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.
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.
• 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.
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2008 NFL Playoffs
The road to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1, 2009, began Jan. 3 with the wild-card playoff round. Will the Steelers or Cardinals replace the Giants as champs?
Championship Game results: NFC | AFC
COLUMNS/FEATURES• Wojciechowski: May the bitter team win
• Chadiha: McNabb lets good times roll
• Football Outsiders: Numbers Crunching
• Sunday Countdown: Predictions and more
• Clayton: First and Goal
• Garber: This Philly Story seeks proper ending
• Clayton: Peaking Steelers should advance
• Chadiha: Eagles will soar in desert
• Wojciechowski: Book Eagles for Tampa
• Football Outsiders: Any Given Sunday
• Football Outsiders: Quick Reads
CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES (Jan. 18)
Steelers 23, Ravens 14• Polamalu's INT return secures win
• Playoff page | AFC North blog
Cardinals 32, Eagles 25• Fitzgerald leads Cardinals to first Super Bowl
• Playoff page | NFC West blog ... East
DIVISIONAL ROUND (Jan. 10-11)
Steelers 35, Chargers 24• Walker: The Bus sparks Parker
• Williamson: Bolts need season-long urgency
• Recap: Steelers knock out Chargers
• More | AFC West blog ... AFC North
Ravens 13, Titans 10• Graham: Battered Ravens pass physical
• Kuharsky: Titans failed to answer critics
• Recap: Turnovers doom Titans
• Zoom Gallery
• Fleming: Can anyone stop the Ravens?
• More | AFC North blog ... AFC South
Cardinals 33, Panthers 13• Sando: Desert bloom for Arizona's faithful
• Sando: No denying Cards' makeover
• Yasinskas: Carolina's big plans fall apart
• Recap: Delhomme's 5 INTs doom Panthers
• Zoom Gallery
• More | NFC West blog ... NFC South
Eagles 23, Giants 11• Wojciechowski: Book Eagles for Tampa
• Mosley: Giants lost to better team
• Recap: Defense smothers Giants
• Zoom gallery
• Chadiha: Eagles' defense hitting stride
• More | NFC East blog
WILD-CARD ROUND (Jan. 3-4)
Ravens 27, Dolphins 9• Wojciechowski: Scary Ravens' D
• Recap: Ravens' defense overpowers Dolphins
• More | AFC North blog ... AFC East
Eagles 26, Vikings 14• Mosley: Eagles' run continues
• Recap: Westbrook, big plays carry Eagles
• More | NFC East blog... NFC North
Cardinals 30, Falcons 24• Sando: Cards' winning identity
• Recap: Strong second half powers Cards
• More | NFC South blog ... NFC West
Chargers 23, Colts 17• Williamson: 5-6 Sproles comes up big
• Recap: Chargers shock Manning, Colts in OT
• More | AFC South blog ... AFC West