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Week 12: Playbook Artist, Spotlight Player, Shorts Blackmon Breakout

P.A. — Playbook Artist

It’s second down and seven yards to go for the Green Bay Packers from about the Detroit Lions’ 20 yard line.  The Lions are in a Nickel Cover 2 package — man-to-man defense at the line with two deep safeties lined up at the five yard line and just outside the hash marks.  

For the Packers it’s a basic Shotgun three wide receiver formation with running back James Starks lined up next to him.  James Jones (black route) will run a fade towards the sidelines with the idea of keeping the deep safety pinned his way.  Randall Cobb is lined up in the slot and will run a short out route taking the nickel defender (circled in white) with him away from the middle of the field.  

Running back James Starks will run a simple flat screen route to divert the attention of the linebackers (green dots) to that side of the field.  Jordy Nelson is lined up on the short side of the field and is the prime decoy.  His job is to fake the screen blocking to really make the linebackers believe there truly is a screen coming.  The final touch is the movement of center Jeff Saturday and right guard Josh Sitton (green dots) to the flat to get in to a normal screen blocking position.  

Tight end Jermichael Finley runs a drag slant route to the middle of the vacated field.  The end result is Finley catching it on the run after Rodgers fakes the screen look.  He easily gets to the end-zone with the safeties playing so far to the sidelines.  

This play was offensive creativity at its finest, and it’s something that more and more teams are doing against aggressive defenses.  Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos did something similar this past week against the San Diego Chargers when they set up a fake screen to wide receiver Eric Decker only to throw a 31 yard touchdown down the sidelines to Brandon Stokley.  

The Packers this week play a New York Giants defense that is strong up front (much like the Lions), but is very undisciplined in their back seven (linebackers and defensive backs).  Look for Aaron Rodgers to at least emulate formations and looks like this against New York.  Finley is a good play this week, along with Jordy Nelson, who had his way with the Giants in their regular season match-up in 2011.  

S.P. — Spotlighted Player

On this play Frank Gore shows fantasy owners why he still is the starting running back for Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers, and will continue to be.  

The 49ers are in an I-formation Big package with tight ends Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis loaded to the right side, and Randy Moss lined up wide to left as the only wide receiver on the field.  This is typically a running formation for the 49ers, especially with it being first and goal.  

The Chicago Bears defense has six on the line and four in the box creeping up towards the line of scrimmage.  In other words, they’re pretty set on stopping running back Frank Gore.  It actually ends up being quite the opposite.  

The 49ers go play-action on this one.  Walker runs a square in route across the middle of the end-zone.  Randy Moss runs a quick drag hoping to get some of natural pick on the Bears defenders crossing paths.  Vernon Davis hesitates off the line and runs an out pattern toward the sidelines in the end-zone.  

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick stays strong in the pocket after the play fake to Gore, moves to his right ever so slightly, and delivers a laser to Davis for the easy touchdown.  This play isn’t successful though if it wasn’t for Gore, who not only sucked in several Bears defenders, including all of them with blue dots, but laid a massive block on linebacker Lance Briggs (blue arrow) in the hole.  

In fact, it could’ve been the block of the year thus far, and illustrates why the heavily utilized Gore is such a threat in the 49ers offensive red zone game plan, even when he’s not running with the pigskin in to the end zone.  

S.B.B. — Shorts Blackmon Breakout

A lot of the talk this week has been surrounding how quarterback Chad Henne may have broken out just enough to push Blaine Gabbert out of the starting role.  Something more important happened though.  

The Houston Texans defense last week struggled to keep Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon from gouging them down the field.  Most will say that it’s due in large part to poor tackling by the Texans defense as a whole, and bad coverage in the back end of the secondary.  However, a deeper look at some of the play calls tells a different story.  

It’s first and ten for the Jaguars offense on their own 20 yard line.  The Texans are in a base 3-4 defense with the safeties fairly shallow within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.  Chad Henne brings the offense to the line in a single back bunch right formation.  

The play is fairly simple.  It’s a play-action fake three receiver route.  Tight end Marcedes Lewis (black route) will run an intermediate square in route keeping the strong safety (circled black) from dropping deep.  Cecil Shorts will gain inside position and run a deep fade, drawing the free safety (circled teal) deep to the left side of the field; this is the key movement.  

Justin Blackmon is the prime read and will run a deep post route in single coverage down the middle of the field.  The end result is an easy pitch and catch from Henne to Blackmon with the defensive back trailing and no help inside.  

This illustrates an important development in the Jaguars offense.  They finally have two wide receivers who will complement each other and make it difficult for defenses to guess right as to who to focus on.  Look for this to continue in the final six weeks of the regular season, especially if Henne stays behind center.  This means that both could become worthy fantasy starters each and every week.  

W.T.W.F — What To Watch For

– The New Orleans Saints offense will have to offset the blitz the 49ers defense will throw at them this week.  Watch for a screen or two to Jimmy Graham or Lance Moore early to loosen up the pass rush a little and make the 49ers think twice about bringing the heat.  This should allow Saints quarterback Drew Brees to stay more comfortable in the pocket as the game progresses.    

– The Philadelphia Eagles defense has a soft spot for allowing big pass plays down the field due to communication and scheme gaffes.  The Panthers should be able to exploit this early off of play-action fakes to running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.  And don’t think that it’s guaranteed to be Steve Smith on the receiving end either.  Brandon LaFell’s value has been rising as of late.  He is becoming a more reliable target for quarterback Cam Newton.  

– Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil has caught fire as of late.  He has recorded a sack and forced a fumble in each of his previous two games.  The Kansas City Chiefs offensive line is really banged up.  Starting tackle Branden Albert is doubtful, and both starting guards are questionable.   This could be a recipe for a massive blow up game for Dumervil and the Broncos defensive line.  

– Minnesota Vikings star receiver Percy Harvin will likely miss this week’s contest against the Chicago Bears.  The impact will be huge on the overall offensive side of the ball.  As a result, Adrian Peterson may be in for a rough day unless the purple and gold defense puts the offense in position to score.  Jarius Wright may be a nice wild-card sleeper this week, as he has shown some glimpses of Harvin-like big play ability and could hit one homerun.  

Thanks for reading! 

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for, and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA).

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