A Creaky Jordy Nelson, a Calm Dak Prescott, and Trusting Carson Wentz

Friday September 23rd, 2016

Detroit at Green Bay

Lions: Press coverage can present problems for Detroit’s top three wide receivers (Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin). Look for Dom Capers to deploy his cornerbacks accordingly.

Packers: Jordy Nelson isn’t himself yet. He’s been creaky in his change-of-direction. But at least he’s right when he says that Week 2 was better than Week 1.

* * *

Baltimore at Jacksonville

Ravens: Let’s clear up one misconception: The Ravens are not a 3-4 defense. If they were, you’d see nose tackle Brandon Williams lined up directly over the center more often. Usually, though, Williams is tilted over the center’s shoulder on the strong side. That’s because the Ravens are primarily an “under front” defense, a classic gap-penetration scheme where the 3-technique plays the weak side.

Jaguars: Receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns have not played well these first two weeks. Robinson, in particular, has been disappointing against press coverage. That’s a concern heading into a matchup with a lanky, physical corner like Jimmy Smith.

* * *

Washington at N.Y. Giants

Washington: The biggest concern with Kirk Cousins right now: the way he’s struggling to process information, especially in the red zone, where he’s completed just 5 of 17 passes.

Giants: The question with this defense heading into 2016 was, Who would cover tight ends? (Landon Collins is not the answer.) Jordan Reed presents the hardest test possible.

• THE TRUTH ABOUT BECKHAM-NORMAN II: 10 truths about the much-maligned star corner and his matchup with the explosive Beckham.

* * *

Cleveland at Miami

Browns: Will we see Joe Haden follow Jarvis Landry into the slot?

Dolphins: This run D struggled on the edges against New England last week, though in situations where the Dolphins could employ 3-techniques on both the left and right side, they held the Patriots to 20 yards on 10 carries.

• DESPITE 0-2, GASE GETTING IT RIGHT: The first-year Dolphins head coach is getting improved play out of Ryan Tannehill and has pushed the right buttons as a play-caller.

* * *

N.Y. Jets at Kansas City

Jets: Something to be aware of: The Jets employed two tight ends on 17 snaps against the Bills. They ran the ball on 13 of those.

Chiefs: In each game this season, Andy Reid has called a pass play that put running back Spencer Ware on a vertical route out of the backfield. Those plays have produced gains of 45 and 34 yards. The brilliance of this: Zone coverage rules don’t naturally account for vertical routes out of the backfield. Until a defense stops this, Reid should keep dialing it up.

* * *

Minnesota at Carolina

Vikings: Matt Kalil has been a slightly below average NFL left tackle, but his injury could prove to be the most significant of all to the poor Vikings. Replacement T.J. Clemmings was a real liability in pass protection at right tackle last season. Norv Turner will have to tweak his scheme to help him.

Panthers: Second-round rookie corner James Bradberry looks very good in his angles and transitional technique at the top of receivers’ routes. That’s key for being a quality zone corner.

* * *

Denver at Cincinnati

Broncos: Aqib Talib’s length would make him a good fit for guarding A.J. Green. But in their meeting with the Bengals last year, Broncos corners did not match up to specific receivers. (Talib played on the right side.) That was against AJ McCarron. Will facing an Andy Dalton-led Bengals offense change things?

Bengals: Speaking of Green… Last week, the Bengals did not do anything tactically to get him a favorable matchup against a Steelers D that played zone coverage all game. In the past, Green has had success lining up inside against the Steelers’ zones, where he can draw matchups against linebackers.

* * *

Arizona at Buffalo

Cardinals: Against running teams (like the Bills), the Cardinals like to condense their D-line, sliding their ends further inside and bringing linebackers down to the line of scrimmage. Expect that Sunday against a Bills offense that hasn’t been threatening through the air.

Bills: Tyrod Taylor’s biggest strength, by far, is his deep ball. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn must be mindful of that.

* * *

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia

Steelers: Bet Sammie Coates recently got a scolding from Ben Roethlisberger. Twice last Sunday Coates let up on a Go pattern. The first time resulted in an incompletion, the second in an interception. To Roethlisberger’s credit, he went deep to Coates again shortly after the pick. That time Coates got by Bengals corner Darqueze Dennard for 53 yards.

Eagles: Doug Pederson told you exactly how much he trusts Carson Wentz when he opened the Monday night game with five straight passes out of an empty backfield formation. That’s putting the onus on your QB to make decisions, both before and after the snap.

• PRIDE OF PENNSYLVANIA: A matchup of unbeaten teams, and two similarly physical passers, headlines the Week 3 slate. Peter King on the four reasons why Steelers-Eagles will be compelling theater on Sunday.

* * *

San Diego at Indianapolis

Chargers: With Danny Woodhead out, the Chargers will have to abandon their shotgun ground game and accommodate Melvin Gordon’s style with more under center runs. Fortunately, they’ve already started. Last year, Gordon ran from under center just 31.6 percent of the time. This year, it’s been 76.3 percent.

Colts: If the Colts want to get T.Y. Hilton the ball, they’ll have to put him in the slot or in a stack formation. Hilton won’t be able to shed Jason Verrett’s press coverage on his own. (No receiver has this year.)

* * *

Oakland at Tennessee

Raiders: We saw a ton of condensed, multi-tight end sets from Oakland last week against Atlanta. Don’t be surprised if this week presents the polar opposite. Tennessee runs the same defense as Pittsburgh, and last season Pittsburgh got torched by Oakland’s spread passing game. Seam patterns involving wide receivers were particularly fruitful for the Raiders.

Titans: Season-ending finger surgery couldn’t have come at a worse time for guard Chance Warmack. The Titans did not pick up his fifth-year option, and now this offseason he won’t have a film package of 2016 improvements to show GMs.

* * *

Los Angeles at Tampa Bay

Rams: This could be the week L.A.’s safeties get exposed in coverage. (Neither Mo Alexander nor T.J. McDonald is great downfield.) From a down-to-down standpoint, the Bucs have the NFL’s most vertical passing game.

Bucs: Any aerial productivity by the Rams must be manufactured through play designs. Expect them to hurl first-down route combinations at rookie corner Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves is talented but, understandably, up-and-down as a field reader at this point.

* * *

San Francisco at Seattle

49ers: First-round rookie defensive lineman DeForest Buckner has a lot to learn in regards to beating NFL pass-blockers. He’s just a body in the pass rush right now.

Seahawks: The 49ers D-line is not who you want to face when there are questions about your run-blocking.

* * *

Chicago at Dallas

Bears: With nose tackle Eddie Goldman out (high ankle sprain), Akiem Hicks will have to play like even more of a beast. Hicks has been one of the most overlooked trench fighters in the league so far, just as was a few years ago in New Orleans.

Cowboys: What stands out about Dak Prescott is the calmness he exhibits in the pocket.

* * *

Atlanta at New Orleans

Falcons: Desmond Trufant has started traveling with No. 1 receivers in a Falcons scheme that’s mostly zone but often employs man principles with its outside corners. Trufant won his matchup last week against Amari Cooper. This week: Brandin Cooks.

Saints: Drew Brees should have time to do what New Orleans’s offense is designed to do best: attack the deep-intermediate levels in the middle of the field. Atlanta’s four-man pass rush has been mostly unimpressive.

* * *

Houston at New England

Texans: Did you notice J.J. Watt Thursday night? That’s right, you didn’t. He hasn’t been his usual self in any of Houston’s three games this season. You wonder how healthy he is.

Patriots: No team plays man-to-man with two safeties over the top better than the Patriots. That was their (simple) formula for stifling the Texans.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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