2018 fantasy football composite rankings: WR

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

Tiebreakers were decided by both Joe and Braxton.

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

Here are the composite wide receiver rankings:

Wide receiver rankings: 1-10

1. Antonio Brown- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank:1

Joe’s rank: 1

2. DeAndre Hopkins- Houston Texans

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

3. Odell Beckham Jr.- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank: 4

4. Julio Jones- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 3

5. Michael Thomas- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Keenan Allen- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 5

7. A.J. Green- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 7

8. Davante Adams- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 8

9. Mike Evans- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 9

10. Tyreek Hill- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank: 10

Wide receiver rankings: 11-20

11. Larry Fitzgerald- Arizona Cardinals

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank: 11

12. Alshon Jeffery- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 13

13. Adam Thielen- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 12

14. T.Y. Hilton- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 14

15. Doug Baldwin- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank: 15

16. Amari Cooper- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 16

17. Demaryius Thomas- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 17

18. Golden Tate- Detroit Lions

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 18

19. Pierre Garcon- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 24

20. Brandin Cooks- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: N/A

Wide receiver rankings: 21-30

 21. Marvin Jones- Detroit Lions

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 19

22. Jarvis Landry- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 21

23. Julian Edelman- New England Patriots

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 23

24. Allen Robinson- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 20

25. Josh Gordon- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank:21

Joe’s rank: 27

26. Robbie Anderson- New York Jets

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 25

27. JuJu Smith-Schuster- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 27

Joe’s rank: 26

28. Devin Funchess- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 30

29. Stefon Diggs- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: N/A

Joe’s rank: 22

30. Randall Cobb- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: N/A

 

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wide receiver rankings

2018 fantasy football wide receiver rankings

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

Wide Receiver Rankings: 1-10

1. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers

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

2. DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans

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

3. Odell Beckahm Jr. – New York Giants

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

4. Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints

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

5. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons

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

6. AJ Green – Cincinnati Bengals

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

7. Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers

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

8. Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers

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

9. Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

10. Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs

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

Wide Receiver Rankings: 11-20

11. Alshon Jefferey – Philadelphia Eagles

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

12. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals

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

13. Brandin Cooks – Los Angeles Rams

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

14. T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts

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

15. Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings

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

16. Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks

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

17. Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders

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

18. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos

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

19. Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers

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

20. Golden Tate – Detroit Lions

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

Wide Receiver Rankings: 21-30

21. Josh Gordon – Cleveland Browns

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

22. Julian Edelman – New England Patriots

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

23. Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins

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

24. Robbie Anderson – New York Jets

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

25. Marvin Jones – Detroit Lions

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

26. Allen Robinson – Chicago Bears

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

27. JuJu Smith-Schuster – Pittsburgh Steelers

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

28. Devin Funchess – Carolina Panthers

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

29. Randall Cobb – Green Bay Packers

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

30. Will Fuller – Houston Texans

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

 

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Dez Bryant cowboys

Moving on is best for Dez Bryant and the Cowboys

The Cowboys are always interesting thanks to Jerry Jones. This offseason, they will be one of the more intriguing teams to follow.

Dallas took a step back to 9-7 in 2017 after Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott took the league by storm two seasons ago as rookies.

Cowboys’ management could go any number of directions to get this team back in the playoffs in 2018. One tough decision they will have to make regards the future of wide receiver Dez Bryant. There is only one conclusion to come to for a few reasons. Bryant and the Cowboys franchise would be better off apart in 2018.

Bryant is not clicking with Prescott

The wide receiver position different from most positions in the NFL. While there are exceptions like DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald, the success or failure of receivers is generally dependent on the quality of the quarterback and the receiver’s chemistry with that quarterback.

Dez Bryant cowboys

Photo from businessinsider.com

Tom Brady turned Brandon LaFell into a receiver that caught 74 balls in 2014. He has been in the league since 2010 and never got close to that kind of production before Brady and has not since.

At the other end of the spectrum, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas both have multiple seasons with at least 70 catches. Both were non-factors with Denver in quarterback purgatory last year.

In Bryant’s case, he averaged just over 90 catches a year in 2013 and 2014 with Tony Romo at quarterback before injuries derailed Bryant in 2015.

