Highlighting Week 14’s superb slate of matchups are the premier offense-defense battles in Chicago and Kansas Town.
Dec 2, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions working again LeGarrette Blount (29) runs the ball all over the fourth quarter in opposition to the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Box. Necessary Credit score: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports activities
Offenses owned those clashes (Rams-Vikings, Jaguars-Chiefs, Saints-Ravens) early this season, however the pendulum swung again in Week 13 (Saints-Cowboys, Colts-Jaguars).
Possibly the Bears can stay that development getting into frigid Chicago on Sunday evening.
1. A method to gradual the Rams?
There’s no “blueprint” to prevent Sean McVay’s offense, however one explicit method has given it hassle. L.A.’s disjointed efficiency in Detroit got here in opposition to a Lions protection leaning closely on Quilt-Four (sometimes called “quarters”), which Denver additionally hired when keeping the Rams to a season-low 23 issues.
With 4 deep defenders, Quilt-Four creates more than one double groups in opposition to two- and three-man path ideas — like lots of McVay’s play-action designs — by way of bracketing vertical routes with a cornerback and a security. The method additionally suits Los Angeles’ condensed formations, holding defenders from getting picked by way of intertwined releases from stacks and bunches.
Vic Fangio’s zone-heavy scheme options a variety of Quilt-Four, regularly from disguised appears to be like that muddy the quarterback’s learn. Safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos have thrived in those designs, with Jackson instinctively studying more than one routes and Amos flying downhill to hammer crossers or fill run lanes.
Jared Goff hasn’t been deficient, however his early-season precision — each with ball placement and box studying — has slipped some. (Even in opposition to the Chiefs, he neglected a number of open goals low.) That may be exacerbated Sunday by way of Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, who must get push in Goff’s face although they don’t succeed in him regularly.
2. Chiefs offense shedding its steadiness?
Kansas Town nonetheless scored 40 issues Sunday, however its run sport obviously neglected Kareem Hunt. Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill accounted for 89 yards on 11 carries, however Spencer Ware and Damien Williams totaled 85 on 19 totes (Four.Five reasonable), with greater than part (47 yards) on 3 carries.
Ware particularly struggled (three.Four reasonable) regardless of going through the Raiders’ 28th-ranked run protection (Five.zero reasonable) and a slew of sunshine containers. With Oakland holding two safeties deep, Andy Reid’s unfold formations ceaselessly created Five-on-Five or six-on-6 blocking off (even 6-on-Five on one instance). However Ware lacked the one-step, upfield cuts to blow up thru seams, regularly proceeding laterally previous gaping holes up the center.
The drop-off from Hunt to Ware received’t subject regularly, given the explosive passing sport, however it will when looking to salt away a playoff lead, or when going through higher defenses.
This week, Baltimore’s top-ranked unit can key virtually totally on Mahomes and the passing sport, having a look to flummox him with myriad zone blitzes. The ones ways usually give unfastened releases to fit goals — a perilous transfer in opposition to Hill and Travis Kelce — however the Ravens may just upload wrinkles, particularly in the event that they don’t concern the run sport.
Somewhat than having Terrell Suggs set the brink, Baltimore may just stroll him out over Kelce (broad or within the slot) to slam the tight finish on the snap. The Ravens may just even use this “bullseye” tactic in opposition to Hill, disrupting his momentum on the other hand conceivable to stay him from threatening downfield so temporarily.
Mahomes received’t be perplexed like an ordinary first-year starter, however he may just battle some if the Chiefs get one-dimensional and his receivers can’t get off the road cleanly.
three. Can Philly’s entrance care for Dallas’ D?
Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are shining in a scheme that unleashes their pace. That’s indubitably true in protection, with Rod Marinelli’s bevy of zones, however it’s additionally transparent in opposition to the run.
A D-line guru, Marinelli has lengthy appreciated an competitive method with slants and stunts, and the Cowboys have the penetrators to run them. Somewhat than passively keeping gaps, Dallas calls slants on run downs, forcing offensive traces to react temporarily and in unison. The unpredictability can create chaos and save you O-lines from executing double groups as deliberate.
When double groups cross awry, Vander Esch and Smith stay unblocked, letting them sift thru site visitors to the ball provider. O-linemen that do get to the second one stage have had their paths altered, providing extra favorable angles to slide blocks, at which Vander Esch is especially adept.
Underwhelming many of the 12 months, Philly’s entrance 5 were given rolling Monday evening, taking it to a stout Washington front-seven (Four.6 yards in line with raise, except for kneeldowns), however Dallas is a special problem.
Possibly the Eagles may just fight the Cowboys’ aggression by way of dusting off a few of offensive line trainer and run-game coordinator Jeff Stoutland’s extra unique designs. Stoutland broke out a number of unusual ideas in Dallas ultimate 12 months, many that includes split-flow motion to transport linebackers a method whilst attacking every other.
Four. Colts-Texans sequel not anything like the unique
It looks like 10 months, now not 10 weeks, since Houston’s 37-34 additional time victory in Indianapolis, which began an eight-game win streak.
After averaging 38.Four makes an attempt thru 5 weeks, Deshaun Watson has averaged 24.6 since. The Texans have as a substitute leaned closely at the run, the use of the O-line’s athleticism in outdoor zone and tool schemes with pulling tackles (moderately than guards). Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue aren’t dynamic creators, however each are disciplined hitting the designed hollow, which has been there of overdue.
In the meantime, the Colts’ O-line appears to be like emblem new. In Week Four, J.J. Watt feasted (two strip-sacks) on Le’Raven Clark and Denzelle Just right. Anthony Castonzo’s go back despatched Clark again to the bench, and rookie Braden Smith has shored up proper take on (Just right used to be launched Saturday). Mark Glowinski has thrived changing injured proper guard Matt Slauson.
With the safety stabilized, Frank Reich’s offense has turn out to be way more open and competitive, which labored brilliantly till it hit the Jaguars’ brick wall ultimate week. Jacksonville’s entrance used to be dominant, and Houston may just create equivalent issues of heart Ryan Kelly (knee) once more having a look iffy.
Whilst now not a natural edge-bender, Jadeveon Clowney is a fear at the inside, the place Houston fits him on guards and facilities from a stand-up rover place, regularly with stunts and twists. Smith, in fact, should counter Watt, who sees fewer double groups due to the Texans’ five-across fronts.
Five. Vikings may just put onus again on Russell Wilson
Seattle’s run-heavy method has rendered Wilson extra of a complementary piece. That’s now not essentially a foul factor — an incredible downfield thrower, he has maximized Brian Schottenheimer’s play-action designs — however we’ve observed a lot much less of the superhero-like playmaker.
That model of Wilson made a cameo two weeks in the past in opposition to the Panthers, who close down a Seahawks run sport no one else has stopped (2.7 yards in line with raise, first time beneath Four.2 since Week three). Wilson needed to raise the weight and got here thru brilliantly with two overdue drives within the fourth quarter.
A equivalent script may just play out Monday in opposition to Minnesota and its stout run protection (three.7 yards in line with raise, T-4th). Linval Joseph is a block of granite with faucet dancers’ ft, and Sheldon Richardson has quietly had every other superb season. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter set depraved edges, and the second one stage is full of pace.
When Wilson does throw, he’s relied on his coverage extra in recent times, extending performs from throughout the pocket moderately than by means of his trademark escapes. That might result in giant performs downfield to Tyler Lockett and David Moore.
—David DeChant, Box Stage Media