Celtics Cavaliers preview

Eastern Conference finals: Celtics vs. Cavaliers preview

It was nearly a month ago that NBA fans were predicting a Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers Eastern Conference finals. The Raptors were supposed to be a legit No. 1 seed and put their postseason struggles behind them. The 76ers were coming in hot with the longest winning streak in franchise history.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were too inconsistent and struggling defensively. The Boston Celtics were too banged up. There was not much of a chance either of these teams were getting past the first round.

Well, here we are. The Cavaliers and Celtics will be facing each other in the Eastern Conference finals for a second straight season, defying all odds and proving that the regular season is meaningless when talking about the playoffs. LeBron James has continued his postseason dominance, and Brad Stevens is making his case as the NBA’s top coach.

Here is a look at both teams as they prepare to face off for a shot at the NBA Finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs have had a very interesting postseason to say the least. After surviving a series against the Indiana Pacers that went to Game 7, they swept the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors.

What changed for the Cavs? LeBron James got some help. In the Indiana series, James averaged 34.4 points per game with the second highest average being 11.4. In the Toronto series, James averaged 34, but Kevin Love averaged 20.5, and Kyle Korver, JR Smith and Jeff Green each averaged over 12.

Celtics Cavaliers preview

(Photo by Getty Images)

Indiana was a tougher matchup defensively for the Cavs. They held the Cavs to 94.9 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting. They were much more physical than Toronto, and Lance Stephenson was doing everything he could to get in the Cavs’ heads. In the end, James proved why he is the league’s best player, and a nice boost from Tristan Thompson and George Hill in Game 7 helped push the Cavs to the semifinals.

Toronto was no match for Cleveland. For the third straight season, the Cavs eliminated the Raptors’ in the playoffs. The Cavs swept the Raptors and averaged 14.1 more points per game than them in the process.

Overall, Cleveland is averaging 103.5 points per game and allowing 102. The offense is not quite where it was at in the regular season, but the defense has really improved. The Cavs held Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to just 34.6 points per game combined.

Most importantly, LeBron James is dominating the postseason once again. Overall, James is averaging 34.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, nine assists, 1.5 steals and a block per game. He is shooting 55.3 percent from the field and nailed two buzzer beaters in the Toronto series.

The matchup against Toronto really helped the Cavs come together as a team and figure things out. However, despite missing Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, beating the Celtics will be no easy task.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics were doomed from the start of the season when Hayward went down with an injury in the season opener against the Cavs. Their chances of postseason success were shattered when Irving went down with an injury in early April.

At least, that was what was supposed to happen. Players like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum have really stepped up for the team in the absence of their stars.

Celtics Cavaliers preview

(Photo by Stuart Cahill)

Like the Cavs, the Celtics struggled in their first-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo and company took the No. 2 seed in the East to seven games. Home-court advantage proved to be a key factor as the home team won each game in the series.

Boston advanced to face the 76ers, who were hot coming in, but still inexperienced. To the surprise of many, Boston beat Philly in five games. The biggest key for Boston was shutting down rookie sensation Ben Simmons. Simmons was held to just 14.4 points per game and turned the ball over 24 times, which was by far more than anyone else in the series.

Tatum, who has also made noise as a rookie, led Boston in scoring in the series with 23.6 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting. Rozier contributed 19 points and 7.2 rebounds. Jaylen Brown added 15.3 points and five rebounds, and Boston’s lone All-Star, Al Horford, contributed 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in the series.

Overall, the Celtics are averaging 104.1 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting and allowing 102.5. They will be making their second straight trip to the Eastern Conference finals. A starting lineup that features Tatum, Brown, Horford, Rozier and Aron Baynes will not scare too many people.

However, you have to look at who is leading this team. The only explanation for how Boston has made it this far is Brad Stevens. Stevens has been making his case not just for Coach of the Year, but also for why he may be the NBA’s best coach. Not many coaches could get this far without their two best players.

Analysis

This will be the third time in the last four years that the Cavaliers and Celtics have met in the playoffs. It is a matchup most predicted at the start of the regular season, but not at the start of the postseason given the circumstances of both teams.

Really, there is not much that separates these teams statistically. Boston averages 3.9 more rebounds per game, 0.6 more points, 1.5 more assists, 0.3 more steals, 0.9 more blocks and 0.9 percent more shooting from three. The Cavs shoot 2.1 percent higher from the field, turn the ball over 0.2 times less, force 0.2 more turnovers and allow 0.5 points per game less.

The Cavs have more star power, although Kevin Love has struggled overall this postseason. He is averaging just 14.7 points per game on 39.4 percent shooting, but is still contributing 10.1 rebounds and shooting 38.5 percent from three.

However, the Celtics appear to be more balanced. Boston has six players averaging at least 10 points per game this postseason compared to just four on Cleveland. None of those six players on the Celtics really struggled offensively in the first round like the players on the Cavs. However, Indiana played much tougher defense than Milwaukee at the same time.