In the last two years with Prescott at the helm and the offense centered around Elliott’s ground game and a dominant offensive line, Bryant’s production has slipped almost back to where it was in his first two seasons as a pro. Throw in his well-documented occasional sideline antics and it is clear Dallas simply does not need him anymore.

The numbers do not add up

Bryant caught just 69 passes last year and only 50 in 2016. Again, this is a dramatic drop-off from the Romo era. Worse yet, last year, he posted a career low of just over 12.1 yards per catch.

Dez Bryant cowboys

Photo by USA Today

Now consider that Bryant is due a base salary of just over $12 million for the 2018 season. Unless he has some high-ranking allies in the Cowboys organization, his recent lack of production means he has two options: take a pay cut or get cut. He laughed off the idea of taking a pay cut late last year.

From the Cowboys’ perspective, there appears to be much better uses for some of the money that is earmarked for Bryant. The Dallas defense is fairly pedestrian apart from Sean Lee, who struggles to stay healthy, and pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, who is looking to get paid in a big way after a breakout season last year.

If Lawrence does not get what he is looking for, he could be franchise tagged or headed for free agency. The Cowboys obviously do not want either of those scenarios to happen. Moving on from Bryant would free up a little more money for a long-term deal with Lawrence, strengthening the defense as a whole via free agency, or even finding another receiver that better fits Dallas and its run-based offensive scheme.

Bryant’s future outside of Dallas

Despite a reputation as a bit of a problem child, Bryant is just 29 years old. He is still young enough to be a very productive player in the right situation.

He is not an elite receiver at the moment. However, he could really help a team with an established quarterback looking for an additional pass catcher to go with a current top-flight receiver.

This is pure speculation, but Bryant is just the sort of player Cincinnati has been looking for to help A.J. Green ever since Marvin Jones Jr. left. Bryant could also be lethal as a compliment to DeAndre Hopkins in Houston.

Only Bryant knows if his pride will allow him to take on a role like that, but that is his best shot at becoming a factor again. In Dallas, Bryant is sort of wasting away right now. Both he and the Cowboys can do better. If he ends up staying put, both sides are holding on to what was and not what is.

 

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Marvin Lewis bengals legacy

The complicated legacy of Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati

It has been a week since the first reports that longtime Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis would step down at the end of the season became public. While we have not gotten confirmation from the relevant parties involved, we also have not gotten anything that approaches a denial.

With no playoff wins in 15 years and consecutive seasons of at least nine losses, the opinion of most fans on the potential departure of Lewis is either “good riddance” or “it’s about time.”

If the end is near for Lewis in Cincinnati, the sentiment in the above paragraph is not unwarranted, but it is also not entirely fair. Here is a closer look at the legacy Lewis may be leaving behind in the very near future.

What he walked into

Simply put, Lewis took over the worst franchise in professional sports when he was hired after the 2002 season. The team had not posted a winning record since 1990 and all but two seasons since then had featured double-digit losses. Naturally, the fan base simply did not care. The Bengals were irrelevant in their own city and home games were like funerals.

As bad as that sounds, words on a page alone do not do this period in Bengals history justice. Check out the 12 Days of Christmas parody below from John Bunyan on YouTube. It was done by a Cincinnati radio and television station towards the end of a 2-14 season in 2002. Many coaches would not have even considered this job, and who could blame them?

What he did

However, from the second Lewis was hired, Cincinnati was a different franchise. Perhaps his biggest impact was felt in the draft. Owner Mike Brown has long been known for total control of that aspect of the Bengals organization. In 1999, New Orleans offered its entire draft to Cincinnati in an effort to draft Ricky Williams. Williams did eventually wind up with the Saints, but Brown and the Bengals stayed put and took Oregon quarterback Akili Smith. Smith played four seasons in Cincinnati and never had a passer rating higher than 73.4.

Things were very different under Lewis. It was not so much drafting high profile names like Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. It was getting guys like Marvin Jones, Geno Atkins, George Iloka, Mohamed Sanu and Domata Peko in the middle rounds. All those players became key contributors on playoff teams for the Bengals. Make no mistake, the owner’s eye for talent did not magically improve. The difference was Lewis.

