Commentary

What to watch for from the AFC teams in the postseason

After looking at game film, Gary Horton tells you what to pay attention to from the AFC teams during the postseason.

Originally Published: December 31, 2008
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.

After breaking down film and critiquing the teams heading into the postseason, Scouts Inc. tells you what to watch for in the AFC postseason.


• Look for the Titans possibly to roll out the Wildcat formation in the playoffs with Vince Young or LenDale White at QB. This would be a good change-of-pace package; plus, the shotgun is a good fit for Young's athletic skills.

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• The Titans love to get the ball to their tight ends in the safe, short passing game. They will also use shifts and short motions with TEs Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler, so QB Kerry Collins can get the ball to them with short, safe passes. However, Scaife and Crumpler are also instrumental in attacking the defensive edges in the power-O run game.


• The Steelers love to throw to their tight ends; at times, they will even show a three-tight-end look with all three lined up on the same side of the field. This sets up the power run game or play-action passing game.

• The Steelers have an interesting defensive sub package against multi-receiver sets. They use a 2-4-5 alignment (2 DL, 4 LB, 5 DB), which puts their best athletes on the field with nine defenders in coverage and only a two-man rush -- although the Steelers can blitz their linebackers.


• QB Chad Pennington continues to love the short passing game, and he distributed the ball to 10 receivers in Week 17. He loves to throw to backs and tight ends after his WRs clear out the underneath zones. The Dolphins also run a lot of shallow crossing routes with just enough Wildcat plays to keep defenses honest.

• The Dolphins are doing a good job of mixing up their defensive coverages with a combination of zone and man schemes. Recently, they have also played tight coverage schemes against receivers who struggle to separate.


• The Chargers are getting backup RB Darren Sproles more involved in the offense -- especially on passing downs. He routinely replaces LaDainian Tomlinson as a nickel receiver and is a real threat in space on dumpoffs and screens.

• San Diego is now a pass-first, run-second offense. This is a new philosophy, but QB Philip Rivers may be the hottest quarterback in the league, while Tomlinson seems to be hesitant at times, and you get the feeling that he does not have great confidence in his blockers.


Dallas Clark may be the toughest tight end to match up with in the league because of his versatility. When he flexes out to the slot, he is often matched up with a linebacker, and if he goes to the perimeter, it's likely he will draw a safety. These are both in Clark's favor. Plus, if you cover him with a corner out of a nickel or dime package, the Colts will have him line up on the line and run the ball. The Colts have an answer for any defense you want to use against Clark.

• In recent weeks, defenses have decided to take away the deep routes and the sidelines against the Colts. They try to funnel everything inside, which is forcing QB Peyton Manning to throw a lot of short passes and dumpoffs. This isn't all bad because it aids a struggling run game, but this offense seems to lack explosiveness right now.


• The Ravens' defense does a good job of breaking down pass protection. They love to give multiple pre-snap looks that totally confuse the offensive line. Usually they bring only four rushers, but they will give you the illusion that they could be bringing five or six.

• Despite a rookie QB, the Ravens have a more creative offense than you might think. They have some trick plays -- including a form of the Wildcat with Troy Smith at QB -- they will use an unbalanced offensive line, and they will even play with three offensive tackles or three backs in their jumbo packages.

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.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.