Shutdown Corner - NFL

 

Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills - Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been integrating the Pistol formation, in which the quarterback and running back line up in the same line on a seven-yard shotgun set. It's been an incredibly effective tool at the college level, and the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs looked great when they used it with third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen(notes). I've written pretty extensively about the Pistol, and it's nice to see the NFL (or at least one NFL mind) come around to its advantages. However, if there's one guy who knows how to defend the Pistol, it's Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey - he was Kansas City's offensive coordinator when Thigpen (who's now with Miami) was putting up some real numbers in that formation. Detroit is set up to use it with outstanding rookie running back Jahvid Best(notes), and it will be interesting to see how the Bills counter. Now, why the Bills aren't running more Pistol with Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) at quarterback is a mystery ... then again, most things about the Bills are just curious.

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears - The man under the gun in this game is not Brett Favre(notes), or Brad Childress, or Percy Harvin(notes) - it's Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie(notes). Last time McKinnie faced former Carolina Panthers and current Bears end Julius Peppers(notes), he had what may have been his worst game in an NFL career that has been marked by inconsistent play. In a 26-7 loss to the Panthers last December, Peppers put up a sack, a batted pass, and several hits and hurries. McKinnie was benched after giving up that sack and amassing two penalties, and he'll face Peppers in his new uniform just one week after giving up two sacks to Arizona's Joey Porter(notes). When you factor in the resurgent Jared Allen(notes) against Chicago's debacle of an offensive line, this could be a very bad game for quarterbacks.

New York Jets at Cleveland Browns - Is it time to assume that Browns running back Peyton Hillis(notes) is for real? We certainly think so. Last week against the Patriots, Hillis ran the ball 29 times and had just one negative play - one play in which he didn't at least get back to the line of scrimmage. We've already pointed out the trade that gave Hillis to the Browns as perhaps Josh McDaniels' biggest mistake, but Hillis gets a new level of challenge against this great Jets defense. The hidden story here is how well the Cleveland defense is playing (at least against the run - they still have some real holes in their secondary), and that could be the story of this game - how Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan match up with their varied and tremendously effective defensive schemes.

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Panthers don't have anything to bring to this game from an offensive standpoint - maybe they should start rookie Armanti Edwards(notes) at quarterback and just go with the speed option. But on defense, Carolina does have something going in the secondary; they're one of the best teams against #1 and #2 receivers, and Freeman looked somewhat vulnerable against the Falcons last week. Tampa Bay is trying to redefine its power running game with LeGarrette Blount(notes), but based on what I've seen, Blount is very on-and-off in short-yardage situations for a power guy - there are times when he puts his head down too early and misses opportunities to push the pile. If the Panthers can do anything with their moribund offense, this could be an upset in the making.

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins - How will Randy Moss(notes) fare in his first game with the Tennessee Titans? It depends on how offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger uses him. Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis(notes) did a really good job of shutting Moss down in #84's last game with the Pats, though it could be argued that New England's more conservative game plan was Moss most effective opponent. Davis is still a bit inconsistent, but he's developed into a nice man coverage guy, and he'll post Randy up on all those deep seam and sideline routes. The real beneficiary of the new guy's presence could be running back Chris Johnson - the Fins are far below league average when it comes to defending passes to running backs, and if Vince Young(notes) (game-time decision) starts, the Titans' triple option game will force Miami to make some uncomfortable decisions as to who they cover. Later news has Kerry Collins(notes) starting in place of Young, which might give Moss more deep targets. Collins and Moss played together in Oakland in 2005.

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jaguars' atrocious pass defense may actually look like the Steel Curtain in this game; no team has given up more yards (298.3 per game) and touchdowns (20) through the air than the Texans. Both defenses have allowed a 67.7 completion percentage, which is second-worst in the NFL behind New England's 70.1. This should be a great game for Matt Schaub(notes) and David Garrard(notes), though connoisseurs of great secondary play may want to avert their eyes.

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts - We know full well that Peyton Manning(notes) is everything he's cracked up to be - even when he's got fifth-string running backs, receivers scouted from local grocery stores and offensive linemen who should be bagging groceries, #18 finds ways to get it done. But what can we make of this Bengals team? Carson Palmer(notes) continues his up-and-down ways, and the Colts are one of the NFL's best teams in shutting down #1 receivers. Terrell Owens(notes) is currently the most targeted receiver in the NFL (99 pass attempts in his general direction), and the Colts will most likely continue the practice of doubling Chad Ochocinco(notes) and letting T.O. roam free.

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