Bucky Brooks
Wednesday November 21st, 2007

MORE GAME PLANS: Seahawks-Rams | Vikings-Giants | Redskins-Bucs | Titans-Bengals | Saints-Panthers | Bills-Jaguars | Raiders-Chiefs | Forty-Niners-Cardinals | Broncos-Bears | Ravens-Chargers | Eagles-Patriots

Texans' Game Plan

Get the ball to Andre Johnson. The return of the two-time Pro Bowler opened up Houston's offense since he demands double teams. But the Texans must continue to find a way to get him involved by keeping him on the move. Look for the Texans to line up Johnson at various spots to exploit a favorable matchup in the Browns' secondary.

Dominate the line of scrimmage. The Texans need to disrupt the rhythm of the Browns' passing game by keeping pressure on Cleveland's Derek Anderson in the pocket. The onus will fall on the shoulders of Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye to dominate upfront, so the Texans can sit in soft zone coverage to protect their young corners.

Browns' Game Plan

Feature Kellen Winslow. After watching the Chargers' Antonio Gates torch the Texans' secondary, Rob Chudzinski will incorporate some of the routes that freed up Gates for his big plays. Expect to see Anderson target Winslow on a variety of vertical routes off play-action.

Mix in more pressures. Against a Texans' offense that has only surrendered 13 sacks, it is imperative that the Browns find away to generate enough pressure to force quicker throws. Look for Cleveland to use a combination of five and six-man pressures to force Matt Schaub into rushed decisions.

Seahawks' Game Plan

Keep firing away. The Seahawks' offense has regained its rhythm since switching to a pass-first approach. Matt Hasselbeck has been on fire (57/87 for 615 yards with four touchdowns and one interception) and his stellar passing has allowed Maurice Morris to find running room. Look for the Seahawks to stick to the formula against the suddenly surging Rams.

Blitz, Blitz, Blitz. The Seahawks will attempt to disrupt the balance and rhythm of the Rams' offense by using an assortment of variety of blitzes. Look for Seattle to use more inside blitzes to free up Julian Peterson, Darryl Tapp and Patrick Kerney off the edges.

Rams' Game Plan

Work the edges. The Seahawks undersized defense is built to rush the passer, not stand up against a physical running game. The Rams must exploit their lack of size on the edges by hammering Steven Jackson off tackle. If St. Louis is able to grind out tough yards on perimeter runs, it will eventually wear down the Seahawks and set up Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce for big gains off play-action.

Mix up looks. The Rams have turned in back-to-back solid defensive performances after implementing more aggressive blitz packages, but selling out too often against Hasselbeck will give him too many big-play opportunities against single coverage. Look for Jim Haslett to continue to bring pressure, but mix in more zone coverage to keep Hasselbeck from zeroing in their pressures.

Vikings' Game Plan

Hammer away. The Vikings' running game has yet to be slowed despite seeing a steady diet of eight and nine-man fronts. With the Giants surrendering over four yards a carry, expect the Vikings to hammer Chester Taylor between the tackles at least 20 or more times to wear down the Giants' run defense.

Slam the door. The Giants use their power running game to control the tempo and set up their vertical passing game. But the Vikings only allow three yards a carry and will use an aggressive blitz package to slam the door on the Giants' running game. If they can stop New York's rushing attack, they will force Eli Manning to throw against their two-deep coverage in long-yardage situations.

Giants' Game Plan

Throw on first down. The Vikings load up to stop the run by using eight-man fronts and blitzes to keep offenses behind the chains. The Giants will take advantage of those single-high safety looks by throwing high percentage passes to the receivers out side. By completing passes on first down, the Giants can get the Vikings out of their eight-man looks and create running room for Brandon Jacobs (if he plays) or Reuben Droughns.

Shoot gaps. The Giants will use more slants and blitzes to blow up the Vikings' zone blocking scheme. By shooting their linemen into the gaps, the Giants should force Taylor to bounce laterally into the oncoming pursuit.

Redskins' Game Plan

Throw to set up the run. With Clinton Portis going over the 100-yard mark in two of his last three games, the Bucs will enter the game focused on slowing him down with eight-man fronts. The Redskins will attack by throwing to Santana Moss and Chris Cooley off play-action on early downs. If Jason Campbell completes a few big passes early, the Bucs will be forced out of their three-deep coverage on early downs which will open up running lanes for Portis.

Be aggressive. Gregg Williams will eschew his favored two-deep coverage and attack the Bucs by bringing more pressure. The Redskins match up well with Tampa Bay's receivers, so expect to see Williams call more "Cover 0"- type coverage (all-out blitzes without safety help).

Bucs' Game Plan

Use the vertical passing game from run-heavy sets. Jon Gruden loves to throw out of "22" personnel (two backs, two tight ends and one receiver) and the Redskins are susceptible to deep passes with Sean Taylor out of the line up. Look for Joey Galloway to run a deep post or crossing route out of a power "I" formation with Jeff Garcia using a complementary run fake to draw up the safeties.

