Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Depth charts have been part of the NFL's
culture for decades.
But in this era of specialization, conventional depth charts have never been
On offense, teams utilize a third receiver or a second tight end far more than
often a fullback. Four- or five-receiver sets and an empty backfield
are the norm in obvious passing situations for the high-powered teams with
On defense, a nickel back is going to play far more than a 4-3 linebacker who
lacks the ability to drop and cover in space. Meanwhile, most 3-4 outside
linebackers are more hybrids than anything else, sometimes putting their hand
on the ground as a defensive end and sometimes dropping in a zone-blitz
All this specialization on both sides of the ball has offensive coaches
focusing more and more on singling out a specific player in order to magnify
his deficiencies in the passing game.
It could be the run-thumping linebacker who can only play downhill, the
overmatched nickel back who they want on the field 60 or 70 percent of the
time or the safety who serves more as an extra linebacker.
Back in the 1970s, the no-huddle offense was saved for the final few minutes
of the half or game. Now, it's become a strategic move to change the pace of
an offense and limit defensive substitutions.
"You're looking to push the tempo, play fast, wear an opponent down, kind of
play faster than they are," Miami first-year coach Joe Philbin said. "Ideally,
you're getting a bunch of first downs. I think there's some advantages if you
can get it rolling."
Those advantages only exist, however, if an offense possesses players with the
kind of flexibility and versatility to produce in different formations.
"It's got to be real in the sense that just sticking guys in certain places
and not using them -- people aren't going to defend that," Baltimore Ravens
offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "We have tight ends; we have people
that we can move and running backs outside that they aren't a decoy -- it's
When it's "real" and clicking, it puts a ton of pressure on defensive lineman,
who are taught to rev their motors non-stop since most defensive coordinators
rotate their big men liberally.
"One of the main points of running a no-huddle offense and what you're trying
to accomplish is making the defense uncomfortable," Ravens Pro Bowl center
Matt Birk said. "Sometimes you're calling plays and the defense isn't even
The no-huddle is especially effective when you have a veteran quarterback who
can diagnose things quickly at the line and audible to the right formation and
"I think every team wants to play fast and get up to the line of scrimmage,"
said Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who can lean on Peyton
Manning to run the Broncos' no-huddle. "Every team has a no-huddle system. How
fast you go depends on what type of quarterback you have and how fast can your
players react to it all."
It doesn't always have to be a veteran running things, though.
Philbin's rookie quarterback in Miami, Ryan Tannehill, often executed a form
of the no-huddle during his college days at Texas A&M, so Philbin brought in
Tannehill's coach with the Aggies, Mike Sherman, as the team's offensive
"When we get to the line quicker, we are able to assess the defense and get
ourselves into a good play," said Tannehill, who seems far more comfortable
when pressing he action. "We're then able to run more plays and give ourselves
more opportunities to put points on the board. We run these same no-huddle
plays in practice, so we're used to not being able to say, 'do this on this
play.' It's just kind of an understanding that we're on the same page."
That preparation along with flawless communication on the field are the key
ingredients in offenses operating a complex no-huddle attack.
"Communication is everything when it comes to the no-huddle," NFL Network
analyst and former MVP Kurt Warner said. "You have to get the communication to
the offensive line first and foremost, to the running backs and also to the
wide receivers. That's why the good teams are so good at it because everybody
communicates very, very well together."
Concentration is also paramount, especially on the road when an opposing crowd
can roar like a jet engine when it thinks it's having an impact on the game.
"It takes a lot of concentration," New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob
Gronkowski said when discussing the no-huddle. "It takes a team effort for
sure. You've got to have all 11 guys working at the same pace and you've got to
make sure you're doing your own job out there."
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THE GAMES (All Times Eastern)
Kansas City (1-6) at San Diego (3-4), Thursday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: Chargers by 8
THE SKINNY: It's been a disastrous season for Kansas City, which is the first
team since 1940 to go seven games into a season without holding a lead during
regulation. The Chiefs have given the ball away an NFL-worst 25 times and their
team passing rating is a league-low 64.4. Needless to say, that's not a recipe
for winning football.