A.J. Green

Photo from whodeyfans.com

Unfortunately, his 0-7 playoff mark is what Lewis will be remembered for most in Cincinnati. However, this franchise has been in the playoffs seven times with Lewis as its coach. That is the same number of postseason trips made by all other coaches in franchise history combined.

When Lewis was hired in 2003, every Bengals fan on the planet would have signed on the dotted line for seven playoff trips in 15 years. If any fan says different, they are lying. Of course, any fan would have liked to have seen a playoff win or two. Even so, prior to the Lewis era, the playoffs were a figment of Cincinnati’s imagination. Lewis turned them into a realistic expectation.

His time in Cincinnati has probably gone on a few seasons too long, but that is not his fault. If Lewis does indeed leave after this season, the organization will be in infinitely better shape than when he arrived. That should be the ultimate goal of any NFL head coach.

Looking ahead

Should the Bengals job become available this offseason, it will be one of the more attractive openings on the market. Whether it is Dalton or AJ McCarron, whoever takes over will inherit a serviceable NFL quarterback, one of the best wide receivers in the game, at least one solid running back and a defense with a few playmakers. That is more than 99 percent of head coaches get when taking a new job.

A good portion of that can and should be attributed to Lewis. Whenever his time in Cincinnati ends, Lewis will have done an incredible job.

 

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week four DFS don'ts

Week four DFS don’ts: Wide Receiver

Wide receiver is, in my opinion, the easiest position to predict in DFS. Why? Because this is the only position where you can expect a 1 on 1 matchup. For example, there is no single linebacker that shadows a running back, or a defensive linemen versus a quarterback. Those players are competing against the oppositions’ unit of players, not just one. Given this information, here are the players with the toughest match ups in my wide receiver edition of week four DFS don’ts.

Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree: $7,500 and $7,400

We know how this story goes. You love drafting these two in seasonal fantasy, but, you know they are almost useless twice a year. As of today, both these players have the questionable tag. While neither are on track to miss Sunday’s contest, they won’t be 100%.

Health aside, the numbers are not great historically for either player. Since 2015, Crabtree has never scored double digit fantasy points against the Broncos. His highest scoring effort is 7.4 points. In that same time span, Cooper has had one game in which he’s scored double digit fantasy points. However, Cooper also recorded a zero in 2015 when playing at Denver.

In my opinion, this is the beauty of DFS. We can identify this nightmare match up for the Cooper and Crabtree and choose not to play them. Let’s all be smart and avoid watching Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. lock down the Raiders’ wide receivers. There are plenty of better options to consider that won’t be on my week four DFS don’ts list.

Pierre Garcon: FanDuel Price $6,600

week four DFS don'ts

Pierre Garcon will have one of the NFL’s toughest defensive backs shadowing him this Sunday (Photo Courtesy of; Gird Iron Experts)

Pierre Garcon is coming off a monster game against the Rams last Thursday night. Sadly, he’s has no chance to produce a similar result this Sunday. Garcon has one of the toughest match ups in the NFL this week, as he will be shadowed by Patrick Peterson.

Peterson has been great for years; however, this year has been even better. Quarterbacks are electing to avoid Peterson altogether. In three weeks, Peterson has only been targeted a total of three times. According to Jeff Ratcliffe at Pro Football Focus, Peterson has only been targeted three times when shadowing an opponents wide receiver.

Garcon has been a reliable receiver for multiple quarterbacks this decade. However, Garcon does not possess elite size, speed, or quickness. Meaning, he has no edge over Peterson in any physical facet of the game. If you want exposure to this game in DFS, look for Marquise Goodwin who will see a lot of Justin Bethel, a player who has been repeatedly exposed this season. Patrick Peterson has placed another player on my week four DFS don’ts list.

Marvin Jones: FanDuel Price $5,700

This is the third straight week that a wide receiver facing Xavier Rhodes is on my DFS don’ts list. You can read more about how good Rhodes is here, because I won’t be repeating stats. Rhodes in the last two weeks, has faced Antonio Brown and Mike Evans. While he hasn’t shut them down completely, he kept both out of the end zone and did not allow them to produce double their value for DFS purposes.

