Posted on: November 3, 2011 10:13 am
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit
Eagles vs. Bears
You could make a strong case that both of these offenses are built around their star running backs. The Eagles have football’s No. 1 offense and lead the league with 179 yards rushing per game (20 more than Oakland’s No. 2 ranked ground game). Running back LeSean McCoy is second in the NFL with 754 yards rushing. The Bears’ 16th-ranked offense would likely rank somewhere in the mid-twenties if not for Matt Forte’s 672 yards on the ground and 419 yards through the air.
These are the best two running backs in the NFC not named Adrian Peterson. (And both are significantly better receivers than Peterson.) Two years ago, neither was very good. McCoy was a callow, unpolished rookie who could not always read basic defenses. Forte was an inexplicably sluggish runner averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. So what’s changed since then?
One noticeable improvement is in both players’ lateral agility. Though not as emphasized as speed, quickness or power, lateral agility is the most important attribute for an NFL back. It’s often the difference between college runners and pro runners. In short, lateral agility is a running back’s quickness and explosiveness when going left and right. It plays a central role in how he sets up blocks and creates his own space.
Unless you’re an incredibly gifted downhill runner playing behind a decent run-blocking front (ala Darren McFadden), lateral agility is vital in the NFL, where holes close quicker than a hiccup and defenses feature 11 world class athletes, most of whom can immediately diagnose about 90 percent of the run plays they see.
McCoy has the best pure lateral agility in the league. He had it as a rookie but just recently learned to implement it with timing and purpose. He can explode left and right behind the line or at the second level. Most laterally agile running backs, including Forte, have to be on the move in order to cut sharply. McCoy can do it from a standstill (which is why Philly is so fond of draws and delayed handoffs). Forte can occasionally do it from a standstill, though with his smooth, patient running style, he’s much more effective off motion.
On Sunday, keep a count of how many of McCoy’s and Forte’s touches are impacted by their east-west prowess.
Patriots vs. Giants
The key to the Giants’ upset of the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII was the pressure the Giants pass-rush put on Tom Brady. New York’s then-defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, brilliantly had his linebackers crowd and attack the A-gaps. That did a few things.
For one, it put extra defenders directly in Tom Brady’s line of vision, which would make any quarterback subtly feel a bit hurried. That hurriedness left New England without enough time to run Randy Moss on deep routes.
Another thing it did was force the Patriot running backs to stay in and pass protect. And because there were multiple defenders crowding the A-gaps, the Patriots focused their protection help inside, which left one-on-one mismatches outside for Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.
Some things have changed in the four years since 18-1. Spagnuolo is now in St. Louis. Moss is retired. So is Strahan. The Patriots’ high-powered passing game has become horizontal instead of vertical. But despite the changes, don’t be surprised if the Giants once again crowd and/or attack New England’s A gaps this Sunday.
Teams like the Jets, Cowboys and Steelers have shown that the best way to pressure Brady is with bodies up the middle. The goal is not always to sack him – it can be to mentally preoccupy him with what’s going on inside. When Brady’s doing that, he seems to lose a little trust in stepping into throws and sensing his protection on the edges.
The Giants had great success with A-gap blitz concepts against the Dolphins last week. Mathias Kiwanuka is a potent defensive end who happens to play linebacker. He’s natural standing up over the center in nickel defense. Lately, end Dave Tollefson, himself a good athlete, has also been used as an A-gap blitzing joker. In these instances, the Giants don’t just rush the A-gaps, they also confuse offensive linemen and set up stunts and edge-rushes for Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
New England’s answer to New York’s A-gap attacks will be quick passes in the flats. Wes Welker is not a bad guy to turn to for that.
Chargers vs. Packers
Green Bay can take the lipstick off the pig that is San Diego’s defense. The No. 1 ranked defense from 2010 has been decent but not necessarily impressive under new coordinator Greg Manusky in 2011. A soft schedule has made it difficult to pass full judgment. The Chargers rank sixth in yards allowed, but they’ve faced the Vikings, Dolphins, Broncos, Jets and Chiefs (twice) – all inexplosive offenses.
The Packers have the most lethal offensive attack in football. It’s not just that Aaron Rodgers has been nearly flawless, or that his top five receiving targets would all be No. 1 or 2 targets on a typical team. It’s that the Packers have perhaps the best formation variation in the league. This, with their array of weapons, strongly tests a defense’s depth, intelligence and confidence.
Currently, the Chargers are vulnerable at cornerback. Antoine Cason appeared on the verge of stardom late last year, but the ’08 first-round pick has reverted to the baffling inconsistencies that marred his first two seasons as a pro. Cason normally plays the right outside. The Packers love to create one-on-one matchups for Greg Jennings by lining him up as the X-iso receiver on the left side (across from the right cornerback) in 1x3 receiver sets. It’s a matchup Rodgers goes to virtually every time.
With four receivers on the field, Cason will have to play. Marcus Gilchrest and Quentin Jammer are the outside starters; Dante Hughes is the slot nickel. The Chargers like to blitz Hughes and will likely align him across from the receiver furthest inside on the three-receiver side. Jammer plays outside on the defensive left. That leaves either Cason or Gilchrest, a second-round rookie, to face Jennings outside on the right.
This isn’t a fantasy column, but here’s a tip: if your opponent has Greg Jennings on his or her team, remove yourself from the trash-talking email thread this week.
So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 9 games.
Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Andy Benoit, Antoine Cason, Chicago Bears, Darren McFadden, Dave Tollefson, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Greg Manusky, Justin Tuck, Keep an Eye On, LeSean McCoy, Marcus Gilchrest, Mathias Kiwanuka, Matt Forte, Michael Strahan, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Quentin Jammer, Randy Moss, San Diego Chargers, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
Posted on: September 17, 2011 4:25 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Each Saturday, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by bodog.com for the upcoming week and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read all week. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?
Will a quarterback throw for 500 or more yards from Week 2 on in the 2011 regular season?
Let’s see, who is Tom Brady (517 yards last week) and the Patriots playing this week? The Chargers? Hmm, ok. Who are the Chargers cornerbacks? Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason? Hmm. Um, no. Nobody is going to throw for more than 500 yards this week. Not Brady. Not anybody. What about for the rest of the season? Probably, but I'd still go with the longshot and say no.
Will Peyton Manning play in a game in the 2011 regular or postseason?
I just don’t see it, because by the time Manning is ready to return (maybe in late December at best?), there’s no chance that Indianapolis will be in the running for a playoff spot. So, there will be no point to play him. Therefore, Colts owner Jim Irsay will forbid Manning from playing. And it will be the right call.
How many times will Michael Vick be shown in a Falcons uniform during the live broadcast of the Eagles/Falcons game Week 2?
Over 1½ (-150)
Under 1½ (+110)
When you count all the video highlights they’ll show and the still photos, it’s got to be at least five times, right? Go with the over.
Who will be the next team to sign David Garrard?
Indianapolis Colts 3/2
Cincinnati Bengals 5/2
Seattle Seahawks 5/1
Miami Dolphins 5/1
San Francisco 49ers 6/1
Oakland Raiders 7/1
Pittsburgh Steelers 15/2
New York Jets 10/1
There were reports this week that Garrard was approached by several teams and that he’s waiting to make a decision to whichever squad will be the best fit. Looking at the above teams, the only squad I see as a real possibility is the Seahawks. For one, they’ve got Tarvaris Jackson as the starter. For two, they’ve got Charlie Whitehurst as a backup. For three, coach Pete Carroll certainly isn’t afraid of turning over his roster. All those factors make Garrard an obvious choice to go to Seattle.
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Posted on: December 13, 2010 4:34 pm
Thanks to a 64-yard reception, Bucs rookie wideout Arrelious Benn had his first 100-yard game as a pro (122, to be exact). In fact, Benn’s previous high was 53 yards.
The Packers were 2/12 on third down and 0/1 in the red zone at Detroit.
Though no player had more than 51 yards rushing for Detroit, the Lions still racked up 190 yards on the ground.
Hines Ward had his best outing since Week 7, catching eight passes for 115 yards against Cincinnati.
In addition to an interception returned for a touchdown, LaMarr Woodley had two sacks and two tackles for a loss.
Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis had four catches for an important 57 yards. He also scored his career-high ninth touchdown.
Pretty simple what happened in San Francisco: Niners zero turnovers, Seahawks five.
Brian Westbrook had 87 yards on six receptions.
The Patriots recorded 27 first downs at Chicago.
Dolphins punter Brandon Fields had 10 punts for 564 yards.
Brodie Croyle probably isn’t the answer: Kansas City finished the game with 19 total yards passing.
Antoine Cason took over as the punt returner for San Diego. He averaged 15.2 yards per return with a long of 42.
Tags: Antoine Cason, Arizona Cardinals, Arrelious Benn, Brandon Fields, Brian Westbrook, Brodie Croyle, Buffalo Bills, Chad Henne, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Darren McFadden, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Jay Feely, Kansas City Chiefs, LaMarr Woodley, Malcom Jenkins, Marcedes Lewis, Maurice Jones-Drew, Miami Dolphins, Michael Turner, Miles Austin, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rashad Jennings, Roy Williams, Ryan Torain, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins
Posted on: November 27, 2010 8:58 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
- So, it’s looking like Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski will get the start this week in place of Jason Campbell. Which isn’t what we expected yesterday.
- Rams RB Steven Jackson has been using an altitude tent this week in preparation for facing the Broncos in Denver. Meanwhile, St. Louis CB Ronald Bartell tried his twice, and he’s not going to use it ever again. Read this St. Louis Post Dispatch story to find out why (ahem, he might have got himself stuck inside).
- It might not be rocket science, but Titans QB Rusty Smith likely will look to pass more to WR Randy Moss than his predecessors. Before they got injured, Vince Young and Kerry Collins targeted Moss a combined total of four times, and last week, Young looked his way just once. When Smith entered the game, by the way, he tried throwing to Moss three times.
- Watching the Chargers-Broncos game last week, I was struck by how often Denver QB Kyle Orton threw toward the receiver who was being covered by San Diego rookie CB Antoine Cason. And I was struck by how well Cason played. In actuality, Cason has been pretty good most of the season.
- What will happen to Tarvaris Jackson now? Maybe he should just get the hell out of Dodge.
- Once again, nobody has any idea if Antonio Gates’ foot will allow him to play this weekend. Plantar fasciitis sounds less than fun.
- Jake Delhomme will start Sunday for the Browns when he takes on his old team, the Panthers. But he understands who Cleveland’s quarterback of the future is. His name is Colt McCoy.
- Jimmy Clausen will start at QB this Sunday for the Panthers. Who backs him up is a little more complicated.
- The Redskins today waived WR Joey Galloway. In many fans' views, it's about freakin' time .
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