The Chargers typically have big hiccups under Norv Turner but find their
stride sometime in late October or early November. The Chiefs, who are on the
verge of losing five straight for the first time since Nov. 29-Dec. 27, 2009,
are the perfect club to kick start things against as long as San Diego's
offensive line can keep Philip Rivers clean.
PREDICTION: Chargers 24, Chiefs 17
Denver (4-3) at Cincinnati (3-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 3 1/2
THE SKINNY: Peyton Manning is back. The veteran recorded his 37th career game
with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions last Sunday as the
Broncos blitzed New Orleans, surpassing Brett Favre for the most such games in
NFL history. Things don't figure to change all that much in Cincinnati this
week. Peyton is 7-0 all-time versus the Bengals with 17 TDs vs. three
PREDICTION: Broncos 27, Bengals 20
Baltimore (5-2) at Cleveland (2-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Ravens by 3 1/2
THE SKINNY: Joe Flacco probably spent his bye week trying to forget about J.J.
Watt. Whether he was successful not won't matter on Sunday since the lowly
Browns will likely make things easy for the signal-caller. Baltimore and
Flacco have won nine straight versus Cleveland and 10 consecutive against the
AFC North. Meanwhile, with their next win, Flacco and his head coach, John
Harbaugh, will record their 50th career win together.
PREDICTION: Ravens 24, Browns 10
Arizona (4-4) at Green Bay (5-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 11
THE SKINNY: A perfect September turned into a perfectly awful October for the
Cardinals. November isn't shaping up well either for Arizona, which arrives in
Titletown to face the red-hot Aaron Rodgers, who already has 21 touchdown
passes. A-Rod is the first quarterback in NFL history to have 20-plus TD
passes through his team's first eight games in back-to-back seasons.
PREDICTION: Packers 28, Cardinals 13
Buffalo (3-4) at Houston (6-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Texans by 10
THE SKINNY: Mario Williams, the NFL's highest-paid defensive player, returns
to Houston. The No. 1 overall selection by the Texans in the 2006 NFL Draft,
Williams signed a $100 million contract with Buffalo in the offseason, but the
Bills have struggled mightily on defense and Williams underwent minor wrist
surgery recently. Since his absence in South Texas, Watt has developed into the
NFL's most dominant defender, with 9 1/2 sacks and 10 passes defended for the
Texans, who are shooting for the first 7-1 start in franchise history.
PREDICTION: Texans 30, Bills 20
Miami (4-3) at Indianapolis (4-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Dolphins by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: What figured to be a battle between two of the NFL's best rookie
quarterbacks could be derailed by Tannehill's left knee injury. An MRI on
Monday did not show any structural damage, but his status for Sunday's game
against Indianapolis and Andrew Luck remains uncertain. Tannehill was hit by
Jets linebacker Calvin Pace in the first quarter on the Dolphins' second
possession Sunday and didn't return. Backup quarterback Matt Moore filled in
for Miami during its 30-9 blowout victory over the Jets.
Luck has the highest winning percentage (.571) through Week 8 by a rookie QB
who was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in NFL history and has been
averaging 281.6 passing yards per game, the most among the rookie signal-
callers. Tannehill, meanwhile, has turned the corner recently, completing 40-
of-60 passes for 426 yards with two TDs and no picks over his last three
PREDICTION: Colts 21, Dolphins 20
Detroit (3-4) at Jacksonville (1-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Lions by 3 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Lions may have saved their season last Sunday when Matthew
Stafford found Titus Young for a TD with 20 seconds to play as Detroit edged
the Seahawks, 28-24. Now, Stafford will try to continue his dominance against
the AFC when the Lions visit lowly Jacksonville. Stafford has passed for 1,843
yards with 17 TDs and just one interception in his last six games versus AFC
PREDICTION: Lions 24, Jaguars 14
Chicago (6-1) at Tennessee (3-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bears by 3 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Titans have won 10 of their last 12 home games against NFC
competition, but they will be facing a Bears team with an incredibly
opportunistic defense this week. Chicago's defense has six interception
returns for TDs, the most in NFL history through seven games. Bears linebacker
Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman became the first teammates to have
a pick-six in consecutive games earlier in the season. Meanwhile, cornerback
Tim Jennings, who turned things around versus Carolina with his own pick-six
last Sunday, has seven interceptions in his past eight games.
