The Game Plan
Key strategies, players in each Week 4 contest
Posted: Friday September 28, 2007 2:01PM; Updated: Friday September 28, 2007 5:14PM
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Green Bay at Minnesota
PACKERS GAME PLAN
· Put the game in Favre's hands again. The Packers have been relying solely on their passing game in recent weeks. While that strategy is risky, the Packers would be wise to stick with that approach versus the Vikings. The Vikings have been outstanding against the run and pounding Brandon Jackson or DeShawn Wynn at the teeth of their defense is a recipe for disaster. Expect to see the Packers spread the field with three or four receivers and attack the Vikings two-deep coverage with an assortment of quick routes. If Favre is able to complete a high percentage of quick throws, the Packers' short-passing game will make up for the lack of rushing attempts.
· Take Adrian Peterson out of the game. Peterson has accounted for almost 50 percent of the Vikings' offense. Without another legitimate threat, the Packers will focus most of their attention on stopping Peterson as runner and receiver. Linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk will be used on blitzes on early downs to stuff Peterson in the hole and the Packers will keep an eye on him as he leaks out of the backfield on screens or swing passes. Look for the Packers to use a variety of eight-man fronts and combination blitzes to keep Peterson under wraps.
VIKINGS GAME PLAN
· Limit the YAC. The Packers' ball-control passing game has been successful through the first three weeks of the season because their wide receivers have been able to gain chunks of yardage after each reception. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones are a trio of physical receivers with the speed and strength to run through arm tackles. They have picked apart secondaries with their running skills and the Vikings must limit their yardage by tackling well. Brett Favre will find open receivers in the underneath areas of the Vikings' two-deep zone, but if the Vikings are able to rally around the ball quickly they will be able to limit the effectiveness of the Packers' short-passing game. Keep an eye on the amount of missed tackles the Vikings' defenders have.
· Create "explosives" in the passing game. The Vikings' pass offense ranks near the bottom of the league in explosive plays (passes over 20 yards) with only eight. Facing a stingy Packers' defense, the Vikings have to find a way to generate a few big plays. Bobby Wade, Robert Ferguson and Visanthe Shiancoe will see one-on-one coverage all day as the Packers commit to stop Adrian Peterson and they have to win when their number is called on vertical routes. Expect Kelly Holcomb or Tarvaris Jackson to air it out down the field as the Vikings look to loosen up Packers' defense with big strikes.
Houston at Atlanta
TEXANS GAME PLAN
· Let the rhythm hit 'em. The Texans' offense likely will be without the services of its top two weapons (Ahman Green and Andre Johnson). But Matt Schaub has proven to be an efficient passer in Gary Kubiak's version of the West Coast offense. Schaub will rely on the quick rhythm passing to take advantage of the Falcons' man-to-man defense. Expect Owen Daniels to play a major role as Schaub spreads the ball around with Green and Johnson out of the lineup.
· Dominate the line of scrimmage. The unexpected rise of the Texans' defense has been keyed by the improved play of their defensive line. In their two wins, Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye and Travis Johnson have won their individual match ups and provided consistent pressure. Against the Falcons' inconsistent offensive line, they should be able to generate pressure without having to blitz often. Look for Williams to bounce along the line to take advantage of an obvious mismatch.
FALCONS GAME PLAN
· Keep Joey in the groove. The Falcons' loss to the Panthers overshadowed a solid performance by Joey Harrington. He threw the ball on time and attacked a perceived weak link in the Panthers' secondary with several accurate throws. Facing a Texans' secondary with only one star corner (Dunta Robinson), the Falcons should employ a similar strategy to get Harrington in a groove. By directing most of his throws at DeMarcus Faggins, Harrington should be able to get into a good groove on his way to another solid performance.
· Blanket the Texans' receivers. Last week's game plan to physically challenge the Panthers' receivers worked well until DeAngelo Hall's third-quarter meltdown. The improved overall play of the defense should lead the Falcons to use a similar strategy versus a Texans' offense missing Pro Bowler Andre Johnson. By having Hall and Chris Houston press the receivers outside, the Falcons will be able to cheat their safeties near the line of scrimmage to handle the running game.