore tightened up the passing game, getting wide midfielders James McClean and Matt Phillips more involved downfield and keeping everyone focused, avoiding late concessions that had plagued them in the winter.

Like both of their fellow relegated teams, the Baggies stand to lose some of there top talent next season. Rondon and Rodriguez are going to be too expensive for a rebuilding team to keep. But I’m more optimistic about their chances of bouncing back quickly. A lot of the changes we’ll be seeing at the Hawthorns were likely to happen even if the Baggies had clawed their way out of the zone. Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak never fit in, and January transfer addition Daniel Sturridge failed to impact the lineup. But replacements lurk in Oliver Burke and Sam Field and if they retain Moore there’s reason to believe that the true talent level of the team is closer to the side that beat Spurs and Man U in the last month than the side that slogged through Pardew’s tenure.

They are also my adopted team so I’m not completely objective.

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DeAngelo Hall retires from the NFL

A 14-year veteran, DeAngelo Hall has decided to retire from the NFL on Monday according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

He will now look to work in a front office or on TV according to John Keim of ESPN.

Hall started his career off with the Atlanta Falcons for three years, before moving on to the Raiders for half of one season in 2008. For the past 10 seasons, he has called Washington D.C. his home, playing for the Redskins.

The former ball-hawk has missed games due to a torn ACL, which occurred in 2016.

Hall was a three-time Pro Bowler and did not win a Super Bowl in his career.

 

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wide receiver rankings

2018 fantasy football wide receiver rankings

When it comes to fantasy, wide receivers can be some of the most volatile players on a weekly basis. Even players at the top of the league can have games where they record less than 10 points. So if you’re going to spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver, they better consistently be seeing double-digit targets between the 20’s and one or two red zone targets per game. Let’s find out who fits that description in the first edition of my 2018 fantasy football wide receiver rankings.

Wide Receiver Rankings: 1-10

1. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown is the only player to finish in the top three in targets since 2015. He’s an absolute monster. Brown has what we all want in a player, the workload of a running back and the upside of a wide receiver. The 2017 season was the first time Brown didn’t score double-digit touchdowns since 2014. There are some minor concerns about Brown heading into this season. Todd Haley is no longer the offensive coordinator, and Ben Roethlisberger is another year older, and more susceptible to injury. However, there is no disputing Brown is the unquestioned number one option at the wide receiver position.

2. DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans

By the end of 2018, DeAndre Hopkins might have something to say about my last statement. Apart from Brown, Hopkins is the only other player to finish top three in targets since 2015. All the while, he’s been doing it with sub par quarterback play, not a future hall-of-famer like Roethlisberger. We saw a taste of what Hopkins did last season with Deshaun Watson. During that stretch, he averaged 9.8 targets, 6.3 catches, 91.83 yards, and one touchdown per game. At that rate, Hopkins would have the best year of his career, and it may be enough to unseat Brown atop rankings like these.

3. Odell Beckahm Jr. – New York Giants

Despite the inconsistency of his quarterback, OBJ ranks inside the top five heading into 2018. Even though he’s coming off an injury, it occurred on a freak play and did not result in the tearing of any muscles. So, he will likely not suffer from the confidence issue that most player do when they are recovering (I also find the notion he’ll lack confidence to be laughable based on what we’ve seen). He’ll be playing with an improved running game and offensive line, which will alleviate some attention he receives from opposing defenses. But what makes OBJ so incredible, is his ability to seemingly score from any point on the field at any time.

4. Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints

Although he plays in a run-first offense, Michael Thomas is the unquestioned number one target of Drew Brees. Thomas will likely see more single coverage this season as a result of the success of New Orleans’ running attack in 2017. So, even if he isn’t seeing the volume of other players on this list, the efficiency and quality of the targets he’ll receive will help bridge that gap. The only other perceivable knock on Thomas is his red zone usage, as the Saints like to pound Mark Ingram, or exploit a mismatch with Alvin Kamara.

5. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones scares me. I have to rank him this high because of his talent, production, and quarterback. However, there are a few major red flags. One, he’s injury prone. Two, he’s wildly volatile, maybe even the most volatile fantasy player of all. He can have 10 catches for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns, or 3 catches for 36 yards and zero touchdowns. Three, his team inexplicably ignores him in the red zone and goal line. And four, he’s unhappy about his contract. It’s not being publicized, but Jones is currently the eighth highest paid receiver behind players like Jarvis Landry and Sammy Watkins. I don’t think this will cause Jones to hold out, but it’s been reported that he is not happy with the situation. I’d be cautious taking Jones in the first round if you’re in a 10 or 12 team league.

6. AJ Green – Cincinnati Bengals

2017 was not a good year for AJ Green. He had a career-high in single digit-fantasy performances with seven (according to standard and .5 point ppr scoring). Green also acted out of character this year with that outburst against Jalen Ramsey. Green appears to be in line for a bounce-back season. Cincinnati has made upgrades to their offensive line and should have a more productive running game. Both would allow Green more time to get downfield, as well as provide him with more single coverage situations.

7. Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers

Keenan Allen, unlike AJ Green, had a career year in 2017. He played in all 16 games for the first time, and the results were great. Allen finished with top five in targets, catches, and yards. Hopefully he will increase his touchdown output in 2018. However, he still had more touchdowns than Michael Thomas and Mike Evans, who were consensus first and second round picks.

8. Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers

I want to put Davante Adams higher on this list; however, he’s had a bit of an injury history. Like Allen, he’s only had one season in which he played all 16 games. Since he’s not the physical specimen Allen is, he ranks just beneath him. Adams is in line to be Aaron Rodgers number one target, which is great. But, something tells me Green Bay will make an effort protect Rodgers by running the ball, as they did with success during his absence. Adams could very easily jump players like Allen, Green, and Jones if he sees a true number one’s volume.

9. Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Conversely, I’d like to rank Mike Evans lower on this year’s wide receiver rankings. I had 100 percent exposure to him last year in fantasy leagues and was not pleased with this output. But, I learned from my mistake so it wasn’t a total loss. What keeps Evans from being higher is his inability to make plays after the catch. Evans averaged 1.6 yards after the catch. At his height, he would average more yards after catch if he simply fell forward every time he caught the ball. This severely limits Evans’ upside, and hampers his effectiveness between the 20’s.

10. Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs

Tyreek Hill impressed many last year by being more than a speedster and developing into a wide receiver. Kansas City was able to deploy him all over the field and become less predictable as an offense when he’s out wide or in the slot. Hill has the upside of a Jones, Beckham, and Brown, but has since built up his output floor. While Patrick Mahomes may seem like an upgrade, his accuracy and effectiveness at the NFL level is still unpredictable. Given this fact, I don’t think I’d take Hill until the third round.wide

Wide Receiver Rankings: 11-20

11. Alshon Jefferey – Philadelphia Eagles

What makes Alshon Jefferey a surprisingly valuable asset, was his effectiveness with both Nick Foles and Carson Wentz. So, we won’t have to worry if Wentz isn’t available week one. The Eagles deployed Jefferey in the redzone as well as deep down the field. While he’s not the most consistent game-to-game, he plays in a great prolific offense with two capable quarterbacks.

12. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald somehow figured out a way to finish top five in targets, second in catches, and top 10 in yards. He managed to do this with multiple quarterbacks throwing him the ball, and, without the threat of David Johnson to take attention away from him. Fitzgerald will be a player I’m targeting this season, especially if I have a volatile or injury prone wide receiver as my number one.

13. Brandin Cooks – Los Angeles Rams

Brandin Cooks might be the luckiest receiver in NFL history. He’s played for Sean Payton, Josh McDaniels, and now, he gets to play for Sean McVay. Cooks is incredibly talented. Other than Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald, no player had more catches, yards, and touchdowns through their age 23 season. Cooks looks to add to his historically great start in Los Angeles. I’m of the belief that this whole offense will take a step back. Also, Cooks’ volume will likely be unpredictable until the fourth or fifth game of the season.

14. T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts

Disclaimer, T.Y. Hilton’s place on these wide receiver rankings are assuming Andrew Luck is the week one starter. We all saw how incredibly explosive Hilton could be in the right matchup. However, we also know that Hilton can disappear in any given game. Hopefully, Luck’s return will raise his floor and make him a value on draft day. Like my theory with Fitzgerald, I would shy away from Hilton if I have a volatile number one like Jones or Hill.

15. Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings

If last year didn’t establish Adam Thielen, at a minimum, top 20 receiver, then I don’t know what will.  Thielen finished top 10 in catches and top five in yards in an offense led by Case Keenum. He’s not a bad player by any means, but Kirk Cousins is objectively superior. With the return of Dalvin Cook, and Mike Zimmer’s overall disdain for throwing more than necessary, it’s likely he won’t see the same volume. However, Thielen proved he can score from anywhere on the field and run a complete route tree.

16. Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks

This is a pivotal season for Doug Baldwin. Despite Russell Wilson leading the NFL in touchdown passes, Baldwin was only able to snag eight of them. He also had his lowest output in terms of catches since 2015, and yards in 2014. It’s likely he will have a regression to the mean in those categories, but, will it be worth the draft pick you used to acquire him?

17. Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders

Everyone remembers that Thursday night game against the Chiefs in which Amari Coper went unconscious with 11 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Sadly, that game made up about 30 percent of his production for the entire season. There’s honestly no telling what his production will be with Jordy Nelson and Jon Gruden’s new offensive scheme. Unless Cooper I can get Cooper as my third receiver, I’ll likely take a pass on him.

18. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos

I haven’t decided how I feel about Demaryius Thomas and this Denver offense yet. Case Keenum will no question be the best quarterback to lead this team since Peyton Manning. Hopefully reports from training camp won’t inflate Thomas’ value before draft season. Thomas is a player who has big-play upside, it’s just a matter if Keenum’s line will hold up and allow him to connect on the deep and intermediate routes.

19. Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers

Pierre Garcon should be a target of everyone who drafts a boom or bust player in their first two rounds. Garcon is slated as the number one receiver in this offense. Marquise Goodwin could cut into his volume, but he’s a deep threat and not as polished as a possession receiver. Not to mention, Goodwin suffered a brutal concussion at the end of last season. Garcon could have one of his best years since leaving Indianapolis, even with his advanced age.

20. Golden Tate – Detroit Lions

Tate is another example of an underappreciated fantasy asset. Since coming to Detroit, he’s never had less than 90 catches, 800 yards, and four touchdowns. What truly makes Tate valuable, is his run after catch ability. Last season he finished fourth in yards after catch with 6.9. It’s unclear whether or not new head coach Matt Patricia will alter the offensive philosophy from featuring Matt Stafford as a high volume passer. However, Tate’s track record shows us that he will maximize every opportunity given to him.

Wide Receiver Rankings: 21-30

21. Josh Gordon – Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon’s position in these wide receiver rankings has nothing to do with football. It’s great that he’s back in the NFL, but in no way should he be viewed as a top 15 player at his position. Last season, when everyone in the DFS community was pounding the table on Josh Gordon against the Packers as a “must play”. He didn’t completely disappoint, as he scored 14.4 points. But, I paid $1,000 less for his teammate Corey Coleman, who scored 14.7 points that day. The moral of the not so humble brag is that you cannot depend on Josh Gordon. If he proves he can put an entire season of productivity together, he’ll rise up the ranks quickly.

22. Julian Edelman – New England Patriots

Julian Edelman will start week one. He suffered his injury during the preseason last year, so he’ll be more than prepared to dominate out of the slot. My hope is that Edelman slides on draft day because of his injury and his perceived lack of production. Last season wasn’t the first time he missed multiple games due to injury, so there is a risk that he could get hurt again. Not to mention, the Patriots love getting fantasy players’ hopes up just to crush them. I’ll certainly have Edelman on my list of players to be targeting.

23. Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins

Jarvis Landry was a target monster in Miami. Whether that trend continues, remains to be seen. If Baker Mayfield was set to start week one, I’d have Landry higher on the list. Mayfield is substantially more accurate than Taylor, and attacks the middle of the field well. As soon as he becomes the starter, Landry’s value will increase.

24. Robbie Anderson – New York Jets

If Robbie Anderson can go the rest of the summer and not threaten to sexually assault a police offer’s wife, I’ll be happy (if you want to laugh I encourage you to look up his exact wording). Anderson emerged as the number one receiver with Josh McCown at the helm. Hopefully, that will continue when Sam Darnold inevitably gets the start. Anderson’s combination of height, speed, and run after the catch ability make him dangerous, even if he’s playing on a below average team with average quarterback play.

25. Marvin Jones – Detroit Lions

I feel like I’m saying this about a lot of players in this range, but I want to target Marvin Jones. As the second, or co-number one option on the Lions, Jones had more than 60 catches, 1,000 yards, and accumulated nine touchdowns. This, in large part, is a bi-product of Stafford and the high volume of pass attempts. However, Jones sees most of the team’s red and green zone targets. Stafford loves throwing fades to Jones and assuming Stafford’s volume stays the same, Jones will be a good value.

26. Allen Robinson – Chicago Bears

I have no idea what to do with Allen Robinson. He’s the unquestioned number one in Chicago, but, believe it or not, he’s downgraded from Blake Bortles. Mitchell Trubisky, to this point, doesn’t give me the confidence that Robinson will see the volume or the production of a number one receiver.

27. JuJu Smith-Schuster – Pittsburgh Steelers

JuJu is a good player, but he’ll likely be over-drafted relative to other players at his position because of the team he plays for. Volume is so important for wide receivers. So why should we consider JuJu as a top 20 option if he has to compete with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell for touches? His talent is undeniable, but his involvement in the offense will be unpredictable with the new offensive coordinator.

28. Devin Funchess – Carolina Panthers

I’m retroactively regretting ranking Funchess this low. Even though he finished with less than 70 catches and 1,000 yards, he caught eight touchdowns and had to compete with Kelvin Benjamin for almost half of the season. Despite Greg Olsen coming back and the addition of DJ Moore in the draft, Funchess could be in line for his first 1,000 yard season.

29. Randall Cobb – Green Bay Packers

Cobb, for the first time in two seasons, is the projected number two for the Packers. The organization clearly values what he can do and featured him in the offense even when Nelson and Adams were on the roster. Cobb’s injury history keeps him from being higher in these rankings.

30. Will Fuller – Houston Texans

Wrapping up the top 30 is Will Fuller. Fuller isn’t particularly special. In my opinion, he’s a less skilled version of T.Y. Hilton. But, he plays in an offense with a quarterback that isn’t afraid to target him deep, and across from one of the NFL’s best receivers.

 

Featured Image courtesy of; Youtube.com

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Rome Tennis Roland Garros

The road to Roland Garros: Rome

Madrid is in the rear view mirror. It is now time for one of the longest running events on tour to take center stage once again. Rome has played host to the Italian Open since 1930. It is the crowned jewel on the road to Roland Garros for the world’s best tennis players as the last major stop before the French Open. Here are some things to watch for.

Madrid surprises in a tricky spot 

Rome Tennis Roland Garros

(Photo from skysports.com)

Dominic Thiem ended Rafael Nadal’s 50-set, 21-match win streak in the quarterfinals of Madrid. The fifth seed lost in the final to second seed Alexander Zverev. These are great, somewhat unexpected results for this pair. However, clay is hard on the body and Madrid-Rome is the toughest back-to-back the calendar has to offer. Zverev and Thiem have been around the top of the game for a while now, but neither has figured out how to be a consistent factor at the Grand Slams.

So much of doing that is not overplaying in the lead up to the majors and peaking at the right time. Withdrawing from Rome is a bit extreme, but early losses for Zverev and Thiem might not be the worst thing in the world. The same can be said for surprise Madrid ladies finalist Kiki Bertens. Champion Petra Kvitova has already withdrawn from Rome. Kvitova is a two-time Grand Slam winner.

Nadal attempts to restore order

As mentioned above, Nadal lost on clay in Madrid last week. Anytime that happens, it is big news. Beating Nadal on clay best of three sets in a regular tour event is one thing. Beating him best of five sets at Roland Garros is entirely another.

This is probably the biggest reason for Nadal’s 79-2 lifetime record at the French Open with 10 titles. For reference, Nadal lost in Rome last year and quickly rebounded to win the French Open without dropping a set. So there is no reason for the panic alarm if you are a Nadal fan.

Still, this year’s Rome event is significant for him. Nadal does not want the rest of the field to start thinking they have a shot in Paris. A sixth Rome title would go a long way towards reaffirming his dominance. It would also return Nadal to the top ranking that he relinquished to an absent Roger Federer with his loss in Madrid.

Sharapova hunts French Open seed 

Two-time French Open champion Maria Sharapova showed signs of life in Madrid by reaching the quarterfinals after three fairly routine wins. She eventually lost a tight three-setter to Bertens.

The result boosted her ranking to 40th in the world. The top 32 will be seeded at the second major of the year in about two weeks. In an honest moment, both Sharapova and her competitors will tell you that they do not want her name just floating in the draw and able to land pretty much anywhere. To have a chance at avoiding that crapshoot, Sharapova must at least match her Madrid result. Then, it would come down to other results. The three-time Italian Open winner will start against 16th seeded Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Remember, Sharapova was unseeded at last year’s US Open and knocked off second-seeded Simona Halep in the first round. As fun as matches like that can be for the fans, they are a nightmare for players that early in a Grand Slam. We already know that Victoria Azarenka will be unseeded in Paris. The same can be said of Serena Williams if she decides to play. Adding an unseeded Sharapova to that mix would make for a lot of very nervous people on draw day.