Prediction

This matchup is closer than people might think. Ultimately, it is going to depend on which version of the Cavs shows up this series.

Cleveland will be the toughest defense Boston has faced this postseason, while Boston will be in the middle of the pack for Cleveland. Boston was able to fluster a young player like Ben Simmons in the semifinals, but it is going to be tougher to do that against a veteran team like the Cavs.

Boston has home-court advantage for this series, but there is a three-day break between Game 2 and 3. An older team like Cleveland could really benefit from this break. If Cleveland can take one game in Boston, they can return to Cleveland fully charged and potentially jump ahead 3-1 when returning to Boston for Game 5.

Prediction: Cleveland in six

 

Featured image by Michael Dwyer/AP

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UEFA Champions League Final preview

The UEFA Champions League Final is set. Real Madrid vs. Liverpool FC. One game, winner is showered in glory, loser goes home in disappointment. Real Madrid are looking to win their third straight UCL title. Liverpool are looking to cap off an exciting season and begin a new era at Anfield. Both teams are filled with history. Both teams have the two best scorers in the world at the moment; Mohamed Salah (43 in all competitions) and Cristiano Ronaldo (41 in all competitions). The anticipation built once the final whistle blew of the semifinal between Liverpool and Roma. Now we get to mentally prepare ourselves for the best football the world has to offer at the club level.

How did each team make their way to Kiev?

Los Blancos finished second in their group behind Tottenham and drew Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 to begin their run towards the Ukrainian capital. On experience alone, Real Madrid was able to blow away the smoke emitting from the mouths of the players on French outfit, including one Brazilian mega-star in Neymar, advancing 5-2 on aggregate. In the round of 8, Real Madrid squeaked by Serie A champions Juventus on a last-second penalty taken by who else, but Cristiano Ronaldo.

The two legs of the tie could not have been more different; First leg, Real Madrid blank Juventus 3-0, but the second leg, Juventus staged what would have been a great comeback to force extra time tying the aggregate score at 3-3, until Ronaldo’s penalty in stoppage time of the second leg that sent Real through to the semifinal.

In the semifinal, Real Madrid again edged their opposition by controversy and a goal. Bayern Munich goalkeeper Sven Ulreich’s blunder in the second leg that handed Los Blancos the one-goal lead on aggregate (advancing 4-3) could go down as the ultimate gift to Madrid in route to their third straight UCL title.

Overall, Real Madrid’s 2018 UCL campaign has yielded the results they wanted, but how they got those results would be more than likely undesirable. Zidane’s side did not seem to play consistently well in the knockout rounds and the trail they left has been littered with controversy. And just think, by the start of the knockout stages, rumors were speculating that Zidane would lose his job as the manager if Madrid had been knocked out by PSG early on. It is safe to say now that his sacking has been saved for another year with a third straight UCL final appearance and looking to complete a three-peat.

Real Madrid looking to win three straight UCL titles.

Liverpool FC took a slightly different route to Kiev. The English side finished fourth domestically last year, so they drew Hoffenheim in a preliminary round to get into the group stage. Liverpool advanced convincingly with a 6-3 aggregate score. Liverpool finished top of Group E that included Sevilla (Spain), Spartak Moscow (Russia) and Maribor (Slovenia).

In the round of 16, the Reds rolled over Portuguese side, Porto, in a 5-0 route and exciting display of attacking football. Liverpool drew the soon-to-be Premier League champions in Manchester City for the round of 8; a tie that was easily dubbed matchup of the season prior to kickoff. The Reds had taken an astonishing 3-0 lead heading into the second leg and was able to hold off Man City advancing on aggregate 5-1.

Liverpool faced off with fellow American-owned Italian side, AS Roma, who had just completed an incredible comeback against Barcelona. Roma would have to complete another comeback in the second leg as Liverpool had a 5-2 lead. Liverpool was able to hold on to that lead and advanced to the final on a UCL semifinal record aggregate of 7-6 (most goals in the semifinal of the competition). To summarize Liverpool’s journey to Kiev, it boasted a lethal attack and a defense that could crack at any moment given enough pressure. Fortunately for the Reds, their offense was their best defense; the greatest the UCL has ever seen having their front three slot home 31 of their 40 UCL goals this season.

Likely Line-ups

Madrid will most likely deploy a 4-4-2 with diamond. Most of the 11 will be easy to predict to start barring any injury. Keylor Navas will be in goal and in front of him will be Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Rafael Varane; the fourth member of the backline will be Theo Hernandez if Dani Carvajal is unable to go. The midfield diamond will be made up of Casemiro (back of the diamond), Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and if Isco cannot play due to injury, expect Lucas Vasquez to take his place at the front of the diamond. Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo will be the attacking forwards.

