There are some certainties in the AFC. Peyton Manning will change a play at the line of scrimmage. LaDainian Tomlinson will make some poor defender look slow. Ray Lewis will hit somebody real hard.
Oh, and you will see the following plays this season.
While these aren't the signature plays of each team in the AFC, Scouts Inc. looks at one play each team will run -- and run well -- this season.
Also check out go-to play for every NFC team.
Bengals -- Housh Curl Route
With their three-receiver, single-back sets, the Bengals face a lot of 4-3 schemes with two deep safeties -- easy pickings for Carson Palmer. In this play, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (84) lines up in the right slot with Chad Johnson (85) flanking him. Palmer (9) takes a seven-step drop and locks in on Ocho Cinco running an out-and-up. This forces the safety to the perimeter, freeing Houshmandzadeh to run a curl against an LB. If Housh is covered, Palmer has TE Reggie Kelly (82) and WR Tab Perry (88) in single coverage on the left. It's really too easy.
Bills -- Evans Out and Up Route
J.P. Losman threw five out and ups to Lee Evans last year. All went for TDs. Lined up opposite Evans (83), Peerless Price (81) runs a post corner, drawing the free safety. As TE Robert Royal (84) runs a seam, Losman (7) fakes a dive to Marshawn Lynch (23). Evans' initial break appears to be an out route. This overloads the strong safety with choices. If he freezes or angles for Evans' first cut, it's six. If he bites on play-action or focuses on the TE, it's six. And if Losman catches the D in man and audibles to Evans. Well, you know …
Broncos -- Fullback Goal-line Playaction Pass
As much as the Broncos love to run, their zone-blocking attack doesn't pack much oomph -- something of an issue near the goal line. That's where this fake dive run works. From an I-formation, Jay Cutler (6) fakes the hand off to Travis Henry (20). If Cutler sells it properly, the LBs bite on the play because they're eager to stuff the gaps along the line. Meanwhile, FB Kyle Johnson (39) fakes like he is the lead blocker, then peels off behind the TE into the wide-open flat S and an easy six.
Browns -- Winslow Option Route
On this play, Kellen Winslow (80) lines up as a TE on the left side, with Braylon Edwards (17) and Joe Jurevicius (84) on the right. Before the snap, Winslow goes in motion, flanking out to the left and forcing the safety or LB to match up with him outside. That¹s trouble for the D. If a LB is in coverage, Winslow can take him deep. If a safety matches up, Winslow will slant across the middle. Who will get him the ball is another issue.
Chargers -- Overload Blitz
At 6-3, 348 pounds, NT Jamal Williams (76) is a load in the middle of the Chargers' 3-4. San Diego takes advantage by firing him into one of the A gaps, which forces the center, guard and usually an uncovered tackle to body him up. The result: two remaining blockers to fend off three charging Chargers -- DE Igor Olshansky (99), Shawne Merriman (56) and ILB Stephen Cooper (54). Olshansky and Cooper rush inside while Merriman careens from the outside. Pick your poison. The blitz is equally effective against the run, mostly thanks to Williams obliterating the inside of the line.
Chiefs -- Johnson Toss Sweep
The KC line no longer ranks among the elite, but you can bet one play is still money: the toss sweep behind vet LG Brian Waters (54). Tony Gonzalez (88) lines up next to the RT. Brodie Croyle (12) takes the snap and pitches to Larry Johnson (27) on his right. Waters pulls that way too, taking out the strong-side LB. If Gonzalez successfully seals the DE, Waters and FB Kris Wilson (84) will have a path around the corner, and Larry Johnson will have a caravan to the second level.
Colts -- Zone Stretch Run
The Colts offense is more than Peyton Manning (18). Really. The stretch run moves the chains and sets up what Manning does through the air. In a single-back set, Indy aligns TE Dallas Clark (44) in the slot, forcing opponents into pass coverage and weakening their run D. At the snap, Manning sprints to the spot of the handoff, still not tipping off whether it's pass or run. In fact, until Joseph Addai (29) cradles the ball, waits for a crease, cuts and runs, the D has no idea what's coming. As usual, advantage Manning.
Dolphins -- Fake Counter Green Bootleg
Cam Cameron likes to use the tight end and play-action, both featured in this play. From a two-TE set, Trent Green (10) play-action fakes to Ronnie Brown (23). RG Drew Mormino (77) pulls, leading Green as he rolls left. TE Justin Peelle (87) seals the OLB on the edge, then releases outside. The OLB wonders: Did Peele release? Or did I get by him? Either way, if he¹s thinking he's lost. With both LBs pressing because of Trent Green's roll out, TE David Martin (88) drags across the middle, wide open. The rest is up to Green's right arm.
