Sep 9, 2010
Each week, John Hansen and Adam Caplan break down all the games in the matchup podcast with our NFL Analyst, Greg Cosell. You can listen to the podcasts here, but also read below for an overview of Cosell’s thoughts.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
- With WR Sidney Rice out, Percy Harvin needs to become the top receiving threat. We don’t know if he’ll be able to do that right away tonight.
- QB Brett Favre was able to be effective against the Saints last year because he is a veteran who recognizes late movement and can get rid of the ball quickly. However, Favre may be less mobile this year because of his ankle, and even though he got rid of the ball last year, he still was hit a lot.
- RB Adrian Peterson is a confrontational runner who has too many negative and short runs because he sometimes doesn’t allow things to develop. Titan RB Chris Johnson picks and chooses better with patience and vision, but Peterson did appear more patient in preseason action.
- The Saints run a high-volume offense which needs a lot of plays to be effective. Last year against the Vikings in the NFC title game, the defense couldn’t get off the field, and the Vikings ran around 80 plays, compared the Saints’ 50 or so.
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- The Browns have a solid secondary but have struggles with the pass rush. They’ll probably blitz a lot against Buccaneer QB Josh Freeman, who missed a lot of reps in the last few weeks because of his injury.
- The Buccaneer defense is a work in progress, but an infusion of young talent makes it much quicker with rookie DTs Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and LBs Geno Hayes and Quincy Black. With that said, it’s early, and they could still go out and allow 150 yards rushing.
- Rookie WR Mike Williams has a terrific skill set and has a chance to be a very good WR. Like with the young guys on defense though, he’ll need time to grow with the offense.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
- With a year of experience for QB Chad Henne and the addition of WR Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins will try to run a balanced off and not feature either the passing game or the running game over the other. The game will dictate how things play out.
- Rookie RB C.J. Spiller brings a dynamic threat to the Bill offense and will require attention, but it doesn’t automatically help WR Lee Evans. Defenses can still assign two defenders to Evans and get an 8th man in for run support.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
- The matchup should allow the Bengals a lot of opportunities in the passing game to use different personnel. They’ll be able to use rookie TE Jermaine Gresham and also get four WRs on the field with Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Jordan Shipley, and Andre Caldwell. The Patriots don’t blitz often and struggle in the pass rush when bringing just four, so it will be interesting to see how Cincinnati plays offensively. They will still run the ball with Cedric Benson, but they have an opportunity to really mix things up.
- You never know what HC Bill Belichick is going to do, but it will be interesting to see how the Patriots use rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Hernandez is a fluid, athletic receiver who can be moved around, while Gronkowski is more of a complete TE.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
- The Colts have changed a little bit defensively and play with a single high safety instead of the Tampa Two. They get a safety more involved in the box and have bulked up along the defensive line. They also blitzed significantly more last season.
- Teams often make the mistake of trying to shorten the game against the Colts, but Peyton Manning and the offense are still going to get the ball and score. The Texans should be able to run the ball more effectively with RB Arian Foster emerging, but HC Gary Kubiak will try to be balanced and create big plays. They ran straight I-formation in 33% of plays against the Colts last year, which is uncommon in the NFL at this point.
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguar
- The Broncos are going to have to scheme pressure and stunts defensively and move people around. It will be an interesting test for the defense if Jaguar RB Maurice Jones-Drew is healthy and gets a big workload.
- The Jaguars just can’t seem to improve their pass rush. They’re going to rely a lot on Aaron Kampman, who’s coming back from a torn ACL. They have gone back to a 4-3 after experimenting with 3-4 concepts last year. It’s tough to pinpoint a defensive strength.
Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers
- The Falcons are still a work in progress in stopping the run, so this is a big test against a Steeler team that will likely run the ball a lot with Dennis Dixon starting at QB.
- RB Rashard Mendenhall looks good on film and has a good skill set, so the fact that the Steelers are always keeping a close eye on him may be more day-to-day stuff. He had his second most carries in a game last year when Dixon started, meaning you should expect more of the same. The key to the Steeler run game may actually be G Chris Kemoeatu, as they like to pull him on power and counter run plays.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titan
- The Raiders don’t have a lot of weapons, so if healthy, RB Michael Bush will get the ball a lot, and they’ll try to run the ball with Darren McFadden.
- Rookie LB Rolando McClain looked like he was stuck in cement at the beginning of the preseason but really improved drastically by the third game. He moved a lot better, meaning the early problems were probably mental. He looks much more rangy. DE Lamarr Houston has also looked improved and the defense should be better as a whole. However, safety is a concern, and Michael Huff simply doesn’t look like a very good player.
- The defense should be better than people thing.
- QB Vince Young presents an interesting matchup problem as usual. The Raiders run a lot of man coverage, so will they play straight up and take their chances with Young or will they incorporate some hybrid elements and use a spy?