Liverpool will probably stick to their same formation of a 4-3-3. Due to injury, this lineup is easier to predict. Loris Karius in goal with Dejan Lovren, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold in front of him. The midfield will be made up of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum. The front three will be Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Strategy: Real Madrid

Real will have to control the midfield with Kroos and Casemiro and trust them to find Modrić to help distribute to the front three. Casemiro drops back to help Varane and Ramos defending against the LFC front three when they try to counter; this helps cover for Carvajal/Hernandez and Marcelo wanting to push forward in attack. Isco/Vasquez and Ronaldo will create chances for themselves and Benzema. Apply constant pressure to the Liverpool defense, do not allow them to counter and it’ll be smooth sailing for Los Blancos

Strategy: Liverpool

Coach Jurgen Klopp has created this captivating Liverpool team with his pressing all-out attack style. They will need that energy to put Madrid’s age to the test. The midfield needs to outpace and outwork Modrić and apply as much pressure as they can to Kroos to force turnovers. Henderson or Milner may need to assist Lovren and van Dijk in closing up the holes Madrid may create on the attack. Similarly to their first leg performance against Roma, they should let Real Madrid’s full-backs press forward and utilize the long ball to hit Real’s backline with the pace that Salah and Mane offer. This forces a 3v3 with Casemiro dropping back with Ramos and Varane to spread the back line out. Marcelo and Carvajal will be running up and down the field all evening. Trust Robertson and Alexander-Arnold to stall, agitate and compete with the Madrid flanks and unleash the counter when they are able to win possession and unleash the best front three in the UCL.

Image courtesy of: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR1am9Plt1oD7LaD4vd3Ul4E8VFYd7qJ4pa9TwxJG439phbJoQzEw

(From left) Firmino, Mane and Salah have made plenty of noise this season and look to cap it off with a UCL trophy

So who wins?

For Madrid to really stall Liverpool’s front three, Marcelo and Carvajal will have to be conservative when going forward. Zidane cannot expect Ramos to keep up with either Mane or Salah in a foot race. This point becomes irrelevant though if Madrid can control the midfield; Madrid would prefer it if Casemiro and Varane are the ones chasing the two wings leaving Ramos to mark Firmino, a much better matchup for Madrid. Both defenses can be exposed as Liverpool proved last round against Roma. Both attacking thirds have proven what they can do so this game will be won in the midfield.

So who wins? Can Liverpool end the reign that Spanish football has had over the UCL? A reign lasting almost five years (La Liga has produced the last four champions, three of them being Real Madrid). Given that their style of play suits the competition they’ve faced, I think Liverpool win their first trophy in 13 years as a result of their high pressing and deadly front three. Real Madrid have just escaped elimination the past two rounds and haven’t been punished for playing poorly. Liverpool only know how to play one way and while that may leave them vulnerable at the back, they boast the most dangerous front three in the world at the moment. You know what they say, the best defense is a good offense. Liverpool is the more consistent team than Madrid. While Madrid is more experienced at this stage of the competition in recent memory, they have limped their way to Kiev and haven’t been punished for their poor play. Liverpool wins 3-2 with goals coming from Salah, Firmino and van Dijk.

 

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For many children that have grown up playing sports, they have all dreamed of one day making it into the pros at one point. Baseball is one of the most popular destinations for this kind of journey. The rookie class of 2018 is now living out that life-long dream on the big stage.

In this rookie watch, we will be taking a look at the rookies that are making impacts in their inaugural seasons. Establishing their commanding presences, these guys have made their cases early in the “Rookie of the Year” conversations. Whether from the pitcher’s mound or the batter’s box, these rookies are looking to command the respect of the league.

rookie watch: American League

The Boston Red Sox pitching staff has established itself as among the elite in 2018. One of many names blazing on the mound is 29-year-old righty, Hector Velazquez.

MLB rookie watch

(Photo by AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Do not let the age fool you. Velazquez has given no quarter this season. He boasts a 4-0 record, the best of all AL rookies. He also leads the pack with a 2.38 ERA. Though only starting his MLB career, Velazquez is a can’t miss contender for AL Rookie of the Year, and potentially a Cy Young Award. Boston’s lineup is stacked, but Velazquez has become a vital asset keeping the Red Sox on top.

Speaking of stacked lineups, The New York Yankees are slugging it out with Boston for the AL East. The Pinstripes have become a batting terror this season, and home of the next name in this rookie watch. Meet Gleyber Torres.

Though he is not a home run hitting master, Torres has nevertheless made his presence felt. The 21-year-old second baseman leads all AL rookies in batting average and on-base percentage. He has also hit 11 RBI in his 16 games in the big leagues. With New York closing in on Boston, Torres can be an x-factor if he can continue this kind of batting.

