John Madden
John Madden
Can Pack stay on playoff track?
By John Madden


This is the time of year when the cream rises to the top. Playoff-worthy teams step up to win the games that are supposed to be won and then earn playoff berths. That's the great thing about the postseason: You have to play your way in by either winning the division or winning enough games to get one of the two wild-card entries.


Looking at the records of the Oakland Raiders (4-10) and Green Bay Packers (8-6) going into Monday night's game, it looks like a no-brainer. The Packers have a better record, and they have QB Brett Favre and RB Ahman Green.

On paper, the Pack should run away with this game, but the difference between playoff teams and non-playoff teams in the NFL is razor-thin.

This past Sunday, the Raiders knocked off the then-AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens 20-12. And the Raiders are still less than a year removed from their Super Bowl appearance.

Also, the Packers have dropped this type of game once already this year. On Thanksgiving Day, Green Bay lost 22-14 to the Detroit Lions, who had a 3-8 record going into the game. Against Detroit, Favre and the Packers were in position to take the NFC North lead but they dropped an egg. The Packers find themselves in a similar position this week as they go into this game tied for the division lead with the Minnesota Vikings.

Favre is finally starting to look like his old self. His thumb still gives him problems when he makes some throws, but he has learned what he can and can't do with it. After some early-season difficulties, he and his receivers are definitely starting to play better.

WR Donald Driver and veteran TE Wesley Walls are also playing well. Driver has bounced back from his earlier injury (neck strain) to catch 48 passes for 523 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Walls has given Favre a possession-type receiver who can be counted on to run good routes and make plays when needed.

But the pillar of the offense is still Green. He's having the best season of his career and now owns the Packers' single-season rushing record. The offense is built around the running game. Green, along with Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher, have helped put the Packers in a position to make the playoffs and even win their division.

The one thing the Packers may need some help with is their defense. They'll make a play here and there, but they're still suspect. Green Bay's D needs to step it up a notch in order to be successful in the playoffs (if they get there).

Brett Favre is finally starting to look like his old self.
As I mentioned, the Raiders are just a season removed from the Super Bowl and are not headed in the right direction. It has been well-documented, but it's true that Oakland isn't getting any younger.

We'll see major changes in the Raiders' makeup in the offseason.

Coach Bill Callahan has had some issues this season in terms of communication with his players. At one point, he made a statement that he had not talked to Charles Woodson in more than a month. I made an effort to speak to every one of my players every day. I'm sure that I missed one once in a while, but I'm sure there wasn't ever a week between conversations, much less a month.

One plus for the Raiders is having WR Jerry Porter back at 100 percent (he wasn't the last time I saw them). He is Oakland's speed! Porter is the only guy who can help spread the field for the Raiders, and that's pretty important to their success.

With the Raiders coming off last week's win and playing at home, and the Packers looking to continue their charge into the playoffs, this game will be a competitive one to wrap up Monday Night Football and the NFL regular season.
Madden: Week 16 Viewer's Guide
John Madden previews his picks for the ...

Game of the Week: Chiefs at Vikings
The Chiefs continue to vie for ...

ESPN experts' picks for Week 16
Chiefs or Vikings? Bengals or Rams? ...

Focal Point: Moss vs. Holmes
Two of the NFL's most potent players, ...

Theismann: Patriots-Jets SNF preview
The Patriots eye AFC home-field as they ...

Theismann: Broncos-Colts SNF preview
The Broncos and the Colts faceoff in a ...

MNF Players of the Game
Jake Delhomme was the Horse Trailer ...

Madden: Talking international baseball
John Madden discusses the upcoming ...

Monday Night FootballMonday Night FootballESPN.comNFL on ESPNMonday Night FootballABCSports