Bucky Brooks
Friday October 19th, 2007

MORE GAME PLANS: Atlanta-New Orleans | Tennessee-Houston | Arizona-Washington | New England-Miami | Baltimore-Buffalo | San Francisco-New York Giants | Kansas City-Oakland | New York Jets-Cincinnati | St. Louis-Seattle | Chicago-Philadelphia | Pittsburgh-Denver | Minnesota-Dallas

Bucs' Game Plan

Dink and Dunk. With injuries to their top three runners (Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott) hampering the rushing attack, Jon Gruden will rely on the horizontal passing game to control the tempo of the game. Look for Jeff Garcia to throw to Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway on a variety of underneath crossers and option routes to offset the lack of a true running game.

Turn up the pressure. The Lions want to throw the ball all over the field, but have been victimized for a league-leading 28 sacks in five games. The Bucs will look to exploit their weakness along the offensive line by using more five and six-man pressures to harass Jon Kitna in the pocket.

Lions' Game Plan

Keep it balanced. Kevin Jones' return from injury should have boosted the Lions' 31st ranked running game, but he has failed to carry the ball more than 11 times in any game. Against a Bucs' defense that will be geared toward defending the pass, expect Mike Martz to get Kevin Jones more carries on an assortment of draws and delays.

Eliminate the big play. The Bucs' 25th-ranked offense leads the league in passing plays of more than 40 yards (6) behind the big-play connection of Garcia to Galloway. The Lions must take the deep ball away by keeping their safeties deep in zone coverage and forcing Garcia to move the ball on check downs

Falcons' Game Plan

Get the ball to Norwood. The Falcons' budding superstar is averaging more than five yards per carry and has consistently flashed big-play ability in space. With the Falcons' offense lacking punch, Bobby Petrino has to get Norwood more involved.

Make Brees beat Cover Two. The Saints' first four opponents were able to force Drew Brees into uncharacteristic turnovers by blanketing his receivers in soft two-deep zones. The lack of big-play opportunities frustrated Brees and he began forcing throws into tight coverage hoping to make a play. Though Brees played with more poise and patience against the Seahawks, look for the Falcons to use more two-deep zones to test his discipline.

Saints' Game Plan

Spread 'em out and run. The Saints got Reggie Bush going by spreading the offense out with three receivers and using a variety of draws to find seams. Given their success last week, the Saints will use a similar game plan to attack the Falcons' smallish front seven.

Attack off the edges. The Giants exploited the Falcons rookie offensive tackles by attacking off the edge. Expect the Saints to follow suit by using their athletic ends (Charles Grant and Will Smith) to pressure off the edge with an occasional blitz from Roman Harper.

Titans' Game Plan

Back to basics. With Vince Young ailing from a quadriceps injury, the Titans will lean on their running game. LenDale White and Chris Brown will pound the ball between the tackles on an assortment of inside zone runs.

Disrupt the timing of the Texans' passing game. Schaub is completing almost 70 percent of his passes by throwing the ball on time in Houston's quick-rhythm passing game. The Titans will attempt to disrupt the rhythm by jamming receivers outside and having their linemen get their hands up at the line of scrimmage.

Texans' Game Plan

Stuff the box. Facing the league's sixth-ranked rushing attack, Houston will attempt to keep an eighth defender in the box. Look for the Texans to use C.C. Brown primarily as a run defender this week.

Be patient with the run. The Texans' lack of a solid running game has limited their effectiveness in the red zone. Unable to fool linebackers and safeties off play-action, Matt Schaub has failed to find open passing windows near the end zone. Expect Houston to exhibit more patience with Ahman Green and Ron Dayne inside the 20.

Cardinals' Game Plan

Flip the script. The Cardinals had gotten away from their smash-mouth approach with Kurt Warner's success running the no-huddle offense. But with Warner sidelined with an elbow injury and Tim Rattay in the lineup, Edgerrin James will be counted on to carry the offense. Expect to see James log 25-30 carries as the Cardinals use a conservative game plan.

