NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

The 2018 “need a ring” team: The offense

Every offseason, we see the same question plastered on every sports page looking for mid-May clicks: “Which players deserve to win their first ring?” This is good fun, but results in the same names being recycled repeatedly.

I’d like to propose a twist: Assembling a super team of veteran players still searching for their first Super Bowl win. All these players must meet the following criteria:

  1. Have not won a Super Bowl with any team (obviously).
  2. Must be over 30 years of age.
  3. Must have at least one Pro Bowl selection.

We will begin assembling our “need a ring” team with the offense. The offense will consist of one quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers, one tight end, two tackles, two guards and one center. May the selections commence!

Quarterback: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo from chargers.com)

With most of the top-tier quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers) having at least one Super Bowl win, we are left with Philip Rivers.

Since taking over the starting quarterback job in 2006, Rivers has quietly been one of the NFL’s best. The seven-time Pro Bowler is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions. He also has not missed a game in over a decade.

Rivers came close to the Super Bowl several times early in his career, but was never able to finish the playoff run. With an improved defense and explosive supporting cast, Rivers has a good shot at returning to the playoffs in 2018.

Honorable mention: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Running back: Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins

11 of the top 12 all-time leaders in yards from scrimmage are in the Hall of Fame. The other is Frank Gore, who ranks seventh. In his illustrious career, Gore has surpassed the likes of Marshall Faulk and Ladainian Tomlinson on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

He was the center of the San Francisco 49ers’ offense for nine seasons, and nearly delivered the city a title in 2012. Despite being 35 years old, Gore proved that he can still be effective out of the backfield. Last season with the Indianapolis Colts, he rushed for 961 yards, even without the presence of Andrew Luck.

He is in the twilight years of his career, but it would be a special sight to see Gore end his spectacular run with a Lombardi Trophy.

Honorable mention: Adrian Peterson, free agent

Wide receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals and DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo by AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

No surprise here. Fitzgerald is an all-time great that has been wasted on below-average quarterbacks like Kevin Kolb and Drew Stanton. The amount of production Fitzgerald has had given the circumstances is simply amazing.

He currently sits third on the all-time receiving yards list with 15,545. In a 10-year span from 2007-17, Fitzgerald has missed the Pro Bowl just once. He is by far the best wide receiver of this generation, and it would be a sin to have him retire without winning the game’s ultimate prize.

Entering his 11th season, DeSean Jackson has had himself a very productive career. The prototypical deep threat, Jackson could take on any defense. His tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles was his best, where he averaged over 1,000 yards per season.

The three-time Pro Bowler is not the player he used to be, but he can still make an impact in the passing game. Last season with Tampa Bay, Jackson caught 50 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns.

Honorable mention: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

Tight end: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo from panthers.com)

It is a tough call between Greg Olsen and Vernon Davis, but we will go with Olsen here. Since arriving via trade in Carolina, Olsen has been the Panthers’ go-to target. He has been Cam Newton’s security blanket since being drafted No. 1 overall and has seen a huge bump in production in the latter part of his career.

Prior to the 2017 season, Olsen had three straight years with over 1,000 receiving yards. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons as well. He was one game shy of earning his first ring in 2015 on a 15-1 Panthers squad.

With a talented quarterback and solid defense, the door is still open for Olsen to win his first Super Bowl.

Honorable mention: Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins

Tackles: Duane Brown, Seattle Seahawks and Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers

In his time in Houston, Duane Brown was the anchor of the Texans’ offensive line. Outside of Joe Thomas, it would be difficult to name a better left tackle than Brown during his tenure with the Texans. He protected Matt Schaub’s (and very briefly Deshaun Watson’s) blindside with near perfection.

Unfortunately, Brown has only seen the playoffs three times, losing in the divisional round each time.

Joe Staley has suffered a similar fate so far in his career. Despite being a lockdown left tackle, the teams Staley has played on simply were not good enough to bring home the hardware. He was just a few yards short of winning it all in Super Bowl XLVII, but has not reached the big game since.

Staley is the model of consistency in San Fran, going to the Pro Bowl in six of the last seven years.

Honorable mention: Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams

Guards: Mike Iupati, Arizona Cardinals and Andy Levitre, Atlanta Falcons

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Another member of the 2012 49ers, Mike Iupati helped pave the way for Frank Gore for most of his career. After being selected first-team All-Pro in 2012, Iupati went on to make three more Pro Bowls with the 49ers and Cardinals.

He missed the majority of last season due to injury, but will likely bounce back in 2018. With teammates David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald returning, as well as exciting rookie Josh Rosen, Iupati could return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

The rules had to be stretched slightly to include Levitre on this list. Andy Levitre has never made the Pro Bowl, despite nine years as a solid starting guard. In his career, Levitre has only missed three starts and has played center, guard and tackle.

He was also inches away from winning his first Super Bowl ring, losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. At only 32 years old and on a perennial playoff team, Levitre could very well earn his way off of this list next year.

Honorable mention: None

Center: Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers

One of the most underrated players on his team, Ryan Kalil has consistently been one of the best centers in the NFL. In his 11-year tenure with the Panthers, Kalil has built himself an impressive résumé. He has been selected to five Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro twice (2013, 2015).

Like many of the players on this super team, Kalil came up just one game short of his first ring. With 2018 being his final year in the NFL, it would be fitting to send Kalil off into the sunset as a Super Bowl champion.

Honorable mention: Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons

 

Featured image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2018 Fantasy Football Composite Rankings: QB

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

Tiebreakers were decided by both Joe and Braxton.

