Bucky Brooks
Friday December 7th, 2007

MORE GAME PLANS: Miami-Buffalo | San Diego-Tennessee | Tampa Bay-Houston | Carolina-Jacksonville | Oakland-Green Bay | Dallas-Detroit | St. Louis-Cincinnati | N.Y. Giants-Philadelphia | Arizona-Seattle | Minnesota-San Francisco | Cleveland-N.Y. Jets | Kansas City-Denver | Indianapolis-Baltimore

Steelers' Game Plan

Feature isolations and powers. After watching the Ravens rush for 166 yards on tough inside runs, the Steelers will copy a page from their playbook and direct their running game at Adalius Thomas, Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi. By pounding the ball between the tackles, the Steelers can wear down the Patriots veteran trio and break off big runs late.

Mix up the pressures. Dick LeBeau will attack the Patriots by using a variety of bluffs and pressures to keep Tom Brady off balance. But the key to pulling off the high pressure package will be the coverage of Wes Welker in the slot. Welker has become Brady's safety net against the blitz, so limiting his touches will be critical.

Patriots' Game Plan

Quicken the tempo. The Patriots jump on opponents by aggressively attacking out of their spread formations. And the constant pressure of the quick strike offense forces teams to abandon their game plans early. Look for New England to use the quick game out of the spread to slow the Steelers' blitz.

Use the 4-3. With the Steelers' second-ranked rushing attack coming to town, expect the Patriots to use more 4-3 looks. The 4-3 eliminates the soft bubbles of the 3-4 and gives them a bigger body to handle Pittsburgh's power running game.

Dolphins' Game Plan

Scale it back. The Dolphins' attempt to open up the playbook against the Jets backfired as quarterback John Beck turned the ball over six times. Facing the Bills' two-deep scheme, look for Cam Cameron to boost Beck's confidence by running Jesse Chatman and using safe underneath throws to get the rookie signal caller into a groove.

Attack up the middle. Trent Edwards has been solid as the Bills' starter, but is still prone to untimely turnovers. The Dolphins must test his decision-making and courage by sending multiple defenders through the A gaps. By keeping pressure in his face, the Dolphins may be able to force Edwards into a turnover or two.

Bills' Game Plan

Safe and sound. The Bills' offense doesn't dazzle, but is an efficient combination of power runs and high percentage passes. Facing a Dolphins defense that surrendered 40 points to the lowly Jets, look for the Bills to feed Marshawn Lynch (if healthy) or Fred Jackson with an assortment of throws to the tight ends (Michael Gaines and Robert Royal) off play-action.

Apply more pressure. Despite being primarily a two-deep team, the Bills have started incorporating more five-man blitzes into the package. Look for the Bills to apply more pressure against the Dolphins to rattle Beck in the pocket.

Chargers' Game Plan

Get L.T. on the edges. The Titans' defense is stingy against the run with Albert Haynesworth in the middle, but the Chargers must find a way to run the football effectively. Expect San Diego to avoid Haynesworth by using more perimeter runs to attack the Titans' undersized ends (Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy).

Load it up. The Chargers must prepare to handle the Titans' fifth-ranked rushing attack by using more eight-man fronts on early downs. By keeping Clinton Hart or Marlon McCree in the box, San Diego should be able to limit the cutback lanes for LenDale White and Chris Brown on the Titans' zone runs.

Titans' Game Plan

Throw early. The Chargers will enter the game focused on stopping the run, so the Titans need to mix in more play-action and movement passes to take advantage of the soft coverage. By connecting on a few passes early, the Titans will loosen up the eight-man fronts and create bigger running lanes for White and Chris Brown later.

Pressure with four. The return of Haynesworth allows Tennessee to rely less on blitzing to create pressure upfront. If the Titans are able to successfully pressure with only, they will be able to blanket Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers with an assortment two-deep zones in the back end.

Bucs' Game Plan

Grind it out. The Bucs' offense is built to control the tempo of the game behind the power running of Earnest Graham, complemented by efficient passing from Jeff Garcia. Facing a Texans' defense surrenders over 120 rushing yards a game, look for the Bucs to feature more runs with Graham between the tackles.