Eliminate the big play. Arizona's high-pressure defense has the potential to pose problems for the Redskins by crowding Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts on an assortment of blitzes. But sending pressure to stop the run leaves Eric Green and Rod Hood in single coverage without safety help over the top. Green and Hood must hold up against the long ball for the Cardinals to effectively keep up their high-pressure tactics.

Redskins' Game Plan

Back to basics. Facing a Cardinals' defense that allows 114 rushing yards per game will allow the Redskins to get back to their successful formula (run to set up the pass). After deviating from the blue print against the Packers, look for the Redskins to get back on track by pounding Portis and Betts early to set up deep passes to Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.

Break out the exotics. Gregg Williams featured two-deep zones against his past two opponents (Lions and Packers), but will use more combination pressures and zones to disrupt the rhythm of Rattay. The veteran had three interceptions and struggled against pressure last week. The Redskins will keep the heat on him by varying their looks to bait him into mistakes.

Patriots' Game Plan

Focus on Ronnie Brown. After losing veteran quarterback Trent Green to injury and Chris Chambers via trade, the Dolphins are relying on Ronnie Brown to carry the offense. With Brown as the only threat, the Patriots will stuff the running lanes with a creative array of eight-man fronts.

Let the rhythm hit 'em. With injuries potentially knocking out the Pats top two runners this week, New England will empty the backfield and use quick-rhythm passes to attack. The spread formation will nullify some of Miami's zone dogs and allow New England to control the clock without using the running game.

Dolphins' Game Plan

Switch up the pressures. The Dolphins have been successful against Tom Brady in the past by continually switching up their zone pressures to disrupt his rhythm and force him into uncharacteristic mistakes. The Cowboys had success early in last week's game by varying their zone blitzes, so expect Dom Capers to copy parts of that game plan.

Work inside out. Without a true No. 1 receiver, the Dolphins will use David Martin as the focal point of the passing game. By establishing him over the middle, the Dolphins should be able to open up the field for Ted Ginn, Derek Hagan and Marty Booker.

Ravens' Game Plan

Punch it in. The Ravens' struggles in the red zone have resulted in too many Matt Stover field goals. And the failure to score touchdowns has allowed mediocre teams to hang around. Against the Bills, look for the Ravens to take deep shots once they cross midfield in an attempt to put more points on the board.

Organized chaos. Each week Rex Ryan unveils a new wrinkle out of his sub-package to confuse and frustrate quarterbacks. He often repeats the same schematic blitz, but uses different personnel groups to keep offenses from locking in on the "hot" rushers. With Trent Edwards making only his third start, Ryan will unveil several new looks to harass Edwards in the pocket.

Bills' Game Plan

Build a fence. The Bills' Cover Two defense concedes yardage between the 20s, but stiffens in the red zone. Facing the Ravens' struggling scoring offense, the Bills will sit in their soft zone coverage and force Kyle Boller to complete tough passes in traffic.

Be aggressive. The Ravens' secondary has been victimized by the big play and will be vulnerable with Chris McAlister sidelined due to an injury. The Bills will attempt to capitalize on his absence by working on his backup (David Martin) on an assortment of double moves to Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish.

49ers' Game Plan

Get Frank Gore on track. After nearly leading the league in rushing a year ago, Gore has failed to gain more than 100 yards in a game this season. Gore has been unable to find his rhythm because of inconsistent blocking and a lack of carries.

Play straight up. The Giants' powerful running game has created big-play opportunities for Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer off play-action. The 49ers will eliminate the effectiveness of the play-action passing by locking Walt Harris and Nate Clements in man coverage.

Giants' Game Plan

Wear 'em down. Averaging more than 180 yards on the ground since the return of Brandon Jacobs, the Giants are physically wearing down defenses behind the combination of Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Reuben Droughns. With the 49ers struggling to stop the run, expect to see the Giants pound relentlessly between the tackles.

