FOXSCOPE: Scout's look at Week 15 games

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Seattle at Atlanta, 1 p.m. ET

Matchup to watch: vs. The defense has been an overachieving group. Wade Phillips has done a great job implementing his defense. Many people questioned how the 3-4 would fit in Atlanta, but Phillips countered that by building his attack around the strengths of the players they had and also made adjustments when injuries became a factor, especially along the front line. Phillips entered training camp with power players upfront, but injuries forced him to go with smaller, quicker players. That gave another opportunity to cement himself as a fixture on the defensive front. And he's responded with a very productive year. He's giving the ' a strong pass rush complement to due to his upfield speed and non-stop motor. Smith will be involved in an interesting matchup on Sunday when he faces up with one of the league's top pass blockers, . This should be an intriguing matchup to view as Seattle looks to build a consistent rhythm among its core offensive players to end the season.

Tampa Bay at Detroit, 1 p.m. ET

Matchup to watch: Tampa Bay secondary vs. This is a very important month for . The ' passing game has languished in the bottom-third of the league. They have a solid quarterback for the long-term in to build around. The must put Harrington in a position to succeed by surrounding him with good personnel. The need a wide receiver with a good blend of size and speed in their offense. Crowell has that ability and has displayed what he can do earlier in his career. But injuries ravaged Crowell over the past few years, and he hasn't been a consistent contributor. The big question is whether he can return to form and become the receiver who creates several matchup problems for opponents. His size is tough enough to defend, but he had the ability to make plays downfield, making him a dynamic target. Unfortunately, it's debatable whether Crowell can ever return to that level of play and remain durable.
Scout's sleepers, Week 15
1. , , CB: Figures to be a position to make a lot of plays against a struggle ' defense. 2. , , DE: Looks to eat up a very erratic ' offensive line. 3. , , S: — beware! I think we'll see why Steve Spurrier wants to protect his rookie. 4. , , QB: Bulger could look good feasting on a bumbling defense. If Bulger finds a groove, this could be ugly. 5. , , RB: The should flow through Seattle's defense like water, or more like a submarine in Duckett's case.

Minnesota at New Orleans, 1 p.m. ET

Matchup to watch: vs. New Orleans defense The need complements to at wide receiver. When Moss first joined the , they created several problems for opposing teams with and working in conjunction with him. That trio gave the a very balanced passing attack. At this juncture, the don't have anything close to that setup. They added from Chicago last spring. He's been okay at times but a little too inconsistent in his first year as a starter. They've given a look at like what they're seeing. Campbell is providing a spark within the passing game with his speed and ability to make some things happen. He's also been willing to do some of the dirty work. Unfortunately, his small stature could limit him a little. He's ideal as a third receiver for the long-term. Against the , he'll be looking to create some matchup problems with his speed.

Washington at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. ET

Matchup to watch: vs. Philadelphia interior offensive line The haven't experienced too many positives this season, but is one of them. His addition to the following his release from Miami raised some eyebrows. In terms of talent, there's very little question that Gardener is an ideal fit in Marvin Lewis' scheme. Gardener has the size and power to tie up blockers and free his linebackers to make a lot of plays. But the big question was his attitude. Gardener had a reputation in Miami as a "me" player who thought a lot of himself. He was a coaster in terms of his approach to the game. But the haven't experienced any problems with him. And now they are talking about a contract extension for Gardener, who only signed a one-year deal when joining Washington. The biggest question when evaluating his long-term value to the is whether he decided to turn his effort up a few notches to get a payday or if the light turned on that it's time to succeed and approach the game like a champion. The venture into choppy waters here.

Carolina at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET

Matchup to watch: Jack Del Rio vs. Mike Mularkey This should be an intriguing battle between two future head coaches. Jack Del Rio has done an outstanding job evolving Carolina's defense into a very competitive unit that's kept them in a lot of ballgames. And he's done this through several injuries and suspensions across the front seven and with a secondary that many observers felt would have trouble matching up with opponents. As for the , the heat will be on this week. He must regain that rhythm he displayed before his injury. If he struggles, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the turn to . But must rebound as well. He has some favorable matchups on paper, but Carolina cornerbacks and aren't afraid of anyone. Burress will have to remain focused and come up with the big grabs when needed.

