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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Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction

With the NFL Draft over and training camp over a month away, we are officially in the “dead zone” of the NFL offseason. With that being said, it is never too early to speculate how teams’ depth charts will look heading into next season.

The Minnesota Vikings have the majority of their depth chart set in stone, aside from some spots on offense. Here is a way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction.

Offense

Below is the current projected depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings. Rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Quarterback Kirk Cousins Trevor Siemian Kyle Sloter
Running back Dalvin Cook Latavius Murray Mack Brown
Fullback C.J. Ham
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs Adam Thielen Kendall Wright Laquon Treadwell Tavarres King
Tight end Kyle Rudolph David Morgan Tyler Conklin
Left tackle Riley Reiff Rashod Hill
Left guard Nick Easton Cornelius Edison
Center Pat Elflein Josh Andrews
Right guard Mike Remmers Danny Isidora Colby Gossett
Right tackle Brian O’Neill Cedrick Lang
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Kirk Cousins as a Washington Redskin. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There are not too many surprises with the quarterback position. The Vikings signed Cousins to a massive three-year, $84 million contract during free agency. He will be the team’s franchise quarterback going forward.

Dalvin Cook missed most of last season due to an ACL tear. Prior to the injury, Cook was a favorite to win rookie of the year. His dynamic ability as a runner and receiver out of the backfield will make this offense one to be reckoned with.

There was some movement along the offensive line, as this was the Vikings’ biggest need heading into the offseason. Second-round pick Brian O’Neill will start at right tackle, forcing Mike Remmers inside at guard. It is likely that several of these linemen rotate to find the best combination of players.

Defense

Now moving on to defense, here is the anticipated depth chart. Again, rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Left defensive end Danielle Hunter Brian Robison
Left defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson Jalyn Holmes
Right defensive tackle Linval Joseph Jaleel Johnson Dylan Bradley
Right defensive end Everson Griffen Tashawn Bower
Weak-side linebacker Ben Gedeon Reshard Cliett
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks Eric Wilson
Strong-side linebacker Anthony Barr Kentrell Brothers
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes Trae Waynes Terence Newman Mike Hughes Mackensie Alexander
Strong safety Andrew Sendejo Anthony Harris
Free safety Harrison Smith Jack Tocho
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Sheldon Richardson as a New York Jet. (Photo from turnonthejets.com)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The only new starter on the Minnesota Vikings’ defense is Sheldon Richardson. Richardson signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the team in March. He should provide an additional pass rush to Minnesota’s already stout defensive line.

Due to the amount of depth on the Vikings’ defense, rookies Mike Hughes and Jalyn Holmes will struggle to find playing time in 2018. However, Hughes should get on the field early as a returner.

One big question on the defense is the fate of linebacker Kentrell Brothers. Last month, Brothers was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Seventh-round pick Devante Downs has the best chance of any of the Vikings’ linebackers to fill in for Brothers. However, this remains unlikely, due to Downs recovering from a serious leg injury.

Special Teams

Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Former Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson. (Photo by Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Kicker: Daniel Carlson
  • Punter: Ryan Quigley
  • Long Snapper: Kevin McDermott

Don’t forget about special teams! The only change from the Vikings’ 2017 roster is at the kicker position. It is facetious to guess who will win the Vikings’ kicking job this early, but Daniel Carlson does appear to be the favorite.

At Auburn, Carlson displayed one of the strongest legs in football. Although his accuracy took a small dip in 2017, the Minnesota Vikings believe he can be the team’s long-term answer at the position.

 

Featured image by Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

running back rankings

2018 fantasy football running back rankings

As I joked about in my quarterback rankings, these will likely be irrelevant in a matter of weeks. Thankfully, the news about Mark Ingram and his four-game suspension was released this week. It will no doubt impact his draft stock and the usage of every player on the Saints’ offense through the first four games. So, let’s get right into running back rankings for 2018.

Running Back Rankings: 1-10

1. Ezekiel Elliott –  Dallas Cowboys

No offense is going to rely more on their running back than the Dallas Cowboys. The losses of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten means that the rest of their skill positions are unproven commodities and to this point, Dak Prescott isn’t capable of elevating those players. Ezekiel Elliott, as a result, is going to play a much larger role in the passing game. While he’s not as fluid a receiver as some other elite backs, the added touches will give Elliott the weekly upside of players like Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell. Not to mention, he’ll enter the season with fresh legs and a monster chip on his shoulder. An angry Ezekiel Elliott has me excited about his fantasy prospects in 2018.

2. Todd Gurley –  Los Angeles Rams 

I’m on record saying this entire offense is going to take a step back. Now, I think Todd Gurley’s production will be the least impacted by the regression. His volume in this offense is too great to keep him out of the top three spots. His involvement in the passing game, particularly in the screen game, would likely make him the number one overall pick in most PPR leagues. However, Sean McVay’s system will not take any coordinator by surprise and one injury to this offensive line would severely limit his production.

3. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell is scaring the hell out of me at the number three spot. He once again will not be reporting to camp and won’t be working with the team until the first week of regular season practice. It took two games before we saw the kind of production we’re used to from Bell, then he exploded against Baltimore. Apart from sitting out training camp, Bell has a history of missing games for injury and suspension, and always seems to be feuding with management. Despite all of those potential negatives, he’s too talented and in too great of a system to be lower than the number three spot.

4. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette is in a similar role to Ezekiel Elliot. Fournette is the going to be the focus of a run-first offense and will be receive a tremendous amount of volume. However, there are a few negatives Elliott does not have. Fournette’s role in the passing game is not as substantial, his offensive line is not as good and he missed multiple games in his rookie season. What separates Fournette from a the other players in the top ten is his consistent volume, and his team’s unquestioned commitment to the running the ball.

5. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs

As a Kareem Hunt fan, it was absolutely egregious that he was not named the offensive rookie of the year in 2017. Alvin Kamara was great, but he didn’t lead the NFL, or even his own team in rushing yards. Rant aside, Kareem Hunt is in a great position entering 2018. The only person who can stand in his way is Andy Reid. As a season-long owner of Kareem Hunt last year, Reid would randomly not give the ball to Hunt for more multiple games in a row. Now that Patrick Mahomes is the starter, one can surmise that Hunt will receive a larger volume of touches as a result. Also, starting running backs in Andy Reid’s system are always viable fantasy options.

6. Saquon Barkley – New York Giants

Saquon Barkley will likely be over drafted come August. He’s a great player in a good situation. He’s the unquestioned starter and playing with an upgraded offensive line, an elite perimeter player and a capable quarterback. The only problem is that his popularity and camp reports will inflate his value to the point where he is going over players like Hunt and Fournette, which I struggle to agree with. If you want Barkley, you might have to take him with a top-five pick by mid-August.

7. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints

Given my Kareem Hunt analysis, you might think I don’t like him. That could not be farther from the truth. I drafted him in all my redraft leagues when he was slated as the third running back on the depth chart. The only problem I have with Kamara is that he doesn’t appear to be a running back capable of handling 20 carries and 3-5 catches a game, on top of his kick return duties. What made him so great was Sean Payton’s ability to match him up with linebackers in coverage, and give him carries in unconventional running situations. Even with Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension, his volume will not that of an Elliott, Gurley or Bell. The Saints will more than likely ask Drew Brees and company to shoulder more of the load during their stretch without Ingram.

8. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals

David Jonson’s slide to the eighth spot is the result of a few things. He’s playing in a new offensive system. During Mike McCoy’s tenure as a head coach or offensive coordinator, his offenses on average ranked 14th in attempts. When Melvin Gordon was his starting running back, his team ranked 22nd in rushing attempts both seasons. Gordon and Johnson are similar in terms of volume and involvement in the passing game, with the overall edge going to Johnson. However, the quarterback play will likely be sub-par because Sam Bradford will get injured and McCoy’s playbooks are notoriously difficult to absorb. Johnson will be a productive fantasy running back, but he should not be viewed as the same number one overall pick he was touted as last season.

9. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons

Devonta Freeman’s production, like everyone on the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, dipped. I do think he and the offense as a whole will improve with another year under Steve Sarkisian. But, there were some concerns towards the end of last season. Seemingly out of nowhere, Freeman got the football equivalent of the yipps and could not score on the goal line. In fairness, he was dealing with an injury late in the season, but it will be telling if the Falcons decide to use Tevin Coleman out of shotgun in short yardage, as opposed to pounding the ball inside with Freeman.

10. Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers

It seems like the Chargers are the most underrated team in terms of fantasy production when you consider that consistent producers like Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen are all on same offense. Every year Gordon is a good starter and is a heavy volume player. The only thing keeping Gordon from being higher on this list is that he doesn’t produce explosive plays like Kamara or Hunt.

Running Back Rankings: 11-20

11. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are shaping up to be a dangerous team. They are incredibly well-balanced on offense which bodes well for Dalvin Cook, especially since he’s coming off an injury. Kirk Cousins and his perimeter weapons will help open up running lanes for Cook. Even if the upgrade at the quarterback position takes away from Cook’s volume, he no longer has to compete with Jerick McKinnon for third down touches. Don’t expect Cook’s overall production, or in draft stock.

12. Jerick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers

I am so excited about the prospects of Jerrick McKinnon in San Francisco. For those who doubt McKinnon’s role as a full-time starter, show me the last running back who was paid $36 million and didn’t see the majority of the touches in the backfield. This is going to sound crazy, but Jerrick McKinnon is Alvin Kamara in terms of ability. McKinnon actually is faster, more explosive, just as capable as a receiver, and only smaller by one inch and four pounds. While I don’t think he can handle a full workload, I absolutely think his production is going to skyrocket with an increased role in San Francisco.

13. Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans

Now that Derrick Henry is finally rid of Demarco Murray, he is going to see a Leonard Fournette type of volume. Henry’s knock is that he lacks explosiveness and benefited from splitting time with Murray, which is accurate but may not apply moving forward. It will be interesting to see in the first four weeks whether or not he can keep his yards per carry up while seeing the increased volume.

14. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears

Last year Jordan Howard disappointed fantasy owners, especially those who took him in the second round. Howard was no longer sneaking up on defenses and was actually the primary focus given the team’s rookie quarterback. Thankfully, the Tarik Cohen fad faded as the season progressed, but Benny Cunningham is a classic third-down back who will still take away touches in the passing game from Howard in 2018.

15. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon could explode in productivity this year. The Bengals upgraded their left tackle position and spent a first-round pick on interior defensive linemen, Billy Price. Mixon asserted himself as the best player in this backfield and will see the majority of the touches from week one. Giovani Bernard is still there, so he will likely assume the third-down role. However, Mixon is absolutely the starter and could end up being a value on draft day.

16. Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns

Much of my Jerick McKinnon excitement can be applied to Carlos Hyde in Cleveland. Hyde is a complete back and no longer has to convince Kyle Shanahan to give him the ball over Matt Breida. Hyde should be drafted as a fourth-round pick though because of the presence of Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb. Johnson will be the primary third down back, and Nick Chubb could threaten Hyde’s share of the carries.

17. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills

This could be the final season for LeSean McCoy in terms of fantasy relevance. While he’s still dynamic, there are too many new variables that can hamper his success. McCoy has to deal with a new starting quarterback, new starting left tackle and a new starting guard. He will no longer get the benefit of the Tyrod Taylor and running the read option. We also have to keep in mind that McCoy will be 30 years old this July.

18. Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos

Royce Freeman is going to be the week one starter if the Broncos don’t sign a veteran player at the position. The Broncos are so confident in Freeman’s ability that they did not retain C.J. Anderson. Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charless and De’Angelo Henderson were all on the roster last year and none of them could assert themselves as the dominant back. It also doesn’t hurt that Pro Football Focus has Freeman slated as the starter. I will be aggressively targeting Freeman in redrafts and rookie drafts.

19. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey was higher in my rankings until the C.J. Anderson acquisition. I believe McCaffrey will be the starter and dominate all the touches between the 20’s. However, Anderson could turn into a goal-line vulture, especially knowing that the Panthers like to bring on big personnel in short yardage for Cam Newton or the former, Jonathan Stewart. I can still see them using McCaffrey in red zone passing situations to exploit matchups, but it’s possible the Anderson steals multiple touchdowns from McCaffrey this season.

20. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is going to be, or I hope will be, a great value on draft day. Picking Ingram is going to come down to which round I can draft him in. If you told me right now that I could get Ingram in the fifth round, I would jump at that opportunity. If I only get 75 percent of his production last season, since he’s missing the first four games, that means I would be getting 173 carries, 843 yards, and 9 touchdowns. I’ll take that all day in the fifth round.

Running Back Rankings: 21-30

21. Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins

I’m not too high on Derrius Guice. He will certainly have every opportunity to start, but, this team had no interest in running the ball last season. They ranked 24th in rushing attempts in 2017. Also, Chris Thompson will return as the unquestioned third down and pass catching back.

22. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans

Lamar Miller is another player I’ll be aggressively targeting. Every year no one wants Lamar Miller, and every year he finishes top 15 in points (average finish of 11.25 in points the last four seasons). He’s going to play in a potentially dynamic offense based on what we saw last season. And, he’s going to be the beneficiary of seven men boxes because of their explosive perimeter players.

23. Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens

While the Ravens are trying to transform their wide receivers and potentially their quarterback, they are committed to running the ball. The Ravens upgraded their offensive line, and, did not draft a running back in this year’s draft. Alex Collins should be a starter in all leagues and will likely be picked in the fourth or fifth round.

24. Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts

The entire team hinges on Andrew Luck, including Marlon Mack. Mack will likely be the starter week one, but will not have the upside of a starter in fantasy if Luck is not under center.

25. Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins

Kenyan Drake came on strong for the Dolphins last season. He showed the ability to be an all-around running back. However, the Dolphins have shipped a lot of their talent elsewhere, and aside from Josh Sitton, their interior linemen are sub par.

26. Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles

I love Jay Ajayi and he’s in a system, but the Eagles just signed Matt Jones this week and brought back Darren Sproles. How in the hell is he going to get enough touches to be productive? Just do yourself a favor and shy away from anyone on the Eagles.

27. Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots

I approach the Patriots the same way I approach the Eagles, just don’t (unless there’s an injury). Rex Burkhead will likely get the goal line carries and be used to exploit some receiving mismatches, but at a much smaller rate than James White.

28. Ronald Jones – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ronald Jones will probably be the starter. Just as a result of that, he will accumulate production worthy of being drafted. I’m not sure what his upside will be behind that offensive line and in a system that wants to primarily throw the ball to a multitude of targets.

29. Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders

Marshawn Lynch is projected to start week one. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires before the start of the season. It’s very possible that he and Jon Gruden will clash, and as a result, he hands up his cleats again. It’s also a crowded backfield with Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington.

30. Sony Michel – New England Patriots

My best guess is that Sony Michel will assume the Dion Lewis role for the Patriots. He’s substantially more talented than Lewis, but he cannot overcome the Patriots’ system. Unless there’s an injury, don’t count on Michel for production.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of SI.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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Kirk Cousins free agency

A guide to the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes

Kirk Cousins is set to officially become a free agent next week. In today’s NFL, quarterback is the one position where a high level of play is vital to any chance of success.

However, this is also a team sport. Cousins has thrown for over 4,000 yards in three consecutive years in addition to 52 touchdown passes and just 25 interceptions in the last two seasons.

It was the defense that held the Redskins back during the Cousins era. They gave up over 30 points seven times last year. It is very difficult for any quarterback to overcome that.

Still, Cousins’ numbers combined with the fact that he will be just barely 30 years old by the time the 2018 season starts make it easy to see why Cousins is one of the more highly coveted free agents in recent memory. There is a case to be made for him ending up with each of his four most serious suitors.

New York Jets: Money

The shelf life of a professional athlete is much shorter than that of the rest of us mere mortals. No athlete should ever be blamed for simply taking the most money when they have a choice about where to play.

Cousins may very well do that, but that is the only reason he would end up in New York. All you need to know about where the Jets stand at the moment is that Vegas set 3.5 as its over-under win total for last year. The Jets overachieved and still won only five games.

Cousins is very good, but he is not Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. His addition alone does not turn a bad team into a team that is a lock to make the playoffs and perhaps go further.

The Jets desperately need to find their long-term answer at quarterback, but Cousins already knows what it’s like to be a productive player that is held back by a bad supporting cast.

However, New York easily has the most financial flexibility of the four teams said to be most interested in the soon-to-be ex-Redskin. There has even been some chatter about the Jets offering Cousins a fully guaranteed contract. If it really is just about the money for him, he will be wearing green this fall.

Arizona Cardinals: Face of the franchise

With the exception of a few really talented holdovers like Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona is basically starting over as a franchise. In fact, they do not have a single quarterback under contract for next year for rookie head coach Steve Wilks. So, Cousins is obviously appealing.

Teams should always draft and acquire players with their quarterback in mind, but some are not that smart or simply don’t have the luxury of a proven commodity at that position. If Cousins goes to Arizona, he has the benefit of a largely blank slate. It is reasonable to assume that Cardinals management may even ask him for input regarding free agency and the draft. The entire franchise rebuild would revolve around Cousins. Arizona is the only place that could offer him that type of scenario.

There is already some semblance of a system in place with the other three teams. After the Redskins spent the last handful of years refusing to give him a long-term commitment and building around him in a way that made no sense, it is not difficult to see why this situation could intrigue Cousins.

Denver Broncos: Bring a proud organization back

Like the Jets, Denver also went 5-11 last year. Not all five-win teams are created equal though.

Unlike the Jets, Denver has two outstanding pass catchers in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Also, despite getting a little long in tooth, the defense is still very good in Denver and was top-10 in most categories last year.

However, when you use three quarterbacks and have the second-worst turnover margin in the NFL, you are not going to win many games. Cousins alone would solve a lot of Denver’s issues.

