Bucky Brooks
Thursday November 1st, 2007

More Game Plans: Cincinnati-Buffalo | Denver-Detroit | San Francisco-Atlanta | Green Bay-Kansas City | San Diego-Minnesota | Carolina-Tennessee | Arizona-Tampa Bay | Jacksonville-New Orleans | Washington-N.Y. Jets | Seattle-Cleveland | Houston-Oakland | Dallas-Philadelphia

Patriots' Game Plan

• Attack from spread formations. The Colts' top-ranked pass defense has been stellar, but the strength of the Patriots' offense lies with their receiving corps. Look for New England to attack the Colts' two-deep coverage by spreading the formation in their three-receiver sets and isolating Wes Welker on slot defenders. Expect Welker to have a big game, catching option routes and short crossers.

• Match Asante Samuel on Reggie Wayne. With Wayne emerging as the top option in the Colts' passing game, expect the Patriots to assign Samuel to Indy's emerging superstar, enabling the defense to use an assortment of combination coverage to limit Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark.

Colts' Game Plan

• Slow the tempo. Peyton Manning and the Colts' no-huddle offense will take a slow-down approach against the Patriots. Joseph Addai will become the focal point as Manning calls more running plays early to slow the tempo of the game. If the Colts run successfully, they'll set up their play-action passing game while keeping the Patriots' high-scoring offense on the sideline.

• Make 'em earn it. The premise of the Colts' two-deep coverage is to make offenses earn their points by limiting big plays. Against a Patriots' passing game that has the most completions of more than 20 yards (32) in the league, the Colts will test Brady's patience by sitting in soft zone coverage and conceding short throws. The Colts are willing to let Brady pass for more than 300 yards, but they want to make him earn it by limiting his big play opportunities.

Bengals' Game Plan

• Throw the ball over the middle. The Bills' two-deep coverage will limit Carson Palmer's ability to hit Chad Johnson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh outside the numbers. But Johnson and Houshmandzadeh should find plenty of room between the hashes with John DiGiorgio taking deep drops in the middle of the zone.

• Crowd the line of scrimmage. The Bengals must limit Marshawn Lynch's running room and make the Bills one-dimensional with J.P. Losman in the lineup. If Cincy can force the Bills into long-yardage situations, Deltha O'Neal and Johnathan Joseph will have opportunities to come up with interceptions.

Bills' Game Plan

• Limit the explosives. The Bengals' offense thrives on the big play and has produced 26 of more than 20 yards. The Bills will try to limit plays of that magnitude by sitting in two-deep coverage and forcing Palmer to settle for underneath throws.

• Play long ball. With Losman back under center, the Bills will look to stretch the field with deeper throws to Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish. Expect to see the Bills use more of their vertical passing game against the Bengals.

Broncos' Game Plan

• Keep Cutler on the move. The Broncos effectively used a series of movement passes (bootlegs/nakeds) to slow down the Packers' pass rush. Facing an aggressive Lions' defense that pressures from all angles, look for Mike Shanahan to use a similar game plan with Jay Cutler this week.

• Disrupt Jon Kitna's rhythm. Kitna has the ability to torch secondaries with short and intermediate throws to Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. The Broncos need to disrupt the precision of the Lions' passing game by constantly switching their coverage and disguising their blitzes. If they can cause Kitna to pause or hesitate with his throws, Dre Bly and Champ Bailey will be in better position to jump underneath routes.

Lions' Game Plan

• Use more play-action passes. The recent success of Kevin Jones will draw the defense's attention. With the Broncos likely to use a mixture of eight-man front/run blitzes on early downs, look for Mike Martz to call more play-action passes to draw up the linebackers while sending his receivers behind them on deep digs or crossers.

• Force Cutler to throw from the pocket. Cutler has proven to be one of the top quarterbacks in the game when throwing on the move. The Lions will limit his effectiveness on the edge by sending multiple blitzers off the corner.

49ers' Game Plan

• Bring pressure up the middle. The Falcons will attempt to get Joey Harrington into a groove by using their quick-rhythm passing game featuring three and five-step drops. The 49ers must disrupt Harrington's timing by sending pressure up the middle. By collapsing the pocket up the gut, Tully Banta-Cain and Hannibal Navies will be able to clean up off the edges.

• Be aggressive. Alex Smith's return failed to ignite the 49ers' dismal offense last week, but it should lead to a more aggressive approach against the struggling Falcons. Look for Smith to take some shots down the field to Vernon Davis on seam routes or post corners.

Falcons' Game Plan

• Play fast. The Falcons will attempt to establish the tempo by using an assortment of short/intermediate throws to get Harrington off to a good start. By completing a few high-percentage throws early, Harrington could settle into a groove and pick apart a secondary that allowed 336 passing yards against the Saints.

• Stuff the box. Frank Gore sets the tone for the 49ers with his hard-nosed running between the tackles. The Falcons must limit his effectiveness by stuffing the box with eight defenders and clogging his cutback lanes.