Jaguars -- Jones Post Route
The Jaguars know they can run the ball. So do their opponents. To counter, Byron Leftwich (7) uses play-action when opposing safeties creep into the box. Meanwhile, Matt Jones (18) runs a deep post from the right slot. Ernest Wilford (19), lined up wide right, runs a deep out. These routes leave the weak safety in a bind. Wilford's deep route pulls the safety towards the sideline, while Jones runs behind the LBs through the deep middle. With his 4.4 speed, getting depth quickly is easy for Jones. And if Leftwich
leads him, it's a big gain.
Jets --Rhodes Weak-side Safety Blitz
Eric Mangini's blitzing helps fortify the Jets' weak pass rush. In this formation -- a base 3-4 Cover 2 -- Kerry Rhodes (25) cheats up to the line just before the snap. DE Kimo von Oelhoffen (67) engages the LT's outside shoulder and LB Bryan Thomas (99) dives inside, drawing the guard's attention as well as help from the fullback. Rhodes has an
open path to the backfield on the outside hip of Von Oelhoffen.
Patriots -- 2-5 Overload Blitz
Bill Belichick likes to keep 'em guessing. On this play, two down linemen bull rush the guards, attracting extra blocking help from the tackles. Aligned in a linebacker position is 300-pound DE Ty Warren (94), who executes a stunt with LB Rosevelt Colvin (59). Corner Asante Samuel (22) blitzes from the perimeter, further confounding the blocking scheme. End result: A QB gets bigger alleys to throw into but no clue where those spaces will be from one play to the next. Oh yeah, he has just two seconds before he's smacked in the mouth.
Raiders -- McCown Naked Bootleg
How did the Raiders try to fix their shoddy pass protection? By trading for a mobile QB like Josh McCown (12), who can roll out of the pocket (until Daunte Culpepper rolls in and takes his job). On this play, McCown uses a play-action fake to LaMont Jordan (34), drawing the defense left. McCown then drifts right, with Zach Miller (45) running a shallow out route and Ronald Curry (89) curling into the soft spot in the coverage. McCown has two reads, or he can take it himself. After all, he's already on the run.
Ravens -- Scott Inside Blitz
On this play, Baltimore exploits an offense¹s concerns about perimeter pressure with Bart Scott's (57) explosiveness. At the snap, NT Kelly Gregg (97) knifes into the A gap between the center and left guard, drawing a double-team, while DT Haloti Ngata (92) engages the LT. DE Terrell Suggs (55) bolts around the left corner, forcing the FB to step outside. Jackpot: The middle is open. Scott has less than two seconds to decide if a delayed blitz up the gut is the right move. Chances are, it is.
Steelers -- Inside LB X Blitz
Outside LBs get the glory, but here's Pittsburgh's dirty little secret. The inside LB X blitz is what really causes trouble. NT Casey Hampton (98) attacks the center, usually drawing a guard as well. Inside LBs James Farrior (51) and Larry Foote (50) cross over behind Hampton, firing into the gaps between the center and guards. In a man blocking scheme, the center must take the 325-pound Hampton one-on-one, while his guards cross over and pick up the blitzing LBs. Fat chance. If a guard doubles Hampton, Farrior or Foote has a clear path through the line.
Texans -- Johnson Drag Route
David Carr did two things well last season: 1) Get pounded. 2) Connect with Andre Johnson (80) on the crossing route. Nothing will change with Matt Schaub (8). This play works because it gets the ball out of Schaub's hands quickly and into the mitts of his only playmaker. Johnson runs a two-yard drag route, making a quick cut as Schaub takes a three-step drop and fires. The play takes less than two seconds. It better.
Titans -- Young Spread Option
Nothing takes advantage of Vince Young's playmaking like the spread option. Young lines up in the shotgun with Chris Brown (25) offset to the right. At the snap, he plants the ball in Brown's gut but can pull it out if the LBs and safeties commit to the run. Then Young should have three open options: WR Brandon Jones (81) on a deep comeback, TE Bo Scaife (80) on a crossing route, or TE Ben Troupe (84), who blocks and releases on a short route. And there's always a fourth, more dangerous option: Young on the run.