If Rhodes can play with two of the league’s best, I’m pretty damn sure Marvin Jones is going to get blanketed this weekend. Now, he won’t be on Jones for every snap. But, it’s likely he will shadow Jones for 70-80% of his offensive snaps. You could pivot to Kenny Golladay at this point, since he exploded in week one where Jones was being shadowed by Patrick Peterson. If you want to have a profitable DFS weekend, stay away from Rhodes. Jones, along with Cooper, Crabtree, and Garcon have landed on my week four DFS don’ts list.

 

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Allen Robinson's Injury

Allen Robinson’s injury

Allen Robinson left the game against the Houston Texans in Week 1 after landing awkwardly after a 17-yard catch and was forced out of bounds. It was confirmed by the Jaguars that he did tear his ACL.

He was the main target back in 2015 with 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He struggled in 2016 with 73 receptions, 883 yards and six touchdowns. However, it’s hard to fault Robinson for the struggles because of bad quarterback play.

With Robinson out for the season, we look to other Jaguar receivers to pick up the slack after the Robinson injury and for some fillers to replace him on your fantasy team.

The role for other Jaguar receivers

Even though the significance of Robinson’s injury is high, the Jaguars have depth behind him. If there is one place they might have an excess of talent, it’s at wide receiver. This will open the door for Allen Hurns, who broke out in 2015 with Robinson having 1,031 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

Allen Robinson injury

Robinson, Hurns, Lee (Photo by: firstcoastnews.com)

In 2016, he struggled as did most players for the Jaguars and also dealt with injuries. He was demoted for the 2017 season to the slot with the emergence of Marqise Lee, but will now likely be back to the outside.

After the injury, Hurns led the way in receiving against the Texans with three catches for 42 yards. Hurns is worth the look to replace Robinson on your team if Lee is already owned.

Lee showed some promise after 2016. He finally played all 16 games after three seasons and got 105 targets, 63 receptions, 851 yards and three touchdowns. In an article from Bleacher Report, writer Adam Wells had a quote from Bob Sylvester of Fantasypros about Lee’s progression.

“Lee started just six games last season but arguably outperformed Allen Robinson. It is possible that he sees an extra 30 targets this season now that they know what they have in Lee. He is due for significant positive TD regression too.”

Now this doesn’t mean start Lee week to week. However, he does become a more dependable option at the flex position.

Players to Replace Robinson on your team

Although a disappointing 2016 season, Robinson was still the number one target in Jacksonville. That’s not easy to replace, especially in fantasy.

The first option to look to is the backup on the Jaguars, which is Hurns. Lee is also available in many leagues. Though this option could be risky because they don’t throw the ball like they used to. Now they just hand it off to rookie Leonard Fournette, who had 26 carries on Sunday.

Allen Robinson injury

Allen Robinson (Photo by: jaguars.com)

One receiver that could help in the long run is Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor. He has trouble since entering the NFL, but last Sunday looked like an improvement with six catches for 86 yards and a 58-yard touchdown. He still has other receivers in front of him, but if this is the breakout we’ve waited for, then this might be the time to pick him up.

Another receiver is preseason sensation Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions. Golladay just caught four passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. He is a big red zone threat thanks to his 6-foot-4 height.

But Detroit has a lot of options such as Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron. However, he does have a hot hand and has proven himself in preseason.

If Robinson was a WR3/flex, then you could look at trending running backs. Kerwynn Williams is now the starter in Arizona after David Johnson’s injury. Javorius Allen could slide to fill the role in Baltimore now with Danny Woodhead out four to six weeks. Rookie Tarik Cohen could also be an interesting pickup. The Human Joystick led the Bears in both rushing and receiving in his NFL regular season debut, finishing with 113 scrimmage yards on 13 touches. He will continue to be a key contributor in the offense.

 

Featured image from si.com

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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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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

I’m continuing my rankings with the top 50 fantasy wide receivers for the upcoming season. Here’s the first list 2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41.

 

50. Rishard Matthews (Tennessee Titans)- Rishard Matthews was quietly a solid option for fantasy last season. He had 950 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and was ranked the No. 15 ranked receiver in standard leagues.