Attack the outside zone. The Bucs' run defense does an excellent job of snuffing out the opposing team's favorite running play. Against the Redskins, the Bucs must take care of the outside zone run by pursuing from inside out to limit Portis' cutback lanes. If Cato June and Barrett Ruud fill the correct gaps, Portis should find it tough to cut it backside.

Titans' Game Plan

Incorporate more QB runs. Vince Young played his best game of the season against the Broncos. The key to his solid performance was the use of more QB runs designed to take advantage of his athleticism on the perimeter. Look for Norm Chow to build on Young's solid performance by continuing to use runs and put added pressure on the Bengals' pass rush.

Back to basics. The absence of Albert Haynesworth exposed some cracks in the Titans' interior run defense. With Haynesworth slated to return, the Titans will go back to basics against the Bengals. Look for less blitzing from the Titans as they depend on Haynesworth to create instant penetration with the linebacker filling their appropriate gaps.

Bengals' Game Plan

Hurry up. The Bengals' offense is almost back to form with Chris Henry back in the lineup, and the use of a quicker tempo will put added pressure on the Titans' defense. Expect to see Cincy operate from a faster version of their no-huddle to get Carson Palmer into a good rhythm against Tennessee's reeling defense.

Slow down the running game. The Bengals must gear up to stop a Titans' running game that is averaging over 135 yards a game. With most of the Titans' runs hitting between the tackles, the burden is on Domata Peko and John Thornton to swallow up the interior blockers, so Landon Johnson and Dhani Jones can freely flow to the ball.

Saints' Game Plan

Maintain balance. The Saints have struggled in recent weeks due to lack of balance between the run and pass. The Saints must do a better job of getting Reggie Bush on track as a runner. During their four-game winning streak, the Saints spread the field to create running room for Bush. Look for a return to more spread formations to get Bush loose on draws/delays.

Focus on slowing down Steve Smith. The Panthers' offensive attack features few weapons outside of Smith, so the Saints would be wise to roll their coverage in his direction to limit his impact. By taking away the Panthers' top option, the Saints should be able to keep Carolina's struggling offense off the board.

Panthers' Game Plan

Generate big plays in the passing game. The Panthers' offense is only averaging 11 points a game since the bye week and the biggest reason for the low scoring output has been a lack explosive plays (passes over 20 yards) in the passing game. Look for the Panthers to go after the Saints' vulnerable secondary by targeting Steve Smith on vertical routes off play-action. If they can connect on a deep ball or two, the rest of the offense will find it easier to operate.

Force Drew Brees to settle for the short throws. The Panthers will use the same two-deep coverage that other defenses have used to slow down the Saints' high-powered offense. By sitting in the soft two-deep look, the Panthers should be able to limit New Orleans' big-play opportunities while getting pressure off the edge from Julius Peppers.

Bills' Game Plan

Bounce back. The Bills' offense is coming of a dismal performance against the Patriots. Once again, they'll be without Marshawn Lynch, who's still recovering from a badly sprained ankle. Veteran Anthony Thomas should receive the bulk of Buffalo's carries, and the Bills need him to grind out some tough yards early so they can set up Lee Evans for vertical passes off play-action.

Slow down the run. The Jags' third-ranked rushing attack poses a major challenge for the Bills' undersized defense. But the Bills have to make it difficult for Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to get going by using more blitzes than normal.

Jags' Game Plan

Flex those muscles. The Jags hang their hat on being a tough, physical football team and that toughness is reflected in the power running game. Against the undersized Bills' defense, look for the Jags to flex their muscles by pounding the ball repeatedly between the tackles.

Pressure J.P. Losman with multiple five-man zone dogs. Despite being built on two-deep coverage, the Jags have effectively mixed in a multiple zone pressure package that rattles and confuses young quarterbacks. With J.P. Losman coming off a disappointing performance against the Patriots and their blitz, look for the Jags to bring numerous five-man pressures to harass Losman in the pocket.

Raiders' Game Plan

Run Fargas on the edges. The Chiefs' surprisingly stingy defense has some difficulty dealing with off-tackle runs due to their undersized ends, particularly Tamba Hali. The Raiders will attempt to attack that weakness by running Justin Fargas on an assortment of outside zones and powers.

Blitz, Blitz, Blitz. The insertion of Brodie Croyle into the lineup will allow the Raiders to take more chances on defense. Look for Rob Ryan to empty the playbook as the Raiders throw out several exotic blitzes at the young signal-caller in an attempt to force numerous mistakes and turnovers.

Chiefs' Game Plan

Look for vertical throws on first down. The Raiders will be aggressive on first down with the young signal-caller under center. And the Chiefs should take advantage of the blitz-heavy looks by throwing the ball down the field to Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. Look for the Chiefs to throw more fades in anticipation of Oakland's blitz.

