The 2018 NFL Draft is just under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Oakland Raiders 2018 NFL Draft profile.
Jon Gruden (Photo by usatoday.com)
The Raiders were a trendy pick to win the AFC West but failed to live up to expectations in 2017. They had some injuries and finished the season at 6-10. Oakland lured Jon Gruden out of the ESPN Monday Night Football booth to return to lead the silver and black.
Derek Carr hurt his back last season and missed a game, but needs to remain healthy in order for the Raiders to win big. One of his two favorite targets, Michael Crabtree, is now gone, but they may have gotten an upgrade with Jordy Nelson. The other, Amari Cooper, had a down season. Jared Cook gives Carr a decent tight end, but more weapons will be needed.
Marshawn Lynch is expected to return at running back. He shook off the rust from his one-year retirement to rush for 891 yards. Doug Martin was signed from Tampa Bay, giving the Raiders a good one-two punch. They also have Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who are good third down backs. They will be running behind a solid offensive line, that needs a little bit of help.
The defensive line also needs a little bit of help on the interior. Defensive tackle has been a need for a while and with Gruden’s 4-3 system that relied on Warren Sapp in Tampa Bay, they need to get a star. Khalil Mack is one of the league’s best players off the edge and totaled 10.5 sacks last season. He will need some more help getting after the quarterback.
While they have signed a few linebackers in free agency, including Tahir Whitehead, but will likely need at least one more, even if only for depth purposes.
They have signed some corners to help their depth, but they don’t have any elite talent at the position. Karl Joseph and Marcus Gilchrist should be able to anchor the safety position for the Raiders in the 2018 season.
Picks and Needs
Gruden will have 11 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft to start building the team the way he sees fit. With a good draft and a healthy Carr, the Raiders can be contenders once again.
First round (1 pick): 10
Second round (1): 41
Third round (1): 75
Fourth round (1): 110
Fifth round (2): 159, 173
Sixth round (4): 185, 212, 216, 217
Seventh round (1): 228
Wide receiver- They have two solid receivers in Nelson and Cooper, but will need more depth and guys they can play in the slot.
Offensive tackle- Donald Penn is old on the left side of the line and a right tackle is needed now. The line will still be solid if this isn’t addressed, but in order to keep Carr healthy, it would be wise to invest in a right tackle.
Defensive tackle- Eddie Vanderdoes and Justin Ellis don’t really strike fear into opponents. If the Raiders want a truly dominant defense, this need has to be filled.
Linebacker- Tahir Whitehead was signed and they have some depth, but their outside linebackers aren’t great.
Cornerback- This has been a position of need for some time now. The Raiders drafted Gareon Conley last year, but he was injured for a lot of last season. Their defense could be so much better with one shutdown corner on the field.
Vita Vea (Photo by nfldraftdiamonds.com)
Pick No. 10: Vita Vea, DT/NT, Washington
The Raiders need that interior presence on the defensive line. Vea is huge at 6’4″ and 347 pounds, but he is mobile enough to be more than just a gap stuffer. With some work and training, Vea can be that dominant force at defensive tackle for Gruden’s defense. This will take some of the blockers off of Mack and allow him more one on one opportunities to get to the quarterback.
Pick No. 41: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Yes, they drafted Conley last year, but Oakland still needs a corner. Hughes has garnered rave reviews, even from Deion Sanders at the NFL Combine. He spent one year at UNC before going to UCF and playing one season there. In 2017 he had four interceptions, was a good returner and helped shut down some good receivers down the stretch for the Golden Knights. He presents good value in the second round and can be a future Pro Bowler.
Pick No. 75: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
Rankin was one of the best pass blockers in college football last season. He helped protect Nick Fitzgerald, which in turn allowed him to become a star. He isn’t the biggest tackle but would be a nice pick to help make a good offensive line even better.
The Raiders aren’t too far off from being a contender again. In Gruden’s first draft since leaving ESPN, he can fill a few holes and try to get the Raiders back to the playoffs.
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Records are meant to be broken, right? Well maybe not in the National Football League.
Since its inaugural season in 1920, the NFL has seen countless defensive records broken, most recently in 2012 when Ed Reed broke Rod Woodson’s record for career interception return yards. After looking at all of the current records, I thought it would be fun to see which records will be broken next, and which will remain untouched.
With the continuous decline in the average career length of players, it seems that many career defensive records may stand the test of time. According to Statista.com, the average NFL player’s career is just 3.3 years, and a player with at least one Pro Bowl selection is 11.7.
After looking at each defensive record, i’ve found that each record holder spent at least 13-years in the NFL and started a minimum of 169 games. There are only four active defensive players in the NFL that have served such a tenure, hence why these career records continue to stand.
Paul Krause is a Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the Washington Redskins (1964-67) and Minnesota Vikings (1968-79). (Photo by christopherapage.com)
Career leader: Paul Krause (81)
Active leader: DeAngelo Hall (43)
Krause is a Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the Washington Redskins (1964-67) and Minnesota Vikings (1968-79). Over his 16-year career, he had 81 interceptions, including two seasons with double-digits, which is something that no active player has even done once. What makes this even more impressive is that he played during an era where NFL teams played 14-game seasons, opposed to 16.
The NFL’s active leader in career interceptions is DeAngelo Hall, who is expected to make his return to the field this Sunday for the Washington Redskins. In his 14-year career, he has amassed 43 interceptions. The most he amassed in a season was six, which was a mark he reached twice (2005, 2010). Hall’s career is coming to a close, and he stands no chance of reaching 81 interceptions. So are there any other active players that can eventually catch Krause?
Not likely. Richard Sherman has the most interceptions for a player under 30 years old with 32 in 103 games. Sherman is unlikely to reach this mark as he has only eight interceptions in his last 39 games, opposed to the 16 interceptions he had across a 32-game span from 2012-13.
A decrease in Sherman’s interception totals may be correlated to his increasing reputation as one of the leagues lockdown corners. Quarterbacks won’t throw the ball to Sherman’s man enough for him to come anywhere close to Kraus.
The young defensive back that stands any chance to match Kraus’ interception totals is Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs. Peters has played in only 39 games, but has already totaled 17 interceptions. If he continues his 0.44 interception per game pace for another decade, he would pass Krause in his 13th season.
Only time will tell if Peters has what it takes, although one can assume that quarterbacks will stop throwing the ball to his side as his lockdown reputation continues to develop.
Career Interception return yards
Career leader: Ed Reed (1,590)
Active leader: DeAngelo Hall (838)
According to the New York Times, New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick referred to Ed Reed as “the best weak safety (he’s) seen since (he’s) been in the National Football League.” He added, “Every time you break the huddle, that’s who you’re looking at.”
Reed, also known as the “Ball Hawk,” ranks first in NFL history in career interception return yards with 1,590, and is seventh in career interceptions with 64. His net of nearly 25 yards per interception return puts him in a category with only Deion Sanders as one of the most dangerous returners in NFL history.