Keep the pressure on. The Giants lead the league in sacks (21) behind the outstanding play of Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka, who have accounted for 19 of those 21 sacks. They're set to feast on a 49ers' offensive line that has allowed the fourth most sacks in the league (18).

Chiefs' Game Plan

Keep it simple. The workload of Larry Johnson continues to be a barometer of the Chiefs' success. They have won 75 percent (15-5) of their games when Johnson has carried the ball 25 times or more in his career. With the Raiders' defense showing vulnerability against power runs, expect the Chiefs to keep it simple and hammer Johnson between the tackles.

Eight is enough. The Chiefs will load up the box with eight defenders on most downs to stop the Raiders' vaunted running game. By bringing Bernard Pollard near the line of scrimmage, the Chiefs should be able to clog LaMont Jordan's cutback lanes and limit his effectiveness between the tackles.

Raiders' Game Plan

Penetrate and dominate. Warren Sapp, Terdell Sands and Gerald Warren must dominate their interior matchups to thwart the Chiefs' running game. With penetration being the key to slowing Johnson, expect to see Rob Ryan keep his defenders in the backfield.

Throw the ball down the field. The Chiefs reliance on eight-man fronts to stop the run leaves them vulnerable to play-action passes. And the Raiders will attempt to take advantage of single coverage by using more vertical routes off play-action fakes on early downs. Connecting on a few deeper throws will loosen up the Chiefs' defense and create running room for Jordan.

Jets' Game Plan

Find an offensive rhythm. After watching Thomas Jones' breakout game against the Eagles, the Jets will attempt to build on that performance by increasing his role. By establishing Jones in the running game early, Chad Pennington should be able to work comfortably in the pocket off play action. If the Jets are able to get their 1-2 punch going, they should be able to break out of their season-long slump.

Focus on coverage. Rudi Johnson's possible absence forces the Bengals to become a one-dimensional passing offense. Without the threat of the run, the Jets will mix up their double teams on Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to keep the Bengals' explosive offense under wraps.

Bengals' Game Plan

Use a balanced offensive attack. Cincy hasn't been able to run the ball, forcing Carson Palmer to throw against seven and eight defenders in coverage, which has led to more turnovers and few big plays. The Jets will use a similar umbrella-zone defense, so look for the Bengals to pull the Jets out of the coverage by using running back Kenny Watson on draws and delays.

Crowd the passing game. Pennington's lack of arm strength has been more apparent this season and defenses are daring him to throw deep by squatting on routes. The Bengals' secondary is full of gamblers, so expect them to make life difficult for Pennington by aggressively jumping the Jets' short and intermediate routes.

Rams' Game Plan

Use the quick game. The Rams' offensive line has been unable to keep their quarterbacks (Gus Frerotte and Marc Bulger) upright. Facing a blitz-happy Seahawks' defense, Scott Linehan will protect Bulger by calling more quick throws to Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.

Stuff Shaun Alexander. The Seahawks will attempt to break out of their slump by leaning on the former MVP to shoulder the offensive load. But the Rams have yet to surrender more than 100 yards to a runner and will use a mixture of eight-man fronts to clog Alexander's cutback lanes. By stuffing Alexander on early downs, Leonard Little and James Hall will be able to harass Matt Hasselbeck off the edge.

Seahawks' Game Plan

Simplify the playbook. The Seahawks have struggled offensively for the first time in years due to blown assignments and miscommunication. Their struggles may be because of the complexity of the game plan, so Mike Holmgren will likely simplify his playbook to get everyone on the same page.

Bring the heat. After watching the Ravens pummel the Rams' hapless offense by bringing relentless pressure, the Seahawks blitz-happy defense will keep the heat on Bulger by employing a similar strategy. Expect to see Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatupu blitz from multiple spots.

