Week 17: A View from the War Room

Inside the Game, Playbook War Room

With the Fantasy season all but over for the majority of owners, the guys at Playbook decided to take a look at some week 17 matchups with playoff berths on the line. There were six divisional games that we broke down to try and help you readers better understand what to expect from some key offensive players this weekend. With some uncertainty still surrounding both the AFC and NFC playoff pictures, this should be a fun weekend of football.

TEN@HOU

Matt Hasselbeck (AP)

  • Matt Hasselbeck:With Chris Johnson’s ankle really limiting his explosiveness, it looks like the game could be put on Hasselbeck’s shoulders.
    • The last time these two teams played, Hasselbeck passed for only 104 yards. What stood out to us is how uncomfortable he looked in the pocket. The Texans were able to put pressure in his face and really got him away from throwing the ball down the field.
    • Without any threat to stretch the D, the Texans condensed their defense and forced the Titans to run a lot of stopping routes. By running curls and hitches, the Titans really limited the windows for Hasselbeck, while hurting their ability for yards after the catch.
    • Hasselbeck has looked much more comfortable in the intermediate passing game. He is taking what the D has been giving him, which has improved his accuracy tremendously.
  • Jared Cook:Cook has been on fire the past few games and could be the wild card in this week’s matchup.
    • The Titans have finally started to use Cook’s impressive size and speed combination. He has shown an ability to outrun LBs which has made him a threat up the seam. Down the field, the Titans have been moving Cook across the field on deep crossing routes to try and take advantage of and uses his size to seal off smaller Safeties.
    • Cook has been used the past two weeks to stretch defenses vertically. He has the speed to get up the seam and spilt a two high safety look. When he lines up as a WR he is very difficult to stop on deep crossing routes because of his sheer athleticism.

Shonn Greene (AP)

NYJ@MIA

  • Shonn Greene:with so much pressure being put on Mark Sanchez to win this week, it would make things a lot easier for the Jets if Greene was able to carry some of that load.
    • In the week 6 matchup, Green rushed for only 71 yards on 21 carries. The Dolphins DL really caused problems for the Jets OL in this matchup. They were extremely active with their hands and getting off blocks which limited Greene’s rushing lanes near the line of scrimmage.
    • Greene is a true downhill runner and really can only generate consistent success when he can run north and south. With an inability to hold blocks, Greene was forced to move laterally near the line of scrimmage which slowed down his head of steam and thus his effectiveness.

BAL@CIN

Joe Flacco (AP)

  • Joe Flacco: Flacco simply has to avoid turnovers and distribute the ball effectively if the Ravens want to win the game.
    • Flacco is at his best when he can throw in rhythm. He is able to make all the throws on the field and we can see that at its best when he can plant his foot, step up and throw. The last time these two teams played, Flacco was able to connect with Torrey Smith for 165 yards.
    • The Ravens ability in the screen game forces opposing DL to honor that by not pinning their ears back and rushing the passer on passing downs. In the last meeting Ray Rice had 10 targets, pulling in 5 for 43 yards.
    • With added attention on stopping Ray Rice, the Ravens should be able to utilize their two TEs, Dickson and Pitta to roam the middle of the field and provide Flacco with easy and efficient throws.
  • Andy Dalton: Dalton is going to need more help from the other pieces on offense. He cannot win a game only throwing through the air. The more he throws the higher the risk there is for turnovers and sacks.
    • The Ravens disrupted Andy Dalton and were able to force him into turnovers when they made the game one dimensional. By shutting down Cedric Benson, Dalton was forced to throw 45 times.
    • The Ravens front 7 did a great job of attacking gaps along the OL. By splitting two OL, they did a much better job of generating penetration and at times forcing two OL to bring their attention to a single rusher.
    • Dalton is not going to be able to win the game if he has to throw the ball 40+ times again. Benson needs to generate some success on the ground to help Dalton. With a running game the Ravens will not be able to generate as much pressure, and Dalton will be able to utilize the play-action pass to his advantage. A player like A.J. Green could be a huge asset to Dalton in this game, but he is going to need time to distribute down the field.