Utilize multiple disguises. The Chiefs have added more zone blitzes to their defensive package, but the key to blending the new concepts into their game plan has been the excellent pre-snap disguises of their secondary. With Daunte Culpepper still showing signs of indecisiveness in the pocket, expect the Chiefs to use late-changing coverage to bait him into mistakes.

49ers' Game Plan

Win on first down. The 49ers' offense has sputtered for most of the season and their inconsistency on first down repeatedly keeps them behind the chains on subsequent downs. Look for the 49ers to use a mixture of Frank Gore runs and high percentage passes to pick up four or more yards on first down.

Bring more pressure. Kurt Warner is still capable of picking apart defenses when given ample time in the pocket, so the 49ers will attempt disrupt Warner's rhythm by bringing pressure from several angles. Look for Patrick Willis to play a bigger role as a blitzer.

Cardinals' Game Plan

Run the rock. Though Edgerrin James hasn't put up outstanding numbers this season, his steady grinding has stabilized the Cardinals' offense it tight situations. Expect the Cardinals to pound James early to set up opportunities for Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald off play-action.

No mercy. The 49ers' offense is only averaging 11.6 points per game and ranks near the bottom of the league in all categories. Expect the improving Cardinals' defense to use a relentless pressure attack to keep the 49ers from finding their rhythm. Look for Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby to have huge games against San Francisco's woeful offense.

Broncos' Game Plan

Expand the movement passing game. Jay Cutler has been outstanding operating outside of the pocket on movement passes (nakeds/bootlegs). And Mike Shanahan will expand the package to keep the Bears from honing in on Cutler in the pocket. Look for Cutler to find Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokley and Daniel Graham on a variety of crossing routes set up by strong bootleg action.

Pressure up the middle. Rex Grossman was solid in his return against the Seahawks but continues to be plagued with turnover issues in the pocket. Expect Denver defensive coordinator Jim Bates to blitz D.J. Williams and Nate Webster through the B gaps to keep Grossman dazed and confused in the pocket.

Bears' Game Plan

Use more double moves. The Broncos' ball-hawking corners (Dre Bly and Champ Bailey) have combined for 75 career interceptions, including five this season. But both have been victimized off double moves due to their aggressive ways. Look for the Bears to take a few deep shots to Bernard Berrian or Mushin Muhammad off stutter-go moves.

Blow it up. The Broncos continue to get production out of their running game regardless of the runner. But the Bears will attempt to blow up Denver's vaunted zone blocking scheme by slanting their defensive linemen and having Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs shoot gaps from the backside.

Ravens' Game Plan

Grind it out. With their season in a serious tailspin, the Ravens will turn to their most dynamic offensive weapon, Willis McGahee, to lead them against the Chargers. Expect Brian Billick to pound McGahee between the tackles at the Chargers' vulnerable run defense.

Limit Gates and L.T. The Ravens are one of the few teams that have the personnel to limit the Chargers' dynamic duo with the base package. By playing a standard eight-man front, the Ravens can snuff out LaDainian Tomlinson's running lanes while matching up Ed Reed on Antonio Gates in space. If Ravens have success with this approach early, it will put all of the pressure on Philip Rivers to make plays in the passing game.

Chargers' Game Plan

Dancing with the stars. For the first 10 games of the season, Norv Turner has tried to take the pressure off his stars (Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson) by incorporating others into the game plan. But with season in jeopardy, look for Turner to feed the ball to his stars early and often.

Attack, Attack, Attack. The Ravens' sputtering offense appeared to hit its stride late in the Browns' contest last Sunday. The Chargers must disrupt that rhythm by harassing Kyle Boller consistently in the pocket. Expect Ted Cottrell to dial up more blitzes to better utilize the talents of Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips off the edge.

Eagles' Game Plan

Maintain offensive balance. The Eagles must avoid taking a one-dimensional game plan against the Patriots. Not only must the Eagles avoid a pass-happy approach, they must find a way to get big performances from more players than Brian Westbrook to have success against the Patriots' stout defense. Look for the Eagles to come out throwing to Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown before getting Westbrook involved on an assortment of draws and screens.

Don't back away from the pressure. Jim Johnson has made the blitz an integral part of the Eagles' defensive identity and he is not likely to back away from his high-pressure approach with the Patriots on deck. Expect Johnson to keep the pressure on Brady by dialing up five and six-man blitzes to free up Trent Cole, Juqua Thomas and Jevon Kearse off the edges.

Patriots' Game Plan

Attack the blitz. The Eagles' blitz-happy approach leaves them vulnerable to big plays due to the heavy amount of single coverage used in conjunction with the pressures. Look for the Patriots to attack the blitz by mixing in more bubble screens to Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth with an occasional deep shot to Randy Moss.

Focus on Westbrook. The Eagles' offense clearly revolves around the versatile talents of Westbrook. And the Patriots will attempt to minimize his effectiveness by paying special attention to him in all situations. Expect to see New England using several creative wrinkles to minimize Wesbrook's impact as a runner/receiver.

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