Packers' Game Plan

• Let the rhythm hit 'em. The Packers' quick-hitting passing game features an assortment of slants, option routes and shallow crossers designed to get playmakers the ball quickly. If the Chiefs play a lot of two-deep coverage, Brett Favre will be ready to make them pay by hitting his playmakers on quick passes.

• Stop L.J. Larry Johnson will get plenty of carries as the Chiefs attempt to control the clock and make the game a slugfest. But with favorable matchups outside, the Packers will sneak both safeties near the line of scrimmage and challenge Johnson to run against eight- and nine-man fronts.

Chiefs' Game Plan

• Throw early, Run late. Damon Huard has found his comfort in the passing game by hitting Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez off play-action. And with the Packers committed to stopping Johnson, the Chiefs will come out passing before hammering Johnson between the tackles.

• Limit the YAC. The reliance on two-deep coverage will allow Favre to find soft spots in the zone defense, but the Chiefs will limit the yards after the catch (YAC) by maintaining discipline in their drops and running to the ball. If the Chiefs can limit the YAC, they can bait Favre into forcing the ball upfield, which should result in more turnovers.

Chargers' Game Plan

• Run on the edges. Despite having one of the top offensive lines in the game, the Chargers will not challenge the Vikings' Kevin Williams and Pat Williams with power runs between the tackles. Instead they will get LaDainian Tomlinson on the perimeter on tosses or off-tackle plays and rely on him to find big cutback lanes against an over-aggressive D.

• Blitz off the left. Shawne Merriman has a favorable matchup this week against Ryan Cook, so Ted Cottrell must turn him loose off the edge. By sending an overloaded blitz from Merriman's side, the Chargers can create one-on-one opportunities for him.

Vikings' Game Plan

• Use more three-deep coverage. To slow down Tomlinson, the Vikings will play more of their three-deep coverages to get an extra defender in the box.

• Throw on first down. By completing a few early down throws, the Vikings can loosen up some of the eight- and nine-man fronts they'll face and create some running room for Adrian Peterson later.

Panthers' Game Plan

• Get Steve Smith more touches. After starting the season with 15 receptions in two games, Smith only has 22 in the past five. Against a Titans' team that doesn't give up much on the ground, the Panthers need Smith to ignite their offense. Carolina needs to get him eight or more touches on a variety of screens, quick outs and reverses.

• Stuff the run. LenDale White's emergence as a 100-yard back has allowed the Titans to win games despite shaky performances from Vince Young. Expect the Panthers to use eight-man looks to bottle up White and dare a still-healing Young to beat them through the air or with his feet.

Titans' Game Plan

• Get Vince Young on the edges. With Young coming off a disappointing passing performance, Norm Chow will craft a game plan to boost his confidence. Look for Young to use more play-action movement passes to take advantage of his athleticism.

• Win with four. The Titans' ability to pressure the quarterback with four has allowed them to successfully drop seven defenders in zone coverage. With Steve Smith requiring a constant double team, there's even more pressure on the front four to generate pressure.

Cardinals' Game Plan

• Stay patient with the run. Edgerrin James has carried the ball at least 20 times in six of the Cardinals' eight games the season. Against a stout Bucs' run defense, the Cardinals must stay patient and give James a chance to effectively grind it out in the fourth quarter.

• Take away the deep throw. Although Tampa Bay ranks only 17th in total offense, the Bucs have several receptions of more than 40 yards (7). With Joey Galloway still a legitimate threat, look for the Cardinals to shade a safety to his side and eliminate the threat of the big play.

Bucs' Game Plan

• Control the tempo with short passes. The Bucs' inconsistent running game has forced them to rely on the short passing game to control the clock. Look for Jeff Garcia to spread the ball around to Galloway and Ike Hilliard on short crossers and option routes.

• Pressure with four. The Bucs will attempt to take care of the Cardinals' dynamic duo (Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald) with their two-deep coverage, but will need to create pressure with their front four to pull it off. Look for Monte Kiffin to pressure with four, but use a variety of stunts to get Jovan Haye, Gaines Adams, Kevin Carter and Greg Spires favorable matchups.

Jaguars' Game Plan

• Grind it out. Using an assortment of inside power runs by Fred Taylor and a few off-tackle plays to Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars will turn to their smashmouth running game to wear down the Saints' 10th-ranked rushing defense. Expect to see the Jaguars feed their duo 30-35 carries as they attempt to keep this game a low-scoring affair.

• Make Brees work against two-deep coverage. The Saints' offensive woes early in the season came against two-deep coverage. With the Jaguars being a heavy two-deep team, look for them to test the patience and decision-making of Brees by staying in the coverage on obvious passing downs.

Saints' Game Plan

• Throw deep on first down. The Jaguars are a heavy eight-man front, three-deep coverage team on first down. With single coverage on those downs, the Saints will look to take their shots to David Patten, Marques Colston and Devery Henderson off play-action.

• Keep eight in the box. Quinn Gray's insertion into the lineup will compel the Jaguars to rely heavily on the running game. The Saints must walk Roman Harper or Josh Bullocks into the box and dare Gray to throw over the top. Gray connected on a few passes against the Bucs, but his inexperience may lead to a turnover against an improving defense.

