Playbook: Week 5 WRWW mailbag

We enjoyed bantering with you all about our LeBron James question. Now, we’ll return the favor by answering a few of your mailbag questions.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys can slow down Wes Welker? @edpgmc

To beat Wes Welker, you can do a few different things.

First, you can’t allow Welker to run free down the field. Dallas doesn’t have any one defensive back that can jam Welker and reroute him consistently; if they can, that is one way to slow him down.

The next way you can beat Welker is by getting to Tom Brady. When pressure gets to or moves Brady off of his spot, he becomes frenetic and his accuracy decreases. Rob Ryan is notorious for designing schemes to disrupt the comfort of offenses and we’ll see what he does this weekend.

How much will the Lions benefit from a good running game? @DLionsFan19713

They really don’t benefit at all from their running game.

Detroit is a classic example of an offense that passes to help its run game. They use short, efficient throws, such as screens to substitute as run plays.  Detroit has the ability to throw the ball around the field, especially now with the continuing maturity of Matthew Stafford.

The Lions also have a receiver that draws doubles on a pretty regular rate — Calvin Johnson. On the outside, he takes defenders out of the box and makes it easier for the Lions to run the ball.

What do the Dolphins need to do to get back on track THIS year? @Cortenb

The Dolphins don’t have a quarterback to carry their football team, so they need to establish an identity through the run game. Whether it’s Daniel Thomas or Reggie Bush, Miami needs to feed its ’backs and the offensive line must generate consistent push off of the ball. The Dolphins must establish an identity and generate more toughness through the ground game.

That will open up the passing game and take attention off of Brandon Marshall. Throw the ball to him 15 times, for instance, and give him no reason to feel unappreciated. Let him be like a Calvin Johnson, feed him and force him to make a play.

Why do you think Detroit starts games off slowly? Is it emotional, physical, or game plan? @Motowncool

For starters, the Lions don’t have a bruising ground game to set the tempo and a still-developing QB in Matthew Stafford. Being a one-dimensional team, the weight is put on him to get the ball rolling for the offense early.  They are also a big-play team; they don’t establish longer drives consistently.

That being said, when teams come out more conservative — to get a feel for what the Lions are doing — it seems as if Stafford and the Lions’ offense is doing the same thing. They become more aggressive as the game progresses.

Stafford is exceptional in the second half though; his quarterback rating jumps from 81.3 to 127 from half to half (5-4 touchdown/interceptions up to 8-0 in the second half). I’m sure second-half adjustments by the coaching staff help him out as well.

Can Alex Smith become consistent? @ff7cloud420

Yes, he can. In fact, he already is.

Smith has the third-highest QB rating in the NFL and has only thrown one interception this year. He doesn’t wow you, and might never blow you away in the offense he runs, but he is efficient and has better support with the re-emergence of San Francisco’s running game.  Most importantly, he consistently knows where to go with the football when passing.

Losing Josh Morgan for the season hurts, but if Smith can continue to connect with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams, the 49ers need not worry about the quarterback -– for now.

What are the Cleveland Browns’ chances against the Raiders? What do you think they should prepare for in terms of their D and O? @HarisMujaanovic

The Browns have a fighter’s chance to win this game. They just don’t match up well to Oakland right now.

But if you want to know how Cleveland can beat Oakland, we’ll give you the any-given-Sunday scenario for this one:

1. Protect the ball: The Browns’ offense is dink-and-dunk and will pound the ball on the ground. They don’t produce many big plays, because their receivers aren’t very explosive and Colt McCoy is getting the ball out quickly. Against the Raiders’ press man-to-man philosophies, Cleveland’s receivers have to win and make tough catches with bodies around them. McCoy must be accurate and be sure not to force throws when they aren’t open.

2. Force turnovers: Oakland can run the ball very well and can string long drives together, which will force Cleveland’s offense to have perfect drives. And they aren’t that type of offense. The Browns need to cut those drives short, by any means necessary. And that means if Jason Campbell puts a ball in a defensive back’s hands, they need to catch it. If Darren McFadden coughs up a fumble, a Browns defender has to get on top of it.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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