This record may seem unbreakable, although the aforementioned Marcus Peters could technically pass Reed if he were to intercept 52 more passes and continue his 23 yards per interception return pace. Although it may be improbable, it is not impossible.
Career Interceptions returned for a touchdown
Hall of Famer Rod Woodson holds the record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown with 12. (Photo by Solecollector.com)
Career leader: Rod Woodson (12)
Active leader: Aqib Talib (10)
Now this is a record that can be broken. Hall of Famer Rod Woodson holds the record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown with 12, although 31-year-old Aqib Talib is just two house calls away from matching Woodson’s mark.
Talib has had at least one pick-six in seven of his ten seasons. Talib is a vital part of the Denver Broncos “No Fly Zone” defense, and he should have no problem intercepting a handful of passes throughout the rest of his career. I would not be surprised to see Talib holding this record by the end of his career.
Career leader: Bruce Smith (200.0)
Active leader: Julius Peppers (151.0)
Bruce Smith, who has 200 sacks over his illustrious career, has been the NFL’s sack king since surpassing Reggie Whites’ mark of 198 in 2003. It took Smith 19 seasons and 279 games to reach this mark.
The active sack leader is Julius Peppers, who has 151 sacks through 16 seasons and 242 games. With Peppers’ retirement imminent, it is clear he is not a threat to break the record.
Including Peppers, there are only four active players in the NFL with over 100 sacks: Dwight Freeney (123.5), Terrell Suggs (119) and Elvis Dumervil (102.5).
In my estimation, there are only three active players that have a chance to sniff Smith’s record. An honorable mention is Khalil Mack, as he is one of the league’s premier pass rushers. Because he is already 26 years old (which isn’t old) and has only 34.5 career sacks, it will be a stretch for him to reach Smith’s 200 sack mark.
The most likely candidate to break this record is the 2015 Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. In his seven-year career, he already has 80.5 career sacks and is averaging about 0.85 sacks per game. If Miller were to continue this pace, he would need to play in just over 141 more games to break Smith’s record. The likelihood of Miller playing nine more seasons at an elite level is unlikely, although he could improve his current sack pace if he stays healthy in his prime.
J.J. Watt was on pace to contend Smith’s record after recording 76 sacks in 83 games, posting a rate of .92 sacks per game, but was thrown off track due to injuries.
Watt missed most of the 2016 season and will miss the remainder of the 2017 season, causing his chances of catching Smith to continue to dwindle. If Watt returns healthy for the 2018 NFL season and continues his torrid sack pace, he would need to play for another eight seasons to contend with Smith. As an injury riddled 28-year-old, it seems unlikely Watt will become the sack king.
The other active player who may one day approach Smith’s sack record is Joey Bosa. The 22-year-old has a total of 19 sacks in just 20 games, giving him an insane .95 sacks per game. If he were to continue this pace for 13 seasons, he would approach Smith’s mark. Bosa will need to stay healthy and hungry for over a decade, which is something that very few players are capable of in today’s NFL.
Career Fumble recoveries
Rod Woodson holds the record for career fumble recoveries for a defensive player with 32. (Photo from NFL.com)
Career leader: Rod Woodson (32)
Active leader: Julius Peppers (18)
This record seems to be the least likely to be broken, ever. Recovering a fumble is incredibly difficult as many different factors affect a situation, including positioning, hand eye coordination and luck.
Rod Woodson holds the record for career fumble recoveries for a defensive player with 32. Woodson spent 17-seasons in the NFL and recovered at least one fumble every year.
The active leader in career fumble recoveries is Julius Peppers with 18, although no other defensive player in the NFL has half as many fumble recoveries as Woodson. This record may in fact never be broken.
Career Forced fumbles*
Career leader: Robert Mathis (54)
Active leader: Unknown
I understand forced fumbles is not an official NFL statistic, and unofficial numbers prior to 1991 were not recorded, although it should be.
According to Sportshoopla.com, unofficially, Robert Mathis is the NFL’s leader in career forced fumbles with 54. Unfortunately, because this stat is not officially calculated by the NFL, a list of active players’ career forced fumbles are not available, forcing me to believe this record will not be broken until the NFL begins to officially count the stat.
Jared Allen holds the NFL record for career safeties with four. (Photo by Genevieve Ross)
Career leader: Jared Allen, Doug English and Ted Hendricks (4)
Active leader(s): Calais Campbell, Leonard Floyd and Junior Galette (2)
This record may seem breakable since safeties are extremely uncommon. According to Ken Belson of the New York Times, one safety occurs every 14.31 games. Also, no player has ever recorded more than one safety in a single game.
There is a tie between three players for this record, the most recent being Jared Allen, who played in the NFL for 12 seasons. He recorded them all in just three seasons (2008, 2009, 2011).
Leonard Floyd seems like the most likely of the group to break this record, as he is half-way there and just 24 years old, but this record may be unbreakable due to the lack of safeties that occur.
So, are all career defensive records unbreakable? No, but clearly some records stand a chance of never being broken.
Did I miss any record-breaking candidates, or did I disrespect a legend by saying their record is breakable? Only time will tell, but let me know your opinions.
Featured image from SB Nation
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The NFL regular season is finally here. The season opener is tonight and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-18 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 AFC West division preview.
4: Los Angeles Chargers
Last season: 5-11
Strength of schedule: 3
The Chargers are heading in the right direction. Being in the AFC West is really the only thing holding them back.
When you look at the Chargers defense there is plenty to love. The defensive line is going to be terrifying to opposing offensive lines. Joey Bosa, Brandon Mebane, Corey Liuget and Melvin Ingram are going to cause nightmares. This front will dominate games and make the rest of the defense better.
The linebacking corp has a lot of questions to answer but won’t be required to be a special unit because of how good the defensive line and the secondary are. The secondary of the Los Angeles Chargers is one of the most underrated in the entire league. Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett are one of the best corner tandems in the NFL and helped the Chargers give up only 242.9 yards per game through the air.
As long as the offense doesn’t turnover the ball at the same rate as last season the Chargers defense will improve this season and make the team better as a whole. An improved defense can help Los Angeles close out games as they finished 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less.
Philip Rivers led this offense to some impressive numbers but the turnovers really hurt them. Rivers threw 21 interceptions on the season and the team averaged 2.2 turnovers per game. Despite the high volume of turnovers, the Chargers averaged the ninth most points in the NFL with 25.6 per game. Philip Rivers threw for 262.4 yards per game even though he lost his best receiver Keenan Allen early in the season. A healthy Allen could allow Rivers, and the rest of the Chargers offense, to a better 2017.
Turnovers weren’t the only problem with the Chargers, they struggled to run the ball. Los Angeles only managed to accumulate 94.4 yards on the ground. They can do much better with Melvin Gordan and a healthy offensive line.
Even with all the improvements the Chargers have made, they won’t see the results in the win column. They have the third hardest schedule in the league and it is because of their difficult division.