Dallas at N.Y. , 4 p.m. ET

Matchup to watch: vs. This should be an intriguing matchup between two rookie first rounders for years to come. The are really relying heavily on right now in their passing game. He's created a lot of matchup problems for opponents, but the struggle struggle in the red zone. That's why must take Shockey out of the game. If Shockey is neutralized, the will have trouble punching the ball in the endzone. Williams is certainly not afraid of Shockey. He has the physical skills to bump Shockey off his routes and prevent him from getting clean releases off the line of scrimmage.

Green Bay at San Francisco, 4 p.m. ET

Matchup to watch: vs. creates matchup problems for opponents. But if there's anyone who can matchup with Owens, it's . McKenzie is one of the league's most aggressive corners. He won't back off Owens. He'll relish this challenge. McKenzie has a great blend of size, physical tools, and athletic skills. If he can contain Owens, it will allow the to focus their attention of and . Streets has regained his stroke after two injury-plagued seasons. He can make plays downfield with his size and athletic ability. The have needed this type of production to complement Owens. And the return of Johnson has given the the ideal balance they need in the passing game. He could have some favorable matchups in the passing game if he draws any of the Packer linebackers.

Scout's spotlight

, safety Parrish has been among the more underrated safeties in the NFL over the past couple seasons. Not many people made a big deal out of the signing Parrish last spring as a free agent, but I felt this was one of the best moves of the off-season. He's a steadying presence and a solid leader. These are the types of guys you win championships with. Parrish is a very aggressive run defender who not only can lay some serious wood on defenders, but is also an excellent overall tackler. He gets knocked for his matchup skills in pass coverage. Although he'll get exposed when he tries doing too much on his own, he's a smart pass defender who is usually around the ball and will come up with a big play on occasion.

Final thoughts

  • Keep an eye on over the last few games of the season for the Jacksonville . The will have a difficult choice on what to do with Brunell should some suitors become available in the spring. The were intrigued by the flashes they saw from rookie this season. He has excellent physical tools, but will have some growing pains over the course of a full season as a starter. At 32, Brunell isn't the same player he was a few years ago, but he's still going to be an effective starting quarterback for at least a few more years. But the question is whether it would be smart to get some value for him now and invest that into their rebuilding strategy. The Baltimore could be a very interested team because Brian Billick does have a preference for veterans at quarterback. And it wouldn't be a surprise to see Steve Spurrier display some interest to give more time to develop.
  • The Green Bay are intrigued by the possible thought of making their punt returner. In terms of physical tools, it would be a great move. Ferguson has the ideal blend of size, power, and speed to give opponents problems. But they need to see if he would be reliable catching the ball and whether his natural athletic instincts can take over as he identifies openings and eludes cover guys.
  • The Cincinnati are making a good decision to shelve rookie safety for the rest of the season. He's been slowed by a knee problem over the last couple months. Having minor surgery now will allow him to enter the off-season program right away. Thompson really needs that period to take a step back and become comfortable with the defense. Missing time last summer during his contract holdout really put Thompson behind the eight-ball. If he can become comfortable in their defense, his natural football instincts would kick in. The desperately need Thompson to evolve into the playmaker they drafted.
  • The Seattle were very disappointed to lose rookie defensive end after he suffered a high ankle sprain. The wanted him to get a lot of snaps over the final month of the season to evaluate their defensive end picture for next season. Seattle needs a lot more production from its defensive ends next season. probably isn't a solution after two injury-plagued seasons. is more of a swing player. And Palepoi has the athleticism and raw skills to develop into a pass rusher, but he needs time to really nourish. Brian DeLucia is a respected college and pro personnel consultant around the NFL. Formerly a consultant with, and currently a contributor for, Brian heads into his third season with providing commentary around the NFL and NFL Draft.
  • Tagged: Falcons, Bengals, Cowboys, Lions, Packers, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Saints, Giants, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Brady Smith, Robert Ferguson, Mike McKenzie, Eric Johnson, Marc Bulger, Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, Kordell Stewart, Terrell Owens, Walter Jones, Antonio Cochran, Reggie Howard, Mark Brunell, Gary Walker, Jeremy Shockey, Roy Williams, T.J. Duckett, David Garrard, Patrick Ramsey, Tommy Maddox, Kelly Campbell

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