This is one key query for every of Sunday’s playoff matchups.

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

Can the Chargers gradual the Ravens’ working assault?

This can be one of the best recreation of the weekend, and it is a rematch of Week 16 when the Ravens pulled off a 22-10 upset on the highway. Baltimore ran the soccer 35 occasions for 159 yards in that recreation, which practically matched quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s 204 passing yards.

Total, Baltimore’s received six of seven since switching to Jackson – claiming the AFC North title within the course of – whereas tweaking its offense to suit the rookie’s pure skills. The Ravens are utilizing extra zone working designs that give Jackson the choice to learn a defender and both hand off the soccer or hold it himself.

Nevertheless, apart from a 27-yarder, the Chargers‘ protection contained Jackson on the bottom in Week 16, holding him to three yards or fewer on 9 of his speeding makes an attempt and 39 total on 13 makes an attempt. Los Angeles did so due to a defensive scheme often called the “scrape change,” which its protection can be sensible to implement as soon as once more on Sunday in opposition to the zone-read working performs from Jackson and Co.

On that kind of play, the offense leaves one defender unblocked, usually the defensive finish, who’s known as the “learn defender.” Ideally, the movement of the play will function a pure block on that participant. That is as a result of upon taking the snap, the quarterback will put the ball within the stomach of their working again and gauge the learn defender’s response – if he stays exterior, the quarterback arms the soccer off to the working again aiming inside. If the defender crashes inside towards the potential handoff route, the quarterback retains the soccer and scampers exterior:


That is the place the scrape change is available in, which makes the quarterback’s choice for them. This adjustment duties the learn defender with crashing inside it doesn’t matter what, whereas having a linebacker “scrape” to the sting behind them. In essence, the defensive finish and the linebacker change their hole duties:


This forces the quarterback’s hand. Once they see the learn defender crash inside, they will instinctively pull the soccer down and run to the sting, the place – hopefully for the protection – the linebacker’s now ready.

Los Angeles did this to Baltimore in Week 16, at occasions utilizing security Adrian Phillips (No. 31) because the scraping linebacker:

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On this play, defensive finish Isaac Rochell (No. 98) crashes down inside, which cues Jackson to maintain the soccer. However Phillips loops round on the scrape, slicing Jackson down for a loss.

Slowing down Baltimore’s zone-read working assault is a should for the Chargers in the event that they hope to tug off a win on the highway. The scrape change may be the technique of attaining that objective.

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

Can Chicago power Foles to make vital errors?

For the second straight 12 months, the Eagles are heading into the playoffs on the precise arm of backup quarterback Nick Foles. After Carson Wentz went down in Week 15, the Eagles received three straight video games, narrowly incomes the NFC’s last playoff spot as Foles racked up 962 yards and 6 touchdowns with a glowing 77 p.c completion fee.

Together with making fast choices within the pocket, a component that is allowed Foles to thrive is his downfield execution. In comparison with Wentz, his total numbers are significantly better on longer makes an attempt via the air:

Throws of 20-plus yards

QB Completions-Makes an attempt Yards TDs INTs QB Ranking
Wentz 15 of 41 603 2 4 61.33
Foles 6 of 18 259 1 0 100.46

Nevertheless, Foles did make some errors this season, and if the Bears can power a turnover or two on Sunday – a key to their success this 12 months – the offense and second-year pivot Mitchell Trubisky ought to get alternatives to capitalize on short-field conditions.

Chicago can do that by mixing up its coverages, which is one thing the Houston Texans did of their Week 16 matchup with Philadelphia. Early in that recreation, Foles hit working again Darren Sproles on a route out of the backfield for a protracted catch-and-run landing. The Texans used man protection within the secondary on that play, which no less than arrange an surprising look later within the recreation.

Under, going through a first-and-10, the Eagles line up with Sproles to Foles’ proper within the backfield. Alshon Jeffery is the only receiver to the precise, whereas the Eagles have three receivers to the left, together with tight finish Zach Ertz, who’s on the within. This is the route design, which incorporates mirrored slant/flat mixture on either side and Ertz working a “sit” route over the center:


Upon taking the snap, Foles initially appears proper to work the slant/flat mixture involving Jeffery and Sproles. Having seen man protection earlier, Foles anticipates the linebacker will attempt to cowl Sproles out of the backfield, which might create a pure rub given Jeffery’s slant route. Nevertheless, the Texans are literally working zone protection, so the cornerback passes off the slant path to the linebacker and jumps the working again’s route:


This flusters Foles. He sees the cornerback leaping the flat route and pulls down the soccer, however then makes a panicked choice beneath strain, forcing a throw to Ertz on the sit route, which is intercepted:

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The Bears – led by Khalil Mack – have been nice at producing strain on opposing passers this season. If they’ll successfully mix that strain with some completely different appears within the secondary, they need to be capable to rattle Foles and create a turnover or two, which might put them on the trail to victory.

Mark Schofield writes NFL characteristic content material for theScore. After practically a decade of practising legislation within the Washington, D.C., space Mark modified careers and began writing about soccer. Drawing upon greater than a decade of enjoying quarterback, together with on the collegiate stage, Mark focuses his work on quarterback analysis and offensive scheme evaluation. He lives in Maryland together with his spouse and two youngsters. Discover him on Twitter @MarkSchofield.


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