Scouting Matchups: Week 12
NFL advance scouts watch games in person, studying everything from personnel packages to play-calling signals, and on film, looking at individual players, as well as a team's various schemes and recent trends. The goal? Provide their coaching staff with the best possible means of preparation during the week of practice.
Scouts Inc. does the same thing, compiling the best advance scouting reports available and delivering them to you by Tuesday afternoon on ESPN.com Insider. On Friday, after breaking down more game film, Scouts Inc. files an updated report with a deeper look at each game, spotlighting key individual matchups and trends and predicting the final score.
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 23, 2006
Miami at Detroit
Miami's defensive stars have done a terrific job of leading the Dolphins' success, making enough plays to win the last three games. The Dolphins are the only team to defeat Chicago, as well as Minnesota on Sunday, giving Miami a 2-1 record against NFC North teams.
Tampa Bay at Dallas
The Buccaneers' approach hasn't changed that much since rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski replaced injured starter Chris Simms. They will continue to attack on the ground with RB Cadillac Williams to set up the quick, controlled West Coast attack. However, Gradkowski's inability to stretch the vertical seams has placed a lot of pressure on the Buccaneers' offense. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will load up the box in an effort to clamp down on Williams and pressure Gradkowski on heavy passing down tendencies.
Denver at Kansas City
It will be the best of the Thanksgiving Day games and it is a rivalry game. Denver has not had much success in Arrowhead and this is a big game. After Denver's loss to San Diego in Week 11, this game could have serious wild-card ramifications down the road. If Denver QB Jake Plummer continues to struggle, this might be his last start in a Broncos uniform.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 26, 2006
San Francisco at St. Louis
The Rams are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and need a win on the road to help regain confidence. The Rams are still only two games behind in their division as they try to regain footing in the NFC. The 49ers have been surprising everyone and come into this game with an impressive 5-5 record after a stunning win over the division-leading Seahawks. The Rams are looking to avenge a Week 2 loss to the 49ers.
Arizona at Minnesota
The Arizona Cardinals got a much-needed win at home last week against the Detroit Lions. Head coach Dennis Green has been under fire for his lack of production with such an abundance of talent in Arizona, and a victory will do wonders for an organization that is pointing fingers in every direction as to who should be shouldering the blame for their underachieving efforts this season.
Houston at NY Jets
The surprising Jets will try and get back on track vs. the struggling Texans. The Jets played well vs. a tough Bears team last week but came up short in a defensive battle. First-year head coach Gary Kubiak and the Texans have played well at times and are looking to finish the season strong. The Texans have some weapons on offense in quarterback David Carr and receivers Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds. Look for a spirited contest between the new-look Texans and a desperate Jets team looking to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Carolina at Washington
The Panthers are on a two-game winning streak, but they must keep winning to take control of the NFC South. This will be the home debut of new Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell and it could be an emotional game for him as well as the rest of the Redskins. They will look to be the spoiler and knock off any other potential playoff teams.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
This should be a great divisional matchup between two teams coming off wins. The Steelers were supposed to be the class of the AFC North, but the Ravens have clearly snatched that label away and made it their own. On a two-game winning streak, the Steelers still have flickering playoff hopes and need this victory to keep their heads above water. The Ravens hold a three-game lead in the division and are battling for home-field advantage in the playoffs. These teams are not found of each other and the crowd in Baltimore will have a little extra for the hated Steelers.
New Orleans at Atlanta
This NFC South showdown pits two teams that are desperately trying to get their seasons back on track. However, if Atlanta has any hope of staying competitive and in the race, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will need to rediscover his offense that has disappeared during the team's three-game losing streak. Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs set the blueprint on how to slow down this high-powered offense in Week 3 with his assignment football and attacking schemes.
Jacksonville at Buffalo
Jacksonville is going to be fighting to stay in the race for a wildcard spot, while Buffalo is out to prove it is headed in the right direction and should be a legitimate contender next year. The Jaguars have slipped down to 15th in the league in total offense, and average 21.1 points per game.
Cincinnati at Cleveland
In this divisional battle of Ohio, Cincinnati is looking to sweep Cleveland for the second season in a row. The Bengals ended a three-game losing streak in New Orleans last week while the Browns lost a nail-biter to the Steelers. The Bengals are a banged-up team and had many key players inactive last week, including RG Bobbie Williams, CB Deltha O'Neal, SS Dexter Jackson, LB Brian Simmons, LT Levi Jones and C Rich Braham.
Oakland at San Diego
This is a division rivalry game. The Raiders may be 2-8, but they have played better then their record indicates. Although their offense is still among the worst in the NFL, the Raiders' defense is playing well. This will be a good test for the high-powered San Diego offense that features QB Philip Rivers and MVP candidate LaDainian Tomlinson. In the first meeting the Chargers got an early lead and sat on the ball in the second half. They won't be as conservative this week, so it will be interesting to see how Rivers will fare vs. one of the more underrated secondaries in the NFL.
Chicago at New England
This should be a great game between two of the elite teams in the NFL. The Bears are coming off two impressive road wins vs. New York teams and return to the East Coast for their toughest contest. The AFC East-leading Patriots had their best overall effort of the season in Week 11 at Green Bay. New England had its backs against the wall after dropping two straight games and put up 35 points along with a dominating defensive shutout. This should be a hard-fought contest between two teams that have a chance to meet up again in early February.
NY Giants at Tennessee
Tennessee is coming of a strong showing against the Philadelphia Eagles, where it was able to run the ball successfully with RB Travis Henry gaining 143 yards on 18 carries.
Philadelphia at Indianapolis
The Colts can now breath a sigh of relief as they have finally been beaten and do not have the pressure of being the only undefeated team in the NFL. The Colts' offense is still very powerful and always fun to watch. Peyton Manning operate the offense with his precision passing.
MONDAY NOVEMBER 27, 2006
Green Bay at Seattle
Brett Favre will attempt to overcome his injured throwing elbow and make consecutive start No. 252 and keep his unofficial title as the NFL's iron man quarterback. Favre is facing his mentor, Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren, with whom he won a Super Bowl with in Green Bay.
Both teams are still in the playoff hunt with Seattle atop the NFC West division and the Packers still mathematically alive in the wild card race. Green Bay has been extremely inconsistent all season and will only go as far as Favre will lead them, especially considering backup Aaron Rodgers is out for the year with a foot injury. Seattle has struggled, but might be getting healthy at the right time heading down the stretch to the playoffs. The 12th man will be out in full force under the bright lights of Monday night to support their Seahawks.