The Game Plan

Publish date:

Giants' Game Plan

• Throw deep off play-action. The Giants' strong rushing attack will force the Lions to use more eight-man fronts on early downs and expose Detroit's secondary to more one-on-one matchups. Expect the Giants to exploit the single coverage by taking several shots to Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer off play-action.

• Unleash the "speed" rush. The Giants have had tremendous success pressuring the passer out of their "speed" rush package (Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Strahan). The Lions' inability to protect the passer will increase New York's reliance on the package.

Lions' Game Plan

• Make Kevin Jones a factor. The Lions' offense must avoid becoming one-dimensional to keep the Giants' pass rush from teeing off on Jon Kitna. Look for Jones to get more carries as Mike Martz uses the draw to take advantage of the pass rush.

• Load up to stop the run.Brandon Jacobs has rushed for almost 104 yards a game since returning from his injury and his power running has taken the pressure off Eli Manning. Look for the Lions load up the box to stop Jacobs and force Manning to win the game through air.

Raiders' Game Plan

• Run to the edges. After watching the Packers successfully run against the Vikings' top ranked run defense with a variety of outside runs, the Raiders will use their perimeter running game to avoid Vikings' formidable tandem of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. Expect the Raiders to take advantage of Justin Fargas' speed by getting him plenty of touches on off-tackle runs and tosses.

• Stack the line. The Raiders must sell out to stop the rushing attack. Look for Rob Ryan to use blitzes and eight-man fronts to blow up the zone-based running game.

Vikings' Game Plan

• Grind it out. Despite losing the league's top rusher (Adrian Peterson), the Vikings will stick to their ground attack. Chester Taylor gained over 1,200 yards last season, so don't expect the Vikings to deviate from their typical game plan against the Raiders' woeful defense.

• Blitz, Blitz, Blitz. The Vikings' defense has been successful by applying heavy pressure on early downs to force offenses into long yardage situations on second and third downs. Look for E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway to blitz often as the Vikings attempt to blow up Oakland's struggling offensive attack.

Saints' Game Plan

• Stay in attack mode. The Saints regained their offensive rhythm by attacking defenses with more intermediate and deep throws early in the game. With Dunta Robinson out of the lineup, expect the Saints to take deep shots to David Patten or Devery Henderson in the first quarter to open up the field for Marques Colston on underneath routes.

• Pressure Matt Schaub off the edges. The key to the Saints' defensive success has been their ability to get after the passer. But with Charles Grant and Brian Young ailing, the Saints will lean on the blitz to get defenders in Matt Schaub's face. If the secondary can hold up, look for more blitzes from Roman Harper and Scott Fujita off the edges.

Texans' Game Plan

• Go after Jason David. Offenses have successfully worked on Jason David by attacking with assorted double moves and vertical routes. With Pro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson slated to return to the lineup, expect the Texans to find ways to take advantage of David's cover skills.

• Pressure with four. Though the Rams' defense had success against the Saints by bringing tons of pressure, the Texans will attempt to get after Drew Brees without blitzing. By relying on their front four to collapse the pocket, the Texans can sit in zone coverage to protect their young secondary. Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye must win their individual battles for the Texans to win.

Chiefs' Game Plan

• Slow the tempo. The Chiefs lack the firepower to keep up with the Colts in an offensive shootout, so Herm Edwards will help his defense by slowing the game down on offense. Look for K.C. to grind it out with Priest Holmes and throw an occasional play-action pass to Tony Gonzalez or Dwayne Bowe.

• Attack the Colts off the edges. The Colts potentially enter the game without their top two tackles, Tony Ugoh and Ryan Diem. With backups in the lineup, look for Gunther Cunningham to mix in some pressure looks to free up Jared Allen and Tamba Hali off the edges.

Colts' Game Plan

• Quick, fast and in a hurry. Injuries forced Peyton Manning out of the no-huddle offense for the first time in over five years. But if Dallas Clark and Marvin Harrison are back this week, expect the Colts to use their up-tempo approach to keep the pressure on the Chiefs.

