Bucky Brooks
Friday November 9th, 2007

MORE GAME PLANS: Eagles-Redskins | Buffalo-Miami | Rams-Saints | Jaguars-Titans | Falcons-Panthers | Broncos-Chiefs | Vikings-Packers | Bengals-Ravens | Lions-Cardinals | Bears-Raiders | Cowboys-Giants | Colts-Chargers

Browns' Game Plan

Handle the blitz. The Steelers overwhelmed the Browns with the blitz during their first matchup. But with Derek Anderson in the lineup, the Browns are aggressively attacking blitzes by throwing quick posts and fades to Braylon Edwards. Look for the Browns to call more three- and five-step drops to get the ball out of Anderson's hands before the blitz arrives.

Eliminate the long ball. Ben Roethlisberger is attacking down the field off play-action with great success. The Browns must eliminate the long ball by keeping safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool deep at all times. The Browns can win by conceding short throws, but giving up multiple big plays in the passing game will lead to another loss to Pittsburgh.

Steelers' Game Plan

Make it a slugfest. The Browns' offense is an explosive attack that does its damage with a finesse approach (passing game). But the Steelers make every game a slugfest and will force Cleveland to play that way by blitzing off the edges with press coverage on the outside. By challenging their receivers physically, the Steelers will throw off the Browns' timing in the rhythmic passing, while getting hits on Anderson in the pocket.

Throw out of running formations. The Browns' inability to stop the run will lead the Steelers to incorporate more of their power sets (double or triple tight ends). With the attention focused on the running game, Roethlisberger will use play-action to get Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes open over the middle of the field.

Eagles' Game Plan

Run the rock. Brian Westbrook is averaging almost five yards per carry, but the Eagles aren't utilizing him enough as a runner. But look for that to change as Andy Reid calls more runs to take some of the pressure off Donovan McNabb and the passing game.

Keep the pressure on Campbell. The Redskins' young starter has struggled in the past three weeks, as defenses have hounded him into numerous mistakes and turnovers. The Eagles must keep the pressure on Campbell by blitzing Takeo Spikes and Brian Dawkins off the edges.

Redskins' Game Plan

Run to the edges. The Redskins rediscovered their running game by using Portis on outside zone runs. With Chris Samuels having a size advantage over Trent Cole, look for the Redskins to run to the left to wear down the Eagles' smallish front.

Press the receivers. In their first meeting, the Redskins were able to disrupt the rhythm of the Eagles' passing game by using press coverage extensively. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will stick with that strategy to keep Philly from finding its groove in the passing game.

Bills' Game Plan

Run and throw deep. The Bills offense has surged with J.P. Losman in the lineup. Facing a vulnerable Dolphins defense, look for the Bills to run Marshawn Lynch early to set up deep throws to Lee Evans off play-action.

Stuff the run. The Bills defense has been able to make offenses one-dimensional by stopping the run with an assortment of seven and eight-man fronts. With the Dolphins offense lacking explosive weapons, the Bills will use more eight-man fronts on early downs to stuff Miami RB Jesse Chatman's running lanes and force 'Fins QB Cleo Lemon to pass against their ball hawking two-deep coverage in long yardage situations.

Dolphins' Game Plan

Stay patient with the run. Chatman has shown flashes of being a productive back, but Cam Cameron needs him to be the workhorse to wear down the Bills' undersized front seven. If Chatman can get off to a good start, it will set up Lemon for big plays off play-action.

Double Lee Evans. The Bills offense put up big numbers last week due to the re-emergence of Lee Evans. The Dolphins must limit his effectiveness by rolling the zone to his side and keeping a safety shaded to his side.

Rams' Game Plan

Work off Steven Jackson. The Rams offense seemingly hit its stride against the Browns by hammering Jackson between the tackles to set up Marc Bulger off play-action. Expect Scott Linehan to use Jackson to set the table for the rest of the offense.