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

Here are the composite quarterback rankings:

Quarterback rankings: 1-10

1. Aaron Rodgers- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 1

Joe’s rank: 1

2. Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

3. Tom Brady- New England Patriot

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank:4

4. Cam Newton- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 3

5. Deshaun Watson- Houston Texans 

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 9

7. Carson Wentz- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 5

8. Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 7

9. Matt Ryan- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 12

10. Matt Stafford- Detroit Lions

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: 8

Quarterback rankings: 11-20

11. Kirk Cousins- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 13

12. Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 11

13. Jimmy Garoppolo- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank:17

14. Phillip Rivers- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 10

15. Jared Goff- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank:15

16. Derek Carr- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank:14

17. Marcus Mariota- Tennessee Titans

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 18

18. Jameis Winston- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 16

19. Dak Prescott- Dallas Cowboys

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 19

20. Case Keenum- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 20

Quarterback rankings: 21-30

21. Eli Manning- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 24

22. Andy Dalton- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 21

Joe’s rank: 22

23. Alex Smith- Washington Redskins

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 21

24. Blake Bortles- Jacksonville Jaguars

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 23

25. Tyrod Taylor- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 26

26. Joe Flacco- Baltimore Ravens

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 25

27. Pat Mahomes- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 29

28. Mitch Trubisky- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 27

Joe’s rank: 28

29. Ryan Tannehill- Miami Dolphins

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: 27

30. A.J. McCarron- Buffalo Bills

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank 30

 

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quarterback rankings

2018 fantasy football quarterback rankings

The NFL Draft has come and gone, and rookie mini-camps are starting up all over the league. Meaning, it’s time to start churning out superfluous rankings that will likely be useless a month from now. My esteemed colleague, Joe DiTullio, released his rankings yesterday. He has convinced me to come to the dark side (away from talking DFS) and create my 2018 fantasy football quarterback rankings.

Quarterback Rankings: 1-10

1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

Despite missing most of the 2017 season, Rodgers is still the undisputed number one fantasy option at the quarterback position heading into 2018. Green Bay has added talent this offseason to support Rodgers via the draft and free agency. It’s also likely that Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams will start at running back, giving them a more traditional rusher in the backfield than Ty Montgomery. But the real reason Rodgers tops this year’s quarterback rankings is that the Packers will get to play a third-place schedule against the AFC East. That means three elite performances at a minimum against the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins.

2. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson is quickly convincing me that he is the NFL’s version of LeBron James. He never gets hurt despite his usage, he makes everyone better, and he must play well for his team to have a chance to win. Wilson, amazingly, accounted for over 90% of his team’s touchdowns in 2018. While the selection of Rashaad Penny in the first round has been debated, he will be the most dynamic presence since Marshawn Lynch. Now, whether or not the offensive line will Penny or Wilson remains to be seen. However, I’m done doubting Russell Wilson as a top quarterback, especially in fantasy football.

3. Tom Brady – New England Patriots

Tom Brady has been a staple at the top of fantasy quarterback rankings for years now, and 2018 will be no different. Given the departure of left tackle Nate Solder, running back Dion Lewis, and wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, the Patriots will rely on Brady and this quick passing game to start the season. As new players like Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel get comfortable, they will likely start to transition to a more balanced attack. Until then, they will ask Brady to get the ball out quickly, so expect a higher volume of attempts in the early portion of the season.

4. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints

In case you weren’t sure, Drew Brees reminded everyone in the NFC divisional game against the Vikings that he can still take over a game from the pocket. While the Saints have transitioned to a run-first offense, it will allow Brees to be even more efficient. The Saints also acquired Ben Watson in free agency. Meaning, that they have a legitimate threat at the tight end position since Jimmy Graham. Expect them to incorporate and target Watson in the red zone, as defenses will key heavily on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.

5. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers

While he’s not the model of consistency, fantasy players everywhere know how dangerous Newton can be on any given Sunday. He’ll be playing in a different offensive system this season, which would usually be a downgrade. However, Norv Turner has an excellent offensive pedigree and will figure out the best ways to support Newton. Given this change, Newton may be susceptible to a slow start, but will likely progress positively in the new system as the season goes on.

6. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons

Last year was not kind to Matt Ryan. He saw decreases across the board compared to his MVP season. It’s likely he’ll produce a happy medium between his 2016 and 2017 campaigns. Another year in Sarkisian’s system, along with new weapon Calvin Ridley, Ryan could be a great value on draft day. Not to mention, that $30 million contract will loom over this organization if he does not get off to a fast start. Look for this offense as a whole to get back on track in 2018.

7. Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans

This is where the rankings got tricky. There are three incredibly talented quarterbacks returning from injury in 2018. Of the group of Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and Carson Wentz, Watson got the nod at seven. If you could guarantee me that he would start for 16 games, I would have zero problems ranking him in the top three. Watson proved to everyone that he has elite upside on a weekly basis, and, his legs provide him with a stable floor. With weapons like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Watson won’t hesitate to throw the ball deep, something all fantasy owners love.

8. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts

So the tiebreaker between Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz came down to recency. Wentz tore both his ACL and MCL in December of last year, and with Nick Foles on the roster, the Eagles won’t rush him back. Also, we have to remember how great Andrew Luck was during his last full season. In 2014, Luck threw for over 4,700 yards and 40 touchdowns, including three rushing touchdowns. In just 12 games in 2016, he threw for over 4,200 yards and 31 touchdowns. If you extrapolate those numbers, that translates to 41 touchdowns and over 5,300 yards. Given his new offensive coach and upgraded offensive line, I won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Luck if the price is right.

9. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles

All signs are pointing to Carson Wentz being available for week one. However, we can’t be so sure. This team proved to be capable with Nick Foles at the helm. So, the Eagles won’t look to mortgage their future franchise quarterback if he suffers any setbacks in the preseason. Injury aside, Wentz is in a great position. The Eagles are bringing all of their skill players back, and even upgraded Torrey Smith for Mike Wallace. They also added Dallas Goddard to replace Trey Burton in their two tight end sets. As we get more updates on his progress, Wentz could easily move up the quarterback rankings.

10. Jimmy Garropolo – San Francisco 49ers

“Jimmy Jesus” sneaks into the top ten for a few reasons. One, they will have to keep pace with Jared Goff and Russell Wilson twice a year. Two, Kyle Shanahan’s system is what propelled Matt Ryan to have an MVP season in 2016. And three, Garropolo produced at a high-level last year despite limited time to acclimate to the system and the mediocre offensive personnel. If you want Garropolo on your roster, you’ll likely have to reach for him, as last seasons hype train will no doubt skew his average draft position.