Again, this is different from the Jets. They got decent quarterback play last year and still went 5-11.

Kirk Cousins free agency

Photo from Fox Sports

There is also the Elway factor in Denver. At his core, Elway is still a legendary quarterback. Do not let the suit or the fact that he is now running the franchise he once played for fool you. Elway can relate to Cousins in a way no other executive can.

Cousins is not a legend yet. However, Elway will no doubt try to convince him that he knows how to turn him into one. Peyton Manning was a legend before he ever came to Denver, but a similar sales pitch has already worked once for Elway.

Lastly, if Cousins were to go somewhere other than Denver, his roadblocks to a division title could include Rodgers twice a year, Brady twice a year for at least a couple more years and the loaded NFC West. With reigning division champion Kansas City already overhauling its roster, no such roadblocks exist in the AFC West.

The Broncos’ playoff drought only stands at two seasons. However, for a franchise that has spent most of the last quarter-century in the mix for the playoffs and Super Bowl every year, it feels like 20. Cousins just might be the safest and quickest way to get this franchise back on track. Thus, he would no doubt receive the red carpet treatment in Denver.

Minnesota Vikings: The best shot at a Super Bowl

Minnesota’s roster is so good that career journeyman Case Keenum was able to guide it within a game of the Super Bowl. The defense is young and good. It ranked in the top 10 against both the run and the pass last year.

Most of those pieces will be back next year. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have both emerged as top-flight pass catchers. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook had 354 rushing yards in just four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury last year. Assuming he comes back healthy, Minnesota’s offense could be even more lethal next year.

Kirk Cousins free agency

Photo from Pro Football Talk

Keenum nearly doubled his career touchdown pass total last year. He is also in position for a huge free agency payday. However, his performance in the NFC Championship, along with a few boneheaded throws that let New Orleans back in the divisional playoffs, were apparently enough to ensure that payday will not come from Minnesota.

Cousins with the Vikings immediately puts Minnesota in the first two sentences of any Super Bowl conversation for the upcoming year. At least in the short term, it is the only realistic destination that offers that for Cousins. So, the pitch writes itself.

There will always be teams desperate for a decent quarterback in the NFL. What makes the chase for Cousins so interesting is that wherever he ends up says a lot more about Cousins himself than the teams vying for his services.

 

Featured image from ganggreennation.com

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Roster breakdown: Assessing the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs

Over the last few years, the running back position has changed drastically. The NFL has transitioned from hard-nosed power backs like Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore to shifty, quick backs with good receiving skills. Although the days of true run-first teams are long gone, a successful running game can make or break a football team’s season. This is very evident with the Seattle Seahawks, who have struggled to make a deep playoff run since the loss of Marshawn Lynch.

This was also the case for the Minnesota Vikings prior to this season. In 2016, the Vikings ranked last in both rushing yards per game and yards per attempt, due to a porous offensive line and inconsistent running back play. The Vikings bounced back this season, thanks to the emergence of rookie running back Dalvin Cook and former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

With Shurmur leaving for the New York Giants’ head coaching job, new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will hope to build from last year’s success. Let’s look at the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs, and how they could continue to improve in 2018.

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook carries the ball in the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Dalvin Cook impressed many in the beginning of the 2017 season. The rookie from Florida State gained over 400 yards from scrimmage during his first four games. Cook also averaged over five yards per carry in three of those games, with the exception being a 169-yard performance against Tampa Bay. Cook looked like a true three-down back, showing good speed, vision, and ball skills.

Unfortunately, Cook’s promising rookie season was cut short in Week 4 by an ACL tear in his left knee. The injury sidelined Cook for the remainder of the season and may limit his availability during the Vikings’ offseason programs. However, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings are anticipating the knee to be fully healed by the start of training camp next August. Assuming he is fully healthy, Cook will be the starting running back in Minnesota and will be vital to the team’s success in 2018.

Latavius Murray

After Dalvin Cook’s season-ending injury, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon split reps as the Vikings’ starting running back. The Minnesota Vikings signed Murray last offseason to a three-year, $15 million deal. When Murray signed with the Vikings, he was expected to be the starting running back. However, the emergence of Cook forced Murray into a backup role.

After Week 4, Murray was mainly used on first and second down as a true running back, while Jerick McKinnon was utilized on third down passing situations. As the season progressed, however, Murray slowly began to get more snaps, averaging nearly 20 carries a game in the last six games of the regular season.

In total, Murray gained 842 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Murray will be entering his second year on his contract signed last March and is expected to make around $6.3 million, with a base salary of $5.1 million. This means the Vikings could potentially release Murray to clear up cap space, although this is unlikely.

Jerick McKinnon

In 2017, Jerick McKinnon split reps with teammate Latavius Murray as the Vikings’ starting running back after a Week 4 injury to Dalvin Cook. In that time, McKinnon enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of his career, gaining nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

Jerick McKinnon runs for a first down in a game against the Green Bay Packers. Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, McKinnon’s production in 2017 also went through several highs and lows. McKinnon followed up 100-yard games with unproductive ones, and was eventually outperformed by Latavius Murray. By the end of the season, McKinnon was mainly used as a receiver out of the backfield on third downs. Since 2017 was the last year on McKinnon’s rookie contract and Dalvin Cook will be returning in 2018, McKinnon will most likely become an unrestricted free agent on March 14th.

C.J Ham, Bishop Sankey & Mack Brown

C.J Ham played every game for the Minnesota Vikings this season as their starting fullback. The converted running back helped pave the way for Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon in 2017, helping the Vikings rank as the NFL’s 7th-best rushing offense. Fullbacks rarely get to carry the football, and Ham only ran seven times in 2017 for 13 yards and a touchdown. Ham is currently under contract through next season and is expected to compete as the team’s starting fullback again during the offseason.

Neither Bishop Sankey or Mack Brown played during the 2017 season, and both players’ contracts expire this offseason. Sankey was a former second-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2014 draft, and has not been able to live up to expectations so far in his career.

