‘First on the Field’ picks: Championship Sunday

Wake up with NFL Network ‘s new morning show ”First on the Field” for a two-hour spin around the league every Sunday at 7 a.m. ET all season long. The show’s analysts Melissa StarkSterling SharpeLaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Billick make their picks for Championship Sunday.

49ers at Falcons

Stark: 49ers

Sharpe: Falcons

Tomlinson: 49ers

Billick: Falcons

Ravens at Patriots

Stark: Ravens

Sharpe: Patriots

Tomlinson: Ravens

Billick: Ravens

 

Falcons Thomas DeCoud sings Barry White on “NFL AM”

Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud dropped by “NFL AM” Thursday morning to talk about Saturday’s matchup against Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions.

DeCoud discussed the possibility of the Falcons clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC and drops a little Barry White.

Alfred Morris: Never thought I’d play with someone like RG3

Washington Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris has rushed for 1,106 yards through 12 games. He ran to the Redskins facility early Thursday morning to chat with “NFL AM” about his coming-out party after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Morris also discussed his quarterback, Robert Griffin III, saying the running back should be Rookie of the Year, the Redskins’ run to the playoffs and his now-famous car, “Boo”.

Giants LB Chase Blackburn discusses preparing for ‘shifty’ Robert Griffen III

New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn has been a revelation since rejoining the team a year ago on its Super Bowl run.

He stopped by “NFL AM” to discuss how the Giants are preparing to defend RG3 and the Washington Redskins’ offense in Monday’s pivotal division matchup.

Texans’ Owen Daniels says Suh’s kick of Schaub ‘wasn’t unintentional’

Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels dropped by “NFL AM” Friday morning to discuss his team’s 10-1 start.

He was asked about Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh‘s kick of quarterback Matt Schaub on Thanksgiving.

“My opinion is that it wasn’t unintentional,” Daniels said, adding he felt it was a situation Suh could have avoided.

Don Shula discusses Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season

Hall of Fame coach Don Shula called into “NFL AM” Thursday morning to discuss the 40th anniversary of his 1972 undefeated season.

He discussed the current Dolphins squad, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He also provided insight into the quarterback controversy in San Francisco. Shula had to make a midseason switch at quarterback during that 1972 season when Bob Griese was injured during Week 5.

Jacoby Jones glad Ed Reed will be on the field Sunday

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver and return specialist extraordinaire Jacoby Jones dropped by “NFL AM” on Wednesday to discuss his team and chat about his touchdown dances.

Some football was discussed, however. Jones said Ed Reed is a vital part of the defense, and he is glad the Reed won his appeal on his suspension from Sunday’s game in San Diego. He also discussed how much the team misses Ray Lewis when he isn’t in the locker room or prowling the sidelines.

Packers CB Casey Hayward in line for Defensive Rookie of the Year

Packers rookie CB Casey Haward stepped up his game after Green Bay lost Charles Woodson with an injury. The second-round draft pick has five interceptions and 14 pass deflections and could be in line for the Defensive Rookie of the Year honor.

He told “NFL AM” on Wednesday morning that he’s not worried about awards, just winning games.

Spiller: Bills need to bring lunchboxes to work

Friend of “NFL AM” C.J. Spiller visited the show Tuesday morning to discuss his game against the Dolphins and his future as the starting running back.

Spiller has had one of the most dynamic seasons by a running back this season for the Bills. He said his team still believes it has a shot at the playoffs, but the Bills know they need to bring it every week.

“Each week you have to bring your lunchbox to play,” Spiller said. “Each week we take it as a playoff game for us.”

Schiano on Muscle Hamster: I call him Doug

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has his team in position to be players in the 2012 playoff race.

He told “NFL AM” on Tuesday morning that his team is taking a “one-game season” approach.

Schiano also raved about rookie running back Doug Martin.

“He was our kind of guy,” Schiano said. “That was most important. He was going to fit into what we were trying to build here.”

Coach’s thoughts on the nickname “Muscle Hamster”?

“I call him Doug,” he said.

49ers look to trap Bears on ‘Monday Night Football’

The San Francisco 49ers host the Chicago Bears in a highly anticipated matchup among two of the league’s best teams. Both teams are coming off of disappointing performances in their prior outing; San Francisco is coming off of a frustrating tie against St. Louis, and Chicago lost a sloppy 13-6 slugfest against Houston.

With Alex Smith out, it becomes especially important that the 49ers gets their ground game on track to make things easier on second-year QB Colin Kaepernick as he makes his first NFL start. Behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, the 49ers lead the NFL averaging 170.2 rushing yards per game on a staggering 5.61 yards per carry, and look to exploit a Bears defense that has had some struggles against the run.

The 49ers have maintained their absurd yards-per-carry average while their longest run of the year is only 37 yards. There are 26 teams that have had a longer run than that, which makes it even more incredible that they have such a high average per rush. The 49ers are not a home-run type rushing attack, but they execute with precision and consistency. The 49ers have racked up 52 runs of 10 or more yards, which also leads the NFL.

Despite holding teams to just 14.8 points per game, the Bears’ defense has been vulnerable against the run. They have surrendered a surprising 4.2 yards per carry and have gotten burned by trap and wham plays this year. Unfortunately for Chicago, those plays happen to be staples of the San Francisco run game. The “Playbook” crew breaks down the 49ers’ use of traps in the run game.