Women’s top ranking on the line

Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki have had somewhat disappointing clay-court seasons. Wozniacki has never done well on clay, but Rome is a big week for Halep, who has twice been French Open runner-up.

The Romanian needs to reach at least the quarterfinals to retain her top ranking heading to Paris. The rest will come down to Wozniacki’s result. Halep could open against Azarenka, who is a two-time major winner. Being the top seed at a major is a noteworthy honor and could serve as a nice confidence boost for either woman.

 

Featured image from YouTube

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Kansas recap: The Harvick Saturday night show

This year’s Kansas spring race seemed to be wrapping up as one of the most uneventful races of the season. But, late in the race that all changed. The final 31 laps included three cautions that would reshape the layout of the field from top to bottom. But at the end of the race, victory lane was reunited with a common visitor.

Stage One


Several cars including Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and a few others, were forced to start the rear for differing reasons. Larson for spinning in practice and needing to change tires, and Bowyer, Kenseth and others for failing pre-qualifying inspection.

The first stage kicked off with the sport’s hottest driver on the pole, Kevin Harvick. Ryan Blaney began the race in second next to Harvick.

Within the first 15 laps of the race, Larson and Bowyer drove their way inside the top-15. And by the time the competition caution came out on lap 31, Larson had cracked the top-10.

To restart the race after the competition caution, Blaney nabbed the first spot as he beat Harvick out of the pits.

Off the restart, Blaney was able to escape from Harvick to maintain his lead. He was able to lead the rest of the stage unbothered until Harvick tracked him down with less than 10 to go.

Photo from NASCAR.com

Jimmie Johnson found himself one lap down and right in front of Blaney with the threat of going to laps down. He battled hard to remain in front of him, allowing Harvick to close to Blaney’s bumper.

Johnson was able to elude the leaders for the few remaining laps and end the stage only one lap down.

Blaney managed to hold off the hard-charging Harvick for a third stage win of the season. The top-5 was rounded out by Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Kyle Larson.

 

Stage Two


Although Blaney won stage one, Harvick won the race off pit road to restart first with Blaney next to him in second.

Off the restart, Harvick easily pulled away from Blaney in second and Logano in third.

After a handful of laps, Larson closed in on Logano and took the position away, moving him into the top-3 for the first time all night.

Green flag pit stops began on lap 43 of the stage. Once they were completed, Kevin Harvick cycle back out to the race leader.

Larson had a faster stop than Blaney, allowing him to get back onto the race track ahead of Blaney for second.

Clearly the faster car, Larson was able to run down Harvick and take the lead away on lap 51.

Larson held onto the lead for the remainder of the stage and collected his first stage win of the 2018 season. Surprisingly, it took him 12 races to get his first stage win.

Larson passed Jimmie Johnson on the last corner of the final lap to put him two laps down, essentially ending his chances at a good finish.

Harvick, Blaney, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano rounded out the top-5 for stage two.

 

Final Stage: Part One – Calm Before the Storm


Heading into the final stage the race had experienced only two cautions, both from the conclusions of stages. Plus, all 38 cars that started the race were all still running, an unusual thing to see heading into the final stage of the race.

To start the final stage, the top-6 remained the same as it did when the second stage ended. Larson restarted first with Harvick in second. On the restart, Larson pulled away with the lead and Harvick slide into second.

Final Stage: Part Two – Intensity Rising


Photo from NASCAR.com

The caution finally came out for something other than a stage ending with just 31 laps to go. Daniel Suarez got loose, bounced off the wall and made heavy contact with Alex Bowman to bring out the yellow.

Larson and William Byron did a great job of swerving through the cars and the smoke to avoid wrecking.

Larson came out first from pit road with Harvick in second. William Byron took only two tires and jumped up nine positions to the 5th spot.

With 24 laps to go, Harvick stole the lead from Larson and Joey Logano slipped by him as well for second.

The caution came out once again with 20 laps to go as Blaney made heavy contact with Larson while battling for third. Blaney made hard contact with the left rear of Larson car, in-turn cutting his own tire.

The result was a tire rub for Larson and a blown tire for Blaney. Blaney’s car headed straight into the outside wall, knocking him out of the race. Larson was able to repair the damage and continue on while only losing a handful of laps.

Photo from NASCAR.com

Under the yellow, several cars stayed out including Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman. Once again Byron took two tires on pit road, getting him out first ahead of Harvick followed by Kyle Busch.

On the restart, Truex Jr. snagged the lead from Logano, but the field wouldn’t make it back around for one lap.

Final Stage: Part Three – Absolute Chaos


A huge wreck with 14 to go put the race under a red flag. The cause came from Byron getting loose and collected several other cars as his car pile-drived the outside wall. As his car caught flames spinning across the track, he collected Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Chris Buescher, and Ty Dillon.

Photo from NASCAR.com

The race restarted with just nine laps to go. Truex Jr. held the lead with Logano, Jones, Hamlin, and Chase Elliott rounding out the top-5. Harvick and Kyle Busch followed in sixth and seventh, the first two cars with four fresh tires.

Off the restart, Harvick sailed from sixth to second in just one lap but Truex Jr. opened up a small gap.

Over the final laps, Harvick slowly reeled Truex Jr. in until he was within striking distance with under two laps to go.

As the pair reached the white flag for one to go, Harvick made the pass on Truex on the outside for the lead.

Over the final lap, Truex Jr. gave it everything he had but could never get back to Harvick’s bumper.

Harvick grabbed his fifth win of the season, one short of half the races run this year. Truex Jr. came home second, followed by Logano, Larson, and Hamlin for the top-5.

 

Post Race


Harvick’s five wins this season, combined with Clint Bowyer’s one, bring’s Stewart Haas Racing (SHR) to six total wins already. With 12 races being completed so far this year, SHR has won an astounding half of them.

