1a. It’s hard to find two offenses that look drastically different from their past iterations than the Steelers and Browns. Cleveland, under Kevin Stefanski, uses a run-first zone attack complemented by action-play, as opposed to last year where someone presumably spilled spaghetti sauce in the team’s only playbook and therefore decided that everyone was doing anything.
On Sunday, they face a Steelers defense that has a reputation for being blitz-heavy, and that’s partly true. Pittsburgh blitzes a ton on the first and second downs; we’ll see how that affects the Browns early in the descent – the Steelers’ approach is effectively blitz-throwing, and they’re the best running defense in the league – and the action-playing game Cleveland uses.
The third bottom will however be interesting. Pittsburgh is one of less happy blitz teams on the third downs, when they usually rush in four and play cover (often in disguise). The formula has worked the past two seasons, but it didn’t last week. There are plenty of # 2 and 3 corners across the league who over the course of their careers have ranged from quality rookie to outright responsibility, and Steven Nelson (now Pittsburgh’s second corner kicker) is the one of them. A week ago against the Eagles, both of his interceptions looked good in the box score, but one came thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty not called by Vince Williams, and the other was on a Hail Mary. Otherwise, Nelson had a neon arrow pointed at him, as Carson Wentz attacked Nelson and Travis Fulgham feasted. So a running Philly crossing offense on sleepwalking Zach Ertz and a bunch of end-round recruits and (at least thought to be) types of free street agents went 10 for 14 on the third tries.
On the third downs, action play is often no longer a factor and the Browns have to produce simpler means; Mayfield only makes 54.6% of his third throws. The Steelers will give him a lot to think about with their disguises in these situations, but last week they showed some vulnerabilities at the back. Mayfield has yet to earn one, as the Browns have taken a lead and held it through their four-game winning streak, but Sunday could present a scenario where he has to make big throws in the third attempts.
1b. After years of stagnant lineups and disconnected iso-routes that relied on their superior talent to win, it looks like Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was visited by Sean McVay’s ghost at some point. this summer. Pittsburgh used more of the concepts of movement and bad direction – attacking below – in four games than in Ben Roethlisberger’s first 16 seasons combined. It was Sean McVay’s ghost of the future; I don’t know why you’re assuming ghosts can’t time travel.
For the Steelers’ offense to succeed on Sunday, neutralizing Myles Garrett is a must. Garrett is officially Defensive Player of the Year for five weeks – they’ve already sent him the gift card to Quiznos – largely because he’s forcing a ton of turnovers. Cleveland has 11 points to remember during that four-game winning streak. However, Garrett has feasted on some less-than-competent opponents so far. He moved to get favorable matches; the Bengals and the football team might not have three starting caliber offensive linemen between them, the Cowboys decided they were fine with an undrafted rookie with single block Garrett, and the Colts were without Anthony Castonzo last week, Garrett picking up replacement Le’Raven Clark. Steelers right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (for injured Zach Banner) will likely see a lot of Garrett on Sunday, which is bad news for Pittsburgh, especially in light of the fact that Roethlisberger is a statue at this point in his career. But the good news is that Roethlisberger is getting the ball out faster than any quarterback in football so far this year, which is a great way to alleviate Garrett’s problem.
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2. Aaron Rodgers picks up Davante Adams for the trip to Tampa, and given how well he’s been working within Matt LaFleur’s attack structure this year, the rich are getting richer and richer. Meanwhile, there’s a good chance Tom Brady will get Chris Godwin back, which strengthens a receiving body that included a limping Mike Evans and not much else during their loss Thursday night in Chicago.
The point is, we may be seeing Rodgers and Brady at their best. As much as you want to watch Fitzpatrick-Flacco IV in this late-afternoon slot, I recommend at least keeping your eye out for Packers-Bucs.
Is this Fitzpatrick-Flacco IV? May be. I don’t know, and I guess neither do you, so I’m just skipping the fact-checking.