Matthews really kicked it into gear in the second half of the season. His targets per game increased from 4.9 to 8.0 during the second half of the season and became a reliable play in most fantasy leagues. It is unlikely that he’s going to put up similar numbers to last year with the additions of Corey Davis and Eric Decker, however he is a nice late round target.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

https://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/35/files/2016/10/9612339-rishard-matthews-nfl-cleveland-browns-tennessee-titans-850×560.jpg

49. Tyrell Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)- Talk about a break out year for Tyrell Williams. At the beginning of the season, he was fighting for the No, 3 wide receiver spot on the team, but by the end of the year he had 1,059 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns.

He’s a reliable pass catcher, as he only dropped five percent of the balls that came his way, and was one of the most productive receivers in the league last year after the catch. He had 439 yards after the catch, which was good enough for eighth best in the league last year.

I’d like to put Williams higher on this list, but because of the Chargers getting Keenan Allen back, and the addition of Mike Williams, he’s no more than a late round pick.

48. Marvin Jones (Detroit Lions)- Marvin Jones was nothing more than mediocre last year. He had his big moments early on in the season but after that he was nothing special. Jones started off the season strong putting up 83 fantasy points in the first seven games, but after that he had a mere 27 fantasy points in the last nine matchups. H

e wasn’t great in terms of efficiency or production, but the reason he cracks the top fifty is because of his opportunities. Last season, he ranked 10th in team pass plays and 11th in terms of how often he was on the field. We’ve seen that he has the ability to put up big numbers, so take him as a late round sleeper.

47. John Brown (Arizona Cardinals)- John Brown was a fantasy disaster last season. He only had 39 receptions due to illness and when he was on the field, he didn’t produce like he did in 2015. After having 1,003 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2015, things were looking good for John Brown in the NFL. The speedy receiver had a 64 percent catch rate and averaged 67 yards per game. He had a poor 2016 but don’t let that deter you from drafting him in fantasy this year, as he’s a strong bounce back candidate.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/b4d18ab1702eed52d60bd7dfa9c8ab0a60e505e5/c=72-0-3079-2261&r=x513&c=680×510/local/-/media/Phoenix/None/2014/10/27/635500162067407390-awinners01.jpg

46. Corey Coleman (Cleveland Browns)- Limited by injuries in his rookie year, Corey Coleman showed promise but didn’t put up big numbers. Coleman had 414 receiving yards and three touchdowns with the poor quarterback situation in Cleveland.

However, there’s still hope for Coleman. He has a high ceiling and tons of talent, plus the opportunities will be there this year. With the departure of Terrelle Pryor, and the only notable acquisition at wide receiver being Kenny Britt, Coleman should see tons of targets and enjoy a nice sophomore year.

45. Jordan Matthews (Philadelphia Eagles)- Playing in 14 games last season, Jordan Matthews had 804 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He has been a nice option for fantasy teams but hasn’t broken out in the way everyone has hoped he would.

He isn’t the most efficient receiver but does rank in the top half of the league in terms of productivity. Matthews ranked 24th in receptions with 73 and ranked 46th in yards after the catch with 235.

With the addition of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, don’t expect much more next season from Jordan Matthews.

fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 50-41

Corey Davis (Photo by: titansonline.com)

44. Corey Davis (Tennessee Titans)- The Titans have put together a nice receiving core for the 2017 season. Corey Davis is by far my favorite rookie receiver and here’s why: He’s the second receiver on a high-powered offense, he’s working with one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and that quarterback has never thrown an interception in the red zone in the NFL.

Standing at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, Davis has a great shot to get some red zone looks this season. Expect a solid rookie year from Corey Davis.

43. Mike Wallace (Baltimore Ravens)- Mike Wallace had a great 2016 season. Wallace had 1,017 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He is one of the most productive receivers in the league ranking in the top 26 in receptions, receiving yards and yards after catch.

Mike Wallace was the No. 1 ranked receiver in terms of team pass plays. There are signs of regression for Mike Wallace however. The Ravens recently signed Danny Woodhead and Jeremy Maclin who are candidates to take targets from Wallace this year.