Harvick still sits third in the point standings, but after his win today he had opened up his playoff points lead to now seven. He has collected 24 already, trailed by Kyle Busch with 17 in second.

As the 2018 NASCAR season is now 1/3 complete, there’s been a clear dominating driver and team leading the way.

Next week NASCAR travels to Charlotte for the All-Star race. This season’s All-Star race is a four-stage battle with $1,000,000 on the line to the winning driver.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of motorsport.com/LAT Images

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2018 fantasy football WR rankings

The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. The rankings are for standard leagues. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead. Here are Joe’s WR rankings:

Wide receiver rankings: 1-10

1. Antonio Brown- Pittsburgh Steelers

Brown has totally proven himself over the last couple of years and will be the first wide receiver off the board in most drafts. He finished second in scoring last season, but sat out the last two games of the season. Brown did have some off games last season (five games of under 10 fantasy points) but did enough in other weeks to make up for it.

2. DeAndre Hopkins- Houston Texans

The leading fantasy receiver last season was DeAndre Hopkins. He has proven that it doesn’t matter which quarterback is playing, he still produces. Hopkins will be hoping that Deshaun Watson is healthy though, as three of his top four performances were with the rookie under center. With Watson improving in year two, Hopkins should be near the top of most fantasy rankings.

3. Julio Jones- Atlanta Falcons

Jones finished sixth among receivers last season and that was with Steve Sarkisian, who couldn’t figure out how to get him the ball properly. He also was coming off of a foot injury that led him to sit out of offseason workouts. While Sarkisian is still there, Jones will now have Calvin Ridley lining up with him and Mo Sanu. He is simply too talented not to give the ball to. Sarkisian needs to spend his offseason figuring out how to get the most of his players, Jones included, or he will be out of a job.

4. Odell Beckham Jr.- New York Giants

He only played four games last season before getting injured but was able to rank fourth among receivers in those four weeks. If Beckham can get healthy and stay healthy he will produce. He will be aided by the fact that the run game will be better, which will keep defenses honest.

5. Keenan Allen- Los Angeles Chargers

2018 fantasy football wr rankings

Keenan Allen (Photo by nbanflnobody.com)

Last year was the first season in which Allen has been able to play in a full 16 game schedule and he shined. Allen finished fourth in fantasy points last season with help from a few very good weeks. With Mike Williams coming back healthy and the offensive line being more healthy at the start of the season, Phillip Rivers will not only have more time to read defenses, but will have more options to throw to, as teams can’t solely focus on stopping Allen.

6. Michael Thomas- New Orleans Saints

Thomas finished eighth last season and continues to get better every year. He also has Drew Brees throwing him the ball and a lot of bad secondaries to go up against in the NFC South. Since his rookie season, only Antonio Brown has more fantasy points than Thomas at the wide receiver position. Expect more big things to come for Thomas this season.

7. A.J. Green- Cincinnati Bengals

He finished 10th last season and that was without too many viable receivers on the roster. John Ross and Tyler Boyd should have increased roles in the upcoming season, but it is hard to tell with Marvin Lewis coached teams. Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft should create a good tight end tandem. This means that there will be less focus on Green. The offensive line will also be vastly improved from last season, meaning Andy Dalton will have time to hit him on more deep balls.

8. Davante Adams- Green Bay Packers

Without Jordy Nelson on the roster anymore, Adams is unquestionably the go-to-guy for Aaron Rodgers. He was just outside the top ten in fantasy scoring last season and should see a huge bump up with Rodgers being healthy as well. Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham and some young receivers will help keep double teams off of Adams.

9. Mike Evans- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Evans disappointed fantasy owners last year, finishing 20th overall. While it wasn’t a great season, he still managed to get 1,000 receiving yards. If Jameis Winston can take another step forward this season, Evans should move back up in the final fantasy scoring ranks.

10. Tyreek Hill- Kansas City Chiefs

Hill finished fourth in scoring last season but now has to deal with a new quarterback. Pat Mahomes has potential but needs to improve his accuracy. The reason Hill stays in the top 10 is that they can get him the ball in so many ways and once he has it, he’s a threat to take it all the way. Expect a decrease in production, but not by too much.

Wide Receiver rankings: 11-20

11. Larry Fitzgerald- Arizona Cardinals

The ageless wonder continues to be a great option in fantasy football. He was top 10 in scoring last year and now will now have a new quarterback. If Sam Bradford is the starter, he will hit him on short routes and let Fitzgerald run after the catch. If Josh Rosen gets the nod he will need to rely on Fitzgerald early and often. Fitzgerald will produce with whatever quarterback is throwing him the ball.

12. Adam Thielen- Minnesota Vikings

With Case Keenum having his career year, Thielen also excelled. Now he has Kirk Cousins, who hasn’t had great receivers to work with throughout his career. They have already started to work together and Thielen should post similar, if not better, numbers than last season.

13. Alshon Jeffery- Philadelphia Eagles

Jeffery tore his rotator cuff and may not be ready for the start of the season. He finished 15th last season while playing very sparingly over the last two weeks of the season. No matter who is throwing passes on the opening day of the season, Jeffery is a solid WR2 play.

14. T.Y. Hilton- Indianapolis Colts

He had a bad season without Andrew Luck, ranking outside of the top 20. With Luck seemingly coming back this season, Hilton should move up higher in draft boards. The offensive line is now built to protect Luck and the Colts being conservative with his injury recovery, should mean he stays healthy.

15. Doug Baldwin- Seattle Seahawks

Baldwin is now one of the only decent targets that Russell Wilson can throw to with Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson and Jermaine Kearse all leaving the team in recent seasons. He should get a lot of targets and be a decent WR2 if Wilson can stay healthy behind a bad offensive line.

2018 fantasy football WR rankings

Amari Cooper (Photo by silverandblackpride.com)

16. Amari Cooper- Oakland Raiders

Cooper struggled last season and didn’t produce. With Jon Gruden now taking over, a healthy Derek Carr and an offseason to get things straight, Cooper should start living up to his potential again. The field should be wide open with Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant flanking him.

