Super Bowl 51 is a matchup of juggernaut offenses and underrated defenses. Here’s what to expect from both teams from an X’s and O’s perspective:
When the Patriots have the ball
Expect the Patriots to spend their first couple drives combining fast paced tempo with information gathering. The Patriots use motion and non-traditional sets early to analyze the defense. For example, the Patriots line up fullback James Develin or a running back out wide to see who goes out to cover him. If a linebacker goes with the back, it’s man coverage. If a corner stays with the back, it’s zone coverage. From there, Brady picks the best matchup.
This will help diagnose the Falcons relatively simple defensive scheme. The Falcons primarily play Cover 1 or Cover 3, and don’t blitz often. Although the Falcons have blitzed more frequently during the playoffs, I don’t expect them to blitz Brady a ton in Super Bowl 51. Nor do I expect the Falcons to sit back in Cover 3 and let Brady pick apart zone coverage. Instead, the only consistent strategy for beating the Patriots in the playoffs has been pressure with 4, preferably up the middle.
Super Bowl 49 features the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, two teams with very contrasting styles from an X’s and O’s perspective: one team is very simple, and the other is constantly changing. Seattle’s defense plays a 4-3 under and either Cover 1 or Cover 3 for over 90% of its snaps. The Seahawks have a fierce pass rush and the best secondary in recent memory. On the other side, New England could become the first team to win the Super Bowl without recording a sack in the playoffs. The Patriots use their athleticism, position versatility, and lockdown man to man corner Darrelle Revis to change their defensive scheme nearly every game. On the offensive side of the ball, Seattle loves to run inside and outsize zone with bruising Marshawn Lynch, play action off of it, and some Zone Read with ultra mobile Quarterback Russell Wilson. As for New England, they may throw the ball 50+ times and not run the ball at all (Divisional Round), or run the ball 30+ times for 3 TD’s (AFC Championship) depending on the defense. Let’s take a further look at the X’s and O’s of Super Bowl 49: Continue reading →
Like the NFC Championship, the AFC Championship features a regular season rematch, with the Colts visiting the Patriots. The Patriots won the regular season game 42-20, but the Colts now have a different set of key players. New England will have to deal with a whole host of new players and schemes:
WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL
The Colts are almost a new team on the offensive side of the ball; since the 42-20 loss to New England, Boom Herron (#36) has replaced Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw at Running Back, Donte Moncrief (#10) has emerged as a go to Wide Receiver, Tight End Dwayne Allen (#83) is healthy, and future Hall of Fame WR Reggie Wayne (#87) has become severely hampered with a torn triceps and hobbled groin. Additionally, the Colts have swapped and replaced two new offensive lineman into the mix.
The Colts did an excellent job last week of protecting Andrew Luck against Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, while the Patriots pass rush was abysmal against the Ravens, recording 0 sacks on 45 pass attempts. The Colts do not have a strong running game, so look for them to spread it out in Empty formations and use QB Andrew Luck as a run threat. Continue reading →
The 2015 NFC Championship features a rematch from Week 1, with the Green Bay Packers visiting the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks won handily in September, but the NFC championship will have different key players, schemes, and match ups:
WHEN GREEN BAY HAS THE BALL:
Green Bay cut the field in half when they chose not to attack the right side of the field to avoid Richard Sherman Week 1; Green Bay aligned #11 Jarrett Boykin to the right on the vast majority of snaps. The Packers must attack all parts of the field in order to be successful this week. While the Packers will almost certainly line up #87 Jordy Nelson to the right more often, the emergence of rookie #17 Davonte Adams gives Green Bay a viable threat even when Jordy Nelson is on the left side of the field. However, attacking the right side of the field doesn’t necessarily mean attacking Sherman 1 on 1. Look for Green Bay to manipulate formations to move Sherman away from the outside most Receiver. Dallas was able to do this from a Trips tight formation, with the TE as the lone eligible receiver to the left, and 3 Wideouts to the right:
Week 13 features a cross-conference matchup between the two hottest teams in the NFL, the Packers v. Patriots. Let’s take a further look at what to expect in this potential Superbowl 49 showdown:
WHEN GREEN BAY HAS THE BALL
In their last two games against some of the NFL’s most prolific passing offenses (Colts & Broncos), the Patriots shut down the opponent’s run game early and forced obvious passing situations with New England in the lead during the 2nd half. (Broncos under 40 yards rushing, Colts under 20 yards rushing). This plays right into Belichick’s hands, as he wants to primarily stay in either Nickel, Dime, Big Nickel (3 S), or Penny (4 CB 1 S) personnel. Expect New England to be in some kind of sub-package (More than 4 DB’s) for most of the game. With that, Green Bay should try to establish some kind of run game in the 1st half to make the Patriots Safeties downhill players. However, Vince Wilfork and recent acquisition Alan Branch have done a good job against the run, and the Packers have had struggles of their own in the run game. While Eddie Lacy was able to seal the game late last week, Minnesota was able to effectively stop the run in the 1st half multiple times with Nickel Personnel (2 LB 5 DB), even when Green Bay played with a Tight End or Fullback (seen below). Overall, the success or failure of the Packers run game will likely be essential for how the Patriots use their defensive personnel.