The 49ers are running a wham play here to Frank Gore. Left guard Mike Iupati (77) and left tackle Joe Staley (74) trap the play-side defensive tackle, purposely allowing him to come through untouched. Fullback Bruce Miller is responsible for picking him up. Iupati and Staley work right to the second level to secure the linebackers.

The play-side defensive tackle thinks he has a free rush to make this play, but Miller is on his way to cut him off. The linebackers are frozen, which will allows Iupati and Staley an easier path to secure the second level.

With the defensive tackle picked up by Miller and the second level secured, there is nothing but space in front of Gore. Gore is able to pick up 18 big yards.

In order to keep themselves in this game, the Bears have to establish a running game of their own with backup QB Jason Campbell playing for the injured Jay Cutler. They will have their opportunities, facing a 49ers defense that allowed 159 yards rushing last week against the Rams. If the Bears can stay committed to the run with Matt Forte and keep themselves in manageable passing situations for Campbell, they will have an opportunity to win. However, this 49ers defense will be focused and angry after such a sloppy performance last week, so don’t expect those rushing yards to come easy for the Bears against an incredibly tough and talented 49ers front seven.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (NFC) and 9 p.m. ET (AFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

Dolphins look for ground game to get back on track vs. Bills

The Miami Dolphins take on the Buffalo Bills on “Thursday Night Football” to attempt to snap their two-game slide. To do so, the Dolphins have to take advantage of the Bills’ league-worst rushing defense, which surrenders an average of 163.7 yards per game. Coming off a game in which rookie QB Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions, it becomes especially critical that the Dolphins get the ground game going and protect their young signal caller. The Bills’ linebackers have struggled playing in space all year, which works right into the Dolphins’ favor with their zone-running scheme spearheaded by talented RB Reggie Bush. The “Playbook” crew breaks down Miami’s use of the stretch play.

Each Miami offensive lineman steps left in concert. The right guard and right tackle (blocking assignments in red) are responsible for cutting off the backside defensive tackle and the weak-side linebacker. The key here on the play side are the blocks from the tight end and left tackle. They initially double the defensive end, then left tackle Jake Long will work up to the strong-side linebacker. This is commonly referred to as a combo block. The success of the center and left tackle getting to the second level and engaging the linebackers is paramount to the success of the play.

The linebackers are slow to react, which gives the Dolphins offensive line a huge advantage. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain makes the critical mistake here, taking a step back off the snap. By the time he recovers, the center can get to him and take him out of the play. The left tackle and tight end secure the double, and the left tackle is ready to get to the second level to secure the strong-side linebacker.

The initial double team between the tight end and left tackle allows the tight end to get to the outside shoulder of the defensive end without allowing penetration, which enables him to seal the hole. Left tackle Jake Long has taken the strong side backer out of the play. A good effort from the receiver on the outside provides a huge lane for Reggie Bush to run through, with his fullback still out in front of him. The only player left with a chance to make this play is the safety, but fullback Javorskie Lane gets enough of him to allow Bush to get to the outside and leave everyone else behind en route to a 65-yard TD.

To stop this stretch attack, the Bills’ linebackers have to be aggressive and attack downhill while the offensive line is still moving laterally. Buffalo’s linebackers have been slow to react and attack this year. That is a deadly combination against this type of running scheme, as you can see in the example illustrated above. If the Bills try to move laterally with the offensive line and don’t get momentum coming to the line of scrimmage, the Dolphins will eat them alive off of those combo blocks.

On the other side of the ball, the Bills’ intermediate passing game must build off of the success it had against the New England Patriots last week. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off of a 337-yard output in that game, and the Dolphins’ secondary has been vulnerable, especially in that intermediate range; ranking 28th in the league with 278 yards allowed per game through the air. It is easier said than done, but if the Bills follow this blueprint on both sides of the ball, they can pull off the victory and keep themselves alive for at least another week. If not, it might be a long, cold night in Buffalo and a big day for Reggie Bush and this Dolphins offense.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (NFC) and 9 p.m. ET (AFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

Steelers’ Pouncey: Tim Tebow can be starting NFL quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey dropped by “NFL AM” on Wednesday to preview this week’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens and discuss how the Steelers would game plan without Ben Roethlisberger. He was also asked how if he thinks former teammate at the University of Florida, Tim Tebow could be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

“I think so,” Pouncey said. “He’s going to work as hard as he can, as possible, you know go out there and keep working on his throwing arm and getting all the guys to believe in him, and I think he’s going to do a great job in that as long as his career goes on.”

Bills WR Stevie Johnson: No bad words for ‘Punk’ Brandon Spikes

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson stopped by “NFL AM” Tuesday morning to discuss the upcoming Thursday Night Football matchup with the Miami Dolphins.

The dynamic receiver was asked about quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick calling New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes a “punk” after Sunday’s 37-31 loss. Johnson said he felt no ill feelings towards Spikes.

“If the guy was on our team then we’d be happy to have him on our team,” he said. “Since he’s not, we don’t like anybody…I don’t really have no bad words for the dude, we in different jerseys so that’s not my friend.”

Brandon Lloyd jumps over a car, talks Patriots win

Fresh off Sunday’s 37-31 victory, New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd called into “NFL AM” to discuss the victory over the Buffalo Bills, the nerves he experienced watching the game-ending drive and talks about jumping over a car.

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