17. Demaryius Thomas- Denver Broncos

A new quarterback in Denver in Keenum should increase Thomas’ productivity. He finished 23rd last season without good quarterback play, so a healthy bump up the projections should be expected. If Keenum has a season that is even slightly close to his season last year, Thomas will star.

18. Golden Tate- Detroit Lions

Tate has over 90 catches in the last four seasons and is a model of constant production. He is in the last year of his deal, meaning he will want to produce. Matt Stafford targets Tate over one more time per game than his running mate, Marvin Jones Jr.

19. Marvin Jones- Detroit Lions

He doesn’t get as many targets as Tate, but he makes the most of them and finished fifth in scoring last season. He will likely regress to the norm this season and shouldn’t be drafted as the fifth overall receiver this season. He fits in better as a WR2 than a WR1.

20. Allen Robinson- Chicago Bears

Robinson has new digs in Chicago and will be Mitchell Trubisky’s number one target. He’s used to performing with a quarterback that didn’t always play well and should help Trubisky’s development. His 2015 season will give a lot of hopes to fantasy owners this season.

Wide receiver rankings: 21-30

21. Jarvis Landry- Cleveland Browns

The Browns might have some semblance of a passing offense with Tyrod Taylor. Landry is a catch machine who is another receiver used to playing without the best players at quarterback. If the running game can keep the offense balanced, Landry shouldn’t see much dropoff in production.

22. Stefon Diggs- Minnesota Vikings

Diggs has morphed into the second best receiver on his team but still is capable of making big plays. He finished 17th last season and should finish in a similar range depending on how he vibes with Kirk Cousins.

23. Julian Edelman- New Orleans Saints

One of Tom Brady’s favorite targets returns from injury and will need to regain his quickness. Brady’s familiarity with Edelman and Brandin Cooks leaving should open up opportunities that Edelman has had in the past.

24. Pierre Garcon- San Francisco 49ers

Garcon is the number one receiver for the 49ers and his ranking will be very dependant on Jimmy Garoppolo improving. The soon-to-be 32-year-old had a season-ending injury, but should be able to reclaim his place as the team’s most productive receiver.

25. Robbie Anderson- New York Jets

There is no question about Anderson’s talent on the field, but he has off-the-field issues that make him a risky pick. He finished 16th in scoring last year and if he can stay on the field, will produce again this season.

2018 fantasy football wr rankings

JuJu Smith-Schuster (Photo by yahoo.com)

26. JuJu Smith-Schuster- Pittsburgh Steelers

He had a breakout season last year and now Martavis Bryant is gone, making him the undeniable number two target. The 18th wide receiver from last year may not have quite as good of a season with teams being able to scout him for a full season, but he is worth a pick in the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts.

27. Josh Gordon- Cleveland Browns

Gordon is another receiver that needs to stay on the field and can be a solid pick for fantasy. He too will benefit from the skill position players the Browns acquired this offseason.

28. Emmanuel Sanders- Denver Broncos

The 2017 season was disappointing for Sanders due to injuries and bad quarterback play. Keenum is the key here, as if he plays well Sanders should have a much better 2018.

29. Chris Hogan- New England Patriots

Hogan had a shoulder injury that left him unable to compete for the last seven games of the season (Hogan had one catch over that span). He was a great fantasy option last season and now Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola are gone.

30. Devin Funchess- Carolina Panthers

Funchess and Greg Olsen will be Cam Newton’s first options this season, but there is more help around them now. He will continue to use his size to create matchup problems with just about every secondary in the league.

 

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2018 fantasy football composite rankings: RB

The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead.

Tiebreakers were decided by both Joe and Braxton.

For longer explanations, you can find their individual rankings here: Joe and Braxton.

Here are the composite running back rankings:

Running back rankings: 1-10

1. Todd Gurley- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

2. Ezekiel Elliot- Dallas Cowboys

Braxton’s rank: 1

Joe’s rank: 3

3. Le’Veon Bell- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank: 1

4. Leonard Fournette- Jacksonville Jaguars

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 7

5. Kareem Hunt- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Alvin Kamara- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 5

7. David Johnson- Arizona Cardinals

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 4

8. Saquon Barkley- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 8

9. Melvin Gordon- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank: 9

10. Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 10

Running back rankings: 11-20

11. Devonta Freeman- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 12

12. Jerick Mckinnon- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank: 15

13. Jordan Howard- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 13

14. Christian McCaffrey- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 11

15. LeSean McCoy- Buffalo Bills

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 14

16. Joe Mixon- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 18

17. Derrick Henry- Tennessee Titans

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: 20

18. Alex Collins- Baltimore Ravens

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 17

19. Lamar Miller- Houston Texans

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 19

20. Kenyan Drake- Miami Dolphins

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 16

Running back rankings: 21-30

 21. Derrius Guice- Washington Redskins

Braxton’s rank: 21

Joe’s rank: 21

22. Royce Freeman- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 24

23. Carlos Hyde- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank: 28

24. Mark Ingram- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 27

25. Jay Ajayi- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 25

26. Marshawn Lynch- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: 22

27. Marlon Mack- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 29

28. Ronald Jones- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 26

29. Rashaad Penny- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: N/A

Joe’s rank: 23

30. Sony Michel- New England Patriots

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank: N/A

 

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Western Conference Playoff Preview

NBA Western Conference finals preview

And now, the matchup you’ve all been waiting for; The clash of the Titans; The metaphorical NBA Finals everyone has wanted to see all season is upon us. The Golden State Warriors will face the Houston Rockets in the NBA Western Conference Finals (Game 1 on Monday).

These two teams boast the best offenses in the league during the regular season. Both teams are Averaging at least 112 points per game, so casual fans can expect high scoring games and many shots to be taken. As for the diehard NBA fans, expect to watch the best offensive schemes the game has to offer. As basketball enthusiasts, we have been drooling over this possible matchup throughout the year, and we actually get to watch it, unlike in years past.

