I spend all week watching game film: hours and hours of footage. And I have a passion for fantasy football. So it was only natural that I took the next step and put pen to paper, so to speak, and jotted down my fantasy thoughts as I went along. I'll continue to do so each week during the NFL season. Enjoy!
• When will coaches and coordinators create a game plan to attack Tom Brady like they do Peyton Manning? Well, I believe that is coming this week. Teams that play Manning often play some kind of Cover 2, usually two deep safeties, and then use some kind of zone or man coverage underneath. Then they blitz and rely on the front four linemen to also get pressure. Well, from studying the Redskins all year, I believe this is how they will do it against New England. The Skins react to the situation very well. Against Detroit, they did not blitz one time. Against the Packers, they were more aggressive, like they'll be against the Pats, and I believe they have the discipline in the secondary and the front four to get consistent pressure to slow down this offense. I can't wait to watch this game!
• With the Bengals' "new" commitment to the running game, I was eager to watch the tape of their win over the Jets. One guy jumped out to me: Jeremi Johnson, the fullback. Johnson had a huge day blocking for Kenny Watson; he manhandled the Jets with each block. It will be a different story this week. The Steelers' front seven (defensive linemen and linebackers) are superior to the Jets'. I do expect the Bengals to remain committed to the run; I'm just not convinced they will get the same results. One other thing that popped out on tape: The Steelers' defense did not look sharp against the pass at Denver, and if the Bengals can loosen up that pass D with 30-plus runs, this game will be close.
• Speaking of the Steelers, their offense loves to come out in a "bunch" look, with two tight ends and one wide receiver to one side, all close together. And they throw from that look, too. But they're even better running it that way. They should have success against the Bengals running from this formation, and I think that will lead to some big runs for Willie Parker.
• Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis does not have big fantasy numbers, but he has been important to the Jaguars. I see him getting more and more looks each week, and his run-blocking has really helped Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
• I talk about Dallas Clark almost every week, and this week is no different. I don't think Carolina will have an answer for him this week.
• I have been impressed with Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams. I've seen him become a more physical runner, something he was not in college. Keep your eye out for him if he ends up getting a few more touches per game.
• In the NFL, teams get tape of the last four games of their opponents and evaluate them based on those four games. So Green Bay's preparation for Denver this week has likely included review of how the Broncos played against teams like the Chargers, who beat up Denver with their running game. I would expect the Packers to run more in this game than they have all year, and I even expect them to have success doing it.
• Reggie Bush has worked hard on running more downhill, and it is helping him become a better runner. He still has a way to go, but if he keeps up his development, I see big runs in his future, and soon. Another guy to watch for as he continues to develop is Pierre Thomas. He could get more carries as the season wears on, and he scored last week.
• I know my boy Jaws (Ron Jaworski) tried to use the nickname I have anointed to Adrian Peterson (Cashier) for Dallas Clark, and I will address this on the "NFL Matchup" show at 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN. There is only one "Cashier," and that is Adrian. Even though he didn't have huge numbers against the Cowboys, I'll tell you again: Never lose faith in Peterson. His running skills and instincts are the best in football. The way he attacks the line of scrimmage and finds the seam is amazing to me. He is a special football player, and I see him being the No. 1 overall fantasy pick in 2008 drafts!
Merril Hoge is an analyst for a wide variety of NFL programs on television and ESPN Radio. Check him out Sunday on "NFL Matchup" at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN and on "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" with Matthew Berry from 11 a.m. to noon on ESPNEWS. He also will be on "NFL Live" on ESPN at various times throughout the weekend.