When I predicted that the Broncos would finish third last season most called me crazy, some even called me dumb. Then the Broncos struggled and fell to third in the AFC West. The same will happen this season because Trevor Siemian is still going to be the signal caller. Even if he ends up being replaced, Paxton Lynch wouldn’t do much better. The Broncos will be wasting away their defense yet again this season.
Denver needs to run the ball more often to help Siemian. The Broncos only ran the ball 40.2 percent of the time last year. As a result, the Broncos averaged 92.8 rush yards per game. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles need to remain healthy so that the running game can take off.
Another problem with the Broncos offense is their line. Denver lost Russell Okung but his injury history makes the loss manageable. To improve upon the unit the Broncos drafted Garrett Bolles. Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the league and will have to be the anchor that gets this unit going. The Broncos’ passing attack was abysmal as well, ranking 21st. Because of the deficiencies on offense, Denver only managed to score 20.8 points per game.
Last season the vaunted Bronco defense struggled to stop the run. Denver had the fifth worst rush defense in the league, allowing 130.3 yards per game. The addition of Domata Peko should help solve this issue. The rest of the defense is still loaded. Von Miller helped lead the Broncos to 42 sacks as a team, good enough for third in the NFL. Denver still only managed to allow 18.6 points per game. Expect them to maintain this standard and give up anywhere from 17 to 20 points per game.
The defense will continue to be earth shattering against the pass but without being able to stop the run they can’t remain elite. The lack of a running game and no real threat throwing the ball means the Broncos are in for another difficult season. They also have the hardest schedule in the NFL. The defense is the only chance this team has at making the playoffs.
Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), wildcard candidate
losses: Dal, @NYG, @LAC, @KC, @Phi, @NE, @Oak
2: Kansas City Chiefs
(Photo Credit: David Eulitt The Kansas City Star)
Last season: 12-4
Strength of schedule: 2
As is every year, Andy Reid will have his team in playoff contention. The Chiefs have a great defense that will lead the way. The offense is typically average but will have a few more playmakers this season. If the Chiefs can navigate the second hardest schedule in the league, they will make the playoffs as a wildcard team.
Alex Smith receives backlash but led the Chiefs offense to the 13th best offense in the NFL averaging 24.3 points per game. Kansas City didn’t do anything great but did things consistently. They ranked 18th in third down conversion percentage (38 percent), 15th in rushing yards (109.2 per game) and 19th in passing yards (233.8 per game).
The injury to Spencer Ware will force Kareem Hunt to be the workhorse but he is fully capable. Similar to the rest of the offense, the offensive line is ranked in the middle of the pack. Tyreek Hill will be so explosive that he will open up the running game and the middle of the field for Travis Kelcie. Alex Smith will be more than a game manager this season as a result.
The real strength of the Chiefs is their defense. Kansas City only gave up 19.4 points per game despite losing top defenders Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston. What Kansas City really excelled at was red zone defense and forcing turnovers. The Chiefs only allowed points in the red zone 49.1 percent of the time. They also led the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. Kansas City will build upon this.
The Chiefs will continue to play Super Bowl caliber defense and the offense will be much more explosive. The second toughest schedule is what will cause problems, that and the emergence of the Oakland Raiders. Chiefs will likely make the playoffs but not win the division.
Prediction: 10-6 (4-2), wildcard candidate
losses: @NE, @Hou, @Oak, @Dal, @NYG, @Den
1: Oakland Raiders
(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com)
Last season: 12-4
Strength of schedule: 4
Here come the Raiders. After a decade of sitting in the gutter, the Raiders are finally built for success. The only thing holding back Oakland from a Super Bowl is health.
Heading into this season the Raiders offense is poised to be one of the top units in the NFL. Derek Carr has completed 60.9 percent of his passes and thrown for 81 touchdowns to just 31 interceptions in his career. Carr still has Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to throw the ball out to. They also added tight end, Jared Cook. Cook is a dangerous threat but can’t stay healthy.
The Raiders also signed Oakland native Marshawn Lynch. Lynch took a season off so he should be fresh to continue his beast mode persona this season. Oakland averaged 26 points per game last season and will be somewhere around that mark this season. As long as they stay healthy they will have one of the best offenses.
To make it to the Super Bowl the defense will have to step up their play. The Raiders defensive along gave up 24.1 points per game. Oakland struggled in giving up yards as well, ranking 26th in total yards (375.1 per game), 23rd rushing yards (117.6 per game) and 24th in passing yards (257.5 per game). The Raiders spent their first three picks on the defensive side of the ball to address these defensive woes.
(Photo Credit: http://www.sportsworldreport.com)
Oakland must improve in getting to the quarterback. They ranked 32nd in the NFL in sacks, accumulating just 25 for the season. Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and newly acquired Jelani Jenkins have to be better for the silver and black to get to the big game.
The Raiders are poised for a great season. They won 12 games last season and won’t win that many because of the difficult schedule. Still, 11 wins will be enough to win the division and set the Oakland Raiders up for a possible Super Bowl Run.
Prediction: 11-5 (4-2), division champion
losses: @Den, @Buf, @Mia, @KC, @LAC
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Featured image courtesy of https://www.si.com/nfl/2016/08/25/afc-west-preview-chiefs-broncos-chargers-raiders
The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.
This is the final installment, containing players 10-1.
10. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by nj.com)
Beckham Jr. gets a lot of press for his antics, but he produces at a Hall of Fame level so far in his career. His 2016 season was no different as he recorded 101 receptions for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Giants have other offensive weapons that should take off pressure from Beckham Jr. Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall were brought in this offseason and Sterling Sheppard had a solid season in 2016. With so many targets, Beckham will likely face a little bit less attention than in previous years.
He wants to be the most paid player in the NFL and with a good season in 2017, he can be the top paid wide receiver in the league at the least.
Comments: “Some love him, the rest hate him but what you can’t deny is that he is a stud on the field. He is also one of the most exciting players to watch. Ranked at 10 seems perfect for Odell and I can’t wait to see what he does this season as he has started to put together a career that could one day head to Canton.” -Matthew Hagan
9. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
David Johnson (Photo by latimes.com)
He was little known of Norhtern Iowa and the Cardinals didn’t even want to draft him as they preferred other running backs. That hasn’t stopped Johnson from becoming one of the premier running backs and players in the NFL. In 2016 he rushed 1,239 yards had 879 receiving yards and finished with 20 total touchdowns.
Johnson can do it all and is entering his second full season as the top back in Arizona. The rest of the offense wasn’t particularly productive, but Johnson made the most of an average offensive line and a struggling quarterback. This season Johnson will continue his progression and have an impact on the game in a variety of ways.
Fantasy football shouldn’t be used to judge real football most of the time, but there is a reason he is going in the top three of most drafts.
Comments: “He is a complete back and has thrived behind a line that isn’t great. If he doesn’t pick up his yards on the ground he will get the ball thrown to him. He has a chance to have another good season as the focal point of the Cardinal offense.”-Joe DiTullio
8. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Aaron Donald (Photo by masslive.com)
Donald is by far the best interior lineman in the NFL and has been the best player on a lackluster Rams’ team for years now. This is all despite being in the NFL for only three years. Last season he finished with 47 tackles, five passes defended and eight sacks.