• Frustrate Croyle with two-deep coverage. Even though the Chiefs will try to control the tempo by relying heavily on the ground game, new starter Brodie Croyle will have to pass eventually. The Colts' two-deep coverage limits big plays, so the hope is that Croyle will produce a turnover or two by trying to force the ball into tight windows.

Panthers' Game Plan

• Get creative. Offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson will attempt to overcome the Panthers' offensive woes by getting the ball to their top playmakers through creative means. Look for Steve Smith and DeAngeloWilliams to touch the ball on reverses, screens and gadget plays.

• Ignore the running game. Despite the recent success of Ryan Grant and the Packers running game, the Panthers must focus on stopping the pass first and foremost. Expect the Panthers to use several creative wrinkles, including a three-man front with Julius Peppers at outside linebacker.

Packers' Game Plan

• Go vertical. The efficiency of the Packers' short passing game and the emergence of Ryan Grant will force the Panthers to crowd the line of scrimmage. Look for Brett Favre to take advantage of the tight coverage by taking more shots downfield to Greg Jennings and James Jones off double moves.

• Pressure, Pressure, Pressure. The Panthers' inability to protect the passer will lead to the Packers dialing up more blitzes. Expect Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamilla to feast off the edges.

Chargers' Game Plan

• Use play-action to free up Gates. The Jaguars typically attempt to defend the run out of their two-deep scheme. But the tactic can be exploited if the Chargers go to Antonio Gates off play-action. By using strong play fakes to LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers can get the linebackers to bite and slip Gates into open areas down the middle.

• Close the door.Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor make their living off cut back runs. The Chargers must slam the door by maintaining their gap discipline.

Jaguars' Game Plan

• See if they are up to the challenge. After witnessing the Chargers struggle to stop the run against the Vikings, the Jags will surely test the front seven by pounding Jones-Drew and Taylor between the tackles. The grind it out approach is part of the Jags' makeup.

• Keep Phillip Rivers off balance.Phillip Rivers' struggles over the past month have been overshadowed by the Chargers' three victories in the past four games. Rivers has failed to break the 200-yard mark in any of those contests, so look for the Jags to take away Gates and force Rivers to utilize other options in the passing game.

Browns' Game Plan

• Attack the Ravens' secondary. The loss of two Pro Bowl-caliber corners (Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister) has left the Ravens vulnerable in the back end. Teams are relentlessly attacking their inexperienced backups (Derrick Martin, Corey Ivy and David Pittman) with vertical routes and double moves. Expect the Browns to follow a similar script.

• Make the Ravens' one-dimensional. With the Ravens showing a lack of commitment to the running game, the Browns need to take advantage of Kyle Boller's penchant for turnovers in the passing game.

Ravens' Game Plan

• Run the rock. The Browns have shown an inability to stop the run, so the Ravens should rely on a run-heavy game plan featuring Willis McGahee. By getting McGahee on track early, Boller will be able to attack the Browns' secondary with deep throws off play-action.

• Organized chaos.Rex Ryan likes to incorporate a few exotic defensive looks into his game plan and will be encouraged by Derek Anderson's struggles against the Steelers' complex 3-4 last week. Look for Ryan to use some odd ball looks early to bait Anderson into a poor decision or turnover.

Dolphins' Game Plan

• Get Jesse Chatman the ball. Since stepping into the lineup in place of Ronnie Brown, Chatman has proven that he is capable of being a workhorse by totaling over 100 yards in both starts. With few other bright spots on offense, look for Cam Cameron to make a concerted effort to get Chatman the ball.

• Shadow Brian Westbrook. The Eagles have relied on the versatile talents of Westbrook to propel their offense. The Dolphins must limit Westbrook's impact by using eight-man fronts on run downs and bracket coverage (linebacker-safety combo) in passing situations.

Eagles' Game Plan

• Spread it around. Despite Westbrook's stellar play, the Eagles' offense operates best when Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown are involved in the game plan. Against a Dolphins' defense geared to stop Westbrook, look for DonovanMcNabb to go to Curtis and Brown early before getting Westbrook the ball later.