PREDICTION: Bears 21, Titans 17
Carolina (1-6) at Washington (3-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Redskins by 3
THE SKINNY: It's Cam vs. RG3 as last year's NFL Rookie of the Year takes on
the leader at the midway point for this year's award.
Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III will always be compared since both were
selected in the top two selections in back-to-back drafts (Newton was No. 1
overall in 2011, RG3 was No. 2 in '12), and both were Heisman Trophy winners.
Newton is currently in the midst of a sophomore slump for the 1-6 Panthers as
opposing defenses have caught up a bit to his unique style. Griffin,
meanwhile, leads all NFL rookies with a 66.8 completion percentage and 97.3
passer rating, and is first among all QBs with 476 rushing yards. That said,
the 'Skins are only 3-5 and Griffin will be facing similar hurdles down the
PREDICTION: Panthers 23, Redskins 21
Tampa Bay (3-4) at Oakland (3-4), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Raiders by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Buccaneers will be aiming for a franchise-record fourth
consecutive game with 28-or-more points but will have to do it without Pro
Bowl guard Carl Nicks, who will be undergoing season-ending toe surgery.
Tampa QB Josh Freeman is already the first signal-caller in franchise history
to pass for three-plus TDs in three consecutive games and will be looking to
lead the Bucs to their first-ever win in Oakland. The Raiders are 5-0 all-time
at home versus Tampa Bay.
PREDICTION: Raiders 24, Bucs 21
Minnesota (5-3) at Seattle (4-4), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 5
THE SKINNY: The NFL's two top rushers meet in this one. Minnesota's Adrian
Peterson, No. 1 with 775 rushing yards, and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, second
with 757, probably won't decide this one, however. The alarming regression of
Vikings QB Christian Ponder probably won't slow this week against a Seahawks
secondary which could be the NFL's best.
PREDICTION: Seahawks 28, Vikings 13
Pittsburgh (4-3) at New York Giants (6-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 3
THE SKINNY: It's strength vs. strength here. Pittsburgh has usually dominated
NFC foes under Mike Tomlin, compiling a 16-6 record. Meanwhile, Steelers QB Ben
Roethlisberger is 23-7 all-time against the NFC. His counterpart, Eli Manning,
has won eight in a row versus AFC teams, however. Call home-field advantage the
PREDICTION: Giants 24, Steelers 20
Dallas (3-4) at Atlanta (7-0), Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: Falcons by 4
THE SKINNY: The Falcons are 7-0 for the first time in franchise history and
Matt Ryan has been playing an elite level. Ryan passed for 262 yards and
three TDs with 137.4 passer rating against Philadelphia last Sunday. It's
paramount Dallas slows him since the Falcons are 28-0 when Ryan is above the
century mark in passer rating and 15-0 when he throws three or more TDs.
PREDICTION: Falcons 30, Cowboys 17
Philadelphia (3-4) at New Orleans (2-5), Monday, 8:35 p.m.
LINE: Saints by 3
THE SKINNY: Michael Vick will remain the Eagles' starting quarterback against
the Saints on Monday night. Vick has struggled for the 3-4 Eagles, completing
59 percent of his passes for 1,823 yards with nine touchdowns and eight
interceptions. He also has lost five of nine fumbles while rushing for 247
yards, leading to speculation that rookie backup Nick Foles could replace
Vick under center.
Philadelphia is coming off a 30-17 drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta
Falcons on Sunday. The loss marked the first time in coach Andy Reid's 14-year
tenure that his team was defeated coming off a bye.
The Saints, meanwhile, stumbled badly last Sunday as Peyton Manning outdueled
Drew Brees in the first game for New Orleans under new interim coach Joe Vitt,
who was suspended for the season's first six games for his involvement in the
Saints' bounty case.
PREDICTION: Saints 34, Eagles 23
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