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants
- WR Steve Smith, who’s coming off an injury, is pretty much the only guy defenses have to worry about in the passing game.
- The Giants will have a big change in defensive philosophy with new DC Perry Fewell, who will be more aggressive and not use much Tampa Two. S Kenny Phillips should play, and he can make a huge different. The Giants’ safeties are smart and give the defense flexibility with coverage concepts. If the Giants can play with gap discipline against the run and get an eighth defender involved against the Panther run game, this matchup sets up well for them.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
- QB Matthew Stafford looked really improved during the preseason, and the Lions should have a multi-dimensional offensive approach with the additions of RB Jahvid Best and WR Nate Burleson. Best has the ability to make people miss, meaning he can still do damage even if a team plays good gap defense.
- Pass protection is a big question for the Bears, and the Lions’ defensive line offers a tough test. If QB Jay Cutler has time, he’ll put up good numbers. However, he still has some footwork and balance issues and wasn’t as aggressive with downfield throws as he normally is in the preseason.
- The Bear defense plays fairly straight up without much mystery. They rely on the front four for the pass rush. DE Julius Peppers had a strong preseason. LB Lance Briggs is a good player, but he struggled a bit in the preseason and can play with “hero syndrome.” A healthy Tommie Harris provides a quick inside presence at DT.
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
- Inexperience on the O-line is a big concern with OTs Roger Saffold and Jason Smith. The Cardinals will try to make them move before they can strike to gain an advantage.
- The Cardinals move around a lot up front defensively, and although they use 3-4 personnel, they play with 4-3 principles. DT Darnell Dockett looks like one of the best in the NFL at times.
- QB Derek Anderson is tough to handicap because he can really look like an NFL QB but is so streaky with his accuracy. He misses too many routine throws, but he has the ability to make all the throws.
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles
- For the Eagles to be successful, they’ll have to quicken QB Aaron Rodgers with a four-man rush. The Packers do things formationally on offense to prevent defenses from blitzing frequently. The Packers like to a run a 3-by-1 formation in which three WRs are on one side with Greg Jennings the inner-most WR and TE Jermichael Finley is alone on the other side. The Eagles anchor their CBs, so that could leave Asante Samuel matched up one-on-one with Finley and a LB or S matched up with Jennings. You can blitz, but Rodgers was the best QB in the league against the blitz last year.
- QB Kevin Kolb had a shaky preseason and played too fast and perceived pressure that wasn’t there. It doesn’t help that the Eagle O-line has issues. The Eagles will have to pass often on 1st-and-10, although HC Andy Reid clearly doesn’t have a problem with that. Packer DC Dom Capers does a great job with blitz concepts, blurring the distinction between 2nd- and 3rd-level defenders. He does that mostly in pass situations, forcing the Eagles to throw on 1st down.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
- Nothing of note
- Believe it or not, WR Michael Williams looks a lot quicker than when he came out. On other teams, he might not be anything more than a #4 WR. But he’s the starter with T.J. Houshmandzadeh gone, and he’s an excellent fit for the offense with Matt Hasselbeck and a short-to-intermediate passing game. Given that he’s a starter, he’s going to catch passes and could end up with something like 70 receptions for 900 yards.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
- OLB DeMarcus Ware is the best defensive player in the game, and the Redskins will have a lot of trouble if he gets matched up one-on-one against either OT Trent Williams or Jammal Brown. The Redskins will have to run a lot of two-TE sets to account for Ware.
- DC Jim Haslett is a 3-4 guy who has had some coverage issues in the past. The Cowboys have the ability to take advantage, and the Redskins have major issues at FS because of the lack of speed with Reed Doughty.
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets
- It’s hard to say what a rookie will do in Week One, but it will be interesting to watch TE Ed Dickson, who has good vertical speed for a TE and might be a good option given the matchup problems the Jet CBs pose.
- The Ravens have talent at WR with Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but none are burners. The Jets like to play aggressive man coverage and try to disrupt teams in three- and five-step drops. If the Raven WRs can’t get off the line of scrimmage quickly, the passing game could have trouble.
- The Jets will take their shots downfield with QB Mark Sanchez, but that typically comes on 1st-and-10. Last year, they threw deep nine times on the 1st play of the 3rd series. Philosophically, they won’t change their approach. They will still line up and try to establish the run.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
- The Chargers will likely run a lot of tosses with rookie RB Ryan Mathews, similar to what they did with LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers toss the ball more than anyone except maybe the Titans and Chris Johnson. They will try to get to the perimeter.
- QB Matt Cassel’s success in New England may have been manufactured, and while OC Charlie Weis wasn’t with the Patriots at the time, he has an understanding of that. Cassel deserves some time before he’s run out of town, but one problem that doesn’t appear fixable is that he perceives pressure and moves too soon, and he was responsible for a lot of his sacks.