• Break out the exotics. The winless Dolphins will turn to John Beck to ignite their offense. But playing a rookie quarterback will lead to a blitz-heavy game plan from Jim Johnson. Look for the Eagles' to dial up the blitz early and often to rattle the Dolphins' young starter.

Cardinals' Game Plan

• Pound 'em. Facing a Bengals' defense has allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of its losses, expect to see a no-nonsense, physical game plan featuring a lot of EdgerrinJames' runs between the tackles.

• Limit the big plays. The Bengals' high-powered offense showed flashes of hitting its stride with Chris Henry back in the lineup. The Cardinals must limit the big plays and force Carson Palmer to drive the ball down the field by completing short throws. By taking away the quick strikes, the Cardinals will frustrate Palmer and eventually force a turnover.

Bengals' Game Plan

• Spread 'em out and attack. The Bengals' trio of receivers (Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry) has a decided advantage over the Cardinals' secondary. And Palmer will take advantage of those matchups by spreading the field to work on the Cardinals' weakest defenders. Look for Cincy to come out in attack mode in its three-receiver set.

• Call more zone dogs. The Bengals will use eight-man fronts/pressures to stop the run, but will protect its young corners by playing zone behind those pressures. Expect Chuck Bresnahan to be aggressive with his defensive calls against the Cardinals after throttling the Ravens with the zone blitz scheme.

Steelers' Game Plan

• Get Willie Parker on the edges. The Jets' defense has been consistently overpowered by physical running games. And the Steelers will test their mettle by relentlessly running Parker off tackle. Look for Parker to have a big game against the Jets' 32nd-ranked run defense.

• Bring the heat. Despite the offseason addition of Thomas Jones, the Jets have struggled running the ball due to their inept offensive line. Expect the Steelers to keep the pressure on that struggling unit by using the blitz to disrupt blocking scheme. By dismantling the Jets' running game, the Steelers will be able to aggressively pressure Kellen Clemens in the pocket.

Jets' Game Plan

• Stay balanced. The Steelers feast on one-dimensional attacks, so it is important for the Jets to maintain offensive balance to keep the rush off KellenClemens. Look for Thomas Jones and Leon Washington to get plenty of carries to keep the Steelers from selling out against the pass.

• Keep Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket. Roethlisberger's improvisational skills have resulted in several big plays in the passing game. The Jets must limit Roethlisberger's effectiveness outside the pocket by sending rushers from multiple angles. By keeping Roethlisberger bottled up, the Jets should be able to keep Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward from slipping past them on broken plays.

Bears' Game Plan

• Dominate upfront. With the Seahawks opting to attack through the air, the onus falls on the front four to generate consistent pressure. Tommie Harris must create a push up the middle to allow Mark Anderson and Adewale Ogunleye to crash off the edges.

• Attack the blitz. The Seahawks bring pressure from all angles to force young passers into poor decisions. But the constant blitzing exposes their corners in single coverage. The Bears must attack the blitz by incorporating more post routes and fades into their game plan to take advantage of RexGrossman's deep-ball ability.

Seahawks' Game Plan

• Air it out. The Seahawks' decision to lean on the passing game resulted in their best offensive showing of the year against the 49ers. Though the Bears' two-deep coverage poses a tougher challenge, pass-heavy teams have had success against Chicago's banged up secondary. Expect the Seahawks to spread the field with three and four-receiver sets and utilize a short passing game to move the ball against the Bears.

• Step up the pressure. Grossman's return to the lineup will tempt the Seahawks to bring more pressure. Expect the Seahawks to blitz multiple defenders from all over the field to force Grossman into a crucial turnover.

Redskins' Game Plan

• Stick to the basics. The Redskins' offense appeared to turn the corner last week by running Clinton Portis often with an occasional play-action pass to Chris Cooley and Antwaan Randle El. Expect the Redskins to use a similar strategy to control the tempo of the game and keep the Cowboys' high-powered offense on the sideline.

• No big plays. The Cowboys have produced the most completions over 20 yards (36) in the league. With the big play being such an integral part of their game plan, expect the Redskins to use more two-deep coverage to limit Dallas' deep ball opportunities.