For those that need catching up on the NBA or just feel like reading for the buildup, continue reading as normal. For those that know these teams inside and out, feel free to skip the next section. WARNING: watching these two teams will feel like a school session, with the class specializing in movement off-the-ball. Take notes if you have to.

 DURING THE REGULAR SEASON

Western Conference finals preview

James Harden (Photo by businessinsider.com)

The Rockets secured the home court advantage as the top seed in the West with the best record in the league (65-17) and won the regular season series against Golden State (3-1). Superstar guard, James Harden, will probably end up the league’s MVP with the season he has had; posting numbers like 8.8 APG (assists per game), 5.4 RPG (rebounds per game), 86% FT (free throw) percentage, a league-leading PER (player efficiency rating) of 29.8, and career high in points per game with 30.4.

The question coming into this series is: Will Harden be able to lead his Rockets as the MVP past the Warriors? Or will the onslaught of Warriors’ famed “death lineup” be too much for his team to handle? While this discussion isn’t all about James Harden, he will certainly be the focusing point of this series for not just the Warriors, but for all basketball fans.

Harden will not be doing it all by himself; there are other key players he has in Houston, such as fellow guard and 9x all-star Chris Paul making his first ever conference finals (13 seasons) to help distribute the ball to his teammates and orchestrate the offense. Clint Capella has had a breakout season both offensively and defensively; second in blocks per game and first in FG% (granted most if not all of those baskets come from within five feet of the rim). And from the bench, Eric Gordon posted 18 PPG on 43% shooting. Houston have rotational players that fill the roles of deep threat shooting (Ryan Andersen and Gerald Green), defensive anchors (Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute) and size (Nene) needed to complete an NBA roster.

The Warriors dealt with injuries to Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Steph Curry throughout the season. Very rarely, did we see the healthy death lineup during the season. That apparently did not stop the Warriors being the highest scoring team in the league (113 PPG) despite having to settle for the no. 2 in the West.

Steph Curry, while injured during the final quarter of the season, still posted a good season averaging 26 PPG, 6 APG and 5 RPG. Kevin Durant posted almost identical numbers to Curry but switched the assist (5) and rebounding (6) numbers. The Warriors have utilized the veterans on the squad for rotation and that has been what has made them so dangerous in the past. From death lineup member Andre Iguodala all the way to rookie Jordan Bell and G-League call-up Kevon Looney, Steve Kerr has not been afraid to go deep into his bench this season.

HOW HAVE BOTH TEAMS LOOKED IN THE POSTSEASON?

Houston has conceded two losses thus far in the postseason (one in both previous rounds). Their versatile offense had proven incredibly difficult to defend for teams known for their defensive mindsets in Minnesota and Utah. The high pick and roll between James Harden/Chris Paul and Clint Capella/Nene has been their main staple and has usually caused defenders to switch and force mismatches. This draws attention from help defenders which can leave Houston’s shooters open for the two of the best passing guards to casually dish them the ball. And if help doesn’t come, that usually means a lob for Capella or an ISO finish from Harden/Paul.

One standout this postseason has been Clint Capella. The center is leading the playoffs in blocks with 2.9 per game and has won his matchups between Karl Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert; I am not saying Capella is by any means the second coming of Olajuwon, but his presence in the paint has been felt throughout the Rockets playoff run. Defense is what has been somewhat of a criticism of the Rockets in the past; especially with the system Mike D’Antoni has been famous for deploying. However, Capella looks to have become a major defensive catalyst for the Rockets high powered offense.

Western Conference finals preview

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (Photo by fansided.com)

Golden State played the first six games of their postseason without Steph Curry (one series and the first game of the semifinals). The Warriors began their run by beating a Kawhi-less and partially Pop-less San Antonio in 5 games; Coach Gregg Popovich left the team indefinitely as his wife tragically died of illness during the series.

The following series they faced Anthony Davis and the red-hot Pelicans; Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo had helped Davis sweep Portland in the previous round. If the semifinals were a test, Golden State passed with flying colors conceding one loss and ending the series in five.

Steph was reinserted into the squad in Game 2 of that series and didn’t seem to have lost any of his shooting touch; at last, the death lineup was back for the playoffs. With the team seemingly now healthy and four games of being able to re-awaken their chemistry, these seem to be the championship Warriors of the past few seasons; a lot of movement away from the ball, back-door cuts, slip screens and threes… lots and lots of threes.

 

HOW WILL THE SERIES PLAY OUT?

Houston’s most effective lineup (defensively and offensively) will be Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker and Clint Capella. Eric Gordon is better coming off the bench. This allows him to be the focus of the offense when Harden or Paul needs a breather.

Harden and Paul will attempt to create switches to result in them being defended by a JaVale McGee, David West or Kevon Looney, as they are not good perimeter defenders and can be exploited with speed and finesse.

Their most effective lineup matches up well with Golden State’s death lineup in terms of size. The question will be can they keep up defensively with their movement away from the ball? Will Paul and Harden be able to chase Thompson and Curry all over the court? If they switch, what matchup are they willing to concede on that possession? This team may be able to keep up with Golden State offensively, but this series will come down to whether or not the Rockets can stop Golden State on defense.

Throughout this series, the Warriors will no doubt deploy the death lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. As we saw last season, this lineup appears unbeatable on both ends of the floor.

Green’s size and basketball IQ allow him to be able to defend almost any player on the court all while also being able to run the offense (Green is averaging close to a triple-double this postseason). Kevin Durant, while not the team’s leader, is the team’s most unstoppable force on the offensive end; the Rockets can only hope to slow down the 6’10” lanky forward. Iguodala (or “Iggy” as he is called), has been the team’s most gifted defender for the past few seasons now and can shoot from deep.