Bears' Game Plan

Continue to expand Devin Hester's role. The Bears' dynamic playmaker has seen his time increase as a receiver, and he responded with an 81-yard touchdown catch last week. With Chicago in a must-win situation against the Eagles, the Bears will attempt to get Hester more touches this week.

Get back to basics. The Bears' vaunted defense has struggled this season after switching from their effective Tampa Two to a more aggressive blitz scheme. With teams finding success running and throwing on the unit, the Bears will scale back their blitz package and focus on being fundamentally sound in returning to their Tampa Two scheme. Expect to see the Bears focus on the principles of Tampa Two (gap discipline, gang tackling and all-out effort) against the Eagles.

Eagles Game Plan

Punish Cedric Benson. With rumors swirling about Benson's physical and mental toughness, Jim Johnson will send multiple defenders through gaps to get hits on the Bears runner. By thumping Benson early, the Eagles will limit his effectiveness and force Brian Griese to win the game through the air.

Work underneath the linebackers. Brian Westbrook's versatility as a runner/receiver gives the Eagles the perfect weapon to exploit the deep drops of linebackers in two-deep coverage. By using Westbrook on check downs, options and circle routes, the Eagles can take advantage in the passing game. His ability to find open creases on draws will allow the Eagles to gash the Bears on the ground. The Colts used this approach successfully in the Super Bowl, so expect the Eagles to duplicate it with Westbrook in the backfield.

Steelers' Game Plan

Run, Run, Run. After watching the Broncos struggle defending the run, the Steelers will take a smash-mouth approach to the game plan. Look for Willie Parker to carry the ball at least 25 times.

Take care of Travis Henry. The Steelers' top-ranked defense will attack Henry by using multiple eight-man looks and zone blitzes on early downs. Attacking the line of scrimmage with constant movement and slanting up front will disrupt the Broncos' zone-blocking scheme and stuff Henry's running lanes.

Broncos' Game Plan

Lock 'em up. The presence of Dre Bly and Champ Bailey will allow the Broncos to play more man coverage against the Steelers' power-based offense. By locking Bly and Bailey on Hines Ward (if healthy) and Santonio Holmes (if healthy), the Broncos will be able to commit nine defenders to the box and bottle up Parker.

Keep Jay Cutler on the move. Cutler's athleticism gives Mike Shanahan the freedom to attack the Steelers' zone blitz by incorporating more movement passes (bootlegs/sprint outs). Keeping Cutler on the move changes the aiming point for the pass rush and should allow the Broncos to throw the ball without constant pressure in the quarterback's face.

Vikings' Game Plan

Make them stop it. The Vikings' top-ranked rushing attack grinds down defenses by mixing the versatile talents of Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson. By pounding the duo to the left behind Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson, the Vikings typically force the opposing team's best pass rusher (right defensive end) to concentrate on the run. Against the Cowboys' 3-4, Minnesota will challenge Chris Canty and DeMarcus Ware to hold up against the run.

Keep Romo guessing . The Vikings' defensive approach mirrors certain aspects of the game plan the Bills used to frustrate Tony Romo. Using a mixture of early down blitzes and two-deep coverage, the Vikings will attempt to bait Romo into turnovers by disguising their looks and forcing throws against an umbrella coverage. Look for safety Darren Sharper to play a key role in the Vikings' cover scheme.

Cowboys' Game Plan

Throw, Throw, Throw. Facing a Vikings' run defense that surrenders fewer than three yards a carry, the Cowboys will opt to attack the Vikings through the air. By throwing the ball early, the Cowboys will force the Vikings out of eight-man fronts and eventually create better running lanes for Marion Barber and Julius Jones.

Sell out to stop the run. Minnesota's lack of a No. 1 receiver allows the Cowboys to sell out to stop the run. Locking Terence Newman and Anthony Henry (if healthy) on the outside threats in blitz coverage (Cover 0) will allow safeties Roy Williams and Ken Hamlin to attack the line of scrimmage quickly against the run.

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