NFL Turkey Day: Five things to watch

As you settle in today with family and good food, here are five thing to look for when you check out the slate of NFL games—starting in Detroit with the Packers coming to town.

Ndamukong Suh ICONThe production of Suh and the Lions' front four will be key to limiting Rodgers today in Detroit.

1. Lions' front four: There isn’t a defensive game plan that can shut down Aaron Rodgers and this Green Bay offense. But when you can consistently collapse the pocket, shorten the edge and put hits on the QB with a four-man front you can play coverage in the secondary. We could see the Lions lean on Cover 2 or play some Cover 7 (combination man) to limit the vertical game and take away routes that break inside of the numbers. However, the production has to come up front with Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nick Fairley and the rest of the Detroit D-Line to get that done.

2. Alex Smith vs. the Ravens’ secondary: You know what you are going to get from the Baltimore defense: multiple looks in passing situations, overload blitz schemes (both zone and man pressure), plus some Cover 1 (man-free) and 2-Man in the secondary. I want to see the 49ers’ QB make the throws, challenge this secondary and target both WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis. The Niners’ game plan is based on the production of RB Frank Gore, but when it comes to crucial situations (3rd downs, red zone) Smith has to make the plays to beat the Ravens on the road.

3. Romo’s decision making: Protect the football. It almost sounds too simple, but during the Cowboys’ three game winning streak, Romo is producing big numbers and avoiding turnovers. That has to continue vs. a Dolphins’ squad that is playing its best football of the 2011 season. We should see plenty of rookie RB DeMarco Murray, but if the Cowboys want to move to 7-4 Romo has to stay out of trouble, continue to make throws outside the pocket and play efficient football inside of the red zone.

4. Charles Woodson’s technique: Any time you get a chance to watch Woodson play, check him out at the line of scrimmage. He plays with a physical style, is quick with his hands and shows the ability to open his hips and run. Teaching tape as I call it. Plus, within Dom Capers’ system, the Packers will use Woodson is multiple alignments. We wil see the Packers' CB outside of the numbers, walked down over a tight end, as a edge rushers, dropping to the deep half, etc. However, the one matchup I want to see today: Woodson vs. Calvin Johnson. Two of the top talents in the league on a national stage. That’s good football.

5. Torrey Smith in the vertical game: Check out the rookie WR tonight. Legit deep ball speed off the line of scrimmage on the 9 (fade) route. Smith has shown the ability to win at the line of scrimmage, stem his route vertically up the field and separate when the ball is in the air. The Ravens got back to a more balanced game plan in the win over the Bengals this past Sunday. And when you lead with Ray Rice and the run game, Smith will get those one-on-one matchups where he can stretch the field for QB Joe Flacco. A big play waiting to happen in a game where points could be at a premium.

Have a great Thanksgiving...

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