By Doug Farrar
September 06, 2013

EJ Manuel is in for a test against the Patriots, but he may respond with some interesting schemes.  [Michael Conroy/AP]EJ Manuel will be tested by the Patriots but may respond with some interesting schemes. (Michael Conroy/AP)

Broncos Ravens

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A few words of wisdom from Mr. Cosell:

On Denver tight end Julius Thomas' big night against the Ravens: "He was a player I'd targeted in my mind based on the preseason. I did not watch him coming out of Portland State. But I noticed how they were using Thomas in the preseason, and I talked about him with various people, and I think he will be a significant part of their offense. He's a raw player, but he's very, very athletic."

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On the best plan for Buffalo QB EJ Manuel against the Patriots' defense: "The problem is, there's not a large sample, But when he did play, they kept things simple for him, and the ball came out pretty quickly. Now, a lot of teams are going this route. It's that college concept -- you get the ball out quick, it's a lot of short throws, and it makes it theoretically easier for the quarterback. They alternated between putting him under center, and running a fairly conventional NFL offense, and putting him in the shotgun to pose the threat of read-option. The one thing they don't want to do is to ignore C.J. Spiller. Their offense will work through him."

On Atlanta's defense against the Saints: "Here's something we did for the NFL Matchup show. Last season, in their playoff games against Seattle and San Francisco, the Falcons allowed 268 yards to their tight ends. Their linebackers really struggled in pass coverage. Sean Payton is back, and one could argue that he's the best game-planner and matchup coach in the NFL, so I look for Jimmy Graham in this game. And if they try to take care of Jimmy Graham with double-team concepts, there will be other things open. But their linebackers are a definite concern in pass coverage."

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On Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker: "A lot of people have already dismissed Locker -- he's going into his third year, and he's got a new offensive coordinator in Dowell Loggains, who started last year but has had an offseason now. I look for concepts in the preseason, and I thought he did a terrific job of giving this offense an identity and a foundation. They signed Andy Levitre and they drafted Chance Warmack, who improve in each preseason game. They're clearly going to lead with running the football, and Locker, who's all play action and boot action -- he threw the ball better than I've ever seen him throw it. They're giving him defined reads, taking away the gray areas, and making it far less murky."

On how the Packers might defend San Francisco's offense differently this time: "They really struggled in two areas last year -- the read-option and Pistol concepts, and the run plays that come off the Pistol. In that playoff game, the 49ers were in Pistol on 34 out of 75 snaps. They ran the ball on 26 of those 34 snaps, and they gained 209 yards on those 26 runs. The other issue was that they chose to play man coverage, particularly in the first half, and Colin Kaepernick had three rushes for 53 yards against man coverage, including hs 20-yard touchdown run. What struck me in the preseason is that the Packers played Seattle, and on the first third-down play, they played man coverage, and Russell Wilson ran for a first down. We'll see [how the Packers adapt], but that's where they really struggled."

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