42. Cameron Meredith (Chicago Bears)- Cameron Meredith had a nice 2016 season. He had 888 receiving yards and four touchdowns for the Bears and fans can expect more of that this year. With the departure of Alshon Jeffrey, Meredith has a chance to go into the season as the lead receiver for Chicago.

He was one of the most efficient wide receivers last season ranking 22nd in catch rate and 12th in yards per target. Overall, Meredith is a great receiver for the Bears, and more is expected for him next season.

41. Kenny Britt (Cleveland Browns)- Kenny Britt finally had a 1,000-yard receiving season. After being drafted in 2009, this is his first season with 1,000 yards and it made me excited for his production next year, until he joined the Browns. Making the decision to go to Cleveland didn’t help Britt’s status for the upcoming season.

It is a shame because he was a very productive receiver for the Rams last season. He was 23rd in receiving yards, 31st in receptions and 29th in yards after the catch with 303. I’m not saying Britt is going to just fall off the map completely, but he has the ability to put up big numbers, its just a matter of who’s throwing him the ball.

 

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Week Seven NFL Picks Against the Spread

After a one-week hiatus, I am back picking NFL games against the spread. I did pick games last week, just not publicly. I was terrible. I posted a record of just 4-9-2. However, I was on the right side of a Green Bay blowout Thursday night. I am now 43-49-4 on the year. Let’s see if I can head back towards the black this week. As always, my picks are bolded and outright upsets have an asterisk by them.

Giants (-2.5) at Rams (London) – I am opposed to playing games in the United Kingdom, but I am not opposed to having football on at 9:30 AM. As for the game itself, this match-up is proof that not all .500 teams are created equal. Reality continues to catch up with the offensively challenged Rams after their defense carried them to a nice start. Meanwhile the Giants late win against Baltimore last week is the kind that could serve as a springboard to a hot streak. Odell Beckham Jr is a diva, but he played big when his team needed it most last week. NYG 21 LA 10

*Ravens at Jets (-2.5) – This is the strangest line I have seen all year. The Ravens are not exactly gangbusters, but how in the world can the Jets the favorite over anyone with the way they have played the last month or so? It is not like starting Geno Smith at quarterback is turning over a new leaf. He is 11-18 as a starter. Despite their streaky play, the Ravens are still a factor in the turbulent AFC North. Bal 24 NYJ 13.

Bills (-2.5) at Dolphins- Do not be fooled by Miami knocking off the Steelers last week. There are about six results a year in the NFL that defy explanation. That was certainly one of them for this year. This is still the team that needed overtime, three missed field goals, and a missed PAT to beat Cleveland. They were also blown out by the Titans and Bengals. Buffalo’s style is not flashy, but they are playing as well as anyone right now. They are also poised to end a 16 year playoff drought. Buf 23 Mia 14.

Browns at Bengals (-10.5) – Picking the Browns against the spread has served me pretty well this year. So, I will do it again with them getting this many points as they head in to my hometown for a rivalry game. They continue to play people tough. Despite that, God only knows if or when they will actually win a game. Cincinnati is as talented a 2-4 team as you will ever come across. They may finally get tight end Tyler Eifert back. That should help their red zone woes. Cincinnati has played the toughest schedule in the league to this point. They never just blow anyone out, but I do expect this game to get them going on a little bit of a roll. Cin 30 Cle 22

*Colts at Titans (-3) – These teams baffle me. The Colts have the best quarterback in the division by a long ways. Yet, they find themselves looking up at the division leading Texans and Titans after a late game collapse last week. The Titans are somehow .500 despite being 25th in turnover margin. The Colts should be better than they are, and the Titans are fortunate to be where they are. This game will show that. Ind 15 Ten 12

Vikings (-3) at Eagles- Even with an undefeated record, I am still wrapping my arms around the Vikings as a legitimate upper echelon team, particularly on offense. However, they are not turning the ball over. This is always a fine place to start. This week, they are playing a team with a winning record that I buy into even less. Everything I said about the Rams is also true of the Eagles. The only differences Carson Wentz may be the answer at quarterback in Philadelphia. Until we see top pick Jared Goff, no one knows if they have any answers in LA. Min 21 Phi 10