You might be asking, “How come I have not mentioned Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels yet?” Relax, he is still the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year in virtually everyone’s book. His 3-1 pitching record and .344 batting average have definitely put him among the brightest young stars of 2018. On top of that, Ohtani has belted 14 RBIs and only yielding a .213 batting average from opposing batters. Enough said.

Rookie Watch: National League

The first player in our NL rookie watch is starting to get his name out as a Los Angeles Dodger. Meet right-handed pitcher, Walker Buehler.

MLB rookie watch

(Photo from Sports Illustrated)

Buehler is currently boasting a 2-0 pitching record this season, along with a 1.13 ERA. He has accomplished this within the 16 innings he has pitched so far. The rest of the Dodgers, however, cannot seem to break out from their slow start to the new campaign. Not to mention their legendary ace, Clayton Kershaw, is on the disabled list. Buehler and company will have to step up to keep the Dodgers’ playoff hopes alive.

In the NL East, the Atlanta Braves hold a very thin lead in their division. One rookie that has helped Atlanta to the top is a familiar name around the league: left fielder, Ronald Acuña Jr.

Acuña currently leads all NL rookies in batting average and slugging percentage. Plus, his fielding abilities are razor sharp for his age, having yet to record an error this season. Not only will he be a contender for NL Rookie of the Year but also could be a Gold Glove winner in the not-so-distant future.

Returning to the NL West, Christian Villanueva has turned into a formidable power hitter for the San Diego Padres. However, he has entered a slump in recent games, including a .040 batting average in his last seven. Despite this, Villanueva continues to lead all rookies in both home runs and RBIs. If he can get his batting average back up, the 26-year-old third baseman can help brighten up San Diego’s offense, as well as its season.

Looking ahead

Winning the Rookie of the Year Award can push a player to stardom. It can also preview a bright future for the baseball club. But let us not forget that we have seen some of the game’s greatest not win this particular honor. Not to mention that anyone can enter a cold streak at any time. For all of the new guys, we wish nothing but the best in their baseball careers.

 

Featured image by Karl L. Moore and baseballamerica.com

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2018 fantasy football RB 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 RB rankings:

Running back rankings: 1-10

1. Le’Veon Bell- Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell still doesn’t have the long-term contract he desires. He will sit out preseason then come back for the regular season, making him a safer running back pick than others getting carries before the season starts. His season will likely start off slow, much like last year, but then he will come on strong. He finished second in scoring among running backs last year and should have another great season.

2. Todd Gurley- Los Angeles Rams

Last season Gurley finished second for all players and first for running backs in fantasy. It would be hard to imagine him having quite the same season this year, as teams figure out Sean McVay’s play-calls and tendencies, but he should play well again. The Rams also have a first-place schedule to worry about. Gurley, like Bell, helps out in the receiving game too, which aids in making him a great running back.

3. Ezekiel Elliot- Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys lack playmakers and are going to need to hand Elliot the rock often. Elliot still has a great line in front of him and can capitalize on that. Teams may stack the box to stop him and make Dak Prescott beat them, but Prescott excels on play-action passes, so they will be kept honest.

2018 fantasy football rb rankings

David Johnson (Photo by azcardinals.com)

4. David Johnson- Arizona Cardinals

Johnson is returning from his broken wrist last season. He has had plenty of time to heal so that injury shouldn’t be a concern for this season. Johnson was an early first-round pick in fantasy drafts last year, so this year may be the time to take him later in the first and get good value on him. He will be the focal point of the offense once again and can help out a new quarterback, whoever it ends up being, with his receiving capabilities.

5. Alvin Kamara- New Orleans Saints

The news that Mark Ingram is out for four games helps Kamara’s case for this season. He will still be splitting carries with Ingram when he returns, which makes it hard to put him much higher than this on the list. Kamara broke onto the scene last year and now will have teams game-planning around him. He finished as the fourth best running back last season and will have to work to get back to that spot.

6. Kareem Hunt- Kansas City Chiefs

With Mahomes taking over, teams will stack the box on Hunt next season. Defenses likely won’t pay too often, as Mahomes won’t complete a very high percentage of his passes. The good news is Hunt will get a large portion of the check-downs that Mahomes throws.

7. Leonard Fournette- Jacksonville Jaguars

Fournette finished eighth among running backs last year and didn’ have a great offensive line in front of him. Andrew Norwell was signed to help improve the line and Fournette should see a little better results because of it. He missed three games due to injuries and being late to a team photo, so that is a concern going forward, but he’s still a top ten running back.

8. Saquon Barkley- New York Giants

Rookie running backs breaking out and having good seasons is more of a norm now. Barkley is one of the most talented college running backs in history and will be the player that the Giants have been looking for at the position for years. The offensive line for the Giants got better this offseason with the acquisitions of Nate Solder and Will Hernandez. He can help out in the passing game as well.