Fast and physical. The Bucs' outstanding team speed on defense allows them to pressure the passer with only four rushers on most downs. And suffocate passing games with the seven remaining defenders roaming in two-deep coverage.

Texans' Game Plan

Be patient in the passing game. The Bucs' two-deep scheme doesn't surrender many big plays, so the pressure falls on Sage Rosenfels to patiently move the ball down the field on short throws. If he can avoid the big mistake, the Texans should have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.

Control the trenches. The Bucs' running game will test the Texans' front seven by pounding the ball relentlessly on an assortment of powers and isolation runs. The Texans must respond to the challenge by controlling the line of scrimmaging and flowing quickly to the ball. Look for Houston to use more stunts and slants to create better penetration in the running game.

Panthers' Game Plan

Commit to the run. The Panthers' offense got back against the 49ers by leaning on the running game to control the tempo. Though the Jags' defense offers a far stiffer test, the Panthers must commit to running DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams to allow Vinny Testaverde to work comfortably in the pocket.

Snuff out the inside run. The Jags' bully opponents by pounding the ball relentlessly up the middle behind Brad Meester, Vincent Manuwai and Dennis Norman. But the Panthers' interior tandem of Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu is capable of dismantling any running game when focused. If the Panthers get a spirited effort from Jenkins and Kemoeatu, Jacksonville will find it tough grinding out yards on the ground.

Jags' Game Plan

Stop the outside run. DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster are creative runners that are most effective when working on the edges and the Panthers cater to their strengths by featuring the outside zone or bounce as their base running play. Look for the Jags to stack Sammy Knight or Reggie Nelson on the edges to limit eliminate the edge running game while forcing Williams or Foster back into the teeth of the defense.

Take more shots downfield. David Garrard has complemented the Jags' strong rushing attack by completing over 67 percent of his passes. Though most of his completions have been of the short to intermediate variety, Garrard will take more deep shots against a Panthers' secondary that has allowed seven completions over 40 yards.

Raiders' Game Plan

Wear 'em down. The Raiders' fourth-ranked rushing attack wears defense down by feeding running back Justin Fargas on a variety of off-tackle and counters. And the toll of the running game eventually wears down defense late in the contest. With the Packers missing several key defensive starters, expect the Raiders to grind it out by giving Fargas at least 25 touches on the ground.

Complement the man coverage with more pressure. The Raiders are one of the few teams that utilize "man-free" (corners in man coverage with deep safety in the middle) as its base coverage. But using such a high percentage of man coverage will open up the Raiders to the Packers' vertical passing game. Look for Rob Ryan to limit the Packers' chances for big throws by bringing more five and six-man pressures to keep Brett Favre from holding onto the ball.

Packers' Game Plan

Handle the press. The Raiders will attempt to disrupt the timing of the Packers' short passing game by use press coverage to prevent free releases from the receivers. But Green Bay has handled this approach throughout the season by incorporating more slants and crossing routes off short motion. Look for the Packers to get to their short passing game by using more bunch and mini-cluster formations to free up their receivers off rubs and picks.

Make the Raiders one-dimensional. Despite having one of the league's best rushing attacks, the Raiders' offense ranks in the bottom half of the league due to spotty pass protection and inconsistent QB play. So expect the Packers to sell out with a variety of eight-man fronts and run blitzes to force the Raiders to throw against their ball hawking secondary.

Cowboys' Game Plan

Attack the middle of the field. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett keeps the Cowboys' offense in attack mode by aggressively going after the opponents' biggest weakness. Against the Lions two-deep, expect Garrett to call more play-action vertical routes to get Jason Witten and Terrell Owens open down the seam.

No mercy. The Cowboys' pass rush has started to dominate opponents by using combination blitzes with both DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis crashing off the edges. With the Lions allowing a league-high 50 sacks, look for Brian Stewart stick with the combo rushes as part of their five-man pressure packages.

Lions' Game Plan

Turn to Kevin Jones. The loss of Roy Williams will prompt Mike Martz to rely on the versatility of Kevin Jones. Expect to see Martz get Jones the ball on an assortment of draws and screens to offset the loss of Williams and open up the field for Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald.

