Big Blue United

Steelers D Vs. Bortles’ Legs, Vikings Must Be Sharp When Blitzing Brees, Tennessee Takes on Gronk, Philly’s Chance to Run on Atlanta

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1. Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler is known for slot blitzing, but he’s also a proponent of rushing three and dropping eight into coverage. This would be a great way to contain Blake Bortles’s scrambling and force the struggling QB to make decisions late into the down. The Steelers have a presnap tell here: If T.J. Watt is standing up over the center or guard, an eight-man coverage is on the way.

2. Each week the Steelers will employ stretches of “22” personnel—two backs and two tight ends. It’s a run-heavy formation with just one wide receiver. The Steelers should consider taking a play-action deep shot to that wide receiver on Sunday. Against “22,” the Jaguars move safety Tashaun Gipson to cornerback and either Jalen Ramsey or A.J. Bouye (depending on the look) to free safety. Ramsey and Bouye are both top-tier corners, but their experience in centerfield is limited. Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger should see how they handle play-action.

3. When the Saints visited the Vikings in Week 1, New Orleans split receivers on both sides of the formation out wide, past the field numbers, 22 times. Those 22 plays produced 163 yards. Look for the Saints to line up wide on Sunday against Minnesota’s zone defense.

4. The Vikings don’t blitz nearly as often as you might guess, but they’re highly efficient when they do. Given what Drew Brees did to the Panthers on Sunday, you can bet Mike Zimmer was extra meticulous in his blitz planning this week, especially blitzes involving zone coverage.

5. One overlooked aspect of Brees’s greatness is his ability to throw when he’s moving. He does this in the pocket as well as anyone, but he’s also effective outside the pocket when moving to his right. Brees certainly isn’t a mobile quarterback in the traditional sense, but opponents worry about his legs as a passer almost as much as they’d worry about, say, Marcus Mariota’s legs as a runner.

6. In the second half at Kansas City, the Titans changed that game by going with three wide receivers. The Chiefs simply couldn’t stop them. It’ll be interesting to see what Mike Mularkey does Saturday night with this normally base-personnel-driven offense. Mariota is probably more comfortable in three-receiver sets, but New England’s nickel run defense is much better than Kansas City’s.

7. New England’s offense will go through Rob Gronkowski. The Titans had trouble with Travis Kelce, particularly in man coverage where the Chiefs used pre-snap motion to dictate mismatches for him. Gronkowski is a different animal; it’ll have to be a linebacker plus safety Jonathan Cyprien or Kevin Byard on him. Gronkowski’s touches will depend on the nature of those double teams. Is it help coverage over the top? Just one guy jamming Gronk off the snap, or full-fledged dedicated two-on-one coverage? If too much defensive attention is paid to Gronk, Tom Brady will go elsewhere with the ball. That doesn’t mean the offense isn’t still going through Gronk, though. Expect

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