Houston will have a quite a task in stopping this team when it counts and I haven’t even talked about the Splash brothers yet; Klay and Steph have been touted by their previous coach, Mark Jackson, as the best shooting backcourt in the game’s history and don’t expect this series to be any different.

Shawn Livingston, David West, and McGee will be pivotal for the Warriors rotation in this series off the bench. One thing that will be interesting to see is if Kerr tries inserting rookie Jordan Bell to deter or hinder Capella with his heavier size and athleticism.

So, who wins? Who advances to the NBA Finals? While Houston may house the league’s probable MVP, his often-criticized individual defensive deficiencies may be his team’s undoing.

Expect the Warriors to try and get Harden to chase Klay or Steph around the court and make him expend more energy on the defensive end. What’s that Houston? You have Chris Paul now? That may be so, but this is also, for whatever reasons you want to come up with, his first ever conference finals.

Even if Houston matches up well defensively in size, that still leaves the most talented scorer in the game and his name is Kevin Durant. KD will not be stopped by any defender the Rockets have to offer as his size, ball handling, shooting and athleticism allows for him to have the advantage in nearly every situation this series could put in front of him.

And again, all of that without mentioning two of the best (if not the best) shooters this game has ever seen. Curry may not yet be completely healed from his knee sprain, but on this team, he may not have to.

The Warriors play a style that encourages individuals as much as it does teamwork, and that goes all the way to the end of the bench. The Warriors will be fresher and they have been to this stage many times in the past few seasons. Harden has disappeared in a key game in past series. Mike D’Antoni has made a conference final. What hasn’t happened are these Rockets getting past the Warriors when it matters most and don’t expect that to change.

Golden State wins in 6.

 

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College football top 10 predictions

The NFL Draft is over, now it’s time for college football to start back up again. As summer begins, teams prepare for camp and work their way towards having a good season for this upcoming year. As the countdown for college football begins, here are the top 10 teams that could make an impact in the 2018-2019 season.

1. Alabama

college football

Jalen Hurts stiff arms defender
(sec country)

Coming off of winning a National Title, the Alabama Crimson Tide might be able to go back for a fourth time. They still have leading junior quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who is a talented playmaker. He also has sophomore Tua Tagovailoa right behind him; he is also a very talented quarterback who is able to make plays. Even tho Bo Scarborough has moved on to the NFL, the Tide still has Damien Harris to run the ball past defenders on offense. On the defensive side, the Tide has the two good linebackers in Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson. They also have one of the most dangerous defensive linemen in the SEC with Raekwon Davis leading the herd.

2. Georgia

college football

Jake Fromm
(AI.com)

Georgia may have lost their starting linebackers and running backs, but this season still looks promising for the Bulldogs. During the spring game, there were some freshman that showed a lot of potential for the upcoming season. Sophomore, Monty Rice, was one of the linebackers in the spring game that showed out and could make an impact on the Bulldogs’ defense. Georgia still has a talented receiving core, including wide receivers Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and tight end Isaac Nauta. Not only the Bulldogs have talented receivers, they have quarterback Jake Fromm, who finished his season out with 2,173 total passing yards and 21 touchdowns.

3. Clemson

Clemson is a young team that had an outstanding season last year. The question is, can they do it again? The Tigers have major key players on defense that are returning this season, including senior linebacker Kendall Joseph and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Clemson lost key receivers due to the NFL draft, and they are still predicting who is going to fill in these empty holes, and become a threat on offense.

4. Oklahoma

Without Heisman winner Baker Mayfield in the picture, the Sooners have questions about who will be the next quarterback. During the spring game, redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall proved that he is the man for the job. The Sooners are also waiting to see if redshirt junior Kyler Murray will play this year or play professional baseball.

5. Ohio State

college football

Urban Myer and his team prepare for the game
(Ohio State athletics)

The Buckeyes have put in a lot of work during the offseason. Even though they’ve lost a handful of key players on the defensive line due to the draft, head coach Urban Myer still contains talented players and incoming freshman lined up ready to play. Sophomore defensive end, Chase Young, showed that he was ready to be placed on the line during the spring ball game. This season, he may start alongside Dre’Mont Jones and Nick Bosa. Not only will the Buckeyes have a good defense, but they also have promising key players on offense as well, including sophomore J.K Dobbins, who ran for 1,364 yards last season, and junior wide receiver Parris Campbell.

6. UCF

college football

UCF
(the ringer.com)

The Knights had a perfect season last year, and they had one of their best linebackers, Shaquem Griffin, make it to the NFL draft. UCF also has an outstanding running back core led by Adrian Killins Jr. who rushed for 762 yards last season. That’s not all, the Knights have quarterback McKenzie Milton that can put the ball in any pocket to any receiver and can run the ball like a tailback. Last season, he threw for 4,037 yards and rushed for 497 yards. UCF may cause problems on offense with this duo next season.

7. Stanford

The Cardinals have had a pretty decent season in 2017, even though they lost in the Alamo Bowl to TCU. They also lost their star Heisman runner-up, Bryce Love due to a sprained ankle. He didn’t even participate in the spring, because he is still recovering. By this fall, Love should be able to return and take the Pac 12 by storm. Stanford’s defense will play a key factor for next season.

8. TCU

In replacement of Kenny Hill, sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson will lead the offense for next season. Their offensive line is fairly young, but the receivers are pretty talented including KaVontae Turpin and Jalen Reagor.

9. Miami

The Hurricanes had begun to rebuild a dynasty last season, until they were exposed to Pittsburgh. They can still have another shot in the College Football Playoff next season. They have key receivers, including sophomore Jeff Thomas, Ahmmon Richards and return running back Travis Homer. On the defensive side, safety Jaquan Johnson, and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman are returning and will lead the defense for next season.

10. Michigan State

The Spartans still have a majority of their starters coming back. Brian Lewerke will lead the offense; he is a gunslinger that threw for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. LJ Scott is in the backfield with him and he will cause a lot of damage in the Big Ten.

 

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