Mack Brown is a former undrafted free agent that has played in small stints for the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins. So far in his career, he has rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, all with the Redskins.

What to Expect

Heading into the 2018 NFL season, the priority for the Minnesota Vikings’ running backs group will be the health of Dalvin Cook. In his limited playing time in 2017, Cook was a dynamic playmaker out of the backfield as a modern three-down running back. Given that he is fully healthy and has returned to his pre-injury form, Cook will be the bona-fide starter in Minnesota.

The Vikings have several possible moves they can make in the running backs room. Releasing Latavius Murray would save the Vikings over $5 million in cap space, but this is very unlikely, since the team already has over $40 million in cap space. The Vikings may also re-sign Mack Brown to a one-year deal to allow him to compete for a backup role with the team.

 

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Thanksgiving fantasy football

Thanksgiving games week 12 fantasy turducken MVPs

Thanksgiving is now here. It’s time for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie and most importantly, football.

That’s right, it’s time for the tradition of the Thanksgiving games.The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions will host their NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings, and the Cowboys will play the Los Angeles Chargers. Then the late game is an NFC East battle where the New York Giants head to play the Washington Redskins.

One part about the Thanksgiving games that I miss is John Madden and the turducken award. So for this article, it’s time to bring the turducken award back and predict who will have big fantasy days in each game.

Vikings-Lions MVP: Adam Thielen

The Vikings have been red hot, winning their last six games. That is partially due to their players stepping up with injuries, like Case Keenum playing well and the run game executing without rookie Dalvin Cook. One guy that has been having a surprise season and dominating the last two weeks is receiver Adam Thielen, who is my pick to be the first fantasy turducken winner against the Lions.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Adam Thielen (Photo from vikings.com)

Over the last two games, Thielen has caught 14 passes for 289 yards. He has caught a touchdown in the last three. The last time the Vikings played the Lions, they lost 14-7, and Stefon Diggs was the better receiver. This time it’s a different Vikings team, and I also expect Thielen to outperform Diggs with the possibility of having Darius Slay on him for the entire game.

Thielen is second in the NFL, only behind Antonio Brown, in receiving yards. He is also tied for fifth in receptions. Thielen is currently on a three-game streak of scoring over 20 points. He’s also only one of five wide receivers with at least four fantasy games in the 20s or higher.

The Lions have allowed the ninth most passing yards to the slot since Week 4. Expect the Vikings to throw some deep shots to Thielen as he’s tied with Brandin Cooks for the most deep (15-plus yards) receptions.

At this point, Thielen is a must-start receiver every week as he has become a favorable target for Keenum.

Chargers-Cowboys MVP: Alfred Morris

The Cowboys have struggled the past two games without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith. They played the desperate Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, possibly the best team in the NFC. This week is the time for them to turn it around against an inconsistent Chargers team. For this game, this is when the run game will pay off, and Alfred Morris will have a monster game.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Alfred Morris (Photo from cbssports.com)

Last week, Morris ran for 91 yards on 17 carries. In fact, Morris had more rushing yards than Dak Prescott had passing yards before the fourth quarter. His performance was especially impressive since the Eagles entered the game having allowed just 3.6 yards per attempt.

Morris has gotten better as he has seen more carries and is only getting better. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry in the two games since Elliott got suspended. With Darren McFadden a healthy scratch and Rod Smith not performing, Morris should only get more carries until Elliott comes back.

Dallas is at home against a Chargers team that is allowing a league-high 138.9 rushing yards per game and the second-most yards per carry (4.93). Playing against the 30th ranked team against running backs means Morris will be getting the ball a ton early in the game.

Giants-Redskins MVP: Vernon Davis

Even with injuries to Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor, the Redskins should still be efficient on offense. The turducken award in this game goes to tight end Vernon Davis.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Vernon Davis (Photo from sports.yahoo.com)

When it comes to the tight end against the Giants defense, it’s the worst in fantasy. They have given up a touchdown every game but last week. However, they still gave up 120 yards to the position.

During Jordan Reed’s three-week absence, Davis has averaged 8.7 targets, 5.3 catches and 71.7 receiving yards. Last week he had six targets and 67 receiving yards. Dating back to Week 6, Davis leads the Redskins in receiving yards (367), is tied for second in receptions (25) and is second in targets (38). With Reed missing practice, it’s likely Davis will get the start again against the Giants.

The Giants have yielded a league-high 19.6 PPR points per game to this position. With this matchup, he has to be a must-start, even at the flex position.

 

Featured image from sbnation.com.

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Dalvin Cook injury fantasy football

Fantasy football injury: Dalvin Cook

The Minnesota Vikings can’t seem to get the monkey off their backs. Last year, running back Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus in week 2. This Sunday in week 4 against the Detroit Lions, the Vikings fear that rookie running back Dalvin Cook has damage to his ACL.

In the third quarter, he tried making a cut, but his left knee gave out. He was helped off the field where he was able to walk on his own. However, an update reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero saw Cook leaving the locker room in crutches and with his knee in a brace. This most likely means that his season looks to be over.

This is a big blow to the Vikings’ offense. He was a huge factor who benefited from an upstart passing game. In fantasy, it’s a bigger blow trying to replace Cook, a RB2 or flex on most teams.

First Look: Replace Him with Latavius Murray

After Cook’s injury, running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon led the rushing tandom. Let me say this first: don’t expect them to be phenomenal starters for your fantasy team.

Dalvin Cook injury fantasy football

Latavius Murray (Photo by: fanragsports.com_

But in hindsight, Murray has more fantasy appeal then McKinnon. Murray will be the guy that will get more looks to run the ball. Last year, he was a touchdown-heavy back behind a terrific offensive line with the Oakland Raiders. Murray had seven carries for 21 yards on Sunday after the injury.

Murray can’t play every down like Cook, but expect him to get most of the early-down and goal-line work. He is capable of handling this type of workload as he scored 12 touchdowns last year with Oakland. He can excel behind this offensive line as they have been surprisingly good.

McKinnon can be looked at, but mostly for PPR leagues if you’re desperate. He will be in the mix as the feature back, but not as much as Murray.