His best asset is his quickness off of the snap. He continually is the first one to make his jump at the snap of the ball and that is not something that will diminish in 2017. One thing to be weary of is that Donald will play more defensive end this season in the Rams’ new 3-4 defense. With Donald’s skill he should be able to make the adjustment and continue to be one of the top ten players in the league.
The 2017 season may not be too kind to the Rams, but Donald will continue to perform.
Comments: “Aaron Donald is unblockable just put on the tape. He hasn’t gotten the love because the Rams have been horrible. Donald is a top 3-5 player and once the Rams become relevant, people will soon realize that ranking him eighth is just not good enough.” -Matthew Hagan
7. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliot (Photo by wfaa.com)
Elliot does benefit from a great offensive line, but he had a great season for a rookie in 2016. He rushed for 1,631 yards and had 16 total touchdowns. Those stats are especially impressive when taking into account that he only played 15 games because Dallas rested their starters for their season finale to stay healthy for the playoffs.
The thing that will hold Elliot back is his off the field issues. This list was compiled before rumors had started about a possible suspension. If he is on the field Elliot is going to be one of the most productive backs in the league. He has a great offensive line and enough natural talent that he will be shine. Even if he has a sophomore slump and does a little worse than 2016, he is still going to have an excellent season.
If Elliot is suspended it may hinder his rating on this list, but he will still be a great player for the games that he does play in.
Comments: “Elliot does benefit from a great offensive line, but most great running backs do. His vision and athletic ability make him elusive. Going into year two, he will have another big season if he can stay on the field.”-Joe DiTullio
6. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
Von Miller (Photo by usatoday,com)
His ability to sack the quarterback is what makes Miller such a great player. 2016 was no different for Miller, as he finished the season with 13.5 sacks, 78 tackles, three passes defended and three forced fumbles.
If Miller plays at least 15 games in a season, the end product is 11 or more sacks. He constantly harasses quarterbacks and will do so again in 2017. The Bronco defense will be strong again in 2017, with the strengths being the secondary and the pass rush. The secondary will be helped by the pass rush getting after the quarterback, forcing him to make bad decisions. Miller and the pass rush will be aided and gifted with a few coverage sacks this season.
Miller will make his sixth Pro Bowl and be the best player on one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2017.
Comments: “Miller and Mack could easily be flip flopped. Miller is surrounded by better talent on defense, which elevates him. Despite that Miller would rack up double digit sacks for any team in the NFL”- Dylan Streibig
5. Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland Raiders
Khalil Mack (Photo by raiders.com)
Mack, like Miller, is this high on the list because of his ability to get after the quarterback. His ability to do so has landed him on two straight All-Pro first teams. Last season he recorded 11 sacks, 73 tackles, five forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, three passes defended, one interception and one touchdown.
He is entering his fourth season in the NFL and big things are expected of him, especially after he had 15 sacks in 2015. Mack doesn’t have the luxury of a good secondary, so he needs to get to the quarterback quickly for most sacks. The defense will likely not be too improved in 2017, which means Mack will need to continue to produce at an elite level.
He is entering his prime, so there is no reason not to expect Mack to have a great season in 2017.
Comments: “Khalil Mack is the best player in the NFL. That’s right, I said it. Mack is the only player in NFL history to be named an all-pro at two positions and that is enough proof for me. When you can split the time between two positions and be that great at both you are the elite of the elite. Mack is going to have a huge year. I expect close to 20 sacks this season.” -Matthew Hagan
4. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown (Photo by sbnation.com)
Like a lot of players in this top ten, Brown came from humble beginnings in the NFL and had to work his tail off to get this far in his career. He was a sixth round pick in the NFL Draft and has made the Steelers happy to have drafted him. In 2016 he had 1,284 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
The yards were down last season, but the touchdowns were up, which still made him very productive. Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to play this season after contemplating retirement, will help Brown greatly. A good offensive line and Le’Veon Bell will help keep the offense balanced. Martavis Bryant is coming off of suspension and should draw some attention away from Brown. Brown’s touchdowns may go down as a result, but he should have more yards.
Brown’s work ethic is great so unless quarterback play drops off completely, expect him to be a top receiver in the NFL.
Comments: ” Four straight seasons with 100+ catches says it all. Opponents know the ball is going to Brown and still can’t stop him”- Dylan Streibig
3. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones (Photo by atlantafalcons.com)
Jones is the ultimate matchup problem in the NFL and is the reason why the Falcons’ offense is so dynamic. He makes Matt Ryan a better quarterback. Last season he not only helped the Falcons get to the Super Bowl, but had 1,409 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
The 2017 season should be another great one for Jones. Ryan is back at quarterback coming off of his best season yet. The offensive line is also good and two good running backs are running behind it. Mohammed Sanu and Austin Hooper provide decent targets to take the pressure off of Jones. Even if all these things weren’t in place for Jones, he would still be a great player in the NFL.
With Jones on an offense, a defense has to make him the main focal point of their game plan because he is so talented and productive.
Comments: “Jones is the ultimate mismatch. He could be higher on his list and it wouldn’t be too surprising. He makes the Falcons’ offense so good. He makes Matt Ryan a better quarterback. If you are picking players in a schoolyard draft, Jones is going to be one of the top picks no question.”-Joe DiTullio
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers (Photo by nytimes.com)
For some reason Rodgers has gotten a lot of criticism over the last few years, but he is still an elite quarterback. In 2016 he threw for 4,428 yards and a league best 40 touchdowns. Rodgers is very reliable, while still putting up big numbers with an interception percentage of just 1.1% last season.
Rodgers has had to undergo a lot of changes with his offensive personnel the last few years. Ty Montgomery has had to switch from wide receiver to running back which has gone decently well. Offensive lineman have come and gone, but the unit is still good. Jordy Nelson has dealt with injuries, but is back to form, while Randall Cobb has regressed. Davante Adams stepped up last season, which is encouraging. The Packers also signed Martellus Bennet to give Rodgers a very good tight end target. He has done a lot more with a lot less in past years and will put up good numbers in 2017.
Rodgers ranks second on this list, but with another good season and a possible retirement/regression from the person at the top spot, he can claim the best player in the league title.
Comments: “Rodgers would make an uninterested person, interested in football. He is that good. He buys time with his legs and has the accuracy down the field to make unbelievable throws. He only has one Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a couple more before retiring.”- Joe DiTullio
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Tom Brady (Photo by wbur.com)
Brady is 40 years old, but still is at the top of his game and the top of this list. He has showed no signs yet of taking a step backwards. His 2016 season was shortened by the “Deflategate” suspension, but he still had a great season. In the truncated season he threw for 3,554 yards and just two interceptions on his way to leading New England to its fifth Super Bowl Championship.