9. Melvin Gordon- Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ defense has gotten a lot better, which means that they will lead a lot more and Gordon will get more carries to close out games. Gordon finished fifth last year and is a good candidate to have another good year. He will be hoping that Dan Feeny and Forrest Lamp can stay healthy and improve this season to help create holes.

10. Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings

Cook has a significant injury history dating back to college, so taking him could be a risk. His ability makes it a risk worth taking. He played well in his limited time last year. The offensive line was decent last year and Brian O’Neill as drafted to help improve it even more. Kirk Cousins loves to throw to running backs out of the backfield, so Cook should have a high work rate.

Running back rankings: 11-20

11. Christian McCaffrey- Carolina Panthers

The offensive line got worse this offseason with the loss of Norwell, but McCaffrey had 113 targets in the passing game. He was a boom-or-bust play last year with seven games of under six fantasy points and six games of over 10 points. Jonathan Stewart is now gone, so McCaffrey should see a better work rate.

12. Devonta Freeman- Atlanta Falcons

Freeman finished 13th last year and does split carries with Tevin Coleman. He formerly was the number one running back in fantasy, but that was under a different offensive coordinator. His value is limited with him sharing carries and playing for Steve Sarkisian, who fails to get the most out of his players.

13. Jordan Howard- Chicago Bears

Not many people have Howard this high on their lists, but with the offense getting better around him, he can have a good season. He was the 10th best running back last year and the field should be more spread out for him with Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel being able to produce.

2018 Fantasy football RB rankings

LeSean McCoy (Photo by buffalorumblings.com)

14. LeSean McCoy- Buffalo Bills

Taking McCoy as a number one running back is no longer a viable option. He is aging and the team around him isn’t going to be very helpful. Cordy Glenn was traded and both Richie Incognito and Eric Wood retired this offseason. Their offensive line is not going to be good. This paired with the fact that an unproven quarterback will be taking snaps, means that other teams can focus their time on shutting down the run.

15. Jerick McKinnon- San Francisco 49ers

McKinnon was just the 24th best running back last season, but he has a tremendous opportunity this year. The 49ers will be able to use him on all three downs and his only competition for carries is Matt Breida. Even if Breida gets a decent amount of carries, McKinnon will get work in the passing game.

16. Kenyan Drake- Miami Dolphins

Frank Gore was signed this offseason, giving Drake a running mate. Gore’s career is winding down and while he may still get a decent amount of carries, Drake will be given the majority. With Ryan Tannehill returning to the lineup, Drake should be a security blanket to throw to in the passing game.

17. Alex Collins- Baltimore Ravens

While he didn’t start off the season to get a lot of the work out of the backfield, Collins ran with his opportunity and finished as the 16th ranked running back. With a full season getting the majority of the carries, Collins should be expected to be a RB2.

18. Joe Mixon- Cincinnati Bengals

After getting his feet wet as a rookie, Mixon is poised for a bigger year in 2018. The offensive line in front of him will be much better with the additions of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price.

19. Lamar Miller- Houston Texans

This ranking is very dependent on Deshaun Watson coming back healthy. At the end of the season, with Watson out of the lineup, Miller had five straight games of under 10 fantasy points. He didn’t have his greatest season last year, but the Texans had a bad offensive line and bad quarterback play without Watson.

20. Derrick Henry- Tennessee Titans

Demarco Murray is finally gone, so Henry can take the lead back role. He will split carries with Dion Lewis, but they should compliment each other well. Henry finished 25th last year and should be able to finish in the top 20 this season.

Running back rankings: 21-30

21. Derrius Guice- Washington Redskins

Guice will be part of a tandem as well, with Chris Thompson. Thompson will capitalize on all of Alex Smith’s short throws, but Guice is going to be tasked with getting all the tough yards on first and second down. He should also receive the majority of the goal line carries.

2018 fantasy football RB rankings

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by sportingnews.com)

22. Marshawn Lynch- Oakland Raiders

He wasn’t the same back that he was before retirement, but he was a top 20 fantasy back last season. Doug Martin now joins the fold, but Lynch will still see the majority of the carries. The line isn’t quite the same great one it was in 2016, but is still solid.

23. Rashaad Penny- Seattle Seahawks

The offensive line is still a huge issue that wasn’t adequately addressed, so Penny will be thrown into the fire as a rookie. The Seahawks did draft him too early, but that shows confidence in his abilities and a desire to use him in their offense. He can stay on the field for all three downs.

24. Royce Freeman- Denver Broncos

Freeman found the perfect situation in the Denver Broncos. He was a great runner behind zone blocking in college and will now run behind a similar zone blocking scheme in the NFL. With C.J. Anderson gone Freeman will only have to fight for carries with Devontae Booker.

25. Jay Ajayi- Philadelphia Eagles

He will surely have a better season than last year when he ranked 33rd in fantasy points for running backs. Ajayi will be the workhorse back, but they have many talented running backs who will get touches this season. They have talked about getting him more involved in the game plan, so expect him to be in the RB2-Flex range.