McKinnon hasn’t had the opportunity to run the ball much. Even though he had a career-high 159 carries last year, he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. McKinnon will handle most of the pass work, whether as the running back or in the wildcat.

I expect Murray to be the most sought player added to fantasy teams, not just to those who have Cook, but to those who need any running back help because of his role down at the goal-line.

Other options

For those who like to play the best matchups, give Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers a look. He plays the Dallas Cowboys next week, who were torched by Todd Gurley this past Sunday. Even though Dallas is in the middle of the pack in rushing defense, they aren’t the best defense. If Ty Montgomery (ribs) isn’t badly injured, Jones could get the majority of snaps, even if the original back Jamaal Williams (knee) plays.

Jones had a solid outing against the Bears, running for 49 yards and a score on 13 carries. Both him and Williams could be decent pickups this week if Montgomery misses a couple of weeks.

Another guy to look at if you need a flex filler is wide receiver Will Fuller V of the Houston Texans. He will be a popular pickup after his performance coming back from a broken collarbone. He found the end zone twice in week 4 against the Tennessee Titans on four catches for 35 yards. He’s off to a good start, matching his touchdowns from last season. With the Texans’ offense looking confident, he could be a guy you give a crack on.

Fantasy Outlook on Vikings players

As I mentioned, this has a big affect on all Viking players. Cook created a solid game, which helped create the passing game. Now with him and Bradford both hurt, the Viking offense won’t be the same. After his injury, it all went downhill for the Vikings on Sunday.

Dalvin Cook injury fantasy football

Case Keenum and Sam Bradofrd (Photo by: sportingnews.com)

As for Murray, who I expect to start, he is a RB3 in week 5 against the Chicago Bears. If Bradford plays, receivers Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph are must starts.

For future reference, if you have Viking players on your fantasy team, have quality backups. They have bad luck when it comes to non-contact knee injuries. First Teddy Bridgewater in 2016, then Bradford and now Cook.

 

Featured image from tomahawknation.com.

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Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. Sundays you won’t find me in a church because Football is my religion and the number one priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself in studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score predictions but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it’s by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks.

Last week: 8-7

Season: 8-7

Thursday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Houston Texans (0-1) 20 @ Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) 21: It is only week two but this is a vital game for both the Texans and the Bengals. Teams that go 0-2 hardly ever make the playoffs. Andy Dalton must overcome a four interception game. If he plays like that again, Bengals fans will be chanting McCarron’s name. DeShaun Watson has officially been named the starter for Houston. With a short week of preparation, Watson will be behind the eight ball. With McCarron breathing down Dalton’s shoulder and the first start for DeShaun Watson, the Bengals find a way to win.

Sunday Morning

Arizona Cardinals (0-1) 31 @ Indianapolis Colts (0-1) 14: Similar to the teams participating in the Thursday night game, the Cardinals and Colts are sort of in a must win situation. The Colts looked God-awful against the Rams and the Cardinals blew a lead while losing swiss army knife David Johnson. Even though the Cardinals will need Palmer to shoulder the load, Indianapolis is a bad team. Chuck Pagano will be the first coach fired this season. Arizona wins this week but only because Indianapolis is incompetent.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) 24 @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) 27: This is a game many could consider the game of the week after the performance these two teams put on in week one. Alex Smith looked like a guy who was drafted number one overall ahead of Aaron Rodgers. He lit up the Patriots defense with some spectacular throws. Carson Wentz didn’t look too shabby either. This is going to be a competitive, back and forth game that will come down to the wire. It is hard to pick a winner in this game so the edge goes to the home team.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Hannah Foslien)

Minnesota Vikings (1-0) 27 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) 23: For all the hype surrounding the Steelers this offseason their opening performance was a bit lackluster. Le’Veon Bell didn’t get enough touches and it looked like Pittsburgh was trying to punish him for missing training camp. The defense seemed improved behind rookie T.J. Watt but they still only managed a three point victory against the Browns who started a rookie quarterback. Minnesota however, looked like a juggernaut. Their defense completely shut down Drew Brees and the Saints offense holding them to 19 points. The touchdown came in garbage time. Sam Bradford led an aerial assault that nobody saw coming and rookie Dalvin Cook made all Vikings fans say Adrian who? Minnesota looked like the better team in week one. They upset Pittsburgh in week two to put the NFL on notice.

New England Patriots (0-1) 38 @ New Orleans Saints (0-1) 24: The Patriots did look a bit un-patriot-like last week but every time New England has started 0-1 with Bill Belichick they have gone on to win the Super Bowl. This isn’t the time to overreact. The Saints secondary still looks anemic. Sam Bradford torched them with his best game of his career. Tom Brady will dissect them even worse with over 400 yards passing. New England will cruise to a victory in the Superdome.

Chicago Bears (0-1) 24 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) 31: It is hard to determine if the Bears looked good or if the Falcons played bad but was probably a mix of the two. Mike Glennon put the ball where it needed to be on the final drive but his teammates let him down. This week the Bears head to Florida to take on the Bucs who will be playing their first game of the season because of Hurricane Irma. Tampa Bay is going to play with a lot of emotion and with the support of the fans, they will win their home opener.

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw)

Buffalo Bills (1-0) 22 @ Carolina Panthers (1-0) 29: Both teams head into this game with a win in week one. Both also played against some really bad opponents. The Bills look like a team that is still going to run the ball well but their passing attack may still be weak. Cam Newton also looked a bit rusty as his accuracy was hit and miss. Another big story line to follow is Sean McDermott returning to Carolina. He may know exactly what the Panthers are doing but it won’t be enough to stop them. Cam plays big and leads his team to a 2-0 start.

Tennessee Titans (0-1) 23 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) 21: The Jaguars are above .500 for the first time in a long time. Their defense completely dominated Houston. Jacksonville also ran the ball very well with rookie Leonard Fournette. Taking the ball out of Blake Bortle’s hands seems to be the key to success. Tennessee must bounce back after looking a bit underprepared for Oakland. The offense didn’t light it up as many expected and it resulted in an underwhelming performance. Week one usually has a ton fluke results and this week the Titans will prove it by outplaying Jacksonville on the road.