Protecting the football is also one of Brady’s strengths as he only threw two in the 2016 regular season. This season, the offense got better. They added Brandin Cooks to their receiving corps, to go with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. Rob Gronkowski also figures to come back and be dynamic if he can stay healthy. The offensive line has played well only allowed Brady to be sacked 15 times in 2016.
With no signs of regression and more talent on the team, Brady holds on to the number one spot on this list.
Comments: “I have a problem with Brady at one. Yes, he has accomplished amazing things and has been the best quarterback of all-time, but this list is suppose to be predicting the upcoming season. At his age, Brady will not be the best player in the NFL in 2017.” -Matthew Hagan
NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 20-11
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Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the eighth, and final edition, Super Bowl series: AFC West.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are entirely overlooked and it is egregious. Andy Reid has done incredibly well so far in Kansas City. Reid has gone 43-21 and the Chiefs have made the playoffs in three of his four seasons.
The only thing missing is the playoff success and thus a Super Bowl victory. Kansas City is just 1-3 in the playoffs during the Reid era. That can change this season as the Chiefs look to make a run at Super Bowl LII.
Kansas City is a team that wades in the water like a shark and out of nowhere will sneak up and attack you. Alex Smith gets the hate while the defense gets all the love but the Chiefs averaged 24.3 points per game last season, which was 13th best in the NFL. The Chiefs were able to get out in front of teams early, scoring the eighth most first half points with 12.8 per game.
The Chiefs weren’t special on offense but they were consistent. They ranked 18th in third down conversion percentage (38 percent), 15th in rushing yards (109.2 per game) and 19th in passing yards (233.8 per game). Again, the offense wasn’t spectacular but they are wrongfully accused of costing this team successful playoff runs.
There is still room for growth. The offense can help the defense out even more by running more plays to keep that stellar defense rested. The Chiefs ranked 27th last season averaging 61.9 plays per game. An effective rushing attack is one of the best ways to run more plays.
Kansas City has added veteran running back C.J. Spiller and rookie running back Kareem Hunt in hopes of improving the offense, but Spencer Ware should be the feature back. This offense has been consistent and as long as they improve just a tiny bit, the Chiefs can remain Super Bowl contenders.
In the Reid era, the Chiefs have averaged 27.5 points per game in the playoffs. They also lost a playoff game to the Colts, 45-44. Anytime a team scores 44 points, they should win. As much blame as this offense gets, they have performed well enough to win games in the postseason.
Stepping away from the offense, the Chiefs are truly Super Bowl contenders because of their defense. Despite losing Justin Houston after five games and Derrick Johnson after 13, the Chiefs were able to rank seventh in points allowed per game at 19.4.
The reason the Chiefs were good on defense wasn’t that they held teams to low amounts of yardage; they actually were bad at allowing yards. They ranked 24th in total yards (368.5 per game), 26th in rushing (121.1 per game) and 18th in passing (247.4 per game).
What Kansas City really excelled at was red zone defense and forcing turnovers. The Chiefs only allowed points in the red zone 49.1 percent of the time. They also led the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. There can be improvements made in how much yardage allowed but if the Chiefs can continue forcing turnovers along with getting stops in the red zone, then the Chiefs can remain a top-tier defensive team.
In order to win the Super Bowl, Kansas City must get home-field advantage. They are 18-7 at home in the past three seasons. They must also get over the tough schedule that includes New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas outside of the division, plus Oakland and Denver twice each.
If the Chiefs can navigate this schedule and make the playoffs, the offense needs to continue averaging 27.5 points per game and the defense must remain elite. Doing all of this will mean that Arrowhead will be home to the Super Bowl LII champions.
The Oakland Raiders were legitimate Super Bowl contenders last season but the injury bug bit at the worst time. Derek Carr broke his leg in week 16 and just like his leg, the Raiders playoff chances were shattered.
Offensive tackle Donald Penn also went down and if the Raiders can remain healthy at their key positions, then they have one of the best shots in the league to win Super Bowl LII.
In order to win the Super Bowl, the Raiders must improve defensively along with remaining healthy. The Raiders gave up 24.1 points per game and the problem was that they struggled in the second half of games.
Oakland ranked 29th in second half points, allowing 13.4 per game. The Raiders struggled in yardage as well, ranking 26th in total yards (375.1 per game), 23rd rushing yards (117.6 per game) and 24th in passing yards (257.5 per game). The Raiders spent their first three picks on the defensive side of the ball to address these defensive woes.
(Photo Credit: http://www.sportsworldreport.com)
Part of the reason they struggled so much defensively was that they couldn’t get off the field on third down. Opponents converted 39.4 percent of the time against the Raiders on third down. If they can fix this, it will improve their entire defense.
Fixing their third down defense starts with getting to the quarterback which the Raiders were the worst at. Oakland ranked 32nd in the NFL in sacks, accumulating just 25 for the season. Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and newly acquired Jelani Jenkins must make a bigger impact in rushing the quarterback.
Oakland must also find some discipline. The Raiders ranked dead last in both penalties (9.2 per game) and penalty yardage (77.9 per game). Without these improvements, the Raiders won’t be capable of making deep postseason runs.
The strength of the Raiders is, without question, their offense which averaged 26 points per game. Oakland seemed to get better as the game went on, averaging the fifth most points in the second half with 13.6. The Raiders had no trouble racking up the yardage either, averaging 373.3 yards per game.
They can thank their surprisingly good rushing attack. Oakland ran for the sixth most yards in the NFL last season with 120.1 per game. Adding Marshawn Lynch to the mix should improve this number and make the entire offense even better.
Oakland had the 13th best aerial attack in the NFL, throwing for 253.2 yards per game. Derek Carr has been exceptional and has also been given solid targets to throw to. His two main targets, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, combined for 176 receptions, 2,156 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
The Raiders decided Carr needed more and added talented receiving tight end Jared Cook and explosive wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Cook has struggled to remain healthy but has been effective when on the field. Patterson has been to the Pro Bowl as a returner but had a solid season catching 74.3 percent of the balls thrown his way last season. These two weapons could really push Oakland’s passing attack to the next level.
The only improvements the Raiders need to make on offense is on third down and in the red zone. Oakland only converted 38.1 percent on third down. Extending drives can help the defense get rest and therefore, perform better.
Although the Raiders averaged 26 points, they only scored in the red zone 58.6 percent of the time. If they can improve this percentage, then the Raiders could easily average 30 or more points per game. If the Raiders do that, then the Lombardi Trophy is going back to the bay, baby.
There weren’t many who believed the Broncos would struggle last season but Denver stumbled to 9-7. Similar to recent years, Denver’s defense was spectacular but the offense was just too far behind. The loss of Peyton Manning was more painful than fans care to realize. Denver might have a Super Bowl defense, but without a quarterback to make big plays, the offense is going to hold this team back.