26. Ronald Jones II- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs needed a new running back without Doug Martin being on the roster any longer. Jones is a quick running back, who figures to get most of the carries this season. He will also help out in the passing game.

27. Mark Ingram- New Orleans Saints

Ingram is now suspended for four games for breaking the performance-enhancing drug rules of the NFL. He finished sixth last year, but was figured to take a small step back with the emergence of Kamara. With the suspension, he is now dropping down draft boards and shouldn’t be seen as more than a flex player even when he comes back.

28. Carlos Hyde- Cleveland Browns

Hyde has a new home in Cleveland but has to split carries with Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr. He should get carries near the goal line, but other parts of the field might see a more even split. Hyde also has injury problems as last season was the only year he played all 16 games.

29. Marlon Mack- Indianapolis Colts

There are reports that Jordan Wilkins will be a star, but he wasn’t vey successful in college. Mack should get most of the carries and he now has a much improved offensive line to run behind.

30. Chris Thompson- Washington Redskins

Thompson was crushing it before going down with injury and missing the last six games of the season. He is an excellent third-down back who should thrive playing with “Captain Check-Down” Alex Smith.

 

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Jones

Eagles signing RB Matt Jones

The Eagles have signed former Redskins and Colts running back Matt Jones to a contract. Ian Rappoport stated that Jones took part in a three back workout yesterday that also involved running back Terrance West.

Who is Matt Jones?

Jones

Matt Jones. Photo by Micheal Reeves/Getty Images

Matt Jones was a 2015 third round pick of the Washington Redskins. He showed promise as a power back in his rookie season gaining 490 yards on 144 carries. He also scored three touchdowns. However the next season he failed to live up to expectations. His fumble prone nature caused him to fall out of favor with the Redskins coaching staff. He had eight fumbles in just two seasons in Washington. Then after the season he was released. The Indianapolis Colts signed him, but he failed to make an impact bouncing around from their practice squad to their active roster.

Will he make it through offseason cuts?

Jones

Matt Jones. Photo by USA TODAY Sports

Matt Jones has a lot of competition. He was brought in to try to fill the role LeGarrette Blount vacated this offseason. His competition for a spot on the roster is undrafted free agent Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood and Donnell Pumphrey. The Eagles currently have seven running backs on their roster. They will most likely reduce that number to four or five through the offseason cuts.

Matt Jones is going to have to really impress the Eagles coaching staff to beat out all of his competition. I wouldn’t say it is impossible, however, I would say that rookie Josh Adams is my favorite to fill the role of power back. It will most likely be an uphill climb for Jones to make the roster. However, it is a positive for Matt Jones that the Eagles do not seem very confident that their current running back group can fill the void. Maybe Jones has more of a chance than you would think.

Featured image from 247 Sports

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2018 Fantasy Football Composite Rankings: QB

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 quarterback rankings:

Quarterback rankings: 1-10

1. Aaron Rodgers- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 1

Joe’s rank: 1

2. Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

3. Tom Brady- New England Patriot

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank:4

4. Cam Newton- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 3

5. Deshaun Watson- Houston Texans 

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 9

7. Carson Wentz- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 5

8. Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 7

9. Matt Ryan- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 12

10. Matt Stafford- Detroit Lions

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: 8

Quarterback rankings: 11-20

11. Kirk Cousins- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 13

12. Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 11

13. Jimmy Garoppolo- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank:17

14. Phillip Rivers- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 10

15. Jared Goff- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank:15

16. Derek Carr- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank:14

17. Marcus Mariota- Tennessee Titans

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 18

18. Jameis Winston- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 16

19. Dak Prescott- Dallas Cowboys

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 19

20. Case Keenum- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 20

Quarterback rankings: 21-30

21. Eli Manning- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 24

22. Andy Dalton- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 21

Joe’s rank: 22

23. Alex Smith- Washington Redskins

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 21

24. Blake Bortles- Jacksonville Jaguars

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 23

25. Tyrod Taylor- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 26

26. Joe Flacco- Baltimore Ravens

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 25

27. Pat Mahomes- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 29

28. Mitch Trubisky- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 27

Joe’s rank: 28

29. Ryan Tannehill- Miami Dolphins

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: 27

30. A.J. McCarron- Buffalo Bills

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank 30

 

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Carson Wentz Week 1 start

Carson Wentz is very confident he will play Week 1

Carson Wentz went down with an ACL and LCL tear on Dec. 10, 2017. After a few days, the news broke that the injury was an ACL tear.

Immediately after the announcement, everyone proclaimed that the Philadelphia Eagles were done for the year. They also said that Wentz was unlikely to be able to start the beginning of next season for the Eagles. Looks like both of those statements just might turn out to be wrong.