Saints at Chiefs (-6) – The Saints defense is just dreadful. Quite frankly, that is too kind of an adjective. The offense is great, but they are not at home against the struggling Panthers this week. The Chiefs continue to be a physical team that never beats itself, especially at home. That style has proven to have a ceiling for them in recent years, but they continue to play well and should be fine this week. KC 35 NO 24

*Raiders at Jaguars (-1.5) – The Raiders are that rare type of team that plays better on the road. Both losses have come at home and three of their four wins have been on the road. No one can explain that, but it does happen from time to time. Derek Carr continues to establish himself as the NFL’s best young quarterback. Jacksonville has started to show signs of life after a dreadful start. However, the Raiders are simply a better team. The better team in points is always next to impossible to pass up. Even if they drop to 2-4, the Jaguars remain a factor in the horrendous AFC South. Oak 31 Jac 24

Redskins at Lions (-1) – This is the sneaky good game of the week. Both of these teams are carried by their offenses. I expect both teams to be late-season factors. Here, Detroit is at home and a touch more explosive. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate with a healthy and hot Matthew Stafford throwing to them is lethal. Det 38 Was 31

*Chargers at Falcons (-6) – My boldest pick of the week right here. The Chargers should be able to score with Atlanta and they finally closed out a game last week against Denver. Atlanta is also loaded on offense. However, the way they pushed around for much of the game against Seattle last week was worrying. They did not respond well to Seattle’s physicality, despite a late rally. Two hot quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan will make this fun to watch. Look for Joey Bosa to bring that physicality and the Chargers pass rush to be a touch more disruptive in a shootout. SD 34 Atl 31

photo from denverpost.com

photo from denverpost.com

*Bucs at 49ers) (-1) – This is a tough one. I really thought Colin Kaepernick would spark the 49ers last week. Instead, it became more apparent than ever that they do not have the answer at quarterback in their building right now. The same may be true of head coach Chip Kelly. On the other hand, Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston are going through some growing pains, but between last year and the early part this year, I am convinced Winston’s future is bright.

Patriots (-7) at Steelers- I have nothing revolutionary to add here. With Ben Roethlisberger this is a pick ‘em game. With Landry Jones, it is hard to imagine a scenario that ends well for the Steelers. The loss to a vastly inferior Miami squad last week may really end up hurting them down the road. Oh, New England is really good. NE 31 Pit 17

photo from sportsworldreport.com

photo from sportsworldreport.com

*Seahawks at Cardinals (-1) – The Seahawks are officially back after a slow start. The defense has dropped the hammer three straight weeks now. Most impressive was the way they slammed the door on Atlanta last week. They made the big play to win a close game. Arizona is slowly coming around and is very dangerous, but they may have dug too deep an early hole for the playoffs. They have no business being favorite here. Sea 24 AZ 15

MNF: Texans at Broncos (-7.5) – Brock Osweiler returns “home” to face his former team. With Denver struggling, but finally close to full health thanks to extra rest, I expect it to be a sobering reminder as to why Osweiler never should have left Mile High. If I am right, the entire AFC South is back in it. Den 21 Hou 9

 

 

 

Replacing Lost Players

Brock Osweiler is heading to Houston, where does that leave Denver? (Photo By: ESPN)

Brock Osweiler is heading to Houston, where does that leave Denver? (Photo By: ESPN)

The defending champion Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, and Miami Dolphins all watched as key players departed during the initial salvo of free agency in the NFL. With that in mind, we now look at the replacements.

The NFL never stops, and that means the front offices never stop. Right now I’m sure the war camps inside each respective teams front offices are littered with scouting reports, phone numbers, and pizza boxes. They are all looking for ways to improve the team; and in some cases, repair a damaged team. If you think of free agency like a war, the three teams above are in full retreat. Well, not exactly. The fan bases see things in a different manner than the front offices. The front offices know they have solutions to these problems. Why? They’ve all known about these issues for months, and years in reality, and have prepared to find replacements.

Did the Dolphins know they were going to lose Lamar Miller? Yes. They had to know that the chances were not in their favor that the running back would return.