Let’s start off with what this team is known for, and that’s defense. The Broncos have a reputation for beating up quarterbacks. Denver ranked third in the NFL last season with 42 sacks. This helped them get off the field on third down as they forced a third down stop 63.6 percent of the time. Getting to the quarterback often, and quickly, helped the secondary allow just 185.8 yards passing per game. That was the best mark in the NFL.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Despite all the success against the pass, the Broncos did struggle against the run. Denver had the fifth worst rush defense in the league, allowing 130.3 yards per game. Altogether, Denver only allowed 316.1 yards per game and that resulted in allowing the fourth fewest points per game at 18.6.
In order to get back to the Super Bowl, Denver must clog up the running lanes. The Broncos have added Domata Peko at defensive tackle to help their run defense. Denver cannot depend on the play of the quarterback and therefore the defense must become elite in all facets of the game. All that is left to conquer is the run.
Offensively, the Broncos need to run the ball more often to make up for their quarterback play. Denver only ran the ball 40.2 percent of the time. This resulted in an average of 92.8 rush yards per game, sixth worst in the NFL. C.J. Anderson is a great back but has yet to play a full season in his career. Speaking of injury prone, the Broncos did add Jamaal Charles to the mix in the backfield as well. While neither can remain healthy on their own, maybe being paired together can help them stay healthy and turn Denver into a good running football team once again.
None of that will be possible without good offensive line play though. Losing Russell Okung isn’t a crushing blow because he had health problems anyway. This is why Denver drafted Garrett Bolles. Also, Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the league and if he can lead the rest of the unit then Denver can improve their offense.
The Broncos’ passing attack was abysmal as well, ranking 21st. Because of the deficiencies on offense, Denver only managed to score 20.8 points per game. Either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch need to grab ahold of the quarterback spot with force and prove they can be the franchise quarterback.
If neither of them can, rookie Chad Kelly could sneak in and become the man. No matter how the cookie crumbles, one of these quarterbacks needs to have a great season to help get the Broncos to the Super Bowl.
For everything to fall into place the Broncos, offensive line play must improve which in turn will help the running game improve. Denver needs a quarterback to solidify their spot as the franchise quarterback and lastly, the Denver defense needs to stop the run. If the Broncos can solve all these problems, they can win Super Bowl LII.
Los Angeles Chargers
(Photo Credit: http://eastvillagetimes.com)
The Chargers have left San Diego and are embarking on the journey to run Los Angeles. Due to a slew of injuries and a sub-par defense, the Chargers finished last season 5-11. That record didn’t indicate how good the team really was. The Chargers went 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less. Los Angeles can become a contender simply by winning these close games.
The Los Angeles Chargers are going be a much improved defensive team. For starters, Joey Bosa will be ready at the start of the season and he had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games as a rookie. They also added safety Tre Boston to help out in a secondary that gave up 242.9 yards per game through the air.
The defense also includes Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, Melvin Ingram, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. These are some really good players but they must play together to improve last year’s bad season.
Last year, the Chargers ranked 29th in the NFL in points, allowing 26.4 per game. It was so high because they really stunk in the second half of games. The Chargers gave up a total of 14.6 points per second half last season with 8.3 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers defense partly struggled just because the offense gave up 2.2 turnovers per game, which was worst in the NFL. The defense is really talented and if they don’t get put into bad situations due to turnovers, they will easily bring down that amount of points they give up.
Last year’s offense was really good aside from the turnovers. They averaged the ninth most points in the NFL with 25.6 per game. Philip Rivers’ aerial assault led the way. They averaged 262.4 yards through the air despite losing their best receiver Keenan Allen. A healthy Allen could allow Rivers to have a better 2017-18 campaign.
In order to really improve the offense, the Chargers must run the ball more effectively. They averaged 94.4 yards per game but a banged-up offensive line hurt their potential. The Chargers know that a better offensive line will improve everything. Los Angeles snatched offensive tackle Russell Okung from the division rival Broncos. They also drafted guard Forrest Lamp.
Improvement for the Chargers starts with the offense. Running the ball more and simply staying healthy will accomplish that. The defense will then be able to bring down a number of points they allow due to rest. Lastly, the Chargers special teams must stop shooting themselves in the foot with bad punts, missed field goals, botched snaps and just horrible coverage.
It will not be easy for the Chargers to make the playoffs, especially in their division. If they can make the improvements listed, then they will have a puncher’s chance. Once they get into the playoffs it is anybody’s trophy.
Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC West. This was the final edition of the Super Bowl series and you can find the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.
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The Game Haus is back with another edition of Draftmas. This is the 22nd edition of Draftmas and it focuses on the Oakland Raiders.
Courtesy of USATSI
The Oakland Raiders had one of their best seasons since 2002. The 2017 Raiders went 12-4 but their postseason seemed to end for them before they even started. When Derek Carr went down in Week 16, Raider Nation and probably even the players and coaches knew their was no way to go far in the postseason. With Connor Cook behind center, the Raiders lost their first playoff game since 2002. The 2018 Raiders do have a lot of great pieces coming back to the team. Seven Raiders went to the Pro Bowl, a franchise-high since 1991, and the most players for any team in 2017.
PICKS AND NEEDS
The Raiders have eight picks in this draft, with one in each of the first six rounds and in the seventh round they have two picks.
First Round: (1) No. 24
Second Round: (1) No. 56
Third Round: (1) No. 88
Fourth Round: (1) No. 129
Fifth Round: (1) No. 168
Sixth Round: (1) No. 208
Seventh Round: (2) No. 242 and No. 244
Running Back: Yes, the Raiders do likely have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield now, but that still doesn’t fill the void in the at the running back position. I could see the Raiders finding a back later in the draft, most likely late Day 2.
Middle Linebacker: The Raiders need a rugged and power middle linebacker in that 3-4 scheme. They have Pro Bowler Khalil Mack on the outside, but they need a force up the middle as well.
Conrnerback: In this league, you can never have too many good corners. Oakland could definitely use another good corner to play with Sean Smith and complete their secondary.
Defensive Tackle: The defensive tackles on this roster are awful, but they could get whole lot better. Defensive tackle is not a major concern, but the Raiders could get some value from this deep pool of defensive tackles in the draft.
TARGETS AND THOUGHTS
These predictions are without trades.
First Round, Pick 24: Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida
If Jarrad Davis didn’t have some durability issues he could be a Top 15 pick, but most likely he could slip into the late first round to the Oakland Raiders. He shows tremendous Football IQ as he breaks down plays and then attacks. He is very good against the run and his acceleration and closing speed makes him a very good blitzing inside linebacker. Davis also has some pretty fluid hips and can stick with most tight ends and some slot receivers. When you think of middle linebacker dawning the black and sliver, you think of an intimating presence. Davis has that. He wore a neck roll and didn’t wear gloves. That is the pure definition of a nasty Oakland Raider 3-4 inside linebacker.