The standard recovery time of 9-12 months puts him back on the field Sept. 10 at the earliest and Dec. 10 in the near worst case. This time, expectations may be exceeded. Wentz says that he expects to be back for the season opener on Sept. 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Could Wentz really be ready for Week 1?

Carson Wentz Week 1 start

Carson Wentz (Photo by Eric Hartline USA TODAY Sports)

Many times, athletes can be overly optimistic about their recoveries from injury. Just last year, the Indianapolis Colts brass and even Reggie Wayne stated that they believed Andrew Luck would be ready for Week 1. However, as the season drug on for the Colts, Luck did not play one game.

Sometimes, an athlete can be a special circumstance and recover much more quickly or effectively. For example, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in December of 2011. However, he was able to come back and rush for over 2,000 yards in 2012.

In the end, Peterson fell eight yards short of the single season rushing record with 2,097. It is truly remarkable that he was able to get even close to breaking the record in a season where many thought he would not even be able to start Week 1.

That shows that quick recoveries are possible with dedicated rehab, a smart recovery plan and good genetics. This case is especially impressive at the position of running back as they take the most abuse of any player on the field. Wentz is a quarterback, which should help his odds of making it back.

Will Carson Wentz be one of these success stories? Maybe. We probably will not know until we are closer to the season opener.

It sure sounds like he thinks he will be ready though, and if anyone can do it, Wentz can. Wentz was asked on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football about the possibility of starting Week 1 and said this in response.

“I’m very confident,” he said. “It’s a fluid process, so you never know how it’s going to go, but where we’re at, just trying to do what the doctors say and just take it step by step. There are times when you feel great and want to push it more, but you’ve got to stay the course with what the doctors are saying. I feel really good and really confident for Week 1.”

In addition to his confidence, Ian Rapoport recently tweeted some promising news for Eagles fans.

What if Wentz is not ready for the season opener?

It is very likely that Wentz will be back for Week 1. However, at the same time, it would not be surprising if the Eagles held him out just a little longer to make sure that their franchise quarterback stays healthy.

Luckily for the Eagles, that is a very minimal problem for them. Philadelphia has a strong backup in Nick Foles, who just led the team to a Super Bowl victory. After all, Wentz would likely not have much of a problem with not playing immediately if it was in his best interest. Wentz has been very vocal in saying that he will listen to doctors and not risk his health to rush the recovery process.

Wentz also talked on Good Morning Football about how good of a relationship he has with Foles. He stated that there is no “ruffled feathers” between them and that they are “friends first and foremost before teammates.”

How will Wentz prevent injuries in the future?

Carson Wentz Week 1 start

(Photo by Sports Illustrated)

Much has been said about Wentz struggling with injuries over the last few years. He has suffered broken ribs and now a torn ACL and LCL in his first two seasons in the NFL. Therefore, Wentz was recently asked if he would change his playing style to avoid being injured in the future. Wentz responded by saying that he will always learn from injuries and other lessons he learns while playing. For example, when he watches game tape and realizes that he could have avoided a big hit on a play and only sacrificed a couple yards by sliding.

However, he also stated that he will never change his aggressive mentality because that is just who he is. As uneasy as it can make the fans, his competitive nature is part of what makes him such a great quarterback. He will learn to protect himself more as he gains experience in the NFL.

The full interview of Carson Wentz

Featured image from Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Minnesota Vikings rookies

Instant impact: The Minnesota Vikings’ rookies

Every year, we hear the same question being asked after the NFL Draft: Who will be the next Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara or Andrew Luck? Rookie sensations take over the NFL each season, reshaping both their team and the league in the process. In 2017, Kamara made the Saints’ even more formidable, turning them into Super Bowl contenders.

With the 2018 NFL Draft long gone, it is time to predict which rookies will make an immediate impact with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have one of the best rosters in the league, but could still use an influx of young talent.

The following players are the three most likely to make an instant impact with Minnesota in 2018.

Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh

Minnesota Vikings rookies

Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill (No. 70). (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Leading the pack is the Vikings’ second-round pick, Brian O’Neill. The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line has struggled for the last several years, making tackle a position of need. Last offseason, the Vikings signed tackles Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff in free agency. Both are just average starters and are getting older (29 years old each).

With Reiff locked in at left tackle, O’Neill will likely start on the right side. This will also allow Remmers to move inside at right guard, a position he is more suited for.

O’Neill is not the strongest of tackles, but was one of the most athletic offensive linemen in this year’s draft. He also has very long arms and good mechanics. At Pittsburgh, O’Neill played every game, which is a testament to his outstanding durability.

While he needs to become stronger to take on NFL pass rushers, the Vikings’ lack of depth along the offensive line will allow O’Neill to play early and often in 2018.

Chance of starting next season: 85 percent

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

Despite him being Minnesota’s first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mike Hughes is just a notch below O’Neill here. This is in large part due to the Vikings’ outstanding depth at the cornerback position. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Terence Newman all have a greater chance at starting Week 1.