Limit the explosives. The Saints' four-game winning streak has been fueled by the offense's ability to generate explosive plays (runs over 10 yards or passes over 20 yards). The Rams will attempt to limit the Saints' big-play opportunities by scaling back their blitzes and relying on more zone coverage.

Saints' Game Plan

Let it rip. Drew Brees has fueled the Saints' four-game winning streak by completing more than 70 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and only one interception. With Brees in such a groove, the Saints will come out passing to attack the Rams' vulnerable secondary.

Win up front. The Saints defensive line has keyed the D's rise from the bottom of the league. By effectively stopping the run on early downs and getting consistent pressure off the edge, the Saints have been able to register sacks in the past four games. Expect Charles Grant and Will Smith to take advantage of the Rams' leaky offensive line.

Jags' Game Plan

Throw on first down. The Titans' top-ranked rushing defense doesn't concede many yards on the ground, so the Jags will have to alter their approach to move the football. Look for Quinn Gray to throw safe, high-percentage passes on first down to keep the offense in manageable situations. If the Jags are able to stay ahead of the chains, they will be able to keep the Titans' defensive line from loading up on Gray.

Stop the inside zone. In the first meeting, the Titans effectively ran up the middle on simple zone plays behind the trio of Jacob Bell, Kevin Mawae and Benji Olsen. With Marcus Stroud out (suspension), the Jags will need big performances from Grady Jackson and John Henderson to clog the middle. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith will attempt to help them by calling more slants, but the duo has to dominate the line of scrimmage for the Jags to stop the run.

Titans' Game Plan

Make 'em stop it. The Titans rolled for 266 yards behind the three-headed monster of Chris Brown, LenDale White and Vince Young in their first meeting. The Titans will follow the same game plan by pounding White between the tackles, complemented by an occasional bootleg by Young to keep the defense off balance.

Put the game in Quinn Gray's hands. The Titans must make the Jags one-dimensional by stuffing the run with their eight-man fronts and put the pressure on Gray to complete passes under duress. The Jags' backup quarterback has been shaky in his six quarters and Tennessee should have plenty of chances to come down with an interception off his errant throws.

Falcons' Game Plan

Work on Ken Lucas. Joey Harrington had so much success working against Ken Lucas in the first meeting that the Falcons will likely take the same approach in the rematch. Look for Harrington to work on Lucas with several short and intermediate throws before taking a shot down the field off a double move.

Match Hall on Smith and send pressure. The Panthers' shaky quarterback situation will lead the Falcons to rev up their pressure package. But the key to increasing their aggressiveness will be DeAngelo Hall's ability to shadow Steve Smith all over the field. If Hall can hold up in single coverage, the Falcons should be able to beat up the Panthers' quarterbacks.

Panthers' Game Plan

Grind it out. With their top two quarterbacks (Vinny Testaverde and David Carr) ailing from injuries, the Panthers will turn to DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster to carry the load. The duo needs to come up with a big game with Matt Moore potentially making the start.

Win on defense. The onus will fall on the shoulders of the Panthers' defense to set up the offense for scoring opportunities. Look for defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac to take more chances as the Panthers attempt to create more turnovers by sending pressure.

Broncos' Game Plan

Hammer away. Mike Shanahan will protect an injured Jay Cutler by depending on the running game to carry the offense. Expect to see a conservative game plan featuring a lot of inside zone runs to Travis Henry and Selvin Young, as the Broncos attempt to hammer away at the Chiefs' interior line.

Focus on Gonzalez. With Kansas City running back Larry Johnson out of the lineup, the Broncos will be able to focus exclusively on minimizing Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez's impact. Look for the Broncos keep a double-team on Gonzalez to force Damon Huard to go elsewhere in the passing game.

Chiefs' Game Plan

Tweak the running game to feature draws and delays. The Broncos will focus on taking away the pass with L.J. sidelined. But the added emphasis on the pass will make the Broncos susceptible to the draw and delay. Look for the Chiefs to deviate away from their typical power running game to get Priest Holmes carries on a variety of draws and delays.

