Favre and WRs aren't on same page; scrambling McNabb
After looking at game film, Gary Horton tells you what to pay attention to during Week 9.
After breaking down film and critiquing the teams heading into Week 9, Scouts Inc. tells you what to watch for this weekend.
Not all Favre's fault
QB Brett Favre threw three interceptions last week versus the Chiefs and most people would assume that Favre is reverting back to his old self -- but that isn't the case. Yes, he is still a gunslinger and will still force throws, but two of those interceptions happened because his receivers were not on the same page. On one interception he saw a matchup he liked and threw a fade, but his receiver pulled up. That's not Favre's fault. And on the interception for a touchdown, Favre read the defense and saw that the two inside linebackers were blitzing -- which meant the middle would be open. One receiver read this properly and came over the middle, but when the corner pushed him off his route he gave little effort to get back in the play. Plus, the slot receiver, who was covered by a safety, came inside also, putting a safety right in Favre's throwing lane. He clearly did not understand what Favre was trying to do. Simply put, this offense isn't clicking, and it has no flow.
Regardless of his poor performance, Favre is still going to sling it this week versus Buffalo. It's up to the receivers to be on the same page and make adjustments when necessary. The Bills' defense is much better than the Chiefs', and Favre could be in for a long day.
Underrated offensive line
The Giants' offensive line is the most underrated unit in the NFL. They are all veterans and they have all returned from last year's Super Bowl season. This unit is very fundamentally sound, smart and well-coached. You never see any of them on the ground or miss a block. But this unit's movement skills are particularly impressive. In fact, no other team pulls their guards as much as the Giants. LG Rich Seubert and RG Chris Snee routinely pull on wide plays because they are excellent blockers in space. They also do a great job of finding linebackers on kickout blocks.
This unit benefits from going against the Giants' great defensive line every day in practice, and they play well against every team. The No. 1 goal for the Giants' offensive line this week will be to stop Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware. LT David Diehl will be in charge of blocking him one-on-one and shouldn't need help.
Wildcat with Smith
The Ravens used the Wildcat formation seven times last week with QB Troy Smith lined up in shotgun and QB Joe Flacco out wide. Smith is a dual threat because he clearly has the ability to run and his passing skills are underrated. One play even resulted in Smith throwing a touchdown to Flacco. This offense doesn't score a lot and has very little explosiveness, so look for this bit of trickery to be incorporated in the Ravens' game plan this week and the rest of the season. The Wildcat should give them a boost versus the Browns, which have struggled on defense lately.
McNabb on the move
QB Donovan McNabb definitely doesn't scramble as much as he used to, but he has been effective when he tucks and runs in recent weeks. He still has excellent run instincts; don't be surprised to see more designed scrambles and draws called in the future. The Seahawks' defense has played particularly soft lately and done a poor job of tackling, so you could see McNabb run some quality scrambles. Plus, the Eagles' receivers are all starting to get healthy, and as they return to the field the Eagles can spread the field -- which opens up a lot more space for McNabb to run, if he chooses to.
Dictate the matchup
The Giants' defensive coaches have been very effective dictating matchups that their front four can take advantage of. DEs Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka are tremendous pass-rushers, but it's their coaches' schemes that put them in the right situation. Whenever either of these players is double-teamed, the Giants will blitz a linebacker and draw away one of the blockers. This leaves Tuck or Kiwanuka in a very favorable one-on-one matchup. The Giants will also send blitzers inside to occupy blockers and allow either DT, Barry Cofield or Fred Robbins, to have a favorable matchup to get after the quarterback. Oftentimes when the Giants send blitzers it is not to go after the quarterback. They do this to free up someone on the defensive line.
The Giants will continue to do this versus the Cowboys this week, and this is a matchup in their favor. Dallas' OTs struggle versus speed rushers, so Tuck and Kiwanuka should have big games.
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.