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3. Three ways you’ll be able to tell Andy Dalton isn’t Dak Prescott: (1) They spell and pronounce their names differently, (2) Dalton has always struggled in a muddy pocket – something he’ll come across often since both. the starting tackles are eliminated, as Prescott has been excellent despite the protection issues this year, and (3) Prescott was a threat enough to keep the defenses behind honesty. Dalton’s mobility is above average, but not in Prescott’s class.
That said, Dalton managed to calm himself down last week against a Giants defense that doesn’t have an edge presence. And on Sunday, he will face a Cardinals defense that just lost Chandler Jones, the world champion. In the end, Dalton should be pretty OK on Sunday (especially if the Cardinals’ attack continues its categorical refusal to attack downstream).
In the long run, however, the Cowboys could revert to a heavyweight identity, which to some extent obscures the quarterback and defense. Ezekiel Elliott will need to deliver behind a scotch-scotch offensive line, and relieve some of the heat from a front office that paid off the running back and linebacker running hot and cold, while failing to strike a deal with the quarterback -back or the No 1 corner half.
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4a. Two more things about Dan Quinn’s dismissal, five days after the last time someone thought about Dan Quinn’s dismissal. First, the account that the Falcons never recovered from Super Bowl LI isn’t quite accurate. They won a playoff game the following year and had a shot on goal to win it in the dying seconds against Philly, the eventual Super Bowl champions, in the conference semifinals. The NFC has been absolutely brutal for the past two decades. In the 32-team era, the only NFC team to compete in back-to-back Super Bowls were the 2013 and 14 Seahawks, and the only other team to return with largely the same core were the Giants (2008 and ’12) .
When it comes to training Quinn in good faith, the Falcons are still vaguely a “Seattle-style” defense, and that pattern is based on your good, fast players playing fast and well. Deion Jones missed 10 games in 2018, Ricardo Allen missed 13 in 18 and Keanu Neal missed 28 between 18 and 19. When the Seahawks made their five straight playoff appearances during the Legion of the Boom years ( 2012-16), Bobby Wagner missed a total of eight games in five years, Earl Thomas missed five and Kam Chancellor missed eight. They were never without all three at the same time.
That’s not to say Jones-Neal-Allen is Wagner-Chancellor-Thomas, but the Falcons trio are a poor-man’s version of the Seahawks who played in the middle, and when they came out there were massive downgrades on this defense. Part of the problem is that Quinn’s plan isn’t designed to overcome injury. But a bigger part of the problem is that his top players have missed a lot of games over the past two seasons.
4b. It’s also likely that Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur, two former offensive staff under Quinn, will find success as head coaches. In particular LaFleur, who was sidelined in favor of Steve Sarkisian for the position of offensive coordinator after Shanahan left. However, to be honest, who knows how much LaFleur’s year under Sean McVay or two years at the helm of the Titans’ offense (to mixed reviews) shaped him into the coach he has become. . LaFleur just might not have been ready in 2017 – you’re not going up against the Falcons for not hiring a 14-year-old Bill Belichick for their inaugural season. (Or maybe we are; I have to feed the happy beast.)
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5. Kareem Hunt proclaimed that “this one is for Myles Garrett.” As in, the Browns will derive their motivation from the moment the Steelers quarterback’s skull got in the way of the helmet Garrett was swinging. Elsewhere in the NFL, Ryan Tannehill claims the Titans get their motivation from criticism leveled at them for largely ignoring COVID protocols put in place to allow football to be played without people dying. Lesson: Everything is motivation. For example, last weekend I got sick at a family event. Some have criticized me, saying it was my insistence on “pre-gaming” before my niece’s christening, consuming copious amounts of corn candy and bourbon throughout the morning, that ruined the day for. everybody. I’m going to take this review and use it as motivation to fuel my performance in Family Trivial Pursuit competitions while on vacation. Motivation to memorize all Trivial Pursuit cards.
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6. Ladies and gentlemen . . . Talking heads!
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