Commentary

What to watch for from the NFC teams in the postseason

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


• The Giants have an interesting offensive package they use to spread the field with three receivers, one tight end and one back with Eli Manning in the shotgun. Then they run the football against a nickel or dime scheme to make their run game even more dangerous.

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• The Giants' receivers continue to struggle to separate from tight coverages, and that issue really disrupts the timing of the passing game. Manning then holds on to the ball too long. As a result, we likely will see a lot of defenses play a lot of press coverages against the Giants in the playoffs.


• The Panthers do not have a great matchup on the secondary, so they will play a lot of two-deep zones and keep everything in front of them in a bend-but-don't-break style. They'll force quarterbacks to throw a lot of underneath routes.

• The Panthers are an excellent downfield blocking team. Their receivers and tight ends do a nice job of staying with those blocks and opening up the run game at the second level.


• As athletic as QB Tarvaris Jackson is, he still gets hit a lot because he does not read the blitz very well. He also tends to lock onto his primary receiver and doesn't do a great job of adjusting to his other reads. It's obvious he doesn't see the blitz very well.

• RB Adrian Peterson must do a better job of taking care of the football. He carries the ball too far away from his frame, and his aggressive style of running allows the ball to be jarred loose during collisions. This offense is not good enough to turn the ball over in the postseason and still win. Peterson can't be so careless.


• The Cardinals continue to get suspect play from their offensive line. Their starting five has been together all season, so injuries are not an excuse, and they have an excellent offensive coordinator in Russ Grimm.

• The Cardinals have the best three-wide receiver package in the NFL with Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and underrated No. 3 Steve Breaston -- who gets a lot of one-on-one matchups. With no real running game, the Cardinals are forced to throw the ball on almost every down, so QB Kurt Warner has to be almost perfect. Plus, they have no threat of play-action.


• The Falcons run the ball about 35 times a game. Even when the run game is not going well, they stay committed to the running game and force defenses to stack the box. Eventually, that opens up a nice play-action package for QB Matt Ryan versus a lot of single coverages.

• Atlanta is starting to trust its young defensive backs in coverage. Against strong run offenses, the Falcons put eight defenders in the box and leave their corners alone in man-to-man schemes on the edge. This is a little risky, but it really improves their run defense.


• The Eagles are trying to achieve offensive balance. Although their running game is not always conventional, they are effective with draw plays and shovel passes. The Eagles also are very good at screening. They keep defenses off balance with their gadget plays and pre-snap movement, but they can't just blow defensive lines off the ball.

• The Eagles can suffocate offenses with their tight defensive alignments. If teams don't go vertical to loosen them up, the Eagles take away the short passing game with their physical style of play. However, if their opponent can make them sit back in zone coverages, it can open up the run game and give them more success in the underneath passing game.

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.