Play for the turnover. Facing a Cowboys' offense that is second in the league in scoring (32.1), the Lions appear to be overmatched on paper. But turnovers are the great equalizer and Detroit leads the league in takeaways (29). Look for Joe Barry to be more aggressive with his blitzes on early downs to force Tony Romo into critical mistakes.

Rams' Game Plan

Keep it simple. With Marc Bulger ailing, the Rams will rely on Steven Jackson as their main weapon on offense. And he should find plenty of running room against the Bengals' 29th-ranked rush defense. Expect to see Scott Linehan run Jackson early and often to control the tempo of the game and set up deep play-action passes to Torry Holt and Randy McMichael.

Blitz, Blitz, Blitz. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has turned up the heat on opponents by using Will Witherspoon or Brandon Chillar as a designated blitzer on most downs. With Carson Palmer coming off a shaky performance against the Steelers, expect Haslett to test his mettle with an assortment of blitzes throughout the game.

Bengals Game Plan

Be aggressive with the deep ball. The Rams' high-pressure attack leaves them vulnerable to big plays in the passing game. And Palmer has to make them pay by connecting few deep balls early to alleviate the pressure. The matchups favor the Bengals outside with their talented WR corps.

Stop the run. The Rams' improved offensive play has been keyed by the tough running of Jackson, so expect the Bengals to mix in more three-deep coverage to keep an additional defender in the box to shut down the power back's running lanes.

Giants' Game Plan

Play it safe. Despite Eli Manning's solid fourth quarter showing against the Bears, his inconsistent play has been a key factor in the Giants failing to score over 21 points in their past five games. Facing a high-pressure defensive attack, expect the Giants to play it safe by running Reuben Droughns and Brandon Jacobs (if healthy) to set up high percentage play-action passes.

Keep the pressure on. The Giants' top ranked pass rush overpowered the Eagles in their first meeting on the way to 12 sacks, led by Osi Umenyiora's six. With the Eagles still struggling to protect, look for the Giants to keep the pressure on by using a mixture of five-man pressures.

Eagles' Game Plan

Rattle the cage. Eli Manning's shaky play from the pocket will lead Jim Johnson to attack the young signal caller with a host of blitzes. By showing the blitz prior to the snap and coming from all angles, the Eagles should be able to harass Manning into a series of turnovers.

Keep Westbrook on the move. The Eagles' top weapon has single-handedly carried the offense in recent weeks. With the Giants solely focused on stopping Westbrook, expect Andy Reid to use multiple formations and alignments to get his top weapon a favorable matchup in space.

Cardinals' Game Plan

Flip the script. With Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald likely out due to injuries, the Cardinals attempt to grind it out against the Seahawks with Edgerrin James and Marcel Shipp. Look for the Cardinals to focus on running to the right to take advantage of the Seahawks' undersized defensive end (Darryl Tapp).

Bang 'em around. The Seahawks' 10th-ranked passing game terrorizes defenses that allow free releases. The Cardinals will mix in some two-deep coverage to eliminate the free release with "cloud" corners to disrupt the timing of their route. By knocking the Seahawks' receivers around, the Cardinals should buy enough time for Darnell Dockett and Calvin Pace to get to Matt Hasselbeck.

Seahawks' Game Plan

Stay balanced. Despite Shaun Alexander's struggles, the Seahawks running game still has enough pop to keep defenses honest. With the Cardinals likely focusing on the stop the pass with some two-deep looks, expect Seattle to take advantage of the soft defense by using more draws with Alexander and Maurice Morris.

Bring pressure on early downs. The Seahawks use an assortment of blitzes on early downs to derail running plays and keep offense behind the chains. With the Cardinals missing their top threats outside (Fitzgerald or Boldin), expect Jim Marshall to turn up the pressure to stuff the running game.

Vikings' Game Plan

Stick to the formula. The Vikings keep it simple feeding Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor on an assortment of outside zones and powers. And the success of the running game allows Tarvaris Jackson to find Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade off play-action. Look for the Vikings to stick to the formula against the struggling 49ers' defense.