Redskins' Game Plan

• Back to basics. The Redskins' offense rolls when the running game is going well, but Clinton Portis only has one 100-yard game in his past two seasons (16 games). Facing a weak Jets' rush defense, the Redskins will attempt to get Portis on track by hammering him between the tackles.

• Keep Kellen Clemens guessing. With Clemens making his second career start, Redskins' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will take advantage by showing a multitude of pre-snap disguises to confuse the inexperienced QB's reads. By bluffing blitzes off the edges before falling back into two-deep zone coverage, the Redskins may bait Clemens into a turnover off an incorrect hot read.

Jets' Game Plan

• Simple, but aggressive. Despite Clemens' inexperience, the Jets will attempt to be more aggressive on offense by using more vertical routes to take advantage of his arm strength. Look for Brian Schottenheimer to keep the offense simple, but take more chances down the field.

• Rev up the blitz. Facing a young quarterback (Jason Campbell) who has turned the ball over six times in the past three weeks, the Jets would be wise to keep the pressure on by blitzing off the edges. New England had success coming off the corner with Mike Vrabel, so expect the Jets to mimic that strategy by using Victor Hobson and Bryan Thomas.

Seahawks' Game Plan

• Play at a faster tempo. After struggling to find their offensive consistency for much of the season, the Seahawks will go back to an up-tempo, quick-rhythm attack to get into a groove. Look for the Seahawks to take less time in the huddle, sprint to the line and use quicker counts to keep the defense on its heels. By operating at a faster tempo, Matt Hasselbeck and his teammates will keep the pressure on the Browns' young defense.

• Challenge Anderson by bringing pressure. The Seahawks' high-pressure scheme has produced 23 sacks and helped Seattle rank near the top of the league in takeaways. Against the Browns, the Seahawks must find a way to disrupt Derek Anderson's rhythm and get rushers in his face. Look for Julian Petersen and Lofa Tatupu to team with Darryl Tapp on a combination of blitzes off the edges to keep Anderson uncomfortable in the pocket.

Browns' Game Plan

• Stay in attack mode. The key to the Browns' offense has been their willingness to attack defenses through the air. Facing an aggressive, blitz-happy Seahawks' defense, the Browns will feed the ball to their trio of playmakers (Kellen Winslow II, Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius).

• Focus on coverage, not pressure. After watching the Seahawks struggle against the Steelers' 3-4 a few weeks ago, Romeo Crennel will incorporate some of those ideas into his game plan. Look for the Browns to bluff blitzes, but fall back into soft zones with as many as eight defenders in coverage. If the bluffs are effective, the Seahawks will keep more blockers in and not release enough receivers to challenge the blanket coverage.

Texans' Game Plan

• Run early to set up the pass. Gary Kubiak will attempt to protect Sage Rosenfels by running the ball with Ron Dayne and Adimchinobe Echemandu. If the duo can be effective early, Rosenfels can hit Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter off play-action.

• Apply the Jordan rules. The Raiders' three-game losing streak has coincided with defenses effectively neutralizing LaMont Jordan (29 yards per game in his last three outings). With Daunte Culpepper struggling as a passer, the Texans will focus on shutting down Jordan by dropping C.C. Brown in the box and playing eight-man fronts.

Raiders' Game Plan

• Stretch the field. The Raiders' inability to create big plays in the passing game is allowing teams to focus on stopping the run. The Raiders must take advantage of the single coverage outside by connecting with Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter.

• Bring pressure from all angles. The Texans could enter the game with backups starting at three key positions (QB, RB and WR). The Raiders should take advantage of the drop in personnel by sending pressure from multiple spots to test their readiness and decision making.

Cowboys' Game Plan

Throw the ball over the middle. The Eagles' high-pressure scheme consists of lots of pressure off the edges, but leaves big holes in the middle of the field. With Jason Witten and Terrell Owens excelling at deep digs and crossers, look for Tony Romo to find the duo open repeatedly over the middle against the Eagles' blitz.

Pressure McNabb off the edges. Philly's offensive line has surrendered 27 sacks through seven games, including 12 against the Giants. With the Eagles' pass protection still suffering problems, expect Wade Phillips to attack Philadelphia off the edges with DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis or Anthony Spencer.

Eagles' Game Plan

Take advantage of Westbrook's versatility. The Eagles' offense is built around the versatile talents of Brian Westbrook. And the versatility will be critical for the Eagles to handle the Cowboys' blitz-happy 3-4 defense. Look for Philly to use Westbrook on screens, swings and draws to counter Dallas' aggressiveness.

Bluff and Blitz. Jim Johnson wants to use a high-pressure approach to attack the Cowboys' offense, but will need to mix in some bluffing with his pressures to confuse Romo. By bluffing blitz at the line of scrimmage, the Eagles can force alter Dallas' pass protection to create one-on-one opportunities for Trent Cole and Jevon Kearse while limiting their single-coverage exposure to Owens and Witten.

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