After breaking down film and critiquing the teams heading into Week 8, Scouts Inc. tells you what to watch for this weekend.
Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants
Can they handle the pressure
After watching tape on both teams, you realize that the key to this game will be the offensive line's ability to pick up the blitz. Both teams attack from anywhere on the field and give lots of presnap looks. They will constantly put eight or nine defenders in the box, which makes it difficult for the offensive line to know who is attacking and who is dropping into coverage. This task will be especially difficult for the Giants because they have to worry about Steelers OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley -- who could be the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL.
Both players love to apply pressure, but they use different styles. Harrison utilizes his speed to bring tremendous pressure off the edge. Normally, DE Brett Keisel engages the LT and holds him up, so he can't slide out to pick up Harrison. Woodley also has good speed, but he likes to utilize the blitz. Often he will come inside between the RG and RT -- rather than outside like Harrison. ILB James Farrior normally engages the RG, and DE Aaron Smith engages the RT, which opens up the B-gap for Woodley.
The Giants' offensive line is very good, but it hasn't been tested. This week, the Giants' backs and tight ends may have to spend more time in blitz pickup and pass protection than they are used to.
Right spot at the right time
The more game film you watch on QB Trent Edwards, the more you realize how bright his future is. He has great composure, handles pressure well and makes good decisions with the football. He also has a strong arm and good accuracy, but what really stands out is his ability to throw the ball in the perfect spot. Many of his throws are put in an area where only his receiver can get it or it is incomplete. This is a big reason why he has only two interceptions in six games. However, he also has the ability to change his velocity and arc, while throwing into tight holes -- especially against a Cover 2 defense.
Edwards should have a solid game versus the Dolphins because he is good at picking up the blitz and he doesn't make many throwing mistakes.
No stopping Portis
It is easy to see why RB Clinton Portis leads the league in rushing. The Redskins have a good offensive line and he loves to make one cut and head upfield. Often, Portis will start running one way (usually right), plant and then cut back left. When he does this, defenses tend to over-pursue and that allows the Redskins' offensive line to seal and give Portis excellent running lanes against the grain.
However, Portis also has great true speed when he's not using a cut-back run. The Redskins love to pull their left tackle to the outside and kick out the linebacker, while the fullback leads Portis through the hole. They also will use their tight ends as an H-back and have them lead. No matter who is leading the way, Portis is patient waiting for his blocks. Washington will remain committed to the run this week versus Detroit, and Portis will continue to run wild.
Quarters is the way to go
The Panthers used an interesting game plan against the Saints' offense last week, and it may be the way to stop spread offenses. They used a quarters coverage with four defensive backs along the backend, three linebackers in the short zones and four men on the line rushing the passer. This prevented the Saints from getting one-on-one matchups and took away the deep pass. It forced Saints QB Drew Brees to throw underneath and hindered his ability to read progressions or take advantage of matchups. As the Saints' receivers came off the line, they had to pull up and run a lot of short routes. But the Panthers' defenders were still able to read, react and jump routes.
Look for the Panthers to do the same this week versus the Cardinals, because their offense relies on the pass like the Saints. They will make Arizona put long drives together to win.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.