Minnesota Vikings rookies

UCF corner Mike Hughes returns a kickoff for a touchdown against rival USF. The return would end up being the game-winning score. (Photo by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

In addition, coach Mike Zimmer is infamous for bringing along his rookies slowly. For example, both Waynes and Anthony Barr had to fight for playing time as rookies, despite being selected high in their respective drafts.

Hughes may not be quite ready to start on defense either. With limited experience at UCF, he would benefit from seeing a reduced role in 2018.

That being said, there is a high probability of Hughes becoming a force on special teams. He was one of the most dynamic kick returners in college, returning two kickoffs and a punt back for six points. His speed and physicality would make him an excellent gunner as well.

Hughes has the traits of a lockdown cornerback, but he needs some time to develop early on. Expect him to be featured on special teams, and eventually move into the slot corner role.

Chance of starting next season: 70 percent

Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan

Minnesota Vikings rookies

Former Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin. (Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Conklin is one of the more intriguing players in this year’s class. In 2016, he was one of the most dynamic players at the position, displaying great body control, hands and blocking ability. He is the stereotypical “basketball player converted tight end” and will be a great red zone target in the NFL.

Unfortunately, a severe foot injury derailed his 2017 season. Conklin looked unlike himself last season, struggling to find separation and was sluggish on the field. In order for him to make the 53-man roster, Conklin will need to bounce back from his injury fast. If he can return to his 2016 form, he could be a draft steal.

There is little depth at the tight end position behind Kyle Rudolph, so Conklin could easily become the Vikings No. 2. Kirk Cousins also enjoys utilizing his tight ends, making Conklin’s role even more important.

He still needs to fully recover, but Conklin could see plenty of playing time early in 2018.

Chance of starting next season: 35 percent

Bonus pick: Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn

Stop the presses. We got a kicker battle on our hands!

Carlson will be competing with 2017 starter Kai Forbath for the Vikings’ kicking job this summer. The outcome of these kicking competitions is always difficult to predict, making Carlson impossible to rank.

At Auburn, he displayed one of the strongest legs in football, making 13 field goals of over 50 yards. His accuracy took a slight hit compared to his 2015-16 stats, but was still one of the best kickers in the draft.

 

Featured image from the Associated Press

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Matt Harvey Traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Devin Mesoraco

After being designated for assignment on Saturday, Matt Harvey will be moving from the Big Apple to the Queen City.

The deal will be Devin Mesoraco and cash going to the Mets for Matt Harvey.

Both players have had injury plagued careers. Also they both received major contracts after a great season. Weirdly enough their careers are very similar in most respects and both teams needed upgrades at these positions.

Mesoraco had a 2014 season where he was an All-Star, batting .273 with 25 homeruns and 80 rbi. The Reds assumed they had their catcher of the future and gave him a major contract. Sadly hip and shoulder injuries derailed his career as he hasn’t played in more than 60 games in a season. He is signed through this season and making a little over $13 million. One can assume he will take over the starting catching duties for the Mets.

As for Harvey he had Tommy-John surgery after an All-Star year in 2013 and came back and had an even better 2015 but then needed shoulder surgery in 2016 and has never really been the same since. Like Mesoraco the Mets assumed that Harvey would be a perennial All-Star and even possibly their ace for a long time to come. He is also signed through 2018 for about $5.6 million.

Unlike Mesoraco, Harvey has had his off the field issues. He became a superstar in one of the biggest cities in the world. The pressure of being famous may have gotten to Harvey as there were issues with partying and other distractions. This culminated with different arguments about his role, his managers, and his team. With the move to Cincinnati one can assume the pressure to perform and constantly be in the spotlight will be alleviated.

This trade could work out very well for all involved. The Reds have struggled developing their young pitchers and if they can get Matt Harvey to even be half of what he was then they will be happy. New York as stated before was looking for catching help and if Mesoraco can stay healthy then he could be a very valuable asset as he joins former teammates Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce.

Mesoraco will join the Mets tonight and the Harvey will join the Reds when they travel to Los Angeles.

Hornets to hire James Borrego as next head coach

The Charlotte Hornets will hire Spur’s assistant James Borrego as their next head coach as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Tuesday.

Borrego has served as an assistant for the Spurs, New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic. He started as an assistant video coordinator for the Spurs before being promoted to an assistant coach and then leaving for other opportunities. He returned to the Spurs this season.

In his time with the Orlando Magic, Borrego took over for Jacques Vaughn after he was fired and led the team to a 10-20 record in 2015.

Borrego and other Spurs’ assistants have been a hot commodity on the coaching market. He already interviewed for the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns this offseason to be their new head coach.

The Hornets failed to qualify for the playoffs with a 36-46 record and were the 10th placed team in the Eastern Conference. Borrego will take over for Steve Clifford, who was fired in April.

 

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