Kyle Orton (AP)

KC@DEN

  • Tim Tebow:The Broncos are not built to be able to come from behind after turning the ball over. Tebow has to go back to his form a few games ago and be efficient without giving the ball up.
    • Tebow completed only two passes the last time these two teams played. One thing this number shows is just how well the Broncos did at running the ball. They ran 55 times for 244 yards, a 4.4 yards per carry average. The Chiefs simply were worn down by the end of the game. They were unable to get off the field on third down which prolonged Denver’s drives and time of possession.
    • The Chiefs D has looked much better of late, but what they have excelled at is getting after the QB. If they cannot stop the running attack of the Broncos, then their ability to get after the QB will go to waste.
  • Kyle Orton:Orton has been efficient in distributing the ball since he became the starter in Kansas City. He has given the Chiefs a legitimate passing attack once again.
    • Orton has completed 44/67 passes for 599 yards in the last two games he has started for the Chiefs. By completing 66% of his passes, Orton has kept opposing offenses off the field. When he is given time to throw he is extremely accurate in the short and intermediate passing game. Last week against the Raiders he completed passes to 10 different offensive players.
    • Denver generates a good portion of their pressure on the edges. When faced with pressure, Orton does a much better job stepping up and delivering an accurate throw than he does dealing with pressure in his face. The Broncos are going to have to generate more pressure up the middle if they want to force Orton to turn the ball over.

SD@OAK

Michael Bush (AP)

  • Ryan Mathews:If Mathews can go this week (which it looks like he will) he will help take some of the pressure off of Philip Rivers. He cannot get 6 carries, like in the previous matchup, if the Chargers expect to play spoiler.
    • Last meeting Mathews got injured early in the game and the Chargers ran the ball only 15 times. This allowed the Raiders to really disrupt Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing attack. Rivers was not accurate with his passes and was forced into making a lot of throws before he wanted to make them.
    • Mathew’s mere presence in the backfield should help the Chargers offense. He has his greatest success when he can get outside the tackles. What he has shown a knack for doing, against teams with stout front 7s (such as the Raiders) is bouncing runs to the outside. By staying dedicated to running between the tackles, teams start to pinch their contain men closer to the line which gives Mathews a few opportunities to bounce a run.
  • Michael Bush:Carson Palmer is a much better QB when he has a running game to play off of. Since he has still looked out of sync, at times, with his WRs, it can only benefit him if Bush can produce an efficient game.
    • Bush is a true north south runner and can really do some damage on a defense if he is able to get a full head of steam. He is very capable of breaking arm tackles, especially around the line of scrimmage. The last meeting Bush continued to attack the Chargers front 7, even late in the game.  The Raiders were able to control the game by continually gaining positive yardage on the ground.
    • Palmer plays off of Bush’s success extremely well. Bush’s ability in the screen game provides Palmer with easy throws to make and diminishes some of the pass rush pressure. Palmer also plays off of his running success by utilizing the play-action pass down the field. He has some speed guys on the outside that are at their best when they can use double moves to get open.

Tony Romo (AP)

DAL@NYG

  • Tony Romo:The Cowboys success is going to fall upon the shoulders of Romo. With Felix Jones banged up, any threat of a running attack really diminishes.
    • The Cowboys, overall, did a good job of protecting Tony Romo in week 14. The Giants were able to generate a few sacks, but for the most part Romo had a clean pocket to step up into. Tony moves around well within the pocket, but once he starts to see pressure in his face he starts to ball up to brace taking a hit.
    • The Giants struggled in week 14 to cover the Giants WRs. Throughout the game the Cowboys were able to attack the intermediate passing game, and then generate a big play down the field. Giving a two-high safety look as much as the Giants did really provided the Cowboys with room to run over the middle of the field.
  • Eli Manning:Eli earned a victory last week, but his performance was not pretty. He threw for 400 yards in the last meeting and might just have to do the same if the Giants want to win.
    • Eli was extremely precise with where he threw the ball in the last meeting. He seemed to have an aggressiveness about him, and it showed in how he passed the ball. Down the field he was able to drop in a few passes on plays that were well covered.
    • The Giants were able to limit the Cowboys pass rush. Unlike the Giants, the Cowboys generate their pressure through blitzing (especially with Ware banged up). As this game showed, if Eli can have time to throw he can easily exploit mismatches that this blitzing causes.
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