NFL Sunday: five things to watch

Let’s take a look at the Week 16 NFL schedule. Five things to watch for tomorrow during the Sunday action.

1. The Giants’ pressure: How does New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell get to QB Aaron Rodgers’ tomorrow? I like the matchup of Justin Tuck and the Giants’ defensive front vs. the Packers’ O-Line, but don’t be surprised to see New York use their defensive backs to bring edge pressure (along with A and B gap blitz schemes) tomorrow at Lambeau. Fewell has developed into an aggressive play caller this season, and although he will play some forms of Cover 2 in passing situations, he wants to attack the offense.

Darrelle RevisICONRevis and the Jets provide a tough matchup for Chicago's Jay Cutler.

2. Cutler vs. the Jets’ secondary: We all know that the Jets are a pressure team under Rex Ryan. What does that mean for this Chicago offense? Throw the 3-step hot reads and get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has to come to the stadium with a game plan designed to give Cutler options at the line of scrimmage and limit the amount of risk he has to take in the drop back game. Look for the slant, quick out and one-step seam route to be big tomorrow for Cutler and his WRs. Easy for us to talk about, but let’s see if Cutler can make these throws against the Jets’ Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at Soldier Field.

3. Vernon Davis: Get him the football. The 49ers’ TE had one target last week in the loss at San Diego. Even with Troy Smith back under center, this game plan has to be designed to use Davis in matchups he can exploit vs. St. Louis. The spread sets, the deep 7 (flag) route off of play action and the simple 5-yard stick out. Let Davis make a play once he has the ball in his hands. San Fran isn’t going to pull out the road win vs. the Rams—and stay in this NFC West race—if Davis isn’t a major factor in what they do from an offensive perspective.

4. McFadden vs. the Colts’ front seven: Another test for this Indy defensive front. The Colts played fast, were quick to get off of blocks and had great pursuit to the football last Sunday in the win over the Jags. It has to be the same tomorrow against an Oakland team that can run the ball with big production. McFadden has developed into more than just an edge runner this season, and when he does get through the hole and into the second level of the defense he displays top-tier vertical speed. The Colts can’t allow the big play and must tackle well in the open field to limit the Raiders’ explosive running back—because another playoff birth is within reach.

5. The Eagles’ wide receivers: Michael Vick will have options in the vertical passing game vs. the Vikings. Minnesota is a Cover 2 team, and just like we saw vs. the Redskins’ earlier this season, DeSean Jackson can get on top of a deep half safety. Even if the Vikings show some man coverage schemes, they don’t have the secondary to run with Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. This should be another night of big plays for the Philly offense.

Hope your Christmas Day is filled with family and good times.

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