Cleveland Browns (1-0) 23 @ Baltimore Ravens (1-0) 22: Baltimore has been a franchise that is built on defense and showcased that again last week. Joe Flacco didn’t do much on offense but that isn’t anything new. This team will be an average team because of the offense but if the defense plays like that all season then maybe they will sneak up on people. Cleveland played pretty well last week after they had a punt blocked for a touchdown. Without that play, they probably upset the Steelers. Cleveland is heading in the right direction and a win on the road this week will prove as much.

Sunday Afternoon

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Photo: Wesley Hitt, Getty Images)

New York Jets (0-1) 17 @ Oakland Raiders (1-0) 45: New York will be lucky to win a single game this season. They are tanking whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is a tank. Oakland opened the season by flying across the country and beating up on a team many predicted to win their division. The offense is loaded and Marshawn Lynch is back to being “Beast Mode”. The defense looked much improved from last season. Everything seems to be falling into place perfectly. Oakland defends the Black Hole in a complete annihilation.

Miami Dolphins (0-0) 20 @ Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) 27: The Chargers almost had the upset but almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Los Angeles’ defense is going to be elite and the offense seems to have chosen the run as its identity. They will be a good team this season. Miami will be playing its first game of the season due to Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins won’t be ready and Los Angeles gets a much-needed win.

Dallas Cowboys (1-0) 32 @ Denver Broncos (1-0) 22: Denver was lucky to sneak away with a win in week one. They might not be so lucky this week. Trevor Siemian played well but the problem is his inconsistency. One week he looks like an NFL starter and the next he looks like a backup. He will look like a backup against Dallas. The Cowboys, on the other hand, looked amazing against the Giants. Dak Prescott seems to have more control of the offense and Ezekiel Elliot is back to his old ways. Dallas goes into the Mile High City and stops on the Broncos.

Washington Redskins (1-0) 10 @ Los Angeles Rams (1-0) 21: Was that the Los Angeles Rams or the 2015 Denver Broncos defense on the field last week? The answer is the Rams, but it’s because former Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is now running the defense of the Rams. Defensively, they played lights out and still get to add Aaron Donald to the mix. The offense looked NFL worthy as Jared Goff had a spectacular game. It was against the Colts thought. This week they matchup with the Washington Redskins who dropped their game to their division rival Eagles. Kirk Cousins will not play well in this game. Los Angeles puts out another championship caliber defensive performance to start 2-0.

San Fransisco 49ers (1-0) 6 @ Seattle Seahawks (0-1) 28: Russell Wilson was running for his life against the Packers. Seattle still hasn’t fixed their offensive line issues and it may spell doom for them this season. The defense is still elite but can only do so much. Although they may be in for a difficult season they won’t struggle against the 49ers. San Fransisco will be good in a few years but right now there isn’t enough talent in the locker room to do any damage. Seahawks will win this one, easily.

Sunday Night

Hagan’s Haus 2017 week 2 NFL picks

(Photo Credit: Unknown)

Green Bay (1-0) 41 @ Atlanta Falcons (1-0) 38: A rematch of the NFC Championship game in which Atlanta ran Green Bay off the field. Green Bay’s secondary will be tested yet again in this game but will hold up better. Atlanta looked bad in Chicago and a hangover is lingering. Matt Ryan will put up a lot of points in this game but Aaron Rodgers will put up more. The Packers offense may need 40 to win but the opportunity for revenge will cause them to do so. Packers will upset Atlanta because Aaron Rodgers has a 350 yard, four touchdown game.

Monday Night

Detroit Lions (1-0) 31 @ New York Giants (0-1) 34: The Lions are still the comeback kids after last week’s comeback against the Arizona Cardinals. Matthew Stafford shook off the pick six to have a pretty stellar game. Detroit doesn’t have the defense to be a playoff team but Stafford will carry this team to a few unexpected wins. The Giants looked shell shocked against Dallas. There is no run game whatsoever. They should have drafted a running back from this amazing class but felt Paul Perkins was the answer. He is not. If they can’t run the ball they can’t open up the passing game. Odell should be back in action in this game and Eli Manning will be the happiest about it. Odell makes the difference and the Giants get in the win column, barely

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2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC North division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NFC North division preview.

4: Detroit Lions

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit:https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 21

The Detroit Lions made the playoffs on the back of Matthew Stafford and it was barely enough. Detroit’s defense was bad considering the little amount of time they spent on the field. The schedule is relatively easy but the Bears, Vikings and Packers all made vast improvements.

As mentioned previously, the Lions’ defense is bad. They spent the second fewest amount of plays on the field at just 60.2 per game but ranked 13th in points (22.4), 19th in passing yards allowed per game (269.2) and 18th in rushing yards allowed (106.3). Stafford and the rest of the offense kept the defense off the field and they still couldn’t stop a nosebleed.

A great defense starts with a fearsome defensive line. Ezekiel Ansah is not healthy yet and without him, there is no legitimate pass rusher. Haloti Ngata is well past his prime and will not be able to hold down the fort in the middle. The linebacking corp is young and will be starting a rookie linebacker. There is potential but a rookie linebacker isn’t going to turn this defense into a world beater.

Detroit’s secondary is led by Darius Slay and Glover Quin, both are great players who don’t get enough credit for how good they are. The problem is they can’t cover for eternity and without a pass rush something bad will transpire.

With a below average defense, the offense will be expected to carry the team yet again. Stafford proved he could do that but how long can he continue to do so without a running game to balance out the offense? The Lions did not have a running back carry the ball 100 times. None of their running backs ran for more than 360 yards. Opposing defenses won’t have to spend more than five minutes preparing for the Lions’ running game.

The passing attack is missing a true number one receiver. Golden Tate is not a true number one and Marvin Jones is barely a number two receiver. Somehow, Matthew Stafford still makes it work. This year his shoulders will not be able to make up for all the team’s deficiencies. Due to a below average defense, a one-dimensional offense and an improved division, the Lions struggle mightily.

