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The Game Plan (cont.)

Posted: Friday October 5, 2007 1:18PM; Updated: Friday October 5, 2007 1:33PM
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Carolina at New Orleans

Steve Smith has just six catches for 42 yards in his last two games.
Steve Smith has just six catches for 42 yards in his last two games.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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Panthers' Game Plan

Get Steve Smith more touches. The Panthers top weapon has been kept in check the past two weeks after starting the season with consecutive 100-yard receiving games. With only six receptions for 42 yards against the Falcons and Bucs, Smith failed to fulfill his expected role as a playmaker. Facing a Saints' defense that has struggled against the pass, the Panthers should be able to get Smith plenty of touches on an assortment of routes.

Rev up the pass rush. Despite having two Pro Bowl players (Kris Jenkins and Julius Peppers) on the defensive line, the Panthers have registered just two sacks this season. The lack of pressure has allowed quarterbacks to riddle the Panthers' secondary with an assortment of intermediate and deep passes. Look for the Panthers to deviate from their normal four-man rush and bring more pressure with five- or six-man blitzes.

Saints' Game Plan

Attack the Panthers on the edges. With Reggie Bush assuming the starting tailback duties, the Saints will change from a downhill running team to an off-tackle, perimeter based running attack. Against a Panthers' defense that is tough up the middle, the change will allow the Saints to attack Carolina defenders Mike Rucker, Julius Peppers and Stanley McClover with the stretch or toss sweep.

Bring pressure from the right. Panthers' left tackle Travelle Wharton has struggled since returning from ACL surgery. Speed rushers have given him problems off the edge and his inability to handle them without help leaves Carolina's offensive line vulnerable. The Saints' Will Smith possesses enough quickness to make it a tough day for Wharton on the edge.

Detroit at Washington

Lions' Game Plan

Spread 'em out. The Lions' four-receiver package continues to pose major problems for opponents. Few defenses have the personnel to match up with the quartet of Roy Williams, Mike Furrey, Shaun McDonald and Calvin Johnson (if healthy). Against the Redskins' blitz-happy defense, the Lions should continue to use their spread formations to take advantage of the one-on-one match ups.

Make the ball the issue. The Lions lead the league in takeaways (15) despite ranking 29th in total defense. Their penchant for creating turnovers is a product of their Tampa Two defense capitalizing on tips or overthrows. They will continue to focus on takeaways against a Redskins' offense featuring a young signal caller, Jason Campbell. Expect the Lions to crowd the line on early downs to try to stop the run and force Campbell to throw against their two-deep coverage in long-yardage situations.

Redskins' Game Plan

Play long ball. The Redskins' offense is built around strong running complemented by an explosive vertical-pass attack. Against a Lions' defense that has given up several big plays, the Redskins will look to go deep to Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El off play-action passes. Look for Campbell to connect with Moss or Randle El on a deep post or crosser from a run-heavy formation.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure. Last week, the Bears were able to get to Detroit's Jon Kitna by mixing in their pressures with their standard four-man rush. Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves to bring pressure and will attempt to rattle Kitna with an aggressive blitz package. London Baker-Fletcher and Marcus Washington will be brought on early downs to attack the Lions' base offense. Williams will attack the Lions' four-receiver set by using several sub-package blitzes with Shawn Springs, Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry coming off the edges.

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