Overwhelm the 49ers with pressure. The Vikings' high-pressure defensive attack has ravaged offenses during their three-game winning streak on the way to producing 12 sacks and six turnovers. And the 49ers' protection problems will lead defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to dial up more blitzes to keep the pressure on Trent Dilfer in the pocket.

49ers' Game Plan

Use the Quick Game. The 49ers' inept offense has struggled in all aspects and will find it tough running against the Vikings' top ranked run defense. So expect the 49ers to come out throwing safe, high percentage passes to Darrell Jackson and Vernon Davis.

Slow down the ground game. The key to stopping the Vikings' running game is limiting the cutback lanes on the outside zone play. And the 49ers will attempt to shut the back door by dropping Michael Lewis into the box late. With Lewis entrenched as an alley player, Patrick Willis should be able to flow freely to fill the hole on the front side.

Browns' Game Plan

Go deep. The Browns' offense high-octane ranks second in the league in completions over 20 yards (45). And their penchant for going over the top has resulted in career years for Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Look for Derek Anderson to look for the long ball against the Jets' inconsistent secondary.

Vary pre-snap disguises. Kellen Clemens is only completing 50 percent of his passes since taking over the starting duties and defenses have been successful baiting him into mistakes with late changing coverage. Expect the Browns to use multiple pre-snap fronts and disguises to keep Clemens guessing at the line of scrimmage.

Jets' Game Plan

Get Leon Washington more involved. The Jets finally gave their most dynamic player, Leon Washington, the ball (12 touches for 103 yards) and the Jets' offense responded with their most productive performance of the season. Facing a Browns' defense that surrenders almost 400 yards a game, look for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to get Washington more touches to juice up their anemic offenses.

Focus on Winslow. After watching Anderson struggle against the Cards with his top target (Winslow) bottled up, the Jets will focus their defensive efforts on keeping the tight end under wraps. Expect to see the Jets mix up their man match ups to keep Winslow from getting into the groove.

Chiefs' Game Plan

Hammer Away. With the Broncos' 31st-ranked rush defense surrendering almost 150 yards a game on the ground, the Chiefs will focus on pounding the ball between the tackles. Look for Kolby Smith to a ton of carries as the Chiefs hammer away at the Broncos' undersized front seven.

Keep everything in front. Jay Cutler has given the Broncos offense an added dimension with his use of the deep throw. But the Chiefs have only allowed two passes over 40 yards and currently rank third in the league in sacks (42). Look for Gunther Cunningham to keep the Chiefs in two-deep coverage while unleashing Jared Allen and Tamba Hali off the edges.

Broncos' Game Plan

Move the pocket. After watching the Chiefs disrupt the passing game with their fierce pass rush off the edge, Mike Shanahan will keep Jay Cutler on the move to prevent the Chiefs from honing in on his launch point. Expect to see the Broncos use movement passes, dash drops and shotgun to keep Cutler away from the rush.

Turn up the heat. Brodie Croyle has completed 60 percent of his passes, but has turned the ball over three times and taken seven sacks in his three starts. Expect defensive coordinator Jim Bates to blitz early and often to keep the pressure on the Chiefs' young signal caller.

Colts' Game Plan

Work from inside-out. The Ravens' propensity to zone dog forces Peyton Manning to rely heavily on his hot reads to sustain a consistent passing game. So expect tight ends Ben Utecht and Dallas Clark to play pivotal roles as Manning counters the blitz with quick passes over the middle of the field.

Keep Bob Sanders in the box. After watching the Ravens grind out 166 rushing yards against the Patriots, the Colts will gear up to stop the run by using safety Bob Sanders as a box defender. Though the use of more three-deep coverage makes them vulnerable against the pass, the Colts will take that gamble in order to limit Willis McGahee's effectiveness.

Ravens' Game Plan

Stick with the run. The Ravens will run the ball to control the clock and keep the Colts' high-powered offense on the sideline. Expect to Brian Billick to show more patience with the running game as Willis McGahee continues to post impressive rushing totals.

Bluff and Blitz. The Ravens will attempt to disrupt the rhythm of the Colts' offense by using an assortment of exotic fronts and disguises to confuse Manning at the line. Indy has struggled with bluff and blitzes schemes in recent weeks, so expect defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to keep the pressure on by using multiple pre-snap looks.

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