Quarterback Rankings: 11-20

11. Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins finally gets the long-term deal he was looking for, but it came with a new team. It’s not often that a quarterback with Cousins’ numbers becomes a true free agent. As a result, it’s hard to say how much this new system will impact his fantasy production. However, what’s clear is that he will be playing with a unit that is superior at every offensive position except for left tackle and right guard. Cousins played with a group that was depleted across the board last year in Washington and still managed to produce. Expect his overall volume to decrease, but, don’t expect his overall production to drop by much.

12. Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay took the NFL by storm. His scheme has rescued the career of Jared Goff and reestablished Todd Gurley as an elite running back. Smartly, the Rams were aggressive this offseason and acquired talent on both sides of the ball, including the dynamic Brandin Cooks. They also looked to reinforce some potential problem areas on their offensive line in the draft. However, this league will have had an entire year to catch up to McVay, and, the Rams will play a first place schedule. Taking Goff wouldn’t be a bad decision, just be sure to temper your expectations.

13. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions

What makes Matthew Stafford an attractive option is that he’s a high volume passer. Since 2011, Stafford has finished in the top 10 in pass attempts, including five top-five finishes. But, that volume could decrease with a new head coach, Matt Patricia. Defensive head coaches tend to be less-risky on offense. However, he may have a different philosophy on that matter coming from New England. Stafford always seems to be a value on draft day, so selecting him at the right time should position your team nicely.

14. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

On a personal level, I’m done with Ben Roethlisberger. His insecurity about the drafting of third-round pick Mason Rudolph is laughable. From a fantasy perspective, he still has value. The Steelers will be one of, if not, the most prolific offense in the NFL in 2018. Players like Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Le’Veon Bell will provide Roethlisberger with a multitude of explosive options. Sadly, the home/road splits for Roethlisberger are more than just a narrative, and there’s always the possibility he misses a handful of games due to injury.

15. Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans

Last year was such a disappointment for the former Oregon quarterback. In fairness, he dealt with a hamstring injury that immobilized him for most of the season. Unfortunately, that did not mean he improved as a pocket passer. I’m willing to give Mariota the benefit of the doubt, given his injury and another year to develop chemistry with Corey Davis.

16. Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are committed to the development of Derek Carr. Jon Gruden’s offensive prowess should help this offense; however, his offenses had the quarterback under center for the majority of their snaps. Hopefully, he’ll adjust his scheme to fit Carr’s strengths, but forcing him to take more snaps under center could affect his timing with Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and the newly acquired Martavis Bryant.

17. Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers is continually one of the most undervalued players in all of fantasy football. He’s a high volume passer with good weapons like Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Melvin Gordon. Rivers finished last season second in pass attempts with 575 and tied for fifth in touchdowns with 28. With the upgrades on the offensive line and a fierce pass rush on defense, Rivers and company are prime for a run at the division title and another productive fantasy season.

18. Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like Mariota, Winston had a disappointing season due to injuries. Also, his team had to deal with the effects of hurricane Harvey to start the year, as well as the entire team being collectively ill against the Vikings. Not all hope is lost though. Upon his return, Winston was one of the better quarterbacks in December and appeared to have put the injury behind him. Hopefully, Winston can rebound in 2018 and reestablish himself as a viable fantasy player.

19. Eli Manning – New York Giants

The ranking of Eli Manning this high is the result of his supporting cast. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez provide some much needed help on the offensive line. Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram round out a dynamic receiving core. And, the addition of Saquon Barkley elevates this entire offense’s production. Except for one other player, Manning’s supporting cast is superior to every quarterback the rest of the way.

20. Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott will be better this year than he was in 2017. Ezekiel Elliott is slated to start for all 16 games, but, this offense will be without its two most targeted pass catchers, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Prescott’s legs provide him with a solid floor, but his perimeter talent will severely limit his upside.

Quarterback Rankings: 21-30

21. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton could rise through the quarterback rankings as we get closer to week one. He has an elite player in AJ Green, another year with Joe Mixon, and an upgraded offensive line. Dalton is always a reliable streaming option but could become a starter if his offensive line and running game improve.

22. Case Keenum – Denver Broncos

Case Keenum’s arrival to Denver has more impact on his supporting cast than his production. He’s going to take a step back regarding production, but he is undoubtedly an upgrade over Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler. Keenum should not be drafted as a starter in one quarterback leagues.

23. Alex Smith – Washington Redskins

Just like how Cam Newton’s MVP season was an outlier, so was Alex Smith’s production last year. For the first time in his career, he threw the ball down the field. It’s possible that mindset will transfer to Washington; however, he’s playing with a significantly worse group of skill players. It’s likely that this is Smith’s last stint as an NFL starter.

24. Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles, despite his sporadic moments of offensive production, is in a run-first system. The only way Bortles can become a back-end starting fantasy quarterback is if Jacksonville allows him to run the ball like he did during the playoffs. Even then, there may be better streaming options available.

25. Tyrod Taylor – Cleveland Browns

Like I said with Deshaun Watson, if I knew Tyrod Taylor was going to start the whole season, I’d have him much higher on the list. His rushing ability gives him a high floor and could have some high scoring games should he be able to connect with Josh Gordon deep.

26. Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes is super talented and is in a quarterback-friendly system. He’s surrounded by great players like Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. However, I’m taking the wait and see approach with Mahomes.

27. Mitchell Trubisky – Chicago Bears

While he wasn’t a failure in Chicago, there isn’t enough offensive talent to warrant drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Maybe that’s different in 2019, but until then, he’s nothing more than a backup for fantasy purposes.

28. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco is coming off one of the worst seasons in NFL history in terms of yards per attempt for a starting quarterback. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens handle him and Lamar Jackson but don’t expect Flacco to return to this Superbowl form.

29. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill should start week one after recovering from a season-ending injury last preseason. Tannehill wasn’t great to begin with, and Miami has shipped out almost all of its talent to rebuild team culture. The Dolphins could very well be one of the worst teams in the NFL.

30. AJ McCarron – Buffalo Bills

And finally, AJ McCarron will get his opportunity. Whether or not he keeps the starting job, the whole season is up for debate. But one thing we can all agree on is that you are in trouble if you are turning to McCarron as your starter.