Second Round, Pick 55: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Two Florida Gators back to back. Teez Tabor another one of the great cornerbacks Will Muschamp played in The Swamp before his departure. Tabor teases the quarterback into making bad plays and he makes them pay for it. And when you turn on the tape, you see that. He plays with the supreme confidence that every great NFL corner has. He has very good ball skills and will come back down with the ball in his hands more times than the offensive player.
Tabor has the size to play the game and his style of play matches up very well with how the Raiders want to us their corners. He can definitely cover the third of the field and shut down most opposing number one and number two receivers right now in the league. And to be a Raider, you have to have some baggage. It’s how Al Davis would have liked it.
Third Round, Pick 88: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
If you need a defensive lineman, one of your first stops is definitely Clemson, S.C. Clemson has produced nine Top 100 defensive linemen since 2007. Last year Watkins led the National Champion Clemson Tigers in sacks from the interior. He is also sneaky athletic and in the 3-4 disguise can help the defense and help Khalil Mack get more chances to get one-on-one matchups.
The Raiders were one injury from a very interesting playoff push. If Derek Carr can come back healthy and if they follow this draft profile, they should have a season that could contend with the 2017 season.
Depending on the media outlets you follow, the Oakland Raiders’ success in 2016 may or may not have surprised you. Every year, a few teams are able to take the next step and get into the postseason. Today, let’s look into one team who was able to push into the playoffs in 2016, with some Oakland Raiders analysis.
But why was 2016 the year for the Raiders? Well, it was the accumulation of prudent free agent signings, smart and fortuitous drafting and patience. So, what do the Raiders need to do in 2017 to catapult themselves to the top of the AFC West?
2016 Evaluation – Offense
The Oakland Raiders quickly burst onto the scene as one of the most exciting NFL offenses. Led by Derek Carr, they finished as the seventh-ranked offense in terms of points and sixth in terms of yards. Other than improved play by Carr, what other factors allowed this offense to blossom in 2016?
A common theme in most of my analysis is the focus on every team’s offensive line. This was the second-most impacted factor in this season’s offensive success. They were one of the best line units in all of football.
Derek Carr had a breakout year in 2016 by entering the NFL MVP conversation and will look to improve on his success in 2017 (Courtesy of; sportsnaut.com).
Why? Because this franchise spends the second most cap space on their offensive line in the NFL. This unit accounts for over 23% of their cap space at $37.5 million. Acquiring Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson in free agency and drafting Gabe Jackson were critical to this team’s breakout performance in 2016.
For some perspective, this unit allowed the least amount of sacks in the NFL with 18. That is absolutely incredible. Some defensive players will amass more sacks by themselves than the Raiders allowed as a unit. So, if the offensive line doesn’t need improvement, what does Oakland need to do to take the next step in 2017?
While this offense was entertaining to watch and scored a lot of points, they didn’t do it by attacking down the field. Carr often targeted Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree with short and intermediate throws of 15-25 yards.
For example, Carr completed 50 passes of 20 yards or more in 2016, but only eight passes of 40 or more yards, according to NFL.com. Surprisingly, Carr had a lower yards per attempt mark than Alex Smith and Andy Dalton with just 7.03. While they had great offensive success, the Raiders offense can ascend to another level in 2017.
2016 Evaluation – Defense
It was evident to even the most fair weather of Raiders’ fans, if those even exist, that this defense struggled to play consistently at an just an average level. As a whole, this defense finished 20th in points and 26th in yards. Based on this team’s personality, it will be hard for this defense to ascend into the top-10 category.
Because their offense can score so effectively, they will have to get better against teams in “comeback mode”. Meaning, by mid-third quarter, the opposition will have to throw their way back into the game.
Ever since the Raiders drafted Khalil Mack with the number two overall pick, he’s proved his worth, but he can’t play all 11 defensive positions (Courtesy of; Endzonescore.com).
Given this situation, the Raiders can better in of two ways. They can pair Khalil Mack with another pass rusher to pressure the quarterback. Or, they could invest in their secondary, giving the players they already have more time to accumulate sacks.
The Raiders would be best served to target defensive linemen, given that they finished dead last in the NFL with only 25 sacks.
Ideally, they should look to upgrade Denico Autry for their base defense. Autry wasn’t able to excel in stopping the run or applying pressure.
It was unfortunate what happened to Mario Edwards Jr. and how he was unable to build upon the productivity of his rookie season. If he returns healthy, maybe Edwards Jr. could a suitable replacement for Autry.
If you disagree and think the Raiders should look to strengthen their secondary, I have no issue with that either.
They could look to upgrade D.J. Hayden as the slot corner. Hayden’s injury history and inability to improve over his first four seasons needs to be addressed.
With all the talent at corner in free agency and the draft, the Oakland Raiders have plenty of options available to them.
The Oakland Raiders were in control of this division for the majority of 2016. Barring an injury to their best player, I believe they would have won the AFC West. The Raiders need to add players this offseason that will help them challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for AFC West supremacy.
I think we can sum up where the Raiders need to allocate the majority of their resources with one word- defense. As stated earlier, they could address their aerial deficiencies by improving their secondary, or pass rush.
If they used free agency to address their needs, the top players. Calais Campbell, Kawann Short, Trumaine Johnson and A.J. Bouye headline this years class. Of course, that’s assuming they aren’t resigned to their current teams.
If they wanted to address these needs with young talent by way of the NFL Draft, there are also a bevy of options. At the defensive line position, it is possible that Chris Wormley from Michigan will be available. Or, in true Raiders fashion, they could draft a physical freak like Tanoh Kpassagnon from Villanova in the third round or later.
If they wanted to address their secondary, they could potentially select Jalen Tabor from Florida or Sidney Jones from Washington. It’s also possible that these players will warrant trading up for, as there are teams ahead of the Raiders with similar needs. Overall, a solid defensively focused draft and prudent free agent signings could make this Oakland Raiders defense look drastically different in 2017.
This section is largely irrelevant for teams that have made the playoffs. But, it still serves as a good measuring stick for critical areas that need improvement. Below are, in my opinion, the most relevant offensive and defensive statistics that can determine post season success and where the Oakland Raiders stack up.
As you can see, the Raiders offense wasn’t perfect. For all the success Derek Carr had, I was genuinely surprised to see where he and the offense ranked in yards per attempt. Now, he did injure his finger and that limited the amount of downfield throws he could make.
Maybe next year, with a clean bill of health, this number will increase. This could be the result of an underrated rushing attack and the possession receivers Carr is targeting. Also, the Raiders need to become more efficient on third down against secondaries like Denver and Kansas City.
Even with a healthy Derek Carr and a divisional title, I don’t think the Oakland Raiders would have gotten past the Steelers. Why? Because of this defense. Sure, they probably would have capitalized on some errant throws by Ben Roethlisberger, but that isn’t enough.
Methodical, consistent defense is the goal once you reach the post season. Sadly, nothing about these defensive metrics say consistency. They must find a way to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks; and find a way to limit teams to field goals, not touchdowns. While the situation may look bleak, this defense can look completely different in 2017 after signing and drafting defensive players.