Who can they find to replace him? Well, if we look at the free agent pool, it’s dwindled. The top targets, Chris Ivory, Doug Martin, and Matt Forte are all gone. Arian Foster, Bilal Powell, and Alfred Morris are the top remaining options. All have considerable concerns.

What will they do to patch up the backfield? It’s actually common sense when we look at it. They just traded the number eight pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and the number 13 pick. A great move for Miami all around and it opens up an even more logical landing spot for their future running back replacement.

With Miller gone, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is the perfect fit in South Beach. ‘Zeke brings an all around beastly running game that has him rated as the draft’s top prospect at the position. Getting him at eight was a possibility. But now at 13, and likely the first team to take a back, it makes too much sense.

The Bengals have known that this offseason was going to be rough for a long time. A lot of free agents is never really a desirable position. However, a lot of starters in the free agent pool is really undesirable. They were able to secure their biggest free agent, safety, George Illoka. Illoka was one of the guys I thought was surely going to leave. He didn’t. And as of writing, Adam Jones appears to be returning to Cincy to finish his roller coaster of a career. This offseason has been really efficient (so far) for the Bengals despite severe losses at a critical position. With the departure of Marvin Jones to Detroit the Bengals had only one of their two free agent receiver’s left to sign. It now appears that Mohamed Sanu will be leaving the Queen City.

The Bengals pass game will now be anchored by A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. But how do they replace the high-flying duo of Jones and Sanu?

The answer is, once again, a simple one. They’ll do it through a combination of rookies and possibly a veteran. However, the rookies will likely play a direct role, much like Green did his rookie season.

Who are the targets? In the first round, there are several that fit the bill. Laquon Treadwell of Ole Miss will be the home run if he falls to Cincy, which appears to be a possibility. Per multiple reports, Treadwell has fallen down draft boards in recent weeks. They’re now saying he’s a mid-to-late first round pick. If he’s there for the Bengals, he’ll be in stripes. Other first round talents are Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas, Notre Dame product Will Fuller, TCU star Josh Doctson, Pittsburgh standout Tyler Boyd (although he carries baggage), and Baylor stud Corey Coleman. Braxton Miller from Ohio State and Sterling Shepard from Oklahoma could be second round pickups. Down the board several picks could happen on days two and three; Jalin Marshall from OSU and Leonte Carroo of Rutgers are both interesting picks to add depth at the position. There are a handful of deep covers that the Bengals will probably have stashed. Jones and Sanu themselves were later picks, fifth round and third respectively.

My take is that they should go rounds one and three or four on receivers. They’ll likely add two or three guys during the three-day draft. And that should be enough to cover the losses of Jones and Sanu.

For the Broncos, they entered 2016 free agency with a clear problem. They had no active QB on the roster that had playing time. Peyton Manning announced his retirement earlier this week, and Brock Osweiler has agreed to terms with the Houston Texans. Without a quarterback life looks bleak in Denver. The fix to this problem won’t sound ideal to Bronco fans, especially coming off of a Super Bowl. But there are a few options.

Via trade there are several backups that could make sense. The top trade target is likely A.J. McCarron of the Bengals. He stepped into a similar role as Osweiler did, filling in for an injured starter with playoff implications on the line. He played decently at times and good, if not great, at others. He is still on his rookie deal and could be gotten for cheap, at least for two more years. He has shown he can win and adjust. This would probably cost a pair of picks, one being early. Not the best option in my opinion. The best option is free agency. The best option is Robert Griffin III. RGIII leaves a bad situation in Washington and now has the chance to revitalize a once-vibrant career.

The best option is free agency. The best option is Robert Griffin III. RGIII leaves a bad situation in Washington and now has the chance to revitalize a once-vibrant career, at least, a career that appeared to be heading in the right direction. A stellar rookie season was marred by injury, and that followed into the next season and into 2015, which was the death nail. Kirk Cousins has taken over in DC, and Griffin is out. He’s got a career 90.6 passer rating and really didn’t look terrible last season with limited opportunity. A new place with a great surrounding cast and tempered expectations are just what the doctor ordered for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

While things may look bad for you fans, they really aren’t. Trust in your organizations to make the most out of the coming days. The draft is just around the corner.