 

Photo Courtesy of SI.com

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2018 fantasy football QB rankings

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

Quarterback rankings: 1-10

1. Aaron Rodgers- Green Bay Packers

Rodgers was on pace for another great season last year before breaking his collarbone. He was able to come back for a good showing against Carolina, but was then shut down for the season with the Packers not being a contender. Jordy Nelson is now a Raider, but Jimmy Graham is now the tight end. He isn’t the same player that he was in New Orleans and Rodgers will have to use him more than he has past tight ends. Rodgers and his weapons make it easy to make him the first quarterback to go in most drafts.

2018 fantasy football qb rankings

Russell Wilson (Photo by forbes.com)

2. Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks did fail to get the necessary offensive line help for Wilson, but he was the number one fantasy quarterback last season by a wide margin. He lost Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson this offseason and will need to adjust a little bit, but he still has old reliable in Doug Baldwin. Wilson now has Rashaad Penny at running back, who should help catch passes out of the backfield. He also adds the running ability to a stat sheet and had 586 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground last season.

3. Cam Newton- Carolina Panthers

While his play hasn’t always been the best from a pure football standpoint, Newton finished second among quarterbacks last season. Newton now has more weapons in the past with Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith and Christian McCaffrey. He too uses his legs well, rushing for 756 yards and six touchdowns last season. He did suffer a knee injury that leaves to question whether he will be ready for the start of the season.

4. Tom Brady- New England Patriots

Brady’s play may decline some day, but there aren’t a lot of tangible signs it is happening yet. It appears that Rob Gronkowski will be back, although the Patriots are without Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks. Jordan Matthews and Sony Michel add to Julian Edelman and Kevin Hogan. The good news for Brady fans is that it has always been more about Brady and less about the weapons around him.

5. Carson Wentz- Philadelphia Eagles

This ranking is assuming Wentz can come back healthy. If he can’t he will be dropped in the rankings. He finished fifth in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks last season, even though he missed the last three games of the season. Wentz will have Dallas Goedert and Mike Wallace to replace the production of Torrey Smith and Brent Celek, meaning he could even do better this season.

6. Deshaun Watson- Houston Texans

There are a lot of currently injured players on this list and Watson fits that bill. The hope is that he can be ready for week one, but nothing is definite. He lit up the NFL last year as a rookie and only played in seven games. An offseason to study the playbook will help, but there are some risks in taking Watson. Can he cut down the number of interceptions? Will his play be hampered due to his injury? Will teams figure him out in year two? Watson is a good quarterback to have, but if his injury is still a question mark, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get another quarterback on your roster.

7. Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts

Another risky pick could be Andrew Luck. He sat out all of last season with an arm injury and will have his fair share of rust to shake off. If he plays at his best he can be atop this list, but he could also have more complications with the injury. The offensive line is better than the last time he took the field, but his weapons are likely worse. He’ll have to rely on T.Y. Hilton to be the player he was two seasons ago.

8. Matthew Stafford- Detroit Lions

Stafford ranked seventh in fantasy points for quarterbacks last season and should have a better offensive line and a running game to support him for the 2018 season. Neither Golden Tate nor Marvin Jones Jr. are number one targets, but they, along with Kenny Golladay, give Stafford a good group of receivers to throw to. Rookie Kerryon Johnson will help the run game and be another good running back to throw to.

9. Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints

While Brees was very efficient last year, he didn’t throw as many passes as he has in the past. The focus on the run game resulted in him finishing ninth among quarterbacks. The good news for people want to select Brees is that Michael Thomas is getting better every year and Cam Meredith was added. Alvin Kamara will continue to provide that good receiving back for Brees as well.

10. Phillip Rivers- Los Angeles Chargers

The eighth-ranked fantasy quarterback from last year, Rivers didn’t have as much help as he expected. Forrest Lamp and Mike Williams were limited in their rookie seasons due to injury. With these players healthy, Rivers might not have too much worse of a fantasy season than last year and could actually see improved stats.

Quarterback Rankings: 11-20

11. Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh Steelers

Roethlisberger should be expected to miss a week or two, whether with injury or the Steelers already locking up a playoff spot. He has two of the most exciting receivers in the game in Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back Le’Veon Bell. It should be another good season for Roethlisberger and the Steelers with a dynamic offense.

2018 Fantasy football qb rankings

Matt Ryan (photo by myajc.com)

12. Matt Ryan- Atlanta Falcons

If Steve Sarkisian wasn’t the offensive coordinator, Ryan would be much higher on this list. He has the weapons in Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper. Last year, with all of those players listed except Ridley, he finished as the 15th quarterback. His season included duds against Buffalo and Minnesota, where he scored less than ten points.

13. Kirk Cousins- Minnesota Vikings

Cousins is the boom-or-bust play at quarterback. He had six games of under 12 points and six games of over 20 points last season. He will have better receivers to work with, but the Vikings got a great season out of Case Keenum last year and he was only able to finish in the middle of the pack in fantasy. Cousins also preferred dump off passes to running backs and may not use the wide receivers as much. Luckily though, Dalvin Cook is back from injury and should be able to help out big time out of the backfield.

14. Derek Carr- Oakland Raiders

The Raiders now have Jon Gruden at the helm and Carr should feel good about that. Carr will also have Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant joining the team to help fill the void left by Michael Crabtree. If Carr stays healthy and Amari Cooper can keep his hands on the ball, he should have a solid season.

15. Jared Goff- Los Angeles Rams

Goff had a great season last year and now gets a more productive receiver in Brandin Cooks to replace Sammy Watkins. He finished 12th in the league last year. This season the Rams will still have a good running game and a good defense, so Goff likely won’t get the volume of some of the other quarterbacks on this list.

16. Jameis Winston- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He finished 22nd among quarterbacks last season, but had he stayed healthy and not missed three games, he likely would’ve finished around this range. He still has Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, but now also has Ronald Jones out of the backfield to throw to.

17. Jimmy Garoppolo- San Francisco 49ers

Garoppolo is still undefeated as a starter and will now be the full-time guy in San Francisco. He doesn’t have the best receivers to throw to but does have Jerick McKinnon who will help him out from the running back position.

18. Marcus Mariota- Tennessee Titans

It’s odd for a starter of Mariota’s caliber to not have a game over 20 points, but he didn’t last season. He also had a few really bad games, which likely leaves him as a QB2.