You may have noticed there’s one looming issue I haven’t addressed yet. The potential move to Las Vegas. Honestly, I have no idea how or if the move would effect this team. Given their veteran coach, general manager and rising quarterback, the impact will be minimized if they are approved to move.
If the organization makes prudent free agent and draft decisions that are focused on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders will take the next step. I like the Raiders to finish 12-4 again, but this time, as champions of the AFC West.
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It is time to get into the next divisional preview, and staying out west means we look at the 2016 AFC West preview. Last season two teams from this division made the playoffs. The Broncos and the Chiefs both won at least one playoff game. The AFC West also produced the team that went on to win the Super Bowl. Congratulations to the Denver Bronco fans. Yes, the Broncos are the defending champions but if my preview is right, this will be a tough year for the Broncos and their fans. There will be a new division winner and maybe a few other surprises as well.
DENVER, CO – AUGUST 29: Defensive players Mitch Unrein #96, outside linebacker Von Miller #58, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton #94, defensive end Robert Ayers #91 and defensive end Malik Jackson #97 of the Denver Broncos look on from the sidelines against the Arizona Cardinals during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 29, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
A surprise is usually thought of as a good thing, but we all have had surprises that turned out to be bad as well. I know it is early but if you’re like me you are itching for football to start again. The first training camps will open up in approximately three weeks. Last year four teams made the playoffs after missing the playoffs in the previous year. It is never to early to start talking about which teams may surprise the NFL this year by making the playoffs. Some teams may even surprise us and miss the playoffs. This list will have both good and bad surprises for how a few teams will perform this upcoming NFL season.
San Fransisco 49ers: Better than expected
There are low expectations for the 49ers this season. They play in a tough division with the Seahawks and Cardinals. Also, it will be Chip Kelly’s first season as the head coach. They seem to be in a rebuilding phase but they will finish second in the NFC west, behind the Seahawks. This is a surprise because many expect the Cardinals to be a playoff team and it would be a shocker for the 49ers to surpass them. It will also mean they will possibly in the hunt for a wild card.
Chip Kelly has a bad reputation in the NFL but in his first season he took the previously 4-12 Eagles to a 10-6 record. That 10-6 record resulted in a division title. He finished with an identical record in his second season, although they missed the playoffs. In his first two season he was a combined 20-12. He was fired in his third year after going 6-9, but has proven he can win games in the NFL. It will be fun to see Colin Kaepernick in his offense and it should result in more wins in the bay than most expect.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Make the playoffs
The Jaguars are young and hungry to make the playoffs. They are in the midst of their longest playoff drought in franchise history which sits at eight years. The Jaguars only won three games last season so mentioning the playoffs seems kind of crazy. The reason the Jags will make the playoffs though is because they already have an above average defense and the offense is catching up. Blake Bortles will have a good year because he has been surrounded by a great receiving core with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and tight end Julius Thomas. The AFC south is also a rather weak division and it is time for the Jaguars to take the next step and make the playoffs.
Buffalo Bills: Playoff drought over
Just like the Jaguars the Bills are in the midst of their longest playoff drought in franchise history. Their drought sits at 16 years and they haven’t won a playoff game in 20 years. Rob Ryan has been told he will be fired if he doesn’t make the playoffs. He will no doubt have one of the best defenses in the NFL but for the Bills to grow Tyrod Taylor must take the next step at quarterback. It will be his second season as an NFL starter and he will lead the Bills to the playoffs as a wild card team. Winning a playoff game is an entirely different story but making the playoffs would be a huge step.
New York Giants: Division champions
I truly believe Kirk Cousins is entirely overrated. Last season the Redskins were a one hit wonder. That leaves the NFC East open for a new winner. Philadelphia is in rebuild mode and will be starting a rookie quarterback by week eight or nine. The Cowboys defense is below average and Tony Romo has broken his collarbone three times. It is safe to say he is injury prone. This leaves the Giants, who will have a very solid passing game, with a chance to win the division. Look for Sterling Shepard to have a huge rookie season alongside Odell Beckham Jr. who will command most of the attention from defensive coordinators. The Giants also made splashes defensively in free agency signing Oliver Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins. They will win 10 or 11 games and will win the division.
Oakland Raiders: Divison champions
Photo: Steven Senne, STF / Associated Press
People are going to call me absolutely crazy for this one. Yes, the Raiders are improving, but division champs? With the defending Super Bowl champions in their division? Yes, the Raiders have finally made the right moves over the past two and a half seasons. They have suffered a playoff drought for long enough. Derek Carr will continue to blossom into a great NFL quarterback. Amari Cooper will help him to improve the offense. The Raiders defense is on its way to becoming nasty and is led by the first ever All-Pro at two positions, Khalil Mack. Mack is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL. The Raiders will surprise the league and win the AFC West this year thanks to being led by the young stars on both offense and defense.
Denver Broncos: Miss the playoffs
The defending champs will be fishing early this year. Losing Peyton Manning, no matter his age or diminishing ability, is a huge loss. Being able to fix minor mistakes, or make adjustments mid game will prove to be a huge difference. Mark Sanchez is an accident waiting to happen. Paxton Lynch played in the American Athletic Conference. It will take him quite some time to adjust to the next level. The defense will still be a top five defense but it will only carry them so far. With the Raiders on the come up and the Chiefs staying competitive I just see the Broncos suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. Sorry Denver, last year was your year.
Cincinnati Bengals: Miss playoffs
The Bengals have made the playoffs for five straight season. In those five straight seasons they lost their first playoff game. The Bengals need a new voice at head coach but still have Marvin Lewis. He is the only coach who can stay with the same team 13 years without a single playoff victory. He sits at 0-7 in the playoffs. Any other coach would have been fired. They have had a great defense for a long time but it is starting to fade a bit since Mike Zimmer left for Minnesota.
To further hinder the Bengals, the Steelers will be the best team in the division barring injuries. The Ravens will be better than they were last year too. This is already a very tough division and I think the Browns will surprise some people this year and win somewhere around seven games. At the end of the season the Steelers will win the division and the Bengals will finish second or third. They won’t compile enough wins for a wild card birth. The Bengals had five straight years to win a playoff game, they won’t have a sixth.
A Surprise Champion?
Minnesota Vikings: Super Bowl contenders
I am sure a lot of people see the Vikings on this list and are asking themselves, how can they be a surprise team? They already surprised the NFL last year by winning the NFC North. Most people know they are a young, talented team on the rise. The reason they will be a surprise in the NFL this season is because they will be a dangerous Super Bowl contender. So dangerous in fact, they might just win the Lombardi Trophy.
Mike Zimmer will be entering his third year as the head coach of the Vikings and each year his defense has improved vastly. In 2014 the Vikings ranked 11th in scoring defense and last season ranked fifth. It is very possible that the Vikings will have the best defense in the NFL this year. Pair that with the best running back in the NFL with a vastly improved offensive line and the Vikings should be one of the best teams in the league.