Blitz up the middle. With Jay Cutler ailing from a lower leg injury, the Chiefs will take advantage of his limited mobility by using assorted pressures and blitzes up the middle. By sending the pressure through the "A" gaps, the Chiefs will flush Cutler out of the pocket and into the arms of Tamba Hali and Jared Allen off the edges.

Vikings' Game Plan

Mix in play-action passes. Though Brooks Bollinger only played two-plus quarters against the Chargers, his efficient passing took some of the pressure off the Vikings' running game. If he gets the call against the Packers, look for Bollinger to continue to throw the ball off play-action. By connecting on a few passes on early downs, Bollinger will be able to keep the Packers from loading up the box to stop rookie sensation Adrian Peterson.

No big plays. The Packers offense has transformed from a quick-rhythm, short-passing game to a big-strike vertical offense. The subtle adjustment to more vertical passes has resulted in three touchdowns of more than 60 yards in the past two weeks. The Vikings must be disciplined in their two-deep scheme and limit Favre's options to short throws.

Packers' Game Plan

Maintain balance. Ryan Grant's emergence as the workhorse provides the Packers with enough balance to keep the defense from loading up against the pass with two-deep coverage. Look for the Packers to call enough running plays to force the Vikings to use eight-man fronts with single coverage outside. That should create enough room for Donald Driver and Greg Jennings to get open on intermediate routes.

Blitz the strong side. Peterson has thrived off zone runs to the strong side. The Packers must slow Peterson by blitzing Nick Barnett and Atari Bigby off the edges to force Peterson to cut back into the teeth of the Packers' defense. Peterson will get his yards, but the Packers must limit his explosive runs.

Bengals' Game Plan

Quicken the tempo in the no-huddle. Teams (Jets, Cardinals and Bills) have had success against the Ravens' defense by using the no-huddle at key moments of the game. The quickened tempo prevents the Ravens from getting their creative sub-packages on the field.

Play the percentages. Despite their disappointing defensive ranking, the Bengals secondary shows a knack for generating turnovers. With Steve McNair failing to take shots down the field, look for the Bengals corners (Deltha O'Neal, Johnathan Joseph, Keiwan Ratliff and Leon Hall) to squat on all short/intermediate routes. By sitting on the Ravens' short routes, the Bengals will eventually come up with a turnover.

Ravens' Game Plan

Play it safe. The Ravens have 13 turnovers in their four losses and their inability to take care of the ball is consistently putting their defense in bad position. The obvious remedy to the Ravens' problems would be to take a conservative, ball-control approach; but Brian Billick hasn't shown a willingness to play this way at all times.

Take away the outside throws. The Bengals' passing game is built on throwing the ball outside the numbers to their playmakers (Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh) to take advantage of their athleticism in space. The Ravens will roll up their coverage to take away the outside throws and force Carson Palmer to make more throws over the middle of the field. By forcing Palmer to throw over the middle, the Ravens will get more bodies around Johnson and Houshmandzadeh, which will lead to more tips and turnovers.

Lions' Game Plan

Flip the script. Mike Martz has surprisingly leaned on the running game to set the table for the Lions' explosive pass attack. With Kevin Jones continuing to have success on the ground, look for Martz to continue to open the game with a series of draws and delays to Jones. By getting Jones untracked early, Jon Kitna will be able to find Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald, Mike Furrey and Roy Williams open over the middle off play-action.

It's like déjà vu. The Cardinals were stymied last week by a Bucs defense that used eight-man fronts on first down to snuff out the run, followed by two-deep coverage on subsequent downs to limit the pass. With the Lions using the identical two-deep scheme, look for Detroit to closely follow the Bucs' game plan.

Cardinals' Game Plan

Get back to being balanced. Edgerrin James is averaging 20 carries a game but is coming off a season-low nine-carry performance against the Bucs. Facing an improved Lions defense, Ken Whisenhunt must avoid becoming one-dimensional by feeding James at least 20 or more carries to keep the Lions from aggressively coming after Kurt Warner.