2018 Fantasy football qb rankings

Dak Prescott (photo by upi.com)

19. Dak Prescott- Dallas Cowboys

Prescott will be without Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, but Witten is the greater loss, as Prescott capitalizes on short, safe throws. He will still get a lot of points throwing to Cole Beasley and running in touchdowns.

20. Case Keenum- Denver Broncos

Last year Keenum had a career year and it still was only good enough to rank 14th. Denver has great receivers, but he may not be able to replicate last year’s success.

Quarterback rankings: 21-30

21. Alex Smith- Washington Redskins

Another veteran who had a career year last season, Smith is now with the Redskins. He won’t have the resources he had last year in Kansas City and will regress as a result.

22. Andy Dalton- Cincinnati Bengals

The offensive line for the Bengals will be vastly improved, which in turn should help Dalton, but there are other issues that could make it tough on Dalton. The first question that comes to mind is: Are they going to let their young receivers play? Both Tyler Boyd and John Ross saw limited action last season. If they play more, Dalton could shoot up a few spots on the list.

23. Blake Bortles- Jacksonville Jaguars

Gone are Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. The Jags still have other solid receivers, but the team’s main focus will be on the run game.

24. Eli Manning- New York Giants

OBJ coming back helps, but it is still really hard to trust Eli Manning as a viable fantasy quarterback. Barkley helps out and we’ll have to see how Manning looks under new head coach Pat Shurmur.

2018 fantasy football qb rankings

Joe Flacco (Photo by baltimoreravens.com)

25. Joe Flacco- Baltimore Ravens

Flacco isn’t a very good quarterback anymore and also doesn’t have the talent around him to start week in and week out in fantasy.

26. Tyrod Taylor- Cleveland Browns

This ranking is very much dependent on how the Browns plan to use Baker Mayfield. If Taylor gets to start, he should do a viable job, as the Bills traded away almost all of their good players and he still led them to the playoffs. With some good skill position players around him, Taylor could be a spot starter in fantasy.

27. Ryan Tannehill- Miami Dolphins

Tannehill will have a lot less to work with now that Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi are gone. If the Dolphins don’t win this season, he will not stat next season.

28. Mitchell Trubisky- Chicago Bears

Trubisky had a decent rookie season and now has Allen Robinson to throw to.

29. Patrick Mahomes- Kansas City Chiefs

The new starter in Kansas City is a gun-slinger. He has great weapons to use, but will also turn the ball over a lot.

30. A.J. McCarron- Buffalo Bills

The Bills should start McCarron day one. They don’t have great receivers or an offensive line and wouldn’t want to throw Josh Allen into that fire.

 

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Matt Ryan extension

Matt Ryan signs five-year, $150 million extension

The Atlanta Falcons have their franchise quarterback locked up.

Matt Ryan signed a massive five-year, $150 million extension with the team on Thursday, making him the highest paid player in NFL history. The deal also includes $100 million in guarantees, also an NFL record.

The Matt Ryan extension comes just weeks after Kirk Cousins’ whopping $28 million-per-year contract with the Vikings. With Ryan now slated to make $30 million per year, the bar is now set for other soon-to-be free agent quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady all have their contracts expire in 2020. All three could potentially blow Ryan’s new contract out of the water in a matter of years.

What the Falcons are getting

Matt Ryan extension

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Photo from nfl.com

One year removed from an MVP-winning season, Matt Ryan regressed slightly in 2017. With offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan taking the 49ers’ head coaching position, the Falcons’ offense took a step back. Ryan threw only 20 touchdowns last season, with 12 interceptions. This is far from his 38:7 ratio from 2016.

However, Ryan remains as the Falcons’ most valuable player. Since entering the league in 2008, Ryan has only missed two games. He has quietly been one of the league’s most efficient passers in that span, completing nearly 65% of his passes. He has also thrown for over 4,000 yards for seven straight seasons.

If the Atlanta Falcons wish to remain in the playoff hunt, they will need to retain their all-time leading passer. They did just that, handing him the richest contract in NFL history along the way.

What’s next?

With the Matt Ryan extension fetching $30 million per year, it’s likely that this will be seen as the new standard for quarterback megadeals. Aaron Rodgers is the most likely to break Ryan’s record, with his current deal expiring in 2020. Rodgers has been invaluable to the Green Bay Packers, and will be 36 at the time of the new deal.

As for the Falcons, they can begin to look ahead at extensions for defensive stars Vic Beasley and Deion Jones. Both players will be unrestricted free agents following the 2019 regular season.

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Matt Ryan signs extension with Falcons for $30 million per year

The Atlanta Falcons have signed Matt Ryan to a five year extension that will make him the first quarterback ever to make $30 million dollars per year according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Ryan will make $100 million in guaranteed money through the life of the five-year deal. He was entering into the last year of his previous five-year deal. With incentives, the contract is worth $150 million over five seasons.

Atlanta’s GM, Thomas Dimitroff, made it a priority to sign Ryan before the old contract was up. The 2016 season helped propel Ryan into earning this deal with his MVP award and leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

The Falcons selected Ryan with the third overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. Since being drafted, Ryan has led the Falcons to six playoff appearances, including each of the past two seasons. Two seasons ago Ryan seemingly reached his full potential with the MVP award.

Along with the MVP, he has one All-Pro selection and four Pro Bowl selections. He also has a 96-63 regular season record.

Through his 10 seasons in the NFL he has 41,796 passing yards, 260 passing touchdowns and has completed 64.9% of his passes. He currently ranks 16th in NFL history for passing yards.

 

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Atlanta Falcons 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is under two weeks 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 Atlanta Falcons 2018 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

Atlanta Falcons NFL Draft profile

Julio Jone (Photo by thefalcoholic.com)

After their Super Bowl appearance two seasons ago, the Falcons won 10 games last year. They were bounced out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round by the eventual champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Their defense stepped up last season, ranking eighth in points allowed per game. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t get going like in previous years and they ranked 15th in point per game. The Falcons were able to move the ball decently but failed to reach the end zone on a lot of drives.

A lot of the blame has been placed on offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, as he failed to get wide receiver Julio Jones involved in the offense near the goal line. Jones finished the season with just three receiving touchdowns, which severely limited the Falcons’ offense.