Prediction: 3-13 (0-6), miss the playoffs

3: Chicago Bears

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 3-13

Strength of schedule: 19

The Bears were ravaged by injury last season. They also struggled in close games, going 1-7 in games decided by seven points or less. Many believe that had they remained healthy they would have been a better team. Unfortunately for Bears fans, the team didn’t really agree with that because they hit the reset button by moving on from Jay Cutler and signing Mike Glennon and trading up for Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears may be talented but could be in for a rough 2017.

There is no question the Bears possess one of the most talented offensive lines in the entire league. The line is so good it is ranked fifth by Pro Football Focus. Jordan Howard benefited the most from this solid unit, rushing for 1,313 yards in his rookie season. There is no reason the Bears can’t duplicate this success on the ground this season.

The problem with the Bears’ offense is in the passing game. Mike Glennon is not the guy and has looked shaky in the preseason. Mitchell Trubisky has shown some flashes, although it has been against backups and vanilla defenses. Trubisky has also looked best on rollouts in which he only has to read half of the field. Good defensive coordinators will be able to minimize his ability over the course of a 60-minute game. Trubisky may be the guy of the future, but this season the Bears are not in a position to succeed due to their quarterback situation.

Bears’ fans should be optimistic about the defense. They are fast and athletic, a typical John Fox defense. The front seven is good and highly underrated. Leonard Floyd has looked outstanding and will be playing alongside Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Wille Young, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, all of which are big time players.

The only question for the Bear’s defense is the secondary. Former first round pick Kyle Fuller seems to be in the doghouse with coaches. Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara are the starting corners. Both have been too inconsistent to really know how they will perform this season. The current safety tandem of Adrian Amos and Quinton Demps also have a lot to prove. Eddie Jackson will likely end up in the starting lineup by seasons end.

The Bears are in a tough division with the Packers and Vikings. Chicago may not be admitting it but they are still rebuilding. The defense is coming together but a questionable secondary will hurt them. The bread and butter of the offense will be the running game but quarterback play will leave much to be desired. The Bears are on the right track but will have another long season before getting where they want to be.

 

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

2: Minnesota Vikings

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 27

It is very hard to fathom how the Vikings finished 8-8 considering everything they had to endure last season. Franchise quarterback goes down on a non-contact injury. An injury so bad that Teddy Bridgewater said he could have lost his leg. Adrian Peterson played in two games and his Vikings’ career was abruptly over. Minnesota also lost approximately 500 offensive linemen. Okay, not that many but you get the point.

The Vikings are led by their extremely talented defense. Defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter have the talent and ability to combine for 30 plus sacks. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks can defend the run and the pass due to how fast and athletic they are.

The secondary is led by Harrison “The Hitman” Smith, arguably the most underrated player of the last 20 years. Smith can do it all from playing the pass, coming up and making a tackle in the run game or even blitzing and sacking the quarterback. He is a true swiss army knife that Mike Zimmer gets everything out of.

Xavier Rhodes is also a top three corner and is disrespected around the league outside of Minnesota. I can put countless stats of how good he is, but all that needs to be said is record breaking Odell Beckham Jr. got shut down so badly that he said football wasn’t fun anymore after facing Rhodes.

Minnesota’s defense is a top three unit and anything less would be a huge disappointment to both the fans and head coach Mike Zimmer.

Offensively, the Vikings have some work to do. The offensive line was in shambles last season, paving the way for the worst rushing attack in the NFL at 75.3 yards per game. Minnesota has a new look offensive line with Riley Reiff, Nick Easton and Mike Remmers. Rookie interior lineman Pat Eflein may also get an opportunity to contribute this season. If the offensive line can be an average NFL unit, the Vikings will become extremely dangerous.

Longtime franchise cornerstone Adrian Peterson is gone. Latavius Murray was signed and Florida State’s all-time leading rusher, Dalvin Cook, will look to replace the Viking’s greatest running back. The two are more than capable and Minnesota will have an improved rushing attack.

Football minds outside of Minnesota say their receiving corp is weak but Stephon Diggs and Adam Thielen are more than capable of both topping 1,000 yards. Paired with Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings have more than enough weapons to have a top 15 passing attack. Sam Bradford will continue to protect the football and this offense will be leaps and bounds better than it was last season.

With one of the easiest schedules in the league, a top three defense and a much-improved offense the Vikings will be in contention for a playoff spot.

Prediction: 10-6 (4-2), wildcard candidate

1: Green Bay Packers

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://images.fantasypros.com)

Last season: 10-6

Strength of schedule: 18

There are two words on why the Packers deserve to be the favorite in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers. Despite not having a running game and a secondary that most colleges wouldn’t start, Rodgers was still able to carry the Packers to the NFC Championship.

This team goes as far as Rodgers can take them despite their deficiencies. Green Bay has a wide receiver who has converted to running back and will most likely lose his spot to Jamaal Williams during the season. When that happens the Packers offense will improve.

Green Bay is a lock to make the playoffs, they have made the postseason for eight straight seasons and nine of the 11 seasons that McCarthy has been in charge.

Rodgers has been given plenty of offensive weapons to throw the ball to. Jordy Nelson is a top five wideout and Davante Adams had a breakout season in 2016 catching 12 touchdowns. Randall Cobb seems like a forgotten man but is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Health is the only thing capable of holding him back. The Packers also improved their tight end position by adding Martellus Bennett. Rodgers has been set up to succeed in the passing game and can throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.

The Packers Achilles heel is on the defensive side of the ball. Green Bay’s secondary got torched in the NFC Championship game. Davon House, Quinten Rollins, Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have a lot to prove this season.

Nick Perry and Clay Matthews are the known studs at linebacker but Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan are more of the question marks who must step up if this team wants to become a Super Bowl contender.

The Packers will make the playoffs because that is what they do under Mike McCarthy. It helps to have Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback too. Green Bay will make the playoffs, and likely win the division, but must watch out for the Vikings who will be on their tail.

Prediction: 11-5 (5-1), division champion

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