Rush three and drop eight. The Lions' four-receiver package poses problems for defenses, as they are unable to find four corners to match up with the Lions' quartet. With the Cardinals lacking the depth to hold up consistently, look for them to bluff blitzes before dropping eight defenders into coverage.

Bears' Game Plan

Pound 'em. After watching Ron Dayne gain more than 100 yards against the Raiders defense, the Bears will attempt to get Cedric Benson untracked by pounding the ball between the tackles. Look for the Bears to keep it simple as they use straight-forward power runs to help Benson find his groove.

Bring the heat. The Bears have blitzed more than in the past. As a result, they rank second in the league in sacks (25). Facing the Raiders' hapless offense, look for the Bears to blitz early to create one-on-one opportunities for Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson off the edges.

Raiders' Game Plan

Run Justin Fargas on the edges. The Bears' run defense has been vulnerable all season and is giving up almost five yards a carry. With Justin Fargas getting the bulk of the carries, look for the Raiders to attack the Bears by running on the edges. By running directly at Anderson and Ogunleye, the Raiders should be able to take advantage of the undersized duo's lack of strength.

Bring pressure all day. Defenses have been able to harass Brian Griese into mistakes by constantly sending pressure from all angles. Look for the Raiders to press Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad outside and come after Griese with a series of five- and six-man pressures.

Cowboys' Game Plan

Work on the corners. The Giants' stellar defensive play over the past six weeks doesn't mask their weaknesses in the secondary. Look for Tony Romo to target Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton early to take advantage of favorable matchups outside.

Confuse Eli Manning with multiple zone pressures. Eli Manning has improved but continues to be plagued by turnovers and questionable decisions. The Cowboys will attempt to force Manning into mistakes by using a variety of zone pressures to create confusion in the pocket. Look for Wade Phillips to use multiple disguises and bluffs to throw off Manning's hot reads while increasing the likelihood of turnovers.

Giants' Game Plan

Make it a smashmouth game. The Giants' six-game winning streak has been keyed by their return to power football offensively. With Brandon Jacobs leading the smashmouth attack, the Giants have used their running game to control the tempo while wearing down opposing defenses. Look for the Giants to hammer away at the Cowboys' defense by running at DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis.

Take away Jason Witten. The Giants lead the league in sacks (30), but will need to take away Romo's favorite target (Jason Witten) to give their pass rush a chance. Any hesitation on Romo's part may be enough for Michael Strahan or Osi Umenyiora to get home off the edges.

Colts' Game Plan

Throw deep off play-action. The Chargers' secondary has been victimized for several big plays with most of those coming off play-action. With Joseph Addai attracting eight-man fronts, expect Peyton Manning to take several shots to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark off play-action to exploit the Chargers' single coverage.

Put Bob Sanders in the box. The dynamic duo of Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson puts most defenses in a dilemma when using eight-man fronts. But Sanders' versatility as a run stopper/coverage player gives the Colts the option of using him as a fourth linebacker in their eight-man looks. The Colts used this strategy to successfully defend the Titans early in the season and the tactic should fare well against the Chargers.

Chargers' Game Plan

Feature Chris Chambers in the passing game. The Colts will enter the game focused on stopping Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. With the Colts likely sitting in eight-man fronts, the Chargers will use Chris Chambers to take advantage of single coverage outside. If Philip Rivers can connect with Chambers on a few big plays early, the Colts will have to loosen up their coverage on Gates and Tomlinson.

Stuff Joseph Addai. The Colts' underrated rushing attack ranks seventh in the league (137.6) and the effectiveness of Addai allows Manning to complete big throws off play-action. The Chargers must stuff the running game by shooting Matt Wilhelm and Stephen Cooper through inside gaps to limit Addai's cutback lanes. For the Chargers to have any chance of slowing down the Colts' high-powered offense, they must bottle up Addai.

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