Sarkisian and most players from the Falcons’ offense return for next season, so they will have to figure out how to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu and Austin Hooper are the playmakers on offense. Atlanta should be pretty set with that but may need some more depth at some of those positions heading into next season.

The offensive line was solid for Atlanta last season, but this might be a place where they try to use a draft pick for depth or to enhance one of their weaker positions.

On the defensive side of the ball, the unit was improved, but Adrian Clayborne left via free agency. Takkarist McKinley will be tasked with stepping up on the opposite side of the field of Vic Beasley Jr. Beasley only had five sacks in 14 games and will also need to improve for next season. Grady Jarrett is solid at the defensive tackle position, but more will be needed.

Their linebackers are young and talented, leaving little to be addressed at the position. The Falcons have made a concerted effort to improve their secondary through the draft the last couple of years and have built a good secondary, which allows the 13th fewest passing yards per game in the league.

Atlanta still has a solid roster and with a good draft, can put themselves right back in the Super Bowl next season.

Picks and Needs

The Falcons have seven picks in the draft. They traded their fifth-round pick to the Bills and received a compensatory pick in the seventh round to reach that number.

First Round (1 pick): 26

Second Round (1): 58

Third Round (1): 90

Fourth Round (1): 126

Fifth Round (0): 

Sixth Round (1): 200

Seventh Round (2): 244, 256

Offensive needs:

Wide receiver- Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu are a good start to a receiving core, but there isn’t much behind them. They can take a receiver in the middle rounds of the draft, who should be able to give them more depth at the position.

Offensive line depth- Brandon Fusco was signed to play guard, but a few more players to fill out the roster could be added in the draft.

Backup quarterback- Matt Ryan is here to stay, but if he goes down with an injury, the Falcons aren’t looking too great. Matt Schaub and Garrett Grayson are the other quarterbacks on the roster, but Atlanta could take a project quarterback to sit and learn behind Matt Ryan.

Defensive needs:

Defensive tackle- Jarrett is good, but after Dontari Poe left in free agency a replacement is needed. They gave up the ninth fewest rushing yards in the league last season and will want to keep that up.

Defensive end depth- Brooks Reed and McKinley will help fill the void left by Clayborne, but more pass rushers will be needed in to bolster their depth chart.  

Targets

Atlanta Falcons 2018 NFL Draft profile

Taven Bryan (Photo by draftblasters.com)

First round: 

Pick No. 26: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida 

The Falcons can likely get a replacement for Poe in round one. With a few talented defensive tackles in the class, one could fall to number 26. Bryan is athletic for a defensive tackle and can start from day one if needed. He is most known for stopping the run, but can also help out the pass rush, as he had four sacks last season for the Gators.

Second round: 

Pick No. 58: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

In order to find another viable option at the receiver position, the Falcons can select Anthony Miller. He has the versatility to play in the slot or on the outside and made tons of highlight reel catches in college. He does have inconsistent hands and isn’t the biggest, but he makes plays. With him, Sanu, Jones and Hooper on the field, the Falcons should be able to return to offensive prominence.

Third round:

Pick No. 90: Austin Corbett, G/C, Nevada

Atlanta will see how Fusco does at right guard but may want to have a backup plan in case things don’t go well. Corbett has drawn comparisons to the Browns’ Joel Bitonio because they both played at Nevada and will move from tackle to the inside of the line. If he can figure out the nuances of playing guard at the NFL level, he could take the job from Fusco.

Conclusion

There isn’t much separating this team from another shot at the Super Bowl. If Sarkisian calls the right plays, this team has the talent to do a lot of damage. If they can fill their few needs in the draft, they will be ready to roll for the start of the 2018 season.

 

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Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Detroit Lions: Quarterback preview 2018

The Detroit Lions quarterback position has largely been a position of disappointment. They have been trying to break the curse of Bobby Layne. When Bobby Layne was traded to Pittsburgh in 1958, he stated, “(Detroit) will not win for 50 years.”

It looks like they found their man, the man being Matthew Stafford. He has already cemented himself as the greatest quarterback in franchise history and the only thing left to do is bring the Lombardi trophy to Detroit.

Quarterbacks Coach

The Detroit Lions parted ways with Brian Callahan, who served as the quarterbacks coach for the past two seasons. During that span, Stafford amassed 8,773 yards and a 65.5 completion percentage. He also threw for 53 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Godsey during his time with Texans. (Photo by Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle)

The new man in charge of the quarterbacks’ room is George Godsey. In 2017, Godsey came over to Detroit from the Houston Texans where he spent three seasons, one as the quarterbacks coach followed by two seasons as the Texans’ offensive coordinator.

He was a defensive assistant for the Lions last season and has history with new Lions head coach Matt Patricia as they worked together in New England. Godsey served as an offensive assistant in 2011 for the Patriots before coaching the tight ends for two seasons.

For what it’s worth, Godsey was a four-year quarterback at Georgia Tech from 1998-2001. The familiarity with Patricia and his previous year of experience in the Motor City, combined with his potential as a young, enthusiastic coach brings a lot of energy and hope to the quarterback position.

Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford making adjustments on Sunday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Rick Osentoski, Associated Press)

Matthew Stafford does not need much introduction to NFL fans, especially, Detroit Lions fans. He is the all-time leader in completions, yards, touchdowns and passer rating in Lions history. He has shown strength, durability and the blue-collar, hardworking attitude that perfectly symbolizes the culture of Detroit.

His hard-nosed grit only endears himself more to fans and his teammates. His ability to lead the team down the field for game-winning touchdowns or field goals brings a calming attitude and mentality to the team when they find themselves behind in the fourth quarter.

He finds himself in sixth place on the fourth quarter comebacks list with 26 behind Tom Brady (42), Ben Roethlisberger (32), Drew Brees (30), Eli Manning (30) and Matt Ryan (27). Stafford also has 32 game-winning drives in his career.

Jake Rudock

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

(Photo by Mike Mulholland, mlive.com)

Jake Rudock is unproven with a great deal of potential, as he has shown to have success in the month of August, although it was against preseason defenses. He only appeared in one regular season game in 2017 when Stafford injured his hand against Baltimore. Rudock only attempted five passes and completed three with one interception.