Cowboys' Game Plan

• Work the middle of the field. The loss of Sean Taylor leaves the Redskins' defense without one of its top playmakers. The Cowboys will exploit the loss by working heavily over the middle of the field. Look for Jason Witten and TerrellOwens to do lots of damage between the hashes with Taylor out of the lineup.

• Snuff it out. The Redskins' running game is the key to their offensive success. And the Cowboys must commit to stopping the run by using more eight-man fronts. Expect Roy Williams to hover near the line of scrimmage as the extra defender in the running game.

Bucs' Game Plan

• Generate big plays off play-action. Despite appearances, the Bucs' offense has become one of the league's more explosive offenses. And Joey Galloway has been the primary beneficiary of the Bucs' long ball attack with a league-leading six receptions over 40 yards. The big plays should continue against the Falcons as Jeff Garcia looks to connect with Galloway on deep throws off strong play-fakes to Earnest Graham.

• Rattle the QB with pressure. The Falcons are going with Byron Leftwich at quarterback, but they might go to Joey Harrington at some point. No matter who starts, the Bucs should bring the pressure all day long hoping to force the QB into poor decisions and turnovers.

Falcons' Game Plan

• Keep feeding Warrick Dunn. The Falcons' two-game winning streak has been fueled by their emphasis on the running game. Warrick Dunn has benefited from more carries and rushed for over 89 yards in both contests. Given the improved production from the offense in recent weeks, expect Bobby Petrino to continue to lean on Dunn in this pivotal matchup against the Bucs.

• Blitz Jeff Garcia up the middle. The 37-year old signal caller has been brilliant this season, but in his worst performances (Jacksonville and Detroit), the key to slowing him was consistent pressure in his face. Look for the Falcons to generate pressure up the middle by blitzing Keith Brooking and Michael Boley through the A gaps with Rod Coleman providing additional pressure off stunts/games.

Rams' Game Plan

• Welcome back.StevenJackson's return to the lineup allowed the Rams to aggressively attack the defense with power runs and deep play-action passes. With the 49ers' defense reeling from spotty play in the secondary, expect the Rams to get explosive plays from Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce off play-action.

• Keep the pressure on. The 49ers' sagging offense has lacked direction and rhythm with Alex Smith. But Trent Dilfer's re-insertion into the lineup will spark the 49ers' offense early. Look for Jim Haslett to snuff out the 49ers' spark by relentlessly pressuring Dilfer from all angles.

49ers' Game Plan

• Simplify the package. With the offense struggling in all areas, the 49ers will scale back their package to jump start that sagging unit. Look for a heavy workload from Frank Gore with a mixture of play-action passes to Vernon Davis and Darrell Jackson.

• Turn up the heat. The 49ers successfully got after Marc Bulger in their first meeting by bringing pressure from all angles. Given their success with the blitz-heavy game plan, look for Greg Manusky to attack the Rams with more blitzes in hopes of creating turnovers and short field opportunities for their offense.

Patriots' Game Plan

• Jump on 'em. The Patriots' dynamic offense gets off to quick starts by using the pass to keep defenses on their heels. With the Bills' offense lacking the punch to compete in a shootout, expect the Patriots will come out in attack mode with Tom Brady looking to connect with Randy Moss and DonteStallworth with quick strikes.

• Blanket Lee Evans. The Patriots' defense will focus on taking away the Bills' top playmaker (Lee Evans) by matching Asante Samuel to his side or rolling the zone in that direction.

Bills' Game Plan

• Use the tight ends. With starting running back Marshawn Lynch likely out of the lineup, Buffalo will go to a power-based offense featuring multiple tight end sets. With Michael Gaines and Robert Royal on the field, the Bills will use more play-action and movement passes (bootlegs) to exploit the Patriots' aggressiveness against the run.

• Win in the red zone. Since their last meeting, the Bills' defense is only surrendering 14.5 points a game. The key has been an improved red zone defense that has forced opponents to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. Against the Patriots, look for the Bills to use a soft two-deep coverage in the red zone to take away Moss outside and force Brady to settle for the check downs underneath the zone.