During the preseason, he did perform well in the so-called “dress rehearsal” third game of the preseason against New England where he went 10-for-13 for 113 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Coming out of Michigan, Rudock is a local fan favorite to some Wolverines fans, and may end up paying off in the future as an asset to acquire more draft picks.

Alek Torgersen

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Alek Torgersen during his senior year at Penn – Photo credit: Zach Sheldon

Alek Torgersen comes out of his rookie season as a relative unknown. He played with the Atlanta Falcons during the preseason with little production (40 percent completions, no touchdowns and two interceptions).

The Atlanta Falcons waived Torgersen on Sept. 2. The Washington Redskins signed him a few days later and released him a month later.

Detroit signed him to the practice squad in December. The Lions then signed him to a reserve-future contract on Jan 1, 2018.

He played his college ball for the Pennsylvania Quakers. In his final two seasons at Penn, he threw for 4,227 yards, 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Future (Is Now)

With Stafford turning 30 on Feb. 7, the window for the Lions to win with him is closing. General manager Bob Quinn has stated the importance of drafting or signing a quarterback in every draft class. A sentiment brought over from New England (i.e. Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett and Jacoby Brissett). Not only to plan for Stafford’s eventual departure, but also investments for future draft picks.

Quarterbacks that could be added to the roster in the draft or as undrafted free agents include Ryan Finley (NC State), Clayton Thorson (Northwestern), Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech), Riley Ferguson (Memphis) and Danny Etling (LSU).

Stafford appears to have at least another six or seven years of his prime left. Possibly a few more if he is able to maintain his body and the offensive line can limit the number of hits he takes. Detroit fans hope he can be the one to get them off the list of teams to never win a Super Bowl. They would probably even take a division title or two and a playoff win to start.

Click here for a preview of the Lions’ coaches.

 

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Super Bowl LII preview

Super Bowl LII preview

After an epic championship weekend, which included a come-from-behind victory from Tom “The GOAT” Brady, as well as a flawless performance from Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, we are set for a Super Bowl XXXIX rematch between New England and Philly.

In that game 13 years ago, the Patriots defeated the Eagles 24-21. With a chance to win the game, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was picked off by Rodney Harrison with less than 20 seconds to play. This was one of three interceptions that McNabb threw. Eagles star wide receiver, Terrell Owens, who was dealing with a severely sprained ankle and fractured fibula, had nine catches for 122 yards.

Super Bowl XXXIX preview

Patriots celebrating during Super Bowl XXXIX (Photo from Patriots Life)

Tom Brady threw for 236 yards with two touchdowns, and no turnovers. Patriots receiver Deion Branch was rewarded Super Bowl XXXIX MVP after an incredible 11-catch, 133-yard performance.

Now, in 2018, Tom Brady remains behind center for New England, and the Eagles are the biggest Super Bowl underdogs since 2009 in Super Bowl XLIII, when the Arizona Cardinals were seven-point underdogs to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Philadelphia opened as a 5.5-point underdog at The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. Keep in mind that the betting favorite has won 33 of the previous 51 Super Bowls.

This will be New England’s 10th Super Bowl appearance and the Eagles’ third. The Westgate SuperBook claimed that had Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz not gotten injured, the game would be pick ‘em. Anyways, here are eight statements to get you ready for the big game.

 1. Nick Foles is coming in hot

Even though Wentz was playing at an MVP level, let’s not sleep on Nick Foles. In the NFC Championship game against the Vikings, Foles played the best game of his career. The 29 year old from Arizona, who was recruited by Georgetown, Baylor and Texas to play college basketball, threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 141.4. In the second half alone, Foles went 11-for-11 with 159 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect QBR.

On the season, Foles is now 8-1, the one loss coming in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Cowboys. He joined Joe Montana as the only other quarterback to complete 75 percent of their passes in back-to-back playoff games. He is the only quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating of 100 in his first three career playoff games. Let’s see how he stacks up against the other quarterbacks New England has faced in the Super Bowl during the Tom Brady era.

PLAYER YEAR QUARTERBACK RATING DURING PLAYOFF RUN (GOING INTO THE SUPER BOWL)
KURT WARNER 2001 92.5
JAKE DELHOMME 2003 103.5
DONOVAN MCNABB 2004 111.3
ELI MANNING 2007 107.2
ELI MANNING 2011 108.7
RUSSELL WILSON 2014 96.8
MATT RYAN 2016 132.6
NICK FOLES 2017 122.1

2. This is the Patriots second best offensive team during Brady’s eight Super Bowl appearances

It will be hard for any team to match the production of the 2007 Patriots, but this year’s team finished second in points and first in yards. They were also third in red zone scoring percentage (TD), touchdowns per game and points per play, fourth in yards per play and fifth in yards per pass. All this without one of Brady’s top targets, Julian Edelman.

Going into the AFC Championship game, the Jaguars had allowed just 169.9 passing yards per game. Without Rob Gronkowski, Brady had 138 in the fourth quarter. Translation, they can overcome anything.

3. Penalties could be the deciding factor

As seen in the AFC Championship game, the Patriots don’t get too many penalties. Against Jacksonville, New England suffered just one penalty for 10 yards, while the Jags had six for 98 yards. Only one percent of the time is there an 88-yard discrepancy in penalty yards, and of course, it happens for New England in its biggest game.

Also, in the last seven years of the playoffs, only twice has a team been called for one penalty or less. This happened on Sunday, as well as seven years ago, in favor of, you guessed it, the Patriots.

While New England finished with the second fewest penalties per game, the Eagles had the 10th most penalties called against them.

4. If the Patriots are losing in the second half, they will probably come back and win

After being down by 10 with less than nine minutes to play against Jacksonville, Brady proved why he is arguably the most clutch athlete to ever step on Earth. Sunday’s win meant the Patriots are now 3-4 in the last 10 postseasons when they are trailing by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. During that span, the rest of the NFL is 3-70.

5. This is one of the best defenses New England has faced in a Super Bowl during the Brady/Belichick era

Super Bowl LII preview

Never bet against this man (Photo from Business Insider)

The Eagles allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league this year, as well as the fourth fewest total yards. They also caused the fourth most turnovers. Four appears to be the magic number, as they allowed the fourth fewest points in the league.

The only teams the Patriots have faced in the Super Bowl during the Brady-Belichick era that finished higher in points allowed were the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2014 Seattle Seahawks.

6. The Eagles can run, and the Patriots might struggle defending it

The combination of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, mixed in with a little Corey Clement, was lethal this season. Philadelphia finished with the third most rushing yards per game at 132.2. They also averaged 4.5 yards per carry, which was tied for third in the league.

New England is tied for 30th in opposing yards per rush and 22nd in opposing rushing first downs per game.

7. Both quarterbacks have yet to tHROW AN INTERCEPTION in the playoffs

All be just two games apiece, both Nick Foles and Tom Brady have done an excellent job of taking care of the football. Since 2014, when Nick Foles does not turn the ball over, he is 13-2. During that same span, Brady is 35-7.

8. Jimmy G is getting paid

We know that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be appearing in their eighth Super Bowl together, which is twice as many as any head coach-quarterback combo. We also know that Brady will be the first 40-year-old QB to start a Super Bowl.

Those facts are cool and all, but what about the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo is getting paid to watch this game? If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, Garappolo will earn $191K. If they lose, he will get $135K. Must be nice.

 

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NFL divisional playoffs picks

NFL divisional playoffs preview and picks

We were fortunate enough to get four reasonably competitive games to kick off the NFL playoffs last week. You can check out last week’s picks here.

For this week’s divisional playoffs, games will be picked both straight up and against the spread. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Postseason record- 3-1

Postseason record against the spread- 2-2

Saturday

Falcons at Eagles – For the first time since the NFL adopted its current playoff format, a sixth seed is favorite over a home standing top seed. This is not without merit though. Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles are just another average to below-average football team. In the final two games of the regular season, Philadelphia’s offense accounted for a grand total of 13 points, and the team as a whole was pushed around for long stretches by the non-playoff bound Cowboys and Raiders.

The above paragraph is not a good recipe for taking on the Falcons at the moment. Atlanta needed to win as much as humanly possible late in the regular season to keep its playoff hopes alive. The sudden death nature of the NFL playoffs changed nothing for them last week. They have been in that situation for almost 2 months.

Reigning MVP Matt Ryan and the offense are not quite the juggernaut they were last year, but they are still very good. What has sparked Atlanta’s late-season run as much as anything is defense. The Falcons have not surrendered more than 24 points in a game since Week 11. This includes holding the top-ranked scoring offense to just 13 points last week. If all the offense has to do is score in the high 20s, this team is tough to beat.

Apart from winning a shootout with the lowly Giants, the Eagles offense has not gotten anywhere close to the high 20s with backup quarterbacks since the injury to Wentz. Philadelphia’s defense is pretty good and has stood on its head in recent weeks to keep the Eagles in games. Thus, this will not be a blowout.

However, one of these teams is quarterbacked by Matt Ryan and the other by Nick Foles. Sometimes, it is just that simple.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: Falcons (-3) Atl 21 Phi 13

Titans at Patriots – Tennessee did a great job of making a few plays to pull off the big upset in Kansas City last week. However, that result had more to do with Kansas City’s collapse. If New England has a double-digit lead, whoever is playing running back will get the ball a lot more than 11 or 12 times.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from USA Today

You can’t help but be impressed with the resilience and toughness of Tennessee. That roster is not good enough to get to this point on talent alone. Different guys have stepped up for them all year long. Last week, it was Marcus Mariota playing with his head on a swivel to complete a touchdown pass to himself and Derrick Henry rushing for 156 yards in the absence of backfield mate DeMarco Murray that made the difference.

However, the Titans lack the firepower to really make the Patriots nervous in a playoff game. At this point, nothing more can be said about the greatness of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They are 25-9 in playoff games. Moreover, only three of those nine losses have been at home. Tennessee will keep this close for a while with solid fundamental football, but New England will pull away late.

Winner: New England

Good bet: Patriots (-13) NE 34 Ten 20

Sunday

Jaguars at Steelers – Vegas is showing great restraint by making the Steelers only a seven-point favorite here. With the way the Jacksonville passing offense has looked for the last month, a double-digit spread would have been perfectly reasonable.

However, the Jacksonville defense has shut down some very good offenses this year. The Jaguars went in to Pittsburgh early in the year and intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times in a route.

Also, there is more than one way to look at the performance of Blake Bortles last week. It is easy to say he threw for just 87 yards and therefore was completely awful, or you can commend him for his 88 rushing yards and ability to make enough plays for his team to win, even though he did not play very well.

Not very many people have subscribed to the second school of thought leading up to this game, but I am one of them. With a great supporting cast around him, Bortles is fine. Other than one or two games, Jacksonville has had no problem scoring points this year. Almost every offense is going to get shut down at least once or twice a year, no matter who the quarterback is.

Jacksonville is too good to get blown out. Any team that leads the league in rushing offense, as well as several defensive categories, is capable of going anywhere and beating anyone. However, Roethlisberger getting Antonio Brown back will be the difference in this one. Even if Brown is not fully healthy, his presence alone gives the vaunted Jacksonville defense another thing to worry about on a loaded Steelers offense.

Winner: Pittsburgh

Good Bet: Jaguars (+7) Pit 27 Jac 24

Saints at Vikings – No team was more impressive than New Orleans last week. All year, the Saints had done most of their damage by running the ball with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Carolina held that duo to under 50 combined rushing yards. The Saints still managed to win. Drew Brees showed us all why he is going to the Hall of Fame someday.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from si.com

Unless there is a truly dominant team, whoever wins the Super Bowl has to find a way to win a game or two where its best stuff is not working. There is no dominant NFL team this year, and that is exactly what the Saints did last week.

This week, the task is a little bit tougher as New Orleans goes on the road to face another very stout defensive unit in Minnesota. The vast majority of Minnesota’s success this year has come from backups, castoffs and other spare parts. Mike Zimmer and his staff have done an incredible job of getting the most out of Case Keenum. Keenum has nearly doubled his career touchdown passes this season. However, much like the other NFC matchup this weekend, it is foolish not to take the established star quarterback over the journeyman in playoff football.

Winner: New Orleans

Good Bet: *Saints (+ 5.5) NO 27 Min 20

 

Featured image from chiefs.com

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